The Magnificent Adventure
by Emerson Hough
Being the Story of the World's
Greatest Exploration and the
Romance of a Very Gallant
Made in the United States of America
COPYRIGHT, 1916, BY
COPYRIGHT, 1916, BY THE FRANK A. MUNSEY COMPANY
Printed in the United States of America
MOTHER AND SON
CHAPTER III. MR.
BURR AND MR.
CHAPTER V. THE
CHAPTER VI. THE
COLONEL BURR AND
CHAPTER IX. MR.
CHAPTER X. THE
THRESHOLD OF THE
CHAPTER XI. THE
CHAPTER XIV. THE
RENT IN THE
CHAPTER I. UNDER
CHAPTER II. THE
CHAPTER III. THE
CHAPTER IV. THE
CHAPTER V. THE
CHAPTER VII. THE
CHAPTER IX. THE
CHAPTER X. THE
CHAPTER XI. THE
WHAT VOICE HAD
CHAPTER XIV. THE
GUESTS OF A
CHAPTER XV. MR.
CHAPTER XVI. THE
QUALITY OF MERCY
DOWN TO THE SEA
ROBERT H. DAVIS
CHAPTER I. MOTHER AND SON
A woman, tall, somewhat angular, dark of hair and eye, strong of
featuresa woman now approaching middle agesat looking out over the
long, tree-clad slopes that ran down from the gallery front of the
mansion house to the gate at the distant roadway. She had sat thus for
some moments, many moments, her gaze intently fixed, as though waiting
for somethingsomething or someone that she did not now see, but
expected soon to see.
It was late afternoon of a day so beautiful that not even old
Albemarle, beauty spot of Virginia, ever produced one more
beautifulnot in the hundred years preceding that day, nor in the
century since then. For this was more than a hundred years ago; and
what is now an ancient land was then a half opened region, settled only
here and there by the great plantations of the well-to-do. The house
that lay at the summit of the long and gentle slope, flanked by its
wide galleriesits flung doors opening it from front to rear to the
gaze as one approachedhad all the rude comfort and assuredness usual
with the gentry of that time and place.
It was the privilege, and the habit, of the Widow Lewis to sit idly
when she liked, but her attitude now was not that of idleness.
Intentness, reposeful acceptance of life, rather, showed in her
motionless, long-sustained position. She was patient, as women are; but
her strong pose, its freedom from material support, her restrained
power to do or to endure, gave her the look of owning something more
than resignation, something more than patience. A strong figure of a
woman, one would have said had one seen her, sitting on the gallery of
her old home a hundred and twenty-four years ago.
The Widow Lewis stared straight down at the gate, a quarter of a
mile away, with yearning in her gaze. But as so often happens, what she
awaited did not appear at the time and place she herself had set. There
fell at the western end of the gallery a shadowa tall shadow, but she
did not see it. She did not hear the footfall, not stealthy, but quite
silent, with which the tall owner of the shadow came toward her from
the gallery end.
It was a young man, or rather boy, no more than eighteen years of
age, who stood now and gazed at her after his silent approach, so like
that of an Indian savage. Half savage himself he seemed now, as he
stood, clad in the buckskin garments of the chase, then not unusual in
the Virginian borderlands among settlers and hunters, and not held
outré among a people so often called to the chase or to war.
His tunic was of dressed deer hide, his well-fitting leggings also
of that material. His feet were covered with moccasins, although his
hat and the neat scarf at his neck were those of a gentleman. He was a
practical youth, one would have said, for no ornament of any sort was
to be seen upon his garb. In his hand he carried a long rifle of the
sort then used thereabout. At his belt swung the hide of a raccoon, the
bodies of a few squirrels.
Had you been a close observer, you would have found each squirrel
shot fair through the head. Indeed, a look into the gray eye of the
silent-paced youth would have assured you in advance of his skill with
his weaponsyou would have known that to be natural with him.
You would not soon have found his like, even in that land of tall
hunting men. He was a grand young being as he stood there, straight and
clean-limbed; hard-bitten of muscle, albeit so young; powerful and
graceful in his stride. The beauty of youth was his, and of a strong
hereditythat you might have seen.
The years of youth were his, yes; but the lightness of youth did not
rest on his brow. While he was not yet eighteen, the gravity of manhood
He did not smile now, as he saw his mother sitting there absorbed,
gazing out for his return, and not seeing him now that he had returned.
Instead, he stepped forward, and quietly laid a hand upon her shoulder,
not with any attempt to surprise or startle her, but as if he knew that
she would accept it as the announcement of his presence.
He was right. The strong figure in the chair did not start away. No
exclamation came from the straight mouth of the face now turned toward
him. Evidently the nerves of these two were not of the sort readily
The young man's mother at first did not speak to him. She only
reached up her own hand to take that which lay upon her shoulder. They
remained thus for a moment, until at last the youth stepped back to
lean his rifle against the wall.
I am late, mother, said he at length, as he turned and, seating
himself at her feet, threw his arm across her laphimself but boy
again now, and not the hunter and the man.
She stroked his dark hair, not foolishly fond, but with a sort of
stern maternal care, smoothing it back in place where it belonged,
straightening out the riot it had assumed. It made a mane above his
forehead and reached down his neck to his shoulders, so heavy that
where its dark mass was lifted it showed the skin of his neck white
You are late, yes.
And you waitedso long?
I am always waiting for you, Merne, said she. She used the
Elizabethan vowel, as one should pronounce bird, with no sound of
uMairne, the name sounded as she spoke it. And her voice was full
and rich and strong, as was her son's; musically strong.
I am always waiting for you, Merne, said she. But I long ago
learned not to expect anything else of you. She spoke with not the
least reproach in her tone. No, I only knew that you would come back
in time, because you told me that you would.
And you did not fear for me, thengone overnight in the woods? He
half smiled at that thought himself.
You know I would not. I know you, what you areborn woodsman. No,
I trust you to care for yourself in any wild country, my son, and to
come back. And thento go back again into the forest. When will it be,
my son? Tomorrow? In two days, or four, or six? Sometime you will go to
the wilderness again. It draws you, does it not?
She turned her head slightly toward the west, where lay the forest
from which the boy had but now emerged. He did not smile, did not
deprecate. He was singularly mature in his actions, though but eighteen
years of age.
I did not desert my duty, mother, said he at length.
Oh, no, you would not do that, Merne! returned the widow.
Please, mother, said he suddenly, I want you to call me by my
full namethat of your people. Am I not Meriwether, too?
The hand on his forehead ceased its gentle movement, fell to its
owner's lap. A sigh passed his mother's set lips.
Yes, my son, Meriwether, said she. This is the last journey! I
have lost you, then, it seems? You do not wish to be my boy any longer?
You are a man altogether, then?
I am Meriwether Lewis, mother, said he gravely, and no more.
Yes! She spoke absently, musingly. Yes, you always were!
I went westward, clear across the Ragged Mountains, said the
youth. Theseand he pointed with contempt to the small trophies at
his beltwill do for the darkies at the stables. I put yon old
ringtail up a tree last night, on my way home, and thought it was as
well to wait till dawn, till I could see the rifle-sights; and
afterwardthe woods were beautiful today. As to the trails, even if
there is no trail, I know the way back homeyou know that, mother.
I know that, my son, yes. You were born for the forest. I fear I
shall not hold you long on this quiet farm.
All in time, mother! I am to stay here with you until I am fitted
to go higher. You know what Mr. Jefferson has said to me. I am for
Washington, mother, one of these daysfor I hold it sure that Mr.
Jefferson will go there in some still higher place. He was my father's
friend, and is ours still.
It may be that you will go to Washington, my son, said his mother;
I do not know. But will you stay there? The forest will call to you
all your lifeall your life! Do I not know you, then? Can I not see
your lifeall your lifeas plainly as if it were written? Do I not
knowyour mother? Why should not your mother know?
He looked around at her rather gravely once again, unsmilingly, for
he rarely smiled.
How do you know, mother? What do you know? Tell meabout myself!
Then I will tell you also. We shall see how we agree as to what I am
and what I ought to do!
My son, it is no question of what you ought to do, for that blends
too closely in fate with what you surely will domust dobecause it
was written for you. Yonder forest will always call to you. She turned
now toward the sun, sinking across the red-leaved forest lands. The
wilderness is your home. You will go out into it and returnoften; and
then at last you will go and not come back againnot to menot to
anyone will you come back.
The youth did not move as she sat, her hands on his head. Her voice
went on, even and steady.
You are old, Meriwether Lewis! It is time, now. You are a man. You
always were a man! You were born old. You never have been a boy,
and never can be one. You never were a child, but always a man. When
you were a baby, you did not smile; when you were a boy, you always had
your way. My boy, a long time ago I ceased to oppose that will of
yoursI knew that it was useless. But, ah, how I have loved that will
when I felt it was behind your promise! I knew you would do what you
had set for yourself to do. I knew you would come back with deeds in
your hand, my boygained through that will which never would bend for
me or for anyone else in the world!
He remained motionless, apparently unaffected, as his mother went
You were always old, always grown up, always resolved, always your
own masteralways Meriwether Lewis. When you were born, you were not a
child. When the old nurse brought you to meI can see her black face
grinning nowshe carried you held by the feet instead of lying on her
arm. You stood, you were so strong! Your hair was dark and full
even then. You were old! In two weeks you turned where you heard a
soundyou recognized sight and sound together, as no child usually
does for months. You were beautiful, my boy, so strong, so
straightah, yes!but you never were a boy at all. When you should
have been a baby, you did not weep and you did not smile. I never knew
you to do so. From the first, you always were a man.
She paused, but still he did not speak.
That was well enough, for later we were left alone. But your father
was in you. Do I not know well enough where you got that settled
melancholy of yours, that despondency, that somber griefcall it what
you likethat marked him all his life, and even in his death? That
came from him, your father. I thank God I did not give you that,
knowing what life must hold for you in suffering! He suffered, yes, but
not as you will. And you mustyou must, my son. Beyond all other men,
you will suffer!
You were better named Cassandra, mother! Yet the young man scarce
smiled even now.
Yes, I am a prophetess, all too sooth a prophetess, my son. I see
ahead as only a mother can seeperhaps as only one of the old Highland
blood can see. I am soothseer and soothsayer, because you are blood of
my blood, bone of my bone, and I cannot help but know. I cannot help
but know what that melancholy and that resolution, all these combined,
must spell for you. You know how his heart was racked at times?
The boy nodded now.
Then know how your own must be racked in turn! said she. My son,
it is no ordinary fate that will be yours. You will go forward at all
costs; you will keep your word bright as the knife in your beltyou
will drive yourself. What that means to you in agonywhat that means
when your will is set against the unalterable and the inevitableI
wishoh, I wish I could not see it! But I do see it, now, all laid out
before meall, all! Oh, Mernemay I not call you Merne once more
before I let you go?
She let her hands fall from his head to his shoulders as she gazed
steadily out beyond him, as if looking into his future; but she herself
sat, her strong face composed. She might, indeed, have been a
prophetess of old.
Tragedy is yours, my son, said she, slowly, not happiness. No
woman will ever come and lie in your arms happy and content.
He half flung off her hands, but she laid them again more firmly on
his shoulders, and went on speaking, as if half in reverie, half in
trance, looking down the long slope of green and gold as if it showed
the vista of the years.
You will love, my boy, but with your nature how could love mean
happiness to you? Love? No man could love more terribly. You will be
intent, resolved, but the firmness of your will means that much more
suffering for you. You will suffer, my boyI see that for you, my
first-born boy! You will lovewhy should you not, a man fit to love
and be loved by any woman? But that love, the stronger it grows, will
but burn you the deeper. You will struggle through on your own path;
but happiness does not lie at the end of that path for you. You will
succeed, yesyou could not fail; but always the load on your shoulders
will grow heavier and heavier. You will carry it alone, until at last
it will be too much for you. Your strong heart will break. You will lie
down and die. Such a fate for you, Merne, my boysuch a man as you
She sighed, shivered, and looked about her, startled, as if she had
spoken aloud in some dream.
Well, then, go on! she said, and withdrew her hands from his
shoulders. The faces of both were now gazing straight on over the
gold-flecked slope before them. Go on, you are a man. I know you will
not turn back from what you undertake. You will not change, you will
not turnbecause you cannot. You were born to earn and not to own; to
find, but not to possess. But as you have lived, so you will die.
You give me no long shrift, mother? said the youth, with a twinkle
in his eye.
How can I? I can only tell you what is in the book of life. Do I
not know? A mother always loves her son; so it takes all her courage to
face what she knows will be his lot. Any mother can read her son's
futureif she dares to read it. She knowsshe knows!
There was a long silence; then the widow continued.
Listen, Merne, she said. You call me a prophetess of evil. I am
not that. Do you think I speak only in despair, my boy? No, there is
something larger than mere happiness. Listen, and believe me, for now I
could not fail to know. I tell you that your great desire, the great
wish of your life, shall be yours! You never will relinquish it, you
always will possess it, and at last it will be yours.
Again silence fell between them before she went on, her hand again
resting on her son's dark hair.
Your great desire will cost me my son. Be it so! We breed men for
the world, we women, and we give them up. Out of the agony of our
hearts, we do and must always give them up. That is the price I must
pay. But I give you up to the great hope, the great thing of your life.
Should I complain? Am I not your mother, and therefore a woman? And
should a woman complain? But, Oh, Merne, Merne, my son, my boy!
She drew his head back, so that she could see deep into his eyes.
Her dark brows half frowning, she gazed down upon him, not so much in
tenderness as in intentness. For the first time in many monthsfor the
last time in his lifeshe kissed him on the forehead; and then she let
He rose now, and, silently as he had come, passed around the end of
the wide gallery.
Her gaze did not follow him. She sat still looking down the
golden-green slope where the leaves were dropping silently. She sat,
her chin in her hand, her elbows upon her knees, facing that future,
somber but splendid, to which she had devoted her son, and which in
later years he so singularly fulfilled.
That was the time when the mother of Meriwether Lewis gave him to
his fatehis fate, so closely linked with yours and mine.
CHAPTER II. MERIWETHER AND THEODOSIA
Soft is the sun in the summer season at Washington, softer at times
than any old Dan Chaucer ever knew; but again so ardent that anyone who
would ride abroad would best do so in the early morning. This is true
today, and it was true when the capital city lay in the heart of a
sweeping forest at the edge of a yet unconquered morass.
The young man who now rode into this forest, leaving behind him the
open streets of the straggling citythen but beginning to lighten
under the rays of the morning sunwas one who evidently knew his
Washington. He knew his own mind as well, for he rode steadily, as if
with some definite purpose, to some definite point, looking between his
Sitting as erect and as easily as any cavalier of the world's best,
he was tall in his saddle seat, his legs were long and straight. His
boots were neatly varnished, his coat well cut, his gloves of good
pattern for that time. His hat swept over a mass of dark hair, which
fell deep in its loose cue upon his neck. His cravat was immaculate and
well tied. He was a good figure of a man, a fine example of the young
manhood of America as he rode, his light, firm hand half unconsciously
curbing the antics of the splendid animal beneath hima horse deep bay
in color, high-mettled, a mount fit for a monarchor for a young
gentleman of Virginia a little more than one hundred years ago.
If it was not the horse of a monarch the young man bestrode, none
the less it was the horse of one who insisted that his stables should
be as good as those of any kingnone less, if you please, than Mr.
Thomas Jefferson, then President of the United States of America.
This particular animal was none other than Arcturus, Mr. Jefferson's
favorite saddler. It was the duty as well as the delight of Mr.
Jefferson's private secretary to give Arcturus and his stable-mate,
Wildair, their exercise on alternate days. On this summer morning
Arcturus was enjoying his turn beneath his riderwho forsooth was more
often in the saddle than Mr. Jefferson himself.
Horse and rider made a picture in perfect keeping as they fared on
toward the little-used forest road which led out Rock Creek way.
Yonder, a few miles distant, was a stone mill owned by an old German,
who sometimes would offer a cup of coffee to an early horseman. Perhaps
this rider knew the way from earlier wanderings thither on other summer
Arcturus curveted along and tossed his head, mincing daintily, and
making all manner of pretense at being dangerous, with sudden gusts of
speed and shakings of his head and blowing out of his nostrilsthough
all the time the noble bay was as gentle as a dog. Whether or not he
really were dangerous would have made small difference to the young man
who bestrode him, for his seat was that of the born horseman.
They advanced comfortably enough, the rider seemingly less alive to
the joys of the morning than was the animal beneath him. The young
man's face was grave, his mouth unsmilinga mouth of half Indian
lines, broken in its down-sweeping curve merely by the point of a bow
which spoke of gentleness as well as strength. His head was that of the
new man, the American, the new man of a new world, young and strong, a
continent that had lain fallow from the birth of time.
What burdened the mind of a man like this, of years which should
have left him yet in full attunement with the morning of life and with
the dawn of a country? Why should he pay so little heed to the playful
advances of Arcturus, inviting him for a run along the shady road?
Arcturus could not tell. He could but prance insinuatingly, his ears
forward, his head tossed, his eye now and again turned about,
But though the young man, moody and abstracted, still looked on
ahead, some of his senses seemed yet on guard. His head turned at the
slightest sound of the forest life that came to him. If a twig cracked,
he heard it. If a green nut cut by some early squirrel clattered softly
on the leaves, that was not lost to him.
A bevy of partridges, feeding at dawn along the edge of the forest
path, whirled up in his horse's face; and though he held the startled
animal close, he followed the flight of the birds with the trained eye
of the fowler, and marked well where they pitched again. He did these
things unconsciously as one well used to the woods, even though his eye
turned again straight down the road and the look of intentness, of
sadness, almost of melancholy, once more settled upon his features.
He advanced into the wood until all sight of the city was quite cut
off from him, until the light grew yet dimmer along the forest road, in
places almost half covered with a leafy canopy, until at length he came
to the valley of the little stream. He followed the trail as it rambled
along the bank toward the mill, through scenes apparently familiar to
Abstracted as he was he must have been alert, alive, for now,
suddenly, he broke his moody reverie at some sound which he heard on
ahead. He reined in for just an instant, then loosed the bridle and
leaned forward. The horse under him sprang forward in giant strides.
It was the sound of a voice that the young cavalier had heardthe
voice of a womanapparently a woman in some distress. What cavalier at
any time of the world has not instinctively leaped forward at such
sound? In less than half a moment the rider was around the turn of the
She was there, the woman who had cried out, herself mounted, and now
upon the point of trying conclusions with her mount. Whether
dissatisfaction with the latter or some fear of her own had caused her
to cry out might have been less certain, had it not been sure that her
eye was at the moment fastened, not upon the fractious steed, but upon
the cause of his unwonted misbehavior.
The keen eye of the young man looked with hers, and found the reason
for the sudden scene. A serpent, some feet in lengthone of the
mottled, harmless species sometimes locally called the
blow-snakeobviously had come out into the morning sun to warm
himself, and his yellow body, lying loose and uncoiled, had been
invisible to horse and rider until they were almost upon it. Then,
naturally, the serpent had moved his head, and both horse and rider had
seen him, to the dismay of both.
This the young man saw and understood in a second, even as he
spurred forward alongside the plunging animal. His firm hand on the
bridle brought both horses back to their haunches. An instant later
both had control of their mounts again, and had set them down to their
paces in workmanlike fashion.
There was color in the young woman's face, but it was the color of
courage, of resolution. There was breeding in every line of her. Class
and lineage marked her as she sat easily, her supple young body
accommodating itself handsomely to the restrained restiveness of the
steed beneath her. She rode with perfect confidence, as an experienced
horsewoman, and was well turned out in a close habit, neither old nor
Her dark haircut rather squarely across her forehead after an
individual fashion of her ownwas surmounted by a slashed hat,
decorated with a wide-flung plume of smoky color, caught with a jewel
at the side. Both jewel and plume had come, no doubt, in some ship from
across seas. Her hands were small, and gloved as well as might be at
that day of the world. There was small ornament about her; nor did this
young woman need ornament beyond the color of her cheek and hair and
eye, and perhaps the touch of a bold ribbon at her throat, which held a
white collar closer to a neck almost as white.
An aristocrat, you must have called her, had you seen her in any
chance company. And had you been a young man such as this, and had you
met her alone, in some sort of agitation, and had consent been given
youor had you taken consentsurely you would have been loath to part
company with one so fair, and would have ridden on with her as he did
But at first they did not speak. A quick, startled look came into
the face of the young woman. A deeper shade glowed upon the cheek of
the cavalier, reddening under the skina flush which shamed him, but
which he could not master. He only kept his eyes straight between his
horse's ears as he rodeafter he had raised his hat and bowed at the
close of the episode.
I am to thank Captain Lewis once more, began the young woman, in a
voice vibrant and clearthe sweetest, kindest voice in the world. It
is good fortune that you rode abroad so early this morning. You always
come at need!
He turned upon her, mute for a time, yet looking full into her face.
It was sadness, not boldness, not any gay challenge, that marked his
Can you then call it good fortune? His own voice was low,
Why not, then?
You did not need me. A moment, and you would have been in command
againthere was no real need of me. Ah, you never need me!
Yet you come. You were here, had the need been worse. And, indeed,
I was quite off my guardI must have been thinking of something else.
And I also.
And there was the serpent.
Madam, there was the serpent! And why not? Is this not Eden? I
swear it is paradise enough for me. Tell me, why is it that in the
glimpses the sages give us of paradise they no more than lift the
curtainand let it fall again?
Captain Meriwether Lewis is singularly gloomy this morning!
Not more than I have been always. How brief was my little hour! Yet
for that time I knew paradiseas I do now. We should part here, madam,
now, forever. Yon serpent spelled danger for both of us.
For both of us?
No, forgive me! None the less, I could not help my thoughtscannot
help them now. I ride here every morning. I saw your horse's hoof-marks
some two miles back. Do you suppose I did not know whose they were?
And you followed me? Ah!
I suppose I did, and yet I did not. If I did I knew I was riding to
She would have spokenher lips half partedbut what she might have
said none heard.
He went on:
I have ridden here since first I saw you turn this way one morning.
I guessed this might be your haunt at dawn. I have ridden here
oftenand feared each time that I might meet you. Perhaps I came this
morning in the same way, not knowing that you were near, but hoping
that you might be. You see, madam, I speak the absolute truth with
You have never spoken aught else to any human soul. That I know.
And yet you try to evade the truth? Why deceive your heart about
it, since I have not deceived my own? I have faced it out in my own
heart, and I have, I trust, come off the victor. At some cost!
Her face was troubled. She looked aside as she replied in a voice
low, but firm:
Any woman would be glad to hear such words from Captain Lewis, and
I am glad. Butthe honest wife never lived who could listen to them
I know that, he said simply.
No! Her voice was very low now; her eyes soft and cast down as
they fell upon a ring under her glove. We must not meet, Captain
Meriwether Lewis. At least, we must not meet thus alone in the woods.
It might cause talk. The administration has enemies enough, as you
knowand never was a woman who did not have enemies, no matter how
clean her life has been.
Clean as the snow, yours! I have never asked you to be aught else,
and never will. I sought you once, when I rode from Virginia to New
Yorkwhen I first had my captain's pay, before Mr. Jefferson asked me
to join his family. Before that time I had too little to offer you; but
then, with my hopes and my ambitions, I ventured. I made that journey
to offer you my hand. I was two weeks lateyou were already wedded to
Mr. Alston. Then I learned that happiness never could be mine.... Yes,
we must part! You are the only thing in life I fear. And I fear as well
for you. One wagging tongue in this hotbed of gossipand there is harm
for you, whom all good men should wish to shield.
As he rode, speaking thus, his were the features of a man of
tremendous emotions, a resolute man, a man of strength, of passions not
easily put down.
She turned aside her own face for an instant. At last her little
hand went to him in a simple gesture of farewell. Meriwether Lewis
leaned and kissed it reverently as he rode.
Good-by! said he. Now we may go on for the brief space that
remains for us, he added a moment later. No one is likely to ride
this way this morning. Let us go on to the old mill. May I give you a
cup of coffee there?
I trust Captain Meriwether Lewis, she replied.
They advanced silently, and presently came in sight of a little
cascade above a rocky shallowing of the stream. Below this, after they
had splashed through the ford, they saw the gray stone walls of Rock
The miller was a plain man, and silent. Other folk, younger or
older, married or single, had come hither of a morning, and he spoke
the name of none. He welcomed these two after his fashion. Under the
shade of a great tree, which flung an arm out to the rivulet, he pulled
out a little table spread in white and departed to tell his wife of the
company. She, busy and smiling, came out presently with her best in old
china and linen and wherewith to go with both.
They sat now, face to face across the little table, their horses
cropping the dewy grass near by. Lewis's riding crop and gloves lay on
his knee. He cast his hat upon the grass. Little birds hopped about on
the ground and flitted here and there in the trees, twittering. A
mocker, trilling in sudden ecstacy of life, spread a larger melody
through all the wood.
The sun drew gently up in the heavens, screened by the waving trees.
The ripple of the stream was very sweet.
Theodosia, look! said the young man, suddenly swinging a gesture
about him. Did I not say right? It is Eden! Ah, what a pity it is that
Eden must ever be the samea serpentrepentanceand farewell! Yet it
was so beautiful.
A sinless Eden, sir.
No! I will not lieI will not say that I do not love you more than
ever. That is my sin; so I must go away. This must be our last
meetingI am fortunate that it came by chance today.
Going awaywhere, then, my friend?
Into the West. It always has called me. Ah, if only I had remained
in the Indian country yonder, where I belonged, and never made my ride
to New Yorkto learn that I had come too late! But the West still is
therethe wilderness still exists to welcome such as me!
But you willyou will come back again?
It is in the lap of the gods. I do not know or care. But my plans
are all arranged. Mr. Jefferson and I have agreed that it is almost
time to start. You see, Theodosia, I am now back from my schooling. You
behold in me, madam, a scientist! At least I am competent to read by
the sun and stars, can reckon longitude and latitudeas one must, to
journey into the desert yonder. If only I dared orient my soul as
You would never doubt my faith in my husband.
No! Of course, you love your husband. I could not look at you a
second time if you did not.
You are a good man, Meriwether Lewis!
Do not say it! I am a man accursed of evil passionsthe most
unhappy of all men. There is nothing else, I say, in all the world that
I fear but my love for you. Tell me it will not lasttell me it will
changetell me that I shall forget! I should not believe youbut tell
me that. Does a man never forget? Successfor others; happinessfor
someone else. My mother said that was to be my fate. What did she
She meant, Meriwether Lewis, that you were a great man, a great
soul! Only a man of noble soul could speak as you have spoken to me. We
women, in our souls, love something noble and good and strong. Then we
imagine someone like that. We believe, or try to believe, or say that
we believe; but always
And a woman may divide not love, only love of love itself?
I shall love your future, and shall watch it always, she replied,
coloring. You will be a great man, and there will be a great place for
And what then?
Do not ask what then. You ask if men never change. Alas, they do,
all too frequently! Do not deny the imperious way of nature.
Onlyremember me as long as you can, Meriwether Lewis.
She spoke softly, and the color of her cheek, still rising, told of
He turned suddenly at this, a wonderfully sweet smile now upon his
As long as I can?
Yes. Let your own mind run on the ambitions of a proud man, a
strong man. Ambitionpowerplacethese things will all be yours in
the coming years. They belong to any man of ability such as yours, and
I covet them for you. I shall pray always for your success; but success
makes men forget.
He still sat looking at her unmoved, with thoughts in his heart that
he would not have cared to let her know. She went on still, half
I want to see you happy after a timewith some good woman at your
sideyour children by youin your own home. I want everything for you
which ought to come to any man. And yet I know how hard it is to alter
your resolve, once formed. Captain Lewis, you are a stubborn man, a
He shook his head.
Yes, I do not seem to change, said he simply. I hope I shall be
able to carry my burden and to hold my trail.
Fie! I will not have such talk on a morning like this.
Fearlessly she reached out her hand to his, which lay upon the
table. She smiled at him, but he looked down, the lean fingers of his
own hand not trembling nor responding.
If she sensed the rigidity of the muscles which held his fingers
outward, at least she feared it not. If she felt the repression which
kept him silent, at least she feared it not. Her intuitions told her at
last that the danger was gone. His hand did not close on hers.
She raised her cup and saluted laughingly.
A good journey, Meriwether Lewis, said she, and a happy return
from it! Cast away such melancholyyou will forget all this!
I ask you not to wound me more than need be. I am hard to die. I
can carry many wounds, but they may pain me none the less.
Forgive me, then, she said, and once more her small hand reached
out toward him. I would not wound you. I asked you only to remember me
As I shall you, of course. And I remember that bright day when you
came to meyonder in New York. You offered me all that any man can
ever offer any woman. I am proud of that! I told my husband, yes. He
never mentions your name save in seriousness and respect. I am
ambitious for you. All the Burrs are full of ambition, and I am a Burr,
as you know. How long will it be before you come back to higher office
and higher place? Will it be six months hence?
More likely six years. If there is healing for me, the wilderness
alone must give it.
I shall be an old womanold and sallow from the Carolina suns. You
will have forgotten me then.
It is enough, said he. You have lightened my burden for me as
much as may beyou have made the trial as easy as any can. The rest is
for me. At least I can go feeling that I have not wronged you in any
Yes, Meriwether Lewis, said she quietly, there has not been one
word or act of yours to cause you regret, or me. You have put no secret
on me that I must keep. That was like a man! I trust you will find it
easy to forget me.
He raised a hand.
I said, madam, that I am hard to die. I asked you not to wound me
overmuch. Do not talk to me of hopes or sympathy. I do not askI will
not have it! Only this remains to comfort meif I had laid on my soul
the memory of one secret that I had dared to place on yours, ah, then,
how wretched would life be for me forever after! That thought, it seems
to me, I could not endure.
Go, then, my savage gentleman, and let me
And let you never see my face again?
She rose and stood looking at him, her own eyes wet with a sudden
Women worth loving are so few! she said slowly. Clean men are so
few! How a woman could have loved you, Meriwether Lewis! How some woman
ought to love you! Yes, go now, she concluded. Yes, go!
Mrs. Alston will wait with you here for a few moments, said
Meriwether Lewis to the miller's wife quietly. He stood with his bridle
rein across his arm. See that she is very comfortable. She might have
a second cup of your good coffee?
He swung into his saddle, reined his horse about, turned and bowed
formally to his late vis-à-vis, who still remained seated at the
table. Then he was off at such speed as left Arcturus no more cause to
fret at his bridle rein.
CHAPTER III. MR. BURR AND MR. MERRY
The young Virginian had well-nigh made his way out over the two
miles or so of sheltered roadway, when he heard hoof beats on ahead,
and slackened his own speed. He saw two horsemen approaching, both well
mounted, coming on at a handsome gait.
Of these, one was a stout and elderly man of no special shape at
all, who sat his horse with small grace, his florid face redder for his
exercise, his cheeks mottled with good living and hard riding. He was
clad in scrupulous riding costume, and seemed, indeed, a person of some
importance. The badge of some order or society showed on his breast,
and his entire airintent as he was upon his present business of
keeping company with a skilled horsemanmarked him as one accustomed
to attention from others. A servant in the costume of an English groom
rode at a short distance behind him.
The second man was lighter, straight and trim of figure, with an
erectness and exactness of carriage which marked him as a soldier at
some part of his life. He was clad with extreme neatness, well booted
also, and sat his mount with the nonchalance of the trained horseman.
His own garb and face showed not the slightest proof that he had been
Indeed, he seemed one whom no condition or circumstance could
deprive of a cool immaculateness. He was a man to be marked in any
companyespecially so by the peculiar brilliance of his full, dark
eye, which had a piercing, searching glint of its own; an eye such as
few men have owned, and under whose spell man or woman might easily
melt to acquiescence with the owner's mind.
He sat his horse with a certain haughtiness as well as carelessness.
His chin seemed long and firm, and his lofty foreheadindeed, his
whole air and carriagediscovered him the man of ambition that he
really was. For this was no other than Aaron Burr, Vice-President of
the United States, whose name was soon to be on the lips of all. He had
lately come to Washington with the Jefferson administration.
This gentleman now reined up his horse as he caught sight of the
young man approaching. His older companion also halted. Burr raised his
Ah, Captain Lewis! he said in a voice of extraordinary sweetness,
yet of power. You also have caught the secret of this climate, eh? You
ride in the early morningI do not wonder. You are Virginian, and so
know the heats of Washington. I fancy you recognize Mr. Merry, he
added, his glance turning from one to the other.
The young Virginian bowed to both gentlemen.
I have persuaded his excellency the minister from Great Britain to
ride with us on one of our Washington mornings. He has been good enough
to sayto saythat he enjoys it!
Burr turned a quick glance upon the heavier figure at his side, with
a half smile of badinage on his own face. Lewis bowed again, formally,
and Anthony Merry answered with equal politeness and ceremony.
Yes, said the envoy, to be sure I recall the young man. I met him
in the anteroom at the President's house.
Meriwether Lewis cast him a quick glance, but made no answer. He
knew well enough the slighting estimate in which everything at
Washington was held by this minister accredited to our government. Also
he knew, as he might have said, something about the diplomat's visit at
the Executive Mansion. For thus far the minister from Great Britain to
Washington had not been able to see the President of the United States.
And you are done your ride? said Burr quickly, for his was a keen
nose to scent any complication. Tell mehe lifted his own reins now
to proceedyou saw nothing of my daughter, Mrs. Alston? We missed her
at the house, and have feared her abduction by some bold young
His keen eye rested fairly on the face of the younger man as he
spoke. The latter felt the challenge under the half mocking words.
Yes, he replied calmly, I have seen Mrs. Alston. I left her but
now at the old mill, having a cup of coffee with the miller's wife. I
had not time myself for a second, although Mrs. Alston honored me by
allowing me to sit at her table for a moment. We met by accident, you
see, as we both rode, a short time ago. I overtook her when it was not
yet sunrise, or scarcely more.
You see! laughed Burr, as he turned to Merry. Our young men are
early risers when it comes to pursuit of the fair. I must ride at once
and see to the welfare of my daughter. She may be weeping at losing her
escort so soon!
They all smiled in proper fashion. Lewis bowed, and, lifting his
hat, passed on. Burr, as they parted, fell for just a half-moment into
thought, his face suddenly inscrutable, as if he pondered something.
There is the ablest man I have seen in Washington, blurted out
Merry suddenly, apropos of nothing that had been said. He has manners,
and he rides like an Englishman.
Say not so! said Burr, laughing. Betterhe rides like a
Very well; it is the same thing. The Virginians are but
ourselvesthis country is all English yet. And I swearMr. Burr, may
we speak freely?I cannot see, and I never shall see, what is the
sense in all this talk of a new democracy of the people. Now, what men
like theselike you
You know well enough how far I agree with you, said Burr somberly.
'Tis an experiment, our republic, I am willing to say that boldly
to you, at least. How long it may last
Depends on men like you, said Merry, suddenly turning upon him as
they rode. How long do you suppose his Majesty will endure such
slights as they put on us here day by day? My blood boils at the
indignities we have had to suffer herecooling our heels in your
President's halls. I call it mere presumptuousness. I cannot look upon
this country as anything but a province to be taken back again when
England is ready. And it may be, since so much turbulence and
discourtesy seem growing here, that chance will not wait long in the
It may be, Mr. Merry, said Aaron Burr. My own thoughts you know
too well for need of repetition. Let us only go softly. My plans
advance as well as I could ask. I was just wondering, he added,
whether those two young people really were together there at the old
milland whether they were there for the first time.
If not, 'twas not for the last time! rejoined the older man.
Yonder young man was made to fill a woman's eye. Your daughter, Mr.
Burr, while the soul of married discreetness, and charming as any of
her sex I have ever seen, must look out for her heart. She might find
it divided into three equal parts.
How then, Mr. Minister?
One for her father
Aaron Burr bowed.
Yes, her father first, as I verily believe. What then?
The second for her husband
Certainly. Mr. Alston is a rising man. He has a thousand slaves on
his plantationshe is one of the richest of the rich South Carolinian
planters. And in politics he has a chancemore than a chance. But
The third portion of so charming a woman's heart might perhaps be
assigned to Captain Meriwether Lewis!
Say you so? laughed Burr carelessly. Well, well this must be
looked into. Come, I must tell my son-in-law that his home is in danger
of being invaded! Far off in his Southern rice-lands, I fear he misses
his young wife sometimes. I brought her here for the sake of her own
healthshe cannot thrive in such swamps. Besides, I cannot bear to
have her live away from me. She is happier with me than anywhere else.
Yes, you are right, my daughter worships me.
Why should she not? And why should she not ride with a gallant at
sunrise for an early cup of coffee, egad? said the older man.
Burr did not answer, and they rode on.
In the opposite direction there rode also the young man of whom they
spoke. And at about the time that the two came to the old mill and saw
Theodosia Alston sitting thereher face still cast down, her eyes
gazing abstractedly into her untasted cup on the little
tableMeriwether Lewis was pulling up at the iron gate which then
closed the opening in the stone wall encircling the modest official
residence of his chief and patron, President Jefferson.
CHAPTER IV. PRESIDENT AND SECRETARY
There stood waiting near the gate one of Mr. Jefferson's private
servants, Samson, who took the young man's rein, grinning with his
usual familiar words of welcome as the secretary dismounted from his
You-all suttinly did warm old Arcturum a li'l bit dis mawnin',
Samson patted the neck of the spirited animal, which tossed its head
and turned an eye to its late rider.
Yes, and see that you rub him well. Mind you, if Mr. Jefferson
finds that his whitest handkerchief shows a sweat-mark from the horse's
hide he will cut off both your black ears for you, Samsonand very
likely your head along with them. You know your master! The secretary
smiled kindly at the old black man.
Yassah, yassah, grinned Samson, who no more feared Mr. Jefferson
than he did the young gentleman with whom he now spoke. I just lookin'
at you comin' down that path right now, and I say to myself, 'Dar come
a ridah!' I sho' did, Mistah Mehywethah!
The young man answered the negro's compliment with one of his rare
smiles, then turned, with just a flick of his gloves on his breeches
legs, and marched up the walk to the door of the mansion.
At the step he turned and paused, as he usually did, to take one
look out over the unfinished wing of stone still in process of
erection. On beyond, in the ragged village, he saw a few good mansion
houses, many structures devoted to business, many jumbled huts of
negroes, and here and there a public building in its early stages.
The great system of boulevards and parks and circles of the new
American capital was not yet apparent from the place where Mr. Thomas
Jefferson's young secretary now stood. But the young man perhaps saw
city and nation alike advanced in his vision; for he gazed long and
lingeringly before he turned back at last and entered the door which
the old house servant swung open for him.
His hat and crop and gloves he handed to this bowed old darky,
Benanother of Mr. Jefferson's plantation servants whom he had brought
to Washington with him. Thenfor such was the simple fashion of the
ménage, where Meriwether Lewis himself was one of the President's
familyhe stepped to the door beyond and knocked lightly, entering as
he did so.
The hour was earlyhe himself had not breakfasted, beyond his
coffee at the millbut, early as it was, he knew he would find at his
desk the gentleman who now turned to him.
Good morning, Mr. Jefferson, said Meriwether Lewis, in the
greeting which he always used.
Good morning, my son, said the other man, gently, in his
invariable address to his secretary. And how did Arcturus perform for
you this morning?
Grandly, sir. He is a fine animal. I have never ridden a better.
I envy you. I wish I could find the time I once had for my horses.
He turned a whimsical glance at the piled desk before him. If our new
multigraph could write a dozen letters all at onceand on as many
different themes, my sonwe might perhaps get through. I vow, if I had
the money, I would have a dozen secretariesif I could find them!
The President rose now and stood, a tall and striking figure of a
man, over six feet in height, of clean-cut features, dark hazel eye,
and sandy, almost auburn, hair. His long, thin legs were clad in
close-fitting knee breeches of green velveteen, somewhat stained. His
high-collared coat, rolling above the loosely-tied stock which girded
his neck, was dingy brown in color, and lay in loose folds. He was one
of the worst-clad men in Washington at that hour. His waistcoat, of
red, was soiled and far from new, and his woolen stockings were covered
with no better footwear than carpet slippers, badly down at the heel.
Yet Thomas Jefferson, even clad thus, seemed the great man that he
was. Stooped though his shoulders were, his frame was so strong, his
eye so clear and keen, though contemplative, that he did not look his
Here was a man, all said who knew him, of whose large soul so many
large deeds were demanded that he had no time for little and
inconsequent thingsindeed, scarce knew that they existed. To think,
to feel, to create, to achievethese were his absorbing tasks; and so
exigent were the demands on his great intellectual resources that he
seemed never to know the existence of a personal world.
He stood careless, slipshod, at the side of a desk cluttered with a
mass of maps, papers, letters in packets or spread open. There were
writing implements here, scientific instruments of all sorts, long
sheets of specifications, canceled drafts, pages of accountsall the
manifold impedimenta of a man in the full swing of business life. It
might have been the desk of any mediocre man; yet on that desk lay the
future of a people and the history of a world.
He stood, just a trifle stooped, smiling quizzically at the young
man, yet half lovingly; for to no other being in the world did he ever
give the confidence that he accorded Meriwether Lewis.
I do not see how I could be President without you, Merne, my son,
said he, employing the familiar term that Meriwether Lewis had not
elsewhere heard used, except by his mother. Look what we must do
The young secretary turned his own grave eye upon the cluttered
desk; but it was not dread of the redoubtable tasks awaiting him that
gave his face all the gravity it bore.
Mr. Jefferson he began, but paused, for he could see now
standing before him his friend, the man whom, of all in the world, he
loved, and the man who believed in him and loved him.
Yes, my son?
Your burden is grievous hard, and yet
Yes, my son?
But Meriwether Lewis could not speak further. He stood now, his jaws
set hard, looking out of the window.
The older man came and gently laid a hand upon his shoulder.
Come, come, my son, said he, his own voice low and of a kindness
it could assume at times. You must notyou must not yield to this, I
say. Shake off this melancholy which so obsesses you. I know whence it
comesyour father gave it you, and you are not to blame; but you have
more than your father's strength to aid you. And you have me, your
friend, who can understand.
Lewis only turned on him an eye so full of anguish as caused the
older man to knit his brow in deep concern.
What is it, Merne? he demanded. Tell me. Ah, you cannot tell? I
know! 'Tis the old melancholy, and something more, Merne, my boy. Tell
meah, yes, it is a woman!
The young man did not speak.
I have often told all my young friends, said Mr. Jefferson slowly,
after a time, that they should marry not later than twenty-threeit
is wrong to cheat the years of lifeand you approach thirty now, my
son. Why linger? Listen to me. No young man may work at his best and
have a woman's face in his desk to haunt him. That will not do. We all
have handicap enough without that.
But still Meriwether could only look into the face of his superior.
I know very well, my son, the President continued. I know it all.
Put her out of your heart, my boy. Would you shame yourselfand
No! Never would I do that, Mr. Jefferson, believe me. But now I
must beg of youplease, sir, let me go soonlet it be at once!
The older man stood looking at him for a time in silence, as he went
I must say good-by to you, best and noblest of men. Indeed, I have
said good-by toeverything.
As you say, your case is hopeless?
Ah, well, we have both been planning for our Western expedition
these ten years, my son; so why should we fret if matters conspire to
bring it about a trifle earlier than we planned?
I asked you when I was a boy to send me, but you could not then.
No, but instead I sent yonder maundering Michaux. He, Ledyard, and
all the others failed me. They never saw the great vision. There it
lies, unknown, tremendousno man knows whatthat new country. I have
had to hide from the people of this republic this secret purpose which
you and I have had of exploring the vast Western country. I have picked
you as the one man fitted for that work. I do not make mistakes. You
are a born woodsman and traveleryou are ready to my hand as the
instrument for this magnificent adventure. I cannot well spare you
nowbut yes, you must go!
They stood there, two men who made our great adventure for
usvision-seers, vision-owned, gazing each into the other's eyes.
Send me now, Mr. Jefferson! repeated Meriwether Lewis. Send me
now. I will mend to usefulness again. I will work for you all my life,
if need beand I want my name clear with you.
The old man laid a kindly hand upon his shoulder.
I must yield you to your destiny, said he. It will be a great
one. He turned aside, a hand to his lip as he paced uncertainly. But
I still am wondering what our friends are doing yonder in France, said
he. That is the question. Livingston, Monroe, and the otherswhat are
they doing with Napoleon Bonaparte? The news from Francebut stay, he
added. Wait! I had forgotten. Come, we shall see about it!
With the sudden enthusiasm of a boy he caught his young aide by the
arm. They passed down the hall, out by the rear entrance and across the
White House grounds to the brick stables which then stood at the rear.
Mr. Jefferson paid no attention to the sleek animals there which
looked in greeting toward him. Instead, he passed in front of the
series of stalls, and without excuse or explanation hurriedly began to
climb the steep ladder which led to the floor above.
They stood at length in the upper apartment of the stable buildings.
It was not a mow or feed loft, but rather a bird loft, devoted to the
use of many pigeons. All about the eaves were arranged many
boxesnesting places, apparently, although none of the birds entered
the long room, which seemed free of any occupancy.
Mr. Jefferson stood for a moment, eagerly scanning the rear of the
tier of boxes. An exclamation broke from him. He hurried forward with a
sudden gesture to a little flag which stood up, like the tilt of a
fisherman on the ice, at the side of the box to which he pointed.
Done! said he.
He reached up to the box that he had indicated, pressed down a
little catch, opened the back and looked in. Again an exclamation
He put in a hand gingerly, and, tenderly imprisoning the bird which
he found therein, drew it forth, his long fingers eagerly lifting its
wings, examining its legs.
It could easily be seen that the box was arranged with a door on a
tripping-latch, so that the pigeon, on entering, would imprison itself.
It was apparent that Mr. Jefferson was depending upon the natural
homing instinct of his carrier pigeons to bring him some message.
I told them, said he, to loose a half-dozen birds at once. See!
He unrolled from one leg of the prisoner a little cylinder of paper
covered with tinfoil and tied firmly in its place. It was the first
wireless message ever received at Washington. None since that time has
carried a greater burden. It announced a transaction in empires.
Mr. Jefferson read, and spread out the paper that his aide might
General Bonaparte signed May 2Fifteen millionsRejoice!
In no wider phrasing than that came the news of the great Louisiana
Purchase, by virtue of which this republicwhether by chance, by
result of greed warring with greed, or through the providence of
Almighty God, who shall say?gained the great part of that vast and
incalculably valuable realm which now reaches from the Mississippi to
the Pacific Ocean. What wealth that great empire held no man had
dreamed, nor can any dream today; for, a century later, its story is
Century on century, that story still will be in the making. A home
for millions of the earth's best, a hope for millions of the earth's
less fortunategranary of the peoples, mint of the nations, birthplace
and growing-ground of the new race of menwho could have measured that
land thenwho could measure it today?
And its title passed, announced in seven words, carried by a bird
wandering in the air, but bound unerringly to the ark of God's covenant
with manthe covenant of hope and progress.
Thomas Jefferson stretched out his right hand to meet that of
Meriwether Lewis. Their clasp was strong and firm. The eye of each man
Mr. Jefferson, said Meriwether Lewis, this is your monument!
And yours, was the reply. Come, then!
He turned to the stairs, the pigeon still fondled in his arm. That
birda white one, with slate-blue tips to its wingsnever needed to
labor again, for Mr. Jefferson kept it during its life, and long after
Come now, he said, as he began to descend the ladder once more.
The bird was loosed yesterday, late in the afternoon. It has done its
sixty or seventy-five miles an hour for us, counting out time lost in
the night. The ship which brought this news docked at New York
yesterday. The post stages carrying it hither cannot arrive before
tomorrow. This is newsthe greatest of news that we could have.
Yesterdaythis morningwe were a young and weak republic. Tomorrow we
shall be one of the powers of the world. Go, nowyou have been held in
leash long enough, and the time to start has come. Tomorrow you will go
westward, to that new country which now is ours!
Neither said anything further until once again they were in the
President's little office-room; but Thomas Jefferson's eye now was
I count this the most important enterprise in which this country
ever was engaged, he exclaimed, his hands clenched. Yonder lies the
greater Americayou lead an army which will make far wider conquest
than all our troops won in the Revolutionary War. The stake is larger
than any man may dream. I see ityou see itin time others also will
see. Tell me, my son, tell me once more! Come what may, no matter what
power shall move you, you will be faithful in this great trust? If I
have your promise, then I shall rest assured.
Thomas Jefferson, more agitated than any man had ever seen him,
dropped half trembling into his chair, his shaggy red mane about his
forehead, his long fingers shaking.
I give you my promise, Mr. Jefferson, said Meriwether Lewis.
CHAPTER V. THE PELL-MELL AND SOME
It was late in the afternoon when the secretary to the President
looked up from the crowded desk. Mr. Jefferson, ventured he, you
will pardon me
Yes, my son?
It grows late. You know that today the British minister, Mr. Merry,
comes to meet the President for the first time formallyat dinner.
