Field and Forest - The Fortunes of a Farmer
by Oliver Optic
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Entered, according to Act of Congress, in the year 1870, BY WILLIAM T. ADAMS, In the Office of the Librarian of Congress, at Washington.





This Book



1. Field and Forest; OR, THE FORTUNES OF A FARMER.

2. Plane and Plank; OR, THE MISHAPS OF A MECHANIC.


4. Cringle and Cross-Tree; OR, THE SEA SWASHES OF A SAILOR.

5. Bivouac and Battle; OR, THE STRUGGLES OF A SOLDIER.



"FIELD AND FOREST" is the first of THE UPWARD AND ONWARD SERIES, in which the career of a youth from his childhood to manhood is illustrated and described. In following out the plan which the author adopted when he began to write books for the young, and which he has steadily pursued in the fifty volumes now before the public, he has endeavored to make his hero a young man of high aims and lofty purposes, however strange, stirring, or even improbable his adventures might seem. Phil Farringford, the leading character of this series, though he may have some of the conceit which belongs to youth, is always honest, true to principle, and faithful to the light which he seeks in the gospel, and in all the other sources of wisdom. He aims to be a Christian young man, respects and loves all the institutions of religion, and labors to make his life an "Upward and Onward" progress.

The scene of the story is laid upon the waters of the upper Missouri: and while the writer hopes the reader will find the story sufficiently stirring and exciting to engage his attention, he also trusts that Phil's Christian principles, his reverence for the Bible, and his devotion to duty and principle, will receive the earnest consideration of his young friends.


June 6, 1870.


































"Hollo, Phil!"

That was the name to which I answered, especially when it was spoken as decidedly as on the present occasion.

"I'm coming," I replied, at the top of my lungs.

I had been a-fishing in a stream which flowed into the Missouri about a mile above my home. I had been very successful, and had as many fish as I could carry. I was gathering them up, after I had fastened my bateau to the stake, and intended to convey them to the Castle, as our log hut was rather facetiously called by its owner.

"Phil! Phil!" repeated the voice above the bluff of the river.

It was Matt Rockwood who called; and as he was the only master and guardian I had ever known, I always obeyed him—when I could not help doing so. His tones were more imperative than before, and I proceeded with greater haste to gather up my fish, stringing them upon some willow twigs I had just cut for the purpose.

Crack went a rifle. The sound startled me, and, dropping my fish, I ran up the steep bank of the river to the summit of the bluff on which the Castle was located.

"What's the matter?" I asked, when I reached the spot by the side of the house where Matt stood.

"Don't you see?" he replied, raising his rifle again, and taking aim.

I looked in the direction towards which his weapon was directed, and saw two Indians, mounted, each of whom had a led horse.

"Them pesky Injuns hes stole our hosses," added old Matt, as he fired his rifle the second time. "'Tain't no use; I might as well shoot at the north star."

The two Indians, with their animals, disappeared in the forest beyond the clearing, and Matt's last chance was gone. A few years earlier in the life experience of the old squatter, the thieves would not have escaped so easily, for Matt was a dead shot before the rheumatism took hold of him. Now he hobbled about a little on a pair of rude crutches I had made for him; but his eyes were rather weak, and his arm was unsteady. His rifle was no longer unerring, and the thieving savages could plunder him with impunity.

There was an Indian village about ten miles from the Castle, and from the known character of its inhabitants, and the direction the marauders had taken, we concluded they had come from there. I went into the house, and procured my rifle—a light affair, which old Matt had purchased on board a trading steamer for my use.

"'Tain't no use, Phil. You needn't run arter 'em," said the old man, shaking his head. "You don't expect to run fast enough to ketch Injuns on hossback—do you?"

On second thought I concluded to take his view of the matter.

"But we can't afford to lose them hosses, Phil," continued old Matt, as he hobbled to a seat. "And if we can, them Injuns shan't hev 'em. I ain't a-goin' to hev old Firefly rid by them critters, and starved, and abused—I ain't a-goin' to do it! Them hosses must be got back. You're gittin' old enough to do sunthin' with Injuns now, Phil, and you must git them hosses back agin."

"I'm ready to do anything I can; but, if I can't catch the Indians, what shall I do?" I replied.

"We can't do a thing in the field without them hosses, Phil; and 'tain't no use to try. We can't plough the ground, and we can't haul no wood. We must hev them hosses back agin, if I hev to hobble arter 'em myself."

"What can I do?" I asked, willing to fight the Indians if necessary; and I was rather impatient over the amount of talk the old man bestowed upon the subject.

"I'll tell you what to do, Phil. Hosses is skuss with them varmints. It's been a hard winter for vagabonds as don't lay up nothin' for cold weather, and they lost half their hosses—starved 'em to death. Them critters they rid on wan't nothin' but frames, and you could hear their bones rattle when they trotted. They won't go far on them hosses to-day, for it's most night now."

"But if I'm going to do anything, it's time to be doing it," I suggested, impatiently.

"Keep cool, boy; 'tain't time to go yet," added the old man, lifting one leg painfully over the other with his hands. "About dark, them Injuns will camp for the night, and that'll be the time to take 'em."

"Very well; then I will go down and bring up my fish. I'm hungry, Matt," I added.

"So am I."

"While they are cooking, we will talk the matter over."

"Stop a minute, Phil," said Matt, as I started for the river. "There was a jug of fire-water in the barn. I left it there this arternoon. I used some on't to wash Firefly's leg where 'twas swelled up. Go into the barn, and see if it's there now."

I knew what the old man was thinking about, and I went in search of the jug. I could not find it, and so reported to him.

"I didn't think o' that jug before. The Injuns come into the castle, and asked for fire-water. I never gin 'em none, and shan't begin now. They were lookin' for hosses, and went to the barn. They took that jug of whiskey, but it's jest like camphene. 'Tain't fit to drink no more'n pizen."

"They will get drunk on it," I added.

"They kin git drunk very quick on such stuff as that, and they won't go fur afore they do it, nuther."

"Then I can very easily get the horses."

"If you work it right, you kin, Phil; but if they are crazy drunk, you musn't go to showin' yourself to 'em. Wait till they go to sleep, as they will when they git drunk enough. Then take your hosses and come home."

"I will go down and get the fish, Matt."

"Go, boy."

The old man rose with difficulty from his seat, and, with the rifle in his right hand, with which also he was obliged to handle a crutch, he hobbled into the Castle. I hastened down to the river, excited by the prospect of an adventure that night with the Indians. I was a boy of only thirteen, and the idea was an immense one. I was to go out into the forest and recapture the horses—an undertaking which might have taxed all the skill and courage of a person of mature age and experience. But I considered myself equal to the mission upon which I was to be sent. I had been brought up in a log cabin, and even as a child had made long hunting and trapping tramps with old Matt Rockwood. I had stood before angry Indians, as well as thieving and drunken ones. I had shot deer, bears, and wolves, as well as smaller game, with my rifle.

Old Matt had always taught me that there was nothing in the world to be afraid of but one's own self—a philosophy which was very pretty in theory, but not always capable of being reduced to practice. But I certainly was not afraid of an Indian, or of any number of them. From my rough old guardian I had acquired a certain contempt for them; but I had never passed through an Indian war or an Indian massacre. I had heard of the savage Blackfeet, and other tribes, who were not to be contemned, but I had never seen any of them.

I hastily completed the stringing of my fish, thinking all the time how I should conduct the expedition in which I was to engage. Indeed, I could think of nothing else; for, although I had often been away on similar excursions, it was always in company with my guardian, while on the present occasion I was to manage for myself. I forgot that I was hungry, and only lived in the brilliant schemes for recovering the horses, capturing the camp, and even wiping out the Indians themselves. I was bent on desperate deeds, and intended to convince old Matt that I was worthy of the confidence he reposed in me.

"You have been lucky to-day, Phil Farringford," said a voice near me, as I rose from the bottom of the boat to step on shore.

It was Mr. Mellowtone, an old neighbor of ours, who had squatted on an island in the river. He was a good friend of mine, and I regarded him with the utmost love and respect. He had taught me to read and write, and furnished me books, which had been both a comfort and a blessing to me.

"I have done first rate to-day," I replied. "Won't you take some of these?"

"Thank you, Phil Farringford. I will take two or three of them, if you have any to spare."

"Take as many as you can use, Mr. Mellowtone," I continued, removing from the twig some of the handsomest of the fish.

"Enough, Phil Farringford. I am not a swine, to eat more than six pounds of trout in a day," said he, with a smile.

I strung them upon a willow twig, and handed them to him, as he stood in his barge—a very aristocratic craft, which he had brought with him from the regions of civilization.

"I must be in a hurry now, Mr. Mellowtone. Won't you come up to the Castle with me? The Indians stole both of our horses this afternoon, and I am going out after them."

"That's unfortunate," he replied, running his barge upon the bank. "I will walk up to the Castle with you, and you shall tell me about it."

