Adrift in the Wilds;
The Adventures of Two Shipwrecked Boys.
By EDWARD S. ELLIS
NEW YORK: A. L. BURT, PUBLISHER.
Copyrighted 1887, by A. L. Burt.
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
'May the good Lord preserve us! them are Injuns,' said Tim.
"The Indian drew forth a tiny canoe and shoved it into the water"
"We are lost."
ADRIFT IN THE WILDS;
The Adventures of Two Shipwrecked Boys.
HO, FOR CALIFORNIA.
One beautiful misummer night in 18— a large, heavily laden steamer was making her way swiftly up the Pacific coast, in the direction of San Francisco. She was opposite the California shore, only a day's sail distant from the City of the Golden Gate, and many of the passengers had already begun making preparations for landing, even though a whole night and the better part of a day was to intervene ere they could expect to set their feet upon solid land.
She was one of those magnificent steamers that ply regularly between Panama and California. She had rather more than her full cargo of freight and passengers; but, among the hundreds of the latter, we have to do with but three.
On this moonlight night, there were gathered by themselves these three personages, consisting of Tim O'Rooney, Elwood Brandon and Howard Lawrence. The first was a burly, good-natured Irishman, and the two latter were cousins, their ages differing by less than a month, and both being in their sixteenth year.
The financial storm that swept over the country in 18—, toppling down merchants and banking-houses like so many ten-pins, carried with it in the general wreck and ruin, that of Brandon, Herman & Co., and the senior partner, Sylvanus Brandon, returned to his home in Brooklyn, New York, one evening worse than penniless. While he was meditating, dejected and gloomy, as to the means by which he was to keep the wolf from the door, his clerk brought him a letter which had been overlooked in the afternoon's mail, postmarked, "San Francisco, Cal." At once he recognized the bold, handsome superscription as that of his kind-hearted brother-in-law, Thomas Lawrence. His heart beat with a strong hope as he broke the envelope, and his eyes glistened ere he had read one-half.
In short, it stated that Mr. Lawrence had established himself successfully in business, and was doing so well that he felt the imperative need of a partner, and ended by urging Mr. Brandon to accept the position. The bankrupt merchant laid the epistle in his lap, removed his spectacles and looked smilingly toward his wife. They held a long discussion, and both decided to accept the offer at once, as there was no other recourse left to them.
It was evident from the letter that Mr. Lawrence had some apprehensions regarding Mr. Brandon's ability to weather the storm, but he could not be aware of his financial crash, as it had only become known on the street within the last twenty-four hours. Mr. Brandon deemed it proper, therefore, before closing with the offer, to acquaint his brother-in-law with his circumstances, that he might fully understand the disadvantage under which he would be placed by the new partnership.
The letter was written and duly posted, and our friends rather anxiously awaited the answer. It came in the gratifying form of a draft for $1,000 to defray "his necessary expenses," and an urgent entreaty to start without delay.
The advice was acted upon, and within two weeks of the reception of the second letter, Mr. Brandon and his wife were on board the steamer at New York, with their state-rooms engaged for California. They had but one child, Elwood, whom they had placed at a private school where he was to prepare himself for college, in company with his cousin, Howard Lawrence, who had been sent from California by his father and had entered the school at the same time.
Mr. Brandon learned that Mr. Lawrence was a brother indeed. The position in which the two men were placed proved so favorable to the former that in a few years he found himself almost as wealthy as in his palmiest days, when his name was such a power in Wall Street. He had come to like the young and growing State of California, and ere he had been there two years both himself and wife had lost all longings for the metropolis of the New World.
In the meanwhile, Elwood and Howard were doing well at their studies in Brooklyn. They had been inseparable friends from infancy, and as their years increased the bonds of affection seemed to strengthen between them. They were the only children of twin sisters, and bore a remarkable resemblance in person, character and disposition. Both had dark, curling, chestnut hair, hazel eyes, and an active muscular organization that made them leaders in boyish pastimes and sports. If there was any perceptible difference between the two, it was that Elwood Brandon was a little more daring and impetuous than his companion; he was apt to follow out his first impulses and venture upon schemes without deliberating fully enough. Both were generous, unselfish, and either would have willingly risked his life for the other.
Thus matters stood until the summer when our young heroes had completed their preparatory course, and were ready to enter college. It was decided by their parents that this should be done in the autumn, and that the summer of this year should be spent by the boys with their parents in California. They had been separated from them for five years, during which they had met but once, when the parents made a journey to New York for that purpose, spending several months with them. That visit, it may be said, was now to be returned, and the boys meant that it should be returned with interest.
And so Tim O'Rooney, a good-natured, trustworthy Irishman, who had been in the employ of Mr. Lawrence for eight years, almost ever since his arrival in America, was sent to New York to accompany the boys on their visit home.
Howard and Elwood were standing one afternoon on the corner of Montague Street, in Brooklyn, chatting with each other about their expected trip to California. They had closed their school studies a week before, and boy-like were now anxious to be off upon their journey. Suddenly an Irishman came in sight, smoking furiously at a short black pipe. The first glance showed them that it was no other than Tim O'Rooney, the expected messenger.
"Isn't that good?" exclaimed Elwood, "the steamer sails on Saturday, and we'll go in it. Here he comes, as though he was in a great hurry!"
"Don't say anything, and see whether he will know us!"
"Why shouldn't he?"
"You know we've grown a good deal since he was here, and the beard is getting so stiff on my chin that it scratches my hand every time I touch it."
"Yes; that mustache, too, is making you look as fierce as a Bluebeard; but here he is!"
At this instant Tim O'Rooney came opposite them. He merely glanced up, puffed harder than ever and was passing on, when both burst out in a loud laugh.
"Be the powers! what's the mather with ye spalpeens?" he angrily demanded. "Can't a dacent man be passing the sthrats widout being insulted——Howly mother! is it yerselves or is it your grandfathers?"
He had recognized them, and a hearty hand-shaking followed. Tim grinned a great deal over his mistake, and answered their questions in his dry, witty way, and assured them that his instructions were to bring them home as soon as possible. Accordingly, they embarked on the steamer on the following Saturday; and, passing over the unimportant incidents of their voyage, we come back to our starting point, where all three were within a day's journey of their destination.
"To-morrow we shall be home," said Elwood Brandon, addressing his companion, although at the time he was looking out on the moon-lit sea, in the direction of California.
"Yes; if nothing unexpected happens," replied his cousin, who was pushing and drawing a large Newfoundland dog that lay at his feet.
"And what can happen?" asked his cousin, turning abruptly toward him.
"A hundred things. Suppose the boiler should blow up, we run on a rock, take fire, or get struck by a squall——"
"Or be carried away in a balloon," was the impatient exclamation. "One is just as likely to happen as the other."
Howard at that moment had twined his feet around the neck of Terror, the Newfoundland, and the mischievous dog, springing suddenly to his feet, brought his master from his seat to the deck, which, as a matter of course, made both of the cousins laugh.
"He did that on purpose," said Howard, recovering his position.
"Of course he did. You have been pestering him for the last half-hour, and he is getting tired of it; but I may say, Howard, I shall hardly be able to sleep to-night, I am so anxious to see father and mother."
"So am I; a few years makes such a difference in us, while I can't detect the least change in them."
"Except a few more gray hairs, or perhaps an additional wrinkle or two. What's the matter with Tim?"
"Tim! O nothing, he seems to be meditating and smoking. Fact is that is about all he has done since he has been with us."
"It's been a grand time for Tim, and I have no doubt he has enjoyed the trip to and from California as much as either of us."
The subject of these remarks was seated a few feet away, his arms folded, while he was looking with a vague, dreamy expression out upon the great Pacific, stretching so many thousand miles beyond them, rolling far off in each direction, until sky and ocean blended in great gloom.
"Maybe he is looking for Asia," laughed Elwood in an undertone.
"More likely he is hoping to get a glimpse of Ireland, for he would be as likely to look in that direction as any other. I say, Tim!"
The Irishman did not heed the call until he was addressed the second time in a louder tone than before, when he suddenly raised his head.
"Whisht! what is it?"
"What are you thinking about?"
"Nothin', I was dreaming."
"Dreaming! what about?"
"Begorrah but that was a qua'r dream, was that same one."
"Let's hear it."
"But it's onplaiasnt."
"Never mind, out with it."
"Well, thin, if I must tell yees, I was thinking that this owld staamer was all on fire, and all of us passengers was jumping around in the wather, pulling each other down, away miles into the sea, till we was gone so long there wasn't a chance iver to git up agin."
A strange fear thrilled both of the boys at the mention of this, and they looked at each other a moment in silence.
"What put that into your head, Tim?"
"And it's just the question I was axing meself, for I never draamed of such a thing in my life before, and it's mighty qua'r that I should take a notion to do it now."
"It ain't worth talking about," said Elwood, showing an anxiety to change the subject.
"Be yees going to bed to-night?"
"I don't feel a bit sleepy," replied Elwood. "I'd just as soon sit up half the night as not."
"And so would I; it must be after eleven o'clock, isn't it?"
"It's near 'levin," replied Tim. "I'm not able to examine me watch; and if I was, I couldn't tell very well, as it hasn't run for a few months."