Señor Yrujo alsoand their ladies, of course. Mr. Burr and Mr. Merry
seem already acquainted. I met them riding this morning.
Hand and glove, then, so soon? What do you make of it? I have a
guess that those threeBurr, Merry, Yrujomean this administration no
special good. And yet it was I myself who kept our Spanish friend from
getting his passports back to Madrid. I did that only because of his
marriage to the daughter of my friend, Governor McKean, of
Pennsylvania. But what were you saying now?
I thought perhaps I should go to my rooms to change for dinner. You
see that I am still in riding-clothes.
And what of that, my son? I am in something worse!
The young man stood and looked at his chief for a moment. He
realized the scarce dignified figure that the President presented in
his long coat, his soiled waistcoat, his stained trousers, and his
woolen stockingsnot to mention the unspeakable slippers, down at the
heel, into which he had thrust his feet that morning when he came into
You think I will not do? Mr. Jefferson smiled at him frankly. I
am not so free from wisdom, perhaps, after all. Let this British
minister see us as we are, for men and women, and not dummies for
finery. Moreover, I remember well enough how we cooled our heels there
in London, Mr. Madison and myself. They showed us little courtesy
enough. Well, they shall have no complaint here. We will treat them as
well as we do the others, as well as the electors who sent us here!
Meriwether Lewis allowed himself a smile.
Go, added his chief. Garb yourself as I would have youin your
best. But there will be no precedence at table this eveningremember
that! Let them take seats pell-mellthe devil take the hindmosta
fair field for every one, and favor to none! Seat them as nearly as
possible as they should not be seatedand leave the rest to me. All
theseindeed, all history and all the recordsshall take me precisely
as I am!
An hour later Meriwether Lewis stood before his narrow mirror, well
and handsomely clad, as was seeming with one of his family and his
placea tall and superb figure of young manhood, as proper a man as
ever stood in buckled shoes in any country of the world.
The guests came presently, folk of many sorts. With Mr. Jefferson as
President, the democracy of America had invaded Washington, taking more
and more liberties, and it had many representatives on hand. With these
came persons of rank of this and other lands, dignitaries, diplomats,
officials, ministers of foreign powers. Carriages with outriders came
trundling over the partially paved roads of the crude capital city.
Footmen opened doors to gentlemen and ladies in full dress, wearing
insignia of honor, displaying gems, orders, decorations, jewels, all
the brilliant costumes of the European courts.
They came up the path to the door of the mansion where, to their
amazement, they were met only by Mr. Jefferson's bowing old darky Ben,
who ushered them in, helped them with their wraps and asked them to
make themselves at home. And only old Henry, Mr. Jefferson's butler,
bowed them in as they passed from the simple entrance hall into the
anteroom which lay between the hall and the large dining-saloon.
The numbers increased rapidly. What at first was a general gathering
became a crowd, then a mob. There was no assigned place for any, no
presentation of one stranger to another. Friends could not find
friends. Mutterings arose; crowding and jostling was not absent; here
and there an angry word might have been heard. The policy of pell-mell
was not working itself out in any happy social fashion.
Matters were at their worst when suddenly from his own apartments
appeared the tall and well-composed figure of Mr. Jefferson's young
secretary, social captain of matters at the Executive Mansion, and
personal aide to the President. His quick glance caught sight of the
gathering line of carriages; a second glance estimated the plight of
those now jammed into the anteroom like so many cattle and evidently in
In a distant corner of the room, crowded into some sort of refuge
back of a huge davenport, stood a small group of persons in full
official dressa group evidently ill at ease and no longer in good
humor. Meriwether Lewis made his way thither rapidly as he might.
It is Mr. Minister Merry, said he, and Mme. Merry. He bowed
deeply. Señor and Señora Yrujo, I bring you the respects of Mr.
Jefferson. He will be with us presently.
I had believed, sirI understood, began Merry explosively, that
we were to meet here the President of the United States. Where, then,
is his suite?
We have no suite, sir. I represent the President as his aide.
My word! murmured the mystified dignitary, turning to his lady,
who stood, the picture of mute anger, at his side, the very aigrets on
her ginger-colored hair trembling in her anger.
[Illustration: 'Mistah Thomas Jeffahson!' was his sole
They turned once more to the Spanish minister, who, with his
American wife, stood at hand. There ensued such shrugs and liftings of
eyebrows as left full evidence of a discontent that none of the four
attempted to suppress.
Meriwether Lewis saw and noted, but seemed not to note. Mr. Merry
suddenly remembered him now as the young man he had encountered that
morning, and turned with an attempt at greater civility.
You will understand, sir, that I came supposing I was to appear in
my official capacity. We were invited upon that basis. There was to
have been a dinner, was there notor am I mistaken of the hour? Is it
not four in the afternoon?
You were quite right, Mr. Minister, said Meriwether Lewis. You
shall, of course, be presented to the President so soon as it shall
please his convenience to join us. He has been occupied in many duties,
and begs you will excuse him.
The dignity and courtesy of the young man were not without effect.
Silence, at least, was his reward from the perturbed and indignant
group of diplomats penned behind the davenport.
Matters stood thus when, at a time when scarce another soul could
have been crowded into the anteroom, old Henry flung open the folding
doors which he had closed.
Mistah Thomas Jeffahson! was his sole announcement.
There appeared in the doorway the tall, slightly stooped figure of
the President of the United States, one of the greatest men of his own
or of any day. He stood, gravely unconscious of himself, tranquilly
looking out upon his gathered guests. He was still clad in the garb
which he had worn throughout the daythe same in which he had climbed
to the pigeon loftthe same in which he had labored during all these
His coat was still brown and wrinkled, hanging loosely on his long
frame. His trousers were the stained velveteens of the morning; his
waistcoat the same faded red; his hose the slack woolen pair that he
had worn throughout the day. And upon his feethorror of horrors!he
wore still his slippers, the same old carpet slippers, down at the
heel, which had afforded him ease as he sat at his desk.
As Thomas Jefferson stood, he overtopped the men about him head and
shoulders in physical stature, as he did in every other measure of a
Innocent or unconscious of his own appearance, his eye seeking for
knowledge of his guests, he caught sight of the group behind the
davenport. Rapidly making his way thither, he greeted each, offering
his hand to be shaken, bowing deeply to the ladies; and so quickly
passed on, leaving them almost as much mystified as before. Only Yrujo,
the Spanish Minister, looked after him with any trace of recognition,
for at this moment Meriwether Lewis was away, among other guests.
An instant later the curtained folding doors which separated the
anteroom from the dining-saloon were thrown open. Mr. Jefferson passed
in and took his place at the head of the table, casting not a single
look toward any who were to join him there. There was no announcement;
there was no pas, no precedence, no reserved place for any man,
no announcement for any lady or gentleman, no servant to escort any to
a place at table!
It had been worse, far worse, this extraordinary scene, had it not
been for the swiftness and tact of the young man to whom so much was
entrusted. Meriwether Lewis hastened here and there, weeding out those
who could not convince him that they were invited to dine. He separated
as best he might the socially elect from those not yet socially
arrived, until at length he stood, almost the sole barrier against
those who still crowded forward.
Here he was met once more by the party from behind the davenport.
Tell me, demanded Mr. Merry, whoseeing that no other escort
offered for herhad given his angry lady his own arm, tell me, sir,
where is the President? To whom shall I present the greetings of his
Yonder is the President of the United States, sir, said Meriwether
Lewis. He with whom you shook hands is the President. He stands at the
head of his table, and you are welcome if you like. He asks you to
Merry turned to his wife, and from her to the wife of the Spanish
Impossible! said he. I do not understandit cannot be! That
manthat extraordinary man in breeches and slippers yonderit cannot
be he asks us to sit at table with him! He cannot be the
President of the United States!
None the less he is, Mr. Merry! the secretary assured him.
Good Heavens! said the minister from Great Britain, as he passed
on, half dazed.
By this time there remained but few seats, none at all toward the
head of the table or about its middle portion. Toward the end of the
room, farthest from the official host, a few chairs still stood vacant,
because they had not been sought for. Thither, with faltering
footsteps, ere even these opportunities should pass, stepped the
minister from Great Britain and the minister from Spain, their ladies
with themnone offering escort.
Well disposed to smile at his chief's audacious overturning of all
social usage, yet not unadvised of the seriousness of all this,
Meriwether Lewis handed the distinguished guests to their seats as best
he might; and then left them as best he might.
At that time there were not six vacant places remaining at the long
table. No one seemed to know how many had been invited to the banquet,
or how many were expectedno one in the company seemed to know anyone
else. It was indeed a pell-mell affair.
For once the American democracy was triumphant. But the leader of
that democracy, the head of the new administration, the host at this
official banquet, the President of the United States, Thomas Jefferson,
stood quietly, serenely, looking out over the long table, entirely
unconcerned with what he saw. If there was trouble, it was for others,
not for him.
Those at table presently began to seat themselves, following the
host's example. It was at this moment that the young captain of affairs
turned once more toward the great doors, with the intention of closing
them. Old Henry was having his own battles with the remaining audience
in the anteroom, as he now brought forward two belated guests. Old
Henry, be sure, knew them both; andas a look at the sudden change of
his features might have toldso did Mr. Jefferson's aide.
They advanced with dignity, these twoone a gentleman, not tall,
but elegant, exquisitely clad in full-dress costume; a man whom you
would have turned to examine a second time had you met him anywhere.
Upon his arm was a young woman, also beautifully costumed, smiling,
graceful, entirely at her ease. Many present knew the twoAaron Burr,
Vice-President of the United States; his daughter, Theodosia Burr
Mr. Burr passed within the great doors, turned and bowed deeply to
his host, distant as he was across the crowded room. His daughter
curtsied, also deeply. Their entry was dramatic. Then they stood, a
somewhat stately picture, waiting for an instant while seemingly
deciding their future course.
It was at this moment that Meriwether Lewis approached them,
beckoning. He led them toward the few seats that still remained
unoccupied, placed them near to the official visitors, whose ruffled
feathers still remained unsmoothed, and then stood by them for an
instant, intending to take his departure.
There was one remaining chair. It was at the side of Theodosia
Alston. She herself looked up at him eagerly, and patted it with her
hand. He seated himself at her side.
Thus at last was filled the pell-mell table of Mr. Thomas Jefferson.
To this day no man knows whether all present had been invited, or
whether all invited had opportunity to be present.
There were thosehis enemies, men of the opposing political party,
for the most partwho spoke ill of Mr. Jefferson, and charged that he
showed hypocrisy in his pretense of democratic simplicity in official
life. Yet others, even among his friends, criticised him severely for
the affair of this afternoonJuly 4, in the year of 1803. They said
that his manners were inconsistent with the dignity of the highest
official of this republic.
If any of this comment injured or offended Mr. Jefferson, he never
gave a sign. He was born a gentleman as much as any, and was as fully
acquainted with good social usage as any man of his day. His life had
been spent in the best surroundings of his own country, and at the most
polished courts of the Old World. To accuse him of ignorance or
boorishness would have been absurd.
The fact was that his own resourceful brain had formed a definite
plan. He wished to convey a certain rebukeand with deadly accuracy he
did convey that rebuke. It was at no enduring cost to his own fame.
If the pell-mell dinner was at first a thing inchoate, awkward,
impossible, criticism halted when the actual service at table began.
The chef at the White House had been brought to this country by Mr.
Jefferson from Paris, and no better was known on this side the water.
So devoted was Mr. Jefferson known to be to the French style of
cooking that no less a man than Patrick Henry, on the stump, had
accused him of having deserted the victuals of his country. His table
was set and served with as much elegance as any at any foreign court.
At the door of the city of Washington, even in the summer season, there
was the best market of the world. As submitted by his chef de
cuisine, Mr. Jefferson's menu was of no pell-mell sort. If we may
credit it as handed down, it ran thus, in the old French of that day:
Huîtres de Shinnecock, Saulce Tempête
Olives du Luc
Othon Mariné à l'Huile Vierge
Amandes et Cerneaux Salés
Pot au Feu du Roy Henriot
Truite de Ruisselet, Belle Meunière
Pommes en Fines Herbes
Fricot de tendre Poulet en Coquemare, au Vieux Chanturgne
Tourte de Ris de Veau, Financière
Baron de Pré Salé aux Primeurs
Sorbet des Comtes de Champagne
Dinde Sauvage flambée devant les Sarments de Vigne,
Aspic de Foie Gras Lucullus
Salade des Nymphes à la Lamballe
Asperges Chauldes enduites de Sauce
Dessert et Fruits de la Réunion
Fromage de Bique
Larmes de Juliette
Whatever the wines served at the Executive Mansion may have been at
later dates, those owned and used by President Jefferson were the best
the world producedvintages of rarity, selected as could have been
done only by one of the nicest taste. Rumor had it that none other than
Señor Yrujo, minister from Spain, recipient of many casks of the best
vintages of his country that he might entertain with proper dignity,
had seen fit to do a bit of merchandizing on his own account, to the
end that Mr. Jefferson became the owner of certain of these rare casks.
In any event, the Spanish minister now showed no fear of the wines
which came his way. Nor, for that matter, did the minister from Great
Britain, nor the spouses of these twain. Mr. Burr, seated with their
party, himself somewhat abstemious, none the less could not refrain
from an interrogatory glance as he saw Merry halt a certain bottle or
two at his own plate.
Upon my word! said the sturdy Briton, turning to him. Such wine I
never have tasted! I did not expect it hereserved by a host in
breeches and slippers! But never mindit is wonderful!
There may be many things here you have not expected, your
excellency, said Mr. Burr.
The Vice-President favored the little party at his left with one of
his brilliant smiles. He had that strange faculty, admitted even by his
enemies, of making another speak freely what he wished to hear, himself
reticent the while.
The face of the English dignitary clouded again.
I wish I could approve all else as I do the wine and the food; but
I cannot understand. Here we sit, after being crowded like herrings in
a boxmyself, my lady here, and these others. Is this the placing his
Majesty's minister should have at the President's table? Is this what
we should demand here?
The indignity is to all of us alike, smiled Burr. Mr. Jefferson
believes in a great human democracy. I myself regret to state that I
cannot quite go with him to the lengths he fancies.
I shall report the entire matter to his Majesty's government! said
Mr. Merry, again helping himself to wine. To be received here by a man
in his stable clothesso to meet us when we come formally to pay our
call to this governmentthat is an insult! I fancy it to be a direct
and intentional one.
Insult is small word for it, broke in the irate Spanish minister,
still further down the table. I certainly shall report to my own
government what has happened hereof that be very sure!
Give me leave, sir, continued Merry. This republic, what is it?
What has it done?
I ask as much, affirmed Yrujo. A small war with your own country,
Great Britain, sirin which only your generosity held you backthat
is all this country can claim. In the South, my people own the mouth of
the great riverwe own Floridawe own the province of Texasall the
Southern and Western lands. True, Louis XVto save it from Great
Britain, perhaps, sirhe bowed to the British ministeroriginally
ceded Louisiana to our crown. True, also, my sovereign has ceded it
again to France. But Spain still rules the South, just as Britain rules
the middle country out beyond; and what is left? I snap my fingers at
Señor Yrujo helped himself to a brimming glass of his own wine.
I say that Western country is ours, he still insisted, warming to
his oration now. Suppose, under coercion, our sovereign did cede it to
Napoleon, who claims it now? Does Spain not govern it still? Do we not
collect the revenues? Is not the whole system of law enforced under the
flag of Spain, all along the great river yonder? Possession,
exploration, discoverythose are the rights under which territories
are annexed. France has the title to that West, but we hold the land
itselfwe administer it. And never shall it go from under our flag,
unless it be through the act of stronger foreign powers. Spain will
Will Spain fight? demanded a deep and melodious voice. It was that
of Aaron Burr who spoke now, half in query, half in challenge. Would
Spain fightand would Great Britain, if need were and the time came?
He spoke to men heated with wine, smarting under social indignity,
men owning a hurt personal vanity.
Our past is proof enough, said Merry proudly.
Yrujo needed no more than a shrug.
Divide and conquer? Burr went on, looking at them, and raising an
eyebrow in query.
They nodded, both of them. Burr looked around. His daughter and
Meriwether Lewis were oblivious. He saw the young man's eyes, somber,
deep, fixed on hers; saw her gazing in return, silent, troubled,
One presumes that it was at this momentat the instant when Aaron
Burr, seeing the power his daughter held over young Meriwether Lewis,
and the interest he held for her, turned to these foreign officials at
his leftat that moment, let us say, the Burr conspiracy began.
Divide that unknown country, the West, and how long would this
republic endure? said Aaron Burr.
The noise of the banquet now rose about them. Voices blended with
laughter; the wine was passing; awkwardness and restraint had given way
to good cheer. In a manner they were safe to talk.
What? demanded Aaron Burr once more. Could a few francs transfer
all that marvelous country from Spain to France? That were absurd. By
what possible title could that region yonder ever come to this
republic? It is still more absurd to think that. Civilization does not
leap across great river valleys. It follows them. You have said
rightly, Señor Yrujo. To my mind Great Britain has laid fair grasp upon
the upper West; and Spain holds the lower West, with which our
statesmen have interested themselves of late. By all the rights of
conquest, discovery, and use, gentlemen, Great Britain's traders have
gained for her flag all the territory which they have reached on their
Western trading routes. I go with you that far.
Merry turned upon Burr suddenly a deep and estimating eye.
I begin to see, said he, that you are open to conviction, Mr.
Not open to conviction, said Aaron Burr, but already convinced!
What do you mean, Colonel Burr? The Englishman bent toward him,
frowning in intentness.
I mean that perhaps I have something to say to you two gentlemen of
the foreign courts which will be of interest and importance to you.
Where, then, could we meet after this is over?
The minister from Great Britain surely was not beyond close and
ready estimate of events.
At my residence, after this dinner, rejoined Aaron Burr instantly.
His eye did not waver as it looked into the other's, but blazed with
all the fire of his own soul. Across the Alleghanies, along the great
river, there is a land waiting, ready for strong men. Are we such men,
gentlemen? And can we talk freely as such among ourselves?
Their conversation, carried on in ordinary tones, had not been
marked by any. Their brows, drawn sharp in sudden resolution, their
glance each to the other, made their ratification of this extraordinary
They had no time for anything further at the moment. A sound came to
their ears, and they turned toward the head of the long table, where
the tall figure of the President of the United States was rising in his
place. The dinner had drawn toward its close.
Mr. Jefferson now stood, gravely regarding those before him, his
keen eye losing no detail of the strange scene. He knew the place of
every man and woman at that boardperhaps this was his own revenge for
a reception he once had had at London. But at last he spoke.
I have news for you all, my friends, today; news which applies not
to one man nor to one woman of this or any country more than to
another, but news which belongs to all the world.
He paused for a moment, and held up in his right hand a tiny scrap
of paper, thin, crumpled. None could guess what significance it had.
May God in His own power punish me, said he, solemnly, if ever I
halt or falter in what I believe to be my duty! I place no bounds to
the future of this republicbased, as I firmly believe it to be, upon
the enduring principle of the just and even rights of mankind.
Our country to the West always has inspired me with the extremest
curiosity, and animated me with the loftiest hopes. Since the year 1683
that great river, the Missouri, emptying into the Mississippi, has been
looked upon as the way to the Pacific Ocean. One hundred years from
that timethat is to say, in 1783I myself asked one of the ablest of
our Westerners, none other than General George Rogers Clark, to
undertake a journey of exploration up that Western river. It was not
done. Three years later, when accredited to the court at Paris, I met a
Mr. Ledyard, an American then abroad. I desired him to cross Russia,
Siberia and the Pacific Ocean, and then to journey eastward over the
Stony Mountains, to find, if he could, the head of that Missouri River
of which we know so little. But Ledyard failed, for reasons best known,
perhaps, to the monarch of Russia.
Later than that, and long before I had the power which now is mine
to order matters of the sort, the Boston sailor, Captain Grey, in 1792,
as you know, found the mouth of the Columbia River. The very next year
after that I engaged the scientist Michaux to explore in that
direction; but he likewise failed.
All my life I have seen what great opportunities would be ours if
once we owned that vast country yonder. As a private citizen I planned
that we should at least explore italways it was my dream to know more
of it. It being clear to me that the future of our republic lay not to
the east, but to the west of the Alleghaniesindeed, to the west of
the Mississippi itselfnever have I relinquished the ambition that I
have so long entertained. Never have I forgotten the dream which
animated me even in my younger years. I am here now to announce to you,
so that you may announce to all the world, certain news which I have
here regarding that Western region, which never was ours, but which I
always wished might be ours.
With the middle finger of his left hand the President flicked at the
mysterious bit of crumpled paper still held aloft in his right. There
was silence all down the long table.
More than a year ago I once more chose a messenger into that
country, went on Thomas Jefferson. I chose a leader of exploration,
of discovery. I chose him because I knew I could trust in his loyalty,
in his judgment, in his courage. Well and thoroughly he has fitted
himself for that leadership.
He turned his gaze contemplatively down the long table. The gaze of
many of his guests followed his, still wonderingly, as he went on.
My leader for this expedition into the West, which I planned more
than a year ago, is here with you now. Captain Meriwether Lewis, will
you stand up for a moment? I wish to present you to these, my friends.
With wonder, doubt, and, indeed, a certain perturbation at the
President's unexpected summons, the young Virginian rose to his feet
and stood gazing questioningly at his chief.
I know your modesty as well as your courage, Captain Lewis, smiled
Mr. Jefferson. You may be seated, sir, since now we all know you.
Let me say to you others that I have had opportunity of knowing my
captain of this magnificent adventure. In years he is not yet thirty,
but he is and always was a leader, mature, wise, calm, and resolved. Of
courage undaunted, possessing a firmness and perseverance of purpose
which nothing but impossibilities can divert from its direction;
careful as a father of those committed to his charge, and yet steady in
the maintenance of order and discipline; intimate with the Indian
character, customs, and principles; habituated to the hunting life;
guarded by exact observation of the vegetables and animals of his own
country against duplication of objects already possessed; honest,
disinterested, liberal; of sound understanding, and of a fidelity to
truth so scrupulous that whatever he shall report will be as certain as
if seen by ourselveswith all these qualifications, I say, as if
selected and implanted by nature in one body, for one purpose, I could
have no hesitation in confiding this enterprisethe most cherished
enterprise of my administrationto him whom now you have seen here
The President bowed deeply to the young man, who had modestly
resumed his place. Then, for just a moment, Mr. Jefferson stood silent,
absorbed, rapt, carried away by his own vision.
And now for my news, he said at length. Here you have it!
He waved once more the little scrap of paper.
I had this news from New York this morning. It was despatched
yesterday evening. Tomorrow it will reach all the world. The mails will
bring it to you; but news like this could not wait for the mails. No
horse could bring it fast enough. It was brought by a dovethe dove of
peace, I trust. Let me explain briefly; what my news concerns.
As you know, that new country yonder belonged at first to any one
who might find itto England, if she could penetrate it first; to
Spain, if she were first to put her flag upon it; to Russia, if first
she conquered it from the far Northwest. But none of these three ever
completed acquisition by those means under which nations take title to
the new territories of the world. Louisiana, as we term it, has been
unclaimed, unknown, unownedindeed, virgin territory so far as
definite title was concerned.
In the north, such title as might be was conveyed to Great Britain
by France after the latter power was conquered at Quebec. The lower
regions Francesupposing that she owned themconveyed, through her
monarch, the fifteenth Louis, to Spain. Again, in the policy of
nations, Spain sold them to France once more, in a time of need. France
owned the territory then, or had the title, though Spain still was in
possession. It lay still unoccupied, still contesteduntil but now.
My friends, I give you news! On the 2d of May last, Napoleon
Bonaparte, First Consul of France, sold to this republic, the United
States of America, all of Louisiana, whatever it may be, from the
Mississippi to the Pacific! Here are seven words which carry an empire
with themthe empire of humanitya land in which democracy, humanity,
shall expand and grow forever! This is my news:
General Bonaparte signed May 2Fifteen millionsRejoice!
A deep sigh rose as if in unison all along the table. The event was
too large for instant grasping. There was no applause at first.
Somemanydid not understand. Not so certain others.
The minister from Great Britain, the minister from Spain, Aaron Burr
and a few other men acquainted with great affairs, prominent in public
life, turned and looked at the President's tall figure at the head of
the table, and then at that of the silent young man whom Mr. Jefferson
had publicly honored.
The face of Aaron Burr grew pale. The faces of the foreign ministers
showed sudden consternation. Theodosia Alston turned, her own eyes
fixed upon the grave face of the young man sitting at her side, who
made no sign of the strong emotion possessing his soul.
I have given you my news, the voice of Mr. Jefferson went on,
rising now, vibrant and masterful, fearless, compelling. There you
have it, this little message, large as any ever written in the world.
The title to that Western land has passed to us. We set our seal on it
now! Cost what it may, we shall hold it so long as we can claim a flag
or a country on this continent. The price is nothing. Fifteen millions
means no more than the wine or water left in a half-empty glass. It
might be fifty times fifteen millions, and yet not be one fiftieth
enough. These things are not to be measured by known signs or marks of
values. It is not in human comprehension to know what we have gained.
Hence we have no human right to boast. The hand of Almighty God is in
this affair! It was He who guided the fingers of those who signed this
cession to the United States of America!
My friends, now I am content. What remains is but detail. Our duty
is plain. Between us and this purpose, I shall hold all intervention of
whatever nature, friendly or hostile, as no more than details to be
ignored. Yonder lies and has always lain the scene of my own ambition.
Always I have hungered to know that vast new land beyond all maps, as
yet ignorant of human metes and bounds. Always I have coveted it for
this republic, knowing that without room for expansion we must fail,
that with it we shall triumph to the edge of our ultimate dream of
human destinytriumph and flourish while governments shall remain
known among men.
I offer that faith to the eyes of the world today and of all the
days to come, believing in every humility that God guided the hands of
those who signed this title deed of a great empire, and that God long
ago implanted in my unworthy bosom the strong belief that one day this
might be which now has come to pass. It is no time for boasting, no
time for any man to claim glory or credit for himself. We are in the
face of events so vast that their margins leave our vision. We cannot
see to the end of all this, cannot read all the purpose of it, because
we are but men.
Gentlemen, you Americans, men of heart, of courage! You also,
ladies, who care most for gentlemen of heart and courage, whose pulses
beat even with our own to the stimulus of our deeds! I say to you all
that I would gladly lay aside my office and its honorsI would lay
aside all my other ambitions, all my desires to be remembered as a man
who at least endeavored to think and to actif thereby I might lead
this expedition of our volunteers for the discovery of the West. That
may not be. These slackened sinews, these shrinking limbs, these fading
eyes, do not suffice for such a task. It is in my heart, yes; but the
heart for this magnificent adventure needs stronger pulses than my own.
My heartdid I say that I had need of another, a better? Did I say
that I had need of eyes and brains, of thews and sinews, of calm nerves
and steady blood? Did I say I had need of courage and resolutionall
these things combined? I have them! That Providence who has given us
all needful instruments and agents to this point in our career as a
republic has given us yet another, and the last one needful. Tomorrow
my friend, my special messenger, Captain Meriwether Lewis, starts with
his expedition. He will explore the country between the Missouri and
the Pacificthe country of my dream and his. It is no longer the
country of any other powerit is our own!
Gentlemen, I give you a toastCaptain Meriwether Lewis!
CHAPTER VI. THE GREAT CONSPIRACY
The simplicity dinner was at an end. Released by the President's
withdrawal, the crowdit could be called little elsebroke from the
table. The anteroom filled with struggling guests, excited,
Meriwether Lewis, anxious only to escape from his social duties that
he might rejoin his chief, felt a soft hand on his arm, and turned.
Theodosia Alston was looking up at him.
Do you forget your friends so soon? I must add my good wishes. It
was splendid, what Mr. Jefferson saidand it was true!
I wish it might be true, said the young man. I wish I might be
worthy of such a man.
You are worthy of us all, returned Theodosia.
People are kind to the condemned, said he sententiously.
At the door they were once more close to the others of the
diplomatic party who had sat in company at table. The usual crush of
those clamoring for their carriages had begun.
My dear, said Mr. Merry to his irate spouse, I shall, if Mrs.
Alston will permit, ask you to take her up in your carriage with you to
her home. I am to go with Mr Burr.
The Spanish minister made similar excuse to his own wife. Thus
Theodosia Alston left Meriwether Lewis for the second time that day.
It was a late conference, the one held that night at the home of the
Vice-President of the United States. Burr, cool, calculating, always in
hand, sat and weighed many matters well before he committed himself
beyond repair. His keen mind saw now, and seized the advantage for
which he waited.
You say right, gentlemen, both of you, he began, leaning forward.
I would not blame you if you never went to the White House again.
Should I ever do so again, blazed the Spanish minister, I will
take my own wife in to dinner on my own arm, and place her at the head
of the table, where she belongs! It was an insult to my sovereign that
we received today.
As much myself, sir! said Mr. Merry, his brows contracted, his
face flushed still with anger. I shall know how to answer the next
invitation which comes from Mr Jefferson. I shall ask him whether or
not there is to be any repetition of this sort of thing.
[Footnote 1: During the following winter Mr. Merry had opportunity
to fulfill his threat. In February, 1804, the President again invited
him to dine, in the following words:
Thomas Jefferson asks the favor of Mr. Merry to dine with a small
party of friends on Monday, the 13th, at half past three.
Mr. Merry, still smarting all these months, stood on his dignity and
addressed his reply to the Secretary of State.
Reviewing at some length what seemed to him important events, he
If Mr. Merry should be mistaken as to the meaning of Mr.
Jefferson's note, and it should prove that the invitation is designed
for him in a public capacity, he trusts that Mr. Jefferson will feel
equally that it must be out of his power to accept it, without
receiving previously, through the channel of the Secretary of State,
the necessary formal assurance of the President's determination to
observe toward him those niceties of distinction which have heretofore
been shown by the executive government of the United States to the
persons who have been accredited as our Majesty's ministers.
Mr. Merry has the honor to request of Mr. Madison to lay this
explanation before the President, and to accompany it with the
strongest assurance of his highest respect and consideration.
The Secretary of State, who seems to have been acting as social
secretary to Mr. Jefferson, without hesitation replied as follows:
Mr. Madison presents his compliments to Mr. Merry. He has
communicated to the President Mr. Merry's note of this morning, and has
the honor to remark to him that the President's invitation, being in
the style used by him in like cases, had no reference to the points of
form which will deprive him of the pleasure of Mr. Merry's company at
dinner on Monday next.
Mr. Madison tenders to Mr. Merry his distinguished consideration.
The friction arising out of this and interlocking incidents was part
of the unfortunate train of events which later led up to the war of
So much for the rule of the plain people! said Burr, as he laid
the tips of his fingers together contemplatively.
Yet, Colonel Burr, you are Vice-President under this
administration! broke out Merry.
One must use agencies and opportunities as they offer. My dear sir,
perhaps you do not fully know me. I took this election only in order to
be close to the seat of affairs. I am no such rabid adherent to
democracy as some may think. You would be startled if I told you that I
regard this republic as no more than an experiment. This is a large
continent. Take all that Western countryLouisianait ought not to be
called attached to the United States. At this very moment it is half in
rebellion against its constituted authorities. More than once it has
been ready to take arms, to march against New Orleans, and to set up a
new country of its own. It is geography which fights for monarchy,
against democracy, on this continentin spite of what all these people
Sir, said the British minister, you have been a student of
And why not? I claim intelligence, good education, association with
men of thought. My reason tells me that conquest is in the blood of
those men who settled in the Mississippi Valley. They went into
Kentucky and Tennessee for the sake of conquest. They are restless,
unattached, dissatisfiedready for any great move. No move can be made
which will seem too great or too daring for them. Now let me confess
somewhat to youfor I know that you will respect my confidence, if you
go no further with me than you have gone tonight. I have bought large
acreages of land in the lower Louisiana country, ostensibly for
colonization purposes. I do purpose colonization therebut not
under the flag of this republic!
Silence greeted his remark. The others sat for a moment, merely
gazing at him, half stunned, remembering only that he was Jefferson's
colleague, Vice-President of the United States.
You cannot force geography, resumed Burr, in tones as even as if
he had but spoken of bartering for a house and lot. Lower Louisiana
and Mexico togetheryes, perhaps. Florida, with usyes, perhaps.
Indeed, territories larger perhaps than any of us dare dream at
present, once our new flag is raised. All that I purpose is to do what
has been discussed a thousand times beforeto unite in a natural
alliance of self-interest those men who are sundered in every way of
interest and alliance from the government on this side of the
Alleghanies. Would you call that treasonconspiracy? I dislike the
words. I call it rather a plan based upon sound reason and common
sense; and I hold that its success is virtually assured.
You will explain more fully, Colonel Burr? Mr. Merry was intent
now on all that he heard.
I march only with destiny, yonderdo you not see, gentlemen? Burr
resumed. Those who march with me are in alliance with natural events.
This republic is split now, at this very moment. It must follow its own
fate. If the flag of Spain were west of it on the south, and the flag
of Britain west of it on the north, why, then we should have the
natural end of the republic's expansion. With those great powers in
alliance at its back, with the fleets of England on the seas, at the
mouth of the great riverowning the lands in Canada on the northit
would be a simple thing, I say, to crush this republic against the wall
of the Appalachians, or to drive it once more into the sea.
They were silent alike before the enormousness and the enormity of
this. Reading their thoughts, Burr raised his hand in deprecation.
I know what is in your minds, gentlemen. The one thing which
troubles you is thisthe man who speaks to you is Vice-President of
the United States. I say what in your country would be treason. In this
country I maintain it is not yet treason, because thus far we are in an
experiment. We have no actual reign of reason and of law; and he
marches to success who marches with natural laws and along the definite
trend of existing circumstances and conditions.
What you say, Mr. Burr, began Merry gravely, assuredly has the
merit of audacity. And I see that you have given it thought.
I interest you, gentlemen! You can go with me only if it be to your
interest and to that of your countries to join with me in these plans.
They have gone far forwardlet me tell you that. I know my men from
St. Louis to New OrleansI know my leadersI know that population. If
this be treason, as Mr. Patrick Henry said, let us make the most of it.
At least it is the intention of Aaron Burr. I stake upon it all my
fortune, my life, the happiness of my family. Do you think I am
Merry sat engaged in thought. He could see vast movements in the
game of nations thus suddenly shown before him on the diplomatic board.
And on his part it is to be said that he was there to represent the
interests of his own government alone.
In the same even tones, Burr resumed his astonishing statements.
My son-in-law, Mr. Alston, of South Carolinaa very wealthy
planter of that Stateis in full accord with all my plans. My own
resources have been pledged to their utmost, and he has been so good as
to add largely from his own. I admit to you that I sought alliance with
him deliberately when he asked my daughter's hand. He is an ambitious
man, and perhaps he saw his way to the fulfillment of certain personal
ambitions. He has contributed fifty thousand dollars to my cause. He
will have a place of honor and profit in the new government which will
be formed yonder in the Mississippi Valley.
So, then, began Yrujo, the financing is somewhat forward! But
fifty thousand is only a drop.
We may as well be plain, rejoined Burr. Time is shortyou know
that it is short. We all heard what Mr. Jefferson saidwe know that if
we are to take action it must be at once. That expedition must not
succeed! If that wedge be driven through to the Pacificand who can
say what that young Virginian may do?your two countries will be
forever separated on this continent by one which will wage successful
war on both. Swift action is my only hopeand yours.
Your funds, said Mr. Merry, seem to me inadequate for the demands
which will be made upon them. You said fifty thousand?
I pledge you as much moreon one condition that I shall name.
Burr turned from Mr. Merry to Señor Yrujo. The latter nodded.
I undertake to contribute the same amount, said the envoy of
Spain, but with no condition attached.
The color deepened in the cheek of the great conspirator. His eye
glittered a trifle more brilliantly.
You named a certain condition, sir, he said to Merry.
Yes, one entirely obvious.
What is it, then, your excellency? Burr inquired.
You yourself have made it plain. The infernal ingenuity of yonder
Corsicancurse his devilish brain!has rolled a greater stone in our
yard than could be placed there by any other human agency. We could not
believe that Napoleon Bonaparte would part with Louisiana thus easily.
No doubt he feared the British fleet at the mouth of the riverno
doubt Spain was glad enough that our guns were not at New Orleans ere
this. But, I say, he rolled that stone in our yard. If title to this
Louisiana purchase is driven through to the Pacificas Mr. Jefferson
plans so boldlythe end is written now, Colonel Burr, to all your
enterprises! Britain will be forced to content herself with what she
can take on the north, and Spain eventually will hold nothing worth
having on the south. By the Lord, General Bonaparte fights wellhe
knows how to sacrifice a pawn in order to checkmate a king!
Yes, your excellency, said Burr, I agree with you, but
And now my condition. Follow me closely. I say if that wedge is
driven homeif that expedition of Mr. Jefferson's shall succeedits
success will rest on one factor. In short, there is a man at the head
of that expedition who must fight with us and not against us, else my
own interest in this matter lacks entirely. You know the man I have in
Burr nodded, his lips compressed.
That young man, Colonel Burr, will go through! I know his kind.
Believe me, if I know men, he is a strong man. Let that man come back
from his expedition with the map of a million square miles of new
American territory hanging at his belt, like a scalp torn from his
foesand there will be no chance left for Colonel Burr and his
All that your excellency has said tallies entirely with our own
beliefs, rejoined Burr. But what then? What is the condition?
Simply thiswe must have Captain Lewis with us and not against us.
I want that man! I must have him. That expedition must never proceed.
It must be delayed, stopped. Money was raised twenty years ago in
London to make this same sort of journey across the continent, but the
plan fell through. Revive it now, and we English still may pull it off.
But it will be too late if Captain Lewis goes forward nowtoo late for
ustoo late for you and your plan, Mr. Burr. I want that man! We must
have him with us!
Burr sat in silence for a time.
You open up a singular train of thought for me, your excellency,
said he at length. He does belong with us, that young Virginian!
You know him, then? inquired the British minister. That is to
say, you know him well?
Perfectly. Why should I not? He nearly was my son-in-law. Egad!
Give him two weeks more, and he might have beenhe got the news of my
daughter's marriage just too late. It hit him hard. In truth, I doubt
if he ever has recovered from it. They say he still takes it hard. Now,
you ask me how to get that man, your excellency. There is perhaps one
way in which it could be accomplished, and only one.
How, then? inquired Merry.
The way of a woman with a man may always be the answer in matters
of that sort! said Aaron Burr.
The three sat and looked each at the other for some time without
I find Colonel Burr's brain active in all ways! began Señor Yrujo
dryly. Now I confess that he goes somewhat in advance of mine.
Listen, said Aaron Burr. What Mr. Jefferson said of Captain Lewis
is absolutely truehis will has never been known to relax or weaken.
Once resolved, he cannot changeI will not say he does not, but that
Then even the unusual weapon you suggest might not avail! Mr.
Merry's smile was not altogether pleasant.
Women would listen to him readily, I think, remarked Yrujo.
Gallant in his way, yes, said Burr.
Then what do you mean by saying something about the way of a woman
with a man?
Only that it is the last remaining opportunity for us, rejoined
Aaron Burr. The appeal to his sensesof course, we will set that
aside. The appeal to his chivalrythat is better! The appeal to his
ambitionthat is less, but might be used. The appeal to his
sympathythe wish to be generous with the woman who has not been
generous with him, for the reason that she could not behere again you
have another argument which we may claim as possible.
You reason well, said Merry. But while men are mortal, yonder, if
I mistake not, is a gentleman.
Precisely, said Burr. If we ask him to resign his expedition we
are asking him to alter all his loyalty to his chiefand he will not
do that. Any appeal made to him must be to his honor or to his
chivalry; otherwise it were worse than hopeless. He would no more be
disloyal to my son-in-law, the lady's husbandin case it came to
thatthan he would be disloyal to the orders of his chief.
Fie! Fie! said Yrujo, serving himself with wine from a decanter on
the table. All men are mortal. I agree with your first proposition,
Colonel Burr, that the safest argument with a manwith a young man
especially, and such a young manis a womanand such a woman!
One thing is sure, rejoined Burr, flushing. That man will succeed
unless some woman induces him to changesome woman, acting under an
appeal to his chivalry or his sense of justice. His reasons must be
honest to him. They must be honest to her alike.
Burr added this last virtuously, and Mr. Merry bowed deeply in
This is not only honorable of you, Colonel Burr, but logical.
That means some sort of sacrifice for him, suggested Yrujo
presently. But some one is sacrificed in every great undertaking. We
cannot count the loss of men when nations seek to extend their
boundaries and enhance their power. Only the question is, at what
sacrifice, through what appeal to his chivalry, can his assistance be
carried to us?
We have left out of our accounting one factor, said Burr after a
One factor, I repeat, we have overlooked, said Burr. That is the
wit of a woman! I am purposing to send as our agent with him no other
than my daughter, Mrs. Alston. There is no mind more brilliant, no
heart more loyal, than hersnor any soul more filled with ambition!
She believes in her father absolutelywill use every resource of her
own to upbuild her father's ambitions. Now, women have their own
ways of accomplishing results. Suppose we leave it to my daughter to
fashion her own campaign? There is nothing wrong in the relations of
these two, but at table today I saw his look to her, and hers to him in
reply. We are speaking in deep and sacred confidence here, gentlemen.
So I say to you, ask no questions of me, and let me ask none of her.
Let me only say to her: 'My daughter, your father's success, his life,
his fortunethe life and fortune and success of your husband as
welldepend upon one event, depend upon you and your ability to stop
yonder expedition of Captain Meriwether Lewis into the Missouri
[Footnote 2: It is generally conceded that Theodosia Burr Alston
must have been acquainted with her father's most intimate ambitions,
and with at least part of the questionable plans by which he purposed
to further them. Her blind and unswerving loyalty to him, passing all
ordinary filial affection, was a predominant trait of her singular and
by no means weak or hesitant character, in which masculine resolution
blended so strangely with womanly reserve and sweetness.]
When could we learn? demanded the British minister.
I cannot say how long a time it may take, Burr replied. I promise
you that my daughter shall have a personal interview with Captain Lewis
before he starts for the West.
But he starts at dawn! smiled Minister Merry.
Were it an hour earlier than that, I would promise it. But now,
gentlemen, let us come to the main point. If we succeed, what then?
The British minister was businesslike and definite.
Fifty thousand dollars at once, out of a special fund in my
control. Meantime I would write at once to my government and lay the
matter before them. We shall need a fleet at the south of the
Mississippi River. That will cost moneyit will require at least half
a million dollars to assure any sort of success in plans so large as
yours, Mr. Burr. But on the contingency that she stops him, I promise
you that amount. Fifty thousand downa half-million more when needed.
[Footnote 3: Mr. Merry did so and reported the entire proposal made
by Burr. The proposition was that the latter should lend his
assistance to his majesty's government in any manner in which they may
think fit to employ him, particularly in endeavoring to effect a
separation of the Western part of the United States from that which
lies between the mountains in its whole extent.
But though deeply interested in the conspiracy to separate the
Western country, Mr. Merry was not too confiding, for in his message to
Mr. Pitt he added the following confidence, showing his own estimate of
I have only to add that if strict confidence could be placed in
him, he certainly possesses, perhaps in a much greater degree than any
other individual in this country, all the talents, energy, intrepidity,
and firmness which it requires for such an enterprise.]
The dark eye of Aaron Burr flashed.
Then, said he firmly, success will meet our effortsI guarantee
it! I pledge all my personal fortune, my friends, my family, to the
I am for my country, said Mr. Merry simply. It is plain to see
that Napoleon sought to humble us by ceding that great region to this
republic. He meant to build up in the New World another enemy to Great
Britain. But if we can thwart himif at the very start we can divide
the forces which might later be allied against usperhaps we may
conquer a wider sphere of possession for ourselves on this rich
continent. There is no better colonizing ground in all the world!
You understand my plan, said Aaron Burr. Reduced to the least
common denominator, Meriwether Lewis and my daughter Theodosia have our
fate in their hands.
The others rose. The hour was past midnight. The secret conference
had been a long one.
He starts tomorrowis that sure? asked Merry.
As the clock, rejoined Burr. She must see him before the
My compliments, Colonel Burr. Good night!
Good night, sir, added Yrujo. It has been a strange day.
Secrecy, gentlemen, secrecy! I hope soon to have more news for you,
and good news, too. Au revoir!
Burr himself accompanied them to the door.
CHAPTER VII. COLONEL BURR AND HIS
One instant Aaron Burr sat, his head dropped, revolving his plans.
The next, he pulled the bell-cord and paced the floor until he had
Go at once to Mrs. Alston's rooms, Charles, said he to the
servant. Tell her to rise and come to me at once. Tell her not to
wait. Do you hear?
He still paced the floor until he heard a light frou-frou in
the hall, a light knock at the door. His daughter entered, her eyes
still full of sleep, her attire no more than a loose peignoir caught up
and thrown above her night garments.
What is it, fatherare you ill?
Far from it, my child, said he, turning with head erect. I am
alive, well, and happier than I have been for monthsyears. I need
youcome, sit here and listen to me.
He caught her to him with a swift, paternal embracehe loved no
mortal being as he did his daughterthen pushed her tenderly into the
deep seat near by the lamp, while he continued pacing up and down the
room, voluble and persuasive, full of his great idea.
The matters which he had but now discussed with the two foreign
officials he placed before his daughter. He told her allexcept the
truth. And Aaron Burr knew how to gild falsehood itself until it seemed
Now you have it, my dear, said he. You see, my ambition to found
a country of my own, where a man may have a real ambition. This dirty
village here is too narrow a field for talents like yours or mine. Let
me tell you, Napoleon has played a great jest with Mr. Jefferson. There
is nothing in the Constitution of the United StatesI am lawyer enough
to know thatwhich will make it possible for Congress to ratify the
purchase of Louisiana. We cannot carve new States from that countryit
is already settled by the subjects of another government. Hence the
expedition of Mr. Lewis must failit must surely fall of its own
weight. It is based upon an absurdity. Not even Mr. Jefferson can fly
in the face of the supreme laws of the land.
But as to the Mississippi Valley, matters are entirely different.
There is no law against that country's organizing for a better
government. There is every natural reason for that. As these States on
the East confederated in the cause against oppression, so can those
yonder. There will be more opportunity for strong men there when that
game is on the boardmen like Captain Lewis, for instance. Should one
ally one's self with a foredoomed failure? Not at all. I prefer rather
successstation, rank, power, money, for myself, if you please. With
usa million dollars for the founding of our new country. With
himfor the undertaking of yonder impracticable and chimerical
expedition, twenty-five hundred dollars! Which enterprise, think you,
But, on the other hand, if that expedition of Mr. Jefferson's
should succeed by virtue of accident, or of good leadership, all my
plans must failthat is plain. It comes, therefore, to this, Theo, and
I may tell you plainlyCaptain Lewis must be seenhe must be
stoppedwe must hold a conference with him. It would be useless for me
to undertake to arrange all that. There is only one person who can save
your father's futureand that one, my daughter, isyou!
He caught Theodosia's look of surprise, her start, the swift flush
on her cheekand laughed lightly.
Let me explain. Aaron Burr and all his familyall his
friendswill reach swift advancement in yonder new government. Power,
placethese are the things that strong men covet. That is what the
game of politics means for strong menthat is why we fight so bitterly
for office. I plan for myself some greater office than second fiddle in
this tawdry republic along the Atlantic. I want the first place, and in
a greater field! I will take my friends with me. I want men who can
lead other men. I want men like Captain Lewis.
It seems that you value him more now than once you did.
Yes, that is true, Theo, that is true. I did not favor his suit for
your hand at that time. Although he had a modest fortune in Virginia
lands, he could not offer you the future assured by Mr. Alston. I was
rejoicedI admit it franklywhen I learned that young Captain Lewis
came just too late, for I feared you would have preferred him. And yet
I saw his quality thenMr. Jefferson sees ithe is a good chooser of
men. But Captain Lewis must not advance beyond the Ohio. That is a
large task for a woman.
What woman, father?
A flush came to her pale cheek. Her father turned to her directly,
his own piercing gaze aflame.
There is but one woman on earth could do that, my daughter! That
young man's fate was settled when he looked on that womanwhen he
looked on you!
She swiftly turned her head aside, not answering.
Am I so engaged in affairs that I cannot see the obvious, my dear?
went on the vibrant voice. Had I no eyes for what went on at my side
this very evening, at Mr. Jefferson's dinner-table? Could I fail to
observe his look to youand, yes, am I not sensible to what your eyes
said to him in reply?
Do you believe that of meand you my father?
I believe nothing dishonorable of you, my dear, said Burr.
Neither could I ask anything dishonorable. But I know what young blood
will do. Your eyes said no more than that for me. I know you wish him
wellknow you wish well for his ambition, his successam sure you do
not wish to see him doomed to failure. What? Would you see his career
blighted when it should be but begun?
