A Winter Adventure on the Prairie
THOSE who have no knowledge of American frontier life except through the journals of the day can have little idea of the unwritten adventure in the vast Western prairie land, as rife with suggestion for the pen of the novelist and poet as are its Pacific circumvallations for the pencil of the artist. The pioneers are familiar with occurrences which would startle the people of an older civilization into a panic, but which have ceased to be wonderful to them, and pass as merely the ordinary contingencies of every-day life. This, at any rate, was the conclusion to which I came, from experience and observation during a two years’ stay in one of our distant Territories.
There was scarcely more than three days’ sleighing in the course of these two winters, and, as would be supposed, everybody took advantage of it, even those Easterners who, like myself, usually regarded sleigh-riding much as Dr. Franklin did.
“Will you ride to the ‘Indian Reserve’ with me to-day?” asked my friend Alek, one bright January morning. I glanced out, and saw, chafing and champing in the frost, at the door a fine pair of bays, and a sleigh with seats for four and robes in abundance ; so I said. “Yes, — and I will be ready in half an hour, if Bessie can make babyready in that time.” Then commenced the running up and down stairs, from nursery to chamber, and chamber to nursery, for little and great blankets, hoods, socks, and veils ; and the hundred things requisite for the winter outfit of a three-months-old baby. Maggie held the poor little martyr, while Bessie (baby’s mother) and I (the visitor) applied the different layers of flannels and thibets and shawls, until only a halfsmothered wail could be heard underneath,— the indistinctness and distance of the tones indicating the sufficiency of wrappers, — and only a faint undulation was perceptible for a movement; then having secured the baby against the cold, we commenced the like process of muffling upon ourselves, were ready, stepped into the sleigh upon the hot soapstones, were duly tucked in, and jingled off for the “ Reserve,” some fifteen miles north. We rode over bluffs and bottom-lands, winding our prairie way towards our destination, a merry party, and not much troubled because the ascending sun threatened to melt the snow on our track before we had done with it, as the occasional grating of our runners warned.
But those treacherous-looking bridges at the foot of the bluffs, without rail or guard of any kind, over which our horses pranced, pricking their quick, quivering ears, and looking askance at the dark “gulches” below, fearful in depth ! — Should we return after nightfall, I questioned myself, over such ways, and on the brink of precipices where a sudden sheer or the slightest over-pull on that left rein would plunge our precious freight afar down, down, to nobody knows where, but certainly to instant death ? Not if I could turn the scale in favor of an early start by sunlight, which it then seemed as if our time would allow, even after dining with our hospitable friend at the “ Reserve.”
We reached the "Reserve” duly, and, discharging baby’s appendages, — mother and Maggie, — my friend Alek proposed a ride for us two some three miles farther, to the Indian " Mission.” As there was yet time for it and to spare before the dinner hour, and I had already become, by even my short stay in the region of sunset, pretty effectually imbued with that Western spirit of perpetual motion which animates every man, woman, and child to a degree thoroughly infectious, so long as his face is turned Pacific-ward, I replied with emphasis, “ Certainly,” and off we whirled again. The snow had been whirled into eddies before us, soon after it fell the previous night, rendering our path very uncertain, which should have warned us to keep our wits concentrated upon the matter in hand ; but it did not. As soon as the bays were under full headway, we travelled off as rapidly into the regions of romance, discussing, assorting, and arranging certain love-matters in the neighborhood, which were the topic of the hour, and in which, as the lovers were our special friends, it was but natural we should feel an absorbing interest. After a time I began to awaken to a conviction that we had been over an immense tract of territory in that wonderful realm of romance, and began to question myself how we could have accomplished so much talking during a four miles’ ride, and with a pair of such fast horses as Alek, my young friend, had represented these to be. I accordingly made the remark, that either we were very rapid travellers in the region we had been exploring, or his bays were slow, unmistakably declining from the reputation they had before won for themselves.
“ Ha—a —a!” There was something so significant in the long, slow, sarcastic rising inflection of that halflaugh of Alek’s in reply to my remark, that I felt as if I had been rudely personal.
“Well, then,” I asked, rather imperatively, “ what does it mean, Alek ? ”
Checking his horses a trifle, as if, for once, he was not quite sure of himself, and looking first over his right shoulder and then over his left, with a somewhat quizzical expression in his eye, he replied, “ I ’ll be hanged if I know.”
“ Why, look at the sun! ” I exclaimed, somewhat reproachfully.
