THE LAST OF THE CHIEFS
A Story of the Great Sioux War
by Joseph A. Altsheler
V—The Lost Valley
VII—An Animal Progression
VIII—The Trap Makers
IX—The Timber Wolves
X—Dick Goes Scouting
XI—The Terrible Pursuit
XII—The Fight with Nature
XV—The Indian Village
XVI—The Gathering of the Sioux
XVII—Great Sun Dance
XVIII—The Circle of Death
XIX—A Happy Meeting
XX—Bright Sun's Good-by
The boy in the third wagon was suffering from exhaustion. The
days and days of walking over the rolling prairie, under a brassy
sun, the hard food of the train, and the short hours of rest, had
put too severe a trial upon his delicate frame. Now, as he lay
against the sacks and boxes that had been drawn up to form a sort
of couch for him, his breath came in short gasps, and his face
was very pale. His brother, older, and stronger by far, who
walked at the wheel, regarded him with a look in which affection
and intense anxiety were mingled. It was not a time and place in
which one could afford to be ill.
Richard and Albert Howard were bound together by the strongest of
brotherly ties. Richard had inherited his father's bigness and
powerful constitution, Albert his mother's slenderness and
fragility. But it was the mother who lived the longer, although
even she did not attain middle age, and her last words to her
older son were: "Richard, take care of Albert." He had promised,
and now was thinking how he could keep the promise.
It was a terrible problem that confronted Richard Howard. He
felt no fear on his own account. A boy in years, he was a man in
the ability to care for himself, wherever he might be. In a
boyhood spent on an Illinois farm, where the prairies slope up to
the forest, he had learned the ways of wood and field, and was
full of courage, strength, and resource.
But Albert was different. He had not thrived in the moist air of
the great valley. Tall enough he was, but the width of chest and
thickness of bone were lacking. Noticing this, the idea of going
to California had come to the older brother. The great gold days
had passed years since, but it was still a land of enchantment to
the youth of the older states, and the long journey in the high,
dry air of the plains would be good for Albert. There was
nothing to keep them back. They had no property save a little
money—enough for their equipment, and a few dollars over to
live on in California until they could get work.
To decide was to start, and here they were in the middle of the
vast country that rolled away west of the Missouri, known but
little, and full of dangers. The journey had been much harder
than the older boy had expected. The days stretched out, the
weeks trailed away, and still the plains rolled before them.
The summer had been of the hottest, and the heated earth gave
back the glare until the air quivered in torrid waves. Richard
had drawn back the cover of the wagon that his brother might
breathe the air, but he replaced it now to protect him from the
overpowering beams. Once more he anxiously studied the country,
but it gave him little hope. The green of the grass was gone,
and most of the grass with it. The brown undulations swept away
from horizon to horizon, treeless, waterless, and bare. In all
that vast desolation there was nothing save the tired and dusty
train at the very center of it.
"Anything in sight, Dick?" asked Albert, who had followed his
brother's questioning look.
Dick shook his head.
"Nothing, Al," he replied.
"I wish we'd come to a grove," said the sick boy.
He longed, as do all those who are born in the hills, for the
sight of trees and clear, running water.
"I was thinking, Dick," he resumed in short, gasping tones, "that
it would be well for us, just as the evening was coming on, to go
over a swell and ride right into a forest of big oaks and maples,
with the finest little creek that you ever saw running through
the middle of it. It would be pleasant and shady there. Leaves
would be lying about, the water would be cold, and maybe we'd see
elk coming down to drink."
"Perhaps we'll have such luck, Al," said Dick, although his tone
showed no such hope. But he added, assuming a cheerful manner:
"This can't go on forever; we'll be reaching the mountains soon,
and then you'll get well."
"How's that brother of yours? No better, I see, and he's got to
ride all the time now, making more load for the animals."
It was Sam Conway, the leader of the train, who spoke, a rough
man of middle age, for whom both Dick and Albert had acquired a
deep dislike. Dick flushed through his tan at the hard words.
"If he's sick he had the right to ride," he replied sharply.
"We've paid our share for this trip and maybe a little more.
You know that."
Conway gave him an ugly look, but Dick stood up straight and
strong, and met him eye for eye. He was aware of their rights
and he meant to defend them. Conway, confronted by a dauntless
spirit, turned away, muttering in a surly fashion:
"We didn't bargain to take corpses across the plains."
Fortunately, the boy in the wagon did not hear him, and, though
his eyes flashed ominously, Dick said nothing. It was not a time
for quarreling, but it was often hard to restrain one's temper.
He had realized, soon after the start, when it was too late to
withdraw, that the train was not a good one. It was made up
mostly of men. There were no children, and the few women, like
the men, were coarse and rough. Turbulent scenes had occurred,
but Dick and Albert kept aloof, steadily minding their own
"What did Conway say?" asked Albert, after the man had gone.
"Nothing of any importance. He was merely growling as usual. He
likes to make himself disagreeable. I never saw another man who
got as much enjoyment out of that sort of thing."
Albert said nothing more, but closed his eyes. The canvas cover
protected him from the glare of the sun, but seemed to hold the
heat within it. Drops of perspiration stood on his face, and
Dick longed for the mountains, for his brother's sake.
All the train fell into a sullen silence, and no sound was heard
but the unsteady rumble of the wheels, the creak of an ungreased
axle, and the occasional crack of a whip. Clouds of dust arose
and were whipped by the stray winds into the faces of the
travelers, the fine particles burning like hot ashes. The train
moved slowly and heavily, as if it dragged a wounded length over
the hard ground.
Dick Howard kept his position by the side of the wagon in which
his brother lay. He did not intend that Albert should hear
bitter words leveled at his weakness, and he knew that his own
presence was a deterrent. The strong figures and dauntless port
of the older youth inspired respect. Moreover, he carried over
his shoulder a repeating rifle of the latest pattern, and his
belt was full of cartridges. He and Albert had been particular
about their arms. It was a necessity. The plains and the
mountains were subject to all the dangers of Indian warfare, and
they had taken a natural youthful pride in buying the finest of
The hot dust burned Dick Howard's face and crept into his eyes
and throat. His tongue lay dry in his mouth. He might have
ridden in one of the wagons, too, had he chosen. As he truly
said, he and Albert had paid their full share, and in the labor
of the trail, he was more efficient than anybody else in the
train. But his pride had been touched by Conway's words. He
would not ride, nor would he show any signs of weakness. He
strode on by the side of the wagon, head erect, his step firm and
The sun crept slowly down the brassy arch of the heavens, and the
glare grew less blinding. The heat abated, but Albert Howard,
who had fallen asleep, slept on. His brother drew a blanket over
him, knowing that he could not afford to catch cold, and breathed
the cooler air himself, with thankfulness. Conway came back
again, and was scarcely less gruff than before, although he said
nothing about Albert.
"Bright Sun says than in another day or two we'll be seeing the
mountains," he vouchsafed; "and I'll be glad of it, because then
we'll be coming to water and game."
"I'd like to be seeing them now," responded Dick; "but do you
believe everything that Bright Sun says?"
"Of course I do. Hasn't he brought us along all right? What are
you driving at?"
His voice rose to a challenging tone, in full accordance with the
nature of the man, whenever anyone disagreed with him, but Dick
Howard took not the least fear.
"I don't altogether like Bright Sun," he replied. "Just why, I
can't say, but the fact remains that I don't like him. It
doesn't seem natural for an Indian to be so fond of white people,
and to prefer another race to his own."
Conway laughed harshly.
"That shows how much you know," he said. "Bright Sun is smart,
smarter than a steel trap. He knows that the day of the red is
passing, and he's going to train with the white. What's the use
of being on the losing side? It's what I say, and it's what
Bright Sun thinks."
The man's manner was gross and materialistic, so repellent that
Dick would have turned away, but at that moment Bright Sun
himself approached. Dick regarded him, as always, with the
keenest interest and curiosity mixed with some suspicion. Yet
almost anyone would have been reassured by the appearance of
Bright Sun. He was a splendid specimen of the Indian, although
in white garb, even to the soft felt hat shading his face. But
he could never have been taken for a white man. His hair was
thick, black, and coarse, his skin of the red man's typical
coppery tint, and his cheek bones high and sharp. His lean but
sinewy and powerful figure rose two inches above six feet. There
was an air about him, too, that told of strength other than that
of the body. Guide he was, but leader he looked.
"Say, Bright Sun," exclaimed Conway coarsely, "Dick Howard here
thinks you're too friendly with the whites. It don't seem
natural to him that one of your color should consort so freely
Dick's face flushed through the brown, and he shot an angry
glance at Conway, but Bright Sun did not seem to be offended.
"Why not?" he asked in perfect English. "I was educated in a
mission school. I have been with white people most of my life, I
have read your books, I know your civilization, and I like it."
"There now!" exclaimed Conway triumphantly. "Ain't that an
answer for you? I tell you what, Bright Sun, I'm for you, I
believe in you, and if anybody can take us through all right to
California, you're the man."
"It is my task and I will accomplish it," said Bright Sun in the
precise English he had learned at the mission school.
His eyes met Dick's for a moment, and the boy saw there a flash
that might mean many things—defiance, primeval force, and the
quality that plans and does. But the flash was gone in an
instant, like a dying spark, and Bright Sun turned away. Conway
also left, but Dick's gaze followed the Indian.
He did not know Bright Sun's tribe. He had heard that he was a
Sioux, also that he was a Crow, and a third report credited him
with being a Cheyenne. As he never painted his face, dressed
like a white man, and did not talk of himself and his people, the
curious were free to surmise as they chose. But Dick was sure of
one thing: Bright Sun was a man of power. It was not a matter of
surmise, he felt it instinctively.
The tall figure of the Indian was lost among the wagons, and Dick
turned his attention to the trail. The cooling waves continued
to roll up, as the west reddened into a brilliant sunset. Great
bars of crimson, then of gold, and the shades in between, piled
above one another on the horizon. The plains lost their brown,
and gleamed in wonderful shimmering tints. The great desolate
world became beautiful.
The train stopped with a rumble, a creak, and a lurch, and the
men began to unharness the animals. Albert awoke with a start
and sat up in the wagon.
"Night and the camp, Al," said Dick cheerfully; "feel better,
"Yes, I do," replied Albert, as a faint color came into his face.
"Thought the rest and the coolness would brace you up," continued
Dick in the same cheerful tone.
Albert, a tall, emaciated boy with a face of great refinement and
delicacy, climbed out of the wagon and looked about. Dick busied
himself with the work of making camp, letting Albert give what
help he could.
But Dick always undertook to do enough for two—his brother and
himself—and he really did enough for three. No other was so
swift and skillful at taking the gear off horse or mule, nor was
there a stronger or readier arm at the wheel when it was
necessary to complete the circle of wagons that they nightly
made. When this was done, he went out on the prairie in search
of buffalo chips for the fire, which he was fortunate enough to
find without any trouble.
Before returning with his burden, Dick stood a few moments
looking back at the camp. The dusk had fully come, but the fires
were not yet lighted, and he saw only the shadowy forms of the
wagons and flitting figures about them. But much talked reached
his ears, most of it coarse and rough, with a liberal sprinkling
of oaths. Dick sighed. His regret was keener than ever that
Albert and he were in such company. Then he looked the other
way out upon the fathomless plains, where the night had gathered,
and the wind was moaning among the swells. The air was now chill
enough to make him shiver, and he gazed with certain awe into the
black depths. The camp, even with all its coarseness and
roughness, was better, and he walked swiftly back with his load
They built a dozen fires within the circle of the wagons, and
again Dick was the most active and industrious of them all, doing
his share, Albert's, and something besides. When the fires were
lighted they burned rapidly and merrily, sending up great tongues
of red or yellow flame, which shed a flickering light over
wagons, animals, and men. A pleasant heat was suffused and Dick
began to cook supper for Albert and himself, bringing it from the
wagon in which his brother and he had a share. He fried bacon
and strips of dried beef, boiled coffee, and warmed slices of
bread over the coals.
He saw with intense pleasure that Albert ate with a better
appetite than he had shown for days. As for himself, he was as
hungry as a horse—he always was on this great journey—and
since there was plenty, he ate long, and was happy.
Dick went to the wagon, and returned with a heavy cloak, which he
threw over Albert's shoulders.
"The night's getting colder," he said, "and you mustn't take any
risks, Al. There's one trouble about a camp fire in the open—your
face can burn while your back freezes."
Content fell over the camp. Even rough men of savage instincts
are willing to lie quiet when they are warm and well fed. Jokes,
coarse but invariably in good humor, were exchanged. The fires
still burned brightly, and the camp formed a core of light and
warmth in the dark, cold wilderness.
Albert, wrapped in the cloak, lay upon his side and elbow gazing
dreamily into the flames. Dick sat near him, frying a piece of
bacon on the end of a stick. Neither heard the step behind them
because it was noiseless, but both saw the tall figure of Bright
Sun, as he came up to their fire.
"Have a piece of bacon, Bright Sun," said Dick hospitably,
holding out the slice to him, and at the same time wondering
whether the Indian would take it.
Bright Sun shook his head.
"I thank you," he replied, "but I have eaten enough. How is Mr.
Albert Howard now?"
Dick appreciated the inquiry, whether or not it was prompted by
"Good," he replied. "Al's picking up. Haven't seen him eat as
he did to-night for months. If he keeps on this way, he'll
devour a whole buffalo as soon as he's able to kill one."
Bright Sun smiled, and sat down on the ground near them. It
seemed to the boy, a keen observer of his kind, that he wished to
talk. Dick was willing.
"Do you know," asked Bright Sun, "that reports of gold in the
region to the north, called by you the Black Hills, have come to
"I heard some one speak of it two or three days ago," replied
Dick, "but I paid no attention to it."
Bright Sun looked thoughtfully into the fire, the glow of which
fell full upon his face, revealing every feature like carving.
His nose was hooked slightly, and to Dick it now looked like the
beak of an eagle. The somber eyes, too, expressed brooding and
Despite himself, Dick felt again that he was in the presence of
power, and he was oppressed by a sense of foreboding.
"It was worth attention," said Bright Sun in the slow, precise
tones of one who speaks a language not his own, but who speaks it
perfectly. "The white man's gold is calling to him loudly. It
calls all through the day and night. Do these men with whom you
travel go to anything certain far over on the coast of the
Western ocean? No, they are leaves blown by the wind. The wind
now blows in the direction of the Black Hills, where the gold is
said to be, and to-morrow the wagon train turns its head that
Dick sat up straight, and Albert, wrapped in his blanket, leaned
forward to listen.
"But the engagement with us all," said Dick, "was to go to the
Pacific. Albert and I paid our share for that purpose. Conway
The Indian looked at Dick. The boy thought he saw a flickering
smile of amusement in his eyes, but it was faint, and gone in a
"Conway does not care for that," said the Indian. "Your
contracts are nothing to him. This is the wilderness, and it
stretches away for many hundreds of miles in every direction.
The white man's law does not come here. Moreover, nearly all
wish him to turn to the North and the gold."
Albert suddenly spoke, and his tone, though thin from physical
weakness, was quick, intense, and eager.
"Why couldn't we go on with them, Dick?" he said. "We have
nothing definite on the Pacific coast. We are merely taking
chances, and if the Black Hills are full of gold, we might get
Dick's eyes glistened. If one had to go, one might make the best
of it. The spirit of romance was alive within him. He was only
"Of course we'll go, Al," he said lightly, "and you and I will
have a tone of gold inside a year."
Bright Sun looked at the two boys, first one and then the other,
stalwart Dick and weak Albert. It seemed to Dick that he saw a
new expression in the Indian's eyes, one that indicated the
shadow of regret. He resented it. Did Bright Sun think that
Albert and he were not equal to the task?
"I am strong," he said; "I can lift and dig enough for two; but
Albert will also be strong, after we have been a little while in
"You might have strength enough. I do not doubt it," said Bright
Sun softly, "but the Black Hills are claimed by the Sioux. They
do not wish the white men to come there, and the Sioux are a
great and powerful tribe, or rather a nation of several allied
and kindred tribes, the most powerful Indian nation west of the
Bright Sun's voice rose a little toward the last, and the slight
upward tendency gave emphasis and significance to his words. The
brooding eyes suddenly shot forth a challenging light.
"Are you a Sioux?" asked Dick involuntarily.
Bright Sun bent upon him a look of gentle reproof.
"Since I have taken the ways of your race I have no tribe," he
replied. "But, as I have said, the Sioux claim the Black Hills,
and they have many thousands of warriors, brave, warlike, and
resolved to keep the country."
"The government will see that there is no war," said Dick.
"Governments can do little in a wilderness," replied Bright Sun.
Dick might have made a rejoinder, but at that moment a burly
figure came into the light of the fire. It was Sam Conway, and
he glanced suspiciously at the Indian and the two boys.
"Are you telling 'em, Bright Sun, when we'll reach California?"
Bright Sun gave him an oblique glance. The Indian seldom looks
the white man in the face, but it was obvious that Bright Sun was
not afraid of the leader. Conway, as well as the others, knew
"No," he replied briefly.
"It's just as well that you haven't," said Conway briskly,
"'cause we're not going to California at all—at least not this
year. It's the wish and general consensus of this here train
that we turn to the North, go into the Black Hills, and fill our
wagons with gold."
"So it's decided, then, is it?" asked Dick.
"Yes, it's decided," replied Conway, his tone now becoming
positively brutal, "and if you and your brother don't like it,
you know what you can do."
"Keep on alone for the coast, I suppose," said Dick, looking him
steadily in the face.
"If you put it that way."
"But we don't choose," said Dick, "Al and I have an interest in
one wagon and team, and we're going to hold on to it. Besides,
we're quite willing to try our luck in the Black Hills, too.
We're going with you."
Conway frowned, but Dick also was not afraid of him, and knew
that he could not turn the two boys out on the prairie. They had
a full right to go with the train.
"That settles it," he said, turning away. "You can do as you
please, but what happens after we get into the Black Hills is
another thing. Likely, we'll scatter."
The sound of his retreating footsteps quickly died away in the
darkness, and Bright Sun, too, slid among the shadows. He was
gone so quickly and quietly that it gave Dick an uncanny feeling.
"What do you make of it, Al?" he asked his brother. "What does
Bright Sun mean by what he said to us?"
The glow of the flame fell across Albert's pale face, and, by the
light of it, Dick saw that he was very thoughtful. He seemed to
be looking over and beyond the fire and the dark prairie, into
time rather than space.
"I think it was a warning, Dick," replied Albert at last. "Maybe
Bright Sun intended it for only you and me. But I want to go up
there in the Black Hills, Dick."
"And so do I. It'll be easier for you, Al, than the trip across
the continent. When you are a mile and a half or two miles above
the sea, you'll begin to take on flesh like a bear in summer.
Besides, the gold, Al! think of the gold!"
Albert smiled. He, too, was having happy thoughts. The warm
glow of the fire clothed him and he was breathing easily and
peacefully. By and by he sank down in his blanket and fell into
a sound sleep. Dick himself did not yet have any thought of
slumber. Wide-awake visions were pursuing one another through
his brain. He saw the mountains, dark and shaggy with pine
forests, the thin, healing air over them, and the beds of gold in
their bosom, with Albert and himself discovering and triumphant.
The fire died down, and glowed a mass of red embers. The talk
sank. Most of the men were asleep, either in their blankets or
in the wagons. The darkness thickened and deepened and came
close up to the fires, a circling rim of blackness. But Dick was
still wakeful, dreaming with wide-open eyes his golden dreams.
As the visions followed one after another, a shadow which was not
a part of any of them seemed to Dick to melt into the uttermost
darkness beyond the fires. A trace of something familiar in the
figure impressed him, and, rising, he followed swiftly.
The figure, still nebulous and noiseless, went on in the
darkness, and another like it seemed to rise from the plain and
join it. Then they were lost to the sight of the pursuer,
seeming to melt into and become a part of the surrounding
darkness. Dick, perplexed and uneasy, returned to the fire. The
second shadow must certainly have been that of a stranger. What
did it mean?
He resumed his seat before the red glow, clasping his arms around
his knees, a splendid, resourceful youth whom nature and a hardy
life had combined to make what he was. His brother still slept
soundly and peacefully, but the procession of golden visions did
not pass again through Dick's brain; instead, it was a long trail
of clouds, dark and threatening. He sought again and again to
conjure the clouds away and bring back the golden dreams, but he
The fire fell to nothing, the triumphant darkness swept up and
blotted out the last core of light, the wind, edged with ice,
blew in from the plains. Dick shivered, drew a heavy blanket
around his own shoulders, and moved a little, as he saw the dim
figure of Bright Sun passing at the far edge of the wagons, but
quickly relapsed into stillness.
Sleep at last pulled down his troubled lids. His figure sank,
and, head on arms, he slumbered soundly.
"Up! Up, everybody!" was the shout that reached Dick's sleeping
ears. He sprang to his feet and found that the gorgeous sun was
flooding the prairie with light. Already the high, brilliant
skies of the Great West were arching over him. Men were cooking
breakfast. Teamsters were cracking their whips and the whole
camp was alive with a gay and cheerful spirit. Everybody seemed
to know now that they were going for the gold, and, like Dick,
they had found it in fancy already.
Breakfast over, the train took up its march, turning at a right
angle from its old course and now advancing almost due north.
But this start was made with uncommon alacrity and zeal. There
were no sluggards now. They, too, had golden visions, and, as if
to encourage them, the aspect of the country soon began to
change, and rapidly to grow better. The clouds of dust that they
raised were thinner. The bunch grass grew thicker. Off on the
crest of a swell a moving figure was seen now and then.
"Antelope," said the hunters. Once they passed a slow creek.
The water was muddy, but it contained no alkali, and animals and
men drank eagerly. Cottonwoods, the first trees they had seen in
days, grew on either side of the stream, and they rested there
awhile in the shade, because the sun was now out in full
splendor, and the vast plains shimmered in the heat.
Albert resumed his place in the wagon. Dick had a horse which,
on becoming foot-sore, had been allowed to rest for a few days,
and was now well. He mounted it and galloped on ahead. The
clouds were all gone away and the golden visions had come back.
He felt so strong, so young, and the wonderful air of the plains
was such a tonic that he urged his horse to a gallop, and it was
hard for him to keep from shouting aloud in joy. He looked
eagerly into the north, striving already for a sight of the dark
mountains that men called the Black Hills. The blue gave back
nothing but its own blue.
His horse seemed to share his spirits, and swung along with swift
and easy stride. Dick looked back presently, and saw that the
train which had been winding like a serpent over the plains was
lost to sight behind the swells. The surface of the earth had
become more rolling as they advanced northward, and he knew that
the train, though out of sight, was nor far away.
He enjoyed for the moment the complete absence of all human
beings save himself. To be alone then meant anything but
loneliness. He galloped to the crest of a higher swell than
usual, and then stopped short. Far off on the plain he saw tiny
moving figures, a dozen or so, and he was sure that they were
antelope. They had seen antelope before at a great distance, but
had not bothered about them. Now the instincts of the hunter
rose in Dick, and he resolved to make a trial of his skill.
He found in one of the depressions between the swells a stunted
cottonwood, to which he hitched his horse, knowing it would be
well hidden there from the observation of the herd. He then
advanced on foot. He had heard that the antelope was a slave to
its own curiosity, and through that weakness he intended to
secure his game.
When he had gone about half the distance he sank down on his
hands and knees and began to crawl, a laborious and sometimes
painful operation, burdened as he was with his rifle, and unused
to such methods of locomotion. Presently he noticed a flutter
among the antelope, a raising of timid heads, an alarmed looking
in his direction. But Dick was prepared. He lay flat upon his
face, and dug the point of the long hunting knife that he carried
into the ground, while the wind blew out the folds of the red
handkerchief which he had tied to the handle.
Mr. Big Buck Antelope, the chief of the herd and a wary veteran,
saw the waving red spot on the horizon and his interest was
aroused, despite his caution. What a singular thing! It must be
investigated! It might be some new kind of food very good for
Mr. Big Buck's palate and stomach, and no provident antelope
could afford to let such an opportunity pass.
He was trembling all over with curiosity, and perhaps his
excitement kept him from seeing the dark shape that blurred with
the earth just beyond the red something, or he may have taken it
for a shadow. At any event, his curiosity kept him from paying
heed to it, and he began to approach. His steps were hesitating,
and now and then he drew away a little, but that singular red
object lured him on, and yard by yard he drew nearer.
He suddenly saw the black shadow beyond the fluttering red object
detach itself from the ground, and resolve into a terrible
shape. His heart sprang up in his bosom, and he was about to
rush madly away, but it was too late. A stream of fire shot
forth from the dark object and the buck fell, a bullet through
Dick prepared the animal for dressing, thinking of the tender,
juicy steaks that Albert would enjoy, and then throwing the body
across the horse, behind him, rode back to the train, proud of
Conway frowned and said grudging words. He did not like, he
said, for anybody to leave the train without his permission, and
it was foolish, anyhow, for a boy to be galloping about as he
pleased over the prairie; he might get lost, and there would be
nobody to take care of the other boy, the sick one. Dick made an
easy diplomatic reply. He knew that Conway merely wished to be
unpleasant, but Dick was of a very good nature, and he was
particularly averse just then to quarreling with anybody. He was
too full of the glory of living. Instead, he offered some of the
antelope steaks to Conway, who churlishly accepted them, and that
night he broiled others for Albert and himself, dividing the rest
among the men.
Albert found antelope steak tender and juicy, and he ate with an
increasing appetite. Dick noted the increase with pleasure.
"I wish I could go out and kill antelope," said Albert.
Dick laughed cheerfully.
"Kill antelope," he said. "Why, Al, in six months you'll be
taking a grizzly bear by the neck and choking him to death with
your two hands."
"Wish I could believe it," said Albert.
But Dick went to sleep early that night, and slept peacefully
without dreams or visions, and the next morning the train resumed
its sanguine march. They were still ascending, and the character
of the country continued to improve. Bunch grass steadily grew
thicker and buffalo chips were numerous. The heat in the middle
of the day was still great, but the air was so dry and pure that
it was not oppressive. Albert dismounted from the wagon, and
walked for several miles by the side of his brother.
"Shouldn't be surprised if we saw buffalo," said Dick. "Heard
'em talking about it in the train. Bright Sun says these are
favorite grazing grounds, and there's still a lot of buffalo
scattered about the plains."
Albert showed excitement.
"A buffalo herd!" he exclaimed. "Do you think it can really
happen, Dick? I never thought I'd see such a thing! I hope
it'll come true!"
It came true much sooner than Albert hoped.
Scarcely a half hour after he spoke, Bright Sun, who was at the
head of the column, stopped his pony and pointed to indistinct
tiny shadows just under the horizon.
"Buffalo!" he said tersely, and after a moment's pause he added:
"A great herd comes!"
Dick and Albert were on foot then, but they heard his words and
followed his pointing finger with the deepest interest. The tiny
black shadows seemed to come out of the horizon as if they
stepped from a wall. They grew in size and number, and all the
west was filled with their forms.
The train resumed its march, bending off under the guidance of
Bright Sun a little toward the west, and it was obvious that the
herd would pass near. Dick and Albert rejoiced, because they
wished to see the buffaloes at close quarters, and Dick was
hoping also for a shot. Others, too, in the train, although
their minds were set on gold, began to turn their attention now
to the herd. The sport and the fresh meat alike would be
welcome. It was Dick's impulse to mount his horse and gallop
away again, gun in hand, but he made a supreme conquest over self
and remained. He remembered Albert's longing words about the
antelope, his wish that he, too, tireless, might be able to
pursue the game. Dick remained quietly by his brother's side.
The whole train stopped presently at Conway's order on the crest
of a swell, and drew itself up in a circle. Many of the men were
now mounted and armed for an attack upon the herd, but at the
suggestion of Bright Sun they waited a little, until the
opportunity should become more convenient.
"It is a big herd," said Bright Sun; "perhaps the biggest that
one can ever see now."
It certainly seemed immense to Dick and Albert. The great
animals came on in an endless stream from the blue wall of the
horizon. The vast procession steadily broadened and lengthened
and it moved with unceasing step toward the south. The body of
it was solid black, with figures which at the distance blended
into one mass, but on the flanks hung stragglers, lawless old
bulls or weaklings, and outside there was a fringe of hungry
wolves, snapping and snarling, and waiting a chance to drag down
some failing straggler.
Far over the plain spread the herd, thousands and tens of
thousands, and the earth shook with their tread. Confused,
bellowings and snortings arose, and the dust hung thick.
Dick and Albert stared with intent eyes at the wonderful scene.
The herd was drawing nearer and nearer. It would pass only a few
hundred yards from the crest on which the train stood. Already
the hunters were shouting to one another and galloping away, but
Dick did not stir from Albert's side. Albert's eyes were
expanded, and the new color in his face deepened. His breath cam
in the short, quick fashion of one who is excited. He suddenly
turned to his brother.
"The men are off! Why aren't you with them Dick?" he exclaimed.
"I thought I wouldn't go," replied Dick evasively. "There'll be
enough without me."
Albert stared. Not hunt buffalo when one could. It was
unbelievable. Then he comprehended. But he would not have it
that way! It was noble of Dick, but it should not be so for a
moment. He cried out, a note of anxiety in this voice:
"No, Dick, you shall not say here with me! My time will come
later on! Jump on your horse, Dick, and join 'em! I won't
forgive you if you don't!"
Dick saw that Albert was in earnest, and he knew that it would be
better for them both now if he should go.
"All right, Al!" he cried, "I'll pick out a good fat one." He
jumped on his horse and in a moment was galloping at full speed
over the plain toward the great herd which now rushed on, black
Dick heard shots already from those who had preceded him, and the
exultant shouts of the men mingled with the roar of mighty
tramplings. But it was not all triumph for the men, few of whom
were experienced. Two or three had been thrown by shying horses,
and with difficulty escaped being trodden to death under the feet
of the herd. The herd itself was so immense that it did not
notice these few wasps on a distant flank, and thundered steadily
Dick's own horse, frightened by such a tremendous sight, shied
and jumped, but the boy had a sure seat and brought him around
again. Dick himself was somewhat daunted by the aspect of the
herd. If he and his hose got in the way, they would go down
forever, as surely as if engulfed by an avalanche.
The horse shied again and made a mighty jump, as a huge bull,
red-eyed and puffing, charged by. Dick, who was holding his
rifle in one hand, slipped far over, and with great difficulty
regained his balance on the horse's back. When he was secure
again, he turned his mount and galloped along for some distance
on the flank of the herd, seeking a suitable target for his
bullet. The effect was dizzying. So many thousands were rushing
beside him that the shifting panorama made him wink his eyes
rapidly. Vast clouds of dust floated about, now and then
enveloping him, and that made him wink his eyes, too. But he
continued, nevertheless, to seek for his target a fat cow.
Somehow he didn't seem to see anything just then but old bulls.
They were thick on the flanks of the herd either as stragglers or
protectors, and Dick was afraid to press in among them in his
search for the cow.
His opportunity came at last. A young cow, as fat as one could
wish, was thrown on the outside by some movement of the herd,
caught, as it were, like a piece of driftwood in an eddy, and
Dick instantly fired at her. She staggered and went down, but at
the same instant a huge, shaggy bull careened against Dick and
his horse. It was not so much a charge as an accident, the
chance of Dick's getting in the bull's way, and the boy's escape
was exceedingly narrow.
His horse staggered and fell to his knees. The violence of the
shock wrested Dick's rifle from his hand, and he was barely quick
enough to grasp it as it was sliding across the saddle. But he
did save it, and the horse, trembling and frightened, recovered
his feet. By that time the old bull and his comrades were gone.
Dick glanced around and was relieved to see that nobody had
noticed his plight. They were all too much absorbed in their own
efforts to pay any heed to him. The body took a deep, long
breath. He had killed a buffalo, despite his inexperience.
There was the cow to show for it.
The herd thundered off to the southward, the clouds of dust and
the fringe of wolves following it. About a dozen of their number
had fallen before the rifles, but Dick had secured the fattest
and the tenderest. Albert, as proud as Dick himself of his
triumph, came down on the plain and helped as much as he could in
skinning and cutting up the cow. Dick wished to preserve the
robe, and they spread it out on the wagon to dry.
The train made no further attempt to advance that day, but
devoted the afternoon to a great feast. Bright Sun showed them
how to cook the tenderest part of the hump in the coals, and far
into the night the fires blazed.
"We will see no more buffaloes for a while," said Bright Sun.
"To-morrow we reach another little river coming down from the
hills, and the ground becomes rough."
Bright Sun told the truth. They reached the river about noon of
the next day, and, as it flowed between steep banks, the crossing
was difficult. It took many hours to get on the other side, and
two or three axles were broken by the heavy jolts. Conway raged
and swore, calling them a clumsy lot, and some of the men refused
to take his abuse, replying to his hard words with others equally
as hard. Pistols were drawn and there was promise of trouble,
but it was finally stopped, partly by the persuasion of others,
and partly of its own accord. The men were still feeling the
desire for gold too strongly to fight while on the way to it.
Dick and Albert kept aloof from these contentions, steadily
minding their own business, and they found, as others do, that it
They came presently into a better country, and the way led for a
day or two through a typical part of the Great Plains, not a flat
region, but one of low, monotonous swells. Now and then they
crossed a shallow little creek, and occasionally they came to
pools, some of which were tinged with alkali. There were
numerous small depressions, two or three feet deep, and Dick knew
that they were "buffalo wallows." He and Albert examined them
"This is buffalo country again," said Dick. "Everything proves
it. The grass here is the best that we have seen in a long time,
and I imagine that it's just the sort of place they would love."
The grass was, indeed, good, as Dick had said, not merely clumps
of it, but often wide, carpeted spaces. It was somewhat dry, and
turning brown, but so big and strong an animal as the buffalo
would not mind it. In fact, they saw several small groups of
buffaloes grazing at a distance, usually on the crest of one of
the low swells. As they already had plenty of buffalo meat, the
men of the train did not trouble them, and the great animals
would continue to crop the grass undisturbed.
About a week after the buffalo hunt they camped in a great plain
somewhat flatter than any that they had encountered hitherto, and
drew up the wagons in a loose circle.
The day had been very hot, but, as usual on the plains, the night
brought coolness. The fire which Dick made of buffalo chips was
not only useful, but it felt pleasant, too, as they sat beside
it, ate their supper, and watched the great inclosing circle of
darkness creep up closer and closer to the camp. There was not
much noise about them. The men were tired, and as soon as they
ate their food they fell asleep in the wagons or on the ground.
The tethered horses and mules stirred a little for a while, but
they, too, soon rested in peace.
"You take the wagon, Al," said Dick, "but I think I'll sleep on
Albert said good night and disappeared in the wagon. Dick stood
up and looked over the camp. Only two or three fires were yet
burning, and not a dozen men were awake. He saw dark figures
here and there on the ground, and knew that they were those of
sleepers. Three sentinels had been posted, but Dick was quite
sure from the general character of the train that later on they
would sleep like the others. All his instincts of order and
fitness rebelled against the management of this camp.
Dick rolled himself in his blanket and lay down by the little
fire that he had built. The dry, clean earth made a good bed,
and with his left elbow under his head he gazed into the fire,
which, like all fires of buffalo chips, was now rapidly dying,
leaving little behind but light ashes that the first breeze would
scatter through space.
He watched the last blaze sink and go out, he saw the last coal
die, then, when a few sparks flew upward, there was blank
darkness where the fire had been. All the other fires were out,
too, and only the dim figures of the wagons showed. He felt, for
a little while, as if he were alone in the wilderness, but he was
not afraid. All was darkness below, and the wind was moaning,
but overhead was a blue sky filled with friendly stars.
Dick could not go to sleep for a long time. From the point where
he lay he could now see two of the sentinels walking back and
forth, rifle on shoulder. He did not believe that they would
continue to do so many hours, and he had a vague sort of desire
to prove that he was right. Having nothing else to do he watched
The nearer sentinel grew lazier in his walk, and his beat became
shorter. At last he dropped his rifle to the ground, leaned his
folded arms on its muzzle, and gazed toward the camp, where, so
far as he could see, there was nothing but darkness and sleep.
The other presently did the same. Then they began short walks
back and forth, but soon both sat down on the ground, with their
rifles between their knees, and after that they did not stir.
Watching as closely as he could Dick could not observe the
slightest movement on the part of either, and he knew that they
were asleep. He laughed to himself, pleased, in a way, to know
that he had been right, although it was only another evidence of
the carelessness and indifference general throughout the train.
He fell asleep himself in another half hour, but he awoke about
midnight, and he was conscious at once that he had been awakened
not by a troubled mind, but by something external and unusual.
He was lying with his right ear to the ground, and it seemed to
him that a slight trembling motion ran through the solid earth.
He did not so much hear it as feel it, and tried to persuade
himself that it was mere fancy, but failed. He sat up, and he no
longer observed the trembling, but when he put his ear to the
ground again it was stronger.
It could not be fancy. It was something real and extraordinary.
He glanced at the sentinels, but they were sound asleep. He felt
a desire to rouse somebody, but if it proved to be nothing they
would laugh at him, or more likely call him hard names. He tried
ear to earth once more. The trembling was still growing in
strength, and mixed with it was a low, groaning sound, like the
swell of the sea on the shore. The sound came with the wind from
Dick sprang to his feet. There, in the north was a faint light
which grew with amazing rapidity. In a minutes almost it seemed
to redden the whole northern heavens, and the groaning sound
became a roll, like that of approaching thunder.
A shadow flitted by Dick.
"What is it, Bright Sun?? What is it?" exclaimed the boy.
"The dry grass burns, and a mighty buffalo herd flees before it."
Then Bright Sun was gone, and the full sense of their danger
burst upon Dick in overwhelming tide. The flames came on, as
fast as a horse's gallop, and the buffaloes, in thousands and
tens of thousands, were their vanguard. The camp lay directly in
the path of fire and buffalo. The awakened sentinels were on
their feet now, and half-clad men were springing from the wagons.
Dick stood perfectly still for perhaps a minute, while the fire
grew brighter and the thunder of a myriad hoofs grew louder.
Then he remembered what he had so often read and heard, and the
crisis stirred him to swift action. While the whole camp was a
scene of confusion, of shouts, of oaths, and of running men, he
sped to its south side, to a point twenty or thirty yards from
the nearest wagon. There he knelt in the dry grass and drew his
box of matches from his pocket. It happened that Conway saw.
"What are you doing, you boy?" he cried, threateningly.
But Dick did not care for Conway just then.
"Back fire! Back fire!" he shouted, and struck a match. It went
out, but he quickly struck another, shielded it with one hand and
touched the tiny flame to the grass. A flame equally tiny
answered, but in an instant it leaped into the size and strength
of a giant. The blaze rose higher than Dick's head, ran swiftly
to right and left, and then roared away to the south, eating up
everything in its path.
"Well done," said a voice at Dick's elbow. "It is the only thing
that could save the train."
It was Bright Sun who spoke, and he had come so silently that
Dick did not see him until then.
Conway understood now, but without a word of approval he turned
away and began to give orders, mixed with much swearing. He had
a rough sort of efficiency, and spurred by his tongue and their
own dreadful necessity, the men worked fast. The horses and
mules, except three or four which had broken loose and were lost,
were hitched to the wagons in half the usual time. There were no
Dick helped, and Albert, too, but to both it seemed that the work
would never be done. The back fire was already a half mile away,
gathering volume and speed as it went, but the other was coming
on at an equal pace. Deer and antelope were darting past them,
and the horses and mules were rearing in terror.
"Into the burned ground," shouted Conway, "an' keep the wagons
No need to urge the animals. They galloped southward over earth
which was still hot and smoking, but they knew that something was
behind them, far more terrible than sparks and smoke.
Dick made Albert jump into their own wagon, while he ran beside
it. As he ran, he looked back, and saw a sight that might well
fill the bravest soul with dread. A great black line, crested
with tossing horns, was bearing down on them. The thunder of
hoofs was like the roar of a hurricane, but behind the herd was a
vast wall of light, which seemed to reach from the earth to the
heavens and which gave forth sparks in myriads. Dick knew that
they had been just in time.
They did not stop until they had gone a full quarter of a mile,
and then the wagons were hastily drawn up in a rude circle, with
the animals facing the center, that is, the inside, and still
rearing and neighing in terror. Then the men, rifle in hand, and
sitting in the rear of the wagons, faced the buffalo herd.
Dick was with the riflemen, and, like the others, he began to
fire as soon as the vanguard of the buffaloes was near enough.
The wagons were a solid obstacle which not even King Bison could
easily run over, but Dick and Albert thought the herd would never
split, although the bullets were poured into it at a central
point like a driven wedge.
But the falling buffaloes were an obstacle to those behind them,
and despite their mad panic, the living became conscious of the
danger in front. The herd split at last, the cleft widened to
right and left, and then the tide, in two great streams, flowed
past the wagon train.
Dick ceased firing and sat with Albert on the tail of the wagon.
The wall of fire, coming to the burned ground, went out in the
center, but the right and left ends of it, swinging around, still
roared to the southward, passing at a distance of a quarter of a
mile on either side.
Dick and Albert watched until all the herd was gone, and when
only smoke and sparks were left, helped to get the camp into trim
again. Conway knew that the boy had saved them, but he gave him
It took the ground a long time to cool, and they advanced all the
next day over a burned area. They traveled northward ten days,
always ascending, and they were coming now to a wooded country.
They crossed several creeks, flowing down from the higher
mountains, and along the beds of these they found cottonwood,
ash, box elder, elm, and birch. On the steeper slops were
numerous cedar brakes and also groves of yellow pine. There was
very little undergrowth, but the grass grew in abundance.
Although it was now somewhat dry, the horses and mules ate it
eagerly. The buffaloes did not appear here, but they saw many
signs of bear, mule deer, panther or mountain lion, and other
They camped one night in a pine grove by the side of a brook that
came rushing and foaming down from the mountains, and the next
morning Albert, who walked some distance from the water, saw a
silver-tip bear lapping the water of the stream. The bear raised
his head and looked at Albert, and Albert stopped and looked at
the bear. The boy was unarmed, but he was not afraid. The bear
showed no hostility, only curiosity. He gazed a few moments,
stretched his nose as if he would sniff the air, then turned and
lumbered away among the pines. Albert returned to camp, but he
said nothing of the bear to anybody except Dick.
"He was such a jolly, friendly looking fellow, Dick," he said,
"that I didn't want any of these men to go hunting him."
"Don't you worry about that, Al," he said. "They are hunting gold,
On the twelfth day they came out on a comparatively level
plateau, where antelope were grazing and prairie chickens
whirring. It looked like a fertile country, and they were glad
of easy traveling for the wagons. Just at the edge of the pine
woods that they were leaving was a beautiful little lake of
clear, blue water, by which they stayed half a day, refreshing
themselves, and catching some excellent fish, the names of
which they did not know.
"How much long, Bright Sun, will it take us to reach the gold
country?" asked Conway of the Indian, in Dick's hearing.
"About a week," replied Bright Sun. "The way presently will be
very rough and steep, up! up! up! and we can go only a few miles
a day, but the mountains are already before us. See!"
He pointed northward and upward, and there before them was the
misty blue loom that Dick knew was the high mountains. In those
dark ridges lay the gold that they were going to seek, and his
heart throbbed. Albert and he could do such wonderful things
They were so high already that the nights were crisp with cold;
but at the edge of the forest, running down to the little lake,
fallen wood was abundant, and they built that night a great fire
of fallen boughs that crackled and roared merrily. Yet they
hovered closely, because the wind, sharp with ice, was whistling
down from the mountains, and the night air, even in the little
valley, was heavy with frost. Dick's buffalo robe was dry now,
and he threw it around Albert, as he sat before the fire. It
enveloped the boy like a great blanket, but far warmer, the soft,
smooth fur caressing his cheeks, and as Albert drew it closer, he
felt very snug indeed.
"We cross this valley to-morrow," said Dick, "and then we begin a
"Then it will be mountains, only mountains," said Bright Sun.
"We go into regions which no white men except the fur hunters,
have ever trod."
Dick started. He had not known that the Indian was near.
Certainly he was not there a moment ago. There was something
uncanny in the way in which Bright Sun would appear on noiseless
footstep, like a wraith rising from the earth.
"I shall be glad of it, Bright Sun," said Albert. "I'm tired of
the plains, and they say that the mountains are good for many
Bright Sun's enigmatic glance rested upon Albert a moment.
"Yes," he said, "the mountains will cure many ills."
Dick glanced at him, and once more he received the impression of
thought and power. The Indian's nose curved like an eagle's
beak, and the firelight perhaps exaggerated both the curve and
its effect. The whole impression of thought and force was
heightened by the wide brow and the strong chin.
Dick looked back into the fire, and when he glanced around a few
moments again, Bright Sun was not there. He had gone as silently
as he had come.
"That Indian gives me the shivers sometimes," he said to Albert.
"What do you make of him?"
"I don't know," replied the boy. "Sometimes I like him and
sometimes I don't."
Albert was soon asleep, wrapped in the buffalo robe, and Dick by
and by followed him to the same pleasant land. The wind,
whistling as it blew down from the mountains, grew stronger and
colder, and its tone was hostile, as if it resented the first
presence of white men in the little valley by the lake.
They resumed the journey early the next day, Bright Sun telling
Conway that they could reach the range before sunset, and that
they would find there an easy pass leading a mile or two farther
on to a protected and warm glen.
"That's the place for our camp," said Conway, and he urged the
The traveling was smooth and easy, and they soon left the little
blue lake well behind, passing through a pleasant country well
wooded with elm, ash, birch, cottonwood, and box elder, and the
grass growing high everywhere. They crossed more than one clear
little stream, a pleasant contrast to the sluggish, muddy creeks
of the prairies.
The range, toward which the head of the train was pointing, now
came nearer. The boys saw its slopes, shaggy with dark pine, and
they knew that beyond it lay other and higher slopes, also dark
with pine. The air was of a wonderful clearness, showing in the
east and beyond the zenith a clear silver tint, while the west
was pure red gold with the setting sun.
Nearer and nearer came the range. The great pines blurred at
first into an unbroken mass, now stood out singly, showing their
giant stems. Afar a flash of foamy white appeared, where a brook
fell in a foamy cascade. Presently they were within a quarter of
a mile of the range, and its shadow fell over the train. In the
west the sun was low.
"The pass is there, straight ahead," said Bright Sun, pointing to
the steep range.
"I don't see any opening," said Conway.
"It is so narrow and the pines hide it," rejoined Bright Sun,
"but it is smooth and easy."
Albert was at the rear of the train. He had chosen to walk in
the later hours of the afternoon. He had become very tired, but,
unwilling to confess it even to himself, he did not resume his
place in the wagon. His weariness made him lag behind.
Albert was deeply sensitive to the impressions of time and
place. The twilight seemed to him to fall suddenly like a great
black robe. The pines once more blurred into a dark, unbroken
mass. The low sun in the west dipped behind the hills, and the
rays of red and gold that it left were chill and cold.
"Your brother wishes to see you. He is at the foot of the creek
that we crossed fifteen minutes ago."
It was Bright Sun who spoke.
"Dick wants to see me at the crossing of the creek! Why, I
thought he was ahead of me with the train!" exclaimed Albert.
"No, he is waiting for you. He said that it was important,"
repeated Bright Sun.
Albert turned in the darkening twilight and went back on the
trail of the train toward the crossing of the creek. Bright Sun
went to the head of the train, and saw Dick walking there alone
and looking at the hills.
"Your brother is behind at the creek," said Bright Sun. "He is
ill and wishes you. Hurry! I think it is important!"
"Albert at the creek, ill?" exclaimed Dick in surprise and
alarm. "Why, I thought he was here with the train!"
But Bright Sun had gone on ahead. Dick turned back hastily, and
ran along the trail through the twilight that was now fast
merging into the night.
"Al, ill and left behind!" he exclaimed again and again. "He
must have overexerted himself!"
His alarm deepened when he saw how fast the darkness was
increasing. The chill bars of red and gold were gone from the
west. When he looked back he could see the train no more, and
heard only the faint sound of the cracking of whips. The train
was fast disappearing in the pass.
But Dick had become a good woodsman and plainsman. His sense
of direction was rarely wrong, and he went straight upon the
trail for the creek. Night had now come but it was not very
dark, and presently he saw the flash of water. It was the creek,
and a few more steps took him there. A figure rose out of the
"Al!" he cried. "Have you broken down? Why didn't you get into
"Dick," replied Albert in a puzzled tone, "there's nothing the
matter with me, except that I'm tired. Bright Sun told me that
you were here waiting for me, and that you had something
important to tell me. I couldn't find you, and now you come
Dick stopped in amazement.
"Bright Sun said I was waiting here for you, and had something
important to tell you?" exclaimed Dick. "Why, he told me that
you were ill, and had been left unnoticed at the crossing!"
The two boys stared at each other.
"What does it mean?" they exclaimed together.
From the dark pass before them came a sound which in the distance
resembled the report of a firecracker, followed quickly by two or
three other sounds, and then by many, as if the whole pack had
been ignited at once. But both boys knew it was not firecrackers.
It was something far more deadly and terrible—a hail of rifle
bullets. They looked toward the pass and saw there pink and red
flashes appearing and reappearing. Shouts, and mingled with them
a continuous long, whining cry, a dreadful overnote, came to their
"The train has been attacked!" cried Dick. "It has marched
straight into an ambush!"
"Indians?" exclaimed Albert, who was trembling violently from
sheer physical and mental excitement.
"It couldn't be anything else!" replied Dick. "This is their
country! And they must be in great force, too! Listen how the
The volume of the firing increased rapidly, but above it always
rose that terrible whining note. The red and pink flashes in the
pass danced and multiplied, and the wind brought the faint odor
"We must help!" exclaimed Dick. "One can't stand here and see
them all cut down!"
He forgot in his generous heart, at that moment, that he disliked
Conway and all his men, and that he and Albert had scarcely a
friend in the train. He thought only of doing what he could to
beat back the Indian attack, and Albert felt the same impulse.
Both had their rifles—fine, breech-loading, repeating weapons,
and with these the two might do much. No one ever parted with
his arms after entering the Indian country.