There would be prospects for him?
All the prospects in the world! I would place him only second to
myself, so highly do I value his talents in an enterprise such as this.
Alston's money, but Lewis's brains and courage! They both love youdo
I not know?
Troubled, again she turned her gaze aside.
Listen, my daughter. That young man is wisehe has no such vast
belief in yonder expedition. He is going in desperation, to escape a
memory! Is it not true? Tell meand believe that I am not blindis
not Captain Lewis going into the Missouri country in order to forget a
certain woman? And do we not know, my daughter, who that woman is?
Still her downcast eye gave him no reply.
Meriwether Lewis yonder among the savages is a failure. Meriwether
Lewis with me is second only to the vice-regent of the lower Louisiana
country. Texas, Florida, much of Mexico, will join with us, that is
sure. We fight with the great nations of the world, not against
themwe fight with the stars in their courses, and not against them.
Now, you have two pictures, my dearone of Meriwether Lewis, the
wanderer, a broken and hopeless man, living among the savages, a log
hut his home, a camp fire the only hearth he knows. Picture that
hopeless and broken mancondemned to that by yourself, my dearand
then picture that other figure whom you can see rescued, restored to
the world, placed by your own hand in a station of dignity and power.
Then, indeed, he might forgethe might forgive. Yonder he will forsake
his manhoodhe will relax his ideals, and go down, step by step, until
he shall not think of you again.
There are two pictures, my daughter. Which do you preferwhat do
you decide to do? Shall you condemn him, or shall you rescue him?
Forgive your father for having spoken thus plainly. I know your
heartI know your generosity as well as I know your loyalty and
ambition. There is no reason, my dear, why, for the sake of your
father, for the sake of yourself, and for the sake of that young man
yonder, you should not go to him immediately and carry my message.
Could it be possible, she began at length, half musing, that I,
who made Captain Lewis so unhappy, could aid a man like him to reach a
higher and better place in life? Could I save him from himselfand
You speak like my own daughter! If that generous wish bore fruit, I
think that in the later years of life, for both of you, the reflection
would prove not unwelcome. I know, as well as I know anything, that no
other woman will ever hold a place in the heart of Meriwether Lewis.
There is a memory there which will shut out all other things on earth.
We deal now in delicate matters, it is true; but I have been frank with
you, because, knowing your loyalty and fairness, knowing your ambition,
even-paced with mine, none the less I know your discretion and your
generosity as well. You see, I have chosen the best messenger in all
the world to advance my own ambition. Indeed, I have chosen the only
one in all the world who might undertake this errand with the slightest
prospect of success.
What can I do, father?
In the morning that young man will start. It is now two by the
clock. We are late. He will start with the rising sun. It is doubtful
if he will see his bed at all tonight.
You have called me for a strange errand, father, said Theodosia
Alston, at length. So far as my brain grasps these things, I go with
you in your plans. I could plan no treachery against this country, nor
could youyou are its sworn servant, its high official.
Treachery? No, it is statesmanship, it is service to mankind!
My consent to that, yes. But as to seeing Captain Lewis, there is,
as you know, but one way. I go not as Theodosia Burr, but as Mrs.
Alston of Carolina. I am a woman of honor; he is a man of honor. No
argument on earth would avail with him except such as might be based
upon honor and loyalty. Nor would any argument, even if offered by my
father, avail otherwise with me.
She turned upon him now the full gaze of her dark eyes, serious,
luminous, yet tender, her love for him showing so clearly that he came
to her softly, took her hands, caught her to his bosom, and kissed her
Theodosia, said he, aid me! If the fire of my ambition has
consumed me, I have come to you, because I know your love, because I
know your loyalty! I have not slept tonight, he added, passing a hand
across his forehead.
There will be no more sleep for me tonight, was her reply.
You will see him in the morning?
CHAPTER VIII. THE PARTING
There were others in Washington who did not sleep that night. A
light burned until sunrise in the little office-room of Thomas
Jefferson. Spread upon his desk, covering its litter of unfinished
business, lay a large mapa map which today would cause any schoolboy
to smile, but which at that time represented the wisdom of the world
regarding the interior of the great North American continent. It had
served to afford anxious study for two men, these many hours.
Yonder it lies, Captain Lewis! said Mr. Jefferson at length. How
vast, how little known! We know our climate and soil here. It is but
reasonable to suppose that they exist yonder as they do with us, in
some part, at least. If so, yonder are homes for millions now unborn.
Had General Bonaparte known the value of that land, he would have
fought the world rather than alienate such a region.
The President tapped a long forefinger on the map.
This, then, he went on, is your country. Find it outbring back
to me examples of its soil, its products, its vegetable and animal
life. Espy out especially for us any strange animals there may be of
which science has not yet account. I hold it probable that there may be
yonder living examples of the mastodon, whose bones we have found in
Kentucky. You yourself may see those enormous creatures yet alive.
Meriwether Lewis listened in silence. Mr. Jefferson turned to
another branch of his theme.
I fancy that some time there will be a canal built across the
isthmus that binds this continent to the one belowa canal which shall
connect the two great oceans. But that is far in the future. It is for
you to spy out the way now, across the country itself. Explore
itdiscover itit is our new world.
A few must think for the many, he went on. I had to smuggle this
appropriation through Congresstwenty-five hundred dollarsthe price
of a poor Virginia farm! I have tampered with the Constitution itself
in order to make this purchase of a country not included in our
original territorial lines. I have taken my own chancesjust as you
must take yours now. The finger of God will be your guide and your
protector. Are you ready, Captain Lewis? It is late.
Indeed, the sun was rising over Washington, the mists of morning
were reeking along the banks of the Potomac.
I can start in half an hour, replied Meriwether Lewis.
Are your men ready, your supplies gathered together?
The rendezvous is at Harper's Ferry, up the river. The wagons with
the supplies are ready there. I will take boat from here myself with a
few of the men. Not later than tomorrow afternoon I promise that we
will be on our way. We burn the bridges behind us, and cross none until
we come to them.
Spoken like a soldier! It is in your hands. Go then!
There was one look, one handclasp. The two men parted; nor did they
meet again for years.
Mr. Jefferson did not look from his window to see the departure of
his young friend, nor did the latter again call at the door to say
good-by. Theirs was indeed a warrior-like simplicity.
The sun still was young when Meriwether Lewis at length descended
the steps of the Executive Mansion.
He was clad now for his journey, not in buckskin hunting-garb, but
with regard for the conventions of a country by no means free of
convention. His jacket was of close wool, belted; his boots were high
and suitable for riding. His stock, snowy whitefor always Meriwether
Lewis was immaculaterose high around his throat, in spite of the hot
summer season, and his hands were gloved. He seemed soldier, leader,
officer, and gentleman.
No retinue, however, attended him; no servant was at his side. He
went afoot, and carried with him his most precious luggagethe long
rifle which he never entrusted to any hands save his own. Close wrapped
around the stock, on the crook of his arm, and not yet slung over his
shoulder, was a soiled buckskin pouch, which went always with the
riflethe possible sack of the wilderness hunter of that time. It
contained his bullets, bullet-molds, flints, a bar or two of lead, some
tinder for priming, a set of awls.
Such was the leader of one of the great expeditions of the world.
Meriwether Lewis had few good-bys to say. He had written but one
letterto his motherlate the previous morning. It was worded thus:
The day after tomorrow I shall set out for the Western
country. I had calculated on the pleasure of visiting you
before I started, but circumstances have rendered it
impossible. My absence will probably be equal to fifteen or
The nature of this expedition is by no means dangerous. My
route will be altogether through tribes of Indians friendly
to the United States, therefore I consider the chances of
life just as much in my favor as I should conceive them were
I to remain at home. The charge of this expedition is
honorable to myself, as it is important to my country.
For its fatigues I feel myself perfectly prepared, nor do I
doubt my health and strength of constitution to bear me
through it. I go with the most perfect preconviction in my
own mind of returning safe, and hope, therefore that you
will not suffer yourself to indulge in any anxiety for my
I will write again on my arrival at Pittsburgh. Adieu, and
believe me your affectionate son.
No regrets, no weak reflections for this man with a warrior's weapon
on his armwhere no other burden might lie in all his years. His were
to be the comforts of the trail, the rude associations with common men,
the terrors of the desert and the mountain; his fireside only that of
the camp. Yet he advanced to his future steadily, his head high, his
eye on aheada splendid figure of a man.
He did not at first hear the gallop of hoofs on the street behind
him as at last, a mile or more from the White House gate, he turned
toward the river front. He was looking at the dull flood of the
Potomac, now visible below him; but he paused, something appealing to
the strange sixth sense of the hunter, and turned.
A rider, a mounted servant, was beckoning to him. Behind the
horseman, driven at a stiff gait, came a carriage which seemed to have
but a single occupant. Captain Lewis halted, gazed, then hastened
forward, hat in his hand.
Mrs. Alston! he exclaimed, as the carriage came up. Why are you
here? Is there any news?
Yes, else I could not have come.
But why have you come? Tell me!
He motioned the outrider aside, sprang into the vehicle and told the
driver to draw a little apart from the more public street. Here he
caught up the reins himself, and, ordering the driver to join the
footman at the edge of the roadway they had left, turned to the woman
at his side.
Pardon me, said he, and his voice was cold; I thought I had cut
Knit them again for my sake, then, Meriwether Lewis! I have brought
you a summons to return.
A summons? From whom?
My fatherMr. MerrySeñor Yrujo. They were at our home all night.
We could notthey could notI could notbear to see you sacrifice
yourself. This expedition can only fail! I implore you not to go upon
it! Do not let your man's pride drive you!
She was excited, half sobbing.
It does drive me, indeed, said he simply. I am under ordersI am
the leader of this expedition of my government. I do not
At this houron this errandonly one motive could have brought
me! It is your interest. Oh, it is not for myselfit is for your
Why did you come thus, unattended? There is something you are
concealing. Tell me!
Ah, you are harshyou have no sympathy, no compassion, no
gratitude! But listen, and I will tell you. My father, Mr. Merry, the
Spanish minister, are all men of affairs. They have watched the
planning of this expedition. Why fly in the face of prophecy and of
Providence? That is what my father says. He says that country can never
be of benefit to our Unionthat no new States can be made from it. He
says the people will pass down the Mississippi River, but not beyond
it; that it is the natural line of our expansionthat men who are
actual settlers are bound not into the unknown West, but into the
well-known South. He begs of you to follow the course of events, and
not to fly in the face of Providence.
You speak well! Go on.
England is with us, and Spainthey back my father's plans.
He turned now and raised a hand.
Plans? What plans? I must warn you, I am pledged to my own
Is not my father also? He is one of the highest officers in the
government of this country.
You may tell me more or not, as you like.
There is little more to tell, said she. These gentlemen have made
certain plans of which I know little. My father said to me that Thomas
Jefferson himself knows that this purchase from Napoleon cannot be made
under the Constitution of the United Statesthat, given time for
reflection, Mr. Jefferson himself will admit that the Louisiana
purchase was but a national folly from which this country cannot
benefit. Why not turn, then, to a future which offers certainties? Why
not come with us, and not attempt the impossible? That is what he said.
And he asked me to implore you to pause.
He sat motionless, looking straight ahead, as she went on.
He only besought me to induce you, if I could, either to abandon
your expedition wholly as soon as you honorably might do so, or to go
on with it only to such point as will prove it unfeasible and
impracticable. Not wishing you to prove traitorous to a trust, these
gentlemen wish you to know that they would value your associationthat
they would give you splendid opportunity. With men such as these, that
means a swift future of success for onefor onewhom I shall always
cherish warmly in my heart.
The color was full in her face. He turned toward her suddenly, his
It is an extraordinary matter in every way which you bring for me,
he said slowly; extraordinary that foreigners, not friends of this
country, should call themselves the friends of an officer sworn to the
service of the republic! I confess I do not understand it. And why send
It is difficult for me to tell you. But my father knew the
antagonism between Mr. Jefferson and himself, and knew your friendship
for Mr. Jefferson. He knew also the respect, the pityoh, what shall I
say?which I have always felt for youthe regard
Regard! What do you mean?
I did not mean regard, but thethe wish to see you succeed, to
help you, if I could, to take your place among men. I told you that but
She was all confusion now. He seemed pitiless.
I have listened long enough to have my curiosity aroused. I shall
have somewhat to ponderon the trail to the West.
Then you mean that you will go on?
You do not understand
No! I understand only that Mr. Jefferson has never abandoned a plan
or a promise or a friend. Shall I, then, who have been his scholar and
Ah, you two! What manner of men are you that you will not listen to
reason? He is high in power. Will you not also listen to the call of
your own ambition? Why, in that country below, you might hold a station
as proud as that of Mr. Jefferson himself. Will you throw that away,
for the sake of a few dried skins and flowers? You speak of being
devoted to your country. What is devotionwhat is your country? You
have no heartthat I know well; but I credited you with the brain and
the ambition of a man!
He sat motionless under the sting of her reproaches; and as some
reflection came to her upon the savagery of her own words, she laughed
Think you that I would have come here for any other man? she
demanded. Think you that I would ask of you anything to my own
dishonor, or to your dishonor? But now you do not listen. You will not
come backeven for me!
In answer he simply bent and kissed her hand, stepped from the
carriage, raised his hat. Yet he hesitated for half an instant and
Theodosia, said he, it is hard for me not to do anything you ask
of meyou do not know how hard; but surely you understand that I am a
soldier and am under orders. I have no option. It seems to me that the
plans of your father and his friends should be placed at once before
Mr. Jefferson. It is strange they sent you, a woman, as their
messenger! You have done all that a woman could. No other woman in the
world could have done as much with me. Butmy men are waiting for me.
This time he did not turn back again.
* * * * *
Colonel Burr's carriage returned more slowly than it had come. It
was a dejected occupant who at last made her way, still at an early
hour, to the door of her father's house.
Burr met her at the door. His keen eye read the answer at once.
You have failed! said he.
She raised her dark eyes to his, herself silent, mournful.
What did he say? demanded Burr.
Said he was under orderssaid you should go to Mr. Jefferson with
your plansaid Mr. Jefferson alone could stop him. Failed? Yes, I
You failed, said Burr, because you did not use the right argument
with him. The next time you must not fail. You must use better
Theodosia stood motionless for an instant, looking at her father,
then passed back into the house.
Listen, my daughter, said Burr at length, in his eye a light that
she never had known before. You must see that man again, and
bring him back into our camp! We need him. Without him I cannot handle
Merry, and without Merry I cannot handle Yrujo. Without them my plan is
doomed. If it fails, your husband has lost fifty thousand dollars and
all the moneys to which he is pledged beyond that. You and I will be
bankruptpenniless upon the streets, do you hear?unless you bring
that man back. Granted that all goes well, it means half a million
dollars pledged for my future by Great Britain herself, half as much
pledged by Spain, success and future honor and power for you and
meand him. He must come back! That expedition must not go
beyond the Mississippi. You ask me what to tell him? Ask him no longer
to return to us and opportunity. Ask him to come back to Theodosia
Burr and happinessdo you understand?
Sir, said his daughter, I thinkI think I do not understand!
He seemed not to hear heror to toss her answer aside.
You must try again, said he, and with the right weaponsthe old
ones, my dearthe old weapons of a woman!
CHAPTER IX. MR. THOMAS JEFFERSON
Not in fifty years, said Thomas Jefferson in the last days of his
life, had the sun caught him in bed. On this morning, having said
good-by to the man to whose hands he had entrusted the dearest
enterprise of all his life, he turned back to his desk in the little
office-room, and throughout the long and heated day, following a night
spent wholly without sleep, he remained engaged in his usual labors,
which were the heavier in his secretary's absence.
He was an old man now, but a giant in frame, a giant in mind, a
giant in industry as well. He sat at his desk absorbed, sleepless, with
that steady application which made possible the enormous total of his
life's work. He was writing in a fine, delicate handlegible to this
daycertain of those thousands of letters and papers which have been
given to us as the record of his career.
In what labor was the President of the United States engaged on this
particularly eventful day? It seems he found more to do with household
matters than with affairs of state. He was making careful accounts of
his French cook, his Irish coachman, his black servants still remaining
at his country house in Virginia.
All his life Thomas Jefferson kept itemized in absolute faithfulness
a list of all his personal expenseseven to the gratuities he expended
in traveling and entertainment. We find, for instance, that John
Cramer is to go into the service of Mr. Jefferson at twelve dollars a
month and twopence for drink, two suits of clothes and a pair of
boots. It seems that he bought a bootjack for three shillings; and the
cost of countless other household items is as carefully set down.
We may learn from records of this date that in the past year Mr.
Jefferson had expended in charity $1,585.60. He tells us that in the
first three months of his presidency his expenses were $565.84and he
was wrong ten cents in his addition of the total! In his own hand he
sets down A View of the Consumption of Butchers' Meat from September
6, 1801, to June 12, 1802. He knew perfectly well, indeed, what all
his household expenses were, also what it cost him to maintain his
stables. He did all this bookkeeping himself, and at the end of each
year was able to tell precisely where his funds had gone.
We may note one such annual statement, that of the year ended five
months previous to the time when Captain Lewis set forth into the West:
Pres. House 226.59
Household expenses 393.00
Asquisitionslands bought 2,156.86
Mr. Jefferson says in rather shamefaced fashion to his diary:
I ought by this statement to have cash in
But I actually have in hand 293.00
So that the errors of this statement amt
The whole of the nails used for Monticello and smithwork are
omitted, because no account was kept of them. This makes
part of the error, and the article of nails has been
extraordinary this year.
There was a curious accuracy in the analytical tests which Mr.
Jefferson applied to all the ordinary transactions of life. It was not
enough for him to know exactly how many dollars and cents he had
expended; he must know what should be the average result of such
expenditures. In the middle of a life of tremendous and marvelously
varied activities he finds time to leave for us such records as these:
Mr. Remsen tells me that six cord of hickory last a
fireplace well the winter.
Myrtle candles of last year out.
Pd Farren an impudent surcharge for Venetn blinds, 2.66.
Borrowed of Mr. Maddison order on bank for 150d.
Enclosed to D. Rittenhouse, Lieper's note of 238.57d, out of
which he is to pay for equatorial instrument for me.
Hitzeimer says that a horse well fed with grain requires 100
lb. of hay, and without grain 130 lb.
T. N. Randolph has had 9 galls. whisky for his harvest.
My first pipe of Termo is outbegun soon after I came home
to live from Philadelphia.
Agreed with Robt. Chuning to serve me as overseer at
Monticello for £25 and 600 lb. pork. He is to come Dec. 1.
Agreed with Bohlen to give 300 livres tournois for
bust made by Ceracchi, if he shall agree to take that sum.
My daughter Maria married this day.
March 16The first shad at this market today.
March 28The weeping willow shows the green leaf.
April 9Asparagus come to table.
April 10Apricots blossom.
April 12Genl. Thaddeus Kosciusko puts into my hands a
Warrant of the Treasury for 3,684.54d to have bills of
exchange bought for him.
May 8Tea out, the pound has lasted exactly 7 weeks, used 6
times a week; this is 8-21 or .4 of an oz. a time for a
single person. A pound of tea making 126 cups costs 2d, 126
cups or ounces of coffee8 lb. cost 1.6.
May 18On trial it takes 11 dwt. Troy of double refined
maple sugar to a dish of coffee, or 1 lb. avoirdupois to
26.5 dishes, so that at 20 cents per lb. it is 8 mills per
dish. An ounce of coffee at 20 cents per lb. is 12.5 mills,
so that sugar and coffee of a dish is worth 2 cents.
As to the code of official etiquette which we have seen to exist in
Washington, the President himself was responsible for it, for we have,
written out in his own delicate hand, the following explicit
The families of foreign ministers, arriving at the seat of
government, receive the first visit from those of the
national ministers, as from all other residents. Members of
the legislature and of the judiciary, independent of their
offices, have a right as strangers to receive the first
visit. No title being admitted here, those of foreigners
give no precedence. Difference of grade among the diplomatic
members gives no precedence.
At public ceremonies the government invites the presence of
foreign ministers and their families. A convenient seat or
station will be provided for them, with any other strangers
invited, and the families of the national ministers, each
taking place as they arrive, and without any precedence.
To maintain the principle of equality, or of pell-mell, and
prevent the growth of precedence out of courtesy, the
members of the executive will practise at their own houses,
and recommend an adherence to the ancient usages of the
country of gentlemen in mass giving precedence to the ladies
in mass, in passing from one apartment where they are
assembled into another.
And so on, through reams and reams of a strange man's life records.
Why should we care to note his curious concern over details? The
answer to that question is thisobviously, Thomas Jefferson's estimate
of a man must also in all likelihood have been curiously exact. He did
not make public to the world his judgment of Colonel Aaron Burr, at
that time Vice-President of the United States; but in his diary,
written in frankness by himself for himself, he put down the following:
I have never seen Colonel Burr till he became a member of
the Senate. His conduct very soon inspired me with distrust.
I habitually cautioned Mr. Madison against trusting him too
much. I saw that under General W. and Mr. Adams, where a
great military appointment or a diplomatic one was to be
made, he came post to Philadelphia to show himself, and in
fact he was always in the market if they wanted him. He was
indeed told by Dayton in 1800 that he might be Secretary at
War, but this bid was too late. His election as
Vice-President was then foreseen. With these impressions of
Colonel Burr, there never has been any intimacy between us,
and but little association.
A certain plan of this same Colonel Burr's now went forward in such
fashion as involved the loyalty of Meriwether Lewis, the man to whom,
of all others of his acquaintance, Thomas Jefferson gave first place in
trust and confidence and friendshipthe young man who but now was
making his unostentatious departure on the great adventure that they
two had planned.
His garb ill cared-for, his hair unkempt, his face a trifle haggard,
working on into the day whose dawn he had seen arise, the tall, gaunt
old man set aside first one minor matter, then another, leaving them
all exactly finished. At last he wrote down, for later forwarding, the
last item of his own knowledge regarding the new country into which he
had sent his young friend.
I have received word from Paris that Mr. Broughton, one of
the companions of Captain Vancouver, went up the Columbia
River one hundred miles in December, 1792. He stopped at a
point he named Vancouver. Here the river Columbia is still a
quarter of a mile wide. From this point Mount Hood is seen
about twenty leagues distant, which is probably a dependency
of the Stony Mountains. Accept my affectionate salutations.
This was the last word Meriwether Lewis received from his chief. As
the latter finished it, he sat looking out of the window toward that
West which meant so much to him.
He did not at first note the interruption of his reverie. Long ago
he had made public his announcement that the time of Thomas Jefferson
belonged to the public, and that he might be seen at any time by any
man. He hesitated now but a moment, therefore, when old Henry, his
faithful black, threw open the door and stated simply that there was a
lady wantin' to see Mistah Jeffahson.
Who is she, Henry? inquired the President of the United States
mildly. I am somewhat busy today.
'Tain't no diff'rence, she sayshe sho'ly want see Mistah
The tired old man smiled and shrugged his shoulders. A moment later
the persistent caller was ushered into the office of the nation's chief
executive. He rose courteously to meet her.
It was Theodosia Alston, whom he had known from her childhood. Mr.
Jefferson greeted her with his hand outstretched, and, her arm still in
his, led her to a seat.
My dear, said he, you will pardon our confusion here, I am sure.
There are many matters
I know it is an intrusion, Mr. Jefferson, began Theodosia Alston
again, her face flushing swiftly. But you are so good, so kind, so
great in your patience that we all take advantage of you. And yet you
are so tired, she added impulsively, as she caught sight of his
I was not so fortunate as to find time for sleep last night. He
smiled again with humorous, half twisted mouth.
Nor was I.
Tut, tut! No, no, my dear, that sort of thing will not do. He
looked at her in silence for some time. Perhaps, my dear, said he at
last, you come regarding Captain Lewis?
How did you know? she exclaimed, startled.
Why should I not know? He pushed his chair so close that he might
lay a hand upon her arm. Listen, Theo, my child. I am an old man, and
I am your friend, and his also. I had need to be very blind had I not
known long ago what I did know. I am, perhaps, the only confidant of
Captain Lewis, and I repose in him confidences that I would venture to
no other man; but he is not the sort to speak of such matters. It is
only by virtue of exceptional circumstances, my dear, that I know the
story of you two.
She was looking straight into his face, her eyes mournful.
I was glad to send him away, sorely as I miss him. But then, you
said, you come to me about him?
Yes, after he is goneknowing all that you saybecause I trust
your great kindness and your chivalry. I come to ask you to call him
back! Oh, Mr. Jefferson, were it any other man in the world but
yourself I had not dared come here; but you know my story and his. It
is your right to believe that he and I werethat is to say, we might
have beenah, sir, how can I speak?
You need not speak, my dear, I know.
I shall be faithful to my husband, Mr. Jefferson.
The old man nodded.
Captain Lewis knows that also. He would be the last to wish it
otherwise. But, since it was his misfortune to set his regard upon one
so fair as yourself, and since fate goes so hard for a strong man like
him, then I must admit it needed strong medicine for his case. I sent
him away, yes. Would you ask him backfor any cause?
In turn she laid a small hand upon the President's arm.
Only for himselffor that reason alone, Mr. Jefferson, and not to
change your plansfor himself, because you love him. Oh, sir, even the
greatest courts sometimes arrest their judgment if there is new
evidence to be introduced. At the last moment justice gives a condemned
man one more chance.
What is it, Theodosia? he said quietly. I do not grasp all this.
Able men say that this government cannot take advantage of the sale
of Louisiana to us by Napoleonthat our Constitution prevents our
taking over a foreign territory already populated to make into new
States of our own
Good, my learned counselsay on!
Forgive my weak witI only try to say this as I heard it, well and
As well as any man, my dear! Go on.
Therefore, even if Captain Lewis does go forward, he can only fail
at the last. This is what is said by the Federalists, by your enemies.
And perhaps by certain of my own party not Federalistsby Colonel
Aaron Burr, for instance! Thomas Jefferson smiled grimly.
Yes! She spoke firmly and with courage.
I cannot pause to inquire what my enemies say, my dear lady. But in
what way could this effect our friend, Captain Lewis? He is under
orders, on my errand.
I saw him this very morningI took my reputation in my handsI
followed himI urged him, I implored him to stop!
Yes? And did he?
Not for an instant. Ah, I see you smile! I might have known he
would not. He said that nothing but word from you could induce him to
hesitate for a moment.
My dear young lady, I said to Captain Lewis that no report from any
source would cause me for an instant to doubt his loyalty to me. If
anything could shake him in his loyalty, it would be his regard for you
yourself; but since I trust his honor and your own, I do not fear that
such a conflict can ever occur!
She did not reply. After a time the President went on gently:
My dear, would you wish him to come backwould you condemn him
further to the tortures of the damned? And would you halt him while he
is trying to do his duty as a man and a soldier? What benefit to you?
She drew up proudly.
What benefit, indeed, to me? Do you think I would ask this for
myself? No, it was for himit was for his welfare only
that I dared to come to you. And you will not hear new evidence?
But now she was speaking to Thomas Jefferson, the President of the
United States, man of affairs as well, man of firm will and clear-cut
Madam, said he, coldly, in this office we do a thing but once.
Had I condemned yonder young man to his deathand perhaps I haveI
would not now reconsider that decision. I would not speak so long as
this over it, did I not know and love you bothyes, and grieve over
you both; but what is written is written.
His giant hand fell lightly, but with firmness, on the desk at his
side. The inexorableness of a great will was present in the room as an
actual thing. Tears swam in her eyes.
You would not hear what was the actual cause of my wish for
No, my dear! We have made our plans.
There are other plans afoot these days, Mr. Jefferson.
Tut, tut! Are you my enemy, too? Oh, yes, I know there are enemies
enough in wait for me and my administration on every side. Yes, I know
a planI know of many such. But one thing also I do know, madam, and
it is thisnot all the enemies on this earth can alter me one iota in
this undertaking on which I have sent Captain Lewis. As against that
magnificent adventure there is nothing can be offered as an offset,
nothing that can halt it for an instant. No reward to him or menay,
no reward to any other human beingshall stop his advancement in that
purpose which he shares with me. If he fails, I fail with himand all
my life as well!
She rose now, calm before the imperious quality of his nature, so
unlike his former gentleness.
You refuse, then, Mr. Jefferson? You will not reopen this case?
I refuse nothing to you gladly, my dear lady. But you have seen
himyou have tested him. Did he turn back? Shall I, his friend and his
chief, halt him at such a time? Now that were the worst kindness to him
in the world. And I am convinced that you and I both plan only kindness
Suddenly he saw the tears in her eyes. At once he was back again,
the courteous gentleman.
Do not weep, Theodosia, my child, said he. Let me kiss you, as
your father or your grandfather wouldone who holds you tenderly in
his heart. Forgive me that I pass sentence on you both, but you must
partyou must not ask him back. There now, my dear, do not weep, or
you will make me weep. Let me kiss you for himand let us all go on
about our duties in the world. My dear, good-by! You must go.
CHAPTER X. THE THRESHOLD OF THE WEST
Meriwether Lewis, having put behind him one set of duties, now
addressed himself to another, and did so with care and thoroughness. A
few of his men, a part of his outfitting, he found already assembled at
Harper's Ferry, up the Potomac. Before sunset of the first day the
little band knew they had a leader.
There was not a knife or a tomahawk of the entire equipment which he
himself did not examinenot a rifle which he himself did not
personally test. He went over the boxes and bales which had been
gathered here, and saw to their arrangement in the transport-wagons. He
did all this without bluster or officiousness, but with the quiet care
and thoroughness of the natural leader of men.
In two days they were on their way across the Alleghanies. A few
days more of steady travel sufficed to bring them to Pittsburgh, the
head of navigation on the Ohio River, and at that time the American
capital in the upper valley of the West. At Pittsburgh Captain Lewis
was to build his boats, to complete the details of his equipment, to
take on additional men for his partynow to be officially styled the
Volunteers for the Discovery of the West. He lost no time in urging
forward the necessary work.
The young adventurer found this inland town half maritime in its
look. Its shores were lined with commerce suited to a seaport.
Schooners of considerable tonnage lay at the wharfs, others were
building in the busy shipyards. The destination of these craft
obviously was down the Mississippi, to the sea. Here were vessels bound
for the West Indies, bound for Philadelphia, for New York, for
Bostoncarrying the products of this distant and little-known
As he looked at this commerce of the great West, pondered its
limitations, saw its trend with the down-slant of the perpetual roadway
to the sea, there came to the young officer's mind with greater force
certain arguments that had been advanced to him.
He saw that here was the heart of America, realized how natural was
the insistence of all these hardy Western men upon the free use of the
Mississippi and its tributaries. He easily could agree with Aaron Burr
that, had the fleet of Napoleon ever sailed from Haitihad Napoleon
ever done otherwise than to cede Louisiana to usthen these boats from
the Ohio and the Mississippi would at this very moment, perhaps, be
carrying armed men down to take New Orleans, as so often they had
There came, however, to his mind not the slightest thought of
alteration in his own plans. With him it was no question of what might
have been, but of what actually was. The cession by Napoleon had been
made, and Louisiana was ours. It was time to plot for expeditions, not
down the great river, but across it, beyond it, into that great and
unknown country that lay toward the farther sea.
The keen zest of this vast enterprise came to him as a stimulusthe
feel of the new country was as the breath of his nostrils. His bosom
swelled with joy as he looked out toward that West which had so long
allured himthat West of which he was to be the discoverer. The
carousing riffraff of the wharfs, the flotsam and jetsam of the river
trade, were to him but passing phenomena. He shouldered his way among
them indifferently. He walked with a larger vision before his eyes.
Now, too, he had newsgood news, fortunate news, joyous newsnone
less than the long-delayed answer of his friend, Captain William Clark,
to his proposal that he should associate himself with the Volunteers
for the Discovery of the West. Misspelled, scrawled, done in the
hieroglyphics which marked that remarkable gentleman, William Clark's
letter carried joy to the heart of Meriwether Lewis. It cemented one of
the most astonishing partnerships ever known among men, one of the most
beautiful friendships of which history leaves note. Let us give the
strange epistle in Clark's own spelling:
Yours to hand touching uppon the Expedishon into the
Missourie Country, &I send this by special bote up the
river to mete you at Pts'brgh, at the Foarks. You convey a
moast welcome and appreciated invitation to join you in an
Enterprise conjenial to my Every thought and Desire. It will
in all likelyhood require at least a year to make the
journey out and Return, but although that means certain
Sacrifises of a personal sort, I hold such far less than the
pleasure to enlist with you, wh. indeed I hold to be my duty
I need not say how content I am to be associated with the
man moast of all my acquaintance apt to achieve Success in
an undertaking of so difficult and perlous nature. As you
know, it is in the wilderness men are moast sevearly tried,
and there we know a man. I have seen you so tried, and I
Know what you are. I am proud that you apeare to hold me and
my own qualities in like confident trust and belief, and I
shall hope to merit no alteration in your Judgment.
There is no other man I would go with on such an
undertaking, nor consider it seriously, although the concern
of my family largely has been with things military and
adventurous, and we are not new to life among Savidges. Too
well I know the dangers of bad leadership in such affairs,
yes and my brother, the General, also, as the story of
Detroit and the upper Ohio country could prove. All of that
country should have been ours from the first, and only lack
of courage lost it so long to us.
You are so kind as to offer me a place equal in command with
youI accept not because of the Rank, which is no moving
consideration, eather for you or for mebut because I see
in the jenerosity of the man proposing such a division of
his own Honors, the best assurance of success.
You will find me at or near the Falls of the Ohio awaiting
the arrival of your party, which I taik it will be in early
August or the Midel of that month.
Pray convey to Mr. Jefferson my humble and obedient
respects, and thanks for this honor wh. I shall endeavor to
merit as best lies within my powers.
With all affec'n, I remain,
P. S.God alone knows how mutch this all may mean to You
and me, MerneWILL.
Clark, then, was to meet him at the Falls of the Ohio, and he, too,
counseled haste. Lewis drove his drunken, lazy workmen in the shipyards
as hard as he might, week after week, yet found six weeks elapsed
before at last he was in any wise fitted to set forth. The delay
fretted him, even though he received word from his chief bidding him
not to grieve over the possible loss of a season in his start, but to
do what he might and to possess his soul in patience and in confidence.
Recruits of proper sort for his purposes did not grow on trees, he
found, but he added a few men to his party now and then, picking them
slowly, carefully. One morning, while engaged in his duties of
supervising the work in progress at the shipyards, he had his attention
attracted to a youth of some seventeen or eighteen years, who stood,
cap in hand, at a little distance, apparently too timid to accost him.
What is it, my son? said he. Did you wish to see me?
The boy advanced, smiling.
You do not know me, sir. My name is ShannonGeorge Shannon. I used
to know you when you were stationed here with the army. I was a boy
You are rightI remember you perfectly. So you are grown into a
strapping young man, I see!
The boy twirled his cap in his hands.
I want to go along with you, Captain, said he shyly.
What? You would go with medo you know what is our journey?
No. I only hear that you are going up the Missouri, beyond St.
Louis, into new country. They say there are buffalo there, and Indians.
'Tis too quiet here for meI want to see the world with you.
The young leader, after his fashion, stood silently regarding the
other for a time. An instant served him.
Very well, George, said he. If your parents consent, you shall go
with me. Your pay will be such that you can save somewhat, and I trust
you will use it to complete your schooling after your return. There
will be adventure and a certain honor in our undertaking. If we come
back successful, I am persuaded that our country will not forget us.
And so that matter was completed. Strangely enough, as the future
proved, were the fortunes of these two to intermingle. From the first,
Shannon attached himself to his captain almost in the capacity of
At last the great bateau lay ready, launched from the docks and
moored alongside the wharf. Fifty feet long it was, with mast, tholes
and walking-boards for the arduous upstream work. It had received a
part of its cargo, and soon all was in readiness to start.
On the evening of that day Lewis sat down to pen a last letter to
his chief. He wrote in the little office-room of the inn where he was
stopping, and for a time he did not note the presence of young Shannon,
who stood, as usual, silent until his leader might address him.
What, is it, George? he asked at length, looking up.
Someone waiting to see you, sirthey are in the parlor. They sent
They? Who are they?
I don't know, sir. She asked me to come for you.
She. Who is she?
I don't know, sir. She spoke to her father. They are in the room
just across the hall, sir.
The face of Meriwether Lewis was pale when presently he opened the
door leading to the apartment which had been indicated. He knew, or
thought he knew, who this must be. But whywhy?
The interior was dim. A single lamp of the inefficient sort then in
use served only to lessen the gloom. Presently, however, he saw
awaiting him the figure he had anticipated. Yes, it was she herself.
Almost his heart stood still.
Theodosia Alston arose from the spot where she sat in the deeper
shadows, and came forward to him. He met her, his hands outstretched,
his pulse leaping eagerly in spite of his reproofs. He dreaded, yet
Why are you here? he asked at length.
My father and I are on a journey down the river to visit Mr.
Blennerhasset on his island. You know his castle there?
Why is it that you always come to torment me the more? Another day
and I should have been gone!
Torment you, sir?
You rebuke me properly. I presume I should have courage to meet you
alwaysto speak with youto look into your eyesto take your hands
in mine. But I find it hard, terribly hard! Each time it is
worsebecause each time I must leave you. Why did you not wait one
She made no reply. He fought for his self-control.
Mr. Jefferson, how is he? he demanded at length. You left him
Unchangeable as flint. You said that only the order of your chief
could change your plans. I sought to gain that orderI went myself to
see Mr. Jefferson, that very day you started. He said that nothing
could alter his faith in you, and that nothing could alter the plan you
both had made. He would not call you back. He ordered me not to attempt
to do so; but I have broken the President's command. You find it hard!
Do you think this is not hard for me also?
These are strange words. What is your motive? What is it that you
plan? Why should you seek to stop me when I am trying to blot your face
out of my mind? Strange labor is thatto try to forget what I hold
You shall not leave my face behind you, Captain Lewis! she said
What do you mean, Theodosia? What is it?
You shall see me every night under the stars, Meriwether Lewis. I
will not let you go. I will not relinquish you!
He turned swiftly toward her, but paused as if caught back by some
What is it? he said once more, half in a whisper. What do you
mean? Would you ruin me? Would you see me go to ruin?
No! To the contrary, shall I allow you to hasten into the usual
ruin of a man? If you go yonder, what will be the fate of Meriwether
Lewis? You have spoken beautifully to me at timesyou have awakened
some feeling of what images a woman may make in a man's heart. I have
been no more to you than any woman is to any manthe image of a dream.
But, that being so beautiful, ought I to allow you to turn it to ruin?
Shall I let you go down in savagery? Ah, if I thought I were
relinquishing you to that, this would be a heavy day for me!
Can you fancy what all this means to me? he broke out hoarsely.
Yes, I can fancy. And what for me? So much my feeling for you has
beenoh, call it what you likeadmiration, affection, maternal
tendernessI do not know whatbut so much have I wished, so much have
I planned for your future in return for what you have given meah, I
do not dare tell you. I could not dare come here if I did not know that
I was never to see or speak to you again. It tears my heart from my
bosom that I must say these things to you. I have risked all my honor
in your hands. Is there no reward for that? Is my recompense to be only
your assertion that I torment you, that I torture you? What! Is there
no torture for me as well? The thought that I have done this covertly,
secretlywhat do you think that costs me?
Your secret is absolutely safe with me, Theodosia. No, it is not a
secret! We have sworn that neither of us would lay a secret upon the
other. I swear that to you once more.
And yet you upbraid me when I say I cannot give you up to any fate
but that of happiness and successoh, not with me, for that is beyond
us twoit is past forever. But happiness
There are some words that burn deep, he said slowly. I know that
I was not made for happiness.
Does a woman's wish mean nothing to you? Have I no appeal for you?
Something like a sob was torn from his bosom.
You can speak thus with me? he said huskily. If you cannot leave
me happiness, can you not at least leave me partial peace of mind?
She stood slightly swaying, silent.
And you say you will not relinquish me, you will not let me go to
that fate which surely is mine? You say you will not let me be savage?
I say I am too nearly savage now. Let me golet me go yonder into the
wilderness, where I may be a gentleman!
He saw her movement as she turned, heard her sigh.
Sometimes, she said, I have thought it worth a woman's life
thrown away that a strong man may succeed. Failure and sacrifice a
woman may offernot much more. But it is as my father told me!
He told you what?
That only chivalry would ever make you forget your dutythat you
never could be approached through your weakness, but only through your
strength, through your honor. I cannot approach you through your
strength, and I would not approach you through your weakness, even if I
could. No! Wait. Perhaps some day it will all be made clear for both of
us, so that we may understand. Yes, this is torture for us both!
He heard the soft rustle of her gown, her light footfall as she
passed; and once more he was alone.
CHAPTER XI. THE TAMING OF PATRICK
Shannon, go get the men!
It was midnight. For more than an hour Meriwether Lewis had sat, his
head drooped, in silence.
We are going to start? Shannon's face lightened eagerly. We'll be
off at sunup?
Before that. Get the menwe'll start now! I'll meet you at the
Eager enough, Shannon hastened away on his midnight errand. Within
an hour every man of the little party was at the water front, ready for
departure. They found their leader walking up and down, his head bent,
his hands behind him.
It was short work enough, the completion of such plans as remained
unfinished. The great keel-boat lay completed and equipped at the
wharf. The men lost little time in stowing such casks and bales as
remained unshipped. Shannon stepped to his chief.
All's aboard, sir, said he. Shall we cast off?
Without a word Lewis nodded and made his way to his place in the
boat. In the darkness, without a shout or a cheer to mark its passing,
the expedition was launched on its long journey.
Slowly the boat passed along the waterfront of Pittsburgh town. Here
rose gauntly, in the glare of torch or camp fire, the mast of some
half-built schooner. Houseboats were drawn up or anchored alongshore,
long pirogues lay moored or beached, or now and again a giant
broadhorn, already partially loaded with household goods, common
carrier for that human flood passing down the great waterway, stood out
blacker than the shadows in which it lay.
Here and there camp fires flickered, each the center of a ribald
group of the hardy rivermen. Through the night came sounds of
roistering, songs, shouts. Arrested, pent, dammed up, the lusty life of
that great waterway leading into the West and South scarce took time
The boat slipped on down, now crossing a shaft of light flung on the
water from some lamp or fire, now blending with the ghostlike shadows
which lay in the moonless night. It passed out of the town itself, and
edged into the shade of the forest that swept continuously for so many
leagues on ahead.
Hello, there! called a voice through the darkness, after a time.
Who goes there?
The splash of a sweep had attracted the attention of someone on
shore. The light of a camp fire showed.
Every one in the boat looked at the leader, but none vouchsafed a
reply to the hail.
Ahoy there, the boat! insisted the same voice.
Shall I fire on yez to make yez answer a civil question? Come
ashore wanceI can lick the best of yez in three minutes, or me name's
not Patrick Gass!
The captain of the boat turned slowly in his seat, casting a glance
over his silent crew.
Set in! said he, sharply and shortly.
Without a word they obeyed, and with oar and steering-sweep the
great craft slowly swung inshore.
Lewis stepped from the boat, and, not waiting to see whether he was
followedas he was by all of his menstrode on up the bank into the
circle of light made by the camp fire. About the fire lay a dozen or
more men of the hardest of the river type, which was saying quite
enough; for of all the lawless and desperate characters of the
frontier, none have ever surpassed in reckless audacity and truculence
the men of the old boat trade of the Ohio and the Mississippi.
These fellows lay idly looking at Lewis as he entered the light, not
troubling to accost him.
Who hailed us? demanded the latter shortly.
Begorrah, 'twas me, said a short, strongly built man, stepping
forward from the other side of the fire.
Clad in loose shirt and trousers, like most of his comrades, he
showed a powerful man, a shock of reddish hair falling over his eyes, a
bull-like neck rising above his open shirt in such fashion that the
size of his shoulder muscles might easily be seen.
'Twas me hailed yez, and what of it?
That is what I came ashore to learn, said Meriwether Lewis. We
are about our business. What concern is that of yours? I am here to
Yez can learn, if ye're so anxious, replied the other. 'Tis me
have got three drinks of Monongahaly in me that says I can whip you or
anny man of your boat. And if that aint cause for ye to come ashore,
'tis no fighting man ye are, an' I'll say that to your face!
It was the accepted fashion of challenge known anywhere along two
thousand miles of waterway at that time, in a country where physical
prowess and readiness to fight were the sole tests of distinction. Woe
to the man who evaded such an issue, once it was offered to him!
The speaker had stepped close to Lewisso close that the latter did
not need to advance a foot. Instead, he held his ground, and the
challenger, accepting this as a sign of willingness for battle, rushed
at him, with the evident intent of a rough-and-tumble grapple after the
fashion of his kind. To his surprise, he was held off by the leveled
forearm of his opponent, rigid as a bar against his throat.
At this rebuff he roared like a bull, and breaking back rushed in
once more, his giant arms flailing. Lewis swung back half a step, and
then, so quickly that none saw the blow, but only its result was
visible, he shifted on his feet, leaned into his thrust, and smote the
joyous challenger so fell a stroke in the throat as laid him quivering
and helpless. The brief fight was ended all too soon to suit the wishes
of the spectators, used to more prolonged and bloodier encounters.
A sort of gasp, a half roar of surprise and anger, came from the
group upon the ground. Some of the party rose to their feet menacingly.
They met the silent front of the boat party, the clicking of whose
well-oiled rifle-locks offered the most serious of warnings.
The sudden appearance of these visitors, so silent and so
promptthe swift act of their leader, without threat, without
warningthe instant readiness of the others to back their leader's
initiativecaught every one of these rude fighting men in the sudden
grip of surprise. They hesitated.
I am no fighting man, said Meriwether Lewis, turning to them; yet
neither may I be insulted by any lout who chooses to call me ashore to
thrash him. Do you think that an officer of the army has no better
business than that? Who are you that would stop us?
The group fell back muttering, lacking concerted action. What might
have occurred in case they had reached their arms was prevented by the
action of the party of the first part in this rencontreof the
second part, perhaps, he might better have been called. The fallen
warrior sat up, rubbing his throat; he struggled to his knees, and at
length stood. There was something of rude river chivalry about him,
An officer, did ye say? said he. Oh, wirra! What have I done now,
and me a soldier! But ye done it fair! And ye niver wance gouged me nor
jumped on me whin I was down! Begorrah, I felt both me eyes to see if
they was in! Ye done it fair, and ye're an officer and a gintleman,
whoever ye be. I'd like to shake hands with ye!
I am not shaking hands with ruffians who insult travelers, Captain
Lewis sternly rejoined; but he saw the crestfallen look which swept
over the strong face of the other. There, man, said he, since you
seem to mean well!
He shook hands with his opponent, who, stung by the rebuke, now
began to sniffle.
Sor, said he, I am no ruffian. I am a soldier meself, and on me
way to join me company at Kaskasky, down below. Me time was out awhile
back, and I came East to the States to have a bit av a fling before I
enlisted again. Now, what money I haven't give to me parents I've spint
like a man. I have had me fling for awhile, and I'm goin' back to sign
on again. Sor, I am a sergeant and a good wan, though I do say it. Me
record is clean. I am Patrick Gass, first sergeant of the Tinth
Dragoons, the same now stationed at Kaskasky. Though ye are not in
uniform, I know well enough ye are an officer. Sor, I ask yer
pardon'twas only the whisky made me feel sportin' like at the time,
do ye mind?
Gass, Patrick Gass, you said?
Yis, sor, of the Tinth. Barrin' me love for fightin' I am a good
soldier. There are stripes on me sleeves be rights, but me old coat's
hangin' in the barracks down below.
Lewis stood looking curiously at the man before him, the power of
whose grip he had felt in his own. He cast an eye over his erect
figure, his easy and natural dropping into the position of a soldier.
You say the Tenth? said he briefly. You have been with the
colors? Look here, my man, do you want to serve?
I am going right back to Kaskasky for it, sor.
Why not enlist with us? I need men. We are off for the West, up the
Missourifor a long trip, like enough. You seem a well-built man, and
you have seen service. I know men when I see them. I want men of
courage and good temper. Will you go?
I could not say, sor. I would have to ask leave at Kaskasky. I gave
me word I'd come back after I'd had me fling here in the East, ye see.
I'll take care of that. I have full authority to recruit among
Excuse me, sor, ye are sayin' ye are goin' up the Missouri? Then I
know yezyez are the Captain Lewis that has been buildin' the big boat
the last two months up at the yardsCaptain Lewis from Washington.
Yes, and from the Ohio country before thenand Kentucky, too. I am
to join Captain Clark at the Point of Rocks on the Ohio. I need another
oar. Come, my man, we are on our way. Two minutes ought to be enough
for you to decide.
I'll need not the half of two! rejoined Patrick Gass promptly.
