--No leave take I; for I will ride As far as land will let me, by your side. --Shakspeare.
The passage of the Pawnee to his village was interrupted by no scene of violence. His vengeance had been as complete as it was summary. Not even a solitary scout of the Siouxes was left on the hunting grounds he was obliged to traverse, and of course the journey of Middleton's party was as peaceful as if made in the bosom of the States. The marches were timed to meet the weakness of the females. In short, the victors seemed to have lost every trace of ferocity with their success, and appeared disposed to consult the most trifling of the wants of that engrossing people, who were daily encroaching on their rights, and reducing the Red-men of the west, from their state of proud independence to the condition of fugitives and wanderers.
Our limits will not permit a detail of the triumphal entry of the conquerors. The exultation of the tribe was proportioned to its previous despondency. Mothers boasted of the honourable deaths of their sons; wives proclaimed the honour and pointed to the scars of their husbands, and Indian girls rewarded the young braves with songs of triumph. The trophies of their fallen enemies were exhibited, as conquered standards are displayed in more civilised regions. The deeds of former warriors were recounted by the aged men, and declared to be eclipsed by the glory of this victory. While Hard-Heart himself, so distinguished for his exploits from boyhood to that hour, was unanimously proclaimed and re-proclaimed the worthiest chief and the stoutest brave that the Wahcondah had ever bestowed on his most favoured children, the Pawnees of the Loup.
Notwithstanding the comparative security in which Middleton found his recovered treasure, he was not sorry to see his faithful and sturdy artillerists standing among the throng, as he entered in the wild train, and lifting their voices, in a martial shout, to greet his return. The presence of this force, small as it was, removed every shadow of uneasiness from his mind. It made him master of his movements, gave him dignity and importance in the eyes of his new friends, and would enable him to overcome the difficulties of the wide region which still lay between the village of the Pawnees and the nearest fortress of his countrymen. A lodge was yielded to the exclusive possession of Inez and Ellen; and even Paul, when he saw an armed sentinel in the uniform of the States, pacing before its entrance, was content to stray among the dwellings of the "Red-skins," prying with but little reserve into their domestic economy, commenting sometimes jocularly, sometimes gravely, and always freely, on their different expedients, or endeavouring to make the wondering housewives comprehend his quaint explanations of what he conceived to be the better customs of the whites.
This enquiring and troublesome spirit found no imitators among the Indians. The delicacy and reserve of Hard-Heart were communicated to his people. When every attention, that could be suggested by their simple manners and narrow wants, had been fulfilled, no intrusive foot presumed to approach the cabins devoted to the service of the strangers. They were left to seek their repose in the manner which most comported with their habits and inclinations. The songs and rejoicings of the tribe, however, ran far into the night, during the deepest hours of which, the voice of more than one warrior was heard, recounting from the top of his lodge, the deeds of his people and the glory of their triumphs.
Every thing having life, notwithstanding the excesses of the night, was abroad with the appearance of the sun. The expression of exultation, which had so lately been seen on every countenance, was now changed to one better suited to the feeling of the moment. It was understood by all, that the Pale-faces, who had befriended their chief were about to take their final leave of the tribe. The soldiers of Middleton, in anticipation of his arrival, had bargained with an unsuccessful trader for the use of his boat, which lay in the stream ready to receive its cargo, and nothing remained to complete the arrangements for the long journey.
Middleton did not see this moment arrive entirely without distrust. The admiration with which Hard-Heart regarded Inez, had not escaped his jealous eye, any more than had the lawless wishes of Mahtoree. He knew the consummate manner in which a savage could conceal his designs, and he felt that it would be a culpable weakness to be unprepared for the worst. Secret instructions were therefore given to his men, while the preparations they made were properly masked behind the show of military parade, with which it was intended to signalise their departure.
