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AN INDIAN TALE OF LONG AGO
By Mary Mapes Dodge
AN INDIAN STORY OF LONG AGO.
THE HEDDEN FAMILY.
We who live in comfortable country homes, secure from every invader,
find it difficult to conceive the trials that beset the hardy pioneers
who settled our Western country during the last century.
In those days, and for many a year afterward, hostile Indians swarmed in
every direction, wherever the white man had made a clearing, or started
a home for himself in the wilderness. Sometimes the pioneer would be
unmolested, but oftener his days were full of anxiety and danger.
Indeed, history tells of many a time when the settler, after leaving
home in the morning in search of game for his happy household would
return at night to find his family murdered or carried away and his
cabin a mass of smoking ruins. Only in the comparatively crowded
settlements, where strength was in numbers, could the white inhabitants
hope for security--though bought at the price of constant vigilance and
In one of these settlements, where a few neatly whitewashed cabins, and
rougher log huts, clustered on the banks of a bend in the Ohio River,
dwelt a man named Hedden, with his wife and three children. His farm
stretched further into the wilderness than his neighbors', for his had
been one of the first cabins built there, and his axe, ringing merrily
through the long days, had hewn down an opening in the forest, afterward
famous in that locality as "Neighbor Hedden's Clearing." Here he had
planted and gathered his crops year after year, and in spite of
annoyances from the Indians, who robbed his fields, and from bears, who
sometimes visited his farm stock, his family had lived in security so
long that, as the settlement grew, his wife sang at her work, and his
little ones shouted at their play as merrily as though New York or
Boston were within a stone's throw. To be sure, the children were bidden
never to stray far from home, especially at nightfall; and the crack of
rifles ringing now and then through the forest paled their cheeks for
an instant, as the thought of some shaggy bear, furious in his death
agony, crossed their minds.
Sometimes, too, the children would whisper together of the fate of poor
Annie Green, who, a few years before had been found killed in the
forest; or their mother would tell them with pale lips of the night when
their father and neighbor Freeman encountered two painted Indians near
the cabin. The tomahawk of the Indian who tried to kill their father was
still hanging upon the cabin wall.
But all this had happened twelve years earlier--before Bessie, the
oldest girl, was born--and seemed to the children's minds like a bit of
ancient history--almost as far off as the exploits of Hannibal or Julius
Caesar appear to us. So, as I have said, the girls and boys of the
settlement shouted joyously at their play, or ran in merry groups to the
rough log hut, called "The School-House," little dreaming of the cares
and anxieties of their elders.
Bessie Hedden was a merry-hearted creature, and so pretty that, had she
been an Indian maiden, she would have been known as "Wild Rose," or
"Singing Bird," or "Water Lily," or some such name. As it was, many of
the villagers called her "Little Sunshine," for her joyous spirit could
light up the darkest corner. She was faithful at school, affectionate
and industrious at home, and joyous and honorable among her playmates.
What wonder, then, that everybody loved her, or that she was happiest
among the happy? Her brother Rudolph was much younger than she,--a
rosy-checked, strong-armed little urchin of seven years; and Kitty, the
youngest of the Hedden children, was but three years of age at the date
at which my story opens.
There was one other individual belonging to the family circle, larger
even than Bessie, stronger and saucier even than Rudolph, and but little
older than Kitty. He had no hands, yet once did, as all admitted, the
best day's work ever performed by any member of the family. This
individual's name was Bouncer, and he had a way of walking about on
all-fours, and barking--probably in consequence of his having been
created a dog.
Bouncer loved all the children dearly; but, stout-hearted fellow that he
was, he loved the weakest one best; and, therefore, little Kitty was
never without a friend and protector. Ever since a certain day in the
summer, when she had fallen into the stream, and had been carried home
insensible by Bouncer, Kitty had loved the huge mastiff dearly, and
nightly added to her simple prayer, "Please, God, bless dear Bouncer,
And Bouncer _was_ blessed beyond most dogs. Gentle as a baby when
Kitty's arm was about his neck, he was fierce as a lion when fierceness
was required. His great white teeth were a terror to evil-doers, and his
bark in the dead of night would make venturesome bears sneak back into
the forest like kittens.
Often would Mrs. Hedden say to her neighbors, that with "husband's rifle
and Bouncer's teeth, she felt that she lived in a fortress. As for the
children," she would add, laughingly, "I scarcely ever feel any anxiety
about them, when I know that Bouncer has joined their little
expeditions. He is a regiment in himself."
EXPLORING THE STREAM.
One of the favorite holiday resorts of Bessie and Rudolph was a lovely
spot in the forest, not a quarter of a mile from the house. Shaded by
giant oaks, whose gnarled roots lay like serpents, half hidden in the
moss, ran a streamlet, covered with sunny speckles, where parted leaves
admitted the sunshine. Flowers grew along its banks in wild profusion,
and it held its wayward course with many a rippling fall and fantastic
turn, until it was lost in the shades of the forest.
"Where does it go to, I wonder?" the children often would say to each
other, longing for permission to follow its windings farther than the
limits prescribed by their parents would allow.
"To the ocean, of course," Rudolph would answer, triumphantly; while
Bessie, looking at its golden ripple, and listening to its musical song,
half believed that it carried its wealth of sparkling jewels to
Sometimes, when Bouncer was with them, they lingered so long by the
mysterious streamlet, sending chip boats adrift upon its surface, or
trying to adjust troublesome little water-wheels under some of its tiny
cascades, that Mrs. Hedden would blow the big horn as a signal for their
return; and as they ran home, playing with Bouncer by the way, or
scolding him for shaking his wet sides under their very faces, they
would inwardly resolve to coax father to take them up the stream on the
very first pleasant Saturday.
Accordingly, on one bright Friday in June, as Bessie and Rudolph were
returning from school together, they ran toward their father, who was
working in the clearing.
"Father! father!" they shouted, "will you take us down the stream
to-morrow?--we want to see where it goes to."
"Goes to?" laughed back the father. "Why, it goes to the moon; didn't
Kitty say so last night?"
"Now, father," returned Bessie, pouting just a little, "you _know_ we
don't believe that. We want you so much to take us in the boat; it
doesn't leak at all now--oh! do." And both children fairly capered in
Mr. Hedden smiled; but; after wiping his forehead with a red and yellow
handkerchief, went on thoughtfully with his work without returning any
The children, looking wistfully at him a moment, turned toward the
house, wondering among themselves, "what father meant to do about it."
That evening, at the supper-table (where they didn't have napkin rings
or silver salt-cellars, I can assure you), Mr. Hedden asked his wife
whether Tom Hennessy was back from "up river" yet?
"I think he came home yesterday," returned his wife. "Why do you ask?"
"Because I thought, as to-morrow'll be a holiday, I'd get him to take
the youngsters down the stream in the scow."
"Oh! husband," rejoined Mrs. Hedden, looking up anxiously, "do you think
"Why not, Betsey?--the scow doesn't leak; and even if it did, the water
isn't above Tom's waist anywhere."
"I don't mean anything of that kind," pursued the wife, smiling in spite
of herself at the joyful faces of the young folks. "I--I mean the
"Oh, never fear about them; I'll give Tom every necessary caution," was
the answer. "The boat won't be gone more than two hours altogether; and,
to my mind, there wouldn't be the slightest danger in letting even
little Kitty join the party."
"Oh! tanky, Poppy, tanky!" shouted Kitty, clapping her chubby hands in
great glee. Every one at the table laughed heartily at her unexpected
Bright and early the next morning, the children stood in the door-way,
eagerly looking out for Tom. Big Tom, the village boys called him; and
well they might, for he was a staunch, burly fellow, who looked as if he
could crush an Indian in each hand--not that he had ever had an
opportunity to perform that remarkable feat, for Tom Hennessy had but
recently arrived from a large town in the East; but he _looked_ as if he
could do it; and, therefore, had credit for any amount of prowess and
After sundry directions given by Mr. Hedden to Tom, and a command from
their mother for the little folks to be home at dinner-time, they set
forth amid shouts of laughter and merriment. Kitty was there in all her
glory, for, after what "Poppy" had said, she had insisted upon joining
the party. Even Bouncer, in spite of many a "Go back, sir!" "Call him,
mother!" had quietly insinuated himself into the group, and neither
threats nor coaxing could force him away.