Well, what of it?” he asked, glancing askance at me with a tantalizing curl on his lip, quite disconcerting in my dilemma.
“What of it? It is every second of one o’clock, and it ought not to be more than ten.”
Then rang the prairie with the broad, hearty, rich tones of a laugh from Alek, that conveyed to my wide-awake senses the tragic as well as comic side of this adventure ; for all our happiness, to my imagination, was involved in an early return. The wind had blown the light snow, as it fell, in every direction, in little rifts and drifts and long levels, utterly obliterating the path, so that our horses had chosen for themselves the easiest way of travel, bearing gradually, and imperceptibly to us, westward, away from the river and with the wind, until it seemed quite impossible, with no well-defined landmarks on the prairie, for us to guess where we were, or where we ought to be.
Alek gave me the reins and started off to mount a bluff not far away, in order to see if he could get any idea, from that inconsiderable elevation, of our bearings ; and after peering about, shading his eyes with his hand, and scowling at a hundred little bluffs in sight, all of the same character, with no distinctive peculiarity of outline, form, or size, he walked back to the sleigh with a step of indecision not common with him. However, I expected some expression of opinion which should either enlighten my bewilderment or shut down in total darkness on what little hope I had before seen within my mental horizon. Yet not a word or a look did he give me ; kicking each individual snow-boot with masculine assertion against the sleigh as he stepped impatiently in, he dropped himself silently, like a lump of ice, upon the seat beside me.
Of course I spoke. “ What is to be done, Alek, about getting back to the Reserve for dinner, as we promised ? ”
Such an annihilating look of contempt as he gave me ! “ Confound the Reserve, dinner, and this whole concern.”
“You promised,” I retorted, sulkily.
“ Confound the promise and the dinner, I say. I believe a woman would remember an engagement to dinner if she were hanging by a cobweb over Vesuvius, in full blast. I started to go to the Mission, and I shall go.”
It was my turn to laugh now. The whole idea of our situation, and of my companion’s characteristic determination to accomplish what he had started to do, instead of thinking only of a homeward track, struck me as ludicrous in the extreme; and I said, as I laughed, " I do believe a man would have his own way, if he saw that in the effort to do it the whole habitable globe was rolling out from under his feet, and nothing left him to stand on but mist.”
Alek tossed his head, and touched the bays with his whip in a manner very suggestive of a condition of things in which the power was all in his own hands, as he replied, " Maybe it would be well enough for us not to quarrel until we know that we shall not be obliged to die here, on the prairie, together ; and laughing is quite out of place in our predicament.”
Determined to have the last word, if we must die, I retorted, “ You laughed, sir, when I thought we were in a predicament.”
“ Well, pay all your debts before you die, and begin anew in the other world with a clean record. A woman’s a woman, by George, all the world over.”
During our skirmish our horses had been trotting on at a pretty brisk pace, whither I wondered if Alek knew, so in a captious tone I asked him.
He answered that he should try to find his way back if I could give him a chance to think.
Again I laughed as I said, “ I should think you had better turn your horses’ heads, while you are doing your thinking, if that’s your object.”
From the Sudden expression of blank surprise and wonderment that passed over his face, as he brought his horses up with a vengeance, and turned them in a twinkling, I saw that he had not thought of this, and, as he whipped up in the opposite direction, he could not help smiling at his own confusion.
“ A woman’s a woman, Alek, all the world over,” I said, of course.
We did reach the Mission by a short cut, and even in a brief visit saw how completely self-sacrificing were those noble men and women who had devoted their lives to teaching the Indians, and preaching to them of the Saviour of all. With a few hundred dollars’ remuneration, barely enough to keep them comfortably and decently clothed, and earning their daily bread by tilling the few acres attached to the Mission, these men and women, well educated, and many of them sufficiently intellectual to fill lucrative positions in the world, were giving themselves to a cause which, I confess, seemed to me almost hopeless, with an ardor faithful and touching beyond expression. They represented the Indians as apt to learn, and most willing, but lamented that in too many cases after they had graduated, — some earlier and some later, and many by running away,—they applied what had been taught them to all kinds of shrewd machinations against the whites, sometimes on a small scale of petty thieving, &c., and sometimes on a broader one of more fearful depredations.
Permitting the horses to breathe and drink at the Mission, we jumped into the sleigh and were off again, neither of us during our call having alluded to the time it had taken our fast animals to make the four miles between the Reserve and the Mission, — six mortal hours !
