Part 2 - The Last of the Plainsmen Audiobook by Zane Grey (Chs 06-11)

Uploaded by CCProse on 14.11.2011

For thirty miles down Nail Canyon we marked, in every dusty trail and sandy
wash, the small, oval, sharply defined tracks of the White Mustang and his band.
The canyon had been well named.
It was long, straight and square sided; its bare walls glared steel-gray in the sun,
smooth, glistening surfaces that had been polished by wind and water.
No weathered heaps of shale, no crumbled piles of stone obstructed its level floor.
And, softly toning its drab austerity, here grew the white sage, waving in the breeze,
the Indian Paint Brush, with vivid vermilion flower, and patches of fresh,
green grass.
"The White King, as we Arizona wild-hoss wranglers calls this mustang, is mighty
pertickler about his feed, an' he ranged along here last night, easy like, browsin'
on this white sage," said Stewart.
Inflected by our intense interest in the famous mustang, and ruffled slightly by
Jones's manifest surprise and contempt that no one had captured him, Stewart had
volunteered to guide us.
"Never knowed him to run in this way fer water; fact is, never knowed Nail Canyon
had a fork. It splits down here, but you'd think it was
only a crack in the wall.
An' thet cunnin' mustang hes been foolin' us fer years about this water-hole."
The fork of Nail Canyon, which Stewart had decided we were in, had been accidentally
discovered by Frank, who, in search of our horses one morning had crossed a ridge, to
come suddenly upon the blind, box-like head of the canyon.
Stewart knew the lay of the ridges and run of the canyons as well as any man could
know a country where, seemingly, every rod was ridged and bisected, and he was of the
opinion that we had stumbled upon one of
the White Mustang's secret passages, by which he had so often eluded his pursuers.
Hard riding had been the order of the day, but still we covered ten more miles by
The canyon apparently closed in on us, so camp was made for the night.
The horses were staked out, and supper made ready while the shadows were dropping; and
when darkness settled thick over us, we lay under our blankets.
Morning disclosed the White Mustang's secret passage.
It was a narrow cleft, splitting the canyon wall, rough, uneven, tortuous and choked
with fallen rocks--no more than a wonderful crack in solid stone, opening into another
Above us the sky seemed a winding, flowing stream of blue.
The walls were so close in places that a horse with pack would have been blocked,
and a rider had to pull his legs up over the saddle.
On the far side, the passage fell very suddenly for several hundred feet to the
floor of the other canyon. No hunter could have seen it, or suspected
it from that side.
"This is Grand Canyon country, an' nobody knows what he's goin' to find," was Frank's
comment. "Now we're in Nail Canyon proper," said
Stewart; "An' I know my bearin's.
I can climb out a mile below an' cut across to Kanab Canyon, an' slip up into Nail
Canyon agin, ahead of the mustangs, an' drive 'em up.
I can't miss 'em, fer Kanab Canyon is impassable down a little ways.
The mustangs will hev to run this way. So all you need do is go below the break,
where I climb out, an' wait.
You're sure goin' to get a look at the White Mustang.
But wait. Don't expect him before noon, an' after
thet, any time till he comes.
Mebbe it'll be a couple of days, so keep a good watch."
Then taking our man Lawson, with blankets and a knapsack of food, Stewart rode off
down the canyon.
We were early on the march. As we proceeded the canyon lost its
regularity and smoothness; it became crooked as a rail fence, narrower, higher,
rugged and broken.
Pinnacled cliffs, cracked and leaning, menaced us from above.
Mountains of ruined wall had tumbled into fragments.
It seemed that Jones, after much survey of different corners, angles and points in the
canyon floor, chose his position with much greater care than appeared necessary for
the ultimate success of our venture--which
was simply to see the White Mustang, and if good fortune attended us, to snap some
photographs of this wild king of horses.
It flashed over me that, with his ruling passion strong within him, our leader was
laying some kind of trap for that mustang, was indeed bent on his capture.
Wallace, Frank and Jim were stationed at a point below the break where Stewart had
evidently gone up and out. How a horse could have climbed that streaky
white slide was a mystery.
Jones's instructions to the men were to wait until the mustangs were close upon
them, and then yell and shout and show themselves.
He took me to a jutting corner of cliff, which hid us from the others, and here he
exercised still more care in scrutinizing the lay of the ground.
A wash from ten to fifteen feet wide, and as deep, ran through the canyon in a
somewhat meandering course.
At the corner which consumed so much of his attention, the dry ditch ran along the
cliff wall about fifty feet out; between it and the wall was good level ground, on the
other side huge rocks and shale made it
hummocky, practically impassable for a horse.
It was plain the mustangs, on their way up, would choose the inside of the wash; and
here in the middle of the passage, just round the jutting corner, Jones tied our
horses to good, strong bushes.
His next act was significant. He threw out his lasso and, dragging every
crook out of it, carefully recoiled it, and hung it loose over the pommel of his
"The White Mustang may be yours before dark," he said with the smile that came so
seldom. "Now I placed our horses there for two
The mustangs won't see them till they're right on them.
Then you'll see a sight and have a chance for a great picture.
They will halt; the stallion will prance, whistle and snort for a fight, and then
they'll see the saddles and be off.
We'll hide across the wash, down a little way, and at the right time we'll shout and
yell to drive them up." By piling sagebrush round a stone, we made
a hiding-place.
Jones was extremely cautious to arrange the bunches in natural positions.
"A Rocky Mountain Big Horn is the only four-footed beast," he said, "that has a
better eye than a wild horse.
A cougar has an eye, too; he's used to lying high up on the cliffs and looking
down for his quarry so as to stalk it at night; but even a cougar has to take second
to a mustang when it comes to sight."
The hours passed slowly. The sun baked us; the stones were too hot
to touch; flies buzzed behind our ears; tarantulas peeped at us from holes.
The afternoon slowly waned.
At dark we returned to where we had left Wallace and the cowboys.
Frank had solved the problem of water supply, for he had found a little spring
trickling from a cliff, which, by skillful management, produced enough drink for the
We had packed our water for camp use. "You take the first watch to-night," said
Jones to me after supper.
"The mustangs might try to slip by our fire in the night and we must keep a watch or
them. Call Wallace when your time's up.
Now, fellows, roll in."
When the pink of dawn was shading white, we were at our posts.
A long, hot day--interminably long, deadening to the keenest interest--passed,
and still no mustangs came.
We slept and watched again, in the grateful cool of night, till the third day broke.
The hours passed; the cool breeze changed to hot; the sun blazed over the canyon
wall; the stones scorched; the flies buzzed.
I fell asleep in the scant shade of the sage bushes and awoke, stifled and moist.
The old plainsman, never weary, leaned with his back against a stone and watched, with
narrow gaze, the canyon below.
The steely walls hurt my eyes; the sky was like hot copper.
Though nearly wild with heat and aching bones and muscles and the long hours of
wait--wait--wait, I was ashamed to complain, for there sat the old man, still
and silent.
I routed out a hairy tarantula from under a stone and teased him into a frenzy with my
stick, and tried to get up a fight between him and a scallop-backed horned-toad that
blinked wonderingly at me.
Then I espied a green lizard on a stone. The beautiful reptile was about a foot in
length, bright green, dotted with red, and he had diamonds for eyes.
Nearby a purple flower blossomed, delicate and pale, with a bee sucking at its golden
I observed then that the lizard had his jewel eyes upon the bee; he slipped to the
edge of the stone, flicked out a long, red tongue, and tore the insect from its
honeyed perch.
Here were beauty, life and death; and I had been weary for something to look at, to
think about, to distract me from the wearisome wait!
"Listen!" broke in Jones's sharp voice.
His neck was stretched, his eyes were closed, his ear was turned to the wind.
With thrilling, reawakened eagerness, I strained my hearing.
I caught a faint sound, then lost it.
"Put your ear to the ground," said Jones. I followed his advice, and detected the
rhythmic beat of galloping horses. "The mustangs are coming, sure as you're
born!" exclaimed Jones.
"There I see the cloud of dust!" cried he a minute later.
In the first bend of the canyon below, a splintered ruin of rock now lay under a
rolling cloud of dust.
A white flash appeared, a line of bobbing black objects, and more dust; then with a
sharp pounding of hoofs, into clear vision shot a dense black band of mustangs, and
well in front swung the White King.
"Look! Look!
I never saw the beat of that--never in my born days!" cried Jones.
"How they move! yet that white fellow isn't half-stretched out.
Get your picture before they pass. You'll never see the beat of that."
With long manes and tails flying, the mustangs came on apace and passed us in a
trampling roar, the white stallion in the front.
Suddenly a shrill, whistling blast, unlike any sound I had ever heard, made the canyon
fairly ring. The white stallion plunged back, and his
band closed in behind him.
He had seen our saddle horses. Then trembling, whinnying, and with arched
neck and high-poised head, bespeaking his mettle, he advanced a few paces, and again
whistled his shrill note of defiance.
Pure creamy white he was, and built like a racer.
He pranced, struck his hoofs hard and cavorted; then, taking sudden fright, he
It was then, when the mustangs were pivoting, with the white in the lead, that
Jones jumped upon the stone, fired his pistol and roared with all his strength.
Taking his cue, I did likewise.
The band huddled back again, uncertain and frightened, then broke up the canyon.
Jones jumped the ditch with surprising agility, and I followed close at his heels.
When we reached our plunging horses, he shouted: "Mount, and hold this passage.
Keep close in by that big stone at the turn so they can't run you down, or stampede
If they head your way, scare them back." Satan quivered, and when I mounted, reared
and plunged. I had to hold him in hard, for he was eager
to run.
At the cliff wall I was at some pains to check him.
He kept champing his bit and stamping his feet.
From my post I could see the mustangs flying before a cloud of dust.
Jones was turning in his horse behind a large rock in the middle of the canyon,
where he evidently intended to hide.
Presently successive yells and shots from our comrades blended in a roar which the
narrow box-canyon augmented and echoed from wall to wall.
High the White Mustang reared, and above the roar whistled his snort of furious
terror. His band wheeled with him and charged back,
their hoofs ringing like hammers on iron.
The crafty old buffalo-hunter had hemmed the mustangs in a circle and had left
himself free in the center. It was a wily trick, born of his quick mind
and experienced eye.
The stallion, closely crowded by his followers, moved swiftly I saw that he must
pass near the stone. Thundering, crashing, the horses came on.
Away beyond them I saw Frank and Wallace.
Then Jones yelled to me: "Open up! open up!"
I turned Satan into the middle of the narrow passage, screaming at the top of my
voice and discharging my revolver rapidly.
But the wild horses thundered on. Jones saw that they would not now be
balked, and he spurred his bay directly in their path.
The big horse, courageous as his intrepid master, dove forward.
Then followed confusion for me.
The pound of hoofs, the snorts, a screaming neigh that was frightful, the mad stampede
of the mustangs with a whirling cloud of dust, bewildered and frightened me so that
I lost sight of Jones.
Danger threatened and passed me almost before I was aware of it.
Out of the dust a mass of tossing manes, foam-flecked black horses, wild eyes and
lifting hoofs rushed at me.
Satan, with a presence of mind that shamed mine, leaped back and hugged the wall.
My eyes were blinded by dust; the smell of dust choked me.
I felt a strong rush of wind and a mustang grazed my stirrup.
Then they had passed, on the wings of the dust-laden breeze.
But not all, for I saw that Jones had, in some inexplicable manner, cut the White
Mustang and two of his blacks out of the band.
He had turned them back again and was pursuing them.
The bay he rode had never before appeared to much advantage, and now, with his long,
lean, powerful body in splendid action, imbued with the relentless will of his
rider, what a picture he presented!
How he did run! With all that, the White Mustang made him
look dingy and slow. Nevertheless, it was a critical time in the
wild career of that king of horses.
He had been penned in a space two hundred by five hundred yards, half of which was
separated from him by a wide ditch, a yawning chasm that he had refused, and
behind him, always keeping on the inside,
wheeled the yelling hunter, who savagely spurred his bay and whirled a deadly lasso.
He had been cut off and surrounded; the very nature of the rocks and trails of the
canyon threatened to end his freedom or his life.
Certain it was he preferred to end the latter, for he risked death from the rocks
as he went over them in long leaps. Jones could have roped either of the two
blacks, but he hardly noticed them.
Covered with dust and splotches of foam, they took their advantage, turned on the
circle toward the passage way and galloped by me out of sight.
Again Wallace, Frank and Jim let out strings of yells and volleys.
The chase was narrowing down. Trapped, the White Mustang King had no
What a grand spirit he showed! Frenzied as I was with excitement, the
thought occurred to me that this was an unfair battle, that I ought to stand aside
and let him pass.
But the blood and lust of primitive instinct held me fast.
Jones, keeping back, met his every turn.
Yet always with lithe and beautiful stride the stallion kept out of reach of the
whirling lariat.
"Close in!" yelled Jones, and his voice, powerful with a note of triumph, bespoke
the knell of the king's freedom. The trap closed in.
Back and forth at the upper end the White Mustang worked; then rendered desperate by
the closing in, he circled round nearer to me.
Fire shone in his wild eyes.
The wily Jones was not to be outwitted; he kept in the middle, always on the move, and
he yelled to me to open up. I lost my voice again, and fired my last
Then the White Mustang burst into a dash of daring, despairing speed.
It was his last magnificent effort.
Straight for the wash at the upper end he pointed his racy, spirited head, and his
white legs stretched far apart, twinkled and stretched again.
Jones galloped to cut him off, and the yells he emitted were demoniacal.
It was a long, straight race for the mustang, a short curve for the bay.
That the white stallion gained was as sure as his resolve to elude capture, and he
never swerved a foot from his course.
Jones might have headed him, but manifestly he wanted to ride with him, as well as to
meet him, so in case the lasso went true, a terrible shock might be averted.
Up went Jones's arm as the space shortened, and the lasso ringed his head.
Out it shot, lengthened like a yellow, striking snake, and fell just short of the
flying white tail.
