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intended, both at the settlement of the fur-trading company
at Fort John and at that of my friends of thirty years'
standing, the Brothers Robidoux at Scotts Bluff.

11. The Crows, a very numerous tribe, roamed in the early eighties from the
northeast border of Colorado for a hundred miles or more northward of the Cheyenne.
By that time they had degenerated into a more cowardly, slothful, filthy state, utterly
repulsive in their bodily habits and held in contempt by the whites. This was un-
doubtedly due to their dependence on government bounty. The Tr.


One reason was that the purchase of new horses and the
exchange of my lighter wagon for a stronger, more depend-
able one, consumed much more time than I had counted on. 12

The other was my concern over Mr. Moellhausen's
health. That gentleman had been well and strong until
about the time of our departure from Fort Kearney. He
had been at all times a most willing and useful helper. Then
he succumbed, as do most all young people who have lived
cleanly, to an attack of intermittent fever. I say again that
I had cause to regret that I did not take in his stead a stout,
clever French-Canadian.

These may have plenty of faults, yet, on the other hand,
they can be very useful. Owing to their vast experience in
outdoor life and travel they are equal to any circumstance
which may arise. They are accustomed to unquestioned
obedience. They are born travellers and their sense as path-
finders is almost uncanny. They are the natural friends of
the Indian tribes, having signs and tokens by means of
which they at once meet a fraternal welcome among the say-
ages. They are the best hunters whether on the plains or in
the mountains, and they have not their equal in providing
shelter and comfort in any kind of weather. The selection
of suitable camp-sites, the cooking of meals, the care of
provisions, especially fresh meats, all these matters can be
left to them entirely.

Perhaps the most important quality is their almost
uncanny ability in the handling of horses. They drive care-
fully, watching with unerring instinct over the condition of
their bodies, their limbs, their feet. Their first care when
reaching camp is for them. They manage to cover vastly
greater distances than the unexperienced driver, and at the
same time they keep them in far better condition. For these
and a hundred other reasons these sons of the old voyageurs
are unequalled.

On account of the delays I have mentioned our return
journey was retarded a full fortnight. It was with good
reason, therefore, that I was looking forward with consid-
erable apprehension to the countless hazards to which travel
in winter was exposed from now on, perhaps with death it-
self in the path.

12. The prince had collected a vast amount of specimens of the flora and fauna,
one of the main reasons for the expedition, the transportation of which to the
Missouri river required a considerably larger vehicle than the one with which he
set out for the West. The Tr.


More than all did I dread what might befall Mr. Moell-
hausen in his weakened condition. And, indeed, all these
somber fears were to become fulfilled. The return journey
proved to be from the very first a series of terrible hardships,
sufferings, and misfortunes. On the very day of our depar-
ture from Fort John it was our misfortune to have our front
axle broken in two as we were driving up a steep slope. I
rode back to Major Tripp and he sent out several men.
These lost their way and did not find Moellhausen's camp till
late in the night. Then I had to send a man with the broken
axle to Mr. Robidoux, and the latter's blacksmith was able
to repair the damage quickly and in a most workmanlike

We continued our journey, after a full day's delay, down
the narrow valley of the La Platte, leaving Chimney Rock
far behind us. The way led through sand-dunes, hills and
across fine, grassy plains, until we reached the groups of
chalk bluffs, formations that extend westward to the very
littoral of California, just as they are clearly traceable from
here along the entire length eastward to the junction of the
La Platte with Missouri.

The ascent over the mountain pass of Ash Hollow was
bound up with almost insurmountable difficulties. Our team
was too light for the load it had to pull up the steep incline.
One of the pair became dispirited and would not pull. In-
stead, it reared up on its hindquarters and fell over back-
wards, and it was only because of its weight as it lay pros-
trate that the wagon was not hurled hundreds of feet down
the abysmal rock-wall. When we had blocked the rear
wheels securely, we made the refractory animal loose from
the wagon and replaced it with the led-mule. Even then
we found it necessary to fasten a rope-end to the wagon
tongue, and with the other tied to the pommel of the saddle,
Mr. Moellhausen spurred his horse so that it kept the cable
taut. Major Tripp had advised us to resort to this expedient
in the even that we would have any trouble in getting up
this pass that was the dread of all wagoners eastward-bound.