Securing his boat to the stake, he followed me up the bank of the river; and on the way to the house I told him what had happened just as I returned from my fishing trip. We entered the log house, where old Matt had kindled a huge fire to cook our evening meal.

"Good evening, Mr. Rockwood," said my friend, as politely as though he had been speaking to the President of the United States.

"Your sarvant, Mr. Mellowtone," replied Matt, who always labored to be as courteous as his visitor, though not always with the same success.

"You have been unfortunate, I learn from Phil Farringford."

"Yes; them pesky redskins is gittin' troublesome, and I'm afraid we shall hev to wipe out some on 'em."

"We must not allow them to steal," added Mr. Mellowtone, decidedly.

"No; Phil is goin' out arter 'em. They stole my jug of fire-water, and they'll be as drunk as owls afore long."

"If neither he nor you object, I will go out with him."

"I hain't no kind o' objection. I should be much obleeged to you if you help git back them hosses."

"I shall be glad to have you go with me, Mr. Mellowtone," I replied, as I put the pan of fish on the fire.

We were all of the same mind.



I was certainly very glad to have Mr. Mellowtone go with me on the expedition after the Indians; but I did not exactly like to share the glory of the great deeds I expected to do even with him, though he was one of my best friends. However, I consoled myself with the reflection that his pleasant company would in part compensate me for the share of the glory he would appropriate.

While the fish were on the fire, I set the table in the best style that the contents of our meagre China closet would permit, for our distinguished visitor seldom honored us by taking a meal at the Castle, and I was anxious to make the best possible appearance. Measured by the standard of civilized life, the result was not a success; but for the backwoods it was. Our table ware was mostly of tin, dented and marred at that; but we had one crockery plate, and I devoted that to the use of our honored guest.

If the table ware was not elegant, the fish were infinitely better than are ever set before the pampered sons of civilization. They had been swimming in their native element a couple of hours before, and were a species of trout, weighing from a pound and a half to two pounds apiece. Mr. Mellowtone declared that they were delicious; and he justified his praise by his trencher practice. For bread we had cold johnny cake, for we were out of flour, as no trading steamer had passed since the ice in the river broke up. We lived well at the Castle, for besides the game and fish supplied by the woods and the rivers, we had bacon, pork, potatoes, and vegetables from the farm.

"Now, Phil, you must be keerful," said old Matt, as we were eating our supper. "Injuns is wicked, and Injuns is cunnin'."

"I will try to be careful," I replied. "I suppose, if we follow Little Fish Creek, we shall find the Indians before morning."

"Yes, you will. Go through the forest, and cross the brook. Follow the path till you come to the creek, and you'll be all right. The varmints hain't got no feed for their hosses, and they won't go fur to-night."

The old man gave us directions how to proceed until we finished the meal; and after I had put things in order about the house, I slung my rifle over my shoulder. Mr. Mellowtone had no weapon, and declared that he needed none. Just at dark we left the Castle, and, crossing the field, entered the forest. There was a well-beaten path, so that we were in no danger of losing our way. We crossed the bridge over the brook which bounded the farm on the north-west; we continued our course through the forest till we reached Little Fish Creek, at the point where it flows into Big Fish Creek. All the names of streams and of localities in the vicinity had been given by Matt Rockwood. The brook we had crossed was called Kit's Brook, because, three miles from its junction with the Big Fish, lived on its banks one Kit Cruncher, an old hunter and trapper, who, until the arrival of Mr. Mellowtone, five years before, had been Matt's only neighbor.

We followed the Little Fish for an hour without discovering any signs of the Indians or the horses. We were within a mile, across the country, of Kit Cruncher's cabin, and we concluded that the thieves would not deem it prudent to halt near so formidable a person as the old hunter had proved himself to be.

"Are you sure we are on the right track, Phil Farringford?" asked my companion.

"We are on the right road to the Indian village," I replied.

"Is it certain that the thieves came from there?"

"They must have come from there, for I don't know of any other Indians within forty miles of the Castle."

"They may be wandering Dakotahs, who do not stay long in one place."

"But there were only two of them, and Dakotahs go in bigger crowds than that. Matt says they took this path, and I saw them strike into the woods myself."

"Doubtless we are right, then. We might go over to Kit Cruncher's, and inquire if he has seen anything of the thieves," suggested Mr. Mellowtone.

"I am sure he has not seen them; if he had, he would have stopped them. And the Indians know him well enough to keep out of his way. He is hard on Indians when they don't behave themselves."

"Very well, Phil Farringford. You are the leader of this expedition, and I will obey your orders."

"I hope you won't, sir; at least, I don't mean to give you any orders," I replied, abashed at the humility of one whom I regarded as the greatest and best man in the world.

We walked in silence for another hour, for my companion always did more thinking than talking. I led the way, and kept both of my eyes and both of my ears wide open, expecting every moment to come upon the camp of the savages. While we were thus cautiously tramping through the forest, I heard the neighing of a horse behind us.

"Hark!" I whispered to Mr. Mellowtone. "We have passed them."

"How can that be?"

"They struck off from the river, and went into the woods to sleep. That was old Firefly's voice, I know. I shouldn't wonder if he heard us."

"If he did, perhaps the Indians heard us also."

"If they have that jug of whiskey with them, they are too drunk to hear anything by this time."

"We must look for the place where they left the path."

"It is rather dark to look for anything tonight," I replied, as I led the way back.

We proceeded with great care, though we made noise enough to apprise Firefly of the approach of friends. He was a knowing old horse, and had faithfully served his master for ten years, but was still a very useful animal. I fancied that he despised Indians quite as much as old Matt himself, and that he was utterly disgusted with his present situation and future prospects. Doubtless he was very uneasy, and displeased at being away from his rude but comfortable stable. The grass had just begun to start a little in the wet soil, and as our stock of hay was getting low, I had picketed them with long ropes where they could feed. In this situation they had become an easy prey to the Indians.

I hoped old Firefly would speak again, and I ventured upon a low whistle, to inform him of my presence, but he did not respond. The other horse was a good beast, and worked intelligently by Firefly's side at the plough and the wagon: but he was an ignoramus compared with his mate, and I expected nothing of him.

"They can't be far from here," said I, as I halted and whistled again a little louder than before.

"We must examine the ground, and see if there are any horse tracks," replied Mr. Mellowtone, as he lighted a match to enable us to see the path.

"No tracks here," I added. "They all lead the other way."

"Then they turned in farther down."

We resumed our walk, but in a few minutes we examined the ground again.

"Here they are," said my companion. "They turned in between this place and that where we stopped last. Whistle again, Phil Farringford."

"We are farther from them now than when I heard the voice of old Firefly," I replied, after I had whistled in vain several times.

"But we are on the track of the horses. There can be no doubt of that," answered Mr. Mellowtone. "We can follow their trail till we find where they left the path."

"I hope you have a good supply of matches."

"I have about a dozen more."

We examined the path in several places, and at last found that the Indians had left it to follow a small brook which flowed into the Little Fish. I whistled at intervals, but received no response from Firefly. The stream which was our guide did not lead us far from the creek.

"I smell smoke," said Mr. Mellowtone, after we had proceeded a considerable distance. "We are not far from them."

"I don't see the light of any fire."

"Probably it has burned down by this time, for the Indians must be asleep."

I whistled, and this time a very decided answer came back from Firefly.

"We are close by them," said I; and involuntarily we slackened our pace.

"I am afraid the noise that horse makes will awaken the Indians."

"They are beastly drunk, without a doubt, and no ordinary sounds will rouse them," I replied. "If they had known what they were about, they would not have built a fire. They are not more than two miles from Kit Cruncher's cabin."

In silence, then, and very cautiously, we crept towards the bivouac of the Indians. In a few moments I saw the four horses, fastened to the trees: but between us and them lay the extended forms of the two Indians. They reposed on the ground, one on each side of the smouldering embers of a fire they had kindled earlier in the evening. The faint light enabled me to see the whiskey jug, lying on the ground near them. The cork was out, and it was evidently empty. The thieves snored so that the earth seemed to shake under them, and I was satisfied that they were as drunk as human beings could be and live.

We made a circuit around the sleeping Indians, and reached the place where the horses were fastened. Firefly neighed and danced in his delight at seeing me, and even his more stolid mate was disposed to make a demonstration of joy; for both animals had been in the habit of spending their nights in a comfortable stable. The horses of the Indians were as they had ridden them, wearing their bridles, and the folded blankets, which served us saddles, strapped upon their backs.

"We needn't spend much time thinking about it," said I, after I had patted Firefly on the neck to assure him I was still his friend. "They have nothing but halters on their necks, though we have only to mount them, and they will go home without any guiding."

"The Indian horses have saddles and bridles on," answered Mr. Mellowtone. "I think we had better do as the redskins did—ride their horses, and lead the others."