The White Mustang, fulfilling his purpose in a last heroic display of power, sailed
into the air, up and up, and over the wide wash like a white streak.
Free! the dust rolled in a cloud from under his hoofs, and he vanished.
Jones's superb horse, crashing down on his haunches, just escaped sliding into the
I awoke to the realization that Satan had carried me, in pursuit of the thrilling
chase, all the way across the circle without my knowing it.
Jones calmly wiped the sweat from his face, calmly coiled his lasso, and calmly
remarked: "In trying to capture wild animals a man
must never be too sure.
Now what I thought my strong point was my weak point--the wash.
I made sure no horse could ever jump that hole."
Not far from the scene of our adventure with the White Streak as we facetious and
appreciatively named the mustang, deep, flat cave indented the canyon wall.
By reason of its sandy floor and close proximity to Frank's trickling spring, we
decided to camp in it.
About dawn Lawson and Stewart straggled in on spent horse and found awaiting them a
bright fire, a hot supper and cheery comrades.
"Did yu fellars git to see him?" was the ranger's first question.
"Did we get to see him?" echoed five lusty voice as one.
"We did!"
It was after Frank, in his plain, blunt speech had told of our experience, that the
long Arizonian gazed fixedly at Jones. "Did yu acktully tech the hair of thet
mustang with a rope?"
In all his days Jones never had a greater complement.
By way of reply, he moved his big hand to button of his coat, and, fumbling over it,
unwound a string of long, white hairs, then said: "I pulled these out of his tail with
my lasso; it missed his left hind hoof about six inches."
There were six of the hairs, pure, glistening white, and over three feet long.
Stewart examined then in expressive silence, then passed them along; and when
they reached me, they stayed. The cave, lighted up by a blazing fire,
appeared to me a forbidding, uncanny place.
Small, peculiar round holes, and dark cracks, suggestive of hidden vermin, gave
me a creepy feeling; and although not over- sensitive on the subject of crawling,
creeping things, I voiced my disgust.
"Say, I don't like the idea of sleeping in this hole.
I'll bet it's full of spiders, snakes and centipedes and other poisonous things."
Whatever there was in my inoffensive declaration to rouse the usually slumbering
humor of the Arizonians, and the thinly veiled ridicule of Colonel Jones, and a
mixture of both in my once loyal California friend, I am not prepared to state.
Maybe it was the dry, sweet, cool air of Nail Canyon; maybe my suggestion awoke
ticklish associations that worked themselves off thus; maybe it was the first
instance of my committing myself to a breach of camp etiquette.
Be that as it may, my innocently expressed sentiment gave rise to bewildering
dissertations on entomology, and most remarkable and startling tales from first-
hand experience.
"Like as not," began Frank in matter-of- fact tone.
"Them's tarantuler holes all right. An' scorpions, centipedes an' rattlers
always rustle with tarantulers.
But we never mind them--not us fellers! We're used to sleepin' with them.
Why, I often wake up in the night to see a big tarantuler on my chest, an' see him
Ain't thet so, Jim?" "Shore as hell," drawled faithful, slow
"Reminds me how fatal the bite of a centipede is," took up Colonel Jones,
"Once I was sitting in camp with a hunter, who suddenly hissed out: 'Jones, for God's
sake don't budge! There's a centipede on your arm!'
He pulled his Colt, and shot the blamed centipede off as clean as a whistle.
But the bullet hit a steer in the leg; and would you believe it, the bullet carried so
much poison that in less than two hours the steer died of blood poisoning.
Centipedes are so poisonous they leave a blue trail on flesh just by crawling over
it. Look there!"
He bared his arm, and there on the brown- corded flesh was a blue trail of something,
that was certain. It might have been made by a centipede.
"This is a likely place for them," put in Wallace, emitting a volume of smoke and
gazing round the cave walls with the eye of a connoisseur.
"My archaeological pursuits have given me great experience with centipedes, as you
may imagine, considering how many old tombs, caves and cliff-dwellings I have
This Algonkian rock is about the right stratum for centipedes to dig in.
They dig somewhat after the manner of the fluviatile long-tailed decapod crustaceans,
of the genera Thoracostraca, the common crawfish, you know.
From that, of course, you can imagine, if a centipede can bite rock, what a biter he
is." I began to grow weak, and did not wonder to
see Jim's long pipe fall from his lips.
Frank looked queer around the gills, so to speak, but the gaunt Stewart never batted
an eye.
"I camped here two years ago," he said, "An' the cave was alive with rock-rats,
mice, snakes, horned-toads, lizards an' a big Gila monster, besides bugs, scorpions'
rattlers, an' as fer tarantulers an' centipedes--say!
I couldn't sleep fer the noise they made fightin'."
"I seen the same," concluded Lawson, as nonchalant as a wild-horse wrangler well
could be.
"An' as fer me, now I allus lays perfickly still when the centipedes an' tarantulers
begin to drop from their holes in the roof, same as them holes up there.
An' when they light on me, I never move, nor even breathe fer about five minutes.
Then they take a notion I'm dead an' crawl off.
But sure, if I'd breathed I'd been a goner!"
All of this was playfully intended for the extinction of an unoffending and
impressionable tenderfoot.
With an admiring glance at my tormentors, I rolled out my sleeping-bag and crawled into
it, vowing I would remain there even if devil-fish, armed with pikes, invaded our
Late in the night I awoke. The bottom of the canyon and the outer
floor of our cave lay bathed in white, clear moonlight.
A dense, gloomy black shadow veiled the opposite canyon wall.
High up the pinnacles and turrets pointed toward a resplendent moon.
It was a weird, wonderful scene of beauty entrancing, of breathless, dreaming silence
that seemed not of life.
Then a hoot-owl lamented dismally, his call fitting the scene and the dead stillness;
the echoes resounded from cliff to cliff, strangely mocking and hollow, at last
reverberating low and mournful in the distance.
How long I lay there enraptured with the beauty of light and mystery of shade,
thrilling at the lonesome lament of the owl, I have no means to tell; but I was
awakened from my trance by the touch of something crawling over me.
Promptly I raised my head. The cave was as light as day.
There, sitting sociably on my sleeping-bag was a great black tarantula, as large as my
For one still moment, notwithstanding my contempt for Lawson's advice, I certainly
acted upon it to the letter. If ever I was quiet, and if ever I was
cold, the time was then.
My companions snored in blissful ignorance of my plight.
Slight rustling sounds attracted my wary gaze from the old black sentinel on my
I saw other black spiders running to and fro on the silver, sandy floor.
A giant, as large as a soft-shell crab, seemed to be meditating an assault upon
Jones's ear.
Another, grizzled and shiny with age or moonbeams I could not tell which--pushed
long, tentative feelers into Wallace's cap. I saw black spots darting over the roof.
It was not a dream; the cave was alive with tarantulas!
Not improbably my strong impression that the spider on my knee deliberately winked
at me was the result of memory, enlivening imagination.
But it sufficed to bring to mind, in one rapid, consoling flash, the irrevocable law
of destiny--that the deeds of the wicked return unto them again.
I slipped back into my sleeping-bag, with a keen consciousness of its nature, and
carefully pulled the flap in place, which almost hermetically sealed me up.
"Hey! Jones! Wallace! Frank! Jim!"
I yelled, from the depths of my safe refuge.
Wondering cries gave me glad assurance that they had awakened from their dreams.
"The cave's alive with tarantulas!"
I cried, trying to hide my unholy glee. "I'll be durned if it ain't!" ejaculated
Frank. "Shore it beats hell!" added Jim, with a
shake of his blanket.
"Look out, Jones, there's one on your pillow!" shouted Wallace.
Whack! A sharp blow proclaimed the opening of
Memory stamped indelibly every word of that incident; but innate delicacy prevents the
repetition of all save the old warrior's concluding remarks: "!
! place I was ever in! Tarantulas by the million--centipedes,
scorpions, bats! Rattlesnakes, too, I'll swear.
Look out, Wallace! there, under your blanket!"
From the shuffling sounds which wafted sweetly into my bed, I gathered that my
long friend from California must have gone through motions creditable to a
An ensuing explosion from Jones proclaimed to the listening world that Wallace had
thrown a tarantula upon him.
Further fearful language suggested the thought that Colonel Jones had passed on
the inquisitive spider to Frank.
The reception accorded the unfortunate tarantula, no doubt scared out of its wits,
began with a wild yell from Frank and ended in pandemonium.
While the confusion kept up, with whacks and blows and threshing about, with
language such as never before had disgraced a group of old campers, I choked with
rapture, and reveled in the sweetness of revenge.
When quiet reigned once more in the black and white canyon, only one sleeper lay on
the moon-silvered sand of the cave.
At dawn, when I opened sleepy eyes, Frank, Slim, Stewart and Lawson had departed, as
pre-arranged, with the outfit, leaving the horses belonging to us and rations for the
Wallace and I wanted to climb the divide at the break, and go home by way of Snake
Gulch, and the Colonel acquiesced with the remark that his sixty-three years had
taught him there was much to see in the world.
Coming to undertake it, we found the climb- -except for a slide of weathered rock--no
great task, and we accomplished it in half an hour, with breath to spare and no mishap
to horses.
But descending into Snake Gulch, which was only a mile across the sparsely cedared
ridge, proved to be tedious labor.
By virtue of Satan's patience and skill, I forged ahead; which advantage, however,
meant more risk for me because of the stones set in motion above.
They rolled and bumped and cut into me, and I sustained many a bruise trying to protect
the sinewy slender legs of my horse. The descent ended without serious mishap.
Snake Gulch had a character and sublimity which cast Nail Canyon into the obscurity
of forgetfulness. The great contrast lay in the diversity of
The rock was bright red, with parapet of yellow, that leaned, heaved, bulged
These emblazoned cliff walls, two thousand feet high, were cracked from turret to
base; they bowled out at such an angle that we were afraid to ride under them.
Mountains of yellow rock hung balanced, ready to tumble down at the first angry
breath of the gods.
We rode among carved stones, pillars, obelisks and sculptured ruined walls of a
fallen Babylon. Slides reaching all the way across and far
up the canyon wall obstructed our passage.
On every stone silent green lizards sunned themselves, gliding swiftly as we came near
to their marble homes.
We came into a region of wind-worn caves, of all sizes and shapes, high and low on
the cliffs; but strange to say, only on the north side of the canyon they appeared with
dark mouths open and uninviting.
One, vast and deep, though far off, menaced us as might the cave of a tawny-maned king
of beasts; yet it impelled, fascinated and drew us on.
"It's a long, hard climb," said Wallace to the Colonel, as we dismounted.
"Boys, I'm with you," came the reply.
And he was with us all the way, as we clambered over the immense blocks and
threaded a passage between them and pulled weary legs up, one after the other.
So steep lay the jumble of cliff fragments that we lost sight of the cave long before
we got near it. Suddenly we rounded a stone, to halt and
gasp at the thing looming before us.
The dark portal of death or hell might have yawned there.
A gloomy hole, large enough to admit a church, had been hollowed in the cliff by
ages of nature's chiseling.
"Vast sepulcher of Time's past, give up thy dead!" cried Wallace, solemnly.
"Oh! dark Stygian cave forlorn!" quoted I, as feelingly as my friend.
Jones hauled us down from the clouds.
"Now, I wonder what kind of a prehistoric animal holed in here?" said he.
Forever the one absorbing interest! If he realized the sublimity of this place,
he did not show it.
The floor of the cave ascended from the very threshold.
Stony ridges circled from wall to wall.
We climbed till we were two hundred feet from the opening, yet we were not half-way
to the dome. Our horses, browsing in the sage far below,
looked like ants.
So steep did the ascent become that we desisted; for if one of us had slipped on
the smooth incline, the result would have been terrible.
Our voices rang clear and hollow from the walls.
We were so high that the sky was blotted out by the overhanging square, cornice-like
top of the door; and the light was weird, dim, shadowy, opaque.
It was a gray tomb.
"Waa-hoo!" yelled Jones with all the power of his wide, leather lungs.
Thousands of devilish voices rushed at us, seemingly on puffs of wind.
Mocking, deep echoes bellowed from the ebon shades at the back of the cave, and the
walls, taking them up, hurled them on again in fiendish concatenation.
We did not again break the silence of that tomb, where the spirits of ages lay in
dusty shrouds; and we crawled down as if we had invaded a sanctuary and invoked the
wrath of the gods.
We all proposed names: Montezuma's Amphitheater being the only rival of
Jones's selection, Echo cave, which we finally chose.
Mounting our horses again, we made twenty miles of Snake Gulch by noon, when we
rested for lunch.
All the way up we had played the boy's game of spying for sights, with the honors about
even. It was a question if Snake Gulch ever
before had such a raking over.
Despite its name, however, we discovered no snakes.
From the sandy niche of a cliff where we lunched Wallace espied a tomb, and heralded
his discovery with a victorious whoop.
Digging in old ruins roused in him much the same spirit that digging in old books
roused in me.
Before we reached him, he had a big bowie- knife buried deep in the red, sandy floor
of the tomb.
This one-time sealed house of the dead had been constructed of small stones, held
together by a cement, the nature of which, Wallace explained, had never become clear
to civilization.
It was red in color and hard as flint, harder than the rocks it glued together.
The tomb was half-round in shape, and its floor was a projecting shelf of cliff rock.
Wallace unearthed bits of pottery, bone and finely braided rope, all of which, to our
great disappointment, crumbled to dust in our fingers.
In the case of the rope, Wallace assured us, this was a sign of remarkable
In the next mile we traversed, we found dozens of these old cells, all demolished
except a few feet of the walls, all despoiled of their one-time possessions.
Wallace thought these depredations were due to Indians of our own time.
Suddenly we came upon Jones, standing under a cliff, with his neck craned to a
desperate angle.
"Now, what's that?" demanded he, pointing upward.
High on the cliff wall appeared a small, round protuberance.
It was of the unmistakably red color of the other tombs; and Wallace, more excited than
he had been in the cougar chase, said it was a sepulcher, and he believed it had
never been opened.
