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and knowing all the time that the passage of a broad prairie it was doubtful whether he in doubtful weather was like would have another meal on crossing the Jornado del Muerto earth. Naturally he had learned in New Mexico, where there is to eat anything. When even a not one drop of water in sixty Digger Indian could have found miles of desert. If the blizzard no roots, for the plants and the broke, there was no shelter unbeetles were buried deep in the less he could reach some clump snow, he had supported nature of cotton - wood in a ravine. for days on the carrion of the When the darkening scowl of coyote or the foul flesh of the the heavens brought premature vulture. The rattle of the night, he drifted aimlessly withrattlesnake had been music in out guidance of any kind, for his ears, for that was compara- his brain was dazed and his tively a dainty, if he could only instincts failed him. When he find fuel to cook it. However, went through the mockery of he was never fastidious, and was camping, more from force of content to devour it raw. Per- habit than anything else, to haps the nerves
never turn in fireless and supperless more sorely tried than when he under his buffalo robe, it was sighted a black-tailed buck, or by a miracle of hardihood he an outlying buffalo bull—some woke at all, to extricate himvenerable patriarch worn to self from the drifts of snow skin and bone, feeble but yet and hailstones. But in ninetymore vigorous than himself. nine cases out of a hundred he Life and the square meal that dropped off into the sleep of would make him forget his death. troubles were hanging on the It was in 1822 that General stalk and shot. His nerves Ashley, an enterprising Mismight be good, but his fingers sourian, resolved to follow up were frozen, and his arms shook the enterprise of Astor, and orinvoluntarily with the cold. If ganise fur-hunting expeditions the bullet Hew wide, as was beyond the Rockies. Availing more than likely, philosophy himself of the experience of Mr or fatalism came to his help, Henry, he established a post and he still plodded doggedly on the upper waters of the onward. For his motto was, Yellowstone, whence his trap“Never say die !” and he knew pers pushed on to the Colorado nothing of despair. Or if he of the West. His example aniever resigned himself to the mated others, and in a very few inevitable, it was when caught years there was keen competiin a blizzard on the plains. tion among American advenThe dangers of mountain travel turers on the Pacific slopes. were bad—when he might have They were encouraged by the to take a perpendicular plunge fact that Ashley rapidly made into a cañon bottom in the a modest fortune. He sold his darkness, with the chance of interest, and was succeeded by bringing a landslip or a snow Sublette, renowned in frontier avalanche along with him. But trading and fighting, who may
] be said to have founded the tached themselves to one side Rocky Mountain Fur Company: were lured to desertion by The new association was not left bribes and promises.
Occalong without a rival, for its suc- sionally, rather than share proscess brought the old America pective gains, one band would Fur Company into the field renounce the season's harvest, again. There was no lack of and lead another following jealable partners to direct the trad- ously on their trail into some ing operations , and of daring wilderness where
furs were partisans to head their bands. scarce, and
conVery soon, as they pushed west- fronted with starvation. ward down the Columbia, they
There was ample scope for came in contact with the agents that crafty strategy. On the of the Hudson Bay Company; Atlantic side of the mountains and smaller syndicates from the trade was conducted with time to time tried their for- a certain system. It radiated tunes in that boundless field of from posts which were the local adventure. It was a good time headquarters—whither the emfor the roving mountain men, ployés repaired with the proalways ready to hire themselves ducts of the hunt, and where to the highest bidder, and seldom the Indians yearly brought their overscrupulous as to keeping furs for barter.
furs for barter. At the post of their engagements. The part- a Company there would be no ners, on whose dash and resource competition, and unless excess depended their Company's divi- in fiery spirits bred a riot, dends, prided themselves as everything went off tolerably much on their craft as their smoothly. But there were no courage.
All methods which regular forts between the meant money-making were re- Rockies and the Pacific, except garded as legitimate. They the southerly outposts of the had learned their lessons of Hudson Bay Company; the subtlety in the school of the natives were thievish, but not Red men. It was natural that unfriendly on the whole, and they should race for the best they were widely scattered. hunting and trading grounds, There
consolidated and many a clever trick was tribes of well-armed warriors devised to steal a march upon like Sioux or Blackfeet. They watchful competitors.