"Shall we take their horses?" I asked, rather startled by the proposition.

"Certainly; we must teach them a lesson which they will remember. We are in the world as instructors of those who are less wise than we, and it is our duty to impart wisdom to those who need it."

"They will come down after them, when they are sober."

"They will do that if you take only your own animals. They will fight just as hard to recover the property they stole as to obtain what is justly their own."

Without stopping to debate the matter any further, we mounted the Indians' horses.



I took old Firefly's halter in my hand, while Mr. Mellowtone had that of our other horse. We were ready to start; but the problem of reaching the river path without disturbing the Indians did not seem so easy of solution as at first. We intended to make a circuit around the drunken thieves; but I found the underbrush was so thick that a passage with the horses was impossible. There was seldom any undergrowth in the forest, but this place appeared to have been chosen by the redskins for the purpose of presenting to us the very difficulty we now encountered.

They knew that they must be pursued, if at all, from the direction of the Castle, and they had built their fire in the space between the brook and the dense undergrowth, so that the horses could not be taken back without passing over them. I had visited the place before, and, as I recalled its peculiarities to my mind, the difficulty of the situation increased. The ground was low and swampy, and though I had easily passed through it on foot, the horses could not go through without brushing off their riders. The brook had its rise in the low ground. We could cross it, but the bushes were just as thick on the other side.

We tried in vain to find a passage for the horses; and it occurred to me then that the Indians had possibly come to a halt here because they could go no farther in this direction. I did not like to ride over the drunken thieves, though this seemed to be our only means of passing them. They were asleep, and snoring like the heavy muttering of an earthquake, and we could not tell exactly how drunk they were. It was possible that they were still able to use their rifles and knives, though, if they had drank the entire contents of the whiskey jug, which probably was not less than a quart, we had little to fear from them. Some Indians, however, could drink a pint, and still be able to use a rifle, while others would be overcome with half that quantity.

"We can't get out in this way," said Mr. Mellowtone, after we had vainly sought a passage around the Indians.

"I will take a look at the drunken redskins," I replied, dismounting, and fastening my two horses to a sapling.

I walked cautiously to the spot where the Indians lay. I threw a few dry sticks on the fire, so as to obtain some light from the blaze. I found that the thieves lay on a knoll between the brook and the swamp. There was not space enough on either side for two horses to pass abreast without stepping over or on their sleeping forms; but there was no other way for us to get out of the trap. The horses might pass singly, and I decided at once what to do.

"I think we will ride the Indian horses, and let the others follow," said I, returning to my companion.

"But they may take it into their heads not to follow."

"Firefly will go as straight to his stable as he can," I replied, loosing him, and securing the halter around his neck. "The other one will follow him."

Mr. Mellowtone released his led animal, and I mounted my steed. The latter was an ugly beast, as he must have been from the force of association. I urged him towards the Indians, and Firefly closely followed me. The horse I rode was not disposed to pass the fire and the sleeping forms; but I pounded his naked ribs till he changed his mind, and stepped over the legs of his drunken master. Firefly snorted, and sprang over the obstruction.

"Hoo!" shouted the savage, over whose legs I had passed, springing to his feet.

But he was too drunk to stand up, and pitched over upon the body of his companion. As the path was now clear for an instant, Mr. Mellowtone urged his horse forward, and joined me. Our other horse, which I had always called Cracker, though Matt never recognized the name, followed without making any sensation whatever. The fall of the one Indian upon the other had awakened the latter, and by the light of the blazing sticks I saw them clutch each other. Probably the second, in his tipsy stupor, supposed the first was an enemy, having designs upon his life. They rolled over together, and in the struggle the legs of one of them were thrown upon the fire.

Such an unearthly yell I had never heard. He was not so drunk that fire would not burn him, and the pain made him howl like a wounded buffalo. They rolled and struggled, and the firebrands were scattered in every direction. In a moment they sprang to their feet, but only to fall again upon the burning brands which were strown over the ground. They did not appear to see us, though we had halted quite near them, curious to see the result of the struggle.

As they fell upon the earth, the brands burned them, and they leaped to their feet again; but they no longer grappled with each other. It was now only getting up and falling down, and this continued until they had stumbled out of the circuit where the brands had been strown. Exhausted by the violence of their exertions, or bewildered by the fumes of the liquor, they lay still, and we started on our return to the Castle. If the Indians saw us at all, they were unable to follow us; and their experience seemed to point the moral that, when one steals horses, he must not steal whiskey at the same time.

"They had a warm time of it," said my companion, as we jogged along very slowly through the forest, for the horses we rode could not be persuaded to go faster than a walk.

"I am glad they wasted their strength upon each other, instead of us."

"What a condition for a human being to be in!" added Mr. Mellowtone, with an expression of disgust.

"I don't see why Indians take to whiskey so readily. It is a curse to all the redskins I ever knew."

"It is a curse to any man, red or white."

"I never saw a white man drunk."

"Your experience has been very limited, Phil Farringford."

"That's very true. I never saw much of the world, but I hope to see more of it one of these days. What do you suppose these Indians will do when they become sober?" I asked.

"No doubt they will try to get back their horses. They came down for more, and they go back with fewer, unless they can recover them. If they behave themselves we will let them have their own horses. We don't want them."

"They are nothing but skin and bones."

"Very likely they are good horses, but they have been starved and overridden."

"Old Matt won't care about filling them out, for we haven't more than grain enough to carry us through. I suppose we shall see these redskins again by to-morrow."

"Perhaps not; they may go to their village first, and return with more men."

"Well, we won't borrow any trouble about them. When they come we will take care of them. We shall be obliged to watch our horses after this; for I would rather shoot old Firefly than have him abused by those redskins."

"They are not worthy to possess so noble an animal as the horse. But, after all, the white man is more to blame for their present degraded condition than they are themselves. Out of the reach of the vices of civilization there are still noble red men."

"I never saw any of them," I added, rather incredulously.

We continued on our way through the solemn forest, and by the side of the rolling river. Old Firefly and Cracker were ahead of us, but we could hear the tramp of their feet, and were satisfied that they were on the right track. When we reached the Castle, we found them patiently waiting at the stable for our arrival. I opened the door for them, and they returned to their quarters with a satisfaction which they could not express. As our stock of hay was nearly expended, we had room enough in the barn for the two Indian horses. I fed all the animals alike, for it was not the fault of the strangers that they kept bad company.

Old Matt had gone to bed when we went into the house, but he wanted to know all about our adventures; and, when I had told him the story, I was pleased to hear him say that I had done well. Late as it was, Mr. Mellowtone insisted upon returning to his home on the island, two miles above the Castle; but he promised to come down early the next day, for we expected trouble with our Indian neighbors. I went down to the river with him, and watched his barge till it disappeared in the gloom of the night. I was beginning to be sleepy, but I dared not go to bed, fearful that the Indians would come before morning, and steal the horses. I had concluded to sleep in the barn, if at all, with my rifle at my side, so as to be sure that no accident happened while I was in the house.

I did sleep in the barn, and with my rifle at my side; but I was not disturbed by the visit of any redskins, and the horses were all right in the morning. I fed them alike again, and watered them at the brook. Before we had finished our late breakfast in the Castle, Mr. Mellowtone arrived.

"Have you seen any more Indians, Phil Farringford?" he asked.

"No, sir; but we expect to see the two who stole the horses very soon."

"I brought my rifle with me this time," he added. "I saw Kit Cruncher this morning. He says there is a band of Indians in the woods north of him."

"How many?" I asked.

"He saw ten together, all of them mounted, and thinks they came down to find feed for their horses. I told him what had happened here yesterday, and he says there will be trouble before the day is over."

"Does he think so?" asked old Matt, rather anxiously.

"He does; and I came prepared to assist you, if need be."

"Thank'e, Mr. Mellowtone. Time was when I didn't want no help agin any ten of these yere redskins; but the rheumatiz has spiled me, and my arm shakes so I can't shoot much now," added old Matt, mournfully.

"Kit said he would come here immediately."

"Kit is a good neighbor, and is allus on hand when he's wanted, and there's any Injuns to shoot."

At that moment the door was darkened by the appearance of Kit Cruncher, who bowed his head, and entered without ceremony.



Kit Cruncher was about six feet and a half high, and it was necessary that he should bow his head when he entered even the humble log cabin of Matt Rockwood. He wore a cap made of skins, so tall that it seemed to add another foot to his height. It was ornamented with the long, bushy tail of a fox, which dangled on one side like the tassels from the cap of a hussar. His beard, gray and massive, was more than a foot long, and gave him a patriarchal aspect. His pants were stuffed in the legs of his long boots, and he wore a kind of hunting frock, which reached nearly to his knees. He was lean and lank, but, annealed in the hardships of backwoods life, he was wiry and sinewy. He was about fifty years old, though his gray hair and beard alone appeared to betray his age. He was from the south; a fine specimen of the real Kentucky hunter—"half horse and half alligator."