From an elevated point of rock, as high up as I could well climb, I decided both
questions with my glass. The tomb resembled nothing so much as a
mud-wasp's nest, high on a barn wall.
The fact that it had never been broken open quite carried Wallace away with enthusiasm.
"This is no mean discovery, let me tell you that," he declared.
"I am familiar with the Aztec, Toltec and Pueblo ruins, and here I find no
similarity. Besides, we are out of their latitude.
An ancient race of people--very ancient indeed lived in this canyon.
How long ago, it is impossible to tell." "They must have been birds," said the
practical Jones.
"Now, how'd that tomb ever get there? Look at it, will you?"
As near as we could ascertain, it was three hundred feet from the ground below, five
hundred from the rim wall above, and could not possibly have been approached from the
Moreover, the cliff wall was as smooth as a wall of human make.
"There's another one," called out Jones. "Yes, and I see another; no doubt there are
many of them," replied Wallace.
"In my mind, only one thing possible accounts for their position.
You observe they appear to be about level with each other.
Well, once the Canyon floor ran along that line, and in the ages gone by it has
lowered, washed away by the rains." This conception staggered us, but it was
the only one conceivable.
No doubt we all thought at the same time of the little rainfall in that arid section of
Arizona. "How many years?" queried Jones.
What are years?" said Wallace. "Thousands of years, ages have passed since
the race who built these tombs lived."
Some persuasion was necessary to drag our scientific friend from the spot, where
obviously helpless to do anything else, he stood and gazed longingly at the isolated
The canyon widened as we proceeded; and hundreds of points that invited inspection,
such as overhanging shelves of rock, dark fissures, caverns and ruins had to be
passed by, for lack of time.
Still, a more interesting and important discovery was to come, and the pleasure and
honor of it fell to me.
My eyes were sharp and peculiarly farsighted--the Indian sight, Jones assured
me; and I kept them searching the walls in such places as my companions overlooked.
Presently, under a large, bulging bluff, I saw a dark spot, which took the shape of a
This figure, I recollected, had been presented to my sight more than once, and
now it stopped me.
The hard climb up the slippery stones was fatiguing, but I did not hesitate, for I
was determined to know. Once upon the ledge, I let out a yell that
quickly set my companions in my direction.
The figure I had seen was a dark, red devil, a painted image, rude, unspeakably
wild, crudely executed, but painted by the hand of man.
The whole surface of the cliff wall bore figures of all shapes--men, mammals, birds
and strange devices, some in red paint, mostly in yellow.
Some showed the wear of time; others were clear and sharp.
Wallace puffed up to me, but he had wind enough left for another whoop.
Jones puffed up also, and seeing the first thing a rude sketch of what might have been
a deer or a buffalo, he commented thus: "Darn me if I ever saw an animal like that?
Boys, this is a find, sure as you're born.
Because not even the Piutes ever spoke of these figures.
I doubt if they know they're here.
And the cowboys and wranglers, what few ever get by here in a hundred years, never
saw these things. Beats anything I ever saw on the Mackenzie,
or anywhere else."
The meaning of some devices was as mystical as that of others was clear.
Two blood-red figures of men, the larger dragging the smaller by the hair, while he
waved aloft a blood-red hatchet or club, left little to conjecture.
Here was the old battle of men, as old as life.
Another group, two figures of which resembled the foregoing in form and action,
battling over a prostrate form rudely feminine in outline, attested to an age
when men were as susceptible as they are in
modern times, but more forceful and original.
An odd yellow Indian waved aloft a red hand, which striking picture suggested the
idea that he was an ancient Macbeth, listening to the knocking at the gate.
There was a character representing a great chief, before whom many figures lay
prostrate, evidently slain or subjugated.
Large red paintings, in the shape of bats, occupied prominent positions, and must have
represented gods or devils. Armies of marching men told of that blight
of nations old or young--war.
These, and birds unnamable, and beasts unclassable, with dots and marks and
hieroglyphics, recorded the history of a bygone people.
Symbols they were of an era that had gone into the dim past, leaving only these
marks, {Symbols recording the history of a bygone people.} forever unintelligible; yet
while they stood, century after century,
ineffaceable, reminders of the glory, the mystery, the sadness of life.
"How could paint of any kind last so long? asked Jones, shaking his head doubtfully.
"That is the unsolvable mystery," returned Wallace.
"But the records are there. I am absolutely sure the paintings are at
least a thousand years old.
I have never seen any tombs or paintings similar to them.
Snake Gulch is a find, and I shall some day study its wonders."
Sundown caught us within sight of Oak Spring, and we soon trotted into camp to
the welcoming chorus of the hounds. Frank and the others had reached the cabin
some hours before.
Supper was steaming on the hot coals with a delicious fragrance.
Then came the pleasantest time of the day, after a long chase or jaunt--the silent
moments, watching the glowing embers of the fire; the speaking moments when a red-
blooded story rang clear and true; the
twilight moments, when the wood-smoke smelled sweet.
Jones seemed unusually thoughtful.
I had learned that this preoccupation in him meant the stirring of old associations,
and I waited silently.
By and by Lawson snored mildly in a corner; Jim and Frank crawled into their blankets,
and all was still. Wallace smoked his Indian pipe and hunted
in firelit dreams.
"Boys," said our leader finally, "somehow the echoes dying away in that cave reminded
me of the mourn of the big white wolves in the Barren Lands."
Wallace puffed huge clouds of white smoke, and I waited, knowing that I was to hear at
last the story of the Colonel's great adventure in the Northland.
It was a waiting day at Fort Chippewayan. The lonesome, far-northern Hudson's Bay
Trading Post seldom saw such life.
Tepees dotted the banks of the Slave River and lines of blanketed Indians paraded its
Near the boat landing a group of chiefs, grotesque in semi-barbaric, semicivilized
splendor, but black-browed, austere-eyed, stood in savage dignity with folded arms
and high-held heads.
Lounging on the grassy bank were white men, traders, trappers and officials of the
All eyes were on the distant curve of the river where, as it lost itself in a fine-
fringed bend of dark green, white-glinting waves danced and fluttered.
A June sky lay blue in the majestic stream; ragged, spear-topped, dense green trees
massed down to the water; beyond rose bold, bald-knobbed hills, in remote purple
A long Indian arm stretched south. The waiting eyes discerned a black speck on
the green, and watched it grow. A flatboat, with a man standing to the
oars, bore down swiftly.
Not a red hand, nor a white one, offered to help the voyager in the difficult landing.
The oblong, clumsy, heavily laden boat surged with the current and passed the dock
despite the boatman's efforts.
He swung his craft in below upon a bar and roped it fast to a tree.
The Indians crowded above him on the bank.
The boatman raised his powerful form erect, lifted a bronzed face which seemed set in
craggy hardness, and cast from narrow eyes a keen, cool glance on those above.
The silvery gleam in his fair hair told of years.
Silence, impressive as it was ominous, broke only to the rattle of camping
paraphernalia, which the voyager threw to a level, grassy bench on the bank.
Evidently this unwelcome visitor had journeyed from afar, and his boat, sunk
deep into the water with its load of barrels, boxes and bags, indicated that the
journey had only begun.
Significant, too, were a couple of long Winchester rifles shining on a tarpaulin.
The cold-faced crowd stirred and parted to permit the passage of a tall, thin, gray
personage of official bearing, in a faded military coat.
"Are you the musk-ox hunter?" he asked, in tones that contained no welcome.
The boatman greeted this peremptory interlocutor with a cool laugh--a strange
laugh, in which the muscles of his face appeared not to play.
"Yes, I am the man," he said.
"The chiefs of the Chippewayan and Great Slave tribes have been apprised of your
coming. They have held council and are here to
speak with you."
At a motion from the commandant, the line of chieftains piled down to the level bench
and formed a half-circle before the voyager.
To a man who had stood before grim Sitting Bull and noble Black Thunder of the Sioux,
and faced the falcon-eyed Geronimo, and glanced over the sights of a rifle at
gorgeous-feathered, wild, free Comanches,
this semi-circle of savages--lords of the north--was a sorry comparison.
Bedaubed and betrinketed, slouchy and slovenly, these low-statured chiefs belied
in appearance their scorn-bright eyes and lofty mien.
They made a sad group.
One who spoke in unintelligible language, rolled out a haughty, sonorous voice over
the listening multitude.
When he had finished, a half-breed interpreter, in the dress of a white man,
spoke at a signal from the commandant. "He says listen to the great orator of the
He has summoned all the chiefs of the tribes south of Great Slave Lake.
He has held council. The cunning of the pale-face, who comes to
take the musk-oxen, is well known.
Let the pale-face hunter return to his own hunting-grounds; let him turn his face from
the north. Never will the chiefs permit the white man
to take musk-oxen alive from their country.
The Ageter, the Musk-ox, is their god. He gives them food and fur.
He will never come back if he is taken away, and the reindeer will follow him.
The chiefs and their people would starve.
They command the pale-face hunter to go back.
They cry Naza! Naza!
"Say, for a thousand miles I've heard that word Naza!" returned the hunter, with
mingled curiosity and disgust.
"At Edmonton Indian runners started ahead of me, and every village I struck the
redskins would crowd round me and an old chief would harangue at me, and motion me
back, and point north with Naza!
Naza! Naza!
What does it mean?" "No white man knows; no Indian will tell,"
answered the interpreter.
"The traders think it means the Great Slave, the North Star, the North Spirit,
the North Wind, the North Lights and the musk-ox god."
"Well, say to the chiefs to tell Ageter I have been four moons on the way after some
of his little Ageters, and I'm going to keep on after them."
"Hunter, you are most unwise," broke in the commandant, in his officious voice.
"The Indians will never permit you to take a musk-ox alive from the north.
They worship him, pray to him.
It is a wonder you have not been stopped." "Who'll stop me?"
"The Indians. They will kill you if you do not turn
"Faugh! to tell an American plainsman that!"
The hunter paused a steady moment, with his eyelids narrowing over slits of blue fire.
"There is no law to keep me out, nothing but Indian superstition and Naza!
And the greed of the Hudson's Bay people. I am an old fox, not to be fooled by pretty
For years the officers of this fur-trading company have tried to keep out explorers.
Even Sir John Franklin, an Englishman, could not buy food of them.
The policy of the company is to side with the Indians, to keep out traders and
Why? So they can keep on cheating the poor savages out of clothing and food by trading
a few trinkets and blankets, a little tobacco and rum for millions of dollars
worth of furs.
Have I failed to hire man after man, Indian after Indian, not to know why I cannot get
a helper?
Have I, a plainsman, come a thousand miles alone to be scared by you, or a lot of
craven Indians?
Have I been dreaming of musk-oxen for forty years, to slink south now, when I begin to
feel the north? Not I."
Deliberately every chief, with the sound of a hissing snake, spat in the hunter's face.
He stood immovable while they perpetrated the outrage, then calmly wiped his cheeks,
and in his strange, cool voice, addressed the interpreter.
"Tell them thus they show their true qualities, to insult in council.
Tell them they are not chiefs, but dogs. Tell them they are not even squaws, only
poor, miserable starved dogs.
Tell them I turn my back on them. Tell them the paleface has fought real
chiefs, fierce, bold, like eagles, and he turns his back on dogs.
Tell them he is the one who could teach them to raise the musk-oxen and the
reindeer, and to keep out the cold and the wolf.
But they are blinded.
Tell them the hunter goes north." Through the council of chiefs ran a low
mutter, as of gathering thunder. True to his word, the hunter turned his
back on them.
As he brushed by, his eye caught a gaunt savage slipping from the boat.
At the hunter's stern call, the Indian leaped ashore, and started to run.
He had stolen a parcel, and would have succeeded in eluding its owner but for an
unforeseen obstacle, as striking as it was unexpected.
A white man of colossal stature had stepped in the thief's passage, and laid two great
hands on him.
Instantly the parcel flew from the Indian, and he spun in the air to fall into the
river with a sounding splash. Yells signaled the surprise and alarm
caused by this unexpected incident.
The Indian frantically swam to the shore.
Whereupon the champion of the stranger in a strange land lifted a bag, which gave forth
a musical clink of steel, and throwing it with the camp articles on the grassy bench,
he extended a huge, friendly hand.
"My name is Rea," he said, in deep, cavernous tones.
"Mine is Jones," replied the hunter, and right quickly did he grip the proffered
He saw in Rea a giant, of whom he was but a stunted shadow.
Six and one-half feet Rea stood, with yard- wide shoulders, a hulk of bone and brawn.
His ponderous, shaggy head rested on a bull neck.
His broad face, with its low forehead, its close-shut mastiff under jaw, its big,
opaque eyes, pale and cruel as those of a jaguar, marked him a man of terrible brute
"Free-trader!" called the commandant "Better think twice before you join
fortunes with the musk-ox hunter." "To hell with you an' your rantin', dog-
eared redskins!" cried Rea.
"I've run agin a man of my own kind, a man of my own country, an' I'm goin' with him."
With this he thrust aside some encroaching, gaping Indians so unconcernedly and
ungently that they sprawled upon the grass.
Slowly the crowd mounted and once more lined the bank.
Jones realized that by some late-turning stroke of fortune, he had fallen in with
one of the few free-traders of the province.
These free-traders, from the very nature of their calling, which was to defy the fur
company, and to trap and trade on their own account--were a hardy and intrepid class of
Rea's worth to Jones exceeded that of a dozen ordinary men.
He knew the ways of the north, the language of the tribes, the habits of animals, the
handling of dogs, the uses of food and fuel.
Moreover, it soon appeared that he was a carpenter and blacksmith.
"There's my kit," he said, dumping the contents of his bag.
It consisted of a bunch of steel traps, some tools, a broken ax, a box of
miscellaneous things such as trappers used, and a few articles of flannel.
"Thievin' redskins," he added, in explanation of his poverty.
"Not much of an outfit. But I'm the man for you.
