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 6 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 6 of 20)
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through this region are very warlike, and every
year countless numbers are taken and sacrificed at
their feasts. The tribes are cannibals, and eat their
enemies as you see these do ; therefore, they fight
with more desperation knowing they must conquer
and feast on their foes or be conquered and feasted

"What is our chance, do you think, of being
sacrificed ?" asked Howe.

" We shall be, of course, unless the Great Spirit
saves us. It is the fate of war," replied the chief,
with as much indifference as if be was discussing a


puppy stew.*

"I could bear it for myself, \V hirhvind, but these
children! No; we must out-wit them and escape,"
replied the trapper. u Prudence and cunning may

save us."


The village of their captors was situated on a
low, level plain, sloping gently towards the south
and west, bordered by the Wahsatch mountains on
the east, a spur of which, branching from the reg-
ular chain, ran a number of miles from east to
west, and formed a high barrier on the north,

* A great delicacy with Indiana


rising in perpendicular precipices to the height of
three hundred feet. The village was very popu-
lous, the corn fields numerous, and now just in
bloom, promising an abundant yield. The lodges
were large, convenient and well stored with furs
and skins, while large quantities of arms for de-
fence hung around, intermixed with curiously
wrought baskets, elaborately embroidered tunics and
moccasins, gay colored blankets, scalps of fallen
foes, eagle plumes, bears' claws, antlers of deer,
and innumerable tails of fox and beaver.

The captives were distributed among the different
lodges, at first closely guarded; but as they evinced
perfect content, they were allowed gradually more
and more liberty, until at last they were permitted
to roam through the village at will, with a single

o o o

guard, whose duty it was to give the alarm in case
they should attempt to escape. This greatly elated
them; and, as not one of the tribe understood En-

' ' O

lish, they were able, at all times, to converse and
devise plans without fear of detection by being

About two weeks after their captivity, they w^re
wandering around the outskirts of the village, and

O o '

approaching the precipice at the north, penetrated
the thick underbrush that grew at its base, a^d
seated themselves in its cool shade, their sentipel
taking up his position a few rods from thorn in the
path by which they had entered. Some of them
sat so as to renline against the rock that rose above


them, whilst others leaned in thoughtful mood
against a cluster of bushes that were entwined with
the wild grape, forming a strong but easy sup-
port. Jane was pulling up the ferns and wild
flowers, and as they drooped in her hand threw
them aside and gathered fresh ones until there
were no more in her reach ; then her eye becoming
attracted by some rich, green mosses, she gathered
them, when among the black earth from which
they were taken something gleamed bright and
distinct from everything around it. Sidney, who
was nearest her, regarding her with a sorrowful
look, was the first one attracted by its glitter, and
being undecided what it was, called the attention
of Howe to it.

" It is gold !" cried the trapper, after closely
examining the tiny flake Sidney had placed in his

" Gold ! let me see it," they all cried. c * Is gold
always found in that shape ?" queried Edward.

"Not always," he replied. "Sometimes it is
imbedded in the rocks, and has to be dug out by
blasting ; while, at others, it comes in globules,
called nuggets, often of great value."

" Perhaps there is more around here ; let us
see," said the trapper, an 1 taking a stick he dug
among the soft earth, whv;n, lo ! it was speckled
with the precious ore.

The sentinel seeing them gathering up the glit-
tering scales with great eagerness, came forward.


and with his hatchet struck a few heavy blows
against a fragment that projected from a fissure in
the rock, when it split from the solid mass, and re-
vealed the precious ore, intermixed with quartz
rock ; then turning away with disdain, left them to
amuse themselves, and took up his former position
in the pathway.

"We can gather as much as we please; and if we
have the good luck to escape the vigilance of these
demons, we shall be rich," said Sidney.

" It is something, at least to have made the dis-
covery. These mountains, I judge from the frag-
ment broken, must be full of ore ?" said the trapper.

"The Indians," said Whirlwind, "say there
are stones still farther towards the setting sun
that give light like stars, and glitter in their bed
with a hundred fires ; but they are never seen
in these hunting grounds. All through the moun-
tains these are to be found in abundance," said
he, pointing to the gold that lay glittering in the

"You never told me of this before, Whirlwind,"
said the trapper. " Why were you so wary about
what you must have known was of importance ?"

