Part 8 out of 9
"I understand you," returned the missionary, after a few moments
passed in recovering from the shock of this communication. "My hour
is come. I have held my life in my hand ever since I first put foot
in this heathen region, and if it be the Creator's will that I am
now to die, I bow to the decree. Grant me a few minutes for prayer
to my God."
Ungque signed that the delay should be granted. The missionary
uncovered his head, knelt, and again lifted up his voice in prayer.
At first the tones were a little tremulous; but they grew firmer as
he proceeded. Soon they became as serene as usual. He first asked
mercy for himself, threw all his hopes on the great atonement, and
confessed how far he was from that holiness which alone could fit
him to see God. When this duty was performed, he prayed for his
enemies. The language used was his mother tongue, but Peter
comprehended most of that which was said. He heard his own people
prayed for; he heard his own name mentioned, as the condemned man
asked the mercy of the Manitou in his behalf. Never before was the
soul of this extraordinary savage so shaken. The past seemed like a
dream to him, while the future possessed a light that was still
obscured by clouds. Here was an exemplification in practice of that
divine spirit of love and benevolence which had struck him, already,
as so very wonderful. There could be no mistake. There was the
kneeling captive, and his words, clear, distinct, and imploring,
ascended through the cover of the bushes to the throne of God.
As soon as the voice of the missionary was mute, the mysterious
chief bowed his head and moved away. He was then powerless. No
authority of his could save the captive, and the sight that so
lately would have cheered his eyes was now too painful to bear. He
heard the single blow of the tomahawk which brained the victim, and
he shuddered from head to foot. It was the first time such a
weakness had ever come over him. As for the missionary, in deference
to his pursuits, his executioners dug him a grave, and buried him
unmutilated on the spot where he had fallen.
Brutal alike in deed and word,
With callous heart and hand of strife.
How like a fiend may man be made,
Plying the foul and monstrous trade
Whose harvest-field is human life.
A veil like that of oblivion dropped before the form of the
missionary. The pious persons who had sent him forth to preach to
the heathen, never knew his fate; a disappearance that was so common
to that class of devoted men, as to produce regret rather than
surprise. Even those who took his life felt a respect for him; and,
strange as it may seem, it was to the eloquence of the man who now
would have died to save him, that his death was alone to be
attributed. Peter had awakened fires that he could not quench, and
aroused a spirit that he could not quell. In this respect, he
resembled most of those who, under the guise of reform, or
revolution, in moments of doubt, set in motion a machine that is
found impossible to control, when it is deemed expedient to check
exaggeration by reason. Such is often the case with even well-
intentioned leaders, who constantly are made to feel how much easier
it is to light a conflagration, than to stay its flames when raging.
Corporal Flint was left seated on the log, while the bloody scene of
the missionary's death was occurring. He was fully alive to all the
horrors of his own situation, and comprehended the nature of his
companion's movements. The savages usually manifested so much
respect for missionaries, that he was in no degree surprised. Parson
Amen had been taken apart for his execution, and when those who had
caused his removal returned, the corporal looked anxiously for the
usual but revolting token of his late companion's death. As has been
said, however, the missionary was suffered to lie in his wild grave,
without suffering a mutilation of his remains.
Notwithstanding this moderation, the Indians were getting to be
incited by this taste of blood. The principal chiefs became sterner
in their aspects, and the young men began to manifest some such
impatience as that which the still untried pup betrays, when he
first scents his game. All these were ominous symptoms, and were
well understood by the captive.
Perhaps it would not have been possible, in the whole range of human
feelings, to find two men under influences more widely opposed to
each other than were the missionary and the corporal, in this, their
last scene on earth. The manner of Parson Amen's death has been
described. He died in humble imitation of his Divine Master, asking
for blessings on those who were about to destroy him, with a heart
softened by Christian graces, and a meekness that had its origin in
the consciousness of his own demerits. On the other hand, the
corporal thought only of vengeance. Escape he knew to be impossible,
and he would fain take his departure like a soldier, or as he
conceived a soldier should die, in the midst of fallen foes.
Corporal Flint had a salutary love of life, and would very gladly
escape, did the means offer; but, failing of these, all his thoughts
turned toward revenge. Some small impulses of ambition, or what it
is usual to dignify with that term, showed themselves even at that
serious moment. He had heard around the camp-fires, and in the
garrisons, so many tales of heroism and of fortitude manifested by
soldiers who had fallen into the hands of the Indians, that a faint
desire to enroll his own name on the list of these worthies was
beginning to arise in his breast. But truth compels us to add that
the predominant feeling was the wish to revenge his own fate, by
immolating as many of his foes as possible. To this last purpose,
therefore, his thoughts were mainly directed, during that interval
which his late companion had employed in prayers for those under
whose blows he was about to fall. Such is the difference in man,
with his heart touched, or untouched, by the power of the Holy
It was, however, much easier for the corporal to entertain designs
of the nature mentioned than to carry them out: unarmed, surrounded
by watchful enemies, and totally without support of any sort, the
chances of effecting his purpose were small indeed. Once, for a
minute only, the veteran seriously turned his thoughts to escape. It
occurred to him, that he might possibly reach the castle, could he
get a little start; and should the Indians compel him to run the
gauntlet, as was often their practice, he determined to make an
effort for life in that mode. Agreeably to the code of frontier
warfare, a successful flight of this nature was scarcely less
creditable than a victory in the field.
Half an hour passed after the execution of the missionary before the
chiefs commenced their proceedings with the corporal. The delay was
owing to a consultation, in which The Weasel had proposed
despatching a party to the castle, to bring in the family, and thus
make a common destruction of the remaining pale-faces known to be in
that part of the Openings. Peter did not dare to oppose this scheme,
himself; but he so managed as to get Crowsfeather to do it, without
bringing himself into the foreground. The influence of the
Pottawattamie prevailed, and it was decided to torture this one
captive, and to secure his scalp, before they proceeded to work
their will on the others. Ungque, who had gained ground rapidly by
his late success, was once more commissioned to state to the captive
the intentions of his captors.
"Brother," commenced The Weasel, placing himself directly in front
of the corporal, "I am about to speak to you. A wise warrior opens
his ears, when he hears the voice of his enemy. He may learn
something it will be good for him to know. It will be good for you
to know what I am about to say.
"Brother, you are a pale-face, and we are Injins. You wish to get
our hunting-grounds, and we wish to keep them. To keep them, it has
become necessary to take your scalp. I hope you are ready to let us
The corporal had but an indifferent knowledge of the Indian
language, but he comprehended all that was uttered on this occasion.
Interest quickened his faculties, and no part of what was said was
lost. The gentle, slow, deliberate manner in which The Weasel
delivered himself, contributed to his means of understanding. He was
fortunately prepared for what her heard, and the announcement of his
approaching fate did not disturb him to the degree of betraying
weakness. This last was a triumph in which the Indians delighted,
though they ever showed the most profound respect for such of their
victims as manifested a manly fortitude. It was necessary to reply,
which the corporal did in English, knowing that several present
could interpret his words. With a view to render this the more easy,
he spoke in fragments of sentences, and with great deliberation.
"Injins," returned the corporal, "you surrounded me, and I have been
taken prisoner--had there been a platoon on us, you mightn't have
made out quite so well. It's no great victory for three hundred
warriors to overcome a single man. I count Parson Amen as worse than
nothing, for he looked to neither rear nor flank. If I could have
half an hour's work upon you, with only half of our late company, I
think we should lower your conceit. But that is impossible, and so
you may do just what you please with me. I ask no favors."
Although this answer was very imperfectly translated, it awakened a
good deal of admiration. A man who could look death so closely in
the face, with so much steadiness, became a sort of hero in Indian
eyes; and with the North American savage, fortitude is a virtue not
inferior to courage. Murmurs of approbation were heard, and Ungque
was privately requested to urge the captive further, in order to see
how far present appearances were likely to be maintained.
"Brother, I have said that we are Injins," resumed The Weasel, with
an air so humble, and a voice so meek, that a stranger might have
supposed he was consoling, instead of endeavoring to intimidate, the
prisoner. "It is true. We are nothing but poor, ignorant Injins. We
can only torment our prisoners after Injin fashion. If we were pale-
faces, we might do better. We did not torment the medicine-priest.
We were afraid he would laugh at our mistakes. He knew a great deal.
We know but little. We do as well as we know how.
"Brother, when Injins do as well as they know how, a warrior should
forget their mistakes. We wish to torment you, in a way to prove
that you are all over man. We wish so to torment you that you will
stand up under the pain in such a way that it will make our young
men think your mother was not a squaw--that there is no woman in
you. We do this for our own honor, as well as for yours. It will be
an honor to us to have such a captive; it will be an honor to you to
be such a captive. We shall do as well as we know how.
"Brother, it is most time to begin. The tormenting will last a long
time. We must not let the medicine-priest get too great a start on
the path to the happy hunting-grounds of your--"
Here, a most unexpected interruption occurred, that effectually put
a stop to the eloquence of Ungque. In his desire to make an
impression, the savage approached within reach of the captive's arm,
while his own mind was intent on the words that he hoped would make
the prisoner quail. The corporal kept his eye on that of the
speaker, charming him, as it were, into a riveted gaze, in return.
Watching his opportunity, he caught the tomahawk from The Weasel's
belt, and by a single blow, felled him dead at his feet. Not content
with this, the old soldier now bounded forward, striking right and
left, inflicting six or eight wounds on others, before he could be
again arrested, disarmed, and bound. While the last was doing, Peter
Many were the "hughs" and other exclamations of admiration that
succeeded this display of desperate manhood! The body of The Weasel
was removed, and interred, while the wounded withdrew to attend to
their hurts; leaving the arena to the rest assembled there. As for
the corporal, he was pretty well blown, and, in addition to being
now bound hand and foot, his recent exertions, which were terrific
while they lasted, effectually incapacitated him from making any
move, so long as he was thus exhausted and confined.
A council was now held by the principal chiefs. Ungque had few
friends. In this, he shared the fate of most demagogues, who are
commonly despised even by those they lead and deceive. No one
regretted him much, and some were actually glad of his fate. But the
dignity of the conquerors must be vindicated. It would never do to
allow a pale-face to obtain so great an advantage, and not take a
signal vengeance for his deeds. After a long consultation, it was
determined to subject the captive to the trial by saplings, and thus
see if he could bear the torture without complaining.
As some of our readers may not understand what this fell mode of
tormenting is, it may be necessary to explain.
There is scarcely a method of inflicting pain, that comes within,
the compass of their means, that the North American Indians have not
essayed on their enemies. When the infernal ingenuity that is
exercised on these occasions fails of its effect, the captives
themselves have been heard to suggest other means of torturing that
THEY have known practised successfully by their own people. There is
often a strange strife between the tormentors and the tormented; the
one to manifest skill in inflicting pain, and the other to manifest
fortitude in enduring it. As has just been said, quite as much
renown is often acquired by the warrior, in setting all the devices
of his conquerors at defiance, while subject to their hellish
attempts, as in deeds of arms. It might be more true to say that
such WAS the practice among the Indians, than to say, at the present
time, that such IS; for it is certain that civilization in its
approaches, while it has in many particulars even degraded the red
man, has had a silent effect in changing and mitigating many of his
fiercer customs--this, perhaps, among the rest. It is probable that
the more distant tribes still resort to all these ancient usages;
but it is both hoped and believed that those nearer to the whites do
The "torture by saplings" is one of those modes of inflicting pain
that would naturally suggest themselves to savages. Young trees that
do not stand far apart are trimmed of their branches, and brought
nearer to each other by bending their bodies; the victim is then
attached to both trunks, sometimes by his extended arms, at others
by his legs, or by whatever part of the frame cruelty can suggest,
when the saplings are released, and permitted to resume their
upright positions. Of course, the sufferer is lifted from the earth,
and hangs suspended by his limbs, with a strain on them that soon
produces the most intense anguish. The celebrated punishment of the
"knout" partakes a good deal of this same character of suffering.