"Come on, Albert!" exclaimed Dick, and the two ran toward the
pass. But before they had gone a hundred yards they stopped as
if by the same impulse. That terrible whining note was now
rising higher and higher. It was not merely a war whoop, it had
become also a song of triumph. There was a certain silvery
quality in the night air, a quality that made for illumination,
and Dick thought he saw dusky forms flitting here and there in
the mouth of the pass behind the train. It was only fancy,
because he was too far away for such perception, but in this case
fancy and truth were the same.
"Hurry, Dick! Let's hurry!" exclaimed the impulsive and generous
Albert. "If we don't, we'll be too late to do anything!"
They started again, running as fast as they could toward that
space in the dark well where the flashes of red and blue came and
went. Dick was so intent that he did not hear the short, quick
gasps of Albert, but he did hear a sudden fall beside him and
stopped short. Albert was lying on his back unconscious. A
faint tinge of abnormal red showed on his lips.
"Oh, I forgot! I forgot!" groaned Dick.
Such sudden and violent exertion, allied with the excitement of
the terrible moment, had overpowered the weak boy. Dick bent
down in grief. At first he thought his brother was dead, but the
breath still came.
Dick did not know what to do. In the pass, under the shadow of
night, the pines, and the mountain wall, the battle still flared
and crackled, but its volume was dying. Louder rose the fierce,
whining yell, and its note was full of ferocity and triumph,
while the hoarser cries of the white men became fewer and lower.
Now Dick really saw dusky figures leaping about between him and
the train. Something uttering a shrill, unearthly cry of pain
crashed heavily through the bushes near him and quickly passed
on. It was a wounded horse, running away.
Dick shuddered. Then he lifted Albert in his arms, and he had
the forethought, even in that moment of excitement and danger, to
pick up Albert's rifle also. Strong as he naturally was, he had
then the strength of four, and, turning off at a sharp angle, he
ran with Albert toward a dense thicket which clustered at the
foot of the mountain wall.
He went a full three hundred yards before he was conscious of
weariness, and he was then at the edge of the thicket, which
spread over a wide space. He laid Albert down on some of last
year's old leaves, and then his quick eyes caught the sight of a
little pool among some rocks. He dipped up the water in his felt
hat, and after carefully wiping the red stain from his brother's
lips, poured the cold fluid upon his face.
Albert revived, sat up, and tried to speak, but Dick pressed his
hand upon his mouth.
"Nothing above a whisper, Al," he said softly. "The fight is not
yet wholly over, and the Sioux are all about."
"I fainted," said Albert in a whisper. "O Dick, what a
miserable, useless fellow I am! But it was the excitement and
"It was doubtless a lucky thing that you fainted," Dick whispered
back. "If you hadn't, both of us would probably be dead now."
"It's not all over yet," said Albert.
"No, but it soon will be. Thank God, we've got our rifles. Do
you feel strong enough to walk now, Al? The deeper we get into
the thicket the better it will be for us."
Albert rose slowly to his feet, rocked a little, and then stood
Only a few flashes were appearing now in the pass. Dick knew too
well who had been victorious. The battle over, the Sioux would
presently be ranging for stragglers and for plunder. He put one
arm under Albert, while he carried both of the rifles himself.
They walked on through the thicket and the night gradually
darkened. The silvery quality was gone from the air, and the two
boys were glad. It would not be easy to find them now. In the
pass both the firing and the long, whining whoop ceased entirely.
The flashes of red or blue appeared no more. Silence reigned
there and in the valley. Dick shivered despite himself. For the
moment the silence was more terrible than the noise of battle had
been. Black, ominous shadows seemed to float down from the
mountains, clothing all the valley. A chill wind came up, moaning
among the pines. The valley, so warm and beautiful in the day,
now inspired Dick with a sudden and violent repulsion. It was a
hateful place, the abode of horror and dread. He wished to escape
They crossed the thicket and came up against the mountain wall.
But it was not quite so steep as it had looked in the distance,
and in the faint light Dick saw the trace of a trail leading up
the slope among the pines. It was not the trail of human beings,
merely a faint path indicating that wild animals, perhaps
cougars, had passed that way.
"How are you feeling, Al?" he asked, repeating his anxious query.
"Better. My strength has come back," replied his brother.
"Then we'll go up the mountain. We must get as far away as we
can from those fiends, the Sioux. Thank God, Al, we're spared
Each boy felt a moment of devout thankfulness. They had not
fallen, and they were there together! Each also thought of the
singular message that Bright Sun had given to them, but neither
spoke of it.
They climbed for more than half an hour in silence, save for an
occasional whisper. The bushes helped Albert greatly. He pulled
himself along by means of them, and now and then the two boys
stopped that he might rest. He was still excited under the
influence of the night, the distant battle, and their peril, and
he breathed in short gasps, but did not faint again. Dick thrust
his arm at intervals under his brother's and helped him in the
After climbing a quarter of an hour, they stopped longer than
usual and looked down at the pass, which Dick reckoned should be
almost beneath them. They heard the faint sound of a shot, saw a
tiny beam of red appear, then disappear, and after that there was
only silence and blank darkness.
"It's all over now," whispered Albert, and it was a whisper not
of caution, but of awe.
"Yes, it's all over," Dick said in the same tone. "It's likely,
Al, that you and I alone out of all that train are alive. Conway
and all the others are gone."
"Except Bright Sun," said Albert.
The two boys looked at each other again, but said nothing. They
then resumed their climbing, finding it easier this time. They
reached a height at which the undergrowth ceased, but the pines,
growing almost in ordered rows, stretched onward and upward.
Dick sent occasional glances toward the pass, but the darkness
there remained unbroken. Every time he turned his eyes that way
he seemed to be looking into a black well of terror.
Both Dick and Albert, after the first hour of ascent, had a
feeling of complete safety. The Sioux, occupied with their great
ambush and victory, would not know there had been two stragglers
behind the train, and even had they known, to search for them
among the dense forests of distant mountain slopes would be a
futile task. Dick's mind turned instead to the needs of their
situation, and he began to appreciate the full danger and
hardship of it.
Albert and he were right in feeling thankful that they were
spared together, although they were alone in the wilderness in
every sense of the word. It was hundreds of miles north, east,
south, and west to the habitations of white men. Before them,
fold on fold, lay unknown mountains, over which only hostile
savages roamed. Both he and Albert had good rifles and belts
full of cartridges, but that was all. It was a situation to
daunt the most fearless heart, and the shiver that suddenly ran
over Dick did not come from the cold of the night.
They took a long rest in a little clump of high pines and saw a
cold, clear moon come out in the pale sky. They felt the awful
sense of desolation and loneliness, for it seemed to them that
the moon was looking down on an uninhabited world in which only
they were left. They heard presently little rustlings in the
grass, and thought at first it was another ambush, though they
knew upon second thought that it was wild creatures moving on the
"Come, Al," said Dick. "Another half hour will put us on top of
the ridge, and then I think it will be safe for us to stop."
"I hope they'll be keeping a good room for us at the hotel up
there," said Albert wanly.
Dick tried to laugh, but it was a poor imitation and he gave it
"We may find some sort of a sheltered nook," he said hopefully.
Dick had become conscious that it was cold, since the fever in
his blood was dying down. Whenever they stopped and their bodies
relaxed, they suffered from chill. He was deeply worried about
Albert, who was in no condition to endure exposure on a bleak
mountain, and wished now for the buffalo robe they had regarded
as such a fine trophy.
They reached the crest of the ridge in a half hour, as Dick had
expected, and looking northward in the moonlight saw the dim
outlines of other ridges and peaks in a vast, intricate maze. A
narrow, wooded valley seemed to occupy the space between the
ridge on which they stood and the next one parallel to it to the
"It ought to be a good place down there to hide and rest," said
"I think you're right," said Dick, "and we'll go down the slope
part of the way before we camp for the night."
They found the descent easy. It was still open forest, mostly
pine with a sprinkling of ash and oak, and it was warmer on the
northern side, the winds having but little sweep there.
The moon became brighter, but it remained cold and pitiless,
recking nothing of the tragedy in the pass. It gave Dick a chill
to look at it. But he spent most of the time watching among the
trees for some sheltered spot that Nature had made. It was over
an hour before he found it, a hollow among rocks, with dwarf
pines clustering thickly at the sides and in front. It was so well
hidden that he would have missed it had he not been looking for
just such a happy alcove, and at first he was quite sure that some
wild animal must be using it as a den.
He poked in the barrel of his rifle, but nothing flew out, and
then, pulling back the pine boughs, he saw no signs of a previous
"It's just waiting for us, Al, old fellow," he said gayly, "but
nothing of this kind is so good that it can't be made better.
Look at all those dead leaves over there under the oaks. Been
drying ever since last year and full of warmth."
They raked the dead leaves into the nook, covering the floor of
it thickly, and piling them up on the sides as high as they would
stay, and then they lay down inside, letting the pine boughs in
front fall back into place. It was really warm and cozy in there
for two boys who had been living out of doors for weeks, and Dick
drew a deep, long breath of content.
"Suppose a panther should come snooping along," said Albert, "and
think this the proper place for his bed and board?"
"He'd never come in, don't you fear. He'd smell us long before
he got here, and then strike out in the other direction."
Albert was silent quite a while, and as he made no noise, Dick
thought he was asleep. But Albert spoke at last, though he spoke
low and his tone was very solemn.
"Dick," he said, "we've really got a lot to be thankful for. You
"I certainly do," said Dick with emphasis. "Now you go to sleep,
Albert was silent again, and presently his breathing became very
steady and regular. Dick touched him and saw that he was fast
asleep. Then the older boy took off his coat and carefully
spread it on the younger, after which he raked a great lot of the
dry leaves over himself, and soon he, too, was sound asleep.
Dick awoke far in the night and stirred in his bed of leaves.
But the movement caused him a little pain, and he wondered dimly,
because he had not yet fully come through the gates of sleep, and
he did not remember where he was or what had happened. A tiny
shaft of pale light fell on his forehead, and he looked up through
pine branches. It was the moon that sent the beam down upon him,
but he could see nothing else. He stirred again and the little
pain returned. Then all of it came back to him.
Dick reached out his hand and touched Albert. His brother was
sleeping soundly, and he was still warm, the coat having
protected him. But Dick was cold, despite the pines, the rocks,
and the leaves. It was the cold that had caused the slight pain
in his joints when he moved, but he rose softly lest he wake
Albert, and slipped outside, standing in a clear space between
The late moon was of uncommon brilliancy. It seemed a molten
mass of burnished silver, and its light fell over forest and
valley, range and peak. The trees on the slopes stood out like
lacework, but far down in the valley the light seemed to shimmer
like waves on a sea of silver mist. It was all inexpressibly
cold, and of a loneliness that was uncanny. Nothing stirred, not
a twig, not a blade of grass. It seemed to Dick that if even a
leaf fell on the far side of the mountain he could hear it. It
was a great, primeval world, voiceless and unpeopled, brooding in
a dread and mystic silence.
Dick shivered. He had shivered often that night, but now the
chill went to the marrow. It was the chill the first man must
have felt when he was driven from the garden and faced the
globe-girdling forest. He came back to the rock covert and
leaned over until he could hear his brother breathing beneath
the pine boughs. Then he felt the surge of relief, of
companionship—after all, he was not alone in the
wilderness!—and returned to the clear space between the
pines. There he walked up and down briskly, swinging his arms,
exercising all his limbs, until the circulation was fully
restored and he was warm again.
Dick felt the immensity of the problem that lay before him—one
that he alone must solve if it were to be solved at all. He and
Albert had escaped the massacre, but how were they to live in
that wilderness of mountains? It was not alone the question of
food. How were they to save themselves from death by exposure?
Those twinges in his knees had been warning signs. Oddly enough,
his mind now fastened upon one thing. He was longing for the
lost buffalo robe, his first great prize. It had been so large
and so warm, and the fur was so soft. It would cover both Albert
and himself, and keep them warm on the coldest night. If they
only had it now! He thought more of that robe just then than he
did of the food that they would need in the morning. Cast forth
upon a primeval world, this first want occupied his mind to the
exclusion of all others.
He returned to the rocky alcove presently, and lay down again.
He was too young and too healthy to remain awake long, despite
the full measure of their situation, and soon he slept soundly
once more. He was first to awake in the morning, and the beam
that struck upon his forehead was golden instead of silver. It was
warm, too, and cheerful, and as Dick parted the branches and
looked out, he saw that the sun was riding high. It had been
daylight a full three hours at least, but it did not matter. Time
was perhaps the only commodity of which he and Albert now
had enough and to spare.
He took his coat off Albert and put it on himself, lest Albert
might suspect, and then began to sing purposely, with loudness
and levity, an old farm rhyme that had been familiar to the boys
of his vicinity:
"Wake up, Jake, the day is breaking.
The old cow died, her tail shaking."
Albert sat up, rubbed his eyes, and stared at Dick and the
"Now look at him!" cried Dick. "He thinks he's been called too
early. He thinks he'd like to sleep eight or ten hours longer!
Get up, little boy! Yes, it's Christmas morning! Come and see
what good old Santa has put in your stocking!"
Albert yawned again and laughed. Really, Dick was such a
cheerful, funny fellow that he always kept one in good spirits.
Good old Dick!
"Old Santa filled our stockings, all right," continued Dick, "but
he was so busy cramming 'em full of great forests and magnificent
scenery that he forgot to leave any breakfast for us, and I'm
afraid we'll have to hustle for it."
They started down the mountain slope, and presently they came to
a swift little brook, in which they bathed their faces, removing,
at the same time, fragments of twigs and dried leaves from their
"That was fine and refreshing," said Dick, "but it doesn't fill
my stomach. Al, I could bite a tenpenny nail in half and digest
both pieces, too."
"I don't care for nails," said Albert, "but I think I could gnaw
down a good-sized sapling. Hold me, Dick, or I'll be devouring a
Both laughed, and put as good a face on it as they could, but
they were frightfully hungry, nevertheless. But they had grown
up on farms, and they knew that the woods must contain food of
some kind or other. They began a search, and after a while they
found wild plums, now ripe, which they ate freely. They then
felt stronger and better, but, after all, it was a light diet and
they must obtain food of more sustenance.
"There are deer, of course, in this valley," said Dick, fingering
his rifle, "and sooner or later we'll get a shot at one of them,
but it may be days, and—Al—I've got another plan."
"What is it?"
"You know, Al, that I can travel pretty fast anywhere. Now those
Sioux, after cutting down the train and wiping out all the
people, would naturally go away. They'd load themselves up with
spoil and scoot. But a lot, scattered here and there, would be
left behind. Some of the teams would run away in all the shooting
and shouting. And, Al, you and I need those things! We must have
them if we are going to live, and we both want to live!"
"Do you mean, Dick, that you're going back down there in that
"That's just about what I had on my mind," replied Dick
cheerfully; "and now I've got it off, I feel better."
"But you can never get back alive, Dick!" exclaimed Albert, his
eyes widening in horror at the memory of what they had seen and
heard the night before.
"Get back alive? Why, of course I will," responded Dick. "And
I'll do more than that, too. You'll see me come galloping up the
mountain, bearing hogsheads and barrels of provisions. But,
seriously, Al, it must be done. If I don't go, we'll starve to
"Then I'm going, too."
"No, Al, old boy, you're not strong enough just yet, though you
will be soon. There are certainly no Sioux in this little
valley, and it would be well if you were to go back up the slope
and stay in the pine shelter. It's likely that I'll be gone
nearly all day, but don't be worried. You'll have one of the
rifles with you, and you know how to use it."
Albert had a clear and penetrating mind, and he saw the truth of
Dick's words. They went back up the slope, where he crept within
the pine shelter and lay down on the leaves, while Dick went
alone on his mission.
When Dick passed the crest of the ridge and began the descent
toward the fatal pass, his heart beat heavily. The terror and
shock of the night before, those distant shots and shouts,
returned to him, and it was many minutes before he could shake
off a dread that was almost superstitious in its nature. But
youth, health, and the sunlight conquered. The day was
uncommonly brilliant. The mountains rolled back, green on the
slopes, blue at the crests, and below him, like a brown robe, lay
the wavering plain across which they had come.
Dick could see no sign of human life down there. No rejoicing
Sioux warrior galloped over the swells, no echo of a triumphant
war whoop came to his ear. Over mountain and plain alike the
silence of the desert brooded. But high above the pass great
black birds wheeled on lazy pinions.
Dick believed more strongly than ever that the Sioux had gone
away. Savage tribes do not linger over a battlefield that is
finished; yet as he reached the bottom of the slope his heart
began to beat heavily again, and he was loath to leave the
protecting shadow of the pines. He fingered his rifle, passing
his hand gently over the barrel and the trigger. It was a fine
weapon, a beautiful weapon, and just at this moment it was a
wonderful weapon. He felt in its full force, for the first time
in his life, what the rifle meant to the pioneer.
The boy, after much hesitation and a great searching of eye and
ear, entered the pass. At once the sunlight dimmed. Walls as
straight as the side of a house rose above him three of four
hundred feet, while the distance between was not more than thirty
feet. Dwarf pines grew here and there in the crannies of the
cliffs, but mostly the black rock showed. Dwarf pines also grew
at the bottom of the pass close to either cliff, and Dick kept
among them, bending far down and advancing very slowly.
Fifty yards were passed, and still there was no sound save a
slight moaning through the pass, which Dick knew was the sigh of
the wind drawn into the narrow cleft. It made him shudder, and
had he not been of uncommon courage he would have turned back.
He looked up. The great black birds, wheeling on lazy pinions,
seemed to have sunk lower. That made him shudder, too, but it
was another confirmation of his belief that all the Sioux had
gone. He went eight or ten yards farther and then stopped short.
Before him lay two dead horses and an overturned wagon. Both
horses had been shot, and were still in their gear attached to
Dick examined the wagon carefully, and as he yet heard and saw no
signs of a human being save himself, his courage grew. It was a
big wagon of the kind used for crossing the plains, with boxes
around the inside like lockers. Almost everything of value had
been taken by the Sioux, but in one of the lockers Dick was lucky
enough to find a large, heavy, gray blanket. He rolled it up at
once, and with a strap cut from the horse's gear tied it on his back,
after the fashion of a soldier on the march.
"The first great treasure!" he murmured exultantly. "Now for the
He found in the same wagon, jammed under the driver's seat and
hidden from hasty view, about the half of a side of bacon—ten
pounds, perhaps. Dick fairly laughed when he got his hands upon
it, and he clasped it lovingly, as if it were a ten-pound nugget of
pure gold. But it was far better than gold just then. He wrapped
it in a piece of canvas which he cut from the cover of the wagon,
and tied it on his back above the blanket.
Finding nothing more of value in the wagon, he resumed his
progress up the pass. It was well for Dick that he was
stout-hearted, and well for him, too, that he was driven by great
need, else he would surely have gone back.
He was now come into the thick of it. Around him everywhere lay
the fallen, and the deeds done in Indian warfare were not
lacking. Sam Conway lay upon his side, and brutal as the man had
been, Dick felt grief when he saw him. Here were others, too,
that he knew, and he counted the bodies of the few women who had
been with the train. They had died probably in the battle like
the rest. They, like the men, had been hardened, rough, and
coarse of speech and act, but Dick felt grief, too, when he saw
them. Nearly all the animals had been slain also in the fury of
the attack, and they were scattered far up the pass.
Dick resolutely turned his face away from the dead and began to
glean among the wagons for what the Sioux might have left. All
these wagons were built like the first that he had searched, and
he was confident that he would find much of value. Nor was he
disappointed. He found three more blankets, and in their own
wagon the buffalo robe that he had lamented. Doubtless, its
presence there was accounted for by the fact that the Sioux did
not consider a buffalo robe a trophy of their victory over white
Other treasures were several boxes of crackers, about twenty
boxes of sardines, three flasks of brandy, suitable for illness,
a heavy riding cloak, a Virginia ham, two boxes of matches, a
small iron skillet, and an empty tin canteen. He might have
searched further, but he realized that time was passing, and that
Albert must be on the verge of starvation. He had forgotten his
own hunger in the excitement of seek and find, but it came back
now and gnawed at him fiercely. Yet he would not touch any of
the food. No matter how great the temptation he would not take a
single bite until Albert had the same chance.
He now made all his treasures into one great package, except the
buffalo robe. That was too heavy to add to the others, and he
tied it among the boughs of a pine, where the wolves could not
reach it. Then, with the big pack on his back, he began the
return. It was more weight than he would have liked to carry at
an ordinary time, but now in his elation he scarcely felt it. He
went rapidly up the slope and by the middle of the afternoon was
going down the other side.
As he approached the pine alcove he whistled a familiar tune,
popular at the time—"Silver Threads Among the Gold." He knew
that Albert, if he were there—and he surely must be there—would
recognize his whistle and come forth. He stopped, and his heart
hammered for a moment, but Albert's whistle took up the second line
of the air and Albert himself came forth jauntily.
"We win, Al, old boy!" called Dick. "Just look at this pack!"
"I can't look at anything else," replied Albert in the same joyful
tones. "It's so big that I don't see you under it. Dick, have
you robbed a treasure ship?"
"No, Al," replied Dick, very soberly. "I haven't robbed a
treasure ship, but I've been prowling with success over a lost
battlefield—a ghoul I believe they call such a person, but it
had to be done. I've enough food here to last a week at least,
and we may find more."
He put down his pack and took out the bacon. As Albert looked at
it he began unconsciously to clinch and unclinch his teeth. Dick
saw his face, and, knowing that the same eager look was in his
own, he laughed a little.
"Al," he said, "you and I know now how wolves often feel, but
we're not going to behave like wolves. We're going to light a
fire and cook this bacon. We'll take the risk of the flame or
smoke being seen by Sioux. In so vast a country the chances are
all in our favor."
They gathered up pine cones and other fallen wood, and with the
help of the matches soon had a fire. Then they cut strips of
bacon and fried them on the ends of sharpened sticks, the sputter
making the finest music in their ears.
Never before had either tasted food so delicious, and they ate
strip after strip. Dick noticed with pleasure how the color came
into Albert's cheeks, and how his eyes began to sparkle.
Sleeping under the pines seemed to have benefited instead of
injuring him, and certainly there was a wonderful healing balm in
the air of that pine-clad mountain slope. Dick could feel it
himself. How strong he was after eating! He shook his big shoulders.
"What are you bristling up about?" asked Albert.
"Merely getting ready to start again," replied Dick. "You know the
old saying, Al, 'you've got to hit while the iron's hot.' More
treasure is down there in the pass, but if we wait it won't stay
there. Everything that we get now is worth more to us than diamonds."
"It's so," said Albert, and then he sighed sadly as he added,
"How I wish I were strong enough to go with you and help!"
"Just you wait," said Dick. "You'll be as strong as a horse in a
month, and then you'll have to do all the work and bring me my
breakfast in the morning as I lie in bed. Besides, you'd have to
stay here and guard the treasure that we already have. Better
get into the pine den. Bears and wolves may be drawn by the
scent of the food, and they might think of attacking you."
They put out the fire, and while Albert withdrew into the pine
shelter, Dick started again over the mountain. The sun was
setting blood red in the west, and in the east the shadows of
twilight were advancing. It required a new kind of courage to
enter the pass in the night, and Dick's shudders returned. At
certain times there is something in the dark that frightens the
bravest and those most used to it.
Dick hurried. He knew the way down the mountain now, and after
the food and rest he was completely refreshed. But as fast as he
went the shadows of twilight came faster, and when he reached the
bottom of the mountain it was quite dark. The plain before him
was invisible, and the forest on the slope behind him was a solid
robe of black.
Dick set foot in the pass and then stopped. It was not dread but
awe that thrilled him in every vein. He saw nothing before him
but the well of darkness that was the great slash in the
mountains. The wind, caught between the walls, moaned as in the
day, and he knew perfectly well what if was, but it had all the
nature of a dirge, nevertheless. Overhead a few dim stars
wavered in a dusky sky.
Dick forced himself to go on. It required now moral, as well as
physical, courage to approach that lost battlefield lying under
its pall of night. Never was the boy a greater hero than at that
moment. He advanced slowly. A bush caught him by the coat and
held him an instant. He felt as if he had been seized in a man's
grasp. He reached the first wagon, and it seemed to him, broken
and rifled, an emblem of desolation. As he passed it a strange,
low, whining cry made his backbone turn to ice. But he recovered
and forced an uneasy little laugh at himself. It was only a
wolf, the mean coyote of the prairies!
He came now into the space where the mass of the wagons and the
fallen lay. Dark figures, low and skulking, darted away. More
wolves! But one, a huge timber wolf, with a powerful body and
long fangs, stood up boldly and stared at him with red eyes.
Dick's own eyes were used to the darkness now, and he stared back
at the wolf, which seemed to be giving him a challenge. He half
raised his rifle, but the monster did not move. It was a
stranger to guns, and this wilderness was its own.
It was Dick's first impulse to fire at the space between the red
eyes, but he restrained it. He had not come there to fight with
wolves, nor to send the report of a shot through the mountains.
He picked up a stone and threw it at the wolf, striking him on
the flank. The monster turned and stalked sullenly away, showing
but little sign of fear. Dick pursued his task, and as he advanced
something rose and, flapping heavily, sailed away. The shiver came
again, but his will stopped it.
He was now in the center of the wreckage, which in the darkness
looked as if it had all happened long ago. Nearly every wagon
had been turned over, and now and then dark forms lay between the
wheels. The wind moaned incessantly down the pass and over the
Overcoming his repulsion, Dick went to work. The moon was now
coming out and he could see well enough for his task. There was
still much gleaning left by the quick raiders, and everything would
be of use to Albert and himself, even to the very gear on the
fallen animals. He cut off a great quantity of this at once and
put it in a heap at the foot of the cliff. Then he invaded the
wagons and again brought forth treasures better than gold.
He found in one side box some bottles of medicine, the simple
remedies of the border, which he packed very carefully, and in
another he discovered half a sack of flour—fifty pounds,
perhaps. A third rewarded him with a canister of tea and a
twenty-pound bag of ground coffee. He clutched these treasures
eagerly. They would be invaluable to Albert.
Continuing his search, he was rewarded with two pairs of heavy
shoes, an ax, a hatchet, some packages of pins, needles, and
thread, and a number of cooking utensils—pots, kettles, pans,
and skillets. Just as he was about to quit for the purpose of
making up his pack, he noticed in one of the wagons a long,
narrow locker made into the side and fastened with a stout
padlock. The wagon had been plundered, but evidently the Sioux
had balked at the time this stout box would take for opening, and
had passed on. Dick, feeling sure that it must contain something
of value, broke the padlock with the head of the ax. When he
looked in he uttered a cry of delight at his reward.
He brought forth from the box a beautiful double-barreled
breech-loading shotgun, and the bounty of chance did not stop
with the gun, for in the locker were over a thousand cartridges
to fit it. Dick foresaw at once that it would be invaluable to
Albert and himself in the pursuit of wild ducks, wild geese,
and other feathered game. He removed some of the articles from
his pack, which was already heavy enough, and put the shotgun
and cartridges in their place. Then he set forth on the return
As he left the wagons and went toward the mouth of the pass, he
heard soft, padding sounds behind him, and knew that the wolves
were returning, almost on his heels. He looked back once, and
saw a pair of fiery red eyes which he felt must belong to the
monster, the timber wolf, but Dick was no longer under the
uncanny spell of the night and the place; he was rejoicing too
much in his new treasures, like a miser who has just added a
great sum to his hoard, to feel further awe of the wolves, the
darkness, and a new battlefield.
Dick's second pack was heavier than his first, but as before, he
trod lightly. He took a different path when he left the pass,
and here in the moonlight, which was now much brighter, he saw
the trace of wheels on the earth. The trace ran off irregularly
through the short bushes and veered violently to and fro like the
path of a drunken man. Dick inferred at once that it had been
made, not by a wagon entering the pass, but by one leaving it,
and in great haste. No doubt the horses or mules had been
running away in fright at the firing.
Dick's curiosity was excited. He wished to see what had become
of that wagon. The trail continued to lead through the short
bushes that covered the plain just before entering the pass, and
then turned off sharply to the right, where it led to an abrupt
little canyon or gully about ten feet deep. The gully also was
lined with bushes, and at first Dick could see nothing else, but
presently he made out a wagon lying on its side. No horses or
mules were there; undoubtedly, they had torn themselves loose
from the gear in time to escape the fall.
Dick laid down his pack and descended to the wagon. He believed
that in such a place it had escaped the plundering hands of the
hasty Sioux, and his belief was correct. The wagon, a large one,
was loaded with all the articles necessary for the passage of the
plains. Although much tossed about by the fall, nothing was
Here was a treasure-trove, indeed! Dick's sudden sense of wealth
was so overpowering that he felt a great embarrassment. How was
he to take care of such riches? He longed at that moment for the
strength of twenty men, that he might take it all at once and go
over the mountain to Albert.
It was quite a quarter of an hour before he was able to compose
himself thoroughly. Then he made a hasty examination of the
wagon, so far as its position allowed. He found in it a rifle of
the same pattern as that used by Albert and himself, a
sixteen-shot repeater, the most advanced weapon of the time, and
a great quantity of cartridges to fit. There was also two of the
new revolvers, with sufficient cartridges, another ax, hatchets,
saws, hammers, chisels, and a lot of mining tools. The remaining
space in the wagon was occupied by clothing, bedding, provisions,
Dick judged that the wolves could not get at the wagon as it lay,
and leaving it he began his third ascent of the slope. He found
Albert sound asleep in the pine alcove with his rifle beside
him. He looked so peaceful that Dick was careful not to awaken
him. He stored the second load of treasure in the alcove, and,
wrapping one of the heavy blankets around himself, slept heavily.
He told Albert the next day of the wagon in the gully, and
nothing could keep him from returning in the morning for
salvage. He worked there two or three days, carrying heavy loads
up the mountain, and finally, when it was all in their den, he
and Albert felt equipped for anything. Nor had the buffalo robe
been neglected. It was spread over much of the treasure.
Albert, meanwhile, had assumed the functions of cook, and he
discharged them with considerable ability. His strength was
quite sufficient to permit of his collecting firewood, and he
could fry bacon and make coffee and tea beautifully. But they
were very sparing of the coffee and tea, as they also were of the
flour, although their supplies of all three of these were greatly
increased by the wagon in the gully. In fact, the very last
thing that Dick had brought over the mountain was a hundred-pound
sack of flour, and after accomplishing this feat he had rested a
Both boys felt that they had been remarkably fortunate while this
work was going on. One circumstance, apparently simple in
itself, had been a piece of great luck, and that was the absence
of rain. It was not a particularly rainy country, but a shower
could have made them thoroughly miserable, and, moreover, would
have been extremely dangerous for Albert. But nights and days
alike remained dry and cool, and as Albert breathed the marvelous
balsamic air he could almost feel himself transfused with its
healing property. Meanwhile, the color in his cheeks was
"We've certainly had good fortune," said Dick.
"Aided by your courage and strength," said Albert. "It took a
lot of nerve to go down there in that pass and hunt for what the
Sioux might have left behind."
Dick disclaimed any superior merit, but he said nothing of the
many tremors that he felt while performing the great task.
An hour or two later, Albert, who was hunting through their
belongings, uttered a cry of joy on finding a little package of
fishhooks. String they had among their stores, and it was easy
enough to cut a slim rod for a pole.
"Now I can be useful for something besides cooking," he said.
"It doesn't require any great strength to be a fisherman, and I'm
much mistaken if I don't soon have our table supplied with
There was a swift creek farther down the slope, and, angling with
much patience, Albert succeeded in catching several mountain
trout and a larger number of fish of an unknown species, but
which, like the trout, were very good to eat.
Albert's exploit caused him intense satisfaction, and Dick
rejoiced with him, not alone because of the fish, but also
because of his brother's triumph.
The Lost Valley
They spent a week on the slope, sleeping securely and warmly
under their blankets in the pine alcove, and fortune favored them
throughout that time. It did not rain once, and there was not a
sign of the Sioux. Dick did not revisit the pass after the first
three days, and he knew that the wolves and buzzards had been
busy there. But he stripped quite clean the wagon which had
fallen in the gully, even carrying away the canvas cover, which
was rainproof. Albert wondered that the Sioux had not returned,
but Dick had a very plausible theory to account for it.
"The Sioux are making war upon our people," he said, "and why
should they stay around here? They have cut off what is
doubtless the first party entering this region in a long time,
and now they have gone eastward to meet our troops. Beside, the
Sioux are mostly plains Indians, and they won't bother much about
these mountains. Other Indians, through fear of the Sioux, will
not come and live here, which accounts for this region being
"Still a wandering band of Sioux might come through at any time
and see us," said Albert.
"That's so, and for other reasons, too, we must move. It's
mighty fine, Al, sleeping out in the open when the weather's dry
and not too cold, but I've read that the winter in the
northwestern mountains is something terrible, and we've got to
prepare for it."
It was Dick's idea to go deeper into the mountains. He knew very
well that the chance of their getting out before spring were too
slender to be considered, and he believed that they could find
better shelter and a more secure hiding place farther in. So he
resolved upon a journey of exploration, and though Albert was now
stronger, he must go alone. It was his brother's duty to remain
and guard their precious stores. Already bears and mountain lions,
drawn by the odors of the food, had come snuffing about the
alcove, but they always retreated from the presence of either of
the brothers. One huge silver tip had come rather alarmingly
close, but when Dick shouted at him he, too, turned and lumbered
off among the pines.
"What you want to guard against, Al," said Dick, "is thieves
rather than robbers. Look out for the sneaks. We'll fill the
canteen and all our iron vessels with water so that you won't
have to go even to the brook. Then you stay right here by the
fire in the daytime, and in the den at night. You can keep a bed
of coals before the den when you're asleep, and no wild animal
will ever come past it."
"All right, Dick," said Albert courageously; "but don't you get
lost over there among those ranges and peaks."
"I couldn't do it if I tried," replied Dick in the same cheerful
tone. "You don't know what a woodsman and mountaineer I've
become, Al, old boy!"
Albert smiled. Yet each boy felt the full gravity of the
occasion when the time for Dick's departure came, at dawn of a
cool morning, gleams of silver frost showing here and there on
the slopes. Both knew the necessity of the journey, however, and
hid their feelings.
"Be back to-morrow night, Al," said Dick.
"Be ready for you, Dick," said Albert.
Then they waved their hands to each other, and Dick strode away
toward the higher mountains. He was well armed, carrying his
repeating rifle and the large hunting knife which was useful for
so many purposes. He had also thrust one of the revolvers into
Flushed with youth and strength, and equipped with such good
weapons, he felt able to take care of himself in any company into
which he might be thrown.
He reached the bottom of the slope, and looking back, saw Albert
standing on a fallen log. His brother was watching him and waved
his hand. Dick waved his in reply, and then, crossing the creek,
began the ascent of the farther slope. There the pines and the
distance rendered the brothers invisible to each other, and Dick
pressed on with vigor. His recent trips over the lower slopes
for supplies had greatly increased his skill in mountain climbing,
and he did not suffer from weariness. Up, up, he went, and the
pines grew shorter and scrubbier. But the thin, crisp air was a
sheer delight, and he felt an extraordinary pleasure in mere
Dick looked back once more from the heights toward the spot
where their camp lay and saw lying against the blue a thin gray
thread that only the keenest eye would notice. He knew it to be
the smoke from Albert's fire and felt sure that all was well.
While the slope which he was ascending was fairly steep, it was
easy enough to find a good trail among the pines. There was
little undergrowth and the ascent was not rocky. When Dick stood
at last on the crest of the ridge he uttered a cry of delight and
The slope on which he stood was merely a sort of gate to the
higher mountains, or rather it was a curtain hiding the view.
Before him, range on range and peak on peak, lay mighty
mountains, some of them shooting up almost three miles above the
sea, their crests and heads hid in eternal snow. Far away to
northward and westward stretched the tremendous maze, and it
seemed to Dick to have no end. A cold, dazzling sunlight poured
in floods over the snowy summits, and he felt a great sense of
awe. It was all so grand, so silent, and so near to the Infinite.
He saw the full majesty of the world and of the Power that had
created it. For a little while his mission and all human passions
and emotions floated away from him; he was content merely to
stand there, without thinking, but to feel the immensity and
majesty of it all.
Dick presently recovered himself and with a little laugh came
back to earth. But he was glad to have had those moments. He
began the descent, which was rougher and rockier than the ascent
had been, but the prospect was encouraging. The valley between
the ridge on the slope of which he stood and the higher one
beyond it seemed narrow, but he believed that he would find in it
the shelter and hiding that he and Albert wished.
As he went down the slope became steeper, but once more the
pines, sheltered from the snows and cruel winds, grew to a great
size. There was also so much outcropping of rock that Dick was
hopeful of finding another alcove deep enough to be converted
into a house.
When nearly down, he caught a gleam among the trees that he knew
was water, and again he was encouraged. Here was a certainty of
one thing that was an absolute necessity. Soon he was in the
valley, which he found exceedingly narrow and almost choked with
a growth of pine, ash, and aspen, a tiny brook flowing down its
center. He was tired and warm from the long descent and knelt
down and drank from the brook. Its waters were as cold as ice,
flowing down from the crest of one of the great peaks clad,
winter and summer, in snow.
Dick followed the brook for fully a mile, seeking everywhere a
suitable place in which he and his brother might make a home, but
he found none. The valley resembled in most of its aspects a
great canyon, and all the fertile earth on either side of the brook
was set closely with pine, ash, and aspen. These would form a
shelter from winds, but they would not protect from rain and the
great colds and snows of the high Rockies.
Dick noticed many footprints of animals at the margin of the
stream, some of great size, which he had no doubt were made by
grizzlies or silver tips. He also believed that the beaver might
be found farther down along this cold and secluded water, but he
was not interested greatly just then in animals; he was seeking
for that most necessary of all things—something that must be
It seemed to him at the end of his estimated mile that the brook
was going to flow directly into the mountain which rose before
him many hundreds of feet; but when he came to the rocky wall he
found that the valley turned off at a sharp angle to the left,
and the stream, of course, followed it, although it now descended
more rapidly, breaking three times into little foamy falls five
or six feet in height. Then another brook came from a deep cleft
between the mountains on the eastern side and swelled with its
volume the main stream, which now became a creek.
The new valley widened out to a width of perhaps a quarter of a
mile, although the rocky walls on either side rose to a great
height and were almost precipitous. Springs flowed from these
walls and joined the creek. Some of them came down the face of
the cliffs in little cascades of foam and vapor, but others
spouted from the base of the rock. Dick knelt down to drink from
one of the latter, but as his face approached the water he jumped
away. He dipped up a little of it in his soft hat and tasted
it. It was brackish and almost boiling hot.
Dick was rather pleased at the discovery. A bitter and hot
spring might be very useful. He had imbibed—like many
others—from the teaching of his childhood that any bitter liquid
was good for you. As he advanced farther the valley continued to
spread out. It was now perhaps a half mile in width, and well
wooded. The creek became less turbulent, flowing with a depth of
several feet in a narrow channel.
The whole aspect of the valley so far had been that of a
wilderness uninhabited and unvisited. A mule deer looked
curiously at Dick, then walked away a few paces and stood there.
When Dick glanced back his deership was still curious and
gazing. A bear crashed through a thicket, stared at the boy with
red eyes, then rolled languidly away. Dick was quick to
interpret these signs. They were unfamiliar with human presence,
and he was cheered by the evidence. Yet at the end of another
hundred yards of progress he sank down suddenly among some
bushes and remained perfectly silent, but intently watchful.
He had seen a column of smoke rising above the pines and aspens.
Smoke meant fire, fire meant human beings, and human beings, in
that region, meant enemies. He had no doubt that Sioux were at
the foot of that column of smoke. It was a tragic discovery. He
was looking for a home for Albert and himself somewhere in this
valley, but there could be no home anywhere near the Sioux. He
and his brother must turn in another direction, and with painful
effort lug their stores over the ridges.
But Dick was resolved to see. There were great springs of
courage and tenacity in his nature, and he wished, moreover, to
prove his new craft as a woodsman and mountaineer. He remained
awhile in the bushes, watching the spire, and presently, to his
amazement, it thinned quickly and was gone. It had disappeared
swiftly, while the smoke from a fire usually dies down. It was
Dick's surmise that the Sioux had put out their fire by
artificial means and then had moved on. Such an act would
indicate a fear of observation, and his curiosity increased
But Dick did not forget his caution. He crouched in the bushes
for quite a while yet, watching the place where the smoke had
been, but the sky remained clear and undefiled. He heard nothing
and saw nothing but the lonely valley. At last he crept forward
slowly, and with the greatest care, keeping among bushes and
treading very softly. He advanced in this manner three or four
hundred yards, to the very point which must have been the base of
the spire of smoke—he had marked it so well that he could not
be mistaken—and from his leafy covert saw a large open space
entirely destitute of vegetation. He expected to see there also
the remains of a camp fire, but none was visible, not a single
charred stick, nor a coal.
Dick was astonished. A new and smoking camp fire must leave
some trace. One could not wipe it away absolutely. He
remained a comparatively long time, watching in the edge of the
bushes beside the wide and open space.
He still saw and heard nothing. Never before had a camp fire
vanished so mysteriously and completely, and with it those who
had built it. At last, his curiosity overcoming his caution, he
advanced into the open space, and now saw that it fell away
toward the center. Advancing more boldly, he found himself near
the edge of a deep pit.
The pit was almost perfectly round and had a diameter of about
ten feet. So far as Dick could judge, it was about forty feet
deep and entirely empty. It looked like a huge well dug by the
hand of man.
While Dick was gazing at the pit, an extraordinary and terrifying
thing happened. The earth under his feet began to shake. At
first he could not believe it, but when he steadied himself and
watched closely, the oscillating motion was undoubtedly there.
It was accompanied, too, by a rumble, dull and low, but which
steadily grew louder. It seemed to Dick that the round pit was
the center of this sound.
Despite the quaking of the earth, he ventured again into the open
space and saw that the pit had filled with water. Moreover, this
water was boiling, as he could see it seething and bubbling. As
he looked, clouds of steam shot up to a height of two or three
hundred feet, and Dick, in alarm, ran back to the bushes. He
knew that this was the column of vapor he had first seen from a
distance, but he was not prepared for what followed.
There was an explosion so loud that it made Dick jump. Then a
great column of water shot up from the boiling pit to a height of
perhaps fifty feet, and remained there rising and falling. From
the apex of this column several great jets rose, perhaps, three
times as high.
The column of hot water glittered and shimmered in the sun, and
Dick gazed in wonder and delight. He had read enough to
recognize the phenomenon that he now saw. It was a geyser, a
column of hot water shooting up, at regular intervals and with
great force, from the unknown deeps of the earth.
As he gazed, the column gradually sank, the boiling water in the
pit sank, too, and there was no longer any rumble or quaking of
the earth. Dick cautiously approached the pit again. It was as
empty as a dry well, but he knew that in due time the phenomenon
would be repeated. He was vastly interested, but he did not wait
to see the recurrence of the marvel, continuing his way down the
valley over heaps of crinkly black slag and stone, which were
age-old lava, although he did not know it, and through groves of
pine and ash, aspen, and cedar. He saw other round pits and
watched a second geyser in eruption. He saw, too, numerous hot
springs, and much steamy vapor floating about. There were also
mineral springs and springs of the clearest and purest cold
water. It seemed to Dick that every minute of his wanderings
revealed to him some new and interesting sight, while on all
sides of the little valley rose the mighty mountains, their
summits in eternal snow.
A great relief was mingled with the intense interest that Dick
felt. He had been sure at first that he saw the camp fires of
the Sioux, but after the revulsion it seemed as if it were a
place never visited by man, either savage or civilized. As he
continued down the valley, he noticed narrow clefts in the
mountains opening into them from either side, but he felt sure
from the nature of the country that they could not go back far.
The clefts were four in number, and down two of them came
considerable streams of clear, cold water emptying into the main
The valley now narrowed again and Dick heard ahead a slight
humming sound which presently grew into a roar. He was puzzled
at first, but soon divined the cause. The creek, or rather
little river, much increased in volume by the tributary brooks,
made a great increase of speed in its current. Dick saw before
him a rising column of vapor and foam, and in another minute or
two stood beside a fine fall, where the little river took a sheer
drop of forty feet, then rushed foaming and boiling through a
narrow chasm, to empty about a mile farther on into a beautiful
Dick, standing on a high rock beside the fall, could see the lake
easily. Its blue was of a deep, splendid tint, and on every side
pines and cedars thickly clothed the narrow belt of ground
between it and the mountains. The far end seemed to back up
abruptly against a mighty range crowned with snow, but Dick felt
sure that an outlet must be there through some cleft in the
range. The lake itself was of an almost perfect crescent shape,
and Dick reckoned its length at seven miles, with a greatest
breadth, that is, at the center, of about two miles. He judged,
too, from its color and its position in a fissure that its depth
must be very great.
The surface of the lake lay two or three hundred feet lower than
the rock on which Dick was standing, and he could see its entire
expanse, rippling gently under the wind and telling only of peace
and rest. Flocks of wild fowl flew here and there, showing white
or black against the blue of its waters, and at the nearer shore
Dick thought he saw an animal like a deer drinking, but the
distance was too great to tell certainly.
He left the rock and pursued his way through dwarf pines and
cedars along the edge of the chasm in which the torrent boiled
and foamed, intending to go down to the lake. Halfway he
stopped, startled by a long, shrill, whistling sound that bore
some resemblance to the shriek of a distant locomotive. The
wilderness had been so silent before that the sound seemed to
fill all the valley, the ridges taking it up and giving it back
in one echo after another until it died away among the peaks. In
a minute or so the whistling shriek was repeated and then two or
three times more.
Dick was not apprehensive. It was merely a new wonder in that
valley of wonders, and none of these wonders seemed to have
anything to do with man. The sound apparently came from a point
two or three hundred yards to his left at the base of the
mountain, and turning, Dick went toward it, walking very slowly
and carefully through the undergrowth. He had gone almost the
whole distance seeing nothing but the mountain and the forest,
when the whistling shriek was suddenly repeated so close to him
that he jumped. He sank down behind a dwarf pine, and then he
saw not thirty feet away the cause of the sound.
A gigantic deer, a great grayish animal, stood in a little open
space, and at intervals emitted that tremendous whistle. It
stood as high as a horse, and Dick estimated its weight at more
than a thousand pounds. He was looking at a magnificent specimen
of the Rocky Mountain elk, by far the largest member of the deer
tribe that he had ever seen. The animal, the wind blowing from
him toward Dick, was entirely unsuspicious of danger, and the boy
could easily have put a bullet into his heart, but he had no
desire to do so. Whether the elk was whistling to his mate or
sending a challenge to a rival bull he did not know, and after
watching and admiring him for a little while he crept away.
But Dick was not wholly swayed by sentiment. He said to himself
as he went away among the pines: "Don't you feel too safe, Mr.
Elk, we'll have to take you or some of your brethren later on.
I've heard that elk meat is good."
He resumed his journey and was soon at the edge of the lake,
which at this point had a narrow sandy margin. Its waters were
fresh and cold, and wold duck, fearless of Dick, swam within a
few yards of him. The view here was not less majestic and
beautiful than it had been from the rock, and Dick, sensitive to
nature, was steeped in all its wonder and charm. He was glad to
be there, he was glad that chance or Providence had led him to
this lovely valley. He felt no loneliness, no fear for the
future, he was content merely to breathe and feel the glory of it
permeate his being.
He picked up a pebble presently and threw it into the lake. It
sank with the sullen plunk that told unmistakably to the boy's
ears of great depths below. Once or twice he saw a fish leap up,
and it occurred to him that here was another food supply.
He suddenly pulled himself together with a jerk. He could not
sit there all day dreaming. He had come to find a winter home
for Albert and himself, and he had not yet found it. But he had
a plan from which he had been turned aside for a while by the
sight of the lake, and now he went back to carry it out.
There were two clefts opening into the mountains from his side of
the river, and he went into the first on the return path. It was
choked with pine and cedars and quickly ended against a mountain
wall, proving to be nothing but a very short canyon. There was
much outcropping of rock here, but nothing that would help toward
a shelter, and Dick went on to the second cleft.
This cleft, wider than the other, was the one down which the
considerable brook flowed, and the few yards or so of fertile
ground on either side of the stream produced a rank growth of
trees. They were so thick that the boy could see only a little
distance ahead, but he believed that this slip of a tributary
valley ran far back in the mountains, perhaps a dozen miles.
He picked his way about a mile and then came suddenly upon a
house. It stood in an alcove protected by rocks and trees, but
safe from snow slide. It was only a log hut of one room, with
the roof broken in and the door fallen from its hinges, but Dick
knew well enough the handiwork of the white man. As he
approached, some wild animal darted out of the open door and
crashed away among the undergrowth, but Dick knew that white
men had once lived there. It was equally evident that they had
long been gone.
It was a cabin of stout build, its thick logs fitted nicely
together, and the boards of the roof had been strong and well
laid. Many years must have passed to have caused so much
decay. Dick entered and was saluted by a strong, catlike odor.
Doubtless a mountain lion had been sleeping there, and this was
the tenant that he had heard crashing away among the undergrowth.
On one side was a window closed by a sagging oaken shutter, which
Dick threw open. The open door and window established a draught,
and as the clean sweet air blew through the cabin the odor of the
cat began to disappear.
Dick examined everything with the greatest interest and
curiosity. There was a floor of puncheons fairly smooth, a stone
fireplace, a chimney of mud and sticks, dusty wooden hooks, and
rests nailed into the wall, a rude table overturned in a corner,
and something that looked like a trap. It was the last that told
the tale to Dick. When he examined it more critically, he had no
doubt that it was a beaver trap.
Nor did he have any doubt but that this hut had been built by
beaver trappers long ago, either by independent hunters, or by
those belonging to one of the great fur companies. The beaver,
he believed, had been found on this very brook, and when they
were all taken the trappers had gone away, leaving the cabin
forever, as they had left many another one. It might be at least
forty years old.