After pursuing our homeward route in silence for about two miles, I, in looking about me for something to say, perceived from the dangling trace that one of our horses did all the pulling, while the other kept even his more moderate pace only because he was obliged by his mate to do so. Whether Alek had discovered it, and kept silence for fear of eliciting an inopportune remark or laugh from me, I was not sure ; but I meant to know, so I said, interrogatively, instead of asking outright, which might imply a doubt of my astuteness, “ Alek, something is the matter with Toots. He don’t draw any.”
“ Don’t croak ! ” was the gruff reply.
“I think he is swollen; he looks larger than he did when we left home,” I urged, with that unaccountable feminine persistency which always provokes a man in a dilemma.
Sarcastically he answered, and in his turn, interrogatively, “Do you think he has grown since we left home ? ”
Vexed by the slur, I retorted, crisply, “ I think he has had time to grow.”
By the time we were in sight of the Reserve, Alek let me have it all in my own way, evidently, I thought, alarmed about Toots.
As Alek had implied in his conversation a desire to keep our story prudently to ourselves until we reached home, by much struggling with a reputed total depravity in woman all the world over to tell that which she is enjoined to keep secret, I lived without serious effects from my reticence through the whole of the afternoon, our friends taking it for granted that we had unconsciously prolonged our stay through my interest in matters pertaining to the Mission.
Except at the late dinner, which he did not seem inclined to slight more than I, Alek was missing every moment of the time. A moonlight evening was a part of our programme when we left home; and although we had no intention of availing ourselves of it, still, in case of accident or unavoidable detention, it was a bright background to have and to hold in reserve.
Bessie and I began to look anxiously at each other and baby, as we saw the sun fast approaching the horizon, for Alek had not made his appearance to announce himself in readiness for a start homeward. At last, however, he swung very deliberately and magnificently into the room, as if all times and seasons were his own, remarking that, as Toots seemed tired and the moon would be bright after the daylight had waned, he thought we had better not be in a hurry, but take it easy, and we should be home in sufficiently good season.
Here was a chance again for me, a representative woman ; so I took advantage of it by asking how a fast horse looked when he was tired, after taking nearly a day to go twenty miles.
Alek could not abide this reflection on Toots, and answered, just as I expected, “Well, Mrs. B—, if you WILL
express the whole truth for me, whether I will or not, Toots is sick.”
“ Sick ! Has he grown too fast ? ”
“ He is growing fast enough now,” — and off he strode for the stable.
Until seven o’clock, Bessie and I sat still and impassible as marble, only answering our agreeable and lady-like hostess in anxious monosyllables, as we looked into each other’s faces deprecatingly, and upon the small baby hopelessly, when Alek’s “Whoa!” at the door gave the signal for us to be off. As we turned the sharp curve that led to the road, all at once I discovered that our promised moon was missing, and that pretty thick scuds were flitting over the disk that ought to have “lighted the wanderer on his way.”
“ Alek, where’s your moon ?”
“Where it ought to be.”
“But it is dark, and you bespoke a light evening for just such an emergency as this.”
“ Well, we have more than we spoke for. — plenty of clouds.”
“ Do you think we shall get home safely ? ”
“ I can tell you better about our getting home, to-morrow.”
We rode on in silence about an hour, and, tired at last of the monotony, (did you ever know such a woman ?) I began to look about me, as usual, for something to talk about; when lo ! from the appearance of the surroundings, as I could catch here and there a glimpse, when a few straggling rays of moonlight shot through a thin cloud, I was pretty well assured that we were off the track, and steering west of our true course. “Alek !” I exclaimed, “where are you going ? ”
“ I was just trying to think. I have never travelled this new road before.” As he stood up to penetrate the gloom of the night, he said, “ Here we are on the brink of a steep bluff. This won’t do, anyhow ; we must turn and try to find a better way if we can.”
“Look at Toots,” I said, “he is twice as large as he was when we started.”
“ I know it; he is sick, and if we don’t find our way soon, I hardly see how we — ”
“Are to get home?” I suggested, finishing his sentence for him.
“How we are to get him home, I meant.”
As the horses were turning, Toots made a sudden lurch to the left, drawing Joe after him, and upsetting us over the bluff, — baby and robes and soapstone and all rolling promiscuously down to the first landing-place. Happily just there it was only a few feet to a friendly knoll, which received and sheltered us at its base, until we could collect our confused senses, and Alek could right his sleigh at the top, and centralize his robes and passengers once more.