Bough of the Oak now approached the corporal, to let him know how
high an honor was in reserve for him.
"Brother," said this ambitious orator, "you are a brave warrior. You
have done well. Not only have you killed one of our chiefs, but you
have wounded several of our young men. No one but a brave could have
done this. You have forced us to bind you, lest you might kill some
more. It is not often that captives do this. Your courage has caused
us to consult HOW we might best torture you, in a way most to
manifest your manhood. After talking together, the chiefs have
decided that a man of your firmness ought to be hung between two
young trees. We have found the trees, and have cut off their
branches. You can see them. If they were a little larger their force
would be greater, and they would give you more pain--would be more
worthy of you; but these are the largest saplings we could find. Had
there been any larger, we would have let you have them. We wish to
do you honor, for you are a bold warrior, and worthy to be well
"Brother, look at these saplings! They are tall and straight. When
they are bent by many hands, they will come together. Take away the
hands, and they will become straight again. Your arms must then keep
them together. We wish we had some pappooses here, that they might
shoot arrows into your flesh. That would help much to torment you.
You cannot have this honor, for we have no pappooses. We are afraid
to let our young men shoot arrows into your flesh. They are strong,
and might kill you. We wish you to die between the saplings, as is
your right, being so great a brave.
"Brother, we think much better of you since you killed The Weasel,
and hurt our young men. If all your warriors at Chicago had been as
bold as you, Black-Bird would not have taken that fort. You would
have saved many scalps. This encourages us. It makes us think the
Great Spirit means to help us, and that we shall kill all the pale-
faces. When we get further into your settlements, we do not expect
to meet many such braves as you. They tell us we shall then find men
who will run, and screech like women. It will not be a pleasure to
torment such men. We had rather torment a bold warrior, like you,
who makes us admire him for his manliness. We love our squaws, but
not in the warpath. They are best in the lodges; here we want
nothing but men. You are a man--a brave--we honor you. We think,
notwithstanding, we shall yet make you weak. It will not be easy,
yet we hope to do it. We shall try. We may not think quite so well
of you, if we do it; but we shall always call you a brave. A man is
not a stone. We can all feel, and when we have done all that is in
our power, no one can do more. It is so with Injins; we think it
must be so with pale-faces. We mean to try and see how it is."
The corporal understood very little of this harangue, though he
perfectly comprehended the preparations of the saplings, and Bough
of the Oak's allusions to THEM. He was in a cold sweat at the
thought, for resolute as he was, he foresaw sufferings that human
fortitude could hardly endure. In this state of the case, and in the
frame of mind he was in, he had recourse to an expedient of which he
had often heard, and which he thought might now be practised to some
advantage. It was to open upon the savages with abuse, and to
exasperate them, by taunts and sarcasm, to such a degree as might
induce some of the weaker members of the tribe to dispatch him on
the spot. As the corporal, with the perspective of the saplings
before his eyes, manifested a good deal of ingenuity on this
occasion, we shall record some of his efforts.
"D'ye call yourselves chiefs and warriors?" he began, upon a pretty
high key. "I call ye squaws! There is not a man among ye. Dogs would
be the best name. You are poor Injins. A long time ago, the pale-
faces came here in two or three little canoes. They were but a
handful, and you were plentier than prairie wolves. Your bark could
be heard throughout the land. Well, what did this handful of pale-
faces? It drove your fathers before them, until they got all the
best of the hunting-grounds. Not an Injin of you all, now, ever get
down on the shores of the great salt lake, unless to sell brooms and
baskets, and then he goes sneaking like a wolf after a sheep. You
have forgotten how clams and oysters taste. Your fathers had as many
of them as they could eat; but not one of YOU ever tasted them. The
pale-faces eat them all. If an Injin asked for one, they would throw
the shell at his head, and call him a dog.
"Do you think that my chiefs would hang one of you between two such
miserable saplings as these? No! They would scorn to practice such
pitiful torture. They would bring the tops of two tall pines
together, trees a hundred and fifty feet high, and put their
prisoner on the topmost boughs, for the crows and ravens to pick his
eyes out. But you are miserable Injins! You know nothing. If you
know'd any better, would you act such poor torment ag'in' a great
brave? I spit upon ye, and call you squaws. The pale-faces have made
women of ye. They have taken out your hearts, and put pieces of
dog's flesh in their places."
Here the corporal, who delivered himself with an animation suited to
his language, was obliged to pause, literally for want of breath.
Singular as it may seem, this tirade excited great admiration among
the savages. It is true, that very few understood what was said;
perhaps no one understood ALL, but the manner was thought to be
admirable. When some of the language was interpreted, a deep but
smothered resentment was felt; more especially at the taunts
touching the manner in which the whites had overcome the red men.
Truth is hard to be borne, and the individual, or people, who will
treat a thousand injurious lies with contempt, feel all their ire
aroused at one reproach that has its foundation in fact.
Nevertheless, the anger that the corporal's words did, in truth,
awaken, was successfully repressed, and he had the disappointment of
seeing that his life was spared for the torture.
"Brother," said Bough of the Oak, again placing himself before the
captive, "you have a stout heart. It is made of stone, and not of
flesh. If our hearts be of dog's meat, yours is of stone. What you
say is true. The pale-faces DID come at first in two or three
canoes, and there were but few of them. We are ashamed, for it is
true, A few pale-faces drove toward the setting sun many Injins. But
we cannot be driven any further. We mean to stop here, and begin to
take all the scalps we can. A great chief, who belongs to no one
tribe, but belongs to all tribes, who speaks all tongues, has been
sent by the Great Spirit to arouse us. He has done it. You know him.
He came from the head of the lake with you, and kept his eye on your
scalp. He has meant to take it from the first. He waited only for an
opportunity. That opportunity has come, and we now mean to do as he
has told us we ought to do. This is right. Squaws are in a hurry;
warriors know how to wait. We would kill you at once, and hang your
scalp on our pole, but it would not be right We wish to do what is
right. If we ARE poor Injins, and know but little, we know what is
right. It is right to torment so great a brave, and we mean to do
it. It is only just to you to do so. An old warrior who has seen so
many enemies, and who has so big a heart, ought not to be knocked in
the head like a pappoose or a squaw. It is his right to be
tormented. We are getting ready, and shall soon begin. If my brother
can tell us a new way of tormenting, we are willing to try it.
Should we not make out as well as pale-faces, my brother will
remember who we are. We mean to do our best, and we hope to make his
heart soft. If we do this, great will be our honor. Should we not do
it, we cannot help it. We shall try."
It was now the corporal's turn to put in a rebutter.
This he did without any failure in will or performance. By this time
he was so well warmed as to think or care very little about the
saplings, and to overlook the pain they might occasion.
"Dogs can do little but bark; 'specially Injin dogs," he said.
"Injins themselves are little better than their own dogs. They can
bark, but they don't know how to bite. You have many great chiefs
here. Some are panthers, and some bears, and some buffaloes; but
where are your weasels? I have fit you now these twenty years, and
never have I known ye to stand up to the baggonet. It's not Injin
natur' to do THAT."
Here the corporal, without knowing it, made some such reproach to
the aboriginal warriors of America as the English used to throw into
the teeth of ourselves--that of not standing up to a weapon which
neither party possessed. It was matter of great triumph that the
Americans would not stand the charge of the bayonet at the renowned
fight on Breed's, for instance, when it is well known that not one
man in five among the colonists had any such weapon at all to "stand
up" with. A different story was told at Guildford, and Stony Point,
and Eutaw, and Bennington, and Bemis' Heights, and fifty other
places that might be named, after the troops were furnished with
bayonets. THEN it was found that the Americans could use them as
well as others, and so might it have proved with the red men, though
their discipline, or mode of fighting, scarce admitted of such
systematic charges. All this, however, the corporal overlooked, much
as if he were a regular historian who was writing to make out a
"Harkee, brother, since you WILL call me brother; though, Heaven be
praised, not a drop of nigger or Injin blood runs in my veins,"
resumed the corporal. "Harkee, friend redskin, answer me one thing.
Did you ever hear of such a man as Mad Anthony? He was the tickler
for your infernal tribes! You pulled no saplings together for him.
He put you up with 'the long-knives and leather-stockings,' and you
outrun his fleetest horses. I was with him, and saw more naked backs
than naked faces among your people, that day. Your Great Bear got a
rap on his nose that sent him to his village yelping like a cur."
Again was the corporal compelled to stop to take breath. The
allusion to Wayne, and his defeat of the Indians, excited so much
ire, that several hands grasped knives and tomahawks, and one arrow
was actually drawn nearly to the head; but the frown of Bear's Meat
prevented any outbreak, or actual violence. It wa's deemed prudent,
however, to put an end to this scene, lest the straightforward
corporal, who laid it on heavily, and who had so much to say about
Indian defeats, might actually succeed in touching some festering
wound that would bring him to his death at once. It was,
accordingly, determined to proceed with the torture of the saplings
without further delay.
The corporal was removed accordingly, and placed between the two
bended trees, which were kept together by withes around their tops.
An arm of the captive was bound tightly at the wrist to the top of
each tree, so that his limbs were to act as the only tie between the
saplings, as soon as the withes should be cut. The Indians now
worked in silence, and the matter was getting to be much too serious
for the corporal to indulge in any more words. The cold sweat
returned, and many an anxious glance was cast by the veteran on the
fell preparations. Still he maintained appearances, and when all was
ready, not a man there was aware of the agony of dread which
prevailed in the breast of the victim. It was not death that he
feared as much as suffering. A few minutes, the corporal well knew,
would make the pain intolerable, while he saw no hope of putting a
speedy end to his existence. A man might live hours in such a
situation. Then it was that the teachings of childhood were revived
in the bosom of this hardened man, and he remembered the Being that
died for HIM, in common with the rest of the human race, on the
tree. The seeming similarity of his own execution struck his
imagination, and brought a tardy but faint recollection of those
lessons that had lost most of their efficacy in the wickedness and
impiety of camps. His soul struggled for relief in that direction,
but the present scene was too absorbing to admit of its lifting
itself so far above his humanity.
"Warrior of the pale-faces," said Bough of the Oak, "we are going to
cut the withe. You will then be where a brave man will want all his
courage. If you are firm, we will do you honor; if you faint and
screech, our young men will laugh at you. This is the way with
Injins. They honor braves; they point the finger at cowards."
Here a sign was made by Bear's Meat, and a warrior raised the
tomahawk that was to separate the fastenings, His hand was in the
very act of descending, when the crack of a rifle was heard, and a
little smoke rose out of the thicket, near the spot where the bee-
hunter and the corporal, himself, had remained so long hid, on the
occasion of the council first held in that place. The tomahawk fell,
however, the withes were parted, and up flew the saplings, with a
violence that threatened to tear the arms of the victim out of their
The Indians listened, expecting the screeches and groans;--they
gazed, hoping to witness the writhings of their captive. But they
were disappointed. There hung the body, its arms distended, still
holding the tops of the saplings bowed, but not a sign of life was
seen. A small line of blood trickled down the forehead, and above it
was the nearly imperceptible hole made by the passage of a bullet.