The chief drew up his tall, athletic form, and
pointing with his finger to the sky, said :

"As many moons ago as there are stars yonder,
when the sun is in the west, there came to the
hunting-grounds of the red man a band of white
men. They were few, and my fathers fostered


them ; and, when the white men found the glitter-
ing earth accidentally, as you have, they showed
them where it could be scooped up by handfulls,
and where the star stones lighted up the caverns.
Then grew hatred between the red and white man;
for the star stones are bad spirits who stirred up
evil passions in the heart, then laughed and mocked
at their warring. The white man grew many
and strong, and more came from beyond the big
water. Then they made the earth red with each
other's blood, and my forefathers were obliged to
give up their hunting grounds, and fly into other
possessions, where there was again war for a place
to hunt in, until the earth was again red with
blood. And now all between the swift water and
the great sea towards sunrise is covered by the pale
faces' lodges, while, we, a remnant of former days,
are forced to give way until we shall have all per-
ished, and the graves of my ancestors become the
play grounds of the white man's papoose. Then
let the glistening earth sleep where the Great
Spirit buried it, that the evil spirits may never
again gloat over the earth dyed with the blood
of its people. Whirlwind has spoken, let his
white brother hear, that their love be not turned
to anger, and that they slay not each other."

As he ceased speaking, he quietly walked from
amid his fellow captives and taking a position but
a few feet from them, bent a decisive look of com-

misseration on their every movement.



"Throw down the stuff," said the trapper, " the
jhief is angry, and we can have no use for it here,
BO it is not worth while to provoke him by even re-
taining what we have."

The children obeyed, for they were not willing
to risk the friendship of the chief for whom they
entertained great respect, although they could not
always appreciate his curious logic. He seemed
relieved when he saw them do so, and proposed
they should quit the dangerous spot, which they
acceded to.

Towards evening of the same day, they were
wandering leisurely on the southern border of the
corn-fields, when they were startled by a drove of
deer bounding past them, and making for the forest
beyond. A noble buck was the leader, with head
erect, making ten feet at every jump. Away they
went, casting the earth from their slender hoofs,
caring for neither brush or brake, for a relentless
pursuer was on their track.

" See ! there goes three small specks close to
the ground ; there they are, three monstrous black
wolves with glistening coats, their fiery eyes spark-
ling, and jaws distended."

They were larger than the largest dog ; long,
gaunt limbs, small, and all muscle, and so perse-
vering that every thing tired before them. They
seldom, when they start in a chase, give up their

" Without doubt, the weakest of that noble herd


will make a supper for their rapacious foes,'* saicl

Such is the black wolf of the western wilds, at-
tacking every thing he meets when hunger is on
him ; even the buffalo falls a prey to him.


Their jontinued Captivity Attempt to Escape They are cau-
tiously watched and guarded Fears and apprehensions They
discover Gold in various quantities A singular Cave Prepara-
tions to escape into it Lassoing the Chief Enter the Cavern
and close the Door They are missed by ihe Indians Tumult
in the Camp They follow the Cavern Singular adventure
Jane rescued from Drowning Strange appearance of the Cave
Mysterious discoveries They Continue on Cross a stream
Discovery of an Outlet They halt for repose.

Six weeks elapsed and they were still prisoners,
treated with great kindness ; although they were
forced to be present at the revolting feast on
human flesh, as often as a war party returned,
which was almost every week. And, though
they saw the Indian captives sacrificed with re-
lentless cruelty, yet the fear that they should be
made victims had partially subsided, as week after
week went round, and, except the single sentinel who
was relieved from duty morn and night, they were
left entirely to themselves to do as they pleased.
They had often attempted to draw him into the
forest with them, but when he had accompanied
them to a certain boundary, he gave them to
understand *;hey must return immediately to the


tillage ; and, as they knew the penalty of attempting
an escape they did not dare to undertake it, knowing
they would be pursued with fleet horses, and per-
haps be taken and sacrificed the same day. They
were wearied with their captivity, and became
gloomy and sad. The Pah-Utah saw this, and
directed the sentinel to give them a wider range.
This they hoped might facilitate an escape. But
in this, they were mistaken ; for the sentinel used
renewed vigilance. The moment they were beyond
the prescribed boundaries, the guard, with his
fiery eye fixed on them with a lynx-like keenness,
would follow them with his horn trumpet to hi3
mouth, ready at a second's warning, to sound the
note of alarm.