Besides, I had a pal onct who knew you on the plains, called you 'Buff' Jones.
Old Jim Bent he was." "I recollect Jim," said Jones.
"He went down in Custer's last charge.
So you were Jim's pal. That'd be a recommendation if you needed
one. But the way you chucked the Indian
overboard got me."
Rea soon manifested himself as a man of few words and much action.
With the planks Jones had on board he heightened the stern and bow of the boat to
keep out the beating waves in the rapids; he fashioned a steering-gear and a less
awkward set of oars, and shifted the cargo so as to make more room in the craft.
"Buff, we're in for a storm. Set up a tarpaulin an' make a fire.
We'll pretend to camp to-night.
These Indians won't dream we'd try to run the river after dark, and we'll slip by
under cover."
The sun glazed over; clouds moved up from the north; a cold wind swept the tips of
the spruces, and rain commenced to drive in gusts.
By the time it was dark not an Indian showed himself.
They were housed from the storm. Lights twinkled in the teepees and the big
log cabins of the trading company.
Jones scouted round till pitchy black night, when a freezing, pouring blast sent
him back to the protection of the tarpaulin.
When he got there he found that Rea had taken it down and awaited him.
"Off!" said the free-trader; and with no more noise than a drifting feather the boat
swung into the current and glided down till the twinkling fires no longer accentuated
the darkness.
By night the river, in common with all swift rivers, had a sullen voice, and
murmured its hurry, its restraint, its menace, its meaning.
The two boat-men, one at the steering gear, one at the oars, faced the pelting rain and
watched the dim, dark line of trees. The craft slid noiselessly onward into the
And into Jones's ears, above the storm, poured another sound, a steady, muffled
rumble, like the roll of giant chariot wheels.
It had come to be a familiar roar to him, and the only thing which, in his long life
of hazard, had ever sent the cold, prickling, tight shudder over his warm
Many times on the Athabasca that rumble had presaged the dangerous and dreaded rapids.
"Hell Bend Rapids!" shouted Rea. "Bad water, but no rocks."
The rumble expanded to a roar, the roar to a boom that charged the air with heaviness,
with a dreamy burr.
The whole indistinct world appeared to be moving to the lash of wind, to the sound of
rain, to the roar of the river.
The boat shot down and sailed aloft, met shock on shock, breasted leaping dim white
waves, and in a hollow, unearthly blend of watery sounds, rode on and on, buffeted,
tossed, pitched into a black chaos that yet gleamed with obscure shrouds of light.
Then the convulsive stream shrieked out a last defiance, changed its course abruptly
to slow down and drown the sound of rapids in muffling distance.
Once more the craft swept on smoothly, to the drive of the wind and the rush of the
rain. By midnight the storm cleared.
Murky cloud split to show shining, blue- white stars and a fitful moon, that
silvered the crests of the spruces and sometimes hid like a gleaming, black-
threaded peak behind the dark branches.
Jones, a plainsman all his days, wonderingly watched the moon-blanched
He saw it shade and darken under shadowy walls of granite, where it swelled with
hollow song and gurgle. He heard again the far-off rumble, faint on
the night.
High cliff banks appeared, walled out the mellow, light, and the river suddenly
Yawning holes, whirlpools of a second, opened with a gurgling suck and raced with
the boat. On the craft flew.
Far ahead, a long, declining plane of jumping frosted waves played dark and white
with the moonbeams.
The Slave plunged to his freedom, down his riven, stone-spiked bed, knowing no patient
eddy, and white-wreathed his dark shiny rocks in spume and spray.
A far cry it was from bright June at Port Chippewayan to dim October on Great Slave
Two long, laborious months Rea and Jones threaded the crooked shores of the great
inland sea, to halt at the extreme northern end, where a plunging rivulet formed the
source of a river.
Here they found a stone chimney and fireplace standing among the darkened,
decayed ruins of a cabin. "We mustn't lose no time," said Rea.
"I feel the winter in the wind.
An' see how dark the days are gettin' on us."
"I'm for hunting musk-oxen," replied Jones. "Man, we're facin' the northern night;
we're in the land of the midnight sun.
Soon we'll be shut in for seven months. A cabin we want, an' wood, an' meat."
A forest of stunted spruce trees edged on the lake, and soon its dreary solitudes
rang to the strokes of axes.
The trees were small and uniform in size. Black stumps protruded, here and there,
from the ground, showing work of the steel in time gone by.
Jones observed that the living trees were no larger in diameter than the stumps, and
questioned Rea in regard to the difference in age.
"Cut twenty-five, mebbe fifty years ago," said the trapper.
"But the living trees are no bigger." "Trees an' things don't grow fast in the
north land."
They erected a fifteen-foot cabin round the stone chimney, roofed it with poles and
branches of spruce and a layer of sand.
In digging near the fireplace Jones unearthed a rusty file and the head of a
whisky keg, upon which was a sunken word in unintelligible letters.
"We've found the place," said Rea.
"Frank built a cabin here in 1819. An' in 1833 Captain Back wintered here when
he was in search of Captain Ross of the vessel Fury.
It was those explorin' parties thet cut the trees.
I seen Indian sign out there, made last winter, I reckon; but Indians never cut
down no trees."
The hunters completed the cabin, piled cords of firewood outside, stowed away the
kegs of dried fish and fruits, the sacks of flour, boxes of crackers, canned meats and
vegetables, sugar, salt, coffee, tobacco--
all of the cargo; then took the boat apart and carried it up the bank, which labor
took them less than a week.
Jones found sleeping in the cabin, despite the fire, uncomfortably cold, because of
the wide chinks between the logs. It was hardly better than sleeping under
the swaying spruces.
When he essayed to stop up the crack, a task by no means easy, considering the lack
of material--Rea laughed his short "Ho! Ho!" and stopped him with the word, "Wait."
Every morning the green ice extended farther out into the lake; the sun paled
dim and dimmer; the nights grew colder.
On October 8th the thermometer registered several degrees below zero; it fell a
little more next night and continued to fall.
"Ho! Ho!" cried Rea.
"She's struck the toboggan, an' presently she'll commence to slide.
Come on, Buff, we've work to do."
He caught up a bucket, made for their hole in the ice, rebroke a six-inch layer, the
freeze of a few hours, and filling his bucket, returned to the cabin.
Jones had no inkling of the trapper's intention, and wonderingly he soused his
bucket full of water and followed.
By the time he had reached the cabin, a matter of some thirty or forty good paces,
the water no longer splashed from his pail, for a thin film of ice prevented.
Rea stood fifteen feet from the cabin, his back to the wind, and threw the water.
Some of it froze in the air, most of it froze on the logs.
The simple plan of the trapper to incase the cabin with ice was easily divined.
All day the men worked, easing only when the cabin resembled a glistening mound.
It had not a sharp corner nor a crevice.
Inside it was warm and snug, and as light as when the chinks were open.
A slight moderation of the weather brought the snow.
Such snow!
A blinding white flutter of grey flakes, as large as feathers!
All day they rustle softly; all night they swirled, sweeping, seeping brushing against
the cabin.
"Ho! Ho!" roared Rea. "'Tis good; let her snow, an' the reindeer
will migrate. We'll have fresh meat."
The sun shone again, but not brightly.
A nipping wind came down out of the frigid north and crusted the snows.
The third night following the storm, when the hunters lay snug under their blankets,
a commotion outside aroused them.
"Indians," said Rea, "come north for reindeer."
Half the night, shouting and yelling, barking dogs, hauling of sleds and cracking
of dried-skin tepees murdered sleep for those in the cabin.
In the morning the level plain and edge of the forest held an Indian village.
Caribou hides, strung on forked poles, constituted tent-like habitations with no
distinguishable doors.
Fires smoked in the holes in the snow.
Not till late in the day did any life manifest itself round the tepees, and then
a group of children, poorly clad in ragged pieces of blankets and skins, gaped at
He saw their pinched, brown faces, staring, hungry eyes, naked legs and throats, and
noted particularly their dwarfish size. When he spoke they fled precipitously a
little way, then turned.
He called again, and all ran except one small lad.
Jones went into the cabin and came out with a handful of sugar in square lumps.
"Yellow Knife Indians," said Rea.
"A starved tribe! We're in for it."
Jones made motions to the lad, but he remained still, as if transfixed, and his
black eyes stared wonderingly.
"Molar nasu (white man good)," said Rea. The lad came out of his trance and looked
back at his companions, who edged nearer. Jones ate a lump of sugar, then handed one
to the little Indian.
He took it gingerly, put it into his mouth and immediately jumped up and down.
"Hoppiesharnpoolie! Hoppiesharnpoolie!" he shouted to his
brothers and sisters.
They came on the run. "Think he means sweet salt," interpreted
Rea. "Of course these beggars never tasted
The band of youngsters trooped round Jones, and after tasting the white lumps, shrieked
in such delight that the braves and squaws shuffled out of the tepees.
In all his days Jones had never seen such miserable Indians.
Dirty blankets hid all their person, except straggling black hair, hungry, wolfish eyes
and moccasined feet.
They crowded into the path before the cabin door and mumbled and stared and waited.
No dignity, no brightness, no suggestion of friendliness marked this peculiar attitude.
"Starved!" exclaimed Rea.
"They've come to the lake to invoke the Great Spirit to send the reindeer.
Buff, whatever you do, don't feed them. If you do, we'll have them on our hands all
It's cruel, but, man, we're in the north!" Notwithstanding the practical trapper's
admonition Jones could not resist the pleading of the children.
He could not stand by and see them starve.
After ascertaining there was absolutely nothing to eat in the tepees, he invited
the little ones into the cabin, and made a great pot of soup, into which he dropped
compressed biscuits.
The savage children were like wildcats. Jones had to call in Rea to assist him in
keeping the famished little aborigines from tearing each other to pieces.
When finally they were all fed, they had to be driven out of the cabin.
"That's new to me," said Jones. "Poor little beggars!"
Rea doubtfully shook his shaggy head.
Next day Jones traded with the Yellow Knives.
He had a goodly supply of baubles, besides blankets, gloves and boxes of canned goods,
which he had brought for such trading.
He secured a dozen of the large-boned, white and black Indian dogs, huskies, Rea
called them--two long sleds with harness and several pairs of snowshoes.
This trade made Jones rub his hands in satisfaction, for during all the long
journey north he had failed to barter for such cardinal necessities to the success of
his venture.
"Better have doled out the grub to them in rations," grumbled Rea.
Twenty-four hours sufficed to show Jones the wisdom of the trapper's words, for in
just that time the crazed, ignorant savages had glutted the generous store of food,
which should have lasted them for weeks.
The next day they were begging at the cabin door.
Rea cursed and threatened them with his fists, but they returned again and again.
Days passed.
All the time, in light and dark, the Indians filled the air with dismal chant
and doleful incantations to the Great Spirit, and the tum! tum! tum! tum! of
tomtoms, a specific feature of their wild prayer for food.
But the white monotony of the rolling land and level lake remained unbroken.
The reindeer did not come.
The days became shorter, dimmer, darker. The mercury kept on the slide.
Forty degrees below zero did not trouble the Indians.
They stamped till they dropped, and sang till their voices vanished, and beat the
tomtoms everlastingly. Jones fed the children once each day,
against the trapper's advice.
One day, while Rea was absent, a dozen braves succeeded in forcing an entrance,
and clamored so fiercely, and threatened so desperately, that Jones was on the point of
giving them food when the door opened to admit Rea.
With a glance he saw the situation. He dropped the bucket he carried, threw the
door wide open and commenced action.
Because of his great bulk he seemed slow, but every blow of his sledge-hammer fist
knocked a brave against the wall, or through the door into the snow.
When he could reach two savages at once, by way of diversion, he swung their heads
together with a crack. They dropped like dead things.
Then he handled them as if they were sacks of corn, pitching them out into the snow.
In two minutes the cabin was clear. He banged the door and slipped the bar in
"Buff, I'm goin' to get mad at these thievin' red, skins some day," he said
The expanse of his chest heaved slightly, like the slow swell of a calm ocean, but
there was no other indication of unusual exertion.
Jones laughed, and again gave thanks for the comradeship of this strange man.
Shortly afterward, he went out for wood, and as usual scanned the expanse of the
The sun shone mistier and warmer, and frost feathers floated in the air.
Sky and sun and plain and lake--all were gray.
Jones fancied he saw a distant moving mass of darker shade than the gray background.
He called the trapper. "Caribou," said Rea instantly.
"The vanguard of the migration.
Hear the Indians! Hear their cry: "Aton!
Aton!" they mean reindeer. The idiots have scared the herd with their
infernal racket, an' no meat will they get.
The caribou will keep to the ice, an' man or Indian can't stalk them there."
For a few moments his companion surveyed the lake and shore with a plainsman's eye,
then dashed within, to reappear with a Winchester in each hand.
Through the crowd of bewailing, bemoaning Indians; he sped, to the low, dying bank.
The hard crust of snow upheld him. The gray cloud was a thousand yards out
upon the lake and moving southeast.
If the caribou did not swerve from this course they would pass close to a
projecting point of land, a half-mile up the lake.
So, keeping a wary eye upon them, the hunter ran swiftly.
He had not hunted antelope and buffalo on the plains all his life without learning
how to approach moving game.
As long as the caribou were in action, they could not tell whether he moved or was
In order to tell if an object was inanimate or not, they must stop to see, of which
fact the keen hunter took advantage. Suddenly he saw the gray mass slow down and
bunch up.
He stopped running, to stand like a stump. When the reindeer moved again, he moved,
and when they slackened again, he stopped and became motionless.
As they kept to their course, he worked gradually closer and closer.
Soon he distinguished gray, bobbing heads.
When the leader showed signs of halting in his slow trot the hunter again became a
He saw they were easy to deceive; and, daringly confident of success, he
encroached on the ice and closed up the gap till not more than two hundred yards
separated him from the gray, bobbing, antlered mass.
Jones dropped on one knee.
