SHADOWS OF SHASTA.
AUTHOR OF "SONGS OF THE SIERRAS," "THE DANITES IN THE SIERRAS," ETC.
CHICAGO: JANSEN, McCLURG & COMPANY. 1881.
JANSEN, McCLURG & COMPANY. A. D. 1881.
All rights of Dramatization reserved to the Author.
MOUNT SHASTA 17
TWENTY CARATS FINE 49
THE OLD GOLD-HUNTER 108
THE CAPTURE 122
THE ESCAPE 150
SHADOWS OF SHASTA.
With vast foundations seamed and knit, And wrought and bound by golden bars, Sierra's peaks serenely sit And challenge heaven's sentry-stars.
Why this book? Because last year, in the heart of the Sierras, I saw women and children chained together and marched down from their cool, healthy homes to degradation and death on the Reservation. At the side of this long, chained line, urged on and kept in order by bayonets, rode a young officer, splendid in gold and brass, and newly burnished, from that now famous charity-school on the Hudson. These women and children were guilty of no crime; they were not even accused of wrong. But their fathers and brothers lay dead in battle-harness, on the mountain heights and in the lava beds; and these few silent survivors, like Israel of old, were being led into captivity—but, unlike the chosen children, never to return to the beloved heart of their mountains.
Do you doubt these statements about the treatment of the Indians? Then read this, from the man—the fiend in the form of man—who for years, and until recently, had charge of all the Indians in the United States:
"From reports and testimony before me, I find that Indians removed to the Reservation or Indian Territory, die off so rapidly that the race must soon become extinct if they are so removed. In this connection, I recommend the early removal of all the Indians to the Indian Territory."
The above coarse attempt at second-hand wit is quoted from memory. But if the exact words are not given, the substance is there; and, indeed, the idea and expression is not at all new.
I know if you contemplate the Indian from the railroad platform, as you cross the plains, you will almost conclude, from the dreadful specimens there seen, that the Indian Commissioner was not so widely out of the way in that brutal desire. But the real Indian is not there. The Special Correspondent will not find him, though he travel ten thousand miles. He is in the mountains, a free man yet; not a beggar, not a thief, but the brightest, bravest, truest man alive. Every few years, the soldiers find him; and they do not despise him when found. Think of Captain Jack, with his sixty braves, holding the whole army at bay for half a year! Think of Chief Joseph, to whose valor and virtues the brave and brilliant soldiers sent to fight him bear immortal testimony. Seamed with scars of battle, and bloody from the fight of the deadly day and the night preceding; his wife dying from a bullet; his boy lying dead at his feet; his command decimated; bullets flying thick as hail; this Indian walked right into the camp of his enemy, gun in hand, and then—not like a beaten man, not like a captive, but like a king—demanded to know the terms upon which his few remaining people could be allowed to live. When a brave man beats a brave man in battle, he likes to treat him well—as witness Grant and Lee; and so Generals Howard and Miles made fair terms with the conquered chief. The action of the Government which followed makes one sick at heart. Let us in charity call it imbecility. But before whose door shall we lay the dead? Months after the surrender, this brave but now heart-broken chief, cried out:
"Give my people water, or they will die. This is mud and slime that we have to drink here on this Reservation. More than half are dead already. Give us the water of our mountains. And will you not give us back just one mountain too? There are not many of us left now. We will not want much now. Give us back just one mountain, so that these women and children may live. Take all the valleys. But you cannot plow the mountains. Give us back just one little mountain, with cool, clear water, and then these children can live."
And think of Standing Bear and his people, taken by fraud and force from their lands to the Indian Territory Reservation, and after the usual hardships and wrongs incident to such removals, with no hope from a Government which neither kept its promises nor listened to their appeals, setting out to try to get back to Omaha. Think of these men, stealing away in the night, leaving their little children, their wives and parents, prostrate, dying, destitute! They were told that they could not leave—that they must stay there; that they would be followed and shot if they attempted to go away. They had no money; they had no food. They were sick and faint. They were on foot, and but poorly clad. Yet they struggled on through the snow day after day, week after week, leaving a bloody trail where they passed; leaving their dead in the snow where they passed. And this awful journey lasted for more than fifty days! And what happened to these poor Indians after that fearful journey? They did not go to the white man for help. They did not go back to their old homes. They troubled no one. They went to a neighboring friendly tribe. This tribe gave them a little land, and they instantly went to work to make homes and prepare a place for the few of their number still alive whom they had left behind. Then came the order from Washington, and the Chief was arrested while plowing in the field. In a speech made by him after the arrest, and when he was about to be taken back, the Chief said:
"I wanted to go back to my old place north. I wanted to save myself and my tribe. I built a good stable. I raised cattle and hogs and all kinds of stock. I broke land. All these things I lost by some bad man. Any one knows to take a man from a cold climate and put him in the hot sun, down in the south, it would kill him. We refused to go down there. We afterwards went down to see our friends, and see how they liked it. Brothers, I come home now. I took my brothers and friends and came back here. We went to work. I had hold of the handles of my plow. Eight days ago I was at work on my farm, which the Omahas gave me. I had sowed some spring wheat, and wished to sow some more. I was living peaceably with all men. I have never committed any crime. I was arrested and brought back as a prisoner. Does your law do that? I have been told, since the great war all men were free men, and that no man can be made a prisoner unless he does wrong. I have done no wrong, and yet I am here a prisoner. Have you a law for white men, and a different law for those who are not white?
"I have been going around for three years. I have lost all my property. My constant thought is, 'What man has done this?' Of course I know I cannot say 'no.' Whatever they say I must do, I must do it. I know you have an order to send me to the Indian Territory, and we must obey it."
Afterwards, speaking of the terrible days at the Reservation, this Indian said to an officer:
"We counted our dead for awhile, but when all my children and half the tribe were dead, we did not take any notice of anything much. When my son was dying, he begged me to take his bones back to the old home, if ever I got away. In that little box are the bones of my son; I have tried to take them back to be buried with our fathers."
I may here add, that in the meantime the brother of this Indian, who was left in charge of the tribe, was accused of trying to get away also. He protested his innocence, but the agent had him arrested and brought before him. Then he ordered him to be ironed. The proud, free savage begged not to be put in irons, but the brutal agent persisted. The Indian resisted, and was shot dead on the spot.
Think of the Cheyennes last year. They, too, had tried to escape from the Reservation, and reach their homes through the deep snow. This was their only offense. No man had ever accused them of any other crime than this love of their native haunts, this longing for home. They were dying there on the Reservation; more than half had already died. And now, when taken, they refused to go back. The officer attempted to starve them into submission. They were shut up in a pen without food, naked, starving, the snow whistling through the pen, children freezing to death in their mother's arms! But they would not submit. Knowing now that they must die, they determined to die in action rather than freeze and starve, like beasts in a pen. At a concerted signal, they attempted to break through the soldiers and reach the open plain. An old man was carried on the back of his tottering son; a mounted soldier pursued them, and hacked father and son to pieces with the same sabre-cuts. A mother was seen flying over the snow with two children clinging about her neck. The wretched savages separated and ran in all directions. But the mounted men cut them down in the snow. No one asked, or even would accept, quarter. They fought with sticks, stones, fists, their teeth, like wild beasts. They wanted to die. One little group escaped to a ravine. There they were found killing each other with a sort of knife made from an old piece of hoop.
And yet you believe man-hunting is over in America!
It is impossible to write with composure or evenness on this subject. One wants to rise up and crush things.
I have mentioned two tribes near at hand, whose histories are not unfamiliar to the public ear. But what if I should recite the wrongs of tribes far away—far beyond the Rocky Mountains—where the Indian Agent has to answer to no one? You would not believe one-tenth part told you. The terrible stories of the Cheyennes and the Poncas are very mild chapters in the history of our Indian policy.
Under the stars and stripes, these scenes are repeated year after year; and they will be continued until they are made impossible by the civilization and sense of justice which righted that other though far less terrible wrong.
As that greatest man has said, "We are making history in America." This is a conspicuous fact, that no one who would be remembered in this century should forget. We are making dreadful history, dreadfully fast. How terrible it will all read when the writer and reader of these lines are long since forgotten! Ages may roll by. We may build a city over every dead tribe's bones. We may bury the last Indian deep as the eternal gulf. But these records will remain, and will rise up in testimony against us to the last day of our race.
To lord all Godland! lift the brow Familiar to the moon, to top The universal world, to prop The hollow heavens up, to vow Stern constancy with stars, to keep Eternal watch while eons sleep; To tower proudly up and touch God's purple garment-hems that sweep The cold blue north! Oh, this were much!
Where storm-born shadows hide and hunt I knew thee, in thy glorious youth, And loved thy vast face, white as truth; I stood where thunderbolts were wont To smite thy Titan-fashioned front, And heard dark mountains rock and roll; I saw the lightning's gleaming rod Reach forth and write on heaven's scroll The awful autograph of God!
And what a mighty heart these Sierras have! Kissing the purple of heaven now, and now in their awful deeps hiding the shrinking form of darkness from the sun.
The shaggy monsters that prowl there, the mountains of gold that lie waiting there, the mystery and the splendor! Oh keep with me, my friend, for a little while in the Sierras; breathe their balm and health, see their sublimity, feel their might and their majesty; step upward, as on stepping stairs to heaven; and my word for it, you will be none the worse.
In a canyon here, deep, deep, away down in the darkness, where night seems to have an abiding place, where the sun sifts through the pine-tops timidly, where the loftiest trees tip-toe up and seem to strive to reach out of the edge of the chasm, there gurgles a little muddy stream among the boulders, about the miners' legs, as they bend their backs wearily and toil for gold.
Here the smoke curls up from a low log cabin; there a squirrel barks a nut on the roof of a ruined and deserted miner's home, and away up yonder, where the deep gorge is so narrow you can almost leap across it, the wild beasts prowl as if it were really night, and great owls beat their wings against the boughs of the dense wood in everlasting darkness. But high over gorge and wilderness, gleaming against the cold blue sky, towers Mount Shasta, the monarch of the Sierras.
