Waylaying the buffalo in this manner, and shooting them as they come to water, is the easiest and laziest method of hunting them. They may also be approached by crawling up ravines, or behind hills, or even over the open prairie. This is often surprisingly easy; but at other times it requires the utmost skill of the most experienced hunter. Henry Chatillon was a man of extraordinary strength and hardihood; but I have seen him return to camp quite exhausted with his efforts, his limbs scratched and wounded, and his buckskin dress stuck full of the thorns of the prickly-pear among which he had been crawling. Sometimes he would lay flat upon his face, and drag himself along in this position for many rods together.
On the second day of our stay at this place, Henry went out for an afternoon hunt. Shaw and I remained in camp until, observing some bulls approaching the water upon the other side of the river, we crossed over to attack them. They were so near, however, that before we could get under cover of the bank our appearance as we walked over the sands alarmed them. Turning round before coming within gunshot, they began to move off to the right in a direction parallel to the river. I climbed up the bank and ran after them. They were walking swiftly, and before I could come within gunshot distance they slowly wheeled about and faced toward me. Before they had turned far enough to see me I had fallen flat on my face. For a moment they stood and stared at the strange object upon the grass; then turning away, again they walked on as before; and I, rising immediately, ran once more in pursuit. Again they wheeled about, and again I fell prostrate. Repeating this three or four times, I came at length within a hundred yards of the fugitives, and as I saw them turning again I sat down and leveled my rifle. The one in the center was the largest I had ever seen. I shot him behind the shoulder. His two companions ran off. He attempted to follow, but soon came to a stand, and at length lay down as quietly as an ox chewing the cud. Cautiously approaching him, I saw by his dull and jellylike eye that he was dead.
When I began the chase, the prairie was almost tenantless; but a great multitude of buffalo had suddenly thronged upon it, and looking up, I saw within fifty rods a heavy, dark column stretching to the right and left as far as I could see. I walked toward them. My approach did not alarm them in the least. The column itself consisted entirely of cows and calves, but a great many old bulls were ranging about the prairie on its flank, and as I drew near they faced toward me with such a shaggy and ferocious look that I thought it best to proceed no farther. Indeed I was already within close rifle-shot of the column, and I sat down on the ground to watch their movements. Sometimes the whole would stand still, their heads all facing one way; then they would trot forward, as if by a common impulse, their hoofs and horns clattering together as they moved. I soon began to hear at a distance on the left the sharp reports of a rifle, again and again repeated; and not long after, dull and heavy sounds succeeded, which I recognized as the familiar voice of Shaw's double-barreled gun. When Henry's rifle was at work there was always meat to be brought in. I went back across the river for a horse, and returning, reached the spot where the hunters were standing. The buffalo were visible on the distant prairie. The living had retreated from the ground, but ten or twelve carcasses were scattered in various directions. Henry, knife in hand, was stooping over a dead cow, cutting away the best and fattest of the meat.
When Shaw left me he had walked down for some distance under the river bank to find another bull. At length he saw the plains covered with the host of buffalo, and soon after heard the crack of Henry's rifle. Ascending the bank, he crawled through the grass, which for a rod or two from the river was very high and rank. He had not crawled far before to his astonishment he saw Henry standing erect upon the prairie, almost surrounded by the buffalo. Henry was in his appropriate element. Nelson, on the deck of the Victory, hardly felt a prouder sense of mastery than he. Quite unconscious that any one was looking at him, he stood at the full height of his tall, strong figure, one hand resting upon his side, and the other arm leaning carelessly on the muzzle of his rifle. His eyes were ranging over the singular assemblage around him. Now and then he would select such a cow as suited him, level his rifle, and shoot her dead; then quietly reloading, he would resume his former position. The buffalo seemed no more to regard his presence than if he were one of themselves; the bulls were bellowing and butting at each other, or else rolling about in the dust. A group of buffalo would gather about the carcass of a dead cow, snuffing at her wounds; and sometimes they would come behind those that had not yet fallen, and endeavor to push them from the spot. Now and then some old bull would face toward Henry with an air of stupid amazement, but none seemed inclined to attack or fly from him. For some time Shaw lay among the grass, looking in surprise at this extraordinary sight; at length he crawled cautiously forward, and spoke in a low voice to Henry, who told him to rise and come on. Still the buffalo showed no sign of fear; they remained gathered about their dead companions. Henry had already killed as many cows as we wanted for use, and Shaw, kneeling behind one of the carcasses, shot five bulls before the rest thought it necessary to disperse.
The frequent stupidity and infatuation of the buffalo seems the more remarkable from the contrast it offers to their wildness and wariness at other times. Henry knew all their peculiarities; he had studied them as a scholar studies his books, and he derived quite as much pleasure from the occupation. The buffalo were a kind of companions to him, and, as he said, he never felt alone when they were about him. He took great pride in his skill in hunting. Henry was one of the most modest of men; yet, in the simplicity and frankness of his character, it was quite clear that he looked upon his pre-eminence in this respect as a thing too palpable and well established ever to be disputed. But whatever may have been his estimate of his own skill, it was rather below than above that which others placed upon it. The only time that I ever saw a shade of scorn darken his face was when two volunteer soldiers, who had just killed a buffalo for the first time, undertook to instruct him as to the best method of "approaching." To borrow an illustration from an opposite side of life, an Eton boy might as well have sought to enlighten Porson on the formation of a Greek verb, or a Fleet Street shopkeeper to instruct Chesterfield concerning a point of etiquette. Henry always seemed to think that he had a sort of prescriptive right to the buffalo, and to look upon them as something belonging peculiarly to himself. Nothing excited his indignation so much as any wanton destruction committed among the cows, and in his view shooting a calf was a cardinal sin.
Henry Chatillon and Tete Rouge were of the same age; that is, about thirty. Henry was twice as large, and fully six times as strong as Tete Rouge. Henry's face was roughened by winds and storms; Tete Rouge's was bloated by sherry cobblers and brandy toddy. Henry talked of Indians and buffalo; Tete Rouge of theaters and oyster cellars. Henry had led a life of hardship and privation; Tete Rouge never had a whim which he would not gratify at the first moment he was able. Henry moreover was the most disinterested man I ever saw; while Tete Rouge, though equally good-natured in his way, cared for nobody but himself. Yet we would not have lost him on any account; he admirably served the purpose of a jester in a feudal castle; our camp would have been lifeless without him. For the past week he had fattened in a most amazing manner; and indeed this was not at all surprising, since his appetite was most inordinate. He was eating from morning till night; half the time he would be at work cooking some private repast for himself, and he paid a visit to the coffee-pot eight or ten times a day. His rueful and disconsolate face became jovial and rubicund, his eyes stood out like a lobster's, and his spirits, which before were sunk to the depths of despondency, were now elated in proportion; all day he was singing, whistling, laughing, and telling stories. Being mortally afraid of Jim Gurney, he kept close in the neighborhood of our tent. As he had seen an abundance of low dissipated life, and had a considerable fund of humor, his anecdotes were extremely amusing, especially since he never hesitated to place himself in a ludicrous point of view, provided he could raise a laugh by doing so. Tete Rouge, however, was sometimes rather troublesome; he had an inveterate habit of pilfering provisions at all times of the day. He set ridicule at utter defiance; and being without a particle of self-respect, he would never have given over his tricks, even if they had drawn upon him the scorn of the whole party. Now and then, indeed, something worse than laughter fell to his share; on these occasions he would exhibit much contrition, but half an hour after we would generally observe him stealing round to the box at the back of the cart and slyly making off with the provisions which Delorier had laid by for supper. He was very fond of smoking; but having no tobacco of his own, we used to provide him with as much as he wanted, a small piece at a time. At first we gave him half a pound together, but this experiment proved an entire failure, for he invariably lost not only the tobacco, but the knife intrusted to him for cutting it, and a few minutes after he would come to us with many apologies and beg for more.