Howard took out his watch, but the moonlight was too faint for him to distinguish the hands, and the three were content to let the precise time remain a matter of conjecture.
"Tim, how close are we to land?" asked Elwood.
"I should say about the same distance that the land is from us, and begorrah that's the best information I can give yees."
"I could see the mountains very plainly when the sun was setting," said Howard, "and it cannot be many miles away."
"What sort of a country is it off here?" pursued Elwood, pointing in the direction of the land.
"It is wild and rocky, and there are plenty of Indians and wild animals there."
"How do you know?" asked Elwood, in some amazement.
"I have taken the trouble to learn all about California that I could before coming."
"I believe they have gold there?" said Elwood, in rather a bantering vein.
"Tim can tell you more about that than I can, as he came to California to hunt gold."
"How is that, Tim?"
"Begorrah, but he shpakes the truth. I wint up among the mountains to hunt gowld."
"And what luck had you?"
"Luck, is it?" repeated the Irishman, with an expression of ludicrous disgust. "Luck, does ye call it, to have your head cracked and your shins smashed by the copper-skins, chawed up by the b'ars, froze to death in the mountains, drowned in the rivers—that run into the top of yer shanty when yer sound asleep—your feet gnawed off by wolverines, as they call—and—but whisht! don't talk to me of luck, and all the time ye never gets a sight of a particle of gowld."
The boys laughed, Howard said:
"But your luck is not every one's, Tim; there have been plenty who have made fortunes at the business."
"Yis, but they wasn't Tim O'Rooneys. He's not the man that was born to be rich!"
"You're better satisfied where you are."
"Yis, thank God, that I've such a good home, and an ongrateful dog would I baa if I should ask more."
"But, Elwood, it's getting late, and this night air begins to feel chilly. It can't be far from midnight."
"I am willing; where's Terror? Ah! here he is; old fellow, come along and keep faithful watch over your friends."
"Boys," said Tim O'Rooney, with a strange, husky intonation, "you remember my dream about this steamer burning?"
"Yes; what of it?"
"It is coming thrue!"
He spoke the truth!
As Tim O'Rooney spoke, he pointed to the bow of the steamer, where, in the bright moonlight, some smoke could be seen rising—where, too, the next instant, they caught sight of a gleam of fire.
"Oh, heaven! what shall we do?" exclaimed Elwood, struck with a panic.
"Wait and trust to Providence."
"Let us jump overboard; I'd rather be drowned than burned to death. Come, Howard, let's jump over this minute!"
He made a move toward the stern of the steamer, near which they had been seated, as if he intended to spring overboard, when his arm was sternly caught by the Irishman, who said in an indignant tone:
"Kaap cool! kaap cool! don't make a fool of yoursilf. Can ye swim?"
"Yes," answered Howard, "we can both swim very well. Can you?"
"Indaad, I can—swim like a stone."
"But good heavens!" exclaimed Elwood, who had not entirely recovered from his excitement, "the land is miles off, and we can't swim there, not taking into account the heavy sea."
"What does that mean?"
As Howard spoke, the bow of the steamer made a sweeping bend to the right.
"They've headed toward shore," said Elwood.
This snatch of conversation had occupied the shortest possible space of time. The fire had been discovered by the officials on board fully as soon as by our friends, and the men could be seen running hurriedly to and fro, all quiet and still, for they knew too well what the result would be if the alarm was communicated to the sleeping passengers. The pilot had headed the vast craft toward land, and by the furious throbbing of the engines it could be seen that the doomed vessel was straining to the utmost, like some affrighted, faithful horse striving to carry his master as nearly as possible to the port of safely ere he dropped down and died.
It was fully midnight, and, as a matter of course, very nearly all the passengers were in their berths. There were a few, however, who were lingering on the promenade deck, some smoking—here and there a couple of lovers all unconscious of everything else—one or two avaricious speculators; and but a few minutes could elapse before the startling danger should become known.
The last words, which we have given as spoken by our friends, had scarcely been said, when a man, who apparently had been stretched out sound asleep, suddenly sprung up, wild with terror. "The boat is on fire! fire! fire!"
He darted hither and thither like some wild animal compassed on every hand by death, and then suddenly made a leap overboard, and was swallowed up in the sea.
The alarm spread with fearful rapidity, and was soon ringing through every part of the steamer, and now began that fearful confusion and panic which no pen can clearly picture, and which, once seen, can never be forgotten to the dying day.
Our three friends were gathered at the stern of the steamer, earnestly and anxiously discussing the best course to pursue.
"Let's stay here," said Howard, "for every second is taking us nearer land."
"That is what nearly all will do," said Elwood, "but we can never reach the shore, and when the time comes we shall all be in the sea together, struggling and sinking, and we shall then be sure to go down."
"Yez are right," said Tim, addressing the last speaker. "Our only chance is to jump overboard this very minute, before the sea is full of the poor fellows. They'll begin to go over the ship's side and will kaap it up until the thing is burned up."
"It's time then that we hunted our life-preservers," said Howard.
"Git out wid yer life-presarvers!" impatiently exclaimed Tim. "Didn't me uncle wear one of 'em for six months, and then die with the faver! I'll heave over one of these settaas, and that'll kaap up afloat."
"Be quick about it, Tim," urged Elwood, who was beginning to get nervous. "See, the fire is spreading, and everybody seems to have found out what the matter is."
There was indeed no time to be lost. The steamer was doomed beyond all possibility of salvation, and must soon become unmanageable, when everything would be turned into a pandemonium. One of the large settees was wrenched loose and lifted over the stern of the steamer.
"Now," said Tim, "the minute it goes over yez must follow. The owld staamer is going like a straak of lightning, and if aither of yez wait, he'll be lift behind."
"All right, no danger, go ahead!"
They now clambered up, and sat poised on the stern. In this fearful position Tim O'Rooney held the settee balanced for a few minutes.
"Be yez riddy?"
"Do yez jump a little to the right, Elwood, and yez a little to the left, Howard, so as not to hit the owld thing. All riddy; here we go!"
The next moment the three were spinning down through the air, and struck the water. They went below the surface, the boys sinking quite a distance; but almost instantly they arose and struck bravely out.
"Tim, where are you?" called out Elwood, not seeing his friend.
"Here, to the left," responded the Irishman, as he rose on a huge swell. "Can ye swim to me?"
"I hope so, but my clothes bother me like creation."
Strange! that not one of the three had once thought of removing their superfluous clothing before jumping into the ocean. But Elwood was a fine swimmer, and he struggled bravely, although at a great disadvantage, until his outstretched hand was seized by the Irishman, and he then caught hold of the settee and rested himself.
"Where is Howard?" he asked, panting from his exertions.
"Here he is," responded Howard himself. "I struck the water so close that when I came up my hand hit the settee."
"I tell you what it is," said Elwood. "We ought to have brought something else with us beside this. We have got to keep all of our bodies underwater for this to bear us."
"And what of it?"
"Suppose some poor fellow claims a part. Gracious! here comes a man this minute!"
"We can't turn him off," said Tim, "but this owld horse has all the grist he can carry."
A dark body could be seen struggling and rapidly approaching them.
"Whoever he is, he is a good swimmer," remarked Howard, watching the stranger.
"Of course he is, for it comes natural; don't you see it isn't a man, but old Terror."
"Thank heaven for that! we never thought about him. I am glad he is with us."
The next moment the Newfoundland placed his paw on the settee and gave a low bark to announce his joy at being among his friends. The sagacious brute seemed to understand how frail the tenure was that held them all suspended over eternity; for he did nothing more than rest the top of his paw on the precious raft.
By this time our friends were a quarter of a mile in the rear of the burning steamer. The furious pulsations of the engines had stopped, and from stern to stern the great ship was one mass of soothing flame. The light threw a glare upon the clouds above, and made it so bright where our friends were floating in the water that they could have read the pages of a printed book. The illumination must have been seen for many and many a mile in every direction upon the Pacific.
"Yes, the steamer has stopped," said Howard; "the fire has reached the engines, and now they must do as we have done."
"But they have boats and may escape."
"Not half enough of them; and then what they have got will be seized by the crew, as they always do at such times."
"Look! you can see them jumping over. The poor wretches hang fast till they are so scorched that they have to let go."
"It's mighty lucky yees are here," said Tim, "for every mother's son that can swim will be hugged by a half-dozen that can't, which would be bad for me."
"Why so; can't you swim?"
"Not a bit of it."
"And nothing but this bench to keep us from sinking."
"And be the same towken isn't that good enough, if it only kaaps us afloat? Can't ye be satisfied?"
"Look! how grand!"
It was indeed a fearful sight, the steamer being one pyramid of roaring, blazing fire, sweeping upward in great fan-like rifts, then blowing outward, horizontally across the deep, as if greedy for the poor beings who had sprung in agony from its embrace. Millions of sparks were floating and drifting overhead and falling all around. The shrieks of the despairing passengers, as with their clothes all aflame they sprung blindly into the ocean, could be heard by our friends, and must indeed have extended a far greater distance.
