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 7 of 20)
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" The place of refuge of the lost people !" said
the chief. " Our traditions say that they were
mighty and strong, and, like the tall trees for
strength ; they had skill in cutting stone, and dig-
ging copper from its bed, and making it into armor
and utensils."

" And these were their fountains : well, I think
they were people of taste. That chair is good
enough for the president, and I suspect he has not
got one half as curious. We will take a drink at
their fountain, replenish our light, and see if
there is anything else around."

Bending his head to take a drink in a primitive
way, he drew a mouthful of the clear and trans-
parent liquid, but quickly discharged it, with a
grimace. " Whew ! they must have been a strong
people to drink such strong drink," cried the
trapper.

''Perhaps it is not water;" so saying, the chief
touched the brand he had in his hand to it, when, lo I
it blazed with a strong white flame. Touching the
other also, two clearer, purer lights never illumined
a cavern. The light penetrated the recesses and
laid open every object to view, and as their eyes



112 THE WANDERERS; OR,

fell once more on the curious chair they uttered an
exclamation of wonder. It was sparkling and
glowing with a thousand rays. Approaching it
they saw it was covered with dust, which they
brushed away ; and if they were astonished before,
now they gazed w r ith speechless wonder at the
curiosity before them, that threw back the light
that fell full upon it, in flashing rays, dazzling the
eyes of the beholders.

" The fire stones ! Touch them not !" cried the
chief, waving the rest back with his hand impe-
riously. " The evil spirit presides in this spot, and
we are in his power. Provoke him not, or we shall
be all destroyed like the lost people were, a thou-
sand moons ago."

" Pshaw ! Chief, you are ridiculous. This has
evidently been a chair of state, and has been made
for one high in power to sit in. The material
appears to be quartz, studded with diamonds enough
to enrich a kingdom. The bad spirits are all in
your imagination ; they will keep a respectful dis-
tance from us, I promise you."

" Glad to hear you speak up. uncle," said Sid-
ney, "for unless we overcome Whirlwind's preju-
dice against carrying any of these wonderful things
home with us, to give occular proof of what we
saw, every one will think our account exaggerated.
For instance, now, I intend breaking off one of tho
arms of the chair to give proof of what it is com-
posed."



LIFE IN THE WESTERN WILDS. 113

" No, no ; not for any consideration shall it be
mutilated. It would be desecration to do it. If
we never get home, it could do no good ; and if we
do, the day may come when we can return in safety,
and remove it whole, or at least we might give the
information that would lead to its removal," re-
turned the trapper.

" Oh ! well then, I must find something else that

o

will answer my purpose as well," and going to one
of the corners of the niche, or rather an elevated
room, he came to a pile of rubbish which he com-
menced pulling away, and, which, on examining,
proved to be a human figure. Starting back, with
a cry of terror, the rest hurried to where he stood
staring with distended eyes toward the form that
was stretched on the rocky bed, in the corner ;
when they saw the figure, they too stepped invol-
untarily backwards, and Howe, advancing, laid his
hand on the form before him, discovered it was
stone a petrified human body.

On examination, it proved to have been a man
nearly nine feet high, of extraordinary muscular
proportions. He had evidently been slain here or
wounded elsewhere, and crawled in this cavern to
die, for a javelin was sticking in his side, which he
Lad endeavoured to extricate, but died in the act,
as his hand was clenched around it. It proved
to be made of copper, a fact which they ascertained
by scraping the corroded metal away, leaving the

pure copper beneath. They attempted to withdraw
10* H



114 TFIE WANDERERS; OR,

the javelin, but could not move it. The body, in
petrifying, had closed around it like a vice the
hand holding it in a position slanting downwards,
as if in that direction he had attempted to draw it
from the wound. On examining the rubbish that
Sidney had pulled off him, they found a helmet,
precisely similar to the one found by Edward and
Anne in the old fort, which was in a good state of
preservation. Besides these, there was a broken
javelin the two pieces looking as if, when whole,
it had been a formidable weapon. Scraping these
relics away with a quantity of other things, too
much decayed to ascertain what they originally
were, they came to what they had supposed to be
the floor, but which they discovered to be a skin of
some kind petrified also. It did not have the
appearance of a buffalo skin, for it had a soft,
silky, or furry appearance. In the other corner,
there was a large pile that looked as if something
had been stowed away, but on its being disturbed,
a dry musty vapor filled the air, and the heap be-
came a shapeless mass the original character of
which they could not ascertain. Time had claimed
its own ; and what once, perhaps, were costly and
beautiful fabrics, was r 3W a pile of dust.