The conscience of the young soldier reproached him, when he saw the whole tribe accompanying his party to the margin of the stream, with unarmed hands and sorrowful countenances. They gathered in a circle around the strangers and their chief, and became not only peaceful, but highly interested observers of what was passing. As it was evident that Hard-Heart intended to speak, the former stopped, and manifested their readiness to listen, the trapper performing the office of interpreter. Then the young chief addressed his people, in the usual metaphorical language of an Indian. He commenced by alluding to the antiquity and renown of his own nation. He spoke of their successes in the hunts and on the war-path; of the manner in which they had always known how to defend their rights and to chastise their enemies. After he had said enough to manifest his respect for the greatness of the Loups, and to satisfy the pride of the listeners, he made a sudden transition to the race of whom the strangers were members. He compared their countless numbers to the flights of migratory birds in the season of blossoms, or in the fall of the year. With a delicacy, that none know better how to practise than an Indian warrior, he made no direct mention of the rapacious temper, that so many of them had betrayed, in their dealings with the Red-men. Feeling that the sentiment of distrust was strongly engrafted in the tempers of his tribe, he rather endeavoured to soothe any just resentment they might entertain, by indirect excuses and apologies. He reminded the listeners that even the Pawnee Loups had been obliged to chase many unworthy individuals from their villages. The Wahcondah sometimes veiled his countenance from a Red-man. No doubt the Great Spirit of the Pale-faces often looked darkly on his children. Such as were abandoned to the worker of evil could never be brave or virtuous, let the colour of the skin be what it might. He bade his young men look at the hands of the Big-knives. They were not empty, like those of hungry beggars. Neither were they filled with goods, like those of knavish traders. They were, like themselves, warriors, and they carried arms which they knew well how to use--they were worthy to be called brothers!
Then he directed the attention of all to the chief of the strangers. He was a son of their great white father. He had not come upon the prairies to frighten the buffaloes from their pastures, or to seek the game of the Indians. Wicked men had robbed him of one of his wives; no doubt she was the most obedient, the meekest, the loveliest of them all. They had only to open their eyes to see that his words must be true. Now, that the white chief had found his wife, he was about to return to his own people in peace. He would tell them that the Pawnees were just, and there would be a line of wampum between the two nations. Let all his people wish the strangers a safe return to their towns. The warriors of the Loups knew both how to receive their enemies, and how to clear the briars from the path of their friends.
The heart of Middleton beat quick, as the young partisan[*] alluded to the charms of Inez, and for an instant he cast an impatient glance at his little line of artillerists; but the chief from that moment appeared to forget he had ever seen so fair a being. His feelings, if he had any on the subject, were veiled behind the cold mask of Indian self-denial. He took each warrior by the hand, not forgetting the meanest soldier, but his cold and collected eye never wandered, for an instant, towards either of the females. Arrangements had been made for their comfort, with a prodigality and care that had not failed to excite some surprise in his young men, but in no other particular did he shock their manly pride, by betraying any solicitude in behalf of the weaker sex.
[*] The Americans and the Indians have adopted several words, which
each believe peculiar to the language of the others. Thus "squaw,"
"papoose," or child, wigwam, &c. &c., though it is doubtful
whether they belonged at all to any Indian dialect, are much used
by both white and red men in their Intercourse. Many words are
derived from the French, in this species of prairie nomaic.
Partisan, brave, &c. are of the number.
The leave-taking was general and imposing. Each male Pawnee was sedulous to omit no one of the strange warriors in his attentions, and of course the ceremony occupied some time. The only exception, and that was not general, was in the case of Dr. Battius. Not a few of the young men, it is true, were indifferent about lavishing civilities on one of so doubtful a profession, but the worthy naturalist found some consolation in the more matured politeness of the old men, who had inferred, that though not of much use in war, the medicine of the Big- knives might possibly be made serviceable in peace.
When all of Middleton's party had embarked, the trapper lifted a small bundle, which had lain at his feet during the previous proceedings, and whistling Hector to his side, he was the last to take his seat. The artillerists gave the usual cheers, which were answered by a shout from the tribe, and then the boat was shoved into the current, and began to glide swiftly down its stream.
