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 17 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 17 of 20)
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to the lodges whence proceeded tho mournful

" Let us fly from here, now we are alone and
free," said Jane, nervously. " The deepest recess
of the forest is preferable to staying here."

" We cannot do that ; we should be discovered,
brought back, and strictly guarded, and thus be
frustrated in all our chances of escaping. No, no ;
we want some of their horses to give us a start,
besides several hours of the night to cover our
retreat," said the chief.

"Besides this," said the trapper, " it is hardly
a Christian act to leave these two men to perish
by the hands of the savages. I do not think they


will offer us any harm, and we may not only effect
their escape peacefully, but induce the Indians to
carry us to the nearest settlement with their horses.
We must keep a strict and vigilant watch, and see
which way things turn, and act accordingly."

The day passed and the sun had set, yet Mina-
wanda had not returned to his lodge, from which
the wanderers had not ventured for fear of further
exasperating the Indians. This occurrence trou-
bled them, and in truth looked ominous, as it had
never occurred before, and with great impatience
they watched for his coming. Still, hour after
hour passed, and he came, not, and with forbodings
of evil, they proposed that one of them should
reconnoitre the village under the cover of darkness
to discover what was brewing among them. The
chief volunteered his services, as possessing a sub-
tlety which was unequalled, and with his noiseless
tread, he went silently forth ; but, before he had
gone twenty yards from the door a hand was laid
on his shoulder, and the voice of the guide whis-
peied in his ear, "return to the lodge ! your life
depends upon it. I will be there in an hour !"

The chief stood irresolute a moment, then as
silently returned to the lodge and related the
circumstance, and asked the advice of the rest
whether he had better wait or proceed.

" I think Minawanda is our friend, and we had
k*tter do his bidding," said the trapper.

Silently they remained a few moments, when


the sound of a light step fell on their ear, and the
Fawn, a child of twelve years, and a daughter of
the guide stepped within the lodge, and with a
Startled look stood irresolute for a moment, then
going up to Jane, nestled close to her side fixing her
dark starry eyes on hers with a bewildered gaze.

"What would you with me?" inquired the
young girl, as she endeavored to reassure her.

" My father can no longer protect the white
strangers," she replied, " but he can save them
if they will place themselves under his directions."

" What says the young squaw ?" asked the
chief, whose acute ear had caught the low tones
of the child.

Jane repeated what the fawn had said, when the
trapper placed himself by her side and demanded
what they were to do.

" I do not know, except that, when the Whip-
poorwill is heard behind the lodge, you are all to
go out silently, and as the cry is heard, you are to
follow the sound until you meet others who will be
in waiting for you "

" To lead us to the stake !" said the chief. " Is
my brother mad, that he listens to this chattering,
and will he run into the snare laid to entrap

* O> >

mm ?

" Really, chief, you see through the treachery
of these savages better than any one else, and do
credit to your education," said Sidney.

"We will not go to them to t~e murdered in the

dark," said Edward. "If they want anvthin^ of

v / O

us, here we are, and here we will be until day-

" It will then be too late," said the fawn, sadly.
" My father bade me say the two pale faced pris-
oners would be there, and when day broke, and it
was found they had escaped, my people could not
be restrained, but would sacrifice you in their
stead. He would have come himself to tell you
this, but feared to be from the council that has
been held, for fear of suspicion, as it is known
to all the returned hunters that you are in his

" I do not believe that Minawanda meditates
treachery," said Howe. "If he wanted to give us
up, why take the precaution ? He knows we are
in his lodge, and he could lead his warriors to take
us any moment, if that was his object. I think he
is sincere, and, for one, am willing to place myself
in his hands."

" I, too, am willing to trust him," said Jane.
" We cannot make matters worse, and it may be
the means of our return to our friends. The
sight of others inspires hope, and if we could get
away with them, they could probably lead us out
of the forest."

Their conversation was here cut short by the
clear shrill notes of the Whippoorwill, close behind
the lodge.

" There it is," cried the fawn, bounding to her



feet. " Go ! go ! do not hesitate, or you #111 be
lost !"