Dick laughed aloud in his pleasure at this good luck. The cabin
was dusty, dirty, disreputable, and odorous, but that draught
would take away all the odors and his stout arm could soon repair
the holes in the roof, put the door back on its hinges, and
straighten the sagging window shutter. Here was their home, a
house built by white men as a home, and now about to be used as
such again. Dick did not feel like a tenant moving in, but like
an owner. It would be a long, hard task to bring their supplies
over the range but Albert and he had all the time in the world.
It was one of the effects of their isolation to make Dick feel
that there was no such thing as time.
He took another survey of the cabin. It was really a splendid
place, a palace in its contrast with the surrounding wilderness,
and he laughed with pure delight. When it was swept and cleaned,
and a fire blazing on the flat stone that served for a hearth,
while the cold winds roared without, it would be the snuggest
home west of the Missouri. He was so pleased that he undertook
at once some primary steps in the process of purification. He
cut a number of small, straight boughs, tied them together with a
piece of bark, the leaves at the head thus forming a kind of
broom, and went to work.
He raised a great dust, which the draught blew into his eyes,
ears, and nose, and he retreated from the place, willing to let
the wind take it away. He would finish the task some other day.
Then the clear waters of the brook tempted him. Just above the
cabin was a deep pool which may have been the home of the beaver
in an older time. Now it was undisturbed, and the waters were so
pure that he could see the sand and rock on the bottom.
Still tingling from the dust, he took off his clothes and dived
head foremost into the pool. He came up shivering and
sputtering. It was certainly the coldest water into which he
had ever leaped! After such a dash one might lie on a slab of
ice to warm. Dick forgot that every drop in the brook had come
from melting snows far up on the peaks, but, once in, he resolved
to fight the element. He dived again, jumped up and down, and
kicked and thrashed those waters as no beaver had ever done.
Gradually he grew warm, and a wonderful exhilaration shot through
every vein. Then he swam around and around and across and
across the pool, disporting like a young white water god.
Dick was thoroughly enjoying himself, but when he began to feel
cold again in seven or eight minutes he sprang out, ran up and
down the bank, and rubbed himself with bunches of leaves until he
was dry. After he had dressed, he felt that he had actually
grown in size and strength in the last half hour.
He was now ravenously hungry. His absorption in his explorations
and discoveries had kept him from thinking of such a thing as
food until this moment, but when Nature finally got in her claim
she made it strong and urgent. He had brought cold supplies with
him, upon which he feasted, sitting in the doorway of the cabin.
Then he noticed the lateness of the hour. Shadows were
falling across the snow on the western peaks and ridges. The
golden light of the sun was turning red, and in the valley the
air was growing misty with the coming twilight.
He resolved to pass the night in the cabin. He secured the
window shutter again, tied up the fallen door on rude bark
hinges, and fastened it on the inside with a stick—hasps for
the bar were there yet—but before retiring he took a long look
in the direction in which Albert and their camp lay.
A great range of mountains lay between, but Dick felt that he
could almost see his brother, his camp fire, and the pine
alcove. He was Albert's protector, and this would be the first
entire night in the mountains in which the weaker boy had been
left alone, but Dick was not apprehensive about him. He believed
that their good fortune would still endure, and secure in that
belief he rolled himself up in the blanket which he had brought
in a little pack on his back, and laid himself down in the corner
of the cabin.
The place was not yet free from dust and odor, but Dick's hardy
life was teaching him to take as trifles things that civilization
usually regarded as onerous, and he felt quite comfortable where
he lay. He knew that it was growing cold in the gorge, and the
shelter of the cabin was acceptable. He saw a little strip of
wan twilight through a crack in the window, but it soon faded and
pitchy darkness filled the narrow valley.
Dick fell into a sound sleep, from which he awoke only once in
the night, and then it was a noise of something as of claws
scratching at the door which stirred him. The scratch was
repeated only once or twice, and with it came the sound of heavy,
gasping puffs, like a big animal breathing. Then the creature
went away, and Dick, half asleep, murmured: "I've put you out of
your house, my fine friend, bear or panther, whichever you may
be." In another minute he was wholly asleep again and did not
waken until an edge of glittering sunlight, like a sword blade,
came through the crack in the window and struck him across the
He bathed a second time in the pool, ate what was left of the
food, and started on the return journey, moving at a brisk pace.
He made many calculations on the way. It would take a week to
move all their goods over the range to the cabin, but, once
there, he believed that they would be safe for a long time;
indeed, they might spend years in the valley, if they wished, and
never see a stranger.
It was afternoon when he approached the pine alcove, but the
familiar spire of smoke against the blue had assured him already
that Albert was there and safe. In fact, Albert saw him first.
He had just returned from the creek, and, standing on a rock, a
fish in his hand, hailed his brother, who was coming up the
"Halloo, Dick!" he shouted. "Decided to come home, have you?
Hope you've had a pleasant visit."
"Fine trip, Al, old man," Dick replied. "Great place over
there. Think we'd better move to it."
"That so? Tell us about it."
Dick, ever sensitive to Albert's manner and appearance, noticed
that the boy's voice was fuller, and he believed that the dry,
piny air of the mountains was still at its healing work. He
joined Albert, who was waiting for him, and who, after giving his
hand a hearty grasp, told him what he had found.
Albert agreed with Dick that they should begin to more at once,
and his imagination was greatly stirred by Dick's narrative.
"Why, it's an enchanted valley!" he exclaimed. "And a house is
there waiting for us, too! Dick, I want to see it right away!"
"Sorry, but you'll have to wait a little, Al, old man," he said.
"You're not strong enough yet to carry stores over the big range,
though you will be very soon, and we can't leave our precious
things here unguarded. So you'll have to stay and act as
quartermaster while I make myself pack mule. When we have all
the things over there, we can fasten them up in our house, where
bears, panthers, and wolves can't get at them."
Albert made a wry face, but he knew that he must yield to
necessity. Dick began the task the next morning, and it was
long, tedious, and most wearing. More than once he felt like
abandoning some of their goods, but he hardened his resolution
with the reflection that all were precious, and not a single
thing was abandoned.
It was more than a week before it was all done, and it was not
until the last trip that Albert went with him, carrying besides
his gun a small pack. The weather was still propitious. Once
there had been a light shower in the night, but Albert was
protected from it by the tarpaulin which they had made of the
wagon cover, and nothing occurred to check his progress. He ate
with an appetite that he had never known before, and he breathed
by night as well as by day the crisp air of the mountains tingling
with the balsam of the pines. It occurred to Dick that to be
marooned in these mountains was perhaps the best of all things
that could have happened to Albert.
They went slowly over the range toward the enchanted valley,
stopping now and then because Albert, despite his improvement,
was not yet equal to the task of strenuous climbing, but all
things continued auspicious. There was a touch of autumn on the
foliage, and the shades of red and yellow were appearing on the
leaves of all the trees except the evergreens, but everything
told of vigorous life. As they passed the crest of the range and
began the descent of the slope toward the enchanted valley, a
mule deer crashed from the covert and fled away with great
bounds. Flocks of birds rose with whirrings from the bushes.
From some point far away came the long, whistling sound that made
Albert cry out in wonder. But Dick laughed.
"It's the elk," he said. "I saw one when I first came into the
valley. I think they are thick hereabout, and I suspect that
they will furnish us with some good winter food."
Albert found the valley all that Dick had represented it to be,
and more. He watched the regular eruptions of the geysers with
amazement and delight; he insisted on sampling the mineral
springs, and intended to learn in time their various properties.
The lake, in all its shimmering aspects, appealed to his love of
the grand and beautiful, and he promptly named it "The Howard
Sea, after its discoverer, you know," he said to Dick. Finally,
the cabin itself filled him with delight, because he foresaw
even more thoroughly than Dick how suitable it would be for a
home in the long winter months. He installed himself as
housekeeper and set to work at once.
The little cabin was almost choked with their supplies, which
Dick had been afraid to leave outside for fear that the
provisions would be eaten and the other things injured by the
wild animals, and now they began the task of assorting and
putting them into place.
The full equipment of the wagon that Dick had found in the gully,
particularly the tools, proved to be a godsend. They made more
racks on the walls—boring holes with the augers and then
driving in pegs—on which they laid their axes and extra rifles.
In the same manner they made high shelves, on which their food
would be safe from prowling wild beasts, even should they succeed
in breaking in the door. But Dick soon made the latter
impossible by putting the door on strong hinges of leather which
he made from the gear that he had cut from the horses. He also
split a new bar from one of the young ash trees and strengthened
the hasps on the inside. He felt now that when the bar was in
place not even the heaviest grizzly could force the door.
The task of mending the roof was more difficult. He knew how to
split rude boards with his ax, but he had only a few nails with
which to hold them in place. He solved the problem by boring
auger holes, into which he drove pegs made from strong twigs.
The roof looked water-tight, and he intended to reenforce it
later on with the skins of wild animals that he expected to
kill—there had been no time yet for hunting.
Throughout these operations, which took about a week, they slept
in the open in a rude tent which they made of the wagon cover and
set beside the cabin, for two reasons: because Dick believed the
open air at all times to be good for Albert, and because he was
averse to using the cabin as a dormitory until it was thoroughly
cleansed and aired.
Albert made himself extremely useful in the task of refurbishing
the cabin. He brushed out all the dust, brought water from the
brook and scrubbed the floor, and to dry the latter built their
first fire on the hearth with pine cones and other fallen wood.
As he touched the match to it, he did not conceal his anxiety.
"The big thing to us," he said, "is whether or not this chimney
will draw. That's vital, I tell you, Dick, to a housekeeper. If
it puffs out smoke and fills the cabin with it, we're to have a
hard time and be miserable. If it draws like a porous plaster
and takes all the smoke up it, then we're to have an easy time of
it and be happy."
Both watched anxiously as Albert touched the match to some pine
shavings which were to form the kindling wood. The shavings
caught, a light blaze leaped up, there came a warning crackle,
and smoke, too, arose. Which way would it go? The little column
wavered a moment and then shot straight up the chimney. It grew
larger, but still shot straight up the chimney. The flames roared
and were drawn in the same direction.
Albert laughed and clapped his hands.
"It's to be an easy time and a happy life!" he exclaimed. "Those
old beaver hunters knew what they were about when they built this
"You can cook in here, Al," said Dick; "but I suggest that we
sleep in the tent until the weather grows bad."
Dick had more than one thing in mind in making this suggestion
about the tent and sleeping. The air of the cabin could be close
at night even with the window open, but in the tent with the flap
thrown back—they never closed it—they breathed only a fresh
balsamic odor, crisp with the coolness of autumn. He had watched
Albert all the time. Now and then when he had exerted himself
more than usual, the younger boy would cough, and at times he was
very tired, but Dick, however sharply he watched, did not see
again the crimson stain on the lips that he had noticed the night
of the flight from the massacre.
But the older brother, two years older only, in fact, but ten
years older, at least, in feeling, did notice a great change in
Albert, mental as well as physical. The younger boy ceased to
have periods of despondency. While he could not do the things
that Dick did, he was improving, and he never lamented his lack
of strength. It seemed to him a matter of course, so far as Dick
could judge, that in due time he should be the equal of the older
and bigger boy in muscle and skill.
Albert, moreover, had no regrets for the world without. Their
life with the wagon train had been far from pleasant, and he had
only Dick, and Dick had only him. Now the life in the enchanted
valley, which was a real valley of enchantments, was sufficient
for him. Each day brought forth some new wonder, some fresh and
interesting detail. He was a capable fisherman, and he caught
trout in both the brook and the river, while the lake yielded to
his line other and larger fish, the names of which neither boy
knew, but which proved to be of delicate flavor when broiled over
the coals. Just above them was a boiling hot spring, and Albert
used the water from this for cooking purposes. "Hot and cold
water whenever you please," he said to Dick. "Nothing to do but
to turn the tap."
Dick smiled; he, too, was happy. He enjoyed life in the
enchanted valley, where everything seemed to have conspired in
their favor. When they had been there about a week, and their
home was ready for any emergency, Dick took his gun and went
forth, the hunting spirit strong within him. They had heard the
elk whistling on the mountain side nearly every day, and he
believed that elk meat would prove tender and good. Anyway he
Dick did not feel much concern about their food supply. He
believed that vast quantities of big game would come into this
valley in the winter to seek protection from the mighty snows of
the northern Rockies, but it was just as well to begin the task
of filling the larder.
He came out into the main valley and turned toward the lake.
Autumn was now well advanced, but in the cool sunshine the lake
seemed more beautiful than ever. Its waters were golden to-day,
but with a silver tint at the edges where the pine-clad banks
overhung it. Dick did not linger, however. He turned away
toward the slopes, whence the whistling call had come the
oftenest, and was soon among the pines and cedars. He searched
here an hour or more, and at last he found two feeding, a male
and a female.
Dick had the instinct of the hunter, and already he had acquired
great skill. Creeping through the undergrowth, he came within easy
shot of the animals, and he looked at them a little before
shooting. The bull was magnificent, and he, if any, seemed a fit
subject for the bullet, but Dick chose the cow, knowing that she
would be the tenderer. Only a single shot was needed, and then
he had a great task to carry the hide and the body in sections to
the cabin. They ate elk steaks and then hung the rest in the
trees for drying and jerking. Dick, according to his previous
plan, used the skin to cover the newly mended places in the roof,
fastening it down tightly with small wooden pegs. His forethought
was vindicated two days later when a great storm came. Both he
and Albert had noticed throughout the afternoon an unusual warmth
in the air. It affected Albert particularly, as it made his
respiration difficult. Over the mountains in the west they saw
small dark clouds which soon began to grow and unite. Dick
thought he knew what it portended, and he and his brother quickly
taking down the tent, carried it and all its equipment inside the
cabin. Then making fast the door and leaving the window open,
The heat endured, but all the clouds became one that overspread
the entire heavens. Despite the lateness of the season, the
thunder, inexpressibly solemn and majestic, rumbled among the
gorges, and there was a quiver of lightening. It was as dark as
The rain came, roaring down the clefts and driving against the
cabin with such force that they were compelled to close the
window. How thankful Dick was now for Albert's sake that they
had such a secure shelter! Nor did he despise it for his own.
The rain, driven by a west wind, poured heavily, and the air
rapidly grew colder. Albert piled dry firewood on the hearth and
lighted it. The flames leaped up, and warmth, dryness, and cheer
filled all the little cabin. Dick had been anxiously regarding
the roof, but the new boards and the elk skin were water-tight.
Not a drop came through. Higher leaped the flames and the rosy
shadows fell upon the floor.
"It's well we took the tent down and came in here," said Albert.
"Listen to that!"
The steady, driving sweep changed to a rattle and a crackle. The
rain had turned to hail, and it was like the patter of rifle fire
on the stout little cabin.
"It may rain or hail or snow, or do whatever it pleases, but it
can't get at us," said Albert exultingly.
"No, it can't," said Dick. "I wonder, Al, what Bright Sun is
"A peculiar Indian," said Albert thoughtfully, "but it's safe to
say that wherever he is he's planning and acting."
"At any rate," said Dick, "we're not likely to know it, whatever
it is, for a long time, and we won't bother trying to guess about
It hailed for an hour and then changed to rain again, pouring
down in great steadiness and volume. Dick opened the window a
little way once, but the night was far advanced, and it was
pitchy black outside. They let the coals die down to a glowing
bed, and then, wrapping themselves in their blankets, they slept
soundly all through the night and the driving rain, their little
cabin as precious to them as any palace was ever to a king.
Albert, contrary to custom, was the first to awake the next
morning. A few coals from the fire were yet alive on the hearth,
and the atmosphere of the room, breathed over and over again
throughout the night, was close and heavy. He threw back the
window shutter, and the great rush of pure cold air into the
opening made his body thrill with delight. This was a physical
pleasure, but the sight outside gave him a mental rapture even
greater. Nothing was falling now, but the rain had turned back
to hail before it ceased, and all the earth was in glittering
white. The trees in the valley, clothed in ice, were like lace
work, and above them towered the shining white mountains.
Albert looked back at Dick. His brother, wrapped in his blanket,
still slept, with his arm under his head and his face toward the
hearth. He looked so strong, so enduring, as he lay there
sleeping soundly, and Albert knew that he was both. But a
curious feeling was in the younger boy's mind that morning. He
was glad that he had awakened first. Hitherto he had always
opened his eyes to find Dick up and doing. It was Dick who had
done everything. It was Dick who had saved him from the
Sioux; it was Dick who had practically carried him over the first
range; Dick had found their shelter in the pine alcove; Dick had
labored day and night, day after day, and night after night,
bringing the stores over the mountain from the lost train, then
he had found their new home in the enchanted valley, which Albert
persisted in calling it, and he had done nearly all the hard work
of repairing and furnishing the cabin.
It should not always be so. Albert's heart was full of gratitude
to this brother of his who was so brave and resourceful, but he
wanted to do his share. The feeling was based partly on pride
and partly on a new increase of physical strength. He took a
deep inhalation of the cold mountain air and held it long in his
lungs. Then he emitted it slowly. There was no pain, no feeling
of soreness, and it was the first time he could remember that it
had been so. A new thrill of pleasure, keener and more powerful
than any other, shook him for a moment. It was a belief, nay, a
certainty, or at least a conviction, that he was going to be
whole and sound. The mountains were doing their kindly healing.
He could have shouted aloud with pleasure, but instead he
restrained himself and went outside, softly shutting the door
Autumn had gone and winter had come in a night. The trees were
stripped of every leaf and in their place was the sheathing of
ice. The brook roared past, swollen for the time to a little
river. The air, though very cold, was dry despite the heavy rain
of the night before. Albert shivered more than once, but it was
not the shiver of weakness. It did not bite to the very marrow
of him. Instead, when he exercised legs and arms vigorously,
warmth came back. He was not a crushed and shriveled thing.
Now he laughed aloud in sheer delight. He had subjected
himself to another test, and he had passed it in triumph.
He built up the fire, and when Dick awoke, the pleasant aroma of
cooking filled the room.
"Why, what's this, Al?" exclaimed the big youth, rubbing his
"Oh, I've been up pretty near an hour," replied Albert airily.
"Saw that you were having a fine sleep, so I thought I wouldn't
Dick looked inquiringly at him. He thought he detected a new
note in his brother's voice, a note, too, that he liked.
"I see," he said; "and you've been at work sometime, Do you feel
fully equal to the task?"
Albert turned and faced his brother squarely.
"I've been thinking a lot, and feeling a lot more this morning,"
he replied. "I've been trying myself out, as they say, and if
I'm not well I'm traveling fast in that direction. Hereafter I
share the work as well as the rewards."
Albert spoke almost defiantly, but Dick liked his tone and manner
better than ever. He would not, on any account, have said
anything in opposition at this moment.
"All right, Al, old fellow. That's agreed," he said.
An Animal Progression
The thin sheath of ice did not last long. On the second day the
sun came out and melted it in an hour. Then a warm wind blew and
in a few more hours the earth was dry. On the third day Albert
took his repeating rifle from the hooks on the wall and calmly
announced that he was going hunting.
"All right," said Dick; "and as I feel lazy I'll keep house until
you come back. Don't get chewed up by a grizzly bear."
Dick sat down in the doorway of the cabin and watched his brother
striding off down the valley, gun on shoulder, figure very erect.
Dick smiled; but it was a smile of pride, not derision.
"Good old Al! He'll do!" he murmured.
Albert followed the brook into the larger valley and then went
down by the side of the lake. Though a skillful shot, he was not
yet a good hunter, but he knew that one must make a beginning and
he wanted to learn through his own mistakes.
He had an idea that game could be found most easily in the forest
that ran down the mountain side to the lake, and he was thinking
most particularly just then of elk. He had become familiar with
the loud, whistling sound, and he listened for it now but did not
He passed the spot at which Dick had killed the big cow elk and
continued northward among the trees that covered the slopes and
flat land between the mountain and the lake. This area broadened
as he proceeded, and, although the forest was leafless now, it
was so dense and there was such a large proportion of evergreens,
cedars, and pines that Albert could not see very far ahead. He
crossed several brooks pouring down from the peaks. All were in
flood, and once or twice it was all that he could do with a
flying leap to clear them, but he went on, undiscouraged, keeping
a sharp watch for that which he was hunting.
Albert did not know much about big game, but he remembered
hearing Dick say that elk and mule deer would be likely to come
into the valley for shelter at the approach of winter, and he was
hopeful that he might have the luck to encounter a whole herd of
the big elk. Then, indeed, he would prove that he was an equal
partner with Dick in the work as well as the reward. He wished
to give the proof at once.
He had not been so far up the north end of the valley before, and
he noticed that here was quite an expanse of flat country on
either side of the lake. But the mountains all around the valley
were so high that it seemed to Albert that deer and other wild
animals might find food as well as shelter throughout the
winter. Hence he was quite confident, despite his poor luck so
far, that he should find big game soon, and his hunting fever
increased. He had never shot anything bigger than a rabbit, but
Albert was an impressionable boy, and his imagination at once
leaped over the gulf from a rabbit to a grizzly bear.
He had the lake, an immense and beautiful blue mirror, on his
right and the mountains on his left, but the space between was
now nearly two miles in width, sown thickly in spots with pine
and cedar, ash and aspen, and in other places quite open. In the
latter the grass was green despite the lateness of the season,
and Albert surmised that good grazing could be found there all
through the winter, even under the snow. Game must be plentiful
The way dropped down a little into a sheltered depression, and
Albert heard a grunt and a great puffing breath. A huge dark
animal that had been lying among some dwarf pines shuffled to its
feet and Albert's heart slipped right up into his throat. Here
was his grizzly, and he certainly was a monster! Every nerve in
Albert was tingling, and instinct bade him run. Will had a hard
time of it for a few moments, struggling with instinct, but will
conquered, and, standing his ground, Albert fired a bullet from
his repeater at the great dark mass.
The animal emitted his puffing roar again and rushed, head down,
but blindly. Then Albert saw that he had roused not a grizzly
bear but an enormous bull buffalo, a shaggy, fierce old fellow
who would not eat him, but who might gore or trample him to
death. His aspect was so terrible that will again came near
going down before instinct, but Albert did not run. Instead, he
leaped aside, and, as the buffalo rushed past, he fired another
bullet from his repeater into his body just back of the fore
The animal staggered, and Albert staggered, too, from excitement
and nervousness, but he remembered to take aim and fire again and
again with his heavy repeater. In his heat and haste he did not
hear a shout behind him, but he did see the great bull stagger,
then reel and fall on his side, after which he lay quite still.
Albert stood, rifle in hand, trembling and incredulous. Could it
be he who had slain the mightiest buffalo that ever trod the
earth? The bull seemed to his distended eyes and flushed brain
to weigh ten tons at least, and to dwarf the biggest elephant.
He raised his hand to his forehead and then sat down beside his
trophy, overcome with weakness.
"Well, now, you have done it, young one! I thought I'd get a
finger in this pie, but I came up too late! Say, young fellow,
what's your name? Is it Daniel Boone or Davy Crockett?"
It was Dick who had followed in an apparently casual manner. He
had rushed to his brother's rescue when he saw the bull charging,
but he had arrived too late—and he was glad of it; the triumph
was wholly Albert's.
Albert, recovering from his weakness, looked at Dick, looked at
the buffalo, and then looked back at Dick. All three looks were
as full of triumph, glory, and pride as any boy's look could be.
"He's as big as a mountain, isn't he, Dick?" he said.
"Well, not quite that," replied Dick gravely. "A good-sized hill
would be a better comparison."
The buffalo certainly was a monster, and the two boys examined
him critically. Dick was of the opinion that he belonged to the
species known as the wood bison, which is not numerous among the
mountains, but which is larger than the ordinary buffalo of the
plains. The divergence of type, however, is very slight.
"He must have been an outlaw," said Dick; "a vicious old bull
compelled to wander alone because of his bad manners. Still,
it's likely that he's not the only buffalo in our valley."
"Can we eat him?" asked Albert.
"That's a question. He's sure to be tough, but I remember how we
used to make steak tender at home by beating it before it was
cooked. We might serve a thousand pounds or two of this bull in
that manner. Besides, we want that robe."
The robe was magnificent, and both boys felt that it would prove
useful. Dick had gained some experience from his own buffalo
hunt on the plains, and they began work at once with their sharp
hunting knives. It was no light task to take the skin, and the
beast was so heavy that they could not get it entirely free until
they partly chopped up the body with an ax that Dick brought from
the cabin. Then it made a roll of great weight, but Dick spread
it on the roof of their home to cure. They also cut out great
sections of the buffalo, which they put in the same place for
drying and jerking.
While they were engaged at this task, Albert saw a pair of fiery
eyes regarding them from the undergrowth.
"See, Dick," he said, "what is that?"
Dick saw the eyes, the lean ugly body behind it, and he
shuddered. He knew. It was the timber wolf, largest and
fiercest of the species, brother to him whom he had seen prowling
about the ruined wagon train. The brute called up painful
memories, and, seizing his rifle, he fired at a spot midway
between the red eyes. The wolf uttered a howl, leaped high in
the air, and fell dead, lying without motion, stretched on his
"I didn't like the way he looked at us," explained Dick.
A horrible growling and snapping came from the bushes presently.
"What's that?" asked Albert.
"It's only Mr. Timber Wolf's brethren eating up Mr. Timber Wolf,
now that he is no longer of any use to himself."
Albert shuddered, too.
It was nightfall when they took away the last of the buffalo for
which they cared, and as they departed they heard in the twilight
the patter of light feet.
"It's the timber wolves rushing for what we've left," said Dick.
"Those are big and fierce brutes, and you and I, Al, must never
go out without a rifle or a revolver. You can't tell what
they'll try, especially in the winter."
The entire roof of the cabin was covered the next day with the
buffalo robe and the drying meat, and birds of prey began to
hover above it. Albert constituted himself watchman, and, armed
with a long stick, took his place on the roof, where he spent the
Dick shouldered one of the shotguns and went down to the lake.
There he shot several fine teal, and in one of the grassy glades
near it he roused up prairie hen. Being a fine shot, he secured
four of these, and returned to the cabin with his acceptable
They had now such a great supply of stores and equipment that
their place was crowded and they scarcely had room for sleeping
on the floor.
"What we need," said Dick, "is an annex, a place that can be used
for a storehouse only, and this valley, which has been so kind to
us, ought to continue being kind and furnish it."
The valley did furnish the annex, and it was Albert who found
it. He discovered a little further up the cleft an enormous oak,
old and decayed. The tree was at lease seven feet through, and
the hollow itself was fully five feet in diameter, with a height
of perhaps fourteen feet. It was very rough inside with sharp
projections in every direction which had kept any large animal
from making his den there, but Albert knew at once that the
needed place had been found. Full of enthusiasm he ran for Dick,
who came instantly to see.
"Fine," said Dick approvingly. "We'll call it the 'Annex,' sure
enough, and we'll get to work right away with our axes."
They cut out all the splinters and other projections, smoothing
off the round walls and the floor, and they also extended the
hollow overhead somewhat.
"This is to be a two-story annex," said Dick. "We need lots of
High up they ran small poles across, fixing them firmly in the
tree on either side, and lower down they planted many wooden pegs
and hooks on which they might hang various articles.
"Everything will keep dry in here," said Albert. "I would not
mind sleeping in the Annex, but when the door is closed there
won't be a particle of air."
It was the "door" that gave them the greatest trouble. The
opening by which they entered the hollow was about four feet high
and a foot and a half across, and both boys looked at it a long
time before they could see a way to solve the puzzle.
"That door has to be strong enough to keep everything out," said
Dick. "We mean to keep most of our meat supply in there, and
that, of course, will draw wild animals, little and big; it's the
big ones we've got to guard against."
After strenuous thinking, they smoothed off all the sides of the
opening in order that a flat surface might fit perfectly against
them. Then Dick cut down a small oak, and split out several
boards—not a difficult task for him, as he had often helped to
make boards in Illinois. The boards were laid together the width
of the opening and were held in place by cross pieces fastened
with wooden pegs. Among their stores were two augers and two
gimlets, and they were veritable godsends; they enabled the boys
to make use of pegs and to save the few nails that they had for
other and greater emergencies.
The door was made, and now came the task to "hang" it. "Hang"
was merely a metaphorical word, as they fitted it into place
instead. The wood all around the opening was about a foot thick,
and they cut it out somewhat after the fashion of the lintels of
a doorway. Then they fitted in the door, which rested securely
in its grooves, but they knew that the claws of a grizzly bear or
mountain lion might scratch it out, and they intended to make it
secure against any such mischance.
With the aid of hatchet and auger they put three wooden hooks on
either side of the doorway, exactly like those that defend the
door of a frontier cabin, and into these they dropped three stout
bars. It was true that the bars were on the outside, but no wild
animal would have the intelligence enough to pry up those three
bars and scratch the door out of place. Moreover, it could not
happen by accident. It took them three laborious days to make
and fit this door, but when the task was done they contemplated
it with just pride.
"I call that about the finest piece of carpenter's work ever done
in these mountains," said Albert in tones suffused with
"Of course," said Dick. "Why shouldn't it be, when the best
carpenters in the world did the job?"
The two laughed, but their pride was real and no jest. It was
late in the afternoon when they finished this task, and on the
way to the cabin Albert suddenly turned white and reeled. Dick
caught him, but he remained faint for sometime. He had
overtasked himself, and when they reached the cabin Dick made
him lie down on the great buffalo robe while he cooked supper.
But, contrary to his former habit, Albert revived rapidly. The
color returned to his face and he sprang up presently, saying
that he was hungry enough to eat a whole elk. Dick felt a might
sense of relief. Albert in his zeal had merely overexerted
himself. It was not any relapse. "Here's the elk steak and you
can eat ten pounds of it if you want it," he said.
They began early the next morning to move supplies to the Annex.
High up in the hollow they hung great quantities of dried meat of
buffalo, elk, and mule deer. They also stored there several elk
and mule deer skins, two wolf skins, and other supplies that they
thought they would not need for a while. But in the main it was
what they called a smokehouse, as it was universally known in the
Mississippi Valley, their former home—that is, a place for
keeping meat cured or to be cured.
This task filled the entire day, and when the door was securely
fastened in place they returned to the cabin. After supper Dick
opened the window, from which they could see the Annex, as they
had cut away a quantity of the intervening bushes. Albert
meanwhile put out the last coals of the fire. Then he joined
Dick at the window. Both had an idea that they were going to see
The valley filled with darkness, but the moon came out, and,
growing used to the darkness, they could see the Annex fairly
Dick wet his finger and held it up.
"The wind is blowing from the Annex toward us," he said.
"That's good," said Albert, nodding.
They watched for a long time, hearing only the dry rustling of
the light wind among the bare boughs, but at last Dick softly
pushed his shoulder against Albert's. Albert nodded again, with
comprehension. A small dark animal came into the open space
around the Annex. The boys had difficulty in tracing his
outlines at first, but once they had them fixed, they followed
his movements with ease. He advanced furtively, stopping at
intervals evidently both to listen and look. Some other of his
kind, or not of his kind, might be on the same quest and it was
his business to know.
"Is it a fox?" whispered Albert.
"I think not," replied Dick in the same tone. "It must be a
wolverine. He scents the good things in the Annex and he wants,
oh, how he wants, the taste of them!"
The little dark animal, after delicate maneuvering, came close up
to the tree, and they saw him push his nose against the
"I know just how he feels," whispered Albert with some sympathy.
"It's all there, but he must know the quest is hopeless."
The little animal went all around the tree nosing the cold bark,
and then stopped again at the side of the door.
"No use, sir," whispered Albert. "That door won't open just
because you're hungry."
The little animal suddenly cocked up his head and darted swiftly
away into the shadows. But another and somewhat larger beast
came creeping into the open, advancing with caution toward the
"Aha!" whispered Dick. "Little fellow displaced by a bigger
one. That must be a wild cat."
The wild cat went through the same performance. He nosed
eagerly at the door, circled the tree two or three times, but
always came back to the place where that tempting, well-nigh
irresistible odor assailed him. The boys heard a low growl
and the scratching of sharp claws on the door.
"Now he's swearing and fighting," whispered Albert, "but it will
do him no good. Save your throat and your claws, old fellow."
"Look, he's gone!" whispered Dick.
The wild cat suddenly tucked his tail between his legs and fled
from the opening so swiftly that they could scarcely see him go.
"And here comes his successor," whispered Albert. "I suppose,
Dick, we might call this an arithmetical or geometrical
An enormous timber wolf stalked into the clear space. He bore no
resemblance to the mean, sneaking little coyote of the prairie.
As he stood upright his white teeth could be seen, and there was
the slaver of hunger on his lips. He, too, was restive,
watchful, and suspicious, but it did not seem to either Dick or
Albert that his movements betokened fear. There was strength in
his long, lean body, and ferocity in his little red eyes.
"What a hideous brute!" whispered Albert, shuddering.
"And as wicked as he is ugly," replied Dick. "I hate the sight
of these timber wolves. I don't wonder that the wild cat made
himself scarce so quickly."
"And he's surely hungry!" said Albert. "See how he stretches out
his head toward our Annex, as if he would devour everything
Albert was right. The big wolf was hungry, hungry through and
through, and the odor that came from the tree was exquisite and
permeating; it was a mingled odor of many things and everything
was good. He had never before known a tree to give forth such a
delightful aroma and he thrilled in every wolfish fiber as it
tickled his nostrils.
He approached the tree with all the caution of his cautious and
crafty race, and, as he laid his nose upon the bark, that mingled
aroma of many things good grew so keen and powerful that he
came as near as a big wolf can to fainting with delight. He
pushed at the places where the door fitted into the tree, but
nothing yielded. Those keen and powerful odors that penetrated
delightfully to every marrow of him were still there, but he
could not reach their source. A certain disappointment, a vague
fear of failure mingled with his anticipation, and as the
wolverine and the wild cat had done, he moved uneasily around the
tree, scratching at the bark, and now and then biting it with
teeth that were very long and cruel.
His troubled circuit brought him back to the door, where the
aroma was finest and strongest. There he tore at the lowest bar
with tooth and claw, but it did not move. He had the aroma and
nothing more, and no big, strong wolf can live on odors only.
The vague disappointment grew into a positive rage. He felt
instinctively that he could not reach the good things that the
wonderful tree held within itself, but he persisted. He bent his
back, uttered a growl of wrath just as a man swears, and fell to
again with tooth and claw.
"If I didn't know that door was so very strong, I'd be afraid
he'd get it," whispered Albert.
"Never fear," Dick whispered back with confidence.
The big wolf suddenly paused in his effort. Tooth and claw were
still, and he crouched hard against the tree, as if he would have
his body to blend with its shadow. A new odor had come to his
nostrils. It did not come from the tree. Nor was it pleasant.
Instead, it told him of something hostile and powerful. He was
big and strong himself, but this that came was bigger and
stronger. The growl that had risen in his throat stopped at his
teeth. A chill ran down his backbone and the hair upon it stood
up. The great wolf was afraid, and he knew he was afraid.
"Look!" whispered Albert in rising excitement. "The wolf, too,
is stealing away! He is scared by something!"
"And good cause he has to be scared," said Dick. "See what's
A great tawny beast stood for a moment at the edge of the
clearing. He was crouched low against the ground, but his body
was long and powerful, with massive shoulders and fore arms. His
eyes were yellow in the moonlight, and they stared straight at
the Annex. The big wolf took one hasty frightened look and then
fled silently in the other direction. He knew now that the
treasures of the Annex were not for him.
"It's a cougar," whispered Dick, "and it must be the king of them
all. Did you ever see such a whopper?"
The cougar came farther into the clearing. He was of great size,
but he was a cat—a huge cat, but a cat, nevertheless—and like
a cat he acted. He dragged his body along the earth, and his
eyes, now yellow, now green, in the moonlight, were swung
suspiciously from side to side. He felt all that the wolf had
felt, but he was even more cunning and his approach was slower.
It was his habit to spring when close enough, but he saw nothing
to spring at except a tree trunk, and so he still crept forward
on noiseless pads.
"Now, what will Mr. Cougar do?" asked Albert.
"Just what the others have done," replied Dick. "He will scratch
and bite harder because he is bigger and stronger, but we've
fixed our Annex for just such attacks. It will keep him out."
Dick was right. The cougar or mountain lion behaved exactly as
the others had done. He tore at the door, then he circled the
tree two or three times, hunting in vain for an opening. Every
vein in him was swollen with rage, and the yellowish-green eyes
flared with anger.
"He'd be an ugly creature to meet just now," whispered Dick.
"He's so mad that I believe he'd attack an elephant."
"He's certainly in no good humor," replied Dick. "But look, Al!
See his tail drop between his legs! Now what under the moon is
about to happen?"
Albert, surcharged with interest and excitement, stared as Dick
was staring. The mighty cat seemed suddenly to crumple up. His
frame shrank, his head was drawn in, he sank lower to the earth,
as if he would burrow into it, but he uttered no sound whatever.
He was to both the boys a symbol of fear.
"What a change! What does it mean?" whispered Albert.
"It must mean," replied Dick, "that he, too, has a master and
that master is coming."
The cougar suddenly bunched himself up and there was a flash of
tawny fur as he shot through the air. A second leap and the
trees closed over his frightened figure. Albert believed that he
would not stop running for an hour.
Into the opening, mighty and fearless, shambled a monstrous
beast. He had a square head, a long, immense body, and the claws
of his great feet were hooked, many inches in length, and as
sharp and hard as if made of steel. The figure of the beast
stood for power and unbounded strength, and his movements
indicated overwhelming confidence. There was nothing for him to
fear. He had never seen any living creature that could do him
harm. It was a gigantic grizzly bear.
Albert, despite himself, as he looked at the terrible brute, felt
fear. It was there, unconfined, and a single blow of its paw
could sweep the strongest man out of existence.
"I'm glad I'm in this cabin and that this cabin is strong," he
"So am I," said Dick, and his own whisper was a little shaky.
"It's one thing to see a grizzly in a cage, and another to see
him out here in the dark in these wild mountains. And that
fellow must weigh at least a thousand pounds."
King Bruin shambled boldly across the opening to the Annex. Why
should he be careful? There might be other animals among the
bushes and trees watching him, but they were weak, timid things,
and they would run from his shadow. In the wan moonlight, which
distorted and exaggerated, his huge bulk seemed to the two boys
to grow to twice its size. When he reached the tree he reared up
against it, growled in a manner that made the blood of the boys
run cold, and began to tear with teeth and claws of hooked
steel. The bark and splinters flew, and, for a moment, Dick was
fearful lest he should force the door to their treasure. But it
was only for a moment; not even a grizzly could break or tear his
way through such a thickness of oak.
"Nothing can displace him," whispered Albert. "He's the real
"He's not the king," replied Dick, "and something can displace
"What do you mean?" asked Albert with incredulity.
"No beast is king. It's man, and man is here. I'm going to have
a shot at that monster who is trying to rob us. We can reach him
from here with a bullet. You take aim, too, Al."
They opened the window a little wider, being careful to make no
noise, and aimed their rifles at the bear, who was still tearing
at the tree in his rage.
"Try to hit him in the heart, Al," whispered Dick, "and I'll try
to do the same. I'll count three in a whisper, and at the
'three' we'll fire together."
The hands of both boys as they leveled their weapons were
trembling, not with fear, but from sheer nervousness. The bear,
meanwhile, had taken no notice and was still striving to reach
the hidden treasures. Like the others, he had made the circuit
of the Annex more than once, but now he was reared up again at
the door, pulling at it with mighty tooth and claw. It seemed to
both as they looked down the barrels of their rifles and chose
the vulnerable spot that, monstrous and misshapen, he was
constantly growing in size, so powerful was the effect of the
moonlight and their imagination. But it was terrible fact to
They could see him with great distinctness, and so silent was the
valley otherwise that they could hear the sound of his claws
ripping across the bark. He was like some gigantic survival of
another age. Dick waited until both his brother and himself grew
"Now don't miss, Albert," he said.
He counted "One, two, three," slowly, and at the "three!" the
report of the two rifles came as one. They saw the great bear
drop down from the tree, they heard an indescribable roar of pain
and rage, and then they saw his huge bulk rushing down upon
them. Dick fired three times and Albert twice, but the bear
still came, and then Dick slammed the window shut and fastened it
just as the full weight of the bear was hurled against the cabin.
Neither boy ever concealed from himself the fact that he was in a
panic for a few moments. Their bullets seemed to have had no
effect upon the huge grizzly, who was growling ferociously and
tearing at the logs of the cabin. Glad they were that those logs
were so stout and thick, and they stood there a little while in
the darkness, their blood chilling at the sounds outside.
Presently the roaring and tearing ceased and there was the sound
of a fall. It was so dark in the cabin that the brothers could
not see the faces of each other, but Dick whispered:
"Albert, I believe we've killed him, after all."
Albert said nothing and they waited a full ten minutes. No sound
whatever came to their ears. Then Dick opened the window an inch
or two and peeped out. The great bear lay upon his side quite
still, and Dick uttered a cry of joy.
"We've killed him, Al! we've killed him!" he cried.
"Are you sure?" asked Albert.
"Quite sure. He does not stir in the slightest."
They opened the door and went out. The great grizzly was really
dead. Their bullets had gone true, but his vitality was so
enormous that he had been able to rush upon the cabin and tear at
it in his rage until he fell dead. Both boys looked at him with
admiration and awe; even dead, he was terrifying in every
"I don't wonder that the cougar, big and strong as he was, slunk
away in terror when he saw old Ephraim coming," said Dick.
"We must have his skin to put with our two buffalo robes," said
"And we must take it to-night," said Dick, "or the wolves will be
here while we sleep."
They had acquired some skill in the art of removing furs and
pelts, but it took them hours to strip the coat from the big
grizzly. Then, as in the case of the buffalo, they cut away some
portions of the meat that they thought might prove tender. They
put the hide upon the roof to dry, and, their work over, they
went to sleep behind a door securely fastened.
Dick was awakened once by what he thought was a sound of
growling and fighting outside, but he was so sleepy that it made
no impression upon him. They did not awake fully until nearly
noon, and when they went forth they found that nothing was left
of the great bear but his skeleton.
"The timber wolves have been busy," said Dick.
The Trap Makers
The hide of the bear, which they cured in good style, was a
magnificent trophy; the fur was soft and long, and when spread
out came near covering the floor of their cabin. It was a fit
match for the robe of the buffalo. They did not know much about
grizzlies, but they believed that no larger bear would ever be
killed in the Rocky Mountains.
A few days later Dick shot another buffalo in one of the defiles,
but this was a young cow and her flesh was tender. They lived on
a portion of it from day to day and the rest they cured and put
in the Annex. They added the robe to their store of furs.
"I'm thinking," said Dick, "that you and I, Al, might turn fur
hunters." This seems to be an isolated corner of the mountains.
It may have been tapped out long ago, but when man goes away the
game comes back. We've got a comfortable house, and, with this
as a basis, we might do better hunting furs here than if we were
hunting gold in California, where the chances are always against
The idea appealed to Albert, but for the present they contented
themselves with improving their house and surroundings. Other
bears, cougars, and wolves came at night and prowled around the
Annex, but it was secure against them all, and Dick and Albert
never troubled themselves again to keep awake and watch for such
Winter now advanced and it was very cold, but, to Dick's great
relief, no snow came. It was on Albert's account that he wished
air and earth to remain dry, and it seemed as if Nature were
doing her best to help the boy's recovery. The cough did not
come again, he had no more spells of great exhaustion, the
physical uplift became mental also, and his spirits, because of
the rebound, fairly bubbled. He was full of ideas, continually
making experiments, and had great plans in regard to the valley
and Castle Howard, as he sometimes playfully called their cabin.
One of the things that pleased Albert most was his diversion of
water from a hot spring about fifty yards from the cabin and
higher up the ravine. He dug a trench all the way from the pool
to the house, and the hot water came bubbling down to their very
door. It cooled, of course, a little on the way, but it was
still warm enough for cooking purposes, and Albert was hugely
"Hot water! Cold water! Whatever you wish, Dick," he said;
"just turn on the tap. If my inventive faculty keeps on growing,
I'll soon have a shower bath, hot and cold, rigged up here."
"It won't grow enough for that," said Dick; "but I want to tell
you, Al, that the big game in the valley is increasing at a
remarkable rate. Although cold, it's been a very open winter so
far, but I suppose the instinct of these animals warns them to
seek a sheltered place in time."
"Instinct or the habit of endless generations," said Albert.
"Which may be the same thing," rejoined Dick.
"There's a whole herd of elk beyond the far end of the lake, I've
noticed on the cliffs what I take to be mountain sheep, and
thirty or forty buffalos at least must be ranging about in here."
"Then," said Albert, "let's have a try at the buffaloes. Their
robes will be worth a lot when we go back to civilization, and
there is more room left in the Annex."
They took their repeaters and soon proved Dick's words to be
true. In a sheltered meadow three or more miles up the valley
they found about twenty buffaloes grazing. Each shot down a fat
cow, and they could have secured more had not the minds of both
boys rebelled at the idea of slaughter.
"It's true we'd like to have the robes," said Dick, "but we'd
have to leave most of the carcasses rotting here. Even with the
wonderful appetites that we've developed, we couldn't eat a whole
buffalo herd in one winter."
But after they had eaten the tongue, brisket, and tenderloin of
the two cows, while fresh, these being the tenderest and best
parts of the buffalo, they added the rest of the meat to their
stores in the Annex. As they had done already in several cases,
they jerked it, a most useful operation that observant Dick had
learned when they were with the wagon train.
It took a lot of labor and time to jerk the buffaloes, but
neither boy had a lazy bone in him, and time seemed to stretch
away into eternity before them. They cut the flesh into long,
thin strips, taking it all from the bones. Then all these pieces
were thoroughly mixed with salt—fortunately, they could obtain
an unlimited supply of salt by boiling out the water from the
numerous salt springs in the valley—chiefly by pounding and
rubbing. They let these strips remain inside the hides about
three hours, then all was ready for the main process of jerking.
Albert had been doing the salting and Dick meanwhile had been
getting ready the frame for the jerking. He drove four forked
poles into the ground, in the form of a square and about seven
feet apart. The forks were between four and five feet above the
ground. On opposite sides of the square, from fork to fork, he
laid two stout young poles of fresh, green wood. Then from pole
to pole he laid many other and smaller poles, generally about an
inch apart. They laid the strips of buffalo meat, taken from
their salt bath, upon the network of small poles, and beneath
they built a good fire of birch, ash, and oak.
"Why, it makes me think of a smokehouse at home," said Albert.
"Same principle," said Dick, "but if you let that fire under
there go out, Al, I'll take one of those birch rods and give you
the biggest whaling you ever had in your life. You're strong
enough now to stand a good licking."
Albert laughed. He thought his big brother Dick about the
greatest fellow on earth. But he paid assiduous attention to the
fire, and Dick did so, too. They kept it chiefly a great bed of
coals, never allowing the flames to rise as high as the buffalo
meat, and they watched over it twenty-four hours. In order to
keep this watch, they deserted the cabin for a night, sleeping by
turns before the fire under the frame of poles, which was no
hardship to them.
The fierce timber wolves came again in the night, attracted by
the savory odor of buffalo meat; and once they crept near and
were so threatening that Albert, whose turn it was at the watch,
became alarmed. He awakened Dick, and, in order to teach these
dangerous marauders a lesson, they shot two of them. Then the
shrewd animals, perceiving that the two-legged beasts by the fire
carried something very deadly with which they slew at a distance,
kept for a while to the forest and out of sight.
After the twenty-four hours of fire drying, the buffalo meat was
greatly reduced in weight and bulk, though it was packed as full
as ever with sustenance. It was now cured, that is, jerked, and
would keep any length of time. While the frame was ready they
jerked an elk, two mule deer, a big silver-tip bear that Dick
shot on the mountain side, and many fish that they caught in the
lake and the little river. They would scale the fish, cut them
open down the back, and then remove the bone. After that the
flesh was jerked on the scaffold in the same way that the meat of
the buffalo and deer was treated.
Before these operations were finished, the big timber wolves
began to be troublesome again. Neither boy dared to be anywhere
near the jerking stage without a rifle or revolver, and Dick
finally invented a spring pole upon which they could put the
fresh meat that was waiting its turn to be prepared—they did
not want to carry the heavy weight to the house for safety, and
then have to bring it back again.
While Dick's spring pole was his own invention, as far as he was
concerned, it was the same as that used by thousands of other
trappers and hunters. He chose a big strong sapling which Albert
and he with a great effort bent down. Then he cut off a number
of the boughs high up, and in each crotch fastened a big piece of
meat. The sapling was then allowed to spring back into place and
the meat was beyond the reach of wolf.
But the wolves tried for it, nevertheless. Dick awakened Albert
the first night after this invention was tried and asked him if
he wished to see a ghost dance. Albert, wrapped to his eyes in
the great buffalo robe, promptly sat up and looked.
They had filled four neighboring saplings with meat, and at least
twenty wolves were gathered under them, looking skyward, but not
at the sky—it was the flesh of elk and buffalo that they gazed
at so longingly, and delicious odors that they knew assailed
But the wolf is an enterprising animal. He does not merely sit
and look at what he wants, expecting it to come to him. Every
wolf in the band knew that no matter how hard and long he might
look that splendid food in the tree would not drop down into his
waiting mouth. So they began to jump for it, and it was this
midnight and wilderness ballet that Albert opened his eyes to
One wolf, the biggest of the lot, leaped. It was a fine leap,
and might have won him a championship among his kind, but he did
not reach the prize. His teeth snapped together, touching only
one another, and he fell. Albert imagined that he could hear a
disappointed growl. Another wolf leaped, the chief leaped again,
a third, a fourth, and a fifth leaped, and then all began to leap
The air was full of flying wolfish forms, going up or coming
down. They went up, hearts full of hope, and came down, mouths
empty of everything but disappointed foam. Teeth savagely hit
teeth, and growls of wrath were abundant. Albert felt a
ridiculous inclination to laugh. The whole affair presented its
ludicrous aspect to him.
"Did you ever see so much jumping for so little reward?" he
whispered to Dick.
"No, not unless they're taking exercise to keep themselves thin,
although I never heard of a fat wolf."
But a wolf does not give up easily. They continued to leap
faster and faster, and now and then a little higher than before,
although empty tooth still struck empty tooth. Now and then a
wolf more prone to complaint than the others lifted up his voice
and howled his rage and chagrin to the moon. It was a genuine
moan, a long, whining cry that echoed far through the forest and
along the slopes, and whenever Albert heard it he felt more
strongly than ever the inclination to laugh.