Here, where the canyon debouches into the little valley, once stood a populous mining camp; and a little further on, where the sun fell in full splendor, a few farms of a primitive kind, tended by broken-down old miners, lay.
The old glory of the camp was gone, and only a few battered and crippled men were left. It was as if there had been a great battle of the giants, and the victorious and successful had gone away with all the fruits of victory, and left the wounded, the helpless, the half-hearted behind. The mining camp at the mouth of the great canyon had been worked out, so far as the placer mines went, and these few broken men who remained, as a rule, were turning their attention to other things. Here one had planted a little garden on the hillside, on a spot that had once been a graveyard. There, an old lawyer had grown grape-vines all over and about the door and chimney of his cabin, till men said it looked like a spider-web.
But old Forty-nine only bored deeper and deeper into the spur of the mountain, and paid but little attention to any of the changes that went on around him. He had been working in that tunnel alone for nearly twenty-five years. He was a man with a history—men said a murderer. He shunned men, and men shunned him. Was he rich? He professed to be very poor; men said he must be worth a million. Would a man work on twenty-five years in one tunnel, and all alone, for nothing? But if rich, why did he remain?
Still further down, and quite on the edge of the valley, stood another cabin. And this was quite overgrown with vines, and was quite hidden away in a growth of pines that gathered over it. Then there was an undergrowth of fruit trees that grew inside the fence and about the lonely porch. On this porch had sat, for years and years, a tawny, silent old woman. She was sickly—had neither wealth, wit nor beauty—and so, so far as the world went, was left quite alone.
But there was another and an all-sufficient reason why neither man or woman came that way. She was an Indian. Do not imagine this a wild Indian woman. Indian she was; but remember, the Catholics had more than half civilized nearly all the native Californians long before we undertook to kill them.
This Indian woman would have been called by strangers a Mexican woman. She was very religious, and had imbued her boy with all her beautiful faith and simple piety.
I know that the spectacle of an old Indian woman and her "half-breed" son, represented as the morality and religion of a camp made up of "civilized" Saxons, will seem somewhat novel to you. But I knew this Indian boy and his mother well, and know every foot of the ground I intend to go over, and every fact I propose to narrate. And if you are not prepared to receive this as truth, I prefer you to close this page right here.
To make a moment's digression, with your permission, let me state briefly and frankly, once for all, that the only really religious, unquestioning and absolutely devout Christians I ever met in America are the Indians. I know of no other people so faithful and so blindly true to their belief, outside of the peasantry of Italy. Be their beautiful faith born of ignorance or what, I do not say. I simply assert that it exists. There is no devotion so true as that of a converted Indian. Maybe it is the devotion of idolatry, the faith of superstition. But I repeat, it is sincere. And let me further say, it seems to me whatever is worth believing at all, is worth believing utterly and entirely—just as these simple children of the wilderness believe, without doubt or question.
I know nothing so beautiful—may I say picturesque?—as the Ummatilla Indians of Oregon at worship on Sunday. Not a man, woman or child of all the tribe absent. Not one voice silent when the hymns are given out, in all that vast, gaily colored and singular assemblage.
This is the tribe of which the white settlers asked and received protection last year when the Shoshonees ravaged the country, beat off the soldiers, and slew some of the settlers. And yet there is a bill before Congress to-day to take away the few remaining acres from this tribe and open up the place to white settlers. Indeed, it seems that every member of Congress from Oregon has just this one mission; for the first, and almost the only thing he does while there, is to introduce and urge the passage of this bill, whereby the red man is to be turned out of his well-tilled fields, and the white man turned into them.
In truth, these very fields have long been staked off and claimed by bold, bad white men, who hover about the borders of this Reservation, waiting for the long-promised law which is to take this land from the owners and give it to them. They nominate their members of Congress on his pledge and bond, and constant promise, to take this land from the Indian. They vote for and elect the only member of Congress from this State on that promise, certain that their absolute ownership of this graveyard of the Indian is only a question of time. Year by year the graveyard grows broader; the fields grow narrower; they grow less in number; for now and then an Indian is found wandering away from the Reservation to his former hunting-grounds and ancient graves of his fathers. He seldom comes back. Sometimes his murderers trouble themselves to throw the body in the brush or some gorge or canyon. But most frequently it is left where it falls. To say that all the people or the best people of this brave young State approve of this, would be unfair—untrue. Yet this does not save the Indian, who is doing his best to fit into the new order of things around him. He is shot down, and neither grand or petit jury can be found to punish his murderer.
But to the story. This little piece of land where the old Indian woman had lived and brought up her boy, was rich and valuable. It was therefore coveted by the white man. At first men had said: "She will die soon; the boy will then sell the hut for a song, gamble off the money, and then go the way of all who are stained with the dark and tawny blood of the savage—death in a ditch from some unknown rifle, or death by the fever in the new Reservation." But the old woman still lived on; and the boy, by his industry, sobriety, duty and devotion to his mother, put to shame the very best among the new generation of white men in the mountains. The singular manhood of John Logan was the subject of remark by all who knew him. With the few true men on this savage edge of the world it made him fast friends; with the many outlaws and evil natures it made him the subject of envy and bitter hatred.
What power behind this boy had lifted him up and led him on? Surely no Indian woman, wholly unlettered in the ways of the white man, good and true as she may have been, had brought him up to this high place on which he now stood. Who was his father? and what strong hand had reached out all these years and kept his mother there in that little hut with her boy, while her tribe perished or passed away to the hated and horrible Reservation down toward the sea?
Who was his father? The Camp had asked this a thousand times. The boy himself had looked into the deep, pathetic eyes of his mother, and asked the question in his heart for many and many a year; but he never opened his lips to ask her. It was too sad, too sacred a subject, and he would not ask of her what she would not freely give. And now she lay dying there alone on the porch, as her boy stopped to talk with the two children, "the babes in the wood," and her secret hidden in her own heart.
And who were the "babes in the wood?" Little waifs, fugitives, hiding from the man-hunters. As a rule in early days, when the settlers killed off the adult Indians in their forays, they took the children and brought them up in slavery. But the girl—the eldest, stronger and lither of these two dark little creatures—darting, hiding, stealing about this ruined old camp, was so wild and spirited, even from the first, that no one wanted her. And then she was dangerously bright, and above all, she did not quite look the Indian; men doubted if she really were an Indian or no, sometimes. But I remember hearing old Leather-Nose, as he sat on a barrel one night in the grocery, and squirted amber at the back-log, say: "I guess, by gol, she's Injun: She's devilish enough. She don't look the Injun, I know; but its the cussedness that makes me know she's Injun."
"And when did she come to the camp?" asked a respectable stranger.
"Don't know. That's it. Nobody don't know, and nobody don't care, I guess."
"Well, don't you know where she came from? Children don't come down, you know, like rain or snow. There were about fifty little children left in the Mountain-meadow massacre. They are somewhere. These may be some of them. Don't you know who brought them here, or how they came?" asked the honest stranger, leaning forward and looking into the faces of the wrinkled and hairy old miners.
An old miner turned his quid again and again, and at last feeling scant interest in the ragged little sister who led her little brother about by the hand, and stood between him and peril as she kept their liberty—drily answered, along with his fellows, as follows: "Some said an old Indian that died had her; but I don't know. Forty-nine knows most about her. When he's short of grub, and that's pretty often now, I guess, why she has to do the best she can."
"O, it was a sick looking thing at first. Why, it wasn't that high, and was all hair and bones," growled out an old gray miner, in reply to the man.
"Yes; and don't you know when we called it the 'baby,' and it used to beg around about the cabins? The poor little barefooted brat."
"Yes, and when the 'baby' nearly starved, and eat some raw turnips that made it sick."
"Yes, and got the colic—"
"Yes, and Gambler Jake got on his mule and started for the doctor."
"Yes, an' got in a poker game at Mariposa, and didn't get back for four days."
"Yes, and the doctor didn't come; and so the baby got well."
"Yes, just so, just so." And old Col. Billy bobbed his head, and fell to thinking of other days.
This little piece of land where the old Indian woman had lived so long, and about which she had built a fence, was very valuable indeed. Valley land was scarce here in the mountains; and there was a young orchard, the only thing of the kind in the country. And then the roads forked there, and two little rivers ran together there, and that meant that a town would spring up there as the country became settled, farms opened, and the Indians were swept away. Evil-minded men are never without resources. The laws are made to restrain such men; but on the border there is no law enforced. So you see how powerful are the wicked there; how powerless the weak, though never so well disposed.
In the far West, if an Indian is in your way, you have only to report him to the Agent of the Indian Reservation. That is all you have to do. He disappears, or dies. This Indian Agent is only too anxious to fill up his wasting ranks of Indians. They are dying every day. And if they all should die, sooner or later the fact may be known at Washington, and in the course of a few years the Reservation and office would be abolished together. And then each additional Indian contributes greatly to the Agent's income, for each Indian must be fed and clothed—or at least, the Agent is permitted to draw clothing, blankets and food for every Indian brought upon the Reservation. As to the Indians receiving these things, that is quite another affair.
Well, here were men wanting this land. Down yonder, far away to the scorching South, at the edge of the level alkali lands, in a tule swamp, where the Indians taken from the mountains were penned up and dying like sheep in a corral, was a bold, enterprising Indian Agent who was gathering in, under orders of his Government, all the Indians of Northern California. He could appoint a hundred deputies, and authorize them to bring in the Indians wherever found.
The two children—"the babes in the wood"—had been taken to the Reservation; but being bold and active, they contrived to soon escape and return to the mountains. Men whispered that the girl owed her escape to the great and growing favor in which she was held by one of the deputy agents, who, with his partner, a rough and coarse-grained man, had their homes in this camp. The cabin of these two deputy agents, Dosson and Emens, stood not far from that of old Forty-Nine. But so far as I can remember, the old man and the newly appointed deputy agents had always been at enmity.
This Dosson was certainly a bad man. He was in every sense of the word a desperado, and so was his partner; just the men most wanted by the head agent at the Reservation to capture and bring in Indians.