For an hour the conflagration raged with apparently unabated violence, the wreck drifting quite rapidly; but the fire soon tired of its work, large pieces of burning timber could be seen floating in the water, and finally the charred hull made a plunge downward into the sea, and our friends were left alone upon their frail support.
"Now, it's time to decide what we are going to do," said Howard.
"You are right, and what shall it be? Shall we drift about here until morning, when some vessel will pick us up? I have no doubt this fire has drawn a half-dozen toward it."
"No; let's make for shore."
"That is the best plan," said Tim.
"But it is a good way off," remarked Howard; "and I have little hope of reaching it."
"Never mind; it, will keep us busy, and that will make the time pass faster than if we do nothing but float."
"We may need our strength; but it is the best plan."
"But do we know the direction?"
"I can tell you that," said Elwood; "for the moon was directly over the shore; so all we've got to do is to aim for the moon."
"Begorrah! we can walk and talk, as the owld lady said when her husband stopped on the way to the gallows to bid her good-by. So paddle away!"
It being a warm summer night, the water was quite pleasant, although our friends were sure to get enough of it long before they could hope to place their feet upon the earth. Having now an object, they began working with a will, the boys swimming as lustily as possible straight for the shore, while Tim assisted materially in pushing forward the craft.
The intelligent Newfoundland appeared to comprehend what was wanted, and contributed not a little to the momentum.
"Do you think we are making any progress——"
"O, save me! save me! I'm drowning!"
The voice sounded close by them, and caused an involuntary start from all three.
"Where is he?" asked Howard, in a terrified whisper.
At that moment they caught sight of a man fiercely buffeting the waves, as he rose on an immense swell, and then sunk down again in the trough of the sea.
"Can we do anything for him?" asked Elwood. "It's too bad to see the poor fellow sink when we may save him."
"I'm afeared the owld bench won't bear another hand on it."
But Terror had heard that cry and anticipated the wishes of his friends. Leaving them with their raft, he struck powerfully out toward the drowning man, and they both went down in the vast sea chasm together. When they came in view again upon the crest of the swell, the Newfoundland had the hair of the man's head in his teeth and had begun his return. A moment later the gasping man threw out his hands and caught the settee with such eagerness that it instantly sunk.
"Be careful!" admonished Howard, "or you'll drown us all. One of us can't swim!"
"Won't your raft bear us?"
"Yes, if you keep only your head above water and bear very lightly upon it. Don't attempt to rise up."
The buoyant raft came to the surface, and was instantly grasped firmly but carefully by all. Poor Tim O'Rooney had come very near drowning. A man when suddenly cast into the water for the first time has been known to swim long and well; and the Irishman, by the most furious effort, had saved himself from strangling and sinking, although he had swallowed a good deal of the nauseating sea-water, and was now ejecting it.
"Worrah! I took an overdose that time, and it wouldn't sthay on my stomach!" he said. "I'm thinking there'll be no necessity of me swallowing any salts for some time to coom, be the towken that I've enough to last me me life-time."
"We are all right now!" said the stranger. "I can swim, but I was just about used up when your dog took me in tow. May I inquire who my friends are?"
Howard gave their names and destination, and he instantly said:
"My name is Manuel Yard, and my place of business is next door to that of your fathers."
"You know them then."
"I have known them both very well for years, and now that you have given me your names I remember you both."
After a few more words, our friends recognized him as a tall, pale-looking man, with whom they had exchanged greetings more than once on their passage from Panama.
"I've been down to the Isthmus," he added, "and was on my way home when the steamer took fire."
"Where were you when you heard the alarm?"
"Sound asleep in my berth; I had no time even to put on my clothes; but, thank God, if I can escape in any way."
"Stick to us, and help shove this craft, and I'm in hopes we'll fetch up somewhere by morning."
Under the united propulsion of three men and a large Newfoundland dog, the small raft moved shoreward with no insignificant speed. It was found amply sufficient to preserve them all from drowning had none known how to swim, provided they managed the matter prudently. There is so little difference in the quantity of water and the human body, that a slight effort, if properly made, will keep it afloat. The trouble with new beginners is that when they first go beyond their depth their blind struggles tend to carry them downward more than upward.
"This is rather pleasant," remarked Mr. Yard. "There is little doubt, I think, of reaching land. There is only one thing that makes the shivers run over me."
"What is that?"
"The thought of sharks!"
"Ugh! Why did you spake of them?" asked Tim, with a strong expression of disgust. "I've been thinking of 'em ever since I've been in the water, but I didn't want to skeer the boys."
"They never once entered my head," said Howard.
"Nor mine either," added Elwood. "Are they in this part of the ocean?"
"You will find them in almost every part of the sea, I was going to say. They abound off the coast of California."
"But it is night, and they will not be apt to see!"
"This fire and the numbers of drowning people will draw hundreds of the finny inhabitants toward us. You know a fire at night is sure to attract fish."
"You seem determined to frighten us," said Howard, "but I shall continue to think that God who has so mercifully saved us intends to save us to the end."
"Perhaps so, too, but it does no harm to understand all the dangers to which we are subject."
"I believe with Howard," said Elwood. "I ain't afraid of sharks, but for all that, they are ugly creatures. They swim under you and the first thing you know clip goes one of your legs off, just the same as a pair of snuffers would clip off a piece of wick."
"They are the hyenas of the sea," said Howard, "although I believe some kinds are stupid and harmless. I think I have heard them called that by somebody, I don't remember who. They will snap up anything that is thrown to them."
"Wouldn't it make their eyes water to come this way then? Jis' to think of their saaing four pair of legs dancing over their hids, not to spake of the dog that could come in by way of dessart."
"O Tim! keep still, it is too dreadful!"
"Worrah! it wasn't meself that introduced the subject, but as yez have got started, I've no objection to continue the same."
"Let us try and talk about something more pleasant——"
"A shark! a shark!" suddenly screamed Elwood, springing half his length out of the water in his excitement.
"Where?" demanded Mr. Yard, while the others were speechless with terror.
"He has hold of my leg! O, save me, for he is pulling me under!"
There was danger for a moment that all would go to the bottom, but Mr. Yard displayed a remarkable coolness that saved them all.
"It is not a shark," said he, "or he would have had your leg off before this."
"What is it then? What can it be?"
"It is a drowning man that has caught your foot as he was going down. You must kick him off or he will drown you. Has he one foot or both?"
"My left ankle is grasped by something."
"That is good; if he had hold of both feet it would be bad for you. Use your free foot and force his grasp loose."
Elwood did so with such vigor that he soon had the inexpressible relief of announcing that the drag weight was loosed and his limbs were free again.
"That is terrible," said he, as they resumed their progress. "Just to think of being seized in that way by some poor fellow who, I don't suppose, really knew what he was doing."
"How came he there?" asked Howard.
"You see, we ain't far from where the steamer sunk, and there may be more near us. This man has gone down just as we were passing by him, and in his blind struggles has caught your ankle."
"If a drowning man will catch at a straw, wouldn't he be after catching at a leg?" inquired Tim.
"It seems natural that he should do so; but we are in the most dangerous place we could be. Let's keep a sharp lookout."
Our friends peered in every direction, as they rose and sunk on the long, heaving swell of the sea. They saw pieces of charred wood and fragments of the wreck, but caught sight of no human being until Mr. Yard pointed, to a dark mass some distance away.
"That is a raft covered with people," said he.
"They seem to be standing still."
"Yes, they merely want to keep afloat until morning, when no doubt they will be picked up and cared for. Keep quiet, for if we talk too loud some one may start for us."
"And work hard," whispered Tim, struggling harder than ever. "Aich of yees shove like a locomotive."
"Good advice," added Mr. Yard, in the same cautions undertone. "Let's get away as fast as possible."
Hour after hour the men toiled, following the moon, that appeared to recede from them as they advanced. They had passed safely the debris of the wrecked steamer, and were again talking loudly and rather cheerfully, when Tim O'Rooney interrupted them:
"Yonder is something flowting in the darkness."
"It is a boat full of people," said Mr. Yard. "I have noticed it for the last few minutes."
All turned their eyes toward the spot indicated, and agreed that Mr. Yard was correct in his supposition.
"I will hail it," he quietly added, and then called out: "Boat ahoy!"
"What do you want?" came back in a gruff voice.
"Can you take four drowning passengers on board?"
"Not much," was the unfeeling answer, "Paddle away and you'll reach California one of these days."
"How far are we from it?"
"Double the distance, divide by two, and you'll have it."
Nothing further was extracted from the men, but they could be heard laughing and talking boisterously with each other, and the odor of their pipes was plainly detected, so close were the parties.
"Thank heaven, we are not dependent upon them!" said Mr. Yard. "If we were, we should fare cruelly indeed."
"Who are they?"
"A part of the crew of the steamer, who seized the boat at the first appearance of danger, and left the helpless to perish."
An hour later, long after the boat had disappeared, and when our friends were toiling bravely forward, a low, dark object directly in front attracted their notice.
"What is it?" whispered Elwood.
"It is land!" was the joyful reply. "I am walking upon the sand this minute, and you can do the same!"
THE CALIFORNIA COAST.
