Deerfoot was disposed at first to divide this among the four, who could hold
the articles above their heads while their horses were swimming, but he distrusted the ability of the boys to do their part.
The important thing was to learn the depth of the stream. He therefore asked Whirlwind to cross to the other rocky bank. If he could do this without swimming all difficulty was removed. The stallion was quick to understand the request made of him, though it is hardly to be supposed that he comprehended its full significance. When told to enter the stream he did so with only natural hesitation, feeling his way as his kind do when the ground in front is uncertain.
All attentively watched the noble animal as he waded out into the swift current, his foothold firm and strong. The water crept higher and higher, and when the middle was reached it touched his body. This was encouraging, but the channel might
run close to the farther shore, and none breathed freely until the depth was seen to be decreasing. Finally the steed stepped out without once having been in water that was four feet deep, and at no point, despite the velocity of the current, did he have serious trouble in keeping upright.
“No place for crossing could be better,” said the pleased Shawanoe. “Here we will pass to the other side.”
He whistled to Whirlwind, who instantly stepped into the water again, and came back much more quickly than he had gone over. His master leaped on his back, and, giving the word to his horse, led the way, with Mul-tal-la almost at his side.
“It will be just like Zigzag to take a notion to roll when he gets out there,” said Victor, as he drove the packhorse in ahead of him.
“If he does it will be the worst roll of his life,” replied George, who half feared the stubborn animal would try to do something of that nature. But, of course, Zigzag had too much sense to attempt anything of the kind. Indeed, he did his part so faithfully that he emerged from the river with his load as intact as at the beginning.
Matters were not pleasant that night. No food had been eaten since morning, for Deerfoot and Mul-tal-la had come to look upon the noonday halt as solely for the horses. It was a waste of time to hunt and prepare a dinner, and it had not been done since Deerfoot last joined the party. The expectation, however, was that of having an evening meal, which was welcome after the long day’s ride.
Although passing through a country abounding with game, our friends could not catch sight during the afternoon of elk, deer, bison or even a wild turkey. It was as if those creatures knew of the coming of the strangers and kept out of their way. It was not a good season to fish, though it was not so long since several meals had been made upon them. Still, more for the sake of the boys than himself and Mul-tal-la, the Shawanoe brought out the lines with a view to trying his luck in the Great Horn, but he was unable to find any bait. Both he and the Blackfoot searched until the growing darkness stopped them, without finding so much as an angleworm or any insect that could serve them to help woo the inhabitants of the river to shore. Still more, the ground was so rough, broken and overgrown that the horses were unable to do any better than their masters in the way of food.
And this was not the worst. They had been pestered by mosquitoes through the day, and at night the insects swarmed about the camp by the millions, tormenting animals as well as men. The poor beasts stamped the ground, switched their tails, bit and kicked, and at times were on the point of breaking off and dashing into the solitude. It was the turn of George Shelton to stand guard throughout the first portion of the night, and of Victor to act for the remainder of the hours of darkness. Deerfoot told them that inasmuch as none could sleep with comfort he would mount guard and divide the watch with Mul-tal-la. The boys did not suspect what was the truth—that the kind-hearted Shawanoe did this out of consideration for them.
Only partial relief was obtained by the recourse of travelers caught in such a trying situation. By enveloping themselves in the smoke of the fire until it was hard to breathe, they managed to fight off the pests for a part of the time. When the boys lay down each left only the point of his nose obtruding from the folds 佛山桑拿蒲友论坛 of the blanket. Even then that organ was punctured as by innumerable needle points, and most of the time was spent in slapping at the torturing insects.
There must have been a score of porcupines which busied themselves nosing about the camp in search of food. They were so familiar that in moving around one had to be careful to avoid stepping on the prickly things. They did not molest our friends, but their society was anything but agreeable. Victor expressed himself as envious of the protection nature had given these things against the mosquitoes.
Amid these trials Deerfoot and George Shelton felt grateful over a fact that had become apparent long before. It has been shown that from the very hour when it was agreed that Victor should form one of the little party to cross the continent, he began rallying from the decline into which he was rapidly settling, and which threatened 佛山夜生活网 his life. Except for some such radical change he must have been crushed by the incubus that was bearing him to earth. But the rough out-door days and nights had wrought their beneficent work. He had regained his former vigor and rugged health, and even before they crossed the Mississippi was his old self again. True, moments of sad depression came to him during the lonely watches, when his grief over the loss of his parent brought tears to his eyes and made him sigh for the sweet companionship that could never again be his in this world.
It is a blessed provision that, if time cannot fully heal all wounds, it can soften the pangs that otherwise would make existence one long misery and sorrow.
CHAPTER XXII A CHANGE OF PLAN.
THE summer was well advanced when Mul-tal-la, Deerfoot and the Shelton boys drew rein in the Rocky Mountains, south of the stream known as Medicine 佛山桑拿飞机论坛网 River, and far to the northward of the headwaters of the Yellowstone.
