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´╗┐Title: Osceola the Seminole - The Red Fawn of the Flower Land
Author: Reid, Mayne, 1818-1883
Language: English
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Osceola the Seminole
The Red Fawn of the Flower Land
By Captain Mayne Reid
Published by Robert M. De Witt, New York.
This edition dated 1868.

Osceola the Seminole, by Captain Mayne Reid.

________________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________________
OSCEOLA THE SEMINOLE, BY CAPTAIN MAYNE REID.



PREFACE.

The Historical Novel has ever maintained a high rank--perhaps the
highest--among works of fiction, for the reason that while it enchants
the senses, it improves the mind, conveying, under a most pleasing form,
much information which, perhaps, the reader would never have sought for
amid the dry records of the purely historic narrative.

This fact being conceded, it needs but little argument to prove that
those works are most interesting which treat of the facts and incidents
pertaining to our own history, and of a date which is yet fresh in the
memory of the reader.

To this class of books pre-eminently belongs the volume which is here
submitted to the American reader, from the pen of a writer who has
proved himself unsurpassed in the field which he has, by his various
works, made peculiarly his own.

The brief but heroic struggle of the celebrated Chief, Osceola, forms
the groundwork of a narrative which is equal, if not superior, to any of
Mr Reid's former productions; and while the reader's patriotism cannot
fail to be gratified at the result, his sympathy is, at the same time,
awakened for the manly struggles and untimely fate of the gallant
spirit, who fought so nobly for the freedom of his red brethren and the
preservation of their cherished hunting-grounds.



CHAPTER ONE.

THE FLOWERY LAND.

Linda Florida! fair land of flowers!

Thus hailed thee the bold Spanish adventurer, as standing upon the prow
of his caravel, he first caught sight of thy shores.

It was upon the Sunday of Palms--the festival of the flowers--and the
devout Castilian beheld in thee a fit emblem of the day.  Under the
influence of a pious thought, he gave thee its name, and well deservedst
thou the proud appellation.

That was three hundred years ago.  Three full cycles have rolled past,
since the hour of thy baptismal ceremony; but the title becomes thee as
ever.  Thy floral bloom is as bright at this hour as when Leon landed
upon thy shores--ay, bright as when the breath of God first called thee
into being.

Thy forests are still virgin and inviolate; verdant thy savannas; thy
groves as fragrant as ever--those perfumed groves of aniseed and orange,
of myrtle and magnolia.  Still sparkles upon thy plains the cerulean
ixia; still gleam in thy waters the golden nymphae; above thy swamps yet
tower the colossal cypress, the gigantic cedar, the gum, and the
bay-tree; still over thy gentle slopes of silvery sand wave long-leaved
pines, mingling their acetalous foliage with the frondage of the palm.
Strange anomaly of vegetation; the tree of the north, and the tree of
the south--the types of the frigid and torrid--in this thy mild mid
region, standing side by side, and blending their branches together!

Linda Florida! who can behold thee without peculiar emotion? without
conviction that thou art a favoured land?  Gazing upon thee, one ceases
to wonder at the faith--the wild faith of the early adventurers--that
from thy bosom gushed forth the fountain of youth, the waters of eternal
life!

No wonder the sweet fancy found favour and credence; no wonder so
delightful an idea had its crowds of devotees.  Thousands came from
afar, to find rejuvenescence by bathing in thy crystal streams--
thousands sought it, with far more eagerness than the white metal of
Mexico, or the yellow gold of Peru; in the search thousands grew older
instead of younger, or perished in pursuit of the vain illusion; but who
could wonder?

Even at this hour, one can scarcely think it an illusion; and in that
age of romance, it was still easier of belief.  A new world had been
discovered, why not a new theory of life?  Men looked upon a land where
the leaves never fell, and the flowers never faded.  The bloom was
eternal--eternal the music of the birds.  There was no winter--no signs
of death or decay.  Natural, then, the fancy, and easy the faith, that
in such fair land man too might be immortal.

The delusion has long since died away, but not the beauty that gave
birth to it.  Thou, Florida, art still the same--still art thou
emphatically the land of flowers.  Thy groves are as green, thy skies as
bright, thy waters as diaphanous as ever.  There is no change in the
loveliness of thy aspect.

And yet I observe a change.  The scene is the same, but not the
characters!  Where are they of that red race who were born of thee, and
nurtured on thy bosom?  I see them not.  In thy fields, I behold white
and black, but not red--European and African, but not Indian--not one of
that ancient people who were once thine own.  Where are they?

Gone! all gone!  No longer tread they thy flowery paths--no longer are
thy crystal streams cleft by the keels of their canoes--no more upon thy
spicy gale is borne the sound of their voices--the twang of their
bowstrings is heard no more amid the trees of thy forest: they have
parted from thee far and for ever.

But not willing went they away--for who could leave thee with a willing
heart?  No, fair Florida; thy red children were true to thee, and parted
only in sore unwillingness.  Long did they cling to the loved scenes of
their youth; long continued they the conflict of despair, that has made
them famous for ever.  Whole armies, and many a hard straggle, it cost
the pale-face to dispossess them; and then they went not willingly--they
were torn from thy bosom like wolf-cubs from their dam, and forced to a
far western land.  Sad their hearts, and slow their steps, as they faced
toward the setting sun.  Silent or weeping, they moved onward.  In all
that band, there was not one voluntary exile.

No wonder they disliked to leave thee.  I can well comprehend the
poignancy of their grief.  I too have enjoyed the sweets of thy flowery
land, and parted from thee with like reluctance.  I have walked under
the shadows of thy majestic forests, and bathed my body in thy limpid
streams--not with the hope of rejuvenescence, but the certainty of
health and joy.  Oft have I made my couch under the canopy of thy
spreading palms and magnolias, or stretched myself along the greensward
of thy savannas; and, with eyes bent upon the blue ether of thy heavens,
have listened to my heart repeating the words of the eastern poet:

  "Oh! if there can be an Elysium on earth,
  It is this--it is this!"



CHAPTER TWO.

THE INDIGO PLANTATION.

My father was an indigo planter; his name was Randolph.  I bear his name
in full--George Randolph.

There is Indian blood in my veins.  My father was of the Randolphs of
Roanoke--hence descended from the Princess Pocahontas.  He was proud of
his Indian ancestry--almost vain of it.

It may sound paradoxical, especially to European ears; but it is true,
that white men in America, who have Indian blood in them, are proud of
the taint.  Even to be a "half-breed" is no badge of shame--particularly
where the _sang mele_ has been gifted with fortune.  Not all the volumes
that have been written bear such strong testimony to the grandeur of the
Indian character as this one fact--we are not ashamed to acknowledge
them as ancestry!

Hundreds of white families lay claim to descent from the Virginian
princess.  If their claims be just, then must the fair Pocahontas have
been a blessing to her lord.

I think my father _was_ of the true lineage; at all events, he belonged
to a proud family in the "Old Dominion;" and during his early life had
been surrounded by sable slaves in hundreds.  But his rich patrimonial
lands became at length worn-out--profuse hospitality well-nigh ruined
him; and not brooking an inferior station, he gathered up the fragments
of his fortune, and "moved" southward--there to begin the world anew.

I was born before this removal, and am therefore a native of Virginia;
but my earliest impressions of a home were formed upon the banks of the
beautiful Suwanee in Florida.  That was the scene of my boyhood's life--
the spot consecrated to me by the joys of youth and the charms of early
love.

I would paint the picture of my boyhood's home.  Well do I remember it:
so fair a scene is not easily effaced from the memory.

A handsome "frame"-house, coloured white, with green Venetians over the
windows, and a wide verandah extending all round.  Carved wooden
porticoes support the roof of this verandah, and a low balustrade with
light railing separates it from the adjoining grounds--from the flower
parterre in front, the orangery on the right flank and a large garden on
the left.  From the outer edge of the parterre, a smooth lawn slopes
gently to the bank of the river--here expanding to the dimensions of a
noble lake, with distant wooded shores, islets that seem suspended in
the air, wild-fowl upon the wing, and wild-fowl in the water.

Upon the lawn, behold tall tapering palms, with pinnatifid leaves--a
species of _oreodoxia_--others with broad fan-shaped fronds--the
_palmettoes_ of the south; behold magnolias, clumps of the fragrant
illicium, and radiating crowns of the _yucca gloriosa_--all indigenous
to the soil.  Another native presents itself to the eye--a huge live-oak
extending its long horizontal boughs, covered thickly with evergreen
coriaceous leaves, and broadly shadowing the grass beneath.  Under its
shade behold a beautiful girl, in light summer robes--her hair loosely
coifed with a white kerchief, from the folds of which have escaped long
tresses glittering with the hues of gold.  That is my sister Virginia,
my only sister, still younger than myself.  Her golden hair bespeaks not
her Indian descent, but in that she takes after our mother.  She is
playing with her pets, the doe of the fallow deer, and its pretty
spotted fawn.  She is feeding them with the pulp of the sweet orange, of
which they are immoderately fond.  Another favourite is by her side, led
by its tiny chain.  It is the black fox-squirrel, with glossy coat and
quivering tail.  Its eccentric gambols frighten the fawn, causing the
timid creature to start over the ground, and press closer to its mother,
and sometimes to my sister, for protection.

The scene has its accompaniment of music.  The golden oriole, whose nest
is among the orange-trees, gives out its liquid song; the mock-bird,
caged in the verandah, repeats the strain with variations.  The gay
mimic echoes the red cardinal and the blue jay, both fluttering among
the flowers of the magnolia; it mocks the chatter of the green
paroquets, that are busy with the berries of the tall cypresses down by
the water's edge; at intervals it repeats the wild scream of the Spanish
curlews that wave their silver wings overhead, or the cry of the
tantalus heard from the far islets of the lake.  The bark of the dog,
the mewing of the cat, the hinny of mules, the neighing of horses, even
the tones of the human voice, are all imitated by this versatile and
incomparable songster.

The rear of the dwelling presents a different aspect--perhaps not so
bright, though not less cheerful.  Here is exhibited a scene of active
life--a picture of the industry of an indigo plantation.

A spacious enclosure, with its "post-and-rail" fence, adjoins the house.
Near the centre of this stands the _piece de resistance_--a grand shed
that covers half an acre of ground, supported upon strong pillars of
wood.  Underneath are seen huge oblong vats, hewn from the great trunks
of the cypress.  They are ranged in threes, one above the other, and
communicate by means of spigots placed in their ends.  In these the
precious plant is macerated, and its cerulean colour extracted.

Beyond are rows of pretty little cottages, uniform in size and shape,
each embowered in its grove of orange-trees, whose ripening fruit and
white wax-like flowers fill the air with perfume.  These are the
negro-cabins.  Here and there, towering above their roofs in upright
attitude, or bending gently over, is the same noble palm-tree that
ornaments the lawn in front.  Other houses appear within the enclosure,
rude structures of hewn logs, with "clap-board" roofs: they are the
stable, the corn-crib, the kitchen--this last communicating with the
main dwelling by a long open gallery, with shingle roof, supported upon
posts of the fragrant red cedar.

Beyond the enclosure stretch wild fields, backed by a dark belt of
cypress forest that shuts out the view of the horizon.  These fields
exhibit the staple of cultivation, the precious dye-plant, though other
vegetation appears upon them.  There are maize-plants and sweet potatoes
(_Convolvulus batatas_) some rice, and sugar-cane.  These are not
intended for commerce, but to provision the establishment.

The indigo is sown in straight rows, with intervals between.  The plants
are of different ages, some just bursting through the glebe with leaves
like young trefoil; others full-grown, above two feet in height,
resemble ferns, and exhibit the light-green pinnated leaves which
distinguish most of the _leguminosa_--for the indigo belongs to this
tribe.  Some shew their papilionaceous flowers just on the eve of
bursting; but rarely are they permitted to exhibit their full bloom.
Another destiny awaits them; and the hand of the reaper rudely checks
their purple inflorescence.

In the inclosure, and over the indigo-fields, a hundred human forms are
moving; with one or two exceptions, they are all of the African race--
all slaves.  They are not all of black skin--scarcely the majority of
them are negroes.  There are mulattoes, samboes, and quadroons.  Even
some who are of pure African blood are not black, only bronze-coloured;
but with the exception of the "overseer" and the owner of the
plantation, all are slaves.  Some are hideously ugly, with thick lips,
low retreating foreheads, flat noses, and ill-formed bodies! others are
well proportioned; and among them are some that might be accounted
good-looking.  There are women nearly white--quadroons.  Of the latter
are several that are more than good-looking--some even beautiful.

The men are in their work-dresses: loose cotton trousers, with coarse
coloured shirts, and hats of palmetto-leaf.  A few display dandyism in
their attire.  Some are naked from the waist upwards, their black skins
glistening under the sun like ebony.  The women are more gaily arrayed
in striped prints, and heads "toqued" with Madras kerchiefs of brilliant
check.  The dresses of some are tasteful and pretty.  The turban-like
coiffure renders them picturesque.

Both men and women are alike employed in the business of the
plantation--the manufacture of the indigo.  Some cut down the plants
with reaping-hooks, and tie them in bundles; others carry the bundles in
from the fields to the great shed; a few are employed in throwing them
into the upper trough, the "steeper;" while another few are drawing off
and "beating."  Some shovel the sediment into the draining-bags, while
others superintend the drying and cutting out.  All have their
respective tasks, and all seem alike cheerful in the performance of
them.  They laugh, and chatter, and sing; they give back jest for jest;
and scarcely a moment passes that merry voices are not ringing upon the
ear.

And yet these are all slaves--the slaves of my father.  He treats them
well; seldom is the lash uplifted: hence the happy mood and cheerful
aspect.

Such pleasant pictures are graven on my memory, sweetly and deeply
impressed.  They formed the _mise-en-scene_ of my early life.



CHAPTER THREE.

THE TWO JAKES.

Every plantation has its "bad fellow"--often more than one, but always
one who holds pre-eminence in evil.  "Yellow Jake" was the fiend of
ours.

He was a young mulatto, in person not ill-looking, but of sullen habit
and morose disposition.  On occasions he had shewn himself capable of
fierce resentment and cruelty.

Instances of such character are more common among mulattoes than
negroes.  Pride of colour on the part of the yellow man--confidence in a
higher organism, both intellectual and physical, and consequently a
keener sense of the injustice of his degraded position, explain this
psychological difference.

As for the pure negro, he rarely enacts the unfeeling savage.  In the
drama of human life, he is the victim, not the villain.  No matter where
lies the scene--in his own land, or elsewhere--he has been used to play
the _role_ of the sufferer; yet his soul is still free from resentment
or ferocity.  In all the world, there is no kinder heart than that which
beats within the bosom of the African black.

Yellow Jake was wicked without provocation.  Cruelty was innate in his
disposition--no doubt inherited.  He was a Spanish mulatto; that is,
paternally of Spanish blood--maternally, negro.  His father had sold him
to mine!

A slave-mother, a slave-son.  The father's freedom affects not the
offspring.  Among the black and red races of America, the child fellows
the fortunes of the mother.  Only she of Caucasian race can be the
mother of white men.

There was another "Jacob" upon the plantation--hence the distinctive
sobriquet of "Yellow Jake."  This other was "Black Jake;" and only in
age and size was there any similarity between the two.  In disposition
they differed even more than in complexion.  If Yellow Jake had the
brighter skin, Black Jake had the lighter heart.  Their countenances
exhibited a complete contrast--the contrast between a sullen frown and a
cheerful smile.  The white teeth of the latter were ever set in smiles:
the former smiled only when under the influence of some malicious
prompting.

Black Jake was a Virginian.  He was one of those belonging to the old
plantation--had "moved" along with his master; and felt those ties of
attachment which in many cases exist strongly between master and slave.
He regarded himself as one of our family, and gloried in bearing our
name.  Like all negroes born in the "Old Dominion," he was proud of his
nativity.  In caste, a "Vaginny nigger" takes precedence of all others.

Apart from his complexion, Black Jake was not ill-looking.  His features
were as good as those of the mulatto.  He had neither the thick lips,
flat nose, nor retreating forehead of his race--for these
characteristics are not universal.  I have known negroes of pure African
blood with features perfectly regular, and such a one was Black Jake.
In form, he might have passed for the Ethiopian Apollo.

There was one who thought him handsome--handsomer than his yellow
namesake.  This was the quadroon Viola, the belle of the plantation.
For Viola's hand, the two Jakes had long time been rival suitors.  Both
had assiduously courted her smiles--somewhat capricious they were, for
Viola was not without coquetry--but she had at length exhibited a marked
preference for the black.  I need not add that there was jealousy
between the negro and mulatto--on the part of the latter, rank hatred of
his rival--which Viola's preference had kindled into fierce resentment.

More than once had the two measured their strength, and on each occasion
had the black been victorious.  Perhaps to this cause, more than to his
personal appearance, was he indebted for the smiles of Viola.
Throughout all the world, throughout all time, beauty has bowed down
before courage and strength.

Yellow Jake was our woodman; Black Jake, the curator of the horses, the
driver of "white massa's" barouche.

The story of the two Jakes--their loves and their jealousies--is but a
common affair in the _petite politique_ of plantation-life.  I have
singled it out, not from any separate interest it may possess, but as
leading to a series of events that exercised an important influence on
my own subsequent history.

The first of these events was as follows; Yellow Jake, burning with
jealousy at the success of his rival, had grown spiteful with Viola.
Meeting her by some chance in the woods, and far from the house, he had
offered her a dire insult.  Resentment had rendered him reckless.  The
opportune arrival of my sister had prevented him from using violence,
but the intent could not be overlooked; and chiefly through my sister's
influence, the mulatto was brought to punishment.

It was the first time that Yellow Jake had received chastisement, though
not the first time he had deserved it.  My father had been indulgent
with him; too indulgent, all said.  He had often pardoned him when
guilty of faults--of crimes.  My father was of an easy temper, and had
an exceeding dislike to proceed to the extremity of the lash; but in
this case my sister had urged, with some spirit, the necessity of the
punishment.  Viola was her maid; and the wicked conduct of the mulatto
could not be overlooked.

The castigation did not cure him of his propensity to evil.  An event
occurred shortly after, that proved he was vindictive.  My sister's
pretty fawn was found dead by the shore of the lake.  It could not have
died from any natural cause--for it was seen alive, and skipping over
the lawn but the hour before.  No alligator could have done it, nor yet
a wolf.  There was neither scratch nor tear upon it; no signs of blood!
It must have been strangled.

It _was_ strangled, as proved in the sequel.  Yellow Jake had done it,
and Black Jake had seen him.  From the orange grove, where the latter
chanced to be at work, he had been witness of the tragic scene; and his
testimony procured a second flogging for the mulatto.

A third event followed close upon the heels of this--a quarrel between
negro and mulatto, that came to blows.  It had been sought by the latter
to revenge himself, at once upon his rival in love, and the witness of
his late crime.

The conflict did not end in mere blows.  Yellow Jake, with an instinct
derived from his Spanish paternity, drew his knife, and inflicted a
severe wound upon his unarmed antagonist.

This time his punishment was more severe.  I was myself enraged, for
Black Jake was my "body guard" and favourite.  Though his skin was
black, and his intellect but little cultivated, his cheerful disposition
rendered him a pleasant companion; he was, in fact, the chosen associate
of my boyish days--my comrade upon the water, and in the woods.

Justice required satisfaction, and Yellow Jake caught it in earnest.

The punishment proved of no avail.  He was incorrigible.  The demon
spirit was too strong within him: it was part of his nature.



CHAPTER FOUR.

THE HOMMOCK.

Just outside the orangery was one of those singular formations--
peculiar, I believe, to Florida.

A circular basin, like a vast sugar-pan, opens into the earth, to the
depth of many feet, and having a diameter of forty yards or more.  In
the bottom of this, several cavities are seen, about the size and of the
appearance of dug wells, regularly cylindrical--except where their sides
have fallen in, or the rocky partition between them has given way, in
which case they resemble a vast honeycomb with broken cells.

The wells are sometimes found dry; but more commonly there is water in
the bottom, and often filling the great tank itself.

Such natural reservoirs, although occurring in the midst of level
plains, are always partially surrounded by eminences--knolls, and
detached masses of testaceous rocks; all of which are covered by an
evergreen thicket of native trees, as _magnolia grandiflora_, red bay,
_zanthoxylon_, live-oak, mulberry, and several species of fan-palms
(palmettoes).  Sometimes these shadowy coverts are found among the trees
of the pine-forests, and sometimes they appear in the midst of green
savannas, like islets in the ocean.

They constitute the "hommocks" of Florida--famed in the story of its
Indian wars.

One of these, then, was situated just outside the orangery; with groups
of testaceous rocks forming a half-circle around its edge; and draped
with the dark foliage of evergreen trees, of the species already
mentioned.  The water contained in the basin was sweet and limpid; and
far down in its crystal depths might be seen gold and red fish, with
yellow bream, spotted bass, and many other beautiful varieties of the
finny tribe, disporting themselves all day long.  The tank was in
reality a natural fishpond; and, moreover, it was used as the family
bathing-place--for, under the hot sun of Florida, the bath is a
necessity as well as a luxury.

From the house, it was approached by a sanded walk that led across the
orangery, and some large stone-flags enabled the bather to descend
conveniently into the water.  Of course, only the white members of the
family were allowed the freedom of this charming sanctuary.

Outside the hommock extended the fields under cultivation, until bounded
in the distance by tall forests of cypress and white cedar--a sort of
impenetrable morass that covered the country for miles beyond.

On one side of the plantation-fields was a wide plain, covered with
grassy turf, and without enclosure of any kind.  This was the _savanna_,
a natural meadow where the horses and cattle of the plantation were
freely pastured.  Deer often appeared upon this plain, and flocks of the
wild turkey.

I was just of that age to be enamoured of the chase.  Like most youth of
the southern states who have little else to do, hunting was my chief
occupation; and I was passionately fond of it.  My father had procured
for me a brace of splendid greyhounds; and it was a favourite pastime
with me to conceal myself in the hommock, wait for the deer and turkeys
as they approached, and then course them across the savanna.  In this
manner I made many a capture of both species of game; for the wild
turkey can easily be run down with fleet dogs.

The hour at which I was accustomed to enjoy this amusement was early in
the morning, before any of the family were astir.  That was the best
time to find the game upon the savanna.

One morning, as usual, I repaired to my stand in the covert.  I climbed
upon a rock, whose flat top afforded footing both to myself and my dogs.
From this elevated position I had the whole plain under view, and could
observe any object that might be moving upon it, while I was myself
secure from observation.  The broad leaves of the magnolia formed a
bower around me, leaving a break in the foliage, through which I could
make my reconnoissance.

On this particular morning I had arrived before sunrise.  The horses
were still in their stables, and the cattle in the enclosure.  Even by
the deer, the savanna was untenanted, as I could perceive at the first
glance.  Over all its wide extent not an antler was to be seen.

I was somewhat disappointed on observing this.  My mother expected a
party upon that day.  She had expressed a wish to have venison at
dinner: I had promised her she should have it; and on seeing the savanna
empty, I felt disappointment.

I was a little surprised, too; the sight was unusual.  Almost every
morning, there were deer upon this wide pasture, at one point or
another.

Had some early stalker been before me?  Probable enough.  Perhaps young
Ringgold from the next plantation; or maybe one of the Indian hunters,
who seemed never to sleep?  Certainly, some one had been over the
ground, and frightened off the game?

The savanna was a free range, and all who chose might hunt or pasture
upon it.  It was a tract of common ground, belonging to no one of the
plantations--government land not yet purchased.

Certainly Ringgold had been there? or old Hickman, the alligator-hunter,
who lived upon the skirt of our plantation? or it might be an Indian
from the other side of the swamp?

With such conjectures did I account for the absence of the game.

I felt chagrin.  I should not be able to keep my promise; there would be
no venison for dinner.  A turkey I might obtain; the hour for chasing
them had not yet arrived.  I could hear them calling from the tall
tree-tops--their loud "gobbling" borne far and clear upon the still air
of the morning.  I did not care for these--the larder was already
stocked with them; I had killed a brace on the preceding day.  I did not
want more--I wanted venison.

To procure it, I must needs try some other mode than coursing.  I had my
rifle with me; I could try a "still-hunt" in the woods.  Better still, I
would go in the direction of old Hickman's cabin; he might help me in my
dilemma.  Perhaps he had been out already? if so, he would be sure to
bring home venison.  I could procure a supply from him, and keep my
promise.--The sun was just shewing his disc above the horizon; his rays
were tingeing the tops of the distant cypresses, whose light-green
leaves shone with the lines of gold.

I gave one more glance over the savanna, before descending from my
elevated position; in that glance I saw what caused me to change my
resolution, and remain upon the rock.

A herd of deer was trooping out from the edge of the cypress woods--at
that corner where the rail-fence separated the savanna from the
cultivated fields.

"Ha!" thought I, "they have been poaching upon the young maize-plants."

I bent my eyes towards the point whence, as I supposed, they had issued
from the fields.  I knew there was a gap near the corner, with movable
bars.  I could see it from where I stood, but I now perceived that the
bars were in their places!  The deer could not have been in the fields
then?  It was not likely they had leaped either the bars or the fence.
It was a high rail-fence, with "stakes and riders."  The bars were as
high as the fence.  The deer must have come out of the woods?

This observation was instantly followed by another.  The animals were
running rapidly, as if alarmed by the presence of some enemy.

A hunter is behind them?  Old Hickman?  Ringgold?  Who?

I gazed eagerly, sweeping my eyes along the edge of the timber, but for
a while saw no one.

"A lynx or a bear may have startled them?  If so, they will not go far;
I shall have a chance with my greyhounds yet.  Perhaps--"

My reflections were brought to a sudden termination, on perceiving what
had caused the stampede of the deer.  It was neither bear nor lynx, but
a human being.

A man was just emerging from out the dark shadow of the cypresses.  The
sun as yet only touched the tops of the trees; but there was light
enough below to enable me to make out the figure of a man--still more,
to recognise the individual.  It was neither Ringgold nor Hickman, nor
yet an Indian.  The dress I knew well--the blue cottonade trousers, the
striped shirt, and palmetto hat.  The dress was that worn by our
woodman.  The man was Yellow Jake.



CHAPTER FIVE.

YELLOW JAKE.

Not without some surprise did I make this discovery.  What was the
mulatto doing in the woods at such an hour?  It was not his habit to be
so thrifty; on the contrary, it was difficult to rouse him to his daily
work.  He was not a hunter--had no taste for it.  I never saw him go
after game--though, from being always in the woods, he was well
acquainted with the haunts and habits of every animal that dwelt there.
What was he doing abroad on this particular morning?

I remained on my perch to watch him, at the same time keeping an eye
upon the deer.

It soon became evident that the mulatto was not after these; for, on
coming out of the timber, he turned along its edge, in a direction
opposite to that in which the deer had gone.  He went straight towards
the gap that fed into the maize-field.

I noticed that he moved slowly and in a crouching attitude.  I thought
there was some object near his feet: it appeared to be a dog, but a very
small one.  Perhaps an opossum, thought I.  It was of whitish colour, as
these creatures are; but in the distance I could not distinguish between
an opossum and a puppy.  I fancied, however, that it was the pouched
animal; that he had caught it in the woods, and was leading it along in
a string.

There was nothing remarkable or improbable in all this behaviour.  The
mulatto may have discovered an opossum-cave the day before, and set a
trap for the animal.  It may have been caught in the night, and he was
now on his way home with it.  The only point that surprised me was, that
the fellow had turned hunter; but I explained this upon another
hypothesis.  I remembered how fond the negroes are of the flesh of the
opossum, and Yellow Jake was no exception to the rule.  Perhaps he had
seen, the day before, that this one could be easily obtained, and had
resolved upon having a roast?

But why was he not carrying it in a proper manner?  He appeared to be
leading, or dragging it rather--for I knew the creature would not be
led--and every now and then I observed him stoop towards it, as if
caressing it.

I was puzzled; it could not be an opossum.

I watched the man narrowly till he arrived opposite the gap in the
fence.  I expected to see him step over the bars--since through the
maize-field was the nearest way to the house.  Certainly he entered the
field; but, to my astonishment, instead of climbing over in the usual
manner, I saw him take out bar after bar, down to the very lowest.  I
observed, moreover, that he flung the bars to one side, leaving the gap
quite open!

He then passed through, and entering among the corn, in the same
crouching attitude, disappeared behind the broad blades of the young
maize-plants--

For a while I saw no more of him, or the white object that he "toated"
along with him in such a singular fashion.

I turned my attention to the deer: they had got over their alarm, and
had halted near the middle of the savanna, where they were now quietly
browsing.

