Monsieur Violet, by Captain Marryat.
Captain Frederick Marryat was born July 10 1792, and died August 8 1848. He retired from the British navy in 1828 in order to devote himself to writing. In the following 20 years he wrote 26 books, many of which are among the very best of English literature, and some of which are still in print.
Marryat had an extraordinary gift for the invention of episodes in his stories. He says somewhere that when he sat down for the day's work, he never knew what he was going to write. He certainly was a literary genius.
"Monsieur Violet" was published in 1843, the twentieth book to flow from Marryat's pen. It was written after Marryat's visit to America, the Diary of which had been published in 1839. Much of the material for this book must have been gathered during that visit. The setting is North America.
This e-text was transcribed in 1998 by Nick Hodson, and was reformatted several times during recent years.
MONSIEUR VIOLET, BY CAPTAIN FREDERICK MARRYAT.
The Revolution of 1830, which deprived Charles the Tenth of the throne of France, like all other great and sudden changes, proved the ruin of many individuals, more especially of many ancient families who were attached to the Court, and who would not desert the exiled monarch in his adversity. Among the few who were permitted to share his fortunes was my father, a noble gentleman of Burgundy, who at a former period and during a former exile, had proved his unchangeable faith and attachment to the legitimate owners of the crown of France.
The ancient royal residence of Holyrood having been offered, as a retreat, to his unhappy master, my father bade an eternal adieu to his country and with me, his only son, then but nine years of age, followed in the suite of the monarch, and established himself in Edinburgh.
Our residence in Scotland was not long. Charles the Tenth decided upon taking up his abode at Prague. My father went before him to make the necessary arrangements; and as soon as his master was established there, he sought by travel to forget his griefs. Young as I was, I was his companion. Italy, Sicily, Greece, Turkey, Egypt, and the Holy Land were all visited in the course of three years, after which time we returned to Italy; and being then twelve years old, I was placed for my education in the Propaganda at Rome.
For an exile who is ardently attached to his country there is no repose. Forbidden to return to his beloved France, there was no retreat which could make my father forget his griefs, and he continued as restless and as unhappy as ever.
Shortly after that I had been placed in the Propaganda, my father fell in with an old friend, a friend of his youth, whom he had not met with for years, once as gay and as happy as he had been, now equally suffering and equally restless. This friend was the Italian Prince Seravalle, who also had drank deep of the cup of bitterness. In his youth, feeling deeply the decadence, both moral and physical, of his country, he had attempted to strike a blow to restore it to its former splendour; he headed a conspiracy, expended a large portion of his wealth in pursuit of his object, was betrayed by his associates, and for many years was imprisoned by the authorities in the Castle of San Angelo.
How long his confinement lasted I know not, but it must have been a long while, as in after-times, when he would occasionally revert to his former life, all the incidents he related were for years "when he was in his dungeon, or in the court-yard prison of the Capitol," where many of his ancestors had dictated laws to nations.
At last the Prince was restored to freedom, but captivity had made no alteration in his feelings or sentiments. His love for his country, and his desire for its regeneration, were as strong as ever, and he very soon placed himself at the head of the Carbonari, a sect which, years afterwards, was rendered illustrious by the constancy and sufferings of a Maroncelli, a Silvio Pellico, and many others.
The Prince was again detected and arrested, but he was not thrown into prison. The government had been much weakened and the well-known opinions and liberality of the Prince had rendered him so popular with the Trasteverini, or northern inhabitants of the Tiber, that policy forbade either his captivity or destruction. He was sentenced to be banished for (I think) ten years.
During his long banishment, the Prince Seravalle wandered over various portions of the globe, and at last found himself in Mexico. After a residence at Vera Cruz, he travelled into the interior, to examine the remains of the ancient cities of the Western World; and impelled by his thirst for knowledge and love of adventure, he at last arrived on the western coast of America, and passing through California, fell in with the Shoshones, or Snake Indians, occupying a large territory extending from the Pacific to nearly the feet of the Rocky Mountains. Pleased with the manners and customs and native nobility of this tribe of Indians, the Prince remained with them for a considerable time, and eventually decided that he would return once more to his country, now that his term of banishment had expired; not to resettle in an ungrateful land, but to collect his property and return to the Shoshones, to employ it for their benefit and advancement.
There was, perhaps, another feeling, even more powerful, which induced the Prince Seravalle to return to the Indians with whom he had lived so long. I refer to the charms and attraction which a wild life offers to the man of civilisation, more particularly when he has discovered how hollow and heartless we become under refinement.
Not one Indian who has been brought up at school, and among the pleasures and luxuries of a great city, has ever wished to make his dwelling among the pale faces; while, on the contrary, many thousands of white men, from the highest to the lowest stations in civilisation, have embraced the life of the savage, remaining with and dying among them, although they might have accumulated wealth, and returned to their own country.
This appears strange, but it is nevertheless true. Any intelligent traveller, who has remained a few weeks in the wigwams of well-disposed Indians, will acknowledge that the feeling was strong upon him even during so short a residence. What must it then be on those who have resided with the Indians for years?
It was shortly after the Prince's return to Italy to fulfil his benevolent intentions, that my father renewed his old friendship—a friendship of early years, so strong that their adverse politics could not weaken it. The Prince was then at Leghorn; he had purchased a vessel, loaded it with implements of agriculture and various branches of the domestic arts; he had procured some old pieces of artillery, a large quantity of carabines from Liege, gunpowder, etcetera; materials for building a good house, and a few articles of ornament and luxury. His large estates were all sold to meet these extraordinary expenses. He had also engaged masons, smiths, and carpenters, and he was to be accompanied by some of his former tenants, who well understood the cultivation of the olive-tree and vine.
It was in the autumn of 1833 when he was nearly ready to start, that he fell in with my father, told him his adventures and his future plans, and asked him to accompany him. My father, who was tired and disgusted with every thing, blase au fond, met the Prince more than half way.
Our property in France had all been disposed of at a great sacrifice at the time of the Revolution. All my father possessed was in money and jewels. He resolved to risk all, and to settle with the Prince in this far distant land. Several additions were consequently made to the cargo and to the members composing the expedition.
Two priests had already engaged to act as missionaries. Anxious for my education, my father provided an extensive library, and paid a large sum to the Prior of a Dominican convent to permit the departure with us of another worthy man, who was well able to superintend my education. Two of the three religious men who had thus formed our expedition had been great travellers, and had already carried the standard of the cross east of the Ganges in the Thibetian and Burman empires.
In order to avoid any difficulties from the government, the Prince Seravalle had taken the precaution to clear the vessel out for Guatemala, and the people at Leghorn fully believed that such was his object. But Guatemala and Acapulco were left a long way south of us before we arrived at our destination.
At last every thing was prepared. I was sent for from the Propaganda— the stock of wines, etcetera, were the last articles which were shipped, and the Esmeralda started on her tedious, and by no means certain voyage.
I was very young then—not thirteen years old; but if I was young, I had travelled much, and had gained that knowledge which is to be obtained by the eye—perhaps the best education we can have in our earlier years. I shall pass over the monotony of the voyage of eternal sky and water. I have no recollection that we were in any imminent danger at anytime, and the voyage might have been styled a prosperous one.
After five months, we arrived off the coast, and with some difficulty we gained the entrance of a river falling into Trinity Bay, in latitude 41 degrees north and longitude 124 degrees 28 minutes west.
We anchored about four miles above the entrance, which was on the coast abreast of the Shoshones' territory, and resorted to by them on their annual fishing excursions. In memory of the event, the river was named by the Indians—"Nu eleje sha wako;" or, the Guide of the Strangers.
For many weeks it was a strange and busy scene. The Prince Seravalle had, during his former residence with the Shoshones, been admitted into their tribe as a warrior and a chief, and now the Indians flocked from the interior to welcome their pale-faced chief, who had not forgotten his red children. They helped our party to unload the vessel, provided us with game of all kinds, and, under the directions of the carpenter, they soon built a large warehouse to protect our goods and implements from the effect of the weather.
As soon as our cargo was housed, the Prince and my father, accompanied by the chiefs and elders of the tribe, set off on an exploring party, to select a spot fit for the settlement. During their absence, I was entrusted to the care of one of the chief's squaws, and had three beautiful children for my playmates. In three weeks the party returned; they had selected a spot upon the western banks of the Buona Ventura River, at the foot of a high circular mountain, where rocks, covered with indurated lava and calcined sulphur, proved the existence of former volcanic eruptions. The river was lined with lofty timber; immense quarries of limestone were close at hand, and the minor streams gave us clay, which produced bricks of an excellent quality.
The Spaniards had before visited this spot, and had given the mountain the name of St. Salvador; but our settlement took the Indian appellation of the Prince, which was—"Nanawa ashta jueri e," or the Dwelling of the Great Warrior. As the place of our landing was a great resort of the Indians during the fishing season, it was also resolved that a square fort and store, with a boat-house, should be erected there; and for six or seven months all was bustle and activity, when an accident occurred which threw a damp upon our exertions.
Although the whole country abounds in cattle, and some other tribes, of which I shall hereafter make mention, do possess them in large herds, the Shoshones did not possess any. Indeed, so abundant was the game in this extensive territory, that they could well dispense with them; but as the Prince's ambition was to introduce agriculture and more domestic habits among the tribe he considered it right that they should be introduced. He therefore despatched the Esmeralda to obtain them either at Monterey or Santa Barbara. But the vessel was never more heard of: the Mexicans stated that they had perceived the wreck of a vessel off Cape Mendocino, and it was but natural to suppose that these were the remains of our unfortunate brig.