" Come," said the trapper, taking Jane by the
hand ; " I feel assured there is truth in that child's
face. Let us hasten on."

u If you go, I do," said Edward; "I can stand
as much, and more than you can.
And I," said Sidney.

" If the antelope goes, I will go to defend her,
Said the chief, following, as the trapper, with Jane,
moved away in the darkness, in the direction whence
the sound had come. Hurrying into the thick
forest that skirted the back of the lodge, they were
at a loss which direction to take, when again some
distance ahead the shrill cry burst on their ears,
and they noiselessly and rapidly advanced as near
as they could imagine a quarter of a mile, when it
was again heard ahead of them. Still following,
they travelled about the same distance again,
when the hand of Minawanda was laid on Howe's
arm, as he said " Stand still a moment ! I will
apprise the others of your presence!" and disap-
pearing in the darkness, they heard him talking
low, but rapidly, for a few moments ; then he once
more stood before them, ant 7 , bidding them follow,
led them 03 a short distance \\here, by the faint
glimmer of starlight, they saw men and a number
of horses standing. "Mount!" said Minawanda;
" there are horses for all. Here is the best one
for the young squaw ;" so saying, he lifted Jane


from the ground, and seated her firmly on her
horse's back and placing the bridle in her
hand, turned to assist the rest ; but they had al
mounted, and were waiting directions which way
to proceed. Up to this moment they had not heard
the voices nor seen the forms of those who were to
accompany them, save by the dusky outlines which
did not even reveal the number, and so quiet and
rapidly had the whole transpired, that they had no
time to think of anything.

" Guides ! move on !" said Minawanda ; " follow,
brothers, they will lead you to your own people
and when there, forget not that a generous, disin-
terested deed may be performed by an Indian,
although he risks life in so doing." So saying, he
shook hands with them all in rapid succession, and
darting away, they were alone with the guides,
whom they saw were two in number, and mounted
like themselves.

"Well, Jones," one of them said, in a very sub-
dued tone, " if this is not one of the queerest pieces
of work I ever saw, then call me an Arab."

"Never mind, Cole," the other answered, "push
ahead as fast as you can, or the Indians will broil
us yet. We must get a good start to cheat the
rascally red-skins."

" Hush about the broiling, you make me ner-
vous. How about our company ? All there ?"
again sung out the on) called by his companion,


" Here ! all right ; five of us, following we do
not know who, nor where he will lead us to," said
Howe, in a merry tone.

" Don't know ? Well, perhaps you never heard
of Jones, son of old Major Jones, away down in
old Connecticut. That is me, and I guess you
will not be sorry you are following me, especially
as Cole says, we were all to be broiled in a heap
by those red skins."

" That I shall not, and right glad I am of your
services to help us out of as deep an entanglement
as I think ever a set of Christians got into," said
the trapper.

" Well, I do not know, but I guess we will cheat
them ; the moon will be up soon, and then we can
ride faster," replied Jones.

"Are you sure of the way you have to go?"
asked Sidney, who was still nervous about getting
bewildered in the forest.

"I guess I am," replied Jones. "Did I not
come over it this morning ?"

' Yes, but you might "miss your vf^y." returned

"Might miss! Why young man, where was
you educated, to learn the possibility -of doing
such a thing ? There is no such word as felling to
a, downeaster."

"I think you must hare failed once, or you
would not be here," retorted Sidney, facetiously.

" The best failure for us that was ever made,"


said Jane, earnestly. " We shall find our way
out by that means."