A long and a musing, if not a melancholy, silence succeeded this departure. It was first broken by the trapper, whose regret was not the least visible in his dejected and sorrowful eye--
"They are a valiant and an honest tribe," he said; "that will I say boldly in their favour; and second only do I take them to be to that once mighty but now scattered people, the Delawares of the Hills. Ah's me, Captain, if you had seen as much good and evil as I have seen in these nations of Red-skins, you would know of how much value was a brave and simple-minded warrior. I know that some are to be found, who both think and say that an Indian is but little better than the beasts of these naked plains. But it is needful to be honest in one's self, to be a fitting judge of honesty in others. No doubt, no doubt they know their enemies, and little do they care to show to such any great confidence, or love."
"It is the way of man," returned the Captain; "and it is probable they are not wanting in any of his natural qualities."
"No, no; it is little that they want, that natur' has had to give. But as little does he know of the temper of a Red-skin, who has seen but one Indian, or one tribe, as he knows of the colour of feathers who has only looked upon a crow. Now, friend steersman, just give the boat a sheer towards yonder, low, sandy point, and a favour will be granted at a short asking."
"For what?" demanded Middleton; "we are now in the swiftest of the current, and by drawing to the shore we shall lose the force of the stream."
"Your tarry will not be long," returned the old man, applying his own hand to the execution of that which he had requested. The oarsmen had seen enough of his influence, with their leader, not to dispute his wishes, and before time was given for further discussion on the subject, the bow of the boat had touched the land.
"Captain," resumed the other, untying his little wallet with great deliberation, and even in a manner to show he found satisfaction in the delay, "I wish to offer you a small matter of trade. No great bargain, mayhap; but still the best that one, of whose hand the skill of the rifle has taken leave, and who has become no better than a miserable trapper, can offer before we part."
"Part!" was echoed from every mouth, among those who had so recently shared his dangers, and profited by his care.
"What the devil, old trapper, do you mean to foot it to the settlements, when here is a boat that will float the distance in half the time, that the jackass, the Doctor has given the Pawnee, could trot along the same."
"Settlements, boy! It is long sin' I took my leave of the waste and wickedness of the settlements and the villages. If I live in a clearing, here, it is one of the Lord's making, and I have no hard thoughts on the matter; but never again shall I be seen running wilfully into the danger of immoralities."
"I had not thought of parting," answered Middleton, endeavouring to seek some relief from the uneasiness he felt, by turning his eyes on the sympathising countenances of his friends; "on the contrary, I had hoped and believed that you would have accompanied us below, where I give you a sacred pledge, nothing shall be wanting to make your days comfortable."
"Yes, lad, yes; you would do your endeavours; but what are the strivings of man against the working of the devil! Ay, if kind offers and good wishes could have done the thing, I might have been a congress man, or perhaps a governor, years agone. Your grand'ther wished the same, and there are them still lying in the Otsego mountains, as I hope, who would gladly have given me a palace for my dwelling. But what are riches without content! My time must now be short, at any rate, and I hope it's no mighty sin for one, who has acted his part honestly near ninety winters and summers, to wish to pass the few hours that remain in comfort. If you think I have done wrong in coming thus far to quit you again, Captain, I will own the reason of the act, without shame or backwardness. Though I have seen so much of the wilderness, it is not to be gainsayed, that my feelings, as well as my skin, are white. Now it would not be a fitting spectacle, that yonder Pawnee Loups should look upon the weakness of an old warrior, if weakness he should happen to show in parting for ever from those he has reason to love, though he may not set his heart so strongly on them, as to wish to go into the settlements in their company."