All hands on board perished, and the loss was very heavy to us. The crew consisted of the captain, his son, and twelve men, and there were also on board five of our household, who had been despatched upon various commissions, Giuseppe Polidori, the youngest of our missionaries, one of our gunsmiths, one of our masons, and two Italian farmers. Melancholy as was this loss, it did not abate the exertions of those who were left. Fields were immediately cleared—gardens prepared; and by degrees the memory of this sad beginning faded away before the prospect of future happiness and comfort.
As soon as we were completely established, my education commenced. It was novel, yet still had much affinity to the plan pursued with the students of the Military Colleges in France, inasmuch as all my play hours were employed in the hardier exercises. To the two excellent missionaries I owe much, and with them I passed many happy hours.
We had brought a very extensive and very well selected library with us, and under their care I soon became acquainted with the arts and sciences of civilisation: I studied history generally, and they also taught me Latin and Greek, and I was soon master of many of the modern languages. And as my studies were particularly devoted to the history of the ancient people of Asia, to enable me to understand their theories and follow up their favourite researches upon the origin of the great ruins in Western and Central America, the slight knowledge which I had gained at the Propaganda of Arabic and Sanscrit was now daily increased.
Such were my studies with the good fathers: the other portion of my education was wholly Indian. I was put under the charge of a celebrated old warrior of the tribe, and from him I learned the use of the bow, the tomahawk, and the rifle, to throw the lasso, to manage the wildest horse, to break in the untamed colt; and occasionally I was permitted to accompany them in their hunting and fishing excursions.
Thus for more than three years did I continue to acquire knowledge of various kinds, while the colony gradually extended its fields, and there appeared to be every chance of gradually reclaiming the wild Shoshones to a more civilised state of existence.
But "l'homme propose et Dieu dispose." Another heavy blow fell upon the Prince, which eventually proved the ruin of all his hopes. After the loss of the vessel, we had but eight white men in the colony, besides the missionaries and ourselves; and the Prince, retaining only my father's old servant, determined upon sending the remainder to purchase the cattle which we had been so anxious to obtain.
They departed on this mission, but never returned. In all probability, they were murdered by the Apaches Indians, although it is not impossible that, tired of our simple and monotonous life, they deserted us to establish themselves in the distant cities of Mexico.
This second catastrophe weighed heavy upon the mind of the good old Prince. All his hopes were dashed to the ground—the illusions of the latter part of his life were destroyed for ever. His proudest expectations had been to redeem his savage friends from their wild life, and this could only be effected by commerce and agriculture.
The farms round the settlement had for now nearly four years been tilled by the squaws and young Indians, under the direction of the white men, and although the occupation was by no means congenial to their nature, the Prince had every anticipation that, with time and example, the Shoshones would perceive the advantages, and be induced to till the land for themselves.
Before our arrival, the winter was always a season of great privation to that portion of the Indians who could not repair to the hunting grounds, while now, Indian corn, potatoes, and other vegetables were in plenty, at least for those who dwelt near to the settlement. But now that we had lost all our white cultivators and mechanics, we soon found that the Indians avoided the labour.
All our endeavours proved useless: the advantages had not yet been sufficiently manifest: the transition attempted had been too short; and the good, although proud and lazy, Shoshones abandoned the tillage, and relapsed into their former apathy and indifference.
Mortified at this change, the Prince and my father resolved to make an appeal to the whole nation, and try to convince them how much happier they would be if they would cultivate the ground for their support. A great feast was given, the calumet was smoked; after which the Prince rose and addressed them after their own fashion. As I had, a short time previous, been admitted as a chief and warrior, I, of course, was present at the meeting. The Prince spoke:—
"Do you not want to become the most powerful nation of the West? You do. If then such is the case, you must ask assistance from the earth, which is your mother. True, you have prairies abounding in game, but the squaws and the children cannot follow your path when hunting.
"Are not the Crows, the Bannaxas, the Flat Heads, and the Umbiquas, starving during the winter? They have no buffalo in their land, and but few deer. What have they to eat? A few lean horses, perchance a bear; and the stinking flesh of the otter or beaver they may trap during the season.
"Would they not be too happy to exchange their furs against the corn, the tobacco, and good dried fish of the Shoshones? Now they sell their furs to the Yankees, but the Yankees bring them no food. The Flat Heads take the fire-water and blankets from the traders, but they do so because they cannot get any thing else, and their packs of furs would spoil if they kept them.
"Would they not like better to barter them with you, who are so near to them, for good food to sustain them and their children during the winter—to keep alive their squaws and their old men during the long snow and the dreary moons of darkness and gloom?
"Now if the Shoshones had corn and tobacco to give for furs, they would become rich. They would have the best saddles from Mexico, and the best rifles from the Yankees, the best tomahawks and blankets from the Canadians. Who then could resist the Shoshones? When they would go hunting, hundreds of the other natives would clear for them the forest path, or tear with their hands the grass out of their track in the prairie. I have spoken."
All the Indians acknowledged that the talk was good and full of wisdom; but they were too proud to work. An old chief answered for the whole tribe.
"Nanawa Ashta is a great chief; he is a brave! The Manitou speaks softly to his ears, and tells him the secret which makes the heart of a warrior big or small; but Nanawa has a pale face—his blood is a strange blood, although his heart is ever with his red friends. It is only the white Manitou that speaks to him, and how could the white Manitou know the nature of the Indians? He has not made them; he don't call them to him; he gives them nothing; he leaves them poor and wretched; he keeps all for the pale faces.
"It is right he should do so. The panther will not feed the young of the deer, nor will the hawk sit upon the eggs of the dove. It is life, it is order, it is nature. Each has his own to provide for and no more. Indian corn is good; tobacco is good, it gladdens the heart of the old men when they are in sorrow; tobacco is the present of chiefs to chiefs. The calumet speaks of war and death; it discourses also of peace and friendship. The Manitou made the tobacco expressly for man—it is good.
"But corn and tobacco must be taken from the earth; they must be watched for many moons, and nursed like children. This is work fit only for squaws and slaves. The Shoshones are warriors and free; if they were to dig in the ground, their sight would become weak, and their enemies would say they were moles and badgers.
"Does the just Nanawa wish the Shoshones to be despised by the Crows or the horsemen of the south! No! he had fought for them before he went to see if the bones of his fathers were safe: and since his return, has he not given to them rifles and powder, and long nets to catch the salmon and plenty of iron to render their arrows feared alike by the buffaloes and the Umbiquas?
"Nanawa speaks well, for he loves his children: but the spirit that whispers to him is a pale-face spirit, that cannot see under the skin of a red-warrior; it is too tough: nor in his blood: it is too dark.
"Yet tobacco is good, and corn too. The hunters of the Flat Heads and Pierced Noses would come in winter to beg for it; their furs would make warm the lodges of the Shoshones. And my people would become rich and powerful; they would be masters of all the country, from the salt waters to the big mountains; the deer would come and lick their hands, and the wild horses would graze around their wigwams. 'Tis so that the pale faces grow rich and strong; they plant corn, tobacco, and sweet melons; they have trees that bear figs and peaches; they feed swine and goats, and tame buffaloes. They are a great people.
"A red-skin warrior is nothing but a warrior; he is strong, but he is poor; he is not a wood-chunk, nor a badger, nor a prairie dog; he cannot dig the ground; he is a warrior, and nothing more. I have spoken."
Of course the tenor of this speech was too much in harmony with Indian ideas not to be received with admiration. The old man took his seat, while another rose to speak in his turn.
"The great chief hath spoken: his hair is white like the down of the swan; his winters have been many; he is wise; why should I speak after him, his words were true? The Manitou touched my ears and my eyes when he spoke (and he spoke like a warrior); I heard his war cry. I saw the Umbiquas running in the swamps, and crawling like black snakes under the bushes. I spied thirty scalps on his belt, his leggings and mocassins were sewn with the hair of the Wallah Wallahs. [See note 1.]
"I should not speak; I am young yet and have no wisdom; my words are few, I should not speak. But in my vision I heard a spirit, it came upon the breeze, it entered within me.
"Nanawa is my father, the father to all, he loves us, we are his children; he has brought with him a great warrior of the pale faces, who was a mighty chief in his tribe; he has given us a young chief who is a great hunter; in a few years he will be a great warrior, and lead our young men in the war path on the plains of the Wachinangoes [see note 2], for Owato Wachina [see note 3] is a Shoshone, though his skin is paler than the flower of the magnolia.
"Nanawa has also given to us two Makota Konayas [see note 4], to teach wisdom to our young men; their words are sweet, they speak to the heart; they know every thing and make men better. Nanawa is a great chief, very wise; what he says is right, what he wishes must be done, for he is our father, and he gave us strength to fight our enemies.
"He is right, the Shoshones must have their lodges full of corn and tobacco. The Shoshones must ever be what they are, what they were, a great nation. But the chief of many winters hath said it; the hedge-hogs and the foxes may dig the earth, but the eyes of the Shoshones are always turned towards their enemies in the woods, or the buffaloes in the plains.
"Yet the will of Nanawa must be done, but not by a Shoshone. We will give him plenty of squaws and dogs; we will bring him slaves from the Umbiquas, the Cayuses, and the Wallah Wallahs. They shall grow the corn and the tobacco while we hunt; while we go to fetch more slaves, even in the big mountains, or among the dogs of the south, the Wachinangoes. I will send the vermilion [see note 5] to my young warriors, they will paint their faces and follow me on the war-path. I have spoken!"