A moment only his eyes lingered admiringly on the wild and beautiful spectacle; then
he swept one of the rifles to a level. Old habit made the little beaded sight
cover first the stately leader.
Bang! The gray monarch leaped straight forward,
forehoofs up, antlered head back, to fall dead with a crash.
Then for a few moments the Winchester spat a deadly stream of fire, and when emptied
was thrown down for the other gun, which in the steady, sure hands of the hunter
belched death to the caribou.
The herd rushed on, leaving the white surface of the lake gray with a struggling,
kicking, bellowing heap. When Jones reached the caribou he saw
several trying to rise on crippled legs.
With his knife he killed these, not without some hazard to himself.
Most of the fallen ones were already dead, and the others soon lay still.
Beautiful gray creatures they were, almost white, with wide-reaching, symmetrical
A medley of yells arose from the shore, and Rea appeared running with two sleds, with
the whole tribe of Yellow Knives pouring out of the forest behind him.
"Buff, you're jest what old Jim said you was," thundered Rea, as he surveyed the
gray pile.
"Here's winter meat, an' I'd not have given a biscuit for all the meat I thought you'd
"Thirty shots in less than thirty seconds," said Jones, "An' I'll bet every ball I sent
touched hair. How many reindeer?"
"Twenty! twenty!
Buff, or I've forgot how to count. I guess mebbe you can't handle them
shootin' arms. Ho! here comes the howlin' redskins."
Rea whipped out a bowie knife and began disemboweling the reindeer.
He had not proceeded far in his task when the crazed savages were around him.
Every one carried a basket or receptacle, which he swung aloft, and they sang,
prayed, rejoiced on their knees.
Jones turned away from the sickening scenes that convinced him these savages were
little better than cannibals. Rea cursed them, and tumbled them over, and
threatened them with the big bowie.
An altercation ensued, heated on his side, frenzied on theirs.
Thinking some treachery might befall his comrade, Jones ran into the thick of the
"Share with them, Rea, share with them." Whereupon the giant hauled out ten smoking
Bursting into a babel of savage glee and tumbling over one another, the Indians
pulled the caribou to the shore. "Thievin' fools," growled Rea, wiping the
sweat from his brow.
"Said they'd prevailed on the Great Spirit to send the reindeer.
Why, they'd never smelled warm meat but for you.
Now, Buff, they'll gorge every hair, hide an' hoof of their share in less than a
week. Thet's the last we do for the damned
Didn't you see them eatin' of the raw innards?--faugh!
I'm calculatin' we'll see no more reindeer. It's late for the migration.
The big herd has driven southward.
But we're lucky, thanks to your prairie trainin'.
Come on now with the sleds, or we'll have a pack of wolves to fight."
By loading three reindeer on each sled, the hunters were not long in transporting them
to the cabin. "Buff, there ain't much doubt about them
keepin' nice and cool," said Rea.
"They'll freeze, an' we can skin them when we want."
That night the starved wolf dogs gorged themselves till they could not rise from
the snow.
Likewise the Yellow Knives feasted. How long the ten reindeer might have served
the wasteful tribe, Rea and Jones never found out.
The next day two Indians arrived with dog- trains, and their advent was hailed with
another feast, and a pow-wow that lasted into the night.
"Guess we're goin' to get rid of our blasted hungry neighbors," said Rea, coming
in next morning with the water pail, "An' I'll be durned, Buff, if I don't believe
them crazy heathen have been told about you.
Them Indians was messengers. Grab your gun, an' let's walk over and
The Yellow Knives were breaking camp, and the hunters were at once conscious of the
difference in their bearing. Rea addressed several braves, but got no
He laid his broad hand on the old wrinkled chief, who repulsed him, and turned his
With a growl, the trapper spun the Indian round, and spoke as many words of the
language as he knew.
He got a cold response, which ended in the ragged old chief starting up, stretching a
long, dark arm northward, and with eyes fixed in fanatical subjection, shouting:
Naza! Naza!"
"Heathen!" Rea shook his gun in the faces of the
"It'll go bad with you to come Nazain' any longer on our trail.
Come, Buff, clear out before I get mad."
When they were once more in the cabin, Rea told Jones that the messengers had been
sent to warn the Yellow Knives not to aid the white hunters in any way.
That night the dogs were kept inside, and the men took turns in watching.
Morning showed a broad trail southward.
And with the going of the Yellow Knives the mercury dropped to fifty, and the long,
twilight winter night fell.
So with this agreeable riddance and plenty of meat and fuel to cheer them, the hunters
sat down in their snug cabin to wait many months for daylight.
Those few intervals when the wind did not blow were the only times Rea and Jones got
out of doors.
To the plainsman, new to the north, the dim gray world about him was of exceeding
interest. Out of the twilight shone a wan, round,
lusterless ring that Rea said was the sun.
The silence and desolation were heart- numbing.
"Where are the wolves?" asked Jones of Rea. "Wolves can't live on snow.
They're farther south after caribou, or farther north after musk-ox."
In those few still intervals Jones remained out as long as he dared, with the mercury
sinking to -sixty degrees.
He turned from the wonder of the unreal, remote sun, to the marvel in the north--
Aurora borealis--ever-present, ever- changing, ever-beautiful! and he gazed in
rapt attention.
"Polar lights," said Rea, as if he were speaking of biscuits.
"You'll freeze. It's gettin' cold."
Cold it became, to the matter of -seventy degrees.
Frost covered the walls of the cabin and the roof, except just over the fire.
The reindeer were harder than iron.
A knife or an ax or a steel-trap burned as if it had been heated in fire, and stuck to
the hand. The hunters experienced trouble in
breathing; the air hurt their lungs.
The months dragged. Rea grew more silent day by day, and as he
sat before the fire his wide shoulders sagged lower and lower.
Jones, unaccustomed to the waiting, the restraint, the barrier of the north, worked
on guns, sleds, harness, till he felt he would go mad.
Then to save his mind he constructed a windmill of caribou hides and pondered over
it trying to invent, to put into practical use an idea he had once conceived.
Hour after hour he lay under his blankets unable to sleep, and listened to the north
Sometimes Rea mumbled in his slumbers; once his giant form started up, and he muttered
a woman's name.
Shadows from the fire flickered on the walls, visionary, spectral shadows, cold
and gray, fitting the north.
At such times he longed with all the power of his soul to be among those scenes far
southward, which he called home. For days Rea never spoke a word, only gazed
into the fire, ate and slept.
Jones, drifting far from his real self, feared the strange mood of the trapper and
sought to break it, but without avail.
More and more he reproached himself, and singularly on the one fact that, as he did
not smoke himself, he had brought only a small store of tobacco.
Rea, inordinate and inveterate smoker, had puffed away all the weed in clouds of
white, then had relapsed into gloom.
At last the marvel in the north dimmed, the obscure gray shade lifted, the hope in the
south brightened, and the mercury climbed reluctantly, with a tyrant's hate to
relinquish power.
Spring weather at twenty-five below zero! On April 12th a small band of Indians made
their appearance.
Of the Dog tribe were they, an offcast of the Great Slaves, according to Rea, and as
motley, starring and starved as the Yellow Knives.
But they were friendly, which presupposed ignorance of the white hunters, and Rea
persuaded the strongest brave to accompany them as guide northward after musk-oxen.
On April 16th, having given the Indians several caribou carcasses, and assuring
them that the cabin was protected by white spirits, Rea and Jones, each with sled and
train of dogs, started out after their
guide, who was similarly equipped, over the glistening snow toward the north.
They made sixty miles the first day, and pitched their Indian tepee on the shores of
Artillery Lake.
Traveling northeast, they covered its white waste of one hundred miles in two days.
Then a day due north, over rolling, monotonously snowy plain; devoid of rock,
tree or shrub, brought them into a country of the strangest, queerest little spruce
trees, very slender, and none of them over fifteen feet in height.
A primeval forest of saplings. "Ditchen Nechila," said the guide.
"Land of Sticks Little," translated Rea.
An occasional reindeer was seen and numerous foxes and hares trotted off into
the woods, evincing more curiosity than fear.
All were silver white, even the reindeer, at a distance, taking the hue of the north.
Once a beautiful creature, unblemished as the snow it trod, ran up a ridge and stood
watching the hunters.
It resembled a monster dog, only it was inexpressibly more wild looking.
"Ho! Ho! there you are!" cried Rea, reaching for his Winchester.
"Polar wolf!
Them's the white devils we'll have hell with."
As if the wolf understood, he lifted his white, sharp head and uttered a bark or
howl that was like nothing so much as a haunting, unearthly mourn.
The animal then merged into the white, as if he were really a spirit of the world
whence his cry seemed to come.
In this ancient forest of youthful appearing trees, the hunters cut firewood
to the full carrying capacity of the sleds.
For five days the Indian guide drove his dogs over the smooth crust, and on the
sixth day, about noon, halting in a hollow, he pointed to tracks in the snow and called
out: "Ageter!
Ageter! Ageter!"
The hunters saw sharply defined hoof-marks, not unlike the tracks of reindeer, except
that they were longer.
The tepee was set up on the spot and the dogs unharnessed.
The Indian led the way with the dogs, and Rea and Jones followed, slipping over the
hard crust without sinking in and traveling swiftly.
Soon the guide, pointing, again let out the cry: "Ageter!" at the same moment loosing
the dogs.
Some few hundred yards down the hollow, a number of large black animals, not unlike
the shaggy, humpy buffalo, lumbered over the snow.
Jones echoed Rea's yell, and broke into a run, easily distancing the puffing giant.
The musk-oxen squared round to the dogs, and were soon surrounded by the yelping
Jones came up to find six old bulls uttering grunts of rage and shaking ram-
like horns at their tormentors.
Notwithstanding that for Jones this was the cumulation of years of desire, the crowning
moment, the climax and fruition of long- harbored dreams, he halted before the tame
and helpless beasts, with joy not unmixed with pain.
"It will be murder!" he exclaimed. "It's like shooting down sheep."
Rea came crashing up behind him and yelled, "Get busy.
We need fresh meat, an' I want the skins."
The bulls succumbed to well-directed shots, and the Indian and Rea hurried back to camp
with the dogs to fetch the sleds, while Jones examined with warm interest the
animals he had wanted to see all his life.
He found the largest bull approached within a third of the size of a buffalo.
He was of a brownish-black color and very like a large, woolly ram.
His head was broad, with sharp, small ears; the horns had wide and flattened bases and
lay flat on the head, to run down back of the eyes, then curve forward to a sharp
Like the bison, the musk ox had short, heavy limbs, covered with very long hair,
and small, hard hoofs with hairy tufts inside the curve of bone, which probably
served as pads or checks to hold the hoof firm on ice.
His legs seemed out of proportion to his body.
Two musk-oxen were loaded on a sled and hauled to camp in one trip.
Skinning them was but short work for such expert hands.
All the choice cuts of meat were saved.
No time was lost in broiling a steak, which they found sweet and juicy, with a flavor
of musk that was disagreeable. "Now, Rea, for the calves," exclaimed
Jones, "And then we're homeward bound."
"I hate to tell this redskin," replied Rea. "He'll be like the others.
But it ain't likely he'd desert us here. He's far from his base, with nothin' but
thet old musket."
Rea then commanded the attention of the brave, and began to mangle the Great Slave
and Yellow Knife languages. Of this mixture Jones knew but few words.
"Ageter nechila," which Rea kept repeating, he knew, however, meant "musk-oxen little."
The guide stared, suddenly appeared to get Rea's meaning, then vigorously shook his
head and gazed at Jones in fear and horror.
Following this came an action as singular as inexplicable.
Slowly rising, he faced the north, lifted his hand, and remained statuesque in his
Then he began deliberately packing his blankets and traps on his sled, which had
not been unhitched from the train of dogs. "Jackoway ditchen hula," he said, and
pointed south.
"Jackoway ditchen hula," echoed Rea. "The damned Indian says 'wife sticks none.'
He's goin' to quit us. What do you think of thet?
His wife's out of wood.
Jackoway out of wood, an' here we are two days from the Arctic Ocean.
Jones, the damned heathen don't go back!" The trapper coolly cocked his rifle.
The savage, who plainly saw and understood the action, never flinched.
He turned his breast to Rea, and there was nothing in his demeanor to suggest his
relation to a craven tribe.
"Good heavens, Rea, don't kill him!" exclaimed Jones, knocking up the leveled
"Why not, I'd like to know?" demanded Rea, as if he were considering the fate of a
threatening beast. "I reckon it'd be a bad thing for us to let
him go."
"Let him go," said Jones. "We are here on the ground.
We have dogs and meat.
We'll get our calves and reach the lake as soon as he does, and we might get there
before." "Mebbe we will," growled Rea.
No vacillation attended the Indian's mood.
From friendly guide, he had suddenly been transformed into a dark, sullen savage.
He refused the musk-ox meat offered by Jones, and he pointed south and looked at
the white hunters as if he asked them to go with him.
Both men shook their heads in answer.
The savage struck his breast a sounding blow and with his index finger pointed at
the white of the north, he shouted dramatically: "Naza!
Naza!" He then leaped upon his sled, lashed his
dogs into a run, and without looking back disappeared over a ridge.
The musk-ox hunters sat long silent.
Finally Rea shook his shaggy locks and roared.
"Ho! Ho! Jackoway out of wood!
Jackoway out of wood!
Jackoway out of wood!"
On the day following the desertion, Jones found tracks to the north of the camp,
making a broad trail in which were numerous little imprints that sent him flying back
to get Rea and the dogs.
Muskoxen in great numbers had passed in the night, and Jones and Rea had not trailed
the herd a mile before they had it in sight.
When the dogs burst into full cry, the musk-oxen climbed a high knoll and squared
about to give battle. "Calves!
Calves!" cried Jones. "Hold back!
Hold back! Thet's a big herd, an' they'll show fight."
As good fortune would have it, the herd split up into several sections, and one
part, hard pressed by the dogs, ran down the knoll, to be cornered under the lee of
a bank.
