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least they had a religion of a sort. They believed in the Great Spirit: they sought to propitiate malignant powers and the destructive forces of the elements. The trapper, as a rule, was absolutely irreligious and godless. The wildest storm that ever broke only suggested to him the necessity of kindling the camp-fire in some shelter where it was possible to keep it in, and the propriety of arranging his buffalo robe so that the water would easily run off. It is safe to say that before the New Englanders and the Kentucky or Ohio housewives plodded out into the prairies behind sluggish ox-teams, no Bible had ever been seen beyond the Mississippi; and a missionary would have made easier impression on a Jew or Chinee than on those children of the wilderness, absorbed in their devotion to materialism. But though careless or unconscious of celestial influences, they were not unsusceptible to the tender passion. They were always marrying in mountain fashion and getting divorced. Sometimes the squaws would be swapped for dollars. The confirmed celibates were very few. Many of the mountaineers had had as many wives as any Mormon elder; but they took the ladies in succession in place of simultaneously. Sometimes these fleeting unions had a dash of romance in them, as when an inflammable mountain boy was fired by the charms of some olive-complexioned beauty at a fandango, when he had been raiding down in New Mexico. More often, in the Wild West, as in Belgravia, practical con

siderations suggested the match, and the Indian squaw was a serviceable drudge who cooked the deer-meat and mended the moccasins. Apropos to broidered moccasins, some of the trappers were dandies in their way. They must have carried razors, for they were cleanshaven; but the long hair that fell in luxuriance over their shoulders was carefully anointed with bear's-grease and buffalomarrow. No wonder those flowing love-locks were tempting trophies for the Indians. Their ordinary wear was buckskin, and leggings often fringed with scalps; but when off duty and returning from a successful trip, they got themselves up in the height of sporting finery. There was the cap of foxskin or beaverpelt, with the tail dangling behind the ear; the embroidered shirt of softly dressed deerskin ; the fantastically fringed leggings and the ornamented moccasins. But unless they had a rare run of luck with the cards, the gay gala suit was sure soon to change owners. For all, without exception, were inveterate gamblers, and their idea of a happy holiday was to get quickly rid of their gains at poker or euchre. The camps and posts, where they mustered after the hunts, were infested by traders, who grew bloated as spiders, while their customers remained lean. No mountain man ever laid on flesh or went out of condition by indulging in a prolonged period of good living. Needless to say, they all drank deep; yet they appreciated coffee even more than whisky, and coffee, powder, and villanous

spirits changed hands through the trading at exorbitant prices. Between gambling and other dissipation they were speedily cleaned out, and had either to engage themselves anew to some trading company or borrow an outfit for the next free expedition on usurious terms. Yet, on second thoughts, considering the risks they ran, no terms could well be deemed excessive. So far as we remember, the only member of the fraternity who retired to die peaceably with a competence was the celebrated Kit Carson. For Bent, who made his pile, went under in the massacre at Taos. And Kit, who was as famous a guide as he was a fighter, was a man of altogether exceptional genius, and of still more exceptional strength of will. For few could refuse to drink or gamble when the discourtesy was taken as the challenge to a duel.

These trappers were the last men to be addicted to seeing visions or dreaming dreams. But could any one of them have projected his spirit into the future, seeking to emulate the wizards or medicine-men of the Sioux or Blackfeet, he would assuredly, in his own emphatic language, have declared that hell was full of such doings. What trapper of fifty years ago could have imagined a time when the countless herds of the buffalo would be exterminated; when the Indians who had subsisted on them would have followed in their tracks, transferring the chase to their happy hunting grounds; when the

broad prairies between the Mississippi and the Black Hills would be waving in expanses of golden grain; when the shriek of the engine would replace the scream of the eagle in the cañons of the Rockies spanned by girder bridges; and when the mountain torrents of Nevada or Idaho would be dammed to drive stamping machinery among the shafts and adits of busy mining townships? The trappers have gone, and have been succeeded in their turn by gold-seekers, road agents, and cowboys almost as lawless. Were they to come back, they would be in a changed and uncongenial world; a world in which the liberty of the free and independent hunter would be perpetually in conflict. with obnoxious and newfangled laws; a world where the wiping out of a red varmint, far from being as much a matter of merit as setting the heel on a rattlesnake's head, would lead to a trial that might end in a halter; a world where the friendly knifethrust that clenched a heated argument might mean penal seclusion on the silent system. Nevertheless they would chiefly have themselves to thank, for they mainly contributed to changes they would have deplored.

