D. W. (David W.) Belisle.

The American family Robinson; or, The adventures of a family lost in the great desert of the West online

. (page 10 of 20)
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than the stone, being almost black, while the
fallen building which they first came to was laid
in a white cement, quite like, in appearance, our
own.

Going around this enclosure they were astonished
to find that they were in a city in ruins. Before
them lay whole squares of shapeless masses, over-
grown with trees and shrubs, but the perfect
regularity of the form and finish of the blocks
of stone, of which they had been composed, with
the mortar in which they had been laid still cling-
ing to them, were sufficient to convince them that



166 THE WANDERERS; OR,

they had once t een buildings of more than ordi-
nary proportions and finish.

They attempted to force their way over this
irregular pile of rubbish ; but found it a dangerous
undertaking, as the blocks on which they placed
their feet yielded to their weight, and slipping
from their beds, threw them on the sharp edges of
the stones a proceeding they did not at all relish.
After receiving three or four such falls apiece, and
preferring the longer route as the safest, they started
to go around it, in order to investigate the forest
beyond as they caught a glimpse of some buildings
still standing, through the leaves, that hid the
main structure from sight.

Taking their way around the western side of the
obstruction, they came to a long wide avenue, on
which nothing but moss and small dwarf shrubs
grew, and which was perfectly smooth and level.

" This is singular," said the trapper. " I won-
der why it is not overgrown like the rest ?"

" Perhaps it is a road," said the chief. " Some-
times they covered their highways with stones,
and laid them so close together, that a tree could
not take root in them."

" Did you ever meet with one?" asked the
trapper.

" No : but tradition speaks of them, as once
having been quite common. We can soon see
whether this is one by scraping away the leaves
and dirt that have accumulated over it.' So



LIFE IN THE WESTERN WILDS. 167

Baying, he commenced digging away the accumu-
lated earth, which was no easy task, as the rain
the night before had saturated the surface, making
it adhere tenaciously to whatever it came in contact
with. Scraping away about four inches in depth of
forest mould, they came to a layer of stone blocks,
the only one which they laid bare being twelve
feet long, and eight wide, the thickness of which
they could not ascertain, as it was so closely fitted
to the adjoining one, that the blade of a knife
could not be inserted between them.

Following this avenue, it led them around a
graceful curve for half a mile, and there terminated
at a flight of stone steps, which ascending, they
found themselves on a high elevation of earth,
that contained as near as they could calculate,
about five acres of ground, in the centre of which,
on another elevation of about half an acre, which
was also mounted by stone steps, stood a large
imposing structure, still magnificent in its ruins.
This building they found likewise laid with the
dark cement, as indeed all the buildings were
which they found standing. The ingenuity of man
had cheated time of its prey.

Entering this pile, they were struck with awe at the
evident symmetry and beauty that had once reigned
within, for though time had accumulated mould and
moss over its walls, and covered its floors to a depth of
several inches with earth made up of dust and leaves
that had penetrated its open doors and windows \



168 THE WANDERERS; OR,

yet the walls themselves were there, heavy blocks
of granite in an iron-like cement that bound them
in place, perchance for a thousand years that have
gone, and bid fair to withstand the ravages of time
for ages to corne.

" Here," said the chief, " is a big house already
built, which we can winter in. It will save us the
trouble of building, and be more secure than any-
thing we could make."

" Well," said the trapper, " I guess, by the
trouble they took to put it up here, that it
was a palace or a temple. In either case, they
had it built a little tasty, and we will acknow-
ledge the merit due them by preferring it to any
other."

u There is the forest full of fruits and nuts,"
said the chief, waving his hand towards it, " and
if we winter here, we must gather them in before
the rains come. The leaves are thickening on
the ground, and when another moon is spent, the
rains will fall and the winds come down from the
north."

" You are right, chief. It is our place to make
due preparation against hunger and cold, for all
the year roots, berries, and game cannot be then as
easily obtained as now. The sun is at the meri-
dian, ar,d they will be alarmed at the cabin, if we
do not return soon. But, we will be here in the
morning again, and clear out some of this rubbish,
so that we can take up our abode here as soon as



LIFE IN THE WESTERN WILDS. 169

Sidney can be moved, and then we will devote oui
time in preparing for every contingency in our
power."

