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RUTH'S GIFT TO THE TRADER.
THE CHILDREN ON
IN THE GREAT PRAIRIES OF NORTH AMERICA.
MRS. SARAH S. BAKER,
Author of" The Yewish Twins,"
"T. NELSON AND SONS, PATERNOSTER ROW.
EDINBURGH; AND NEW YORK.
I. THE DECISION, ... ... .. ... ... 7
II. THE YOUNG TRAVELLERS, ... ... ... ... 14
III. THE TRADER, ... ... ... .. ... 21
IV. A PETITION, ... ... ... ... 35
V. IN CAMP, ... .. ... ... ... ... 44
VI. SUNDAY, ... .. ... .. ... ... 58
VII. FORT KEARNEY. ... ... ... ... ... 66
VIII. THE CROSSING, ... ... .. ... ... 74
IX. THE DOCTRESS, ... ... ... .. ... 86
X. A FRESH START, ... ... ... .. ... 105
XI. THIS PHILISTINE," ... ... ... ... 110
XII FORT LARAMIE, ... ... ... .. ... 115
XIII. MRS. NUTTEN, ... .. ... ... ... 132
XIV. WESTWARD, ... ... .... ... 141
XV. SALT LAKE CITY, ... ... ... ... ... 147
XVI. REALITIES, ... ... ... ... ... 156
XVII HOME, ... ... ... ... .. ... 160
XVIII. CONCLUSION, ... ... ... .. ... 164
The circumstances wrought into the following
story are true incidents of a real journey in America
across the Plains."
__ :,"U '.t. .
THE CHILDREN ON THE PLAINS.
HE morning light was stealing,gently
over the broad prairies between the
Missouri River and the Rocky
y In the midst of the wide prairie a com-
pany of emigrants had pitched their camp.,
Their white waggons had clustered there,
like a flock of huge birds, the evening before,
and now in the gray dawn the travellers
were already astir. The smoke of their
breakfast fires was slowly curling upward,
and the only half-rested animals were being
harnessed anew to the strong waggons.
8 THE DECISION.
There was no spirit of cheerfulness and
energy abroad in the camp. On all sides
there were murmurings and bitter expres-
sions of disappointment.
A few weeks before, that same company
had started from Ohio full of eagerness and
hope. On a May morning they had com-
menced their overland journey to California,
with hearts as bright as the pleasant sun-
shine around them. Their white waggons
were new then, and their horses were strong
with the strength that comes from good
care and proper food. Now the waggons
were brown with the dust of their long
journey, the poor beasts were tired out, and
the emigrants had lost all their hope and
One after another among them had been
stricken with cholera; and they had dotted
the road along which they had passed with
the fresh graves of their companions.
When fairly on the plains their difficulties
had daily increased; and the fatal disease
seemed gaining ground among them. That
night they had come to a decision. It was
but five days since they passed Fort Leaven-
THE DECISION. 9
worth; they would go no further into the
wilderness. They would turn back to the
States, and exchange their golden dreams of
California for hard work once more and a
home of tolerable comfort.
There was not a dissenting voice in the
whole company when the return was pro-
posed, yet all were dissatisfied-all were
Every face was scowling with discontent;
and not a little harsh language rose on the
still air of that early morning. We have
said every face, but we must except two
young countenances, of which we shall pre-
sently know more.
While stout men and sturdy women were
busy about most of the waggons, round one
two children were occupied.
Curtis Sumner, a boy of thirteen, was
harnessing four mules for the journey, while
his sister Ruth was carrying out his orders
in the inner arrangement of the great
Curtis and Ruth were favourites in the
company; partly because they were the
only children among the emigrants, and
10 THE DECISION.
partly because they had been left mother-
less a week before, and so seemed to
have a peculiar claim upon their fellow-
It had been a grievous trial to Ruth to
leave the wayside grave where her mother
was laid; but she had that sainted mother's
parting command to fulfil; and this thought
had given her resolution to go forward on
her fatiguing journey. "Tell your father I
hope to meet him in heaven," the dying wife
had said; and Ruth believed in her heart
that her erring father in California would
hear this message, and take home its lesson
to the good of his soul. On this thought
the little girl had dwelt as Curtis wiped
away her tears, and promised to be the best
of brothers to her, now that she was left for
the present wholly to his care.
The manly spirit of the boy, and Ruth's
gentle quiet ways, had daily won upon the
emigrants; and there were many now to
offer to assist them in their preparations,
and to talk encouragingly to them of "going
"We have no home now," Ruth was
THE DECISION. 11
about to say; but she was silent, as she
thought of the "happy home" her mother
was already enjoying, and where she hoped,
some day, to be welcomed. She would
bear all present trials cheerfully, always
keeping that home in view, and so she
would never be desolate.
The preparations for departure were all
made. The line of waggons stretched along
the road, and but one more remained to
close the gloomy procession. "Come, Curtis,
follow up!" cried a hoarse voice from one
of the vehicles.
Curtis drove his mules on to the road,
but turned their heads in a different direction
from what was expected. We are going
on to California. We see no reason for
turning back. Our father will be expect-
ing us," said Curtis., The news passed
on from waggon to waggon, and there
was a general expression of surprise and
A number of the emigrants clustered
about Curtis, and strove to dissuade him
from his rash undertaking.
The boy was firm. He had a bold, deter-
12 THE DECISION.
mined spirit. He feared neither death nor
danger, and he would not give up his under-
taking. As for Ruth, arguments were
wasted upon her. She had her mother's
message to deliver, and she would rather
have died on the spot than have given up
the hope of the great good she fancied this
message was to effect.
"Well, you are your own master, I
suppose, and must have your own way," said
the rough farmer who had first spoken to
Curtis. "You must take your own choice;
but I feel for your sister here. I had
rather see her safe back in the States.-
Here, dear, take my brandy-bottle, and my
medicine-box too; and, dear, keep up a good
heart, and maybe you'll get across safe after
The rough fellow thrust his gifts into the
waggon, wrung Ruth's hand till it ached,
and then, wiping tears from his eyes, even
while he gave a disapproving look at Curtis,
he turned away.
The others followed his example. The
long line of waggons moved slowly towards
the east while westward, towards the
THE DECISION. 13
wilderness, went Curtis and his sister.
Their choice was made; they were alone
on the "Plains," with only God for their
THE YOUNG TRAVELLERS.
HERE was nothing romantic in the
appearance of Curtis and Ruth
Sumner and their travelling equi-
page. Curtis was but a tall, frank-
faced boy, clothed in a suit of coarse gray
cloth, and handling the reii-s like oin used-to
the office, and skilled in country occupations.
Ruth, in her-brown dress, plaid shawl,
and close gingham sun-bonnet, sat up at his
side, looking like the child of a Western
farmer, as she was.
The waggon itself was a great lumbering
vehicle, whose outward beauty was not in-
creased by the chicken-coop attached to it
behind, or by the various baskets that hung
from its sides. .
THE YOUNG TRAVELLERS. 15
The four mules must not be forgotten in
the description. The two leaders, Bob and
Jerry, were a fine sleek pair of animals, that
looked strong and well-fed, even after the
fatigues they had undergone. Of the other
pair, not as much that is favourable can be
said. Joe was full of years, full of brown
callous spots, and was supposed to be as full
of discretion. Indeed, he needed much of
the latter quality to keep in order the un-
due vivacity, viciousness, and obstinacy
of his companion John, a young, half-
broken creature, who could not have been
trusted in the company at all, but for
the safeguard of the good behaviour of his
Curtis had an attachment to every indi-
vidual of the team; and as he started them
off at a good round pace, he called Ruth's
attention to their various merits, as uncon-
cernedly as if he and his sister were setting
ouK for a pleasure-drive on an Ohio turn-
Curtis did not feel quite as much. at ease
as he wished to appear, but he thought an
off-hand way of talking the best means of
16 THE YOUNG TRAVELLERS.
keeping up Ruth's courage at this trying
Curtis might have kept his remarks to
himself, for all the advantage they were to
Ruth. At that instant she was seeking a
surer source of strength, and staying herself
upon a better consolation.
It was a relief to the little girl to escape
from the rough people with whom she had
been so many days associated. Their coarse,
profane language, and loud, boisterous
ways, had been most unwelcome to her,
particularly at a time when she peculiarly
realized the presence of the God who
hateth iniquity, and will not have his name
Now a sweet peace was stealing over her
heart. In the quiet of the early morning
she could lift up her soul to God, and trust
herself and her future entirely to him. The
" Plains" they were crossing, the world
through which they must pass-she dreaded
neither, with God as her friend.
One look at Ruth had satisfied Curtis as
to the way in which she was occupied, and he
relapsed into silence.