The head itself had fallen forward, and a little on one shoulder.
The corporal had escaped the torments reserved for him, by this
It was so much a matter of course for an Indian to revenge his own
wounds--to alleviate his smarts, by retaliating on those who
inflicted them--that the chiefs expressed neither surprise nor
resentment at the manner of the corporal's death. There was some
disappointment, it is true; but no anger was manifested, since it
was supposed that some one of those whom the prisoner had wounded
had seen fit, in this mode, to revenge his own hurts. In this,
however, the Indians deceived themselves. The well-intentioned and
deadly shot that saved the corporal from hours of agony came from
the friendly hand of Pigeonswing, who had no sooner discharged his
rifle than he stole away through the thicket, and was never
discovered. This he did, too, at the expense of Ungque's scalp, on
which he had set his heart.
As for the Indians, perceiving that their hopes of forcing a captive
to confess his weakness were frustrated, they conferred together on
the course of future proceedings. There was an inquiry for Peter,
but Peter was not to be found. Bough of the Oak suggested that the
mysterious chief must have gone to the palisaded hut, in order to
get the remaining scalps, his passion for this symbol of triumphs
over pale-faces being well known. It was, therefore, incumbent on
the whole band to follow, with the double view of sharing in the
honor of the assault, and of rendering assistance.
Abandoning the body of the corporal where it hung, away went these
savages, by this time keenly alive to the scent of blood. Something
like order was observed, however, each chief leading his own
particular part of the band, in his own way, but on a designated
route. Bear's Meat acted as commander-in-chief, the subordinate
leaders following his instructions with reasonable obedience. Some
went in one direction, others in another; until the verdant bottom
near the sweet spring was deserted.
In less than half an hour the whole band was collected around Castle
Meal, distant, however, beyond the range of a rifle. The different
parties, as they arrived, announced their presence by whoops, which
were intended to answer the double purpose of signals, and of
striking terror to the hearts of the besieged; the North American
Indians making ample use of this great auxiliary in war.
All this time no one was seen in or about the fortified hut The gate
was closed, as were the doors and windows, manifesting preparations
for defence; but the garrison kept close. Nor was Peter to be seen.
He might be a prisoner, or he might not have come in this direction.
It was just possible that he might be stealing up to the building,
to get a nearer view, and a closer scout.
Indian warfare is always stealthy. It is seldom, indeed, that the
aboriginal Americans venture on an open assault of any fortified
place, however small and feeble it may be. Ignorant of the use of
artillery, and totally without that all-important arm, their
approaches to any cover, whence a bullet may be sent against them,
are ever wary, slow, and well concerted. They have no idea of
trenches--do not possess the means of making them, indeed--but they
have such substitutes of their own as usually meet all their wants,
more particularly in portions of the country that are wooded. In
cases like this before our present band, they had to exercise their
wits to invent new modes of effecting their purposes.
Bear's Meat collected his principal chiefs, and, after a
considerable amount of consultation, it was determined, in the
present instance, to try the virtue of fire. The only sign of life
they could detect about the hut was an occasional bark from Hive,
who had been taken within the building, most probably to protect him
from the bullets and arrows of the enemy. Even this animal did not
howl like a dog in distress; but he barked, as if aware of the
vicinity of strangers. The keenest scrutiny could not detect an
outlet of any sort about the hut. Everything was tightly closed, and
it was impossible to say when, or whence, a bullet might not be sent
against the unwary.
The plan was soon formed, and was quite as rapidly executed. Bough
of the Oak, himself, supported by two or three other braves,
undertook to set the buildings on fire. This was done by approaching
the kitchen, dodging from tree to tree, making each movement with a
rapidity that defeated aim, and an irregularity that defied
calculation. In this way the kitchen was safely reached, where there
was a log cover to conceal the party. Here also was fire, the food
for dinner being left, just as it had been put over to boil, not
long before. The Indians had prepared themselves with arrows and
light wood, and soon they commenced sending their flaming missiles
toward the roof of the hut. Arrow after arrow struck, and it was not
long before the roof was on fire.
A yell now arose throughout the Openings. Far and near the Indians
exulted at their success. The wood was dry, and it was of a very
inflammable nature. The wind blew, and in half an hour Castle Meal
was in a bright blaze. Hive now began to howl, a sign that he knew
his peril. Still, no human being appeared. Presently the flaming
roof fell in and the savages listened intently to hear the screeches
of their victims. The howls of the dog increased, and he was soon
seen, with his hair burned from his skin, leaping on the unroofed
wall, and thence into the area within the palisades. A bullet
terminated his sufferings as he alighted.
Bear's Meat now gave the signal, and a general rush was made. No
rifle opposed them, and a hundred Indians were soon at the
palisades. To the surprise of all, the gate was found unfastened.
Rushing within, the door of the hut was forced, and a view obtained
of the blazing furnace within. The party had arrived in sufficient
season to perceive fragments of le Bourdon's rude furniture and
stores yet blazing, but nowhere was a human corpse visible. Poles
were got, and the brands were removed, in the expectation of finding
bones beneath them; but without success. It was now certain that no
pale-face had perished in that hut. Then the truth flashed on the
minds of all the savages: le Bourdon and his friends had taken the
alarm in time, and had escaped!
Behold, O Lord! the heathen tread
The branches of thy fruitful vine,
That its luxurious tendrils spread
O'er all the hills of Palestine.
And now the wild boar comes to waste
Even us, the greenest boughs and last.
That, drinking of its choicest dew,
On Zion's hill in beauty grew.
The change in Peter had been gradually making itself apparent, ever
since he joined the party of the bee-hunter. When he entered the
Kalamazoo, in the company of the two men who had now fallen the
victims of his own designs, his heart was full of the fell intention
of cutting off the whole white race. Margery had first induced him
to think of exceptions. He had early half-decided that she should be
spared, to be carried to his own lodge, as an adopted daughter. When
he became aware of the state of things between his favorite and her
lover, there was a severe struggle in his breast on the subject of
sparing the last. He saw how strongly the girl was attached to him,
and something like human sentiments forced their way among his
savage plans. The mysterious communication of le Bourdon with the
bees, however, had far more influence in determining him to spare so
great a medicine-man, than Margery's claims; and he had endeavored
to avail himself of a marriage as a means of saving the bride,
instead of saving the bridegroom. All the Indians entertained a
species of awe for le Bourdon, and all hesitated about laying hands
on one who appeared so gifted. It was, therefore, the expectation of
this extraordinary being that the wife might be permitted to escape
with the husband. The effect of The Weasel's cunning has been
described. Such was the state of Peter's mind when he met the band
in the scenes last described. There he had been all attention to the
demeanor of the missionary. A hundred times had he seen warriors die
uttering maledictions on their enemies; but this was the first
occasion on which he had ever known a man to use his latest breath
in asking for blessings on those "who persecuted him." At first,
Peter was astounded. Then the sublime principles had their effect,
and his heart was deeply touched with what he heard. How far the
Holy Spirit aided these better feelings, it might be presumptuous,
on the one hand, to say; while, on the other, it will be equally
presuming to think of denying the possibility--nay, the probability-
-that the great change which so suddenly came over the heart of
Peter was produced by more than mere human agencies. We know that
this blessed Spirit is often poured out, in especial cases, with
affluent benevolence, and there can be no sufficient reason for
supposing this savage might not have been thus signally favored, as
soon as the avenues of his heart opened to the impulses of a
generous humanity. The very qualities that would induce such a being
to attempt the wild and visionary scheme of vengeance and
retribution, that had now occupied his sleeping and waking thoughts
for years, might, under a better direction, render him eminently fit
to be the subject of divine grace. A latent sense of right lay
behind all his seeming barbarity, and that which to us appears as a
fell ferocity, was, in his own eyes, no less than a severe justice.
The words, the principles, the prayers, and, more than all, the
EXAMPLE of the missionary, wrought this great change, so far as
human agencies were employed; but the power of God was necessary to
carry out and complete this renewal of the inner man. We do not mean
that a miracle was used in the sudden conversion of this Indian to
better feelings, for that which is of hourly occurrence, and which
may happen to all, comes within the ordinary workings of a Divine
Providence, and cannot thus be designated with propriety; but we do
wish to be understood as saying, that no purely human power could
have cleared the moral vision, changed all the views, and softened
the heart of such a man, as was so promptly done in the case of
Peter. The way had been gradually preparing, perhaps, by the means
already described, but the great transformation came so suddenly and
so powerfully as to render him a different being, as it might almost
be, in the twinkling of an eye! Such changes often occur, and though
it may suit the self-sufficiency of the worldling to deride them, he
is the wisest who submits in the meekest spirit to powers that
exceed his comprehension.
In this state of mind, then, Peter left the band as soon as the fate
of the missionary was decided. His immediate object was to save the
whites who remained, Gershom and Dorothy now having a place in his
good intentions, as well as le Bourdon and Margery. Although he
moved swiftly, and nearly by an air-line, his thoughts scarce kept
company with his feet. During that rapid walk, he was haunted with
the image of a man, dying while he pronounced benedictions on his
There was little in common between the natural objects of that
placid and rural scene and the fell passions that were so actively
at work among the savages. The whole of the landscape was bathed in
the light of a clear, warm summer's day. These are the times when
the earth truly seems a sanctuary, in spots remote from the haunts
of men, and least exposed to his abuses. The bees hum around the
flowers, the birds carol on the boughs and from amid their leafy
arbors, while even the leaping and shining waters appear to be
instinct with the life that extols the glory of God.
As for the family near the palisaded hut, happiness had not, for
many a month, been so seated among them, as on this very occasion.
Dorothy sympathized truly in the feelings of the youthful and
charming bride, while Gershom had many of the kind and affectionate
wishes of a brother in her behalf. The last was in his best attire,
as indeed were the females, who were neatly though modestly clad,
and Gershom had that air of decent repose and of quiet enjoyment,
which is so common of a Sabbath with the men of his class, among the
people from whom he sprung. The fears lately excited were
momentarily forgotten. Everything around them wore an air so placid;
the vault above them was so profoundly tranquil; the light of day
was so soft and yet so bright; the Openings seemed so rural and so
much like pictures of civilization, that apprehension had been
entirely forgotten in present enjoyment. Such was the moment when
Peter suddenly stood before le Bourdon and Margery, as the young
couple sat beneath the shade of the oaks, near the spring. One
instant the Indian regarded this picture of young wedded life with a
gleam of pleasure on his dark face; then he announced his presence
"Can't sit here lookin' at young squaw," said this literal being.
"Get up, and put thing in canoe. Time come to go on path dat lead to
"What has happened, Peter?" demanded the bee-hunter, springing to
his feet. "You come like a runner rushing in with his bad tidings.
Has anything happened to give an alarm?"
"Up, and off, tell you. No use talkin' now. Put all he can in canoe,
and paddle away fast as can." There was no mistaking Peter's manner.
The bee-hunter saw the uselessness of questioning such a man, at a
time like that, and he called to Gershom to join him.