Following the avenue out until it was obstructed
by rubbish, they turned in the direction they
knew their cabin lay. After proceeding twenty
rods through the lovely grove, with fruit trees
blending with the growth of the forest, they came
to a small stone structure not more than twenty
feet square, nor eight high, in perfect preservation.
It had no floor, but in the centre bubbled up a jet
of transparent water, while all around its edges, and
even on the side of the wall, as well as over head
it was encrusted with a white substance as though
spray had congealed over it.

"What a new wonder!" cried the trapper,
" really I don't think they will ever cease, for this
excels them all. I would like to know if that is
really water."

"Perhaps it is the burning water," said the
chief, " dip your hand in and taste it."

"Salt! a salt spring!" cried the delighted
trapper, on placing a drop of the water on his
tongue. No wonder it caused a sudden excitement
and great joy ; for it was months that they had
been without it, and it was a privation under
which they had suffered greatly, as its loss made
many a dish unpalatable that otherwise would have
had a fine relish.

" The Great Spirit has led us here, and will

15



170 THE WANDERERS; OB,

finally deliver us from our wanderings," said the
chief, who was equally as well pleased, but it was
not his nature to make any extravagant exhibition
of passion.

44 Well, chief, the Great Spirit has our thanks,
for this last blessing. It is a gift of great value
in our isolated position," said the trapper.

On arriving at the cabin, they found them all
safe, but suffering from great anxiety at their
prolonged absence, which fled on their return in
safety, their arms laden with the fruits they had
gathered, the quality of which they desired to test.
The children listened with wonder at what they
heard in regard to the discoveries, it sounded so
like a fairy tale, and when assured that it was all
really there as described, and that they should see
it themselves within a few days, they seemed to
forget their forlorn condition in the pleasure it
afforded them.

The crusted salt they had gathered, gave them
more real pleasure at their dinner that day than
is often experienced in many a life time a plea-
sure, satisfaction and joy that they could never
have enjoyed, had they not been deprived of it so
entirely as they had been.

Here we might moralize if we had the room, but
moralizing IS out of the question. We have a history,
a complication of incidents to relate that caused cer-
tain effects to develope themselves, and it is our only
aim to cause others to moralize to lead inquiring



LIFE IN THE WESTERN WILDS. 171

minds into certain directions by revealing some-
thing of the heretofore unwritten past.

The next morning Howe and the chief returned
to the temple, as they called the building on the
elevation, and scraping the accumulated mass of
rubbish from the floor swept it with a broom made
by tying the twigs of hemlock on a long stick. A
rude broom enough, but one often used as far east
as the new settlements in Pennsylvania to this day.
When this was done, they found the floor covered
by a slippery black mould that could not be swept
off, and which they would have to remove by scrub-
bing. Here was a new dilemma. They had no
bucket in which to bring water from the river,
and their gourds would not hold over a quart each,
which would make the task of bringing it from such
n distance almost an endless job.

" We must do it," said the trapper. " This is a
little too much filth for civilized people. We can
bring each four gourds full at a time which will do
something towards it. If we could turn the river
into it we could clear out the shell of its filth in a
very short time."

"Perhaps," said the chief, "we can find some-
thing to bring water in if we hunt over the big
house."

"Not worth while now, chief: wait until the
children arc with us and then we will go over it;
at present our business is to make one room hah*
itable."



172 THE WANDERERS; OR

So saying they set out towards the river for a
supply of water ; but on descending the first eleva-
tion at the side on which the building stood, the
chief, when partly down, placed his foot into a
trough-like duct, running parallel with the eleva-
tion which was filled with leaves so as to obscure
the sight of the water until it penetrated his moc-
casin.

" Water plenty !" cried the chief, drawing his
foot from the unexpected bath, and then com-
menced clearing the place from the leaves and
earth with which it was partially filled. They soon
found it was an artificial duct about one foot deep
and two feet wide, built of the same kind of grey
stone as the rest of the ruins around, and still sup-
plied with water. They went on clearing it of
rubbish in order to see how far it extended ; but
after removing it a few rods they became weary,
and filling their gourds, hastened to finish their
renovating task.