Thus ended the hopes of making agriculturists of the wild people among whom we lived; nor did I wonder such as they were, they felt happy. What could they want besides their neat conical skin lodges, their dresses, which were good, comfortable, and elegant, and their women, who were virtuous, faithful, and pretty? Had they not the unlimited range of the prairies? were they not lords over millions of elks and buffaloes?—they wanted nothing, except tobacco. And yet it was a pity we could not succeed in giving them a taste for civilisation. They were gentlemen by nature; as indeed almost all the Indians are, when not given to drinking. They are extremely well bred, and stamped with the indubitable seal of nobility on their brow.
The council was broken up, as both Christianity, and his own peculiar sentiments, would not permit the Prince Seravalle to entertain the thought of extending slavery. He bowed meekly to the will of Providence, and endeavoured by other means to effect his object of enlightening the minds of this pure and noble, yet savage race of men.
Note 1. Indians living on the Columbian River, two hundred miles above Fort Vancouver, allied to the Nez Perces, and great supporters of the Americans.
Note 2. Name given to the half breeds by the Spaniards, but by Indians comprehending the whole Mexican race.
Note 3. The "spirit of the young beaver;" a name given to me when I was made a warrior.
Note 4. Two priests, literally two black gowns.
Note 5. When a chief wishes to go to war, he sends to his warriors some leaves of tobacco covered with vermilion. It is a sign that they must soon be prepared.
This breaking up, for the time, of our agricultural settlement took place in the year 1838. Till then, or a few months before, I had passed my time between my civilised and uncivilised instructors. But although educated, I was an Indian, not only in my dress but in my heart.
I mentioned that in the council called by the Prince I was present, having been admitted as a chief, being then about seventeen years old. My admission was procured in the following manner: when we received intelligence of the murder, or disappearance, of our seven white men, whom the Prince had sent to Monterey to procure cattle, a party was sent out on their track to ascertain what had really taken place, and at my request the command of that party was confided to me.
We passed the Buona Ventura, and followed the track of our white men for upwards of 200 miles, when we not only could trace it no further, but found our small party of fifteen surrounded by about eighty of our implacable enemies, the Crows.
By stratagem, we not only broke through them, but succeeded in surprising seven of their party. My companions would have put them to death, but I would not permit it. We secured them on their own horses, and made all the haste we could, but the Crows had discovered us and gave chase.
It was fifteen days' travelling to our own country, and we were pursued by an enemy seven or eight times superior to us in numbers. By various stratagems, which I shall not dwell upon, aided by the good condition of our horses, we contrived to escape them, and to bring our prisoners safe into the settlement. Now, although we had no fighting, yet address is considered a great qualification. On my return I was therefore admitted as a chief, with the Indian name Owato Wanisha, or "spirit of the beaver," as appropriate to my cunning and address. To obtain the rank of a warrior chief, it was absolutely requisite that I had distinguished myself on the field of battle.
Before I continue my narration, I must say a little more relative to the missionaries, who were my instructors. One of them, the youngest, Polidori, was lost in the Esmeralda, when she sailed for Monterey to procure cattle. The two others were Padre Marini and Padre Antonio. They were both highly accomplished and learned. Their knowledge in Asiatic lore was unbounded, and it was my delight to follow them in their researches and various theories concerning the early Indian emigration across the waters of the Pacific.
They were both Italians by birth. They had passed many years of their lives among the nations west of the Ganges, and in their advanced years had returned to sunny Italy, to die near the spot where they had played as little children. But they had met with Prince Seravalle, and when they heard from him of the wild tribes with whom he had dwelt, and who knew not God, they considered that it was their duty to go and instruct them.
Thus did these sincere men, old and broken, with one foot resting on their tombs, again encounter difficulties and danger, to propagate among the Indians that religion of love and mercy, which they were appointed to make known.
Their efforts, however, to convert the Shoshones were fruitless. Indian nature would seem to be a nature apart and distinct. The red men, unless in suffering or oppression, will not listen to what they call "the smooth honey words of the pale-faced sages;" and even when they do so, they argue upon every dogma and point of faith, and remain unconvinced. The missionaries, therefore, after a time, contented themselves with practising deeds of charity, with alleviating their sufferings when able, from their knowledge of medicine and surgery, and by moral precepts, softening down as much as they could the fierce and occasionally cruel tempers of this wild untutored race.
Among other advantages which the Shoshones derived from our missionaries, was the introduction of vaccination. At first it was received with great distrust, and indeed violently opposed, but the good sense of the Indians ultimately prevailed; and I do not believe that there is one of the Shoshones born since the settlement was formed who has not been vaccinated; the process was explained by the Padres Marini and Polidori to the native medical men, and is now invariably practised by them.
I may as well here finish the histories of the good missionaries. When I was sent upon an expedition to Monterey, which I shall soon have to detail, Padre Marini accompanied me. Having failed with the Shoshones, he considered that he might prove useful by locating himself in the Spanish settlements of California. We parted soon after we arrived at Monterey, and I have never seen or heard of him since. I shall, however, have to speak of him again during our journey and sojourn at that town.
The other, Padre Antonio, died at the settlement previous to my journey to Monterey, and the Indians still preserve his robes, missal, and crucifix, as the relics of a good man. Poor Padre Antonio! I would have wished to have known the history of his former life. A deep melancholy was stamped upon his features, from some cause of heart-breaking grief, which even religion could but occasionally assuage, but not remove.
After his death, I looked at his missal. The blank pages at the beginning and the end were filled up with pious reflections, besides some few words, which spoke volumes as to one period of his existence. The first words inscribed were: "Julia, obiit A.D. 1799. Virgo purissima, Maris Stella. Ora pro me." On the following leaf was written: "Antonio de Campestrina, Convient. Dominicum. In Roma, A.D. 1800."
Then he had embraced a monastic life upon the death of one dear to him— perhaps his first and only love. Poor man! many a time have I seen the big burning tears rolling fast down his withered cheeks. But he is gone, and his sorrows are at rest. On the last page of the missal were also two lines, written in a tremulous hand, probably a short time previous to his death: "I, nunc anima anceps; sitque tibi Deus misericors."
The Prince Seravalle did not, however, abandon his plans; having failed in persuading the Shoshones, at the suggestion of my father, it was resolved that an attempt should be made to procure a few Mexicans and Canadians to carry on the agricultural labours; for I may here as well observe, that both the Prince and my father had long made up their minds to live and die among the Indians.
This expedition was to be undertaken by me. My trip was to be a long one. In case I should not succeed in Monterey in enlisting the parties required, I was to proceed on to Santa Fe, either with a party of Apaches Indians, who were always at peace with the Shoshones, or else with one of the Mexican caravans.
In Santa Fe there was always a great number of French and Canadians, who came every year from St. Louis, hired by the Fur Companies; so that we had some chance of procuring them. If, however, my endeavours should prove fruitless, as I should already have proceeded too far to return alone, I was to continue on from Santa Fe with the fur traders, returning to St. Louis, on the Mississippi, where I was to dispose of some valuable jewels, hire men to form a strong caravan, and return to the settlement by the Astoria trail.
As my adventures may be said but to commence at my departure upon this commission, I will, before I enter upon my narrative, give the reader some insight into the history and records of the Shoshones, or Snake Indians, with whom I was domiciled, and over whom, although so young, I held authority and command.
The Shoshones, or Snake Indians, are a brave and numerous people, occupying a large and beautiful tract of country, 540 miles from east to west, and nearly 300 miles from north to south. It lies betwixt 38 degrees and 43 degrees north latitude, and from longitude 116 degrees west of Greenwich to the shores of the Pacific Ocean, which there extend themselves to nearly the parallel of 125 degrees west longitude. The land is rich and fertile, especially by the sides of numerous streams, where the soil is sometimes of a deep red colour, and at others entirely black. The aspect of this region is well diversified, and though the greatest part of it must be classified under the denomination of rolling prairies, yet woods are very abundant, principally near the rivers and in the low flat bottoms; while the general landscape is agreeably relieved from the monotony of too great uniformity by numerous mountains of fantastical shapes and appearance, entirely unconnected with each other, and all varying in the primitive matter of their conformation.
Masses of native copper are found at almost every step, and betwixt two mountains which spread from east to west in the parallel of the rivers Buona Ventura and Calumet, there are rich beds of galena, even at two or three feet under ground; sulphur and magnesia appear plentiful in the northern districts; while in the sand of the creeks to the south, gold dust is occasionally collected by the Indians. The land is admirably watered by three noble streams—the Buona Ventura, the Calumet, and the Nu eleje sha wako, or River of the Strangers, while twenty rivers of inferior size rush with noise and impetuosity from the mountains, until they enter the prairies, where they glide smoothly in long serpentine courses between banks covered with flowers and shaded by the thick foliage of the western magnolia. The plains, as I have said, are gently undulating, and are covered with excellent natural pastures of mosquito-grass, blue grass, and clover, in which innumerable herds of buffaloes, and mustangs, or wild horses, graze, except during the hunting season, in undisturbed security.
The Shoshones [see note 1] are indubitably a very ancient people. It would be impossible to say how long they may have been on this portion of the continent. Their cast of features proves them to be of Asiatic origin, and their phraseology, elegant and full of metaphors, assumes all the graceful variety of the brightest pages of Saadi.
A proof of their antiquity and foreign extraction is, that few of their records and traditions are local; they refer to countries on the other side of the sea, countries where the summer is perpetual, the population numberless, and the cities composed of great palaces, like the Hindoo traditions, "built by the good genii, long before the creation of man."
There is no doubt, indeed it is admitted by the other tribes that the Shoshone is the parent tribe of the Comanches, Arrapahoes, and Apaches— the Bedouins of the Mexican deserts. They all speak the same beautiful and harmonious language, have the same traditions; and indeed so recent have been their subdivisions, that they point out the exact periods by connecting them with the various events of Spanish inland conquest in the northern portion of Sonora.