The hunters, seeing this small number, hurried upon them to find three cows and
five badly frightened little calves backed against the bank of snow, with small red
eyes fastened on the barking, snapping dogs.
To a man of Jones's experience and skill, the capturing of the calves was a
ridiculously easy piece of work.
The cows tossed their heads, watched the dogs, and forgot their young.
The first cast of the lasso settled over the neck of a little fellow.
Jones hauled him out over the slippery snow and laughed as he bound the hairy legs.
In less time than he had taken to capture one buffalo calf, with half the escort, he
had all the little musk-oxen bound fast.
Then he signaled this feat by pealing out an Indian yell of victory.
"Buff, we've got 'em," cried Rea; "An' now for the hell of it gettin' 'em home.
I'll fetch the sleds.
You might as well down thet best cow for me.
I can use another skin."
Of all Jones's prizes of captured wild beasts--which numbered nearly every species
common to western North America--he took greatest pride in the little musk-oxen.
In truth, so great had been his passion to capture some of these rare and inaccessible
mammals, that he considered the day's world the fulfillment of his life's purpose.
He was happy.
Never had he been so delighted as when, the very evening of their captivity, the musk-
oxen, evincing no particular fear of him, began to dig with sharp hoofs into the snow
for moss.
And they found moss, and ate it, which solved Jones's greatest problem.
He had hardly dared to think how to feed them, and here they were picking sustenance
out of the frozen snow.
"Rea, will you look at that! Rea, will you look at that!" he kept
repeating. "See, they're hunting, feed."
And the giant, with his rare smile, watched him play with the calves.
They were about two and a half feet high, and resembled long-haired sheep.
The ears and horns were undiscernible, and their color considerably lighter than that
of the matured beasts. "No sense of fear of man," said the life-
student of animals.
"But they shrink from the dogs." In packing for the journey south, the
captives were strapped on the sleds.
This circumstance necessitated a sacrifice of meat and wood, which brought grave,
doubtful shakes of Rea's great head.
Days of hastening over the icy snow, with short hours for sleep and rest, passed
before the hunters awoke to the consciousness that they were lost.
The meat they had packed had gone to feed themselves and the dogs.
Only a few sticks of wood were left. "Better kill a calf, an' cook meat while
we've got little wood left," suggested Rea.
"Kill one of my calves? I'd starve first!" cried Jones.
The hungry giant said no more. They headed southwest.
All about them glared the grim monotony of the arctics.
No rock or bush or tree made a welcome mark upon the hoary plain Wonderland of frost,
white marble desert, infinitude of gleaming silences!
Snow began to fall, making the dogs flounder, obliterating the sun by which
they traveled. They camped to wait for clearing weather.
Biscuits soaked in tea made their meal.
At dawn Jones crawled out of the tepee. The snow had ceased.
But where were the dogs? He yelled in alarm.
Then little mounds of white, scattered here and there became animated, heaved, rocked
and rose to dogs. Blankets of snow had been their covering.
Rea had ceased his "Jackoway out of wood," for a reiterated question: "Where are the
wolves?" "Lost," replied Jones in hollow humor.
Near the close of that day, in which they had resumed travel, from the crest of a
ridge they descried a long, low, undulating dark line.
It proved to be the forest of "Little sticks," where, with grateful assurance of
fire and of soon finding their old trail, they made camp.
"We've four biscuits left, an' enough tea for one drink each," said Rea.
"I calculate we're two hundred miles from Great Slave Lake.
Where are the wolves?"
At that moment the night wind wafted through the forest a long, haunting mourn.
The calves shifted uneasily; the dogs raised sharp noses to sniff the air, and
Rea, settling back against a tree, cried out: "Ho! Ho!"
Again the savage sound, a keen wailing note with the hunger of the northland in it,
broke the cold silence. "You'll see a pack of real wolves in a
minute," said Rea.
Soon a swift pattering of feet down a forest slope brought him to his feet with a
curse to reach a brawny hand for his rifle.
White streaks crossed the black of the tree trunks; then indistinct forms, the color of
snow, swept up, spread out and streaked to and fro.
Jones thought the great, gaunt, pure white beasts the spectral wolves of Rea's fancy,
for they were silent, and silent wolves must belong to dreams only.
"Ho! Ho!" yelled Rea.
"There's green-fire eyes for you, Buff. Hell itself ain't nothin' to these white
Get the calves in the tepee, an' stand ready to loose the dogs, for we've got to
fight." Raising his rifle he opened fire upon the
white foe.
A struggling, rustling sound followed the shots.
But whether it was the threshing about of wolves dying in agony, or the fighting of
the fortunate ones over those shot, could not be ascertained in the confusion.
Following his example Jones also fired rapidly on the other side of the tepee.
The same inarticulate, silently rustling wrestle succeeded this volley.
"Wait!" cried Rea.
"Be sparin' of cartridges." The dogs strained at their chains and
bravely bayed the wolves.
The hunters heaped logs and brush on the fire, which, blazing up, sent a bright
light far into the woods. On the outer edge of that circle moved the
white, restless, gliding forms.
"They're more afraid of fire than of us," said Jones.
So it proved. When the fire burned and crackled they kept
well in the background.
The hunters had a long respite from serious anxiety, during which time they collected
all the available wood at hand. But at midnight, when this had been mostly
consumed, the wolves grew bold again.
"Have you any shots left for the 45-90, besides what's in the magazine?" asked Rea.
"Yes, a good handful." "Well, get busy."
With careful aim Jones emptied the magazine into the gray, gliding, groping mass.
The same rustling, shuffling, almost silent strife ensued.
"Rea, there's something uncanny about those brutes.
A silent pack of wolves!" "Ho! Ho!" rolled the giant's answer through
the woods.
For the present the attack appeared to have been effectually checked.
The hunters, sparingly adding a little of their fast diminishing pile of fuel to the
fire, decided to lie down for much needed rest, but not for sleep.
How long they lay there, cramped by the calves, listening for stealthy steps,
neither could tell; it might have been moments and it might have been hours.
All at once came a rapid rush of pattering feet, succeeded by a chorus of angry barks,
then a terrible commingling of savage snarls, growls, snaps and yelps.
"Out!" yelled Rea.
"They're on the dogs!" Jones pushed his cocked rifle ahead of him
and straightened up outside the tepee. A wolf, large as a panther and white as the
gleaming snow, sprang at him.
Even as he discharged his rifle, right against the breast of the beast, he saw its
dripping jaws, its wicked green eyes, like spurts of fire and felt its hot breath.
It fell at his feet and writhed in the death struggle.
Slender bodies of black and white, whirling and tussling together, sent out fiendish
Rea threw a blazing stick of wood among them, which sizzled as it met the furry
coats, and brandishing another he ran into the thick of the fight.
Unable to stand the proximity of fire, the wolves bolted and loped off into the woods.
"What a huge brute!" exclaimed Jones, dragging the one he had shot into the
It was a superb animal, thin, supple, strong, with a coat of frosty fur, very
long and fine.
Rea began at once to skin it, remarking that he hoped to find other pelts in the
morning. Though the wolves remained in the vicinity
of camp, none ventured near.
The dogs moaned and whined; their restlessness increased as dawn approached,
and when the gray light came, Jones founds that some of them had been badly lacerated
by the fangs of the wolves.
Rea hunted for dead wolves and found not so much as a piece of white fur.
Soon the hunters were speeding southward.
Other than a disposition to fight among themselves, the dogs showed no evil effects
of the attack.
They were lashed to their best speed, for Rea said the white rangers of the north
would never quit their trail. All day the men listened for the wild,
lonesome, haunting mourn.
But it came not.
A wonderful halo of white and gold, that Rea called a sun-dog, hung in the sky all
afternoon, and dazzlingly bright over the dazzling world of snow circled and glowed a
mocking sun, brother of the desert mirage,
beautiful illusion, smiling cold out of the polar blue.
The first pale evening star twinkled in the east when the hunters made camp on the
shore of Artilery Lake.
At dusk the clear, silent air opened to the sound of a long, haunting mourn.
"Ho! Ho!" called Rea. His hoarse, deep voice rang defiance to the
While he built a fire before the tepee, Jones strode up and down, suddenly to whip
out his knife and make for the tame little musk-oxen, now digging the snow.
Then he wheeled abruptly and held out the blade to Rea.
"What for?" demanded the giant. "We've got to eat," said Jones.
"And I can't kill one of them.
I can't, so you do it." "Kill one of our calves?" roared Rea.
"Not till hell freezes over! I ain't commenced to get hungry.
Besides, the wolves are going to eat us, calves and all."
Nothing more was said. They ate their last biscuit.
Jones packed the calves away in the tepee, and turned to the dogs.
All day they had worried him; something was amiss with them, and even as he went among
them a fierce fight broke out.
Jones saw it was unusual, for the attacked dogs showed craven fear, and the attacking
ones a howling, savage intensity that surprised him.
Then one of the vicious brutes rolled his eyes, frothed at the mouth, shuddered and
leaped in his harness, vented a hoarse howl and fell back shaking and retching.
"My God! Rea!" cried Jones in horror.
"Come here! Look!
That dog is dying of rabies! Hydrophobia!
The white wolves have hydrophobia!"
"If you ain't right!" exclaimed Rea. "I seen a dog die of thet onct, an' he
acted like this. An' thet one ain't all.
Look, Buff! look at them green eyes!
Didn't I say the white wolves was hell? We'll have to kill every dog we've got."
Jones shot the dog, and soon afterward three more that manifested signs of the
It was an awful situation. To kill all the dogs meant simply to
sacrifice his life and Rea's; it meant abandoning hope of ever reaching the cabin.
Then to risk being bitten by one of the poisoned, maddened brutes, to risk the most
horrible of agonizing deaths--that was even worse.
"Rea, we've one chance," cried Jones, with pale face.
"Can you hold the dogs, one by one, while muzzle them?"
"Ho! Ho!" replied the giant.
Placing his bowie knife between his teeth, with gloved hands he seized and dragged one
of the dogs to the campfire. The animal whined and protested, but showed
no ill spirit.
Jones muzzled his jaws tightly with strong cords.
Another and another were tied up, then one which tried to snap at Jones was nearly
crushed by the giant's grip.
The last, a surly brute, broke out into mad ravings the moment he felt the touch of
Jones's hands, and writhing, frothing, he snapped Jones's sleeve.
Rea jerked him loose and held him in the air with one arm, while with the other he
swung the bowie.
They hauled the dead dogs out on the snow, and returning to the fire sat down to await
the cry they expected.
Presently, as darkness fastened down tight, it came--the same cry, wild, haunting,
mourning. But for hours it was not repeated.
"Better rest some," said Rea; "I'll call you if they come."
Jones dropped to sleep as he touched his blankets.
Morning dawned for him, to find the great, dark, shadowy figure of the giant nodding
over the fire. "How's this?
Why didn't you call me?" demanded Jones.
"The wolves only fought a little over the dead dogs."
On the instant Jones saw a wolf skulking up the bank.
Throwing up his rifle, which he had carried out of the tepee, he took a snap-shot at
the beast. It ran off on three legs, to go out of
sight over the hank.
Jones scrambled up the steep, slippery place, and upon arriving at the ridge,
which took several moments of hard work, he looked everywhere for the wolf.
In a moment he saw the animal, standing still some hundred or more paces down a
hollow. With the quick report of Jones's second
shot, the wolf fell and rolled over.
The hunter ran to the spot to find the wolf was dead.
Taking hold of a front paw, he dragged the animal over the snow to camp.
Rea began to skin the animal, when suddenly he exclaimed:
"This fellow's hind foot is gone!" "That's strange.
I saw it hanging by the skin as the wolf ran up the bank.
I'll look for it."
By the bloody trail on the snow he returned to the place where the wolf had fallen, and
thence back to the spot where its leg had been broken by the bullet.
He discovered no sign of the foot.
"Didn't find it, did you?" said Rea. "No, and it appears odd to me.
The snow is so hard the foot could not have sunk."
"Well, the wolf ate his foot, thet's what," returned Rea.
"Look at them teeth marks!" "Is it possible?"
Jones stared at the leg Rea held up.
"Yes, it is. These wolves are crazy at times.
You've seen thet.
An' the smell of blood, an' nothin' else, mind you, in my opinion, made him eat his
own' foot. We'll cut him open."
Impossible as the thing seemed to Jones-- and he could not but believe further
evidence of his own' eyes--it was even stranger to drive a train of mad dogs.
Yet that was what Rea and he did, and lashed them, beat them to cover many miles
in the long day's journey.
Rabies had broken out in several dogs so alarmingly that Jones had to kill them at
the end of the run.
And hardly had the sound of the shots died when faint and far away, but clear as a
bell, bayed on the wind the same haunting mourn of a trailing wolf.
"Ho! Ho! where are the wolves?" cried Rea.
A waiting, watching, sleepless night followed.
Again the hunters faced the south. Hour after hour, riding, running, walking,
they urged the poor, jaded, poisoned dogs.
At dark they reached the head of Artillery Lake.
Rea placed the tepee between two huge stones.
Then the hungry hunters, tired, grim, silent, desperate, awaited the familiar
cry. It came on the cold wind, the same haunting
mourn, dreadful in its significance.
Absence of fire inspirited the wary wolves. Out of the pale gloom gaunt white forms
emerged, agile and stealthy, slipping on velvet-padded feet, closer, closer, closer.
The dogs wailed in terror.
"Into the tepee!" yelled Rea. Jones plunged in after his comrade.
The despairing howls of the dogs, drowned in more savage, frightful sounds, knelled
one tragedy and foreboded a more terrible one.
Jones looked out to see a white mass, like leaping waves of a rapid.
"Pump lead into thet!" cried Rea. Rapidly Jones emptied his rifle into the
white fray.
The mass split; gaunt wolves leaped high to fall back dead; others wriggled and limped
away; others dragged their hind quarters; others darted at the tepee.
"No more cartridges!" yelled Jones.
The giant grabbed the ax, and barred the door of the tepee.
