Part 3 out of 9
"What do them chaps say?" asked le Bourdon of the Chippewa. "They
yell as if striving to make the two men at the door of the hut hear
them. Can you make out what they are bawling so loud?"
"Tell two warrior to come down and take care of canoe--dat all--let
'em come--find two here to take care of DEM--got good scalp, them
two rascal Pottawattamie!"
"No--no--Pigeonswing--we must have no more of that work to-night,
but must set about towing these four canoes off the shore as fast as
we can. Have you got hitches on your two?"
"Fast 'nough--so fast, he follow," answered the Indian, who,
notwithstanding his preparations to help to remove the canoes, was
manifestly reluctant to depart without striking another blow at his
enemies. "Now good time for dem rascal to lose scalp!"
"Them rascals, as you call them, begin to understand their friends
in the marsh, and are looking to the priming of their rifles. We
must be moving, or they may see us, and give us a shot. Shove off,
Chippewa, and paddle at once for the middle of the bay."
As le Bourdon was much in earnest, Pigeonswing was fain to comply.
Had the last possessed a rifle of his own, or even a knife, it is
highly probable he would have leaped ashore, and found the means of
stealing on some of his enemies unawares, and thus secured another
trophy. But the bee-hunter was determined, and the Chippewa, however
reluctant, was compelled to obey; for not only had le Bourdon kept
his rifle at his side, but he had used the precaution of securing
his knife and tomahawk, both of which he carried habitually, the
same as a red man.
The canoes had now a somewhat difficult task. The wind still blew
fresh, and it was necessary for one of these light craft, pretty
well loaded with its proper freight, and paddled by only a single
person, to tow two other craft of equal size dead to the windward.
The weight in the towing craft, and the lightness of those that were
towed, rendered this task, however, easier than it might otherwise
have proved. In the course of a couple of minutes all the canoes
were far enough from the shore to be out of sight of the two
Indians, who, by that time, had got down to the beach to look after
their own craft. The yell these savages raised on finding themselves
too late, not only announced their disappointment, but communicated
the extent of the disaster to their friends, who were still
floundering through the marsh.
The great advantage that the party of the bee-hunter had now
obtained must be very apparent to all. In possession of ALL the
canoes, their enemies were, or would be for some time at least,
confined to the northern side of the river, which was so wide near
its mouth as to present an effectual barrier between them and those
who occupied the opposite bank. The canoes, also, enabled the weaker
party to change their position at will, carrying with them as many
effects as were on board, and which included the whole of the
property of le Bourdon; while their loss deprived their enemies of
all extra means of motion, and would be very likely to induce them
to proceed on their expedition by land. The objects of that
expedition could only be conjectured by the bee-hunter, until he had
questioned the Chippewa; a thing he did not fail to do, so soon as
he believed the party quite safe under the south shore. Here the
fugitives landed, proceeding up a natural channel in the wild rice
in order to do so, and selecting a bit of dry beach for their
purpose. Margery set about lighting a fire, in order to keep the
mosquitos at a distance, selecting a spot to kindle it, behind a
swell on the land, that concealed the light from all on the other
shore. In the morning, it would be necessary to extinguish that
fire, lest its smoke should betray their position. It was while
these things were in progress, and after le Bourdon had himself
procured the fuel necessary to feed pretty Margery's fire, that he
questioned the Chippewa touching his captivity.
"Yes, tell all 'bout him," answered the Indian, as soon as
interrogated--"no good to hide trail from friend. 'Member when say
good-by up in openin' to Bourdon?"
"Certainly--I remember the very instant when you left me. The
Pottawattamie went on one path, and you went on another. I was glad
of that, as you seemed to think he was not your friend."
"Yes; good not to travel on same path as inimy, 'cause he quarrel
sometime," coolly returned the Indian. "Dis time, path come
together, somehow; and Pottawattamie lose he scalp."
"I am aware of all that, Pigeonswing, and wish it had not been so. I
found the body of Elksfoot sitting up against a tree soon after you
left me, and knew by whose hands he had fallen."
"Didn't find scalp, eh?"
"No, the scalp had been taken; though I accounted that but for
little, since the man's life was gone. There is little gained by
carrying on war in this manner, making the woods, and the openings,
and the prairies, alike unsafe. You see, to what distress this
family is reduced by your Injin manner of making war."
"How you make him, den--want, to hear. Go kiss, and give venison to
inimy, or go get his scalp, eh? Which bess fashion to make him
afeard, and own you master?"
"All that may be done without killing single travellers, or
murdering women and children. The peace will be made none the sooner
between England and America, because you have got the scalp of
"No haben't got him any longer; wish had--Pottawattamie take him
away, and say he bury him. Well, let him hide him in a hole deep as
white man's well, can't hide Pigeonswing honor dere, too. Dat is
safe as notch cut on stick can make him!"
This notch on a stick was the Indian mode of gazetting a warrior;
and a certain number of these notches was pretty certain to procure
for him a sort of savage brevet, which answered his purpose quite as
well as the modern mode of brevetting at Washington answers our
purpose. Neither brings any pay, we believe, nor any command, except
in such cases as rarely occur, and then only to the advantage of
government. There are varieties in honor, as in any other human
interest: so are there many moral degrees in warfare. Thus, the very
individual who admires the occupation of Algiers, or that of Tahiti,
or the attack on Canton, together with the long train of Indian
events which have dyed the peninsulas of the East in the blood of
their people, sees an alarming enormity in the knocking down of the
walls of Vera Cruz, though the breach opened a direct road into San
Juan de Ulloa. In the eyes of the same profound moralists, the
garitas of Mexico ought to have been respected, as so many doors
opening into the boudoirs of the beautiful dames of that fine
capital; it being a monstrous thing to fire a shot into the streets
of a town, no matter how many came out of them. We are happy,
therefore, to have it in our power to add these touches of
philosophy that came from Pigeonswing to those of the sages of the
old world, by way of completing a code of international morals on
this interesting subject, in which the student shall be at a loss to
say which he most admires--that which comes from the schools, or
that which comes direct from the wilderness.
"So best," answered the bee-hunter. "I wish I could persuade you to
throw away that disgusting thing at your belt. Remember, Chippewa,
you are now among Christians, and ought to do as Christians wish."
"What Christians DO, eh?" returned the Indian, with a sneer, "get
drunk like Whiskey Centre, dere? Cheat poor red man; den get down on
knee and look up at Manitou? DAT what Christian do, eh?"
"They who do such things are Christian but in name--you must think
better of such as are Christians in fact."
"Ebberybody call himself Christian, tell you--all pale-face
Christian, dey say. Now, listen to Chippewa. Once talk long talk
wit' missionary--tell all about Christian--what Christian do--what
Christian say--how he eat, how he sleep, HOW he drink!--all good--
wish Pigeonwing Christian--den 'member so'ger at garrison--no eat,
no sleep, no drink Christian fashion--do ebbery t'ing so'ger
fashion--swear, fight, cheat, get drunk--wuss dan Injin--dat
"No, that is not acting like a Christian; and I fear very few of us
who call ourselves by that name, act as if we were Christians, in
truth," said le Bourdon, conscious of the justice of the Chippewa's
"Just dat--now, I get him--ask missionary, one day, where all
Christian go to, so dat Injin can't find him--none in woods--none on
prairie--none in garrison--none in Mack'naw--none at Detroit--where
all go to, den, so Injin can't find him, on'y in missionary talk?"
"I am curious to know what answer your missionary made to that
"Well, tell you--say, on'y one in ten t'ousant RAAL Christians 'mong
pale-face, dough all call himself Christian! DAT what Injin t'ink
"It is not easy to make a red man understand all the ways of the
pale-faces, Pigeonswing; but we will talk of these things another
time, when we are more at our ease. Just now, I wish to learn all I
can of the manner in which you fell into the hands of the
"Dat plain 'nough--wish Christian talk half as plain. You see,
Bourdon, dat Elksfoot on scout, when we meet in openin', up river. I
know'd his ar'nd, and so took scalp. Dem Pottawattamie his friend--
when dey come to meet ole chief, no find him; but find Pigeonwing;
got me when tired and 'sleep; got Elkfoot scalp wid me--sorry for
dat--know scalp by scalp-lock, which had gray hair, and some mark.
So put me in canoe, and meant to take Chippewa to Chicago to torture
him--but too much wind. So, when meet friend in t'odder canoe, come
back here to wait little while."
This was the simple explanation of the manner in which Pigeonswing
had fallen into the hands of his enemies. It would seem that
Elksfoot had come in a canoe from the mouth of the St. Joseph's to a
point about half-way between that river and the mouth of the
Kalamazoo, and there landed. What the object of the party was, does
not exactly appear, though it is far from being certain that it was
not to seize the bee-hunter, and confiscate his effects. Although le
Bourdon was personally a stranger to Elksfoot, news flies through
the wilderness in an extraordinary manner; and it was not at all
unlikely that the fact of a white American's being in the openings
should soon spread, along with the tidings that the hatchet was dug
up, and that a party should go out in quest of his scalp and the
plunder. It would seem that the savage tact of the Chippewa detected
that in the manner of the Pottawattamie chief, which assured him the
intentions of the old warrior were not amicable; and that he took
the very summary process which has been related, not only to secure
HIS scalp, but effectually to put it out of his power to do any
mischief to one who was an ally, and by means of recent confidence,
now a friend. All this the Indian explained to his companion, in his
usual clipped English, but with a clearness sufficient to make it
perfectly intelligible to his listener. The bee-hunter listened with
the most profound attention, for he was fully aware of the
importance of comprehending all the hazards of his own situation.
While this dialogue was going on, Margery had succeeded in lighting
her fire, and was busy in preparing some warm compound, which she
knew would be required by her unhappy brother after his debauch,
Dorothy passed often between the fire and the canoe, feeling a
wife's anxiety in the fate of her husband. As for the Chippewa,
intoxication was a very venial offence in his eyes; though he had a
contempt for a man who would thus indulge while on a warpath. The
American Indian does possess this merit of adapting his deportment
to his circumstances. When engaged in war he usually prepares
himself, in the coolest and wisest manner, to meet its struggles,
indulging only in moments of leisure, and of comparative security.
It is true that the march of what is called civilization is fast
changing the red man's character, and he is very apt now to do that
which he sees done by the "Christians" around him.
Le Bourdon, when his dialogue with the Chippewa was over, and after
a few words of explanation with Margery, took his own canoe, and
paddled through the rice-plants into the open water of the river, to
reconnoitre. The breadth of the stream induced him to float down
before the wind, until he reached a point where he could again
command a view of the hut. What he there saw, and what he next did,
must be reserved for a succeeding chapter.
The elfin cast a glance around,
As he lighted down from his courser toad,
Then round his breast his wings he wound,
And close to the river's brink he strode;
He sprang on a rock, he breathed a prayer,
Above his head his arm he threw,
Then tossed a tiny curve in air,
And headlong plunged in the water blue.
An hour had intervened between the time when le Bourdon had removed
the canoes of the Pottawattamies, and the time when he returned
alone to the northern side of the river. In the course of that hour
the chief of the savages had time to ascertain all the leading
circumstances that have just been related, and to collect his people
in and around the hut, for a passing council. The moment was one of
action, and not of ceremonies. No pipe was smoked, nor any of the
observances of the great councils of the tribe attended to; the
object was merely to glean facts and to collect opinions. In all the
tribes of this part of North America, something very like a
principle of democracy is the predominant feature of their politics.