It is not my intention to dwell long upon speculative theory but I must observe, that if any tradition is to be received with confidence it must proceed from nations, or tribes, who have long been stationary. That the northern continent of America was first peopled from Asia, there can be little doubt, and if so it is but natural to suppose that those who first came over would settle upon the nearest and most suitable territory. The emigrants who, upon their landing, found themselves in such a climate and such a country as California, were not very likely to quit it in search of a better.
That such was the case with the Shoshones, and that they are descendants from the earliest emigrants, and that they have never quitted the settlement made by their ancestors, I have no doubt, for all their traditions confirm it.
We must be cautious how we put faith in the remarks of missionaries and travellers, upon a race of people little known. They seldom come into contact with the better and higher classes, who have all the information and knowledge; and it is only by becoming one of them, not one of their tribes, but one of their chiefs, and received into their aristocracy, that any correct intelligence can be gained.
Allow that a stranger was to arrive at Wapping, or elsewhere, in Great Britain, and question those he met in such a locality as to the religion, laws, and history of the English, how unsatisfactory would be their replies; yet missionaries and travellers among these nations seldom obtain farther access. It is therefore among the better classes of the Indians that we must search for records, traditions, and laws. As for their religion, no stranger will ever obtain possession of its tenets, unless he is cast among them in early life and becomes one of them.
Let missionaries say what they please in their reports to their societies, they make no converts to their faith, except the pretended ones of vagrant and vagabond drunkards, who are outcasts from their tribes.
The traditions of the Shoshones fully bear out my opinion, that they were among the earliest of the Asiatic emigrants; they contain histories of subsequent emigrations, in which they had to fight hard to retain their lands; of the dispersion of the new emigrants to the north and south; of the increase of numbers, and breaking up of portions of the tribes, who travelled away to seek subsistence in the East.
We find, as might be expected, that the traditions of the Eastern tribes, collected as they have occasionally been previous to their extinction, are trifling and absurd; and why so? because, driven away to the east, and finding other tribes of Indians, who had been driven there before them, already settled there, they have immediately commenced a life of continual hostility and change of domicile. When people have thus been occupied for generations in continual warfare and change, it is but natural to suppose that in such a life of constant action, they have had no time to transmit their traditions, and that ultimately they have been lost to the tribe.
We must then look for records in those quarters where the population has remained stationary for ages. It must be in south-west of Oregon, and in the northern parts of Upper California and Sonora, that the philosopher must obtain the eventful history of vast warlike nations, of their rise and of their fall. The western Apaches or the Shoshones, with their antiquities and ruins of departed glory, will unfold to the student's mind long pages of a thrilling interest, while in their metaphors and rich phraseology, the linguist, learned in Asiatic lore, will detect their ancient origin.
It is remarkable to observe, how generally traditions and records will spread and be transmitted among nations destitute of the benefits of the art of printing. In Europe, the mass were certainly better acquainted with their ancient history before this great discovery than they are in our days, as traditions were then handed down from family to family—it was a duty, a sacred one, for a father to transmit them to his son, unadulterated, such in fact, as he had received them from his ancestors. It is same case with the Indians, who have remained stationary for a long period. It is in the long evenings of February, during the hunting season, that the elders of the tribe will reveal to young warriors all the records of their history; and were a learned European to assist at one of these "lectures upon antiquity," he would admit that, in harmony, eloquence, strength of argument, and deduction, the red-coloured orator could not be surpassed.
The Shoshones have a clear and lucid recollection of the far countries whence they have emigrated. They do not allude to any particular period, but they must have been among the first comers, for they relate with great topographical accuracy all the bloody struggles they had to sustain against newer emigrants. Often beaten, they were never conquered, and have always occupied the ground which they had selected from the beginning.
Unlike the great families of the Dahcotahs and Algonquins who yet retain the predominant characteristics of the wandering nations of South-west Asia, the Shoshones seem to have been in all ages a nation warlike, though stationary. It is evident that they never were a wealthy people, nor possessed any great knowledge of the arts and sciences. Their records of a former country speak of rich mountainous districts, with balmy breezes, and trees covered with sweet and beautiful fruits; but when they mention large cities, palaces, temples, and gardens, it is always in reference to other nations, with whom they were constantly at war; and these traditions would induce us to believe that they are descendants of the Mancheoux Tartars.
They have in their territory on both sides of the Buona Ventura river many magnificent remains of devastated cities; but although connected with a former period of their history, they were not erected by the Shoshones.
The fountains, aqueducts, the heavy domes, and the long graceful obelisks, rising at the feet of massive pyramids, show indubitably the long presence of a highly civilised people; and the Shoshones' accounts of these mysterious relics may serve to philosophers as a key to the remarkable facts of thousands of similar ruins found everywhere upon the continent of America. The following is a description of events at a very remote period, which was related by an old Shoshone sage, in their evening encampment in the prairies, during the hunting season:—
"It is a long, long while! when the wild horses were unknown in the country, [Horses were unknown until the arrival of the Spaniards], and when the buffalo alone ranged the vast prairies; then, huge and horrid monsters existed. The approaches of the mountains and forests were guarded by the evil spirits [see note 2], while the seashore, tenanted by immense lizards [see note 3], was often the scene of awful conflicts between man, the eldest son of light, and the mighty children of gloom and darkness. Then, too, the land we now live in had another form; brilliant stones were found in the streams; the mountains had not yet vomited their burning bowels, and the great Master of Life was not angry with his red children.
"One summer, and it was a dreadful one, the moon (i.e. the sun) remained stationary for a long time; it was of a red blood colour, and gave neither night nor days. Takwantona, the spirit of evil, had conquered Nature, and the sages of the Shoshones foresaw many dire calamities. The great Medecines declared that the country would soon be drowned in the blood of their nation. They prayed in vain, and offered, without any success, two hundred of their fairest virgins in sacrifice on the altars of Takwantona. The evil spirit laughed, and answered to them with his destructive thunders. The earth was shaken and rent asunder; the waters ceased to flow in the rivers, and large streams of fire and burning sulphur rolled down from the mountains, bringing with them terror and death. How long it lasted none is living to say; and who could? There stood the bleeding moon; 'twas neither light nor obscurity; how could man divide the time and the seasons? It may have been only the life of a worm; it may have been the long age of a snake.
"The struggle was fearful, but at last the good Master of Life broke his bonds. The sun shone again. It was too late! the Shoshones had been crushed and their heart had become small; they were poor, and had no dwellings; they were like the deer of the prairies, hunted by the hungry panther.
"And a strange and numerous people landed on the shores of the sea; they were rich and strong; they made the Shoshones their slaves, and built large cities, where they passed all their time. Ages passed: the Shoshones were squaws; they hunted for the mighty strangers; they were beasts, for they dragged wood and water to their great wigwams; they fished for them, and they themselves starved in the midst of plenty. Ages again passed: the Shoshones could bear no more; they ran away to the woods, to the mountains, and to the borders of the sea; and, lo! the great Father of Life smiled again upon them; the evil genii were all destroyed, and the monsters buried in the sands.
"They soon became strong, and great warriors; they attacked the strangers, destroyed their cities, and drove them like buffaloes, far in the south, where the sun is always burning, and from whence they did never return.
"Since that time, the Shoshones have been a great people. Many, many times strangers arrived again; but being poor and few, they were easily compelled to go to the east and to the north, in the countries of the Crows, Flatheads, Wallah Wallahs, and Jal Alla Pujees (the Calapooses)."
I have selected this tradition out of many, as, allowing for metaphor, it appears to be a very correct epitome of the history of the Shoshones in former times. The very circumstance of their acknowledging that they were, for a certain period, slaves to that race of people who built the cities, the ruins of which still attest their magnificence, is a strong proof of the outline being correct. To the modern Shoshones, and their manners and customs, I shall refer in a future portion of my narrative.
Note 1. The American travellers (even Mr Catlin, who is generally correct) have entirely mistaken the country inhabited by the Shoshones. One of them represents this tribe as "the Indians who inhabit that part of the Rocky Mountains which lies on the Grand and Green River branches of the Colorado of the West, the valley of Great Bear River, and the hospitable shores of Great Salt Lakes." It is a great error. That the Shoshones may have been seen in the above-mentioned places is likely enough, as they are a great nation, and often send expeditions very far from their homes; but their own country lies, as I have said, betwixt the Pacific Ocean and the 116th degree of west longitude. As to the "hospitable" shores of the Great Salt Lake, I don't know what it means, unless it be a modern Yankee expression for a tract of horrid swamps with deadly effluvia, tenanted by millions of snakes and other "such hospitable reptiles." The lake is situated on the western country of the Crows, and I doubt if it has ever been visited by any Shoshone.
Note 2. Skeletons of the mammoth are often found whole at the foot of the Grand Serpent, a long rugged mountain which runs for 360 miles under the parallel of 40 degrees north latitude. It extends from the centre of the Shoshone territory to the very country of the Crows, that is to say, from the 119th to the 113th degree west longitude. It is possible that this race may not have been yet quite extinct in the middle of the 17th century; for, indeed, in their family records, aged warriors will often speak of awful encounters, in which their great-great-grandfathers had fought against the monster. Some of them have still in their possession, among other trophies of days gone by, teeth and bones highly polished, which belong indubitably to this animal, of which so little is known. Mr Ross Cox, in the relation of his travels across the Rocky Mountains, says, "that the Upper Crees, a tribe who inhabit the country in the vicinity of the Athabasca river, have a curious tradition with respect to these animals. They allege, 'that these animals were of frightful magnitude, that they formerly lived in the plains, a great distance in the south, where they had destroyed all the game, after which they retired to the mountains. They killed every thing, and if their agility had been equal to size and ferocity, they would have destroyed all the Indians. One man asserted, that his great-grandfather told him he saw one of those animals in a mountain-pass, where he was hunting, and that on hearing its roar, which he compared to loud thunder, the sight almost left his eyes, and his heart became as small as that of a child's.'"
