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 9 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 9 of 20)
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informed us.

" ' You don't pretend to say that the beasts are
in that ugly looking hole, do you ?' said father, as
the guide pointed to a low hole that ran beneath a
high cliff, bordering the bay.

" i There,' said the native, still pointing to the
hole ; ' one, two, big, one little.'

" ' Three of them ! Why, you rogue, what made
you lead us into their den ? A pretty time there
will be if they all charge us at once !'

" ' White man shoot one big one, other white man
shoot one big one, red men and dogs, six men, six
dogs kill little one,' said the Esquimaux, smiling at
the allotment he had made.

" ' All very well if they have the goodness to die
&t the first, or even second fire ; but th vre have been


animals of this kind that have required twenty balls
before it was safe to approach them. If wounded,
without being disabled, they are ferocious.'

" ' Bear eat white man then ; bear very fond of
him/ said the native, enjoying the scrape he had
led us into.

" ' Look here, you villain/ said father, 'if we are
killed I will blow your brains out, depend upon it,
when we return to the station !'

" ' White man may, when he gets back, if he is
killed/ said the guide, who stood grinning horribly
with his keen, serpent-like eyes fixed on the den of

" The ground was covered with snow, and the bay
for half a mile out with ice strong enough to have
held a hundred tons in one solid body. Beyond,
the bay was filled with a sea of floating ice, that
ebbed in and out again as the wind or tide carried
it. I said the cliff skirted the bay ; still there was
a beach some twenty rods wide that lay between it
and the bay which was covered with snow as every
thing else is in that region in March.

" i We are in for it, Andy/ said father. ' Keep
a good look out that the beasts do not get at you;
if they do, depend upon it, they will give you cause
to repent your hunt. See ! the natives are pricking
them up with the points of their spears. Stand
back so as to give him a wide berth, and we will
let the natives see that some ttrngs can be done as
well as others/


" ' Back ! buck !' yelled the natives ; at the same
moment a savage shaggy head protruded from the
den, and with angy growls, made for the nearest
native. Every one of us, in our haste to clear the
way for his bearship, tumbled over each other until
he was in a fair way to have us all in a heap to
devour at leisure.

" ' Pretty doings this, with our backs to the
game ! face round every one of you. Seek him !
Seek him, there ! Now, you red rogues, give him
your spears while he is engaged in boxing over the
dogs as fast as they get at him. Ho ! that makes
him sorry,' said father, who was all alive with
sport, for the old bear was a male of the largest
kind ; and he was just congratulating himself on
the easy victory he was obtaining, when his mate
came with flashing eyes and ferocious growls to-
wards us.

" I was the first to note her exit from the den,
and drawing my rifle to my shoulder gave her
a ball in the side. With- a roar of rage she
bounded towards me. and giving her another ball
J attempted to save myself in flight, but my foot
slipping on the snow, threw me on the ground, at
the mercy of the terrible brute. Father saw the
affray, and after discharging every ball in his rifle
at her, tubbed her with blows that shivered the
stock of his gun into splinters. So I afterwards
learned, for the first blow she dealt me with her
, took me on the temple, and I knew no

LIFE IN THE WESTERN W i L ii s . 149

more of the terrible whipping she gave me until it
was all over. That was soon enough, for I thought
my last hour had come for many a week. The
physician at the station gave me over, and as a last
resort the medicine man of a neighboring tribe took
me in hand, pow-wow'd me, and from that hour I
began to recover."

"You really think that the medicine man saved
your life, do you?" queried Jane.

" Certainly nothing can be clearer. The In-
dians know more of the art of healing, than half
of your pop-in-jay doctors."

" How about the noise : it must have set you
most wild," said Edward.

" It was a little too strong, I thought at the time,
but afterwards was convinced it was all for the

"And the bears: were they secured?"

" Oh ! yes, and the cub, too. But they told me
it was a terrible fight."

"My brother has seen the efficacy of our medi-
cine men. The Great Spirit would assist his son
to cure the young brave, if the white chief desires
it should be done," said Whirlwind.

" I am inclined to think it would help him, and
at least could do no harm."

"Let him try, uncle. I am willing anything to
save him should be tried," said Edward.

