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Chapter 21 Wolves attack the horses, and Cameron circumvents the wolves—_ear-hunt, in which Henri shines conspicuous—Joe and the “Natter-list”—A_larm—A surprise and a capture.

  • We must now return to the camp where Walter Cameron still guarded the goods, and the men pursued their trapping avocations.
  • Here seven of the horses had been killed in one night by wolves while grazin_n a plain close to the camp, and on the night following a horse that ha_trayed was also torn to pieces and devoured. The prompt and daring manner i_hich this had been done convinced the trader that white wolves ha_nfortunately scented them out, and he set several traps in the hope o_apturing them.
  • White wolves are quite distinct from the ordinary wolves that prowl throug_oods and plains in large packs. They are much larger, weighing sometimes a_uch as a hundred and thirty pounds; but they are comparatively scarce, an_ove about alone, or in small bands of three or four. Their strength i_normous, and they are so fierce that they do not hesitate, upon occasions, t_ttack man himself. Their method of killing horses is very deliberate. Tw_olves generally undertake the cold-blooded murder. They approach their victi_ith the most innocent looking and frolicsome gambols, lying down and rollin_bout, and frisking pleasantly until the horse becomes a little accustomed t_hem. Then one approaches right in front, the other in rear, still friskin_layfully, until they think themselves near enough, when they make _imultaneous rush. The wolf which approaches in rear is the true assailant; the rush of the other is a mere feint; then both fasten on the poor horse’_aunches and never let go till the sinews are cut and he is rolling on hi_ide.
  • The horse makes comparatively little struggle in this deadly assault. He seem_aralysed and soon falls to rise no more.
  • Cameron set his traps towards evening in a circle with a bait in the centr_nd then retired to rest. Next morning he called Joe Blunt and the two wen_ff together.
  • “It is strange that these rascally white wolves should be so bold when th_maller kinds are so cowardly,” remarked Cameron, as they walked along.
  • “So ’tis,” replied Joe, “but I’ve seed them other chaps bold enough too in th_rairie when they were in large packs and starvin’.”
  • “I believe the small wolves follow the big fellows and help them to eat wha_hey kill, though they generally sit round and look on at the killing.”
  • “Hist!” exclaimed Joe, cocking his gun, “there he is, an’ no mistake.”
  • There he was, undoubtedly. A wolf of the largest size with one of his feet i_he trap. He was a terrible-looking object, for, besides his immense size an_aturally ferocious aspect, his white hair bristled on end and was all covere_ith streaks and spots of blood from his bloody jaws. In his efforts to escap_e had bitten the trap until he had broken his teeth and lacerated his gums, so that his appearance was hideous in the extreme. And when the two men cam_p he struggled with all his might to fly at them.
  • Cameron and Joe stood looking at him in a sort of wondering admiration.
  • “We’d better put a ball in him,” suggested Joe after a time. “Mayhap the chai_on’t stand sich tugs long.”
  • “True, Joe; if it breaks we might get an ugly nip before we killed him.”
  • So saying Cameron fired into the wolf’s head and killed it. It was found, o_xamination, that four wolves had been in the traps, but the rest had escaped.
  • Two of them, however, had gnawed off their paws and left them lying in th_raps.
  • After this the big wolves did not trouble them again. The same afternoon, _ear-hunt was undertaken, which well-nigh cost one of the Iroquois his life.
  • It happened thus:—
  • While Cameron and Joe were away after the white wolves, Henri came flounderin_nto camp tossing his arms like a maniac, and shouting that “seven bars wos b_own in de bush close bye!” It chanced that this was an idle day with most o_he men, so they all leaped on their horses, and taking guns and knive_allied forth to give battle to the bears.
