Vol. 2 by James Fenimore Cooper
"My visor is Philemon's roof; within the house is Jove."
The trapper, who had meditated no violence, dropped his rifle
again, and laughing at the success of his experiment, with great
seeming self-complacency, he drew the astounded gaze of the naturalist
from the person of the savage to himself, by saying——
"The imps will lie for hours, like sleeping alligators, brooding
their deviltries in dreams and other craftiness, until such time as
they see some real danger is at hand, and then they look to themselves
the same as other mortals. But this is a scouter in his war-paint!
There should be more of his tribe at no great distance. Let us draw the
truth out of him; for an unlucky war-party may prove more dangerous to
us than a visit from the whole family of the squatter."
"It is truly a desperate and a dangerous species!" said the Doctor,
relieving his amazement by a breath that seemed to exhaust his lungs of
air; "a violent race, and one that it is difficult to define or class
within the usual boundaries of definitions. Speak to him, therefore;
but let thy words be strong in amity."
The old man cast a keen eye on every side of him, to ascertain the
important particular whether the stranger was supported by any
associates, and then making the usual signs of peace, by exhibitingthe
palm of his naked hand, he boldly advanced. In the mean time, the
Indian had betrayed no evidence of uneasiness. He suffered the trapper
to draw nigh, maintaining by his own mien and attitude a striking air
of dignity and fearlessness. Perhaps the wary warrior also knew that,
owing to the difference in their weapons, he should be placed more on
an equality, by being brought nearer to the strangers.
As a description of this individual may furnish some idea of the
personal appearance of a whole race, it may be well to detain the
narrative, in order to present it to the reader, in our hasty and
imperfect manner. Would the truant eyes of Alston or Leslie turn, but
for a time, from their gaze at the models of antiquity, to contemplate
this wronged and humbled people, little would be left for such inferior
artists as ourselves to delineate.
The Indian in question was in every particular a warrior of fine
stature and admirable proportions. As he cast aside his mask, composed
of such party-coloured leaves, as he had hurriedly collected, his
countenance appeared in all the gravity, the dignity, and, it may be
added, in the terror of his profession. The outlines of his lineaments
were strikingly noble and nearly approaching to Roman, though the
secondary features of his face were slightly marked with the well-known
traces of his Asiatic origin. The peculiar tint of the skin, which in
itself is so well designed to aid the effect of a martial expression,
had received an additional aspect of wild ferocity from the colours of
the war-paint. But, as though he disdained the usual artifices of his
people, he bore none of those strange and horrid devices, with which
the children of the forest are accustomed, like the more civilized
heroes of the mustache, to back their reputation for courage,
contenting himself with a broad and deep shadowing of black, that
served as a sufficient and an admirable foil to the brighter gleamings
of his native swarthiness. His head was as usual shaved to the crown,
where a large and gallant scalp-lock seemed fearlessly to challenge the
grasp of his enemies. The ornaments that were ordinarily pendant from
the cartilages of his ears had been removed, on account of his present
pursuit. His body, notwithstanding the lateness of the season, was
nearly naked, and the portion which was clad bore a vestment no warmer
than a light robe of the finest dressed deer-skin, beautifully stained
with the rude design of some daring exploit, and which was carelessly
worn, as if more in pride than from any unmanly regard to comfort. His
leggings were of bright scarlet cloth, the only evidence about his
person that he had held communion with the traders of the Pale-faces.
But as if to furnish some offset to this solitary submission to a
womanish vanity, they were fearfully fringed, from the gartered knee to
the bottom of the moccasin, with the hair of human scalps. He leaned
lightly with one hand on a short hickory bow, while the other rather
touched than sought support from the long, delicate handle of an ashen
lance. A quiver made of the cougar skin, from which the tail of the
animal depended, as a characteristic ornament, was slung at his back,
and a shield of hides, quaintly emblazoned with another of his warlike
deeds, was suspended from his neck by a thong of sinews.
As the trapper approached, this warrior maintained his calm upright
attitude, discovering neither an eagerness to ascertain the character
of those who advanced upon him, nor the smallest wish to avoid a
scrutiny in his own person. An eye, that was darker and more shining
than that of the stag, was incessantly glancing, however, from one to
another of the stranger party, seemingly never knowing rest for an
"Is my brother far from his village?" demandedthe old man, in the
Pawnee language, after examining the paint, and those other little
signs by which a practised eye knows the tribe of the warrior he
encounters in the American deserts, with the same readiness, and by the
same sort of mysterious observation, as that by which the seaman knows
the distant sail.
"It is farther to the towns of the Big-knives," was the laconic
"Why is a Pawnee-Loup so far from the fork of his own river,
without a horse to journey on, and in a spot so empty as this?"
"Can the women and children of a Pale-face live without the meat of
the bison? There was hunger in my lodge."
"My brother is very young to be already the master of a lodge,"
returned the trapper, looking steadily into the unmoved countenance of
the youthful warrior; "but I dare say he is brave, and that many a
chief has offered him his daughters for wives. But he has been
mistaken," pointing to the arrow, which was dangling from the hand that
held the bow, "in bringing a loose and barbed arrow-head to kill the
buffaloe. Do the Pawness wish the wounds they give their game to
"It is good to be ready for the Sioux. Though not in sight, a bush
may hide him."
"The man is a living proof of the truth of his words," muttered the
trapper in English, "and a close-jointed and gallant looking lad he is;
but far too young for a chief of any importance. It is wise, however,
to speak him fair, for a single arm thrown into either party, if we
come to blows with the squatter and his brood, may turn the day.——You
see my children are weary," he continued in the dialect of the
prairies, pointing, as he spoke, to the rest of the party, who, by this
time, were also approaching."We wish to 'camp and eat. Does my brother
claim this spot?"
"The runners, from the people on the Big-river, tell us that your
nation have traded with the Tawney-faces who live beyond the salt-lake,
and that the prairies are now the hunting grounds of the Big-knives!"
"It is true, as I hear, also, from the hunters and trappers on La
Platte. Though it is with the Frenchers, and not with the men who claim
to own the Mexicos, that my people have bargained."
"And warriors are going up the Long-river, to see that they have
not been cheated in what they have bought?"
"Ay, that is partly true, too, I fear; and it will not be long
before an accursed band of choppers and loggers will be following on
their heels, to humble the wilderness which lies so broad and rich on
the western banks of the Mississippi, and then the land will be a
peopled desert, from the shores of the main sea to the foot of the
Rocky Mountains; fill'd with all the abominations and craft of man, and
stript of the comforts and loveliness it received from the hands of the
"And where were the chiefs of the Pawnee-Loups, when this bargain
was made?" suddenly demanded the youthful warrior, a look of startling
fierceness gleaming, at the same instant, athwart his dark visage. "Is
a nation to be sold like the skin of a beaver?"
"Right enough——right enough, and where were truth and honesty,
also? But might is right, according to the fashions of the 'arth; and
what the strong choose to do, the weak must call justice. If the law of
the Wahcondah was as much hearkened to, Pawnee, as the laws of the
Long-knives, your right to the prairies would be as good as that of the
greatest chief in the settlements to the house which covers his head."
"The skin of the traveller is white," said the young native, laying
a finger impressively on the hard and wrinkled hand of the trapper.
"Does his heart say one thing and his tongue another?"
"The Wahcondah of a white man has ears and he shuts them to a lie.
Look at my head; it is like a frosted pine, and must soon be laid in
the ground. Why then should I wish to meet the Great Spirit, face to
face, while his countenance is dark upon me."
The Pawnee gracefully threw his shield over one shoulder, and
placing a hand on his chest, he bent his head, in deference to the gray
locks exhibited by the trapper; after which his eye became more steady,
and his countenance less fierce. Still he maintained every appearance
of a distrust and watchfulness that were rather tempered and subdued,
than forgotten. When this equivocal species of amity was established
between the warrior of the prairies and the experienced old trapper,
the latter proceeded to give his directions to Paul, concerning the
arrangements of the contemplated halt. While Inez and Ellen were
dismounting, and Middleton and the bee-hunter were attending to their
comforts, the discourse was continued, sometimes in the language of the
natives, but often as Paul and the Doctor mingled their opinions with
the two principal speakers, in the English tongue. There was a keen and
subtle trial of skill between the Pawnee and the trapper, in which each
endeavoured to discover the objects of the other, without betraying his
interest in the investigation. As might be expected, when the struggle
was between adversaries so equal, the result of the encounter answered
the expectations of neither. The latter had put all the interrogatories
his ingenuity and practice could suggest, concerning the state of the
tribe of the Loups, their crops, their store of provisions for the
ensuing winter, and their relations with their different warlike
neighbours, without extortingany answer which in the slightest degree
elucidated the cause of his finding a solitary warrior so far from his
people. On the other hand, while the questions of the Indian were far
more dignified and delicate, they were equally ingenious. He commented
on the state of the trade in peltries, spoke of the good or ill success
of many white hunters, whom he had either encountered or heard named,
and even alluded to the steady march, which the nation of his great
father, as he cautiously termed the government of the States, was
making towards the hunting-grounds of his tribe. It was apparent,
however, by the singular mixture of interest, contempt, and
indignation, that were occasionally gleaming through the reserved
manners of this warrior, that he knew the strange people who were thus
trespassing on his native rights much more by report than by any actual
intercourse. This personal ignorance of the whites was as much betrayed
by the manner in which he regarded the females, as by any of the brief
but energetic expressions which occasionally escaped him.
While speaking to the trapper he suffered his wandering glances to
stray towards the intellectual and nearly infantile beauty of Inez, as
one might be supposed to gaze upon the loveliness of an ethereal being.
It was very evident that he now saw, for the first time, one of those
females, of whom the fathers of his tribe so often spoke, and who were
considered of such rare excellence as to equal all that savage
ingenuity could imagine in the way of loveliness. His observation of
Ellen was less marked, but notwithstanding the warlike and chastened
expression of his eye, there was much of the homage, which man is made
to pay to woman, even in the more cursory look he sometimes turned on
her maturer and perhaps more animated beauty. This admiration, however,
was so tempered by his habits, and sosmothered in the pride of a
warrior, as completely to elude every eye but that of the trapper, who
was too well skilled in Indian customs, and was too well instructed in
the importance of rightly conceiving the character of the stranger, to
let the smallest trait or the most trifling of his movements escape
him. In the mean time the unconscious Ellen herself moved about the
feeble and less resolute Inez with her accustomed assiduity and
tenderness, exhibiting in her frank features those changing emotions of
joy and regret which occasionally beset her, as her active mind dwelt
on the decided step she had just taken, with the contending doubts and
hopes, and possibly with some of the mental vacillation that was
natural to her situation and sex.
Not so Paul; conceiving himself to have obtained the two things
dearest to his heart, the possession of Ellen and a triumph over the
sons of Ishmael, he now enacted his part, in the business of the
moment, with as much coolness as though he was already leading his
willing bride, from solemnizing their nuptials before a border
magistrate, to the security of his own dwelling. He had hovered around
the moving family, during the tedious period of their weary march,
concealing himself by day, and seeking interviews with his betrothed as
opportunities offered, in the manner already described, until fortune
and his own intrepidity had united to render him successful at the very
moment when he was beginning to despair, and he now cared neither for
distance, nor violence, nor hardships. To his sanguine fancy and
determined resolution all the rest was easily to be achieved. Such were
his feelings, and such in truth they seemed to be. With his cap cast on
one side and whistling a low air, he thrashed among the bushes, in
order to make a place suitable for the females to repose on, while,
from time to time, he cast anapproving glance at the agile and rounded
form of Ellen, as she tripped past him in the pursuit of her own share
of the duty.
"And so the Wolf-tribe of the Pawnees have buried the hatchet with
their neighbours the Konzas," said the trapper, pursuing a discourse
which he had scarcely permitted to flag, though it had been
occasionally interrupted by the different directions with which he
occasionally saw fit to interrupt it. (The reader will remember that,
while he spoke to the native warrior in his own tongue, he necessarily
addressed his white companions in English.) "The Loups and the
light-fac'd Red-skins are again friends. Doctor, that is a tribe of
which I'll engage you've often read, and of which many a round lie has
been whispered in the ears of the ignorant people, who live in the
settlements. There was a story of a nation of Welshers, that liv'd
hereaway in the prairies, and how they came into the land afore the
uneasy minded man, who first let in the Christians to rob the heathens
of their inheritance, had ever dreamt that the sun set on a country as
big as that it rose from. And how they knew the white ways, and spoke
with white tongues, and a thousand other follies and idle conceits."
"Have I not heard of them!" exclaimed the naturalist, dropping a
piece of jerked bison's meat, which he was rather roughly discussing at
the moment. "I should be greatly ignorant not to have often dwelt with
delight on so beautiful a theory, and one which so triumphantly
establishes two positions, which I have often maintained are
unanswerable, even without such living testimony in their favour——viz.
that this continent can claim a more remote affinity with civilization
than the time of Columbus, and that colour is the fruit of climate and
condition, and not a regulation of nature. Propound the latter question
to this Indian gentleman, venerable hunter; he is ofa reddish tint
himself, and his opinion may be said to make us masters of the two
sides of the disputed point."
"Do you think a Pawnee is a reader of books and a believer of
printed lies, like the idlers in the towns?" retorted the old man,
laughing. "But it may be as well to humour the likings of the man,
which after all it is quite possible are neither more nor less than his
natural gift, and therefore to be followed, although they may be
pitied. What does my brother think? all whom he sees here have pale
skins, but the Pawnee warriors are red; does he believe that man
changes with the season, and that the son is not like his father?"
The young warrior regarded his interrogator for a moment with a
steady and scornful eye, and then raising his finger upward, with a
proud gesture, he answered with dignity——
"The Wahcondah pours the rain from his clouds; when he speaks, he
shakes the hills; and the fire, which scorches the trees, is the anger
of his eye; but he fashioned his children with care and thought. What
he has thus made, never alters!"
"Ay, 'tis in the reason of natur' that it should be so, Doctor,"
continued the trapper, when he had interpreted this answer to the
disappointed naturalist. "The Pawnees are a wise and a great people,
and I'll engage they abound in many a wholesome and honest tradition.
The hunters and trappers, that I sometimes see, speak of a great
warrior of your race!"
"My tribe are not women. A brave is no stranger in my village."
"Ay; but he, they speak of most, is a chief far beyond the renown
of common warriors, and one that might have done credit to that once
mighty but now fallen people, the Delawares of the hills."
"Such a warrior should have a name?"
"They call him Hard-Heart, from the stoutness of his resolution;
and well is he named, if all I have heard of his deeds be true."
The stranger cast a glance, which seemed to read the guileless soul
of the old man, as he demanded——
"Has the Pale-face seen the partisan of my people?"
"Never. It is not with me now, as it used to be some forty years
ago, when warfare and bloodshed were my calling and my gifts!"
A loud shout from the reckless Paul interrupted his speech, and at
the next moment the bee-hunter appeared, leading an Indian war-horse
from the side of the thicket opposite to the one occupied by the party.
"Here is a beast for a Red-skin to straddle!" he cried as he made
the animal go through some of its wild paces. "There's not a brigadier
in all Kentucky that can call himself master of so sleek and
well-jointed a nag! A Spanish saddle too, like a grandee of the
Mexicos! and look at the mane and tail, braided and platted down with
little silver balls, as if it were Ellen herself getting her shining
hair ready for a dance or a husking frolic! Isn't this a real trotter,
old trapper, to eat out of the manger of a savage?"
"Softly, lad, softly. The Loups are famous for their horses, and it
is often that you see a warrior on the prairies far better mounted than
a congress-man in the settlements. But this, indeed, is a beast that
none but a powerful chief should ride. The saddle, as you rightly
think, has been sit upon in its day by a great Spanish captain, who has
lost it and his life together, in some of the battles which this people
often fight against the southern provinces. I warrant me, I warrant me,
the youngster is the son of a great chief; may be of the mighty
During this rude interruption to the discourse, theyoung Pawnee
manifested neither impatience nor displeasure; but when he thought his
beast had been the subject of sufficient comment, he very coolly, and
with the air of one accustomed to have his will respected, relieved
Paul of the bridle, and throwing the reins on the neck of the animal,
he sprang upon his back, with the activity of a professor of the
equestrian art. Nothing could be finer or firmer than the seat of the
savage. The highly wrought and cumbrous saddle was evidently more for
show than use. Indeed it impeded rather than aided the action of limbs,
which disdained to seek assistance or admit of restraint from such
womanish inventions as stirrups. The horse, which immediately began to
prance, was, like its rider, wild and untutored in all his motions, but
while there was so little of art, there was all the freedom and grace
of nature in the movements of both. The animal was probably indebted to
the blood of Araby for its excellence, through a long pedigree, that
embraced the steed of Mexico, the Spanish barb and the Moorish charger.
The rider, in obtaining his steed from the provinces of Central-America
had also obtained that spirit and grace in controlling him, which unite
to form the most intrepid and perhaps the most skilful horseman in the
Notwithstanding this sudden occupation of his animal, the Pawnee
discovered no hasty wish to depart. More at his ease, and possibly more
independent, now he found himself secure of the means of retreat, he
rode back and forth, eying the different individuals of the party with
far greater freedom than before. But at each extremity of his ride,
just as the sagacious trapper expected to see him profit by his
advantage and fly, he would turn his horse and pass over the same
ground, sometimes with the rapidity of the flying deer, and at others
more slowly and with greater dignity of mien and attitude. Anxiousto
ascertain such facts as might have an influence on his future
movements, the old man determined to invite him to a renewal of their
conference. He therefore made a gesture expressive at the same time of
his wish to resume the interrupted discourse and of his own pacific
intentions. The quick eye of the stranger was not slow to note the
action, but it was not until a sufficient time had passed to allow him
to debate the prudence of the measure in his own mind, that he seemed
willing to trust himself again so near a party that was so much
superior to himself in physical power, and consequently one that was
able at any instant to command his life or control his personal
liberty. When he did approach nigh enough to converse with facility, it
was with a singular mixture of haughtiness and of distrust.
"It is far to the village of the Loups," he said, stretching his
arm in a direction contrary to that, in which the trapper well knew,
that the tribe dwelt, "and the road is crooked. What has the Big-knife
"Ay, crooked enough!" muttered the old man in English, if you are
to set out on your journey by that path, but not half so winding as the
cunning of an Indian's mind. Say, my brother; do the chiefs of the
Pawnees love to see strange faces in their lodges?"
The young warrior bent his body gracefully, though but slightly
over his saddle-bow, as he replied with grave dignity——
"When have my people forgotten to give food to the stranger?"
"If I lead my daughters to the doors of the Loups, will the women
take them by the hand; and will the warriors smoke with my young men?"
"The country of the Pale-faces is behind them. Why do they journey
so far towards the setting sun? Have they lost the path, or are these
the women ofthe white warriors, that I hear are wading up the river
'with the troubled waters?"'
"Neither. They, who wade the Missouri, are the warriors of my great
father, who has sent them on his message, but we are peace-runners. The
white men and the red are neighbours, and they wish to be friends.——Do
not the Omahaws visit the Loups, when the tomahawk is buried in the
path between the two nations?"
"The Omahaws are welcome."
"And the Yanktons and the burnt-wood Tetons, who live in the elbow
of the river 'with muddy water,' do they not come into the lodges of
the Loups and smoke?"
"The Tetons are liars," exclaimed the other. "They dare not shut
their eyes in the night. No; they sleep in the sun. See," he added
pointing with fierce triumph to the frightful ornaments of his
leggings, "their scalps are so plenty, that the Pawnees tread on them!
Go; let a Sioux live in banks of snow; the plains and buffaloes are for
"Ah! the secret is out," said the trapper to Middleton, who was an
attentive, because a deeply interested observer of what was passing.
"This good looking young Indian is scouting on the track of the
Siouxes——you may see it by his arrow-heads, and his paint; ay, and by
his eye, too; for a Red-skin lets his natur' follow the business he is
on, be it for peace or be it for war,——quiet, Hector, quiet. Have you
never scented a Pawnee afore, pup——keep down, dog——keep down——my
brother is right. The Siouxes are thieves. Men of all colours and
nations say it of them, and say it truly. But the people from the
rising sun are not Siouxes, and they wish to visit the lodges of the
"The head of my brother is white," returned the Pawnee, throwing
one of those glances at the trapper, which were so remarkably
expressive of distrust, intelligence, and pride, and then pointing, as
he continued, towards the eastern horizon, "and his eyes have looked on
many things——can he tell me the name of what he sees yonder——is it a
"It looks more like a cloud, peeping above the skirt of the plain
with the sunshine lighting its edges. It is the smoke of the heavens."
"It is a hill of the earth, and on its top are the lodges of the
Pale-faces! Let the women of my brother wash their feet among the
people of their own colour."
"The eyes of a Pawnee are good, if he can see a white-skin so far."
The Indian turned slowly towards the speaker, and after a pause of
a moment he sternly demanded——
"Can my brother hunt?"
"Alas! I claim to be no better than a miserable trapper."
"When the plain is covered with the buffaloes, can he see them?"
"No doubt, no doubt——it is far easier to see than to take a
"And when the birds are flying from the cold, and the clouds are
black with their feathers, can he see them too?"
"Ay, ay, it is not hard to find a duck or a goose when millions are
darkening the heavens."
"When the snow falls, and covers the lodges of the Long-knives, can
the stranger see flakes in the air?"
"My eyes are none of the best, now," returned the old man a little
resentfully, "but the time has been when I had a name for my sight!"
"The Red-skins find the Big-knives as easily as the strangers see
the buffaloe, or the travelling birds, or the falling snow. Your
warriors think the Master of Life has made the whole earth white. They
aremistaken. They are pale, and it is their own faces that they see.
Go! a Pawnee is not blind, that he need look long for your people!"
The warrior suddenly paused, and bent his face aside, like one who
listened with all his faculties absorbed in the act. Then turning the
head of his horse, he rode to the nearest angle of the thicket, and
looked intently across the bleak prairie, in a direction opposite to
the side on which the party stood. Returning slowly from this
unaccountable, and to his observers, startling procedure, he riveted
his eyes on Inez and paced back and forth several times, with the air
of one who maintained a warm struggle on some difficult point, in the
secret recesses of his own thoughts. He had drawn the reins of his
impatient steed, and was seemingly about to speak, when his head again
sunk on his chest and he resumed his former attitude of attention.
Galloping like a deer, to the place of his former observations, he rode
for a moment swiftly, in short and rapid circles, as if still uncertain
of his course, and then darted away, like a bird that had been
fluttering around its nest before it takes a distant flight. After
scouring the plain for a minute, he was lost to the eye behind a swell
of the land.
The hounds, who had also manifested great uneasiness for some time,
followed him for a little distance, and then terminated their chase by
seating themselves on the ground and raising their usual low, whining,
and alarming howls.
"How if he will not stand?"
The several movements related in the close of the preceding
chapter, had passed in so short a space of time, that the old man,
while he neglected not to note the smallest incident, had no
opportunity of expressing his opinion concerning the stranger's
motives. After the Pawnee had disappeared, however, he shook his head
and muttered, while he walked slowly to the angle of the thicket that
the Indian had just quitted——
"There are both scents and sounds in the air, though my miserable
senses are not good enough to hear the one, or to catch the taint of
"There is nothing to be seen," cried Middleton, who kept close at
his side. "My eyes and my ears are good, and yet I can assure you that
I neither hear nor see any thing."
"Your eyes are good! and you are not deaf!" returned the other with
a slight air of contempt; "no, lad, no; they may be good to see across
a church, or to hear a town-bell, but afore you had passed a year in
these prairies you would find yourself taking a turkey for a buffaloe,
or conceiting, full fifty times, that the roar of a buffaloe bull was
the thunder of the Lord! There is a deception of natur' in these naked
plains, in which the air throws up the images like water, and then it
is hard to tell the prairies from a sea. But yonder is a sign that a
hunter never fails to know!"
The trapper pointed to a flight of vultures, that were sailing over
the plain at no great distance, and apparently in the direction in
which the Pawnee hadriveted his eye. At first Middleton could not
distinguish the small dark objects, that were dotting the dusky clouds,
but as they came swiftly onward, first their forms, and then their
heavy waving wings became distinctly visible.
"Listen," said the trapper, when he had succeeded in making
Middleton see the moving column of birds. "Now you hear the buffaloes,
or bisons, as your knowing Doctor sees fit to call them, though
buffaloes is their name among all the hunters of these regions. And, I
conclude, that a hunter is a better judge of a beast and of its name,"
he added, winking to the young soldier, "than any man who has turned
over the leaves of a book, instead of travelling over the face of the
'arth, in order to find out the name and the natur's of its
"Of their habits, I will grant you;" cried the naturalist, who
rarely missed an opportunity to agitate any disputed point in his
favourite studies. "That is, provided always deference is had to the
proper use of definitions, and that they are contemplated with
"Eyes of a mole! as if man's eyes were not as good for names as the
eyes of any other creatur'! Who named the works of His hand? can you
tell me that, with your books and college wisdom? Was it not the first
man in the Garden, and is it not a plain consequence that his children
inherit his gifts?"
"That is certainly the Mosaic account of the event," said the
Doctor; "though your reading is by far too literal."
"My reading! nay, if you suppose, that I have wasted my time in
schools, you do such a wrong to my knowledge as one mortal should never
lay to the door of another without sufficient reason. If I have ever
craved the art of reading, it has been that I might better know the
sayings of the book you name, for it is a book which speaks, in every
line, accordingto human feelings, and therein according to reason."
"And do you then believe," said the Doctor a little provoked by the
dogmatism of his stubborn adversary, and perhaps, secretly, too
confident in his own more liberal, though scarcely as profitable
attainments——"Do you then believe that all these beasts were literally
collected in a garden, to be enrolled in the nomenclature of the first
"Why not? I understand your meaning; for it is not needful to live
in towns to hear all the devilish devices, that the conceit of man can
invent to upset his own happiness. What does it prove, except indeed it
may be said to prove that the garden He made was not after the
miserable fashions of our times, thereby directly giving the lie to
what the world calls its civilizing. No, no, the garden of the Lord was
the forest then, and is the forest now, where the fruits do grow, and
the birds do sing, according to his own wise ordering. Now, lady, you
may see the mystery of the vultures! There come the buffaloes
themselves, and a noble herd it is! I warrant me, that Pawnee has a
troop of his people in some of the hollows, nigh by; and as he has gone
scampering after them, you are about to see a glorious chace. It will
serve to keep the squatter and his brood under cover, and for ourselves
there is little reason to fear. A Pawnee is not apt to be a malicious
Every eye was now drawn to the striking spectacle that succeeded.
Even the timid Inez hastened to the side of Middleton to gaze at the
sight, and Paul summoned Ellen from her culinary labours, to become a
witness of the lively scene.
Throughout the whole of those moving events, which it has been our
duty to record, the prairies had lain in all the majesty of perfect
solitude. The heavens had been blackened with the passage of
themigratory birds, it is true, but the dogs of the party, and the ass
of the Doctor, were the only quadrupeds that had enlivened the broad
surface of the waste beneath. There was now a sudden exhibition of
animal life, which changed the scene, as it were, by magic, to the very
A few enormous bison bulls were first observed, scouring along the
most distant roll of the prairie, and then succeeded long files of
single beasts, which, in their turns, were followed by a dark mass of
bodies, until the dun-coloured herbage of the plain was entirely lost
in the deeper hue of their shaggy coats. The herd, as the column spread
and thickened, was like the endless flocks of the smaller birds, whose
extended flanks are so often seen to heave up out of the abyss of the
heavens, until they appear as countless as the leaves in those forests,
over which they wing their endless flight. Clouds of dust shot up in
little columns from the centre of the mass, as some animal, more
furious than the rest, ploughed the plain with his horns, and, from
time to time, a deep hollow bellowing was borne along on the wind, as
though a thousand throats vented their plaints in a discordant
A long and musing silence reigned in the party, as they gazed on
this spectacle of wild and peculiar grandeur. It was at length broken
by the trapper, who, having been long accustomed to similar sights,
felt less of its influence, or, rather felt it in a less thrilling and
absorbing manner, than those to whom the scene was more novel.
"There go ten thousand oxen in one drove, without keeper or master,
except Him who made them, and gave them these open plains for their
pasture! Ay, it is here that man may see the proofs of his wantonness
and folly! Can the proudest governor in all the States go into his
fields, and slaughter a nobler bullock than is here offered to the
meanesthands; and when he has gotten his surloin or his steak, can he
eat it with as good a relish as he who has sweetened his food with
wholesome toil, and earned it according to the law of natur', by
honestly mastering that which the Lord hath put before him?"
"If the prairie platter is smoking with a buffaloe's hump I answer,
no," interrupted the luxurious beehunter.
"Ay, boy, you have tasted, and you feel the genuine reasoning of
the thing. But the herd is heading a little this-a-way, and it behoves
us to make ready for their visit. If we hide ourselves, altogether, the
horned brutes will break through the place and trample us beneath their
feet, like so many creeping worms; so we will just put the weak ones
apart, and take post, as becomes men and hunters, in the van."
As there was but little time to make the necessary arrangements,
the whole party set about them in good earnest. Inez and Ellen were
placed in the edge of the thicket on the side farthest from the
approaching herd. Asinus was posted in the centre, in consideration of
his nerves, and then the old man, with his three male companions,
divided themselves in such a manner as they thought would enable them
to turn the head of the rushing column should it chance to approach too
nigh their position. By the vacillating movements of some fifty or a
hundred bulls, that led the advance, it remained questionable, for many
moments, what course they intended to pursue. But a tremendous and
painful roar, which came from behind the cloud of dust that rose in the
centre of the herd, and which was horridly answered by the screams of
the carrion birds, that were greedily sailing directly above the flying
drove, appeared to give a new impulse to their flight, and at once to
remove every symptom of indecision. As if glad to seek the smallest
signs of the forest, the whole of the affrighted herd became steady in
its direction, rushingin a straight line toward the little cover of
bushes, which has already been so often named.
The appearance of danger was now, in reality, of a character to try
the stoutest nerves. The flanks of the dark, moving mass, were advanced
in such a manner as to make a concave line of the front, and every
fierce eye, that was glaring from the shaggy wilderness of hair in
which the entire heads of the males were enveloped, was riveted with
mad anxiety on the thicket. It seemed as if each beast strove to
outstrip his neighbour in gaining this desired cover, and as thousands
in the rear pressed blindly on those in front, there was the appearance
of an imminent risk that the leaders of the herd would be precipitated
on the concealed party, in which case the destruction of every one of
them was certain. Each of our adventurers felt the danger of his
situation in a manner peculiar to his individual character and
Middleton wavered. At times he felt inclined to rush through the
bushes, and, seizing Inez, attempt to fly. Then recollecting the
impossibility of outstripping the furious speed of an alarmed bison, he
felt for his arms as if determined to make head against the countless
multitude of the drove. The faculties of Dr. Battius were quickly
wrought up to the very summit of mental delusion. The dark forms of the
herd lost their distinctness, and then the naturalist began to fancy he
beheld a wild collection of all the creatures of the world, rushing
upon him in a body, as if to revenge the various injuries, which in the
course of a life of indefatigable labour in behalf of the natural
sciences, he had inflicted on their several genera. The paralysis it
occasioned in his system, was like the effect of the incubus. Equally
unable to fly or to advance, he stood riveted to the spot, until the
infatuation became so complete, that the worthy naturalist was
beginning, by a desperate effort of scientific resolution, even to
class the different specimens. On the other hand, Paul shouted, and
called on Ellen to come and assist him in shouting, but his voice was
lost in the bellowings and trampling of the herd. Furious, and yet
strangely excited by the obstinacy of the brutes and the wildness of
the sight, and nearly maddened by sympathy and a species of unconscious
apprehension, in which the claims of nature were singularly mingled
with concern for his mistress, he nearly split his throat in exhorting
his aged friend to interfere.
"Come forth, old trapper," he shouted, "with your prairie
inventions! or we shall be all smothered under a mountain of buffaloe
The old man, who had stood all this while leaning on his rifle, and
regarding the movements of the herd with a steady eye, now deemed it
time to strike his blow. Levelling his piece at the foremost bull, with
an agility that would have done credit to his youth, he fired. The
animal received the bullet on the matted hair between his horns, and
fell to his knees: but shaking his head he instantly arose, the very
shock seeming to increase his exertions. There was now no longer time
to hesitate. Throwing down his rifle, the trapper stretched forth his
arms, and advanced from the cover with naked hands, directly towards
the rushing column of the beasts.
The figure of a man, when sustained by the firmness and steadiness
that intellect can only impart, rarely fails of commanding respect from
all the inferior animals of the creation. The leading bulls recoiled,
and for a single instant there was a sudden stop to their speed, a
dense mass of bodies rolling up in front, until hundreds were seen
floundering and tumbling on the plain. Then came another of those
hollow bellowings from the rear and set the herd again in motion. The
head of the column, however, divided. The immoveable form of the
trapper, cutting it, as it were, into two gliding streams of life.
Middleton and Paul instantly profited by his example, and extended the
feeble barrier by a similar exhibition of their own persons.
For a few moments, the new impulse, given to the animals in front,
served to protect the thicket. But, as the body of the herd pressed
more and more upon the open line of its defenders, and the dust
thickened so as to obscure their persons, there was, at each instant, a
renewed danger of the beasts breaking through. It became necessary for
the trapper and his companions to become still more and more alert; and
they were gradually yielding before the headlong multitude, when a
furious bull darted by Middleton, so near as to brush his person, and,
at the next instant, swept through the thicket with the velocity of the
"Close, and die for the ground," shouted the old man, "or a
thousand of the devils will be at his heels!"
All their efforts would have proved fruitless, however, against the
living torrent, had not Asinus, whose domains had just been so rudely
entered, lifted his voice, in the midst of the uproar. The most sturdy
and furious of the bulls trembled at the alarming and unknown cry, and
then each individual brute was seen madly pressing from that very
thicket, which, the moment before, he had endeavoured to reach with the
same sort of eagerness as that with which the murderer seeks the
As the stream divided, the place became clear; the two dark columns
moving obliquely from the copse to unite again at the distance of a
mile, on its opposite side. The instant the old man saw the sudden
effect which the voice of Asinus had produced, he coolly commenced
reloading his rifle, indulging at the same time in a most heartfelt fit
of his silent and peculiar merriment.
"There they go, like dogs with so many half-filled shot-pouches
dangling at their tails, and no fear of their breaking their order; for
what the brutes in the rear didn't hear with their own ears, they'll
conceit they did: besides, if they change their minds it may be no hard
matter to get the Jack to sing the rest of his tune!"
"The ass has spoken, but Balaam is silent!" cried the bee-hunter,
catching his breath after a repeated burst of noisy mirth, that might
possibly have added to the panic of the buffaloes by its vociferation!
"The man is as completely dumb-foundered, as though a swarm of young
bees had settled on the end of his tongue, and he not willing to speak,
for fear of their answer."
"How now, friend," continued the trapper, addressing the still
motionless and entranced naturalist; "How now, friend; are you, who
make your livelihood by booking the names and natur's of the beasts of
the fields and the fowls of the air, frightened at a herd of scampering
buffaloes! Though, perhaps, you are ready to dispute my right to call
them by a word that is in the mouth of every hunter and trader on the
The old man was however mistaken, in supposing he could excite the
benumbed faculties of the Doctor, by provoking a discussion on this
momentous topic. From that time, henceforth, he was never known, except
on one occasion, to utter a word that indicated either the species or
the genus of the animal. He obstinately refused the nutritious food of
the whole ox family, and even to the present hour, now that he is
established in all the scientific dignity and security of a savant in
one of the maritime towns, he turns his back with a shudder on those
delicious and unrivalled viands, that are so often seen at the suppers
of the craft, and which are unequalledby any thing, that is served
under the same name, at the boasted chop-houses of London or at the
most renowned of the Parisian restaurans. In short, the distaste of the
worthy naturalist for beef was not unlike that which the shepherd
sometimes produces, by first muzzling and fettering his delinquent dog,
and then leaving him as a stepping stone for the whole flock to use in
its transit over a wall or through the opening of a sheep-fold; a
process which is said to produce in the culprit a species of surfeit,
on the subject of mutton, for ever after. By the time Paul and the
trapper saw fit to terminate the fresh bursts of merriment, which the
continued abstraction of their learned companion did not fail to
excite, he commenced breathing again, as though the suspended action of
his lungs had been renewed by the application of a pair of artificial
bellows, and was heard to make use of the ever afterwards proscribed
term, on that solitary occasion, to which we have just alluded.
"Boves Americani horridi!" exclaimed the Doctor, laying great
stress on the latter word; after which he continued mute, like one who
pondered on strange and unaccountable events.
"Ay, horrid eyes enough, I will willingly allow," returned the
trapper; "and altogether the creatur' has a frightful look, to one
unused to the sights and bustle of a natural life; but then the courage
of the beast is in no way equal to its countenance. Lord, man, if you
should once get fairly beset by a brood of grizzly bears, as happened
to Hector and I, at the great falls of the Miss——Ah, here comes the
tail of the herd, and yonder goes a pack of hungry wolves, ready to
pick up the sick, or such as get a disjointed neck by a tumble. Ha!
there are mounted men on their trail, or I'm no sinner! here, lad; you
may see them here-away, just where the dust is scattering afore the
wind. They are hovering around a wounded buffaloe, making an end of the
surly devil with their arrows!"
Middleton and Paul soon caught a glimpse of the dark groupe that
the quick eye of the old man had so readily detected. Some fifteen or
twenty horsemen were, in truth, to be seen riding, in quick circuits,
about a noble bull, which stood at bay, too grievously hurt to fly, and
yet seeming to disdain to fall, notwithstanding his hardy body had
already been the target for a hundred arrows. A thrust from the lance
of a powerful Indian, however, completed his conquest, and the brute
gave up his obstinate hold of life with a roar, that passed bellowing
over the place where our adventurers stood, and, reaching the ears of
the affrighted herd, added a new impulse to their flight.
"How well the Pawnee knew the philosophy of a buffaloe hunt," said
the old man, after he had stood regarding the animated scene for a few
moments, with very evident satisfaction. "You saw how he went off like
the wind before the drove. It was in order that he might not taint the
air, and that he might turn the flank, and join——Ha! how is this!
yonder Red-skins are no Pawnees! The feathers in their heads are from
the wings and tails of owls—— Ah! as I am but a miserable half-sighted
trapper, it is a band of the accursed Siouxes! To cover, lads, to
cover. A single cast of an eye this-a-way, would strip us of every rag
of clothes, as surely as the lightning scorches the bush, and it might
be that our very lives would be far from safe.
Middleton had already turned from the spectacle, to seek that which
pleased him better; the sight of his young and beautiful bride. Paul
seized the Doctor by the arm, and, as the trapper followed with the
smallest possible delay, the whole party was quickly collected within
the cover of the thicket. After afew short explanations concerning the
character of this new danger, the old man, on whom the whole duty of
directing their movements was devolved, in deference to his great
experience, continued his discourse as follows——
"This is a region, as you must all know, where a strong arm is far
better than the right, and where the white law is as little known as
needed. Therefore does every thing, now, depend on judgment and power.
If," he continued, laying his finger on his cheek like one who
considered deeply all sides of the embarrassing situation in which he
found himself, "if an invention could be framed, which would set these
Siouxes and the brood of the squatter by the ears, then might we come
in, like the buzzards after a fight atween the beasts, and pick up the
gleanings of the ground——there are Pawnees nigh us, too! It is a
certain matter, for yonder lad is not so far from his village without
an errand. Here are therefore four parties within sound of a cannon,
not one of whom can trust the other. All which makes movement a little
difficult, in a district where covers are far from plenty. But we are
three well-armed, and I think I may say three stout-hearted men——"
"Four," interrupted Paul.
"Anan," said the old man, looking up for the first time at his
"Four," repeated the bee-hunter, pointing to the naturalist.
"Every army has its hangers-on and idlers," rejoined the blunt
border-man. "Friend, it will be necessary to slaughter this ass."
"To slay Asinus! such a deed would be an act of supererogatory
"I know nothing of your words, which hide their meaning in sound;
but that is cruel which sacrifices a Christian to a brute. This is what
I call the reason of mercy. It would be just as safe to blow atrumpet,
as to let the animal raise his voice again, inasmuch as it would prove
a manifest challenge to the Siouxes."
"I will answer for the discretion of Asinus, who seldom speaks
without a reason."
"They say a man can be known by the company he keeps," retorted the
old man, "and why not a brute! I once made a forced march, and went
through a great deal of jeopardy, with a companion who never opened his
mouth but to sing; and trouble enough and great concern of mind did the
fellow give me. It was in that very business with your grand'ther,
captain. But then he had a human throat, and well did he know how to
use it, on occasion, though he didn't always stop to regard the time
and seasons fit for such outcries. Ah's me! if I was now, as I was
then, it wouldn't be a band of thieving Siouxes that should easily
drive me from such a lodgment as this! But what signifies boasting,
when sight and strength are both failing. The warrior, that the
Delawares once saw fit to call after the Hawk, for the goodness of his
eyes, would now be better termed the Mole. In my judgment, therefore,
it will be well to slay the brute."
"There's argument and good logic in it," said Paul; "music is
music, and it's always noisy, whether it comes from a fiddle or a
jackass. Therefore I agree with the old man, and say, kill the beast."
"Friends," said the naturalist, looking with a sorrowful eye from
one to another of his bloodily disposed companions; "slay not Asinus;
he is a specimen of his kind, of whom much good and little evil can be
said. Hardy and docile, for his genus; abstemious and patient, even for
his humble species. We have journeyed much together, and his death
would grieve me. How would it trouble thy spirit, venerable venator, to
separate, in such an untimely manner, from your faithful hound?"
"The animal shall not die;" said the old man, suddenly clearing his
throat, in a manner that proved he felt the fullest force of the
appeal. "But his voice must be smothered. Bind his jaws with the
halter, and then I think we may trust the rest to Providence."
With this double security for the discretion of Asinus, for Paul
instantly bound the muzzle of the ass in the manner required, the
trapper seemed content. After which he proceeded to the margin of the
thicket to reconnoitre.
The uproar, which attended the passage of the herd, was now gone,
or rather it was heard rolling along the prairie, at the distance of a
mile. The clouds of dust were already blown away by the wind, and a
clear range was left to the eye, in that place where ten minutes before
there existed such a strange scene of wildness and confusion.
The Siouxes had completed their conquest, and, apparently satisfied
with this addition to the numerous previous captures they had made,
they now seemed content to let the remainder of the herd escape. A
dozen remained around the carcass, over which a few buzzards were
balancing themselves, with steady wings and greedy eyes, while the rest
were riding about, as if in quest of such further booty as might come
in their way, on the trail of so vast a drove. The trapper measured the
proportions, and scanned the equipments of such individuals as drew
nearer to the side of the thicket, with careful eyes. At length he
pointed out one among them, to Middleton, as Weucha.
"Now, know we not only who they are, but their errand," the old man
continued, deliberately shaking his head. "They have lost the trail of
the squatter and are on its hunt. These buffaloes have crossed their
path, and in chasing the animals, bad luck has led them in open sight
of the hill on which the broodof Ishmael have harboured. Do you see you
birds watching for the offals of the beast they have killed? Therein is
a moral, which teaches the manner of a prairie life. A band of Pawnees
are outlying for these very Siouxes, as you see the buzzards looking
down for their food, and it behoves us, as Christian men who have so
much at stake, to look down upon them both. Ha! what brings yonder two
skirting reptiles to a stand! As you live, they have found the place
where the miserable son of the squatter met his death!"
The old man was not mistaken. Weucha, and a savage who accompanied
him, had reached that spot, which has already been mentioned as
furnishing such frightful evidences of violence and bloodshed. There
they sat on their horses, examining the well-known signs with all the
intelligence that distinguishes the habits of Indians. Their scrutiny
was long, and apparently not without distrust. At length they both
raised a cry at the same instant, that was scarcely less piteous and
startling than that which the hounds had before made over the same
fatal signs, and which did not fail to draw the whole band immediately
around them, as the fell bark of the jackal is said to gather his
comrades to the chase.
"Welcome, ancient Pistol."
It was not long, before the trapper pointed out the commanding
person of Mahtoree, as the leader of the Siouxes. This chief, who had
been among the last to obey the vociferous summons of Weucha, no sooner
reached the spot, where his whole partywas now gathered, than he threw
himself from his horse, and proceeded to examine the marks of the
extraordinary trail, with that degree of dignity and attention which
became his high and responsible station. The warriors, for it was but
too evident that they were to a man of that fearless and ruthless
class, awaited the result of his investigation with patient reserve;
none but a few of the principal braves presuming even to speak, while
their leader was thus gravely occupied. It was several minutes before
Mahtoree seemed satisfied. He then directed his eyes along the ground
to those several places where Ishmael had found the same revolting
evidences of the passage of some bloody struggle, and motioned to his
people to follow."
The whole band advanced in a body towards the thicket, until they
came to a halt within a few yards of the precise spot where Esther had
stimulated her sluggish sons to break into the cover. The reader will
readily imagine that the trapper and his companions were not
indifferent observers of such a threatening movement. The old man
summoned all who were capable of bearing arms to his side, and
demanded, in very unequivocal terms, though in a voice that was
suitably lowered, in order to escape the ears of their dangerous
neighbours, whether they were disposed to make battle for their
liberty, or whether they should try the milder expedient of
conciliation. As it was a subject, in which all had an equal interest,
he put the question as to a council of war, and not without some slight
exhibition of the lingering vestiges of a nearly extinct military
pride. Paul and the Doctor were diametrically opposed to each other in
opinion; the former advocating an immediate appeal to arms, and the
latter as warmly espousing the policy of pacific measures. Middleton,
who saw that there was great danger of a hot verbal dispute between two
men, who were governed byfeelings so entirely different, saw fit to
assume the office of arbiter; or rather to decide the question, in
virtue of his situation making him a sort of umpire. He also leaned to
the side of peace, for he evidently saw that, in consequence of the
vast superiority of their enemies, violence would irretrievably lead to
The trapper listened to the reasons of the young soldier with great
attention; and, as they were given with the steadiness of one who did
not suffer apprehension to blind his judgment, they did not fail to
produce a suitable impression.
"It is rational," rejoined the trapper, when the other had
delivered his reasons; "It is very rational, for what man cannot move
with his strength he must circumvent with his wits. It is reason that
makes him stronger than the buffaloe and swifter than the moose. Now
stay you here, and keep yourselves close. My life and my traps are but
of little value, when the welfare of so many human souls are concerned,
and, moreover, I may say that I know the windings of Indian cunning.
Therefore will I go alone upon the prairie. It may so happen, that I
can yet draw the eyes of a Sioux from this spot and give you time and
room to fly."
As if resolved to listen to no remonstrance, the old man quietly
shouldered his rifle, and moving leisurely through the thicket, he
issued on the plain, at a point whence he might first appear before the
eyes of the Siouxes, without exciting their suspicions that he came
from its cover.
The instant that the figure of a man dressed in the garb of a
hunter, and bearing the well known and much dreaded rifle, appeared
before the eyes of the Siouxes, there was a sensible, though a
suppressed sensation in the band. The artifice of the trapper had so
far succeeded as to render it extremely doubtful whether he came from
some point on the openprairie, or from the thicket, though the Indians
still continued to cast frequent and suspicious glances at the cover.
They had made their halt at the distance of an arrow-flight from the
bushes, but when the stranger came sufficiently nigh to show that the
deep coating of red and brown, which time and exposure had given to his
features, was laid upon the original colour of a Pale-face, they slowly
receded from the spot, until they reached a distance that might render
the aim of fire-arms less fatal.
In the mean time the old man continued to advance, until he had got
nigh enough to make himself heard without difficulty. Here he stopped,
and dropping his rifle to the earth, he raised his hand with the palm
outward, in token of peace. After uttering a few words of reproach to
his hound, who watched the savage groupe with eyes that seemed to
recognise them, as the former captors of his master, he spoke in the
"My brothers are welcome," he said, cunningly constituting himself
the master of the region in which they had met, and assuming the
offices of hospitality. "They are far from their villages, and are
hungry. Will they follow to my lodge, to eat and sleep?"
No sooner was his voice heard, than the yell of pleasure, which
burst from a dozen mouths, convinced the sagacious trapper, that he
also was recognized. Feeling that it was too late to retreat, he
profited by the confusion which prevailed among them, while Weucha was
explaining his character, to advance, until he was again face to face
with the redoubtable Mahtoree himself. The second interview between
these two men, each of whom was extraordinary in his way, was marked by
the usual caution of the frontiers. They stood, for nearly a minute,
examining each other without speaking.
"Where are your young men?" sternly demandedthe Teton chieftain,
after he found that the immoveable features of the trapper refused to
betray any of their master's secrets under his intimidating look.
"The Long-knives do not come in bands to trap the beaver? I am
"Your head is white, but you have a forked tongue. Mahtoree has
been in your camp. He knows that you are not alone. Where is your young
wife, and the warrior that I found upon the prairie?"
"I have no wife. I have told my brother that the woman and her
friend were strangers. The words of a gray head should be heard, and
not forgotten. The Dahcotahs found travellers asleep, and they thought
they had no need of horses. The women and children of a Pale-face are
not used to go far on foot. Let them be sought where you left them."
The eyes of the Teton flashed fire as he answered——
"They are gone: but Mahtoree is a wise chief, and his eyes can see
a great distance!"
"Does the partisan of the Tetons see men on these naked fields?"
retorted the trapper, with great steadiness of mien. "I am very old,
and my eyes grow dim. Where do they stand?"
The chief remained silent a moment, as if he disdained to contest
any further the truth of a fact, concerning which he was already
satisfied. Then pointing to the traces on the earth, he said, with a
sudden transition to mildness, in his eye and manner——
"My father has learnt wisdom, in many winters; can he tell me whose
moccasin has left this trail?"
"There have been wolves and buffaloes on the prairies; and there
may have been cougars too."
