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 8 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 8 of 20)
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" Why, uncle, do panthers prey upon each other
when hungry ?" asked Edward.

" Seldom; but when they do, it is to punish one
of their number that offends them. In this instance,
the panther was destroyed because he had deceived
them by calling them when it could do no good."

" Do you think that was the panther that yelled
so on the hill ?"

" Quite certain of that," said Whirlwind. " He
was calling his mates, but did not tell them we were
surrounded with fire, or in a tree, and that they

* A fact which was related to the author hy a trader, who
was one among some others that saw a similar circumstancei


could not reach us ; because, when the brute saw
us, we were on the ground, and without that ele-
ment. Most beasts fear fire. It was for this they

destroyed him. They were led to expect a feast,
and being disappointed, devoured him to punish
him for the deception."

" Really, Whirlwind, do you suppose beasts
reason, and have a language so as to converse?"'

" The reasoning part I cannot answer for ; but
that they can convey thought and feeling as well
as the passions, from one to another, there is no
doubt. You and I understand what each other
wishes to be understood by language ; but we can-
not comprehend the first sound a beast makes, yet,
they not only understand their own language, but
many words of our own. Which then has the most

*' You are not in earnest when you would com-
pare man and beast together ?"

" The Great Spirit made them both, and gave to
each the attributes best suited to the station it was
to occupy ; and when those attributes are exhibited
as they were to-night, it would anger the Great
Spirit to believe they were not bestowed upon a
creature, because that creature was not a man."

" It is a truth well known to those who have
bpent the greater part of their lives in the forest as
I have, that the scene we have witnessed to-night,

is not of rare occurrsnce. This is the third time



that 1 have had to save myself by strategem from
panthers in my life," said the trapper.

The next morning they again bent their course
towards the north-east; and as the day began to
wane, the lofty peaks of a range of mountains
loomed up before them directly in their path.

" What can that mean," said the trapper, calling
the attention of the others to them. " It cannot be
the Wahsatch mountains, for we went through
them ; besides, they ought to be nearly a hundred
miles behind us. And they are not the Medicine
Bow Mountains, for I am familiar with them, and
these are quite unlike them."

" Oh ! uncle, it cannot be we have been travel-
ling the wrong direction, and are quite lost," said
Jane, anxiously.

" I hardly know myself," he replied, with some
trepidation. " I was sure we came south and west
when carried away, and then of course the oppo-
site direction is north-east, and we have, as near as
I could tell, been travelling that direction. Yet,"
he added, musingly, " I ought to know the ground,
but I do not recall one feature of it as familiar.
What do you think about these mountains ?" he
asked of the chief, who stood moodily apart gazing
upon the distant range with a troubled look.

" It is time Whirlwind visited the hunting grounds
of the Great Spirit, for he is no longer a chief to
lead his warriors to victory, but is a child that can


not find his way to his village through the forest,"
returned the chief.

" Then we are lost ! I feared it ! Oh ! we shall
never see home again !'' said Jane, weeping.

" Why, child ! there is none of your mother
about you," said the trapper. " When she was
not more than half your age she and I wandered
off into the forest, got lost, and saw no human face
for fourteen days, and during that time, although
we had to eat leaves, berries and roots, she never
shed a tear ; but if she saw I was getting sad, she
would begin some funny story that was sure to
get us laughing. But there are no more girls
like your mother was ; they are all down in the
mouth at the sight of danger now ; nervous they
call it, I believe."

"No, no, uncle, Jane is none of that; but she
is tired, and will have courage enough when rested,"
spoke up Edward.

"I believe it is all your work, chief; you have
frightened her, she places such confidence in your
wood craft that she supposes if you cannot find
your way out no one can."

u My shoes are worn to shreds," said Jane, hold-
ing up the remnant of what once had been a pair
of strong leather shoes, Ct and my feet are lacerated
and bleeding. I am sure I have been patient ;
for, though I have been travelling with great pain, I
have borne it uc fcomplainingly, hoping every day we


should arrive at some place where relief might be

"My poor sister you shall have mine," said Ed-
ward, taking them off; "for, though much worn,
and too large, yet they will be a better protection
than your own."

