Gold Cache - James W. Schultz



Chapter I

When we returned from the shores of the Western sea,—and before our memorable adventures with Long Bear, which sent us on the warpath against the Assiniboins,—Pi'tamakan (Eagle Running) went out to the Blackfoot camp to live with his father and take care of the two hundred horses that we had received for the skin of the seal. I was glad to remain at the fort for a time. Although I was still a mere boy, the engages and voyageurs of the American Fur Company no longer patronized me; my adventures during the past two years had made me their equal, for I had seen more of the great Northwest than any man within the stockade.

The blacksmith shop in Fort Benton was always an interesting place to me; indeed, I had half determined to learn the smith's trade. There was no one in the place when I entered it one morning, and so I lighted a fire in the forge and prepared to fashion a serviceable skinning-knife from an old file.

"How! How, thou fish-dog hunter!" some one said, as I thrust the piece of steel into the glowing coals.

Turning toward the doorway, I found a North Blackfoot named Nit-ai'-na (Lone Chiefs confronting me. He had recently returned from a raid far to the south, and with his companions was resting for a few days in a small camp just outside the gates of the fort.

"Help me, my good young friend," he said, gravely offering me his hand.

"Say how; my help is yours," I replied.

Taking a finely embroidered buckskin tobacco pouch from his belt, he said, "On our raid we found a lot of metal buttons. The white men who made them must have been crazy; they neither punched holes in the pieces nor attached to them stems with holes; they cannot be sewed on clothing and are therefore useless. I ask you to make holes in them, so that I can string them together for a necklace."

And with that he put into my hand several shining, heavy yellow disks that he drew from the pouch. They were twenty-dollar gold pieces and there were twenty-five of them! I held in my hand five hundred dollars in gold! It was more money than I had seen in my whole life. To my eager questions he replied briefly that he and his party had found the gold pieces on the white men's trail far to the south, but, as the shining buttons had no holes, the party had taken only a few of them.

"And the rest of them—the boxes full," I asked, "what became of them?"

"We buried them right there where we found them. We thought that perhaps when we came north again we should take more, but on our return we did not pass that place."

"Before we make holes in the pieces let me show them to my uncle," I suggested, and Nit-ai'-na readily agreed to go over to the office with me.

We found Uncle Wesley preparing a bill of lading for a keel boat that was soon to leave with a load of furs for Fort Union, I thrust the gold pieces into his hand and, almost choking with excitement, began to repeat the tale that Lone Chief had told me.

"Hold on; not so fast; you are forgetting your manners," Uncle Wesley cautioned me.

Rising from his chair, he shook hands with Lone Chief, spoke a few words of friendly greeting and motioned him to a seat on the comfortable buffalo-robe couch. Then he mixed tobacco and líherbe, filled a huge stone pipe and passed it to the Indian. Smoking the pipe by turns, they talked of the game and of tribal affairs until I was nearly bursting with impatience for them to get round to the subject of the gold. I thought they would never reach the point.

"Do you know what these are?" Uncle Wesley asked at last, lifting the stack of coins from the desk.

"Yes, of course I do; they are half-made buttons," Lone Chief replied.

"No, younger brother, you are mistaken; they are not buttons," said my uncle. "They are things to buy with. Each one can buy as much as ten large beaver-skins. With five of them you can buy one of our good cap-lock rifles. One of them will buy a three-point blanket."

"Is it so?" Lone Chief exclaimed, clapping his hand to his mouth—the sign for great astonishment. "That being true, I will not have a necklace of them. I will go straight to the trade room and buy things."

But of course he had to smoke the big pipe to the last whiff; it would have been a serious breach of Blackfoot etiquette for him to cut short the friendly, semi-religious ceremony; and while he was finishing the smoke, my uncle, who was as full of curiosity as I, took occasion to ask him how he had happened to find the gold.

"Ah! You shall know about that," said Lone Chief. "It was because of my dream that we started, the six of us, for the far south, for the land of the Spai'-i-kwax [the Spaniards]. I lost a brother in that country. He went to war with a party of our people in that always summer land, and was killed by the enemy. I always thought to go there and avenge his death, and my dream al ways forbade it. But this time my dream was right; my secret helper told me plainly enough to go, and we started on foot and traveled only at night.

"Seeing all things, but ourselves unseen, we went ever southward through our own country to the river of the Elk, and then up the Bighorn River through the country of the Crows. South, beyond the head of the little streams that make the Bighorn, we came to a great trail—a white men's trail that came from the east and went westward through a low place in the big mountains. Wagons and men afoot had recently passed on it, and we followed the fresh sign, anxious to see what they looked like. It was a long way across to the water that runs from the mountains, and we became thirsty. At last we saw a canon in the mountains on the north side of the pass and knew that water must be flowing from it; we hurried all the faster down the trail toward the place where it would strike the stream. And then, as we approached it, there were shots fired there, many shots, and soon a great smoke rose straight into the air. We left the trail, got into the sagebrush and began to crawl through it, hoping soon to see what was going on. We were in time to see a large party of Indians riding away from the fire and coming eastward on the trail. They did not hurry; they passed quite near us and we saw that they were Sioux.

"The party rode horses of the plains, but they led big, white men's horses, loaded with white men's goods: blankets, canvas, and many sacks—probably filled with sugar and other food. After the Sioux had passed out of sight we hurried to the place of the fire, which was close beside the creek; two wagons and much stuff that they contained were almost burned up, and near by lay seven white men, with their bodies stuck full of arrows and their scalps gone. There were buckets. We filled them with water and drenched the smouldering piles; we hoped to save something that might be of use to us; we found a few things that the fire had spared, and in a big keg of salt—the wood was mostly burned away—we found four small boxes.

"They were small boxes, but very heavy. We pried one open with the white men's axe and found it full of these half-finished buttons; we opened the other three, and found that they, too, contained buttons. We each took a few of the pieces in one of the boxes and were about to start on our way when one of the party proposed that we cache the boxes and take more of the shining things when we came back on our way northward. So we did cache them—right in the gravel at the edge of the creek, beside a big rock. And there they are now, as I have said, for when we returned from the south our route was a long way east of the pass."

"How many of them were there in a boa—did you count them?" Uncle Wesley asked.

"We counted one box," was the reply. "It held two hundred and fifty of the half-finished buttons, and the boxes were all of the same size."

At that, I began to do some mental figuring, but Uncle Wesley beat me. "A thousand pieces, twenty thousand dollars 1" he cried. "Thomas, my boy, there is a fortune in that cache."

"Oh, uncle, what a lot of money that is!" I exclaimed. "Get him to go back there with some of us and show us where it's cached."

"I'll see what I can do," he said, "but I don't think there will be any of `us' in the party. You have surely had adventure enough; it is high time for you to settle down to your study books, and work here in the fort."

By this time the pipe had gone out, and Lone Chief started for the trade room. Uncle Wesley went with him. When the last gold piece had crossed the counter, Uncle Wesley put a fine white blanket on top of Lone Chief's purchases. "For your woman," he said.

"And now I want you to do something for me," my uncle went on. "I want you to go back to the big trail with some of my men and show them where the little boxes are cached."

"I am tired from my far journey and do not care to return there," Lone Chief answered. "But you have been good to me and I must be good to you; perhaps I will do as you ask; just give me a night or two to think about it." And with that he picked up his purchases and went out to the camp.

Within the next hour the other five men of the party came in and traded what gold they had—eleven hundred dollars in all. None of them had taken so many of the pieces as Lone Chief had.

The next day passed without a word from Lone Chief, but in the evening he came to our quarters and said that he was still considering the matter of going back to the cache, and that he would give us a definite answer in the morning. All would have been well, I think, had it not been for the too generous hospitality of Uncle Wesley's wife. Tsistsaki filled the chief with cup after cup of strong coffee and numerous flour cakes fried in buffalo tallow grease. The unaccustomed food gave him bad dreams, for on the following morning he came over early and informed us that his medicine had warned him not to go south again. We knew at once that it was useless to argue with him. The rest of Lone Chief's party took warning from his dream and flatly refused to act as guides to the cache. Indeed, it was only on account of their respect and friendship for my uncle that they had even considered doing as he wished. The prospect of gain, of wealth, was no inducement to them; food they always had in abundance; with a few buffalo robes or beaver-skins they could from time to time buy enough to satisfy their other needs.

"Well, Uncle Wesley, you see how it is now," I said. "It is for me to raise that cache. Give me a couple of men and I'll bring back the gold, all right."

"Ha! Hum!" he muttered, and, settling back in the big buffalo-hide chair, combed his long hair with his fingers and was silent for an interminable time. I knew that that was a sign he was weakening, and so I added:—

"Lone Chief can make me a map of the place, and with that for a guide I can certainly find the gold."

"But the risk is great," he objected. "At this time of year the plains are full of war parties of Sioux, Crow, Cheyenne, and the tribes of the far south."

"There were dozens of tribes of the enemy between here and the Pacific, yet I twice safely passed through their country," I answered.

And before he could reply to that remark I got unexpected aid from Tsistsaki. She understood enough English to know what we were talking about and now said in her own tongue:—

"My chief, you know that I have strong medicine. Only a few nights ago, in my dream, I saw our boy here riding out to hunt on the green-grassed plain. You know what that means: it is that he will at least see the new growing things of another summer; and therefore it is safe for him to go after this cache of trade metal. There will be dangers, of course, but he will escape them all. Let him go with his brother, Pi'tamakan, and one or two of your trusted men here, and all will be well."

I have reason to believe that my Uncle Wesley, in a measure at least, respected the superstitions of the Blackfeet; there were few white men who lived long with them who did not eventually believe that dreams and signs had some significance. At any rate, when Tsistsaki finished speaking he drew her down on his knee, and said affectionately, "And so you saw him riding on green grass! Well, he and Pi'tamakan shall go, and Jose shall go with them. He is the only one of the old and trusted engages that I can spare."

"Hooray! Hooray!" I shouted, and gave Tsistsaki a rousing kiss. She had always been my good friend—a second mother to me. Taking my rifle and ammunition from the pegs over the chimney place, I made for the stables, calling to my uncle that I was going after Pi'tamakan.

The camp of the South Blackfeet, or to be correct, the Pi-kan-i, was on the Marias River, due north of the Goosebill Butte—along day's ride from the fort. There was a continual succession of little parties along the trail, going to the fort to trade and returning to camp with their purchases, and so I had company almost all of the way. It was dusk when I rode to the doorway of the lodge of White Wolf, Pi'tamakan's father, and shouted, "Kut ai-pi-stau-pi ni tuk a?" (Is my friend within?)

Instantly the whole family came out of the lodge to greet me. I was just as glad to see them all as they were to see me. During the evening meal I gave the news of the fort and heard all that of the camp. And then, while White Wolf smoked his long pipe, I told of the Blackfeet's find of gold, and asked him to permit Pi'tamakan to go with me and raise the cache.

"When?" the chief asked.

"To-morrow. I want to start back at sunrise."

"Why, you talk as if this thing were just a matter of going over to the next creek and back!" he exclaimed. "It is nothing less than a setting out to war; the trail is through the country of many enemies. Pi'tamakan may go with you, but you shall both go properly. To-morrow old Red Eagle shall make medicine for you; your mothers here shall make extra moccasins for you; and on the next day you may leave for the fort."

So it was that on the following afternoon we had a time of prayer with old Red Eagle in a medicine sweat lodge. While the hot steam made the perspiration run from us in streams, he begged the gods to guard us on the long and dangerous south trail and to help us to return laden with the spoils of the enemy. When he had finished, we ran from the lodge for a plunge into the cold waters of the river.

Later that day we selected for ourselves the best two horses in our large band, and made Red Eagle a present of four head. During our absence he was to ride through the camp every evening and remind the: people that they were to pray with him for our success and safe return. The next morning we started for the fort, and we arrived there long before dark.

On the following day my uncle had Lone Chief make for us a map of the pass in the mountains, of the creek and the place of the burned wagons and the spot where the big rock marked the cache of the gold. The Indian made one on white paper with a lead pencil, and I went over it and over it with him until I remembered every detail of the appearance of the place.

[Illustration] from The Gold Cache by James W. Schultz

I WENT OVER IT AND OVER IT WITH HIM.


Uncle Wesley then wrote a letter addressed "To all whom this may concern." The letter said that we were employees of the American Fur Company at Fort Benton, that we were on business for the Company, and recommended us to the kindness of all whom we might meet. The letter and the map I put into a dried bladder skin impervious to water, which I then hung round my neck under my shirt.

Jose Perez, the man chosen to lead our little expedition, was a Spaniard who had long been a valued employee of the Company.

Pi'tamakan's family trailed in to the fort at the last moment to give advice and to see us start, and the old medicine man came with them to offer more prayers for our success.

When breakfast was over the next morning all of the people of the fort assembled to see us start, and bravely the women bade us good-bye and restrained their tears. I shook hands with my uncle; his voice trembled as he said, "My boy, my boy! I hope I have not made a mistake in allowing you to go. For my sake, as well as your own, be cautious in all things, and do not forget that you are always to do as Jose directs."

And so we started. Each of us rode a powerful, swift horse, and our rifles and pistols were perfect weapons. A single pack animal carried our extra ammunition—fifteen hundred rounds of powder and ball, with caps to match, which with a few blankets, some extra moccasins and three buffalo robes made load enough. Of food we took nothing except a small sack of salt; our daily rations roamed the plains in countless herds and hung in ripening clusters in every berry thicket in the valleys.

We crossed the shallow ford of the river just above the fort and, turning once to wave a last good-bye, entered the long coulee that ran up to the plain. A raven flew southward over our heads with raucous croaks, and we hailed its passing with joyful shouts. It was the wisest of all birds, the Blackfeet said, and its presence was always an omen of success for the warrior and the hunter.



Chapter II

A fine south wind blew refreshingly in our faces as we rode out of the hot coulee to the rim of the great plain. We were glad to see herds of antelope and buffalo in all directions, for we knew that while those animals were peacefully grazing there could not be any foe in the neighborhood.

We continued to travel southeast, and before sunset came to the edge of the deep-cut valley of Arrow Creek. So sharp are the ledges and slopes of the big gash that there are few places along the whole length of its course where it can be crossed. The cliffs were a favorite haunt of the bighorn, and as we rode down the trail into the valley we saw several bands of them. One big lone ram, after whisking round a boulder to our left, came back to have another look at us, and a bullet from my rifle brought him rolling down into the trail ahead. We soon had the skin off the carcass and, taking most of the fat ribs and part of the saddle, went on down to the stream. There we built a fire of dry cotton-wood and cooked all of the meat; after eating our fill and packing the rest for future use, we rode out of the valley on the south side and camped in the head of a long coulee.

Although the Blackfeet claimed the country south to the Yellowstone, or, as they called it, the Elk River, they did not use it nearly so much as they used the plains and mountains north of the Missouri; when they were away from this southern part of their vast hunting ground the Crows camped and hunted in it.

We knew that a war party of Crows, Sioux, or Cheyennes might appear at any moment, and so stayed in camp until the following evening. When we finally resumed our journey the full moon was flooding the country with silvery light. We traveled for five or six hours, and then, as day was breaking, made camp on a ridge that separated the Judith River from Warm Spring Creek. We hid the horses in a grove of quaking aspen where there was a luxuriant growth of grass and wild pea, and then ate a hearty meal of the cooked meat. I took the first watch, and, after carrying some leafy branches to a bare, rocky flat on the ridge to screen my position, stretched myself out in the shelter of some small boulders. It was interesting to watch the buffalo and antelope coming down into both valleys in long files for their morning drink of the cool water of the streams; generally they went at a leisurely walk until near the shores, and then made a wild rush to quench their thirst.

Our horses were not a hundred yards behind me on the ridge; owing to the density of the outer edge of the grove I could not see them, but in the still air of the early morning I could plainly hear them cropping the rich pasturage.

On my right the ridge was level for twenty or thirty feet, and then ran down so steeply into the Warm Spring flat that I could not see the slope. Several times I thought of crawling over to the edge and looking down, but all was so quiet and peaceful that I kept putting it off. After a time, however, a feeling that there was danger somewhere about came over me.

I was about to go and look down the hidden slope, when I heard a crashing of dry sticks and the rattling of loose rock; falling back, I hugged the ground under my shelter of green branches. For a moment or two all was quiet, and then, with stiff and awkward jumps, two big buck mule deer appeared over the rim of the flat; they stood for an instant, with quivering ears and restless forefeet, looking back down the slope, and then wheeled and bobbed away down the south slope of the ridge.

Presently there was more crunching of sticks and rattling of rocks on the hidden slope, as if several heavy animals were traveling slowly. When very near the trampling ceased, and a little later an Indian came cautiously up on the ridge and, advancing inch by inch, looked down into the valley of the Judith. He was very tall and well-built, and wore elegant buckskin clothing and a cow-skin toga; his two long, heavy braids of hair hung down within six inches of the ground. Rarely had I seen a more pleasing face; it indicated power and dignity, and also expressed, I believed, a kind and generous disposition. The man stood within thirty feet of me. Once he turned and looked my way, and I gripped my rifle tighter; it seemed that his sharp eyes would surely detect me under my leafy screen. If he raised his bow to shoot there was nothing for me to do except to shoot first, and well I knew that just under the edge of the slope was a crowd of his followers awaiting the result of his survey of the country. But he did not see me. With one more sweeping glance into the valley he went back down the slope, and presently reappeared farther on, riding a big roan horse and followed by thirty-two men, all well mounted. They stopped on the summit of the ridge, about one hundred and fifty yards from me, and held a discussion of some kind. I could occasionally hear a word or two, and decided that the party was from the Cheyenne tribe. They were as fine in appearance and as well dressed as any Indians I had ever seen, but they were poorly armed; not more than half of them carried guns. I was badly frightened.