"I suppose that a wolf's woes are as real as our own," he
whispered, "but they do look funny and act funny."
"Strikes me the same way," replied Dick with a grin. "But
they're robbers, or would be if they could. That meat's ours,
and they're trying to get it."
It was in truth a hard case for the wolves. They were very big
and very strong. Doubtless, the selfsame wolf that had been
driven away from the Annex by the mountain lion was among them,
and all of them were atrociously hungry. It was not merely an
odor now, they could also see the splendid food hanging just
above their heads. Never before had they leaped so persistently,
so ardently, and so high, but there was no reward, absolutely
none. Not a tooth felt the touch of flesh. The wolves looked
around at one another jealously, but the record was as clean as
their teeth. There had been no surreptitious captures.
"Will they keep it up all night?" whispered Albert.
"Can't say," replied Dick. "We'll just watch."
All the wolves presently stopped leaping and crouched on the
earth, staring straight up at the prizes which hung, as ever,
most tantalizingly out of reach. The moonlight fell full upon
them, a score or more, and Albert fancied that he could see their
hungry, disappointed eyes. The spectacle was at once weird and
ludicrous. Albert felt again that temptation to laugh, but he
Suddenly the wolves, as if it were a preconcerted matter, uttered
one long, simultaneous howl, full, alike in its rising and
falling note, of pain, anguish, and despair, then they were gone
in such swiftness and silence that it was like the instant
melting of ghosts into thin air. It took a little effort of will
to persuade Albert that they had really been there.
"They've given it up," he said. "The demon dancers have gone."
"Demon dancers fits them," said Dick. "It's a good name.
Yes, they've gone, and I don't think they'll come back. Wolves
are smart, they know when they're wasting time."
When they finished jerking their buffalo meat and venison, Dick
took the fine double-barreled shotgun which they had used but
little hitherto, and went down to the lake in search of succulent
waterfowl. The far shore of the lake was generally very high,
but on the side of the cabin there were low places, little
shallow bays, the bottoms covered with grass, which were much
frequented by wild geese and wild ducks, many of which, owing to
the open character of the winter, had not yet gone southward.
The ducks, in particular, muscovy, mallard, teal, widgeon, and
other kinds, the names of which Dick did not know, were
numerous. They had been molested so little that they were quite
tame, and it was so easy to kill them in quantities that the
element of sport was entirely lacking.
Dick did not fancy shooting at a range of a dozen yards or so
into a dense flock of wild ducks that would not go away, and he
wished also to save as many as he could of their shot cartridges,
for he had an idea that he and his brother would remain in the
valley a long time. But both he and Albert wanted good supplies
of duck and geese, which were certainly toothsome and succulent,
and they were taking a pride, too, in filling the Annex with the
best things that the mountains could afford. Hence Dick did some
deep thinking and finally evolved a plan, being aided in his
thoughts by earlier experience in Illinois marshes.
He would trap the ducks and geese instead of shooting them, and
he and Albert at once set about the task of making the trap.
This idea was not original with Dick. As so many others have
been, he was, in part, and unconscious imitator. He planted in
the shallow water a series of hoops, graded in height, the
largest being in the deepest water, while they diminished
steadily in size as they came nearer to the land. They made the
hoops of split saplings, and planted them about four feet apart.
Then the covered all these hoops with a netting, the total length
of which was about twenty-five feet. They also faced each hoop
with a netting, leaving an aperture large enough for the ducts to
enter. It was long and tedious work to make the netting, as this
was done by cutting the hide of an elk and the hide of a mule
deer into strips and plaiting the strips on the hoops. They then
had a network tunnel, at the smaller end of which they
constructed an inclosure five or six feet square by means of
stout poles which they thrust into the mud, and the same network
covering which they used on the tunnel.
"It's like going in at the big end of a horn and coming out at
the little one into a cell," said Albert. "Will it work?"
"Work?" replied Dick. "Of course, it will. You just wait and
Albert looked out upon the lake, where many ducks were swimming
about placidly, and he raised his hand.
"Oh, foolish birds!" he apostrophized. "Here is your enemy,
man, making before your very eyes the snare that will lead you to
destruction, and you go on taking no notice, thinking that the
sunshine will last forever for you."
"Shut up, Al," said Dick, "you'll make me feel sorry for those
ducks. Besides, you're not much of a poet, anyway."
When the trap was finished they put around the mouth and all
along the tunnel quantities of the grass and herbs that the ducks
seemed to like, and then Dick announced that the enterprise was
"We have nothing further to do about it," he said, "but to take
out our ducks."
It was toward twilight when they finished the trap, and both had
been in the cold water up to their knees. Dick had long since
become hardened to such things, but he looked at Albert rather
anxiously. The younger boy, however, did not begin to cough. He
merely hurried back to the fire, took off his wet leggings, and
toasted his feet and legs. Then he ate voraciously and slept
like a log the night through. But both he and Dick went down to
the lake the next morning with much eagerness to see what the
trap contained, if anything.
It was a fresh winter morning, not cold enough to freeze the
surface of the lake, but extremely crisp. The air contained the
extraordinary exhilarating quality which Dick had noticed when
they first came into the mountains, but which he had never
breathed anywhere else. It seemed to him to make everything
sparkle, even his blood, and suddenly he leaped up, cracked his
heels together, and shouted.
"Why, Dick," exclaimed Albert, "what on earth is the matter with
"Nothing is the matter with me. Instead, all's right. I'm so
glad I'm alive, Al, old man, that I wanted to shout out the fact
to all creation."
"Feel that way myself," said Albert, "and since you've given such
a good example, think I'll do as you did."
He leaped up, cracked his heels together, and let out a yell that
the mountains sent back in twenty echoes. Then both boys laughed
with sheer pleasure in life, the golden morning, and their happy
valley. So engrossed were they in the many things that they were
doing that they did not yet find time to miss human faces.
As they approached the trap, they heard a great squawking and
cackling and found that the cell, as Albert called the square
inclosure, contained ten ducks and two geese swimming about in a
great state of trepidation. They had come down the winding
tunnel and through the apertures in the hoops, but they did not
have sense enough to go back the same way. Instead they merely
swam around the square and squawked.
"Now, aren't they silly?" exclaimed Albert. "With the door to
freedom open, they won't take it."
"I wonder," said Dick philosophically, "if we human beings are
not just the same. Perhaps there are easy paths out of our
troubles lying right before us and superior creatures up in the
air somewhere are always wondering why we are such fools that we
don't see them."
"Shut up, Dick," said Albert, "your getting too deep. I've no
doubt that in our net are some ducks that are rated as
uncommonly intelligent ducks as ducks go."
They forgot all about philosophy a few moments later when they
began to dispose of their capture. They took them out, one by
one, through a hole that they made in the cell and cut off their
heads. The net was soon full up again, and they caught all the
ducks and geese they wanted with such ridiculous ease that at the
end of a week they took it down and stored it in the cabin.
They jerked the ducks and geese that they did not need for
immediate use, and used the feathers to stuff beds and pillows
for themselves. The coverings of these beds were furs which they
stitched together with the tendons of the deer.
They began to be annoyed about this time by the depredations of
mountain lions, which, attracted by the pleasant odors, came down
from the slopes to the number of at least half a dozen, Dick
surmised, and prowled incessantly about the cabin and Annex,
taking the place of the timber wolves, and proving more
troublesome and dangerous alike. One of them managed at night
to seize the edge of an elk skin that hung on the roof of the
cabin, and the next morning the skin was half chewed up and
Both boys were full of rage, and they watched for the lions, but
failed to get a shot at them. But Dick, out of the stores of his
memory, either some suggestion from reading, or trappers' and
hunters' tales, devised a gun trap. He put a large piece of
fresh deer meat in the woods about a quarter of a mile from the
cabin. It was gone the next morning, and the tracks about showed
that the lions had been present.
Then Dick drove two stout forked sticks into the ground, the
forks being about a yard above the earth. Upon these he lashed
one of their rifles. Then he cut a two-foot section of a very
small sapling, one end of which he inserted carefully between the
ground that the trigger of the rifle. The other end was
supported upon a small fork somewhat higher than those supporting
the rifle. Then he procured another slender but long section of
sapling that reached from the end of the short piece in the
crotch some distance beyond the muzzle of the rifle. The end
beyond the muzzle had the stub of a bough on it, but the end in
the crotch was tied there with a strip of hide. Now, if anything
should pull on the end of this stick, it would cause the shorter
stick to spring the trigger of the rifle and discharge it. Dick
tested everything, saw that all was firmly and properly in place,
and the next thing to do was to bait the trap.
He selected a piece of most tempting deer meat and fastened it
tightly on the hooked end of the long stick. It was obvious that
any animal pulling at this bait would cause the short stick tied
at the other end of it to press against the trigger of the rifle,
and the rifle would be fired as certainly as if the trigger had
been pulled by the hand of man. Moreover, the barrel of the
rifle was parallel with the long stick, and the bullet would
certainly be discharged into the animal pulling at the bait.
After the bait had been put on Dick put the cartridge in the
rifle. He was careful to do this last, as he did not wish to
take any chances with the trap while he was testing it. But he
and Albert ran a little wall of brush off on either side in order
that the cougar, if cougar it were, should be induced to approach
the muzzle directly in front. When all the work was finished,
the two boys inspected it critically.
"I believe that our timber wolves would be too smart to come up
to that trap," said Albert.
"Perhaps," said Dick; "but the wolf has a fine intellect, and
I've never heard that the cougar or puma was particularly noted
for brain power. Anyhow, I know that traps are built for him in
this manner, and we shall see whether it will work."
"Are we going to hide somewhere near by and watch during the
"There's no need to make ourselves uncomfortable. If the gun
gets him, it'll get him whether we are or are not here."
"That's so," said Albert. "Well, I'm willing enough to take to
the cabin. These nights are growing pretty cold, I can tell
Taking a last look at the gun trap and assuring themselves that
it was all right, they hurried away to Castle Howard. The night
was coming on much colder than any that they had yet had, and
both were glad to get inside. Albert stirred the coals from
beneath the ashes, put on fresh wood, and soon they had a fine
blaze. The light flickered over a cabin greatly improved in
appearance and wonderfully snug.
The floor, except directly in front of the hearth, where sparks
and coals would pop out, was covered with the well-tanned skins
of buffalo, elk, mule deer, bear, and wolf. The walls were also
thickly hung with furs, while their extra weapons, tools, and
clothing hung there on hooks. It was warm, homelike, and showed
all the tokens of prosperity. Dick looked around at it with an
approving eye. It was not only a house, and a good house at
that, but it was a place that one might make a base for a plan
that he had in mind. Yes, circumstance had certainly favored
them. Their own courage, skill, and energy had done the rest.
Albert soon fell asleep after supper, but Dick was more wakeful,
although he did not wish to be so. It was the gun trap that kept
his eyes open. He took a pride in doing things well, and he
wanted the trap to work right. A fear that it might not do so
worried him, but in turn he fell into a sound sleep from which he
was awakened by a report. He thought at first that something had
struck the house, but when his confused senses were gathered into
a focus he knew that it was a rifle shot.
"Up, Al, up!" he cried, "I think a cougar has been fooling with
Albert jumped up. They threw on their coats and went out into a
dark and bitterly cold night. If they had not been so eager to
see what had happened, they would have fled back to the refuge of
the warm cabin, but they hurried on toward the snug little hollow
in which the gun trap had been placed. At fifty yards they
stopped and went much more slowly, as a terrific growling and
snarling smote their ears.
"It's the cougar, and we've got him," said Dick. "He's hit bad
or he wouldn't be making such a terrible fuss."
They approached cautiously and saw on the ground, almost in front
of the gun, a large yellowish animal writhing about and tearing
the earth. His snarls and rage increased as he scented the two
boys drawing near.
"I think his shoulder is broken and his backbone injured," said
Dick. "That's probably the reason he can't get away. I don't
like to see him suffer and I'll finish him now."
He sent a bullet through the cougar's head and that was the end
of him. In order to save it from the wolves, they took his hide
from him where he lay, and spread it the next day on the roof of
The gun trap was so successful that they baited it again and
again, securing three more cougars, until the animals became too
wary to try for the bait. The fourth cougar did not sustain a
severe wound and fled up the mountain side, but Dick tracked him
by the trail of blood that he left, overtook him far up the
slope, and slew him with single shot. All these skins were added
to their collection, and when the last was spread out to dry,
Dick spoke of the plan that he had in mind.
"Al," he said, "these mountains, or at least this corner of them,
seem to be left to us. The Sioux, I suppose, are on the warpath
elsewhere, and they don't like mountains much, anyhow. Our
wonderful valley, the slopes, and all the ravines and canyons are
full of game. The beaver must be abundant farther in, and I
propose that we use our opportunity and turn fur hunters.
There's wealth around us for the taking, and we were never sure
of it in California. We've got enough ammunition to last us two
years if we want to stay that long. Besides, Al, old boy, the
valley has been the remaking of you. You know that."
Albert laughed from sheer delight.
"Dick," he said, "you won't have to get a gun and threaten me
with death unless I stay. I'll be glad to be a fur hunter, and,
Dick, I tell you, I'm in love with this valley. As you say, it's
made me over again, and oh, it's fine to be well and strong, to
do what you please, and not always to be thinking, 'how can I
stand this? Will it hurt me?'"
"Then," said Dick, "it's settled. We'll not think for a long
time of getting back to civilization, but devote ourselves to
gathering up furs and skins."
The Timber Wolves
The cold increased, although snow fell but little, which Dick
considered good luck, chiefly on Albert's account. He wanted the
hardening process to continue and not to be checked by thaws and
permeating dampness. Meanwhile, they plunged with all the energy
and fire of youth into the task of fur hunting. They had already
done much in that respect, but now it was undertaken as a
vocation. They became less scrupulous about sparing the
buffaloes, and they shot more than twenty in the defiles of the
mountains, gathering a fine lot of robes. Several more skins of
the bear, grizzly, and silver tip were added to their collection,
and the elk also furnished an additional store. Many wolverines
were taken in dead falls and snares, and their skins were added
to the rapidly growing heap.
They baited the trap gun once more, hoping that a fifth cougar
might prove rash enough to dare it. No cougar came, but on the
third night a scornful grizzly swallowed the deer meat as a
tidbit, and got a bullet in the neck for his carelessness. In
his rage, he tore the trap to pieces and tossed the rifle to one
side, but, fortunately, he did not injure the valuable weapon,
his attention turning instantly to something else. Later on the
boys dispatched him as he lay wounded upon the ground.
Their old clothing was now about worn out and it also became
necessary to provide garments of another kind in order to guard
against the great cold. Here their furs became invaluable; they
made moccasins, leggings, caps, and coats alike of them, often
crude in construction, but always warm.
They found the beaver father in the mountains, as Dick had
surmised, and trapped them in great abundance. This was by far
their most valuable discovery, and they soon had a pack of sixty
skins, which Dick said would be worth more than a thousand
dollars in any good market. They also made destructive inroads
upon the timber wolves, the hides of which were more valuable
than those of any other wolf. In fact, they made such havoc that
the shrewd timber wolf deserted the valley almost entirely.
As the boys now made their fur hunting a business, they attended
to every detail with the greatest care. They always removed the
skin immediately after the death of the animal, or, if taken in a
trap, as soon after as possible. Every particle of fat or flesh
was removed from the inside of the skin, and they were careful at
the same time never to cut into the skin itself, as they knew
that the piercing of a fur with a knife would injure its value
greatly. Then the skin was put to dry in a cold, airy place,
free alike from the rays of the sun or the heat of a fire. They
built near the cabin a high scaffold for such purposes, too high
and strong for any wild beast to tear down or to reach the furs
upon it. Then they built above this on additional poles a
strongly thatched bark roof that would protect the skins from
rain, and there they cured them in security.
"I've heard," said Dick, "that some trappers put preparations or
compounds on the skins in order to cure them, but since we don't
have any preparations or compounds we won't use them. Besides,
our furs seem to cure up well enough without them."
Dick was right. The cold, dry air of the mountains cured them
admirably. Two or three times they thought to help along the
process by rubbing salt upon the inner sides. They could always
get plenty of salt by boiling out water from the salt springs,
but as they seemed to do as well without it, they ceased to take
The boys were so absorbed now in their interesting and profitable
tasks that they lost all count of the days. They knew they were
far advanced into a splendid open winter, but it is probably that
they could not have guessed within a week of the exact day.
However, that was a question of which they thought little.
Albert's health and strength continued to improve, and with the
mental stimulus added to the physical, the tide of life was
flowing very high for both.
They now undertook a new work in order to facilitate their
trapping operations. The beaver stream, and another that they
found a little later, ran far back into the mountains, and the
best trapping place was about ten miles away. After a day's work
around the beaver pond, they had to choose between a long journey
in the night to the cabin or sleeping in the open, the latter not
a pleasant thing since the nights had become so cold. Hence,
they began the erection of a bark shanty in a well-sheltered cove
near the most important of the beaver localities. This was a
work of much labor, but, as in all other cases, they persisted
until the result was achieved triumphantly.
They drove two stout, forked poles deep into the ground, leaving
a projection of about eight feet above the earth. The poles
themselves were about eight feet apart. From fork to fork they
placed a strong ridgepole. Then they rested against the
ridgepole from either side other and smaller poles at an angle of
forty or fifty degrees. The sloping poles were about a foot and
a half apart. These poles were like the scantling or inside
framework of a wooden house and they covered it all with spruce
and birch bark, beginning at the bottom and allowing each piece
to overlap the one beneath it, after the fashion of a shingled
roof. They secured pieces partly with wooden pegs and partly
with other and heavier wooden poles leaned against them. One end
of the shelter was closed up with bark wholly, secured with
wooden pegs, and the other end was left open in order that its
tenants might face the fire which would be built three or four
feet in front of it. They packed the floor with dead leaves, and
put on the top of the leaves a layer of thick bark with the
smooth side upward.
The bark shanty was within a clump of trees, and its open side
was not fifteen feet from the face of an abrupt cliff. Hence
there was never any wind to drive the smoke from the fire back
into their faces, and, wrapped in their furs, they slept as
snugly in the shanty as if they had been in the cabin itself.
But they were too wise to leave anything there in their absence,
knowing that it was not sufficient protection against the larger
wild animals. In fact, a big grizzly, one night when they were
at the cabin, thrust his nose into the shanty and, lumbering
about in an awkward and perhaps frightened manner, knocked off
half of one of the bark sides. It took nearly a day's work to
repair the damage, and it put Dick in an ill humor.
"I'd like to get a shot at that bear!" he exclaimed. "He had no
business trying to come into a house when he was not invited."
"But he is an older settler than we are," said Albert, in a
Dick did get a shot at a bear a few days later, and it was a
grizzly, at that. The wound was not fatal, and the animal came
on with great courage and ferocity. A second shot from Dick did
not stop him and the boy was in great danger. But Albert, who
was near, sent two heavy bullets, one after the other, into the
beast, and he toppled over, dying. It was characteristic of the
hardy life they were leading and its tendency toward the
repression of words and emotion that Dick merely uttered a brief,
"Thanks, Al, you were just in time," and Albert nodded in reply.
The skin of old Ephraim went to join that of his brother who had
been taken sometime before, and Dick himself shot a little later
a third, which contributed a fine skin.
The boys did not know how hard they were really working, but
their appetites would have bee a fine gauge. Toiling incessantly
in a crisp, cold air, as pure as any that the world affords, they
were nearly always hungry. Fortunately, the happy valley, their
own skill and courage, and the supplies that Dick had brought
from the last wagon train furnished them an unlimited larder.
Game of great variety was their staple, but they had both flour
and meal, from which, though they were sparing of their use, they
made cakes now and then. They had several ways of preparing the
Indian meal that Dick had taken from the wagon. They would boil
it for about an hour, then, after it cooled, would mix it with
the fat of game and fry it, after which the compound was eaten in
slices. They also made mealcakes, johnnycakes and hoecakes.
Albert was fond of fish, especially of the fine trout that they
caught in the little river, and soon he invented or discovered a
way of cooking them that provided an uncommon delicacy for their
table. He would slit the trout open, clean it, and the season it
with salt and also with pepper, which they had among their stores.
Then he would lay the fish in the hot ashes of a fire that had
burned down to embers, cover it up thoroughly with the hot ashes
and embers, and let it cook thirty or forty minutes—thirty minutes
for the little fellows and forty minutes for the big ones. When he
thought the fish was done to the proper turn, he would take it from
the ashes, clean it, and then remove the skin, which would almost
peel off of its own accord.
The fish was then ready for the eating, and neither Dick nor
Albert could ever bear to wait. The flesh looked so tempting and
the odor was so savory that hunger instantly became acute.
"They are so good," said Albert, "because my method of cooking
preserves all the juices and flavors of the fish. Nothing
"Thanks, professor," said Dick. "You must be right, so kindly
pass me another of those trout, and be quick about it."
It is a truth that both boys became epicures. Their valley
furnished so much, and they had a seasoning of hard work and open
mountain air that was beyond compare. They even imitated Indian
and trapper ways of cooking geese, ducks, quail, sage hens, and
other wild fowl that the region afforded. They could cook these
in the ashes as they did the trout, and they also had other
methods. Albert would take a duck, cut it open and clean it, but
leave the feathers on. Then he would put it in water, until the
feathers were soaked thoroughly, after which he would cover it up
with ashes, and put hot coals on top of the ashes. When the bird
was properly cooked and drawn from the ashes, the skin could be
pulled off easily, taking the feathers, of course, with it. Then
a duck, sweet, tender, and delicate, such as no restaurant could
furnish, was ready for the hardy youngsters. At rare intervals
they improve on this by stuffing the duck with seasoning and
Indian meal. Now and then they served a fat goose the same way
and found it equally good.
They cooked the smaller birds in a simpler manner, especially
when they were at the bark shanty, which they nicknamed the
"Suburban Villa." The bird was plucked of its feathers, drawn
and washed, and then they cut it down the back in order to spread
it out. Nothing was left but to put the bird on the end of a
sharp stick, hold it over the coals, and turn it around until it
was thoroughly broiled or roasted. They also roasted slices of
big game in the same way.
As Albert was cooking a partridge in this manner one evening at
the Suburban Villa, Dick, who was sitting on his buffalo-robe
blanket in the doorway, watched him and began to make comparisons.
He recalled the boy who had left Omaha with the wagon train six or
eight months before, a thin, spiritless fellow with a slender, weak
neck, hollow, white cheeks, pale lips, and listless eyes. That boy
drew coughs incessantly from a hollow chest, and the backs of his
hands were ridged when the flesh had gone away, leaving the bones
standing up. This boy whom Dick contemplated was quite a different
being. His face was no longer white, it was instead a mixture of
red and brown, and both tints were vivid. Across one cheek were some
brier scratches which he had acquired the day before, but which he had
never noticed. The red-brown cheeks were filled out with the effects
of large quantities of good food digested well. As he bent over the
fire, a chest of good width seemed to puff out with muscle and wind
expansion. Despite the extreme cold, his sleeves were rolled up
to the elbow, and the red wrists and hands were well covered with
tough, seasoned flesh. The eyes that watched the roasting bird
were intent, alert, keenly interested in that particular task,
and in due course, in any other that might present itself.
Dick drew a long breath of satisfaction. Providence had treated
them well. Then he called loudly for his share of the bird,
saying that he was starving, and in a few moments both fell to
Their fur operations continued to extend. They had really found
a pocket, and isolated corner in the high Rockies where the
fur-bearing animals, not only abundant, were also increasing. It
was, too, the dead of winter, the very best time for trapping,
and so, as far as their own goings and comings were concerned,
they were favored further by the lucky and unusual absence of
snow. They increased the number of their traps—dead falls, box
traps, snares, and other kinds, and most of them were successful.
They knew instinctively the quality of the furs that they
obtained. They could tell at a glance whether they were prime,
that is, thick and full, and as they cured them and baled them,
they classified them.
Constant application bred new ideas. In their pursuit of furs,
they found that they were not quite so sparing of the game as
they had been at first. Some of their scruples melted away.
Albert now recalled a device of trappers of which he had read.
This was the use of a substance generally called barkstone, which
they found to be of great help to them in the capture of that
The barkstone or castoreum, as it is commercially known, was
obtained principally from the beaver himself. The basis of it
was an acrid secretion with a musky odor of great power, found in
two glands just under the root of the beaver's tail. Each gland
was from one and one half to two inches in length. The boys cut
out these glands and squeezed the contents into an empty tin
can. This at first was of a yellowish-red color, but after a
while, when it dried, it became a light brown.
This substance formed the main ingredient of barkstone, and in
their medicine chest they found a part of the remainder. The
secretion was transferred to a bottle and the mixed with it
essence of peppermint and ground cinnamon. As Albert remembered
it, ground nutmeg also was needed, but as they had no nutmeg
they were compelled to take their chances without it. Then they
poured whisky on the compound until it looked like a paste.
Then the bottle was stopped up with the greatest care, and in
about a week, when they stole a sniff or two at it, they found
that the odor had increased ten or a dozen times in power.
They put eight or ten drops of the barkstone upon the bait for
the beaver, or somewhere near the trap, and, despite some defects
in the composition, it proved an extraordinary success. The
wariest beaver of all would be drawn by it, and their beaver
bales grew faster than any other.
Dick calculated one day that they had at least five thousand
dollars worth of furs, which seemed a great sum to both boys. It
certainly meant, at that time and in that region, a competence,
and it could be increased greatly.
"Of course," said Dick, "we'll have to think some day of the way
in which we must get these furs out, and for that we will need
horses or mules, but we won't bother our heads about it yet."
After the long period of clear, open weather, the delayed snow
came. It began to fall one evening at twilight, when both boys
were snug in the cabin, and it came in a very gentle, soothing
way, as if it meant no harm whatever. Big, soft flakes fell as
softly as the touch of down, but every time the boys looked out
they were still coming in the same gentle but persistent way.
The next morning the big flakes still came down and all that day
and all the next night. When the snow stopped it lay five feet
deep on the level, and uncounted feet deep in the gullies and
"We're snowed in," said Albert in some dismay, "and we can't go
to our traps. Why, this is likely to last a month!"
"We can't walk through it," said Dick meditatively, "but we can
walk on it. We've got to make snowshoes. They're what we need."
"Good!" said Albert with enthusiasm. "Let's get to work at
Deep snows fall in Illinois, and both, in their earlier boyhood,
had experimented for the sake of sport with a crude form of
snowshoe. Now they were to build upon this slender knowledge,
for the sake of an immediate necessity, and it was the hardest
task that they had yet set for themselves. Nevertheless, it was
achieved, like the others.
They made a framework of elastic stripes of ash bent in the
well-known shape of the snowshoe, which bears some resemblance
to the shape of the ordinary shoe, only many times larger and
sharply pointed at the rear end. Its length was between five and
six feet, and the ends were tightly wound with strips of hide.
This frame was bent into the shoe shape after it had been soaked
in boiling water.
Then they put two very strong strips of hide across the front
part of the framework, and in addition passed at least a half
dozen stout bands of hide from strip to strip.
Then came the hard task of attaching the shoe to the foot of the
boy who was to wear it. The ball of the foot was set on the
second crosspiece and the foot was then tied there with a broad
strip of hide which passed over the instep and was secured behind
the ankle. It required a good deal of practice to fasten the
foot so it would not slip up and down; and also in such a manner
that the weight of the shoe would be proportioned to it properly.
They had to exercise infinite patience before two pairs of
snowshoes were finished. There was much hunting in deep snow
for proper wood, many strips and some good hide were spoiled,
but the shoes were made and then another equally as great
confronted the two boys—to learn how to use them.
Each boy put on his pair at the same time and went forth on the
snow, which was now packed and hard. Albert promptly caught
one of his shoes on the other, toppled over, and went down
through the crust of the snow, head first. Dick, although in
an extremely awkward situation himself, managed to pull his
brother out and put him in the proper position, with his head
pointing toward the sky instead of the earth. Albert brushed
the snow out of his eyes and ears, and laughed.
"Good start, bad ending," he said. "This is certainly the
biggest pair of shoes that I ever had on, Dick. They feel at
least a mile long to me."
"I know that mine are a mile long," said Dick, as he, too,
brought the toe of one shoe down upon the heel of the other,
staggered, fell over sideways, but managed to right himself in
"It seems to me," said Albert, "that the proper thing to do is to
step very high and very far, so you won't tangle up one shoe with
"That seems reasonable," said Dick, "and we'll try it."
They practiced this step for an hour, making their ankles ache
badly. After a good rest they tried it for another hour, and
then they began to make progress. They found that they got along
over the snow at a fair rate of speed, although it remained an
awkward and tiring gait. Nevertheless, one could travel an
indefinite distance, when it was impossible to break one's way
far through five or six feet of packed snow, and the shoes met a
"They'll do," said Albert; "but it will never be like walking on
the solid earth in common shoes."
Albert was right. Their chief use for these objects, so
laboriously constructed, was for the purpose of visiting their
traps, some of which were set at least a dozen miles away. They
wished also to go back to the shanty and see that it was all
right. They found a number of valuable furs in the traps, but
the bark shanty had been almost crushed in by the weight of the
snow, and they spent sometime strengthening and repairing it.
In the course of these excursions their skill with the snowshoes
increased and they were also able to improve upon the construction,
correcting little errors in measurement and balance. The snow
showed no signs of melting, but they made good progress, nevertheless,
with their trapping, and all the furs taken were of the highest
It would have been easy for them to kill enough game to feed a
small army, as the valley now fairly swarmed with it, although
nearly all of it was of large species, chiefly buffalo, elk, and
bear. There was one immense herd of elk congregated in a great
sheltered space at the northern end of the valley, where they fed
chiefly upon twigs and lichens.
Hanging always upon the flanks of this herd was a band of timber
wolves of great size and ferocity, which never neglected an
opportunity to pull down a cripple or a straying yearling.
"I thought we had killed off all these timber wolves," said
Albert when he first caught sight of the band.
"We did kill off most of those that were here when we came," said
Dick, "but others, I suppose, have followed the game from the
mountains into the valley."
Albert went alone a few days later to one of their traps up the
valley, walking at a good pace on his snowshoes. A small colony
of beavers had been discovered on a stream that came down
between two high cliffs, and the trap contained a beaver of
unusually fine fur. Albert removed the skin, put it on his
shoulder, and, tightening his snowshoes, started back to Castle
The snow had melted a little recently, and in many places among
the trees it was not deep, but Albert and Dick had made it a
point to wear their snowshoes whenever they could, for the sake
of the skill resulting from practice.
Albert was in a very happy frame of mind. He felt always now a
physical elation, which, of course, became mental also. It is
likely, too, that the rebound from long and despairing ill health
still made itself felt. None so well as those who have been ill
and are cured! He drew great draughts of the frosty air into his
strong, sound lungs, and the emitted it slowly and with ease. It
was a fine mechanism, complex, but working beautifully.
Moreover, he had an uncommonly large and rich beaver fur over his
shoulder. Such a skin as that would bring twenty-five dollars in
any decent market.
Albert kept to the deep snow on account of his shoes, and was
making pretty good time, when he heard a long howl, varied by a
kind of snappy, growling bark.
"One of those timber wolves," said Albert to himself, "and he has
scented the blood of the beaver."
He thought no more about the wolf until two or three minutes
later when he heard another howl and then two or three more.
Moreover, they were much nearer.
"Now, I wonder what they're after?" thought Albert.
But he went on, maintaining his good pace, and then he heard
behind him a cry that was a long, ferocious whine rather than a
howl. Albert looked back and saw under the trees, where the snow
was lighter, a dozen leaping forms. He recognized at once the
old pests, the timber wolves.
"Now, I wonder what they're after?" he repeated, and then as the
whole pack suddenly gave tongue in a fierce, murderous howl, he
saw that it was himself. Albert, armed though he was—neither
boy ever went forth without gun or revolver—felt the blood grow
cold in every vein. These were not the common wolves of the
prairie, nor yet the ordinary wolf of the East and Middle West,
but the great timber wolf of the Northwest, the largest and
fiercest of the dog tribe. He had grown used to the presence of
timber wolves hovering somewhere near, but now they presented
themselves in a new aspect, bearing down straight upon him, and
pushed by hunger. He understood why they were about to attack
him. They had been able to secure but little of the large game
in the valley, and they were drawn on by starvation.
He looked again and looked fearfully. They seemed to him
monstrous in size for wolves, and their long, yellowish-gray
bodies were instinct with power. Teeth and eyes alike were
gleaming. Albert scarcely knew what to do first. Should he run,
taking to the deepest snow, where the wolves might sink to their
bodies and thus fail to overtake him? But in his own haste he
might trip himself with the long, ungainly snowshoes, and then
everything would quickly be over. Yet it must be tried. He
could see no other way.
Albert, almost unconsciously prayed for coolness and judgment,
and it was well for him that his life in recent months had taught
him hardihood and resource. He turned at once into the open
space, away from the trees, where the snow lay several feet deep,
and he took long, flying leaps on his snowshoes. Behind him came
the pack of great, fierce brutes, snapping and snarling, howling
and whining, a horrible chorus that made shivers chase one
another up and down the boy's spine. But as he reckoned, the
deep snow made them flounder, and checked their speed.
Before him the open ground and the deep snow stretched straight
away beside the lake until it reached the opening between the
mountains in which stood Castle Howard. As Albert saw the good
track lie before him, his hopes rose, but presently, when he
looked back again, they fell with cruel speed. The wolves,
despite the depth of the snow, had gained upon him. Sometimes,
perhaps, it proved hard enough to sustain the weight of their
bodies, and then they more than made up lost ground.
Albert noted a wolf which he took at once to be the leader, not
only because he led all the others, but because also of his
monstrous size. Even in that moment of danger he wondered that a
wolf could grow so large, and that he should have such long
teeth. But the boy, despite his great danger, retained his
presence of mind. If the wolves were gaining, then he must
inflict a check upon them. He whirled about, steadied himself a
moment on his snowshoes, and fired directly at the huge leader.
The wolf had swung aside when he saw the barrel of the rifle
raised, but the bullet struck down another just behind him.
Instantly, some of the rest fell upon the wounded brute and began
to devour him, while the remainder, after a little hesitation,
continued to pursue Albert.
But the boy had gained, and he felt that the repeating rifle
would be for a while like a circle of steel to him. He could
hold them back for a time with bullet after bullet, although it
would not suffice to stop the final rush when it came, if it
Albert looked longingly ahead. He saw a feather of blue smoke
against the dazzling white and silver of the sky, and he knew
that it came from their cabin. If he were only there behind
those stout log walls! A hundred wolves, bigger than the big
leader, might tear at them in vain! And perhaps Dick, too, would
come! He felt that the two together would have little to fear.
The wolves set up their fierce, whining howl again, and once more
it showed that they had gained upon the fleeing boy. He turned
and fired once, twice, three times, four times, as fast as he
could pull the trigger, directly into the mass of the pack. He
could not tell what he had slain and what he had wounded, but
there was a hideous snapping and snarling, and the sight of wolf
teeth flashing into wolf flesh.
Albert ran on and that feather of blue smoke was larger and
nearer. But was it near enough? He could hear the wolves behind
him again. All these diversions were only temporary. No matter
how many of their number were slain or wounded, no matter how
many paused to devour the dead and hurt, enough were always left
to follow him. The pursuit, too, had brought reinforcements from
the lurking coverts of the woods and bushes.
Albert saw that none of his bullets had struck the leader. The
yellowish-gray monster still hung close upon him, and he was to
Albert like a demon wolf, one that could not be slain. He would
try again. He wheeled and fired. The leader, as before, swerved
to one side and a less fortunate wolf behind him received the
bullet. Albert fired two more bullets, and then he turned to
continue his flight. But the long run, the excitement, and his
weakened nerves caused the fatal misstep. The toe of one
snowshoe caught on the heel of the other, and as a shout pierced
the air, he went down.
The huge gray leader leaped at the fallen boy, and as his body
paused a fleeting moment in midair before it began the descent, a
rifle cracked, a bullet struck him in the throat, cutting the
jugular vein and coming out behind. His body fell lifeless on
the snow, and he who had fired the shot came on swiftly, shouting
and firing again.
It was well that Dick, sometime after Albert's departure, had
concluded to go forth for a little hunt, and it was well also
that in addition to his rifle he had taken the double-barreled
shotgun thinking that he might find some winter wild fowl flying
over the snow and ice-covered surface of the lake. His first
shot slew the master wolf, his second struck down another, his
third was as fortunate, his fourth likewise, and then, still
running forward, he bethought himself of the shotgun that was
strapped over his shoulder. He leveled it in an instant and
fairly sprayed the pack of wolves with stinging shot. Before
that it had been each bullet for a wolf and the rest untouched,
but now there was a perfect shower of those hot little pellets.
It was more than they could stand, big, fierce, and hungry timber
wolves though they were. They turned and fled with beaten howls
into the woods.
Albert was painfully righting himself, when Dick gave him his
hand and sped the task. Albert had thought himself lost, and it
was yet hard to realize that he had not disappeared down the
throat of the master wolf. His nerves were overtaxed, and he was
"Thank you, Dick, old boy," he said. "If you hadn't come when
you did, I shouldn't be here."
"No, you wouldn't," replied Dick grimly. "Those wolves eat
fast. But look, Al, what a monster this fellow is! Did you ever
see such a wolf?"
The great leader lay on his side upon the snow, and a full seven
feet he stretched from the tip of his nose to the root of his
stumpy tail. No such wolf as he had ever been put inside a cage,
and it was rare, indeed, to find one so large, even in the
mountains south of the very Far North.
"That's a skin that will be worth something," said Dick, "and
here are more, but before we begin the work of taking them off,
you'll have to be braced up, Al. You need a stimulant."
He hurried back to Castle Howard and brought one of the bottles
of whisky, a little store that they had never touched except in
the compounding of the barkstone for the capture of beaver. He
gave Albert a good stiff drink of it, after which the boy felt
better, well enough, in fact, to help Dick skin the monster wolf.
"It gives me pleasure to do this," said Albert, as he wielded the
knife. "You thought, Mr. Wolf, that I was going to adorn your
inside; instead, your outside will be used as an adornment
trodden on by the foot of my kind."
They secured four other fine and unimpaired skins among the
slain, and after dressing and curing, they were sent to join the
stores in the Annex.
Dick Goes Scouting
Dick did not believe that the timber wolves, after suffering so
much in the pursuit of Albert, would venture again to attack
either his brother or himself. He knew that the wolf was one of
the shrewdest of all animals, and that, unless the circumstances
were very unusual indeed, the sight of a gun would be sufficient
to warn them off. Nevertheless, he decided to begin a campaign
against them, though he had to wait a day or two until Albert's
shaken nerves were restored.
They wished to save their ammunition as much as possible, and
they built three large dead falls, in which they caught six or
seven great wolves, despite their cunning. In addition they
hunted them with rifles with great patience and care, never
risking a shot until they felt quite sure that it would find a
vital spot. In this manner they slew about fifteen more, and by
that time the wolves were thoroughly terrified. The scent of the
beings carrying sticks which poured forth death and destruction
at almost any distance, was sufficient to send the boldest band
of timber wolves scurrying into the shadows of the deepest forest
in search of hiding and safety.
The snow melted and poured in a thousand streams from the
mountains. The river and all the creeks and brooks roared in
torrents, the earth soaked in water, and the two boys spent much
of the time indoors making new clothing, repairing traps and
nets, and fashioning all kinds of little implements that were of
use in their daily life. They could realize, only because they
now had to make them, how numerous such implements were. Yet
they made toasting sticks of hard wood, carved out wooden
platters, constructed a rude but serviceable dining table, added
to their supply of traps of various kinds, and finally made two
large baskets of split willow. The last task was not as
difficult as some others, as both had seen and taken a part in
basket making in Illinois. The cabin was now crowded to
inconvenience. Over their beds, from side to side, and up under
the sloping roof, they had fastened poles, and from all of these
hung furs and skins, buffalo, deer, wolf, wild cat, beaver,
wolverine, and others, and also stores of jerked game. The Annex
was in the same crowded condition. The boys had carried the
hollow somewhat higher up with their axes, but the extension gave
them far less room than they needed.
"It's just this, Dick," said Albert, "we getting so rich that we
don't know what to do with all our property. I used to think it
a joke that the rich were unhappy, but now I see where their
trouble comes in."
"I know that the trappers cache their furs, that is, bury them or
hide them until they can take them away," said Dick, "but we
don't know how to bury furs so they'll keep all right. Still,
we've got to find a new place of some kind. Besides, it would be
better to have them hidden where only you and I could find them,
Al. Maybe we can find such a place."
Albert agreed, and they began a search along the cliffs. Dick
knew that extensive rocky formations must mean a cave or an
opening of some kind, if they only looked long enough for it,
at last they found in the side of a slope a place that he thought
could be made to suit. It was a rocky hollow running back about
fifteen feet, and with a height and width of perhaps ten feet.
It was approached by an opening about four feet in height and two
feet in width. Dick wondered at first that it had not been used
as a den by some wild animal, but surmised that the steepness of
the ascent and the extreme roughness of the rocky floor had kept
But these very qualities recommended the hollow to the boys for
the use that they intended it. Its position in the side of the
cliff made it a hard place to find, and the solid rock of its
floor, walls, and roof insured the dryness that was necessary for
the storage of their furs.
"We'll call this the Cliff House," said Albert, "and we'll take
possession at once."
They broke off the sharper of the stone projections with their ax
heads, and then began the transfer of the furs. It was no light
task to carry them up the step slope to the Cliff House, but,
forced to do all things for themselves, they had learned
perseverance, and they carried all their stock of beaver furs and
all the buffalo robes and bearskins, except those in actual use,
together with a goodly portion of the wolfskins, elk hides, and
Dick made a rude but heavy door which fitted well enough into the
opening to keep out any wild animal, no matter how small, and in
front of it, in a little patch of soft soil, they set out two
transplanted pine bushes which seemed to take root, and which
Dick was sure would grow in the spring.
When the boys looked up from the bottom of the slope, they saw no
trace of the Cliff House, only an expanse of rock, save a little
patch of earth where two tiny pines were growing.
"Nobody but ourselves will ever find our furs!" exclaimed Dick
exultingly. "The most cunning Indian would not dream that
anything was hidden up there behind those little pines, and the
furs will keep as well inside as if they were in the best
storehouse ever built."
The discovery and use of the rock cache was a great relief to
both. Their cabin had become so crowded with furs and stores,
that the air was often thick and heavy, and they did not have
what Dick called elbow room. Now they used the cabin almost
exclusively for living purposes. Most of the stores were in the
Annex, while the dry and solid Cliff House held the furs.
"Have you thought, Dick, what you and I are?" asked Albert.
"I don't catch your meaning."
"We're aristocrats of the first water, Mr. Richard Howard and Mr.
Albert Howard, the Mountain Kings. We can't get along with less
than four residences. We live in Castle Howard, the main
mansion, superior to anything of its kind in a vast region; then
we have the Annex, a tower used chiefly as a supply room and
treasure chest; then the Suburban Villa, a light, airy place of
graceful architecture, very suitable as a summer residence, and
now we have the Cliff House, in a lofty and commanding position
noted for its wonderful view. We are really a fortunate pair,
"I've been thinking that for sometime," replied Dick rather
Hitherto they had confined their operations chiefly to their own
side of the lake, but as they ranged farther and farther in
search of furs they began to prowl among the canyons and narrow
valleys in the mountains on the other side. They made, rather
far up the northern side, some valuable catches of beaver, but in
order to return with them, they were compelled to come around
either the northern or southern end of the lake, and the round
trip was tremendously long and tiring.
"It's part of a man's business to economize time and strength,"
said Dick, "and we must do it. You and I, Al, are going to make
"I don't know just yet, but I'm studying it out. The idea will
jump out of my head in two or three days."
It was four days before it jumped, but when it did, it jumped to
"First, we'll make a dugout," he said. "We've got the tools—axes,
knives, saws, and augers—and we'd better start with that."
They cut down a big and perfectly straight pine and chose a
length of about twelve feet from the largest part of the trunk.
Both boys had seen dugouts, and they knew, in a general way, how
to proceed. Their native intelligence supplied the rest.
They cut off one side of the log until it was flat, thus making
the bottom for the future canoe. They cut the opposite side away
in the well-known curve that a boat makes, low in the middle and
high at each end. This part of the work was done with great
caution, but Dick had an artistic eye, and they made a fairly
good curve. Next they began the tedious and laborious work of
digging out, using axes, hatchets, and chisel.
This was a genuine test of Albert's new strength, but he stood it
nobly. They chipped away for a long time, until the wood on the
sides and bottom was thin but strong enough to stand any
pressure. Then they made the proper angle and curve of bow and
stern, cut and made two stout broad paddles, and their dugout was
ready—a long canoe with a fairly good width, as the original
log had been more than two feet in diameter. It was both light
and strong, and, raising it on their shoulders, they carried it
down to the lake where they put it in the water.
Albert, full of enthusiasm, sprang into the canoe and made a
mighty sweep with his paddle. The light dugout shot away, tipped
on one side, and as Albert made another sweep with his paddle to
right it, it turned over, bottom side up, casting the rash young
paddler into ten feet of pure cold water. Albert came up with a
mighty splash and sputter. He was a good swimmer, and he had
also retained hold of the paddle unconsciously, perhaps. Dick
regarded him contemplatively from the land. He had no idea of
jumping in. One wet and cold boy was enough. Beside, rashness
deserved its punishment.
"Get the canoe before it floats farther away," he called out,
"and tow it to land. It has cost us too much work to be lost out
on the lake."
Albert swam to the canoe, which was now a dozen yards away, and
quickly towed it and the paddle to land. There, shivering, the
water running from him in streams, he stepped upon the solid
"Run to the cabin as fast as you can," said Dick. "Take off those
wet things, rub yourself down before the fire; then put on
dry clothes and come back here and help me."
Albert needed no urging, but it seemed to him that he would
freeze before he reached the cabin, short as the distance was.
Fortunately, there was a good fire on the hearth, and, after he
had rubbed down and put on his dry, warm suit of deerskin, he
never felt finer in his life. He returned to the lake, but he
felt sheepish on the way. That had been a rash movement of his,
overenthusiastic, but he had been properly punished. His chagrin
was increased when he saw Dick a considerable distance out on the
lake in the canoe, driving it about in graceful curves with long
sweeps of his paddle.
"This is the way it ought to be done," called out Dick cheerily.
"Behold me, Richard Howard, the king of canoe men!"
"You've been practicing while I was gone!" exclaimed Albert.
"No doubt of it, my young friend, and that is why you see me
showing such skill, grace, and knowledge. I give you the same
recipe without charge: Look before you leap, especially if you're
going to leap into a canoe. Now we'll try it together."
He brought the canoe back to land, Albert got in cautiously, and
for the rest of the day they practiced paddling, both together
and alone. Albert got another ducking, and Dick, in a moment of
overconfidence, got one, too, somewhat to Albert's pleasure and
relief, as it has been truly said that misery loves company, but
in two or three days they learned to use the canoe with ease.
Then, either together or alone, they would paddle boldly the full
length of the lake, and soon acquired dexterity enough to use it
for freight, too; that is, they would bring back in it across the
lake anything that they had shot or trapped on the other side.
So completely had they lost count of time that Dick had an idea
spring was coming, but winter suddenly shut down upon them
again. It did not arrive with wind and snow this time, but in
the night a wave of cold came down from the north so intense that
the sheltered valley even did not repel it.
Dick and Albert did not appreciate how really cold it was until
they went from the cabin into the clear morning air, when they were
warned by the numbing sensation that assailed their ears and noses.
They hurried into the house and thawed out their faces, which
stung greatly as they were exposed to the fire. Remembering the
experiences of their early boyhood, they applied cold water freely,
which allayed the stinging. After that they were very careful to
wrap up fingers, ears, and noses when they went forth.
Now, the channel that Albert had made from the water of the hot
spring proved of great use. The water that came boiling from the
earth cooled off rapidly, but it was not yet frozen when it
reached the side of Castle Howard, and they could make use of it.
The very first morning they found their new boat, of which they
were so proud, hard and fast with ten inches of solid ice all
around it. Albert suggested leaving it there.
"We have no need of it so long as the lake is covered with ice,"
he said, "and when the ice melts it will be released."
But Dick looked a little farther. The ice might press in on it
and crush it, and hence Albert and he cut it out with axes, after
which they put it in the lee of the cabin. Meanwhile, when they
wished to reach the traps on the farther side of the lake, they
crossed it on the ice, and, presuming that the cold might last
long, they easily made a rude sledge which they used in place of
"If we can't go through the water, we can at least go over it,"
While the great cold lasted, a period of about two weeks, the
boys went on no errands except to their traps. The cold was so
intense that often they could hear the logs of Castle Howard
contracting with a sound like pistol shots. Then they would
build the fire high and sit comfortably before it. Fortunately,
the valley afforded plenty of fuel. Both boys wished now that
they had a few books, but books were out of the question, and
they sought always to keep themselves busy with the tasks that
their life in the valley entailed upon them. Both knew that this
The cold was so great that even the wild animals suffered from
it. The timber wolves, despite their terrible lessons, were
driven by it down the valley, and at night a stray one now and
then would howl mournfully near the cabin.
"He's a robber and would like to be a murderer," Albert would
say, "but he probably smells this jerked buffalo meat that I'm
cooking and I'm sorry for him."
But the wolves were careful to keep out of rifle shot.
Dick made one trip up the valley and found about fifty buffaloes
sheltered in a deep ravine and clustering close together for
warmth. They were quite thin, as the grass, although it had been
protected by the snow, was very scanty at that period of the
year. Dick could have obtained a number of good robes, but he
"Maybe I won't be so soft-hearted when the spring comes and you
are fatter," he said.
The two, about this time, took stock of their ammunition, which
was the most vital of all things to them. For sometime they had
used both the shot and ball cartridges only in cases of
necessity, and they were relying more and more on traps,
continually devising new kinds, their skill and ingenuity
increasing with practice.