But whether this girl owed her escape or not to this ruffian, Dosson, certain it is that on her return she avoided his cabin, and when not in the woods, hovered about that of old Forty-Nine. This enraged Dosson beyond degree. To add to his anger, she now began to show a particular preference for John Logan. The idea of having an Indian for a rival was more than this ignorant and brutal Deputy Agent could well bear, and he set to work at once to rid himself of the object of his hatred.
The hard and merciless man-hunter almost shouted with delight at a new idea which now came upon him with the light and suddeness of a revelation. He ran at once to his partner, and told him of his determination.
Then these two men sat down and talked a long time together. They made marks in the sand with sticks. They set up little stakes in the sand, and seemed delighted as they reached their heads out and looked down from the mouth of their tunnel toward the Indian farm.
That night these two men stole down together, and set up stakes and made corner marks about John Logan's land while he slept, and then rolled themselves in their blankets, and spent the night inside the limits of their new location. Having done this, and sent a notice of their pre-emption to the Surveyor General, to be filed as their declaration of claim to the little farm with the orchard, they entered complaint against John Logan, and so sat down to await results.
Meantime, this old woman sat alone, with a great dog by her side, sick and desolate, waiting her sun of life to set, piously waiting, dark browed, thoughtful; while her tall handsome boy, meek, obedient, with the awful curse of Cain upon his brow, the mark of Indian blood, was toiling on up in the canyon alone.
You had better be a negro—you had better be ten times a negro, were it possible—than be one-tenth part an Indian in the West. The Indian will have little to do with one who is part Indian. And as for the white man, unless the Indian is willing to be his slave, do him homage and service, he would sooner take a leper in his house or to his heart.
Up and above the Indian woman's house, in the dense wood and on the spur of the mountain, wound an old Indian trail. Along this trail, above the hidden house, stole two little creatures—tawny, sunburnt, ragged, wretched, yet full of affection for each other. These were the two wretched children escaped from the Reservation. They were now being harbored by old Forty-nine. For this he was liable to be arrested and punished. Knowing this, he kept his gun loaded and standing in the corner of his cabin, where the children slept at night.
How strange that this one man, the most despised and miserable, should be the only one to reach a hand to help these little waifs of the woods! And who knew or who cared from where they came? They did not look the Indian, though they acted it to perfection. They would run away and hide from the face of man. Yet the girl, under the passionate California sun, was almost blossoming into womanhood. They were called brother and sister. God knows if they were or no. Break up tribes, families, as these had been broken up—fire into a flock of young quails all day—and who knows how soon or where the few that escape may gather together again, or if they will know each other when they meet, years after in the woods?
Children are so impressionable. They had heard some one in the camp call the old Indian woman who sat forever on the porch in the dense foliage, with the big dog beside her, a witch. They did not know what that meant. But they knew it was something dreadful, and they shunned and abhorred her accordingly. Yet the girl knew John Logan, her tall handsome son, well, and liked him, too.
As they stole along the dim old Indian trail, their necks were stretched toward the old Indian woman's hut below. They were as noiseless as two panthers. At last the girl stopped, stood still, pointed and half pushed the boy before and in through the thicket, past an occasional lonely cabin, toward the widow's woody home.
This old woman had long been ailing. She was now very ill. You are surprised to learn of sickness in the heart of the Sierras? I tell you that if you were to wash down mountains and uproot forests in the moon—were such a thing possible—the ague would seize hold of you and shake you for it. Nature is revengeful. But to return to the wilderness.
What a wilderness this was! Only here and there, at long intervals, a little cabin down in the deep, dense wood; these cabins scattered as if the hand of some mighty sower had reached out over the wilderness, and had sown and strown them there, to take root and grow to some great harvest of civilization. The narrow Indian trail wound along, almost entirely hidden by overhanging woods—a trail that turned and twisted at every little obstacle; here it was the prostrate form of some patriarch tree, or here it curved and cork-screwed in and out through mighty forest-kings, that stood like comrades in ranks of battle.
Where did this little Indian trail lead to? Where did it begin? How many a love-tale had been told in the shadow of those mighty trees that reached their long, strong arms out over the heads of all passers-by, in a sort of priestly benediction?
Where did the Indian trail lead to? To the West. But leaves were strewn thick along it now. The Indian had gone, to come back no more. Ever to the West points the Indian's path. Ever down to the great gold shore of the vast west sea leads the Indian's path. And there the waves sweep in and obliterate his foot-prints forever.
The two half-wild children who had disappeared down the dim trail a few moments before, now suddenly re-appear. They are eager and excited. This boy cannot be above ten years old; yet he looks old as a man. The girl may be twelve, fifteen, or even sixteen. Age at such a period is a matter of either blood or climate. She has a shock of unkempt hair; she wears a tattered dress of as many colors as Jacob's coat. She has one toeless boot on one foot; on the other she wears a shoe so big that it might hold both her feet. Down over this shoe rolls a large red woolen stocking, leaving her shapely little ankle bleeding from brier-scratches. In her hand she swings a large, coarse straw hat by its broad red ribbons. Her every limb is full of force and fire; her voice is firm and resolute, but not rapid. Hers is a splendid energy, needing but proper direction.
Her brother, who puffs and pants at her side, is named Johnny; but the wild West, which has a habit of naming things because they look it, has dubbed him "Stumps," since he is short and fat. He is half-clad in a pair of tattered pants, a great straw hat, and a full, stuffy, check shirt, which is held in subjection by a pair of hand-made woolen suspenders—the work of his sister.
Both are out of breath—both are looking back wildly; but Stumps huddles up again and again close under his sister's arm, as if he fears he might be followed, and looks to her for protection. She draws him close to her, and then looking back, and then down into his upturned face, says breathlessly:
"Stumps! Oh, Stumps, did you get 'em, Stumps?"
The boy shrinks closer to his sister, and again looking back, and then seeing for a certainty that he is not followed, he grows bolder and says:
"Git 'em, Carats? Look there! And that 'un is your'n, Carats; and you can have both of 'em if you want 'em, for I don't feel hungry now, Carats," and here he hitches up his pants, and wipes his nose on his sleeve.
"Why, Stumps, don't you feel hungry now?" Then suddenly beholding two upheld ruddy peaches, she catches her breath, and says: "Oh, oh!" and she starts back and throws up her hands. "Oh, the pretty, pretty peaches!"
"Here, take 'em both, Carrie—I ain't hungry now."
"No, I don't want but one, Stumps—one 's enough. Why, how you tore your pants; and your shin 's a bleeding, too. Why, poor Stumps!"
Stumps, looking back, cries:
"Shoo! Thar war a dog—yes, thar war a dog! And what do you think! Shoo! I thought I heard somethin' a comin'. Carats, old Miss Logan, the Injun woman, seed me!"
"Why, Stumps! No?"
"Yes, she did. When I clim' the fence, and slid down that sapling in the yard, there she laid on the porch on her shuck-bed a-shaking with the ager. And, Carats, she was a-looking right straight at me—yes, she was; so help me, she was."
"Why, Stumps; and what did she do! Didn't she holler, and say 'Seek 'em, Bose?'"
"Carats, she didn't; and that's what's the matter—and that's why I don't want to eat any peaches, Carats. Carats, I wish she had—I do, I do, so help me. Let's not eat 'em—let's take 'em back—Carrie, sister Carrie, let's take 'em back."
Carrie thoughtfully and tenderly gazes in his face.
"Let's take 'em to old Forty-nine, Johnny. There ain't nothing he can eat, you know; an' then he's been a-shakin' since melon-time,—an' Johnny, I don't think we are very good to him, anyhow."
Stumps, scratching his bleeding shin with his foot, exclaims:
"I've barked my shin, and I've tore'd my pants, an' I don't care! But I won't take him a peach that I've stoled. Why, what would he think, Carats? He'd die dead, he would, if he thought I'd stoled them peaches from the poor old sick Injun woman; yes he would, Carats."
"Johnny, I'll tell him we found 'em," as Stumps looks doubtingly at her, "tell him we found 'em in a tree, Stumps. Yes tell him we found 'em away up in the top of a cedar tree."
"But I don't want to tell no lie, nor do nothin' bad no more, and I want to go home, I do."
"Well, Stumps—Johnny, brother Johnny, what will we do with them? We can't stand here all day. I want to go home, too. Oh, this hateful, hateful peach! I want to go right off!" and the girl, hiding her face in her hands, begins to weep.
"Oh, sister Carrie—sister, don't, don't; sister, don't, don't!"
"Then let's eat 'em."
"I don't like peaches."
"I don't like peaches either!" cries Carrie, throwing back her hair, wiping her eyes, and trying to be bright and cheerful. "I never could eat peaches. I like pine-nuts, and cowcumbers, and tomatuses, and—pine-nuts. Oh, I'm very fond of pine-nuts. I like pine-nuts roasted, and tomatuses, an' I like chestnuts raw, an' tomatuses. Don't you like pine-nuts and tomatuses, Johnny, and cowcumbers."
"I don't like nothin' any more."
"Then, Johnny, take 'em back."
"I—I—I take 'em back by myself? I take 'em back, an' hear old Bose growl, and look into her holler eyes?" Here the boy shudders, and looking around timidly, he creeps closer to his sister and says, as he again gazes back in the direction of the Indian woman's cabin: "I'd be afraid she might be dead, Carats, an' there'd be nobody to hold the dog. Oh, I see her holler eyes looking at me all the time. If she'd only let the dog come. Confound her! If she'd only let the dog come!"
"Oh, Johnny, Johnny—brother Johnny, come, lets go home! Shoo! There's somebody coming. It's John Logan, coming home from his work."
As the girl speaks, John Logan, the sick woman's son, a strong handsome man, only brown as if browned by the sun, with a pick on his shoulder and a gold-pan slanting under his arm, comes whistling along the trail. Seeing the children, he stops and says:
"Why, children, good evening! What are you running away for? Come, come now, don't be so shy, my little neighbors, and don't give the trail all to me because I happen to be a man, and the strongest. Come, Johnny, give me your hand. There! an honest, chubby little fist it is. Why, what have you got in your other hand? Been gathering nuts, hey? You little squirrel! Give me a nut, won't you."