" Young brave, put on your shoes again. I can
provide the antelope* with moccasins that will be
softer, and more effectually protect her feet than
your shoes."

So saying, the chief took off his tunic, which was
made of fawn-skin, laid it on the ground, and bade
her place her foot upon it, and then drawing his
hunting-knife around, cut the exact shape of her
foot in the skin. Then taking some strips of
leather wood he split it and twisted it into a strong
thread, after which he punctured small holes with
the point of his knife in the shoe he had cut, and
drawing the thread through, soon had completed
a pair of strong soft moccasins.

" Well done, chief," said Jane, delighted with
his handy work ; " I did not think of this resort to
a covering, but own it is effectual and very neatly
done. You must kill another fawn and I will
make you a new tunic to replace the one you have

As it was getting late they encamped on the
spot, there being water but a few rods distant,

* A pet name bestowed on Jane by the chief for hef

ftgility in travelling.


and visiting it, tLs chief pulled from the earth
some roots, at the same time crying, " Yampa !
yampa 1"*

" Nothing so welcome in our situation," cried

o '

the trapper. " Collect enough of them, while I
try to kill some turkies that I have a glimpse of

Sidney and Edward went to work and soon
had a nice fire blazing, and then began to clear
away the rubbish from around it, so as to make it
more comfortable. This accomplished, the chief
returned with his arms full of vegetables, and
directing Sidney and Edward where plenty of ber-
ries could be had near the spring, he proceeded to
cook them. In a little while the trapper returned,
but instead of a turkey he brought a string of very
large fish.

"Where did those come from?" they all ex-

" From a river, of course," he replied laughing.
"You don't suppose they grew on bushes, do

" Certainly not ; but are we really near a large

O5 >

river :

" Within half a mile of it," he replied.

" Then, can't we find our way out, if we follow
it to where it empties ?" asked Jane.

" I should think not. Now, for supper ; there

* A root much used by the Indians as food.


come the boys laden with fruit, and between them
and our fish and vegetables, I intend to have a

" Hist !" said Jane, " I heard a noise a bleat,
I am sure; There, it is again; don't you hear

" Now I do, and will soon know what it is,"
said the trapper, making his way towards it, guided
by the noise. About fifty rods distant he found a
goat with its leg wedged between two rocks, so as
to hold it fast, and preclude the possibility of its
escaping. The goat was much emaciated, and had
probably been there two or three days. But a
few paces distant, was its kid, being about five
months old, browsing with perfect unconcern.
Howe released the goat and attempted to drive her
to the camp, but she was too weak to walk, and he
was compelled to take her in his arms, and carry
her, the kid following, as though it was nothing
new to have its dam carried away.

" He has found a goat," said Edward, " now
we san drive it with us and keep it for milk."

u Poor thing !" said Jane, "it is almost dead:
see how parched its mouth is ? Take it to the
spring and let it drink, and we will collect some-
thing for it to eat. What a pretty thing the kid
is, 3-nd so very tame. You will not kill it, will

you r

v Not unless necessity compels us to. If we can
get % little strength in this goat, I think, myself,


she will be of service to us. Now for supper, for
this mountain air gives me a voracious a.ppetite."

" And after supper, uncle, we had better build a
bough-house, for last night the dew fell heavy and
cold. I think the summer must be over and Sep-
tember already here."

" The young brave is right ; the harvest moon
is yonder a crescent. When it is full, comes the
harvest feast ; and, then, unless Whirlwind re-
turns, another will be chief in his place."

"If we are not there then, we have this conso-
lation, others have been in as bad situations as wo


" But, uncle, supposing we are still wandering
around the forest when the snows begin to fall ?"
said Jane.

" Why, then we must make the best of it we

" That is, lay down and freeze."

"Does the red man lay down and die, when the
snows fall ?" asked the chief. " If we cannot find
our homes, we must make a new one. Then we
shall be content again. The antelope shall sit irj
her lodge happy as the singing bird, while her
brothers bring her venison, fish, and the choicest
fruits that grow."