But I could not help pondering upon the eccentric manoeuvres I had just
been witness of; and once more I bent my eyes toward the place, where I
had last seen the mulatto.

He was still among the maize-plants.  I could see nothing of him; but at
that moment my eyes rested upon an object that filled me with fresh
surprise.

Just at the point where Yellow Jake had emerged from the woods,
something else appeared in motion--also coming out into the open
savanna.  It was a dark object, and from its prostrate attitude,
resembled a man crawling forward upon his hands, and dragging his limbs
after him.

For a moment or two, I believed it to be a man--not a white man--but a
negro or an Indian.  The tactics were Indian, but we were at peace with
these people, and why should one of them be thus trailing the mulatto?
I say "trailing" for the attitude and motions, of whatever creature I
saw, plainly indicated that it was following upon the track which Yellow
Jake had just passed over.

Was it Black Jake who was after him?

This idea came suddenly into my mind: I remembered the _vendetta_ that
existed between them; I remembered the conflict in which Yellow Jake had
used his knife.  True, he had been punished, but not by Black Jake
himself.  Was the latter now seeking to revenge himself in person?

This might have appeared the easiest explanation of the scene that was
mystifying me; had it not been for the improbability of the black acting
in such a manner.  I could not think that the noble fellow would seek
any mean mode of retaliation, however revengeful he might feel against
one who had so basely attacked him.  It was not in keeping with his
character.  No.  It could not be he who was crawling out of the bushes.

Nor he, nor any one.

At that moment, the golden sun flashed over the savanna.  His beams
glanced along the greensward, lighting the trees to their bases.  The
dark form emerged from out of the shadow, and turned head towards the
maize-field.  The long prostrate body glittered under the sun with a
sheen like scaled armour.  It was easily recognised.  It was not negro--
not Indian--not human: it was the hideous form of an alligator!



CHAPTER SIX.

THE ALLIGATOR.

To one brought up--born, I might almost say--upon the banks of a
Floridian river, there is nothing remarkable in the sight of an
alligator.  Nothing very terrible either; for ugly as is the great
saurian--certainly the most repulsive form in the animal kingdom--it is
least dreaded by those who know it best.  For all that, it is seldom
approached without some feeling of fear.  The stranger to its haunts and
habits, abhors and flees from it; and even the native--be he red, white,
or black--whose home borders the swamp and the lagoon, approaches this
gigantic lizard with caution.

Some closet naturalists have asserted that the alligator will not attack
man, and yet they admit that it will destroy horses and horned cattle.
A like allegation is made of the jaguar and vampire bat.  Strange
assertions, in the teeth of a thousand testimonies to the contrary.

It is true the alligator does not always attack man when an opportunity
offers--nor does the lion, nor yet the tiger--but even the false Buffon
would scarcely be bold enough to declare that the alligator is
innocuous.  If a list could be furnished of human beings who have fallen
victims to the voracity of this creature, since the days of Columbus, it
would be found to be something enormous--quite equal to the havoc made
in the same period of time by the Indian tiger or the African lion.
Humboldt, during his short stay in South America, was well informed of
many instances; and for my part, I know of more than one case of actual
death, and many of lacerated limbs, received at the jaws of the American
alligator.

There are many species, both of the caiman or alligator, and of the true
crocodile, in the waters of tropical America.  They are more or less
fierce, and hence the difference of "travellers' tales" in relation to
them.  Even the same species in two different rivers is not always of
like disposition.  The individuals are affected by outward
circumstances, as other animals are.  Size, climate, colonisation, all
produce their effect; and, what may appear still more singular, their
disposition is influenced by the character of the race of men that
chances to dwell near them!

On some of the South-American rivers--whose banks are the home of the
ill-armed apathetic Indian--the caimans are exceedingly bold, and
dangerous to approach.  Just so were their congeners, the alligators of
the north, till the stalwart backwoodsman, with his axe in one hand, and
his rifle in the other, taught them to fear the upright form--a proof
that these crawling creatures possess the powers of reason.  Even to
this hour, in many of the swamps and streams of Florida, full-grown
alligators cannot be approached without peril; this is especially the
case daring the season of the sexes, and still more where these reptiles
are encountered remote from the habitations of man.  In Florida are
rivers and lagoons where a swimmer would have no more chance of life,
than if he had plunged into a sea of sharks.

Notwithstanding all this, use brings one to look lightly even upon real
danger--particularly when that danger is almost continuous; and the
denizen of the _cypriere_ and the _white cedar_ swamp is accustomed to
regard without much emotion the menace of the ugly alligator.  To the
native of Florida, its presence is no novelty, and its going or coming
excites but little interest--except perhaps in the bosom of the black
man who feeds upon its tail; or the alligator-hunter, who makes a living
out of its leather.

The appearance of one on the edge of the savanna would not have caused
me a second thought, had it not been for its peculiar movements, as well
as those I had just observed on the part of the mulatto.  I could not
help fancying that there was _some connexion between them_; at all
events it appeared certain, that the reptile was following the man!

Whether it had him in view, or whether trailing him by the scent, I
could not tell.  The latter I fancied to be the case; for the mulatto
had entered under cover of the maize-plants, before the other appeared
outside the timber; and it could hardly have seen him as it turned
towards the gap.  It might, but I fancied not.  More like, it was
trailing him by the scent; but whether the creature was capable of doing
so, I did not stay to inquire.

On it crawled over the sward--crossing the corner of the meadow, and
directly upon the track which the man had taken.  At intervals, it
paused, flattened its breast against the earth, and remained for some
seconds in this attitude, as if resting itself.  Then it would raise its
body to nearly a yard in height, and move forward with apparent
eagerness--as if in obedience to some attractive power in advance of it?
The alligator progresses but slowly upon dry ground--not faster than a
duck or goose.  The water is its true element, where it makes way almost
with the rapidity of a fish.

At length it approached the gap; and, after another pause, it drew its
long dark body within the enclosure.  I saw it enter among the
maize-plants, at the exact point where the mulatto had disappeared!  Of
course, it was now also hidden from my view.

I no longer doubted that the monster was following the man; and equally
certain was I that the latter _knew_ that he was followed!  How could I
doubt either of these facts?  To the former, I was an eye-witness; of
the latter, I had circumstantial proofs.  The singular attitudes and
actions of the mulatto; his taking out the bars and leaving the gap
free; his occasional glances backward--which I had observed as he was
crossing the open ground--these were my proofs that he knew what was
coming behind him--undoubtedly he knew.

But my conviction upon these two points in nowise helped to elucidate
the mystery--for a mystery it had become.  Beyond a doubt, the reptile
was drawn after by some attraction, which it appeared unable to resist--
its eagerness in advancing was evidence of this, and proved that the man
was exercising some influence over it that lured it forward.

What influence?  Was he beguiling it by some charm of Obeah?

A superstitious shudder came over me, as I asked myself the question.  I
really had such fancies at the moment.  Brought up, as I had been, among
Africans, dandled in the arms--perhaps nourished from the bosom--of many
a sable nurse, it is not to be wondered at that my young mind was
tainted with the superstitions of Bonny and Benin.  I knew there were
alligators in the cypress swamp--in its more remote recesses, some of
enormous size--but how Yellow Jake had contrived to lure one out, and
cause it to follow him over the dry cultivated ground, was a puzzle I
could not explain to myself.  I could think of no natural cause; I was
therefore forced into the regions of the weird and supernatural.

I stood for a long while watching and wondering.  The deer had passed
out of my mind.  They fed unnoticed: I was too much absorbed in the
mysterious movements of the half-breed and his amphibious follower.



CHAPTER SEVEN.

THE TURTLE-CRAWL.

So long as they remained in the maize-field, I saw nothing of either.
The direction of my view was slightly oblique to the rows of the plants.
The corn was at full growth, and its tall culms and broad lanceolate
leaves would have overtopped the head of a man on horseback.  A thicket
of evergreen trees would not have been more impenetrable to the eye.

By going a little to the right, I should have become aligned with the
rows, and could have seen far down the avenues between them; but this
would have carried me out of the cover, and the mulatto might then have
seen _me_.  For certain reasons, I did not desire he should; and I
remained where I had hitherto been standing.

I was satisfied that the man was still making his way up the field, and
would in due time discover himself in the open ground.

An indigo flat lay between the hommock and the maize.  To approach the
house, it would be necessary for him to pass through the indigo; and, as
the plants were but a little over two feet in height, I could not fail
to observe him as he came through.  I waited, therefore, with a feeling
of curious anticipation--my thoughts still wearing a tinge of the weird!

He came on slowly--very slowly; but I knew that he was advancing.  I
could trace his progress by an occasional movement which I observed
among the leaves and tassels of the maize.  The morning was still--not a
breath of air stirred; and consequently the motion must have been caused
by some one passing among the plants--of course by the mulatto himself.
The oscillation observed farther off, told that the alligator was still
following.

Again and again I observed this movement among the maize-blades.  It was
evident the man was not following the direction of the rows, but
crossing diagonally through them!  For what purpose?  I could not guess.
Any one of the intervals would have conducted him in a direct line
towards the house--whither I supposed him to be moving.  Why, then,
should he adopt a more difficult course, by crossing them?  It was not
till afterwards that I discovered his object in this zigzag movement.

He had now advanced almost to the nether edge of the cornfield.  The
indigo flat was of no great breadth, and he was already so near, that I
could hear the rustling of the cornstalks as they switched against each
other.

Another sound I could now hear; it resembled the howling of a dog.  I
heard it again, and, after an interval, again.  It was not the voice of
a full-grown dog, but rather the weak whimper of a puppy.

At first, I fancied that the sounds came from the alligator: for these
reptiles make exactly such a noise--but only when young.  The one
following the mulatto was full-grown; the cries could not proceed from
it.  Moreover, the sounds came from a point nearer me--from the place
where the man himself was moving.

I now remembered the white object I had observed as the man was crossing
the corner of the savanna.  It was not an opossum, then, but a young
dog.

Yes.  I heard the cry again: it was the whining of a whelp--nothing
else.

If I could have doubted the evidence of my ears, my eyes would soon have
convinced me; for, just then, I saw the man emerge from out the maize
with a dog by his side--a small white cur, and apparently a young one.
He was leading the creature upon a string, half-dragging it after him.
I had now a full view of the individual, and saw to a certainty that he
was our woodman, Yellow Jake.

Before coming out from the cover of the corn, he halted for a moment--as
if to reconnoitre the ground before him.  He was upon his feet, and in
an erect attitude.  Whatever motive he had for concealment, he needed
not to crouch amid the tall plants of maize; but the indigo did not
promise so good a shelter, and he was evidently considering how to
advance through it without being perceived.  Plainly, he had a motive
for concealing himself--his every movement proved this--but with what
object I could not divine.

The indigo was of the kind known as the "false Guatemala."  There were
several species cultivated upon the plantation; but this grew tallest;
and some of the plants, now in their full purple bloom, stood nearly
three feet from the surface of the soil.  A man passing through them in
an erect attitude, could, of coarse, have been seen from any part of the
field; but it was possible for one to crouch down, and move, between the
rows unobserved.  This possibility seemed to occur to the woodman; for,
after a short pause, he dropped to his hands and knees, and commenced
crawling forward among the indigo.

There was no fence for him to cross--the cultivated ground was all under
one enclosure--and an open ridge alone formed the dividing-line between
the two kinds of crop.

Had I been upon the same level with the field, the skulker would have
been now hidden from my sight; but my elevated position enabled me to
command a view of the intervals between the rows, and I could note every
movement he was making.

Every now and then he paused, caught up the cur, and held it for a few
seconds in his hands--during which the animal continued to howl as if in
pain!

As he drew nearer, and repeated this operation, I saw that he was
_pinching its ears_!

Fifty paces in his rear, the great lizard appeared coming out of the
corn.  It scarcely made pause in the open ground, but still following
the track, entered among the indigo.

At this moment, a light broke upon me; I no longer speculated on the
power of Obeah.  The mystery was dissolved: the alligator was lured
forward by the cries of the dog!

I might have thought of the thing before, for I had heard of it before.
I had heard from good authority--the alligator-hunter himself, who had
often captured them by such a decoy--that these reptiles will follow a
howling dog for miles through the forest, and that the old males
especially are addicted to this habit.  Hickman's belief was that they
mistake the voice of the dog for that of their own offspring, which
these unnatural parents eagerly devour.

But, independently of this monstrous propensity, it is well-known that
dogs are the favourite prey of the alligator; and the unfortunate beagle
that, in the heat of the chase, ventures across creek or lagoon, is
certain to be attacked by these ugly amphibia.

The huge reptile, then, was being lured forward by the voice of the
puppy; and this accounted for the grand overland journey he was making.

There was no longer a mystery--at least, about the mode in which the
alligator was attracted onward; the only thing that remained for
explanation was, what motive had the mulatto in carrying out this
singular manoeuvre?

When I saw him take to his hands and knees, I had been under the
impression that he did so to approach the house, without being observed.
But as I continued to watch him, I changed my mind.  I noticed that he
looked oftener, and with more anxiety _behind_ him, as if he was only
desirous of being concealed from the eyes of the alligator.  I observed,
too, that he changed frequently from place to place, as if he aimed at
keeping a screen of the plants between himself and his follower.  This
would also account for his having crossed the rows of the maize-plants,
as already noticed.

After all, it was only some freak that had entered the fellow's brain.
He had learned this curious mode of coaxing the alligator from its
haunts--perhaps old Hickman had shown him how--or he may have gathered
it from his own observation, while wood-chopping in the swamps.  He was
taking the reptile to the house from some eccentric motive?--to make
exhibition of it among his fellows?--to have a "lark" with it? or a
combat between it and the house-dogs? or for some like purpose?

I could not divine his intention, and would have thought no more of it,
had it not been that one or two little circumstances had made an
impression upon me.  I was struck by the peculiar pains which the fellow
was taking to accomplish his purpose with success.  He was sparing
neither trouble nor time.  True, it was not to be a work-day upon the
plantation; it was a holiday, and the time was his own; but it was not
the habit of Yellow Jake to be abroad at so early an hour, and the
trouble he was taking was not in consonance with his character of
habitual _insouciance_ and idleness.  Some strong motive, then, must
have been urging him to the act.  What motive?

I pondered upon it, but could not make it out.

And yet I felt uneasiness, as I watched him.  It was an undefined
feeling, and I could assign no reason for it--beyond the fact that the
mulatto was a bad fellow, and I knew him to be capable of almost any
wickedness.  But if his design was a wicked one, what evil could he
effect with the alligator?  No one would fear the reptile upon dry
ground?--it could hurt no one?

Thus I reflected, and still did I feel some indefinite apprehensions.

But for this feeling I should have given over observing his movements,
and turned my attention to the herd of deer--which I now perceived
approaching up the savanna, and coming close to my place of concealment.

I resisted the temptation, and continued to watch the mulatto a little
longer.

I was not kept much longer in suspense.  He had now arrived upon the
outer edge of the hommock, which he did not enter.  I saw him turn round
the thicket, and keep on towards the orangery.  There was a wicket at
this corner which he passed through, leaving the gate open behind him.
At short intervals, he still caused the dog to utter its involuntary
howlings.

It no longer needed to cry loudly, for the alligator was now close in
the rear.

I obtained a full view of the monster as it passed under my position.
It was not one of the largest, though it was several yards in length.
There are some that measure more than a statute pole.  This one was full
twelve feet, from its snout to the extremity of its tail.  It clutched
the ground with its broad webbed feet as it crawled forward.  Its
corrugated skin of bluish brown colour was coated with slippery mucus,
that glittered under the sun as it moved; and large masses of the
swamp-slime rested in the concavities between its rhomboid scales.  It
seemed greatly excited; and whenever it heard the voice of the dog,
exhibited fresh symptoms of rage.  It would erect itself upon its
muscular arms, raise its head aloft--as if to get a view of the prey--
lash its plaited tail into the air, and swell its body almost to double
its natural dimensions.  At the same time, it emitted loud noises from
its throat and nostrils, that resembled the rumbling of distant thunder,
and its musky smell filled the air with a sickening effluvium.  A more
monstrous creature it would be impossible to conceive.  Even the fabled
dragon could not have been more horrible to behold.

Without stopping, it dragged its long body through the gate, still
following the direction of the noise.  The leaves of the evergreens
intervened, and hid the hideous reptile from my sight.

I turned my face in the opposite direction--towards the house--to watch
the further movements of the mulatto.  From my position, I commanded a
view of the tank, and could see nearly all around it.  The inner side
was especially under my view, as it lay opposite, and could only be
approached through the orangery.

Between the grove and the edge of the great basin, was an open space.
Here there was an artificial pond only a few yards in width, and with a
little water at the bottom, which was supplied by means of a pump, from
the main reservoir.  This pond, or rather enclosure, was the
"turtle-crawl," a place in which turtle were fed and kept, to be ready
at all times for the table.  My father still continued his habits of
Virginian hospitality; and in Florida these aldermanic delicacies are
easily obtained.

The embankment of this turtle-crawl formed the direct path to the
water-basin; and as I turned, I saw Yellow Jake upon it, and just
approaching the pond.  He still carried the cur in his arms; I saw that
he was causing it to utter a continuous howling.

On reaching the steps, that led down, he paused a moment, and looked
back.  I noticed that he looked back in both ways--first towards the
house, and then, with a satisfied air, in the direction whence he had
come.  No doubt he saw the alligator close at hand; for, without further
hesitation, he flung the puppy far out into the water; and then,
retreating along the embankment of the turtle-crawl, he entered among
the orange-trees, and was out of sight.

The whelp, thus suddenly plunged into the cool tank, kept up a constant
howling, at the same time beating the water violently with its feet, in
the endeavour to keep itself afloat.

Its struggles were of short duration.  The alligator, now guided by the
well-known noise of moving water, as well as the cries of the dog,
advanced rapidly to the edge; and without hesitating a moment, sprang
forward into the pond.  With the rapidity of an arrow, it darted out to
the centre; and, seizing the victim between its bony jaws, dived
instantaneously under the surface.

I could for some time trace its monstrous form far down in the
diaphanous water; but guided by instinct, it soon entered one of the
deep wells, amidst the darkness of which it sank out of sight.



CHAPTER EIGHT.

THE KING VULTURES.

"So, then, my yellow friend, that is the intention!--a bit of revenge
after all.  I'll make you pay for it, you spiteful ruffian!  You little
thought you were observed.  Ha! you shall rue this cunning deviltry
before night."

Some such soliloquy escaped my lips, as soon as I comprehended the
design of the mulatto's manoeuvre--for I now understood it--at least I
thought so.  The tank was full of beautiful fish.  There were gold fish
and silver fish, hyodons, and red trout.  They were my sister's especial
pets.  She was very fond of them.  It was her custom to visit them
daily, give them food, and watch their gambols.  Many an aquatic
_cotillon_ had she superintended.  They knew her person, would follow
her around the tank, and take food out of her fingers.  She delighted in
thus serving them.

The revenge lay in this.  The mulatto well knew that the alligator lives
upon fish--they are his natural food; and that those in the tank, pent
up as they were, would soon become his prey.  So strong a tyrant would
soon ravage the preserve, killing the helpless creatures by scores--of
course to the chagrin and grief of their fond mistress, and the joy of
Yellow Jake.

I knew that the fellow disliked my little sister.  The spirited part she
had played, in having him punished for the affair with Viola, had
kindled his resentment against her; but since then, there had been other
little incidents to increase it.  She had favoured the suit of his rival
with the quadroon, and had forbidden the woodman to approach Viola in
her presence.  These circumstances had certainly rendered the fellow
hostile to her; and although there was no outward show of this feeling--
there dared not be--I was nevertheless aware of the fact.  His killing
the fawn had proved it, and the present was a fresh instance of the
implacable spirit of the man.

He calculated upon the alligator soon making havoc among the fish.  Of
course he knew it would in time be discovered and killed; but likely not
before many of the finest should be destroyed.

No one would ever dream that the creature had been _brought_ there--for
on more than one occasion, alligators had found their way into the
tank--having strayed from the river, or the neighbouring lagoons--or
rather having been guided thither by an unexplained instinct, which
enables these creatures to travel straight in the direction of water.

Such, thought I, were the designs and conjectures of Yellow Jake.

It proved afterwards that I had fathomed but half his plan.  I was too
young, too innocent of wickedness, even to guess at the intense malice
of which the human heart is capable.

My first impulse was to follow the mulatto to the house--make known what
he had done--have him punished; and then return with a party to destroy
the alligator, before he could do any damage among the fish.

At this crisis, the deer claimed my attention.  The herd--an antlered
buck with several does--had browsed close up to the hommock.  They were
within two hundred yards of where I stood.  The sight was too tempting.
I remembered the promise to my mother; it must be kept; venison must be
obtained at all hazards!

But there was no hazard.  The alligator had already eaten his breakfast.
With a whole dog in his maw, it was not likely he would disturb the
finny denizens of the tank for some hours to come; and as for Yellow
Jake, I saw he had proceeded on to the house; he could be found at any
moment; his chastisement could stand over till my return.

With these reflections passing through my mind, I abandoned my first
design, and turned my attention exclusively to the game.

They were too distant for the range of my rifle; and I waited a while in
the hope that they would move nearer.

But I waited in vain.  The deer is shy of the hommock.  It regards the
evergreen islet as dangerous ground, and habitually keeps aloof from it.
Natural enough, since there the creature is oft saluted by the twang of
the Indian bow, or the whip-like crack of the hunter's rifle.  Thence
often reaches it the deadly missile.

Perceiving that the game was getting no nearer, but the contrary, I
resolved to course them; and, gliding down from the rock, I descended
through the copsewood to the edge of plain.

On reaching the open ground, I rushed forward--at the same time
unleashing the dogs, and crying the "view hilloo."

It was a splendid chase--led on by the old buck--the dogs following
tail-on-end.  I thought I never saw deer run so fleetly; it appeared as
if scarcely a score of seconds had transpired while they were crossing
the savanna--more than a mile in width.  I had a full and perfect view
of the whole; there was no obstruction either to run of the animals or
the eye of the observer; the grass had been browsed short by the cattle,
and not a bush grew upon the green plain; so that it was a trial of pure
speed between dogs and deer.  So swiftly ran the deer, I began to feel
apprehensive about the venison.

My apprehensions were speedily at an end.  Just on the farther edge of
the savanna, the chase ended--so far at least as the dogs were
concerned, and one of the deer.  I saw that they had flung a doe, and
were standing over her, one of them holding her by the throat.

I hurried forward.  Ten minutes brought me to the spot; and after a
short struggle, the quarry was killed, and bled.

I was satisfied with my dogs, with the sport, with my own exploits.  I
was happy at the prospect of being able to redeem my promise; and with
the carcass across my shoulders, I turned triumphantly homeward.

As I faced round, I saw the shadow of wings moving over the sunlit
savanna.  I looked upward.  Two large birds were above me in the air;
they were at no great height, nor were they endeavouring to mount
higher.  On the contrary, they were wheeling in spiral rings, that
seemed to incline downward at each successive circuit they made around
me.

At first glance, the sun's beams were in my eyes, and I could not tell
what birds were flapping above me.  On facing round, I had the sun in my
favour; and his rays, glancing full upon the soft cream-coloured
plumage, enabled me to recognise the species--they were _king
vultures_--the most beautiful birds of their tribe, I am almost tempted
to say the most beautiful birds in creation; certainly they take rank,
among those most distinguished in the world of ornithology.

These birds are natives of the flowery land, but stray no farther north.
Their haunt is on the green "everglades" and wide savannas of Florida,
on the llanos of the Orinoco, and the plains of the Apure.  In Florida
they are rare, though not in all parts of it; but their appearance in
the neighbourhood of the plantations excites an interest similar to that
which is occasioned by the flight of an eagle.  Not so with the other
vultures--_Cathartes aura_ and _atratus_--both of which are as common as
crows.

In proof that the king vultures are rare, I may state that my sister had
never seen one--except at a great distance off; yet this young lady was
twelve years of age, and a native of the land.  True, she had not gone
much abroad--seldom beyond the bounds of the plantation.  I remembered
her expressing an ardent desire to view more closely one of these
beautiful birds.  I remembered it that moment; and at once formed the
design of gratifying her wish.

The birds were near enough--so near that I could distinguish the deep
yellow colour of their throats, the coral red upon their crowns, and the
orange lappets that drooped along their beaks.  They were near enough--
within half reach of my rifle--but moving about as they were, it would
have required a better marksman than I to have brought one of them down
with a bullet.

I did not think of trying it in that way.  Another idea was in my mind;
and without farther pause, I proceeded to carry it out.

I saw that the vultures had espied the body of the doe, where it lay
across my shoulders.  That was why they were hovering above me.  My plan
was simple enough.  I laid the carcass upon the earth; and, taking my
rifle, walked away towards the timber.

Trees grew at fifty yards' distance from where I had placed the doe; and
behind the nearest of these I took my stand.

I had not long to wait.  The unconscious birds wheeled lower and lower,
and at length one alighted on the earth.  Its companion had not time to
join it before the rifle cracked, and laid the beautiful creature
lifeless upon the grass.

The other, frighted by the sound, rose higher and higher, and then flew
away over the tops of the cypresses.

Again I shouldered my venison; and carrying the bird in my hand started
homeward.

My heart was full of exultation.  I anticipated a double pleasure--from
the double pleasure I was to create.  I should make happy the two beings
that, of all on earth, were dearest to me--my fond mother, my beautiful
sister.

I soon recrossed the savanna, and entered the orangery.  I did not stay
to go round by the wicket, but climbed over the fence at its lower end.
So happy was I that my load felt light as a feather.  Exultingly I
strode forward, dashing the loaded boughs from my path.  I sent their
golden globes rolling hither and thither.  What mattered a bushel of
oranges?

I reached the parterre.  My mother was in the verandah; she saw me as I
approached, and uttered an exclamation of joy.  I flung the spoils of
the chase at her feet.  I had kept my promise.

"What is that?--a bird?"

"Yes the king vulture--a present for Virgine.  Where is she?  Not up
yet?  Ha! the little sluggard--I shall soon arouse her.  Still abed and
on such a beautiful morning!"

"You wrong her, George; she has been up on hour or more.  She has been
playing; and has just this moment left off."

"But where is she now?  In the drawing-room?"

"No; she has gone to the bath."

"To _the bath_!"

"Yes, she and Viola.  What--"

"O mother--mother--"

"Tell me, George--"

"O heavens--_the alligator_!"



CHAPTER NINE.

THE BATH.

"Yellow Jake! the alligator!"

They were all the words I could utter.  My mother entreated an
explanation; I could not stay to give it.  Frantic with apprehension, I
tore myself away, leaving her in a state of terror that rivalled my own.

I ran towards the hommock--the bath.  I wait not to follow the devious
route of the walk, but keep straight on, leaping over such obstacles as
present themselves.  I spring across the paling, and rush through the
orangery, causing the branches to crackle and the fruit to fall.  My
ears are keenly bent to catch every sound.

Behind are sounds enough: I hear my mother's voice uttered in accents of
terror.  Already have her cries alarmed the house, and are echoed and
answered by the domestics, both females and men.  Dogs, startled by the
sudden excitement, are baying within the enclosure, and fowls and caged
birds screech in concert.

From behind come all these noises.  It is not for them my ears are bent;
I am listening _before_ me.

In this direction I now hear sounds.  The plashing of water is in my
ears, and mingling with the tones of a clear silvery voice--it is the
voice of my sister!  "Ha, ha, ha!"  The ring of laughter!  Thank Heaven,
she is safe!

I stay my step under the influence of a delicate thought; I call aloud:

"Virgine!  Virgine!"

Impatiently I wait the reply.  None reaches me; the noise of the water
has drowned my voice!

I call again, and louder: "Virgine! sister!  Virgine!"

I am heard, and hear:

"Who calls?  You, Georgy?"

"Yes; it is I, Virgine."

"And pray, what want you, brother?"

"O sister! come out of the bath."

"For what reason should I?  Our friends come?  They are early: let them
wait, my Georgy.  Go you and entertain them.  I mean to enjoy myself
this most beautiful of mornings; the water's just right--delightful!
Isn't it, Viola?  Ho!  I shall have a swim round the pond: here goes?"

And then there was a fresh plashing in the water, mingled with a
cheerful abandon of laughter in the voices of my sister and her maid.

I shouted at the top of my voice:

"Hear me, Virgine, dear sister!  For Heaven's sake, come out! come--"

There was a sudden cessation of the merry tones; then came a short sharp
ejaculation, followed almost instantaneously by a wild scream.  I
perceived that neither was a reply to my appeal.  I had called out in a
tone of entreaty sufficient to have raised apprehension; but the voices
that now reached me were uttered in accents of terror.  In my sister's
voice I heard the words:

"See, Viola!  O mercy--the monster!  Ha! he is coming this way!  O
mercy!  Help, George, help!  Save--save me!"