Jane was silenced, but not convinced, by her
uncle's story ; and though doubting the termina-
ls *


tion, offered no more opposition. Whirlwind re-
treated into the forest, desiring that no one should
follow him, where he remained all night during
intervals of which, they heard his voice alternately
in entreaty, command, and supplication.



P-eparati >ns for a grand Pow-wow The apparent solemnity of
Whirlwind He dresses himself in the wolf-skin The Pow-wow
Its effect upon Sidney He becomes delirious Favourable
turn in his fever His health improves They proceed on their
way The Indian acknowledges himself lost Encamp for the
night Their journey continued Singular trees discovered-
Preparations for spending the winter.

AT noon the next day, the chief returned, carry-
ing in his hand a small bag made of bark, and
filled with something they did not attempt to ascer-
tain, well knowing the chief would look on such an
act as unpardonable profanity. He had gone into the
forest without supper, and had taken no breakfast,
yet he refused anything to eat. They did not urge
him, for they had never seen such an expression
of humility and meekness on the chief's features
before as they wore then ; and Jane and Edward
felt rebuked for the levity they had exhibited, for
evidently he was acting the farce in which he was
engaged, with a sincerity and purity of motive that
commanded respect.

With eager curiosity, blended with fear for the
result, they watched every movement of the chiefs
preparations, which were as unique as singular.


After depositing his bag with great care on tho
limb of a tree, he took the now dry wolf-skin,
wrapped it around him, running his arms through
the skin of the fore legs. The sk ; n of the head,
which had been stretched and dried whole, he drew
over his own, confining the body of the skin around
him with a string, leaving the long bushy tail
dragging behind him. Then taking his medicine
bag in his hands, he assumed the appearance of
the wolf; and thus accoutred, no one would have
taken him for a human being, so completely was he
metamorphosed. With stealthy tread, he crept
slowly round the couch on which the patient lay,
snuffing the air like a hound on a scent; then pla
cing his hands on the side, raised his head, and,
after taking a survey of the sick man, again dropt
down, and commenced moving around very slowly,
and snuffing the air for full half an hour. Sud-
denly, with a yell that made the old forest ring,
and a bound, he darted round the couch with a
velocity truly astonishing. He did not run, nor
bound, but jumped, and at every jump, sent out
one of those hideous yells, that startled the echoes
from their retreats, and sent them forth with a
hundred voices.

After whirling around the bed in this way a
number of times, with frantic howls he sprang
npon the bed, and commenced snuffing round the
patient. Starting with terror, the poor boy half
raised his head, and a glance of intelligence lighted


his sunken eye, as hi cried, with gestures of fear
and horror, "The wolf! the wolf! Save me! oh,
save me !" and then sank back, fainting. They at
first thought he was dead.


" You have killed him. Stop ! for mercy's sake,
stop !'' cried Jane, placing herself between the
hideous looking object and Sidney.

"The young brave will live," said the chief,
suddenly raising himself, and speaking in his natu-
ral tones ; and after divesting himself of the skin,
without another word, disappeared in the forest.

"Give me water," said Jane, "and chafe his
hands while I bathe his temples."

"Put some water in his mouth," said the trap-
per. "I fear we did wrong in this affair. Poor
boy ! he thought the wolf had him again."

" We certainly ought not to have permitted it.
The shock to the nervous system must be terrible.
Should he never have his reason again, I shall
never forgive myself. That Whirlwind would
adhere to so ridiculous a farce is not to be won-
dered at ; but that we, born and bred among a
civilized nation, educated, and with claims to intel-
ligence and refinement, should consent to such
mummery, is a libel on humanity."

" I believe you, Jane," said the trapper. " The
poor boy was too ill to bear it. As for myself, I
think, when I was pow-wowed, I must have been
already on the mend. But these savages do exert
an influence over one. I don't know how it is, but


I never knew a person that had been much with
them, but what was forced to acknowledge it."

" See ! he breathes. Edward, hide away that
ugly skin that he need not get another fright.
Sidney ! Sidney ! don't you know me !" said Jane,
as the invalid slowly opened his eyes, and then
with a shudder, closed them again.