  • Arrived at the scene of action they found the seven bears busily engaged i_igging up roots, so the men separated in order to surround them, and the_losed in. The place was partly open and partly covered with thick bushes int_hich a horseman could not penetrate. The moment the bears got wind of wha_as going forward they made off as fast as possible, and then commenced _cene of firing, galloping, and yelling, that defies description! Four out o_he seven were shot before they gained the bushes; the other three wer_ounded, but made good their retreat. As their places of shelter, however, were like islands in the plain, they had no chance of escaping.
  • The horsemen now dismounted and dashed recklessly into the bushes, where the_oon discovered and killed two of the bears; the third was not found for som_ime. At last an Iroquois came upon it so suddenly that he had not time t_oint his gun before the bear sprang upon him and struck him to the earth, where it held him down.
  • Instantly the place was surrounded by eager men, but the bushes were so thic_nd the fallen trees among which the bear stood were so numerous, that the_ould not use their guns without running the risk of shooting their companion.
  • Most of them drew their knives and seemed about to rush on the bear wit_hese, but the monster’s aspect, as it glared round, was so terrible that the_eld back for a moment in hesitation.
  • At this moment Henri, who had been at some distance engaged in the killing o_ne of the other bears, came rushing forward after his own peculiar manner.
  • “Ah! fat is eet—hay? de bar no go under yit?”
  • Just then his eye fell on the wounded Iroquois with the bear above him, and h_ttered a yell so intense in tone that the bear himself seemed to feel tha_omething decisive was about to be done at last. Henri did not pause, but wit_ flying dash he sprang like a spread eagle, arms and legs extended, righ_nto the bear’s bosom. At the same moment he sent his long hunting-knife dow_nto its heart. But Bruin is proverbially hard to kill, and although mortall_ounded, he had strength enough to open his jaws and close them on Henri’_eck.
  • There was a cry of horror, and at the same moment a volley was fired at th_ear’s head, for the trappers felt that it was better to risk shooting thei_omrades than see them killed before their eyes. Fortunately the bullets too_ffect, and tumbled him over at once without doing damage to either of th_en, although several of the balls just grazed Henri’s temple and carried of_is cap.
  • Although uninjured by the shot, the poor Iroquois had not escaped scatheles_rom the paw of the bear. His scalp was torn almost off, and hung down ove_is eyes, while blood streamed down his face. He was conveyed by his comrade_o the camp, where he lay two days in a state of insensibility, at the end o_hich time he revived and recovered daily. Afterwards when the camp moved h_ad to be carried, but in the course of two months he was as well as ever, an_uite as fond of bear-hunting!
  • Among other trophies of this hunt there were two deer, and a buffalo, whic_ast had probably strayed from the herd. Four or five Iroquois were round thi_nimal whetting their knives for the purpose of cutting it up when Henr_assed, so he turned aside to watch them perform the operation, quit_egardless of the fact that his neck and face were covered with blood whic_lowed from one or two small punctures made by the bear.
  • The Indians began by taking off the skin, which certainly did not occupy the_ore than five minutes. Then they cut up the meat and made a pack of it, an_ut out the tongue, which is somewhat troublesome, as that member requires t_e cut out from under the jaw of the animal, and not through the natura_pening of the mouth. One of the fore-legs was cut off at the knee joint, an_his was used as a hammer with which to break the skull for the purpose o_aking out the brains, these being used in the process of dressing an_oftening the animal’s skin. An axe would have been of advantage to break th_kull, but in the hurry of rushing to the attack the Indians had forgotte_heir axes, so they adopted the common fashion of using the buffalo’s hoof a_ hammer, the shank being the handle. The whole operation of flaying, cuttin_p, and packing the meat, did not occupy more than twenty minutes. Befor_eaving the ground these expert butchers treated themselves to a little of th_arrow and warm liver in a raw state!
  • Cameron and Joe walked up to the group while they were indulging in thi_ittle feast.
  • “Well, I’ve often seen that eaten, but I never could do it myself,” remarke_he former.
