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 16 of 20)
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 16 of 20)
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the large- trunks of the trees behind which they
were entrenched, fell harmless at their feet. After
keeping up this mode of warfare upwards of an
hour to no purpose, they held a council on the cliff,
and after a short debate dispersed again, but now
about half of the number began to let themselves
clown by catching hold of the saplings that grew
along the cliff, and bending them, held on to the
tops until they obtained a foothold several feet
below, and then repeating the operation until they



LIFE IN THE WESTERN WILDS. 273

were two-thirds down. The chief said to Howe,
*' It will never do to let them among us better
pick them off before they get down."

" So I think," returned the trapper ; "you stop
the swinging of the lower one, and I will take the
next. 55

Drawing their bows, two messengers of death
hissed through the air, propelled by strong, true
hands, and the two lower savages fell to the ground,
striking on the very stones they had hurled down
from the summit, and were horribly crushed and
mutilated. The rest seeing the fate of their com-
rades, with a wild cry of alarm quickly swung
themselves up again, and the whole party precipi-
tately fled. The savages had evidently supposed
they were unarmed, and on finding to the contrary,
had probably retired to take counsel how to more
safely carry their point.

" Now," said the chief, " is our time to save
ourselves ; for they are exasperated at the loss of
the two warriors, and will never rest satisfied until
they have destroyed us, if we remain within their
reach."

Starting down the ravine, for about a mile,
they ascended a cleft-like formation of the hills,
which terminated at the base of an overhanging
precipitous ledge of rocks rising two hundred feet
above them, with rents occasionally along the line,
extending from the top to the bottom in yawning

chasms, in one of which they hoped to shield them-

s



274 THE WANDERERS; OR,

selves from further pursuit. Ascending one of
these chasms to the tup of the ledge, they saw the
savages running to and fro along the valley in
search of them, having evidently lost the trail,
much to their satisfaction, for now they could gain
on their pursuers.

Following up their present advantages, they
descended the mountain on the other side, and
finding themselves at the foot of another less lofty,
ascended it also, from which they saw before them
a beautiful plain, level and well timbered, stretch-
ing away as far as the eye could reach. It was
now dark, and secreting themselves the best they
could, they spent the night supperless ; for, alas !
they had nothing to eat ; their whole stock of pro-
visions, furs, gourds, kettle, and, indeed, every
article they had accumulated, being left behind
them in their flight from the savages. Very little
game was to be found on the mountains ; but as
day dawned, they struck out on the plain, hoping
to find abundance.

The sun had far advanced, and they had become
faint and weary, when they came to a stream which
was filled with excellent fish, from which, with some
berries and roots, they ma le a plentiful repast.
While despatching this, deer came to the water to
drink, and a fine doe was shot by the trapper,
much to their satisfaction. Cutting it up, they
shouldered it, and pursued their way. At nightfall
they halted much exhausted, and had the savages



LIFE IN TEE WESTERN WILDS. 275

then found them, they would have fallen an easy
prey. But as they saw nothing of them they hoped
they had relinquished the pursuit.

The next and the next day, they found them-
selves too sore and lame to move, and the third
attempting to travel, they proceeded about three
miles, when they gave out, building a bough hut
by a clear spring of water, and resolved to stop
until better fitted for travelling. No traces of
Indians were visible, and they now found their
greatest foes were beasts of prey, with which it
seemed as if this part of the forest was filled.
They managed, however, to spend three weeks
without sustaining any serious injury from them,
although they nightly prowled around their camp.

The days now began to shorten perceptibly, and
the nights to lengthen, and the disagreeable truth
forced itself upon them that the summer was wan-
ing, and they were as far, for aught they knew,
as ever, from attaining the sole object of their
lives, their lost friends. Crossing the plain which
extended many miles, they came to another range
of hills which was so barren that they endeavored
to avoid crossing it by going around them, and
with this object, followed them down two day's
journey, when they found the hills decreased
to half their former height, and assuming a more
fertile appearance, so they started to go over them.
On arriving at the summit a scene of grandeur
met their vision, although it appalled the stoutest