Well knew I the meaning of the summons; too well could I comprehend the
half-coherent words, and the continued screaming that succeeded them.

"Sister, I come, I come!"

Quick as thought, I dashed forward, breaking through the boughs that
still intercepted my view.

"Oh, perhaps I shall be too late!  She screams in agony; she is already
in the grasp of the alligator?"

A dozen bounds carried me clear of the grove; and, gliding along the
embankment of the turtle-crawl, I stood by the edge of the tank.  A
fearful tableau was before me.

My sister was near the centre of the basin, swimming towards the edge.
There stood the quadroon--knee deep--screeching and flinging her arms
frantically in the air.  Beyond, appeared the gigantic lizard; his whole
body, arms, hands, and claws clearly traceable in the pellucid water,
above the surface of which rose the scaly serrature of his back and
shoulders.  His snout and tail projected still higher; and with the
latter he was lashing the water into white froth, that already mottled
the surface of the pond.  He was not ten feet from his intended victim.
His gaunt jaws almost touched the green baize skirt that floated
train-like behind her.  At any moment, he might have darted forward and
seized her.

My sister was swimming with all her might.  She was a capital swimmer;
but what could it avail?  Her bathing-dress was impeding her; but what
mattered that?  The alligator might have seized her at any moment; with
a single effort, could have caught her, and yet he had not made it.

I wondered why he had not; I wondered that he still held back.  I wonder
to this hour, for it is not yet explained.  I can account for it only on
one supposition: that he felt that his victim was perfectly within his
power; and as the cat cajoles with the mouse, so was he indulging in the
plenitude of his tyrant strength.

These observations were made in a single second of time--while I was
cocking my rifle.

I aimed, and fired.  There were but two places where the shot could have
proved fatal--the eye or behind the forearm.  I aimed for the eye.  I
hit the shoulder; but from that hard corrugated skin, my bullet glinted
as from a granite rock.  Among the rhomboid protuberances it made a
whitish score, and that was all.

The play of the monster was brought to a termination.  The shot appeared
to have given him pain.  At all events, it roused him to more earnest
action, and perhaps impelled him to the final spring.  He made it the
instant after.

Lashing the water with his broad tail--as if to gain impetus--he darted
forward; his huge jaw hinged vertically upward, till the red throat
showed wide agape; and the next moment the floating skirt--and oh! the
limbs of my sister, were in his horrid gripe!

I plunged in, and swam towards them.  The gun I still carried in my
grasp.  It hindered me.  I dropped it to the bottom, and swam on.

I caught Virgine in my arms.  I was just in time, for the alligator was
dragging her below.

With all my strength, I held her up.  It needed all to keep us above the
surface.  I had no weapon; and if I had been armed, I could not have
spared a hand to strike.

I shouted with all my voice, in the hope of intimidating the assailant,
and causing him to let go his hold.  It was to no purpose: he still held
on.

O Heavens! we shall both be dragged under--drowned--devoured--

A plunge, as of one leaping from a high elevation into the pond--a
quick, bold swimmer from the shore--a dark-skinned face, with long black
hair that floats behind it on the water--a breast gleaming with bright
spangles--a body clad in bead-embroidered garments--a man? a boy!

Who is this strange youth that rushes to our rescue?

He is already by our side--by the side of our terrible antagonist.  With
all the earnest energy of his look, he utters not a word.  He rests one
hand upon the shoulder of the huge lizard, and with a sudden spring
places himself upon its back.  A rider could not have leaped more
adroitly to the saddle.

A knife gleams in his uplifted hand.  It descends--its blade is buried
in the eye of the alligator!

The roar of the saurian betokens its pain.  The earth vibrates with the
sound; the froth flies up under the lashings of its tail, and a cloud of
spray is flung over us.  But the monster has now relaxed its gripe, and
I am swimming with my sister to the shore.

A glance backward reveals to me a strange sight--I see the alligator
diving to the bottom with the bold rider upon its back!  He is lost--he
is lost!

With painful thoughts, I swim on.  I climb out, and place my fainting
sister upon the bank.  I again look back.

Joy, joy! the strange youth is once more above the surface, and swimming
freely to the shore.  Upon the further side of the pond, the hideous
form is also above water, struggling by the edge--frantic and furious
with the agony of its wounds.

Joy, joy! my sister is unharmed.  The floating skirt has saved her;
scarcely a scratch shows upon her delicate limbs; and now in tender
arms, amidst sweet words and looks of kind sympathy, she is borne away
from the scene of her peril.



CHAPTER TEN.

THE "HALF-BLOOD."

The alligator was soon clubbed to death, and dragged to the shore--a
work of delight to the blacks of the plantation.

No one suspected how the reptile had got to the pond--for I had not said
a word to any one.  The belief was that it had wandered there from the
river, or the lagoons--as others had done before; and Yellow Jake, the
most active of all in its destruction, was heard several times repeating
this hypothesis!  Little did the villain suspect that his secret was
known.  I thought that besides himself I was the only one privy to it;
in this, however, I was mistaken.

The domestics had gone back to the house, "toating" the huge carcass
with ropes, and uttering shouts of triumph.  I was alone with our
gallant preserver.  I stayed behind purposely to thank him.

Mother, father, all had given expression to their gratitude; all had
signified their admiration of his gallant conduct: even my sister, who
had recovered consciousness before being carried away, had thanked him
with kind words.

He made no reply, further than to acknowledge the compliments paid him;
and this he did either by a smile or a simple inclination of the head.
With the years of a boy, he seemed to possess the gravity of a man.

He appeared about my own age and size.  His figure was perfectly
proportioned, and his face handsome.  The complexion was not that of a
pure Indian, though the style of his dress was so.  His skin was nearer
brunette than bronze: he was evidently a "half-blood."

His nose was slightly aquiline, which gave him that fine eagle-look
peculiar to some of the North American tribes; and his eye, though mild
in common mood, was easily lighted up.  Under excitement, as I had just
witnessed, it shone with the brilliancy of fire.

The admixture of Caucasian blood had tamed down the prominence of Indian
features to a perfect regularity, without robbing them of their heroic
grandeur of expression; and the black hair was finer than that of the
pure native, though equally shining and luxuriant.  In short, the _tout
ensemble_ of this strange youth was that of a noble and handsome boy
that another brace of summers would develop into a splendid-looking man.
Even as a boy, there was an individuality about him, that, when once
seen, was not to be forgotten.

I have said that his costume was Indian.  So was it--purely Indian--not
made up altogether of the spoils of the chase, for the buckskin has
long, ceased to be the wear of the aborigines of Florida.  His moccasins
alone were of dressed deer's hide; his leggings were of scarlet cloth;
and his tunic of figured cotton stuff--all three elaborately beaded and
embroidered.  With these he wore a wampum belt, and a fillet encircled
his head, above which rose erect three plumes from the tail of the king
vulture--which among Indians is an _eagle_.  Around his neck were
strings of party-coloured beads, and upon his breast three demi-lunes of
silver, suspended one above the other.

Thus was the youth attired, and, despite the soaking which his garments
had received, he presented an aspect as once noble and picturesque.

"You are sure you have received no injury?"  I inquired for the second
time.

"Quite sure--not the slightest injury."

"But you are wet through and through; let me offer you a change of
clothes: mine, I think, would about fit you."

"Thank you.  I should not know how to wear them.  The sun is strong: my
own will soon be dry again."

"You will come up to the house, and eat something?"

"I have eaten but a short while ago.  I thank you.  I am not in need."

"Some wine?"

"Again I thank you--water is my only drink."

I scarcely knew what to say to my new acquaintance.  He refused all my
offers of hospitality, and yet he remained by me.  He would not
accompany me to the house; and still he showed no signs of taking his
departure.

Was he expecting something else?  A reward for his services?  Something
more substantial than complimentary phrases?

The thought was not unnatural.  Handsome as was the youth, he was but an
Indian.  Of compliments he had had enough.  Indians care little for idle
words.  It might be that he waited for something more; it was but
natural for one in his condition to do so, and equally natural for one
in mine to think so.

In an instant my purse was out; in the next it was in his hands--and in
the next it was at the bottom of the pond!

"I did not ask you for money," said he, as he flung the dollars
indignantly into the water.

I felt pique and shame; the latter predominated.  I plunged into the
pond, and dived under the surface.  It was not after my purse, but my
rifle, which I saw lying upon the rocks at the bottom.  I gained the
piece, and, carrying it ashore, handed it to him.

The peculiar smile with which he received it, told me that I had well
corrected my error, and subdued the capricious pride of the singular
youth.

"It is my turn to make reparation," said he.  "Permit me to restore you
your purse, and to ask pardon for my rudeness."

Before I could interpose, he sprang into the water, and dived below the
surface.  He soon recovered the shining object, and returning to the
bank, placed it in my hands.

"This is a splendid gift," he said, handling the rifle, and examining
it--"a splendid gift; and I must return home before I can offer you
aught in return.  We Indians have not much that the white man values--
only _our lands_, I have been told,"--he uttered this phrase with
peculiar emphasis.  "Our rude manufactures," continued he, "are
worthless things when put in comparison with those of your people--they
are but curiosities to you at best.  But stay--you are a hunter?  Will
you accept a pair of moccasins and a bullet-pouch?  Maumee makes them
well--"

"Maumee?"

"My sister.  You will find the moccasin better for hunting than those
heavy shoes you wear: the tread is more silent."

"Above all things, I should like to have a pair of your moccasins."

"I am rejoiced that it will gratify you.  Maumee shall make them, and
the pouch too."

"Maumee!"  I mentally echoed.  "Strange, sweet name!  Can it be she?"

I was thinking of a bright being that had crossed my path--a dream--a
heavenly vision--for it seemed too lovely to be of the earth.

While wandering in the woods, amid perfumed groves, had this vision
appeared to me in the form of an Indian maiden.  In a flowery glade, I
saw her--one of those spots in the southern forest which nature adorns
so profusely.  She appeared to form part of the picture.

One glance had I, and she was gone.  I pursued, but to no purpose.  Like
a spirit she glided through the daedalian aisles of the grove, and I saw
her no more.  But though gone from my sight, she passed not out of my
memory; ever since had I been dreaming of that lovely apparition.  "Was
it Maumee?"

"Your name?"  I inquired, as I saw the youth was about to depart.

"I am called Powell by the whites: my father's name--he was white--he is
dead.  My mother still lives; I need not say she is an Indian."

"I must be gone, sir," continued he after a pause.  "Before I leave you,
permit me to put a question.  It may appear impertinent, but I have good
reason for asking it.  Have you among your slaves one who is very bad,
one who is hostile to your family?"

"There is such a one.  I have reason to believe it."

"Would you know his tracks?"

"I should."

"Then follow me!"

"It is not necessary.  I can guess where you would lead me.  I know all:
he lured the alligator hither to destroy my sister."

"Ugh!" exclaimed the young Indian, in some surprise.  "How learned you
this, sir?"

"From yonder rock, I was a witness of the whole transaction.  But how
did _you_ come to know of it?"  I asked in turn.

"Only by following the trail--the man--the dog--the alligator.  I was
hunting by the swamp.  I saw the tracks.  I suspected something, and
crossed the fields.  I had reached the thicket when I heard cries.  I
was just in time.  Ugh!"

"You were in good time, else the villain would have succeeded in his
intent.  Fear not, friend, he shall be punished."

"Good--he should be punished.  I hope you and I may meet again."

A few words more were exchanged between us, and then we shook hands, and
parted.



CHAPTER ELEVEN.

THE CHASE.

About the guilt of the mulatto, I had no longer any doubt.  The mere
destruction of the fish could not have been his design; he would never
have taken such pains to accomplish so trifling a purpose.  No; his
intent was far more horrid; it comprehended a deeper scheme of cruelty
and vengeance; its aim was my sister's life!--Viola's!--perhaps both?

Awful as was such a belief, there was no room left to doubt it; every
circumstance confirmed it.  Even the young Indian had formed the opinion
that such was the design.  At this season, my sister was in the habit of
bathing almost every day; and that this was her custom was known to all
upon the plantation.  _I_ had not thought of it when I went in pursuit
of the deer, else I should in all probability have acted in a different
manner.  But who could have suspected such dire villainy?

The cunning of the act quite equalled its malice.  By the merest
accident, there were witnesses; but had there been none, it is probable
the event would have answered the intention, and my sister's life been
sacrificed.

Who could have told the author of the crime?  The reptile would have
been alone responsible.  Even suspicion would not have rested upon the
mulatto--how could it?  The yellow villain had shown a fiendish craft in
his calculation.

I was burning with indignation.  My poor innocent sister!  Little did
she know the foul means that had been made use of to put her in such
peril.  She was aware that the mulatto liked her not, but never dreamed
she that she was the object of such a demoniac spite as this.

The very thoughts of it fired me as I dwelt upon them.  I could restrain
myself no longer.  The criminal must be brought to punishment, and at
once.  Some severe castigation must be inflicted upon him--something
that would place it beyond his power to repeat such dangerous attempts.

How he would be dealt with, I could not tell--that must be left to my
elders to determine.  The lash had proved of no avail; perhaps the
chain-gang would cure him--at all events, he must be banished the
plantation.

In my own mind, I had not doomed him to death, though truly he deserved
it.  Indignant as I felt, I did not contemplate this ultimate punishment
of crime; used to my father's mild rule, I did not.  The lash--the
county prison--the chain-gang at Saint Marks or San Augustine: some of
these would likely be his reward.

I knew it would not be left to the lenient disposition of my father to
decide.  The whole community of planters was interested in a matter of
this kind.  An improvised jury would soon assemble.  No doubt harsher
judges than his own master would deal with the guilty man.

I stayed not longer to reflect; I was determined his trial should be
immediate.  I ran towards the house with the intention of declaring his
guilt.

In my haste, as before, I did not follow the usual path, which was
somewhat circumambient: I made direct through the grove.

I had advanced only a few paces, when I heard a rustling of the leaves
near me.  I could see no one, but felt sure that the noise was caused by
some person skulking among the trees.  Perhaps one of the field-hands,
taking advantage of the confusion of the hour, and helping himself to a
few oranges.

Compared with my purpose, such slight dereliction was a matter of no
importance, and I did not think worth while to stay and hinder it.  I
only shouted out; but no one made answer, and I kept on.

On arriving at the rear of the house, I found my father in the enclosure
by the grand shed--the overseer too.  Old Hickman, the alligator-hunter,
was there, and one or two other white men, who had casually come upon
business.

In the presence of all, I made the disclosure; and, with as much
minuteness as the time would permit, described the strange transaction I
had witnessed in the morning.

All were thunderstruck.  Hickman at once declared the probability of
such a manoeuvre, though no one doubted my words.  The only doubt was as
to the mulatto's intent.  Could it have been human lives he designed to
sacrifice?  It seemed too great a wickedness to be believed.  It was too
horrible even to be imagined!

At that moment all doubts were set at rest.  Another testimony was added
to mine, which supplied the link of proof that was wanting.  Black Jake
had a tale to tell, and told it.

That morning--but half an hour before--he had seen Yellow Jake climb up
into a live-oak that stood in one corner of the enclosure.  The top of
this commanded a view of the pond.  It was just at the time that "white
missa" and Viola went to the bath.  He was quite sure that about that
time they must have been going into the water, and that Yellow Jake
_must have seen them_.

Indignant at his indecorous conduct, the black had shouted to the
mulatto to come down from the tree, and threatened to complain upon him.
The latter made answer that he was only gathering acorns--the acorns of
the live-oak are sweet food, and much sought after by the
plantation-people.  Black Jake, however, was positive that this could
not be Yellow Jake's purpose; for the former still continuing to
threaten, the latter at length came down, and Black Jake saw no acorns--
not one!

"Twan't acorn he war arter, Massa Randoff: daat yaller loafa wan't arter
no good--daat he wan't sure sartin."

So concluded the testimony of the groom.

The tale produced conviction in the minds of all.  It was no longer
possible to doubt of the mulatto's intention, horrible as it was.  He
had ascended the tree to be witness of the foul deed; he had seen them
enter the basin; he knew the danger that was lurking in its waters; and
yet he had made no movement to give the alarm.  On the contrary, he was
among the last who had hastened towards the pond, when the screaming of
the girls was summoning all the household to their assistance.  This was
shown by the evidence of others.  The case was clear against him.

The tale produced a wild excitement.  White men and black men, masters
and slaves, were equally indignant at the horrid crime; and the cry went
round the yard for "Yellow Jake!"

Some ran one way, some another, in search of him--black, white, and
yellow ran together--all eager in the pursuit--all desirous that such a
monster should be brought to punishment.

Where was he?  His name was called aloud, over and over again, with
commands, with threats; but no answer came back.  Where was he?

The stables were searched, the shed, the kitchen, the cabins--even the
corn-crib was ransacked--but to no purpose.  Where had he gone?

He had been observed but the moment before--he had assisted in dragging
the alligator.  The men had brought it into the enclosure, and thrown it
to the hogs to be devoured.  Yellow Jake had been with them, active as
any at the work.  It was but the moment before he had gone away; but
where?  No one could tell!

At this moment, I remembered the rustling among the orange-trees.  It
might have been he!  If so, he may have overheard the conversation
between the young Indian and myself--or the last part of it--and if so,
he would now be far away.

I led the pursuit through the orangery: its recesses were searched; he
was not there.

The hommock thickets were next entered, and beaten from one end to the
other; still no signs of the missing mulatto.

It occurred to me to climb up to the rock, my former place of
observation.  I ascended at once to its summit, and was rewarded for my
trouble.  At the first glance over the fields, I saw the fugitive.  He
was down between the rows of the indigo plants, crawling upon hands and
knees, evidently making for the maize.

I did not stay to observe further, but springing back to the ground, I
ran after him.  My father, Hickman, and others followed me.

The chase was not conducted in silence--no stratagem was used, and by
our shouts the mulatto soon learned that he was seen and pursued.
Concealment was no longer possible; and rising to his feet, he ran
forward with all his speed.  He soon entered the maize-field, with the
hue and cry close upon his heels.

Though still but a boy, I was the fastest runner of the party.  I knew
that I could run faster than Yellow Jake, and if I could only keep him
in sight, I should soon overtake him.  His hopes were to get into the
swamp, under cover of the palmetto thickets; once there, he might easily
escape by hiding--at all events, he might get off for the time.

To prevent this, I ran at my utmost speed, and with success; for just
upon the edge of the woods, I came up with the runaway, and caught hold
of the loose flap of his jacket.

It was altogether a foolish attempt upon my part.  I had not reflected
upon anything beyond getting up with him.  I had never thought of
resistance, though I might have expected it from a desperate man.
Accustomed to be obeyed, I was under the hallucination that, as soon as
I should come up, the fellow would yield to me; but I was mistaken.

He at once jerked himself free of my hold, and easily enough.  My breath
was gone, my strength exhausted--I could not have held a cat.

I expected him to run on as before; but instead of doing so, he stopped
in his tracks, turned fiercely upon me, and drawing his knife, he
plunged it through my arm.  It was my heart he had aimed at; but by
suddenly throwing up my arm, I had warded off the fatal thrust.

A second time his knife was upraised--and I should have had a second
stab from it--but, just then, another face showed itself in the fray;
and before the dangerous blade could descend, the strong arms of Black
Jake were around my antagonist.

The fiend struggled fiercely to free himself; but the muscular grasp of
his old rival never became relaxed until Hickman and others arrived upon
the ground; and then a fast binding of thongs rendered him at once
harmless and secure.



CHAPTER TWELVE.

A SEVERE SENTENCE.

Such a series of violent incidents of course created excitement beyond
our own boundaries.  There was a group of plantations upon the river
lying side by side, and all having a frontage upon the water; they
formed the "settlement."  Through these ran the report, spreading like
wildfire; and within the hour, white men could be seen coming from every
direction.  Some were on foot--poor hunters who dwelt on the skirts of
the large plantations; others--the planters themselves, or their
overseers--on horseback.  All carried weapons--rifles and pistols.  A
stranger might have supposed it the rendezvous of a militia "muster,"
but the serious looks of those who assembled gave it a different aspect:
it more resembled the gathering of the frontier men upon the report of
some Indian invasion.

In one hour, more than fifty white men were upon the ground--nearly all
who belonged to the settlement.

A jury was quickly formed, and Yellow Jake put upon his trial.  There
was no law in the proceedings, though legal formality was followed in a
certain rude way.  These jurors were themselves sovereign--they were the
lords of the land, and, in cases like this, could easily _improvise_ a
judge.  They soon found one in planter Ringgold, our adjoining
neighbour.  My father declined to take part in the proceedings.

The trial was rapidly gone through with.  The facts were fresh and
clear; I was before their eyes with my arm in a sling, badly cut.  The
other circumstances which led to this result were all detailed.  The
chain of guilt was complete.  The mulatto had attempted the lives of
white people.  Of course, death was the decree.

What mode of death?  Some voted for hanging; but by most of these men,
hanging was deemed too mild.  _Burning_ met the approbation of the
majority.  The judge himself cast his vote for the severer sentence.

My father plead mercy--at least so far as to spare the torture--but the
stern jurors would not listen to him.  They had all lost slaves of
late--many runaways had been reported--the proximity of the Indians gave
encouragement to defection.  They charged my father with too much
leniency--the settlement needed an example--they would make one of
Yellow Jake, that would deter all who were disposed to imitate him.  His
sentence was, that he should be _burnt alive_!

Thus did they reason, and thus did they pronounce.

It is a grand error to suppose that the Indians of North America have
been peculiar in the habit of torturing their captive foes.  In most
well-authenticated cases, where cruelty has been practised by them,
there has been a provocative deed of anterior date--some grievous
wrong--and the torture was but a retaliation.  Human nature has yielded
to the temptings of revenge in all ages--and ferocity can be charged
with as much justice against white skin as against red skin.  Had the
Indians written the story of border warfare, the world might have
modified its belief in their so called cruelty.

It is doubtful if, in all their history, instances of ferocity can be
found that will parallel those often perpetrated by white men upon
blacks--many of whom have suffered mutilation--torture--death--for the
mere offence of a word! certainly often for a blow, since such is a
written law!

Where the Indians have practised cruelty, it has almost always been in
retaliation; but civilised tyrants have put men to the torture without
even the palliating apology of vengeance.  If there was revenge, it was
not of that natural kind to which the human heart gives way, when it
conceives deep wrong has been done; but rather a mean spite, such as is
often exhibited by the dastard despot towards some weak individual
within his power.

No doubt, Yellow Jake deserved death.  His crimes were capital ones; but
to _torture_ him was the will of his judges.

My father opposed it, and a few others.  They were outvoted and
overruled.  The awful sentence was passed; and they who had decreed it
at once set about carrying it into execution.

It was not a fit scene to be enacted upon a gentleman's premises; and a
spot was selected at some distance from the house, further down the
lake-edge.  To this place the criminal was conducted--the crowd of
course following.

Some two hundred yards from the bank, a tree was chosen as the place of
execution.  To this tree the condemned was to be bound, and a log-fire
kindled around him.

My father would not witness the execution; I alone of oor family
followed to the scene.  The mulatto saw me, and accosted me with words
of rage.  He even taunted me about the wound he had given, glorying in
the deed.  He was no doubt under the belief that I was one of his
greatest foes.  I had certainly been the innocent witness of his crime,
and chiefly through my testimony, he had been condemned; but I was not
revengeful.  I would have spared him the terrible fate he was about to
undergo--at least its tortures.

We arrived upon the ground.  Men were already before us, collecting the
logs, and piling them up around the trunk of the tree; others were
striking a fire.  Some joked and laughed; a few were heard giving
utterance to expressions of hate for the whole coloured race.

Young Ringgold was especially active.  This was a wild youth--on the eve
of manhood, of somewhat fierce, harsh temper--a family characteristic.

I knew that the young fellow affected my sister Virginia; I had often
noticed his partiality for her; and he could scarcely conceal his
jealousy of others who came near her.  His father was the richest
planter in the settlement; and the son, proud of this superiority,
believed himself welcome everywhere.  I did not think he was very
welcome with Virgine, though I could not tell.  It was too delicate a
point upon which to question her, for the little dame already esteemed
herself a woman.

Ringgold was neither handsome nor graceful.  He was sufficiently
intelligent, but overbearing to those beneath him in station--not an
uncommon fault among the sons of rich men.  He had already gained the
character of being resentful.  In addition to all, he was dissipated--
too often found with low company in the forest cock-pit.

For my part, I did not like him.  I never cared to be with him as a
companion; he was older than myself, but it was not that--I did not like
his disposition.  Not so my father and mother.  By both was he
encouraged to frequent our house.  Both probably desired him for a
future son-in-law.  They saw no faults in him.  The glitter of gold has
a blinding influence upon the moral eye.

This young man, then, was one of the most eager for the punishment of
the mulatto, and active in the preparations.  His activity arose partly
from a natural disposition to be cruel.  Both he and his father were
noted as hard task-masters, and to be "sold to Mass' Ringgold" was a
fate dreaded by every slave in the settlement.

But young Ringgold had another motive for his conspicuous behaviour: he
fancied he was playing the knight-errant, by this show of friendship for
our family--for Virginia.  He was mistaken.  Such unnecessary cruelty to
the criminal met the approbation of none of us.  It was not likely to
purchase a smile from my good sister.

The young half-blood, Powell, was also present.  On hearing the hue and
cry, he had returned, and now stood in the crowd looking on, but taking
no part in the proceedings.

Just then the eye of Ringgold rested upon the Indian boy, and I could
perceive that it was instantly lit up by a strange expression.  He was
already in possession of all the details.  He saw in the dark-skinned
youth, the gallant preserver of Virginia's life, but it was not with
gratitude that he viewed him.  Another feeling was working in his
breast, as could plainly be perceived by the scornful curl that played
upon his lips.

More plainly still by the rude speech that followed:

"Hilloa! redskin!" he cried out, addressing himself to the young Indian,
"you're sure _you_ had no hand in this business? eh, redskin?"

"Redskin!" exclaimed the half-blood in a tone of indignation, at the
same time fronting proudly to his insulter--"Redskin you call me?  My
skin is of better colour than yours, you white-livered lout!"

Ringgold was rather of a sallow complexion.  The blow hit home.  Not
quicker is the flash of powder than was its effect; but his astonishment
at being thus accosted by an Indian, combined with his rage, hindered
him for some moments from making reply.

Others were before him and cried out:

"O Lordy! such talk from an Injun!"

"Say that again!" cried Ringgold, as soon as he had recovered himself.

"Again if you wish--white-livered lout!" cried the half-blood, giving
full emphasis to the phrase.

The words were scarcely out before Ringgold's pistol cracked; but the
bullet missed its aim; and next moment the two clinched, seizing each
other by the throats.

Both came to the ground, but the half-blood had the advantage.  He was
uppermost, and no doubt would quickly have despatched his white
antagonist--for the ready blade was gleaming in his grasp--but the knife
was struck out of his hand; and a crowd of men rushing to the spot,
pulled the combatants apart.

Some were loud against the Indian lad, and called for his life; but
there were others with finer ideas of fair play, who had witnessed the
provocation, and despite the power of the Ringgolds, would not suffer
him to be sacrificed.  I had resolved to protect him as far as I was
able.

What would have been the result, it is difficult to guess; but, at that
crisis, a sudden diversion was produced by the cry--that _Yellow Jake
had escaped_!



CHAPTER THIRTEEN.

THE CHASE.

I looked around.  Sure enough the mulatto was making off.

The rencontre between Ringgold and the Indian monopolised attention, and
the criminal was for the moment forgotten.  The knife knocked out of
Powell's hand had fallen at the feet of Yellow Jake.  Unobserved in the
confusion he had snatched it up, cut the fastenings from his limbs, and
glided off before any one could intercept him.  Several clutched at him
as he passed through the straggled groups; but, being naked, he was able
to glide out of their grasp, and in a dozen bounds he had cleared the
crowd, and was running towards the shore of the lake.

It seemed a mad attempt--he would be shot down or overtaken.  Even so;
it was not madness to fly from certain death--and such a death.

Shots were ringing; at first they were the reports of pistols.  The guns
had been laid aside, and were leaning against trees and the adjacent
fence.

Their owners now ran to seize them.  One after another was levelled; and
then followed a sharp rapid cracking, like file-firing from a corps of
riflemen.

There may have been good marksmen among the party--there were some of
the best--but a man running for his life, and bounding from side to
side, to avoid the stumps and bushes, offers but a very uncertain mark;
and the best shot may miss.

