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certain quantity of fur or to be beggared and discredited, they were left entirely to their own devices. Weighted with traps and ammunition, they went mounted, and had led horses or pack-mules to carry their peltries. Their animals were of course an encumbrance and additional source of danger. They had sometimes to pick their way among precipices where the mountain sheep could scarcely find a footing, and to forage as they could on stony wastes, which towards winter buried deep in the snow-drifts. If the horses came to grief the furs must be abandoned, and all the trapper's sufferings were bootless. Had he gone afoot he might have skulked in the thickets and hoped to elude the savages. With a train of beasts his trail was conspicuous, and we repeat that it is a matter of marvel how any of those adventurers escaped.


Even had those regions been unpeopled, the rugged character of the country and the cruel severity of the winters would have made existence impossible to ordinary men. The trappers have left no written reminiscences, but one who shared their perils as an amateur has described a scene he witnessed, in an interlude between storms of snow and sleet, when crossing the high dividing ridge between the valleys of the Rio del Norte and the Arkansas. He had picked himself up after being fairly knocked off his feet by a blast that met him on the crest. He had scrambled up, leading his horse, with the pack-mules trailing behind :

"The view was wild and dismal in

the extreme. Looking back, the whole


country was covered with a thick carpet of snow, but eastward it was seen only in patches here and there. Before me lay the main chain of the Rocky Mountains, Pike's Peak lifting its head far above the rest. and covered with pine, and deep Rugged peaks and ridges, snow-clad gorges filled with broken rocks, everywhere met the eye. To the eastward the mountains gradually smoothed away into detached spurs and broken spurs, until they met the vast prairies, which stretched far as the eye could reach, and far beyond, a sea of seeming barrenness, vast and dismal. hurricane of wind was blowing at the time, and clouds of dust swept along the sandy prairies like the smoke of a million bonfires. On the mountaintop it roared and raved through the pines, filling the air with snow and broken branches, and piling it in huge drifts against the trees. The perfect solitude of this vast wildness was appalling. On all sides of me, broken ridges and chasms and ravines, with masses of piled-up rock and uprooted trees, with clouds of drifting snow flying through the air, and the hurricane's roar battling through the forest at my feet, added to the wildness of the scene, which was unrelieved

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by the slightest vestige of animal or

human life."

The allusion to the absence of animal life is suggestive. The trapper and the traderwho had loaded up, perhaps, with а little maize lived mainly by their guns. Before such a storm as is described, the game would desert a district and shift to more sheltered retreats. Then it was a case of absolute starvation, unless the wanderer had an unexpected stroke of luck. We may imagine the solitary wayfarer staggering forward with failing strength, his head bowed to the blast which pierced his very marrow, ravenous with hunger,

and knowing all the time that it was doubtful whether he would have another meal on earth. Naturally he had learned to eat anything. When even a Digger Indian could have found no roots, for the plants and the beetles were buried deep in the snow, he had supported nature for days on the carrion of the coyote or the foul flesh of the vulture. The rattle of the rattlesnake had been music in his ears, for that was comparatively a dainty, if he could only find fuel to cook it. However, he was never fastidious, and was content to devour it raw. Perhaps the nerves were never more sorely tried than when he sighted a black-tailed buck, or an outlying buffalo bull-some venerable patriarch worn to skin and bone, feeble but yet more vigorous than himself. Life and the square meal that would make him forget his troubles were hanging on the stalk and shot. His nerves might be good, but his fingers were frozen, and his arms shook involuntarily with the cold. If the bullet flew wide, as was more than likely, philosophy or fatalism came to his help, and he still plodded doggedly onward. For his motto was, "Never say die!" and he knew nothing of despair. Or if he ever resigned himself to the inevitable, it was when caught in a blizzard on the plains. The dangers of mountain travel were bad when he might have to take a perpendicular plunge into a cañon bottom in the darkness, with the chance of bringing a landslip or a snow avalanche along with him. But

the passage of a broad prairie in doubtful weather was like crossing the Jornado del Muerto in New Mexico, where there is not one drop of water in sixty miles of desert. If the blizzard broke, there was no shelter unless he could reach some clump of cotton - wood in a ravine. When the darkening scowl of the heavens brought premature night, he drifted aimlessly without guidance of any kind, for his brain was dazed and his instincts failed him. When he went through the mockery of camping, more from force of habit than anything else, to turn in fireless and supperless under his buffalo robe, it was by a miracle of hardihood he woke at all, to extricate himself from the drifts of snow and hailstones. But in ninetynine cases out of a hundred he dropped off into the sleep of death.

