D. W. (David W.) Belisle.

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

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LIFE IN THE WESTEKN WILDS. 255

that he had made half the distance of the passage
before he could overtake, and get ahead of him so
as to block up the passage.

"Put her down!" thundered the indignant
trapper, with menacing gestures to the chief.

Sitting her on her feet, he glanced first at the
trapper who stood before him with compressed lipa
and flashing eyes, then at the terrified girl, from
her around the cavern, as if he expected a demon
to pounce upon them at every moment.

4< Chief ! this is hardly what I should have
expected from you !" said the trapper, angrily.

The chief seemed stupefied, and stood gazing
around him like one suddenly demented.

"No violence shall be offered to Jane, while I
live," continued the trapper. "lam her guardian
here."

" And after you, I, and her brother," said Sid-
ney, defiantly.

" Don't be too hard on the chief," spoke up,
Edward. " He intended no wrong, and, judging
from his actions, I take it, he thought he was doing
her a great kindness by securing her from some
imagined danger. What say you, Jane ? is the
chief culpable or not ?"

" He was frightened, I presume," returned the
young girl, evasively.

" I am not a coward ; yet, who is there that
dare contend with invisible spirits ?" said the
chief, in an humble tone. " This is an evil place.



256 THE WANDERERS; OR,

and the evil spirits that have their abode here,
have stirred up strife among us already ! Come,
let us hurry away, else we shed each others'
blood !"

u Take my hand, chief, and forgive my anger,"
Said the trapper, kindly. "I was wrong to deal
BO harshly with prejudices taught at your mother's
knee, and which are inherent with your very nature."

"That is right, uncle," said Edward. "Jane
and I have long been under the impression that it
is no w r ay to eradicate prejudice by becoming angry
with it. This," he added, addressing Sidney, "is
quite as much for your benefit as any one's."

" There, the evil spirit is at work again !" said
Jane, as a cutting retort fell from Sidney.
" Come," she added, " I have not seen half enough
of that wonderful room ; let us return and give it
a thorough exploration."

"No, no," said the chief, in alarm, " do not go,
we have seen too much already."

" I shall go, and so shall Jane," said Sidney,
decidedly, "you can return any moment you like ;
but your heathen prejudices shall never mar our
pleasure."

" Oh, yes, chief," said Edward, kindly, "we must
explore the cavern. If bad spirits preside there,
they will not harm us ; you need not go ; we shall
think none the less of you for returning."

" We are desirous to give this cave a thorough
exploration, and while doing this, you get us some



LIFE IN THE WESTERN WILDS. 257

ducks for dinner," said the trapper. " We do
not desire you to accompany us since you have
such a great repugnance for doing so."

" Does the white chief think his brother is a

I

coward, that he asks him to desert him in the hour
of danger? If you go and rouse their anger, I go
also to share your fate ; though that be death !"
So saying, the chief caught up some broken rocks
with which the floor was scattered in one hand, and
drawing his hunting knife in the other, cried out
in a tone of desperation, "lead on; I am pre-
pared for them !"

This last act of the chief of arming with missile
and knife to fight invisible spirits was too much for
Edward's risibility, and the consequence was a
shout of laughter in which they all joined save the
chief. The merry, mocking tones reverberated
through the cavern, swelling and gathering strength
from a thousand echoes that threw back the sound
until it seemed as if a legion of demons were mock-
ing them from every crevice and niche of the pas-
sage. They were silent for the moment, and glanced
around them in terror. The superstition of the
savage had not been without its influence, although
reason refused to acknowledge it.

o

" You are not frightened d.t an echo, are you ?
why I believe you are all cowards, scared out of
your wits at your shadows !" said Howe, in a sub-
dued voice; for, in truth, he did not care himself
tc awaken the echoes needlessly.



