"No, I never got lost," Boone replied reflectively, "but I was BEWILDERED once for three days." Though now having reached the age of eighty-five, Daniel was intensely interested in California and was enthusiastic to make the journey thither next spring and so to flee once more from the civilization which had crept westward along his path. The resolute opposition of his sons, however, prevented the attempt.
A few men who sought out Boone in his old age have left us brief accounts of their impressions. Among these was Audubon. "The stature and general appearance of this wanderer of the western forests," the naturalist wrote, "approached the gigantic. His chest was broad, and prominent; his muscular powers displayed themselves in every limb; his countenance gave indication of his great courage, enterprise and perseverance; and, when he spoke, the very motion of his lips brought the impression that whatever he uttered could not be otherwise than strictly true."
Audubon spent a night under Boone's roof. He related afterwards that the old hunter, having removed his hunting shirt, spread his blankets on the floor and lay down there to sleep, saying that he found it more comfortable than a bed. A striking sketch of Boone is contained in a few lines penned by one of his earliest biographers: "He had what phrenologists would have considered a model head--with a forehead peculiarly high, noble and bold, thin compressed lips, a mild clear blue eye, a large and prominent chin and a general expression of countenance in which fearlessness and courage sat enthroned and which told the beholder at a glance what he had been and was formed to be." In criticizing the various portraits of Daniel, the same writer says: "They want the high port and noble daring of his countenance.... Never was old age more green, or gray hairs more graceful. His high, calm, bold forehead seemed converted by years into iron."
Although we are indebted to these and other early chroniclers for many details of Boone's life, there was one event which none of his biographers has related; yet we know that it must have taken place. Even the bare indication of it is found only in the narrative of the adventures of two other explorers.
It was in the winter of 1803 that these two men came to Boone's Settlement, as La Charette was now generally called. They had planned to make their winter camp there, for in the spring, when the Missouri rose to the flood, they and their company of frontiersmen were to take their way up that uncharted stream and over plains and mountains in quest of the Pacific Ocean. They were refused permission by the Spanish authorities to camp at Boone's Settlement; so they lay through the winter some forty miles distant on the Illinois side of the Mississippi, across from the mouth of the Missouri. Since the records are silent, we are free to picture as we choose their coming to the settlement during the winter and again in the spring, for we know that they came.
We can imagine, for instance, the stir they made in La Charette on some sparkling day when the frost bit and the crusty snow sent up a dancing haze of diamond points. We can see the friendly French habitants staring after the two young leaders and their men--all mere boys, though they were also husky, seasoned frontiersmen--with their bronzed faces of English cast, as in their gayly fringed deerskins they swaggered through the hamlet to pay their respects to the Syndic. We may think of that dignitary as smoking his pipe before his fireplace, perhaps; or making out, in his fantastic spelling, a record of his primitive court--for instance, that he had on that day given Pierre a dozen hickory thwacks, "well laid on," for starting a brawl with Antoine, and had bestowed the same upon Antoine for continuing the brawl with Pierre. A knock at the door would bring the amiable invitation to enter, and the two young men would step across his threshold, while their followers crowded about the open door and hailed the old pathfinder.
One of the two leaders--the dark slender man with a subtle touch of the dreamer in his resolute face--was a stranger; but the other, with the more practical mien and the shock of hair that gave him the name of Red Head among the tribes, Boone had known as a lad in Kentucky. To Daniel and this young visitor the encounter would be a simple meeting of friends, heightened in pleasure and interest somewhat, naturally, by the adventure in prospect. But to us there is something vast in the thought of Daniel Boone, on his last frontier, grasping the hands of William Clark and Meriwether Lewis.
As for the rough and hearty mob at the door, Daniel must have known not a few of them well; though they had been children in the days when he and William Clark's brother strove for Kentucky. It seems fitting that the soldiers with this expedition should have come from the garrison at Kaskaskia; since the taking of that fort in 1778 by George Rogers Clark had opened the western way from the boundaries of Kentucky to the Mississippi. And among the young Kentuckians enlisted by William Clark were sons of the sturdy fighters of still an earlier border line, Clinch and Holston Valley men who had adventured under another Lewis at Point Pleasant. Daniel would recognize in these--such as Charles Floyd--the young kinsmen of his old-time comrades whom he had preserved from starvation in the Kentucky wilderness by the kill from his rifle as they made their long march home after Dunmore's War.