Antoine of Oregon - James Otis

A Unexpected Proposition

The man seated himself by my side as if satisfied that I was the one whom he sought, and began his business by saying:—

"My name is John Mitchell. I am at the head of a party of thirty men, women, and children who are bound for the Oregon country. We are taking with us forty head of oxen, twenty horses, ten mules, and thirty cows, to say nothing of the remainder of the outfit. I counted on meeting here at St. Louis a man who would guide us across, but find that he has left us in the lurch, likely because of getting a better offer from some other company of settlers. Now I have been told that you could serve us as guide; that you are what may be called a fairly good hunter; and, although you look a bit too young for the business, there are those here in St. Louis who say you may be depended upon. What about guiding my party across? We are willing to pay considerably more than fair wages—"

[Illustration] from Antoine of Oregon by James Otis

"It may not be for me to do any such thing," I replied quickly, although at the same time wishing I could go once more into the Oregon country and do a man's work as guide. "I have here my mother, who has no other to depend upon, and I must stand by her, as a son should."

"Well said, lad, well said. It does you credit to think first of your mother; but we are willing to pay considerable money to one who can guide us, because this kind of traveling is new to all my party. Already in coming up from Indiana we have had trouble with the cattle and with the teams. Now say three hundred dollars for the trip, and if you are minded to take your mother with you we stand ready to let her share in whatsoever we have."

There is no reason why I should set down all we said, for we sat there on the river bank until an hour had passed, talking all the while.

Each moment I grew more and more eager for the adventure, until it seemed to me I had never had but one desire in life, and that to go into the Oregon country and make there a home for my mother.

I promised to meet the man again that evening and went straight away home to lay the matter before my mother. It surprised me not a little that she seemed to be in favor of going to the Oregon country, and I have since been led to believe that her willingness to abandon the home in St. Louis came from the wish to make a change and to leave that place where everything must needs remind her of my father.