Carrie approaches, dives her hand into her ragged pocket and reaches the man a heaped handful of nuts.
"There, if you'll have nuts I'll bring you nuts; I'll bring you lots of nuts, I will; I'll bring you a bushel of nuts, an'—some tomatuses."
"Oh, you are too kind. But now I must hasten home to mother. Come, shake hands again, and say good-bye." The girl gives her left hand. "No your right hand."
Carrie is bothered, and slips the peach in her left hand behind, and, with a lifted face, full of glow and enthusiasm, says:
"I'll bring you a whole bag full of nuts, I will," and she reaches him her hand eagerly.
"Oh Carrie, I have a nice little surprise for you, and if you won't tell I'll let you into the secret. You won't tell?"
He comes close to her, sits down his gold-pan, and resting his pick on the ground, with his two hands on the top of the handle, leans toward her and looks into her innocent uplifted face.
The girl's eyes brighten, and she seems to grow tall and beautiful under his earnest gaze.
"I won't tell, sir. Oh, please to trust me, sir—I won't tell, Mr. John Logan!"
The boy eagerly comes forward also.
"I won't tell, neither. I won't tell neither; so help me!"
"Well, then, come close to me, Johnny, come close up here, and look in my face—there! Why, I declare the pleasure I now have, telling you this, is more than gold! And I need money sadly enough."
"You're awful poor, ain't you?" asked Stumps, hitching up his pants.
"Been workin' all day and ain't got much in the pan," says Carrie, looking sidewise at the few colors of gold in the bottom edge of the pan.
"Ah, yes, Carrie. Look at my hands—hard and rough as the bark of a tree; but I don't mind that, Carrie, I was born here, I was born poor, I shall live poor and die poor. But I don't mind it, Carrie. I have my mother to love and look after, and while she lives I am content."
The girl looks at the woods, looks at the man, and then once more at the woods, and at last in her helplessness to solve the problem, falls to eating nuts, as usual; while the man continues, as if talking to himself:
"This is the peace of Paradise; and see the burning bush! Now I can well understand that Moses saw the face of God in the bush of fire."
"Oh," the girl says to herself, "if he only would be cross! If he only would say something rough to us! If he only would cuss."
She resolves to say or do something to break the spell. She asks eagerly:
"Are you going to give something to Stumps and me?—I mean Johnny and me?"
"Yes, yes, to-morrow evening, after my work is done. And now I am going to tell you and Johnny what it is. It ain't much; it's the least little thing in the world; but I don't deserve any credit for even that—it's my poor dear old mother's idea. She has laid there, day after day, on the porch, and she has been thinking, not all the time of her own sickness and sorrow, but of others, as well; and she has thought much of you."
The boy stands far aside, and at mention of this he jerks himself into a knot, his head drops down between his shoulders, his mouth puckers up, and he exclaims "Oh, hoka!"
"Thought of me?" says Carrie.
"Of you, Carrie. And listen; I must tell you a little story. When I was a very young man, and killed my first grizzly bear, I bought a little peach-tree and planted it in the corner of the yard, as people sometimes plant trees to remember things. Well, my mother, she had the ague that day powerful, for it was after melon-time, and she sat on the porch and shook, and shook, and shook, and watched me plant it, and when I got done, my mother she cried. I don't know why she cried, Carrie, but she did. She cried and she cried, and when I went up to her, and put my arms around her neck and kissed her, she only cried the more, for she was sort of hysteric-like, you know, and she said she knew she'd never live to eat any fruit off of that tree."
Carrie stops eating nuts a moment.
"But she will—she will get well, Mr. John Logan—she will get well, won't she?"
"Ah, indeed, I believe she will get well, but whether she ever gets right well or not, she certainly will live to eat peaches from that tree. Carrie, we've talked it all over, and what do you think? Why, now listen, I will tell you. This tree that I planted, and that my poor sick mother was afraid she would not live to eat the fruit from—this tree was a peach tree."
Carrie again takes out a handful of nuts from her pocket, as if she would like to eat them. She looks at them a second, throws them away, and hastens to one side.
"I want to go home," cries Stumps. "I don't like peaches, Mr. John Logan. I don't—I don't—so help me," and the boy jerks at his pants wildly.
John Logan turns to him kindly. "Why, you never had a peach in your little hand in your life." Then turning to Carrie: "Yes, Carrie, there has grown this year, high up in the sun on that tree, side by side, two—and only two—red, ripe peaches. Why, children, don't run away! Wait one moment, and I will go a little way with you. As I was about to say, these two peaches are at last ripe. I own I was the least bit afraid, even after I saw them there on that bough one Summer morning, that even then my mother might die before they became fully ripe. But now they are ripe, and this evening I shall pull them. And to-morrow, after my day's work is done, my sick mother shall eat one, and you two shall eat the other."
Carrie puts up her hand and backs away.
"Don't—don't—don't call me Carrie; call me Carats—Carats—Carats—like the others do!"
"Why, Carrie! What in the world is the matter with you?"
"If a body steals, Mr. John Logan—if a body steals—what had a body better do?"
"Why, the Preacher says a body should confess—confess it, feel sorry, and be forgiven."
"I can't—I can't confess, and I can't be forgiven!"
John Logan starts!
"You—you, Carrie; is it you? Then you have already confessed, and He will forgive you!"
"But such stealing as this nobody—nothing—can forgive," falling on her knees. "I—I made my little brother steal your peaches!"
"You!—you made him steal my two peaches that I wanted for my sick mother? You—you, Carrie?"
Stumps rushed forward.
"No—No! I done it myself! I done it all myself—I did, so help me!"
"But I made him do it!" cries Carrie. "I am the biggest, and I knew better—I knew better. But we couldn't eat 'em. Here they are—oh I am so glad we couldn't eat 'em!" And they fall on their knees at his feet together; four little hands reach out the peaches to him eagerly, earnestly, as if in prayer to Heaven.
The man takes their little hands, and, choking with tears, says, in a voice full of pathos and pity, and uncovering his head, with lifted face, as he remembers something of the story the good Priest so often read to his mother: "and there was more joy in Heaven over the one that was found, than over the ninety-and-nine that went not astray."
TWENTY CARATS FINE.
A land that man has newly trod, A land that only God has known, Through all the soundless cycles flown. Yet perfect blossoms bless the sod, And perfect birds illume the trees, And perfect unheard harmonies Pour out eternally to God.
A thousand miles of mighty wood Where thunder-storms stride fire-shod; A thousand flowers every rod, A stately tree on every rood; Ten thousand leaves on every tree, And each a miracle to me; And yet there be men who question God!
At just what time these two waifs of the woods appeared in camp even Forty-nine could not tell. They were first seen with the Indian woman who went about among the miners, picking up bread and bits of coin by dancing, singing and telling fortunes. These two Indian women were great liars, and rogues altogether. I need not add that they were partly civilized.
The little girl had been taught to dance and sing, and was quite a source of revenue to the two Indian women, who had perhaps bought or stolen the children. As for the boy—poor stunted, starved little thing—he hung on to his sister's tattered dress all the time with his little red hand, wherever she went and whatever she did. He was her shadow; and he was at that time little more than a shadow in any way.
Sometimes men pitied the little girl, and gave very liberally. They tried to find out something about her past life; for although she was quite the color of the Indian, she had regular features, and at times her poor pinched face was positively beautiful. The two children looked as if they had been literally stunted in their growth from starvation and hardship.
Once a good-hearted old miner had bribed the squaws to let the children come to his cabin and get something to eat. They came, and while they were gorging themselves, the boy sitting close up to the girl all the time, and looking about and back over his shoulder and holding on to her dress, this man questioned her about her life and history. She did not like to talk; indeed, she talked with difficulty at first, and her few English words fell from her lips in broken bits and in strange confusion. But at length she began to speak more clearly as she proceeded with her story, and became excited in its narration. Then she would stop and seem to forget it all. Then she went on, as if she was telling a dream. Then there would be another long pause, and confusion, and she would stammer on in the most wild and incoherent fashion, till the old miner became quite impatient, and thought her as big an imposter as the Indian woman whom she called her mother. He finally gave them each a loaf of bread, and told them they could go back to their lodge. This lodge consisted of a few poles set up in wigwam fashion, and covered with skins and old blankets and birch. A foul, ugly place it was, but in this wigwam lived two Indian women and these two children.
Men, or rather beasts—no, beasts are decent creatures; well then, monsters, full of bad rum, would prowl about this wretched lodge at night, and their howls, mixed with those of the savages, whom they had made also drunk, kept up a state of things frightful to think of in connection with these two sensitive, starving little waifs of the woods.
Who were they, and where did they come from? Sometimes these children would start up and fly from the lodge at night, and hide away in the brush like hunted things, and only steal back at morning when all was still. At such times the girl would wrap her little brother (if he was her brother) in her own scant rags, and hold him in her arms as he slept.
One night, while some strange Indians were lodging there, a still more terrible scene transpired in this dreadful little den than had yet been conceived. The two children fled as usual into the darkness, back into the deep woods. Shots were heard, and then a death-yell that echoed far up and down the canyon. Then there were cries, shrieks of women, as if they were being seized and borne away. Fainter and fainter grew their cries; further and further, down on the high ledge of the canyon in the darkness, into the deep wood, they seemed to be borne. And at last their cries died away altogether.
The next morning a dead Indian was found at the door of the empty lodge. But the women and the children were nowhere to be seen. Some said the Indian Agent's men had come to take the Indians away, and that the man resisting had been shot, while the women and children were taken to the Reservation, where they belonged. But there was a darker story, and told under the breath, and not spoken loud. Let it be told under the breath, and briefly here, also. Some drunken wretches had shot the Indians, carried the women down to the dark woods above the deep swollen river, and then, after the most awful orgies ever chronicled, murdered them and sunk their bodies in the muddy river.
It was nearly a week after that the two children stole down from the wooded hill-side into the trail, where old Forty-nine found them on his return from work. They were so weak they could not speak or cry out for help. They could only reach their little hands and implore help, as, timid and frightened, they tottered towards this first human being they had dared to face for a whole week.