"Harkee, old trapper," said Paul, clearing his throat with a desperate effort, as if determined to give his voice a clear exit; "I have just one bargain to make, since you talk of trading, which is neither more or less than this. I offer you, as my side of the business, one half of my shanty, nor do I much care if it be the biggest half; the sweetest and the purest honey that can be made of the wild locust; always enough to eat, with now and then a mouthful of venison, or, for that matter, a morsel of buffaloe's hump, seeing that I intend to push my acquaintance with the animal, and as good and as tidy cooking as can come from the hands of one like Ellen Wade, here, who will shortly be Nelly somebody-else, and altogether such general treatment as a decent man might be supposed to pay to his best friend, or for that matter, to his own father; in return for the same, you ar' to give us at odd moments some of your ancient traditions, perhaps a little wholesome advice on occasions, in small quantities at a time, and as much of your agreeable company as you please."
"It is well--it is well, boy," returned the old man, fumbling at his wallet; "honestly offered, and not unthankfully declined--but it cannot be; no, it can never be."
"Venerable venator," said Dr. Battius; "there are obligations, which every man owes to society and to human nature. It is time that you should return to your countrymen, to deliver up some of those stores of experimental knowledge that you have doubtless obtained by so long a sojourn in the wilds, which, however they may be corrupted by preconceived opinions, will prove acceptable bequests to those whom, as you say, you must shortly leave for ever."
"Friend physicianer," returned the trapper, looking the other steadily in the face, "as it would be no easy matter to judge of the temper of the rattler by considering the fashions of the moose, so it would be hard to speak of the usefulness of one man by thinking too much of the deeds of another. You have your gifts like others, I suppose, and little do I wish to disturb them. But as to me, the Lord has made me for a doer and not a talker, and therefore do I consider it no harm to shut my ears to your invitation."
"It is enough," interrupted Middleton, "I have seen and heard so much of this extraordinary man, as to know that persuasions will not change his purpose. First we will hear your request, my friend, and then we will consider what may be best done for your advantage."
"It is a small matter, Captain," returned the old man, succeeding at length in opening his bundle. "A small and trifling matter is it, to what I once used to offer in the way of bargain; but then it is the best I have, and therein not to be despised. Here are the skins of four beavers, that I took, it might be a month afore we met, and here is another from a racoon, that is of no great matter to be sure, but which may serve to make weight atween us."
"And what do you propose to do with them?"
"I offer them in lawful barter. Them knaves the Siouxes, the Lord forgive me for ever believing it was the Konzas! have stolen the best of my traps, and driven me altogether to make-shift inventions, which might foretell a dreary winter for me, should my time stretch into another season. I wish you therefore to take the skins, and to offer them to some of the trappers you will not fail to meet below in exchange for a few traps, and to send the same into the Pawnee village in my name. Be careful to have my mark painted on them; a letter N, with a hound's ear, and the lock of a rifle. There is no Red-skin who will then dispute my right. For all which trouble I have little more to offer than my thanks, unless my friend, the bee-hunter here, will accept of the racoon, and take on himself the special charge of the whole matter."
"If I do, may I b--!" The mouth of Paul was stopped by the hand of Ellen, and he was obliged to swallow the rest of the sentence, which he did with a species of emotion that bore no slight resemblance to the process of strangulation.
"Well, well," returned the old man, meekly; "I hope there is no heavy offence in the offer. I know that the skin of a racoon is of small price, but then it was no mighty labour that I asked in return."
"You entirely mistake the meaning of our friend," interrupted Middleton, who observed, that the bee-hunter was looking in every direction but the right one, and that he was utterly unable to make his own vindication. "He did not mean to say that he declined the charge, but merely that he refused all compensation. It is unnecessary, however, to say more of this; it shall be my office to see that the debt we owe, is properly discharged, and that all your necessities shall be anticipated."
"Anan!" said the old man, looking up enquiringly into the other's face, as if to ask an explanation.
"It shall all be as you wish. Lay the skins with my baggage. We will bargain for you as for ourselves."