"Here is the chief, to warn us to move," said the bee-hunter,
endeavoring to appear calm, in order that he might not needlessly
alarm the females, "and what he advises, we had better do. I know
there is danger, by what has fallen from Pigeonswing as well as from
himself; so let us lose no time, but stow the canoes, and do as he
As Gershom assented, it was not two minutes ere all were at work.
For several days, each canoe had been furnished with provisions for
a hasty flight. It remained only to add such of the effects as were
too valuable and necessary to be abandoned, and which had not been
previously exposed without the palisades. For half an hour le
Bourdon and Gershom worked as for life. No questions were asked, nor
was a single moment lost, in a desire to learn more. The manner in
which Peter bore himself satisfied Boden that the emergency was
pressing, and it is seldom that more was done by so few hands in so
short a period. Fortunately, the previous preparation greatly aided
the present object, and nearly everything of any value was placed in
the canoes within the brief space mentioned. It then became
necessary to decide concerning the condition in which Castle Meal
was to be left. Peter advised closing every aperture, shutting the
gate, and leaving the dog within. There is no doubt that these
expedients prevented the parties falling early into the hands of
their enemies; for the time lost by the savages in making their
approaches to the hut was very precious to the fugitives.
Just as the canoes were loaded, Pigeonswing came in. He announced
that the whole band was in motion, and might be expected to reach
the grove in ten minutes. Placing an arm around the slender waist of
Margery, le Bourdon almost carried her to his own canoe, Gershom
soon had Dorothy in his little bark, while Peter entered that to the
ownership of which he may be said to have justly succeeded by the
deaths of the corporal and the missionary. Pigeonswing remained
behind, in order to act as a scout, having first communicated to
Peter the course the last ought to steer. Before the Chippewa
plunged into the cover in which it was his intention to conceal
himself, he made a sign that the band was already in sight
The heart of le Bourdon sunk within him, when he learned how near
were the enemy. To him, escape seemed impossible; and he now
regretted having abandoned the defences of his late residence. The
river was sluggish for more than a mile at that spot, and then
occurred a rift, which could not be passed without partly unloading
the canoes, and where there must necessarily be a detention of more
than an hour. Thus, it was scarcely possible for canoes descending
that stream to escape from so large a band of pursuers. The
sinuosities, themselves, would enable the last to gain fifty points
ahead of them, where ambushes, or even open resistance, must place
them altogether at the mercy of the savages.
Peter knew all this, as well as the bee-hunter, and he had no
intention of trusting his new friends in a flight down the river.
Pigeonswing, with the sententious brevity of an Indian, had made an
important communication to him, while they were moving, for the last
time, toward the canoes, and he now determined to profit by it.
Taking the lead, therefore, with his own canoe, Peter paddled UP,
instead of DOWN the stream, going in a direction opposite to that
which it would naturally be supposed the fugitives had taken. In
doing this, also, he kept close under the bank which would most
conceal the canoes from those who approached it on its southern
It will be remembered that the trees for the palisades had been cut
from a swamp, a short distance above the bee-hunter's residence.
They had grown on the margin of the river, which had been found
serviceable in floating the logs to their point of destination. The
tops of many of these trees, resinuous, and suited by their nature
to preserve their leaves for a considerable time, lay partly in the
stream and partly on its banks; and Pigeonswing, foreseeing the
necessity of having a place of refuge, had made so artful a
disposition of several of them, that, while they preserved all the
appearance of still lying where they had fallen, it was possible to
haul canoes up beneath them, between the branches and the bank, in a
way to form a place of perfect concealment. No Indian would have
trusted to such a hiding-place, had it not been matter of notoriety
that the trees had been felled for a particular purpose, or had
their accidental disposition along the bank been discernibly
deranged. But such was not the case, the hand of Pigeonswing having
been so skilfully employed that what he had done could not be
detected. He might be said to have assisted nature, instead of
The canoes were actually paddling close under the bank, in the
Castle Meal reach of the river, when the band arrived at the grove,
and commenced what might be called the investment of the place. Had
not all the attention of the savages been drawn toward the hut, it
is probable that some wandering eye might have caught a glimpse of
some one of them, as inequalities in the bank momentarily exposed
each, in succession, to view. This danger, however, passed away, and
by turning a point, the fugitives were effectually concealed from
all who did not actually approach the river at that particular
point. Here it was, however, that the swamp commenced, and the
ground being wet and difficult, no one would be likely to do this.
The stream flowed through this swamp, having a dense wood on each
side, though one of no great extent. The reach, moreover, was short,
making a completely sheltered haven of the Kalamazoo, within its
Once in this wooded reach, Peter tossed an arm, and assumed an air
of greater security. He felt infinitely relieved, and knew that they
were safe, for a time, unless some wanderer should have taken to the
swamp--a most improbable thing of itself. When high enough, he led
the way across the stream, and entering below, he soon had all the
canoes in their place of concealment.
"Dis good place," observed the great chief, as soon as all were
fast; "bess take care, dough. Bess not make track too much on land;
Injin got sharp eye, and see ebbery t'ing. Now, I go and talk wid
chief. Come back by-'em-by. You stay here. Good-bye."
"Stop, Peter--one word before we part. If you see Parson Amen, or
the corporal, it might be well to tell THEM where we are to be
found. They would be glad to know."
Peter looked grave; even sad. He did not answer for fully a minute.
When he did, it was in a low, suppressed voice, such as one is apt
to use when there is a weight felt on his mind.
"Nebber know any t'ing ag'in," returned the chief. "Both dem pale-
"Dead!" echoed all within hearing.
"Juss so; Injin kill him. Mean to kill you, too--dat why I run away.
Saw medicine-priest die. What you t'ink, Blossom?--What you t'ink,
Bourdon?--Dat man die asking Great Spirit to do good to Injin!"
"I can believe it, Peter, for he was a good man, and such are our
Christian laws, though few of us obey them. I can easily believe
that Parson Amen was an exception, however."
"Yes, Peter, such are our Christian laws," put in Margery,
earnestly. "When Christ, the Son of God, came on earth to redeem
lost men, he commanded his followers to do good to them that did
evil to us, and to pray for them that tried to harm us. We have his
very words, written in our bibles."
"You got him?" said Peter, with interest. "See you read him, of'en.
Got dat book here?"
"To be sure I have--it is the last thing I should have forgotten.
Dolly has one, and I have another; we read in them every day, and we
hope that, before long, brother and Bourdon will read in them, too."
"Why, I'm no great scholar, Margery," returned her husband,
scratching his full, curling head of hair, out of pure awkwardness;
"to please YOU, however, I'd undertake even a harder job. It was so
with the bees, when I began; I thought I should never succeed in
lining the first bee to his hive; but, since that time, I think I've
lined a thousand!"
"It's easy, it's easy, dear Benjamin, if you will only make a
beginning," returned the much interested young wife. "When we get to
a place of safety, if it be God's will that we ever shall, I hope to
have you join me in reading the good book, daily. See, Peter, I keep
it in this little bag, where it is safe, and always at hand."
"You read dem word for me, Blossom: I want to hear him, out of dis
Margery did as he desired. She was very familiar with the New
Testament, and, turning to the well-known and God-like passage, she
read several verses, in a steady, earnest voice. Perhaps the danger
they were in, and the recent communication of the death of their
late companions, increased her earnestness and solemnity of manner,
for the effect produced on Peter was scarcely less than that he had
felt when he witnessed a practical obedience to these sublime
principles, in the death of the missionary. Tears actually started
to this stern savage's eyes, and he looked back on his late projects
and endeavors to immolate a whole race with a shudder. Taking
Margery's hand, he courteously thanked her, and prepared to quit the
place. Previously to leaving his friends, however, Peter gave a
brief account of the manner of the missionary's death, and of the
state in which he had left the corporal. Pigeonswing had told him of
the fate of the last, as well as of the eagerness with which the
band had set out in quest of more white scalps.
"Peter, we can count on you for a friend, I hope?" said the bee-
hunter, as the two were about to part, on the bank of the river. "I
fear you were, once, our enemy!"
"Bourdon," said Peter, with dignity, and speaking in the language of
his own people, "listen. There are Good Spirits, and there are Bad
Spirits. Our traditions tell us this. Our own minds tell us this,
too. For twenty winters a Bad Spirit has been whispering in my ear.
I listened to him; and did what he told me to do. I believed what he
said. His words were--'Kill your enemies--scalp all the pale-faces--
do not leave a squaw, or a pappoose. Make all their hearts heavy.
This is what an Injin should do.' So has the Bad Spirit been
whispering to me, for twenty winters. I listened to him. What he
said, I did. It was pleasant to me to take the scalps of the pale-
faces. It was pleasant to think that no more scalps would be left
among them, to take. I was Scalping Peter.
"Bourdon, the Good Spirit has, at last, made himself heard. His
whisper is so low, that at first my ears did not hear him. They hear
him now. When he spoke loudest, it was with the tongue of the
medicine-priest of your people. He was about to die. When we are
about to die, our voices become strong and clear. So do our eyes. We
see what is before, and we see what is behind. We feel joy for what
is before--we feel sorrow for what is behind. Your medicine-priest
spoke well. It sounded in my ears as if the Great Spirit, himself,
was talking. They say it was his Son. I believe them. Blossom has
read to me out of the good book of your people, and I find it is so.
I feel like a child, and could sit down, in my wigwam, and weep.
"Bourdon, you are a pale-face, and I am an Injin. You are strong,
and I am weak. This is because the Son of the Great Spirit has
talked with your people, and has not talked with mine. I now see why
the pale-faces overrun the earth and take the hunting-grounds. They
know most, and have been told to come here, and to tell what they
know to the poor ignorant Injins. I hope my people will listen. What
the Son of the Great Spirit says must be true. He does not know how
to do wrong.
"Bourdon, once it seemed sweet to me to take the scalps of my
enemies. When an Injin did me harm, I took his scalp. This was my
way. I could not help it, then. The Wicked Spirit told me to do
this. The Son of the Manitou has now told me better. I have lived
under a cloud. The breath of the dying medicine-priest of your
people has blown away that cloud. I see clearer. I hear him telling
the Manitou to do me good, though I wanted his scalp. He was
answered in my heart. Then my ears opened wider, and I heard what
the Good Spirit whispered. The ear in which the Bad Spirit had been
talking for twenty winters shut, and was deaf. I hear him no more. I
do not want to hear him again. The whisper of the Son of the Manitou
is very pleasant to me. It sounds like the wren singing his sweetest
song. I hope he will always whisper so. My ear shall never again be
shut to his words.
"Bourdon, it is pleasant to me to look forward. It is not pleasant
to me to look back. I see how many things I have done in one way,
that ought to have been done in another way. I feel sorry, and wish
it had not been so. Then I hear the Son of the Manitou asking His
Father, who liveth above the clouds, to do good to the Jews who took
his life. I do not think Injins are Jews. In this, my brother was
wrong. It was his own notion, and it is easy for a man to think
wrong. It is not so with the Son of the Manitou. He thinketh always
as His Father thinketh, which is right.
"Bourdon, I am no longer Peter--I must be another Injin. I do not
feel the same. A scalp is a terrible thing in my eyes--I wish never
to take another--never to see another--a scalp is a bad thing. I now
LOVE the Yankees. I wish to do them good, and not to do them harm. I
love most the Great Spirit, that let his own Son die for all men.
The medicine-priest said he died for Injins, as well as for pale-
faces. This we did not know, or we should have talked of him more in
our traditions. We love to talk of good acts. But we are such
ignorant Injins! The Son of the Manitou will have pity on us, and
tell us oftener what we ought to do. In time, we shall learn. Now, I
feel like a child: I hope I shall one day be a man."