" Come, Sidney, rouse up," said the trapper.
" We are only waiting for you to be able to travel
in order to start for home. We cannot be far from
it now."

"The wolf! the wolf! take him away!" cried
Sidney, in piteous accents, and then once more
fainted with terror and fright.

" Now, keep out of sight, every one of you, and
be careful that not a sound or noise is made.
I think I can manage him best alone," said Jane,
as she commenced bathing his temples with

Slowly his eyes again opened, and as they rested
on her, she smiled -softly, as she said in gentle
tones; "You know me, surely, Sidney, don't
you?" and then she added, after a moment's
pause, " there is no one else around, but me, and
I do not frighten you, do I ?"

Suddenly his eye lit up with an intelligent light,
and a half smile hovered round his lips, as he said :
" Oh no, I am not afaid of you, Jane, but what has
Happened ? what am I lying here for ? Ah ! ah \
my arm, I cannot move it," said he, as a sharp


pain ran through his shoulder, when he attempted
to raise himself.

" Do not attempt it," said Jane, laying her
hand on his to keep him quiet, as he again stirred,
" You are very ill, and your life depends on your
keeping quiet. You must neither move nor talk

44 Then I have not been dreaming ; a wolf has''

" Yes, you have been dreaming ; there is nothing
here, except myself, and I really think, I frighten
you, and will have to go away."

" Oh, no, do not : but I am quite sure I did see
a great black "

" Hush ! hush ! if you talk so strange, you will
frighten me. There is, nor has been nothing here.
Come, now, don't you feel better. I am sure you
do ; you look like yourself again. Here are some
delicious blackberries, cool and juicy, try one,"
she said, putting one to his lips.

" Delicious, give me more. But Jane, I am
quite sure there was a monstrous black "

" Come, if you do not stop such nonsense, I will
give you no more berries," said Jane, gaily.

"Well, then, I will, yet I saw his great,

"I tell you, Sidney, you dreamed; and, as
dreams all go by the rule of contrary, I presume
you never will see one. Come, you must sleep
now n ot another word," and she playfully placed
her hand over his mouth to enforce her command.


It was the tenth day, since he was hurt, and the first
that he had showed consciousness and tremblingly
the young girl watched his slumbers, fearing lest,
when he awoke, the delirium would return. If it
did not, he was certainly improving, and he would
live. If it did she shuddered to think of the
probable consequences. Long and quietly he
slept, and when he opened his eyes, he turned
them quietly to the watcher, and observed :

" I think, Jane, I did dream of the wolf, for I
have been dreaming of him again, and this time I
thought I killed him ; and as I know I have killed
no wolf, I conclude the whole is a dream."

" Now, you talk rational, and are better, I am

" I think I am, for I am hungry," said Sidney,

Sending Howe to watch by the couch, Jane
began to consider what could be procured among
their limited resources that would be nourishing,
and yet harmless. Cooking utensils they had
none. Their whole stock of vessels consisted of
the shells of wild gourds that grew abundantly in
the forest. Necessity often compels a resort to
recipes in cooking not laid down in all the editions
of gastronomy. It did in this case, and grateful was
Jane that she had the shell of the gourd to prepare
a meal in for Sidney. Taking some smooth white
stones from the bed of the stream, she placed them
in the fire, and then put the wings of a partridge


into a gourd half-full of water, and as soon as the
stones in the fire were at a red heat, one was taken
up by running under it a forked stick ; the dust
that adhered to it was blown away, when it was
dropped into the gourd, and in a short time the
water was boiling. As soon as it ceased, another
stone was put in, and in a little while a broth not
unsavory, though so rudely cooked, was ready and
eaten by him with relish.

At sunset the chief returned from the forest, all
traces of the recent farce were gone from his face, on
which rested the old expression of pride and hau-
teur. He asked no questions, expressed no concern ;
after eating a hearty supper, he threw himself on
the ground by the camp-fire, and was soon asleep.