In spite of the kindly looks of their leader, I knew that he and his men would show us no mercy if they discovered us. When he first came up on the ridge only a rising east wind had kept him from hearing our horses cropping the grass. And now should the wind carry the scent of their animals to ours an exchange of inquiring whinnies would follow, and we should be discovered. Every instant I expected to hear one or all of our horses give a shrill neigh. I turned cold with suspense.

The party consulted together for what seemed to me an interminable time. At last one of the men dismounted, and the others started down the ridge, leading his horse. He laid down his gun, carefully folded a buffalo robe that he had taken from the saddle and sat down on it with his back to me. Alternately I watched him and his receding comrades. They were evidently going down to the stream to rest during the day. Here was another danger: should they come across our fresh trail, they would suspect at once that we were in hiding on the ridge, and would come back and hunt us out. In their meandering across the bottom they did once ride near our trail; but fortunately they turned away from it and at last unsaddled, several hundred yards below the place at which we had forded the stream. They had probably traveled all night and were tired, and I thought it unlikely that they would wander round and discover our trail on the shore.

My one anxiety now was the watcher sitting there in front of me. Jose and I had agreed that I should wake him some time before noon for his turn on watch. If I did not rouse him, he was sure to awake in due time and come out to relieve me; the result would be a gunshot or two that would summon the war party down at the river. What was I to do?

I looked back at the stretch along the ridge between me and the grove where my companions and the horses were concealed; the land sloped gently up to it and for the first fifty yards was entirely bare! The man in front of me was continually turning and looking my way; he would certainly discover me before I could cross the place and crawl into the nearest brush; it was equally certain that he would see me if I tried to crawl across to either slope of the ridge. There seemed to be nothing to do except "pot" the man in the back where he sat, then get my companions to saddle the horses and try to outride the party that would surely be fast after us. But at that thought a cold perspiration broke out on me; it was plain murder to kill a man in that way. I could not lift my gun—much less pull the trigger. Three times I tried to nerve myself to do it—and failed.

Then it occurred to me that he, as well as I, would be relieved by a fresh guard before noon; all war parties divided the day into three watches. It was even probable that he would go down to the river and wake the man appointed to succeed him, and he might go before Jose woke and came out from the grove. Moreover, Jose was noted for his cautiousness; before coming out of the grove he would have a good look at the open country and, seeing the man in front of me—well, he certainly would not make any disturbance. This reasoning made me feel a little hopeful. Drawing back the rifle and uncorking it, I lay motionless and watched the man in front of me.

An hour or more passed. The mounting sun beat fiercely down on the rocks where I lay and made me gasp for breath. Suddenly the Cheyenne straightened up all alert, and turned his head toward the hidden slope on our right. And then I heard something—the faint breaking of a dry stick. I again cocked my rifle and said to myself, "Now, then, steady! Steady!"

Another and another stick snapped. The Cheyenne stood up, and then quickly threw himself flat on the ground, with his gun extended and ready to fire. A moment later a big, lean, ragged she grizzly bear, followed by two cubs, came waddling up from the hidden slope. She paused on the edge of the flat top of the ridge, much nearer the Cheyenne than to me. As soon as she stopped, the cubs rose up under her; but she was in no mood for nursing jest then and sent them rolling and squalling away with a couple of cuffs. Then she turned over a large, gat rock and began to lick up the ants that clung to it. One of the cubs ran to get its share of them; but the other cub, after regaining its feet, kept on in the direction it had been rolling, and walked straight toward the motionless Indian. Presently it came right up to him, stuck its little nose against his shining hair, and, with a squall of terror, turned to run back to its mother.

Although ungainly in appearance, there are few animals more "sudden" than the bear. In response to her cub's squall, the mother grizzly left the rock with a flying leap. The Cheyenne was no less quick to move than she. The way he sped across the top of the ridge and down the slope toward the Judith would have shamed an antelope. The grizzly followed him to the edge of the slope and then sat up, growling and sniffing the air. The Cheyenne had gone down the hill out of sight and here was my chance; in a second I was on my feet and "making tracks" for the grove.

As I dashed into the thicket I met Jose. He instantly saw by my face that something was wrong, and in a few words I told him all that had happened.

"Maybe all is still well," he said calmly. "Come! Let us see."

He led the way to the edge of the grove, from which we could look down into the valley of the Judith, and there we saw the Cheyenne threading his way through the patches of tall sage toward the wooded point where his companions were resting. The bear and her cubs had gone. We hastened to rouse Pi'tamakan and to saddle the horses, and in less than ten minutes we were riding up the timbered ridge toward the mountains. The way became steeper and steeper. In the course of half an hour we climbed the side of a point that ended in a bare bluff, and dismounted in the pines. Then, after securing the horses, Jae led the way to the edge of the bluff and adjusted his spyglass; in a



Chapter III

While we stood there, uncertain what to do, another party of Indians came out of the dry creek valley and headed also toward the butte; they paid no attention to the herd of buffalo fleeing south.

"Just the one party split up," said Pi'tamakan. "The watcher on the butte signaled both of them to come. Perhaps he discovered us; we should get away from here at once."

Never in all our adventures had Pi'tamakan and I been so agitated as we were just then; and the absence of Jose only added to our trouble.

"There must be some way out of this; let's make medicine, brother," my partner said tensely, and began to pray to his gods.

The first party of riders was now less than a mile from us and was heading straight toward our place of concealment,

"Come; we can wait no longer for Jose," I said.

"Let's bury the powder and ball and try to hide in the timber."

As I started off, Pi'tamakan cried, "Turn back! Look over there!"

I looked where he pointed. The lone watcher, leaping from rock to rock, was hurrying down the northern face of the butte. The first party of riders saw him also, and, swerving out of their course, met him at the foot of the incline; the second party, one of whom led an extra horse, joined the others a moment later. After a minute's talk the man from the butte mounted, and away they all went westward toward the pine breaks of Armell's Creek.

"Kyi! It is all plain enough now!" Pi'tamakan cried exultantly. "From the top of the butte the watcher discovered another war party approaching; he and his party are getting out of the way of it as fast as they can."

At that turn of affairs we felt somewhat easier, and sat down again in the edge of the pines to wait for Jose. But when the sun mounted higher and higher and still he did not appear, we became anxious. The riders had long since disappeared among the pine buttes, and the frightened buffalo were also gone. Once more the country appeared to be deserted by man. It was nearly noon when Jose came stealing down through the timber.

"What makes your eyes so big?" he asked, laughing. "You look as if something had frightened you."

After listening to our account of the watcher on the butte and the riders, he said that he, too, had seen them from the top of the range. Then he told us his news: over on a small creek just south of the butte was a very large war party—as many as five hundred men. Three of their scouts were even now climbing the butte. We would stay right where we were, he said, for it was unlikely that they would come down through our point of timber.

A little later, as we were eating some of our cooked meat, the three men appeared on the top of the butte. They took no trouble to conceal themselves, but sat boldly on the very summit, smoking and surveying the country. Through the glass we could see from their peculiar method of dressing their carefully kept hair and from the designs of quill embroidery on their robes that they were Crows.

During the afternoon we slept by turns. Jose had the last watch, and near sunset he woke us to see the war party filing past the butte. The three watchers had gone down to join it, he said.

Contrary to our expectation the party did not follow the Blackfoot trail at the foot of the butte; instead they left it and traveled northeast toward the mouth of the Musselshell.

"Ah! They go against our other enemies, the Gros Ventres or Assiniboins," said Pi'tamakan with a sigh of relief. "I was beginning to fear for our herd that we worked so hard to get."

We saddled our horses and, as twilight deepened into night, made our way down out of the timber to the big trail. Later, after passing the butte, I saw for the first time, and quite plain in the bright moonlight, the Snowy Mountains, outermost spur of the Rockies. We had slept little during the day, and all the excitement and anxiety had made us weary. The horses, too, were unfit for travel, for they had not had much to eat; so we halted at the first creek that flowed down from the pine-covered slopes of the Snowy Mountains and rested. We slept in turn from about midnight until the evening of the next day; the horses meanwhile stuffed themselves with the green grasses and pea vines that grew among the cottonwoods.

Leaving the stream in the evening, we struck over to Flat Willow Creek and followed it down to its junction with the Musselshell River. Jose said that the war parties often passed here, and so we often halted our horses and listened for any suspicious sounds. At last we saw the first faint tinge of approaching day in the eastern sky. We had to get out of sight and do it quick; but we could find no place of concealment. All three of us were in a fever of haste, which was not lessened by Pi'tamakan's remark that his medicine was warning him that we were in great danger.

It was broad daylight when Jose finally led us into a patch of chokecherry and plum trees near the top of the point that divided the two streams. After picketing the horses, we went out to the edge of the thicket and carefully surveyed the country with the glass. There was no sign of a war party anywhere; nor could we see any game except a small bunch of buffalo away out on the plain east of the main stream.

We were now faint from hunger. I got the meat sack from the pack, but when I opened it such a horrible odor rose that I tossed it and its contents off to the windward from where we sat. There was to be no food for us that day. As usual we divided the day into three watches. Pi'tamakan had the last one, and roused Jose and me about an hour before dark. The country was quiet, he said, and not a living thing was to be seen anywhere except two bull elks feeding in the edge of the timber at the foot of our slope.

Jose took the glass and studied the country. "Everything appears quiet," he said. "Let's kill one of those elk; we can't go much longer without meat."

But Pi'tamakan objected. "My medicine has kept warning me all day that there is danger. Of course we are hungry, but I think it best to sneak out of here as quietly as we can."

But I sided against him, and after some argument Jose went down the hill. As soon as we heard the report of his gun and saw one of the elk tumble, we packed up and joined him. When we got there he had already butchered the animal and cut out a lot of the best meat. Then we learned why the country was so barren of game; all round were the deserted fireplaces of a big camp, and the fluffy ashes on them proved that they had been cold not more than two days. A fresh and dusty trail showed that the tribe had moved up the Musselshell. Jose said that they were probably Crows.

After watering the horses we waited until dark before building a small fire in the thick timber in order to cook the elk meat. Pi'tamakan wanted to move on as soon as we had satisfied our hunger, but Jose insisted that then was our best chance to roast enough of the food to last until we were well across the Yellowstone. The safest of all places, he argued, was a recently deserted camp-ground.

He had no sooner spoken than an owl hooted a short distance upstream, and was answered by another below us.

"There! I knew it!" Pi'tamakan exclaimed. "Those are not owls; they are the enemy."

At the same time our horses began to snort. Jose grabbed a stick and with one sweep of it scattered the fire. "Quick! Get to the horses!" he ordered.

After the brightness of the fire, the sudden darkness momentarily blinded us, and we had to feel our way among the trees toward the spot where the animals, now thoroughly frightened, were thrashing about and tugging on their tie ropes. We had nearly reached them when, close on our right, some one shouted a command in a language that I thought to be Crow. Jose cried to us to fall, and down we went prone on the ground just as a dozen or more guns spit fire and boomed all round us. I had cocked my piece and was trying to decide where to aim it, when Jose called out, "Don't shoot!" And then, raising his voice he shouted in Crow, "Don't shoot! We are friends, Company men. This is your old friend, Yellow Lance!"

Pi'tamakan and I could not understand what he was saying, and had another shot been fired at us we should undoubtedly have shot back. To our surprise, some one near by answered him, and after a short exchange of words Jose told us to get up and move toward the horses, We were captured, he said, and must make no resistance. When we got to our feet the Crows immediately surrounded us; they took our rifles and roughly pawed us over in search for other weapons.' Jose meanwhile continued to talk with our captors, who presently hustled us back to our fireplace. One of their number had collected the scattered embers of the fire and was blowing them, and suddenly they burst into flame.

All eyes were immediately centered upon Pitamakan, and amid general cries of anger at sight of a hated Blackfoot several of the Crows rushed at him. In another instant he would have been clubbed and cut to death had not Jose and the leader of the Crows got him between them and forced the enraged men back. One fellow came from behind and was just raising his war club to brain Pi'tamakan, when I caught it and wrenched it from him.

It was some time before Gray Bull, the leader, got his men quiet enough to hold a sort of council. More wood was thrown on the fire and we all sat down round it; there were thirty-five of the Crows. The talk that followed was of course unintelligible to Pi'tamakan and me, but we listened to it carefully, hoping to gather by the tone of, the speakers' voices what our fate was to be. Jose afterwards told us all that had been said.

In answer to their questions Jose said that we were under orders of the Company's chief at Fort Benton to go to the white men's trail far south and get some bones of yellow metal buttons there buried. He reminded them that the Company and the Crows had ever been good friends, that he himself had lived and traded with them during several seasons in years gone by, and that he had parted with them in friendship. And then, pointing at me, he said that I was the nephew and adopted son of the great trader chief on the upper river. He asked that they allow us to go on our way.

As soon as Jose finished talking, a big, handsome, long-haired man sprang to his feet and began a violent harangue against us. The American Fur Company, he said, was no friend to the Crows; it sold guns and ammunition to their enemies, especially the Blackfeet, and here before this very fire sat one of that hated tribe. He demanded that the party kill all three of us at once.

Following him, several younger members of the party made like demands. The older men stared straight before them into the fire and made no comments whatever. That augured ill for us.

"Be wise," Jose whispered to Gray Bull; "the friendship of the Company is worth much more to you than our death. Help us out of this trouble and I will give you a writing that will procure you many presents from our people at the mouth of the Yellowstone. You shall be made rich in white men's goods."

The chief gave no sign that he had heard, but after several more young men had wildly demanded that we be put to death at once, he sprang to his feet and commanded silence with a wave of the hand.

"Be still," he said sternly. "These are not common white men. Only the council of our chiefs can say what shall be done to them. At daybreak we will take them home with us and let the great ones say whether they shall live or die."

After that there were no more violent demands for our scalps, but some of the young men withdrew to the farthest light thrown by the little fire and talked together in low tones.

Meanwhile the night was wearing on. Several of the party stretched out on the ground to rest; others feasted on our elk meat. At one time and another all had some sleep except the chief and us three captives. Gray Bull told us that they had discovered us by accident. An old man who had lost a knife had returned to the deserted camp-ground to search for it, and had seen us preparing to hide in the thicket on the point. He had at once returned to the camp, less than a half-day's travel up the river, and had told the news.

As soon as it was light enough to travel we set out for the big camp of the Crows. When we had ridden for three or four hours we saw ahead of us, in a long, open bottom of the river, hundreds of fine, new white lodges. Our coming had been reported by the watchers on the hills, and a great crowd came surging down the trail to meet us. They were mostly women and children, who, when they saw Pi'tamakan, began to revile us. Several of them threw sticks and stones at him, and the missiles, striking our horses, caused the animals to rear and plunge..

Pi'tamakan bore the ordeal better than Jose and I did; his face was perfectly calm and he looked his tormentors square in the eyes. Our progress through the camp was necessarily slow; when we reached Gray Bull's lodge, he told us to dismount and enter. He at once ordered his women to strip our horses of saddles and pack and to fetch the things inside. We were glad to pass into the lodge and out of sight of the dense, clamoring crowd that surrounded it.

We were no sooner comfortably seated on the buffalo-robe couches than two of the women began to roast some dried buffalo tongues for us on the clear little cottonwood fire in the center of the lodge. Before the meat was cooked, a tall, handsome woman of thirty-five years or more came into the lodge. She carried in trembling hands a large wooden bowl heaped with pemmican and, kneeling and edging forward a little, pushed it along on the ground toward Pi'tamakan.

"My son," she said in pure Blackfoot, "this is for you."

Then, breaking a strict rule of both Crow and Blackfoot etiquette,—that a woman shall not get SI between men and the fire,—she suddenly sprang to Pi'tamakan's side, threw her arms round him and kissed him a dozen times; then as quickly she moved back toward the doorway and covered her face with her hands.

"I could not help it," she said. "It is so long since I have seen one of my people."

"I am glad that you did it," Pi'tamakan said, and his voice was not as steady as it might have been. "Let us talk together."

"No, not now," she replied. "I must work for you. Big Rain, head chief of these Crows, is my man. He loves me. I go now to talk with him for you all. Take courage."

And with that she hurried out of the lodge.

Talking it over after she had gone, we decided that we had two good friends in camp,—our host, Gray Bull, and this Blackfoot woman. While we were eating the roasted tongues, and the fine pemmican that she had brought us, we wondered how she came to be among the Crows.

"I think that we shall soon know all about her," said Jose. "With two such friends to help, these people will let us go, I feel convinced."

I thought so, too, but Pi'tamakan said: "You forget those young men who drew away from the fire last night and whispered together. Think you that they were talking about their sweethearts?"

Presently Gray Bull entered the lodge and spoke to his women. Immediately they began to sweep the ground with bunches of brush, to straighten out the robe couches, and to pile the many parfleches and other property near the doorway, in order to make all possible room. We knew what that meant the council of the chiefs was to be held right where we were. In preparation for it, Gray Bull got out a very large stone pipe with a long wooden stem, and mixed some tobacco and l'herbe in a homemade, red-painted wooden bowl.