The strong man hesitated a moment; they looked so frightful he wanted to escape from their presence. But his grand, noble nature came to the surface in a second; and dropping his pick and pan in the trail, he caught up the two children, and in a moment more was, with one in each arm, rushing down the trail to his cabin. He met some men, and passed others. They all looked at him with wonder. One even laughed at him.
And it is hard to comprehend this. There were good men—good in a measure; men who would have gallantly died to save a woman—men who were true men on points of honor; yet men who could not think of even being civil to an Indian, or any one with a bit of Indian blood in his veins. Is our government responsible for this? I do not say so. I only know that it exists; a hatred, a prejudice, more deeply seated and unreasonable than ever was that of the old slave-dealer for the black man.
Forty-nine did not return to his tunnel the next day, nor yet the next. This cabin, wretched as it became in after years when he had fallen into evil habits, had then plenty to eat, and there the starved little beings ate as they had never eaten before.
At first the little boy would steal and hide away bread while he ate at the table. The first night, after eating all he could, he slept with both his pockets full and a chunk up his sleeve besides.
This boy was never a favorite. He was so weak, so dependent on his sister. It seemed as if he had been at one time frightened almost to death, and had never quite gotten over it. And so Forty-nine took most kindly to the girl, and they were soon fast friends. Yet ever and always her shadow, the little boy, whom Forty-nine named Johnny, kept at her side—as I have said before; his little red hand reached out and clutching at her tattered dress.
After a few weeks the girl began to tell strange, wild stories to the old man. But observing that Forty-nine doubted these, as the other man had, she called them dreams, and so would tell him these wild and terrible dreams of the desert, of blood, of murder and massacre, till the old man himself, as the girl shrank up to him in terror, became almost frightened. He did not like to hear these dreams, and she soon learned not to repeat them.
One evening a passing miner stopped, placed a broad hand on either door-jamb, and putting his great head in at the open door, asked how the little "copper-colored pets" got on.
"Pard," answered Forty-nine, kindly, and with a nod of the head back toward the children playing in the corner, "they are not coppers; no, they are not. I tell you that girl is not copper, but gold. Yes she is, Pard; she is twenty carats."
"Twenty carats gold! Well, Twenty Carats, come here! Come here, Carats," called out the big head at the door.
The girl came forward, and a big hand fell down from the door-jamb on her bushy head of hair, and the man was pleased as he looked down into the uplifted face. And so he called her "Carats," and that became her name.
Other passing miners stopped to look in at the open door where the big head had looked and talked to the timid girl, and misunderstanding the name, they called her Carrie; and Carrie she was called ever afterwards.
But the boy who had been so thin, soon grew so fat and chubby that some one named him "Stumps." There was no good trying to get rid of that name. He looked as though his name ought to be Stumps, and Stumps it was, in spite of the persistent efforts of old Forty-nine to keep the name in use which he had given him. And this was all that Forty-nine or any one could tell of these two children.
And now, how beautiful Carrie had grown by the time the leaves turned brown! Often Dosson saw her hovering about the cabin of old Forty-nine, flitting through the woods with her brother, or walking leisurely with Logan on the hill down the dim old Indian trail.
Mother Nature has her golden wedding once a year, and all the world is invited. She has many gala days, too, besides, and she celebrates them with songs and dances of delight. In the full bosomed, teeming, jocund Spring, I have seen the trees lean together and rustle their leaves in whisperings of love. I have seen them reach their long strong arms to each other, and intertwine them as if in fond affection, as the bland, warm winds, coming up from the South, blew over them and warmed their hearts of oak—old trees, too, gnarled and knotted—old fellows that had bobbed their heads together through many and many a Spring; that had leaned their lofty and storm-stained tops together through many and many a Winter; that had stood, like mighty soldiers, shoulder to shoulder, in friendships knit through many centuries. The birds sing and flutter, fly in and out of the dark deep canopies of green, build nests, and make love in myriads. How the squirrels run and chatter and frisk, and fly from branch to branch, with their bushy tails tossing in the warm wind! Under foot, ten thousand tall strange flowers and weeds and long spindled grasses grow, and reach up and up, as if to try to touch the sunlight above the tops of the oak and ash and pine and fir and cedar and maple and cherry and sycamore and spruce and tamarack, and all these that grow in common confusion here and shut out the sun from the earth as perfectly as if all things dwelt forever in cloudland.
The cabin of old Forty-nine was very modest; it hid away in the canyon as if it did not wish to be seen at all. And it was right; for verily it was scarcely presentable. It was an old cabin, too, almost as old as little "Carats," if indeed any one could tell how old she was. But it, unlike herself, seemed to be growing tired and weary of the world. She had been growing up as it had been growing down. The moss was gathering all over the round, rough logs on the outside, and the weeds and wild vines each year grew still more ambitious to get quite to the top of the cabin, and peep down into the mysterious crater of a chimney that forever smoked in a mournful and monotonous sort of way, as if watchers were there—Vestal virgins, who dared not let their fires perish, on penalty of death.
"Drunken, wretched, cracked and crazy old Forty-nine," the camp said, "he can never build a new cabin, for he can't stay sober long enough to cut down a tree." And the camp told the ugly truth.
"Why don't Forty-nine build a new cabin?" asked Gar Dosson one day, as he passed that way, with a string of fish in his hand and a coon on his back.
"Poor dear Forty-nine's got the shakes so he can't get time. It takes him all the time to shake, and it takes all his money to buy his ager medicine. Poor dear old Forty-nine!" and the girl seemed to get a cinder or something in her eye.*****
As the sun settled low, one afternoon, and cast long, creeping shadows over the flowery land—shadows that lay upon and crept along the ground, as if they were weary of the day, and would like to lie there and sleep, and sleep, forever—the stealthy step of a man was heard approaching the old cabin. There was something of the tiger in the man's movements, and it was clear that his mission, whatever it was, was not a mission of peace.*****
The man stands out in the clearing of the land before the cabin, and peers right and left up the trail and down the trail, and then leans and listens. Then he takes a glance back over his shoulder at his companion and follower, Gar Dosson, and being sure that he too is on the alert and close on his heels, he steps forward. Again the man leans and listens, but seeing no signs of life and hearing no sound, he straightens up, walks close to the cabin, and calls out:
"Hello, the house!" at the same time he looks to the priming of his gun, and then fixes his eye on the door as it slowly opens. He drops the breech hastily to the ground as the face of Carrie peers forth.
"Beg pardon, Carrie, my girl! Is it only you miss? Beg pardon—but we are lookin' for a gentleman—a young gentleman, John Logan."
The man is terribly embarrassed as the girl looks him straight in the face, and his companion falls back into the woods until almost hidden from view.
"Well, and why do you come here, skulking like Indians?"
The man falls back; but recovering, he says, over his shoulder, as he turns to go:
"Yes, skulking around your cabin, like that other Injun, John Logan!"
The man jerks the coon-skin cap up on his left ear as he says this, and, tossing his head, steps back into the thick woods and is gone.
Later in the evening, John Logan, gun in hand, passes slowly and dreamily down the trail, close to old Forty-nine's cabin. Stumps and Carrie are at play in the wood close at hand, and come forth at a bound.
"Booh!" cries Carrie, darting around from behind a tree. "Booh! Mr. John Logan," continues the girl, and then with her two dimpled brown hands she throws back the glorious storm of black abundant hair, that all the time tumbles about her beautiful face.
"Why, Carrie, is that you? and Stumps, too? I am glad to see you. I—I was feeling awful lonesome."
"Been down to Squire Fields' again, haven't you?"
The girl has reached one hand out against a tree, and half leaning on it swings her right foot to and fro. John Logan starts just a little, looks at her, sighs, sets the breech of his gun on the ground, and as his eyes turn to hers, she sees he is very sad.
"Yes, Carrie, I—I am lonesome at my cabin since—since mother died. All the time, Carrie, I see her as I saw her that night, when I got home, sitting there on the porch, looking straight out at the gate, waiting for me, her hand on the dog's head, as if to hold him."
As he says this, poor little Stumps stands up close against a tree, draws his head down, and pulls up his shoulders.
"Yes, her long bony fingers resting on his head, holding him—and the faithful dog never moving for fear he would disturb her—for she was dead."
"Oh, Mr. John Logan, don't tell me about it—don't!" and the girl's apron is again raised to her face as she shudders.
"Poor old woman with the holler eyes," says Stumps to himself, in a tone that is scarcely audible.
"But there, never mind." The strong, handsome fellow brushes a tear aside, and taking up his gun again, tries to be cheerful, and shake off the care that encompasses him.
"And you got lonesome, and went down to see Sylvia Fields, didn't you?"
Again the girl's foot swings, and she looks askance from under her dark, heavy hair, at John Logan.
"Carrie, listen to me. Ever since I can remember, my mother waited and watched for my coming at my cabin door. But now, only think how lonely it is to live there. I can't go away. I have no fortune, no friends, no people. What would people say to me and of me out in the great world? Well, I went to Squire Fields, and I had a long talk with Sylvia."
The girl starts, and almost chokes.
"Been to see Sylvia Fields!" and with her booted foot she kicks the bark of a tree with all her might. "Had a long talk with her!" Then she whirls around, plunges her hand in her pocket, and swings her dress and says, as she pouts out her mouth,
"Oh, I feel just awful!"
John Logan approaches her.
"Why, Carrie, what's the matter?"
Carrie still swings herself, and turns her back to the man as she says, half savagely,
"I don't know what's the matter, and I don't care what's the matter; but I feel just awful, I do! I feel just like the dickens!"
"But, Carrie, you ought to be very, very happy, with all this beautiful scenery, and the sweet air in your hair and on your rosy face. And then what a lady you have grown to be! Now don't look cross at me like that! You ought to be as happy as a bird."
"But I ain't happy; I ain't happy a bit, I ain't!" Then, after a pause she continues:
"I don't like that Gar Dosson. He was here looking for you."
"Here? Looking for me?"