  • “No!” cried Joe in surprise; “now that’s oncommon cur’us. I’ve _lived_ on ra_iver an’ marrow-bones for two or three days at a time, when we wos chased b_he Camanchee Injuns and didn’t dare to make a fire, an’ it’s ra’al good i_s. Won’t ye try it _now_?”
  • Cameron shook his head.
  • “No, thankee; I’ll not refuse when I can’t help it, but until then I’ll remai_n happy ignorance of how good it is.”
  • “Well, it _is_ strange how some folk can’t abide anything in the meat way the_an’t bin used to. D’ye know I’ve actually knowd men from the cities a_ouldn’t eat a bit o’ horseflesh for love or money. Would ye believe it?”
  • “I can well believe that, Joe, for I have met with such persons myself; i_act, they are rather numerous. What are you chuckling at, Joe?”
  • “Chucklin’? if ye mean be that ‘larfin’ in to myself’ it’s because I’_hinkin’ o’ a chap as once comed out to the prairies.”
  • “Let us walk back to the camp, Joe, and you can tell me about him as we g_long.”
  • “I think,” continued Joe, “he comed from Washington, but I never could mak_ut right whether he wos a government man or not. Anyhow, he wos _heelosopher—a natter-list I think he call his-self.”
  • “A naturalist,” suggested Cameron.
  • “Ay, that wos more like it. Well, he wos about six feet two in his moccasins, an’ as thin as a ramrod, an’ as blind as a bat—leastways he had weak eyes a_ore green spectacles. He had on a grey shootin’ coat and trousers and ves_nd cap, with rid whiskers an’ a long nose as rid at the point as the whisker_os.
  • “Well, this gentleman engaged me an’ another hunter to go a trip with him int_he prairies, so off we sot one fine day on three hosses with our blankets a_ur backs—we wos to depend on the rifle for victuals. At first I thought th_atter-list one o’ the cruellest beggars as iver went on two long legs, for h_sed to go about everywhere pokin’ pins through all the beetles, and flies, an’ creepin’ things he could sot eyes on, an’ stuck them in a box; but he tol_e he comed here a-purpose to git as many o’ them as he could; so says I, ‘I_hat’s it, I’ll fill yer box in no time.’
  • “‘Will ye?’ says he, quite pleased like.
  • “‘I will,’ says I, an’ galloped off to a place as was filled wi’ all sorts o’ crawlin’ things. So I sets to work, and whenever I seed a thing crawlin’ I so_y fut on it and crushed it, and soon filled my breast pocket. I coched a lo_’ butterflies too, an’ stuffed them into my shot pouch, and went back in a_our or two an’ showed him the lot. He put on his green spectacles and looke_t them as if he’d seen a rattlesnake.
  • “‘My good man,’ says he, ‘you’ve crushed them all to pieces!’
  • “‘They’ll taste as good for all that,’ says I, for somehow I’d taken’t in m_ead that he’d heard o’ the way the Injuns make soup o’ the grasshoppers, a_as wantin’ to try his hand at a new dish!
  • “He laughed when I said this, an’ told me he wos collectin’ them to take hom_o be _looked_ at. But that’s not wot I wos goin’ to tell ye about him,” continued Joe; “I wos goin’ to tell ye how we made him eat horseflesh. H_arried a revolver, too, this Natter-list did, to load wi’ shot as small a_ust a-most, and shoot little birds with. I’ve seed him miss birds only thre_eet away with it. An’ one day he drew it all of a suddent and let fly at _ig bum-bee that wos passin’, yellin’ out that it wos the finest wot he ha_ver seed. He missed the bee, of coorse, cause it was a flyin’ shot, he said, but he sent the whole charge right into Martin’s back—Martin was my comrade’_ame. By good luck Martin had on a thick leather coat, so the shot niver go_he length o’ his skin.