22*



258 THE WANDERERS; on,

Entering the room they had left so unceremo-
niously, they found the vein of ore had probably
once covered the whole area and had been about
seven feet thick, as the vein of pure ore commenc-
inor about two feet from the bottom of the cavern

o

extended that height and then it was mixed with
quartz rock three feet further up. The whole cav-
ern was about eighteen feet high, and had the
appearance of being entirely artificial. The chil-
dren could not repress a cry of astonishment as
they comprehended the vastness of the hidden trea-
sures before them a treasure sufficient to enrich
kingdoms. It might, for aught they knew, cover
miles in extent around of the same thickness; cer-
tainly what was visible was unparalleled for purity
and extent by any that had ever been discovered.
Heaps of quartz rock, in which particles of gold
glittered, strewed the bottom of the cavern as if
they had been blocked out and cast aside in dig-
ging the purer metal. Among these were found a
number of chisels made of a metal which, by reason
of its being so corroded, they could not make out.
Mallets of stone were also found, looking as if but
lately used. These instruments had cheated time
of its prey, and lay there in their pristine distinct-
ness a link binding the past with the future. They
also found an instrument which .was something like
our pick-axe, and Lad evidently been used in dis-
lodging the treasure from its bed.

" The relics of the lost people whorr the



LIFE iisi THE WESTERN WILDS. 259

Great Spirit destroyed in his anger !" said the
chief.

" Rather say, the treasure-house where the na-
tives obtained their treasure before our people dime
to this continent, and for which misguided Euro-
peans put thousands to death for not revealing the
locality where the golden deposit lay !" said Howe.

While carelessly tumbling over the masses of
rock that lay scattered over the floor, they came to
a circular helmet of copper, similar to the one they
had previously found ; and by its side a javelin
resembling that found sticking in the petrified body
in the cavern through which they escaped from the
cannibals. Stimulated by these discoveries they
began to search with earnestness and were soon
rewarded by the discovery of a quantity of bones,
some of them still quite perfect, sufficiently so for
them to ascertain that they were those of a man,
and that he had been of extraordinary size. Push-
ing their exertions farther on they came across a
massive urn of pure gold bearing the appearance
of having been cut out of a solid lump. The brim
was elaborately wrought, as were also the handles
and the three feet on which it rested, leaving a
space running through the middle perfectly plain
with the exception of several beautifully carved
hyeroglyphics that were placed with great regu-
larity and precision around the centre. The trap-
per took the urn in his hands, and after clearing it
from dust and mould held it close to the torches



200 THE WANDERERS; c R ,

and examined the hieroglyphics long and minutely,
and laying it down, said

" Could we tell the meaning of these characters
we should have more light to illuminate the gloom
that enshrouds the history of a nation that once
held this continent and enriched their coffers from
this cavern. This urn has been the work of the
ancestors of the old man of Lake Superior. The
characters on it are identical with those he showed
me, and may the day be not far distant when we
may be enabled to read these records of the past."

" How beautiful !" they all remarked, as this
discovery came to light, with the exception of the
chief, who sullenly stood apart regarding the dis-
coverers with unmistakable disapproval.

"This must be ours," said Sidney; "if we
should ever find our way home it would be a great
curiosity sufficient to repay us for some of the suf-
fering we have endured."

"Oh, yes; this is too beautiful to leave here any
longer," said Jane. "We can wrap it in grass
and furs and carry it on the horses very well."

"I agree with you in this," said Howe, "and
think it would be a sacrifice of the beautiful to
leave such a mark of civilization in this lonely
spot."

" My brother forgets himself , as he will sacri-
fice the lives of the children of the great Medicine
for a paltry love of a glittering bauble," said the
chief, sadly.



LIFE IN THE WESTERN WILDS. 261

" We must have our way this once, chief," said
Howe, good humoredly, " but promise you faith-
fully whatever else we may find may remain."

" That you may safely promise, for nothing
more rich and beautiful could be found," said
Jane.

" Unless we find another chair of state set with
Star stones, as the chief calls them, but which I
believe are veritable diamonds," said Sidney.