Mahtoree glanced his eye at the thicket, as if he thought the
latter suggestion not impossible. Pointingto the place, he ordered his
young men to reconnoitre it more closely, cautioning them, at the same
time, with a stern look at the trapper, to beware of treachery from the
Big-knives. Three or four half-naked, eager-looking youths lashed their
horses at the word, and darted away to obey the mandate. The old man
trembled a little for the discretion of Paul, when he saw this
demonstration. The Tetons encircled the place two or three times,
approaching nigher and nigher at each circuit, and then gallopped back
to their leader to report that the copse seemed empty. Notwithstanding
the trapper watched the eye of Mahtoree, to detect the inward movements
of his mind, and if possible to anticipate, in order to direct his
suspicions, the utmost sagacity of one so long accustomed to study the
cold habits of the Indian race, could however detect no symptom or
expression that denoted how far he credited or distrusted this
intelligence. Instead of replying to the information of his scouts, he
spoke kindly to his horse, and motioning to a youth to receive the
bridle, or rather halter, by which he governed the animal, he took the
trapper by the arm, and led him a little apart from the rest of the
"Has my brother been a warrior?" said the wily Teton, in a tone
that he intended should be conciliating.
"Do the leaves cover the trees in the season of fruits? Go. The
Dahcotahs have not seen as many warriors living as I have looked on in
their blood! But what signifies idle remembrancing," he added in
English, "when limbs grow stiff, and sight is failing!"
The chief regarded him a moment with a severe look, as if he would
lay bare the falsehood he had heard, but meeting in the calm eye and
steady mien of the trapper a confirmation of the truth of whathe said,
he took the hand of the old man and laid it gently on his head, in
token of the respect that was due to the other's years and experience.
"Why then do the Big-knives tell their red brethren to bury the
tomahawk," he said, "when their own young men never forget that they
are braves, and meet each other so often with bloody hands?"
"My nation is more numerous than the buffaloes on the prairies, or
the pigeons in the air. Their quarrels are frequent; yet their warriors
are few. None go out on the war-path but they who are gifted with the
qualities of a brave, and therefore such see many battles."
"It is not so——my father is mistaken," returned Mahtoree, indulging
in a smile of exulting penetration, at the very instant he corrected
the force of his denial, in deference to the years and services of one
so aged. "The Big-knives are very wise, and they are men; all of them
would be warriors. They would leave the Red-skins to dig roots and hoe
the corn. But a Dahcotah is not born to live like a woman; he must
strike the Pawnee and the Omahaw, or he will lose the name of his
"The Master of Life looks with an open eye on his children, who die
in a battle that is fought for the right; but he is blind, and his ears
are shut to the cries of an Indian, who is killed when plundering or
doing evil to his neighbour."
"My father is old;" said Mahtoree, looking at his aged companion,
with an expression of irony, that sufficiently denoted he was one of
those who overstep the trammels of education, and who are perhaps a
little given to abuse the mental liberty they thus obtain. "He is very
old: Has he made a journey to the far country; and has he been at the
trouble to come back, to tell the young men what he has seen?"
"Teton," returned the trapper, throwing thebreech of his rifle to
the earth with startling vehemence, and regarding his companion with
steady serenity, "I have heard that there are men, among my people, who
study their great medicines until they believe themselves to be gods,
and who laugh at all faith except in their own vanities. It may be
true. It is true; for I have seen them. When man is shut up in towns
and schools, with his own follies, it may be easy to believe himself
greater than the Master of Life; but a warrior, who lives in a house
with the clouds for its roof, where he can at any moment look both at
the heavens and at the earth, and who daily sees the power of the Great
Spirit, should be more humble. A Dahcotah chieftain ought to be too
wise to laugh at justice."
The crafty Mahtoree, who saw that his free-thinking was not likely
to produce a favourable impression on the old man, instantly changed
his ground, by alluding to the more immediate subject of their
interview. Laying his hand gently on the shoulder of the trapper, he
led him forward, until they both stood within fifty feet of the margin
of the thicket. Here he fastened his penetrating eyes on the other's
honest countenance, and continued the discourse——
"If my father has hid his young men in the bush, let him tell them
to come forth. You see that a Dahcotah is not afraid. Mahtoree is a
great chief! A warrior, whose head is white, and who is about to go to
the Land of Spirits, cannot have a tongue with two ends, like a
"Dahcotah, I have told no lie. Since the Great Spirit made me a
man, I have lived in the wilderness, or on these naked plains, without
lodge or family. I am a hunter and go on my path alone."
"My father has a good carabine. Let him point it in the bush and
The old man hesitated a moment, and then slowly prepared himself to
give this delicate assurance of the truth of what he said, without
which he plainly perceived the suspicions of his crafty companion could
not be lulled. As he lowered his rifle, his eye, although greatly
dimmed and weakened by age, ran over the confused collection of
objects, that lay embedded amid the party-coloured foliage of the
thicket, until it succeeded in catching a glimpse of the brown covering
of the stem of a small tree. With this object in view, he raised the
piece to a level and fired. The bullet had no sooner glided from the
barrel than a tremor seized the hands of the trapper, which, had it
occurred a moment sooner, would have utterly disqualified him for such
a hazardous experiment. A frightful silence for an instant succeeded
the report, during which he expected to hear the shrieks of the
females, and then, as the smoke whirled away in the wind, he caught a
view of the fluttering bark, and felt assured that all his former skill
was not entirely departed from him. Dropping the piece to the earth, he
turned again to his companion with an air of the utmost composure, and
"Is my brother satisfied?"
"Mahtoree is a chief of the Dahcotahs;" returned the cunning Teton,
laying his hand on his chest; in acknowledgement of the other's
sincerity. "He knows that a warrior, who has smoked at so many
council-fires, until his head has grown white, would not be found in
wicked company. But did not my father once ride on a horse, like a rich
chief of the Pale-faces, instead of travelling on foot like a hungry
"Never! The Wahcondah has given me legs and he has given me
resolution to use them. For sixty summers and winters did I journey in
the woods of America, and ten tiresome years have I dwelt on these open
fields, without finding need to call oftenupon the gifts of the other
creatur's of the Lord to carry me from place to place."
"If my father has so long lived in the shade, why has he come upon
the prairies? The sun will scorch him."
The old man looked sorrowfully about for a moment, and then turning
with a sort of confidential air to the other, he replied——
"I passed the spring, summer, and autumn of life among the trees.
The winter of my days had come, and found me where I loved to be, in
the quiet——ay, and in the honesty of the woods! Teton, then I slept
happily where my eyes could look up through the branches of the pines
and the beeches, to the very dwelling of the Good Spirit of my people.
If I had need to open my heart to him, while his fires were burning
above my head, the door was open and before my eyes. But the axes of
the choppers awoke me. For a long time my ears heard nothing, but the
uproar of clearings. I bore it like a warrior and a man; there was a
reason that I should bear it: but when that reason was ended, I
bethought me to get beyond the accursed sounds. It was trying to the
courage and to the habits, but I had heard of these vast and naked
fields, and I came hither to escape the wasteful temper of my people.
Tell me, Dahcotah, have I not done well?"
The trapper laid his long lean finger on the naked shoulder of the
Indian as he ended, and seemed to demand his felicitations on his
ingenuity and success, with a ghastly smile, in which triumph was
singularly blended with regret. His companion listened intently, and
replied to the question by saying, in the sententious manner of his
"The head of my father is very gray; he has always lived with men,
and he has seen every thing. What he does is good; what he speaks is
wise. Nowlet him say, is he sure that he is a stranger to the
Big-knives, who are looking for their beasts on every side of the
prairies and cannot find them?"
"Dahcotah, what I have said is true. I live alone, and never do I
mingle with men whose skins are white, if——"
His mouth was suddenly closed by an interruption that was as
mortifying as it was unexpected. The words were still on his tongue,
when the bushes on the side of the thicket where they stood, opened,
and the whole of the party whom he had just left, and in whose behalf
he was endeavouring to reconcile his love of truth to the necessity of
prevaricating, came openly into view. A pause of mute astonishment
succeeded this unlooked-for spectacle. Then Mahtoree, who did not
suffer a muscle or a joint to betray the wonder and surprise he
actually experienced, motioned towards the advancing friends of the
trapper with an air of assumed civility and a smile, that lighted his
fierce, dark visage, as the glare of the setting sun reveals the vast
volumes and portentous load of the cloud that is seen charged to
bursting with the electric fluid. He however disdained to speak, or to
give any other evidence of his intentions than by calling to his side
the distant band, who sprang forward at his beck with the alacrity of
In the mean time the friends of the old man continued to advance.
Middleton himself was foremost, supporting the light and aerial looking
figure of Inez, on whose anxious and speaking countenance he cast such
occasional glances of tender interest as, in similar circumstances, a
father would have given to his child. Paul led Ellen close in their
rear. But while the eye of the bee-hunter did not neglect his blooming
companion, it scowled angrily, resembling more the aspect of the sullen
and retreating bear than the soft intelligence of a favoured suitor.
Obed andAsinus came last, the former leading his companion with a
degree of fondness that could hardly be said to be exceeded by any
other of the party. The approach of the naturalist was far less rapid
than that of those who preceded him. His feet seemed equally reluctant
to advance or to remain stationary; his position bearing a great
analogy to that of Mahomet's coffin, with the exception that the
quality of repulsion rather than that of attraction held him in a state
of rest. The repulsive power in his rear however appeared to
predominate, and by a singular exception, as he would have said
himself, to all philosophical principles, it rather increased than
diminished by distance. As the eyes of the naturalist steadily
maintained a position that was the opposite of his route, they served
to give a direction to those of the observers of all these movements,
and at once furnished a sufficient clue by which to unravel the mystery
of so sudden a debouchement from the cover.
Another cluster of stout and armed men was seen at no great
distance, just rounding a point of the thicket, and moving directly
though cautiously towards the place where the band of the Siouxes was
posted, as a squadron of cruisers is often seen to steer across the
waste of waters, towards the rich but well-protected convoy. In short,
the family of the squatter, or at least such among them as were capable
of bearing arms, appeared in view, on the broad prairie, evidently bent
on revenging their wrongs.
Mahtoree and his party slowly retired from the thicket, the moment
they caught a view of the strangers, until they halted on a swell that
commanded a wide and unobstructed view of the naked fields on which
they stood. Here the Dahcotah appeared disposed to make his stand, and
to bring matters to an issue. Notwithstanding this retreat, in which
hecompelled the trapper to accompany him, Middleton still advanced,
until he too halted on the same elevation and within speaking distance
of the warlike Siouxes. The borderers in their turn took a favourable
position, though at a much greater distance. The three groups now
resembled so many fleets at sea, lying with their topsails to the
masts, with the commendable precaution of reconnoitring before each
could ascertain who among the strangers might be considered as friends
and who as foes.
During this moment of suspense, the dark, threatening eye of
Mahtoree rolled from one of the strange parties to the other, in keen
and hasty examination, and then it turned its withering look on the old
man, as the chief said, in a tone of high and bitter scorn——
"The Big-knives are fools! It is easier to catch the cougar asleep
than to find a blind Dahcotah. Did the white head think to ride on the
horse of a Sioux?"
The trapper, who had found time to collect his perplexed faculties,
saw at once that Middleton, having perceived Ishmael on the trail by
which they had fled, preferred trusting to the hospitality of the
savages, than to the treatment he would be likely to receive from the
hands of the squatter. He therefore disposed himself to clear the way
for the favourable reception of his friends, since he found that the
unnatural coalition became necessary to secure the liberty if not the
lives of the party.
"Did my brother ever go on a war-path to strike my people?" he
calmly demanded of the indignant chief, who still awaited his reply.
The lowering aspect of the Teton warrior so far lost its severity,
as to suffer a gleam of pleasure and triumph to lighten its ferocity,
as sweeping his arm in an entire circle around his person he answered——
"What tribe or nation has not felt the blows of the Dahcotahs?
Mahtoree is their partisan."
"And has he found the Big-knives women, or has he found them men?"
A multitude of fierce passions seemed struggling together in the
tawny countenance of the Indian, as he heard this interrogatory. For a
moment inextinguishable hatred seemed to hold the mastery, and then a
nobler expression, and one that better became the character of a brave
warrior, got possession of his features, and maintained itself until,
first throwing aside his light robe of pictured deer-skin and pointing
to the scar of a bayonet in his breast, he replied——
"It was given as it was taken, face to face."
"It is enough. My brother is a brave chief, and he should be a wise
one. Let him look; is that a warrior of the Pale-faces? Was it one such
as that who gave the great Dahcotah his hurt?"
The eyes of Mahtoree followed the direction of the old man's
extended arm, until they rested on the drooping form of Inez. The look
of the Teton was long, riveted and admiring. Like that of the young
Pawnee, it resembled more the gaze of a mortal on some heavenly image,
than the admiration with which man is wont to contemplate even the
loveliness of woman. Starting as if suddenly self-convicted of
forgetfulness, the chief next turned his eyes on Ellen, where they
lingered an instant with a much more intelligible expression of
admiration, and then pursued their course until they had taken another
glance at each individual of the party.
"My brother sees that my tongue is not forked," continued the
trapper, watching the emotions the other betrayed with a readiness of
comprehension little inferior to that of the Teton himself. "The
Big-knives do not send their women to war. I know that the Dahcotahs
will smoke with the strangers."
"Mahtoree is a great chief. The Big-knives are welcome," said the
Teton, laying his hand on his breast, with an air of lofty politeness
that would havedone credit to any state of society. "The arrows of my
young men are in their quivers."
The trapper motioned to Middleton to approach, and in a few moments
the two parties were blended in one, each of the males having exchanged
friendly greetings after the fashions of the prairie warriors. But,
even while engaged in this hospitable manner, the Dahcotah did not fail
to keep a strict watch on the more distant party of white men, as
though he still distrusted an artifice or sought a further explanation.
The old man in his turn perceived the necessity of being more explicit,
and of securing the slight and equivocal advantage he had already
obtained. While affecting to examine the groupe, which still lingered
at the spot where it had first halted, as if to discover the characters
of those who composed it, he plainly saw that Ishmael contemplated
immediate hostilities. The result of a conflict on the open prairie,
between a dozen resolute border-men, and the half-armed natives, even
though seconded by their white allies, was in his experienced judgment
a point of great uncertainty, and though far from reluctant to engage
in the struggle on account of himself, the aged trapper thought it far
more worthy of his years and his character to avoid than to court the
contest. His feelings were for obvious reasons in accordance with those
of Paul and Middleton, who had lives still more precious than their own
to watch over and protect. In this dilemma the three consulted on the
means of escaping the frightful consequences, which might immediately
follow a single act of hostility on the part of the borderers, the old
man taking care that their communication should, in the eyes of those
who noted the expression of their countenances with jealous
watchfulness, bear the appearance of explanations as to the reason, why
such a party of travellers was met so far in the deserts.
"I know that the Dahcotahs are a wise and greatpeople," at length
the trapper commenced, again addressing himself to the chief; "but does
not their partisan know a single brother who is base?"
The eye of Mahtoree wandered proudly around his band, but rested a
moment reluctantly on Weucha, as he answered——
"The Master of Life has made chiefs, and warriors, and women;"
conceiving that he thus embraced all the gradations of human excellence
from the highest to the lowest.
"And he has also made Pale-faces, who are wicked. Such are they
whom my brother sees yonder."
"Do they go on foot to do wrong?" demanded the Teton, with a wild
gleam from his eyes, that sufficiently betrayed how well he knew the
reason why they were reduced to so humble an expedient.
"Their beasts are gone. But their powder, and their lead, and their
blankets still remain."
"Do they carry their riches in their hands like miserable Konzas?
or are they brave, and leave them with the women, as men should do, who
know where to find what they lose."
"My brother sees the spot of blue across the prairie; look, the sun
has touched it for the last time to day."
"Mahtoree is not a mole."
"It is a rock, and on it are the goods of the Big-knives."
An expression of savage joy shot into the dark countenance of the
Teton as he listened; turning to the old man he seemed to read his soul
for an instant, as if to assure himself he was not deceived. Then he
bent his look on the party of Ishmael and counted its number.
"One warrior is wanting," he said.
"Does my brother see the buzzards? there is his grave. Did he find
blood on the prairie? it was his."
"Enough! Mahtoree is a wise chief. Put your women on the horses of
the Dahcotahs; we shall see, for our eyes are open very wide."
The trapper wasted no unnecessary words in further explanations.
Familiar with the brevity and promptitude of the natives, he
immediately communicated the result to his companions. Paul was mounted
in an instant, with Ellen at his back. A few more moments were
necessary to assure Middleton of the security and ease of Inez. While
he was thus engaged Mahtoree advanced to the side of the beast he had
allotted to this service, which was his own, and manifested an
intention to occupy his customary place on its back. The young soldier
seized the reins of the animal, and glances of sudden anger and lofty
pride were exchanged between them.
"No man takes this seat but myself," said Middleton, sternly, in
"Mahtoree is a great chief!" retorted the savage; neither
comprehending the meaning of the other's words.
"The Dahcotah will be too late," whispered the old man at his
elbow, "see; the Big-knives are afraid and they will soon run."
The Teton chief instantly abandoned his claim, and threw himself on
another horse, directing one of his young men to furnish a similar
accommodation for the trapper. The warriors, who were dismounted, got
up behind as many of their companions. Doctor Battius bestrode Asinus,
and notwithstanding the brief interruption, in half the time we have
taken to relate it the whole party was prepared to move.
When he saw that all were ready, Mahtoree gave the signal to
advance. A few of the best mounted of the warriors, the chief himself
included, moved a little in front, and made a threatening
demonstration, as if they intended to attack the strangers. The
squatter, who was in truth slowly retiring, instantly halted his party,
and showed a willing front. Insteadhowever of coming within reach of
the dangerous aim of the western rifle, the subtle savages kept
wheeling about the strangers, until they had made a half circuit,
keeping the latter in constant expectation of an assault. Then
perfectly secure of their object, the Tetons raised a loud shout and
darted across the prairie in a line for the distant rock, with the
directness and nearly with the velocity of the arrow that has just been
shot from its bow.
"Dally not with the gods, but get thee gone.
Signor Baptista, shall I lead the way?"
Mahtoree had scarcely given the first intimation of his real
design, before a general discharge from the borderers proved how well
they understood it. The distance, and the rapidity of the flight
however, rendered their fire perfectly harmless. As a proof how little
he regarded the hostility of their party, the Dahcotah chieftain
answered the report with a yell, and, flourishing his carabine above
his head, he made a circuit on the plain, followed by his chosen
warriors, as if in very scorn of the impotent attempt of his enemies.
As the main body continued the direct course, this little band of the
elite in returning from its wild exhibition of savage contempt, took
its place in the rear, with a dexterity and a concert of action that
showed the manœuvre had been contemplated.
Volley swiftly succeeded volley, until the enraged squatter was
reluctantly compelled to abandon the idea of injuring his enemies by
means so feeble. Relinquishing his fruitless attempt, he commenced a
rapid pursuit, occasionally discharging a rifle, inorder to give the
alarm to the garrison, which he had prudently left under the command of
the redoubtable Esther herself. In this manner the chace was continued
for many minutes, the horsemen gradually gaining on their pursuers, who
maintained the race, however, with an incredible power of foot.
As the little speck of blue rose against the heavens, like an
island issuing from the deep, the savages occasionally raised a yell of
triumph. But the mists of evening were already gathering along the
whole of the eastern margin of the prairie, and before the band had
made half of the necessary distance, the dim outline of the rock had
melted into the haze of the back-ground. Indifferent to this
circumstance, which rather favoured than disconcerted his plans,
Mahtoree, who had again ridden in front, held on his course with the
accuracy of a hound of the truest scent, merely slackening his steed a
little, as the horses of his party were by this time thoroughly blown.
It was at this stage of the enterprise that the old man rode up to the
side of Middleton, and addressed him as follows in English——
"Here is likely to be a thieving business, and one in which I must
say I have but a small relish to be a partner."
"What would you do? It would be fatal to trust ourselves in the
hands of the miscreants in our rear."
"Tut, for miscreants, be they red or be they white. Look ahead,
lad, as if ye were talking of our medicines, or perhaps praising the
Teton beasts. For the knaves love to hear their horses commended, the
same as a foolish mother in the settlements is fond of hearing the
praises of her wilful child. So; pat the animal and lay your hand on
the gew-gaws, with which the Red-skins have ornamented his mane, giving
your eye as it were to one thing, and your mind to another. Listen; if
matters are managedwith judgment we may leave these Tetons, as the
night sets in."
"A blessed thought!" exclaimed Middleton, who retained a painful
remembrance of the look of admiration, with which Mahtoree had
contemplated the loveliness of Inez, as well as of his subsequent
presumption in daring to wish to take the office of her protector on
"Lord, Lord! what a weak creatur' is man, when the gifts of natur'
are smothered in bookish knowledge and womanly manners. Such another
start would tell these imps at our elbows that we were plotting against
them, just as plainly as if it were whispered in their ears by a Sioux
tongue. Ay, ay, I know the devils; they look as innocent as so many
frisky fawns, but there is not one among them all that has not an eye
on our smallest motions. Therefore, what is to be done is to be do in
wisdom, in order to circumvent their cunning. That is right, pat his
neck and smile, as if you praised the horse, and keep the ear on my
side open to my words. Be careful not to worry your beast, for though
but little skilled in horses, reason teaches that breath is needful in
a hard push, and that a weary leg makes a dull race. Be ready to mind
the signal, when you hear a whine from old Hector. The first will be to
make ready; the second, to edge out of the crowd, and the third, to
go——am I understood."
"Perfectly, perfectly," said Middleton, trembling in his excessive
eagerness to put the plan in instant execution, and pressing the little
arm, which encircled his body, to his heart. "Perfectly. Hasten,
"Ay, the beast is no sloth," continued the trapper in the Teton
language, as if he continued the discourse, edging cautiously through
the dusky throng at the same time, until he found himself riding at the
side of Paul. He communicated his intentions in the same guarded manner
as before. The high-spirited and fearless bee-hunter received the
intelligence with delight, declaring his readiness to engage the whole
of the savage band, should it become necessary to effect their object.
When the old man drew off from the side of this pair also, he cast his
eyes about him to discover the situation occupied by the naturalist.
The Doctor, with infinite labour to himself and Asinus, had
maintained a position in the very centre of the Siouxes, so long as
there existed the smallest reason for believing that any of the
missiles of Ishmael might arrive in contact with his person. After this
danger had diminished, or rather disappeared entirely, his own courage
revived while that of his steed began to droop. To this mutual but very
material change was owing the fact, that the rider and the ass were now
to be sought among that portion of the band who formed a sort of
rear-guard. Hither then the trapper contrived to turn his steed,
without exciting the suspicions of any of his subtle companions.
"Friend," commenced the old man, when he found himself in a
situation favourable to discourse—— "Should you like to pass a dozen
years among the savages with a shaved head, and a painted countenance,
with perhaps a couple of wives and five or six children of the
half-breed, to call you father?"
"Impossible!" exclaimed the startled naturalist. "I am indisposed
to matrimony in general, and more especially to all admixture of the
varieties of species, which only tend to tarnish the beauty and to
interrupt the harmony of nature. Moreover it is a painful innovation on
the order of all nomenclatures."
"Ay, ay, you have reason enough for your distaste to such a life,
but should these Siouxes get you fairly into their village, such would
be your luck, as certainas that the sun rises and sets at the pleasure
of the Lord."
"Marry me to a woman who is not adorned with the comeliness of the
species!" responded the Doctor. "Of what crime have I been guilty, that
so grievous a punishment should await the offence? To marry a man
against the movements of his will is to do a violence to human nature!"
"Now, that you speak of natur', I have hopes that the gift of
reason has not altogether deserted your brain," returned the old man,
with a covert expression playing about the angles of his deep-set eyes,
which betrayed he was not entirely destitute of humour. "Nay, they may
conceive you a remarkable subject for their kindness, and for that
matter marry you to five or six. I have known, in my days, favoured
chiefs, who had numberless wives."
"But why should they meditate this vengeance?" demanded the Doctor,
whose hair began to rise, as if each fibre was possessed of
sensibility; "what evil have I done?"
"It is the fashion of their kindness. When they come to learn that
you are a great medicine, they will adopt you in the tribe, and some
mighty chief will give you his name, and perhaps his daughter, or it
may be a wife or two of his own, who have dwelt long in his lodge, and
of whose value he is a judge by experience."
"The Governor and Founder of natural harmony protect me!"
ejaculated the Doctor. "I have no affinity to a single consort; much
less to duplicates and triplicates of the class! I shall certainly
essay a flight from their abodes before I mingle in so violent a
"There is reason in your words; but why not attempt the race, you
speak of, now?"
The naturalist looked fearfully around him, as if he had an
inclination to make an instant exhibitionof his desperate intention,
but the dusky figures, who were riding on every side of him seemed
suddenly tripled in number, and the darkness, that was already
thickening on the prairie, appeared in his eyes to possess the glare of
"It would be premature, and reason forbids it," he answered. "Leave
me, venerable venator, to the council of my own thoughts, and when my
plans are properly classed, I will advise you of my resolutions."
"Resolutions!" repeated the old man, shaking his head a little
contemptuously as he gave the rein to his horse, and allowed him to
mingle with the steeds of the savages. "Resolution is a word that is
talked of in the settlements and felt on the borders. Does my brother
know the beast on which the Paleface rides?" he continued, addressing a
gloomy looking warrior in his own tongue, and making a motion with his
arm that at the same time directed his attention to the naturalist and
the meek Asinus.
The Teton turned his eyes for a minute on the animal, but disdained
to manifest the smallest portion of that wonder he had felt, in common
with all his companions, on first viewing so rare a quadruped. The
trapper was not ignorant, that while asses and mules were beginning to
be known to those tribes who dwelt nearest the Mexicos, they were not
usually encountered so far north as the waters of La Platte. He
therefore managed to read the mute astonishment that lay so deeply
concealed in the tawny visage of the savage, and took his measures
"Does my brother think that the rider is a warrior of the
Pale-faces?" he demanded, when he believed that sufficient time had
elapsed for a full examination of the pacific mien of the naturalist.
The flash of scorn, which shot across the featuresof the Teton was
visible even by the dim light of the stars.
"Is a Dahcotah a fool!" was the answer.
"They are a wise nation, whose eyes are never shut; much do I
wonder, that they have not seen the great medicine of the Big-knives!"
"Wagh!" exclaimed his companion, suffering the whole of his
amazement to burst out of his dark rigid countenance at the surprise,
like a flash of lightning illuminating the gloom of midnight.
"The Dahcotah knows that my tongue is not forked. Let him open his
eyes wider. Does he not see a very great medicine?"
The light was not necessary to recall to the savage each feature in
the really remarkable costume and equipage of Dr. Battius. In common
with the rest of the band, and in conformity with the universal
practice of the Indians, this warrior, while he had suffered no gaze of
idle curiosity to disgrace his manhood, had not permitted a single
distinctive mark, which might characterize any one of the strangers to
escape his vigilance. He knew the air, the stature, the dress and the
features, even to the colour of the eyes and of the hair, of every one
of the Big-knives, whom he had thus strangely encountered, and deeply
had he ruminated on the causes, which could have led a party, so
singularly constituted, into the haunts of the rude inhabitants of his
native wastes. He had already considered the several physical powers of
the whole party, and had duly compared their abilities with what he
supposed might have been their intentions. Warriors they were not, for
the Big-knives, like the Siouxes, left their women in their villages
when they went out on the bloody path. The same objections applied to
them as hunters, and even as traders, the two characters under which
the white men commonly appeared in theirvillages. He had heard of a
great council, at which the Menahashah, or Long-knives, and the
Washsheomantiqua, or Spaniards, had smoked together, when the latter
had sold to the former their incomprehensible rights over those vast
regions through which his nation had roamed, in freedom, for so many
ages. His simple mind had not been able to embrace the reasons why one
people should thus assume a superiority over the possessions of
another, and it will readily be perceived, that at the hint just
received from the trapper, he was not indisposed to fancy that some of
the hidden subtilty of that magical influence, of which he was so firm
a believer, was about to be practised by the unsuspecting subject of
their conversation, in furtherance of these mysterious claims.
Abandoning, therefore, all the reserve and dignity of his manner under
the conscious helplessness of ignorance, he turned to the old man, and
stretching forth his arms, as if to denote how much he lay at his
mercy, he said——
"Let my father look at me. I am a wild man of the prairies; my body
is naked; my hands empty; my skin red. I have struck the Pawnees, the
Konzas, the Omahaws, the Osages, and even the Longknives. I am a man
amid warriors, but a woman among the conjurors. Let my father speak:
the ears of the Teton are open. He listens like a deer to the step of
"Such are the wise and uns'archable ways of one who alone knows
good from evil!" exclaimed the trapper, in English. "To some he grants
cunning, and on others he bestows the gift of manhood! It is humbling,
and it is afflicting to see so noble a creatur' as this, who has fou't
in many a bloody fray, truckling before his superstition like a beggar
asking for the bones you would throw to the dogs. The Lord will forgive
me for playing with the ignorance of thesavage, for he knows I do it in
no mockery of his state, or in idle vaunting of my own; but in order to
save mortal life, and to give justice to the wronged, while I defeat
the deviltries of the wicked! Teton," speaking again in the language of
the listener, "I ask you, is not that a wonderful medicine? If the
Dahcotahs are wise they will not breathe the air he breathes, nor touch
his robes. They know, that the Wahconshecheh (bad spirit) loves his own
children, and will not turn his back on him that does them harm."
The old man delivered this opinion in an ominous and sententious
manner, and then rode apart as if he had said enough. The result
justified his expectations. The warrior, to whom he had addressed
himself, was not slow to communicate his important knowledge to the
rest of the rear-guard, and, in a very few moments the naturalist was
the object of general observation and reverence. The trapper, who
understood that the natives often worshipped, with a view to propitiate
the evil spirit, awaited the workings of his artifice, with the
coolness of one who had not the smallest interest in its effects. It
was not long before he saw one dark figure after another, lashing his
horse and gallopping ahead into the centre of the band, until Weucha
alone remained nigh the persons of himself and Obed. The very dulness
of this grovelling-minded savage, who continued gazing at the supposed
conjuror with a sort of stupid admiration, opposed now the only
obstacle to the complete success of his artifice.
Thoroughly understanding the character of this Indian, the old man
lost no time in getting rid of him also. Riding to his side he said, in
an affected whisper——
"Has Weucha drunk of the milk of the Big-knives to-day?"
"Hugh!" exclaimed the surprised savage, every dull thought being
instantly recalled from heaven to earth by the question——
"Because the great captain of my people, who rides in front, has a
cow that is never empty. I know it will not be long before he will say,
are any of my red brethren dry?"
The words were scarcely uttered, before Weucha, in his turn,
quickened the gait of his beast, and was soon blended with the rest of
the dark groupe, who were riding, at a more moderate pace, a few rods
in advance. The trapper, who knew how fickle and sudden were the
changes of a savage mind, did not lose a moment in profiting by this
advantage. He loosened the reins of his own impatient steed, and in an
instant he was again at the side of Obed.
"Do you see the twinkling star, that is, may be, the length of four
rifles above the prairie; hereaway, to the North I mean."
"Ay, it is of the constellation——"
"A tut for your constellations, man; do you see the star I mean?
Tell me in the English of the land, yes or no."
"The moment my back is turned, pull upon the rein of your ass,
until you lose sight of the savages. Then take the Lord for your
dependance, and yonder star for your guide. Turn neither to the right
hand nor to the left, but make diligent use of your time, for your
beast is not quick of foot, and every inch of prairie you gain, is a
day added to your liberty or to your life."
Without waiting to listen to the queries, which the naturalist was
about to put, the old man again loosened the reins of his horse, and
presently he too was blended with the groupe in front.
Obed was now alone. Asinus willingly obeyed the hint which his
master soon gave, rather in desperationthan with any very collected
understanding of the orders he had received, and checked his pace
accordingly. As the Tetons however rode at a hand-gallop, but a moment
of time was necessary, after the ass began to walk, to remove them
effectually from before the vision of his rider. Without plan,
expectation, or hope of any sort, except that of escaping from his
dangerous neighbours, the Doctor first feeling, to assure himself that
the package, which contained the miserable remnants of his specimens
and notes was safe at his crupper, turned the head of the beast in the
required direction, and kicking him with a species of fury, he soon
succeeded in exciting the speed of the patient animal into a smart run.
He had barely time to descend into a hollow and ascend the adjoining
swell of the prairie, before he heard, or fancied he heard, his name
shouted in good English from the throats of twenty Tetons. The delusion
gave a new impulse to his ardour, and no professor of the saltant art
ever applied himself with greater industry than the naturalist now used
his heels on the ribs of Asinus. The conflict endured for several
minutes without interruption, and to all appearances it might have
continued to the present moment, had not the meek temper of the beast
also become unduly excited. Borrowing an idea from the manner in which
his master exhibited his agitation, Asinus so far changed the
application of his own heels, as to raise them simultaneously with a
certain indignant flourish into the air, a measure that instantly
decided the controversy in his favour. Obed took leave of his seat, as
of a position no longer tenable, continuing however the direction of
his flight, while the ass like a conqueror took possession of the field
of battle, beginning to crop the dry herbage, as the fruits of his
When Doctor Battius had recovered his feet and rallied his
faculties, which were in a good deal of disorderfrom the hurried manner
in which he had abandoned his former situation, he returned in quest of
his specimens and of his ass. Asinus displayed enough of magnanimity to
render the interview amicable, and thenceforth the naturalist continued
the required route with very commendable industry, but with a much more
In the mean time, the old trapper had not lost sight of the
important movements that he had undertaken to control. Obed had not
been mistaken in supposing that he was already missed and sought,
though his imagination had corrupted certain savage cries into the
well-known sounds that composed his own latinized name. The truth was
simply this. The warriors of the rear-guard had not failed to apprise
those in front of the mysterious character, with which it had pleased
the trapper to invest the unsuspecting naturalist. The same untutored
admiration, which on the receipt of this intelligence had driven those
in the rear to the front, now drove many of the front to the rear. The
Doctor was of course absent, and the outcry was no more than the wild
yells, which were raised in the first burst of savage disappointment.
But the authority of Mahtoree was prompt to aid the ingenuity of
the trapper in suppressing these dangerous sounds. When order was
restored, and the former was made acquainted with the reason why his
young men had betrayed so strong a mark of indiscretion, the old man,
who had taken a post at his elbow, saw, with alarm, the gleam of keen
distrust that flashed into his swarthy visage.
"Where is your conjuror?" demanded the chief, turning suddenly to
the trapper, as if he meant to make him responsible for the
re-appearance of Obed.
"Can I tell my brother the number of the stars? the ways of a great
medicine are not like the ways of other men."
"Listen to me, gray-head, and count my words," continued the other,
bending on his rude saddle-bow, like some chevalier of a more civilized
race, and speaking in the haughty tones of absolute power; "the
Dahcotahs have not chosen a woman for their chief; when Mahtoree feels
the power of a great medicine, he will tremble, until then he will look
with his own eyes without borrowing sight from a Pale-face. If your
conjuror is not with his friends in the morning, my young men shall
look for him. Your ears are open. Enough."
The trapper was not sorry to find that so long a respite was
granted. He had before found reason to believe, that the Teton partisan
was one of those bold spirits, who overstep the limits which use and
education fix to the opinions of man in every state of society, and he
now saw plainly that he must adopt some artifice to deceive him,
different from that which had succeeded so well with his followers. The
sudden appearance of the rock, however, which hove up a bleak and
ragged mass out of the darkness ahead, put an end for the present to
the discourse, Mahtoree giving all his thoughts to the execution of his
designs on the rest of the squatter's moveables. A murmur ran through
the band, as each dark warrior caught a glimpse of the desired haven,
after which the nicest ear might have listened in vain to catch a sound
louder than the rustling of feet among the tall grass of the prairie.
But the vigilance of Esther was not easily deceived. She had long
listened anxiously to the suspicious sounds, which approached the rock
across the naked waste, nor had the sudden outcry been unheard by the
unwearied sentinels of the rock. The savages, who had dismounted at
some little distance, had not time to draw around the base of the hill,
in their customary silent and insidious manner, before the voiceof the
Amazon was raised in the stillness of the place, fearlessly demanding——
"Who is beneath? answer, for your lives? Siouxes or devils, I fear
No answer was given to this challenge, every warrior halting where
he stood, confident that his dusky form was blended with the shadows of
the plain. It was at this moment that the trapper determined to escape.
He had been left with the rest of his friends, under the surveillance
of those who were assigned to the duty of watching the horses, and as
they all continued mounted, the moment appeared favourable to his
project. The attention of the guards was drawn to the rock, and a heavy
cloud driving above them at that instant, obscured even the feeble
light which fell from the stars. Leaning on the neck of his horse, the
old man muttered——
"Where is my pup? Where is it——Hector——where is it dog?"
The hound caught the well-known sounds, and answered by a whine of
friendship, which threatened to break out into one of his piercing
howls. The trapper was in the act of raising himself from this
successful exploit, when he felt the hand of Weucha grasping his
throat, as if determined to suppress his voice by the very unequivocal
process of strangulation. Profiting, by the circumstance, he raised
another low sound, as in the natural effort of breathing, which drew a
second responsive cry from the faithful hound. Weucha instantly
abandoned his hold of the master in order to wreak his vengeance on the
dog. But the voice of Esther was again heard, and every other design
was abandoned in order to listen.
"Ay, whine and deform your throats as you may, ye imps of
darkness," she said, with a cracked but scornful laugh; "I know ye;
tarry, and ye shall have light for your misdeeds. Put in the coal,
Phœbe; put in the coal; your father and the boys shall seethat they are
wanted at home to welcome their guests."
Even as she spoke, a strong light, like that of a brilliant star
was seen on the very pinnacle of the rock; and then followed a forked
flame, which curled for a moment amid the windings of an enormous pile
of brush, and flashing upward in an united sheet, it wavered to and
fro, in the passing air, shedding a bright glare on every object within
its influence. A taunting laugh was heard from the height, in which the
voices of all ages mingled, as though they triumphed at having so
successfully exposed the treacherous intentions of the Tetons.
The trapper looked about him to ascertain in what situations he
might find his friends. True to the signals, Middleton and Paul had
drawn a little apart, and now stood ready, by every appearance, to
commence their flight at the third repetition of the cry. Hector had
escaped his savage pursuer and was again crouching at the heels of his
master's horse. But the broad circle of light was gradually increasing
in extent and power, and the old man, whose eye and judgment so rarely
failed him, patiently awaited a more propitious moment for his
"Now Ishmael, my man, if sight and hand ar' true as ever, now is
the time to work upon these Red-skins, who claim to own all your
property, even to wife and children! Now, my good man, prove both breed
A distant shout was heard in the direction of the approaching party
of the squatter, assuring the female garrison that succour was not far
distant. Esther answered to the grateful sounds by a cracked cry of her
own, lifting her form, in the first burst of exultation, above the rock
in a manner to be visible to all below. Not content with this dangerous
exposure of her person, she was in the act of tossing her arms in
triumph, when the dark figure of Mahtoree shot into the light and
pinioned them to her side. The forms of three other warriors glided
across the top of the rock, looking like naked demons flitting among
the clouds. The air was filled with the brands of the beacon, and then
a heavy darkness succeeded, not unlike that of the appalling instant,
when the last rays of the sun are excluded by the intervening mass of
the moon. A yell of triumph burst from the savages in their turn, and
was rather accompanied than followed by a long, loud whine from Hector.
In an instant the old man was between the horses of Middleton and
Paul, extending a hand to the bridle of each, in order to check the
impatience of their riders.
"Softly, softly," he whispered, "their eyes are as marvellously
shut for the minute, as though the Lord had stricken them blind; but
their ears are open. Softly, softly; for fifty rods, at least, we must
move no faster than a walk."
The five minutes of doubt that succeeded appeared like an age to
all but the trapper. As their sight was gradually restored, it seemed
to each as if the momentary gloom, which followed the extinction of the
beacon, was to be replaced by as broad a light as that of noon-day.
Gradually the old man, however, suffered the animals to quicken their
steps, until they had gained the centre of one of the prairie bottoms.
Then laughing in his quiet manner he released the reins and said——
"Now, let them give play to their legs; but keep on the old fog to
deaden the sounds."
It is needless to say how cheerfully he was obeyed. In a few more
minutes they ascended and crossed a swell of the land, after which the
flight was continued at the top of their horses' speed, keeping the
indicated star in view, as the labouring bark steers for the light
which points the way to a haven and security.
"The clouds and sunbeams o'er his eye,
That once their shades and glories threw,
Have left, in yonder silent sky,
No vestige where they flew."
A stillness, as deep as that which marked the gloomy wastes in
their front, was observed by the fugitives to distinguish the spot they
had just abandoned. Even the trapper lent his practised faculties, in
vain, to detect any of the well-known signs, which might establish the
important fact that hostilities had actually commenced between the
parties of Mahtoree and Ishmael; but their horses carried them out of
the reach of sounds without the occurrence of the smallest evidence of
the sort. The old man, from time to time, muttered his discontent, but
manifested the uneasiness he actually entertained in no other manner,
unless it might be in exhibiting a growing anxiety to urge the animals
to increase their speed. He had pointed out in passing, that deserted
swale where the family of the squatter had encamped, the night they
were introduced to the reader, and afterwards he maintained an ominous
silence; ominous, because his companions had already seen enough of his
character, to be convinced that the circumstances must be critical
indeed, which possessed the power to disturb the well regulated
tranquillity of the old man's mind.
"Have we not done enough," Middleton demanded, in tenderness to the
inability of Inez and Ellen to endure so much fatigue, at the end of
some hours; "we have ridden hard, and have crossed a wide tract of
plain. It is time to seek a place of rest."
"You must seek it then in Heaven, if you find yourselves unequal to
a longer march," murmured the old trapper. "Had the Tetons and the
squatter come to blows, as any one might see in the natur' of things
they were bound to do, there would be time to look about us, and to
calculate not only the chances but the comforts of the journey; but as
the case actually is, I should consider it certain death, or endless
captivity, to trust our eyes with sleep, until our heads are fairly hid
in some uncommon cover."
"I know not," returned the impatient youth, who reflected more on
the sufferings of the fragile being he supported, than on the
experience of his companion. "I know not; we have ridden leagues, and I
can see no extraordinary signs of danger——if you fear for yourself my
good friend, believe me you are wrong, for——"
"Your gran'ther, were he living and here," interrupted the old man,
stretching forth a hand, and laying a finger impressively on the arm of
Middleton, "would have spared those words. He had some reason to think
that, in the prime of my days, when my eye was quicker than the hawk's,
and my limbs were as active as the legs of the fallow-deer, I never
clung too eagerly and fondly to life: then why should I now feel such a
childish affection for a thing that I know to be vain, and the
companion of pain and sorrow. Let the Tetons do their worst; they will
not find a miserable and worn out trapper the loudest in his complaints
or his prayers."
"Pardon me, my worthy, my inestimable friend," exclaimed the
repentant young man, warmly grasping the hand, which the other was in
the act of withdrawing; "I knew not what I said——or rather I thought
only of those whose tenderness we are most bound to consider."
"Enough. It is natur', and it is right. Therein your grand'ther
would have done the very same.Ah's me! what a number of seasons, hot
and cold, wet and dry, have rolled over my poor head, since the time we
worried it out together, among the Red Hurons of the Lakes, back in
those rugged mountains of old York! and many a noble buck has since
that day fallen by my hand; ay, and many a thieving Mingo, too! Tell
me, lad, did the general, for general I know he got to be, did he ever
tell you of the deer we took, that night the outlyers of the accursed
tribe drove us to the caves, on the island, and how we feasted and
drunk in security?"
"I have often heard him mention the smallest circumstance of the
night you mean; but——"
"And the singer; and his open throat; and his shoutings in the
fights!" continued the old man, laughing most joyously at the strength
of his own recollections.
"All——all——he forgot nothing, even to the most trifling incident.
Do you not——"
"What, did he tell you of the imp behind the log—— and of the
miserable devil who went over the fall——or of the wretch in the tree?"
"Of each and all, with every thing that concerned them. I should
"Ay," continued the old man, in a voice, which betrayed how
powerfully his own faculties retained the impression of the spectacle,
"I have been a dweller in forests and in the wilderness for threescore
and ten years, and if any can pretend to know the world, or to have
seen scary sights, it is myself! But never, before nor since, have I
seen human man in such a state of mortal despair as that very savage;
and yet he scorned to speak, or to cry out, or to own his forlorn
condition! It is their gift, and nobly did he maintain it!"
"Harkee, old trapper," interrupted Paul, who, content with the
knowledge that his waist was grasped by one of the pretty arms of
Ellen, had hithertoridden in unusual silence; "my eyes are as true and
as delicate as a humming-bird's in the day; but they are nothing worth
boasting of by star-light. Is that a sick buffaloe, crawling along in
the bottom, there, or is it one of the stray cattle of the savages?"
The whole party drew up, in order to examine the object, which Paul
had pointed out. During most of the time, they had ridden in the little
vales in order to seek the protection of the shadows, but just at that
moment, they had ascended a roll of the prairie in order to cross into
the very bottom where this unknown animal was now seen.
"Let us descend," said Middleton; "be it a beast or a man we are
too strong to have any cause of fear."
"Now if the thing was not morally impossible," cried the trapper,
who the reader must have already discovered was not always exact in the
use of qualifying words, "if the thing was not morally impossible, I
should say, that was the man, who journeys in search of reptiles and
insects: our fellow traveller, the Doctor."
"Why impossible? did you not direct him to pursue this course, in
order to rejoin us?"
"Ay, but I did not tell him to make an ass outdo the speed of a
horse——you are right——you are right," said the trapper, interrupting
himself, as by gradually lessening the distance between them, his eyes
assured him it was Obed and Asinus, whom he saw; "you are right, as
certainly as the thing is a miracle. Lord, what a thing is fear! How
now, friend, you have been industrious to have got so far ahead in so
short a time. I marvel at the speed of the ass!"
"Asinus is overcome," returned the naturalist, mournfully. "The
animal has certainly not been idle since we separated, but he declines
all my admonitions and invitations to proceed. I hope there is no
instant fear from the savages?"
"I cannot say that; I cannot say that; matters are not as they
should be atween the squatter and the Tetons, nor will I answer as yet
for the safety of any scalp among us. The beast is broken down! you
have urged him beyond his natural gifts, and he is like a worried
hound. There is pity and discretion in all things, even though a man be
riding for his life."
"You indicated the star," returned the Doctor, "and I deemed it
expedient to use great diligence in pursuing the direction."
"Did you expect to reach it by such haste! Go, go; you talk boldly
of the creatur's of the Lord, though I plainly see you are but a child
in matters that concern their gifts and instincts. What a plight would
you now be in, if there was need for a long and a quick push with our
"The fault exists in the formation of the quadruped," said Obed,
whose placid temper began to revolt under so many scandalous
imputations. "Had there been rotary levers for two of the members, a
moiety of the fatigue would have been saved, for one item——"
"That, for your moiety's and rotaries, and items, man; a jaded ass
is a jaded ass, and he who denies it is but a brother of the beast
itself. Now, captain, are we driven to choose one of two evils. We must
either abandon this man, who has been too much with us through good and
bad to be easily cast away, or we must seek a cover to let the animal
"Venerable venator!" exclaimed the alarmed Obed; "I conjure you by
all the secret sympathies of our common nature, by all the hidden——"
"Ah, fear has brought him to talk a little rational sense! It is
not natur', truly, to abandon a brother in distress; and the Lord he
knows that I have never yet done the shameful deed. You are right,
friend, you are right; we must all be hidden, and that speedily. But
what to do with the ass! FriendDoctor, do you truly value the life of
"He is an ancient and faithful servant," returned the disconsolate
Obed, "and with pain should I see him come to any harm. Fetter his
lower limbs, and leave him to repose in this bed of herbage. I will
engage he shall be found where he is left, in the morning."
"And the Siouxes? What would become of the beast should any of the
red imps catch a peep at his ears, growing up out of the grass like two
mulleintops!" cried the bee-hunter. "They would stick him as full of
arrows, as a woman's cushion is full of pins, and then believe they had
done the job for the father of all rabbits! My word for it but they
would find out their blunder at the first mouthful!"
Middleton, who began to grow impatient under the protracted
discussion, now interposed, and, as a good deal of deference was paid
to his superior rank, he quickly prevailed in his efforts to effect a
sort of compromise. The humble Asinus, too meek and too weary to make
any resistance, was soon tethered and deposited in his bed of dying
grass, where he was left with a perfect confidence on the part of his
master of finding him, again, at the expiration of a few hours. The old
man strongly remonstrated against this arrangement, and more than once
hinted that the knife was much more certain than the tether, but the
petitions of Obed, aided perhaps by the secret reluctance of the
trapper to destroy the beast, were the means of saving its life. When
Asinus was thus secured, and as his master believed secreted, the whole
party proceeded to find some place where they might rest themselves
during the time required for the repose of the animal.
According to the calculations of the trapper they had ridden twenty
miles since the commencement of their flight. The delicate frame of
Inez began todroop under the excessive fatigue, nor was the more
robust, but still feminine person of Ellen, insensible to the
extraordinary effort she had made. Middleton himself was not sorry to
repose, nor did the vigorous and high spirited Paul hesitate to confess
that he should be all the better for a little rest. The old man alone
seemed indifferent to the usual claims of nature. Although but little
accustomed to the unusual description of exercise he had just been
taking, he appeared to bid defiance to all the usual attacks of human
infirmities. Though evidently so near its dissolution, his attenuated
frame still stood like the shaft of seasoned oak, dry, naked, and
tempest-riven, but unbending and apparently indurated to the
consistency of stone. On the present occasion he conducted the search
for a resting-place, which was immediately commenced, with all the
energy of youth, tempered by the discretion and experience of his great
The bed of grass, in which the Doctor had been met, and in which
his ass had just been left, was followed a little distance until it was
found that the rolling swells of the prairie were melting away into one
vast level plain, that was covered, for miles on miles, with the same
species of herbage.
