He soon began to perceive that the Indian accounts had not been exaggerated. At the distance of a mile he passed a small creek [on the right], and the points of four mountains, which were rocky, and so high that it seemed almost impossible to cross them with horses. The road lay over the sharp fragments of rocks which had fallen from the mountains, and were strewed in heaps for miles together; yet the horses, altogether unshod, travelled across them as fast as the men, without detaining them a moment. They passed two bold running streams, and reached the entrance of a small river, where a few Indian families resided, who had not been previously acquainted with the arrival of the whites; the guide was behind, and the woods were so thick that we came upon them unobserved, till at a very short distance. As soon as they saw us the women and children fled in great consternation; the men offered us everything they had--the fish on the scaffolds, the dried berries, and the collars of elks' tushes worn by the children. We took only a small quantity of the food, and gave them in return some small articles which conduced very much to pacify them. The guide now coming up, explained to them who we were and the object of our visit, which seemed to relieve their fears; still a number of the women and children did not recover from their fright, but cried during our stay, which lasted about an hour. The guide, whom we found a very intelligent, friendly old man, informed us that up this river there was a road which led over the mountains to the Missouri."
To add to their difficulties, game had almost entirely disappeared, and the abundant fish in the river could not be caught for lack of proper fishing-tackle. Timber from which canoes could be made, there was none, and the rapids in the rivers were sharp and violent. With his Indian guide and three men, Captain Clark now pressed on his route of survey, leaving the remainder of his men behind to hunt and fish. He went down the Salmon River about fifty-two miles, making his way as best he could along its banks. Finding the way absolutely blocked for their purposes, Captain Clark returned on the twenty-fifth of August and rejoined the party that he had left behind. These had not been able to kill anything, and for a time starvation stared them in the face. Under date of August 27, the journal says:--
"The men, who were engaged last night in mending their moccasins, all except one, went out hunting, but no game was to be procured. One of the men, however, killed a small salmon, and the Indians made a present of another, on which the whole party made a very slight breakfast. These Indians, to whom this life is familiar, seem contented, although they depend for subsistence on the scanty productions of the fishery. But our men, who are used to hardships, but have been accustomed to have the first wants of nature regularly supplied, feel very sensibly their wretched situation; their strength is wasting away; they begin to express their apprehensions of being without food in a country perfectly destitute of any means of supporting life, except a few fish. In the course of the day an Indian brought into the camp five salmon, two of which Captain Clark bought and made a supper for the party."
Two days later, Captain Clark and his men joined the main party, having met the only repulse that was suffered by the expedition from first to last. Eluding the vigilance of the Indians, caches, or hiding-places, for the baggage were constructed, filled, and concealed, the work being done after dark. The weather was now very cold, although August had not passed. Ink froze in the pen during the night, and the meadows were white with frost; but the days were warm, even hot.
In the absence of Captain Clark, his colleague and party had been visited by Cameahwait and about fifty of his band, with their women and children. Captain Lewis' journal says:--
"After they had camped near us and turned loose their horses, we called a council of all the chiefs and warriors, and addressed them in a speech. Additional presents were then distributed, particularly to the two second chiefs, who had, agreeably to their promises, exerted themselves in our favor. The council was then adjourned, and all the Indians were treated with an abundant meal of boiled Indian corn and beans. The poor wretches, who had no animal food and scarcely anything but a few fish, had been almost starved, and received this new luxury with great thankfulness. Out of compliment to the chief, we gave him a few dried squashes, which we had brought from the Mandans, and he declared it was the best food he had ever tasted except sugar, a small lump of which he had received from his sister Sacajawea. He now declared how happy they should all be to live in a country which produced so many good things; and we told him that it would not be long before the white men would put it in their power to live below the mountains, where they might themselves cultivate all these kinds of food, instead of wandering in the mountains. He appeared to be much pleased with this information, and the whole party being now in excellent temper after their repast, we began our purchase of horses. We soon obtained five very good ones, on very reasonable terms-- that is, by giving for each horse merchandise which cost us originally about $6. We have again to admire the perfect decency and propriety of the Indians; for though so numerous, they do not attempt to crowd round our camp or take anything which they see lying about, and whenever they borrow knives or kettles or any other article from the men, they return them with great fidelity."
Captain Lewis anxiously wished to push on to meet Clark, who, as we have seen, was then far down on the Salmon River. Lewis was still at the forks of Jefferson River, it should be borne in mind; and their objective point was the upper Shoshonee village on the Lemhi River, across the divide. While on the way over the divide, Lewis was greatly troubled by the freaks of the Indians, who, regardless of their promises, would propose to return to the buffalo country on the eastern side of the mountains. Learning that Cameahwait and his chiefs had sent a messenger over to the Lemhi to notify the village to come and join an expedition of this sort, Captain Lewis was dismayed. His journal says:--
"Alarmed at this new caprice of the Indians, which, if not counteracted, threatened to leave ourselves and our baggage on the mountains, or even if we reached the waters of the Columbia, to prevent our obtaining horses to go on further, Captain Lewis immediately called the three chiefs together. After smoking a pipe he asked them if they were men of their word, and if we could rely on their promises. They readily answered in the affirmative. He then asked if they had not agreed to assist us in carrying our baggage over the mountains. To this they also answered yes. `Why, then,' said he, `have you requested your people to meet us to-morrow where it will be impossible for us to trade for horses, as you promised we should? If,' he continued, `you had not promised to help us in transporting our goods over the mountains, we should not have attempted it, but have returned down the river; after which no white men would ever have come into your country. If you wish the whites to be your friends, to bring you arms, and to protect you from your enemies, you should never promise what you do not mean to perform. When I first met you, you doubted what I said, yet you afterward saw that I told you the truth. How, therefore, can you doubt what I now tell you? You see that I divide amongst you the meat which my hunters kill, and I promise to give all who assist us a share of whatever we have to eat. If, therefore, you intend to keep your promise, send one of the young men immediately, to order the people to remain at the village till we arrive.' The two inferior chiefs then said that they had wished to keep their word and to assist us; that they had not sent for the people, but on the contrary had disapproved of that measure, which was done wholly by the first chief. Cameahwait remained silent for some time; at last he said that he knew he had done wrong, but that, seeing his people all in want of provisions, he had wished to hasten their departure for the country where their wants might be supplied. He, however, now declared that, having passed his word, he would never violate it, and counter-orders were immediately sent to the village by a young man, to whom we gave a handkerchief in order to ensure despatch and fidelity. . . .