It is not, however, that bastard democracy which is coming so much
in fashion among ourselves, and which looks into the gutters solely
for the "people," forgetting that the landlord has just as much
right to protection as the tenant, the master as the servant, the
rich as the poor, the gentleman as the blackguard. The Indians know
better than all this. They understand, fully, that the chiefs are
entitled to more respect than the loafers in their villages, and
listen to the former, while their ears are shut to the latter. They
appear to have a common sense, which teaches them to avoid equally
the exaggerations of those who believe in blood, and of those who
believe in blackguardism. With them the doctrines of "new men" would
sound as an absurdity, for they never submit to change for change's
sake. On the contrary, while there is no positive hereditary rank,
there is much hereditary consideration; and we doubt if a red man
could be found in all America, who is so much of a simpleton as to
cite among the qualifications of any man for a situation of trust
and responsibility, that he had never been TAUGHT how to perform its
duties. They are not guilty of the contradiction of elevating men
BECAUSE they are self-taught, while they expend millions on schools.
Doubtless they have, after a fashion of their own, demagogues and
Caesars, but they are usually kept within moderate limits; and in
rare instances, indeed, do either ever seriously trespass on the
rights of the tribe. As human nature is everywhere the same, it is
not to be supposed that pure justice prevails even among savages;
but one thing would seem to be certain, that, all over the world,
man in his simplest and wildest state is more apt to respect his own
ordinances, than when living in what is deemed a condition of high
When le Bourdon reached the point whence he could get a good view of
the door of the hut, which was still illuminated by the fire within,
he ceased using the paddle beyond the slight effort necessary to
keep the canoe nearly stationary. He was quite within the range of a
rifle, but trusted to the darkness of the night for his protection.
That scouts were out, watching the approaches to the hut, he felt
satisfied; and he did not doubt that some were prowling along the
margin of the Kalamazoo, either looking for the lost boats, or for
those who had taken them away. This made him cautious, and he took
good care not to place his canoe in a position of danger.
It was very apparent that the savages were in great uncertainty as
to the number of their enemies. Had not the rifle been fired, and
their warrior killed and scalped, they might have supposed that
their prisoner had found the means of releasing his limbs himself,
and thus effected his escape; but they knew that the Chippewa had
neither gun nor knife, and as all their own arms, even to those of
the dead man, were still in their possession, it was clear that he
had been succored from without. Now, the Pottawattamies had heard of
both the bee-hunter and Whiskey Centre, and it was natural enough
for them to ascribe some of these unlooked-for feats to one or the
other of these agents. It is true, the hut was known to have been
built three or four years earlier, by an Indian trader, and no one
of the party had ever actually seen Gershom and his family in
possession; but the conjectures on this head were as near the fact,
as if the savages had passed and repassed daily. There was only one
point on which these close calculators of events were at fault. So
thoroughly had everything been removed from the chiente, and so
carefully the traces of its recent occupation concealed, that no one
among them suspected that the family had left the place only an hour
before their own arrival. The bee-hunter, moreover, was well assured
that the savages had not yet blundered on the hiding-place of the
furniture. Had this been discovered, its contents would have been
dragged to light, and seen around the fire; for there is usually
little self-restraint among the red men, when they make a prize of
Nevertheless, there was one point about which even those keen-
scented children of the forest were much puzzled, and which the bee-
hunter perfectly comprehended, notwithstanding the distance at which
he was compelled to keep himself. The odor of the whiskey was so
strong, in and about the chiente, that the Pottawattamies did not
know what to make of it. That there should be the remains of this
peculiar smell--one so fragrant and tempting to those who are
accustomed to indulge in the liquor--in the hut itself, was natural
enough; but the savages were perplexed at finding it so strong on
the declivity down which the barrels had been rolled. On this
subject were they conversing, when le Bourdon first got near enough
to observe their proceedings. After discussing the matter for some
time, torches were lighted, and most of the party followed a grim
old warrior, who had an exceedingly true nose for the scent of
whiskey, and who led them to the very spot where the half-barrel had
been first stove by rolling off a rock, and where its contents had
been mainly spilled. Here the earth was yet wet in places, and the
scent was so strong as to leave no doubt of the recent nature of the
accident which had wasted so much of a liquor that was very precious
in Pottawattamie eyes; for accident they thought it must be, since
no sane man could think of destroying the liquor intentionally.
All the movements, gestures, and genuflections of the savages were
plainly seen by the bee-hunter. We say the genuflections, for nearly
all of the Indians got on their knees and applied their noses to the
earth, in order to scent the fragrance of the beloved whiskey; some
out of curiosity, but more because they loved even this tantalizing
indulgence, when no better could be had. But le Bourdon was right in
his conjectures, that the matter was not to end here. Although most
of the Indians scented the remains of the whiskey out of love for
the liquor, a few of their number reasoned on the whole transaction
with quite as much acuteness as could have been done by the
shrewdest natural philosopher living. To them it was very apparent
that no great length of time, a few hours at most, could have
elapsed since that whiskey was spilled; and human hands must have
brought it there, in the first place, and poured it on the ground,
in the second. There must have been a strong reason for such an act,
and that reason presented itself to their minds with unerring
accuracy. Their own approach must have been seen, and the liquor was
destroyed because it could not be removed in time to prevent its
falling into their hands. Even the precise manner in which the
whiskey had been disposed of was pretty nearly conjectured by a few
of the chiefs, acute and practised as they were; who, accustomed to
this species of exercise of their wits, had some such dexterity in
examining facts of this nature, and in arriving at just results, as
the men of the schools manifest in the inquiries that more
especially belong to their habits and training. But their
conclusions were confined to themselves; and they were also
sufficiently enveloped in doubts, to leave those who made them ready
enough to receive new impressions on the same subject.
All this, moreover, le Bourdon both saw and understood; or, if not
absolutely all, so much of it as to let him comprehend the main
conclusions of the savages, as well as the process by which they
were reached. To obtain light, the Indians made a fire near the
charmed spot, which brought themselves and their movements into
plain view from the canoe of the bee-hunter. Curiosity now became
strongly awakened in the latter, and he ventured in nearer to the
shore, in order to get the best possible view of what was going on.
In a manner, he was solving an enigma; and he experienced the sort
of pleasure we all feel at exercising our wits on difficulties of
that nature. The interest he felt rendered the young man careless as
respected the position of his canoe, which drifted down before the
strong breeze, until le Bourdon found himself in the very edge of
the wild rice, which at this point formed but a very narrow belt
along the beach. It was this plant, indeed, that contributed to make
the young man so regardless of his drift, for he looked upon the
belt of rice as a species of landmark to warn him when to turn. But,
at no other spot along that whole shore, where the plant was to be
found at all, was its belt so narrow as at this, immediately
opposite to the new fire of the savages, and almost within the
influence of its rays. To le Bourdon's surprise, and somewhat to his
consternation, just as his little craft touched the rice, the forms
of two stout warriors passed along the beach, between him and the
light, their feet almost dipping in the water. So near were these
two warriors to him, that, on listening intently, he heard not only
their voices, as they communicated their thoughts to each other in
low tones, but the tread of their moccasined feet on the ground.
Retreat, under the circumstances, would not be safe, for it must
have been made under the muzzles of the rifles; and but one resource
presented itself. By grasping in his hand two or three stalks of the
rice-plant, and holding them firmly, the drift of the canoe was
After a moment's reflection, le Bourdon was better satisfied with
this new station than he had been on first gaining it. To have
ventured on such a near approach to his enemies, he would have
regarded as madness; but now he was there, well concealed among the
rice, he enjoyed the advantages of observation it gave him, and
looked upon the chance that brought him there as lucky. He found a
thong of buckskin, and fastened his canoe to the stalks of the
plant, thus anchoring or mooring his little bark, and leaving
himself at liberty to move about in it. The rice was high enough to
conceal him, even when erect, and he had some difficulty in finding
places favorable to making his observations through it. When the
bee-hunter made his way into the bow of his canoe, however, which he
did with a moccasined and noiseless foot, he was startled at
perceiving how small was his cover. In point of fact, he was now
within three feet of the inner edge of the rice-plant, which grew
within ten feet of the shore, where the two warriors already
mentioned were still standing, in close communication with each
other. Their faces were turned toward the fire, the bright light
from which, at times, streamed over the canoe itself, in a way to
illumine all it contained. The first impulse of le Bourdon, on
ascertaining how closely he had drifted to the shore, was to seize a
paddle and make off, but a second thought again told him it would be
far safer to remain where he was. Taking his seat, therefore, on a
bit of board laid athwart, from gunwale to gunwale, if such a craft
can be said to have gunwales at all, he patiently waited the course
By this time, all or nearly all of the Pottawattamies had collected
on this spot, on the side of the hill. The hut was deserted, its
fire got to be low, and darkness reigned around the place. On the
other hand, the Indians kept piling brush on their new fire, until
the whole of that hill-side, the stream at its foot, and the ravine
through which the latter ran, were fairly illuminated. Of course,
all within the influence of this light was to be distinctly seen,
and the bee-hunter was soon absorbed in gazing at the movements of
savage enemies, under circumstances so peculiar.
The savages seemed to be entranced by the singular, and to most of
them unaccountable circumstance of the earth's giving forth the
scent of fresh whiskey, in a place so retired and unknown. While two
or three of their number had certain inklings of the truth, as has
been stated, to much the greater portion of their body it appeared
to be a profound mystery; and one that, in some inexplicable manner,
was connected with the recent digging up of the hatchet. Ignorance
and superstition ever go hand in hand, and it was natural that many,
perhaps most of these uninstructed beings should thus consider so
unusual a fragrance, on such a spot. Whiskey has unfortunately
obtained a power over the red man of this continent that it would
require many Fathers Matthew to suppress, and which can only be
likened to that which is supposed to belong to the influence of
witchcraft. The Indian is quite as sensible as the white man of the
mischief that the "fire-water" produces; but, like the white man, he
finds how hard it is to get rid of a master passion, when we have
once submitted ourselves to its sway. The portion of the band that
could not account for the fact of the scent of their beloved
beverage's being found in such a place, and it was all but three of
their whole party, were quite animated in their discussions on the
subject, and many and crude were the suggestions that fell from
their lips. The two warriors on the beach were more deeply impressed
than any of their companions, with the notion that some "medicine
charm" was connected with this extraordinary affair.
The reader will not be surprised to hear that le Bourdon gazed on
the scene before him with the most profound attention. So near did
he seem to be, and so near was he, in fact, to the savages who were
grouped around the fire, that he fancied he could comprehend what
they were saying, by the expressions of their grim and swarthy
countenances. His conjectures were in part just, and occasionally
the bee-hunter was absolutely accurate in his notions of what was
said. The frequency with which different individuals knelt on the
ground, to scent an odor that is always so pleasant to the red man,
would of itself have given a clew to the general character of the
discourse; but the significant and expressive gestures, the rapid
enunciation, and the manner in which the eyes of the speakers
glanced from the faces near themselves to the spot consecrated by
whiskey, pretty plainly told the story. It was while thus intently
occupied in endeavoring to read the singular impression made on the
minds of most of those wild beings, by an incident so much out of
the usual track of their experience, that le Bourdon suddenly found
the bow of his canoe thrusting itself beyond the inner margin of the
rice, and issuing into open water, within ten feet of the very spot
where the two nearest of the savages were still conferring together,
apart. The buckskin thong which served as a fastening had got
loosened, and the light craft was again drifting down before the
strong southerly wind, which still continued to blow a little gale.