Two seldom attacked a well-equipped parties would meet around ad- party, though the lives of the jacent camp-fires, and, keeping trappers who went singly or up a friendly carouse into the in pairs were none the safer small hours, exchange all man on that account. ner of civilities. One of them, the custom for each Comin the meantime, would be load- pany to arrange a rendezvous ing up the pack - mules, and in the summer months, where would have marched many a market was opened for the miles while the others were Indians in the vicinity. As still slumbering. The free trap- much mystery as might be was pers who had provisionally at- made of the place of meeting;
So it was
but it was impossible to keep New York, and industriously the secret when the object was pumped the veteran explorer, to advertise. The market- who was as willing to talk as stance in the wilderness was Irving was to listen. Bonnefree to all comers; tents and ville, who had served previously wigwams would spring up like in the frontier fighting, engaged mushrooms, and rival bands with the American Fur Comwould make their unwelcome pany. As to outfit and all the appearance. The grand object arrangements, he seems to have was to be first on the ground, been given a free hand. It was and to wheedle the aborigines he who originated the bold idea out of their furs before prices of taking waggons across the ran up with competition. These plains and the hills. Hitherto Indians were shrewd hands at a all goods had been carried on bargain. Tempted as they were pack - saddles. Those waggons by the treasures displayed, they of his in no way resembled the could have held on indefinitely ponderous “prairie schooners,” in hope of better terms. But which afterwards took to the the sight and smell of the fire- Santa Fé trail, carrying valuwater were irresistible, and able cargoes to the New Mexican when the kegs were broached markets, and paving the way the peltries were given away. for American annexation. Stiil There was little to be picked up less were they modelled on the by belated arrivals; they had waggon of South Africa, dragged but the choice of carrying back by a
so of sluggish their goods or of caching them. oxen, which tumbles to pieces Consequently, as we said, all with a capsize, and is as easily devices were resorted to, and the put together again. They were rival partisans stuck at nothing. light, and built of tough hickory,
Two of the most picturesque and were drawn by a four-inof American writers have de- hand of mules or horses. Asscribed the methods and habits suming that they could scale of those mountain men. Wash- the passes and thread the rocky ington Irving, in “The Adven- gorges, the old soldier's idea was tures of Captain Bonneville,' evidently admirable. He could goes into details, personally load up heavily with goods and gathered from the captain's supplies. Besides, he took an fresh recollections, of the des- ambulant fort along with him, perate scramble of the Com for when his waggons were panies on the Pacific side. formed up in a square, enclosYears afterwards Parkman, the ing a hundred rifles more or great historian of the French less reliable, the boldest chief in Canada, went as a mere lad of Sioux or Blackfeet would “on the Oregon trail,” sharing shrink from breaking his teeth the dangers and hardships of on the intrenchment. On dark roving bands of the Indians, by nights and when the Indians way of strengthening a deli- were on the prowl, the animals cate constitution. Irving met were picketed under cover of Bonneville at dinner-tables in the guns. His plan worked
well upon the whole, but the the rivals ever actually came to journey was a wonderful record blows, as in the bloody feuds of resolute struggles with diffi- between Hudson Bayers and culties. On the prairies, flooded North - Westers. Sometimes, by rain, the wheels stuck in the indeed, parties would unite in a mud, and the mules were well- common peril, and there is an nigh strained to pieces. Then animated account of storming the weather changed, and in a natural stronghold, where a the intense heat the woodwork swampy covert was held in force shrank and the tyres 'dropped by a body of Blackfeet. Someoff. Across the Black Hills and times a partisan chief, to secure up the Rocky slopes he threaded the season's trade, would risk an his way in a labyrinth of river- almost desperate enterprise, as beds, among rocks fallen from when Fitzpatrick rode out alone above, and boulders brought to look for a lagging convoy, down by the torrents. But it was tracked and followed up by was only on the summit of the the Indians, to reappear after mountains that the waggons days of lurking in the mounwere abandoned; for if the tains, when he had been given ascent had been dangerous, the up for dead. In avoiding purdescent was impossible. Then suit he had nearly perished of the goods were transferred to cold and hunger, for he dared the backs of the unharnessed neither discharge his rifle nor teams, and the train stumbled kindle a fire. That, indeed, was downwards in single file. a common experience when a
The inhospitable wilds had man was lying close, with the been solitary enough, and yet scalp-hunters on his trail. But not altogether so solitary as he even at headquarters, in a winwould have desired.