The chiefs soon began to come in. Gray Bull welcomed each one and gave him a particular place to sit near him or the doorway, according to his importance. I had never seen a finer lot of Indians. With the politeness characteristic of all the tribes of the northwestern plains, they did not stare at us, their prisoners, but conversed with one another in low tones while waiting for the one remaining place, that on the right hand of Gray Bull, to be filled. That was the seat of highest honor, and we knew that it was reserved for Big Rain, head chief of the tribe.

He came in presently, a tall, heavy-set, kindly-eyed man about fifty years of age. In his hair he wore a single eagle tail feather, and his only ornament was a necklace of grizzly-bear claws. When he entered the lodge all present smiled up at him and gave the Crow greeting, which he answered as he moved round to the place awaiting him. Upon sitting down he glanced at us, and then took the pipe that Gray Bull had ready and lighted it.

The pipe went from one to another round the circle, but not to us, and meanwhile the chiefs entered into earnest consultation. When, finally, the last whiff had been smoked, Big Rain turned to Jose and demanded to know why we were traveling southward into the Crow country.

At that Jose repeated what he had previously told Gray Bull.

"But why this Blackfoot here?" the chief asked. "If three were needed for the trail, why did not the great white chief send a white man with you instead of him?"

"Let me explain," Jose replied. "This white boy here is the nephew of the chief of the fort. He and the young Blackfoot, the Running Eagle, have been raised together; they are the same as brothers and never apart for a day. Why, you should know what they two have just done! They traveled from the Blackfoot land westward clear to the shore of the great salt water, passed through the country of many fierce tribes, and brought back with them the skin of the sacred fish dog, wanted by a Blackfoot medicine man."

At that all the chiefs clapped hand to mouth and made exclamations of surprise, and for a moment or two our examination was suspended while they talked excitedly of what they had heard about the great ocean and its medicine animals.

"We thought that this young Running Eagle was a spy," Big Rain said. "We know you, Spaniard. We have not forgotten the time you traded for the Company with us, and your word was always true. Do you now say that the boy is not a spy?"

"I do," Jose replied.

Again the chiefs held a consultation, and meanwhile Jose hurriedly told us what had been said. Big Rain interrupted him by asking whether we had seen a large war party on our way southward. He replied that we had seen such a party at the Black Butte.

After that there was more earnest talk between Big Rain and the under chiefs, and then, turning to Jose once more, Big Rain gave the decision of the council.

"We believe all that you have told us," he said, "and but for one thing you would all be free to go on your way at once. The big war party you saw are our people; they have gone northward, as perhaps you guessed, to raid the Blackfoot country. Now, we think that this young Running Eagle here intends to go southward; still, if we set him free, he might hurry north and warn his people of the approach of our war party. Therefore we have decided to hold him until the party returns. You and the white boy, however, may saddle up and go your way right now."

"Then we stay also," Jose replied without an instant's hesitation.

All the chiefs expressed their satisfaction at that decision, and after another smoke they went their ways. As soon as they were gone Gray Bull gave us some advice.

"All is well with you except for some of the young men," he said. "Because of them you must never leave the lodge at night. In the daytime when you do go out, go always together and carry your pistols well in sight.

"I have had a hard time to save you all," he added. "Many of the chiefs are on the young men's side, and I had to talk strong to them. Meanwhile, North Woman—Big Rain's Blackfoot woman— was talking to him, and he listened. Thus were you all saved."

That night we were quite ready to lie down and sleep. Gray Bull himself was worn out. Before stretching himself out on his couch he ordered two of his women to make their beds outside and to give the alarm if any one came near the lodge. Moreover, he told us to have our arms ready. It was evident that he thought we were none too safe even with him.



Chapter IV

When we awoke the next morning we found that the camp had long been astir. The women, who were cooking some meat for us, re: ported that no one had come near the lodge during the night.

After we had eaten breakfast we were called to the lodge of Big Rain, and upon entering we received a hearty Blackfoot greeting from both the chief and his wife, North Woman. She set before us some pemmican and some delicious service-berry soup.

As soon as the meal was over, the chief excused himself, saying that he was called to another lodge; he told us to stay where we were a long time and—as he put it—talk with our elder sister. As he left the lodge be gave North Woman's hand a squeeze.

She watched him go. "Ai, but he is a good man, my man!" she murmured.

After telling us that she was the daughter of Black Weasel, chief of the I'-pok-si-maik (Fat Roaster) band of the North Blackfeet, she asked us about her people. We could tell her little about them, for that branch of the Blackfeet spent most of the time on the Saskatchewan plains and usually traded with the Hudson's Bay Company. However, Pi'tamakan said that her father must still be alive, for a recent northern visitor in his father's lodge had mentioned the name of Black Weasel. At that, woman-like, she cried a little and spoke of her mother, and of how much she should like to have news of her.

"Oh, how I long for peace between these two tribes!" she cried. "One has half my heart and one the other half, and between them both it is always being torn."

When Pi'tamakan asked her how she came to be living with the Crows, she replied that many years before she had followed a war party of her tribe on a raid into the Bighorn country. The men had been surprised by the enemy and killed, and the victors had brought her to the Crow camp. Finally Big Rain had won her love, and she had chosen to stay with him rather than return to her people.

"My man, Big Rain, is a good man," she said. "I am happy with him and his people. It is only when the men go to war and return with Blackfoot scalps that my heart is down."

"But the Crows are not great fighters," said Pi'tamakan proudly. "We have killed many, many more of them than they have killed of our people."

"Young man, do not boast! Pray, rather, that they do not get your scalp. You are in great danger, all of you."

Night came again, and at sleep-time Gray Bull once more ordered his women to make their beds outside and watch. But to that we objected, and had our way. It was asking too much of the women, that they work during the day and stand guard over us at night. Jose took the first watch, Pi'tamakan the second, and I the third. In the latter part of my watch, just before dawn, I saw a lone, shadowy figure approaching on all fours, and I coughed. At that the man turned back, and after a little, when he thought he could no longer be seen, got on his feet and disappeared among the lodges. The incident showed only too plainly that North Woman had good grounds for the warning she had given us.

Thereafter the days dragged along monotonously. The talk was frequently of the big war party we had seen on the way to the Blackfoot country, and as the time came nearer and nearer for the warriors to return we became correspondingly uneasy. Should they come home defeated and with a loss of life, it was evident that no effort of the chiefs could save us. It was North Woman who finally suggested a plan for our escape.

More than half of the men were now away at war and meat was becoming scarce in camp. So few were the hunters that even the old men had to ride out after game. North Woman's plan was that Big Rain and Gray Bull should order us out with them to kill meat for the camp, and that, once started, we should keep going on our southward way. Of course we should lose our pack horse, extra ammunition, and bedding; but the loss was of no moment when balanced against our lives.

We left it to North Woman to talk with the two chiefs about the matter. Somewhat to our surprise they eagerly fell in with the plan, and proposed that it be carried out the next day. Plainly they wanted to keep on the good side of the rich and powerful American Fur Company.

I had now to fulfill our promise to Gray Bull, and determined that Big Rain should fare equally well. As a substitute for paper I got a piece of new white parAeche—half-tanned buffalo cowhide—from one of the women, and with the red-hot point of a file burned into it the following message:—

Factor Am. F. Co., Fort Union.

Gray Bull and Big Rain saved our lives. Give each $200 in trade. Charge to my uncle.

(Signed) Thomas Fox.

When I handed this to Gray Bull, and explained also to Big Rain what it meant, the two were pleased enough. We then replenished our powder and ball pouches from the extra store of ammunition, and divided all that was left between the two men; the pack-horse and our bedding we gave to North Woman.

Soon after sunrise the next morning Gray Bull's herder brought in the horses, and we quickly caught and saddled ours. By the time we were ready to start, Big Rain came riding over from his lodge, and the five of us headed up the valley through the camp. The chiefs had caused it to be known the evening before that they had ordered us to help kill meat for the lodges of the absent warriors, and we expected that no attention would be paid to us. But in that we were mistaken; early as it was, a number of young men were already catching and saddling their fast buffalo runners, with the evident intention of following our party.

About two miles above the camp we struck out on the plain south of the river and, topping a ridge, saw a large herd of buffalo about five miles farther on. Behind us at a considerable distance we saw a dozen riders. They were not trying to catch up with us, and that in itself was enough to cause us some uneasiness. They were not out to hunt meat; they were simply keeping on our trail.

"We must ride on together until we approach and charge into the herd of buffalo," said Gray Bull. "Then, in the excitement of the chase, you must strike off in whatever direction looks best to you."

Big Rain approved of the plan of Gray Bull, and for a while we went steadily on over the broken, hilly country. We had gone only a mile or so farther when, first on one side and then on the other, we saw, nearly abreast of us, more men from the camp.

"I am afraid that our plans have been over-heard," said Big Rain.

"That must be it," Gray Bull replied. "What shall we do now? We have to decide quick."

"We can do nothing except go on and make a real hunt of this," said Big Rain, after a moment's thought. And with that he signaled the party on each side of us to go slow and cautiously. To us he said, "When we start into the herd, you three keep between Gray Bull and me, and when we stop you stop."

Then halting us, he signaled the party of men in our rear to come on. With very evident reluctance they quickened their horses into a trot. When they finally came up, Big Rain looked them one by one square in the eyes.

"Now, then, you young men," he said, "meat is much needed in camp, and I have these prisoners out with their good guns and good horses to help us kill some. If any of you think to harm them, it is best that you go back to camp right now, for whoever attempts that has got to fight Gray Bull and me. Go, hurry, half of you, to the party out there to the west, and half to the other party, and repeat my words. I have said. Go."

And go they did, without a word. But as they started, we caught a menacing gleam in the eyes of more than one of them.

Half an hour later we came to the foot of a low, steep ridge—the last one between us and the buffalo herd. There we stripped off our saddles, not only to lessen weight, but to avoid our getting entangled in them if we should fall. After Gray Bull had offered a prayer to the gods for our safety and for a big killing, we were ready for the chase. Side by side we rode up the ridge and topped it; the instant our trained horses sighted the buffalo they laid back their ears and eagerly dashed in among them. It was amusing to see the big bulls on the outskirts of the herd, heads down and half asleep, suddenly wake up with a snort, crook their short-tufted tails, and wheel and run with almost the agility of a cat.

But it was not the bulls we wanted. Young cows, and, above all, dry cows, were what we sought, and in that great herd there very many of them. Choosing our animals, we rode up beside them and fired. Generally one shot was enough. Loading and firing, we flew on. Presently the two side parties closed in on the fleeing herd and the animals became confused; the great, compact mass of them broke up into three different bands, which struck out in as many directions. It had become impossible for us to preserve any kind of order in the chase. Gray Bull and Big Rain were now almost side by side. I was on the right of them, Jose on their left. Pi'tamakan was slightly in the lead, right in the midst of a plunging mass of shaggy backs and clattering hoofs and tossing, black homed heads. As the other hunters converged upon this part of the herd, all was confusion. At that moment I saw Pi'tamakan go down.

"They have shot him!" I cried. "He will be trampled to pieces!"

The two chiefs and Jose had also seen him go down, and we all checked our excited horses as soon as we could. Looking back, we expected to see nothing but a mangled figure on the ground. But, no! There Pi'tamakan was on his feet, gun in hand, and walking swiftly toward us. We rode back and met him.

"What happened?" I asked. "Did your horse fall?"

"No! I saw one of those Crows aiming his gun at me and I just slid off my horse."

"What says he?" Gray Bull asked.

"That he had to jump or be shot," Jose replied.

On hearing that, the chiefs became furious and demanded that Pi'tamakan point out the man who had tried to kill him. Jose objected. No harm had been done, he said, and it was best that we cause no more enmity in camp than we already had. Moreover, even if they should question the man, he would say that he had been aiming at a buffalo near Pi'tamakan, and there the matter would have to end.

"Let it be given out that Pi'tamakan's horse stumbled and threw him," Jose urged.

Both Pi'tamakan and I joined in that request, and at last the chiefs gave in, although they were still very angry.

"Well, then, let's begin butchering what we have killed," said Gray Bull.

[Illustration] from The Gold Cache by James W. Schultz

AT THAT MOMENT I SAW PITAMAKAN GO DOWN.


Turning back to the nearest of our kills, we set to work at skinning three of the cows. The hunters had killed in all more than two hundred head, and Big Rain sent a messenger to camp to tell of the success of the chase. Shortly after midday hundreds of women came riding out to help butcher and to pack home their share of the fine meat. Early in the afternoon we went back to camp, with our horses loaded with tongues and sets of fat boss ribs. North Woman and Gray Bull's head wife accompanied us. Far back on the trail, but keeping us constantly in sight, came a dozen or more of the young Crows.

The next morning Big Rain and North Woman came over to eat with us. North Woman announced that she had thought out a new plan for our escape. While one of Gray Bull's women stood outside to warn us if any one came near, she outlined her scheme.

From the time of our arrival in the Crow camp each one of our horses had been tied neck and neck to one of Gray Bull's horses, in order to prevent them from straying. North Woman had learned that some of the young men were watching the animals at night, to prevent our sneaking out to them and riding away. She proposed that at dusk her man and Gray Bull should picket three of their best horses some distance above camp near the river, if they could do so unobserved, and that later on we should take them and flee southward.

Big Rain said that he thought it a good plan, and so did we; but Gray Bull only shook his head, and it was a long time before he spoke. His breast began to heave with deep-drawn breaths, a grim scowl came over his face, and his eyes seemed to be afire.

"Big Rain," he cried suddenly, striking his hands together, "are we chiefs of this Crow people or are we not? Let us show that we are. Let us call a council and say straight out that these three here of the Long Knife traders are going to start on their southward way and that none shall prevent their

"Why, you are right," Big Rain answered. "We should have done that long ago., We will show these fool young men something. Wife, go for the camp crier."

The crier came presently—a little, dried-up old man of mighty voice—and got his orders; and within a half-hour all the men of the camp, young and old, were gathered round our lodge, with the women and children forming an outer circle. Meanwhile, the rest of the chiefs had come into the lodge, and had readily offered to back the two leaders in anything they might say or do. When the crier announced that the people waited on us, we all went outside.

"Listen, all of you!" Big Rain shouted, after he had surveyed the crowd. "We chiefs are not going to give you any reasons for what we are going to do; we know that we are right, and that is enough. To-day, now, just as soon as their horses can be brought in, we are going to send these three we captured on their way. Young men, listen: if any of you attempt to follow or to harm them, white or Spaniard or Blackfoot, we shall find it out. That is all we have to say. You may go."

The crowd immediately began to break up; the women were chattering, but the young men went without a word. While a herder went for our horses we turned back into the lodge. Now that we were to leave the camp openly, we decided to take a part of the extra ammunition with us; but our pack-horse we left with North Woman.

Presently we had started, with Gray Bull and Big Rain, who wished to see us safe on our way. By mid-forenoon we were clear of the camp, and struck straight across the plain for the mouth of the Bighorn River.

Just before sunset we came to the foot of some rocky hills and unsaddled at a small spring at the base of one of them. There we rested until after dark, drinking our fill of the cool water and eating some pemmican and dried tongue that the women had put up for us. From there we moved up to the top of the hill, picketed the horses, and slept soundly.

The country was peaceful enough when we awoke and went back to the spring for our morning meal. The chiefs were now satisfied that their young men had not followed us, and so they left us. We rode southward toward the breaks of the Yellowstone.

About noon we saw a lone horse ahead of us with something hanging under its belly. As soon as the animal sighted us it pricked up its ears and came trotting and whinnying to meet us. It was trailing a long, three-plait reata, and the thing under its belly was an elkhorn-bowed saddle. We dismounted, cut the cinch, and examined the outfit. Jose at once pronounced the saddle to be of Cheyenne make. The horse was a very ordinary animal and quite thin. There was still some dried sweat on its hair, and so we guessed that it had been ridden hard within a day or so. Adding the reata to our picket ropes, we rode on, with the horse closely following.

At the first rise of ground we carefully surveyed the country ahead. There was no game near us, but south toward the river and along the spring hills great numbers of buffalo and antelope were peacefully grazing and resting. Whence had come the lone horse and where was its owner?

"I believe that there is a Cheyenne war party north of us," said Jose. "The Cheyenne country is away off there to the southeast, along the head of Powder River and over on the Platte. When a horse gets loose it always strikes out for its range and the band it runs with. Well, when we first saw it this horse was going south. We've got to keep a sharp watch behind, as well as ahead of us."

"The Cheyennes are great fighters," said Pi'tamakan. "I hope that they may meet some of those proud young Crows."

We considered remaining right where we were until dark, but the day was very hot and our throats were already parched from thirst; so we decided to push on for the river as fast as possible and take the chance of being discovered by some prowling enemy.

It was still early in the afternoon when we looked down on the Yellowstone from the rim of the wide valley. On the farther side, and about two miles below, we could see the junction of the Bighorn with the larger river. Both of the valleys were full of game, and the sight of the different bands relieved our apprehensions; it was unlikely that they would be so tranquil if any war party were near. Down we went to the river and drank our fill of the cool water. After a short search we found a ford, crossed, and went on.

An hour before sunset two whitetail deer bounded out of a narrow belt of timber half a mile ahead of us, circled back in the open for some distance, and then whisked into the shelter of the trees again.

"Look there!" cried Pi'tamakan. "Something is frightening the game."

Three elk burst from the timber. One staggered along far behind the others and suddenly tumbled down in a heap. No shot had been fired; it was plain that an arrow had caused its death. At our right, only a few yards away, was a grove of cottonwoods. We immediately urged our horses toward it, and had no sooner reached its shelter than an Indian ran from the timber out to the fallen elk, and was followed more leisurely by a dozen or more others.