"Ah, this may do, this may do," said the old man, when they arrived
on the borders of this sea of withered grass; "I know the spot, and
often have I lain in its secret holes, for days at a time, while the
savages have been hunting the buffaloes on the open ground. We must
enter it with great care, for a broad trail might be seen, and Indian
curiosity is a dangerous neighbour."
Leading the way himself, he selected a spot where the tall coarse
herbage stood most erect, growing not unlike a bed of reeds both in
height and density. Here he entered, singly, directing the others to
follow as nearly as possible in his own footsteps. When they had passed
for some hundred or two feet into the wilderness of weeds, he gave his
directions to Paul and Middleton, who continued a direct route deeper
into the place, while he dismounted and returned on his tracks to the
margin of the meadow. Here he passed many minutes in replacing the
trodden grass, and in effacing, as far as possible, every evidence of
In the mean time the rest of the party continued their progress,
not without toil, and consequently at a very moderate gait, until they
had penetrated a mile into the place. Here they found a spot suited to
their circumstances, and dismounting, they began to make their
dispositions to pass the remainder of the night. By this time the
trapper had rejoined the party, and again resumed the direction of
The weeds and grass were soon plucked and cut from an area of
sufficient extent, and a bed for Inez and Ellen was speedily made, a
little apart, which for sweetness and case might have rivalled one of
down. The exhausted females, after receiving some light refreshments
from the provident stores of Paul and the old man, now sought their
repose, leaving their more stout companions at liberty to provide for
their own necessities. Middleton and Paul were not long in following
the example of their betrothed, leaving the trapper and the naturalist
still seated around a savoury dish of bison's meat, which had been
cooked at a previous halt, and which was, as usual, eaten cold.
A certain lingering sensation, which had so long been uppermost in
the mind of Obed, temporarily banished sleep; and as for the old man,
his wants were rendered, by habit and necessity, as seemingly subject
to his will as though they altogether depended on the pleasure of the
moment. Like his companion he chose therefore to watch, instead of
"If the children of ease and security knew the hardships and
dangers the students of nature encounter in their behalf," said Obed,
after a moment of silence, when Middleton took his leave for the night,
"pillars of silver, and statues of brass would be reared as the
everlasting monuments of their glory!"
"I know not, I know not," returned his companion; "silver is far
from plenty, at least in the wilderness, and your brazen idols are
forbidden in the commandments of the Lord."
"Such indeed was the opinion of the great lawgiver of the Jews, but
the Egyptians and the Chaldeans, the Greeks and the Romans, were wont
to manifest their gratitude in these types of the human form. Indeed
many of the illustrious masters of antiquity, have by the aid of
science and skill, even outdone the works of nature, and exhibited a
beauty and perfection in the human form that are difficult to be found
in the rarest living specimens of any of the species; genus, homo."
"Can your idols walk or speak, or have they the glorious gift of
reason?" demanded the trapper with some indignation in his voice;
"though but little given to run into the noise and chatter of the
settlements, yet have I been into the towns in my day, to barter the
peltry for lead and powder, and often have I seen your waxen dolls,
with their tawdry clothes and glass eyes."
"Waxen dolls!" interrupted Obed; "it is profanation, in the view of
the arts, to liken the miserable handy-work of the dealers in wax to
the pure models of antiquity!"
"It is profanation in the eyes of the Lord," retorted the old man,
"to liken the works of his creatur's to the power of his own hand."
"Venerable venator," resumed the naturalist, clearing his throat,
like one who was much in earnest, "let us discuss understandingly and
in amity. Youspeak of the dross of ignorance, whereas my memory dwells
on those precious jewels, which it was my happy fortune formerly to
witness among the treasured glories of the Old World."
"Old World!" retorted the trapper, "that is the miserable cry of
all the half-starved miscreants that have come into this blessed land,
since the days of my boyhood! They tell you of the Old World; as if the
Lord had not the power and the will to create the universe in a day, or
as if he had not bestowed his gifts with an equal hand, though not with
an equal mind or equal wisdom have they been received and used. Were
they to say a worn out, and an abused, and a sacrilegious world, they
might not be so far from the truth!"
Doctor Battius, who found it quite as arduous a task to maintain
any of his favourite positions with so irregular an antagonist, as he
would have found it difficult to keep his feet within the hug of a
western wrestler, hemmed aloud, and profited by the new opening the
trapper had made, to shift the grounds of the discussion——
"By Old and New World, my excellent associate," he said, "it is not
to be understood that the hills, and the vallies, the rocks and the
rivers of our own moiety of the earth do not, physically speaking, bear
a date as ancient as the spot on which the bricks of Babylon are found;
it merely signifies that its moral existence is not co-equal with its
physical or geological formation."
"Anan!" said the old man, looking up inquiringly into the face of
"Merely that it has not been so long known in morals as the other
countries of Christendom."
"So much the better, so much the better. I am no great admirator of
your old morals, as you call them, for I have ever found, and I have
liv'd long as it were in the very heart of natur', that your old
moralsare none of the best. Mankind twist and turn the rules of the
Lord, to suit their own wickedness, when their devilish cunning has had
too much time to trifle with his commands."
"Nay, venerable hunter, still am I not comprehended. By morals I do
not mean the limited and literal signification of the term, such as is
conveyed in its synonyme, morality, but the practices of men as
connected with their daily intercourse, their institutions, and their
"And such I call barefaced and downright wantonness and waste,"
interrupted his sturdy disputant.
"Well, be it so," returned the Doctor, abandoning the explanation
in despair. "Perhaps I have conceded too much," he then instantly
added, fancying that he still saw the glimmerings of an argument
through another chink in the discourse. "Perhaps I have conceded too
much in saying that this hemisphere is literally as old, in its
formation, as that which embraces the venerable quarters of Europe,
Asia, and Africa."
"It is easy to say an alder is not so tall as a pine, but it would
be hard to prove. Can you give a reason for such a wicked belief."
"The reasons are numerous and powerful," returned the Doctor,
delighted by this encouraging opening. "Look into the plains of Egypt
and Arabia; their sandy deserts teem with the monuments of their
antiquity; and then we have also recorded documents of their glory,
doubling the proofs of their former greatness, now that they lie
stripped of their fertility; while we look in vain for similar
evidences that man has ever reached the summit of civilization on this
continent, or search, without our reward, for the path by which he has
made the downward journey to his present condition of second
"And what see you in all this?" demanded the trapper, who, though a
little confused by the terms of his companion, had seized the thread of
"A demonstration of my problem, that nature did not make such a
vast region to lie an uninhabited waste so many ages. This is merely
the moral view of the subject; as to the more exact and geological——"
"Your morals are exact enough for me," returned the grave old man,
"for I think I see in them the very pride of folly. I am but little
gifted in the fables of what you call the Old World, seeing that my
time has been mainly passed looking natur' steadily in the face, and in
reasoning on what I've seen, rather than on what I've heard in
traditions. But I have never shut my ears to the words of the good
book, and many is the long winter evening that I have passed in the
wigwams of the Delawares, listening to the good Moravians, as they
dealt forth the history and doctrines of the elder times, to the people
of the Lenape! It was pleasant to hearken to such wisdom after a weary
hunt! Right pleasant did I find it, and often have I talked the matter
over with the Great Serpent of the Delawares in the more peaceful hours
of our out-lyings, whether it might be on the trail of a war-party of
the Mingoes, or on the watch for a York deer. I remember to have heard
it, then and there, said, that the Blessed Land was once fertile as the
bottoms of the Mississippi, and groaning with its stores of grain and
fruits; but that the judgment has since fallen upon it, and that it is
now more remarkable for its barrenness than any qualities to boast of."
"It is true; but Egypt——nay much of Africa furnishes still more
striking proofs of this exhaustion of nature."
"Tell me," interrupted the old man, "is it a certain truth that
buildings are still standing in that land of Pharoah, which may be
likened in their stature, to the hills of the 'arth?"
"It is as true as that nature never refuses to bestowher incisores
on the animals, mammalia; genus, homo;——"
"It is very marvellous! and it proves how great He must be, when
his miserable creatur's can accomplish such wonders! Many men must have
been needed to finish such an edifice; ay, and men gifted with strength
and skill too! Does the land abound with such a race to this hour?"
"Far from it. Most of the country is a desert, and but for a mighty
river all would be so."
"Yes; rivers are rare gifts to such as till the ground, as any one
may see who journeys far atween the Rocky Mountains and the
Mississippi. But how do you account for these changes on the face of
the 'arth itself, and for this dowfall of nations, you men of the
"It is to be ascribed to moral cau——"
"You're right——it is their morals! their wickedness and their
pride, and chiefly their waste that has done it all! Now listen to what
the experience of an old man teaches him. I have lived long, as these
gray hairs and wrinkled hands will show, even though my tongue should
fail in the wisdom of my years. And I have seen much of the folly of
man; for his natur' is the same, be he born in the wilderness, or be he
born in the towns. To my weak judgment it hath ever seemed as though
his gifts are not equal to his wishes. That he would mount into the
heavens, with all his deformities about him, if he only knew the road,
no one will gainsay, that witnesses his bitter strivings upon 'arth. If
his power is not equal to his will, it is because the wisdom of the
Lord hath set bounds to his evil workings."
"It is much too certain that certain facts will warrant a theory,
which teaches the natural depravity of the genus; but if science could
be fairly brought to bear on a whole species at once, for instance,
education might eradicate the evil principle."
"That, for your education! The time has been when I have thought it
possible to make a companion of a beast. Many are the cubs, and many
are the speckled fawns that I have reared with these old hands, until I
have even fancied them rational and altered beings——but what did it
amount to! the bear would bite, and the deer would run, notwithstanding
my wicked conceit in fancying I could change a temper that the Lord
himself had seen fit to bestow. Now if man is so blinded in his folly
as to go on, ages on ages, doing harm chiefly to himself, there is the
same reason to think that he was wrought his evil here as in the
countries you call so old. Look about you, man; where are the
multitudes that once peopled these prairies; the kings and the palaces;
the riches and the mightinesses of this desert?"
"Where are the monuments that would prove the truth of so vague a
"I know not what you call a monument?"
"The works of man! The glories of Thebes and Balbec——columns,
catacombs, and pyramids! standing amid the sands of the East, like
wrecks on a rocky shore, to testify to the storms of ages!"
"They are gone. Time has lasted too long for them. For why? time
was made by the Lord, and they were made by man. This very spot of
reeds and grass, on which you now sit, may once have been the garden of
some mighty king. It is the fate of all things to ripen, and then to
decay. The tree blossoms, and bears its fruit, which falls, rots,
withers, and even the seed is lost! Go, count the rings of the oak and
of the sycamore; they lie in circles, one about another, until the eye
is blinded in striving to make out their numbers; and yet a full change
of the seasons comes round while the stem is winding one of these
little lines about itself, like the buffaloe changing his coat or the
buck his horns; and what does it all amount to! There does the noble
tree fill its place in theforest, far loftier and grander, and richer,
and more difficult to imitate than any of your pitiful pillars, for a
thousand years, until the time which the Lord hath given it is full.
Then come the winds, that you cannot see, to rive its bark; and the
waters from the heavens, to soften its pores; and the rot, which all
can feel and none can understand, to humble its pride and bring it to
the ground. From that moment its beauty begins to perish. It lies
another hundred years, a mouldering log, and then a mound of moss and
'arth; a sad effigy of a human grave. This is one of your genuine
monuments, though made by a very different power than such as belongs
to your chiselling masonry! and after all, the cunningest scout of the
whole Dahcotah nation might pass his life in searching for the spot
where it fell, and be no wiser when his eyes grew dim than when they
were first opened. As if that was not enough to convince man of his
ignorance; and as though it were put there in mockery of his conceit, a
pine shoots up from the roots of the oak, just as barrenness comes
after fertility, or as these wastes have been spread where a garden may
have been created. Tell me not of your worlds that are old! it is
blasphemous to set bounds and seasons, in this manner, to the works of
the Almighty, like a woman counting the ages of her young."
"Friend hunter, or trapper," returned the naturalist, clearing his
throat in some intellectual confusion at the vigorous attack of his
companion, "your deductions, if admitted by the world, would sadly
circumscribe the efforts of reason and abridge the boundaries of
"So much the better——so much the better; for I have always found
that a conceited man never knows content. All things prove it. Why have
we not the wings of the pigeon, the eyes of the eagle, and the legs of
the moose, if it had been intended that man should be equal to all his
"There are certain physical defects, venerable trapper, in which I
am always ready to admit great and happy alterations might be
suggested. For example, in my own order of Phalangacru——"
"Cruel enough would be the order, that should come from miserable
hands like thine! A touch from such a finger would destroy the mocking
deformity of a monkey! Go, go; human folly is not needed to fill up the
great design of God. There is no stature, no beauty, no proportions,
nor any colours in which man himself can well be fashioned, that is not
already done to his hands."
"That is touching another great and much disputed question,"
exclaimed the Doctor, who seized upon every distinct idea that the
ardent and somewhat dogmatic old man left exposed to his mental grasp,
with the vain hope of inducing a logical discussion, in which he might
bring his battery of syllogisms to annihilate the unscientific defences
of his antagonist.
It is however unnecessary to our narrative to relate the erratic
discourse that ensued. The old man eluded the annihilating blows of his
adversary as the light armed soldier is wont to escape the efforts of
the more regular warrior, even while he annoys him most, and an hour
passed away without bringing any of the numerous subjects, on which
they touched, to a satisfactory conclusion. The arguments acted however
on the nervous system of the Doctor, like so many soothing soporifics,
and by the time his aged companion was disposed to lay his head on his
pack, Obed, vastly refreshed by his recent mental joust, was in a
condition to seek his natural rest, without enduring the torments of
the incubus, in the shapes of Teton warriors and bloody tomahawks.
"——Save you, sir."
The sleep of the fugitives lasted for several hours. The trapper
was the first to shake off its influence, as he had been the last to
court its refreshment. Rising, just as the gray light of day began to
brighten that portion of the studded vault which rested on the eastern
margin of the plain, he summoned his companions from their warm lairs,
and pointed out the necessity of their being once more on the alert.
While Middleton attended to the arrangements necessary to the comforts
of Inez and Ellen, in the long and painful journey which lay before
them, the old man and Paul prepared the meal, which the former had
advised them to take before they proceeded to horse. These several
dispositions were not long in making, and the little groupe was soon
seated about a repast which, though it might want the elegancies to
which the bride of Middleton had been accustomed, was not deficient in
the more important requisites of savour and nutriment.
"When we get lower into the hunting-grounds of the Pawnees," said
the trapper, laying a morsel of of delicate venison before Inez, on a
little trencher neatly made of horn, and expressly for his own use, "we
shall find the buffaloes fatter and sweeter, the deer in more
abundance, and all the gifts of the Lord abounding to satisfy our
wants. Perhaps we may even strike a beaver, and get a morsel from his
tail by way of a rare mouthful."
"What course do you mean to pursue, when you have once thrown these
bloodhounds from the chase?" demanded Middleton.
"If I might advise," cried Paul, "it would be tostrike a
water-course, and get upon its downward current as soon as may be. Give
me a cotton-wood, and I will turn you out a canoe that shall carry us
all, the jackass excepted, in perhaps the work of a day and a night.
Ellen, here, is a lively girl enough, but then she is no great
race-rider; and it would be far more comfortable to boat six or eight
hundred miles, than to go loping along like so many elks measuring the
prairies; besides, water leaves no trail."
"I will not swear to that," returned the trapper; "I have often
thought the eyes of a Red-skin would find a trail in air."
"See, Middleton," exclaimed Inez, in a sudden burst of youthful
pleasure, that caused her for a moment to forget her situation. "How
lovely is that sky; surely it contains a promise of happier times!"
"It is glorious!" returned her husband. "Glorious and heavenly is
that streak of vivid red, and here is a still brighter crimson——rarely
have I seen a richer rising of the sun."
"Rising of the sun!" slowly repeated the old man, lifting his tall
person from its seat, with a deliberate and abstracted air, while he
kept his eye riveted on the changing, and certainly beautiful tints,
that were garnishing the vault of Heaven. "Rising of the sun! I like
not such risings of the sun. Ah's me! the imps have circumvented us
with a vengeance. The prairie is on fire!"
"God in Heaven protect us!" cried Middleton, catching Inez to his
bosom under the instant impression of the imminence of their danger.
"There is no time to lose, old man; each instant is a day; let us fly."
"Whither?" demanded the trapper, motioning him with calmness and
dignity, to arrest his steps. "In this wilderness of grass and reeds,
you are like a vessel in the broad lakes without a compass. A single
step on the wrong course might prove the destructionof us all. It is
seldom danger is so pressing that there is not time enough for reason
to do its work; young officer, therefore let us await its biddings."
"For my own part," said Paul Hover, looking about him with no
unequivocal expression of concern, "I acknowledge, that should this dry
bed of weeds get fairly in a flame, a bee would have to make a flight
higher than common to prevent his wings from scorching. Therefore, old
trapper, I agree with the captain, and say mount and run."
"Ye are wrong——ye are wrong——man is not a beast to follow the gift
of instinct, and to snuff up his knowledge by a taint in the air, or a
rumbling in the sound; but he must see and reason, and then conclude.
So follow me a little to the left, where there is a rise in the ground,
whence we may make our reconnoitrings."
The old man waved his hand with authority, and led the way without
further parlance to the spot he had indicated, followed by the whole of
his alarmed companions. An eye less practised than that of the trapper
might have failed in discovering the gentle elevation to which he
alluded, and which looked on the surface of the meadow like a growth a
little taller than common. When they reached the place, however, the
stinted grass, itself, announced the absence of that moisture, which
had fed the rank weeds of most of the plain, and furnished a clue to
the evidence, by which he had judged of the formation of the ground
hidden beneath. Here a few minutes were lost in breaking down the tops
of the surrounding herbage, which, notwithstanding the advantage of
their position, rose even above the heads of Middleton and Paul, and in
obtaining a look-out that might command a view of the surrounding sea
The frightful prospect added nothing to the hopes of those who had
such a fearful stake in the result. Although the day was beginning to
dawn, the vivid colours of the sky continued to deepen, as if the
fierce element were bent on an impious rivalry of the light of the sun.
Bright flashes of flame shot up here and there, along the margin of the
waste, like the nimble corruscations of the North, but far more angry
and threatening in their colour and changes. The anxiety on the rigid
features of the trapper sensibly deepened as he leisurely traced these
evidences of a conflagration, which spread in a broad belt about their
place of refuge, until he had encircled the whole horizon.
Shaking his head, as he again turned his face to the point, where
the danger seemed nighest and most rapidly approaching, the old man
"Now have we been cheating ourselves with the belief that we had
thrown these Tetons from our trail, while here is proof enough that
they not only know where we lie, but that they intend to smoke us out,
like so many skulking beasts of prey. See; they have lighted the fire
around the whole bottom at the same moment, and we are as completely
hemmed in by the devils as an island by its waters."
"Let us mount and ride," cried Middleton; "is life not worth a
"Whither would ye go? Is a Teton horse a salamander that can walk
amid fiery flames unhurt, or do you think the Lord will show his might
in your behalf, as in the days of old, and carry you harmless through
such a furnace as you may see glowing beneath yonder red sky! There are
Siouxes too, hemming the fire with their arrows and knives, on every
side of us, or I am no judge of their murderous deviltries."
"We will ride into the centre of the whole tribe," returned the
youth fiercely, "and put their manhood to the test."
"Ay, it's well in words, but what would it provein deeds? Here is a
dealer in bees, who can teach you wisdom in a matter like this."
"Now for that matter, old trapper," said Paul, stretching his
athletic form like a mastiff conscious of his strength, "I am on the
side of the captain, and am clearly for a race against the fire, though
it line me into a Teton wigwam. Here is Ellen, who will——"
"Of what use, of what use are your stout hearts, when the element
of the Lord is to be conquered as well as human men. Look about you,
friends; the wreath of smoke, that is rising from the bottoms, plainly
says that there is no outlet from the spot, without crossing a belt of
fire. Look for yourselves, my men; look for yourselves; and if you can
find a single opening I will engage to follow."
The examination, which his companions so instantly and so intently
made, rather served to assure them of their desperate situation than to
appease their fears. Huge columns of smoke were rolling up from the
plain, and thickening in gloomy masses around the horizon. The red
glow, which gleamed upon their enormous folds, now lighting their
volumes with the glare of the conflagration, and now flashed to another
point, as the flame beneath glided ahead, leaving all behind enveloped
in awful darkness, and proclaiming louder than words the character of
the imminent and rapidly approaching danger.
"This is terrible!" exclaimed Middleton, folding the trembling Inez
to his heart. "At such a time as this, and in such a manner!"
"The gates of Heaven are open to all who truly believe," murmured
the pious devotee in his bosom.
"This resignation is maddening! But we are men, and will make a
struggle for our lives! How now, my brave and spirited friend, shall we
yet mount and push across the flames, or shall we stand here, andsee
those we most love perish, in this frightful manner, without an
"I am for a swarming time, and a flight before the hive is too hot
to hold us," said the bee-hunter, to whom it will be at once seen that
the half distracted Middleton addressed himself. "Come, old trapper,
you must acknowledge this is but a slow way of getting out of danger.
If we tarry here much longer, it will be in the fashion that the bees
lie around the straw after the hive has been smoked for its honey. You
may hear the fire begin to roar already, and I know by experience, that
when the flame once gets fairly into the prairie grass, it is no sloth
that can outrun it."
"Think you," returned the old man, pointing scornfully at the mazes
of the dry and matted grass, which environed them, "that mortal feet
can outstrip the speed of fire, on such a path! If I only knew now on
which side these miscreants lay!——"
"What say you, friend Doctor," cried the bewildered Paul, turning
to the naturalist, with that sort of helplessness with which the strong
are often apt to seek aid of the weak, when human power is baffled by
the hand of a mightier being, "what say you; have you no advice to give
away, in a case of life and death?"
The naturalist stood, tablets in hand, looking at the awful
spectacle, with as much composure as though the conflagration had been
lighted in order to solve the difficulties of some scientific problem.
Aroused by the question of his companion, he turned to his equally calm
though differently occupied associate the trapper, demanding, with the
most provoking insensibility to the urgent nature of their situation——
"Venerable hunter, you have often witnessed similar prismatic
He was rudely interrupted by Paul, who struck the tablets from his
hands, with a violence that betrayedthe utter intellectual confusion
which had overset the equanimity of his mind. Before time was allowed
for remonstrance, the old man, who had continued during the whole scene
like one much at a loss how to proceed, though also like one who was
rather perplexed than alarmed, suddenly assumed a decided air, as if he
no longer doubted on the course it was most adviseable to pursue.
"It is time to be doing," he said, interrupting the controversy
that was about to ensue between the naturalist and the bee-hunter; "it
is time to leave off books and moanings, and to be doing."
"You have come to your recollections too late, miserable old man,"
cried Middleton; "the flames are within a quarter of a mile of us, and
the wind is bringing them down in this quarter, with dreadful
"Anan! the flames! I care but little for the flames. If I only knew
how to circumvent the cunning of the Tetons, as I know how to cheat the
fire of its prey, there would be nothing needed but thanks to the Lord
for our deliverance. Do you call this a fire! If you had seen, what I
have witnessed in the Eastern hills, when mighty mountains were like
the furnace of a smith, you would have known what it was to fear the
flames and to be thankful that you were spared! Come, lads, come; 'tis
time to be doing now, and to cease talking; for yonder curling flame is
truly coming on like a trotting moose. Put hands upon this short and
withered grass where we stand, and lay bare the 'arth."
"Would you think to deprive the fire of its victims in this
childish manner!" exclaimed Middleton.
A faint but solemn smile passed over the features of the old man as
"Your gran'ther would have said, that when the enemy was nigh, a
soldier could do no better than to obey."
The captain felt the reproof, and instantly began to imitate the
industry of Paul, who was tearing the decayed herbage from the ground
in a sort of desperate compliance with the trapper's direction. Even
Ellen lent her hands to the labour, nor was it long before Inez was
seen similarly employed, though none amongst them knew why or
wherefore. When life is thought to be the reward of labour, men are
wont to be industrious. A very few moments sufficed to lay bare a spot
of some twenty feet in diameter. Into one edge of this little area the
trapper brought the females, directing Middleton and Paul to cover
their light and inflammable dresses with the blankets of the party. So
soon as this precaution was observed, the old man approached the
opposite margin of the grass, which still environed them in a tall and
dangerous circle, and selecting a handful of the driest of the herbage
he placed it over the pan of his rifle. The light combustible kindled
at the flash. Then he placed the little flame into a bed of the
standing fog, and withdrawing from the spot to the centre of the ring,
he patiently awaited the result.
The subtle element seized with avidity upon its new fuel, and in a
moment forked flames were gliding among the grass, as the tongues of
ruminating animals are seen rolling among their food, apparently in
quest of its sweetest portions.
"Now," said the old man, holding up a finger, and laughing in his
peculiarly silent manner, "you shall see fire fight fire! Ah's me! many
is the time I have burnt a smootly path, from wanton laziness to pick
my way across a tangled bottom."
"But is this not fatal!" cried the amazed Middleton; "are you not
bringing the enemy nigher to us instead of avoiding it?"
"Do you scorch so easily? your gran'ther had a tougher skin. But we
shall live to see; we shall all live to see."
The experience of the trapper was in the right. As the fire gained
strength and heat it began to spread on three sides, dying of itself on
the fourth, for want of aliment. As it increased, and the sullen
roaring announced its power, it cleared every thing before it, leaving
the black and smoking soil far more naked than if the scythe had swept
the place. The situation of the fugitives would have still been
hazardous had not the area enlarged as the flame encircled them. But by
advancing to the spot where the trapper had kindled the grass, they
avoided the heat, and in a very few moments the flames began to recede
in every quarter, leaving them enveloped in a cloud of smoke, but
perfectly safe from the torrent of fire that was still furiously
The spectators regarded the simple expedient of the trapper with
that species of wonder, with which the courtiers of Ferdinand are said
to have viewed the manner in which Columbus made his egg to stand on
its end, though with feelings that were filled with gratitude instead
"Most wonderful!" said Middleton, when he saw the complete success
of the means by which they had been rescued from a danger that he had
conceived to be unavoidable. "The thought was a gift from heaven, and
the hand that executed it should be immortal."
"Old trapper," cried Paul, thrusting his fingers through his shaggy
locks, "I have lined many a loaded bee into his hole, and know
something of the nature of the woods, but this is robbing a hornet of
his sting without touching the insect!"
"It will do——it will do," returned the old man, who after the first
moment of his success seemed to think no more of the exploit; "now get
the horses in readiness. Let the flames do their work for a short half
hour, and then we will mount. That time is needed to cool the meadow,
for these unshodTeton beasts are as tender on the hoof as a barefooted
Middleton and Paul, who considered this unlooked-for escape as a
species of resurrection, patiently awaited the time the trapper
mentioned with renewed confidence in the infallibility of his judgment.
The Doctor regained his tablets, a little the worse from having fallen
among the grass which had been subject to the action of the flames, and
was consoling himself for this slight misfortune by recording
uninterruptedly such different vaccillations in light and shadow as he
chose to consider as phenomena.
In the mean time the veteran, on whose experience they all so
implicitly relied for protection, employed himself in reconnoitring
objects in the distance, through the openings which the air
occasionally made in the immense bodies of smoke, that by this time lay
in enormous piles on every part of the plain.
"Look you here, lads," the trapper said, after a long and anxious
examination, "your eyes are young and may prove better than my
worthless sight—— though the time has been, when a wise and brave
people saw reason to think me quick on a look-out; but those times are
gone, and many a true and tried friend has passed away with them. Ah's
me! if I could choose a change in the orderings of Providence——which I
cannot and which it would be blasphemy to attempt, seeing that all
things are governed by a wiser mind than belongs to mortal weakness——
but if I were to choose a change, it would be to say, that such as they
who have lived long together in friendship and kindness, and who have
proved their fitness to go in company, by many acts of suffering and
daring in each other's behalf, should be permitted to give up life at
such times, as when the death of one leaves the other but little reason
to wish to live."
"Is it an Indian, that you see?" demanded the impatient Middleton.
"Red skin or White skin it is much the same. Friendship and use can
tie men as strongly together in the woods as in the towns——ay, and for
that matter, stronger. Here are the young warriors of the
prairies——Often do they sort themselves in pairs, and set apart their
lives for deeds of friendship; and well and truly do they act up to
their promises. The death-blow to one is commonly mortal to the other!
I have been a solitary man much of my time, if he can be called
solitary, who has lived for seventy years in the very bosom of natur',
and where he could at any instant open his heart to God without having
to strip it of the cares and wickednesses of the settlements——but
making that allowance, have I been a solitary man; and yet have I
always found that intercourse with my kind was pleasant, and painful to
break off, provided that the companion was but brave and honest. Brave,
because a skeary comrade in the woods," suffering his eyes
inadvertently to rest a moment on the person of the abstracted
naturalist, "is apt to make a short path long; and honest, in as much
as craftiness is rather an instinct of the brutes, than a gift becoming
the reason of a human man."
"But the object, that you saw——was it a Sioux?"
"What the world of America is coming to, and where the machinations
and inventions of its people are to have an end, the Lord, he only
knows. I have seen, in my day, the chief who, in his time, had beheld
the first Christian that placed his wicked foot in the regions of York!
How much has the beauty of the wilderness been deformed in two short
lives! My own eyes were first opened on the shores of the Eastern sea,
and well do I remember, that I tried the virtues of the first rifle I
ever bore, after such a march, from the door of my father to the
forest, as astripling could make between sun and sun; and that without
offence to the rights or prejudices of any man who set himself up to be
the owner of the beasts of the fields. Natur' then lay in its glory
along the whole coast, giving a narrow stripe, between the woods and
the Ocean, to the greediness of the settlers. And where am I now? Had I
the wings of an eagle they would tire before a tenth of the distance
which separates me from that sea could be passed; and towns and
villages, farms, and highways, churches and schools, in short, all the
inventions and deviltries of man, are spread across the region. I have
known the time when a few, Red-skins, shouting along the borders, could
set the provinces in a fever; and men were to be armed; and troops were
to be called to aid from a distant land; and prayers were said, and the
women frighted, and few slept in quiet because the Iroquois were on the
war path, and the accursed Mingo had the tomahawk in his hand. How is
it now? The country sends out her ships to foreign lands, to wage their
battles; cannon are plentier than the rifle used to be, and trained
soldiers are never wanting, in tens of thousands, when need calls for
their services. Such is the difference atween a province and a state,
my men; and I, miserable and worn out as I seem, have lived to see it
"That you must have seen many a chopper skimming the cream from the
face of the earth, and many a settler getting the very honey of nature,
old trapper," said Paul, "no reasonable man can, or, for that matter,
shall doubt. But here is Ellen getting uneasy about the Siouxes, and
now you have given your mind so freely concerning these matters, if you
will just put us on the line of our flight, the swarm will make another
"I say that Ellen is getting uneasy, and as thesmoke is lifting
from the plain, it may be prudent to take another flight."
"The boy is reasonable. I had forgotten we were in the midst of a
raging fire, and that Siouxes were round about us like hungry wolves
watching a drove of buffaloes. But when memory is at work in my old
brain, on times long past, it is apt to overlook the matters of the
day. You say right, my children, it is time to be moving, and now comes
the real nicety of our case. It is easy to outwit a furnace, for it is
nothing but a raging element; and it is not always difficult to throw a
grizzly bear from his scent, for the creatur' is both enlightened and
blinded by his instinct; but to shut the eyes of a waking Teton is a
matter of greater judgment, inasmuch as his deviltry is backed by the
cunning of reason."
Notwithstanding the old man appeared thus conscious of the
difficulty of the undertaking, he set about its achievement with great
steadiness and alacrity. After completing the examination, which had
been interrupted by the melancholy wanderings of his mind, he gave the
signal to his companions to mount. The horses, which had continued
passive and trembling amid the raging of the fire, received their
burthens with a satisfaction so very evident, as to furnish a
favourable augury of their future industry. The trapper invited the
Doctor to take his own steed, declaring his intention to proceed on
"I am but little used to journeying with the feet of others," he
added, as a reason for the measure, "and my legs are a-weary of doing
nothing. Besides, should we light suddenly on an ambushment, which is a
thing far from impossible, the horse will be in a better condition for
a hard run with one man on his back than with two. As for me, what
matters it whether my time is to be a day shorter or longer. Let the
Tetons take my scalp, if it be God's pleasure; they will find it
covered with gray hairs, and it is beyond the craft of man to cheat me
of the knowledge and experience by which they have been whitened."
As no one among the impatient listeners seemed disposed to dispute
the arrangement, it was acceded to in silence. The Doctor, though he
muttered a few mourning exclamations on behalf of the lost Asinus, was
by far too well pleased in finding that his speed was likely to be
sustained by four legs instead of two, to be long in complying, and,
consequently, in a very few moments the bee-hunter, who was never last
to speak on such occasions, vociferously announced that they were ready
"Now look off yonder to the East," said the old man, as he began to
lead the way across the murky and still smoking plain; "little fear of
cold feet in journeying such a path as this——but look you off to the
East, and if you see a sheet of shining white, glistening like a plate
of beaten silver through the openings of the smoke, why that is water.
A noble stream is running thereaway, and I thought I got a glimpse of
it a while since; but other thoughts came and I lost it. It is a broad
and swift river, such as the Lord has made many of its fellows in this
desert. For here may natur' be seen in all its richness, trees alone
excepted. Trees, which are to the 'arth, as fruits to a garden; without
them nothing can be pleasant or thoroughly useful. Now watch all of
you, with open eyes, for that stripe of glittering water, for we shall
not be safe until it is flowing between our trail and these sharp
The latter declaration was enough to insure a vigilant look-out for
the desired stream on the part of all the trapper's followers. With
this object in view, the party proceeded in profound silence, the old
man having admonished them of the necessity of caution as they entered
the clouds of smoke, which were rollinglike masses of fog along the
plain, more particularly over those spots where the fire had
encountered occasional pools of stagnant water.
They had travelled near a league in this manner, without obtaining
the desired glimpse of the river. The fire was still raging in the
distance, and as the air swept away the first vapour of the
conflagration, fresh volumes rolled along the place, limiting the view.
At length the old man, who had begun to betray some little uneasiness,
which caused his followers to apprehend that even his acute faculties
were beginning to be confused in the mazes of the smoke, made a sudden
pause, and dropping his rifle to the ground, he stood, apparently
musing over some object at his feet. Middleton and the rest rode up to
his side and demanded the reason of the halt.
"Look ye, here," returned the trapper, pointing to the mutilated
carcass of a horse, that lay more than half consumed in a little hollow
of the ground; "here may you see the power of a prairie conflagration.
The 'arth is moist, hereaway, and the grass has been taller than usual.
This miserable beast has been caught in his bed. You see the bones; the
crackling and scorched hide, and the grinning teeth. A thousand winters
could not wither an animal so thoroughly as the element has done it in
"And this might have been our fate," said Middleton, "had the
flames come upon us in our sleep!"
"Nay, I do not say that. I do not say that. Not but that man will
burn as well as tinder; but, that being more reasoning than a horse, he
would better know how to avoid the danger."
"Perhaps this then has been but the carcass of an animal, or he too
would have fled."
"See you these marks in the damp soil? Here have been his
hoofs,——and there is a moccasin print as I'm a sinner! The owner of the
beast has tried hard to move him from the place, but it is in the
instinctof the of the creatur' to be faint-hearted and obstinate in a
"It is a well-known fact. But if the animal has had a rider, where
"Ay, therein lies the mystery," returned the trapper, stooping to
examine the signs in the ground with a closer eye. "Yes, yes, it is
plain there has been a long struggle atween the two. The master has
tried hard to save his beast, and the flames must have been very greedy
or he would have had better success."
"Harkee, old trapper," interrupted Paul, pointing to a little
distance, where the ground was drier and the herbage had, in
consequence, been less luxuriant; "just call them two horses. Yonder
"The boy is right! can it be, that the Tetons have been caught in
their own snares? Such things do happen; and here is an example to all
evil-doers. Ay, look you here, this is iron; there have been some white
inventions about the trappings of the beast—— it must be so——it must be
so——a party of the knaves have been skirting in the grass after us,
while their friends have fired the prairie, and look you at the
consequences; they have lost their beasts, and happy have they been if
their own souls are not now skirting along the path which leads to the
"They had the same expedient at command as yourself," rejoined
Middleton, as the party slowly proceeded, approaching the other
carcass, which lay directly on their route.
"I know not that. It is not every savage that carries his steel and
flint, or as good a rifle-pan as this old friend of mine. It is slow
making a fire with two sticks, and little time was given to consider or
invent just at this spot, as you may see by yon streak of flame, which
is flashing along afore the wind as if it were on a trail of powder. It
is not many minutes since the fire has passed hereaway, and it may be
well to look at our primings, not that I would willinglycombat the
Tetons, God forbid! but if a fight needs be, it is always wise to get
the first shot."
"This has been a strange beast, old man," said Paul, who had pulled
the bridle, or rather halter of his steed over the second carcass,
while the rest of the party were already passing in their eagerness to
proceed; "a strange horse do I call it; it had neither head nor hoofs!"
"The fire has not been idle," returned the trapper, keeping his eye
vigilantly employed in profiting by those glimpses of the horizon,
which the whirling smoke offered to his examination. "It would soon
bake you a buffaloe whole, or for that matter powder his hoofs and
horns into white ashes. Shame, shame, old Hector; as for the captain's
pup, it is to be expected that he would show his want of years, and I
may say, I hope without offence, his want of education too; but for a
hound, like you, who has lived so long in the forest afore he came into
these plains, it is very disgraceful, Hector, to be showing his teeth
and growling at the carcass of a roasted horse, the same as if he was
telling his master, that he had found the trail of a grizzly bear."
"I tell you, old trapper, this is no horse; neither in hoofs, head
"Anan! Not a horse? your eyes are good for the bees and for the
hollow trees, my lad, but——bless me, the boy is right! That I should
mistake the hide of a buffaloe, scorched and crimpled as it is, for the
carcass of a horse! Ah's me! The time has been, my men, when I would
tell you the name of a beast as far as eye could reach, and that too
with most of the particulars of colour, age and sex."
"An inestimable advantage have you then enjoyed, venerable
venator!" observed the attentive naturalist. "The man, who can make
these distinctions in a desert, is saved the pain of many a weary walk,
and often of an inquiry that in its result proves useless. Pray tell
me, did your exceeding excellence of vision extend so far as to enable
you to decide on their order or genus?"
"I know not what you mean by your orders of genius."
"No!" interrupted the bee-hunter, a little disdainfully for him,
when speaking to his aged friend; "now, old trapper, that is admitting
your ignorance of the English language in a way I should not expect
from a man of your experience and understanding. By order, our comrade
means whether they go in promiscuous droves, like a swarm that is
following its queen-bee, or in single file, as you often see the
buffaloes trailing each other through a prairie. And as for genius, I'm
sure that is a word well understood, and in every body's mouth. There
is the congressman in our district, and that tonguey little fellow, who
puts out the paper in our county, they are both so called, for their
smartness; which is what the Doctor means as I take it, seeing that he
seldom speaks without some considerable meaning."
When Paul finished this very clever explanation he looked behind
him with an expression, which, rightly interpreted, would have
said——"You see, though I don't often trouble myself in these matters, I
am no fool."
Ellen admired Paul for any thing but his learning. There was enough
in his frank, fearless, and manly character, backed as it was by great
personal attraction, to awaken her sympathies, without the necessity of
prying into his mental attainments. The poor girl reddened like a rose,
her pretty fingers played with the belt, by which she sustained herself
on the horse, and she hurriedly observed, as if anxious to direct the
attentions of the other listeners from a weakness, on which her own
thoughts could not bear to dwell——
"And then this is not a horse, after all?"
"It is nothing more nor less than the hide of a buffaloe,"
continued the trapper, who had been no less puzzled by the explanation
of Paul, than by the language of the Doctor; "the hair is beneath; the
fire has run over it as you see, for being fresh, the flames could take
no hold. The beast has not been long killed, and it may be that some of
the beef is still hereaway."
"Lift the corner of the skin, old trapper," said Paul, with the
tone of one, who felt, as if he had now proved his right to mingle his
voice in any council; "if there is a morsel of the hump left, it must
be well cooked, and it shall be welcome."
The old man laughed heartily at the conceit of his companion.
Thrusting his foot beneath the skin, it moved. Then it was suddenly
cast aside, and an Indian warrior sprang from its cover, to his feet,
with an agility, that bespoke how urgent he deemed the occasion.
"I would it were bed-time, Hal, and all well."
A second glance sufficed to convince the whole of the startled
party, that the young Pawnee, whom they had already encountered, again
stood before them. Surprise kept both sides mute, and more than a
minute was passed in surveying each other with eyes of astonishment, if
not of distrust. The wonder of the young warrior was, however, much
more tempered and dignified than that of his Christian acquaintances.
While Middleton and Paul felt the tremor, which shook the persons of
their dependant companions, thrilling through their own quickened
blood, the glowing eye of the Indian rolled from one to another, as if
it could never quail before the rudest assaults. His gaze, after making
the circuit of every wondering countenance, finally settled in a proud
and steady look on the equally immoveable features of the trapper. The
silence was first broken by Dr. Battius, in the ejaculation of,——
"Order, primates; genus, homo; species, prairie!"
"Ay——ay——the secret is out," said the old trapper, shaking his
head, like one who congratulated himself on having mastered the mystery
of some knotty difficulty. "The lad has been in the grass for a cover;
the fire has come upon him in his sleep, and having lost his horse, he
has been driven to save himself under that fresh hide of a buffaloe. No
bad invention, when powder and flint were wanting to kindle a ring. I
warrant me, now, this is a clever youth, and one that it would be safe
to journey with. I will speak to him kindly, for anger can at least
serve no turn of ours. My brother is welcome again," using the
language, which the other understood; "the Tetons have been smoking him
as they would a raccoon."
The young Pawnee rolled his eye over the place, as if he were
examining the terrific danger from which he had just escaped, but he
disdained to betray the smallest emotion at its imminency. His brow
contracted, as he answered to the remark of the trapper by saying——
"A Teton is a dog. When the Pawnee war whoop is in their ears, the
whole nation howls."
"It is true. The imps are on our trail, and I am glad to meet a
warrior, with the tomahawk in his hand, who does not love them. Will my
brother lead my children to his village? If the Siouxes follow on our
path, my young men shall help him to strike them."
The young Pawnee warrior turned his eyes from one to another of the
strangers, in a keen scrutiny,before he saw fit to answer so important
an interrogatory. His examination of the males was short, and
apparently satisfactory. But his gaze was fastened long and admiringly,
as in their former interview, on the surpassing and unwonted beauty of
a being so fair and so unknown as Inez. Though his glance wandered for
moments from her countenance to the more intelligible and yet
extraordinary charms of Ellen, it did not fail to return promptly to
the study of a creature who, in the view of his unpractised eye and
untutored imagination, was formed with all that perfection, with which
the youthful poet is apt to endow the glowing images of his heated
brain. Nothing so fair, so ideal, so every way worthy to reward the
courage and self-devotion of a warrior, had ever before been
encountered on the prairies, and the young brave appeared to be deeply
and intuitively sensible to the influence of so rare a model of the
loveliness of the sex. Perceiving, however, that his gaze gave
uneasiness to the subject of his admiration, he withdrew his eyes, and
laying his hand impressively on his chest, he, modestly, answered——
"My father shall be welcome. The young men of my nation shall hunt
with his sons; the chiefs shall smoke with the gray-head. The Pawnee
girls will sing in the ears of his daughters."
"And if we meet the Tetons?" demanded the trapper, who wished to
understand, thoroughly, the more important conditions of this new
"The enemy of the Big-knives shall feel the blow of the Pawnee."
"It is well. Now let my brother and I meet in council, that we may
not go on a crooked path, but that our road to his village may be like
the flight of the pigeons."
The young Pawnee made a significant gesture of assent, and followed
the other a little apart, in order to be removed from all danger of
interruption fromthe reckless Paul or the abstracted naturalist. Their
conference was short, but as it was conducted in the sententious manner
of the natives, it served to make each of the parties acquainted with
all the necessary information of the other. When they rejoined their
associates, the old man saw fit to explain a portion of what had passed
between them, as follows——
"Ay, I was not mistaken," he said; "this goodlooking young
warrior——for good-looking and noblelooking he is, though a little
horrified perhaps with paint——this good-looking youth, then, tells me
he is out on the scout for these very Tetons. His party was not strong
enough to strike the devils, who are down from their towns in great
numbers to hunt the buffaloe, and runners have gone to the Pawnee
villages for aid. It would seem that this lad is a fearless boy, for he
has been hanging on their skirts alone, until, like ourselves, he was
driven to the grass for a cover. But he tells me more, my men, and what
I am mainly sorry to hear, which is, that the cunning Mahtoree instead
of going to blows with the squatter, has become his friend, and that
both broods, red and white, are on our heels, and outlying around this
very burning plain to circumvent us to our destruction."
"How knows he all this to be true?" demanded Middleton.
"In what manner does he know, that these things are so?"
"In what manner! Do you think news-papers and town criers are
needed to tell a scout what is doing on the prairies, as they are in
the bosom of the States? No gossipping woman, who hurries from house to
house to spread evil of her neighbour, can carry tidings with her
tongue so fast as these people will spread their meaning by signs and
warnings, that they alone understand. 'Tis their l'arning, and what is
better, it is got in the open air, and not within thewalls of a school.
I tell you, captain, that what he says is true."
"For that matter," said Paul, "I'm ready to swear to it. It is
reasonable, and therefore it must be true."
"And well you might, lad; well you might. He furthermore declares,
that my old eyes for once were true to me, and that the river lies,
hereaway, at about the distance of half a league. You see the fire has
done most of its work in that quarter, and our path is clouded in
smoke. He also agrees that it is needful to wash our trail in water.
Yes, we must put that river atween us and the Sioux eyes, and then, by
the favour of the Lord, not forgetting our own industry, we may gain
the village of the Loups."
"Words will not forward us a foot," said Middle ton, "let us move."
The old man assented, and the party once more prepared to renew its
route. The Pawnee threw the skin of the buffaloe over his shoulder and
led the advance, casting many a stolen glance behind him as he
proceeded, in order to fix his gaze on the extraordinary and to him
unaccountable loveliness of the unconscious Inez.
An hour sufficed to bring the fugitives to the banks of the stream,
which was one of the hundred rivers that serve to conduct, through the
mighty arteries of the Missouri and Mississippi, the waters of that
vast and still uninhabited region to the Ocean. The river was not deep,
but its current was troubled and rapid. The flames had scorched the
earth to its very margin, and as the warm streams of the fluid mingled,
in the cooler air of the morning, with the smoke of the still raging
conflagration, most of its surface was wrapped in a mantle of moving
vapour. The trapper pointed out the circumstance with pleasure, saying,
as he assisted Inez to dismount on the margin of the water-course——
"The knaves have outwitted themselves! I amfar from certain that I
should not have fired the prairie, to have got the benefit of this very
smoke to hide our movements, had not the heartless imps saved us the
trouble. I've known such things done in my day, and done with success.
Come, lady, put your tender foot upon the ground——for a fearful time
has it been to one of your breeding and skeary qualities. Ah's me! what
have I not known the young, and the delicate, and the virtuous, and the
modest, to undergo, in my time, among the horrifications and
circumventions of Indian warfare! Come, it is a short quarter of a mile
to the other bank, and then our trail, at least, will be broken."
Paul had by this time assisted Ellen to dismount, and he now stood
looking, with rueful eyes, at the naked banks of the river. Neither
tree nor shrub grew along its borders, with the exception of here and
there a solitary thicket of low bushes, from among which it would not
have been an easy matter to have found a dozen stems of a size
sufficient to make an ordinary walking-stick.
"Harkee, old trapper," the moody-looking beehunter exclaimed; "it
is very well to talk of the other side of this ripple of a river, or
brook, or whatever you may call it, but in my judgment it would be a
smart rifle that would throw its lead across it——that is to any
detriment to Indian or deer."
"That it would——that it would; though I carry a piece, here, that
has done its work in time of need, at as great a distance."
"And do you mean to shoot Ellen and the captain's lady across; or
do you intend them to go, trout fashion, with their mouths under
"Is this river too deep to be forded?" asked Middleton, who, like
Paul, began to consider the impossibility of transporting her, whose
safety he valued more than his own, to the opposite shore.
"When the mountains above feed it with their torrents it is, as you
see, a swift and powerful stream. Yet have I crossed its sandy bed, in
my time, without wetting a knee. But we have the Sioux horses; I
warrant me, that the kicking imps will swim like so many deer."
"Old trapper," said Paul, thrusting his fingers into his mop of a
head, as was usual with him, when any difficulty confounded his
philosophy, "I have swam like a fish in my day, and I can do it again,
when there is need; nor do I much regard the weather; but I question if
you get Nelly to sit a horse, with this water whirling like a mill-race
before her eyes; besides, it is manifest the thing is not to be done
"Ah, the lad is right. We must to our inventions, therefore, or the
river cannot be crossed." Then cutting the discourse short, he turned
to the Pawnee, and explained to him the difficulty which existed in
relation to the women. The young warrior listened gravely, and throwing
the buffaloe-skin from his shoulder he immediately commenced, assisted
by the occasional aid of the understanding old man, the preparations
necessary to effect this desirable object.