It was a glorious day; and, as they neared the stream, it seemed to
sparkle into joyous welcome at their approach.
Soon, comfortably seated in the scow, they were pushed and rowed
laboriously along by the good-natured Tom, while Bouncer panted along
the bank, or dashed into the water, splashing the boat in fine style. In
passing the accustomed "limits," the delight of the children knew no
"Now for it!" cried Bessie, clapping her hands. "Now we shall find out
where the stream goes to!"
And so they sailed along, following its graceful windings--sometimes
touching bottom, and sometimes skimming smoothly over deep water, where
Kitty could no longer clutch for the tall, bright grass that here and
there had reared itself above the surface. Often Big Tom would sing out,
"Lie low!" as some great bough, hanging over the stream, seemed
stretching out its arms to catch them; and often they were nearly
checked in their course by a fallen trunk, or the shallowness of the
water. At last, upon reaching a very troublesome spot, Tom cried
"Now, youngsters, you must all get out while I turn the scow over this
'ere log, and then you can jump in again on t'other side."
With merry shouts they leaped out, one after the other, Tom holding
Kitty in his arms, as he stood knee-deep in the water.
"What is the matter with Bouncer?" cried Bessie.
There was no time for a reply. Looking up, the frightened party saw
three hideous faces peering at them over the bushes!
"The Indians! the Indians!" screamed Bessie.
Springing to the shore, and catching Rudolph with one arm, while he
held Kitty tightly in the other, Tom Hennessy dashed into the forest,
calling upon Bessie to follow. Poor Bessie! What could she do? With a
thrill of horror she saw two fierce savages bounding after them with
fearful yells, while a third, with upraised club, and tomahawk and
scalping-knife in his belt, was rushing toward her.
Uttering one long piercing scream, the poor girl knelt to await her
doom. A prolonged roar of fury caused her to raise her head. Bouncer,
brave, noble Bouncer, and the Indian had fallen together in a deadly
struggle! Now was her time! With new energy and hope, she sprang to her
feet, and darted through the forest, rending the air with cries for
help, and unconscious of whither she was flying.
"Rudolph! Kitty!" she cried, frantically. "God in heaven help us! Oh!
WHERE ARE THE CHILDREN?
It was nearly dinner-time in the Hedden cottage. Farmer Hedden sat in
the doorway, equipped in his hunting dress--for he usually spent
Saturday afternoons in the forest; and it was only at his wife's
solicitation that he had consented to wait and "take a bite of dinner"
before starting, Every now and then he raised his head from the almanac,
over which he was bending, to listen to the whirr of his wife's
spinning-wheel, and her merry song issuing from the cottage, or to cast
an impatient glance in the direction of the streamlet.
Within, all was neatness and cheerfulness; the clean deal table was
arranged with its row of yellow platters and shining pewter-mugs--even
the stools were standing round it, ready for the hungry household that
usually assembled at noon, eager for dinner.
"Father's" and "mother's" places were at either end of the table;
Rudolph's and Kitty's at one side (Kitty had a high chair made by
"father" out of young oak branches); Bessie's opposite; and, beside
hers, the prettiest plate; and the brightest mug for Big Tom--for, of
course, he must be asked to stay.
Everything was ready. Far back in the open fireplace the fagots were
blazing and snapping. Hanging above them, the great iron pot threw forth
a circle of noisy steam around the loosely fitted lid, while the
potatoes within were in a high state of commotion--little ones tumbling
pell-mell over big ones, and big ones rocking dolefully backward and
forward in the boiling water as though they felt sure their end was
"Blow the horn again, John," called out Mrs. Hedden, as she cut another
slice from the big brown loaf that had rapidly been growing less under
her shining knife. "Ha! ha! they can't help hearing _that_," she
laughed, as her husband blew a blast even louder than usual.
After waiting a moment, Mr. Hedden came in, throwing the almanac on a
low wooden settee as he entered.
"No use waiting any longer, wifey--let's sit by. I don't see a sign of
the youngsters; though it did seem to me I heard some of 'em screaming
and laughing in the distance a bit ago. 'Twon't do, though," he
continued, shaking his head; "we must make the crazy little cubs mind
the horn closer. Play's play, and all well enough in its way, but you
must teach children regularity from the very outset, or they'll never be
good for much."
"That's true enough, John," answered his wife, as she "dished" some of
the steaming potatoes--leaving a goodly number in the pot for the little
folk--"that's true enough; but you know this is a day of extra frolic
for the children. They're having such fun, likely, they've no notion
how the time is passing. As for the horn, who could expect mortal ears
to hear _that_--with Bessie and Big Tom laughing and singing, and
Rudolph screaming with fun--as I know he is; and little Kit, bless her!
just frantic with delight; I think I can see them now, the merry
Ah! happy, unconscious mother, if you _could_ have seen them--if their
cries of terror could but have reached your ears!
Finally, neighbor Hedden arose, shoving back his stool on the sanded
"Well, well, wifey, you're right enough, no doubt; but I tell you it
isn't best to be too easy with youngsters, though ours are the best
going, if I _do_ say it. A good trouncing all around, when they come in,
wouldn't be a bit too much for them for being so late;" and, half in
fun, half in earnest, he shook his head rather fiercely at his wife, and
stalked out of the cottage.
Presently she laughed outright to hear the loud, impatient tones issuing
from the great tin horn. "That'll fetch them, I reckon," said neighbor
Hedden, showing a smiling face at the window.
As another hour passed away, the songs grew fewer and fainter upon the
mother's lips--at first from vexation, and, finally, from weariness and
a vague feeling of anxiety.
"Bessie should know better," she thought to herself, "than to stay so
long. I wish I had not let Kitty go with them."
The next moment she smiled to think how hungry the children would be
when they returned, and half wished that it would not be "spoiling" them
to make them a good sugar-cake for their supper.
Not until the shadows grew longer upon the edge of the forest, and
threatening clouds grew thicker overhead, did her heart quail or her
cheek grow white with sudden fear.
"Oh! what _can_ keep them, I wonder! Why didn't I ask John to go look
for them?" she asked herself over and over again. But Mrs. Hedden was
not one to sit weeping with folded hands while anything remained to be
It was not long before their nearest neighbor, who was still at work,
enjoying the coolness of the afternoon, leaned upon his spade to wonder
what on earth neighbor Hedden's wife was up to now.
"Why, look there! Bob," he called out to his son, "if she ain't leaping
over this way like a year-old colt!"
In the mean time, neighbor Hedden himself was having but sorry sport in
the forest. He saw nothing worth even pointing his gun at, and felt
altogether so ill at ease and so fidgety as he trudged along, stepping
now upon the soft moss, and now upon fallen branches that crackled even
under the stealthy tread of his hunting moccasins, that I doubt whether
half the bears hidden in the depths of the forest were not in a livelier
mood than he. Not that he had anything to make him feel especially
ill-humored, unless it was the disobedience of his children in having
failed to appear at dinner-time--but it seemed to him that there was
something going wrong in the world, some screw loose in his affairs
that, unless he turned it tight in time, would cause his happiness and
the prosperity of his home to fall in ruins about him. After awhile this
feeling became so strong that he seated himself upon a stone to think.
"I haven't been as neighborly as I might have been," he reflected:
"there's many a turn been wanting by these new-comers, the Morrises,
that I might have tended to, if I hadn't been so wrapped up in my own
affairs. Come to think, almost the only kindness I've done for nearly a
year past was in giving a bag of potatoes to that sick fellow,
Po-no-kah, who seemed to me to be a good fellow, as Indians go. However,
it ain't much kindness to give to those murderous red-skins when there's
plenty of white men wanting help. Well, if I'm not agoin' to shoot
anything, I guess I'd better go home."
With these last words, uttered half aloud, neighbor Hedden arose, and
walked a few steps in the direction of his home. Presently he paused
again, muttering to himself--
"It's blamed queer I haven't heard the youngsters coming down with the
scow; I certainly should have heard them if they'd passed anywhere
near--guess I'd best walk on a little way up stream."
So saying, he turned, with a new anxiety upon his countenance, and moved
with rapid strides toward the rivulet, that still ran rippling on,
though the bright sparkles that lit its surface at noon had vanished.