Had there been an opportunity for such a thing, the bee-hunter would
have made an effort to escape. But so sudden and unexpected was this
exposure, that he found himself almost within reach of a rifle,
before he was aware of his approaching the two warriors on the
shore, at all. His paddle was in the stern of the canoe, and had he
used the utmost activity, the boat would have grounded on the beach,
ere he could have obtained it. In this situation, therefore, he was
absolutely without any other means than his hands of stopping the
canoe, had there even been time.
Le Bourdon understood his real situation without stopping to
reflect; and, though his heart made one violent leap as soon as he
perceived he was out of cover, he immediately bethought him of the
course he ought to pursue. It would have been fatal to betray alarm,
or to attempt flight. As accident had thus brought him, as it might
be on a visit, to the spot, he at once determined to give his
arrival the character of a friendly call, and the better to support
the pretension, to blend with it, if possible, a little of the
oracular, or "medicine" manner, in order to impose on the
imaginations of the superstitious beings into whose power he had so
The instant the canoe touched the shore, and it was only a moment
after it broke through the cover, le Bourdon arose, and extending
his hand to the nearest Indian, saluted him with the mongrel term of
"Sago." A slight exclamation from this warrior communicated to his
companion an arrival that was quite as much a matter of surprise to
the Indians as to their guest, and through this second warrior to
the whole party on the hill-side. A little clamor succeeded, and
presently the bee-hunter was surrounded with savages.
The meeting was marked by the self-command and dignified quiet that
are so apt to distinguish the deportment of Indian warriors, when
they are on the war-path, and alive to the duties of manhood. The
bee-hunter shook hands with several, who received his salutations
with perfect calmness, if not with absolute confidence and amity.
This little ceremony gave our hero an opportunity to observe the
swarthy countenances by which he was surrounded, most of which were
fierce in their paint, as well as to reflect a little on his own
course. By a fortunate inspiration he now determined to assume the
character of a "medicine man," and to connect his prophecies and
juggleries with this lucky accident of the whiskey. Accordingly, he
inquired if any one spoke English, not wishing to trust his
explanations to his own imperfect knowledge of the Ojebway tongue,
which is spoken by all the numerous tribes of that widely-extended
nation. Several could render themselves intelligible in English, and
one was so expert as to render communication with him easy, if not
very agreeable. As the savages, however, soon insisted on examining
the canoe, and taking a look at its contents, previously to
listening to their visitor's explanations, le Bourdon was fain to
submit, and to let the young men satisfy their curiosity.
The bee-hunter had come on his hazardous expedition in his own
canoe. Previously to quitting the south shore, however, he had
lightened the little craft, by landing everything that was not
essential to his present purpose. As nearly half of his effects were
in the canoe of Whiskey Centre, the task was soon performed, and
lucky it was for our hero that he had bethought him of the prudence
of the measure. His sole object had been to render the canoe swifter
and lighter, in the event of a chase; but, as things turned out, he
saved no small portion of his property by using the precaution. The
Indians found nothing in the canoe, but one rifle, with a horn and
pouch, a few light articles belonging to the bee-hunter's domestic
economy, and which he had not thought it necessary to remove, and
the paddles. All the honey, and the skins and stores, and spare
powder, and lead, and, in short, everything else that belonged to le
Bourdon, was still safe on the other side of the river. The greatest
advantage gained by the Pottawattamies was in the possession of the
canoe itself, by means of which they would now be enabled to cross
the Kalamazoo, or make any other similar expedition, by water.
But, as yet, not a sign of hostility was betrayed by either party.
The bee-hunter seemed to pay no attention to his rifle and
ammunition, or even to his canoe, while the savages, after having
warily examined the last, together with its contents, returned to
their visitor, to re-examine him, with a curiosity as lively as it
was full of distrust. At this stage in the proceeding, something
like a connected and intelligible conversation commenced between the
chief who spoke English, and who was known in most of the north-
western garrisons of the Americans by the name of Thundercloud, or
Cloud, by way of abbreviation, on account of his sinister looks,
though the man actually sustained a tolerably fair reputation for
one of those who, having been wronged, was so certain to be
calumniated. No man was ever yet injured, that he has not been
"Who kill and scalp my young man?" asked Cloud, a little abruptly.
"Has my brother lost a warrior?" was the calm reply. "Yes, I see
that he has. A medicine-man can see that, though it is dark."
"Who kill him, if can see?-who scalp him, too?"
"An enemy did both," answered le Bourdon, oracularly. "Yes; 'twas an
enemy that killed him; and an enemy that took his scalp."
"Why do it, eh? Why come here to take Pottawattamia scalp, when no
war-path open, eh?"
"Pottawattamie, the truth must always be said to a medicine-man.
There is no use in trying to hide truth from HIM. There IS a war-
path open; and a long and a tangled path it is. My Great Father at
Washington has dug up the hatchet against my Great Father at Quebec.
Enemies always take scalps when they can get them."
"Dat true--dat right, too--nobody grumble at DAT--but who enemy?
pale-face or red-skin?"
"This time it was a red-skin--a Chippewa--one of your own nation,
though not of your own tribe. A warrior called Pigeonswing, whom you
had in thongs, intending to torture him in the morning. He cut his
thongs, and shot your young man--after which he took his scalp."
"How know dat?" demanded the Cloud, a little fiercely. "You 'long,
and help kill Pottawattamie, eh?"
"I know it," answered le Bourdon, coolly, "because medicine-men know
most of what happens. Do not be so hasty, chief, for this is a
medicine spot--whiskey GROWS here."
A common exclamation escaped all of the red men, who comprehended
the clear, distinct, and oracular-like language and manner of the
bee-hunter. He intended to make an impression on his listeners, and
he succeeded admirably; perhaps as much by means of manner as of
matter. As has been said, all who understood his words--some four or
five of the party--grunted forth their surprise at this evidence of
their guest's acquaintance with the secrets of the place, in which
they were joined by the rest of their companions, as soon as the
words of the pale-face had been translated. Even the experienced and
wary old chiefs, who had more than half conjectured the truth, in
connection with this mysterious odor of whiskey, were much unsettled
in their opinions concerning the wonder, and got to be in that
condition of mind when a man does not know what to think of any
particular event. The bee-hunter, quick-witted, and managing for his
life, was not slow to perceive the advantage he had gained, and he
proceeded at once to clinch the nail he had so skilfully driven.
Turning from Cloud to the head-chief of the party, a warrior whom he
had no difficulty in recognizing, after having so long watched his
movements in the earlier part of the night, he pushed the same
subject a little further.
"Yes; this place is called by the whites Whiskey Centre," he added--
"which means that it is the centre of all the whiskey of the country
"Dat true," said Cloud, quickly--"I hear so'ger at Fort Dearborn
call him Whiskey Centre!"
This little circumstance greatly complicated the mystery, and le
Bourdon perceived that he had hit on a lucky explanation.
"Soldiers far and near--soldiers drunk or sober--soldiers with
scalps, and soldiers without scalps--all know the place by that
name. But you need not believe with your eyes shut and noses
stopped, chief, since you have the means of learning for yourselves
the truth of what I tell you. Come with me, and I will tell you
where to dig in the morning for a whiskey spring."
This communication excited a tremendous feeling among the savages,
when its purport came to be explained to the whole party. Apart from
the extraordinary, miraculous nature of such a spring, which in
itself was sufficient to keep alive expectation and gratify
curiosity, it was so comfortable to have an inexhaustible supply of
the liquor running out of the bowels of the earth, that it is no
wonder the news spread infinite delight among the listeners. Even
the two or three of the chiefs who had so shrewdly divined the
manner in which the liquor had been spilled, were staggered by the
solemnity and steadiness of the bee-hunter's manner, and perhaps a
little carried away by sympathy with those around them. This
yielding of the human mind to the influence of numbers is so common
an occurrence as scarcely to require explanation, and is the source
of half the evils that popular associations inflict on themselves.
It is not that men capable of SEEING the truth are ever wanting; but
men capable of MAINTAINING it, in the face of clamor and collected
It will be readily conceived that a medicine-man who is supposed to
possess the means of discovering a spring that should overflow with
pure whiskey, would not be left without urgent demands for a speedy
exercise of this art. This was now the case with le Bourdon, who was
called on from all sides to point out the precise spot where the
young men were to commence digging in order to open on the treasure.
Our hero knew that his only hope of escape was connected with his
steadily maintaining his assumed character; or of maintaining this
assumed character, with his going on, at once, to do something that
might have the effect, temporarily at least, of satisfying the
impatience of his now attentive listeners. Accordingly, when the
demand was made on him to give some evidence of his power, he set
about the task, not only with composure, but with a good deal of
Le Bourdon, it will be remembered, had, with his own hands, rolled
the two barrels of whiskey down the declivity. Feeling the great
importance of effectually destroying them, he had watched their
descent, from the top to the bottom of the hill, and the final
disappearance of the staves, etc., into the torrent which brawled at
its foot. It had so happened that the half-filled cask broke and let
out its liquor at a point much more remote from the stream, than the
filled. The latter had held together until it went over the low
rocky precipice, already mentioned, and was stove at its base,
within two yards of the torrent, which received all its fragments
and swept them away, including most of the liquor itself; but not
until the last had been spilled. Now, the odorous spot which had
attracted the noses of the savages, and near which they had built
their fire, was that where the smallest quantity of the whiskey had
fallen. Le Bourdon reasoned on these circumstances in this wise:--if
half a barrel of the liquor can produce so strong a scent, a barrel
filled ought to produce one still stronger; and I will manifest my
medicine-character, by disregarding for the present moment the spot
on the hill-side, and proceed at once to that at the foot of the
rocks. To this latter point, therefore, did he direct all the
ceremony, as well as his own footsteps, when he yielded to the
solicitations of the Pottawattamies, and undertook to point out the
position of the whiskey spring.
The bee-hunter understood the Indian character too well to forget to
embellish his work with a proper amount of jugglery and acting.
Luckily, he had left in the canoe a sort of frock of mottled colors
that he had made himself, to wear in the woods in the autumn as a
hunting-dress, under the notion that such a covering would conceal
his approach from his game, by blending its hues with those of the
autumn leaf. This dress he now assumed, extorting a good deal of
half-suppressed admiration from the younger warriors, by the gay
appearance he made. Then he drew out his spy-glass to its greatest
length, making various mysterious signs and gestures as he did so.
This glass proved to be a great auxiliary, and possibly alone kept
the doubters in awe. Le Bourdon saw at once that it was entirely
new, even to the oldest chief, and he felt how much it might be made
to assist him. Beckoning to Cloud, and adjusting the focus, he
directed the small end of his glass to the fire, and placed the
large end to that Indian's eye. A solitary savage, who loved the
scent of whiskey too much to tear himself away from the spot, was
lingering within the influence of the rays, and of course was seen
by the chief, with his person diminished to that of a dwarf, and his
form thrown to a seeming distance.