"Yes, and he called old Forty-nine Old Blossom-nose. I just hate him."
"Oh, well, Carrie, you know Forty-nine does drink dreadfully, and you know he has got a dreadful red face."
"Mr. John Logan," cries Carrie, hotly, "Forty-nine don't drink dreadfully. He don't drink dreadfully at all. He does take something for his ager, but he don't drink."
"Well, his face is dreadful red, anyway," answers John Logan.
Carrie, swinging her foot and thoughtfully looking up at the trees, says, after a pause:
"Do the trees drink? Do the trees and the bushes drink, John Logan? Their faces get awfully red in the fall, too."
"Carrie, you are cross to-day."
Carrie, shrugging her shoulders and shaking her dress as if she would shake it off her, snaps: "I ain't cross."
"Yes, you are," and the tawny man comes up to her and speaks in a kindly tone: "But come. Many a pleasant walk we have had in these woods together, and many a pleasant time we will have together still."
"Ah, but we will! Come, you must not be so cross!"
The girl leans her forehead against the tree on her lifted arm, and swings her other foot. She looks down at the rounded ankle, and says, almost savagely, to herself; "She's got bigger feet than I have. She's got nearly twice as big feet, she has."
John Logan looks at the girl with a profound tenderness, as she stands there, pouting and swinging her foot. He attempts to approach her, but she still holds her brow bowed to the tree upon her arm, and seems not to see him. He shoulders his gun and walks past her, and says, kindly,
But the girl's eyes are following him, although she would not be willing to admit it, even to herself. As he is about to disappear, she thrusts her hand madly through her hair, and pulls it down all in a heap. Still looking at him under her brows, still swinging her foot wildly, she says:
"Do you think red hair is so awful ugly?"
And what a wondrous glory of hair it was! It was so intensely black; and then it had that singular fringe of fire, or touch of Titian color, which seen in the sunset made it almost red.
The man stops, turns, comes back a step or two, as she continues:
"I do—I do! Oh, I wish to Moses I had tow hair, I do, like Sylvia Fields."
The man is standing close beside her now. He is looking down into her face and she feels his presence. The foot does not swing so violently now, and the girl has cautiously, and, as she believes, unseen, lifted the edge of her tattered sleeve to her eyes. "Why Carrie, your hair is not red." And he speaks very tenderly. "Carrie, you are going to be beautiful. You are beautiful now. You are very beautiful!"
Carrie is not so angry now. The foot stops altogether, and she lifts her face and says:
"No I ain't—I ain't beautiful! Don't you try to humbug me. I am ugly, and I know it! For, last winter, when I went down to the grocery to fetch Forty-nine—he'd gone down there to get medicine for his ager, Mr. John Logan—I heard a man say, 'She is ugly as a mud fence.' Oh, I went for him! I made the fur fly! But that didn't make me pretty. I was ugly all the same. No, I'm not pretty—I'm ugly, and I know it!"
"Oh, no, you're not. You are beautiful, and getting lovelier every day." Carrie softens and approaches him.
"Am I, John Logan? And you really don't think red hair is the ugliest thing in the world?"
"Do I really not think red hair is the ugliest thing in the world? Why, Carrie?"
Carrie, starting back, looks in his face and says, bitterly: "You do. You do think red hair is the ugliest thing in all this born world, and I just dare you to deny it. Sylvia Fields—she's got white hair, she has, and you like white hair, you do. I despise her; I despise her so much that I almost choke."
"Why, now, Carrie, what makes you despise Sylvia Fields?"
"I don't know; I don't know why I despise her, but I do. I despise her with all my might and soul and body. And I tell you, Mr. John Logan, that"—here the lips begin to quiver, and she is about to burst into tears—"I tell you, Mr. John Logan, that I do hope she likes ripe bananas; and I do hope that if she does like ripe bananas, that when bananas come to camp this fall, that she will take a ripe banana and try for to suck it; and I do hope she will suck a ripe banana down her throat, and get choked to death on it, I do."
"Oh, Carrie, this is very wicked!" cries John Logan, reproachfully, "and I must leave you if you talk that way. Good-bye," and the man shoulders his gun and again turns away.
"Well, do you think red hair is the ugliest thing in the world? Do you? Do you now?"
"Carrie, don't you know I love the beautiful, red woods of autumn?"
It is the May-day of the maiden's life; the May shower is over again, and the girl lifts her beautiful face, and says lightly, almost laughing through her tears,
"And, oh, you did like the red bush, didn't you, Mr. John Logan? And, oh, you did say that Moses saw the face of God in the burning bush, didn't you, Mr. John Logan?"
"I want you to tell me a story, I do," interposes Stumps. The boy had stood there a long time, first on one foot, then on the other, swinging his squirrel, pouting out his mouth, and waiting.
"Yes, tell us a story," urges Carrie.
"Oh, yes, tell us a story about a coon—no, about a panther—no, a bear. Oh, yes, about a bear! about a bear!" cries the boy, "about a bear!"
"Poor, half-wild children!" sighs John Logan. "Nothing to divert them, their little minds go out, curiously seeking something new and strange, just, I fancy as older and abler people's do in larger ways. Yes, I will tell you a story about a bear. And let us sit down; my long walk has tired my legs;" and he looks about for a resting place.
"Oh, here, this mossy log!" cries Stumps; "it's as soft as silk. You will sit there, and I here, and sister there."
John Logan leans his gun against a tree, hanging his pouch on the gun.
"Yes, I will sit here—and you, Carrie?"
"Here. Oh, John Logan, I just fit in."
One of Logan's arms falls loosely around Carrie, the other more loosely around Stumps.
"Yes, it's a nice fit, Carrie—couldn't be better if cut out by a tailor."
Carrie, swinging her feet, and looking in his face, very happy, exclaims:
"Oh, John Logan! Don't hold me too tight—you might hurt me!"
Stumps laughs. "He don't hold me tight enough to hurt me a bit." Then looking up in his face, says, "I want a bear story, I do."
"Well, I will tell you a story out of the Bible. Once upon a time there was a great, good man—a very good and a very earnest man. Well, this very good old man, who was very bald headed, took a walk one evening; and the very good old man passed by a lot of very bad boys. And these very bad boys saw the very bald head of the very good man and they said, 'Go up, old bald head! Go up, old bald head!' And it made this good man very mad; and he turned, and he called a she-bear out of the woods, and she ate up about forty."
"Oh!" cries Stumps, aghast.
"Oh!" adds Carrie. "And he wasn't a very good man. He might have been a very bald-headed man, but he wasn't a very good man to have her eat all the children, Mr. John Logan."
Stumps, nursing his squirrel, with his head on one side, says:
"Well, I don't believe it, no how—I don't! What was his name—the old, bald-head?"
"His name was Elijah, sir."
"Elijah! The bald-headed Elijah! Oh, I do believe it, then; for I know when Forty-nine and the curly-headed grocery-keeper were playing poker, at ten cents ante and pass the buck—when Forty-nine went down to get his ager medicine, sister—Forty-nine, he went a blind; and the curly-headed grocery-keeper he straddled it, and then Forty-nine seed him, he did. And so help me! he raked in the pot on a Jack full. And then the curly-headed grocery-keeper jumped up, and struck his fist on the table, and he said, 'By the bald-headed Elijah!'"
Carrie nestles closer, and in a half whisper, mutters,
"I believe I'm getting a little chilly."
Stumps hears this, and says,
"Why, Carrie, I'm just a sweatin', and—"
"Shoo! What noise was that? There is some one stealing through the bush!"
John Logan, as he spoke, rose up softly and cautiously, and half bent forward as he put the two children aside and reached his gun. He looked at the cap, ran an eye along the barrel, and then twisted his belt about so that a pistol was just visible beneath his coat. The man had had an intimation of trouble. Indeed, his gun had been at hand all this time, but he did not care to frighten the two happy waifs of the woods with any thought of what might happen to him, and even to them.
These children had but one thing to dread. There was but one terrible word to them in the language. It was not hunger, not starvation,—no, not even death. It was the Reservation! That one word meant to them, as it means to all who are liable to be carried there, captivity, slavery, degradation, and finally death, in its most dreadful form.
And why should it be so dreaded? Make the case your own, if you are a lover of liberty, and you can understand.
Statistics show that more than three-fourths of all Indians removed to Reservations of late years, die before becoming accustomed to the new order of things.
Yet Indians do not really fear death. But they do dread captivity. They are so fond of their roving life, their vast liberty—room! An Indian is too brave to commit suicide, save in the most rare and desperate cases. But his heart breaks from home-sickness, and he dies there in despair. And then to see his helpless little children die, one by one, with the burning fever, which always overtakes the poor captives!
"How many of us died? I do not know. We counted them at first. But when there were dead women and children in every house and not men enough to bury them, I did not count any more," said one of the survivors when questioned.
In earlier times, some of these Reservations were well chosen—the one on the Ummatilla, Oregon, for example. But of late years it would seem as if the most deadly locations had been selected. Perhaps this is thought best by those in authority, as the land is soon wanted by the whites if it is at all fit for their use. And the Indians in such cases are sooner or later made to move on.
This particular Reservation in California, however, never has been and never will be required or used by any man, except for a grave.
Why, in the name of humanity, such things are left to the choice and discretion of strangers, new men, men who know nothing about Indians and care nothing for them, except so far as they can coin their blood, is incomprehensible. It is a crime. Way out yonder, in the heart of a burning plain, by the side of an alkali lake that fairly reeked with malaria, where even reptiles died, where wild fowl never were found; a place that even beasts knew better than to frequent, without wood or water, save stunted sage and juniper and slimy alkali, in the very valley of death—this Reservation had been established.
"Ah, just the place. A place where we can use our cavalry when they attempt to escape," said the young sprig of an officer, when some men with a spark of humanity dared to protest.
And that was the reason for removing it so far from the sweet, pure air and water of the Sierras, and setting these poor captives down in the valley of death.
When they try to escape! Did it never occur to the United States to make a Reservation pleasant and healthy enough for an Indian to be content in? My word for it, if you will give him a place fit to live in, he will be willing to make his home there.