We have told in a former article1 how the fur trade of the North had been virtually monopolised by the rival Canadian Companies, till Astor pushed his enterprise by land and sea to the headquarters he established on the Columbia estuary. In the war between

'See 'Blackwood's Magazine' for October 1898.

Britain and America Fort Astor passed into English hands, and changed its name to Fort George. The North-West Company had raced him to his goal, and remained after his ejection to reap the fruits of his labours. They did not enjoy the lucrative monopoly for long. The Hudson Bay Company followed fast on their heels, and, after some years of ruinous competition, the impoverished partners of the North-West sued for peace, and the associations were amalgamated. The predominant partner gave the name to the new society; but though it traded under the title of Hudson Bay, it is noteworthy that its agents were always known to the mountain men as the North-Westers. The Hudson Bayers were foreigners from the Far North; the NorthWesters were neighbours, so to speak, who had latterly enlisted their services. For the Hudson Bay Company had originally traded in regions studded with lakes or inland seas, and traversed in every direction by water - channels. Consequently their wares had been transported by boats, and for the most part their employés were Canadian voyageurs. These men were familiar with the paddle, and prided themselves on their skill in navigating broken water or shooting the rapids. But they never pretended to readiness with the rifle, and were little to be relied upon in a scrimmage with the savages. The North-Westers, in extending their ventures to the south of the Great Lakes and the west of the Mississippi, struck

into regions where boats were to be abandoned, and where their mounted mounted parties, surrounded by dangers and threatened by surprises, must depend entirely on themselves. Hence they had to engage men of a very different stamp, and recruits were to be found in abundance among the restless spirits of the frontier.

Henry of the Missouri Company had crossed the Rockies in 1808, and we have described the frightful sufferings and hardships endured by Astor's overland expedition to the mouth of the Columbia. When Astor's enterprise had come to grief, the experiences of his pioneering parties, notwithstanding the profitable trade they had opened, acted rather as а deterrent than as encouragement. The superstitions which had enhanced the terrors of the Rockies may have been dispelled, but the material obstacles seemed more formidable than before. For a dozen of years the American fur-traders confined their operations to the Eastern watershed; nor had they any immediate inducement to go farther. Their daring hunters were the first to explore the head waters of the Missouri, the Yellowstone, and the shallow Platte, with the innumerable tributaries of the streams flowing towards the Mississippi. It was the golden age of the trapper: he had dollars for the gathering, and as to profusion of game, he was in a paradise. Countless buffalo swarmed on the plains in the periodical migrations; he gorged himself on the choicest fresh meat when

the hunts were in full swing,
and jerked strips of the flesh
for future use. When the buf-
falo failed, there were antelope
on the prairie, and black- or
white-tailed deer in every
wooded bottom. But the big
game only supplied his larder,
for he did not trouble himself
to dress the bulky buffalo robes
which afterwards became a prof-
itable article of trade. His
business was the trapping of
the beaver, and in these days
each beaver-plew of full-grown
animal or “kitten" fetched six
to eight dollars overhead. The
beavers had multiplied undis-
turbed from time immemorial;
indeed some of the Red men
who believed in transmigration
of souls claimed kindred with
those solemn amphibious archi-
tects. Their dams were to be
seen in every rivulet; they left
their "sign" on the bank of
each sandy creek; in some
places there were populous settle-
ments beneath lakes of their
own formation. The beavers
were plentiful enough; the
trouble was to trap them. And
nothing gives a better idea of
the imperturbable coolness of
the trappers. They had pa-
tiently to puzzle out the "sign,"
and note the spot where the
animal took to treading the
shallows. There the trap was
to be set, and with every sort
of deliberate precaution. No
animal is more warily sagacious;
his suspicion is instinctive, and
his keenness of scent almost pre-
ternatural. Details had to be
carefully attended to; and haste
or carelessness was fatal to suc-
Yet all the time there
was every chance that the trap-