Indeed, by this time the sunshine was, fast vanishing, too, for heavy
clouds were gathering overhead, while those in the west were gilded on
their lower edge.
Neighbor Hedden, now intent upon his new thoughts, hurried along the
bank of the stream. There were pretty tassel-flowers and Jack-in-pulpits
growing there, which at any other time he might have plucked, and
carried home in his cap for Kitty; but he did not heed them now.
Something in the distance had caught his eye, something that, showing
darkly through the trees, from a bend in the streamlet, caused his
breathing to grow thicker and his stride to change into a run--_it was
the empty boat_!
Hastening toward it, in the vain hope that he would find his little ones
playing somewhere near the spot, he clutched his ride more firmly, and
gasped out their names one by one. Where were they?--his sunny-hearted
Bessie, his manly little Rudolph, and Kitty, his bright-eyed darling?
Alas! the only answer to the father's call was the angry mutter of the
thunder, or the quick lightning that flashed through the gathering
In frantic haste he searched in every direction.
"Perhaps," thought he, "they have become frightened at the sound of
bears, and hidden themselves in a thicket. They may even have got tired
and gone to sleep. But where is Tom Hennessy?"
Again and again he returned to the boat, as though some clue might there
be found to the missing ones; but as often he turned back in despair,
trusting now only to the flashes of the lightning to aid him in his
search. The sharp twigs and branches tore his face and hands as, bending
low, he forced himself where the tangled undergrowth stood thickest.
Soon his hunting-cap was dragged from his head, as by some angry hand;
he knew that it had caught upon the branches, and did not even try to
find it in the darkness.
The heavy drops of rain, falling upon his bare head, cooled him with a
strange feeling of relief. Next his gun, which he had leaned against a
tree, while on hands and knees he had forced his way into some brush,
was swallowed up in the darkness.
In vain he peered around him at every flash that lit the forest--he
could see nothing of it. Suddenly a bright gleam, shooting across his
pathway, revealed something that instantly caught his eye--it was a
small bit of blue ribbon, such as Bessie often wore. Bending to pick it
up, he started back in horror! The light had lasted but an instant, yet
it had been long enough to show him that the ribbon was stained with
blood, while near it the stones and leaves shone crimson! Even the
gnarled roots of a fallen tree were dabbled with a fearful stain. He
could see it all distinctly. With upraised arms, he knelt and poured
forth an agonized prayer--
"Great God! where are my children? Oh! have mercy! have mercy!"
Flash after flash lighted up the kneeling form. Presently loud voices
resounded through the forest:
"What, ho!" "Hedden! Hedden!" "Hennessy! Tom!" "Hallo!"
Hedden stood upright. The voices were familiar. He shouted back lustily,
and hurried toward the approaching lanterns. Alas! he came upon faces
almost as pale and inquiring us his own--no news on either side!
His neighbors had eagerly responded to the mother's appeal, but so far
had searched the forest in vain. If Bouncer only could be found; and,
for almost the first time in years, Hedden called, "Bouncer! Bouncer!"
without seeing the great fellow leaping toward him. What wonder,
though--even Bouncer could scarcely have recognized that voice now!
"Hark!" cried one of the neighbors.
They listened. There was certainly a panting sound from some spot not
"Bouncer! Bouncer!" cried the poor father. The panting again; they
lowered their lanterns. What was that lying upon the ground--lying there
close by Bouncer? It was Bessie! They rushed toward her. She was lying
very still; Bouncer was breathing heavily.
They raised her from the ground.
"Bessie! Bessie! my darling, speak to me!" cried the father.
Her eyes opened slowly; for an instant she did not know who held her.
"Bessie, child, it's father--speak to me!"
She looked at him an instant, then with a pitiful cry buried her face in
Bouncer staggered forward, and now, by the light of the lanterns, they
could see a broad gash upon his shoulder, and another upon his head. He
looked up at Bessie with a mournful whine.
"Oh, Bouncer, dear Bouncer! can't _you_ tell me where they are?" cried
Bessie, turning suddenly, and gazing upon him with streaming eyes.
The brave fellow tried to wag his tail, but his strength was failing
"He came to me only a little while ago," sobbed Bessie. "Oh! I was so
thankful! but he came so slowly I knew he was hurt. I put out my hand
and felt him all hot and wet--I can't remember anything since then. Oh!
father, don't let poor Bouncer die--see! he is falling! Dear old
Bouncer!" and she threw herself down beside him.
The poor fellow turned his head, and tried to lick her hand; then
started up, growling with something like his old savageness, and fell
over. They tried to lift him; they called his name. Even Bessie
attempted to arouse him with a cheerful call. There was no
movement;--Bouncer was dead!
It seemed hard to leave the body of the faithful creature lying exposed
in the forest, but this was no time to bury him.
All that they could gather from Bessie's confused account of the
surprise by the Indians, and her own escape, served to make the party
feel that further effort was almost hopeless--still they would not
despair. It was decided that one of their number should take the rescued
girl back to her mother, while the rest should proceed in their search.
The fury of the storm had passed by this time, though the rain fell in
great splashing drops, and the wind muttered angrily among the trees in
answer to the distant rumbling of the thunder. Drenched to her skin, and
shivering with excitement, Bessie begged that she might go with her
"We will find them soon," she pleaded; "I'm sure we will, and then we
can all go home together. It will frighten mother so dreadfully to see
me coming alone, without Rudolph and Kittie, and Bouncer!"
The man whose lantern had gleamed upon her shaded the light with his
great rough hand from the spot where Bouncer lay, and in a voice as
tender as a woman's, urged her to go with him at once,
"Go, Bessie," said her father hurriedly, on seeing that she still
resisted, "we are losing time."
This was enough. "Good-night, dear father!" she sobbed, as she was led
away; "don't tell Rudolph about Bouncer until he gets home, father--it
will almost break his heart."
A voice that even Bessie could scarcely recognize called back through
the darkness: "Good-night, my child. Go easy, Joe, and keep a sharp
"Ay! Ay!" answered the man in a suppressed voice, as he grasped more
firmly the little hand in his, and hurried on.
After a wearisome tramp, they at last reached the edge of the forest.
Bessie started to see a tall, white figure rushing with outstretched
arms toward them.
"It's the mother," said Joe, pityingly, raising the lantern as he spoke.
"Oh, Joe!" screamed the poor woman, "have you found them?--tell me,
"Well--no, Mrs. Hedden," he shouted in reply, "not exactly that--but
we've got the gal safe an' sound--not a scratch on her."
In another moment Bessie was in her mother's arms.
"Only me, mother!" she sobbed; "only me; but father's looking for them
and, oh! mother, Bouncer is dead!"
The next day brought no better tidings. At noon the men returned from
their search, jaded and dispirited. After the first explanations were
over, Mr. Hedden called one of the party aside and whispered, huskily--
"Give her this, Dennis--I can't; and tell her it was the only trace we
The mother's quick eye caught sight of the object before her husband had
fairly drawn it from beneath his hunting-jacket. "It's Kitty's hood,"
she cried, stretching forth her hand as she fell senseless to the floor.
That evening, and for many a day afterward, the search was continued but
without success; no trace could be found of either Tom Hennessy,
Rudolph, or little Kitty.
And what had befallen Tom and the children, on the fearful day of their
sail up the beautiful stream? Bessie's eyes had not deceived her when,
in one agonized glance, she had seen Tom dash into the forest bearing
Rudolph and Kitty in his arms, followed by yelling savages. The chase,
however, was a short one; before Tom had advanced many steps his
pursuers closed upon him, and tearing the children from his embrace,
bound his arms close to his body with deerskin thongs. The children,
screaming with terror, struggled in the arms of the Indians and called
frantically upon Tom for help; but he, poor fellow, could only turn his
pitying eyes upon them and beg them to remain quiet.