It was not until late that evening that we reached the
Padukah, or South Fork. This river was now running a
great volume of water, its bed fully a mile in width. The
ford leads straight across, there being a sign post, with a
white flag attached at opposite bank. But this in the grow-
ing darkness was scarcely visible. If we missed the straight
course, there was danger of encountering quicksand; or
what would be as bad, we would not be able to get out of the


river, once we had arrived at the south bank, as this is steep
and some six or seven feet high above the water-line.

(Paul Wilhelm touches on the mishap that befell the
travellers here in only a few phrases. He merely states that
the wagon stuck fast in mid-stream and that it was finally
pulled out to the south bank by the driver of the mail-coach
which happened to overtake the two the following forenoon.

(He refers the reader, instead, to the graphic account
written by Moellhausen, which is here reproduced.)

M. Baldwin Moellhausen, distinguished writer, was
born January 27, 1825, at Bonn, Germany. He undertook
three expeditions through the United States, two for scien-
tific purposes. These undoubtedly were not a little suggested
to his imaginative soul through prospects of high adventure.

During the second, he was employed as topographer and
draftsman on an expedition in charge of Lieutenant Whip-
pie, U. S. A., in a work undertaken by the National Govern-
ment to determine the best route for the prospective Union
Pacific from the Missouri river to the Pacific coast.

After returning to his native country from his third
expedition, he settled down in Berlin (1886) where he
resided continually until his death in 1905.

He was a prolific and popular writer. Nearly all his
work consisted in novels, about 150 of them. These invari-
ably appeared first in Monatsschriften, or monthly maga-
zines. A great many of his books and articles deal of the
social and political life in the United States, and of travel
accounts. The novels are based on the colonial life of our
West and Southwest. His memoirs comprise eight volumes.

Of his American novels, The Mormon Maid is perhaps
his outstanding work. This was published in 1864. Western
Travels, 4 volumes, was published in 1873. In 1890 appeared
The Ferryman on the Canadian, a stirring story.

The only criticism is on the score of their great length,
in which respect he outdid even Dickens. Nevertheless, the
descriptive matter is invaluable as reflecting the viewpoint
of an unbiased, brilliant, and impartial critic whose admira-
tion for the American people, its manners, customs, its


achievements, its institutions, its unparalleled solidarity, its
institutional life from the executive mansion at Washing-
ton down to the simple justice of the peace in the smallest
village, was genuine and in evidence in everything he has
written that pertains to Anglo-Saxon America.

A number of the German writers of the eighties and
nineties have yielded him high praise. Magazine articles
have discussed his works, and at least two of these have
gone so far as to state that the mantle of Gustav Freytag had
fallen on his shoulders.





The Adventure that befell us, states the duke's com-
panion, happened on our return journey from Fort Laramie.

Duke Paul Wilhelm rarely employed more than one or
at most two companions on his travels. On this expedition
he started out with two, a Mr. Zielinske, whom he lost early
on the outward trip, and my unworthy self.

It is an incomprehensible thing to me that this man was
unable to follow and overtake us. 1 However, when I state
that this otherwise most excellent young man was fully as
inexperienced as I myself "a greenhorn," as the duke
called us often in a spirit of goodnatured raillery and as
unfit as I to make a practical decision on any problem in-
volving a little common sense, then it would be unnecessary
to speculate any further about this happening.

The duke is a man of an intellectuality far beyond ordi-
nary comprehension. But his weak point is impulsiveness.
His courage is so boundless that it often approaches down-
right madness itself. In spite of his early bringing-up at one
of the most exclusive royal courts in Christendom he is
utterly democratic and considerate in all his dealings with

1. It is fully as incomprehensible that Paul Wilhelm should so unfeelingly have
proceeded on his way without making any effort to turn back and make a search for
him. For it was like a death-warrant to one so inexperienced to be left to his fate
in a country infested by murderous Indians and wild animals. Moreover, if he even
were able to escape death from tooth and claw he must eventually die of hunger.
The Tr.