That night they found Sidney up and cheer-
ful, insisting he was quite well enough to be
removed. Howe would not venture it, but insisted
on waiting a few days more, during which he
and the chief spent the time making couches in
the temple for their accommodation, and hunting,
in which sport he was very successful, having killed
a number of deer, turkeys, and mountain sheep.
In searching for game they rarely attempted to
take any other than those whose skin would be



LIFE IN THE WESTERN WILDS. 173

valuable to them as well as the meat, owing to their
anxiety to secure as many skins as possible while
game was plenty, as skins and furs were all they
had to rely on as covering for their beds and for
clothing.

15*



174 THE WANDERERS; OR



MB 1ft r.



Astonishment of the Children The Antiquity of the Ruins Pre-
parations for making the temple their quarters Building a
chimney to their house The Chief's contentment He asks to
marry Jane Sidney's anger Strange discoveries Set out on a
hunting expedition Discovery of wild horses The chief cap-
tures a colt He presents it to Jane The winter sets in A
series of storpas prevails A deer hunt' They discover an Indian
woman and her papoose They take her into camp and provide
for her Her inexpressible thanks for her deliverance.

THE children were filled with wonder and aston-
ishment at the magnificence as well as the evident
antiquity of the rum-s, and spent many days of
actual pleasure wandering among them. They
had read of similar remains having been found in
Europe ; but these were rendered vague in outline
by distance, and meagre in description by their
utter impossibility to comprehend the actual ap-
pearance of things, the like of which they had never
seen. These were more tangible. They saw and
felt them ; ascended and descended the symmetri-
cal steps ; ran their fingers along the seams of
wonderful cement that bound the pile in its place
like ribs of iron ; drank water from a duct where a
thousand years ago others had drank, but of what



LIFE IN THE WESTERN WILDS. 175

nation, race or name they knew not. Oblivion
with her sombre mantle had closed over them, to
remain, until a mind capable of grasping the past
shall arise, and with its oiant intellect give back
the forgotten alphabet the key that shall open to
us the rise, progress and fall of a nation, the relics
of whose once powerful but unknown people may
be found over the whole continent.

They covered the floor of the room they had cleared
with dried skins, laying them with the hairy side up,
thus making a comfortable carpet ; large blocks
of stone were piled at intervals around the rooms
for seats, and these were also covered with soft
skins, making very passable but immovable seats.
A table was built by setting four blocks of stone
up endwise in the centre of the room and laying
one large, smooth, thin slab on its top, around
which were placed five movable seats to be used
while eating.

What annoyed them greatly was, there was no
way of warming the room, and as the weather now
was becoming cold, they found it a great discom-
fort, as the sun could not penetrate the thick stone
walls to dry the dampness that gathered on them.
They were quite puzzled to know how they were to
be comfortable in that place without a fire, there
being no place in which to build one. There were
two windows that extended from the floor five feet,
up which, probably, had been frames, that were once
filled with some perishable material, but of which



176 THE WANDERERS; OR,

not a vestige now remained. These openings they
always closed at night by hanging skins before them,
which were taken down in the morning to let the
light in. The door-way that led into the room, wa3
entirely destitute of any vestige of a door, although
they found grooves cut in the blocks of stone that
ran along the side on which a door had been hung.
This door-way opened into a long hall, that ran
through the house from the front portal to the
back the doors that led into the four rooms of
which the temple was composed, opening on the
inside. This hall, which was truly a magnificent one,
was thirty-five feet wide, and fifty long, forty feet
high, tapering towards the centre overhead, in a
lofty dome.

"We must have a fire," said the trapper, one
morning, after an unusually frosty night. "This is
too cold. Can't we build one in the hall, chief?"

" The smoke will suffocate us ; we could not stay
in doors with it," said Whirlwind.

"Why don't you build it in one of the windows?
the smoke could then go out, while much of the
heat would come in," said Edward.

"Better yet," said Sidney: "build a chimney
by one of the windows, then all the smoke will go
out, and all the heat come in."

"You have it exactly," said the trapper. "I
wonder we did not think of it before. What say
you, chief shall we have the chimney ?"