Crash! the heavy iron cleaved the skull of the first brute.
Crash! it lamed the second.
Then Rea stood in the narrow passage between the rocks, waiting with uplifted
ax. A shaggy, white demon, snapping his jaws,
sprang like a dog.
A sodden, thudding blow met him and he slunk away without a cry.
Another rabid beast launched his white body at the giant.
Like a flash the ax descended.
In agony the wolf fell, to spin round and round, running on his hind legs, while his
head and shoulders and forelegs remained in the snow.
His back was broken.
Jones crouched in the opening of the tepee, knife in hand.
He doubted his senses. This was a nightmare.
He saw two wolves leap at once.
He heard the crash of the ax; he saw one wolf go down and the other slip under the
swinging weapon to grasp the giant's hip.
Jones's heard the rend of cloth, and then he pounced like a cat, to drive his knife
into the body of the beast. Another nimble foe lunged at Rea, to sprawl
broken and limp from the iron.
It was a silent fight. The giant shut the way to his comrade and
the calves; he made no outcry; he needed but one blow for every beast; magnificent,
he wielded death and faced it--silent.
He brought the white wild dogs of the north down with lightning blows, and when no more
sprang to the attack, down on the frigid silence he rolled his cry: "Ho! Ho!"
"Rea! Rea! how is it with you?" called Jones, climbing out.
"A torn coat--no more, my lad."
Three of the poor dogs were dead; the fourth and last gasped at the hunters and
The wintry night became a thing of half- conscious past, a dream to the hunters,
manifesting its reality only by the stark, stiff bodies of wolves, white in the gray
"If we can eat, we'll make the cabin," said Rea.
"But the dogs an' wolves are poison." "Shall I kill a calf?" asked Jones.
"Ho! Ho! when hell freezes over--if we must!"
Jones found one 45-90 cartridge in all the outfit, and with that in the chamber of his
rifle, once more struck south.
Spruce trees began to show on the barrens and caribou trails roused hope in the
hearts of the hunters. "Look in the spruces," whispered Jones,
dropping the rope of his sled.
Among the black trees gray objects moved. "Caribou!" said Rea.
"Hurry! Shoot!
Don't miss!"
But Jones waited. He knew the value of the last bullet.
He had a hunter's patience. When the caribou came out in an open space,
Jones whistled.
It was then the rifle grew set and fixed; it was then the red fire belched forth.
At four hundred yards the bullet took some fraction of time to strike.
What a long time that was!
Then both hunters heard the spiteful spat of the lead.
The caribou fell, jumped up, ran down the slope, and fell again to rise no more.
An hour of rest, with fire and meat, changed the world to the hunters; still
glistening, it yet had lost its bitter cold its deathlike clutch.
"What's this?" cried Jones.
Moccasin tracks of different sizes, all toeing north, arrested the hunters.
"Pointed north! Wonder what thet means?"
Rea plodded on, doubtfully shaking his head.
Night again, clear, cold, silver, starlit, silent night!
The hunters rested, listening ever for the haunting mourn.
Day again, white, passionless, monotonous, silent day.
The hunters traveled on--on--on, ever listening for the haunting mourn.
Another dusk found them within thirty miles of their cabin.
Only one more day now.
Rea talked of his furs, of the splendid white furs he could not bring.
Jones talked of his little muskoxen calves and joyfully watched them dig for moss in
the snow.
Vigilance relaxed that night. Outworn nature rebelled, and both hunters
slept. Rea awoke first, and kicking off the
blankets, went out.
His terrible roar of rage made Jones fly to his side.
Under the very shadow of the tepee, where the little musk-oxen had been tethered,
they lay stretched out pathetically on crimson snow--stiff stone-cold, dead.
Moccasin tracks told the story of the tragedy.
Jones leaned against his comrade. The giant raised his huge fist.
"Jackoway out of wood!
Jackoway out of wood!" Then he choked.
The north wind, blowing through the thin, dark, weird spruce trees, moaned and seemed
to sigh, "Naza!
"Who all was doin' the talkin' last night?" asked Frank next morning, when we were
having a late breakfast. "Cause I've a joke on somebody.
Jim he talks in his sleep often, an' last night after you did finally get settled
down, Jim he up in his sleep an' says: 'Shore he's windy as hell!
Shore he's windy as hell'!"
At this cruel exposure of his subjective wanderings, Jim showed extreme humiliation;
but Frank's eyes fairly snapped with the fun he got out of telling it.
The genial foreman loved a joke.
The week's stay at Oak, in which we all became thoroughly acquainted, had presented
Jim as always the same quiet character, easy, slow, silent, lovable.
In his brother cowboy, however, we had discovered in addition to his fine, frank,
friendly spirit, an overwhelming fondness for playing tricks.
This boyish mischievousness, distinctly Arizonian, reached its acme whenever it
tended in the direction of our serious leader.
Lawson had been dispatched on some mysterious errand about which my curiosity
was all in vain.
The order of the day was leisurely to get in readiness, and pack for our journey to
the Siwash on the morrow.
I watered my horse, played with the hounds, knocked about the cliffs, returned to the
cabin, and lay down on my bed. Jim's hands were white with flour.
He was kneading dough, and had several low, flat pans on the table.
Wallace and Jones strolled in, and later Frank, and they all took various positions
before the fire.
I saw Frank, with the quickness of a sleight-of-hand performer, slip one of the
pans of dough on the chair Jones had placed by the table.
Jim did not see the action; Jones's and Wallace's backs were turned to Frank, and
he did not know I was in the cabin.
The conversation continued on the subject of Jones's big bay horse, which, hobbles
and all, had gotten ten miles from camp the night before.
"Better count his ribs than his tracks," said Frank, and went on talking as easily
and naturally as if he had not been expecting a very entertaining situation.
But no one could ever foretell Colonel Jones's actions.
He showed every intention of seating himself in the chair, then walked over to
his pack to begin searching for something or other.
Wallace, however, promptly took the seat; and what began to be funnier than strange,
he did not get up.
Not unlikely this circumstance was owing to the fact that several of the rude chairs
had soft layers of old blanket tacked on them.
Whatever were Frank's internal emotions, he presented a remarkably placid and
commonplace exterior; but when Jim began to search for the missing pan of dough, the
joker slowly sagged in his chair.
"Shore that beats hell!" said Jim. "I had three pans of dough.
Could the pup have taken one?"
Wallace rose to his feet, and the bread pan clattered to the floor, with a clang and a
clank, evidently protesting against the indignity it had suffered.
But the dough stayed with Wallace, a great white conspicuous splotch on his corduroys.
Jim, Frank and Jones all saw it at once.
"Why--Mr. Wal--lace--you set--in the dough!" exclaimed Frank, in a queer,
strangled voice. Then he exploded, while Jim fell over the
It seemed that those two Arizona rangers, matured men though they were, would die of
I laughed with them, and so did Wallace, while he brought his one-handled bowie
knife into novel use.
Buffalo Jones never cracked a smile, though he did remark about the waste of good
Frank's face was a study for a psychologist when Jim actually apologized to Wallace for
being so careless with his pans. I did not betray Frank, but I resolved to
keep a still closer watch on him.
It was partially because of this uneasy sense of his trickiness in the fringe of my
mind that I made a discovery.
My sleeping-bag rested on a raised platform in one corner, and at a favorable moment I
examined the bag.
It had not been tampered with, but I noticed a string turning out through a
chink between the logs.
I found it came from a thick layer of straw under my bed, and had been tied to the end
of a flatly coiled lasso.
Leaving the thing as it was, I went outside and carelessly chased the hounds round the
The string stretched along the logs to another chink, where it returned into the
cabin at a point near where Frank slept.
No great power of deduction was necessary to acquaint me with full details of the
plot to spoil my slumbers. So I patiently awaited developments.
Lawson rode in near sundown with the carcasses of two beasts of some species
hanging over his saddle.
It turned out that Jones had planned a surprise for Wallace and me, and it could
hardly have been a more enjoyable one, considering the time and place.
We knew he had a flock of Persian sheep on the south slope of Buckskin, but had no
idea it was within striking distance of Oak.
Lawson had that day hunted up the shepherd and his sheep, to return to us with two
sixty-pound Persian lambs.
We feasted at suppertime on meat which was sweet, juicy, very tender and of as rare a
flavor as that of the Rocky Mountain sheep.
My state after supper was one of huge enjoyment and with intense interest I
awaited Frank's first spar for an opening. It came presently, in a lull of the
"Saw a big rattler run under the cabin to- day," he said, as if he were speaking of
one of Old Baldy's shoes. "I tried to get a whack at him, but he
oozed away too quick."
"Shore I seen him often," put in Jim. Good, old, honest Jim, led away by his
trickster comrade! It was very plain.
So I was to be frightened by snakes.
"These old canyon beds are ideal dens for rattle snakes," chimed in my scientific
California friend.
"I have found several dens, but did not molest them as this is a particularly
dangerous time of the year to meddle with the reptiles.
Quite likely there's a den under the cabin."
While he made this remarkable statement, he had the grace to hide his face in a huge
puff of smoke.
He, too, was in the plot.
I waited for Jones to come out with some ridiculous theory or fact concerning the
particular species of snake, but as he did not speak, I concluded they had wisely left
him out of the secret.
After mentally debating a moment, I decided, as it was a very harmless joke, to
help Frank into the fulfillment of his enjoyment.
I exclaimed. "Heavens!
I'd die if I heard one, let alone seeing it.
A big rattler jumped at me one day, and I've never recovered from the shock."
Plainly, Frank was delighted to hear of my antipathy and my unfortunate experience,
and he proceeded to expatiate on the viciousness of rattlesnakes, particularly
those of Arizona.
If I had believed the succeeding stories, emanating from the fertile brains of those
three fellows, I should have made certain that Arizona canyons were Brazilian
Frank's parting shot, sent in a mellow, kind voice, was the best point in the whole
"Now, I'd be nervous if I had a sleepin' bag like yours, because it's just the place
for a rattler to ooze into."
In the confusion and dim light of bedtime I contrived to throw the end of my lasso over
the horn of a saddle hanging on the wall, with the intention of augmenting the noise
I soon expected to create; and I placed my automatic rifle and .38 S. and W.
Special within easy reach of my hand. Then I crawled into my bag and composed
myself to listen.
Frank soon began to snore, so brazenly, so fictitiously, that I wondered at the man's
absorbed intensity in his joke; and I was at great pains to smother in my breast a
violent burst of riotous merriment.
Jones's snores, however, were real enough, and this made me enjoy the situation all
the more; because if he did not show a mild surprise when the catastrophe fell, I would
greatly miss my guess.
I knew the three wily conspirators were wide-awake.
Suddenly I felt a movement in the straw under me and a faint rustling.
It was so soft, so sinuous, that if I had not known it was the lasso, I would
assuredly have been frightened. I gave a little jump, such as one will make
quickly in bed.
Then the coil ran out from under the straw. How subtly suggestive of a snake!
I made a slight outcry, a big jump, paused a moment for effectiveness in which time
Frank forgot to snore--then let out a tremendous yell, grabbed my guns, sent
twelve thundering shots through the roof and pulled my lasso.
Crash! the saddle came down, to be followed by sounds not on Frank's programme and
certainly not calculated upon by me.
But they were all the more effective.
I gathered that Lawson, who was not in the secret, and who was a nightmare sort of
sleeper anyway, had knocked over Jim's table, with its array of pots and pans and
then, unfortunately for Jones had kicked that innocent person in the stomach.
As I lay there in my bag, the very happiest fellow in the wide world, the sound of my
mirth was as the buzz of the wings of a fly to the mighty storm.
Roar on roar filled the cabin.
When the three hypocrites recovered sufficiently from the startling climax to
calm Lawson, who swore the cabin had been attacked by Indians; when Jones stopped
roaring long enough to hear it was only a
harmless snake that had caused the trouble, we hushed to repose once more--not,
however, without hearing some trenchant remarks from the boiling Colonel anent fun
and fools, and the indubitable fact that
there was not a rattlesnake on Buckskin Mountain.
Long after this explosion had died away, I heard, or rather felt, a mysterious shudder
or tremor of the cabin, and I knew that Frank and Jim were shaking with silent
On my own score, I determined to find if Jones, in his strange make-up, had any
sense of humor, or interest in life, or feeling, or love that did not center and
hinge on four-footed beasts.
In view of the rude awakening from what, no doubt, were pleasant dreams of wonderful
white and green animals, combining the intelligence of man and strength of brutes-
-a new species creditable to his genius--I
was perhaps unjust in my conviction as to his lack of humor.
And as to the other question, whether or not he had any real human feeling for the
creatures built in his own image, that was decided very soon and unexpectedly.
The following morning, as soon as Lawson got in with the horses, we packed and
started. Rather sorry was I to bid good-by to Oak
Taking the back trail of the Stewarts, we walked the horses all day up a slowly
narrowing, ascending canyon. The hounds crossed coyote and deer trails
continually, but made no break.
Sounder looked up as if to say he associated painful reminiscences with
certain kinds of tracks.
At the head of the canyon we reached timber at about the time dusk gathered, and we
located for the night.
Being once again nearly nine thousand feet high, we found the air bitterly cold,
making a blazing fire most acceptable.
In the haste to get supper we all took a hand, and some one threw upon our tarpaulin
tablecloth a tin cup of butter mixed with carbolic acid--a concoction Jones had used
to bathe the sore feet of the dogs.
Of course I got hold of this, spread a generous portion on my hot biscuit, placed
some red-hot beans on that, and began to eat like a hungry hunter.
At first I thought I was only burned.
Then I recognized the taste and burn of the acid and knew something was wrong.
Picking up the tin, I examined it, smelled the pungent odor and felt a queer numb
sense of fear.
This lasted only for a moment, as I well knew the use and power of the acid, and had
not swallowed enough to hurt me.
I was about to make known my mistake in a matter-of-fact way, when it flashed over me
the accident could be made to serve a turn. "Jones!"
I cried hoarsely.
