Against stupidity the very gods themselves contend in vain. — Friedrich Schiller

Antoine of Oregon - James Otis




Making the Bargain

We talked over the matter fairly and at great length, all the men of the company and some of the women taking part in the parley. The bargain, as I understood it, was that I was hired for no other service than to guide this company, and also to make suggestions as to the best places for camping, as well as how we could keel) the people supplied with fresh meat.

It was agreed that my mother should ride in the four-mule wagon with John Mitchell's family, which consisted of his wife, a girl about my own age by name of Susan, and three awkward-looking boys. The oldest of these lads was not more than ten, I should think, and all of them were so clumsy that it seemed almost impossible for them to avoid treading on their own feet. About mounting a horse or rounding up cattle, they knew no more than my Napoleon knew about good manners.

Susan, however, was a sprightly girl, who, as it seemed to me, had more good sense in her little finger than might be found in all the rest of the family. Before my visit was at an end, she came to ask concerning this or that which we might meet with on the way, and I believed I had found one who would be a most desirable comrade.

[Illustration] from Antoine of Oregon by James Otis

Unless I mistook her entirely, she was a girl to be depended on in the time of trouble, and when one would travel from the Missouri River to the Oregon country, it is of the greatest importance to have with him only those who can be relied on to a certainty when danger lurks at hand, as it surely does, so I have heard my father say, from the time the voyager leaves the Kansas River until he has come to the Columbia.

It was agreed that my mother and I should have a day in which to make ready for this journey, which, if we met with no serious mishaps, would require not less than five months to make; therefore it can well be understood that we had little time to spend in sleep, if we would present ourselves to John Mitchell at the hour agreed upon.

It is my desire never to make a promise which I do not, or cannot keep; consequently there were many things left undone in St. Louis when mother and I crossed the river; but it was better thus than that I should disappoint ever so slightly those with whom I had made a positive agreement.