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 19 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 19 of 20)
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was in ecstacies at the discovery of gold, and he
began to tear up the lojse earth in every direction
around him. Leaving the rest picking out the
tiny flakes from the earthy bed, Howe and Jones
spent the day in examining the localities around
where they thought it most likely the ore was to
be found, but obtained only torn hands and feet
for their labor, and were glad to give up the search
and return to camp. During their absence the
children had collected a great deal, sometimes
finding nuggets as large as a walnut.

" Oh ! well," said Jones, in a fietful tone, when
the children displayed their wealth before him,
" I can get enough when I am over the mountains,
if 1 have missed it to-day."

"As for that, we will share with you," said
Jane. " You have lead us so far out of the wil-



LIFE IN IHE WESTERN WILDS. 327

Jerness where, without your aid, we might have
perished. We do not forget this, and what we
have to bestow, which is very little, is at your
command."

" Well, well, there is no need of it : I tell you
I have lumps of gold over the mountains larger
than I can lift. Besides, can I not get some
myself out of the earth to-morrow ?"

After a few days' sojourn here, they prepared
themselves as well as their scanty means would
allow, to cross the barrier before them. All day
long they rode over the broken ground, along
which the trail lay, and at night halted far up its
rugged side, where they could look down upon the
rolling valley below. Here they found the night
air very cold, and they were obliged to enclose
boughs around them to break the wind from their
miserable retreat while they slept.

Taking an early breakfast, they started on, and at
night, having made a good day's ride, reached within
a short distance of the summit of the mountain.
Here they experienced much difficulty in respira-
tion. The vegetation also became very sparse ;
the ground sometimes in large spaces being covered
with piles of slate and limestone, among which, not
a shrub could take root. They often terminated
m precipices making tie trail through their wind-
ings difficult and dangerous. By the aid of large
fires they spent the night very comfortably, and
the next morning determined, while still refreshed



328 THE WANDERERS; on,

by rest, to cross the summit and make the descent
so far as would make respiration less difficult, for
even now they were at times dizzy and faint. To
ride through these difficult places was impossible,
and dismounting, they passed up the narrow path
one at a time ; sometimes the ascent was so glassed
with ice and so steep that they were obliged
to pull themselves up by clinging with their hands
to the rocks above them. A crust of ice and snow
covered the ground, and the horses being unshod,
floundered and stumbled, and often made narrow
escapes from being precipitated into the abyss
below. The poor beasts seemed to comprehend
the danger, and carefully tried the ground at every
step before venturing their weight fully upon it,
and shuddering and trembling, kept as far from
the edge of the ice-bound rocks as the narrowness
of the pass would allow them. The sun shone
brightly, but it created little warmth, and in the
middle of June they were suffering the rigors of
winter.

Safely they stood upon the summit of the Sierra !
Away to the west a smooth blue belt girt the
horizon, while to the east a long range of moun-
tains rose against the sky. It was the Pacific on
the west, and the Wahsatch mountains on the east,
with the broad valleys basking in a summer sun
between them, through which rivers wound their
dark serpentine lines, while away to the north-east



LIFE IN THE WESTERN WILDS. 329

the great desert lay, with its white sands glittering
beneath the rays that fell upon it.

What struck them as peculiar, was numerous
dark spots scattered at intervals over the barren
waste, while in the centre lay some of immense
size, clothed with dark verdure, from the midst of
which rose a mountain, looking from that distance,
like a shaft against the sky. They concluded to
themselves, these must be strips of land, yet in
their wanderings they had come across but one.
They did not relish the idea of being caught in
darkness on that inhospitable elevation, and turn-
ing their steps once more into the trail, began the
descent. Greatly to their relief, they found this
more even and less steep, and descended a few
hundred feet without any great exertion. They
now could breathe freer, and began to be much
relieved. Ice and snow also disappeared, and keep-
ing on their way steadily, by night they reached a
refreshing spring, around which grass grew in abun-
dance, and by which they encamped for the night.
Tired and weary as they were, they were more
cheerful and happy that night than they had been
for months previously , it seemed to them thai the
great barrier had been overcome, and they had
safely passed the last fiery ordeal they should be
called to encounter. They felt as though the night
had passed, and day was dawning on their weary
and forlorn prospects.