"What's in this butter?" "Lord! you haven't eaten any of that.
Why, I put carbolic acid in it." "Oh--oh--oh--I'm poisoned!
I ate nearly all of it!
Oh--I'm burning up! I'm dying!"
With that I began to moan and rock to and fro and hold my stomach.
Consternation preceded shock.
But in the excitement of the moment, Wallace--who, though badly scared, retained
his wits made for me with a can of condensed milk.
He threw me back with no gentle hand, and was squeezing the life out of me to make me
open my mouth, when I gave him a jab in his side.
I imagined his surprise, as this peculiar reception of his first-aid-to-the-injured
made him hold off to take a look at me, and in this interval I contrived to whisper to
him: "Joke!
Joke! you idiot! I'm only shamming.
I want to see if I can scare Jones and get even with Frank.
Help me out!
Cry! Get tragic!"
From that moment I shall always believe that the stage lost a great tragedian in
With a magnificent gesture he threw the can of condensed milk at Jones, who was so
stunned he did not try to dodge. "Thoughtless man!
Murderer! it's too late!" cried Wallace, laying me back across his knees.
"It's too late. His teeth are locked.
He's far gone.
Poor boy! poor boy! Who's to tell his mother?"
I could see from under my hat-brim that the solemn, hollow voice had penetrated the
cold exterior of the plainsman.
He could not speak; he clasped and unclasped his big hands in helpless
fashion. Frank was as white as a sheet.
This was simply delightful to me.
But the expression of miserable, impotent distress on old Jim's sun-browned face was
more than I could stand, and I could no longer keep up the deception.
Just as Wallace cried out to Jones to pray- -I wished then I had not weakened so soon--
I got up and walked to the fire. "Jim, I'll have another biscuit, please."
His under jaw dropped, then he nervously shoveled biscuits at me.
Jones grabbed my hand and cried out with a voice that was new to me: "You can eat?
You're better?
You'll get over it?" "Sure.
Why, carbolic acid never phases me. I've often used it for rattlesnake bites.
I did not tell you, but that rattler at the cabin last night actually bit me, and I
used carbolic to cure the poison." Frank mumbled something about horses, and
faded into the gloom.
As for Jones, he looked at me rather incredulously, and the absolute, almost
childish gladness he manifested because I had been snatched from the grave, made me
regret my deceit, and satisfied me forever on one score.
On awakening in the morning I found frost half an inch thick covered my sleeping-bag,
whitened the ground, and made the beautiful silver spruce trees silver in hue as well
as in name.
We were getting ready for an early start, when two riders, with pack-horses jogging
after them, came down the trail from the direction of Oak Spring.
They proved to be Jeff Clarke, the wild- horse wrangler mentioned by the Stewarts,
and his helper. They were on the way into the breaks for a
string of pintos.
Clarke was a short, heavily bearded man, of jovial aspect.
He said he had met the Stewarts going into Fredonia, and being advised of our
destination, had hurried to come up with us.
As we did not know, except in a general way, where we were making for, the meeting
was a fortunate event.
Our camping site had been close to the divide made by one of the long, wooded
ridges sent off by Buckskin Mountain, and soon we were descending again.
We rode half a mile down a timbered slope, and then out into a beautiful, flat forest
of gigantic pines.
Clarke informed us it was a level bench some ten miles long, running out from the
slopes of Buckskin to face the Grand Canyon on the south, and the 'breaks of the Siwash
on the west.
For two hours we rode between the stately lines of trees, and the hoofs of the horses
gave forth no sound.
A long, silvery grass, sprinkled with smiling bluebells, covered the ground,
except close under the pines, where soft red mats invited lounging and rest.
We saw numerous deer, great gray mule deer, almost as large as elk.
Jones said they had been crossed with elk once, which accounted for their size.
I did not see a stump, or a burned tree, or a windfall during the ride.
Clarke led us to the rim of the canyon.
Without any preparation--for the giant trees hid the open sky--we rode right out
to the edge of the tremendous chasm.
At first I did not seem to think; my faculties were benumbed; only the pure
sensorial instinct of the savage who sees, but does not feel, made me take note of the
Not one of our party had ever seen the canyon from this side, and not one of us
said a word. But Clarke kept talking.
"Wild place this is hyar," he said.
"Seldom any one but horse wranglers gits over this far.
I've hed a bunch of wild pintos down in a canyon below fer two years.
I reckon you can't find no better place fer camp than right hyar.
Listen. Do you hear thet rumble?
Thet's Thunder Falls.
You can only see it from one place, an' thet far off, but thar's brooks you can git
at to water the hosses. Fer thet matter, you can ride up the slopes
an' git snow.
If you can git snow close, it'd be better, fer thet's an all-fired bad trail down fer
water." "Is this the cougar country the Stewarts
talked about?" asked Jones.
"Reckon it is. Cougars is as thick in hyar as rabbits in a
spring-hole canyon. I'm on the way now to bring up my pintos.
The cougars hev cost me hundreds I might say thousands of dollars.
I lose hosses all the time; an' damn me, gentlemen, I've never raised a colt.
This is the greatest cougar country in the West.
Look at those yellow crags! Thar's where the cougars stay.
No one ever hunted 'em.
It seems to me they can't be hunted. Deer and wild hosses by the thousand browse
hyar on the mountain in summer, an' down in the breaks in winter.
The cougars live fat.
You'll find deer and wild-hoss carcasses all over this country.
You'll find lions' dens full of bones. You'll find warm deer left for the coyotes.
But whether you'll find the cougars, I can't say.
I fetched dogs in hyar, an' tried to ketch Old Tom.
I've put them on his trail an' never saw hide nor hair of them again.
Jones, it's no easy huntin' hyar." "Well, I can see that," replied our leader.
"I never hunted lions in such a country, and never knew any one who had.
We'll have to learn how. We've the time and the dogs, all we need is
the stuff in us."
"I hope you fellars git some cougars, an' I believe you will.
Whatever you do, kill Old Tom." "We'll catch him alive.
We're not on a hunt to kill cougars," said Jones.
"What!" exclaimed Clarke, looking from Jones to us.
His rugged face wore a half-smile.
"Jones ropes cougars, an' ties them up," replied Frank.
"I'm -- -- if he'll ever rope Old Tom," burst out Clarke, ejecting a huge quid of
"Why, man alive! it'd be the death of you to git near thet old villain.
I never seen him, but I've seen his tracks fer five years.
They're larger than any hoss tracks you ever seen.
He'll weigh over three hundred, thet old cougar.
Hyar, take a look at my man's hoss.
Look at his back. See them marks?
Wal, Old Tom made them, an' he made them right in camp last fall, when we were down
in the canyon."
The mustang to which Clarke called our attention was a sleek cream and white
pinto. Upon his side and back were long regular
scars, some an inch wide, and bare of hair.
"How on earth did he get rid of the cougar?" asked Jones.
"I don't know. Perhaps he got scared of the dogs.
It took thet pinto a year to git well.
Old Tom is a real lion. He'll kill a full-grown hoss when he wants,
but a yearlin' colt is his especial likin'. You're sure to run acrost his trail, an'
you'll never miss it.
Wal, if I find any cougar sign down in the canyon, I'll build two fires so as to let
you know. Though no hunter, I'm tolerably acquainted
with the varmints.
The deer an' hosses are rangin' the forest slopes now, an' I think the cougars come up
over the rim rock at night an' go back in the mornin'.
Anyway, if your dogs can follow the trails, you've got sport, an' more'n sport comin'
to you. But take it from me--don't try to rope Old
After all our disappointments in the beginning of the expedition, our hardship
on the desert, our trials with the dogs and horses, it was real pleasure to make
permanent camp with wood, water and feed at
hand, a soul-stirring, ever-changing picture before us, and the certainty that
we were in the wild lairs of the lions-- among the Lords of the Crags!
While we were unpacking, every now and then I would straighten up and gaze out beyond.
I knew the outlook was magnificent and sublime beyond words, but as yet I had not
begun to understand it.
The great pine trees, growing to the very edge of the rim, received their full quota
of appreciation from me, as did the smooth, flower-decked aisles leading back into the
The location we selected for camp was a large glade, fifty paces or more from the
precipice far enough, the cowboys averred, to keep our traps from being sucked down by
some of the whirlpool winds, native to the spot.
In the center of this glade stood a huge gnarled and blasted old pine, that
certainly by virtue of hoary locks and bent shoulders had earned the right to stand
aloof from his younger companions.
Under this tree we placed all our belongings, and then, as Frank so
felicitously expressed it, we were free to "ooze round an' see things."
I believe I had a sort of subconscious, selfish idea that some one would steal the
canyon away from me if I did not hurry to make it mine forever; so I sneaked off, and
sat under a pine growing on the very rim.
At first glance, I saw below me, seemingly miles away, a wild chaos of red and buff
mesas rising out of dark purple clefts.
Beyond these reared a long, irregular tableland, running south almost to the
extent of my vision, which I remembered Clarke had called Powell's Plateau.
I remembered, also, that he had said it was twenty miles distant, was almost that many
miles long, was connected to the mainland of Buckskin Mountain by a very narrow
wooded dip of land called the Saddle, and
that it practically shut us out of a view of the Grand Canyon proper.
If that was true, what, then, could be the name of the canyon at my feet?
Suddenly, as my gaze wandered from point to point, it was attested by a dark, conical
mountain, white-tipped, which rose in the notch of the Saddle.
What could it mean?
Were there such things as canyon mirages? Then the dim purple of its color told of
its great distance from me; and then its familiar shape told I had come into my own
again--I had found my old friend once more.
For in all that plateau there was only one snow-capped mountain--the San Francisco
Peak; and there, a hundred and fifty, perhaps two hundred miles away, far beyond
the Grand Canyon, it smiled brightly at me,
as it had for days and days across the desert.
Hearing Jones yelling for somebody or everybody, I jumped up to find a procession
heading for a point farther down the rim wall, where our leader stood waving his
The excitement proved to have been caused by cougar signs at the head of the trail
where Clarke had started down.
"They're here, boys, they're here," Jones kept repeating, as he showed us different
tracks. "This sign is not so old.
Boys, to-morrow we'll get up a lion, sure as you're born.
And if we do, and Sounder sees him, then we've got a lion-dog!
I'm afraid of Don.
He has a fine nose; he can run and fight, but he's been trained to deer, and maybe I
can't break him. Moze is still uncertain.
If old Jude only hadn't been lamed!
She would be the best of the lot. But Sounder is our hope.
I'm almost ready to swear by him."
All this was too much for me, so I slipped off again to be alone, and this time headed
for the forest.
Warm patches of sunlight, like gold, brightened the ground; dark patches of sky,
like ocean blue, gleamed between the treetops.
Hardly a rustle of wind in the fine-toothed green branches disturbed the quiet.
When I got fully out of sight of camp, I started to run as if I were a wild Indian.
My running had no aim; just sheer mad joy of the grand old forest, the smell of pine,
the wild silence and beauty loosed the spirit in me so it had to run, and I ran
with it till the physical being failed.
While resting on a fragrant bed of pine needles, endeavoring to regain control over
a truant mind, trying to subdue the encroaching of the natural man on the
civilized man, I saw gray objects moving under the trees.
I lost them, then saw them, and presently so plainly that, with delight on delight, I
counted seventeen deer pass through an open arch of dark green.
Rising to my feet, I ran to get round a low mound.
They saw me and bounded away with prodigiously long leaps.
Bringing their forefeet together, stiff- legged under them, they bounced high, like
rubber balls, yet they were graceful.
The forest was so open that I could watch them for a long way; and as I circled with
my gaze, a glimpse of something white arrested my attention.
A light, grayish animal appeared to be tearing at an old stump.
Upon nearer view, I recognized a wolf, and he scented or sighted me at the same
moment, and loped off into the shadows of the trees.
Approaching the spot where I had marked him I found he had been feeding from the
carcass of a horse.
The remains had been only partly eaten, and were of an animal of the mustang build that
had evidently been recently killed. Frightful lacerations under the throat
showed where a lion had taken fatal hold.
Deep furrows in the ground proved how the mustang had sunk his hoofs, reared and
shaken himself.
I traced roughly defined tracks fifty paces to the lee of a little bank, from which I
concluded the lion had sprung.
I gave free rein to my imagination and saw the forest dark, silent, peopled by none
but its savage denizens, The lion crept like a shadow, crouched noiselessly down,
then leaped on his sleeping or browsing prey.
The lonely night stillness split to a frantic snort and scream of terror, and the
stricken mustang with his mortal enemy upon his back, dashed off with fierce, wild love
of life.
As he went he felt his foe crawl toward his neck on claws of fire; he saw the tawny
body and the gleaming eyes; then the cruel teeth snapped with the sudden bite, and the
woodland tragedy ended.
On the spot I conceived an antipathy toward lions.
It was born of the frightful spectacle of what had once been a glossy, prancing
mustang, of the mute, sickening proof of the survival of the fittest, of the law
that levels life.
Upon telling my camp-fellows about my discovery, Jones and Wallace walked out to
see it, while Jim told me the wolf I had seen was a "lofer," one of the giant
buffalo wolves of Buckskin; and if I would
watch the carcass in the mornings and evenings, I would "shore as hell get a
plunk at him."
White pine burned in a beautiful, clear blue flame, with no smoke; and in the
center of the campfire left a golden heart.
But Jones would not have any sitting up, and hustled us off to bed, saying we would
be "blamed" glad of it in about fifteen hours.
I crawled into my sleeping-bag, made a hood of my Navajo blanket, and peeping from
under it, watched the fire and the flickering shadows.
The blaze burned down rapidly.
Then the stars blinked. Arizona stars would be moons in any other
State! How serene, peaceful, august, infinite and
wonderfully bright!
No breeze stirred the pines. The clear tinkle of the cowbells on the
hobbled horses rang from near and distant parts of the forest.
The prosaic bell of the meadow and the pasture brook, here, in this environment,
jingled out different notes, as clear, sweet, musical as silver bells.