It was in 1822 that General Ashley, an enterprising Missourian, resolved to follow up the enterprise of Astor, and organise fur-hunting expeditions beyond the Rockies. Availing himself of the experience of Mr Henry, he established a post on the upper waters of the Yellowstone, whence his trappers pushed on to the Colorado of the West. His example animated others, and in a very few years there was keen competition among American adventurers on the Pacific slopes. They were encouraged by the fact that Ashley rapidly made a modest fortune. He sold his interest, and was succeeded by Sublette, renowned in frontier trading and fighting, who may

were lured to desertion by bribes and promises. Оссаsionally, rather than share prospective gains, one band would renounce the season's harvest, and lead another following jealously on their trail into some wilderness where furs were scarce, and both were confronted with starvation.

There was ample scope for that crafty strategy. On the Atlantic side of the mountains the trade was conducted with a certain system. It radiated from posts which were the local headquarters-whither the employés repaired with the products of the hunt, and where the Indians yearly brought their furs for barter. At the post of a Company there would be no competition, and unless excess in fiery spirits bred a riot, everything went off tolerably smoothly. But there were no regular forts between the Rockies and the Pacific, except the southerly outposts of the Hudson Bay Company; the natives were thievish, but not unfriendly on the whole, and they were widely scattered. There were no consolidated

be said to have founded the tached themselves to one side Rocky Mountain Fur Company. The new association was not left long without a rival, for its success brought the old America Fur Company into the field again. There was no lack of able partners to direct the trading operations, and of daring partisans to head their bands. Very soon, as they pushed westward down the Columbia, they came in contact with the agents of the Hudson Bay Company; and smaller syndicates from time to time tried their fortunes in that boundless field of adventure. It was a good time for the roving mountain men, always ready to hire themselves to the highest bidder, and seldom overscrupulous as to keeping their engagements. The partners, on whose dash and resource depended their Company's dividends, prided themselves as much on their craft as their courage. All methods which meant money-making were regarded as legitimate. They had learned their lessons of subtlety in the school of the Red men. It was natural that they should race for the best hunting and trading grounds, and many a clever trick was devised to steal a march upon watchful competitors. Two parties would meet around adjacent camp-fires, and, keeping up a friendly carouse into the small hours, exchange all manner of civilities. One of them, in the meantime, would be loading up the pack - mules, and would have marched many miles while the others were still slumbering. The free trappers who had provisionally at

tribes of well-armed warriors like Sioux or Blackfeet. They seldom attacked a well-equipped party, though the lives of the trappers who went singly or in pairs were none the safer on that account. So it was the custom for each Company to arrange a rendezvous in the summer months, where a market was opened for the Indians in the vicinity. As much mystery as might be was made of the place of meeting;


New York, and industriously pumped the veteran explorer, who was as willing to talk as Irving was to listen. Bonneville, who had served previously in the frontier fighting, engaged with the American Fur Company. As to outfit and all the arrangements, he seems to have been given a free hand. It was he who originated the bold idea of taking waggons across the plains and the hills. Hitherto all goods had been carried on pack - saddles. Those waggons of his in no way resembled the ponderous "prairie schooners," which afterwards took to the Santa Fé trail, carrying valuable cargoes to the New Mexican markets, and paving the way for American annexation. Still less were they modelled on the waggon of South Africa, dragged by a score or so of sluggish oxen, which tumbles to pieces with a capsize, and is as easily put together again. They were light, and built of tough hickory, and were drawn by a four-inhand of mules or horses. Assuming that they could scale the passes and thread the rocky gorges, the old soldier's idea was evidently admirable. He could load up heavily with goods and supplies. captain's supplies. Besides, he took an ambulant fort along with him, for when his waggons were formed up in a square, enclosing a hundred rifles more or less reliable, the boldest chief of Sioux or Blackfeet would shrink from breaking his teeth on the intrenchment. On dark nights and when the Indians were on the prowl, the animals were picketed under cover of the guns. His plan worked