They had had a hard time in reaching this point on their long journey. Numerous streams had been crossed, deep and dangerous defiles threaded, treacherous paths followed, and several accidents encountered. Once in following a narrow, winding path leading around a vast mountain wall, Zigzag lost his footing and rolled over several times in his descent to the bottom, fully fifty feet below. Deerfoot and Mul-tal-la hurriedly scrambled after him in order to recover the goods and to put the animal out of his misery. When they reached Zigzag they found him standing on his feet, with his pack somewhat askew, but seemingly suffering from only a few trifling bruises. He was extricated with much labor from his position, and resumed his plodding task. One fact was evident; he knew more than he did before, and nothing in the nature of a similar mishap occurred again.
The 佛山桑拿论坛网 mosquitoes still pestered our friends at times, but not to the degree that they suffered on the shore of the Great Horn. Once or twice they were pinched with hunger, but to no serious extent. They were now comparatively close to the Blackfoot country, and, if all went well, ought to reach it within a week. In fact, as Mul-tal-la declared, they were liable to meet some of the hunting parties of his people at any time.
On the night succeeding this statement two mounted Blackfeet, from the principal village, rode into camp and greeted the travelers. The couple were old acquaintances of Mul-tal-la, and, as may be supposed, the meeting was pleasant indeed. Deerfoot’s friend had an absorbing story to tell of his experiences during the year that he had been as far removed from his own people as if out of the world. They listened like a couple of children enthralled by a marvelous fairy tale, and would have sat in delighted attention the night through had their old comrade been willing to keep up the thread of his narrative, whose charm 佛山桑拿按摩一条龙服务 could never pall for them.
They were astonished to find the young Shawanoe able to speak their own tongue like one of themselves, and when Mul-tal-la dwelt upon the prowess, wisdom, chivalry and daring of the youth, they stared at him as if he belonged to another order of beings. Mul-tal-la would have told much more of his friend had not the youth checked him with a sternness that the Blackfoot dared not disregard.
The 佛山桑拿会所全套一龙 visitors were very friendly and George and Victor Shelton were much pleased with them. They got on quite well through the language of signs, and the warriors were again amazed when they heard their countryman speak to the lads in their own language. It must have been a marvelous country and people that sent the youths forth, and which had been visited by Mul-tal-la. It was plain that the couple, when they sighed and looked into each other’s face, longed for the same experience that had befallen their countryman.
But with all this Mul-tal-la had also a sad story to tell. He had left home with a companion, but returned without him. It was a strange accident that overtook that comrade after he had surmounted so many perils, but his body rested many hundreds of miles away in a wondrous country, and his friends must wait to see him until he and they met in the happy hunting grounds that are the final home of all true and brave red men.
This visit caused an important change in the plans of Deerfoot and Mul-tal-la. As you know, the party had been steadily following a general northwest course, with the Blackfoot country as their chief destination. The intention was to remain there for a few days or weeks, and then press westward to the Pacific. When in the Blackfoot region a fourth of their journey would still be before them, and it led through a section the most difficult of all to travel. The understanding was that Mul-tal-la would accompany Deerfoot and the boys until all were given to look upon the mightiest body of water on the globe. By the time they reached the Blackfoot country again winter would be so near (if not already upon them) that our friends purposed to remain among that tribe until the opening of spring, when they would set out on the return to their own home.
But Mul-tal-la, after a long conversation with his countrymen, told Deerfoot that when he joined his people he would not be allowed to leave them again. An unprecedented favor had been granted him and his companion. The one who had received such an indulgence could not receive it a second time. Moreover, the death of the comrade increased the difficulty, if that were possible, for the head chief of the Blackfeet, who was an autocrat among his tribe, would be offended with Mul-tal-la when he learned all that had taken place. Many Indian tribes follow the custom of the Chinese and punish an unfortunate leader, no matter how blameless he may have been for his misfortune.
Had Mul-tal-la returned with his former companion it is not unlikely that the chieftain would have permitted him to accompany Deerfoot and the boys to the Pacific, but, coming back without the other, such permission was impossible.
Long after the brothers had stretched out by the fire the Shawanoe and the Blackfeet talked together. Convinced that the life of Mul-tal-la was in danger from the chieftain, Deerfoot was determined that his friend should not run the risk that awaited him if he went back with the couple or followed them after a brief interval.
He proposed, therefore, that the party with Mul-tal-la should turn off from the route they were following, force their way through the Rocky Mountains to the headwaters of the Columbia, and pass down that to the Pacific, after which the four would visit the Blackfeet and stay with them till spring.
Meanwhile the two Blackfeet would return to their countrymen and report what they had seen and learned. An outburst against Mul-tal-la was certain, but it would be given time in which to spend its force. The visitors would do all they could to placate and show their chieftain that Mul-tal-la would have been glad to hasten home had he not been under pledge to guide the Shawanoe and his friends to the Pacific. The Shawanoe would give his life at any time rather than break his promise, and he had taught the same high principles to Mul-tal-la.
Deerfoot was unwilling to admit that any credit in the matter was due to his teachings, but he was forced to hold his peace when his friend unhesitatingly told him that among his people the violation of a pledge was not regarded as wrong when the interests of the one making the pledge called for such a course. “And,” added the grinning Mul-tal-la, “I am a Blackfoot.”