The hide was soon drawn into the shape of an umbrella top, or an
inverted parachute, by thongs of deer-skin, with which both the
labourers were well provided. A few light sticks served to keep the
parts from collapsing, or falling in. When this simple and natural
expedient was arranged, it was placed on the water, the Indian making a
sign that it was ready to receive its freight. Both Inez and Ellen
hesitated to trust themselves in a bark of so frail a construction, nor
would Middleton or Paul consent that they should do so, until each had
assured himself, by actual experiment, that the vessel was capable of
sustaining a load much heavier than it was destined to receive.Then,
indeed, their scruples were reluctantly overcome, and the skin was made
to receive its precious burthen.
"Now leave the Pawnee to be the pilot," said the trapper; "my hand
is not so steady as it used to be; but he has limbs like toughened
hickory. Leave all to the wisdom of the Pawnee."
The husband and lover could not well do otherwise, and they were
fain to become deeply interested, it is true, but passive spectators of
this primitive species of ferrying. The Pawnee selected the beast of
Mahtoree, from among the three horses, with a readiness that proved he
was far from being ignorant of the properties of that noble animal, and
throwing himself upon its back, he rode into the margin of the river.
Thrusting an end of his lance into the hide, he bore the light vessel
up against the stream, and giving his steed the rein, they pushed
boldly into the current. Middleton and Paul followed, pressing as nigh
the bark as prudence would at all warrant. In this manner the young
warrior bore his precious cargo to the opposite bank in perfect safety,
without the slightest inconvenience to the passengers, and with a
steadiness and celerity which proved that both horse and rider were not
unused to the operation. When the shore was gained, the young Indian
undid his work, threw the skin over his shoulder, placed the sticks
under his arm, and returned, without speaking, to transfer the
remainder of the party, in a similar manner, to what was very justly
considered the safer side of the river.
"Now, friend Doctor," said the old man, when he saw the Indian
plunging into the river a second time, "do I know there is faith in
yonder Red-skin. He is a good-looking, ay, and an honest looking youth,
but the winds of Heaven are not more deceitful than these savages, when
the devil has fairly beset them. Had the Pawnee been a Teton, or one of
them heartlessMingoes, that used to be prowling through the woods of
York, a time back, that is some sixty years agone, we should have seen
his back and not his face turned towards us. My heart had its
misgivings when I saw the lad choose the better horse, for it would be
as easy to leave us with that beast, as it would for a nimble pigeon to
part company from a flock of noisy and heavy winged crows. But you see
that truth is in the boy, and make a Red-skin once your friend, he is
yours so long as you deal honestly by him."
"What may be the distance to the sources of this stream?" demanded
Doctor Battius, whose eyes were rolling over the whirling eddies of the
current with a very portentous expression of doubt. "At what distance
may its secret springs be found?"
"That may be as the weather proves. I warrant me your legs would be
a-weary before you had followed its bed into the Rocky Mountains; but
then there are seasons when it might be done without wetting a foot."
"And in what particular divisions of the year do these periodical
"He that passes this spot a few months from this time, will find
that foaming water-course a desert of drifting sand."
The naturalist pondered deeply. Like most others, who are not
endowed with a superfluity of physical fortitude, the worthy man had
found the danger of passing the river, in so simple a manner,
magnifying itself in his eyes so rapidly, as the moment of adventure
approached, that he actually contemplated the desperate effort of going
round the river, in order to escape the hazard of crossing it. It may
not be necessary to dwell on the incredible ingenuity, with which
terror will at any time prop a tottering argument. The worthy Obed had
gone over the whole subject, with commendable diligence, and had just
arrivedat the consoling conclusion, that there was nearly as much glory
in discerning the hidden sources of so considerable a stream, as in
adding a plant or an insect to the lists of the learned, when the
Pawnee reached the shore for the second time. The old man took his
seat, with the utmost deliberation, in the vessel of skin (so soon as
it had been duly arranged for his reception,) and having carefully
disposed of Hector between his legs, he beckoned to his companion to
occupy the third place.
The naturalist placed a foot in the frail vessel, as an elephant
will try a bridge, or a horse is often seen to make a similar
experiment, before he will trust the whole of his corporeal treasure on
the dreaded flat, and then withdrew just as the old man believed he was
about to seat himself.
"Venerable venator," he said, mournfully, "this is a most
unscientific bark. There is an inward monitor which bids me distrust
"Anan?" said the old man, who was pinching the ears of the hound,
as a father would play with the same member in a favourite child.
"I incline not to this irregular mode of experimenting on fluids.
The vessel has neither form nor proportions."
"It is not as handsomely turned as I have seen a canoe in birchen
bark, but comfort may be taken in a wigwam as well as in a palace."
"It is impossible that any vessel constructed on principles so
repugnant to science can be safe. This tub, venerable hunter, will
never reach the opposite shore in safety."
"You are a witness of what it has done."
"Ay; but it was an anomaly in prosperity. If exceptions were to be
taken as rules, in the government of things, the human race would
speedily be plunged in the abysses of ignorance. Venerable trapper,
this expedient, in which you would repose your safety, is,in the annals
of regular inventions, what a Iusus naturæ may be termed in the lists
of natural history—— a monster!"
How much longer Doctor Battius might have felt disposed to prolong
the discourse, it is difficult to say, for in addition to the powerful
personal considerations, which induced him to procrastinate an
experiment, which was certainly not without its dangers, the pride of
reason was beginning to sustain him in the discussion. But, fortunately
for the credit of the old man's forbearance, when the naturalist
reached the word, with which he terminated his last speech, a sound
arose in the air that seemed a sort of supernatural echo to the idea
itself. The young Pawnee, who had awaited the termination of the
incomprehensible discussion, with grave and characteristic patience,
raised his head and listened to the unknown cry, like a stag, whose
mysterious faculties had detected the footsteps of the distant hounds
in the gale. The trapper and the Doctor were not, however, entirely so
uninstructed as to the nature of the extraordinary sounds. The latter
recognised in them the well-known voice of his own beast, and he was
about to rush up the little bank, which confined the current, with all
the longings of a strong affection, when Asinus himself gallopped into
view, at no great distance, urged to the unnatural gait by the
impatient and brutal Weucha, who bestrode him.
The eyes of the Teton, and those of the fugitives met. The former
raised a long, loud, and piercing yell, in which the notes of
exultation were fearfully blended with those of warning. The signal
served for a finishing blow to the discussion on the merits of the
bark, the Doctor stepping as promptly to the side of the old man, as
though a mental mist had been miraculously removed from his eyes. In
another instant the steed of the young Pawnee was struggling powerfully
with the torrent.
The utmost strength of the horse was needed to urge the fugitives
beyond the flight of arrows that came sailing through the air, at the
next moment. The cry of Weucha had brought fifty of his comrades to the
shore, but fortunately among them all was not one of a rank sufficient
to entitle him to the privilege of bearing a fusee. One half the
stream, however, was not passed, before the form of Mahtoree himself
was seen on its bank, and an ineffectual discharge of fire-arms
announced the rage and disappointment of the chief. More than once the
trapper had raised his rifle, as if about to try its power on his
enemies, but he as often lowered it, without firing. The eyes of the
Pawnee warrior glared like those of the cougar at the sight of so many
of the hostile tribe, and he answered to the impotent effort of their
chief, by tossing a hand into the air in contempt, and raising the
war-cry of his nation. The challenge was too taunting to be endured.
The Tetons dashed into the stream in a body, and the river became
dotted with the dark forms of beasts and riders.
There was now a fearful struggle for the friendly bank. As the
Dahcotahs advanced with beasts, which had not, like that of the Pawnee,
expended their strength in former efforts, and as they now moved
unincumbered by any thing but their riders, the speed of the pursuers
greatly outstripped that of the fugitives. The trapper, who clearly
comprehended the whole danger of their situation, calmly turned his
eyes from the Tetons to his young Indian associate, in order to examine
whether the resolution of the latter began to falter, as the former
lessened the distance between them. Instead of betraying fear, however,
or any of that concern which might so readily have been excited by the
peculiarity of his risk, the brow of the young warrior contracted to a
look which indicated high and deadly hostility.
"Do you greatly value life, friend Doctor?" demandedthe old man,
with a sort of philosophical calmness, which made the question doubly
appalling to his companion.
"Not for itself," returned the naturalist, sipping some of the
water of the river from the hollow of his hand, in order to clear his
husky throat. "Not for itself, but exceedingly, inasmuch as natural
history has so deep a stake in my existence. Therefore——"
"Ay!" resumed the other, who mused too deeply to dissect the ideas
of the Doctor with his usual sagacity, "'Tis in truth the history of
natur', and a base and craven feeling it is! Now is life as precious to
this young Pawnee, as to any governor in the States, and he might save
it, or at least stand some chance of saving it, by letting us go down
the stream; and yet you see he keeps his faith manfully, and like an
Indian warrior. For myself, I am old, and willing to take the fortune
that the Lord may see fit to give, nor do I conceit that you are of
much benefit to mankind; and it is a crying shame, if not a sin, that
so fine a youth as this should lose his scalp for two beings so
worthless as ourselves. I am therefore disposed, provided that it shall
prove agreeable to you, to tell the lad to make the best of his way,
and to leave us to the mercy of the Tetons."
"I repel the proposition, as repugnant to nature and as treason to
science!" exclaimed the alarmed naturalist. "Our progress is
miraculous, and as this admirable invention moves with so wonderful a
facility, a few more minutes will serve to bring us to land."
The old man regarded him intently for an instant, and shaking his
head he said——
"Lord what a thing is fear! it transforms the creatur's of the
world and the craft of man, making that which is ugly, seemly in our
eyes, and that which is beautiful, unsightly! Lord, Lord, what a thing
A termination was, however, put to the discussion, by the
increasing interest of the chase. The horses of the Dahcotahs had, by
this time, gained the middle of the current, and their riders were
already filling the air with yells of triumph. At this moment Middleton
and Paul, who had led the females to a little thicket, appeared again
on the margin of the stream, menacing their enemies with the rifle.
"Mount, mount," shouted the trapper, the instant he beheld them;
"mount and fly, if you value those who lean on you for help. Mount, and
leave us in the hands of the Lord."
"Stoop your head, old trapper," returned the voice of Paul, "down
with ye both into your nest. The Teton devil is in your line; down with
your heads and make way for a Kentucky bullet."
The old man turned his head, and saw that the eager Mahtoree, who
preceded his party some distance, had brought himself nearly in a line
with the bark and the bee-hunter, who stood perfectly ready to execute
his hostile threat. Bending his body low, the rifle was discharged, and
the swift lead whizzed harmlessly past him on its more distant errand.
But the eye of the Teton chief was not less quick and certain than that
of his enemy. He threw himself from his horse the moment preceding the
report, and sunk into the water. The beast snorted with terror and
anguish, throwing half his form out of the river in a desperate plunge.
Then he was seen drifting away in the torrent, and dying the turbid
waters deeply with his blood.
The Teton chief soon re-appeared on the surface, and understanding
the nature of his loss, he swam with vigorous strokes to the nearest of
the young men, who relinquished his steed, as a matter of course, to so
renowned a warrior. The incident, however, created a confusion in the
whole of the Dahcotah band, who appeared to await the intentionof their
leader, before they renewed their efforts to reach the shore. In the
mean time the vessel of skin had reached the land, and the fugitives
were once more united on the margin of the river.
The savages were now swimming about in indecision, as a flock of
pigeons is often seen to hover in confusion after receiving a heavy
discharge into its leading column, apparently hesitating on the risk of
storming a bank so formidably defended. The wellknown precaution of
Indian warfare prevailed, and Mahtoree, admonished by his recent
adventure, led his warriors back to the shore from which they had come,
in order to relieve their beasts, which were already becoming unruly.
"Now mount you, with the tender ones, and ride for yonder hillock,"
said the trapper; "beyond it, you will find another stream, into which
you must enter, and turning to the sun, follow its bed for a mile,
until you reach a high and sandy plain; there will I meet you. Go;
mount; this Pawnee youth and I, and my stout friend the physician, who
is a desperate warrior, are men enough to keep the bank, seeing that
show and not use is all that is needed."
Middleton and Paul saw no use in wasting their breath in
remonstrances against this proposal. Glad to know that their rear was
to be covered, even in this imperfect manner, they hastily got their
horses in motion, and soon disappeared on the required route. Some
twenty or thirty minutes succeeded this movement, before the Tetons on
the opposite shore seemed inclined to enter on any new enterprise.
Mahtoree was distinctly visible, in the midst of his warriors, issuing
his mandates and betraying his desire for vengeance, by occasionally
shaking an arm in the direction of the fugitives; but no step was
taken, which appeared to threaten any further act of immediate
hostility. At length a yell arose among the savages, which announced
the occurrence ofsome fresh event. Then Ishmael and his sluggish sons
were seen in the distance, and soon the whole of the united force moved
down to the very limits of the stream. The squatter proceeded to
examine the position of his enemies with his usual coolness, and, as if
to try the power of his rifle, he sent a bullet among them, with a
force sufficient to do execution, even at the distance at which he
"Now let us depart!" exclaimed Obed, endeavouring to catch a
furtive glimpse of the lead, which he fancied was whizzing at his very
ear; "we have maintained the bank in a gallant manner, for a sufficient
length of time; quite as much military skill is to be displayed in a
retreat, as in an advance."
The old man cast a look behind him, and seeing that the equestrains
had reached the cover of the hill, he made no objections to the
proposal. The remaining horse was given to the Doctor, with
instructions to pursue the course just taken by Middleton and Paul.
When the naturalist was mounted and in full retreat, the trapper and
the young Pawnee stole from the spot in such a manner as to leave their
enemies some time in doubt as to their movements. Instead, however, of
proceeding across the plain towards the hill, a route on which they
must have been in open view, they took a shorter path, covered by the
formation of the ground, and intersected the little water-course at the
point where Middleton had been directed to leave it, and just in season
to join his party. The Doctor had used so much diligence in the
retreat, as to have already overtaken his friends, and of course the
fugitives were all again assembled.
The trapper now looked about him for some convenient spot, where
the whole party might halt, as he expressed it, for some five or six
"Halt!" exclaimed the Doctor, when the alarming proposal reached
his ears; "venerable hunter,it would seem, that on the contrary, many
days should be passed in industrious flight."
Middleton and Paul were both of this opinion, and each in his
particular manner expressed as much.
The old man heard them with patience, but shook his head like one
who was unconvinced, and then answered all their arguments, in one
general and positive reply.
"Why should we fly?" he asked. "Can the leg of mortal men outstrip
the speed of horses? Do you think the Tetons will lie down and sleep;
or will they cross the water and nose for our trail? Thanks be to the
Lord, we have washed it well in this stream, and if we leave the place
with discretion and wisdom, we may yet throw them off its track. But a
prairie is not a wood. There a man may journey long, caring for nothing
but the prints his moccasin leaves, whereas, in these open plains a
runner, placed on yonder hill, for instance, could see far on every
side of him, like a hovering hawk looking down on his prey. No, no;
night must come, and darkness be upon us, afore we leave this spot. But
listen to the words of the Pawnee; he is a lad of spirit, and! warrant
me many is the hard race that he has run with the Sioux bands. Does my
brother think our trail is long enough?" he then demanded in the Indian
"Is a Teton a fish, that he can see it in the river?"
"But my young men think we should stretch it, until it reaches
across the prairie."
"Mahtoree has eyes; he will see it."
"What does my brother counsel?"
The young warrior studied the heavens a moment, and appeared to
hesitate. He mused some time with himself, and then he replied, like
one whose opinion was irrevocably fixed.
"The Dahcotahs are not asleep," he said; "we must lie in the
"Ah! the lad is of my mind," said the old man, briefly explaining
the opinion of his companion to his white friends. Middleton was
obliged to acquiesce, and as it was confessedly dangerous to remain
upon their feet, each one set about assisting in the means to be
adopted for their security. Inez and Ellen were quickly bestowed
beneath the warm and not uncomfortable shelter of the buffaloe skins,
which formed a thick covering, and tall grass was drawn over the place,
in such a manner as to evade any examination from a common eye. Paul
and the Pawnee fettered the beasts and cast them to the earth, where,
after supplying them with food, they were also left concealed in the
fog of the prairie. No time was lost when these several arrangements
were completed, before each of the others sought a place of rest and
concealment, and then the plain appeared again deserted to its
The old man had advised his companions of the absolute necessity of
their continuing for hours in this concealment. All their hopes of
escape depended on the success of the artifice. If they might elude the
cunning of their pursuers, by this simple and therefore less suspected
expedient, they could renew their flight as the evening approached,
and, by changing their course, the chance of final success would be
greatly increased. Influenced by these momentous considerations the
whole party lay, musing on their situation, until thoughts grew weary,
and sleep finally settled on them all, one after another.
The deepest silence had prevailed for hours when the quick ears of
the trapper and the Pawnee were startled by a faint cry of surprise
from Inez. Springing to their feet, like men, who were about to
struggle for their lives, they found the vast plain, the rolling
swells, the little hillock, and the scattered thickets, covered alike
in one, white, dazzling sheet of snow.
"The Lord have mercy on ye all!" exclaimed theold man, regarding
the prospect with a rueful eye, "now Pawnee do I know the reason why
you studied the clouds so closely; but it is too late; it is now too
late! A squirrel would leave his trail on this light coating of the
'arth. Ha! there come the imps to; certainty. Down with ye all, down
with ye; your chance is but small, and yet it must not be wilfully cast
The whole party was instantly concealed, again, though many an
anxious and stolen glance was directed through the tops of the grass,
on the movements of their enemies. At the distance of half, mile, the
Teton band was seen riding in a circuit, which was gradually
contracting itself, and evidents closing upon the very spot where the
fugitives lay. There was but little difficulty in solving the mystery
of this movement. The snow had fallen in time to assure them that those
they sought were in their rear, and they were now employed, with the
unwearied perseverance and patience of Indian warriors, in circling the
certain boundaries of their place of concealment.
Each minute added to the jeopardy of the fugitives Paul and
Middleton deliberately prepared their rifles and as the earnestly
occupied Mahtoree came, at length, within fifty feet of them, keeping
his eye riveted on the grass through which he rode, they levelled them
together and pulled the triggers. The effort was answered by the mere
snapping of the locks.
"Enough," said the old man rising with dignity; "I have cast away
the priming; for certain death would follow your rashness. Now let us
meet our fates like men. Cringing and complaining find no favour in
His appearance was greeted by a yell, that spread far and wide over
the plain, and in a moment a hundred savages were seen riding madly to
the spot.Mahtoree received his prisoners with great self-restraint,
though a single gleam of fierce joy broke through his clouded brow, and
the heart of Middleton grew cold as he caught the expression of that
eye, which the chief turned on the nearly insensible but still lovely
The exultation of receiving the white captives was so great, as for
a time to throw the dark and immoveable form of their young Indian
companion entirely out of view. He stood apart, disdaining to turn an
eye on his enemies, as motionless as though he were frozen in that
attitude of dignity and composure. But when a little time had passed,
even this secondary object attracted the attention of the Tetons. Then
it was that the trapper first learned, by the shout of triumph and the
long drawn yell of delight, which burst at once from a hundred throats,
as well as by the terrible name, which filled the air, that his
youthful friend was no other than that redoubtable and hitherto
invincible warrior, the mighty Hard-Heart.
"What, are ancient pistol and You friends, yet?"
The curtain of our imperfect drama must fall, to rise upon another
scene. The time is advanced several days, during which very material
changes had occurred in the situation of the actors. The hour is noon,
and the place an elevated plain, that rose, at no great distance from
the water, somewhat abruptly from the fertile bottom, which stretched
along themargin of one of the numberless water-courses of that region.
The river took its rise near the base of the Rocky Mountains, and,
after washing a vast extent of plain, it mingled its waters with a
still larger stream, to become finally lost in the turbid current of
The landscape was changed materially for the better; though the
hand, which had impressed so much of the desert on the surrounding
region, had laid a portion of its power on this spot. The appearance of
vegetation was, however, less discouraging than in the more sterile
wastes of the rolling prairies Clusters of trees were scattered in
greater profusion, and a long outline of ragged forest marked the
northern boundary of the view. Here and there, on the bottom, were to
be seen the evidences of a hasty and imperfect culture of such
indigenous vegetables as were of a quick growth, and which were known
to flourish, without the aid of art, in deep and alluvial soils. On the
very edge of what might be called the table-land, were pitched the
hundred lodges of a horde of wandering Siouxes. Their light tenements
were arranged without the least attention to order. Proximity to the
water seemed to be the only consideration which had been consulted in
their disposition, nor had even this important convenience been always
regarded. While most of the lodges stood along the brow of the plain,
many were to be seen at greater distances, occupying such places as had
first pleased the capricious eyes of their untutored owners. The
encampment was not military, nor in the slightest degree protected from
surprise by its position or defences. It was open on every side, and on
every side as accessible as any other point in those wastes, if the
imperfect and natural obstruction offered by the river, be excepted. In
short, the place bore the appearance of having been tenanted longer
than its occupants had originally intended, while it was not wanting in
the signs of readiness for a hasty, or even a compelled departure.
This was the temporary encampment of that portion of his people,
who had long been hunting under the direction of Mahtoree, on those
grounds which separated the stationary abodes of his nation, from those
of the warlike tribes of the Pawnees. The lodges were tents of skin,
high, conical, and of the most simple and primitive construction. The
shield, the quiver, the lance and the bow of its master, were to be
seen suspended from a light post before the opening, or door of each
tenement. The different domestic implements of his one, two, or three
wives, as the brave was of greater or lesser renown, were carelessly
thrown at its side, and here and there the round, full, patient
countenance of an infant might be found peeping from its comfortless
wrappers of bark, as, suspended by a deer-skin thong from the same
post, it rocked in the passing air. Children of a larger growth were
tumbling over each other in piles, the males, even at that early age,
making themselves distinguished for that species of domination which,
in after life, was to mark the vast distinction between the sexes.
Youths were in the bottom, essaying their juvenile powers in curbing
the wild steeds of their fathers, while here and there a truant girl
was to be seen, stealing from her labours to admire their fierce and
Thus far the picture was the daily exhibition of an encampment
confident in its security. But immediately in front of the lodges was a
gathering, that seemed to forbode some movements of much more than
usual interest. A few of the withered and remorseless crones of the
band were clustering together, in readiness to lend their fell voices,
if needed, to aid in exciting their descendants to an exhibition, which
their depraved tastes coveted, as beingsof more humanized temperaments
are known to love to look upon the interest of scarcely less appaling
spectacles. The men were subdivided into groupes, assorted according to
the deeds and reputations of the several individuals of whom they were
They, who were of that equivocal age which admitted them to the
hunts, while their discretion was still too doubtful to permit them to
be trusted on the war-path, hung around the skirts of the whole,
catching, from the fierce models before them, that gravity of demeanour
and restraint of manner, which in time was to become so deeply
ingrafted in their own characters. A few of a still older class, and
who had heard the whoop in anger, were a little more presuming,
pressing nigher to the chiefs, though far from presuming to mingle in
their councils, sufficiently distinguished by being permitted to catch
the wisdom which fell from lips so venerated. The ordinary warriors of
the band were still less diffident, not hestating to mingle among the
chiefs of lesser note, though far from assuming the right to dispute
the sentiments of any established brave, or to call in question the
prudence of measures, that were recommended by the more gifted
counsellors of the nation.
Among the chiefs themselves there was a singular compound of
exterior. They were to be divided into two classes; those who were
mainly indebted for their influence to physical causes and to deeds in
arms, and those who had become distinguished rather for their wisdom
than for their services in the field. The former was by far the most
numerous and the most important class. They were men of stature and
mien, whose stern countenances were often rendered doubly imposing by
those evidences of their valour, which had been roughly traced on their
lineaments by the hands of their enemies, in the shape of deep and
indelible scars. That class, whichhad gained its influence by a moral
ascendency was extremely limited. They were uniformly to be
distinguished by the quick and lively expression of their eyes, by the
air of distrust that marked their movements, and occasionally by the
vehemence of their utterance in those sudden outbreakings of the mind,
by which their present consultations were, from time to time,
In the very centre of a ring, formed by these chosen counsellors,
was to be seen the person of the disquieted but seemingly calm
Mahtoree. There was a conjunction of all the several qualities of the
others in his person and character. Mind as well as matter had
contributed to establish his authority. His scars were as numerous and
deep as those of the whitest head in his nation; his limbs were in
their greatest vigour, his courage at its fullest height. Endowed with
this rare combination of moral and physical influence, the keenest eye
in all that assembly was wont to lower before his threatening glance.
Courage and cunning had established his ascendency, and it had been
rendered, in some degree, sacred by time. He knew so well how to unite
the powers of reason and force, that in a state of society, which
admitted of a greater display of his energies, the Teton would in all
probability have been both a conqueror and a despot.
A little apart from the gathering of the band, was to be seen a set
of beings of an entirely different origin. Taller and far more muscular
in their persons, the lingering vestiges of their Saxon and Norman
ancestry were yet to be found beneath the swarthy complexions, which
had been bestowed by an American sun. It would have been a curious
investigation, for one skilled in such an inquiry, to have traced those
points of difference, by which the offspring of the most western
European was still tobe distinguished from the descendant of the most
remote Asiatic, now that the two, in the revolutions of the world, were
approximating in their habits, their residence, and not a little in
their characters. The groupe, of whom we write, was composed of the
family of the squatter. They stood indolent, lounging and inert, as
usual, when no immediate demand was made on their dormant energies,
clustered in front of some four or five habitations of skin, for which
they were indebted to the hospitality of their Teton allies. The terms
of their unexpected confederation were sufficiently explained, by the
presence of the horses and domestic cattle that were quietly grazing on
the bottom beneath, under the jealous eyes of the spirited Hetty. Their
wagons were drawn about the lodges, in a sort of irregular barrier,
which at once manifested that their confidence was not entirely
restored, while, on the other hand, their policy or indolence prevented
any very positive exhibition of distrust. There was a singular union of
passive enjoyment and of dull curiosity slumbering in every dull
countenance, as each of the party stood leaning on his rifle, regarding
the movements of the Sioux conference. Still no sign of expectation or
interest escaped from the youngest among them, the whole appearing to
emulate the most phlegmatic of their savage allies, in an exhibition of
the commendable quality of patience. They rarely spoke; and when they
did it was in some short and contemptuous remark, which served to put
the physical superiority of a white man and that of an Indian in a
sufficiently striking point of view. In short, the family of Ishmael
appeared now to be in the plenitude of an enjoyment, which depended on
inactivity, but which was not entirely free from certain confused
glimmerings of a perspective, in which their security stood in some
little danger of a rude interruption from Teton treachery. Abiram,
alone, formed a solitary exception to this state of equivocal repose.
After a life passed in the commission of a thousand mean and
insignificant villanies, the mind of the kidnapper had become hardy
enough to attempt the desperate adventure, which has been laid before
the reader, in the course of our narrative. His influence over the
bolder, but less active, spirit of Ishmael was far from great, and had
not the latter been suddenly expelled a fertile bottom, of which he had
taken possession, with intent to keep it, without much deference to the
forms of law, he would never have succeeded in enlisting the husband of
his sister in an enterprise that required so much decision and
forethought. Their original success and subsequent disappointment have
been seen, and Abiram now sat apart, plotting the means, by which he
might secure to himself the advantages of his undertaking, which he
perceived were each moment becoming more uncertain through the open
admiration of Mahtoree for the innocent subject of his villany. We
shall leave him to his vacillating and confused expedients, in order to
pass to the description of certain other personages in our drama.
There was still another corner of the picture that was occupied. On
a little bank, at the extreme right of the encampment, lay the forms of
Middleton and Paul. Their limbs were painfully bound with thongs, cut
from that of a bison, while, by a sort of refinement in cruelty, they
were so placed, that each could see a reflection of his own misery in
the case of his neighbour. Within a dozen yards of them a post was set
firmly in the ground, and against it was bound the light and
Apollo-like person of Hard-Heart. Between the two stood the trapper,
deprived of his rifle, his pouch and his horn, but otherwise left in a
sort of contemptuous liberty. Some five or six youngwarriors, however,
with quivers at their backs, and long tough bows dangling from their
shoulders, who stood with grave watchfulness at no great distance from
the spot, sufficiently proclaimed how fruitless any attempt to escape,
on the part of one so aged and so feeble, might prove. Unlike the other
spectators of the important conference these individuals were engaged
in a discourse that for them contained an interest of its own.
"Captain," said the bee-hunter with an expression of comical
concern, that no misfortune could depress in one of his buoyant
feelings, "do you really find that accursed strap of untanned leather
cutting into your shoulder, or is it only the tickling in my own arm
that I feel?"
"When the spirit suffers so deeply, the body is insensible to
pain," returned the more refined, though scarcely so spirited
Middleton; "would to Heaven that some of my trusty artillerists might
fall upon this accursed encampment!"
"You might as well wish that these Teton lodges were so many hives
of hornets, and that the insects would come forth and battle with
yonder tribe of half-naked savages." Then chuckling, with his own
conceit, the bee-hunter turned away from his companion, and sought a
momentary relief from his misery, by imagining that such a wild conceit
might be realized, and fancying the manner, in which the attack would
upset even the well-established patience of an Indian.
Middleton was glad to be silent, but the old man, who had listened
to their words, drew a little nigher and continued the discourse.
"Here is likely to be a merciless and a hellish business!" he said,
shaking his head in a manner to prove that even his experience was at a
loss for a remedy in so trying a dilemma. "Our Pawnee friend is already
staked for the torture, and I well know, bythe eye and the countenance
of the great Sioux, that he is leading on the temper of his people to
"Harkee, old trapper," said Paul, writhing in his bonds to catch a
glimpse of the other's melancholy face; "you ar' skilled in Indian
tongues and know somewhat of Indian deviltries. Go you to the council,
and tell their chiefs in my name, that is to say in the name of Paul
Hover, of the state of Kentucky, that provided they will guarantee the
safe return of one Ellen Wade into the States, they are welcome to take
his scalp when and in such manner as best suits their amusements; or,
if-so-be they will not trade on these conditions, you may throw in an
hour or two of torture before hand, in order to sweeten the bargain to
their damnable appetites."
"Ah! lad, it is little they would hearken to such an offer,
knowing, as they do, that you are already like a bear in a trap, as
little able to fight as to fly. But be not down-hearted, for the colour
of a white man is sometimes his death-warrant among these far tribes of
savages, and sometimes his shield. Though they love us not, cunning
often ties their hands. Could the red nations work their will, trees
would shortly be growing again on the ploughed fields of America, and
woods would be whitened with Christian bones. No one can doubt that,
who knows the quality of the love which a Red-skin bears a Pale-face;
but they have counted our numbers until their memories fail them, and
they are not without their policy. Therefore is our fate unsettled; but
I fear me there is small hope left for the Pawnee!"
As the old man concluded, he walked slowly towards the subject of
his latter observation, taking his post at no great distance from his
side. Here he stood, observing such a silence and mien as became him to
manifest, to a chief so renowned and so situated as his captive
associate. But the eye of Hard-Heartwas fastened on the distance, and
his whole air was that of one whose thoughts were entirely removed from
the present scene.
"The Siouxes are in council on my brother," the trapper at length
observed, when he found he could only attract the other's attention by
The young partizan turned his head with a calm smile as he
"They are counting the scalps over the lodge of Hard-Heart!"
"No doubt, no doubt; their tempers begin to mount, as they remember
the number of Tetons you have struck, and better would it be for you
now, had more of your days been spent in chasing the deer, and fewer on
the war-path. Then some childless mother of this tribe might take you
in the place of her lost son, and your time would be filled in peace."
"Does my father think that a warrior can ever die? The Master of
Life does not open his hand to take away his gifts again. When he wants
his young men he calls them, and they go. But the Red-skin he has once
breathed on lives for ever."
"Ay, this is a more comfortable and a more humble faith than that
which yonder heartless Teton harbours! There is something in these
Loups which opens my inmost heart to them; they seem to have the
courage, ay, and the honesty, too, of the Delawares of the hills. And
this lad——it is wonderful, it is very wonderful; but the age, and the
eye, and the limbs are as if they might have been brothers! Tell me,
Pawnee, have you ever in your traditions heard of a mighty people who
once lived on the shores of the Salt-lake, hard by the rising sun?"
"The earth is white, by people of the colour of my father."
"Nay, nay, I speak not now of any strollers, who have crept into
the land to rob the lawful owners of their birth-right, but of a people
who are, or ratherwere, what with nature and what with paint, red as
the berry on the bush."
"I have heard the old men say, that there were bands, who hid
themselves in the woods under the rising sun, because they dared not
come upon the open prairies with men."
"Do not your traditions tell you of the greatest, the bravest, and
the wisest nation of Red-skins that the Wahcondah has ever breathed
Hard-Heart raised his head, with a loftiness and dignity that even
his bonds could not repress, as he answered——
"Has age blinded my father; or does he see so many Siouxes, that he
believes there are no longer any Pawnees?"
"Ah! such is mortal vanity and pride!" exclaimed the disappointed
old man, in English; "Natur' is as strong in a Red-skin as in the bosom
of a man of white gifts. Now would a Delaware conceit himself far
mightier than a Pawnee, just as a Pawnee boasts himself to be of the
princes of the 'arth. And so it was atween the Frenchers of the Canadas
and the red-coated English, that the king did use to send into the
States, when States they were not, but outcrying and petitioning
provinces, they fou't and they fou't, and what marvellous boastings did
they give forth to the world of their own valour and victories, while
both parties forgot to name the humble soldier of the land, who did the
real service, but who, as he was not privileged then to smoke at the
great council fire of his nation, seldom heard of his deeds, after they
were once bravely done."
When the old man had thus given vent to the nearly dormant, but far
from extinct, military pride, that had so unconsciously led him into
the very error he deprecated, his eye, which had begun to quicken and
and glimmer with some of the ardour of his youth, softened and turned
its anxious look on the devotedcaptive, whose countenance was also
restored to its former cold look of abstraction and thought.
"Young warrior," he continued in a voice that was growing
tremulous, "I have never been father or brother. The Wahcondah made me
to live alone. He never tied my heart to house or field, by the cords
with which the men of my race are bound to their lodges; if he had, I
should not have journeyed so far, and seen so much. But I have tarried
long among a people, who lived in those woods you mention, and much
reason did I find to imitate their courage and love their honesty. The
Master of Life has made us all, Pawnee, with a feeling for our kind. I
never was a father, but well do I know what is the love of one. You are
like a lad I valued, and I had even begun to fancy that some of his
blood might be in your veins. But what matters that? You are a true
man, as I know by the way in which you keep your faith; and honesty is
a gift too rare to be forgotten. My heart yearns to you, boy, and
gladly would I do you good."
The youthful warrior listened to the words, which came from the
lips of the other with a force and simplicity that established their
truth, and he bowed his head on his naked bosom, in testimony of the
respect with which he met the proffer. Then lifting his dark eye to the
level of the view, he seemed to be again considering of things removed
from every personal consideration. The trapper, who well knew how high
the pride of a warrior would sustain him, in those moments he believed
to be his last, awaited the pleasure of his young friend, with a
meekness and patience that he had acquired by his association with that
remarkable race. At length the gaze of the Pawnee began to waver; and
then quick, flashing glances were turned from the countenance of the
old man to the air, and from the air to his deeply markedlineaments
again, as if the spirit, which governed their movements, was beginning
to be troubled.
"Father," the young brave finally answered in a voice of confidence
and kindness, "I have heard your words. They have gone in at my ears,
and are now within me. The white-headed Long-knife has no son; the
Hard-Heart of the Pawnees is young, but he is already the oldest of his
family. He found the bones of his father on the hunting-ground of the
Osages, and he has sent them to the prairies of the Good Spirits. No
doubt the great chief, his father, has seen them, and knows what is
part of himself. But the Wahcondah will soon call to us both; you,
because you have seen all that is to be seen in this country, and
Hard-Heart, because he has need of a warrior, who is young. There is no
time for the Pawnee to show the Pale-face the duty, that a son owes to
"Old as I am, and miserable and helpless as I now stand, to what I
once was, I may live to see the sun go down in the prairie. Does my son
expect ever to see darkness come again?"
"The Tetons are counting the scalps on my lodge!" returned the
young chief, with a smile whose melancholy was singularly illuminated
by a gleam of triumph.
"And they find them many. Too many for the safety of its owner,
while he is in their revengeful hands. My son is not a woman, and he
looks on the path he is about to travel with a steady eye. Has he
nothing to whisper in the ears of his people before he starts? These
legs are old, but they may yet carry me to the forks of the
"Tell them that Hard-Heart has tied a knot in his wampum for every
Teton!" burst from the lips of the captive, with that vehemence with
which sudden passion is known to break through the barriers of
artificial restraint; "if he meets one of them all, inthe prairies of
the Master of Life, his heart will become Sioux!"
"Ah! that feeling would be a dangerous companion for a man with
white gifts to start with on such a solemn journey," muttered the old
man in English. "This is not what the good Moravians said to the
councils of the Delawares, nor what is so often preached, to the
White-skins in the settlements, though to the shame of the colour be it
said, it is so little heeded. Pawnee, I love you; but being a Christian
man I cannot be the runner to bear such a message."
"If my father is afraid the Tetons will hear him, let him whisper
it softly to our old men."
"As for fear, young warrior, it is no more the shame of a Pale-face
than of a Red-skin. The Wahcondah teaches us to love the life he gives;
but it is as men love their hunts, and their dogs, and their carabines,
and not with the doting that a mother looks upon her infant. The Master
of Life will not have to speak aloud twice when he calls my name. I am
as ready to answer to it now, as I shall be to-morrow, or at any time
it may please his mighty will. But what is a warrior without his
traditions? Mine forbid me to carry your words."
The chief made a dignified motion of assent, and here there was
great danger that those feelings of confidence, which had been so
singularly awakened, would as suddenly subside. But the heart of the
old man had been too sensibly touched, through long dormant but still
living recollections, to break off the communication so rudely. He
pondered for a minute, and then bending his look wistfully on his young
associate, again continued——
"Each warrior must be judged by his gifts. I have told my son what
I cannot, but let him open his ears to what I can do. An elk shall not
measure the prairie much swifter than these old legs, if the Pawnee
will give me a message that a white man may bear."
"Let the Pale-face listen;" returned the other, after hesitating a
single instant longer, under a lingering sensation of his former
disappointment. "He will stay here till the Siouxes have done counting
the scalps of their dead warriors. He will wait until they have tried
to cover the heads of eighteen Tetons with the skin of one Pawnee; he
will open his eyes wide, that he may see the place where they bury the
bones of a warrior."
"All this will I and may I, do, noble boy."
"He will mark the spot that he may know it."
"No fear, no fear that I shall forget the place," interrupted the
other, whose fortitude began to give way under so trying an exhibition
of calmness and resignation.
"Then I know that my father will go to my people. His head is grey
and his words will not be blown away with the smoke. Let him get on my
lodge, and call the name of Hard-Heart aloud. No Pawnee will be deaf.
Then let my father ask for the colt, that has never been ridden, but
which is sleeker than the buck, and swifter than the elk."
"I understand you, boy, I understand you," interrupted the
attentive old man; "and what you say shall be done, ay, and well done
too, or I'm but little skilled in the wishes of a dying Indian."
"And when my young men have given my father the halter of that
colt, he will lead him by a crooked path to the grave of Hard-Heart?"
"Will I! ay, that I will, my brave youth, though the winter covers
these plains in banks of snow, and the sun is hidden as much by day as
by night. To the head of the holy spot will I lead the beast, and place
him with his eyes looking towards the setting sun."
"And my father will speak to him, and tell him,that the master, who
has fed him since he was foaled, has now need of him."
"That, too, will I do; though the Lord he know; that I shall hold
discourse with a horse, not with any vain conceit that my words will be
understood, but only to satisfy the cravings of Indian superstition.
Hector, my pup, what think you, dog, of talking to a horse?"
"Let the grey-beard speak to him with the tongue of a Pawnee,"
interrupted the young victim, perceiving that his companion had used an
unknown language for the preceding speech.
"My son's will shall be done——And with these old hands, which I had
hoped had nearly done with blood-shed, whether it be of man or beast,
will I slay the animal on your grave!"
"It is good;" returned the other, a gleam of satisfaction flitting
across his grave and composed features. "Hard-Heart will ride his horse
to the blessed prairies, and he will come before the Master of Life
like a chief!"
The sudden and striking change, which instantly occurred in the
countenance of the Indian, caused the trapper to look aside, when he
perceived that the conference of the Siouxes had ended, and that
Mahtoree, attended by one or two of the principal warriors, was
deliberately approaching his intended victim.
"I am not prone to weeping, as our sex Commonly are.——"
"——But I have that honourable Grief lodged here, which burns worse
than Tears drown."
When within twenty feet of the prisoners, the Tetons stopped, and
their leader made a sign to the old man to draw nigh. The trapper
obeyed, quitting the young Pawnee with a significant look, which was
received, as it was meant, for an additional pledge that he would never
forget his promise. So soon as Mahtoree found that the other had
stopped within reach of him, he stretched forth his arm, and laying a
hand upon the shoulder of the attentive old man, he stood regarding
him, a minute, with eyes that seemed willing to penetrate the recesses
of his most secret thoughts.
"Is a Pale-face made with two tongues?" he demanded, when he found
that, as usual, with the subject of this examination, he was as little
intimidated by his present frown as moved by any apprehensions of the
"Honesty lies deeper than the skin."
"It is so. Now let my father hear me. Mahtoree has but one tongue,
the grey-head has many. They may be all straight, and none of them
forked. A Sioux is no more than a Sioux, but a Pale-face is every
thing! He can talk to the Pawnee, and the Konza, and the Omawhaw, and
he can talk to his own people."
"Ay, there are linguisters in the settlements that can do still
more. But what profits it all? The Master of Life has an ear for every
"The grey-head has done wrong. He has said onething when he meant
another. He has looked before him with his eyes, and behind him with
his mind. He has ridden the horse of a Sioux too hard; he has been the
friend of a Pawnee and the enemy of my people."
"Teton, I am your prisoner. Though my words are white, they will
not complain. Act your will."
"No. Mahtoree will not make a white hair red. My father is free.
The prairie is open on every side of him. But before the gray-head
turns his back on the Siouxes, let him look well at them, that he may
tell his own chief, how great is a Dahcotah!"
"I am not in a hurry to go on my path. You see a man with a white
head, and no woman, Teton; therefore shall I not run myself out of
breath, to tell the nations of the prairies what the Siouxes are
"It is good. My father has smoked with the chiefs at many
councils," returned Mahtoree, who now thought himself sufficiently sure
of the other's favour to go more directly to his object. "Mahtoree will
speak with the tongue, of his very dear friend and father. A young
Pale-face will listen when an old man of that nation opens his mouth.
Go, my father will make what a poor Indian says fit for a white ear."
"Speak aloud!" said the trapper, who readily understood the
metaphorical manner, in which the Teton expressed a desire that he
should become an interpreter of his words into the English language;
"speak, my young men listen. Now, captain, and you too, friend
bee-hunter, prepare yourselves to meet the deviltries of this savage
with the stout hearts of white warriors. If you find yourselves giving
way under his threats, just turn your eyes on that noble looking
Pawnee, whose time is measured with a hand as niggardly, as that with
which a trader in the towns gives forth the fruits of the Lord, inch by
inch, in order to satisfy his covetousness. A single look at the boy
will set you both up in resolution."
"My brother has turned his eyes on the wrong path;" interrupted
Mahtoree, with a complacency that betrayed how unwilling he was to
offend his intended interpreter.
"The Dahcotah will speak to my young men?"
"After he has sung in the ear of the flower of the Pale-faces."
"The Lord forgive the desperate villian!" exclaimed the old man in
English. "There are none so tender, or so young, or so innocent, as to
escape his ravenous wishes. But hard words and cold looks will profit
nothing; therefore it will be wise to speak him fair. Let Mahtoree open
"Would my father cry out, that the women and children should hear
the wisdom of chiefs. We will go into the lodge and whisper."
As the Teton ended, he pointed significantly towards a tent,
vividly emblazoned with the history of one of his own boldest and most
commended exploits, and which stood a little apart from the rest, as if
to denote it was the residence of some privileged individual of the
band. The shield and quiver at its entrance were richer than common,
and the high distinction of a fusee, unequivocally attested the
importance of its proprietor. In every other particular it was rather
distinguished by signs of poverty than of wealth. The domestic utensils
were fewer in number and simpler in their forms, than those to be seen
about the openings of the meanest lodges, nor was there a single one of
those high-prized articles of civilized life, which were occasionally
bought of the traders, in bargains that bore so hard on the ignorant
natives. All these had been bestowed, as they had been acquired, by the
generous chief, on his subordinates, to purchase an influence that
might render him the master of their lives and persons; a speciesof
wealth that was certainly more noble in itself, and far dearer to his
The old man well knew this to be the lodge of Mahtoree, and, in
obedience to the sign of the chief, he held his way towards it with
slow and reluctant steps. But there were others present, who were
equally interested in the approaching conference, whose apprehensions
were not to be so easily suppressed. The watchful eyes and jealous ears
of Middleton had taught him enough to fill his soul with the most
horrible forebodings. With an incredible effort he succeeded in gaining
his feet, and called aloud to the retiring trapper——
"I conjure you, old man, if the love you bore my parents was more
than words, or if the love you bear your God is that of a Christian
man, utter not a syllable that may wound the ear of that innocent——"
Exhausted in spirit and fettered in limbs, he then fell, like an
inanimate log, to the earth, where he lay as if perfectly dead.
Paul had however caught the clue and completed the exhortation, in
his peculiar manner.
"Harkee, old trapper," he shouted, vainly endeavouring at the same
time to make a gesture of defiance with his hand; "if you ar' about to
play the interpreter, speak such words to the ears of that damnable
savage, as becomes a white man to use and a heathen to hearken to. Tell
him, from me, that if he does or says the thing that is uncivil to the
girl, called Nelly Wade, that I'll curse him with my dying breath; that
I'll pray for all good Christians in Kentucky to curse him; sitting and
standing; eating and drinking; fighting, praying, or at horse-races;
in-doors and out-doors; in summer or winter, or in the month of March;
in short I'll——ay, it ar' a fact, morally true——I'll haunt him, if the
ghost of a Pale-face can contrive to lift itself from a grave made by
the hands of a Red-skin!"
Having thus vented the most terrible denunciation he could devise,
and the one which, in the eyes of the honest bee-hunter, there seemed
the greatest likelihood of his being able to put in execution, he was
obliged to await the fruits of his threat, with all that calm
resignation which would be apt to govern a western border-man who, in
addition to the prospects just named, had the advantage of
contemplating them in fetters and bondage. We shall not detain the
narrative, to relate the quaint morals with which he next endeavoured
to cheer the drooping spirits of his more sensitive companion, or the
occasional pithy and peculiar benedictions that he pronounced, on all
the bands of the Dahcotahs, commencing with those whom he accused of
stealing or murdering, on the banks of the distant Mississippi, and
concluding, in terms of suitable energy, with the Teton tribe. The
latter more than once received from his lips curses as sententious and
as complicated as that celebrated anathema of the church, for a
knowledge of which most unlettered Protestants are indebted to the
pious researches of the worthy Tristram Shandy. But as Middleton
recovered from his exhaustion he was fain to appease the boisterous
temper of his associate, by admonishing him of the uselessness of such
denunciations, and of the possibility of their hastening the very evil
he deprecated, by irritating the resentments of a race, who were
sufficiently fierce and lawless, even in their most pacific moods.
In the mean time the trapper and the Sioux chief had pursued their
way to the lodge. The former had watched with painful interest the
expression of Mahtoree's eye, while the words of Middleton and Paul
were pursuing their foot-steps, but the mien of the Indian was far too
much restrained and self-guarded, to permit the smallest of his
emotions to escape through any of those ordinary outlets, by which the
condition of the human volcano is commonlybetrayed. His look was
fastened on the little tenement they approached; and, for the moment,
his thoughts appeared to brood alone on the purposes of this
The appearance of the interior of the lodge corresponded with its
exterior. It was larger than most of the others, more finished in its
form, and finer in its materials; but there its superiority ceased.
Nothing could be more simple and republican than the form of living
that the ambitious and powerful Teton chose to exhibit to the eyes of
his people. A choice collection of weapons for the chase, some three or
four medals, bestowed by the traders and political agents of the
Canadas as a homage to, or rather as an acknowledgment of his rank,
with a few of the most indispensable articles of personal
accommodation, composed its furniture. It abounded in neither venison
nor the wild-beef of the prairies; its crafty owner having well
understood that the liberality of a single individual would be
abundantly rewarded by the daily contributions of a band. Although as
preeminent in the chase as in war, a deer or a buffaloe was never seen
to enter whole into his lodge. In return an animal was rarely brought
into the encampment, that did not contribute to support the family of
Mahtoree. But the policy of the chief seldom permitted more to remain
than sufficed for the wants of the day, perfectly assured that all must
suffer before hunger, the bane of savage life, could lay its fell fangs
on so important a victim.
Immediately beneath the favourite bow of the chief, and encircled
in a sort of magical ring of spears, shields, lances and arrows, all of
which had in their time done good service, was suspended the mysterious
and sacred medicine-bag. It was highly wrought in wampum, and profusely
ornamented with beads and porcupine's quills, after the most cunning
devices of Indian ingenuity. The peculiar freedomof Mahtoree's
religious creed has been more than once intimated, and by a singular
species of contradiction, he appeared to have lavished his attentions
on this emblem of a supernatural agency, in a degree that was precisely
inverse to his faith. It was merely the manner, in which the Sioux
imitated the wellknown expedient of the Pharisees, "in order that they
might be seen of men."