We had been two days at this camp, and some of the meat was nearly fit for transportation, when a storm came suddenly upon us. About sunset the whole sky grew as black as ink, and the long grass at the river's edge bent and rose mournfully with the first gusts of the approaching hurricane. Munroe and his two companions brought their guns and placed them under cover of our tent. Having no shelter for themselves, they built a fire of driftwood that might have defied a cataract, and wrapped in their buffalo robes, sat on the ground around it to bide the fury of the storm. Delorier ensconced himself under the cover of the cart. Shaw and I, together with Henry and Tete Rouge, crowded into the little tent; but first of all the dried meat was piled together, and well protected by buffalo robes pinned firmly to the ground. About nine o'clock the storm broke, amid absolute darkness; it blew a gale, and torrents of rain roared over the boundless expanse of open prairie. Our tent was filled with mist and spray beating through the canvas, and saturating everything within. We could only distinguish each other at short intervals by the dazzling flash of lightning, which displayed the whole waste around us with its momentary glare. We had our fears for the tent; but for an hour or two it stood fast, until at length the cap gave way before a furious blast; the pole tore through the top, and in an instant we were half suffocated by the cold and dripping folds of the canvas, which fell down upon us. Seizing upon our guns, we placed them erect, in order to lift the saturated cloth above our heads. In this disagreeable situation, involved among wet blankets and buffalo robes, we spent several hours of the night during which the storm would not abate for a moment, but pelted down above our heads with merciless fury. Before long the ground beneath us became soaked with moisture, and the water gathered there in a pool two or three inches deep; so that for a considerable part of the night we were partially immersed in a cold bath. In spite of all this, Tete Rouge's flow of spirits did not desert him for an instant, he laughed, whistled, and sung in defiance of the storm, and that night he paid off the long arrears of ridicule which he owed us. While we lay in silence, enduring the infliction with what philosophy we could muster, Tete Rouge, who was intoxicated with animal spirits, was cracking jokes at our expense by the hour together. At about three o'clock in the morning, "preferring the tyranny of the open night" to such a wretched shelter, we crawled out from beneath the fallen canvas. The wind had abated, but the rain fell steadily. The fire of the California men still blazed amid the darkness, and we joined them as they sat around it. We made ready some hot coffee by way of refreshment; but when some of the party sought to replenish their cups, it was found that Tete Rouge, having disposed of his own share, had privately abstracted the coffee-pot and drank up the rest of the contents out of the spout.
In the morning, to our great joy, an unclouded sun rose upon the prairie. We presented rather a laughable appearance, for the cold and clammy buckskin, saturated with water, clung fast to our limbs; the light wind and warm sunshine soon dried them again, and then we were all incased in armor of intolerable rigidity. Roaming all day over the prairie and shooting two or three bulls, were scarcely enough to restore the stiffened leather to its usual pliancy.
Besides Henry Chatillon, Shaw and I were the only hunters in the party. Munroe this morning made an attempt to run a buffalo, but his horse could not come up to the game. Shaw went out with him, and being better mounted soon found himself in the midst of the herd. Seeing nothing but cows and calves around him, he checked his horse. An old bull came galloping on the open prairie at some distance behind, and turning, Shaw rode across his path, leveling his gun as he passed, and shooting him through the shoulder into the heart. The heavy bullets of Shaw's double-barreled gun made wild work wherever they struck.
A great flock of buzzards were usually soaring about a few trees that stood on the island just below our camp. Throughout the whole of yesterday we had noticed an eagle among them; to-day he was still there; and Tete Rouge, declaring that he would kill the bird of America, borrowed Delorier's gun and set out on his unpatriotic mission. As might have been expected, the eagle suffered no great harm at his hands. He soon returned, saying that he could not find him, but had shot a buzzard instead. Being required to produce the bird in proof of his assertion he said he believed he was not quite dead, but he must be hurt, from the swiftness with which he flew off.
"If you want," said Tete Rouge, "I'll go and get one of his feathers; I knocked off plenty of them when I shot him."
Just opposite our camp was another island covered with bushes, and behind it was a deep pool of water, while two or three considerable streams course'd over the sand not far off. I was bathing at this place in the afternoon when a white wolf, larger than the largest Newfoundland dog, ran out from behind the point of the island, and galloped leisurely over the sand not half a stone's throw distant. I could plainly see his red eyes and the bristles about his snout; he was an ugly scoundrel, with a bushy tail, large head, and a most repulsive countenance. Having neither rifle to shoot nor stone to pelt him with, I was looking eagerly after some missile for his benefit, when the report of a gun came from the camp, and the ball threw up the sand just beyond him; at this he gave a slight jump, and stretched away so swiftly that he soon dwindled into a mere speck on the distant sand-beds. The number of carcasses that by this time were lying about the prairie all around us summoned the wolves from every quarter; the spot where Shaw and Henry had hunted together soon became their favorite resort, for here about a dozen dead buffalo were fermenting under the hot sun. I used often to go over the river and watch them at their meal; by lying under the bank it was easy to get a full view of them. Three different kinds were present; there were the white wolves and the gray wolves, both extremely large, and besides these the small prairie wolves, not much bigger than spaniels. They would howl and fight in a crowd around a single carcass, yet they were so watchful, and their senses so acute, that I never was able to crawl within a fair shooting distance; whenever I attempted it, they would all scatter at once and glide silently away through the tall grass. The air above this spot was always full of buzzards or black vultures; whenever the wolves left a carcass they would descend upon it, and cover it so densely that a rifle-bullet shot at random among the gormandizing crowd would generally strike down two or three of them. These birds would now be sailing by scores just about our camp, their broad black wings seeming half transparent as they expanded them against the bright sky. The wolves and the buzzards thickened about us with every hour, and two or three eagles also came into the feast. I killed a bull within rifle-shot of the camp; that night the wolves made a fearful howling close at hand, and in the morning the carcass was completely hollowed out by these voracious feeders.
After we had remained four days at this camp we prepared to leave it. We had for our own part about five hundred pounds of dried meat, and the California men had prepared some three hundred more; this consisted of the fattest and choicest parts of eight or nine cows, a very small quantity only being taken from each, and the rest abandoned to the wolves. The pack animals were laden, the horses were saddled, and the mules harnessed to the cart. Even Tete Rouge was ready at last, and slowly moving from the ground, we resumed our journey eastward. When we had advanced about a mile, Shaw missed a valuable hunting knife and turned back in search of it, thinking that he had left it at the camp. He approached the place cautiously, fearful that Indians might be lurking about, for a deserted camp is dangerous to return to. He saw no enemy, but the scene was a wild and dreary one; the prairie was overshadowed by dull, leaden clouds, for the day was dark and gloomy. The ashes of the fires were still smoking by the river side; the grass around them was trampled down by men and horses, and strewn with all the litter of a camp. Our departure had been a gathering signal to the birds and beasts of prey; Shaw assured me that literally dozens of wolves were prowling about the smoldering fires, while multitudes were roaming over the prairie around; they all fled as he approached, some running over the sand-beds and some over the grassy plains. The vultures in great clouds were soaring overhead, and the dead bull near the camp was completely blackened by the flock that had alighted upon it; they flapped their broad wings, and stretched upward their crested heads and long skinny necks, fearing to remain, yet reluctant to leave their disgusting feast. As he searched about the fires he saw the wolves seated on the distant hills waiting for his departure. Having looked in vain for his knife, he mounted again, and left the wolves and the vultures to banquet freely upon the carrion of the camp.