Note 3. A few miles from the Pacific Ocean, and at the foot of a mountain called by the Shoshones the Dwelling of the Monster, were found the remains of an immense lizard belonging to an extinct family of the saurian species. Within a few inches of the surface, and buried in a bed of shells and petrified fish, our old missionary, Padre Antonio, digged up fifty-one vertebrae quite whole and well preserved. They were mostly from twelve to eighteen inches in length and from eight to fourteen inches in diameter, measuring in all more than fifteen feet in length. Of the tail and neck but few vertebrae were found but there were many fragments of the ribs and of the leg bones. All the vertebrae discovered were in a continuous line, nearly joined together. The head, to correspond to other parts of the animal, must have been twelve or fourteen feet long, which would have given to the monster the almost incredible length of eighty feet.
The prince Seravalle, while digging in the fall of the year 1834, for an ammunition store on the western banks of the Buona Ventura, picked up a beautiful curved ivory tusk, three feet long, which, had it not been for its jet black colour, would have been amazingly alike to that of a large elephant.
Some pieces of it (for unhappily it was sawn into several parts) are now in the possession of the governor of Monterey and Mr Lagrange, a Canadian trader, who visited the territory in 1840.
Every point having been arranged, I received my final instructions, and letters for the Governor of Monterey, to which was added a heavy bag of doubloons for my expenses. I bade farewell to the Prince and my father, and with six well-armed Indians and the Padre Marini, I embarked in a long canoe on the Buona Ventura river, and carried away by the current, soon lost sight of our lonesome settlement.
We were to follow the stream to the southern lakes of the Buona Ventura, where we were to leave our Indians, and join some half-bred Wachinangoes, returning to Monterey, with the mustangs, or wild horses, which they had captured in the prairies.
It was a beautiful trip, just at the commencement of the spring; both shores of the river were lined with evergreens; the grass was luxuriant, and immense herds of buffaloes and wild horses were to be seen grazing in every direction. Sometimes a noble stallion, his long sweeping mane and tail waving to the wind, would gallop down to the water's edge, and watch us as if he would know our intentions. When satisfied, he would walk slowly back, ever and anon turning round to look at us again, as if not quite so convinced of our peaceful intentions.
On the third night, we encamped at the foot of an obelisk in the centre of some noble ruins. It was a sacred spot with the Shoshones. Their traditions told them of another race, who had formerly lived there, and which had been driven by them to the south. It must have been ages back, for the hand of time, so lenient in this climate, and the hand of man, so little given to spoil, had severely visited this fated city.
We remained there the following day, as Padre Marini was anxious to discover any carvings or hieroglyphics from which he might draw some conclusions; but our endeavours were not successful, and we could not tarry longer, as we were afraid that the horse-hunters would break up their encampments before we arrived. We, therefore, resumed our journey, and many were the disquisitions and conjectures which passed between me and the holy father, as to the high degree of civilisation which must have existed among the lost race who had been the architects of such graceful buildings.
Four days more brought us to the southern shore of the St. Jago lake. We arrived in good time, dismissed our Indians, and having purchased two excellent mules, we proceeded on our journey, in company with the horse-hunters, surrounded by hundreds of their captives, who were loudly lamenting their destiny, and shewed their sense of the injustice of the whole proceeding by kicking and striking with their fore-feet at whatever might come within the reach of their hoofs. Notwithstanding the very unruly conduct of the prisoners, we arrived at Monterey on the sixth evening.
The reader will discover, as he proceeds, that my adventures are about to commence from this journey to Monterey; I therefore wish to remind him that I was at this time not eighteen years old. I had a remembrance of civilisation previous to my arrival among the Indians, and as we enjoyed every comfort and some luxuries at the settlement, I still had a remembrance, although vague, of what had passed in Italy and elsewhere. But I had become an Indian, and until I heard that I was to undertake this journey, I had recollected the former scenes of my youth only to despise them.
That this feeling had been much fostered by the idea that I should never again rejoin them, is more than probable; for from the moment that I heard that I was to proceed to Monterey, my heart beat tumultuously and my pulse was doubled in its circulation. I hardly know what it was that I anticipated, but certainly I had formed the idea of a terrestrial paradise.
If not exactly a paradise, Monterey is certainly a sweet place; 'tis even now a fairy spot in my recollection, although sobered down, and, I trust, a little wiser than I was at that time. There certainly is an air of happiness spread over this small town. Every one is at their ease, every body sings and smiles, and every hour is dedicated to amusement or repose.
None of your dirty streets and sharp pavements; no manufactories with their eternal smoke; no policemen looking like so many knaves of clubs; no cabs or omnibuses splashing the mud to the right and to the left; and, above all, none of your punctual men of business hurrying to their appointments, blowing like steam-engines, elbowing every body, and capsizing the apple-stalls. No; there is none of these at Monterey.
There is a bay, blue and bottomless, with shores studded with tall beautiful timber. There is a prairie lawn, spread like a carpet in patterns composed of pretty wild flowers. Upon it stand hundreds of cottage-built tenements, covered with the creeping vine. In the centre, the presidio, or government-house; on one side the graceful spire of a church, on the other the massive walls of a convent. Above, all is a sky of the deepest cobalt blue, richly contrasting with the dark green of the tall pines, and the uncertain and indescribable tints on the horizon of these western prairies.
Even the dogs are polite at Monterey, and the horses, which are always grazing about, run up to you, and appear as if they would welcome you on your arrival; but the fact is, that every traveller carries a bag of salt at his saddle-bow, and by their rubbing their noses against it, it is clear that they come to beg a little salt, of which they are very fond. Every body and every animal is familiar with you, and, strange to say, the English who reside there are contented, and still more strange, the Americans are almost honest. What a beautiful climate it must be at Monterey!
Their hospitality is unbounded. "The holy Virgin bless thee," said an old man, who watched our coming; "tarry here and honour my roof." Another came up, shook us by the hand, his eye sparkling with kind feelings. A third took our mules by the bridles and led us to his own door, when half-a-dozen pretty girls, with flashing dark eyes and long taper fingers, insisted on undoing our leggings and taking off our spurs.
Queen city of California! to me there is poetry in thy very name, and so would it be to all who delight in honesty, bonhommie, simplicity, and the dolce far niente.
Notwithstanding the many solicitations we received; Padre Marini went to the convent, and I took up my quarters with the old governor.
All was new to me, and pleasant too, for I was not eighteen; and at such a time one has strange dreams and fancies of small waists, and pretty faces, smiling cunningly. My mind had sometimes reverted to former scenes, when I had a mother and a sister. I had sighed for a partner to dance or waltz with on the green, while our old servant was playing on his violin some antiquated en avant deux.
Now I had found all that, and a merry time I had of it. True, the sack of doubloons helped me wonderfully. Within a week after my arrival, I had a magnificent saddle embossed with silver, velvet breeches instead of cloth leggings, a hat and feathers, glossy pumps, red sash, velvet round-about, and the large cape or cloak, the eternal, and sometimes the only, garment of a western Mexican grandee, in winter or in summer, by night or by day. I say it was a merry time, and it agreed well with me.
Dance I did! and sing and court too. My old travelling companion, the missionary, remonstrated a little, but the girls laughed at him, and I clearly pointed out to him that he was wrong. If my English readers only knew what a sweet, pretty little thing is a Monterey girl, they would all pack up their wardrobes to go there and get married. It would be a great pity, for with your mistaken ideas of comforts, with your love of coal-fire and raw beef-steak, together with your severe notions of what is proper or improper, you would soon spoil the place, and render it as stiff and gloomy as any sectarian village of the United States, with its nine banks, eighteen chapels, its one "a-b-c" school, and its immense stone jail, very considerately made large enough to contain its whole population.
The governor was General Morreno, an old soldier, of the genuine Castilian stock; proud of his blood, proud of his daughters, of himself, of his dignities, proud of every thing—but, withal, he was benevolence and hospitality personified. His house was open to all (that is to say, all who could boast of having white blood), and the time passed there in continual fiestas, in which pleasure succeeded to pleasure, music to dancing; courting with the eyes to courting with the lips, just as lemonade succeeded to wine, and creams to grapes and peaches. But unhappily, nature made a mistake in our conformation, and, alas! man must repose from pleasure as he does from labour. It is a great pity, for life is short, and repose is so much time lost; at so thought I at eighteen.
Monterey is a very ancient city; it was founded in the seventeenth century by some Portuguese Jesuits, who established a mission there. To the Jesuits succeeded the Franciscans, who were a good, lenient, lazy, and kind-hearted set of fellows, funny yet moral, thundering against vice and love, and yet giving light penalties and entire absolution. These Franciscans were shown out of doors by the government of Mexico, who wished to possess their wealth. It was unfortunate, as for the kind, hospitable, and generous monks, the government substituted agents and officers from the interior, who, not possessing any ties at Monterey, cared little for the happiness of the inhabitants. The consequence is, that the Californians are heartily tired of these agents of extortion; they have a natural antipathy against custom-house officers; and, above all, they do not like the idea of giving their dollars to carry on the expense of the Mexican wars, in which they feel no interest. Some morning (and they have already very nearly succeeded in so doing) they will haul down the Mexican flag from the presidio, drive away the commissarios and custom-house receivers, declare their independence of Mexico, and open their ports to all nations.