They were safe at last! The four dropped their feet and found them resting upon smooth packed sand, and wading a few rods they all stood upon dry earth. Terror, as he shook his shaggy coat and rubbed his nose against his young masters seemed not the least joyful of the party.
"Isn't this grand!" exclaimed Elwood. "When did the ground feel better to your feet? Saved from fire and water!"
"Our first duty is to thank God!" said Mr. Yard reverently. "He has chosen us out of the hundreds that have perished as special objects of his mercy. Let us kneel upon the shore and testify our gratitude to Him."
All sunk devoutly upon their knees and joined the merchant, as in a low, impressive tone he returned thanks to his Creator for the signal mercy he had displayed in bringing them safely through such imminent perils.
"Now, what is to be done next?" inquired Mr. Yard, as they arose to their feet and looked around them. "The first thing I should like to do is to procure a suit of clothes, and I hope I shall be able to do it without stripping any of the dead bodies that will soon wash ashore."
"What is the naad?" asked Tim O'Rooney. "Baing that it's a warrum summer night, and there saams to be few in the neighborhood that is likely to take exsaptions to your costume."
"But day is breaking!" replied the merchant, pointing across the low, rocky country to a range of mountains in the distance, whose high, jagged tops were blackly defined against the sky that was growing light and rosy behind them.
"Yes, it will soon be light," said Howard. "See! there are persons along the shore that have come down to the wreck?"
"They are some of the passengers that have managed to reach land. I will go among them and see whether any of them have any clothing to sell," laughed Mr. Yard as he moved away.
As the sun came up over the mountains it lit up a dreary and desolate scene. Away in the distance, until sky and earth mingled into one, stretched the blue Pacific, not ridged into foam and spray like the boisterous Atlantic, but swelling and heaving as if the great deep was a breathing monster. A few fragments of blackened splinters floating here and there were all that remained to show where a few hours before the magnificent steamer, surcharged with its living freight, so proudly cut the waters on her swift course toward the Golden Gate.
Several ghastly, blue-lipped survivors in their clinging garments were wandering aimlessly along the shore, the veriest pictures of utter misery, as they mumbled a few words to each other, or stared absently around. They seemed to be partially bereft of their senses, and were probably somewhat dazed from the fearful scenes through which they had so recently passed.
Several sails were visible, but they were so far away that it was vain to hope to attract their attention. Three large boats could be seen away to the northwest, skirting along shore and making their way toward San Francisco as rapidly as muscle and oars could carry them. What recked they whether the passengers were buried with the steamer, sunk in the ocean, or left to perish on the desolate coast?
The Coast Range, which descends into California from Oregon, in some places comes within twenty-five or thirty miles of the sea, while at other times it recedes to over a hundred. The particular point where our friends were suffered to land was rough, barren and rocky, and behind them, with many peaks reaching the line of perpetual snow, rose the noble Coast Range, between which and them stretched a smaller range of mountains.
Around them the country appeared desolate and uninhabited. Howard and Elwood were well acquainted with geography, and had a general idea of California, although they could not be expected to know much of the minor facts of the State. They were aware that at no great distance—but whether north or south it was impossible to say—lay the missionary town of San Luis Obispo, and between them and the Coast Range ran the Salinas River, formerly known as the San Buenaventura, and a smaller chain of mountains or highlands.
They knew, too, that after crossing the Coast Range, you descended into the broad and beautiful Sacramento Valley, where abounded wild animals, Indians, gold, silver, and the most exuberant vegetation. This was about all they knew; and this, after all, was considerable. When persons expect to make a journey to some distant country they are very apt to learn all that they possibly can about it; and this was the way they came to understand so much regarding the young State of California.
They had stood some little time conversing together when they saw Mr. Yard approaching, clad in quite a respectable suit of black, albeit, as a matter of course, it was thoroughly soaked with salt water.
"You are fortunate," remarked Howard.
"Yes," he laughed; "what strange beings we are! Do you see that elderly gentleman yonder, with his hands in his pockets walking back and forth as though he expected some arrival from the sea?"
The personage alluded to could be easily distinguished from the others.
"Well, his berth was next to mine. When the alarm of fire was first heard he sprung from his bed, dressed himself and caught up his valise, which contained an extra suit of clothing, and rushed on deck with the other passengers."
"How was he saved?"
"It is hard to tell. He and several others hung fast to some such sort of a raft as we had, and managed to get ashore. And all the time he grasped that valise, even when besought by his companions to let it go, find when it endangered his chances of life fully ten-fold."
"He must be very poor."
"Poor! He is worth half a million in gold this minute. That valise contained all his property that he had entrusted to the steamer, and it was his fear that he might lose the few dollars that it is worth that made him cling so tenaciously to it."
"How was it that he gave them to you?"
"No fear that he gave them. I stated in the presence of two witnesses that, I would give him a hundred dollars for the suit as soon as we reached San Francisco. He racked his brains to see whether there was not some means of my giving him my note for the amount; but as that couldn't be done under the circumstances, he did the next best thing and established my obligation in the mouth of several witnesses."
"Strange man! But, Mr. Yard, what is to be done?"
"I intend to wait here during the day, as I know of nothing better that we can do. I think some friends will find us before nightfall."
"We have decided to go inland a short distance, dry our clothes and give our bodies a good rubbing, to prevent our taking cold."
"A wise precaution, but useless in my case as I have already caught a very severe one."
"Should we become separated, you will tell our parents that we reached the land in safety and are in good spirits."
"Of course; but don't wander too far away, as you may lose your chance of being taken off. You know this isn't the most hospitable country in the world. There are treacherous and thieving Indians in these parts, and they would have swooped down on us long ago if they had only known we were here. As it is, I fear their approach before a friendly sail comes to us."
"Never fear; we will take good care not to wander too far away."
And the parties separated for a much longer time than any of them imagined.
Our three friends—although it seems equally proper to speak of four, as Terror was a most important member of the party—walked away from the sea-shore and began making their way back into the country. As we have hinted in another place, they found this section wild and desolate. Little else than huge rocks, bowlders and stunted trees met the eye, while there was no appearance of vegetation, nor was the slightest vestige of a human habitation visible, let them look in whatever direction they chose.
The air was clear, the sky decked by a few fleecy clouds over the Pacific, and there was little doubt that the day would be a fine, warm one. The climate of California is mild, except when the winds from the Pacific bring chilling fogs along the coast. The view in the east was particularly grand, the peaks of the gigantic Coast mountains and of the smaller range rising and swelling in vast peaks, appearing as if the Pacific when tossed and driven by some hurricane had suddenly congealed with the foam upon the tops of its mountainous billows. Looking northward, the last object that met the eye was these mountains gradually blending with the brilliant sky, while to the southward the prospect was repeated.
They wandered along, springing up the sides of rocks, jumping quite a distance to the ground, again passing around those that were too high to climb, Terror all the time frolicking at their sides, certainly as happy as any of them, while they chatted and laughed, their hearts buoyant in the beautiful summer and the pleasing retrospect of a thrilling adventure already safely passed through and the prospect of a few others close at hand.
In this wandering manner they at last found themselves fully a mile from shore, and in a wild, rocky place where they felt secure from observation. Here all removed their clothes, subjected their bodies to a vigorous rubbing that made the surface glow with warmth and reaction, and then spread their garments out to dry. Their extended walk before reaching this place had partially done the latter for them, so that in the course of an hour or so they found them free from all moisture, and as they donned them they once more felt like themselves.
"Now," said Elwood, "I am very tired and sleepy; is not this a good place to lie down and rest?"
"I was going to suggest the same thing," added Howard. "I do not see in what better manner we can spend a few hours."
"And it's the same idaa that has been strhiking me ever since we sot foot in this qua'r looking place. It's meself that is so sleapy that at ivery wink I makes I has to lift the eyelids up with my fingers, and me eyes feels as though the wind has been blowing sand in 'em all day."
The proposal thus being satisfactory to all, they proceeded to carry it out at once. The day was so mild that the only precaution necessary was to secure themselves against the rays of the sun. This was easily done, and stretching out beneath the shelter of a projecting ledge of rocks they had scarcely laid down when all were sound asleep.
And leaving them here for the time being, we give our attention for a few moments to the survivors of the steamer.
Some thirty odd of the passengers succeeded in reaching the shore, while about a dozen were saved with the crew, who, as is generally the case at such times, acted upon the idea that it was their duty to take charge of the boats and prevent the passengers from risking themselves in such frail structures. After all, no doubt their lives were as valuable as were those of the hundreds they carried, and their conduct, when viewed in an unprejudiced manner, perhaps was not so criminal.
The destruction of so large a steamer along the California coast, in the regular track of the vessels going to and coming from Panama, could not occur without the knowledge of many upon the ocean. Indeed, the glare upon the heavens was seen far up the coast, and in San Luis Obispo, to the south, was pronounced by all to be caused by the burning of some large vessel at sea.
It so came about that there were but two vessels near enough to go to the relief of the unfortunate steamer; but these were controlled by rival captains, each of whom hoped to enter the Golden Gate an hour or so in advance of the other; and therefore they had not time to slacken sail and lay to, but pressed forward with an expression of regret that the necessities of the case compelled them thus to refuse all succor to the needy ones.