Having made this "confession of faith," one that would have done
credit to a Christian church, Peter shook the bee-hunter kindly by
the hand, and took his departure. He did not walk into the swamp,
though it was practicable with sufficient care, but he stepped into
the river, and followed its margin, knowing that "water leaves no
trail." Nor did Peter follow the direct route toward the now blazing
hut, the smoke from which was rising high above the trees, but he
ascended the stream, until reaching a favorable spot, he threw aside
all of his light dress, made it into a bundle, and swam across the
Kalamazoo, holding his clothes above the element with one hand. On
reaching the opposite shore, he moved on to the upper margin of the
swamp, where he resumed his clothes. Then he issued into the
Openings, carrying neither rifle, bow, tomahawk, nor knife. All his
weapons he had left in his canoe, fearful that they might tempt him
to do evil, instead of good, to his enemies. Neither Bear's Meat,
nor Bough of the Oak, was yet regarded by Peter with the eye of
love. He tried not to hate them, and this he found sufficiently
difficult; conscious of this difficulty, he had laid aside his arms,
accordingly. This mighty change had been gradually in progress, ever
since the chief's close communication with Margery, but it had
received its consummation in the last acts, and last words, of the
Having got out into the Openings, it was not difficult for Peter to
join his late companions without attracting observation from whence
he came. He kept as much under cover as was convenient, and reached
the kitchen, just as the band broke into the defences, and burst
open the door of the blazing and already roofless hut. Here Peter
paused, unwilling to seem inactive in such a scene, yet averse to
doing anything that a sensitively tender conscience might tell him
was wrong. He knew there was no human being there to save, and cared
little for the few effects that might be destroyed. He did not join
the crowd, therefore, until it was ascertained that the bee-hunter
and his companions had escaped.
"The pale-faces have fled," said Bear's Meat to the great chief,
when the last did approach him. "We have looked for their bones
among the ashes, but there are none. That medicine-bee-hunter has
told them that their scalps were wanted, and they have gone off!"
"Have any of the young men been down to the river, to look for their
canoes?" quietly demanded Peter. "If the canoes are gone, too, they
have taken the route toward the Great Lake."
This was so obvious and probable, that a search was immediately set
on foot. The report was soon made, and great was the eagerness to
pursue. The Kalamazoo was so crooked, that no one there doubted of
overtaking the fugitives, and parties were immediately organized for
the chase. This was done with the customary intelligence and
shrewdness of Indians. The canoes that belonged to Crowsfeather and
his band had been brought up the river, and they lay concealed in
rushes, not a mile from the hut. A party of warriors brought them to
the landing, and they carried one division of the party to the
opposite shore, it being the plan to follow each bank of the river,
keeping close to the stream, even to its mouth, should it prove
necessary. Two other parties were sent in direct lines, one on each
side of the river, also, to lay in ambush at such distant points,
ahead, as would be almost certain to anticipate the arrival of the
fugitives. The canoes were sent down the stream, to close the net
against return, while Bear's Meat, Bough of the Oak, Crowsfeather,
and several others of the leading chiefs, remained near the still
burning hut, with a strong party, to examine the surrounding
Openings for foot-prints and trails. It was possible that the canoes
had been sent adrift, in order to mislead them, while the pale-faces
had fled by land.
It has been stated that the Openings had a beautiful sward, near
Castle Meal, This was true of that particular spot, and was the
reason why le Bourdon had selected it for his principal place of
residence. The abundance of flowers drew the bees there, a reason of
itself why he should like the vicinity. Lest the reader should be
misled, however, it may be well to explain that an absence of sward
is characteristic of these Openings, rather than the reverse, it
being, to a certain degree, a cause of complaint, now that the
country is settled, that the lands of the Oak Openings are apt to be
so light that the grasses do not readily form as firm a turf as is
desirable for meadows and pastures. We apprehend this is true,
however, less as a rule than as exceptions; there being variety in
the soils of these Openings, as well as in other quarters.
Nevertheless, the savages were aware that the country around the
burned hut, for a considerable extent, differed, in this particular,
from most of that which lay farther east, or more inland. On the
last a trail would be much more easily detected than on the first,
and a party, under the direction of a particularly experienced
leader, was dispatched several miles to the eastward, to look for
the usual signs of the passage of any toward Detroit, taking that
route. This last expedient troubled Peter exceedingly, since it
placed a body of enemies in the rear of the fugitives; thereby
rendering their position doubly perilous. There was no help for the
difficulty, however; and the great chief saw the party depart
without venturing on remonstrance, advice, or any other expedient to
arrest the movement. Bear's Meat now called the head chiefs, who
remained, into a circle, and asked for opinions concerning the
course that ought next to be taken.
"What does my brother, the tribeless chief, say?" he asked, looking
at Peter, in a way to denote the expectation which all felt, that he
ought to be able to give useful counsel in such a strait. "We have
got but two scalps from six heads; and one of THEM is buried with
"Scalps cannot be taken from them that get off," returned Peter,
evasively. "We must first catch these pale-faces. When they are
found it will be easy to scalp them. If the canoes are gone, I think
the medicine-bee-hunter and his squaws have gone in them. We may
find the whole down the river."
To this opinion most of the chiefs assented, though the course of
examining for a trail farther east was still approved. The band was
so strong, while the pale-faces were so few, that a distribution of
their own force was of no consequence, and it was clearly the most
prudent to send out young men in all directions. Every one, however,
expected that the fugitives would be overtaken on, or near, the
river, and Bear's Meat suggested the propriety of their moving down
stream, themselves, very shortly.
"When did my brother last see the pale-faces?" asked Crowsfeather.
"This bee-hunter knows the river well, and may have started
yesterday; or even after he came from the Great Council of the
This was a new idea, but one that seemed probable enough. All eyes
turned toward Peter, who saw, at once, that such a notion must
greatly favor the security of the fugitives, and felt a strong
desire to encourage it. He found evasion difficult, however, and
well knew the danger of committing himself. Instead of giving a
straightforward answer, therefore, he had recourse to circumlocution
"My brother is right," he answered. "The pale-faces HAVE had time to
get far down the stream. As my brothers know, I slept among them at
the Round Prairie. To-day, they know I was with them at the council
of the spring of gushing waters."
All this was true, as far as it went, although the omissions were
very material. No one seemed to suspect the great chief, whose
fidelity to his own principles was believed to be of a character
amounting to enthusiasm. Little did any there know of the power of
the unseen Spirit of God to alter the heart, producing what
religionists term the new birth. We do not wish, however, to be
understood that Peter had, as yet, fully experienced this vast
change. It is not often the work of a moment, though well-
authenticated modern instances do exist, in which we have every
reason to believe that men have been made to see and feel the truth
almost as miraculously as was St. Paul himself. As for this
extraordinary savage, he had entered into the strait and narrow way,
though he was not far advanced on its difficult path.
When men tell us of the great progress that the race is making
toward perfection, and point to the acts which denote its wisdom,
its power to control its own affairs, its tendencies toward good
when most left to its own self-control, our minds are filled with
scepticism. The every-day experience of a life now fast verging
toward threescore, contradicts the theory and the facts. We believe
not in the possibility of man's becoming even a strictly rational
being, unaided by a power from on high; and all that we have seen
and read goes to convince us that HE is most of a philosopher, the
most accurate judge of his real state, the most truly learned, who
most vividly sees the necessity of falling back on the precepts of
revelation for all his higher principles and practice. We conceive
that this mighty truth furnishes unanswerable proof of the unceasing
agency of a Providence, and when we once admit this, we concede that
our own powers are insufficient for our own wants.
That the world, as a whole, is advancing toward a better state of
things, we as firmly believe as we do that it is by ways that have
not been foreseen by man; and that, whenever the last has been made
the agent of producing portions of this improvement, it has oftener
been without design, or calculation, than with it. Who, for
instance, supposes that the institutions of this country, of which
we boast so much, could have stood as long as they have, without the
conservative principles that are to be found in the Union; and who
is there so vain as to ascribe the overshadowing influence of this
last great power to any wisdom in man? We all know that perfectly
fortuitous circumstances, or what appear to us to be such, produced
the Federal Government, and that its strongest and least
exceptionable features are precisely those which could not be
withstood, much less invented, as parts of the theory of a polity.
A great and spasmodic political movement is, at this moment,
convulsing Christendom. That good will come of it, we think is
beyond a question; but we greatly doubt whether it will come in the
particular form, or by the specified agencies, that human
calculations would lead us to expect. It must be admitted that the
previous preparations, which have induced the present effort, are
rather in opposition to, than the consequences of, calculated
agencies; overturning in their progress the very safeguards which
the sagacity of men had interposed to the advance of those very
opinions that have been silently, and by means that would perhaps
baffle inquiry, preparing the way for the results that have been so
suddenly and unexpectedly obtained. If the course is onward, it is
more as the will of God, than from any calculations of man; and it
is when the last are the most active, that there is the greatest
reason to apprehend the consequences.
Of such a dispensation of the Providence of Almighty God, do we
believe Peter to have been the subject. Among the thousand ways that
are employed to touch the heart, he had been most affected by the
sight of a dying man's asking benedictions on his enemies! It was
assailing his besetting sin; attacking the very citadel of his
savage character, and throwing open, at once, an approach into the
deepest recesses of his habits and dispositions. It was like placing
a master-key in the hands of him who would go through the whole
tenement, for the purpose of purifying it.
Thou to whom every faun and satyr flies
For willing service; whether to surprise
The squatted hare, while in half sleeping fits,
Or upward ragged precipices flit
To save poor lambkins from the eagle's maw;
Or by mysterious enticement draw
Bewildered shepherds to their path again;--
It can easily be understood that the party with the canoes were left
by Peter in a state of great anxiety. The distance between the site
of the hut and their place of concealment was but little more than a
quarter of a mile, and the yell of the savages had often reached
their ears, notwithstanding the cover of the woods. This proximity,
of itself, was fearful; but the uncertainty that le Bourdon felt on
the subject of Peter's real intentions added greatly to his causes
of concern. Of course, he knew but little of the sudden change that
had come over this mysterious chief's feelings; nor is it very
likely that he would have been able to appreciate it, even had the
fact been more fully stated. Our hero had very little acquaintance
with the dogmas of Christianity, and would have, most probably,
deemed it impossible that so great a revolution of purpose could
have been so suddenly wrought in the mind of man, had the true state
of the case been communicated to him. He would have been ready
enough to allow that, with God, nothing is impossible; but might
have been disposed to deny the influence of His Holy Spirit, as
exhibited in this particular form, for a reason no better than the
circumstance that he himself had never been the subject of such a
power. All that Peter had said, therefore, served rather to mystify
him, than to explain, in its true colors, what had actually
occurred. With Margery it was different. Her schooling had been far
better than that of any other of the party, and, while she admired
the manly appearance, and loved the free, generous character of her
husband, she had more than once felt pained at the passing thoughts
of his great indifference to sacred things. This feeling in le
Bourdon, however, was passive rather than active, and gave her a
kind interest in his future welfare, rather than any present pain
through acts and words.