DOWN THE ARKANSAS
In the summer of 1846 the wild and lonely banks of the Upper Arkansas beheld for the first time the passage of an army. General Kearny, on his march to Santa Fe, adopted this route in preference to the old trail of the Cimarron. When we came down the main body of the troops had already passed on; Price's Missouri regiment, however, was still on the way, having left the frontier much later than the rest; and about this time we began to meet them moving along the trail, one or two companies at a time. No men ever embarked upon a military expedition with a greater love for the work before them than the Missourians; but if discipline and subordination be the criterion of merit, these soldiers were worthless indeed. Yet when their exploits have rung through all America, it would be absurd to deny that they were excellent irregular troops. Their victories were gained in the teeth of every established precedent of warfare; they were owing to a singular combination of military qualities in the men themselves. Without discipline or a spirit of subordination, they knew how to keep their ranks and act as one man. Doniphan's regiment marched through New Mexico more like a band of free companions than like the paid soldiers of a modern government. When General Taylor complimented Doniphan on his success at Sacramento and elsewhere, the colonel's reply very well illustrates the relations which subsisted between the officers and men of his command:
"I don't know anything of the maneuvers. The boys kept coming to me, to let them charge; and when I saw a good opportunity, I told them they might go. They were off like a shot, and that's all I know about it."
The backwoods lawyer was better fitted to conciliate the good-will than to command the obedience of his men. There were many serving under him, who both from character and education could better have held command than he.
At the battle of Sacramento his frontiersmen fought under every possible disadvantage. The Mexicans had chosen their own position; they were drawn up across the valley that led to their native city of Chihuahua; their whole front was covered by intrenchments and defended by batteries of heavy cannon; they outnumbered the invaders five to one. An eagle flew over the Americans, and a deep murmur rose along their lines. The enemy's batteries opened; long they remained under fire, but when at length the word was given, they shouted and ran forward. In one of the divisions, when midway to the enemy, a drunken officer ordered a halt; the exasperated men hesitated to obey.
"Forward, boys!" cried a private from the ranks; and the Americans, rushing like tigers upon the enemy, bounded over the breastwork. Four hundred Mexicans were slain upon the spot and the rest fled, scattering over the plain like sheep. The standards, cannon, and baggage were taken, and among the rest a wagon laden with cords, which the Mexicans, in the fullness of their confidence, had made ready for tying the American prisoners.
Doniphan's volunteers, who gained this victory, passed up with the main army; but Price's soldiers, whom we now met, were men from the same neighborhood, precisely similar in character, manner, and appearance. One forenoon, as we were descending upon a very wide meadow, where we meant to rest for an hour or two, we saw a dark body of horsemen approaching at a distance. In order to find water, we were obliged to turn aside to the river bank, a full half mile from the trail. Here we put up a kind of awning, and spreading buffalo robes on the ground, Shaw and I sat down to smoke beneath it.
"We are going to catch it now," said Shaw; "look at those fellows, there'll be no peace for us here."
And in good truth about half the volunteers had straggled away from the line of march, and were riding over the meadow toward us.
"How are you?" said the first who came up, alighting from his horse and throwing himself upon the ground. The rest followed close, and a score of them soon gathered about us, some lying at full length and some sitting on horseback. They all belonged to a company raised in St. Louis. There were some ruffian faces among them, and some haggard with debauchery; but on the whole they were extremely good-looking men, superior beyond measure to the ordinary rank and file of an army. Except that they were booted to the knees, they wore their belts and military trappings over the ordinary dress of citizens. Besides their swords and holster pistols, they carried slung from their saddles the excellent Springfield carbines, loaded at the breech. They inquired the character of our party, and were anxious to know the prospect of killing buffalo, and the chance that their horses would stand the journey to Santa Fe. All this was well enough, but a moment after a worse visitation came upon us.
"How are you, strangers? whar are you going and whar are you from?" said a fellow, who came trotting up with an old straw hat on his head. He was dressed in the coarsest brown homespun cloth. His face was rather sallow from fever-and-ague, and his tall figure, though strong and sinewy was quite thin, and had besides an angular look, which, together with his boorish seat on horseback, gave him an appearance anything but graceful. Plenty more of the same stamp were close behind him. Their company was raised in one of the frontier counties, and we soon had abundant evidence of their rustic breeding; dozens of them came crowding round, pushing between our first visitors and staring at us with unabashed faces.
"Are you the captain?" asked one fellow.
"What's your business out here?" asked another.
"Whar do you live when you're at home?" said a third.
"I reckon you're traders," surmised a fourth; and to crown the whole, one of them came confidentially to my side and inquired in a low voice, "What's your partner's name?"
As each newcomer repeated the same questions, the nuisance became intolerable. Our military visitors were soon disgusted at the concise nature of our replies, and we could overhear them muttering curses against us. While we sat smoking, not in the best imaginable humor, Tete Rouge's tongue was never idle. He never forgot his military character, and during the whole interview he was incessantly busy among his fellow-soldiers. At length we placed him on the ground before us, and told him that he might play the part of spokesman for the whole. Tete Rouge was delighted, and we soon had the satisfaction of seeing him talk and gabble at such a rate that the torrent of questions was in a great measure diverted from us. A little while after, to our amazement, we saw a large cannon with four horses come lumbering up behind the crowd; and the driver, who was perched on one of the animals, stretching his neck so as to look over the rest of the men, called out:
"Whar are you from, and what's your business?"
The captain of one of the companies was among our visitors, drawn by the same curiosity that had attracted his men. Unless their faces belied them, not a few in the crowd might with great advantage have changed places with their commander.
"Well, men," said he, lazily rising from the ground where he had been lounging, "it's getting late, I reckon we had better be moving."
"I shan't start yet anyhow," said one fellow, who was lying half asleep with his head resting on his arm.
"Don't be in a hurry, captain," added the lieutenant.
"Well, have it your own way, we'll wait a while longer," replied the obsequious commander.
At length however our visitors went straggling away as they had come, and we, to our great relief, were left alone again.
No one can deny the intrepid bravery of these men, their intelligence and the bold frankness of their character, free from all that is mean and sordid. Yet for the moment the extreme roughness of their manners half inclines one to forget their heroic qualities. Most of them seem without the least perception of delicacy or propriety, though among them individuals may be found in whose manners there is a plain courtesy, while their features bespeak a gallant spirit equal to any enterprise.