But there were others at a greater distance who bore down upon the fiery scene at once; but they were miles away when the last vestige of the steamer disappeared, and it was only a matter of conjecture as to where a few of the survivors might be struggling with the waves. Not until the sun had been up over an hour did the man at the mast-head of the nearest vessel call out that he saw several boats pulling up the coast, while a few persons could be seen on the shore making signals to attract their attention.
Some time after, the Relief—happily named—cast anchor a half-mile from land and two boats put off from her side. The survivors were quickly within them, and they were about putting off again when the mate of the Relief said:
"Are you all here?"
"Yes, yes," was the impatient reply of Mr. Tiflings, the man who had sold the suit of clothes to Mr. Yard, "don't wait any longer. I shall lose $500 by not being in San Francisco to-day."
"But they are not all here," interrupted Mr. Yard, in some excitement. "There are two boys in charge of an Irishman that are missing."
"Where are they?" asked the mate.
"They went back from the shore some time ago. I do not think they can be at any great distance."
"Perhaps if you called to them they might hear you."
Mr. Yard sprung out upon the beach, ran to and mounted a goodly-sized rock, and shouted at the top of his voice. He called again and again, and listened intently, but there was no response.
All this time Mr. Tiflings sat leaning his head forward and nervously beating a tattoo upon the side of the boat with his long, thin fingers. Occasionally he glanced at the "foolish" Mr. Yard, and muttered:
"What nonsense! What valuable time we are losing by his childishness! Time is too precious to fritter away in this manner!"
While the kind-hearted merchant was shouting himself hoarse, our friends were heavily and sweetly slumbering, totally oblivious to external things, as indeed they would have been were he within a few rods of them, instead of over a mile away. Finally he was compelled to give up the task and reluctantly return to the boat.
"This is too bad," said he, "to leave them in this manner. What will become of them?"
"They will be picked up by some of the passing vessels."
"Certainly, certainly," assented Mr. Tiflings, "don't wait any longer; it will be a week before we get into San Francisco."
"We will row away," said the mate, "and if we see anything of them before we reach the vessel we will put back and take them aboard."
This was reasonable, and Mr. Yard could not object to it. The sailors plied their oars, and the passengers were borne swiftly toward the friendly Relief. Mr. Yard kept his eyes fixed upon the bleak coast which they were so rapidly leaving behind them. He saw nothing of his friends; but, after reaching the ship's deck, he took the spy-glass from the captain and discovered a party of a dozen Indians wandering up and down the beach as if in quest of plunder. Finally, sail was hoisted, the Relief bore away to the northward, and the scene of the rescue dwindled away and vanished in the distance.
The sleep of perfect health is dreamless, and is not easily aroused by external disturbance. Tim O'Rooney, Elwood Brandon and Howard Lawrence, sweetly forgetful of the need of their being within sight and hearing of the shore, slept through the entire day without once awaking. The sun was just dipping beneath the Pacific when Howard opened his eyes with that confused, indistinct recollection which often takes possession of our faculties when first aroused from a deep slumber. He stared around and the sight of the unconscious forms of his two companions, and the mute Newfoundland dog with his nose between his paws, but blinking as if to show he "slept with one eye open," quickly recalled his situation. In considerable alarm, he sprung up, and began rousing the others. As they rubbed their eyes and rose to the sitting position, he said in excitement:
"Do you know we have slept ever since morning?"
"It can't be possible!" exclaimed Elwood.
"I should say we had slept a waak be the token of the hunger I feels," said Tim, with a most woeful countenance.
"I don't see any likelihood of our getting anything to digest in these parts," replied Howard.
"And where else shall we look for the same?"
"Nowhere that I know of."
"Suppose some ship has stopped here while we have been asleep!" suddenly interrupted Elwood.
"Wouldn't they have looked for us? But then they couldn't have known where we were," said Howard, asking and answering his own question in the same breath.
"We are in a pretty fix then," was the comment of Elwood, laughing at the doleful countenances he saw.
"Boys," said Tim, hitching up his pantaloons and scratching his head, "shall I tell yees something to your advantage, as the papers say?"
"Of course," answered Howard, "nothing could suit us better."
"Well, then, while we've been slaaping, our friends along shore have been carried away, and we're lift to make ourselves comfortable, as the peddler said when he hung himself up by his foot."
"Let us see!" exclaimed Elwood, "perhaps we are not too late yet."
The three rushed ever the rocks pell-mell, the dog being at their side, and giving vent now and then to short, sharp barks, as if he enjoyed the ramble.
Elwood was at the head, and had run but a short distance when he sprung upon a bowlder higher than the others, and shading his eyes for a moment as he looked off toward the sea, he called back:
"Yes, yonder they are! We are not left alone."
"But it's good to have company!" laughed Tim, "it won't be long before some vessel will step in and lift us aboard."
"How odd they look!" remarked Elwood, as his friends clambered up beside him. "They don't seem dressed in their usual fashion."
The Irishman, upon rising to his feet on top of the rock, uttered an expression of surprise, looked intently toward the sea, and then quickly sprung back again.
"Off of there quick!" he commanded in a hoarse whisper, at the same time catching the shoulder of the up-climbing Howard and forcing him back again.
"Why, what's the matter?" asked Elwood, a vague alarm taking possession of him, as he rather hurriedly obeyed him.
"May the good Lord presarve us! them are Injuns!"
"I thought they looked odd," said Elwood, "but I did not think of that. Are they friendly?"
"Friendly!" repeated Tim, with an expression of intense disgust. "Do you know what they are walking up and down the sand fur in that sassy shtyle?"
"Plunder, I suppose."
"Yis; they are in hopes the saa may wash up some poor fellow that they may have the pleasure of hacking him to pieces."
"Are they such terrible creatures. Perhaps they have slain those who escaped from the steamer."
"Niver a fear; there was too many of 'em, as me brother used to say when his wife tuk her broomstick at him."
"But they had no weapons to use."
Tim shook his head. He evidently had a small opinion of the courage of the California aborigines.
"Had they massacred the survivors, we could see their bodies along shore," remarked Howard. "The sun throws such a glare upon the sand that we can detect a very small object."
This settled the matter in the mind of Elwood, who had been heartsick at the great fear of such a fate having befallen his friends.
"Then the burning of the steamer has attracted the notice of a great many vessels, and I think Mr. Yard was right when he was sure of being taken off by some one."
"What a mistake we made in wandering away and going to sleep where no one could find us!"
"We did, indeed, Elwood; we voluntarily banished ourselves."
"But Mr. Yard certainly knows we are here, and will he not get a company of men to come after us?"
"Perhaps so; but, if he doesn't, your father and mine will certainly do so, so soon as they find where we are."
"Yes, but what is to become of us between to-night and that time? I am half-starved to death, and must get something to eat pretty soon."
"Providence, that has preserved us so kindly thus far, will still watch over us."
"There's one bad thing," remarked Tim, "them Injins will hang around the shore, and it won't do for us to show ourselves niver a bit."
The faces of the two boys now blanched with fear, for they understood the danger that threatened them. It was truly a fear-inspiring sight, as they gazed out from their hiding-place in the direction of the sea. The sun was partially down the horizon, and appeared unnaturally large, while the gaunt Indians, in their fantastic costume, assumed the form of giants striding along apparently on the gleaming surface of the ocean itself. They were outlined with that sharp, black distinctness which is seen when at night a fireman runs along the outer walls of a burning building.
"Just to think!" said Elwood "we haven't a gun or a pistol with us."
"And I'm a little hungry, as the man said after fasting three waaks."
"Suppose they saw you?" said Howard.
"I ain't sure but what they did. They are looking in this direction, and appear to be disputing about some matter."
There were grounds for this alarming view of the case. The Indians numbered about a dozen, and half of these could be seen in a knot, gesticulating in their extravagant manner, while the others were running up and down the shore as if they had detected something interesting in the surf.
"Are they looking at us?"
"There is such a glare, from the sun that I cannot tell whether their faces or backs are toward us. Tim, what do you say?"
The Irishman gazed long and carefully over the face of the rock, and finally said:
"They've seen something this way that has tuk their eye."
"They are moving, too."
"Maybe they've seen the dog, and are coming to look for us."
"Heaven save us!" exclaimed Tim, in some excitement, "there's no maybe about it; they're coming, sure!"
It was not the first time that Tim O'Rooney made a mistake. The Indians were excited over something, but as yet they held no suspicion that three white persons stood behind them and could be so easily reached. They were talking in a wild manner, and ran several rods from the beach, when they suddenly paused and picked up an object over which they quarreled and were almost ready to proceed to violence. From where our friends stood it looked as if it were nothing more than a coat or some cast-off garment that had been thrown aside by so me of the survivors when they were taken away by the Relief.
"No, they have not seen us yet," said Howard, who was watching them intently, while his two companions where looking upon the readiest means of escape.
"Then why did they start after us, be the same token?" demanded Tim, with a great sigh of relief.
"They are quarreling over something that lies upon the beach."
"If they'd only have the onspakable kindness to go to fighting each other like a lot of Kilkenny cats, and not sthop till there's not one of 'em left—I say if they'd have the kindness to do that, it would be fortinit for us."