But, as respects their confidence in Peter, this young couple were
much farther apart than in their religious notions. The bee-hunter
had never been without distrust, though his apprehensions had been
occasionally so far quieted as to leave him nearly free of them
altogether; while his wife had felt the utmost confidence in the
chief, from the very commencement of their acquaintance. It would be
useless, perhaps, to attempt to speculate on the causes; but it is
certain that there are secret sources of sympathy that draw
particular individuals toward each other and antipathies that keep
them widely separated. Men shall meet for the first time, and feel
themselves attracted toward each other, like two drops of water, or
repelled, like the corks of an electric machine.
The former had been the case with Peter and Margery. They liked each
other from the first, and kind orifices had soon come to increase
this feeling. The girl had now seen so much of the Indians, as to
regard them much as she did others, or with the discriminations, and
tastes, or distastes, with which we all regard our fellow-creatures;
feeling no particular cause of estrangement. It is true that Margery
would not have been very likely to fall in love with a young Indian,
had one come in her way of a suitable age and character; for her
American notions on the subject of color might have interposed
difficulties; but, apart from the tender sentiments, she could see
good and bad qualities in one of the aborigines, as well as in a
white man. As a consequence of this sympathy between Peter and
Margery, the last had ever felt the utmost confidence in the
protection and friendship of the first. This she did, even while the
struggle was going on in his breast on the subject of including her
in his fell designs, or of making an exception in her favor. It
shows the waywardness of our feelings that Margery had never reposed
confidence in Pigeonswing, who was devotedly the friend of le
Bourdon, and who remained with them for no other reason than a
general wish to be of use. Something BRUSQUE in his manner, which
was much less courteous and polished than that of Peter, had early
rendered her dissatisfied with him, and once estranged, she had
never felt disposed to be on terms of intimacy sufficient to
ascertain his good or bad qualities.
The great change of feeling in Peter was not very clearly understood
by Margery, any more than it was by her husband; though, had her
attention been drawn more strictly to it, she would have best known
how to appreciate it. But this knowledge was not wanting to put HER
perfectly at peace, so far as apprehension of his doing her harm was
concerned. This sense of security she now manifested in a
conversation with le Bourdon, that took place soon after Peter had
"I wish we weren't in the hands of this red-skin, Margery," said her
husband, a little more off his guard than was his wont.
"Of Peter! You surprise me, Benjamin. I think we could not be in
better hands, since we have got this risk to run with the savages.
If it was Pigeonswing that you feared, I could understand it."
"I will answer for Pigeonswing with my life."
"I am glad to hear you say so, for _I_ do not half like HIM. Perhaps
I am prejudiced against him. The scalp he took down at the mouth of
the river set me against him from the first."
"Do you not know, Margery, that your great friend goes by the name
of 'Scalping Peter'?"
"Yes, I know it very well; but I do not believe he ever took a scalp
in his life."
"Did he ever tell you as much as that?"
"I can't say that he did; but he has never paraded anything of the
sort before my eyes, like Pigeonswing. I do not half like that
Chippewa, dear Bourdon."
"No fear of him, Margery; nor, when I come to think it all over, do
I see why Peter should have brought us here, if he means anything
wrong. The man is so mysterious, that I cannot line him down to his
"My word for it, Bourdon, that when you DO, it will take you to a
friendly hive. I have put almost as much faith in Peter as in you or
Gershom. You heard what he said about Parson Amen and the corporal."
"And how coolly he took it all," answered her husband, shaking his
head. "It has been a sudden departure for them, and one would think
even an Injin might have felt it more."
Margery's cheek grew pale, and her limbs trembled a little. It was a
minute ere she could pursue the discourse.
"This is terrible, but I will not, cannot believe it," she said.
"I'm sure, Bourdon, we ought to be very thankful to Peter for having
brought us here. Remember how earnestly he listened to the words of
"If he has brought us here with a good intention, I thank him for
it. But I scarce know what to think. Pigeonswing has given me many a
hint, which I have understood to mean that we ought not to trust
this unknown Injin too much."
"So has he given me some of his hints, though I would sooner trust
Peter than trust him, any time."
"Our lives are in the care of Providence, I see. If we can really
rely on these two Injins, all may be well; for Peter has brought us
to an admirable cover, and he says that the Chippewa prepared it."
The young husband and his wife now landed, and began to examine more
particularly into the state of the swamp, near their place of
concealment. Just at that spot, the bank of the river was higher
than in most of the low land, and was dry, with a soil that
approached sand. This was the place where the few young pines had
grown. The dry ground might have covered four or five acres, and so
many trees having been felled, light and air were admitted, in a way
to render the place comparatively cheerful. The branches of the
felled trees made a sufficient cover in all directions, though the
swamp itself was more than that, almost a defence, toward the
Openings. The bee-hunter found it was possible, though it was
exceedingly difficult, to make his way through it. He ascertained
the fact, however, since it might be important to their future
movements to know it.
In a word, le Bourdon made a complete RECONNAISSANCE of his
position. He cleared a spot for the females, and made a sort of hut,
that would serve as a protection against rain, and in which they all
might sleep at night. There was little doubt that this place must be
occupied for some days, if Peter was acting in good faith, since an
early movement would infallibly lead to detection. Time must be
given to the Indians to precede them, or the great numbers of the
savages would scarce leave a hope of escape. A greater sense of
security succeeded this examination, and these arrangements. The
danger was almost entirely to be apprehended on the side of the
river. A canoe passing up-stream might, indeed, discover their place
of concealment, but it was scarcely to be apprehended that one would
wade through the mud and water of the swamp to approach them in any
Under these circumstances, le Bourdon began to feel more security in
their position. Could he now be certain of Peter, his mind would be
comparatively at ease, and he might turn his attention altogether to
making the party comfortable. Margery, who seldom quitted his side,
reasoned with him on the subject of the mysterious chief's good
faith, and by means of her own deep reliance on him, she came at
last to the point of instilling some of her own confidence into the
mind of her husband. From that time he worked at the shelter for the
females, and the other little arrangements their situation rendered
necessary, with greater zest, and with far more attention to the
details. So long as we are in doubt of accomplishing good, we
hesitate about employing our energies; but once let hope revive
within us, in the shape of favorable results, and we become new men,
bracing every nerve to the task, and working with redoubled spirit;
even should it be at the pump of the sinking ship, which, we
believe, ranks the highest among the toils that are inflicted on the
For three days and nights did le Bourdon and his friends remain on
that dry land of the swamp, without hearing or seeing anything of
either Peter or Pigeonswing. The time was growing long, and the
party anxious; though the sense of security was much increased by
this apparent exemption from danger. Still, uncertainty, and the
wish to ascertain the precise state of things in the Openings, were
gradually getting to be painful, and it was with great satisfaction
that the bee-hunter met his young wife as she came running toward
him, on the morning of the fourth day, to announce that an Indian
was approaching, by wading in the margin of the river, keeping
always in the water so as to leave no trail. Hurrying to a point
whence their visitor might be seen, le Bourdon soon perceived it was
no other than Pigeonswing. In a few minutes this Indian arrived, and
was gladly received by all four of the fugitives, who gathered
around him, eager to hear the news.
"You are welcome, Chippewa," cried le Bourdon, shaking his friend
cordially by the hand. "We were half afraid we might never see you
again. Do you bring us good or evil tidings?"
"Mustn't be squaw, and ask too much question, Bourdon," returned the
red-skin, carefully examining the priming of his rifle, in order to
make sure it was not wet. "Got plenty venison, eh?"
"Not much venison is left, but we have caught a good many fish,
which have helped us along. I have killed a dozen large squirrels,
too, with your bow and arrows, which I find you left in your canoe.
"Yes, he good bow, dat--might kill hummin'-bird wid dat bow. Fish
good here, eh?" "They are eatable, when a body can get no better.
But NOW, I should think, Pigeonswing, you might give us some of the
"Mustn't be squaw, Bourdon--bad for warrior be squaw. Alway bess be
man, and be patient, like man. What you t'ink, Bourdon? Got him at
"Got WHAT my good fellow? I see nothing about you, but your arms and
"Got scalp of dat Weasel! Wasn't dat well done? Nebber no young
warrior take more scalp home dan Pigeonswing carry dis time! Got
t'ree; all hid, where Bear's Meat nebber know. Take 'em away, when
he get ready to march."
"Well, well, Chippewa--I suppose it will not be easy to reason you
out of this feelin'--but what has become of the red-skins who burned
my cabin, and who killed the missionary and the corporal?"
"All about--dough must go down river. Look here, Bourdon, some of
dem chief fool enough to t'ink bee carry you off on his wing!"
Here the Chippewa looked his contempt for the credulity and
ignorance of the others, though he did not express it after the
boisterous manner in which a white man of his class might have
indulged. To him le Bourdon was a good fellow, but no conjuror, and
he understood the taking of the bee too well to have any doubts as
to the character of that process. His friend had let him amuse
himself by the hour in looking through his spy-glass, so that the
mind of this one savage was particularly well fortified against the
inroads of the weaknesses that had invaded those of most of the
members of the great council. Consequently, he was amused with the
notion taken up by some of the others, that le Bourdon had been
carried off by bees, though he manifested his amusement in a very
"So much the better," answered le Bourdon; "and I hope they have
followed to line me down to my hive in the settlements."
"Most on 'em go--yes, dat true. But some don't go. Plenty of Injins
still about dis part of Opening."
"What are we then to do? We shall soon be in want of food. The fish
do not bite as they did, and I have killed all the squirrels I can
find. You know I dare not use a rifle."
"Don't be squaw, Bourdon. When Injin get marry he grows good deal
like squaw at fuss; but dat soon go away. I spose it's just so wid
pale-face. Mustn't be squaw, Bourdon. Dat bad for warrior. What you
do for eat? Why, see dere," pointing to an object that was floating
slowly down the river, the current of which was very sluggish just
in that reach. "Dere as fat buck as ever did see, eh?"
Sure enough the Indian had killed a deer, of which the Openings were
full, and having brought it to the river, he had constructed a raft
of logs, and placing the carcase on it, he had set his game adrift,
taking care to so far precede it as to be in readiness to tow it
into port. When this last operation was performed, it was found that
the Chippewa did not heedlessly vaunt the quality of his prize. What
was more, so accurately had he calculated the time, and the means of
subsistence in the possession of the fugitives, that his supply came
in just as it was most needed. In all this he manifested no more
than the care of an experienced and faithful hunter. Next to the
war-path, the hunting-ground is the great field for an Indian's
glory; deeds and facts so far eclipsing purely intellectual
qualifications with savages, as to throw oratory, though much
esteemed by them, and wisdom at the Council Fires, quite into the
shade. In all this, we find the same propensity among ourselves. The
common mind, ever subject to these impulses, looks rather to such
exploits as address themselves to the senses and the imagination,
than to those qualities which the reason alone can best appreciate;
and in this, ignorance asserts its negative power over all
conditions of life.
Pigeonswing now condescended to enter on such explanations as the
state of the case rendered necessary. His account was sufficiently
clear, and it manifested throughout the sagacity and shrewdness of a
practised hunter and scout. We shall not attempt to give his words,
which would require too much space, but the substance of his story
was briefly this:
As has been alluded to already, the principal chiefs, on a
suggestion of Bear's Meat, had followed the young men down the
Kalamazoo, dividing themselves by a part of their body's crossing
the stream at the first favorable spot. In this way the Indians
proceeded, sweeping the river before them, and examining every place
that seemed capable of concealing a canoe. Runners were kept in
constant motion between the several parties, in order to let the
state of the search be known to all; and, feigning to be one of
these very men, Pigeonswing had held communication with several whom
he purposely met, and to whom he imparted such invented information
as contributed essentially to send the young men forward on a false
scent. In this way, the main body of the savages descended the river
some sixty miles, following its windings, in the first day and a
half. Here Pigeonswing left them, turning his own face up stream, in
order to rejoin his friends. Of Peter he had no knowledge; neither
knowing, nor otherwise learning, what had become of the great chief.