The tent had not, however, been entered by its owner since his
return from the recent expedition. As the reader has already
anticipated it had been made the prison of Inez and Ellen. The bride of
Middleton was seated on a simple couch of sweetscented herbs covered
with skins. She had already suffered so much, and witnessed so many
wild and unlooked-for events within the short space of her captivity,
that every additional misfortune fell with a diminished force on her
seemingly devoted head. Her cheeks were bloodless, her dark and usually
animated eye was contracted in an expression of settled concern, and
her form appeared shrinking and sensitive, nearly to extinction. But in
the midst of these evidences of natural weakness, there were at times
such an air of pious resignation, such gleams of meek but holy hope
lighting her countenance, as might well have rendered it a question
whether the hapless captive was most a subject of pity or of
admiration. All the precepts of father Ignatius were riveted in her
faithful memory, and not a few of his pious visions were floating
before her heated imagination. Sustained by such sacred resolutions the
mild, the patient and the confiding girl was bowing her head to this
new stroke of Providence, with the same sort of meekness as she would
have submitted to any other prescribed penitence for her sins, though
nature, at moments, warred powerfully, with so compelled a humility.
On the other hand, Ellen had exhibited far moreof the woman, and
consequently of the passions of the world. She had wept until her eyes
were swollen and red. Her cheeks were flushed and angry and her whole
mien was distinguished by an air of spirit and resentment, that was not
a little, however, qualified by apprehensions for the future. In short,
there was that about the eye and step of the betrothed of Paul, which
gave a warranty that should happier times arrive, and the constancy of
the bee-hunter finally meet with its reward, he would possess a partner
every way worthy to cope with his own thoughtless and buoyant
There was still another and a third figure in that little knot of
females. It was the youngest, the most highly gifted, and, until now,
the most favoured of the wives of the Teton. Her charms had not been
without the most powerful attraction in the eyes of her husband, until
they had so unexpectedly opened on the surpassing loveliness of a woman
of the Pale-faces. From that hapless moment the graces, the attachment,
the fidelity of the young Indian, had lost their power to please. Still
the complexion of Tachechana, though less dazzling than that of her
rival, was, for her race, clear and healthy. Her hazel eye had the
sweetness and playfulness of the antelope's; her voice was soft and
joyous as the song of the wren, and her happy laugh was the very melody
of the forest. Of all the Sioux girls, Tachechana (the Fawn) was the
lightest-hearted and the most envied. Her father had been a
distinguished brave, and her brothers had already left their bones on a
distant and dreary war-path. Numberless were the warriors, who had sent
presents to the lodge of her parents, but none of them were listened to
until a messenger from the great Mahtoree had come. She was his third
wife, it is true, but she was confessedly the most favoured of them
all. Their union had existed but two short seasons, and its fruits now
lay sleeping ather feet, wrapped in the customary ligatures of skin and
bark, which form the swaddlings of an Indian infant.
At the moment, when Mahtoree and the trapper arrived at the opening
of the lodge, the young Sioux wife was seated on a simple stool,
turning her soft eyes, with looks that varied like her emotions with
love and wonder, from the unconscious child to those rare beings, who
had filled her youthful and uninstructed mind with so much admiration
and astonishment. Though Inez and Ellen had passed an entire day in her
sight, it seemed as if the longings of her curiosity were increasing
with each new gaze. She regarded them as beings of an entirely
different nature and condition from the females of the prairie. Even
the mystery of their complicated attire had its secret influence on her
simple mind, though it was the grace and charms of sex, to which nature
has made every people so sensible, that most attracted her admiration.
But while her ingenuous disposition freely admitted the superiority of
the strangers over the less brilliant attractions of the Dahcotah
maidens, she had seen no reason to deprecate their advantages. The
visit that she was now about to receive, was the first which her
husband had made to the tent since his return from the recent inroad,
and he was ever present to her thoughts, as a successful warrior, who
was not ashamed, in the moments of inaction, to admit the softer
feelings of a father and a husband.
We have every where endeavoured to show that while Mahtoree was in
all essentials a warrior of the prairies, he was much in advance of his
people in those acquirements which announce the dawnings of
civilization. He had held frequent communion with the traders and
troops of the Canadas, and the inter-course had unsettled many of those
wild opinions which were his birth-right, without perhaps
substitutingany others of a nature sufficiently definite to be
profitable. His reasoning was rather subtle than true, and his
philosophy far more audacious than profound. Like thousands of more
enlightened beings, who fancy they are able to go through the trials of
human existence without any other support than their own resolutions,
his morals were accommodating and his motives selfishness. These
several characteristics will be understood always with reference to the
situation of the Indian, though little apology is needed for finding
resemblances between men, who essentially possess the same nature,
however it may be modified by circumstances.
Notwithstanding the presence of Inez and Ellen, the entrance of the
Teton warrior, into the lodge of his favourite wife, was made with the
tread and mien of a master. The step of his moccasin was noiseless, but
the rattling of his bracelets, and of the silver ornaments of his
leggings, sufficed to announce his approach as he pushed aside the skin
covering of the opening of the tent, and stood in the presence of its
inmates. A faint cry of pleasure burst from the lips of Tachechana in
the suddenness of her surprise, but the emotion was instantly
suppressed in that subdued demeanour which should characterize a matron
of her tribe. Instead of returning the stolen glance of his youthful
and secretly rejoicing wife, Mahtoree moved to the couch, occupied by
his prisoners, and placed himself in the haughty, upright attitude of
an Indian chief, before their eyes. The old man had glided past him,
and already taken a position suited to the office he had been commanded
Surprise kept the females for a moment silent and nearly
breathless. Though accustomed to the sight of savage warriors, in all
the horrid panoply of their terrible profession, there was something so
startling in the entrance, and so audacious in the inexplicable look of
their conqueror, that the eyes of both sunk to the earth under a
feeling of terror and perhaps of embarrassment. Then Inez recovered
herself, and addressing the trapper she demanded, with the dignity of
an offended gentlewoman, though with her accustomed grace of, to what
circumstance they owed this extraordinary and unexpected visit. The old
man hesitated; but clearing his throat, like one who was about to make
an effort to which he was little used, he ventured on the following
"Lady," he said, "a savage is a savage, and you are not to look for
the uses and formalities of the settlements on a bleak and windy
prairie. As these Indians would say, fashions and courtesies are things
so light, that they would blow away. As for myself, though a man of the
forest, I have seen the ways of the great, in my time, and I am not to
learn that they differ from the ways of the lowly. I was long a
serving-man in my youth, not one of your beck-and-nod runners about a
household, but a man that went through the servitude of the forest with
his officer, and well do I know in what manner to approach the wife of
a captain. Now, had I the ordering of this visit, I would first have
hemmed aloud at the door, in order that you might hear that strangers
were coming, and then I——"
"The manner is indifferent," interrupted Inez, too anxious to await
the prolix explanations of the old man; "why is the visit made?"
"Therein shall the savage speak for himself.——The daughters of the
Pale-faces wish to know why the Great Teton has come into his lodge?"
Mahtoree regarded his interrogator with a surprise, which showed
how extraordinary he deemed the question. Then placing himself in a
posture of condescension, after a moment's delay, he answered——
"Sing in the ears of the dark-eye. Tell her the lodge of Mahtoree
is very large, and that it is not full. She shall find room in it, and
none shall begreater than she. Tell the light-hair, that she too may
stay in the lodge of a brave, and eat of his venison. Mahtoree is a
great chief. His hand is never shut."
"Teton," returned the trapper, shaking his head in evidence of the
strong disapprobation with which he heard this language, "the tongue of
a Red-skin must be coloured white before it can make music in the ears
of a Pale-face. Should your words be spoken, my daughters would shut
their ears, and Mahtoree would seem a trader to their eyes. Now listen
to what comes from a gray-head, and then speak accordingly. My people
is a mighty people. The sun rises on their eastern and sets on their
western border. The land is filled with bright-eyed and laughing girls,
like these you see——ay, Teton I tell no lie," observing his auditor to
start with an air of distrust——"bright-eyed and pleasant to behold, as
these before you."
"Has my father a hundred wives?" interrupted the savage, laying his
finger on the shoulder of the trapper, with a look of curious interest
in the reply.
"No, Dahcotah. The Master of Life has said to me, live alone; your
lodge shall be the forest; the roof of your wigwam, the clouds. But,
though never bound in the secret faith which, in my nation, ties one
man to one woman, often have I seen the workings of that kindness which
brings the two together. Go into the regions of my people; you will see
the daughters of the land, fluttering through the towns like many
coloured and joyful birds in the season of blossoms. You will meet
them, singing and rejoicing, along the great paths of the country, and
you will hear the woods ringing with their laughter. They are very
excellent to behold, and the young men find pleasure in looking at
"Hugh!" ejaculated the attentive Mahtoree.
"Ay, well may you put faith in what you hear, for it is no lie. But
when a youth has found a maidento please him, he speaks to her in a
voice so soft, that none else can hear. He does not say, my lodge is
empty and there is room for another; but shall I build, and will the
virgin show me near what spring she would dwell? His voice is sweeter
than honey from the locust, and goes into the ear thrilling like the
song of a wren. Therefore, if my brother wishes his words to be heard,
he must speak with a white tongue."
Mahtoree pondered deeply, and in a wonder that he did not attempt
to conceal. It was reversing all the order of society, and, according
to his established opinions, endangering the dignity of a chief, for a
warrior thus to humble himself before a woman. But as Inez sat before
him, reserved and imposing in air, utterly unconscious of his object,
and least of all suspecting the true purport of so extraordinary a
visit, the savage felt the influence of a manner to which he was
unaccustomed. Bowing his head, as if in acknowledgment of his error, he
stepped a little back, and placing himself in an attitude of easy
dignity, he began to speak with the confidence of one who had been no
less distinguished for his eloquence than for his deeds in arms.
Keeping his eyes riveted on the unconscious bride of Middleton he
proceeded in the following words.
"I am a man with a red skin, but my eyes are dark. They have been
open since many snows. They have seen many things——they know a brave
from a coward. When a boy, I saw nothing but the bison and the deer. I
went to the hunts, and I saw the cougar and the bear. This made
Mahtoree a man. He talked with his mother no more. His ears were open
to the wisdom of the old men. They told him every thing ——they told him
of the Big-knives. He went on the war-path. He was then the last; now,
he is the first. What Dahcotah dare say he will go before Mahtoree into
the hunting-grounds of the Pawnees? The chiefsmet him at their doors,
and they said, my son is without a home. They gave him their lodges,
they gave him their riches, and they gave him their daughters. Then
Mahtoree became a chief, as his fathers had been. He struck the
warriors of all the nations, and he could have chosen wives from the
Pawnees, the Omawhaws, and the Konzas; but he looked at the
hunting-grounds, and not at his village. He thought a horse was
pleasanter than a Dahcotah girl. But he found a flower on the prairies,
and he plucked it and brought it into his lodge. He forgets that he is
the master of a single horse. He gives them all to the stranger, for
Mahtoree is not a thief; he will only keep the flower he found on the
prairie. Her feet are very tender. She cannot walk to the door of her
father; she will stay, in the lodge of a warrior for ever."
When he had finished this extraordinary address, the Teton awaited
to have it translated, with the air of a suitor who entertained no very
disheartening doubts of his success. The trapper had not lost a
syllable of the speech, and he now prepared himself to render it into
English in such a manner as should leave its principal idea even more
obscure than in the original. But as his reluctant lips were in the act
of parting, Ellen lifted a finger, and with a keen glance from her
quick eye, at the still attentive Inez, she interrupted him.
"Spare your breath;" she said; "all that a savage says is not to be
repeated before a Christian lady."
Inez started, blushed, and bowed with an air of reserve, as she
coldly thanked the old man for his intentions, and observed that she
could now wish to be alone.
"My daughters have no need of ears to understand what a great
Dahcotah says," returned the trapper, addressing himself to the
expecting Mahtoree. "The look he has given, and the signs he has made,
are enough. They understand him; they wish to think of his words; for
the children of great braves, such as their fathers are, do nothing
without much thought."
With this explanation, so flattering to the energy of his
eloquence, and so promising to his future hopes, the Teton was every
way content. He made the customary ejaculation of assent, and prepared
to retire. Saluting the females, in the cold but dignified manner of
his people, he drew his robe about him, and moved from the spot where
he had stood with an air of ill-concealed triumph.
But there had been a stricken, though a motionless and unobserved
auditor of the foregoing scene. Not a syllable had fallen from the lips
of the long and anxiously expected husband, that had not gone directly
to the heart of his unoffending wife. In this manner had he wooed her
from the lodge of her father, and it was to listen to similar pictures
of the renown and deeds of the greatest brave in her tribe, that she
had shut her ears to the tender tales of so many of the Sioux youths.
As the Teton turned to leave his lodge, in the manner just
mentioned, he found this unexpected and half forgotten object before
him. She stood, in the humble guise and with the shrinking air of an
Indian girl, holding the pledge of their former loves in her arms,
directly in his path. Starting for a single instant, the chief regained
the marble-like indifference of countenance, which distinguished in so
remarkable a degree the restrained or more artificial expression of his
features, and signed to her, with an air of authority, to give place.
"Is not Tachechana the daughter of a chief?" demanded a subdued
voice, in which pride struggled fearfully with anguish; "were not her
"Go; the men are calling their partisan. He has no ears for a
"No," replied the supplicant; "it is not the voice of Tachechana
that you hear, but this boy, speaking with the tongue of his mother. He
is the son of a chief and his words will go up to his father's ears.
Listen to what he says. When was Mahtoree hungry and Tachechana had not
food for him? When did he go on the path of the Pawnees and find it
empty, that my mother did not weep? When did he come back with the
marks of their blows, that she did not sing? What Sioux girl has given
a brave a son like me? Look at me well, that you may know me. My eyes
are the eagle's. I look at the sun and laugh. In a little time the
Dahcotahs will follow me to the hunts and on the war-path. Why does my
father turn his eyes from the woman that gives me milk? Why has he so
soon forgotten the daughter of a mighty Sioux?"
There was a single instant, as the exulting father suffered his
cold eye to wander to the face of the laughing boy, that the stern
nature of the Teton seemed touched. But shaking off the grateful
sentiment, like one who would gladly be rid of any painful, because
reproachful, emotion, he laid his hand calmly on the arm of his wife,
and led her directly in front of Inez. Pointing to the sweet
countenance that was beaming on her own, with a look of tenderness and
commiseration, he paused, to allow his wife to contemplate a
loveliness, which was quite as excellent to her ingenuous mind as it
had proved dangerous to the character of her faithless husband. When he
thought abundant time had passed to make the contrast sufficiently
striking, he suddenly raised a small mirror, that dangled at her
breast, an ornament he had himself bestowed in an hour of fondness as a
compliment to her beauty, and placed her owndark image in its place.
Wrapping his robe again about him, the Teton motioned to the trapper to
follow, and stalked haughtily from the lodge, muttering, as he went——
"Mahtoree is very wise! What nation has so great a chief as the
Tachechana stood for a minute, as if frozen into a statue of
humility. Her mild and usually joyous countenance worked, as though the
struggle within was about to dissolve the connexion between her soul
and that more material part whose deformity was becoming so loathsome.
Inez and Ellen were utterly ignorant of the nature of her interview
with her husband, though the quick and sharpened wits of the latter led
her to suspect a truth, to which the entire innocence of the former
furnished no clue. They were both, however, about to tender those
sympathies, which are so natural to, and so graceful in the sex, when
their necessity seemed suddenly to cease. The convulsions in the
features of the young Sioux disappeared, and her countenance became
cold and rigid, like chiselled stone. A single expression of subdued
anguish, which had made its impression on a brow that had rarely before
contracted with sorrow, alone remained. It was never removed, in all
the changes of seasons, fortunes, and years, which, in the vicissitudes
of a suffering, female, savage life, she was subsequently doomed to
endure. As in the case of a premature blight, let the plant quicken and
revive as it may, the effects of that withering touch were always
Tachechana first stripped her person of every vestige of those rude
but highly prized ornaments, which the liberality of her husband had
been wont to lavish on her, and she tendered them meekly, and without a
murmur, as an offering to the superiority of Inez. The bracelets were
forced from her wrists, the complicated mazes of beads from her
leggings,and the broad silver band from her brow. Then she paused, long
and painfully. But it would seem, that the resolution, she had once
adopted, was not to be conquered by the lingering emotions of any
affection, however natural. The boy himself was next laid at the feet
of her supposed rival, and well might the self abased wife of the Teton
believe that the burden of her sacrifice was now full.
While Inez and Ellen stood regarding these several strange
movements with eyes of wonder, a low soft musical voice was heard
saying in a language, that to them was unintelligible——
"A strange tongue will tell my boy the manner to become a man. He
will hear sounds that are new, but he will learn them, and forget the
voice of his mother. It is the will of the Wahcondah, and a Sioux girl
should not complain. Speak to him softly, for his ears are very little;
when he is big, your words may be louder. Let him not be a girl, for
very sad is the life of a woman. Teach him to keep his eyes on the men.
Show him how to strike them that do him wrong, and let him never forget
to return blow for blow. When he goes to hunt, the flower of the
Pale-faces," she concluded, using in bitterness the metaphor which had
been supplied by the imagination of her truant husband, "will whisper
softly in his ears that the skin of his mother was red, and that she
was once the Fawn of the Dahcotahs."
Tachechana pressed a kiss on the lips of her son, and then withdrew
to the farther side of the lodge. Here she drew her light calico robe
over her head, and took her seat, in token of her humility, on the
naked earth. All the efforts of her companions, to attract her
attention, were fruitless. She neither heard their remonstrances, nor
felt their gentle touch. Once or twice her voice rose, in a sort of
wailing song, from beneath her quivering mantle, but it never mounted
into the full wildness of savage music. Inthis manner she remained
unseen for hours, while events were occurring without the lodge, which
not only materially changed the complexion of her own fortunes, but
left a lasting and deep impression on the future movements of the
wandering Sioux tribe.
"I'll no swaggerers: I am in good name and fame with the very
best:——Shut the door;——There come no swaggerers here: I have not lived
all this while, to have swaggering now:——shut the door I pray you."
Mahtoree encountered, at the door of his lodge, the persons of
Ishmael, Abiram, and Esther. The first glance of his eye, at the
earnest and threatening countenance of the heavy-moulded squatter,
served to tell the cunning Teton, that the treacherous truce he had
made, with these dupes of his superior sagacity, was in some danger of
a violent termination.
"Look you here, old gray-beard," said Ishmael, seizing the trapper,
and whirling him round as though he had been a toy; "that I'm tired of
carrying on a discourse with fingers and thumbs, instead of a tongue,
ar' a natural fact; so you'll play linguister and put my words into
up-and-down Indian, without much caring whether they suit the stomach
of a Red-skin or not."
"Say on, friend," calmly returned the trapper; "they shall be given
as plainly as you send them."
"Friend!" repeated the squatter, eyeing the other for an instant,
with an expression of an indefinable meaning. "But it is no more than a
word, and sounds break no bones and survey no farms. Tellthis thieving
Sioux, then, that I come to claim the conditions of our solemn bargain,
made at the foot of the rock."
When the trapper had rendered his meaning into the Sioux language,
Mahtoree demanded, with an air of surprise——
"Is my brother cold? buffaloe skins are plenty. Is he hungry? Let
my young men carry venison into his lodges."
The squatter elevated his clenched fist in a menacing manner, and
struck it with violence on the palm of his open hand, by way of
confirming his determination as he answered——
"Tell the deceitful liar, I have not come like a beggar to pick his
bones, but like a freeman asking for his own; and have it I will. And,
moreover, tell him I claim that you, too, miserable sinner as you ar',
should be given up to justice. There's no mistake. My prisoner, my
niece, and you. I demand the three at his hands, according to a sworn
The immoveable old man smiled, with an expression of singular
intelligence, as he answered——
"Friend squatter, you ask what few men would be willing to grant.
You would first cut the tongue from the mouth of the Teton, and then
the heart from his bosom."
"It is little that Ishmael Bush regards who or what is damaged in
claiming his own. But put you the questions in straight-going Indian,
and when you speak of yourself, make such a sign as a white man will
understand, in order that I may know there is no foul play."
The trapper laughed in his silent fashion, and muttered a few words
to himself before he addressed the chief——
"Let the Dahcotah open his ears very wide," hethen said, "that big
words may have room to enter. His friend the Big-knife comes with an
empty hand, and he says that the Teton must fill it."
"Wagh! Mahtoree is a rich chief. He is master of the prairies."
"He must give the dark-hair."
The brow of the chief contracted in an ominous frown, that
threatened instant destruction to the audacious squatter, but as
suddenly recollecting his policy, he craftily replied with a
"A girl is too light for the hand of such a brave. I will fill it
"He says he has need of the light-hair too; who has his blood in
"She shall be the wife of Mahtoree; then the Long-knife will be the
father of a chief."
"And me," continued the trapper making one of those expressive
signs, by which the natives communicate with nearly the same facility
as with their tongues, and turning to the squatter at the same time, in
order that the latter might see he dealt fairly by him; "he asks for a
miserable and worn out trapper."
The Dahcotah threw his arm over the shoulder of the old man, with
an air of great affection, before he replied to this third and last
"My friend is old," he said, "and cannot travel far. He will stay
with the Tetons, that they may learn wisdom from his words. What Sioux
has a tongue like my father! No, let his words be very soft, but let
them be very clear. Mahtoree will give skins and buffaloes. He will
give the young men of the Pale-faces wives, but he cannot give away any
who live in his own lodge."
Perfectly satisfied, himself, with this laconic reply, the chief
was moving towards his expecting counsellors, when suddenly returning
he interrupted the translation of the trapper by adding——
"Tell the Great Buffaloe" (a name by which theTetons had already
christened Ishmael,) "that Mahtoree has a hand which is always open.
See," he added, pointing to the hard and wrinkled visage of the
attentive Esther, "his wife is too old, for so great a chief. Let him
put her out of his lodge. Mahtoree loves him as a brother. He is his
brother. He shall have the youngest wife of the Teton. Tachechana, the
pride of the Sioux girls, shall cook his venison, and many braves will
look at him with longing minds. Go, a Dahcotah is generous."
The singular coolness, with which the Teton concluded this
audacious proposal, confounded even the practised trapper. He stared
after the retiring form of the Indian, with an astonishment he did not
care to conceal, nor did he renew his attempt at interpretation, until
the person of Mahtoree was blended with the cluster of warriors who had
so long, and with so characteristic a patience, awaited his return.
"The Teton chief has spoken very plainly," the old man then
continued; "he will not give you the lady, to whom the Lord in Heaven
knows you have no claim, unless it be such as the wolf has to the lamb.
He will not give you the child, you call your niece; and therein I
acknowledge that I am far from certain he has the same justice on his
side. Moreover, neighbour squatter, he flatly denies your demand for
me, miserable and worthless as I am; nor do I think he has been unwise
in so doing seeing that I should have many particular reasons against
journeying far in your company. But he makes you an offer, which it is
right and convenient you should know. The Teton says through me, who am
no more than a mouth-piece, and therein not answerable for the sin of
his words, but he says, as this good woman is getting past the comely
age, it is reasonable for you to tire of such a wife. He therefore
tells you to turn her out of your lodge, and when it is empty he will
send his own favourite, or rather she that was his favourite, the
"Skipping Fawn," as the Siouxes call her, to fill her place. You see,
neighbour, though the Red-skin is so minded as to keep your property,
he is willing to give you wherewithal to make yourself some return!"
Ishmael listened to these replies to his several demands with that
species of gathering indignation, with which the dullest tempers mount
into the most violent paroxysms of rage. He even affected to laugh at
the conceit of exchanging his long-tried Esther for the more flexible
support of the youthful Tachechana, though his voice was hollow and
unnatural in the effort. But Esther was far from giving the proposal so
facetious a reception. Lifting her voice to its peculiarly audible key,
she broke forth, after catching her breath like one who had been in
some imminent danger of strangulation, as follows——
"Hoity-toity; who set an Indian up for a maker and breaker of the
rights of wedded wives! Does he think a woman is a beast of the
prairie, that she is to be chased from a village by dog and gun. Let
the bravest squaw of them all come forth and boast of her doings; can
she show such a brood as mine. A wicked tyrant is that thieving
Red-skin, and a bold rogue I warrant me. He would be captain in-doors
as well as out! An honest woman is no better in his eyes than one of
your broomstick jumpers. And you, Ishmael Bush, the father of seven
sons and so many comely daughters, to open your sinful mouth, except to
curse him! Would ye disgrace colour, and family, and nation, by mixing
white blood with red, and would ye be the parent of a race of mules!
The devil has often tempted you, my man, but never before has he set so
cunning a snare as this. Go back among your children, friend; go, and
remember that you are not a prowling bear, but a Christian man, and
thank God that you ar' a lawful husband!"
The clamour of Esther was anticipated by the judicioustrapper. He
had easily foreseen that her meek temper would overflow at so
scandalous a proposal as repudiation, and he now profited by the
tempest, to retire to a place where he was at least safe from any
immediate violence on the part of her less excited, but certainly more
dangerous husband. Ishmael, who had made his demands with a stout
determination to enforce them, was diverted by the windy torrent, like
many a more obstinate husband, from his purpose, and in order to
appease a jealousy, that resembled the fury with which the bear defends
her cubs, was fain to retire to a distance from the lodge, that was
known to contain the unoffending object of the sudden uproar.
"Let your copper-coloured minx come forth, and shew her tawney
beauty before the face of a woman who has heard more than one church
bell, and seen a power of real quality," cried Esther, flourishing her
hand in triumph, as she drove Ishmael and Abiram before her, like two
truant boys, towards their own encampment. "I warrant me, I warrant me,
here is one who would shortly talk her down! Never think to tarry here,
my men; never think to shut an eye in a camp, through which the devil
walks as openly as if he were a gentleman, and was sure of his welcome.
Here, you Abner, Enoch, Jesse, where ar' ye gotten to. Put to, put to;
if that weak-minded, soft-feeling man, your father, eats or drinks
again in this neighbourhood, we shall see him poisoned with the craft
of the Red-skins. Not that I care, I, who comes into my place, when it
is once lawfully empty, but, Ishmael, I never thought that you, who
have had one woman with a white skin, would find pleasure in looking on
a brazen——ay, that she is copper ar' a fact; you can't deny it, and I
warrant me, brazen enough is she too!"
Against this ebullition of wounded female pride, the experienced
husband made no other head, thanby an occasional exclamation, which he
intended to be the precursor of a simple asseveration of his own
innocence. The fury of the woman would not be appeased. She listened to
nothing but her own voice, and consequently nothing was heard but her
mandates to depart.
The squatter had collected his beasts and loaded his wagons, as a
measure of precaution, before proceeding to the extremity he had
contemplated. Esther consequently found every thing favourable to her
wishes. The young men stared at each other, as they witnessed the
extraordinary excitement of their mother, but took little interest in
an event which, in the course of their experience, had found so many
parallels. By command of their father, the tents also were quickly
thrown into the vehicles, as a sort of reprisal for the want of faith
in their late ally, and then the train left the spot, in its usual
listless and sluggish order.
As a formidable division of well armed borderers protected the rear
of the retiring party, the Siouxes saw it depart without manifesting
the smallest evidence of surprise or resentment. The savage, like the
tiger, rarely makes his attack on an enemy who expects him; and if the
warriors of the Tetons meditated any hostility, it was in the still and
patient manner with which the feline beasts watch for the incautious
moment in their victims, in order to ensure the blow. The councils of
Mahtoree, however, on whom so much of the policy of his people
depended, lay deep in the depository of his own thoughts. Perhaps he
rejoiced in so easy a manner of getting rid of claims so troublesome;
perhaps he awaited a fitting time to exhibit his power; or it even
might be, that matters of so much greater importance were pressing on
his mind, that it had not leisure to devote any of its faculties to an
event of so much indifference.
But it would seem that while Ishmael made sucha concession to the
awakened feelings of Esther, he was far from so easily abandoning his
original intentions. His train followed the course of the river for a
mile, and then it came to a halt on the brow of the elevated land, and
in a place which afforded the necessary facilities. Here he again
pitched his tents, unharnessed his teams, sent his cattle on the
bottom, and, in short, made all the customary preparations to pass the
night, with the same coolness and deliberation as though he had not
just hurled an irritating defiance into the very teeth of his dangerous
In the mean time the Tetons proceeded to the more regular business
of the hour. A fierce and savage joy had existed in the camp, from the
instant when it had been announced that their own chief was returning
with the long-dreaded and hated partisan of their enemies. For many
hours the crones of the tribe had been going from lodge to lodge, in
order to stimulate the tempers of the warriors to such a pass as might
leave but little room for the considerations of mercy. To one they
spoke of a son, whose scalp was drying in the smoke of a Pawnee lodge.
To another, they enumerated his own scars, his disgraces, and defeats;
with a third, they dwelt on his losses of skins and horses, and a
fourth was reminded of vengeance, by a significant question, concerning
some flagrant adventure, in which he was known to have been a sufferer.
By these means the men had been so far excited as to have
assembled, in the manner already related, though it still remained a
matter of doubt how far they intended to carry their revenge. A variety
of opinions prevailed on the policy of executing their prisoners, and
Mahtoree had suspended the discussions, in order to ascertain how far
the measure might propitiate or retard his own particular views.
Hitherto the consultations had merely been preliminary, with a view
that each chief might discover the number of supporters his view of the
agitated question would be likely to obtain, when the important subject
should come before a more solemn council of the tribe. The moment for
the latter had now arrived, and the preparations, to assemble it, were
made with a dignity and solemnity suited to the momentous interests of
With a refinement in cruelty, that none but an Indian would have
imagined, the place, selected for this grave deliberation, was
immediately about the post to which the most important of its subjects
was attached. Middleton and Paul were brought in their bonds, and laid
at the feet of the Pawnee; and then the men began to take their places,
according to their several claims to distinction. As warrior after
warrior approached, he seated himself in the wide circle, with a mien
as composed and thoughtful, as though his mind were actually in a
condition to deal out justice, tempered, as it should be, with the
heavenly quality of mercy. A place was reserved for three or four of
the principal chiefs, and a few of the oldest of the women, as withered
as age, exposure, hardships, and lives of savage passions could make
them, thrust themselves into the foremost circle, with a temerity, to
which they were impelled by their insatiable desire for cruelty, and
which nothing, but their years and their long tried fidelity to the
nation, would have excused.
All, but the chiefs already named, were now in their places. These
had delayed their appearance, in the vain hope that their own unanimity
might smooth the way to that of their respective factions; for,
notwithstanding the superior influence of Mahtoree, his power was to be
maintained only by constant appeals to the opinions of his inferiors.
As these important personages at length entered the circle in a body,
their sullen looks and clouded brows,notwithstanding the time given to
consultation, sufficiently proclaimed the discontent which reigned
among them. The eye of Mahtoree was varying in its expression, from
sudden gleams, that seemed to kindle with the burning impulses of his
soul, to that cold and guarded steadiness, which was thought more
peculiarly to become a chief in council. He took his seat, with the
studied simplicity of a demagogue; though the keen and flashing glance,
that he immediately threw around the silent assembly, betrayed the more
predominant temper of a tyrant.
When all were present, an aged warrior lighted the great pipe of
his people, and blew the smoke towards the four quarters of the
heavens. So soon as this propitiatory offering was made, he tendered it
to Mahtoree, who, in affected humility, passed it to a gray-headed
chief by his side. After the influence of the soothing weed had been
courted by all, a grave silence succeeded, as if each was not only
qualified to, but actually did, think more deeply on the matters before
them. Then an old Indian arose, and spoke as follows——
"The eagle, at the falls of the endless river, was in its egg, many
snows after my hand had struck a Pawnee. What my tongue says, my eyes
have seen. Bohrecheena is very old. The hills have stood longer in
their places, than he has been in his tribe, and the rivers were full
and empty, before he was born; but where is the Sioux that knows it
besides himself? What he says, they will hear. If any of his words fall
to the ground, they will pick them up and hold them to their ears. If
any blow away in the wind, my young men, who are very nimble, will
catch them. Now listen. Since water ran and trees grew, the Sioux has
found the Pawnee on his war-path. As the cougar loves the antelope, the
Dahcotah loves his enemy. When the wolf finds the fawn, does he lie
down and sleep? When the panther sees the doe atthe spring, does he
shut his eyes? You know that he does not. He drinks, too, but it is of
blood! A Sioux is a leaping, panther, a Pawnee is a trembling deer. Let
my children hear me. They will find my words good. I have spoken."
A deep guttural exclamation of assent broke from the lips of all
the partisans of Mahtoree, as they listened to the sanguinary advice
from one, who was certainly among the most aged men of the nation. That
deeply seated love of vengeance, which formed so prominent a feature in
their characters, was gratified by his metaphorical allusions, and the
chief himself augured favourably of the success of his own schemes, by
the number of supporters, who manifested themselves to be in favour of
the counsels of his friend. But still unanimity was far from
prevailing. A long and decorous pause was suffered to succeed the words
of the first speaker, in order that all might duly deliberate on their
wisdom, before another chief took on himself the office of refutation.
The second orator, though past the prime of his days, was far less aged
than the one who had preceded him. He felt the disadvantage of this
circumstance, and endeavoured to counteract it, as far as possible, by
the excess of his humility.
"I am but an infant," he commenced, looking furtively around him,
in order to detect how far his well-established character for prudence
and courage contradicted his assertion. "I have lived with the woman,
since my father has been a man. If my head is getting gray, it is not
because I am old. Some of the snow, which fell on it while I have been
sleeping on the war-paths, has frozen there, and the hot sun, near the
Osage villages, has not been strong enough to melt it." A low murmur
was heard, expressive of admiration for those services to which he thus
artfully alluded. The orator modestly awaited for the feeling to
subside a little, and then he continued, withincreasing energy, as
though secretly encouraged by their commendations. "But the eyes of a
young brave are good. He can see very far. He is a lynx. Look at me
well. I will turn my back, that you may see both sides of me. Now do
you know I am your friend, for you look on a part that a Pawnee never
yet saw. Now look at my face; not in this seam, for there your eyes can
never see into my spirit. It is only a hole cut by a Konza. But here is
an opening made by the Wahcondah, through which you may look into the
soul. What am I? A Dahcotah within and without. You know it. Therefore
hear me. The blood of every creature on the prairie is red. Who can
tell the spot where a Pawnee was struck, from the place where my young
men took a bison? It is of the same colour. The Master of Life made
them for each other. He made them alike. But will the grass grow green
where a Pale-face is killed? My young men must not think that nation is
so numerous, it will not miss a warrior. They call them over often, and
say, where are my sons? If they miss one, they will send into the
prairies to look for him. If they cannot find him, they will tell their
runners to ask for him among the Siouxes. My brethren, the Big-knives
are not fools. There is a mighty medicine of their nation now among us;
who can tell how loud is his voice, or how long is his arm?——"
The speech of the orator, who was beginning to enter into his
subject with a suitable degree of warmth, was cut short by the
impatient Mahtoree, who suddenly arose and exclaimed, in a voice in
which authority was mingled with contempt, and at the close with a keen
tone of irony, also——
"Let my young men lead the evil spirit of the Pale-faces to the
council. My brother shall see his medicine face to face!"
A death-like and solemn stillness succeeded thisextraordinary
interruption. It not only involved a deep offence against the sacred
courtesy of debate, but the mandate was likely to brave the unknown
power of one of those incomprehensible beings, whom few Indians were
enlightened enough at that day to regard without reverence, or few
hardy enough to oppose. The subordinates, however, obeyed, and Obed was
led forth from a lodge, mounted on Asinus, with a ceremony and state
which was certainly intended for derision, but which nevertheless was
greatly enhanced by fear. As they entered the ring, Mahtoree, who had
foreseen and had endeavoured to anticipate the influence of the Doctor,
by bringing him into contempt, cast an eye around the assembly, in
order to gather his success in the various dark visages by which he was
Truly, nature and art had combined to produce such an effect from
the air and appointments of the naturalist, as might have made him the
subject of wonder in any place. His head had been industriously shaved
after the most approved fashion of Sioux taste. A gallant scalp-lock,
which would probably have been spared, had the Doctor himself been
consulted in the matter, was all that remained of an exuberant, and at
that particular season of the year, far from uncomfortable head of
hair. Thick coats of paint had been laid on the naked poll, and certain
fanciful designs, in the same material, had even been extended into the
neighbourhood of the eyes and mouth, lending to the naturally keen
expression of the former a look of twinkling cunning, and to the
dogmatism of the latter not a little of the grimness of necromancy. He
had been despoiled of his upper garments, and, in their stead, his body
was sufficiently protected from the cold by a fantastically painted
robe of dressed deer-skin. As if in mockery of his pursuit, sundry
toads, frogs, lizards, butterflies, etc., all duly prepared to take
their places atsome future day, in his own private cabinet, were
attached to the solitary lock on his head, to his ears, and to various
other conspicuous parts of his person. If, in addition to the effect
produced by these quaint auxiliaries to his costume, we add the
portentous and troubled gleamings of doubt, which rendered his visage
doubly austere, and proclaimed the misgivings of the worthy Obed's
mind, as he beheld his personal dignity thus prostrated, and what was
of far greater moment in his eyes, himself led forth, as he firmly
believed, to be the victim of some heathenish sacrifice, the reader
will find no difficulty in giving credit to the sensation of awe, that
was excited by his appearance in a band already more than half-prepared
to worship him as a powerful agent of the evil spirit.
Weucha led Asinus directly into the centre of the circle, and
leaving them together (for the legs of the naturalist were attached to
the beast in such a manner, that the two animals might be said to be
incorporated, and to form a new order,) he withdrew to his proper
place, gazing at the conjuror, as he retired, with a wonder and
admiration, that was natural to the groveling dulness of his mind.
The astonishment seemed mutual between the spectators and the
subject of this strange exhibition. If the Tetons contemplated the
mysterious attributes of the medicine, with awe and fear, the Doctor
gazed on every side of him, with a mixture of quite as many
extraordinary emotions, in which the latter sensation, however, formed
no inconsiderable ingredient. Every where his eyes, which just at that
moment possessed a secret magnifying quality, seemed to rest on several
dark, savage, and obdurate countenances at once, from none of which
could he extract a solitary gleam of sympathy or commiseration. At
length his wandering gaze fell on the grave and decent features of the
trapper, who, with Hector at his feet, stood in the edge of the circle,
leaning on that rifle which he hadbeen permitted, as an acknowledged
friend, to resume, and apparently musing on the events that were likely
to succeed a council that was marked by so many and such striking
"Venerable venator, or hunter, or trapper," said the utterly
disconsolate Obed, "I rejoice greatly in meeting thee again. I fear
that the precious time, which had been allotted me, in order to
complete a mighty labour, is drawing to a premature close, and I would
gladly unburden my mind to one who, if not a pupil of science, has at
least some of the knowledge which civilization imparts to its meanest
subjects. Doubtless many and earnest enquiries will be made after my
fate, by the learned societies of the world, and perhaps expeditions
will be sent into these regions to remove any doubts, which may arise
on so important a subject. I esteem myself happy that a man, who speaks
the vernacular, is present, to preserve the record of my end. You will
say that after a well-spent and glorious life, I died a martyr to
science and a victim to mental darkness. As I expect to be particularly
calm and abstracted in my last moments, if you add a few details,
concerning the fortitude and scholastic dignity with which I met my
death, it may serve to encourage the future aspirants for similar
honours, and assuredly give offence to no one. And now, friend trapper,
as a duty I owe to human nature, I will conclude by demanding if all
hope has deserted me, or if any means still exist by which so much
valuable information may be rescued from the grasp of ignorance, and
preserved to the pages of natural history."
The old man lent an attentive ear to this melancholy appeal, and
apparently he reflected on every side of the important question, before
he would presume to answer.
"I take it, friend physicianer," he at length gravelyreplied, "that
the chances of life and death, in your particular case, depend
altogether on the will of Providence, as it may be pleased to manifest
it, through the accursed windings of Indian cunning. For my own part, I
see no great difference in the main end to be gained, inasmuch as it
can matter no one greatly, yourself excepted, whether you live or die."
"Would you account the fall of a corner-stone, from the foundations
of the edifice of learning, a matter of indifference to contemporaries
or to posterity?" eagerly interrupted the indignant Obed. "Besides, my
aged associate," he reproachfully added, "the interest, that a man has
in his own existence, is by no means trifling, however it may be
eclipsed by his devotion to more general and philanthropic feelings."
"What I would say is this," resumed the trapper, who was far from
understanding all the subtle distinctions, with which his more learned
companion so often saw fit to embellish his discourse; "there is but
one birth and one death to all things, be it hound, or be it deer; be
it red skin, or be it white. Both are in the hands of the Lord, it
being as unlawful for man to strive to hasten the one, as impossible to
prevent the other. But I will not say that something may not be done to
put the last moment aside, for a while at least, and therefore it is a
question, that any one has a right to put to his own wisdom, how far he
will go, and how much pain he will suffer, to lengthen out a time that
may have been too long already. Many a dreary winter and scorching
summer has gone by since I have turned, to the right hand or to the
left, to add an hour to a life that has already stretched beyond
fourscore years. I keep myself as ready to answer to my name as a
soldier at evening roll-call. In my judgment, if your cases, are left
to Indian tempers, the policy of the Great Sioux will lead his people
to sacrifice you all; nor do I put much dependence on his seeming love
for me; therefore it becomes a question whether you are ready for such
a journey; and if, being ready, whether this is not as good a time to
start as another. Should my opinion be asked, thus far will I give it
in your favour; that is to say, it is my belief your life has been
innocent enough, touching any great offences that you may have
committed, though honesty compels me to add, that I think all you can
lay claim to, on the score of activity in deeds, will not amount to any
thing worth naming in the great account."
Obed turned a rueful eye on the calm, philosophic countenance of
the other, as he answered with so discouraging a statement of his case,
clearing his throat, as he did so, in order to conceal the desperate
concern which began to beset his faculties, with a vestige of that
pride, which rarely deserts poor human nature, even in the greatest
"I believe, venerable hunter," he replied, "considering the
question in all its several hearings, and assuming that your theory is
just, it will be the safest to conclude that I am not prepared to make
so hasty a departure, and that measures of precaution should be,
forthwith, resorted to."
"Being in that mind," returned the deliberate trapper, "I will act
for you as I would for myself; though as time has begun to roll down
the hill with you, I will just advise that you look to your case
speedily, for it may so happen that your name will be heard, when quite
as little prepared to answer to it as now."
With this amicable understanding, the old man drew back again into
the ring, where he stood musing on the course he should now adopt, with
the singular mixture of decision and resignation that proceededfrom his
habits and his humility, and which united to form a character, in which
excessive energy, and the most meek submission to the will of
Providence, were oddly enough combined.
"The witch, in Smithfield, shall be burned to ashes,
And you three shall be strangled on the gallows."
The Siouxes had awaited the issue of the foregoing dialogue with
commendable patience. Most of the band were restrained, by the secret
awe with which they regarded the mysterious character of Obed; while a
few of the more intelligent chiefs gladly profited by the opportunity,
to arrange their thoughts for the struggle that was now too plainly
foreseen. Mahtoree, influenced by neither of these feelings, was
content to show the trapper how much he conceded to his pleasure; and
when the old man discontinued the discourse, he received from the chief
a glance, that was intended to remind him of the patience, with which
he had awaited his movements. A profound and motionles silence
succeeded the short interruption. Then Mahtoree arose, evidently
prepared to speak. First placing himself in an attitude of dignity, he
turned a steady and severe look on the whole assembly. The expression
of his eye, however, changed as it glanced across the different
countenances of his supporters and of his opponents. To the former the
look, though stern, was not threatening, while it seemed to tell the
latter all the hazards they incurred in daring to brave the resentment
of one so powerful.
Still, in the midst of so much hauteur and confidence, the sagacity
and cunning of the Teton did not desert him. When he had thus thrown
the gauntlet, as it were, to the whole tribe, and sufficiently asserted
his claim to superiority, his mien became more affable and his eye less
angry. Then it was that he raised his voice, in the midst of a
death-like stillness, varying its tones to suit the changing character
of his images, and of his eloquence.
"What is a Sioux?" the chief sagaciously began; "he is ruler of the
prairies, and master of its beasts. The fishes in the 'river of
troubled waters' know him, and come at his call. He is a fox in
counsel; an eagle in sight; a grizzly bear in combat. A Dahcotah is a
man!" After waiting for the low murmur of approbation, which followed
this flattering portrait of his people to subside, the Teton
continued—— "What is a Pawnee? A thief who only steals from women; a
Red-skin who is not brave; a hunter that begs for his venison. In
counsel he is a squirrel, hopping from place to place; he is an owl,
that goes on the prairies at night; in battle he is an elk, whose legs
are long. A Pawnee is a woman." Another pause succeeded, during which a
yell of delight broke from several mouths, and a demand was made, that
the taunting words should be translated to the unconscious subject of
their biting contempt. The old man took his cue from the eyes of
Mahtoree, and complied. Hard-Heart listened gravely, and then, as if
apprized that his time to speak had not arrived, he once more bent his
look on the vacant air. The orator watched his countenance, with an
expression that manifested how inextinguishable was the hatred he felt
for the only chief, far and near, whose fame might advantageously be
compared with his own. Though disappointed in not having touched the
pride of one whom he regarded as a boy, he proceeded,what he considered
as far more important, to quicken the tempers of the men of his own
tribe, in order that they might be prepared to work his savage
purposes. "If the earth was covered with rats, which are good for
nothing," he said, "there would be no room for buffaloes, which give
food and clothes to an Indian. If the prairies were covered with
Pawnees, there would be no room for the foot of a Dahcotah. A Loup is a
rat, a Sioux a heavy buffaloe; let the buffaloes tread upon the rats
and make room for themselves.
"My brothers, a little child has spoken to you. He tells you, his
hair is not gray, but frozen——that the grass will not grow where a
Pale-face has died! Does he know the colour of the blood of a
Big-knife? No! I know he does not; he has never seen it. What Dahcotah,
besides Mahtoree, has ever struck a Pale-face? Not one. But Mahtoree
must be silent. Every Teton will shut his ears when he speaks. The
scalps over his lodge were taken by the women. They were taken by
Mahtoree, and he is a woman. His mouth is shut; he waits for the feasts
to sing among the girls!"
Notwithstanding the exclamations of regret and resentment, which
followed so abasing a declaration, the chief took his seat, as if
determined to speak no more. But as the murmurs grew louder and more
general, and there were threatening symptoms that the council would
dissolve itself in confusion, he arose and resumed his speech, by
changing his manner to the fierce and hurried enunciation of a warrior
bent on revenge.
"Let my young men go look for Tetao!" he cried; "they will find his
scalp, drying in Pawnee smoke. Where is the son of Boreecheena? His
bones are whiter than the faces of his murderers. Is Mahhah asleep in
his lodge? You know it is many moons since he started for the blessed
prairies; would he were here, that he might say of what colour was the
hand that took his scalp!"
In this strain the artful chief continued for many minutes, calling
those warriors by name, who were known to have met their deaths in
battle with the Pawnees, or in some of those lawless frays which so
often occurred between the Sioux bands and a class of white men, who
were but little removed from them in the qualities of civilization.
Time was not given to reflect on the merits, or rather the demerits, of
most of the different individuals to whom he alluded, in consequence of
the rapid manner in which he run over their names, but so cunningly did
he time his events, and so thrilling did he make his appeals, aided as
they were by the power of his deep-toned and stirring voice, that each
of them struck an answering chord in the breast of some one of his
It was in the midst of one of his highest flights of eloquence,
that a man, so aged as to walk with the greatest difficulty, entered
the very centre of the circle, and took his stand directly in front of
the speaker. An ear of great acuteness might possibly have detected
that the tones of the orator faltered a little, as his flashing look
first fell on this unexpected object, though the change was so
trifling, that none, but such as thoroughly knew the parties, would
have suspected it. The stranger had once been as distinguished for his
beauty and proportions, as had been his eagle eye for its irresistible
and terrible glance. But his skin was now wrinkled, and his features
furrowed with so many scars, as to have obtained for him, half a
century before, from the French of the Canadas, a title which has been
borne by so many of the heroes of France, and which had now been
adopted into the language of the wild horde of whom we are writing, as
the one most expressive of the deeds of their own brave. The murmur of
Le Balafré, that ran throughthe assembly when he appeared, announced
not only his name and the high estimation of his character, but how
extraordinary his visit was considered. As he neither spoke nor moved,
however, the sensation created by his appearance soon subsided, and
then every eye was again turned upon the speaker, and every ear once
more drunk in the intoxication of his maddening appeals.
It would have been easy to have traced the triumph of Mahtoree, in
the reflecting countenances of his auditors. It was not long before a
look of ferocity and of revenge was to be seen seated on the grim
visages of most of the warriors, and each new and crafty allusion to
the policy of extinguishing their enemies, was followed by fresh and
less restrained bursts of approbation. In the height of this success
the Teton closed his speech by a rapid appeal to the pride and
hardihood of his native band, and suddenly took his seat.
In the midst of the murmurs of applause, which succeeded so
remarkable an effort of eloquence, a low, feeble, and hollow voice was
heard rising on the ear, as though it rolled from the inmost cavities
of the human chest, and gathered strength and energy as it issued into
the air. A solemn stillness followed the sounds, and then the lips of
the aged man were first seen to move.
"The day of Le Balafré is near its end," were the first words that
were distinctly audible. "He is like a buffaloe, on whom the hair will
grow no longer. He will soon be ready to leave his lodge, to go in
search of another, that is far from the villages of the Siouxes;
therefore, what he has to say concerns not him, but those he leaves
behind him. His words are like the fruit on the tree, ripe and fit to
be given to the chiefs.
"Many snows have fallen since Le Balafré has been found on the
war-path. His blood has been veryhot, but it has had time to cool. The
Wahcondah gives him dreams of war no longer; he sees that it is better
to live in peace.