Mother-like, Bessie held her baby fast, and Maggie brought up the rear, with baskets and bottles and the whole nursery set-out, while I tugged up over the steep, sharp edge of the bluff, composing a scolding for Alek, and an anathema for men generally. As much of us and ours as we could collect in the dark, we piled into the sleigh ; but, dizzy from the little flight over the bluff, we were more than ever puzzled which way to steer. Before we fairly reached the road, which we did at last, we were turned over into the snow twice more, until, as with everything else, I began to get used to it, and to think it the legitimate way of doing things on the prairies.
After descending into the valley, and mounting the next bluff, I could see, by the fitful and dim light of the moon, that Toots was slackening his pace, preparatory to some new act in our performance ; and, determining to try a new part myself this time, I grasped baby from Bessie’s arms, and sprang over the back of the sleigh upon the snow, resolving in a twinkling not to risk the rolling process again, by jumping out the legitimate way, over the side, which was already aslant towards the steep bluff slope. Bessie followed, and Maggie after, and down fell Toots as dead as a log. By this time the wind was blowing, and the prairie-wolves were howling ; and although we knew the wolves, in ordinary circumstances, to be comparatively harmless, yet it was not easy to say what they might not do, if hungry, and in such a formidable pack as was at our heels, especially as we had no weapon of defence but the whip. We e took baby down into the next valley, the better to screen him from the cold winds, —he screaming indignantly at the top of his voice, — and there we sat down forlorn enough upon the snow. It was now more than eleven o’clock at night, and there was no habitation within six miles. Besides, Alek would not leave us alone even to ride joe that distance for help ; and as Joe was a horse not to be trifled with, we were pretty sure there would be no safety in the attempt to drive him with the pole half dangling by the only piece of rope we happened to find in the box. What was to be done ? While Bessie and I were contriving how to help Alek out of the difficulty, and while he was disengaging the harness from poor dead Toots, baby’s cries had brought a half-dozen Indians to the spot, which — as they were Sioux, probably on a depredatory reconnoissance in the region of the Omahas — did not tend to lessen our perplexities or our fears. The truth is, we were in a most helpless and fearful condition, for the cold was increasing, and in our last overturn hooks-and-eyes and pins were scattered from our cloaks and shawls; and with no means of fastening them, and with the baby to pacify and keep warm by turns, we were getting pretty thoroughly chilled. The possibility, at least, was that we should all freeze before morning where we were. Woman-like, I began to repent of all the unnecessary anxiety I had tantalizingly added to Alek’s responsibilities, and especially was I touched with the spirit of gentleness and unruffled selfpossession with which, benumbed as he was from exposure to the cold, he arranged the robes as well as he could about us, and then went about making the most of his appliances for setting Joe in motion.
We finally determined to put our trust in the Indians, and if their camps were anywhere within walking distance, as we thought they might be, we would endeavor to induce them by large offers of reward to let us stay until morning, where we could at least be kept warm. So to this effect Alek addressed them in their own language ; but, with that stolid indifference which only an Indian can assume, they affected not to understand us, and, walking away to a distance within sight, commenced a consultation among themselves. Alek, alarmed at this, made a proposition, to which we readily acceded, — to try Joe even in the one-sided position by the pole, securing it as well as he could, and trusting it would not give a sudden swing and frighten Joe into running away. In a few moments we were all in the sleigh again, our teeth chattering, and our hearts beating audibly.
The Indians began hooting, the wolves were howling nearer and nearer ; yet how much either clamor meant none of us knew but Alek, and he was imperturbably silent. What with our fright and the cold, which was steadily increasing, we were chilled to utter powerlessness ; for none of us had forgotten that a few days before one of the Sioux was murdered by a wandering detachment of Winnebagoes, carried to their camp, and actually cut up and boiled, for which barbarity the Sioux had sworn vengeance on the whites in the neighborhood, whom they unjustly charged with complicity in the matter.