There was a kind of stern dignity in his countenance that always awed me, though I knew that Kit had a kind heart, and was only terrible to those who injured him or his friends. He lived by hunting and trapping, and always had a large supply of peltries to dispose of whenever a trading steamer came up the Missouri.

"How's yer bones, Matt?" said he, dropping the butt of his long rifle upon the earthen floor of our cabin.

"Poorly, Kit, poorly," replied Matt. "I'm about did for in this world. I can shoot no more, and couldn't hit the moon at ten paces."

"That's bad; 'cause 'pears like some shootin' must be did. There's a squad o' redskins up above me, and I cal'late they mean mischief, if they begin by stealin' your hosses. We'll git out into natur'," said Kit, as he left the house, followed by the rest of the party.

He evidently expected a visit from the savages very soon. I took down my little rifle from the brackets, and also, at Matt's request, carried out his long weapon, with the accoutrements. We were all rigged for the war path, and, for my own part, I was never so much excited in my life. I wondered how Kit could keep so cool. He was deeply skilled in Indian craft, and when he thought there was danger, others might be excused for adopting his opinion. Old Matt seated himself on a box near the barn door, and the rest of us gathered around him.

"Them Injuns has had a hard winter on't," said Kit. "They won't git their gov'ment money and traps for a month yit, and they are half starved. They've lost half their hosses, and all these things makes 'em ugly. But I didn't think o' nothin' till I heered they stole your hosses, and you hed theirs."

"I never hed much trouble with 'em," added old Matt. "They've stole my hosses afore, but I allus got 'em back, as I did this time."

"When an Injun's hungry, he's ugly."

The two patriarchs discussed the situation at length, while I listened in reverent humility to their words. Mr. Mellowtone smoked his pipe in silence. I think his pipe was in his mouth at least two thirds of the time, and was a very great comfort to him. We were all watching the path which led across the field into the forest, for this was the only approach to the Castle by the land side. Matt's farm—as he called it—was situated between two deep creeks, the Fish on the west and the Bear on the east. Half a mile from the cabin, in the midst of the forest, was a lake, through which flowed Bear Creek. Half way between this sheet of water and the Little Fish ran Kit's Brook, on the bank of which was a path leading to the hunter's cabin. The great thoroughfare to the north was by the Fish, and this was the only practicable way for mounted men, and was the road by which the Indians came down to the Missouri to exchange their peltries for powder and whiskey.

While we were all watching the spot where the path entered the forest, a couple of redskins emerged from its shades, and hurried towards the Castle. As they approached we all raised our rifles. Even old Matt rose from his seat, and prepared to use his weapon. But the savages made the signs of peace; and Kit, to whom we all looked for inspiration and direction, permitted them to approach. I immediately identified them as the two who had stolen our horses, and whom I had seen rolling among the burning brands the night before. Their greasy garments showed the marks of fire, and the leggings of one of them were nearly burned off.

"Those are the redskins who stole our horses," said I to Kit Cruncher.

"Jest so," replied Kit, as the savages halted before us.

They were very much excited, and looked decidedly ugly. Their eyes were bloodshot after the debauch of the preceding night, and their eyeballs seemed to be marked by the fiery nature of the liquor they had drank.

"Ugh!" growled one of them, shaking his head.

"Well, old Blower, what do you want?" demanded Kit, straightening up his tall, gaunt form.

"Want um hosses," snarled the Indian, shaking his head violently, as though he was so ugly he could not contain himself.

"D'ye want to steal some hosses?" added Kit, sternly.

"Ugh! White man steal hosses! Lose um two hosses," howled the spokesman, pointing to the barn.

We understood what he meant. He evidently thought it quite right for him to steal our horses, but very wicked for us to reciprocate in the same manner.

"Well, they sarved you jest as you sarved them. You stole Matt's bosses, his folks stole yours. That's fair play," added Kit.

"No steal hosses!" growled the Indian. "Give back hosses."

"They kin hev their own hosses. I don't want 'em," interposed Matt. "They ain't fit for scarecrows."

"Bring 'em out, Phil," said Kit. "They shall hev their own. We won't wrong an Injun, no how."

I led out the bony racks which the Indians had ridden, and delivered them to their owners.

"Now you kin leave," added Kit.

"Want more hosses," said the Indian who spoke this pigeon English, and which the other appeared not to be able to do, and only grunted and howled his anger and indignation.

"You won't git no more hosses here."

"Want corn, want meat, want whiskey."

"Not a corn, not a meat, not a whiskey," replied Kit, decidedly. "Ef you'd come as a hungry man, we mought hev fed you."

"Big Injun come, burn house, kill white man—no give hoss and whiskey."

"Big Injun mought git shot, ef he don't behave hisself."


"You kin leave," repeated Kit, significantly, as he raised his rifle.

"No go," howled the Indian, though he retreated a few paces, and plainly did not like Kit's cool and stiff manner. "White man pappoose steal um hosses, and burn Injun."

The speaker stooped down, drew aside his tattered leggin, and pointed to a huge blister on his leg, made by the fire into which he had rolled in his drunken frenzy. Then he pointed to me, and as he did so, his bloodshot eyes lighted up with rage and malice. I understood him to charge me with the infliction of the injury upon his leg. Since both of the thieves were so very drunk when we were at their camp, I did not at first see how they had been made aware of my presence. They did not seem to see me, and I concluded that they had identified me in the morning by the smallness of my track in the soft soil. They could not have known what transpired in their fury, but probably reasoned that, as I had been there, and taken the horses, I had burned their legs also.

"I did not do it," I protested, hardly able to restrain a laugh, as I recalled the ludicrous scene of the night, before at the camp fire.

I explained how the Indian had burned himself.

"Pay Injun damage," added the injured thief.

"Nary red. You stole whiskey, got drunk, and rolled into your own camp fire," answered Kit. "You kin leave."

The tall hunter raised his rifle again, and the two Indians, mounting their bony steeds, rode off, yelling in the fury of their rage and disappointment. They had intended to obtain something more than their horses. Indeed, the Indians never visited the Castle without begging or demanding something, always whiskey, and often corn and meat.

"There's more on 'em up there somewhere," said Kit, as the thieves rode off.

"Do you think they will return?" asked Mr. Mellowtone.

"I'm afeered they will. Them Injuns is ugly, and I reckon they mean to make trouble. They don't ask for bread and meat; they demand 'em. They spoke for t'others more'n for theirselves. 'Tain't wuth while to quarrel with 'em ef you kin help it. I allus give 'em sunthin' to eat, when they are hungry, ef they ask for't; but I don't let 'em git the upper hands on me. 'Twon't do."

"If you think they mean to attack us, don't you think we had better prepare to defend ourselves?" suggested Mr. Mellowtone.

"I'm allus ready, and I am now," replied Kit.

"So am I," added old Matt, as he examined the lock of his weapon.

"But we might do something to make a better defence," said Mr. Mellowtone. "There are ten or a dozen Indians, you think, while we are but four."

"What kin we do except shoot 'em when they come?" replied old Matt.

"There is a bridge over the brook in the woods yonder," continued Mr. Mellowtone, pausing to permit Kit to take up the suggestion, if he chose.

"Yes, there is; and it cost me a deal of hard work to make it," said Matt. "It wan't an easy matter to get a hoss over afore it was put up."

"Precisely so, and it won't be an easy matter now. Therefore I think we had better take up the bridge, and make the brook our line of defence."

Kit approved the plan, and we hastened to execute it. The brook ran at the bottom of a deep gully as it approached its mouth, and for half a mile it was impossible to take a horse over, except on the bridge. We removed the logs with which it was covered, but allowed the string-pieces to remain. Kit thought we could do better if we prevented the Indians from coming over on their horses.

By the time we had finished our work, old Matt had hobbled over the ground, dragging his rifle after him. Just as he approached we heard the yell of the savages on the other side of the stream, and a band of ten dashed up to the position. Kit told us to got behind the trees, to guard against any accident. The Indians drew up their horses when they discovered that the bridge had been dismantled. I heard the crack of a rifle.

Old Matt uttered a deep groan, and dropped to the ground, shot through the heart.

In his weak condition he had not been able to reach the shelter of a tree in season to save himself. We knew now what the savages meant.



Old Matt Rockwood, my friend and protector, the friend and protector of my childhood, was dead.

Ten years before, he had taken me to his home and his heart, and since that time had done for me all that his limited means would permit. He had been a father to me, and the bullet that sped through his heart lacerated mine.

All that I could remember of existence was associated with the Castle and its vicinity, though I was not born there. I knew nothing of my parents, and nothing of the circumstances under which I had come into the world. Ten years before, while upon a hunt, Matt Rockwood had wrapped himself up in his blanket, and slept on the bank of the Missouri, about a dozen miles below the Castle. It was in the spring, and the water was very high, for the melting snows in the mountains had swelled the mighty stream to its fullest volume.

