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"Even to me," Harry went on, after refilling and lighting his pipe, "it did not seem long before the chief was back. He brought a heavy load, for besides the rifles and bear's flesh he carried on his back a big faggot of brushwood. After laying that down he searched among the rocks, and presently set to work to dig out the snow and earth between two big blocks, and was not long before he scooped out with his tomahawk a hole big enough for the two of us to lie in comfortably. He laid the bear's-skin down in this, then he carried me to it and helped me in and then put the robes over me; and a snugger place you would not want to lie in.
"It was about ten feet below the level of the crest of the heap of rocks, and of course on the upper side, so that directly the red-skins made their appearance he could help me up to the top. That the two of us could keep the Utes back I did not doubt; we had our rifles, and the chief carried a revolver as well as I did. After they had once caught a glimpse of the sort of place we were on, I did not think they would venture into the ravine, for they would have lost a dozen men before they got to the mound. I had looked round while the chief was away, and I saw that a hundred yards or so higher up, the ravine came to an end, the sides closing in, so there was no fear of our being attacked from there. What I was afraid of was that the Indians might be able to get up above and shoot down on us, though whether they could or not depended on the nature of the ground above, and of course I could not see beyond the edge of the rocks.
"But even if they could not get up in the daylight, they could crawl up at night and finish us, or they could camp down at the mouth of the ravine and starve us out, for there was no chance of our climbing the sides, even if my leg had been all right. I was mighty sorry for the chief. He had just thrown his life away, and it must come to the same in the end, as far as I was concerned. Even now he could get away if he chose, but I knew well enough it weren't any good talking to him. So I lay there, just listening for the crack of his rifle above. He would bring down the first man that came in, sartin, and there would be plenty of time after that to get me up beside him, for they would be sure to have a long talk before they made any move. I did not expect them until late in the afternoon, and hoped it might be getting dark before they got down into the valley. There had been a big wind sweeping down it since the snow had fallen, and though it had drifted deep along the sides, the bottom was for the most part bare. I noticed that the chief had picked his way carefully, and guessed that, as they would have no reason for thinking we were near, they might not take up the trail till morning. Of course they would find our fire and the dead bear, or all that there was left of him, and they would fancy we had only stopped to take a meal and had gone on again. They would see by the fire that we had left pretty early in the day. I heard nothing of the chief until it began to get dark; then he came down to me.
"'Leaping Horse will go out and scout,' he said. 'If Utes not come soon, will come back here; if they come, will watch down at mouth of valley till he sees Utes go to sleep.' 'Well, chief,' I said; 'at any rate you may as well take this robe; one is enough to sleep with in this hole, and I shall be as snug as a beaver wrapped up in mine. Half your hunting shirt is gone, and you will find it mighty cold standing out there.'
"In an hour he came back again. 'Utes come,' he said. 'Have just lighted fire and going to cook. No come tonight. Leaping Horse has good news for his brother. There are no stars.'
"That is good news indeed,' I said. 'If it does but come on to snow to-night we may carry our scalps back to the settlement yet.'
"'Leaping Horse can feel snow in the air,' he said. 'If it snows before morning, good; if not, the Utes will tell their children how many lives the scalps of the Englishman and the Seneca cost.'
"The chief lay down beside me. I did not get much sleep, for my leg was hurting me mightily. From time to time he crawled out, and each time he returned saying, 'No snow.' I had begun to fear that when it came it would be too late. It could not have been long before daybreak when he said, as he crawled in: 'The Great Manitou has sent snow. My brother can sleep in peace.' An hour later I raised myself up a bit and looked out. It was light now. The air was full of fine snow, and the earth the chief had scraped out was already covered thickly. I could see as much as that, though the chief had, when he came in for the last time, drawn the faggot in after him. I wondered at the time why he did it, but I saw now. As soon as the snow had fallen a little more it would hide up altogether the entrance to our hole. Hour after hour passed, and it became impossible to get even a peep out, for the snow had fallen so thickly on the leafy end of the brushwood, which was outward, that it had entirely shut us in. All day the snow kept on, as we could tell from the lessening light, and by two o'clock only a faint twilight made its way in.
"'How long do you think we shall be imprisoned here, chief?' I asked.