"Hardly probable, Tim; the fact, is they appear to have settled the matter already, and have gone down to the edge of the sea again."
"I don't see the use of our remaining here," said Howard. "We daren't go any nearer them than we now are, while if we put back into the country we stand a chance of getting something to eat. As near as I can calculate, the Salinas River isn't very far away, and California is said to be very fertile along its streams, if it is barren in such places as this."
"And we may come upon a party of miners further inland."
"I don't know about that," rejoined Howard. "The diggings are on the other side of the Coast Range, between that and the Sierra Nevada, in the Sacramento Valley, and I think they are further north, too."
"Let's lave," said Tim; "if we only start tramping perhaps I may git my mind off the subjact and forgit that I'm hungry enough to eat a toad, which I'd starve to death afore I'd do the same."
While they were thus debating with themselves, Terror, unobserved by any of them, whisked to the top of a high rock and announced his discovery of the Indians by several loud, gruff barks. At so great a distance it was impossible that the dog should be heard, but the danger was that the lynx-eyed savages would see him, and thus discover the presence of his friends. The peril was imminent, and a hasty word from Howard brought the Newfoundland to their feet.
But it was too late. He had scarcely ascended his perch when an Indian caught sight of him, and giving out a strange half-whoop and stream, he started on a full run toward him, closely followed by half of the entire party.
"There's no mistake this time!" exclaimed Howard, wheeling round and springing away. "Don't wait."
There was no waiting by either Tim or Elwood. The two boys were slim and fleet-footed, and could easily distance their more awkward companion; but they could not leave him alone, although he besought them to secure their own safety, while he would attend to his.
There were several things in favor of the fugitives and several against them. It was growing dark quite rapidly, and they had a good start; but the pursuers ran over the rocks and bowlders with the facility of mountain goats and gained very rapidly; they were also familiar with the face of the country, while our friends were literally "going blind."
"But don't we make 'em run!" called out Tim, glancing over his shoulder. "Them fellers was made to travel, and if they'd only throw down their guns and take up a sprig of the shillaleh, like an ilegant gintleman should do, I wouldn't ax better fun than to jine in wid 'em and tach 'em a few scientific tricks, such as can be got in Tipperary and nowhere ilse—Worrah!——"
Tim's exclamation was caused by catching his foot against a large stone and falling flat upon his face with considerable violence. He quickly scrambled up again, while Elwood anxiously inquired whether he was hurt by the fall.
"Not by the fall, plase your honor, but by the stone that whacked me betwaan the eyes."
"They are gaining!" whispered Howard, pausing a moment for his companions to come up.
"Yes, but it will be so dark in a few minutes that they can't see us, and then we will hide ourselves until the danger is past. Let us get along an fast as possible while the danger lasts."
They did strain themselves to the utmost, and speedily reached a more open country, where they could travel with greater safety. This, which at first appeared sadly against their prospects, was really the means of securing their escape. The moment they reached it they darted away at almost double their rate of speed, and shortly reached another hilly portion, into which they plunged, and running a short distance, at a signal from Howard, they dropped flat upon their faces, and crawled beneath thy sheltering projections of the rocks, Terror at the same time nestling down by the prostrate form of Elwood.
In a few minutes they heard the tramp of their swift-footed pursuers, who were running without exchanging words with each other, or uttering those exultant whoops which the Indian of other portions of our country are so accustomed to give when exulting in the certainty of capturing their enemies.
Our friends did not venture to exchange a word with each other until a long time after the Indians had passed, and nothing could be heard to indicate that they were anywhere in the neighborhood. Then they crawled near together and spoke in low whispers.
"They are gone!" said Elwood.
"I think so," replied Howard, "but they may be watching somewhere. We must be very careful. How is it, Terror, are there any strangers near us?"
The dog snuffed the air, but made no sound, which was a negative reply.
"I guess he is right," added Howard. "We will get as far away from here as we can, for I am sure those Indians will look around here until morning in the hope of getting us then."
All three crawled a considerable ways on their hands and knees, when they stealthily arose to their feet, and seeing nothing suspicious, followed a northeasterly direction—one that would both lead them away from their pursuers and at the same time take them toward the Salinas or San Buenaventura River, which point they hoped to reach some time the next day.
After going some distance they walked more rapidly, and ventured to exchange words with each other. Terror kept the advance, fully aware of the responsibility that rested upon him. There was little fear but that he would give timely notice of the approach of danger, and a sense of comparative security took possession of our friends as they proceeded.
To their great surprise, after journeying a half-mile or so, the character of the country underwent a great change. The ground became more level, and they found themselves traveling among stunted trees and sparse vegetation. The moon did not rise until quite late, so that until then they could barely see each other's bodies as they moved along. This made them uncertain as to whether they were following the right course; but they were greatly pleased to find that they had deviated but slightly from the line they intended to pursue.
All at once a low whine from Terror arrested them. At the same instant all three detected the glimmer of a light among the trees. Cautiously approaching, Tim O'Rooney in the advance, he said in his husky whisper:
"There's an owld Injin noddin' by the fire, and if he has a gun, or anything to eat, we'll try and get him to lend 'em to us!"
A GOOD SAMARITAN.
The three carefully approached the camp-fire, and soon assured themselves that there was but a single person near it, an old Indian who sat with closed eyes and nodding head, totally unmindful of their presence.
"Yes, he is all alone," remarked Howard, in response to the statement that Tim had made on first seeing the fire. "But he has no gun, so far as I can see."
"Has he anything to eat?" inquired Elwood. "For that is getting to be the most important matter."
"There doesn't appear to be any."
"Jist howld still where you baas, till I takes a look around," said Tim, with an admonitory wave of the hand.
They obeyed while he went still nearer on tiptoe. When he was scarcely twenty feet away he paused, and stooping down and bending his head first to one side and then to the other, and raising and arching his neck until his longitudinal dimensions became fearful, he at last satisfied himself that the Indian was alone.
Without moving his feet, Tim now turned his head and motioned for his companions to join him. They did so very carefully and silently, and the three men then stood where the light of the fire shone full in their faces, and where they could not help being the first objects the Indian would see when he was pleased to look up.
"We'll have to wake him," whispered Tim, "and shall I yill, or hit him with a stone on top of the head?"
"Neither; I have heard that the slumber of Indians is very light, and if you just speak or make a slight noise I have no doubt it will rouse him."
The fire, which had at its first kindling been large, was now smouldering as though it had not been touched for several hours. The Indian was seated on a large stone, his arms hanging listlessly over his knees, and his head sunk so low that his features could not be seen. Instead of the defiant scalp-lock drooping from his crown, his hair was long and luxuriant, and plentifully mixed with gray. It hung loosely over his shoulders, and in front of his face, and helped to give him a strange, repulsive appearance.
"I say, owld gintleman, are you draaming, or—"
As quick as lightning the head of the Indian flashed up, and his black eyes were centered with a look of alarm upon the individuals before him. Tim had had some experience with these people when a miner, and he now began making signs to the savage, who seemed on the point of springing up and darting away. Naturally enough the Irishman continued talking, although it was certain that the one could not understand a word the other uttered.
"We maan no harrum," said the Irishman, raising his hands and letting them fall at his side, to show that he carried no weapons, and held good will toward the stranger. The boys judged it best to imitate their comrade; and after standing a few moments, the three walked quietly up to the fire. The startled Indian instantly rose to his feet and placed his hand upon the haft of a large knife at his waist.
"None of that, ye spalpeen, or I'll smash you to smithereens!" said Tim, who, although his words were of such dire portent, spoke as gently as if he were seeking to quiet an infant.
They now noticed that the Indian was very old. His face was scarred and wrinkled, his body bent, and his limbs tottered as if scarcely able to bear his weight; but his eye was as keen and defiant as the eagle's, and he stood ready to defend himself if harm were offered him.
Tim did the most prudent thing possible. He advanced straight to the savage and offered his hand. This means of salutation was understood by the latter, who, after some tottering hesitation, raised his right hand from the knife and returned the pressure. Dropping it, he looked toward Elwood and Howard, who saluted him in the same manner, and the parties were now satisfied regarding the feelings of each other.
"Ask him for something to eat!" said Elwood; "I am beginning to feel faint for the want of food."
"What good will the same do? He hasn't anything to give."
"He must live some way himself, and what will support such an old man as he is, is surely good for us."
The signs that Tim now made were unmistakable in their import. He opened his huge mouth until the cavern was fearful to contemplate; then he snapped his teeth together like a dog that has failed to catch a piece of meat thrown to him; after which he carried his hand back and forth to his mouth, and opened and shut it again.
The Indian watched these manuevers a moment, and then gave an exclamation intended solely for his own benefit—and which, therefore, it is not necessary to give, if we could, and we can't—and turning his back, commenced moving away with the feeble, uncertain gait of old age.
"What does that mean?" inquired Howard.
The savage, seeing they did not follow, paused and looked back.
"That is an invitation," said Tim; "do yees foller."
"But where will he lead us?"
"How can I tell?"
"But it may be into danger," admonished the most cautious Howard.