From the first night that Sidney had been
attacked by the wolf, up to this time, not a night
or a day had elapsed that some kind of wild
beast had not been seen prowling about them ;
though they kept up large camp-fires, they were in
fear of a whole pack making their descent upon
them, when they must all be devoured, in defending
Sidney, or leave him to fall a defenceless victim.
They found, to their dismay, that they were in a
portion of the forest overrun by beasts, which no
doubt, looked upon them as trespassing on their
rights ; the dislike of which proceedings they
evinced, by threatening in plain enough language
to be understood by our wanderers, to eat them for
their audacity. After enduring these hints a week



longer, during which time the beasts had become so
venturesome as to come in uncomfortable proximity
to them, they began to think the most prudent
course would be to vacate the neighbourhcod a8
soon as Sidney could be removed with safety, which
they had hopes of being soon, as he was rapidly
gaining strength. The broken bones were in a fair
way to join, and the wounds to heal.

The nights were becoming cool, and as the
tiiae flew by, they became anxious to remove,
from their dangerous position, as well as to be on
their journey in order to find their way out of the
forest before the winter set in. Without tools to
work with, or weapons to defend themselves, or
proper clothing, they quailed at the thought of
being caught by the frost and snow in the moun-
tains. But Sidney did not recover his strength
very fast, and they put off their departure day
after day on his account, after they had first set the
time to start, until two weeks had now elapsed when
they crossed the small stream and began to ascend
the mountain. It was slow work, and at night they
encamped on the summit, where no water could be
had, instead of descending it, as they in the morning
had calculated. That night Sidney was unable to
sleep, and moaned until daylight. After break-
fasting they began to descend ; he insisted he was
quite able to go, but the rest saw it was too great
an exertion for him. To remain on the mountain
they could not ; to return to the place they had


left was impossible. There was no other alterna-
tive but to go on. The chief on one side and the
trapper on the other, he was half carried most of
the distance ; a little after the middle of the day
they reached the foot of the mountains, and found
themselves in a beautiful valley, along which ran a
clear stream about a quarter of a mile from the
base of the mountain.

Their first thought was to build a couch for Sid-
ney, who had lain down on the ground with his
head on a pile of leaves for a pillow. They could
not shut their eyes to the reality that he was really
quite ill again. Selecting a spot favorable for
building a couch, they had one soon completed,
on which he was laid, and a temporary cover of
hemlock boughs and bark was thrown over it.
They then commenced preparations for supper.
That night they were unmolested by wild beasts,
which augured well for their selection of a good
ground to encamp on.

The next morning Sidney was much worse, and
a cold, drizzling rain having set in during the
night, drove them all under the shelter through the
day, and even sent the goat and her kid, who had
become very tame, bleating to their side. As the
day advanced the storm became more furious, so
much so that the water penetrated the roof and
began to fall upon Sidney's couch.

"This will never ans'ver," said the trapper
" We must have a more regular layer of bark over

160 THE W A is D E R E K b ; OR

the cabin. I saw plenty of it but a little distance
where some large trees have fallen." Starting out
with the chief, they were peeling off the bark with
the tomahawk by the aid of a lever, when they dis-
covered further down the stream a herd of deer
feeding. Seizing his bow and arrows which the
chief had taken with him, he stole cautiously
towards them, and before" they had taken the alarm
a noble buck and a doe had each an arrow shot
through the heart. They were conveyed to the
cabin, and the successful hunters returned to cut-
ting their bark. After having rendered the cabin
impervious to water they dressed their game,
stretching the skins to dry; "for," said the chief,
"snow will corne and much skin be wanted." The
venison was then cut in slices and hung up to dry,
so that it would be on hand if the game should
become scarce around them.

Towards night the chief with his tomahawk in
his belt and his bow in his hand went out to explore
the country around in order to determine what
course was best to pursue. Taking a south-east
direction, the face of the country was level and
very fertile, producing wild fruits and nuts in
abundance, which were now ripe, and with which
the trees were loaded.