On further examination numerous pieces of pot-
tery were found, and also more bones, javelins and
helmets, but nothing different from what they had
seen. Leaving this vast treasure-house, they re-
traced their steps to the place where the other
avenue branched off, and there depositing their
treasures, prepared to explore this part of the
cavern. This passage they found grew wider as
they advanced about a hundred feet, when it
enlarged into a lofty, spacious room remarkable
for nothing except being of an extraordinary size,
and faintly lighted by an opening in the top which
permitted a few rays of light to penetrate and
soften the gloom below. This part of the cavern
was evidently a natural freak of nature, for they
found no traces of hewn rock or precious ore.
From the opposite side of the cavern they found a
low opening which, on entering, they gradually
descended winding round in a curve, the passage
enlarging a little until two could pass abreast with-
out stooping. Following this a distance of



262 THE WANDERERS; OR,

two hundred feet they were astonished to hear the
roar of water which sounded like the breaking of
surf against rocks. The sound grew louder and
louder as they advanced, until its roar filled the
cavern with stunning echoes reverberating along
its hidden passages. The cavern now became more
lofty and wider, the sides more rugged, and at last
it terminated on the brink of a stream which boiled
and lashed its rock-girt sides with its troubled
waters. To attempt to penetrate further would
have been dangerous, and they retraced their
steps. They concluded that they had found a con-
nexion with the lake above, which was some reward
for exploring that part of the cavern.



LIFE IN THE WESTERN WILDS.



Recovery, and continuation of their journey A joyous prospect
They discover a Lake It changes to gloom Discovered and fol-
lowed by Indians They finally escape, though compelled to
leave their ba.g/\je, <fcc. They wander on, unconscious of their
way Discover a beautiful valley, by which they encamp and
rest themselves Their journey continued They meet with
friendly Indians, who offer them their hospitality The Indiana
give them cheering intelligence They rest with them a few
days.

Six weeks had now elapsed, and they, with their
horses, were fairly recovered from the wearying
effects of their journey over the desert, and they
were ready to launch once more on the unknown
barren waste before them. Large quantities of
fish and fowl had been provided some by smoking,
and others by drying which, together with the
fresh and dried fruits and vegetables they had
secured, they calculated would last them five or six
days. There were no animals of any kind, conse-
quently they had not such facilities for preparation
of dried meats as before ; and being without any
salt, it was both inconvenient and difficult for
them to preserve their provisions. Loading their
horses with what they had prepared, and with a



264 THE WANDERERS; on,



supply of water and grass, they set out on foot, for
it would be impossible for the beasts to carry them
and the baggage, and they would be obliged to
travel on foot for two days at least, until the pro-
visions were consumed sufficiently to relieve the
beasts of part of the weight. It was now mid-
summer: they knew that by the intense heat that
poured its scorching rays upon them so that they
were obliged to halt before noon, and entrench
themselves behind a mass of rock they found, to
protect themselves from its burning rays. When
the greatest heat of the day was over, they again
set out, and after an hour's travel, came in sight
of a dense forest, which they reached long before
the sun had set. They now laughed heartily at
the idea of their sojourn on the oasis so long, pre-
paring with so much pains and anxiety for so short
a journey. Whithersoever they went they found
the forest increasing in fertility, and they knew by
the extent of it this time, they had reached the main
land, and had really crossed an immense desert.

They were not all joyous feelings that agitated
them that night ; for on every hand they saw traces
of Indians, and should they prove to be unknown,
hostile tribes, they feared sad consequences. The
night passed, however, quietly enough; and when
morning br:>ke, they set out, taking the precaution
to move cautiously along, and though they often
came upon places where Indians had encamped to
cook their meals, and sometimes found the brands



LIFE IN THE WESTERN WILDS. 165

of fires still smoking, they had the good fortune to
travel three days without falling in with them. On
the fourth day, about noon, as they were turning
the bend of a stream that wound round a hill, they
were suddenly confronted by a party of five fierce
looking savages, entirely naked, who seemed to
be as much surprised at the meeting as they were,
for they stopped, glanced wildly around them a
moment, and then precipitately fled.

"Well, chief," said the trapper, " how do you
like the looks of these customers ?"

" They are a people I know nothing of, and this
is the first time they have ever seen a pale face."

"I fear we have not mended matters by crossing
the desert," said Jane, sadly. " The sight of Indiana
does not speak well for our speedy return to the
land of civilization."

" Let not the antelope be fearful. 'Strong hearts
and hands are still around her," said the chief.

" Which can avail but little against the hordes
of savages that infest these wilds," remarked Jane.

"What is that Jane? You were lecturing me
awhile ago, about doing our best, courage, &c.
and leaving the rest for time to unravel," said
Edward, cheerily.