What assistance I was able to render on an expedition
of such a magnitude may easily be guessed at when I say
that this was my first break-away from civilization for even
a single day. Unused to rough fare, long travel in the saddle,
heat, poisonous insects that fly or crawl and give one not a
moment's surcease, to lying on the ground with the stars for
my canopy, or black clouds pouring down water not in drops
but in dipperfuls I grew with every advancing mile more
homesick, more hopeless of any prospect that we would
ever return alive to tell about this.

On the other hand, the duke was everything that we
were not. He fitted into any situation, not merely in Spartan
fortitude, but rejoicing in his matchless strength that
gloried in being pitted against hardships which I deemed
insuperable, in dangers from which I shrank with horror.
Yet in all our relations, which must have tried his patience
often enough, he never gave the least hint at any time be-
cause of my lack of spirit.

Although I was daily stricken by a violent chill fol-
lowed by a burning fever, I did my best to show to this man
that I was not losing heart. Indeed, after simulating a cour-
age that I was far from feeling during a long series of
suffering, I came at last to taste a certain delight, brief of
duration at first, but gradually lengthening, in my ability
to look cheerful, and as a reward to receive an approving
glance from the duke, as if he were beginning to have
hopes that I might turn out to grow into a real man after all.

Perhaps this new spirit which I perceived coming to
the surface, wholly unsuspicious of its existence within me
in any form, grew out of the indifference with which I
viewed the future. For, try as I would, I could not imagine
that we would ever return alive to our own kindred. This
feeling of desperation never left me, though I was careful
to conceal it from the duke. But out of it grew a certain aban-
don, a recklessness, at first a surprise to me but to which I
became accustomed. Indeed, this mental change in a subtle
way lightened my labors which had seemed so hard before,
and this had become especially obvious during the past
several days. The ride up Ash Hollow Pass would have been
an impossible feat for me only a little while before. It
required a herculean will to continue going on and on, after
the total exhaustion that had resulted from the ascent. The
jog of my horse seemed to jab me like a knife-thrust at every
step. But for all that I would not for my life have stopped
short of the day's alloted destination. There was a fierce


exhilaration that surged up continually within me at the
realization of this newly-born power. Gone were my ills,
those devastating chills and fevers, as something unclean
that could no longer have room in my new state.

In spite of the stiff pace at which we had been travel-
ling, twilight had already set in when we reached the banks
of the Padukah. 2

My proposal to strike camp on the north bank the duke
rejected for the very good reason that there was not a ves-
tige of grass for our exhausted animals on that side of the
river, whereas there was an abundance on the south side.

Consequently, there was nothing for me to do but to ride
ahead of the wagon into the river. The rapidly increasing
darkness soon blotted out from view the signal post on the
opposite end of the ford. Everything went well enough
until we reached the middle of the stream. Whether it was
that I had missed the ford or because the horses stood still
for a moment, to rest from the unspeakably hard pull and
strain, I cannot say. In short, as I looked back I saw that
the wheels had sunk so deep into the quicksand that only the
wagon-box remained above the water. The horses, struggle
and tug though they did with all their strength, were not
able to budge the load an inch.

We were caught in a sorry plight. In addition to the
black darkness a fine, icy-cold drizzle set in. But we did not
waste a moment's time in further useless attempts to extri-
cate the wagon. From my saddle I unhitched the team. The
duke handed me a hatchet and an Indian-made leather tent,
in which were wrapped the tent poles and stakes, whereupon
I looked for a way out of the flood water. He himself de-
cided, in spite of the danger that the wagon might disappear
entirely in the treacherous sand, or that it might be washed
down the river with his vast store of treasures consisting
of countless specimens of the flora and fauna, and also geo-
logical specimens collected on an expedition of more than one
thousand miles across the western wilderness. But not until
he had helped me with the horses to the opposite river bank.
Then he waded back to the marooned wagon which he was
only able to find because its white covers gleamed faintly
through the blackness of the night.