"Huh!" Pi'tamakan exclaimed. "They are afoot; we have no need to fear. Let's show ourselves and make them feel bad because they can't get our scalps and our horses."

The idea of tantalizing the party brought a broad grin to Jose's usually solemn face, and of course I was always ready for anything exciting. So we rode out of the grove, with the stray horse closely following. The moment that we were clear of the brush the war party saw us and as one man dropped flat to the ground. Acting as if we had not seen them, we kept our horses at a walk on a course by which we should pass about four or five hundred yards from where the Indians lay. There was some sagebrush and greasewood on the flat, but not enough to conceal their movements entirely; we could see them crawling out from clump to clump in order to intercept us.

As they advanced, we bore more and more to the west, until they at last realized that we had seen their movements and were playing with them. At that they all sprang up and, with wild yells, ran as fast as they could in an attempt to get within firing range.

"They're Cheyennes. Come on; it' is time we were getting out of here," said Jose, quirting his horse into a swift lope.

The enemy soon realized that we were fast leaving them behind; stopping, they raised their guns and fired at us. We did not even hear the drone of a ball. Jose shouted at them in derision, and motioned them with waves of his arm to come on. I was close behind him and had eyes only for the enemy; but suddenly I realized that I could no longer hear the thudding of Pi'tamakan's horse. I looked back, and then called out to Jose to stop. Pi'tamakan had turned and was riding at full speed toward the war party. Shouting the Blackfoot war song, he kept straight on. The Cheyennes stood silent, with raised guns.

"Oh, the foolish boy!" Jose groaned. "He is riding straight to his death."



Chapter V

As I stood and watched Pi'tamakan ride toward the Cheyennes, I thought he must have gone crazy. "What can we do? What can we do?" I asked Jose, and got no answer.

At that moment Pi'tamakan turned his horse to the right, swung down on its off side and fired at the Cheyennes. One of them threw up his arms and toppled over, and then the whole party was obscured in the cloud of powder smoke that burst from their guns as they fired in turn. When the smoke cleared we were relieved to see that Pi'tamakan was still in the saddle; he had wheeled his horse and was riding straight toward us, loudly shouting the victory song. Some of the Cheyennes, hurriedly reloading, were running after him; others were bending over the man that had fallen.

"Crazy! Actually crazy!" Jose thundered at Pi'tamakan, as the boy, his eyes shining with excitement, came up. Then as a ball spatted into a sagebrush near by, the Spaniard added, "Come, let's get away from here."

When we had ridden a little way, Jose said sternly to Pi'tamakan, "Listen to me, crazy boy! I know why you did this foolish thing—because at the next medicine-lodge time you want to stand up and count many brave deeds. But you two boys were put in my charge and told to do as I should direct. Well, there must be no more charging and shooting at the enemy unless I tell you to do so."

During all the excitement we had not noticed that the stray horse was no longer following us. We were several miles on our way up the valley before I noticed that the animal was missing. By that time the sun had set and the valley was in deep shadow; but with the aid of the glass Jose made out that the enemy had caught the horse.

"That is bad, very bad," he said. "Those Cheyennes now have a horse, and with it a man can hurry to their camp and get the whole tribe after us. Or one of them may take it, ride ahead and ambush us. I don't like this."

Keeping the horses at a lively trot, we went on. At midnight, when we had probably put twenty-five miles between us and the mouth of the river, a terrific thunderstorm came up, and we sought shelter from the rain in a grove of cottonwood trees. A steady, heavy downpour that lasted until daylight wet us to the skin.

"Well, the storm has been lucky for us in one way," Jose said, as we sunned ourselves next morning. "It has washed out our trail. I have a strong feeling that those Cheyennes were close after us last night."

"My feeling about it is different," Pi'tamakan declared. "They were on their way to the north country. After burying the man I killed, I think they kept on going north."

"Say you so! Well, then, look down there and tell me what you see."

Both of us turned, and saw the party of Cheyennes emerging from the timber not a quarter of a mile below. There were fourteen of them, and they were traveling at a swift walk.

"They havenít the horse!" I cried.

"They numbered sixteen yesterday," said Pitamakan.

"One you killed, and one is on the horse scouting for us up the valley," Jose replied. "These are hurrying after him as fast as they can go. I don't think they will come in here, but we must saddle the horses."

The party passed about three hundred yards from where we stood in the timber, and none of the men even looked our way. We watched them for several miles; never once did they slacken their swift walk or turn out of the well worn trail they followed.

We decided to remain right where we were for three or four days, hoping that in that time the party would cease searching for us and leave the valley of the Bighorn.

We followed out that plan, and on the evening of the fourth day started on up the valley. Our progress was necessarily slow, for we traveled at night and avoided game trails and bare places where the tracks of our horses would show. At the mouth of the Greybull River we unexpectedly discovered in one of the game trails the tracks of the Cheyenne war party. They headed up the valley and were not more than a day old.

That was an unpleasant surprise. Evidently the party had been lying in wait for us somewhere below. Jose said that they would probably watch for us again at the mouth of Wind River, for at that point the trail forked; one branch turned sharply to the west toward Jackson's Hole, and the other went straight on to the South Pass and the big trail.

We camped there for three days and then started for the mouth of Wind River, which was about one hundred miles farther on. We had no desire to make fast time; the main thing was to slip quietly through the country and escape the vigilant Cheyennes.

When at last, about two o'clock one night, we neared the junction of the Bighorn and Wind Rivers, we were rather nervous. A moon three quarters full and well up in the sky gave much more light than we cared to have just at that time. And ahead of us, at the forks of the trail, we knew, were our enemies, waiting to attack us. Of course we had no intention of going to the forks; our plan was to cross the Bighorn close at hand and the Wind River above its junction, and then circle round to the South Pass trail.

Jose led off and found a good ford for us, and an hour later we approached Wind River at a point a mile or more above its mouth. At the very place at which we came upon the stream the moon showed a wide, shallow ford.

We worked the horses very slowly into the water, in order that they should make no loud splashings with their feet. We were halfway across, when from the timber directly in front came the shrill whinny of a horse. We knew that whinny; it was that of the stray horse that the Cheyennes had captured. Each one of our horses pricked up its ears and neighed in answer; back in the brush a gun was discharged.

"Turn back! Turn back!" Jose ordered. And back we went on the jump, surging through the ford and never stopping until we were some distance away from the stream.

"Well, we couldnít have done much worse," I complained. "There we were, almost into the enemy's camp."

"It is just the other way," said Jose. "We know now where the camp is. We will go back a little farther, recross the Bighorn, and then go straight south on the trail past the forks. Come on."

Jose did not speak again until we were once more on the east side of the Bighorn; then he called a halt and said, "You heard that shot when our horses whinnied? Well, that was the call for all the watchers to hurry to the place where the gun was fired. I am sure that the trail at the forks is clear; let us hurry and get by there before the daylight comes."

"Then I take the lead!" Pi'timakan exclaimed.

"I have the best eyes, best ears; so I am the one to lead. Keep behind me about a hundred steps, both of you."

"Go on, then," Jose said.

Daylight was coming, and while we were still half a mile from the forks the whole country was lighted up by the reddening sky. Ahead not a living thing was to be seen, but there was no telling what might be hiding in the sparse timber at the forks.

As we turned out toward the hills, Jose called to us to look back. Five of the enemy were leaving the timber and scattering out across the bottom in order to block our retreat. Anxiously we looked ahead again, and there, high up on the slope of the valley, stood an Indian with his face toward the forks, wildly waving his robe—the well-known signal that he had made a discovery and that his comrades were to hurry toward him. The rest of the party, then, were somewhere along Wind River, and there was a chance that we could pass the forks before they could head us off.

"Take courage! Ride! Ride fast!" Jose called out, and we urged our horses forward.

A moment later a Cheyenne, mounted on the stray horse, burst out of the timber at the forks. Shouting the Blackfoot war cry, Pi'tamakan waved him a challenge to come on. That was an exciting time, but somehow I was confident that my brother would be victorious. Both were lying low on their horses; swiftly they rode toward a common point. Watching them, I still had eyes to see that all the rest of the party were scurrying out from the timber on the trail of their leader; but they were hopelessly behind.

When the riders were about fifty yards apart the Cheyenne fired—and missed. As he wheeled his horse in swift retreat, crack went Pi'tamakan's rifle, and the Cheyenne tumbled off into the sage-brush. The party running out from the timber howled and fired at us. We yelled in a different tune, and Jose and I each took a shot at the signalman, who had dropped his robe and was leaping down the slope to get within range. Pi'tamakan jumped from his horse, and in a moment was back on it with the scalp of his victim. On we went up the valley, with the stray horse once more closely following us. When we looked back for the last time the Cheyennes were standing in a sad group round their fallen comrade.

"That ends our troubles!" Jose exclaimed. "To-morrow night we will be camping at the big trail of the white men."

"And the next day we will raise the cache of gold," I added.

It was not, however, until the morning of the second day that we came to the overland trail. The sight of it so impressed us that for a time we had not a word to say. It was not one trail; there were a hundred trails, all worn deep in the dusty soil.

"Why, a multitude of people and animals and wagons have passed here!" Pi'tamakan finally exclaimed. "The whites must be as many as are blades of grass."

"Ai! They are," said Jose. "Soon they will fill up the land of the going-down sun, and then they will make trails northward into our country and kill off all the game."

"They shall not!" Pi'tamakan almost shouted. "We will fight for our country and our game. We are a strong people, we Blackfeet. We can keep out the whites."

Jose sadly shook his head. "So said the Sioux and the Pawnees and other great tribes away off there to the east. They fought and they killed, and for every white that they killed came four more—ten more—a hundred more—and drove them ever westward."

"The Blackfeet are different. They are better fighters than all of those tribes together. But let us talk about this no more; it is not a pleasant thing to think of."

Mounting to a rise in the ground, we got a view of the trail for miles, both to the east and to the west. It was like a monstrous snake on the plain, and at intervals along its length rose clouds of dust that marked the slow advance of emigrant wagons on their way to the far Pacific.

We rode on, and within a quarter of a mile passed the tail end of the emigrant train—two heavy, canvas-covered wagons, drawn by six of the skinniest horses I ever saw. A half-dozen dust-covered men trudged beside the wagons, in one of which rode some women and children, who peered out at us with anxious faces.

The men were all heavily armed. They glared at us threateningly, and to my "How! How!" of greeting answered not a word. It is true that we were suspicious-looking. Jose was dressed, like Pi'tamakan, in full Indian costume; I wore Indian leather leggings, blanket capote, with beaded moccasins on my feet. My hair was long, in accordance with the style affected by all the Company men. Jose even had his braided.

We rode on and passed four more of the wagons. Ahead of the outfit were two men on horseback who hailed us as we were passing. Both were big, coarse-looking, bushy-whiskered fellows, and I took a dislike to them even before they spoke.

"You-all needn't think that you can steal our critters!" one of them shouted. "We got a guard on 'em nights that you and yer hull gang back there in the hills can't faze."

These "tenderfoot" travelers believed us to be horse thieves! When I told my companions what the men had said they could hardly restrain their anger.

"You will both have to bear it," I said. "We must keep clear of these travelers, raise our cache, and get out of the country."

We hurried on through the pass, until at last we sighted the creek that we were looking for—the creek of the gold cache. I learned later that it was called the Little Sandy.

When we came in sight of the ford we brought up short. Two emigrant trains were halted beside it, with the wagons of each drawn up in a close circle. Smoke was rising from half a dozen camp-fires and a number of people were moving among them. We realized at once that we could not raise the cache until they and those behind us on the trail had all moved on. So we rode away toward the northeast, and several miles from the ford, in a canon at the mouth of the creek, made camp.

The next afternoon we were saddling the horses to take another look at the ford, when, with a great clatter and jangling of metal and thud of hoofs, a whole company of soldiers came rushing into our camp on their big horses. Pi'tamakan and I instinctively grabbed our rifles and stood ready to defend ourselves; but Jose saw that resistance was useless, and shouted to us to lower our weapons.

A slim, short, gray-haired man rode a few steps toward us and coldly looked us over. Then he looked at the horses.

"Fine animals!" he exclaimed; and then suddenly bellowed, "Where did you steal 'em?"

"We didnít steal them!" I answered angrily.

"You didnít steal 'em, hey? Well, you-all pack that dunnage there onto your saddles and come along with me!" he ordered.

I told him that we were American Fur Company employees, but he would not listen; and when I tried to show him my uncle's letter, he refused to look at it.

"Oh, letters!" he contemptuously exclaimed. "Every one skulking about on these plains has letters, and they're all of them lies. Now, then, pack up and get into the saddle."

There was nothing to do except obey him, and we were all soon on the way to the ford. One of the soldiers led the stray horse. The emigrants were still encamped by the stream, and the whole crowd of them, headed by the two men who had led the outfit that we had pissed the day before, came out to meet us.

[Illustration] from The Gold Cache by James W. Schultz

PITAMAKAN AND I INSTINCTIVELY GRABBED OUR RIFLES.


"Well, captain, I see you got 'em," said one of the men. "Them's the very ones. They and their band been follerin' us a good many miles, and twicet they come nigh gittin' all our hoses."

"Well, you and any other witnesses report at our camp to-morrow morning at nine o'clock," the captain said.

Crossing the ford, we went on down the wide, parched plain; we did not stop until we reached the next stream—the Big Sandy—about dusk. Here was the soldier camp. Our captors took our weapons and horses from us and put us under guard in one of the tents. One of the men brought us some supper. We were so low in spirits that we did not talk to one another.

Later in the evening, as we were preparing to sleep, we heard a great splashing of water in the creek and then the tramp of horses, mingled with the commands of officers; more soldiers had arrived.

One of the camp-fires was in front of our tent, and here the new arrivals' settled down for their evening meal. Presently some one approached the fire and began to sing the Sioux war song; we pricked up our ears, and in another minute Jose leaped to the door of the tent, flung wide the flap and cried:

"Jeem! Jeem Br-r-r-reegar! Salvanos! Salvanos!" (Save us! Save us!)

Then he burst into a torrent of Spanish that a tall man, who, we learned, was Jim Bridger, chief of scouts, interrupted by exclaiming:—

"Why, it's my old friend, Jose! Slow now, slow now. I'm here; I'm your friend."

"Then come! Come quick!" Jose urged, pulling him into the tent, where Pi'tamakan and I stood amazed and delighted at the turn in our affairs. "See, they have us prisoners! They say that we are horse thieves. We horse thieves! And the boy here, it is Thomas Fox. You know his uncle, Wesley Fox, of the great Company."

Bridger put out his hand as he towered over me; he was more than six feet tall and of powerful build. "So you are Thomas Fox. I'm glad to meet you, boy. Of course I know Wesley Fox; a better man never came into the West. Now, what's the matter? Jose here talks so fast that I can't follow him."

I explained our predicament briefly and, as I was talking, got out my uncle's letter.

When I had finished, Bridger gave a long, hearty laugh. "These emigrants and these soldiers! What with their mistakes and their foolishness, they're setting me plumb crazy. I don't get any rest from 'em; no, sir, none whatever. Now, then, I'll get you all out of this guard tent in no time."

With that he hurried off to the commanding officer, and in a few minutes was back with an order for our release. He hustled us out to the camp-fire and made us roast some meat for a second supper.

It was getting late by this time; one by one the soldiers went into their tents to sleep, and only we four were left at the fire.

"They're gone at last," Bridger said in a low tone. "Now, then, what's this errand you speak of? What's old Wesley Fox got you all piking down into this country after?"

On the instant I made up my mind to tell him, and I did, as shortly as I could and leaving out nothing except the exact location of the gold cache. Two or three, times during the course of my story I caught a gleam of amusement in his eyes. When I finished he broke out laughing.

"I hadnít ought to laugh," he said, "but this is one on your Uncle Wesley and you boys here. That gold was cached at a big rock near the ford of the Little Sandy, wasnít it?"

"Yes," I admitted. A sudden fear made me feel very uncomfortable.

"Well, it isnít there now," Bridger said. "It's safe in the bank in San Francisco."

His words fairly stunned me. The gold cache was lifted! Our journey had been for nothing. It was some time before I could control my voice sufficiently to ask about it.

"There ain't much to tell. Not long ago some emigrants were camped at the creek when a rain-storm raised it out of its banks. Next day one of the tenderfeet was strolling along the shore and saw the corner of a small box that had been exposed by the flood. He dug it out and found it full of gold; dug some more and found more boxes of it—about nineteen thousand dollars in all. Well, sir, he got the colonel to send some of us to help him bring it to this camp; and when the stage came along he turned the stuff over to the Wells-Fargo messengers, got aboard himself, and now he has it in the Frisco bank all O. K."

"What matters gold!" Pi'tamakan exclaimed, when I repeated what Bridger had said. "I am rich; I count two coups. I have killed two of the enemy."

Nor did Jose show much disappointment because of our failure to raise the cache. "Never mind, there is more gold," he said. "I know where there's plenty of gold. I will take you to it."

"Where? Where is the place?" I demanded. "Oh, off south of here; maybe as far as one moon's travel."

"We'll start for there to-morrow!" I cried.



Chapter VI

Day was breaking when I awoke. I remembered with some misgivings my promise that we should go on south to the place where Jose had said we should find gold. Jose was only the guide and scout of our little party; it was for me to say how far we should go and when we should turn back. That was a good deal of responsibility, and it weighed upon me as I joined the others before the breakfast fire.