So it appeared on this occasion.  After the last rifle rang, the runaway
was still seen keeping his onward course, apparently unscathed.

The moment after, he plunged into the water, and swam boldly out from
the shore.

Some set to reloading their guns; others, despairing of the time, flung
them away; and hastily pulling off hats, coats, boots, rushed down to
the lake, and plunged in after the fugitive.

In less than three minutes from the time that the mulatto started off, a
new tableau was formed.  The spot that was to have been the scene of
execution was completely deserted.  One half the crowd was down by the
shore, shouting and gesticulating; the other half--full twenty in all--
had taken to the water, and were swimming in perfect silence--their
heads alone showing above the surface.  Away beyond--full fifty paces in
advance of the foremost--appeared that solitary swimmer--the object of
pursuit; his head of black tangled curls conspicuous above the water,
and now and then the yellow neck and shoulder, as he forged forward in
the desperate struggle for life.

Strange tableau it was; and bore strong resemblance to a deer-hunt--when
the stag, close-pressed, takes to the water; and the hounds, in full
cry, plunge boldly after--but in this chase were the elements of a still
grander excitement--both the quarry and the pack were human.

Not all human--there were dogs as well--hounds and mastiffs mingled
among the men--side by side with their masters in the eager purpose of
pursuit.  A strange tableau indeed!

Stray shots were still fired from the shore.  Rifles had been reloaded
by those who remained; and now and then the plash of the tiny pellet
could be seen, where it struck the water far short of the distant
swimmer.  He needed no longer have a dread of danger from that source;
he was beyond the range of the rifles.

The whole scene had the semblance of a dream.  So sudden had been the
change of events, I could scarcely give credit to my senses, and believe
it a reality.  But the moment before, the criminal lay bound and
helpless, beside him the pile upon which he was to be burnt--now was he
swimming far and free, his executioners a hopeless distance behind him.
Rapid had been the transformation--it hardly appeared real.
Nevertheless, it _was_ real--it was before the eyes.

A long time, too, before our eyes.  A chase in the water is a very
different affair from a pursuit on dry land; and, notwithstanding there
was life and death on the issue, slow was the progress both of pursuers
and pursued.  For nearly half an hour we who remained upon the shore
continued spectators of this singular contest.

The frenzy of the first moments had passed away; but there was
sufficient interest to sustain a strong excitement to the last; and some
continued to shout and gesticulate, though neither their cries nor
actions could in anywise influence the result.  No words of
encouragement could have increased the speed of the pursuers; no threats
were needed to urge forward the fugitive.

We who remained inactive had time enough to reflect; and upon
reflection, it became apparent why the runaway had taken to the water.
Had he attempted to escape by the fields, he would have been pulled down
by the dogs, or else overtaken by swift runners, for there were many
swifter than he.  There were few better swimmers, however, and he knew
it.  For this reason, then, had he preferred the water to the woods, and
certainly his chances of escape seemed better.

After all, he could _not_ escape.  The island for which he was making
was about half a mile from the shore; but beyond was a stretch of clear
water of more than a mile in width.  He would arrive at the island
before any of his pursuers; but what then?  Did he purpose to remain
there, in hopes of concealing himself among the bushes?  Its surface of
several acres was covered with a thick growth of large trees.  Some
stood close by the shore, their branches draped with silvery tillandsia,
overhanging the water.  But what of this?  There might have been cover
enough to have given shelter to a bear or a hunted wolf, but not to a
hunted man--not to a slave who had drawn the knife upon his master.  No,
no.  Every inch of the thicket would be searched: to escape by
concealing himself he might not.

Perhaps he only meant to use the island as a resting-place; and, after
breathing himself, take once more to the water, and swim for the
opposite shore.  It was possible for a strong swimmer to reach it; but
it would not be possible for _him_.  There were skiffs and _pirogues_
upon the river, both up and down.  Men had already gone after them; and,
long before he could work his way across that wide reach, half-a-dozen
keels would be cutting after him.  No, no--he could not escape: either
upon the island, or in the water beyond, he would be captured.

Thus reasoned the spectators, as they stood watching the pursuit.

The excitement rose higher as the swimmers neared the island.  It is
always so at the approach of a crisis; and a crisis was near, though not
such a one as the spectators anticipated.  They looked to see the
runaway reach the island, mount up the bank, and disappear among the
trees.  They looked to see his pursuers climb out close upon his heels,
and perhaps hear of his capture before he could cross through the
timber, and take to the water on the other side.

Some such crisis were they expecting; and it could not be distant, for
the mulatto was now close into the edge of the island; a few strokes
would bring him to the shore; he was swimming under the black shadows of
the trees--it seemed as if the branches were over his head--as if he
might have thrown up his hands and clutched them.

The main body of his pursuers was still fifty yards in his rear; but
some, who had forged ahead of the rest, were within half that distance.
From where we viewed them, they seemed far nearer; in fact, it was easy
to fancy that they were swimming alongside, and could have laid hands on
him at any moment.

The crisis was approaching, but not that which was looked for.  The
pursuit was destined to a far different ending from that anticipated
either by spectators or pursuers.  The pursued himself little dreamed of
the doom that was so near--a doom awfully appropriate.

The swimmer was cleaving his way across the belt of black shadow; we
expected next moment to see him enter among the trees, when all at once
he was seen to turn side towards us, and direct his course along the
edge of the island!

We observed this manoeuvre with some astonishment--we could not account
for it; it was clearly to the advantage of his pursuers, who now swam in
a diagonal line to intercept him.

What could be his motive?  Had he failed to find a landing-place?  Even
so, he might have clutched the branches, and by that means drawn himself
ashore.

Ha! our conjectures are answered; yonder is the answer; yonder brown log
that floats on the black water is _not_ the trunk of a dead tree.  It is
not dead; it has life and motion.  See! it assumes a form--the form of
the great saurian--the hideous alligator!

Its gaunt jaws are thrown up, its scolloped tail is erect, its breast
alone rests upon the water.  On this as a pivot it spins round and
round, brandishing its tail in the air, and at intervals lashing the
spray aloft.  Its bellowing is echoed back from the distant shores; the
lake vibrates under the hoarse baritone, the wood-birds flutter and cry,
and the white crane mounts screaming into the air.

The spectators stand aghast; the pursuers have poised themselves in the
water, and advance no farther.  One solitary swimmer is seen struggling
on; it is he who swims for his life.

It is upon him the eyes of the alligator are fixed.  Why upon him more
than the others!  They are all equally near.  Is it the hand of God who
takes vengeance?

Another revolution, another sweep of its strong tail, and the huge
reptile rushes upon its victim.

I have forgotten his crimes--I almost sympathise with him.  Is there no
hope of his escape?

See! he has grasped the branch of a live-oak; he is endeavouring to lift
himself up--above the water--above the danger.  Heaven strengthen his
arms!

Ah! he will be too late; already the jaws--That crash?

The branch has broken!

He sinks back to the surface--below it.  He is out of sight--he has gone
to the bottom! and after him, open-mouthed and eager, darts the gigantic
lizard.  Both have disappeared from our view.

The froth floats like a blanket upon the waves, clouting the leaves on
the broken branch.

We watch with eager eyes.  Not a ripple escapes unnoted; but no new
movement stirs the surface, no motion is observed, no form comes up; and
the waves soon flatten over the spot.

Beyond a doubt the reptile has finished its work.

Whose work?  Was it the hand of God who took vengeance?

So they are saying round me.

The pursuers have faced back, and are swimming towards us.  None cares
to trust himself under the black shadows of those island oaks.  They
will have a long swim before they can reach the shore, and some of them
will scarcely accomplish it.  They are in danger; but no--yonder come
the skiffs and pirogues that will soon pick them up.

They have seen the boats, and swim slowly, or float upon the water,
waiting their approach.

They are taken in, one after another; and all--both dogs and men--are
now carried to the island.

They go to continue the search--for there is still some doubt as to the
fate of the runaway.

They land--the dogs are sent through the bushes, while the men glide
round the edge to the scene of the struggle.  They find no track or
trace upon the shore.

But there is one upon the water.  Some froth still floats--there is a
tinge of carmine upon it--beyond a doubt it is the blood of the mulatto.

"All right, boys!" cries a rough fellow; "that's blueskin's blood, I'll
sartify.  He's gone under an' no mistake.  Darn the varmint! it's clean
spoilt our sport."

The jest is received with shouts of boisterous laughter.

In such a spirit talked the man-hunters, as they returned from the
chase.



CHAPTER FOURTEEN.

RINGGOLD'S REVENGE.

Only the ruder spirits indulged in this ill-timed levity; others of more
refined nature regarded the incident with due solemnity--some even with
a feeling of awe.

Certainly it seemed as if the hand of God had interposed, so appropriate
had been the punishment--almost as if the criminal had perished by his
own contrivance.

It was an awful death, but far less hard to endure than that which had
been decreed by man.  The Almighty had been more merciful: and in thus
mitigating the punishment of the guilty wretch, had rebuked his human
judges.

I looked around for the young Indian: I was gratified to find he was no
longer among the crowd.  His quarrel with Ringgold had been broken off
abruptly.  I had fears that it was not yet ended.  His words had
irritated some of the white men, and it was through his being there, the
criminal had found the opportunity to get off.  No doubt, had the latter
finally escaped, there would have been more of it: and even as matters
stood, I was not without apprehensions about the safety of the bold
half-blood.  He was not upon his own ground--the other side of the river
was the Indian territory; and, therefore, he might be deemed an
intruder.  True, we were at peace with the Indians; but for all that,
there was enough of hostile feeling between the two races.  Old wounds
received in the war of 1818 still rankled.

I knew Ringgold's resentful character--he had been humiliated in the
eyes of his companions; for, during the short scuffle, the half-blood
had the best of it.  Ringgold would not be content to let it drop--he
would seek revenge.

I was glad, therefore, on perceiving that the Indian had gone away from
the ground.  Perhaps he had himself become apprehensive of danger, and
recrossed the river.  There he would be safe from pursuit.  Even
Ringgold dare not follow him to the other side, for the treaty laws
could not have been outraged with impunity.  The most reckless of the
squatters knew this.  An Indian war would have been provoked, and the
supreme government, though not over scrupulous, had other views at the
time.

I was turning to proceed homeward, when it occurred to me that I would
accost Ringgold, and signify to him my disapproval of his conduct.  I
was indignant at the manner in which he had acted--just angry enough to
speak my mind.  Ringgold was older than myself, and bigger; but I was
not afraid of him.  On the contrary, I knew that he was rather afraid of
_me_.  The insult he had offered to one who, but the hour before, had
risked his life for us, had sufficiently roused my blood, and I was
determined to reproach him for it.  With this intention, I turned back
to look for him.  He was not there.

"Have you seen Arens Ringgold?"  I inquired of old Hickman.

"Yes--jest gone," was the reply.

"In what direction?"

"Up-river.  See 'im gallop off wi' Bill Williams an' Ned Spence--desprit
keen upon somethin' they 'peered."

A painful suspicion flashed across my mind.

"Hickman," I asked, "will you lend me your horse for an hour?"

"My old critter?  Sartin sure will I: a day, if you wants him.  But,
Geordy, boy, you can't ride wi' your arm that way?"

"O yes; only help me into the saddle."

The old hunter did as desired; and after exchanging another word or two,
I rode off in the up-river direction.

Up the river was a ferry; and at its landing it was most likely the
young Indian had left his canoe.  In that direction, therefore, he
should go to get back to his home, and in that direction Ringgold should
_not_ go to return to his, for the path to the Ringgold plantation led
in a course altogether opposite.  Hence the suspicion that occurred to
me on hearing that the latter had gone up the river.  At such a time it
did not look well, and in such company, still worse; for I recognised in
the names that Hickman had mentioned, two of the most worthless boys in
the settlement.  I knew them to be associates, or rather creatures, of
Ringgold.

My suspicion was that they had gone after the Indian, and of course with
an ill intent.  It was hardly a conjecture; I was almost sure of it; and
as I advanced along the river road, I became confirmed in the belief.  I
saw the tracks of their horses along the path that led to the ferry, and
now and again I could make out the print of the Indian moccasin where it
left its wet mark in the dust.  I knew that his dress had not yet dried
upon him, and the moccasins would still be saturated with water.

I put the old horse to his speed.  As I approached the landing, I could
see no one, for there were trees all around it; but the conflict of
angry voices proved that I had conjectured aright.

I did not stop to listen; but urging my horse afresh, I rode on.  At a
bend of the road, I saw three horses tied to the trees.  I knew they
were those of Ringgold and his companions, but I could not tell why they
had left them.

I stayed not to speculate, but galloped forward upon the ground.  Just
as I had anticipated, the three were there--the half-blood was in their
hands!

They had crept upon him unawares--that was why their horses had been
left behind--and caught him just as he was about stepping into his
canoe.  He was unarmed--for the rifle I had given him was still wet, and
the mulatto had made away with his knife--he could offer no resistance,
and was therefore secured at once.

They had been quick about it, for they had already stripped off his
hunting-shirt, and tied him to a tree.  They were just about to vent
their spite on him--by flogging him on the bare back with cowhides which
they carried in their hands.  No doubt they would have laid them on
heavily, had I not arrived in time.

"Shame, Arens Ringgold! shame!"  I cried as I rode up.  "This is
cowardly, and I shall report it to the whole settlement."

Ringgold stammered out some excuse, but was evidently staggered at my
sudden appearance.

"The darned Injun desarves it," growled Williams.

"For what, Master Williams?"  I inquired.

"For waggin his jaw so imperent to white men."

"He's got no business over here," chimed in Spence; "he has got no right
to come this side of the river."

"And you have no right to flog him, whether on this side or the other--
no more than you have to flog me."

"Ho, ho!  That might be done, too," said Spence, in a sneering tone,
that set my blood in a boil.

"Not so easily," I cried, leaping from the old horse, and running
forward upon the ground.

My right arm was still sound.  Apprehensive of an awkward affair, I had
borrowed old Hickman's pistol, and I held it in my hand.

"Now, gentlemen," said I, taking my stand beside the captive, "go on
with the flogging; but take my word for it, I shall send a bullet
through the first who strikes!"

Though they were but boys, all three were armed with knife and pistol,
as was the custom of the time.  Of the three, Spence seemed most
inclined to carry out his threat; but he and Williams saw that Ringgold,
their leader, had already backed out, for the latter had something to
lose, which his companions had not.  Besides, he had other thoughts, as
well as fears for his personal safety.

The result was, that all three, after remonstrating with me for my
uncalled-for interference _in a quarrel that did not concern me_, made
an angry and somewhat awkward exit from the scene.

The young Indian was soon released from his unpleasant situation.  He
uttered few words, but his looks amply expressed his gratitude.  As he
pressed my hand at parting, he said:

"Come to the other side to hunt whenever you please--no Indian will harm
you--in the land of the red men _you_ will be welcome."



CHAPTER FIFTEEN.

MAUMEE.

An acquaintance thus acquired could not be lightly dropped.  Should it
end otherwise than in friendship?  This half-blood was a noble youth,
the germ of a gentleman.  I resolved to accept his invitation, and visit
him in his forest home.

His mother's _cabin_, he said, was on the other side of the lake, not
far off.  I should find it on the bank of a little stream that emptied
into the main river, above where the latter expands itself.

I felt a secret gratification as I listened to these directions.  I knew
the stream of which he was speaking; lately, I had sailed up it in my
skiff.  It was upon its banks I had seen that fair vision--the
wood-nymph whose beauty haunted my imagination.  Was it Maumee?

I longed to be satisfied.  I waited only for the healing of my wound--
till my arm should be strong enough for the oar.  I chafed at the delay;
but time passed, and I was well.

I chose a beautiful morning for the promised visit, and was prepared to
start forth.  I had no companion--only my dogs and gun.

I had reached my skiff, and was about stepping in, when a voice accosted
me; on turning, I beheld my sister.

Poor little Virgine! she had lost somewhat of her habitual gaiety, and
appeared much changed of late.  She was not yet over the terrible
fright--its consequences were apparent in her more thoughtful demeanour.

"Whither goest thou, Georgy?" she inquired as she came near.

"Must I tell, Virgine?"

"Either that or take me with you."

"What! to the woods?"

"And why not?  I long for a ramble in the woods.  Wicked brother! you
never indulge me."

"Why, sister, you never asked me before."

"Even so, you might know that I desired it.  Who would not wish to go
wandering in the woods?  Oh!  I wish I were a wild bird, or a butterfly,
or some other creature with wings; I should wander all over those
beautiful woods, without asking you to guide me, selfish brother."

"Any other day, Virgine, but to-day--"

"Why, but?  Why not this very day?  Surely it is fine--it is lovely!"

"The truth, then, sister--I am not exactly bound for the woods to-day."

"And whither bound? whither bound, Georgy?--that's what they say in
ships."

"I am going to visit young Powell at his mother's cabin.  I promised him
I should."

"Ha!" exclaimed my sister, suddenly changing colour, and remaining for a
moment in a reflective attitude.

The name had recalled that horrid scene.  I was sorry I had mentioned
it.

"Now, brother," continued she, after a pause; "there is nothing I more
desire to see than an Indian cabin--you know I have never seen one.
Good Georgy! good Georgy! pray take me along with you!"

There was an earnestness in the appeal I could not resist, though I
would rather have gone alone.  I had a secret that I would not have
trusted even to my fond sister.  I had an indefinite feeling, besides,
that I ought not to take her with me, so far from home, into a part of
the country with which I was so little acquainted.

She appealed a second time.

"If mother will give her consent--"

"Nonsense, Georgy--mamma will not be angry.  Why return to the house?
You see I am prepared; I have my sun-bonnet.  We can be back before we
are missed--you've told me it was not far."

"Step in, sis!  Sit down in the stern.  There--yo ho! we are off!"

There was not much strength in the current, and half an hour's rowing
brought the skiff to the mouth of the creek.  We entered it, and
continued upward.  It was a narrow stream, but sufficiently deep to
float either skiff or canoe.  The sun was hot, but his beams could not
reach us; they were intercepted by the tupelo trees that grew upon the
banks--their leafy branches almost meeting across the water.

Half a mile from the mouth of the creek, we approached a clearing.  We
saw fields under cultivation.  We noticed crops of maize, and sweet
potatoes, with capsicums, melons, and calabashes.  There was a
dwelling-house of considerable size near the bank, surrounded by an
enclosure, with smaller houses in the rear.  It was a log structure--
somewhat antique in its appearance, with a portico, the pillars of which
exhibited a rude carving.  There were slaves at work in the field--that
is, there were black men, and some red men too--Indians!

It could not be the plantation of a white man--there were none on that
side the river.  Some wealthy Indian, we conjectured, who is the owner
of land and slaves.  We were not surprised at this--we knew there were
many such.

But where was the cabin of our friend?  He had told me it stood upon the
bank of the stream not more than half a mile from its mouth.  Had we
passed without seeing it? or was it still higher up?

"Shall we stop, and inquire, Virgine?"

"Who is it standing in the porch?"

"Ha! your eyes are better than mine, sis--it is the young Indian
himself.  Surely he does not live _there_?  That is not a cabin.
Perhaps he is on a visit?  But see! he is coming this way."

As I spoke, the Indian stepped out from the house, and walked rapidly
towards us.  In a few seconds, he stood upon the bank, and beckoned us
to a landing.  As when seen before, he was gaily dressed, with plumed
"toque" upon his head, and garments richly embroidered.  As he stood
upon the bank above us, his fine form outlined against the sky, he
presented the appearance of a miniature warrior.  Though but a boy, he
looked splendid and picturesque.  I almost envied him his wild attire.

My sister seemed to look on him with admiration, though I thought I
could trace some terror in her glance.  From the manner in which her
colour came and went, I fancied that his presence recalled that scene,
and again I regretted that she had accompanied me.

He appeared unembarrassed by our arrival.  I have known it otherwise
among whites; and those, too, making pretensions to _haut ton_.  This
young Indian was as cool and collected as though he had been expecting
us, which he was not.  He could not have expected both.

There was no show of coldness in our reception.  As soon as we
approached near enough, he caught the stem of the skiff, drew her close
up to the landing, and with the politeness of an accomplished gentleman,
assisted us to debark.

"You are welcome," said he--"welcome!" and then turning to Virginia with
an inquiring look, he added:

"I hope the health of the senorita is quite restored.  As for yours,
sir, I need not inquire: that you have rowed your skiff so far against
the current, is a proof you have got over your mishap."

The word "senorita" betrayed a trace of the Spaniards--a remnant of
those relations that had erewhile existed between the Seminole Indians
and the Iberian race.  Even in the costume of our new acquaintance could
be observed objects of Andalusian origin--the silver cross hanging from
his neck, the sash of scarlet silk around his waist, and the bright
triangular blade that was sheathed behind it.  The scene, too, had
Spanish touches.  There were exotic plants, the China orange, the
splendid papaya, the capsicums (chiles), and love-apples (tomatoes);
almost characteristics of the home of the Spanish colonist.  The house
itself exhibited traces of Castilian workmanship.  The carving was not
Indian.

"Is this your home?"  I inquired with a little embarrassment.

He had bid us welcome, but I saw no cabin; I might be wrong.

His answer set me at rest.  It was his home--his mother's house--his
father was long since dead--there were but the three--his mother, his
sister, himself.

"And these?"  I inquired, pointing to the labourers.

"Our slaves," he replied, with a smile.  "You perceive we Indians are
getting into the customs of civilisation."

"But these are not all negroes?  There are red men; are _they_ slaves?"

"Slaves like the others.  I see you are astonished.  They are not of our
tribe--they are _Yamassees_.  Our people conquered them long ago; and
many of them still remain slaves."

We had arrived at the house.  His mother met us by the door--a woman of
pure Indian race--who had evidently once possessed beauty.  She was
still agreeable to look upon--well-dressed, though in Indian costume--
maternal--intelligent.

We entered--furniture--trophies of the chase--horse accoutrements in the
Spanish style--a guitar--ha! books!

My sister and I were not a little surprised to find, under an Indian
roof, these symbols of civilisation.

"Ah!" cried the youth, as if suddenly recollecting himself, "I am glad
you are come.  Your moccasins are finished.  Where are they, mother?
Where is she?  Where is Maumee?"

He had given words to my thoughts--their very echo.

"Who is Maumee?" whispered Virgine.

"An Indian girl--his sister, I believe."

"Yonder--she comes!"

A foot scarce a span in length; an ankle that, from the broidered flap
of the moccasin, exhibits two lines widely diverging upward; a waist of
that pleasing flexure that sweeps abruptly inward and out again; a bosom
whose prominence could be detected under the coarsest draping; a face of
rich golden brown; skin diaphanous; cheeks coral red; lips of like hue;
dark eyes and brows; long crescent lashes; hair of deepest black, in
wantonness of profusion!

Fancy such a form--fancy it robed in all the picturesque finery that
Indian ingenuity can devise--fancy it approaching you with a step that
rivals the steed of Arabia, and you may fancy--no, you may not fancy
Maumee.

My poor heart--it was she, my wood-nymph!

------------------------------------------------------------------------

I could have tarried long under the roof of that hospitable home; but my
sister seemed ill at ease--as if there came always recurring to her the
memory of that unhappy adventure.

We stayed but an hour; it seemed not half so long--but short as was the
time, it transformed me into a man.  As I rowed back home, I felt that
my boy's heart had been left behind me.



CHAPTER SIXTEEN.

THE ISLAND.

I longed to revisit the Indian home; and was not slow to gratify my
wish.  There was no restraint upon my actions.  Neither father nor
mother interfered with my daily wanderings: I came and went at will; and
was rarely questioned as to the direction I had taken.  Hunting was
supposed to be the purpose of my absence.  My dogs and gun, which I
always took with me, and the game I usually brought back, answered all
curiosity.

My hunting excursions were always in one direction--I need hardly have
said so--always across the river.  Again and again did the keel of my
skiff cleave the waters of the creek--again and again, till I knew every
tree upon its banks.

My acquaintance with young Powell soon ripened into a firm friendship.
Almost daily were we together--either upon the lake or in the woods,
companions in the chase; and many a deer and wild turkey did we
slaughter in concert.  The Indian boy was already a skilled hunter; and
I learned many a secret of woodcraft in his company.

I well remember that hunting less delighted me than before.  I preferred
that hour when the chase was over, and I halted at the Indian house on
my way home--when I drank the honey-sweetened _conti_ out of the carved
calabash--far sweeter from the hands out of which I received the cup--
far sweeter from the smiles of her who gave it--Maumee.

For weeks--short weeks they seemed--I revelled in this young dream of
love.  Ah! it is true there is no joy in afterlife that equals this.
Glory and power are but gratifications--love alone is bliss--purest and
sweetest in its virgin bloom.

Often was Virginia my companion in these wild wood excursions.  She had
grown fond of the forest--she said so--and willingly went along.  There
were times when I should have preferred going alone; but I could not
gainsay her.  She had become attached to Maumee.  I did not wonder.

Maumee, too, liked my sister--not from any resemblance of character.
Physically, they were unlike as two young girls could well be.  Virginia
was all blonde and gold; Maumee, damask and dark.  Intellectually they
approached no nearer.  The former was timid as the dove; the latter
possessed a spirit bold as the falcon.  Perhaps the contrast drew closer
the ties of friendship that had sprung up between them.  It is not an
anomaly.

Far more like an anomaly was my feeling in relation to the two.  I loved
my sister for the very softness of her nature.  I loved Maumee for the
opposite; but, true, these loves were very distinct in kind--unlike as
the objects that called them forth.

While young Powell and I hunted, our sisters stayed at home.  They
strolled about the fields, the groves, the garden.  They played and sang
and _read_, for Maumee--despite her costume--was no savage.  She had
books, a guitar, or rather a bandolin--a Spanish relic--and had been
instructed in both.  So far as mental cultivation went, she was fit
society even for the daughter of a proud Randolph.  Young Powell, too;
was as well, or better educated than myself.  Their father had not
neglected his duty.

Neither Virginia nor I ever dreamed of an inequality.  The association
was by us desired and sought.  We were both too young to know aught of
_caste_.  In our friendships we followed only the prompting of innocent
nature; and it never occurred to us that we were going astray.

The girls frequently accompanied us into the forest; and to this we, the
hunters, made no objection.  We did not always go in quest of the
wide-ranging stag.  Squirrels and other small game were oftener the
objects of our pursuit; and in following these we needed not to stray
far from our delicate companions.

As for Maumee, she was a huntress--a bold equestrian, and could have
ridden in the "drive."  As yet, my sister had scarcely been on
horseback.

I grew to like the squirrel-shooting the best; my dogs were often left
behind; and it became a rare thing for me to bring home venison.

Our excursions were not confined to the woods.  The water-fowl upon the
lake, the ibises, egrets, and white cranes, were often the victims of
our hunting ardour.

In the lake, there was a beautiful island--not that which had been the
scene of the tragedy, but one higher up--near the widening of the river.
Its surface was of large extent, and rose to a summit in the centre.
For the most part, it was clad with timber, nearly all evergreen--as the
live-oak, magnolia, illicium, and the wild orage--indigenous to Florida.
There was zanthoxylon trees, with their conspicuous yellow blossoms;
the perfumed flowering dogwood, and sweet-scented plants and shrubs--the
princely palm towering high over all, and forming, with its wide-spread
umbels, a double canopy of verdure.

The timber, though standing thickly, did not form a thicket.  Here and
there, the path was tangled with epiphytes or parasites--with enormous
gnarled vines of the fox-grape--with bignonias--with china and
sarsaparilla briers--with bromilias and sweet-scented orchids; but the
larger trees stood well apart; and at intervals there were openings--
pretty glades, carpeted with grass, and enamelled with flowers.

The fair island lay about half-way between the two homes; and often
young Powell and I met upon it, and made it the scene of our sport.
There were squirrels among the trees, and turkeys--sometimes deer were
found in the glades--and from its covered shores we could do execution
among the water-fowl that sported upon the lake.

Several times had we met on this neutral ground, and always accompanied
by our sisters.  Both delighted in the lovely spot.  They used to ascend
the slope, and seat themselves under the shade of some tall palms that
grew on the summit; while we, the hunters, remained in the
game-frequented ground below, causing the woods to ring with the reports
of our rifles.  Then it was our custom, when satiated with the sport,
also to ascend the hill, and deliver up our spoils, particularly when we
had been fortunate enough to procure some rare and richly plumed bird--
an object of curiosity or admiration.