"'Must not hurry,' he replied. 'There are trees up the valley, and the Utes may make their camp there and stay till the storm is over. No use to go out till my brother can walk. Wait till snow is over; then stay two or three days to give time for Utes to go away. Got bear's flesh to eat; warm in here, melt snow.' This was true enough, for I was feeling it downright hot. Just before night came on the chief pushed the end of his ramrod through the snow and looked out along the hole.
"'Snow very strong,' he said. 'When it is dark can go out if wish.'
"There is not much to tell about the next five days. The snow kept falling steadily, and each evening after dark the chief went outside for a short time to smoke his pipe, while I sat at the entrance and smoked mine, and was glad enough to get a little fresh air. As soon as he came in again the faggot was drawn back to its place, and we were imprisoned for another twenty-four hours. One gets pretty tired after a time of eating raw bear's flesh and drinking snow-water, and you bet I was pretty glad when the chief, after looking out through a peephole, said that the snow had stopped falling and the sun was shining. About the middle of that day he said suddenly: 'I hear voices.'
"It was some time before I heard anything, but I presently made them out, though the snow muffled them a good deal. They did not seem far off, and a minute or two later they ceased. We lay there two days longer, and then even the chief was of opinion that they would have moved off. My own idea was that they had started the first afternoon after the snow had stopped falling.
"'Leaping Horse will go out to scout as soon as it is dark,' he said. 'Go to mouth of ravine. If Utes are in wood he will see their fires and come back again. Not likely come up here again and find his traces.'
"That is what I had been saying for the last two days, for after some of them had been up, and had satisfied themselves that there was no one in the gully, they would not be likely to come through the snow again. When the chief returned after an hour's absence, he told me that the Utes had all gone. 'Fire cold,' he said; 'gone many hours. Leaping Horse has brought some dry wood up from their hearth. Can light fire now.' You may guess it was not long before we had a fire blazing in front of our den, and I never knew how good bear-steak really was till that evening.
"The next morning the chief took off the splints and rebandaged my leg, this time putting on a long strip of the bear's skin, which he had worked until it was perfectly soft while we had been waiting there. Over this he put on the splints again, and for the first time since that bear had knocked me off the rock I felt at ease. We stayed there another fortnight, by the end of which time the bones seemed to have knit pretty fairly. However, I had made myself a good strong crutch from a straight branch with a fork at the end, that the chief had cut for me, and I had lashed a wad of bear's skin in the fork to make it easy. Then we started, making short journeys at first, but getting longer every day as I became accustomed to the crutch, and at the end of a week I was able to throw it aside.
"We never saw a sign of an Indian trail all the way down to the settlements, and by the time we got there I was ready to start on a journey again. The chief found plenty of game on the way down, and I have never had as much as a twinge in my leg since. So you see this affair ain't a circumstance in comparison. Since then the chief and I have always hunted together, and the word brother ain't only a mode of speaking with us;" and he held out his hand to the Seneca, who gravely placed his own in it.
"That war a tight corner, Harry, and no blamed mistake. Did you ever find out whether they could have got on the top to shoot down on you?"
"Yes, the chief went up the day after the Utes had left. It was level up there, and they could have sat on the edge and fired down upon us, and wiped us out without our having a show."
"And you have never since been to that place you struck the day the Utes came down, Harry?" Jerry asked. "I have heard you talk of a place you knew of, just at the edge of the bad lands, off the Utah hills. Were that it?"
Harry nodded. "I have never been there since. I went with a party into Nevada the next spring, and last year the Utes were all the time upon the war-path. I had meant to go down this fall, but the Utes were too lively, so I struck up here instead; but I mean to go next spring whether they are quiet or not, and to take my chances, and find out whether it is only good on the surface and peters out to nothing when you get in, or whether it is a real strong lode. Ben and Sam, and of course the chief, will go with me, and Tom here, now he has come out, and if you like to come we shall be all glad."
"You may count me in," Jerry said, "and I thank you for the offer. I have had dog-goned bad luck for some time, and I reckon it is about time it was over. How are you going to share?"
"We have settled that. The chief and I take two shares each as discoverers. You four will take one share each."