No one was more relieved than Delorier by the departure of the volunteers; for dinner was getting colder every moment. He spread a well-whitened buffalo hide upon the grass, placed in the middle the juicy hump of a fat cow, ranged around it the tin plates and cups, and then acquainted us that all was ready. Tete Rouge, with his usual alacrity on such occasions, was the first to take his seat. In his former capacity of steamboat clerk, he had learned to prefix the honorary MISTER to everybody's name, whether of high or low degree; so Jim Gurney was Mr. Gurney, Henry was Mr. Henry, and even Delorier, for the first time in his life, heard himself addressed as Mr. Delorier. This did not prevent his conceiving a violent enmity against Tete Rouge, who, in his futile though praiseworthy attempts to make himself useful used always to intermeddle with cooking the dinners. Delorier's disposition knew no medium between smiles and sunshine and a downright tornado of wrath; he said nothing to Tete Rouge, but his wrongs rankled in his breast. Tete Rouge had taken his place at dinner; it was his happiest moment; he sat enveloped in the old buffalo coat, sleeves turned up in preparation for the work, and his short legs crossed on the grass before him; he had a cup of coffee by his side and his knife ready in his hand and while he looked upon the fat hump ribs, his eyes dilated with anticipation. Delorier sat just opposite to him, and the rest of us by this time had taken our seats.
"How is this, Delorier? You haven't given us bread enough."
At this Delorier's placid face flew instantly into a paroxysm of contortions. He grinned with wrath, chattered, gesticulated, and hurled forth a volley of incoherent words in broken English at the astonished Tete Rouge. It was just possible to make out that he was accusing him of having stolen and eaten four large cakes which had been laid by for dinner. Tete Rouge, utterly confounded at this sudden attack, stared at Delorier for a moment in dumb amazement, with mouth and eyes wide open. At last he found speech, and protested that the accusation was false; and that he could not conceive how he had offended Mr. Delorier, or provoked him to use such ungentlemanly expressions. The tempest of words raged with such fury that nothing else could be heard. But Tete Rouge, from his greater command of English, had a manifest advantage over Delorier, who after sputtering and grimacing for a while, found his words quite inadequate to the expression of his wrath. He jumped up and vanished, jerking out between his teeth one furious sacre enfant de grace, a Canadian title of honor, made doubly emphatic by being usually applied together with a cut of the whip to refractory mules and horses.
The next morning we saw an old buffalo escorting his cow with two small calves over the prairie. Close behind came four or five large white wolves, sneaking stealthily through the long meadow-grass, and watching for the moment when one of the children should chance to lag behind his parents. The old bull kept well on his guard, and faced about now and then to keep the prowling ruffians at a distance.
As we approached our nooning place, we saw five or six buffalo standing at the very summit of a tall bluff. Trotting forward to the spot where we meant to stop, I flung off my saddle and turned my horse loose. By making a circuit under cover of some rising ground, I reached the foot of the bluff unnoticed, and climbed up its steep side. Lying under the brow of the declivity, I prepared to fire at the buffalo, who stood on the flat surface about not five yards distant. Perhaps I was too hasty, for the gleaming rifle-barrel leveled over the edge caught their notice; they turned and ran. Close as they were, it was impossible to kill them when in that position, and stepping upon the summit I pursued them over the high arid tableland. It was extremely rugged and broken; a great sandy ravine was channeled through it, with smaller ravines entering on each side like tributary streams. The buffalo scattered, and I soon lost sight of most of them as they scuttled away through the sandy chasms; a bull and a cow alone kept in view. For a while they ran along the edge of the great ravine, appearing and disappearing as they dived into some chasm and again emerged from it. At last they stretched out upon the broad prairie, a plain nearly flat and almost devoid of verdure, for every short grass-blade was dried and shriveled by the glaring sun. Now and then the old bull would face toward me; whenever he did so I fell to the ground and lay motionless. In this manner I chased them for about two miles, until at length I heard in front a deep hoarse bellowing. A moment after a band of about a hundred bulls, before hidden by a slight swell of the plain, came at once into view. The fugitives ran toward them. Instead of mingling with the band, as I expected, they passed directly through, and continued their flight. At this I gave up the chase, and kneeling down, crawled to within gunshot of the bulls, and with panting breath and trickling brow sat down on the ground to watch them; my presence did not disturb them in the least. They were not feeding, for, indeed, there was nothing to eat; but they seemed to have chosen the parched and scorching desert as the scene of their amusements. Some were rolling on the ground amid a cloud of dust; others, with a hoarse rumbling bellow, were butting their large heads together, while many stood motionless, as if quite inanimate. Except their monstrous growth of tangled grizzly mane, they had no hair; for their old coat had fallen off in the spring, and their new one had not as yet appeared. Sometimes an old bull would step forward, and gaze at me with a grim and stupid countenance; then he would turn and butt his next neighbor; then he would lie down and roll over in the dirt, kicking his hoofs in the air. When satisfied with this amusement he would jerk his head and shoulders upward, and resting on his forelegs stare at me in this position, half blinded by his mane, and his face covered with dirt; then up he would spring upon all-fours, and shake his dusty sides; turning half round, he would stand with his beard touching the ground, in an attitude of profound abstraction, as if reflecting on his puerile conduct. "You are too ugly to live," thought I; and aiming at the ugliest, I shot three of them in succession. The rest were not at all discomposed at this; they kept on bellowing and butting and rolling on the ground as before. Henry Chatillon always cautioned us to keep perfectly quiet in the presence of a wounded buffalo, for any movement is apt to excite him to make an attack; so I sat still upon the ground, loading and firing with as little motion as possible. While I was thus employed, a spectator made his appearance; a little antelope came running up with remarkable gentleness to within fifty yards; and there it stood, its slender neck arched, its small horns thrown back, and its large dark eyes gazing on me with a look of eager curiosity. By the side of the shaggy and brutish monsters before me, it seemed like some lovely young girl wandering near a den of robbers or a nest of bearded pirates. The buffalo looked uglier than ever. "Here goes for another of you," thought I, feeling in my pouch for a percussion cap. Not a percussion cap was there. My good rifle was useless as an old iron bar. One of the wounded bulls had not yet fallen, and I waited for some time, hoping every moment that his strength would fail him. He still stood firm, looking grimly at me, and disregarding Henry's advice I rose and walked away. Many of the bulls turned and looked at me, but the wounded brute made no attack. I soon came upon a deep ravine which would give me shelter in case of emergency; so I turned round and threw a stone at the bulls. They received it with the utmost indifference. Feeling myself insulted at their refusal to be frightened, I swung my hat, shouted, and made a show of running toward them; at this they crowded together and galloped off, leaving their dead and wounded upon the field. As I moved toward the camp I saw the last survivor totter and fall dead. My speed in returning was wonderfully quickened by the reflection that the Pawnees were abroad, and that I was defenseless in case of meeting with an enemy. I saw no living thing, however, except two or three squalid old bulls scrambling among the sand-hills that flanked the great ravine. When I reached camp the party was nearly ready for the afternoon move.
We encamped that evening at a short distance from the river bank. About midnight, as we all lay asleep on the ground, the man nearest to me gently reaching out his hand, touched my shoulder, and cautioned me at the same time not to move. It was bright starlight. Opening my eyes and slightly turning I saw a large white wolf moving stealthily around the embers of our fire, with his nose close to the ground. Disengaging my hand from the blanket, I drew the cover from my rifle, which lay close at my side; the motion alarmed the wolf, and with long leaps he bounded out of the camp. Jumping up, I fired after him when he was about thirty yards distant; the melancholy hum of the bullet sounded far away through the night. At the sharp report, so suddenly breaking upon the stillness, all the men sprang up.