On his way up stream, Pigeonswing met several more Indians; runners
like himself, or as he seemed to be; or scouts kept on the lookout
for the fugitives. He had no difficulty in deceiving these men. None
of them had been of Crowsfeather's party, and he was a stranger to
them all. Ignorant of his real character, they received his
information without distrust, and the orders he pretended to convey
were obeyed by them without the smallest hesitation. In this way,
then, Pigeonswing contrived to send all the scouts he met away from
the river, by telling them that there was reason to think the pale-
faces had abandoned the stream, and that it was the wish of Bear's
Meat that their trail should be looked for in the interior. This was
the false direction that he gave to all, thereby succeeding better
even than he had hoped in clearing the banks of the Kalamazoo of
observers and foes. Nevertheless, many of those whom he knew to be
out, some quite in the rear of the party, and others in its front,
and at no great distance from them, he did not meet; of course he
could not get his false directions to their ears. There were, in
fact, so many of the Indians and so few of the whites, that it was
an easy matter to cover the path with young warriors, any one party
of whom would be strong enough to capture two men and as many women.
Having told the tale of his own doings, Pigeonswing next came to his
proposition for the mode of future proceeding. He proposed that the
family should get into the canoes that very night, and commence its
flight by going down the stream directly toward its foes! This
sounded strangely, but there did not seem to be any alternative. A
march across the peninsula would be too much for the females, and
there was the certainty that their trail would be found. It may seem
strange to those who are unacquainted with the American Indian, and
his habits, to imagine that, in so large an expanse, the signs of
the passage of so small a party might not escape detection; but such
was the case. To one unaccustomed to the vigilance and intelligence
of these savages, it must appear just as probable that the vessel
could be followed through the wastes of the ocean, by means of its
wake, as that the footprints should be so indelible as to furnish
signs that can be traced for days. Such, however, is the fact, and
no one understood it better than the Chippewa. He was also aware
that the country toward Ohio, whither the fugitives would naturally
direct their course, now that the English were in possession of
Detroit, must soon be a sort of battle-ground, to which most of the
warriors of that region would eagerly repair. Under all the
circumstances, therefore, he advised the flight by means of the
river. Le Bourdon reasoned on all he heard, and, still entertaining
some of his latent distrust of Peter, and willing to get beyond his
reach, he soon acquiesced in the proposition, and came fully into
It was now necessary to reload the canoes. This was done in the
course of the day, and every arrangement was made, so as to be ready
for a start as soon as the darkness set in. Everybody was glad to
move, though all were aware of the extent of the hazard they ran.
The females, in particular, felt their hearts beat, as each, in her
husband's canoe, issued out of the cover into the open river.
Pigeonswing took the lead, paddling with a slow, but steady sweep of
his arm, and keeping as close as was convenient to one bank. By
adopting this precaution, he effectually concealed the canoes from
the eyes of all on that side of the river, unless they stood
directly on its margin, and had the aid of the shadows to help
conceal them from any who might happen to be on the other. In this
way, then, the party proceeded, passing the site of the hut, and the
grove of Openings around it, undetected. As the river necessarily
flowed through the lowest land, its banks were wooded much of the
way, which afforded great protection to the fugitives; and this so
much the more because these woods often grew in swamps where the
scouts would not be likely to resort.
About midnight the canoes reached the first rift. An hour was lost
in unloading and in reloading the canoes, and in passing the
difficulties at that point. As soon as this was done, the party re-
embarked, and resorted once more to the use of the paddle, in order
to gain a particular sheltered reach of the river previously to the
return of light. This was effected successfully, and the party
It now appeared that Pigeonswing had chosen another swamp as a place
of concealment for the fugitives to use during the day. These
swamps, through which the river wound its way in short reaches, were
admirably adapted to such purposes. Dark, sombre, and hardly
penetrable on the side of the land, they were little likely to be
entered after a first examination. Nor was it at all probable that
females, in particular, would seek a refuge in such a place. But the
Chippewa had found the means to obviate the natural obstacles of the
low land. There were several spots where the water from the river
set back into the swamp, forming so many little creeks; and into the
largest of one of these he pushed his canoe, the others following
where he led. By resorting to such means, the shelter now obtained
was more complete, perhaps, than that previously left
Pigeonswing forced his light boat up the shallow inlet, until he
reached a bit of dry land, where he brought up, announcing THAT as
the abiding-place during the day. Glad enough was every one to get
on shore, in a spot that promised security, after eight hours of
unremitting paddling and of painful excitement. Notwithstanding the
rifts and carrying-places they had met, and been obliged to
overcome, le Bourdon calculated that they had made as many as thirty
miles in the course of that one night. This was a great movement,
and to all appearances it had been made without detection. As for
the Chippewa, he was quite content, and no sooner was his canoe
secured, than he lighted his pipe and sat down to his enjoyment with
an air of composure and satisfaction.
"And here, you think, Pigeonswing, that we shall be safe during the
day?" demanded le Bourdon, approaching the fallen tree on which the
Indian had taken his seat.
"Sartain--no Pottawattamie come here. Too wet. Don't like wet. An't
duck, or goose--like dry land, juss like squaw. Dis good 'baccy,
Bourdon--hope you got more for friend."
"I have enough for us all, Pigeonswing, and you shall have a full
share. Now, tell me; what will be your next move, and where do you
intend to pass the morrow?"
"Juss like diss. Plenty of swamp, Bourdon, on Kekalamazoo.
[Footnote: This is the true Indian word, though the whites have seen
fit to omit the first syllable.] Run canoe in swamp; den safe
'nough. Injins won't look 'ere, 'cause he don't know whereabout
look. Don't like swamp. Great danger down at mouth of river."
"So it has seemed to me, Chippewa. The Injins must be there in a
strong force, and we shall find it no easy matter to get through
them. How do you propose to do it?" "Go by in night. No udder way.
When can't see, can't see. Dere plenty of rush dere; dat good t'ing,
and, p'raps, dat help us. Rush good cover for canoe. Expec', when we
get down 'ere, to get some scalp, too. Plenty of Pottawattamie about
dat lodge, sartain; and it very hard if don't get some on him scalp.
You mean stop, and dig up cache; eh, Bourdon?"
The cool, quiet manner in which Pigeonswing revealed his own plans,
and inquired into those of his friend, had, at least, the effect to
revive the confidence of le Bourdon. He could not think the danger
very great so long as one so experienced as the Chippewa felt so
much confidence in his own future proceedings; and, after talking a
short time longer with this man, the bee-hunter went to seek
Margery, in order to impart to her a due portion of his own hopes.
The sisters were preparing the breakfast. This was done without the
use of fire, it being too hazardous to permit smoke to rise above
the tops of the trees. Many is the camp that has been discovered by
the smoke, which can be seen at a great distance; and it is a
certain sign of the presence of man, when it ascends in threads, or
such small columns as denote a domestic fire beneath. This is very
different from the clouds that float above the burning prairies, and
which all, at once, impute to their true origin. The danger of using
fire had been so much guarded against by our fugitives, that the
cooking of the party had been done at night; the utmost caution
having been used to prevent the fire itself from being seen, and
care taken to extinguish it long before the return of day. A supply
of cold meat was always on hand, and had it not been, the fugitives
would have known how to live on berries, or, at need, to fast;
anything was preferable, being exposed to certain capture.
As soon as the party had broken their fast, arrangements were made
for recruiting nature by sleep. As for Pigeonswing, Indian-like, he
had eaten enormously, no reasonable quantity of venison sufficing to
appease his appetite; and when he had eaten, he lay down in the
bottom of his canoe and slept. Similar dispositions were made of
their persons by the rest, and half an hour after the meal was
ended, all there were in a profound sleep. No watch was considered
necessary, and none was kept.
The rest of the weary is sweet. Long hours passed, ere any one there
awoke; but no sooner did the Chippewa move than all the rest were
afoot. It was now late in the day, and it was time to think of
taking the meal that was to sustain them through the toil and
fatigues of another arduous night. This was done; the necessary
preparations being made for a start ere the sun had set. The canoes
were then shoved as near the mouth of the inlet as it was safe to
go, while the light remained. Here they stopped, and a consultation
took place, as to the manner of proceeding.
No sooner did the shades of evening close around the place than the
fugitives again put forth. The night was clouded and dark, and so
much of the way now lay through forests that there was little reason
to apprehend detection. The chief causes of delay were the rifts,
and the portages, as had been the case the night before. Luckily, le
Bourdon had been up and down the stream so often as to be a very
tolerable pilot in its windings. He assumed the control, and by
midnight the greatest obstacle to that evening's progress was
overcome. At the approach of day, Pigeonswing pointed out another
creek, in another swamp, where the party found a refuge for the
succeeding day. In this manner four nights were passed on the river,
and as many days in swamps, without discovery. The Chippewa had
nicely calculated his time and his distances, and not the smallest
mistake was made. Each morning a place of shelter was reached in
sufficient season; and each night the fugitives were ready for the
start as the day shut in. In this manner, most of the river was
descended, until a distance that could be easily overcome in a
couple of hours of paddling alone remained between the party and the
mouth of the stream. Extreme caution was now necessary, for signs of
Indians in the neighborhood had been detected at several points in
the course of the last night's work. On one occasion, indeed, the
escape was so narrow as to be worth recording.
It was at a spot where the stream flowed through a forest denser
than common, that Pigeonswing heard voices on the river, ahead of
him. One Indian was calling to another, asking to be set across the
stream in a canoe. It was too late to retreat, and so much
uncertainty existed as to the nearness, or distance, of the danger,
that the Chippewa deemed it safest to bring all three of his canoes
together, and to let them float past the point suspected, or rather
KNOWN, to be occupied by enemies. This was done, with the utmost
care. The plan succeeded, though not without running a very great
risk. The canoes did float past unseen, though there was a minute of
time when le Bourdon fancied by the sounds that savages were talking
to each other, within a hundred feet of his ears. Additional
security, however, was felt in consequence of the circumstance,
since the pursuers must imagine the river below them to be free from
The halt that morning was made earlier than had been the practice
previously. This was done because the remaining distance was so
small that, in continuing to advance, the party would have incurred
the risk of reaching the mouth of the river by daylight. This was to
be avoided on every account, but principally because it was of great
importance to conceal from the savages the direction taken. Were the
chiefs certain that their intended victims were on Lake Michigan, it
would be possible for them to send parties across the isthmus, that
should reach points on Lake Huron, days in advance of the arrival of
the bee-hunter and his friends in the vicinity of Saginaw, or Pointe
aux Barques, for instance, and where the canoes would be almost
certain to pass near the shore, laying their ambushes to accomplish
these ends. It was thought very material, therefore, to conceal the
movements, even after the lake might be reached, though le Bourdon
had not a doubt of his canoes much outsailing those of the savages.
The Indians are not very skilful in the use of sails, while the bee-
hunter knew how to manage a bark canoe in rough water, with unusual
skill. In the common acceptation, he was no sailor; but, in his own
peculiar craft, there was not a man living who could excel him in
dexterity or judgment.