"That is fair enough, Harry. Those are mining terms, and after your nearly getting rubbed out in finding it, if you and the chief had each taken three shares there would have been nothing for us to grunt at. They are a 'tarnal bad lot are the Utes. I reckon they are bad by nature, but the Mormons have made them worse. There ain't no doubt it's they who set them on to attack the caravans. They could see from the first that if this was going to be the main route west there would be so many coming along, and a lot perhaps settle there, that the Gentiles, as they call the rest of us, would get too strong for them. What they have been most afeard of is, that a lot of gold or silver should be found up in the hills, and that would soon put a stop to the Mormon business. They have been wise enough to tell the red-skins that if men came in and found gold there would be such a lot come that the hunting would be all spoilt. There is no doubt that in some of the attacks made on the caravans there have been sham Indians mixed up with the real ones. Red-skins are bad enough, but they are good men by the side of scoundrels who are false to their colour, and who use Indians to kill whites. That is one reason I want to see this railway go on till it jines that on the other side. It will be bad for game, and I reckon in a few years the last buffalo will be wiped out, but I will forgive it that, so that it does but break up the Saints as they call themselves, though I reckon there is about as little of the saint among them as you will find if you search all creation."
"Right you are, Jerry," Sam Hicks said. "They pretty nigh wiped me out once, and if Uncle Sam ever takes to fighting them you may bet that I am in it, and won't ask for no pay."
"How did it come about, Sam?" Jerry asked. "I dunno as I have ever heard you tell that story."
"Waal, I had been a good bit farther east, and had been doing some scouting with the troops, who had been giving a lesson to the red-skins there, that it was best for them to let up on plundering the caravans going west. We had done the job, and I jined a caravan coming this way. It was the usual crowd, eastern farmers going to settle west, miners, and such like. Among them was two waggons, which kept mostly as far apart from the others as they could. They was in charge of two fellows who dressed in store clothes, and had a sanctimonious look about them. There was an old man and a couple of old women, and two or three boys and some gals. They did not talk much with the rest, but it got about that they were not going farther than Salt Lake City, and we had not much difficulty in reckoning them up as Mormons. There ain't no law perviding for the shooting of Mormons without some sort of excuse, and as the people kept to themselves and did not interfere with no one, nothing much was said agin them. On a v'yage like that across the plains, folks has themselves to attend to, and plenty to do both on the march and in camp, so no one troubles about any one else's business.
"I hadn't no call to either, but I happened to go out near their waggons one evening, and saw two or three bright-looking maids among them, and it riled me to think that they was going to be handed over to some rich old elder with perhaps a dozen other wives, and I used to feel as it would be a satisfaction to pump some lead into them sleek-looking scoundrels who had them in charge. I did not expect that the gals had any idea what was in store for them. I know them Mormons when they goes out to get what they call converts, preaches a lot about the prophet, and a good deal about the comforts they would have in Utah. So much land for nothing, and so much help to set them up, and all that kind of thing, but mighty little about polygamy and the chance of their being handed over to some man old enough to be their father, and without their having any say in the matter. Howsoever, I did not see as I could interfere, and if I wanted to interfere I could not have done it; because all those women believed what they had been taught, and if I a stranger, and an ill-looking one at that, was to tell them the contrary, they wouldn't believe a word what I had said. So we went on till we got within four or five days' journey of Salt Lake City, then one morning, just as the teams were being hitched up, two fellows rode into camp.
"As we were in Utah now, there weren't nothing curious about that, but I reckoned them up as two as hard-looking cusses as I had come across for a long time. After asking a question or two they rode to the Mormon waggons, and instead of starting with the rest, the cattle was taken out and they stopped behind. Waal, I thought I would wait for a bit and see what they were arter. It weren't no consarn of mine noways, but I knew I could catch up the waggons if I started in the afternoon, and I concluded that I would just wait; so I sat by the fire and smoked. When the caravan had gone on the Mormons hitched up their cattle again. They were not very far away from where I was sitting, and I could see one of the men in black pointing to me as he talked with the two chaps who had just jined them. With that the fellow walked across to where I was sitting.
"'Going to camp here?' says he.
"'Waal,' I says, 'I dunno, as I haven't made up my mind about it. Maybe I shall, maybe I sha'n't.'
"'I allow it would be better for you to move on.'