For my part, whether successful or not, I always left off sooner than my
companion.  I was not so keen a hunter as he; I far more delighted to
recline along the grass where the two maidens were seated: far sweeter
than the sound of the rifle was it to listen to the tones of Maumee's
voice; far fairer than the sight of game was it to gaze into the eyes of
Maumee.

And beyond this, beyond listening and looking, my love had never gone.
No love-words had ever passed between us; I even knew not whether I was
beloved.

My hours were not all blissful; the sky was not always of rose colour.
The doubts that my youthful passion was returned were its clouds; and
these often arose to trouble me.

About this time, I became unhappy from another cause.  I perceived, or
fancied, that Virginia took a deep interest in the brother of Maumee,
and that this was reciprocated.  The thought gave me surprise and pain.
Yet why I should have experienced either, I could not tell.  I have said
that my sister and I were too young to know ought of the prejudices of
rank or caste; but this was not strictly true.  I must have had some
instinct, that in this free association with our dark-skinned neighbours
we were doing wrong, else how could it have made me unhappy?  I fancied
that Virginia shared this feeling with me.  We were both ill at ease,
and yet we were not confidants of each other.  I dreaded to make known
my thoughts even to my sister, and she no doubt felt a like reluctance
to the disclosing of her secret.

What would be the result of these young loves if left to themselves?
Would they in due time die out?  Would there arrive an hour of satiety
and change? or, without interruption would they become perpetual?  Who
knows what might be their fate, if permitted to advance to perfect
development.  But it is never so--they are always interrupted.

So were ours--the crisis came--and the sweet companionship in which we
had been indulging was brought to a sudden close.  We had never
disclosed it to our father or mother, though we had used no craft to
conceal it.  We had not been questioned, else should we certainly have
avowed it; for we had been taught strictly to regard truth.  But no
questions had been asked--no surprise had been expressed at our frequent
absences.  Mine, as a hunter, were but natural; the only wonderment was
that Virginia had grown so found of the forest, and so often bore me
company; but this slight surprise on the part of my mother soon wore
off, and we went freely forth, and as freely returned, without challenge
of our motives.

I have said that we used no art to conceal who were our associates in
these wild wanderings.  That again is not strictly true.  Our very
silence was craft.  We must both have had some secret perception that we
were acting wrongly--that our conduct would not meet the approval of our
parents--else why should we have cared for concealment.

It was destined that this repose should not be of long continuance.  It
ended abruptly--somewhat harshly.

One day we were upon the island, all four as usual.  The hunt was over,
and Powell and I had rejoined our sisters upon the hill.  We had
stretched ourselves under the shade, and were indulging in trivial
conversation, but I far more in the mute language of love.  My eyes
rested upon the object of my thoughts, too happy that my glances were
returned.  I saw little besides: I did not notice that there was a
similar exchange of ardent looks between the young Indian and my sister.
At that moment I cared not; I was indifferent to everything but the
smiles of Maumee.

There were those who did observe the exchange of glances, who saw all
that was passing.  Anxious eyes were bent upon the tableau formed by the
four of us, and our words, looks, and gestures were noted.

The dogs rose with a growl, and ran outward among the trees.  The
rustling branches, and garments shining through the foliage, warned us
that there were people there.  The dogs had ceased to give tongue, and
were wagging their tails.  They were friends, then, who were near.

The leaves sheltered them no longer from our view: behold my father--my
mother!

Virginia and I were startled by their appearance.  We felt some
apprehension of evil--arising no doubt, from our own convictions that we
had not been acting aright.  We observed that the brows of both were
clouded.  They appeared vexed and angry.

My mother approached first.  There was scorn upon her lips.  She was
proud of her ancestry, even more than the descendant of the Randolphs.

"What!" exclaimed she--"what, my children, these your companions?
Indians?"

Young Powell rose to his feet, but said nothing in reply.  His looks
betrayed what he felt; and that he perfectly understood the slight.

With a haughty glance towards my father and mother, he beckoned to his
sister to follow him, and walked proudly away.

Virginia and I were alarmed and speechless.  We dared not say adieu.

We were hurried from the spot; and homeward Virginia went with my father
and mother.  There were others in the boat that had brought them to the
island.  There were blacks who rowed; but I saw white men there too.
The Ringgolds--both father and son--were of the party.

I returned alone in the skiff.  While crossing the lake, I looked up.
The canoe was just entering the creek.  I could see that the faces of
the half-blood and his sister were turned towards us.  I was watched,
and dared not wave an adieu, although there was a sad feeling upon my
heart--a presentiment that we were parting for long--perhaps for ever!

Alas! the presentiment proved a just one.  In three days from that time
I was on my way to the far north, where I was entered as a cadet in the
military academy of West Point.  My sister, too, was sent to one of
those seminaries, in which the cities of the Puritan people abound.  It
was long, long before either of us again set eyes upon the flowery land.



CHAPTER SEVENTEEN.

WEST POINT.

The military college of West Point is the finest school in the world.
Princes and priests have there no power; true knowledge is taught, and
must be learned, under penalty of banishment from the place.  The
graduate comes forth a scholar, not, as from Oxford and Cambridge, the
pert parrot of a dead language, smooth prosodian, mechanic rhymster of
Idyllic verse; but a linguist of living tongues--one who has studied
science, and not neglected art--a botanist, draughtsman, geologist,
astronomer, engineer, soldier--all; in short, a man fitted for the
higher duties of social life--capable of supervision and command--
equally so of obedience and execution.

Had I been ever so much disinclined to books, in this institution I
could not have indulged in idleness.  There is no "dunce" in West Point.
There is no favour to family and fortune: the son of the President
would be ejected, if not able to dress up with the rank; and under the
dread of disgrace, I became, perforce, a diligent student--in time a
creditable scholar.

The details of a cadet's experience possess but little interest--a
routine of monotonous duties--only at West Point a little harder than
elsewhere--at times but slightly differing from the slave-life of a
common soldier.  I bore them bravely--not that I was inspired by any
great military ambition, but simply from a feeling of rivalry: I scorned
to be the laggard of my class.

There were times, however, when I felt weariness from so much restraint.
It contrasted unfavourably with the free life I had been accustomed to;
and often did I feel a longing for home--for the forest and the
savanna--and far more, for the associates I had left behind.

Long lingered in my heart the love of Maumee--long time unaffected by
absence.  I thought the void caused by that sad parting would never be
filled up.  No other object could replace in my mind, or banish from my
memory the sweet souvenirs of my youthful love.  Morning, noon, and
night, was that image of picturesque beauty outlined upon the retina of
my mental eye--by day in thoughts, by night in dreams.

Thus was it for a long while--I thought it would never be otherwise!  No
other could ever interest me, as she had done.  No new joy could win me
to wander--no Lethe could bring oblivion.  Had I been told so by an
angel, I would not, I could not, have believed it.

Ah! it was a misconception of human nature.  I was but sharing it in
common with others, for most mortals have, at some period of life,
laboured under a similar mistake.  Alas! it is too true--love _is_
affected by time and absence.  It will not live upon memory alone.  The
capricious soul, however delighting in the ideal, prefers the real and
positive.  Though there are but few _lovely_ women in the world, there
is no one lovelier than all the rest--no man handsomer than all his
fellows.  Of two pictures equally beautiful, that is the more beautiful
upon which the eye is gazing.  It is not without reason that lovers
dread the parting hour.

Was it books that spoke of lines and angles, of bastions and
embrasures--was it drill, drill, drill by day, or the hard couch and
harder guard _tour_ by night--was it any or all of these that began to
infringe upon the exclusivism of that one idea, and at intervals drive
it from my thoughts?  Or was it the pretty faces that now and then made
their appearance at the "Point"--the excursionary belles from Saratoga
and Ballston, who came to visit us--or the blonde daughters of the
patroons, our nearer neighbours--who came more frequently, and who saw
in each coarse-clad cadet the chrysalis of a hero--the embryo of a
general?

Which of all these was driving Maumee out of my mind?

It imports little what cause--such was the effect.  The impression of my
young love became less vivid on the page of memory.  Each day it grew
fainter and fainter, until it was attenuated to a slim retrospect.

Ah!  Maumee! in truth it was long before this came to pass.  Those
bright smiling faces danced long before my eyes ere thine became
eclipsed.  Long while withstood I the flattery of those siren tongues;
but my nature was human, and my heart yielded too easily to the
seduction of sweet blandishments.

It would not be true to say that my first love was altogether gone: it
was cold, but not dead.  Despite the fashionable flirtations of the
hour, it had its seasons of remembrance and return.  Oft upon the still
night's guard, home-scenes came flitting before me; and then the
brightest object in the vision-picture was Maumee.  My love for her was
cold, not dead.  Her presence would have re-kindled it--I am sure it
would.  Even to have heard from her--of her--would have produced a
certain effect.  To have heard that she had forgotten me, and given her
heart to another, would have restored my boyish passion in its full
vigour and entirety; I am sure it would.

I could not have been indifferent then?  I must still have been in love
with Maumee.

One key pushes out the other; but the fair daughters of the north had
not yet obliterated from my heart this dark-skinned damsel of the south.

During all my cadetship, I never saw her--never even heard of her.  For
five years I was an exile from home--and so was my sister.  At intervals
during that time we were visited by our father and mother, who made an
annual trip to the fashionable resorts of the north--Ballston Spa,
Saratoga, and Newport.  There, during our holidays, we joined them; and
though I longed to spend a vacation at home--I believe so did Virginia--
the "mother was steel and the father was stone," and our desires were
not gratified.

I suspected the cause of this stern denial.  Our proud parents dreaded
the danger of a _mesalliance_.  They had not forgotten the tableau on
the island.

The Ringgolds met us at the watering-places; and Arens was still
assiduous in his attentions to Virginia.  He had become a fashionable
exquisite, and spent his gold freely--not to be outdone by the
_ci-devant_ tailors and stock-brokers, who constitute the "upper ten" of
New York.  I liked him no better than ever, though my mother was still
his backer.

How he sped with Virginia, I could not tell.  My sister was now quite a
woman--a fashionable dame, a belle--and had learnt much of the world,
among other things, how to conceal her emotions--one of the
distinguished accomplishments of the day.  She was at times merry to an
extreme degree; though her mirth appeared to me a little artificial, and
often ended abruptly.  Sometimes she was thoughtful--not unfrequently
cold and disdainful.  I fancied that in gaining so many graces, she had
lost much of what was in my eyes more valuable than all, her gentleness
of heart.  Perhaps I was wronging her.

There were many questions I would have asked her, but our childish
confidence was at an end, and delicacy forbade me to probe her heart.
Of the past we never spoke: I mean of _that_ past--those wild wanderings
in the woods, the sailings over the lake, the scenes in the palm-shaded
island.

I often wondered whether she had cause to remember them, whether her
souvenirs bore any resemblance to mine!

On these points, I had never felt a definite conviction.  Though
suspicious, at one time even apprehensive--I had been but a blind
watcher, a too careless guardian.

Surely my conjectures had been just, else why was she now silent upon
themes and scenes that had so delighted us both? was her tongue tied by
the after-knowledge that we had been doing wrong--only known to us by
the disapproval of our parents?  Or, was it that in her present sphere
of fashion, she disdained to remember the humble associates of earlier
days?

Often did I conjecture whether there had ever existed such a sentiment
in her bosom; and, if so, whether it still lingered there?  These were
points about which I might never be satisfied.  The time for such
confidences had gone past.

"It is not likely," reasoned I; "or, if there ever was a feeling of
tender regard for the young Indian, it is now forgotten--obliterated
from her heart, perhaps from her memory.  It is not likely it should
survive in the midst of her present associations--in the midst of that
_entourage_ of perfumed beaux who are hourly pouring into her ears the
incense of flattery.  Far less probable _she_ would remember than I; and
have not I forgotten?"

Strange, that of the four hearts I knew only my own.  Whether young
Powell had ever looked upon my sister with admiring eyes, or she on him,
I was still ignorant, or rather unconvinced.  All I knew was by mere
conjecture--suspicion--apprehension.  What may appear stranger, I never
knew the sentiment of that other heart, the one which interested me more
than all.  It is true, I had chosen to fancy it in my own favour.
Trusting to glances, to gestures, to slight actions, never to words, I
had hoped fondly; but often too had I been the victim of doubt.
Perhaps, after all, Maumee had never loved me!

Many a sore heart had I suffered from this reflection.  I could now bear
it with more complacency; and yet, singular to say, it was this very
reflection that awakened the memory of Maumee; and, whenever I dwelt
upon it, produced the strongest revulsions of my own spasmodic love!

Wounded vanity! powerful as passion itself! thy throes are as strong as
love.  Under their influence, the chandeliers grow dim, and the fair
forms flitting beneath lose half their brilliant beauty.  My thoughts go
back to the flowery land--to the lake--to the island--to Maumee.

Five years soon flitted past, and the period of my cadetship was
fulfilled.  With some credit, I went through the ordeal of the final
examination.  A high number rewarded my application, and gave me the
choice of whatever arm of the service was most to my liking.  I had a
penchant for the rifles, though I might have pitched higher into the
artillery, the cavalry, or engineers.  I chose the first, however, and
was gazetted brevet-lieutenant, and appointed to a rifle regiment, with
leave of absence to revisit my native home.

At this time, my sister had also "graduated" at the Ladies' Academy, and
carried off her "diploma" with credit; and together we journeyed home.

There was no father to greet us on our return: a weeping and widowed
mother alone spoke the melancholy welcome.



CHAPTER EIGHTEEN.

THE SEMINOLES.

On my return to Florida, I found that the cloud of war was gathering
over my native land.  It would soon burst, and my first essay in
military life would be made in the defence of hearth and home.  I was
not unprepared for the news.  War is always _the_ theme of interest
within the walls of a military college; and in no place are its
probabilities and prospects so folly discussed or with so much
earnestness.

For a period of ten years had the United States been at peace with all
the world.  The iron hand of "Old Hickory" had awed the savage foe of
the frontiers.  For more than ten years had the latter desisted from his
chronic system of retaliation, and remained silent and still.  But the
pacific _status quo_ came to an end.  Once more the red man rose to
assert his rights, and in a quarter most unexpected.  Not on the
frontier of the "far west," but in the heart of the flowery land.  Yes,
Florida was to be the theatre of operations--the stage on which this new
drama was to be enacted.

A word historical of Florida, for this writing is, in truth, a history.

In 1821, the Spanish flag disappeared from the ramparts of San Augustine
and Saint Marks, and Spain yielded up possession of this fair province--
one of her last footholds upon the continent of America.  Literally, it
was but a foothold the Spaniards held in Florida--a mere nominal
possession.  Long before the cession, the Indians had driven them from
the field into the fortress.  Their haciendas lay in ruins--their horses
and cattle ran wild upon the savannas; and rank weeds usurped the sites
of their once prosperous plantations.  During the century of dominion,
they had made many a fair settlement, and the ruins of buildings--far
more massive than aught yet attempted by their Saxon successors--attest
the former glory and power of the Spanish nation.

It was not destined that the Indians should long hold the country they
had thus conquered.  Another race of white men--their equals in courage
and strength--were moving down from the north; and it was easy prophecy
to say that the red conquerors must in turn yield possession.

Once already had they met in conflict with the pale-faced usurpers, led
on by that stern soldier who now sat in the chair of the president.
They were defeated, and forced further south, into the heart of the
land--the centre of the peninsula.  There, however, they were secured by
treaty.  A covenant solemnly made, and solemnly sworn to, guaranteed
their right to the soil, and the Seminole was satisfied.

Alas! the covenants between the strong and the weak are things of
convenience, to be broken whenever the former wills it--in this case,
shamefully broken.

White adventurers settled along the Indian border; they wandered over
Indian ground--not wandered, but went; they looked upon the land; they
saw that it was good--it would grow rice and cotton, and cane and
indigo, the olive and orange; they desired to possess it, more than
desired--they resolved it should be theirs.

There was a treaty, but what cared they for treaties?  Adventurers--
ruined planters from Georgia and the Carolinas, "negro traders" from all
parts of the south; what were covenants in their eyes, especially when
made with redskins?  The treaty must be got rid of.

The "Great Father," scarcely more scrupulous than they, approved their
plan.

"Yes," said he, "it is good--the Seminoles must be dispossessed; they
must remove to another land; we shall find them a home in the west, on
the great plains; there they will have wide hunting-grounds, their own
for ever."

"No," responded the Seminoles; "we do not wish to move; we are contented
here: we love our native land; we do not wish to leave it; we shall
stay."

"Then you will not go willingly?  Be it so.  We are strong, you are
weak; we shall force you."

Though not the letter, this is the very spirit of the reply which
Jackson made to the Seminoles!

The world has an eye, and that eye requires to be satisfied.  Even
tyrants dislike the open breach of treaties.  In this case, political
party was more thought of than the world, and a show of justice became
necessary.

The Indians remained obstinate--they liked their own land, they were
reluctant to leave it--no wonder.

Some pretext must be found to dispossess them.  The old excuse, that
they were mere idle hunters, and made no profitable use of the soil,
would scarcely avail.  It was not true.  The Seminole was not
exclusively a hunter; he was a husbandman as well, and tilled the land--
rudely, it may be, but was this a reason for dispossessing him?

Without this, others were easily found.  That cunning commissioner which
their "Great Father" sent them could soon invent pretexts.  He was one
who well knew the art of muddying the stream upwards, and well did he
practise it.

The country was soon filled with rumours of Indians--of horses and
cattle stolen, of plantations plundered, of white travellers robbed and
murdered--all the work of those savage Seminoles.

A vile frontier press, ever ready to give tongue to the popular furor,
did not fail in its duty of exaggeration.

But who was to gazette the provocations, the retaliations, the wrongs
and cruelties inflicted by the other side?  All these were carefully
concealed.

A sentiment was soon created throughout the country--a sentiment of
bitter hostility towards the Seminole.

"Kill the savage!  Hunt him down!  Drive him out!  Away with him to the
west!"  Thus was the sentiment expressed.  These became the popular
cries.

When the people of the United States have a wish, it is likely soon to
seek gratification, particularly when that wish coincides with the views
of its government; in this case, it did so, the government itself having
created it.

It would be easy, all supposed, to accomplish the popular will, to
dispossess the savage, hunt him, drive him out.  Still there was a
treaty.  The world had an eye, and there was a thinking minority not to
be despised who opposed this clamorous desire.  The treaty could not be
broken under the light of day; how then, was this obstructive covenant
to be got rid of?

Call the head men together, cajole them out of it; the chiefs are human,
they are poor, some of them drunkards--bribes will go far, fire-water
still farther; make a new treaty with a double construction--the
ignorant savages will not understand it; obtain their signatures--the
thing is done!

Crafty commissioner! yours is the very plan, and you the man to execute
it.

It _was_ done.  On the 9th of May, 1832, on the banks of the Oclawaha,
the chiefs of the Seminole nation in full council assembled bartered
away the land of their fathers!

Such was the report given to the world.

It was _not_ true.

It was not a full council of chiefs; it was an assembly of traitors
bribed and suborned, of weak men flattered and intimidated.  No wonder
the nation refused to accede to this surreptitious covenant; no wonder
they heeded not its terms; but had to be summoned to still another
council, for a freer and fuller signification of their consent.

It soon became evident that the great body of the Seminole nation
repudiated the treaty.  Many of the chiefs denied having signed it.  The
head chief, Onopa, denied it.  Some confessed the act, but declared they
had been drawn into it by the influence and advice of others.  It was
only the more powerful leaders of clans--as the brothers Omatla, Black
Clay, and Big Warrior--who openly acknowledged the signing.

These last became objects of jealousy throughout the tribes; they were
regarded as traitors, and justly so.  Their lives were in danger; even
their own retainers disapproved of what they had done.

To understand the position, it is necessary to say a word of the
political _status_ of the Seminoles.  Their government was purely
republican--a thorough democracy.  Perhaps in no other community in the
world did there exist so perfect a condition of freedom; I might add
happiness, for the latter is but the natural offspring of the former.
Their state has been compared to that of the clans of Highland Scotland.
The parallel is true only in one respect.  Like the Gael, the Seminoles
were without any common organisation.  They lived in "tribes" far apart,
each politically independent of the other; and although in friendly
relationship, there was no power of coercion between them.  There was a
"head chief"--king he could not be called--for "Mico," his Indian title,
has not that signification.  The proud spirit of the Seminole had never
sold itself to so absurd a condition; they had not yet surrendered up
the natural rights of man.  It is only after the state of nature has
been perverted and abased, that the "kingly" element becomes strong
among a people.

The head "mico" of the Seminoles was only a head in name.  His authority
was purely personal: he had no power over life or property.  Though
occasionally the wealthiest, he was often one of the poorest of his
people.  He was more open than any of the others to the calls of
philanthropy, and ever ready to disburse with free hand, what was in
reality, not his people's, but his own.  Hence he rarely grew rich.

He was surrounded by no retinue, girt in by no barbarian pomp or
splendour, flattered by no flunkey courtiers, like the rajahs of the
east, or, on a still more costly scale, the crowned monarchs of the
west.  On the contrary, his dress was scarcely conspicuous, often meaner
than those around him.  Many a common warrior was far more _gaillard_
than he.

As with the head chief, so with the chieftains of tribes; they possessed
no power over life or property; they could not decree punishment.  A
jury alone can do this; and I make bold to affirm, that the punishments
among these people were in juster proportion to the crimes than those
decreed in the highest courts of civilisation.

It was a system of the purest republican freedom, without one idea of
the levelling principle; for merit produced distinction and authority.
Property was _not_ in common, though labour was partially so; but this
community of toil was a mutual arrangement, agreeable to all.  The ties
of family were as sacred and strong as ever existed on earth.

And these were _savages_ forsooth--red savages, to be dispossessed of
their rights--to be driven from hearth and home--to be banished from
their beautiful land to a desert wild--to be shot down and hunted like
beasts of the field!  The last in its most literal sense, for dogs were
to be employed in the pursuit!



CHAPTER NINETEEN.

AN INDIAN HERO.

There were several reasons why the treaty of the Oclawaha could not be
considered binding on the Seminole nation.  First, it was not signed by
a majority of the chiefs.  Sixteen chiefs and sub-chiefs appended their
names to it.  There were five times this number in the nation.

Second, it was, after all, no treaty, but a mere conditional contract--
the conditions being that a deputation of Seminoles should first proceed
to the lands allotted in the west (upon White River), examine these
lands, and bring back a report to their people.  The very nature of this
condition proves that no contract for removal could have been completed,
until the exploration had been first accomplished.

The examination was made.  Seven chiefs, accompanied by an agent,
journeyed to the far west, and made a survey of the lands.

Now, mark the craft of the commissioner!  These seven chiefs are nearly
all taken from those friendly to the removal.  We find among them both
the Omatlas, and Black Clay.  True, there is Hoitle-mattee (jumper), a
patriot, but this brave warrior is stricken with the Indian curse--he
loves the fire-water; and his propensity is well-known to Phagan, the
agent, who accompanies them.

A _ruse_ is contemplated, and is put in practice.  The deputation is
hospitably entertained at Fort Gibson, on the Arkansas.  Hoitle-mattee
is made merry--the contract for removal is spread before the seven
chiefs--they all sign it: and the juggle is complete.

But even this was no fulfilment of the terms of the Oclawaha covenant.
The deputation was to return with their report, and ask the will of the
nation.  That was yet to be given; and, in order to obtain it, a new
council of all the chiefs and warriors must be summoned.

It was to be a mere formality.  It was well-known that the nation as a
body disapproved of the facile conduct of the seven chiefs, and would
not endorse it.  They were not going to "move."

This was the more evident, since other conditions of the treaty were
daily broken.  One of these was the restoration of runaway slaves, which
the signers of the Oclawaha treaty had promised to send back to their
owner.  No blacks were sent back; on the contrary, they now found refuge
among the Indians more secure than ever.

The commissioner knew all this.  He was calling the new council out of
mere formality.  Perhaps he might persuade them to sign--if not, he
intended to awe them into the measure, or force them at the point of the
bayonet.  He had said as much.  Troops were concentrating at the
agency--Fort King--and others were daily arriving at Tampa Bay.  The
government had taken its measures; and coercion was resolved upon.

I was not ignorant of what was going on, nor of all that had happened
during my long years of absence.  My comrades, the cadets, were well
versed in Indian affairs, and took a lively interest in them--especially
those who expected soon to escape from the college walls.  "Black Hawk's
war," just terminated in the west, had already given some a chance of
service and distinction, and young ambition was now bending its eyes
upon Florida.

The idea, however, of obtaining glory in such a war was ridiculed by
all.  "It would be too easy a war--the foe was not worth considering.  A
mere handful of savages," asserted they; "scarcely enough of them to
stand before a single company.  They would be either killed or captured
in the first skirmish, one and all of them--there was not the slightest
chance of their making any protracted resistance--_unfortunately_, there
was not."

Such was the belief of my college companions; and, indeed, the common
belief of the whole country, at that time.  The army, too, shared it.
One officer was heard to boast that he could march through the whole
Indian territory with only a corporal's guard at his back; and another,
with like bravado, wished that the government would give him a charter
of the war, on his own account.  He would finish it for 10,000 dollars!

These only expressed the sentiments of the day.  No one believed that
the Indians would or could sustain a conflict with us for any length of
time; indeed, there were few who could be brought to think that they
would resist at all: they were only holding out for better terms, and
would yield before coming to blows.

For my part, I thought otherwise.  I knew the Seminoles better than most
of those who talked--I knew their country better; and, notwithstanding
the odds against them--the apparent hopelessness of the struggle--I had
my belief that they would neither yield to disgraceful terms, nor yet be
so easily conquered.  Still, it was but a conjecture; and I might be
wrong.  I might be deserving the ridicule which my opposition to the
belief of my comrades often brought upon me.

The newspapers made us acquainted with every circumstance.  Letters,
too, were constantly received at the "Point" from old graduates now
serving in Florida.  Every detail reached us, and we had become
acquainted with the names of many of the Indian chieftains, as well as
the internal _politique_ of the tribe.  It appeared they were not
united.  There was a party in favour of yielding to the demands of our
government, headed by one _Omatla_.  This was the traitor party, and a
minority.  The patriots were more numerous, including the head "mico"
himself, and the powerful chiefs Holata, _Coa hajo_, and the negro
Abram.

Among the patriots there was one name that, upon the wings of rumour,
began to take precedence of all others.  It appeared frequently in the
daily prints, and in the letters of our friends.  It was that of a young
warrior, or sub-chief, as he was styled, who by some means or other had
gained a remarkable ascendency in the tribe.  He was one of the most
violent opponents of the "removal;" in fact, the leading spirit that
opposed it; and chiefs much older and more powerful were swayed by his
counsel.

We cadets much admired this young man.  He was described as possessing
all the attributes of a hero--of noble aspect, bold, handsome,
intelligent.  Both his physical and intellectual qualities were spoken
of in terms of praise--almost approaching to hyperbole.  His form was
that of an Apollo, his features Adonis or Endymion.  He was first in
everything--the best shot in his nation, the most expert swimmer and
rider--the swiftest runner, and most successful hunter--alike eminent in
peace or war--in short, a Cyrus.

There were Xenophons enough to record his fame.  The people of the
United States had been long at peace with the red men.  The romantic
savage was far away from their borders.  It was rare to see an Indian
within the settlements, or hear aught of them.  There had been no late
deputations from the tribes to gratify the eyes of gazing citizens; and
a real curiosity had grown up in regard to these children of the forest.
An Indian hero was wanted, and this young chief appeared to be the man.

His name was Osceola.



CHAPTER TWENTY.

FRONTIER JUSTICE.

I was not allowed long to enjoy the sweets of home.  A few days after my
arrival, I received an order to repair to Fort King, the Seminole
agency, and head-quarters of the army of Florida.  General Clinch there
commanded.  I was summoned upon his staff.

Not without chagrin, I prepared to obey the order.  It was hard to part
so soon from those who dearly loved me, and from whom I had been so long
separated.  Both mother and sister were overwhelmed with grief at my
going.  Indeed they urged me to resign my commission, and remain at
home.

Not unwillingly did I listen to their counsel: I had no heart in the
cause in which I was called forth; but at such a crisis I dared not
follow their advice: I should have been branded as a traitor--a coward.
My country had commissioned me to carry a sword.  I must wield it,
whether the cause be just or unjust--whether to my liking or not.  This
is called _patriotism_!

There was yet another reason for my reluctance to part from home.  I
need hardly declare it.  Since my return, my eyes had often wandered
over the lake--often rested on that fair island.  Oh, I had not
forgotten her!

I can scarcely analyse my feelings.  They were mingled emotions.  Young
love triumphant over older passions--ready to burst forth from the ashes
that had long shrouded it--young love penitent and remorseful--doubt,
jealousy, apprehension.  All these were active within me.

