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 2 of 20)
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the dogs, Lewis. No time is to be lost," said
Howe.

" I fear the worst," said the father ; " I saw
signs of Indians."

" What were they ?" quickly asked the Trapper.

"A raft on the opposite bank of the stream."

" They will bring them back, if they have taken
them," said Howe, to which the surmise was not
new, for it had occurred to him the moment he
found the children were gone, but did not like to
say so, lest he should raise an unnecessary alarm.
But there was no outcry, no lamentation or dismay,
though all was bustle and hurry. They knew it
was time to act, not to spend their time in useless
sorrow.

"Bring up two mules," said Howe, filling his



LIFE IN THE WP3 TERN WlLDS. 21

pockets with bread and cheese, which he told
Lewis to do also, " for," said he, " we may not
come in to supper, certainly not unless we find
them."

"I will go with you," said the father.

"And I," said Sidney, decidedly.

" No : a sufficient force is necessary here ; you
will take care of the camp, and if you hear the
report of hree guns in succession, bring the horses,
which must be fed immediately," said the Trapper.
"But, if we do not have to go a long distance,
the mules will do."

"How will you know whether they are lost or
have been carried off by savages," asked the
mother, and though no coward, she shuddered and
turned white as she asked the question.

" Easily enough known, when once on the
ground. I know the red-skins as thoroughly as I
do my rifle. Here Buff, here Lion," cried the
Trapper, calling two noble bloodhounds to him
"Now, Mary," he continued, " give me a pair of
Edward's and Anne's shoes, that they have worn."
They were given him, and taking the hounds by
the collar, he made them smell the shoes until
they got the scent, then leading them to the bank
of the stream pointed to them the tracks made in
the morning.

"They have it! they have it!" shouted the
family, as the hounds, with their noses to the ground,
off in fine style.



22 THE WANDERERS; OR,

" Take Prince and Carlf in the leash, Lewis, and
fasten it to your saddle, then mount and away,"
cried the Trapper, throwing himself into his saddle,
and giving the mule the spur, he was rapidly follow-
ing in their wake.

Two hours passed, when the signals were given
for the horses. Sidney saddled them, took a basket

/

of provisions which Mrs. Duncan had put up with
her usual thoughtfulness for others, and started in
the direction from which the firing proceeded.

Edward and Anne, in the morning, had followed
the course of the stream as far down as their fa-
ther had traced them, Edward whiling away the
time in drawing the finny tribes from their element,
Anne in weaving in wreaths the gorgeous tinted
wild flowers, sweet scented violets, and glossy green
of the running pine. The children heeded not
time, nor the distance they were placing between
themselves and the camp, but wandered on. The
wild birds were trilling the most delicious music,
which burst on the ear enchantingly, and was the
only sound that broke the solemn stillness that
reigned around, save the soft gurgling of the water,
as it glided over its pebbly bed. The forest was
dense, the foliage above them shielding them from
the sun, while the bank was smooth, mossy, and
thickly studded with wild spring flowers, now in all
the luxuriance of their natural loveliness. When
they came to the bank of the stream where their
father lost their track, they had their curiosity



LIFE IN THE WESTERN WILDS. 23

excited by a grove of willows on the opposite side,
in the midst of which they could discern trunks
of large trees piled up systematically, with a quan-
tity of rubbish laying around. Thoughtlessly they
resolved to cross over. The stream was about
forty feet wide, but very shallow, not over three
feet deep at any point, and in many places not
more than two. But in order to get over, it was
necessary to make a raft. Edward was at no loss
how to begin ; he had too often seen his father
make temporary rafts to hesitate. Indeed, he
looked upon it as a thing too small to be of much
importance. Collecting two as large pieces of drift-
wood as he could manage, he drew them to the
bank, collected fallen limbs and brush wood, laying
them across the drift wood, until he found, by
walking upon it, that it would sustain their weight;
then seating Anne in the centre, and with a long
pole in his hand, placed himself beside her, and
with the end of his pole pushing against the bank,
launched his strange looking craft into the stream,
their weight pressing against the water and its
density resisting the pressure, kept the raft to-
gether. Slowly but securely they moved along;
by pressing the pole against the bed of the river he
propelled it until they finally reached in safety the
opposite bank, where, drawing their raft a little out
of water, that it might not float out of their reach
into the stream, they prepared to explore the
grove of willows that had drawn them thither.