Dick had brought a great store of cartridges from the last train,
especially from the unrifled wagon in the gully, and both boys
were surprised to see how many they had left. They had enough to
last a long time, according to their present mode of life.
"If you are willing, that settles it," said Dick.
"If I am willing for what?" asked Albert.
"Willing to stay over another year. You see, Al, we've wandered
into a happy hunting ground. There are more furs, by the
hundreds, for the taking, and it seems that this is a lost
valley. Nobody else comes here. Besides, you are doing
wonderfully. All that old trouble is gone, and we want it to
stay gone. If we stay here another year, and you continue to eat
the way you do and grow the way you do, you'll be able to take a
buffalo by the horns and wring its neck."
Albert grinned pleasantly at his brother.
"You don't have to beg me to stay," he said. "I like this
valley. It has given me life and what is to be our fortune, our
furs. Why not do all we can while we can? I'm in favor of the
extra year, Dick."
"Then no more need be said about it. The Cliff House isn't half
full of furs yet, but in another year we can fill it."
The great cold began to break up, the ice on the lake grew
thinner and thinner and then disappeared, much of the big game
left the valley, the winds from the north ceased to blow, and in
their stead came breezes from the south, tipped with warmth.
Dick knew that spring was near. It was no guess, he could feel
it in every bone of him, and he rejoiced. He had had enough of
winter, and it gave him the keenest pleasure when he saw tiny
blades of new grass peeping up in sheltered places here and
Dick, although he was not conscious of it, had changed almost as
much as Albert in the last eight or nine months. He had had no
weak chest and throat to cure, but his vigorous young frame had
responded nobly to the stimulus of self-reliant life. The
physical experience, as well as the mental, of those eight or
nine months, had been equal to five times their number spent
under ordinary conditions, and he had grown greatly in every
respect. Few men were as strong, as agile, and as alert as he.
He and Albert, throughout that long winter, had been sufficient
unto each other. They had a great sense of ownership, the valley
and all its manifold treasurers belonged to them—a feeling that
was true, as no one else came to claim it—and they believed
that in their furs they were acquiring and ample provision for a
start in life.
When the first tender shades of green began to appear in the
valley and on the slopes, Dick decided upon a journey.
"Do you know, Al, how long we have been in this valley?" he
"Eight or ten months, I suppose," replied Albert.
"It must be something like that, and we've been entirely away
from our race. If we had anybody to think about us—although we
haven't—they'd be sure that we are dead. We're just as
ignorant of what is happening in the world, and I want to go on a
skirmishing trip over the mountains. You keep house while I'm
Albert offered mild objections, which he soon withdrew, as at
heart he thought his brother right, and the next day, early in
the morning, Dick started on his journey. He carried jerked
buffalo meat in a deerskin pouch that he had made for himself,
his customary repeating rifle, revolver, and a serviceable
"Look after things closely, Al," said Dick, "and don't bother
about setting the traps. Furs are not good in the spring."
"All right," responded Albert. "How long do you think you'll be
"Can't say, precisely. Three or four days, I presume, but don't
you worry unless it's a full week."
It was characteristic of the strength and self-restraint acquired
by the two that they parted with these words and a hand clasp
only, yet both had deep feeling. Dick looked back from the mouth
of the cleft toward Castle Howard and saw a boy in front of it
waving a cap. He waved his own in reply and then went forward
more swiftly down the valley.
It did not take him long to reach the first slope, and, when he
had ascended a little, he paused for rest and inspection. Spring
had really made considerable progress. All the trees except the
evergreens had put forth young leaves and, as he looked toward
the north, the mountains unrolled like a vast green blanket that
swept away in ascending folds until it ended, and then the peaks
and ridges, white with snow, began.
Dick climbed father, and their valley was wholly lost to sight.
It was not so wonderful after all that nobody came to it.
Trappers who knew of it long ago never returned, believing that
the beaver were all gone forever, and it was too near to the
warlike Sioux of the plains for mountain Indians to make a home
Dick did not stop long for the look backward—he was too intent
upon his mission—but resumed the ascent with light foot and
light heart. He remembered very well the way in which he and
Albert had come, and he followed it on the return. All night,
with his buffalo robe about him, he slept in the pine alcove that
had been the temporary home of Albert and himself. He could see
no change in it in all the months, except traces to show that
some wild animal had slept there.
"Maybe you'll come to-night, Mr. Bear or Mr. Mountain Lion, to
sleep in your little bed." said Dick as he lay down in his
buffalo robe, "but you'll find me here before you."
He was wise enough to know that neither bear nor mountain lion
would ever molest him, and he slept soundly. He descended the
last slopes and came in sight of the plains on the afternoon
of the next day. Everything seemed familiar. The events of
that fatal time had made too deep an impression upon him and
Albert ever to be forgotten. He knew the very rocks and trees
and so went straight to the valley in which he had found the
wagon filled with supplies. It lay there yet, crumpled
somewhat by time and the weight of snow that had fallen upon it
during the winter, but a strong man with good tools might put it
in shape for future service.
"Now, if Al and I only had horses, we might get it out and take
away our furs in it," said Dick, "but I suppose I might as well
wish for a railroad as for horses."
He descended into the gully and found the tracks of wolves and
other wild beasts about the wagon. In their hunger, they had
chewed up every fragment of leather or cloth, and had clawed and
scratched among the lockers. Dick had searched those pretty well
before, but now he looked for gleanings. He found little of
value until he discovered, jammed down in a corner, an old
history and geography of the United States combined in one volume
with many maps and illustrations. It was a big octavo book, and
Dick seized it with the same delight with which a miner snatches
up his nugget of gold. He opened it, took a rapid look through
flying pages, murmured, "Just the thing," closed it again, and
buttoned it securely inside his deerskin coat. He had not
expected anything; nevertheless, he had gleaned to some purpose.
Dick left the wagon and went into the pass where the massacre had
occurred. Time had not dimmed the horror of the place for him
and he shuddered as he approached the scene of ambush, but he
forced himself to go on.
The wagons were scattered about, but little changed, although, as
in the case of the one in the gully, all the remaining cloth and
leather had been chewed by wild animals. Here and there were the
skeletons of the fallen, and Dick knew that the wild beasts had
not been content with leather and cloth alone. He went through
the wagons one by one, but found nothing of value left except a
paper of needles, some spools of thread, and a large pair of
scissors, all of which he put in the package with the history.
It was nightfall when he finished the task, and retiring to the
slope, he made his bed among some pines. He heard wolves
howling twice in the night, but he merely settled himself more
easily in his warm buffalo robe and went to sleep again.
Replenishing his canteen with water the next morning, he started
out upon the plains, intending to make some explorations.
Dick had thought at first that they were in the Black Hills, but
he concluded later that they were further west. The mountains
about them were altogether too high for the Black Hills, and he
wished to gain some idea of their position upon the map. The
thought reminded him that he had a book with maps in his
pocket, and he took out the precious volume.
He found a map of the Rocky Mountain territory, but most of the
space upon it was vague, often blank, and he could not exactly
locate himself and Albert, although he knew that they were very
far west of any settled country.
"I can learn from that book all about the world except
ourselves," he said, as he put it back in his pocket. But he was
not sulky over it. His was a bold and adventurous spirit and
he was not afraid, nor was his present trip merely to satisfy
curiosity. He and Albert must leave the valley some day, and it
was well to know the best way in which it could be done.
He started across the plain in a general southwesterly direction,
intending to travel for about a day perhaps, camp for the night,
and return on the following day to his mountains. He walked
along with a bold, swinging step and did not look back for an
hour, but when he turned at last he felt as if he had ventured
upon the open ocean in a treacherous canoe. There were
the mountains, high, sheltered, and friendly, while off to the
south and west the plains rolled away in swell after swell as
long and desolate as an untraveled sea, and as hopeless.
Dick saw toward noon some antelope grazing on the horizon, but he
was not a hunter now, and he did not trouble himself to seek a
shot. An hour or two later he saw a considerable herd of
buffaloes scattered about over the plain, nibbling the short
bunch grass that had lived under the snow. They were rather an
inspiring sight, and Dick felt as if, in a sense, they were
furnishing him company. They drove away the desolation and
loneliness of the plains, and his inclinations toward them were
those of genuine friendliness. They were in danger of no bullet
While he was looking at them, he saw new figures coming over the
distant swell. At first he thought they were antelope, but when
they reached the crest of the swell and their figures were thrown
into relief against the brilliant sky, he saw that they were
They came on with such regularity and precision, that, for a
moment or two, Dick believed them to be a troop of cavalry, but
he learned better when they scattered with a shout and began to
chase the buffaloes. Then he knew that they were a band of Sioux
The full extent of his danger dawned upon him instantly. He was
alone and on foot. The hunt might bring them down upon him in
five minutes. He was about to run, but his figure would
certainly be exposed upon the crest of one of the swells, as
theirs had been, and he dropped instead into one of a number of
little gullies that intersected the plain.
It was an abrupt little gully, and Dick was well hidden from any
eyes not within ten yards of him. He lay at first so he could
not see, but soon he began to hear shots and the trampling of
mighty hoofs. He knew now that the Sioux were in among the
buffaloes, dealing out death, and he began to have a fear of
being trodden upon either by horsemen or huge hoofs. He could
not bear to lie there and he warned only by sound, so he turned a
little further on one side and peeped over the edge of the gully.
The hunters and hunter were not as near as he thought; he
had been deceived by sound, the earth being such a good
conductor. Yet they were near enough for him to see that
he was in great danger and should remain well hidden. He
could observe, however, that the hunt was attended with
great success. Over a dozen buffaloes had fallen and the
others were running about singly or in little groups, closely
pursued by the exultant Sioux. Some were on one side of him
and some on the other. There was no chance for him, no matter
how careful he might be, to rise from the gully and sneak away
over the plain. Instead, he crouched more closely and contracted
himself into the narrowest possible space, while the hunt wheeled
and thundered about him.
It is not to be denied that Dick felt many tremors. He had seen
what the Sioux could do. He knew that they were the most
merciless of all the northwestern Indians, and he expected only
torture and death if he fell into their hands, and there was his
brother alone now in the valley. Once the hunt swung away to the
westward and the sounds of it grew faint. Dick hoped it would
continue in that direction, but by and by it came back again and
he crouched down anew in his narrow quarters. He felt that every
bone in him was stiffening with cramp and needlelike pains shot
through his nerves. Yet he dared not move. And upon top of his
painful position came the knowledge that the Sioux would stay
there to cut up the slain buffaloes. He was tempted more than
once to jump up, run for it and take his chances.
He noticed presently a gray quality in the air, and as he glanced
off toward the west, he saw that the red sun was burning very
low. Dick's heart sprang up in gladness; it was the twilight,
and the blessed darkness would bring chance of escape. Seldom
has anyone watched the coming of night with keener pleasure. The
sun dropped down behind the swells, the gray twilight passed over
all the sky, and after it came the night, on black wings.
Fires sprang up on the plain, fires of buffalo chips lighted by
the Sioux, who were now busy skinning and cutting up the slain
buffaloes. Dick saw the fires all about him, but none was nearer
than a hundred yards, and, despite them, he decided that now was
his best time to attempt escape before the moon should come out
and lighten up the night.
He pulled himself painfully from the kind gully. He had lain
there hours, and he tested every joint as he crept a few feet on
the plain. They creaked for a while, but presently the
circulation was restored, and, rising to a stooping position,
with his rifle ready, he slipped off toward the westward.
Dick knew that great caution was necessary, but he had confidence
in the veiling darkness. Off to the eastward he could see one
fire, around which a half dozen warriors were gathered, busy with
a slain buffalo, working and feasting. He fancied that he could
trace their savage features against the red firelight, but he
himself was in the darkness.
Another fire rose up, and this was straight before him. Like the
others, warriors were around it, and Dick turned off abruptly to
the south. Then he heard ponies stamping and he shifted his
course again. When he had gone about a dozen yards he lay flat
upon the plain and listened. He was hardy and bold, but, for a
little while, he was almost in despair. It seemed to him that he
was ringed around by a circle of savage warriors and that he
could not break through it.
His courage returned, and, rising to his knees, he resumed his
slow progress. His course was now southwesterly, and soon he
heard again the stamping of hoofs. It was then that a daring
idea came into Dick's head.
That stamping of hoofs was obviously made by the ponies of the
Sioux. Either the ponies were tethered to short sticks, or they
had only a small guard, perhaps a single man. But as they were
with the buffaloes, and unsuspecting of a strange presence, they
would not detail more than one man to watch their horses. It was
wisdom for him to slip away one of the horses, mount it when at a
safe distance, and then gallop toward the mountains.
Dick sank down a little lower and crept very slowly toward the
point from which the stamping of hoofs proceeded. When he had
gone about a dozen yards he heard another stamping of hoofs to
his right and then a faint whinny. This encouraged him. It
showed him that the ponies were tethered in groups, and the group
toward which he was going might be without a guard. He continued
his progress another dozen yards, and then lay flat upon the
plain. He had seen two vague forms in the darkness, and he
wished to make himself a blur with the earth. They were warriors
passing from one camp fire to another, and Dick saw them plainly,
tall men with blankets folded about them like togas, long hair in
which eagle feathers were braided after the Sioux style, and
strong aquiline features. They looked like chiefs, men of
courage, dignity, and mind, and Dick contrasted them with the
ruffians of the wagon train. The contrast was not favorable to
the white faces that he remembered so well.
But the boy saw nothing of mercy or pity in these red
countenances. Bold and able they might be, but it was no part of
theirs to spare their enemies. He fairly crowded himself against
the earth, but they went on, absorbed in their own talk, and he
was not seen. He raised up again and began to crawl. The group
of ponies came into view, and he saw with delight that they had
no watchman. A half dozen in number and well hobbled, they
cropped the buffalo grass. They were bare of back, but they wore
their Indian bridles, which hung from their heads.
Dick knew a good deal about horses, and he was aware that the
approach would be critical. The Indian ponies might take alarm
or they might not, but the venture must be made. He did not
believe that he could get beyond the ring of the Sioux fires
without being discovered, and only a dash was left.
Dick marked the pony nearest to him. It seemed a strong animal,
somewhat larger than the others, and, pulling up a handful of
bunch grass, he approached it, whistling very softly. He held
the grass in his left hand and his hunting knife in the right,
his rifle being fastened to his back. The pony raised his head,
looked at him in a friendly manner, then seemed to change his
mind and backed away. But Dick came on, still holding out the
grass and emitting that soft, almost inaudible whistle. The pony
stopped and wavered between belief and suspicion. Dick was not
more than a dozen feet away now, and he began to calculate when
he might make a leap and seize the bridle.
The boy and the pony were intently watching the eyes of each other.
Dick, in that extreme moment, was gifted with preternatural
acuteness of mind and vision, and he saw that the pony still wavered.
He took another step forward, and the eyes of the pony inclined
distinctly from belief to suspicion; another short and cautious step,
and they were all suspicion. But it was too late for the pony. The
agile youth sprang, and dropping the grass, seized him with his left
hand by the bridle. A sweep or two of the hunting knife and the
hobbles were cut through.
The pony reared and gave forth an alarmed neigh, but Dick,
quickly replacing the knife in his belt, now held the bridle with
both hands, and those two hands were very strong. He pulled the
pony back to its four feet and sprang, with one bound, upon his
back. Then kicking him vigorously in the side, he dashed away,
with rifle shots spattering behind him.
The Terrible Pursuit
Dick knew enough to bend low down on the neck of the flying
mustang, and he was untouched, although he heard the bullets
whistling about him. The neigh of the pony had betrayed him, but
he was aided by his quickness and the friendly darkness, and he
felt a surge of exultation that he could not control, boy that he
was. The Sioux, jumping upon their ponies, sent forth a savage
war whoop that the desolate prairie returned in moaning echoes,
and Dick could not refrain from a reply. He uttered one shout,
swung his rifle defiantly over his head, then bending down again,
urged his pony to increased speed.
Dick heard the hoofs of his pursuers thundering behind him, and
more rifle shots came, but they ceased quickly. He knew that the
Sioux would not fire again soon, because of the distance and the
uncertain darkness. It was his object to increase that distance,
trusting that the darkness would continue free from moonlight.
He took one swift look backward and saw the Sioux, a dozen or
more, following steadily after. He knew that they would hang on
as long as any chance of capturing him remained, and he resolved
to make use of the next swell that he crossed. He would swerve
when he passed the crest, and while it was yet between him and
his pursuers, perhaps he could find some friendly covert that
would hide him. Meanwhile he clung tightly to his rifle,
something that one always needed in this wild and dangerous
He crossed a swell, but there was no friendly increase of the
darkness and he was afraid to swerve, knowing that the Sioux
would thereby gain upon him, since he would make himself the
curve of the bow, while they remained the string.
In fact, the hasty glance back showed that the Sioux had gained,
and Dick felt tremors. He was tempted for a moment to fire upon
his pursuers, but it would certainly cause a loss of speed, and
he did not believe that he could hit anything under such
circumstances. No, he would save his bullets for a last stand,
if they ran him to earth.
The Sioux raised their war whoop again and fired three or four
shots. Dick felt a slight jarring movement run through his pony,
and then the animal swerved. He was afraid that he had trodden
in a prairie-dog hole or perhaps a little gully, but in an
instant or two he was running steadily again, and Dick forgot the
incident in the excitement of the flight.
He was in constant fear lest the coming out of the moon should
lighten up the prairie and make him a good target for the Sioux
bullets, but he noted instead, and with great joy, that it was
growing darker. Heavy clouds drifted across the sky, and a cold
wind arose and began to whistle out of the northwest. It was a
friendly black robe that was settling down over the earth. It
had never before seemed to him that thick night could be so
Dick's pony rose again on a swell higher than the others, and was
poised there for the fraction of a second, a dark silhouette
against the darker sky. Several of the Sioux fired. Dick felt
once more that momentary jar of his horse's mechanism, but it
disappeared quickly and his hopes rose, because he saw that the
darkness lay thickly between this swell and the next, and he
believed that he now could lose his pursuers.
He urged his horse vigorously. He had made no mistake when he
chose this pony as strong and true. The response was instant and
emphatic. He flew down the slope, but instead of ascending the
next swell he turned at an angle and went down the depression
that lay between them. There the darkness was thickest, and the
burst of speed by the pony was so great that the shapes of his
pursuers became vague and then were lost. Nevertheless, he heard
the thudding of their hoofs and knew that they could also hear
the beat of his. That would guide them for a while yet. He
thought he might turn again and cross the next swell, thus
throwing them entirely off his track, but he was afraid that he
would be cast into relief again when he reached the crest, and so
continued down the depression.
He heard shouts behind him, and it seemed to him that they were
not now the shouts of triumph, but the shouts of chagrin.
Clearly, he was gaining because after the cries ceased, the sound
of hoof beats came but faintly. He urged his horse to the last
ounce of his speed and soon the sound of the pursuing hoofs
The depression ended and he was on the flat plain. It was still
cloudy, with no moon, but his eyes were used enough to the dark
to tell him that the appearance of the country had changed. It
now lay before him almost as smooth as the surface of a table,
and never relaxing the swift gallop, he turned at another angle.
He was confident now that the Sioux could not overtake or find
him. A lone object in the vast darkness, there was not a chance
in a hundred for them to blunder upon him. But the farther away
the better, and he went on for an hour. He would not have
stopped then, but the good pony suddenly began to quiver, and
then halted so abruptly that Dick, rifle and all, shot over his
shoulder. He felt a stunning blow, a beautiful set of stars
flashed before his eyes, and he was gone, for the time, to
When Dick awoke he felt very cold and his head ached. He was
lying flat upon his back, and, with involuntary motion, he put
his hand to his head. He felt a bump there and the hand came
back damp and stained. He could see that the fingers were
red—there was light enough for that ominous sight, although
the night had no yet passed.
Then the flight, the danger, and his fall all came back in a rush
to Dick. He leaped to his feet, and the act gave him pain, but
not enough to show that any bone was broken. His rifle, the
plainsman's staff and defense, lay at his feet. He quickly
picked it up and found that it, too, was unbroken. In fact, it
was not bent in the slightest, and here his luck had stood him
well. But ten feet away lay a horse, the pony that had been a
good friend to him in need.
Dick walked over to the pony. It was dead and cold. It must
have been dead two to three hours at least, and he had lain that
long unconscious. There was a bullet hole in its side and Dick
understood now the cause of those two shivers, like the momentary
stopping of a clock's mechanism. The gallant horse had galloped
on until he was stopped only by death. Dick felt sadness and
"I hope you've gone to the horse heaven," he murmured.
Then he turned to thoughts of his own position. Alone and afoot
upon the prairie, with hostile and mounted Sioux somewhere about,
he was still in bad case. He longed now for his mountains, the
lost valley, the warm cabin, and his brother.
It was quite dark and a wind, sharp with cold, was blowing. It
came over vast wastes, and as it swept across the swells kept up
a bitter moaning sound. Dick shivered and fastened his deerskin
tunic a little tighter. He looked up at the sky. Not a star was
there, and sullen black clouds rolled very near to the earth.
The cold had a raw damp in it, and Dick feared those clouds.
Had it been day he could have seen his mountains, and he would
have made for them at once, but now his eyes did not reach a
hundred yards, and that bitter, moaning wind told him nothing
save that he must fight hard against many things if he would keep
the life that was in him. He had lost all idea of direction.
North and south, east and west were the same to him, but one must
go even if one went wrong.
He tried all his limbs again and found that they were sound. The
wound on his head had ceased to bleed and the ache was easier.
He put his rifle on his shoulder, waved, almost unconsciously, a
farewell to the horse, as one leaves the grave of a friend, and
walked swiftly away, in what course he knew not.
He felt much better with motion. The blood began to circulate
more warmly, and hope sprang up. If only that bitter, moaning
wind would cease. It was inexpressibly weird and dismal. It
seemed to Dick a song of desolation, it seemed to tell him at
times that it was not worth while to try, that, struggle as he
would, his doom was only waiting.
Dick looked up. The black clouds had sunk lower and they must
open before long. If only day were near at hand, then he might
choose the right course. Hark! Did he not hear hoof beats? He
paused in doubt, and then lay down with his ear to the earth.
Then he distinctly heard the sound, the regular tread of a horse,
urged forward in a straight course, and he knew that it could be
made only by the Sioux. But the sound indicated only one horse,
or not more than two or three at the most.
Dick's courage sprang up. Here was a real danger and not the
mysterious chill that the moaning of the wind brought to him. If
the Sioux had found him, they had divided, and it was only a few
of their number that he would have to face. He hugged his
repeating rifle. It was a fine weapon, and just then he was in
love with it. There was no ferocity in Dick's nature, but the
Sioux were seeking the life that he wished to keep.
He rose from the earth and walked slowly on in his original
course. He had no doubt that the Sioux, guided by some demon
instinct, would overtake him. He looked around for a good place
of defense, but saw none. Just the same low swells, just the
same bare earth, and not even a gully like that in which he had
lain while the hunt of the buffalo wheeled about him.
He heard the hoof beats distinctly now, and he became quite sure
that they were made by only a single horseman. His own senses
had become preternaturally acute, and, with the conviction that
he was followed by but one, came a rush of shame. Why should he,
strong and armed, seek to evade a lone pursuer? He stopped,
holding his rifle ready, and waited, a vague, shadowy figure,
black on the black prairie.
Dick saw the phantom horseman rise on a swell, the faint figure
of an Indian and his pony, and there was no other. He was glad
now that he had waited. The horse, trained for such work as
this, gave the Sioux warrior a great advantage, but he would
fight it out with him.
Dick sank down on one knee in order to offer a smaller target,
and thrust his rifle forward for an instant shot. But the Sioux
had stopped and was looking intently at the boy. For fully two
minutes neither he nor his horse moved, and Dick almost began to
believe that he was the victim of an illusion, the creation of
the desolate plains, the night, the floating black vapors, his
tense nerves, and heated imagination. He was tempted to try a
shot to see if it were real, but the distance and the darkness
were too great. He strengthened his will and remained crouched
and still, his finger ready for the trigger of his rifle.
The Sioux and his horse moved at last, but they did not come
forward; they rode slowly toward the right, curving in a circle
about the kneeling boy, but coming no nearer. They were still
vague and indistinct, but they seemed blended into one, and the
supernatural aspect of the misty form of horse and rider
increased. The horse trod lightly now, and Dick no longer heard
the sound of footsteps, only the bitter moaning of the wind over
the vast dark spaces.
The rider rode silently on his circle about the boy, and Dick
turned slowly with him, always facing the eyes that faced him.
He could dimly make out the shape of a rifle at the saddlebow,
but the Sioux did not raise it, he merely rode on in that
ceaseless treadmill tramp, and Dick wondered what he meant to
do. Was he waiting for the others to come up?
Time passed and there was no sign of a second horseman. The
single warrior still rode around him, and Dick still turned with
him. He might be coming nearer in his ceaseless curves, but Dick
could not tell. Although he was the hub of the circle, he began
to have a dizzy sensation, as if the world were swimming about
him. He became benumbed, as if his head were that of a whirling
Dick became quite sure now that the warrior and his horse were
unreal, a creation of the vapors and the mists, and that he
himself was dreaming. He saw, too, at last that they were coming
nearer, and he felt horror, as if something demonic were about to
seize him and drag him down. He crouched so long that he felt
pain in his knees, and all things were becoming a blur before his
eyes. Yet there had not been a sound but that of the bitter,
There was a flash, a shot, the sigh of a bullet rushing past, and
Dick came out of his dream. The Sioux had raised the rifle from
his saddlebow and fired. But he had been too soon. The shifting
and deceptive quality of the darkness caused him to miss. Dick
promptly raised his own rifle and fired in return. He also
missed, but a second bullet from the warrior cut a lock from his
Dick was now alert in every nerve. He had not wanted the life of
this savage, but the savage wanted his; it seemed also that
everything was in favor of the savage getting it, but his own
spirit rose to meet the emergency; he, too, became the hunter.
He sank a little lower and saved his fire until the warrior
galloped nearer. Then he sent a bullet so close that he saw one
of the long eagle feathers drop from the hair of the warrior.
The sight gave him a savage exultation that he would have
believed a few hours before impossible to him. The next bullet
might not merely clip a feather!
The Sioux, contrary to the custom of the Indian, did not utter a
sound, nor did Dick say a word. The combat, save for the reports
of the rifle shots, went on in absolute silence. It lasted a full
ten minutes, when the Indian urged his horse to a gallop,
threw himself behind the body and began firing under the neck. A
bullet struck Dick in the left arm and wounded him slightly, but
it did not take any of his strength and spirit.
Dick sought in vain for a sight of the face of his fleeting foe.
He could catch only a glimpse of long, trailing hair beneath the
horse's mane, and then would come the flash of a rifle shot.
Another bullet clipped his side, but only cut the skin.
Nevertheless, it stung, and while it stung the body it stung
Dick's wits also into keener action. He knew that the Sioux
warrior was steadily coming closer and closer in his deadly
circle, and in time one of his bullets must strike a vital spot,
despite the clouds and darkness.
Dick steadied himself, calming every nerve and muscle. Then he
lay down on his stomach on the plain, resting slightly on his
elbow, and took careful aim at the flying pony. He felt some
regret as he looked down the sights. This horse might be as
faithful and true as the one that had carried him to temporary
safety, but he must do the deed. He marked the brown patch of
hair that lay over the heart and pulled the trigger.
Dick's aim was true—the vapors and clouds had not disturbed
it—and when the rifle flashed, the pony bounded into the
and fell dead. But the agile Sioux leaped clear and darted away.
Dick marked his brown body, and then was his opportunity to send
a mortal bullet, but a feeling of which he was almost ashamed
held his hand. His foe was running, and he was no longer
hunted. The feeling lasted but a moment, and when it passed, the
Sioux was out of range. A moment later and his misty foe had
become a part of the solid darkness.
Dick stood upright once more. He had been the victor in a combat
that still had for him all the elements of the ghostly. He had
triumphed, but just in time. His nerves were relaxed and
unstrung, and his hands were damp. He carefully reloaded all the
empty chambers of his repeating rifle, and without looking at the
falling horse, which he felt had suffered for the wickedness of
another, strode away again over the plain, abandoning the rifle
of the fallen Sioux as a useless burden.
It took Dick sometime after his fight with the phantom horseman
to come back to real earth. Then he noticed that both the clouds
and the dampness had increased, and presently something cold and
wet settled upon his face. It was a flake of snow, and a troop
came at its heels, gentle but insistent, chilling his hands and
gradually whitening the earth, until it was a gleaming floor
under a pall of darkness.
Dick was in dismay. Here was a foe that he could not fight with
rifle balls. He knew that the heavy clouds would continue to
pour forth snow, and the day, which he thought was not far away,
would disclose as little as the night. The white pall would hide
the mountains as well as the black pall had done, and he might be
going farther and father from his valley.
He felt that he had been released from one danger and then
another, only to encounter a third. It seemed to him, in his
minute of despair, that Fate had resolved to defeat all his
efforts, but, the minute over, he renewed his courage and trudged
bravely on, he knew not whither. It was fortunate for him that
he wore a pair of the heavy shoes saved from the wagon, and put
on for just such a journey as this. The wet from the snow would
have soon soaked though his moccasins, but, as his thick deerskin
leggings fitted well over his shoes, he kept dry, and that was a
The snow came down without wind and fuss, but more heavily than
ever, persistent, unceasing, and sure of victory. It was not
particularly cold, and the walking kept up a warm and pleasant
circulation in Dick's veins. But he knew that he must not stop.
Whether he was going on in a straight line he had no way to
determine. He had often heard that men, lost on the plains, soon
begin to travel in a circle, and he watched awhile for his own
tracks; but if they were there, they were covered up by snow too
soon for him to see, and, after all, what did it matter?
He saw after a while a pallid yellowish light showing dimly
through the snow, and he knew that it was the sunrise. But it
illuminated nothing. The white gloom began to replace the black
one. It was soon full day, but the snow was so thick that he
could not see more than two or three hundred yards in any
direction. He longed now for shelter, some kind of hollow, or
perhaps a lone tree. The incessant fall of the snow upon his
head and its incessant clogging under his feet were tiring him,
but he only trod a plain, naked save for its blanket of snow.
Dick had been careful to keep his rifle dry, putting the barrel
of it under his long deerskin coat. Once as he shifted it, he
felt a lump over his chest, and for an instant or two did not
know what caused it. Then he remember the history and geography
of the United States. He laughed with grim humor.
"I am lost to history," he murmured, "and geography will not tell
me where I am."
He crossed a swell—he knew them now more by feeling than by
sight—and before beginning the slight assent of the next one he
stopped to eat. He had been enough of a frontiersman, before
starting upon such a trip, to store jerked buffalo in the skin
knapsack that he had saved for himself. The jerked meat offered
the largest possible amount of sustenance in the smallest
possible space, and Dick ate eagerly. Then he felt a great
renewal of courage and strength. He also drank of the snow
water, that is, he dissolved the snow in his mouth, but he did
not like it much.
He stood there for a while resting, and resolved only to walk
enough to keep himself warm. Certainly, nothing was to be gained
by exhausting himself and the snow which was now a foot deep
showed no signs of abating. The white gloom hung all about him
and he could not see the sky overhead.
Just as he took this resolution, Dick saw a shadow in the
circling white. The shadow was like that of a man, but before he
could see farther there was a little flash of red, a sharp,
stinging report, and a bullet clipped the skin of his cheek,
burning like fire. Dick was startled, and for full cause—but
he recognized the Sioux warrior who had fought him on horseback.
He had stared too long at that man and at a time too deadly not
to know that head and face and the set of his figure. He had
followed Dick through all the hours and falling snow, bent upon
taking his life. A second shot, quickly following the first,
showed that he meant to miss no chance.
The second bullet, like the first, just grazed Dick, and mild of
temper though he habitually was, he was instantly seized with the
fiercest rage. He could not understand such hatred, such
ferocity, such an eagerness to take human life. And this was the
man whom he had spared, whom he could easily have slain when he
was running! The Sioux was raising his rifle for a third bullet,
when Dick shot him through the chest. There was no doubt about
his aim now. It was not disturbed by the whitish mist and the
The Sioux fell full length, without noise and without struggle,
and his gun flew from his hand. His body lay half buried in the
snow, some of the long eagle feathers in his hair thrusting up
like the wing of a slain bird. Dick looked at him with
shuddering horror. All the anger was gone from him now, and it
is true that in his heart he felt pity for this man, who had
striven so hard and without cause to take his life. He would
have been glad to go away now, but forced himself to approach and
look down at the Indian.
The warrior lay partly on his side with one arm beneath his
body. The blood from the bullet hole in his chest dyed the snow,
and Dick believed that he had been killed instantly. But Dick
would not touch him. He could not bring himself to do that. Nor
would he take any of his arms. Instead, he turned away, after
the single look, and, bending his head a little to the snow,
walked rapidly toward the yellowish glare that told where the sun
was rising. He did not know just why he went in that direction,
but it seemed to him the proper thing to walk toward the morning.
Two hours, perhaps, passed and the fall of snow began to
lighten. The flakes still came down steadily, but not in such a
torrent. The area of vision widened. He saw dimly, as through a
mist, three or four hundred yards, perhaps, but beyond was only
the white blur, and there was nothing yet to tell him whether he
was going toward the mountains or away from them.
He rested and ate again. Then he recovered somewhat, mentally as
well as physically. Part of the horror of the Indian, his deadly
pursuit, and the deadly ending passed. He ached with weariness
and his nerves were quite unstrung, but the snow would cease, the
skies would clear, and then he could tell which way lay the
mountains and his brother.
He rested here longer than usual and studied the plain as far as
he could see it. He concluded that its character had changed
somewhat, that the swells were high than they had been, and he
was hopeful that he might find shelter soon, a deep gully,
perhaps, or a shallow prairie stream with sheltering cottonwoods
along its course.
Another hour passed, but he did not make much progress. The
snow was now up to his knees, and it became an effort to walk.
The area of vision had widened, but no mountains yet showed
through the white mist. He was becoming tired with a tiredness
that was scarcely to be born. If he stood still long enough to
rest he became cold, a deadly chill that he knew to be the
precursor of death's benumbing sleep would creep over him, and
then he would force himself to resume the monotonous, aching
Dick's strength waned. His eyesight, affected by the glare of
the snow, became short and unsteady, and he felt a dizziness of
the brain. Things seemed to dance about, but his will was so
strong that he could still reason clearly, and he knew that he
was in desperate case. It was his will that resisted the impulse
of his flesh to throw his rifle away as a useless burden, but he
laughed aloud when he thought of the map of the United States in
the inside pocket of his coat.
"They'll find me, if they ever find me, with that upon me," he
said aloud, "and they, too, will laugh."
He stumbled against something and doubled his fist angrily as if
he would strike a man who had maliciously got in his way. It was
the solid bark of a big cottonwood that had stopped him, and his
anger vanished in joy. Where one cottonwood was, others were
likely to be, and their presence betokened a stream, a valley,
and a shelter of some kind.
He was still dazed, suffering partially from snow blindness, but
now he saw a line of sturdy cottonwoods and beyond it another
line. The stream, he knew, flowed between. He went down the
line a few hundred yards and came, as he had hoped, into more
The creek ran between banks six or seven feet high, with a margin
between stream and bank, and the cottonwoods on these banks
were reinforced by some thick clumps of willows. Between the
largest clump and the line of cottonwoods, with the bank as a
shelter for the third side, was a comparatively clear space.
The snow was only a few inches deep there, and Dick believed
that he could make a shelter. He had, of course, brought his
blanket with him in a tight roll on his back, and he was hopeful
enough to have some thought of building a fire.
He stooped down to feel in the snow at a likely spot, and the act
saved his life. A bullet, intended for his head, was buried in
the snow beyond him, and a body falling down the bank lay quite
still at his feet. It was the long Sioux. Wounded mortally, he
had followed Dick, nevertheless, with mortal intent, crawling,
perhaps most of the time, and with his last breath he had fired
what he intended to be the fatal shot.
He was quite dead now, his power for evil gone forever. There
could be no doubt about it. Dick at length forced himself to
touch the face. It had grown cold and the pulse in the wrist was
still. It yet gave him a feeling of horror to touch the Sioux,
but his own struggle for life would be bitter and he could spare
nothing. The dead warrior wore a good blanket, which Dick now
took, together with his rifle and ammunition, but he left all the
rest. Then he dragged the warrior from the sheltered space to a
deep snow bank, where he sank him out of sight. He even took the
trouble to heap more snow upon him in the form of a burial, and
he felt a great relief when he could no longer see the savage
He went back to his sheltered space, and, upon the single
unprotected side threw up a high wall of snow, so high that it
would serve as a wind-break. Then he began to search for fallen
brushwood. Meanwhile, it was turning colder, and a bitter wind
began to moan across the plain.
The Fight with Nature
Dick realized suddenly that he was very cold. The terrible
pursuit was over, ending mortally for the pursuer, but he was
menaced by a new danger. Sheltered though his little valley was,
he could, nevertheless, freeze to death in it with great ease.
In fact, he had begun already to shiver, and he noticed that
while his feet were dry, the snow at last had soaked through his
deerskin leggings and he was wet from knee to ankle. The snow
had ceased, although a white mist hovered in a great circle and
the chill of the wind was increasing steadily. He must have a
fire or die.
He resumed his search, plunging into the snow banks under the
cottonwoods and other trees, and at last he brought out dead
boughs, which he broke into short pieces and piled in a heap in
the center of the open space. The wood was damp on the outside,
of course, but he expected nothing better and was not discouraged.
Selecting a large, well-seasoned piece, he carefully cut away all
the wet outside with his strong hunting knife. Then he whittled
off large quantities of dry shavings, put them under the heap of
boughs, and took from his inside a pocket a small package of
Dick struck one of the matches across the heel of his shoe. No
spark leaped up. Instead, his heart sank down, sank further,
perhaps, than it had ever done before in his life. The match was
wet. He took another from the pocket; it, too, was wet, and the
next and the next and all. The damp from the snow, melted by the
heat of his body, had penetrated his buckskin coat, although in
the excitement of pursuit and combat he had not noticed it.
Dick was in despair. He turned to the snow a face no less
white. Had he escaped all the dangers of the Sioux for this? To
freeze to death merely because he did not have a dry lucifer
match? The wind was still rising and it cut to his very marrow.
Reality and imagination were allied, and Dick was almost
overpowered. He angrily thrust the wet little package of matches
back into the inside pocket of his coat—his border training in
economy had become so strong that even in the moment of despair
he would throw away nothing—and his hand in the pocket came
into contact with something else, small, hard, and polished.
Dick instantly felt a violent revulsion from despair to hope.
The small object was a sunglass. That wagon train was well
equipped. Dick had made salvage of two sunglasses, and in a
moment of forethought had given one to Albert, keeping the other
for himself, each agreeing then and there to carry his always for
the moment of need that might come.
Dick drew out the sunglass and fingered it as one would a diamond
of great size. Then he looked up. A brilliant sun was shining
beyond white, misty clouds, but its rays came through them dim
and weak. The mists or, rather, cloudy vapor might lift or thin,
and in that chance lay the result of his fight for life. While
he waited a little, he stamped up and down violently, and threw
his arms about with energy. It did not have much effect. The
wet, cold, the raw kind that goes through, was in him and, despite
all the power of his will, he shivered almost continually. But he
persisted for a half hour and then became conscious of an increasing
brightness about him. The white mist was not gone, but it was
thinning greatly, and the rays of the sun fell on the snow brilliant
Dick took the dry stick again and scraped off particles of wood
so fine that they were almost a power. He did not stop until he
had a little heap more than an inch high. Meanwhile, the sun's
rays, pouring through the whitish mist, continued to grow fuller
Dick carefully polished the glass and held it at the right angle
between the touchwood, that is, the scrapings, and the sun. The
rays passing through the glass increased many times in power and
struck directly upon the touchwood. Dick crouched over the wood
in order to protect it from the wind, and watched, his breath
constricted, while his life waited on the chance.
A minute, two minutes, three minutes, five passed and then a
spark appeared in the touchwood, and following it came a tiny
flame. Dick shouted with joy and shifted his body a little to
put shavings on the touchwood. An ill wind struck the feeble
blaze, which was not yet strong enough to stand fanning into
greater life, and it went out, leaving a little black ash to mark
where the touchwood had been.
Dick's nerves were so much overwrought that he cried aloud again,
and now it was a cry of despair, not of joy. He looked at the
little black ash as if his last chance were gone, but his despair
did not last long. He seized the dry stick again and scraped off
another little pile of touchwood. Once more the sunglass and
once more the dreadful waiting, now longer than five minutes and
nearer ten, while Dick waited in terrible fear, lest the sun
itself should fail him, and go behind impenetrable clouds.
But the second spark came and after it, as before, followed the
little flame. No turning aside now to allow a cruel chance to an
ill wind. Instead, he bent down his body more closely than ever
to protect the vital blaze, and, reaching out one cautious arm,
fed it first with the smallest of the splinters, and then with
the larger in an ascending scale.
Up leaped the flames, red and strong. Dick's body could not
wholly protect them now, but they fought for themselves. When
the wind shrieked and whipped against them, they waved back
defiance, and the more the wind whipped them, the higher and
stronger they grew.
The victory was with the flames, and Dick fed them with wood,
almost with his body and soul, and all the time as the wind bent
them over they crackled and ate deeper and deeper into the wood.
He could put on damp wood now. The flames merely leaped out,
licked up the melted snow with a hiss and a sputter, and
developed the stick in a mass of glowing red.
Dick fed his fire a full half hour, hunting continually in the
snow under the trees for brushwood and finding much of it, enough
to start a second fire at the far end of the sheltered place,
with more left in reserve. He spent another half hour heaping up
the snow as a bulwark about his den, and then sat down between
the two fires to dry and warm, almost to roast himself.
It was the first time that Dick understood how much pleasure
could be drawn from a fire alone. What beautiful red and yellow
flames! What magnificent glowing coals! What a glorious thing
to be there, while the wind above was howling over the snowy and
forlorn plain! His clothes dried rapidly. He no longer
shivered. The grateful warmth penetrated every fiber of him and
it seemed strange now that he should have been in despair only an
hour ago. Life was a wonderful and brilliant thing. There was
no ache in his bones, and the first tingling of his hands, ears,
and nose he had relieved with the application of wet snow. Now
he felt only comfort.
After a while Dick ate again of his jerked buffalo meat, and with
the food, warmth, and rest, he began to feel sleepy. He plunged
into the snow, hunted out more wood to add to his reserve, and
then, with the two blankets, the Indian's and his own, wrapped
about him, sat down where the heat of the two fires could reach
him from either side, and with a heap of the wood as a rest for
Dick did not really intend to go to sleep, but he had been
through great labors and dangers and had been awake long. He
drew up one of the blankets until it covered all of his head and
most of his face, and began to gaze into the coals of the larger
fire. The wind—and it was now so cold that the surface of the
snow was freezing—still whistled over him, but the blanket
protected his head from its touch. The whistle instead increased
his comfort like the patter of rain on a roof to him who is dry
The fire had now burned down considerable and the beds of coals
were large and beautiful. They enveloped Dick in their warmth
and cheer and began to pain splendid words of hope for him. He
could read what they said in glowing letters, but the singular
feeling of peace and rest deepened all the while. He wondered
vaguely that one could be so happy.
The white snow became less white, the red fire less red, and a
great gray mist came floating down over Dick's eyes. Up rose a
shadowy world in which all things were vague and wavering. Then
the tired lids dropped down, the gray mist gave way to a soft
blackness, and Dick sank peacefully into the valley of sleep.
The boy slept heavily hour after hour, with his hooded head sunk
upon his knees, and his rifle lying across his lap, while over
him shrieked the coldest wind of the great northwestern plains.
The surface of the frozen ground presented a gleaming sheet like
ice, over which the wind acquired new strength and a sharper
edge, but the boy in his alcove remained safe and warm. Now and
then a drift of fine snowy particles that would have stung like
small shot was blown over the barrier, but they only stuck upon
the thick folds of the blankets and the boy slept on. The white
mist dissolved. The sun poured down beams brilliantly cold and
hard, and over them was the loom of the mountains, but the boy
knew nothing of them, nor cared.
The fires ceased to flame and became great masses of glowing
coals that would endure long. The alcove was filled with the
grateful warmth, and when the sun was in the zenith, Dick still
slept, drawing long, regular breaths from a deep strong chest.
The afternoon grew and waned, twilight came over the desolate
snow fields, the loom of the mountains was gone, and the twilight
gave way to an icy night.
When Dick awoke it was quite dark, save for the heaps of coals
which still glowed and threw out warmth. He felt at first a
little wonderment that he had slept so long, but he was not
alarmed. His forethought and energy had provided plenty of wood
and he threw on fresh billets. Once more the flames leaped up to
brighten and to cheer, and Dick, walking to the edge of his snow
bank, looked over. The wind had piled up the snow there
somewhat higher before the surface froze, and across the barrier
he gazed upon some such scene as one might behold near the North
Pole. He seemed to be looking over ice fields that stretched
away to infinity, and the wind certainly had a voice that was a
compound of chill and desolation.
It was so solemn and weird that Dick was glad to duck down again
into his den, and resume the seat where he had slept so long. He
ate a little and then tried to slumber again, but he had already
slept so much that he remained wide awake. He opened his eyes
and let them stay open, after several vain efforts.
The moonlight now came out with uncommon brilliancy and the
plain glittered. But it was the coldest moon that Dick had
ever seen. He began to feel desolate and lonely again, and,
since he could not sleep, he longed for something to do.
Then the knowledge came to him. He put on fresh wood, and
between firelight and moonlight he could see everything
Satisfied with his light, Dick took from his pocket the History
of the United States that was accompanying him so strangely in
his adventures, and began to study it. He looked once more at
the map of the Rocky Mountain territories, and judged that he was
in Southern Montana. Although his curiosity as to the exact spot
in which he lay haunted him, there was no way to tell, and
turning the leaves away from the map, he began to read.
It was chance, perhaps, that made him open at the story that
never grows old to American youth—Valley Forge. It was not a
great history, it had no brilliant and vivid style, but the
simple facts were enough for Dick. He read once more of the last
hope of the great man, never greater than then, praying in the
snow, and his own soul leaped at the sting of example. He was
only a boy, obscure, unknown, and the fate of but two rested with
him, yet he, too, would persevere, and in the end his triumph
also would be complete. He read no further, but closed the book
and returned it carefully to his pocket. Then he stared into the
fire, which he built up higher that the cheerful light might
shine before him.
Dick did not hide from himself even now the dangers of his
position. He was warm and sheltered for the present, he had
enough of the jerked buffalo to last several days, but sooner or
later he must leave his den and invade the snowy plain with its
top crust of ice. This snow might last two or three weeks or a
month. It was true that spring had come, but it was equally
true, as so often happens in the great Northwest, that spring had
refused to stay.
Dick tried now to see the mountains. The night was full of
brilliant moonlight, but the horizon was too limited; it ended
everywhere, a black wall against the snow, and still speculating
and pondering, Dick at last fell asleep again.
When the boy awoke it was another clear, cold day, with the wind
still blowing, and there in the northwest he joyously saw the
white line of the mountains. He believed that he could recognize
the shape of certain peaks and ridges, and he fixed on a spot in
the blue sky which he was sure overhung Castle Howard.
Dick saw now that he had been going away from the mountains. He
was certainly farther than he had been when he first met the
Sioux, and it was probable that he had been wandering then in an
irregular course, with its general drift toward the southwest.
The mountains in the thin, high air looked near, but his
experience of the West told him that they were far, forty miles
perhaps, and the tramp that lay before him was a mighty
undertaking. He prepared for it at once.
He cut a stout stick that would serve as a cane, looked carefully
to the security of his precious sun glass, and bidding his little
den, which already had begun to wear some of the aspects of a
home, a regretful farewell, started through the deep snow.
He had wrapped his head in the Indian's blanket, covering
everything but eyes, nose, and mouth, and he did not suffer
greatly from the bitter wind. But it was weary work breaking the
way through the snow, rendered all the more difficult by the icy
crust on top. The snow rose to his waist and he broke it at
first with his body, but by and by he used the stick, and thus he
plodded on, not making much more than a mile an hour.
Dick longed now for the shelter of the warm den. The cold wind,
despite the protection of the blanket, began to seek out the
crannies in it and sting his face. He knew that he was wet again
from ankle to knee, but he struggled resolutely on, alike for the
sake of keeping warm and for the sake of shortening the
distance. Yet there were other difficulties than those of the
snow. The ground became rough. Now and then he would go
suddenly through the treacherous snow into an old buffalo wallow
or a deep gully, and no agility could keep him from falling on
his face or side. This not only made him weary and sore, but it
was a great trial to his temper also, and the climax came when he
went through the snow into a prairie brook and came out with his
shoes full of water.
Dick shivered, stamped his feet violently, and went on painfully
breaking his way through the snow. He began to have that dull
stupor of mind and body again. He could see nothing on the
surface of the white plain save himself. The world was entirely
desolate. But if the Sioux were coming a second time he did not
care. He was amused at the thought of the Sioux coming. There
were hidden away somewhere in some snug valley, and were too
sensible to venture upon the plain.
Late in the afternoon the wind became so fierce, and Dick was so
tired, that he dug a hole in the deepest snow bank he could find,
wrapped the blankets tightly around him, and crouched there for
warmth and shelter. Then, when the muscles were at rest, he
began to feel the cold all through his wet feet and legs. He
took off his shoes and leggings inside the shelter of his
blankets, and chafed feet and legs with vigorous hands. This
restored warmth and circulation, but he was compelled after a
while to put on his wet garments again. He had gained a rest,
however, and as he did not fear the damp so much while he was
moving, he resumed the painful march.
The mountains seemed as far away as ever, but Dick knew that he
had come five or six miles. He could look back and see his own
path through the deep snow, winding and zigzagging toward the
northwest. It would wind and zigzag no matter how hard he tried
to go in a straight line, and finally he refused to look back any
more at the disclosure of his weakness.
He sought more trees before the sun went down, as his glass could
no longer be of use without them, but found none. There could be
no fire for him that night, and digging another deep hole in the
snow he slept the darkness through, nevertheless, warmly and
comfortably, like an Eskimo in his ice hut. He did not suffer as
much as he had thought he would from his wet shoes and leggings,
and in the night, wrapped within the blankets they dried on him.
