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that afternoon, though the harder formations made no visible outcrop.
It was just after sunset when we ascended a considerable elevation to the station of Fremont Springs, 29 miles west of Cottonwood and 379 from Atchison. We were now close beside the South Fork of Platte, and thenceforward to Denver, a distance of 274 miles, were hardly ever out of its sight. We stopped here to change horses, and take delicious draughts from the finest spring between the Missouri River and the Rocky Mountain snow-peaks. We found it carefully enshrined, as if it were a Greek god; for a clear, cold, living fountain may well demand apotheosis at the lips which have cooled their fever in it in the midst of the journey beside those stagnant pools and that dull, creeping, muddy river, which are the lot of .every passenger across the Plains. The station-keeper was faithful to his precious trust; and the crystal water was so well protected under a little house of boards, that neither sun could heat nor impurities sully a single ripple of its ceaseless gayety. It was like a baby's soul cradled in from the world's evil; a joy without reaction, an abandon without danger. It sang temperance lectures without knowing it, inspired in its sleep. It was a homily on good living, a parable of pure-heartedness; without didacticism going straight to the point. People with flat flasks in their breast-pockets felt disgusted at them, and, for miles after we left the spring, could not bear to take its taste out of their mouths.
We bade adieu to the beautiful fountain and the little lakes into which it ran on its way to the Platte, all alive with wild ducks, and mirroring the exquisite pink and salmon hues of a beautiful sunset. We rode on twenty-five miles further, to Alkali Lake, where sleep so thoroughly overpowered me that instead of going into the station to take an Overland supper, I threw myself down on the stable straw, and slept a sleep like death, until the driver awakened me by protracted shaking. The sensation of having to get up and go on again, was one of the most miserable I ever knew. After all our experience, I could not learn the trick of sleeping upright in the stage. I kept on the box, and my whole nature fought slumber as if it were a disease. Nor did I ever learn; and but for the necessity of the case summoning up all the Yankee ingenuity which was in me, I believe my comparatively uninitiated constitution would have given out before I got to Denver.
I may say, in passing, that Alkali Lake was one of those places, now growing more frequent, where salts of soda and potash exist in nearly saturated solution with stagnant water, or occasional springs, in shallow basins along the banks of the Platte. The Platte itself is not alkaline; yet where the trail runs at any distance from it, emigrant cattle often suffer so much from thirst, that unless great watchfulness is used, they temporarily satiate themselves at the pools before they can be driven to the river, producing a disease of the stomach and intestines, which carries off multitudes of them every summer. The entire road along the South Fork is strewn with bleaching heads, whole skeletons, and putrefying carcasses, which mark the effects of this malady, heat, and overdriving. As for the human passenger, though in most cases his caution prevents him from an injurious gratification of his thirst, he still suffers intensely from the very inhalation of the air carrying alkaline particles. Few
manias, it seems to me, were ever more intense than my longing for pickles, lemons, tamarinds, vinegar, anything which could correct the alkaline excess in my blood. The rest of us suffered nearly as much; and we found that the acid stores which we had used the precaution to bring from the Missouri River were, as long as they lasted, the most invaluable portion of our commissariat. At times I have ridden for twenty miles in a state of absolute wretchedness, with the taste of soda crusting my entire mouth and throat as perceptibly as if I had just taken a teaspoonful of the commercial article. To the traveller on this part of the Platte, canned fruit, the sourer the better, is an absolutely indispensable portion of his outfit.
The use of that word " outfit," is curiously broad upon the Plains. It means as many things as the Italian "roba," or the French "chose." It may seem a very natural amplification of significance that this term, originally taken from an emigrant's preparation for the road, should come to be applied to a suit of clothes, or even the ranch which a man had put under cultivation. But it is rather amusing to hear a Durham bull referred to as having rather a short outfit of horns; a mother threatening a refractory child with the worst outfit he ever got in his life; or a stage-driver saying that he has a big outfit of passengers. I was still more interested to have a man in Colorado tell me of a friend of his who had been living among the Indians, and had come home "with just the prettiest outfit of small-pox that he 3ver see."
The moon rose late, and was very light. At any other time I might cheerfully have sat up with her. In my present state of feeling, I wondered how poets could ever have lingered out of bed long enough to write about her. A pumpkin cart full of moons, reinforced by a Barnum's museum of nightingales, would not have been the least inducement to a man in my situation. We emerged from the hilly country we had been travelling since the middle of the afternoon, and came out upon a sterile-looking plain of sand and buffalo-grass, which resembled the country about Fort Kearney. It was after midnight when we reached Diamond Springs, a station four hundred and twentyseven miles from Atchison, and another of the topographical misnomers before referred to, possessing, so far as I could discover, as little that was valuable in the way of springs as of ..diamonds.
It had, however, its uses to me. It meant bed. My mind was made up, that is to say, what mind I had left. It all rallied to the final support of my life's now one remaining idea. I jumped down from the box, stuck my head inside the leathers, and woke my friends from the miserable cat-nap they were indulging, to bid them good-night till we met in Denver. They were too sleepy to be much surprised, and plead with great moderation for my continuance on the vehicle of torture. As for myself, I did not wait to see the horses change, but tumbled as well as I was able into the station-house, and was stretched on a bunk under my .camp-blankets beside a sleeping stable-keeper before the wheels rolled away.
It was eight o'clock in the morning before I awoke. I think I never slept so much or of so excellent a quality in .the same time. I was a new man when I stood on my feet, and the idea of breakfast began to dawn in on me like a dissolving view, replacing that of bed.
After breakfast, which was made a little more luxurious than the usual Overland meal by the addition of some very nice Indian meal flapjacks, I posted up my- journal, and then went forth to survey the land. Trenck amused himself with spiders, and in "Le dernier Jour d'un Condamne"" much food for meditation existed within four stone walls. The human eye is a wonderfully adjustable instrument, becoming a telescope for broad generalizations, and a microscope for details. I brought mine to the latter focus, and went hunting for objects of interest over a tract which more perfectly represented Platitude and Inanity, reduced to their geographical terms, than anything east of the Goshoot Desert.
I dwell on this Thohu Va-vohu a little longer because, if I can at all approach its painting in words, I shall have succeeded in conveying to my readers an idea of the sand and gramma plains skirting the South Platte, better than any which could be rendered by an engraving.
I emerge from a one-story house of logs, fifty feet long, fifteen broad, twenty feet to the roof-peak. It has no pretense of a fence, but a corral about a hundred feet west incloses a barn and two company stables.
In front of me stretches a waste of sand, midway in color between an ash-heap and- the Rockaway Beach, illimitably flat to the east and west, bounded on the southern horizon by a range of equally gloomy bluffs, which may be six miles off, and a hundred feet high. In all the view is no tree, no vegetation of any kind which a grown man would not have to stoop to touch, no living thing or sign of any; for the very antelope, which usually put a locomotive spot of in