24 THE WANDERERS; OR,

It was the sight of this raft across the stream
that caused Mr. Duncan's alarm about the Indians.

On entering they found a large space cleared
of its primitive growth, in the centre of about three
acres, -which was slightly overgrown with stunted
shrubs, but the willows that formed the grove were
of gigantic proportions, many of them three and a
half, and some four feet in diameter

In the centre of the clearing, was an immense
fort, evidently built of the willows that had been
felled to clear the space. The logs had been cut,
straightened, and made to fit each other, with
some sharp instrument, the corners being smoothly
jointed, making the whole structure solid and im-
pregnable to gun-shot or arrows. What had evi-
dently been the door was torn away, and lay
mouldering on the ground. The whole structure
was apparently very old, and had been long de-
serted. The grass was growing within the enclo-
sure, with weeds and briars, while the logs that

*

formed it were covered with moss, and were crumb-
ling to decay.

The children's curiosity was now blended with
an absorbing interest, and Anne longed to follow
Edward into the enclosure, but hesitated until he
called out, " Only look ! Anne ! what can this
be ?" Then forgetting all her timidity, she hastened
to see what he was dragging out of the rubbish, and
as he held it up triumphantly for her inspection,
she looked on with wonder and amazement.



LIFE IN THE WESTERN WILDS. 25

" It is a huge plate cover; here is the handle,"
aaid Anne, turning it round with engerness.

" Hardly that," said her brother; " this is two
feet across, and is hardly the right thing for a
plate cover ; it is made of some metal."

"We will take it home," said Anne; "father
and uncle Howe will know what it is, don't you
think so ?"

But Edward was not listening, and did not an-
swer. He was digging down where he had found
the thing, and came to a quantity of arrow heads,
evidently made of the same material as the other,
but of what it was he could not determine. Anne,
with a strong stick in her hand, commenced search-
ing, and soon came upon what they knew to be a
stone mortar, for they had often seen them before.

Anne now began to complain of hunger, and
Edward said he would give her a treat, Indian-
fashion, to celebrate their arrival into, as he face-
tiously said, an Indian palace !

" But what can you give ? We brought nothing
with us ; besides we have been out quite as
long as we ought to, and had better return im-
mediately."

" Oh, no ; we have not. You know the car^p
will not move to-day, and I intend to make a day's
work of it."

" We certainly must return ; they will be alarmed
about us. Come, let us go back."

" Not until we have the feast. Now keep quiet,



26 THE "WANDERERS; OR,

Anne, until that is over, and then I will return
with you.''

" A funny feast it will be, composed of nothing."
u A finny feast it is to be, composed of fish.
Now see how I will make a fire." And taking a
flint he had found, he struck his pocket knife blade
slant-wise against it, when it emitted sparks of fire
in profusion, which, falling on a sort of dry wood,
known to woodmen as " punk wood," set it on
fire, which Edward soon blew into a blaze, and by
feeding it judiciously a fire wassooi. crackling and
consuming the fuel he had piled on it. In the
mean time he had taken the fish he had caught,
dressed and washed them at the stream, and laying
them on the live coals until one side was done,
turned them on the other by the aid of a long stick
he had sharpened for the purpose, and when done
he took them up on its point, and laid them steam-
ing on a handful of leaves he had collected, and
presented them to his sister.

Anne was sure she had never ate fish that tasted
so delicious, a conclusion an excellent appetite
helped her to arrive at. Edward was highly elated
at his success, and laughed and joked over a din-
ner they enjoyed with a relish an epicure might
covet. There ip an old proverb about stolen
waters being swe-cc ; certainly their stolen ramble
and impromptu dinner had a charm which com-
pletely blinded them to their duty to their parents,
and even their own safety ; for Edward proposed they



LIFE IN THE WESTERN WILDS. 27

should take a short ramble on the other side, where
they were to try if they could discover some other
ruins like those at the fort, and overruling the
slight opposition Anne made, they gathered up the
relics they had found, and moved on from the
stream towards the deep luring shades, that were
the same for many thousand miles, unbroken by
the bound of civilization, but bewildering by its
still mystic loveliness.