Dick spent the second day in alternate tramps of an hour and
rests of half an hour. He was conscious that he was growing
weaker from this prodigious exertion, but he was not willing to
acknowledge it. In the afternoon he came upon a grove of
cottonwoods and some undergrowth and he tried to kindle a fire,
but the sun was not strong enough for his glass, and, after an
hour's wasted effort, he gave it up, discouraged greatly. Before
night the wind, which had been from the northwest, shifted to the
southwest and became much warmer. By and by it snowed again
heavily and Dick, who could no longer see his mountains, being
afraid that he would wander in the wrong direction, dug another
burrow and went to sleep.
He was awakened by the patter of something warm upon his face,
and found that the day and rain had come together. Dick once
more was struck to the heart with dismay. How could he stand
this and the snow together? The plain would now run rivers of
water and he must trudge through a terrible mire, worse even than
He imagined that he could see his mountains through the rain
sheets, and he resumed his march, making no effort now to keep
anything but his rifle and ammunition dry. He crossed more than
one brook, either permanent or made by the rain and melting snow,
and sloshed though the water, ankle deep, but paid no attention
to it. He walked with intervals of rest all through the day and
the night, and the warm rain never ceased. The snow melted at a
prodigious rate, and Dick thought several times in the night that
he heard the sound of plunging waters. These must be cataracts
from the snow and rain, and he was convinced that he was near the
The day came again, the rain ceased, the sun sprang out, the warm
winds blew, and there were the mountains. Perhaps the snow had
not been so heavy on them as on the plain, but most of it was
gone from the peaks and slopes and they stood up, sheltering and
beautiful, with a shade of green that the snow had not been able
to take away.
The sight put fresh courage in Dick's heart, but he was very
weak. He staggered as he plowed through the mixed snow and
mud, and plains and mountains alike were rocking about in a
most uncertain fashion.
In a ravine at the foot of the mountains he saw a herd of about
twenty buffaloes which had probably taken refuge there from the
snowstorm, but he did not molest them. Instead, he shook his
rifle at them and called out:
"I'm too glad to escape with my own life to take any of yours."
Dick's brain was in a feverish state and he was not wholly
responsible for what he said or did, but he began the ascent with
a fairly good supply of strength and toiled on all the day. He
never knew where he slept that night, but he thinks it was in a
clump of pines, and the next morning when he continued, he felt
that he had made a wonderful improvement. His feet were light
and so was his head, but he had never before seen slopes and
peaks and pines and ash doing a daylight dance. They whirled
about in the most eccentric manner, yet it was all exhilarating,
in thorough accord with his own spirits, and Dick laughed aloud
with glee. What a merry, funny world it was! Feet and head both
grew lighter. He shouted aloud and began to sing. Then he felt
so strong and exuberant that he ran down one of the slopes,
waving his cap. An elk sprang out of a pine thicket, stared a
moment or two with startled eyes at the boy, and then dashed away
over the mountain.
Dick continued to sing, and waved his fur cap at the fleeing
elk. It was the funniest thing he had ever seen in his life.
The whirling dance of mountain and forest became bewildering in
its speed and violence. He was unable to keep his feet, and
plunged forward into the arms of his brother, Albert. Then
everything sank away from him.
When Dick opened his eyes again he raised his hand once more to
wave it at the fleeing elk and then he stopped in astonishment.
The hand was singularly weak. He had made a great effort, but
it did not go up very far. Nor did his eyes, which had opened
slowly and heavily, see any elk. They saw instead rows and rows
of furs and then other rows hanging above one another. His eyes
traveled downward and they saw log walls almost covered with furs
and skins, but with rifles, axes, and other weapons and
implements on hooks between. A heavy oaken window shutter was
thrown back and a glorious golden sunlight poured into the room.
The sunlight happened to fall upon Dick's own hand, and that was
the next object at which he looked. His amazement increased.
Could such a thin white hand as that belong to him who had lately
owned such a big red one? He surveyed it critically, in
particular, the bones showing so prominently in the back of it,
and then he was interrupted by a full, cheerful voice which
"Enough of that stargazing and hand examination! Here, drink
this soup, and while you're doing it, I'll tell you how glad I am
to see you back in your right mind! I tell you you've been
whooping out some tall yarns about an Indian following you for a
year or two through snow a mile or so deep! How you fought him
for a month without stopping! And how you then waded for
another year through snow two or three times as deep as the
It was his brother Albert, and he lay on his own bed of furs and
skins in their own cabin, commonly called by them Castle Howard,
snugly situated in the lost or enchanted valley. And here was
Albert, healthy, strong, and dictatorial, while he, stretched
weakly upon a bed, held our a hand through which the sun could
almost shine. Truly, there had been great changes!
He raised his head as commanded by Albert—the thin, pallid,
drooping Albert of last summer, the lusty, red-faced Albert of
to-day—and drank the soup, which tasted very good indeed. He
felt stronger and held up the thin, white hand to see if it had
not grown fatter and redder in the last ten seconds. Albert
laughed, and it seemed to Dick such a full, loud laugh, as if it
were drawn up from a deep, iron-walled chest, inclosing lungs
made of leather, with an uncommon expansion. It jarred upon
Dick. It seemed too loud for so small a room.
"I see you enjoyed that soup, Dick, old fellow," continued Albert
in the same thundering tones. "Well, you ought to like it. It
was chicken soup, and it was made by an artist—myself. I shot
a fat and tender prairie hen down the valley, and here she is in
soup. It's only a step from grass to pot and I did it all
myself. Have another."
"Think I will," said Dick.
He drank a second tin plate of the soup, and he could feel life
and strength flowing into every vein.
"How did I get here, Al?" he asked.
"That's a pretty hard question to answer," replied Albert,
smiling and still filling the room with his big voice. "You were
partly brought, partly led, partly pushed, you partly walked,
partly jumped, and partly crawled, and there were even little
stretches of the march when you were carried on somebody's
shoulder, big and heavy as you are. Dick, I don't know any name
for such a mixed gait. Words fail me."
Dick smiled, too.
"Well, no matter how I got here, it's certain that I'm here," he
said, looking around contentedly.
"Absolutely sure, and it's equally as sure that you've been here
five days. I, the nurse, I, the doctor, and I, the spectator,
can vouch for that. There were times when I had to hold you in
your bed, there were times when you were so hot with fever that I
expected to see you burst into a mass of red and yellow flames,
and most all the while you talked with a vividness and
imagination that I've never known before outside of the Arabian
Nights. Dick, where did you get the idea about a Sioux Indian
following you all the way from the Atlantic to the Pacific, with
stops every half hour for you and him to fight?"
"It's true," said Dick, and then he told the eager boy the story of
his escape from the Sioux band, the terrible pursuit, the
storm, and his dreadful wandering.
"It was wonderful luck that I met you, Al, old fellow," he said
"Not luck exactly," said Albert. "You were coming back to the
valley on our old trail, and, as I had grown very anxious about
you, I was out on the same path to see if I could see any sign of
you. It was natural that we should meet, but I think that, after
all, Dick, Providence had the biggest hand in it."
"No doubt," said Dick, and after a moment's pause he added, "Did
it snow much up here?"
"But lightly. The clouds seem to have avoided these mountains.
It was only from your delirium that I gathered the news of the
great storm on the plains. Now, I think you've talked enough for
an invalid. Drop you head back on that buffalo robe and go to
It seemed so amazing to Dick ever to receive orders from Albert
that he obeyed promptly, closed his eyes, and in five minutes was
in sound slumber.
Albert hovered about the room, until he saw that Dick was asleep
and breathing strongly and regularly. Then he put his hand on
Dick's brow, and when he felt the temperature his own eyes were
lighted up by a fine smile. That forehead, hot so long, was cool
now, and it would be only a matter of a few days until Dick was
his old, strong and buoyant self again. Albert never told his
brother how he had gone two days and nights without sleep,
watching every moment by the delirious bedside, how, taking the
chances, he had dosed him with quinine from their medical stores,
and how, later, he had cooked for him the tenderest and most
delicate food. Nor did he speak of those awful hours—so many
of them—when Dick's life might go at any time.
Albert knew now that the great crisis was over, and rejoicing, he
went forth from Castle Howard. It was his intention to kill
another prairie chicken and make more of the soup that Dick liked
so much. As he walked, his manner was expansive, indicating a
deep satisfaction. Dick had saved his life and he had saved
Dick's. But Dick was still an invalid and it was his duty,
meanwhile to carry on the business of the valley. He was sole
workman, watchman, and defender, and his spirit rose to meet the
responsibility. He would certainly look after his brother as
well as anyone could do it.
Albert whistled as he went along, and swung his gun in debonair
fashion. It would not take him, an expert borderer and woodsman,
long to get that prairie chicken, and after that, as he had said
before, it was only a step from grass to pot.
It was perhaps the greatest hour of Albert Howard's life. He,
the helped, was now the helper; he, the defended, was now the
defender. His chest could scarcely contain the mighty surge of
exultation that heart and lungs together accomplished. He was
far from having any rejoicings over Dick's prostration; he
rejoiced instead that he was able, since the prostration had
come, to care for both. He had had the forethought and courage
to go forth and seek for Dick, and the strength to save him when
Albert broke into a rollicking whistle and he still swung his
shotgun somewhat carelessly for a hunter and marksman. He
passed by one of the geysers just as it was sending up its
high column of hot water and its high column of steam. "That's
the way I feel, old fellow," he said. "I could erupt with just
as much force."
He resumed his caution farther on and shot two fine, fat prairie
hens, returning with them to Castle Howard before Dick awoke.
When Dick did awake, the second installment of the soup was ready
for him and he ate it hungrily. He was naturally so strong and
vigorous and had lived such a wholesome life that he recovered,
now that the crisis was past, with astonishing rapidity. But
Albert played the benevolent tyrant for a few days yet, insisting
that Dick should sleep a great number of hours out of every
twenty-four, and making him eat four times a day of the tenderest
and most succulent things. He allowed him to walk but a little
at first, and, though the walks were extended from day to day,
made him keep inside when the weather was bad.
Dick took it all, this alternate spoiling and overlordship, with
amazing mildness. He had some dim perception of the true state
of affairs, and was willing that his brother should enjoy his
triumph to the full. But in a week he was entirely well again,
thin and pale yet, but with a pulsing tide in his veins as strong
as ever. Then he and Albert took counsel with each other. All
trace of snow was gone, even far up on the highest slope, and the
valley was a wonderful symphony in green and gold, gold on the
lake and green on the new grass and the new leaves of the trees.
"It's quite settled," said Albert, "that we're to stay another
year in the valley."
"Oh, yes," said Dick, "we had already resolved on that, and my
excursion on the plains shows that we were wise in doing so. But
you know, Al, we can't do fur hunting in the spring and summer.
Furs are not in good condition now."
"No," said Albert, "but we can get ready for the fall and winter,
and I propose that we undertake right away a birchbark canoe.
The dugout is a little bit heavy and awkward, hard to control in
a high wind, and we'll really need the birch bark."
"Good enough," said Dick. "We'll do it."
With the habits of promptness and precision they had learned from
old Mother Necessity, they went to work at once, planning and
toiling on equal terms, a full half-and-half partnership. Both
were in great spirits.
In this task they fell back partly on talk that they had heard
from some of the men with whom they had started across the
plains, and partly on old reading, and it took quite a lot of
time. They looked first for large specimens of the white birch,
and finally found several on one of the lower slopes. This was
the first and, in fact, the absolutely vital requisite. Without
it they could do nothing, but, having located their bark supply,
they left the trees and began at the lake edge the upper
framework of their canoe, consisting of four strips of cedar, two
for either side of the boat, every one of the four having a
length of about fifteen feet. These strips had a width of about
an inch, with a thickness a third as great.
The strips were tied together in pairs at the ends, and the two
pairs were joined together at the same place after the general
fashion in use for the construction of such canoes.
The frame being ready, they went to their white birch trees for
the bark. They marked off the utmost possible length on the
largest and finest tree, made a straight cut through the bark at
either end, and triumphantly peeled off a splendid piece, large
enough for the entire canoe. Then they laid it on the ground in
a nice smooth place and marked off a distance two feet less than
their framework or gunwales. They drove into the ground at each
end of this space two tall stakes, three inches apart. The bark
was then laid upon the ground inside up and folded evenly
throughout its entire length. After that it was lifted and set
between the stakes with the edges up. The foot of bark
projecting beyond each stake was covered in each case with
another piece of bark folded firmly over it and sewed to the
sides by means of an awl and deer tendon.
This sewing done, they put a large stone under each end of the
bark construction, causing it to sag from the middle in either
direction into the curve suitable for a canoe. The gunwale which
they had constructed previously was now fitted into the bark, and
the bark was stitched tightly to it, both at top and bottom, with
a further use of awl and tendon, the winding stitch being used.
They now had the outside of the canoe, but they had drawn many a
long breath and perspired many a big drop before it was done.
They felt, however, that the most serious part of the task was
over, and after a short rest they began on the inside, which they
lined with long strips of cedar running the full length of the
boat. The pieces were about an inch and a half in width and
about a third of an inch in thickness and were fitted very
closely together. Over these they put the ribs of touch ash,
which was very abundant in the valley and on the slopes. Strips
two inches wide and a half inch thick were bent crosswise across
the interior of the curve, close together, and were firmly
fastened under the gunwales with a loop stitch of the strong
tendon through the bark.
To make their canoe firm and steady, they securely lashed three
string pieces across it and then smeared deeply all the seams
with pitch, which they were fortunate enough to secure from one
of the many strange springs and exudations in the valley. They
now had a strong, light canoe, fifteen feet long and a little
over two feet wide at the center. They had been compelled to
exercise great patience and endurance in this task, particularly
in the work with the awl and tendons. Skillful as they had
become with their hands, they acquired several sore fingers in
the task, but their pride was great when it was done. They
launched the canoe, tried it several times near the shore in
order to detect invisible seams, and then, when all such were
stopped up tightly with pitch, they paddled boldly out into deep
and far waters.
The practice they had acquired already with the dugout helped
them greatly with the birch bark, and after one or two duckings
they handled it with great ease. As amateurs sometimes do, they
had achieved either by plan or accident a perfect design and
found that they had a splendid canoe. This was demonstrated when
the two boys rowed a race, after Dick had recovered his full
strength—Dick in the dugout and Albert in the birch bark. The
race was the full length of the lake, and the younger and smaller
boy won an easy triumph.
"Well paddled, Al!" said Dick.
"It wasn't the paddling, Dick," replied Albert, "it was light
bark against heavy wood that did it."
They were very proud of their two canoes and made a little
landing for them in a convenient cove. Here, tied to trees with
skin lariats, they were safe from wind and wave.
An evening or two after the landing was made secure, Dick, who
had been out alone, came home in the dark and found Albert
reading a book by the firelight.
"What's this?" he exclaimed.
"I took it out of the inside pocket of your coat, when I help you
here in the snow," replied Albert. "I put it on a shelf and in
the strain of your illness forgot all about it until to-day."
"That's my History and Map of the United States," said Dick,
smiling. "I took it from the wagon which yielded up so much to
us. It wouldn't tell me where I was in the storm; but, do you
know, Al, it helped me when I read in there about that greatest
of all men praying in the snow."
"I know who it is whom you mean," said Albert earnestly, "and I
intend to read about him and all the others. It's likely, Dick,
before another year is past, that you and I will become about the
finest historians of our country to be found anywhere between the
Atlantic and Pacific. Maybe this is the greatest treasure of all
that the wagon has yielded up to us."
Albert was right. A single volume, where no other could be
obtained, was a precious treasure to them, and it made many an
evening pass pleasantly that would otherwise have been dull.
They liked especially to linger over the hardships of the
borderers and of their countrymen in war, because they found so
many parallels to their own case, and the reading always brought
them new courage and energy.
They spent the next month after the completion of the canoe in
making all kinds of traps, including some huge dead falls for
grizzly bear and silver tip.
They intended as soon as the autumn opened to begin their fur
operations on a much larger scale than those of the year before.
Numerous excursions into the surrounding mountains showed
abundant signs of game and no signs of an invader, and they
calculated that if all went well they would have stored safely by
next spring at least twenty thousand dollars' worth of furs.
The summer passed pleasantly for both, being filled with work in
which they took a great interest, and hence a great pleasure.
They found another rock cavity, which they fitted up like the
first in anticipation of an auspicious trapping season.
"They say, 'don't put all your eggs in one basket,'" said
Albert, "and so we won't put all our furs in one cave. The Sioux
may come sometime or other, and even if they should get our three
residences, Castle Howard, the Annex, and the Suburban Villa, and
all that is in them, they are pretty sure to miss our caves and
"Of course some Indians must know of this valley," said Dick,
"and most likely it's the Sioux. Perhaps none ever wander in
here now, because they're at war with our people and are using
all their forces on the plains."
Albert thought it likely, and both Dick and he had moments when
they wondered greatly what was occurring in the world without.
But, on the whole, they were not troubled much by the affairs of
the rest of the universe.
Traps, house building, and curing food occupied them throughout
the summer. Once the days were very hot in the valley, which
served as a focus for the rays of the sun, but it was invariably
cool, often cold, at night. They slept usually under a tent, or
sometimes, on their longer expeditions in that direction, at the
bark hut. Dick made a point of this, as he resolved that Albert
should have no relapse. He could not see any danger of such a
catastrophe, but he felt that another year of absolutely fresh
and pure mountain air, breathed both night and day, would put his
brother beyond all possible danger.
The life that both led even in the summer was thoroughly
hardening. They bathed every morning, if in the tent by Castle
Howard, in the torrent, the waters of which were always icy,
flowing as they did from melting snows on the highest peaks.
They swam often in the lake, which was also cold always, and at
one of the hot springs they hollowed out a pool, where they could
take a hot bath whenever they needed it.
The game increased in the valley as usual toward autumn, and they
replenished their stores of jerked meat. They had spared their
ammunition entirely throughout the summer and now they used it
only on buffalo, elk, and mule deer. They were fortunate enough
to catch several big bears in their huge dead falls, and, with
very little expenditure of cartridges, they felt that they could
open their second winter as well equipped with food as they had
been when they began the first. They also put a new bark
thatching on the roof of Castle Howard, and then felt ready for
anything that might come.
"Rain, hail, sleet, snow, and ice, it's all the same to us," said
They did not resume their trapping until October came, as they
knew that the furs would not be in good condition until then.
They merely made a good guess that it was October. They had
long since lost all count of days and months, and took their
reckoning from the change of the foliage into beautiful reds
and yellows and the increasing coldness of the air.
It proved to be a cold but not rainy autumn, a circumstance that
favored greatly their trapping operations. They had learned much
in the preceding winter from observation and experience, and now
they put it to practice. They knew many of the runways or paths
frequented by the animals, and now they would place their traps
in these, concealing them as carefully as possible, and, acting
on an idea of Albert's, they made buckskin gloves for themselves,
with which they handled the traps, in order to leave, if
possible, no human odor to warn the wary game. Such devices as
this and the more skillful making of their traps caused the
second season to be a greater success than the first, good as the
latter had been. They shot an additional number of buffaloes and
elk, but what they sought in particular was the beaver, and they
were lucky enough to find two or three new and secluded little
streams, on which he had built his dams.
The valuable furs now accumulated rapidly, and it was wise
forethought that had made them fit up the second cave or hollow.
They were glad to have two places for them, in case one was
discovered by an enemy stronger than themselves.
Autumn turned into winter, with snow, slush, and ice-cold rain.
The preceding winter had been mild, but this bade fair to break
some records for severe and variegated weather. Now came the
true test for Albert. To trudge all day long in snow, icy rain
or deep slush, to paddle across the lake in a nipping wind, with
the chilly spray all over him, to go for hours soaking wet on
every inch of his skin—these were the things that would have
surely tried the dwellers in the houses of men, even those with
Albert coughed a little after his first big soaking, but after a
hot bath, a big supper, and a long night's sleep, it left, not to
return. He became so thoroughly inured now to exposure that
nothing seemed to affect him. Late in December—so they
reckoned the time—when, going farther than usual into a long
crevice of the mountains, they were overtaken by a heavy
snowstorm. They might have reached the Suburban Villa by night,
or they might not, but in any event the going would have been
full of danger, and they decided to camp in the broadest part of
the canyon in which they now were, not far from the little brook
that flowed down it.
They had matches with them—they were always careful to keep
them dry now—and after securing their dry shavings they lighted
a good fire. Then they are their food, and looked up without
fear at the dark mountains and the thick, driving snow. They
were partially sheltered by the bank and some great ash trees,
and, for further protection, they wrapped about themselves the
blankets, without which they never went on any long journey.
Having each other for company, the adventure was like a picnic to
both. It was no such desperate affair as that of Dick's when he
was alone on the plain. They further increased their shelter
from the snow by an artful contrivance of brush and fallen
boughs, and although enough still fell upon them to make
miserable the house-bred, they did not care. Both fell asleep
after a while, with flurries of snow still striking upon their
faces, and were awakened far in the night by the roar of an
avalanche farther up the canyon; but they soon went to sleep
again and arose the next day with injury.
Thus the winter passed, one of storm and cold, but the trapping
was wonderful, and each boy grew in a remarkable manner in
strength, endurance, and skill. When signs of spring appeared
again, they decided that it was time for them to go. Had it not
been for Dick's misadventure on the plain, and their belief that
a great war was now in progress between the Sioux and the white
people, one might have gone out to return with horses and mules
for furs, while the other remained behind to guard them. But in
view of all the dangers, they resolved to keep together. The
furs would be secreted and the rest of their property must take
So they made ready.
It gave both Dick and Albert a severe wrench to leave their
beautiful valley. They had lived in it now nearly two years, and
it had brought strength and abounding life to Albert, infinite
variety, content, and gratitude to Dick, and what seemed a
fortune—their furs—to both. It was a beautiful valley, in
which Nature had done for them many strange and wonderful things,
and they loved it, the splendid lake, the grassy levels, the
rushing streams, the noble groves, and the great mountains all
"I'd like to live here, Dick," said Albert, "for some years,
anyway. After we take out our furs and sell 'em, we can come
back and use it as a base for more trapping."
"If the Indians will let up," said Dick.
"Do you think we'll meet 'em?"
"I don't know, but I believe the plains are alive with hostile
But Albert could not foresee any trouble. He was too young, to
sanguine, too full now of the joy of life to think of difficulties.
They chose their weapons for the march with great care, each
taking a repeating rifle, a revolver, a hunting knife, and a
hatchet, the latter chiefly for camping purposes. They also
divided equally among themselves what was left of the ball
cartridges, and each took his sunglass and half of the remaining
matches. The extra weapons, including the shotguns and shot
cartridges, they hid with their furs. They also put in the caves
many more of their most valuable possessions, especially the
tools and remnants of medical supplies. They left everything
else in the houses, just as they were when they were using them,
except the bark hut, from which they took away all furnishings,
as it was too light to resist the invasion of a large wild beast
like a grizzly bear. But they fastened up Castle Howard and the
Annex so securely that no wandering beast could possibly break
in. They sunk their canoes in shallow water among reeds, and
then, when each had provided himself with a large supply of
jerked buffalo and deer meat and a skin water bag, they were
ready to depart.
"We may find our houses and what is in them all right when we
come back, or we may not," said Dick.
"But we take the chance," said Albert cheerfully.
Early on a spring morning they started down the valley by the
same way in which they had first entered it. They walked along
in silence for some minutes, and then, as if by the same impulse,
the two turned and looked back. There was their house, which had
sheltered them so snugly and so safely for so long, almost hidden
now in the foliage of the new spring. There was a bit of
moisture in the eyes of Albert, the younger and more sentimental.
"Good-by," he said, waving his hand. "I've found life here."
Dick said nothing, and they turned into the main valley. They
walked with long and springy steps, left the valley behind them,
and began to climb the slopes. Presently the valley itself
became invisible, the mountains seeming to close in and blot it
"A stranger would have to blunder on it to find it," said Dick.
"I hope no one will make any such blunder," said Albert.
The passage over the mountains was easy, the weather continuing
favorable, and on another sunshiny morning they reached the
plains, which flowed out boundlessly before them. These, too,
were touched with green, but the boys were perplexed. The space
was so vast, and it was all so much alike, that it did not look
as if they could ever arrive anywhere.
"I think we'd better make for Cheyenne in Wyoming Territory,"
"But we don't know how far away it is, nor in what direction,"
"No; but if we keep on going we're bound to get somewhere. We've
got lots of time before us, and we'll take it easy."
They had filled their skin water bags, made in the winter, at the
last spring, and they set out at a moderate pace over the plain.
Dick had thought once of visiting again the scene of the train's
destruction in the pass, but Albert opposed it.
"No," he said, "I don't want to see that place."
This journey, they knew not whither, continued easy and pleasant
throughout the day. The grass was growing fast on the plains,
and all the little steams that wound now and then between the
swells were full of water, and, although they still carried the
filled water bags, Dick inferred that they were not likely to
suffer from thirst. Late in the afternoon they saw a small herd
of antelope and a lone buffalo grazing at a considerable
distance, and Dick drew the second and comforting inference that
game would prove to be abundant. He was so pleased with these
inferences that he stated them to Albert, who promptly drew a
"Wouldn't the presence of buffalo and antelope indicate that
there are not many Indians hereabouts?" he asked.
"It looks likely," replied Dick.
They continued southward until twilight came, when they built in
a hollow a fire of buffalo chips, which were abundant all over
the plain, and watched their friendly mountains sink away in the
"Gives me a sort of homesick feeling," said Albert. "They've
been good mountains to us. Shelter and home are there, but out
here I feel as if I were stripped to the wind."
"That describes it," said Dick.
They did not keep any watch, but put out their fire and slept
snugly in their blankets. They were awakened in the morning by
the whine of a coyote that did not dare to come too near, and
resumed their leisurely march, to continue in this manner for
several days, meeting no human being either white or red.
They saw the mountains sink behind the sky line and then they
felt entirely without a rudder. There was nothing to go by now
except the sun, but they kept to their southern course. They
were not greatly troubled. They found plenty of game, as Dick
had surmised, and killed an antelope and a fat young buffalo cow.
"We may travel a long journey, Al," said Dick with some
satisfaction, "but it's not hard on us. It's more like loafing
along on an easy holiday."
On the fifth day they ran into a large buffalo herd, but did not
molest any of its members, as they did not need fresh meat.
"Seems to me," said Dick, "that Sioux would be after this herd if
they weren't busy elsewhere. It looks like more proof that the
Sioux are on the warpath and are to the eastward of us, fighting
our own people."
"The Sioux are a great and warlike tribe, are they not?" asked
"The greatest and most warlike west of the Mississippi," replied
Dick. "I understand that they are really a group of closely
related tribes and can put thousands of warriors in the field."
"Bright Sun, I suppose, is with them?"
"Yes, I suppose so. He is an Indian, a Sioux, no matter if he
was at white schools and for years with white people. He must
feel for his own, just as you and I, Al, feel for our own race."
They wandered three or four more days across the plains, and were
still without sign of white man or red. They experienced no
hardship. Water was plentiful. Game was to be had for the
stalking and life, had they been hunting or exploring, would have
been pleasant; but both felt a sense of disappointment—they
never came to anything. The expanse of plains was boundless, the
loneliness became overpowering. They had not the remotest idea
whether they were traveling toward any white settlement. Human
life seemed to shun them.
"Dick," said Albert one day, "do you remember the story of the
Flying Dutchman, how he kept trying for years to round the Cape
of Storms, and couldn't do it? I wonder if some such penalty is
put on us, and if so, what for?"
The thought lodged in the minds of both. Oppressed by long and
fruitless wanderings, they began to have a superstition that they
were to continue them forever. They knew that it was unreasonable,
but it clung, nevertheless. There were the rolling plains, the
high, brassy sky, and the clear line of the horizon on all sides,
with nothing that savored of human life between.
They had hoped for an emigrant train, or a wandering band of
hunters, or possibly a troop of cavalry, but days passed and they
met none. Still the same high, brassy sky, still the same
unbroken horizons. The plains increased in beauty. There was a
fine, delicate shade of green on the buffalo grass, and wonderful
little flowers peeped shy heads just above the earth, but Dick
and Albert took little notice of either. They had sunk into an
uncommon depression. The terrible superstition that they were to
wander forever was strengthening its hold upon them, despite
every effort of will and reason. In the hope of better success
they changed their course two or three times, continuing in each
case several days in that direction before the next change was
"We've traveled around so much now," said Albert despondently,
"that we couldn't go back to our mountains if we wanted to do
it. We don't know any longer in what direction they lie."
"That's so," said Dick, with equal despondency showing in his
His comment was brief, because they talked but little now, and
every day were talking less. Their spirits were affected too
much to permit any excess of words. But they came finally to
rougher, much more broken country, and they saw a line of trees
on the crest of hills just under the sunset horizon. The sight,
the break in the monotony, the cheerful trees made them lift up
their drooping heads.
"Well, at any rate, here's something new," said Dick. "Let's
consider it an omen of good luck, Al."
They reached the slope, a long one, with many depressions and
hollows, containing thick groves of large trees, the heights
beyond being crowned with trees of much taller growth. They
would have gone to the summit, but they were tired with a long
day's tramp and they had not yet fully aroused themselves from
the lethargy that had overtaken them in their weary wanderings.
"Night's coming," said Albert, "so let's take to that hollow over
there with the scrub ash in it."
"All right," said Dick. "Suits me."
It was a cozy little hollow, deeply shaded by the ash trees, but
too rocky to be damp, and they did not take the trouble to light
a fire. They had been living for some time on fresh buffalo and
antelope, and had saved their jerked meat, on which they now drew
It was now quite dark, and each, throwing his blanket lightly
around his shoulders, propped himself in a comfortable position.
Then, for the first time in days, they began to talk in the easy,
idle fashion of those who feel some degree of contentment, a
change made merely by the difference in scene, the presence of
hills, trees, and rocks after the monotonous world of the plains.
"We'll explore that country to-morrow," said Dick, nodding his
head toward the crest of the hills. "Must be something over
there, a river, a lake, and maybe trappers."
"Hope it won't make me homesick again for our valley," said
Albert sleepily. "I've been thinking too much of it, anyway, in
the last few days. Dick, wasn't that the most beautiful lake of
ours that you ever saw? Did you ever see another house as snug
as Castle Howard? And how about the Annex and the Suburban
Villa? And all those beautiful streams that came jumping down
between the mountains?"
"If you don't shut up, Al," said Dick, "I'll thrash you with this
good handy stick that I've found here."
"All right," replied Albert, laughing; "I didn't mean to harrow
up your feelings any more than I did my own."
Albert was tired, and the measure of content that he now felt was
soothing. Hence, his drowsiness increased, and in ten minutes he
went comfortably to sleep. Dick's eyes were yet open, and he
felt within himself such new supplies of energy and strength that
he resolved to explore a little. The task that had seemed so
hard two or three hours before was quite easy now. Albert would
remain sleeping safely where he was, and, acting promptly, Dick
left the hollow, rifle on shoulder.
It was an easy slope, but a long one. As he ascended, the trees
grew more thickly and near the ascent were comparatively free
from undergrowth. Just over the hill shone a magnificent full
moon, touching the crest with a line of molten silver.
Dick soon reached the summit and looked down the far slope into a
valley three or four hundred yards deep. The moon shed its full
glory into the valley and filled it with rays of light.
The valley was at least two miles wide, and down its center
flowed a fine young river, which Dick could see here and there in
stretches, while the rest was hidden by forest. In fact, the
whole valley seemed to be well clothed with mountain forest,
except in one wide space where Dick's gaze remained after it had
Here was human life, and plenty of it. He looked down upon a
circle of at least two hundred lodges, tent-shaped structures of
saplings covered with bark, and he had heard quite enough about
such things to know these were the winter homes of the Sioux.
The moonlight was so clear and his position so good that he was
able to see figures moving about the lodges.
The sight thrilled Dick. Here he had truly come upon human life,
but not the kind he wished to see. But it was vastly interesting,
and he sought a closer look. His daring told him to go down the
slope toward them, and he obeyed. The descent was not difficult,
and there was cover in abundance—pines, ash, and oak.
As he was very careful, taking time not to break a twig or set a
stone rolling, and stopping at intervals to look and listen, he
was a half hour in reaching the valley, where, through the trees,
he saw the Indian village. He felt that he was rash, but wishing
to see, he crept closer, the cover still holding good. He was,
in a way, fascinated by what he saw. It had the quality of a
dream, and its very unreality made him think less of the danger.
But he really did not know how expert he had become as a
woodsman and trailer through his long training as a trapper,
where delicacy of movement and craft were required.
He believed that the Indians, in such a secure location, would
not be stirring beyond the village at this late hour, and he had
little fear of anything except the sharp-nosed dogs that are
always prowling about an Indian village. He was within three
hundred yards of the lodges when he heard the faint sound of
voices and footsteps. He instantly lay down among the bushes,
but raised himself a little on his elbow in order to see.
Three Indians were walking slowly along a woodland path toward
the village, and the presence of the path indicated the village
had been here for many months, perhaps was permanent. The
Indians were talking very earnestly and they made gestures. One
raised his voice a little and turned toward one of his
companions, as if he would emphasize his words. Then Dick saw
his face clearly, and drew a long breath of surprise.
It was Bright Sun, but a Bright Sun greatly changed. He was
wholly in native attire—moccasins, leggings, and a beautiful
blue blanket draped about his shoulders. A row of eagle feathers
adorned his long black hair, but it was the look and manner of
the man that had so much significance. He towered above the
other Indians, who were men of no mean height; but it was not his
height either, it was his face, the fire of his eyes, the proud
eagle beak which the Sioux had not less than the Roman, and the
swift glance of command that could not be denied. Here was a
great chief, a leader of men, and Dick was ready to admit it.
He could easily have shot Bright Sun dead as he passed, but he
did not dream of doing such a thing. Yet Bright Sun, while
seeming to play the part of a friend, had deliberately led the
wagon train into a fatal ambush—of that Dick had no doubt. He
felt, moreover, that Bright Sun was destined to cause great woe
to the white people, his own people, but he could not fire; nor
would he have fired even if the deed had been without danger to
Dick, instead, gave Bright Sun a reluctant admiration. He looked
well enough as the guide in white men's clothes, but in his own
native dress he looked like one to be served, not to serve. The
three paused for a full two minutes exactly opposite Dick, and he
could have reached out and touched them with the barrel of his
rifle; but they were thinking little of the presence of an enemy.
Dick judged by the emphasis of their talk that it was on a matter
of some great moment, and he saw all three of them point at times
toward the east.
"It's surely war," he thought, "and our army if somewhere off
there in the east."
Dick saw that Bright Sun remained the dominating figure
throughout the discussion. Its whole effect was that of Bright
Sun talking and the others listening. He seemed to communicate
his fire and enthusiasm to his comrades, and soon they nodded a
vigorous assent. Then the three walked silently away toward the
Dick rose from his covert, cast a single glance at the direction
in which the three chiefs had disappeared, and then began to
retrace his own steps. It was his purpose to arouse Albert and
flee at once to a less dangerous region. But the fate of Dick
and his brother rested at that moment with a mean, mangy, mongrel
cur, such as have always been a part of Indian villages, a cur
that had wandered farther from the village than usual that night
upon some unknown errand.
Dick had gone about thirty yards when he became conscious of a
light, almost faint, pattering sound behind him. He stepped
swiftly into the heaviest shadow of trees and sought to see what
pursued. He thought at first it was some base-born wolf of the
humblest tribe, but, when he looked longer, he knew that it was
one of the meanest of mean curs, a hideous, little yellowish
animal, sneaking in his movements, a dog that one would gladly
kick out of his way.
Dick felt considerable contempt for himself because he had been
alarmed over such a miserable little beast, and resumed his swift
walk. Thirty yards farther he threw a glance over his shoulder,
and there was the wretched cur still following. Dick did not
like it, considering it an insult to himself to be trailed by
anything so ugly and insignificant. He picked up a stone, but
hesitated a moment, and then put it down again. If he threw the
stone the dog might bark or howl, and that was the last thing
that he wanted. Already the cur, mean and miserable as he
looked, had won a victory over him.
Dick turned into a course that he would not have taken otherwise,
thinking to shake off his pursuer, but at the next open space he
saw him still following, his malignant red eyes fixed upon the
boy. The cur would not have weighed twenty cowardly pounds, but
he became a horrible obsession to Dick. He picked up a stone
again, put it down again, and for a mad instant seriously
considered the question of shooting him.
The cur seemed to become alarmed at the second threat, and broke
suddenly into a sharp, snarling, yapping bark, much like that of
a coyote. It was terribly loud in the still night, and cold
dread assailed Dick in every nerve. He picked up the stone that
he had dropped, and this time he threw it.
"You brute!" he exclaimed, as the stone whizzed by the cur's ear.
The cur returned the compliment of names with compounded many
times over. His snarling bark became almost continuous, and
although he did not come any nearer, he showed sharp white teeth.
Dick paused in doubt, but when, from a point nearer the village,
he heard a bark in reply, then another, and then a dozen, he ran
with all speed up the slope. He knew without looking back that
the cur was following, and it made him feel cold again.
Certainly Dick had good cause to run. All the world was up and
listening now, and most of it was making a noise, too. He heard
a tumult of barking, growling, and snapping toward the village,
and then above it a long, mournful cry that ended in an ominous
note. Dick knew that it was a Sioux war whoop, and that the
mean, miserable little cur had done his work. The village would
be at his heels. Seized with an unreasoning passion, he whirled
about and shot the cur dead. It was a mad act, and he instantly
repented it. Never had there been another rifle shot so loud.
It crashed like the report of a cannon. Mountain and valley gave
it back in a multitude of echoes, and on the last dying echo
came, not a single war whoop, but the shout of many, the fierce,
insistent, falsetto yell that has sounded the doom of many a
Dick shuddered. He had been pursued once before by a single
man, but he was not afraid of a lone warrior. Now a score
would be at his heels. He might shake them off in the dark, but
the dogs would keep the scent, and his chief object was to go fast.
He ran up the slope at his utmost speed for a hundred yards or
more, and then remembering in time to nurse his strength, he
slackened his footsteps.
He had thought of turning the pursuit away from the hollow in
which Albert lay, but now that the alarm was out they would find
him, anyway, and it was best for the two to stand or fall
together. Hence, he went straight for the hollow.
It was bitter work running up a slope, but his two years of life
in the open were a great help to him now. The strong heart and
the powerful lungs responded nobly to the call. He ran lightly,
holding his rifle in the hollow of his arm, ready for use if need
be, and he watch warily lest he make an incautious footstep and
fall. The moonlight was still full and clear, but when he took
an occasional hurried glance backward he could not yet see his
pursuers. He heard, now and then, however, the barking of a dog
or the cry of a warrior.
Dick reached the crest of the hill, and there for an instant or
two his figure stood, under the pines, a black silhouette against
the moonlight. Four or five shots were fired at the living
target. One bullet whizzed so near that it seemed to Dick to
scorch his face.
He had gathered fresh strength, and that hot bullet gave a new
impetus also. He ran down the slope at a great speed now, and he
had calculated craftily. He could descend nearly twice as fast
as they could ascend, and while they were reaching the crest he
would put a wide gap between them.
He kept well in the shadow now as he made with long leaps
straight toward the hollow, and he hoped with every heart beat
that Albert, aroused by the shots, would be awake and ready.
"Albert!" he cried, when he was within twenty feet of their camp,
and his hope was rewarded. Albert was up, rifle in hand, crying:
"What is it, Dick?"
"The Sioux!" exclaimed Dick. "They're not far away! You heard
the shots! Come!"
He turned off at an angle and ran in a parallel line along the
slope, Albert by his side. He wished to keep to the forests and
thickets, knowing they would have little chance of escape on the
plain. As they ran he told Albert, in short, choppy sentences,
what had happened.
"I don't hear anything," said Albert, after ten minutes. "Maybe
they've lost us."
"No such good luck! Those curs of theirs would lead them. No,
Al, we've got to keep straight on as long as we can!"
Albert stumbled on a rock, but, quickly recovering himself, put
greater speed in every jump, when he heard the Indian shout
"We've got to shoot their dogs," said Dick. "We'll have no other
chance to shake them off."
"If we get a chance," replied Albert.
But they did not see any chance just yet. They heard the
occasional howl of a cur, but both curs and Indians remained
invisible. Yet Dick felt that the pursuers were gaining. They
were numerous, and they could spread. Every time he and Albert
diverged from a straight line—and they could not help doing so
now and then—some portion of the pursuing body came nearer. It
was the advantage that the many had over the few.
Dick prayed for darkness, a shading of the moon, but it did not
come, and five minutes later he saw the yellow form of a cur
emerge into an open space. He took a shot at it and heard a
howl. He did not know whether he had killed the dog or not, but
he hoped he had succeeded. The shot brought forth a cry to their
right, and then another to the left. It was obvious that the
Sioux, besides being behind them, were also on either side of
them. They were gasping, too, from their long run, and knew that
they could not continue much farther.
"We can't shake them off, Al," said Dick, "and we'll have to
fight. This is as good a place as any other."
They dropped down into a rocky hollow, a depression not more
than a foot deep, and lay on their faces, gasping for breath.
Despite the deadly danger Dick felt a certain relief that he
did not have to run any more—there comes a time when a
moment's physical rest will overweigh any amount of mortal
"If they've surrounded us, they're very quiet about it," said
Albert, when the fresh air had flowed back into his lungs. "I
don't see or hear anything at all."
"At least we don't hear those confounded dogs any more," said
Dick. "Maybe there was only one pursuing us, and that shot of
mine got him. The howls of the cur upset my nerves more than the
shouts of the Sioux."
"Maybe so," said Albert.
Then they were both quite still. The moonlight was silvery
clear, and they could see pines, oaks, and cedars waving in a
gentle wind, but they saw nothing else. Yet Dick was well aware
that the Sioux had not abandoned the chase; they knew well where
the boys lay, and were all about them in the woods.
"Keep close, Albert," he said. "Indians are sly, and the Sioux
are the slyest of them all. They're only waiting until one of us
pops up his head, thinking they're gone."
Albert took Dick's advice, but so long a time passed without sign
from the Sioux that he began to believe that, in some mysterious
manner, they had evaded the savages. The belief had grown almost
into a certainty, when there was a flash and a report from a
point higher up the slope. Albert felt something hot and
stinging in his face. But it was only a tiny fragment of rock
chipped off by the bullet as it passed.
Both Dick and Albert lay closer, as if they would press
themselves into the earth, and soon two or three more shots were
fired. All came from points higher up the slope, and none hit a
living target, though they struck unpleasantly close.
"I wish I could see something," exclaimed Albert impatiently.
"It's not pleasant to be shot at and to get no shot in return."
Dick did not answer. He was watching a point among some scrub
pines higher up the slope, where the boughs seemed to him to be
waving too much for the slight wind. Looking intently, he
thought he saw a patch of brown through the evergreen, and he
fired at it. A faint cry followed the shot, and Dick felt a
strange satisfaction; they were hunting him—well, he had given
a blow in return.
Silence settled down again after Dick's shot. The boys lay
perfectly still, although they could hear each other's
breathing. The silvery moonlight seemed to grow fuller and
clearer all the time. It flooded the whole slope. Boughs and
twigs were sheathed in it. Apparently, the moon looked down upon
a scene that was all peace and without the presence of a human
"Do you think they'll rush us?" whispered Albert.
"No," replied Dick. "I've always heard that the Indian takes as
little risk as he possibly can."
They waited a little longer, and then came a flare of rifle shots
from a point farther up the slope. Brown forms appeared faintly,
and Dick and Albert, intent and eager, began to fire in reply.
Bullets sang by their ears and clipped the stones around them,
but their blood rose the higher and they fired faster and faster.
"We'll drive 'em back!" exclaimed Dick.
They did not hear the rapid patter of soft, light footsteps
coming from another direction, until a half dozen Sioux were upon
them. Then the firing in front ceased abruptly, and Dick and
Albert whirled to meet their new foes.
It was too late. Dick saw Albert struggling in the grasp of two
big warriors, and then saw and heard nothing more. He
had received a heavy blow on the head from the butt of a rifle
and became unconscious.
The Indian Village
When Dick awoke from his second period of unconsciousness it
was to awake, as he did from the first, under a roof, but not,
as in the case of the first, under his own roof. He saw above
him an immense sloping thatch of bark on poles, and his eyes,
wandering lower, saw walls of bark, also fastened to poles.
He himself was lying on a large rush mat, and beside the door
of the great tepee sat two Sioux warriors cleaning their rifles.
Dick's gaze rested upon the warriors. Curiously, he felt at that
time neither hostility nor apprehension. He rather admired
them. They were fine, tall men, and their bare arms and legs
were sinewy and powerful. Then he thought of Albert. He was
nowhere to be seen, but from the shadow of the wall on his right
came a tall figure, full of dignity and majesty. It was Bright
Sun, who looked down at Dick with a gaze that expressed inquiry
rather than anger.
"Why have you come here?" he asked.
Although Dick's head ached and he was a captive, the question
made a faint appeal to his sense of humor.
"I didn't come," he replied; "I was brought."
Bright Sun smiled.
"That is true," he said, speaking the precise English of the
schools, with every word enunciated distinctly. "You were
brought, and by my warriors; but why were you upon these hills?"
"I give you the best answer I can, Bright Sun," replied Dick
frankly; "I don't know. My brother and I were lost upon the
plains, and we wandered here. Nor have I the remotest idea now
where I am."
"You are in a village of the tribe of the Mendewahkanton Sioux,
of the clan Queyata-oto-we," replied Bright Sun gravely, "the
clan and tribe to which I belong. The Mendewahkantons are one of
the first tribes of the Seven Fireplaces, or the Great Sioux
Nation. But all are great—Mendewahkanton, Wahpeton, Sisseton,
Yankton, Teton, Ogalala, and Hunkpapa—down to the last clan of
He began with gravity and an even intonation, but his voice rose
with pride at the last. Nothing of the white man's training was
left to him but the slow, precise English. It was the Indian,
the pride of his Indian race, that spoke. Dick recognized it and
"And this?" said Dick, looking around at the great house of bark
and poles in which he lay.
"This," replied Bright Sun, pride again showing in this tone, "is
the house of the Akitcita, our soldiers and policemen, the men
between twenty and forty, the warriors of the first rank, who
live here in common, and into whose house women and children
may not enter. I have read in the books at your schools how the
Spartan young men lived together as soldiers in a common house,
eating rough food and doing the severest duty, and the whole
world has long applauded. The Sioux, who never heard of the
Spartans, have been doing the same far back into the shadowy
time. We, too, are a race of warriors."
Dick looked with renewed interest at the extraordinary man before
him, and an amazing suggestion found lodgment in his mind.
Perhaps the Sioux chief thought himself not merely as good as the
white man, but better, better than any other man except those of
his own race. It was so surprising that Dick forgot for a moment
the question that he was eagerly awaiting a chance to ask—where
was his brother Albert?
"I've always heard that the Sioux were brave," said Dick vaguely,
"and I know they are powerful."
"We are the Seven Fireplaces. What the Six Nations once were in
the East, we now are in the West, save that we are far more
numerous and powerful, and we will not be divided. We have
leaders who see the truth and who know what to do."
The pride in his tone was tinged now with defiance, and Dick
could but look at him in wonder. But his mind now came back to
the anxious question:
"Where is my brother Albert, who was taken with me? You have
not killed him?"
"He has not been hurt, although we are at war with your people,"
replied Bright Sun. "He is here in the village, and he, like
you, is safe for the present. Some of the warriors wished to
kill both you and him, but I have learned wisdom in these matters
from your people. Why throw away pawns that we hold? I keep
your brother and you as hostages."
Dick, who had raised himself up in his eagerness, sank back
again, relieved. He could feel that Bright Sun told the truth,
and he had faith, too, in the man's power as well as his word.
Yet there was another question that he wished to ask.
"Bright Sun," he said, "it was you, our guide, who led the train
into the pass that all might be killed?"
Bright Sun shrugged his shoulders, but a spark leaped from his
"What would you ask of me?" he replied. "In your code it was
cunning, but the few and small must fight with cunning. The
little man, to confront the big man, needs the advantage of
weapons. The Sioux make the last stand for the Indian race, and
we strike when and where we can."
The conscience of the chief was clear, so far as Dick could see,
and there was nothing that he could say in reply. It was Bright
Sun himself who resumed:
"But I spared you and your brother. I did that which caused you
to be absent when the others were slain."
"Because you were different. You were not like the others. It
may be that I pitied you, and it may be also that I like you—a
little—and—you were young."
The man's face bore no more expression than carven oak, but Dick
"I thank you, Bright Sun," he said, "and I know that Albert
thanks you, too."
Bright sun nodded, and then fixed an intent gaze upon Dick.
"You and your brother escaped," he said. "That was nearly two
years ago, and you have not gone back to your people. Where
have you been?"
Dick saw a deep curiosity lurking behind the intent gaze, but
whatever he might owe to Bright Sun, he had no intention of
"Would you tell me where you have been in the last two years and
all that you have done?" the chief asked.
"I cannot answer; but you see that we have lived, Albert and I,"
"And that you have learned the virtues of silence," said Bright
Sun. "I ask you no more about it to-day. Give me your word for
the present that you will not try to escape, and your life and
that of your brother will be the easier. It would be useless,
anyhow, for you to make such an attempt. When you feel that you
have a chance, you can withdraw your promise."
Dick laughed, and the laugh was one of genuine good humor.
"That's certainly fair," he said. "Since I can't escape, I might
as well give my promise not to try it for the time being. Well,
I give it."
Bright Sun nodded gravely.
"Your brother will come in soon," he said. "He has already given
his promise, that is, a conditional one, good until he can confer
"I'll confirm it," said Dick.
Bright Sun saluted and left the great lodge. Some warriors near
the door moved aside with the greatest deference to let him
pass. Dick lay on his rush mat, gazing after him, and deeply
When Bright Sun was gone he examined the lodge again. It was
obvious that it was a great common hall or barracks for warriors,
and Bright Sun's simile of the Spartans was correct. More
warriors came in, all splendid, athletic young men of a high and
confident bearing. A few were dressed in the white man's
costume, but most of them were in blankets, leggings, and
moccasins, and had magnificent rows of feathers in their hair.