Since my arrival, I had not dared to go forth.  I observed that my
mother was still distrustful.  I had not dared even to question those
who might have satisfied me.  I passed those few days in doubt, and at
intervals under a painful presentiment that all was not well.

Did Maumee still live?  Was she true?  True!  Had she reason?  Had she
ever loved me?

There were those near who could have answered the first question; but I
feared to breathe her name, even to the most intimate.

Bidding adieu to my mother and sister, I took the route.  These were not
left alone: my maternal uncle--their guardian--resided upon the
plantation.  The parting moments were less bitter, from the belief that
I should soon return.  Even if the anticipated campaign should last for
any considerable length of time, the scene of my duties would lie near,
and I should find frequent opportunities of revisiting them.

My uncle scouted the idea of a campaign, as so did every one.  "The
Indians," he said, "would yield to the demands of the commissioner.
Fools, if they didn't!"

Fort King was not distant; it stood upon Indian ground--fourteen miles
within the border, though further than that from our plantation.  A
day's journey would bring me to it; and in company of my cheerful
"squire," Black Jake, the road would not seem long.  We bestrode a pair
of the best steeds the stables afforded, and were both armed
_cap-a-pie_.

We crossed the ferry at the upper landing, and rode within the "reserve"
[Note 1].  The path--it was only a path--ran parallel to the creek,
though not near its banks.  It passed through the woods, some distance
to the rear of Madame Powell's plantation.

When opposite to the clearing, my eyes fell upon the diverging track.  I
knew it well: I had oft trodden it with swelling heart.

I hesitated--halted.  Strange thoughts careered through my bosom;
resolves half-made, and suddenly abandoned.  The rein grew slack, and
then tightened.  The spur threatened the ribs of my horse, but failed to
strike.

"Shall I go?  Once more behold her.  Once more renew those sweet joys of
tender love?  Once more--Ha, perhaps it is too late!  I might be no
longer welcome--if my reception should be hostile?  Perhaps--"

"Wha' you doin' dar, Massr George?  Daat's not tha' road to tha fort."

"I know that, Jake; I was thinking of making a call at Madame Powell's
plantation."

"Mar'm Powell plantayshun!  Gollys!  Massr George--daat all you knows
'bout it?"

"About what?"  I inquired with anxious heart.

"Dar's no Mar'm Powell da no more; nor hain't a been, since better'n two
year--all gone clar 'way."

"Gone away?  Where?"

"Daat dis chile know nuffin 'bout.  S'pose da gone some other lokayshun
in da rezav; made new clarin somewha else."

"And who lives here now?"

"Dar ain't neery one lib tha now: tha ole house am desarted."

"But why did Madame Powell leave it?"

"Ah--daat am a quaw story.  Gollys! you nebber hear um, Massr George?"

"No--never."

"Den I tell um.  But s'pose, massr, we ride on.  I am a gettin' a little
lateish, an' 'twont do nohow to be cotch arter night in tha woods."

I turned my horse's head and advanced along the main road, Jake riding
by my side.  With aching heart, I listened to his narrative.

"You see, Massr George, 'twar all o' Massr Ringgol--tha ole boss [Note
2] daat am--an' I blieve tha young 'un had 'im hand in dat pie, all
same, like tha ole 'un.  Waal, you see Mar'm Pow'll she loss some niggas
dat war ha slaves.  Dey war stole from ha, an' wuss dan stole.  Dey war
tuk, an' by white men, massr.  Tha be folks who say dat Mass' Ringgol--
he know'd more 'n anybody else 'bout tha whole bizness.  But da rubb'ry
war blamed on Ned Spence an' Bill William.  Waal, Mar'm, Powell she go
to da law wi' dis yar Ned an' Bill; an' she 'ploy Massr Grubb tha big
lawyer dat lib down tha ribba.  Now Massr Grubb, he great friend o'
Massr Ringgol, an' folks _do_ say dat boaf de two put tha heads together
to cheat dat ar Indyen 'ooman."

"How?"

"Dis chile don't say for troof, Massr George; he hear um only from da
black folks: tha white folks say diffrent.  But I hear um from Mass'
Ringgol's own nigga woodman--Pomp, you know Massr, George? an' he say
that them ar two bosses _did_ put tha heads together to cheat dat poor
Indyen 'ooman."

"In what way, Jake?"  I asked impatiently.

"Waal, you see, Massr George, da lawya he want da Indyen sign ha name to
some paper--power ob 'turney, tha call am, I believe.  She sign; she no
read tha writin.  Whuch! daat paper war no power ob 'turney: it war what
tha lawyas call a `bill ob sale'."

"Ha!"

"Yes, Massr George, dat's what um war; an' by dat same bill ob sale all
Mar'm Pow'll's niggas an' all ha plantation-clarin war made ober to
Massr Grubb."

"Atrocious scoundrel?"

"Massr Grubb he swar he bought 'em all, an' paid for 'em in cash dollar.
Mar'm Pow'll she swar de berry contr'y.  Da judge he decide for Massr
Grubb, 'kase great Massr Ringgoh he witness; an' folks _do_ say Massr
Ringgol now got dat paper in um own safe keeping an' war at tha bottom
ob tha whole bizness."

"Atrocious scoundrels! oh, villains!  But tell me, Jake, what became of
Madame Powell?"

"Shortly arter, tha all gone 'way--nob'dy know wha.  Da mar'm haself an'
dat fine young fellur you know, an' da young Indyen gal dat ebbery body
say war so good-lookin'--yes, Massr George, tha all gone 'way."

At that moment an opening in the woods enabled me to catch a glimpse of
the old house.  There it stood in all its grey grandeur, still embowered
in the midst of beautiful groves of orange and olive.  But the broken
fence--the tall weeds standing up against the walls--the shingles here
and there missing from the roof--all told the tale of ruin.

There was ruin in my heart, as I turned sorrowing away.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

Note 1.  That portion of Florida _reserved_ for the Seminoles by the
treaty of Moultrie Creek made in 1823.  It was a large tract, and
occupied the central part of the peninsula.

Note 2.  Master or proprietor; universally in use throughout the
Southern States.  From the Dutch "baas."



CHAPTER TWENTY ONE.

INDIAN SLAVES.

It never occurred to me to question the genuineness of Jake's story.
What the "black folks" said was true; I had no doubt of it.  The whole
transaction was redolent of the Ringgolds and lawyer Grubbs--the latter
a half planter, half legal practitioner of indifferent reputation.

Jake further informed me that Spence and Williams had disappeared during
the progress of the trial.  Both afterwards returned to the settlement,
but no ulterior steps were taken against them, as there was no one to
prosecute!

As for the stolen negroes, they were never seen again in that part of
the country.  The robbers had no doubt carried them to the slave-markets
of Mobile or New Orleans, where a sufficient price would be obtained to
remunerate Grubbs for his professional services, as also Williams and
Spence for theirs.  The land would become Ringgold's, as soon as the
Indians could be got out of the country--and this was the object of the
"bill of sale."

A transaction of like nature between white man and white man would have
been regarded as a grave swindle, an atrocious crime.  The whites
affected not to believe it; but there were some who knew it to be true,
and viewed it only in the light of a clever _ruse_!

That it was true, I could not doubt.  Jake gave me reasons that left no
room for doubt; in fact it was only in keeping with the general conduct
of the border adventures towards the unfortunate natives with whom they
came in contact.

Border adventures did I say?  Government agents, members of the Florida
legislature, generals, planters, rich as Ringgold, all took part in
similar speculations.  I could give names.  I am writing truth, and do
not fear contradiction.

It was easy enough, therefore, to credit the tale.  It was only one of
twenty similar cases of which I had heard.  The acts of Colonel Gad
Humphreys, the Indian agent--of Major Phagan, another Indian agent--of
Dexter, the notorious negro-stealer--of Floyd--of Douglass--of Robinson
and Millburn, are all historic--all telling of outrages committed upon
the suffering Seminole.  A volume might be filled detailing such
swindles as that of Grubbs and Ringgold.  In the mutual relations
between white man and red man, it requires no skillful advocate to shew
on which side must lie the wrongs unrepaired and unavenged.  Beyond all
doubt, the Indian has ever been the victim.

It is needless to add that there were retaliations: how could it be
otherwise?

One remarkable fact discloses itself in these episodes of Floridian
life.  It is well-known that slaves thus stolen from the Indians _always
returned to their owners whenever they could_!  To secure them from
finding their way back, the Dexters and Douglasses were under the
necessity of taking them to some distant market, to the far "coasts" of
the Mississippi--to Natchez or New Orleans.

There is but one explanation of this social phenomenon; and that is,
that the slaves of the Seminole were _not_ slaves.  In truth they were
treated with an indulgence to which the helot of other lands is a
stranger.  They were the agriculturists of the country, and their Indian
master was content if they raised him a little corn--just sufficient for
his need--with such other vegetable products as his simple _cuisine_
required.  They lived far apart from the dwellings of their owners.
Their hours of labour were few, and scarcely compulsory.  Surplus
product was their own; and in most cases they became rich--far richer
than their own masters, who were less skilled in economy.  Emancipation
was easily purchased, and the majority were actually free--though from
such claims it was scarcely worth while to escape.  If slavery it could
be called, it was the mildest form ever known upon earth--far differing
from the abject bondage of Ham under either Shem or Japheth.

It may be asked how the Seminoles became possessed of these black
slaves?  Were they "runaways" from the States--from Georgia and the
Carolinas, Alabama, and the plantations of Florida?  Doubtless a few
were from this source; but most of the runaways were not claimed as
property; and, arriving among the Indians, became free.  There was a
time when by the stern conditions of the Camp Moultrie Covenant these
"absconding" slaves were given up to their white owners; but it is no
discredit to the Seminoles, that they were always _remiss_ in the
observance of this disgraceful stipulation.  In fact, it was not always
possible to surrender back the fugitive negro.  Black communities had
concentrated themselves in different parts of the Reserve, who under
their own leaders were socially free, and strong enough for
self-defence.  It was with these that the runaways usually found refuge
and welcome.  Such a community was that of "Harry" amidst the morasses
of Pease Creek--of "Abram" at Micosauky--of "Charles" and the "mulatto
king."

No; the negro slaves of the Seminoles were _not_ runaways from the
plantations; though the whites would wish to make it appear so.  Very
few were of this class.  The greater number was the "genuine property"
of their Indian owners, so far as a slave can be called _property_.  At
all events, they were _legally_ obtained--some of them from the
Spaniards, the original settlers, and some by fair purchase from the
American planters themselves.

How purchased? you will ask.  What could a tribe of savages give in
exchange for such a costly commodity?  The answer is easy.  Horses and
horned cattle.  Of both of these the Seminoles possessed vast herds.  On
the evacuation by the Spaniards the savannas swarmed with cattle, of
Andalusian race--half-wild.  The Indians caught and reclaimed them--
became their owners.

This, then, was the _quid pro quo_--quadrupeds in exchange for bipeds!

The chief of the crimes charged against the Indians was the _stealing of
cattle_--for the white men had their herds as well.  The Seminoles did
not deny that there were bad men amongst them--lawless fellows difficult
to restrain.  Where is the community without scamps?

One thing was very certain.  The Indian chiefs, when fairly appealed to,
have always evinced an earnest desire to make restoration: and exhibited
an energy in the cause of justice, entirely unknown upon the opposite
side of their border.

It differed little how they acted, so far as regarded their character
among their white neighbours.  These had made up their mind that the dog
should be hanged; and it was necessary to give him a bad name.  Every
robbery, committed upon the frontier was of course the act of an Indian.
White burglars had but to give their faces a coat of Spanish brown, and
justice could not see through the paint.



CHAPTER TWENTY TWO.

A CIRCUITOUS TRANSACTION.

Such were my reflections as I journeyed on--suggested by the sad tale to
which I had been listening.

As if to confirm their correctness, an incident at that moment occurred
exactly to the point.

We had not ridden far along the path, when we came upon the tracks of
cattle.  Some twenty head must have passed over the ground going in the
same direction as ourselves--_towards_ the Indian "Reserve."

The tracks were fresh--almost quite fresh.  I was tracker enough to know
that they must have passed within the hour.  Though cloistered so long
within college walls, I had not forgotten all the forest craft taught me
by young Powell.

The circumstance of thus coming upon a cattle-trail, fresh or old, would
have made no impression upon me.  There was nothing remarkable about it.
Some Indian herdsmen had been driving home their flock; and that the
drivers _were_ Indians, I could perceive by the moccasin prints in the
mud.  It is true, some frontiersmen wear the moccasin; but these were
not the foot-prints of white men.  The turned-in toes, [Note 1] the high
instep, other trifling signs which, from early training, I knew how to
translate, proved that the tracks were Indian.

So were they agreed my groom, and Jake was no "slouch" in the ways of
the woods.  He had all his life been a keen 'coon-hunter--a trapper of
the swamp-hare, the "possum," and the "gobbler."  Moreover, he had been
my companion upon many a deer-hunt--many a chase after the grey fox, and
the rufous "cat."  During my absence he had added greatly to his
experiences.  He had succeeded his former rival in the post of woodman,
which brought him daily in contact with the denizens of the forest, and
constant observation of their habits had increased his skill.

It is a mistake to suppose that the negro brain is incapable of that
acute reasoning which constitutes a cunning hunter.  I have known black
men who could read "sign" and lift a trail with as much intuitive
quickness as either red or white.  Black Jake could have done it.

I soon found that in this kind of knowledge he was now my master; and
almost on the instant I had cause to be astonished at his acuteness.

I have said that the sight of the cattle-tracks created no surprise in
either of us.  At _first_ it did not; but we had not ridden twenty paces
further, when I saw my companion suddenly rein up, at the same instant
giving utterance to one of those ejaculations peculiar to the negro
thorax, and closely resembling the "wugh" of a startled hog.

I looked in his face.  I saw by its expression that he had some
revelation to make.

"What is it, Jake?"

"Golly!  Massr George, d'you see daat?"

"What?"

"Daat down dar."

"I see a ruck of cow-tracks--nothing more."

"Doant you see dat big 'un?"

"Yes--there is one larger than the rest."

"By Gosh! it am de big ox Ballface--I know um track anywha--many's tha
load o' cypress log dat ar ox hab toated for ole massr."

"What?  I remember Baldface.  You think the cattle are ours?"

"No, Massr George--I 'spect tha be da lawya Grubb's cattle.  Ole massr
sell Ballface to Massr Grubb more'n a year 'go.  Daat am Bally's track
for sartin."

"But why should Mr Grubb's cattle be here in Indian ground, and so far
from his plantation?--and with Indian drivers, too?"

"Dat ere's just what dis chile can't clarly make out, Massr George."

There was a singularity in the circumstance that induced reflection.
The cattle could not have strayed so far of themselves.  The voluntary
swimming of the river was against such a supposition.  But they were not
_straying_.  They were evidently _concluded_--and by Indians.  Was it a
_raid_?--were the beeves being stolen?

It had the look of a bit of thievery, and yet it was not crafty enough.
The animals had been driven along a frequented path, certain to be taken
by those in quest of them; and the robbers--if they were such--had used
no precaution to conceal their tracks.

It looked like a theft, and it did not; and it was just this dubious
aspect that stimulated the curiosity of my companion and myself--so much
so that we made up our minds to follow the trail, and if possible
ascertain the truth.

For a mile or more the trail coincided with our own route; and then
turning abruptly to the left, it struck off towards a track of "hommock"
woods.

We were determined not to give up our intention lightly.  The tracks
were so fresh, that we knew the herd must have passed within the hour--
within the quarter--they could not be distant.  We could gallop back to
the main road, through some thin pine timber we saw stretching away to
the right; and with these reflections, we turned head along the
cattle-trail.

Shortly after entering the dense forest, we heard voices of men in
conversation, and at intervals the routing of oxen.

We alit, tied our horses to a tree, and moved forward afoot.

We walked stealthily and in silence, guiding ourselves by the sounds of
the voices, that kept up an almost continual clatter.  Beyond a doubt,
the cattle whose bellowing we heard were those whose tracks we had been
tracing; but equally certain was it, that the voices we now listened to
were _not_ the voices of those who had driven them!

It is easy to distinguish between the intonation of an Indian and a
white man.  The men whose conversation reached our ears were whites--
their language was our own, with all its coarse embellishments.  My
companion's discernment went beyond this--he recognised the individuals.

"Golly!  Massr George, it ar tha two dam ruffins--Spence and Bill
William!"

Jake's conjecture proved correct.  We drew closer to the spot.  The
evergreen trees concealed us perfectly.  We got up to the edge of an
opening; and there saw the herd of beeves, the two Indians who had
driven them, and the brace of worthies already named.

We stood under cover watching and listening; and in a very short while,
with the help of a few hints from my companion, I comprehended the whole
affair.

Each of the Indians--worthless outcasts of their tribe--was presented
with a bottle of whisky and a few trifling trinkets.  This was in
payment for their night's work--the plunder of lawyer Grubb's pastures.

Their share of the business was now over; and they were just in the act
of delivering up their charge as we arrived upon the ground.  Their
employers, whose droving bout was here to begin, had just handed over
their rewards.  The Indians might go home and get drunk: they were no
longer needed.  The cattle would be taken to some distant part of the
country--where a market would be readily found--or, what was of equal
probability, they would find their way back to lawyer Grubb's own
plantation, having been rescued by the gallant fellows Spence and
Williams from a band of Indian rievers!  This would be a fine tale for
the plantation fireside--a rare chance for a representation to the
police and the powers.

Oh, those savage Seminole robbers! they must be got rid of--they must be
"moved" out.

As the cattle chanced to belong to lawyer Grubbs, I did not choose to
interfere.  I could tell my tale elsewhere; and, without making our
presence known, my companion and I turned silently upon our heels,
regained our horses, and went our way reflecting.

I entertained no doubt about the justness of our surmise--no doubt that
Williams and Spence had employed the drunken Indians--no more that
lawyer Grubbs had employed Williams and Spence, in this circuitous
transaction.

The stream must be muddied upward--the poor Indian must be driven to
desperation.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

Note 1.  It is art, not nature, that causes this peculiarity; it is done
in the cradle.



CHAPTER TWENTY THREE.

REFLECTIONS BY THE WAY.

At college, as elsewhere, I had been jeered for taking the Indian side
of the question.  Not unfrequently was I "twitted" with the blood of
poor old Powhatan, which, after two hundred years of "whitening," must
have circulated very sparsely in my veins.  It was said I was not
_patriotic_, since I did not join in the vulgar clamour, so congenial to
nations when they talk of an enemy.

Nations are like individuals.  To please them, you must be as wicked as
they--feel the same sentiment, or speak it--which will serve as well--
affect like loves and hates; in short, yield up independence of thought,
and cry "crucify" with the majority.

This is the world's man--the patriot of the times.

He who draws his deductions from the fountain of truth, and would try to
stem the senseless current of a people's prejudgments, will never be
popular during life.  Posthumously he may, but not this side the grave.
Such need not seek the "living Fame" for which yearned the conqueror of
Peru: he will not find it.  If the true patriot desire the reward of
glory, he must look for it only from posterity--long after his
"mouldering bones" have rattled in the tomb.

Happily there is another reward.  The _mens conscia recti_ is not an
idle phrase.  There are those who esteem it--who have experienced both
sustenance and comfort from its sweet whisperings.

Though sadly pained at the conclusions to which I was compelled--not
only by the incident I had witnessed, but by a host of others lately
heard of--I congratulated myself on the course I had pursued.  Neither
by word nor act, had I thrown one feather into the scale of injustice.
I had no cause for self-accusation.  My conscience cleared me of all
ill-will towards the unfortunate people, who were soon to stand before
me in the attitude of enemies.

My thoughts dwelt not long on the general question--scarcely a moment.
That was driven out of my mind by reflections of a more painful nature--
by the sympathies of friendship, of love.  I thought only of the ruined
widow, of her children, of Maumee.  It were but truth to confess that I
thought only of the last; but this thought comprehended all that
belonged to her.  All of hers were endeared, though she was the centre
of the endearment.

And for all I now felt sympathy, sorrow--ay, a far more poignant
bitterness than grief--the ruin of sweet hopes.  I scarcely hoped ever
to see them again.

Where were they now?  Whither had they gone?  Conjectures,
apprehensions, fears, floated upon my fancy.  I could not avoid giving
way to dark imaginings.  The men who had committed that crime were
capable of any other, even the highest known to the calendar of justice.
What had become of these friends of my youth?

My companion could throw no light on their history after that day of
wrong.  He "'sposed tha had move off to some oder clarin in da Indyen
rezav, for folks nebba heern o' um nebber no more arterward."

Even this was a conjecture.  A little relief to the heaviness of my
thoughts was imparted by the changing scene.

Hitherto we had been travelling through a pine forest.  About noon we
passed from it into a large tract of hommock, that stretched right and
left of our course.  The road or path we followed ran directly across
it.

The scene became suddenly changed as if by a magic transformation.  The
soil under our feet was different, as also the foliage over our heads.
The pines were no longer around us.  Our view was interrupted on all
sides by a thick frondage of evergreen trees--some with broad shining
coriaceous leaves, as the magnolia, that here grew to its full stature.
Alongside it stood the live-oak, the red mulberry, the Bourbon laurel,
iron-wood, _Halesia_ and _Callicarpa_, while towering above all rose the
cabbage-palm, proudly waving its plumed crest in the breeze, as if
saluting with supercilious nod its humbler companions beneath.

For a long while we travelled under deep shadow--not formed by the trees
alone, but by their parasites as well--the large grape-vine loaded with
leaves--the coiling creepers of _smilax_ and _hedera_--the silvery tufts
of _tillandsia_ shrouded the sky from our sight.  The path was winding
and intricate.  Prostrate trunks often carried it in a circuitous
course, and often was it obstructed by the matted trellis of the
muscadine, whose gnarled limbs stretched from tree to tree like the
great stay-cables of a ship.

The scene was somewhat gloomy, yet grand and impressive.  It chimed with
my feelings at the moment; and soothed me even more than the airy open
of the pine-woods.

Having crossed this belt of dark forest, near its opposite edge we came
upon one of these singular ponds already described--a circular basin
surrounded by hillocks and rocks of testaceous formation--an extinct
water volcano.  In the barbarous jargon of the Saxon settler, these are
termed sinks, though most inappropriately, for where they contain water,
it is always of crystalline brightness and purity.

The one at which we had arrived was nearly full of the clear liquid.
Our horses wanted drink--so did we.  It was the hottest hour of the day.
The woods beyond looked thinner and less shady.  It was just the time
and place to make a halt; and, dismounting, we prepared to rest and
refresh ourselves.

Jake carried a capacious haversack, whose distended sides--with the
necks of a couple of bottles protruding from the pouch--gave proof of
the tender solicitude we had left behind us.

The ride had given me an appetite, the heat had caused thirst; but the
contents of the haversack soon satisfied the one, and a cup of claret,
mingled with water from the cool calcareous fountain, gave luxurious
relief to the other.

A cigar was the natural finish to this _al fresco_ repast; and, having
lighted one, I lay down upon my back, canopied by the spreading branches
of an umbrageous magnolia.

I watched the blue smoke as it curled upward among the shining leaves,
causing the tiny insects to flutter away from their perch.

My emotions grew still--thought became lull within my bosom--the
powerful odour from the coral cones and large wax-like blossoms added
its narcotic influences; and I fell asleep.



CHAPTER TWENTY FOUR.

A STRANGE APPARITION.

I had been but a few minutes in this state of unconsciousness, when I
was awakened by a plunge, as of some one leaping into the pond.  I was
not startled sufficiently to look around, or even to open my eyes.

"Jake is having a dip," thought I; "an excellent idea--I shall take one
myself presently."

It was a wrong conjecture.  The black had not leaped into the water, but
was still upon the bank near me, where he also had been asleep.  Like
myself, awakened by the noise, he had started to his feet; and I heard
his voice, crying out:

"Lor, Massr George! lookee dar!--ain't he a big un?  Whugh!"

I raised my head and looked towards the pond.  It was not Jake who was
causing the commotion in the water--it was a large alligator.

It had approached close to the bank where we were lying; and, balanced
upon its broad breast, with muscular arms and webbed feet spread to
their full extent, it was resting upon the water, and eyeing us with
evident curiosity.  With head erect above the surface, and tail stiffly
"cocked" upward, it presented a comic, yet hideous aspect.

"Bring me my rifle, Jake!"  I said, in a half whisper.  "Tread gently,
and don't alarm it!"

Jake stole off to fetch the gun; but the reptile appeared to comprehend
our intentions--for, before I could lay hands upon the weapon, it
revolved suddenly on the water, shot off with the velocity of an arrow,
and dived into the dark recesses of the pool.

Rifle in hand, I waited for some time for its re-appearance; but it did
not again come to the surface.  Likely enough, it had been shot at
before, or otherwise attacked; and now recognised in the upright form a
dangerous enemy.  The proximity of the pond to a frequented road
rendered probable the supposition.

Neither my companion nor I would have thought more about it, but for the
similarity of the scene to one well-known to us.  In truth, the
resemblance was remarkable--the pond, the rocks, the trees that grew
around, all bore a likeness to those with which our eyes were familiar.
Even the reptile we had just seen--in form, in size, in fierce ugly
aspect--appeared the exact counterpart to that one whose story was now a
legend of the plantation.

The wild scenes of that day were recalled; the details starting fresh
into our recollection, as if they had been things of yesterday--the
luring of the amphibious monster--the perilous encounter in the tank--
the chase--the capture--the trial and fiery sentence--the escape--the
long lingering pursuit across the lake, and the abrupt awful ending--all
were remembered at the moment with vivid distinctness.  I could almost
fancy I heard that cry of agony--that half-drowned ejaculation, uttered
by the victim as he sank below the surface of the water.  They were not
pleasant memories either to my companion or myself, and we soon ceased
to discourse of them.

As if to bring more agreeable reflections, the cheerful "gobble" of a
wild turkey at that moment sounded in our ears; and Jake asked my
permission to go in search of the game.  No objection being made, he
took up the rifle, and left me.

I re-lit my "havanna"--stretched myself as before along the soft sward,
watched the circling eddies of the purple smoke, inhaled the narcotic
fragrance of the flowers, and once more fell asleep.

This time I dreamed, and my dreams appeared to be only the continuation
of the thoughts that had been so recently in my mind.  They were visions
of that eventful day; and once more its events passed in review before
me, just as they had occurred.

In one thing, however, my dream differed from the reality.  I dreamt
that I saw the mulatto rising back to the surface of the water, and
climbing out upon the shore of the island.  I dreamt that he had escaped
unscathed, unhurt--that he had returned to revenge himself--that by some
means he had got me in his power, and was about to kill me!

At this crisis in my dream, I was again suddenly awakened--this time not
by the plashing of water, but by the sharp "spang" of a rifle that had
been fired near.

"Jake has found the turkeys," thought I.  "I hope he has taken good aim.
I should like to carry one to the fort.  It might be welcome at the
mess-table, since I hear that the larder is not overstocked.  Jake is a
good shot, and not likely to miss.  If--"

My reflections were suddenly interrupted by a second report, which, from
its sharp detonation, I knew to be also that of a rifle.

"My God! what can it mean?  Jake has but one gun, and but one barrel--he
cannot have reloaded since? he has not had time.  Was the first only a
fancy of my dream?  Surely I heard a report? surely it was that which
awoke me?  There were two shots--I could not be mistaken."

In surprise, I sprang to my feet.  I was alarmed as well.  I was alarmed
for the safety of my companion.  Certainly I had heard two reports.  Two
rifles must have been fired, and by two men.  Jake may have been one,
but who was the other?  We were upon dangerous ground.  Was it an enemy?

I shouted out, calling the black by name.

I was relieved on hearing his voice.  I heard it at some distance off in
the woods; but I drew fresh alarm from it as I listened.  It was
uttered, not in reply to my call, but in accents of terror.

Mystified, as well as alarmed, I seized my pistols, and ran forward to
meet him.  I could tell that he was coming towards me, and was near; but
under the dark shadow of the trees his black body was not yet visible.
He still continued to cry out, and I could now distinguish what he was
saying.

"Gorramighty! gorramighty!" he exclaimed in a tone of extreme terror.
"Lor!  Massa George, are you hurt?"

"Hurt! what the deuce should hurt me?"

But for the two reports, I should have fancied that he had fired the
rifle in my direction, and was under the impression he might have hit
me.

"You are not shot?  Gorramighty be thank you are not shot, Massr
George."

"Why, Jake, what does it all mean?"

At this moment he emerged from the heavy timber, and in the open ground
I had a clear view of him.