A bright light awoke the hunter in the evening, and he discovered a steamer on fire in the river, only a short distance below. Launching his bateau, in which he had come down the stream, he paddled with all his might to the scene of disaster. The pilot had run the steamer ashore; but before those on board could escape,—for the fire was in the forward part of the boat,—the swift current carried her off again, and she descended the stream at a rapid rate. Matt paddled after her; but, half a mile below the point where the steamer had run ashore, he heard the wail of a child, very near him.

The light from the burning boat enabled him to see the child. It was floating on a door, which had evidently been put into the water to support its helpless burden. Matt, who often told me the story, believed that the child's father, or some other person, had intended to ferry the little one on shore in this manner, when the steamer had been run aground. Probably the starting of the boat had defeated his plan, or possibly the person who was trying to save the child had lost his hold on the door. There was no one near the little raft. Matt took the young voyager on the great river from its perilous situation. It was benumbed with cold, and he wrapped it in his blanket, and laid it in the bottom of the boat.

Hardly had he accomplished this humane task before the boilers of the burning steamer exploded, and she was instantly a wreck on the swift tide. Matt paddled his bateau as swiftly as possible, but he was unable to overtake the mass of rushing fire. He shouted occasionally, in order to attract the attention of any sufferer; but no one responded to his call. Though he searched diligently, he was unable to find another survivor of the terrible calamity.

The little child thus saved from the fire and the water was myself.

Matt took his charge to the shore, made a fire, warmed it, and fed it with buffalo meat and soaked cracker. Wrapping the little stranger in his blanket, he pressed him to his bosom, and both slept till morning. The next day, with the child in his bateau, he renewed the search for any survivors of the calamity. He could find none; but months afterwards he read in an old newspaper he had obtained from a trading steamer, that another boat had passed down the river and picked up a few persons; but neither the names of the lost nor of the saved were given.

Loading his bateau with as much buffalo meat as it would carry, Matt started for the Castle with his new charge; but the current of the swollen river was so swift that it was night before he arrived. At this point in his story, I used to ask my kind protector whether he tried to find out anything more about me. He always answered that he was unable to obtain any information; but, after I was old enough to understand the matter better, he confessed that he did not wish to discover the friends of the child. After he had taken care of it for a few months, he became so attached to it that he was only afraid of losing the little waif.

I was only two years old when I was thus cast upon the protection of the old squatter. He watched over me and cared for me with all the tenderness of a mother, and I became a stout and healthy child. The plain food and the wholesome air of the wilderness gave vigor to my limbs. The old man took care of me like a woman when I had the maladies incident to childhood, and I passed safely through the whole catalogue of them.

The steamer which had been burned was the Farringford, and Matt had read the name on her paddle-box. He gave it to me as a surname, to which he prefixed Philip as a Christian name, simply because it suited his fancy. With such a charge on his hands Matt was unable to make any hunting expeditions for several years; but he had already begun to turn his attention to farming. His only neighbor at that time was Kit Cruncher, with whom he exchanged corn and pork for game and buffalo meat. Matt was disposed to indulge more in the comforts of civilization than the hunters and trappers generally do. He sold wood to the steamers that passed, and thus obtained money enough to purchase clothing, groceries, and other supplies.

When I was about seven years old Matt began to take me with him when he went hunting and fishing, and I soon learned to be of some service to him. I acquired all the arts of the backwoodsman, and soon became quite skilful. I worked in the field, and tramped a dozen miles a day with him. I was tough and sinewy, and knew not the meaning of luxury. My clothes were made by old Matt, until I was able with his help to manufacture them myself.

It was a fortunate thing for me that Mr. Mellowtone established himself in the vicinity of the Castle, for he took an interest in me, and taught me to read and write. He was a singular man; but I shall have more to say of him by and by. Until he came, I spoke the rude patois of Kit and Matt; but Mr. Mellowtone taught me a new language, and insisted that I should speak it.

Matt had been a pioneer in Indiana, but had afterwards engaged in trade and failed. His ill success had driven him into the far west to resume his pioneer habits. Even then he had passed the meridian of life; but he cleared up a farm, and had been prosperous in his undertakings. The sale of wood and the produce of the field to the steamers brought in considerable money, and he had supplied himself with all needed farm implements, so that we were able to work to advantage. We had a grist-mill, turned by horse power, which enabled us to convert our corn into meal. We raised pigs, and always had an abundant supply of pork and bacon.

I was about thirteen years old when my story opens. I was contented with my lot, though I was occasionally troubled to ascertain who my parents were. Matt had no doubt they were both dead, since no inquiries had ever been made for the lost child. Some day I expected to visit the regions of civilization, and see the great world. Only twice in my life had I seen any white women, at least within my memory. They were on the deck of a steamer, lying at our wood-yard near the mouth of Fish Creek. I had a reasonable curiosity, which I hoped to gratify when I was older. For the present, I was willing to cleave to old Matt, as he had to me.

But now the old man lay upon the ground, silent and motionless. The crack of the rifle which had sent the ball to his heart was still ringing in my ears. It was almost instantly followed by another, and I saw a burly savage drop from his horse, and roll over into the brook. Kit Cruncher had fired, and was loading his rifle for a second shot. It was fortunate that we had removed the logs from the bridge, for the Indians were kept at bay by the deep gully in which the brook flowed.

When the big Indian fell, his comrades set up a fierce howl, for he seemed to be the leader of the band. Mr. Mellowtone fired next; but his aim was less certain than that of the hunter. For my own part, heedless of the howling savages, I stood behind the tree gazing at the prostrate form of old Matt. I wept bitterly, and should have thrown myself upon his body if Kit had not sternly commanded me not to move.

The savages were not long in discovering that all the advantage was on our side, and, with a ringing whoop, they turned their horses and retreated a short distance.

"They are unhossing theirselves," said Kit. "Don't move, boy!"

"Matt is shot!" I exclaimed. "I must go to him."

"Don't go, boy. You can't help him any now, and you mought git shot if you show yourself. Don't do it, boy."

"Is Matt dead?" I asked, trembling with emotion.

"Dead as a hammer," replied Kit. "He'll never move hisself again. Hold still, boy."

"He may be alive, and I want to do something for him," I insisted.

"He hain't moved since he dropped, and I know by the way he went over that it's all up with Matt. Don't throw your life away, boy."

"Poor Matt," sighed Mr. Mellowtone, from his position near us. "It is a sad day for him, and for us."

"Keep your eyes wide open, or some o' the rest on us will smell the ground," added Kit. "The redskins is gittin' down into the brook."

The savages retreated to a point on the stream, where they dismounted, evidently with the intention of crossing. They picketed their horses, and we judged that they meant to complete the work which they had begun.

"We must follow them up," continued Kit. "Boy, take Matt's rifle, and follow me."

I bent over the form of the fallen patriarch. I placed my hand upon his heart, but there was no answering throb. He was indeed dead, and my whole frame was shaken with convulsive grief.

"Don't stop there, boy!" called Kit.

"He is dead!" I groaned in bitterness of spirit.

"I know he is, boy; but we can't help it. We can't stop to cry now."

"My best friend!"

"Come, boy!" shouted Kit. "Bring his rifle, powder, and ball."

I wiped the tears from my eyes, but I could not banish the sorrow from my heart. Gently I raised the head of the old hunter, and removed the powder-horn and bullet-pouch which were suspended over his shoulder. Picking up the rifle, which lay near him on the ground, I followed my companions into the forest. I felt then that I could shoot an Indian without any remorse.



Kit Cruncher was a prudent man, brave as he was. We did not therefore march boldly through the forest, for there were only three of us against four times as many Indians. We dodged from tree to tree, always keeping our bodies sheltered from the bullets of the savages. Kit went along near the brook, and presently I saw him raise his rifle and fire. The shot was followed by a wild yell from the savages.

"Give me Matt's rifle, boy," said Kit, as he passed me his own, with his powder-horn and ball-pouch. "Load that, boy."

With his eye still on the spot where he had seen the Indian, he told me how much powder to put in his rifle, and to be sure and ram the ball home. I loaded it as quickly as I could, but he did not find another opportunity to fire.

"Did you hit the one you fired at, Kit?" I asked.

"I hit him, but I didn't kill him. They won't cross the brook in that place. I'm afeard they'll scatter next. Howsomever, we've did enough out here. We'll go back to the bridge. That's the safest place for us. I don't hear 'em now; and that's a bad sign with Injuns."

"Where are they?"

"They was trying to cross the brook when I fired last time. They hev got behind the trees now. We must git nearer the Castle, or they'll drop in atween us."

Kit led the way, and Mr. Mellowtone and myself followed him, dodging from tree to tree, until we reached the bridge. A couple of shots, fired by the enemy, assured us they were on the watch, though none of us was injured.

"'Tain't no use to stay here," said Kit. "The brook is a good line agin hosses, but not agin Injuns afoot."