276 THE WANDERERS; ; R ,

heart*. Before them, stretching away in the dis-
tance and rising until its summit, capped with snow,
pierced the clouds, a range of mountains lay a
formidable barrier over which they knew they
ought not to go and then came the conviction
that they had wandered to the foot of the great
barrier that separated the Pacific from the vast
unexplored sandy desert, and the snowy peaks
that rose before them were those of the Sierra
Nevada. Now they were more certain of their
whereabouts than they had been before ; for,
though they had never seen the great Sierra, they
had heard of it often and knew the snows never
left its summit, and to attempt to cross it was a
feat they had no disposition to undertake. They
knew moreover, that their friends were this side
of the great Mountain, and that the desert they
had passed must consequently have been between
them. Then came the conviction that they had not
wandered round the desert before they had crossed
it, as they supposed, but had been on the eastern
side instead of the western, and had from that
moment been travelling directly from home during
the journey in which they had endured so much,
forced itself upon them. And yet, with the cer-
tainty of these facts, they did not dare to turn
back and retrace their steps, for to do so in the
bewildered and weakened state in which their minds
and bodies were, would be almost sure destruction,
could they hope or attempt to make their way



LIFE IN THE WESTERN WILDS. 277

through the territories of the savages that they had
so fortunately evaded in their journey thither.

Long they stood on the summit of that moun-
tain, their position commanding a view of the
country for many miles around them, overlooking
everything but the great Sierra that lifted its
hoary head above them, as if commanding them to
retreat. Awe and terror held them in breathless
silence for a while, when a half sob was heard, and
Jane pressed her hand tightly over her mouth to
restrain the emotion which, in her weakened state,
she could not control. Seeing her distress, the
chief took her gently by the arm, and led the way
down the mountain, until they came to a spring,
where they stopped, kindled a fire, cooked their
supper, arid as the night air bid fair to be very
cold before morning, built a temporary shelter of
boughs. With a large fire burning to frighten
beasts and dispel the damp air, they laid down to
sleep.

Refreshed the next morning, they were better
fitted to calmly reflect on their condition than the
night before ; still they were unable to form any
decided course to pursue further than to remain
through that day near their present encampment.
After breakfasting, they descended to the valley,
and there, to their surprise, found an encampment
of Indians. Frightened, they turned to ascend the
mountain, when the Indians came running towards
them making unmistaken signs of friendship.
U



278 THE "WANDERERS; OR,

" They are friendly tribes, thank Heaven ! for it
betokens assistance when we least expected it,"
said Howe, joyfully, as he advanced to meet
them.

" You had better be careful, uncle, and not get
in their power, as they may prove treacherous,"
cried Jane.

The chief turned with a sorrowful look to her,
and said,

" The pale faced maiden has no faith in the
words of her darker skinned brothers. Is it because
they have wronged her people more than they have
suffered wrong ; or because they dared in their
manhood to defend, to the last moment, the houses
of their wives and children, and the graves of their
kindred ?"

" No, no ; not that, chief," said Jane, earnestly.
"Why let such thoughts forever disturb you?
Some cannot be trusted, and these may be of the

/

number, for that reason I bade uncle be cautious.
You, we never suspected, and you wrong us in
being so sensitive on this subject."

" It would be a fearful thing," returned the
chief, " to see your race and kindred blotted
from existence, to see their homes and pleasant
places occupied by those who may be the cause
of their extinction, and to know when the last of
the race shall have departed, their name will be
held synonymous with treachery and cruelty to
futurity ! Maiden ! maiden !" added he, with a



LIFE IN THE WESTERN WILDS. 279

wild look, distorting his dark features, " may yon
never experience the torture of this feeling, noi
the agony that hourly and yearly is mine."

" Think you, chief, the sorrow you feel for the
extinction of your people is greater than that the
people felt whom you extinguished in ages gone
by, and whose existence can be traced only by
the works of art they left behind them, which
alone have survived, and still defy ages to come i"

" Listen to me, girl ; for I speak from the
promptings of the Great Spirit. The day may
come when no longer our lands shall be yours, for
another raco may arise ar.d avenge my people by
the extinction of your own. You will be spared
the torture of seeing it, as I do the struggles of my
people. Nevertheless, the day will come when this
shall be." So saying, with a hasty siep and defi-
ant brow, he turned from her, and joined the group
of Indians who were conversing with Howe, Sidney,
and Edward.