An eloquent exclamation followed this exhibition of the medicine-
man's power; and each of the chiefs, and most of the other warriors,
were gratified with looks through the glass.
"What dat mean?" demanded Cloud, earnestly. "See Wolfeye well
'nough--why he so little?--why he so far off, he?"
"That is to show you what a medicine-man of the pale-faces can do,
when he is so minded. That Indian is named Wolfseye, and he loves
whiskey too well. That I know, as well as I know his name."
Each of these exhibitions of intelligence extorted exclamations of
wonder. It is true, that one or two of the higher chiefs understood
that the name might possibly have been obtained from Cloud; but how
was the medicine-man to know that Wolfseye was a drunkard? This last
had not been said in terms; but enough had been said, to let those
who were aware of the propensity feel that more was meant than had
been expressed. Before there was time, however, to deliberate on, or
to dissect this specimen of mysterious knowledge, le Bourdon
reversed the glass, and applied the small end to the eye of Cloud,
after having given it its former direction. The Indian fairly
yelled, partly with dread, and partly with delight, when he saw
Wolfseye, large as life, brought so near him that he fancied he
might be touched with his own hand.
"What dat mean?" exclaimed Cloud, as soon as surprise and awe
enabled him to find his voice. "Fuss he little, den he big--fuss he
great way, den he close by--what dat mean, eh?"
"It means that I am a medicine-man, and this is a medicine-glass,
and that I can see with it into the earth, deeper than the wells, or
higher than the mountains!"
These words were translated, and explained to all three. They
extorted many ejaculations of wonder, and divers grunts of
admiration and contentment. Cloud conferred a moment with the two
principal chiefs; then he turned eagerly to the bee-hunter, saying--
"All good, but want to hear more--want to l'arn more--want to SEE
"Name your wants freely, Pottawattamie," answered le Bourdon, with
dignity, "they shall be satisfied."
"Want to see--want to TASTE whiskey spring--see won't do--want to
"Good--you shall smell first; then you shall see; after that you
shall taste. Give me room, and be silent; a great medicine is near."
Thus delivering himself, le Bourdon proceeded with his necromancy.
He turned him round, and fled amain With hurry and dash to the beach
again; He twisted over from side to side, And laid his cheek to the
cleaving tide; The strokes of his plunging arms are fleet, And with
all his might he flings his feet, But the water-sprites are round
him still, To cross his path and work him ill.
--The Culprit Fay.
The first step in the conjuration of the bee-hunter was, to produce
an impression on the minds of his untutored observers, by resorting
to a proper amount of mummery and mystical action. This he was
enabled to do with some effect, in consequence of having practised
as a lad in similar mimicry, by way of pastime. The Germans, and the
descendants of Germans in America, are not of a very high class, as
respects education, taken as a body, and they retain many of the
most inveterate of the superstitions of their Teutonic ancestors.
Although the bee-hunter himself was of purely English descent, he
came from a State that was in part peopled by these Germans and
their descendants; and, by intercourse with them, he had acquired a
certain knowledge of their notions on the subject of necromancy,
that he now found was of use. So far as gravity of mien, solemn
grimaces, and unintelligible mutterings were concerned, le Bourdon
played his part to admiration; and by the time he had led the party
half the distance he intended to go, our necromancer, or "medicine-
man," had complete possession of the imaginations of all the
savages, the two or three chiefs already mentioned alone excepted.
At this stage of the proceedings occurred a little incident, which
goes to prove the disposition of the common mind to contribute in
deceiving itself, and which was of considerable assistance to le
Bourdon, in maintaining his assumed character.
It will be remembered that the place where the Indians had found
their strongest scent was on the hill-side, or the spot where the
half-filled barrel had let out most of its contents. Near this spot
their new fire was still brightly blazing, and there Wolfseye
remained, regaling one of his senses, at least, with an odor that he
found so agreeable. But the bee-hunter knew that he should greatly
increase the wonder of the savages by leading them to a NEW scent-
spot, one to which there was no visible clew, and where the odor was
probably much stronger than on the hill-side. Accordingly he did not
approach the fire, but kept around the base of the hill, just enough
within the influence of the light to pick his way readily, and yet
so distant from it as to render his countenance indistinct and
mysterious. No sooner, however, had he got abreast of the scent-spot
known to the savages, than the crowd endeavored to lead him toward
it, by gestures and hints, and, finally, by direct intimations that
he was going astray. All this our "medicine-man" disregarded; he
held his way steadily and solemnly toward that place at the foot of
the hill where he knew that the filled barrel had let out its
contents, and where he, reasonably enough, expected to find
sufficient traces of the whiskey to answer his purposes. At first,
this pertinacity provoked the crowd, which believed he was going
wrong; but a few words from Crowsfeather, the principal chief,
caused the commotion to cease. In a few more minutes le Bourdon
stopped, near the place of his destination. As a fresh scent of
whiskey was very perceptible here, a murmur of admiration, not
unmixed with delight, passed among the attendants.
"Now, let the young men build a fire for ME" said the bee-hunter,
solemnly--"not such a fire as that which is burning on the hill, but
a medicine-fire. I SMELL the whiskey spring, and want a medicine-
light to SEE it."
A dozen young men began to collect the brush; in a minute a pile of
some size had been accumulated on a flat rock, within twenty feet of
the spot where le Bourdon knew that the cask had been dashed to
pieces. When he thought the pile sufficiently large, he told
Crowsfeather that it might be lighted by bringing a brand from the
"This will not be a medicine-light, for that can come only from
'medicine-matches,'" he added; "but I want a fire to see the shape
of the ground. Put in the brand, brothers; let us have a flame."
The desire of the bee-hunter was gratified, and the whole of the
base of the hill around the spot where the filled cask had broken,
"Now, let all the Pottawattamies stand back," added le Bourdon,
earnestly. "It might cost a warrior his life to come forward too
soon--or, if not his life, it might give a rheumatism that can never
be cured, which is worse. When it is time for my red brothers to
advance, they will be called."
As the bee-hunter accompanied this announcement by suitable
gestures, he succeeded in ranging all of the silent, but excited
savages on three sides of his fire, leaving that next his mysterious
spring to himself, alone. When all was arranged, le Bourdon moved
slowly, but unaccompanied, to the precise spot where the cask had
broken. Here he found the odor of the whiskey so strong, as to
convince him that some of the liquor must yet remain. On examining
more closely, he ascertained that several shallow cavities of the
flat rock, on which the cask had been dashed, still contained a good
deal of the liquor; enough to prove of great assistance to his
All this while the bee-hunter kept one portion of his faculties on
the alert, in order to effect his escape. That he might deceive for
a time, aided as he was by so many favorable circumstances, he did
not doubt; but he dreaded the morning and the results of a night of
reflection and rest. Crowsfeather, in particular, troubled him; and
he foresaw that his fate would be terrible, did the savages once get
an inkling of the deception he was practising. As he stood there,
bending over the little pools of whiskey, he glanced his eyes toward
the gloom which pervaded the northern side of the hill, and
calculated the chances of escape by trusting to his speed. All of
the Pottawattamies were on the opposite side, and there was a
thicket favorably placed for a cover, so near that the rifle would
scarce have time to perform its fatal office, ere he might hope to
bury himself within its leaves. So tempting did the occasion appear,
that, for a single instant, le Bourdon forgot his caution, and his
mummeries, and had actually advanced a step or two in the direction
toward which he contemplated flight, when, on glancing an uneasy
look behind him, he perceived Crowsfeather and his two intimate
counsellors stealthily preparing their rifles, as if they distrusted
his intentions. This at once induced a change of plan, and brought
the bee-hunter back to a sense of his critical position, and of the
indispensable necessity of caution to a man in his situation.
Le Bourdon now seemingly gave all his attention to the rocks where
he stood, and out of which the much-coveted liquor was expected to
flow; though his thoughts were still busily employed in considering
the means of escape, the whole time. While stooping over the
different pools, and laying his plans for continuing his medicine-
charms, the bee-hunter saw how near he had been to committing a
great mistake. It was almost as indispensable to carry off the
canoe, as it was to carry off himself; since, with the canoe, not
only would all his own property, but pretty Margery, and Gershom and
his wife, be at the mercy of the Pottawattamies; whereas, by
securing the boat, the wide Kalamazoo would serve as a nearly
impassable barrier, until time was given to the whites to escape.
His whole plan was changed by this suggestion, and he no longer
thought of the thicket and of flight inland. At the same time that
the bee hunter was laying up in his mind ideas so important to his
future movements, he did not neglect the necessary examination of
the means that might be required to extend and prolong his influence
over the minds of the superstitious children of the forest on whom
he was required to practise his arts. His thoughts reverted to the
canoe, and he concocted a plan by which he believed it possible to
get possession of his little craft again. Once on board it, by one
vigorous shove he fancied he might push it within the cover of the
rice-plants, where he would be in reasonable safety against the
bullets of the savages. Could he only get the canoe on the outer
side of the narrow belt of the plant, he should deem himself safe!
Having arranged his course in his own mind, le Bourdon now beckoned
to Crowsfeather to draw near, at the same time inviting the whole
party to approach within a few feet of the spot where he himself
stood. The bee-hunter had brought with him from the boat a fragment
of the larger end of a cane fishing-rod, which he used as a sort of
wand. Its size was respectable, and its length about eight feet.
With this wand he pointed out the different objects he named, and it
answered the very important purpose of enabling him to make certain
small changes in the formation of the ground, that were of the
greatest service to him, without permitting curious eyes to come so
near as to detect his artifices.
"Now open your ears, Crowsfeather; and you, Cloud; and all of you,
young braves," commenced the bee-hunter, solemnly, and with a
steadiness that was admirable; "yes, open wide your ears. The Great
Spirit has given the red man a nose that he might smell--does the
Cloud smell more than common?"
"Sartain--smell whiskey--this Whiskey Centre dey say--nat'ral dat
such smell be here."
"Do all the chiefs and warriors of the Pottawattamies who are
present, also smell the same?"
"S'pose so--why he don't, eh? Got nose--can smell whiskey good way,
"It is right they should smell the liquor here, for out of this rock
a whiskey spring will soon begin to run. It will begin with a very
small stream, but soon will there be enough to satisfy everybody.
The Great Manitou knows that his red children are dry; he has sent a
'medicine-man' of the pale-faces to find a spring for them. Now,
look at this piece of rock--it is dry--not even the dew has yet
moistened it. See--it is made like a wooden bowl, that it may hold
the liquor of the spring. Let Crowsfeather smell it--smell it,
Cloud--let all my young men smell it, too, that they may be certain
that there is nothing there."
On this invitation, accompanied as it was by divers flourishes of
the wand, and uttered in a deep, solemn tone of voice, the whole
party of the Indians gathered around the small hollow basin-like
cavity pointed out by the bee-hunter, in order both to see and to
smell. Most knelt, and each and all applied their noses to the rock,
as near the bowl as they could thrust them. Even the dignified and
distrustful Crowsfeather could not refrain from bending in the
crowd. This was the moment for which le Bourdon wished, and he
instantly prepared to carry out his design.