" Only that object is attained, I do not care for
the rest," remarked Edward. " See yonder the
moon is rising, and welcome enough will be its

They made their way quite rapidly, and as
mite after mile was placed between them and
the village, their hopes of eluding their pursuers
were strengthened. Jane did not feel the fatigue,
so excited had she become, although, Howe had
taken the precaution soon after they started, of
riding close by her side, so that he could assist her
at a moment's warning ; for he knew she was too
weak to bear such rapid travelling over fallen trees,
stones, brush, and marshy ground long, and he
feared that a reaction would ensue. He did not
know how strongly the love and desire to reach
home again burned in her heart, strengthening by
its power every muscle and nerve.


|H tut nut!;.

arrive at a stream of considerable magnitude over which they
cross Encampment on its bank They ride in the water to elude
their pursuers Jones and Cole give them some information rela-
tive to their friends, having met Lewis at Fort Laramie The
joyful reception of the news Desire to return The lateness of
the season prevents it They continue on Arrival at the base
of the Sierra Nevada Fear of crossing the mountains in the
snow They retreat to a place of security with inter/tions to
encamp for the winter They construct themselves winter quar-
ters as well as they can.

AT daylight the fugitives came to a considerable
stream which they crossed and halted on the
opposite bank. They turned their horses loose to
feed and rest, and taking some fish from the
stream by means of shooting them with their
arrows,* they broiled them. The fish, together
with some roasted yampa roots, made a plentiful
and nourishing repast. Letting their horses rest
as long as they dared, they mounted and enter-
ing the stream, followed it down a mile, so as
to deceive the Indians, should they be pursued,
then again taking to the bank they rode with great

* A common mode of taking fish among the Indians.


speed, until their beasts began to flag, when
again halting on a position that overlooked the
country around, they prepared themselves a dinner,
turning their horses loose to graze while they ate.
After partaking of their meal, Jane fortunately
fell asleep, and when they feared to remain in
that position, they awoke her, and proceeded on
till late in the night. Again halting, and posting
a sentinel who was relieved every two hours, they
lay down to sleep, for they were worn out with
their rapid marches. At the first faint streak
of light, they were in motion, and thus pursuing
their way rapidly for three more days, they were
glad to halt, as their horses were emaciated,
lame, and sore, and were scarcely able to keep
their feet, so galling and toilsome had been their

They calculated they had saved themselves from
pursuit, and accordingly prepared for a few days'
rest which was made doubly sweet to them by the
prospect of the dear home and friends which loomed
up before them. Building a temporary shelter,
they spent several days in that place and became
more acquainted with their two new companions.
Jones was a curiosity in himself, fearing nor caring
for nothing but being broiled alive, a fate for
which he evinced the utmost repugnance, and
declared he would be willing to adopt any emer-
gency than encounter it, an alternative they all
coincided heartily in, with the exception of Cole,


who expressed a decided belief that it was prefera-
ble to many things, and delighted to hold up its
advantages, but what they were he never specified
to his more sensitive companion.

They were both from Connecticut L?nd had
been some years sailors, their ship having been
driven and wrecked by winds on the Pacific coast
they were obliged to content themselves as best
they could ; and as they enjoyed a large share of
constitutional Yankee restlessness, sought to turn
their misfortunes to some account. While waiting
for relief they explored the deep unbroken wilds
that surrounded them. In doing this they encoun-
tered many difficulties, and often hazarded their
lives, but were rewarded by finding, as they
asserted, gold mines scattered over a large district.
Returning home by an overland route with speci-
mens of the ore, they had induced others to return
with them, accompanied by tbur families, their
object being to take up the land m which the pre-
cious metal was found and settl^ it, guessing with
characteristic shrewdness that a* soon as it was
known in the Eastern States that ^ere was gold in
the place, the land would be of imrx>*mse value.

There were eleven of them all, t**o women and
two children, one ten and the other twelve years
old ; the rest being well calculated for such a dar-
ing enterprise. It was their intention to keep the
same Indian trail back they had gon -over in
returning home, trusting to me-mory to keep them


from straying. When their journey was two-thirds
accomplished the Indians had come unawares upon
them and after fighting as long as they could hold
out, all were killed but these two, who were made
prisoners with all their baggage. " It was a strug-
gle for life, and two days we kept tLem at bay,"
said Jones, "but we were one after another picked
off until but five of us were left, when the savages
maddened by the sight of their killed and wounded
which must have been in great numbers, closed
around us and we fought hand to hand for a few
minutes, when Cole and myself were overpow-
ered, disarmed and captured, the rest were killed,
scalped, and their dead bodies left on the ground
unburied to become a prey to beasts scarcely more
savage than the Indians. Our fate was decided
on in council the same evening we were taken to
the village. We were sentenced to run the gaunt-
let.* If we survived we were to become part of
the tribe to supply the places of the lost warriors ;
if we fell, the stake awaited us. We looked upon