"You've killed him," said one of them.
"No, I haven't," said I; "there he goes, running along the river.
"Then there's two of them. Don't you see that one lying out yonder?"
We went to it, and instead of a dead white wolf found the bleached skull of a buffalo. I had missed my mark, and what was worse, had grossly violated a standing law of the prairie. When in a dangerous part of the country, it is considered highly imprudent to fire a gun after encamping, lest the report should reach the ears of the Indians.
The horses were saddled in the morning, and the last man had lighted his pipe at the dying ashes of the fire. The beauty of the day enlivened us all. Even Ellis felt its influence, and occasionally made a remark as we rode along, and Jim Gurney told endless stories of his cruisings in the United States service. The buffalo were abundant, and at length a large band of them went running up the hills on the left.
"Do you see them buffalo?" said Ellis, "now I'll bet any man I'll go and kill one with my yager."
And leaving his horse to follow on with the party, he strode up the hill after them. Henry looked at us with his peculiar humorous expression, and proposed that we should follow Ellis to see how he would kill a fat cow. As soon as he was out of sight we rode up the hill after him, and waited behind a little ridge till we heard the report of the unfailing yager. Mounting to the top, we saw Ellis clutching his favorite weapon with both hands, and staring after the buffalo, who one and all were galloping off at full speed. As we descended the hill we saw the party straggling along the trail below. When we joined them, another scene of amateur hunting awaited us. I forgot to say that when we met the volunteers Tete Rouge had obtained a horse from one of them, in exchange for his mule, whom he feared and detested. The horse he christened James. James, though not worth so much as the mule, was a large and strong animal. Tete Rouge was very proud of his new acquisition, and suddenly became ambitious to run a buffalo with him. At his request, I lent him my pistols, though not without great misgivings, since when Tete Rouge hunted buffalo the pursuer was in more danger than the pursued. He hung the holsters at his saddle bow; and now, as we passed along, a band of bulls left their grazing in the meadow and galloped in a long file across the trail in front.
"Now's your chance, Tete; come, let's see you kill a bull." Thus urged, the hunter cried, "Get up!" and James, obedient to the signal, cantered deliberately forward at an abominably uneasy gait. Tete Rouge, as we contemplated him from behind; made a most remarkable figure. He still wore the old buffalo coat; his blanket, which was tied in a loose bundle behind his saddle, went jolting from one side to the other, and a large tin canteen half full of water, which hung from his pommel, was jerked about his leg in a manner which greatly embarrassed him.
"Let out your horse, man; lay on your whip!" we called out to him. The buffalo were getting farther off at every instant. James, being ambitious to mend his pace, tugged hard at the rein, and one of his rider's boots escaped from the stirrup.
"Woa! I say, woa!" cried Tete Rouge, in great perturbation, and after much effort James' progress was arrested. The hunter came trotting back to the party, disgusted with buffalo running, and he was received with overwhelming congratulations.
"Too good a chance to lose," said Shaw, pointing to another band of bulls on the left. We lashed our horses and galloped upon them. Shaw killed one with each barrel of his gun. I separated another from the herd and shot him. The small bullet of the rifled pistol, striking too far back, did not immediately take effect, and the bull ran on with unabated speed. Again and again I snapped the remaining pistol at him. I primed it afresh three or four times, and each time it missed fire, for the touch-hole was clogged up. Returning it to the holster, I began to load the empty pistol, still galloping by the side of the bull. By this time he was grown desperate. The foam flew from his jaws and his tongue lolled out. Before the pistol was loaded he sprang upon me, and followed up his attack with a furious rush. The only alternative was to run away or be killed. I took to flight, and the bull, bristling with fury, pursued me closely. The pistol was soon ready, and then looking back, I saw his head five or six yards behind my horse's tail. To fire at it would be useless, for a bullet flattens against the adamantine skull of a buffalo bull. Inclining my body to the left, I turned my horse in that direction as sharply as his speed would permit. The bull, rushing blindly on with great force and weight, did not turn so quickly. As I looked back, his neck and shoulders were exposed to view; turning in the saddle, I shot a bullet through them obliquely into his vitals. He gave over the chase and soon fell to the ground. An English tourist represents a situation like this as one of imminent danger; this is a great mistake; the bull never pursues long, and the horse must be wretched indeed that cannot keep out of his way for two or three minutes.
We were now come to a part of the country where we were bound in common prudence to use every possible precaution. We mounted guard at night, each man standing in his turn; and no one ever slept without drawing his rifle close to his side or folding it with him in his blanket. One morning our vigilance was stimulated by our finding traces of a large Comanche encampment. Fortunately for us, however, it had been abandoned nearly a week. On the next evening we found the ashes of a recent fire, which gave us at the time some uneasiness. At length we reached the Caches, a place of dangerous repute; and it had a most dangerous appearance, consisting of sand-hills everywhere broken by ravines and deep chasms. Here we found the grave of Swan, killed at this place, probably by the Pawnees, two or three weeks before. His remains, more than once violated by the Indians and the wolves, were suffered at length to remain undisturbed in their wild burial place.
For several days we met detached companies of Price's regiment. Horses would often break loose at night from their camps. One afternoon we picked up three of these stragglers quietly grazing along the river. After we came to camp that evening, Jim Gurney brought news that more of them were in sight. It was nearly dark, and a cold, drizzling rain had set in; but we all turned out, and after an hour's chase nine horses were caught and brought in. One of them was equipped with saddle and bridle; pistols were hanging at the pommel of the saddle, a carbine was slung at its side, and a blanket rolled up behind it. In the morning, glorying in our valuable prize, we resumed our journey, and our cavalcade presented a much more imposing appearance than ever before. We kept on till the afternoon, when, far behind, three horsemen appeared on the horizon. Coming on at a hand-gallop, they soon overtook us, and claimed all the horses as belonging to themselves and others of their company. They were of course given up, very much to the mortification of Ellis and Jim Gurney.
Our own horses now showed signs of fatigue, and we resolved to give them half a day's rest. We stopped at noon at a grassy spot by the river. After dinner Shaw and Henry went out to hunt; and while the men lounged about the camp, I lay down to read in the shadow of the cart. Looking up, I saw a bull grazing alone on the prairie more than a mile distant. I was tired of reading, and taking my rifle I walked toward him. As I came near, I crawled upon the ground until I approached to within a hundred yards; here I sat down upon the grass and waited till he should turn himself into a proper position to receive his death-wound. He was a grim old veteran. His loves and his battles were over for that season, and now, gaunt and war-worn, he had withdrawn from the herd to graze by himself and recruit his exhausted strength. He was miserably emaciated; his mane was all in tatters; his hide was bare and rough as an elephant's, and covered with dried patches of the mud in which he had been wallowing. He showed all his ribs whenever he moved. He looked like some grizzly old ruffian grown gray in blood and violence, and scowling on all the world from his misanthropic seclusion. The old savage looked up when I first approached, and gave me a fierce stare; then he fell to grazing again with an air of contemptuous indifference. The moment after, as if suddenly recollecting himself, he threw up his head, faced quickly about, and to my amazement came at a rapid trot directly toward me. I was strongly impelled to get up and run, but this would have been very dangerous. Sitting quite still I aimed, as he came on, at the thin part of the skull above the nose. After he had passed over about three-quarters of the distance between us, I was on the point of firing, when, to my great satisfaction, he stopped short. I had full opportunity of studying his countenance; his whole front was covered with a huge mass of coarse matted hair, which hung so low that nothing but his two forefeet were visible beneath it; his short thick horns were blunted and split to the very roots in his various battles, and across his nose and forehead were two or three large white scars, which gave him a grim and at the same time a whimsical appearance. It seemed to me that he stood there motionless for a full quarter of an hour, looking at me through the tangled locks of his mane. For my part, I remained as quiet as he, and looked quite as hard; I felt greatly inclined to come to term with him. "My friend," thought I, "if you'll let me off, I'll let you off." At length he seemed to have abandoned any hostile design. Very slowly and deliberately he began to turn about; little by little his side came into view, all be-plastered with mud. It was a tempting sight. I forgot my prudent intentions, and fired my rifle; a pistol would have served at that distance. Round spun old bull like a top, and away he galloped over the prairie. He ran some distance, and even ascended a considerable hill, before he lay down and died. After shooting another bull among the hills, I went back to camp.