Deerfoot with all his sagacity failed to note one phase of the situation that was apparent to Mul-tal-la. The latter, despite the protest of the Shawanoe, managed secretly to tell his countrymen a good deal about the remarkable youth who had proved so unselfish a friend to him when such a friend was needed. He gave the story of his conquest of the wild stallion, of Deerfoot’s incredible fleetness of foot, of his skill with the bow and rifle, of his courage and readiness of resource, which surpassed that of any of his race, and of his admirable character, which Mul-tal-la had never seen equaled by any white or red man.
There was one subject upon which the four red men talked freely, for it was always a welcome one to Deerfoot the Shawanoe. Unto the visitors had come vague, shadowy rumors of a religion different from that which they had been taught, and which had been followed by their people from time immemorial. In some cases these reports were definite enough to awaken curiosity and inquiry. Stories were told of self-sacrificing missionaries who had spent years in teaching the new faith, and who had given their lives for its sake. It was a strange doctrine, indeed, which taught the sin of revenge, of deceit, of cruelty, of wrong-doing, and replaced them with love, forgiveness, mercy and the Golden Rule, and the assurance that a reward of eternal life awaited those who lived according to the will of the one and true God.
Immortality is not capable of scientific proof, but one of the strongest evidences of its truth is that yearning which is implanted, to a greater or less degree, in every human heart, and in every race, no matter how low or degraded its order in the rank of civilization. All religions, whether true or false, are based on the idea of a life beyond the grave. It accords with reason and with the self-evident fact that no man can feel that his life’s work is rounded out and completed on earth, and that consequently there must be another existence in which that work shall be carried on.
That these longings, these yearnings, this instinctive reaching out for the things beyond mortal grasp, are an inherent part of our being show that they have been divinely planted there by One who is capable of satisfying them all, and who, in his own good time, will satisfy them. So reasonable and so well founded is this belief that the burden of proof is thrown upon those who dispute it. Let them demonstrate, if they can, that that which we call death ends all. But it is beyond their power, and from the nature of things always will be beyond their power, to do this impossible thing.
At the opening of this century we stand on the threshold of the most marvelous discoveries and achievements made since the world began. Some of these discoveries fill us with awe, and clearly presage the greater that are close at hand. Among them may be the scientific proof of a future existence, though such proof is not necessary with the most exalted intellects, any more than it is with the simpler and more child-like minds.
We must not wander, however, from the thread of our narrative, though the subject is the most momentous that can engage our mental powers. When Mul-tal-la put into more definite form the dim glimpses that his countrymen had caught of the true light, he appealed to Deerfoot, who in his modest, convincing manner told the story of his conversion and of the sweet communion he held every day with the Father of All Good. It was a faith which no trial, no suffering, no torture could change or modify, and he impressed upon his absorbed listeners the ineffable beauties of the religion which made a man a new being and fitted him for the life to come.
Deerfoot had that rare tact of not pressing an important question too far. He knew he had said enough, and when his hearers ceased to question him he ceased to exhort. He, like all true Christians before and since, had to meet that most troublesome of questions: the evil-doing of those who profess the white man’s religion. The Blackfeet had met Caucasians who prayed and bellowed their faith, yet whose lives belied every word of their profession. They wronged and cheated the Indians; they broke their promises; they maltreated them, and in short did everything that was evil. If the Christian religion made such men, the pagans might well declare they wanted none of it, for they were unquestionably better than those hypocrites.
Deerfoot ranked such men far below those who were called heathens. He despised them utterly, and was sure their punishment would be greater than that meted out to those who live in open sin. He strove to impress upon his listeners—and it is fair to believe he succeeded—the distinction between true and false Christians, and assured the Blackfeet that they were justified at all times in rating a person, not by what he professed, but by his daily life, for it is thus that at the last day the great Arbiter will judge us all.
And so, without fully realizing it, the young Shawanoe sowed the good seed as the soil presented itself. It was he who had brought George and Victor Shelton to see the truth; under whom Mul-tal-la had become a believer; hundreds of miles away he had planted the germ in the ground offered by the trapper Jack Halloway, of whom he was to hear further; and now he had given the first glimmerings of light to these benighted Blackfeet, and it was a light that was not to be extinguished, but would grow and become luminous to a degree that only the Judgment Day would make clear.
Thus it is with all of us. We have only to use the opportunities as they present themselves; to do the kind deed; to utter the encouraging word; to help the fallen; to relieve the suffering; to purify our own actions, words and thoughts, and, all in good time, the harvest shall appear.
CHAPTER XXIII THE MONARCH OF THE SOLITUDES.
Mul-tal-la and the Shelton boys were encamped in the heart of the Rockies. The Blackfeet visitors had departed two days before and were well on their way to their own villages. The air was keen and bracing, and the sun that had been obscured now shone from a brilliant sky.
The halt was made at noon to give the horses a needed rest, for they had done considerable hard climbing. Even the peerless Whirlwind showed the effects of the unusual task. It being understood that the pause was to be for several hours, a general break-up of the company followed. The Blackfoot and the Shawanoe strolled off by themselves, and George and Victor Shelton took another direction, with a caution not to wander too far and to return before sunset.