"It's the only chance we've got to save ourselves from starving, and for me getting a shmoke out of a pipe, which I am as hungry for as I am for a few pounds of mate."
The three, the Irishman taking the lead, did not hesitate longer, but stepped forward, and the Indian immediately resumed his guidance. The boys could not avoid some alarm and misgiving in thus following blindly an Indian whom they had not seen until a few minutes before, and who, they had every reason to believe, was hostile; but there seemed no other course, and they obeyed the suggestion of Tim O'Rooney.
The Indian led the way for several hundred yards, when he halted before one of the rudest and oddest habitations imaginable. It was made of stones, stumps, limbs, dirt and skins, its dimensions being about twenty feet in every direction. The savage paused but a moment when he shoved a large skin aside, entered and held it open for his friends to do the same. Tim O'Rooney peered cautiously into the lodge before trusting himself within it, but seeing nothing alarming, he stepped briskly forward, and was followed by the two boys and Terror.
A dim fire was burning in one corner, against the face of a rock, and opposite it lay a bundle of clothes, which, upon being rather roughly touched by the foot of the Indian, resolved itself into a being of the feminine gender, unquestionably the partner of the master of the lodge. A few words were exchanged between the two, when the squaw busied herself in preparing a meal, while her husband stirred the fire into a cheerful blaze that brightly illuminated every portion of the singular dwelling. He seemed entirely forgetful of the presence of the strangers, who seated themselves upon a broad flat stone and calmly awaited the result of his doings.
The old lady speedily appeared with a huge piece of meat, which was soon roasting on the fire, its savory odor filling the apartment, and rendering our friends half frantic in their starving condition. It was quickly cooked; the Indian severed it into four equal portions with his hunting-knife, and tossed one to each of his visitors, including the dog, which was really suffering for the want of nourishment.
As Elwood and Howard ravenously ate the well-cooked, juicy meat, free from pepper and salt, they were sure they had never tasted such a delicious morsel in all their life. The pieces were of a generous size, and after all three had gormandized themselves until, absolutely, they could contain no more, each had some left. This, as a matter of course, was thrown to Terror, and by the time he had swallowed them all, he licked his jaws to show that his pangs of hunger were also fully satisfied.
"With your lave?" said Tim O'Rooney, stepping forward and drawing the pipe of their Indian host from his mouth. The latter gazed at him in amazement but said nothing, and offered no objection to the impudent proceeding.
"I fales better," complacently added the Irishman as he emitted volume after volume of tobacco smoke. "We've had a good schlape, a good male, and I'm quieting my narves with the ould gintleman's pipe."
"It strikes me, Tim, you were rather discourteous," said Elwood. "Be careful that we do not trespass too much on his good nature."
"This is the calomel o' pace, as they calls it, and when you shmoke it it manes there's no enmity atween us. You see, the ould gintleman and meself have shmoked it together, and that makes us frinds. That is a wise shtroke of policy on the part of Tim O'Rooney, beside the comfort it gives him. Will aither of yez indulge in a few whiffs?"
Both replied that they did not use the weed in any form.
"That's right. It makes me indignant when I sees a youngster puffing away at a pipe or a segar; but never mind that, boys; do yez jist look over the top of our ould frind's head and tell me whether yez sees anything."
"I have noticed that fine-looking rifle before," replied Howard; "I only wish each of us had such a one."
"We will have that before we lave this mansion. Do ye mind that, boys?"
"I will starve to death before I will consent to take it away from the old Indian after the kind treatment he has given us," said Howard.
"So would I," promptly added Elwood. "No matter how badly we may want it I shall never consent to steal it."
"Shtale it! Who talks of shtaling it!" indignantly demanded Tim. "You're a couple of fine spalpeens, ain't you, to think that of me. I mane to buy it, and give the ould man his own price."
"What have you to buy it with?" asked Elwood in surprise. "I have a little money, but I don't believe it is enough to buy such a good-looking gun as that."
"No; if your pockets were lined with gold pieces he would care nothing for them," said Howard; "but what will you offer him, Tim?"
"Each of you has a knife, and likewise have I; you carry two pretty fine gold watches, while I've a bull's-eye as big as a half-dozen like them. An Injun will sell his squaw and lodge for such trifles."
"Well, try it, then."
The Irishman arose to his feet when, as a matter of course, the black eye of the old man was fixed upon him. He pointed to the gun overhead, whereupon the Indian, with surprising quickness, caught it down and held it with a nervous grasp, his squaw taking his seat beside him. Tim offered the three knives which the party owned for it, opening and flicking them to excite his cupidity. The eager look that came into his face showed that he understood what was meant; but he only hugged his property more tightly and shook his head from side to side.
"I knew he wouldn't part with it," said Elwood.
"Howld on a minute," replied Tim; "I'm only throwing out me skirmishers; I'll fetch him yet. He's larned how to make a bargain."
The Irishman now produced his watch—an immense affair that would have made a load for a small child. He pried open its gigantic case and showed the dazzling array of brass wheels and the glittering coil of steel. It could not but be attractive to a savage mind, and the Indian's eyes sparkled as he looked upon it.
"Keep yours and let me offer mine," said Howard.
"Howld on, I tell yees, howld on; maybe you'll both have to offer 'em afore he'll bite. My repater is like myself—it took too much salt water for its good and hasn't been well for a few months. If the ould thing would only tick a little he couldn't resist it; it has a beautiful voice when it starts—like a thrashing machine."
Equally to the surprise of Tim and the boys, the savage arose and handed the gun to the Irishman, who was only too glad to put his watch and three knives into his possession.
"I only wish he had a couple more," said Howard, "so that we could each get one. We ought to be able to take care of ourselves then."
Tim in the meantime was turning the rifle over in his hand and examining it with an appearance of great pleasure.
"That come from San Francisco," said he.
"How did it reach these parts?"
"Aisy enough, as me uncle said when he fell off the house. Some trader has let him have it for about five hundred dollars' worth of furs and peltries."
"Don't forget the ammunition," admonished Elwood, "or the gun will do us little good."
"Worrah! it's meself that came nigh doin' the same. That's a fine powdther-horn that he has. I say, Misther——"
Tim now began motioning very earnestly for this article, bullet-pouch and box of percussion caps that the savage had at his side; but the shrewd old fellow was sharper than they expected. He indulged in a peculiar grin, and held them very rigidly.
"You don't get anything more without paying for it?"
"What shall I pay? I've alriddy overdrawn me bank account, as they say."
"Let him take my watch," said Elwood. "Fact is, I think it has been ruined by the salt water."
"No, that's too much; haven't ye got some trinket about yees that isn't good for nothing and that you doesn't want?"
The boys searched themselves. Elwood finally produced a small silver pencil.
"Just the thing," said Tim.
But the old Indian, evidently failed to consider it just the thing, for he continued obdurate and shook his head.
A new idea struck Howard. He wrenched off several brass buttons from his coat, and handed them to Tim. The eyes of their host fairly sparkled, as does a child's at sight of a coveted toy, and rising to his feet he tottered hastily toward them, and tossed the coveted articles into the Irishman's lap.
"Now, if the owld gentleman would only dispose of his pipe and a ton or two of tobaccy to me, or make me a prisent of 'em, I'd lave and feel aisy."
A few more brass buttons procured this also, and our friends had good cause to feel delighted over the result of the bargain.
"There doesn't seem to be anything more that we can do, and it strikes me that it would be prudent for us to leave," said Howard.
"I think so," added Elwood. "I believe there are other Indians at hand, or within call, else he wouldn't be so willing to part with his gun."
The savage now rose and acted in rather a singular manner. Walking to the opening which answered for a door, he passed out and motioned for his visitors to follow. They did so, and when upon the outside he pointed off to the east, nodded his head, and swept his left arm.
"What does he mean?" asked Howard, totally at a loss to understand him.
"He means that this is the direction for us to follow."
"He maans, too, that there's danger in waiting here, and that we'd better be thramping."
Elwood took a step or two in the direction indicated to test the meaning of their friend. He nodded very earnestly, and satisfied them all that the safest plan was for them to leave as soon as possible, and take the course pointed out by him.
Accordingly, thanking him as well as they could by signs, the three moved away toward the east.
THE SALINAS VALLEY.
Our friends journeyed forward until broad daylight, when they found themselves fairly among the high range of hills which in this portion of California comes down almost to the edge of the sea. The scenery was bleak and rugged, and the country was barren and showed very few signs of vegetation, so that for all practical purposes they were little better than if in the sandy desert of the south-eastern portion of the State.
They observed, too, a disagreeable change in the climate. The moist winds of the Pacific being cooled by these mountains caused the air to become chilly and foggy and all felt the need of additional clothing.
They had now concluded to pass through these hills to the Salinas Valley and then follow this northward until they reached the more settled portion of California, or come upon a party of miners or hunters, in whose company they could feel safe against the treacherous Indians, and who might perhaps afford them their much-needed weapons and more abundant food.
The latter question assumed the first importance with them. They saw no fruits, and very few animals. The discharge of their rifle was dangerous, as it could be heard at a great distance, and if there is any creature that is extraordinarily inquisitive it is the American aborigine.