At noon, on the 14th of September, a very large Santa Fe caravan came up. The plain was covered with the long files of their white-topped wagons, the close black carriages in which the traders travel and sleep, large droves of animals, and men on horseback and on foot. They all stopped on the meadow near us. Our diminutive cart and handful of men made but an insignificant figure by the side of their wide and bustling camp. Tete Rouge went over to visit them, and soon came back with half a dozen biscuits in one hand and a bottle of brandy in the other. I inquired where he got them. "Oh," said Tete Rouge, "I know some of the traders. Dr. Dobbs is there besides." I asked who Dr. Dobbs might be. "One of our St. Louis doctors," replied Tete Rouge. For two days past I had been severely attacked by the same disorder which had so greatly reduced my strength when at the mountains; at this time I was suffering not a little from the sudden pain and weakness which it occasioned. Tete Rouge, in answer to my inquiries, declared that Dr. Dobbs was a physician of the first standing. Without at all believing him, I resolved to consult this eminent practitioner. Walking over to the camp, I found him lying sound asleep under one of the wagons. He offered in his own person but an indifferent specimen of his skill, for it was five months since I had seen so cadaverous a face.
His hat had fallen off, and his yellow hair was all in disorder; one of his arms supplied the place of a pillow; his pantaloons were wrinkled halfway up to his knees, and he was covered with little bits of grass and straw, upon which he had rolled in his uneasy slumber. A Mexican stood near, and I made him a sign that he should touch the doctor. Up sprang the learned Dobbs, and, sitting upright, rubbed his eyes and looked about him in great bewilderment. I regretted the necessity of disturbing him, and said I had come to ask professional advice. "Your system, sir, is in a disordered state," said he solemnly, after a short examination.
I inquired what might be the particular species of disorder.
"Evidently a morbid action of the liver," replied the medical man; "I will give you a prescription."
Repairing to the back of one of the covered wagons, he scrambled in; for a moment I could see nothing of him but his boots. At length he produced a box which he had extracted from some dark recess within, and opening it, he presented me with a folded paper of some size. "What is it?" said I. "Calomel," said the doctor.
Under the circumstances I would have taken almost anything. There was not enough to do me much harm, and it might possibly do good; so at camp that night I took the poison instead of supper.
That camp is worthy of notice. The traders warned us not to follow the main trail along the river, "unless," as one of them observed, "you want to have your throats cut!" The river at this place makes a bend; and a smaller trail, known as the Ridge-path, leads directly across the prairie from point to point, a distance of sixty or seventy miles.
We followed this trail, and after traveling seven or eight miles, we came to a small stream, where we encamped. Our position was not chosen with much forethought or military skill. The water was in a deep hollow, with steep, high banks; on the grassy bottom of this hollow we picketed our horses, while we ourselves encamped upon the barren prairie just above. The opportunity was admirable either for driving off our horses or attacking us. After dark, as Tete Rouge was sitting at supper, we observed him pointing with a face of speechless horror over the shoulder of Henry, who was opposite to him. Aloof amid the darkness appeared a gigantic black apparition; solemnly swaying to and fro, it advanced steadily upon us. Henry, half vexed and half amused, jumped up, spread out his arms, and shouted. The invader was an old buffalo bull, who with characteristic stupidity, was walking directly into camp. It cost some shouting and swinging of hats before we could bring him first to a halt and then to a rapid retreat.
That night the moon was full and bright; but as the black clouds chased rapidly over it, we were at one moment in light and at the next in darkness. As the evening advanced, a thunderstorm came up; it struck us with such violence that the tent would have been blown over if we had not interposed the cart to break the force of the wind. At length it subsided to a steady rain. I lay awake through nearly the whole night, listening to its dull patter upon the canvas above. The moisture, which filled the tent and trickled from everything in it, did not add to the comfort of the situation. About twelve o'clock Shaw went out to stand guard amid the rain and pitch darkness. Munroe, the most vigilant as well as one of the bravest among us, was also on the alert. When about two hours had passed, Shaw came silently in, and touching Henry, called him in a low quick voice to come out. "What is it?" I asked. "Indians, I believe," whispered Shaw; "but lie still; I'll call you if there's a fight."
He and Henry went out together. I took the cover from my rifle, put a fresh percussion cap upon it, and then, being in much pain, lay down again. In about five minutes Shaw came in again. "All right," he said, as he lay down to sleep. Henry was now standing guard in his place. He told me in the morning the particulars of the alarm. Munroe' s watchful eye discovered some dark objects down in the hollow, among the horses, like men creeping on all fours. Lying flat on their faces, he and Shaw crawled to the edge of the bank, and were soon convinced that what they saw were Indians. Shaw silently withdrew to call Henry, and they all lay watching in the same position. Henry's eye is of the best on the prairie. He detected after a while the true nature of the moving objects; they were nothing but wolves creeping among the horses.
It is very singular that when picketed near a camp horses seldom show any fear of such an intrusion. The wolves appear to have no other object than that of gnawing the trail-ropes of raw hide by which the animals are secured. Several times in the course of the journey my horse's trail-rope was bitten in two by these nocturnal visitors.
The next day was extremely hot, and we rode from morning till night without seeing a tree or a bush or a drop of water. Our horses and mules suffered much more than we, but as sunset approached they pricked up their ears and mended their pace. Water was not far off. When we came to the descent of the broad shallowy valley where it lay, an unlooked-for sight awaited us. The stream glistened at the bottom, and along its banks were pitched a multitude of tents, while hundreds of cattle were feeding over the meadows. Bodies of troops, both horse and foot, and long trains of wagons with men, women, and children, were moving over the opposite ridge and descending the broad declivity in front. These were the Mormon battalion in the service of government, together with a considerable number of Missouri volunteers. The Mormons were to be paid off in California, and they were allowed to bring with them their families and property. There was something very striking in the half-military, half-patriarchal appearance of these armed fanatics, thus on their way with their wives and children, to found, if might be, a Mormon empire in California. We were much more astonished than pleased at the sight before us. In order to find an unoccupied camping ground, we were obliged to pass a quarter of a mile up the stream, and here we were soon beset by a swarm of Mormons and Missourians. The United States officer in command of the whole came also to visit us, and remained some time at our camp.