The chief, not only assenting, but entering with



LIFE IN THE WESTERN WILDS. 177

alacrity into the project, the whole party went to
work to collect the material, of which there was
plenty, but as the blocks were nearly all large
ones that lay round them, they had to bring them
from the mass of ruins by the river, which was of
smaller material, and which they could handle to
better advantage. They worked hard all that day,
Sidney standing by quite uneasy, because they
would not allow him to help. The next morning
they mixed some mud and clay for mortar, and
commenced laying up the chimney, and succeeded
by night in finishing a very serviceable, though
not a very beautiful one. They found, on building
a fire in it, that it worked to a charm, filling the
room with a genial warmth and cheerful light,
while it carried away all the smoke.

They had gathered some twenty bushels of fruit,
that tasted like our apples, but resembled a pear in
shape and color, which was very hard and tough,
not fit to eat then, but which, the chief said, would
be good in midwinter. They had taken the pre-
caution to gather them by his advice he having
made some large baskets of the pliable twigs of
willow, in which they were conveyed from the trees
to the temple, where they were deposited in the
room they occupied.

" The fire will injure them," said the chief.
4 *We must put them in another room in order to
save them."

" Tbere is one adjoining us, that opens like ours

M



178 THE WANDERERS; OR,

from the hall. We can clear out that as we did
this, and make it a store house. We shall need
some place to keep our fruit and nuts in, which it
is time now to gather, and also our dried venison/'
said the trapper. " It is best to make ourselves as
comfortable as we can while here, for as the winter
will soon be on us, nothing but an especial provi-
dence can get us out of the scrape we are in, until
the weather is warm enough for us to travel again."

"I am the cause of your wintering here. If it
had not been for me, you would all have been home
now, instead of being, we don't know where," said
Sidney, who was often gloomy in his weakened
state.

"Perhaps we should, and then, perhaps, we
might have wandered into a worse place. Indeed,
we ought to be thankful for the shelter and fruits
we have found. I hardly think many that are
carried away by savages, escape as well as we
have, and then find such winter quarters," said
Jane, glancing complacently round the room, for,
to tell the truth, she felt a sort of pride in the
ample blazing fire, soft skin-carpeted floor, numer-
ous seats, with gay colored skins thrown over them,
and their couches, on which they slept, neatly spread
over with skins, while at one corner, in a little
nook screened from view by skins joined together
and hung around, was a couch appropriated to
her own use, covered with the finest furs they had
taken for the trapper had set his snareo from



Ll^E IN THE WESTERN WlLDS. 179

the first day of their abode there, and their store
of furs and skins was fast accumulating.

" We are here, that is a fact that cannot be
doubted," said the trapper, "and if I knew the
way out, and had my rifle, amunition, a supply of
hounds and traps with me, I would not leave it
until spring, if I could, for the whole valley is filled
with the right kind of game. There is a beaver
dam a mile down the stream, which contains some
of the finest coated fellows I ever saw. I have
got some more there, and will show fur that is fur,
or else I will give you leave to call me no trapper.''

"What matters it whether we are in one part
of the forest or another ?" said the chief, address-
ing Howe. "We have lost our home, now we
have made one, even better in some respects than
the red man ever has. The hunting ground is
good then let us be contented to live here.
Whirlwind is a warrior ; he has taken the scalp
from his enemies in battle he is a chief; he has
led his warriors to victory. Let the white chief
give him the antelope for his squaw, and he will
no more go out to battle ; but remain here, where
the Great Spirit has led him, and spend his days
in filling his wigwam with the softest furs, best fish
and venison in the forest, and the antelope's life
shall be happy as the singing bird, and bright as
the sun.'

"Why, Jane, what does this mean?" asked
Edward, bursting into a fit of uncontrollable



180 THE WANDERERS; on,

laughter, that awoke the echoes from the vener-
able pile that had slept through a long list of ages.
But Jane did not know herself what it meant,
as the expression of blank astonishment on her
face amply testified. But Sidney for one, knew
precisely the meaning of it, and with flashing eyes
and clenched hand, he limped to the side of the
chief, with a threatening attitude. Howe saw the
material he had to deal with, and thought it best
to interfere to prevent ill-feeling, as well as to get
such an idea out of the chief's head.