THE YOUNG TRAVELLERS. 17
Beside his mother's grave Curtis had
breathed his first real prayer. The good
seed- that mother had faithfully sown, had
not sprung to life until watered by the warm
tears shed when she was no more. Curtis
meant to be a Christian. He had really
begun heartily, but he was a stranger to
serious thought, and it was hard for him to
keep to his new resolutions. He longed to
feel as Ruth did, and wondered if he ever
"Ruth," he said, after a moment's pause,
" suppose you should sing a hymn for us to
Ruth's face brightened. Such a proposal
from her brother was most welcome. Curtis
had said nothing about his new and better
wishes, but Ruth fancied he was touched as
he had never been before; and now his re-
Squest was hailed as still another indication
of a new sympathy existing between them,.
Ruth had a sweet, bird-like voice, and
now it sounded out over the wide prairie, as
from her heart she sang,-
"Children of the Heavenly King,
As we journey, let us sing;
18 THE YOUNG TRAVELLERS.
Sing the Saviour's worthy praise,
Wondrous in his works and ways."
Hymn after hymn Ruth poured forth, as
the waggon moved steadily along; at length
she paused for a moment, and was recalled
from her sweet thoughts to a full sense of
their present condition.'
"Look," said Curtis; "they are all out
Curtis drew up the reins, and Ruth
leaned forward and looked out on all sides
of her. The returning emigrants were no
longer to be seen. In every direction the
wide prairie swept away, in great waves,
like a ground-swell on the ocean. Not a
tree nor a shrub, nor even a rock, rose to
vary the far-reaching landscape. The beaten
emigrant road, winding across the plain, was
the only traces the foot of man had left in
A sudden feeling of loneliness and desola-
tion came over Ruth, like a cloud.
At that moment a small object near the
road attracted herattention. Shemotioned to
Curtis to be silent. Across the track flitted
a prairie-hen, followed by her little brood.
THE YOUNG TRAVELLERS. 19
There was something so home-like in the
look of the little family, that it gave Ruth
a feeling of comfort and companionship. It
had, too, for her a better message: it told
of Him who keepeth his children under the
"shadow of his wings," and is as mighty as
he is loving to protect.
From that time every living creature that
shd' saw by the wayside, every flower that
caught her eye, were to Ruth indications of
the presence of the great Creator. She felt
that he was in the wilderness with her, and
she was sustained.'
Curtis and Ruth were not to lose the
sound of human voices, even on those dreary
plains. That day they met, first, a little
company, with a sick man in a waggon,
going slowly back to the States; then a
large party of emigrants on the same
homeward track pale, thin, and dis-
They had sad tales to tell of days passed
without water, and dying companions be-
moaning the hour that had tempted them
to leave their homes.
"Turn back! turn back! turn back, for
20 THE YOUNG TRAVELLERS.
your lives !" was the advice that the children
heard from all whom they met.
Curtis looked at Ruth. There was quiet
determination in her eye as she said calmly,
"We will go on."
Curtis had a wilful obstinacy of purpose,
which made him always unwilling to aban-
don anything he had undertaken, and now
he was most anxious to go forward. Ruth,
however, was looking pale and weary; and
Curtis, for the first time, questioned as to
whether he was doing right to expose her
to the hardships from which strong men
turned back affrighted.
"Mother expected to have gone through
it all. Mother chose to take me with her.
I have her message to give to father. We
must go on." This was Ruth's only reply to
Curtis's offer to join the returning company
and give up the undertaking altogether.
/Four and five times that day waggons
came from the west and passed on to the
east, yet Curtis and his sister no more spoke
of returning. Others might be discouraged
and go back-their voice was still, For-
" THINK we must have travelled
thirty miles to-day," said Ruth,
as Curtis drew up beside a small
stream at nightfall.
"You girls always make out big
stories. I don't believe it is more than fif-
teen. John has pulled back as much as for-
ward, and if it hadn't been for old Joe, I
believe we should have stopped altogether -
at least, until Bob and Jerry smelt the water.
See how glad they are to get a drink! "
The little stream was as refreshing a sight
to Curtis and Ruth as it seemed to be to
the tired animals. After a good long
draught of the clear water, Ruth prepared
to get supper.
22 THE TRADER.
"This is an old camping-ground," said
Curtis, looking about him as if he were say-
ing something very wise, whereas he was
uttering only a self-evident fact.
There were various articles of household
furniture strewed about the spot, as well as
gardening implements, bags of beans, and
band-boxes. In the midst of the confusion
was set up a cooking-stove, which some
emigrant had found heavy freight for so
long a journey, and had discarded by the
way. There it stood, as well furnished
with pots, pans, and pokers as if it had been
in a farmer's kitchen.
"4Ruth laughed to see herself so provided
for, and Curtis went to work to knock up a
discarded chair for firewood. The chicken
that Curtis had killed by the way Ruth had
nicely picked as they rode along, and
now it was soon stewing over the fire,
while the children congratulated them-
selves on having found so good a camping-
Quite like a home it seems, doesn't it ?"
exclaimed Curtis cheerily. The thought of
home brought tears at once to Ruth's eyes.
THE TRADER. 23
Home without mother seemed an impossible
thing to her.
Curtis had no time to think of Ruth's
tears, for at that moment the sound of
wheels attracted his attention. Turning
quickly, he saw a long train of waggons
coming from the west along the emigrant
road. Ruth dreaded the sight of human
beings more than she did solitude. The
company of the rough men of the emigrant
parties was worse to her than any loneli-
ness. She feared, too, their influence upon
her brother, who was much too ready to use
the odd language he heard.
Ruth hoped the waggons would pass on
and leave their little camp unnoticed; but
it was soon evident that their leader had no
such intention. A small, strongly-built
man, in the loose dress of a hunter, rode at
the head of the train. At a signal from
him the whole procession stopped, and then
arranged itself into a circle round the spot
where the children were preparing their
The waggons were chained together so
closely as to form a strong protection
24 THE TRADER.
against any enemies, and but one opening
was left to the enclosure.
"Are you the 'Babes in the Wood'?"
said the leader of the party, speaking to the
children in English, but with a strong
"No, sir!" said Curtis, with an air of
"Where are you bound ?" continued the
questioner, chucking Ruth familiarly under
"We are going to California, to meet our
father. Our mother died a week ago on
the way, and the company we were with
got discouraged, and turned back," answered
Ruth calmly, though her heart beat very
fast, and the tears were in her eyes.
"And you mean to go on alone Well,
you have good pluck," said the man kindly.
"Young Mister there had better look out,
though, or he'll have the stiffness taken out
of him before he gets many days further on."
Curtis made no reply, but pretended to
busy himself about the waggon.
Ruth was left in possession of the cook-
ing-stove for her operations, the new-comers
THE TRADER. 25
preferring to make a fire on the ground,
after their own fashion.
"When Ruth and Curtis had taken their
supper in the waggon, Curtis began to walk
about the enclosure, and to make the ac-
quaintance of the men.k He soon learned
that the leader of the party was Monsieur
Collot, a French trader, who was on his
way to Missouri. The waggons were
loaded with buffalo hides, which M. Collot
would easily dispose of as soon as he got to
With the arrangement of the waggons
Curtis was particularly pleased. He said it
seemed quite like a fort.
"Yes, and a strong one too," replied one
of the men. "We were attacked by a
party of Indians two nights ago, but we
were coralled as you see, and we beat them
back, and never lost a man, nor even an ox
in the fight."
Curtis felt a little strangely at the thought
of such enemies being so near at hand, and
yet he half wished he might meet some of
the savages, so strong was his boyish love
26 THE TRADER.
While Curtis was learning all he could
from the party, Ruth was sitting on the
front seat of the waggon, peering out at
the strange scene around her. Darkness
was creeping slowly on, and already the
figures round the fire had a wild, fantastic
air in the dimness.
"What do you think of us ?" said M.
Collot's voice close in Ruth's ear.
She turned suddenly, and saw the
stranger at her side.
"I was wondering to see these people all
look so cheerful, and seem to know so well
how to manage," replied Ruth, truthfully.,
"They don't do things like the raw emi-
grants who turned back chicken-hearted,
then ?" said the trader, smiling. "They are
old hands at the business; this is not their
first time crossing the 'Plains.' Experience
is the best teacher."
"That is just what mother used to say,"
said Ruth, looking into the stranger's face
more trustfully than before.
"A pretty nice mother I guess she was,"
remarked M. Collot, with an approving
glance at Ruth. "
THE TRADER. 27
SRuth's tongue was set at liberty by this
remark, and, with all the enthusiasm of her
loving nature, she spoke of her mother's
sweetness and patience, her industry and
her piety.: Such a picture as Ruth drew of
their pleasant home in Ohio, fairly made
the wandering trader's mouth water for the
pleasures he had never known.V
Ruth was just in the midst of describing
the honeysuckle by the pantry window, that
grew almost as fast as Jack's bean in the
story, when M. Collot interrupted her,-
"What made you leave such a sweet
place, chicky? Why, if I ever get into
such a safe harbour, I shall know when I
am well off, and stay there."
"My father," said Ruth, colouring and
hesitating,-" my father had gone to Cali-
fornia, and we did not hear from him for a
good while, and then he wrote for us to
come to him. Mother said we ought to go;
and she wanted to go, I am sure. She
never shed a tear, though I cried when I
went round the place the last time, and
bade good-bye to everybody, even to the
cows, and the pigs, and the ducks. We
28 THE TRADER.
had sold them all. We brought the
chickens with us-my 'banties' too. I
never could eat them, they seemed so like
people. When I hear them in the coop,
then I feel almost as if I were at home
"I'll tell you what you'd better do," said
M. Collot. What is your name ? "
"Ruth-Ruth Sumner," was the quick
"Well, Ruth Sumner, you had better
turn right round, and go back among folks
that 'know you. Your father has got wild-
like out there, I daresay, and won't care
much about having children round him.
To my thinking, you had better give up,
and turn back with us. I won't leave St.
Louis till I see you well started for Ohio,
or looked out for there, if you like it better."
Ruth's' face was very grave as she an-
swered: "Mother said, if father wanted us,
we must go to him; and besides, I think
when he hears how mother died, with such
a smile on her face, and the word she sent
to him, he'll be a different man. 0 sir, I'd
go through a great deal to see that day."
THE TRADER. 29
" You love your father, then?" said the
trader, with surprise.
Indeed I do! Why, if he was only a
good Christian man, he'd be the best father
in the world! I've heard mother say so
often. She said we would not any of us
be worth anything if God did not help us to
I am not worth much, then !" said M.
"Don't you pray to God ?" asked Ruth,
"No, child !" was the short answer.
Have you a Bible ?" said Ruth, who
began to have a vague feeling that she was
talking with a heathen.
"No!" said M. Collot, with another
"I will give you one," said Ruth, very
seriously; "Curtis will let me read in his,
and you shall have mine-here it is."
Ruth drew from her pocket a small Bible,
well marked, where her Sunday-school les-
sons had been learned, or texts that had
pleased her well.
"See, it has my name in it; but you
30 THE TRADER.
need not mind that. Won't you read it
every day? you may die on the Plains, as
"You are a queer child," said the trader,
taking Ruth's offered gift. "What you
say is true. The day may come when I
shall be glad to be like your mother. May-
be I'll look into it now and then." The
trader now turned away, and was soon one
among the group taking supper round the
Ruth had new food for thought, a new
subject for prayer. --
As she looked up to the clear skies, where
the stars were already twinkling, it seemed
strange to her that any one could live in
God's world, and not love him. Very
earnestly she prayed for the trader and his
While the glow of the fire still lighted
the enclosure, Ruth saw the trader take the
book from his pocket and glance curiously
With this pleasant thought in her mind,
Ruth went to the lower end of the waggon,
dropped the curtain that shut in her small
THE TRADER. 31
sleeping-apartment, and lay down to rest.
It was late before Curtis returned to the
waggon. The stories of the hunters were
full of interest to him, and then he wanted,
too, to see the little camp arranged for the
night. He waited until the horses and
cattle of the trader were driven into the
ENKAMPED FOR THE NIGTT.
enclosure, and the entrance barred. Then,
with the noisy cries of the animals in his
ears, he lay down to sleep.
Curtis was almost disappointed when he
woke in the morning to find that the night
had passed, away so peacefully, when
32 THE TRADER.
matters were in so good a condition for a
defence against savages and wild beasts.
Ruth's waking thoughts were far different.
Her first act was an uplifting of a grateful
heart to the God who had preserved her
through the night, and to whose care she
trusted herself for the coming day.
There was no unnecessary noise and dis-
turbance in the breaking up of M. Collot's
camp. The thing was done promptly and
quietly, and before the sun was fairly up
the waggons were ranged along the road,
ready for departure. J
"You had better lighten your load here,
Curtis," said the trader familiarly. "Throw
out everything but your food, powder,
medicine, and the few clothes you need; all
the rest is trash, to be parted with sooner
"We haven't much else," said Curtis;
" and as to powder, that would be of no use
to us, as we have no gun."
"Out with the books, every one, and that
great heavy trunk there; what's in it? "
"Only our crockery. It is packed very
nicely," said Ruth deprecatingly.
THE TRADER. 33
"Leave it here with the cooking-stove,"
said M. Collot, in a tone of command. I
can't, somehow, see you young folks setting
out, without lending you a helping hand."
Ruth had to see Curtis and M. Collot lift-
ing out the trunk of crockery, and putting
it beside the stove in the wilderness. The
books-her mother's "Pilgrim's Progress"
and "Baxter's Saints' Rest "-no, she could
not part with them and a few others,-the
sweet memorials of her mother's devoted
"Now then," said M. Collot, when the
load had been lightened,-" now, Curtis, I
am going to make you a present. This
rifle I found by the road; some poor fellow
lost it on the river's bank, where he was
going to swim across. Can you shoot, sir?"
Let me try," said Curtis eagerly.
The first shot met M. Collot's approval,
though John testified his entire dissatisfac-
tion at the proceeding, and would have
carried Ruth off the premises but for old
Joe's obstinate resistance.
"There, now, the mule is right-you
ought to be moving. I never stood so long
34 THE TRADER.
before, after all was ready for a start. Take
the rifle, boy, and this powder and ball.
They may stand you in good stead. Now,
good-bye to you-good-bye, my chicky."
Good-bye-please read the good book!"
said Ruth. M. Collot took the little
volume from his pocket, and waved it, as
he mounted his horse, and rode away to
head the long procession moving slowly
down the road.
Ruth followed him with a prayer.
Wandering in the West there are hun-
dreds of such men, who never pray, who
never read the Word of God. Heathen
they are, in land professing Christianity.
Is there no way of sending the Bible among
them ? Is there no one to tell them of the
" pearl of great price" ?
URTIS quite enjoyed being the
head of his own little party. It
was amusing to see how readily he
had caught M. Collot's manner;
and through all the day the quick
sharp tones of the Frenchman were heard
in his voice when speaking to the mules, and
even in giving his orders to Ruth. Orders,
we say, for Curtis assumed it as a self-
evident fact that, being two years older
than Ruth, and moreover a boy, she was
bound to obey him on all occasions. Ruth
did not prove an unruly subject, and it was
not Curtis's fault if she formed habits of
idleness along the road.
M. Collot says it is a good plan to carry
36 A PETITION.
all your money about you," said Curtis
thoughtfully. "He spoke of having gold
pieces stitched into a belt round his waist,
under his clothes. Could you make such a
thing, Ruth ?"
"I daresay I could," said Ruth, bright-
Take that stout pair of duck trousers of
mine, and make the belt out of it," said
Are they not too good to cut up ?" Ruth
We must not load ourselves with useless
baggage. Everything must be turned to
the best account," said Curtis, looking very
wise. Make the belt, Ruth; that is the
girl's part of the business."
Hadn't I better make two-one for you,
and one for me ?" again asked Ruth.
Of course not! replied Curtis.
Ruth said no more. She took out her
great calico needle-book, and began her
work at once. The mules were moving
slowly over hilly ground, and the little
seamstress got on very well, making light of
various pricks with the needle, which dotted
A PETITION. 87
the belt with red spots, though she did not
Ruth had just finished the belt, when she
"Curtis! Curtis Look! look across the
plain to the north-west! "
"I see only a few trees," said Curtis,
jumping up at her side.
"No; they move !" said Ruth decidedly.
Give me my rifle!" said Curtis promptly.
The rifle was at his side, and he took it up
himself, though he seemed to prefer to give
out the order.
Curtis had hardly loaded his rifle, before
the indistinct objects in the distance had
become plainly defined as human beings
moving rapidly towards the solitary wag-
"They are Indians-I am sure of that!"
said Curtis excitedly.
SRuth felt her blood chill, but she calmed
herself with the remembrance that her
Saviour was beside her.
Drive quietly on, Curtis; perhaps they
will take no notice of us," said Ruth.
"No such thing I mean to shoot down
88 A PETITION.
the first man that comes within ten yards
0 Curtis, that would be murder You
are not sure they mean to harm us," said
Ruth. "Only wait and see what they
The half-dressed beings were certainly
Indians. On they came, with a long, loping
motion, half run and- half walk, and were
soon very near the waggon.
Curtis stood up, and pointed his rifle
directly at the foremost of the party.
The savage did not flinch. He merely said
calmly his only English word, "Friends,"
and put out, at the same time, a paper, as if
he wished it to be read.
Curtis told Ruth to take out a fishing-
pole that was lying along the edge of the
waggon. "Hold it out, Ruth, for him to
put the paper on the end, while I keep my
eye on him."
Ruth did as she was bid. The Indian
understood her meaning, and placed the
paper on the pole, and Ruth slowly drew it
It proved to be a petition, written by
A PETITION. 39
some traveller, begging all who passed
through this part of the country to give
something to the poor Indians, whose wood
they were burning, and whose home they
Ruth read the paper aloud.
Pshaw I" said Curtis impatiently.
But Ruth remonstrated. I have heard
my mother say that we owed the Indians a
great deal, and ought to be kind to them.
She said we would not teach them to be
Christians by using them unkindly."
"We have no provisions to spare," said
The Indians meanwhile looked on as if
understanding the nature of the discus-
"I will give them my bantams," said
Ruth. Her fears seemed to vanish with
the kind thought, and Curtis was surprised
to see her get down from the waggon and
go to the chicken-coop in the rear. Un-
locking it, she took out her white bantams,
and carried them to the Indian, at whom
Curtis's rifle was still aimed.
The pretty white creatures were received
40 A PETITION.
with a shout by the Indians, and a grunt of
gratitude addressed to Ruth.
Ruth caressed her pets as she parted with
them, and the men seemed to understand
that she was giving them something pre-
cious to herself. They looked at Curtis
with a slight frown, but on Ruth they cast
most approving glances.
Ruth had had a deaf and dumb friend
in Ohio, and she was familiar with the
language of signs. She did not find it
difficult to understand that the Indians
were pleased with her, and that they wanted
to know why she was not afraid of them
like the boy.
SRuth stopped for a moment. Then she
looked up into the clear sky, as if in prayer.
Then she made the movement as if she
would say, The Great Spirit holds me in
his arms like a little babe, and I am safe."
To her surprise, they seemed to take her
idea at once, and looked upon her with
sudden respect. -
Ruth's surprise would have been less if
she had known how largely the Indians
use the language of signs. They have inter-
A PETITION. 41
prefers among them who go everywhere
communicating with all tribes by the simple
use of signs.
Curtis lowered his rifle as he saw his
sister thus fearlessly holding intercourse
with the red men of the West. He
was not pleased with the part he was
playing in the interview. He resolved
to take a new stand himself, and play
Taking down a piece of bacon that hung
from the side of the waggon, Curtis held it
out to the leader of the party with a most
The savage seemed a little suspicious of
'this overture. He leaped foruiv:, d, seized
the offered gift, and .then bounded away
across the prairie, followed by his com-
Poor creatures !" said Ruth compas-
sionately, as she perched up again at Curtis's
side. "They are as harmless as the old
Indians who used to bring round their
baskets in Ohio."
"Yes, these chaps seem of a friendly
tribe," said Curtis; "but, Ruth, you would
42 A PETITION.
do well not to risk yourself quite so freely
among them. The next may be of another
sort. You would not relish having your
scalp taken off."
Ruth shuddered, but she answered, I
don't suppose it is as much matter as
we think it how we die, Curtis, if we. only
trust ourselves to the Saviour. I wish these
poor Indians knew and loved him as we do."
"As you do," said Curtis humbly. I
am but little better than they are, I fear."
0 Curtis, do not say so! You are try-
ing to love him, I am sure," said Ruth
"Sometimes, Ruth; but I forget all
about it when I get interested in anything
else," was the reply.
"We need his protection so constantly
here, that it will help to keep him in mind;
won't it, Curtis ? That will be one good
thing about this journey for us," said Ruth,
and she looked into her brother's face with
one of her sweet, winning smiles.
It is good for me that I have you with
me," said Curtis fondly. You are so like
A PETITION. 48
"So like mother !" That was the greatest
compliment Ruth had ever received in her
life. She felt quite humbled by it, and
could only pray in her heart that she might
have grace to follow the example of that
mother who was now giving glory to God
her Saviour in the heavenly "mansion."
iPR AVELLERS crossing the Plains
j learn to rejoice at the sight of trees,
not only for their welcome shade,
but because they only grow on the
banks of the streams. Sometimes, however,
their joy is a little d(ipeil d by discovering
that others, besides themselves, are partial
"to the waters and the leafy shade. It mayv
be that. they come suiddt-nly upon a pool
hidden among the luxuriant briushwood to
find that they have been anticipated by a
herd of bisons, with their curved horns and
shna'.y in anes. In such a case, unless the-
party is numerous and well-armed, discretion
is the better part of valour," and the
traveller will do wisely to pass on, and leave
IN CAMP. 45
the formidable animals we speak of to
quench their thirst undisturbed.
--7- =- .. ------ -=--.... --- ---"- r '- -=
A HERD OF BISONS DRINKING.
For several days Curtis and Ruth had
been passing through a beautiful region,
where the rolling plains were varied by
winding streams, edged by oak, elm, and
46 IN CAMP.
walnut-trees. The thirsty mules had en-
joyed the cool waters, and the children had
become so accustomed to driving through
the shallow rivers, that Ruth no longer held
fast to the side of the waggon and grew
pale as they went down the sloping banks.
The evening of the fifth day of the children's
lonely journey was coming on.
How fortunate that we are just at this
pretty place, the very spot for a camp!"
said Ruth, looking about her with pleasure.
Don't cry till you get out of the woods;
we have the river yet to cross," said Curtis.
"Now for it !" and he urged the mules into
The Big Vermillion at this spot is two
hundred feet wide iiln three feet deep, and
as the current is strong, the crossing is no
easy matter. Joe and Jerry held up their
heads wildly, and John straightened himself
back, as if determined not to try such an un-
certain business, at least with the waggon
behind him. John had to give in, however,
for the other three mules were obedient to
Curtis's voice and the touch of his whip.
After some plunging in the miry bottom,
IN CAMP. 47
they came safely across, and then Curtis
"was willing to join with Ruth in praising
their camping-ground. Near a fine spring
of water they unharnessed the mules, and
began to make preparations for supper.
"I am about tired of salt meat," said
Curtis. "I wish you hadn't given the
bantams away, Ruth."
We should not have had them now,
at anyrate," said Ruth, laughing. "You
can't keep your cake and eat your cake.
Come, I'll fry the ham, just as we used to
have it at home, and that will be a variety."
"While Ruth was going on with her cook-
ing operations, Curtis was exploring the
spot they had selected for the night's rest.
He soon came back with his eyes full of
delight. "Why, the trees here," he ex-
claimed, "are as good as the books:' at a
hotel, to tell who has been stopping here;
and whose name do you think I have found ?"
"Not father's exclaimed Ruth eagerly.
"Yes, father's; cut in an oak-tree, just as
plain as can be. Come and see it."
There was the inscription,-" Thomas
Sumner, 1846, bound for California, fam-
48 IN CAMP.
ously well, in good spirits, but tired of salt
That's father, exactly-full of fun," said
Curtis, passing his knife along the letters,
and freshening some that were becoming in-
distinct. Here, we'll put ours just below,
and say,-what shall I say for the benefit
of those that come after ? "
"Say that, by the kind care of our
heavenly Father, we are still safe and well,"
said Ruth gravely.
"Yes," said Curtis. "How is it, Ruth,
that you always think such good things? "
I don't always, Curtis. It is more
mother's teaching than anything else that
makes me have such thoughts. Don't you
remember, when anything pleasant happened
to her, how she was sure to say, 'Thanks to
our heavenly Father' "
Curtis had not finished his inscription,
when the twilight made his work difficult,
and Ruth called him to supper.
I shall get up early to finish the carv-
ing. I must leave our names with the
people's who have passed here. Why, there
must be at least five thousand names here
IN CAMP. 49
CURTIS LEAVING HIS MARK.
on the trees! I mean to tell exactly how
old we are-that will make folks stare "
= 1 -- -
-- ., <' -
.LS .. "
.,:;,. .- .
on he rees! ~sI ma ol xcl o
50 IN CAMP.
Ruth thought it was of small importance
whether "folks stared" or not, but she
wisely refrained from saying so. Ruth kept
out of many a quarrel by taking no notice
of Curtis's foolish speeches, a lesson many
a sister might learn to advantage.
When Curtis awoke in'the early morning,
he found Bob and Jerry enjoying them-
selves rolling on the grass, while Joe was
quietly feeding. John, however, was per-
forming some extraordinary gaiil:bol,, which
seemed more like movements of pain than
pleasure, and so they :pruv.,v. /.
All John's unwill inUnii-s to go in the
right direction, and his fretting against his
harness, had worked to his disadvantage.
His back and neck were terribly galled, and
it was plain that, for that day at least, he
was not fit for use.
