Chapter 35397503

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Chapter NumberI
Chapter TitleNone
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article35397503
Full Date1901-04-27
Page Number2
Corrections1
Word Count1201
IllustratedN
Last Corrected2018-05-30
Newspaper TitleExaminer
Trove TitleA Prisoner of the Forest
article text

FOR THE CHILDREN. ——————— A PRISONER OF THE FORREST. ————— By Charles Kindrick. My first experience as a treasure seeker was in the Sierra Madre, where I went in company with a visionary old prospector, who had succeeded in firing my youthful blood with his rosy dreams and golden hopes. It was December when we started for the mountains with an outfit. Our pro- visions and camping utensils, our picks and pans, and other implements which prospectors use were packed on the backs of burros. As soon as we had established a com- fortable camp, we set out in earnest to dig for mineral. From day to day we toiled, encouraged with the hope of finding a rich vein and acquiring sud- den wealth. The monotony of daily digging was relieved now and then with the chase. We would take an afternoon off, and hunt deer, and sometimes we hunted bears. When we had been about two months in the wilderness, I grew so weary of the life of a prospector that I had lost all interest in our daily toil; and had it not been for the unflagging spirit of my partner, I should have packed out of the mountains for good and all. One afternoon I left him digging in the side of a hill near the camp, and wandered down the bank of the river, glad to be relieved from the monoto- nous grating of pick and shovel in the stony soil. Presently I arrived at the edge of an undulating country, covered with pines and scruboaks, with here and there green clumps of pinon. Further on, the timber thinned; then a mesa spread before me, half a mile in length and beadth, treeless, but covered with thick gramma-grass. I was crossing this plain, when a deer bounded from the matted wisps, spread its white tail like a fan, and darted away. Instantly I lowered my rifle, drew aim, and fired; but the animal dashed on, left the mesa, and descended a hill, its splendid antlers showing above the chaparral. I was confident I had hit the game, and pursued it, and upon reaching the slope where it entered the shrubbery, I found a trail of blood. Continuing the chase, I scrambled to a hilltop, from which I saw the stricken deer, limping round the side of an opposite eminence. I traversed the intervening hollow, circled the base of the hummock, then caught sight of the animal crossing a woody ravine. On and on I followed, up hill and down dingle, until the deer finally eluded me in a shady copse at the base of a rugged butte. When I gave up the chase, the sun was set. I sought to retrace my steps, but was soon confused, since there was nothing to guide my course. I wandered aimlessly from hill to hill, perplexed by my situation; and then I realised I was lost, without food, without blankets and in the bosom of a wilderness haunted by wild beasts. The gulch grew dark. I groped my way through tangled shrubs, stumbled over stones, and tripped among vines. The stars came out one by one—the heavens soon glittered brightly—but they gave no light in the black cavity of the canyon. I approached a spring boiling at the base of an overhanging rock, and mur- muring down the ravine; and since I was tired and thirsty, and could pro- ceed no further, I decided to camp here. As soon as it grew cold, a chilly wind blowing down from the snow-covered mountains, I gathered leaves and sticks with which to kindle a fire; it was not only necessary to keep me warm, but to protect me from wild beasts; for at that moment I heard the scream of a panther in the timber on the hill above. I started a blaze, and presently the flames illuminated a wooded circle round about me; at the same instant a second cry, nearer and more peircing than the first, re-echoed along the dark side of the canyon. Collecting a heap of dry wood near the base of the ledge, to keep the fire going through the night, I sat down, chafing my numbed hands, my flesh meanwhile creeping with cold. I was compelled to huddle so near the fire my face reddened, and perspiration bearded my brow; but icy shivers ran along my back; I seemed half burning, half freezing. The hours wore painfully, slowly

away. About midnight (or later) I piled branches and logs on the fire, and again laid down to sleep. Though weary from exercise, my slumber was, nevertheless, restless and unsatisfactory; I continually changed my posture, and was consciously cold even while dozing. I was often startled by weird screams and hoarse growls, when I would sit up suddenly, grasp my rifle, and peer into the wall of darkness around me; but I saw only the kindly glow of the stars and the sparks from the blazing faggots rising among the branches floating in the air, and fading away, like the wake of a rocket. Finally, the day broke, and the sun- light sparkled though the trees. I smiled as I stood by the red embers of the fire, and thought of the cold unquiet night I had passed, tossed with broken dreams, and startled by strange sounds. After considering which course to pursue, I resolved to continue down the canyon; for I believed this route would bring me to the river bank, and thus enable me to reach the camp in a short time. Before setting forward; I placed my rifle against a tree, and dropped on my hands and knees to drink from the spring. When I arose, dashed the water from my nose and chin, and looked around, I gave a quick start of surprise. Stand- ing by my rifle were two Mexicans, with their guns cocked and levelled at my breast. They were villianous looking fellows, with black tousled beards, and dark, dancing eyes. By their blood-stained. jackets of buckskin and shady som- breros, they appeared a couple of worthies of the wood, ready to kill or plunder, as opportunity or reward offered. The menacing tone of their voices, and the sinister, expression of their faces, dispelled my momentary hope that they could be relied upon to show me the camp. They conversed in Spanish, of which I had no knowledge; but I caught the name of Don Miguel Mojeda, and at once concluded they were minions of the don sent to arrest, perhaps mur- der, me for prospecting on his land, since we had been warned to move our camp clear of the Gallivan. I endeavoured, with signs and motions, to make them understand that I had missed my way while hunting— that I was not prospecting— but they gave me slignt heed; and continued talking with one another; meanwhile they kept their rifles pointed at my breast. Presently one of them advanced and bound my wrists with a strap of deer- skin; the other drew aim at my heart, and exclaimed something in Spanish which had a threatening sound. I calmly suffered my captors to pro- ceed, believing, if I offered resistance, I would be shot. (To be Continued.)