"My brothers, one foot is turned to the happy hunting-grounds, the
other will soon follow, and then an old chief will be seen looking for
the prints of his father's moccasins, that he may make no mistake, but
be sure to come before the Master of Life, by the same path, as so many
good Indians have already travelled. But who will follow? Le Balafré
has no son. His oldest has ridden too many Pawnee horses; the bones of
the youngest have been gnawed by Konza dogs! Le Balafré has come to
look for a young arm, on which he may lean, and to find a son, that
when he is gone his lodge may not be empty. Tachechana, the skipping
fawn of the Tetons, is too weak, to prop a warrior, who is old. She
looks before her and not backwards. Her mind is in the lodge of her
The enunciation of the veteran warrior had been calm, but distinct
and decided. His declaration was received in silence, and though
several of the chiefs, who were in the counsels of Mahtoree, turned
their eyes on their leader, none presumed to oppose so aged and so
venerated a brave in a resolution that was strictly in conformity to
the usages of the nation. The Teton himself was content to await the
result with seeming composure, though the gleams of ferocity, that
played about his eye, occasionally betrayed the nature of those
feelings, with which he witnessed a procedure, that was likely to rob
him of that one of all his intended victims whom he most hated.
In the mean time Le Balafré moved with a slow and painful step
towards the captives. He stopped before the person of Hard-Heart, whose
faultless form, unchanging eye, and lofty mien, he contemplated long,
with high and evident satisfaction. Then making a gesture of authority,
he awaited, until hisorder had been obeyed, and the youth was released
from the post and his bonds, by the same blow of the knife. When the
young warrior was led nearer to his dimmed and failing sight, the
examination was renewed, with all that strictness of scrutiny and
admiration, which physical excellence is so apt to excite in the breast
of a savage.
"It is good," the wary veteran at length murmured, when he found
that all his skill in the requisites of a brave could detect no
blemish; "this is a leaping panther! Does my son speak with the tongue
of a Teton?"
The intelligence, which lighted the eyes of the captive, betrayed
how well he understood the question, but still he was far too haughty
to communicate his ideas through the medium of a language that belonged
to a hostile people. Some of the surrounding warriors explained to the
old chief, that the captive was a Pawnee-Loup.
"My son opened his eyes on the 'waters of the wolves,' " said Le
Balafré, in the language of that nation, "but he will shut them in the
bend of the 'river with a troubled stream.' He was born a Pawnee, but
he will die a Dahcotah. Look at me. I am a sycamore, that once covered
many with my shadow. The leaves are fallen, and the branches begin to
drop. But a single succour is springing from my roots; it is a little
vine, and it winds itself about a tree that is green. I have long
looked for one fit to grow by my side. Now have I found it. Le Balafré
is no longer without a son; his name will not be forgotten when he is
gone! Men of the Tetons, I take this youth into my lodge."
No one was bold enough to dispute a right, that had so often been
exercised by warriors far inferior to the present speaker, and the
adoption was listened to, in a grave and respectful silence. Le Balafré
took his intended son by the arm, and leading himinto the very centre
of the circle, he stepped aside with an air of triumph, in order that
the spectators might approve of his choice. Mahtoree betrayed no
evidence of his intentions, but rather seemed to await a moment better
suited to the crafty policy of his character. The more experienced and
sagacious chiefs distinctly foresaw the utter impossibility of two
partisans so renowned, so hostile, and who had so long been rivals in
fame as their prisoner and their native leader, existing amicably in
the same tribe. Still the character of Le Balafré was so imposing, and
the custom to which he had resorted so sacred, that none dared to lift
a voice in opposition to the measure. They watched the result with
increasing interest, but with a coldness of demeanour that concealed
the nature of their inquietude. From this state of embarrassment, and
as it might readily have proved of disorganization, the tribe was
unexpectedly relieved by the decision of the one most interested in the
success of the aged chief's designs.
During the whole of the foregoing scene, it would have been
difficult to have traced a single distinct emotion in the lineaments of
the captive. He had heard his release proclaimed, with the same
indifference as the order to bind him to the stake. But now, that the
moment had arrived when it became necessary to make his election, he
spoke in a way to prove that the fortitude, which had bought him so
distinguished a name, had in no degree deserted him.
"My father is very old, but he has not yet looked upon every
thing," said Hard-Heart, in a voice so clear as to be heard by all in
presence. "He has never seen a buffaloe change to a bat. He will never
see a Pawnee become a Sioux!"
There was a suddenness, and yet a calmness in the manner of
delivering this decision, which assured most of the auditors that it
was unalterable. The heart of Le Balafré, however, was yearning towards
the youth, and the fondness of age was not so readilyrepulsed.
Reproving the burst of admiration and triumph, which the boldness of
the declaration, and the freshened hopes of revenge had given rise to,
by turning his gleaming eye around the band, the veteran again
addressed his adopted child, as though his purpose was not to be
"It is well," he said; "such are the words a brave should use, that
the warriors might see his heart. The day has been when the voice of Le
Balafré was loudest among the lodges of the Konzas. But the root of a
white hair is wisdom. My child will show the Tetons that he is brave,
by striking their enemies. Men of the Dahcotahs this is my son!"
The Pawnee hesitated a moment, and then stepping in front of the
chief, he took his hard and wrinkled hand, and laid it with reverence
on his head, as if to acknowledge the extent of his obligation. Then
recoiling a step, he raised his person to its greatest elevation, and
looked upon the hostile band, by whom he was environed, with an air of
loftiness and disdain, as he spoke aloud, in the language of the
"Hard-Heart has looked at himself within and without. He has
thought of all he has done in the hunts and in the wars. Every where he
is the same. There is no change. He is in all things a Pawnee. He has
struck so many Tetons that he could never eat in their lodges. His
arrows would fly backwards; the point of his lance would be on the
wrong end; their friends would weep at every whoop he gave; their
enemies would laugh. Do the Tetons know a Loup? Let them look at him
again. His head is painted, his arm is flesh, but his heart is rock.
When the Tetons see the sun come from the Rocky Mountains, and move
towards the land of the Pale-faces, the mind of Hard-Heart will soften,
and his spirit will become Sioux. Until that day he will live and die a
A yell of delight, in which admiration and ferocitywere fearfully
mingled, interrupted the speaker, and but too clearly announced the
character of his fate. The captive awaited a moment, for the commotion
to subside, and then turning again to Le Balafré he continued, in tones
far more conciliating and kind, as if he felt the propriety of
softening his refusal in a manner not to wound the pride of one who
would so gladly be his benefactor.
"Let my father lean heavier on the fawn of the Dahcotahs," he said.
"She is weak now, but as her lodge fills with young, she will be
stronger. See," he added, directing the eyes of the other to the
earnest countenance of the attentive trapper; "Hard-Heart is not
without a gray-head to show him the path to the blessed prairies. If he
ever has another father, it shall be that just warrior."
Le Balafré turned away in disappointment from the youth, and
approached the stranger, who had thus anticipated his design. The
examination between these two aged men was long, mutual, and curious.
It was not easy to detect the real character of the trapper through the
mask which the hardships of so many years had laid upon his features,
especially when aided by his wild and peculiar attire. Some moments
elapsed before the Teton spoke, and then it was in doubt whether he
addressed one like himself or some wanderer of that race who, he had
heard, were spreading themselves, like hungry locusts, throughout the
"The head of my brother is very white," he said, "but the eye of Le
Balafré is no longer like the eagle's. Of what colour is his skin?"
"The Wahconcah made me like these you see waiting for a Dahcotah
judgment; but fair and foul has coloured me darker than the skin of a
fox. What of that! Though the bark is ragged and riven, the heart of
the tree is sound!"
"My brother is a Big-knife! Let him turn hisface towards the
setting sun, and open his eyes. Does he see the salt lake beyond the
"The time has been, Teton, when few could see the white on the
eagle's head farther than I; but the glare of fourscore and seven
winters has dimmed my eyes, and but little can I boast of sight in my
latter days. Does the Sioux think a Pale-face is a god, that he can
look through the hills!"
"Then let my brother look at me. I am nigh him, and he can see that
I am but a foolish Red-man. Why cannot his people see every thing,
since they crave all."
"I understand you, chief; nor will I gainsay the justice of your
words, seeing that they are too much founded in truth. But though born
of the race you love so little, my worst enemy, not even a lying Mingo,
would dare to say that I ever laid hands on the goods of another,
except such as were taken in manful warfare, or that I ever coveted
more ground than the Lord has intended each man to fill."
"And yet my brother has come among the Red-skins to find a son?"
The trapper laid a finger on the naked shoulder of Le Balafré, and
looked into his scarred countenance with a wistful and confidential
expression, as he answered——
"Ay; but it was only that I might do good to the boy. If you think,
Dahcotah, that I adopted the youth in order to prop my age, you do as
much injustice to my good-will, as you seem to know little of the
marciless intentions of your own people. I have made him my son, that
he may know that one is left behind him——Peace, Hector, peace! is this
decent, pup, when gray-heads are counselling together, to break in upon
their discourse with the whinings of a hound! The dog is old, Teton,
and though well taught in respect of behaviour, he is getting, like
ourselves, I fancy, something forgetful of the fashions of his youth."
Further discourse between these veterans was interrupted by a
discordant yell, which burst at that moment from the lips of the dozen
withered crones, who have already been mentioned as having forced
themselves into a conspicuous part of the circle. The outcry was
excited by a sudden change in the air of Hard-Heart. When the old men
turned towards the youth, they saw him standing in the very centre of
the ring, with his head erect, his eye fixed on vacancy, one leg
advanced and an arm a little raised, as if all his faculties were
absorbed in the act of listening. A smile lighted his countenance for a
single moment, and then the whole man sunk again into his former look
of dignity and coldness, as though suddenly recalled to
self-possession. The movement had been construed into contempt, and
even the tempers of the chiefs began to be excited. Unable to restrain
their fury, the women broke into the circle in a body, and commenced
their attack by loading the captive with the most bitter revilings.
They boasted of the various exploits, which their sons had achieved at
the expense of the different tribes of the Pawness. They undervalued
his own reputation, and told him to look at Mahtoree, if he had never
yet seen a warrior. They accused him of having been suckled by a doe,
and of having drunk in cowardice with his mother's milk. In short, they
lavished upon their unmoved captive a torrent of that vindictive abuse,
in which the women of the savages are so well known to excel, but which
has been too often described to need a repetition here.
The effect of this outbreaking was inevitable. Le Balafré turned
away disappointed, and hid himself in the crowd, while the trapper,
whose honest features were working with his inward emotions, pressed
nigher to his young friend, as those who are linked to the criminal, by
ties so strong as to brave the opinions of men, are often seen to stand
about the place of execution to support his dying moments.The
excitement soon spread among the inferior warriors, though the chiefs
still forebore to make the signal, which committed the victim to their
mercy. Mahtoree, who had awaited such a movement among his fellows,
with the wary design of concealing his own jealous hatred, soon grew
weary of delay, and, by a glance of his eye, encouraged the tormentors
Weucha, who, eager for this sanction, had long stood watching the
countenance of the chief, bounded forward at the signal like a
blood-hound loosened from the leash. Forcing his way into the centre of
the hags, who were already proceeding from abuse to violence, he
reproved their impatience and bade them wait, until a warrior had begun
to torment, and then they should see their victim shed tears like a
The heartless savage commenced his efforts by flourishing his
tomahawk about the head of the captive, in such a manner as to give
reason to suppose, that each blow would bury the weapon in the flesh,
while it was so governed as not to touch the skin. To this customary
expedient Hard-Heart was perfectly insensible. His eye kept the same
steady, riveted look on the air, though the glittering axe described,
in its evolutions, a bright circle of light before his countenance.
Frustrated in this attempt, the callous Sioux laid the cold edge on the
naked head of his victim, and began to describe the different manners,
in which a prisoner might be flayed. The women kept time to his
cruelties with their taunts, and endeavoured to force some expression
of the lingerings of nature from the insensible features of the Pawnee.
But he evidently reserved himself for the chiefs, and for those moments
of extreme anguish, when the loftiness of his spirit might evince
itself in a manner better becoming his high and untarnished reputation.
The eyes of the trapper followed every movement of the tomahawk,
with the interest of a real father,until at length, unable to command
his indignation, he exclaimed——
"My son has forgotten his cunning. This is a low-minded Indian, and
one easily hurried into folly. I cannot do the thing myself, for my
traditions forbid a dying warrior to revile his persecutors, but the
gifts of a Red-skin are different. Let the Pawnee say the bitter words
and purchase an easy death. I will answer for his success, provided he
speaks before the grave men set their wisdom to back the folly of this
The savage Sioux, who heard his words without comprehending their
meaning, turned to the speaker, and menaced him with instant death for
"Ay, work your will," said the unflinching old man; "I am as ready
now as I shall be to-morrow. Though it would be a death that an honest
man might not wish to die. Look at that noble Pawnee, Teton, and see
what a Red-skin may become, who fears the Master of Life and follows
his laws. How many of your people has he sent to the distant prairies,"
he continued, in a sort of pious fraud, thinking, that while the danger
menaced himself, there could surely be no sin in extolling the merits
of another; "how many howling Siouxes has he struck, like a warrior in
open combat, while arrows were sailing in the air plentier than flakes
of falling snow. Go! will Weucha speak the name of one enemy he has
"Hard-Heart!" shouted the Sioux, turning in his fury, and aiming a
deadly blow at the head of his victim. His arm fell into the hollow of
the captive's hand. For a single moment the two stood as though
entranced in that attitude, the one paralyzed by so unexpected a
resistance, and the other bending his head, not to meet his death, but
in the act of the most intense attention. The women screamed with
triumph, for they thought the nerves of the captivehad at length failed
him. The trapper trembled for the honour of his friend, and Hector, as
if conscious of what was passing, raised his nose into the air, and
uttered a piteous howl.
But the Pawnee hesitated only for that moment. Raising the other
hand, like lightning, the tomahawk flashed in the air, and Weucha sunk
to his feet, brained to the eye. Then cutting a way with the bloody
weapon, he darted through the opening, left by the frightened women,
and seemed to descend the declivity at a single bound.
Had a bolt from Heaven fallen in the midst of the Teton band it
would not have occasioned greater consternation than this act of
desperate hardihood. A shrill plaintive cry burst from the lips of all
the women, and there was a moment, that even the oldest warriors
appeared to have lost their faculties. This stupor endured only for the
instant. It was succeeded by a yell of revenge, that burst from a
hundred throats, while as many warriors started forward at the cry,
bent on the most bloody retribution. But a powerful and authoritative
call from Mahtoree arrested every foot. The chief, in whose countenance
disappointment and rage were struggling with the affected composure of
his station, extended an arm towards the river and the whole mystery
Hard-Heart had already crossed near half the bottom, which lay
between the acclivity and the water. At this precise moment a band of
armed and mounted Pawnees turned a swell, and galloped to the margin of
the stream, into which the plunge of the fugitive was now distinctly
heard. A few minutes sufficed for his vigorous arm to conquer the
passage, and then the shout from the opposite shore told the humbled
Tetons the whole extent of the triumph of their adversaries.
"If that shepherd be not in hand-fast, let him fly; the curses he
shall have, the tortures he shall feel, will break the back of man, the
heart of monster."
It will readily be seen that the event just related was attended by
an extraordinary sensation among the Siouxes. In leading the hunters of
the band back to the encampment, their chief had neglected none of the
customary precautions of Indian prudence, in order that his trail might
escape the eyes of his enemies. It would seem, however, that the
Pawnees had not only made the dangerous discovery, but had managed with
great art to draw nigh the place by the only side on which it was
thought unnecessary to guard the approaches with the usual line of
sentinels. The latter, who were scattered along the different little
eminences which lay in the rear of the lodges, were among the last to
be apprized of the danger.
In such a crisis there was little time for deliberation. It was by
exhibiting the force of his character in scenes of similar difficulty,
that Mahtoree had obtained and strengthened his ascendancy among his
people, nor did he seem likely to lose it by the manifestation of any
indecision on the present occasion. In the midst of the screams of the
young, the shrieks of the women, and the wild howlings of the crones,
which were sufficient of themselves to have created a chaos in the
thoughts of one less accustomed to act in emergencies, he promptly
asserted his authority, issuing his orders with the coolness of a
While the warriors were arming, the boys were despatched to the
bottom for the horses. The tents were hastily struck by the women, and
disposed ofon such of the beasts as were not deemed fit to be trusted
in combat. The infants were cast upon the backs of their mothers, and
those children, who were of a size to march, were driven to the rear,
like a herd of less reasoning animals. Though these several movements
were made amid outcries, and a clamour, that likened the place to
another Babel, they were executed with incredible alacrity and
In the mean time Mahtoree neglected no duty that belonged to his
responsible station. From the elevation, on which he stood, he could
command a perfect view of the force and evolutions of the hostile
party. A grim smile lighted his visage, when he found that, in point of
numbers, his own band was greatly the superior. Notwithstanding this
advantage, however, there were other points of inequality, which would
probably have a tendency to render his success, in the approaching
conflict, exceedingly doubtful. His people were the inhabitants of a
more northern and less hospitable region than their enemies, and were
far from being rich in that species of property, horses and arms, which
constitutes the most highly prized wealth of a western Indian. The band
in view was mounted to a man, and as it had come so far to rescue, or
to revenge, their greatest partisan, he had no reason to doubt its
being composed entirely of braves. On the other hand, many of his
followers were far better in a hunt than in a combat; men who might
serve to divert the attention of his foes, but from whom he could
expect little desperate service. Still his flashing eye glanced over a
body of warriors on whom he had often relied, and who had never
deceived him, and though, in the precise position in which he found
himself, he felt no disposition to precipitate the conflict, he
certainly would have had no intention to avoid it, had not the presence
of his women and children placed the option altogether in the power of
On the other hand, the Pawnees, so unexpectedly successful in their
first and greatest object, manifested no intention to drive matters to
an issue. The river was a dangerous barrier to pass in the face of a
determined foe, and it would now have been in perfect accordance with
their cautious policy, to have retired, for a season, in order that
their onset might be made in the hours of darkness and of seeming
security. But there was a spirit in their chief that elevated him, for
the moment, high above the ordinary expedients of savage warfare. His
bosom burned with the desire to wipe out that disgrace, of which he had
been the subject, and it is possible, that he believed the retiring
camp of the Siouxes contained a prize, that begun to have a value in
his eyes, far exceeding any that could be found in fifty Teton scalps.
Let that be as it might, Hard-Heart had no sooner received the brief
congratulations of his band, and communicated to the chiefs such facts
as were important to be known, than he prepared himself to act such a
part in the coming conflict, as would at once maintain his well-earned
reputation and gratify his secret wishes. A led horse, one that had
been long trained in the hunts, had been brought to receive his master,
with but little hope that his services would ever be needed again in
this life. With a delicacy and consideration, that proved how much the
generous qualities of the youth had touched the feelings of his people,
a bow, a lance, and a quiver, were thrown across the animal, which it
had been intended to immolate on the grave of the young brave; a
species of care that would have superseded the necessity for the pious
duty that the trapper had pledged himself to perform.
Though Hard-Heart was sensible of the kindness of his warriors, and
believed that a chief, furnished with such appointments, might depart
with credit for the distant hunting-grounds of the Master of Life,
heseemed equally disposed to think that they might be rendered quite as
useful in the actual state of things. His countenance lighted with a
gleam of stern pleasure, as he tried the elasticity of the bow, and
poised the well-balanced spear. The glance he bestowed on the shield
was more cursory and indifferent, but the exultation, with which he
threw himself on the back of his most favoured war-horse was so great,
as to break through all the forms of Indian reserve. He rode to and fro
among his scarcely less delighted warriors, managing the animal with a
grace and address that no artificial rules can ever supply, at times
flourishing his lance, as if to assure himself of his seat, and at
others examining critically into the condition of the fusee, with which
he had also been furnished, with the fondness of one, who was
miraculously restored to the possession of treasures that had ever
constituted his pride and his happiness.
It was at this particular moment that Mahtoree, having completed
the necessary arrangements, prepared to make a more decisive movement.
The Teton had found no little embarrassment in disposing of his
captives. The tents of the squatter were still in sight, and his wary
cunning did not fail to apprize him, that it was quite as necessary to
guard against an attack from that quarter, as to watch the motions of
his more open and more active foes. His first impulse had been to make
the tomahawk suffice for the men, and to trust the females under the
same protection as the women of his band. But the manner, in which many
of his braves continued to regard the imaginary medicine of the
Long-knives, forewarned him of the danger of so hazardous an experiment
on the eve of a battle. It might be deemed the omen of defeat. In this
dilemma he motioned to a superannuated warrior, to whom he had confided
the charge of the non-combatants, and leading him apart, he placed a
finger significantly on his shoulder,as he said in a tone in which
authority was tempered by confidence——
"When my young men are striking the Pawnees, give the women knives.
Enough; my father is very old; he does not want to hear wisdom from a
The grim old savage returned a look of ferocious assent, and then
the mind of the chief appeared to be at rest on this important subject.
From that moment he bestowed all his care on the achievement of his
revenge and the maintenance of his martial character. Throwing himself
on his horse, he made a sign, with the air of a prince to his
followers, to imitate his example, interrupting without ceremony the
war-songs and solemn rites, by which many among them were stimulating
their spirits to deeds of daring. When all were in order, the whole
moved with great steadiness and silence towards the margin of the
The hostile bands were now only separated by the water. The width
of the stream was too great to admit of the use of the ordinary Indian
missiles, but a few useless shots were exchanged from the fusees of the
chiefs, more in bravado than with any expectation of doing execution.
As some time was suffered to elapse, in demonstrations and abortive
efforts, we shall leave them, for that period, to return to such of our
characters as remained in the hands of the savages.
We have shed much ink in vain, and wasted quires, that might
possibly have been better employed, if it be necessary now to tell the
reader that few of the foregoing movements escaped the observation of
the experienced trapper. He had been, in common with the rest,
astonished at the sudden act of Hard-Heart, and there was a single
moment, when a feeling of regret and mortification got the better of
his longings to save the life of the youth. The simple and
well-intentioned old man would have felt, atwitnessing any failure of
firmness on the part of: warrior, who had so strongly excited his
sympathies, the same species of sorrow that a Christian parent would
suffer in hanging over the dying moments of an impious child. But when,
instead of an impotent and unmanly struggle for existence, he found
that his friend had forborne, with the customary and dignified
submission of an Indian warrior, until an opportunity had offered to
escape, and that he had then manifested the spirit and decision of the
most gifted brave, his gratification became nearly too powerful to be
concealed. In the midst of the wailing and commotion, which succeeded
the death of Weucha and the escape of the captive, he placed himself
nigh the persons of his white associates, with a determination of
interfering, at every hazard, should the fury of the savages take that
direction. The appearance of the hostile band spared him however so
desperate and probably so fruitless an effort, and left him to pursue
his observations and to mature his plans more at leisure.
He particularly remarked that, while by far the greater part of the
women and all the children, together with the effects of the party were
hurried to the rear, probably with an order to secrete themselves in
some of the adjacent woods, the tent of Mahtoree himself was left
standing, and its contents undisturbed. Two chosen horses, however,
stood near by, held by a couple of youths, who were too young to go
into the conflict, and yet of an age to understand the management of
the beasts. The trapper perceived in this arrangement the reluctance of
Mahtoree to trust his newly found "flowers" beyond the reach of his
eye, and, at the same time, his forethought in providing against any
reverse of fortune. Neither had the manner of the Teton in giving his
commission to the old savage, nor the fierce pleasure, with which the
latter had receivedthe bloody charge, escaped his observation. From all
these mysterious movements, the old man was aware that the crisis was
at hand, and he summoned the utmost knowledge he had acquired in so
long a life, to aid him in the desperate conjuncture. It was while
musing on the means to be employed, that the Doctor again attracted his
attention to himself, by a piteous appeal for assistance.
"Venerable trapper, or, as I may now say, liberator," commenced the
dolorous Obed, "it would seem, that a fitting time has at length
arrived to dissever the unnatural and altogether irregular connexion,
which exists between my inferior members and the body of Asinus.
Perhaps if such a portion of my limbs were released as might leave me
master of the remainder, and this favourable opportunity were suitably
improved, by making a forced march towards the settlements, all hopes
of preserving the treasures of knowledge, of which I am the unworthy
receptacle, would not be lost. The importance of the results is surely
worth the hazard of the experiment."
"I know not, I know not," returned the deliberate old man; "the
vermin and reptiles, which you bear about you, were intended by the
Lord for the prairies, and I see no good in sending them into regions
that may not suit their natur's. And, moreover, you may be of great and
particular use as you now sit on the ass, though it creates no wonder
in my mind to perceive that you are ignorant of it, seeing that
usefulness is altogether a new calling to so bookish a man."
"Of what service can I be in this painful thraldom, in which the
animal functions are in a manner suspended, and the spiritual, or
intellectual, blinded by the secret sympathy that unites mind to
matter. There is likely to be blood spilt between yonder adverse hosts
of heathens, and, though but little desiring the office, it would be
better that I should employmyself in surgical experiments, than in thus
wasting the precious moments, mortifying both soul and body."
"It is little that a Red-skin would care to have a physicianer at
his hurts, while the whoop is ringing in his ears. Patience is a virtue
in an Indian, and can be no shame to a Christian white man. Look at
these hags of squaws, friend Doctor; I have no judgment in savage
tempers, if they are not bloody minded, and ready to work their
accursed pleasures on us all. Now so long as you keep upon the ass, and
maintain the fierce look which is far from being your natural gift,
fear of so great a medicine may serve to keep down their courage. I am
placed here, like a general at the opening of the battle, and it has
become my duty to make such use of all my force as, in my judgment,
each is best fitted to perform. If I know these niceties you will be
more serviceable for your countenance, just now, than in any more
"Harkee, old trapper," shouted Paul, whose patience could no longer
maintain itself under the calculating and prolix explanations of the
other, "suppose you cut two things I can name, short off. That is to
say, your conversation, which is agreeable enough over a well-baked
buffaloe's hump, and these damnable thongs of hide, which, according to
my experience, can be pleasant no where. A single stroke of your knife
would be of more service, just now, than the longest speech that was
ever made in a Kentucky court-house."
"Ay, court-houses are the 'happy hunting-grounds,' as a Red-skin
would say, for them that are born with gifts no better than such as lie
in the tongue. I was carried into one of the lawless holes myself,
once, and it was all about a thing of no more value than the skin of a
deer. The Lord forgive them! the Lord forgive them! they knew no
better, and they did according to their weak judgments, and therefore
the more are they to be pitied; and yet it was a solemn sight to see an
aged man, who had always lived in the air, laid neck and heels by the
law, and held up as a spectacle for the women and boys of a wasteful
settlement to point their fingers at!"
"If such be your commendable opinions of confinement, honest
friend, you had better manifest the same, by putting us at liberty with
as little delay as possible," said Middleton, who, like his companion,
began to find the tardiness of his often-tried companion quite as
extraordinary as it was disagreeable.
"I should greatly like to do the same; especially in your behalf,
Captain, who, being a soldier, might find not only pleasure but profit
in examining, more at your ease, into the circumventions and cunning of
an Indian fight. As to our friend here, it is of but little matter, how
much of this affair he examines, or how little, seeing that a bee is
not to be overcome in the same manner as an Indian."
"Old man, this trifling with our misery is inconsiderate, to give
it a name no harsher——"
"Ay, your gran'ther was of a hot and hurrying mind, and one must
not expect, that the young of a panther will crawl the 'arth like the
litter of a porcupine. Now keep you both silent, and what I say shall
have the appearance of being spoken concerning the movements that are
going on in the bottom; all of which will serve to put jealousy to
sleep, and to shut the eyes of such as rarely close them on wickedness
and cruelty. In the first place, then, you must know that I have reason
to think yonder treacherous Teton has left an order to put us all to
death, so soon as he thinks the deed may be done secretly, and without
"Great Heaven! will you suffer us to be butchered like unresisting
"Hist, Captain, hist; a hot temper is none of thebest, when cunning
is more needed than blows. Ah, the Pawnee is a noble boy! it would do
your heart good to see how he draws off from the river, in order to
invite his enemies to cross; and yet, according to my failing sight,
they count two warriors to his one! But as I was saying, little good
comes of haste and thoughtlessness. The facts are so plain, that any
child may see into their wisdom. The savages are of many minds as to
the manner of our treatment. Some fear us for our colour, and would
gladly let us go, and other some would show us the mercy that the doe
receives from the hungry wolf. When opposition gets fairly into the
councils of a tribe, it is rare that humanity is the gainer. Now see
you these wrinkled and cruel-minded squaws——No, you cannot see them as
you lie, but nevertheless they are here, ready and willing, like so
many raging she-bears, to work their will upon us so soon as the proper
time shall come."
"Harkee, old gentleman trapper," interrupted Paul, with a little
bitterness in his manner. "Do you tell us these matters for our
amusement or for your own. If for ours, you may keep your breath for
the next race you run, as I am tickled nearly to suffocation, already,
with my part of the fun."
"Hist"——said the trapper, cutting with great dexterity and rapidity
the thong, which bound one of the arms of Paul to his body, and
dropping his knife at the same time within reach of the liberated hand.
"Hist, boy, hist; that was a lucky moment! The yell from the bottom
drew the eyes of these blood-suckers in another quarter, and so far we
are safe. Now make a proper use of your advantages; but be careful,
that what you do, is done without being seen."
"Thank you for this small favour, old deliberation," muttered the
bee-hunter, "though it comes like a snow in May, somewhat out of
"Foolish boy!" reproachfully exclaimed the other,who had moved to a
little distance from his friends, and appeared to be attentively
regarding the movements of the hostile parties, "will you never learn
to know the wisdom of patience. And you, too, Captain; though a man
myself, that seldom ruffles his temper by vain feelings, I see that you
are silent, because you scorn to ask favours any longer from one you
think too slow to grant them. No doubt, ye are both young and filled
with the pride of your strength and manhood, and I dare say you thought
it only needful to cut the thongs, to leave you masters of the ground.
But he, that has seen much, is apt to think much. Had I run like a
bustling woman to have given you freedom, these hags of the Siouxes
would have seen the same, and then where would you both have found
yourselves! Under the tomahawk and the knife, like helpless and
outcrying children, though gifted with the size and beards of men. Ask
our friend, the bee-hunter, in what condition he finds himself to
struggle with a Teton boy, after so many hours of bondage; much less
with a dozen marciless and blood-thirsty squaws!"
"Truly, old trapper," returned Paul stretching his limbs, which
were by this time entirely released, and endeavouring to restore the
suspended circulation, "you have some judgmatical notions in these
matters. Now here am I, Paul Hover, a man who will give in to few at a
wrestle or a race, nearly as helpless as the day I paid my first visit
to the house of old Paul, who is dead and gone, the Lord forgive him
any little blunders he may have made while he tarried in Kentucky! Now
there is my foot on the ground, so far as eye-sight has any virtue, and
yet it would take no great temptation to make me swear it didn't touch
the earth by six inches. I say, honest friend, since you have done so
much, have the goodness to keep these damnable squaws, of whom yousay
so many interesting things, at a little distance, till I have got the
blood of this arm in motion and am ready to receive them politely."
The trapper made a sign that he perfectly understood the emergency
of the case, and he walked towards the superannuated savage, who began
to manifest an intention of commencing his assigned task, leaving the
bee-hunter to recover the use of his limbs as well as he could, and to
put Middleton in a similar situation to defend himself.
Mahtoree had not mistaken his man, in selecting the one he did to
execute his bloody purpose. He had chosen one of those ruthless
savages, more or less of whom are to be found in every tribe, who had
purchased a certain share of military reputation, by the exhibition of
a hardihood that found its impulses in an innate love of cruelty.
Contrary to the high and chivalrous sentiment, which among the Indians
of the prairies renders it a deed of even greater merit to bear off the
trophy of victory from a fallen foe, than to slay him, he had been
remarkable for preferring the pleasure of destroying life, to the glory
of striking the dead. While the more self-devoted and ambitious braves
were intent on personal honour, he had always been seen, established
behind some favourable cover, depriving the wounded of hope, by
finishing that which a more gallant warrior had begun. In all the
cruelties of the tribe he had ever been foremost, and no Sioux was so
uniformly found on the side of merciless councils.
He had awaited, with an impatience which his long-practised
restraint could with difficulty subdue, for the moment to arrive when
he might proceed to execute the wishes of the great chief, without
whose approbation and powerful protection he would not have dared to
undertake a step that had so many opposers in the nation. But events
had been hastening to an issue between the hostile parties, and the
time had now arrived, greatly to his secret and malignant joy, when he
was free to act his will.
The trapper found him distributing knives to the ferocious hags,
who received the presents chanting a low monotonous song, that recalled
the losses of their people, in various conflicts with the whites, and
which extolled the pleasures and glory of revenge. The appearance of
such a groupe was enough of itself to have deterred one, less
accustomed to such sights than the old man, from trusting himself
within the circle of their wild and repulsive rites.
Each of the crones, as she received the weapon, commenced a slow
and measured, but ungainly step, around the savage, until the whole
were circling him in a sort of magic dance. The movements were timed,
in some degree, by the words of their songs, as were their gestures by
the ideas. When they spoke of their own losses, they tossed their long
straight locks of gray into the air, or suffered them to fall in
confusion upon their withered necks, but as the sweetness of returning
blow for blow was touched upon, by any one among them, it was answered
by a common howl, as well as by gestures, that were sufficiently
expressive of the manner in which they were exciting themselves to the
necessary state of fury.
It was into the very centre of this ring of seeming demons that the
trapper now stalked, with the same calmness and observation as he would
have walked into a village church. No other change was made by his
appearance, than a renewal of the threatening gestures, with, if
possible, a still less equivocal display of their remorseless
intentions. Making a sign for them to cease, the old man demanded——
"Why do the mothers of the Tetons sing with bitter tongues? The
Pawnee prisoners are not yet intheir village; their young men have not
come back loaded with scalps!"
He was answered by another general howl, and a few of the boldest
of the furies even ventured to approach him, flourishing their knives
within a dangerous proximity to his own steady eye-balls.
"It is a warrior you see, and no runner of the Long-knives, whose
face grows paler at the sight of a tomahawk," returned the trapper,
without moving a muscle. "Let the Sioux women think; if one White-skin
dies a hundred spring up where he falls."
Still the hags made no other answer than by increasing their speed
in the circle, and occasionally raising the threatening expressions of
their chaunt into louder and more intelligible strains. Suddenly one of
the oldest, and most ferocious of them all broke out of the ring, and
skirred away in the direction of her victims, like a rapacious bird,
that having wheeled on poised wings, for the time necessary to insure
its object, makes the final dart upon its prey. The others followed, a
disorderly and screaming flock, fearful of being too late to reap their
portion of the sanguinary pleasure.
"Mighty medecine of my people!" shouted the old man, in the Teton
tongue; "lift your voice and speak, that the Sioux nation may hear."
Whether it was that Asinus had acquired so much knowledge, by his
recent experience, as to know the value of his sonorous properties, or
that the strange spectacle of a dozen hags flitting past him, filling
the air with such sounds as were even grating to the ears of an ass,
most moved his temper, it is certain that the animal did that which
Obed was requested to do, and probably with far greater effect than if
the naturalist had strove with his mightiest effort to be heard. It was
the first time the strange beast had spoken since his arrival in the
encampment. Admonishedby so terrible a warning, the hags scattered
themselves, like vultures frightened from their prey, still screaming
and but half diverted from their purpose.
In the meantime the sudden appearance, and the imminency of the
danger, had quickened the blood in the veins of Paul and Middleton,
more than all their laborious frictions and physical expedients. The
former had actually risen to his feet, and assumed an attitude which
perhaps threatened more than the worthy bee-hunter was able to perform,
and even the latter had mounted to his knees, and shown a disposition
to do good service for his life. The unaccountable release of the
captives from their bonds was attributed by the hags to the
incantations of the medecine, and the mistake was probably of as much
service as the miraculous and timely interposition of Asinus in their
"Now is the time to come out of our ambushment," exclaimed the old
man, hastening to join his friends, "and to make open and manful war.
It would have been policy to have kept back the struggle, until the
Captain was in better condition to join, but as we have unmasked our
battery, why, we must maintain the ground——"
He was interrupted by feeling a gigantic hand on his shoulder.
Turning, under a sort of confused impression that necromancy was
actually abroad in the place, he found that he was in the hands of a
sorcerer no less dangerous and powerful than Ishmael Bush. The file of
the squatter's well-armed sons, that was seen issuing from behind the
still standing tent of Mahtoree, explained at once, not only the manner
in which their rear had been turned, while their attention had been so
earnestly bestowed on matters in front, but the utter impossibility of
Neither Ishmael nor his sons deemed it necessary to enter into
prolix explanations. Middleton and Paul were bound again, with
extraordinary silenceand despatch, and this time not even the aged
trapper was exempt from a similar fortune. The tent was struck, the
females placed upon the horses, and the whole were on the way towards
the squatter's encampment, with a celerity that might well have served
to keep alive the idea of magic.
During this summary and brief disposition of things, the
disappointed agent of Mahtoree and his callous associates were seen
flying across the plain, in the direction of the retiring families, and
when Ishmael left the spot with his prisoners and his booty, the
ground, which had so lately been alive with the bustle and life of an
extensive Indian encampment, was as still and empty as any other spot
in those extensive wastes.
"Is this proceeding just and honourable?"
During the occurrence of these events on the upland plain, the
warriors on the bottom had not been idle. We left the adverse bands
watching each other on the opposite banks of the stream, each
endeavouring to excite its enemy to some act of indiscretion, by the
most reproachful taunts and revilings. But the Pawnee chief was not
slow to discover that his crafty antagonist had no objection to waste
the time so idly, and, as they mutually proved, in expedients that were
so entirely useless. He changed his plans, accordingly, and withdrew
from the bank, as has been already explained through the mouth of the
trapper, in order to invite the more numerous host of the Siouxes to
cross. The challenge was not accepted, and the Loups were compelled to
frame some other method to attain their end.
Instead of any longer throwing away the precious moments, in
fruitless endeavours to induce his foe to cross the stream, the young
partisan of the Pawnees led his troops, at a swift gallop, along its
margin, in quest of some favourable spot, where by a sudden push he
might throw his own band without loss to the opposite shore. The
instant his object was discovered, each mounted Teton received a
footman behind him, and Mahtoree was still enabled to concentrate his
whole force against the effort. Perceiving that his design was
anticipated, and unwilling to blow his horses by a race that would
disqualify them for service even after they had succeeded in
outstripping the more heavily-burdened cattle of the Siouxes,
Hard-Heart drew up, and came to a dead halt on the very margin of the
As the country was too open for any of the usual devices of savage
warfare, and time was so pressing, the chivalrous Pawnee resolved to
bring on the result by one of those acts of personal daring, for which
the Indian braves are so remarkable, and by which they so often
purchase their highest and dearest renown. The spot he had selected was
favourable to such a project. The river, which throughout most of its
course was deep and rapid, had expanded there to more than twice its
customary width, and the rippling of its waters proved that it flowed
over a shallow bottom. In the centre of the current there was an
extensive and naked bed of sand, but a little raised above the level of
the stream, and of a colour and consistency which warranted, to a
practised eye, that it afforded a firm and safe foundation for the
foot. To this spot the partisan now turned his wistful gaze, nor was he
long in making his decision. First speaking to his warriors, and
apprizing them of his intentions, he dashed into the current, and
partly by swimming, and more by the use of his horse's feet, he quickly
reached the island in safety.
The experience of Hard-Heart had not deceived him. When his
snorting steed issued from the water, he found himself on a tremulous
but damp and compact bed of sand, that was admirably adapted to the
exhibition of the finest powers of the animal. The horse seemed
conscious of the advantage, and bore his warlike rider, with an
elasticity of step and a loftiness of air, that would have done no
discredit to the highest trained and most generous charger. The blood
of the chief himself quickened with the excitement of his striking
situation. He sat the beast as though he was conscious that the eyes of
two tribes were on his movements, and as nothing could be more
acceptable and grateful to his own band than this display of native
grace and courage, so nothing could be more taunting and humiliating to
The sudden appearance of the Pawnee on the sands was announced
among the Tetons by a general yell of savage anger. A rush was made to
the shore, followed by a discharge of fifty arrows and a few fusees,
and on the part of several braves there was a plain manifestation of a
desire to plunge into the water, in order to punish the temerity of
their insolent foe. But a call and a mandate from Mahtoree checked the
rising, and nearly ungovernable, temper of his band. So far from
allowing a single foot to be wet, or a repetition of the fruitless
efforts of his people to drive away their foe with missiles, the whole
of the party was commanded to retire from the shore, while he himself
communicated his intentions to one or two of his most favoured
When the Pawnees had observed the rush of their enemies, twenty
warriors rode into the stream; but so soon as they perceived that the
Tetons had withdrawn, they fell back to a man, leaving the young chief
to the support of his own often-tried skill and well-established
courage. The instructions of Hard-Heart, on quitting his band, had been
worthy of the self-devotion and daring of his character. So long as
single warriors came against him, he was to be left to the keeping of
the Wahcondah and his own arm, but should the Siouxes attack him in
numbers, he was to be sustained, man for man, even to the extent of his
whole force. These generous orders were strictly obeyed; and though so
many hearts in the troop panted to share in the glory and danger of
their partisan, not a warrior was found, among them all, who did not
know how to conceal his impatience under the usual mask of Indian
self-restraint. They watched the issue with quick and jealous eyes, nor
did a single exclamation of surprise escape them, when they saw, as
will soon be apparent, that the experiment of their chief was as likely
to conduce to peace as to war.
Mahtoree was not long in communicating his plans to his confidants,
whom he as quickly dismissed to join their fellows in the rear. The
Teton entered a short distance into the stream and halted. Here he
raised his hand several times, with the palm outwards, and made several
of those other signs, which are construed into a pledge of amicable
intentions among the inhabitants of those regions. Then, as if to
confirm the sincerity of his faith, he cast his fusee to the shore, and
entered deeper into the water, where he again came to a stand, in order
to see in what manner the Pawnee would receive his pledges of peace.
The crafty Sioux had not made his calculations on the noble and
honest nature of his more youthful rival in vain. Hard-Heart had
continued galloping across the sands, during the discharge of missiles
and the appearance of a general onset, with the same proud and
confident mien, as that with which he had first braved the danger. When
he saw the wellknown person of the Teton partisan enter the river,he
waved his hand in triumph, and flourishing his lance, he raised the
thrilling war-cry of his people, as a challenge for him to come on. But
when he saw the signs of a truce, though deeply practised in the
treachery of savage combats, he disdained to show a less manly reliance
on himself, than that which his enemy had seen fit to exhibit. Riding
to the farthest extremity of the sands, he cast his own fusee from him,
and returned to the point whence he had started.
The two chiefs were now armed alike. Each had his spear, his bow,
his quiver, his little battle-axe and his knife; and each had, also, a
shield of hides, which might serve as a means of defence against a
surprise from any of these weapons. The Sioux no longer hesitated, but
advanced deeper into the stream, and soon landed on a point of the
island which his courteous adversary had left free for that purpose.
Had one been there to watch the countenance of Mahtoree, as he crossed
the water that separated him from the most formidable and the most
hated of all his rivals, he might have fancied that he could trace the
gleamings of a secret joy, breaking through the cloud which deep
cunning and heartless treachery had drawn before his swarthy visage;
and yet there would have been moments, when he might have believed that
the flashings of the Teton's eye and the expansion of his nostrils, had
their origin in a nobler sentiment, and one far more worthy of an
The Pawnee had withdrawn to his own side of the sands, where he
awaited the time of his enemy with calmness and dignity. The Teton made
a short turn or two, to curb the impatience of his steed, and to
recover his seat after the effort of crossing, and then he rode into
the centre of the place, and invited the other, by a courteous gesture,
to approach. Hard-Heart drew nigh, until he found himself at a distance
equally suited to advance or to retreat, and, in his turn, he came to a
stand, keeping his glowing eye riveted on that of his enemy. A long and
grave pause succeeded this movement, during which these two
distinguished braves, who were now, for the first time, confronted,
with arms in their hands, sat regarding each other, like warriors who
knew how to value the merits of a gallant foe, however hated. But the
mien of Mahtoree was far less stern and warlike than that of the
partisan of the Loups. Throwing his shield over his shoulder, as if to
invite the confidence of the other, he made a gesture of salutation and
was the first to speak.
"Let the Pawnees go upon the hills," he said, "and look from the
morning to the evening sun, from the country of snows to the land of
many flowers, and they will see that the earth is very large. Why
cannot the Red-men find room on it for all their villages?"
"Has the Teton ever known a warrior of the Loups come to his towns
to beg a place for his lodge?" returned the young brave, with a look in
which pride and contempt were not attempted to be concealed; "when the
Pawnees hunt, do they send runners to ask Mahtoree if there are no
Siouxes on the prairies?"
"When there is hunger in the lodge of a warrior, he looks for the
buffaloe, which is given him for food," the Teton continued, struggling
to keep down the ire which was excited by the other's scorn. "The
Wahcondah has made more of them than he has made Indians. He has not
said, this buffaloe shall be for a Pawnee, and that for a Dahcotah;
this beaver for a Konza, and that for an Omahaw. No; he said, there are
enough. I love my red children, and I have given them great riches. The
swiftest horse shall not go from the village of the Tetons to the
village of the Loups in many suns. It is far fromthe towns of the
Pawnees to the river of the Osages. There is room for all that I love.
Why then should a Red-man strike his brother?"
Hard-Heart dropped one end of his lance to the earth, and having
also cast his shield across his shoulder, he sat leaning lightly on the
weapon, as he answered with a smile of no doubtful expression——
"Are the Tetons weary of the hunts and of the war-path? do they
wish to cook the venison, and not to kill it? Do they intend to let the
hair cover their heads, that their enemies shall not know where to find
their scalps! Go; a Pawnee warrior will never come among such Sioux
squaws for a wife!"
A frightful gleam of ferocity broke out of the restraint of the
Dahcotah's countenance, as he listened to this biting insult, but he
was quick in subduing the tell-tale sentiment, in an expression much
better suited to his present purpose.
"This is the way a young chief should talk of war," he answered
with singular composure; "but Mahtoree has seen the misery of more
winters than his brother. When the nights have been long, and darkness
has been in his lodge, while the young men slept, he has thought of the
hardships of his people. He has said to himself: Teton, count the
scalps in your smoke. They are all red but two! Does the wolf destroy
the wolf, or the rattler strike his brother? You know they do not;
therefore, Teton, are you wrong to go on a path that leads to the
village of a Red-skin, with the tomahawk in your hand."
"The Sioux would rob the warrior of his fame? He would say to his
young men: go, dig roots in the prairies, and find holes to bury your
tomahawks in; you are no longer braves!"
"If the tongue of Mahtoree ever says thus," returned the crafty
chief, with an appearance of strong indignation, "let his women cut it
out, and burn it with the offals of the buffaloe. No," he added,
advancinga few feet nigher to the immoveable Hard-Heart, as if in the
sincerity of his confidence; "the Red-man can never want an enemy; they
are plentier than the leaves on the trees, the birds in the heavens, or
the buffaloes on the prairies. Let my brother open his eyes wide; does
he no where see an enemy he would strike?"
"How long is it since the Teton counted the scalps of his warriors,
that were drying in the smoke of a Pawnee lodge? The hand that took
them is here, and ready to make eighteen, twenty."
"Now let not the mind of my brother go on a crooked path. If a
Red-skin strikes a Red-skin forever, who will be masters of the
prairies, when nk warriors are left to say. 'they are mine.' Hear the
voices of the old men. They tell us that in their days many Indians
have come out of the woods under the rising sun, and that they have
filled the prairies with their complaints of the robberies of the
Long-knives. Where a Pale-face comes, a Red-man cannot stay. The land
is too small. They are always hungry. See, they are here already!"
As the Teton spoke, he pointed towards the tents of Ishmael, which
were in plain sight, and then he paused, to await the effect of his
words on the mind of his ingenuous foe. Hard-Heart listened, like one
in whom a train of novel ideas had been excited by the reasoning of the
other. He mused for near a minute, before he demanded——
"What do the wise chiefs of the Sioux say must be done?"
"They think that the moccasin of every Pale-face should be
followed, like the track of the bear. That the Long-knife, who comes
upon the prairie, should never go back. That the path shall be open to
those who come, and shut to those who go. Yonder are many. They have
horses and guns. They are rich, but we are poor. Will the Pawnees meet
the Tetonsin council; and when the sun is gone behind the Rocky
Mountains, they will say, this is for a Loup and this for a Sioux."
"Teton——no! Hard-Heart has never struck the stranger. They come
into his lodge and eat, and they go out in safety. A mighty chief is
their friend! When my people call the young men to go on the war-path,
the moccasin of Hard-Heart is the last. But his village is no sooner
hid by the trees, than it is the first. No, Teton; his arm will never
be lifted against the stranger."
"Fool, then die, with empty hands!" Mahtoree exclaimed, setting an
arrow to his bow, and sending it, with a sudden and deadly aim, full at
the naked bosom of his generous and confiding enemy.
The action of the treacherous Teton was too quick, and too well
matured to admit of any of the ordinary means of defence, on the part
of the Pawnee. His shield was hanging from his shoulder, and even the
arrow had been suffered to fall from its place, and lay in the hollow
of the hand, which grasped his bow. But the quick eye of the brave had
time to see the movement, and his ready thoughts did not desert him.
Pulling hard and with a jerk upon the rein, his steed reared his
forward legs into the air, and, as the rider bent his body low, the
horse itself served for a shield against the danger. So true, however,
was the aim, and so powerful the force by which it was sent, that the
arrow entered the neck of the animal and broke the skin on the opposite
Quicker than thought Hard-Heart sent back an answering arrow. The
shield of the Teton was transfixed, but his person was untouched. For a
few moments the twang of the bow and the glancing of arrows were
incessant, notwithstanding the combatants were compelled to give so
large a portion of their care to the means of defence. The quivers were
soon exhausted, and though blood had been drawn, it was not in
sufficient quantities to impair the energy of the combat.