They were in no great hurry ^o be on their road

28*



330 THE WANDERERS; OR,

the next morning, far on awaking they found them
selves sore and stiff in their limbs, and their beasts'
hoofs torn and swollen. Towards noon, however,
much refreshed, they once more started, and after
proceeding on their journey about two hours, they
came to a dangerous pass the path being not over
three feet wide, steep, and difficult of descent.*
Directing Sidney, Jane, and Edward ahead, Howe
and Jones /./egan the descent with the hflrses ;
when in the most difficult place, one of the animals
became restive, and rearing, was precipitated below,
dragging Jones, who had hold of the bridle, with
him. One terrible cry of distress was heard as the
horse went over the side, and then a crash on the
jagged rocks, and the noble beast was dashed to
atoms two hundred feet below them. Frightened
at the plunge and cries of mortal anguish, the rest
of the horses broke, and bounded wildly down the
path. Howe, seeing he could not control them,
sprang close to the wall of rock, thus saving him-
self from being crowded over the abyss by the ter-
rified beasts who, in their headlong career, heeded
nothing before them. As they came to a sharp
angle in the trail, as it wound down the moun-
tain, the two foremost horses % instead of turning,
plunged over the side, and with a neigh of terror,

* Since 1840 this pass over the Sierra has been aban-
doned, and one far easier and less difficult discovered twenty
mil 38 below it. It was originally used by the Indians, as
the shortest route to the valley beyond.



LIFE IN THE WESTERN WILDS. 331

were soon crushed, like their companion, on the
rocks in the deep abyss below. The others seeing
the two disappear, paused sufficiently to avert
the danger, and turning the angle, landed safely
on the table, where the children had preceded
them.

Terrified at seeing the horses without Howe and
Jones, they hastened up the mountain to where the
first catastrophe had occurred, and arrived in time
to see their uncle assist Jones into the path from a
jutting rock a few feet below, where he had landed
in no wise hurt, with the exception of a few bruises.
The rock that had caught him was but a few feet
broad, and it was nearer a miracle that he was not
dashed to the bottom of the abyss than we are
accustomed to experience. The poor beast was a
pitiful sight to look upon, and at a glance at his
mangled body they turned sickened away. The
other two had also been crushed instantly and lay
lifeless where they had fallen. Thankful for their
own escape, yet grieving for the fate of their faith-
ful animals that had been through so many pri-
vations with them, they encamped on the broad
table below, where they found a spring of pure
water and plenty of grass for their two remaining
horses.

The next day as they were wending their way
slowly along, they came to a range of walls so
singular in their conformation as to make them
Dause in their journey to examine them. On a



332 THE WANIERERS; OR,

broad table, girt in on either side by the rocky for-
tresses of the Sierra, a column arose twenty feet
long and sixteen wide at the base, diminishing a8
it rose to a height of thirty feet so as to leave the
top eight by twelve feet in dimensions. This co-
lumn was ascended by a flight of steps, regular and
perfect in their construction. They were not long
in ascertaining this to be a work of art, and per-
haps for centuries on centuries it had stood there
defying the elements, and was even now as solid
and perfect, with every block of granite in its place,
as when first laid.

" This is the work of the ancestors of the
old man of Lake Superior," said Howe, thought-
fully.

" Perhaps the savages he told you of, whom he
said inhabited the mountains built it," returned
Jane.

" It was never built by a people destitute of the
arts and sciences. Mark the accuracy with which
each stone is made to fit its place, hewn and pol-
ished until it is as smooth as marble. Note also
the cement in which it is luid, black and hard as
glass, like that in which the temple was laid where
we spent our first winter. No, no ; depend upon
it, a civilized people have been here centuries
before our forefathers ever heard of this conti-
nent."

A cry of astonishment from Edward who nad
ascended to the summit, called their attention there



*

LIFE IN THE WESTERN WILDS. 333

also. Gaining the top, they found on the centre r
raised on blocks of granite, a foot from the smooth
floor, a heavy slab of granite- six feet long and two
wide and six inches thick, elaborately carved on
the edges, the design being entwined serpents,
the heads laying over the ends with closed mouths
and open eyes. They were represented as being
scaly, and each scale was chiseled with some
strange device, all differing in shape and finish.
On this slab lay a flint, the edges sharp, hol-
lowed into a slightly oval form, being made into
a sharp and thin scoop with the shape of a
shell. By its side lay a stone mallet perfect also
in its finish. With feelings of awe they left this
memento of the unknown past, and pursued their
journey.