These Indians had evidently seen white men, or
heard of them before ; but could not speak a word
of English, or any dialect the wanderers under-
stood. They were, however, very communicative,
and by signs and lines drawn on pieces of bark,
gave them to understand that two moons' journey
down the mountains was a pass over them, and on
the other side there were plenty of people like
themselves. But as it was now getting late in the
season, they had better defer their journey until



280 THE WANDERERS; OR,

spring came again. At the same time they offered
to take them in their village, and provide for them
until they could depart in safety. They would not
listen to this proposition, but accepted with eager-
ness their hospitality for a few days, in order to
have an opportunity of making further inquiries as
to the route and locality of the country t<ey would
have to pass through.



LIFE IN THE WESTERN WILDS. 281



igljtntittj.



Thirty persons in the village Their stay with the Indians They
proceed on their journey Jane bitten by a rattlesnake Taken
back to the village Frightful effects of the poison It causes a
violent fever to set in Fatal consequences apprehended She
becomes delirious The chief's unremitting exertions to counter-
act the disease It slowly abated and Jane finally recovers A
war party returns having two white prisoners Fears entertained
of their safety Minawanda assists them to escape by a sound
indicating that of a whippoorwill The white men also accompany
them as guides Their joy at their anticipated deliverance from
the wilds of the forests Miscellaneous conversation They pro-
ceed on their flight unmolested.

THERE were about thirty persons in the lodges,
the rest of the Indians, with their women and chil-
dren, having gone out on one of their yearly hunt-
ing expeditions, as well for the excitement as for
the supplies which they gather from them. These
few were left to look after the village in the absence
of the rest, and were principally those who were too
old or ill to travel and hunt. After remaining a
few days to prepare themselves, they set out, per-
suading an old Indian to accompany them as a
guide two days' journey, in order to get them once

24*



282 1 H E WANDERERS; OR,

more started in the right direction. They had no
hope of returning directly to their friends. In fact,
they knew that would be an impossibility to do by
crossing the Sierra, and their object at that time
was to find a settlement where they might know
their whereabouts, and in what direction to go in
order to return. The old Indian was positive there
were people like themselves over the mountain jf
snow, and knowing they must have wandered a
great way to come to it, they determined to make
the most direct route to the nearest European habi-
tation ; for they had wandered so long that their
friends had become a secondary object with them.
Their first thoughts were to free themselves from
the interminable forest, and sustain life.

About mid-day, as they were making their way
among a thick growth of brush, a quick rattle was
heard, which they all recognized as the warning of
a deadly snake ; but before they could save them-
selves, it had struck its poisonous fangs deep into
the fleshy part of Jane's right foot.

Howe saw the snake bite her, and was at her
side in a moment, and with a heavy club killed
the terrible reptile on the spot. He then pro-
ceeded to bind the limb to prevent a free circula-
tion of the blood, which in a few minutes would
have conveyed the poison to me heart, and proved
fatal. In the meantime, the chief and Sidney
had been gathering an herb, which they bruised
between two flat stones and poured over the



LIFE IN THE WESTERN WILDS, 283

wound, and put a few drops of the juice in her
mouth.

She soon began to suffer excruciating pain, the
limb swelling rapidly and turning a livid hue, while
the bruised herbs which were bound over the wound
every few minutes had to be exchanged for fresh
ones, so rapidly did the poison act upon them.

" I feel it here !" said the poor girl, laying her
hand on her heart ; " it chokes, it suffocates me !
Oh, it is terrible to die here ! can you do nothing
more? can nothing save me?" she added, turning
her eyes inquiringly from one to the other of the
group around her.

"We will do our best," said Sidney, "but that
is very little," he added bitterly.

" Be brave, my poor child and never say die
while there is life. As vet I see nothing to fear.

V O

The Indian's remedy is doing its work ; we see
that by the poison it extracts," said Howe, at the
same time turning aside to hid? the emotion that
was welling up from his heart.