Give me leave of my captain, and I am with yez! There is nothin' in
the world I'd liever see than the great plains and the buffalo. 'Tis
fond of travel I am, and I'd like to see the ind of the world before I
You will come as near seeing the end of it with us as anywhere else
I know, rejoined Lewis quietly. Get your war-bag and come aboard.
In this curious fashion Patrick Gass of the armylater one of the
journalists of the expedition, and always one of its most faithful and
efficient memberssigned his name on the rolls of the Lewis and Clark
There was not one of the frontiersmen in the boat who had any
comment to make upon any phase of the transaction; indeed, it seemed
much in the day's work to them. But from that instant every man in the
boat knew he had a leader who could be depended upon for prompt and
efficient action in any emergency; and from that moment, also, their
leader knew he could depend on his men.
I have nothing to complain of, said Patrick Gass, addressing his
new friends impartially, as he shifted his belongings to suit him and
took his place at a rowing seat. I have nothing to complain of. I've
been sayin' I would like to have one more rale fight before I
enlistedthe army is too tame for a fellow of rale spirit. None o'
thim at the camp yonder, where I was two days, would take it on with me
after the first day. I was fair longin' for something to interest
meand be jabers, I found it! Now I am continted to ind me vacation
and come back to the monothony of business life.
The boat advanced steadily enough thereafter throughout the night.
They pulled ashore at dawn, and, after the fashion of experienced
travelers, were soon about the business of the morning meal.
The leader of the party drew apart for the morning plunge which was
his custom. Cover lacking on the bare bar where they had landed, he was
not fully out of sight when at length, freshened by his plunge, he
stood drying himself for dressing. Unconsciously, his arm extended, he
looked for all the world the very statue of the young Apoxyomenos of
the Vaticanthe finest figure of a man that the art of antiquity has
handed down to us.
As that smiling youth out of the past stood, scraper in hand, drying
himself after the games, so now stood this young American, type of a
new race, splendid as the Greeks themselves in the immortal beauty of
life. His white body shining in the sun, every rolling muscle plainly
visibleeven that rare muscle over the hip beloved of the ancients,
but now forgotten of sculptors, because rarely seen on a man todayso
comely was he, so like a god in his clean youth, that Patrick Gass,
unhampered by backwardness himself, turned to his new companions, whom
already he addressed each by his first name.
George, said he to young Shannon, George, saw ye ever the like of
yon? What a man! Lave I had knowed he could strip like yon, niver would
I have taken the chance I did last night. 'Tis wonder he didn't kill
mein which case I'd niver have had me job. The Lord loves us Irish,
anny way you fix it!
CHAPTER XII. CAPTAIN WILLIAM CLARK
The two young men gripped hands as the great bateau swung inshore at
the Point of Rocks on the Kentucky side of the Ohio. They needed not to
do more, these two. The face of each told the other what he felt. Their
mutual devotion, their generosity and unselfishness, their unflagging
unity of purpose, their perfect manly comradeshipwhat wonder so many
have called the story of these two more romantic than romance itself?
It has been long since we met, Will, said Meriwether Lewis. I
have been eating my heart out up at Pittsburgh. I got your letter, and
glad enough I was to have it. I had been fearing that I would have to
go on alone. Now I feel as if we already had succeeded. I cannot tell
youbut I don't need to try.
And you, Merne, rejoined William ClarkCaptain William Clark, if
you please, border fighter, leader of men, one of a family of leaders
of men, tall, gaunt, red-headed, blue-eyed, smiling, himself a splendid
figure of a manyou, Merne, are a great man now, famous there in
Washington! Mr. Jefferson's right-hand manwe hear of you often across
the mountains. I have been waiting for you here, as anxious as
The water is low, complained Lewis, and a thousand things have
delayed us. Are you ready to start?
In ten minutesin five minutes. I will have my boy York go up and
get my rifle and my bags.
Your brother, General Clark, how is he?
William Clark shrugged with a smile which had half as much sorrow as
mirth in it.
The truth is, Merne, the general's heart is broken. He thinks that
his country has forgotten him.
Forgotten him? From Detroit to New Orleanswe owe it all to George
Rogers Clark. It was he who opened the river from Pittsburgh to New
Orleans. He'll not need, now, to be an ally of France again. Once more
a member of your family will be in at the finding of a vast new
Merne, I've sold my farm. I got ten thousand dollars for my
placeand so I am off with you, not with much of it left in my
pockets, but with a clean bill and a good conscience, and some of the
family debts paid. I care not how far we go, or when we come back. I
thank Mr. Jefferson for taking me on with you. 'Tis the gladdest time
in all my life!
We are share and share alike, Will, said his friend Lewis,
soberly. Tell me, can we get beyond the Mississippi this fall, do you
Doubtful, said Clark. The Spanish of the valley are not very well
reconciled to this Louisiana sale, and neither are the French. They
have been holding all that country in partnership, each people afraid
of the other, and both showing their teeth to us. But I hear the
commission is doing well at St. Louis, and I presume the transfer will
be made this fall or winter. After that they cannot stop us from going
on. Tell me, have you heard anything of Colonel Burr's plan? There have
come new rumors of the old attempt to separate the West from the
government at Washington, and he is said to have agents scattered from
St. Louis to New Orleans.
He did not note the sudden flush on his friend's faceindeed, gave
him no time to answer, but went on, absorbed in his own executive
What sort of men have you in your party, Merne?
Only good ones, I think. Young Shannon and an army sergeant by the
name of Gass, Patrick Gassthey should be very good men. I brought on
Collins from Maryland and Pete Weiser from Pennsylvania, also good
stuff, I think. McNeal, Potts, GibsonI got those around Carlisle. We
need more men.
I have picked out a few here, said Clark. You know Kentucky
breeds explorers. I have a good blacksmith, Shields, and Bill Bratton
is another blacksmitheither can tinker a gun if need be. Then I have
John Coalter, an active, strapping chap, and the two Fields boys, whom
I know to be good men; and Charlie Floyd, Nate Pryor, and a couple of
othersWarner and Whitehouse. We should get the rest at the forts
around St. Louis. I want to take my boy York alonga negro is always
good-natured under hardship, and a laugh now and then will not hurt any
Lewis nodded assent.
Your judgment of men is as good as mine, Will. But come, it is
September, and the leaves are falling. All my men have the fall hunt in
their bloodthey will start for any place at any moment. Let us move.
Suppose you take the boat on down, and let me go across, horseback, to
Kaskaskia. I have some business there, and I will try for a few more
recruits. We must have fifty men.
Nothing shall stop us, Merne, and we cannot start too soon. I want
to see fresh grass every night for a year. But youhow can you be
content to punish yourself for so long? For me, I am half Indian; but I
expected to have heard long ago that you were married and settled down
as a Virginia squire, raising tobacco and negroes, like anyone else.
Tell me, how about that old affair of which you once used to confide to
me when we were soldiering together here, years back? 'Twas a fair New
York maid, was it not? From what you said I fancied her quite without
comparison, in your estimate, at least. Yet here you are, vagabonding
out into a country where you may be gone for yearsor never come back
at all, for all we know. Have a care, manpretty girls do not wait!
As he spoke, so strange a look passed over his friend's face that
William Clark swiftly put out a hand.
What is it, Merne? Pardon me! Did shenot wait?
His companion looked at him gravely.
She married, something like three years ago. She is the wife of Mr.
Alston, a wealthy planter of the Carolinas, a friend of her father and
a man of station. A good marriage for herfor himfor both.
The sadness of his face spoke more than his words to his warmest
friend, and left them both silent for a time. William Clark ceased
breaking bark between his fingers and flipping away the pieces.
Well, in my own case, said he at length, I have no ties to cut.
'Tis as wellwe shall have no faces of women to trouble us on our
trails out yonder. They don't belong there, Mernethe ways of the
trappers are best. But we must not talk too much of this, he added.
I'll see you yet well settled down as a Virginia squireyour white
hair hanging down on your shoulders and a score of grandchildren about
your knees to hamper you.
William Clark meant wellhis friend knew that; so now he smiled, or
tried to smile.
Merne, the red-headed one went on, throwing an arm across his
friend's shoulders, pass over this affaircut it out of your heart.
Believe me, believe me, the friendship of men is the only one that
lasts. We two have eaten from the same pannikin, slept under the same
bear-robe before nowwe still may do so. And look at the adventures
You are a boy, Will, said Meriwether Lewis, actually smiling now,
and I am glad you are and always will be; because, Will, I never was a
boyI was born old. But now, he added sharply, as he rose, a
pleasant journey to us bothand the longer the better!
CHAPTER XIII. UNDER THREE FLAGS
The day was but beginning for the young American republic. All the
air was vibrant with the passion of youth and romance. Yonder in the
West there might be fame and fortune for any man with courage to
adventure. The world had not yet settled down to inexorable grooves of
life, from which no human soul might fight its way out save at cost of
sweetness and content and hope. The chance of one man might still equal
that of anotheryonder, in that vast new world along the Mississippi,
beyond the Mississippi, more than a hundred years ago.
Into that world there now pressed a flowing, seething, restless
mass, a new population seeking new avenues of hope and life, of
adventure and opportunity. Riflemen, axmen, fighting men, riding men,
boatmen, plowmenthey made ever out and on, laughing the Cossack laugh
at the mere thought of any man or thing withstanding them.
Over this new world, alert, restless, full of Homeric youth, full of
the lust of life and adventure, floated three flags. The old war of
France and Spain still smoldered along the great waterway into the
South. The flag of Great Britain had withdrawn itself to the North. The
flag of our republic had not yet advanced.
Those who made the Western population at that time cared little
enough about flags or treaty rights. They concerned themselves rather
with possession. Let any who liked observe the laws. The strong made
their own laws from day to day, and wrote them in one general codex of
adventure and full-blooded, roistering life. The world was young. Buy
land? No, why buy it, when taking it was so much more simple and
Based on this general lust of conquest, this Saxon zeal for new
territories, must have been that inspiration of Thomas Jefferson in his
venture of the far Northwest. He saw there the splendid vision of his
ideal republic. He saw there a citizenry no longer riotous and
roistering, not yet frenzied or hysterical, but strong, sober, and
constant. His was a glorious vision. Would God we had fully realized
There were three flags afloat here or there in the Western country
then, and none knew what land rightly belonged under any of the three.
Indeed, over the heart of that region now floated all the three banners
at the same timethat of Spain, passing but still proud, for a
generation actual governor if not actual owner of all the country
beyond the Mississippi, so far as it had any government at all; that of
France, owner of the one great seaport, New Orleans, settler of the
valley for a generation; and that of the new republic only just
arriving into the respect of men either of the East or the Westa
republic which had till recently exacted respect chiefly through the
stark deadliness of its fighting and marching men.
It was a splendid game in which these two boys, Meriwether Lewis and
William Clarkthey scarcely were more than boysnow were entering.
And with the superb unconsciousness and self-trust of youth, they
played it with dash and confidence, never doubting their success.
The prediction of William Clark none the less came true. In this
matter of flags, autocratic Spain was not disposed to yield. De Lassus,
Spanish commandant for so many years, would not let the young travelers
go beyond St. Louis, even so far as Charette. He must be sure that his
countrywhich, by right or not, he had ruled so longhad not only
been sold by Spain to France, but that the cession had been duly
confirmed; and, furthermore, he must be sure that the cession by France
to the United States had also been concluded formally.
Traders and trappers had been passing through from the plains
country, yesbut this was a different matter. Here was a flotilla
under a third flagit must not pass. Spanish official dignity was not
thus to be shaken, not to be hurried. All must wait until the
formalities had been concluded.
This delay meant the loss of the entire winter. The two young
leaders of the expedition were obliged to make the best of it they
Clark formed an encampment in the timbered country across the
Mississippi from St. Louis, and soon had his men comfortably ensconced
in cabins of their own building. Meanwhile he picked up more men around
the adjacent military postsOrdway and Howard and Frazer of the New
England regiment; Cruzatte, Labiche, Lajeunesse, Drouillard and other
voyageurs for watermen. They made a hardy and efficient band.
Upon Captain Lewis devolved most of the scientific work of the
expedition. It was necessary for him to spend much time in St. Louis,
to complete his store of instruments, to extend his own studies in
scientific matters. Perhaps, after all, the success of the expedition
was furthered by this delay upon the border.
Twenty-nine men they had on the expedition rolls by
springforty-five in all, counting assistants who were not officially
enrolled. Their equipment for the entire journey out and back, of more
than two years in duration, was to cost them not more than twenty-five
hundred dollars. A tiny army, a meager equipment, for the taking of the
richest empire of the world!
But now this army of a score and a half of men was to witness the
lowering before it of two of the greatest flags then known to the
world. It already had seen the retirement of that of Great Britain. The
wedge which Burr and Merry and Yrujo had so dreaded was now about to be
driven home. The country must split apartGreat Britain must fall back
to the Norththese other powers, France and Spain, must make way to
the South and West.
The army of the new republic, under two loyal boys for leaders,
pressed forward, not with drums or banners, not with the roll of
kettledrums, not with the pride and circumstance of glorious war. The
soldiers of its ranks had not even a uniformthey were clad in
buckskin and linsey, leather and fur. They had no trained fashion of
march, yet stood shoulder and shoulder together well enough. They were
not drilled into the perfection of trained soldiers, perhaps, but each
could use his rifle, and knew how far was one hundred yards.
The boats were coming down with furs from the great Westfrom the
Omahas, the Kaws, the Osages. Keel boats came up from the lower river,
mastering a thousand miles and more of that heavy flood to bring back
news from New Orleans. Broadhorns and keel-boats and sailboats and
river pirogues passed down.
The strange, colorful life of the little capital of the West went on
eagerly. St. Louis was happy; Detroit was glumthe fur trade had been
split in half. Great Britain had lostthe furs now went out down the
Mississippi instead of down the St. Lawrence. A world was in the making
and remaking; and over that disturbed and divided world there still
floated the three rival flags.
Five days before Christmas of 1803, the flag of France fluttered
down in the old city of New Orleans. They had dreaded the fleet of
Great Britain at New Orleanshad hoped for the fleet of France. They
got a fleet of Americans in flatboatsrude men with long rifles and
leathern garments, who came under paddle and oar, and not under sail.
Laussat was the last French commandant in the valley. De Lassus, the
Spaniard, holding onto his dignity up the Missouri River beyond St.
Louis, still clung to the sovereignty that Spain had deserted. And
across the river, in a little row of log cabins, lay the new army with
the new flagan army of twenty-nine men, backed by twenty-five hundred
dollars of a nation's hoarded war gold!
It was a time for hope or for despaira time for success or
failurea time for loyalty or for treason. And that army of
twenty-nine men in buckskin altered the map of the world, the history
of a vast continent.
While Meriwether Lewis gravely went about his scientific studies,
and William Clark merrily went about his dancing with the gay St. Louis
belles, when not engaged in drilling his men beyond the river, the
winter passed. Spring came. The ice ceased to run in the river, the
geese honked northward in millions, the grass showed green betimes.
The men in Clark's encampment were almost mutinous with lust for
travel. But still the authorities had not completed their formalities;
still the flag of Spain floated over the crossbars of the gate of the
stone fortress, last stronghold of Spain in the valley of our great
March passed, and April. Not until the 9th of May, in the year 1804,
were matters concluded to suit the punctilio of France and Spain alike.
Now came the assured word that the republic of the United States
intended to stand on the Louisiana purchase, Constitution or no
Constitutionthat the government purposed to take over the land which
it had bought. On this point Mr. Jefferson was firm. De Lassus yielded
On that May morning the soldiers of Spain manning the fortifications
of the old post stood at parade when the drums of the Americans were
heard. One company of troops, under command of Captain Stoddard,
represented our army of occupation. Our real army of invasion was that
in buckskin and linsey and leathertwenty-nine men; whose captain,
Meriwether Lewis, was to be our official representative at the ceremony
De Lassus choked with emotion as he handed over the keys and the
archives which so long had been under his charge.
Sir, said he, addressing the commander, I speak for France as
well as for Spain. I hand over to you the title from France, as I hand
over to you the rule from Spain. Henceforth both are for you. I salute
With the ruffle of the few American drums the transfer was gravely
acknowledged. The flag of Spain slowly dropped from the staff where it
had floated. That of France took its place, and for one day floated by
courtesy over old St. Louis. On the morrow arose a strange new
flagthe flag of the United States. It was supported by one company of
regulars and by the little army of joint commandthe army of Lewis and
Clarktwenty-nine enlisted men in leather!
Time now, at last! said William Clark to his friend. Time for us
to say farewell! Boatsthree of themare waiting, and my men are
itching to see the buffalo plains. What is the latest news in the
village, Merne? he added. I've not been across there for two weeks.
News enough, said Meriwether Lewis gravely. I just have word of
the arrival in town of none other than Colonel Aaron Burr.
The Vice-President of the United States! What does he here? Tell
me, is he bound down the river? Is there anything in all this talk I
have heard about Colonel Burr? Is he alone?
No. I wish he were alone. Will, she is with himhis daughter, Mrs.
Well, what of that? Oh, I knowI know, but why should you meet?
How can we help meeting here in the society of this little town,
whose people are like one family? They have been invited by Mr.
Chouteau to come to his houseI also am a guest there. Will, what
shall I do? It torments me!
Oh, tut, tut! said light-hearted William Clark. What shall you
do? Why, in the first place, pull the frown from your face, Merne. Now,
this young lady forsakes her husband, travelswith her father, to be
sure, but none the less she travelsalong the same trail taken by a
certain young man down the Ohio, up the Mississippi, here to St. Louis.
Should you call that a torment? Not I! I should flatter myself over it.
A torment? Should you call the flowers that change in sweetness as we
ride along through the wood a torment? Let them beware of me! I am no
respecter of fortune when it comes to a pretty face, my friend. It is
mine if it is here, and if I may kiss itdon't rebuke me, Merne! I am
full of the joy of life. Womanthe nearest womanto call her a
torment! And you a soldier! I don't blame them. Torment you? Yes, they
will, so long as you allow it. Then don't allow it!
You preach very well, Will. Of course, I know you don't practise
what you preachwho does?
Well, perhaps! But, seriously, why take life so hard, Merne? Why
don't you relaxwhy don't you swim with the current for a time? We
live but once. Tell me, do you think there was but one woman made for
each of us men in all the world? My faith, if that be true, I have had
more than my share, I fear, as I have passed along! But even when it
comes to marrying and settling down to hoeing an acre of corn-land and
raising a shoat or two for the familytell me, Merne, what woman does
a man marry? Doesn't he marry the one at handthe one that is ready
and waiting? Do you think fortune would always place the one woman in
the world ready for the one man at the one time, just when the hoeing
and the shoat-raising was to the fore? It is absurd, man! Nature dares
not take such chancesand does not.
Lewis did not answer his friend's jesting argument.
Listen, Merne, Clark went on. The memory of a kiss is better than
the memory of a tear. No, listen, Merne! The print of a kiss is sweet
as water of a spring when you are athirst. And the spring shows none
the worse for the taste of heaven it gave you. Lips and water
alikethey tell no tales. They are goods the gods gave us as part of
life. But the great thirstthe great thirst of a man for power, for
deeds, for danger, for adventure, for accomplishmentah, that is ours,
and that is harder to slake, I am thinking! A man's deeds are his life.
They tell the tale.
His deeds! Yes, you are right, they do, indeed, tell the tale. Let
us hope the reckoning will stand clean at last.
Merne, you are a soldier, not a preacher.
Will, you are neitheryou are only a boy!
CHAPTER XIV. THE RENT IN THE ARMOR
Aaron Burr came to St. Louis in the spring of 1804 as much in
desperation as with definite plans. Matters were going none too well
for him. All the time he was getting advices from the lower country,
where lay the center of his own audacious plans; but the thought of the
people was directed westward, up the Missouri.
The fame of the Lewis and Clark expedition now had gathered volume.
Constitution or no Constitution, the purchase of Louisiana had been
completed, the transfer had been formally made. The American wedge was
driving on through. If ever he was to do anything for his own
enterprise, it was now high time.
Burr's was a mind to see to the core of any problem in statecraft.
He knew what this sudden access of interest in the West indicated, so
far as his plans were concerned. It must be stoppedelse it would be
too late for any dream of Aaron Burr for an empire of his own.
His resources were dwindling. He needed funds for the many secret
agents in his employneeded yet more funds for the purchase and
support of his lands in the South. And the minister of Great Britain
had given plain warning that unless this expedition up the Missouri
could be stopped, no further aid need be expected from him.
Little by little Burr saw hope slip away from him. True, Captain
Lewis was still detained by his duties among the Osage Indians, a
little way out from the city; but the main expedition had actually
William Clark, occupied with the final details, did not finally get
his party under way until five days after the formal transfer of the
new territory of Louisiana to our flag, and three days after Burr's
arrival. At last, however, on the 14th of May, the three boats had left
St. Louis wharf, with their full complement of men and the last of the
supplies aboard for the great voyage. Captain Clark, ever light-hearted
and careless of his spelling-book, if not of his rifle, says it was a
jentle brease which aided the oars and the square-sail as they started
up the river.
Assuredly the bark of Aaron Burr was sailing under no propitious
following wind. Distracted, he paced up and down his apartment in the
home where he was a guest, preoccupied, absorbed, almost ready to
despair. He spoke but little, but time and again he cast an estimating
eye upon the young woman who accompanied him.
You are ill, Theodosia! he exclaimed at last Come, come, my
daughter, this will not do! Have you no arts of the toilet that can
overcome the story of your megrims? Shall I get you some sort of bitter
herbs? You need your brightest face, your best apparel now. These folk
of St. Louis must see us at our best, my dear, our very best.
He needed not to complete the sentence. Theodosia Alston knew well
enough what was in her father's mindknew well enough why they both
were here. It was because she would not have come alone. And she knew
that the burden of the work they had at heart must once more lie upon
her shoulders. She once more must see Captain Meriwether Lewisand it
must be soon, if ever. He was reported as being ready to leave town at
once upon his return from the Osage Indians.
But courtesy did not fail the young Virginian, and at lastalthough
with dread in his own heartwithin an hour of his actual departure, he
called to pay his compliments to guests so distinguished as these, to a
man so high in rank under the government which he himself served. He
found it necessary to apologize for his garb, suited rather to the
trail than to the drawing-room. He stood in the hall of the Chouteau
home, a picture of the soldier of the frontier rather than the courtier
of the capital.
His three-cornered military hat, his blue uniform coatthese made
the sole formality of his attire, for his feet were moccasined, his
limbs were clad in tight-fitting buckskins, and his shirt was of rough
linsey, suitable for the work ahead.
I ask your pardon, Colonel Burr, said he, for coming to you as I
am, but the moment for my start is now directly at hand. I could not
leave without coming to present my duties to you and Mrs. Alston.
Indeed, I have done so at once upon my return to town. I pray you carry
back to Mr. Jefferson my sincerest compliments. Say to him, if you
will, that we are setting forth with high hopes of success.
Formal, cold, politeit was the one wish of Captain Lewis to end
this interview as soon as he might, and to leave all sleeping dogs
lying as they were.
But Aaron Burr planned otherwise. His low, deep voice was never more
persuasive, his dark eye never more compellingnor was his bold heart
ever more in trepidation than now, as he made excuse for
My daughter, Mrs. Alston, will join us presently, he said. So you
are ready, Captain Lewis?
We are quite prepared, Colonel Burr. My men are on ahead two days'
journey, camped at St. Charles, and waiting for me to overtake them.
Dr. Saugrain, Mr. Chouteau, Mr. Labadieone or two others of the
gentlemen in the cityare so kind as to offer me a convoy of honor so
far as St. Charles. We are quite flattered. So now we startthey are
waiting for me at the wharf now, and I must go. All bridges are burned
All bridges burned?
The deep voice of Aaron Burr almost trembled. His keen eye searched
the face of the young man before him.
Every one, replied the young Virginian. I do not know how or when
I may return. Perhaps Mr. Clark or myself may come back by seashould
we ever reach the sea. We can only trust to Providence.
He was bowing and extending his own hand in farewell, with polite
excuses as to his hasterelieved that his last ordeal had been spared
him. He turned, as he felt rather than heard the approach of another,
whose coming caused his heart almost to stop beatingthe woman dreaded
and demanded by every fiber of his being.
Oh, not so fast, not so fast! laughed Theodosia Alston as she came
into the room, offering her hand. I heard you talking, and have been
hurrying to pretty myself up for Captain Lewis. What? Were you trying
to run away without ever saying good-by to me? And how you are prettied
Her gaze, following her light speech, resolved itself into one of
admiration. Theodosia Alston, as she looked, found him a goodly picture
as he stood ready for the trail.
I was just going, yes, stammered Meriwether Lewis. I had
hoped But what he had hoped he did not say.
Why might we not walk down with you to the wharf, if you are so
soon to go? she demandedher own self-control concealing any
disappointment she may have felt at her cavalier reception.
An excellent idea! said Aaron Burr, backing his daughter's hand,
and trusting to her to have some plan. A warrior must spend his last
word with some woman, captain! Go you on aheadI surrender my daughter
to you, and I shall follow presently to bid you a last Godspeed. You
said those other gentlemen were to join you there?
Meriwether Lewis found himself walking down the narrow street of the
frontier settlement between the lines of hollyhocks and budding roses
which fronted many of the little residences. It was spring, the air was
soft. He was young. The woman at his side was very beautiful. So far as
he could see they were alone.
They passed along the street, turned, made their way down the
rock-faced bluff to the water front; but still they were alone. All St.
Louis was at the farther end of the wharf, waiting for a last look at
the idol of the town.
And so Captain Lewis is going to have his way as usual? And he was
goingin spite of alleven without saying good-by to me!
Yes, I would have preferred that.
Captain Lewis is mad. Look at that river! They say that when the
boat started last week it took them an hour to make a quarter of a
mile, when they struck into the Missouri. How many thousands of hours
will it take to ascend to the mountains? How will you get your boats
across the mountains? What cascades and rapids lie on ahead? Your men
will mutiny and destroy you. You cannot succeedyou will fail!
I thank you, madam!
Oh, you must start now, I presumein fact, you have started; but I
want you to come back before your obstinacy has driven you too far.
Just what do you mean?
Listen. You have given me no time, unkind as you arenot a
momentat an hour like this! In these unsettled times, who knows what
may happen? In that very unsettlement lies the probable success of the
plan which my father and I have put before you so often. We need you to
help us. When are you going to come back to us, Merne?
As she spoke, they were approaching the long wharf along the water
front, lined with rude craft which plied the rivers at that
timeflatboats, keel-boats, pirogues, canoesand, far off at the
extremity of the line, the boat which Lewis and his friends were to
take. A party of idlers and observers stood about it even now. The gaze
of the young leader was fixed in that direction. He did not make any
immediate sign that he had heard her speech.
I told Shannon, my aide, to meet me here, he said at last. He was
to fetch my long spyglass. There are certain little articles of my
equipment over yonder in the wharf shed. Would you excuse me for just a
He stooped at the low door and entered. But she followed
himfollowed after him unconsciously, without plan, feeling only that
he must not go, that she could not let him away from her.
She saw the light floating through the door fall on his dense hair,
long, loosely bagged in its cue. She saw the quality of his strong
figure, in all the fittings of a frontiersman, saw his stern face, his
troubled eye, saw the unconscious strength which marked his every
movement as he strode about, eager, as it seemed to her, only to be
done with his last errands, and away on that trail which so long had
beckoned to him.
The strength of the man, the strength of his purposethe sudden and
full realization of boththis caught her like a tangible thing, and
left her no more than the old, blind, unformed protest. He must not go!
She could not let him go!
But the words she had spoken had caught him, after all. He had been
ponderinghad been trying to set them aside as if unheard.
Coming back? he began, and stopped short once more. They were now
both within the shelter of the old building.
Yes, Merne! she broke out suddenly. When are you coming back to
He stood icy silent, motionless, for just a moment. It seemed to her
as if he was made of stone. Then he spoke very slowly, deliberately.
Coming back to you? And you call me by that name? Only my
mother, Mr. Jefferson and Will Clark ever did so.
Oh, stiff-necked man! It is so hard to be kind with you! And all I
have ever doneevery time I have followed you in this way, each time I
have humiliated myself thusit always was only in kindness for you!
He made no reply.
Fate ran against us, Merne, she went on tremblingly. We have both
accepted fate. But in a woman's heart are many mansions. Is there none
in a man'sin yoursfor me? Can't I ask a place in a good man's
heartan innocent, clean place? Oh, think not you have had all the
unhappiness in your own heart! Is all the world's misery yours? I don't
want you to go away, Merne, but if you doif you mustwon't you come
back? Oh, won't you, Merne?
Her voice was trembling, her hand half raised, her eyes sought after
him. She stood partly in shadow, the flare of light from the open door
falling over her face. She might have been some saint of old in
pictured guise; but she was a woman, alive, beautiful, delectable,
alluringespecially now, with this tone in her voice, this strangely
beseeching look in her eyes.
Her hands were almost lifted to be held out to him. She stood almost
inclined to him, wholly unconscious of her attitude, forgetting that
her words were imploring, remembering only that he was going.
He seemed not to hear her voice as he stood there, but somewhere as
if out of some savage past, a voice did speak to him, saying that when
a man is sore athirst, then a man may drinkthat the well-spring would
not miss the draft, and would tell no tale of it!
He stood, as many another man has stood, and fought the fight many
another man has foughtthe fight between man the primitive and man the
gentleman, chivalry contending with impulse, blood warring with
[Illustration: 'Oh, Theo, what have I done?']
Yes! so said the voice in his ear. Why should the spring grudge a
draft to a soul aflame with an undying thirst? Vows? What have vows to
do with this? Duty? What is duty to a man perishing?I know not what
it was. I heard it. I felt it. Forgive me, it was not I myself! Oh,
Theo, what have I done?
She could not speak, could not even sob. Neither horror nor
resentment was possible for her, nor any protest, save the tears which
welled silently, terribly.
Unable longer to endure this, Meriwether Lewis turned to leave
behind him his last hope of happiness, and to face alone what he now
felt to be the impenetrable night of his own destiny. He never knew
when his hands fell from Theodosia Alston's face, or when he turned
away; but at last he felt himself walking, forcing his head upright,
his face forward.
He passed, a tall, proud man in his half-savage trappingsa man in
full ownership of splendid physical powers; but as he walked his feet
were lead, his heart was worse than lead. And though his face was
turned away from her, he knew that always he would see what he had
leftthis picture of Theodosia weepingthis picture of a saint
mocked, of an altar desecrated. She wept, and it was because of him!
The dumb cry of his remorse, his despair, must have struck back to
where she still stood, her hands on her bosom, staring at him as he
Theo! Theo! What have I done? What have I done?
CHAPTER I. UNDER ONE FLAG
What do you bring, oh, mighty riverand what tidings do you carry
from the great mountains yonder in the unknown lands? In what region
grew this great pine which swims with you to the sea? What fat lands
reared this heavy trunk, which sinks at last, to be buried in the
What jewels lie under your flood? What rich minerals float
impalpably in your tawny waters? Across what wide prairies did you
comeamong what hillsthrough what vast forests? How long, great
river, was your journey, sufficient to afford so tremendous a gathering
of the waters?
A hundred years ago the great Missouri made no answer to these
questions. It was open highway only for those who dared. The man who
asked its secrets must read them for himself. What a time and place for
adventure! What a time and place for men!
From sea to sea, across an unknown, fabled mountain range, lay our
wilderness, now swiftly trebled by a miracle in statecraft. The flag
which floated over the last stockade of Spain, the furthest outpost of
France, now was advancing step by step, inch by inch, up the giant
flood of the Missouri, borne on the flagship of a flotilla consisting
of one flatboat and two skiffs, carrying an army whose guns were one
swivel piece and thirty rifles.
Not without toil and danger was this enterprise to advance. When at
length the last smoke of a settler's cabin had died away over the
lowland forest, the great river began in earnest to exact its toll.
Continually the boats, heavily laden as they were, ran upon shifting
bars of sand, or made long détours to avoid some chevaux de frise
of white-headed snags sunk in the current with giant uptossing limbs.
Floating trees came down resistlessly on the spring rise, demanding
that all craft should beware of them; caving banks, in turn, warned the
boats to keep off; and always the mad current of the stream, never
relaxing in vehemence, laid on the laboring boats the added weight of
its mountain of waters, gaining in volume for nearly three thousand
The square sail at times aided the great bateau when the wind came
upstream, but no sail could serve for long on so tortuous a water. The
great oars, twenty-two in all, did their work in lusty hands, hour
after hour, but sometimes they could hardly hold the boats against the
power of the June rise. The setting poles could not always find good
bottom, but sometimes the men used these in the old keel boat fashion,
traveling along the walking-boards on the sides of the craft, head
down, bowed over the setting-polesthe same manner of locomotion that
had conquered the Mississippi.
When sail and oar and setting-pole proved unavailing, the men were
out and overboard, running the banks with the cordelle. As they labored
thus on the line, like so many yoked cattle, using each ounce of weight
and straining muscle to hold the heavy boat against the current, snags
would catch the line, stumps would foul it, trees growing close to the
bank's edge would arrest it. Sometimes the great boat, swung sidewise
in the current in spite of the last art of the steersmen, would tauten
the line like a tense fiddle-string, flipping the men, like so many
insects, from their footing, and casting them into the river, to emerge
as best they might.
Cruzatte, Labiche, Drouillardall the French voyageurswith the
infinite French patience smiled and sweated their way through. The New
Englanders grew grim; the Kentuckians fumed and swore. But little by
little, inch by inch, creeping, creeping, paying the toll exacted, they
went on day by day, leaving the old world behind them, morning by
morning advancing farther into the new.
The sun blistered them by day; clouds of pests tormented them by
night; miasmatic lowlands threatened them both night and day. But they
The immensity of the river itself was an appalling thing; its bends
swept miles long in giant arcs. But bend after bend they spanned, bar
after bar they skirted, bank after bank they conqueredand went on. In
the water as much as out of it, drenched, baked, gaunt, ragged, grim,
they paid the toll.
A month passed, and more. The hunters exulted that game was so easy
to get, for they must depend in large part on the game killed by the
way. At the mouth of the Kansas River, near where a great city one day
was to stand, they halted on the twenty-sixth of June. Deer, turkeys,
bear, geese, many goslins, as quaint Will Clark called them, rewarded
July came and well-nigh passed. They reached the mouth of the great
Platte River, far out into the Indian country. Over this unmapped
country ranged the Otoes, the Omahas, the Pawnees, the Kansas, the
Osages, the Rees, the Sioux. This was the buffalo range where the
tribes had fought immemorially.
It was part of the mission of Captain Lewis's little army to carry
peace among these warring tribes. The nature of the expedition was
explained to their chiefs. At the great Council Bluffs many of the
Otoes came and promised to lay down the hatchet and cease to make war
against the Omahas. The Omahas, in turn, swore allegiance to the new
On ahead somewhere lay the powerful Sioux nation, doubt and dread of
all the traders who had ever passed up the Missouri. Dorion, the
interpreter, married among them, admitted that even he could not tell
what the Sioux might do.
The expedition struck camp at last, high up on the great river, in
the country of the Yanktonnais. The Sioux long had marked its coming,
and were ready for its landing. Their signal fires called in the
villages to meet the boats of the white men.
They came riding down in bands, whooping and shouting, painted and
half naked, well armedsplendid savages, fearing no man, proud,
capricious, blood-thirsty. They were curious as to the errand of these
new men who came carrying a new flagthese men who could make the
thunder speak. For now the heavy piece on the bow of the great barge
spoke in no uncertain terms so that its echoes ran back along the river
shores. No such boat, no such gun as this, had ever been seen in that
Tell them to make a council, Dorion, said Lewis. Take this
officer's coat to their head man. Tell him that the Great Father sends
it to him. Give him this hat with lace on it. Tell him that when we are
ready we may come to their council to meet their chiefs. Say that only
their real chiefs must come, for we will not treat with any but their
head men. If they wish to see us soon, let them come to our village
You are chiefs! said Dorion. Have I not seen it? I will tell them
But Dorion had been gone but a short time when he came hurrying back
from the Indian village.
The runners say plenty buffalo close by, he reported. The chief,
she'll call the people to hunt the buffalo.
William Clark turned to his companion.
You hear that, Merne? said he. Why should we not go also?
Agreed! said Meriwether Lewis. But stay, I have a thought. We
will go as they go and hunt as they do. To impress an Indian, beat him
at his own game. You and I must ride this day, Will!
Yes, and without saddles, too! Very well, I learned that of my
brother, who learned it of the Indians themselves. And I know you and I
both can shoot the bow as well as most Indiansthat was part of our
early education. I might better have been in school sometimes, when I
was learning the bow.
Dorion, said Lewis to the interpreter, go back to the village and
tell their chief to send two bows with plenty of arrows. Tell them that
we scorn to waste any powder on so small a game as the buffalo. On
ahead are animals each one of which is as big as twenty buffalowe
keep our great gun for those. As for buffalo, we kill them as the
Indians do, with the bow and with the spear. We shall want the stiffest
bows, with sinewed backs. Our arms are very strong.
Swift and wide spread the word among the Sioux that the white chiefs
would run the buffalo with their own warriors. Exclamations of
amusement, surprise, satisfaction, were heard. The white men should see
how the Sioux could ride. But Weucha, the head man, sent a messenger
with two bows and plenty of arrowsshort, keen-pointed arrows,
suitable for the buffalo hunt, when driven by the stiff bows of the
Strip, Will, said Meriwether Lewis. If we ride as savages, it
must be in full keeping.
They did strip to the waist, as the savages always did when running
the buffalosternest of all savage sport or labor, and one of the
boldest games ever played by man, red or white. Clad only in leggings
and moccasins, their long hair tied in firm cues, when Weucha met them
he exclaimed in admiration. The village turned out in wonder to see
these two men whose skins were white, whose hair was not black, but
some strange new colorone whose hair was red.
The two young officers were not content with this. York, Captain
Clark's servant, rolling his eyes, showing his white teeth, was ordered
to strip up the sleeve of his shirt to show that his hide was neither
red nor white, but blackanother wonder in that land!
Now, York, you rascal, commanded William Clark, do as I tell
Yessah, massa Captain, I suttinly will!
When I raise this flag, do you drop on the ground and knock your
forehead three times. Groan loudgroan as if you had religion, York!
Do you understand?
Yassah, massa Captain!
York grinned his enjoyment; and when he had duly executed the
maneuver, the Sioux greeted the white men with much acclamation.
I see that you are chiefs! exclaimed Weucha. You have many
colors, and your medicine is strong. Take, then, these two horses of
minethey are good runners for buffaloperhaps yours are not so
fast. Thus Dorion interpreted.
Now, said Clark, suppose I take the lance, Merne, and you handle
the bow. I never have tried the trick, but I believe I can handle this
He picked up and shook in his hand the short lance, steel-tipped,
which Weucha was carrying. The latter grinned and nodded his assent,
handing the weapon to the red-haired leader.
Now we shall serve! said Lewis an instant later; for they brought
out two handsome horses, one coal-black, the other piebald, both
mettlesome and high-strung.
That the young men were riders they now proved, for they mounted
alone, barebacked, and managed to control their mounts with nothing but
the twisted hide rope about the lower jawthe only bridle known among
the tribes of the great plains.
The crier now passed down the village street, marshaling all the
riders for the chase. Weucha gave the signal to advance, himself riding
at the head of the cavalcade, with the two white captains at his
sidea picture such as any painter might have envied.
Others of the expedition followed on as might beShannon, Gass, the
two Fields boys, others of the better hunters of the Kentuckians. Even
York, not to be denied, sneaked in at the rear. They all rode quietly
at first, with no outcry, no sound save the steady tramp of the horses.
Their course was laid back into the prairie for a mile or two before
a halt was called. Then the chief disposed his forces. The herd was
supposed to be not far away, beyond a low rim of hills. On this side
the men were ranged in line. A blanket waved from a point visible to
all was to be the signal for the charge.
Dorion, also stripped to the waist, a kerchief bound about his head,
carrying a short carbine against his thigh, now rode alongside.
He say Weucha show you how Sioux can ride, he interpreted.
Tell him it is good, Dorion, rejoined Lewis. We will show him
also that we can ride!
A shout came from the far edge of the restless ranks. A half-naked
rider waved a blanket. With shrill shouts the entire line broke at top
speed for the ridge.
Neither of the two young Americans had ever engaged in the sport of
running the buffalo; yet now the excitement of the scene caused both to
forget all else. They urged on their horses, mingling with the savage
The buffalo had been feeding less than a quarter of a mile away; the
wind was favorable, and they had not yet got scent of the approach; but
now, as the line of horsemen broke across the crest, the herd streamed
out and away from themcrude, huge, formless creatures, with shaggy
heads held low, their vast bulk making them seem almost like
prehistoric things. The dust of their going arose in a blinding cloud,
the thunder of their hoofs left inaudible even the shrill cries of the
riding warriors as they closed in.
The chase passed outward into an open plain, which lay white in
alkali. In a few moments the swift horses had carried the best of the
riders deep into the dust-cloud which arose. Each man followed some
chosen animal, doing his best to keep it in sight as the herd plowed
onward in the biting dust.
Here and there the vast, solid surface of a sea of rolling backs
could be glimpsed; again an opening into it might be seen close at
hand. It was bold work, and any who engaged in it took his chances.
Lewis found his horse, the black runner that Weucha had given him,
as swift as the best, and able to lay him promptly alongside his
quarry. At a distance of a few feet he drew back the sinewy string of
the tough Sioux bow, gripping his horse with his knees, swaying his
body out to the bow, as he well knew how. The shaft, discharged at a
distance of but half a dozen feet, sank home with a soft zut.
The stricken animal swerved quickly toward him, but his wary horse
leaped aside and went on. Such as the work had been, it was done for
that buffalo at least, and Lewis knew that he had caught the trick.
The black runner singled out another and yet another; and again and
again Lewis shotuntil at last, his arrows nearly exhausted, after two
or three miles of mad speed, he pulled out of the herd and waited.
In the white dust-cloud, lifted now and then, he could see naked
forms swaying, bending forward, plying their weapons. Somewhere in the
midst of it, out in the ruck of hoof and horn, his friend was riding,
forgetting all else but the excitement of the chase. What if accident
had befallen either of them? Lewis could not avoid asking himself that
Now the riders edged through the herd, outward, around its
flankturned it, were crowding it back, milling and confused. Out of
the dust emerged two figures, naked, leaning forward to the leaping of
their horses. One was an Indian, his black locks flowing, his eyes
gleaming, his hand flogging his horse as he rode. The other was a white
man, his tall white body splashed with blood, his long red hair, broken
from his cue, on his shoulders.
The two were pursuing the same animala young bull, which thus far
had kept his distance some fifty yards or so ahead. But as Lewis
looked, both riders urged their horses to yet more speed. The piebald
of William Clark, well ridden, sprang away in advance and laid him
alongside of the quarry. Lewis himself saw the poised spearsaw it
plungesaw the buffalo stumble in its strideand saw his companion
pass on, whooping in exultation at Weucha, who came up an instant
later, defeated, but grinning and offering his hand. Now came Dorion
also, out of ammunition, yet not out of speech, excited, jabbering as
Four nice cow I'll kill! gabbled he. I'll kill him four tam,
bang, bang! Plenty meat for my lodge now. How many you'll shot,
Captain? he asked of Lewis.
Plentyyou will find them back there.
Weucha, who came up after magnanimously shaking the hand of William
Clark, peered with curiosity into Lewis's almost empty quiver. He
smiled again, for that the white men had ridden well was obvious
enough. He called a young man to him, showed him the arrow-mark, and
sent him back to see how many of the dead buffalo showed arrows with
In time the messenger came back carrying a sheaf of arrows.
Grinning, he held up the fingers of two hands.
Tell him that is nothing, Dorion, said Lewis. We could have
killed many more if we had wished. We see that the Sioux can ride. Now,
let us see if they can talk at the council fire!
The two leaders hastened to their own encampment to remove all
traces of the hunt. An hour later they emerged from their tents clad as
officers of the army, each in cocked hat and full uniform, with sword
With the fall of the sun, the drums sounded in the Indian village.
The criers passed along the street summoning the people to the feast,
summoning also the chiefs to the council lodge. Here the head men of
the village gathered, sitting about the little fire, the peace pipe
resting on a forked stick before them, waiting for the arrival of the
white chiefswho could make the thunder come, who could make a strong
chief of black skin beat his head upon the ground; and who, moreover,
could ride stripped and strike the buffalo even as the Sioux.
The white leaders were in no haste to show themselves. They demanded
the full dignity of their station; but they came at last, their own
drum beating as they marched at the head of their men, all of whom were
in the uniform of the frontier.
York, selected as standard-bearer, bore the flag at the head of the
little band. Meriwether Lewis took it from him as they reached the door
of the council lodge, and thrust the staff into the soil, so that it
stood erect beside the lance and shield of Weucha, chief of the
Yanktonnais. Then, leaving their own men on guard without, the two
white chiefs stepped into the lodge, and, with not too much attention
to the chiefs sitting and waiting for them, took their own places in
the seat of honor. They removed their hats, shook free their
hairwhich had been loosened from the cues; and so, in dignified
silence, not looking about them, they sat, their long locks spread out
on their shoulders.
Exclamations of excitement broke even from the dignified Sioux
chiefs. Clearly the appearance and the conduct of the two officers had
made a good impression. The circle eyed them with respect.
At length Meriwether Lewis, holding in his hand the great peace pipe
that he had brought, arose.
Weucha, said he, Dorion interpreting for him, you are head man of
the Yanktonnais. I offer you this pipe. Let us smoke. We are at peace.
We are children of the Great Father, and I do not bring war. I have put
a flag outside the lodge. It is your flag. You must keep it. Each night
you must take it down, roll it up, and put it in a parfleche, so that
it will not be torn or soiled. Whenever you have a great feast, or meet
other peoples, let it fly at your door. It is because you are a chief
that I give you this flag. I gave one to the Omahas, another to the
Otoes. Let there be no more war between you. You are under one flag
I give you this medal, Weucha, this picture on white iron. See, it
has the picture of the Great Father himself, my chief, who lives where
the sun rises. I also give you this writing, where I have made my sign,
and where the red-headed chief, my brother, has made his sign. Keep
these things, so that any who come here may know that you are our
friends, that you are the children of the Great Father.
Weucha, they told us that the Sioux were bad in heart, that you
would say we could not go up the river. Our Great Father has sent us up
the river, and we must go. Tomorrow our boats must be on their course.
If the Great Father has such medicine as this I give you, do you think
we could go back to him and say the Sioux would not let us pass? You
have seen that we are not afraid, that we are chiefswe can do what
you can do. Can you do what we can? Can you make the thunder come? Is
there any among you who has a black skin, like the man with us? Are any
of your men able to strike the eye of a deer, the head of a grouse, at
fifty paces with the rifle? All of my men can do that.
I give you these presentsthese lace coats for your great men,
these hats also, such as we wear, because you are our brothers, and are
chiefs. A little powder, a few balls, I give you, because we think you
want them. I give you a little tobacco for your pipes. If my words
sound good in your ears, I will send a talking paper to the Great
Father, and tell him that you are his children.
Deep-throated exclamations of approval met this speech. Weucha took
the pipe. He arose himself, a tall and powerful man, splendidly clad in
savage fashion, and spoke as the born leader that he also was. He
pledged the loyalty of the Sioux and the freedom of the river.
I give you the horse you rode this morning, said Weucha to Lewis,
the black runner. To you, red-haired chief, I give the white-and-black
horse that you rode. It is well that chiefs like you should have good
Tomorrow our people will go a little way with you up the river. We
want you for our friends, for we know your medicine is strong. We know
that when we show this flag to other tribesto the Otoes, the Omahas,
the Osagesthey will fall on the ground and knock their heads on the
ground, as the black man did when the red-headed chief raised it above
The Great Father has sent us two chiefs who are young but very
wise. They can strike the buffalo. They can speak at the council.
Weucha, the Yanktonnais, says that they may go on. We know you will not
lose the trail. We know that you will come back. You are chiefs!
CHAPTER II. THE MYSTERIOUS LETTER
Late in the night the Yanktonnais drums still sounded, long after a
dozen Sioux had spoken, and after the two white chieftains had arisen
and left the council fire. The people of the village were feasting
around half a hundred fires. The village was joyous, light-hearted, and
free of care. The hunt had been successful.
Look at them, Will, said Meriwether Lewis, as they paused at the
edge of the bluff and turned back for a last glimpse at the savage
scene. They are like children. I swear, I almost believe their lot in
life is happier than our own!
Tut, tut, Mernemoralizing again? laughed William Clark, the
light-hearted. Come now, help me get my eelskin about my hair. We may
need this red mane of mine further up the river. I trust to take it
back home with me, after all, now that we seem safe to pass these Sioux
without a fight. I am happy enough that our business today has come out
so well. I am a bit tired, and an old bull gave me a smash with his
horn this morning; so I am ready to turn into my blankets. Are all the
men on the roll tonight?