Previously, however, to completing the project originally conceived,
a momentary impulse prevailed which urged him to adopt a new mode of
effecting his escape. Now, that most of the savages were on their
hands and knees, struggling to get their noses as near as possible
to the bowl, and all were intent on the same object, it occurred to
the bee-hunter, who was almost as active as the panther of the
American forest, that he might dash on toward the canoe, and make
his escape without further mummery. Had it been only a question of
human speed perhaps such would have been the wisest thing he could
do; but a moment's reflection told him how much swifter than any
foot of man was the bullet of a rifle. The distance exceeded a
hundred yards, and it was altogether in bright light, by means of
the two fires, Wolfseye continuing to pile brush on that near which
he still maintained his post, as if afraid the precious liquor would
start out of the scent-spot, and be wasted should he abandon his
ward. Happily, therefore, le Bourdon relinquished his dangerous
project almost as soon as it was entertained, turning his attention
immediately to the completion of the plan originally laid.
It has been said that the bee-hunter made sundry flourishes with his
wand. While the savages were most eager in endeavoring to smell the
rock, he lightly touched the earth that confined the whiskey in the
largest pool, and opened a passage by which the liquor could trickle
down the side of the rock, selecting a path for itself, until it
actually came into the bowl, by a sinuous but certain channel.
Here was a wonder! Liquor could not only be smelled, but it could be
actually seen! As for Cloud, not satisfied with gratifying the two
senses connected with the discoveries named, he began to lap with
his tongue, like a dog, to try the effect of taste.
"The Manitou does not hide his face from the Pottawattamie!"
exclaimed this savage, rising to his feet in astonishment; "this is
the fire-water, and such as the pale-faces bring us for skins!"
Others imitated his example, and the exclamations of wonder and
delight flew from mouth to mouth, in a torrent of vehement
assertions and ejaculations. So great a "medicine" charm had never
before been witnessed in that tribe, or in that region, and a
hundred more might succeed, before another should equal this in its
welcome character. There was whiskey, of a certainty, not much in
quantity, to be sure, but of excellent quality, as several affirmed,
and coming in a current that was slowly increasing! This last sign
was owing to the circumstance that le Bourdon had deepened the
outlet of the pool, permitting a larger quantity to flow down the
The moment had now come for a decisive step. The bee-hunter knew
that his precious rivulet would soon cease to run, and that he must
carry out his design under the first impressions of his charm, or
that he probably would not be permitted to carry it out, at all. At
this moment even Crowsfeather appeared to be awed by what he had
seen; but a chief so sagacious might detect the truth, and
disappointment would then be certain to increase the penalties he
Making many sweeps of his wand, and touching various points of the
rock, both to occupy the attention of the savages, and to divert it
from his pool, the bee-hunter next felt in his pocket and drew out a
small piece of resin that he knew was there; the remains of a store
with which he resined the bow of his fiddle; for our hero had a
violin among his effects, and often used it in his solitary abodes
in the openings. Breaking this resin on a coal, he made it flash and
blaze; but the quantity was too small to produce the "medicine-fire"
"I have more in my canoe," he said, addressing himself to the
interpreter; "while I go for it, the red men must not stir, lest
they destroy a pale-face's doings. Least of all they must go near
the spring. It would be better for the chiefs to lead away their
young men, and make them stand under the oak, where nothing can be
done to hurt the 'medicine-charm.'"
The bee-hunter pointed to a tree that stood in the direction of the
canoe, in order to prevent distrust, though he had taken care to
select a spot whence the little craft could not be seen, on account
of an intervening swell in the land, Crowsfeather led his warriors
to the indicated place, where they took their stations, in silent
and grave attention.
In the mean while, le Bourdon continued his incantations aloud;
walking toward his canoe, waving his hand, and uttering a great deal
of gibberish as he slowly proceeded. In passing the tree, our hero,
though he did not turn his head, was sensible that he was followed
by the chiefs, a movement against which he did not dare to
remonstrate, though it sadly disappointed him. Neither hastening nor
retarding his steps, however, in consequence of this unpleasant
circumstance, the young man continued on; once or twice sweeping the
wand behind him, in order to ascertain if he could reach his
followers. But Crowsfeather and his companions stopped when they
reached the swell of land which concealed the canoe, suffering the
"medicine-man" to move on alone. Of this fact le Bourdon became
aware, by turning three times in a circle, and pointing upward at
the heavens with his wand, as he did so.
It was a nervous moment when the bee-hunter reached the canoe. He
did not like to look behind him again, lest the chiefs should
suspect his motive, and, in shoving off from the shore, he might do
so within a few yards of the muzzle of a hostile rifle. There was no
time to lose, however, for any protracted delay on his part would
certainly cause the savages to approach, through curiosity, if not
through distrust of his motives. He stepped into his light craft,
therefore, without any delay, still flourishing his wand, and
muttering his incantations. The first thing was to walk to the stern
of the canoe, that his weight might raise the bow from the shore,
and also that he might have an excuse for turning round, and thus
get another look at the Indians. So critical was his situation, and
so nervous did it make our young hero, that he took no heed of the
state of matters in the canoe, until the last moment. When he had
turned, however, he ascertained that the two principal chiefs had
drawn so near as to be within twenty yards of him, though neither
held his rifle at "ready," but each leaned on it in a careless
manner, as if in no anticipation of any necessity to make a speedy
use of the weapon. This state of things could not last, and le
Bourdon braced his nerves for the final trial. On looking for his
paddle, however, he found that of three which the canoe had
contained when he left it, not even one was to be seen! These wily
savages had, out of all question, taken their opportunity to remove
and secrete these simple, but almost indispensable, means of motion.
At the instant when first apprised of the loss just mentioned, the
bee-hunter's heart sunk within him, and he fell into the seat in the
stern of the canoe, nearly with the weight of so much lead. Then a
species of desperation came over him, and putting an end of his cane
wand upon the bottom, with a vigorous shove he forced the canoe
swiftly astern and to windward. Sudden as was this attempt, and
rapid as was the movement, the jealous eyes and ready hands of the
chiefs seemed to anticipate it. Two shots were fired within a few
seconds after the canoe had quitted the shore. The reports of the
rifles were a declaration of hostilities, and a general yell,
accompanied by a common rush toward the river, announced that the
whole band now understood that some deception had been practised at
Although the two chiefs in advance had been so very prompt, they
were not quick enough for the rapid movement of the canoe. The
distance between the stern of the boat and the rice-plants was so
small, that the single desperate shove given by the bee-hunter
sufficed to bury his person in the cover, before the leaden
messengers reached him. Anticipating this very attempt, and knowing
that the savages might get their range from the part of the canoe
that was still in sight, le Bourdon bent his body far over the
gunwale, grasping the rice-plants at the same time, and hauling his
little craft through them, in the way that sailors call "hand over
hand." This expedient most probably saved his life. While bending
over the gunwale, he heard the crack of the rifles, and the whizzing
of two bullets that appeared to pass just behind him. By this time
the whole of the canoe was within the cover.
In a moment like that we are describing, incidents pass so rapidly
as almost to defy description. It was not twenty seconds from the
instant when le Bourdon first put his wand down to push the canoe
from the land, ere he found his person emerging from the cover, on
its weather side. Here he was effectually concealed from his
enemies, not only on account of the cover made by the rice-plants,
but by reason of the darkness; the light not extending far enough
from the fire to illumine objects on the river. Nevertheless, new
difficulties presented themselves. When clear of the rice, the wind,
which still blew strong, pressed upon his canoe to such a degree as
not only to stop its further movement from the shore, but so as to
turn it broadside to, to its power. Trying with his wand, the bee-
hunter ascertained that it would no longer reach the bottom. Then he
attempted to use the cane as a paddle, but soon found it had not
sufficient hold of the water to answer for such an implement. The
most he could effect with it, in that way, was to keep the canoe for
a short distance along the outer edge of the rice, until it reached
a spot where the plant extended a considerable distance farther
toward the middle of the river. Once within this little forest of
the wild rice, he was enabled to drag the canoe farther and farther
from the north shore, though his progress was both slow and
laborious, on account of the resistance met.
All this time, the savages were not idle. Until the canoe got within
its new cover, it was at no instant fifty yards from the beach, and
the yells, and orders, and whoopings sounded as if uttered directly
in le Bourdon's ear. A splashing in the water soon announced that
our fugitive was pursued by swimmers. As the savages knew that the
beehunter was without a paddle, and that the wind blew fresh, the
expectation of overtaking their late captive, in this manner, was by
no means chimerical. Half a dozen active young men would prove very
formidable to one in such a situation, more especially while
entangled in the mazes of the rice-plant. The bee-hunter was so well
convinced of this circumstance, that no sooner did he hear the
splashes of the swimmers, than he redoubled his exertions to pull
his canoe farther from the spot. But his progress was slow, and he
was soon convinced that his impunity was more owing to the fact that
his pursuers did not know where to find him, than to the rapidity of
Notwithstanding his exertions, and the start obtained, le Bourdon
soon felt assured that the swimmers were within a hundred feet of
him, their voices coming from the outer margin of the cover in which
he now lay, stationary. He had ceased dragging the canoe ahead, from
an apprehension of being heard, though the rushing of the wind and
the rustling of the rice might have assured him that the slight
noises made by his own movements would not be very likely to rise
above those sounds. The splashing of the swimmers, and their voices,
gradually drew nearer, until the bee-hunter took up his rifle,
determined to sacrifice the first savage who approached; hoping,
thereby, to intimidate the others. For the first time, it now
occurred to him that the breech of his rifle might be used as a
paddle, and he was resolved to apply it to that service, could he
once succeed in extricating himself from the enemies by whom he was
nearly environed, and from the rice.
Just as le Bourdon fancied that the crisis had arrived, and that he
should soon be called on to kill his man, a shout was given by a
savage at some distance in the river, and presently calls passed
from mouth to mouth, among the swimmers. Our hero now listened to a
degree that kept his faculty of hearing at a point of painful
attention. The voices and plashes on the water receded, and what was
startling, a sound was heard resembling that which as produced by a
paddle when struck incautiously against the side of a canoe. Was it
then possible that the Chippewa was out, or had the Pottawattamies
one boat that had escaped his attention? The last was not very
probable, as he had several times counted their little fleet, and
was pretty sure of having taken it all to the other side of the
river. The sound of the paddle was repeated, however; then it
occurred to the bee-hunter, that Pigeonswing might be on the scent
for another scalp.
Although the conjecture just mentioned was exceedingly unpleasant to
le Bourdon, the chase of the strange canoe gave him an opportunity
to drag his own light craft ahead, penetrating deeper and deeper
among the wild rice, which now spread itself to a considerable
distance from the shore, and grew so thick as to make it impossible
to get through the waving mass. At length, wearied with his
exertions, and a little uncertain as to his actual position, our
hero paused, listening intently, in order to catch any sounds that
might direct his future movements.
By this time the savages ceased to call to each other; most probably
conscious of the advantage it gave the fugitive. The bee-hunter
perfectly understood that his pursuers must be aware of its being
entirely out of his power to get to windward, and that they would
keep along the shore of the river, as he did himself, expecting to
see his canoe sooner or later driven by the wind on the beach. This
had made him anxious to drag his boat as much toward the outer edge
of the rice as he could get it, and by the puffs of wind that he
occasionally felt, he hoped he had, in a great measure, effected his
purpose. Still he had his apprehensions of the savages; as some
would be very apt to swim quite out into the stream, not only to
look for him, but to avoid being entangled among the plants. It was
only in the natural channels of the rice, of which there were a good
many, that a swimmer could very readily make his way, or be in much
safety. By waiting long enough, moreover, the bee-hunter was sure he
should tire out his pursuers, and thus get rid of them.
