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edges came spectral glimpses of shivering trees along a distant bend of the Republican; while boldly beyond the flame, the purple-black bluffs rose against the clear dark sky, their promontories merged by night into one long wall of shadow. Nothing broke the silence save now and then the yelp of a coyote, a night-bird's scream, our own subdued voices, and the lulling gurgle of the river at our feet, on its way over dusky sand-bars to carry the message of the Rocky Mountain snows to the soft current of the Gulf and the mad waves of the Atlantic. We lay half-way between great mysteries, – in the lap of a loneliness as profound as the caves of the Nereids. But this loneliness mellowed instead of oppressing the quaint Western minds which were around us in the firelight. Some trifling remark about the hunt led to a queer idiomatic answer; we began to laugh, and the fire of humor was straightway kindled to such a height that yarn after yarn, joke on joke, surprised the solemn dignity of nature. The simplest saying of any man who has lived like these pioneers much away from his kind takes the form of an aphorism. He has not been where he could give away the sap of his reflections before it crystallized; he has not emptied his brains in loose small-talk; he has much bethought himselfboiled himself down; and when he speaks, be sure that it is “sugaring-off” time. I fancy the amount of thought is much the same in all men of quick intellects; they differ mostly in quality of thought and in the measure of its condensation. There is less difference between the Yankee mountaineer and the Western plainsman than their local varieties of scene and habit would lead one to expect. The terseness and epigrammatic smack of both comes from isolation, and their talk has many resemblances.
Ansell Comstock was lamenting the loss of his lariat. Butler saw it lying on the ground beside him, and called his attention to the fact by the figurative utterance, “If it were a snake, it would bite you.” Before I left, I had heard Ansell reproving one of the children for a greasy face, by asking him if he wasn't ashamed to sprain all the flies' legs that lit on him. Metaphors like these were common speech at the Comstocks'.
Some of the best stories and bonmots told by our frontiersmen had reference to “Old Trotter,” an eccentric genius who drives on the first stage out of Fort Kearney westward, and whose deeds and sayings will in future time become as historical as those of Tom Quick in Sullivan County, New York State, Jim Beckworth in Colorado, or any other original elevated by pioneer tradition among its demigods. Trotter improved on the old yarn to the effect “The weather would have been colder if the thermometer had been longer,” by saying that he had been where it was “so cold that the thermometer got down off the nail.” He once stopped his stage, and steadily gazed into the sky until all the passengers alighted and began gazing with him. Somebody said, “What's the matter, driver ? what are you looking at?”—“Can you see the comet?” rejoined Trotter, earnestly. Again for a space everybody made thorough search through the heavens. Finally the most impatient passenger answered, “No! I can’t l Where is it 7” The rest assented to him, upon which Trotter very quietly said, “Wall, if none of us can find it, I don’t believe there's any there, — so s'pose we g’lang.” On one occasion, Trotter took a vacation and came down to Atchison for the purpose of recreating in that gilded capital, and beholding the gay world of fashion as displayed upon its costly Boulevards. It was immediately after pay-day, and Trotter was flush. After casting about for some method accordant with his original turn of mind by which his earnings might be dissipated with the highest degree of voluptuary satisfaction, he discovered that a band of minstrels was about to delight Atchison with a concert. He immediately went to the treasurer of the company, prevailed upon him to limit his number of tickets, and, forestalling the market, bought up every one of them himself. Having thus effected what the brokers would call “a corner” in the world of amusement, he repaired to the hall at the hour of performance, occupied a seat in the centre, and had the entire concert to himself. Having thus experienced the sensation of solitary grandeur usually confined to kings and high dignitaries, he expressed himself fully satisfied with his money's worth, and the next morning departed for Fort Kearney, to drive until next pay day without a penny in his pocket. By far the most entertaining practical joke told of him (for the above has rather the complexion of a luxurious solemnity) is his stopping a man on the road who drove a miserable team of sick and aged little mules, with the ejaculation, “Look a 'here, pilgrim I know a man that would give eight hundred dollars if he could only see them mules l’ “Why!” exclaimed the man, startled by such an unexpected prospect of luck, “Yeou da-on't say so | Who is he?” “He’s a blind man,” said Trotter; “g’lang!” With such stories as these, and many others belonging to that category of which a well known bel esprit once said to me, “O, if one could only print the good things which mustn't be printed, what a book that would be l’” our frontiersmen kept us lively until the fire burned down to coals, and we felt ready to wrap ourselves in our blankets. The next five minutes, and we were as sound asleep in that divine bed-chamber of all-out-doors as any baby that ever lay in its cradle, ignorant of human woe. O the change from the lately abandoned vigils and labors of long city nights, – from the three-o'clock retirings, the nervous tossings, the unsolved problems that write themselves on the bedcurtain of him who lies down without any extinction of his business impetus, or cooling of life's competitive fever ! It was a return to childhood ; and the mother nature stroked our foreheads into slumber with a hand of soft sweet air, the moment that we touched our rugged pillows. Years had blotted out the memory of true sleep from us: now it returned as a new sensation. With the earliest rays of spring sunshine we were on our feet again, and but a little later saw us as deep as we could get in the clear, bracing water of the Republican. Thoroughly refreshed, we made our breakfast off our own stores,—supper having dismissed the antelope, — and prepared for the grand foray against the buffalo herd, of which yesterday had been only the burlesque; to which, indeed, yesterday was related in much the same sort of way as Mrs. Trimmer and natural history apprenticeships in general are related to actual experience of lions. The two horses which had been attached to Munger's buggy were both of them well trained hunters of our present game. They were accordingly put under saddle, – Munger retaining the chestnut, a fine animal named Ben Holladay, after the Overland Stage proprietor, and giving me “Nig,” an excellent black horse, whose pluck and endurance I afterwards thoroughly tested. I owed this kindness partly to the fact that in my own private capacity I was very anxious for one good hunt on a horse that knew buf. falo, but mainly to Munger's willingness to do a “courtesy to the Press,” whereof, before leaving New York, I was a member. It both amused and gratified me to see the influence and interest of journalism extending so far beyond the reach of latest editions. No higher compliment could have been paid the profession. The last time I had used my press privilege was in going to my parquet stall in the Academy of Music, past a smiling door-keeper, who took tickets of other people. Here I vaulted to the saddle of one of the best hunters in the American wilderness, from the same professional spring-board; and the two courtesies were but three weeks apart. Our artist, though a good shot, and capable of going to market for himself wherever there was any game, as well as most people, had seen enough buf. falo-hunting in other expeditions to care little for it now, compared with the artistic opportunities which our battue afforded him for portraits of fine old bulls. He accordingly put his color-box, camp-stool, and sketching-umbrella into the buggy, hitched a team of the wagon-horses to it, and, taking one of our own party in with him, declared his intention of visiting the battle-field solely as “our special artist.” Thompson and John Gilbert accompanied us on their own horses. The rest stayed behind to watch camp. Fully recovered from the stampede of yesterday, the outer bulls of the herd, guarded by their sentinels,