"I think you are right," replied Mr. Mellowtone. "When I spoke of the brook as a line of defence, I considered the enemy as mounted men."

"The Castle is the best place for the rest of this fight."

"But the Indians can cross the brook, and then lay down this bridge again," suggested Mr. Mellowtone.

"Set them sticks afire, boy," added Kit, pointing to the heap of logs we had removed from the bridge. "It will be easier to cut some more than to let the redskins use them."

Mr. Mellowtone gave me a card of matches, and I piled up some dry sticks against the heap, which I set on fire. While I was thus employed, my companions made a litter, on which they placed the body of Matt. As we could neither see nor hear the savages, we concluded they had gone farther up the brook to find a crossing. We waited till the fire had nearly consumed the bridge material, and then started for the Castle. Kit and Mr. Mellowtone bore the litter, while I carried two rifles. It was a mournful procession to me, and my companions were sad and silent. I knew that Kit grieved at the loss of his old friend; but he was only grave and solemn, as he always was.

When we reached the Castle, the body of the old man was placed upon his bed, and we left the room to prepare for the defence of the place. It was not in the nature of the Indians to go away without further wreaking their vengeance. Besides, the Castle was rich in plunder to men pressed with want, and even with hunger. We must expect a visit from them by night, if not before.

The Castle was a log cabin, containing only a single room, with the chimney on the outside, and next to the river. On the other side was built the barn, which was twice as large as the house. They were joined together, so as to save the labor of building one wall, as well as for convenience in winter. The building stood on a kind of ridge, which was the "divide" between Bear Creek and Kit's Brook. From one stream to the other the land was cleared, and included in the farm. The forest line was within a hundred and fifty rods of the river.

We had, therefore, an open space from stream to stream, three miles long by about a hundred and fifty rods wide, from which Matt Rockwood had cut off the wood, hauling it to the landing-place at the mouth of Fish Creek for the steamers. Only a portion of this territory had been cultivated, though all of it was used for crops or for pasture. Kit had come to the conclusion that we could defend ourselves better in the open space than in the woods, so long as we were able to prevent the Indians from dashing suddenly upon us on horseback.

"Our army's small," said the old hunter, as we met again in front of the Castle. "We must see, and not be seen."

"We can stay in the Castle, and fire out the windows, then," suggested Mr. Mellowtone.

"That won't do. It hain't but two winders, and none on the wood side," replied Kit. "We must make a block house, or sunthin' o' that sort. Here's plenty of timber sticks."

He pointed to the pile of wood which we had hauled to the vicinity of the Castle during the milder days of the winter, when Matt was able to be out. The sticks were about eight feet long, and suitable for such a stockade as I had seen at the fort twenty miles up the Missouri.

"You mean to build a fort?" asked Mr. Mellowtone.

"That's jest what I mean," replied Kit; "a kind of a den we kin fire out on, and will turn a bullet at the same time."

"Where shall we put it?"

"Jest on the ridge back of the barn. Then we kin see the whole clearin', and draw a bead on a Injun jest as quick as he shows his head. We hain't no time to lose, nuther."

"I'm ready," replied Mr. Mellowtone, throwing off his coat.

"Fetch on the shovels, boy," added Kit.

I furnished them with picks and shovels, and went to the high ground in the rear of the barn. We carried all the arms with us. Kit marked out a circle about ten feet in diameter, outside of which we began to dig a trench. The ground was soft for the first foot, and the work easy. Below this the labor was very severe. We watched the woods all the time, that the Indians might not surprise us. We were out of the range of their rifles, and only by coming into the open space could they fire with any chance of hitting us. We found they were not disposed to waste powder, and we judged that their supplies of ammunition were as low as those of food.

At noon I was relieved from work to get some dinner for my companions. I went back to the Castle and built a fire. The form of Matt lay on the bed in the room where I was at work, covered over with the quilt. I put the fish and potatoes on the fire, but I could not refrain from crying. I had often before attended to my domestic work while the old man lay in the bed, but he was never so still as now. He did not speak to me, and did not know that I was there. I could not help looking frequently at the bed, and gazing at the outline of his form beneath the quilt. His death might change the whole current of my destiny, but I did not think much of that then. I dwelt only upon the loss I had sustained, recalling the kindness of the old man to me. I was glad then to think that I had always done my best to serve him; that I had tenderly and devotedly nursed him in sickness, as he had me; and this thought was a very great comfort to me.

When I had cooked the dinner, I carried it out to the site of the block house, and with our faces to the forest we ate it. We were a sad and a silent party. For ten years before I had not eaten a meal except in the presence of him who was now no more. Kit said not a word about his lost friend; but Mr. Mellowtone, seeing how badly I felt, tried to comfort me.

After dinner, my companions resumed their labors; but Kit directed me to commence carting the timber to the block house. I put away the dishes, and harnessed the horses to the wagon. The sticks were only three or four inches in diameter, and I loaded them without difficulty. By the time I had hauled a sufficient number for the structure, the trench was deep enough, and we all went to work setting up the sticks. We placed them on the inside of the ditch, propping them up with others, until we had a dozen up, when we began to throw in the dirt around them, jamming it down with a maul.

After a beginning was made, I was directed to set up the sticks, while Kit threw in the earth, and Mr. Mellowtone rammed it down. Once in every four feet I was required to put in a stick only five feet long, so that above it there was an opening three inches wide, which formed a loophole from which the rifles could be discharged at the enemy. The trench was two feet deep, leaving the bottom of the loophole three feet above the level of the ground.

As none but the straightest sticks were used in the works, the cracks were very narrow; but the earth was to be heaped up to the bottom of the loopholes against the outside, thus making the structure absolutely bullet-proof for three feet from the ground. By the middle of the afternoon, the sticks were all set, and the trench filled up. A space a foot and a half wide was left on the side next to the barn, for a door. I nailed together a sufficient number of sticks, putting cross-pieces of board over them, to fill this space, and serve as a door. In the mean time my friends shovelled the dirt against the outside of the palisades; and before sundown the work was completed, and we were ready for the Indians as soon as they wished to make an attack.

"No doubt this fort is a great institution; but the Indians will come upon us in the night, when we can't see them," said Mr. Mellowtone.

"But we must see 'em," replied Kit.

"The nights are rather dark now."

"There is plenty of pitch wood, and we can make it as light as we please."

"That's your plan—is it?"

"That's the idee. We must keep the fires up all night, and one pair of eyes wide open."

"It's a pity we haven't my twelve-pounder here," added Mr. Mellowtone.

"I reckon you'll hev to fotch it down, Mr. Mell'ton."

"I would if I could leave."

"I reckon we kin stand it one night."

"I don't wish to stay here any longer," I added, sorrowfully. "Matt is dead, and I don't care much where I go."

"You'll git over that, boy, one of these days. You kin kerry on the farm and do well here," added Kit. "But I reckon we must plant the old man to-night."

He meant, to bury him; and while they were digging a grave near the block house, I made a rude coffin of some boards we had saved for another purpose. It was the saddest job I had ever done, and my tears fell continually on the work. I carried the box into the house, and my companions laid the silent old man in it. I took my last look at the face of my venerable friend, and the lid was nailed down. We bore him to his last resting-place, as the shades of night were gathering around us. Mr. Mellowtone was to make a prayer at the grave, and had knelt upon the ground for that purpose, when we heard the wild yell of the savages on the border of the forest.



We had realized all day, while building the block house, that we were watched by the Indians, and that whenever a favorable opportunity was presented, they would make a dash upon us. The dusk of the evening now favored them, and I think they understood what we were doing. But the movement on their part was premature, for it was still light enough to enable us to see an Indian anywhere in the clearing.

"Run for the block house!" said Kit Cruncher, leading the way with long strides.

It was only a few rods distant, and we rushed in before the savages were near enough to use their rifles, which were not of the best quality. Our four weapons rested against the palisades, loaded and ready for instant service.

"Shut the gate, boy," continued Kit, as he thrust the muzzle of his rifle through a loophole.

I closed and barred the gate with the heavy timber I had prepared for the purpose. Before I had done so, Kit fired, and I heard an awful yell from the savages.

"There goes one of them," said Mr. Mellowtone.

"I shall fotch down one every time I shoot," replied Kit, calmly, as he picked up the rifle of old Matt. "Load my piece, boy, and be sure you ram the ball home."

"They have come to a halt," added Mr. Mellowtone, as he discharged his rifle.

"You didn't hit nothin', Mr. Mell'ton," said Kit, quietly, as he gazed through the loophole in front of him.

"I see that I missed my aim that time. Well, it's too late now; they are running away again."

"They kin no more stand it to be shot at than they kin live without eatin'," added Kit, as he set the rifle against the palisades. "They was go'n to run up and shoot, because they see we hadn't nary gun in our hands. We kin leave this place now."