Sergeant Ordway reports Shannon still absent. It seems he went out
on the hunt this morning, and has not yet come back. I'll wait up a
time, I think, Will, to see if he comes in. It is rather a wild
business for a boy to lie out all night in such a country, with only
the wolves for company. Go you to your blankets, as you say. For me, I
might be a better sleeper than I am.
Yes, that is true, rejoined Will Clark, rubbing his bruised leg.
It is beginning to show on you, too, Merne. Isn't it enough to be
astronomer and doctor and bookkeeper and record-keeper and all that?
No, you think notyou must sit up all night by your little fire under
the stars and think and think. Oh, I have seen you, Merne! I have seen
you sitting there when you should have been sleeping. Do you call that
leadership, Captain Lewis? The men are under you, and if the leader is
not fit, the men are not. Now, a human body will stand only so muchor
a human mind, either, Merne. There is a limit to effort and endurance.
His friend turned to him seriously.
You are right, Will, said he. I owe duty to many besides myself.
You take things too hard, Merne. You cannot carry the whole world
on your shoulders. Look now, I have not been so blind as not to see
that something is going wrong with you. Merne, you are ill, or will be.
Something is wrong!
His companion made no reply. They marched on to their own part of
the encampment, and seated themselves at the little fire which had been
left burning for them.
[Footnote 4: The original journals of these two astonishing young
menone of them just thirty years old, the other thirty-fourshould
rank among the epic literature of the world. Battered about, scattered,
separated, lost, hawked from hand to hand, handed down as unvalued
heritages, edited first by this and then by that little man,
sometimes to the extent of actual mutilation or alteration of their
textthe journals of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark hold their
ineffacable clarity in spite of all. Their most curious quality is the
strange blending of two large souls which they show. It was only by
studying closely the individual differences of handwriting, style, and
spelling, that it could be determined what was the work of Lewis, which
that done by Clark.
And what a labor! After long days of toil and danger, under
unvarying hardships, in conditions of extremest discomfort and
inconvenience for such work, the two young leaders set down with
unflagging faithfulness countless thousands of details, all in such
fashion as showed the keenest and most exact powers of observation.
Botanists, naturalists, geographers, map-makers, builders, engineers,
hunters, journalists, they brought back in their notebooks a mass of
information never equaled by the records of any other party of
We cannot overestimate the sum of labor which all this meant, day
after day, month after month; nor should we underestimate the qualities
of mind and education demanded of them, nor the varied experience of
life in primitive surroundings which needed to be part of their
requisite equipment. It was indeed as if the two friends were fitted by
the plan of Providence for this great enterprise which they concluded
in such simple, unpretending, yet minutely thorough fashion. Neither
thought himself a hero, therefore each was one. The largest glory to be
accorded them is that they found their ambition and their content in
the day's work well done.]
William Clark went on with his reproving.
Tell me, Merne, what are you thinking of? It is not that woman?
He seemed to feel the sudden shrinking of the tall figure at his
I have touched you on the raw once more, haven't I, Merne? he
exclaimed. I never meant to. I only want to see you happy.
You must not be too uneasy, Will, returned Meriwether Lewis, at
last. It is only that sometimes at night I lie awake and ponder over
things. And the nights themselves are wonderful!
Saw you ever such nights, Merne, in all your life? Breathed you
ever such air as these plains carry in the nighttime? Why do you not
exultwhat is it you cannot forget? You don't really deceive me,
Merne. What is it that you see when you lie awake at night under
the stars? Some face, eh? What, Merne? You mean to tell me you are
still so foolish? We left three months ago. I gave you two months for
forgetting herand that is enough! Come, now, perhaps some maid of the
Mandans, on ahead, will prove fair enough to pipe to you, or to touch
the bull-hide tambourine in such fashion as to charm you from your
sorrows! No, don't be offendedit is only that I want to tell you not
to take that old affair too hard. And now, it is time for you to turn
William Clark himself arose and strolled to his own blanket-roll,
spread it out, and lay down beneath the sky to sleep. Meriwether Lewis
sought to follow his example, and spread open his robe and blankets
close to the fire. As he leaned back, he felt something hard and
crackling under his hand, and looked down.
It was his custom to carry in his blankets, for safekeeping, his
long spyglass, a pair of dry moccasins and a buckskin tunic. These
articles were here, as he expected to find them. Yet here among them
was a folded and sealed envelopea letter! He had not placed it here;
yet here it was.
He caught it up in his hand, looked at it wonderingly, kicked the
ends of the embers together so that they flamed up, bent forward to
read the superscriptionand paused in amazement. Well enough he knew
the firm, upright, characterful hand which addressed this missive to
TO CAPTAIN MERIWETHER LEWIS.ON THE TRAIL IN THE WEST.
A feeling somewhat akin to awe fell upon Meriwether Lewis. He felt a
cold prickling along his spine. It was for him, yesbut whence had it
come? There had been no messenger from outside the camp. For one brief
instant it seemed, indeed, as if this bit of paperwhich of all
possible gifts of the gods he would most have covetedhad dropped from
the heavens themselves at his feet here in the savage wilderness. His
heart had been on the point of breaking, it seemed to himand it had
come to comfort him! It was from her. It ran thus:
DEAR SIR AND FRIEND:
Greetings to you, wherever you may be when this shall find
you. Are you among the Gauls, the Goths, the Visigoths, the
Huns, the Vandals, or the Cimbri? Wherever you be, our
hopes and faith go with you. You are, as I fancy, in a
desert, a wilderness, worth no man's owning. Life passes
meantime. To what end, my friend?
I fancy you in the deluge, in the hurricane, in the blaze of
the sun, or in the bleak winds, alone, cheerless, perhaps
athirst, perhaps knowing hunger. I know that you will meet
these things like a man. But to what endwhat is the
purpose of all this? You have left behind you all that makes
life worth whilefortune, fame, life, ambition, honorto
go away into the desert. At what time are you going to turn
back and come to us once more?
Oh, if only I had the rightif only I daredif only I were
in a position to lay some command on you to bring you back!
Methinks then I would. You could do so much for us allso
much for me. It would mean so much to my own happiness if
you were here.
Meriwether Lewis, come back! You have gone far enough. On
ahead are only cruel hardship and continual failure. Here
are fortune, fame, wealth, ambition, honorand more. I told
you one time I would lay my hand upon your shoulder out
yonder, no matter where you were. I said that you should
look into my face yonder when you sat alone beside your fire
under the stars. You said that it would be torment. I said
that none the less I would not let you go. I said my face
still should stay with you, until you were willing to turn
Turn back now, Meriwether Lewis! Come back!
The letter was not signed, and needed not to be. Meriwether Lewis
sat staring at the paper clutched in his hand.
Her face! Ah, did he not see it now? Was it not true what she had
said? He saw her face nowbut not smiling, happy, contented, as it
once had been. No, he saw it pale and in distress. He saw tears in her
eyes. And she had written him:
Oh, if only I had the right to lay some command on you!
Was not he, who had forgotten honor, subject now to any command that
she might give him?
Will, Will! exclaimed Meriwether Lewis, sharply, imperatively, to
his friend, whom he could see dimly at a little distance as he lay.
The long figure in its robes straightened quickly, for by day or
night William Clark was instantly ready for any sudden alarm. He
started up on his robe, with his hand on his rifle.
Who calls there? Who goes? he cried, half awake.
It is I, Will, said Meriwether Lewis, advancing toward him.
Listentell me, Will, why did you do this?
Why did I do what? Merne, what is wrong?
Clark was now on his feet, and Lewis held out the letter to him. He
took it in his hand, looked at it wonderingly.
This letter began Meriwether Lewis. Certainly you carried it
for mewhy did you not bring it to me long ago?
What letter? Whose letter is it, Merne? I never saw it before. What
is it you are saying? Are you mad?
I think so, said Lewis, I think I must be. Here is a letterI
found it but now in my bed. I thought perhaps you had had it for me a
long time, and placed it there as a surprise.
Who sends it, Merne. What does it say?
It is from the woman whose face I have seen at night, Will. She
asks me to come back!
Burn itthrow it in the fire! said William Clark sharply. Go
back? What, forsake Mr. Jeffersonleave me?
God forgive me, Will, but you search my very heart! For one moment
I was on the point of declaring myself too ill to finish this
journeyon the point of letting you have all the honor of it. I was
going to surrender my place to you.
You cannot desert us, Merne! You shall not! Go back to bed! Give me
the letter! Bah! it is some counterfeit, some trick of one of the men!
It would be worth any man's life to try a jest like that, said
Meriwether Lewis. It is no counterfeit. I know it too well. This
letter was written before we left St. Louis. How it came here I know
not, but I know who wrote it.
She had no right
Ah, but that is the cruelty of itshe did have the right!
There are some things which a man must work out for himself, said
William Clark slowly, after a time. I don't think I'll ask any
questions. If there is any place where I can take half your burden, you
know what I will do. We've worked share and share alike, but perhaps
some things cannot be shared, even by you and me. It is for you to tell
me if I can help you now. If not, then you must decide.
Even as he spoke, his beloved friend was turning away from him.
Meriwether Lewis walked out alone into the night. Stumbling, he passed
on out among the shadows, under the starlight. Without much plan, he
found himself on a little eminence of the bluff near by.
He sat down, his blanket drawn over his head, like an Indian,
motionless, thinking, fighting out his own fight, as sometimes a man
must, alone. He did not know that William Clark, most faithful of
friends, himself silent as a Sioux, had followed, and sat a little
distance apart, his eyes fixed on the motionless figure outlined
against the sky.
The dawn came at last and kindled a red band along the east. The
gray light at length grew more clear. A coyote on the bluff raised a
long and quavering cry, like some soul in torture. As if it were his
own voice, Meriwether Lewis stirred, rose, drew back the blanket from
his shoulders, and turned down the hill.
He saw his friend rising and advancing to him. Once more their hands
gripped, as they had when the two first met on the Ohio, almost a year
ago, at the beginning of their journey.
Lewis frowned heavily. He could not speak for a time.
Give the orders to the men to roll out, Captain Clark, said he at
Which way, Captain Lewisupstream or down?
The expedition will go forward, Captain Clark.
God bless you, Merne! said the red-headed one.
CHAPTER III. THE DAY'S WORK
Roll out, men, roll out!
The sleeping men stirred under their robes and blankets and turned
out, quickly awake, after the fashion of the wilderness. The sentinel
came in, his moccasins wet, his tunic girded tight against the cool of
the morning, which even at that season was chill upon the high plains.
Soon the fires were alight and the odors of roasting meat arose. The
hour was scarce yet dawn.
Ordway! Gass! Pryor! Lewis called in the sergeants in charge of
the three messes. The boy Shannon has not returned. Which of your men,
Ordway, will best serve to find Shannon and meet us up the river?
Myself, sir, said Ordway, if you please.
No, 'tis meself, sor, interrupted Patrick Gass.
Pryor, with hand outstretched, also claimed the honor of the
You three are needed in the boats, said the leader. No, I think
it will be better to send Drouillard and the two Fields boys. But tell
me, Sergeant Ordway
Has any boat passed up the river within the last dayfor instance,
while we were away at the hunt?
I think not, sir. Surely any one coming up the river would have
turned in at our camp.
Lewis turned to Gass, to Pryor; but both agreed that no boat could
have gone by unnoticed.
And no man has come into the camp from belowno horseman?
They all shook their heads. Their leader looked from one to the
other keenly, trying to see if anything was concealed from him; but the
honest faces of his men showed no suspicion of his own doubts.
He dismissed them, feeling it beneath his dignity to make inquiry as
to the bearer of the mysterious letter; nor did he mention it again to
William Clark. He knew only that some one of his men had a secret from
The men will find Shannon and bring him in aheadwe can't afford
to wait here for them. The water is falling now, said Clark. We are
doing our twenty miles daily. The men laugh on the line, for the bars
are exposed, and they can track along shore easily. Suppose Shannon
were out three daysthat would make it sixty miles upstreamor less,
for him, for he could cut the bends. I make no doubt that when he found
himself out for the night he started up the river; even before this
time. En avant, Cruzatte! he called. You shall lead the line
for the first draw. Make it lively for an hour! Sing some song,
Cruzatte, if you cansome song of old Kaskaskia.
Sure, the Frenchmans, she'll lead on the line this morning,
Capitaine! I'll put nine, seven Frenchmans on the line, and she'll
run on the bank on her bare feet two hourone hour. This buffalo meat,
she make Frenchmans strong like nothing!
Go on, Frenchy! said Patrick Gass, Cruzatte's sergeant, who stood
near by. Wait until time comes for my squad on the line'tis thin
we'll make the elkhide hum! There's a few of the Irish along.
Ho! said Ordway, usually silent. Wait rather for us
Yankeeswe'll show you what old Vermont can do!
As to that, said Pryor, belike the Ohio and Kentucky men could
serve a turn as well as the Irish or the French. Old Kaintuck has to
help out the others, the way she did in the French and Indian War!
Well, broke in Peter Weiser, joining them as they argued, I am
from Pennsylvania; but I am half Virginian, and there are some others
from the Old Dominion. When you are all done, call on usole Virginny
The contagion of their light-heartedness, their loyalty and
devotion, came as solace to the heart of Meriwether Lewis. He smiled in
spite of himself, his eye kindling with confidence and admiration as he
looked over his men.
They were stripping for their day's work, ready for mud or water or
sun, as the case might be. Amidships, on the highest locker on the
barge, one of the Kentuckians was flapping his arms lustily and giving
the cockcrow, the river challenge of frontier days. Others seated
themselves at the long sweeps of the barge, while yet others were
manning the pirogues.
A few moments later, with joyous shouts, they were on their way once
moreand not setting their faces toward home. In an hour they were
above the first long bend. The wilderness had closed behind them. No
trace of the Indian village was left, no sight of the lingering smoke
of their last camp fires.
Faithfully, patiently, day by day, they held their way, sustained by
the renewed fascination of adventure, hardened and inured to risk and
toil alike. The distance behind them lengthened so enormously that they
began to figure upon the unknown rather than the known.
We surely must be almost across now! said some of the men.
All of them were sore distressed over the loss of Shannon. Two weeks
had passed since they left the Yankton Sioux, and four times the
faithful trailers had come back to the boats with no trace of the
It certainly is in the off chance now, assented William Clark
seriously, one day as they lay in the noon encampment. But perhaps he
may be among the natives somewhere, and we may hear of him when we come
backif ever we do.
If he got by the Teton Sioux, and kept on up the river, in time he
would find us somewhere among the Mandans, said Meriwether Lewis. But
we will try once more before we give him up. Send a man to the top of
the bluff with my spyglass.
Busy in their labors over their maps, and in the recording of their
compass bearings, for half an hour they forgot their messenger, until a
shout called their attention. He was waving his hands, wildly
beckoning. Yonder, alone in the plains, bewildered, hopeless,
wandering, was the lost man, who did not even know that the river was
close at hand! Shannon's escape from a miserable fate was but one more
instance of the almost miraculous good fortune which seemed to attend
And she was lucky man, too! said Drouillard, a half-hour later,
nodding toward the opposite shore. Suppose he is on that side, she'll
not go in today!
Two weeks on his foot!
They looked where he pointed. Red men, mounted, were visible, a
dozen of them, motionless, on the rim of the farther bank, watching the
explorers as they began to make ready for their journey. Lewis turned
his great field glass in that direction.
Sioux! said he. They are painted, too. I fancy, he added, as he
turned toward his associates, that this must be Black Buffalo's band
of Tetons you've told us about, Drouillard.
Oui, oui, the Teton! exclaimed Drouillard. I'll not spoke
his language, me; but she'll be bad Sioux. Prenez garde, Capitaine,
prenez garde pour ces sauvages, les Sioux!
And indeed this warning proved well founded. More Indians gathered
in toward the shore that afternoon, riding along, parallel with the
course of the boats, whooping, shouting to the boatmen. At nightfall
there were a hundred of them assembledpainted warriors, decked in all
their savage finery, bold men, showing no fear of the newcomers.
The white men went about their camp duties in a mingling of figures,
white and red. Lewis lined up his men, beat his drums, fired the great
swivel piece to impress the savages.
Bring out the flag, Will, said he. Put up our council awning.
I'll have a parley with their head man. Can you make him out,
He'll said he was Black Buffalo, replied the Frenchman. I don't
understand him very good.
Take him these things, Drouillard, said Lewis. Give him a lace
coat and hat, a red feather, some tobacco, and this medal. Tell him
that when we get ready we'll make a talk with him.
But Black Buffalo and his men were not in the mood to wait for their
parley. They crowded down to the bank angrily, excitedly, even after
they had received the presents sent them. Lewis, busy about the barge,
which had not yet found a good landing-place, turned at the sound of
his friend's voice, to see Clark struggling in the grasp of two or
three of the Sioux, among them the Teton chief. A savage had his hand
flung about the mast of the pirogue, others laid hold upon the painter.
Clark, flushed and angry at the touch of another man's hand, had
whipped out his sword, and the Indians were drawing their bows from
At that moment Lewis gave a loud order, which arrested them all. The
Sioux turned toward the barge, to see the black mouth of the great
swivel gun pointing at themthe gun whose thunder voice they had
Big medicine! called out Black Buffalo in terror, and ordered his
Clark offered his hand to Black Buffalo, but it was refused. Angry,
he sprang into the pirogue and pushed off for the barge. Three of the
Indians stepped into the pirogue with him, jabbering excitedly, and,
with Clark, went aboard the barge, where they made themselves very much
Croyez moi! ejaculated Drouillard. These Hinjun, she'll
think he own this country!
Here, then, they were, in the Teton country. No sleep that night for
either of the leaders, nor for any of the men. They pulled the pirogues
alongside the barge and sat, barricaded behind their goods, rifle in
They kept their visitors prisoners all that night, and whatever
might have been the construction the Tetons placed on their act, they
themselves by dawn were far more placable. Continually they motioned
that the whites should come ashore, that they must stop, that they must
not go on further up the river. But when all was prepared for the start
on the following morning, Lewis ordered the great cable of the barge
Black Buffalo in turn ordered his men to lay hold upon it and retain
the boat. Once more the Indians began to draw their bows. Once more
Lewis turned upon them the muzzle of his cannon. His men shook the
priming into their pieces, and made ready to fire. An instant, and much
blood might have been shed.
Black Buffalo, said Lewis, as best he might through his
interpreter, I heard you were a chief. You are not Black Buffalo, but
some squaw! We are going to see if we can find Black Buffalo, the real
chief. If he were here, he would accept our tobacco. The geese are
flying down the river. Soon the snow will come. We cannot wait. See, I
give you this tobacco on the prairie. Go and see if you can find Black
Buffalo, the real chief!
Ha! exclaimed the Teton leader, his dignity outraged. You say I
am not Black Buffalothat I am not a chief. I will show you!
He caught the twists of good black Virginia tobacco tossed to him,
and cast the rope far from him upon the tawny flood of the Missouri. An
instant later the oars had caught the water and Cruzatte had spread the
bowsail of the barge. So they won through one more of the most
dangerous of the tribes against whom they had been warned.
A near thing, Merne! said Will Clark after a time. There is some
mighty Hand that seems to guide usis it not the truth?
CHAPTER IV. THE CROSSROADS OF THE
The geese were now indeed flying down the river, coming in long,
dark lines out of the icy north. Sometimes the sky was overcast hours
at a stretch. A new note came into the voice of the wind. The nights
Autumn was at hand. Soon it would be winterwinter on the plains.
It was late in October, more than five months out from St. Louis, when
Mr. Jefferson's Volunteers for the Discovery of the West arrived in
the Mandan country.
Long ago war and disease wiped out the gentle Mandan people. Today
two cities stand where their green fields once showed the first broken
soil north of the Platte River. But a century ago that region, although
little known to our government at Washington, was not unknown to
others. The Mandan villages lay at a great wilderness crossroads, or
rather at the apex of a triangle, beyond which none had gone.
Hereabout the Sieur de la Verendrye had crossed on his own journey
of exploration two generations earlier. More lately the emissaries of
the great British companies, although privately warring with one
another, had pushed west over the Assiniboine. Traders had been among
the Mandans now for a decade. Thus far came the Western trail from
Canada, and halted.
The path of the Missouri also led thus far, but here, at the
intersection, ended all the trails of trading or traveling white men.
Therefore, Lewis and Clark found white men located here before
themMcCracken, an Irishman; Jussaume, a Frenchman; Henderson, an
Englishman; La Roque, another Frenchmanall over from the Assiniboine
country; and all, it hardly need be said, excited and anxious over this
wholly unexpected arrival of white strangers in their own
Big White, chief of the Mandans, welcomed the new party as friends,
for he was quick to grasp the advantage the white men's goods gave his
people over the neighboring tribes, and also quick to understand the
virtue of competition.
Brothers, said he, you have come for our beaver and our robes. As
for us, we want powder and ball and more iron hatchets and knives. We
have traded with the Assiniboines, who are foolish people, and have
taken all their goods away from them. We have killed the Rees until we
are tired of killing them. The Sioux will not trouble us if we have
plenty of powder and ball. We know that you have come to trade with us.
See, the snow is here. Light your lodge fires with the Mandans. Stay
here until the grass comes once more!
We open our ears to what Big White has said, replied
Lewisspeaking through Jussaume, the Frenchman, who soon was added as
interpreter to the party. We are the children of a Great Father in the
East, who gives you this medal with his picture on it. He sends you
this coat, this hat of a chief. He gives you this hatchet, this case of
tobacco. There are other hatchets and more tobacco for your people.
What Great Father is that? demanded Big White. It seems there are
many Great Fathers in these days! Who are you strangers, who come from
You yourself shall judge, Big White. When the geese fly up the
river and the grass is green, our great boat here is going back down
the river. The Great Father is curious to know his children, the
Mandans. If you, Big White, wish to go to see him when the grass is
green, you shall sit yonder in that boat and go all the way with some
of my men. You shall shake his hand. When you come back, you can tell
the story to your own people. Then all the tribes will cease to wage
war. Your women once more may take off their moccasins at night when
It is good, said the Mandan. Ahaie! Come and stay with us
until the grass is green, and I will make medicine over what you say.
We will open our lodges to you, and will not harm you. Our young women
will carry you corn which they have saved for the winter. Our squaws
will feed your horses. Go no farther, for the snow and ice are coming
fast. Even the buffalo will be thin, and the elk will grow so lean that
they will not be good to eat. This is as far as the white men ever come
when the grass is green. Beyond this, no man knows the trails.
When the grass is green, said Lewis, I shall lead my young men
toward the setting sun. We shall make new trails.
Jussaume, McCracken, and all the others held their own council with
the leaders of the expedition.
What are you doing here? they demanded. The Missouri has always
belonged to the British traders.
The face of Meriwether Lewis flushed with anger.
We are about the business of our government, he said. It is our
purpose to discover the West beyond here, all of it. It is our own
country that we are discovering. We have bought it and paid for it, and
will hold it. We carry the news of the great purchase to the natives.
Purchase? What purchase? demanded McCracken.
And then the face of Lewis lightened, for he knew that they had
outrun all the news of the world!
The Louisiana Purchasethe purchase of all this Western country
from the Mississippi to the Pacific, across the Stony Mountains. We
bought it from Napoleon, who had it from Spain. We are the wedge to
split the British from the Souththe Missouri is our own pathway into
our own country. That is our business here!
You must go back! said the hot-headed Irishman. I shall tell my
factor, Chaboillez, at Fort Assiniboine. We want no more traders here.
This is our country!
We do not come to trade, said Meriwether Lewis. We play a larger
game. I know that the men of the Northwest Company have found the
Arctic Oceanyou are welcome to it until we want itwe do not want it
now. I know you have found the Pacific somewhere above the Columbiawe
do not want what we have not bought or found for ourselves, and you are
welcome to that. But when you ask us to turn back on our own trail, it
is a different matter. We are on our own soil now, and we will not turn
for any order in the world but that of the President of the United
McCracken, irritated, turned away from the talk.
It is a fine fairy tale they tell us! said he to his fellows.
Drouillard came a moment later to his chief.
Those men she'll take her dog-team for Assiniboine nowmaybe so
one hundred and fifty miles that way. He'll told his factor now, on the
Tell him to take this letter to his factor, Drouillard, said he.
It is a passport given me by Mr. Thompson, representing Mr. Merry, of
the British Legation at Washington. I have fifty other passports,
better ones, each good at a hundred yards. If Mr. Chaboillez wishes to
find us, he can do so. If we have gone, let him come after us in the
My faith, said Jussaume, the Frenchman, you come a long way! Why
you want to go more farther West? But, listen, Monsieur Capitaine
the Englishman, he'll go to make trouble for you. He is going for send
word to Rocheblave, the most boss trader on Lake Superior, on Fort
William. They are going for send a man to beat you over the mountainI
'Tis a long road from here to the middle of Lake Superior's north
shore, said Meriwether Lewis. It will be a long way back from there
in the spring. While they are planning to start, already we shall be on
I know the man they'll send, went on Jussaume. Simon FraserI
know him. Long time he'll want to go up the Saskatchewan and over the
mountain on the ocean.
We'll race Mr. Fraser to the ocean, said Meriwether Lewis; him or
any other man. While he plans, we shall be on our way!
Well enough the Northern traders knew the meaning of this American
expedition into the West. If it went on, all the lower trade was lost
to Great Britain forever. The British minister, Merry, had known it.
Aaron Burr had known it. This expedition must be stopped! That was the
word which must go back to Montreal, back to London, along the trail
which ended here at the crossroads of the Missouri.
The red-headed young man is not so bad, said one of the white
news-bearers at the Assiniboine post. He is willing to parley, and he
seems disposed to be amiable. But the other, the one named LewisI can
do nothing with him. For some reason he seems to be hostile to the
British interests. He speaks well, and is a man of presence and
education, but he is bitter against us, and I cannot handle him. We
must use force to stop that man!
Agreed, then! said his master, laughing lustily, for, safe in his
own sanctuary, he had not seen these men himself. We shall use force,
as we have before. We will excite the savages against them this winter.
If they will listen to us, and turn back in the springall of them,
not part of themvery well. If they will not listen to reason, then we
shall use such means as we need to stop them.
Of this conversation the two young American officers, one of
Virginia, the other of Kentucky, knew nothing at all. But they held
council of their own, as was their fashiona council of two, sitting
by their camp fire; and while others talked, they acted.
Before November was a week old, the axes were ringing among the
cottonwoods. The men were carrying big logs toward the cleared space
shown to them, and while Meriwether Lewis worked at his journal and his
scientific records, William Clark, born soldier and born engineer, was
going forward with his little fortress.
Trenches were cut, the logs were ended uptaller pickets than any
one of that country ever had seen before. A double row of cabins was
built inside the stockade. A great gate was furnished, proof against
assault. A bastion was erected in one corner, mounting the swivel piece
so that it might be fired above the top of the wall. A little more work
of chinking the walls, of flooring the cabins, of making chimneys of
wattle and clayand presto, before the winter had well settled
down, the white explorers were housed and fortified and ready for what
The Mandans sat and watched them in wonder. Jussaume, the French
trader, shook his head. In all his experience on the trail he had seen
nothing savoring quite so much of preparedness and celerity.
Among all the posts to the northward and eastward the word went out,
carried by dog runners.
They have built a great house of tall logs, said the Indians.
They have put the thing that thunders on top of the wall. They never
sleep. Each day they exercise with their rifles under their arms. They
have long knives on their belts. They carry hatchets that are sharp
enough to shave bark. Their medicine is strong!
They write down the words of the Mandans and the Minnetarees in
their books. They are taking skins of the antelope and the bighorn and
the deer, even skins of the prairie-grouse and the badger and the
prairie-dogeverything they can get. They dry these, to make some sort
of medicine of them. They cut off pieces of wood and bark. They put the
dirt which burns in little sacks. They make pictures and make the
talking papersall the time they work at something, the two chiefs.
They have a black man with them who cannot be washed whitethey have
stained him with some medicine of their own. He makes sounds like a
buffalo, and he says that the white man made him as he is and will do
us that way. We would like to kill them, but they have made their house
They never sleep. In the daytime and in the nighttime, no matter
how cold it is, one man, two men, walk up and down inside the wall.
They have carried their boats up out of the watertwo boats, a great
one and two small. All through the woods they are cutting down the
largest trees, and out of the straight logs they are making more boats,
more boats, as many as there are fingers on one hand. They have axes
that cast much larger chips than any we ever saw. We fear these men,
because they do not fear us. We do not know what to think. They are men
who never sleep. Before the sun is up we find them writing or making
large chips with their axes, or hunting in the woodsnot a day goes by
that their hunters do not bring in elk and deer and buffalo. They do
not fear us.
We have seen no men like these. They are chiefs, and their medicine
CHAPTER V. THE APPEAL
Well done, Will Clark! said Meriwether Lewis, when, at length, one
cold winter morning, they stood within the walls of the completed
fortress. Now we can have our own fireplace and go on with our work in
comfort. The collection is growing splendidly!
Yes, Mr. Jefferson will find that we have been busy, rejoined
Clark. The barge will go down well loaded in the spring. They'll have
the best of itdownhill, and over country they have crossed.
True, mused Lewis. We are at a blank wall here. We lack a guide
now, that is sure. Two interpreters we have, who may or may not be of
use, but no one knows the country. But nowyou know our other new
interpreter, the sullen chap, Charbonneauthat polygamous scamp with
two or three Indian wives?
Yes, and a surly brute he is!
Well, it seems that last summer Charbonneau married still another
wife, a girl not over sixteen years of age, I should judge. He bought
hershe was a slave, a captive brought down from somewhere up the
river by a war-party. She is a pleasant girl, and always smiles. She
seems friendly to ussee the moccasins she made for me but now. And I
only had to knock her husband down once for beating her!
Lucky man! grinned William Clark. I have knocked him down half a
dozen times, and she has made me no moccasins at all. But what then?
So far as I can learn, that Indian girl is the only human being
here who has ever seen the Stony Mountains. The girl says that she was
taken captive years ago somewhere near the summit of the Stony
Mountains. Above here a great river comes in, which they call the
Yellow Rock Riverthe 'Ro'jaune,' Jussaume calls it. Very well. Many
days' or weeks' journey toward the west, this river comes again within
a half-day's march of the Missouri. That is near the summit of the
mountains; and this girl's people live there.
By the Lord, Merne, you're a genius for getting over new country!
Wait. I find the child very brightvery clear of mind. And listen,
Willthe mind of a woman is better for small things than that of a
man. They pick up trifles and hang on to them. I'd as soon trust that
girl for a guide out yonder as any horse-stealing warrior in a hurry to
get into a country and in a hurry to get out of it again. Raiding
parties cling to the river-courses, which they know; but she and her
people must have been far to the west of any place these adventurers of
the Minnetarees ever saw. Sacajawea she calls herselfthe 'Bird
Woman.' I swear I look upon that name itself as a good omen! She has
come back like a dove to the ark, this Bird Woman. William Clark, we
shall reach the seaor, at least, you will do so, Will, he concluded.
What do you mean, Merne? Surely, if I do, you will also!
I cannot be sure.
The florid face of William Clark showed a frown of displeasure.
You are not as well as you should beyou work too much. That is
not just to Mr. Jefferson, Merne, nor to our men, nor to me.
It was for that reason I took you on. Doesn't a man have two lungs,
two arms, two limbs, two eyes? We are those for Mr. Jeffersoneven
crippled, the expedition will live. You are as my own other hand. I
exult to see you every morning smiling out of your blankets, hopeful
Meriwether Lewis turned to his colleague with the sweet smile which
sometimes his friends saw.
You see, I am a fatalist, he went on. Ah, you laugh at me! My
people must have been owners of the second sight, I have often told
you. Humor me, Will, bear with me. Don't question me too deep. Your
flag, Will, I know will be planted on the last parapet of lifeyou
were born to succeed. For myself, I still must remember what my mother
told mesomething about the burden which would be too heavy, the trail
which would be long. At times I doubt.
Confound it, Merne, you have not been yourself since you got that
accursed letter in the night last summer!
It was unsettling, I don't deny.
I pray Heaven you'll never get another! said William Clark. From
a married woman, too! Thank God I've no such affair on my mind!
It is taboo, Willthat one thing!
And Clark, growling anathemas on all women, stalked away to find his
The snows had come soft and deep, blown on the icy winds. The horses
of the Mandans were housed in the lodges, and lived on cottonwood
instead of grass. When the vast herds of buffalo came down from the
broken hills into the shelter of the flats, the men returned
frostbitten with their loads of meat. The sky was dark. The days were
To improve the morale of their men, the leaders now planned certain
festivities for them. On Christmas Eve each man had his stocking well
stuffed with such delicacies as the company stores affordedpepper,
salt, dried fruits long cherished in the commissary, such other
knickknacks as might be spared.
On Christmas Day Drouillard brought out a fiddle. A dance was
ordered, and went on all day long on the puncheon floor of the main
cabin. In moccasins and leggings, with hair long and tunics belted
close to their lean waists, the white men danced to the tunes of their
own landthe reels and hoedowns of old Virginia and Kentucky.
The sounds of revelry were heard by the Mandans who came up to the
White men make a medicine dance, they said, and knocked for
Two women only were presentthe wife of Jussaume, the squaw man,
and Sacajawea, the girl wife of Charbonneau, the interpreter of the
Mandans. These two had many presents.
The face of Sacajawea was wreathed in smiles. Always her eyes
followed the tall form of Meriwether Lewis wherever he went. Her own
husband was but her husband, and already she had elected Meriwether
Lewis as her deity. When her husband thrashed her, always he thrashed
In her simple child's soul she consecrated herself to the task which
he had assigned her. Yes, when the grass came she would take these
white men to her own people. If they wanted to see the salt waters far
to the westher people had heard of thatthen they should go there
also. The Bird Woman was very happy that Christmas Day. The chief had
thrashed Charbonneau and had given her wonderful presents!
All the men danced but onethe youth Shannon, who once more had met
misfortune. While hewing with the broadax at one of the canoes, he had
had the misfortune to slash his foot, so must lie in his bunk and watch
Keep the men going, Will, said Meriwether Lewis. I'll go to my
room and get forward some letters which I want to writeto my mother
and to Mr. Jefferson. At least I can date them Christmas Day, although
Providence alone knows when they may be despatched or received!
He returned to his own quarters, where he had erected a little desk
at which he sometimes worked, and sat down. For a moment he remained in
thought, as the sound of the dancing still came to him, glad to find
his men so happy. At length he spread open the back of his little
leather writing-case, unscrewed his ink-horn and set it safe, drew his
keen hunting-knife, and put a point upon a goose-quill pen. Then he put
away the many written pages which still lay in the portfolio, the
product of his daily labors.
Searching for fair white paper, his eye caught sight of a sealed and
folded letter, apparently long unnoticed here among the written and
unwritten sheets. In a flash he knew what it was! Once more the blood
in his veins seemed to stop short.
TO CAPTAIN MERIWETHER LEWIS, IN CHARGE OF THE VOLUNTEERS FOR
THE DISCOVERY OF THE WEST.ON THE TRAIL.
He knew what hand had written the words. For one short instant he
had a mad impulse to cast the letter into the fire. Then there came
over him once more the feeling which oppressed him all his lifethat
he was a helpless instrument in the hands of fate. He broke the
sealnot noticing as he did so that it had a number scratched into the
waxand read the letter, which ran thus:
SIR AND FRIEND:
I know not where these presents may find you, or in what
case. Once more I keep my promise not to let you go. Once
more you shall see my facesee, it is looking up at you
from the page! Tell me, do you see me now before you?
Are other faces of women in your mind? Have they lost
themselves as women's faces so oftenso soonare lost from
a man's mind? Can you see me, Meriwether Lewis, your
Do you remember the time you saved me from the cows in the
lane at your father's farm, when I was but a child, on my
first visit to far-off Virginia? You kissed me then, to dry
my tears. You were a boy; I was a child yet younger. Can you
forget that timecan you forget what you said?
I will always be there, Theodosia, you said, when you are
You said it stoutly, and I believed it, as a child.
I believed you thenI believe you now. I still have the
same child's faith in you. My mother died while I was young;
my father has always been so busyI scarcely have been a
girl, as you say you never were a boy. You know my
husbandhe has his own affairs. But you always were my
friend, in so many ways!
It is true that I am laying a secret on your heartone
which you must observe all your life. My letter is for you,
and for no other eyes. But now I come once more to you to
hold you to your promise.
Meriwether Lewis, come back to us! By this time the
surely is long enough! We are counting absolutely on your
return. I heard Mr. Merry tell my fatherand I may tell it
to youthat on your recall rested all hope of the success
of our own cause on the lower Mississippifor ourselves and
for you. If you do not come back to us, as early as you can,
you condemn us to failuremyselfmy lifethat of my
Perhaps your delay may mean even more, Meriwether Lewis. I
have to tell you that times are threatening for this
republic. Relations between our country and Great Britain
are strained to the breaking-point. Mr. Merry says that if
our cause on the lower Mississippi shall not prevail, his
own country, as soon as it can finish with Napoleon, will
come against this republic once moreboth on the Great
Lakes and at the mouth of the Mississippi. He says that your
expedition into the West will split the country, if it goes
on. It must be withdrawn or the gap must be mended by war.
You see, then, one of the sure results of this mad folly of
Go on, therefore, if you would ruin me, my fatheryour own
future; but will you go on if you face possible ruin for
your own country by so doing? This I leave for you to say.
Surely by now the main object of your expedition will have
been accomplishedsurely you may return with all practical
results of your labors in your hands. Were that not a wiser
thing? Does not your duty lie toward the east, and not
further toward the west? There is a limit beyond which not
even a forlorn hope is asked to go when it assails a
citadel. Not every general is dishonored, though he does not
complete the campaign laid out for him. Expeditions have
failed, and will fail, with honor. Leaders of men have
failed, will fail, with honor. I do not call it failure for
you to return to us and let the expedition go on. There is a
limit to what may be asked of a man. There are two of you
for Mr. Jefferson; but for us there is only oneit is
Captain Lewis. Andhow shall I say it and not be
misunderstood?there is but one for her whose face you see,
I hope, on this page.
What limit is there to the generosity of a man like
youwhat limit to his desire to pay each duty, to keep each
promise that he has made in all his life? Will such a man
forget his promise always to kiss away the tears of that
companion to whom he has come in rescue? I am in trouble.
Tears are in my eyes as I write. Do you forget that promise?
Do you wish to make yet happier the woman whom you have so
many times made happywho has cherished so much ambition
Meriwether Lewis, my friendyou who would have been my
loverfor whom there is no hope, since fate has been so
unkindcome back to us in your generosity! Come back to me,
even in your hopelessness! Will you always see me with tears
in my eyes? Do you see me now? I swear tears fall even as I
write. And you promised always to kiss my tears away!
Farewell until I see you again. May good fortune attend you
always, wherever you goin whatever direction you may
travelfrom us or toward usfrom me or with me!
Meriwether Lewis sat, his face between his hands, staring down at
what he saw. Should he go on, or should he hand over all to William
Clark and returnreturn to keep his promisereturn to comfort, as
best he might, with the gift of all his life, that face which indeed he
had left in tears by an unpardonable act of his own?
He owed her everything she could ask of him. What must she think of
him nowthat he was not only a dishonorable man, but also a coward
running away from the responsibility of what he had done? No blow from
the hands of fate could have given him more exquisite agony than this.
For a long timehe never knew how longhe sat thus, staring,
pondering, but at length with sudden energy he rose and flung open the
door of the dancing-room.
Will! he called to his companion.
When William Clark joined his friend in the outer air, he saw the
open letter in Lewis's handsaw also the distress upon his
Merne, it's another letter from that woman! I wish I had her here,
that I might wring her neck! said William Clark viciously. Who
I don't know.
Meriwether Lewis was folding up the letter. He placed it in the
pocket of his coat with its fellow, received months ago.
Will, said he at length, don't you recall what I was telling you
this very morning? I felt something comingI felt that fate had
something more for me. You know I spoke in doubt.
Listen, Merne! replied William Clark. There is no woman in the
world worth the misery this one has put on you. It is a thing
His friend looked him steadily in the eyes.
Rebuke not her, but me! he said. This letter asks me to come back
to kiss away a woman's tears. Will, I was the cause of those tears. I
can tell you no more. What I did was a thing execrable,
unspeakableI, your friend, did that!
William Clark, more genuinely troubled than ever in his life before,
My future is forfeited, Will, went on the same even, dull voice,
which Clark could scarcely recognize; but I have decided to go on
through with you.
CHAPTER VI. WHICH WAY?
Which way, Will? asked Meriwether Lewis. Which is the river? If
we miss many guesses, the British will beat us through. Which is our
They stood at the junction of the Yellowstone with the Missouri, and
faced one of the first of their great problems. It was spring once
more. The geese were flying northward again; the grass was green. Three
weeks ago the ice had run clear, and they had left their winter
quarters among the Mandans.
Five months they had spent at the Mandan village; for five months
they had labored to reach that place; for five months, or more, they
had lain at St. Louis. Time was passing. As Meriwether Lewis said, few
wrong guesses could be afforded.
Early in April the great barge, manned by ten men, had set out down
stream, carrying with it the proof of the success of the expedition. It
bore many new things, precious things, things unknown to civilization.
Among these were sixty specimens of plants, as many of minerals and
earth, weapons of the Indians, examples of their clothing, specimens of
the corn and other vegetables which they raised, horns of the bighorn
and the antelopeboth animals then new to scienceantlers of the deer
and elk, stuffed specimens, dried skins, herbs, fruits, flowers; and
with all these the broken story of a new geographythe greatest story
ever sent out for publication by any man or men; and all done in
As the great barge had started down the river, the two pirogues
which had come so far, joined by the cottonwood dugouts laboriously
fabricated during the winter months, had started up the river, manned
by thirty-one men.
With the pick of the original party, there had come but one woman,
the girl Sacajawea, with her little baby, born that winter at the
Mandan fortress. Sacajawea now had her place in the camp; she and her
infant were the pets of all. She sat in the sunlight, her baby in her
lap, by her side an Indian dog, a waif which Lewis had found abandoned
in an Indian encampment, and which had attached itself to him.
Sacajawea smiled as the tall form of the captain came toward her.
She had already learned some of the words of his tongue, he some of
Which way, Sacajawea? asked Meriwether Lewis. What river is this
which goes on to the left?
Him Ro'shone, replied the girl. My man call him that. No good!
Himbig river; and she pointed toward the right-hand stream.
As I thought, Will, said Lewis, nodding; and again, to the Indian
girl: Do you remember this place?
She nodded her head vigorously and smiled.
With a pointed stick she began to sketch a map on the sand of the
river bar, showing how the Yellowstone flowed from the southhow, far
on ahead, its upper course bent toward the Missouri, with a march of
not more than a day between the two. The maps of this new world that
first came back to civilization were copies of Indians' drawings made
with a pointed stick upon the earth, or with a coal on a whitened hide.
She knows, Will! said Lewis. See, this place she marks near the
mountain summit, where the two streams are closesome time we must
explore that crossing!
I'm sure I'd rather trust her map than this one, here, of old
Jonathan Carver, answered Clark, the map-maker. His idea of this
country is that four great rivers head about where we are now. He marks
the river Bourbonwhich I never heard ofas running north to Hudson
Bay, but he has the St. Lawrence rising near here, tooand it must be
fifteen hundred or two thousand miles off to the east! The Mississippi,
too, he thinks heads about here, at the mouth of the Yellowstone, and
yonder runs the Oregon River, which I presume is the Columbia. 'Tis all
very simple, on Carver's maps, but perhaps not quite so easy, if we
follow that of Sacajawea. This country is wider than any of us ever
And greater, and more beautiful in every way, assented his
They stood and gazed about them at the scene of wild beauty. The
river ran in long curves between bold and sculptured bluffs, among
groves of native trees, now softly green. Above, on the prairies, lay a
carpet of the shy wild rose, most beautiful of the prairie blossoms.
All about were shrubs and flowers, now putting forth their claims in
the renewed life of spring.
On the plains fed the buffalo, far as the eye could reach. Antelope,
deer, the shy bighorn, all these might be seen, and the footprints of
the giant bears along the beaches. It was the wilderness, and it was
theirsthey owned it all!
Thus far they had seen no sign of any human occupancy. They did not
meet a single human being, red or white, all that summer. A vast,
silent, unclaimed land, beautiful and abounding, lay waiting for
occupancy. There was no map of itnone save that written on the soil
now and then by an Indian girl sixteen years of age.
They plodded on now, taking the right-hand stream, with full
confidence in their guidance, forging onward a little every day,
between the high banks of the swift river that came down from the great
mountains. April passed, and May.
Soon we see the mountains! insisted Sacajawea.
And at last, two months out from the Mandans, Lewis looked westward
from a little eminence and saw a low, broken line, white in spots, not
to be confused with the lesser eminences of the near by landscape.
It is the mountains! he exclaimed. There lie the Stonies. They do
exist! We shall surely reach them! We have won!
Not yet had they won. These shining mountains lay a long distance to
the westward; and yet other questions were to be settled ere they might
Within a week they came to yet another forking of the stream. A
strong river came boiling down from the north, of color and depth much
similar to that of the Missouri they had known. On the left ran a less
turbulent and clearer stream. Which was the way?
The north wan, she'll be the right wan, Capitaine, said
Cruzatte, himself a good voyageur.
Most of the men agreed with him. The leaders recalled that the
Mandans had said that the Missouri after a time grew clear in color,
and that it would lead to the mountains. Which, now, was the Missouri?
They found the moccasin of an Indian not far from here.
Blackfoot! said Sacajawea, and pointed to the north, shaking her
She insisted that the left-hand river was the right one; but,
unwilling as yet to rely on her fully, the leaders called a council of
the men, and listened to their arguments.
They knew well enough that a wrong choice here might mean the
failure of their expedition. Cruzatte had many adherents. The men began
If we go up that left-hand stream we shall be lost among the
mountains, one said. We shall perish when the winter comes!
We will go both ways, said Meriwether Lewis at length. Captain
Clark will explore the lower fork, while I go up the right-hand stream.
We will meet here when we know the truth.
So Lewis traveled two days' journey up the right-hand fork before he
turned back, thoughtful.
I have decided, said he to the men who accompanied him. This
stream will lead us far to the north, into the British country. It
cannot be the true Missouri. I shall call this Maria's River, after my
cousin in Virginia, Maria Woods. I shall not call it the Missouri.
He met Clark at the fork of the river, and again they held a
council. The men were still dissatisfied. Clark had advanced some
distance up the left-hand stream.
We must prove it yet further, said Meriwether Lewis. Captain
Clark, do you remain here, while I go on ahead far enough to know
absolutely whether we are right or wrong. If we are not right in our
choice, it is as the men saywe shall fail! But where is Sacajawea?
he added. I will ask her once more.
Sacajawea was ill; she was in a fever. She could not talk to her
husband; but to Lewis she talked, and always she said, That way! By
and by, big fallsum-m-m, um-m-m!
Guard her well, said Lewis anxiously. Much depends on her. I must
go on ahead.
He took the French interpreter, Drouillard, and three of the
Kentuckians, and started on up the left-hand stream with one boat. The
current of the river seemed to stiffen. It cost continually increasing
toil to get the boat upstream. They were gone for several days, and no
word came back from them.
Meantime, at the river forks, William Clark was busy. It was obvious
that the explorers must lighten the loads of their boats. They began to
cache all the heavy goods with which they could dispensetheir tools,
the extra lead and powder-tins, some of the flour, all the heavy stuff
which would encumber them most seriously. Here, too, was the end of the
journey of the red pirogue from St. Louisthey hid it in the willows
of an island near the mouth of Maria's River.
Lewis himself, weak from toil, fell ill on the way, but still he
would not stop. He came to a point from which he could see the
mountains plainly on ahead. The river was narrow, flowing through a
The next day they came to the foot of the Great Falls of the
Missouri, alone, majestic here in the wilderness, soundless save for
their own dashingthose wonderful cascades, now so well known in
industry, so nearly forgotten in history.
The girl was rightthis is the river! said Lewis to his men. It
comes from the mountains. We are right!
Cascade after cascade, rapid after rapid, he pushed on to the head
of the great drop of the Missouri, where it plunges down from its upper
valley for its long journey through the vast plains.
Now word went down to the mouth of Maria's River; but the messenger
met Clark already toiling upward with his boats, for he had guessed the
cause of delay, and at last believed Sacajawea.
Make some boat-trucks, Will, said Lewis, when at last they were
all encamped at the foot of the falls. We shall have to portage twenty
miles of falls and rapids.
And William Clark, the ever-ready engineer, who always had a
solution for any problem in mechanics or in geography, went to work
upon the hardest task in transportation they yet had had.
We must leave more plunder here, Merne, said he. We can't get
into the mountains with all this.
So again they cached some of their stores. They buried here the
great swivel piece which had made the thunder among so many savage
tribes. Also there were stored here the spring's collection of animals
and minerals, certain books and maps not needed, and the great
grindstone which had come all the way from Harper's Ferry. They were
stripping for their race.