While we ate our morning meal Jose kept urging me to go on south; and Pi'tamakan pleaded that, since we were now so near the always-summer land, we should not miss the chance to see its wonders. Bringer, on the other hand, advised us to go straight back to Fort Benton.

"That hot desert country," he said, "is alive with Apache Indians and with all sorts of other poisonous things; it's one very good place for us Northerners to keep out of." I reached for a cup and started for the creek—not to get a drink, but to be alone to think. If my Uncle Wesley knew that we had failed to find the cache, would he object to my going farther in quest of fortune? Setting aside my own inclination, I honestly tried for half an hour or more to see the situation as my uncle himself would see it if he were present. At last I made my decision and went back to the camp-fire.

"We will go on," I said to my companions.

"Well," said Bridger, "if you're bound to go on, I'm bound to help you all I can. Now, what do you want? Grub—blankets—clothes? Come over to the commissary tent and pick 'em out. Money? Say how much and I'll lend it to you."

We selected a pack saddle for our stray horse and loaded it with a gold pan, a pick and a shovel, and what few articles of clothing and bedding we needed. I gave Bridger an order on the American Fur Company for the value of those goods, and we pulled out, of the soldier camp about noon, leaving no debt behind us. Our route took us down Big Sandy Creek and then southward along the east side of Green River. There was a fair trail to a place called Brown's Hole, where some of the mountain men had once built a small fort. From there on, for many a mile, we were in a part of the country that white men had rarely, if ever, traversed.

Day after day we traveled through timber-choked bottom lands of the river and over bare, rocky ridges; yawning canons often barred our way for hours. Nowhere was there any sign of man, white or red, but game was plentiful—elk and mule deer especially. Our horses soon showed signs of becoming sore-footed, and to save them we kept wrapping their hoofs in elk hide.

Some distance above the mouth of a river that Jose called the Grand, we crossed an old trail that he said ran from Santa Fe and a smaller town named Abiquiu clear across the country to the Pacific Coast of California. He had himself made one trip over it in his youth.

Some days' travel below the mouth of Grand River we passed another stream that Jose said was the San Juan, and several days thereafter we came to the edge of a great desert. Pi'tamakan and I looked out upon it—a great waste of sand and gravel sparsely grown with sage and greasewood. For the first time we hesitated about going farther; to the very edge of the horizon there was no grass or game in sight, nor was there any sign of a water-course.

Jose laughed at our fears. "Although you cannot see it, there is water and grass and good fat meat out yonder. Let us be moving; the sun will not stop in its course for us."

Near sunset we halted at the foot of a long, flat-topped butte and made camp by a little stream in a wash fringed with cottonwood trees. There we shot a mule deer, and stopped for a day to dry some of the meat.

"Who are the people that live in this strange land?" Pi'tamakan asked, as he was cutting the venison into thin strips.

"The Navajos," Jose replied. "They are in number as many as the grass, but only a few of them are ever seen together at a time. We are here on the very northern edge of their country."

"Are they fighters—are they brave people?"

"They are great thieves; they will fight when they are many. No, they are not like the Blackfeet or the Crows or the Sioux; I never heard of a party of Navajos setting out to make war against distant tribes."

"What will they do if they discover us?" I asked.

Jose smiled "We must not let them see us."

"Ahks-ah-ki wa?" (What does it matter?) Pi'tamakan exclaimed, and snapped his fingers in contempt of all Navajos.

"Huh! You will think it matters if a lot of them get after us!" Jose answered.

He said that we must take precautions, and so we waited for night before starting on. As we trailed along over the desert a cold east wind sprang up and chilled us; we had to take our blankets from the outfit on the pack horse and wrap them about us.

"Man of the South, tell me where is this always-summer land?" Pi'tamakan exclaimed, shivering. "We seem to be going into Cold-Maker's country instead of away from it."

"Young brother, we are still a long distance away from that warm country," Jose replied. "Right here we are high up in the air. Here snow falls in winter and water freezes."

An hour or more before day we came to the edge of a deep canon, but in the darkness we could find no way to get into it. Even when the light came we could see no way of getting into the canon; naturally we were very uneasy, for we were conspicuous there on the edge of the cliff.

We turned to the east to follow up the rim of the canon, but presently a short side canon barred our way, and we had to make a detour round it of more than a mile. When we again came to the edge of the big canon fortune seemed to favor us; right there was a dim trail that zigzagged down from shelf to shelf as far as we could see. We all went down to the first shelf, and then Jose called a halt while he made certain that the horses could follow the trail to the bottom. When he returned to us he said that, although the trail was very steep, there was only one very risky place on it, where the path ran for about a dozen paces along a narrow ledge. He thought that we ought to risk the descent.

Jose went first, leading his horse; I followed with mine; the pack animal came right behind; and Pi'tamakan, leading his horse, brought up the rear. Upon coming to the dangerous place, about a third of the way down, we stopped and rearranged the load on the pack-horse, piling it high instead of low and wide, as it had been. There was now ample room for the horse all the way along the ledge, and so, not thinking much of possible danger, we started on. On the outer side of the trail I looked straight down two or three hundred feet to the bottom of the canon, but my only thought was of what a fine camp we should have there beside the swift little stream that leaped among the rocks.

I had no sooner crossed the ledge with my horse than Pi'tamakan shouted, "Nu-zuah!" and the pack animal gave a scream of terror. I turned just in time to see the animal hurtling off into space, and with it went part of the ledge that I had crossed only a few seconds before.

For a moment or two none of us spoke; we could only stare at one another and at the wide gap that separated Pi'tamakan from Jose and me. For a space of more than fifteen feet there was nothing except a straight wall; the blackened, water-stained face of the rock showed how slightly that part of the ledge had been attached to the main wall.

Jose was the first of us to realize the seriousness of our situation. "You must remain right where you are until I come back for you, or make signs to you which way to go!" he cried to Pi'tamakan in a voice that plainly showed his uneasiness.

Jose and I were not long in getting to the bottom of the canon. Near the foot of the cliff we found the body of the pack-horse; our belongings were partly buried under the fragments of the fallen ledge. Jose told me to dig them out and repack them on my horse while he tried to find a way for Pi'tamakan to come down into the canon. Mounting his horse, he rode away upstream, and was soon out of sight behind a thick patch of willows.

I found it no small task to clear the mass of rock away from our pack. The blankets, dry meat, extra clothing, and reserve supply of powder and ball were in good shape, and so, too, was the gold pan; but search as I would, I could find neither the pick nor the shovel that had been bound on top of the pack.

After half an hour Jose returned and reported that he had found a good trail. Standing on the bank of the stream he signaled to Pi'tamakan in the sign language:

"I have found a way. Go cautiously up to the top of the cliff; if you see no enemy, ride along the edge. I will signal to you when you come to the trail."

We watched Pi'tamakan ascend to the top of the cliff. He presently signaled that no one was in sight, and we started up the canon. I went on foot and led my animal, which now carried our outfit. After making camp somewhere above, we were to return and search again for the mining tools; for, as Jose said, we could not shovel gravel with our hands.

Sometimes riding and sometimes leading his horse, Pi'tamakan kept fairly abreast with us. We had traveled more than a mile from the scene of the accident when Jose pointed to the place where the trail crossed the canon, still a quarter of a mile farther on. From the rim on the north—Pi'tamakan's side—it came down a long, sloping point at the mouth of a tributary wash; on the south side it wound up to the top along a succession of shelves. I had just remarked that we had better conceal ourselves for the day in thick brush some distance from it, when boom went Pi'tamakan's rifle. We heard some distance ahead of us a sharp scream of pain, shouts, and then a gunshot.

The suddenness of it all brought us up short, with every nerve in our bodies tingling. Owing to the thorn brush, which studded the bottom of the canon, we could not see more than fifty yards ahead; but Pi'tamakan, up on the rim, hastily re-loading his rifle, was in plain sight. He fired again, and then, dropping his gun, said to us in signs, "Men ahead of you. Retreating. Unless I sign you to stop, go to trail, climb to top on far side, and stand watch there while I cross to you."

"Yes," Jose answered. "Yes, we understand; we go."

With that we started on. Pi'tamakan mounted his horse and set out at a good pace along the edge of the cliff. Once he dismounted, knelt, and, after taking careful aim, fired another shot down into the canon. We heard no answering reports.

At last we arrived at the trail without having had a single glimpse of the enemy. Pi'tamakan was already at the point where the trail started down the long slope, and he signaled to us that he would stand there while we climbed the trail on the south side. We started immediately up the steep path, and never stopped until we reached the top. As soon as we got our breath and cleared our eyes of perspiration, we moved on a few yards to a place where we could get a clear view of the canon. In a fringe of cottonwoods under us were three huts made of earth, and smudges of smoke rose from at least two more farther up.

Pi'tamakan now signaled to us, "Watch. I start." "Come," we answered back.

Mounting his horse, he rode down the dangerous trail at a breakneck pace. He reached the bottom of the canon safely, however, and then, waving his rifle at us, turned sharply off to the right.

"He made a kill with one of his shots," said Jose, "and now he goes to take the scalp. We are in for trouble."

"There it comes now," said I, and pointed at a dozen or more men who were riding down the canon at full speed.

When the men were near the huts, a woman sprang from the brush into the open, halted them, and pointed first at the trail that Pi'tamakan had descended and then at us.

"We must warn Pi'tamakan, and anyhow we may as well begin the dance," said Jose. "Shoot, now, and shoot your straightest."

The party was a long way from us,—five or six hundred yards,—but the riders were all closely grouped in front of the woman and so offered a big, compact mark. We fired almost simultaneously; one of the horses reared straight up on its hind legs and fell over backward with its rider.

The party scattered and disappeared in the cottonwoods. As we were reloading, five of the Indians rode back up the canon and soon vanished round the bend whence they had come. It was evident that they had gone for reinforcements, and that probably a party of them would soon appear on the desert.

Presently we heard the clatter of rocks, and Pi'tamakan rode up the trail. Attached to his belt was a scalp with a long braid and a shorter one to which was fastened a large silver disk. He also had a necklace made of nine large stamped disks of silver, separated by twice as many round beads.

"Brother, I count coup!" he cried, with his eyes blazing. "Again have I killed one of the enemy."

"Yes, yes, we see, we know," Jose replied impatiently. "Now, then, hurry! You take one of these sacks of balls and a blanket and I'll take the other sack and a blanket. Maybe we shall have to throw them away soon, but we'll pack them as far as we can."

In another moment we were off. Again the gray and lifeless desert stretched away before us for miles and miles, to some flat-topped, cliff-sided buttes. Jose thought that the one that was farthest to the west might possibly be the butte upon which was perched the Hopi pueblo of Oraibi.

"If it is Oraibi, we shall find true welcome," he said.

We jogged along at a trot all the morning without seeing any sign of the enemy. Shortly after noon we came to another canon, which was not so deep or so wide as the one we had passed; a small stream with well-grassed shores trickled through it. We took turns watching on top of the cliffs, while the others went down, drank, and cared for the horses.

It was not until late in the day that Jose, who was standing watch, reported that about twenty-five Navajos had come in sight to the north on our trail. We could not understand why they had been so long in coming; had they been Sioux or Crows, or any other tribe of the North, we should have had a fight with them hours before.

When we got out of the canon the party was still five or six miles behind us and, by the way they rode, seemed in no hurry to overtake us. We had managed to get short naps in the canon and now felt quite fresh, as did the horses. They broke into a lope without much urging, and away we went toward the still-distant, sharp-ended butte where we hoped to find shelter.

Upon seeing us start away from the canon, the Navajos came on faster, but it was soon evident that they did not intend soon to overtake us. When we went at a lope, so did they; when our horses trotted or drew down to a walk, so did theirs. Never before had we seen an enemy act in such manner.

Presently they crossed the canon, and still the distance between us neither increased nor diminished. As night came on, their steady pursuit of us got on our nerves. There would be no moon until ten or eleven o'clock, and even the light of that would be dim.

"Listen!" I said. "It is plain enough what that party behind us intend to do. As soon as it is dark they will circle on ahead, leave their horses and lie in wait for us. That is how they intend to get our scalps."

"A party of Assiniboins once tried that trick on some of us Company men when we were trapping down Milk River," Jose said, "and I'll show you now how we fooled them. Come, whip up your horses."

Several miles ahead we could see a big, wide stretch of the desert that was as level and bare as a floor. Jose led us out to the middle of it and ordered us to unsaddle as quickly as possible. Then under his directions we threw one after another of the three horses, and "hog-tied" each so that it could not get up. The animals lay close together in a triangle. Slashing the dry earth with knives and shoveling and pushing it with hands and gun-stocks, we heaped up a ridge about two feet high round the horses.

By the time we had thrown up those breastworks the sun had set and the Navajos had come to the edge of the sage and greasewood growth about half a mile away. There they remained as the darkness gradually came on.

The horses were very uncomfortable and often thumped the ground with their heads in vain efforts to get up. Lying in between them, we looked out in three directions over the breastworks

After an hour Jose loosened the tie strings of the saddles, removed the blankets, and passed one to Pi'tamakan and one to me, for we had begun to feel cold. At last the moon came up through the clouds, but its light revealed nothing of the Navajos, and we lay in our blankets through the long night without catching a glimpse of the enemy.

When the gray light of day finally came we were able to distinguish some animals at the edge of the sage and greasewood north of us, where we had seen the Navajos in the gathering darkness a good many hours before. A little later we made out that they were horses, but there were only five of them. On seeing that we snatched the hobbles off our animals and helped them struggle to their feet. While saddling them we saw the owners of the five horses rise out of the brush and prepare to move.

Our animals were so very stiff from their long night on the ground that they walked as if their legs were sticks. The five Navajos came steadily on a half-mile or so in our rear. What had become of their companions? We decided that they had gone on during the night and that they would be waiting for us at the first canon or water-course that lay in our path. After some talk we decided to keep straight toward the distant butte, and take our chance of getting rid of the Indians when the time came for action. Hungry, thirsty, and sleepy, we urged on our worn horses.

An hour after sunrise we came in sight of a black, wide, snakelike gash in the desert, which plainly marked the course of a canon.

"Brothers," Jose cried, pointing toward the gash, "somewhere along the edge of these cliffs the rest of the enemy await us!"

"And we have to get into the canon or die from thirst," I added.

"I see how we can get into it and out of it, and go our way so long as the horses can carry us!" Pi'tamakan exclaimed. "Notice that over there the canon turns sharply south, makes a big half-circle, and then turns again to the east. Well, we will ride slowly toward the beginning of that long bend, and the Navajos in the canon will, of course, make for the same spot to head us off. We will ride very slowly and give them plenty of time to reach that point; then when we get close to it we will turn sharp off to the east and cross the canon on the other side of the bend, long before the Indians can ride round that big half-circle. But first of all, we have to wipe out those five men on our trail."

"No, now is not the time to attack the five," Jose objected. "We should tire our horses so much that they couldnít make the second run to cut across the neck of the big bend."

Pi'tamakan agreed that we could turn on our trailers when we changed our course near the canon, and we started to work out the rest of his plan. On we went at a very slow pace toward the beginning of the big bend; and now for the first time the Navajos behind us began little by little to lessen our lead. Their actions convinced us that the rest of the party were certainly lying in wait for us at the canon. We were equally certain that our one chance of escape was to entice the enemy to the beginning of the big bend, and then cut across it while they were traversing the several miles of its half-circle.

We had almost reached the canon before Jose gave the word to turn. For a moment the five Navajos behind us paused, and then to our surprise, instead of running away, showed fight. That pleased us, since it would soon end what had promised otherwise to be a long, hard chase. We advanced toward them with right good heart; and when Pi'tamakan raised his voice in the Blackfoot war song, Jose and I were not slow in taking it up.

"Now! Off your horses and take the man with the gun!" Jose commanded, when we were about two hundred yards from the Navajos.

Down we sprang, took quick aim and fired. The man we fired at was just bringing his gun into position; it went off with a bang as he pitched head-first to the ground. Thinking that they could use their bows before we could reload, the other four came straight on. At the right time we suddenly drew our revolvers and, before they fired a single arrow, dropped another man and the horse of a third. That was enough for the two remaining riders; they fled pell-mell.

Pi'tamakan was the first one of us to get his rifle reloaded, and within two minutes he had killed the Indian whose horse we had shot. Ten minutes later Jose and I were at the eastern end of the big bend, looking for a place where we might get into the canon, and Pi'tamakan was hurrying to catch up with us after taking the scalps of the Navajos.

The canon was steep where we struck it, but less than a half mile farther on we found the place where the other party of Navajos had descended. We were soon at the bottom of the canon, bathing our faces in the cool water of the creek. We dared not drink all we wanted or allow the horses to take their fill.

As we were pulling and whipping the stubborn animals away from the creek, the two Navajos who had fled from us appeared on the cliffs above and, looking up the canon, began to wave their blankets. Without wasting any time we rode off down it. We must get out on the desert before the enemy overtook us, for if they once surrounded us in the canon we were lost.

The view down the canon was not promising; indeed, it was quite the contrary. As far as we could see, the wall on either side rose almost straight up from the bottom. The two Navajos above were keeping pace with us and waving their blankets more frantically than ever. We had no time to take a shot at them.



Chapter VII

We hurried down the canon for about two miles and suddenly came opposite a great gash in the apparently unbroken south wall. Winding up the gravelly bottom of the gash was a well packed trail, and we followed it up to the level desert. Looking back across the gorge, we saw the two Navajos start down from the rim on the very trail that we had descended; they turned back when they saw that we had found a way out of the canon.