Monterey contains about three thousand souls, including the half-breeds and Indians acting as servants in the different dwellings. The population is wealthy, and not having any opportunity to throw away their money, as in the eastern cities (for all their pleasures and enjoyments are at no expense), they are fond of ornamenting their persons, and their horses and saddles, with as much wealth as they can afford. A saddle of 100 pounds in value is a common thing among the richer young men, who put all their pride in their steeds and accoutrements.
The women dress richly and with an admirable taste; the unmarried girls in white satin, with their long black hair falling upon their shoulders; their brow ornamented with rich jewels when at home, and when out, their faces covered with a long white veil, through which their dark eyes will shine like diamonds.
The married women prefer gaudy colours, and keep their hair confined close to their head by a large comb. They have also another delightful characteristic, which indeed the men share with them; I mean a beautiful voice, soft and tremulous among the women, rich, sonorous, and majestic among their lords. An American traveller has said, "A common bullock-driver on horseback, delivering a message, seemed to speak like an ambassador to an audience. In fact, the Californians appear to be a people on whom a curse had fallen, and stripped them of every thing but their pride, their manners, and their voices."
There is always much amusement in Monterey; and, what betwixt cock-fighting, racing, fandangoing, hunting, fishing, sailing, and so forth, time passes quickly away. Its salubrity is remarkable; there has never been any disease—indeed sickness of any kind is unknown. No toothache nor other malady, and no spleen; people die by accident or from old age; indeed, the Montereyans have an odd proverb, "El que quiere morir que se vaya del pueblo"—that is to say, "He who wishes to die must leave the city."
While remaining there I had rather a perilous adventure. I had gone with some of my friends to great fishing party at the entrance of the bay, which, by the bye, is one of the finest in the world, being twenty-four miles in length and eighteen in breadth. The missionary, Padre Marini, not being very well, had an idea that the sea-air would do him good, and joined our company. We had many boats; the one in which the Padre and I embarked was a well-shaped little thing, which had belonged to some American vessel. It was pulled with two oars, and had a small mast and sail.
Our fishing being successful, we were all in high glee, and we went on shore to fry some of our victims for our afternoon's meal. During the conversation, somebody spoke of some ancient ruins, fifteen miles north, at the entrance of a small creek. The missionary was anxious to see them, and we agreed that our companions should return to Monterey while he and I would pass the night where we were, and proceed the next morning on an exploring expedition to the ruins. We obtained from another boat a large stone jug of water, two blankets, and a double-barrelled gun. As soon as our companions quitted us, we pulled the boat round to the northern point of the bay, and having selected proper quarters for the night, we made a kind of shelter on the beach with the oars, mast, and sail, and lighted a fire to make ourselves more comfortable. It was one of those beautiful mild evenings which can be found only in the Bay of Monterey; the gentle and perfumed breeze softly agitated the foliage around and above us, and as night came on, with its myriads of stars and its silvery moon, the missionary having, for some time, raised his eyes above in silent contemplation, reverted to scenes of the past, and of other climes.
He spoke of Hurdwar, a far distant mission in the north of India, close to the Himalayas. The Hindoos call it the "City of a Thousand Palaces;" they say it was built by the genii on the very spot where Vishnu had reposed himself for a few weeks, after one of his mystic transmutations, in which he had conquered Siva, or Sahavedra, the spirit of evil. Though not so well known, Hurdwar is a place still more sacred than Benares; people assemble there once a year from all parts, and consecrate several days to their ablutions in the purifying waters of the Ganges. In this noble city is also held one of the greatest fairs of India, indeed of all the world; and as its time is fixed upon the same month as that in which the Hindoo devotees arrive at the city, numerous caravans from Persia, Arabia, Cashmere, and Lahore repair to the spot, and erect their bazaars along the banks of the river, forming a street of many miles. The concourse collected at these times has been ascertained to number more than one million of souls.
There the Padre Marini had remained as a missionary for some years, all alone. His flock of converts was but a small one; he had little to do, and yet his mind could not be arrested by the study of all the wonders around him; his heart was sad; for years he had had a sorrow which weighed heavily upon him, and he was wretched. Before he had embraced the solitude of a monastic life, he had with him a younger brother, of whom he was very fond. The young man was a student in medicine, with fair capacity and an energy which promised to advance him in his profession. When Marini entered the convent, his brother went to Turkey, where men of his profession were always certain of a good reception, and for a long time was never heard of. At last, when the missionary was ready to start for a distant mission, he learned that which proved so destructive to his peace of mind. From Constantinople, his brother had gone to Persia, where he was residing in easy circumstances; but, ambitious of advancement, he had abjured the faith of his fathers and become a follower of Mahommed.
It was a melancholy intelligence, and many were the tears of the good monk. The first year of his arrival at Hurdwar, he met with a Jewish merchant who had accompanied a Persian caravan. That man knew his brother, the renegade, and informed the Padre that his brother had fallen into disgrace, and as a punishment of his apostacy, was now leading a life of privation and misery.
Deep and fervent were now the monk's prayers to heaven; he implored forgiveness for his brother, and offered penance for him. Poor man! he thought if he could but see him and talk to him, he would redeem him from his apostacy; but, alas! his duty was in Hurdwar, he was bound there and could not move. One day (it was during the fair) he had wandered at a distance from the river, that he might not witness the delusions of Paganism, and his mind was intensely absorbed in prayer. Anon, unusual sounds broke on his ears; sounds well known, sounds reminding him of his country, of his beautiful Italy. They came from a little bower ten steps before him; and as past scenes rushed to his memory, his heart beat tremulously in his bosom; the monk recognised a barcarole which he had often sung in his younger days; but although the air was lively, the voice which sung it was mournful and sad. Stepping noiselessly, he stood at the entrance of the bower. The stranger started and arose! Their separation had been a long one, but neither the furrowed cheeks and sallow complexion of the one, nor the turbaned head of the other, could deceive them; and the two brothers fell in each other's arms.
On its return, the Persian caravan had one driver the less, for the apostate was on his death-bed in the humble dwelling of his brother. Once more a Christian, again reconciled to his God, he calmly awaited his summons to a better world. For two weeks he lingered on, repenting his error and praying for mercy. He died, and in the little jessamine bower where he had met with the Mussulman, the monk buried the Christian; he placed a cross upon his grave and mourned him long; but a heavy load had been removed from his breast, and since that time he had felt happy, having no weight on his mind to disturb him in the execution of his sacred ministry.
Having narrated this passage in his history, the Padre Marini bid me good night, and we prepared to sleep. I went to the boat, where, stretching myself at the bottom, with my face turned towards the glittering canopy above, I remained pensive and reflecting upon the narrative of the monk, until at last I slept.
I felt chilly, and I awoke. It was daylight. I stood on my feet and looked around me. I found myself floating on the deep sea, far from the shore, the outline of which was tinged with the golden hues of morn. The rope and stick to which the boat had been made fast towed through the water, as the land-breeze, driving me gently, increased my distance from the land. For some moments I was rather scared; the oars were left on shore, and I had no means of propelling my little skiff.
In vain did I paddle with my hands and the stick which I had taken on board. I turned and turned again round to all the points of the compass, but to no purpose. At last I began to reflect. The sea was smooth and quiet; so I was in no immediate danger. The Padre, when he awoke in the morning, would discover my accident, and perhaps see the boat; he would hasten to town, but he would not arrive till the evening; for he was an old man, and had to walk twenty-five miles. Boats would be dispatched after me; even the Mexican schooner which lay in the bay. The next morning I was certainly to be rescued, and the utmost of my misfortune would amount to a day of fast and solitude. It was no great matter; so I submitted to my fate, and made a virtue of necessity.
Happily for me, the boat belonged to an American exceedingly fond of fishing; and consequently it contained many necessaries which I had before overlooked. Between the foremost thwart and the bow there was half a barrel filled with fishes, some pieces of charcoal, and some dried wood; under the stern-sheets was a small locker, in which I discovered a frying-pan, a box with salt in it, a tin cup, some herbs used instead of tea by the Californians, a pot of honey, and another full of bear's grease. Fortunately, the jar of water was also on board as well as my lines, with baits of red flannel and white cotton. I threw them into the water, and prepared to smoke my cigarito. In these countries no one is without his flint, steel, tinder, and tobacco.
Hours passed so. My fishing being successful, I lighted a fire, and soon fried a few fine mackerel; but by-and-bye the sun reached its highest position, and the scorching became so intolerable that I was obliged to strip and spread my clothes, and even my shirt, upon the benches, to obtain a shelter. By that time, I had lost sight of land, and could only perceive now and then some small black points, which were the summits of fine tall pines.
As soon as my meal was finished, I don't know why, but instead of sleeping a decent siesta of two hours, the Spanish tonic to digest a dinner, I never awoke before sunset; and only then, because I began to feel a motion that was far from being pleasant. In fact, the waves were beginning to rise in sharp ridges, covered with foam; the mild land-breeze had changed into a cool sharp westerly wind.
A fair wind, however, was a comfort, and as I put on my clothes, I began to think that by making a proper use of the helm and standing upright in the boat, my body would serve as a small sail, when "He, he, hoe!" shouted twenty voices, on the larboard side of me. I started with astonishment, as may be imagined, and turning round, perceived, fifty yards from me, a large boat driving before the waves, impelled on by ten oars. It was filled with men, casks, and kegs, and one at the helm was making signals, apparently inviting me to stop. A few minutes after, we were close to each other; and I dare say our astonishment was mutual,— theirs to see me alone and without oars; mine, to behold such a wretched spectacle. They were evidently the crew of a wrecked vessel, and must have undergone frightful privations and fatigues, so emaciated was their appearance.