"I am glad you reminded me of it," said Jane,
" for the old feeling of despair was fast creeping
into my heart."

"I do not see anything to fear," remarked Sid-
ney, " evidently the savages are afraid of us, and

23



266 THE WANDEI, ERS; OR,

if they are not, so long as they run away from us,
we are surely -safe enough."

" You do not know the treachery of the Indians
who apparently infest these regions," said Jane.
" Perhaps they are cannibals, and it would then
be terrible to fall into their hands."

" The Indians are not naturally treacherous ;
but the wrongs they have endured have perverted
their nature, and they meet treachery by the
treachery they have learned while smarting under
it," said the trapper.

" The white chief speaks like one of us," said
Whirlwind, proudly. " We have endured wrong
and suffering, and been submissive ; but, at last,
goaded to resistance, our lands were drenched with
the blood of our wives and children, because our
warriors dared to strike a blow for freedom. All
this we have suffered, and must finally suffer
extinction, while the pale faces will thrive on the
soil enriched by our blood, and to future ages hold
us up as a nation notorious for all the vices and
crimes ever known, even that of drunkenness.

/ *

which the Indian never knew until the white man
came to our then peaceful shores."

" You are not all treacherous, even now,*' said
the trapper, " and whether the tribe is to whicn
these belong is for the future to determine. One
thing is certain, we must keep out of their hands
if possible, and to do this, we had better ride on
as fast as we can, and place as great a distance



LIFE IN THE WESTERN WILDS. 267

between us and them as we can before dark ; for,
if they interfere with us, it will be undertaken
after we are encamped for the night."

Much to their relief, they were not molested,
although they were kept in constant excitement
by seeing the Indians hanging on their trail, keep-
ing at a proper distance from them, halting when
they halted, and travelling when they travelled.
This continued for several days, and then the
Indians entirely disappeared, greatly to the relief
of our wanderers.

For the last few days they had been travelling
first in one direction and then in another alas !
they knew not whither, perfectly bewildered.
They seemed to be disheartened in pursuing a regular
course, and went where their judgments dictated
for the hour, perhaps retracing their steps the
next. One afternoon they came to a high, rolling
part of the forest, which terminated at the foot of
a range of hills rearing their heads in mural peaks,
and on ascending them, they found that they over-
looked a beautiful plain below, in the centre of which
a vast lake stretched away over many miles, and
lay nestled in that wilderness like a gem in a
setting of emerald. This lake was studded with
numerous islands which were heavily timbered, and
formed a beautiful set ne. Taking a circuitous
route so as to reach the lake in safety, they en-
camped on its banks as the last rays of the setting
sun were reflected in golden gushes from its placid



268 THE WANDERERS; OR,

bosom and nestling isles. As they gazed on the
enchanting scene before them, it seemed as if
nature had reserved all her beauties for this chosen
spot, denying to the vast desert they had traversed
fertility enough to make it inhabitable.

On the opposite side of the lake arose precipitous
ridges, varying in height from five hundred to a
thousand feet, covered with the balsam-pine, whose
dark stately green, formed a magnificent contrast
with the graceful foliage of the aspen, which
bordered the lake. A curious phenomenon here
attracted their attention. Beneath the transparent
waters of the lake were distinctly visible, trees of
enormous proportions, standing erect, with the
leaves and branches entire, looking as though they
had grown there, or been sunken in their watery
bed. Making themselves a raft of dry wood, they
explored every part of the lake, and found beneath
them in the water the same forest-like appearance,
and they concluded that the lake had once been
unobstructed, and that there had been an immense
land-slide which had precipitated itself from the
ridge over which they had entered the valley into
the lake ; part of the wood drifting on the surface,
had formed itself into ""he little isles, while the
rest had become submerged, and still rested at a
great depth beneath the waters that closed placidly
over its topmost bnnches.

Innumerabl3 fowl filled the branches of the trees
in these isles, while countless numbers of them



LIFE IN THE WESTERN WILDS. 269

were sporting in the water, undisturbed by tlio
intrusion of our wanderers. Evidently they had
never seen man before, and had yet to learn he
would prey on their numbers to sustain life. Here
they also found the salmon trout, grown to great
size, so large that one was enough for a supper for
the whole party. There were also great quantities
of tender grass which, growing undisturbed in a
constant shade, was as tender, and which the horses
cropped with as much avidity, as the grasses of
early spring, although now the mid-summer, with
scorching sun, was upon them.