It must have been a terrible journey through the cold,
rushing waves that were beating waist-high against his
body. But, as just mentioned, all his collections and notes

2. The earlier name for the South Platte River. The Tr.


taken on the expedition of more than a thousand miles out-
ward and return were in that wagon, and he could not en-
dure the thought of having them lost or ruined.

As soon as I had reached the south bank of the river, I
unharnessed the horses and turned them loose. Then I
looked back for a sign of the duke and the wagon. But the
night was pitch-black, and even only a few feet away all
was indistinguishable.

The rain was falling in fine drops, but very thickly. All
connection between us was cut off. Indeed, due to the howl-
ing wind and the roar of the waves we could not even call to
one another with any expectation of being heard.

The cold wind that swept across the terrible gloom
of the waters blew through my wet clothing and cut like a
thousand sharp knives. This roused me out of my sombre
reveries. I wrapped myself in the leather tent, and gripping
in my right hand the handle of my only weapon, a hatchet,
I fell asleep despite rain, cold, and hunger. . . .

It had already begun to dawn when I awoke. The sky
was clear, and the prospect of sunshine cheered me. My first
glance was across toward the river. To my exceeding joy
I noticed that the wagon was still where I had left it the
evening before.

My second glance was for the horses. These, too, were
still in sight, quietly grazing a short distance from me. I
now turned my attention to my own predicament. Though
it was not raining any longer, to be sure, yet a cold, damp
north wind was whistling from across the river which
chilled me to the marrow. In order to get warm, I drew the
leather cover tightly together, leaving only a slight opening
for my eyes. Then I attempted to fall asleep again. But
sleep would not come again. Now while I was thus stretched
out on the ground, I cast my eyes into the distance up along
the river bank. As I gazed intently, I had the impression of
seeing something moving over the perfectly level plain. It
was not a deception. This something was apparently moving
toward me. For some time I was uncertain. Was it wolves,
or buffaloes, or even Indians? At last I made out that they
were mounted men. There could now be no longer any doubt
that they were Indians. With terror did I now realize in
what a helpless situation we were, and how absolutely we
were in their power.

What was left for me to do but to look on mutely while
they were making off with our horses ? We even had to feel
in luck if they spared our lives, or, what would be nearly as


bad, if they robbed us of all our belongings and left us to
our misery.

All this was in my mind as I was observing the half
dozen Cheyenne warriors without changing my position in
the least. Suddenly a troop of riders swooped down from
the same direction. I counted eleven or twelve braves that
raced down upon me. At a distance of about thirty paces
they suddenly reined in their horses and looked toward me
quite intently. They must have espied the wagon from afar,
and they at once began to gesticulate and to point toward it.

I cannot deny that the blood almost stopped coursing
through my veins from terror, but I deemed it wise to resort
to a stratagem. In order that they would not shoot me from a
distance, I feigned sleep, at the same time gripping my
hatchet tightly in my hand. The sharp eyes of the savages,
however, were not long in discovering that my sleep was a
pretense. For when I opened one of my eyes ever so slightly
to blink toward them, one of the savage warriors broke into
boisterous laughter. Then he pointed toward me noncha-
lantly and leaped down from his horse.

I arose quickly and walked toward the wild figures, at
the same time extending toward him my hand in token of
peace. It encouraged me somewhat to find that each in turn
responded with a like pressure. They also seemed to under-
stand perfectly my purpose of entreaty that they should
assist me in dragging our wagon out of the water. They
appeared even to pledge me their aid, but expressed at the
same time the wish that I regale them with a cup of coffee
and with plenty of sugar before starting out on their task.

Inasmuch as this was an unmistakable demand, no
choice was left to me save compliance. So I asked for a horse
to ride to the wagon where I found the duke quite comfort-
ably settled on the board seat, a far cry from his present con-
dition to a ducal throne that was his rightful due. As I
could not decide on what was best to do under the circum-
stances, I appealed to him for advice. He frowned and
lapsed for a moment in a brown study.