* The gauntlet consists in drawing up the members of
the village in two files facing each other four feet apart,
through which the victim has to make his way, the Indi-
ans striking at him as he runs with clubs, knives, toma-
hawks or any weapon they choose to arm themselves with.
Not one out of a hundred get through the tile, and if they
do they are sure to meet with kindness ; but if beaten
down they are either killed on the spot or carried wounded
and bleeding to the stake where they perish amidst horrible


ourselves as doomed, when an old Indian came to
us, and displacing the thongs with which we were

r O o

bound, bade us follow him. The rest you know,
and we are here together."

" For which I am really grateful," said the trap-
per, who informed them of the principal events of
their wandering for the last year and a-half. They
listened with great interest until the recital was
finished, and then Jones said, musingly, " It must
be that you are the same of whom we heard so
much, more than a year ago, although your friends
believed you had perished by the cruel hands of
the Indians."

" Then you have seen them ! Are they well ?
Have they removed from the encampment by the
brook?" and numberless other questions were show-
ered in a breath upon them.

"One at a time," said the imperturbable Yan-
kee ; " one at a time, and I will answer them all."

" Then, are they alive and well ?" asked Jane,
who could not restrain her anxiety.

" They are, as far as I know," said Jones. "I
saw but one they called Lewis, and he was well,
and I heard him tell another man who was inquir-
ing for the rest of the family that the rest were.

" Thank heaven for that," said Jane, fervently.

"Where are they," asked the trapper.

"I don't know, exactly," said Jones. "The
young man I saw was at fort Laramie. He had
heard there were several distant tribes of Indians


encamped there to trade with the whites, and had
come to see if he could learn from, them the fate
that had befallen you."

" Then I suspect," said the trapper, " they have
remained near the spot where they were encamped
when we were stolen."

"Who is the chief of the Arapahoes?" asked

" I think he is called the Bald Eagle, but I don't
remember distinctly. When I passed through
their country last spring, I heard about a great
Medicine man, who was likewise their chieftain,
who had been killed or carried away at the same
time part of the family of Mr. Duncan had."

" This is the chief," said the trapper, " he still
lives, and I hope will for many a long year yet to


" That would be great news for the Arapahoes,"
said Cole, " and their joy could scarcely be ex-
ceeded by that of Mr. Duncan's family, could they
know their lost ones were safe."

They had somewhat recovered from the fati-
gues of their flight, and proposed renewing their
journey. The autumn, which was far advanced,
warned them it was time to be on the move, if they
intended to reach the haunts of civilization before
the snows began to fall, and as Cole and Jones


assured them they would certainly strike a trail
that led to the Pacific coast in three or four days'
travel, they were impatient to be on the mova


They suffered much with the cold, as the nights
were keen enough to create ice an inch in thick-
ness, and the frosts destroyed a great deal of the
herbage on which the horses subsisted. The third
day the sky began to grow heavy in the morning,
and as the air was keen they feared snow would
fall, but it partially broke away before night,
greatly to their satisfaction. They lay down by
their camp-fire with the stars gleaming, though
faintly, above them.

About midnight they were awakened by flakes
of snow falling on their faces, and on awaking,
they discovered the ground white around them.
Before morning the white covering was three inches
deep. The winter had set in uncommonly early,
and they with saddened hearts rode all day through
the falling snow. Night came on, and scraping
the ground clear of leaves and snow, they built
themselves a temporary shelter, leaving one side
open, by which the camp-fire was built. They had
nothing to eat, having laid by no supply of roots
or meat, and the ground was covered with snow
80 that the roots could not be found. Leaving
Sidney, Edward, and Jane in the camp, the rest
went out to get some game, and in half an hour
the trapper returned with a pair of wild turkeys.
He was followed soon by Cole who brought some
pheasants and a grey squirrel. As the shades of
night began to gather around them, the others
came in with a fawn and a mountain sheep. There


