Imágenes de páginas



And some are in a far countree,

And some all restlessly at home;
But never more, ah never, we
Shall meet to revel and to roam.

Siege of Corinth.

The next day was extremely hot, and we rode from morning till night without seeing a tree or a bush or a drop of water. Our horses and mules suffered much more than we, but as sunset approached they pricked up their ears and mended their pace.

Water was not far off. When we came to the descent of the broad shallow valley where it lay, an unlooked-for sight awaited us. The stream glistened at the bottom, and along its banks were pitched a multitude of tents, while hundreds of cattle were feeding over the meadows. Bodies of troops, both horse and foot, and long trains of wagons with men, women, and children, were moving over the opposite ridge and descending the broad declivity in front. These were the Mormon battalion in the service of government, together with a considerable number of Missouri Volunteers. The Mormons were to be paid off in California, and they were allowed to bring with them their families and

property. There was something very striking in the half-military, half-patriarchal appearance of these armed fanatics, thus on their way with their wives and children, to found, it might be, a Mormon empire in California. We were much more astonished than pleased at the sight before us. In order to find an unoccupied camping ground, we were obliged to pass a quarter of a mile up the stream, and here we were soon beset by a swarm of Mormons and Missourians. The United States officer in command of the whole came also to visit us, and remained some time at our camp.

In the morning the country was covered with mist. We were always early risers, but before we were ready the voices of men driving in the cattle sounded all around us. As we passed above their camp, we saw through the obscurity that the tents were falling and the ranks rapidly forming; and mingled with the cries of women and children, the rolling of the Mormon drums and the clear blast of their trumpets sounded through the mist.

From that time to the journey's end, we met almost every day long trains of government wagons, laden with stores for the troops and crawling at a snail's pace toward Santa Fé.

Tête Rouge had a mortal antipathy to danger, but on a foraging expedition one evening, he achieved an adventure more perilous than had yet befallen any man in the party. The night after we left the Ridge-path we encamped close to the river. At sun

set we saw a train of wagons encamping on the trail about three miles off; and though we saw them distinctly, our little cart, as it afterward proved, entirely escaped their view. For some days Tête Rouge had been longing eagerly after a dram of whisky. So, resolving to improve the present opportunity, he mounted his horse James, slung his canteen over his shoulder, and set forth in search of his favorite liquor. Some hours passed without his returning. We thought that he was lost, or perhaps that some stray Indian had snapped him up. While the rest fell asleep I remained on guard. Late at night a tremulous voice saluted me from the darkness, and Tête Rouge and James soon became visible, advancing toward the camp. Tête Rouge was in much agitation and big with some important tidings. Sitting down on the shaft of the cart, he told the following story.

When he left the camp he had no idea, he said, how late it was. By the time he approached the wagoners it was perfectly dark; and as he saw them all sitting around their fires within the circle of wagons, their guns laid by their sides, he thought he might as well give warning of his approach, in order to prevent a disagreeable mistake. Raising his voice to the highest pitch, he screamed out in prolonged accents, Camp, ahoy!" This eccentric salutation produced anything but the desired result. Hearing such hideous sounds proceeding from the outer darkness, the wagoners thought that the whole Pawnee nation were about to break in and take their scalps. Up

they sprang staring with terror. Each man snatched his gun; some stood behind the wagons; some threw themselves flat on the ground, and in an instant twenty cocked muskets were leveled full at the horrified Tête Rouge, who just then began to be visible through the darkness.

“Thar they come," cried the master wagoner, “fire, fire! shoot that feller.”

“No, no!" screamed Tête Rouge, in an ecstasy of fright; "don't fire, don't! I'm a friend, I'm an American citizen!”

“You're a friend, be you?" cried a gruff voice from the wagons, "then what are you yelling out thar for, like a wild Injun? Come along up here if you're a man."

“Keep your guns p'inted at him," added the master wagoner, "maybe he's a decoy, like."

Tête Rouge in utter bewilderment made his approach, with the gaping muzzles of the muskets still before his eyes. He succeeded at last in explaining his character and situation, and the Missourians admitted him into camp. He got no whisky; but as he represented himself as a great invalid, and suffering much from coarse fare, they made up a contribution for him of rice, biscuit, and sugar from their own rations.

In the morning at breakfast, Tête Rouge once more related this edifying story. We hardly knew how much of it to believe, though after some cross-questioning we failed to discover any flaw in the narrative.

Passing by the wagoners' camp, they confirmed Tête Rouge's account in every particular.

“I wouldn't have been in that feller's place,” said one of them, "for the biggest heap of money in Missouri.”

To Tête Rouge's great wrath they expressed a firm conviction that he was crazy.

We left them after giving them the advice not to trouble themselves about war-whoops in future, since they would be apt to feel an Indian's arrow before they heard his voice.

A day or two after, we had an adventure of another sort with a party of wagoners. Henry and I rode forward to hunt. After that day there was no probability that we should meet with buffalo, and we were anxious to kill one for the sake of fresh meat. They were so wild that we hunted all the morning in vain, but at noon as we approached Cow Creek we saw a large band feeding near its margin. Cow Creek is densely lined with trees which intercept the view beyond, and it runs, as we afterward found, at the bottom of a deep trench. We approached by riding along the bottom of a ravine. When we were near enough, I held the horses while Henry crept toward the buffalo. I saw him take his seat within shooting distance, prepare his rifle, and look about to select his victim. The death of a fat cow was certain, when suddenly a great smoke arose from the bed of the creek with a rattling volley of musketry. A score of long-legged Missourians leaped out from among the

« AnteriorContinuar »