It took the party a full month to make the portage. They were worn
to the bone by the hard labor, scorched by the sun, and frozen by the
We must go on! was always the cry.
All felt that the summer was going; none knew what might be on
At the cost of greater and greater toil they pushed on up their
river above the falls, until presently its course bent off to the south
again. They passed through a country of such wealth as none of them had
ever dreamed of, but they did not suspect the hidden treasures of gold
and silver which lay so close to them on the floor of the mountain
valleys. What interested them more was the excitement of Sacajawea, who
from time to time pointed out traces of human occupancy.
My people here! said she, and pointed to camp-fires. Plenty
people come here. Heap hunt buffalo! She pointed out the trails made
by the lodge-poles.
She knows, Will! said Lewis, once more. We have a guide even
here. We are the luckiest of men!
Soon we come where three rivers, said Sacajawea one day. They had
passed to the south and west through the first range of
mountainsthrough that Gate of the Mountains near to the rich gold
fields of the future State of Montana. By and by, three riversI
And it was as she had said. The men, wearied to the limit by the
toil of getting the boats upstream by line and setting pole, at last
found their mountain river broken into three separate streams.
We will camp here, said the leader. We are tired, we have worked
long and hard!
My people come here, said Sacajawea, plenty time. Here the
Minnetarees struck my peoplefive snows ago that was. They caught me
and took me with them, so I find Charbonneau among the Mandans. Here my
Without hesitation she pointed out that one of the three forks of
the Missouri which led off to the westwardthe one that Meriwether
Lewis called the Jefferson.
And now every man in the party felt that they were on the right path
as they turned into that stream; but at the Beaver Head Rockwell
known to all the Indiansthey went into camp once more.
Captains make medicine now, said Sacajawea to Charbonneau, her
For once more the captains hesitated. There were many passes, many
valleys, many trails. Which was the way? The men grew sullen again.
They lay in camp for days, sending out parties, feeling out the way;
but the explorers always came back uncertain. It was Clark who led
these scouting parties now, for Lewis was well-nigh broken down in
One night, alone, the leader sat by his little fire, thinking,
thinking, as so often he did now. The stars, unspeakably brilliant, lit
up the wild scene about him. This was the wilderness! He had sought it
all his life. All his life it had called to him aloud. What had it done
for him, after all? Had it taught him to forget?
Two years now had passed, and still he saw a face which would not go
away. Still there arose before him the same questions whose debate had
torn his soul, worn out his body, through these weary months.
You will be cold, sir, said one of the men solicitously, as he
passed on his way to guard mount. Shall I fetch your coat?
Lewis thanked him, and the man brought from his tent the captain's
uniform coat, which he had forgotten. Absently he sought to put it on,
and felt something crinkling in the sleeve. It was a bit of paper.
He halted, the old presentiment coming to his mind.
Is Shannon here? he asked of the man who had handed him the coat.
He was to get my moccasins mended for me.
No, captain, he is out with Captain Clark, replied Fields, the
Very wellthat will do, Fields.
Meriwether Lewis sat down again by his little fire, his last letter
in his hand. Gently he ran a finger along the sealstooped over,
kicked together the embers of the fire, and saw scratched in the wax a
number. This was Number Three!
He did not open it for a time. He looked at itno longer in dread,
but in eagerness. It seemed to him, indeed, as if the letter had come
in response to the outcry of his soulthat it really had dropped from
the sky, manna for a hungry heart. It was the absence of this which had
worn him thin, left him the shadow of the man he should have been.
Here, as he knew well, was one more summons to what seemed to him to
be a duty. And off to the west, shining cold in the night under the
stars, stood the mountains, beckoning. Which was the way?
He broke the seal slowly, with no haste, knowing that whatever the
letter said it could mean only more unhappiness to him. Yet he was
hungry for it as one who longs for a soothing drug.
He pushed together yet more closely the burning sticks of his little
fire and bent over to read. It was very little that he saw written, but
it spoke to him like a voice in the night:
Come back to meah, come back! I need you. I implore you to
There was no address, no date, no signature. There was no means of
telling whence or how this letter had come to him, more than any of the
Go back to herhow could he, now? It was more than a year since
these words had been written! What avail now, if he did return? No, he
had delayed, he had gone on, and he had cost herwhat? Perhaps her
happiness as well as his own, perhaps the success of herself and of
many others, perhaps his own success in life. Against that, what could
The white mountains on ahead made no reply to him. The stars glowed
cold and white above him, but they seemed like a thousand facets of
pitiless light turned upon his soul.
The quavering howl of a wolf on a near by eminence sounded like a
voice to him, mocking, taunting, fiendish. Never, it seemed to him, had
any man been thus unhappy. Even the wilderness had failed him! In a
land of desolation he sat, a desolate soul.
CHAPTER VII. THE MOUNTAINS
When William Clark returned from his three days' scouting trip, his
forehead was furrowed with anxiety. His men were silent as they filed
into camp and cast down their knapsacks.
It's no use, Merne, said Clark, we are in a pocket here. The
other two forks, which we called the Madison and the Gallatin, both
come from the southeast, entirely out of our course. The divide seems
to face around south of us and bend up again on the west. Who knows the
way across? Our river valley is gone. The only sure way seems
What do you mean? demanded Meriwether Lewis quietly.
I scarce know. I am worn out, Merne. My men have been driven hard.
And why not?
His companion remained silent under the apparent rebuke.
You don't mean that we should return? Lewis went on.
Why not, Merne? said William Clark, sighing.
Our men are exhausted. There are other years than this.
Meriwether Lewis turned upon his friend with the one flash of wrath
which ever was known between them.
Good Heavens, Captain Clark, said he, there is not any
other year than this! There is not any other month, or week, or day but
this! It is not for you or me to hesitatewithin the hour I shall go
on. We'll cross over, or we'll leave the bones of every man of the
expedition herethis yearnow!
Clark's florid face flushed under the sting of his comrade's words;
but his response was manful and just.
You are right, said he at length. Forgive me if for a
momentjust a momentI seemed to question the possibility of going
forward. Give me a night to sleep. As I said, I am worn out. If I ever
see Mr. Jefferson again, I shall tell him that all the credit for this
expedition rests with you. I shall say that once I wavered, and that I
had no cause. You do not waveryet I know what excuse you would have
You are only weary, Will. It is my turn now, said Meriwether
Lewis; and he never told his friend of this last letter.
A moment later he had called one of his men.
McNeal, said he, get Reuben Fields, Whitehouse, and Goodrich.
Make light packs. We are going into the mountains!
The four men shortly appeared, but they were silent, morose, moody.
Those who were to remain in the camp shared their silence. Sacajawea
alone smiled as they departed.
That way! said she, pointing; and she knew that her chief would
find the path.
May we not wonder, in these later days, if any of us, who reap so
carelessly and so selfishly where others have plowed and sown, reflect
as we should upon the first cost of what we call our own? The fifteen
million dollars paid for the vast empire which these men were
exploringthat was littlethat was naught. But ah, the cost in blood
and toil and weariness, in love and loyalty and faith, in daring and
suffering and heartbreak of those who went ahead! It was a few brave
leaders who furnished the stark, unflinching courage for us all.
Sergeant Ordway, with Pryor and Gass, met in one of the many little
ominous groups that now began to form among the men in camp. Captain
Clark was sleeping, exhausted.
It stands to reason, said Ordway, usually so silent, that the way
across the range is up one valley to the divide and down the next creek
on the opposite side. That is the way we crossed the Alleghanies.
Pryor nodded his head.
Sure, said he, and all the game-trails break off to the south and
southwest. Follow the elk!
Is it so? exclaimed Patrick Gass. You think it aisy to find a way
across yonder range? And how d'ye know jist how the Alleghanies was
crossed first? Did they make it the first toime they thried? Things is
aisy enough after they've been done wancebut it's the first
toime that counts!
There is no other way, Pat, argued Ordway. 'Tis the rivers that
make passes in any mountain range.
Which is the roight river, then? rejoined Gass. We're lookin' for
wan that mebbe is nowhere near here. S'pose we go to the top yonder and
take a creek down, and s'pose that creek don't run the roight way at
all, but comes out a thousand miles to the southwestwhere are you
then, I'd like to know? The throuble with us is we're the first wans to
cross here, and not comin' along after some one else has done the
thrick for us.
Pryor was willing to argue further.
All the Injuns have said the big river was over there somewhere.
'Somewhere'! exclaimed Patrick Gass. 'Somewhere' is a mighty long
ways when we're lost and hungry!
Which is just what we are now, rejoined Pryor. The sooner we
start back the quicker we'll be out of this.
Pryor! The square face of the Irishman hardened at once. Listen
to me. Ye're my bunkmate and friend, but I warn ye not to say that
agin! If ye said it where he could hear yethat man aheaddo you know
what he would do to you?
I ain't particular. 'Tis time we took this thing into our own
It's where we're takin' it now, Pryor! said Gass ominously.
A coort martial has set for less than that ye've said!
Mebbe you couldn't call oneI don't know.
Mebbe we couldn't, eh? I mind me of a little settlement I had with
that man wanceno coort martial at allme not enlisted at the toime,
and not responsible under the arthicles of war. I said to his face I
was of the belief I could lick him. I said it kindly, and meant no
harm, because at the time it seemed to me I could, and 'twould be a
pleasure to me. But boys, he hit me wan time, and when I came to I was
careless whether it was the arthicles of war or not had hit me. Listen
to me now, Pryorand you, too, Ordwaya man like that is liable to
have judgment in his head as well as a punch in his arm. We're safer to
folly him than to folly ourselves. Moreover, I want you to say to your
men that we will not have thim foregatherin' around and talkin' any
disrespect to their shuperiors. If we're in a bad place, let us fight
our ways out. Let's not turn back until we are forced. I never did
loike any rooster in the ring that would either squawk or run away.
That man yonder, on ahead, naded mighty little persuadin' to fight. I'm
Well, maybe you are right, Pat, said Ordway after a time. And so
the mutiny once more halted.
The tide changed quickly when it began to set the other way. Lewis
led an advance party across the range. One day, deep in the mountains,
he was sweeping the country with his spyglass, as was his custom. He
gave a sudden exclamation.
What is it, Captain? asked Hugh McNeal. Some game?
No, a manan Indian! Riding a good horse, toothat means he has
more horses somewhere. Come, we will call to him!
The wild rider, however, had nothing but suspicion for the
newcomers. Staring at them, he wheeled at length and was away at top
speed. Once more they were alone, and none the better off.
His people are that way, said Lewis. Come!
But all that day passed, and that night, and still they found none
of the natives. But they began to see signs of Indians now, fresh
tracks, hoofprints of many horses. And thus finally they came upon two
Indian women and a child, whom the white men surprised before they were
able to escape. Lewis took up the child, and showed the mother that he
was a friend.
These are Shoshones, said he to his men. I can speak with themI
have learned some of their tongue from Sacajawea. These are her people.
We are safe!
Sixty warriors met them, all mounted, all gorgeously clad. Again the
great peace pipe, again the spread blanket inviting the council. The
Shoshones showed no signs of hostilitythe few words of their tongue
which Lewis was able to speak gave them assurance.
McNeal, said Lewis, go back now across the range, and tell
Captain Clark to bring up the men.
William Clark, given one night's sleep, was his energetic self
again, and not in mind to lie in camp. He had already ordered camp
broken, more of the heavier articles cached, the canoes concealed here
and there along the stream and had pushed on after Lewis. He met McNeal
coming down, bearing the tidings. Sacajawea ran on ahead in glee.
My people! My people! she cried.
They were indeed safe now. Sacajawea found her brother, the chief of
this band of Shoshones, and was made welcome. She found many friends of
her girlhood, who had long mourned her as dead. The girls and younger
women laughed and wept in turn as they welcomed her and her baby. She
was a great person. Never had such news as this come among the
[Footnote 5: Cam-e-ah-wit was the name of Sacajawea's brother, the
Shoshone chief. The country where Lewis met him is remote from any
large city today. Pass through the Gate of the Mountains, not far from
Helena, Montana, and ascend the upper valley of the Missouri, as it
sweeps west of what is now the Yellowstone Park, and one may follow
with a certain degree of comfort the trail of the early explorers. If
one should then follow the Jefferson Fork of the great river up to its
last narrowing, one would reach the country of Cam-e-ah-wit. Here is
the crest of the Continental Divide, where it sweeps up from the south,
after walling in, as if in a vast cup, the three main sources of the
great river. Much of that valley country is in fertile farms today.
Lewis and Clark passed within twelve miles of Alder Gulch, which wrote
roaring history in the early sixtiesthe wild placer days of
gold-mining in Montana.
As for Sacajawea, she has a monumenta very poor and inadequate
onein the city of Portland, Oregon. The crest of the Great Divide,
where she met her brother, would have been a better place. It was here,
in effect, that she ended that extraordinary guidancesome call it
nothing less than providentialwhich brought the white men through in
Trace this Indian girl's birth and childhood, here among the
Shoshones, who had fled to the mountains to escape the guns of the
Blackfeet. Recall her capture here by the Minnetarees from the Dakota
country. Picture her long journey thence to the east, on foot, by
horse, in bull-hide canoes, many hundreds of miles, to the Mandan
villages. It is something of a journey, even now. Reverse that journey,
go against the swift current of the waters, beyond the Great Falls,
past Helena, west of the Yellowstone Park, and up to the Continental
Divide, where she met her brother. You will find that that is still
more of a journey, even today, with roads, and towns, and maps to guide
you. Meriwether Lewis could not have made it without her.
While he was studying the courses of the stars, at Philadelphia,
preparing to lead his expedition, Sacajawea was learning the story of
nature also; and she was waiting to guide the white men when they
reached the Mandan villages. Who guided her in such unbelievably
strange fashion? The Indians sometimes made long journeys, their war
parties traveled far, and their captives also; but in all the history
of the tribes there is no record of a journey made by any Indian woman
equal to that of Sacajawea. Why did she make it? What hand pointed out
the way for her?
A statue to her? She should have a thousand memorials along the old
trail! Her name should be known familiarly by every school child in
All were now content to lie for a few days at the Shoshone village.
A brisk trade in Indian horses now sprang upthey would be footmen no
Which way, Sacajawea? Meriwether Lewis once more asked the Indian
But now she only shook her head.
Not know, said she. These my people. They say big river that way.
Not know which way.
Now, Merne, said William Clark, it's my turn again. We have got
to learn the best way out from these mountains. If there is a big river
below, some of these valleys must run down to it. Their waters probably
flow to the Columbia. The Indians talk of salmon and of white menthey
have heard of goods which must have been made by white men. We are in
touch with the Pacific here. I'll get a guide and explore off to the
southwest. It looks better there.
No goodno good! insisted Sacajawea. That way no good. My
brother say go that way.
She pointed to the north, and insisted that the party should go in
For a hundred miles Clark scouted down the headwaters of the Salmon
River, and at last turned back, to report that neither horse nor boat
ever could get through. At the Shoshone village, uneasy, the men were
waiting for him.
That way! said Sacajawea, still pointing north.
The Indian guide, who had served Clark unwillingly, at length
admitted that there was a trail leading across the mountains far up to
We will go north, said Lewis.
They cached under the ashes of their camp fire such remaining
articles as they could leave behind them. They had now a band of fifty
horses. Partly mounted, mostly on foot, their half wild horses
burdened, they set out once more under the guidance of an old Shoshone,
who said he knew the way.
Charbonneau wanted to remain with the Shoshones, and to keep with
him Sacajawea, his wife, so recently reunited to her people.
No! said Sacajawea. I no go backI go with the white chief to
the water that tastes salt! And it was so ordered.
Their course lay along the eastern side of the lofty Bitter Root
Mountains. The going was rude enough, since no trail had ever been
here; but mile after mile, day after day, they stumbled through to some
point on ahead which none knew except the guide. They came on a new
tribe of IndiansFlatheads, who were as amazed and curious as the
Shoshones had been at the coming of these white men. They received the
explorers as friendsasked them to tarry, told them how dangerous it
was to go into the mountains.
But haste was the order of the day, and they left the Flatheads,
rejoicing that these also told of streams to the westward up which the
salmon came. They had heard of white men, too, to the west, many years
Down the beautiful valley of the Bitter Root River, with splendid
mountains on either side, they pressed on, and on the ninth of
September, 1805, they stopped at the mouth of a stream coming down from
the heights to the west. Their old guide pointed up this valley.
There is a trail, said he, which comes across here. The Indians
come to reach the buffalo. On the farther side the water runs toward
They were at the eastern extremity of that ancient trail, later
called the Lolo Trail, known immemorially to the tribes on both sides
of the mountains. Laboriously, always pressing forward, they ascended
the eastern slopes of the great range, crossed the summit, found the
clear waters on the west side, and so came to the Kooskooskie or
Clearwater River, leading to the Snake. And always the natives marveled
at these white men, the first they ever had seen.
The old Indians still made maps on the sand for them, showing them
how they would come to the great river where the salmon came. They were
now among yet another peoplethe Nez Percés. With these also they
smoked and counciled, and learned that it would be easy for boats to go
all the way down to the great river which ran to the sea.
We will leave our horses here, said Lewis. We will take to the
boats once more.
So Gass and Bratton and Shields and all the other artisans fell to
fashioning dugouts from the tall pines and cedars, hewing and burning
and shaping, until at length they had transports for their scanty store
of goods. By the first week of October they were at the junction of
their river with the Snake. An old medicine man of the Nez Percés,
Twisted Hair, a man who also could make maps, had drawn them charts on
a white skin with a bit of charcoal. And on ahead, mounted runners of
the Indians rushed down to inform the tribes of the coming of these
It was no longer an exploration, but a reception for them now. Bands
of red men, who welcomed them, had heard of white men coming up from
the sea. White men had once lived by the Tim-Tim water, on the great
river of the salmonso they had been told; but never had any living
Indian heard of white men coming across the great mountains from the
Will, said Lewis, it is donewe are safe now! We shall be first
across to the Columbia. This he shook the Nez Percés' scrawled
hideis the map of a new world!
CHAPTER VIII. TRAIL'S END
Where lately had been gloom and despair there now reigned joy and
confidence. With the great mountains behind them, and this new,
pleasant and gentle land all around them, the spirits of the men rose
They could float easily down the strong current of the great Snake
River, laboring but little, if at all. They made long hours every day,
and by the middle of autumn they saw ahead of them a yet grander flood
than that of the noble river which was bearing them.
At last they had found the Columbia! They had found what Mackenzie
never found, what Fraser was not to findthat great river, now to be
taken over with every right of double discovery by these messengers of
the young republic. How swelled their hearts, when at last they knew
this truth, unescapable, incontrovertible! It was theirs. They had won!
The men had grown reckless now. Cruzatte, Labiche, Drouillardall
the adventurerssang as they traveled, gayer and more gay from day to
Always the landscape had fascinating interest for them in its
repeated changes. They were in a different world. No one had seen the
mountains which they saw. The Rockies, the Bitter Rootsthese they had
passed; and now they must yet pass through another range, this time not
by the toilsome process of foot or horse travel, but on the strong
flood of the river. The Columbia had made a trail for them through the
Down the stormy rapids they plunged exulting. Mount Hood, St.
Helen's, Rainier, Adamsall the lofty peaks of the great Cascades, so
named at a later date, appeared before them, around them, behind them,
as they swung into the last lap of their wild journey and headed down
toward the sea. Cruzatte, Labiche, Drouillardall you otherstime
now, indeed, for you to raise the song of the old voyageurs! None have
come so far as youyour paddles are wrinkling new waters. You are
brave men, every one, and yours is the reward of the brave!
Soon, so said the Indians, they would come to shipscanoes with
trees standing in them, on which teepees were hung.
Me, said Cruzatte, I never in my whole life was seen a sheep! I
will be glad for see wan now.
But they found no ship anywhere in the lower Columbia. All the
shores were silent, deserted; no vessel lay at anchor. Before them lay
the empty river, wide as a sea, and told no tales of what had been.
They were alone, in the third year out from home. Thousands of leagues
they had traveled, and must travel back again.
Here they saw many gulls. As to Columbus these birds had meant land,
to our discoverers they meant the sea. Forty miles below the last
village they saw itrolling in solemn, white-topped waves beyond the
Every paddle ceased at its work, and the boats lay tossing on the
incoming waves. There was the end of the great trail. Yonder lay the
Meriwether Lewis turned and looked into the eyes of William Clark,
who sat at the bow of the next canoe. Each friend nodded to the other.
Neither spoke. The lips of both were tight.
The big flag, Sergeant Gass! said Lewis.
They turned ashore. There had been four mess fires at each
encampment thus farthose of the three sergeants and that of the
officers; but now, as they huddled on the wet beach on which they
disembarked, the officers ordered the men to build but one fire, and
that a large one. Grouped about this they all stood, ragged, soaked,
gaunt, unkempt, yet the happiest company of adventurers that ever
followed a long trail to its end.
Men, said Meriwether Lewis at length, we have now arrived at the
end of our journey. In my belief there has never been a party more
loyal to the purpose on which it has been engaged. Without your
strength and courage we could not have reached the sea. It is my wish
to thank you for Mr. Jefferson, the President of the United States, who
sent us here. If at any time one of you has been disposed to doubt, or
to resent conditions which necessarily were imposed, let all that be
forgotten. We have done our work. Here we must pass the winter. In the
spring we will make quick time homeward.
They gave him three cheers, and three for Captain Clark. York gave
expression to his own emotions by walking about the beach on his hands.
And the confounded ships are all gone back to sea! grumbled
Patrick Gass. I've been achin' for days to git here, in the hope of
foindin' some sailor man I'd loike to thrashand here is no one at
all, at all!
Will, said Meriwether Lewis after a time, pulling out the
inevitable map, I wonder where it was that Alexander Mackenzie struck
the Pacific twelve years ago! It must have been far north of here. We
have come around forty-seven degrees of longitude west from Washington,
and something like nine degrees north unite with France or Spain on the
south to known exploration by land. We have driven the wedge home!
Never again can Great Britain on the north unite with France or Spain
on the south to threaten our western frontier. If they dispute the
title we purchased from Napoleon, they can never deny our claim by
right of discovery. This, I say, solidifies our republic! We have done
the work given us to do.
Yes, grinned William Clark, standing on one leg and warming his
wet moccasin sole at the fire; and I wonder where that other
gentleman, Mr. Simon Fraser, is just now!
They could not know that Fraser, the trader who was their rival in
the great race to the Pacific, was at that time snow-bound in the
Rockies more than one thousand miles north of them.
Three years after the time when this little band of adventurers
stood in the rain at the mouth of the Columbia, Fraser, at the mouth of
the river named after him, heard of white men who had come to the ocean
somewhere far to the south. Word had passed up the coast, among the
native tribes, of men who had white skins, and who had with them a
black man with curly hair.
That's Lewis and Clark! said Simon Fraser. They were at the
Mandan villages. We are beaten!
So now the largest flag left to Lewis and Clark floated by the side
of a single fire on the wet beach on the north shore of the Columbia.
Here a rude bivouac was pitched, while the leaders finished their first
hasty investigation along the beach.
There is little to attract us here, said William Clark. On the
south shore there is better shelter for our winter camp. So they
headed their little boats across the wide flood of the Columbia.
It was now December of the year 1805. Fort Clatsop, as they called
their new stockade, was soon in process of erectionseven splendid
cabins, built of the best-working wood these men ever had seen; a tall
stockade with a gate, such as their forefathers had always built in any
While some worked, others hunted, finding the elk abundant. More
than one hundred elk and many deer were killed. And having nothing
better, they now set to work to tan the hides of elk and deer, and to
make new clothing. As to civilized equipment they had little left.
About four hundred pairs of moccasins they made that winter, Sacajawea
presiding over the moccasin-boards, and teaching the men to sew.
Clark, the indefatigable, a natural geographer, completed the
remarkable series of maps which so fully established the accuracy of
their observations and the usefulness of the voyage across the
continent. Lewis kept up his records and extended his journals. All
were busy, all happier than they had been since their departure from
Christmas was once more celebrated to the tune of the Frenchman's
fiddle. Came New Year's Day also; and by that time the stockade was
finished, the gate was up, the men were ready for any fortune which
Pretty soon, by and by, said the voyageurs, we will run on the
river for home once more!
Even Sacajawea, having fulfilled her great ambition of looking out
over the sea which tasted of salt, said that she, too, would be content
to go back to her people.
We must leave a record, Will, said Lewis one day, looking up from
his papers. We must take no chances of the results of our exploration
not reaching Washington. Should we be lost among the tribes east of
here, perhaps some ship may take that word to Mr. Jefferson.
So now, between them, they formulated that famous announcement to
the world, which, one year after their safe arrival home overland, the
ships brought around by Cape Horn, to advise the world that a
transcontinental path had been blazed:
The object of this list is that through the medium of some
civilized person who may see the same, it may be made known
to the world that the party consisting of the persons whose
names are hereunto annexed, and who were sent out by the
government of the United States to explore the interior of
the continent of North America, did penetrate the same by
the way of the Missouri and Columbia Rivers, to the
discharge of the latter into the Pacific Ocean, where they
arrived on the 14th day of November, 1805, and departed the
23rd day of March, 1806, on their return trip to the United
States by the same route by which they had come out.
This, so soon as they knew their starting date, they signed, each of
them, and copies were made for posting here and there in such places as
naturally would be discovered by any mariners coming in. And today
wewho can glibly list the names of the multimillionaires of
Americacannot tell the names of more than two of those thirty-one
men, each of whom should be an immortal.
Boats now, Will! said Meriwether Lewis. We must have boats
against our start in the spring. These canoes which brought us down
from the Kooskooskie were well enough in their way, but will not serve
for the upstream journey. Again we must lift up the entire party
against the current of a great river. Get some of the Indians' seagoing
canoes, Willtheir lines are easier than those of our dugouts.
Need was for skilful trading now on the part of William Clark, for,
eager as the natives were for the white men's goods, scant store of
them remained. All the fishhooks were gone, most of the beads,
practically all the hats and coats which once had served so well. When
at length Clark announced that he had secured a fine Chinook canoe,
there remained for all the return voyage, thousands of miles among the
Indians, only a half-dozen blankets, a few little trinkets, a hat, and
a uniform coat.
You could tie up all the rest in a couple of handkerchiefs, said
William Clark, laughing. But such as it is, it must last us back to
St. Louisor at least to our caches on the Missouri.
How is your salt, Will? asked Lewis. And your powder?
In fine shape, was the reply. We have put the new-made salt in
some of the empty canisters. There is plenty of powder and lead left,
and we can pick up more as we reach our caches going eastward. With
what dried meat we can lay up from the elk here, we ought to make a
Thus they planned, these two extraordinary young men, facing a
transcontinental journey of four thousand miles, with no better
equipment than the rifles which had served them on their way out. As
for their followers, all the discontent and doubt had given way to an
implicit faith. All seemed well fed and content, save onethe man on
whose shoulders had rested the gravest responsibility, the man in whose
soul had been born the vision of this very scene.
What is the matter with you, Merne? grumbled his more buoyant
companion. Are you still carrying all the weight of the entire world?
Lewis turned upon his friend with the same patient smile. Both were
conscious that between them there was growing a thin, impermeable
veilsomething mysterious, the only barrier which ever had separated
these two loyal souls.
Sacajawea, the Indian girl, was as keen-eyed as the red-headed
chief. In the new boldness that she had learned in her position as
general pet of the expedition, she would sometimes talk to the chief
Capt'in, she said one day, what for you no laff? What for you no
eat? What for you all time think, think, think? See, she extended a
handI make you some more moccasin. I got picture your footthese
fit plenty good.
Thank you, Bird Woman, said Lewis, rousing himself. Without you
we would not be here today. What can I give you in return for all
thatin return for these?
He took the pair of handsomely stitched moccasins, dangling them by
the strings over one finger; but even as he did so, the old brooding
melancholy fell upon him once more. He sat, forgetful of the girl's
presence, staring moodily at the fire. Sacajawea, grieving like a
little child, stole silently away.
Why did Meriwether Lewis never laugh? Why did he always think,
think, think? Why had there grown between him and his friend that thin,
He was hungryhungry for another message out of the skyanother
gift of manna in the wilderness. Who had brought those mysterious
letters? Whoever he was, why did he not bring another? Were they all
doneshould he never hear from her again?
CHAPTER IX. THE SUMMONS
The winter was wearing away. The wild fowl were passing northward,
landward. The game had changed its haunts. March was coming, the month
between the seasons for the tribes, the time of want, the leanest
period of the year.
Meriwether Lewis, alone one morning in the comfortable cabin which
served as a house for himself and his friend, sat pondering on these
things, as was his wont. His little Indian dog, always his steady
companion, had taken its place on the top of the flatted stump which
served as a desk, near the maps and papers which Lewis had pushed away.
Here the small creature sat, motionless, mute, its eyes fixed adoringly
upon its master.
The captain did not notice it. He did not at first hear the rap on
the door, nor the footfall of the man who entered inquiringly.
Yes, Sergeant Ordway? said he presently, looking up.
Something for you, sir. It seems to be a letter.
A letter! How could that be?
That is the puzzle, sir, said Ordway, extending a folded and
sealed bit of paper. We do not know how it came. Charbonneau's wife,
the Indian woman, found it in the baby's hammock just now. She brought
it to me, and I saw it was addressed to you. It must have been
overlooked by you some time.
Possiblypossibly, said Lewis. His face was growing pale. That
is all, I think, Sergeant, he added.
Now alone, he turned toward the letter, which lay upon the table.
His face lighted with a wondrous smile, though none might see it save
the little dog which watched his every movement. For Meriwether Lewis
had received once more the thing for which every fiber of his being
He knew, without one look, that the number scratched in the wax of
the seal would be the figure 4. He opened the letter slowly. There
fell from it a square of stiff, white paperall white, he thought,
until he turned it over. Then he saw it looking up at himher face
It was a little silhouette in black, done in that day before the
camera, when small portraits were otherwise well-nigh impossible. The
artist, skilled as were many in this curious form of portraiture, had
done his work well. Lewis gazed with a sudden leap of his pulses upon
the features outlined before himthe profile so cleanly cut and
loftythe hair low over the forehead, the chin round and firm, yet
delicate and womanly withal. Here even the long lashes of her eyes were
visible, just as in life. Yes, it was her face!
[Illustration: Her face indeed!]
And now he read the letter, which covered many closely written
Meriwether Lewis, I said to you that my face should come to
you, wherever you might be. This time it has been longI
cannot tell how long. That is for my messenger to determine,
not for you or me. But that it has been long I shall know,
else long since there would have been no need of my adding
this letter to the others.
Not one of them has served to bring you back! Since you now
have this one, let it advise you that she who wrote it is
grieved that you gaze upon this little portrait, and not
upon the face of her whom it represents. 'Tis a monstrous
good likeness, they tell me; but would you not rather it
Where are you? I cannot tell. What adversities have been
yours? I cannot tell that. You cannot know what grief you
have caused by your long absence. You cannot know how many
hearts you have made sad. You cannot know how you have
delayeddestroyedplans made for you. We are in ignorance,
each of the other, now. I do not know where you areyou do
not know where I may be. A great wall arises between us. A
great gulf is fixed. We cannot touch hands across it.
As I know, this will not move you; but I cannot restrain
this reproach. I cannot help telling you that you have made
me suffer by your silence, by your absence. Do I make you
suffer by looking at you with reproach in my eyesas I do
You have forgotten your childhood friend! I may be dead as
you readwould you care? I have been in needyet you have
not come to comfort me and to dry my tears.
Figure to yourself what has happened to all my plans and
dreams for you. Even I cannot tell of that, because, as I
write, it all lies in the futurethat future which is the
present for you as you sit reading this. All I know is that
as you read it my appeal has failed.
I can but guess how or where these presents may find you;
for how shall I know how wise or how faithful my messenger
has been? Are you on the prairie still, Meriwether Lewis?
Is it winter? Does the snow lie deep? Are the winds keen and
biting? Are you well fed? Are you warm? Have you bodily
comforts? Have you physical well-being?
How can I answer all these questions? Yet they come to my
mind as I write.
Are you in the mountains? Were there, after all, those great
Stony Mountains of which men told fables? Have you found the
great unicorn or the mammoth or the mastadon which Mr.
Jefferson said you were likely to meet? Have you found the
dinosaur or the dragon or the great serpents of a foregone
day? Suppose you have. What do they weigh with mewith you?
Are they so much to you as you thought they would be? Is the
taste of all your triumphs so sweet as you have dreamed,
Have you grown savage, my friendhave you come to be just a
man like the others? Tell meno, I will not ask you! If I
thought you could descend to the lawless standard of the
wildernessbut no, I cannot think of that! In any case,
'tis too late now. You have not come back to me.
You see, I am writing not so much to implore you to return
as to reproach you for not returning. By the time this
reaches you, it will be too late in our plans. We could not
afford to wait monthsthree months, four, sixhas it been
so long as that since you left us? If so, it is too late
now. If we have failed, why did we fail?
They told memy father and his friendsand I told you
plainly, that if your expedition went on, then our plan must
fail. But now I must presume that you have succeeded, or by
this time are beyond the feeling of either success or
failure. If you have failed, it is too late for us to
succeed. If you have succeeded, then certainly we have
failed. As you read this, you may be doing so with hope. I,
who wrote it, will be sitting in despair.
Meriwether Lewis, come back to me, even so! It will be too
late for you to aid me. You will have ruined all our hopes.
But yours still will be the taskthe dutyto look me in
the face and say whether you owe aught to me. Can I forgive
you? Why, yes, I could never do aught else than forgive. No
matter what you did, I fear I should forgive you. Because,
after all, my own wish in all this
Ah! let me write slowly here, and think very carefully!
My greatest wish in this, greater than any ambition I had
for myself or my familyhas been for you! See, I am
writing those wordswould I dare tell them to any other man
in all the world? Nay, surely not. But that I trust you, the
very writing itself is proof. And I write this to you, who
never can be to me what man must be to woman if either is to
be happythe man to whom I can never be what woman must be
if she is to mean all to any man. Apart forever! We are
estranged by circumstance, sundered by that, if you please,
weak as those words seem. And yet something takes your soul
to mine. Does something take mine to you, across all the
wilderness, across all the miles, across all the long and
I say to you once more that in all this my demand upon you
has not been for myself, nor wholly for my father. Let me be
This impassable gulf is fixed between us for all our lives.
Neither of us may cross it. But I have been desirous to see
you stand among men, where you belong. Do not ask me why I
wished thatyou must never ask me. I am Mrs. Alston, even
as I write.
And as for you? Are you in rags as you read this? Are you
cold and hungry? Are you alone, aloof, deserted, perhaps
suffering, with none to comfort you? I cannot aid you. Nay,
I shall punish you once more, and say that it was your
desirethat you brought this on yourselfthat you would
have it thus, in spite of all my intervention for you.
Moreover, you shall say to yourself always:
She asked and I refused her!
Nay, nay! I shall not be so cruel. I shall not say that at
all. Let me mark that out! Because, if I write that, you
will think I wish to hurt you. And, my friend, let me admit
the truththe truth I ought not to lay upon you as any
secretI could never wish to hurt you.
They say that men far away in the wilderness sometimes long
for the sight of the face of a woman. See, now you have
that! I look up at you! What is your impulse? I am alone
with youI am in your handstreat me, therefore, with
honor, I pray you!
You must not raise my face to yours, must not bend yours to
mine. See now, measure my trust in you, Meriwether Lewis!
Estimate the great confidence I hold in you as a gentleman
becausedo you not see?a gentleman does not kiss the
woman whom he has at a disadvantagethe woman who can never
be his, who is another's. Is it not true?
Happiness is not for us. We are so far apart. I am sad. Good
night, Meriwether Lewis! I, too, have your picture by
methe one you gave me years ago when I was in Virginia.
And itgood night, Mr. Meriwether Lewis!
Place me apartfar from you in the room. Let my face not
look at you direct. But in your heartyour hard heart of a
man, intent on dreams, forgetful of all elseplease, please
let there linger some small memory of her who dares to write
these linesand who hopes that you never may see them!
CHAPTER X. THE ABYSS
The little Indian dog sat on the table, silent, motionless, looking
at its master, whose head was bowed upon his arms. Now and then it had
stooped as if it would have looked in his face, but dared not, if for
very excess of love. It turned an inquiring eye to the door, which,
after a time, opened.
William Clark, silent, stood once more at the side of his friend. He
looked on the sad and haggard face which was turned toward him, and
fell back. His eye caught sight of the folded paper crushed between
Lewis's fingers. He asked no questions, but he knew.
Enough! broke out Meriwether Lewis hoarsely. No more of thiswe
must be gone! Are the men ready? Why do we delay? Why are we not away
for the journey home?
So impatient, so incoherent, did his speech seem that for a time
Clark almost feared lest his friend's reason might have been affected.
But he only stood looking at Lewis, ready to be of such aid as might
In two hours, Merne, said he, we will be on our way.
It was now near the end of March. They dated and posted up their
bulletins. They had done their task. They had found the great river,
they had found the sea, they had mapped the way across the new
continent. Their glorious work had gloriously been done.
Such was their joy at starting home again, the boatmen disregarded
the down-coming current of the great watersthey sang at the paddles,
jested. Only their leader was silent and unsmiling, and he drove them
hard. Short commons they knew often enough before they reached the
mouth of the Walla Walla, where they found friendly Indians who gave
them horse meatwhich seemed exceedingly good food.
The Nez Percés, whose country was reached next beyond the Walla
Wallas, offered guides across the Bitter Roots, but now the snow lay
deep, the horses could not travel. For weeks they lay in camp on the
Kooskooskie, eating horse meat as the Indians then were doing, waiting,
It was the middle of June before they made the effort to pass the
Bitter Roots. Sixty horses they had now, with abundance of jerked horse
meat, and a half-dozen Nez Percés guides. By the third of Julyjust
three years from the date of the Louisiana Purchase as it was made
known at Mr. Jefferson's simplicity dinnerthey were across the Bitter
Roots once more, in the pleasant valleys of the eastern slope.
That way, said Sacajawea, pointing, big falls!
She meant the short cut across the string of the bow, which would
lead over the Continental Divide direct to the Great Falls of the
Missouri. Both the leaders had pondered over this short cut, which the
Nez Percés knew well.
We must part, Will, said Meriwether Lewis. It is our duty to
learn all we can of this wonderful country. I will take the Indian
trail straight across. Do you go on down the way we came. Pick up our
caches above the three forks of the Missouri, and then cross over the
mountains to the Yellowstone. Make boats there, and come on down to the
mouth of that river. You should precede me there, perhaps, by some
days. Wait then until I come.
With little more ado these self-reliant men parted in the middle of
the vast mountain wilderness. They planned a later junction of their
two parties at the mouth of a river which then was less known than the
Columbia had been, through a pass which none of them had ever seen.
Lewis had with him nine men, among them Sergeant Gass, the two
Fields boys, Drouillard and Cruzatte, the voyageurs. Sacajawea, in
spite of her protest, remained with the Clark party, where her
wonderful knowledge of the country again proved invaluable. This band
advanced directly to the southward by easy and pleasant daily stages.
That way short path over mountains, said Sacajawea at length, at
one point of their journey.
She pointed out the Big Hole Trail and what was later known as
Clark's Pass over the Continental Divide. They came to a new country, a
beautiful valley where the grass was good; but Sacajawea still pointed
That way, said she, find boat, find cache!
She showed them another gap in the hills, as yet unknown; and so led
them out by a short cut directly to the caches on the Jefferson!
But they could not tarry long. Boots and saddles again, pole and
paddle also, for now some of the men must take to the boats while
others brought on the horses. At the Three Forks rendezvous they made
yet other changes, for here the boats must be left. Captain Clark must
cross the mountain range to the eastward to find the Yellowstone, of
which the Indian girl had told him. Yonder, she said, not quite a full
day's march through a notch in the lofty mountains, they would come to
the river, which ran off to the east.
Not one of them had ever heard of that gap in the hills; there was
no one to guide them through it except the Indian girl, whose memory
had hitherto been so positive and so trustworthy. They trusted her
That way! she said.
Always she pointed on ahead confidently; and always she was right.
She was laying out the course of a railroad which one day should come
up the Yellowstone and cross here to the Missouri.
They found it to be no more than eighteen or twenty miles,
Sacajawea's extraordinary short cut between the Missouri and the
Yellowstone. They struck the latter river below the mouth of its great
cañon, found good timber, and soon were busy felling great cottonwoods
to make dugout canoes. Two of these, some thirty feet in length, when
lashed side by side, served to carry all their goods and some of their
party. The restPryor, Shannon, Hall and one or two otherswere to
come on down with the horses.
The mounted men did well enough until one night the Crows stole all
their horses, and left them on foot in the middle of the wilderness.
Not daunted, they built themselves boats of bull hide, as they had seen
Indians do, and soon they followed on down the river, they could not
tell how far, to the rear of the main boat party. With the marvelous
good fortune which attended the entire expedition, they had no
accident; and in time they met the other explorers at the mouth of the
Yellowstone, after traveling nine hundred miles on a separate voyage of
It was on the eighth of August that the last of Clark's boats
arrived at the Yellowstone rendezvous. His men felt now as if they were
almost at home. The Mandan villages were not far below. As soon as
Captain Lewis should come, they would be on their way, rejoicing.
Patient, hardy, uncomplaining, they did not know that they were heroes.
What of Lewis, then gone so long? He and his men were engaged in the
yet more dangerous undertaking of exploring the country of the dreaded
Blackfeet, known to bear arms obtained from the northern traders. They
reached the portage of the Great Falls without difficulty, and eagerly
examined the caches which they had left there. Now they were to divide
Sergeant Gass, said Captain Lewis, I am going to leave you here.
You will get the baggage and the boats below the falls, and take
passage on down the river. Six of you can attend to that. I shall take
Drouillard and the Fields boys with me, and strike off toward the north
and east, where I fancy I shall find the upper portion of Maria's
River. When you come to the mouth of that riverwhich you will
remember some of you held to be the real Missouriyou will go into
camp and wait for us. You will remain there until the first day of
September. If by that time we have not returned, you will pass on down
the Missouri to Captain Clark's camp, at the mouth of the Yellowstone,
and go home with him. By that time it will have become evident that we
shall not return. I plan to meet you at the mouth of Maria's River
somewhere about the beginning of August.
They parted, and it was almost by a miracle that they ever met
again; for now the perils of the wilderness asserted themselves even
against the marvelous good fortune which had thus far attended them.
Hitherto, practically all the tribes met had been friendly, but now
they were in the country of the dreaded Blackfeet, who by instinct and
training were hostile to all whites coming in from the south and east.
A party of these warriors was met on the second day of their northbound
journey from the Missouri River. Lewis gave the Indians such presents
as he could, and, as was his custom, told them of his purpose in
traveling through the country. He showed no fear of them, although he
saw his own men outnumbered ten to one. The two parties, the little
band of white men and the far more numerous band of Blackfeet, lay down
to sleep that night in company.
But the Blackfeet were unable to resist the temptation to attain
sudden wealth by seizing the horses and guns of these strangers. Toward
dawn Lewis himself, confident in the integrity of his guests, and
dozing for a time, felt the corner of his robe pulled, felt something
spring on his face, heard a noise. His little dog was barking loudly,
He was more fully awakened by the sound of a shout, and then by a
shot. Springing from his robes, he saw Drouillard and both of the
Fields boys on their feet, struggling with the savages, who were trying
to wrench their rifles from them.
Curse you, turn loose of me! cried Reuben Fields.
He fought for a time longer with his brawny antagonist, till he saw
others coming. Then his hand went to the long knife at his belt, and
the next instant the Blackfoot lay dead at his feet.
Drouillard wrenched his rifle free and stood off his man for a
moment, shouting all the time to his leader that the Indians were
trying to get the horses. Lewis saw the thieves tugging at the
picket-ropes, and hastened into the fray, cursing himself for his own
credulity. A giant Blackfoot engaged him, bull-hide shield advanced,
battle-ax whirling; but wresting himself free, Lewis fired point-blank
into his body, and another Indian fell dead.
The Blackfeet found they had met their match. They dropped the
picket-ropes and ran as fast as they could, jumped into the river, swam
across, and so escaped, leaving the little party of whites unhurt, but
Mount, men! Hurry! Lewis ordered.
As quickly as they could master the frightened horses, his men
obeyed. With all thought of further exploration ended, they set out at
top speed, and rode all that day and night as fast as the horses could
travel. They had made probably one hundred and twenty miles when at
length they came to the mouth of the Maria's River, escaped from the
most perilous adventure any of them had had.
Here again, by that strange good fortune which seemed to guide them,
they arrived just in time to see the canoes of Gass and his men coming
down the Missouri. These latter had made the grand portage at the
falls, had taken up all the caches, and had brought the contents with
them. The stars still fought for the Volunteers for the Discovery of
There was no time to wait. The Blackfeet would be coming soon. Lewis
abandoned his horses here. The entire party took to the boats, and
hurried down the river as fast as they could, paddling in relays, day
and night. Gaunt, eager, restless, moody, silent, their leader neither
urged his men nor chided them, nor did he refer to the encounter with
the Blackfeet. He did not need to, with Drouillard to describe it to
them all a dozen times.
At times it was necessary for the boats to stop for meat, usually a
short errand in a country alive with game; and, as was his custom,
Lewis stepped ashore one evening to try for a shot at some near by
gameelk, buffalo, antelope, whatever offered. He had with him
Cruzatte, the one-eyed Frenchman. It was now that fortune frowned
ominously almost for the first time.
The two had not been gone more than a few minutes when the men
remaining at the boat heard a shotthen a cry, and more shouting.
Cruzatte came running back to them through the bushes, calling out at
the top of his voice:
The captain! I've keeled himI've keeled the captainI've shot
What is that you're saying? demanded Patrick Gass. If you've done
that, you would be better dead yourself!
He reached out, caught Cruzatte's rifle, and flung it away from him.
Where is he? he demanded.
Cruzatte led the way back.
I see something move on the bushes, said he, and I shoot. It was
not elkit was the captain. Mon Dieu, what shall we do?
They found Captain Lewis sitting up, propped against a clump of
willows, his legging stripped to the thigh. He was critically examining
the path of the bullet, which had passed through the limb. At seeing
him still alive, his men gave a shout of joy, and Cruzatte received a
parting kick from his sergeant.
There were actual tears in the eyes of some of the men as they
gathered around their commandertears which touched Meriwether Lewis
It is all right, men! said he. Do not be alarmed. Do not reprove
the man too much. The sight of a little blood should not trouble you.
We are all soldiers. This is only an accident of the trail, and in a
short time it will be mended. See, the bone is not broken!
They aided him back to the boats and made a bed upon which he might
lie, his head propped up so that he could see what lay ahead. Other men
completed the evening hunt, and the boats hurried on down the river.
The next day found them fifty miles below the scene of the accident.
Sergeant, said Meriwether Lewis, the natural fever of my wound is
coming on. Give me my little war-sack yonderI must see if I can find
Gass handed him his bag of leather, and Lewis sought in it for a
moment. His hand encountered something that crinkled in the
touchcrinkled familiarly! For one instant he stopped, his lips
compressed as if in bodily pain.
It was another of the mysterious letters!
Before he opened it, he looked at it, frowning, wondering. Whence
came these messages, and how, by whose hand? All of them must have been
written before he left St. Louis in May of 1804. Now it was August of
1806. There was no human agency outside his own party that could have
carried them. How had they reached him? What messenger had brought
them? He forgot the fever of his wound in another and greater fever
which arose in his blood.
He was with his men now, their eyes were on him all the time. What
should he docast this letter from him into the river? If he did so,
he felt that it would follow him mysteriously, pointing to the
corpus delicti of his crime, still insistent on coming to the eye!
His men, therefore, saw their leader casually open a bit of paper.
They had seen him do such things a thousand times, since journals and
maps were a part of the daily business of so many of them. What he did
attracted no attention.
Captain Lewis would have felt relieved had it attracted more. Before
he read any of the words that lay before him, in this same delicate
handwriting that he knew so well, he cast a slow and searching gaze
upon the face of every man that was turned toward him. In fact, he held
the letter up to view rather ostentatiously, hoping that it would evoke
some sign; but he saw none.
He had not been in touch with the main party for more than a month.
He had with him nine men. Which of these had secretly carried the
letter? Was it Gass, Cruzatte, Drouillard, Reuben Fields, or McNeal?
He studied their faces alternately. Not an eyelash flickered. The
men who looked at him were anxious only for his comfort. There was no
trace of guilty knowledge on any of these honest countenances before
him, and he who sought such admitted his own failure. Meriwether Lewis
lay back on his couch in the boat, as far as ever from his solution of
After all, mere curiosity as to the nature of that mystery was a
small matter. It seemed of more worth to feel, as he did, that the
woman who had planned this system of surprises for him was one of no
ordinary mind. And it was no ordinary woman who had written the words
that he now read:
SIR AND MY FRIEND:
Almost I am in despair. This is my fifth letter; you receive
it, perhaps, some months after your start. I think you would
have come back before now, if that had been possible. I had
no news of you, and now I dread news. Should you still be
gone a year from the time I write this, then I shall know
that you were dead. Dead? Yes, I have written that word!