"It'll save you from worse things," he groaned. By this time several
savages, darting from near hiding-places, had surrounded them and Tom
abandoned all hope of escape. Bessie's screams had died away, and he
felt sure that she had been killed by the Indian who had first rushed
After holding a moment's council the Indians began a rapid march,
hurrying Tom along with them, and almost dragging the terrified
children--who, each with a tiny hand in the grip of a painted warrior,
ran panting by their sides. Hurrying on, faster and faster, until even
Tom was nearly out of breath, the savages, without exchanging a word
among themselves, continued their flight (for such it seemed), carefully
avoiding even the breaking of a twig, or anything that could furnish a
clue to those who might come in pursuit.
Soon Kitty, who could run no more, was snatched angrily from the ground
and carried, like a bundle, under the great muscular arm of one of the
savages. But when Rudolph showed evident signs of exhaustion, the
Indians paused, evidently consulting together whether they should not
tomahawk the children at once. Tom could stand it no longer. He declared
that he would not go another step if the children were injured a hair.
"Let me carry them," he cried. "I am strong enough to bear a dozen
youngsters--unbind me, I say, and hand 'em over."
Some of the red men knew enough of English to understand his meaning.
With a contemptuous sneer one of them tossed Rudolph on Tom's back; then
set one of his arms free, and drove him onward with many a brutal
stroke. It was hard work for Tom, shackled as he was, to bear the
frightened boy, who at times clung to his throat so tightly as to almost
"Hold on, Rudolph, boy," he whispered; "lower down--there, that way. Now
don't cry; you're father's little man, you know."
"Oh, Tom," sobbed the poor boy, "they'll kill us, I'm sure, as they
killed little Annie Green. See, now, how they carry Kitty--how they
scrape her face against the bushes; oh! oh!" and Rudolph hid his eyes in
Tom's hair, crying as if his little heart would break.
"Hush!" muttered Tom, sternly, "or I'll put you down."
In an instant one of the red men whose look, though grim and fearful
enough, showed less savageness than his companions, gruffly took Kitty
from the Indian who was carrying her with such cruel carelessness. The
change comforted the child, and in a few moments the exhausted little
creature was sleeping soundly upon his shoulder, never waking even
through the thunder-storm that ere long seemed to rend the forest.
In this way the Indians hurried on, pausing once to change their
captive's bands, so as to leave his right arm free instead of his left.
Now and then Tom would put Rudolph upon the ground for awhile, and when
the little fellow flagged he would lift him up to his shoulder again.
At nightfall the party halted and made a large fire of brush, by which
they cooked some venison and hominy, which had been carried by them
during the march. After partaking of their meal, and giving their
prisoners a liberal supply, they disposed themselves for the night,
first taking care to fasten Tom's hands and feet securely, and even to
bandage the children's ankles so that they could not stand. In vain Tom
peered about him for a chance of escape for himself and his charges--for
he would on no account have left them behind--but there was no hope.
His knife had been taken away from him, and all night long he was
watched by two Indians, who remained near him in a sitting posture. Even
when their dusky faces were lost in the darkness, he could see the gleam
of their piercing eyes as the fire-light flashed and faded. Once, when
the pain from his fastenings became insupportable, he complained to one
of the watchers and begged to be unbound for a moment, while a wild hope
rushed through his heart that he might then, quick as a flash, seize
Rudolph and Kitty and fly through the darkness out of the reach of his
pursuers. Vain hope! no opportunity came, though the Indian readily
complied with his request. Almost every warrior raised himself upon his
elbow in an instant, and he felt the glare of a dozen eyes upon him at
the slightest motion he made. After the Indian had loosened the
fastenings somewhat, and given Tom a drink of pure spring water, he even
offered him some parched corn, and in no unfriendly way motioned to him
to try and sleep; but all this show of kindness did not reassure Tom. He
had heard enough of Indian warfare to feel that any consideration they
might show their prisoners at first was often but a proof that they
were reserving them for the greatest cruelties afterward.
Long before daylight the next morning, the march was resumed, in the
same manner as on the previous day; and, indeed, for three or four days
it was continued over a country dense with cedar thicket, and becoming
rougher and more rocky as they journeyed on. At last, after traveling
westward for a distance of ever a hundred miles--as nearly as Tom could
estimate--they saw, afar, rising from the lowlands, the smoke of an
Some one evidently had been on the look-out for them. Before they
reached the spot, they were welcomed with loud whoops and yells.
Presently the entire community, as it seemed, turned out to receive
them--hundreds of savages, men, women, and children--who, when they saw
the prisoners, pierced the air with wild shouts of joy.
The men were painted in every conceivable way, with hideous daubs of
color upon their limbs and faces, or tattooed so as to look more fearful
still; their heads were closely shaved, leaving only a lock on the
crown, called the scalp-lock, which was twisted up so as to hold tufts
of brilliant feathers. The women, scarcely less hideous than the men
(excepting here and there a young maiden, the joy of her tribe,
standing apart from the rest), crowded fiercely about, and the children,
naked and dirty, whooped and yelled like so many imps.
The scene was certainly not likely to inspire the prisoners with any
keen sense of security. Indeed, Tom expected instant death at their
hands. As for Rudolph and Kitty, the poor little creatures were
stupefied with terror, and clung to Tom in a way that seemed to make the
Indian children half mad with delight.
Suddenly all the warriors arranged themselves into two long lines,
facing each other--and, brandishing their tomahawks, switches, and
clubs, called upon Tom to run the gauntlet! One of the savages proceeded
to set free the limbs of the captive, at the same time explaining to
him, in broken English, the nature of the ceremony about to be enacted.
This was nothing less than for Tom to run between the lines, along their
entire length, with the chance of receiving a blow from each Indian as
"Run like deer!" said the Indian, as he jerked off the last strip of
hide from the captive's arm, "then he get more few knock."
Casting one despairing look about him, and seeing not a possible chance
of escape, even if he were not bound to the spot by the presence of
Rudolph and Kitty, poor Tom entered upon the dread ordeal. His weariness
was forgotten as, in very desperation, he flew between the lines so
rapidly that for a short distance the blows fell but lightly upon him.
Soon a crushing stroke from the back of a tomahawk fell heavily upon his
shoulder, but he did not falter; the yells and blows of the savages lent
wings to his feet--until, at last, when the end was nearly reached, a
huge chief struck him a blow, with his club, that felled him to the
ground. Springing up instantly, Tom dashed forward again, and staggered
on to the end of the line where he sank to the ground, unable to rise.
Up to the last moment he could hear the shrieks of Rudolph rising above
the din. The poor child had been forced to witness Tom's suffering from
As soon as Tom opened his eyes he saw the pale, tearful faces of Rudolph
and Kitty. "Don't cry, youngsters," he gasped; "be good, and we may get
home again yet."
"Oh, come _now_," urged Kitty; "come tell mammy--mammy'll whip'em for
hurtin' 'oo; naughty Injins!"
Rudolph, forgetting his misery for an instant, laughed outright at
Kitty's words. The next instant he shook his head solemnly--at
her--"No, Kitty, mother couldn't whip 'em. But oh, I wish we were home!
I wish we were home!" he cried, giving vent to his terrors again, as he
saw a group of red men moving hastily towards them.
After dashing water over Tom's wounds and laying him upon a bed of
deer-skins, the savages seated themselves in a ring, and held a council
to decide the fate of the prisoners. The warriors sat in silence while a
great war-club was passed around the circle. Those who were in favor of
burning them alive struck the ground heavily with the weapon before
handing it to the next warrior; while those who objected to putting them
to death in that manner merely passed it on in silence.
Tom saw all this from where he lay, and he knew its meaning well. With a
sinking heart he heard the heavy thump of the club as each warrior gave
his cruel vote, until at last one chief, holding the club in the air,
pointed with a meaning gesture--first at Tom, then at Rudolph and Kitty.
The chiefs responded with a grunt of assent to his inquiry concerning
the latter, but shook their heads when their attention was directed to
Tom. Then the noble fellow knew that not his fate, but that of the
children was being decided; while they, unconscious little creatures,
looked on half amused at what seemed to them some singular game.
"Hi!" whispered Rudolph to Kitty, "didn't that fellow hit hard,
though?--he'll beat I guess."
A moment more and the council was ended. One of the Indians approached
the children and daubed their faces with black; it was a fatal sign, for
it proved that the vote had been against them--Rudolph and Kitty were to
be put to death!
All that night, and for many days afterward, Tom lay in a burning fever,
quite unconscious of what was passing around him.