The rest of the descent they found comparatively
easy, and they were once more where birds sang
and flowers bloomed, game roamed, and savages
prowled. Making easy journeys, in a few days
they hailed with joy a clearing which they saw was
inhabited. The owne? proved to be a Creole mis-
sionary from a Spanish settlement below, who had
been stationed there to look after the spiritual wel-
fare of the Indians, and wh*) received our wander-
ers with great kindness. When they told him who
and what they were, the benevolent curate, like a
good Christian, insisted they should make his domi-
cil their home until they heard from their friends.
This offer they gladly accepted ; and in exchange



334 THE WANDERERS; OR,

for their gold which fascinated the pious
eyes in a wonderful degree, they obtained s<-:ne
clothing, and when once more dressed in the g\;rb
of civilization, they began to think their *vaudr-
iiigs were indeed over.



LIFE IN IKE WESTERN WILDS. 335



jinphr (Enmtttr-f



Return to the family of Mr. Duncan Lewis and his father succeed
in getting back to camp The effect the capture of the children
produced on the health of Mr. and Mrs. Duncan Cole and the
chief reach the camp of the Arapahoes Their surprise They
continue their course to Mr. Duncan's camp Joy at the news
they bring They start again for the west Thirty Arapahoes
accompany them They arrive at tho Sierra Nevada.

HAVING followed our wanderers through many
exceedingly trying and difficult scenes, since they
became separated from the rest of the family and
were lost in the deep and dreary desert, to the hos-
pitable fireside of the curate beyond the Sierra Ne-
vada where they again met with the comforts of
civilized life, we will leave them for the present and
return to the family of Mr. Duncan. The last we
saw of Mr. Duncan arid Lewis was in the battle
with the Crows; but they succeeded in making
their escape, and finally returned to their camp,
only, however, to convey the sorrowful intelligence
of the sad fate of all who had gone out to the res-
cue except himself and Lewis. This sad event
confined him to a bed of sickness from which he
arose after many weeks of suffering, with feeble



3->6 THE WANDERERS; o ii ,

and tottering steps, and locks whitened by suffer-
ing. Grief had done what time had not it. had
made him old and grey.

Mrs. Duncan submitted meekly to the terrible
blow; but the elasticity of her step was gone, the
light from her eye, and the usual glad smile from
her lips had disappeared. Had her children sick-
ened and died, she could have laid them away in
the grave, with the consoling thought, that ill
must lay there at last. But the harrassing idea of
the torture they would be subjected to, and the
terrible death they must at last suffer, if indeed they
still lived, was a constant source of agony to her.

" If 1 only knew that they were dead and at
rest, I would be content ; but, alas ! I fear they
still live !" she often said to herself, and then the
throbbino-s of her heart would not be still. Poor

o

mother ! her thoughts made her life a torture of
the deepest intensity.

Lewis would not believe they were dead, and
had devoted the whole time of their absence in
wandering from tribe tc iribe, in his endeavors to
gain some information of them. Once he heard
there were some white persons captive in a distant
Indian village, but he could not learn the name of
the tribe, or in what part of the vast western wilds
they were located. Twice he had been through
to Oregon in hopes of obtaining a clue to their
whereabouts, but heartsick had returned only to
sink the already drooping spirits of his parents



LIFE IN THE WESTERN WILDS. 837

still lower. Mr. Duncan had removed his family
farther east, where he would be less liable to be
annoyed by hostile Indians, and there taking up
his abode determined to await until he could learn
the fate of his children.

Cole and the chief travelled with great rapidity.
They were inurod to hardship from infancy, and
with nothing to impede their progress, sometimes
aiding, and sometimes walking, the fourth week
out they came to the Arapahoe village in the even-
ing just as the shades of night were drawing to the
lodges, the men, women, and children who had
scattered themselves during the day through the
forest. The chieftain's eye kindled as the old
familiar faces passed before him, and his breast
heaved with pride as he read in their cheerful steps
and careless ways the security and prosperity of
his tribe. Cole and the chief were standing in the
shadow of a large chesnut tree, which protected
them from observation, but from which they saw all
that was passing in the village without being seen.
Gradually the Arapahoes seated themselves on the
bank of a small stream in little groups, and then
the chief saw who it was that had succeeded him in
command it was his best friend the brave and
good Eagle.