On they went, regardless of taking any notes
or landmarks until the exhaustion of Anne warned
Edward it was indeed time to return. Changing
their course for one they mistook for that they had
come, they plunged deeper and deeper at every
step into the woods, without discovering their
error, until they knew by the distance they had
traversed they ought to have reached the old fort :
but now it was no where to be seen, neither wero>
there any signs of a river. They wandered to
and fro, hoping every moment to make out the
true direction to take, yet becoming more confused
and bewildered at every stej . Finally, Edward
laid his ear to the ground, and listening, was sure
he heard the -faint murmuring of water. They
hastened on towards the direction whence it pro-
ceeded, guided by the sound, until, oh joy ! a
stream burst upon their sight. Reaching its banks,
Edward took his sister in his arms, plunged into
the water, and was soon in safety on the opposite
shore. He was now in a great quandary, for



8 THE WANDERERS; OB,



though he had gained what he supposed to be the
bank he had left, without having lost time in
building a raft, yet he knew if he missed his way
he would not be able to gain the camp by sunset,
for he saw by the long falling shadows that the
sun was rapidly descending.

Anne was greatly terrified, and wept bitterly.
" Do not grieve," said Edward, " they will of course
miss, and come in search of us, if we do not get
home soon. I am very certain we are very near
the camp already."

" I am afraid we are lost," Anne replied,
sobbing, "and if we are, we may never get back
again !"

" Fie ! Anne, don't be a coward, for I am very
certain we shall, and that within the hour."

" How can you be certain ? you do not even
know which direction to take."

" Oh ! yes I do : we came south, and of course
must go north to get back again."

" If we only knew which way was north. No
stars are to be seen to indicate it."

" Easily enough told, come, we must not lose a
moment, and as we go .1 will tell you an unmis-
takable sign."

" Oh ! I am so weary I can go no farther," and
again the child sobbed bitterly.

"Never mind, I am not tired, and can help
you," and passing one arm around her he rendeied
her great assistance, and again they were hurrying on.



LIFE IN THE WESTERN WILDS. 29

" You observe these trees," said he ; " the bark
Dn the side that faces the way we are going is quite
smooth and even, while the opposite side is rough
and the branches jagged. It is always so on forest
trees, and a person may rely on this as a natural
sign, when he has none other to go by, with per-
fect security. I have heard uncle Howe and father
say that they have repeatedly lost themselves in
the woods, but by following in one direction to a
given point they could soon~find themselves again."

" It is getting so very dark. Oh ! Edward, what
shall we do ?"

" The first of every thing we must do is, to keep
up our courage."

" Hist ! what is that ? There it is again ! Oh !
Edward, let us run ! There ! there it is !" screamed
the terrified girl.

Edward turned to the direction indicated, and a
wolf was crouching with glaring eyes, ready to
spring upon them. Edward's only weapon was a
pocket-knife, one of those long two-edged bladed
weapons, so common in the west ; yet he did not
despair, but placing Anne behind a large tree
stationed himself before it, and with his knife open
and a huge club he awaited the approach of the
wolf.

It soon came. The wolf was lean and despe-
rate, and with a terrific growl he bounded for-
ward, but was met by the brave boy, who sprang

aftide as he eame, and before the monster could
3*



30 THE WANDERERS; o ^ ,

recover his leap, Edward had dealt him several deep
and deadly blows. Following up his advantage he
sprang at the wolf with his knife, plunging it again
and again in his side, The brute feeling he was
being conquered, with a mighty effort turned on
Edward with jaws extended, and would have done
him harm had not Anne sprung forward with the
circular metallic relic they had found at the fort,
and placed it before her brother. This drew the
attention of the enraged wolf on her ; but before
he could spring, Edward had felled him a second
time to the ground, where he soon dispatched him.

It was now too dark to make their way farther,
and Edward was forced to acknowledge the only
hope of getting to camp that night, lay in their
being found by his friends and carried back.
Many a boy would have been discouraged, but
Edward was not ; though but seventeen he was
athletic and brave, and felt that he was answerable
for his sister's safety, whom he had led into this
difficulty. "I can" said he to himself, "and I
will ; and where there is a will, there is a way"

He immediately kindled a fire, as he had done
in the morning, in order to keep other wild beasts
away, as well as to prepare some supper ; then
taking his line he soon had some fine fish, (for
he was on the river bank he had last crossed,) which
he broiled on the coals.