Several times they heard the faint report of guns in the distance, but for some days saw no human beings except themselves. At night, when they lay down to rest, Terror kept a more faithful watch over them than either of their number could do. They generally found some secure place among the rocks where they could slumber in safety.
On the third day after the shipwreck they crossed the dividing ridge and had a view of Salinas or San Buenaventura Valley. It was comparatively narrow, looking straighter than it really was, from the towering Coast Range that rose in vast massive ridges, several of the peaks piercing the clouds and reaching far up into the snow line. This was indeed an impassable barrier to their further progress beyond the valley, had they wished to make the attempt; for among those wild regions, where at midsummer the snow is whirled in blinding eddies, and the storm howls through gorges and canyons, and the lost traveler gropes blindly for a secure foothold along the mountain paths—it would have been fatal for them to venture without a sure guide.
The Salinas Valley looked like a garden to them, and was indeed a promised land. There was fruit in abundance, and every prospect of meeting some of their own people. The Buenaventura, years ago, was a fabled river, and the geographies made it a huge stream, taking every course except the true one. They found it a river inferior in breadth and length to the Hudson, but vastly more interesting from its primeval character and the wild scenery along its banks.
On the eastern slope of the mountains they discerned a great variety of trees, among them the Palo Colorado or Lambertine fir, some of them a dozen feet in diameter, although they did not attain any remarkable height. These were not the colossal pines so famous the world over. There were quite a number of beech, sycamore, oak, spruce, and maple, and other trees whose particular names they were unable to tell.
There was a noticeable change in the climate also. The air had parted with a great deal of its moisture, and although very warm, it had a dryness about it that made it more grateful and pleasant than the coolness along the coast.
When fairly in the Salinas Valley, and along the river, they found the vegetation remarkably luxuriant. Oats grew wild in many places, and the plants partook greatly of a tropical character. Grapes were very abundant, although it was too early in the season to find them ripe; yet they gathered a few berries that were very pleasant to the taste.
The first day among the hills was spent like the first one on shore—without food, although they had so gormandized themselves on the preceding evening that they were able to stand this privation much better.
On the second morning among the hills, just as they had risen and resumed their journey, Terror gave notice of something unusual in his characteristic manner—by halting and uttering a low whine. At that moment they were making their way around a huge mass of rocks, in a path that seemed to have been worn by the feet of wild animals. Tim paused, cocked his rifle and held it ready for instant use, while the boys looked around for some covert into which to retreat, if danger threatened.
While they stood in anxious suspense, an animal about the size of Terror walked leisurely into view, and catching sight of the strangers raised its head with a look of alarm, then uttered a shrill baa-aa after the manner of affrighted sheep, and turned to flee. But he was too valuable a prize to be let run away in this manner, and ere he could turn round, or the Newfoundland could reach him, Tim had sent a bullet through his head that tumbled him over and over as if he had been hit by a cannon-ball.
Hurrying up to him, they found they had been fortunate enough to secure a good large mountain sheep, a species of animal that run wild in California, and at certain seasons of the year are in prime condition. This was found only tolerable, but he was fully appreciated by our friends. Tim O'Rooney had managed to conceal a second knife about his person when bargaining with the Indian—one made on the liberal ideas that was displayed in the construction of his watch, and far more useful than the ornamental trifles that the boys carried.
With the help of this and the anatomical knowledge he possessed, he was not long in dressing the sheep, and everything was made ready for cooking him. The sticks were placed together, the choice steaks were suspended on cross pieces, and the leaves heaped up, only awaiting ignition.
"I declare!" exclaimed Howard, "how are we going to kindle it?"
Every face looked blank, for the thought had never entered their minds until that moment.
"Haven't yees a match about you?" he asked, turning to the boys.
Naturally enough the two searched every pocket, and having finished searched them over again, even turning them wrong side out, and then turning them in and turning them wrong side out again; but all in vain, there was not a lucifer in the party.
"Too bad!" exclaimed Elwood, "we are all as hungry as we can be, and we shall have to remain so for the want of fire."
"If we wait a while we'll not need the match."
"It isn't very hard to git hungry enough to ate the same without waiting for the benefit of cooking."
"I can't do that," added Elwood, with an expression of disgust.
"Nor can I," added Howard.
"I've done it, and found it tasted good," said Tim, "and so would yez—but howld on! One of yez whack me over the head!"
"For what?" they demanded in amazement.
"For being an owld fool, and be the same towken it's yourselves that is the same."
"We do not understand you," they said, in some perplexity.
"Yez are talking about fire when we has it here at hand."
They looked inquiringly around, but did not understand the allusion until he began loading the gun, when a new light broke upon them, and they smiled knowingly at each other.
Tim put in a good wadding composed of dry leaves, and placing the muzzle of his gun among the leaves that they had gathered for ignition, he discharged it. The intense flame of fire that streamed forth for an instant communicated itself to the kindlings, and this being quickly and vigorously blown by all three, almost immediately spread into a blaze, the wood gathered heat speedily, and in a few minutes the juicy steaks of the mountain sheep were steaming and ready for the voracious mouths of the four gathered around.
Our friends were prudent enough to cook every available portion of the mountain sheep, and to preserve what remained for future contingencies. The climate was so warm that they could not hope to keep it more than a day or two; and, as it was, they took the wise course of placing as much of it within their stomachs as they could conveniently carry. The good-tempered red Newfoundland seemed to be growing corpulent on this species of living, protracted hunger alternating with an over supply of food.
They saw no more wild animals during the day, but just as they were entering the Salinas Valley Elwood discovered something lying in the path before them which at first he believed to be an Indian, either asleep or dead; but Terror instantly ran up, and seizing it in his teeth laid it at his feet, and discovered a beautiful Indian blanket.
"Strange!" exclaimed the boy, holding it up before him. "This shows that we are not the first persons who have traversed this section."
"I wonder that we do not see more savages."
"Isn't it beautiful?" said Elwood, turning the blanket over and examining its texture and designs. It was indeed handsome and very valuable, resembling much the famous blankets made by the Apache Indians. It was fully a half-inch in thickness, so compactly knit together as to be water-proof. Its border and the design of the figures were a miracle of skill in color and combination. Every hue of the rainbow seemed reproduced in the most pleasing combinations. The center-piece was a figure of the sun which, with the rays radiating from it, was of a most intense yellow, while around the border were pictured all the fruits that any one has ever heard as being indigenous to California.
"That must be very valuable," said Howard.
"It is so heavy it tires my arms to hold it."
"That same thing would bring yez five hundred dollars, any day, in San Francisco," added Tim O'Rooney. "It'll pay yez to carry it there."
"It is just the thing to wrap around us when we lie down to sleep."
"Yis, if ye wraps up in that yez'll wake up and find yersilves roasted to dith. Yez might as well crawl into an oven and bake yersilves and be done with it."
"We can then spread it on the ground, and protect ourselves from the moisture!" said Howard, who was beginning to appreciate the value of the article.
"I've saan them things before," added Tim O'Rooney. "The Apaches and Mohaws in New Mexico make 'em. It has tuk a couple of squaws the bist part of a year to do the same."
"But where is the owner? An Indian could not lose such a thing without knowing it. Why, it is a load to carry, and I should expect to lose my coat as soon as to part with this."
Of course there could be no explanation of the cause of the blanket being found where it was. It was plain that no Indian could have parted with it unknowingly, and its high value made it still more puzzling that it should have been left in such a place. It might be that the owner—some fragile Indian girl—had wearied with carrying it, and had thrown it down for a warrior friend of hers to pick up and take to its destination for her.
This conjecture, made by Tim O'Rooney himself, raised a serious question as to whether they had a right to carry the blanket away when there was good reason to doubt its being lost or abandoned.
"If a year's work has been lavished upon it," said Elwood, "it cannot be possible that it has no owner."
"I think Tim is right; he or she expects to return or send and get it."
"But it is singular that if such is the case it should be left here, when it could have been easily hid in these bushes."
"That only proves that there are no people about—no white ones at least. If the owner had any fear of this place being visited by Christians, he would have taken pains to hide his property; but as he was sure there were none but savages and heathen, he was certain his blanket was safe."
Howard Lawrence, jesting though he was, spoke the truth, and deeply ashamed are we to confess it.
The question received an unexpected and unmistakable solution. While they were still conversing, they descried a gaudily dressed, rather handsome-looking squaw tripping lightly behind them. Her head was bent, and she did not discover them until the growl of the dog caused her to raise her head. She was then within a dozen yards of Howard, he being in the rear and holding the blanket in his hand. She looked at them with an alarmed expression in her strange dark eyes, and seemed to be too much frightened to think of fleeing.
Howard signified his friendship by walking quietly toward her and holding out the blanket as if inviting her to take it. She readily comprehended the meaning of his advance, and when the article was within reach she took it.
"Now make a bargain if you can," called out Elwood.
Howard produced the gold watch—a small hunting-case—and offered it to the young woman. She examined it with childish curiosity, but in a manner that showed that it was not the first time she had looked upon such an article. She held it a for moments, and then with a pleased smile passed the blanket to him, bowed gracefully, wheeled quickly, and slipped away charmingly.