In the morning the country was covered with mist. We were always early risers, but before we were ready the voices of men driving in the cattle sounded all around us. As we passed above their camp, we saw through the obscurity that the tents were falling and the ranks rapidly forming; and mingled with the cries of women and children, the rolling of the Mormon drums and the clear blast of their trumpets sounded through the mist.
From that time to the journey's end, we met almost every day long trains of government wagons, laden with stores for the troops and crawling at a snail's pace toward Santa Fe.
Tete Rouge had a mortal antipathy to danger, but on a foraging expedition one evening, he achieved an adventure more perilous than had yet befallen any man in the party. The night after we left the Ridge-path we encamped close to the river. At sunset we saw a train of wagons encamping on the trail about three miles off; and though we saw them distinctly, our little cart, as it afterward proved, entirely escaped their view. For some days Tete Rouge had been longing eagerly after a dram of whisky. So, resolving to improve the present opportunity, he mounted his horse James, slung his canteen over his shoulder, and set forth in search of his favorite liquor. Some hours passed without his returning. We thought that he was lost, or perhaps that some stray Indian had snapped him up. While the rest fell asleep I remained on guard. Late at night a tremulous voice saluted me from the darkness, and Tete Rouge and James soon became visible, advancing toward the camp. Tete Rouge was in much agitation and big with some important tidings. Sitting down on the shaft of the cart, he told the following story:
When he left the camp he had no idea, he said, how late it was. By the time he approached the wagoners it was perfectly dark; and as he saw them all sitting around their fires within the circle of wagons, their guns laid by their sides, he thought he might as well give warning of his approach, in order to prevent a disagreeable mistake. Raising his voice to the highest pitch, he screamed out in prolonged accents, "Camp, ahoy!" This eccentric salutation produced anything but the desired result. Hearing such hideous sounds proceeding from the outer darkness, the wagoners thought that the whole Pawnee nation were about to break in and take their scalps. Up they sprang staring with terror. Each man snatched his gun; some stood behind the wagons; some threw themselves flat on the ground, and in an instant twenty cocked muskets were leveled full at the horrified Tete Rouge, who just then began to be visible through the darkness.
"Thar they come," cried the master wagoner, "fire, fire! shoot that feller."
"No, no!" screamed Tete Rouge, in an ecstasy of fright; "don't fire, don't! I'm a friend, I'm an American citizen!"
"You're a friend, be you?" cried a gruff voice from the wagons; "then what are you yelling out thar for, like a wild Injun. Come along up here if you're a man."
"Keep your guns p'inted at him," added the master wagoner, "maybe he's a decoy, like."
Tete Rouge in utter bewilderment made his approach, with the gaping muzzles of the muskets still before his eyes. He succeeded at last in explaining his character and situation, and the Missourians admitted him into camp. He got no whisky; but as he represented himself as a great invalid, and suffering much from coarse fare, they made up a contribution for him of rice, biscuit, and sugar from their own rations.
In the morning at breakfast, Tete Rouge once more related this story. We hardly knew how much of it to believe, though after some cross-questioning we failed to discover any flaw in the narrative. Passing by the wagoner's camp, they confirmed Tete Rouge's account in every particular.
"I wouldn't have been in that feller's place," said one of them, "for the biggest heap of money in Missouri."
To Tete Rouge's great wrath they expressed a firm conviction that he was crazy. We left them after giving them the advice not to trouble themselves about war-whoops in future, since they would be apt to feel an Indian's arrow before they heard his voice.
A day or two after, we had an adventure of another sort with a party of wagoners. Henry and I rode forward to hunt. After that day there was no probability that we should meet with buffalo, and we were anxious to kill one for the sake of fresh meat. They were so wild that we hunted all the morning in vain, but at noon as we approached Cow Creek we saw a large band feeding near its margin. Cow Creek is densely lined with trees which intercept the view beyond, and it runs, as we afterward found, at the bottom of a deep trench. We approached by riding along the bottom of a ravine. When we were near enough, I held the horses while Henry crept toward the buffalo. I saw him take his seat within shooting distance, prepare his rifle, and look about to select his victim. The death of a fat cow was certain, when suddenly a great smoke arose from the bed of the Creek with a rattling volley of musketry. A score of long-legged Missourians leaped out from among the trees and ran after the buffalo, who one and all took to their heels and vanished. These fellows had crawled up the bed of the Creek to within a hundred yards of the buffalo. Never was there a fairer chance for a shot. They were good marksmen; all cracked away at once, and yet not a buffalo fell. In fact, the animal is so tenacious of life that it requires no little knowledge of anatomy to kill it, and it is very seldom that a novice succeeds in his first attempt at approaching. The balked Missourians were excessively mortified, especially when Henry told them if they had kept quiet he would have killed meat enough in ten minutes to feed their whole party. Our friends, who were at no great distance, hearing such a formidable fusillade, thought the Indians had fired the volley for our benefit. Shaw came galloping on to reconnoiter and learn if we were yet in the land of the living.
At Cow Creek we found the very welcome novelty of ripe grapes and plums, which grew there in abundance. At the Little Arkansas, not much farther on, we saw the last buffalo, a miserable old bull, roaming over the prairie alone and melancholy.
From this time forward the character of the country was changing every day. We had left behind us the great arid deserts, meagerly covered by the tufted buffalo grass, with its pale green hue, and its short shriveled blades. The plains before us were carpeted with rich and verdant herbage sprinkled with flowers. In place of buffalo we found plenty of prairie hens, and we bagged them by dozens without leaving the trail. In three or four days we saw before us the broad woods and the emerald meadows of Council Grove, a scene of striking luxuriance and beauty. It seemed like a new sensation as we rode beneath the resounding archs of these noble woods. The trees were ash, oak, elm, maple, and hickory, their mighty limbs deeply overshadowing the path, while enormous grape vines were entwined among them, purple with fruit. The shouts of our scattered party, and now and then a report of a rifle, rang amid the breathing stillness of the forest. We rode forth again with regret into the broad light of the open prairie. Little more than a hundred miles now separated us from the frontier settlements. The whole intervening country was a succession of verdant prairies, rising in broad swells and relieved by trees clustering like an oasis around some spring, or following the course of a stream along some fertile hollow. These are the prairies of the poet and the novelist. We had left danger behind us. Nothing was to be feared from the Indians of this region, the Sacs and Foxes, the Kansas and the Osages. We had met with signal good fortune. Although for five months we had been traveling with an insufficient force through a country where we were at any moment liable to depredation, not a single animal had been stolen from us, and our only loss had been one old mule bitten to death by a rattlesnake. Three weeks after we reached the frontier the Pawnees and the Comanches began a regular series of hostilities on the Arkansas trail, killing men and driving off horses. They attacked, without exception, every party, large or small, that passed during the next six months.
Diamond Spring, Rock Creek, Elder Grove, and other camping places besides, were passed all in quick succession. At Rock Creek we found a train of government provision wagons, under the charge of an emaciated old man in his seventy-first year. Some restless American devil had driven him into the wilderness at a time when he should have been seated at his fireside with his grandchildren on his knees. I am convinced that he never returned; he was complaining that night of a disease, the wasting effects of which upon a younger and stronger man, I myself had proved from severe experience. Long ere this no doubt the wolves have howled their moonlight carnival over the old man's attenuated remains.