Not a trace of a native was visible, and the
whole valley, nestled among the high ridges on
every side, had probably never before echoed to
the voice of civilized man, or the soil pressed by
his foot, for ages on ages at least, by any race
now known. Perhaps, too, thousands of years ago
a race knew of its existence, when the world was
young, if that time ever was. For the world is
always young to the young, but when old age comes
on, it becomes hoary to his heart also. The heart
of every man is his world. When it is young,
joyous, and happy, the world is seen through the
emotions that hold his soul in rosy meshes, and it
IB thus tinged to his sight with youth, love, hope,
and a joy that fills the heart with a fulness and
exstacy of happiness that leaves nothing further to
be desired. Let the rosy meshes fall, and hoary
age, or the long list of hours of a misspent life,

23*



270 TUB WANDERERS; OR,

hold up another scene, in which despair contends
with the waning hours, and sombre clouds obscure
the future ! Then the world is always old, always
sad, hard, and cold ; and man learns too late that
the beauty and gracefulness of age can be only
with the heart that is still young, though it has
seen long years and that, to enjoy life to the
latest hour, the heart must still be kept green.

As enchanting as this valley was, they dared not
spend a day in it longer than was necessary, and
with reluctance they left it to launch forth, they
knew not where. Crossing over the ridge, they
came to a high table land, broad, and over which
a fresh pure air constantly circulated. Thi? was
lightly timbered, and they feared another desert
was before them. They were, however, relieved
from this fear by coming to a high range of b ; lls,
which, on crossing, they found a succession of
ridges, the first ridge having hid the summits of /he
others ; as they crossed one after another, they
became more and more entangled amoi/g them, and
continued for t\vo days wandering among shady
dell?, and over rocky, craggy precipices,, until they
sat down at night exhausted, with their flesh torn
by the thorns and stones over which thevhad made
their way. For the last two days, they had been
unable to ride, the ground being so broken that
they found it quite as much as their beasts were
able to do, to make their way along unburtaened,
and now they were lame, their hoofs being much



LIFE IN THE WESTERN WILDS. 271

bruised, and the flesh around the hoofs swollen.
Selecting a narrow defile, the best spot for a camp
they could find, they turned their horses loose to
graze, having no fear they would run away, and
then turned to provide for their own wants.

This was soon over, and then they lay down to
rest. When the morning broke, their horses had
disappeared, and on examining the trail where they
went, they discovered they had been led away in
Indian file, having been stolen by savages. Here,
now, was new trouble for them ; for, without doubt,
the Indians would hang around, and attack them,
perhaps, the first moment it suited them, or that
they could be sure of success.

" There was but a small party of them 7 ast night
that stole the horses ; I am sure of that, and they
will return with augmented numbers very soon, or
I shall be deceived," said the trapper.

"We can fight as well as they," said the chief;
" so let them beware."

" Yes, we can do that ; but we must get out
of this spot. There is not an uglier one in the
whole continent to be attacked in," replied the
trapper.

" How can we get away ? our horses gone, and
if here, would be as helpless almost as we are,
and ourselves so worn out that very little life is left
in us," said Jane, in a desponding tone.

" While there is life there is hope," said the
trapper. u Do not give up so, we have passed



272 THE WANDERERS; OR

too many severe trials to despair at the loss of our
horses."

" Than which, a greater calamity could not
have happened," said Sidney; " but, as uncle
says, we must get out of this place, for if we are
obliged to defend ourselves, we shall stand but
little chance of doing it effectually, hemmed in
here."

"Look! look! and save yourselves; we are too
late!" cried Edward, pointing up\vard towards the
top of the precipice that overhung the defile, and
from which, as they raised their eyes, they saw a
dozen savages on its verge, in the act of hurling a
shower of rocks upon them.

The savages, seeing their whereabouts was dis-
covered, set up an unearthly yell, which was given
back by the chief with one of defiance, as he darted
behind a tree, an act the rest had performed at the
first moment of alarm. The stones and arrows
flew around them like hail, but glancing against


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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 15 of 20)