His aspect did not relieve me from the apprehension that something
strange had occurred.

He was the very picture of terror, as exhibited in a negro.  His eyes
were rolling in their sockets--the whites oftener visible than either
pupil or iris.  His lips were white and bloodless; the black skin upon
his face was blanched to an ashy paleness; and his teeth chattered as he
spoke.  His attitudes and gestures confirmed my belief that he was in a
state of extreme terror.

As soon as he saw me, he ran hurriedly up, and grasped me by the arm--at
the same time casting fearful glances in the direction whence he had
come, as if some dread danger was behind him!

I knew that under ordinary circumstances Jake was no coward--Quite the
contrary.  There must have been peril then--what was it?

I looked back; but in the dark depths of the forest shade, I could
distinguish no other object than the brown trunks of the trees.

I again appealed to him for an explanation.

"O Lor! it wa-wa-war _him_; I'se sure it war _him_."

"Him? who?"

"O Massr George; you--you--you shure you not hurt.  He fire at you.  I
see him t-t-t-take aim; I fire at _him_--I fire after; I mi-mi-miss; he
run away--way--way."

"Who fired? who ran away?"

"O Gor! it wa-wa-war him; him or him go-go-ghost."

"For heaven's sake, explain! what him? what ghost?  Was it the devil you
have seen?"

"Troof, Massr George; dat am the troof.  It wa-wa-war de debbel I see;
it war _Yell' Jake_!"

"Yellow Jake?"



CHAPTER TWENTY FIVE.

WHO FIRED THE SHOT?

"Yellow Jake?"  I repeated in the usual style of involuntary
interrogative--of course without the slightest faith in my companion's
statement.  "Saw Yellow Jake, you say?"

"Yes, Massr George," replied the groom, getting a little over his
fright: "sure as the sun, I see 'im--eytha 'im or 'im ghost."

"Oh, nonsense! there are no ghosts: your eyes deceived you under the
shadow of a tree.  It must have been an illusion."

"By Gor!  Massr George," rejoined the black with emphatic earnestness,
"I swar I see 'im--'twant no daloosyun, I see--'twar eytha Yell' Jake or
'im ghost."

"Impossible!"

"Den, massr, ef't be impossible, it am de troof.  Sure as da gospel, I
see Yell' Jake; he fire at you from ahind tha gum tree.  Den I fire at
'im.  Sure, Massr George, you hear boaf de two shot?"

"True; I heard two shots, or fancied I did."

"Gollys! massr, da wa'nt no fancy 'bout 'em.  Whugh! no--da dam raskel
he fire, sure.  Lookee da, Massr George!  What I say?  Lookee da!"

We had been advancing towards the pond, and were now close to the
magnolia under whose shade I had slept.  I observed Jake in a stooping
attitude under the tree, and pointing to its trunk.  I looked in the
direction indicated.  Low down, on the smooth bark, I saw the score of a
bullet.  It had creased the tree, and passed onward.  The wound was
green and fresh, the sap still flowing.  Beyond doubt, I had been fired
at by some one, and missed only by an inch.  The leaden missile must
have passed close to my head where it rested upon the valise--close to
my ears, too, for I now remembered that almost simultaneously with the
first report, I had heard the "wheep" of a bullet.

"Now, you b'lieve um, Massr George?" interposed the black, with an air
of confident interrogation.  "Now you b'lieve dat dis chile see no
daloosyun?"

"Certainly I believe that I have been shot at by some one--"

"Yell' Jake, Massr George!  Yell' Jake, by Gor!" earnestly asseverated
my companion.  "I seed da yaller raskel plain's I see dat log afore me."

"Yellow skin or red skin, we can't shift our quarters too soon.  Give me
the rifle: I shall keep watch while you are saddling.  Haste, and let us
be gone!"

I speedily reloaded the piece; and placing myself behind the trunk of a
tree, turned my eyes in that direction whence the shot must have come.
The black brought the horses to the rear of my position, and proceeded
with all despatch to saddle them, and buckle on our _impedimenta_.

I need not say that I watched with anxiety--with fear.  Such a deadly
attempt proved that a deadly enemy was near, whoever he might be.  The
supposition that it was Yellow Jake was too preposterous, I of course,
ridiculed the idea.  I had been an eye-witness of his certain and awful
doom; and it would have required stronger testimony than even the solemn
declaration of my companion, to have given me faith either in a ghost or
a resurrection.  I had been fired at--that fact could not be
questioned--and by some one, whom my follower--under the uncertain light
of the gloomy forest, and blinded by his fears--had taken for Yellow
Jake.  Of course this was a fancy--a mistake as to the personal identity
of our unknown enemy.  There could be no other explanation.

Ha! why was I at that moment dreaming of him--of the mulatto?  And why
such a dream?  If I were to believe the statement of the black, it was
the very realisation of that unpleasant vision that had just passed
before me in my sleep.

A cold shuddering came over me--my blood grew chill within my veins--my
flesh crawled, as I thought over this most singular coincidence.  There
was something awful in it--something so damnably probable, that I began
to think there was truth in the solemn allegation of the black; and the
more I pondered upon it, the less power felt I to impeach his veracity.

Why should an Indian, thus unprovoked, have singled _me_ out for his
deadly aim?  True, there was hostility between red and white, but not
war.  Surely it had not yet come to this?  The council of chiefs had not
met--the meeting was fixed for the following day; and, until its result
should be known, it was not likely that hostilities would be practised
on either side.  Such would materially influence the determinations of
the projected assembly.  The Indians were as much interested in keeping
the peace as their white adversaries--ay, far more indeed--and they
could not help knowing that an ill-timed demonstration of this kind
would be to their disadvantage--just the very pretext which the
"removal" party would have wished for.

Could it, then, have been an Indian who aimed at my life?  And if not,
who in the world besides had a motive for killing _me_?  I could think
of no one whom I had offended--at least no one that I had provoked to
such deadly retribution.

The drunken drovers came into my mind.  Little would they care for
treaties or the result of the council.  A horse, a saddle, a gun, a
trinket, would weigh more in their eyes than the safety of their whole
tribe.  Both were evidently true bandits--for there are robbers among
red skins as well as white ones.

But no; it could not have been they?  They had not seen us as we passed,
or, even if they had, they could hardly have been upon the ground so
soon?  We had ridden briskly, after leaving them; and they were afoot.

Spence and Williams were mounted; and from what Jake had told me as we
rode along in regard to the past history of these two "rowdies," I could
believe them capable of anything--even of that.

But it was scarcely probable either; they had not seen us: and besides
they had their hands full.

Ha!  I guessed it.  At last; at all events I had hit upon the most
probable conjecture.  The villain was some runaway from the settlements,
some absconding slave--perhaps ill-treated--who had sworn eternal
hostility to the whites; and who was thus wreaking his vengeance on the
first who had crossed his path.  A mulatto, no doubt; and maybe bearing
some resemblance to Yellow Jake--for there is a general similarity among
men of yellow complexion, as among blacks.

This would explain the delusion under which my companion was labouring!
at all events, it rendered his mistake more natural; and with this
supposition, whether true or false, I was forced to content myself.

Jake had now got everything in readiness; and, without staying to seek
any further solution of the mystery we leaped to our saddles, and
galloped away from the ground.

We rode for some time with the "beard on the shoulder;" and, as our path
now lay through thin woods, we could see for a long distance behind us.

No enemy, white or black, red or yellow, made his appearance, either on
our front, flank, or rear.  We encountered not a living creature till we
rode up to the stockade of Fort King [Note]; which we entered just as
the sun was sinking behind the dark line of the forest horizon.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

Note.  Called after a distinguished officer in the American army.  Such
is the fashion in naming the frontier posts.



CHAPTER TWENTY SIX.

A FRONTIER FORT.

The word "fort" calls up before the mind a massive structure, with
angles and embrasures, bastions and battlements, curtains, casemates,
and glacis--a place of great strength, for this is its essential
signification.  Such structures have the Spaniards raised in Florida as
elsewhere--some of which [Note 1] are still standing, while others, even
in their ruins, bear witness to the grandeur and glory that enveloped
them at that time, when the leopard flag waved proudly above their
walls.

There is a remarkable dissimilarity between the colonial architecture of
Spain and that of other European nations.  In America the Spaniards
built without regard to pains or expense, as if they believed that their
tenure would be eternal.  Even in Florida, they could have no idea their
lease would be so short--no forecast of so early an ejectment.

After all, these great fortresses served them a purpose.  But for their
protection, the dark Yamassee, and, after him, the conquering Seminole,
would have driven them from the flowery peninsula long before the period
of their actual rendition.

The United States has its great stone fortresses; but far different from
these are the "forts" of frontier phraseology, which figure in the story
of border wars, and which, at this hour, gird the territory of the
United States as with a gigantic chain.  In these are no grand
battlements of cut rock, no costly casemates, no idle ornaments of
engineering.  They are rude erections of hewn logs, of temporary intent,
put up at little expense, to be abandoned with as little loss--ready to
follow the ever-flitting frontier in its rapid recession.

Such structures are admirably adapted to the purpose which they are
required to serve.  They are types of the utilitarian spirit of a
republican government, not permitted to squander national wealth on such
costly toys as Thames Tunnels and Britannia Bridges, at the expense of
an overtaxed people.  To fortify against an Indian enemy, proceed as
follows:

Obtain a few hundred trees; cut them into lengths of eighteen feet;
split them up the middle; set them in a quadrangle, side by side, flat
faces inward; batten them together; point them at the tops; loophole
eight feet from the ground; place a staging under the loopholes; dig a
ditch outside; build a pair of bastions at alternate corners, in which
plant your cannon; hang a strong gate and you have a "frontier fort."

It may be a triangle, a quadrangle, or any other polygon best suited to
the ground.

You need quarters for your troops and stores.  Build strong blockhouses
within the enclosure--some at the angles, if you please; loophole them
also--against the contingency of the stockade being carried; and, this
done, your fort is finished.

Pine trees serve well.  Their tall, branchless stems are readily cut and
split to the proper lengths; but in Florida is found a timber still
better for the purpose--in the trunk of the "cabbage-palm" [_Chamaerops
palmetto_].  These, from the peculiarity of their endogenous texture,
are less liable to be shattered by shot, and the bullet buries itself
harmlessly in the wood.  Of such materials was Fort King.

Fancy, then, such a stockade fort.  People it with a few hundred
soldiers--some in jacket uniforms of faded sky-colour, with white
facings, sadly dimmed with dirt (the infantry); some in darker blue,
bestriped with red (artillery); a few adorned with the more showy yellow
(the dragoons); and still another few in the sombre green of the rifles.
Fancy these men lounging about or standing in groups, in slouched
attitudes, and slouchingly attired--a few of tidier aspect, with
pipe-clayed belts and bayonets by their sides, on sentry, or forming the
daily guard--some half-score of slattern women, their laundress-wives,
mingling with a like number of brown-skinned squaws--a sprinkling of
squalling brats--here and there an officer hurrying along, distinguished
by his dark-blue undress frock [Note 2]--half-a-dozen gentlemen in
civilian garb--visitors, or non-military _attaches_ of the fort--a score
less gentle-looking--sutlers, beef-contractors, drovers, butchers,
guides, hunters, gamblers, and idlers--some negro servants and friendly
Indians--perhaps the pompous commissioner himself--fancy all these
before you, with the star-spangled flag waving above your head, and you
have the _coup d'oeil_ that presented itself as I rode into the gateway
of Fort King.

Of late not much used to the saddle, the ride had fatigued me.  I heard
the _reveille_, but not yet being ordered on duty, I disregarded the
call, and kept my bed till a later hour.

The notes of a bugle bursting through the open window, and the quick
rolling of drums, once more awoke me.  I recognised the parade music,
and sprang from my couch.  Jake at this moment entered to assist me in
my toilet.

"Golly, Massr George!" he exclaimed, pointing out by the window; "lookee
dar! darts tha whole Indyen ob tha Seminole nayshun--ebbery red skin dar
be in ole Floridy.  Whugh!"

I looked forth.  The scene was picturesque and impressive.  Inside the
stockade, soldiers were hurrying to and fro--the different companies
forming for parade.  They were no longer, as on the evening before,
slouched and loosely attired; but, with jackets close buttoned, caps
jauntily cocked, belts pipe-clayed to a snowy whiteness, guns, bayonets,
and buttons gleaming under the sunlight, they presented a fine military
aspect.  Officers were moving among them, distinguished by their more
splendid uniforms and shining epaulets; and a little apart stood the
general himself, surrounded by his staff, conspicuous under large black
chapeaus with nodding plumes of cock's feathers, white and scarlet.
Alongside the general was the commissioner--himself a general--in full
government uniform.

This grand display was intended for effect on the minds of the Indians.

There were several well-dressed civilians within the enclosure, planters
from the neighbourhood, among whom I recognised the Ringgolds.

So far the impressive.  The picturesque lay beyond the stockade.

On the level plain that stretched to a distance of several hundred yards
in front, were groups of tall Indian warriors, attired in their savage
finery--turbaned, painted, and plumed.  No two were dressed exactly
alike, and yet there was a similarity in the style of all.  Some wore
hunting-shirts of buckskin, with leggings and moccasins of like
material--all profusely fringed, beaded, and tasselled; others were clad
in tunics of printed cotton stuff, checked or flowered, with leggings of
cloth, blue, green, or scarlet, reaching from hip to ankle, and girt
below the knee with bead-embroidered gaiters, whose tagged and tasselled
ends hung down the outside of the leg.  The gorgeous wampum belt
encircled their waists, behind which were stuck their long knives,
tomahawks, and, in some instances, pistols, glittering with a rich inlay
of silver--relics left them by the Spaniards.  Some, instead of the
Indian wampum, encircled their waists with the Spanish scarf of scarlet
silk, its fringed extremities hanging square with the skirt of the
tunic, adding gracefulness to the garment.  A picturesque head-dress was
not wanting to complete the striking costume; and in this the variety
was still greater.  Some wore the beautiful coronet of plumes--the
feathers stained to a variety of brilliant hues; some the "toque" of
checked "bandanna;" while others wore shako-like caps of fur--of the
black squirrel, the bay lynx, or raccoon--the face of the animal often
fantastically set to the front.  The heads of many were covered with
broad fillets of embroidered wampum, out of which stood the wing plumes
of the king vulture, or the gossamer feathers of the sand-hill crane.  A
few were still further distinguished by the nodding plumes of the great
bird of Afric.

All carried guns--the long rifle of the backwoods hunter, with horns and
pouches slung from their shoulders.  Neither bow nor arrow was to be
seen, except in the hands of the youth--many of whom were upon the
ground, mingling with the warriors.

Further off, I could see tents, where the Indians had pitched their
camp.  They were not together, but scattered along the edge of the wood,
here and there, in clusters, with banners floating in front--denoting
the different clans or sub-tribes to which each belonged.

Women in their long frocks could be seen moving among the tents, and
little dark-skinned "papooses" were playing over the grassy sward in
front of them.

When I first saw them, the warriors were assembling in front of the
stockade.  Some had already arrived, and stood in little crowds,
conversing, while others strode over the ground, passing from group to
group, as if bearing words of council from one to the other.

I could not help observing the upright carriage of these magnificent
men.  I could not help admiring their full, free port, and contrasting
it with the gingerly step of the drilled soldier!  No eye could have
looked upon them without acknowledging this superiority of the _savage_.

As I glanced along the line of Saxon and Celtic soldiery--starched and
stiff as they stood, shoulder to shoulder, and heel to heel--and then
looked upon the plumed warriors without, as they proudly strode over the
sward of their native soil, I could not help the reflection, that to
conquer these men we must needs _outnumber_ them!

I should have been laughed at had I given expression to the thought.  It
was contrary to all experience--contrary to the burden of many a
boasting legend of the borders.  The Indian had always succumbed; but
was it to the superior strength and courage of his white antagonist?
No: the inequality lay in numbers--oftener in arms.  This was the secret
of our superiority.  What could avail the wet bowstring and ill-aimed
shaft against the death-dealing bullet of the rifle?

There was no inequality now.  Those hunter warriors carried the
fire-weapon, and could handle it as skillfully as we.

The Indians now formed into a half-circle in front of the fort.  The
chiefs, having aligned themselves so as to form the concave side of the
curve, sat down upon the grass.  Behind them the sub-chiefs and more
noted warriors took their places, and still further back, in rank after
rank, stood the common men of the tribes.  Even the women and boys drew
near, clustering thickly behind, and regarding the movements of the men
with quiet but eager interest.

Contrary to their usual habits, they were grave and silent.  It is not
their character to be so; for the Seminole is as free of speech and
laughter as the clown of the circus ring; even the light-hearted negro
scarcely equals him in jovialty.

It was not so now, but the very reverse.  Chiefs, warriors and women--
even the boys who had just forsaken their play--all wore an aspect of
solemnity.

No wonder.  That was no ordinary assemblage--no meeting upon a trivial
matter--but a council at which was to be decided one of the dearest
interests of their lives--a council whose decree might part them forever
from their native land.  No wonder they did not exhibit their habitual
gaiety.

It is not correct to say that all looked grave.  In that semi-circle of
chiefs were men of opposite views.  There were those who wished for the
removal--who had private reasons to desire it--men bribed, suborned, or
tampered with--traitors to their tribe and nation.

These were neither weak nor few.  Some of the most powerful chiefs had
been bought over, and had agreed to sell the rights of their people.
Their treason was known or suspected, and this it was that was causing
the anxiety of the others.  Had it been otherwise--had there been no
division in the ranks--the patriot party might easily have obtained a
triumphant decision; but they feared the defection of traitors.

The band had struck up a march--the troops were in motion, and filing
through the gate.

Hurrying on my uniform, I hastened out; and took my place among the
staff of the general.

A few minutes after we were on the ground, face to face with the
assembled chiefs.

The troops formed in line, the general taking his stand in front of the
colours, with the commissioner by his side.  Behind these were grouped
the officers of the staff with clerks, interpreters, and some civilians
of note--the Ringgolds, and others--who by courtesy were to take part in
the proceedings.

Hands were shaken between the officers and chiefs; the friendly calumet
was passed round; and the council at length inaugurated.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

Note 1.  Forts Piscolata on the Saint Johns, Fort San Augustine, and
others, at Pensacola, Saint Marks, and elsewhere.

Note 2.  An American officer is rarely to be seen in full uniform--still
more rarely when on campaigning service, as in Florida.



CHAPTER TWENTY SEVEN.

THE COUNCIL.

First came the speech of the commissioner.

It is too voluminous to be given in detail.  Its chief points were, an
appeal to the Indians to conform peaceably to the terms of the Oclawaha
treaty--to yield up their lands in Florida--to move to the west--to the
country assigned them upon the White River of Arkansas--in short, to
accept all the terms which the government had commissioned him to
require.

He took pains to specify the advantages which would accrue from the
removal.  He painted the new home as a perfect paradise--prairies
covered with game, elk, antelopes, and buffalo--rivers teeming with
fish--crystal waters and unclouded skies.  Could he have found credence
for his words, the Seminole might have fancied that the happy
hunting-grounds of his fancied heaven existed in reality upon the earth.

On the other hand, he pointed out to the Indians the consequences of
their non-compliance.  White men would be settling thickly along their
borders.  Bad white men would enter upon their lands; there would be
strife and the spilling of blood; the red man would be tried in the
court of the white man, where, according to law, his oath would be of no
avail; and _therefore he must suffer injustice_!

Such were in reality the sentiments of Mr Commissioner Wiley Thompson
[historically true], uttered in the council of Fort King, in April,
1835.  I shall give them in his own words; they are worthy of record, as
a specimen of _fair dealing_ between white and red.  Thus spoke he:

"Suppose--what is, however impossible--that you could be permitted to
remain here for a few years longer, what would be your condition?  This
land will soon be surveyed, sold to, and settled by the whites.  _There
is now a surveyor in the country_.  The jurisdiction of the government
will soon be extended over you.  Your laws will be set aside--your
chiefs will cease to be chiefs.  Claims for debt and for your negroes
would be set up against you by bad white men; or you would perhaps be
charged with crimes affecting life.  You would be haled before the white
man's court.  The claims and charges would be decided by the white man's
law.  White men would be witnesses against you.  Indians would not be
permitted to give evidence.  Your condition in a few years would be
hopeless wretchedness.  You would be reduced to abject poverty, and when
urged by hunger to ask--perhaps from the man who had thus ruined you--
for a crust of bread, you might be called an Indian dog, and spurned
from his presence.  For this reason it is that your `Great Father' (!)
wishes to remove you to the west--to save you from all these evils."

And this language in the face of a former treaty--that of Camp
Moultrie--which guaranteed to the Seminoles their right to remain in
Florida, and the third article of which runs thus:

"The United States will take the Florida Indians under their care and
patronage; _and will afford them protection against all persons
whatsoever_."

_O tempora, O mores_!

The speech was a mixture of sophistry and implied menace--now uttered in
the tones of a petitioner, anon assuming the bold air of the bully.  It
was by no means clever--both characters being overdone.

The commissioner felt no positive hostility towards the Seminoles.  He
was indignant only with those chiefs who had already raised opposition
to his designs, and one, in particular, he _hated_; but the principal
_animus_ by which he was inspired, was a desire to do the work for which
he had been delegated--an ambition to carry out the wish of his
government and nation and thus gain for himself credit and glory.  At
this shrine he was ready--as most officials are--to sacrifice his
personal independence of thought, with every principle of morality and
honour.  What matters the cause so long as it is the king's?  Make it
"congress" instead of "king's" and you have the motto of our Indian
agent.

Shallow as was the speech, it was not without its effects.  The weak and
wavering were influenced by it.  The flattering sketch of their new
home, with the contrasted awful picture of what might be their future
condition, affected the minds of many.  During that spring the Seminoles
had planted but little corn.  The summons of war had been sounding in
their ears; and they had neglected seed time: there would be no
harvest--no maize, nor rice, nor yams.  Already were they suffering from
their improvidence.  Even then were they collecting the roots of the
China briar [Note 1], and the acorns of the live-oak.  How much worse
would be their condition in the winter?

It is not to be wondered at that they gave way to apprehension; and I
noticed many whose countenances bore an expression of awe.  Even the
patriot chiefs appeared to evince some apprehension for the result.

They were not dismayed, however.  After a short interval, Hoitle-mattee,
one of the strongest opponents of the removal, rose to reply.  There is
no order of precedence in such matters.  The tribes have their
acknowledged orators, who are usually permitted to express the
sentiments of the rest.  The head chief was present, seated in the
middle of the ring, with a British crown upon his head--a relic of the
American Revolution.  But "Onopa" was no orator, and waived his right to
reply in favour of Hoitle-mattee--his son-in-law.

The latter had the double reputation of being a wise councillor and
brave warrior; he was, furthermore, one of the most eloquent speakers in
the nation.  He was the "prime-minister" of Onopa, and, to carry the
comparison into classic times, he might be styled the Ulysses of his
people.  He was a tall, spare man, of dark complexion, sharp aquiline
features, and somewhat sinister aspect.  He was not of the Seminole
race, but, as he stated himself, a descendant of one of the ancient
tribes who peopled Florida in the days of the early Spaniards.  Perhaps
he was a Yamassee, and his dark skin would favour this supposition.

His powers of oratory may be gathered from his speech:

"At the treaty of Moultrie, it was engaged that we should rest in peace
upon the land allotted to us for twenty years.  All difficulties were
buried, and we were assured that if we died, it should not be by the
violence of the white man, but in the course of nature.  The lightning
should not rive and blast the tree, but the cold of old age should dry
up the sap, and the leaves should wither and fall, and the branches
drop, and the trunk decay and die.

"The deputation stipulated at the talk on the Oclawaha to be sent on the
part of the nation, was only authorised to _examine_ the country to
which it was proposed to remove us, and bring back its report to the
nation.  We went according to agreement, and saw the land.  It is no
doubt good land, and the fruit of the soil may smell sweet, and taste
well, and be healthy, but it is surrounded with bad and hostile
neighbours, and the fruit of bad neighbourhood is blood that spoils the
land, and fire that dries up the brook.  Even of the horses we carried
with us, some were stolen by the Pawnees, and the riders obliged to
carry their packs on their backs.  You would send us among bad Indians,
with whom we could never be at rest.

"When we saw the land, we said nothing; but the agents of the United
States made us sign our hands to a paper which _you_ say signified our
consent to remove, but _we considered_ we did no more than say we liked
the land, and when we returned, the _nation would decide_.  We had no
authority to do more.

"Your talk is a good one, but my people cannot say they will go.  The
people differ in their opinions, and must be indulged with time to
reflect.  They cannot consent now; they are not willing to go.  If their
tongues say yes, their hearts cry no, and call them liars.  We are not
hungry for other lands--why should we go and hunt for them?  We like our
own land, we are happy here.  If suddenly we tear our hearts from the
homes round which they are twined, our heart-strings will snap.  We
cannot consent to go--_we will not go_!"

A chief of the removal party spoke next.  He was "Omatla," one of the
most powerful of the tribe, and suspected of an "alliance" with the
agent.  His speech was of a pacific character, recommending his
red-brothers not to make any difficulty, but act as honourable men, and
comply with the treaty of the Oclawaha.

It was evident this chief spoke under restraint.  He feared to show too
openly his partiality for the plans of the commissioner, dreading the
vengeance of the patriot warriors.  These frowned upon him as he stood
up, and he was frequently interrupted by Arpiucki, Coa Hajo, and others.

A bolder speech, expressing similar views, was delivered by Lusta Hajo
(the Black Clay).  He added little to the argument; but by his superior
daring, restored the confidence of the traitorous party and the
equanimity of the commissioner, who was beginning to exhibit signs of
impatience and excitement.

"Holata Mico" next rose on the opposite side--a mild and gentlemanly
Indian, and one of the most regarded of the chiefs.  He was in ill
health, as his appearance indicated; and in consequence of this, his
speech was of a more pacific character than it might otherwise have
been; for he was well-known to be a firm opponent of the removal.

"We come to deliver our talk to-day.  We are all made by the same Great
Father; and are all alike his children.  We all came from the same
mother; and were suckled at the same breast.  Therefore, we are
brothers; and, as brothers, should not quarrel, and let our blood rise
up against each other.  If the blood of one of us, by each other's blow,
should fall upon the earth, it would stain it, and cry aloud for
vengeance from the land wherever it had sunk, and call down the frown
and the thunder of the Great Spirit.  I am not well.  Let others who are
stronger speak, and declare their minds."

Several chiefs rose successively and delivered their opinions.  Those
for removal followed the strain of Omatla and the Black Clay.  They were
"Obala" (the big warrior), the brothers Itolasse and Charles Omatla, and
a few others of less note.

In opposition to those, spoke the patriots "Acola," "Yaha Hajo" (mad
wolf), "Echa Matta" (the water-serpent), "Poshalla" (the dwarf), and the
negro "Abram."  The last was an old "refugee," from Pensacola; but now
chief of the blacks living with the Micosauc tribe [Note 2], and one of
the counsellors of Onopa, over whom he held supreme influence.  He spoke
English fluently; and at the council--as also that of the Oclawaha--he
was the principal interpreter on the part of the Indians.  He was a pure
negro, with the thick lips, prominent cheek-bones, and other physical
peculiarities of his race.  He was brave, cool, and sagacious; and
though only an adopted chief, he proved to the last the true friend of
the people who had honoured him by their confidence.  His speech was
brief and moderate; nevertheless it evinced a firm determination to
resist the will of the agent.

As yet, the "king" had not declared himself, and to him the commissioner
now appealed.  Onopa was a large, stout man, of somewhat dull aspect,
but not without a considerable expression of dignity.  He was not a man
of great intellect, nor yet an orator; and although the head "mico" of
the nation, his influence with the warriors was not equal to that of
several chiefs of inferior rank.  His decision, therefore, would by no
means be regarded as definitive, or binding upon the others; but being
nominally "mico-mico," or chief-chief, and actually head of the largest
clan--the Micosaucs--his vote would be likely to turn the scale, one way
or the other.  If he declared for the removal, the patriots might
despair.

There was an interval of breathless silence.  The eyes of the whole
assemblage, of both red men and white men, rested upon the king.  There
were only a few who were in the secret of his sentiments; and how he
would decide, was to most of those present a matter of uncertainty.
Hence the anxiety with which they awaited his words.

At this crisis, a movement was observed among the people who stood
behind the king.  They were making way for some one who was passing
through their midst.  It was evidently one of authority, for the crowd
readily yielded him passage.

The moment after, he appeared in front--a young warrior, proudly
caparisoned, and of noble aspect.  He wore the insignia of a chief; but
it needed not this to tell that he was one; there was that in his look
and bearing which at once pronounced him a leader of men.