Although we had watered our horses in the canon we did not urge them on now, for we knew that the Navajos, with their fresher mounts, could overtake us if they chose. We were not surprised, therefore, when we were two miles out from the canon, to see the band on our trail again. This time they seemed to mean business; at the pace they were traveling they would soon overtake us.

When they were within a quarter of a mile of us, Pi'tamakan began to shout the war song of his people and to make signs to them to come on and fight. Dismounting, we hobbled our horses and stood ready for what might happen.

Loudly singing their battle song, the enemy came on in a solid body. We were relieved to see that they had only one or two guns.

"They will soon begin to spread out to circle us! Quick! Fire into the midst of them!" Jose said.

Our three rifles cracked almost together; we set up a yell as a man and two horses went to the ground. The other riders scattered, but came steadily on; they evidently intended to pass, one after the other, on either side of us and loose their arrows at close quarters. But before firing our first round we had prepared to reload as quickly as possible; each held a ball ready in his mouth and a charge of powder clenched in his left hand, and each had stuck a ramrod upright in the ground at his side. Before the Navajos could lessen the distance between us by fifty yards, therefore, and before they could shoot an arrow, we were ready to send our second round into them. One after the other we fired, and each of the three bullets emptied a saddle. Then the Navajos should have rushed in on us; that was what we expected them to do. But instead, they circled far out round us—so far that the arrows which they shot at us all fell short.

"Hurry with your loading," said Jose. "Another round like that and we have them."

But this time we were a little longer in getting in the load, and when we were ready to fire there was not a Navajo within fair range of our guns. They had gathered far off on the other side of us, and there they remained for some minutes in consultation. After watching them for a little while, we unhobbled our horses and made another start for the butte with the cliff-like end. It was not so far away now, but we doubted whether our tired animals could make it before night. Looking back every now and then, we could see the Navajos busy with their dead. We wondered whether they would now let us go our way in peace; but presently they again took up our trail. They traveled neither faster nor slower than we did.

Toward the close of the day we descended a steep drop in the desert and followed along a great basin that seemed to have been once the bed of a lake, but that was now white with powdery alkali dust. The butte that we were aiming for was still many long miles ahead—much farther than we could travel without water. Night was coming on, and the Navajos were keeping doggedly on our trail. I was thinking that the outlook for us was hopeless, when Jose suddenly gave an exclamation of surprise, and snatching the telescope out of its case, leveled it at a butte about two miles to the east.

"We are saved, my young brothers, we are saved!" he cried, thrusting the glass toward me. "There, on top of that cliff, is Oraibi."

I looked eagerly at the place. At first I could not distinguish the houses on top of the cliff from the rock itself; but after a minute I satisfied myself that Jose was right, and passed the glass on to Pi'tamakan.

"It doesnít seem real!" he exclaimed. "How came a tribe of the Only People to build and live in white-men-fashioned houses?"

"You shall ask them," Jose answered. "Come, let's hurry on. Night is at hand."

Undoubtedly the Navajos had expected us to pass the Hopi town, and to wander on and on across the desert until at last we fell into their hands. So, when we changed our course and headed for the cliff town, they made one last effort to end the long chase. They started off bravely enough, quirting their horses and shouting their war song, but before they came again within range of our rifles their courage weakened. Slowing down, they followed us almost to the base of the butte of Oraibi, and then halted and watched us.

As we came near the foot of the cliffs, we could see a number of people looking down at us from above. We turned into a broad, hard trail that grew narrower as it rose from bench to bench of the rocks. About halfway up to the top the path ran through a cleft in the sandstone; the opening was so narrow that a horse could barely squeeze through it.

[Illustration] from The Gold Cache by James W. Schultz

SCATTERED A LINE OF IT ACROSS THE DARK TRAIL.


Jose, who was leading, was about to enter the cleft when two men came out of it, and while one took from a pouch a substance that looked like sand and scattered a line of it across the dark trail, the other motioned us back. Through the cleft we could see a number of armed men in line.

"It is sacred meal that he scatters!" Jose exclaimed. "He bars the trail to us. Younger brothers, it looks bad for us."

Then, turning again to the two Hopis, he asked in Spanish whether they understood that language. In answer a tall, handsome, white-haired man advanced to the line of meal, looked sharply at us, and then asked in good Spanish what we wanted from his people. "Food for ourselves and horses," Jose replied, "and shelter from the enemy that you see down there on the desert."

"We see them; they are Navajos; we know their ways only too well," said the old man. "For years and years they have tried all sorts of ways in order to gain entrance here. How do we know that you are not spies for them?"

"Twice in my young days I came with traders to this cliff town and was treated well," Jose answered. "I come now from the Far North with these two boys. One, you see, is white; the other is a Blackfoot. We come to you as friends, 0 Chief of Oraibi! Take us in and relieve our sufferings."

"Well, come up, then," the chief answered as he scattered the line of meal with his foot. We Hopi people always have food and shelter for our friends:'

The old man led the way; the crowd of warriors fell back on either side of the trail and, when we had passed, closed in behind us. Up and up we climbed the zigzag trail, and soon came to the top of the cliff and the stone-walled town—a jumble of houses and narrow passages.

The chief directed some of the young men to care for our horses, and then led the way up a ladder to the roof of a house, across that to another ladder and up it to another roof. Another house opened on that roof, and entering it through a low, narrow doorway we found ourselves in a large, white-washed room. The chief motioned us to seats along a platform at one end of the room and ordered a woman to bring us water. She handed it to us in a large red earthen vessel, and one by one we drank. After a little while she brought us some small bowls of goat stew and some grayish-blue sticks about the size of lead pencils and hollow like macaroni. The sticks, Jose told us, were made of corn paste. Following his example, we sucked up the soup through them, and then ate them along with the meat of the stew.

"This is your home now," said the chief, when we had finished the meal. "Sleep well, and to-morrow we will talk." With that he and the woman went out.

It was a strange world to which we awoke the next morning. From the roof-top in front of the room in which we had slept we looked off east, west, and south at the grim, rock-ribbed desert that stretched away to far horizons, and then at the gray-walled houses below and round us. Some of the houses were built on the very edge of the precipitous cliff. In places the pueblo of Oraibi was four stories high.

Early as it was, the Oraibians were already astir: Near us were three old men alternately chanting and praying to the sun. Many women and girls were going down or coming up the trail, carrying on their backs or their heads large water ollas of red or gray pottery. Jose said that the people carried all their water, fuel, and food up the steep trail from the desert.

The chief, whose name was Copela, soon called us to the morning meal. When we had satisfied our appetites, he took us through the village to call on various leading men, all of whom greeted us with friendly words. Some of the men were spinning cotton with a rude spindle that they worked with their toes as well as with their bands. Others were weaving cotton cloth and blankets. After seeing that, we were not surprised when we learned that the women had the larger share in the government of this tribe. They were the house and property owners.

That evening we spent in talk with our hosts—answering their questions about our adventures and asking in turn about the Hopi religion and customs. We partook, too, of a meal of beans and corn; the chief told us that the goat meat was all gone and that it would probably be a long time before he could get any more, for the Hopis had few of the animals.

Next morning we prepared to continue our journey, but Copela and other head men of the pueblo would not hear of our leaving for some days to come. We must wait until the Navajos went back to their home, they said. The party that had trailed us had watered their horses at a spring near by, and were lying somewhere out on the desert watching for us.

We were glad enough to accept our hosts' advice. During the two weeks that we stayed there Pi'tamakan and I became very friendly with the young men. To them Pi'tamakan was a great warrior and hero; he had been in more battles and had alone taken more scalps than the whole Hopi tribe had taken in many years.

Copela had warned us to keep away from certain houses in the pueblo that were called kivas, or, as Pi'tamakan put it, "nat-o-wap-o-yists" (sacred lodges; lodges of the sun). They were the meeting places of various secret societies or fraternities, most prominent of which were those of the Antelope and the Snake. As a rule the kiva was under the ground, or partly so, and it generally stood apart from the surrounding houses. You entered it by a ladder that descended from a square opening in the roof.

We were surprised and pleased when Copela told us one evening that we were invited to witness a "prayer-for-rain" ceremony in the kiva of the Antelope priests. We went to the place with him shortly after dark, and upon descending the ladder found ourselves in the midst of a gathering of men, women, and children that filled one end of the room.

Two very old men, sitting directly under the opening in the roof, were tending a small fire. The room was very still, and we noticed a general air of expectancy. Presently a ball of corn meal struck the ground beside the two fire-keepers; from the roof came a hooting noise.

"Your-ya-i! Youn-ya-i!" (Come in! Come in!) the priests shouted.

Several men began to descend the ladder, and the priest at once shielded the little fire with blankets. In the dim light we could only see that those who entered had large bundles in their arms. They went to the empty end of the room, where they moved quickly about for a few minutes until the fire-tenders suddenly dropped their blankets. I could hardly believe my eyes when the light revealed a small field of sprouting corn before us; the sprouts were several inches long and were set in hills of cone-shaped mud.

"This is great medicine," Pi'tamakan whispered to me.

Behind the cornfield was set up a woven blue cotton screen that covered all the space from wall to wall. On the screen were paintings of birds and animals, men and women, rain-clouds and lightning, and about three feet from the ground was a row of six round shields with strange marks painted on them.

On either side of the cornfield stood several men wearing the most horrible, grotesque masks that I have ever seen. With the men was a woman who wore a queer-shaped headdress, from which fell a fringe of red cotton strings that hid her face. She carried in one hand an ear of corn and in the other a flat plate heaped to the brim with corn meal.

After a moment the men began a plaintive song, dancing in time with it. From behind the screen came a fearful roaring, and five of the shields swung up and revealed round holes in the screen, from which large effigies of snakes began to crawl—hideous snakes with large, bulging eyes and wide plumes of feathers on their heads. The sixth shield remained stationary, because it had painted on it the sun symbol with a plumed serpent's head.

Presently the song rose in quicker measure; the roaring behind the screen became louder, and the five serpents, writhing in sinuous contortions and striking savagely at one another and at the masked men, crawled out through the holes for five or six feet of their length.

"Ai! But this is medicine!" said Pi'tamakan to me in an awed voice.

After some minutes the snakes bent to the floor and, with swaying heads and bodies, laid flat the cornfield before them. At that the audience became wild with excitement; with appealing cries and prayers they tossed sacred meal at the snakes and asked for plenteous rains and generous crops for the coming season. At the same time the masked woman offered the snakes her plate of meal, which they appeared to eat. She, I learned, represented the goddess Ha'-hai Wookti', mother of the ancient clan gods. The plumed serpent was the god of water and other liquids.

As soon as the prayers ceased, the masked men handed the overturned corn hills to the spectators. The fire-tenders again darkened the room by holding up their blankets, and, unseen by us, the actors rolled up their paraphernalia and left the kiva. When they had gone, Copela informed us that more ceremonies were to be performed and that the next one would be the buffalo dance.

"Ha! That makes me hungry!" Pi'tamakan exclaimed. "How I should like some well roasted buffalo ribs!"

The buffalo dancers soon began their performance to the time of a lively song and the beat of a drum. The dance that they gave was good, but by no means so ponderous and suggestive of the animal as is the buffalo dance of the Blackfeet. They soon left the room, and were followed by three other groups of dancers who invoked the rain gods.

When the actors of the final ceremony had gone, we all climbed the ladder and started homeward. On the way Copela told us that the acts we had witnessed had been performed in rotation in every other kiva in the pueblo, so that all the people had had the chance to offer prayers for rains and good crops.

Later the old chief told me much about the religious ceremonies of his people. Ancient the Hopis were without a doubt. Long before, the time of Columbus their actors had performed the plumed-serpent ceremony in the very kiva in which we had seen it.

"We are an ancient people," Copela said. "On your way south you will see where lived the fathers of some of our clans."

Those were pleasant days that we passed with the Hopi people. The one drawback was the corn-and-bean diet; we soon became ravenous for meat. That craving, more than any desire to get to Jose's placer ground, hastened our departure from Oraibi.

When we announced one evening that we could sleep only two more nights in the hospitable pueblo, our hosts urged us to remain longer. Then they offered us many presents, which, of course, except for a few blankets and a little store of food, we had to refuse because we had no means of carrying them. And so, on the appointed morning, we bade good-bye to the Hopis.

All that long day we traveled steadily south toward the Colorado Chiquito. Nowhere on the great desert did we see any sign of life other than an occasional coyote or rabbit. Jose assured us that, barring accidents, we should strike the Santa Fe-California emigrant road within ten days, and that at some station along it we should be able to purchase mining tools.

"With what?" I asked.

"With that," he replied, and, reaching over, touched Pi'tamakan's silver necklace.

"Not unless you first kill me!" Pi'tamakan exclaimed. "I shall wear that necklace at the medicine-lodge dances next summer."

His reply gave Jose and me food for anxious thought. Little did we dream what was to befall us ere we saw the Southern trail.



Chapter VIII

The night after we left Oraibi, we camped on the desert near a small pool of water that we had found in the bed-rock of a deep wash. There was just enough water for ourselves and the animals, and we left the pool dry.

Before the sun came up the next morning we were again on our southward way, and by ten o'clock we had come to the deep canon in which run the waters of the Colorado Chiquito. Jose had unerringly brought us to the very trail by which he had crossed the canon years before, and we were soon slaking our thirst in the cool water of the little river. When the horses had drunk all they could, we started up the trail on the south side of the canon, and within half an hour were once more traveling in the open.

From this side of the canon the desert sloped sharply up toward a long, black mountain range thirty or forty miles distant—the Mogollons, Jose told us. Achill wind had sprung up from the northeast.

"We travel ever higher; the days grow ever colder," Pi'tamakan complained. "I begin to doubt that there is any such place as the always-summer land."

Jose smiled. "Have patience. From the top of those mountains you shall see it."

The horses would not trot except when we urged them; and they kept their heads close to the ground—a sure sign that they were nearing the limit of their endurance. The grassless desert, the long, waterless marches, together with the strange fodder they had eaten while at Oraibi, had stripped them of flesh and spirit. During the closing hours of the day we dismounted and led them.

Early the next morning we found water, and the horses got a few mouthfuls of grass that grew at the edge of the pool. About noon we entered the outer edge of a belt of oak trees; the trees were very small and scrubby at first, but as we ascended they increased steadily in size. Soon we came to little parks of green grass and halted for an hour or so to let the horses crop it.

In the middle of the afternoon we reached the top of the mountain range; it was rather flat, covered with pine and other timber, and seamed with swift-running little streams. Soon afterwards Jose shot a mule deer; we immediately made camp and prepared for a good meal of fresh meat—our first for many a day.

For ten, perhaps fifteen, miles the next morning we rode southward across the flat-topped mountain range. Jose liked to give Pi'tamakan and me pleasant little surprises, and he had one in store for us that day. When we asked him about the route ahead, he merely replied that we should cross the flat-topped range and then go down the south side of it. But about three o'clock in the afternoon he brought us suddenly to the southern rim of the Mogollons, and there we beheld a scene so vast and grand that we almost recoiled from it.

"Oh! oh! What far distances!" cried Pi'tamakan. "What grand mountains! Look! there to the south! The plains run, as it seems, to the very edge of the world. Why, nowhere in our country is anything so big, so truly wonderful, as is this look into the heart of the Southland!"

I agreed with him. We stood on the edge of a cliff that was at least two thousand feet high and that ran east and west as far as we could see—a cliff broken by so many deep canons that its general front was merely a succession of sharp points. In the near distance began two distinct mountain ranges that ran southward; the range on the east had a bold front of red-rock cliffs that glowed in the sunlight; the rock of the other range was gray and yellow in color. Our route, Jose explained, was down the valley between the two ranges to the river Salado and the great desert.

"Where is the trail—where do we descend this cut rimmed range?" Pi'tamakan asked.

"I missed the way some distance back, but now I see it. We go into the head of that second canon to the east," Jose answered.

Riding to the head of the canon, we started down from the rim of the range. After two hours' travel we emerged from the mouth of the canon and found that the drop of two thousand feet or more had brought us into a much warmer climate. We were now out of the pines. The rolling hills that sloped from the foot of the great cliffs down to a stream a mile or more ahead of us were studded with groves of cedar, scrub oak, and a small tree with red bark that Jose called manzanita.

The little stream ran toward the southwest. We turned up it, and after a mile or so entered a tremendously high-walled, wide-floored canon. Unsaddling our horses in a large cottonwood grove through which the stream ran we picketed them in a grassy park. Then we hurried to build a small war lodge.

"We can't be too careful," said Jose; "we are now in Apache country."

"Are they many—are they brave fighters?" Pi'tamakan asked.

"There are thousands of them, but except when going to war they are never together in any great numbers," Jose replied. "No, they are not brave; they never attack until they believe they can win without losing a man. Pray to your gods that they never get sight of us."

We kept our fire going until a late hour that night, and had several little feasts of delicious deer meat. Well fed, and warm enough in our snug shelter, we naturally were light-hearted; and because of that we talked much and laughed much and made light of all that had happened to us on the long trail from the northland. We agreed that we had chosen a good place of concealment, and a heavy downpour that came in the evening gave us a still deeper feeling of security, for it completely washed out our trail. The condition of the horses was the only thing that troubled us. Not only were they thin, but they were becoming foot-sore. Before going to sleep we decided to remain in the canon eight or ten days and give them a chance to recuperate.

Before many days had passed, the grove of cottonwoods became to Pi'tamakan and me a veritable prison. There was nothing for us to do except to lie round camp. We spent hours with the telescope at the borders of the grove, examining the soaring heights of the canon. Occasionally a few deer appeared on the top of the cliffs, and now and then big birds, which dose said were turkeys, sailed swiftly across the 'deep gorge.