A series of masterly and rapid evolutions with the horses now
commenced. The wheelings, the charges, the advances, and the circuitous
retreats, were like the flights of circling swallows. Blows were struck
with the lance, the sand was scattered in the air, and the shocks often
seemed to be unavoidably fatal; but still each party kept his seat, and
still each rein was managed with a steady hand. At length the Teton was
driven to the necessity of throwing himself from his horse, to escape a
thrust that would otherwise have proved fatal. The Pawnee passed his
lance through the beast, uttering a shout of triumph as he galloped by.
Turning in his tracks he was about to push the advantage, when his own
mettled steed staggered and fell, under a burden that he could no
longer sustain. Mahtoree answered his premature cry of victory, and
rushed upon the entangled youth, with knife and tomahawk. The utmost
agility of Hard-Heart had not sufficed to extricate himself in season
from the fallen beast. He saw that his case was desperate. Feeling for
his knife, he took the blade between a finger and thumb, and cast it
with admirable coolness at his advancing foe. The keen weapon whirled a
few times in the air and its point meeting the naked breast of the
impetuous Sioux, the blade was buried to the buck-horn haft.
Mahtoree laid his hand on the weapon, and seemed to hesitate
whether to withdraw it or not. For a moment his countenance darkened
with the most inextinguishable hatred and ferocity, and then, as if
inwardly admonished how little time he had to lose, he staggered to the
edge of the sands, and halted with his feet in the water. The cunning
and duplicity, which had so long obscured the brighter and nobler
traits of his character, were lost in the never dying sentiment of
pride, which he had imbibed in youth.
"Boy of the Loups!" he said with a smile of grim satisfaction, "the
scalp of a mighty Dahcotah shall never dry in Pawnee smoke!"
Drawing the knife from the wound he hurled it towards the enemy in
disdain. Then shaking his arm at his successful foe, his swarthy
countenance appearing to struggle with volumes of scorn and hatred that
he could not utter with the tongue, he cast himself headlong into one
of the most rapid veins of the current, his hand still waving in
triumph above the fluid, even after his body had sunk into the tide
forever. Hard-Heart was by this time free. The silence, which had
hitherto reigned in the bands, was suddenly broken by general and
tumultuous shouts. Fifty of the adverse warriors were already in the
river, hastening to destroy or to defend the conqueror, and the combat
was rather on the eve of its commencement than near its termination.
But to all these signs of danger and need, the young victor was
insensible. He sprange for the knife, and bounded with the foot of an
antelope along the sands, looking for the receding fluid, which
concealed his prize. A dark, bloody spot indicated the place, and,
armed with the knife, he plunged into the stream, resolute to die in
the flood, or to return with his trophy.
In the mean time the sands became a scene of bloodshed and
violence. Better mounted and perhaps more ardent, the Pawnees had,
however, reached the spot in sufficient numbers to force their enemies
to retire. The victors pushed their success to the opposite shore and
gained the solid ground in the mêlée of the fight. Here they were met
by all the unmounted Tetons and, in their turn, they were forced to
The combat now became more characteristic and circumspect. As the
hot impulses, which had driven both parties to mingle in so deadly a
struggle, began to cool, the chiefs were enabled to exercise their
influenceand to temper the assaults with prudence. In consequence of
the admonitions of their leaders, the Siouxes sought such covers as the
grass afforded, or here and there some bush or slight inequality of the
ground, and the charges of the Pawnee warriors necessarily became more
wary, and of course less fatal.
In this manner the contest continued with a varied success, and
without much loss. The Siouxes had succeeded in forcing themselves into
a thick growth of rank grass, where the horses of their enemies could
not enter, or where, when entered, they were worse than useless. It
became necessary to dislodge the Tetons from this cover, or the object
of the combat must be abandoned. Several desperate efforts had been
repulsed, and the disheartened Pawnees were beginning to think of a
retreat, when the wellknown war-cry of Hard-Heart was heard at hand,
and at the next instant the chief appeared in their centre, flourishing
the scalp of the Great Sioux, as a banner that would lead to victory.
He was greeted by a shout of delight, and followed into the cover,
with an impetuosity that, for the moment, drove all before it. But the
bloody trophy in the hand of the partisan served as an incentive to the
attacked as well as to the assailants. Mahtoree had left many a daring
brave behind him in his band, and the orator, who in the debates of
that day had manifested such pacific thoughts, now exhibited the most
generous self-devotion, in order to wrest the memorial of a man he had
never loved, from the hands of the avowed enemies of his people.
The result was in favour of numbers. After a severe struggle, in
which the finest displays of personal intrepidity were exhibited by all
the chiefs, the Pawnees were compelled to retire upon the open bottom,
closely pressed by the Siouxes, who failednot to seize each foot of
ground that was ceded by their enemies. Had the Tetons stayed their
efforts on the margin of the grass, it is probable that the honour of
the day would have been theirs, notwithstanding the irretrievable loss
they had sustained in the death of Mahtoree. But the more reckless
braves of the band were guilty of an indiscretion, that entirely
changed the fortunes of the fight, and suddenly stripped them of all
their hard-earned advantages.
A Pawnee chief had sunk under the numerous wounds he had received,
and he fell, a target for a dozen arrows, in the very last groupe of
his retiring party. Regardless alike of inflicting further injury on
their foes, and of the temerity of the act, every Sioux brave bounded
forward with a whoop, each man burning with the wish to reap the high
renown of striking the body of the dead. They were met by Hard-Heart
and a chosen knot of warriors, all of whom were just as stoutly bent on
saving the honour of their nation from so foul a stain. The struggle
was now hand to hand, and blood began to flow more freely. As the
Pawnees retired with the body, the Siouxes pressed upon their
footsteps, and at length the whole of the latter broke out of the cover
with a common yell, and threatened to bear down all opposition by sheer
The fate of Hard-Heart and his companions, all of whom would have
died rather than relinquish their object, would now have been quickly
sealed, but for a powerful and unlooked-for interposition in their
favour. A shout was heard from a little brake on the left, and a volley
from the fatal western rifle immediately succeeded. Some five or six
Siouxes leaped forward and fell in the death agony at the reports, and
every arm among them was as suddenly suspended, as though the lightning
had flashed from the clouds to aid the cause of the Loups. Then came
Ishmaeland his stout sons in open view, bearing down upon their late
treacherous allies, with looks and voices that proclaimed the character
of their succour.
The shock was too much for the fortitude of the Tetons. Several of
their bravest chiefs had already fallen, and those that remained were
instantly abandoned by the whole of the inferior herd. A few of the
most desperate braves still lingered nigh the fatal symbol of their
honour, and there nobly met their deaths under the blows of the
re-encouraged Pawnees. A second discharge from the rifles of the
squatter and his party, however, completed the victory.
The Siouxes were now to be seen flying to more distant covers, with
the same eagerness and desperation as, a few moments before, they had
been plunging into the fight. The triumphant Pawnees bounded forward in
chase, like so many high-blooded and well-trained hounds. On every side
were heard the cries of victory or the yell of revenge. A few of the
fugitives endeavoured to bear away the bodies of their fallen warriors,
but the hot pursuit quickly compelled them to abandon the slain, in
order to preserve the living. Among all the struggles, which were made
on that occasion, to guard the honour of the Siouxes from the stain
which their peculiar opinions attached to the possession of the scalp
of a fallen brave, but one solitary instance of success occurred.
The opposition of a particular chief to the hostile proceedings in
the councils of that morning has been already seen. But, after having
raised his voice in vain, in support of peace, his arm was not backward
in doing its duty in the war. His prowess has been mentioned, and it
was chiefly by his courage and example, that the Tetons sustained
themselves in the heroic manner they did, when the death of Mahtoree
was known. This warrior, who was called in the figurative language of
his people 'the Swooping Eagle,' had been the last to abandon the hopes
of victory. Whenhe found that the support of the dreaded rifle had
robbed his band of their hard-earned advantages, he sullenly retired
amid a shower of missiles, to the secret spot where he had hid his
horse in the mazes of the highest grass. Here he found a new and an
entirely unexpected competitor, ready to dispute with him for the
possession of the beast. It was Boreecheena, the aged friend of
Mahtoree; he whose voice had been given in opposition to his own wiser
opinions, transfixed with an arrow, and evidently suffering under the
pangs of approaching death.
"I have been on my last war-path," said the grim old warrior, when
he found that the real owner of the animal had come to claim his
property; "shall a Pawnee carry the white hairs of a Sioux into his
village, to be a scorn to his women and children?"
The other grasped his hand, answering to the appeal with the stern
look of inflexible resolution. With this silent pledge, he assisted the
wounded man to mount. So soon as he had led the horse to the margin of
the cover, he threw himself also on its back, and securing his
companion to his belt, he issued on the open plain, trusting entirely
to the well-known speed of the beast for their mutual safety. The
Pawnees were not long in catching a view of these new objects, and
several turned their steeds to pursue. The race continued for a mile,
without a murmur from the sufferer, though in addition to the agony of
his body, he had the pain of seeing his enemies approach at every leap
of their horses.
"Stop," he said, raising a feeble arm to check the speed of his
companion; "the Eagle of my tribe must spread his wings wider. Let him
carry the white hairs of an old warrior into the burnt-wood village!"
Few words were necessary between men who were governed by the same
feelings of glory, and who were so well trained in the principles of
theirromantic honour. The Swooping Eagle threw himself from the back of
the horse and assisted the other to alight. The old man raised his
tottering frame to its knees, and first casting a glance upward at the
countenance of his countryman, as if to bid him adieu, he stretched out
his neck to the blow he himself invited. A few strokes of the tomahawk,
with a circling gash from the knife, sufficed to sever the head from
the less valued trunk. The Teton mounted again, just in season to
escape a flight of arrows which came from his eager and disappointed
pursuers. Flourishing the grim and bloody visage, he darted away from
the spot with a shout of triumph, and was seen scouring the plains, as
though he were actually borne along on the wings of the powerful bird
from whose qualities he had received his flattering name. The Swooping
Eagle reached his village in safety. He was one of the few Siouxes who
escaped from the massacre of that fatal day, and for a long time he
alone of the saved was able to lift his voice again, in the councils of
his nation, with undiminished confidence.
The knife and the lance cut short the retreat of the larger portion
of the vanquished. Even the retiring party of the women and children
were scattered by the conquerors, and the sun had long sunk behind the
rolling outline of the western horizon before the fell business of that
disastrous defeat was entirely ended.
Which is the merchant here, and which the Jew.
The day dawned, the following morning, on a more tranquil scene.
The work of blood had entirely ceased, and as the sun arose, its light
was shed on a broad expanse of quiet and solitude. The tents of Ishmael
were still standing, where they had been last seen, but not another
vestige of human existence could be traced in any other part of the
waste. Here and there little flocks of ravenous birds were sailing and
screaming above those spots where some heavy-footed Teton had met his
death, but every other sign of the recent combat had passed away. The
river was to be traced far through the endless meadows, by its
serpentine and smoking bed, and the little silvery clouds of light
vapour, which hung above the pools and springs, were beginning to melt
in air, as they felt the quickening warmth, which, pouring from the
glowing sky, shed its bland and subtle influence on every object of the
vast and unshadowed region. The prairie was like the heavens after the
dark passage of the gust, soft, calm, and soothing.
It was in the midst of such a scene that the family of the squatter
assembled to make their final decision concerning the several
individuals who had been thrown into their power by the fluctuating
chances of the incidents related. Every being possessing life and
liberty had been afoot since the first streak of gray had lighted the
east, and even the youngest of the erratic brood seemed deeply
conscious that the moment had arrived, when circumstances were about to
transpire that might leave a lasting impression on the wild fortunes of
their semi-barbarous condition.
Ishmael moved through his little encampment, with the seriousness
of one who had been unexpectedly charged with matters of a gravity far
exceeding any of the ordinary occurrences of his irregular existence.
His sons, however, who had so often found occasions to prove the
inexorable severity of their father's character, saw, in his sullen
mien and cold eye, rather a determination to adhere to his resolutions,
which usually were as obstinately enforced as they were harshly
conceived, than any evidences of wavering or doubt. Even Esther was
sensibly affected by the important matters that pressed so heavily on
the interests of her family. While she neglected none of those domestic
offices, which would probably have proceeded under any conceivable
circumstances, just as the world turns round with earthquakes rending
its crust, and volcanoes consuming its vitals, yet her voice was
pitched to a lower and more foreboding key than common, and the still
frequent chidings of her children were tempered by something like the
milder dignity of parental authority.
Abiram, as usual, seemed the one most given to solicitude and
doubt. There were certain misgivings, in the frequent glances that he
turned on the unyielding countenance of Ishmael, which might have
betrayed how little of their former confidence and good-understanding
existed between them. His looks appeared to be strangely vacillating
between hope and fear. At times his countenance lighted with the
gleamings of a sordid joy, as he bent his look on the tent which
contained his recovered prisoner, and then, again, the impression
seemed unaccountably chased away by the shadows of intense
apprehension. When under the influence of the latter feeling his eye
never failed to seek the visage of his dull and impenetrable kinsman.
But there he rather found reason for alarm than grounds of
encouragement, for the whole character of the squatter's countenance
expressed the fearful truth, that he had redeemed his dull faculties
from the influence of the kidnapper, and that his thoughts were now
brooding only on the achievement of his own stubborn intentions.
It was in this state of things that the sons of Ishmael, in
obedience to an order from their father, conducted the several subjects
of his contemplated decisions, from their places of confinement into
the open air. No one was exempted from this arrangement. Middleton and
Inez, Paul and Ellen, Obed and the trapper, were all brought forth and
placed in situations that were deemed suitable to receive the sentence
of their arbitrary judge. The younger children gathered around the
spot, in a sort of momentary but engrossing curiosity, and even Esther
quitted her culinary labours, and drew nigh to listen.
Hard-Heart alone of all his band was present to witness the novel
and far from unimposing spectacle. He stood leaning, gravely, on his
lance, while the smoking steed, that grazed nigh, showed that he had
ridden far and hard to be a spectator on the occasion.
Ishmael had received his new ally with a coldness that showed his
entire insensibility to that delicacy, which had induced the young
chief to come alone, in order that the presence of his warriors might
not create uneasiness or distrust. He neither courted their assistance
nor dreaded their enmity, and he now proceeded to the business of the
hour with as much composure, as though the species of patriarchal
power, he actually wielded, was universally recognized.
There is something elevating in the possession of authority,
however it may be abused. The mind is apt to make some efforts to prove
the fitness between its qualities and the condition of its owner,
though it may often fail, and render that ridiculous which was only
hated before. But the effect on Ishmael Bushwas not so disheartening.
Grave in exterior, saturnine by temperament, formidable by his physical
means, and dangerous from his lawless obstinacy, his selfconstituted
tribunal excited a degree of awe, to which even the intelligent
Middleton could not bring himself to be entirely insensible. Little
time, however, was given to arrange his thoughts, for the squatter,
though unaccustomed to haste, having previously made up his mind, was
not disposed to waste the moments in delay. When he saw that all were
in their places, he cast a dull look over his prisoners, and addressed
himself to the Captain, as the principal man among the imaginary
"I am called upon this day to fill the office which in the
settlements you give unto judges, who are set apart to decide on
matters that arise between man and man. I have but little knowledge of
the ways of the courts, though there is a rule that is known unto all,
and which teaches, that an 'eye must be returned for an eye,' and 'a
tooth for a tooth.' I am no troubler of county-houses, and least of all
do I like living on a plantation that the sheriff has surveyed, yet
there is a reason in such a law, that makes it a safe rule to journey
by, and therefore it ar' a solemn fact that this day shall I abide by
it, and give unto all and each that which is his due and no more."
When Ishmael had delivered his mind thus far, he paused and looked
about him, as if he would trace the effects in the countenances of his
hearers. When his eye met that of Middleton, he was answered by the
"If the evil-doer is to be punished, and he that has offended none
to be left to go at large, you must change situations with me, and
become a prisoner instead of a judge."
"You mean to say that I have done you wrong, in taking the lady
from her father's house, and leading her so far against her will into
these wild districts,"returned the unmoved squatter, who manifested as
little resentment as he betrayed compunction at the charge. "I shall
not put the lie on the back of an evil deed, and deny your words. Since
things have come to this pass between us, I have found time to think
the matter over at my leisure, and though none of your swift thinkers,
who can see, or who pretend to see into the nature of all things by a
turn of the eye, yet am I a man open to reason, and give me my time,
one who is not given to deny the truth. Therefore have I mainly
concluded, that it was a mistake to take a child from its parent, and
the lady shall be returned whence she has been brought as tenderly and
as safely as man can do it."
"Ay, ay," added Esther, "the man is right. Poverty and labour bore
hard upon him, especially as county-officers were getting troublesome,
and in a weak moment he did the wicked act, but he has listened to my
words, and his mind has got round again into its honest corner. An
awful and a dangerous thing it is to be bringing the daughters of other
people into a peaceable and well-governed family!"
"And who will thank you for the same, after what has been already
done?" muttered Abiram, with a grin of disappointed cupidity, in which
malignity and terror were disgustingly united; "when the devil has once
made out his account, you may look for your receipt in full only at his
"Peace!" said Ishmael, stretching his heavy hand towards his
kinsman, in a manner that instantly silenced the speaker. "Your voice
is like a raven's in my ears. If you had never spoken I should have
been spared this shame."
"Since then you are beginning to lose sight of your errors, and to
see the truth," said Middleton, "do not things by halves, but, by the
generosity of your conduct, purchase friends who may be of use in
warding off any future danger from the law——"
"Young man," interrupted the squatter with a dark frown, "you, too,
have said enough. If fear of the law had come over me, you would not be
here to witness the manner in which Ishmael Bush deals out justice."
"Smother not your good intentions, and remember, if you contemplate
violence to any among us, that the arm of that law you affect to
despise, reaches far, and that though its movements are sometimes slow,
they are not the less certain!"
"Yes, there is too much truth in his words, squatter;" said the
trapper, whose attentive ears rarely suffered a syllable to be uttered
unheeded in his presence. "A busy and a troublesome arm it often proves
to be here, in this land of America; where, as they say, man is left
greatly to the following of his own wishes, compared to other
countries; and happier, ay, and more manly and more honest, too, is he
for the privilege! Why do you know, my men, that there are regions
where the law is so busy as to say, in this fashion shall you live, in
that fashion shall you die, and in such another fashion shall you take
leave of the world, to be sent before the judgment seat of the Lord! A
wicked and a troublesome meddling is that, with the business of One who
has not made his creatures to be herded, like oxen, and driven from
field to field, as their stupid and selfish keepers may judge of their
need and wants. A miserable land must that be, where they fetter the
mind as well as the body, and where the creatures of God, being born
children, are kept so by the wicked inventions of men who would take
upon themselves the office of the great Governor of all!"
During the delivery of this very pertinent opinion, Ishmael was
content to be silent, though the look, with which he regarded the
speaker, manifested any other feeling than that of amity. When the old
manwas done, he turned to Middleton, and continued the subject which
the other had interrupted.
"As to ourselves, young Captain, there has been wrong on both
sides. If I have borne hard upon your feelings, in taking away your
wife with an honest intention of giving her back to you, when the plans
of that devil incarnate were answered, so have you broken into my
encampment, aiding and abetting, as they have called many an honester
bargain, in destroying my property."
"But what I did was to liberate——"
"The matter is settled between us," interrupted Ishmael, with the
air of one who, having made up his own opinion on the merits of the
question, cared very little for those of other people; "you and your
wife are free to go and come, when and how you please. Abner, set the
Captain at liberty; and now, if you will tarry until I am ready to draw
nigher to the settlements, you shall both have the benefit of carriage;
if not, never say that you did not get a friendly offer."
"Now, may the strong oppress me, and my sins be visited harshly on
my own head, if I forget your honesty, however slow it has been in
showing itself," cried Middleton, hastening to the side of the weeping
Inez, the instant he was released; and friend, I offer you the honour
of a soldier, that your own part of this transaction shall be
forgotten, whatever I may deem fit to have done, when I reach a place
where the arm of government can make itself felt."
The dull smile, with which the squatter answered to this assurance,
proved how little he valued the pledge that the youth, in the first
revulsion of his feeling, was so free to make.
"Neither fear nor favour, but what I call justice has brought me to
this judgment," he said; "do you that which may seem right in your
eyes, and believethat the world is wide enough to hold us both, without
our crossing each other's path, again! If you ar' content, well; if you
ar' not content seek to ease your feelings in your own fashion. I shall
not ask to be let up, when you once put me fairly down. And now,
Doctor, have I come to your leaf in my accounts. It is time to foot up
the small reckoning, that has been running on for some time atwixt us.
With you, I entered into open and manly faith; in what manner have you
The singular felicity, with which Ishmael had contrived to shift
the responsibility of all that had passed, from his own shoulders to
those of his prisoners, backed as it was by circumstances that hardly
admitted of a very philosophical examination of any mooted point in
ethics, was sufficiently embarrassing to the several individuals, who
were so unexpectedly required to answer for a conduct which, in their
simplicity they had deemed so meritorious. The life of Obed had been so
purely theoretic, that his amazement was not the least embarrassing at
a state of things, which might not have proved so very remarkable had
he been a little more practised in the ways of the world. The worthy
naturalist was not the first by many, who found himself, at the precise
moment when he was expecting praise, suddenly arraigned, to answer for
the very conduct on which he rested all his claims to commendation.
Though not a little scandalized, at the unexpected turn of the
transaction, he was fain to make the best of circumstances, and to
bring forth such matter in justification as first presented itself to
his somewhat disordered faculties.
"That there did exist a certain compactum or agreement between Obed
Batt, M. D., and Ishmael Bush, viator, or erratic husbandman," he said,
endeavouring to avoid all offence in the use of terms, "I am not
disposed to deny. I will admit that it was therein conditioned, or
stipulated that a certainjourney should be performed conjointly, or in
company, until so many days had been numbered. But as the said time has
fully expired, I presume it fair to infer that the bargain may now be
said to be obsolete."
"Ishmael!" interrupted the impatient Esther, "make no words with a
man who can break your bones as easily as set them, and let the
poisoning devil go! He's a cheat from box to phial. Give him half the
prairie and take the other half yourself. He an acclimator! I will
engage to get the brats acclimated to a fever-and-agy bottom in a week,
and not a word shall be uttered harder to pronounce than the bark of a
cherry-tree, with perhaps a drop or two of western comfort. One thing
ar' a fact, Ishmael; I like no fellow travellers who can give a heavy
feel to an honest woman's tongue, I——and that without caring whether
her household is in order or out of order."
The air of settled gloom, which had taken possession of the
squatter's countenance, lighted for an instant with a look of dull
drollery as he answered——
"Different people might judge differently, Esther, of the virtue of
the man's art. But sin' it is your wish to let him depart, I will not
plough the prairie to make the walking rough. Friend, you are at
liberty to go into the settlements, and there I would advise you to
tarry, as men like me who make but few contracts do not relish the
custom of breaking them so easily."
"And now, Ishmael," resumed his conquering wife, "in order to keep
a quiet family and to smother all heart-burnings between us, show
yonder Red-skin and his daughter," pointing to the aged Le Balafré and
the widowed Tachechana, "the way to their village, and let us say to
them: God bless you and farewell in the same breath!"
"They are the captives of the Pawnee, accordingto the rules of
Indian warfare, and I cannot meddle with his rights."
"Beware the devil, my man! He's a cheat and a tempter, and none can
say they ar' safe with his awful delusions before their eyes! Take the
advice of one who has the honour of your name at heart, and send the
tawny Jezebel away."
The squatter laid his broad hand on her shoulder, and looking her
steadily in the eye he answered, in tones that were both stern and
"Woman, we have that before us which calls our thoughts to other
matters than the follies you mean. Remember what is to come and put
your silly jealousy to sleep."
"It is true, it is true," murmured his wife moving back among her
daughters; "God forgive me, that I should forget it!"
"And, now, young man; you, who have so often come into my clearing,
under the pretence of lining the bee into his hole," resumed Ishmael,
after a momentary pause, as if to recover the equilibrium of his mind,
"with you there is a heavier account to settle. Not satisfied with
rummaging my camp, you have stolen a girl who is akin to my wife, and
who I had calculated to make one day a daughter of my own."
A stronger sensation was produced by this than by any of the
preceding interrogations. All the young men bent their curious eyes on
Paul and Ellen, the former of whom seemed in no small mental confusion,
while the latter bent her face on her bosom in shame.
"Harkee, friend Ishmael Bush," returned the bee-hunter, who found
that he was expected to answer to the charge of burglary as well as to
that of abduction; "that I did not give the most civil treatment to
your pots and pails, I am not going to gainsay. If you will name the
price you put upon the articles, itis possible the damage may be
quietly settled between us, and all hard feelings forgotten. I was not
in a church-going humour when we got upon your rock, and it is more
than probable there was quite as much kicking as preaching among your
wares; but a hole in the best man's coat can be mended by money. As to
the matter of Ellen Wade, here, it may not be got over so easily.
Different people have different opinions on the subject of matrimony.
Some think it is enough to say yes and no, to the questions of the
magistrate, or of the parson if one happens to be handy, in order to
make a quiet house, but I think that where a young woman's mind is
fairly bent on going in a certain direction, it will be quite as
prudent to let her body follow. Not that I mean to say Ellen was not
altogether forced to what she did, and therefore she is just as
innocent, in this matter, as yonder jackass, who was made to carry her,
and greatly against his will, too, as I am ready to swear he would say
himself, if he could speak as loud as he can bray."
"Nelly," resumed the squatter, who paid very little attention to
what Paul considered a highly creditable and ingenious vindication,
"Nelly, this is a wide and a wicked world, on which you have been in
such a hurry to cast yourself. You have fed and you have slept in my
camp for a year, and I did hope that you had found the free air of the
borders enough to your mind to wish to remain among us."
"Let the girl have her will," muttered Esther, from the rear; "he,
who might have persuaded her to stay, is sleeping in the cold and naked
prairie, and little hope is left of changing her humour; besides a
woman's mind is a wilful thing, and not easily turned from its way
wardness, as you know yourself, my man, or I should not be here the
mother of your sons and daughters."
The squatter seemed reluctant to abandon hisviews on the abashed
girl so easily, and before he answered to the suggestion of his wife,
he turned his usual dull look along the line of the curious
countenances of his boys, as if to see whether there was not one among
them fit to fill the place of the deceased. Paul was not slow to
observe the expression, and hitting nigher than usual on the secret
thoughts of the other, he believed he had fallen on an expedient which
might remove every difficulty.
"It is quite plain, friend Bush," he said, "that there are two
opinions in this matter; yours for your sons and mine for myself. I see
but one amicable way of settling this dispute, which is as follows:——do
you make a choice among your boys of any you will, and let us walk off
together for the matter of a few miles into the prairies; the one who
stays behind, can never trouble any man's house or his fixen, and the
one who comes back may make the best of his way he can, in the good
wishes of the young woman."
"Paul!" exclaimed the reproachful but smothered voice of Ellen.
"Never fear, Nelly," whispered the literal bee-hunter, whose
straight-going mind suggested no other motive of uneasiness, on the
part of his mistress, than concern for himself; "I have taken the
measure of them all, and you may trust an eye that has seen to line so
many a bee into his hole!"
"I am not about to set myself up as a ruler of inclinations,"
observed the squatter. "If the heart of the child is truly in the
settlements let her declare it; she shall have no let or hindrance from
me. Speak, Nelly, and let what you say come from your wishes, without
fear or favour. Would you leave us to go with this young man into the
settled countries, or will you tarry and share the little we have to
give, but which to you we give so freely?"
Thus called upon to decide, Ellen could no longer hesitate. The
glance of her eye was at first timidand furtive. But as the colour
flushed her features, and her breathing became quick and excited, it
was apparent that the native spirit of the girl was gaining the
ascendancy over the bushfulness of sex.
"You took me a fatherless, impoverished and friendless orphan," she
said, struggling to command her voice, "when others, who live in what
may be called affluence compared to your state, chose to forget me; and
may Heaven in its goodness bless you for it! The little I have done
will never pay you for that one act of kindness. I like not your manner
of life; it is different from the ways of my childhood, and it is
different from my wishes; still had you not led this sweet and
unoffending lady from her friends, I should never have quitted you,
until you yourself had said, 'go, and the blessing of God go with you!'
"The act was not wise, but it is repented of, and so far as it can
be done, in safety, it shall be repaired. Now, speak freely; will you
tarry, or will you go?"
"I have promised the lady," said Ellen, dropping her eyes again to
the earth, "not to leave her; and after she has received so much wrong
from our hands, she may have a right to claim that I keep my word."
"Take the cords from the young man," said Ishmael. When the order
was obeyed, he motioned for all his sons to advance, and he placed them
in a row before the eyes of Ellen. "Now let there be no trifling, but
open your heart. Here ar' all I have to offer, besides a hearty
The distressed girl turned her abashed look from the countenance of
one of the young men to that of another, until her eye met the troubled
and working features of Paul. Then nature got the better of forms. She
threw herself into the arms of the bee-hunter, and sufficiently
proclaimed her choice by sobbing aloud. Ishmael signed to his sons to
fall back, and evidently mortified, though perhaps not disappointed by
the result, he no longer hesitated.
"Take her," he said, "and deal honestly and kindly by her. The girl
has that in her which should make her welcome, in any man's house, and
I should be loth to hear she ever came to harm. And now I have settled
with you all on terms that I hope you will not find hard, but on the
contrary just and manly. I have only another question to ask, and that
is of the Captain; do you choose to profit by my teams in going into
the settlements, or not?"
"I hear, that some soldiers of my party are looking for me near the
villages of the Pawness," said Middleton, "and I intend to accompany
this chief, in order to join my men."
"Then the sooner we part the better. Horses are plenty on the
bottom. Go; make your choice and leave us in peace."
"That is impossible, while the old man, who has been a friend of my
family near half a century is left a prisoner. What has he done, that
he too is not released?"
"Ask no questions that may lead to deceitful answers," sullenly
returned the squatter; "I have dealings of my own with that trapper
that it may not befit an officer of the States to meddle with. Go,
while your road is open."
"The man may be giving you honest counsel, and that which it
concerns you all to hearken to," observed the old captive, who seemed
in no uneasiness at the extraordinary condition in which he found
himself. "The Siouxes are a numberless and bloody-minded race, and no
one can say how long it may be afore they will be out again on the
scent of revenge. Therefore I say to you, go, also, and take especial
heed, in crossing the bottoms, that you get not entangled again in the
fires, for the honest hunters often burn the grass at this season, in
order that the buffaloes may find a sweeter and a greener pasturage in
"I should forget not only my gratitude, but my duty to the laws,
were I to leave this prisoner in your hands, even by his own consent,
without knowing the nature of his crime, in which we may have all been
his innocent accessaries."
"Will it satisfy you to know, that he merits all he will receive?"
"It will at least change my opinion of his character."
"Look then at this," said Ishmael, placing before the eyes of the
Captain the bullet that had been found about the person of the dead
Asa; "with this morsel of lead did he lay low as fine a boy as ever
gave joy to a parent's eyes!"
"I cannot believe that he has done this deed, unless in
self-defence, or on some justifiable provocation. That he knew of the
death of your son, I confess, for he pointed out the brake in which the
body lay, but that he has wrongfully taken his life, nothing but his
own acknowledgment shall persuade me to believe."
"I have lived long," commenced the trapper, who found, by the
general pause, that he was expected to vindicate himself from the heavy
imputation, "and much evil have I seen in my day. Many are the prowling
bears and leaping panthers that I have met, fighting for the morsel
which has been thrown in their way, and many are the reasoning men,
that I have looked on striving against each other unto death, in order
that human madness might also have its hour. For myself, I hope, there
is no boasting in saying, that though my hand has been needed in
putting down wickedness and oppression, it has never struck a blow of
which its owner will be ashamed to hear at a reckoning that shall be
far mightier than this."
"If my father has taken life from one of his tribe," said the young
Pawnee, whose quick eye had read the meaning of what was passing, in
the bullet and inthe countenances of the others, "let him give himself
up to the friends of the dead, like a warrior. He is too just to need
thongs to lead him to judgment."
"Boy, I hope you do me justice. If I had done the foul deed, with
which they charge me, I should have manhood enough to come and offer my
head to the blow of punishment, as all good and honest Redmen do the
same." Then giving his anxious Indian friend a look, to reassure him of
his innocence, he turned to the rest of his attentive and interested
listeners, as he continued in English, "I have a short story to tell,
and he that believes it will believe the truth, and he that disbelieves
it will only lead himself astray, and perhaps his neighbour too. We
were all outlying about your camp, friend squatter, as by this time you
may begin to suspect, when we found that it contained a wronged and
imprisoned lady, with intentions neither more honest nor dishonest than
to set her free, as in nature and justice she had a right to be. Seeing
that I was more skilled in scouting than the others, while they lay
back in the cover, I was sent upon the plain on the business of the
reconnoitrings. You little thought that one was so nigh, who saw into
all the circumventions of your hunt, but there was I, sometimes flat
behind a bush or a tuft of grass, sometimes rolling down a hill into a
bottom, and little did you dream that your motions were watched, as the
panther watches the drinking deer. Lord, squatter, when I was a man in
the pride and strength of my days, I have looked in at the tent door of
the enemy, and they sleeping, ay, and dreaming too of being at home and
in peace! I wish there was time to give you the partic——"
"Proceed with your explanation," interrupted the impatient
"Ah! and a bloody and wicked sight it was! There I lay in a low bed
of grass, as two of the hunters came nigh each other. Their meeting was
not cordial, norsuch as men, who meet in a desert, should give each
other; but I thought they would have parted in peace, until I saw one
put his rifle to the other's back and do what I call a treacherous and
sinful murder. It was a noble and a manly youth, that boy!——Though the
powder burnt his coat he stood the shock for more than a minute before
he fell. Then was he brought to his knees and a desperate and manful
fight he made to the brake, like a wounded bear seeking a cover!"
"And why, in the name of heavenly justice, did you conceal this!"
"What! think you, Captain, that a man, who has spent more than
threescore years in the wilderness, has not learned the virtue of
discretion. What red warrior runs to tell the sights he has seen until
a fitting time? I took the Doctor to the place, in order to see whether
his skill might not come in use, and our friend, the bee-hunter, being
in company, was knowing to the fact that the bushes held the body."
"Ay; it ar' true," said Paul; "but not knowing what private reasons
might make the old trapper wish to hush the matter up, I said as little
about the thing as possible; which was just nothing at all."
"And who was the perpetrator of this deed? demanded Middleton.
"If by perpetrator you mean him who did the act, 1 stands the man;
and a shame, and a disgrace is it to our race, that he is of the blood
and family of the dead."
"He lies! he lies!" shrieked Abiram. "I did no murder; I gave but
blow for blow."
The voice of Ishmael was deep and even awful, as he answered——
"It is enough. Let the old man go. Boys, put the brother of your
mother in his place."
"Touch me not!" cried Abiram. "I'll call on God to curse ye if you
The wild and disordered gleam of his eye at first induced the young
men to arrest their steps, but when Abner, older and more resolute than
the rest, advanced full upon him, with a countenance that bespoke the
hostile state of his mind, the affrighted criminal turned, and making
an abortive effort to fly, fell with his face to the earth, to all
appearance perfectly dead. Amid the low exclamations of horror, which
succeeded, Ishmael made a gesture which commanded his sons to bear the
body into a tent.
"Now," he said, turning to those who were strangers in his camp,
"nothing is left to be done, but for each to go his own road. I wish
you all well; and to you, Ellen, though you may not prize the gift, I
say, God bless you!"
Middleton, awe-struck by what he believed a manifest judgment of
Heaven, made no further resistance, but prepared to depart. The
arrangements were brief and soon completed. When they were all ready,
they took a short and silent leave of the squatter and his family, and
then the whole of the singularly constituted party was seen slowly and
silently following the victorious Pawnee, towards his distant villages.
"And I beseech you,
Wrest once the law, to your authority:
To do a great right, do a little wrong."
Ishmael awaited long and patiently for the motley train of
Hard-Heart to disappear. When his scout reported that the last
straggler of the Indians, who had joined their chief so soon as he was
at such adistance from the encampment as to excite no jealousy by their
numbers, had gone behind the most distant swell of the prairie, he gave
forth the order to strike his tents. The cattle were already in the
gears, and the moveables were soon transferred to their usual places in
the different vehicles. When all these arrangements were completed, the
little wagon, which had so long been the tenement of Inez, was drawn
before the tent, into which the insensible body of the kidnapper had
been borne, and preparations were evidently made for the reception of
another prisoner. Then it was, as Abiram appeared, pale, terrified, and
tottering beneath a load of detected guilt, that the younger members of
the family were first apprized that he still belonged to the class of
the living. A general and superstitious impression had spread among
them that his crime had been visited by a terrible retribution from
Heaven, and they now gazed at him, as at a being who belonged rather to
another world, than as a mortal, who like themselves had still to
endure the last agony, before the great link of human existence could
be broken. The criminal himself appeared to be in a state in which the
most sensitive and startling terror was singularly combined with total
physical apathy. The truth was, that while his person had been numbed
by the shock, his susceptibility to apprehension kept his agitated mind
in unrelieved distress. When he found himself in the open air, he
looked about him, in order to gather, if possible, some evidences of
his future fate from the countenances of those who were gathered round.
Seeing every where grave but composed features, and meeting in no eye
any expression that threatened immediate violence, the miserable man
began to revive, and, by the time he was seated in the wagon, his
artful faculties were beginning to plot the expedients of parrying the
just resentment of his kinsmen, or, if these should failhim, the means
of escaping from a punishment that his forebodings told him would be
Throughout the whole of these preparations Ishmael had rarely
spoken. A gesture, or a glance of the eye, had served to indicate his
pleasure to his sons, and with these simple methods of communication,
all parties appeared perfectly content. When the signal was made to
proceed, the squatter threw his rifle into the hollow of his arm, and
his axe across his shoulder, taking the lead as usual. Esther had
buried herself in the wagon which contained her daughters; the young
men took their customary places among the cattle, or nigh the teams,
and the whole proceeded, at their ordinary, dull, but unremitted gait.
For the first time in many a day, the squatter turned his back
towards the setting sun. The route he held was in the direction of the
settled country, and the manner in which he moved sufficed to tell his
children, who had learned to read their father's determinations in his
mien, that their journey on the prairie was shortly to have an end.
Still nothing else transpired for hours, that might denote the
existence of any sudden or violent revolution in the purposes or
feelings of Ishmael. During all that time he marched alone, keeping a
few hundred rods in front of his teams, seldom giving any sign of
extraordinary excitement. Once or twice, indeed, his huge figure was
seen standing on the summit of some distant swell, with the head bent
towards the earth, as he leaned on his rifle; but then these moments of
intense thought were rare and of short continuance. The train had long
thrown its shadows towards the east before any material alteration was
made in the disposition of their march. Water-courses were waded,
plains were passed, and rolling ascents risen and descended, without
producing the smallest change. Long practised in the difficulties of
thatpeculiar species of travelling in which he was engaged, the
squatter avoided the more impracticable obstacles of their route by a
sort of instinct, invariably inclining to the right or left in season,
as the formation of the land, the presence of trees, or the signs of
rivers forewarned him of the necessity of such movements.
At length the hour arrived when charity to man and beast required a
temporary suspension of labour. Ishmael chose the required spot with
all his customary sagacity. The regular formation of the country, such
as it has been described in the earlier pages of our book, had long
been interrupted by a more unequal and broken surface. There were, it
is true, in general, the same wide and empty wastes, the same rich and
extensive bottoms, and that wild and singular combination of swelling
fields and of nakedness, which gives that region the appearance of an
ancient country, incomprehensibly stripped of its people and their
dwellings. But these distinguishing features of the rolling prairies
had long been interrupted by irregular hillocks, occasional masses of
rock, and broad belts of forest.
Ishmael chose a spring, that broke out of the base of a rock some
forty or fifty feet in elevation, as a place well suited to the wants
of his herds. The water moistened a small swale that lay beneath the
spot, which yielded, in return for the fecund gift a scanty growth of
grass. A solitary willow had taken root in the alluvion, and profiting
by its exclusive possession of the soil, the tree had sent up its stem
far above the crest of the adjacent rock, whose peaked summit had once
been shadowed by its branches. But its loveliness had gone with the
mysterious principle of life. As if in mockery of the meagre show of
verdure that the spot exhibited, it remained a noble and solemn
monument of former fertility. The larger, ragged and fantsatic branches
still obtrudedthemselves abroad, while the white and hoary trunk stood
naked and tempest-riven. Not a leaf, nor a sign of vegetation was to be
seen about it. In all things it proclaimed the frailty of existence and
the fulfilment of time.
Here Ishmael, after making the customary signal for the train to
approach, threw his vast frame upon the earth, and seemed to muse on
the deep responsibility of his present situation. His sons were not
long in arriving, for the cattle no sooner scented the food and water
than they quickened their pace, and then succeeded the usual bustle and
avocations of a halt.
The impression made by the scene of that morning was not so deep or
lasting on the children of Ishmael and Esther, as to induce them to
forget the wants of nature. But while the sons were searching among
their stores, for something substantial to appease their hunger, and
the younger fry were wrangling about their simple dishes, the parents
of the unnurtured family were far differently employed.
When the squatter saw that all, even to the reviving Abiram, were
busy in administering to their appetites, he gave his downcast partner
a glance of his eye, and withdrew towards a distant roll of the land,
which bounded the view towards the east. The meeting of the pair, in
this naked spot, was like an interview held above the grave of their
murdered son. Ishmael signed to his wife to take a seat beside him on a
fragment of rock, and then followed a space, during which neither
seemed disposed to speak.
"We have journeyed together long, through good and bad," Ishmael at
length commenced; "much have we had to try us, and some bitter cups
have we been made to swallow, my woman; but nothing like this has ever
before lain in my path."
"It is a heavy cross for a poor, misguided, and sinful woman to
bear!" returned Esther, bowing herhead to her knees, and partly
concealing her face in her dress. "A heavy and a burdensome weight is
this to be laid upon the shoulders of a sister and a mother!"
"Ay; therein lies the hardship of the case. I had brought my mind
to the punishment of that houseless trapper, with no great strivings,
for the man had done me few favours, and God forgive me if I suspected
him wrongfully of much evil! This is, however, bringing shame in at one
door of my cabin, in order to drive it out at the other. But shall a
son of mine be murdered, and he who did it go at large?——the boy would
"Oh, Ishmael, we pushed the matter far! Had little been said, who
would have been the wiser? Our consciences might then have been quiet."
"Eest'er," said the husband, turning on her a reproachful but still
a dull regard, "the hour has been, my woman, when you thought another
hand had done this wickedness?"
"I did, I did! the Lord gave me the feeling, as a punishment for my
sins! but his mercy was not slow in lifting the veil; I looked into the
book, Ishmael, and there I found the words of comfort."
"Have you that book at hand, woman; it may happen to advise in such
a dreary business."
Esther fumbled in her pocket and was not long in producing the
fragment of a bible, which had been thumbed and smoke-dried till the
print was nearly illegible. It was the only article, in the nature of a
book, that was to be found among the chattels of the squatter, and it
had been preserved by his wife, as a melancholy relic of more
prosperous, and possibly of more innocent days. She had long been in
the habit of resorting to it, under the pressure of such circumstances
as were palpably beyond human redress, though her spirit and resolution
rarely needed support under those that admitted of reparationthrough
any of the ordinary means of reprisal. In this manner Esther had made a
sort of convenient ally of the word of God; rarely troubling it for
counsel, however, except when her own incompetency to avert an evil was
too apparent to be disputed. We shall leave casuists to determine how
far she resembled any other believers in this particular, and proceed
directly with the matter before us.
"There are many awful passages in these pages, Ishmael," she said,
when the volume was opened, and the leaves were slowly turning under
her finger, "and some there ar' that teach the rules of punishment."
Her husband made a gesture for her to find one of those brief rules
of conduct, which have been received among all Christian nations as the
direct mandates of the Creator, and which have been found so just, that
even they, who deny their high authority, admit their wisdom. Ishmael
listened with grave attention, as his companion read all those verses,
which her memory suggested, and which were thought applicable to the
situation in which they found themselves. He made her show him the
words, which he regarded with a sort of strange reverence. A resolution
once taken was usually irrevocable, in one who was moved with so much
difficulty. He put his hand upon the book, and closed the pages
himself, as much as to apprize his wife that he was satisfied. Esther,
who so well knew his character, trembled at the action, and casting a
glance at his steady but contracting eye, she said——
"And yet, Ishmael, my blood, and the blood of my children, is in
his veins! cannot mercy be shown?"
"Woman," he answered sternly, "when we believed, that miserable old
trapper had done this deed, nothing was said of mercy!"
Esther made no reply, but folding her arms upon her breast, she sat
silent and thoughtful for many minutes. Then she once more turned her
anxious gaze upon the countenance, of her husband, where she found all
passion and care apparently buried in the coldest apathy. Satisfied
now, that the fate of her brother was sealed, and possibly conscious
how well he merited the punishment that was meditated, she no longer
thought of mediation. No more words passed between them. Their eyes met
for an instant, and then both arose and walked in profound silence
towards the encampment.
The squatter found his children expecting his return, in the usual
listless manner with which they awaited all coming events. The cattle
were already herded, and the horses in their gears, in readiness to
proceed so soon as he should indicate that such was his pleasure. The
children were already in their proper vehicle, and, in short, nothing
delayed the departure but the absence of the parents of the wild brood.
"Abner," said the father, with the deliberation with which all his
proceedings were characterized, "take the brother of your mother from
the wagon, and let him stand on the 'arth."
Abiram issued from his place of concealment, trembling, it is true,
but far from destitute of hopes, as to his final success in appeasing
the just resentment of his kinsman. After throwing a glance around him,
with the vain wish of finding a single countenance in which he might
detect a solitary gleam of sympathy, he endeavoured to smother those
apprehensions, that were by this time reviving in all their original
violence, by forcing a sort of friendly communication between himself
and the squatter——
"The beasts are getting jaded, brother," he said; "and as we have
made so good a march already, is it not time to 'camp. To my eye you
may go far, before a better place than this is found to pass the night
" 'Tis well you like it. Your tarry here ar' likely to be long. My
sons, draw nigh and listen. Abiram White," he added, lifting his cap,
and speaking with a solemnity and steadiness, that rendered even his
dull mien imposing, "you have slain my first-born, and according to the
laws of God and man must you die!"
The kidnapper started at this terrible and sudden sentence, with
the terror that one would exhibit who unexpectedly found himself in the
grasp of a monster, from whose power there was no retreat. Although
filled with the most serious forebodings of what might be his lot, his
courage had not been equal to look his danger in the face, and with the
deceitful consolation, with which timid tempers are apt to conceal
their desperate condition from themselves, he had rather courted a
treacherous relief in his cunning, than prepared himself for the worst.
"Die!" he repeated in a voice, that scarcely issued from his chest;
"a man is surely safe among his friends!"
"So thought my boy," returned the squatter, motioning for the team,
that contained his wife and the girls, to proceed, as he very coolly
examined the priming of his piece. "By the rifle did you destroy my
son, and it is fit and just that you meet your end by the same weapon."
Abiram stared about him with a gaze that, for the moment, bespoke
an unsettled reason. He even laughed, as if he would not only persuade
himself but others that what he heard was some pleasantry, intended to
try his nerves. But no where did his frightful merriment meet with an
answering echo. All around was solemn and still. The visages of his
nephews were excited, but cold towards him, and that of his former
confederate frightfully determined. This very steadiness of mien was a
thousand times more alarming and hopeless than any violence couldhave
proved. The latter might possibly have touched his spirit and awakened
resistance, but the former threw him entirely on the feeble resources
"Brother," he said, in a hurried, unnatural whisper, "did I hear
"My words are plain, Abiram White; you have done murder, and for
the same must you die!"
"Where is Esther? sister, sister, will you leave me! Oh! Sister! do
you hear my call?"
"I hear one speak from the grave!" returned the husky tones of
Esther, as the wagon passed the spot where the criminal stood. "It is
the voice of my first-born, calling aloud for justice! God have mercy,
God have mercy on your soul!"
The team slowly pursued its route, and the deserted Abiram now
found himself deprived of the smallest vestige of hope. Still he could
not summon fortitude to meet his death, and had not his limbs refused
to aid him, he would yet have attempted to fly. Then, by a sudden
revolution from hope to utter despair, he fell upon his knees, and
commenced a prayer, in which cries for mercy to God and to his kinsman
were wildly and blasphemously mingled. The sons of Ishmael turned away
in horror at the disgusting spectacle, and even the stern nature of the
squatter began to bend before such abject misery.
"May that, which you ask of Him, be granted," he said; but a father
can never forget a murdered child."
He was answered by the most humble appeals for time. A week, a day,
an hour, were each implored, with an earnestness commensurate to the
value they receive, when a whole life is compressed into their short
duration. The squatter was troubled, and at length he yielded in part
to the petitions of the criminal. His final purpose was not altered,
though he changed the means; "Abner," he said, "mount therock and look
on every side, that we may be sure none are nigh."
While his nephew was obeying this order, gleams of reviving hope
were seen shooting across the quivering features of the kidnapper. The
report was favourable, nothing having life, the retiring teams
excepted, was to be seen. A messenger was, however, coming from the
latter, in great apparent haste. Ishmael awaited its arrival. He
received from the hands of one of his wondering and frighted girls a
fragment of that book, which Esther had preserved with so much care.
The squatter beckoned the child away, and placed the leaves in the
hands of the criminal.
"Eest'er has sent you this," he said, "that, in your last moments,
you may remember God."
"Bless her, bless her! a good and kind sister has she been to me!
But time must be given, that I may read; time, my brother, time!"
"Time shall not be wanting. You shall be your own executioner, and
this miserable office shall pass away from my hands."