Every man carried a carbine, and most of them had revolvers
also. Such were the Akitcita or chosen band, and in this village
of about two hundred lodges they numbered sixty men. Dick did
not know then that in times of peace all guests, whether white or
red, were entertained in the lodge of the Akitcita.
Impressed as he had been by Bright Sun, he was impressed also by
these warriors. Not one of them spoke to him or annoyed him in
any manner. They went about their tasks, cleaning and polishing
their weapons, or sitting on rough wooden benches, smoking pipes
with a certain dignity that belonged to men of strength and
courage. All around the lodge were rush mats, on which they
slept, and near the door was a carved totem pole.
A form darkened the doorway, and Albert came in. He rushed to
Dick when he saw that he was conscious again, and shook his hand
with great fervor. The warriors went on with their tasks or
their smoking, and still took no notice.
"This is a most wonderful place, Dick," exclaimed the
impressionable Albert, "and Bright Sun has treated us well. We
can go about the village if we give a promise, for the time, that
we'll not try to escape."
"He's been here," said Dick, "and I've given it."
"Then, if you feel strong enough, let's go on and take a look."
"Wait until I see if this head of mine swims around," said Dick.
He rose slowly to his feet, and his bandaged head was dizzy at
first, but as he steadied himself it became normal. Albert
thrust out his hand to support him. It delighted him that he
could be again of help to his older and bigger brother, and Dick,
divining Albert's feeling, let it lie for a minute. Then they
went to the door, Dick walking quite easily, as his strength came
The warriors of the Akitcita, of whom fully a dozen were now
present in the great lodge, still paid no attention to the two
youths, and Dick surmised that it was the orders of Bright Sun.
But this absolute ignoring of their existence was uncanny,
nevertheless. Dick studies some of the faces as he passed. Bold
and fearless they were, and not without a certain nobility, but
there was little touch of gentleness or pity, it was rather the
strength of the wild animal, the flesh-eater, that seeks its prey.
Sioux they were, and Sioux they would remain in heart, no
matter what happened, wild warriors of the northwest. Dick
perceived this fact in a lightening flash, but it was the
lightening flash of conviction.
Outside the fresh air saluted Dick, mouth and nostrils, and the
ache in his head went quite away. He had seen the valley by
moonlight, when it was beautiful, but not as beautiful as their
own valley, the one of which they would not tell to anybody. But
it was full of interest. The village life, the life of the wild,
was in progress all about him, and in the sunshine, amidst such
picturesque surroundings, it had much that was attractive to the
strong and brave.
Dick judged correctly that the village contained about two
hundred winter lodges of bark and poles, and could therefore
furnish about four hundred warriors. It was evident, too, that
it was the scene of prosperity. The flesh of buffalo, elk, and
deer was drying in the sun, hanging from trees or on little
platforms of poles. Children played with the dogs or practiced
with small bows and arrows. In the shadow of a tepee six old
women sat gambling, and the two boys stopped to watch them.
The Indians are more inveterate gamblers than the whites, and the
old women, wrinkled, hideous hags of vast age, played their games
with an intent, almost breathless, interest.
They were playing Woskate Tanpan, or the game of dice, as it is
known to the Sioux. Three women were on each side, and they
played it with tanpan (the basket), kansu (the dice), and
canyiwawa (the counting sticks). The tanpan, made of willow
twigs, was a tiny basket, about three inches in diameter at the
bottom, but broader at the top, and about two inches deep. Into
this one woman would put the kansu or dice, a set of six plum
stones, some carved and some not carved. She would put her hand
over the tanpan, shake the kansu just as the white dice player
does, and then throw them out. The value of the throw would be
according to the kind and number of carvings that were turned up
when the kansu fell.
The opposing sides, three each, sat facing each other, and the
stakes for which they played—canyiwawa (the counting
sticks)—lay between them. These were little round sticks about
the thickness of a lead pencil, and the size of each heap went
up or down, as fortune shifted back or forth. They could make
the counting sticks represent whatever value they chose, this
being agreed upon beforehand, and the old Sioux women had been
known to play Woskate Tanpan two days and nights without ever
rising from their seats.
"What old harpies they are!" said Dick. "Did you ever see
anybody so eager over anything?"
"They are no worse than the men," replied Albert. "A lot of
warriors are gambling, too."
A group of the men were gathered on a little green farther on,
and the brothers joined them, beginning to share at once the
interest that the spectators showed in several warriors who were
playing Woskate Painyankapi, or the game of the Wands and the
The warriors used in the sport canyleska (the hoop) and cansakala
(the wands). The hoops were of ash, two or three feet in
diameter, the ash itself being about an inch in diameter. Every
hoop was carefully marked off into spaces, something like the
face of a watch.
Cansakala (the wands) were of chokecherry, four feet long and
three fourths of an inch in diameter. One end of every wand was
squared for a distance of about a foot. The wands were in pairs,
the two being fastened together with buckskin thongs about nine
inches in length, and fastened at a point about one third of the
length of the wands from the rounded ends.
A warrior would roll the hoop, and he was required to roll it
straight and correctly. If he did not do so, the umpire made him
roll it over, as in the white man's game of baseball the pitcher
cannot get a strike until he pitches the ball right.
When the hoop was rolled correctly, the opposing player dropped
his pair of wands somewhere in front of it. It was his object so
to calculate the speed and course of the hoop when it fell it
would lie upon his wands. If he succeeded, he secured his points
according to the spaces on each wand within which the hoop lay—an
exceedingly difficult game, requiring great skill of hand and
judgment of eye. That if was absorbing was shown by the great
interest with which all the spectators followed it and by their
"I don't believe I could learn to do that in ten years," said
Albert; "you've got to combine too many things and to combine
"They must begin on it while they're young," said Dick; "but the
Indian has a mind, and don't you forget it."
"But they're not as we are," rejoined Albert. "Nothing can ever
make them so."
Here, as in the house of the Akitcita, nobody paid any attention
to the two boys, but Dick began to have a feeling that he was
watched, not watched openly as man watches man, but in the
furtive dangerous way of the great wild beasts, the man-eaters.
The feeling grew into a conviction that, despite what they were
doing, everybody in the camp—warrior, squaw, and child—was
watching Albert and him. He knew that half of this was fancy,
but he was sure that the other half was real.
"Albert," he said, "I wouldn't make any break for liberty now,
even if I hadn't given my promise."
"Nor I," said Albert. "By the time we had gone ten feet the
whole village would be on top of us. Dick, while I'm here I'm
going to make the best of it I can."
In pursuance of this worthy intention Albert pressed forward and
almost took the cansakala from the hands of a stalwart warrior.
The man, amazed at first, yielded up the pair of wands with a
grin. Albert signaled imperiously to the warrior with the hoop,
and he, too, grinning, sent canyleska whirling.
Albert cast the wands, and the hoop fell many feet from them. A
shout of laughter arose. The white youth was showing himself a
poor match for the Sioux, and the women and children came
running to see this proof of the superiority of their race.
The warrior from whom he had taken them gravely picked up the
cansakala and handed them back to Albert, the other warrior again
sent canyleska rolling, and again Albert threw the wands with the
same ill fortune. A third and fourth time he tried, with but
slight improvement, and the crowd, well pleased to see him fail,
thickened all the time, until nearly the whole village was
"It's just as hard as we thought it was, Dick, and harder," said
Albert ruefully. "Here, you take it and see what you can do."
He handed cansakala to Dick, who also tried in vain, while the
crowd enjoyed the sport, laughing and chatting to one another, as
they will in their own villages. Dick made a little more
progress than Albert had achieved, but not enough to score any
points worth mentioning, and he, too, retired discomfited, while
the Sioux, especially the women, continued to laugh.
"I don't like to be beaten that way," said Albert in a nettled
"Never mind, Al, old fellow," said Dick soothingly. "Remember
it's their game, not ours, and as it makes them feel good, it's
all the better for us. Since they've beaten us, they're apt to
like us and treat us better."
It was hard for Albert to take the more philosophical view, which
was also the truthful one, but he did his best to reconcile
himself, and he and Dick moved on to other sights.
Dick noticed that the village had been located with great
judgment. On one side was the river, narrow but swift and deep;
on the other, a broad open space that would not permit an enemy
to approach through ambush, and beyond that the forest.
The tepees stood in a great circle, and, although Dick did not
know it, their camps were always pitched according to rule, each
gens or clan having its regular place in the circle. The tribe
of the Mendewahkantons—a leading one of the Seven Fireplaces or
Council Fires of the great Sioux nation—was subdivided into
seven gentes or clans; the Kiyukas, or Breakers, so called
because they disregarded the general marriage law and married
outside their own clan; the Que-mini-tea, or Mountain Wood and
Water people; the Kap'oja, or Light Travelers; the Maxa-yuta-cui,
the People who Eat no Grease; the Queyata-oto-we, or the People
of the Village Back from the River; the Oyata Citca, the Bad
Nation, and the Tita-otowe, the People of the Village on the
Each clan was composed of related families, and all this great
tribe, as the boys learned later, had once dwelled around Spirit
Lake, Minnesota, their name meaning Mysterious Lake Dwellers,
but had been pushed westward years before by the advancing wave
of white settlement. This was now a composite village,
including parts of every gens of the Mendewahkantons, but there
were other villages of the same tribe scattered over a large
When Dick and Albert reached the northern end of the village they
saw a great number of Indian ponies, six or seven hundred
perhaps, grazing in a wide grassy space and guarded by half-grown
"Dick," said Albert, "if we only had a dozen of those we could go
back and get our furs."
"Yes," said Dick, "if we had the ponies, if we knew where we are
now, if we were free of the Sioux village, and if we could find
the way to our valley, we might do what you say."
"Yes, it does take a pile of 'ifs,'" said Albert, laughing, "and
so I won't expect it. I'll try to be resigned."
So free were they from any immediate restriction that it almost
seemed to them that they could walk away as they chose, up the
valley and over the hills and across the plains. How were the
Sioux to know that these two would keep their promised word?
But both became conscious again of those watchful eyes,
ferocious, like the eyes of man-eating wild beasts, and both
shivered a little as they turned back into the great circle of
The Gathering of the Sioux
Dick and Albert abode nearly two weeks in the great lodge of the
Akitcita, that is, as guests, although they were prisoners, whose
lives might be taken at any time, and they had splendid
opportunities for observing what a genuine Spartan band the
Akitcita were. Everyone had his appointed place for arms and his
rush or fur mat for sleeping. There was no quarreling, no
unseemly chatter, always a grave and dignified order and the
sense of stern discipline. Not all the Akitcita were ever
present in the daytime, but some always were. All tribal
business was transacted here. The women had to bring wood and
water to it daily, and the entire village supplied it every day
with regular rations of tobacco, almost the only luxury of the
Both Dick and Albert were keenly observant, and they did not
hesitate also to ask questions of Bright Sun whenever they had
the chance. They learned from him that the different tribes of
the Sioux had general councils at irregular intervals, that there
was no hereditary rank among the chiefs, it being usually a
question of energy and merit, although the rank was sometimes
obtained by gifts, and ambitious man giving away all that he had
for the prize. There were no women chiefs, and women were not
admitted to the great council.
The boys perceived, too, that much in the life of the Sioux was
governed by ancient ritual; nearly everything had its religious
meaning, and both boys having an inherent respect for religion of
any kind, were in constant fear lest they should violate
unwillingly some honored law.
The two made friendly advances to the members of the Akitcita
but they were received with a grave courtesy that did not invite
a continuance. They felt daily a deepening sense of racial
difference. They appreciated the humane treatment they had
received, but they and the Sioux did not seem to come into touch
anywhere. And this difference was accentuated in the case of
Bright Sun. The very fact that he had been educated in their
schools, that he spoke their language so well, and that he knew
their customs seemed to widen the gulf between them into a sea.
They felt that he had tasted of their life, and liked it not.
The two, although they could not like Bright Sun, began to have a
certain deference for him. The old sense of power he had created
in their minds increased greatly, and now it was not merely a
matter of mind and manner; all the outward signs, the obvious
respect in which he was held by everybody and the way in which
the eyes of the warriors, as well as those of women and children,
followed him, showed that he was a great leader.
After ten days or so in the great lodge of the Akitcita, Dick and
Albert were removed to a small bark tepee of their own, to which
they were content to go. They had no arms, not even a knife, but
they were already used to their captivity, and however great
their ultimate danger might be, it was far away for them to think
much about it.
They observed, soon after their removal, that the life of the
village changed greatly. The old women were not often to be
found in the shadow of the lodges playing Woskate Tanpan, the men
gave up wholly Woskate Painyankapi, and throughout the village,
no matter how stoical the Sioux might be, there was a perceptible
air of excitement and suspense. Often at night the boys heard
the rolling of the Sioux war drums, and the medicine men made
medicine incessantly inside their tepees. Dick chafed greatly.
"Big things are afoot," he would say to Albert. "We know that
the Sioux and our people are at war, but you and I, Al, don't
know a single thing that has occurred. I wish we could get away
from here. Our people are our own people, and I'd like to tell
them to look out."
"I feel just as you do, Dick," Albert would reply; "but we might
recall our promise to Bright Sun. Besides, we wouldn't have the
ghost of a chance to escape. I feel that a hundred eyes are
looking at me all the time."
"I feel that two hundred are looking at me," said Dick, with a
grim little laugh. "No, Al, you're right. We haven't a chance
on earth to escape."
Five days after their removal to the small lodge there was a
sudden and great increase in the excitement in the village. In
truth, it burst into a wild elation, and all the women and
children, running toward the northern side of the village, began
to shout cries of welcome. The warriors followed more sedately,
and Dick and Albert, no one detaining them, joined in the throng.
"Somebody's coming, Al, that's sure," said Dick.
"Yes, and that somebody's a lot of men," said Albert. "Look!"
Three or four hundred warriors, a long line of them, were coming
down the valley, tall, strong, silent men, with brilliant
headdresses of feathers and bright blankets. Everyone carried a
carbine or rifle, and they looked what they were—a truly
formidable band, resolved upon some great attempt.
Dick and Albert inferred the character of the arrivals from the
shouts that they heard the squaws and children utter: "Sisseton!"
"Wahpeton!" "Ogalala!" "Yankton!" "Teton!" "Hunkpapa!"
The arriving warriors, many of whom were undoubtedly chiefs,
gravely nodded to their welcome, and came silently on as the
admiring crowd opened to receive them.
"It's my opinion," said Dick, "that the Seven Fireplaces are
about to hold a grand council in the lodge of the Akitcita."
"I don't think there's any doubt about it," replied Albert.
They also heard, amidst the names of the tribes, the names of
great warriors or medicine men, names which they were destined to
hear many times again, both in Indian and English—Sitting Bull,
Rain-in-the-Face, Little Big Man, and others. Then they meant
nothing to either Dick or Albert.
All the chiefs, led by Bright Sun, went directly to the lodge of
the Akitcita, and the other warriors were taken into the lodges
of their friends, the Mendewahkantons. Then the women ran to the
lodges and returned with the best food that the village could
furnish. It was given to the guests, and also many pounds of
Dick and Albert had made no mistake in their surmise. The great
council of the Seven Fireplaces of the Sioux was in session. All
that day the chiefs remained in the lodge of the Akitcita, and
when night was far advanced they were still there.
Dick and Albert shared the excitement of the village, although
knowing far less of its nature, but they knew that a grand
council of the Seven Fireplaces would not be held without great
cause, and they feared much for their people. It was a warm,
close night, with a thin moon and flashes of heat lightening on
the hilly horizon. Through the heavy air came the monotonous
rolling of a war drum, and the chant of a medicine man making
medicine in a tepee near by went on without ceasing.
The boys did not try to sleep, and unable to stifle curiosity,
they came from the little bark lodge. One or two Sioux warriors
glanced at them, but none spoke. The Sioux knew that the village
was guarded so closely by a ring of sentinels that a cat could
not have crept through without being seen. The boys walked on
undisturbed until they came near the great council lodge, where
they stopped to look at the armed warriors standing by the door.
The dim light and the excited imaginations of the boys made the
lodge grow in size and assume fantastic shapes. So many great
chiefs had come together for a mighty purpose, and Dick was sure
that Bright Sun, sitting in the ring of his equals, urged on the
project, whatever it might be, and would be the dominating figure
Although they saw nothing, they were fascinated by what they
wished to see. The great lodge held them with a spell that they
did not seek to break. Although it was past midnight, they
stayed there, staring at the blank walls. Warriors passed and
gave them sharp glances, but nothing was said to them. The air
remained close and heavy. Heat lightening continued to flare on
the distant hills, but no rain fell.
The chiefs finally came forth from the great council. There was
no light for them save the cloudy skies and one smoking torch
that a warrior held aloft, but the active imagination of the two
boys were again impressed. Every chief seemed to show in his
face and manner his pride of race and the savage strength that
well became such a time and place. Some bore themselves more
haughtily and were more brilliantly adorned than Bright Sun, but
he was still the magnet from which power and influence streamed.
Dick and Albert did not know why they knew it, but they knew it.
The chiefs did not go away to friendly lodges, but after they
came forth remained in a group, talking. Dick surmised that they
had come to an agreement upon whatever question they debated;
now they were outside for fresh air, and soon would return to the
lodge of the Akitcita, which, according to custom, would shelter
them as guests.
Bright Sun noticed the brothers standing in the shadow of the
lodge, and, leaving the group, he walked over to them. His
manner did not express hostility, but he made upon both boys that
old impression of power and confidence, tinged now with a certain
"You would know what we have been doing?" he said, speaking
directly to Dick, the older.
"We don't ask," replied Dick, "but I will say this, Bright Sun:
we believe that the thing done was the thing you wished."
Bright Sun permitted himself a little smile.
"You have learned to flatter," he said.
"It was not meant as flattery," said Dick; "but there is
something more I have to say. We wish to withdraw our pledge not
to attempt to escape. You remember it was in the agreement we
could withdraw whenever we chose."
"That is true," said Bright Sun, giving Dick a penetrating look.
"And so you think that it is time for you to go?"
"We will go, if we can," said Dick boldly.
Bright Sun, who had permitted himself a smile a little while ago,
now permitted himself a soft laugh.
"You put it well," he said in his precise English, "'if we
can.' But the understanding is clear. The agreement is at an end.
However, you will not escape. We need you as hostages, and
I will tell you, too, that we leave this village and valley
to-morrow. We begin a great march."
"I am not surprised," said Dick.
Bright Sun rejoined the other chiefs, and all of them went back
into the lodge of the Akitcita, while Dick and Albert returned to
their own little tepee. There, as each lay on his rush mat, they
talked in whispers.
"What meaning do you give to it, Dick?" asked Albert.
"That all the Sioux tribes are going to make a mighty effort
against our people, and they're going to make it soon. Why else
are they holding this great council of the Seven Fireplaces? I
tell you, Al, big things are afoot. Oh, if we could only find a
chance to get away!"
Albert rolled over to the door of the lodge and peeped out.
Several warriors were pacing up and down in front of the rows of
tepees. He rolled back to his rush mat.
"They've got inside as well as outside guards now," he whispered.
"I thought it likely," Dick whispered back. "Al, the best thing
that you and I can do now is to go to sleep."
They finally achieved slumber, but were up early the next morning
and saw Bright Sun's words come true. The village was dismantled
with extraordinary rapidity. Most of the lighter lodges were
taken down, but how much of the place was left, and what people
were left with it, the boys did not know, because they departed
with the warriors, each riding a bridleless pony. Although
mounted, their chance of escape was not increased. Warriors were
all about them, they were unarmed, and their ponies, uncontrolled
by bridles, could not be made to leave their comrades.
Dick and Albert, nevertheless, found an interest in this journey,
wondering to what mysterious destination it would lead them.
They heard behind them the chant of the old women driving the
ponies that drew the baggage on poles, but the warriors around
them were silent. Bright Sun was not visible. Dick surmised
that he was at the head of the column.
The clouds of the preceding night had gone away, and the day was
cooler, although it was now summer, and both Dick and Albert
found a certain pleasure in the journey. In their present
of suspense any change was welcome.
They rode straight up the valley, a long and formidable
procession, and as they went northward the depression became both
shallower and narrower. Finally, they crossed the river at a
rather deep ford and rode directly ahead. Soon the hills and the
forest that clothed them sank out of sight, and Dick and Albert
were once again in the midst of the rolling immensity of the
plains. They could judge the point of the compass by the sun,
but they knew nothing else of the country over which they
traveled. They tried two or three times to open conversation
with the warriors about them, trusting that the latter knew
English, but they received no reply and gave up the attempt.
"At any rate, I can talk to you, Al," said Dick after the last
"Yes, but you can't get any information out of me," replied
Albert with a laugh.
The procession moved on, straight as an arrow, over the swells,
turning aside for nothing. Some buffaloes were seen on the
horizon, but they were permitted to crop the bunch grass
undisturbed. No Indian hunter left the ranks.
They camped that night on the open prairie, Dick and Albert
sleeping in their blankets in the center of the savage group. It
might have seemed to the ordinary observer that there was
looseness and disorder about the camp, but Dick was experienced
enough to know that all the Mendewahkantons were posted in the
circle according to their clans, and that the delegates were
distributed with them in places of honor.
Dick noticed, also, that no fires were built, and that the
warriors had scrutinized the entire circle of the horizon with
uncommon care. It could signify but one thing to him—white
people, and perhaps white troops, were near. If so, he prayed
that they were in sufficient force. He was awakened in the night
by voices, and raising himself on his elbow he saw a group of
men, at least a hundred in number, riding into the camp.
The latest arrivals were Sioux warriors, but of what tribe he
could not tell. Yet it was always the Sioux who were coming, and
it would have been obvious to the least observant that Dick's
foreboding about a mighty movement was right. They were joined
the next day by another detachment coming from the southwest, and
rode on, full seven hundred warriors, every man armed with the
white man's weapons, carbine or rifle and revolver.
"I pity any poor emigrants whom they may meet," thought Dick;
but, fortunately, they met none. The swelling host continued its
march a second day, a third, and a fourth through sunshiny
weather, increasing in warmth, and over country that changed but
little. Dick and Albert saw Bright Sun only once or twice, but
he had nothing to say to them. The others, too, maintained their
impenetrable silence, although they never offered any ill
They were joined every day by bands of warriors, sometimes not
more than two or three at a time, and again as many as twenty.
They came from all points of the compass, but, so far as Dick and
Albert could see, little was said on their arrival. Everything
was understood. They came as if in answer to a call, took their
places without ado in the savage army, and rode silently on.
Dick saw a great will at work, and with it a great discipline. A
master mind had provided for all things.
"Al," he said to his brother, "you and I are not in the plan at
all. We've been out of the world two years, and we're just that
many years behind."
"I know it's 1876," said Albert, with some confidence, but he
added in confession: "I've no idea what month it is, although it
must be somewhere near summer."
"About the beginning of June, I should think," said Dick.
An hour after this little talk the country became more hilly, and
presently they saw trees and high bluffs to their right. Both
boys understood the signs. They were approaching a river, and
possibly their destination.
"I've a feeling," said Dick, "that we're going to stop now. The
warriors look as if they were getting ready for a rest."
He was quickly confirmed in his opinion by the appearance of
mounted Indians galloping to meet them. These warriors showed
no signs of fatigue or a long march, and it was now obvious that
a village was near.
The new band greeted the force of Bright Sun with joy, and the
stern silence was relaxed. There was much chattering and
laughing, much asking and answering of questions, and soon Indian
women and Indian boys, with little bows and arrows, came over the
bluffs, and joining the great mounted force, followed on its
Dick and Albert were on ponies near the head of the column, and
their troubles and dangers were forgotten in their eager interest
in what they were about to see. The feeling that a first step in
a great plan was accomplished was in the air. They could see it
in the cessation of the Sioux reserve and in the joyous manner of
the warriors, as well as the women. Even the ponies picked up
their heads, as if they, too, saw rest.
The procession wound round the base of a hill, and then each boy
uttered a little gasp. Before them lay a valley, about a mile
wide, down the center of which flowed a shallow yellow river
fringed with trees and also with undergrowth, very dense in
places. But it was neither the river nor trees that had drawn
the little gasps from the two boys, it was an Indian village, or
rather a great town, extending as far as they could see—and
they saw far—on either side of the stream. There were hundreds
and hundreds of lodges, and a vast scene of animated and varied
life. Warriors, squaws, children, and dogs moved about; smoke
rose from scores and scores of fires, and on grassy meadows
grazed ponies, thousands in number.
"Why, I didn't think there was so big an Indian town in all the
West!" exclaimed Albert.
"Nor did I," said Dick gravely, "and I'm thinking, Al, that it's
gathered here for a purpose. It must be made up of all the Sioux
Albert nodded. He knew the thought in Dick's mind, and he
believed it to be correct.
Chance so had it that Bright Sun at this moment rode near them
and heard their words. Dick of late had surmised shrewdly that
Bright Sun treated them well, not alone for the sake of their
value as hostages, but for a reason personal to himself. He had
been associated long with white people in their schools, but he
was at heart and in fact a great Sioux chief; he had felt the
white man's assumption of racial superiority, and he would have
these two with the white faces witness some great triumph that he
intended to achieve over these same white people. This belief
was growing on Dick, and it received more confirmation when
Bright Sun said:
"You see that the Sioux nation has many warriors and is mighty."
"I see that it is so, Bright Sun," replied Dick frankly. "I did
not know you were so numerous and so powerful; but bear in mind,
Bright Sun, that no matter how many the Sioux may be, the white
men are like the leaves of the tree—thousands, tens of
thousands may fall, and yet only their own kin miss them."
But Bright Sun shook his head.
"What you say is true," he said, "because I have seen and I know;
but they are not here. The mountains, the plains, the wilderness
keep them back."
Dick forebore a retort, because he felt that he owed Bright Sun
something, and the chief seemed to take it for granted that he
was silenced by logic.
"This is the Little Big Horn River," Bright Sun said, "and you
behold now in this village, which extends five miles on either
side of it, the Seven Fireplaces of the Sioux. All tribes are
"And it is you who have gathered them," said Dick. He was
looking straight into Bright Sun's eyes as he spoke, and he saw
the pupils of the Sioux expand, in fact dilate, with a sudden
overwhelming sense of power and triumph. Dick knew he had
guessed aright, but the Sioux replied with restraint:
"If I have had some small part in the doing of it, I feel proud."
With that he left them, and Dick and Albert rode on into the
valley of the river, in whatsoever direction their bridleless
horses might carry them, although that direction was bound to be
the one in which rode the group surrounding them.
Some of the squaws and boys, who caught sight of Dick and Albert
among the warriors, began to shout and jeer, but a chief sternly
bade them to be silent, and they slunk away, to the great relief
of the two lads, who had little relish for such attention.
They were full in the valley now, and on one side of them was
thick undergrowth that spread to the edge of the river. A few
hundred yards father the undergrowth ceased, sand taking its
place. All the warriors turned their ponies abruptly away from
one particular stretch of sand, and Dick understood.
"It's a quicksand, Al," he said; "it would suck up pony, rider,
They left the quicksand behind and entered the village, passing
among the groups of lodges. Here they realized more fully than
on the hills the great extent of the Indian town. Its
inhabitants seemed a myriad to Dick and Albert, so long used to
silence and the lack of numbers.
"How many warriors do you suppose this place could turn out,
Dick?" asked Albert.
"Five thousand, but that's only a guess. It doesn't look much
like our own valley, does it, Al?"
"No, it doesn't," replied Albert with emphasis; "and I can tell
you, Dick, I wish I was back there right now. I believe that's
the finest valley the sun ever shone on."
"But we had to leave sometime or other," said Dick, "and how
could we tell that we were going to run into anything like this?
But it's surely a big change for us."
"The biggest in the world."
The group in which they rode continued along the river about two
miles, and then stopped at a point where both valley and village
were widest. A young warrior, speaking crude English, roughly
bade them dismount, and gladly they sprang from the ponies.
Albert fell over when he struck the ground, his legs were cramped
so much by the long ride, but the circulation was soon restored,
and he and Dick went without resistance to the lodge that was
pointed out to them as their temporary home and prison.
It was a small lodge of poles leaning toward a common center at
the top, there lashed together firmly with rawhide, and the whole
covered with skins. It contained only two rude mats, two bowls
of Sioux pottery, and a drinking gourd, but it was welcome to
Dick and Albert, who wanted rest and at the same time security
from the fierce old squaws and the equally fierce young boys.
They were glad enough to lie a while on the rush mats and rub
their tired limbs. When they were fully rested they became very
"I wonder if they mean to starve us to death?" said Albert.
A negative answer was given in about ten minutes by two old
squaws who appeared, bearing food, some venison, and more
particularly wa-nsa, a favorite dish with the Sioux, a compound
made of buffalo meat and wild cherries, which, after being dried,
are pounded separately until they are very fine; then the two are
pounded together for quite a while, after which the whole is
stored in bladders, somewhat after the fashion of the white man's
"This isn't bad at all," said Albert when he bit into his
portion. "Now, if we only had something good to drink."
Neither of the old squaws understood his words, but one of them
answered his wish, nevertheless. She brought cherry-bark tea in
abundance, which both found greatly to their liking and they ate
and drank with deep content. A mental cheer was added also to
their physical good feeling.
"Thanks, madam," said Albert, when one of the old squaws refilled
the little earthen bowl from which he drank the cherry-bark tea.
"You are indeed kind. I did not expect to meet with such
The Indian woman did not understand his words, but anybody could
understand the boy's ingratiating smile. She smiled back at him.
"Be careful, Al, old man," said Dick with the utmost gravity.
"These old Indian women adopt children sometimes, or perhaps she
will want to marry you. In fact, I think the latter is more
likely, and you can't help yourself."
"Don't, Dick, don't!" said Albert imploringly. "I am willing to
pay a high price for hospitality, but not that."
The women withdrew, and after a while, when the boys felt fully
rested, they stepped outside the lodge, to find two tall young
Sioux warriors on guard. Dick looked at them inquiringly, and
one of them said in fair English:
"I am Lone Wolf, and this is Tall Pine. You can go in the
village, but we go with you. Bright Sun has said so, and we
"All right, Mr. Lone Wolf," said Dick cheerfully. "Four are
company, two are none. We couldn't escape if we tried; but
Bright Sun says that you and your friend Mr. Pine Tree are to be
our comrades on our travels, well and good. I don't know any
other couple in this camp that I'd choose before you two."
Lone Wolf and Pine Tree were young, and maybe their youth caused
them to smile slightly at Dick's pleasantry. Nor did they annoy
the boys with excessive vigilance, and they answered many
questions. It was, indeed, they said, the greatest village in
the West that was now gathered on the banks of the Little Big
Horn. Sioux from all tribes had come including those on
reservations. All the clans of the Mendewahkantons, for
instance, were represented on the reservations, but all of them
were represented here, too.
It was a great war that was now going on, they said, and they had
taken many white scalps, but they intimated that those they had
taken were few in comparison with the number they would take.
Dick asked them of their present purpose, but here they grew
wary. The white soldiers might be near or they might be far, but
the god of the Sioux was Wakantaka, the good spirit, and the god
of the white man was Wakansica, the bad spirit.
Dick did not consider it worth while to argue with them. Indeed,
he was in no position to do so. The history of the world in the
last two years was a blank to him and Albert. But he observed
throughout the vast encampment the same air of expectancy and
excitement that had been noticeable in the smaller village. He
also saw a group of warriors arrive, their ponies loaded with
repeating rifles, carbines and revolvers. He surmised that they
had been obtained from French-Canadian traders, and he knew well
for what they were meant. Once again he made his silent prayer
that if the white soldiers came they could come in great force.
Dick observed in the huge village all the signs of an abundant
and easy life, according to Sioux standards. Throughout its
confines kettles gave forth the odors pleasing to an Indian's
nostrils. Boys broiled strips of venison on twigs before the
fires. Squaws were jerking buffalo and deer meat in a hundred
places, and strings of fish ready for the cooking hung before the
lodges. Plenty showed everywhere.
Dick understood that if one were really a wild man, with all
instincts of a wild man inherited through untold centuries of
wild life, he could find no more pleasing sight than this great
encampment abounding in the good things for wild men that the
plains, hills, and water furnished. He saw it readily from the
point of view of the Sioux and could appreciate their confidence.
Albert, who was a little ahead of Dick, peered between two
lodges, and suddenly turned away with a ghastly face.
"What's the trouble, Al?" asked Dick.
"I saw a warrior passing on the other side of those lodges,"
replied Albert, "and he had something at his belt—the yellow
hair of a white man, and there was blood on it."
"We have taken many scalps already," interrupted the young Sioux,
Lone Wolf, some pride showing in his tone.
Both Dick and Albert shuddered and were silent. The gulf between
these men and themselves widened again into quite a sea. Their
thoughts could not touch those of the Sioux at any point.
"I think we'd better go back to our own lodge," said Dick.
"No," said Lone Wolf. "The great chief, Bright Sun, has
commanded us when we return to bring you into his presence, and
it is time for us to go to him."
"What does he want with us?" asked Albert.
"He knows, but I do not," replied Lone Wolf sententiously.
"Lead on," said Dick lightly. "Here, we go wherever we are
They walked back a full mile, and Lone Wolf and Pine Tree led the
way to a great lodge, evidently one used by the Akitcita,
although Dick judged that in so great a village as this, which
was certainly a fusion of many villages, there must be at least a
dozen lodges of the Akitcita.
Lone Wolf and Pine Tree showed Dick and Albert into the door, but
they themselves remained outside. The two boys paused just
inside the door until their eyes became used to the half gloom of
the place. Before them stood a dozen men, all great chiefs, and
in the center was Bright Sun, the dominating presence.
Despite their natural courage and hardihood and the wild life to
which they had grown used, Dick and Albert were somewhat awed
by the appearance of these men, every one of whom was of stern
presence, looking every inch a warrior. They had discarded the
last particle of white man's attire, keeping only the white man's
weapons, the repeating rifle and revolver. Every one wore, more
or less loosely folded about him, a robe of the buffalo, and in
all cases the inner side of this robe was painted throughout in
the most vivid manner with scenes from the hunt or warpath,
chiefly those that had occurred in the life of the wearer. Many
colors were used in these paintings, but mostly those of cardinal
dyes, red and blue being favorites.
"These," said Bright Sun, speaking more directly to Dick,
"are mighty chiefs of the Sioux Nation. This is Ta Sun Ke
He nodded toward a tall warrior, who made a slight and grave
"I'd cut out at least half of that name," said Dick under his
"And this," continued Bright Sun in his measured, precise
English, "is Ite-Mogu'Ju (Rain-in-the-Face), and this Kun-Sun'ka
(Crow Dog), and this Pizi (Gall), and this Peji (Grass)".
Thus he continued introducing them, giving to every one his long
Indian appellation until all were named. The famous Sitting Bull
(Tatanka Yotanka) was not present. Dick learned afterwards that
he was at that very moment in his own tepee making medicine.
"What we wish to know," said Bright Sun—"and we have ways to
make you tell us—is whether you saw the white troops before we
Dick shivered a little. He knew what Bright Sun meant by the
phrase "we have ways to make you tell," and he knew also that
Bright Sun would be merciless if mercy stood in the way of
getting what he wished. No shred of the white man's training was
now left about the Indian chief save the white man's speech.
"I have not seen a white man in two years," replied Dick, "nor
has my brother. We told you the truth when you took us."
Bright Sun was silent for a space, regarding him with black eyes
seeking to read every throb of his heart. Dick was conscious,
too, that the similar gaze of all the others was upon him. But
he did not flinch. Why should he? He had told the truth.
"Then I ask you again," said Bright Sun, "where have you been all
"I cannot tell you," replied Dick. "It is a place that we wish
to keep secret. It is hidden far from here. But it is one to
which no one else goes. I can say that much."
Rain-in-the-Face made an impatient movement, and said some
words in the Sioux tongue. Dick feared it was a suggestion
that he be put to the torture, and he was glad when Bright Sun
shook his head.
"There are such places," said Bright Sun, "because the mountains
are high and vast and but few people travel among them. It may
be that he tells the truth."
"It is the truth. I swear it!" said Dick earnestly.
"Then why do you refuse to tell of this place?" asked Bright Sun.
"Because we wish to keep it for ourselves," replied Dick frankly.
The faintest trace of a smile was visible in Bright Sun's eyes.
"Wherever it may be it belongs to us," said the chief; "but I
believe that you are telling the truth. Nor do I hesitate to
tell you that we have asked these questions because we wish to
learn all that we can. The soldiers of your people are advancing
under the yellow-haired general, Custer, Terry, Gibbon, and
others. They come in great force, but the Sioux, in greater
force and more cunning will destroy them."
Dick was silent. He knew too little to make any reply to the
statements of Bright Sun. Rain-in-the-Face and Crazy Horse spoke
to Bright Sun, and they seemed to be urging something. But the
chief again shook his head, and they, too, became silent. It was
obvious to both boys that his influence was enormous.
"You can go," he said to Dick and Albert, and they gladly left
the lodge. Outside, Lone Wolf and Pine Tree fell in on either
side of them and escorted them to their own tepee, in front of
which they stood guard while the boys slept that night.
The Great Sun Dance
Dick and Albert remained in their tepee throughout the next
morning, but in the afternoon they were allowed to go in the
village a second time. Lone Wolf and Pine Tree, who had slept in
the morning, were again their guards. Both saw at once that some
great event was at hand. The excitement in the village had
increased visibly, and a multitude was pouring toward a certain
point, a wide, grassy plain beside the Little Big Horn. Lone
Wolf and Pine Tree willingly took the captives with the crowd,
and the two boys looked upon a sight which few white men have
beheld in all its savage convulsions.
The wide, grassy space before them had been carefully chosen by
the great medicine men of the nation, Sitting Bull at their head.
Then the squaws had put up a great circular awning, like a
circus tent, with part of the top cut out. This awning was over
one hundred and fifty feet in diameter. After this, the medicine
men had selected a small tree, which was cut down by a young,
unmarried squaw. Then the tree, after it had been trimmed of all
its branches and consecrated and prayed over by the medicine men,
was erected in the center of the inclosed space, rising from the
ground to a height of about twenty feet.
To the top of the pole were fastened many long thongs of rawhide
reaching nearly to the ground, and as Dick and Albert looked a
swarm of young men in strange array, or rather lack of array,
came forth from among the lodges and entered the inclosed space.
Dick had some dim perception of what was about to occur, but
Lone Wolf informed him definitely.
"The sun dance," he said. "Many youths are about to become great
The greatest of sun dances, a sun dance of the mighty allied
Sioux tribes, was about to begin. Forward went the neophytes,
every one clad only in a breechclout ornamented with beads,
colored horsehair and eagle feathers, and with horse tails
attached to it, falling to the ground. But every square inch of
the neophyte's skin was painted in vivid and fantastic colors.
Even the nails on his fingers and toes were painted. Moreover,
everyone had pushed two small sticks of tough wood under the skin
on each side of the breast, and to those two sticks was fastened
a rawhide cord, making a loop about ten inches long.
"What under the sun are those sticks and cords for?" asked
"Wait and we'll see," replied Dick, who guessed too well their
purpose, although he could not help but look.
The neophytes advanced, and every one tied one of the long
rawhide thongs depending from the top of the pole to the loop of
cord that hung from his breast. When all were ready they formed
a great circle, somewhat after the fashion of the dancers around
a Maypole, and outside of those formed another and greater circle
of those already initiated.
A medicine man began to blow a small whistle made from the wing
bone of an eagle, the sacred bird of the Sioux, and he never
stopped blowing it for an instant. It gave forth a shrill,
penetrating sound, that began after a while to work upon the
nerves in a way that was almost unendurable to Dick and Albert.
At the first sound of the whistle the warriors began to dance
around the pole, keeping time to the weird music. It was a
hideous and frightful dance, like some cruel rite of a far-off
time. The object was to tear the peg from the body, breaking by
violence through the skin and flesh that held it, and this proved
that the neophyte by his endurance of excessive pain was fit to
become a great warrior.
But the pegs held fast for a long time, while the terrible,
wailing cry of the whistle went on and on. Dick and Albert
wanted to turn away—in fact, they had a violent impulse more
than once to run from it—but the eyes of the Sioux were upon
them, and they knew that they would consider them cowards if they
could not bear to look upon that which others no older than
themselves endured. There was also the incessant, terrible
wailing of the whistle, which seemed to charm them and hold them.
The youths by and by began to pull loose from the thongs, and in
some cases where it was evident that they would not be able to do
so a medicine man would seize them by the shoulders and help
pull. In no case did a dancer give up, although they often fell
in a faint when loosed. Then they were carried away to be
revived, but for three days and three nights not a single
neophyte could touch food, water, or any other kind of drink.
They were also compelled, as soon as they recovered a measurable
degree of strength, to join the larger group and dance three days
and nights around the neophytes, who successively took their
The whole sight, with the wailing of the whistle, the shouts of
the dancers, the beat of their feet, and the hard, excited
breathing of the thousands about them, became weird and
uncanny. Dick felt as if some strange, deadly odor had mounted
to his brain, and while he struggled between going and staying a
new shout arose.
A fresh group of neophytes sprang into the inclosed place. Every
one of these had the little sticks thrust through the upper point
of the shoulder blade instead of the breast, while from the loop
dangled a buffalo head. They danced violently until the weight
of the head pulled the sticks loose, and then, like their
brethren of the pole, joined the great ring of outside dancers
when they were able.
The crowd of neophytes increased, as they gave way in turn to one
another, and the thong about them thickened. Hundreds and
hundreds of dancers whirled and jumped to the shrill, incessant
blowing of the eagle-bone whistle. It seemed at times to the
excited imaginations of Dick and Albert that the earth rocked to
the mighty tread of the greatest of all sun dances. Indian
stoicism was gone, perspiration streamed from dark faces, eyes
became bloodshot as their owners danced with feverish vigor,
savage shouts burst forth, and the demon dance grew wilder and
The tread of thousands of feet caused a fine, impalpable dust to
rise from the earth beneath the grass and to permeate all the
air, filling the eyes and nostrils of the dancers, heating their
brains and causing them to see through a red mist. Some fell
exhausted. If they were in the way, they were dragged to one
side; if not, they lay where they fell, but in either case others
took their places and the whirling multitude always increased in
As far as Dick and Albert could see the Sioux were dancing.
There was a sea of tossing heads and a multitude of brown bodies
shining with perspiration. Never for a moment did the shrill,
monotonous, unceasing rhythm of the whistle cease to dominate the
dance. It always rose above the beat of the dancers, it
penetrated everything, ruled everything—this single, shrill
note, like the chant of a snake charmer. It even showed its
power over Dick and Albert. They felt their nerves throbbing to
it in an unwilling response, and the dust and the vivid electric
excitement of the dancers began to heat their own brains.
"Don't forget that we're white, Al! Don't forget it!" cried
"I'm trying not to forget it!" gasped Albert.
The sun, a lurid, red sun, went down behind the hills, and a
twilight that seemed to Dick and Albert phantasmagorial and shot
with red crept over the earth. But the dance did not abate in
either vigor or excitement; rather it increased. In the twilight
and the darkness that followed it assumed new aspects of the
weird and uncanny. Despite the torches that flared up, the
darkness was mainly in control. Now the dancers, whirling about
the pole and straining on the cords, were seen plainly, and now
they were only shadows, phantoms in the dusk.
Dick and Albert had moved but little for a long time; the wailing
of the demon whistle held them; and they felt that there was a
singular attraction, too, in this sight, which was barbarism and
superstition pure and simple, yet not without its power. They
were still standing there when the moon came out, throwing a veil
of silver gauze over the dancers, the lodges, the surface of the
river, and the hills, but it took nothing away from the ferocious
aspect of the dance; it was still savagery, the custom of a
remote, fierce, old world. Dick and Albert at last recovered
somewhat; they threw off the power of the flute and the excited
air that they breathed and began to assume again the position of
It was then that Bright Sun came upon them, and they noticed with
astonishment that he, the product of the white schools and of
years of white civilization, had been dancing, too. There was
perspiration on his face, his breath was short and quick, and his
eyes were red with excitement. He marked their surprise, and
"You think it strange that I, too, dance. You think all this
barbarism and superstition, but it is not. It is the custom of
my people, a custom that has the sanction of many centuries, and
that is bred into our bone and blood. Therefore it is of use to
us, and it is more fit than anything else to arouse us for the
great crisis that we are to meet."
Neither Dick nor Albert made any reply. Both saw that the great
deep of the Sioux chief's stoicism was for the moment broken up.
He might never be so stirred again, but there was no doubt of it
now, and they could see his side of it, too. It was his people
and their customs against the white man, the stranger. The
blood of a thousand years was speaking in him.
When he saw that they had no answer for him, Bright Sun left them
and became engrossed once more with the dance, continually urging
it forward, bringing on more neophytes, and increasing the
excitement. Dick and Albert remained a while longer, looking
on. Their guards, Lone Wolf and Pine Tree, still stood beside
them. The two young warriors, true to their orders, had made no
effort to join the dancers, but their nostrils were twitching and
their eyes bloodshot. The revel called to them incessantly, but
they could not go.
Dick felt at last that he had seen enough of so wild a scene.
One could not longer endure the surcharged air, the wailing of
the whistle, the shouts, the chants, and the beat of thousands of
"Al," he said, "let's go back to our lodge, if our guards will
let us, and try to sleep."
"The sooner the better," said Albert.
Lone Wolf and Pine Tree were willing enough, and Dick suspected
that they would join the dance later. After Albert had gone in,
he stood a moment at the door of the lodge and looked again upon
this, the wildest and most extraordinary scene that he had yet
beheld. It was late in the night and the center of the sun dance
was some distance from the lodge, but the shrill wailing of the
whistle still reached him and the heavy tread of the dancers came
in monotonous rhythm. "It's the greatest of all nightmares," he
said to himself.
It was a long time before either Dick or Albert could sleep, and
when Dick awoke at some vague hour between midnight and
morning he was troubled by a shrill, wailing note that the drum of
his ear. Then he remembered. The whistle! And after it came the
rhythmic, monotonous beat of many feet, as steady and persistent as
ever. The sun dance had never ceased for a moment, and he fell
asleep again with the sounds of it still in his ear.
The dance, which was begun at the ripening of the wild sage,
continued three days and nights without the stop of an instant.
No food and no drink passed the lips of the neophytes, who danced
throughout that time—if they fell they rose to dance again.
Then at the appointed hour it all ceased, although every
warrior's brain was at white heat and he was ready to go forth at
once against a myriad enemies. It was as if everyone had drunk
of some powerful and exciting Eastern drug.
The dance ended, they began to eat, and neither Dick nor Albert
had ever before seen such eating. The cooking fires of the
squaws rose throughout the entire five miles of the village.
They had buffalo, deer, bear, antelope, and smaller game in
abundance, and the warriors ate until they fell upon the ground,
where the lay in a long stupor. The boys thought that many of
them would surely die, but they came from their stupor unharmed
and were ready for instant battle. There were many new warriors,
too, because none had failed at the test, and all were eager to
show their valor.
"It's like baiting a wild beast," said Dick. "There are five
thousand ravening savages here, ready to fight anything, and
to-night I'm going to try to escape."
"If you try, I try, too," said Albert.
"Of course," said Dick.
The village was resting from its emotional orgy, and the guard
upon the two boys was relaxed somewhat. In fact, it seemed
wholly unnecessary, as they were rimmed around by the vigilance
of many thousand eyes. But, spurred by the cruel need, Dick
resolved that they should try. Fortunately, the very next night
was quite dark, and only a single Indian, Pine Tree, was on
"It's to-night or never," whispered Dick to Albert within the
shelter of the lodge. "They've never taken the trouble to bind
us, and that gives us at least a fighting chance."
"When shall we slip out?"
"Not before about three in the morning. That is the most nearly
silent hour, and if the heathenish curs let us alone we may get
Fortune seemed to favor the two. The moon did not come out,
and the promise of a dark night was fulfilled. An unusual
stillness was over the village. It seemed that everybody slept.
Dick and Albert waited through long, long hours. Dick had
nothing by which to reckon time, but he believed that he could
calculate fairly well by guess, and once, when he thought it was
fully midnight, he peeped out at the door of the lodge. Pine
Tree was there, leasing against a sapling, but his attitude
showed laziness and a lack of vigilance. It might be that,
feeling little need of watching, he slept on his feet. Dick
devoutly hoped so. He waited at least two hours longer, and
again peeped out. The attitude of Pine Tree had not changed.
It must certainly be sleep that held him, and Dick and Albert
prepared to go forth. They had no arms, and could trust only
to silence and speed.
Dick was the first outside, and stood in the shadow of the lodge
until Albert joined him. There they paused to choose a way among
the lodges and to make a further inspection of sleeping
The quiet of the village was not broken. The lodges stretched
away in dusky rows and then were lost in darkness. This promised
well, and their eyes came back to Pine Tree, who was still
sleeping. Then Dick became conscious of a beam of light, or
rather two beams. These beams shot straight from the open eyes
of Pine Tree, who was not asleep at all. The next instant Pine
Tree opened his mouth, uttered a yell that was amazingly loud and
piercing, and leaped straight for the two boys.
As neither Dick nor Albert had arms, they could do nothing but
run, and they fled between the lodges at great speed, Pine Tree
hot upon their heels. It amazed Dick to find that the whole
population of a big town could awake so quickly. Warriors,
squaws, and children swarmed from the lodges and fell upon him
and Albert in a mass. He could only see in the darkness that
Albert had been seized and dragged away, but he knew that two
uncommonly strong old squaws had him by the hair, three
half-grown boys were clinging to his legs, and a powerful
warrior laid hold of his right shoulder. He deemed it wisest
in such a position to yield as quickly and gracefully as he could,
in the hope that the two wiry old women would be detached
speedily from his hair. This object was achieved as soon as the
Sioux saw that he did not resist, and the vigilant Pine Tree stood
before him, watching with an expression that Dick feared could be
called a grin.