Just as le Bourdon began to think this last-mentioned purpose had
been accomplished, he heard low voices directly to windward, and the
splashing of water, as if more than one man was coming down upon
him, forcing the stalks of the plants aside. He grasped the rifle,
and let the canoe drift, which it did slowly, under the power of the
wind, notwithstanding the protection of the cover. The swimmers
forced their way through the stalks; but it was evident, just then,
that they were more occupied by their present pursuit than in
looking for him. Presently a canoe came brushing through the rice,
forced by the wind, and dragged by two savages, one of whom swam on
each bow. The last did not see the bee-hunter, or his canoe, the one
nearest having his face turned in the opposite direction; but they
were distinctly seen by the former. Surprised that a seizure should
be made with so little fracas, le Bourdon bent forward to look the
better, and, as the stern of the strange canoe came almost under his
eyes, he saw the form of Margery lying in its bottom. His blood
curdled at this sight; for his first impression was, that the
charming young creature had been killed and scalped; but there being
no time to lose, he sprang lightly from one canoe to the other,
carrying the rifle in his hand. As he struck in the bottom of the
boat of Gershom, he heard his name uttered in a sweet female voice,
and knew that Margery was living. Without stopping, however, to
inquire more, he moved to the head of the canoe, and, with a sharp
blow on the fingers, made each of the savages release his grasp.
Then, seizing the rice-plants, he dragged the little craft swiftly
to windward again. All this was done, as it might be, in an instant;
the savages and the canoe being separated some twenty feet, in much
less time than is required to relate the occurrence.
"Bourdon, are you injured?" asked Margery, her voice trembling with
"Not in the least, dear Margery--and you, my excellent girl?"
"They caught my canoe, and I almost died of fright; but they have
only dragged it toward the shore."
"God be praised! Is there any paddle in the canoe?"
"There are several--one is at your feet, Bourdon--and here, I have
"Then, let us search for my canoe, and get out of the rice. If we
can but find my canoe, we shall be safe enough, for the savages have
nothing in which to cross the river. Keep your eyes about you,
Margery, and look among the rice for the other boat"
The search was not long, but it was intently anxious. At length
Margery saw the lost canoe just as it was drifting past them, and it
was secured immediately. In a few minutes, le Bourdon succeeded in
forcing the two craft into open water, when it was easy for him to
paddle both to windward. The reader can readily imagine that our
hero did not permit many minutes to elapse, ere he questioned his
companion on the subject of her adventures. Nor was Margery
reluctant to tell them. She had become alarmed at le Bourdon's
protracted absence, and taking advantage of Pigeonswing lying down,
she unloaded her brother's canoe, and went out into the river to
look for the absent one. As a matter of course--though so feminine
and far removed from all appearance of coarseness, a true American
girl in this respect--Margery knew perfectly well how to manage a
bark canoe. The habits of her life for the last few years, made her
acquainted with this simple art; and strength being much less needed
than skill, she had no difficulty in going whither she wished. The
fires served as beacons, and Margery had been a distant witness of
the bee-hunter's necromancy as well as of his escape. The instant
the latter was effected, she endeavored to join him; and it was
while incautiously paddling along the outer edge of the rice, with
this intention, that her canoe was seized by two of the swimmers. As
soon as these last ascertained that they had captured a "squaw,"
they did not give themselves the trouble to get into the canoe--a
very difficult operation with one made of bark, and which is not
loaded--but they set about towing the captured craft to the shore,
swimming each with a single hand and holding on by the other.
"I shall not soon forget this kindness of yours, Margery," said le
Bourdon, with warmth, when the girl had ended her simple tale, which
had been related in the most artless and ingenuous manner. "No man
could forget so generous a risk on the part of a young woman in his
"I hope you do not think it wrong, Bourdon--I should be sorry to
have you think ill of me!"
"Wrong, dear Margery!--but no matter. Let us get ourselves out of
present difficulties, and into a place of safety; then I will tell
you honestly what I think of it, and of you, too. Was your brother
awake, dear Margery, when you left the family?"
"I believe not--he sleeps long and heavily after drinking. But he
can now drink no more, until he reaches the settlements."
"Not unless he finds the whiskey spring," returned the bee-hunter,
The young man then related to his wondering companion the history of
the mummery and incantations of which she had been a distant
spectator. Le Bourdon's heart was light, after his hazards and
escape, and his spirits rose as his narrative proceeded. Nor was
pretty Margery in a mood to balk his humor. As the bee-hunter
recounted his contrivances to elude the savages, and most especially
when he gave the particulars of the manner in which he managed to
draw whiskey out of the living rock, the girl joined in his
merriment, and filled the boat with that melody of the laugh of her
years and sex, which is so beautifully described by Halleck.
The things that once she loved are still the same;
Yet now there needs another name
To give the feeling which they claim,
While she the feeling gives;
She cannot call it gladness or delight;
And yet there seems to be a richer, lovelier light
On e'en the humblest thing that lives.
The history given by le Bourdon lasted until the canoes reached the
south shore. Glad enough was Dorothy to see them both safe back, for
neither of her companions had yet awoke. It was then midnight, and
all now retired to seek the rest which might be so needful to
prepare them for the exertions of the next day. The bee-hunter slept
in his canoe, while Margery shared the buffalo-skin of her sister.
As perfect security, for the moment at least, was felt by the
sleepers, their slumbers were sound, and reached into the morning.
Then le Bourdon arose, and withdrawing to a proper distance, he
threw off his clothes and plunged into the stream, in conformity
with a daily practice of his at that genial season of the year.
After bathing, the young man ascended a hill, whence he might get a
good view of the opposite shore, and possibly obtain some notion of
what the Pottawattamies were about. In all his movements, however,
the bee-hunter had an eye to the concealment of his person, it being
of the last importance that the savages should not learn his
position. With the intention of concealment, the fire had been
suffered to go down, a smoke being a sign that no Indian would be
likely to overlook. As for the canoe and the bivouac of the party,
the wild rice and an intermediate hill formed a perfect cover, so
long as nothing was shown above them.
From the height to which he ascended, the bee-hunter, aided by his
glass, got a very clear view of Whiskey Centre and the parts
adjacent. The savages were already stirring, and were busy in the
various avocations of the red man on a war-path. One party was
disposing of the body of their dead companion. Several were cooking,
or cleaning the wild-fowl shot in the bay, while a group was
collected near the spot of the wished-for spring, reluctant to
abandon the hopes to which it had given birth, at the very moment
they were plotting to obtain the scalp of the "medicine-man." The
beloved "fire-water," that seduces so many to their destruction, who
have enjoyed the advantages of moral teaching, and which has been a
withering curse on the red man of this continent, still had its
influence; and the craving appetites of several of the drunkards of
the party brought them to the spot, as soon as their eyes opened on
the new day. The bee-hunter could see some of this cluster kneeling
on the rocks, lapping like hounds at the scattered little pools of
the liquor, while others scented around, in the hope of yet
discovering the bird that laid the golden egg. Le Bourdon had now
little expectation that his assumed character could be maintained
among these savages any longer, did accident again throw him in
their way. The chiefs, he saw, had distrusted him all along, but had
given him an opportunity to prove what he could do, in order to
satisfy the more vulgar curiosity of their young men. He wisely
determined, therefore, to keep out of the hands of his enemies.
Although le Bourdon could hold a conversation in the tongue of the
Ojebways, he was not fond of so doing. He comprehended without
difficulty nearly all of what was said by them, and had observed the
previous night that the warriors made many allusions to a chief whom
they styled Onoah, but who he himself knew was usually called
Scalping Peter among the whites of that frontier. This savage had a
fearful reputation at all the garrisons, though he never showed
himself in them; and he was now spoken of by the Pottawattamies
present, as if they expected to meet him soon, and to be governed by
his commands or his advice. The bee-hunter had paid great attention
whenever this dreaded name was mentioned, for he was fully aware of
the importance of keeping clear of an enemy who bore so bad a
reputation that it was not considered prudent for a white man to
remain long in his company even in a time of peace. His English
sobriquet had been obtained from the circumstances of its being
reputed that this chief, who seemed to belong to no tribe in
particular, while he had great influence with all, had on divers
occasions murdered the palefaces who fell in his way, and then
scalped them. It was added, that he had already forty notches on his
pole, to note that number of scalps taken from the hated whites. In
short, this Indian, a sort of chief by birth, though of what tribe
no one exactly knew, appeared to live only to revenge the wrongs
done his color by the intruders, who had come from toward the rising
sun to drive his people into the great salt lake on the other side
of the Rocky Mountains. Of course there was a good deal that was
questionable in these reports; a rumor in the "openings" and on the
prairies, having this general resemblance to those that circulate in
town, and in drawing-rooms, and at feasts, that no one of them all
can be relied on as rigidly exact. But le Bourdon was still young,
and had yet to learn how little of that which we all hear is true,
and how very much is false. Nevertheless, as an Indian tradition is
usually more accurate than a white man's written history, so is a
rumor of the forest generally entitled to more respect than the
ceaseless gossipings of the beings who would be affronted were they
not accounted civilized.
The bee-hunter was still on the elevated bit of ground, making his
observations, when he was joined by Margery. The girl appeared fresh
and handsome, after a night of sleep, and coming from her dressing-
room in a thicket, and over a stream of sweet running water; but she
was sad and thoughtful. No sooner had le Bourdon shaken her hand,
and repeated his thanks for the succor of the past night, than the
full heart of Margery poured out its feelings, as the swollen stream
overflows its banks, and began to weep.
"Brother is awake," she said, as soon as her sobs were quieted by a
powerful effect; "but, as is usual with him after hard drinking, so
stupid, that Dolly cannot make him understand our danger. He tells
her he has seen too many Injins to be afraid of these, and that they
will never harm a family that has brought so much liquor into their
"His senses must be at a low ebb, truly, if he counts on Injin
friendship because he has sold fire-water to the young men!"
answered le Bourdon, with a nice understanding of not only Indian
nature, but of human nature. "We may like the sin, Margery, while we
detest the tempter. I have never yet met with the man, pale-face or
red-skin, who did not curse, in his sober moments, the hand that fed
his appetite while intoxicated."
"I dare say that may be very true," returned the girl, in a low
voice; "but one has need of his reason to understand it. What will
become of us now, it is hard to say." "Why, now, Margery, more than
yesterday, or the day before?" "Yesterday there were no savages near
us, and Gershorn had all along told us he intended to start for the
garrison at the head of the lake, as soon as he got back from his
visit to the openings. He is back; but not in a state to protect his
wife and sister from the red man, who will be looking for us as soon
as they can build a canoe, or anything that will do to cross the
"Had they even a canoe," returned le Bourdon, coolly, "they would
not know where to look for us. Thank Heaven! that will be a job that
would take some time; nor is a bark canoe built in a minute. But,
Margery, if your brother be a little dull and heavy, after his
debauch, _I_ am sober, and as much awake as ever I was in my life."