Not long after we came to a small trail leading to Fort Leavenworth, distant but one day's journey. Tete Rouge here took leave of us. He was anxious to go to the fort in order to receive payment for his valuable military services. So he and his horse James, after bidding an affectionate farewell, set out together, taking with them as much provision as they could conveniently carry, including a large quantity of brown sugar. On a cheerless rainy evening we came to our last encamping ground. Some pigs belonging to a Shawnee farmer were grunting and rooting at the edge of the grove.
"I wonder how fresh pork tastes," murmured one of the party, and more than one voice murmured in response. The fiat went forth, "That pig must die," and a rifle was leveled forthwith at the countenance of the plumpest porker. Just then a wagon train, with some twenty Missourians, came out from among the trees. The marksman suspended his aim, deeming it inexpedient under the circumstances to consummate the deed of blood.
In the morning we made our toilet as well as circumstances would permit, and that is saying but very little. In spite of the dreary rain of yesterday, there never was a brighter and gayer autumnal morning than that on which we returned to the settlements. We were passing through the country of the half-civilized Shawanoes. It was a beautiful alternation of fertile plains and groves, whose foliage was just tinged with the hues of autumn, while close beneath them rested the neat log-houses of the Indian farmers. Every field and meadow bespoke the exuberant fertility of the soil. The maize stood rustling in the wind, matured and dry, its shining yellow ears thrust out between the gaping husks. Squashes and enormous yellow pumpkins lay basking in the sun in the midst of their brown and shriveled leaves. Robins and blackbirds flew about the fences; and everything in short betokened our near approach to home and civilization. The forests that border on the Missouri soon rose before us, and we entered the wide tract of shrubbery which forms their outskirts. We had passed the same road on our outward journey in the spring, but its aspect was totally changed. The young wild apple trees, then flushed with their fragrant blossoms, were now hung thickly with ruddy fruit. Tall grass flourished by the roadside in place of the tender shoots just peeping from the warm and oozy soil. The vines were laden with dark purple grapes, and the slender twigs of the maple, then tasseled with their clusters of small red flowers, now hung out a gorgeous display of leaves stained by the frost with burning crimson. On every side we saw the tokens of maturity and decay where all had before been fresh and beautiful. We entered the forest, and ourselves and our horses were checkered, as we passed along, by the bright spots of sunlight that fell between the opening boughs. On either side the dark rich masses of foliage almost excluded the sun, though here and there its rays could find their way down, striking through the broad leaves and lighting them with a pure transparent green. Squirrels barked at us from the trees; coveys of young partridges ran rustling over the leaves below, and the golden oriole, the blue jay, and the flaming red-bird darted among the shadowy branches. We hailed these sights and sounds of beauty by no means with an unmingled pleasure. Many and powerful as were the attractions which drew us toward the settlements, we looked back even at that moment with an eager longing toward the wilderness of prairies and mountains behind us. For myself I had suffered more that summer from illness than ever before in my life, and yet to this hour I cannot recall those savage scenes and savage men without a strong desire again to visit them.
At length, for the first time during about half a year, we saw the roof of a white man's dwelling between the opening trees. A few moments after we were riding over the miserable log bridge that leads into the center of Westport. Westport had beheld strange scenes, but a rougher looking troop than ours, with our worn equipments and broken-down horses, was never seen even there. We passed the well-remembered tavern, Boone's grocery and old Vogel's dram shop, and encamped on a meadow beyond. Here we were soon visited by a number of people who came to purchase our horses and equipage. This matter disposed of, we hired a wagon and drove on to Kansas Landing. Here we were again received under the hospitable roof of our old friend Colonel Chick, and seated on his porch we looked down once more on the eddies of the Missouri.
Delorier made his appearance in the morning, strangely transformed by the assistance of a hat, a coat, and a razor. His little log-house was among the woods not far off. It seemed he had meditated giving a ball on the occasion of his return, and had consulted Henry Chatillon as to whether it would do to invite his bourgeois. Henry expressed his entire conviction that we would not take it amiss, and the invitation was now proffered, accordingly, Delorier adding as a special inducement that Antoine Lejeunesse was to play the fiddle. We told him we would certainly come, but before the evening arrived a steamboat, which came down from Fort Leavenworth, prevented our being present at the expected festivities. Delorier was on the rock at the landing place, waiting to take leave of us.
"Adieu! mes bourgeois; adieu! adieu!" he cried out as the boat pulled off; "when you go another time to de Rocky Montagnes I will go with you; yes, I will go!"
He accompanied this patronizing assurance by jumping about swinging his hat, and grinning from ear to ear. As the boat rounded a distant point, the last object that met our eyes was Delorier still lifting his hat and skipping about the rock. We had taken leave of Munroe and Jim Gurney at Westport, and Henry Chatillon went down in the boat with us.
The passage to St. Louis occupied eight days, during about a third of which we were fast aground on sand-bars. We passed the steamer Amelia crowded with a roaring crew of disbanded volunteers, swearing, drinking, gambling, and fighting. At length one evening we reached the crowded levee of St. Louis. Repairing to the Planters' House, we caused diligent search to be made for our trunks, which after some time were discovered stowed away in the farthest corner of the storeroom. In the morning we hardly recognized each other; a frock of broadcloth had supplanted the frock of buckskin; well-fitted pantaloons took the place of the Indian leggings, and polished boots were substituted for the gaudy moccasins.
After we had been several days at St. Louis we heard news of Tete Rouge. He had contrived to reach Fort Leavenworth, where he had found the paymaster and received his money. As a boat was just ready to start for St. Louis, he went on board and engaged his passage. This done, he immediately got drunk on shore, and the boat went off without him. It was some days before another opportunity occurred, and meanwhile the sutler's stores furnished him with abundant means of keeping up his spirits. Another steamboat came at last, the clerk of which happened to be a friend of his, and by the advice of some charitable person on shore he persuaded Tete Rouge to remain on board, intending to detain him there until the boat should leave the fort. At first Tete Rouge was well contented with this arrangement, but on applying for a dram, the barkeeper, at the clerk's instigation, refused to let him have it. Finding them both inflexible in spite of his entreaties, he became desperate and made his escape from the boat. The clerk found him after a long search in one of the barracks; a circle of dragoons stood contemplating him as he lay on the floor, maudlin drunk and crying dismally. With the help of one of them the clerk pushed him on board, and our informant, who came down in the same boat, declares that he remained in great despondency during the whole passage. As we left St. Louis soon after his arrival, we did not see the worthless, good-natured little vagabond again.
On the evening before our departure Henry Chatillon came to our rooms at the Planters' House to take leave of us. No one who met him in the streets of St. Louis would have taken him for a hunter fresh from the Rocky Mountains. He was very neatly and simply dressed in a suit of dark cloth; for although, since his sixteenth year, he had scarcely been for a month together among the abodes of men, he had a native good taste and a sense of propriety which always led him to pay great attention to his personal appearance. His tall athletic figure, with its easy flexible motions, appeared to advantage in his present dress; and his fine face, though roughened by a thousand storms, was not at all out of keeping with it. We took leave of him with much regret; and unless his changing features, as he shook us by the hand, belied him, the feeling on his part was no less than on ours. Shaw had given him a horse at Westport. My rifle, which he had always been fond of using, as it was an excellent piece, much better than his own, is now in his hands, and perhaps at this moment its sharp voice is startling the echoes of the Rocky Mountains. On the next morning we left town, and after a fortnight of railroads and steamboat we saw once more the familiar features of home.