"'And I allow,' says I, 'it would be better for you to attend to your own affairs.'
"'Look here,' says he, 'I hear as you have been a-spying about them waggons.'
"'Then,' says I, 'whosoever told you that, is an all-fired liar, and you tell him so from me.'
"I had got my hand on the butt of my Colt, and the fellow weakened.
"'Waal,' he said, 'I have given you warning, that is all.'
"'All right,' says I, 'I don't care none for your warnings; and I would rather anyhow be shot down by white skunks dressed up as red-skins, than I would have a hand in helping to fool a lot of innercent women.'
"He swore pretty bad at this, but I could see as he wasn't real grit, and he went off to the waggons. There was considerable talk when he got there, but as the Mormons must have known as I had been a scout, and had brought a lot of meat into the camp on the way, and as the chap that came across must have seen my rifle lying handy beside me, I guess they allowed that I had better be left alone. So a bit later the waggons started, and as I expected they would, went up a side valley instead of going on by the caravan route. The fellow had riz my dander, and after sitting for a bit I made up my mind I would go after 'em. I had no particular motive, it wur just out of cussedness. I was not going to be bluffed from going whar I chose. This air a free country, and I had as much right to go up that valley as they had."
"I should have thought yer had had more common sense, Sam Hicks," Jerry said reproachfully, "than to go a-mixing yourself up in a business in which you had no sort of consarn. Ef one of them women had asked you to help her, or if you had thought she was being taken away agin her will, you or any other man would have had a right to take a hand in the game; but as it was, you war just fooling with your life to interfere with them Mormons in their own country."
"That is so, Jerry, and I ain't a word to say agin it. It war just a piece of cussedness, and I have asked myself forty-eleven times since, what on arth made me make such a blame fool of myself. Afore that fellow came over to bluff me I hadn't no thought of following the waggons, but arter that I felt somehow as if he dared me to do it. I reckoned I was more nor a match for the two fellows who just jined them, and as for the greasy-faced chaps in black, I did not count them in, one way or the other. I had no thought of getting the gals away, nor of getting into any muss with them if they left me alone. It was just that I had got a right to go up that valley or any other, and I was not going to be bluffed out of it. So I took up my shooting-iron, strapped my blanket over my shoulder, and started. They war maybe a mile away when I turned into the valley. I wasn't hungry for a fight, so I didn't keep up the middle, but just skirted along at the foot of the hill where it did not seem likely as they would see me. I did not get any closer to them, and only caught sight of them now and then.
"As far as I could make out there was only one horseman with them, and I reckoned the other was gone on ahead; looking for a camping-ground maybe, or going on to one of the Mormon farms to tell them to get things ready there. What I reckoned on doing, so far as I reckoned at all, was to scout up to them as soon as it got dark and listen to their talk, and try to find out for certain whether the women war goin' willing. Then I thought as I would walk straight up to their fires and just bluff those four men as they tried to bluff me. Waal, they went on until late in the afternoon, unhitched the cattle, and camped. I waited for a bit, and now that I war cooled down and could look at the thing reasonable, I allowed to myself that I had showed up as a blamed fool, and I had pretty well made up my mind to take back tracks and go down the valley, when I heard the sound of some horses coming down fast from the camp.
"Then the thought that I was a 'tarnal fool came to me pretty strong, you bet. One of those fellows had ridden on and brought down some of the Regulators, as we used to call them in the mining camps, but I believe the Mormons call them Destroying Angels, though there is mighty little of angels about them. I hoped now that they had not caught sight of me during the day, and that the band were going right down to the waggon camp; but as I had not taken any particular pains to hide myself, I reckoned they must have made me out. It war pretty nigh dark, and as I took cover behind a bush I could scarce see them as they rode along. They went down about two hundred yards and then stopped, and I could hear some of them dismount.
"'You are sure we are far enough?' one said.
"'Yes; I can swear he was higher up than this when we saw him just before we camped.'
"'If you two fellows hadn't been the worst kind of curs,' a man said angrily, 'you would have hidden up as soon as you made out he was following you and shot him as he came along.'
"'I told you,' another voice said, 'that the man is an Indian fighter, and a dead shot. Suppose we had missed him.'