" The antelope shall not die," said the chief,
" there is another remedy if the plant can be
found," and with these words he hastened away
into the forest. Her breathing now became more
labored, her eye grew glassy, and languor began to
pervade her whole frame. With breathless anxiety
tney awaited the return of the chief; for, if even
successful in finding what he was in search of, he
might be too late, as already life was waning ; and



284 THE WJITDERERS; OR,

as they knelt around her in speechless agony, and
saw the distorted features and glassy eye, they
knew that unless some active and powerful stimu-
lant could be procured immediately she would be
dead.

After twenty minutes' absence, though it seemed
to them to be an hour, the chief returned with his
hands filled with roots freshly torn from their bed,
and laying them between two flat stones crushed
them. Then pressing the juice into a drinking cup
they had procured at the Indian village, held it to
her lips. She made a motion as if she would drink,
but her limbs were powerless, her teeth set, and
every muscle rigid. With a low moan she closed
her glassy eye, and hope then even fled from her
heart. Not so the chief; prying open her teeth
with the aid of his hunting-knife, he poured the
extract down her throat, and then with a solution of
it mixed in water, washed the wound, binding over it
the bruised roots from which he had extracted the
antidote. He then procured more of the same
roots,* extracted the juice and repeated the pro-
cess, continuing his efforts for half an hour, when
she slowly opened her eyes, looked around, and
whispered faintly, " I shall not die now, uncle. I
breath easier," then closed her eyes again with a
Bweet smile playing around her lips.

* Rattlesnake root Botanical, Polygala Senega being
an active stimulant, will counteract the bite of :his most
poisonous of reptiles.



LIFE IN THE WESTERN WILDS. 285

Still the chief did not for a moment relax his
exertions ; he knew too well the subtlety of the
poison of the rattlesnake, but while the rest were
active in building a soft couch of boughs and leaves
on which to lay her, he continued extracting the
antidote with as much energy as at the first mo-
ment.

Her skin now began to assume a more natural
hue ; the eye lost its glassiness, and she could
articulate with ease. An hour afterwards the swell-
ing began to subside, and the danger was past.
The chief had again saved her life.

He said not a word in exultation of his success,
but it gleamed from his dark eyes, flushed his
swarthy cheek, and swelled his brawny chest.
Never strode he with loftier step or more regal
carriage a very impersonation of barbarian roy-
alty. His superior knowledge in- many emergen-
cies into which they were brought in their primi-
tive mode of life, his coolness, courage and energy
under the trying circumstances that often occurred,
commanded their voluntary reverence for the un-
taught, uncivilized Indian chief. The day and
night wore away, and when they had hoped to
resume their journey they found that a fever had
succeeded the prostration produced by the poison,
and she was too ill to travel. Dismayed at this
new calamity, they were at a loss for awhile how
to proceed. Their guide settled the point for them
by insisting that the sick girl should be conveyed



286 THE WJNDERERS; OR,

on a litter back to the village, where she could
have a better shelter, and where her wants could
be better supplied than in that lonely spot.

This they gladly acceded to, and when the sun
again set she lay tossing in feverish delirium on a
couch of skins within the tent of Minawanda their
benevolent guide.

Cooling drinks were given her, and her throb-
bing, burning temples laved with cold water, fresh
from the fountain. This soothed the pain, but it
did not arrest the raging fever that burned in her
veins, wasting her strength, and reducing her to a
state as helpless as that of infancy.

The women in the village were untiring in their
exertions to alleviate her suffering, and although,
they rendered her condition comparatively comfort*
able, yet the fever grew higher and stronger each
day, until she became deprived of both reason ar.J
strength. The chief stood by the door of her lodge
day and night, apparently without observing any-
thing that was passing around him, and with the
one feeling filling his entire soul that of the ante-
lope lying at the point of death, and he could do
nothing to save her. Sidney was more active, and
never left her couch, save to procure something for
her. lie, with Edward by her side, caressed her
in her wild ravings until the excitement passed,
and she was again calm. Then they would renew
their exertions to assuage the fever, and cool the
brain by laving it with water. It was all the



LIFE IN THE WESTERN WILDS. 287

remedy they had, and they used this freely. The
ninth day of her illness the fever suddenly died
away, and closing her eyes she slept as peacefully
as the sleep of infancy for half an hour, when her
breathing grew shorter, her chest heaved labo-
riously, and she unclosed her eyes, from which
the light of reason once more shone. She whis-
pered faintly, "Edward, come nearer; where are
the rest of you ? I feel so strangely ! is this
death ?"

