Still those sounds, growing more and more distinct, were not sounds of peace, were not eolian warblings; they were mutterings as of a rising tempest, and inspired awe and a sense of peril. Straining their eyes toward the far-distant west, whence the sounds came, they soon saw an immense black cloud just emerging from the horizon and apparently very low down, sweeping the very surface of the prairie. This strange, menacing cloud was approaching with manifestly great rapidity. It was coming directly toward the grove where the travellers were sheltered. A cloud of dust accompanied the phenomenon, ever growing thicker and rising higher in the air.
“What can that all mean?” exclaimed Crockett, in evident alarm.
The juggler sprang to his feet, saying, “Burn my old shoes if I know.”
Even the mustangs, which were grazing near by, were frightened They stopped eating, pricked up their ears, and gazed in terror upon the approaching danger. It was then supposed that the black cloud, with its muttered thunderings, must be one of those terrible tornadoes which occasionally swept the region, bearing down everything before it. The men all rushed for the protection of the mustangs. In the greatest haste they struck off their hobbles and led them into the grove for shelter.
The noise grew louder and louder, and they had scarcely brought the horses beneath the protection of the trees, when they perceived that it was an immense herd of buffaloes, of countless hundreds, dishing along with the speed of the wind, and bellowing and roaring in tones as appalling as if a band of demons were flying and shrieking in terror before some avenging arm.
The herd seemed to fill the horizon. Their numbers could not be counted. They were all driven by some common impulse of terror. In their head-long plunge, those in front pressed on by the innumerable throng behind, it was manifest that no ordinary obstacle would in the slightest degree retard their rush. The spectacle was sublime and terrible. Had the travellers been upon the open plain, it seemed inevitable that they must have been trampled down and crushed out of every semblance of humanity by these thousands of hard hoofs.
But it so chanced that they were upon what is called a rolling prairie, with its graceful undulations and gentle eminences. It was one of these beautiful swells which the grove crowned with its luxuriance.
As the enormous herd came along with its rush and roar, like the bursting forth of a pent-up flood, the terrified mustangs were too much frightened to attempt to escape. They shivered in every nerve as if stricken by an ague.
An immense black bull led the band. He was a few feet in advance of all the rest. He came roaring along, his tail erect in the air as a javelin, his head near the ground, and his stout, bony horns projected as if he were just ready to plunge upon his foe. Crockett writes: