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and a fortnight's "drunk." I asked Mary Comstock if she was not afraid of such visitors. "0 no!" she replied; "we always get the guns out of sight when we are left alone by the men-folks, so that if the Indians come we needn't be robbed of what must defend us on a pinch ; and if we see them coming, we bolt the doors, and talk with them through the shut window. Sometimes they steal a march on us, and the first thing we know they're swarming in like bees, — asking for everything they see, hunting for something to eat, and begging to be "treated." We generally give 'em everything they want to eat, but when it comes to liquor,— not we! One young Indian last summer got mighty sassy when his band came here, and insisted on having something to drink. At last I got a bottle of Perry Davis's Pain-killer, and handed him that . He just threw his head back, and took it down at one swallow. The next thing he gave such a yell, bolted through the door, and after that he never troubled me much."
Comstock has two sons with him beside George, both excellent specimens of the young pioneer,—one about twenty, the other about sixteen years old. They are fine shots, fearless horsemen, industrious farmers and herdsmen, —with the same rich veins of original humor and strong common sense which run through all the other members of the family. Their manners are frank, self-reapectful, and, in the highest sense of the word, gentlemanly. There is a cordial kindness and a native refinement in all they do or say, as far from the artificial politeness or elegant puppyism which we too often find in our city boys at the East, as from the rustic greenness and awkwardness with which the traditions of romance and the stage invest the young backwoodsman.
Beside these children of Comstock's and others of the third generation, the log-cabin shelters a number of ranch-men and hunters, who assist in caring for the crops and herds, and purveying for the family with their rifles. A young Philadelphian, William Butler, who built the ranch as an emigrant trading-post, selling it to Comstock on the death of his brother and partner, lives here when he is not in the saddle or in camp. Willard Head, a dashing horseman, rejoicing in gorgeous leather breeches of Mexican manufacture, adorned with shiny bell-buttons all the way up the leg, makes this his rendezvous while awaiting promotion to the box of an Overland stage. Last, but as characteristic a pioneer as any of the family, comes John Gilbert,—a weather-bronzed youth of twentyfive, with the most resplendent set of teeth, blue eyes full of uncontrollable waggery, and a pair of hands skilled in every department of frontier craft, from throwing a lariat to building a house. His sight is as keen as an Indian's. This by itself makes him a capital shot, and, combined with quick intuitions and great experience, a guide unsurpassed by any I ever saw. Crowning his excellent physical qualities are a dry wit and inexhaustible backwoods' humor which would keep a camp cheerful if reduced to mule-meat and wild onions.
The second day after our arrival at Comstock's proved as fair and sunny as we could desire. Everything had been prepared for our expedition to the buffalo country. A sack of flour, a small keg of salt pork, a box of hard-tack, a gridiron, two frying-pans,. some camp-kettles, a pile of tin plates, and a lot of knives and forks; a judicious selection from our own party's private stores, consisting of pickles, canned s
fruits, condensed milk and coffee,—all these, and numerous small boxes containing the condiments for a reinforcement of nature's hunger-sauce, stood in a pile that looked like moving-day, at the door of the ranche by seven o'clock in the morning. Hunger of the Overland Road had reached us with his double buggy and two fast horses on the evening before. After breakfast we immediately set out in the following order. The artist of the expedition, Munger, and myself, with a pair of rifles, a shot-gun, and the large color-box which accompanied our entire journey, occupied the buggy. Butler, George and Ansell Comstock, John Gilbert, and the two remaining gentlemen of our party went in a couple of large farm-wagons drawn by teams belonging to the ranch. Willard Head, and Thompson of the Overland station to the eastward of us, which bore his name, escorted us as skirmishers, each on his own horse.
We forded the Little Blue just across the road from the ranch, passed the thrifty vegetable patch which supplied the Comstock table, and at once struck south over the trackless plain. The grass was tall and luxuriant, but not so close as to impede our animals. In spite of the recent rain-storm, the ground, matted with grass-roots, bore our hoofs and wheels as firmly as a trotting-course. Everybody was in high spirits. To men just out of the hot-house of New York life, the air and sunshine were fairly intoxicating. Life swarmed around us more luxuriously at every step. The wild flowers of the Plains were a perpetual source of happiness to the eye. They made royal splashes of high color on the sunny sides of all the divides; they checkered the rich green of the ravines with delicious contrasts; and every now and then, as the grass waved, glowed upon us out of their secret nurseries among the tall blades, like tangled sunshine getting woven through the herbage by the shuttle of the wind. Before we left home I had deeply regretted our failure to include a practical botanist in our party; I regretted it still more when we were among the lavish Flora of the Plains; and most of all, having to describe so inadequately what might have been treated so well, do I regret it now. But this makes no pretense to be a purely scientific book, and 1 must not omit to rehearse the beauties which rejoice the tourist, because I cannot say how they would strike the botanist.
Over all the higher lands of the rolling plain which we were traversing abounded a pink, purple, crimson, or sometimes nearly white blossom, known here as the Indian pea. It grows on a long, villous flower-stalk, around which both blossoms and leaves are symmetrically arranged; its pistil is carried in a sheath, with the stamens about its base, and its fruit is a pod in shape like a large flattened gooseberry, containing seeds of the size of a pin-head. This pod is edible when boiled in salt water; at least, it is eaten, though to an Eastern epicure its taste is undisguisably rank. The Indian pea at this season, when in full blossom, both from its profusion and the variety of its tints, is one of the most important contributions to the beauty of the Plains.
Prairie roses are abundant everywhere on this portion of the Plains. I found the yellow, white, and pink varieties, all of which are luxuriant in blossom and deliciously fragrant. The tiny blue star-grass lurks everywhere among the taller herbage; and in many places I saw a variety of sorrel ( Oxalis acelocella) bearing yellow blossoms as large as a good-sized buttercup, though in every other respect it appears quite identical with our Eastern plant. Along the borders of the small streams, especially where the ground was shaded, grew a small variety of our evening primrose, of several tints, from pale straw-color to nearly orange; and in low, moist spots I noticed several specimens of a flower only differing from this in the possession of black spots and a carinated structure dividing the corolla into segments, upon the middle of each of the petals. Another plant, which seemed to me a species of the abutilon, had handsome cupellate blossoms of a deep-orange color, striated longitudinally along the petals with delicate pale yellow. Here and there grew a white species closely allied to our garden " rocket;" and a wild sunflower, with a root which I found quite as edible and as flavorous as our Jerusalem artichoke, was very common on all the slopes of the divides.
But the two most charming flowers of the region, the one for its perfume, the other for its color, were a tiny species having the habits and appearance of the water-lily, to whose family I supposed it to belong, and a crimson cup as large as a small althea, whose only name among the ranche people was "the ground popp3%" though whether it be really allied to that plant I regret my inability to state. Its plant-leaves are multilobed, and somewhat like those of our own poppy; but it grows upon running stalks close to the ground, and to unscientific eyes seems quite as closely connected with the mallows. It appears in patches varying from a few feet to several rods in circuit, and wherever these occur, the ground is one gorgeous mass of magenta fire. It is the glory of the fertile plains in May and early June, and we afterward found it extending for miles among the barren -sand