After sentence of banishment was pronounced upon them, Moore and Reeves went to the mining camp in Deer Lodge valley, located near the present site of Deer Lodge City. Messrs. Broadwater and Pemberton, two young men who came into the territory a few weeks before, had selected this spot as an eligible location for a town, and were engaged in laying it out at the time the guilty exiles arrived. They had already erected two cabins, one of which they occupied, the other being vacant. It was the middle of February, and the weather was intensely cold. Moore and Reeves made their camp in a clump of willows upon the bank of the Deer Lodge River. With no better protection than their blankets, against the wintry blasts which swept down the valley and the frequent storms that gathered in the lofty ranges overhanging it, and with no food except beef and coffee, these men suffered severely. Moore soon fell sick of mountain fever, and would probably have died had not Broadwater caused his removal to the vacant cabin, and supplied him with food and medicines necessary to his recovery. Soon after he had sufficiently recovered to leave his bed, a messenger from Bannack brought the intelligence that the miners, at a recent meeting, had revoked the sentence of banishment against him and Reeves, and that they were at liberty to return. During his illness the Indians had stolen Moore's horse. Broadwater placed one at his disposal, and Moore joined his comrades at Bannack.
In the following spring, Broadwater engaged in the cattle business,-buying in Deer Lodge and selling his herds at Bannack. "The proceeds of those sales often amounted to thousands of dollars in gold dust. On one of these occasions he was preparing to return to Deer Lodge with six thousand dollars in gold. Moore called upon him, with a request for a few moments' confidential conversation.
"Make a free breast of anything you have to communicate," said Broadwater. "I will listen and be silent."
"It's for your own safety, Broad," replied Moore, "and there is not another man in the country for whom I'd take the risk; but you were my friend when I needed friendship: you saved my life, gave me food and shelter and care; and I can never forget to be grateful -but you must pledge your honor not to betray me."
"Freely, freely, Moore; I would lose my life first."
"Then," said Moore, "I give you friendly warning that there is a band of road agents here, that know of your having received a large quantity of gold dust during the past three days. They are informed of the time of your intended departure for Deer Lodge, and intend to waylay and murder you on the way, and corral your gold. You are 'spotted' for slaughter. My advice to you is to leave town secretly, and to be constantly on your guard, and under no circumstances let any one, not even your most intimate friend, know when you will leave."
"I intend going to-morrow morning," replied Broadwater, "but if matters are as you tell me, I think I'll start tonight."
At this Moore exclaimed, "Why, you fool! there you go, shooting off your mouth to me the first thing. Didn't I caution you not to tell anyone? And in less than a minute you tell me just what you're going to do."
It would be curious to know by what system of ethics Moore was governed by this strange admonition; whether it was to impress upon Broadwater the necessity of a caution which should withhold confidence even from the person who warned him of a danger, or whether there was a conflict between gratitude to Broadwater and fidelity to his confederates. It is not improbable that he was bound by strong obligations to communicate to his associates the very information which Broadwater had given him.
Satisfied that Moore belonged to the gang, yet confiding in the truthfulness of his disclosure, Broadwater mounted his horse early in the evening, and at two o'clock the next morning was at the crossing of the Big Hole River. There he intended to rest, but fearful that his horse might be stolen by some Pend d'Oreille Indians camped near, he rode on, six miles to Willow Creek. Fastening the lariat firmly to his wrist, and relying upon the sagacity of his horse, to warn him of the approach of any of his red neighbors, he lay down upon the grass, and fell asleep. An hour before daylight he was aroused by a sudden plunge and snort of his horse, which, with braced feet, was gazing intently at a patch of wild rye growing near. He retained his prostrate position, and, with his eyes riveted in the same direction, and his faithful revolver grasped ready for use, quietly awaited further developments. At length a slowly creeping object became dimly visible in the morning twilight. He delayed no longer, but taking deliberate aim, fired. Instantly an Indian rose above the rye stalks, and with a fearful yell, sped away into the darkness. More frightened than the redskin, whom he afterwards learned he had severely wounded, he mounted his horse with the least possible delay, and hurried away from the dangerous neighborhood.
His route now lay directly over the main range of the Rocky Mountains, by a pass whose ascent and descent are so imperceptible, that persons unacquainted with its peculiarities can never determine where the one ends, or the other begins. It is covered with bunch grass for its entire distance, and its very summit is crowned with one of the finest cattle ranges in the mountains. The waters of the creek, flowing naturally along its summit down its eastern slope to the Big Hole River, are carried by ditches and races over its western slope, for mining purposes, into the beautiful valley of the Deer Lodge, thus contributing to swell on the one side the volume of the Missouri, and on the other, that of the Columbia. The broad savannas which spread away on either side of this remarkable passage lend enchantment to a shifting and ever-varying scene of mountain beauties not excelled upon the continent.
Just before daylight, Broadwater began to descend the declivity at whose foot flowed one of the forming streams of the Deer Lodge River. Glimpses of the valley could be obtained at every bend in the tortuous road. Day was just breaking, and the perpetual snow on the distant peak of Mount Powell shone dimly through the haze. He was congratulating himself that the dangers of his trip were over, and he could complete it by a leisurely ride through one of the most delightful valleys in the world. These thoughts received a sudden check when, turning an abrupt angle in the road, he saw seated by a camp fire, the very persons, as he then felt, against whom Moore had warned him. One of them, George Ives, was regarded as the most daring ruffian in the mountains; the other, Johnny Cooper, was known to be one of his chosen associates. They manifested great surprise at his approach. The quick eye of Broadwater took in all the advantages of the situation. He saw their horses feeding upon the foothills, two or three miles away, and, knew if he had been expected so soon, they would have been saddled, and ready for pursuit. They hailed him as he passed, urged him to wait until they could get their horses, and they would accompany him, telling him that as the road agents were abroad, it would be safer for him to do so. He replied that he was in a hurry, and as his horse was jaded with travel, they would soon overtake him,-and rode slowly on. To allay suspicion, he alighted from his horse and led him slowly up a steep hill, looking back when under way to the top, and calling to them,-
"Get up your horses: you can overtake me over the hill."