Descending the stone steps to the cavern, they
found that the brilliant light from the tripods dis-
pelled the gloominess around them, and gave, as
far as the eye could reach, a lively appearance to
the place.



LIFE IN THE WES TERN WILDS. 115

The party were now quite hungry ; after roast-
ing and eating some of their venison, they pre-
pared to penetrate still further in search of an
outlet. At first they thought of leaving the lights
burning, but on prudent second thought, they con-
cluded to extinguish them, that, in case their ene-
mies did discover the cave, they might not discover
that they had been there.

"If we had a vessel to carry some of it in to
light us on our way, we should be saved much
trouble," remarked the trapper.

" Perhaps we shall find something," said Sidney;
"let us not despair, but look around."

" I think we had better spend no more time,"
said Jane ; "I long to be going on. We can make
light enough to guide us with sticks."

"The pale-faced maiden speaks well," said the
chief; "let us proceed, and save ourselves while
we can. The venison will not last long, and we
must find an outlet or die."

"I think so likewise," said Edward. "Come,
uncle, let us be moving."

" Very well ; but we must beware of the gulf
by our dim light, or we shall all be in it in a
twinkling," said the trapper, as he prepared his
torch.

Again they were moving on. Sometimes the
cavern presented a low, narrow defile, with hardly
ten feet of rock to pass on; then it again widened
and grew lofty, until they could not make out its



116 THE WANDERERS; OR,

size by the rays of tlieir lights, which illumined
Out a few feet around them. After proceeding
about a mile further, they came to an abrupt halt,
for a barrier was in their track. The gulf extended
across the cave from side to side, and so wide that
they could not see the opposite shore. Here was
a barrier, indeed, which they knew not how to
overcome. They could all swim, for that is an
accomplishment that our borderers, of either sex,
never fail of acquiring. But they had great ob-
jections to plunging into water of an unknown
extent or depth.

" I will explore it," said the chief, throwing off
his moccasins and tunic ; and with a torch in one
hand, he let himself down with the other, and then
moved cautiously out into the unknown lake.

The chief was an adept in swimming, and made
good headway with the only hand at liberty. After
swimming about twenty rods, his feet touched a
pebbly bed, and in a moment more he was in shal-
low water enough to obtain footing; and wading a
little further on, he came to land. Astonished
beyond measure, he looked around, and at a little
distance saw what looked as though large masses
of rock had been cut away the bottom of which
was about two feet higher than the ground ; and in
the centre of this slight elevation, stood a single
tripod, like the one they had seen in the niche that
they had passed. This was also filled with the
singular liquid that burned ; and on the chiefs



LIFE IN THE WESTERN WILDS. 117

touching it with his torch, the cavern around was
illumined in an instant.* A shout of exultation
burst on the air from those on the other shore, as
the brilliant light showed them that the chief had
gained his object.

After lighting the tripod, the chief saw, a little
way up the shore, three objects that, from their
resemblance to a canoe, attracted his attentioi).
Going close to them, he found the largest ten feet
long, and four wide in the middle, oval at the
bottom, and tapering to a point at the ends. They
seemed to be made of metal, for, though quite
strong, they were covered inside and out with cor-
roding rust. A thought struck the chief that,
perhaps, they were canoes, and might still be used.
To settle the point was but a moment's work; and
he dragged one to the water, when, lo ! it floated
in a handsome style, and jumping in, and using his
hands for paddles, with wild delight beaming from
his bronzed features, he gained the other shore.
As he approached, they laughed and shouted with
pleasure. One at a time was conveyed over, until
all, in a little while, were landed safely on the
beach. Here the water evidently terminated ; but
the sides were still precipitous, although the cavern
was of much less height than formerly, and they
had some hope that they were near the outlet. The

* By filling a tumbler nearly full of water, and pouring a
email quantity of ether upon its surface, on application of
a torch, it will burn with a very beautiful light.