"'You could not have missed him if you had waited till he was close to you before you fired; then you might have chucked him in among the bushes and there would have been an end of it, and we should have been saved a twenty-mile ride. Now then, look sharp for him and search every bush. Between us and Johnson's party above we are sure to catch him.'
"I didn't see that, though I did wish the rocks behind had not been so 'tarnal steep. I could have made my way up in the daylight, though even then it would have been a tough job, but without light enough to see the lay of the ledges and the best places for getting from one to another, it was a business I didn't care about. I was just thinking of making across to the other side of the valley when some horsemen came galloping back.
"'You stop here, brother Ephraim, and keep your ears well open, as well as your eyes. You stop fifty yards higher up, Hiram, and the others at the same distance apart. When the men among the rocks come abreast of you, Ephraim, ride on and take your place at the other end of the line. You do the same, Hiram, and so all in turn; I will ride up and down.'
"It was clear they meant business, and I was doubting whether I would take my chance of hiding or make for the cliff, when I saw a light coming dancing down from the camp, and knew it was a chap on horseback with a torch. As he came up the man who had spoken before said: 'How many torches have you got, brother Williams?'
"'A dozen of them.'
"'Give me six, and take the other six down to the men below. That is right, I will light one from yours.'
"You may guess that settled me. I had got to git at once, so I began to crawl off towards the foot of the cliffs. By the time I had got there, there war six torches burning a hundred yards below, and the men who carried them were searching every bush and prying under every rock. Along the middle of the valley six other torches were burning fifty yards apart. There was one advantage, the torches were pitch-pine and gave a fairish light, but not so much as tarred rope would have done; but it was enough for me to be able to make out the face of the cliff, and I saw a break by which I could get up for a good bit anyhow. It was where a torrent came down when the snows were melting, and as soon as I had got to the bottom I made straight up. There were rocks piled at its foot, and I got to the top of these without being seen.
"I hadn't got a dozen feet higher when my foot set a boulder rolling, and down it went with a crash. There were shouts below, but I did not stop to listen to what they said, but put up the bed of the torrent at a two-forty gait. A shot rang out, and another and another, but I was getting now above the light of their torches. A hundred feet higher I came to a stand-still, for the rock rose right up in front of me, and the water had here come down from above in a fall. This made it a tight place, you bet. There war no ledge as I could see that I could get along, and I should have to go down a good bit afore I got to one. They kept on firing from below, but I felt pretty sure that they could not see me, for I could hear the bullets striking high against the face of the rock that had stopped me.
"You may bet I was careful how I went down again, and I took my time, for I could see that the men with the torches had halted at the foot of the heap of rocks below, not caring much, I expect, to begin to mount, while the horsemen kept on firing, hoping to hear my body come rolling down; besides, they must have known that with their torches they made a pretty sure mark for me. At last I got down to the ledge. It war a narrow one, and for a few yards I had to walk with my face to the rock and my arms spread out, and that, when I knew that at any moment they might make me out, and their bullets come singing up, warn't by no means pleasant. In a few yards the ledge got wider and there was room enough on it for me to lie down. I crawled along for a good bit, and then sat down with my back against the rock and reckoned the matter up. All the torches war gathered round where I had gone up. Four more men had come down from the camp on horseback, and five or six on foot with torches were running down the valley. They had been searching for me among the bushes higher up, and when they heard the firing had started down to jine the others. The leader was shouting to the men to climb up after me, but the men didn't seem to see it.
"'What's the use?' I heard one fellow say; 'he must be chock-full of bullets long ago. We will go up and find his carcass in the morning.'
"'But suppose he is not dead, you fool.'
"'Well, if he ain't dead he would just pick us off one after another as we went up with torches.'
"'Well, put your torches out, then. Here, I will go first if you are afraid,' and he jumped from his horse.
"You can bet your boots that my fingers itched to put a bullet into him. But it warn't to be done; I did not know how far the ledge went or whether there might be any way of getting off it, and now I had once got out of their sight it would have been chucking away my life to let them know whar I lay. So I got up again and walked on a bit farther. I came on a place where the rock had crumbled enough for me to be able to get up on to the next ledge, and after a lot of climbing up and down I got to the top in about two hours, and then struck across the hills and came down at eight o'clock next morning on to the caravan track. I hid up till evening in case they should come down after me, and next morning I came up to the caravan just as they were hitching the teams up for a start."