No time, however, was to be lost. All of them asked for water, and pointed to the horizon, to know in which direction they should go. My stone jug was full; I handed it to the man at the helm, who seemed to be the captain; but the honest and kind-hearted fellow, pouring out a small quantity in the cup, gave some to all his companions before he would taste any himself. The jug was a large one, containing two gallons or more, but of course was soon emptied.
I gave them a fried mackerel, which I had kept for my supper; they passed it to the captain, and, in spite of his generous denial, they insisted upon his eating it immediately. Seeing which, I shewed them nine or ten other raw fishes, two or three of which were heavy, and proposed to cook them. They sang and laughed: cook the fish! No; little cooking is wanted when men are starving. They divided them brotherly; and this supply, added to the honey for the captain and the bear's grease for the sailors, seemed to have endowed them with new life.
The captain and four of the men, with oars, stepped into my skiff. At that moment the stars were beginning to appear; and pointing out to him one in the east as a guide, we ploughed our way towards the shore, greatly favoured both by the wind and the waves. In a singular mixture of English, French, Italian, and Latin, the captain made me comprehend that his vessel had been a Russian brig, bound from Asitka, in Russian America, to Acapulco, in Mexico, for a supply of grain, tallow, and spirits; that it had been destroyed by fire during the night, scarcely allowing time for the men to launch the long-boat. No provisions could be procured; the boxes and kegs that had been taken in the hurry were of no use; that they had been rowing forty-eight hours without food or water, and were ignorant of their distance from the shore; and, finally, that they had perceived my skiff a good half-hour before I awoke; thought it at first empty, but saw me rising, and called to me, in the hope that I would guide them to a landing-place. In return I explained to him my adventure as well, as I could, and made him promises of plenty for the next day; but I might have talked for ever to no purpose; the poor fellow, overpowered with fatigue, and now feeling secure, had sunk into a deep sleep.
At the break of day we made the land, at the entrance of a small river and close to some fine old ruins. It was the very spot where I had intended to go with the Padre. There were a few wild horses rambling in the neighbourhood; I cleaned my gun, loaded it again, and killed one; but not before the tired and hungry crew, stretched on the strand, proved by their nasal concerts that for the present their greatest necessity was repose after their fatigues. There were twenty of them including the captain.
I had led too much of an Indian life, not to know bow to bear fatigue, and to be rapid in execution. The sun was not more than three hours high, when I had already cooked the best part of the horse. All the unfortunates were still asleep, and I found it was no easy matter to awake them. At last, I hit upon an expedient which did not fail; I stuck the ramrod of my gun into a smoking piece of meat, and held it so that the fumes should rise under their very noses. No fairy wand was ever more effective; in less than two minutes they were all chewing and swallowing their breakfast, with an energy that had anything but sleep in it. It is no easy matter to satisfy twenty hungry Russians; but still there is an end to every thing. One of them knelt before me, and kissed my feet. Poor fellow! he thought that I had done a great deal for him and his companions, forgetting that perhaps I owed my own life to them.
The men were tired: but when they heard that they could reach a city in the afternoon, they made preparation for departure with great alacrity. We pulled slowly along the coast, for the heat was intense, and the rowers fast losing their strength. At one o'clock I landed at my former encampment. The Padre had, of course, left the oars, sail, and blankets. My skiff was rigged in a moment; and out of the blankets, those in the long-boat managed to make a sail, an oar and a long pole tied together answering for a mast. In doubling the northern point of the bay, I perceived the Mexican schooner and many boats, pretty far at sea. No doubt they were searching for me.
At six o'clock in the evening we landed at Monterey, amidst the acclamations of a wondering crowd.
I was a general favourite, and my loss had occasioned much alarm; so that when I landed, I was assailed with questions from every quarter. The women petted me, some kissed me (by the bye, those were d'un certain age), and all agreed that I should burn half a dozen of candles on the altar of the Virgin Mary. There was one, however, who had wept for me; it was Isabella, a lovely girl of fifteen, and daughter to the old Governor. The General, too, was glad to see me; he liked me very much, because we played chess while smoking our cigars, and because I allowed him to beat me, though I could have given him the queen and the move. I will confess, sotto voce, that this piece of policy had been hinted to me by his daughters, who wished me to find favour in his sight.
"Dios te ayuda nino," said the Governor to me; I feared we should never play chess any more. "Que tonteria, andar a dormir in una barca, quando se lo podia sobre tierra firma!" (What folly to go sleep in a boat, when it can be done upon solid ground!)
I told him the story of the poor Russians, and in spite of his pride, the tears started in his eye, for he was kind-hearted. He took the captain into his own house, and gave orders concerning the accommodation of the crew; but the universal hospitality had not waited for commands to show itself, and the poor fellows, loaded with attention and comforts, soon forgot the dangers which they had escaped. Fifteen days after they were sent on board the Mexican schooner, to the bay of St. Francisco, where a Russian brig of war, bound to Asitka, had just arrived. However, they did not part from us with empty hands. The Montereyans having discovered their passionate love for tallow and whiskey, had given them enough of these genteel rafraichissements, to drown care and sorrow for a long while. As to the captain he received the attention which his gallant conduct entitled him to, and on the eve of his departure he was presented with a trunk, of tolerable dimensions, well filled with linen and clothes.
A merry night was passed to celebrate my escape. Guns had been fired, flags hoisted to recall the boats, and at ten o'clock in the night, the whole population was gambolling on the lawn, singing, dancing, and feasting, as if it was to have been our last day of pleasure during life.
Thus passed away four weeks, and I must admit to my shame, I had willingly missed two chances of going to Santa Fe. One morning, however, all my dreams of further pleasure were dispelled. I was just meditating upon my first declaration of love, when our old servant arrived with four Indian guides. He had left the settlement seven days, and had come almost all the way by water. He had been despatched by my father to bring me home if I had not yet left Monterey. His intelligence was disastrous; the Prince had been murdered by the Crows; the Shoshones had gone on a war expedition to revenge the death of the Prince; and my father himself who had been daily declining, expected in a short time to rejoin his friend in a better world. Poor Isabella! I would have added, poor me! but the fatal news brought had so excited me, that I had but few thoughts to give to pleasure and to love. My immediate return was a sacred duty, and, besides, the Shoshones expected me to join with them on my first war-path. The old Governor judged it advisable that I should return home by sea, as the Arrapahoes Indians were at that moment enemies of the Shoshones, and would endeavour to cut me off if I were to ascend the Buona Ventura. Before my departure, I received a visit from an Irishman, a wild young fellow of the name of Roche, a native of Cork, and full of fun and activity. He had deserted on the coast from one of the American vessels, and in spite of the promised reward of forty dollars, he was never discovered, and his vessel sailed without him.
General Morreno was at first angry, and would have sent the poor devil to jail, but Roche was so odd, and made so many artful representations of the evils he had suffered on board on account of his being a Catholic, that the clergy, and, in fact, all Monterey, interfered. Roche soon became a valuable acquisition to the community; he was an indefatigable dancer, and a good fiddler. Besides, he had already accustomed himself to the Mexican manners and language, and in a horse or buffalo hunt none were more successful. He would tell long stories to the old women about the wonders of Erin, the miracles of St. Patrick, and about the stone at Blarney. In fact, he was a favourite with every one, and would have become rich and happy could he have settled. Unfortunately for him, his wild spirit of adventure did not allow him to enjoy the quiet of a Montereyan life, and hearing that there was a perspective of getting his head broken in the "Settlement of the Grandees," he asked permission to join my party.
I consented that Roche should accompany me: with my servant and the Indians, we embarked on board of the schooner. Many were the presents I received from the good people; what with pistols, powder, horses, fusils, knives, and swords, I could have armed a whole legion. The Governor, his daughters, and all those that could get room in the boats, accompanied me as far as the northern part of the bay, and it was with a swelling heart that I bade my farewell to them all.
Nothing could have been more fortunate than our proceeding by sea. On the fourth day we were lying to, at a quarter of a mile from the shore, exactly under the parallel of 39 degrees north latitude, and at the southern point of a mountain called the Crooked Back-bone. The Indians first landed in a small canoe we had provided ourselves with, to see if the coast was clear; and in the evening the schooner was far on her way back, while we were digging a cachette to conceal the baggage which we could not carry. Even my saddle was wrapped up in a piece of canvas, and deposited in a deep bed of shale. Among other things presented to me in Monterey, were two large boxes covered with tin, and containing English fire-works, which, in the course of events, performed prodigies, and saved many scalps when all hope of succour had been entirely given up. The Montereyans are amazingly fond of these fire-works, and every vessel employed in the California trade for hides has always a large supply of them.
When all our effects were concealed, we proceeded, first in an easterly, and next in a north-westerly direction, in the hope of coming across some of the horses belonging to the tribe. We had reckoned right. At the break of day we entered a natural pasture of clover, in which hundreds of them were sleeping and grazing; but as we had walked more than thirty miles, we determined to take repose before we should renew our journey.
I had scarcely slept an hour when I was roused by a touch on my shoulder. At first, I fancied it was a dream, but as I opened my eyes, I saw one of my Indians with his fingers upon his lips to enjoin me to silence, while his eyes were turned towards the open prairie. I immediately looked in that direction, and there was a sight that acted as a prompt anti-soporific. About half a mile from us stood a band of twenty Indians, with their war-paint and accoutrements, silently and quietly occupied in tying the horses. Of course they were not of our tribe, but belonged to the Umbiquas, a nation of thieves on our northern boundary, much given to horse-stealing, especially when it was not accompanied by any danger. In the present instance they thought themselves safe, as the Shoshones had gone out against the Crows, and they were selecting at their leisure our best animals. Happily for us, we had encamped amidst thick bushes upon a spot broken and difficult of access to quadrupeds, otherwise we should have been discovered, and there would have been an end to my adventures.