The horse, which was greatly fatigued, was favored by this device. Broadwater felt all the peril of his situation, and knew that nothing but coolness and decision could save him. He was twenty miles from the second crossing of the Deer Lodge, where a Frenchman by the name of David Contway, was living with his Indian wife, preparing to take up a ranch. This was the nearest place of safety. Casting another glance at the freebooters, he saw, as he passed over the summit of the hill, that they were making active preparations to pursue him. There was no time to be lost. It was to be a race for life, and his chances for escape depended upon the advantage he could win during the brief period his pursuers would require in getting ready to start. As soon as he was lost to their sight he remounted his horse, and spurring him to the utmost speed, descended in the broad and open valley. His course now lay over a level plain denuded of trees, and rank with prairie vegetation. Every movement he made within any attainable distance, he knew would be seen by the men who were on his track. The clumps of willow which defined the course of the river were too small to afford even temporary shelter. His horse, liable at any moment to give out, obeyed the urgency of the occasion under whip and spur, with great reluctance. But his rider kept him up to his speed, more than once inclined to diverge from the trail toward the pine forest, which covered the foothills, four or five miles distant, on either side of the valley, and seek a covert there. When half the distance had been travelled, he looked back, and amid a cloud of dust, less than three miles away, he saw the robbers in full pursuit, seemingly gaining rapidly upon him. His poor, panting steed, whose sides were bleeding from the frequent lacerations of the spur, seemed on the point of exhaustion, and the thirty pounds of gold dust strapped to his person bore with terrible weight upon him. But there was no time to calculate any other chance for escape, than that of reaching the goal. On and on he spurred the jaded animal often casting furtive glances back at the approaching death, and expecting at every turn in the trail, to feel the fatal bullet. At length the little lodge of Contway peered above the willows. The horse renewed his vigor at the sight. The hurrying tramp of the pursuers was heard in the rear. A last and desperate effort was made to urge the horse to greater speed, and he dashed up to the door, falling, on his arrival, with complete exhaustion. He was ruined,-but he had saved the life of his master. Ives and Cooper, less than fifty rods behind, reined their horses to a walk, and rode slowly up, while Broadwater was removing the saddle from his broken-down animal. Their horses were foaming with perspiration.
"Well, you beat us on the ride," said Ives, addressing Broadwater.
"Yes," replied Broadwater: "you must have had trouble in catching your horses. I travelled slowly at first, but as you didn't come up, and I was anxious to get through, I afterwards hurried." The coolness of this colloquy betrayed to neither party what was passing in the mind of the other.
The horses were all turned out upon the adjacent hills, and the three men shared alike the hospitality of Contway. But the race was only half finished. Twenty miles of distance intervened between Contway's and Deer Lodge, and how to pass over it, and escape with life, was the momentous question for Broadwater to solve. As a measurement of wit between himself and the ruffians, it involved consequences too important for any pride in the strife. It was simply a matter of life or death with him, with the added certainty that the smallest mistake in his calculations would end in the latter. He knew that in Contway's herd was one of the fleetest horses in the Territory. Unobserved by his pursuers, he contrived to inform Contway of his situation, and found him ready to assist in his escape, by all means in his power.
"Go and saddle Charley," said Broadwater, "and bring him up, on the pretence that you are going after your cows. Do it immediately; and after he is hitched, I will ask you, in the presence of these men, for permission to ride him to Deer Lodge. With your assent, reluctantly given, I will mount and ride away, while their horses are grazing on the foot-hills."
"Zat is all ver' goot," replied Contway. "By Gar, you have got him fixed all right" -and away he went, returning in a quarter of an hour, mounted on a horse of great strength and beauty. Hitching him to a post in front of his lodge, he made the remark that his cows had been missing for a day or two, and he must go in pursuit of them.
"Ho! Contway," said Broadwater, "that is the very horse I want to complete my trip. My own is broken down, and I will leave him in your care, and return this one to you by the first opportunity."
"By Gar, I don't know," replied Contway: "zat horse is great favorite. I would not have him hurt for anything."
"But I'll pay you well," said Broadwater. "I'm in a great hurry to get home. Let me take him,-that's a good fellow. If I hurt him, I'll pay you your own price."
"You say zat here, before zese men. Zey will remember, and on zose conditions you may take ze horse."
It was but the work of a moment for Broadwater to change saddles and mount.
"Hold on, Broad," said Ives. "This is no way to leave a fellow. Wait till we get up our horses, and we'll all ride on together. It'll be more sociable." "Should be glad to do so, George, but it is of the utmost importance that I reach Deer Lodge as soon as possible. I cannot wait; but if you will get up your horses, and ride fast enough, you'll overtake me." So saying, Broadwater put spurs to his horse, and rode the twenty miles at a double-quick pace, arriving at Deer Lodge a little after two o'clock, completing the entire trip of one hundred and seven miles from Bannack to Deer Lodge, including stoppages in eighteen hours. Ives and Cooper, finding themselves outwitted, followed leisurely, arriving early in the evening.