Chapter 7

What! fifty of my followers, at a clap!


The day had now fairly opened on the seemingly interminable waste of the prairie. The entrance of Obed at such a moment into the camp, accompanied as it was by vociferous lamentations over his anticipated loss, did not fail to rouse the drowsy family of the squatter. Ishmael and his sons, together with the forbidding- looking brother of his wife, were all speedily afoot; and then, as the sun began to shed his light on the place, they became gradually apprised of the extent of their loss.

Ishmael looked round upon the motionless and heavily loaded vehicles with his teeth firmly compressed, cast a glance at the amazed and helpless group of children, which clustered around their sullen but desponding mother, and walked out upon the open land, as if he found the air of the encampment too confined. He was followed by several of the men, who were attentive observers, watching the dark expression of his eye as the index of their own future movements. The whole proceeded in profound and moody silence to the summit of the nearest swell, whence they could command an almost boundless view of the naked plains. Here nothing was visible but a solitary buffaloe, that gleaned a meagre subsistence from the decaying herbage, at no great distance, and the ass of the physician, who profited by his freedom to enjoy a meal richer than common.

“Yonder is one of the creatures left by the villains to mock us,” said Ishmael, glancing his eye towards the latter, “and that the meanest of the stock. This is a hard country to make a crop in, boys; and yet food must be found to fill many hungry mouths!”

“The rifle is better than the hoe, in such a place as this,” returned the eldest of his sons, kicking the hard and thirsty soil on which he stood, with an air of contempt. “It is good for such as they who make their dinner better on beggars’ beans than on homminy. A crow would shed tears if obliged by its errand to fly across the district.”

“What say you, trapper?” returned the father, showing the slight impression his powerful heel had made on the compact earth, and laughing with frightful ferocity. “Is this the quality of land a man would choose who never troubles the county clerk with title deeds?”

“There is richer soil in the bottoms,” returned the old man calmly, “and you have passed millions of acres to get to this dreary spot, where he who loves to till the ’arth might have received bushels in return for pints, and that too at the cost of no very grievous labour. If you have come in search of land, you have journeyed hundreds of miles too far, or as many leagues too little.”

“There is then a better choice towards the other Ocean?” demanded the squatter, pointing in the direction of the Pacific.

“There is, and I have seen it all,” was the answer of the other, who dropped his rifle to the earth, and stood leaning on its barrel, like one who recalled the scenes he had witnessed with melancholy pleasure. “I have seen the waters of the two seas! On one of them was I born, and raised to be a lad like yonder tumbling boy. America has grown, my men, since the days of my youth, to be a country larger than I once had thought the world itself to be. Near seventy years I dwelt in York, province and state together:—you’ve been in York, ’tis like?”

“Not I—not I; I never visited the towns; but often have heard the place you speak of named. ’Tis a wide clearing there, I reckon.”

“Too wide! too wide! They scourge the very ’arth with their axes. Such hills and hunting-grounds as I have seen stripped of the gifts of the Lord, without remorse or shame! I tarried till the mouths of my hounds were deafened by the blows of the chopper, and then I came west in search of quiet. It was a

  By PanEris using Melati.

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