"Stay here, till I return," whispered the chief
to Cole, and then folding his arms over his brawny
chest, he walked with a proud step into their midst.
Every tongue seemed to be paralyzed, every limb

29 W



338 THE WANDERERS; OR,

nerveless, as they, with horror depicted on their
swarthy faces, saw him approaching.

At last one old man slowly arose and stretching
his long bony hand toward him, said " Does not
our chief rest well in the spirit land, that he comes
back to his people again ? or does he come to warn
us of danger ?"

O

" The Arapahoes have forgotten their chief,"
said Whirlwind, bitterly.

"No, no: not forgotten him!" cried a young
girl his sister bounding into the circle, and
throwing herself into his arms.

" The Singing-Bird does not forget," said the
chief, holding her tightlv in his embrace.

o /

" We did not forget, but thought you dead !"
they all cried, after fairly recovering from their
panic. The Eagle was one of the first to give him
a hearty welcome back, and as he did so, he laid
his plume on the returned chieftain's head thu*
resigning his title and authority.

"No, keep it yet for awhile," returned Whirl-
wind, " I must leave you for a time." He then
explained the disasters that had befallen them,
and, finally, his self-imposed duty in uniting the
severed family.

The Indians never do a generous act by piece-
meal. They are either warm friends or bitter
enemies, knowing no medium between the two.
They will lay down their lives to serve a friend,
and murder a friend's enemy for the same reason,



LIFE IN THE WESTERN WILDS. 339

although they have never seen him before, and
personally have no animosity towards him. The
Arapahoes applauded the noble design of their
chief, and furnished fresh horses to him and Cole,
with which to accomplish the distance to the fron-
tier, where Mr. Duncan and his companions were.

Mr. Duncan and family were seating themselves
at their evening meal, as the two horseman halted
at the door. A glance was sufficient to tell them
one was a stranger, and the other could it be?
was the Arapahoe chief, who was taken captive
with his lost ones ! They all with one impulse
started for the door, but Mrs. Duncan, too over-
come with anxiety, stood trembling, pale and
speechless, leaning on a chair, from which she had
just arisen. Mr. Duncan reached the door, but
the words he would have spoken died on his lips, as
Lewis bounded past him, and grasping the chiefs
arm convulsively, cried "Do they live I speak, if
you would not see them die !" pointing to his father
and mother " do they live ?"

"All live !" said the chief; and as the words fell
from his lips, a cry of joy and gladness resounded
from the chastened hearts of the family. The cer-
tainty that the lost ones still lived, though they
yet knew not where nor under what circumstances,
roused their enervated energies, nerved their limbs
and called back the healthful flush to the cheek,
and the light of joy to their eyes.

" To be sure they are well," said Cole to their



340 THE WANDERERS; OR

inquiries, " and we have come all the way from tne
Sierra Nevada mountains to bring you the news,
and take you to them."

"Yes, yes; we will go. To-morrow we will be
on the road to see them," said Mrs. Duncan.

" Not so fast as that," returned Cole ; " I lost
all my traps by the red-skins, and must collect
some more. Besides, you need more preparation
than could be made in that time, or you will fall
into savage hands the second time."

" Let it be a week, then ; we can be ready in that
time," said Mr. Duncan. Their wanderings were re-

7 O

counted by Whirlwind, and when he had concluded,
Mrs. Duncan's joy was nearly turned to sorrow, for
fear they had not escaped the dangers of the Sierra.
Accordingly, their arrangements were made to set
out after a week's preparation. Mr. Duncan's
equipments being nearly the same as those with
which he had started two years before, when his
journey was so unfortunately interrupted. Their
destination now was somewhat different than what
it was then ; their only object being to recover
their lost children. Cole had given such glowing
descriptions of the country west of the Sierra
that they thought it probable they should settle
there ; still, this was a minor consideration with
them.