"We are here all here !" cried Sidney, with a
broken voice ; " and you know us now, do you
not, sister ?"

" Yes, I know you now ; but I feel so weak, and
so strangely ! have I been sick long ? I remember
now," she added, " the snake bit me, and I am
poisoned, and shall die !"

" No, oh ! no, you will not," said Howe, in his
cheering tones ; "you will not do any such thing.
You are a brave girl, and will live many a long
year yet. Here is a good draught for you, take
it and keep quiet, and you will be well in a few
days," he added, as he presented her some whey
he had made from goats' milk and ripe grapes.
Then ordering every one from the lodge, he shut
out the light, and stationing himself by her side,
bade her sleep, taking the precaution to arouse her
every few minutes to administer to her the whey.
She slept at intervals till sunset, when she again
awakened perfectly conscious, and declared she



288 THE WANDERERS; OR,

felt much better. She now improved rapidly, and
in a week's time was enabled to walk with assist-
ance in the open air. Her appetite returned
which, together with the pure air, caused her rapidly
to improve, and regain her strength again ; but
they were at a loss in what manner to prosecute
their fatiguing journey with her. To set out on
foot was out of the question, as she would probably
give out the first day, and to be carried on a litter
she would not consent to, as she rightly argued
it was as much as one was able to do to get himself
along, without carrying a burthen.

There was not a horse or a mule in the villas;,

o /

although the Indians insisted that the hunting
parties that had gone out had some with them, and
if they would await their return, they could obtain
one for her. While hesitating what course to
pursue, shouts of the returning party were heard
from the summit of the hill, and were recognized
as those that betokened a great victory. The
answer was taken up by every inhabitant of the
village, and echoed back in full chorus.

In half an hour, the Indians, in admirable con-
fusion, came galloping into the village, decorated
in all the savage panoply of war; their grotesque
features made still more repulsive and hideous by
the paint with which they were besmeared. This,
together with the shouts of the women, and wild
yells of the children, constituted a more vivid pic-
ture of pandemonium than anything earthly.



LIFE IN THE WESTERN WILDS. 289

One group of the returning party seemed to con-
centrate the curiosity of the Indians in the village
more than another, and going thither they saw
with surprise two white men confined as prisoners,
their hands bound behind them with leather thongs.
They looked almost worn out with fatigue and
anxiety. Apprehensive for their own safety, they
retreated to the lodge of their guide, and there
learned that these two men had been captured
three hundred miles south, and that they belonged
to an overland emigrant party, who, in a battle
with the Indians, had all been killed, with the
exception of the two, and these, with the oxen,
horses, and baggage, had fallen into the hands
of the savages, and were conveyed to their vil-
lage.

" This does not look well for our own safety,"
said Sidney.

" Not an arm will be raised against the pale
faces who have eaten and smoked beneath the lodge
of Minawanda," said the guide, solemnly.

" Perhaps not, with your consent," retorted
Sidney, " but they may not think it worth while
to ask it."

" The rights of hospitality are sacred with my
people ; let not the young man fear ; no harm will
come to him," said the guide, indignantly.

" One thing i? certain, a light is breaking on
our path. We have found some of our own race,
though under unfavorable circumstances. Yet we

25 T



290 THE WANDERERS; OR,

may learn from them how to find our homes," said
the trapper, encouragingly.

" If we get a chance to speak to them," said the
chief, pointing significantly towards a lodge whence
rose the wail of despair for a warrior who had
gone out in the pride of manhood and returned
not. " They will be avenged for the warriors who
fell in the fight with the whites," he added, " and
though they will respect us while guests of Mina-
wanda, they will hern us round so we cannot escape,
at last falling into their hands, if the blood of the
two prisoners do not satisfy the bereaved friends
of their lost warriors."

" We must deceive them some way and slip away
privately," said the trapper, in a subdued voice as
the guide left the lodge, and wended his way over


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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 16 of 20)