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enormous mass of matted hair and skin which enveloped the skull, my large bullet, of twenty to the pound, was found completely flattened against the bone, having carried with it, through the interposing integument, a considerable portion of the coarse hair, but without producing the smallest fracture. I was satisfied; and taking the tongue—the hunter's perquisite--I returned to my companions."
Some of the party had seen Blackfeet Indians skulking about, and the effect was to put the hunters more on their guard. They were now certain that their worst enemies, the Blackfeet, were around them, and that they only waited for a favorable opportunity of making an attack. It was felt that these savage wanderers were not there for nothing, and that the greatest care was necessary to prevent a surprise.
The Blackfeet is a sworn and determined foe to all white men, and he has often been heard to declare that he would rather hang the scalp of a pale-face to his girdle, than kill a buffalo to prevent his starving. The hostility of this dreaded tribe is, and has for years been, proverbial. They are, perhaps, the only Indians who do not fear the power, and who refuse to acknowledge the superiority of the white man; and though so often beaten in conflicts with them, even by their own mode of warfare, and
generally with numbers vastly inferior, their indomitable courage and perseverance still urges them on to renewed attempts; and if a single scalp is taken, it is considered equal to a great victory, and is hailed as a presage of future and more extensive triumphs.
It must be acknowledged, however, that this determined hostility does not originate solely in savage malignity, or an abstract thirst for the blood of white men; it is fomented and kept alive from year to year by incessant provocatives on the part of white hunters, trappers, and traders, who are at best but intruders on the rightful domain of the red man of the wilder
“Many a night,” adds our traveler, “have I sat at the camp-fire and listened to the recital of bloody and ferocious scenes, in which the narrators were the actors, and the poor Indians the victims, and I have felt my blood tingle with shame, and boil with indignation, to hear the diabolical acts applauded by those for whose amusement they were related. Many a precious villain and merciless marauder was made by these midnight tales of rapine, murder, and robbery; many a stripling, in whose tender mind the seeds of virtue and honesty had never germinated, burned for an opportunity of loading his pack-horse with the beaver skins of some solitary Blackfeet trapper, who was to be mur
dered and despoiled of the property he had acquired by weeks and perhaps months of toil and danger."
The proximity of the Blackfeet caused the old hunters to recollect their former adventures in the same neighborhood; and one evening, as the party sat around the camp fire, wrapped in their warm blankets, these old hunters became talkative, and related their individual adventures for the general amusement. The best story was told by Richardson, of a meeting he once had with three Blackfeet Indians. He had been out alone hunting buffalo, and toward the end of the day was returning to the camp with his meat, when he heard the clattering of hoofs in the rear, and upon looking back, observed three Indians in hot pursuit of him. To lighten his horse, he immediately threw off the meat he carried, and then urged his animal to his utmost speed, in an attempt to distance his pursuers. He soon discovered, however, that the enemy was rapidly gaining upon him, and that in a few minutes more he would be completely at their mercy, when he hit upon an expedient as-singular as it was bold and courageous. Drawing his long scalping-knife from the sheath at his side, he plunged the keen weapon through his horse's neck, and severed the spine. The animal dropped instantly dead, and the determined
huriber, urowing himself behind the fallen car. cass, waited calmly the approach of his sanguinary pursuers. In a few moments one Indian was within range of the fatal rifle, and at its report his horse galloped riderless over the plain. The remaining two then thought to take him at advantage by approaching simultaneously on both sides of his rampart; but one of them happening to venture too near, in order to be sure of his aim, was shot to the heart by the long pistol of the white man at the very instant that the ball from the Indian's gun whistled harmlessly by. The third savage, being wearied of the dangerous game, applied the whip vigorously to the flanks of his horse, and was soon out of sight, while Richardson set about collecting the trophies of his singular victory. He caught the two Indians' horses, mounted one, and loaded the other with the meat which he had discarded, and returned to his camp with two spare rifles, and a good stock of ammunition.
Having now procured a sufficient quantity of buffalo meat, the hunting party set out on its return to the fort, and arrived there on the 25th, after nine days' absence. Their return had been anxiously expected, and “I could well perceive,” says Mr. Townsend, “many a longing and eager gaze cast upon the well-filled
bales of buffalo meat as our mules swung their little bodies through the camp. My companion, Mr. Nuttall, had become so exceedingly thin, that I could scarcely have known him; and upon my expressing surprise at the great change in his appearance, he heaved a sigh of inanity, and remarked that I would have been as thin as he, if I had lived on old bear for two weeks, and short allowance at that.' I found, in truth, that the whole camp had been subsisting during our absence on little else than two or three grizzly bears which had been killed in the neighborhood; and with a complacent glance at my own rotund and cow-fed person, I wished my poor friends better luck for the future.”
Another traveling company had encamped on the banks of the Snake river, during the absence of the hunting party. It consisted of thirty men, thirteen of them Indians, Nez Perces, Chinooks, and Kayouse, the remainder French-Canadians and half-breeds, Mr. M'Kay, the leader of this company, was the son of Mr. Alexander M’Kay, one of the early adventurers: across the prairies, the tragical story of whose massacre by the Indians on the north-west coast is told by Washington Irving in his “Astoria." Mr. Townsend gives an interesting description of this company and its captain. “On the evening of the 26th,” he says, “Captain Wyeth,