The swift thought comes to me that you will never see this
at allthat it may, it must, arrive too late. Yet I must
send it, even under that chance. I must write it, though it
ruin all my happiness. Shall it come to you too late, others
will take it to my husband. Then this secretthe one secret
of my lifewill be known. Ah, I hope this may come to your
eyes, your living eyes; but should it not, none the less I
must write it.
What matter? If it should be read by any after your death,
that would be too late to make difference with you, or any
difference for me. After that I should not care for
anythingnot even that then others would know what I would
none might ever know save you and my Creator, so long as we
both still lived.
This wilderness which you love, the wilderness to which you
fled for your comfortwhat has it done for you? Have you
found that lonely grave which is sometimes the reward of the
adventurer thither? If so, do you sleep well? I shall envy
you, if that is true. I swear I often would let that thought
come to meof the vast comfort of the plains, of the
mountainsthe sweep of the untiring winds, sweet in the
trees and grassesor the perpetual sound of water passing
by, washing out, to the voice of its unending murmurs, all
memory of our trials, of our sins.
What need now to ask you to come back? What need to reproach
you any further? How could Ihow can Iwith this terrible
thought in my soul that I am writing to a man whose eyes
cannot see, whose ears cannot hear?
Still, what difference, whether or not you be living? Have
not your eyes thus far been blind to me? Have not your ears
been deaf to me, even when I spoke to you direct? It was the
call of your country as against my call. Was ever thinking
woman who could doubt what a strong man would do? I suppose
I ought to have known. But oh, the longing of a woman to
feel that she is something greater in a man's life even than
his deeds and his ambitionseven than his laborseven than
It is hard for us to feel that we are but puppets in the
great game of life, of so small worth to any man. How can we
women read their heartswhat do we know of men? I cannot
say, though I am a married woman. My husband married me. We
had our honeymoonand he went away about the business of
his plantations. Does every girl dream of a continuous
courtship and find a dull answer in the facts? I do not
How freely I write to you, seeing that you are blind and
deaf, of that wish of a woman to be the one grand passion of
a strong man's lifeabove allbefore even his country!
What may once have been my own dream of my capacity to evoke
such emotions in the soul of any man I have flung into the
scrap-heap of my life. The man, the one manno! What was I
saying, Meriwether Lewis, to you but now, even though you
were blind and deaf? I must notI must not!
Nay, let me dream no more! It is too late now. Living or
dead, you are deaf and blind to all that I could ever do for
you. But if you be still living, if this shall meet your
living eyes, however cold and clear they may be, please,
please remember it was not for myself alone that I took on
the large ambitions of which I have spoken to you, the large
risks engaged with them. Nay, do not reproach me; leave me
my woman's right to make all the reproaches. I only wanted
to do something for you.
I have not written so freely to any man in all my life. I
could not do so now did I not feel in some strange way that
by this timeperhaps at this very timeyou are either dead
or in some extreme of peril. If I knew that you would
this, I could not write it. As it is, it gives me some
reliefit is my confessional. How often does a woman ever
confess her own, her inner and real heart? Never, I think,
to any mancertainly not to any living, present man.
I married; yes. It seemed the ordinary and natural thing to
do, a useful, necessary, desirable thing to do. I should not
complainI did that with my eyes well opened and with full
counsel of my father. My eyes well opened, but my heart well
closed! I took on my duties as one of the species human, my
duties as wife, as head of a household, as lady of a certain
rank. I did all that, for it is what most women would do. It
is the system of society. My husband is content.
What am I writing now? Arguing, justifying, defending? Ah,
were it possible that you would read this and come back to
me, never, never, though it killed me, would I open my heart
to you! I write only to a dead man, I sayto one who can
never hear. I write once more to a man who set other things
above all that I could have done. Deeds, deeds, what you
call your countryyour own impulsesthese were the things
you placed above me. You placed above me this adventuring
into the wilderness. Yes, I know what are the real impulses
in your man's life. I know what you valued above me.
But you are dead! While you lived, I hoped your conscience
was clean. I hope that never once have you descended to any
conduct not belonging to Meriwether Lewis of Virginia. I
know that no matter what temptation was yours, you would
remember that I was Mrs. Alstonand that you were
Meriwether Lewis of Virginia.
Nay, I cannot stop! How can you mind my garrulous
vain penmy wicked, wicked, wicked, shameful pensince you
cannot see what it says?
Ah, I had so hoped once more to see you before it was too
late! Should this not reach you, and should it reach others,
why, let it go to all the world that Theodosia Burr that
was, Mrs. Alston of Carolina that is, once ardently
importuned a man to join her in certain plans for the
betterment of his fortunes as well as her own; and that you
did not care to share in those plans! So I failed. And
furtherlet that also go out to the worldI glory in the
truth that I have failed!
Yes, that at last is the truth at the bottom of my heart! I
have searched it to the bottom, and I have found the truth.
I glory in the truth that you have not come back to me.
Therehave I not said all that a woman could say to a man,
living or dead?
Just as strongly as I have urged you to return, just as
strongly I have hoped that you would not return! In my soul
I wanted to see you go on in your own fashion, following
your own dreams and caring not for mine. That was the
Meriwether Lewis I had pictured to myself. I shall glory in
my own undoing, if it has meant your success.
Holding to your own ambition, keeping your own loyalty,
holding your own counsel and your own speech to the
endpushing on through everything to what you have set out
to dothat is the man I could have loved! Deeds, deeds,
high accomplishmentsthese in truth are the things which
are to prevail. The selfish love of success as successthe
love of ease, of money, of powerthese are the things women
covet from a manyes, but they are not the things a
loves in a man. No; it is the stiff-necked man, bound
his own ambition, whom women love, even as they swear they
Therefore, do not come back to me, Meriwether Lewis! Do
not comeforget all that I have said to you beforedo not
return until you have done your work! Do not come back to me
until you can come content. Do not come to me with your
splendid will broken. Let it triumph even over the will of a
Burr, not used to yielding, not easily giving up anything
This is almost the last letter I shall ever write to any man
in all my life. I wonder who will read ityou, or all the
world, perhaps! I wish it might rest with you at the last.
Oh, let this thought lie with you as you sleepyou did not
come back to me, and I rejoiced that you did not!
Tell me, why is it that I think of you lying where the wind
is sweet in the trees? Why is it that I think of myself,
too, lying at last, with all my doubts composed, all my
restless ambitions ended, all my foolish dreams answeredin
some place where the sound of the unceasing waters shall
wash out from the memory of the world all my secrets and all
my sins? Always I hear myself crying:
I hope I shall not be unhappy, for I do not feel that I
have been bad.
Adieu, Meriwether Lewis, adieu! I am glad you can never read
this. I am glad that you have not come back. I am glad that
I have failed!
CHAPTER XI. THE BEE
Captain, dear, said honest Patrick Gass, putting an arm under his
wounded commander's shoulders as he eased his position in the boat, ye
are not the man ye was when ye hit me that punch back yonder on the
Ohio, three years ago. Since ye're so weak now, I have a good mind to
return it to ye, with me compliments. 'Tis safer now!
Gass chuckled at his own jest as his leader looked up at him.
The boiling current of the great Missouri, bend after bend, vista
after vista, had carried them down until at length they had reached the
mouth of the Yellowstone, and had seen on ahead the curl of blue smoke
on the beachthe encampment of their companions, who were waiting for
them here. These wonderful young men, these extraordinary wilderness
travelers, had performed one more miracle. Separated by leagues of wild
and unknown land, they met now casually, as though it were only what
should be expected. Their feat would be difficult even today.
William Clark, walking up and down along the bank, looking ever
upstream for some sign of his friend, hurried down to meet the boats,
and gazed anxiously at the figure lifted in the arms of the men.
What's wrong, Merne? he exclaimed. Tell me!
Lewis waved a hand at him in reassurance, and smiled as his friend
bent above him.
Nothing at all, Will, said he. Nothing at allI was playing elk,
and Cruzatte thought it very lifelike! It is just a bullet through the
thigh; the bone is safe, and the wound will soon heal. It is lucky that
we are not on horseback now.
By marvel, by miracle, the two friends were reunited once more; and
surely around the camp fires there were stories for all to tell.
Sacajawea, the Indian girl, sat listening but briefly to all these
tales of adventuretales not new to one of her birth and education.
Silently and without question, she took the place of nurse to the
wounded commander. She had herbs of her own choosing, simple remedies
which her people had found good for the treatment of wounds. As if the
captain were her childrather than the forsaken infant who lustily
bemoaned his mother's absence from his tripod in the lodgeshe took
charge of the injured man, until at length he made protest that he was
as well as ever, and that they must go on.
Again the paddles plied, again the bows of the canoes turned
downstream. It seemed but a short distance thence to the Mandan
villages, and once among the Mandans they felt almost as if they were
The Mandans received them as beings back from the grave. The drums
sounded, the feast-fires were lighted, and for a time the natives and
their guests joined in rejoicing. But still Lewis's restless soul was
dissatisfied with delay. He would not wait.
We must get on! said he. We cannot delay.
The boats must start down the last stretch of the great river. Would
any of the tribesmen like to go to the far East, to see the Great
Father? Big White, chief of the Mandans, said his savage prayers.
I will go, said he. I will go and tell him of my people. We are
poor and weak. I will ask him to take pity on us and protect us against
So it was arranged that Big White and his women, with Jussaume, his
wife, and one or two others, should accompany the brigade down the
river. Loud lamentations mingled with the preparations for the
Sacajawea, what of her? Her husband lived among the Mandans. This
was the end of the trail for her, and not the rudest man but was sad at
the thought of going on without her. They knew well enough that in all
likelihood, but for her, their expedition could never have attained
success. Beyond that, each man of them held memory of some personal
kindness received at her hands. She had been the life and comfort of
the party, as well as its guide and inspiration.
Sacajawea, said Meriwether Lewis, when the hour for departure
came, I am now going to finish my trail. Do you want to go part way
with us? I can take you to the village where we started up this
riverSt. Louis. You can stay there for one snow, until Big White
comes back from seeing the Great Father. We can take the baby, too, if
Her face lighted up with a strange wistfulness.
Yes, Capt'in, said she, I go with Big Whiteand you.
He smiled as he shook his head.
We go farther than that, many sleeps farther.
Who shall make the fire? Who shall mend your moccasins? See, there
is no other woman in your party. Who shall make tea? Who shall spread
down the robes? MeMrs. Charbonneau!
She drew herself up proudly with this title; but still Meriwether
Lewis looked at her sadly, as he stood, lean, gaunt, full-bearded, clad
in his leather costume of the plains, supporting himself on his crutch.
Sacajawea, said he, I cannot take your husband with me. All my
goods are goneI cannot pay him; and now we do not need him to teach
us the language of other peoples. From here we can go alone.
Aw right! said Sacajawea, in paleface idiom. Him stayme go!
Meriwether Lewis pondered for a time on what fashion of speech he
must employ to make her understand.
Bird Woman, said he at length, you are a good girl. It would pain
my heart to see you unhappy. But if you came with me to my villages,
women would say, 'Who is that woman there? She has no lodge; she does
not belong to any man.' They must not say that of Sacajaweashe is a
good woman. Those are not the things your ears should hear. Now I shall
tell the Great Father that, but for Sacajawea we should all have been
lost; that we should never have come back again. His heart will be open
to those words. He will send gifts to you. Sometime, I believe, the
Great Father's sons will build a picture of you in iron, out yonder at
the parting of the rivers. It will show you pointing on ahead to show
the way to the white men. Sacajawea must never dieshe has done too
much to be forgotten. Some day the children of the Great Father will
take your baby, if you wish, and bring him up in the way of the white
men. What we can do for you we will do. Are my words good in your
Your words are good, said Sacajawea. But I go, too! No want to
stay here now. No can stay!
But here is your village, Sacajaweathis is your home, where you
must live. You will be happier here. See now, when I sleep safe at
night, I shall say, 'It was Sacajawea showed me the way. We did not go
astraywe went straight.' We will not forget who led us.
But, she still expostulated, looking up at him, how can you cook?
How can you make the lodge? One womanshe must help all time.
A spasm of pain crossed Lewis's face.
Sacajawea, said he, I told you that I had made medicinethat I
had promised my dream never to have a lodge of my own. Always I shall
live upon the trailno lodge fire in any village shall be the place
for me. And I told you I had made a vow to my dream that no woman
should light the lodge fire for me. You are a princessthe daughter of
a chief, the sister of a chief, a great person; you know about a
warrior's medicine. Surely, then, you know that no one is allowed to
ask about the vows of a chief!
By and by, he added gently, a great many white men will come
here, Sacajawea. They will find you here. They will bring you gifts.
You will live here long, and your baby will grow to be a man, and his
children will live here long. But now I must go to my people.
The unwonted tears of an Indian woman were in the eyes which looked
up at him.
Ah! said she, in reproach. I went with you. I cooked in the
lodges. I showed the way. I was as one of your people. Now I say I go
to your people, and you say no. You need me onceyou no need me now!
You say to me, your people are not my peopleyou not need Sacajawea
The Indian has no word for good-by. The faithfulnay, lovinggirl
simply turned away and passed from him; nor did he ever see her more.
Alone, apart from her people, she seated herself on the brink of the
bluff, below which lay the boats, ready to depart. She drew her blanket
over her head. When at length the voyage had begun, she did not look
out once to watch them pass. They saw her motionless figure high on the
bank above them. The Bird Woman was mourning.
The little Indian dog, Meriwether Lewis's constant companion, now,
like Sacajawea, mercifully banished, sat at her side, as motionless as
she. Both of them, mute and resigned, accepted their fate.
But as for those others, those hardy men, now homeward bound, they
were rejoicing. Speed was the cry of all the lusty paddlers, who, hour
after hour, kept the boats hurrying down, aided by the current and
sometimes pushed forward by favorable winds. They were upon the last
stretch of their wonderful journey. Speed, early and late, was all they
asked. They were going homeback over the trail they had blazed for
Capitaine, Capitaine, look what I'll found!
They were halting at noonday, far down the Missouri, for the boiling
of the kettles. Lewis lay on his robes, still too lame to walk,
watching his men as they scattered here and there after their fashion.
It was Cruzatte who approached him, looking at something which the
voyager held in his hand.
What is it, Cruzatte? smiled Lewis.
He was anxious always to be as kindly as possible to this unlucky
follower, whose terrible mistake had well-nigh resulted in the death of
Ouch, by gar! She'll bite me with his tail. She's hot!
Cruzatte held out in his fingers a small but fateful object. It was
a bee, an ordinary honey-bee. East of the Mississippi, in Illinois,
Kentucky, the Virginias, it would have meant nothing. Here on the great
plains it meant much.
Meriwether Lewis held the tiny creature in the palm of his hand.
Why did you kill it, Cruzatte? he asked. It was on its errand.
He turned to his friend who sat near, at the other side.
Will, he said, our expedition has succeeded. Here is the proof of
it. The bee is following our path. They are coming!
Clark nodded. Woodsmen as they both were, they knew well enough the
Indian tradition that the bee is the harbinger of the coming of the
white man. When he comes, the plow soon follows, and weeds grow where
lately have been the flowers of the forest or the prairie.
They sat for a time looking at the little insect, which bore so
fateful a message into the West. Reverently Lewis placed it in his
collector's casethe first bee of the plains.
They are coming! said he again to his friend.
CHAPTER XII. WHAT VOICE HAD CALLED?
They lay in camp far down the river whose flood had borne them on so
rapidly. They had passed through the last of the dangerous country of
the Sioux, defying the wild bands whose gantlet they had to run, but
which they had run in safety. Ahead was only what might be called a
pleasure journey, to the end of the river trail.
The men were happy as they lay about their fires, which glowed dully
in the dusk. Each was telling what he presently was going to do, when
he got his pay at old St. Louis, not far below.
William Clark, weary with the day's labor, had excused himself and
gone to his blankets. Lewis, the responsible head of the expedition,
alone, aloof, silent, sat moodily looking into his fire, the victim of
one of his recurring moods of melancholy.
He stirred at length and raised himself restlessly. It was not
unusual for him to be sleepless, and always, while awake, he had with
him the problems of his many duties; but at this hour something
unwontedly disturbing had come to Meriwether Lewis.
He turned once more and bent down, as if figuring out some puzzle of
a baffling trail. Picking up a bit of stick, he traced here and there,
in the ashes at his feet, points and lines, as if it were some problem
in geometry. Uneasy, strange of look, now and again he muttered to
Hoh! he exclaimed at length, almost like an Indian, as if in some
He had run his trail to the end, had finished the problem in the
Hoh! his voice again rumbled in his chest.
And now he threw his tracing-stick away. He sat, his head on one
side, as if looking at some distant star. It seemed that he heard a
voice calling to him in the night, so faintly that he could not be
sure. His face, thin, gaunt, looked set and hard in the light of his
little fire. Something stern, something wistful, too, showed in his
eyes, frowning under the deep brows. Was Meriwether Lewis indeed gone
mad? Had the hardships of the wilderness at last taken their toll of
himas had sometimes happened to other men?
He rose, limping a little, for he still was weak and stiff from his
wound, though disdaining staff or crotched bough to lean upon. He
looked about him cautiously.
The camp was slumbering. Here and there, stirred by the passing
breeze, the embers of a little fire glowed like an eye in the dark. The
men slept, some under their rude shelters, others in the open under the
stars, each rolled in his robe, his rifle under the flap to keep it
from the dew.
Meriwether Lewis knew the place of every man in the encampment.
Ordway, Pryor, Gasseach of the three sergeants slept by his own mess
fire, his squad around him. McNeal, Bratton, Shields, Cruzatte, Reuben
Fields, Goodrich, Whitehouse, Coalter, Shannonthe captain knew where
each lay, rolled up like a mummy. He had marked each when he threw down
his bed-roll that night; for Meriwether Lewis was a leader of men, and
no detail escaped him.
He passed now, stealthy as an Indian, along the rows of sleeping
forms. His moccasined foot made no sound. Save for his uniform coat, he
was clad as a savage himself; and his alert eye, his noiseless foot,
might have marked him one. He sought some one of theseand he knew
where lay the man he wished to find.
He stood beside him silently at last, looking down at the sleeping
figure. The man lay a little apart from the others, for he was to stand
second watch that night, and the second guard usually slept where he
would not disturb the others when awakened for his turn of duty.
This manhe was long and straight in his blankets, and filled them
wellsuddenly awoke, and lay staring up. He had not been called, no
hand had touched him, it was not yet time for guard relief; but he had
felt a presence, even as he slept.
He stared up at a tall and motionless figure looking down. With a
swift movement he reached for his rifle; but the next instant, even as
he lay, his hand went to his forehead in salute. He was looking up into
the face of his commander!
Shannon! He heard a hoarse voice command him. Get up!
George Shannon, the youngest of the party, sprang out of his bed
Captain! He saluted again. What is it, sir? he half whispered,
as if in apprehension.
Put on your jacket, Shannon. Come with me!
Shannon obeyed hurriedly. Half stripped, he stood a fine figure of
young manhood himself, lithe, supple, yet developed into rugged
strength by his years of labor on the trail.
What is it, Captain? he inquired once more.
They were apart from the others now, in the shadows beyond Lewis's
fire. Shannon had caught sight of his leader's countenance, noting the
wildness of its look, its drawn and haggard lines.
His commander's hand thrust in his face a clutch of papers,
foldedletters, they seemed to be. Shannon could see the trembling of
the hand that held them.
You know what I want, Shannon! I want the rest of theseI want the
last one of them! Give it to me now!
The youth felt on his shoulder the grip of a hand hard as steel. He
did not make any answer, but stood dumb, wondering what might be the
next act of this man, who seemed half a madman.
Five of them! he heard the same hoarse voice go on. There must be
anotherthere must be one more, at least. You have done thisyou
brought these letters. Give me the last one of them! Why don't you
answer? With sudden and violent strength Lewis shook the boy as a dog
might a rat. Answer me!
Captain, I cannot! broke out Shannon.
What? Then there is another?
I'll not answer! I'll stand my trial before court martial, if you
Again the heavy hand on his shoulder.
There will be no trial! he heard the hoarse voice of his commander
saying. I cannot sleep. I must have the last one. There is another!
Shannon laid a hand on the iron wrist.
How do you know? he faltered. Why do you think
Am I not your leader? Is it not my business to know? I am a
woodsman. You thought you had covered your trail, but it was plain. I
know you are the messenger who has been bringing these letters to me
from her. I need not name her, and you shall not! For what reason you
did thisby what planI do not know, but I know you did it. You were
absent each time that I found one of these letters. That was too
cunning to be cunning! You are young, Shannon, you have something to
learn. You sing songslove songsyou write letterslove letters,
perhaps! You are Irishyou have sentiment. There is romance about
youyou are the man she would choose to do what you have done.
Being a woman, she knew, she chose well; but it is my business to read
all these signs.
Give me that letter! I am your officer.
Captain, I will not!
I tell you I cannot sleep! Give it to me, boy, or, by Heaven, you
yourself shall sleep the long sleep here and now! What? You still
Yes, I'll not be driven to it. You say I'm Irish. I amI'll not
give up a woman's secretit's a question of honor, Captain. There is a
woman concerned, as you know.
And I promised her, too. I swear I never planned any wrong to
either of you. I would die at your order now, as you know; but you have
no right to order this, and I'll not answer!
The hand closed at his throat. The boy could not speak, but still
Meriwether Lewis growled on at him.
Shannon! Speak! Why have you kept secrets from your commanding
officer? You have begun to tell metell me all!
The boy's hand clutched at his leader's wrists. At length Lewis
Captain, began the victim, what do you mean? What can I do?
I will tell you what I mean, Shannon. I promised to care for you
and bring you back safe to your parents. You'll never see your parents
again, save on one condition. I trusted you, thought you had special
loyalty for me. Was I wrong?
On my honor, Captain, the boy broke out, I'd have died for you
any time, and I'd do it now! I've worked my very best. You're my
officer, my chief!
With one movement, Meriwether Lewis flung off the uniform coat that
he wore. They stood now, man to man, stripped, and neither gave back
from the other.
Shannon, said Lewis, I'm not your officer now. I'm going to choke
the truth out of you. Will you fight me, or are you afraid?
The last cruelty was too much. The boy began to gulp.
I'm not afraid to fight, sir. I'd fight any man, but youno, I'll
not do it! Even stripped, you're my commander still.
Is that the reason?
Not all of it. You're weak, Captain, your wound has you in a fever.
'Twould not be fairI could do as I liked with you now. I'll not fight
you. I couldn't!
What? You will not obey me as your officer, and will not fight me
as a man? Do you want to be whipped? Do you want to be shot? Do you
want to be drummed out of camp tomorrow morning? By Heaven, Private
Shannon, one of these choices will be yours!
But something of the icy silence of the youth who heard these
terrible words gave pause even to the madman that was Meriwether Lewis
now. He halted, his hooked hands extended for the spring upon his
What is it, boy? he whispered at last. What have I done? What did
Shannon was sobbing now.
Captain, he said, and thrust a hand into the bosom of his
tunicCaptain, for Heaven's sake, don't do that! Don't apologize to
me. I understand. Leave me alone. Here's the letter. There were
sixthis is the last.
Lewis's strained muscles relaxed, his blazing eyes softened.
Shannon! he whispered once more. What have I done?
He took the letter in his hand, but did not look at it, although his
fingers could feel the seal unbroken.
Why do you give it to me now, boy? he asked at length. What
Because it's orders, sir. She ordered methat is, she asked meto
give you these letters at times when you seemed to need them mostwhen
you were sick or in trouble, when anything had gone wrong. We couldn't
figure so far on ahead when I ought to give you each one. I had to do
my best. I didn't know at first, but now I see that you're sick. You're
not yourselfyou're in trouble. She told me not to let you know who
carried them, he added rather inconsequently. She said that that
might end it all. She thought that you might come back.
She didn't knowwe couldn't any of us tellit was all a guess.
All this about the letters was left to me, to do my best. I couldn't
ask you, Captain, or any one. I don't know what was in the letters,
sir, and I don't ask you, for that's not my business; but I promised
What did she promise you?
Nothing. She didn't promise me pay, because she knew I wouldn't
have done it for pay. She only looked at me, and she seemed sad, I
don't know why. I couldn't help but promise her. I gave her my word of
honor, because she said her letters might be of use to you, but that no
one else must know that she had written them.
When was all this?
At St. Louis, just before we started. I reckon she picked me out
because she thought I was especially close to you. You know I have been
Yes, I know, Shannon.
I thought I was doing something for you. You see, she told me that
her name must not be mentioned, that no one must know about this,
because it would hurt a woman's reputation. She thought the men might
talk, and that would be bad for you. I could not refuse her. Do you
blame me now?
No, Shannon. No! In all this there is but one to blame, and that is
your officer, myself!
I did not think there was any harm in my getting the letters to
you, Captain. I knew that lady was your friend. I know who she is. She
was more beautiful than any woman in St. Louis when we were theremore
a lady, somehow. Of course, I'm not an officer or a gentlemanI'm only
a boy from the backwoods, and only a private soldier. I couldn't break
my promise to her, and I couldn't very well obey your orders unless I
did. If I've broken any of the regulations you can punish me. You see,
I held back this letterI gave it to you now because I had the feeling
that I ought tothat she would want me to. It is the fever, sir!
Aye, the fever!
Silence fell as they stood there in the night. The boy went on, half
Please, please, Captain Lewis, don't call me a coward! I don't
believe I am. I was trying to do something for youfor both of you. It
was always on my mind about these letters. I did my best and now
And now it was the eye of Meriwether Lewis that suddenly was wet; it
was his voice that trembled.
Boy, said he, I am your officer. Your officer asks your pardon. I
have tried myself. I was guilty. Will you forget this?
Not a word to a soul in the world, Captain! broke out Shannon.
About a woman, you see, we do not talk.
No, Mr. Shannon, about a woman we gentlemen do not talk. But now
tell me, boy, what can I do for youwhat can I ever do for you?
Nothing in the world, Captainbut just one thing.
What is it?
Please, sir, tell me that you don't think me a coward!
A coward? No, Shannon, you are the bravest fellow I ever met!
The hand on the boy's shoulder was kindly now. The right hand of
Captain Meriwether Lewis sought that of Private George Shannon. The
madness of the trail, of the wildernessthe madness of absence and of
remorsehad swept by, so that Lewis once more was officer, gentleman,
just and generous man.
Shannon stooped and picked up the coat that his captain had cast
from him. He held it up, and aided his commander again to don it. Then,
saluting, he marched off to his bivouac bed.
From that day to the end of his life, no one ever heard George
Shannon mention a word of this episode. Beyond the two leaders of the
party, none of the expedition ever knew who had played the part of the
mysterious messenger. Nor did any one know, later, whence came the
funds which eventually carried George Shannon through his schooling in
the East, through his studies for the bar, and into the successful
practise which he later built up in Kentucky's largest city.
Meriwether Lewis, limp and lax now, shivering in the chill under the
reaction from his excitement, turned away, stepped back to his own
lodge, and contrived a little light, after the frontier fashiona rag
wick in a shallow vessel of grease. With this uncertain aid he bent
down closer to read the finely written lines, which ran:
This is my last letter to you. This is the one I have marked
Number Sixthe last one for my messenger.
Yes, since you have not returned, now I know you never can.
Rest well, then, sir, and let me be strong to bear the news
when at length it comes, if it ever shall come. Let the
winds and the waters sound your requiem in that wilderness
which you loved more than mewhich you loved more than fame
or fortune, honor or glory for yourself. The wilderness! It
holds you. And for mewhen at last I come to lay me down,
I hope, too, some wilderness of wood or waters will be
around me with its vast silences.
After all, what is life? Such a brief thing! Little in it
but duty done well and faithfully. I know you did yours
while you lived. I have tried to do mine. It has been hard
for me to see what was duty. If I knew as absolute truth
that conviction now in my heartthat you never can come
backhow then could I go on?
MeriwetherMerneMerneI have been calling to you! Have
you not heard me? Can you not hear me now, calling to you
across all the distances to come back to me? I cannot give
you up to the world, because I have loved you so much for
myself. It was a cruel fate that parted usmore and more I
know that, even as more and more I resolve to do what is my
duty. But, oh, I miss you! Come back to meto one who never
was and never can be, but is
It took him long to read this letter. At last his trembling hand
dropped the creased and broken sheets. The guttering light went out.
The men were silent, sleeping near their fires. The peace of the great
plains lay all about.
She had said ithad said that last fated word. Now indeed he knew
what voice had called to him across the deeps!
He reflected now that all these messages had been written to him
before he left her; and that when he saw her last she was standing,
tears in her eyes, outraged by the act of the man whom she had
trustednay, whom she had loved!
CHAPTER XIII. THE NEWS
A horseman rode furiously over the new road from Fort Bellefontaine
to St. Louis village. He carried news. The expedition of Lewis and
Clark had returned!
Yes, these men so long thought lost, dead, were coming even now with
their own story, with their proofs. The boats had passed Charette, had
passed Bellefontaine, and presently would be pulling up the river to
the water front of St. Louis itself.
Run, boys! cried Pierre Chouteau to his servants. Call out the
people! Tell them to ring the bellstell them to fire the guns at the
fort yonder. Captains Lewis and Clark have come back againthose who
The little settlement was afire upon the instant. Laughing, talking,
ejaculating, weeping in their joy, the people of St. Louis hurried out
to meet the men whose voyage meant so much.
At last they saw them coming, the paddles flashing in unison in the
horny hands which tirelessly drove the boats along the river. They
could see themmen with long beards, clad in leggings of elk hide,
moccasins of buffalo and deer; their head-dresses those of the Indians,
their long hair braided. And see, in the prow of the foremost craft sat
two men, side by sideLewis and Clark, the two friends who had arisen
as if from the grave!
Present arms! rang out a sharp command, as the boats lined up
along the wharf.
The brown and scarred rifles came to place.
The volley of salutation blazed out even with the chorus of the
voyageurs' cheers. And cheers repeated and unceasing greeted them as
they stepped from their boats to the wharf. In an instant they were
Come with me!
No, with me!
A score of eager voices of the first men of St. Louis claimed the
privilege of hospitality for them. It was almost by force that Pierre
Chouteau bore them away to his castle on the hill. And always
questions, questions, came upon themejaculations, exclamations.
Ma foi! exclaimed more than one pretty French maiden. Such
mensuch splendid mensavages, yet white! See! See!
They had gone away as youths, these two captains; they had come back
men. Four thousand miles out and back they had gone, over a country
unmapped, unknown; and they brought back newsnews of great, new
lands. Was it any wonder that they stood now, grave and dignified,
feeling almost for the first time the weight of what they had done?
They passed over the boat-landing and across the wharf, approaching
the foot of the rocky bluff above which lay the long street of St.
Louis. Silent, as was his wont, Meriwether Lewis had replied to most of
the greetings only with the smile which so lighted up his face. But
now, suddenly, he ceased even to smile. His eye rested not upon the
faces of those acclaiming friends, but upon something else beyond them.
Yes, there it wasthe old fur-shed, the storage-house of the
traders here on the wharf, just as he had left it two years before! The
door was closed. What lay beyond it?
Lewis shuddered, as if caught with chill, as he looked at yonder
door. Just there she had stood, more than two years ago, when he
started out on this long journey. There he had kissed that face which
he had left in tearshe saw it now! All the glory of his safe return,
all the wonderful results which it must mean, he would have given now,
could he have had back that picture for a different making.
My matchesmy thermometersmy instrumentshow did they perform?
The speaker was Dr. Saugrain, eager to meet again his friends.
Perfect, doctor, perfect! We have some of the matches yet. As to
the thermometers, we broke the last one before we reached the sea.
You found the sea? Mon Dieu!
We found the Pacific. We found the Columbia, the Yellowstonemany
new rivers. We have found a new continentmade a new geography. We
passed the head of the Missouri. We found three great mountain ranges.
The beaverdid you find the beaver yonder? demanded the voice of
a swarthy man who had attended them.
It was Manuel Liza, fur-trader, his eyes glowing in his interest in
Beaver? William Clark waved a hand. How many I could not tell
you! Thousands and millionsmore beaver than ever were known in the
world before. Millions of buffaloelk in drovesbears such as you
never sawantelope, great horned sheep, otters, muskrat, minkthe
greatest fur country in all the world. We could not tell you half!
Your men, will they be free to make return up the river with
William Clark smiled at the keenness of the old French trader.
You could not possibly have better men, said he.
The men themselves shook their heads in despair. Yes, they said,
they had found a thousand miles of country ready to be plowed. They had
found any quantity of hardwood forests and pine groves. They had seen
rivers packed with fish until they were half solidmore fish than ever
were in all the world before. They had found great rivers which led far
back to the heart of the continent. They had seen trees larger than any
man ever had seenso large that they hardly could be felled by an ax.
They had found a country where in the winter men perished, and
another where the winters were not cold, and where the bushes grew high
as trees. They had found all manner of new animals never known
beforein short, a new world. How could they tell of it?
Captain, inquired Chouteau at length, your luggage, your
boxeswhere are they?
Meriwether Lewis pointed to a skin parfleche and a knotted bandanna
handkerchief which George Shannon carried for him.
That is all I have left, said he. But the mail for the Eastthe
mail, M. Chouteauwe must get word to the President!
The President has long ago been advised of your death, said
Chouteau, laughing. All the world has said good-by to you. No doubt
you can read your own obituaries.
We bring them better news than that. What news for us? asked the
two captains of their host.
News! The voluble Frenchman threw up his hands. Nothing but news!
The entire world is changed since you left. I could not tell you in a
month. The Burr duel
Yes, we did not know of it for two years, said William Clark. We
have just heard about it, up river.
The killing of Mr. Hamilton ended the career of Colonel Burr, said
Chouteau. But for that we might have different times here in
Mississippi. He had many friends. But you have heard the last news
It was the dark eye of Meriwether Lewis which now compelled his
No? Well, he came out here through this country once more. He was
arrested last summer, on the Natchez Trace, and carried off to
Washington. The charge is treason against his government. The country
is full of ithis trial is to be at Richmond. Even now it may be going
He did not notice the sudden change in Meriwether Lewis's face.
And all the world is swimming in blood across the sea, went on
their garrulous informant. Napoleon and Great Britain are at war
again. Were it not so, one or the other of them would be at the gates
of New Orleans, that is sure. This country is still discontented. There
was much in the plan of Colonel Burr to separate this valley into a
country of its own, independentto force a secession from the
republic, even though by war on the flag. Indeed, he was prepared for
that; but now his conspiracy is done. Perhaps, however, you do not hold
with the theory of Colonel Burr?
Hold with the theory of Colonel Burr, sir? exclaimed the deep
voice of Meriwether Lewis. Hold with it? This is the first time I have
known what it was. It was treason! If he had any join him, that was in
treason! He sought to disrupt this country? Agree with him? What is
this you tell me? I had never dreamed such a thing as possible of him!
He had many friends, went on Chouteau; very many friends. They
are scattered even now all up and down this countrymen who will not
give up their cause. All those men needed was a leader.
But, M. Chouteau, rejoined Lewis, I do not understandI cannot!
What Colonel Burr attempted was an actual treason to this republic. I
find it difficult to believe that!
Chouteau shrugged his shoulders.
There may be two names for it, he said.
And every one asked to join the cause was asked to join in treason
to his country. Is it not so? Lewis went on.
There may be two names for it, smiled the other, still shrugging.
He was my friend, said Meriwether Lewis. I trusted him!
Always, I repeat, there are two names for treason. But what puzzles
me is this, Chouteau continued. What halted the cause of Colonel Burr
here in the West? He seemed to be upon the point of success. His
organization was completehis men were in New Orleanshe had great
lands purchased as a rendezvous below. He had understandings with
foreign powers, that is sure. Well, then, here is Colonel Burr at St.
Louis, all his plans arranged. He is ready to march, to commence his
campaign, to form this valley into a great kingdom, with Mexico as part
of it. He was a man able to make plans, believe me. But of all this
there comesnothing! Why? At the last point something failedno one
knew what. He waited for somethingno one knew what. Something
lackedno one can tell what. And all the timethis is most curious to
meI learned it through othersColonel Burr was eager to hear
something of the expedition of Lewis and Clark into the West. Why? No
one knows! Does no one know?
The captain did not speak, and Chouteau presently went on.
Why did Colonel Burr hesitate, why did he give up his plans
herewhy, indeed, did he fail? You ask me why these things were? I
say, it was because of youmessieurs, you two young men, with
your Lewis and Clark Expedition! It was you who broke the Burr
Conspiracyfor so they call it in these days. Messieurs, that
is your news!
CHAPTER XIV. THE GUESTS OF A NATION
The company of Volunteers for the Discovery of the West fell into
line in front of the stone fortress of old St. Louis. A motley crew
they looked in their half-savage garb. They were veterans, fit for any
difficult undertaking in the wilderness. Shoulder to shoulder they had
labored in the great enterprise. Now they were to disband.
Their leaders had laid aside the costume of the frontier and assumed
the uniforms of officers in the army of the United States. Fresh from
his barber and his tailor, Captain Lewis stood, tall, clean-limbed,
immaculate, facing his men. His beard was gone, his face showed paler
where it had been reaped. His hair, grown quite long, and done now in
formal cue, hung low upon his shoulders. In every line a gentleman, an
officer, and a thoroughbred, he no longer bore any trace of the
wilderness. Love, confidence, admirationthese things showed in the
faces of his men as their eyes turned to him.
Men, said he, you are to be mustered out today. There will be
given to each of you a certificate of service in this expedition. It
will entitle you to three hundred and twenty acres of land, to be
selected where you like west of the Mississippi River. You will have
double pay in gold as well; but it is not only in this way that we seek
to show appreciation of your services.
We have concluded a journey of considerable length and importance.
Between you and your officers there have been such relations as only
could have made successful a service so extraordinary as ours has been.
In our reports to our own superior officers we shall have no words save
those of praise for any of you. Our expedition has succeeded. To that
success you have all contributed. Your officers thank you.
Captain Clark will give you your last command, men. As I say
farewell to you, I trust I may not be taken to mean that I separate
myself from you in my thoughts or memories. If I can ever be of service
to any of you, you will call upon me freely.
He turned and stepped aside. His place was taken by his associate,
William Clark, likewise a soldier, an officer, properly attired, and
all the figure of a proper man. Clark's voice rang sharp and clear.
Attention! Aimfire! Break ranksmarch!
The last volley of the gallant little company was fired. The last
order had been given and received. With a sweep of his drawn sword,
Captain Clark dismissed them. The expedition was done.
So now they went their way, most of them into oblivion, great though
their services had been. For their officers much more remained to do.
The progress to Washington was a triumph. Everywhere their admiring
countrymen were excited over their marvelous journey. They were fêted
and honored at every turn. The country was ringing with their praises
from the Mississippi to the Atlantic as the news spread eastward just
ahead of them.
When at last they finished their adieux to the kindly folk of St.
Louis, who scarce would let them go, they took boat across the river to
the old Kaskaskia trail, and crossed the Illinois country by horse to
the Falls of the Ohio, where the family of William Clark awaited him.
Here was much holiday, be sure; but not even here did they pause long,
for they must be on their way to meet their chief at Washington.
Their little cavalcade, growing larger now, passed on across
Kentucky, over the gap in the Cumberlands, down into the country of the
Virginia gentry. Here again they were fêted and dined and wined so long
as they would tarry. It was specially difficult for them to leave
Colonel Hancock, at Fincastle. Here they must pause and tell how they
had named certain rivers in the Westthe one for Maria Woods; another
for Judith Hancockthe Maria's and Judith Rivers of our maps today.
Here William Clark delayed yet a time. He found in the charms of the
fair Judith herself somewhat to give him pause. Soon he was to take her
as his bride down the Ohio to yonder town of St. Louis, for whose fame
he had done so much, and was to do so much more.
Toward none of the fair maids who now flocked about them could
Meriwether Lewis be more than smiling gallant, though rumors ran that
either he or William Clark might well-nigh take his pick. He was alike
to all of them in his courtesy.
One thought of eager and unalloyed joy rested with him. He was soon
to see his mother. In time he rode down from the hilltops of old
Albemarle to the point beyond the Ivy Depot where rose the gentle
eminence of Locust Hill, the plantation of the Lewis family.
Always in the afternoon, in all weathers, his mother sat looking
down the long lane to the gate, as if she expected that one day a
certain figure would appear. Sometimes, old as she was, she dozed and
dreamedjust now she had done so. She awoke, and saw standing before
her, as if pictured in her dream, the form of her son, in bodily
presence, although at first she did not accept him as such.
My son! said she at length, half as much in terror as in joy.
He stooped down and took her grayed head in his hands as she looked
up at him. She recalled other times when he had come from the forest,
from the wilderness, bearing trophies in his hands. He bore now
trophies greater, perhaps, than any man of his age ever had brought
home with him. What Washington had defended was not so great as that
which Lewis won. It required them both to make an America for us
haggling and unworthy followers.
My son! was all she could say. They told me that you never would
come back, that you were dead. I thought the wilderness had claimed you
at last, Merne!
I told you I should come back to you safe, mother. There was no
danger at any time. From St. Louis I have come as fast as any messenger
could have come. Next I must go to see Mr. Jefferson at
Washingtonthen, back home again to talk with you, for long, long
And what have you found?
More than I can tell you in a year! We found the mysterious river,
the Columbiafound where it runs into the ocean, where it starts in
the mountains. We found the head of the Missourithe Ohio is but a
creek beside it. We crossed plains and mountains more wonderful than
any we have ever dreamed of. We saw the most wonderful land in all the
world, motherand we made it ours!
And you did that? Merne, was that why the wilderness called
to you? My boy has done all that? Your country will reward you. I
should not complain of all these years of absence. You are happy now,
are you not?
I should be the happiest of men. I can take to Mr. Jefferson, our
best friend, the proof that he was right in his plans. His great dream
has come true, and I in some part helped to make it true. Should I not
now be happy?
You should be, Merne, but are you?
I am well, and I find you still well and strong. My friend, Will
Clark, has come back with me hearty as a boy. Everything has been
fortunate with us. Look at me, he demanded, turning and stretching out
his mighty arms. I am strong. My men all came through without loss or
injurythe splendid fellows! It is wonderful that in risks such as
ours we met with no ill fortune.
Yes, but are you happy? Turn your face to me.
But he did not turn his face.
I told my friend, William Clark, he said lightly, as he rose, to
join me here after an hour or so. I think I see his party coming now.
York rides ahead, do you see? He is a free negro nowhe will have
stories enough to set all our blacks idle for a month. I must go down
to meet Will and our other guests.
William Clark, bubbling over with his own joy of life, set all the
household in a whirl. There was nothing but cooking, festivity,
dancing, hilarity, so long as he remained at Locust Hill.
But the mother of Meriwether Lewis looked with jealous eye on
William Clark. Success, glory, honor, fame, rewardthese now belonged
to Meriwether Lewis, to them both, his mother knew. But why did not his
laugh sound high like that of his friend? Her eyes followed her son
daily, hourly, until at last she surrendered him to his duty when he
declared he could no longer delay his journey to Washington.
Spick and span, cap-a-pie, pictures of splendid young manhood, the
two captains rode one afternoon up to the great gate before the mansion
house of the nation. Lewis looked about him at scenes once familiar;
but in the three years and a half since he had seen it last the raw
town had changed rapidly.
Workmen had done somewhat upon the Capitol building yonder, certain
improvements had been made about the Executive Mansion itself; but the
old negro men at the gate and at the door of the house were just as he
had left them. And when, running on ahead of his companion, he knocked
at Mr. Jefferson's office doorflinging it open, as he did so, with
the freedom of his old habithe looked in upon a familiar sight.
Thomas Jefferson was sitting bent over his desk, as usual littered
with a thousand papers. The long frame of his multigraph
copying-machine was at one side. Folded documents lay before him,
unfinished briefs upon the other side; a rack of goose quills and an
open inkpot stood beyond. And on the top of the desk, spread out long
and over all, lay a great map, whose identity these two young men
easily could tellthe Lewis and Clark map sent back from the Mandan
country! Thomas Jefferson had kept it at his desk every day since it
had come to him, more than two years before.
He turned now toward the door, casually, for he was used to the
interruptions of his servants. What he saw brought him to his feet. He
spread out his arms impulsivelyhe shook the hand of each in turn,
drew them to him before he motioned them to seats. Never had Meriwether
Lewis seen such emotion displayed by his chief.
I could hardly wait for you! said Mr. Jefferson. He began to pace
up and down. I knew it, I knew it! he exclaimed. Now they will call
us constitutional, perhaps, since we have added a new world to our
country! My son, that was our vision. You have proved it. You have been
both dreamer and doer!
He came up and placed a half playful hand on Meriwether Lewis's
Did I know men, then? he demanded.
And did I, Mr. Jefferson? Captain Clark
You do not say the title correctly! It is not Captain Clark, it is
not Captain Lewis, that stand before me now. You are to have sixteen
hundred acres of land, each of you. You, my son, will be Governor Lewis
of the new Territory of Louisiana; and your friend is not Captain Clark
but General Clark, agent of all the Indian tribes of the West!
In silence the hand of each of the young men went out to the
President. Then their own eyes met, and their hands. They were not to
be separated after allthey were to work together yonder in St. Louis!
GovernorGeneralI welcome you back! You will come back to your
old rooms here in my family, Merne, and we will find a place for your
friend. What we have here is at the service of both of you. You are the
guests of the nation!
CHAPTER XV. MR. JEFFERSON'S ADVICE
Merne, my boy, said Thomas Jefferson, when at length they two were
alone once more in the little office, I cannot say what your return
means to me. You come as one from the graveyou resurrect another from
Meaning, Mr. Jefferson?
You surely have heard that my administration is in sad disrepute?
There is no man in the country hated so bitterly as myself. We are
struggling on the very verge of war.
I heard some talk in the West, Mr. Jefferson, hesitated Meriwether
Yes, they called this Louisiana Purchase, on which I had set my
heart, nothing but extravagance. The machinations of Colonel Burr have
added nothing to its reputation. General Jackson is with Burr, and many
other strong friends. And meantime you know where Burr himself isin
the Richmond jail. I understand that his friend, Mr. Merry, has gone
yonder to visit him. Our country is degenerated to be no more than a
scheming-ground, a plotting-place, for other powers. You come back just
in the nick of time. You have saved this administration! You bring back
success with you. If the issue of your expedition were anything else, I
scarce know what would be my own case here. For myself, that would have
mattered little; but as to this country for which I have planned so
much, your failure would have cost us all the Mississippi Valley,
besides all the valley of the Missouri and the Columbia. Yes, had you
not succeeded, Aaron Burr would have succeeded! Instead of a great
republic reaching from ocean to ocean, we should have had a scattered
coterie of States of no endurance, no continuity, no power. Thank God
for the presence of one great, splendid thing gloriously done! You
cannot, do not, begin to measure its importance.
We are glad that you have been pleased, Mr. Jefferson, said Lewis
Pleased! Pleased! Say rather that I am saved! Say rather that this
country is saved! Had you proved disloyal to mehad you for any cause
turned back, he went on, think what had been the result! What a load,
although you knew it not, was placed on your shoulders! Suppose that
you had turned back on the trail last year, or the summer
beforesuppose you had not gotten beyond the Mandanscan you measure
the difference for this republic? Can you begin to see what
responsibility rested on you? Had you failed, you would have dragged
the flag of your country in the dust. Had you come back any time before
you did, then you might have called yourself the man who ruined his
President, his friend, his country!
And I nearly did, Mr. Jefferson! broke out Meriwether Lewis. Do
not praise me too much. I was tempted
The old man turned toward him, his face grave.
You are honest! I value that above all in youyou are punctilious
to have no praise not honestly won. Listen, now! He leaned toward the
young man, who sat beside him. I knowI knew all alonghow you were
tempted. She came hereTheodosiathe very day you left!
Lewis nodded, mute.
In some way, I knew, the conspirators fought against your success
and mine. I knew what agencies they intended to use against youit was
this woman! Had you failed, I should have known why. I know many
things, whether or not you do. I know the character of Aaron Burr well
enough. He has been crazed, carried away by his own ambitionsGod
alone knows where he would have stopped. He has been a man not
surpassed in duplicity. He would stop at nothing. Moreover, he could
make black look white. He did so for his daughter. She believed in him
absolutely. And knowing somewhat of his plans, I imagined that he would
use the attraction of that young lady for youthe power which, all
things considered, she might be supposed to possess with you. I knew
the depth of your regard for her, the deeper for its hopelessness. And
more than all, I knew the intentness and resolution of your character.