He could not shut his eyes to the terrible truth
that they were in a very dangerous place; for,



LIFE IN THE WESTERN WILDS. 31

although they piled on fuel to frighten the beasts,
yet they could hear the fierce growl of the wolf,
the yell of the panther, and their stealthy tread,
and see their eyes flash and glare in the surround-
ing gloom. The smell of the broiling fish seemed
to have collected them, and sharpening their vora-
cious appetites, made them desperate. To add to
the difficulty of the children, the fuel was getting
scarce around the fire, and they dared not go away
from it, for it would be running into the very jaws
of their terrible besiegers.

" We must get up into a tree, Anne," said Ed-
ward ; "it is now our only hope."

" Then, Edward, there is no hope for me ; I can-
not climb, but you can. Save yourself while you
can !"

"No, Anne, these monsters shall never have you
while I live ; never fear that. I know you cannot
climb of yourself, but I can get you there. We
must make a strong cord somehow. My fishing-line
doubled twice will help, and here is a tree of lea-
ther-wood ;* this is fortunate, I can now succeed."

Collecting together all the fuel he could, he piled
it on the fire, then taking his knife, stripped off
the leather-wood bark, and tying it around Anne's
waist, with the other end in his hand, he climbed
up to the lowest limb, and then cautiously drew
ner up after him. Seating her securely on that

* Dirca palustris, a very tough shrub, of the Thymala>
eat species, growing in the deep forests.



32 THE WANDERERS; OR,

limb, he climbed higher up, drawing her after him,
until he reached a secure place, where he seated
her, taking tlie precaution to fasten the cord that
was around her to the tree. It was a large hem-
lock tree, and the limbs being very elastic, he pro,-
ceeded to weave her a bed, that she might take
some repose, for the poor child was wearied with
fright and fatigue. Disengaging part of the cord
from her, he bent together some limbs, and fast-
ened them securely with the leather-wood string ;
he then broke some smaller branches, and inter-
laced them with the larger ones, until he had made
a strong and quite comfortable bed. In this sin-
gular couch he placed Anne, where she soon fell
asleep.

Gradually the fire died away, and nearer and
nearer their dreadful enemies approached, until
they came to the carcass of the dead wolf, which
they tore into pieces and devoured, amidst fright-
ful growlings and fightings. When nothing but the

o o o o o

bare bones were left, they surrounded the tree in
whose friendly branches the children had taken re-
fuge, and kept up a continued howl through the
night. Edward sat on a limb by his sister through
the night, his knife ready for use, wondering if
ever there was a night so long before. To him it
seemed as though day would never dawn ; and when
he espied the first faint glimmer in the east, his
heart bounded with gratitude that he had escaped
the perils of the night. But would the wolves go



LIFE IN THE WESTERN WILDS. 33

away with tho darkness ? alas ! they did nut, but
still prowled around, so that they did not dare to
descend from their place of security.

Howe and Lewis had discovered the place where
the children had ate their dinners at the fort, and
had traced them until they came to the place
where they first found they had missed their way.
Here the hounds became perplexed in conse-
quence of the children having doubled their track,
and were unable to make out the path. After
some delay it was again found, and followed to
the river bank, which Howe hesitated to cross, as
it was now quite dark ; accordingly they encamped
for the night. At dawn the next morning they
crossed the river ; the dogs were turned loose, and
after a few moments they set off at a rapid pace
in one direction ; Howe and Lewis followed, and
came in sight in time to see the dogs give battle to
the wolves that were watching the children in the
tree.

"Our rifles are needed there," said Howe, as
his practised glance took in the combat, and drawing
his eye across his trusty gun, a sharp crack was
heard, and a wolf was felled to the ground. Again
it was heard, and another bit the dust. Lewis had
act been idle ; he too had brought down two of
them, and the remainder fled, with the hounds in
pursuit.

The children's joy I will not attempt to describe>
as they saw their rescuers approach, nor yet the

C



34 THE WANDERERS; OR,

agony of the parents, as the night wore away and
the absent ones came not. Lewis took his sister
in his arm.s, holding her on the saddle before him,
and bore her back to camp. She would not relin-
quish the trophies found at the fort, which she had
purchased so dearly, but carried them with her.

" My children, how could you wander away so,
when you well knew the dangers of the woods ?"
said the father, when they were once more safely in
tke camp.