The next morning they were again in motion,
making direct for the lofty peaks before them,
expecting to find a pass, and hoping when on the
other side to ficid a country with which they were


familiar. For turn it as they could, they arrived
at the same conclusion at last, that they ought to
travel towards the northeast, a course they believed
they constantly kept. But they were mistaken in
supposing the cave went through the Wahsatch
mountain ; for, instead, it went through a spur of
it, leaving the principal range on the east, instead
of the west as they supposed. And now another
spur lay between them and the principal range,
rising in lofty peaks, beyond which was an exten-
sive level plain many miles in extent, before the
principal range could be reached. The reason
they were so deceived in the locality was, that they
had never been on the western side of the Wah-
satch mountains, until carried prisoners there ;
and, supposing the outlet of the cavern was on the
eastern side, they boldly pushed ahead. Had they
known of these two spurs (the one the cavern
conducted them through, and the one that lay be-
fore them,) they would have known precisely where
they were. But, as the savages had gone round
them by crossing the mountains a hundred miles
below, when they took them prisoners to their
village, they had no means of knowing it.

That night they encamped at the base of the
second spur, by which ran a small brook, and after
a hearty supper, laid down to rest, with Sidney
on the watch, who was to be relieved at twelve try
the chief.


Encou.iter with a "Wolf Sidney seriously wounded They
struet a bed Whirlwind procures medicine Dressing Sidii..-y'j
wounds They Build a Cabin A high fever sets in Fears en-
tertained of Sidney's death Talk of 1'ow-wowing the disease
Howe's story of encountering a Polar Bear His faith in the
Indian's Medicine Man Miscellaneous conversation on the mat-
ter Their final consent to the Pow-wow.

HARDLY an hour of Sidney's watch had elapsed,
when, feeling very thirsty, he stepped down the
embankment to the stream, (which was only
two rods from the camp fire,) to get a drink ;
when in the act of raising it to his lips, a huge
black wolf sprang at him from beneath a coppice
of laurel that skirted the bank, and planting its
huge teeth in his shoulder, crushed the bones in a
terrible manner at the same time his great weight
bearing him to the ground.

The attack came so suddenly, that he was totally
unprepared ; and the mangled shoulder sending a
sickening effect through him, caused him to faint with
a single cry for help. However, it had been heard;
Howe and Whirlwind bounding to their feet on the
instant, with their clubs in their hands, which they

Always slept with hy their sides, sprang on the
12 *


that was now growling ferociously over the insen-
sible boy.

"Let him have it!" cried the trapper, dealing
him the first blow; but scarcely were the words
uttered, when, with a leap, the wolf sprang past the
trapper at Jane, who stood on the bank above
gazing with horror on the mangled form of Sidney
below her, and catching her by the side, bore her
also to the ground. Scarcely had she fallen, when
a powerful hand grasped him by the throat, and
the chief's hunting knife was buried a dozen times
in the monster's heart its life-blood almost suffo-
cating the prostrate and terrified girl.

Raising her in his arms, the chief carried her to
the brook, bathed her face, hands, neck, and even
her hair which was saturated with blood in the
water. Then cleansing her dress, carried her back
to the camp-fire, and calling Edward to watch her,
hastened to the side of Sidney to assist the trap-
per, who was dashing water in his face in his en-
deavors to bring him to consciousness.

"Hold, there!" cried the chief; "would my
brother drown the young brave?"

" Not exactly ; only put a little life in him,"
said the trapper, dashing over him some more

" Stop, or you will kill him ! He must be brought
up the embankment nearer the light, so as to give
us a better chance to care for him. Raise hia
feet while I lift his shoulders. Oh ! he is dread-


fully lacerated. Gently, gently ; there, lay him
softly down. He is recovering ! see, he breathes
and turns his eyes."

''Sidney! Sidney! look up: are you much

A heavy groan, and a relapse into uncon-
sciousness, were all the answers he coild give.
But it was very expressive to the wanderers, who
were without surgical aid, or even a bed to lay
him on, or roof to shield him from the dews of

" A terrible business, this," said the trapper. " I
fear the poor boy has received his death-wound.
How is it with Jane ? is she much injured?"