"You got out of that better than you deserved," Harry said. "I wouldn't have believed that any man would have played such a fool's trick as to go meddling with the Mormons in their own country without any kind of reason. It war worse than childishness."
The other two miners assented vigorously, and Sam said: "Waal, you can't think more meanly of me over that business than I do of myself. I have never been able to make out why I did it, and you may bet it ain't often I tells the story. It war a dog-goned piece of foolishness, and, as Harry says, I didn't desarve to get out of it as I did. Still, it ain't made me feel any kind of love for Mormons. When about two hundred shots have been fired at a man it makes him feel kinder like as if he war going to pay some of them back when he gets the chance, and you may bet I mean to."
The exclamation was elicited by the fall of a heavy mass of snow on to the fire, over which the kettle had just begun to boil. The tripod from which it hung was knocked over. A cloud of steam filled the place, and the party all sprung to their feet to avoid being scalded.
"It might have waited a few minutes longer," Jerry grumbled, "then we should have had our tea comfortable. Now the fire is out and the water is spilt, and we have got to fetch in some more snow; that is the last lot there was melted."
"It is all in the day's work, Jerry," Harry said cheerfully, "and it is just as well we should have something to do. I will fetch the snow in if the rest of you will clear the hearth again. It is a nuisance about the snow, but we agreed that there is no help for it, and we may thank our stars it is no worse."
It was not long before the fire was blazing again, but it took some time before water was boiling and tea made, still longer before the bread which had been soddened by the water from the kettle was fit to eat. By this time it was dark. When the meal was over they all turned in for the night. Tom was just going off to sleep, when he was roused by Leaping Dog suddenly throwing off his buffalo robe and springing to his feet with his rifle in his hand.
"Hist!" he said in a low tone. "Something comes!"
The men all seized their rifles and listened intently. Presently they heard a soft step on the snow outside, then there was a snuffing sound.
"B'ar!" the Indian said.
A moment later a great head reared itself over the bushes at the entrance. Five rifles rang out, the two Indians reserving their fire; the report was followed by the dull sound of a heavy fall outside.
"Wait a moment," Harry said sharply, as the others were preparing to rush out, "let us make sure he is dead."
"He is dead enough," Jerry said. "I reckon even a grizzly cannot walk off with five bullets in his head."
Harry looked over the screen. "Yes, he is dead enough; anyhow he looks so. Waal, this is a piece of luck." They all stepped out on to the platform.
"Is it a grizzly, uncle?" Tom asked excitedly.
"He is a grizzly, sure enough. You don't want to see his colour to know that. Look at his size."
"Why, he is as big as a cow."
"Ay, lad, and a big cow too. You go in and make up the fire while we cut off enough meat for supper."
The fact that they had eaten a meal but half an hour before, went for nothing; slices of bear-meat were soon frizzling, and as hearty a meal was eaten as if no food had been tasted since the previous day. The men were in the highest spirits; the fact that they were out of meat had been the greatest drawback to the prospect of being shut up for perhaps a week, for badly-baked bread is but a poor diet to men accustomed to live almost exclusively upon meat.
"What brought the bear down here?" Tom asked.
"Curiosity at first perhaps, and then hunger," his uncle replied. "I expect he was going along on the path above when he saw the light among the leaves, and then no doubt he smelt the bread, and perhaps us and the horses, and came down to see what he could get.
"Curiosity is a bad fault, Tom. You have had two lessons in that this evening. Bear in mind that in this part of the world the safest plan is always to attend strictly to your own business."
All thought of sleep was for the present dissipated; their pipes were again lighted, and it was midnight before they lay down. In the morning the bear was with some difficulty skinned and cut up, the joints being left outside to freeze through. The snow still fell steadily, but the wind had almost died down. Sallying out they cut five or six long poles, and with some difficulty fixed these from above across from the cliff to the outstanding rock, pushed the bear's-skin across them, and lashed it there, its bulk being sufficient to cover the space above the fire and a considerable portion of their dwelling room.
After breakfast snow was again melted for the horses, and the work for the day thus done they seated themselves contentedly round the fire.
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