"Oh! you have no weakness like that of poor brother's, to make you
otherwise; but, Bourdon, you will naturally wish to take care of
yourself and your property, and will quit us the first good
opportunity. I'm sure that we have no right to expect you will stay
a minute longer than it is your interest to do so, and I do not know
that I wish it."
"Not wish it, Margery!" exclaimed the bee-hunter, in the manner of a
disappointed man. "I had supposed you would have wished my company.
But, now I know the contrary, I shall not much care how soon I go,
or into whose hands I fall."
It is strange how apt are those who ought to understand one another
so readily, to misinterpret each other's thoughts. Margery had never
seen the bee-hunter twenty-four hours before, though she had often
heard of him, and of his success in his art; for the fame of a man
of good reputation and active qualities spreads far on a frontier.
The very individual whose existence would be nearly overlooked in a
crowded region, shall be spoken of, and known by his qualities, a
hundred leagues from his place of residence, when settlements are
few and far apart. In this way, Margery had heard of Boden, or of
"Bourdon," as she called him, in common with hundreds who,
confounding his real name with his sobriquet, made the mistake of
using the last under the impression that it was the true
appellation. Margery had no other knowledge of French than the few
words gleaned in her slow progress among a frontier on which, it is
true, more of that language than of any other was heard, but heard
under circumstances that were not particularly favorable to the
acquisition of a foreign tongue. Had she understood the real meaning
of "Bourdon," she would have bitten off her tongue before she would
have once called Boden by such an appellation; though the bee-hunter
himself was so accustomed to his Canadian nickname as to care
nothing at all about it. But Margery did not like to give pain to
any one; and, least of all, would she desire to inflict it on the
bee-hunter, though he were only an acquaintance of a day. Still,
Margery could not muster sufficient courage to tell her new friend
how much he was mistaken, and that of all the youths she had ever
met she would most prefer to keep him near her brother and sister in
their distress; while the young man, inspired by a pure and infant
passion, was just in the frame of mind to believe the worst of
himself, and of his claims to the attention of her who had begun to
occupy so many of his thoughts.
No explanation occurring, our young people descended from the hill,
misconceiving each other's meaning and wishes, and unhappy under the
influence of an ideal source of misery, when actual circumstances
created so many that were substantial and real. Gershom was found
awake, but, as his sister had described him, stupid and lethargic.
The bee-hunter at once saw that, in his present condition, Whiskey
Centre would still be an incumbrance rather than of any service, in
the event of an occasion for extraordinary exertion. Margery had
hinted that it usually took twenty-four hours to bring her brother
entirely round, after one of his serious debauches; and within that
time it was more than probable that the fate of the family would be
Le Bourdon thought intently, during breakfast, of the condition of
his party, and of the best mode of proceeding, while the pallid and
anxious young creature at his side believed he was deliberating
solely on the best means of extricating himself and his store of
honey, from the savages on the other shore. Had the acquaintance
between these young people been of longer date than it actually was,
Margery could not have entertained a notion so injurious to the bee-
hunter, for a single moment; but there was nothing either violent,
or depreciating, in supposing that one so near being a total
stranger would think first of himself and his own interests, in the
situation in which this young man was now placed.
Little was said during the meal. Dorothy was habitually silent; the
result of grief and care. As for her husband, he was too stupid to
talk, though usually somewhat garrulous; while the Indian seldom did
two things at the same time. This was the hour for acting; when that
for talking should arrive, he would be found equal to its duties.
Pigeonswing could either abstain from food, or could indulge in it
without measure, just as occasion offered. He had often gone for
days without tasting a mouthful, with the exception of a few
berries, perhaps; and he had lain about the camp-fire, a week at a
time, gorging himself with venison, like an anaconda. It is perhaps
fortunate for the American Indian, that this particular quality of
food is so very easy of digestion, since his excesses on it are
notorious, and so common to his habits as almost to belong to his
nature. Death might otherwise often be the consequence.
When the breakfast was ended, it was time to consult about the
future course. As yet, the Pottawattamies had made no new discovery;
but the sagacity of the red man was ever to be feared, when it came
to be merely a question of finding his foe in a forest.
"We have obtained one advantage over the enemy," said le Bourdon,
"by crossing the river. Water leaves no trail; even had Crowsfeather
a canoe, he might not know where to go in it, in order to find us."
"Dat not so," put in the Chippewa, a little dogmatically; "know we
hab canoe--know cross river in him."
"Why should they know this, Pigeonswing? We may have gone out upon
the lake, or we may have gone up in the oak openings again, for
anything the Pottawattamies can know to the contrary."
"Tell you, not so. Know don't go on lake, cause wind blow. Know
don't go up river, cause dat hard work; know come here, cause dat
easy. Injin like to do what easy, and pale-face do just what Injin
do. Crowsfeather make raft, pretty soon; den he come look arter
"Yes," said Margery, gently; "you had better load your canoe at
once, and go on the lake, while the savages cannot reach you. The
wind is fair for them that are to go north; and I have heard you say
that you are bound to Mackinaw."
"I shall load my canoe, and I shall load yours, too, Margery; but I
shall not go away from this family, so long as any in it stand in
need of my services."
"Brother will be able to help us by afternoon. He manages a canoe
well, when himself; so go, Bourdon, while you can. I dare say you
have a mother at home; or a sister perhaps a wife--"
"Neither," interrupted the bee-hunter, with emphasis. "No one
expects me; no one has a right to expect me."
The color stole into pretty Margery's cheeks as she heard these
words, and a ray of comfort gleamed on an imagination that, for the
last hour, had been portraying the worst. Still, her generous temper
did not like the idea of the bee-hunter's sacrificing himself for
those who had so few claims on him, and she could not but again
admonish him of the necessity of losing no time.
"You will think better of this, Bourdon," the girl resumed. "We are
going south, and cannot quit the river with this wind, but you could
not have a better time to go north, unless the wind blows harder
than I think it does."
"The lake is a bad water for a canoe, when there is much wind," put
in Gershom, yawning after he had spoken, as if the effort fatigued
him, "I wonder what we're all doing over on this side of the river!
Whiskey Centre is a good enough country for me; I'm going back to
look arter my casks, now I've breakfasted. Come, Doll; let's load
up, and be off."
"You are not yourself yet, Gershom," returned the sorrowful wife,
"or you would not talk in this way. You had better listen to the
advice of Bourdon, who has done so much for us already, and who will
tell you the way to keep out of Injin clutches. We owe our lives to
Bourdon, Gershom, and you should thank him for it."
Whiskey Centre muttered a few half intelligible words of thanks, and
relapsed into his state of drowsy indifference. The bee-hunter saw,
however, that the effects of the brandy were leaving him, and he
managed to get him on one side, where he persuaded the fellow to
strip and go into the water. The bath did wonders for the poor
creature, who soon got to be so far himself again, as to be of use,
instead of being an incumbrance. When sober, and more especially
when sober for several consecutive days, Gershom was a man of
sufficient energy, possessing originally great personal strength and
activity, which had been essentially lessened, however, by his
excesses in liquor. It has already been stated what a different
being he became, in a moral point of view, after having been sober
for any length of time.
On his return from the bathing, le Bourdon again joined the females.
Margery had been weeping; but she smiled in a friendly way, on
meeting his eye, and appeared less anxious for his departure than
she had been an hour before. As the day advanced, and no signs of
the savages were seen, a sense of greater security began to steal
over the females, and Margery saw less necessity for the departure
of their new friend. It was true, he was losing a wind; but the lake
was rough, and after all it might be better to wait. In short, now
that no immediate danger was apparent, Margery began to reason in
conformity with her wishes, as is so apt to be the case with the
young and inexperienced. The bee-hunter perceived this change in the
deportment of his fair friend, and was well enough disposed to hope
it would admit of a favorable construction.
All this time, the Chippewa had taken little visible interest in the
state of the party to which he had now attached himself. The
previous evening had been fertile in excitement and in
gratification, and he had since slept and ate to his entire content.
He was ready to meet events as they might arise, and began to plot
the means of obtaining more Pottawattamie scalps. Let not the
refined reader feel disdisgust at this exhibition of the
propensities of an American savage. Civilized life has had, and
still has, very many customs, little less excusable than that of
scalping. Without dragging into the account the thousand and one
sins that disgrace and deform society, it will be sufficient to look
into the single interest of civilized warfare, in order to make out
our case. In the first place, the noblest strategy of the art is, to
put the greatest possible force on the least of the enemy, and to
slay the weaker party by the mere power of numbers. Then, every
engine that ingenuity can invent, is drawn into the conflict; and
rockets, revolvers, shells, and all other infernal devices, are
resorted to, in order to get the better of an enemy who is not
provided with such available means of destruction. And after the
battle is over, each side commonly claims the victory; sometimes,
because a partial success has been obtained in a small portion of
the field; sometimes, because half a dozen horses have run away with
a gun, carrying it into the hostile ranks; and, again, because a bit
of rag has fallen from the hands of a dead man, and been picked up
by one of the opposing side. How often has it happened that a
belligerent, well practised in his art, has kept his own colors out
of the affair, and then boasted that they were not lost! Now, an
Indian practises no such shameless expedients. His point of honor is
not a bit of rag, but a bit of his skin. He shaves his head because
the hair encumbers him; but he chivalrously leaves a scalp-lock, by
the aid of which his conquerors can the more easily carry away the
coveted trophy. The thought of cheating in such a matter never
occurs to his unsophisticated mind; and as for leaving his "colors"
in barracks, while he goes in the field himself, he would disdain
it--nay, cannot practise it; for the obvious reason that his head
would have to be left with them.
Thus it was with Pigeonswing. He had made his toilet for the war-
path, and was fierce in his paint, but honest and fair-dealing in
other particulars. If he could terrify his enemies by looking like a
skeleton, or a demon, it was well; his enemy would terrify him, if
possible, by similar means. But neither would dream, or did dream,
of curtailing, by a single hair, that which might be termed the
flag-staff of his scalp. If the enemy could seize it, he was welcome
to the prize; but if he could seize that of the enemy, no scruples
on the score of refinement, or delicacy, would be apt to interfere
with his movements. It was in this spirit, then, that Pigeonswing
came to the canoe, where le Bourdon was holding a little private
discourse with Margery, and gave utterance to what was passing in
"Good time, now, get more scalps, Bourdon," said the Chippewa, in
his clipping, sententious English.
"It is a good time, too, to keep our own, Chippewa," was the answer.
"Your scalp-lock is too long, to be put before Pottawattamie eyes
without good looking after it."
"Nebber mind him--if go, go; if stay, stay. Always good for warrior
to bring home scalp."
"Yes; I know your customs in this respect, Pigeonswing, but ours are
different. We are satisfied if we can keep out of harm's way, when
we have our squaws and pappooses with us."
"No pappooses here," returned the Indian, looking around him--"dat
your squaw, eh?"
The reader can readily imagine that this abrupt question brought
blushes into the cheeks of pretty Margery, making her appear ten
times more handsome than before; while even le Bourdon did not take
the interrogatory wholly undisturbed. Still, the latter answered
manfully, as became his sex.
"I am not so fortunate as to have a squaw, and least of all to have
this" said le Bourdon.
"Why no hab her--she good squaw," returned the literalminded Indian-
-han'some 'nough for chief. You ask; she hab--now squaw well--always
like warrior to ask him fuss; den say, yes."
