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leave camp without so much as a piece of hard-tack in my pocket. I might at least have brought out a canteen of pure water; but not having anticipated a protracted absence from the river, I had neglected even that, and began to have a tongue like a tile. My horse gradually became so used up, that I lay down with his long halter in my hand, and let him crop his dinner by piecemeal while I rested, for fif. teen minutes at a time. I found a large sunflower, whose root I pulled up and ate; but the food was rather scanty, and whetted my appetite as a relish, instead of satisfying it like a meal. But my greatest suf. fering presently came on in the form of intense thirst.
Before I reached the point abreast of the White Rock Butts, whence I was to commence my northerly course, I was in veritable torment. I felt like a German Zwieback, dry-rusked through and through by a sun which pelted mercilessly on that shadeless waste, hot as our Eastern July. I was reduced to such a deplorable demoralization that I cheerfully, nay joyfully, consented to relieve myself, over and over again, in a way at whose very mention I had shuddered when the old hunters told me of it in camp. I lay down by the side of those stagnant rain-puddles which stand in basins of hard-pan on the top of the divides, and, plunging my face in to the very eyebrows, drank ravenously, right over the hoof-marks of the buffaloes. Sometimes the water was thicker than cream with mud; sometimes red with the dejections of the herd; always as hot as blood,—yet I thought no more of these things than if I were a buffalo myself. For the first time I fully understood the sufferings of travellers in the desert. When I afterward came to experience those sufferings myself, I found them but little worse than that trial on the Kansas Plains. Reaching the line of range I had selected, I struck due north for the river, sure of finding our camp and overjoyed at the prospect. I looked from the edge of the bluff, after a toilsome trudge of three miles on a tired horse, and saw everything to convince me that my course had been correct. Between the bluff and the river stretched a swale of dry grass, bounded by two expanses of green herbage; the first bottom of the river descended by two well-marked curving terraces; there was a fine old cotton-wood grove, with a pair of gaps in it where the beavers had been felling; above this grove I saw a broad yellow sandbar running diagonally half-way across the Republican ; and to the eastward the river made a short curve toward me, narrowing the view of its bank to a mere strip, which was studded thickly with new timber-growth. Every feature which I have related was the fac-simile of a corresponding environment about our camp. I descended, as I thought, through the very draw by which we had yesterday approached the buffalo on foot. The likeness became more and more perfect as I went down. The same grotesque forms presented by the profile of a precipice of indurated sand, the same arrangement of bushes, the same puddle to which the relieved sentinel came down when we fired our first shots, the same well-worn buffalo-path leading through the draw to the river. Ichirruped cheerfully to Nig, as in assurance that we should soon reach home, and struck into the broad river-bottom with renewed patience. I reached the river without seeing any novel feature in the landscape, entered the cotton-wood grove, came to the very water's edge, – and found nowhere a trace of human kind. I thought it must be a joke. The party had played some trick on me. They were punishing me for my long absence by hiding in the timber near by. But then where were the wagons? Where the horses, the wheel-tracks,— above all, where was the burnt spot left by our camp-fire? I had to confess that this was not our camp. It needs no explanation to understand how with that confession came a full assurance of the fact that I was about as badly lost as it is possible for a man to be. If there were one place exactly like our camp, there might be fifty. And so there were. Should I go up or down the river ? I concluded on the latter course. I calculated as nearly as possible my distance from home when I reached the main herd, and found it unlikely that I could have made enough return with my tired horse to have brought me abreast of the camp again. I set off along the edge of the river timber, at the best rate my horse could travel. A mile down I was stopped by an impassable swamp, running entirely across from the foot of the bluff to the river bottom. The water vegetation in it was almost tropically rank, and its pools swarmed with ducks. I had no time or thought for shooting. I dismounted from my horse, and, finding the bluff loose and sandy ten feet up, I led him along its slope around the marsh, in momentary danger of his falling on me, and both of us going into the bog. We now entered a thick wood, containing some of the grandest old trees I ever saw in my life. They were mostly elms and cotton-woods, with an occasional oak, primeval in their size and luxuriance, making the ground under them black with the shadow of their dense foliage, and exhibiting tree-forms which might fill an artist with rapture. They grew entirely without underbrush, on a damp, velvety lawn of short grass, expanding their immense arms at the top of shafts a hundred feet in height, locking them together into their impenetrable roof, with graceful curves and grotesque angles, that surpassed anything in human architecture. It was one of those places continually met with in this region, which so strongly simulate human cultivation that the traveller finds it almost impossible to believe he is not in the park of some lordly demesne. To this feeling all wild animals contribute, but far beyond the rest, the gregarious buffalo, by making paths so like those of a well regulated country-seat that everybody exclaims at the first sight of them, “Inhabited after all!” These are thoroughly well beaten, straight as a gardener could lay them out, or following the conformation of the land in curves that could not be bettered. To add to the human suggestions of the delicious grove I had entered, two such paths crossed each other in its centre. I found one of them a pleasant relief to my tired horse. Pursuing it for half a mile, we emerged from the grove, or more properly became immersed in a thicket. Thorn-bushes hanging covered with wisps of buffalo hair recently scraped off, alternated with springy saplings, which in turn tore and flogged us, till I should have been driven back had there been any way out of the fix except forward. Patience,
and an occasional use of my bowie-knife, at last hacked us out to daylight; but the view that broke on me was as little satisfactory as the thicket. A narrow rift, eight feet deep and three wide, its nearer side a moist, springy clay, opened at my feet, discharging a small stream into the river. I tied my horse for a moment, plunged down into the fissure, and drank till it seemed as if I should burst. Climbing up again, I surveyed the opposite bank. It was the side of the main bluff itself, thirty feet high, and slanting at an angle of little less than seventy degrees. The river had curved around to meet it past the marsh and wood which I had just traversed, cutting away the first bottom entirely. But this I did not know till afterward. I explained the nearness of the river to the precipice, by supposing that the bed of the former had fallen within the last two miles sufficiently to bring the first bottom as high above it as the bluff here appeared. Upon this, I reasoned that I must, after all, have struck the stream too far below our camp. Still, rather than turn back through the thicket, I would try crossing the rift and ascending to the top of the bluff, where I would have smooth ground for my return. The difficulty was how to get my horse over. There was no standing-room for a single pair of hoofs at the base of the bluff across the ditch. I accordingly built myself a bridge. In the first place, I flung lumps of clay from the springy side into the fissure, until I had a surface nearly enough even with the edge to receive a superstructure of sticks hacked from the thicket. On this treacherous fascine, which it took me a perspiring hour to complete, I managed to support the hind hoofs of my horse till he could dig his front ones into the bluff. I then ran before him, caught his bridle, and scaled