118 THE WANDERERS; OR,

shore was covered "with smooth white pebbles, that
shone brightly in the light, and had much the
appearance of quartz worked by the constant action
of water. The children, who were eager to find
something that they could convey away without
the knowledge of the chief, searched eagerly among
these pebbles ; nor was their labor lost, for every
few minutes one or the other found a " star stone,"
as the chief called them, and adroitly placed them
in their pockets. In this way they had made quite
a collection by the time they were called to move
on. They found, also, at this spot, piles of what
had evidently been of some importance, but so
much decayed by time, as to defy the possibility of
telling their original compositions.

On they moved, but, still, they came to no out-
let. The bottom had the same pebbly appear-
ance, the sides precipitous, the top low ; and, for
more than a mile, there was not the slightest varia-
tion in the appearance of the cavern.

" This is a long cave," said Howe, " and the
strangest I ever saw. And that is saying much,
for a trapper gets in all sorts of places."

" Strange enough, that is true," said Sidney, "I
wonder if there is an end?"

"I guess so," said Edward, " everything that has
a beginning has an end, I believe ; but, whether
We shall find it, is another question."

" I propose we halt and rest," said Jane. " For
one, I am exhausted. I think it must be far into
the night."



LIFE IN THE WESTERN WILDS. 119

"I suspect it is," said the trapper. "Sup-
pose we take a little sleep, and then start afresh.
But, then, if we do this, what shall we do for
light ? No sticks are to be gathered on these
pebbles, and ours will not burn an hour longer.
If it is possible for you to stand it, Jane, we had
better move on. I can help you, for I am too
much used to travelling to tire."

" Perhaps, we can find more of the burning
water, if we keep a look out," said the chief.

But on they went ; yet no tripod met their
eye, until they feared Jane would be unable to
proceed, and worst of all, two of their torches gave
out, and the rest would not last twenty minutes
longer.

" The braves and maiden, will await us here,"
said the chief, " while my brother and I bring
relief. Come," said he, to Howe, " we are the
strongest, let them rest, and when we have found
light we will return."

/'Perhaps it is best," said the trapper. "Sit
here, we will leave the venison with you, that we
need not be encumbered. Sit down on these peb-
bles, they are dry and much easier than the fire
of the cannibal. Keep courage, and sleep if
you can," so saying, he and the chief, took the
torches to light them on the way, and soon disap-
peared in the distance. Sidney seated himself on
the pebbles beside where Jane had sank quite ex-
hausted, and drawing her to him rested her head



120 THE WANDERERS; OR,

in his arms, where she soon fell asleep. Edward
was also soon in the land of dreams, while Sidney
watched over them with the care of a mother.
Here his whole life passed before him. His or-
phanage, the care of Mr. and Mrs. Duncan, the
tenderness they had bestowed upon him, his boy-
hood, and dawning manhood, his capture by the
Indians, and providential escape, up to the present
moment, and finally his present position. Long
did the children sleep, and long did he watch with-
out a ray of light, in a darkness more intense than
anything he had ever imagined surrounding him.
No sound was heard, not even the faintest breath,
save the soft respiration of the sleepers. The
time seemed to him endless ; and the oppressive
silence had become more painful than can be
expressed, when, oh ! joy, the distant sound of a
human voice was heard, which every second grew
louder and louder, and then a bright glittering
light was seen in the distance approaching. His
uncle and the chief had returned, bearing new
torches, the light of which awoke the sleepers, who
were much refreshed by their repose.

" Come," said Howe, " we must make our way
Borne three miles farther, where we can find not
only daylight, but plenty of wood and water, and
as I am getting ravenous, we must hurry on."

" Then you have found an outlet !" cried the
children. " Oh, uncle, we may yet see home
again."



LIFE IN THE WESTERN WILDS. 12 1

" Certainly, you not only may, but probably
will. We have undoubtedly gone right through
the mountain, and as the cannibals will never
think we have effected this, all we have to do is, to
be wary, so as to escape from roving parties, and
we shall be safe enough."