"Thankee, thankee, Captain; you grand'ther was of a free and generous mind. So much so, in truth, that those just people, the Delawares, called him the 'Openhand.' I wish, now, I was as I used to be, in order that I might send in the lady a few delicate martens for her tippets and overcoats, just to show you that I know how to give courtesy for courtesy. But do not expect the same, for I am too old to give a promise! It will all be just as the Lord shall see fit. I can offer you nothing else, for I haven't liv'd so long in the wilderness, not to know the scrupulous ways of a gentleman."
"Harkee, old trapper," cried the bee-hunter, striking his own hand into the open palm which the other had extended, with a report but little below the crack of a rifle, "I have just two things to say-- Firstly, that the Captain has told you my meaning better than I can myself; and, secondly, if you want a skin, either for your private use or to send abroad, I have it at your service, and that is the skin of one Paul Hover."
The old man returned the grasp he received, and opened his mouth to the utmost, in his extraordinary, silent, laugh.
"You couldn't have given such a squeeze, boy, when the Teton squaws were about you with their knives! Ah! you are in your prime, and in your vigour and happiness, if honesty lies in your path." Then the expression of his rugged features suddenly changed to a look of seriousness and thought. "Come hither, lad," he said, leading the bee- hunter by a button to the land, and speaking apart in a tone of admonition and confidence; "much has passed atween us on the pleasures and respectableness of a life in the woods, or on the borders. I do not now mean to say that all you have heard is not true, but different tempers call for different employments. You have taken to your bosom, there, a good and kind child, and it has become your duty to consider her, as well as yourself, in setting forth in life. You are a little given to skirting the settlements but, to my poor judgment, the girl would be more like a flourishing flower in the sun of a clearing, than in the winds of a prairie. Therefore forget any thing you may have heard from me, which is nevertheless true, and turn your mind on the ways of the inner country."
Paul could only answer with a squeeze, that would have brought tears from the eyes of most men, but which produced no other effect on the indurated muscles of the other, than to make him laugh and nod, as if he received the same as a pledge that the bee-hunter would remember his advice. The trapper then turned away from his rough but warm- hearted companion; and, having called Hector from the boat, he seemed anxious still to utter a few words more.
"Captain," he at length resumed, "I know when a poor man talks of credit, he deals in a delicate word, according to the fashions of the world; and when an old man talks of life, he speaks of that which he may never see; nevertheless there is one thing I will say, and that is not so much on my own behalf as on that of another person. Here is Hector, a good and faithful pup, that has long outlived the time of a dog; and, like his master, he looks more to comfort now, than to any deeds in running. But the creatur' has his feelings as well as a Christian. He has consorted latterly with his kinsman, there, in such a sort as to find great pleasure in his company, and I will acknowledge that it touches my feelings to part the pair so soon. If you will set a value on your hound, I will endeavour to send it to you in the spring, more especially should them same traps come safe to hand; or, if you dislike parting with the animal altogether, I will just ask you for his loan through the winter. I think I can see my pup will not last beyond that time, for I have judgment in these matters, since many is the friend, both hound and Red-skin, that I have seen depart in my day, though the Lord hath not yet seen fit to order his angels to sound forth my name."
"Take him, take him," cried Middleton; "take all, or any thing!"
The old man whistled the younger dog to the land; and then he proceeded to the final adieus. Little was said on either side. The trapper took each person solemnly by the hand, and uttered something friendly and kind to all. Middleton was perfectly speechless, and was driven to affect busying himself among the baggage. Paul whistled with all his might, and even Obed took his leave with an effort that bore the appearance of desperate philosophical resolution. When he had made the circuit of the whole, the old man, with his own hands, shoved the boat into the current, wishing God to speed them. Not a word was spoken, nor a stroke of the oar given, until the travellers bad floated past a knoll that hid the trapper from their view. He was last seen standing on the low point, leaning on his rifle, with Hector crouched at his feet, and the younger dog frisking along the sands, in the playfulness of youth and vigour.Next