The Indians had disappeared in the forest, bearing with them the body of the one who had fallen. We left the block house, after making sure that our rifles were in condition for use at the next attack.

"We mought light the fires now, afore we finish planting Matt," said Kit. "But I don't reckon them Injuns will come agin jest yit."

"I should not think they would come at all," added Mr. Mellowtone. "They have lost two of their number, and one or two have been wounded."

"We've lost one man, too," replied Kit. "That gin 'em courage to go on."

"But they are sure of losing more the moment they show themselves. I should think they would get tired of the game."

"They'll wait till they think it's safe afore they come agin. Now light up the fires, boy."

While I had the horses harnessed, I had hauled a supply of pitch-wood and other fuel for this purpose, and had prepared two heaps, one on each side of the block house, in readiness to apply the match. I lighted them, and the combustible wood blazed up, and cast a red glare upon all the clearing. Kit Cruncher's calculation was fully justified, and we were satisfied that no Indian could approach the Castle without our knowledge, if we only kept a vigilant watch.

Again we gathered around the coffined form of old Matt. Mr. Mellowtone knelt at the head of the grave, and we followed his example. He prayed fervently and solemnly for both Kit and me, and I wept anew when he recounted the virtues of the deceased. I forgot that there were any Indians within a thousand miles of me, as I recalled the kindness of him who was now lying cold and silent before me.

Mr. Mellowtone finished the prayer, and we lowered the rude coffin into the grave. Not one of us spoke a word, and there was no sound to be heard but the crackling of the fires, and the sobs I tried in vain to repress. I was unutterably sad and lonely. I felt that no one on the broad earth could take the place of Matt, and be to me what he had been. The current of existence seemed to have come to a sudden stop, and in my thought I could not make it move again.

My companions filled up the grave, and I watched the operation with a swelling heart. I saw them place the sods on the mound they had heaped up, and more than before I realized that I was never again to behold the face from which had beamed upon me, for ten long years, so much of love and joy. I thought of the old man pressing me as a little child to his heart on the banks of the Missouri, when he had saved me from the cold and the waters. I considered the days, months, and years of care and devotion he had bestowed upon me—upon me, who had not a single natural claim upon his love.

"Come, boy, don't stand there any longer," said Kit Cruncher, calling to me from the vicinity of the block house. "You may git shot."

I turned, and found that my companions had left me alone. I joined them, and with an effort repressed the flowing tears. I tried to realize that I was still living, and that there was a future before me.

"I know you feel bad, boy; but 'tain't no use to cry," said Kit. "We'll take good care on you."

"Matt has been very good to me," I replied.

"That's truer'n you know on, boy. Many's the time he sot up all night with you when you was sick, and held you in his arms all day. I've been twenty miles to the fort in the dead o' winter myself to git some medicine for you. If Matt hed been a woman, he moughtn't have nussed you any better."

"I'm very grateful to him, and to you."

"I know you be, boy. You took good care of old Matt when he was down with the rheumatiz. You've been a good boy, and I don't blame you much for cryin' now the old man's dead and gone. I think we will have sunthin' to eat now."

I went to the Castle, and prepared a supper of fried bacon and johnny-cake, which I carried to the block house. My companions ate as though life had no sorrows; but we had all worked very hard in the construction of our fortress, and the circumstances did not favor the development of much fine sentiment. I carried the supper things back to the Castle, washed the dishes, gave the pigs their supper, watered and fed the horses, and then returned to the block house. Kit had brought an armful of hay from the barn, and some blankets from the house, with which he had prepared sleeping accommodations for two of the party. Mr. Mellowtone was walking up and down between the two fires, smoking his pipe, and doing duty as sentinel.

"Now, boy, you kin turn in and sleep," said Kit. "Mr. Mell'ton kin sleep too, and I will keep an eye on the Injuns. 'Pears like they won't come when they finds we are all ready for 'em."

"I'm not sleepy, Kit," I replied; "but I'm rather tired."

"You mought turn in and rest, then," replied Kit, as he left the block house.

Mr. Mellowtone, relieved by the old hunter, soon joined me. I lay down on the hay, and covered myself with a blanket. My friend sat down on the ground and smoked his pipe. I could not sleep. Old Matt was in my mind all the time. I continued to see him fall before the bullet of the savage, and I still saw him lying silent and motionless on the ground.

"I think the Indians will be shy about coming here again," said Mr. Mellowtone, after I had rolled about on my bed for a time; and I think he spoke to turn my thoughts away from the engrossing subject which burdened me.

"I wish they had not come at all. They have made it a sad day for me," I replied, bitterly.

"You mustn't take it too hardly, Phil Farringford."

"How can I help it?"

"It is not strange that you weep; but you are young, and your spirits are buoyant. You will feel better in a few days."

"What is to become of me now?" I asked. "Old Matt is gone, and I need stay here no longer."

"Why not? You can carry on Matt's farm, with the help of Kit and me. You have done most of the work for the last year, and you can get along as well in the future as you have in the past."

"Shall I live here alone?"

"Of course you may do as you please. You are your own master now, as not many boys of your age are. But it is rather early now to consider a matter of so much importance."

"What should I do if the Indians came upon me?"

"You would defend yourself, as you do now. But the Indians will be taken care of. As soon as we can send word up to the fort, the officer in charge will detail a force to punish them for what they have done, and secure our safety in the future. I have been in this vicinity for five years, and this is the first time I have known any serious difficulty with the savages."

Mr. Mellowtone smoked his pipe out, and then lay down by my side. In a few moments he dropped asleep. I was very tired after the severe labor of the day, and I had been up most of the preceding night. Nature at last asserted her claim, and I slept.

When I awoke, the sun was shining in through the loopholes of the block house. Kit Cruncher lay by my side, still fast asleep. I realized that the Indians had not made an assault during the night. I rose carefully, stepped over the long gaunt form of the stalwart hunter, and left the fortress. Mr. Mellowtone was walking up and down, with his pipe in his mouth, between the expiring embers of the fires, which had been permitted to go out at daylight.

"Why didn't you call me, and let me take my turn on the watch, Mr. Mellowtone?" I asked, after the sentinel had given me a pleasant greeting.

"Kit told me not to call you, and I did not intend to do so, Phil Farringford. You are a boy, and you need sleep."

"I'm willing to do my share of the watching."

"You shall take your turn to-night. We can do nothing to-day but eat and sleep. If you will give us some breakfast, we shall be ready for it."

"I will—right off. Have you seen anything of the Indians?"

"No; not one of them has ventured into the clearing. Being ready for them is more than half the battle. I doubt whether they trouble us again at present. We have taught them a lesson they will not soon forget."

"Yes; and they have taught us one which we shall not soon forget," I added, glancing at the mound over the grave of Matt Rockwood.

I went to the Castle, made a fire, and while the kettle was boiling I attended to the horses. I cooked some fish and potatoes, and we breakfasted between the block house and the forest. All day long we watched and waited for the coming of the savages; but we heard nothing of them. At night I took the first watch, and walked around the Castle, keeping up the fires, till I was so sleepy I could hardly keep my eyes open; and then, as a matter of prudence rather than comfort, I called Kit.



We were rather tired of this life of inactivity after a couple of days. We watched for Indians, but none came; and, on the third day after the death of Matt Rockwood, Kit declared his intention to take a tramp into the woods in the direction of his own cabin. If he found any Indians he would return; but he was satisfied that the party who had made the attack expended all their provisions, and were obliged to retire to obtain more.

"I shall be atween you and the Injuns all the time, boy," said he.

"I am not afraid, Kit; and I'm very grateful to you for what you have done for me—and for Matt," I replied, walking with him towards the brook.

"Matt and I was good friends; but all that's passed and gone. I shall come back in a few days—sooner ef there's any Injuns round. Good by, boy."

He walked across the brook on one of the stringers, and disappeared in the forest. Mr. Mellowtone was also impatient to depart. He had been away from his home on the island for several days. In the afternoon, as Kit did not return, we concluded the enemy had retired, and my friend embarked in his barge for home; but he promised to return before night. I was alone then, and I walked about the farm thinking of Matt. Whichever way I turned, there was always something to remind me of him.

I could not help considering my prospects for the future. I had concluded to carry on the farm that season, though I did not like the idea of living all alone. Mr. Mellowtone said nothing about taking up his residence with me, though I had suggested the idea to him. I knew that he was fond of solitude for a large portion of his time. He was too much enamoured of his island to leave it. Kit's habits would not permit him to settle down and dwell in a house, for though he had a cabin, he did not live in it except in the winter. If I carried on the farm, I must do it alone, though I should doubtless receive frequent visits from my neighbors.

I walked about the farm thinking what I should do the coming season, and I laid out work enough to keep me well employed till the coming of the autumn. I intended to plant ten acres in corn, potatoes, and vegetables. Fortunately the soil was easily worked, and I had no doubt of my ability to perform the labor, with the aid of the horses and the implements at my command. I walked till I had arranged my plans, and then went into the Castle to consider them further.