We shall have to stop here to let
John recruit," said Curtis, in his decided
Couldn't you manage to tie him behind
the waggon, and so not lose any time said
If Curtis had thought of the plan himself
IN CAMP. 51
he might have adopted it, but as it was he
did not wish to take Ruth's sui''estioi.;
that would be an acknowledgment of in-
Sfei-i:rity f,:or which he was not. quite ready.
Curtis. too, was a passionate lover of fishing,
and he thought that a day of rest, sitting
.under the trees, with his pole and line over
the. water, would be by no means dis-
So it was decided that there was to be no
moving on that day.
Ruth determined to do a great deal of
mending, and to bake bread enough to last
for three or four days at least.
This matter of l:brtad-aling was a slow
process for Ruth, as she had but a Dutch
oven, or bake-,pan, to bake it in, and made
it in small cakes, raised with soda and
"cream of tartar."
Shle was more than half the morning busy
around the fire; but when her labour was
over, she called Curtis to see what a fine
basket of bread she had laid in for their
Curtis, meanwhile, had his treasures too
to show. He had caught three large cat-
FISHING IN THE FAR WEST.
fish, and a soft shelled turtle; so the
children had quite a fast, and grew as
merry as if they were not alone in thl-
Allti' tIhey took care to be, though hun-
(IN CAMPS 53
dreds of emigrants passed along the road
And a curious sight it was to see each
cumbrous waggon, with its canvas or leather
covering, and its burden of stores and pro-
visions, pass -low\ly and heavily along the
well-trodden track, drawn by a long team of
.patient oxen, sixteen to twenty in number,
and superintended by some laborious, pil-
grim on his way towards the "land of the
sunset." It was a spectacle not easily to be
forgotten, but it was one from which
Ruth shrank through her timidity of dis-
As soon as it was decided that they were
not to move on, they had changed their
camping-ground to a more secluded spot,
among the trees, where they would not be
qcuesti:onRed by the.various passers-by.
These interviews with the emigrant trains
were sore trials to Ruth, and she was glad to
be one day off from the road, to escape them.
When all signs of the feast had been
cleared away, Ruth took out her calico
needle-lbook, and began to work at Curtis's
coat, which needed mending.
54 IN CAMP.
"Won't you read to me while I work ?"
she said, as she handed Curtis the Bible.
If you wish it," said Curtis, with an un-
Curtis was in the middle of the story of
Joseph, when he started up, saying, I
must take a little run on the prairie, Ruth;
I am tired out sitting here."
Ruth took the book from him with a
sweet smile, and said, Well, go then; I
will sit here quietly till you come back."
Ruth was lost in some of the beautiful
chapters of St. John, when Curtis came run-
ning up to her with his cap in his hand.
"See! see!" he exclaimed; "did you
ever see finer wild strawberries than these?"
The red, juicy fruit did look most tempting,
and the brother and sister enjoyed them
I say, Ruth," broke forth Curtis-" I
say, I believe I am very cross to you some-
times, and I don't mean to be. I love you
dearly, and I want to be very good to you;
but somehow, hateful things come into my
mind to say. I was very angry when you
asked me to read to you a while ago. Ruth,
A': L.- WAGGO
56 IN CAMP.
I don't love the Bible as you do, and I don't
know what's to make me love it."
"You will have to ask God to help you,
or you can never do what is right, or love
what is good and true," said Ruth gently.
"Do you ever pray to him, Curtis ?"
Not exactly. To tell the truth, Ruth,
when I go to pray, I can't think just what
to say ; and sometimes when I am trying to
begin, my mind goes clear off, and I forget
what I am about."
Ruth replied modestly: I always say
this prayer, every morning. It seems to
ask just for what I want: 'Almighty God,
who through thine only begotten Son, Jesus
Christ, hast overcome death and opened
unto us the gate of everlasting life, I humbly
beseech thee, that as by thy special grace
thou dost put into my mind good desires, so
by thy continual help I may bring the same
to good effect, through Jesus Christ our
Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee
and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world
without end. Amen.' Mother taught me
that prayer one day, when I said something
to her like what you spoke of just now.
IN CAMP. 57
Then there it the Lord's prayer, that says,
you know, 'Lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.'"
Yes, yes," said Curtis hesitatingly, as if
still unsatisfied, or unconvinced of his duty.
"Suppose we pray together, every night
and morning. Would you like that, Curtis ?"
said Ruth, in a low voice.
I should," was the brother's only reply.
That night, when the stars began to
twinkle in the sky, Ruth and Curtis knelt,
side by side, under the lofty trees; and
while Ruth raised her voice in prayer,
Curtis strove to join her in his heart.
IJURTIS was waked the next morn-
ing by hearing Ruth singing,
"Welcome, sweet day of rest,"
in her own cheerful way.
"Why, it is Sunday, I declare!"
said Curtis to himself. The thought was
not a pleasant one to him, for he had made
up his mind to go on, whether John was
able to bear the harness or not.
Ruth," was Curtis's morning salutation,
"I think we had better go on to-day. We
took one day of rest yesterday. It really
makes very little difference whether we sit
here under the trees, or sit in the waggon;
we can be as Sundayish when we are mov-
ing as when we are at rest."
I am sure you are not in earnest," said
Ruth anxiously. "You know what mother
thought about keeping holy the Sabbath-
I really don't see any difference. You
can read to me, if you like, along the road;
and we can't go to church anyway, so
where's the odds ?"
"We are commanded to let the cattle
rest on the Sabbath-day," said Ruth. "It
would not be resting for the poor mules
to be dragging along to day just as
"The poor mules, indeed Look at them
now," said Curtis, laughing.
The mules were evidently enjoying them-
selves to their hearts' content. Even Old
Joe was rolling away on the grass, then in-
dulging himself in some bounds that must
have reminded him of the days of his youth.
John looked on enviously, but did not seem
in a mood to join his companions in their
"John, at least, needs another day's rest,"
Pshaw was Curtis's reply.
"Brother," said Ruth decidedly, "you are
older and stronger.than I am, and wiser in
many ways. In most things I think it
right to yield to you, but now I must have
my way. I should not dare to be here, in
the midst of so many dangers, if I did not
trust in the God who watches over all who
love him and try to serve him. How could
I expect him to. watch over me, if I
were breaking one of his c:,lniimidlmeii-. ?
Brother, I will not go on to-lday. I am -urre
you will not go and leave me here alone."
Of course not I" said Curtis crossly.
This .was not a pleasant beginning for
Sunday morning. This was a sad contrast
to the joint-prayer of the evening before,
which had sent such peace into Ruth's
heart. Curtis had little to say to Ruth
through the morning. He wandered about
picking strawberries, or casting envious eyes
at the trains of travellers which passed
along the distant road. 4k
Ruth, meanwhile, had her own Sunday-
joy. She knew that she had done her duty,
and she felt sure that the loving eye of God
was upon her.
She had her dear little prayer-book with
her; and as she knelt under the tall trees
in that lonely spot, it was joy to her to
know that she was speaking the same
prayers that were going heavenward from
many true Christian hearts at that very time.
Her simple hymns she was sure would. be
as welcome to the heavenly King as if she
were joining in the singing of the "great
Ruth's Bible was full of comfort to her
that day, and as she read of the New Jeru-
salem, she fancied she could feel some of
the joy of that glad home, where tears
shall be for ever wiped away.
Ruth was too happy to mind Curtis's
sullen looks when he came at mid-day to
share the simple repast prepared for him.
How pleasant it is that the sun is under
a cloud just now," said Ruth cheerily.
"A cloud that's likely to give us a wet-
ting," said Curtis, looking anxiously about
him. "We must take shelter in the
The storm rose very fast. The black
clouds rolled up the sly, like smoke before
the breeze. The distant thunder muttered,
then came nearer and nearer, while the in-
cessant'lightning glared fearfully over the
landscape. The wind broke suddenly on
the stillness. A fierce, wild hurricane it
proved, sweeping all before it. Tall trees
bent, bowed, and were cracked asunder.
The rain poured in torrents.
"Cover yourself up, Ruthy; you will be
wet through," said Curtis kindly. He gave
his sister his blankets, and then he peered
out from the front of the waggon.
Curtis had never before known what it
was to suffer agonizing fear.t- Now he
seemed to himself to stand in the presence
of an offended God. What would become
of his soul if it were suddenly called into
the presence of its Maker! This thought
filled him with terror.
Even as he asked himself the question,
the lightning streamed down from the skies,
and filled the whole air with electric light.
The thunder roared with deafening peals.
A tall tree, at a little distance from the
waggon, was splintered from top to root.
Under that tree the affrighted mules had
taken refuge. One of them dropped dead
upon the spot. Yes, immovable-stiff in
death he lay, while the torrents of rain
poured down upon him.