"The honors are yours," said Dick as politely as he could, "but
tell me what has become of my brother."
"He is being taken to the other side of the river," said the
voice of Bright Sun over Pine Tree's shoulder, "and he and you
will be kept apart until we decide what to do with you. It was
foolish in you to attempt to escape. I had warned you."
"I admit it," said Dick, "but you in my place would have done the
same. Once can only try."
He tried to speak with philosophy, but he was sorely troubled
over being separated from his brother. Their comradeship in
captivity had been a support to each other.
There was no sympathy in the voice of Bright Sun. He spoke
coldly, sternly, like a great war chief. Dick understood, and
was too proud to make any appeal. Bright Sun said a few words to
the warriors, and walked away.
Dick was taken to another and larger lodge, in which several
warriors slept. There, after his arms were securely bound, he
was allowed to lie down on a rush mat, with warriors on rush mats
on either side of him. Dick was not certain whether the warriors
slept, but he knew that he did not close his eyes again that
Although strong and courageous, Dick Howard suffered much
mental torture. Bright Sun was a Sioux, wholly an Indian
(he had seen that at the sun dance), and if Albert and he were
no longer of any possible use as hostages, Bright Sun would not
trouble himself to protect them. He deeply regretted their wild
attempt at escape, which he had felt from the first was almost
hopeless. Yet he believed, on second thought, that they had been
justified in making the trial. The great sun dance, the immense
gathering of warriors keyed for battle, showed the imminent need
for warning to the white commanders, who would not dream that
the Sioux were in such mighty force. Between this anxiety and
that other one for Albert, thinking little of himself meanwhile,
Dick writhed in his bonds. But he could do nothing else.
The warriors rose from their rush mats at dawn and ate flesh of
the buffalo and deer and their favorite wa-nsa. Dick's arms were
unbound, and he, too, was allowed to eat; but he had little
appetite, and when the warriors saw that he had finished they
bound him again.
"What are you going to do to me?" asked Dick in a kind of vague
No one gave any answer. They did not seem to hear him. Dick
fancied that some of them understood English, but chose to leave
him in ignorance. He resolved to imitate their own stoicism and
wait. When they bound his arms again, and his feet also, he made
no resistance, but lay down quietly on the rush mat and gazed
with an air of indifference at the skin wall of the lodge. All
warriors went out, except one, who sat in the doorway with his
rifle on his knee.
"They flatter me," thought Dick. "They must think me of some
importance or that I'm dangerous, since they bind and guard me so
His thongs of soft deerskin, while secure, were not galling.
They neither chafed nor prevented the circulation, and when he
grew tired of lying in one position he could turn into another.
But it was terribly hard waiting. He did not know what was
before him. Torture or death? Both, most likely. He tried to
be resigned, but how could one be resigned when one was so young
and so strong? The hum of the village life came to him, the
sound of voices, the tread of feet, the twang of a boyish
bowstring, but the guard in the doorway never stirred. It seemed
to Dick that the Sioux, who wore very little clothing, was carved
out of reddish-brown stone. Dick wondered if he would ever move,
and lying on his back he managed to raise his head a little on
the doubled corner of the rush mat, and watch that he might see.
Bound, helpless, and shut off from the rest of the world, this
question suddenly became vital to him: Would that Indian ever
move, or would he not? He must have been sitting in that
position at least two hours. Always he stared straight before
him, the muscles on his bare arms never quivered in the
slightest, and the rifle lay immovable across knees which also
were bare. How could he do it? How could he have such control
over his nerves and body? Dick's mind slowly filled with wonder,
and then he began to have a suspicion that the Sioux was
not real, merely some phantom of the fancy, or that he himself
was dreaming. It made him angry—angry at himself, angry at
the Sioux, angry at everything. He closed his eyes, held them
tightly shut for five minutes, and then opened them again. The
Sioux was still there. Dick was about to break through his
assumed stoicism and shout at the warrior, but he checked
himself, and with a great effort took control again of his
He knew now that the warrior was real, and that he must have
moved some time or other, but he did not find rest of spirit. A
shaft of sunshine by and by entered the narrow door of the lodge
and fell across Dick himself. He knew that it must be a fair
day, but he was sorry for it. The sun ought not to shine when he
was at such a pass.
Another interminable period passed, and an old squaw entered with
a bowl of wa-nsa, and behind her came Lone Wolf, who unbound
"What's up now, Mr. Lone Wolf?" asked Dick with an attempt at
levity. "Is it a fight or a foot race?"
"Eat," replied Lone Wolf sententiously, pointing of the bowl
wa-nsa. "You will need your strength."
Dick's heart fell at these words despite all his self-command.
"My time's come," he thought. He tried to eat—in fact, he
forced himself to eat—that Lone Wolf might not think that he
quailed, and when he had eaten as much as his honor seemed to
demand he stretched his muscles and said to Lone Wolf, with a
good attempt at indifference:
"Lead on, my wolfish friend. I don't know what kind of a welcome
mine is going to be, but I suppose it is just as well to find out
The face of Lone Wolf did not relax. He seemed to have a full
appreciation of what was to come and no time for idle jests. He
merely pointed to the doorway, and Dick stepped into the
sunshine. Lying so long in the dusky lodge, he was dazzled at
first by the brilliancy of the day, but when his sight grew
stronger he beheld a multitude about him. The women and
children began to chatter, but the warriors were silent. Dick
saw that he was the center of interest, and was quite sure that he
was looking upon his last sun. "O Lord, let me die bravely!" was
his silent prayer.
He resolved to imitate as nearly as he could the bearing of an
Indian warrior in his position, and made no resistance as Lone
Wolf led him on, with the great thong following. He glanced
around once for Bright Sun, but did not see him. The fierce
chief whom they called Ite-Moga' Ju (Rain-in-the-Face) seemed to
be in charge of Dick's fate, and he directed the proceedings.
But stoicism could not prevail entirely, and Dick looked about
him again. He saw the yellow waters of the river with the
sunlight playing upon them; the great village stretching away on
either shore until it was hidden by the trees and undergrowth;
the pleasant hills and all the pleasant world, so hard to leave.
His eyes dwelt particularly upon the hill, a high one, overlooking
the whole valley of the Little Big Horn, and the light was so clear
that he could see every bush and shrub waving there.
His eyes came back from the hill to the throng about him. He had
felt at times a sympathy for the Sioux because the white man was
pressing upon them, driving them from their ancient hunting
grounds that they loved; but they were now wholly savage and
cruel—men, women, and children alike. He hated them all.
Dick was taken to the summit of one of the lower hills, on which
he could be seen by everybody and from which he could see in a
vast circle. He was tied in a peculiar manner. His hands
remained bound behind him, but his feet were free. One end of a
stout rawhide was secured around his waist and the other around a
sapling, leaving him a play of about a half yard. He could not
divine the purpose of this, but he was soon to learn.
Six half-grown boys, with bows and arrows, then seldom used by
grown Sioux, formed a line at a little distance from him, and at
a word from Rain-in-the-Face leveled their bows and fitted arrow
to the string. Dick thought at first they were going to slay him
at once, but he remembered that the Indian did not do things that
way. He knew it was some kind of torture and although he
shivered he steadied his mind to face it.
Rain-in-the-Face spoke again, and six bowstrings twanged. Six
arrows whizzed by Dick, three on one side and three on the other,
but all so close that, despite every effort of will, he shrank
back against the sapling. A roar of laughter came from the
crowd, and Dick flushed through all the tan of two years in the
open air. Now he understood why the rawhide allowed him so
much play. It was a torture of the nerves and of the mind.
They would shoot their arrows by him, graze him perhaps if he
stood steady, but if he sought to evade through fear, if he
sprang either to one side or the other, they might strike in
a vital spot.
He summoned up the last ounce of his courage, put his back
against the sapling and resolved that he would not move, even if
an arrow carried some of his skin with it. The bowstrings
twanged again, and again six arrows whistled by. Dick quivered,
but he did not move, and some applause came from the crowd.
Although it was the applause of enemies, of barbarians, who
wished to see him suffer, it encouraged Dick. He would endure
everything and he would not look at these cruel faces; so he
fixed his eyes on the high hill and did not look away when the
bowstrings twanged a third time. As before, he heard the arrows
whistle by him, and the shiver came into his blood, but his will
did not let it extend to his body. He kept his eyes fixed upon
the hill, and suddenly a speck appeared before them. No, it was
not a speck, and, incredible as it seemed, Dick was sure that he
saw a horseman come around the base of the hill and stop there,
gazing into the valley upon the great village and the people
thronging about the bound boy.
A second and third horseman appeared, and Dick could doubt no
longer. They were white cavalrymen in the army uniform, scouts
or the vanguard, he knew not what. Dick held his breath, and
again that shiver came into his blood. Then he heard and saw an
extraordinary thing. A singular deep, long-drawn cry came from
the multitude in unison, a note of surprise and mingled threat.
Then all whirled about at the same moment and gazed at the
horsemen at the base of the hill.
The cavalrymen quickly turned back, rode around the hill and out
of sight. Dozens of warriors rushed forward, hundreds ran to the
lodges for more weapons and ammunition, the women poured in a
stream down toward the river and away, the boys with the bows and
arrows disappeared, and in a few minutes Dick was left alone.
Unnoticed, but bound and helpless, the boy stood there on the
little hill, while the feverish life, bursting now into a
turbulent stream, whirled and eddied around him.
The Circle of Death
The quiver in Dick's blood did not cease now. He forgot for the
time being that he was bound, and stood there staring at the hill
where three horsemen had been for a few vivid moments. These men
must be proof that a white army was near; but would this army
know what an immense Sioux force was waiting for it in the valley
of the Little Big Horn?
He tried to take his eyes away from the hill, but he could not.
He seemed to know every tree and shrub on it. There at the base,
in that slight depression, the three horsemen had stood, but none
came to take their place. In the Indian village an immense
activity was going on, both on Dick's side of the river and the
other. A multitude of warriors plunged into the undergrowth on
the far bank of the stream, where they lay hidden, while another
multitude was gathering on this side in front of the lodges. The
gullies and ravines were lined with hordes. The time was about
two in the afternoon.
A chief appeared on the slope not far from Dick. It was Bright
Sun in all the glory of battle array, and he glanced at the
tethered youth. Dick's glance met his, and he saw the shadow of
a faint, superior smile on the face of the chief. Bright Sun started
to say something to a warrior, but checked himself. He seemed to
think that Dick was secured well enough, and he did not look at him
again. Instead, he gazed at the base of the hill where the horsemen
had been, and while he stood there he was joined by the chiefs
Rain-in-the-Face and Young-Man-Afraid-of-His-Horses.
Dick never knew how long a time passed while they all waited.
The rattle of arms, the shouts, and the tread of feet in the
village ceased. There was an intense, ominous silence broken
only, whether in fact or fancy Dick could not tell, by the heavy
breathing of thousands. The sun came out more brightly and
poured its light over the town and the river, but it did not
reveal the army of the Sioux swallowed up in the undergrowth on
the far bank. So well were they hidden that their arms gave back
Dick forgot where he was, forgot that he was bound, so tense were
the moments and so eagerly did he watch the base of the hill.
When a long time—at least, Dick thought it so—had passed, a
murmur came from the village below. The men were but scouts
and had gone away, and no white army was near. That was Dick's
own thought, too.
As the murmur sank, Dick suddenly straightened up. The black
speck appeared again before his eyes. New horsemen stood where
the three had been, and behind them was a moving mass, black in
the sun. The white army had come!
Bright Sun suddenly turned upon Dick a glance so full of
malignant triumph that the boy shuddered. Then, clear and full
over the valley rose the battle cry of the trumpets, a joyous
inspiring sound calling men on to glory or death. Out from the
hill came the moving mass of white horsemen, rank after rank, and
Dick saw one in front, a man with long yellow hair, snatch off
his hat, wave it around his head, and come on at a gallop.
Behind him thundered the whole army, stirrup to stirrup.
Bright Sun, Rain-in-the-Face, and Young-Man-Afraid-of-His-Horses
darted away, and then Dick thought of the freedom that he wanted
so much. They were his people coming so gallantly down the
valley, and he should be there. He pulled at the rawhide, but it
would not break; he tried to slip his wrists loose, but they
would not come; and, although unnoticed now, he was compelled
to stand there, still a prisoner, and merely see.
The horsemen came on swiftly, a splendid force riding
well—trained soldiers, compact of body and ready of hand. The
slope thundered with their hoofbeats as they came straight toward
the river. Dick drew one long, deep breath of admiration, and
then a terrible fear assailed him. Did these men who rode so well
know unto what they were riding?
The stillness prevailed yet a little longer in the Indian
village. The women and children were again running up the river,
but they were too far away for Dick to hear them, and he was
watching his own army. Straight on toward the river rode the
horsemen, with the yellow-haired general at their head, still
waving his hat. Strong and mellow, the song of the trumpet again
sang over the valley, but the terrible fear at Dick's heard grew.
It was obvious to the boy that the army of Custer intended to
cross the river, here not more than two feet deep, but on their
flank was the deadly quicksand and on the opposite shore facing
them the hidden warriors lay in the hundreds. Dick pulled again
at his bonds and began to shout: "Not there! Not there! Turn
away!" But his voice was lost in the pealing of the trumpets and
the hoof beats of many horses.
They were nearing the river and the warriors were swarming on
their flank, still held in leash by Bright Sun, while the great
medicine man, Sitting Bull, the sweat pouring from his face, was
making the most powerful medicine of his life. Nearer and nearer
they rode, the undergrowth still waving gently and harmlessly in
the light wind.
Dick stopped shouting. All at once he was conscious of its
futility. Nobody heard him. Nobody heeded him. He was only an
unnoticed spectator of a great event. He stood still now, back
to the tree, gazing toward the river and the advancing force.
Something wet dropped into his eye and he winked it away. It was
the sweat from his own brow.
The mellow notes of the trumpet sang once more, echoing far over
the valley, and the hoofs beat with rhythmic tread. The splendid
array of blue-clad men was still unbroken. They still rode heel
to heel and toe to toe, and across the river the dense
undergrowth moved a little in the gentle wind, but disclosed
A few yards more and they would be at the water. Then Dick saw a
long line of flame burst from the bushes, so vivid, so intense
that it was like a blazing bar of lightening, and a thousand
rifles seemed to crash as one. Hard on the echo of the great
volley came the fierce war cry of the ambushed Sioux, taken up in
turn by the larger force on the flank and swelled by the
multitude of women and children farther back. It was to Dick
like the howl of wolves about to leap on their prey, but many
times stronger and fiercer.
The white army shivered under the impact of the blow, when a
thousand unexpected bullets were sent into its ranks. All the
front line was blown away, the men were shot from their saddles,
and many of the horses went down with them. Others, riderless,
galloped about screaming with pain and fright.
Although the little army shivered and reeled for a moment, it
closed up again and went on toward the water. Once more the
deadly rifle fire burst from the undergrowth, not a single volley
now, but continuous, rising and falling a little perhaps, but
always heavy, filling the air with singing metal and littering
the ground with the wounded and the dead. The far side of the
river was a sheet of fire, and in the red blaze the Sioux could
be seen plainly springing about in the undergrowth.
The cavalrymen began to fire also, sending their bullets across
the river as fast as they could pull the trigger, but they were
attacked on the flank, too, by the vast horde of warriors,
directed by the bravest of the Sioux chiefs, the famous Pizi
(Gall), one of the most skillful and daring fighters the red race
ever produced, a man of uncommon appearance, of great height,
and with the legendary head of a Caesar. He now led on the
horde with voice and gesture, and hurled it against Custer's
force, which was reeling again under the deadly fire from the
other shore of the Little Big Horn.
The shouting of the warriors and of the thousands of women
and children who watched the battle was soon lost to Dick
in the steady crash of the rifle fire which filled the whole
valley—sharp, incessant, like the drum of thunder in the ear.
A great cloud of smoke arose and drifted over the combatants,
white and red, but this smoke was pierced by innumerable flashes
of fire as the red swarms pressed closer and the white replied.
Some flaw in the wind lifted the smoke and sent it high over the
heads of all. Dick saw Custer, the general with the yellow hair,
still on horseback and apparently unwounded, but the little army
had stopped. It had been riddled already by the rifle fire from
the undergrowth and could not cross the river. The dead and
wounded on the ground had increased greatly in numbers, and the
riderless horses galloped everywhere. Some of them rushed
blindly into the Indian ranks, where they were seized.
Three or four troopers had fallen or plunged into the terrible
quicksand on the other flank, and as Dick looked they were slowly
swallowed up. He shut his eyes, unable to bear the sight, and
when he opened them he did not see the men any more.
The smoke flowed in again and then was driven away once more.
Dick saw that all of Custer's front ranks were now dismounted,
and were replying to the fire from the other side of the river.
Undaunted by the terrible trap into which they had ridden they
came so near to the bank that many of them were slain there, and
their bodies fell into the water, where they floated.
Dick saw the yellow-haired leader wave his hat again, and the
front troopers turned back from the bank. The whole force turned
with them. All who yet lived or could ride now sprang from their
horses, firing at the same time into the horde about them. Their
ranks were terribly thinned, but they still formed a compact
body, despite the rearing and kicking of the horses, many of
which were wounded also.
Dick was soldier enough to know what they wished to do. They
were trying to reach the higher ground, the hills, where they
could make a better defense, and he prayed mutely that they might
The Sioux saw, too, what was intended, and they gave forth a yell
so full of ferocity and exultation that Dick shuddered from head
to foot. The yell was taken up by the fierce squaws and boys who
hovered in the rear, until it echoed far up and down the banks of
the Little Big Horn.
The white force, still presenting a steady front and firing fast,
made way. The warriors between them and the hill which they
seemed to be seeking were driven back, but the attack on their
rear, and now on both flanks, grew heavier and almost unbearable.
The outer rim of Custer's army was continually being cut off,
and when new men took the places of the others they, too, were
shot down. His numbers and the space on which they stood were
reduced steadily, yet they did not cease to go on, although the
pace became slower. It was like a wounded beast creeping along
and fighting with tooth and claw, while the hunters swarmed
about him in numbers always increasing.
Custer bore diagonally to the left, going, in the main,
downstream, but a fresh force was now thrown against him. The
great body of warriors who had been hidden in the undergrowth on
the other side of the Little Big Horn crossed the stream when he
fell back and flung themselves upon his flank and front. He was
compelled now to stop, although he had not gone more than four
hundred yards, and Dick, from his hill, saw the actions of the
They stood there for perhaps five minutes firing into the Sioux,
who were now on every side. They formed a kind of hollow square
with some of the men in the center holding the horses, which were
kicking and struggling and adding to the terrible confusion. The
leader with the yellow hair was yet alive. Dick saw him plainly,
and knew by his gestures that he was still cheering on his men.
A movement now took place. Dick saw the white force divided. A
portion of it deployed in a circular manner to the left, and the
remainder turned in a similar fashion to the right, although they
did not lose touch. The square was now turned into a rude circle
with the horses still in the center. They stood on a low hill,
and so far as Dick could see they would not try to go any
farther. The fire of the defenders had sunk somewhat, but he saw
the men rushing to the horses for the extra ammunition—that was
why they hung to the horses—and then the fire rose again in
intensity and volume.
Confident in their numbers and the success that they had already
won, the Sioux pressed forward from every side in overwhelming
masses. All the great chiefs led them—Gall, Crazy Horse,
Young-Man-Afraid-of-His-Horses, Grass, and the others. Bright
Sun continually passed like a flame, inciting the hordes to
renewed attacks, while the redoubtable Sitting Bull never ceased
to make triumphant medicine. But it was Gall, of the magnificent
head and figure, the very model of a great savage warrior, who
led at the battle front. Reckless of death, but always
unwounded, he led the Sioux up to the very muzzles of the white
rifles, and when they were driven back he would lead them up
again. Dick had heard all his life that Indians would not charge
white troops in the open field, but here they did it, not one
time, but many.
Dick believed that if he were to die that moment the picture of
that terrible scene would be found photographed upon his
eyeballs. It had now but little form or feature for him. All he
could see was the ring of his own blue-clad people in the center
and everywhere around them the howling thousands, men mostly
naked to the breechclout, their bodies wet with the sweat of
their toiling, and their eyes filled with the fury of the savage
in victorious battle—details that he could not see, although
they were there. Alike over the small circle and the vast one
inclosing it the smoke drifted in great clouds, but beneath it
the field was lit up by the continuous red flash of the rifles.
Dick wondered that anybody could live where so many bullets were
flying in the air; yet there was Custer's force, cut down much
more, but the core of it still alive and fighting, while the
Sioux were so numerous that they did not miss their own warriors
who had fallen, although there were many.
The unbroken crash of the rifle fire had gone on so long now that
Dick scarcely noticed it, nor did he heed the great howling of
the squaws farther up the stream. He was held by what his eyes
saw, and he did not take them from the field for an instant. He
saw one charge, a second and third hurled back, and although he
was not conscious of it he shouted aloud in joy.
"They'll drive them off! They'll drive them off for good!" he
exclaimed, although in his heart he never believed it.
The wind after a while took another change, and the dense clouds
of smoke hung low over the field, hiding for the time the little
white army that yet fought. Although Dick could see nothing now,
he still gazed into the heart of the smoke bank. He did not know
then that a second battle was in progress on the other side of
the town. Custer before advancing had divided his force, giving
a little more than half of it to Reno, who, unconscious of
Custer's deadly peril, was now being beaten off. Dick had no
thought for anything but Custer, not even of his own fate. Would
they drive the Sioux away? He ran his tongue over his parched
lips and tugged at the bonds that held his wrists.
The wind rose again and blew the smoke to one side. The
battlefield came back into the light, and Dick saw that the white
force still fought. But many of the men were on their knees now,
using their revolvers, and Dick feared the terrible event that
really happened—their ammunition was giving out, and the savage
horde, rimming them on all sides, was very near.
He did not know how long the battle had lasted, but it seemed
many hours to him. The sun was far down in the west, gilding the
plains and hills with tawny gold, but the fire and smoke of
conflict filled the whole valley of the Little Big Horn.
"Perhaps night will save those who yet live," thought Dick. But
the fire of the savages rose. Fresh ammunition was brought to
them, and after every repulse they returned to the attack,
pressing closer at every renewal.
Dick saw the leader at the edge of the circle almost facing his
hill. His hat was gone, and his long yellow hair flew wildly,
but he still made gestures to his men and bade them fight on.
Then Dick lost him in the turmoil, but he saw some of the horses
pull loose from the detaining hands, burst through the circle,
and plunge among the Sioux.
Now came a pause in the firing, a sudden sinking, as if by
command, and the smoke thinned. The circle which had been
sprouting flame on every side also grew silent for a moment,
whether because the enemy had ceased or the cartridges were all
gone Dick never knew. But it was the silence of only an
instant. There was a tremendous shout, a burst of firing greater
than any that had gone before, and the whole Sioux horde poured
The warriors, charging in irresistible masses from side to side,
met in the center, and when the smoke lifted from the last great
struggle Dick saw only Sioux.
Of all the gallant little army that had charged into the valley
not a soul was now living, save a Crow Indian scout, who, when
all was lost, let down his hair after the fashion of a Sioux, and
escaped in the turmoil as one of their own people.
A Happy Meeting
When Dick Howard saw that the raging Sioux covered the field and
that the little army was destroyed wholly he could bear the sight
no longer, and, reeling back against the tree, closed his eyes.
For a little while, even with eyes shut, he still beheld the red
ruin, and then darkness came over him.
He never knew whether he really fainted or whether it was merely
a kind of stupor brought on by so many hours of battle and fierce
excitement, but when he opened his eyes again much time had
passed. The sun was far down in the west and the dusky shadows
were advancing. Over the low hill where Custer had made his last
stand the Sioux swarmed, scalping until they could scalp no
more. Behind them came thousands of women and boys, shouting
from excitement and the drunkenness of victory.
It was all incredible, unreal to Dick, some hideous nightmare
that would soon pass away when he awoke. Such a thing as this
could not be! Yet it was real, it was credible, he was awake and
he had seen it—he had seen it all from the moment that the
first trooper appeared in the valley until the last fell under
the overwhelming charge of the Sioux. He still heard, in the
waning afternoon, their joyous cries over their great victory,
and he saw their dusky forms as they rushed here and there over
the field in search of some new trophy.
Dick was not conscious of any physical feeling at all—neither
weariness, nor fear, nor thought of the future. It seemed to him
that the world had come to an end with the ending of the day.
The shadows thickened and advanced. The west was a sea of
dusk. The distant lodges of the village passed out of sight.
The battlefield itself became dim and it was only phantom
figures that roamed over it. All the while Dick was unnoticed,
forgotten in the great event, and as the night approached the
desire for freedom returned to him. He was again a physical being,
feeling pain, and from habit rather than hope he pulled once more
at the rawhide cords that held his wrists—he did not know that
he had been tugging at them nearly all afternoon.
He wrenched hard and the unbelievable happened. The rawhide,
strained upon so long, parted, and his hands fell to his side.
Dick slowly raised his right wrist to the level of his eyes and
looked at it, as if it belonged to another man. There was a red
and bleeding ring around it where the rawhide had cut deep,
making a scar that took a year in the fading, but his numbed
nerves still felt no pain.
He let the right wrist sink back and raised the left one. It had
the same red ring around it, and he looked at it curiously,
wonderingly. Then he let the left also drop to his side, while
he stood, back against the tree, looking vaguely at the dim
figures of the Sioux who roamed about in the late twilight still
in that hideous search for trophies.
It was while he was looking at the Sioux that an abrupt thought
came to Dick. Those were his own wrists at which he had been
looking. His hands were free! Why not escape in all this
turmoil and excitement, with the friendly and covering night also
at hand. It was like the touch of electricity. He was instantly
alive, body and mind. He knew who he was and what had
happened, and he wanted to get away. Now was the time!
The rawhide around Dick's waist was strong and it had been
secured with many knots. He picked at it slowly and with
greatest care, and all the time he was in fear lest the Sioux
should remember him. But the sun was now quite down, the last
bars of red and gold were gone, and the east as well as the west
was in darkness. The field of battle was hidden and only voices
came up from it. Two warriors passed on the slope of the hill
and Dick, ceasing his work, shrank against the trunk of the tree,
but they went on, and when they were out of sight he began again
to pick at the knots.
One knot after another was unloosed, and at last the rawhide fell
from his waist. He was free, but he staggered as he walked a
little way down the slope of the hill and his fingers were numb.
Yet his mind was wholly clear. It had recovered from the great
paralytic shock caused by the sight of the lost battle, and he
intended to take every precaution needed for escape.
He sat down in a little clump of bushes, where he was quite lost
to view, and rubbed his limbs long and hard until the circulation
was active. His wrists had stopped bleeding, and he bound about
them little strips that he tore from his clothing. Then he threw
away his cap—the Sioux did not wear caps, and he meant to look
as much like a Sioux as he could. That was not such a difficult
matter, as he was dressed in tanned skins, and wind and weather
had made him almost as brown as an Indian.
Midway of the slope he stopped and looked down. The night had
come, but the stars were not yet out. He could see only the near
lodges, but many torches flared now over the battle field and in
the village. He started again, bearing away from the hill on
which Custer had fallen, but pursuing a course that led chiefly
downstream. Once he saw dusky figures, but they took no notice
of him. Once a hideous old squaw, carrying some terrible trophy
in her hand, passed near, and Dick thought that all was lost. He
was really more afraid at this time of the sharp eyes of the old
squaws than those of the warriors. But she passed on, and Dick
dropped down into a little ravine that ran from the field. His
feet touched a tiny stream that trickled at the bottom of the
ravine, and he leaped away in shuddering horror. The soles of
his mocassins were now red.
But he made progress. He was leaving the village farther behind,
and the hum of voices was not so loud. One of his greatest
wishes now was to find arms. He did not intend to be recaptured,
and if the Sioux came upon him he wanted at least to make a
A dark shape among some short bushes attracted his attention. It
looked like the form of a man, and when he went closer he saw
that it was the body of a Sioux warrior, slain by a distant
bullet from Custer's circle. His carbine lay beside him and he
wore an ammunition belt full of cartridges. Dick, without
hesitation, took both, and felt immensely strengthened. The
touch of the rifle gave him new courage. He was a man now ready
to meet men.
He reached another low hill and stood there a little while,
listening. He heard an occasional whoop, and may lights flared
here and there in the village, but no warrior was near. He saw
on one side of him the high hill, at the base of which the first
cavalrymen had appeared, and around which the army had ridden a
little later to its fate. Dick was seized with a sudden
unreasoning hatred of the hill itself, standing there black and
lowering in the darkness. He shook his fist at it, and then,
ashamed of his own folly, hurried his flight.
Everything was aiding him now. If any chance befell, that chance
was in his favor. Swiftly he left behind the field of battle,
the great Indian village, and all the sights and sounds of that
fatal day, which would remain stamped on his brain as long as he
lived. He did not stop until he was beyond the hills inclosing
the valley, and then he bent back again toward the Little Big
Horn. He intended to cross the river and return toward the
village on the other side, having some dim idea that he might
find and rescue Albert.
Dick was now in total silence. The moon and the stars were not
yet out, but he had grown used to the darkness and he could see
the low hills, the straggling trees, and the clumps of
undergrowth. He was absolutely alone again, but when he closed
his eyes he saw once more with all the vividness of reality that
terrible battle field, the closing in of the circle of death, the
last great rush of the Sioux horde, and the blotting out of the
white force. He still heard the unbroken crash of the rifle fire
that had continued for hours, and the yelling of the Sioux that
rose and fell.
But when he opened his eyes the silence became painful, it was so
heavy and oppressive. He felt lonely and afraid, more afraid
than he had even been for himself while the battle was in
progress. It seemed to him that he was pursued by the ghosts of
the fallen, and he longed for the company of his own race.
Dick was not conscious of hunger or fatigue. His nerves were
still keyed too high to remember such things, and now he turned
down to the Little Big Horn. Remembering the terrible quicksand,
he tried the bank very gingerly before he stepped into the
water. It was sandy, but it held him, and then he waded in
boldly, holding his rifle and belt of cartridges above his head.
He knew that the river was not deep, but it came to his waist
here, and once he stepped into a hole to his armpits, but he kept
the rifle and cartridges dry. The waters were extremely cold,
but Dick did not know it, and when he reached the desired shore
he shook himself like a dog until the drops flew and then began
the perilous task of returning to the village on the side
farthest from Custer's battle.
He went carefully along the low, wooded shores, keeping well in
the undergrowth, which was dense, and for an hour he heard and
saw nothing of the Sioux. He knew why. They were still
rejoicing over their great victory, and although he knew little
of Indian customs he believed that the scalp dance must be in
The moon and stars came out. A dark-blue sky, troubled by
occasional light clouds, bent over him. He began at last to feel
the effects of the long strain, mental and physical. His clothes
were nearly dry on him, but for the first time he felt cold and
weak. He went on, nevertheless; he had no idea of stopping even
if he were forced to crawl.
He reached the crest of a low hill and looked down again on the
Indian village, but from a point far from the hill on which he
had stood during the battle. He saw many lights, torches and
camp fires, and now and then dusky figures moving against the
background of the flames, and then a great despair overtook him.
To rescue Albert would be in itself difficult enough, but how was
he ever to find him in that huge village, five miles long?
He did not permit his despair to last long. He would make the
trial in some manner, how he did not yet know, but he must make
it. He descended the low hill and entered a clump of bushes
about fifty yards from the banks of the Little Big Horn. Here he
stopped and quickly sank down. He had heard a rustling at the
far edge of the clump, and he was sure, too, that he had seen a
shadowy figure. The figure had disappeared instantly, but Dick
was confident that a Sioux warrior was hidden in the bushes not
ten yards away.
It was his first impulse to retreat as silently as he could, but
the impulse swiftly gave way to a fierce anger. He remembered
that he carried a rifle and plenty of cartridges, and he was
seized with a sudden vague belief that he might strike a blow in
revenge for the terrible loss of the day. It could be but a
little blow, he could strike down only one, but he was resolved
to do it—he had been through what few boys are ever compelled
to see and endure, and his mind was not in its normal state.
He turned himself now into an Indian, crawling and creeping with
deadly caution through the bushes, exercising an infinite
patience that he might make no leaf or twig rustle, and now and
then looking carefully over the tops of the bushes to see that
his enemy had not fled. As he advanced he held his rifle well
forward, that he might take instant aim when the time came.
Dick was a full ten minutes in traveling ten yards, and then he
saw the dark figure of the warrior crouched low in the bushes.
The Sioux had not seen him and was watching for his approach from
some other point. The figure was dim, but Dick slowly raised his
rifle and took careful aim at the head. His finger reached the
trigger, but when it got there it refused to obey his will. He
was not a savage; he was white, with the civilized blood of many
generations, and he could not shoot down an enemy whose back
was turned to him. But he maintained his aim, and using some
old expression that he had heard he cried, "Throw up your hands!"
The crouching figure sprang to its feet, and a remembered voice
exclaimed in overwhelming surprise and delight:
"Dick! Dick! Is that you, Dick?"
Dick dropped the muzzle of his rifle and stared. He could not
take it in for the moment. It was Albert—a ragged, dirty,
pale, and tired Albert, but a real live Albert just the same.
The brothers stared at each other by the same impulse, and then
by the same impulse rushed forward, grasped each other's hands,
wringing them and shouting aloud for joy.
"Is it you, Al? How on earth did you ever get here?"
"Is it you, Dick? Where on earth did you come from?"
They sat down in the bushes, both still trembling with excitement
and the relief from suspense, and Dick told of the fatal day, how
he had been bound to the tree on the hill, and how he had seen
all the battle, from its beginning to the end, when no white
soldier was left alive.
"Do you mean that they were all killed, Dick?" asked Albert in
"Every one," replied Dick. "There was a ring of fire and steel
around them through which no man could break. But they were
brave, Al, they were brave! They beat off the thousands of that
awful horde for hours and hours."
"Who led them?"
"I don't know. I had no way of knowing, but it was a gallant man
with long yellow hair. I saw him with his hat off, waving it to
encourage his men. Now tell me, Al, how you got here."
"When they seized us," replied Albert, "they carried me, kicking
and fighting as best I could, up the river. I made up my mind
that I'd never see you again, Dick, as I was sure that they'd
kill you right away. I expected them to finish me up, too, soon,
but they didn't. I suppose it was because they were busy with
"They pushed me along for at least two miles. Then they crossed
the river, shoved me into a bark lodge, and fastened the door on
me. They didn't take the trouble to bind me, feeling sure, I
suppose, that I couldn't get out of the lodge and the village,
too; and I certainly wouldn't have had any chance to do it if a
battle hadn't begun after I had been there a long time in the
darkness of the lodge. I thought at first that it was the Sioux
firing at targets, but then it became too heavy and there was too
"The firing went on a long time, and I pulled and kicked for an
hour at the lodge door. Because no one came, no matter how
much noise I made, I knew that something big was going on, and
I worked all the harder. When I looked out at last, I saw many
warriors running up and down and great clouds of smoke. I
sneaked out, got into a smoke bank just as a Sioux shot at me,
lay down in a little ravine, after a while jumped up and ran
again through the smoke, and reached the bushes, where I lay
hidden flat on my face until the night came. While I was there I
heard the firing die down and saw our men driven off after being
cut up badly."
"It's awful! awful!" groaned Dick. "I didn't know there were so
many Sioux in the world, and maybe our generals didn't, either.
That must have been the trouble."
"When the darkness set in good," resumed Albert. "I started to
run. I knew that no Sioux were bothering about me then, but I
tell you that I made tracks, Dick. I had no arms, and I didn't
know where I was going; but I meant to leave those Sioux some
good miles behind. After a while I got back part of my courage,
and then I came back here to look around for you, thinking you
might have just such a chance as I did."
"Brave old Al," said Dick.
"You came, too."
"I was armed and you were not."
"It comes to the same thing, and you did have the chance."
"Yes, and we're together again. We've been saved once more, Al,
when the others have fallen. Now the thing for us to do is to
get away from here as fast as we can. Which way do you think
those troops on your side of the village retreated?"
Albert extended his finger toward a point on the dusky horizon.
"Off there somewhere," he replied.
"Then we'll follow them. Come on."
The two left the bushes and entered the hills.
Bright Sun's Good-by
Dick and Albert had not gone far before they saw lights on the
bluffs of the Little Big Horn. Dick had uncommonly keen eyes,
and when he saw a figure pass between him and the firelight he
was confident that it was not that of a Sioux. The clothing was
too much like a trooper's.
"Stop, Al," he said, putting his hand on his brother's shoulder.
"I believe some of our soldiers are here."
The two crept as near as they dared and watched until they saw
another figure pause momentarily against the background of the
"It's a trooper, sure," said Dick, "and we've come to our own
people at last. Come, Al, we'll join them."
They started forward on a run. There was a flash of flame, a
report, and a bullet whistled between them.
"We're friends, not Sioux!" shouted Dick. "We're escaping from
the savages! Don't fire!"
They ran forward again, coming boldly into the light, and no more
shots were fired at them. They ran up the slope to the crest of
the bluff, leaped over a fresh earthwork, and fell among a crowd
of soldiers in blue. Dick quickly raised himself to his feet,
and saw soldiers about him, many of them wounded, all of them
weary and drawn. Others were hard at work with pick and spade,
and from a distant point of the earthwork came the sharp report
of rifle shots.
These were the first white men that Dick and Albert had seen in
nearly two years, and their hearts rose in their throats.
"Who are you?" asked a lieutenant, holding up a lantern and
looking curiously at the two bare-headed, brown, and half-wild
youths who stood before him in their rough attire of tanned
skins. They might readily have passed in the darkness for young
"I am Dick Howard," replied Dick, standing up as straight as his
weakness would let him, "and this is my brother Albert. We were
with an emigrant trail, all the rest of which was massacred two
years ago by the Sioux. Since then we have been in the
mountains, hunting and trapping."
The lieutenant looked at him suspiciously. Dick still stood
erect and returned his gaze, but Albert, overpowered by fatigue,
was leaning against the earthwork. A half dozen soldiers stood
near, watching them curiously. From the woods toward the river
came the sound of more rifle shots.
"Where have you come from to-night? And how?" asked the
"We escaped from the Sioux village," replied Dick. "I was in one
part of it and my brother in another. We met by chance or luck
in the night, but in the afternoon I saw all the battle in which
the army was destroyed."
"Army destroyed! What do you mean?" exclaimed the officer.
"We were repulsed, but we are here. We are not destroyed."
The suspicion in his look deepened, but Dick met him with
"It was on the other side of the town," he replied. "Another
army was there. It was surrounded by thousands of Sioux, but it
perished to the last man. I saw them gallop into the valley, led
by a general with long yellow hair."
"Custer!" exclaimed some one, and a deep groan came from the
men in the dusk.
"What nonsense is this!" exclaimed the officer. "Do you dare
tell me that Custer and his entire command have perished?"
Dick felt his resentment rising.
"I tell you only the truth," he said. "There was a great battle,
and our troops, led by a general with long yellow hair, perished
utterly. The last one of them is dead. I saw it all with my own
Again that deep groan came from the men in the dusk.
"I can't believe it!" exclaimed the lieutenant. "Custer and
whole force dead! Where were you? How did you see all this?"
"The Sioux had tied me to a tree in order that the Indian boys
might amuse themselves by grazing me with arrows—my brother and
I had been captured when we were on the plains—but they were
interrupted by the appearance of troops in the valley. Then the
battle began. It lasted a long time, and I was forgotten. About
twilight I managed to break loose, and I escaped by hiding in the
undergrowth. My brother, who was on the other side of town,
escaped in much the same way."
"Sounds improbable, very improbable!" muttered the lieutenant.
Suddenly an old sergeant, who had been standing near, listening
"Look at the boy's wrists, lieutenant! They've got just the
marks than an Indian rawhide would make!"
Dick impulsively held up his wrists, from which the bandages had
fallen without his notice. A deep red ring encircled each, and
it was obvious from their faces that others believed, even if the
lieutenant did not. But he, too, dropped at least a part of his
"I cannot deny your story of being captives among the Sioux," he
said, "because you are white and the look of your eyes is honest.
But you must be mistaken about Custer. They cannot all have
fallen; it was your excitement that made you think it."
Dick did not insist. He was the bearer of bad news, but he would
not seek to make others believe it if they did not wish to do
so. The dreadful confirmation would come soon enough.
"Take them away, Williams," said the lieutenant to the sergeant,
"and give them food and drink. They look as if they needed it."
The sergeant was kindly, and he asked Dick and Albert many
questions as he led them to a point farther back on the bluff
beyond the rifle shots of the Sioux, who were now firing heavily
in the darkness upon Reno's command, the troops driven off from
the far side of the town, and the commands of Benteen and
McDougall, which had formed a junction with Reno. It was evident
that he believed all Dick told him, and his eyes became heavy
"Poor lads!" he murmured. "And so many of them gone!"
He took them to a fire, and here both of them collapsed
completely. But with stimulants, good food, and water they
recovered in an hour, and then Dick was asked to tell again what
he had seen to the chief officers. They listened attentively,
but Dick knew that they, too, went away incredulous.
Throughout the talk Dick and Albert heard the sound of pick and
spade as the men continued to throw up the earthworks, and there
was an incessant patter of rifle fire as the Sioux crept forward
in the darkness, firing from every tree, or rock, or hillock, and
keeping up a frightful yelling, half of menace and half of
triumph. But their bullets whistled mostly overhead, and once,
when they made a great rush, they were quickly driven back with
great loss. Troops on a bluff behind earthworks were a hard nut
even for an overwhelming force to crack.
Dick and Albert fell asleep on the ground from sheer exhaustion,
but Dick did not sleep long. He was awakened by a fresh burst of
firing, and saw that it was still dark. He did not sleep again
that night, although Albert failed to awake, and, asking for a
rifle, bore a part in the defense.
The troops, having made a forced march with scant supplies,
suffered greatly from thirst, but volunteers, taking buckets,
slipped down to the river, at the imminent risk of torture and
death, and brought them back filled for their comrades. It was
done more than a dozen times, and Dick himself was one of the
heroes, which pleased Sergeant Williams greatly.
"You're the right stuff, my boy," he said, clapping him on the
shoulder, "though you ought to be asleep and resting."
"I couldn't sleep long," replied Dick. "I think my nerves have
been upset so much that I won't feel just right again for
Nevertheless he bore a valiant part in the defense, besides
risking his life to obtain the water, and won high praise from
many besides his stanch friend, Sergeant Williams. It was well
that the troops had thrown up the earthwork, as the Sioux,
flushed with their great victory in the afternoon, hung on the
flanks of the bluffs and kept up a continuous rifle fire. There
was light enough for sharpshooting, and more than one soldier who
incautiously raised his head above the earthwork was slain.
Toward morning the Sioux made another great rush. There had
been a lull in the firing just when the night was darker than
usual and many little black clouds were floating up from the
southwest. Dick was oppressed by the silence. He remembered
the phases of the battle in the afternoon, and he felt that it
portended some great effort by the Sioux. He peeped carefully
over the earthwork and studied the trees, bushes, and hillocks
below. He saw nothing there, but it seemed to him that he could
actually feel the presence of the Sioux.
"Look out for 'em," he said to Sergeant Williams. "I think
they're going to make a rush."
"I think it, too," replied the veteran. "I've learnt something
of their cunnin' since I've been out here on the plains."
Five minutes later the Sioux sprang from their ambush and rushed
forward, hoping to surprise enemies who had grown careless. But
they were met by a withering fire that drove them headlong to
cover again. Nevertheless they kept up the siege throughout all
the following day and night, firing incessantly from ambush, and
at times giving forth whoops full of taunt and menace. Dick was
able to sleep a little during the day, and gradually his nerves
became more steady. Albert also took a part in the defense, and,
like Dick, he won many friends.
The day was a long and heavy one. The fortified camp was filled
with the gloomiest apprehensions. The officers still refused to
believe all of Dick's story, that Custer and every man of his
command had perished at the hands of the Sioux. They were yet
hopeful that his eyes had deceived him, a thing which could
happen amid so much fire, and smoke, and excitement, and that
only a part of Custer's force had fallen. Yet neither Custer nor
any of his men returned; there was no sign of them anywhere, and
below the bluffs the Sioux gave forth taunting shouts and
flaunted terrible trophies.
Dick and Albert sat together about twilight before one of the
camp fires, and Dick's face showed that he shared the gloom of
those around him.
"What are you expecting, Dick?" asked Albert, who read his
"Nothing in particular," replied Dick; "but I'm hoping that help
will come soon. I've heard from the men that General Gibbon is
out on the plain with a strong force, and we need him bad. We're
short of both water and food, and we'll soon be short of
ammunition. Custer fell, I think, because his ammunition gave
out, and if ours gives out the same thing will happen to us.
It's no use trying to conceal it."
"Then we'll pray for Gibbon," said Albert.
The second night passed like the first, to the accompaniment of
shouts and shots, the incessant sharpshooting of the Sioux, and
an occasional rush that was always driven back. But it was
terribly exhausting. The men were growing irritable and nervous
under such a siege, and the anxiety in the camp increased.
Dick, after a good sleep, was up early on the morning of the
second day, and, like others, he looked out over the plain in the
hope that he might see Gibbon coming. He looked all around the
circle of the horizon and saw only distant lodges in the valley
and Sioux warriors. But Dick had uncommonly good ears, trained
further by two years of wild life, and he heard something, a new
note in the common life of the morning. He listened with the
utmost attention, and heard it again. He had heard the same
sound on the terrible day when Custer galloped into the
valley—the mellow, pealing note of a trumpet, but now very
faint and far.
"They're coming!" he said to Sergeant Williams joyfully. "I hear
the sound of a trumpet out on the plain!"
"I don't," said the sergeant. "It's your hopes that are
deceivin' you. No, by Jove, I think I do hear it! Yes, there it
is! They're comin'! They're comin'!"
The whole camp burst into a joyous cheer, and although they did
not hear the trumpet again for some time, the belief that help
was at hand became a certainty when they saw hurried movements
among the Sioux in the valley and the sudden upspringing of
flames at many points.
"They're goin' to retreat," said the veteran Sergeant Williams,
"an' they're burnin' their village behind 'em."
A little later the army of Gibbon, with infantry and artillery,
showed over the plain, and was welcomed with cheers that came
from the heart. Uniting with the commands on the fortified
bluff, Gibbon now had a powerful force, and he advanced
cautiously into the valley of the Little Big Horn and directly
upon the Indian village. But the Sioux were gone northward,
taking with them their arms, ammunition, and all movable
equipment, and the lodges that they left behind were burning.
Dick led the force to the field of battle, and all his terrible
story was confirmed. There were hundreds of brave men, Custer
and every one of his officers among them, lay, most of them
mutilated, but all with their backs to the earth.
The army spent the day burying the dead, and then began the
pursuit of the Sioux. Dick and Albert went with them, fighting
as scouts and skirmishers. They were willing, for the present,
to let their furs remain hidden in their lost valley until they
could gain a more definite idea of its location, and until the
dangerous Sioux were driven far to the northward.
As the armies grew larger the Sioux forces, despite the skill and
courage of their leaders, were continually beaten. Their great
victory on the Little Big Horn availed them nothing. It became
evident that the last of the chiefs—and to Dick and Albert this
was Bright Sun—had made the last stand for his race, and had
"They were doomed the day the first white man landed in America,"
said Dick to Albert, "and nothing could save them."
"I suppose it's so," said Albert; "but I feel sorry for Bright
Sun, all the same."
"So do I," said Dick.
The Sioux were finally crowded against the Canadian line, and
Sitting Bull and most of the warriors fled across it for safety.
But just before the crossing Dick and Albert bore a gallant part
in a severe skirmish that began before daylight. A small Sioux
band, fighting in a forest with great courage and tenacity, was
gradually driven back by dismounted white troopers. Dick, a
skirmisher on the right flank, became separated from his comrades
during the fighting. He was aware that the Sioux had been
defeated, but, like the others, he followed in eager pursuit,
wishing to drive the blow home.
Dick lost sight of both troopers and Sioux, but he became aware
of a figure in the undergrowth ahead of him, and he stalked it.
The warrior, for such he was sure the man to be, was unable to
continue his flight without entering an open space where he would
be exposed to Dick's bullet, and he stayed to meet his
There was much delicate maneuvering of the kind that must occur
when lives are known to be at stake, but at last the two came
within reach of each other. The Sioux fired first and missed,
and then Dick held his enemy at the muzzle of his rifle. He was
about to fire in his turn, when he saw that it was Bright Sun.
The chief, worn and depressed, recognized Dick at the same
"Fire," he said. "I have lost and I might as well die by your
hand as another."
Dick lowered his weapon.
"I can't do it, Bright Sun," he said. "My brother and I owe you
our lives, and I've got to give you yours. Good-by."
"But I am an Indian," said Bright Sun. "I will never surrender
to your people."
"It is for you to say," replied Dick.
Bright Sun waved his hand in a grave and sad farewell salute and
went northward. Dick heard from a trapper some time later of a
small band of Sioux Indians far up near the Great Slave Lake, led
by a chief of uncommon qualities. He was sure, from the
description of this chief given by the trapper, that it was
Their part in the war ended, Dick and Albert took for their pay a
number of captured Indian ponies, and turning southward found the
old trail of the train that had been slaughtered. Then, with the
ponies, they entered their beloved valley again.
No one had come in their absence. Castle Howard, the Annex, the
Suburban Villa, the Cliff House and all their treasures were
undisturbed. They carried their furs to Helena, in Montana,
where the entire lot was sold for thirty-two thousand dollars—a
great sum for two youths.
"Now what shall we do?" said Albert when the money was paid to
"I vote we buy United States Government bonds," replied Dick,
"register 'em in our names, and go back to the valley to hunt and
trap. Of course people will find it after a while, but we may
get another lot of the furs before anyone comes."
"Just what I'd have proposed myself," said Albert.
They started the next day on their ponies, with the pack ponies
following, and reached their destination in due time. It was
just about sunset when they descended the last slope and once
more beheld their valley, stretching before them in all its
beauty and splendor, still untrodden by any human footsteps save
"What a fine place!" exclaimed Albert.
"The finest in the world!" said Dick.