I know nothing in history so dark and dreadful as the story of the Indians in this dreaded and deadly Reservation of the valley. The Indians surrendered on condition that they should be taken to good homes and taught the ways of the white man. Once in the white man's power, the chains began to tighten, tighten at every step. Once there, they were divided into lots, families torn apart, and put to work under guard; men stood over them with loaded muskets. The land was full of malaria. These men of the mountains began to sicken, to die; to die by degrees,—to die, as the hot weather came on, by hundreds. At last a few of the strongest, the few still able to stand, broke away and found their way back to the mountains. They were like living skeletons, skin and bone only, hollow-eyed and horrible to look upon. Toward the last, these poor Indians had crawled on their hands and knees to get back. They were followed by the soldiers, and taken wherever they could be found; taken back to certain death. One, a young man, still possessed of a little strength, fought with sticks and stones with all his might as he lay in the trail where he had fallen in his flight. He lifted his two bony hands between the foe and his dying old father. The two were taken and chained together. That night the young man with an old pair of scissors, which he had borrowed on pretense of wanting to trim his hair, killed the old man by pushing one of the points into his heart. You could see by the marks of blood on the young man's hand next morning, that he had felt more than once to see if the old man was quite dead. Then he drove the point of the scissors in his own heart, and crawled upon the old man's body, embraced it and died there. And yet all this had been done so quietly that the two guards who marched back and forth only a few feet distant, did not know till next morning that anything of the kind had been. Sometimes these wretches would beg, and even steal, on their way back from the dreadful Reservation. They were frightful, terrible, at such times. They sometimes stood far off outside the gate, and begged with outstretched hands. Their appearances were so against them, hungry, dying; and then this traditional hatred of four hundred years.
But this is too much digression. John Logan knew all the wrongs of his people only too well. He sympathized with them. And this meant his own ruin. A few Indians had made their way back of late, and John Logan had harbored them while the authorities were in pursuit. This was enough. An order had been sent to bring in John Logan.
He knew of this, and that was why he now stood all alert and on fire, as these two men came stealing through the bush and straight for him. Should he fire? To shoot, to shoot at, to even point a gun at a white man, is death to the Indian. A slave of the South had been ten-fold more safe in striking his master in the old days of slavery, than is an Indian on the border in defending his person against a white man.
The two children, like frightened pheasants, when the old one gives signs of danger, darted down behind him, quick as thought, still as death. Their desperate and destitute existence in that savage land had made them savages in their cunning and caution. They said no word, made no sign. Their eyes were fixed on his every step and motion. He signaled them back. They darted like squirrels behind trees, and up and on through the thicket, toward the steep and inaccessible bluffs above. The two men saw the retreating children. They wanted Carrie. They darted forward; one of them jerked out and held up a paper in the face of John Logan.
"We want you at the Reservation. Come!"
Phin Emens stood full before Logan. He shook the paper in his face. The man did not move. Carrie was fast climbing up the mountain. She was about to escape. Gar Dosson was furious. He attempted to pass, to climb the mountain, and to get at the girl. Still Logan kept himself between as he slowly retreated.
"Stand aside, and let me get that girl. I must take her, too!" shouted Dosson. Still Logan kept the man back. And now the children had escaped. Wild with rage, Dosson caught Logan by the shoulder and shouted, "Come!" With a blow that might have felled an ox, the Indian brought the man to the ground. Then, grasping his rifle in his right hand, he darted through the thicket after the retreating children, up the mountain, while Phin Emens stooped over his fallen friend.
"He caused the dry land to appear." —BIBLE.
The mountains from that fearful first Named day were God's own house. Behold, 'Twas here dread Sinai's thunders burst And showed His face. 'Twas here of old His prophets dwelt. Lo, it was here The Christ did come when death drew near.
Give me God's wondrous upper world That makes familiar with the moon These stony altars they have hurled Oppression back, have kept the boon Of liberty. Behold, how free The mountains stand, and eternally.
Success makes us selfish. The history of the world chronicles no prosperity like that of ours; and so, thinking of only ourselves and our success, we forget others. It is easy, indeed, to forget the misery of others; and we hate to be told of it, too.
On a high mountain side overlooking the valley, hung a little camp like a bird's nest. It was hidden there in the densest wood, yet it looked out over the whole land. No bird, indeed no mother of her young, ever chose a deeper or wilder retreat, or a place more utterly apart from the paths and approaches of mankind.
Certainly the little party had stood in imminent peril of capture, and had prized freedom dearly indeed, to climb these crags and confront the very snow-peaks in their effort to make certain their safety.
And a little party, too, it must have been; for you could have passed within ten feet of the camp and not discovered it by day. And by night? Well, certainly by night no man would peril his life by an uncertain footing on the high cliffs here, only partly concealed by the thick growth of chaparral, topt by tall fir and pine and cedar and tamarack. And so a little fire was allowed to burn at night, for it was near the snow and always cold. And it was this fire, perhaps, that first betrayed the presence of the fugitives to the man-hunters.
Very poor and wretched were they, too. If they had had more blankets they might not have so needed the fire. So poor were they, in fact, that you might have stood in the very heart of the little camp and not discovered any property at all without looking twice. A little heap of ashes in the center sending up a half-smothered smoke, two or three loose California lion-skins, thrown here and there over the rocks, a pair of moccasins or two, a tomahawk—and that was almost all. No cooking utensils had they—for what had they to cook? No eating utensils—for what had they to eat?
Great gnarled and knotty trees clung to the mountain side beyond, and a little to the left a long, thin cataract, which, from the valley far below, looked like a snowy plume, came pitching down through the tree tops. It had just been let loose from the hand of God—this sheen of shining water. Back and beyond all this, a peak of snow, a great pyramid and shining shaft of snow, with a crown of clouds, pierced heaven.
Stealthily, and on tip-toe, two armed men, both deeply disguised in great black beards, and in good clothes, stepped into this empty little camp. Bending low, looking right, looking left, guns in hand and hand on trigger, they stopped in the centre of the little camp, and looked cautiously up, down, and all around. Seeing no one, hearing nothing, they looked in each others' eyes, straightened up, and, standing their guns against a tree, breathed more freely in the gray twilight. Wicked, beastly-looking men were they, as they stood there loosening their collars, taking in their breath as if they had just had a hard climb, and looking about cautiously; hard, cruel and cunning, they seemed as if they partook something of the ferocity of the wild beasts that prowled there at night.
These two large animal-looking men were armed with pistols also. But at the belt of each hung and clanked and rattled something more terrible than any implement of death.
These were manacles! Irons! Chains for human hands!
Did it never occur to you as a little remarkable, that man only forges chains and manacles for his fellow-man? A cage will do for a wild beast, cattle are put in pens, bears in a pit, but man must be chained. Men carry these manacles with them only when they set out to take their fellow-man. These two men were man-hunters.
Standing there, manacles in hand, half beast and half devil, they were in the employment of the United States. They were sent to take John Logan, Carrie and Johnny, to the Reservation—the place most hated, dreaded, abhorred of all earthly places, the Reservation! Back of these two men lay a deeper, a more damning motive for the capture of the girl than the United States was really responsible for; for the girl, as we have seen, was very beautiful. This rare wild flower had now almost matured in the hot summer sun just past. But remember, it was all being done in the name of and under the direction of, and, in fact, by, the United States Government.
To say nothing of the desire of agents and their deputies to capture and possess beautiful girls, it is very important to any Indian agent that each victim, even though he be half or three-quarters, or even entirely, white, be kept on the Reservation; for every captive is so much money in the hands of the Indian agent. He must have Indians, as said before, to report to the Government in order to draw blankets, provisions, clothes, and farming utensils for them. True, the Indians do not get a tithe of these things, but he must be on the Reservation roll-call in order that the agent may draw them in his name.
This agency had become remarkably thin of Indians. The mountain Indians, accustomed to pure water and fresh air, could not live long in the hot, fever-stricken valley. They died by hundreds. And then, as if utterly regardless of the profits of the agents of the Reservation, they hung themselves in their prison-pens, with their own chains. Two, father and son, killed themselves with the same knife one night while chained together.
There was just a little bit of the old Roman in these liberty-loving natures, it seemed to me. See the father giving himself the death-wound, and then handing the knife to his son! The two chained apart, but still able to grasp each other's hands; grasping hands and dying so! Very antique that, it seems to me, in its savage valor—love of liberty, and lofty contempt of death. But then it was only Indians, and happened so recently.
It is true, Gar Dosson wanted revenge and the girl; and the two men wanted the little farm. Yet do not forget that back of all this lay that granite and immovable mountain of fact, that other propelling principle to compel them on to the hunt, the order, the sanction—the gold—of the government. Let it be told with bowed head, with eyes to the ground, and cheeks crimson with shame! Think of one of these hunted human beings—a beautiful young girl, just at that sweet and tender, almost holy period of life, the verge of womanhood, when every man of the land should start up with a noble impulse to throw the arm of protection about her!
"Shoo! they must be close about," began the shorter of the two ruffians, reaching back for his gun, as if he had heard something.
"No. Didn't you see that squirrel shucking a hazel nut on that rock there, just afore we came in?" said the other.
"A bushy-tailed gray? Yes, seed him scamper up a saplin."
"Wal, don't you know that if they had a bin hereabouts, a squirrel wouldn't a sot down there to shuck a nut?"
"Right! You've been among Injins so long that you know more about them than they do themselves."
"Wal, what I don't know about an Injin no one don't know. They've gone for grub, and will come back at sun-down."
"Come back here at sun-down?"
"Don't you see the skins there? Whar kin they sleep? They'll come afore dark, for even an Injin can't climb these rocks after dark. And when the gal's in camp, and that feller fixed—eh? eh?" And he tapped and rattled the manacles.
"Eh? eh? old Toppy?" and the two men poked each other in the ribs, and looked the very villains that they were.
"But let's see what they've got here. Two tiger-skins, an old moccasin and a tomahawk;" he looked at the handle and read the name, JOHN LOGAN; "Guess I'll hide that," said the agent, as he kicked the skins about, and then stuck the tomahawk up under his belt. "Guess that's about all."