One day Pi'tamakan and I were sitting at the edge of the grove, looking up at the top of the canon walls. I had the glass and, seeing no kind of life along the rim, began to examine the face of the wall; thus by mere accident I made a strange discovery. In a sort of long cave about a hundred feet above the foot of the cliff and half a mile down the canon were several stone-walled houses. I handed the glass to Pi'tamakan, who, after taking one glance at the houses, hurried to camp to get dose. The Spaniard soon joined us.

"They are houses, and in good condition, too," he said, as he looked through the glass. "In the long ago they were the home of some of the people of the cliffs."

"We must climb up to that place and have a look at them!" I exclaimed.

"Why, so we will!" Jose answered. "We can easily do that without much risk."

It was barely daylight the next morning when we arrived at the foot of the cliff, right under the big cave. After picketing the horses in a thicket we searched for a way of getting up to the houses. The wall above us was perpendicular and smooth. Pi'tamakan ran southward for some distance and, returning, reported that there was no means of reaching the cave from that direction. So we went northward along the foot of the wall, and about two hundred yards farther on found a crevice in the face of the cliff. The crevice was several feet wide, and ran upward toward the cave at an angle of perhaps forty-five degrees.

We lost no time in starting up it. The ascent was not hard, for in several places steps and hand-holes had been gouged in the rock. We soon reached the head of the crevice and stepped out on a narrow, level shelf in front of the cave. Halting to get our breath, we looked down first at our little grove, and then at the cliffs opposite us.

"Oh, see! See that!" Pi'tamakan cried, and pointed at a slender black column of smoke that rose from the top of the cliff on the west side of the canon.

"Apaches! That is one of their smoke signals!" Jose exclaimed. "It means that all who see it are to come to that place."

As the fire was fully two miles away there was a chance that the signal-makers had not seen us; sinking slowly down on the shelf we crawled along it to the cave. At first we barely glanced at the six houses it contained. They stood at irregular intervals along the back wall of the cave, the roof of which formed the roof of the second stories of the houses. A long stone wall ran along the edge of the shelf, and crouching behind it we examined the canon and the small area of country that we could see beyond its mouth. The signal smoke continued to rise—a thin black column that neither increased nor diminished in size.

"Yes, I am quite sure that we have not been seen," Jose said. "I know the Apache smoke signals. This one, rising straight, and steadily, calls for a gathering of all the bands of the tribe. When the smoke rises in puffs, it is a signal not only for a gathering, but that the fire-builders have discovered enemies somewhere in the country."

Laying down our rifles, Pi'tamakan and I crept into the deep shadow of the cavern, where we could walk about freely without risk of being seen. Admiring the well-laid walls of sandstone blocks and adobe mortar, we hurriedly passed from house to house. When we had made the round of the buildings, we returned to the first house and stepped in through its low, narrow doorway. We found ourselves in a fairly large room with door-ways leading into rooms on either side; at the rear was another doorway that had been carefully sealed with a single stone slab. All the other rooms were empty; but in that sealed room we thought we might find some interesting or valuable relic of the past.

The moment that we had stepped into the outer room, we had realized how ancient those ruins were; a musty odor was in the air and the walls were thickly coated with gray dust. The stuff was so light that, when I scraped off some of it, it did not fall, but mixed with the soft air currents in the room and made us sneeze. At that, a myriad of bats that had been clinging to the ceiling became alarmed and, fluttering wildly about, loosened a stifling cloud of dust that drove us, gasping, to the open air.

It was half an hour or more before the dust cloud had cleared enough for us to enter the place again. The slab of rock in the rear doorway was sealed in place with a rim of very tough mortar. We had only some unwieldy and soft sandstone rocks for tools, and so did not progress very fast in battering off the mortar; but with every inch of the stuff that fell our interest in the task increased, for we hoped to find a rich store of things in that old room. Often we glanced out at Jose, who was keeping watch; always, with a low, outward sweep of hand and arm, he signaled back, "Nothing. No news."

When we had all the mortar off I pounded the slab here and there with a large rock, and at last it fell out. Pi'tamakan knelt in the doorway.

"Ha! It is all dark in the room!" he exclaimed. "I can see nothing."

"Of course you can't see anything when you shut out all the light with your big body. Go into the room, and then you'll be able to see what is there."

He hesitated for a moment, and then slowly crawled through the opening.

"I am sure this is a place of ghosts!" he called. "I don't like to be in here."

A moment later he passed out to me a long, slender bundle of matting wrapped with strands of a fibrous rope; he then came to the passage to see what the find contained. With one slash of my knife I ripped the brittle covering from end to end, and, parting it, disclosed the skeleton of a half-grown person. That was enough for my partner.

"A ghost place! A ghost place!" he cried, and went by me on the run for the outer doorway. Needing fresh air myself, I followed him.

Jose reported that no one had come in sight. But still the black signal smoke continued to rise as it had been rising for hours, straight up in the still air.

"I can tell you this much about it," Jose said. "The call for a gathering of the Apache bands is very urgent; something is to be done that will require a force of many men. I think that a big raid is planned against the desert peoples; against the Pima tribe, perhaps; maybe against the white men who work rich mines away off there in the south.

"No, not against the Pima tribe," he added. "They are too many and too brave for the black-hearted, snake Apaches."

At many a camp-fire Jose had told us of the Pimas, six to eight thousand strong, true friends to the white men. We were eager to visit their villages on the Gila River.

As I told Jose about the sealed room and what we had found there, Pi'tamakan sat very still, with a troubled expression on his face. When I said that I was going back to see what else the place contained, he objected.

"We are in trouble enough now with the enemy close by. Let us not bring more bad luck upon ourselves. Go and put back for me that—that thing, and then quickly replace the stone slab and come away."

Jose went with me. "We must do what we can to humor Pi'tamakan," he said, "but nevertheless we must not overlook anything of value that may be in that room, for we are very poor."

On either side of the neck of the skeleton we found no less than eighteen small, thin, disk shaped beads of light-blue stones, which Jose said were of turquoise.

"If we don't find another thing," he exclaimed, "these necklace beads repay us for the work you have done! In the Pima villages they are worth more than gold."

We crawled into the inner room and sat still for a time until our eyes became accustomed to the dim light; then we saw that there were two other bundles of matting in the place. There were also several clay jars filled with shelled corn, two pairs of woven fiber sandals, and three finely polished axes of hard, green serpentine. We moved the two bodies into the better light of the outer room and opened the wrappings one by one.

In the inner wrappings we found more beads of turquoise; they had evidently formed necklaces, the strings of which had long since rotted away. There were also two turquoise earrings or pendants that were triangular in shape.

As we were examining the beads, Pi'tamakan appeared in the doorway of the room.

"I thought that was what you were doing!" he cried. "Take my word, you will be sorry for what you have done. At least put back in its place the body that I tossed out. I call the gods to witness that I knew not what lay within the grass-cloth wrapping."

Jose and I put the bodies and the ollas of corn back into the inner room, and set the stone slab in the doorway as firmly as we could. Then, with the turquoise ornaments safe in our pockets, we returned to the parapet wall and resumed our watch. By that time it was mid-afternoon, but still the column of black smoke continued to rise. As we sat there waiting for night to come, Jose told us the story of how he had happened to find the placer ground for which we were heading.

"Years ago," he said, "I was making a trip as packer for traders; we carried all kinds of goods that miners and Indians need, and exchanged them for gold dust and silver. On this trip we went to the Gila River, near Casa Grande ruin, where the Pima Indians were camping, and in the course of three or four weeks made a good trade.

"One day I went out hunting in the mountains not far west of the Casa Grande. I had climbed the roughest part of the range and had nearly reached the summit, when I fell and broke my water bottle. In a little while I was choking from thirst, and so I turned back.

"As I was passing down a wash I noticed a break in the rock formation—a vein of yellow and red soft rock, about two feet wide, that ran northwest and southwest in the dark-brown lava. I began to examine the gravel and, sand gathered here and there in the bottom of the wash, for the vein had every appearance of bearing gold. Of course I didnít stop there long, for the heat was terrific; but before I went on I had found three small grains of gold in the sands, and in a crack in the bed-rock two rough-shaped pieces as large as kernels of corn—enough to prove that the place was rich in gold.

[Illustration] from The Gold Cache by James W. Schultz

PITAMAKAN APPEARED IN THE DOORWAY.


"When I returned to camp I decided to say nothing to my comrades about my find. The place could be worked only when water was running down it, and the rainy season was many months off; I said to myself that I would later return to the country with one good man. But I never did go back to the Gila. I was young, I had gold enough for my necessities, and there were always exciting times in Santa Fe and on the different trading expeditions to far places. And then, one winter, I was sent to St. Louis with a band of horses for Pierre Chouteau—and I never went back. I am not sorry, for I have had great adventures, great happiness, in our North country. It is the best country in all the world."

"There you speak the truth!" Pi'tamakan exclaimed. "I wouldnít trade ten head of our countless buffalo for all this Southland."

"About how far is it from here to the Casa Grande—and how many nights' travel?" I asked.

"It's all of two hundred miles," Jose answered, "but how long it will take us to reach the place is more than I can tell. We must go much of the way from here to the desert in the daytime, for there is now no moonlight and in places the trail is very dangerous."

As evening came on, Pi'tamakan became restless; every few moments he snatched up the glass and searched the country with it.

"There! I guess you'll 'believe that you've brought trouble on us now!" he exclaimed suddenly. "The enemy comes!"

"Where? Where?" Jose and I asked.

But there was no need for Pi'tamakan to answer. On horseback and afoot a long procession of men, women, and children came into the broad mouth of the canon, wended their way a short distance up the bank of the creek, and prepared to camp. Worse still, half a dozen men at once left the others and started up the canon, evidently to hunt deer.

"They are Apaches," said Jose gloomily. "They will soon find our horses. Pi'tamakan is right; we are certainly out of luck."



Chapter IX

As the six Apaches advanced up the canon they spread out, in order to cover all the ground between the two cliffs. They traveled very slowly, and carefully examined every patch of scrub oak and cottonwood. One of the savages passed almost directly below us. He was a tall, powerfully built man, as black as a negro. On his back was a quiver of arrows and he carried in his hand the longest bow that we had ever seen. Jose, who was looking through the glass, announced that only two of the Apaches carried guns.

We anxiously watched the six men advance toward the grove where our horses were hidden. Night was coming on, but there was still light enough for the Indians to find our camp and then our trail.

"Oh, these mountains; the timber and canons!" groaned Pi'tamakan. "Here they can have everything their own way. If it were only the desert, now, I would show them how a Blackfoot can fight."

"Well, it isnít the desert," said Jose. "We are trapped."

"Of course we are," Pi'tamakan agreed. "Nothing else could be expected after what was done in that place of ghosts."

"Look! Look!" Jose whispered.

One of the men had startled a bunch of four big mule deer. A moment later there was a puff of smoke down near the creek, and the heavy boom of a gun echoed and reechoed from wall to wall of the deep canon. One of the deer fell, and all six Apaches hurried to the animal. They made quick work of the butchering, and in the gathering dusk we saw each man shoulder his portion of the meat and start down toward the camp-fires. For the time being we were safe.

As soon as it was dark we slowly felt our way down the steep path and made straight to the grove. We watered the horses and hurriedly ate a meal of dry meat. Jose was of the opinion that the Apaches would not come up the canon again; but we could take no chances. The one thing for us to do was to strike out for the desert.

We all agreed that our chance of safely passing the Apache camp would be best while the Indians were talking and laughing and feasting round the evening camp-fires. In a short time we had got the ammunition out of the cache and had saddled the horses. Leading his horse and feeling his way in the moonless night, Jose went ahead. Pi'tamakan and I rode, and followed close behind in single file. A faint glow in the distance revealed the position of the Apache camp.

After traveling very slowly for what seemed hours, we came so near the camp that we could see the dozen small fires and the hundred or more people sitting round them. But, contrary to our expectations, the campers were very quiet; there was no laughter, no hum of talk, not even the squalling of a baby or the barking of a dog.

"Surely, these must be an unhappy people," Pi'tamakan whispered, when we had dismounted and joined Jose to watch the scene. "Anyhow, they havenít the light hearts of my Blackfoot kindred."

"Noise or no noise we must go on," Jose declared. "Now, grasp your bridle close up to the bit, and if your horse starts to whinny to the Apache herd, yank his mouth; if necessary, close his nostrils; do anything to keep him quiet."

We started on. Even though we kept close to the farther edge of the canon, we should still have to pass within three hundred yards of the blazing fires. At that distance there was, of course, no danger that the light from them would reveal our presence. What we feared most was that guards might be stationed here and there round the camp; in that case we were sure to be discovered.

When we were no more than opposite the camp, there came from the darkness ahead the sharp, questioning whinny of a horse, then that of another, and still another. It was what Jose had prepared us for; but quick as I was, I only half shut off my horse's answer to the Apache herd, and again three or four of the animals made their call. Worse still, what was apparently the whole herd soon gathered about our animals, sniffing them and taking bites at their flanks.

Here and there several men rose up from beside the camp-fire and stood listening to the commotion; but they made no move to investigate it. At last we passed out into the valley, and in a few minutes the Apache horses dropped back one by one until we were finally rid of them. We paused only once to look back at the Apache fires.

"Well, we got out of that safe enough," I said, with a long sigh of relief.

"Yes, we are safe enough just now," Jose replied, "but we have left a trail behind us; don't forget that. If the Apaches notice it, we shall hear from them some time to-morrow."

It was rough country that we traveled the rest of that black night—a network of steep hills, dense thickets and groves, and deep washes, through which we slowly felt our way. When morning came we were not more than fifteen miles from the canon; but now we made up for lost time by keeping the horses at a lope wherever possible. After their long rest they were eager to go, and by the middle of the morning we were well down in the wide and beautiful valley of the Tonto, and fully forty miles from the Apache camp.

Here, for the first time, we really felt that we had come into the always-summer land. The day was as hot as the hottest days of the Northern summer, and the groves of cottonwood and willows were still in full green leaf, although, as Pi'tamakan was careful to inform us, this was the first of the winter moons (November).

Pleasant as it was in the shade of the huge cottonwoods beside the rippling waters of the Tonto, we dared not tarry there long; in order to rest at all we must find some elevated place of concealment from which we could obtain a good view of the country. After crossing a quarter of a mile of bottom land we climbed the steep rim of the east mesa, and found at once a good cache for ourselves and our horses in a patch of mesquites near the edge. The place commanded a fine view for miles up and down the valley. After unsaddling the horses, we all sat on watch while we ate the last of our dried deer meat.

No enemy appeared; the valley seemed deserted by man and beast alike. In the gathering dusk we mounted and rode on down the valley, determined to travel until midnight. Three different times that evening rattlesnakes sounded their warning as we passed them. Although we were glad enough when Jose at last told us to unsaddle and make camp, Pi'tamakan and I both hesitated when it came to spreading our blankets upon snake-infested ground.

"Well, you neednít fear them," Jose said. "Fifty thousand Indians sleep on the ground here in this country, and sleep sound."

"Then so will we," I said, and made the bed.

All the next day and the two following days we traveled steadily southward, over rough, cactus-covered hills and ridges of black lava. The third day was the hottest we had yet experienced, and about noon Pi'tamakan and I in the same breath asked Jose where water was to be found.

"Water? You want water so soon?" he asked, as if surprised. "Well, if you must have some I will get it for you; there is plenty close at hand."

Pi'tamakan and I looked at each other; we thought he had gone mad. Jose dismounted before a cactus that was about three feet high, and with his big knife lopped off the sharp spines of the plant all round the top; then he neatly sliced the top off in one piece. Inside was a white and somewhat woody pulp, and that he slashed and chopped until it was a fine hash. He squeezed a handful of the hash over my open mouth, and a stream of soapy-looking fluid—tasteless and cool—trickled into my parched throat. When we had all quenched our thirst at the "niggerhead cactus," as Jose called it, we 'started on our way again.

The next morning Pi'tamakan and I had a pleasant awakening.

"Rise, my younger brothers, rise!" Jose shouted.

"This night you shall drink of Gila water and sleep in the Pima camp."

"You jest," said Pi'tamakan.

"I speak the truth," the Spaniard answered. And then we knew that it was indeed the truth, and we rolled out of our blankets, all excited. Jose had chosen to surprise us.

We made quick work of the morning meal, and then set out on the last stage of our journey. Pi'tamakan started the Blackfoot victory song, and Jose and I took it up with good will.

We headed for a small, cone-like butte that was just visible in the distance. Jose said that it was the Casa Grande Butte, and that the great Casa Grande ruin was not more than two miles south of it. Some miles still farther south and west a low, black, short range of mountains squatted on the desert; at the north end of them, Jose said, lay our placer ground. We had to stop and have a look at the place with the glass.

The sun was still an hour high when we came to the river Gila.

All we could see was a waste of sand and gravel, half a mile wide, with huge piles of white, bleached driftwood scattered here and there. Upon riding out on the sandy waste, however, we found water standing in holes. Lining the banks were groves of cottonwood, mesquite, cat's-claw, and palo-verde.

When we had passed through the grove on the south side of the channel, we came to a wide and dusty trail in which were tracks of men and horses. Riding fast now, we turned down the trail, and within a couple of miles came to the upper edge of the Pima village.

In all our travels Pi'tamakan and I had never seen such queer structures as were the houses of that tribe. They were made of rush and arrow-weed thatch-work; the roofs, which projected over the sides for about two feet, made them look like huge mushrooms.