" When Jane has grown up she can speak for
herself." The white men do not give away their
maidens : when they are old enough they select
for themselves."

" Whirlwind can wait," said the chief compla-
cently.

Jane turned her head, and placed her hand
over her mouth to keep down the smile that would
come, as her eye caught her uncle's grave coun-
tenance, for he saw at a glance it would now
require all his tact to undeceive him, in regard to
the possibility of such a union, and yet retain his
friendship. Sidney would have had the matter
Bettled on the spot, but the trapper motioned
him to keep silent, which he did, though his lips
were compressed, and his looks angry and threat-
ening.

" Come," said the trapper, cheerfully, "we will
clear out the adjoining room, and take these apples



LIFE IN THE WESTERN WILDS. 181

from here, then we will be ready to gather in
our nuts to-morrow.

" A disagreeable place this," said he, as he com-
menced scraping up the accumulated mass and
throwing it out of the window.

" Probably, it is a long while since it was
cleansed," said Jane. "A very singular place,
and if we could get home safe at last, it would be
worth a little trouble and privation to have seen it."

" Something new again : wonders will never
cease," said the trapper, holding up a vessel of
some kind of heavy material, oval at the bottom,
and capable of containing some two gallons.

" It looks like a dinner kettle ; but how could a
dinner kettle get here ?"

" You don't think the people that used to live
here lived without eating, do you ?" said Howe.

" Or, that they knew how to build houses like
this, and did not know how to make a dinner pot.''

The rest thought they must have known how to
do so natural a thing, as the proof of it was before
them, and then the question arose ; could they use
it themselves ? " For, if we can," said Jane, " we
can have such nice stews and soups."

" Which we can eat with a split stick, as we do
our meat, especially the soup," said Edward.

" We can have some nice wooden spoons made
for that," replied the trapper. a l really think
the kettle can be put in a cookable order, by taking
off a coat or two of rust."

16



182 THE WANDERERS; OR,

"Here is another just like it," said the chief,
dragging out a similar vessel.

"You see," said Howe, "the people must not
only have eaten like civilized people, but had a
good appetite, or we should not find so many
vessels in one place."

The room being cleansed, the fruit and dried
venison were removed from the warm room, and the
next day they began to gather in their store of nuts.
Butternuts, walnuts, and hickory nuts, were gathered
in large quantities, as well as acorns which, when
roasted, formed a delicious as well as nutritious
food. Chesnuts were also gathered, as well as
the pine knots; these last were mostly for the light
they would give when burning, the only thing except-
ing their fire, which they were dependent on to
illumine their house. The collection of these
occupied them a number of days. Then the chief
and Edward took the baskets, and went down the
stream in search of yampa, a root much used for
food by the Indians. This they found in abund-
ance, about two miles distant, and collected a
number of baskets full of it.

When these precautionary measures were com-
pleted, they felt a security and satisfaction about
them which they had not felt before. The fact of
their being lost was shorn of half its terrors. Their
door was barricaded against the cold and starvation.
Sidney had made up his mind it was his fate to
have the worst of the trouble ; for, weak in body.



LIFE IN THE WESTERN WILDS. 183

his arm still in a sling, he was unable to join in the
busy preparations that the rest entered into with
such a keen relish. This worried him ; but not
half as much as did the assidious, delicate atten-
tion which the chief bestowed on Jane. Had the
chief been hunting and procured game, it was laid
at her feet ; did he secure a bird of rare plumage,
its plumes fantastically arranged, were modestly
presented to her ; and furs of rare softness and
beauty in profusion adorned her apartment, at the
request of the chief. Unwilling to offend, and as
he had never spoken on the subject to her, she
could do nothing but accept them with the best
grace she could. She saw how it irritated Sidney,
though she thought little of it after the moment,
supposing his illness caused the irritation as much
as the singular mode of winning favor pursued by
he chief.

No buffalo had yet been seen in the valley, and the
chief had more than once expressed his belief they
could bo found by following the open country down
the valley a few miles. Making himself a strong
lasso, and with hunting-knife, bow and arrows, and


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Online LibraryD. W. (David W.) BelisleThe American family Robinson; or, The adventures of a family lost in the great desert of the West → online text (page 10 of 20)