" We shall not starve, at least," said the chief
to himself, " if we cannot go any farther, which 1
fear we shall not this fall. It is plain the young
brave cannot travel, and if he could, we are per


haps farther frum home now than ever. The
Great Spirit only knows which way is the right
one to travel in order to find ourselves." He was
surprised as he went on to find the trees of the
forest of less primitive growth, especially those
peculiar to the soil ; and still greater surprised to
find them interspersed with trees now laden with
ripe fruits of a species he had never seen before ;
and more surprising still, these trees were much
larger than the wild ones, appearing of not more
than a hundred years growth. As he went further
on the scenery became perfectly enchanting. It
had the appearance of having been a garden
deserted and run to waste after many years of high
cultivation, rather than a part of the wilds in a new
world. Satisfied with discovering a spot more con-
genial for building a hut that would withstand the
winter storms which were approaching, and around
which he saw no signs of wild beasts, he returned
to the cabin and reported what he had seen.

"We are lost," said the chief, "past all doubt.
The forest here is as new to me as if I had never
seen a tree before, and our safest way is to pre-
pare for winter."

"Prepare for winter!" said Edward, gloomily,
" what have we to prepare ? No warm garments
to make, for we have neither cloth, nor anything
to make them with if we had."

" There is much that can be done," said the
trapper, " if we are obliged to winter here, which

U* L


I fear we shall be, as it will soon be here, and Sidney
is confined to his couch again. I will go in the
morning and see the place you speak so highly
of, and if we then agree apon it, we had bel er
endeavor to erect something that will defend as
from our enemies as well as cold and rain."


The storm subsides Search for winter quarters Strange Dis-
coveries Works of the Lost People Their search among the
Kuins Walls, roads, and buildings found Their state of Pres-
ervation The Wanderers decide upon selecting a place to spend
the winter in They prepare to locate themselves Hunting deer
and other Game They find abundance of fruit A salt spring
Their joy at their discoveries.

THE next morning the storm had passed over,
and the sun arose bright and clear upon our wan-
derers, who felt relieved as they found Sidney
much improved, though yet quite ill, but in a fair
way to be able, in a few days, to be on his feet
again. Making everything as secure as possible
for those they left behind, the chief and Howe
set out to visit the spot where the chief earnestly
desired their cabin should be located. When
arrived at the spot, Howe was not surprised at
the enthusiasm of the chief; and was astonished
at the loveliness, as well as the strangeness of the
whole landscape that lay before him. Penetrating
the alluring wood before them half a mile further,
ik* scene still retaining its strange beauty, they
came to a stream with an artificial embankment,
built of stone, cemented, five feet high from the


river's b<;d, and running up and down the stream
as far as they could see in the distance.

" The work of the lost people !" said the chief,
endeavouring to displace some stones from their
artificial bed, but which resisted all his efforts.

" This does look as though civilized people had
lived here," said the trapper. " This wall has
been bnilt to confine the water to its channel, in
times of heavy rains, so that it shall not inundate
the plain. Probably, these strange fruit trees are
the seed of some brought here from other regions
by those builders which have planted themselves,
flourished, grown, and outlived all the changes
that time has wrought."

" My forefathers have a tradition that it was a
Strong people that built these things, more cunning
and powerful than the white man, until the Great
Spirit became angry with them, and then they dried
up like the grass on the prairie when there is no
rain ; for, who is there that dare brave him without
being consumed with his anger ?"

" We will go down to that copse yonder," said
the trapper. " If I am not mistaken, there is more
than trees there."

" An herd of deer, perhaps," said the chief,
preparing his bow for action.

" I think not, unless deer are grey, and of
inordinate proportions. From here, it looks like
piles of stone. Perhaps more of the work of those
who curbed these waters," said Howe.


As they drew near, large blocks of stone, squared
and smoothly hewn, lay in their path, and covered
the ground around them. Crossing over these,
they came to a range of grey stone, that had the
appearance of once having been a high building,
but which was now thrown down, and tumbled into
a shapeless mass. To the right of these stones
they saw a small square enclosure, strongly built
of grey hewn stone, and the joints fitted with a
precision that would do credit to a stone-cutter in
our day. Every layer was strongly cemented with
a composition that seemed to have amalgamated
with the stone, for on striking it with the tomahawk,
it did not even chip off, but gave back a ringing
sound, like the hardest granite. One thing they
noticed was very singular, both in the wall of
this enclosure and in that by the river. The
cement in which it was laid was much darker

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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 9 of 20)