Was no fear then of their being supperless ; and,
after eating a hearty meal, they laid down to sleep
with the snow still falling around them. When


they awoke in the morning the sky was clear and
the sun arose warm, and by noon had softened the
snow so much as to make it wet their clothing, as
they brushed it from the pendant branches in
riding along. When they encamped that night,
Jane was shivering with cold, and too ill to eat ;
but the rest lay by the fire, and slept as well as
the disagreeable situation in which they were
placed would allow. Jane was quite ill the next
day, and they did not think it prudent to travel ;
but by night she felt much better, and as they
calculated they could strike the trail in another
day's journey, they determined to be in the saddle
by daylight.

Riding, as> fast as the rugged uneven country
through which they were travelling would permit,
for three hours, they came to the trail earlier in
the day than they had anticipated, greatly to their
relief. Here now they were on a road that would
lead them to their friends from which they had so
long been separated, during which time they had
encountered so many trials and so much suffering.
The sight of it dispelled all fatigue from them, and
they were ready, nay, eager, to turn their horses
homeward. They were restrained from such
mad proceedings by the cool, undisturbed equi-
nimity of Jones, who said : " The journey home

26* U


requires three months' hard travelling, and if we
undertake it in our present unprepared condition,
we shall certainly perish by cold and hunger.
On the other hand the trail in the opposite direc-
tion, will lead us to a safe harbor, in a third of the
distance which, when accomplished, we shall be
willing to stay in till spring comes again. It is
always dangerous travelling through these wilda
when prepared, but in our destitute condition it is
most hazardous."

"Lead us on; we can endure it," cried the
children, enthusiastically.

"No, no; children," said the trapper, "Jones
tells the truth, we can never cross the country that
lies between us and our friends, in the dead of
winter. We must content ourselves in a place
of security, if we can find one, until spring again


"Yonder," said the chief, pointing towards the
west, where the Great Sierra arose with its snowy
peaks towering among the clouds, " are the Snow
mountain. To reach the white settlement beyond
we must cross it. We are too weak and destitute
to do it. Let us build a lodge here and gather
what provisions we can before the snow is deeper,
and the deer all leave us."

" I believe it is the best thing we can do, for our
safety," said the cautious trapper.

" Oh ! no ; do not think of such a thing !" said
Sidney. " I am sure we can cross the mountain,


and when over them, it cannot be far to civilized

" You are young and sanguine," said the
trapper, "and do not know the dangers before

" We might as well pursue the trail a day or
two," said Jones, "and then, if we think we cannot
cross the mountain, we can build winter quarters.
For my part, I do not relish a winter here, any
more than Sidney."

" Well," said Cole, casting an admiring glance
towards Jane, " I think quarters might become
tolerable, if well supplied with venison and I
think they might, between us all."

The chief saw the look, and a close observer
might have for an instant observed a peculiar glitter
in his eye, but no word or movement of his indi-
cated that he had witnessed it, or if he did, cared for
it. Resuming their journey, they were soon made
aware that the ground before them was rising, and
covered with a greater depth of snow. By noon
they had come to the base of high ranges of hills
that rose one above another, and above all towered
the Sierra Nevada. Over these the trail extended,
and they were compelled either to encamp on the
spot, go back, or cross over the mountains. To
pass over them seemed impossible to encamp on
the exposed slope on which they were would subject
them unnecessarily to severe suffering from cold ;
and their only safe alternative was to fall back to


Borne secure unexposed position, and raise a winter

A few miles back, a sheltered position was disco-
vered ; the snow was cleared away, and all working
with an earnest will, a commodious hut was soon
erected consisting of strong poles for the frame work,
which were covered with bark, and this again thickly
studded with boughs to keep out the cold. The
ground was also strewn with them, for they had no
skins to spread over it, nor even to make them-
selves a covering through the night with a want
from which they suffered much. Taking advantage

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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 17 of 20)