They were soon at the outlet, which they found
was concealed by a stone, like the inlet, and the
only way the trapper and chief had discovered it,
was by the daylight that came peeping through its
crevices ; for night had already gone and the day
again was nearly spent. They thought it prudent
to build their fire for cooking a little way in the
cavern to prevent being discovered, and after satis-
fying their hunger with broiled venison, for which
their long fast had sharpened their appetites, they
put out their fire, and as it began to grow dark,
fastened the outlet oft the cavern, and laid down to
rest. Their only bed now was the earth, having
left the pebbles, full a mile behind them. Sweet
and calm were their slumbers, for they felt secure
and free,



II



122 THE WANDERERS;



A Night of invigorating Repose Entering the unknown Wild
They capture a mountain sheep The encampment attacked by
Panthers They save themselves by climbing a tree, and build-
ing up fires The Panthers kill one of their pack They con-
tinue their journey Whirlwind becomes lost They find a wild
Goat They start for the mountains Everything strange about
them Their Deception Talk of preparing for Winter Encamp-
ment at the base of the mountain.

OUR wanderers awoke the next morning from a
long and refreshing sleep, and on rolling away the
stone from the outlet of the cavern they found the
Bun up, and the forest vocal with the feathered song-
sters. Never sounded melody sweeter than that ;
and, as the hirds jumped from branch to branch,
or soared away on free wing, trilling their sweet
notes, breaking into the wildest gushing songs,
they involuntarily exclaimed, "We too are free, and
sing with great joy of our deliverance !"

After consuming the rest of their deer for a
morning's repast, they plunged into the unknown
wild, for so various had been their trials that they
bad lost all conception of distance or place ; and,
save the knowledge that they had travelled some-
times south, then again west, they had no idea



LIFE IN THE WESTERN WILDS. 123

where they were. Talcing a north-easterly direction
as near as they could determine the points of com-
pass, they boldly set out and travelled until the
sun was high in the heavens ; then faint and weary,
they sought for a place to rest, and something to
satisfy their hunger. They soon found a cool
shady spring, and after quenching their thirst, saw
with pleasure, a little way beyond, where there had
been a windfall, and as berries generally grow pro-
fusely in such places, they hastened to it and
found, as they had anticipated, an abundant sup-
ply, as it was now the season for their ripening.
After eating as many as they desired, the chief
took some stout twigs, and weaving them into a
basket, lined it with leaves, and recommended fill-
ing it with the fruit ; which they did, and then
returned to the spring where they sat down to rest.
" Well, chief," said Howe. "I don't think we
shall make much headwav, living on berries. We

*/ * O

must contrive some means of taking some of the
game with wiich these woods are filled."

" True," said Sidney. "I, too, do not think a
dinner of berries is at all necessary. The game
here, evidently, bar never been bunted, for it is
remarkably tame. I almost laid my hand on a
pheasant once or twice before it flew away, while
picking berries."

"I must say, a roasted pheasant would be very
welcome now," said Edward, " I wish you had
quite laid your hands on it."



J 24 THE WANDERER? OR,

"Hark!" said the chief, "I hear steps: some-
thing is coming to the* spring to drink. Stay in
your positions without making a noise, and I will
see what can be done." So saying, he swiftly and
noiselessly crept among some bushes that grew on
the side of the spring, which would bring him a
few feet behind any animal that approached by a
small path which had probably been beaten by the
denizens of the forest as they came here to slake
their thirst. His only weapons were a tomahawk,
a long hunting knife, and bow and arrows, which he
had taken from the sentinel. Indeed, these were
all the weapons of any kind in the possession of
the whole party, except a hunting knife that the
trapper had adroitly concealed from the cannibals.
Whatever game was approaching, it evidently in-
tended to take its time, for they could hear it,
every few minutes stop to browse, which argued
well for its being a deer, and which they earnestly
desired it should be. At last it came in sight, and
they beheld a small mountain sheep. Though it
was not what they anticipated, yet it was a wel-
come prize, and the chief's unerring aim secured it.

They dressed and broiled a few steaks of it, but
hesitated to build a large fire, for fear that strag-
gling Indians might see the smoke rising above the
tree tops, which would direct them on their trail.
After satisfying their hunger, taking the remainder
and the basket of berries, they again set out on their
journey and travelled until sunset, when they



IIIFE IN THE WESTERN W T ILDS 125

encamped in a valley for the night. They had put
out their fire, and with Whirlwind for sentinel, had
a feeling of security, which they acknowledged b^
the deep sleep which enshrouded them. At mid-
night he was relieved by the trapper, and he too
slept soundly.