  • “One day I noticed that the Natter-list had stuffed small corks into th_uzzles of all the six barrels of his revolver. I wondered what they wos for, but he wos al’ays doin’ sich queer _things_ that I soon forgot it. ‘May be,’ thought I, jist before it went out o’ my mind,—‘may be he thinks that ’ll sto_he pistol from goin’ off by accident,’ for ye must know he’d let it off thre_imes the first day by accident, and well-nigh blowed off his leg the las_ime, only the shot lodged in the back o’ a big toad he’d jist stuffed int_is breeches’ pocket. Well, soon after, we shot a buffalo bull, so when i_ell, off he jumps from his horse an runs up to it. So did I, for I wasn’_ure the beast was dead, an’ I had jist got up when it rose an’ rushed at th_atter-list.
  • “‘Out o’ the way,’ I yelled, for my rifle was empty; but he didn’t move, so _ushed forward an’ drew the pistol out o’ his belt and let fly in the bull’_ibs jist as it ran the poor man down. Martin came up that moment an’ put _all through its heart, and then we went to pick up the Natter-list. He cam_o in a little, an’ the first thing he said was, ‘Where’s my revolver?’ When _ave it to him he looked at it, an’ said with a solemcholy shake o’ the head, ‘There’s a whole barrel-full lost!’ It turned out that he had taken to usin’ the barrels for bottles to hold things in, but he forgot to draw the charges, so sure enough I had fired a charge o’ bum-bees, an’ beetles, an’ small sho_nto the buffalo!
  • “But that’s not what I wos goin’ to tell ye yet. We comed to a part o’ th_lains where we wos well-nigh starved for want o’ game, an’ the Natter-lis_ot so thin that ye could a-most see through him, so I offered to kill m_orse, an’ cut it up for meat; but you niver saw sich a face he made. ‘I’_ather die first,’ says he, ‘than eat it;’ so we didn’t kill it. But that ver_ay Martin got a shot at a wild horse and killed it. The Natter-list was dow_n the bed o’ a creek at the time gropin’ for creepers, an’ he didn’t see it.
  • “‘He’ll niver eat it,’ says Martin.
  • “‘That’s true,’ says I.
  • “‘Let’s tell him it’s a buffalo,’ says he.
  • “‘That would be tellin’ a lie,’ says I.
  • “So we stood lookin’ at each other, not knowin’ what to do.
  • “‘I’ll tell ye what,’ cries Martin, ‘we’ll cut it up, and take the meat int_amp and cook it without _sayin’ a word_.’
  • “‘Done,’ says I, ‘that’s it;’ for ye must know the poor creature wos no judg_’ meat. He couldn’t tell one kind from another, an’ he niver axed questions.
  • In fact he niver a-most spoke to us all the trip. Well, we cut up the hors_nd carried the flesh and marrow-bones into camp, takin’ care to leave th_oofs and skin behind, and sot to work and roasted steaks and marrow-bones.
  • “When the Natter-list came back ye should ha’ seen the joyful face he put o_hen he smelt the grub, for he was all but starved out, poor critter.
  • “‘What have we got here?’ cried he, rubbin’ his hands and sittin’ down.
  • “‘Steaks an’ marrow-bones,’ says Martin.
  • “‘Capital!’ says he. ‘I’m _so_ hungry.’
  • “So he fell to work like a wolf. I niver seed a man pitch into anything lik_s that Natter-list did into that horseflesh.
  • “‘These are first-rate marrow-bones,’ says he, squintin’ with one eye down th_hin bone o’ the hind-leg to see if it was quite empty.
  • “‘Yes, sir, they is,’ answered Martin, as grave as a judge.
  • “‘Take another, sir,’ says I.
  • “‘No, thankee,’ says he with a sigh, for he didn’t like to leave off.
  • “Well, we lived for a week on horseflesh, an’ first-rate livin’ it wos; the_e fell in with buffalo, an’ niver ran short again till we got to th_ettlements, when he paid us our money an’ shook hands, sayin’ we’d had a nic_rip an’ he wished us well. Jist as we wos partin’ I said, says I, ‘D’ye kno_hat it wos we lived on for a week arter we wos well-nigh starved in th_rairies?’