"I think not,' 1 said the chief; "the monster
jumped too far to do much harm, save that which she
received by the fall, and I gave him no chance to
try a second time."

" We must take off his clothes, examine his
wounds, and dress them," said the chief, "but first,
we must make a bed to lay him on. My brother
will watch him while I make it it is but a few
minutes' work." So saying, he took his tomahawk,
cut and drove four stout p~>sts into the ground,
notched at the top, across which he placed two
stout poles, which constituted a strong bedstead,
thcugh of a very primitive order ; yet it was better
than lying on the damp ground.

The bed was next to be manufactured, which was
done by placing short poles across the structure


On this hemlock boughs were placed, and on these
again a thick covering of dried leaves. Nor wag
this bed as hard as a person would imagine
who had never reposed on one. The poles that
upheld the upper structure were springy ; the
boughs were soft and yielding, while the leaves
filled all the little crevices, and made it smooth
and easy.

Lifting their patient upon his couch, they took
off his upper garments, and then saw, to their dis-
may, the bones broken and protruding, the flesh
mangled and torn, presenting a terrible spectacle.
Besides, there were two other flesh wounds, but these
alone would not have been dangerous.

"Nothing can be done until I collect some medi-
cine leaves," said the chief, "which I am not sure
of doing before daylight; but as the case is so
urgent, I will try."

Taking a torch of pitch pine knots, he began
searching round in the forest for the plant he
desired, which he succeeded in finding very soon.
Pressing some of the leaves so as to start the
juice, he put them into a gourd, filled it with water,
and after replacing the fractured bones as well as
he could, with Howe's assistance, who had some
practice that way during his roving life, proceeded
to cleanse the wounds with the decoction : after
which he held some of them in his hands until they
were wilted, then laid them smoothly over the
wound, confining the whole with the small fibre of


leather wood that never-failing substitute for
thread or cord.

Jane was next attended to; but, on examination,
hers proved to be a mere flesh wound, neither
deep nor large, but which they thought prudent
to dress so there need not be any danger of inflam-

"We will take care of the monster's skin," said
the trapper, "for we may need it, if we can save
Sidney's life, to protect him from the cold before
he recovers."

To take off and stretch the skin for drying, was
but the work of a few minutes for their practised
hands; and the rest of the night was spent in
endeavoring to determine what was the safest plan
to adopt ; but the morning broke, leaving them as
undecided as at first. At one moment they were
for dividing their force, part remaining until the
wounded could be removed, or, as they feared,
died, the rest hasten on, and return with assistance
as soon as possible. This was rejected, as it would
be weakening their numbers, already too small to
provide for their sick properly. Thus project after
project was rejected, for their condition was Dad
enough before, but now they felt it waa doubly
appalling. Sad, indeed, they were; for they
dreaded every hour the fate of him who had been
as a son and brother ; and to have him die there,
and be buried in the vast wilds, the location of which
they knew not themselves, and, perhaps, could not


point out should they be so fortunate as to escape
a similar fate, was enough to wring the stoutest
heart. But it was now the time that the untutored
Indian showed his superior tact and energy. Howe
\vas cheerful, still hopeful, but not resigned, like
the chief, who, at first, had pined for the station
of a free leader of a free people ; but. as the time
advanced when the authority would be given to
another, unless he returned by the harvest feast
according to custom, and the injury Sidney had
received, would prevent their travelling, he nobly
resolved that let the consequences to himself be
what they might, he would not desert the young
man in his hour of need.

Anxiously they watched by the couch hour after
hour, until dawn of day, when the poor fellow
began to call for water ; a fever had set in. When
this new evil became apparent, it destroyed what
little hope remained, and though they sought every
way to baffle the disease, yet it was through a
desire to leave nothing undone, that might possibly
in any way relieve him. The trapper gathered
some roots noted for their cooling properties, and
bruising them extracted their juice which was given
to the patient, while a tea made by soaking slippery
elm bark, was his constant drink. It all seemed
to do no good ; for hij fever rose higher and burned
fiercer, until his brain wandered, his eyes grew
wild, and his skin became dry and husky. He
raved alternately of home and his wanderings. At


one time, talking familiarly with his friends, as
though he was by the old fireside in Missouri, then
in piteous accents calling on some one to save him
from the fire of the cannibals who he said were
roasting him, alternately with praying them to kill
him with their arrows to end his sufferings. Again,
he imagined the wolf was at his throat, and it then
required all their tact to soothe, and keep him
from tossing about, and again displacing the frac-
tured bones of his shoulder.