Curtis was awe-struck. Such might have
been his fate, but for the mercy of God.
Curtis had been softened, touched, moved
to better things at his mother's grave, but
death had not even then seemed so near to
him as it did in the midst of that fearful
Ruth was lying in the waggon, very quiet,
in the midst of the wild uproar. She felt
herself safe in the hands of him who ruleth
the heavens," and taketh up the isles as a
very little thing."
"Ruth! said Curtis; "Ruth, are you
God is with us. If we trust in him,
we cannot be harmed," replied Ruth
"But we may be killed. That last flash
struck down poor old Joe It might have
been one of us," said Curtis quickly.
"Death cannot harm us if we trust in
Christ," was Ruth's reply.
Curtis was silent. Ah, how he felt his
need of Christ at that moment! How was
he, a poor sinful boy, to stand before God,
unless forgiven for Christ's sake ? He felt
the full meaning of a Saviour, a Redeemer,
To that Saviour he fled for refuge, as to
his only hope.
The storm was passing by, even while the
earnest prayer to God for forgiveness and an
humble, penitent spirit was rising from the
heart of the conscience-stricken boy. Swiftly
as the clouds had gathered they sped away,
and the sunshine again made glad the land-
Curtis and Ruth were thoroughly drenched
in spite of the precautions they had taken.
"It is well we are not on the prairie,
where we could get no wood," said Curtis,
as he with difficulty kindled a fire with some
fallen timber and broken branches.
A great roaring fire was at length made,
and near it, and in the pleasant sunshine,
Ruth and Curtis hung up their valuables to
"I shall never forget this Sunday," said
Curtis very gravely when they were once
more comfortable, and the sun was setting
clear in the west. I shall never forget this
Sunday. I shall never ask you to break
the Lord's-day again, Ruth."
ORE than two weeks had passed
since the Sunday in camp, de-
scribed in the last chapter.
For four days the children had
been travelling along the banks of
the Little Blue River, and now
the road turned away from it, and the
landscape, without water, seemed dull and
"I am quite attached to the little river;
I can't bear to leave it," said Ruth to
"And so am I. It seems like company,"
said Curtis, with a lingering look at the
Ruth held in her hand a bouquet she
FORT KEARNEY. (7
had gathered. Strange-looking flowers they
were, such as she had never seen before.
There was a bright purple lupine (the
blossom of which grows directly from the
root, "without a leaf at all"), a blue digi-
talis, and a mallow of such a beautiful
deep pink, that Curtis said it was just the
colour he should like to see on Ruth's
Those same cheeks would have been very
pale, but for the clear, brown tan that gave
them a healthy'hue. Poor Ruth was get-
ting tired out. For six weeks she had been
on this fatiguing journey, bearing all an-
noyances with cheerfulness, but daily losing
strength and vigour.
Curtis, meanwhile, seemed to have pro-
fited by the life of exposure he had been
leading. Ruth declared he had grown
more than an inch since he left Ohio. He
did look very tall for a lad of thirteen ; per-
haps he had straightened himself up since
he had had the responsible position of chief
of his little party.
Curtis and Ruth had been chatting along
for mile after mile, when at last the mules
68 FORT KEARNEY.
slowly ascended a sandy ridge, across which
the road led.
Curtis drew up the reins suddenly at the
top of the ridge.
"Look Look, Ruth he exclaimed.
The scene was well worth a careful
Through the broad green valley that lay
before them flowed a wide river, with a
long island stretching along its midst-an
island covered with tall trees more than a
This must be the Platte !" said Curtis, in
a knowing way.
"The Platte River !" exclaimed Ruth, in
delight. Why, I've learned about it in my
'Geography.' I've seen it on my map Let
me think. 'The Platte rises in the Rocky-
Mountains, has a general easterly course,
and flows into the Missouri.' That is the
way we used to describe it at school."
The sight of the Platte was very cheering
to the children. It seemed like being in
known regions to see a river that was on
the maps, and talked about even by little
children in Ohio.
FORT KEARNEY. 69
"It must be the Platte. See how shallow
it is, and how restless and muddy, just like
the Missouri That's what M. Collot said.
He told me we would certainly know it
when we came to it, and then we should be
within a day's journey of Fort Kearney.
Take heart, Ruth; we shall see houses
Almost as welcome to Ruth was the idea
of seeing human dwellings as is the sight of
the green shore to the sailor who has lately
been exposed to a wild storm on the ocean.
The thought of rest made Ruth realize how
tired she was, and how glad she should be
to be settled and quiet in a home once
Ruth did not say one word about these
feelings, but Curtis guessed them. He
rolled the flour barrel forward in the
waggon, so as to make a back for Ruth's
seat, and threw a doubled blanket over
it, to make it soft for her to lean
Curtis was growing more and more fond
of his little sister, and watchful for her com-
fort. Ruth's sweet, uncomplaining spirit
70 FORT KEARNEY.
was having its daily influence upon her
The mules travelled but slowly that day;
John was very troublesome. Curtis had
tried in vain to harness him so as to draw
with Bob and Jerry. John seemed to have
a notion that old Joe was somewhere at
play, and that it was an imposition to try to
make a younger animal still keep at work.
Curtis had given up trying to use John
for draught, and had loaded him with some
articles, to lighten the weight of the wag-
gon, and tied him behind it. Being thus
limited in his prospect, and uncertain where
he was going, John was in a continual state
of mutiny, and Ruth had to spend a good
deal of her time looking through a little
opening in the rear of the waggon, and
talking to the contrary creature to coax him
Curtis had found a scythe, dropped by
some overloaded emigrant, and now when
he came to a patch of tall grass, he cut it
down, and stored it in the waggon.
This good cheer Ruth doled out to John
in small handfuls through the loophole, and
FORT KEARNEY. 71
so, by coaxing and feeding, the odd creature
was induced, for a part of the time, not to
pull back while the other mules were pull-
ing forward. `
At the close of the day's journey Ruth
was neither leaning against the flour-barrel,
nor administering to John's obstinacy. She
was fast asleep in her own little apartment at
the end of the waggon. She, poor child,
was fairly tired out.
She started up suddenly from her sleep in
a wild fright. Where could she be ? What
could be the matter? The sound of martial
music was in her ears.
What is it ? What is it, Curtis ? she
"Come out here and see !" was Curtis's
Ruth peered out from the front of the
waggon, and a welcome sight met her eyes.
They had reached Fort Kearney! There
were the long, low buildings with flat roofs,
all built of adobe, or sun-dried bricks. There
were tents upon tents-tents for workshops
and for soldiers, for sick men and for officers.
Quite a village, indeed, in its own way.
72 FORT KEARNEY.
Very kind was the reception the tired
children met with at Fort Kearney. A
kind-hearted officer gave up to Ruth his
own bedroom: and such sweet sleep as she
had was better than any cordial to her
Curtis had a supper that made him forget
all about salt meat,-a supper of buffalo
beef, rich and juicy, the very choice part of
the whole great animal.
Curtis and Ruth stopped a whole day
at Fort Kearney. Their waggon needed
mending, Curtis said, and one of the soldiers
had promised to show him how to load a
pack mule, and to bring John into better
subjection. Curtis did not say that Ruth
looked weak and weary, but the fact had as
much influence in inducing him to put off
starting as the wants of the waggon or of
Ruth had a real heart-warming in one
way at Fort Kearney. The officer who
had provided for her so kindly had talked
to her gently and pleasantly, not like the
rough, coarse men she had met on the emi-
grant road. He had told her of his own
FORT KEARNEY. 73
little girl, the same age as herself, whom he
had left at home in the East. But this was
not all; he had spoken to her of the heaven-
ly Father He was a true follower of the
Lord Jesus, and was trying there in the
wilderness, among rude soldiers and still
ruder savages, to spread abroad the spirit
of the gospel of peace.
fHEN Ruth bade good-bye to her
friend the officer, and looked her
last upon Fort Kearney, she felt
"as if she were leaving a kind of
home, or rather an oasis in the
desert she was crossing. A green spot in
memory, she was sure, her stay at Fort
Kearney would ever be. Something of this
sort she said to the kind-hearted officer,
who shook her hand affectionately as she
jumped into the waggon-something hav-
iig the same meaning, though not the same
His deep God bless you, child; I believe
we shall meet again in the better country !"
was his only reply.
THE CROSSING. 75
Curtis shook the reins, and the great
waggon was again in motion. More than
three hundred miles the children had tra-
velled since they left Fort Leavenworth,
and yet they were but little more than at
the beginning of their journey when they
turned from Fort Kearney. Along the
banks of the Platte the children journeyed
-journeyed for two whole weeks.
At night they often drove through the
shallow waters to some island near at hand,
to encamp under the trees, and to let the
mules enjoy the rich grass.