"Guess that's about all!" sneered the other; "that's about all you know about Injuns. Allers got your nose to the ground, too. Look here!" And the man, who had been walking about and looking up in the trees, here drew down a bundle from the boughs of a fir.
"Well, I'll swar! ef you can't find things where a coon dog couldn't!"
"Find things!" exclaimed the other, as he prepared to examine the contents of the bundle; "all you've got to do is to look into a fir-tree in an Injun's camp. You see, bugs and things won't climb a fir gum; nothing but a red-bellied squirrel will go up a fir gum, for fear of sticking in the wax; and even a squirrel won't, if there is a string tied around, for fear of a trap. Wal, there is the string. So you see an Injun's cache is as safe up a fir-tree as under lock and key. Ah, they're awful short of grub. Look thar! Been gnawing that bone, and they've put that away for their suppers, I swar!"
"Wal, the grub is short, eh? They'll be rather thin, I'm thinking."
The other did not notice this remark, but throwing the bundle aside, he rose up and went back to the tree.
"By the beardy Moses! Look thar!" and the man looked about as if half frightened, and then held up a bottle.
"Whisky?" asked the other, springing eagerly forward.
"No," answered the man, contemptuously, after smelling the bottle.
"Water, eh?" queried the other, with disgust.
"Wine! And look here. Do you know what that means? It means a white man! Yes, it does. No Injin ever left a cork in a bottle. Now, you look sharp. There will be a white man to tackle."
"Wal, I guess he won't be much of a white man, or he'd have whisky."
"Shoo! I heard a bird fly down the canyon. Somebody's a comin' up thar."
"We better git, eh?" said the other, getting his gun; "lay for 'em."
"Lay low and watch our chance. Maybe we'll come in on 'em friendly like, if there's white men. We're cattle men, you know; men hunting cattle," says the other, getting his gun and leading off behind the crags in the rear. "Leave me to do the talking. I'll tell a thing, and you'll swear to it. Wait, let's see," and he approaches the edge of the rocks, and, leaning over, looked below.
"Shoo! Look down there. The gal! She's a fawn. She's as pretty as a tiger-lily. Ah, my beauty!"
The other man stood up, shook his head thoughtfully, and seemed to hesitate. The watcher still kept peering down; then he turned and said: "The white man is old Forty-nine. He comes a bobbin' and a limpin' along with a keg on his back, and a climbin' up the mountain sidewise, like a crab."
"Whoop! I have it. It's wine, and they'll get drunk. Forty-nine will get drunk, don't you see, and then?"
"You're a wise 'un! Shake!" And they grasped hands.
"You bet! Now this is the little game. The gal and Logan, and the boy, will get here long first. Well, now, maybe we will go for the gal and the boy. But if we don't, we just lay low till all get sot down, and at that keg the old man's got, and then we just come in. Cattle-men, back in the mountains, eh?"
"That's the game. But here they come! Shoo!" and with his finger to his lip the leader stole behind the rocks, both looking back over their shoulders, as Carrie entered the camp.
Her pretty face was flushed from exertion, and brown as a berry where not protected by the shock of black hair. She swung a broad straw hat in her hand, and tossed her head as if she had never worn and never would wear any other covering for it than that so bountifully supplied by nature. She danced gaily, and swung her hat as she flew about the little camp, and called at her chubby cherub of a brother over her shoulder. At last, puffing and blowing, and wiping his forehead, he entered camp and threw himself on one of the rocks.
"Why, you ain't tired, are you Johnny?"
"Oh, oh, oh,—no, I—I—I ain't tired a bit!" and he wiped his brow, and puffed and blowed, in spite of all his efforts to restrain himself.
"Why you like to climb the mountains, Johnny. Don't you know you said you liked to climb the mountains better than to eat?"
"Oh, yes, yes—I—I like to climb a mountain. That is, I like to climb one mountain at a time. But when there are two or three mountains all piled up on top of one another, Oh, oh, oh!"
"Oh, Johnny! You to go to bragging about climbing mountains! You can't climb mountains!" And again the girl, with shoes that would hardly hold together, a dress in ribbons, and a face not unfamiliar with the dirt of the earth, danced back and forth before him and sung snatches of a mountain song. "Oh, I'm so happy up here, Johnny. I always sing like a bird up here." Then, looking in his face, she saw that he was very thoughtful; and stepping back, and then forward, she said: "Why, what makes you so serious? They won't never come up here, will they, Johnny? Not even if somebody at the Reservation wanted me awful bad, and somebody gave somebody lots of money to take me back, they couldn't never come up here, could they, Johnny?" And the girl looked eagerly about.
"Oh, no, Carrie, you are safe here. Why, you are as safe here as in a fort."
"This mountain is God's fort, John Logan says, Johnny. It is for the eagles to live in and the free people to fly to; for my people to climb up out of danger and talk to the Great Spirit that inhabits it." The girl clasped her hands and looked up reverently as she said this. "But come, now, Johnny, don't be serious, and I will sing you the nicest song I know till Forty-nine comes up the mountain; and I will dance for you, Johnny, and I will do all that a little girl can do to make you glad and happy as I am, Johnny."
Here John Logan came up the hill, and the girl stopped and said, very seriously,
"And you are right sure, John Logan, nobody will get after us again?—nobody follow us away up here, jam up, nearly against Heaven?"
Here the two men looked out.
"No, Carrie, nobody will ever climb this high for you,—nobody, except somebody that loves you very much, and loves you very truly."
"Injins might, but white men won't, I guess; too stiff in the jints!"
And again the girl whirled and danced about, as if she had not heard one word he said. Yet she had heard every word, and heeded, too, for her eyes sparkled, and she danced even lighter than before; for her heart was light, and the wretched little outcast was—for a rare thing in her miserable life—very, very happy.
"I ain't stiff in the jints, am I, Johnny?" and she tapped her ankles.
"Carrie, sing me that other song of yours, and that will make my heart lighter," said Johnny.
"Why, Johnny, we haven't even got the clouds to overshadow us here; we're above the clouds, and everything else. But I'll sing for you if I can only make you glad as you was before they got after us." And throwing back her hair and twisting herself about, looking back over her shoulder and laughing, looking down at her ragged feet, and making faces, she began.
Like the song of a bird, her voice rang out on the coming night; for it was now full twilight, and the leaves quivered overhead; and far up and down the mountains the melody floated in a strange, sweet strain, and with a touch of tenderness that moved her companions to tears. Logan stood aside, looking down for Forty-nine a moment, then went to bring wood for the fire.
As her song ended, Carrie turned to the boy; but in doing so her eyes rested on the empty bottle left by the side of a stone spread with a tiger skin, by the two men. The boy had his head down, as if still listening, and did not observe her. She stopped suddenly, started back, looked to see if observed by her brother, and seeing that he was still absorbed she advanced, took up the bottle and held it up, glancing back and up the tree.
"Somebody's been here! Somebody's been here, and it's been white men; the bottle's empty."
She hastily hid the bottle, and stepping back and looking up where her little store had been hidden, she only put her finger to her lip, shook her head on seeing what had happened, and then went and stood by her little brother. Very thoughtful and full of care was she now. All her merriment had gone. She stood there as one suddenly grown old.
"Oh, thank you, Carrie. It's a pretty song. But what can keep Forty-nine so long?"
The boy rose as he said this, and turning aside looked down the mountain into the gathering darkness. The girl stood close beside him, as if afraid.
"He is coming. Far down, I hear Forty-nine's boots on the bowlders."
"Oh, I'm so glad! And I'm so glad he's got pistols!" said the girl, eagerly. The two men, who had stepped out, looked at each other as she said this and made signs.
"Why, Carrie, are you afraid here! You are all of a tremble!" said the boy, as she clung close to him, when they turned back.
"Johnny," said the girl eagerly, almost wildly, as she looked around, "if men were to come to take us to that Reservation, what would you do?"
"What would I do? I would kill 'em! Kill 'em dead, Carrie. I would hold you to my heart so, with this arm, and with this I would draw my pistol so, and kill 'em dead."
The two heads of the man-hunters disappeared behind the rocks. The boy pushed back the girl's black, tumbled stream of hair from her brow, and kissing her very tenderly, he went aside and sat down; for he was very, very weary.
A twilight squirrel stole out from the thicket into the clearing and then darted back as if it saw something only partly concealed beyond. The two children saw this, and looked at each other half alarmed. Then the girl, as if to calm the boy—who had grown almost a man in the past few weeks—began to talk and chatter as if she had seen nothing, suspected nothing.
"When the Winter comes, Johnny, we can't stay here; we would starve."
"Carrie, do the birds starve? Do the squirrels starve? What did God make us for if we are to starve?"
All this time the two men had been stealing out from their hiding-place, as if resolved to pounce upon and seize the girl before Forty-nine arrived. The leader had signaled and made signs to his companion back there in the gloaming, for they dared not speak lest they should be heard; and now they advanced stealthily, guns in hand, and now they fell back to wait a better chance; and just as they were about to spring upon the two from behind, the snowy white head of old Forty-nine blossomed above the rocks, and his red face, like a great opening flower, beamed in upon the little party, while the good-natured old man puffed and blowed as he fanned himself with his hat and sat down his keg of provisions. And still he puffed and blowed, as if he would never again be able to get his breath. The two men stole back.
"And Forty-nine likes to climb the mountains too, don't he? Good for his health. See, what a color he's got! And see how fat he is! Good for your health, ain't it, papa Forty-nine?"
But the good old miner was too hot and puffy to answer, as the merry little girl danced with delight around him.
"Why, it makes you blow, don't it? Strange how a little hill like that could make a man blow," said Johnny, winking at Carrie.
But old Forty-nine only drew a long, thin wild flower through his hand, and looked up now and then to the girl. He beckoned her to approach, and she came dancing across to where he sat.
"It's a sad looking flower, and it's a small one. But, my girl, the smallest flower is a miracle. And, Carrie, sometimes the sweetest flowers grows closest to the ground."