  • “‘What,’ says he, ‘when we got yon capital marrow-bones?’
  • “‘The same,’ says I; ‘yon was _horseflesh_ ,’ says I, ‘an’ I think ye’l_ur’ly niver say again that it isn’t first-rate livin’.’
  • “‘Yer jokin’,’ says he, turnin’ pale.
  • “‘It’s true, sir, as true as yer standin’ there.’
  • “Well, would ye believe it; he turned—that Natter-list did—as sick as a dog o_he spot wot he wos standin’ on, an’ didn’t taste meat again for three days!”
  • Shortly after the conclusion of Joe’s story they reached the camp, and her_hey found the women and children flying about in a state of terror, and th_ew men who had been left in charge arming themselves in the greatest haste.
  • “Hallo! something wrong here,” cried Cameron hastening forward followed b_oe. “What has happened, eh?”
  • “Injuns comin’, monsieur, look dere,” answered a trapper, pointing down th_alley.
  • “Arm and mount at once, and come to the front of the camp,” cried Cameron in _one of voice that silenced every other, and turned confusion into order.
  • The cause of all this outcry was a cloud of dust seen far down the valley, which was raised by a band of mounted Indians who approached the camp at ful_peed. Their numbers could not be made out, but they were a sufficientl_ormidable band to cause much anxiety to Cameron, whose men, at the time, wer_cattered to the various trapping grounds, and only ten chanced to be withi_all of the camp. However, with these ten he determined to show a bold fron_o the savages, whether they came as friends or foes. He therefore ordered th_omen and children within the citadel formed of the goods and packs of fur_iled upon each other, which point of retreat was to be defended to the las_xtremity. Then galloping to the front he collected his men and swept down th_alley at full speed. In a few minutes they were near enough to observe tha_he enemy only numbered four Indians, who were driving a band of about _undred horses before them, and so busy were they in keeping the troo_ogether that Cameron and his men were close upon them before they wer_bserved.
  • It was too late to escape. Joe Blunt and Henri had already swept round and cu_ff their retreat. In this extremity the Indians slipped from the backs o_heir steeds and darted into the bushes, where they were safe from pursuit, a_east on horseback, while the trappers got behind the horses and drove the_owards the camp.
  • At this moment one of the horses sprang ahead of the others and made for th_ountain, with its mane and tail flying wildly in the breeze.
  • “Marrow-bones and buttons!” shouted one of the men, “there goes Dick Varley’_orse.”
  • “So it am!” cried Henri, and dashed off in pursuit, followed by Joe and tw_thers.
  • “Why, these are our own horses,” said Cameron in surprise, as they drove the_nto a corner of the hills from which they could not escape.
  • This was true, but it was only half the truth, for, besides their own horses, they had secured upwards of seventy Indian steeds, a most acceptable additio_o their stud, which, owing to casualties and wolves, had been diminishing to_uch of late. The fact was, that the Indians who had captured the horse_elonging to Pièrre and his party were a small band of robbers who ha_ravelled, as was afterwards learned, a considerable distance from the south, stealing horses from various tribes as they went along. As we have seen, in a_vil hour they fell in with Pièrre’s party and carried off their steeds, whic_hey drove to a pass leading from one valley to the other. Here they unite_hem with the main band of their ill-gotten gains, and while the greate_umber of the robbers descended further into the plains in search of mor_ooty, four of them were sent into the mountains with the horses alread_rocured. These four, utterly ignorant of the presence of white men in th_alley, drove their charge, as we have seen, almost into the camp.
  • Cameron immediately organised a party to go out in search of Pièrre and hi_ompanions, about whose fate he became intensely anxious, and in the course o_alf an hour as many men as he could spare with safety were despatched in th_irection of the Blue Mountains.