We awoke our companions, losing no time in forming a council of war. Fight them we could not; let them depart with the horses was out of the question. The only thing to be done was to follow them, and wait an opportunity to strike a decisive blow. At mid-day, the thieves having secured as many of the animals as they could well manage, turned their backs to us, and went on westward, in the direction of the fishing station where we had erected our boat-house; the place where we had first landed on coming from Europe.
We followed them the whole day, eating nothing but the wild plums of the prairies. At evening one of my Indians, an experienced warrior, started alone to spy into their camp, which he was successful enough to penetrate, and learn the plan of their expedition, by certain tokens which could not deceive his cunning and penetration. The boat-house contained a large sailing boat, besides seven or eight skiffs. There also we had in store our stock of dried fish and fishing apparatus, such as nets, etcetera. As we had been at peace for several years, the house, or post, had no garrison, except that ten or twelve families of Indians were settled around it.
Now, the original intention of the Umbiquas had been only to steal horses; but having discovered that the half a dozen warriors, belonging to these families, had gone to the settlement for fire-arms and ammunition, they had arranged to make an attack upon the post, and take a few scalps before returning home by sea and by land, with our nets, boats, fish, etcetera. This was a serious affair. Our carpenter and smith had disappeared, as I have said before; and as our little fleet had in consequence become more precious, we determined to preserve it at any sacrifice. To send an Indian to the settlement would have been useless, inasmuch as it would have materially weakened our little force, and, besides, help could not arrive in time. It was better to try and reach the post before the Umbiquas; where under the shelter of thick logs, and with the advantage of our rifles. We should be an equal match for our enemies, who had but two fusils among their party, the remainder being armed with lances, and bows and arrows. Our scout had also gathered, by overhearing their conversation, that they had come by sea, and that their canoes were hid somewhere on the coast, in the neighbourhood of the post.
By looking over the map, the reader will perceive the topography of the country. Fifty miles north from us were the forks of the Nu-eleje-sha-wako river, towards which the Umbiquas were going, to be near to water, and also to fall upon the path from the settlement to the post. Thus they would intercept any messenger, in case their expedition should have been already discovered. Their direct road to the post was considerably shorter, but after the first day's journey, no sweet grass nor water was to be found. The ground was broken, and covered with thick bushes, which would not allow them to pass with the horses. Besides this reason, an Indian always selects his road where he thinks he has nothing to fear. We determined to take the direct road to the post, and chance assisted us in a singular manner. The Indians and my old servant were asleep, while I was watching with the Irishman Roche. I soon became aware that something was moving in the prairie behind us, but what, I could not make out. The buffaloes never came so far west, and it was not the season for the wolves. I crawled out of our bush, and after a few minutes found myself in the middle of a band of horses who had not allowed themselves to be taken, but had followed the tracks of their companions, to know what had become of them. I returned, awoke the Indians, and told them; they started with their lassoes, while I and Roche remained to sleep.
Long before morn the Indian scout guided us to three miles westward, behind a swell of the prairie. It was an excellent precaution, which prevented any Umbiqua straggler from perceiving us, a rather disagreeable event, which would have undoubtedly happened, as we were camped only two miles from them, and the prairie was flat until you came to the swell just mentioned. There we beheld seven strong horses, bridled with our lassoes. We had no saddles; but necessity rides without one. The Indians had also killed a one-year-old colt, and taken enough of the meat to last us two days; so that when we started (and we did so long before the Umbiquas began to stir) we had the prospect of reaching the fishing-post thirty hours before them.
We knew that they would rest two hours in the day, as they were naturally anxious to keep their stolen horses in good condition, having a long journey before them ere they would enter into their own territory. With us, the case was different; there were but forty miles, which we could travel on horseback, and we did not care what became of the animals afterwards. Consequently, we did not spare their legs; the spirited things, plump as they were, having grazed two months without any labour, carried us fast enough. When we halted, on the bank of a small river, to water them and let them breathe, they did not appear much tired, although we had had a run of twenty-eight miles.
At about eleven o'clock we reached the confines of the rocky ground; here we rested for three hours, and took a meal, of which we were very much in want, having tasted nothing but berries and plums since our departure from the schooner, for we had been so much engrossed by the digging of the cachette that we had forgotten to take with us any kind of provision.
Our flight, or, to say better, our journey, passed without anything remarkable. We arrived, as we had expected, a day and a half before the Umbiquas: and, of course, were prepared for them. The squaws, children, and valuables were already in the boat-house with plenty of water, in case the enemy should attempt to fire it. The presence of a hostile war-party had been singularly discovered two days before; three children having gone to a little bay at a short distance from the post, to catch some young seals, discovered four canoes secured at the foot of a rock, while, a little farther, two young men were seated near a fire, cooking comfortably one of the seals they had taken. Of course the children returned borne, and the only three men who had been left at the post (three old men) went after their scalps. They had not returned when we arrived; but in the evening they entered the river with the scalps of the two Umbiquas, whom they had surprised, and the canoes, which were safely deposited in the store.
Our position was indeed a strong one. Fronting us to the north, we had a large and rapid river; on the south we were flanked by a ditch forty feet broad and ten feet deep, which isolated the building from a fine open ground, without any bush, tree, or cover; the two wings were formed by small brick towers twenty feet high, with loop-holes, and a door ten feet from the ground; the ladder to which, of course, we took inside. The only other entrance, the main one in fact, was by water; but it could be approached only by swimming. The fort was built of stone and brick, while the door, made of thick posts, and lined with sheets of copper, would have defied for a long time, the power of their axes or fire. Our only anxiety was about the inflammable quality of the roof, which was covered with pine shingles. Against such an accident, however, we prepared ourselves by carrying water to the upper rooms, and we could at any time, if it became necessary, open holes in the roof, for the greater facility of extinguishing the fire. In the meantime we covered it with a coat of clay in the parts which were most exposed.
We were now ten men, seven of us armed with fire-arms and pretty certain of our aim: we had also sixteen women and nine children, boys and girls, to whom various posts were assigned; in case of a night attack. The six warriors who had gone to the settlement for fire-arms would return in a short time, and till then we had nothing to do but to be cautious, to wait for the enemy, and even beat their first attack without using our firearms, that they might not suspect our strength inside. One of the old men, a cunning fellow, who had served his time as a brave warrior, hit upon a plan which we followed. He proposed that another man should accompany him to the neighbourhood of the place where the canoes had been concealed, and keep up the fires, so that the smoke should lull all suspicion. The Umbiquas, on their arrival before the post would indubitably send one of their men to call the canoe-keepers; this one they would endeavour to take alive, and bring him to the post. One of the canoes was consequently launched in the river, and late in the evening the two Indians well armed with fusils started on this expedition.
The Umbiquas came at last; their want of precaution shewed their certainty of success. At all events, they did not suspect there were any fire-arms in the block-house, for they halted within fifty yards from the eastern tower, and it required more than persuasion to prevent Roche from firing. The horses were not with them, but before long we saw the animals on the other side of the river, in a little open prairie, under the care of two of their party, who had swum them over, two or three miles above, for the double purpose of having them at hand in case of emergency and of giving them the advantage of better grazing than they could possibly find on our side. This was an event which we had not reckoned upon, yet, after all, it proved to be a great advantage to us.
The savages making a very close inspection of the outer buildings, soon became convinced of the utter impossibility of attacking the place by any ordinary means. They shot some arrows and once fired with a fusil at the loop-holes, to ascertain if there were any men within capable of fighting; but as we kept perfectly quiet, their confidence augmented; and some followed the banks of the river, to see what could be effected at the principal entrance. Having ascertained the nature of its material, they seemed rather disappointed, and retired to about one hundred yards, to concert their plans.
It was clear that some of them were for firing the building; but, as we could distinguish by their gestures, these were comparatively few. Others seemed to represent that, by doing so they would indubitably consume the property inside, which they were not willing to destroy, especially as there was so little danger to be feared from within. At last one who seemed to be a chief, pointed first with his fingers in the direction where the canoes had been left; he pointed also to the river, and then behind him to the point of the horizon where the sun rises. After he had ceased talking, two of his men rose, and went away to the south-west. Their plan was very evident. These two men, joined with the two others that had been left in charge were to bring the canoes round the point and enter the river. It would take them the whole night to effect this, and at sunrise they would attack and destroy the front door with their tomahawks.
With the darkness of night, a certain degree of anxiety came over us, for we knew not what devilish plan the Indians might hit upon; I placed sentries in every corner of the block-house, and we waited in silence; while our enemies, having lighted a large fire, cooked their victuals, and though we could not hear the import of their words, it was evident that they considered the post as in their power. Half of them, however, laid down to sleep, and towards midnight the stillness was uninterrupted by any sound, whilst their half-burnt logs ceased to throw up their bright flames. Knowing how busy we should be in the morning, I thought that till then I could not do better than refresh myself by a few hours' repose; I was mistaken.
I had scarcely closed my eyes, when I heard the dull regular noise of the axe upon trees. I looked cautiously; the sounds proceeded from the distance, and upon the shores of the river, and behind the camp of the savages, dark forms were moving in every direction, and we at last discovered that the Umbiquas were making ladders to scale the upper doors of our little towers. This, of course, was to us a matter of little or no consideration, as we were well prepared to receive them; yet we determined not to let them know our strength within, until the last moment, when we should be certain, with our fire-arms, to bring down five of them at the first discharge. Our Indians took their bows and selected only such arrows as were used by their children when fishing, so that the hostile party might attribute their wounds and the defence of their buildings to a few bold and resolute boys.