Meanwhile, strange to say, Rudolph and Kitty were treated almost with
kindness. They were well fed, and were given the softest deer-skins to
lie upon at night. Finding themselves unharmed as the hours went on, the
little creatures became more confident, and finally resumed their
Kitty was never weary of the bright beads and ornaments of the Indian
maidens, and Rudolph found great delight in shooting with the bows and
arrows of the _papooses_ or children, who, in turn, were wonderfully
amused at the bad shots of the little pale-face. Now and then, to be
sure, the vicious child of some chieftain would amuse itself by pricking
Kitty's tender skin with a thorn, and hearing her scream in consequence;
or, having seen the black-and-blue marks upon her delicate arms, caused
by the rough handling of her captors, they would pinch her flesh and
watch for the change of color with intense interest. One day they tried
it while Rudolph was standing by, holding the hand of the squaw who had
him in charge. No sooner did the usual scream escape Kitty's lips than,
quick as thought, the boy broke from the woman's grasp, and, rushing
upon his sister's tormentor, laid the little savage in the dust and
pummeled him well. Instead of resenting this, the Indians seemed to
admire the pluck of the young pale-face, and he rose in their favor at
once. Especially did the old squaw, as Indian women are called, applaud
him. She was a strange old creature, named Ka-te-qua (_female eagle_),
and, being half crazy, was looked upon by the Indians as one inspired by
Manitou, or the Great Spirit. Besides, her brother had been a famous
Medicine-man of the tribe; and her two sons, who had been slain in
battle, were celebrated braves or warriors, each owning long chains of
scalps, which they had taken from their enemies. So, of course, when she
wagged her head in approbation of Rudolph's conduct, all the women near
her wagged their heads also. Indeed, had Tom remained ill a few weeks
longer, the black marks on the children's faces would have worn off
without any further injury being done them. But as he grew better, and,
finally, was able to sit upright on his deer-skin couch, the malice of
his captors was renewed. They resolved not only to carry out the
sentence upon the children, but to put the sick pale-face to new
tortures as soon as he was strong enough to afford them the requisite
amount of sport on the occasion. Accordingly on the fourth day after
Rudolph had punished the little "Red-skin," preparations were begun.
Heaps of fagots were industriously piled against an oak tree, which
stood apart. Tom, with feet shackled, and his arms tightly secured to
his sides, was led out to witness the fearful scene. Rudolph and Kitty
were seized, and, in spite of their struggles, bound side by side to the
Already the wild dance of the Indians had begun. Frightful yells and
whoops filled the air, and even women and little dusky children clapped
their hands and shouted with excitement and delight. They brought
armfuls of brush and laid it close to the pile. Nothing was needed to
complete the deed but to apply the fatal torches, now sending forth hot,
fierce gleams into the pale air, and brandished by a dozen yelling
At a signal from an aged chief, the brush was lighted. The fire cracked
and snapped; soon its snake-like wreaths curled about the pile, sending
thick smoke around the screaming victims, when, suddenly, old
Ka-te-qua--she who had taken charge of the children--rushed from the
neighboring forest. Tearing through the crowd, she flew to the pile of
fagots, and with vigorous strokes scattered the blazing wood in every
Then, turning toward the astonished savages, who had retreated a few
paces to escape the burning brands, she addressed them passionately in
the Indian tongue:
"The Great Spirit," she cried, "scowls upon you--the very flames hiss in
the wet grass. The sons of Ka-te-qua are gone to the happy hunting
grounds of the dead. Her wigwam is dark. The young pale-faces are to her
like the water-lilies of the stream. Why, when she was in the forest
gathering herbs for the sick of her tribe, did ye steal them from her
lodge like dogs?
"Is the tongue of Ka-te-qua forked? Has she not said that no warrior
need hunt the deer for the young pale-faces? With her they shall grow
like hickory saplings, towering with strength. The deer shall not be
more fleet than they, nor the songs of the birds more glad. The sun
shall paint their white skins. The love of the red man shall enter their
hearts: they shall be as the young of our tribe. Unbind them! Give them
to Ka-te-qua, or by the next moon a burning fever shall fall upon you.
Like panthers will you bite the dust. All the waters of the great
cataract cannot quench your thirst, and your mightiest hunters will be
She paused. A fine-looking chieftain arose and spoke:
"The sister of the great Medicine-man has spoken well. She dwells alone
in her wigwam Her arm is strong. Her eye is keen, like the hawk's. The
deer fall before her, and her arrow can find the heart of the grizzly
bear. Her corn stands higher than the grass of the prairie. She can feed
the young pale-faces. The Great Spirit gives them to her. Let it be so."
A council was held at once. This time more than half the chieftains
passed the club on in silence, for Ka-te-qua, as I have said, was
respected among them; she had great powers of healing, and many of the
Indians regarded her with a superstitious reverence.
The children were unbound and borne in state to the old squaw's wigwam.
From that hour, though they were closely watched and guarded, their
lives were safe.
[Footnote 1: Mystery-man or Indian prophet.]
From the conduct of the Indians towards Tom, it was evident that his
time for torture had not yet arrived. He therefore had tact enough to
remain "weak" as long as possible, tottering languidly about the
grounds whenever they allowed him the liberty of exercising his limbs,
and drinking the mixtures and decoctions of Ka-te-qua with the patience
of a martyr. In the meantime, the shrewd fellow took care to win the
good-will of the tribe by taking apparent interest in their games, and
showing a great amount of admiration at their feats of strength and
agility. He amused them too by the display of numerous accomplishments
peculiar to himself, such as whistling in close imitation of the songs
of various birds, and performing feats of jugglery that he had long ago
learned in his native town. He could bark like a dog and howl like a
wolf; imitate the distant tramping of horses' feet, and give the sound
of a whizzing arrow so perfectly that the oldest chiefs would turn their
head quickly in the direction of the sound. Neither at this, however,
nor at any other of Tom's performances, would they show the slightest
change of countenance, for an Indian never allows himself to exhibit
feelings of surprise, considering it quite beneath the dignity of his
race to do so. Even when, by some dexterous trick, Tom would show them
two or three acorns under a leaf where their reason told them there
could be none, and then as mysteriously cause the same acorns to
disappear, the stony faces looking on never changed a muscle though at
heart they were probably quite as astounded as the Welsh monster was
supposed to be when Jack the Giant-Killer, performed such wonderful
feats with hasty-pudding. By degrees, as Tom deemed it prudent to appear
stronger, he would dance the sailors' hornpipe for them, or sing wild,
rollicksome songs, or make beautiful rustic seats and bowers for the
squaws. He was a capital marksman, too, and soon won respect by showing
that he could handle a musket with the best of them. The few Indians who
owned guns had become very expert in their use; and Tom, whenever they
had trials of their skill, took care to shoot just well enough to prove
himself a good marksman, without provoking their anger by excelling too
After awhile, in his desire to win their confidence, he even went so far
as to signify to the Indians that he would like to become one of them;
that their mode of life suited him well, and he would be glad to hunt
and fish with them and be a pale-face no more. Alas! poor fellow, he did
not know what he was saying, or how soon he would find out that even in
cases of great temptation no one can tell a lie without suffering
unhappy consequences. The savages took him at his word. They held a
council. After it was over, while most of them were still smoking their
long, richly ornamented pipes with great deliberation, two or three of
the Indians seized him and gravely commenced plucking out his hair by
the roots. Soon Tom twitched from head to foot, and water stood in
his eyes; but the red men still kept on with their work, dipping their
fingers in ashes occasionally to enable them to take a better hold.
Before long his head was completely bald, with the exception of one long
tuft upon his crown, called the scalp-lock. This was immediately
stiffened and plaited, so as to stand upright and hold a variety of
ornaments, which his glum hairdresser fastened upon it. Then two old
Indians pierced his nose and ears and hung big rings in the smarting
holes. They then took off his clothing and painted his body with every
variety of color. Next they hung a gaily embroidered cloth about his
loins, put a wampum chain about his neck and fastened silver bands on
his right arm. When this was done the whole party gave three shrill
whoops, and men, women, and children crowded around him, making the most
frantic gestures, and uttering the most horrid sounds that ever a poor
fibbing white man heard.