It was one motive against the other! Which was the stronger? You were a
young manthe hot blood of youth was yours, and I know its power. Had
the woman not been married, I should have lost! You would have sold a
crown for her. It was honor saved youyour personal honorthat was
what brought us success. No country is bigger than the personal honor
of its gentlemen.
The bowed head of Meriwether Lewis was his only answer. The
keen-faced old man went on:
I knew that before you had left the mouth of the Ohio River he
would do his best to stop youI knew it before you had left Harper's
Ferry; but I placed the issue in the lap of the gods. I applied to you
all the teststhe severest teststhat one man can to another. I let
you alone! For a year, two years, three years, I did not know. But now
I do know; and the answer is yonder flag which you have carried from
one ocean to the other. The answer is in this map, all these hides
scrawled in coalall those new thousands of miles of landour
land. God keep it safe for us always! And may the people one day know
who really secured it for them! It was not so much Thomas Jefferson as
it was Meriwether Lewis.
Each time I dreamed that my subtle enemies were tempting you, I
prayed in my own soul that you would be strong; that you would go on;
that you would be loyal to your duty, no matter what the cost. God
answered those prayers, my boy! Whatever was your need, whatever price
you paid, you did what I prayed you would do. When the months passed
and you did not come back, I knew that not even the woman you loved
could have called you back. I knew that you had learned the priceless
lesson of renunciation, of sacrifice, through which alone the great
deeds of the world always have been done.
Meriwether Lewis stood before his chief, cold and pale, unable to
complete much speech. Thomas Jefferson looked at him for a moment
before he went on.
My boy, you are so simple that you will not understand. You do not
understand how well I understand you! These things are not done without
cost. If there was punishment for you, you took that punishmentor you
will! You kept your oath as an officer and your unwritten oath as a
gentleman. It is a great thing for a man to have his honor altogether
Mr. Jefferson! The young man before him lifted a hand. His face
was ghastly pale. Do not, said he. Do not, I beg of you!
What is it, Merne? exclaimed the old man. What have I done?
You speak of my honor. Do not! Indeed, you touch me deep.
Thomas Jefferson, wise old man, raised a hand.
I shall never listen, my son, said he. I will accord to you the
right of hot blood to run hotyou would not be a man worth knowing
were it not so. All I know or will know is that whatever the price, you
have paid itor will pay it! But tell me, Merne, can you not tear her
from your soul? It will ruin you, this hopeless attachment which you
cherish. Is it always to remain with you? I bid you find some other
woman. The best in the land are waiting for you.
Mr. Jefferson, I shall never marry.
The two sat looking into each other's eyes for just a moment. Said
Thomas Jefferson at length, slowly:
So! You have come back with all happiness, all success, for me and
for othersbut not for yourself! Such proving as you have had has
fallen to the lot of but few men. I know now how great has been the
costI see it in your face. The fifteen millions I paid for yonder
lands was nothing. We have bought them with the happiness of a human
soul! The transient gratitude of this republicthe honor of that
little paperbah, they are nothing! But perhaps it may be something
for you to know that at least one friend understands.
Lewis did not speak.
What is lost is lost, the President began again after a time.
What is broken is broken. But see how clearly I look into your soul.
You are not thinking now of what you can do for yourself. You are not
thinking of your new rank, your honors. You are asking now, at this
moment, what you can do for her! Is it not so?
The smile that came upon the young man's face was a beautiful, a
wonderful thing to see. It made the wise old man sad to see itbut
She is at Richmond, Merne? said Mr. Jefferson a moment later.
The young man nodded.
And the greatest boon she could ask would be her father's
freedomthe freedom of the man who sought to ruin this countrythe
man whom I scarcely dare release.
The thin lips compressed for a moment. It was not in implacable,
vengeful zealit was but in thought.
Now, then, said Thomas Jefferson sharply, there comes a veil, a
curtain, between you and me and all the world. No record must show that
either of us raised a hand against the full action of the law, or
planned that Colonel Burr should not suffer the full penalty of the
code. Yes, for him that is truebut not for his daughter!
Mr. Jefferson! The face of Meriwether Lewis was strangely moved.
I see the actual greatness of your soul; but I ask nothing.
Why, in my heart I feel like flinging open every prison door in the
world. If you have gained an empire for your country, and paid for it
as you have, could not a great and rich country afford to pay to the
extent of a woman's happiness? When a king is crowned, he sets free the
criminals. And this day I feel as proud and happy as if I were a
kingand king of the greatest empire of all the world! I know well who
assured that kingdom. Let me be, thenhe raised his long handsay
nothing, do nothing. And let this end all talk between us of these
matters. I know you can keep your own counsel.
Lewis bowed silently.
Go to Richmond, Merne. You will find there a broken conspirator and
his unhappy daughter. Both are ostracized. None is so poor as to do
either of them reverence. She has no door opened to her now, though but
lately she was daughter of the Vice-President, the rich Mrs. Alston,
wife of the Governor of her State. Go to them now. Tell Colonel Burr
that the President will not ask mercy for him. John Marshall is on the
bench there; but before him is a juryJohn Randolph is foreman of that
jury. It is there that case will be triedin the jury room; and
politics will try it! Go to Theodosia, Merne, in her desperate
But what can I do, Mr. Jefferson? broke out his listener.
Do precisely what I tell you. Go to that social outcast. Take her
on your arm before all the worldand before that jury! Sit
there, before all Richmondand that jury. An hour or so will do. Do
that, and then, as I did when I trusted you, ask no questions, but
leave it on the knees of the gods. If you can call me chief in other
matters, the President concluded, and can call me chief in that
fashion of thought which men call religion as well, let me give you
unction and absolution, my son. It is all that I have to give to one
whom I have always loved as if he were my own son. This is all I can do
for you. It may fail; but I would rather trust that jury to be right
than trust myself today; because, I repeat, I feel like flinging open
every prison door in all the world, and telling every erring, stumbling
man to try once more to do what his soul tells him he ought to do!
CHAPTER XVI. THE QUALITY OF MERCY
In Richmond jail lay Aaron Burr, the great conspirator, the ruins of
his ambition fallen about him. He had found a prison instead of a
palace. He was eager no longer to gain a scepter, but only to escape a
The great conspiracy was at an end. The only question was of the
punishment the accused should havefor in the general belief he was
certain of conviction. That he never was convicted has always been one
of the most mysterious facts of a mysterious chapter in our national
So crowded were the hostelries of Richmond that a stranger would
have had difficulty in finding lodging there during the six months of
the Burr trial. Not so with Meriwether Lewis, now one of the country's
famous men. A score of homes opened their doors to him. The town buzzed
over his appearance. He had once been the friend of Burr, always the
friend of Jefferson. To which side now would he lean.
Luther Martin, chief of Burr's counsel, was eager above all to have
a word with Meriwether Lewis, so close to affairs in Washington,
possibly so useful to himself. Washington Irving, too, assistant to
Martin in the great trial, would gladly have had talk with him. All
asked what his errand might be. What was the leaning of the Governor of
the new Territory, a man closer to the administration at Washington
than any other?
Meriwether Lewis kept his own counsel. He arranged first to see Burr
himself. The meagerly furnished anteroom of the Federal prison in
Richmond was the discredited adventurer's reception-hall in those days.
Burr advanced to meet his visitor with something of his own old
haughtiness of mien, a little of the former brilliance of his eye.
Governor, I am delighted to see you, back safe and sound from your
journey. My congratulations, sir!
Meriwether Lewis made no reply, but gazed at him steadily, well
aware of the stinging sarcasm of his words.
I have few friends now, said Aaron Burr. You have many. You are
on the flood tideit ebbs for me. When one loses, what mercy is shown
to him? That scoundrel Merryhe promised everything and gave nothing!
Yrujohe is worse yet in his treachery. Even the French minister,
Turreauwho surely might listen to the wishes of the great French
population of the Mississippi Valleypays no attention to their
petitions whatever, and none to mine. These were my former friends! I
promised them a country.
You promised them a country, Colonel Burrfrom what?
From that great ownerless land yonder, the West. But they waited
and waited, until your success was sure. Why, that scoundrel Merry is
here this very daythe effrontery of him! He wants nothing more to do
with me. No, he is here to undertake to recoup himself in his own
losses by reasons of moneys he advanced to me some time ago. He is
importuning my son-in-law, Mr. Alston, to pay him back those
fundswhich once he was so ready to furnish to us. But Mr. Alston is
ruinedI am ruinedwe are all ruined. No, they waited too long!
They waited until it was too late, yes, Lewis returned. That
country is American now, not British or Spanish or French. Our men are
passing across the river in thousands. They will never loose their hold
on the West. It was treason to the future that you plannedbut it was
hopeless from the first!
It would seem, sir, said Aaron Burr, a cynical smile twisting his
thin lip, that I may not count upon your friendship!
That is a hard speech, Colonel Burr. I was your friend.
More than your chief ever was! I fancy Mr. Jefferson would like to
see me pilloried, drawn and quartered, after the old way.
You are unjust to him. You struck at the greatest ambition of his
lifestruck at his heart and the heart of his countrywhen you
undertook to separate the West from this republic.
I am a plain man, and a busy man, said Aaron Burr coldly. I must
employ my time now to the betterment of my situation. I have failed,
and you have won. But let me throw the cloak aside, since I know you
can be of no service to me. I care not what punishment you may
havewhat sufferingbecause I recognize in you the one great cause of
my failure. It was you, sir, with your cursed expedition, that
defeated Aaron Burr!
He turned, proud and defiant even in his failure, and when
Meriwether Lewis looked up he was gone.
Even as Burr passed, Meriwether Lewis heard a light step in the long
corridor. Under guard of the turnkey, some one stood at the door. It
was the figure of a womana figure which caused him to halt, caused
his heart to leap!
She came toward him now, all in mourning blackhat, gown, and
gloves. Her face was pale, her eyes deep, her mouth drooping. Theodosia
Alston was always thus on her daily visit to her father's cell.
Herself the picture of failure and despair, she was used to avoiding
the eyes of all; but she saw Meriwether Lewis standing before her,
strong, tall, splendid in his manhood and vigor, in the full tide of
his success. She was almost in touch of his hand when she raised her
eyes to his.
These two had met at last, after what far wanderings apart! They had
met as if each came from the Valley of the Shadows. Out of the vastness
of the unknown, over all those long and devious trails, into what now
seemed to him a world still more vast, more fraught with desperate
peril, he had come back to her. And shewhat had been her perils? What
were her thoughts?
As his eye fell upon her, even as his keen ear had known her coming,
the hand of Meriwether Lewis half unconsciously went to his breast. He
felt under it the packet of faded letters which he had so long kept
with himwhich in some way he felt to be his talisman.
Yes, it was for this that he had had them! His love and hersthis
had been his shield through all. What he saw in her grave face, her
mournful eyes uplifted to his ownthis was the solution of the riddle
of his life, the reason for his moods of melancholy, the answer to a
thousand unspoken prayers. He felt his heart thrill strong and full,
felt his blood spring in strong current through his veins, until they
strained, until he felt his nerves tingle as he stood, silent,
endeavoring to still the tumult within him, now that he knew the great
and satisfying truth of truths.
To her he waswhat? A tall and handsome gentleman, immaculately
clad, Governor of the newest of our Territoriesthe largest and
richest realm ever laid under the rule of any viceroy. A bystander
might have pondered on such things, but Meriwether Lewis had no thought
of them, nor had the woman who looked up at him. No, to her eyes there
stood only the man who made her blood leap, her soul cry out:
Yea! Yea! Now I know!
To her also, from the divine compassion, was given answer for her
questionings. She knew that life for her, even though it ended now, had
been no blind puzzle, after all, but was a glorious and perfect thing.
She had called to him across the deep, and he had heard and come! From
the very grave itself he had arisen and come again to her!
Even here under the shadow of the gallowseven if, as both knew in
their supreme renunciation, they must part and never meet againfor
them both there could be peaceful calm, with all life's questions
answered, beautifully and surely answered, never again to rise for
SirCaptainthat is to say, Governor Lewis, she corrected
herself, I was not expecting you.
Her tone seemed icy, though her soul was in her eyes. She was all
upon the defense, as Lewis instantly understood. He took her hand in
both of his own, and looked into her face.
She gazed up at him, and swiftly, mercifully, the tears came.
Gently, as if she had been a child, he dried them for heras once when
a boy, he had promised to do. They were alone now. The cold silence of
the prison was about them; but their own long silence seemed a golden,
glowing thing. Thus onlyin their silencecould they speak. They did
not know that they stood hand in hand.
My husband is not here, said she at length, gently disengaging her
hand from his. No one knows me now, every one avoids me. You must not
be seen with mea pariah, an outcast! I am my father's only friend.
Already they condemn him; yet he is as innocent as any man ever was.
I shall say no word to change that belief, said Meriwether Lewis.
But your husband is not here? It is he whom I must see at once.
Why must you see him?
You must know! It is my duty to go to him and to tell him that I am
the man whowho made you weep. He must have his satisfaction. Nothing
that he can do will punish me as my own conscience has already punished
me. It is no useI shall not ask you to forgive meI will not be so
Butsuppose he does not know?
He could only stand silent, regarding her fixedly.
He must never know! she went on. It is no time for quixotism to
make yet another suffer. We two must be strong enough to carry our own
secret. It is better and kinder that it should be between two than
among three. I thought you dead. Let the past remain pastlet it bury
its own dead!
It is our time of reckoning, said he, at length. Guilty as I have
been, sinning as I have sinnedtell me, was I alone in the wrong?
Listen. Those who joined your father's cause were asked to join in
treason to their country. What he purposed was treason. Tell me,
did you know this when you came to me?
He saw the quick pain upon her face, the flush that rose to her pale
cheek. She drew herself up proudly.
I shall not answer that! said she.
No! he exclaimed, swiftly contrite. Nor shall I ask it. Forgive
me! You never knewyou were innocent. You do right not to answer such
I only wanted you to be happythat was my one desire.
She looked aside, and a moment passed before she heard his deep
Happy! I am the most unhappy man in all the world. Happiness?
Norags, shreds, patches of happinessthat is all that is left of
happiness for us, as men and women usually count it. But tell me, what
would make you most happy now, of these things remaining? I have come
back to pay my debts. Is there anything I can do? What would make you
My father's freedom!
I cannot promise that; but all that I can do I will.
Were my father guilty, that would be the act of a noble mind. But
how? You are Mr. Jefferson's friend, not the friend of Aaron Burr. All
the world knows that.
Precisely. All the world knows that, or thinks it does. It thinks
it knows that Mr. Jefferson is implacable. But suppose all the world
were set to wondering? I am just wondering myself if it would be right
to suborn a juryman, like John Randolph of Roanoke!
[Footnote 6: The import of the visit of Governor Lewis and Mrs.
Alston to the court-room during the Burr trial is better conveyed if
there be held in mind the personality of that eccentric and
extraordinary man, so prominent in the history of America and the
traditions of VirginiaJohn Randolph of Roanoke. Irascible,
high-voiced, high-headed, truculent, insolent, vitriolicyet gallant,
courteous, kind, just, and fair; the enemy and the friend in turn of
almost every public man of his day; truckling to none, defiant of all,
sure to do what could not be predicted of any other manit was always
certain that John Randolph of Roanoke would do what he liked, and do
whatfor that present timehe fancied to be just.
Now the ardent adherent, again the bitter caluminator of Jefferson,
it would be held probable that John Randolph of Roanoke would do what
he fancied Thomas Jefferson had not asked him to do, or had asked him
not to do. But the shrewd old man at Washington spoke advisedly when he
said that John Randolph of Roanoke would try the Burr case in the
jury-room, and himself preside as judge, counsel, and jury all in one!]
That is impossible. What do you mean?
I mean this. This afternoon you and I will go into the trial-room
together. I have not yet attended a session of the court. Today I will
hand you to your seat in full sight of the jury box.
Yougive your presence to one who is now a social pariah? The
ladies of Richmond no longer speak to me. But to what purpose?
Perhaps to small purpose. I cannot tell. But let us suppose that I
go with you, and that we sit there in sight of all. I am known to be
the intimate friend of Mr. Jefferson. Ergo
Ergo, Mr. Jefferson is not hostile to us! And you would do
thatyou would take that chance?
And he didfor her! That afternoon all the crowded court-room saw
the beadle make way for two persons of importance. One was a tall,
grave, distinguished-looking man, impassive, calm, a man whose face was
known to allthe new Governor of Louisiana, viceroy of the country
that Burr had lost. Upon his arm, pale, clad all in black, walked the
daughter of the prisoner at the bar!
Was it in defiance or in compliance that this act was done? Was it
by orders, or against orders, or without orders, that the President's
best friend walked in public, before all the world, with the daughter
of the President's worst enemy? It was the guess of anybody and the
query of all.
There, in full view of all the attendants, in full view of the
juryand of John Randolph of Roanoke, its foremansat the two persons
who had had most to do with this scene of which they now made a part.
There sat the man who had explored the great West, and the woman who
had done her best to prevent that exploration; Mr. Jefferson's friend,
and the daughter of the great conspirator, Aaron Burr. Ergo, ergo, said many tongues swiftlyand leaned head to head to whisper it. Mind
sometimes speaks to mindeven across the rail of a jury-box. Sympathy
runs deep and swift sometimes. All the world loved Meriwether Lewis
then, would favor himor favor what he favored.
The issue of that great trial was not to come for weeks as yet; but
when it came, and by whatever process, Aaron Burr was acquitted of the
charges brought against him. The republic for whose downfall he had
plotted set him free and bade him begone.
But now, at the close of this day, the two central figures of the
tragic drama found themselves together once more. They could be alone
nowhere but in the prison room; and it was there that they parted.
Between them, as they stood now at last, about to part, there
stretched an abysmal gulf which might never personally be passed by
She faced him at length, trembling, pleading, helpless.
How mighty a thing is a man's sense of honor! she said slowly.
You have done what I never would have asked you to do, and I am glad
that you did. I once asked you to do what you would not do, and I am
glad that you did not. How can I repay you for what you have done
today? I cannot tell how, but I feel that you have turned the tide for
us. Ah, if ever you felt that you owed me anything, it is paidall
your debt to me and mine. See, I no longer weep. You have dried my
We cannot balance debits and credits, he replied. There is no way
in the world in which you and I can cry quits. Only one thing is
sureI must go!
I cannot say good-by! said she. Ah, do not ask me that! We are
but beginning now. Oh, see! see!
He looked at her still, an unspeakable sadness in his gazeat her
hand, extended pleadingly toward him.
Won't you take my hand, Merne? said she. Won't you?
I dare not, said he hoarsely. No, I dare not!
Why? Do you wish to leave me still feeling that I am in your debt?
You can afford so much now, she said brokenly, for those who have not
Think you that I have won? he broke out. TheodosiaTheoI shall
call you by your old name just onceI do not take your handI dare
not touch youbecause I love you! I always shall. God help me, it is
Did you get my letters? she said suddenly, and looked him fair in
Meriwether Lewis stood searching her countenance with his own grave
Letters? said he at length. What letters?
Her eyes looked up at him luminously.
You are glorious! said she. Yes, a woman's name would be safe
with you. You are strong. How terrible a thing is a sense of honor! But
you are glorious! Good-by!
CHAPTER XVII. THE FRIENDS
Allied in fortunes as they had been in friendship, Meriwether Lewis
and William Clark went on side by side in their new labors in the
capital of that great land which they had won for the republic. Their
offices in title were distinct, yet scarcely so in fact, for each
helped the other, as they had always done.
To these two men the new Territory of Louisiana owed not only its
discovery, but its early passing over to the day of law and order. No
other men could have done what they did in that time of disorder and
change, when, rolling to the West in countless waves, came the white
men, following the bee, crossing the great river, striking out into the
new lands, a headstrong, turbulent, and lawless population.
A thousand new and petty cares came to Governor Lewis. He passed
from one duty to another, from one part of his vast province to
another, traveling continually with the crude methods of transportation
of that period, and busy night and day. Courts must be established. The
compilation of the archives must be cared for. Records must be
instituted to clear up the swarm of conflicts over land-titles. Scores
of new duties arose, and scores of new remedies needed to be devised.
The first figure of the growing capital of St. Louis, the new
Governor was also the central figure of all social activities, the
cynosure of all eyes. But the laughing belles of St. Louis at length
sighed and gave him upthey loved him as Governor, since they might
not as man. Wise, firm, deliberate, kind, sadhe was an old man now,
though still young in years.
Scattered up and down the great valley, above and below St. Louis,
and harboring in that town, were many of the late adherents of Burr's
broken conspiracy. These liked not the oncoming of the American
government, enforced by so rigid an executive as the one who now held
power. Threats came to the ears of Meriwether Lewis, who was hated by
the Burr adherents as the cause of their discomfiture; but he, wholly
devoid of the fear of any man, only laughed at them. Honest and
blameless, it was difficult for any enemy to injure him, and no man
cared to meet Meriwether Lewis in the open.
But at last one means of attack was found. Once morethe last
timethe great heart of a noble man was pierced.
Will, said he to his friend, as they met at William Clark's home,
according to their frequent custom, I am in trouble.
Fancied trouble, Merne, said Clark. You're always finding it!
Would I might call it fancied! But this is something in the way of
facts, and very stubborn facts. See herehe held out certain papers
in his handby this morning's mail I get back these bills
protestedprotested by the government at Washington! And they are
bills that I have drawn to pay the expenses of administering my office
Tut, tut! said William Clark gravely. Come, let us see.
Look here, and here! Will, you know that I am a man of no great
fortune. You also know that I have made certain enemies in this
country. But now I am not supported by my own government. I am
ruinedI am a broken man! Did you think that this country could do
that for either of us?
But Merne, you, the soul of honor
Some enemy has done this! What influences have been set to work, I
cannot say; but here are the bills, and there are others out in other
handsalso protested, I have no doubt. I am publicly discredited,
disgraced. I know not what has been said of me at Washington.
That is the trouble, said William Clark slowly. Washington is so
far. But now, you must not let this trouble you. 'Tis only some
six-dollar-a-week clerk in Washington that has done it. You must not
consider it to be the deliberate act of any responsible head of the
government. You take things too hard, Merne. I will not have you
brooding over thisit will never do. You have the megrims often
enough, as it is. Come here and kiss the baby! He is named for you,
Meriwether Lewisand he has two teeth. Sit down and behave yourself.
Judy will be here in a minute. You are among your friends. Do not
grieve. 'Twill all come well!
This was in the year 1809. Mr. Jefferson's embargo on foreign trade
had paralyzed all Western commerce. Our ships lay idle; our crops
rotted; there was no market. The name of Jefferson was now in general
execration. In March, when his second term as President expired, he had
retired to private life at Monticello. He had written his last message
to Congress that very spring, in which he said of the people of his
I trust that in their steady character, unshaken by
difficulties, in their love of liberty, obedience to law,
and support of the public authorities, I see a sure
guarantee of the permanence of our republic; and retiring
from the charge of their affairs, I carry with me the
consolation of a firm persuasion that Heaven has in store
for our beloved country long ages to come of prosperity and
Whatever the veering self-interest of others led them to think or do
regarding the memory of that great man, Meriwether Lewis trusted Thomas
Jefferson absolutely, and relied wholly on his friendship and his
counsel. Now, in the hour of trouble, he resolved to journey to
Monticello to ask the advice of his old chief, as he had always done.
In this he was well supported by his friend Dr. Saugrain.
You are ill, Governoryou have the fever of these lands, urged
that worthy. By all means leave this country and go back to the East.
Go by way of New Orleans and the sea. The voyage will do you much
Peria, said Meriwether Lewis to his French servant and attendant,
make ready my papers for my journey. Have a small case, such as can be
carried on horseback. I must take with me all my journals, my maps, and
certain of the records of my office here. Get my old spyglass; I may
need it, and I always fancy to have it with me when I travel, as was my
custom in the West. Secure for our costs in travel some goldthree or
four hundred dollars, I imagine. I will take some in my belt, and give
the rest to you for the saddle-trunk.
Your Excellency plans to go by land, then, and not by sea?
I do not know. I must save all the time possible. And Peria
Have my pistols well cared for, and your own as well. See that my
small powder-canister, with bullets, is with them in the holsters. The
trails are none too safe. Be careful whom you advise of our plans. My
business is of private nature, and I do not wish to be disturbed. And
here, take my watch, he concluded. It was given to me by a frienda
good friend, Mr. Wirt, and I prize it very muchso much that I fear to
have it on my person. Care for it in the saddle-trunk.
Do not call me 'Excellency'I detest the title! I am Governor
Lewis, and may so be distinguished. Go now, and do as I have told you.
We shall need about ten men to man the barge. Arrange it. Have our
goods ready for an early start tomorrow morning.
All that night, sleepless, fevered, almost distracted, Meriwether
Lewis sat at his desk, writing, or endeavoring to write, with what
matters upon his soul we may not ask. But the long night wore away at
last, and morning came, a morning of the early fall, beautiful as it
may be only in that latitude. Without having closed his eyes in sleep,
the Governor made ready for his journey to the East.
Whether or not Peria was faithful to all his instructions one cannot
say, but certainly all St. Louis knew of the intended departure of the
Governor. They loved him, these folk, trusted him, would miss him now,
and they gathered almost en masse to bid him godspeed upon his
These papers for Mr. Jefferson, Governorcertain land-titles, of
which we spoke to him last year. Do you not remember? Thus Chouteau,
always busy with affairs.
These samples of cloth and of satin, Governor, said a dark-eyed
French girl, smiling up at him. Would you match them for me in the
East? I am to be married in the spring!
The price of furslearn of that, Governor, if you can, while on
your journey. The embargo has ruined the trade in all this inland
country! It was Manuel Liza, swarthy, taciturn, who thus voiced a
Books, more books, my son! implored Dr. Saugrain. We are growing
hereI must keep up with the surgery of the day; I must know the new
discoveries in medicine. Bring me books. And take this little case of
medicines. You are ill, my sonthe fever has you!
My peoplethey mourn for me as dead, said Big White, the Mandan,
who had never returned to his people up the Missouri River since the
repulse of his convoy by the Sioux. Tell the Great Father that he must
send me soldiers to take me back home to my people. My heart is poor!
Governor, see if you can get me an artificial limb of some sort
while you are in the East.
It was young George Shannon who said this, leaning on his crutch.
Shannon had not long ago returned from another trip up the river, where
in an encounter with the Sioux he had received a wound which cost him a
leg and almost cost him his lifethough later, as has already been
said, he was to become a noted figure at the bar of the State of
Yes! Yes, and yes! Their leader, punctilious as he was kind,
agreed to all these commissionsprizing them, indeed, as proof of the
confidence of his people.
He was ready to depart, but stood still, looking about for the tall
figure which presently he saw advancing through the thronga tall man
with wide mouth and sunny hair, with blue eye and stalwart
frameWilliam Clarkthe friend whom he loved so much, and whom he was
now to see for the last time.
General Clark carried upon his arm the baby which had been named
after the Governor of the new Territory. Lewis took him from his
father's arms and pressed the child's cool face to his own, suddenly
trembling a little about his own lips as he felt the tender flesh of
the infant. No child of his own might he ever hold thus! He gave him
back with a last look into the face of his friend.
Good-by, Will! said he.
CHAPTER XVIII. THE WILDERNESS
The Governor's barge swept down the rolling flood of the
Mississippi, impelled by the blades of ten sturdy oarsmen. Little by
little the blue smoke of St. Louis town faded beyond the level of the
forest. The stone tower of the old Spanish stockade, where floated the
American flag, disappeared finally.
Meriwether Lewis sat staring back, but seeming not to note what
passed. He did not even notice a long bateau which left the wharf just
before his own and preceded him down the river, now loafing along
aimlessly, sometimes ahead, sometimes behind that of the Governor and
his party. In time he turned to his lap-desk and began his endless task
of writing, examining, revising. Now and again he muttered to himself.
The fever was indeed in his blood!
They proceeded thus, after the usual fashion of boat travel in those
days, down the great river, until they had passed the mouth of the Ohio
and reached what was known as the Chickasaw Bluffs, below the
confluence of the two streams. Here was a little post of the army,
arranged for the commander, Major Neely, Indian agent at that point.
As was the custom, all barges tied up here; and the Governor's craft
moored at the foot of the bluff. Its chief passenger was so weak that
he hardly could walk up the steep steps cut in the muddy front of the
Governor Lewis! exclaimed Major Neely, as he met him. You are
ill! You are in an ague!
Perhaps, perhaps. Give me rest here for a day or two, if you
please. Then I fancy I shall be strong enough to travel East. See if
you can get horses for myself and my partyI am resolved not to go by
sea. I have not time.
The Governor of Louisiana, haggard, flushed with fever, staggered as
he followed his friend into the apartment assigned to him in one of the
cabins of the little post. He wore his usual traveling-garb; but now,
for some strange reason he seemed to lack his usual immaculate
neatness. Instead of the formal dress of his office, he wore an old,
stained, faded uniform coat, its pocket bulging with papers. This he
kept at the head of his bed when at length he flung himself down,
almost in the delirium of fever.
He lay here for two days, restless, sleepless. But at length, having
in the mean time scarcely tasted food, he rose and declared that he
must go on.
Major, said he, I can ride now. Have you horses for the journey?
Are you sure, Governor, that your strength is sufficient? Neely
hesitated as he looked at the wasted form before him, at the hollow
eye, the fevered face.
It is not a question of my personal convenience, Major, said
Meriwether Lewis. Time presses for me. I must go on!
At least you shall not go alone, said Major Neely. You should
have some escort. Doubtless you have important papers?
Meriwether Lewis nodded.
My servant has arranged everything, I fancy. Can you get an extra
man or two? The Natchez Trace is none too safe.
That military road, as they both knew, was indeed no more than a
horse path cut through the trackless forest which lay across the States
of Mississippi, Tennessee and Kentucky. Its reputation was not good.
Many a trader passing north from New Orleans with coin, many a settler
passing west with packhorses and household effects, had disappeared on
this wilderness road, and left no sign. It was customary for parties of
any consequence to ride in companies of some force.
It was a considerable cavalcade, therefore, which presently set
forth from Chickasaw Bluffs on the long ride eastward to cross the
Alleghanies, which meant some days or weeks spent in the saddle.
Apprehension sat upon all, even as they started out. Their eyes rested
upon the wasted form of their leader, the delirium of whose fever
seemed still to hold him. He muttered to himself as he rode, resented
the near approach of any traveling companion, demanded to be alone.
They looked at him in silence.
He talks to himself all the time, said one of the partya new
man, hired by Neely at the army post. He rode with Peria now; and none
but Peria knew that he had come from the long barge which had clung to
the Governor's craft all the way down the riverand which, unknown to
Lewis himself, had tied up and waited at Chickasaw Bluffs. He was a
stranger to Neely and to all the others, but seemed ready enough to
take pay for service along the Trace, declaring that he himself was
intending to go that way. He was a man well dressed, apparently of
education and of some means. He rode armed.
What is wrong with the Governor, think you? inquired this man once
more of Peria, Lewis's servant.
It is his way, shrugged Peria. We leave him alone. His hand is
heavy when he is angry.
He rides always with his rifle across his saddle?
Always, on the trail.
Loaded, I presumeand his pistols?
You may well suppose that, said Peria.
Oh, well, said the new member of the party, 'tis just as well to
be safe. I lifted his saddlebags and the desk, or trunk, whatever you
call it, that is on the pack horse yonder. Heavy, eh?
Naturally, grinned Peria.
They looked at one another. And thereafter the two, as was well
noted, conversed often and more intimately together as the journey
Now it's an odd thing about his coat, volunteered the stranger
later in that same day. He always keeps it onthat ragged old
uniform. Was it a uniform, do you believe? Can't the Governor of the
new Territory wear a coat that shows his own quality? This one's a
dozen years old, you might say.
He always wears it on the trail, said Peria. At home he watches
it as if it held some treasure.
Treasure? The shifty eyes of the new man flashed in sudden
interest. What treasure? Papers, perhapsbillsdocumentsmoney? His
pocket bulges at the side. Something thereyes, eh?
Hush! said Peria. You do not know that man, the Governor. He has
the eye of a hawk, the ear of a foxyou can keep nothing from him. He
fears nothing in the world, and in his moodsyou'd best leave him
alone. Don't let him suspect, or And Peria shook his head.
The cavalcade was well out into the wilderness east of the
Mississippi on that afternoon of October 8, in the year 1809. Stopping
at the wayside taverns which now and then were found, they had
progressed perhaps a hundred miles to the eastward. The day was drawing
toward its close when Peria rode up and announced that one or two of
the horses had strayed from the trail.
I have told you to be more careful, Peria, expostulated Governor
Lewis. There are articles on the packhorse which I need at night. Who
is this new man that is so careless? Why do you not keep the horses up?
Go, then, and get them. Major Neely, would you be so kind as to join
the men and assure them of bringing on the horses?
And what of you, Governor?
I shall go on ahead, if you please. Is there no house near by? You
know the trail. Perhaps we can get lodgings not far on.
The first white man's house beyond here, answered Neely, belongs
to an old man named Grinder. 'Tis no more than a few miles ahead.
Suppose we join you there?
Agreed, said Lewis, and setting spurs to his horse, he left them.
It was late in the evening when at length Meriwether Lewis reined up
in front of the somewhat unattractive Grinder homestead cabin, squatted
down alongside the Natchez Trace; a place where sometimes hospitality
of a sort was dispensed. It was an ordinary double cabin that he saw,
two cob-house apartments with a covered space between such as might
have been found anywhere for hundreds of miles on either side of the
Alleghanies at that time. At his call there appeared a womanMrs.
Grinder, she announced herself.
Madam, he inquired, could you entertain me and my party for the
night? I am alone at present, but my servants will soon be up. They are
on the trail in search of some horses which have strayed.
My husband is not here, said the woman. We are not well fixed,
but I reckon if we can stand it all the time, you can for a night. How
many air there in your party?
A half-dozen, with an extra horse or two.
I reckon we can fix ye up. Light down and come in.
She was noting well her guest, and her shrewd eyes determined him to
be no common man. He had the bearing of a gentleman, the carriage of a
man used to command. Certain of his garments seemed to show wealth,
although she noted, when he stripped off his traveling-smock, that he
wore not a new coat, but an old onevery old, she would have said,
soiled, stained, faded. It looked as if it had once been part of a
Her guest, whoever he wasand she neither knew nor asked, for the
wilderness tavern held no register, and few questions were asked or
answeredpaid small attention to the woman. He carried his saddlebags
into the room pointed out to him, flung them down, and began to pace up
and down, sometimes talking to himself. The woman eyed him from time to
time as she went about her duties.
Set up and eat, she said at last. I reckon your men are not
I thank you, Madam, said the stranger, with gentle courtesy. Do
not let me trouble you too much. I have been ill of late, and do not as
yet experience much hunger.
Indeed, he scarcely tasted the food. He sat, as she noted, a long
time, gazing fixedly out of the door, over the forest, toward the West.
Is it not a beautiful world, Madam? said he, after a time, in a
voice of great gentleness and charm. I have seen the forest often thus
in the West in the evening, when the day was done. It is wonderful!
Yes. Some of my folks is thinking of going out further into the
He turned to her abstractedly, yet endeavoring to be courteous.
A wonderful country, Madam! said he; and so he fell again into his
moody staring out beyond the door.
After a time the hostess of the backwoods cabin sought to make up a
bed for him, but he motioned to her to desist.
It is not necessary, said he. I have slept so much in the open
that 'tis rarely I use a bed at all. I see now that my servant has come
up, and is in the yard yonder. Tell him to bring my robes and blankets
and spread them here on the floor, as I always have them. That will
answer quite well enough, thank you.
Peria, it seemed, had by this time found his way to the cabin along
the trail. He was alone.
Come, man! said Lewis. Make down my bed for meI am ill. And
tell me, where is my powder? Where are the bullets for my pistols? I
find them empty. Haven't I told you to be more careful about these
things? And where is my rifle-powder? The canister is here, but 'tis
empty. Come, come, I must have better service than this!
But even as he chided the remissness of his servant, he seemed to
forget the matter in his mind. Presently he was again pacing apart,
stopping now and then to stare out over the forest.
I must have a place to write, said he at length. I shall be awake
for a time tonight, occupied with business matters of importance. Where
is Major Neely? Where are the other men? Why have they not come up?
Peria could not or did not answer these questions, but sullenly went
about the business of making his master as comfortable as he might, and
then departed to his own quarters, down the hill, in another building.
The old backwoods woman herself withdrew to the other apartment, beyond
the open space of the double cabin.
The soft, velvet darkness of night in the forest now came on
apacea night of silence. There was not even the call of a tree toad.
The voice of the whippoorwill was stilled at that season of the year.
If there were human beings awake, alert, at that time, they made no
sound. Meriwether Lewis was alonealone in the wilderness again. Its
silences, its mysteries, drew about him.
But now he stood, not enjoying in his usual fashion the familiar
feeling of the night in the forest, the calm, the repose it customarily
brought to him. He stood looking intently, as if he expected some
onenay, indeed, as if he saw some oneas if he saw a face! What face
At last he made his way across the room to the heavy saddle-case
which had been placed there. He flung the lid open, and felt among the
contents. It seemed to him there was not so much within the case as
there should have been. He missed certain papers, and resolved to ask
Peria about them. He could not find the little bags of coin which he
expected; but he found the watch, lying covered in a corner of the
case. He drew it out and, stepping toward the flickering candle, opened
it, gazing fixedly at the little silhouette cut round to fit in the
back of the case.
It was a face that he had seen beforea hundred times he had gazed
thus at it on the far Western trails.
He brought the little portrait close up to his eyesbut not close
to his lips. No, he did not kiss the face of the woman who once had
written to him:
You must not kiss my picture, because I am in your power.
Meriwether Lewis had won his long fight! He had mastered the human
emotions of his soul at last. The battle had been such that he sat here
now, weak and spent. He sat looking at the face which had meant so much
to him all these years.
There came into his mind some recollection of words that she had
written to him oncesomething about the sound of water. He lifted his
head and listened. Yes, there was a sound coming faintly through the
nightthe trickle of a little brook in the ravine below the window.
Always, he recalled, she had spoken of the sound of water, saying
that that music would blot out memorysaying that water would wash out
secrets, would wash out sins. What was it she had said? What was it she
had written to him long ago? What did it meanabout the water?
The sound of the little brook came to his ears again in some shift
of the wind. He rose and stumbled toward the window, carrying the
candle in his hand. His haggard face was lighted by its flare as he
stood there, leaning out, listening.
It was then that his doom came to him.
There came the sound of a shot; a second; and yet another.
The woman in the cabin near by heard them clearly enough. She rose
and listened. There was no sound from the other cabins. The servants
paid no attention to the shots, if they had heard themand why should
they not have heard them? No one called out, no one came running.
Frightened, the woman rose, and after a time stepped timidly across
the covered space between the two rooms, toward the light which she saw
shining faintly through the cracks of the door. She heard groans
A tall and ghastly figure met her as she approached the door. She
saw his face, white and haggard and stained. From a wound in the
forehead a broad band of something dark fell across his cheek. From his
throat something dark was welling. He clutched a hand on his
breastand his fingers were dark.
He was bleeding from three wounds; but still he stood and spoke to
In God's name, Madam, said he, bring me water! I am killed!
She ran away, she knew not where, calling to the others to come; but
they did not come. She was alone. Once more, forgetful of her errand,
incapable of rendering aid, she went back to the door.
She heard no sound. She flung open the door and peered into the
room. The candle was standing, broken and guttering, on the floor. She
could see the scattered belongings of the traveling-cases, empty now.
The occupant of the room was gone! In terror she fled once more, back
to her own room, and cowered in her bed.
Staggering, groping, his hands strained to him to hold in the life
that was passing, Meriwether Lewis had left the room where he had
received his wounds, and had stepped out into the air, into the night.
All the resolution of his soul was bent upon one purpose. He staggered,
but still stumbled onward.
It seemed to him that he heard the sound of water, and blindly,
unconsciously, he headed that way. He entered the shadow of the woods
and passed down the little slope of the hill. He fell, rather than
seated himself, at the side of the brook whose voice he had heard in
the night. He was alone. The wilderness was all about himthe
wilderness which had always called to him, and which now was to claim
He sat, gasping, almost blind, feeling at his pockets. At last he
found itone of the sulphur matches made for him by good old Dr.
Saugrain. Tremblingly he essayed to light it, and at last he saw the
With skill of custom, though now almost unconsciously, his fingers
felt for dry bits of bark and leaves, little twigs. Yes, the match
served its purpose. A tiny flame flickered between his feet as he sat.
Did any eye see Meriwether Lewis as he sat there in the dark at his
last camp fire? Did any guilty eye look on him making his last fight?
He sat alone by the little fire. His hand, dropping sometimes,
responsive only to the supreme effort of his will, fumbled in the bosom
of his old coat. There were some papers theresome things which no
other eyes than his must ever see! Here was a secretit must always be
a secrether secret and his! He would hide forever from the world what
had been theirs in common.
The tiny flame rose up more strongly, twice, thrice, five timessix
times in all! One by one he had placed them on the flamesthese
letters that he had carried on his heart for yearsthe six letters
that she had written him when he was far away in the unknown. He held
the last one long, trying to see the words. He groaned. He was almost
blind. His trembling finger found the last word of the last letter. It
rose before him in tall characters now, all done in flame and not in
Now they were gone! No one could ever see them. No one could know
how he had treasured them all these years. She was safe!
Before his soul, in the time of his great accounting, there rose the
passing picture of the years. Free from suffering, now absolved,
resigned, he was a boy once more, and all the world was young. He saw
again the slopes of old Albemarle, beautiful in the green and gold of
an early autumn day in old Virginia. He heard again his mother's voice.
What was it that she said? He bent his head as if to listen.
Your wishyour great desireyour hopeyour dreamall these
shall be yours at last, even though the trail be long, even though the
burden be too heavy to carry farther.
So then she had knownshe had spoken the truth in her soothsaying
that day so long ago! Now his fading eye looked about him, and he
nodded his head weakly, as if to assent to something he had heard.
He had so earnestly longedhe had so greatly desiredto be an
honorable man! He had so longed and desired to do somewhat for others
than himself! And here was peace, here indeed was conquest. His great
desire was won!
His lax hands dropped between his knees as he sat. A little gust of
wind sweeping down the gully caught up some of the white ashesstained
as they were with blood that dropped from his veins as he bent above
themcarried them down upon the tiny thread of the little brook. It
carried them away toward the seahis blood, the ashes, the secret
which they hid.
At length he rose once more, his splendid will still forcing his
broken body to do its bidding. Half crawling up the bank, once more he
stood erect and staggered back across the yard, into the room. The
woman heard him there again. Pity arose in her breast; once more she
mastered her terror and approached the door.
In God's name, Madam, said he, bring me waterwine! I am so
strong, I am hard to die! Bind up my woundsI have work to do! Heal me
But not her power nor any power could heal such wounds as his. Once
more she called out for aid, and none came.
The night wore away. The dying man lay on his bearskin pallet on the
floor, motionless now and silent, but still breathing, and calm at
last. It was dawn when the recreant servant found him there.
Peria, said Meriwether Lewis, turning his fading eye on the man,
do not fear me. I will not hurt you. But my watchI cannot find
itit seems gone. I am hard to die, it seems. But the little watchit
CHAPTER XIX. DOWN TO THE SEA
Many days later the French servant, Peria, rode up to the gate, to
the door, of Locust Hall, the Lewis homestead in old Virginia. The news
he bore had preceded him. He met a stern-faced, dark-browed woman, who
regarded him coldly when he announced his name, regarded him in
silence. The servant found himself able to make but small speech.
Your son was a brave manhe lived long, said Peria, haltingly, at
the close of his story.
Yes, said the mother of Meriwether Lewis. He was a brave man. He
He was unhappy; but why he should have killed himself
Stop! The dark eyes blazed upon him. What are you saying? My son
kill himself? It is an outrage to his memory to suggest it. He was the
victim of some enemy. As for you, begone!
So Peria passed from sight and view, and almost from memory, not
accused, not acquitted. Long afterward a brother of Meriwether Lewis
met him, and found that he was carrying the old rifle and the little
watch which every member of the family knew so well. These things had
been missing from the effects of Meriwether Lewis in the
inventoryindeed, little remained in the traveling-cases save a few
scattered papers and the old spyglass. There was no gold. There were no
letters of any kind.
Soon there came down from Monticello to Locust Hall the coach of
Madam, said he, when finally he stood at the side of the mistress
of Locust Hall, it is heavy news I thought to bringI see that you
have heard it. What shall I saywhat can we say to each other? I mourn
him as if he were my own son.
It has come at last, said the mother of Meriwether Lewis. The
wilderness has him, as I knew it would! I told him, here at this place,
when he was a boy, that at last the load would weigh him down.
The rumor is that he died by his own hand. I find it difficult to
believe. It is far more likely that some enemy or robber was guilty of
Whom had he ever harmed? she demanded of Jefferson.
None in the world, with intent; but he had enemies. Whether by his
own hand or that of another, he died a gallant gentleman. He would not
think of himself alone. But listenbear with me if I tell you that
could your son send out the news himself, perhaps he might say 'twas by
his own hand he perished, and not by that of another!
Never, Mr. Jefferson, never will I believe that! It was not in his
I agree with you. But when we take the last wishes of the dead, we
take what is the law for us. And the law of your son was the law of
honor. Suppose, my dear madam, there were a woman concerned in this
He never wronged a woman in his life
Precisely, nor in his death would he wrong one! Do you begin to
Did he ever speak to you of her?
It was impossible that he should; but I knew them both. I knew
their secret. Were it in his power to do so, I am sure that he carried
his secret with him, so that it might never be shared by any. That
secret he has guarded in death as in life.
But shall I let that stain rest on his name? The dark eye of the
old woman gleamed upon her son's friend.
Do not I love him also? I am speaking now only of his own wishnot
ours. I know that he would shield her at any costnay, I know he did
shield her at any cost. May not we shield himand herno matter what
the cost to us? If he laid that wish on us, ought we not to respect it?
Madam, I shall frame a letter which will serve to appease the criticism
of the public in regard to your son. If it be not the exact truthand
who shall tell the exact truth?it will at least be accepted as truth,
and it will forever silence any talk. What should the public know of a
life such as his? There are some lives which are tragically large, and
such was his. He lived with honor, and he could not die without it.
What was in his heart we shall not ask to know. If ever he sinned, he
is purged of any sin.
Jefferson was silent for a moment, holding the bereaved mother's
hand in his own.
He shall have a monument, madam, he went on. It shall mark his
grave in yonder wilderness. They shall name at least a county for him,
and hold it his sacred grave-placethere in Tennessee, by the old
Indian road. Let him lie there under the treesthat is as he would
wish. He shall have some monumentyes, but how futile is all that! His
greatest monument will be in the vast new country which he has brought
to us. He was a man of a natural greatness not surpassed by any of his
* * * * *
What of Theodosia Alston, loyal and lofty soul, blameless wife,
devoted and pathetic adherent to the fallen fortunes of her ill-starred
Three years after Meriwether Lewis laid him down to sleep in the
forest, a ship put out from Charleston wharf. It was bound for the city
of New York, where at that time there was living a broken, homeless,
forsaken man named Aaron Burra man execrated at home, discredited
abroad, but who now, after years of exile, had crept home to the
country which had cast him out.
A passenger on that ship was Theodosia Alston, the daughter of Aaron
Burr. That much is known. The ship sailed. It never came to port. No
more is known.
To this day none knows what was the fate of Aaron Burr's daughter,
one of the most appealing figures of her day, a woman made for
happiness, but continually in close touch with tragedy. Wherever her
body may lie, she has her wish. The sound of the eternal waters is the
continuous requiem in her ears. Her secret, if she had one, is washed
away long ere this, and is one with the eternal secrets of the sea. As
to her sin, she had none. Above her memory, since she has no grave,
there might best be inscribed the words she wrote at a time of her own
I hope to be happy in the next world, for I have not been
bad in this.
Did the little brook in Tennessee ever find its way down to the sea?
Did it carry a scattered drop of a man's lifeblood, little by little
thinning, thinning on its long journey? Did ever a wandering flake of
ashes, melting, rest on its bosom for so great a journey as that toward
Did the sound of a voice in the wilderness, passing across the
unknown leagues, ever reach an ear that heard? Who can tell? Perhaps in
the great ten thousand years such things may beperhaps deep calls to
deep, and there are no longer sins nor tears.
A million hearth-fires mark the camp-fire trail of Meriwether Lewis.
We own the country which he found, and for which he paid. He sleeps.
Above him stands the monument which his chief assigned to himhis
country. It rises now in glory and splendor, the perfected vision which
That is the happy ending of his storyhis country! It is ours. As
its title came to us in honor, it is for us to love it honorably, to
use it honorably, and to defend it honorably. None may withstand us
while we hold to his ambitionswhile our sons measure to the stature
of such a man.
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