Trees, shrubs, and often even grass,
seemed to have been burned away along
the valley, while in the islands alone vegeta-
tion was flourishing.
Many buffalo paths the children had seen,
deeply worn into the ground by the heavy
feet of the great animals, but not a single
buffalo had yet crossed their track. Curtis
talked bravely of his anxiety to fall in with
a herd of these animals, and try his rifle
upon them; but Ruth ate her bacon and
bread, and was thankful to be safe from
dangers such as she fancied they would
76 THE CROSSING.
risk among a herd of buffaloes on the
Some smaller animals the children saw
which interested them nob a little. They
came upon a regular settlement of the so-
called prairie-dogs. Each little creature had
his own hole or home, and there he stayed,
with his head out, barking at the children
as if he were not pleased at their driving
through his village without paying toll.
Through the barking settlement Curtis
drove slowly, watching the animals with
interest, until John became almost frantic,
fancying, possibly, that he would presently
have the whole crew about his heels.
"I'll kill one of the little scamps, and
make an example of him," said Curtis, point-
ing his ever-loaded rifle at one of the dogs.
Before Ruth could speak the ball had
done its work, and the little creature dropped
back dead into the recesses of its under-
"I'll pull him out-I want to have a
look at him," said Curtis, springing from the
waggon and thrusting his arm into the hole
where the prairie-dog had disappeared.
A SETTLEMENT OF PRAIRIE-DOGS,
78 THE CROSSING.
A quick, sharp rattle caught Curtis's ear.
Ruth, too, heard the sound. They both
knew it well. They had twice heard it in
Ohio. "A rattlesnake A rattlesnake!
O Curtis !" exclaimed Ruth in terror.
Curtis was at her side in a moment un-
0 brother, I was so frightened! How
thankful we ought to be she exclaimed.
"I believe I am," said Curtis gravely.
"That was a narrow escape."
"What a mercy it is that the horrible
thing rattles before he strikes. It seems
like a warning sent by our heavenly Father
to save us from harm," said Ruth earnestly.
I shall remember again what I hear,"
said Curtis. I wish I could always think
before I move. One of the soldiers at Fort
Kearney told me about the prairie-dogs,
but I thought he was making game of me.
He said there was generally a rattlesnake
in every hole, and an owl too."
"How strange!" said Ruth, laughing.
"Such a queer company! It does not
seem as if it could be true."
Curtis was very fond of natural history,
THE CROSSING. 79
and not at all unwilling to let Ruth see
how much he knew. He was eagerly dis-
coursing on the habits of the owl, when they
came to the spot where the road crosses the
south fork of the Platte.
"Here we are at the ford," exclaimed
Curtis. "The river is pretty full. I think
I'll send John over first and see how he
makes it out."
Curtis put John's load into the waggon,
and then forced the animal into the water.
John did not like the look of the stream; it
was half a mile wide, and thick with yellow
80 THE CROSSING.
mud. However, he determined at last to
make the best of it, and plunged in.
Curtis watched him carefully, until he at
last reached the opposite bank.
"He had footing all the way, that was
plain-so here we go," said Curtis, as he
urged Bob and Jerry forward.
"Going it bravely! eh, Ruth?" said
Curtis triumphantly, when they were more
than half-way over.
At that moment the waggon came to a
sudden standstill. Deep, deep into the mire
it was plainly sinking. The mules pulled,
and struggled, and jerked again and again,
but all in vain. Not an inch did they
advance. The waggon had plainly become
a permanent fixture, fast to the river bottom.
"What was to be done ?" This question
Curtis and Ruth could not answer at once.
"If you could only swim, Ruth!" said
Curtis, with a woful look at his helpless
"Must we give up the waggon?" said
"I don't see any other way. We can't
get it out.' Bob and Jerry won't stand it
THE CROSSING. 81
------------------.----. ---___. __-___-_
A SUDDEN STANDSTILL.
long, pulling at this rate in the water, and
the current is so strong. Do you think you
could ride Jerry through the water if you
were once on his back "
I would not be afraid to try," said Ruth,
mustering up her courage.
I'll loosen them from the waggon," said
82 THE CROSSING.
Ruth managed to get on Jerry's back,
and Curtis soon took his place beside her on
Bob. Ruth grew more and more courageous
as they advanced. She saw all around swift,
flowing waters, that might at any moment
overwhelm her. Ruth did not like her
position; but she saw it was no time for
cowardice or complaining. She thought of
Peter walking on the water to meet his
Saviour, and into that Saviour's keeping she
put herself in that time of danger.
Once loosened from the waggon, the
mules made their way quickly through the
river, but with such an unsteady motion
that Ruth had hard work to keep her seat,
clinging as she was to Jerry's collar, and
perched on his back without a saddle.
Both the children and the mules were
thoroughly exhausted when they reached the
shore in safety.
"I must rest a little, and then go back
on Bob to save what I can from the
waggon," said Curtis, after seeing Ruth
safely seated on dry ground.
Curtis was able to take but a few trips to
the waggon, before both Bob and Jerry
THE CROSSING. 83
utterly refused to enter the water again.
The poor animals were much worn down by
their long journey, and latterly had moved
but slowly, even when the road was the
Curtis looked at Ruth despairingly: I
could manage it alone, but, Ruthy dear, I'm
afraid you'll never be able to stand riding
on Jerry, with such a saddle as I can con-
trive for you. See, we've got nothing now
for the journey but my rifle, and powder,
and ball, and my fishing-tackle. I was care-
ful not to forget them. Here's the hatchet,
too, and the blankets, and the extra harness.
I meant to get the bacon next time. I
believe I must make Bob go in again."
"Don't! Don't, Curtis! He might
throw you. You know how he does when
he's fairly out of patience."
"Let him, then. I can swim. I won't
be mastered by a mule-specially when so
much depends upon my having my own
way," was the brother's obstinate reply.
"Dear Curtis, don't," said Ruth plead-
Curtis was mounting again, when a glance
84 THE CROSSING.
at Ruth's mournful countenance changed
his mind. He'felt that he had no right to
risk his life, and run a chance of leaving his
sister unprotected in the wilderness.
"Well, we must go on, I suppose, the
best way we can," he said, somewhat
He then strapped some blankets across
Jerry's back, and when Ruth was fairly
seated on them, he saddled Bob after the
same fashion for himself. The few things
that had been saved were placed upon the
other mule. The doleful procession then
The day was more than half over, but
without provisions as they were, Curtis
declared it was madness to stand still, wait-
ing for something to come to them.
"The Lord will provide for us; I am
willing to go on," said Ruth cheerfully.
For several hours the children rode slowly
forward in silence. Ruth did not complain
of the fatigue that was almost overpowering
her; but she could not talk.
"That must have been a camping-ground,"
said Curtis, pointing to a spot a little off
THE CROSSING. 85
from the road. I see some dark objects
scattered about there."
The mules were quickly guided to the
place that had attracted the boy's observing
The camping-grounds of the emigrants
are not marked alone by the signs of fires,
and the names carved upon the welcome
trees. At such spots there is sure to be a
strange collection of articles, abandoned by
the discouraged and overloaded emigrants.
Even persons making pleasure-trips in thickly
settled Europe soon learn to carry as little
luggage, and to have as few wants, as
possible; but this is an absolute necessary
lesson for emigrants on the "Plains."
What had been abandoned as useless
burdens proved real treasures to Ruth and
Curtis, in their hour of need.
They actually found a hundred pounds of
bacon, stacked there because it was too
heavy to be carried any further; while two
barrels of flour were placed close beside the
bacon. As directly sent by Heaven these
stores seemed to Ruth, as did the ravens
with their welcome food to weary Elijah.
HE children's bedroom admitted too
much light to render late morning
sleep desirable. They had no cur-
tained windows to favour lazy
dozing, and as soon as the sun brightened
up the eastern sky, they were awake and
preparing for their journey. \
They were both suffering sadly from
thirst. Ruth's tongue was parched, and
felt like paper; Curtis could not suppress
his complaints, as he moistened his lips with
the dew that beaded the grass.
"If we only had a camel!" said Curtis,
as he laid an India-rubber water-bag among
the articles with which John was to be
loaded. "But this bag some poor fellow
THE DOCTRESS. 87
has left behind, and it must answer the
purpose when we find good water."
The old camping-ground was carefully
searched by the children, and everything
that could be useful to them was packed
upon John's back.
The little party set out, by no means in
good spirits. Ruth was quiet, Curtis cross,
and the mules jaded, and evidently failing
The emigrant trains, usually so unwelcome
a sight to Ruth, she now would gladly have
welcomed, if but a single cup of cold water
could have been obtained from them. For
a wonder, the road was perfectly deserted.
Not a single white waggon varied the dull
line of the seemingly interminable pathway.