They built a hut of boughs, making the corners
of four saplings which they cut off at the proper
height, where they formed a crotch supporting
strong poles, across which other poles were laid,
and which they covered with hemlock boughs ; this
again was covered with bark they had detached
from fallen trees, and which made a good defence
against heat or rain. The sides were fitted up the
same way, with the exception of a door which they
closed by a large piece of bark, when they desired.

Day after day went by, and though they could
not see that their patient was better, yet he was,
certainly, no worse. This encouraged them.

" If we can keep him quiet, so as to give the
mangled bones time to set, the fever will die off
itself. For, no doubt, it is caused by the irrita-
tion of the wounds," said the trapper.

"If the Medicine Man* of the Arapahoes was

* Physician.


here, to pow-wow the disease, the young brave
"would live," said the chief.

" That would only frighten him," said Edward,
\vho had often seen this same mode of curing dis-
eases exercised, and had no very high opinion of it.

" The more complete the fright, the sooner the
recovery," retorted the chief.

" Suppose you pow-wow him," said the trap-
per, "you know the virtue lies in you by your
right of chief, if you choose to exercise it,
which you should be willing to do, if it would heal

"Oh ! no, no; don't think of such a thing, he
could not bear it. The least noise makes him
worse, even the chirping of the birds and squirrel?
in the trees overhead, irritates him ; and only an
hour ago, I had to lead the goat and her kid farther
away to tether them ; for, at every bleat they
made, he started nervously, and moaned," said
Jane, who had great faith in quietness, and sooth-
ing applications in restoring the sick.

" He has got no medicine bag," said Edward,
" and could not, very happily. Any one that is
well and can stand a pow-wow, ought to live for-
ever, but I am sure if I was as sick as poor Sidney
is, and they undertook to raise such a rumpus about
me, I would die to get out of the noise."

" Hush ! you don't know anything about it. I
am sure I should have died once if I had not been
pow wowed," said the trapper. " As for themedi-


cine bag, every chief is gifted with making one at

" Why, uncle, you would not consent to have
such a din raised around Sidney, would you ? I
am sure it would kill him

" I rather think it would help him. A sick man
among the wilds and one in a populous district are
to be treated on different plans, and the one recov-
ers as often as the other. Still there is this differ-
ence : the one, if he recovers, carries a poison in
him that finally does its work ; while the other, if
he recovers, soon regains his former vigor," said
the trapper.

"Really, uncle, I did not think you superstitious
before ; but this seems like it," said Jane.

"Prejudiced, Jane; he has been among the na-
tives until almost one of them," said Edward.

" Call it what you like. I have reasons for it.
When I was about thirty, I, in company with my
father, had been trading with the Hudson's Bay
Company, and were preparing for a homeward
voyage when it occurred to us that our collection
would not be complete without a polar bear skin.
This we resolved to have, and supposing it could
be had from the natives, we started out one morn-
ing to visit the different lodges that were located
around the station in search of our object. We
found enough that had been divided into parts, but
there was but a single complete one to be found, and

that was the skin from a young cub which would
13 K '


give but a faint idea of the size and strength oi
the full grown animal. It was our object to get a
complete one, as a large price had been offered for
a perfect skin of full size.

" There were reports of polar bears having been
seen at no great distance, within a few days, and
my father was too famous a hunter to be baulked
when bears could be had by hunting. Engaging
six Esquimaux to accompany us with their dogs
and spears we set out. We knew it was dangerous
game that we were after, but we thought two rifles,
six Esquimaux spears and dogs were strong enough
for them, and we went carelessly on, guided by a
native until we were in their haunts, as the natives

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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 8 of 20)