Next the maidens of the tribe rushed upon him, and, hurrying him to a
stream that ran near by, dragged him into the water until it reached his
waist, and tried to force his head under. This of course, aroused all
his spirit of resistance; but, when one of the girls, named She-de-ah
(wild sage), cried into his ear. "No kill! no kill!" he concluded to
After this he was ducked and held under most unmercifully, until,
believing by this time that "the white blood must be all washed out of
him," they led him up the shore, all shivering and dripping, and
presented him to their principal chief.
The next performance was to dress him in an Indian shirt ornamented with
feathers and beads and bits of porcupine quill. They put leggins on his
legs and moccasins on his feet, and, seating him upon a bear-skin, gave
him flint and steel to strike a light with; then a pouch, a tomahawk,
some tobacco, and a long pipe. Then the chiefs seated themselves beside
him, and smoked in silence. Tom knew well enough that he was expected to
smoke too, and filled and lit his pipe accordingly, never dreaming of
the consequences. Old as he was, nearly twenty, this was his "first
smoke," and very soon the poor fellow found himself growing deadly sick.
He could feel the cold chills creeping one after another into his very
face. Finally, something within him seemed to turn somersaults, when,
yielding to a sudden impulse, he flung the pipe upon the ground, and
rushed into the recesses of the wigwam, where he usually slept. This
the Indians, who attach an almost sacred importance to the pipe, took as
a great affront; and only when Tom afterward, by the most earnest
gestures, explained to them the real cause of his conduct, did they
allow their injured feelings to be pacified; though it cut him sorely to
notice the expressions of contempt, and ridicule that were soon lavished
upon him. Whether this proof of what seemed in Indian opinion a want of
manliness had anything to do with their conduct or not, I cannot say,
but certain it is that no further ceremonies towards making him a
red-man were performed though he was allowed to wear his Indian costume.
Neither did they allow him to hunt with them, as he had hoped. Whenever
they went forth to shoot the bison or deer, or to trap the beavers, or
wage war with hostile tribes, they always left him with the squaws, the
old men, and the warriors who remained at home to take charge of the
Rudolph and Kitty were sorely frightened when they first saw the strange
figure, "half Indian, half Tom," as Rudolph afterward described him,
stalk into Ka-te-qua's wigwam. His bald head and painted body struck
poor Kitty with dismay. When he spoke soothingly to her, and gave her a
handful of bright feathers, she ventured to approach him, though she
cried pitifully all the time for Tom, dear, big Tom, who knew papa and
mamma, and Bessie and Bouncer.
Neither Kitty nor Rudolph had forgotten the brave dog through all these
days of absence, and they loved to hold long conversations with Tom
about him; though the little creatures oftener talked of their parents
and Bessie, as they lay at night upon their beds of dried grass.
[Footnote 2: See American Adventure by Land and Sea. Harper Bros. 1842.]
[Footnote 3: _Wampum_. Beads made of shells, used by North American
Indians as money, the shells run on strings, and are wrought into belts
There was another person in the settlement besides the captives, who was
not likely to forget Bouncer very soon. This was an Indian who, wounded
and exhausted, had reached the settlement four days after the arrival of
the prisoners. He had an ugly mark upon his throat, and another on his
chest, and he sulked aside from the rest of his tribe as though he felt
that his wounds were ignoble, and a dishonor to his Indian birth. It was
his blood that Farmer Hedden had seen on that fearful night; and when
more than once the agonized father had listened to what seemed to be the
tread of some skulking wolf, he had heard this very Indian, who, half
dead with pain and loss of blood, was dragging himself slowly through
the depths of the forest.
This discomfited warrior had looked upon Tom and the two little
pale-faces with dislike, from the hour when he first saw them as
prisoners in the encampment. They were constant reminders to him of his
mortifying struggle with the dog. He felt it all the more because,
though his jacket and leggings were trimmed with the scalps of his
enemies, he had lately been forced to receive charity from the white
man's hand, This was when, starving and nearly frozen, he had fallen
helpless in the forest, after an unlucky trapping excursion; a settler
had found him there, given him food and drink and sent him on his way
with a bountiful supply of provisions.
Big Tom saw the dark looks of this Indian, and regarded him with
suspicion; but little Kitty was quite unconscious of the resentful
feelings of "the sick man," as she called him. In fact, as soon as she
grew more familiar with the Indians, she often sought him in preference
to the rest, and loved to sit upon the ground beside him, and trace
with her tiny fingers the patterns worked upon his leggings and
At first the grim warrior repulsed these familiarities; but when, as he
began to mingle with his tribe, he heard her sweet voice calling him by
name, and saw her day after day display her store of beads and feathers
at his feet, his feelings gradually softened. Before long he ceased to
scowl upon her when she lifted her sunny face to his, and, on rare
occasions, he even allowed her to count his arrows.
Once, when Rudolph had shot a wild turkey, he rushed to Ka-te-qua's
wigwam with his prize, for he had learned to love the strange old squaw,
though he feared her, too, sometimes. Kitty clapped her hands with
delight at her brother's skill, and begged him to go with her and show
the dead bird to her favorite Indian.
"Come, Rudolph; come show 'Nokah,'" she pleaded, pulling the young
hunter by the arm. "Come twick! he goin' away."
Rudolph suffered himself to be led. They found Po-no-kah standing alone
by a tree, fully equipped for the hunt.
He looked at the turkey and gave a grunt, not particularly flattering to
"I've shot THREE!" said the boy, holding up three fingers to make his
"Ugh!" grunted the savage again. "Paleface no shoot much."
"But I'm growing," persisted Rudolph. "When I'm big, I'm going to shoot
bears and bison. Did you kill the bears to get all these claws?" he
added, pointing up to Po-no-kah's necklace, which was formed entirely of
huge bear-claws, strung through the thickest end.
"Ugh," replied the Indian, nodding his plumed head, "me shoot him."
"And these scalps," said Rudolph, shuddering as he pointed to the fringe
of human hair hanging from the buckskin leggings; "did _you_ get all
"Ugh," he answered grimly, nodding the plumes again.
"You are bad, then," exclaimed Rudolph, looking fearlessly into
Po-no-kah's eyes. "I know _you_," he added suddenly, after gazing at him
intently for an instant. "Father brought you into our kitchen last
winter, and I ran behind the door. Mother gave you meat and hot drink,
and father warmed you and gave you a bag of potatoes. Oh!" he continued,
clasping Po-no-kah's knee, "_you_ know where our home is. Nearly every
night I dream that mother is calling us. Show me the way, please do.
Ka-te-qua says there are dreadful things in the forest that will eat me
up, but I am not afraid. Oh, do tell us the way home!"
The Indian gave a sharp look at the sobbing boy, and seemed in part to
understand his words. Stooping, he whispered in a stern tone: "No speak;
no tell Ka-te-qua;"--and without one glance of encouragement, he stalked
away to the spot where the other Indians had assembled, preparing for
The children saw him no more for weeks. Rudolph remembered his parting
words, and though he could not fully understand Po-no-kah's motive, he
faithfully obeyed his command. Not even to Tom did he relate what had
Rudolph and Kitty learned many things from the Indians that they never
would have studied in the rough school-house near their pretty home; and
they soon became familiar with many singular customs that at first
filled them with wonder.
For instance: when they, or any of the little papooses, were naughty or
disobedient, they were put under what might be called the water-cure
treatment. Instead of being whipped or locked up in a dark pantry--as
was, I am sorry to say, the custom among some white people--they were
simply "ducked" under water until they became manageable. Winter or
summer, it was all the same. A bad child would very soon become a wet
child, if there were any water within a mile.
There are bright sides, as well as dark, to the Indian character; and in
considering their cruelties and inhuman practices, we must remember that
the white man has not always been just to him or set a good example to
his uncivilized brother, or been careful not to provoke him to deeds of
resentment and wrong. An Indian rarely forgets a kindness, and he never
tells a lie. He is heroic, and deems it beneath a man's dignity to
exhibit the slightest sign of pain under any circumstances. Among the
Sioux tribe of that time, the boys were trained from the first to bear
as much hardship as possible. They had a ceremony called the Straw
Dance, in which children were forced to maintain a stately and measured
step, while bunches of loose straws tied to their naked bodies were
lighted and allowed to burn slowly away. Any poor little creature who
flinched or "broke step" was sorely punished and held in disgrace.