They reached the Arapahoe village in safety,
where they found thirty of their warriors ready
to accompany them as a guard. Their love and



LIFE IN THE WESTERN WILDS.

devotion to their chief prompted them to this dis-
interested act. They were all well mounted on
half- tamed prairie horses, their swarthy formg
fantastically painted, and their heads and tunics
adorned with shells, beads, and feathers, which
gave them a wild, grotesque, but not unbecoming
appearance. This was their gala costume, pre-
pared after the most approved Indian style, and
France never looked upon' her sovereign with more
pride when decked in his costliest regal vestments,
than this tribe of savages did upon these thirty
warriors, that the whole village had been laid under
contribution to decorate in befitting pomp for this
occasion. It is unnecessary to follow them minutely
as they progressed in their journey. Suffice it
that their guard protected them from the depre-
dations of other Indians, and at the same time
kept them supplied with meat and fish in abun-
dance, cleared the path when obstructed, and daily
rendered invaluable service to the emigrants. On
reaching the Sierra, they were shown another paes
by some Indians they met with, which was lesa
dangerous, although farther over, and quite as toil-
Some in crossing.

29*



342 THE WANDERERS; OK,



The Curate has become much attached to the Wanderers A rrival
of Mr. and Mrs. Duncan's family, accompanied by a number of
Arapa.hoes Whirlwind demands Jane in marriage Duncan's
feeling in the matter Jane refuses and the Indians take their
departure The curate gives an account of the discoveries be
made of a singular road, city, pyramid The marriage of Jane
and Sidney Prosperous condition of Mr. Duncan's family The
lapse of twelve years Change of their condition Age whitens
their locks Conclusion.

WE will go back again to the Pacific valley.
The good curate had formed a strong attachment
to our wanderers who had been so unceremoniously
thrown upon his hospitality, and he held out such
strong inducements for them to settle permanently
there that Howe had taken some land, and by the
aid of Indians whom the curate had partially
civilized and taught to labor, cleared a few acres
and built thereon a neat and convenient house for
the reception of Mr. Duncan, whose arrival he was
expecting daily.

Not long after this was completed, as they were
all assembled on the porch, a troop of wild looking
horsemen emerged from the forest, and galloped
towards the house.



LIFE IN THE WESTERN WILDS. 34.3

"It is a party out on a hunt," said the curate,
u we have nothing to fear from them. They will
no doubt give us a call, and then hasten away tc
the forest again."

Howe had been looking intently towards there
from the first moment they came in sight, as if in
doubts as to who and what they were. The
approaching Indian's vision was keener than
Howe's, for recognizing^ the trapper, Whirlwind's
joyous shout rang in the air in a prolonged "tu
tu-la-la-lahT

"The chief! it is the chief!" cried Howe,
recognizing the sound, " he has come to bring us
joyful tidings."

" May it be so for your sakes," returned the
curate, with apparent joy.

Approaching with their panting horses, the In-
dians were dismounted the next moment, and
shaking hands with the little group ; but, when
the chief came to Jane, he caught her in his arms
and gazed wistfully in her clear blue eyes.

" They are all safe and close at hand," said he
speaking rapidly, anticipating her inquiry, " and
I have come to claim the antelope. Will she not
now go with her chief ?"

"I cannot tell you yet; my mother! father!
let me see them," cried the bew'.ldered girl.

" They will be here very soon. The hill yonder
is all that now hides them from view," replied the
chief, releasing her from his embrace.



344 THE WANDEREKS; on,

"We will go to meet them," said Sidney who,
in gratitude to the chief for safely conducting his
more than father and mother over the dreary
wilds, forgot to evince jealousy at the embrace to
which the chief had so unceremoniously treated
himself.

" Yes, yes ; let us go to meet them," responded
Jane, eagerly.

"The white mother longs for her children," said
the chief; "you shall go to meet her. The ante-
lope can ride, will you?" he continued, pointing
to his horse, and before she had time to speak he
caught her in his arms, and with the agility of a
chamois, sprang on the horse's back, placing the half
terrified girl before him, and then galloped away to
the forest in the direction whence he came, with
the rest, including the curate, following after them.
Turning the curve of the hill, they came suddenly
upon the emigrants, who at sight of their children,
uttered an exclamation of joy, and ran forward,
catching Jane who was the first to come up, from
the chief's arms, and who, with a glad cry, sprang
to meet a long embrace from her father and mo-
ther.

" Mother ! father ! Jane !" was all they could
say, for their hearts were too full to speak.

" I come ! father ! mother I come !" cried


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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 19 of 20)