"Aye, that may do with your red-skin squaws," le Bourdon hastily
replied; for he saw that Margery was not only distressed, but a
little displeased--"but not with the young women of the pale-faces.
I never saw Margery before last evening; and it takes time for a
pale-face girl to know a youth."
"Just so wid red-skin--sometime don't know, till too late! See
plenty dat, in wigwam."
"Then it is very much in the wigwams as it is in the houses. I have
heard this before."
"Why not same?--skin make no difference--pale-face spile squaw, too-
-make too much of her."
"That can never be!" exclaimed le Bourdon, earnestly. "When a
pretty, modest, warm-hearted young woman accepts a youth for a
husband, he can never make enough of her!"
On hearing sentiments so agreeable to a woman's ears, Margery looked
down, but she looked pleased. Pigeonswing viewed the matter very
differently; and being somewhat of a partisan in matters relating to
domestic economy, he had no thought of leaving a point of so much
importance in so bad a way. Accordingly, it is not surprising that,
in pursuing the subject, he expressed opinions in several essentials
diametrically the reverse of those of the bee-hunter.
'"Easy 'nough spile squaw," rejoined the Chippewa. "What she good
for, don't make her work? Can't go on the warpath--can't take scalp-
-can't shoot deer--can't hunt--can't kill warrior--so muss work. Dat
what squaw good for."
"That may do among red men, but we pale-faces find squaws good for
something else--we love them and take care of them--keep them from
the cold in winter, and from the heat in summer; and try to make
them as comfortable and happy as we can."
"Dat good talk for young squaw's ears," returned the Chippewa, a
little contemptuously as to manner; though his real respect for the
bee-hunter, of whose prowess he had so lately been a witness, kept
him a little within bounds "but it bess not take nobody in. What
Injin say to squaw, he do--what pale-face say, he no do."
"Is that true, Bourdon?" demanded Margery, laughing at the Indian's
"I shall be honest, and own that there may be some truth in it--for
the Injin promises nothing, or next to nothing, and it is easy to
square accounts, in such cases. That white men undertake more than
they always perform, is quite likely to be the fact The Injin gets
his advantage in this matter, by not even thinking of treating his
wife as a woman should be treated."
"How should treat woman?" put in Pigeonswing with warmth. "When
warrior eat venison, gib her rest, eh? Dat no good--what you call
good, den? If good hunter husband, she get 'nough--if an't good
hunter, she don't get 'nough. Just so wid Injin--sometime hungry,
sometime full. Dat way to live!"
"Aye, that may be your red man's ways, but it is not the manner in
which we wish to treat our wives. Ask pretty Margery, here, if she
would be satisfied to wait until her husband had eaten his dinner,
and then come in for the scraps. No-no-Pigeonswing; we feed our
women and children first^ and come in last, ourselves."
"Dat good for pappoose--he little; want venison--squaw tough; use to
wait. Do her good."
Margery now laughed outright, at these specimens of Indian
gallantry, which only too well embody the code of the red man's
habits. Doubtless the heart has its influence among even the most
savage people, for nature has not put into our breasts feelings and
passions to be discarded by one's own expedients, or wants. But no
advocate of the American Indian has ever yet been able to maintain
that woman fills her proper place in his estimate of claims. As for
Margery, though so long subject to the whims, passions. and
waywardness of a drunkard, she had reaped many of the advantages of
having been born in that woman's paradise, New England. We are no
great admirers of the legacy left by the Puritan to his descendants,
taken as an inheritance in morals, manners, and customs, and as a
whole; though there are parts, in the way of codicils, that there is
no portion of the Christian world which might not desire to emulate.
In particular, do we allude to the estimate put upon, and the
treatment received by their women. Our allusion is not to the
refinements and gracefulness of polished intercourse; for of THEM,
the Blarney Rock of Plymouth has transmitted but a meagre account in
the inventory, and perhaps the less that is said about this portion
of the family property the better; but, dropping a few degrees in
the social scale, and coming down to the level where we are
accustomed to regard people merely as men and women, we greatly
question if any other portion of the world can furnish a parallel to
the manly, considerate, rational, and wisely discriminating care,
that the New England husband, as the rule, bestows on his wife; the
father on his daughter; or the brother on his sister. Gershom was a
living, and, all things considered, a remarkable instance of these
creditable traits. When sober, he was uniformly kind to Dorothy; and
for Margery he would at any time risk his life. The latter, indeed,
had more power over him than his own wife possessed, and it was her
will and her remonstrances that most frequently led him back from
the verge of that precipice over which he was so often disposed to
cast himself. By some secret link she bound him closest to the
family dwelling, and served most to recall the days of youth and
comparative innocence, when they dwelt together beneath the paternal
roof, and were equally the objects of the affection and solicitude
of the same kind mother. His attachment to Dorothy was sincere, and,
for one so often brutalized by drink, steady; but Dorothy could not
carry him as far back, in recollections, as the one only sister who
had passed the morning of life with him, in the same homely but
We have no disposition to exaggerate the character of those whom it
is the fashion to term the American yeomen, though why such an
appellation should be applied to any in a state of society to which
legal distinctions are unknown, is what we could never understand.
There are no more of esquires and yeomen in this country than there
are of knights and nobles, though the quiet manner in which the
transition from the old to the new state of things has been made,
has not rendered the public mind very sensible to the changes. But,
recurring to the class, which is a positive thing and consequently
ought to have a name of some sort or other, we do not belong to
those that can sound its praises without some large reservations on
the score of both principles and manners. Least of all, are we
disposed to set up these yeomen as a privileged class, like certain
of the titular statesmen of the country, and fall down and worship a
calf--not a golden one by the way--of our own setting up. We can see
citizens in these yeomen, but not princes, who are to be especially
favored by laws made to take from others to bestow on them. But
making allowances for human infirmities, the American freeholder
belongs to a class that may justly hold up its head among the
tillers of the earth. He improves daily, under the influence of
beneficent laws, and if he don't get spoiled, of which there is some
danger, in the eagerness of factions to secure his favor, and
through that favor his VOTE--if he escape this danger, he will ere
long make a reasonably near approach to that being, which the tongue
of the flatterer would long since have persuaded him he had already
more than got to be.
To one accustomed to be treated kindly, as was the case with
Margery, the Chippewa's theory for the management of squaws
contained much to excite her mirth, as well as her resentment, as
she now made apparent by her remarks.
"You do not deserve to HAVE a wife, Pigeonswing," she cried, half-
laughing, yet evidently alive to the feelings of her sex--"can have
no gratitude for a wife's tenderness and care. I wonder that a
Chippewa girl can be found to have you?"
"Don't want him," coolly returned the Indian, making his
preparations to light his pipe--"got Winnebagoe squaw, already; good
'nough for me. Shoot her t'other husband and take his scalp--den she
come into my wigwam."
"The wretch!" exclaimed Margery.
But this was a word the savage did not understand, and he continued
to puff at the newly lighted tobacco, with all of a smoker's zeal.
When the fire was secured, he found time to continue the subject.
"Yes, dat good war-path--got rifle; got wife; got TWO scalp! Don't
do so well, ebbery day."
"And that woman hoes your corn, and cooks your venison?" demanded
"Sartain--capital good to hoe--no good to cook--make deer meat too
dry. Want to be made to mind business. Bye'm by teach him. No l'arn
all at once, like pale-face pappoose in school."
"Pigeonswing, have you never observed the manner in which the white
man treats his squaw?"
"Sartain--see him make much of her--put her in warm corner--wrap
blanket round her--give her venison 'fore he eat himself--see all
dat, often--what den? DAT don't make it right."
"I give you up, Chippewa, and agree with Margery in thinking you
ought not to have a squaw, at all."
"T'ink alike, den--why no get marry?" asked the Indian, without
Margery's face became red as fire; then her cheeks settled into the
color of roses, and she looked down, embarrassed. The bee-hunter's
admiration was very apparent to the Indian, though the girl did not
dare to raise her eyes from the ground, and so did not take heed of
it. But this gossiping was suddenly brought to an end by a most
unexpected cause of interruption; the manner and form of which it
shall be our office to relate, in the succeeding chapter.
So should it be--for no heart beats
Within his cold and silent breast;
To him no gentle voice repeats
The soothing words that make us blest.
The interruption came from Dorothy, who, on ascending the little
height, had discovered a canoe coming into the mouth of the river,
and who was running, breathless with haste, to announce the
circumstance to the bee-hunter. The latter immediately repaired to
the eminence, and saw for himself the object that so justly had
alarmed the woman. The canoe was coming in from the lake, after
running before the wind, which now began to abate a little in its
strength, and it evidently had been endeavoring to proceed to the
northward. The reason for its entering the river, was probably
connected with the cookery or food of the party, since the lake was
each minute getting to be safer, and more navigable for so light a
craft. To le Bourdon's great apprehension, he saw the savages on the
north shore making signal to this strange canoe, by means of smoke,
and he foresaw the probability of his enemies obtaining the means of
crossing the stream, should the strangers proceed in the desired
direction. To counteract this design, he ran down to a spot on the
beach where there was no rice-plant, and showing himself to the
strangers, invited them to land on the south side, which was much
the nearest, and in other visible respects quite as convenient as
the opposite bank of the river. One of the strangers soon made a
gesture with an arm, implying assent, and the bows of this strange
canoe were immediately turned toward the spot where the bee-hunter
As the canoe drew near, the whole party, including Pigeonswing, came
to the margin of the water to receive the strangers. Of the last,
there were three; one paddling at each end of the light bark, and a
third seated in its centre, doing nothing. As the bee-hunter had his
glass, with which he examined these visitors, he was soon questioned
by his companions concerning their character and apparent purposes.
"Who are they, Bourdon?" demanded the impatient Margery--"and why do
they come here?"
"The last is a question they must answer for themselves, but the
person paddling in the bows of the canoe seems to be a white man,
and a soldier--or a half-soldier, if one may judge from his dress.
The man in the middle of the canoe is white, also. This last fellow
seems to be a parson--yes, he is a clergyman, though pretty well
used up in the wilderness, as to dress. The third man is a red-skin,
beyond all doubt."
"A clergyman!" repeated Margery, in surprise. "What should a
clergyman be doing here?"
"There are missionaries scattered about among the savages, I suppose
you know, and this is probably one of them. A body can tell one of
these parsons by his outside, as far as he can see him. The poor man
has heard of the war, most likely, and is trying to get back into
the settlements, while his scalp is safe on his head."
"Don't hurt HIM" put in the Chippewa, pointedly. "Know MEAN well--
talk about Great Spirit--Injin don't scalp sich medicine-men--if
don't mind what he say, no good to take his scalp."
"I'm glad to hear this, Pigeonswing, for I had begun to think NO
man's scalp was safe under YOUR fingers. But what can the so'ger be
doing down this-away? A body would think there was business enough
for all the so'gers up at the garrison, at the head of the lake. By
the way, Pigeonswing, what has become of your letter to the captain
at Fort Dearborn, to let him know of the war?"
"Chaw him up, like so much 'baccy," answered the Chippewa--"yes,
chaw him up, lest Pottawattamie get hold on him, and ask one of King
George's men to read him. No good to hab letter in sich times."
"The general who employed you to carry that letter, will scarce