There were certain dances among the Indians performed by the warriors,
before going either to battle or to the hunt. If to battle, they spent
hours, and often whole days and nights together, in the fearful
war-dance, accompanied by clashing on their drumlike instruments, and
whoops that rang long and loud amid the echoing hills. If to the hunt,
the Bear-Dance or the Buffalo-Dance was kept up nights and days before
starting, in order to propitiate the Bear Spirit or Buffalo Spirit,
whichever it might be. They had a funeral dance also, which was very
solemn and impressive. And if a chieftain was to be buried, either in
the river, or, as among the Mandans, on a rough platform erected on
poles high up from the ground, the warriors danced before his wigwam,
and assigned to a few of their number the duty of seeing that his widow
and children, if he left any, should never be without food and shelter.
Kitty and Rudolph often looked on with, mingled feelings of terror and
delight, while some of these strange ceremonies were being enacted. It
was curious to see the stalwart warriors, with bent backs and glum
faces, and many a grunt or whoop, stamp through the measured dance.
Often Kitty would clutch her brother's arm in terror, when, in strange
concert, the savages would suddenly halt, and with fiendish look and
stealthy gesture, seem to be listening to the approach of an enemy.
Sometimes, too, the women danced, but always apart from the men. Even in
their games the warriors and squaws never played together. Among the
Crow Indians, famous for their long black hair, it was not uncommon for
a thousand young men to play in one game of ball for three or four
consecutive days without interruption. As soon as one player retired,
exhausted, another took his place. Often hundreds of women played
together, and they were generally as expert as the men in throwing and
catching the ball.
Another strange feature among Indian customs, was the importance
attached to the _medicine-bag_. Every warrior had one, and would no
sooner hunt, or go to battle, or appear among his tribe without it, than
he would neglect to wear his bow or his scalping-knife. Not that the bag
contained any medicine, such as we understand by the word--for it was
nothing but a small piece of skin sewed like a bag, curiously
ornamented, and stuffed with straw or leaves--but because he regarded it
as a _charm_. With him, "medicine" meant some mysterious power that
would protect and guide him, and propitiate the unseen powers in his
favor. When about to obtain his medicine, the young Indian went alone to
some solitary river or lake in the depths of the forest, or mounted to
some lonely peak. Here he fasted, and remained until, sleeping, he
dreamed. The first animal he dreamed about, whether it were a bear,
buffalo, deer, weasel, or bird or reptile of any kind, became his
"medicine" forever. He at once hunted until he found one, and obtained
its skin for a bag.
Rudolph and Kitty looked with awe upon many of the rare medicine-bags of
the tribe, though they were never on any account allowed to touch them.
Indeed, Kitty had managed to make a rough little one for Rudolph, dotted
with clumps of beads, and he wore it next his heart with secret pride.
The little fellow had once, while tramping through the forest with
Katequa, seen a number of deer gathered around a spring, or salt-lick,
as it is called, and had quivered with frightened delight to see the
finest one fall wounded by her arrow. When the large eyes of the wounded
creature had turned plaintively toward him, he had tried not to feel
sorry, but his heart ached in spite of his efforts,
"I shall be a mighty hunter one of these days," he said to Kitty on his
return; "but I won't shoot deer, for they look at you just as if they
wanted to speak. I'll get bears though, lots of 'em, and buffalo; and
I'll have a fine trap when I get home, and catch badgers and foxes, just
as the Indians do."
Tom and Rudolph saw with indignation that, throughout the village, the
labor and drudgery were forced upon the squaws, while the warriors
stretched themselves lazily upon the ground, or smoked their pipes under
the spreading trees. As for Kitty, she was too busy watching the women
cook, dig, chop, and carry, to make any moral reflections.
She loved, also, to sit beside them when they prepared the skins brought
in from the hunt, or while they were busy with their curious sewing, so
different from that with which she had seen her mother occupied.
Bright-colored rags, feathers, beads, porcupine-quills, and even scraps
of tin, were the ornaments upon which the squaws relied to make the
toilets of their tribe "stylish" and beautiful; and Kitty--tiny little
woman that she was--soon grew to agree with them perfectly in matters of
To be sure, the Indian women never did anything quite so barbarous as to
put their little girls' feet into narrow shoes with high heels, nor
fasten tight belts about their waists, so that the God-given machinery
within could hardly work. But they did many preposterous things, for all
that. They painted their bodies and tattooed their skins, by pricking
figures on the flesh and rubbing in some staining juice when the blood
appeared. They even pierced their noses so that bright rings could
dangle from them. Many, too, hung bits of metal from their ears in a
similar way--but that may not strike my civilized readers as being a
very barbarous custom.
KA-TE-QUA'S "GOOD NIGHT."
Thus weeks and months passed away, not so wearily to the prisoners, as
to the poor, sorrowing hearts that mourned for them at home. Tom's brain
was always busy in planning some mode of escape for himself and his
little charges. But, as he was still closely guarded, never being left
alone for an instant, night or day, and as the children slept in the
wigwam of Ka-te-qua, whose eyes seemed never intended to close, he
concluded to wait patiently rather than to risk the lives of all three
by an unsuccessful attempt.
Meantime, Ka-te-qua's strong arms grew feeble, her arrow became less
fatal in its aim, and her strange fits of moodiness filled Rudolph and
Kitty with dread.
For hours she would sit at the entrance of her wigwam, chanting
mournfully in the Indian tongue. At such times she would compel the
children to remain within,--becoming frantic with crazy rage should they
attempt to force past her into the pleasant sunshine; and they would sit
together in the shadow, hoping that by some whim she would walk away, or
that the long, long chant would cease. One afternoon she kept them
waiting in this way for hours. The sun sank lower and lower into the
distant prairie, and the crimson clouds faded to a dull gray. Rudolph
and Kitty sat listening to the wailing tones of Ka-te-qua's voice until,
as the evening grew dark and chilly, they found for themselves a scanty
supper of parched corn, and after whispering their simple prayer, groped
their way to bed.
The strange old creature ceased singing after a while, and entered the
wigwam. They could distinguish her form as she slowly moved about,
before throwing herself down near the entrance to indulge in her usual
cat-like sleep. Afraid to speak to her, for they were not quite sure in
what mood she might be, they watched her movements as well as they
could, and at last felt sure that she was tottering slowly toward them.
Kitty clasped Rudolph's neck more tightly, and broke into a frightened
sob. In an instant, they felt her hand steal very gently over their
"Night! night!" she whispered softly.
"Good-night, Ka-te-qua," they answered in a breath, for their fear was
all gone now.
"Night, night," repeated the voice, as kindly as their own mother could
have said it, and after giving each a caressing stroke, their old friend
moved softly away.
Very early the next morning the children were awakened by a buzzing of
many voices. Ka-te-qua had been found lying stiff and cold at the
entrance of her wigwam. Not a trace of injury of any kind was upon her.
The Indians, crowding round, shook their heads gravely. Ka-te-qua was
wise, they said, but Manitou had sent for her. She had gone to the happy
Hunting Grounds of her fathers.
FIRE-WATER BECOMES MASTER.
After a long absence, the hunting party returned. As soon as Po-no-kah's
stalwart form appeared in sight, Rudolph and Kitty rushed, with a cry of
joy, to meet him; but, to their great dismay, he pushed them away with a
frown and a grunt that told them plainly that they were to be familiar
with him no more. Poor children!--Ka-te-qua gone, Po-no-kah changed, and
Tom scarcely heeding them,--they felt friendless indeed. Kind words they
never heard now, and kind looks rarely, except when Tom threw them a
hasty glance that warmed their hearts, though they scarcely knew why.
They did not know how his feelings yearned towards them, nor how eagerly
he would have joined in all their simple pursuits, had he dared to do
so; but the poor fellow had discovered that any notice he took of the
children aroused suspicion, and he therefore concluded to pursue a
In the meantime the children had one great joy. Their love for each
other was always the same. Kitty trusted in the belief that "mammy"
would send for them; but Rudolph looked ever up to the Great Love that
he knew was watching over them and the dear ones at home.