The halting-place that morning was not in a swamp, for none offered
at a suitable distance from the mouth of the river. On the contrary,
it was in a piece of Opening, that was tolerably well garnished with
trees, however, and through which ran a small brook that poured its
tribute into the Kalamazoo. The Chippewa had taken notice of this
brook, which was large enough to receive the canoes, where they
might be concealed in the rushes. A favorable copse, surrounded with
elders, afforded a covered space on shore, and these advantages were
improved for an encampment.
Instead of seeking his rest as usual, on reaching this cover,
Pigeonswing left the party on a scout. He walked up the brook some
distance, in order to conceal his trail, and then struck across the
Opening, taking the direction westward, or toward the river's mouth.
As for le Bourdon and his friends, they ate and slept as usual,
undisturbed; but arose some hours before the close of day.
Thus far, a great work had been accomplished. The canoes had
descended the stream with a success that was only equalled by the
hardihood of the measure, conducted by an intelligence that really
seemed to amount to an instinct Pigeonswing carried a map of the
Kalamazoo in his head, and seemed never at a loss to know where to
find the particular place he sought. It is true, he had roamed
through those Openings ever since he was a child; and an Indian
seldom passes a place susceptible of being made of use to his
habits, that he does not take such heed of its peculiarities, as to
render him the master of all its facilities.
Margery was now full of hope, while the bee-hunter was filled with
apprehensions. She saw all things couleur de rose, for she was
young, happy, and innocent; but he better understood that they were
just approaching the most serious moment of their flight. He knew
the vigilance of the American savage, and could not deceive himself
on the subject of the danger they must run. The mouth of the river
was just the place that, of all others, would be the closest
watched, and to pass it would require not only all their skill and
courage, but somewhat of the fostering care of Providence. It might
be done with success, though the chances were much against
Yes! we have need to bid our hopes repose
On some protecting influence; here confined
Life hath no healing balm for mental woes;
Earth is too narrow for the immortal mind.
Our spirits burn to mingle with the day,
As exiles panting for their native coast;
Yet lured by every wild-flower from their way,
And shrinking from the gulf that must be crossed.
Death hovers round us--in the zephyr's sigh
As in the storm he comes--and lo! Eternity!
It was probably that inherent disposition to pry into unknown
things, which is said to mark her sex, and which was the weakness
assailed by the serpent when he deluded Eve into disobedience, that
now tempted Margery to go beyond the limits which Pigeonswing had
set for her, with a view to explore and ascertain what might be
found without. In doing this, however, she did not neglect a certain
degree of caution, and avoided exposing her person as much as
Margery had got to the very verge of prudence, so far as the cover
was concerned, when her steps were suddenly arrested by a most
unexpected and disagreeable sight. An Indian was seated on a rock
within twenty feet of the place where she stood. His back was toward
her, but she was certain it could not be Pigeonswing, who had gone
in a contrary direction, while the frame of this savage was much
larger and heavier than that of the Chippewa. His rifle leaned
against the rock, near his arm, and the tomahawk and knife were in
his belt; still Margery thought, so far as she could ascertain, that
he was not in his war-paint, as she knew was the fact with those
whom she had seen at Prairie Round. The attitude and whole
deportment of this stranger, too, struck her as remarkable. Although
our heroine stood watching him for several minutes, almost
breathless with terror and anxiety to learn his object, he never
stirred even a limb in all that time. There he sat, motionless as
the rock on which he had placed himself; a picture of solitude and
It was evident, moreover, that this stranger also sought a species
of concealment, as well as the fugitives. It is true he had not
buried himself in a cover of bushes; but his seat was in a hollow of
the ground where no one could have seen him, from the rear or on
either side, at a distance a very little greater than that at which
Margery stood, while his front was guarded from view by a line of
bushes that fringed the margin of the stream. Marius, pondering on
the mutations of fortune, amid the ruins of Carthage, could scarcely
have presented a more striking object than the immovable form of
this stranger. At length the Indian slightly turned his head, when
his observer, to her great surprise, saw the hard, red, but noble
and expressive profile of the well-known features of Peter.
In an instant all Margery's apprehensions vanished, and her hand was
soon lightly laid on the shoulder of her friend. Notwithstanding the
suddenness of this touch, the great chief manifested no alarm. He
turned his head slowly, and when he saw the bright countenance of
the charming bride, his smile met hers in pleased recognition. There
was no start, no exclamation, no appearance of surprise; on the
contrary, Peter seemed to meet his pretty young friend much as a
matter of course, and obviously with great satisfaction.
"How lucky this is, Peter!" exclaimed the breathless Margery.
"Bourdon's mind will now be at rest, for he was afraid you had gone
to join our enemies, Bear's Meat and his party."
"Yes; go and stay wid 'em. So bess. Now dey t'ink Peter all on deir
side. But never forget you, young Blossom."
"I believe you, Peter; for I FEEL as if you are a true friend. How
lucky that we should meet here!"
"No luck at all. Come a purpose. Pigeonswing tell me where you be,
so come here. Juss so."
"Then you expected to find us in this cover! and what have you to
tell us of our enemies?"
"Plenty of DEM. All about mout' of river. All about woods and
Openings here. More dan you count. T'ink of nuttin' but get your
"Ah! Peter;--why is it that you red men wish so much to take our
lives?--and why have you destroyed the missionary, a pious
Christian, who wished for nothing but your good?"
Peter bent his eyes to the earth, and for more than a minute he made
no reply. He was much moved, however, as was visible in his
countenance, which plainly denoted that strong emotions were at work
"Blossom, listen to my words," he, at length, answered. "They are
such as a fader would speak to his da'ghter. You my da'ghter. Tell
you so, once; and what Injin say once, he say alway. Poor, and don't
know much, but know how to do as he say he do. Yes, you my da'ghter!
Bear's Meat can't touch YOU, widout he touch ME. Bourdon your
husband; you his squaw. Husband and squaw go togedder, on same path.
Dat right. But, Blossom, listen. Dere is Great Spirit. Injin believe
dat as well as pale-face. See dat is so. Dere is Great WICKED
Spirit, too. Feel dat, too; can't help it. For twenty winter dat
Great Wicked Spirit stay close to my side. He put his hand before
one of my ear, and he put his mout' to tudder. Keep whisper,
whisper, day and night, nebber stop whisper. Tell me to kill pale-
face, wherever I find him. Bess to kill him. If didn't kill pale-
face, pale-face kill Injin. No help for it. Kill ole man, kill young
man; kill squaws, pappoose and all. Smash eggs and break up 'e nest.
Dat what he whisper, day and night, for twenty winters. Whisper so
much, was force to b'lieve him. Bad to have too much whisper of same
t'ing in ear. Den I want scalp. Couldn't have too much scalp. Took
much scalp. All pale-face scalp. Heart grow hard. Great pleasure was
to kill pale-face. Dat feeling last, Blossom, till I see you. Feel
like fader to you, and don't want your scalp. Won'er great deal why
I feel so, but do feel so. Dat my natur'. Still want all udder pale-
face scalp. Want Bourdon scalp, much as any."
A slight exclamation from his companion, which could scarcely be
called a scream, caused the Indian to cease speaking, when the two
looked toward each other, and their eyes met. Margery, however, saw
none of those passing gleams of ferocity which had so often troubled
her in the first few weeks of their acquaintance; in their stead, an
expression of subdued anxiety, and an earnestness of inquiry that
seemed to say how much the chief's heart yearned to know more on
that mighty subject toward which his thoughts had lately been
turned. The mutual glance sufficed to renew the confidence our
heroine was very reluctant to relinquish, while it awakened afresh
all of Peter's parental concern in the welfare of the interesting
young woman at his side.
"But this feeling has left you, Peter, and you no longer wish
Bourdon's scalp," said Margery, hastily. "Now he is my husband, he
is your son."
"Dat good, p'raps," answered the Injin, "but dat not a reason,
nudder, Blossom. You right, too. Don't want Bourdon scalp any
longer. Dat true. But don't want ANY scalp, any more. Heart grow
soft--an't hard, now."
"I wish I could let you understand, Peter, how much I rejoice to
hear this! I have never felt afraid of you, on my own account,
though I will own that I have sometimes feared that the dreadful
cruel stories which are told of your enmity to my color are not
altogether without truth. Now, you tell me you are the white man's
friend, and that you no longer wish to injure him. These are blessed
words, Peter; and humbly do I thank God, through his blessed Son,
that I have lived to hear them!"
"Dat Son make me feel so," returned the Indian, earnestly. "Yes,
juss so. My heart was hard, till medicinepriest tell dat tradition
of Son of Great Spirit--how he die for all tribes and nations, and
ask his fader to do good to dem dat take his life--dat won'erful
tradition, Blossom! Sound like song of wren in my ear--sweeter dan
mocking-bird when he do his bess. Yes, dat won'erful. He true, too;
for medicine-priest ask his Manitou to bless Injin, juss as Injins
lift tomahawk to take his life. I see'd and heard dat, myself. All,
"It was the Spirit of God that enabled poor Amen to do that, Peter;
and it is the Spirit of God that teaches you to see and feel the
beauty of such an act. Without the aid of that Spirit, we are
helpless as children; with it, strong as giants. I do not wonder, at
all, that the good missionary was able to pray for his enemies with
his dying breath. God gave him strength to do so."
Margery spoke as she felt, earnestly, and with emphasis. Her cheeks
flushed with the strength of her feelings, and Peter gazed on her
with a species of reverence and wonder. The beauty of this charming
young woman was pleasing rather than brilliant, depending much on
expression for its power. A heightened color greatly increased it,
and when, as in this instance, the eyes reflected the tints of the
cheeks, one might have journeyed days in older regions, without
finding her equal in personal attractions. Much as he admired her,
however, Peter had now that on his mind which rendered her beauty
but a secondary object with him. His soul had been touched by the
unseen, but omnipresent, power of the Holy Spirit, and his
companion's language and fervor contributed largely in keeping alive
his interest in what he felt.
"Nebber know Injin do dat," said Peter, in a slow, deliberative sort
of way; "no, nebber know Injin do so. Always curse and hate his
enemy, and most when about to lose his scalp. Den, feelin's hottest.
Den, most want to use tomahawk on his enemy. Den, most feel dat he
hate him. But not so wid medicine-priest. Pray for Injin; ask Great
Spirit to do him all 'e good he can; juss as Injin was goin' to
strike. Won'erful--most won'erful DAT, in my eyes. Blossom, you know
Peter. He your fader. He take you, and make you his da'ghter. His
heart is soft to you, Blossom. But, he nuttin' but poor Injin, dough
a great chief. What he know? Pale-face pappoose know more dan Injin
chief. Dat come from Great Spirit too. He wanted it so, and it is
so. Our chiefs say dat Great Spirit love Injin. May be so. T'ink he
love ebbery body; but he can't love Injin as much as he love pale-
face, or he wouldn't let red man know so little. Don't count
wigwams, and canoes, and powder, and lead, as proof of Great
Spirit's love. Pale-face got more of dese dan Injin. Dat I see and
know, and dat I feel. But it no matter. Injin used to be poor, and
don't care. When used to be poor, den used to it. When used to be
rich, den it hard not to be rich. All use. Injin don't care. But it
bad not to know. I'm warrior--I'm hunter--I'm great chief. You
squaw--you young--you know so much as squaw of chief. But you know