The snow had melted during the middle of the day so as to leave long stretches of bare ground, while drifts and ice covered the parts of the road in the shade; so that if Joe were inclined to behave, in his rather ignominious use, even as became the stress of the moment, at his best lie could make but sorry headway. With an occasional patting, which Alek left his seat in the sleigh to kindly administer, and with coaxing tones when Joe seemed disinclined to make the necessary effort over doubtful places, or offered to jump as the awkward rig of pole and harness gave signs which he did not understand, we did make some considerable progress, until we came to that one fearful lest “gulch” of all, one hundred and thirty feet deep, without rail or protection of any kind on the roadside, which was somewhat sidling at that. In our track was a mixture of ice, bare ground, and snow, but altogether so slippery that in the darkness we dared not risk our feet; and if Joe should lake it into his head to do aught but the straightforward thing, we knew too well the consequences ! Alek sprang out to lead Joe by the bit. On the glassy and unlevel road, a single slip or misstep now, we knew, would deprive him of his foothold forever, and the slightest lurch or freak of Joe’s would precipitate him, if not us, headlong over into black and silent depths. But the sleigh was already too heavily laden for safety without his added weight, and there was no alternative. Maggie comprehended Alek’s position, and her weeping was the only sound that broke the awful stillness of that suspense. For once I could not speak ; I could not pray even. We were about a third of the way across, — the whole distance not more than sixty feet, — when the back part of the sleigh, where the load bore the most heavily, began to slide and swing slowly round toward the edge of the precipice, while breathlessly we trembled, lest the least violence of emotion even should accelerate the movement. Luckily, the runner brought up against a small patch of bare ground, just enough to check the motion ; and — you will ask—why not then have left the sleigh, and scrambled up the inclination on our feet ? It was too slippery for foothold from the frost, even if we could have risked the stir without danger of shaking the sleigh from its uncertain balance, which would of course have been instant death, as we had not an inch of room to spare between us and the abyss below. “ O God, save us ! ” I summoned force enough to utter mentally, — “ save us from this terrible hour ! ”
The sudden and wild yelling of the Indians, who had crept stealthily along up the other side of the opposite bluff, horn which they looked down but to exult in our peril, startled Joe, and giving a tremendous spring, and wrenching the bridle from Alek’s hand, he brought up triumphantly on a broad level of bare ground. In that moment he had dragged Alek with him a few feet, sufficient to clear the dangers beneath, and slackened his pace somewhat. Alek overtook him, gathered up the reins, and, with renewed confidence in Joe’s sagacity and trustworthiness, we drove on at a quicker pace than we had before been able to. The thought of Joe’s running away with us after that did not alarm us, but seemed a delightful relief, — let him run, whithersoever he would, away from that ghastly spot.
The wolves by this time were howling and panting pretty near us, and, in our present trembling and half-frozen condition, assumed no doubt an exaggerated importance ; but indeed it was quite a difterent affair from hearing them — as I often before had done when snug in bed —howling their midnight serenades under my windows.
As we hastened on, after Alek and I were able to speak, and congratulate ourselves upon our escape from the neighborhood of the “gulch ” before the wolves neared us, it struck me rather oddly that Maggie had not vouchsafed a word in common with us, in gratitude to Him who had rescued us from death in a horrible form; for her spirit was one of those devotional ones, always overflowing with benedictions, even in positions most adverse to their utterance. I spoke to her, but no reply. “ Maggie,” Alek called, “ why don’t you answer ? Are you faint ? Are you very cold ? ” He instantly checked Joe, while L found her hand and arm beneath the wrappings, all in listless disorder, and she was indeed very cold. Was it the chill of death ? No word or stir to persuade us to the contrary. “ Good God ! ” Alek almost groaned aloud, “ can it be ?”
Yonder, away from the road, was a log-house that we had forgotten in calculating the uninhabited distance, and there a small light was throwing its feeble rays from the four small panes in the window,— more welcome to us now than ever before was the light even of our own dear homes.
As we dragged heavily up to the door, the occupant of the log-cabin, a French Indian, all in a quiver with the spring of the half-breed, bounded from the step, darted by us in the sleigh, to Joe’s head, and, seizing the snaffle before he had fairly stopped, said, with that scintillation of words which expresses a dozen different emotions at once, and which always characterizes the hybrid, “ Wild, and cold, and late, and sorry for baby and woman, the door is open, the fire is bright, go quick ! ”
Again, in another direction which the wolves had taken, their hungry howling rent the silence of midnight. Alek, almost stiffened with exposure to the cold, caught poor little Maggie in his arms, bore her into the shelter, and with a brotherly gentleness laid her on the husk pallet in one corner of the room. More than brotherly we thought, as far as we understood discrete degrees in this kind of thing,—for all-the-worldover women as we were, though freezing to death, — we could not suffer to pass unnoticed how tenderly he pressed Maggie’s cold cheek to his. The sight warmed us vicariously; and, impelled by a fresh pulsation about my heart, I rushed back to the sleigh, caught up the one soapstone that had survived our wreck, and throwing it upon the black-walnut coals, all alive upon the hearth, set about loosening Maggie’s raiment, leaving her stagnant blood no possible excuse for not doing its duty.