Things were in this state when they went to-
gether to the base of a precipice, half a mile to the
east from where they found the gold. Here they
whiled away an hour discussing the ever present
theme of their captivity, except Edward who, not
having the fear of the chief before him began to
tear up mosses, and dig into crevices in search of
precious ore. While doing this, his foot slipped
from under him, and he fell heavily forward against
a smooth, slab-like surface of the rock, when, to
his dismay, it gave back a hollow sound, and a
large block yielding an inch or two, showed an
aperture within.

Calling his uncle, he pointed it out to him, who
after examining it closely, declared it to be a



cavern within ; but how the stone came fitted into
the door way, was a question they could not solve ;
for the Pah-Utahs had no way of shaping stone with
such precision, and evidently were sot aware that
the cavern existed.

" Walk quietly away, and appear to he busy
about anything you chose, in order not to draw the
attention of the sentinel this way, and I will com-
municate it to Whirlwind," said the trapper.
The chief after examining the place, retreated with
Howe a few rods distant, and then said. " That
cavern will prove our deliverance. Evidently it is
one of those of which tradition speaks, and that it
communicates to some distant point. That stone
door is unknown to the Pah-Utah for the trailing
mosses have become imbedded in the fissures of the
rock in a way it would have taken a hundred years
to have accomplished, showing it could not have
been entered in that time."

" Had we better enter it, and try to find another
outlet ?" asked the trapper.

" I hardly like to decide ; the undertaking is
very hazardous. We might possibly find it, if
there is an outlet, but if we should not, a horrible
death awaits us buried alive ; or if we should
return, a worse one at the hai.ds of our captors."

" What reason have you to suspect there is an
outlet at a distant point?" asked the trapper.

" The similarity of this opening to one on the
Bide of the Medicine Bow Mountains, towards the


rising sun. That has been known by the red men
since the Great Spirit gave them their hunting
grounds ; and at that time he told my fathers they
were built by a people whom he had destroyed in
anger. And to this day they are strewn with
bones and utensils of the lost people."

" Is this story of the opening a tradition, or have
you seen it, and what is the appearance of the
interior of the cavern?"

" I have been through it often. In some places
it is rough, and in others as smooth as sleeping
water. It is a long, toilsome journey; and at its
end opens at the base of a hill a day and a half's
journey towards the west," replied the chief.

" Then you think this cavern is similar to the
one you have seen, and that, if we enter it, we
shall escape in safety ?"

" Were I alone, I should not be afraid to venture
in it. Whirlwind is not a coward, and pines in
captivity. If he escapes, it is good, he will then
be a free chief. If he dies, he will go to the hunt-
ing grounds of the Great Spirit, where the deer,
beaver, and buffalo are as plenty as the leaves in
the forest."

"For one, I am willing to make the trial, and
am certain the children will be also. We must
provide some food and light before we try it. It
Would never do to venture in unprovided with these."

" My brother would betray us if we should at-
tempt to conceal either, for the Pah-Utah are a*


vigilant as brave, and would be sure to know it,
and determine our fate on the instant. Our only
way of escape is to fast, and be fleet of foot."

"Perhaps you are right. When would it be
prudent for us to make the trial, do you think ?
For my part, I am ready at any moment. It is
five days since these demons made one of their
horrid feasts ; and as we came by the chief's lodge,
I saw him in council with his warriors, and I thought
they looked very suspiciously towards us as we

"Whirlwind also saw it; but his heart wis then
almost dead within him. It is alive now, and we
will enter the cavern. My white brother will tell
the children of our design, and lead them to the
mouth of the cavern, and keep his eye on the sen-
tinel. The moment he sees this around his ene-
my's neck, roll away the rock, and have it ready
to put in its place again as soon as I enter," said the
chief, taking from beneath his tunic a strong, long
cord made of hide, formed into a lasso.

