Pathfinders of the West eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 264 pages of information about Pathfinders of the West.
he dared; and when he retired to sleep, he had ordered Fields and the other two white men to be on guard.  At sunrise the Indians crowded round the fire, where Fields had for the moment carelessly laid his rifle.  Simultaneously, the warriors dashed at the weapons of the sleeping white men, while other Indians made off with the explorers’ horses.  With a shout, Fields gave the alarm, and pursuing the thieves, grappled with the Indian who had stolen his rifle.  In the scuffle the Indian was stabbed to the heart.  Drewyer succeeded in wresting back his gun, and Lewis dashed out with his pistol, shouting for the Indians to leave the horses.  The raiders were mounting to go off at full speed.  The white men pursued on foot.  Twelve horses fell behind; but just as the Indians dashed for hiding behind a cliff, Lewis’ strength gave out.  He warned them if they did not stop he would shoot.  An Indian turned to fire with one of the stolen weapons, and instantly Lewis’ pistol rang true.  The fellow rolled to earth mortally wounded; but Lewis felt the whiz of a bullet past his own head.  Having captured more horses than they had lost, the white men at once mounted and rode for their lives through river and slough, sixty miles without halt; for the Minnetarees would assuredly rally a larger band of warriors to their aid.  A pause of an hour to refresh the horses and a wilder ride by moonlight put forty more miles between Captain Lewis and danger.  At daylight the men were so sore from the mad pace for twenty-four hours that they could scarcely stand; but safety depended on speed and on they went again till they reached the main Missouri, where by singularly good luck some of the other voyageurs had arrived.

[Illustration:  On Guard.]

The entire forces were reunited below the Yellowstone on August 12th.  Traders on the way up the Missouri from St. Louis brought first news of the outer world, and the discoverers were not a little amused to learn that they had been given up for dead.  At the Mandans, Colter, one of the frontiersmen, asked leave to go back to the wilds; and Chaboneau, with his dauntless wife, bade the white men farewell.  On September 20th settlers on the river bank above St. Louis were surprised to see thirty ragged men, with faces bronzed like leather, passing down the river.  Then some one remembered who these worn voyageurs were, and cheers of welcome made the cliffs of the Missouri ring.  On September 23d, at midday, the boats drew quietly up to the river front of St. Louis.  Lewis and Clark, the greatest pathfinders of the United States, had returned from the discovery of a new world as large as half Europe, without losing a single man but Sergeant Floyd, who had died from natural causes a few months after leaving St. Louis.  What Radisson had begun in 1659-1660, what De la Verendrye had attempted when he found the way barred by the Rockies—­was completed by Lewis and Clark in 1805.  It was the last act in that drama

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Pathfinders of the West from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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