By the ruddy firelight sat a stranger, sipping a balmy potation from the old family tin dipper. Without a word he finished his tea-drinking, then, rising and pouring a quantity of water from the singing kettle over the fire — dear old tea-kettle ! it is always home where thou art— into the dipper, gave it a rinse like a well-bred man, and, emptying it into the corner, poured in a fresh supply; then tipping it toward the blaze of the fire, and peering into it with a scowl, to be sure of the right quantity, he took from his pocket a flask of whiskey, and a bottle of some kind of tincture, and, dropping a few drops of each into the water, filled a small iron spoon with the mixture, and, walking up to Maggie with a very unconscious manner, said, “ She had better take this.”
Alek for the first time looked the stranger fairly in the face. “ Why, Stevenson, where did you come from ? ”
“From Dakotah ; over the same road you have probably just travelled.”
During the salutation he had taken Maggie’s cold hand, and was making the examination of her pulse with the self-possession of one, I thought, professionally used to the sick-room.
“ Is there any pulse ? ” I dared to ask.
“ Is she faint, or is her pulse faint from the chill ? ”
“ She has narrowly escaped freezing, if an escape it shall prove.”
We recommenced the appliances of heated shawls, hot irons, and the solitary soapstone, rubbing, &c. We saw no evidences of her swallowing, and, as she still remained cold, none of her resuscitation.
At last, to our unbounded joy, Maggie swallowed the draught, and the stranger followed it with others, until she really began to show unmistakable signs of a returning glow. Encouraged, we plied our hands with a life-and-death vigor that quickened our own circulation, and made us feel the blessedness of doing good.
It was near dawn when Maggie first essayed to open her eyes ; and the weary stranger, assured of her final safety, left her in our care, and, winding himself up in his heavy buffalo, lay down before the fire, where Laselle, his Indian woman, child, and scrubby dog, were sleeping soundly.
“ Who is that, Alek ? ” I asked, as soon as I felt that the man was beyond the reach of an undertone.
“ That ? Why, it ’s Stevenson,— Dr. Ben Stevenson.”
“ Stevenson ! I thought he was dead.”
“ So he was. But you never need be surprised at meeting anybody on these prairies, even if you yourself have attended the man’s funeral. I always expect to meet some one of my departed ancestors in every new strike across country, and this is a part of the romance of the prairies. Why, Mrs. B—,” Alek continued, “ the Indians have good reason for expecting to find their hunting-grounds in the land of the Great Spirit, for they doubtless meet, just as I have met Stevenson, many an old chief on these prairies that they have before buried sky-high in some isolated tree-top, or on some upreaching bluff whose altitude the theodolite of civilization has never scanned.”
“ I believe It all, Alek, and more too, and have no doubt that we are in the same condition, and that we are leaving purgatory behind, and are approaching at last our home ; only I am surprised at the time it has taken, seeing your bays are so fast, especially Toots.”
“ H—m ! ”
At a moan from poor Bessie, who was doubtless dreaming in uneasy winder what the dear young husband, far away from home, would say, could he know of the perils we had passed, I turned my head, and found she had made a bed of cloaks and shawls in an uninviting corner, and, with baby in her arms and a buffalo-robe over her, was sleeping her troublous sleep. As Maggie was by this time slumbering quietly, though lightly, at Alek’s suggestion I threw one of our sleigh-robes on the floor beside Bessie, and, folding my water-proof for a pillow, utterly exhausted from excitement, I too went to sleep.
A wonderful neigh from Joe, in the little thatched shed near the window, awakened me, after a few hours of nervous dreaming, to a consciousness that day was breaking. Leaving baby cooing as contentedly as if he were in the nest at home, and Bessie trying to rub her eyes open to a full comprehension of the situation, I staggered diagonally to Maggie, whom I found conscious and comfortable. After, literally, a hasty “dish” of tea and an Indian crust, preparations were immediately made for a conveyance homeward. We borrowed of our half-breed host a rickety, shiftless-looking cart, and an Indian pony, and made a comfortable reclining place in the centre of the cart for Maggie and the rest of us, — Alek, remembering the style in which we had jingled out of town on the previous morning, could not bear to drive, and gave the reins to Laselle, — squatted, savage fashion, around her, as if she were the light of our council fire. Though Joe wore a very injured expression at being forced into ignoble companionship with the pony, he seemed to bear it with a Christian resignation to the “course of human events,” and into town we rode, everybody turning out to behold our return.