"If it's _right_, Kitty," he would whisper, "I _know_ we'll go home one
of these days. Don't be afraid. God will take care of us."
"But Dod took Te-qua away," Kitty would sometimes say.
"Yes, I know He did, Kitty," and Rudolph's eyes would look sadly up to
the blue sky, "I know He did, but then I think she was tired and wanted
Summer, autumn, and winter had passed away, and now came the season when
the Indians carried their largest supply of furs and skins to sell in
the city far over the prairies. Often, after their hunts, they had met
with traders, and exchanged the skins they had taken for such articles
as the white man had to give--guns, blankets, knives, powder, pipes, and
fire-water; but this was the grand trading excursion of the year.
When the party returned, after a few weeks' absence, they brought with
them among other things, a keg of whisky. After the first welcome was
over, the savages held a council.
It was soon evident that a fearful scene was to be enacted. The
prisoners had seen something of the kind before, but never on so large a
scale as this.
The Indians had decided to hold a revel, in which nearly all the men
were to drink fire-water until they could take no more.
Even these savages knew the horrible consequences of parting with their
wits in this manner. Before the drinking commenced, they appointed a few
able-bodied Indians who were to remain sober and take care of the rest.
They then deprived themselves of all their dangerous weapons--tomahawks,
clubs, guns, arrows, and knives, and prepared for their fearful riot.
The scene that followed need not be described.
Soon the confusion became fearful. The few sober chiefs were constantly
risking their lives in their efforts to prevent mischief. Squaws were
screaming, and frightened children were hiding in every direction.
Tom, who was half forgotten in the general excitement, saw Po-no-kah
whisper hurriedly to one of the women. In a moment she caught Rudolph
and Kitty by their hands and stole cautiously with them into the forest.
Tom's suspicions were aroused. He started up only to feel a strong arm
force him back to the log upon which he had been seated.
"No move!" muttered a voice, close by his ear. "Soon come.--Be very
In a few moments, while the tumult and uproar were at their height, Tom
saw Po-no-kah reeling toward the forest.
Wondering what the fellow meant to do, yet filled with a wild hope, Tom
watched his chance, staggered past the rioters, and managed to follow
the warrior by another path, without creating any suspicion.
When, at last, they met, Po-no-kah had Rudolph and Kitty in his arms,
and, staggering no more, was hurrying through the forest, armed with
bow, quiver, and traveling pouch. The astonished prisoner, after taking
Kitty from his companion's arms, followed him in silence. Not for hours
did Po-no-kah look back or speak, and then it was but to say a few
"Po-no-kah was hungry. The father of the little pale-faces fed him.
Po-no-kah no snake--he remember--Po-no-kah take 'em home."
[Footnote 4: Brandy, rum, and all alcoholic liquors.]
SHOWING HOW THE BAG OF POTATOES CAME BACK AGAIN.
Farmer Hedden was busily at work in the fields, looking ten years older
than on that sunny day, nearly a year before, when he had shouted a
laughing "good-bye" to Tom and the little ones.
Bessie was trudging alone from school, wondering why the birds sang less
sweetly than they did the May before, and wishing that the noble dog
that bounded by her side looked a little more like the first Bouncer.
Mrs. Hedden sat with her brother in the lonely cottage, talking on the
old, old theme; the memory of that terrible night had never left her
"No, no, Robert," she said at length, in reply to some appeal from her
brother, "we must not go. I know it would be better for us to sell out
and go to Philadelphia. But it cannot be; we must never leave this
"Surely, Betsy," urged her brother, "you cannot be so wild as to
"No!" she interrupted, "I never dare even hope for that now. I know my
lost darlings are not in this world, and yet--and yet why not hope? why
not think that perhaps--"
A shadow fell upon the threshold. What wonder that the mother sprang
forward with a cry of joy! What wonder that Farmer Hedden, looking from
the field, came bounding toward the house! Po-no-kah was
there--Po-no-kah and little Kitty!
Laughing,--crying,--clasping her dear Kitty frantically to her heart,
then gazing at her at arms' length, Mrs. Hedden raised her eyes to the
Indian, and gasped faintly--
"Rudolph? the boy--is he--"
She could say no more.
"Yes--boy all good," answered Po-no-kah, eagerly, "white man say break
heart see two--he here."
Just then Farmer Hedden, Tom Hennessy, and Rudolph rushed in.
Oh, what a meeting that was! And Bessie, too, was there before they knew
it. Such laughter--such tears--such shouts of rejoicing had never been
known in the Hedden cottage before!
Soon the barking of a dog was heard. Rudolph sprang from his father's
"Oh, it's Bouncer!" he cried; "let me see him. Here, Bouncer!"
Bouncer indeed came leaping in at the call, but it was not _the_
Bouncer, though it was a great, shaggy fellow, worthy of the name.
Rudolph started back; the dog, too, eyed him with a suspicious look.
"That isn't Bouncer! Where is he, mother?" exclaimed the poor boy,
looking up with a bewildered glance.
Po-no-kah slunk aside.
"Do tell me where Bouncer is," he repeated,
"We are all here but him. Here, Bouncer! Bouncer!" and he ran to the
Bessie wound her arms about his neck.
"Rudolph, darling," she sobbed, "don't cry. Bouncer was killed on _that_
day. He saved my life, Rudolph--"
"Bouncer dead!" screamed the boy.
Just then the new dog, seeing Bessie and her brother so close together,
felt that he had a right there, too. With many a frantic leap and bound
he endeavored to draw Rudolph's attention, until, finally, the tearful
eyes of the boy were turned upon him. Then, if ever a dog tried to do
his best, that fellow did. He sprang into the air, barked, tumbled,
leaped, whined, wagged his tail till it almost spun, and, finally,
licked Rudolph in the face until the chubby cheeks shook with laughter.
All this time Tom's Indian dress had scarcely been noticed. At last Mrs.
Hedden, grasping both his hands, exclaimed:
"Why, what in the world have you been doing with yourself? I knew you,
though, the moment you came in. Oh, Tom, how you have suffered!"
Tom tried to answer her; but somehow his great faithful heart was
overflowing, and he could only look at her with a tearful smile.
"That's nothing," he said at length. "It's all ended well, anyhow. But a
fellow can't help thinking of his own folks, dead and gone, when he sees
such a meeting as this."
Mr. Hedden, who had been talking with Po-no-kah, walked over to Tom and
placed his hand upon his shoulder.
"_We_ are your folks now, my faithful fellow. God bless you! I can never
repay what I owe you. Remember, our home is yours from this hour. I
shall take no denial."
"Good!" exclaimed Bessie, clapping her hands; "now I shall have two
Mrs. Hedden, who had listened to Po-no-kah's broken words, kissed and
hugged Tom in her motherly way. "Dear me," she exclaimed, "how can we
make you look like a white man again; and to think you have had chances
to escape and would not leave the children," and then she hugged him
"Ugh!" grunted the Indian, nodding his head and holding up three
fingers--to signify that Tom had had three chances.
"Pooh!" said the brave fellow, blushing through all the red paint, "I
didn't have any at all until a month or so ago, and I'd got kind o' used
to staying then."
Soon the red man turned to go. In vain the grateful parents tried to
force their gifts upon him, and to persuade him to at least partake of
some refreshment after his long journey.
He pointed to his hunting-pouch and his bow, as if to say that they
would furnish all the the food he required, and nodded westward to show
that he must be far on his way before sundown.
As Tom gave him a hearty hand-shake and the rest crowded about him, all,
even to little Kitty, thanking him over and over again, he waved them
off with dignity.
"No thank," he said; "Po-no-kah was cold and hungry; the father of the
young pale-faces gave him food. He come tell white man Indian no
Tom expressed anxiety lest their deliverer should suffer for his act
when he returned to his tribe.
"Po-no-kah no fraid" answered the Indian grimly with almost a smile upon
his face. And, nodding a farewell to little Kitty, he strode
* * * * *
A year later, the Heddens settled on a fine farm near Philadelphia.
Rudolph and Kitty doubtless walked many a time by the old Hall where our
Declaration of Independence was signed.
Bessie Hedden's sons when they grew up became pioneers themselves; and
their names were Hennessy; so you see the maiden probably, in the course
of time, changed her mind about having Tom for a brother.