but it was impossible to keep
the secret when the object was
to advertise. The market-
stance in the wilderness was
free to all comers; tents and
wigwams would spring up like
mushrooms, and rival bands
would make their unwelcome
appearance. The grand object
was to be first on the ground,
and to wheedle the aborigines
out of their furs before prices
ran up with competition. These
Indians were shrewd hands at a
bargain. Tempted as they were
by the treasures displayed, they
could have held on indefinitely
in hope of better terms.
the sight and smell of the fire-
water were irresistible, and
when the kegs were broached
the peltries were given away.
There was little to be picked up
by belated arrivals; they had
but the choice of carrying back
their goods or of caching them.
Consequently, as we said, all
devices were resorted to, and the
rival partisans stuck at nothing.
Two of the most picturesque
of American writers have de-
scribed the methods and habits
of those mountain men. Wash-
ington Irving, in 'The Adven-
tures of Captain Bonneville,'
goes into details, personally
gathered from the captain's
fresh recollections, of the des-
perate scramble of the Com-
panies on the Pacific side.
Years afterwards Parkman, the
great historian of the French
in Canada, went as a mere lad
"on the Oregon trail," sharing
the dangers and hardships of
roving bands of the Indians, by
way of strengthening a deli-
cate constitution. Irving met
Bonneville at dinner-tables in

well upon the whole, but the journey was a wonderful record of resolute struggles with difficulties. On the prairies, flooded by rain, the wheels stuck in the mud, and the mules were wellnigh strained to pieces. Then the weather changed, and in the intense heat the woodwork shrank and the tyres 'dropped off. Across the Black Hills and up the Rocky slopes he threaded his way in a labyrinth of riverbeds, among rocks fallen from above, and boulders brought down by the torrents. But it was only on the summit of the mountains that the waggons were abandoned; for if the ascent had been dangerous, the descent was impossible. Then the goods were transferred to the backs of the unharnessed teams, and the train stumbled downwards in single file.

The inhospitable wilds had been solitary enough, and yet not altogether so solitary as he would have desired. He was overtaken by bands of the Rocky Mountain Fur Company, of other associations, and by parties of free-trappers, all pressing forward to the general goal, though as to exact destinations all would be guided by circumstances. Among the men with whose experience and ingenuity he had to contend were names of renown in the romance of the fur trade-Sublette and Fitzpatrick, for example-who were never daunted by danger, and seldom at the end of their resources. The great thing was to arrange an efficient intelligence department, with capable scouts to report the movements of other adventurers. Not that

the rivals ever actually came to blows, as in the bloody feuds between Hudson Bayers and North Westers. Sometimes, indeed, parties would unite in a common peril, and there is an animated account of storming a natural stronghold, where a swampy covert was held in force by a body of Blackfeet. Sometimes a partisan chief, to secure the season's trade, would risk an almost desperate enterprise, as when Fitzpatrick rode out alone to look for a lagging convoy, was tracked and followed up by the Indians, to reappear after days of lurking in the mountains, when he had been given up for dead. In avoiding pursuit he had nearly perished of cold and hunger, for he dared neither discharge his rifle nor kindle a fire. That, indeed, was a common experience when a man was lying close, with the scalp-hunters on his trail. But even at headquarters, in a winter camp, short commons might be confidently reckoned with. The fall of the snow suspended trapping; the passes were blocked and the waters frozen. Bonneville camped his first season on the banks of the Salmon River, where game and fish are abundant in the summer, but where even the natives are invariably in straits before spring raises the blockade. His party soon felt the pressure of hunger, and neither Nez Percés nor Flatheads were in a position to help them. Yet others of the band were worse off than himself, for a party of his belated trappers were unaccounted for. There is nothing more thrilling in the sensational narrative than

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