per was being stalked by skulk-
ing enemies. If he were not
transfixed when bending over
his work by an arrow from an
ambush, there was the proba-
bility that the trap for the
beaver might prove a snare for
himself. When he came back
next morning to see what his
luck was, the enemy might be
lying in wait to take him un-

The mystery is how any one
of these men escaped. The
country to the west of the
Rockies was in possession of
warlike tribes, who naturally
resented intrusion on their hunt-
ing-grounds. Sioux, Blackfeet,
and the sneaking Crows, who
had an exceptional reputation
as thieves and horse - stealers,
were always at feud among
themselves, and consequently
ever on the alert. They threw
out mounted pickets in all di-
rections from their villages and
encampments, whose business
it was to observe and report
any signs of hostile movement.
A thread of smoke seen in the
distance attracted attention at
once, and a startled deer or
a fluttered water - fowl was
enough to invite close investi-
gation. It was impossible that
a troop of white men, careless
about the trail they left, which
indeed they could in no case
cover, should elude observation.
The rather that, while the In-
dians smothered their fires, or
dispensed with them altogether,
when within possible touch of
an enemy, the trappers would
bivouac round a blazing pile
when fuel in sufficient quantity
was forthcoming.
The pillar
of fiery cloud flashing far and

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near was a sort of contemptu- war - whoop; the picket - ropes ous challenge to the Redskins were cut, the beasts were stamto come on. It seldom pleased peded, and the baffled hunters them to come on in these cir- were left to go afoot. Such cumstances. The Indian had mishaps were at first excepa superstition against attacks tional: when they did happen, in the dark. Moreover, he knew the assailants were generally that the whites kept their eyes out of temper and reckless on skinned. The men lay around returning discomfited from some with feet radiating to the fire, unsuccessful raid. Besides, the each with his rifle ready to his trappers were for the most part hand. A guard was told off accompanied by traders, and to look after the horses, and the Indians let the cavalcade sentinels were regularly, though go by as much from policy as irregularly, set. For it need from prudence. They had no hardly be said they did not desire to scare away the men stand at attention to be shot who brought them powder and at, or pace to and fro with fire-water for barter. But when disciplined precision. They were those flying expeditions began anywhere or everywhere: they to cross the mountains, and to were lying flat on their bellies, open markets on the Pacific with eyes peering keenly out slope, the tribes who held the into the darkness; or they were passes saw matters in a differcrawling and taking advantage ent light. Now that there was of each scrap of cover, pausing competition, it struck them it from time to time to listen with was cheaper to plunder the carears pricked like the coyote's. avan than to trade with it, and, The first intimation the prowl- ambushed among the rocks of ing marauder might have of gorges and cañons, they could their proximity would probably shoot down their embarrassed be the gun-flash that heralded victims with small personal risk. a bullet in the body. If any- It was only after a few surprises thing could screw up the In- of the kind that the partisans, dians' courage to a nocturnal as they were called, who led the onset, it was the irresistible trapping bands, began to learn temptation of a haul of horse- some rude principles of military flesh. The animals were se- strategy. They threw out adcured and picketed somewhat vance-guards, they crowned the apart from the fire and the heights with scouts, and threaded main body; and if there were the defiles in relative security. an attack, it was sure to be delivered in storm or rain and fitful moonlight, when the howling of the wind drowned other sounds, and the rain might have disarmed the vigilance of the guard or soaked the priming of the rifles. Then the slumbering camp was roused by the

But it was when the band broke up, and the members were detached to hunt in couples, that the danger and romance of desperate adventure really began. Often absolutely ignorant of the country, armed only with the long single barrel and a knife, bound to bring back a

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