" He will blow his horn, and draw the whole
tribe on us if you attempt to strangle him. I
think we had better try to slip in one by one, and
not disturb him," said the trapper.

" We should be missed before we could replace
J,he stone, and they would drag us from our hiding
place as soon as we entered it. Whirlwind's step
is as noiseless as the wing of a bird, when after a
foe. But should the sentinel give the alarm, entei


and close the door ; for, perchance, I may escape
from them at .ast ; if not, I shall have drawn his
attention from you so as to enable you to facilitate
your escape."

"No, brave chief, we are captives together, and
we will all be saved, or perish together. You shall
not be left alone for them to wreak their vengeance
upon. We will not enter the cave unless you are
with us."

" My white brother speaks like a child. Whirl-
wind has said and will do it," returned the chief,
who possessed a truly royal soul, imperious in de-
cision, impatient of contradiction, and never turned
from a course he had determined to pursue, when
assured it was for the good of others.

As he ceased speaking, he left the trapper, and
disappeared in the bushes. Howe thought it most
prudent to obey the injunction of Whirlwind, and
making a sign to the children to follow, he care-
lessly made his way to the spot, and with palpita-
ting heart, awaited the signal. The children shared
with him the anxiety, till at last so intense it became,
that their hearts almost ceased to pulsate. Life
or death was in the throw, and death itself could
not exceed the agony they endured. The signal
came at last a circle in the air which in an instant
tightened on the sentinel's throat; five minutes
elapsed, whan the chief came bounding towards
them with a tame deer, that belonged to the tribe,
in his arms, then rolling away the stone, und enter-


ing the cavern, they replaced it with great precision,
so as to prevent detection. But great was their
surprise and gratification to see tho cavern was
quite light, by the rays penetrating innumerable
small fissures in the rocky precipice. Whirlwind
immmediately killed and dressed the prize that so
fortunately happened to be in his path ; and dis-
tributing it among them, they prepared to penetrate
into the darkness of the cave. Where they entered,
it was about twenty feet wide, and about fifty feet
high, having the appearance of the rock having
been blasted, and hewn down smoothly at the sides.
The floor was of a solid rock, smooth and level,

though strewn with some rubbish, which they did


not stop to examine. They were too anxious to
place distance between themselves and the canni-
bals, to think of anything but how to ensure their
safety. Accordingly they pressed boldly on, but
had riot gone over twenty rods, when yells of disap-
pointment and rage made the air quiver as they
echoed and re-echoed through the cavern. Their
escape had been discovered ; and now, if the door
to the cavern was known, they knew they had but
ft few moments to live.

"Give me your hand, Jane," said Whirlwind;
" take hold of Edward, Howe, that we may not be
divided. The young brave will keep in our tracks ,
now, let us proceed, and, perhaps, if the cave is
found we may hide in some of its recesses. Oil
they went, and louder and fiercer grew the yells, as


the village poured out its hordes, until it deemed to
our heroes as if every rock had a tongue, and was
telling, in thundering echoes, the place of their
retreat. Still on they went, and now, the voices
began to soften in the distance ; then they grew
fainter, until nothing but low, confused sounds
were heard. The cavern was level on the bot-
tom, which facilitated their flight ; being actuated
by the most sacred passion of our nature the
love of life, which gave them courage and strength,
and with the hope of freedom beckoning them on,
they made unprecedented speed. They had been
blessed for about half a mile by the rays of light that
penetrated the cavern at the mouth ; but for the
last hour they had been plunging on in total dark-
ness, not knowing' where they went ; but now, as no
sounds were heard, and they were getting fatigued,
they halted and began to devise some means of
guiding them on their way.

Howe commenced moving around in the dark-
ness to see where the boundaries of the cave were,
and the rest following his example, part of them
touched one side, and feeling its smooth surface,
thought the cavern must be uniform throughout ;
for, as near as they could tell, by feeling, it had
the same appearance as it had at the entrance.