Ishmael proceeded to put his new resolution in force. The immediate
apprehensions of the kidnapper were quieted, by an assurance that he
might yet live for days, though his punishment was inevitable. A
reprieve, to one as abject and wretched as Abiram, temporarily produced
the same effects as a pardon. He was even foremost in assisting in the
appalling arrangements, and of all the actors, in that solemn tragedy,
his voice alone was facetious and jocular.
A thin shelf of the rock projected beneath one of the ragged arms
of the willow. It was many feet from the ground, and admirably adapted
to the purpose which, in fact, its appearance had suggested. On this
little platform was the criminal placed, his arms bound at the elbows
behind his back, beyond the possibility of liberation, with aproper
cord leading from his neck to the limb of the tree. The latter was so
placed, that when suspended the body could find no foot-hold. The
fragment of the bible was placed in his hands, and he was there left to
seek his consolation as he might from its pages.
"And now, Abiram White," said the squatter, when his sons had
descended from completing this arrangement, "I give you a last and
solemn asking. Death is before you in two shapes. With this rifle can
your misery be cut short, or by that cord, sooner or later, must you
meet your end."
"Let me yet live! Oh, Ishmael, you know not how sweet life is, when
the last moment draws so nigh!"
" 'Tis done;" said the squatter motioning for his assistants to
follow the herds and teams. "And now, miserable man, that it may prove
a consolation to your end, I forgive you my wrongs and leave you to
Ishmael then turned and pursued his way across the plain at his
ordinary sluggish and ponderous gait. Though his head was bent a little
towards the earth, his inactive mind did not prompt him to cast a look
behind. Once, indeed, he thought he heard his name called, in tones
that were a little smothered, but they failed to make him pause.
At the spot where he and Esther had conferred he reached the
boundary of the visible horizon from the rock. Here he stopped, and
ventured a glance in the direction of the place he had just quitted.
The sun was near dipping into the plains beyond, and its last rays
lighted the naked branches of the willow. He saw the ragged outline of
the whole drawn against the glowing heavens, and he even traced the
still upright form of the being he had left to his misery. Turning the
roll of the swell he proceeded with the feelings of one, who had been
suddenlyand violently separated from a recent confederate, forever.
Within a mile the squatter overtook his teams. His sons had found a
place suited to the encampment for the night, and merely awaited his
approach to confirm their choice. Few words were necessary to express
his acquiescence. Every thing passed in a silence more general and
remarkable than ever. The chidings of Esther were not heard among her
young, or if heard, they were more in the tones of softened admonition
than in her usual upbraiding key.
No questions nor explanations passed between the husband and his
wife. It was only as the latter was about to withdraw among her
children, for the night, that the former saw her taking a furtive look
at the pan of his rifle. Ishmael bade his sons seek their rest,
announcing his intention to look to the safety of the camp in person.
When all was still, he walked out upon the prairie, with a sort of
sensation that he found his breathing among the tents too straitened.
The night was well adapted to heighten the feelings, which had been
created by the events of the day.
The wind had risen with the moon, and it was occasionally sweeping
over the plain, in a manner that made it not difficult for the sentinel
to imagine that strange and unearthly sounds were mingling in the
blast. Yielding to the extraordinary impulses of which he was the
subject, he cast a glance around to see that all were slumbering in
security, and then he strayed towards the swell of land already
mentioned. Here the squatter found himself at a point that commanded a
view to the east and to the west. Light fleecy clouds were driving
before the moon, which was cold and watery, though there were moments,
when its placid rays were shed from clear blue fields, seeming to
soften objects to its own mild loveliness.
For the first time, in a life of so much wild adventure, Ishmael
felt a keen sense of solitude. The naked prairies began to assume the
forms of illimitable and dreary wastes, and the rushing of the wind
sounded like the whisperings of the dead. It was not long before he
thought a shriek was borne past him on a blast. It did not sound like a
call from earth, but it swept frightfully through the upper air,
mingled with the hoarse accompaniment of the wind. The teeth of the
squatter were compressed, and his huge hand grasped the rifle, as
though it would crush the metal like paper. Then came a lull, a fresher
blast, and a cry of horror that seemed to have been uttered at the very
portals of his ears. A sort of echo burst involuntarily from his own
lips, as men will often shout under unnatural excitement, and throwing
his rifle across his shoulder, he proceeded towards the rock with the
strides of a giant.
It was not often that the blood of Ishmael moved at the rate with
which the fluid circulates in the veins of ordinary men; but now he
felt it ready to gush from every pore in his body. The animal was
aroused in his most latent energies. Ever as he advanced he heard those
shrieks, which sometimes seemed ringing among the clouds, and sometimes
passed so nigh as to appear to brush the earth. At length there came a
cry, in which there could be no delusion, or to which the imagination
could lend no horror. It appeared to fill each cranny of the air, as
the visible horizon is often charged to fulness by one dazzling flash
of the electric fluid. The name of God was distinctly audible, but it
was awfully and blasphemously blended with sounds that may not be
repeated. The squatter stopped, and for a moment he covered his ears
with his hands. When he withdrew the latter, a low and husky voice at
his elbow asked in smothered tones——
"Ishmael, my man, heard ye nothing?"
"Hist!" returned the husband, laying a powerful arm on Esther,
without manifesting the smallest surprise at the unlooked-for presence
of his wife. "Hist, woman! if you have the fear of Heaven be still!"
A profound silence succeeded. Though the wind rose and fell as
before, its rushing was no longer mingled with those fearful cries. The
sounds were imposing and solemn, but it was the solemnity and majesty
of nature in its solitude.
"Let us go on," said Esther; "all is hushed."
"Woman, what has brought you here?" demanded her husband, whose
blood had returned into its former channels, and whose thoughts had
already lost a portion of their excitement.
"Ishmael, he murdered our first-born, but it is not meet that the
son of my mother should lie upon the ground, like the carrion of a
"Follow;" returned the squatter again grasping his rifle, and
striding towards the rock. The distance was still considerable, and
their approach, as they drew nigh the place of execution, was moderated
by awe. Many minutes had passed, before they reached a spot where they
might distinguish the outlines of the dusky objects.
"Where have you put the body?" Whispered Esther. "See, here are
pick and spade, that a brother of mine may sleep in the bosom of the
The moon broke from behind a mass of clouds, and the eye of the
woman was enabled to follow the finger of Ishmael. It pointed to a
human form swinging in the wind, beneath the ragged and shining arm of
the willow. Esther bent her head and veiled her eyes from the sight.
But Ishmael drew nigher, and long contemplated his work in awe, though
not in compunction. The leaves of the sacred book were scattered on the
ground, and even a fragment of the shelf had been displaced by the
kidnapper in his agony. But all was now in the stillness of death.
Thegrim and convulsed countenance of the victim was at times brought
full into the light of the moon, and again as the wind lulled, the
fatal rope drew a dark line across its bright disk. The squatter raised
his rifle, with extreme care, and fired. The cord was cut and the body
came lumbering to the earth, a heavy and insensible mass.
Until now Esther had not moved nor spoken. But her hand was not
slow to assist in the labour of the hour. The grave was soon dug. It
was instantly made to receive its miserable tenant. As the lifeless
form descended, Esther, who sustained the head, looked up into the face
of her husband with an expression of anguish, and said——
"Ishmael, my man, it is very terrible! I cannot kiss the corpse of
my father's child!"
The squatter laid his broad hand on the bosom of the dead, and
"Abiram White, we all have need of mercy; from my soul do I forgive
you! may God in Heaven have pity on your sins!"
The woman bowed her face, and imprinted her lips long and fervently
on the pallid forehead of her brother. After this came the falling
clods and all the solemn sounds of filling a grave. Esther lingered on
her knees, and Ishmael stood uncovered while the woman muttered a
prayer. All was then finished.
On the following morning the teams and herds of the squatter were
seen pursuing their course towards the settlements. As they approached
the confines of society, the train was blended among a thousand others.
Though some of the numerous descendants of this peculiar pair, were
reclaimed from their lawless and semi-barbarous lives, the principals
of the family, themselves, were never heard of more.
——"No leave take I; for I will ride,
As far as land will let me, by your side."
The passage of the Pawnee to his village was interrupted by no such
scene of violence. His vengeance had been as complete as it was
summary. Not even a solitary scout of the Siouxes was left on the
hunting-grounds he was obliged to traverse, and of course the journey
of Middleton's party was as peaceful as though it were made in the
bosom of the States. The marches were timed to meet the weakness of the
females. In short the victors seemed to have lost every trace of
ferocity with their success, and appeared disposed to consult the most
trifling of the wants of that engrossing people who were daily
encroaching on their rights, and reducing the Redmen of the west from
their state of proud independence to the condition of fugitives and
Our limits will not permit a detail of the triumphal entry of the
conquerors. The exultation of the tribe was proportioned to its
previous despondency. Mothers boasted of the honourable deaths of their
sons; wives proclaimed the honour and pointed to the scars of their
husbands, and Indian girls rewarded the young braves with their songs
of triumph. The trophies of their fallen enemies were exhibited, as
conquered standards are displayed in more civilized regions. The deeds
of former warriors were recounted by the aged men, and declared to be
eclipsed by the glory of this victory. While Hard-Heart himself, so
distinguished for his exploits from boyhood to that hour, was
unanimously proclaimed and re-proclaimed the worthiest chief and the
stoutest brave that the Wahcondah had ever bestowed on his most
favoured children, the Pawnees of the Loup.
Notwithstanding the comparative security in which Middleton found
his recovered treasure, he was not sorry to see his faithful and sturdy
artillerists standing among the throng as he entered in the wild train,
and lifting their voices in a martial shout to greet his return. The
presence of this force, small as it was, removed every shadow of
uneasiness from his mind. It made him master of his movements, gave him
dignity and importance in the eyes of his new friends, and would enable
him to overcome the difficulties of the wide region which still lay
between the village of the Pawnees and the nearest fortress of his
countrymen. A lodge was yielded to the exclusive possession of Inez and
Ellen; and even Paul, when he saw an armed sentinel, in the uniform of
the States, pacing before its entrance, was content to stray among the
dwellings of the 'Red-skins,' prying with but little reserve into their
domestic economy, commenting sometimes jocularly, sometimes gravely,
and always freely, on their different expedients, or endeavouring to
make the wondering housewives comprehend his quaint explanations of
what he conceived to be the better customs of the whites.
This inquiring and troublesome spirit found no imitators among the
Indians. The delicacy and reserve of Hard-Heart were communicated to
his people. When every attention that could be suggested by their
simple manners and narrow wants had been fulfilled, no intrusive foot
presumed to approach the cabins that had been devoted to the service of
the strangers. They were left to seek their repose in that manner which
most comported with their habits and inclinations. The songs and
rejoicings of the tribe, however, ran far into the night, during the
deepest hours of which, the voice of more than one warrior was heard,
recounting, from the top of his lodge, the deeds of his people and the
glory of their triumphs.
Every thing having life, notwithstanding the excesses of the night,
was abroad with the appearance of the sun. The expression of
exultation, which had so lately been seen on every countenance, was now
changed to one better suited to the feeling of the moment. It was
understood by all, that the Palefaces, who had befriended their chief,
were about to take their final leave of the tribe. The soldiers of
Middleton, in anticipation of his arrival, had bargained with an
unsuccessful trader for the use of his boat, which lay in the stream
ready to receive its cargo, and nothing remained to complete the
arrangements for the long journey.
Middleton did not see this moment arrive entirely without distrust.
The admiration, with which Hard-Heart had regarded Inez, had not
escaped his jealous eye, any more than had the lawless wishes of
Mahtoree. He knew the consummate manner in which a savage could conceal
his designs, and he felt that it would be a culpable weakness to be
unprepared for the worst. Secret instructions were therefore given to
his men, while the preparations they made were properly masked behind
the show of military parade with which it was intended to signalize
The conscience of the young soldier reproached him, when he saw the
whole tribe accompanying his party to the margin of the stream, with
unarmed hands and sorrowful countenances. They gathered in a circle
around the strangers and their chief, and became not only peaceful, but
highly interested observers of what was passing. As it was evident that
Hard-Heart intended to speak, the former stopped, and manifested their
readiness to listen, the trapper performing the office of interpreter.
Then the young chief addressed his people, in the usual metaphorical
language of an Indian. He commenced by alluding to the antiquity and
renown of his own nation. Hespoke of their successes in the hunts and
on the warpath; of the manner in which they had always known how to
defend their rights and to chastise their enemies. After he had said
enough to manifest his respect for the greatness of the Loups, and to
satisfy the pride of the listeners, he made a sudden transition to the
race of whom the strangers were members. He compared their countless
numbers to the flights of migratory birds in the season of blossoms or
in the fall of the year. With a delicacy, that none knew better how to
practise than an Indian warrior, he made no direct mention of the
rapacious temper, that so many of them had betrayed in their dealings
with the Redmen. Feeling that the sentiment of distrust was strongly
engrafted in the tempers of his tribe, he rather endeavoured to soothe
any just resentment they might entertain, by indirect excuses and
apologies. He reminded the listeners that even the Pawnee Loups had
been obliged to chase many unworthy individuals from their villages.
The Wahcondah sometimes veiled his countenance from a Redman. No doubt
the Great Spirit of the Pale-faces often looked darkly on his children.
Such as were abandoned to the worker of evil could never be brave or
virtuous, let the colour of the skin be what it might. He bade his
young men to look at the hands of the Big-knives. They were not empty,
like those of hungry beggars. Neither were they filled with goods, like
those of knavish traders. They were, like themselves, warriors, and
they carried arms which they knew well how to use——they were worthy to
be called brothers!
Then he directed the attention of all to the chief of the
strangers. He was a son of their great white father. He had not come
upon the prairies to frighten the buffaloes from their pastures, or to
seek the game of the Indians. Wicked men had robbed him of one of his
wives; no doubt she was the most obedient, the meekest, the loveliest
of them all. They had only to open their eyes to see that his words
must be true. Now, that the white chief had found his wife, he was
about to return to his own people in peace. He would tell them that the
Pawnees were just, and there would be a line of wampum between the two
nations. Let all his people wish the strangers a safe return to their
towns. The warriors of the Loups knew both how to receive their
enemies, and how to clear the briars from the path of their friends.
The heart of Middleton had beat quick, as the young partisan
alluded to the charms of Inez, and for an instant he cast an impatient
glance at his little line of artillerists; but the chief from that
moment appeared to forget he had ever seen so fair a being. His
feelings, if he had any on the subject, were veiled behind the cold
mask of Indian self-denial: He took each warrior by the hand, not
forgetting the meanest soldier, but his cold and collected eye never
wandered, for an instant, towards either of the females. Arrangements
had been made for their comfort, with a prodigality and care that had
not failed to excite some surprise in his young men, but in no other
particular did he shock their manly pride by betraying any solicitude
in behalf of the weaker sex.
The leave-taking was general and imposing. Each male Pawnee was
sedulous to omit no one of the strange warriors in his attentions, and
of course the ceremony occupied some time. The only exception, and that
was not general, was in the case of Dr. Battius. Not a few of the young
men, it is true, were indifferent about lavishing civilities on one of
so doubtful a profession, but the worthy naturalist found some
consolation in the more matured politeness of the old men, who had
inferred, that though not of much use in war, the medicine of the
Big-knives might possibly be made serviceable in peace.
When all of Middleton's party had embarked, thetrapper lifted a
small bundle, which had lain at his feet during the previous
proceedings, and whistling Hector to his side, he was the last to take
his seat. The artillerists gave the usual cheers, which were answered
by a shout from the tribe, and then the boat was shoved into the
current, and began to glide swiftly down its stream.
A long and a musing, if not a melancholy silence succeeded this
departure. It was first broken by the trapper, whose regret was not the
least visible in his dejected and sorrowful eye——
"They are a valiant and an honest tribe," he said; "that will I say
boldly in their favour; and second only do I take them to be to that
once mighty but now scattered people, the Delawares of the Hills. Ah's
me! Captain, if you had seen as much good and evil as I have seen in
these nations of Red-skins, you would know of how much value was a
brave and simple-minded warrior. I know that some are to be found, who
both think and say that an Indian is but a little better than the
beasts of these naked plains. But it is needful to be honest in one's
self to be a fitting judge of honesty in others. No doubt, no doubt,
they know their enemies, and little do they care to show to such any
great confidence or love."
"It is the way of man," returned the Captain, "and it is probable
they are not wanting in any of his natural qualities."
"No, no; it is little that they want, that natur' has had to give.
But as little does he know of the temper of a Red-skin, who has seen
but one Indian or one tribe, as he knows of the colour of feathers who
has only looked upon a crow. Now, friend steersman, just give the boat
a sheer towards youder, low, sandy point, and a favour will be granted
at a short asking."
"For what?" demanded Middleton; "we are now in the swiftest of the
current, and by drawing to the shore we shall lose the force of the
"Your tarry will not be long," returned the old man, applying his
own hand to the execution of that which he had requested. The oarsmen
had seen enough of his influence with their leader not to dispute his
wishes, and before time was given for further discussion on the
subject, the bows of the boat had touched the land.
"Captain," resumed the other untying his little wallet with great
deliberation, and even in a manner to show he found satisfaction in the
delay, "I wish to offer you a small matter of trade. No great bargain,
mayhap; but still the best that one, of whose hand the skill of the
rifle has taken leave, and who has become no better than a miserable
trapper, can offer before we part."
"Part!" was echoed from every mouth among those who had so recently
shared his dangers and profited by his care.
"What the devil, old trapper, do you mean to foot it to the
settlements, when here is a boat that will float the distance in half
the time, that the jackass, the Doctor has given the Pawnee, could trot
along the same!"
"Settlements, boy! It is long sin' I took my leave of the waste and
wickedness of the settlements and the villages. If I live in a clearing
here, it is one of the Lord's making, and I have no hard thoughts on
the matter; but never again shall I be seen running wilfully into the
danger of immoralities."
"I had not thought of parting," answered Middleton, endeavouring to
seek some relief from the uneasiness he felt, by turning his eyes on
the sympathizing countenances of his friends; "on the contrary, I had
hoped and believed that you would have accompanied us below, where I
give you a sacred pledge, nothing shall be wanting to make your days
"Yes, lad, yes; you would do your endeavours;but what are the
strivings of man against the working of the devil! Ay, if kind offers
and good wishes could have done the thing, I might have been a
congress-man, or perhaps a governor, years agone. Your gran'ther wished
the same, and there are them still living in the Otsego mountains, as I
hope, who would gladly have given me a palace for my dwelling. But what
are riches without content! My time must now be short, at any rate, and
I hope it's no mighty sin for one, who has acted his part honestly near
ninety winters and summers, to wish to pass the few hours that remain
in comfort. If you think I have done wrong in coming thus far to quit
you again, Captain, I will own the reason of the act without shame or
backwardness. Though I have seen so much of the wilderness, it is not
to be gainsayed, that my feelings, as well as my skin, are white. Now
it would not be a fitting spectacle, that yonder Pawnee Loups should
look upon the weakness of an old warrior, if weakness he should happen
to show in parting for ever from those he has reason to love, though he
may not set his heart so strongly on them as to wish to go into the
settlements in their company."
"Harkee, old trapper," said Paul, clearing his throat with a
desperate effort, as if he was determined to give his voice a clear
exit; "I have just one bargain to make, since you talk of trading,
which is neither more nor less than this. I offer you, as my side of
the business, one half of my shanty, nor do I much care if it be the
biggest half; the sweetest and the purest honey that can be made of the
wild locust; always enough to eat, with now and then a mouthful of
venison, or, for that matter, a morsel of buffaloe's hump, seeing that
I intend to push my acquaintance with the animal, and as good and as
tidy cooking as can come from the hands of one like Ellen Wade, here,
who will shortly be Nelly somebody-else, and altogether such general
treatmentas a decent man might be supposed to pay to his best friend,
or, for that matter, to his own father; in return for the same you ar'
to give us at odd moments some of your ancient traditions, perhaps a
little wholesome advice on occasions, in small quantities at a time,
and as much of your agreeable company as you please."
"It is well——it is well, boy," returned the old man, fumbling at
his wallet; "honestly offered and not unthankfully declined——but it
cannot be; no, it can never be."
"Venerable venator," said Dr. Battius; "there are obligations,
which every man owes to society and to human nature. It is time that
you should return to your countrymen, to deliver up some of those
stores of experimental knowledge that you have doubtless obtained by so
long a sojourn in the wilds, which, however they may be corrupted by
preconceived opinions, will prove acceptable bequests to those whom, as
you say, you must shortly leave forever."
"Friend physicianer," returned the trapper, looking the other
steadily in the face, "as it would be no easy matter to judge of the
temper of the rattler by considering the fashions of the moose, so it
would be hard to speak of the usefulness of one man by thinking too
much of the deeds of another. You have your gifts like others, I
suppose, and little do I wish to disturb them. But as to me, the Lord
has made me for a doer and not a talker, and therefore do I consider it
no harm to shut my ears to your invitation."
"It is enough," interrupted Middleton; "I have seen and heard so
much of this extraordinary man, as to know that persuasions will not
change his purpose. First we will hear your request, my friend, and
then we will consider what may be best done for your advantage."
"It is a small matter, Captain," returned the old man, succeeding
at length in opening his bundle. "A small and trifling matter is it, to
what I once used-to-couldoffer in the way of bargains; but then it is
the best I have, and therein not to be despised. Here are the skins of
four beavers, that I took, it might be a month afore we met, and here
is another from a raccoon, that is of no great matter to be sure, but
which may serve to make weight atween us."
"And what do you propose to do with them?"
"I offer them in lawful barter. Them knaves the Siouxes, the Lord
forgive me for ever believing it was the Konzas, have stolen the best
of my traps, and driven me altogether to make-shift inventions, which
might foretel a dreary winter for me, should my time stretch into
another season. I wish you therefore to take the skins, and to offer
them to some of the trappers you will not fail to meet below, and to
send the same into the Pawnee village in my name. Be careful to have my
mark painted on them; a letter N, with a hound's ear and the lock of a
rifle. There is no Red-skin who will then dispute my right. For all
which trouble I have little more to offer than my thanks, unless my
friend, the bee-hunter here, will accept of the raccoon, and take on
himself the special charge of the whole matter."
"If I do, may I be——!" The mouth of Paul was stopped by the pretty
hand of Ellen, and he was obliged to swallow the rest of the sentence,
which he did with a species of emotion that bore no slight resemblance
to the process of strangulation.
"Well, well," returned the old man meekly, "I hope there is no
heavy offence in the offer. I know that the skin of a raccoon is of
small price, but then it was no mighty labour that I asked in return."
"You entirely mistake the meaning of our friend," interrupted
Middleton, who observed, that the bee-hunter was looking in every
direction but the right one, and that he was utterly unable to make his
own vindication. "He did not mean to say that he declined the charge,
but merely that he refused all compensation. It is unnecessary,
however, to say moreof this; it shall be my office to see that the debt
of gratitude, we owe, is properly discharged, and that all your
necessities shall be anticipated."
"Anan!" said the old man, looking up enquiringly into the other's
face, as if to ask an explanation.
"It shall all be as you wish. Lay the skins with my baggage. We
will bargain for you as for ourselves."
"Thankee, thankee, Captain; you gran'ther was of a free and
generous mind. So much so, in truth, that those just people, the
Delawares, called him the 'Open-hand.' I wish, now, I was as I used to
be, in order that I might send in the lady a few delicate martens for
her tippets and overcoats, just to show you that I know how to give
courtesy for courtesy. But do not expect the same, for I am too old to
give a promise. It will all be just as the Lord shall see fit. I can
offer you nothing else, for I haven't liv'd so long in the wilderness,
not to know the scrupulous ways of a gentleman."
Harkee, old trapper," cried the bee-hunter, striking his own hand
into the open palm which the other had extended, with a report but
little below the crack of a rifle, "I have just two things to say.
Firstly, that the captain has told you my meaning better than I can
myself; and secondly, if you want a skin, either for your private use
or to send abroad, I have it at your service, and that is the skin of
one Paul Hover."
The old man returned the grasp he received, and opened his mouth to
the utmost, in his extraordinary, silent laugh.
"You couldn't have given such a squeeze, boy, when the Teton squaws
were about you with the knives!" he said. "Ah! you are in your prime,
and in your vigour and happiness, if honesty lies in your path." Then
the expression of his rugged features suddenly changed to a look of
seriousness and thought. "Come hither, lad," he said, leading the
bee-hunter by a button to the land, and speaking apart in a toneof
admonition and confidence, "much has passed atween us on the pleasures
and respectableness of a life in the woods or on the borders. I do not
now mean to say that all you have heard is not true; but different
tempers call for different employments. You have taken to your bosom,
there, a good and kind child, and it has become your duty to consider
her, as well as yourself, in setting forth in life. You are a little
given to skirting the settlements, but, to my poor judgment, the girl
would be more like a flourishing flower in the sun of a clearing, than
in the winds of a prairie. Therefore forget any thing you may have
heard from me, which is nevertheless true, and turn your mind on the
ways of the inner country."
Paul could only answer with a squeeze, that would have brought
tears from the eyes of most men, but which produced no other effect on
the indurated muscles of the other, than to make him laugh and nod, as
if he would say he received the same as a pledge that the bee-hunter
would remember his advice. The trapper then turned away from his rough
but warm-hearted companion, and having called Hector from the boat, he
seemed anxious still to utter a few words more——
"Captain," he at length resumed, "I know when a poor man talks of
credit, he deals in a delicate word according to the fashions of the
world; and when an old man talks of life, he speaks of that which he
may never see; nevertheless there is one thing I will say, and that is
not so much on my own behalf as on that of another person. Here is
Hector, a good and faithful pup, that has long outlived the time of a
dog, and like his master he looks more to comfort now, than to any
deeds in running. But the creatur' has his feelings as well as a
Christian. He has consorted latterly with his kinsman, there, in such a
sort as to find great pleasure in his company, and I will acknowledge
that it touches my feelings to part the pair so soon. If you will set a
value on your hound, I willendeavour to send it to you in the spring,
more especially should them same traps come safe to hand; or, if you
dislike parting with the animal altogether, I will just ask you for his
loan through the winter. I think I can see my pup will not last beyond
that time, for I have judgment in these matters, since many is the
friend, both hound and Red-skin, that I have seen depart in my day,
though the Lord hath not yet seen fit to order his angels to sound
forth my name."
"Take him, take him," cried Middleton; "take all or any thing!"
The old man whistled the younger dog to the land; and then he
proceeded to the final adieus. Little was said on either side. The
trapper took each person solemnly by the hand, and uttered something
friendly and kind to all. Middleton was perfectly speechless, and was
driven to affect busying himself among the baggage. Paul whistled with
all his might, and even Obed took his leave with an effort that bore
the appearance of a desperate philosophical resolution. When he had
made the circuit of the whole, the old man with his own hands shoved
the boat into the current, wishing God to speed them. Not a word was
spoken, nor a stroke of the oar given, until the travellers had floated
past a knoll that hid the trapper from their view. He was last seen
standing on the low point, leaning on his rifle, with Hector crouched
at his feet and the younger dog frisking along the sands in the
playfulness of youth and vigour.
——"Methought, I heard a voice——"
The water-courses were at their height, and the boat went down the
swift current like a bird. The passage proved prosperous and speedy. In
less than a third of the time, that would have been necessaryfor the
same journey by land, it was accomplished by the favour of those rapid
rivers. Issuing from one stream into another, as the veins of the human
body communicate with the larger channels of life, they soon entered
the grand artery of the western waters, and landed safely at the very
door of the father of Inez.
The joy of Don Augustin, and the embarrassment of the worthy father
Ignatius, may easily be imagined. The former wept and returned thanks
to Heaven; the latter returned thanks and did not weep. The mild
provincials were too happy to raise any questions on the character of
so joyful a restoration, and, by a sort of general consent, it soon
came to be an admitted opinion that the bride of Middleton had been
kidnapped by a villain, and that she was restored to her friends by
human agency. There were, as respects this belief, certainly a few
sceptics, but then they enjoyed their doubts in private, with that
species of sublimated and solitary gratification that a miser finds in
gazing at his growing but useless hoards.
In order to give the worthy priest something to employ his mind,
Middleton made him the instrument of uniting Paul and Ellen. The former
consented to the ceremony, because he found that all his friends laid
great stress on the matter; but shortly after he led his bride into the
plains of Kentucky, under the pretence of paying certain customary
visits to sundry members of the family of Hover. While there he took
occasion to have the marriage properly solemnized by a justice of the
peace of his acquaintance, in whose ability to forge the nuptial chain
he had much more faith than in that of all the gownsmen within the pale
of Rome. Ellen, who appeared conscious that some extraordinary
preventives might prove necessary to keep one of so erratic a temper as
her partner within the proper matrimonial boundaries, raised no
objections to these double knots, and therefore all parties were
The local importance Middleton had acquired, by his union with the
daughter of so affluent a proprietor as Don Augustin, united to his
personal merit, attracted the attention of the government. He was soon
employed in various situations of responsibility and confidence, which
both served to elevate his character in the public estimation, and to
afford the means of patronage. The bee-hunter was among the first of
those to whom he saw fit to extend his favour. It was far from
difficult to find situations suited to the abilities of Paul, in the
state of society that existed three-and-twenty years ago in those
regions. The efforts of Middleton and Inez, in behalf of her husband,
were warmly and sagaciously seconded by Ellen, and they succeeded, in
process of time, in working a great and beneficial change in his
character. He soon became a landholder, then a prosperous cultivator of
the soil, and shortly after a town-officer. By that progressive change
in fortune, which in the republic is often seen to be so singularly
accompanied by a corresponding improvement in knowledge and
self-respect, he went on from step to step, until his wife enjoyed the
maternal delight of seeing her children placed far beyond the danger of
returning to that state from which both their parents had issued. Paul
is actually at this moment a member of the lower branch of the
legislature of the State where he has long resided; and he is even
notorious for making speeches that have a tendency to put that
deliberative body in a good humour, and which, as they are based on
great practical knowledge suited to the condition of the country,
possess a merit that is much wanted in many more subtle and fine-spun
theories, that are daily heard in similar assemblies to issue from the
lips of certain instinctive politicians. But all these happy fruits
were the results of much care and of a long period of time. Middleton,
who fills, with a credit better suited to the difference in their
educations, a seat in a far higher branch of legislativeauthority, is
the source from which we have derived most of the intelligence,
necessary to compose our legend. In addition to what he has related of
Paul, and of his own continued happiness, he has added a short
narrative of what took place in a subsequent visit to the prairies,
with which, as we conceive it a suitable termination to what has gone
before, we shall judge it wise to conclude our present labours.
In the autumn of the year, that succeeded the season, in which the
preceding events occurred, the young man, still in the military service
of the country, found himself on the waters of the Missouri, at a point
not far remote from the Pawnee towns. Released from any immediate calls
of duty, and strongly urged to the measure by Paul, who was in his
company, he determined to take horse and cross the country to visit the
partisan, and to inquire into the fate of his friend the trapper. As
his train was suited to his functions and rank, the journey was
effected, with the usual privations and hardships that are the
accompaniments of all travelling in a wild, but without any of those
dangers and alarms that marked his former passage through the same
regions. When within a proper distance, he despatched an Indian runner,
belonging to a friendly tribe, to announce the approach of himself and
party, continuing his route at a deliberate pace, in order that the
intelligence might, as was customary, precede his arrival. To the
surprise of the travellers their message was unanswered. Hour succeeded
hour, and mile after mile was passed, without bringing either the signs
of an honourable reception, or of the more simple assurances of a
friendly welcome. At length the cavalcade, at whose head rode Middleton
and Paul, descended from the elevated plain, on which they had long
been journeying, to a luxuriant bottom, that brought them to the level
of the village of the Loups. The sun was beginning to fall, and a sheet
of golden light was spread over the placid plain, lending to its even
surface those glorious tints and hues, that the human imagination is
apt to conceive, forms the embellishment of still more imposing scenes.
The verdure of the year yet remained, and herds of horses and mules
were grazing peacefully in the vast natural pasture, under the keeping
of vigilant Pawnee boys. Paul pointed out among them the well-known
form of Asinus, sleek, fat, and apparently luxuriating in the fulness
of content, as he stood with reclining ears and closed eye-lids,
seemingly musing on the exquisite nature of his present indolent
The route of the party led them at no great distance from one of
those watchful youths, who was charged with a trust so heavy as the
principal wealth of his tribe. He heard the trampling of the horses,
and cast his eye aside, but instead of manifesting either curiosity or
alarm, his look was instantly returned whence it had been withdrawn, to
the spot where the village was known to stand.
"There is something remarkable in all this," muttered Middleton,
half offended at what he conceived to be not only a slight to his rank,
but offensive to himself, personally; "yonder boy has heard of our
approach, or he would not fail to notify his tribe, and yet he scarcely
deigns to favour us with a glance. Look to your arms, men; it may be
necessary to let these savages feel our strength."
"Therein, Captain, I think you're in an error," returned Paul; "if
honesty is to be met on the prairies at all, you will find it in our
old friend Hard-Heart; neither is an Indian to be judged of by the
rules of a white. See! we are not altogether slighted, for here comes a
party at last to meet us, though it is a little pitiful as to show and
Paul was right in both particulars. A groupe of horsemen were at
length seen wheeling round a little copse and advancing across the
plain directly towards them. The advance of this party was slow and
dignified. As it drew nigh, the Partisan of theLoups was seen at its
head followed by a dozen of the younger warriors of his tribe. They
were all unarmed, nor did they even wear about their persons any of
those ornaments or feathers, which are considered as much to be
testimonials of respect to the guest an Indian receives, as an evidence
of his own rank and importance.
The meeting was friendly, though a little restrained on both sides.
Middleton jealous of his own consideration no less than of the
authority of his government, suspected some undue influence on the part
of the agents of the Canadas, and as he was determined to maintain the
authority, of which he was the representative, he felt himself
constrained to manifest a hauteur, that he was actually far from
feeling. It was not so easy to penetrate the motives of the Pawnees.
Calm, dignified and yet far from repulsive, they set an example of
courtesy, blended with reserve, that many a diplomatist of the most
polished court might have strove in vain to imitate.
In this manner the two parties continued their course to the town.
Middleton had time during the remainder of the ride to revolve in his
mind all the probable reasons which his ingenuity could suggest, for
this strange reception. Although he was accompanied by a regular
interpreter, the chiefs made their salutations in a manner that
dispensed with his services. Twenty times the captain turned his glance
on his former friend, endeavouring to read the expression of his rigid
features. But every effort and all conjectures proved equally futile.
The eye of Hard-Heart was fixed, composed, and a little anxious; but as
to every other emotion impenetrable. He neither spoke himself nor
seemed willing to invite his visiters to speak; it was therefore
necessary for Middleton to adopt the patient manners of his companions
and to await the issue for the explanation.
When they entered the town, its inhabitants were seen collected in
an open space, where they werearranged with the customary deference to
age and rank. The whole formed a large circle, in the centre of which,
were perhaps a dozen of the principal chiefs. Hard-Heart waved his hand
as he approached and as the mass of bodies opened he rode through,
followed by all his companions. Here they dismounted, and as the beasts
were led apart, the strangers found themselves environed by a thousand
grave, composed, but solicitous faces.
Middleton gazed about him in growing concern, for no cry, no song,
no shout welcomed him among a people from whom he had so lately parted
with regret. His uneasiness, not to say apprehensions was shared by all
his followers. Determination and stern resolution began to assume the
place of anxiety in every eye, as each man silently felt for his arms
and assured himself, that his several weapons were in a state for
instant and desperate service. But there was no answering symptom of
hostility on the part of their hosts. Hard-Heart beckoned for Middleton
and Paul to follow, leading the way towards the cluster of forms, that
occupied the centre of the circle. Here the visiters found a solution
of all the movements, which had given them so much reason for
The trapper was placed on a rude seat, which had been made with
studied care, to support his frame in an upright and easy attitude. The
first glance of the eye told his former friends, that the old man was
at length called upon to pay the last tribute of nature. His eye was
glazed and apparently as devoid of sight as of expression. His features
were a little more sunken and strongly marked than formerly; but there,
all change, so far as exterior was concerned, might be said to have
ceased. His approaching end was not to be ascribed to any positive
disease, but had been a gradual and mild decay of the physical powers.
Life, it is true, still lingered in his system, but it was as though at
times entirely ready to depart, and thenit would appear to reanimate
the sinking form, as if reluctant to give up the possession of a
tenement, that had never been undermined by vice or corrupted by
disease. It would have been no violent fancy to have imagined, that the
spirit fluttered about the placid lips of the old woodsman, reluctant
to depart from a shell, that had so long given it an honest and an
His body was so placed as to let the light of the setting sun fall
full upon the solemn features. His head was bare, the long, thin locks
of gray fluttering lightly in the evening breeze. His rifle lay upon
his knee, and the other accoutrements of the chase were placed at his
side within reach of his hand. Between his feet lay the figure of a
hound, with its head crouching to the earth as if it slumbered, and so
perfectly easy and natural was its position, that a second glance was
necessary to tell Middleton, he saw only the skin of Hector, stuffed by
Indian tenderness and ingenuity in a manner to represent the living
animal. His own dog was playing at a distance with the child of
Tachechana and Mahtoree. The mother herself stood at hand, holding in
her arms a second offspring, that might boast of a parentage no less
honourable, than that which belonged to the son of Hard-Heart. Le
Balafré, was seated nigh the dying trapper, with every mark about his
person, that the hour of his own departure was not far distant. The
rest of those immediately in the centre were aged men, who had
apparently drawn near, in order to observe the manner, in which a just
and fearless warrior would depart on the greatest of his journeys.
The old man was reaping the rewards of a life so remarkable for its
temperance and activity in a tranquil and placid death. His vigour had
in a manner endured to the very last. Decay, when it did occur, was
rapid, but free from pain. He had hunted with the tribe in the spring,
and even throughout most of the summer, when his limbs suddenly refused
to performtheir customary offices. A sympathizing weakness took
possession of all his faculties, and the Pawnees believed, that they
were going to lose, in this unexpected manner, a sage and counsellor,
whom they had begun both to love and respect. But as we have already
said, the immortal occupant seemed unwilling to desert its tenement.
The lamp of life flickered without becoming extinguished. On the
morning of the day, on which Middleton arrived, there was a general
reviving of the powers of the whole man. His tongue was again heard in
wholesome maxims, and his eye from time to time recognized the persons
of his friends. It merely proved to be a brief and final intercourse
with the world on the part of one, who had already been considered, as
to mental communion, to have taken his leave of it forever.
When he had placed his guests in front of the dying man,
Hard-Heart, after a pause, that proceeded as much from sorrow as
decorum, leaned a little forward and demanded——
"Does my father hear the words of his son?"
"Speak," returned the trapper, in tones that issued from his inmost
chest, but which were rendered awfully distinct by the death-like
stillness, that reigned in the place. "I am about to depart from the
village of the Loups, and shortly shall be beyond the reach of your
"Let the wise chief have no cares for his journey," continued
Hard-Heart with an earnest solicitude, that led him to forget, for the
moment, that others were waiting to address his adopted parent; "a
hundred Loups shall clear his path from briars."
"Pawnee, I die as I have lived, a Christian man," resumed the
trapper with a force of voice, that had the same startling effect on
his hearers, as is produced by the trumpet, when its blast rises
suddenly and freely on the air after its obstructed sounds have long
been heard struggling in the distance; "as I came into life, so will I
leave it. Horses and arms are notneeded to stand in the presence of the
Great Spirit of my people. He knows my colour and according to my gifts
will he judge my deeds."
"My father will tell my young men, how many Mingoes he has struck
and what acts of valour and justice he has done, that they may know how
to imitate him."
"A boastful tongue is not heard in the heaven of a white man!"
solemnly returned the old man. "What I have done He has seen. His eyes
are always open. That, which has been well done, will he remember;
wherein I have been wrong will he not forget to chastise, though he
will do the same in mercy. No, my son; a Pale-face may not sing his own
praises, and hope to have them acceptable before his God!"
A little disappointed, the young partisan stepped modestly back,
making way for the recent comers to approach. Middleton took one of the
meagre hands of the trapper and struggling to command his voice, he
succeeded in announcing his presence. The old man listened like one
whose thoughts were dwelling on a very different subject, but when the
other had succeeded in making him understand, that he was present, an
expression of joyful recognition passed over his faded features——
"I hope you have not so soon forgotten those, whom you so
materially served!" Middleton concluded. "It would pain me to think my
hold on your memory was so light."
"Little that I have ever seen is forgotten," returned the trapper;
"I am at the close of many weary days, but there is not one among them
all, that I could wish to overlook. I remember you with the whole of
your company; ay, and your gran'ther, that went before you. I am glad,
that you have come back upon these plains, for I had need of one, who
speaks the English, since little faith can be put in the traders of
these regions. Will you do a favour, lad, to an old and dying man?"
"Name it," said Middleton; "it shall be done."
"It is a far journey to send such trifles," resumed the old man,
who spoke at short intervals as strength and breath permitted; "A far
and weary journey is the same; but kindnesses and friendships are
things not to be forgotten. There is a settlement among the Otsego
"I know the place," interrupted Middleton, observing that he spoke
with increasing difficulty; "proceed to tell me, what you would have
"Take then this rifle, and pouch and horn, and send them to the
person, whose name is graven on the plates of the stock. A trader cut
the letters with his knife, for it is long, that I have intended to
send him such a token of my love!"
"It shall be so. Is there more that you could wish?"
"Little else have I to bestow. My traps I give to my Indian son;
for honestly and kindly has he kept his faith. Let him stand before
Middleton explained to the chief, what the trapper had said, and
relinquished his own place to the other.
"Pawnee," continued the old man, always changing his language to
suit the person he addressed, and not unfrequently according to the
ideas he expressed, "it is a custom of my people for the father to
leave his blessing with the son, before he shuts his eyes forever. This
blessing I give to you; take it, for the prayers of a Christian man
will never make the path of a just warrior, to the blessed prairies,
either longer or more tangled. May the God of a white man look on your
deeds with friendly eyes, and may you never commit an act, that shall
cause him to darken his face. I know not whether we shall ever meet
again. There are many traditions concerning the place of Good Spirits.
It is not for one like me, old and experienced though I am, to set up
my opinions against a nation's. You believe in the blessed prairies,
and I have faith in the sayings of my fathers. If both are true, our
parting will be final; but if it should prove, that the samemeaning is
hid under different words, we shall yet stand together, Pawnee, before
the face of your Wahcondah, who will then be no other than my God.
There is much to be said in favour of both religions, for each seems
suited to its own people, and no doubt it was so intended. I fear, I
have not altogether followed the gifts of my colour, inasmuch as I find
it a little painful to give up for ever the use of the rifle and the
comforts of the chase. But then the fault has been my own, seeing that
it could not have been His. Ay, Hector," he continued, leaning forward
a little, and feeling for the ears of the hound, "our parting has come
at last, dog, and it will be a long hunt. You have been an honest, and
a bold, and a faithful hound. Pawnee, you cannot slay the pup on my
grave, for where a Christian dog falls, there he lies forever, but you
can be kind to him, after I am gone for the love you bear his master."
"The words of my father, are in my ears," returned the young
partisan, making a grave and respectful gesture of assent.
"Do you hear, what the chief has promised, dog?" demanded the
trapper, making an effort to attract the notice of the insensible
effigy of his hound. Receiving no answering look, nor hearing any
friendly whine, the old man felt for the mouth and endeavoured to force
his hand between the cold lips. The truth then flashed upon him,
although he was far from perceiving the whole extent of the deception.
Falling back in his seat, he hung his head, like one who felt a severe
and unexpected shock. Profiting by this momentary forgetfulness two
young Indians removed the skin with the same delicacy of feeling, that
had induced them to attempt the pious fraud.
"The dog is dead!" muttered the trapper, after a pause of many
minutes; "a hound has his time as well as a man; and well has he filled
his days! Captain," he added, making an effort to wave his hand for
Middleton, "I am glad you have come; forthough kind, and well meaning
according to the gifts of their colour, these Indians are not the men,
to lay the head of a white man in his grave. I have been thinking too,
of this dog at my feet; it will not do to set forth the opinion, that a
Christian can expect to meet his hound again; still there can be little
harm in placing what is left of so faithful a servant nigh the bones of
"None in the least; it shall be as you desire."
"I'm glad, you think with me in this matter. In order then to save
labour, lay the pup at my feet, or for that matter put him side by
side. A hunter need never be ashamed to be found in company with his
"I charge myself with your wish."
The old man then made a long, and apparently a musing pause. At
times he raised his eyes wistfully as if he would again address
Middleton, but some innate feeling appeared always to suppress his
words. The other, who observed his hesitation, enquired in a way most
likely to encourage him to proceed, whether there was aught else, that
he could wish to have done.
"I am without kith or kin in the wide world!" the trapper answered;
"when I am gone, there will be an end of my race. We have never been
chiefs, but honest and useful in our way, I hope it cannot be denied,
we have always proved ourselves. My father lies buried near the sea,
and the bones of his son will whiten on the prairies——"
"Name the spot, and your remains shall be placed by the side of
your father," interrupted Middleton.
"Not so, not so, Captain. Let me sleep, where I have lived, beyond
the din of the settlements. Still I see no need, why the grave of an
honest man should be hid, like a Red-skin in his ambushment. I paid a
man in the settlements to make and put a graven stone at the head of my
father's resting place. It was of the value of twelve beaver-skins, and
cunningly and curiously was it carved! Then it told to all comers that
the body of such a Christian lay beneath; and it spoke of his manner of
life, of his years, and of his honesty. When we had done with the
Frenchers in the old war, I made a journey to the spot, in order to see
that all was rightly performed, and glad I am to say the workman had
not forgotten his faith."
"And such a stone you would have at your grave?"
"I! no, no, I have no son, but Hard-Heart, and it is little, that
an Indian knows of White fashions and usages. Besides I am his debtor,
already, seeing it is so little I have done, since I have lived in his
tribe. The rifle might bring the value of such a thing——but then I
know, it will give the boy pleasure to hang the piece in his hall, for
many is the deer and the bird that he has seen it destroy. No, no, the
gun must be sent to him, whose name is graven on the lock!"
"But there is one, who would gladly prove his affection in the way
you wish; he, who owes you not only his own deliverance from so many
dangers, but who inherits a heavy debt of gratitude from his ancestors.
The stone shall be put at the head of your grave."
The old man extended his emaciated hand, and gave the other a
squeeze of thanks.
"I thought, you might be willing to do it, but I was backward in
asking the favour," he said, "seeing that you are not of my kin. Put no
boastful words on the same, but just the name, the age and the time of
the death, with something from the holy book; no more, no more. My name
will then not be altogether lost on 'arth; I need no more."
Middleton intimated his assent, and then followed a pause, that was
only broken by distant and broken sentences from the dying man. He
appeared now to have closed his accounts with the world, and to await
merely for the final summons to quit it. Middleton and Hard-Heart
placed themselves on the opposite sides of his seat and watched with
melancholy solicitude the variations of his countenance. For two hours
there was no very sensible alteration.The expression of his faded and
time-worn features was that of a calm and dignified repose. From time
to time he spoke, uttering some brief sentence in the way of advice, or
asking some simple questions concerning those in whose fortunes he
still took a friendly interest. During the whole of that solemn and
anxious period each individual of the tribe kept his place in the most
self-restrained patience. When the old man spoke, all bent their heads
to listen; and when his words were uttered, they seemed to ponder on
their wisdom and usefulness.
As the flame drew nigher to the socket, his voice was hushed, and
there were moments, when his attendants doubted whether he still
belonged to the living. Middleton, who watched each wavering expression
of his weather-beaten visage, with the interest of a keen observer of
human nature, softened by the tenderness of personal regard, fancied he
could read the workings of the old man's soul in the strong lineaments
of his countenance. Perhaps what the enlightened soldier took for the
delusion of mistaken opinion did actually occur, for who has returned
from that unknown world to explain by what forms and in what manner, he
was introduced into its awful precincts! Without pretending to explain
what must ever be a mystery to the quick, we shall simply relate facts
as they occurred.
The trapper had remained nearly motionless for an hour. His eyes,
alone, had occasionally opened and shut. When opened, his gaze seemed
fastened on the clouds, which hung around the western horizon,
reflecting the bright colours, and giving form and loveliness to the
glorious tints of an American sunset. The hour——the calm beauty of the
season——the occasion, all conspired to fill the spectators with solemn
awe. Suddenly, while musing on the remarkable position, in which he was
placed, Middleton felt the hand, which he held, grasp his own with
incredible power, and the old man supported on either side by his
friends,rose upright to his feet. For a single moment he looked about
him, as if to invite all in presence to listen, (the lingering remnant
of human frailty,) and then with a fine military elevation of his head,
and with a voice, that might be heard in every part of that numerous
assembly, he pronounced the emphatic word——
A movement so entirely unexpected, and the air of grandeur and
humility, which were so remarkably united in the mien of the trapper,
together with the clear and uncommon force of his utterance, produced a
short period of confusion in the faculties of all present. When
Middleton and Hard-Heart, who had each involuntarily extended a hand to
support the form of the old man, turned to him again, they found, that
the subject of their interest was removed forever beyond the necessity
of their care. They mournfully placed the body in its seat, and Le
Balafré arose to announce the termination of the scene to the tribe.
The voice of the old Indian seemed a sort of echo from that invisible
word, to which the meek spirit of the trapper had just departed.
"A valiant, a just and a wise warrior has gone on the path, which
will lead him to the blessed grounds of his people!" he said. "When the
voice of the Wahcondah called him, he was ready to answer. Go, my
children; remember the just chief of the Pale-faces and clear your own
tracks from briars!"
The grave was made beneath the shade of some noble oaks. It has
been carefully watched to the present hour by the Pawnees of the Loup,
and is often shown to the traveller and the trader as a spot where a
just White-man sleeps. In due time the stone was placed at its head,
with the simple inscription, which the trapper had himself requested.
The only liberty, taken by Middleton, was to add,——"May no wanton hand
ever disturb his remains!"