The children rode on in silence, upward,
upward, as they crossed the bluff which
divides the waters of the South and North
Forks of the Platte.
The crest of the ridge was reached at last,
and weary as the children were, they could
not help stopping to admire the beauty of
the scene stretched out before them. On
one side was the wide rolling prairie they
88 THE DOCTRESS.
had just crossed; on the other, a landscape
varied by rocky ridges and deep ravines,
which, as it seemed, only an experienced
mountaineer could cross in safety.
Ruth, and even Curtis, soon had enough
to do to keep their seats, as the mules toiled
up and down the steep hills, there being
scarcely a single level spot on all the
"It is well we haven't the waggon here.
I don't believe we could have managed with
it," said Ruth, who always saw a bright side
in every difficulty.
"Sure enough!" said Curtis quickly.
"Bob and Jerry would not have stood the
waggon's pushing upon them, as it would
have done going down such hills as these;
and we really have pretty nearly all we
need, except water, and we can't go on long
God will not forsake us," said Ruth,
earnestly and devoutly.
For a few seconds they rode on in silence,
and then Ruth suddenly exclaimed,-
"Look, look, Curtis! There's an ante-
lope," and she pointed to the spot where
THE DOCTRESS. 89
the little creature stood watching their
I'll shoot him The taste of fresh meat
would do something towards quenching this
Curtis dismounted as he spoke, and rifle
in hand, he stealthily approached the prize.
The watchful animal did not wait until
Curtis was close at hand; he bounded away,
to stop and gaze at his pursuer when fairly
beyond his reach. So Curtis was led on,
ever hoping to reach the little creature, and
ever disappointed by its taking a fresh run,
until he was at some distance from the road
where he had left Ruth in charge of the
90 THE DOCTRESS.
mules. Here the antelope disappeared from
"This is too bad. It seems I am not to
have even this relief! said Curtis pettishly.
Even as he spoke a joyful sight caught
his eyes. There, among the rocks, sparkled
a spring of pure, fresh water,-such water
as he had not seen since he left Missouri.
Curtis, when he tasted the reviving
draught, felt rebuked for his want of trust,
and even before he went to tell Ruth of the
good news, he knelt to ask forgiveness from
the watchful heavenly Friend who had thus
provided for him in the midst of his com-
Ruth's pale face flushed with pleasure
when she heard of the discovery that Curtis
"That antelope was Heaven's guide sent
to lead you to the spring, Curtis!" said
I believe it !" said Curtis seriously. "I
never mean to despair after this."
Thoroughly refreshed by the pure water,
the little party again set out on their jour-
ney, taking care to fill the India-rubber bag
THE DOCTRESS. 91
with a supply of the best of beverages, to
last for the remainder of the day.
Curtis and Ruth had nearly reached the
North Fork of the Platte, when the road
along which they were travelling suddenly
swarmed with human beings. There could
be no mistaking those wild, half-naked
forms, and Ruth knew at once that they
Curtis seized his rifle, but in vain. It
was taken from him at the instant by a
strong hand from behind, while a tall Indian
at the same moment took his mule by the
In silence the whole party now turned off
from the road, down the bed of a narrow
stream, that was now dry.
Curtis looked at Ruth. Her face was
very pale, but it was full of peace, and he
strengthened his own heart with the thought
of her faith.
After an hour's silent ride, the whole
party stopped at an Indian village or en-
campment. Ruth and Curtis were left in
charge of two tall Indians, while the rest
of the party gathered about them-men,
92 THE DOCTRESS.
women, and children-as if for a general
Curtis's mind was full of vague images
of torture and death, and he was trying to
nerve himself to bear whatever might come
like a hero. Ruth meanwhile allowed no
visions of terror to agitate her mind. By
a strong effort of faith, she realized the
AN INDIAN ENCAMPMENT.
presence of her Saviour, and was calmly
awaiting the result of this singular ad-
About forty white lodges, or huts made
of buffalo skin, were scattered along the
green bank of the river. Before each lodge
were tall poles, on which were hung a white
shield, a spear, and a buck-skin bag.
THE DOCTRESS. 93
After much consultation among the In-
dians, Curtis and Ruth were separated.
Curtis struggled to be free, as he saw
Ruth led away on foot towards the largest
of the huts, before which hung a great shield
ornamented with curiously-plaited devices.
The boy's struggles were in vain. Two
strong hands clasped him like a vice, while
his two keepers stood immovable.
Full of silent prayer, Ruth was led from
the glad daylight into the dusky atmosphere
within the tent.
No instrument of torture, no savage cruel-
ties awaited her there in that silent spot.
Stretched upon a rude bed lay a young
Indian girl. Her long black hair was
pushed back from her face, and her dark
eyes gazed wildly and eagerly at the new-
Ruth returned a look full of wonder and
The Indian girl was wrapped in buffalo
robes, richly embroidered, and her scarlet
leggings and soft moccasins were wrought
in the same manner, with gaily-coloured
94 THE DOCTRESS.
efr, dress declared her to be a person of
in t ance. There was respect, too, in the
manner in which she was approached by
the two Indians who ushered Ruth into the
There was eager expectation in the face
of the sick girl, as one of the Indians, in
broken English, now told Ruth her story,
which was in substance as follows :
The chief of this band of Sioux or Dacotah
Indians was absent with a party of his
braves. Meanwhile his young daughter
had fallen sick with cholera. Full of alarm
at the terrible disease, she at once believed
death certain for her, and would have her-
self arrayed as if already dead, and laid out
to await her burial. She affirmed that there
was no hope for her but from the white
men, who, she had heard, had cures for the
awful malady. The Indians had been
struck with a double cause of terror; they
not only feared the disease itself, but the
anger of the chief her father, should he
return and find his child in the grave.
In haste they had sought the emigrant
road, hoping to find there some persons who
THE DOCTRESS. 95
would render them assistance. They brought
back our little travellers, silently, and
The wiser among the Indians at once said
that these children could do no good to the
sufferer. Then an old Indian, more experi-
enced than the others, gravely spoke, saying
he well knew that the overwhelming fear
that had taken possession of the chief's
daughter was her greatest danger, and for
this he thought they had secured a remedy.
He at once went to the silent tent, where
the poor young Indian girl was lying, and
told her that a pale-faced child had come
among them,-a wonderful child, who had
more power than many "medicine-bags,"
and that she could cure the cholera even if
the patient were actually dying.
Hope rallied in the Indian girl's heart
when she heard this news; and now she
looked eagerly at Ruth, as if expecting at
once the marvellous cure.
The broken English, on which the old
Indian prided himself, was not understood
by the chief's daughter. She had lain in
silent expectation while Ruth listened to
96 THE DOCTRESS.
the strange story. Now," said the Indian,
"now, cure quick-make she think it, or-"
and he shook the spear at his side, to indi-
cate a dreadful threat.
Ruth would not, even in the hour of
danger, act a part to impose upon the poor
sufferer. At once she resolved what to do.
Leaning over the sick girl, she looked ten-
derly into her face; then taking her hand,
Ruth lifted her eyes to heaven and prayed
aloud. 'For the recovery of the stricken
girl she prayed, and for all her people she
asked the blessing of God-even the know-
ledge of his Son, Jesus Christ
That was no praying for effect. Ruth
eagerly longed for that which she asked,
and she believed that she should receive it
for Christ's sake. The wild fright, that had
been the worst enemy of the Indian girl,
was calmed as she looked at Ruth's sweet,
earnest face, and heard the clear, musical
tones of her voice. She fancied that the
Great Spirit had sent the young stranger
to her relief, and hope sprang up in her
Curtis was surprised and rejoiced to see
THE DOCTRESS. 97
RUTH PRAYING FOR ANOTAH.
Ruth come forth safe from the lodge, with
an added expression of peace on her usually
98 THE DOCTRESS.
"She do well! She good doctor!" said
the old Indian, as he drew near to Curtis.
Curtis, who had all this time remained
between his two guards, was forthwith
ushered into one small white lodge, and
Ruth into another, left entirely vacant for
Though dogs, papooses, squaws, mules,
and ponies were thronging round the en-
trances, none were allowed to come in. One
mother actually dragged away her creeping,
curious child by the heels, just as he had
got his head in at an opening in the curtain
to get a peep at Ruth.
Boiled buffalo meat, served up in an old
tin pan, was given first to Curtis and then
to Ruth. Buffalo skins were handed in to
them, and the Indian interpreter then told
them they might as well go to sleep and get
rested, for they would not start away for that
day at least, and perhaps not for many more.X
Ruth was astonished to find herself estab-
lished in the position of a wonderful doc-
tress, and forced to make daily visits to the
lodge of the chief's daughter, who was evi-
dently recovering. Ruth's charm was very