At that moment Jane, whc was groping round
to find the other side, uttered a piercing scream
which was quickly followed by a heavy splash in


"Jane! Jane!" they all cried; and the chief,
at the moment springing towards the place where
she had stood, with a half-uttered exclamation, fell
heavily with a loud splash also.

"Keep back! keep back! there is danger here!"
he cried ; " I can save her if any one can ! Jane !
Jane ! where are you ?" he called eagerly, as he
splashed round in the water, which was so deep he
could not touch the bottom. "Jane! Jane!" he
cried, but no sound came from the still water, till
at last a faint bubbling sound was heard, and a
hand grasped him. Catching her round the waist,
he raised her head above the water, when the half-
drowned girl began to revive ; but too much ex-
hausted to assist herself in the least. The chief
swam with her towards the place where they had
fallen, hoping to find a projecting rock to support
her on, but he was disappointed, although he was
enabled to obtain footing in three feet water, where
he stood holding her in his brawny arms.

"All safe," he cried, the moment he had obtained
footing. " But how we are to get up there is a
different affair."

"Keep up your courage," cried the trapper;
44 we must have a light I have a flint, knife, and
punk-wood; so far aH is well, but what are we to
burn ?"

" There is wood in here I know," said Sidney,
** for I have stumbled over it a number of tiroes ?"

u Have a care how you hunt round for it, or you


will go down after Jane and the chief," said Ed-

" Here is wood, plenty of it," said Sidney, bring-
ing forward a handful of sticks. In the mean-
while the trapper had struck fire, and was blowing
the punk into a blaze, and taking some of the
sticks in his hand to communicate with the burning
punk, found them in a crumbling condition but
perfectly dry, and they quickly ignited. A cheer-
ful blaze was in a few minutes lighting up the
cavern ; they then cautiously approached the place
where Whirlwind and Jane had fallen, who were
patiently awaiting light and assistance from above.
Holding some blazing sticks over the edge they
discovered the chief and Jane ten feet below them,
with water smooth and placid, full thirty feet
beyond, and extending along the cavern as far as
the eye could reach. Evidently they had been
making their way on its verge quite a distance, and
the least deviation on that side would have plunged
them all into its waters. The rock was rough and
jagged with many small fissures in which they
could get a foothold, and by the assistance of Sid-
ney, who descended a few feet, Jane was soon lifted
up to the floor of the cavern, where, with the agility
of a deer, the chief followed her. Saturated with
water, without a single extra garment, they were
in a very uncomfortable condition, yet they laughed
heartily over their mishaps ; for, indeed, they
thought anything preferable to being in the power



of cannibals. Piling together the half decayed
wood and wringing their clothes as dry as they
oould, they were in a fair way of recovering from
the ducking, and as they apprehended no further
danger from their enemies, they concluded to make
a short halt and examine the locality around them.
The cave in this place was no more than twenty
five feet high, but was very wide, as well as they
could determine over a hundred feet, thirty of
which was water, and beyond which they could not
distinguish the appearance of the cave. But the
other side was as singular as wonderful. Eight
feet from the floor it was smooth and even as
hewn rock could be made ; then there was a vast
niche cut in, extending to the top of the cave, thirty
feet wide and sixteen deep. This niche was as-
cended by a flight of six very steep steps cut in
the rock in the centre of the front of the rock
below the niche and were as perfect and uniform
as if just made. Ascending these steps they dis-
covered a chair of graceful form cut out of a huge
stc ne, fantastically carved, which they found
themselves unable to move by reason of its great
weight, but being of a diiferent material than
the rock of which the cave was composed they sup-
posed it to be separate from it. On each side of
this curious chair there arose a tripod three feet
high and two in diameter, the top being scooped
out concavously, like a basin, in the centre of
which was a round orifice, half an inch in diam-


eter, out of which bubbled up a clear liquid, which,
filling the basin, ran down its sides into a drain
cut in the rock, and was conveyed into the lake in
which the chief and Jane had fallen.

*' Astonishing !" cried the trapper, examining
the curiosities as well as his light would permit.

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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 6 of 20)