While he reflected I was noticing that he had trans-
formed the little shelter into a formidable fortress. All about
him in plain view lay a shotgun, a double-barreled rifle, a
horse pistol, and a Colt's revolver. Evidently he was not
inclined to surrender his property without a fight, even if it
cost his life. Unerring shot that he was, he was prepared to
kill every member of the party long before they could reach
the wagon.


I told him about my terms of our agreement with the
Indians, and he deemed this fair and conformable to the
circumstances in which we were placed. He handed me
coffee and sugar, and the coffee-pot. Then, as I started back
for the south bank he shouted after me : "Do not trust any of
these fellows ! Be constantly on your guard !"

When I arrived where the savages were there was a
brisk fire burning. They had gathered quite a supply of dry
buffalo dung which is almost impermeable to rain. In a jiffy
everything was ready, for there is no one so skillful in
manipulating the cooking over an open fire as the Indian.
Moreover, they were helpful and obliging, since it appeared
to their own advantage to be so in the present instance. So
when they began to feel the need of the shelter of a tent and
saw mine lying on the ground and found that the poles and
stakes were in the wagon, one of them rode out to the duke
and demanded them in my name. The duke very oblig-
ingly granted their wish.

With practiced hand these unwelcome and rather inso-
lent guests then put up the tent over the fire, and in a very
short time I was sitting in the narrow space with my unbid-
den guests.

It was a blissful feeling to thaw out after the long hours
of shivering from the bitter cold. This was enhanced when
I inhaled the aroma of the steaming coffee. The pipe of
peace was now passed around within the tent and was then
handed to the other warriors outside that were also crowded
together around a fire. It went the round again before the
coffee was ready to serve. All seemed delighted with the
taste of the black-brown beverage, and another potful was

Then I insisted that they should fulfill their part of the
agreement. These rascals gave me to understand, however,
in terms that were little else than veiled taunts, that it was
still too early to think of anything of the kind. They insisted
that I bring to each of them one handful of coffee and two
of sugar from the wagon, a demand which our entire supply
was not sufficient to make good.

I promised, however, to do my best once the wagon was
out of the river. This proposal did not seem in the least to
their taste. All of them settled down into a state of imper-
turable calm. When they perceived my rising displeasure,
they consoled me by passing the pipe to me a number of
times, out of my regular term.

Flattering though this proof of honor might have


seemed, it did not allay my suspicions in the least. For with
a strange insistence the duke's words of warning rang in
my ears : "Place no trust in the word of an Indian !"

Had we not been so many hundred miles from the near-
est settlement I might have had some appreciation of the
comical side of the situation that confronted me. Here I
was sitting in my own tent in the manner of a none-too-
welcome guest, in the midst of this horde of savages, drink-
ing my own coffee and warming my half -frozen body while
the duke was waiting in mid-stream, his patience tried to the
utmost over the endless delay.

Twice, to be sure, I had made the attempt to send a
large dipper full of the hot life-giving liquid to him. Both
times the errand was assumed with the most convincing
obligingness, but carried out only insofar that the messenger
arose and passed the coffee down his own throat with every
sign of exceeding relish, returning the empty vessel with
a friendly ingratiating gesture.

All this impudence and coarse lack of consideration, I
must confess, turned my ill humor into a kind of desperation.
For I was utterly helpless. There was no escape from my
predicament. The next time the pipe was offered I repulsed
it angrily. But they only laughed over my fit of temper,
instead of taking it as an affront.

Now I stepped outside, repeating my demands with un-
mistakable sternness. This occasioned a shifting among the
fellows who had been crouching together on the wet earth.
But the only satisfaction I drew from this show of anger
was to see one of them creep into the tent. Just before he
disappeared to take the place I had vacated, he looked back
at me with a mocking smile.

This was more than I could bear. I was so embittered
that I turned loose a flood of abuse. I reviled them as a pack

Online LibraryUniversity of New MexicoNew Mexico historical review (Volume 17) → online text (page 21 of 33)