About the second hour of Howe's watch, his ear
was attracted by stealthy advancing steps, and in
a few moments within ten paces of the sleepers,
gleamed a pair of glaring eyes flashing in the dark-
ness that surrounded them, like coals of fire.

" A panther," muttered the trapper, and then
he continued as if the beast could understand him,
" you had better stand back, old fellow, if you have
any respect for yourself. We shall not accommo-
date you with a meal to-night, so keep back."

But the panther did "not understand him, or, if
he did, he did not heed the advice; for the trapper
could tell by his low growl that he was preparing
to spring ; quickly drawing the bow, and taking aim
between the flashing eyes, he gave him an arrow.
With a howl of rage, the beast sprang back into
the bushes, and retreating to the top of the hill,
set up a quick, fierce, and wailing cry, which
Bounded like that of an angry child, only fiercer,
until it seemed as if the whole forest had taken up
and echoed the sound. The beast's first howl had
awakened the sleepers; and when they heard him
on the hill, all were frightened, for they well knew
it was the panther's call for help.
11*



126 THE WANDERERS; OR,

The panther being eminently a social animal, it
is said, go in bands, but usually search for food
singly ; and when found, if too formidable to be
secured by the finder, he retreats a little distance,
and then sets up his call for help.

"We must take to trees," said the chief;
" nothing can save us if they come down with the
whole pack, which they will be likely to do by
what that coward is telling them. 5 '

" Why, chief, do you suppose the beast is telling
his mates that we are five strong, and he cannot
kill us all, and if he should, there would be too
much for one to eat ?"

"Yes," replied the chief, "and not only that,
but there are two old ones, and the lest are young,
so they must fetch their mates and cubs, that all
may enjoy the great feast."

"Ha! ha! chief," laughed Howe; "but that is
going it strong for the brutes !"

"Don't laugh, uncle," said Jane. "It is really
horrible to be torn to pieces by these animals."

"Why, who intends to be torn to pieces by these
howling vagabonds ? Not I ; nor do I intend any
of us will. Here, Sidney, you climb this tree and
fix a place for Jane. Edward, help yourself into
this one also catch hold of that limb. Jane,
place your foot on my hand, and raise yourself
so as to catch the next limb. Help her, Sidney.
There, all are safe now but us, chief, and I believe
we know how to take care of oursel^e^ Had wo



LIFE ITS THE WESTERN WILDS. 121

better kindle a fire ? The panthers, you know,
would as soon run up these trees as not ; but a fire
would have a tendency to keep them at a respectful
distance."

" And, perhaps, draw the cannibals on us !"

" I think not, chief. I think that in going through
the mountain we escaped from their territory."

"Build the fire and run the risk. They can
climb trees like cats ; and as we have no weapons
but our clubs to defend ourselves with, they would
have us, if they come in numbers, in a twinkling."

" Oh ! yes, do !" cried Jane and Edward, as they
now heard the yells of the beasts from distant parts
of the forest, giving back the call from the hill.

" Let us run the risk, chief, and light three or
four fires around the tree, keeping within the
circle, and then, if they press us too hard, we can
climb the tree also. It is large and strong, and
will hold us with ease."

Accordingly the dry brush wood that always
covers the grounds in our primitive forests, was
hastily scraped together and fired ; and as the
blaze lighted up the forest, three other heaps were
collected in a circle around the tree, which were
also fired, and larger sticks brought and heaped
upon them the smoke and heat of which drove
the children to the topmost limbs of the tree.
It is well they had decided on the fires, for they
had not been blazing ten minutes, when the whole
pack of beasts, numbering full fifty, with ferocious



128 THE WANDEREBS; OR,

growls, came down from the hills around them.
They came within a few feet of the fires, then re-
treated into the darkness ; but in a few moments
advanced again, wrangling among themselves, and
endeavored to penetrate the ring of fire. But the
Leat drove them back a second time, when the
fighting and wrangling became frightful from the
din they made. After a while they again advanced,
eyeing the tree and fire alternately, keeping up the
growls for half an hour, when they formed a circle
around a solitary panther which occupied the centre,
with drooping head and tail, and after eying him
a moment, precipitated themselves upon him with a
bound, tearing him into fragments, and devouring
him.* They then quietly separated, and bounded
away into the gloom, leaving our young friends
astonished at the singular termination of the fray.


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