" It was not Anne's fault, father : do not blame
her. I persuaded her to cross the river, and after
leaving the old Indian fort, somehow we got turned
around, and instead of recrossing the river, we
went on and crossed over another stream," said
Edward.

"Neither was it all Edward's fault," replied
Anne ; " I wanted to see what was in the Willow
Grove, and when once there the woods were so
shady and looked so cool and inviting

" Wolves and all, sister?" said Benny.

" The wolves were not there then ; nothing but
Dirds and squirrels, and such bright flowers and "

" Were you not very much frightened, when
you found you had lost yourselves ?" asked Jane.

" Oh ! yes ; and when the wolf jumped at Ed-
ward, I thought we should never see any of you
again."

" Where is your ' plate cover' you used so ef.
fectually," said Edward, " for I want ycu all to



LIFE i N THE WESTERN WILDS. 85

know that when the wolf was gett:ng the better of
me, Anne, usually so timid, suddenly became very
courageous, and with this for a weapon turned the
brute's attention on herself, and thus perhaps saved
my life."

" Give me Anne's ' plate cover ;' ' said the father,
" I am curious to examine what seems to have
played so active a part in your adventure."

" A curious thing, very," said he, examining it
closely. " Howe, did you ever come across anything
like it in your wanderings ? It is heavy, evidently
of some kind of metal."

" Once, and once only. But its description
would be a long story. Scrape away the rust,
Duncan, and see if it is made of copper."

Mr. Duncan cut away a thick scale of corroded
metal, then scraping it with a knife a pure copper
plate was exposed to view.

"I thought so," said Howe. "It is a strange
story, but I will iell you all I know of it."



86 THE WANDERERS; OR,




Howe's Story of a singular piece of Me.al.

IN compliance with Mr. Duncan's wish Howe re-
lated the story of the singular piece of metal he had
Been, similar to the one they had discovered.

" Some twenty years ago," said he, " my father
and I carried on an extensive traffic with the In-
dians around Lake Superior for furs, often being
gone a year on our expeditions, during which time
we lived entirely with the Indians, when not in some
inhabited region, by ourselves, which we often were,
for a trapper penetrates and brings to light hidden
resources, of which the Indian never dreams.
During one of these excursions, we had been
struck with the singular appearance of an old man,
tottering with age, who belonged to the wigwam of
the Indian chief with whose people we were trad-
ing. His thin hair, falling from the lower part of
his head, was long, curling and white, leaving the
top bald, and the scalp glossy. His beard was
very heavy, parting on the upper lip, and combed
smoothly and in waving masses, fell on his breast.
His must have been a powerful, athletic frame in
his manhood, for when I saw him he was over
seve-xi feet high, and though feeble and tottering,



LIFE IN THE WESTERN WILD a. 37

his frame was unbent, and his eye was hlue and
glittering, with a soul his waning life could not
Bubdue. His features, as well as complexion, were
totally unlike the rest of the tribe. His forehead
was broad and high, his chin wide and prominent,
his lips full, with a peculiar cast about them I
had never seen on any other human being, giving
the impression of nobleness mingled with a hope-
less agony and sorrow. Such, at least, was the im-
pression made on my mind, which time has never
effaced. He was a strange old man, with such a
form and face, and so unlike any other human
being, that his very presence inspired the heart
with feelings of reverence. The Indians have no
beard. This fact impressed us with the idea that
he was a white man ; but when I compared him to the
white race, he was as unlike them as the Indians.
Singular in all his ways and manners, he seemed a
being isolated from every human feeling or sym-
pathy.

" My father said he had known this man for
thirty-five years, and when he first saw him he was
old, but then there was a woman with him, whom
he tenderly cherished, and who, but a few years
before, died of extreme old age. Otherwise he
knew nothing more of them, as he. never sought to
learn farther than what the chief had told him.
When he asked who they were, he was answered that
they were all that was left of a nation their
ancestors had conquered so many moons ago, and

4



38 THE WANDERERS; OR

the chief caught a handful of sand, to designate the
moons by the grains.

"I was more deeply impressed with the sight of
this old man than I can describe ; and what I
heard of him only deepened the impression, until it
haunted me continually. Who was he ? How
came he here ? And where came he from when he
came here ? Who were his kindred, arid of what
race and nation was he ? These were questions
that I asked myself day after day, but was unable


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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 2 of 20)