As we approached the houses, naked little children came running from all directions to see the strangers; their elders were no less curious. The men and women were amazingly fat, but they all had intelligent and kindly faces. Many had greenish tattoo lines running down the chin from each corner of the mouth.

"Where is your chief?" Jose asked in Spanish as we drew rein before the little crowd.

"Come. I will show you his house," one of the men answered in the same language.

I learned later that most of the Pimas were fluent linguists, and that several of them had Mexican wives.

When we came to the chief's house, we found the chief himself standing outside.

"Why, this is Antonio Azul, is it not?" Jose asked, and, springing from his horse, advanced and shook his hand. "You do not remember me, but I recognize you by that scar on your cheek. Many winters ago I used to come from Santa Fe to trade with you all here."

"You and your friends are welcome to our village," the chief replied gravely. "Let my people take your horses. I beg you to make my poor home your own."

That evening, after a good meal of bean soup and tortillas, Jose told all about our travels and adventures. The chief and others who had come in listened with deep interest. When Jose had finished, it was our turn to hear some strange and startling news. The chief told us that war had broken out among the whites the summer before; battles had occurred right on Pima land, and soldiers from the west were even then encamped at the lower Pima village. Moreover, as soon as the whites had begun fighting among themselves, the Apaches and Navajos had attacked all white settlers and miners, and had almost exterminated them. So frequent were the Indian raids that the overland stage had ceased running.

The chief said, among other things, that the soldiers made a prisoner of every white man they found, unless he agreed to join their army and fight for their cause. That looked bad for me, and I resolved to keep out of sight of the soldiers. I did not want to fight any white men's battles; I did not even know what they were fighting about. Strange as it may seem, up to the time that we left Fort Benton no news had reached us of the outbreak of the great Civil War, and we had heard no mention of it from the emigrants on the over-land trail.

When we were alone for a few moments, Jose told us that he would go over to the soldiers' camp in the morning to learn whether what we had heard was true; also he wanted to find out whether we could procure tools there with which to work our placer ground. From one source or another we had to get shovels, picks, and gold pans.

Jose started the next morning, before Pi'tamakan and I were awake. He returned in the afternoon, and the instant we saw his face we knew that he had good news.

"Listen," Jose said. "I went to that soldier camp. There were many Indians and a few Mexicans there. I asked questions, and I learned that the soldiers did not seize travelers. So I went to the soldier chief, who could speak Spanish.

"'We are from the Far North,' I said to him; 'from Fort Benton, the post of the American Fur Company on the Missouri. We ask a little help. Will you give it?'

"'Who are you—and what do you want?' the chief asked. I told him all. When I gave him the name of your uncle, he jumped up and shook my hand and said, `Tell the nephew of Wesley Fox to move down here at once. Come, all of you, and be my guests as long as you remain in the country."'

I was so much excited over our good fortune and so eager to meet one who knew my uncle that I slept little, and got my partners up at the first signs of day. The women of the lodge gave us an early breakfast, and before we started Jose presented them and the chief with a few of the turquoise beads that we had taken from the cliff dwelling.

The trail wound down the valley of the Gila, through cool groves of cottonwood.

At noon we passed a place called Sacaton, where the Santa Fe-California trail left the river and ran out across the desert to Tucson. Seven or eight miles below Sacaton we found the soldier camp, and I was soon shaking hands with Captain Wells. When he had ordered some one to care for our horses and to get quarters ready for us, he led me into his tent.

"God bless us!" he said, clapping me on the shoulder. "And so this is the nephew of my old friend, Wesley Fox! Well, well, well!"

When we had sat down, he asked me a thousand questions about my uncle and about our long journey from the north.

"And now, what is your object in coming down here!" he asked presently.

After a little hesitation, I replied: "Jose knows where there is some placer ground near here. We have come down to work it."

He laughed. "This is not a placer country," he said. "However, you can never tell; gold is where you find it. Anyway, you can count on me to help in the way of tools, and anything else we have here."

Then he told me about the war; his command was a part of Carleton's, three thousand California Volunteers. They aimed to drive the Confederates out of New Mexico; part of his regiment were now fighting the Apaches. He asked which side I would take—that of the North or the South?

"I guess neither," I replied. "You see, we Company men away up there on the Missouri are not interested in the States. We don't care what the people do, so long as they keep out of our buffalo country and the Indian trade."

"Spoken like a trader!" he exclaimed, smiling. Then he asked, "How are you going to get back to Fort Benton?"

"Why, by the route we came," I answered.

The captain shook his head. "You shall not attempt that. When you get ready to leave, I'll send you and your comrades from here to St. Louis, and there you can take one of the American Fur Company boats home."

When I told the others of the captain's plan, Pi'tamakan nearly went wild with joy. "What happiness that will be!" he exclaimed. "I have always wanted to see the white men's country, and now here comes the chance to do so. Surely, our medicine is strong."

We could not work the placer ground until some rainy weather came, and there was nothing for us to do except to loaf round the soldier camp. At last, one day when we could no longer stand the monotony, we took a day's supply of food, 'a gold pan, three grain sacks, and set out to have a look at our placer ground.

After passing Sacaton we left the river and, riding along the foot of the range, at last reached the mouth of the wash in which Jose had found the gold so many years before. There we picketed the horses, and, after a long look round to make sure that no Pima or Mexican was watching us, we started up it. When at last we arrived at the place in the wash where the cross-formation was broken down, the sun was near setting.

We had feared that some prospector might have found the deposit and cleaned it up, but Jose said that as far as he could see there was no change in the place. There was no time for us to do more than to scrape hastily into the sacks as much gravel and sand as we could carry. Then with our loads on our backs we hurried down to our horses and set out for the river.

We reached the river not far below Chief Azul's village. Caching the sacks and the gold pan in the brush, we went to the chief's house for the night. By washing the gravel the next day in the river water we should know whether our fortunes were made.



Chapter X

The next day we raised the cache and carried the sacks out to a pool of water in the river channel. There Jose poured some of the sand and gravel into the gold pan, and then, immersing the pan, began to rock it with an oscillating motion; occasionally he gave it a forward tilt that gradually tossed out the coarsest and lightest pieces of gravel, until only a pint or so of black sand remained in the pan.

"There is no gold!" I cried despairingly as I looked over his shoulder.

"Oh! Isnít there!" he exclaimed, and gave the pan a sudden uptilt.

The black sand spread evenly over the bottom of the pan, and I saw gleaming in it here and there many a bright yellow grain of gold.

I at once asked Jose how much the gold in the pan was worth. He did not reply for a while, but went on washing out the black sand until nothing except the gold remained little grains from the size of the head of a pin to that of a small pea.

"The value of what you see, younger brother," he said at last, "is about ten or twelve dollars."

"And how much is that?" asked Pi'tamakan.

"The same as five or six beaver-skins," I said. "Let us hurry and wash what we have, and then go back for more gravel."

Jose shook his head. "That we dare not do. Should we start to pack the gravel down here, those Pimas and Mexicans would soon find out what we were doing, and there would be a big scramble for that wash. No. We must wait until the rains put some water up there for us, and then work the richest of the gravel as quick as we can, and get out."

From the three sacks of gravel that we had brought down from the wash we got, according to Jose's estimate, about one hundred dollars worth of gold. The result was more than satisfactory, and I believed that a large fortune lay hidden in the barren wash.

"Now, don't have too big expectations," Captain Wells said to me, when I had shown him the gold and described the place from which we had taken it. "I have done a lot of placer mining in California, and my guess is that your find will prove to be a broken-down pocket. That is, there was perhaps three or four feet of very rich ore in the decomposed quartz cross-formation broken down by the wash. What gold the pocket contained is on the bed-rock close to the cross-vein, and with water you will be able to clean it up in three or four days. If you get a thousand dollars out of the deposit, you will do well."

It was well along in December now. The nights grew more and more chilly, but the days were perfect—neither too hot nor too cool. The river was dry, and the Pimas sorely needed rain for the new crop of wheat that they had sown. Their medicine-men were offering prayers and sacrifices at certain shrines of the rain gods. None of them kept a closer watch on the sky, however, than we did; but day after day passed without our seeing a single cloud.

One day I set out with my partners to visit the Casa Grande—the great ruin of which I had heard so much. No one knows how old the buildings are or who built them; they were in ruins when Coronado came there in 1540.

The sun was not more than an hour high when we emerged from a dense grove of mesquite and confronted the ancient pile, which towered above the plain. It stood in the center of what had once been an immense compound of buildings; most of them were now in ruins, and so, too, was what had evidently been a strong defensive wall.

It was with a strange feeling of awe, even of reverence, that I entered the east doorway and passed from one to another of the five rooms. The plan of each story was the same: a small, central room, surrounded by four rooms, of which those on the north and south were the largest. Fire had destroyed the roof and upper floors, but charred cedar beams that projected from the walls showed that the house had originally had three, and perhaps four, stories. Jose called my attention to a round hole in the outer wall of the upper east room and to several perpendicular yellow stripes on the inner wall.

"It is believed that the priests of the ancient people lived in this house," he said, "and by means of the rays of the rising sun that were cast upon the west wall through the round opening, watched the changing of the seasons. The yellow stripes marked the farthest north and the farthest south of the sun. By that means they could tell when to plant their crops and when the time for other important events was at hand."

Pi'tamakan had refused to enter the ancient ruin, and so when we had examined the rooms in-side we rejoined him and explored the surroundings of the place. We found much to interest us, and the day passed quickly. Sitting on one of the mounds of crumbling debris, we ate the roast beef, hard-tack, and baked beans that we had brought with us.

We had determined to pass the night at the ruin, and Jose and I made our beds in the east room; I wished to see in the morning how near the sun's rays would come to the north yellow stripe on the wall opposite. Pi'tamakan rolled up in his blanket under a low-spreading mesquite just north of the building. Nothing could have induced him to pass the night in that place of ghosts.

In the morning a dull and seemingly far-off boom brought Jose and me to our feet, wide-awake; as we started for the doorway 'there were three more heavy reports close outside. The sun was not yet above the horizon, but there was light enough for us to see three Indians crouching be-hind one of the mounds of debris. As they hurriedly reloaded their guns they peered over the mound toward the tree where Pi'tamakan had made his bed.

"Apaches!" Jose whispered. "Take the right one," he continued. "Now, one, two, three!"

Our shots sounded simultaneously. A blinding cloud of powder smoke filled the doorway. Springing to either side of the opening, we hurriedly began to reload, when boom! went another gun. The report was followed by Pi'tamakan's cry of "Sak-sit! Mat-Ets-tsi kah-mo-ta!" (Come out! None survive!)

Out we went then—but not until we had re-loaded our guns. Pi'tamakan came running from behind the building.

"There were four of them!" he cried jubilantly. "I was just getting up when I saw them coming off there to the east. I fired. One fell, and I crept round behind the building without the others' seeing where I went. Then you fired and two fell. The last one ran toward that mesquite grove; he lies in that low sagebrush this side of it."

While Jose and I went back for our blankets, Pi'tamakan took the scalp locks of the two Apaches that he had killed. Then we set out for the Pima village. When we told the news to Chief Azul, his men immediately rushed for the ruins to gather the weapons of the dead men.

"You three have done us a great service," the chief said. "Except for you we should certainly have lost some of our horses. That is what the black hearts were here for—to steal our animals and to kill any of the people they could find away from the village."

When we awoke on the second day of January, a thick white frost covered the ground. That was a sign of coming rain, said the Indians, and we three made hurried preparations. Captain Wells gave us a pack mule and a small tent, shovels, picks and pans, and a week's rations, and we set out for the placer ground. Rain began to fall before we reached the foot of the wash, where we put up the tent. Then, in spite of the rain and the darkness, P'itamakan went back to the soldier camp with the animals; Jose and I, wet to the skin, rolled into our blankets and shivered and dozed until morning.

At daylight we managed to make a fire of giant cactus piths and to boil some coffee; then, with our tools, we went up to the wash, down which a fair stream of water was already running. Before night Pi'tamakan returned to us on foot, and stood guard while Jose and I worked the deposit of gravel. Urged on by the gleam of gold in every panful of the washings, we toiled as we never had toiled before.

Contrary to our expectations, the rain outlasted the deposit of placer gravel in the wash. As Captain Wells had predicted, the pay streak did not extend more than a hundred feet below the cross-vein of decomposed quartz in which the pocket had been, and in that distance there was not much gravel on the bare bed-rock of the wash. By the afternoon of the fourth day we had cleaned up everything that was worth working, and had a sack of gold dust that was a delight to lift and balance. I thought it might be worth five thousand dollars; Jose said seven thousand.

Just as we had decided to quit work that last afternoon, a Pima Indian who was hunting a stray horse came upon us. He stood for a moment looking at us as we washed the last pan of crevice gravel; then he turned and hurried away. We had no sooner got down to our tent than Chief Azul flopped off from a panting, sweat-dripping horse and wanted to know what we had been doing up in the wash. We told him.

[Illustration] from The Gold Cache by James W. Schultz

URGED ON BY THE GLEAM OF GOLD, WE TOILED.


"This is my country!" he whined. "All that is in it is mine. And here you of the North come and take from it gold—gold, its greatest value. It is only just that you give me a share of what you have found."

We did not argue with him. Right then and there I measured out to him what I thought was fifty dollars worth of gold dust. Wrapping and knotting it in a corner of his blanket and thanking us profusely, the chief returned to his village.

The next day we were all back in the soldier camp. There Captain Wells weighed the gold dust on a steelyard and, after doing a little figuring, told us that it was worth about eight thousand dollars.

The captain was anxious for us to start North as soon as possible, but no chance came for nearly a month. During our stay at his camp we did some scouting for him, and helped escort as far as Yuma a Government mule train that had brought supplies from California. On February 3, a new command of California Volunteers arrived at the camp, on their way to the Union army in Missouri; Captain Wells arranged for us to accompany them as far as Santa Fe. He gave me three hundred dollars in gold coin for our expenses, and I gave him an equivalent amount of gold dust in exchange.

"Keep that sack of dust well cached," he said to me. "You are going into a country infested with men who hold life as cheaply as do the Apaches."

At Santa Fe we sold our horses and took the stage for St. Louis, where we arrived late one night. At daylight the next morning I roused Pi'tamakan and got him up on the roof of the hotel. He looked off at the roofs of the city and gasped.

"The whites!" he cried. "Why, they are as many as blades of grass! They are more in number than all the different tribes of my country. How often have I heard our chiefs say that we could wipe out the whites if we chose to do so! I wish that they could be with me now to see this sight."

"What you see is nothing," I said. "Off there to the east, the south, and the north are hundreds of white men's towns as large as this and many of them larger."

"Let us go back inside," he said. "I have seen enough. My heart is sick at all this."

Not until we had had breakfast in our room and had gone over to the offices of our Company did he recover his spirits.

It was eight o'clock when we arrived at the offices, but they were open and the employees were busy at their tasks. I had not been in the place for seven years, and meanwhile had grown from a pale, spindling little boy to a fairly robust youth; so it is no wonder that the clerks did not recognize me. All eyes were upon us when I asked for Mr. Chouteau.

"He is in his private office," the head bookkeeper replied. "You wish to see him? What is the name, please?"

"Thomas Fox."

I had no sooner said it than all the old clerks surrounded me, shook my hand, patted me on the back, and asked me a thousand questions. In another moment we stood before Pierre Chouteau, the great man of our Company, who gave me such a kind greeting that, try as I would to prevent it, the tears came to my eyes. He gave Jose and Pi'tamakan, too, a sincere welcome. Then he bade us sit down, and I told him the story of our travels and adventures.

When I had finished, I laid the sack of gold dust on the table before him and asked him to sell it for us and to divide the proceeds equally among the three of us. That was done within twenty minutes, and to my surprise I found that the value of the gold dust was nine thousand and eighty dollars: Captain Wells' steelyard had been incorrect.

Mr. Chouteau told me that, so far as he knew, my uncle Wesley was at Fort Benton, and in good health. He said that a new Company boat, the Mandan, would leave for that point in March, and that we should go on it.

We each took five hundred dollars in cash of our share of the gold dust, and had the balance put to our credit on the Company books. Then we hurried out to buy some clothes. That was easy enough for Jose and me, but Pi'tamakan refused to wear white men's clothing; he spent a whole day in our room converting two fine blankets into leggings and capote. Arrayed in those and in some real Blackfoot moccasins that I got for him from one of the Company clerks, he was happy. We made many excursions into the shops of the town, and bought many presents for relatives and friends.

The morning came when we bade farewell to Mr. Chouteau and all the Company men. The Mandan drew out into the stream and turned her nose northward, and then, in a little while, westward into the Missouri. Fort Benton was by the channel two thousand miles away, and at the best we should be more than two months in reaching our destination.

It was June 10 when we rounded the last bend and sighted Fort Benton, and just below it the lodges of the Blackfeet. The whole tribe had assembled there, awaiting the arrival of the boat with its cargo of trade goods. As usual, flags were flying and cannon booming from the bastions. In the crowd were my uncle Wesley and Tsistsaki, my second mother. It was she who first recognized me. I saw her clutch my uncle's arm; then up went her hands as she gave thanks to the sun for my safe return.

There also in the crowd of waiting people were White Wolf and his women, and Pi'tamakan's eyes were blurred with tears as he looked down upon them from the deck. Jose had also recognized his own: the slender little wife and the children by her side. Before the boat even touched land, we three had leaped ashore and were greeting our loved ones.


THE END.