My thoughts wandered away from the practical duties of the farm to the past. I recalled the scene on the banks of the Missouri, where Matt had folded me in his arms by the bivouac fire. He was not my real father, though he had done all a parent could do for me. I had had a real father and mother, who probably believed, if they were saved from the calamity, that I had perished. The subject was full of interest to me. Perhaps my parents had been saved, and still lived. Matt had told me that one half of the people on board the Farringford had been picked up by the steamer that passed the next morning.

The more I thought of this subject, the more curious and anxious I became. I glanced at a large chest, which stood near the head of the bed. It contained all the valuables of Matt, and he always kept it locked. I had never known him to open it, except when he had sold a lot of wood, and wished to put away the money. Although he never said anything about it, I thought he did not wish me to see what the chest contained. He kept it locked, it seemed to me, to prevent me from opening it, for there was no other person who was likely to meddle with it. I respected his wishes, though he never expressed them, and refrained even from looking at him when he opened the chest. There must be money in it; but that was of no use to me, except when the trading steamers came along.

I was sure that it was not to keep me from meddling with the money that my patriarchal friend locked the chest. There was something in it, I fancied, which was connected with the mystery of my parentage. Though it did not occur to me then, I have thought since that Matt Rockwood did very wrong in not trying to ascertain who my father and mother were. Even Kit Cruncher had insisted upon his doing this; but after he had loved me and cared for me, he could not permit me to be taken from him. I could forgive him because of his tenderness and affection for me; but even these could not justify his conduct.

I rose from the bench on which I was seated, and walked across the room to the chest. It was locked; but where was the key? Old Matt had always carried it in his pocket, and I concluded that it had been buried with him. Had it been in my possession I should have opened the chest; but I had not the courage to break it open. I resumed my seat on the bench, and the mystery of my parentage seemed to become awful and oppressive. Why could I not know whether my father, or mother, or both, were alive or dead? But all was dark to me, and I could not penetrate the veil which hung between me and those who had given me being.

While I was thinking, I heard the whistle of a steamer, frequently repeated, indicating that she wanted a supply of wood. I hastened to the stable, and mounted Cracker, for the landing-place was a mile from the Castle. By the time the boat had made fast to the tree, which served as a mooring-stake, I reached the wood-yard. We had one hundred cords of cotton-wood piled up in readiness for sale.

"Hallo, Phil Rockwood," said the captain, crossing the gang-plank to the shore. "Where is your father?"

"He is dead, sir," I replied, gloomily enough, for the scene reminded me very strongly of Matt, and this was the first time I had been called upon to make a bargain myself.

"Dead! I am sorry for that. When did he die?" added the captain, with an appearance of real regret.

"He was shot by the Indians four days ago."

"Shot! Well, that's too bad."

"I wish you would tell the commander of the fort above all about it."

"I will, certainly. But what do you ask for wood?"

"Matt Rockwood said he must have four dollars a cord now, for we have to haul it farther than we used to," I replied.

"That's rather high."

But I stuck to the price which Matt had fixed, and the captain finally agreed to it, though it was more than we had ever charged before. We measured off twenty cords, and the deck hands of the steamer began to carry it on board. While they were thus engaged, I told the captain all about our difficulty with the Indians, and he was confident that the commandant of the fort would send a force to chastise them.

While the boat was wooding up, the passengers went on shore, and walked in the woods to vary the monotony of the tedious voyage. Among them I observed a young lady of twelve or thirteen, the first I had ever seen in my life of the white race. I gazed at her with curiosity and interest, as she walked up the cart path towards the castle. She was alone, for the other passengers took the road on the bank of the brook. She was very prettily dressed, and the sight of her gave me a new sensation. I saw two ladies, but they were watching the labors of the deck hands, and did not leave the steamer.

"You have some passengers, captain," said I, wishing to introduce the subject, so that I could inquire about the young lady.

"A few, but it is rather too early in the season for them. Mine is the first boat this year," he replied.

"Where are these ladies going?"

"They are going to Oregon—Portland, I believe."

"Who is that young lady?" I asked.

"She is the daughter of one of the ladies on deck, and a very pretty girl she is, too. Her name is Ella Gracewood."

The hands had nearly finished loading the wood, and the captain ordered the bell to be rung and the whistle to be blown, in order to call back his passengers, who were wandering about on shore. He paid me eighty dollars in gold for the wood; for in this wild region we used only hard coin, and did not believe in banks hundreds or thousands of miles distant. I took the money, and with a portion of it purchased a barrel of flour, a keg of sugar, a quantity of ground coffee, and some other supplies needed at the Castle. The steamer hauled in her plank, and casting off her hawser, renewed her long voyage up the river. Mounting Cracker, I rode back to the Castle, and harnessed both horses to the wagon, in order to haul up the stores I had purchased.

While I was thus employed, I saw the young lady, who had landed from the steamer, walking very deliberately across the field from the forest, to which she had extended her promenade. In her hand she carried some of the little flowers which blossomed in the grass. Occasionally she held them to her nose, and seemed to enjoy their fragrance very much. I drove my horses down the slope, and intercepted her as she reached the road. I knew she had made a serious mistake in not returning before; but she, as yet, had no suspicion that the steamer had departed. I hauled in my horses, but she was not disposed to take any notice of me.

I may say now, fifteen years after, that I was not a dandy, and my appearance was not calculated to make an impression upon a young lady. I wore coarse gray pants, "fearfully and wonderfully made," besides being fearfully soiled with grease and dirt, the legs of which were stuffed into the tops of my boots, after the fashion of our backwoods locality. Above these I wore a hunting-frock, made of a yellow blanket, with a belt around my waist. My cap was of buffalo hide, and shaped like a gallon tin-kettle. My frock was dirty, greasy, and ragged, for I wore it while cooking, taking care of the pigs and horses, and in doing other dirty work about the house and barn.

I thought the young lady did not like my appearance, for she seemed to be very timid, and perhaps thought I was a brigand. I was near enough to see that she was very pretty, even according to the standard of later years, though I had no means of making a comparison at that time.

Though I pulled in my horses, she only glanced at me, and resumed her walk towards the landing, apparently determined to avoid me. I was rather vexed at this treatment, for I wished to invite her to ride down to the river. I knew nothing about the shyness and reserve of young ladies in civilized life. I drove on once more, and she stepped out of the road to permit the team to pass. She glanced at me again, and I saw that she was not angry with me. I stopped the horses, and then I ventured to speak to her.



"Won't you ride?" I asked, as the young lady stepped out of the road to allow my team to pass.

"No, I thank you," she answered, with a smile and a blush.

I did not then understand the absurdity of the invitation I extended to her. The wagon was simply a platform on wheels, with stakes. It had been built by old Matt, though the wheels had been brought from some town hundreds of miles down the river. It was the only vehicle on the place, and was used for carting wood and hay, and for all the purposes of the farm. It was not a suitable chariot for a civilized young lady, dressed as prettily as Miss Gracewood was.

"Did you know that the steamer you came in had gone?" I added.

"Gone!" exclaimed she, with a start, and an expression of utter despair.

"She left half an hour ago."

"What shall I do!" cried she, so troubled that I felt very bad myself. "The steamer cannot have gone without me."

"She went more than half an hour ago," I added. "I suppose they thought you were on board."

"O, dear! what shall I do!"

"She will come back after you when they find you have been left behind."

"Do you think they will?"

"To be sure they will."

"Why did she go so soon? They have always stopped three or four hours in a place."

"I suppose the boat had more business to do at other landings than here. She only stopped here for wood. She whistled and rang her bell half an hour before she started. Didn't you hear the whistle?"

"I did hear it, but not the bell, which I supposed was the signal to call the passengers. It was such a pretty place in the forest that I enjoyed it very much, and I did not think of such a thing as the steamer starting for several hours. The boat whistles so much that I am used to it, and don't heed it. What will become of me!"

"I don't think you need trouble yourself much about it. The steamer will come back as soon as they miss you," I continued, very much moved when I saw the tears starting in her eyes.

"I'm afraid they won't miss me."

"Why, certainly they will," I protested, earnestly. "Won't you ride down to the landing?"

She glanced at the dirty wagon. She appeared to be tired after her long walk, and the invitation was a temptation to her; but the character of the vehicle did not please her. I had put a clean box on the wagon to contain the small stores I had purchased.

"You can sit on this," I added, pointing to the box.

"I don't think I can get into the wagon."

I jumped upon the ground, and placed the box near the vehicle, so that she could use it as a step. I did not understand the rules of gallantry well enough to offer to assist her when she really needed no assistance. She stepped upon the box, and, grasping one of the stakes, easily mounted the platform. I placed the box in the middle of the wagon, and she seated herself. I drove slowly to the landing-place, so that the motion of the rude vehicle might not disturb her.

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