ter camp, short commons might overtaken by bands of the be confidently reckoned with. Rocky Mountain Fur Company, The fall of the snow suspendof other associations, and by ed trapping; the passes were parties of free-trappers, all press- blocked and the waters frozen. ing forward to the general goal, Bonneville camped his first seathough as to exact destinations son on the banks of the Salmon all would be guided by circum- River, where game and fish are stances. Among the men with abundant in the summer, but whose experience and ingenuity where even the natives are inhe had to contend were names variably in straits before spring of renown in the romance of the raises the blockade. His party fur trade-Sublette and Fitz- soon felt the pressure of hunger, patrick, for example—who were and neither Nez Percés nor never daunted by danger, and Flatheads were in a position to seldom at the end of their re- help them. Yet others of the sources. The great thing was band were worse off than himto arrange an efficient intelli- self, for a party of his belated gence department, with capable trappers were unaccounted for. scouts to report the movements There is nothing more thrilling of other adventurers. Not that in the sensational narrative than
the story of suffering and stern changing their habits, and, like endurance when he went out the stage-coachman when run with a search expedition. Sav- off their boxes by the rail, had ages were manoeuvring to cut been betaking themselves to em off, and every night, ex- other pursuits more
or less hausted as they were, they had congenial. The hatters of St to improvise a rude breastwork James's and the Rue St Honoré of fallen trees and vegetable had taken to using silk instead rubbish. When the provisions of beaver. The United States finally gave out they were saved had been garrisoning forts in almost by a miracle, driving the wilderness, and many of the some half-starved buffalo on to mountain boys attached themthe ice, where they slipped, fell, selves to these as hunters, guides, and were slaughtered. They and scouts. In rare cases they could scarcely make head against had softened their manners the blasts of icy wind, yet that without losing anything of their wind proved their salvation, for dash and courage. Parkman their lives depended on their placed himself in the hands of horses, and the only grazing Henry Châtillon, famous among the poor
animals could find was frontier men for his shooting where some scrap of coarse pas- and scouting. He found him a turage had been swept by the staunch comrade, a chivalrous blizzard. But those brave fel- gentleman, and a devoted huslows felt amply rewarded for band and father to boot, though their sufferings when they hap- he had sought a wife in a wigpily lighted on the missing men.
But the old types of Bonneville returned to civilisa- rugged and undaunted brutality tion after a three years' absence. were by no means extinct—men He seems to have come back who were doggedly fearless bewith the conviction that beyond cause absolutely unimaginative. certain limits it was hopeless to Adroit tacticians, they were contend with the Hudson Bay careless of strategy; they Company.
Organisation, dis- scanned the ground at their cipline, ample capital, above feet for "sign” and never looked all, established posts, and an abroad. Parkman met two of effective chain of communica- them at Fort Laramie, and their tions with Canada, gave the conduct was so characteristic of great association an unassail- the old breed that it is worth able superiority.
noting. The Arapahoes having Parkman went on the Ore- refused to give up a murderer, gon
trail in 1846. In a had gone out on the war-path preface to the fourth edition, and were circumventing the published nearly thirty years fort. Each outlet was watched afterwards, he
says, “ The by eager eyes, and the smoke mountain trapper is no more, from the Indian fires went up and the grim romance of his from all directions. But wild, hard life is a memory of couple of trappers — Rouleau
Even in 1846 the and Seraphin — had arranged survivors of the race had been for a start, and would not be