His dress was rich, without being frivolous or gay.  His tunic, embraced
by the bright wampum sash, hung well and gracefully; and the
close-fitting leggings of scarlet cloth displayed the perfect sweep of
his limbs.  His form was a model of strength--terse, well-knit,
symmetrical.  His head was turbaned with a shawl of brilliant hues; and
from the front rose three black ostrich-plumes, that drooped backward
over the crown till their tips almost touched his shoulders.  Various
ornaments were suspended from his neck; but one upon his breast was
conspicuous.  It was a circular plate of gold, with lines radiating from
a common centre.  It was a representation of the Rising Sun.

His face was stained of a uniform vermilion red: but despite the
levelling effect of the dye, the lineaments of noble features could be
traced.  A well-formed mouth and chin, thin lips, a jawbone expressive
of firmness, a nose slightly aquiline, a high, broad forehead, with eyes
that, like the eagle's, seemed strong enough to gaze against the sun.

The appearance of this remarkable man produced an electric effect upon
all present.  It was similar to that exhibited by the audience in a
theatre on the _entree_ of the great tragedian for whom they have been
waiting.

Not from the behaviour of the young chief himself--withal right modest--
but from the action of the others, I perceived that he was in reality
the hero of the hour.  The _dramatis personae_, who had already
performed their parts, were evidently but secondary characters; and this
was the man for whom all had been waiting.

There followed a movement--a murmur of voices--an excited tremor among
the crowd--and then, simultaneously, as if from one throat, was shouted
the name, "Osceola!"

------------------------------------------------------------------------

Note 1.  _Smilax pseudo-China_.  From its roots the Seminoles make the
_conti_, a species of jelly--a sweet and nourishing food.

Note 2.  The Micosauc (Micosaukee) or tribe of the "redstick," was the
largest and most warlike of the nation.  It was under the immediate
government of the head chief Onopa--usually called "Miconopa."



CHAPTER TWENTY EIGHT.

THE RISING SUN.

Yes, it was Osceola, "the Rising Sun" [Note 1]--he whose fame had
already reached to the farthest corner of the land--whose name had
excited such an interest among the cadets at college--outside the
college--in the streets--in the fashionable drawing-room--everywhere; he
it was who had thus unexpectedly shown himself in the circle of chiefs.

A word about this extraordinary young man.

Suddenly emerging from the condition of a common warrior--a sub-chief,
with scarcely any following--he had gained at once, and as if by magic,
the confidence of the nation.  He was at this moment the hope of the
patriot party--the spirit that was animating them to resistance, and
every day saw his influence increasing.  Scarcely more appropriate could
have been his native appellation.

One might have fancied him less indebted to accident than design for the
name, had it not been that which he had always borne among his own
people.  There was a sort of prophetic or typical adaptation in it, for
at this time he was in reality the Rising Sun of the Seminoles.  He was
so regarded by them.

I noticed that his arrival produced a marked effect upon the warriors.
He may have been present upon the ground all the day, but up to that
moment he had not shown himself in the front circle of the chiefs.  The
timid and wavering became reassured by his appearance, and the
traitorous chiefs evidently cowered under his glance.  I noticed that
the Omatlas, and even the fierce Lusta Hajo regarded him with uneasy
looks.

There were others besides the red men who were affected by his sudden
advent.  From the position in which I stood, I had a view of the
commissioner's face; I noticed that his countenance suddenly paled, and
there passed over it a marked expression of chagrin.  It was clear that
with him the "Rising Sun" was anything but welcome.  His hurried words
to Clinch reached my ears--for I stood close to the general, and could
not help overhearing them.

"How unfortunate!" he muttered in a tone of vexation.  "But for him, we
should have succeeded.  I was in hopes of nailing them before he should
arrive.  I told him a wrong hour, but it seems to no purpose.  Deuce
take the fellow! he will undo all.  See! he is earwigging Onopa, and the
old fool listens to him like a child.  Bah!--he will obey him like a
great baby, as he is.  It's all up, general; we must come to blows."

On hearing this half-whispered harangue, I turned my eyes once more upon
him who was the subject of it, and regarded him more attentively.  He
was still standing behind the king, but in a stooping attitude, and
whispering in the ear of the latter--scarcely whispering, but speaking
audibly in their native language.  Only the interpreters could have
understood what he was saying, and they were too distant to make it out.
His earnest tone, however--his firm yet somewhat excited manner--the
defiant flash of his eye, as he glanced toward the commissioner--all
told that he himself had no intention to yield; and that he was
counselling his superior to like bold opposition and resistance.

For some moments there was silence, broken only by the whisperings of
the commissioner on one side, and the muttered words passing between
Osceola and the mico on the other.  After a while even these sounds were
hushed, and a breathless stillness succeeded.

It was a moment of intense expectation, and one of peculiar interest.
On the words which Onopa was about to utter, hung events of high
import--important to almost every one upon the ground.  Peace or war,
and therefore life or death, was suspended over the heads of all
present.  Even the soldiers in the lines were observed with outstretched
necks in the attitude of listening; and upon the other side, the Indian
boys, and the women with babes in their arms, clustered behind the
circle of warriors, their anxious looks betraying the interest they felt
in the issue.

The commissioner grew impatient; his face reddened again.  I saw that he
was excited and angry--at the same time he was doing his utmost to
appear calm.  As yet he had taken no notice of the presence of Osceola,
but was making pretence to ignore it, although it was evident that
Osceola was at that moment the main subject of his thoughts.  He only
looked at the young chief by side-glances, now and again turning to
resume his conversation with the general.

This by-play was of short duration.  Thompson could endure the suspense
no longer.

"Tell Onopa," said he to the interpreter, "that the council awaits his
answer."

The interpreter did as commanded.

"I have but one answer to make," replied the taciturn king, without
deigning to rise from his seat; "I am content with my present home; I am
not going to leave it."

A burst of applause from the patriots followed this declaration.
Perhaps these were the most popular words that old Onopa had ever
uttered.  From that moment he was possessed of real kingly power, and
might command in his nation.

I looked round the circle of the chiefs.  A smile lit up the gentlemanly
features of Holata Mico; the grim face of Hoitle-mattee gleamed with
joy: the "Alligator," "Cloud," and Arpiucki exhibited more frantic signs
of their delight; and even the thick lips of Abram were drawn flat over
his gums, displaying his double tier of ivories in a grin of triumphant
satisfaction.

On the other hand, the Omatlas and their party wore black looks.  Their
gloomy glances betokened their discontent; and from their gestures and
attitudes, it was evident that one and all of them were suffering under
serious apprehension.

They had cause.  They were no longer suspected, no longer traitors only
attainted; their treason was now patent--it had been declared.

It was fortunate for them that Fort King was so near--well that they
stood in the presence of that embattled line.  They might need its
bayonets to protect them.

The commissioner had by this time lost command of his temper.  Even
official dignity gave way, and he now descended to angry exclamations,
threats, and bitter invective.

In the last he was personal, calling the chiefs by name, and charging
them with faithlessness and falsehood.  He accused Onopa of having
already signed the treaty of the Oclawaha; and when the latter denied
having done so, the commissioner told him he _lied_.  [Again
historically true--the very word used!]  Even the savage did not
reciprocate the vulgar accusation, but treated it with silent disdain.

After spending a portion of his spleen upon various chiefs of the
council, he turned towards the front and in a loud, angry tone cried
out: "It is _you_ who have done this--_you_, Powell!"

I started at the word.  I looked to see who was addressed--who it was
that bore that well-known name.

The commissioner guided my glance both by look and gesture.  He was
standing with arm outstretched, and finger pointed in menace.  His eye
was bent upon the young war-chief--upon Osceola!

All at once a light broke upon me.  Already strange memories had been
playing with my fancy; I thought that through the vermilion paint I saw
features I had seen before.

Now I recognised them.  In the young Indian hero, I beheld the friend of
my boyhood--the preserver of my life--the brother of Maumee.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

Note 1.  Osceola--written Oceola, Asseola, Assula, Hasseola, and in a
dozen other forms of orthography--in the Seminole language, signifies
the Rising Sun.



CHAPTER TWENTY NINE.

THE ULTIMATUM.

Yes--Powell and Osceola were one; the boy, as I had predicted, now
developed into the splendid man--a hero.

Under the impulsive influences of former friendship and present
admiration, I could have rushed forward and flung my arms around him;
but it was neither time nor place for the display of such childish
enthusiasm.  Etiquette--duty forbade it; I kept my ground, and, as well
as I could, the composure of my countenance, though I was unable to
withdraw my eyes from what had now become doubly an object of
admiration.

There was little time for reflection.  The pause created by the rude
speech of the commissioner had passed; the silence was again broken--
this time by Osceola himself.

The young chief, perceiving that it was he who had been singled out,
stepped forth a pace or two, and stood confronting the commissioner, his
eye fixed upon him, in a glance, mild, yet firm and searching.

"Are you addressing me?" he inquired in a tone that evinced not the
slightest anger or excitement.

"Who else than you?" replied the commissioner abruptly.  "I called you
by name--Powell."

"My name is _not_ Powell."

"Not Powell?"

"No!" answered the Indian, raising his voice to its loudest pitch, and
looking with proud defiance at the commissioner.  "You may call me
Powell, if you please, _you, General Wiley Thompson_,"--slowly and with
a sarcastic sneer, he pronounced the full titles of the agent; "but
know, sir, that I scorn the white man's baptism.  I am an Indian; I am
the child of my mother [Note 1]; my name is Osceola."

The commissioner struggled to control his passion.  The sneer at his
plebeian cognomen stung him to the quick, for Powell understood enough
of English nomenclature to know that "Thompson" was not an aristocratic
appellation; and the sarcasm cut keenly.

He was angry enough to have ordered the instant execution of Osceola,
had it been in his power; but it was not.  Three hundred warriors trod
the ground, each grasping his ready rifle, quite a match for the troops
at the post; besides the commissioner knew that such rash indulgence of
spleen might not be relished by his government.  Even the Ringgolds--his
dear friends and ready advisers--with all the wicked interest they might
have in the downfall of the Rising Sun, were wiser than to counsel a
proceeding like that.

Instead of replying, therefore to the taunt of the young chief, the
commissioner addressed himself once more to the council.

"I want no more talking," said he with the air of a man speaking to
inferiors; "we have had enough already.  Your talk has been that of
children, of men without wisdom or faith: I will no longer listen to it.

"Hear, then, what your Great Father says, and what he has sent me to say
to you.  He has told me to place before you this paper."  The speaker
produced a fold of parchment, opening it as he proceeded: "It is the
treaty of Oclawaha.  Most of you have already signed it.  I ask you now
to step forward and confirm your signatures."

"I have not signed it," said Onopa, urged to the declaration by Osceola,
who stood by behind him.  "I shall not sign it now.  Others may act as
they please; I shall not go from my home.  I shall not leave Florida."

"Nor I," added Hoitle-mattee, in a determined tone.  "I have fifty kegs
of powder: so long as a grain of it remains unburned, I shall not be
parted from my native land."

"His sentiments are mine," added Holata.

"And mine!" exclaimed Arpiucki.

"And mine?" echoed Poshalla (the dwarf), Coa Hajo, Cloud, and the negro
Abram.

The patriots alone spoke; the traitors said not a word.  The signing was
a test too severe for them.  They had all signed it before at the
Oclawaha; but now, in the presence of the nation, they dared not confirm
it.  They feared even to advocate what they had done.  They remained
silent.

"Enough!" said Osceola, who had not yet publicly expressed his opinion,
but who was now expected to speak, and was attentively regarded by all.
"The chiefs have declared themselves; they refuse to sign.  It is the
voice of the nation that speaks through its chiefs, and the people will
stand by their word.  The agent has called us children and fools; it is
easy to give names.  We know that there are fools among us, and children
too, and worse than both--_traitors_.  But there are men, and some as
true and brave as the agent himself.  He wants no more talk with us--be
it so; we have no more for _him_--he has our answer.  He may stay or go.

"Brothers!" continued the speaker, facing to the chiefs and warriors,
and as if disregarding the presence of the whites, "you have done right;
you have spoken the will of the nation, and the people applaud.  It is
false that we wish to leave our homes and go west.  They who say so are
deceivers, and do not speak our mind.  We have no desire for this _fine
land_ to which they would send us.  It is not as fair as our own.  It is
a wild desert, where in summer the springs dry up and water is hard to
find.  From thirst the hunter often dies by the way.  In winter, the
leaves fall from the trees, snow covers the ground, frost stiffens the
clay, and chills the bodies of men, till they shiver in pain--the whole
country looks as though the earth were dead.  Brothers! we want no cold
country like that; we like our own land better.  If it be too hot, we
have the shade of the live-oak, the big laurel [Note 2], and the noble
palm-tree.  Shall we forsake the land of the palm?  No!  Under its
shadow have we lived: under its shadow let us die!"

Up to this point the interest had been increasing.  Indeed, ever since
the appearance of Osceola, the scene had been deeply impressive--never
to be effaced from the memory, though difficult to be described in
words.  A painter, and he alone, might have done justice to such a
picture.

It was full of points, thoroughly and thrillingly dramatic; the excited
agent on one side, the calm chiefs on the other; the contrast of
emotions; the very women who had left their unclad little ones to gambol
on the grass and dally with the flowers, while they themselves, with the
warriors pressed closely around the council, under the most intense, yet
subdued, interest; catching every look as it gleamed from the
countenance, and hanging on every word as it fell from the lips of
Osceola.  The latter--his eye calm, serious, fixed--his attitude manly,
graceful, erect--his thin, close-pressed lip, indicative of the "mind
made up"--his firm, yet restrained, tread, free from all stride or
swagger--his dignified and composed bearing--his perfect and solemn
silence, except during his sententious talk--the head thrown backward,
the arms firmly folded on the protruding chest--all, all instantaneously
changing, as if by an electric shock, whenever the commissioner stated a
proposition that he knew to be false or sophistic.  At such times the
fire-flash of his indignant eye--the withering scorn upon his upcurled
lip--the violent and oft repeated stamping of his foot--his clenched
hand, and the rapid gesticulation of his uplifted arm--the short, quick
breathing and heaving of his agitated bosom, like the rushing wind and
swelling wave of the tempest-tossed ocean, and these again subsiding
into the stillness of melancholy, and presenting only that aspect and
attitude of repose wherewith the ancient statuary loved to invest the
gods and heroes of Greece.

The speech of Osceola brought matters to a crisis.  The commissioner's
patience was exhausted.  The time was ripe to deliver the dire threat--
the ultimatum--with which the president had armed him; and, not bating
one jot of his rude manner, he pronounced the infamous menace:

"You will not sign?--you will not consent to go?  I say, then you
_must_.  War will be declared against you--troops will enter your land--
you will be forced from it at the point of the bayonet."

"Indeed!" exclaimed Osceola, with a derisive laugh.  "Then be it so!" he
continued.  "Let war be declared!  Though we love peace, we fear not
war.  We know your strength: your people outnumber us by millions; but
were there as many more of them, they will not compel us to submit to
injustice.  We have made up our minds to endure death before dishonour.
Let war be declared!  Send your troops into our land; perhaps they will
not force us from it so easily as you imagine.  To your muskets we will
oppose our rifles, to your bayonets, our tomahawks; and your starched
soldiers will be met, face to face, by the warriors of the Seminole.
Let war be declared!  We are ready for its tempest.  The hail may
rattle, and the flowers be crushed; but the strong oak of the forest
will lift its head to the sky and the storm, towering and unscathed."

A yell of defiance burst from the Indian warriors at the conclusion of
this stirring speech; and the disturbed council threatened a disruption.
Several of the chiefs, excited by the appeal, had risen to their feet,
and stood with lowering looks, and arms stretched forth in firm, angry
menace.

The officers of the line had glided to their places, and in an undertone
ordered the troops into an attitude of readiness; while the artillerists
on the bastions of the fort were seen by their guns, while the tiny
wreath of blue smoke told that the fuse had been kindled.

For all this, there was no danger of an outbreak.  Neither party was
prepared for a collision at that moment.  The Indians had come to the
council with no hostile designs, else they would have left their wives
and children at home.  With them by their sides, they would not dream of
making an attack; and their white adversaries dared not, without better
pretext.  The demonstration was only the result of a momentary
excitement, and soon subsided to a calm.

The commissioner had stretched his influence to its utmost.  His threats
were now disregarded as had been his wheedling appeal; and he saw that
he had no longer the power to effect his cherished purpose.

But there was still hope in time.  There were wiser heads than his upon
the ground, who saw this: the sagacious veteran Clinch and the crafty
Ringgolds saw it.

These now gathered around the agent, and counselled him to the adoption
of a different course.

"Give them time to consider," suggested they.  "Appoint to-morrow for
another meeting.  Let the chiefs discuss the matter among themselves in
private council, and not as now, in presence of the people.  On calmer
reflection, and when not intimidated by the crowd of warriors, they may
decide differently, particularly now that they know the alternative; and
perhaps," added Arens Ringgold--who, to other bad qualities, added that
of a crafty diplomatist--"perhaps the more hostile of them will not stay
for the council of to-morrow: you do not want _all_ their signatures."

"Right," replied the commissioner, catching at the idea.  "Right--it
shall be done;" and with this laconic promise, he faced once more to the
council of chiefs.

"Brothers!" he said, resuming the tone in which he had first addressed
them, "for, as the brave chief Holata has said, we are all brothers.
Why, then, should we separate in anger?  Your Great Father would be sad
to hear that we had so parted from one another.  I do not wish you
hastily to decide upon this important matter.  Return to your tents--
hold your own councils--discuss the matter freely and fairly among
yourselves, and let us meet again to-morrow; the loss of a day will not
signify to either of us.  To-morrow will be time enough to give your
decision; till then, let us be friends and brothers."

To this harangue, several of the chiefs replied.  They said it was "good
talk," and they would agree to it; and then all arose to depart from the
ground.

I noticed that there was some confusion in the replies.  The chiefs were
not unanimous in their assent.  Those who agreed were principally of the
Omatla party; but I could hear some of the hostile warriors, as they
strode away from the ground, declare aloud their intention to return no
more.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

Note 1.  The child follows the fortunes of the mother.  The usage is not
Seminole only, but the same with all the Indians of America.

Note 2.  _Magnolia grandiflora_.  So styled in the language of the
Indians.



CHAPTER THIRTY.

TALK OVER THE TABLE.

Over the mess-table I gathered much knowledge.  Men talk freely while
the wine is flowing, and under the influence of champagne, the wisest
grow voluble.

The commissioner made little secret either of his own designs or the
views of the President, but most already guessed them.

He was somewhat gloomed at the manner in which the day's proceedings had
ended, and by the reflection that his diplomatic fame would suffer--a
fame ardently aspired to by all agents of the United States government.
Personal slights, too, had he received from Osceola and others--for the
calm cold Indian holds in scorn the man of hasty temper; and this
weakness had he displayed to their derision throughout the day.  He felt
defeated, humiliated, resentful against the men of red skin.  On the
morrow, he flattered himself that he would make them feel the power of
his resentment--teach them that, if passionate, he was also firm and
daring.

As the wine warmed him, he said as much in a half boasting way; he
became more reckless and jovial.

As for the military officers, they cared little for the _civil_ points
of the case, and took not much part in the discussion of its merits.
Their speculations ran upon the probability of strife--war, or no war?
That was the question of absorbing interest to the men of the sword.  I
heard much boasting of _our_ superiority, and decrying of the strength
and the courage of the prospective enemy.  But to this, there were
dissentient opinions expressed by a few old "Indian fighters" who were
of the mess.

It is needless to say that Oceola's character was commented upon; and
about the young chief, opinions were as different as vice from virtue.
With some, he was the "noble savage" he seemed; but I was astonished to
find the majority dissent from this view.  "Drunken savage," "cattle
thief," "impostor," and such-like appellations were freely bestowed upon
him.

I grew irate; I could not credit these accusations.  I observed that
most of those who made them were comparative strangers--new comers--to
the country, who could not know much of the past life of him with whose
name they were making so free.

The Ringgolds joined in the calumny, and they must have known him well;
but I comprehended _their_ motives.

I felt that I owed the subject of the conversation a word of defence;
for two reasons: he was absent--he had saved my life.  Despite the
grandeur of the company, I could not restrain my tongue.

"Gentlemen," I said, speaking loud enough to call the attention of the
talkers, "can any of you prove these accusations against Osceola?"

The challenge produced an awkward silence.  No one could exactly prove
either the drunkenness, the cattle-stealing, or the imposture.

"Ha?" at length ejaculated Arens Ringgold, in his shrill squeaky voice,
"you are his defender, are you, Lieutenant Randolph?"

"Until I hear better evidence than mere assertion, that he is not worthy
of defence."

"Oh! that may be easily obtained," cried one; "everybody knows what the
fellow is, and has been--a regular cow-stealer for years."

"You are mistaken there," I replied to this confident speaker; "I do not
know it--do you, sir?"

"Not from personal experience, I admit," said the accuser, somewhat
taken aback by the sudden interrogation.

"Since you are upon the subject of cattle-stealing, gentlemen, I may
inform you that I met with a rare incident only yesterday, connected
with the matter.  If you will permit me, I shall relate it."

"Oh! certainly--by all means, let us have it."

Being a stranger, I was indulged with a patient hearing.  I related the
episode of lawyer Grubb's cattle, omitting names.  It created some
sensation.  I saw that the commander-in-chief was impressed with it,
while the commissioner looked vexed, as if he would rather I had held my
tongue.  But the strongest effect was produced upon the Ringgolds--
father and son.  Both appeared pale and uneasy; perhaps no one noticed
this except myself, but I observed it with sufficient distinctness to be
left under the full impression, that both knew more of the matter than I
myself!

The conversation next turned upon "runaways"--upon the number of negroes
there might be among the tribes--upon the influence they would exert
against us in case of a conflict.

These were topics of serious importance.  It was well-known there were
large numbers of black and yellow men "located," in the reserve: some as
agriculturists--some graziers--not a few wandering through the savannas
and forests, rifle in hand--having adopted the true style of Indian
hunter-life.

The speakers estimated their numbers variously: the lowest put them at
500, while some raised their figure to a 1000.

_All these would be against us to a man_.  There was no dissent to that
proposition.

Some alleged they would fight badly; others, bravely; and these spoke
with more reason.  All agreed that they would greatly aid the enemy, and
give us trouble, and a few went so far as to say, that we had more to
fear from the "black runaways" than the "red runaways."  In this
expression, there was a latent jest.

[The Seminoles were originally of the great tribe of Muscogees (Creeks).
Seceding from these, for reasons not known, the Seminoles passed
southward into Florida; and obtained from their former kindred the name
they now bear, which in their own tongue has the signification of
"runaway."]

There could be no doubt that the negroes would take up arms in the
pending struggle; and no more, that they would act with efficiency
against us.  Their knowledge of the white man's "ways" would enable them
to do so.  Besides, the negro is no coward; their courage has been
ofttimes proved.  Place him in front of a _natural_ enemy--a thing of
flesh, bone, and blood, armed with gun and bayonet--and the negro is not
the man to flinch.  It is otherwise if the foe be not physical, but
belonging to the world of Obeah.  In the soul of the unenlightened child
of Afric, superstition is strong indeed; he lives in a world of ghosts,
ghouls, and goblins, and his dread of these supernatural spirits is real
cowardice.

As the conversation continued on the subject of the blacks, I could not
help noticing the strong animus that actuated the speakers--especially
the planters in the civilian garb.  Some waxed indignant--even wroth to
vulgarity--threatening all sorts of punishment to such runaways as might
be captured.  They gloated over the prospect of restoration, but as much
at the idea of a not distant revenge.  Shooting, hanging, burning,
_barbecuing_, were all spoken of, besides a variety of other tortures
peculiar to this southern land.  Rare punishments--no lack of them--were
promised in a breath to the unfortunate absconder who should chance to
get caught.

You who live far away from such sentiments can but ill comprehend the
moral relations of caste and colour.  Under ordinary circumstances,
there exists between white and black no feeling of hostility--quite the
contrary.  The white man is rather kindly disposed towards his coloured
_brother_; but only so long as the latter opposes not his will.  Let the
black but offer resistance--even in the slightest degree--and then
hostility is quickly kindled, justice and mercy are alike disregarded--
vengeance is only felt.

This is a general truth; it will apply to every one who owns a slave.

Exceptionally, the relation is worse.  There are white my in the
southern States who hold the life of a black at but slight value--just
the value of his market price.  An incident in the history of young
Ringgold helps me to an illustration.  But the day before, my "squire,"
Black Jake had given me the story.

This youth, with some other boys of his acquaintance, and of like
dissolute character, was hunting in the forest.  The hounds had passed
beyond hearing, and no one could tell the direction they had taken.  It
was useless riding further, and the party halted, leaped from their
saddles, and tied their horses to the trees.

For a long time the baying of the beagles was not heard, and the time
hung heavily on the hands of the hunters.  How were they to pass it?

A negro boy chanced to be near "chopping" wood.  They knew the boy well
enough--one of the slaves on a neighbouring plantation.

"Let's us have some sport with the darkie," suggested one.

"What sport?"

"Let us hang him for sport."

The proposal of course produced a general laugh.

"Joking apart," said the first speaker, "I should really like to try how
much hanging a nigger _could_ bear without being killed outright."

"So should I," rejoined a second.

"And so I, too," added a third.

The idea took; the experiment promised to amuse them.

"Well, then, let us make trial; that's the best way to settle the
point."

The trial _was_ made--I am relating a _fact_--the unfortunate boy was
seized upon, a noose was adjusted round his neck, and he was triced up
to the branch of a tree.

Just at that instant, a stag broke past with the hounds in full cry.
The hunters ran to their horses, and in the excitement, forgot to cut
down the victim of their deviltry.  One left the duty to another, and
all neglected it!

When the chase was ended, they returned to the spot; the negro was still
hanging from the branch--he was dead!

There was a trial--the mere mockery of a trial.  Both judge and jury
were the relatives of the criminals; and the sentence was, that the
negro _should be paid for_!  The owner of the slave was contented with
the price; justice was satisfied, or supposed to be; and Jake had heard
hundreds of white Christians, _who knew the tale to be true_, laughing
at it as a capital joke.  As such, Arens Ringgold was often in the habit
of detailing it!

You on the other side of the Atlantic hold up your hands and cry
"Horror!"  You live in the fancy you have no slaves--no cruelties like
this.  You are sadly in error.  I have detailed an exceptional case--an
individual victim.  Land of the workhouse and the jail! your victims are
legion.

Smiling Christian! you parade your compassion, but you have made the
misery that calls it forth.  You abet with easy concurrence the _system_
that begets all this suffering; and although you may soothe your spirit
by assigning crime and poverty to _natural causes_, nature will not be
impugned with impunity.  In vain may you endeavour to shirk your
individual responsibility.  For every cry and canker, you will be held
responsible in the sight of God.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

The conversation about runaways naturally guided my thoughts to the
other and more mysterious adventure of yesterday; having dropped a hint
about this incident, I was called upon to relate it in detail.  I did
so--of course scouting the idea that my intended assassin could have
been Yellow Jake.  A good many of those present knew the story of the
mulatto, and the circumstances connected with his death.

Why was it, when I mentioned his name, coupled with the solemn
declaration of my sable groom--why was it that Arens Ringgold started,
turned pale, and whispered some words in the ear of his father?



CHAPTER THIRTY ONE.

THE TRAITOR CHIEFS.

Soon after, I retired from the mess-table, and strolled out into the
stockade.

It was now after sunset.  Orders had been issued for no one to leave the
fort; but translating these as only applicable to the common soldier, I
resolved to sally forth.

I was guided by an impulse of the heart.  In the Indian camp were the
wives of the chiefs and warriors--their sisters and children--why not
she among the rest?

I had a belief that she was there--although, during all that day, my
eyes had been wandering in vain search.  She was not among those who had
crowded around the council: not a face had escaped my scrutiny.

I resolved to seek the Seminole camp--to go among the tents of the
Micosaucs--there, in all likelihood, I should find Powell--there I
should meet with Maumee.

There would be no danger in entering the Indian camp--even the hostile
chiefs were yet in relations of friendship with us; and surely Powell
was still _my_ friend?  He could protect me from peril or insults.

I felt a longing to grasp the hand of the young warrior, that of itself
would have influenced me to seek the interview.  I yearned to renew the
friendly confidence of the past--to talk over those pleasant times--to
recall those scenes of halcyon brightness.  Surely the sterner duties of
the chief and war-leader had not yet indurated a heart, once mild and
amiable?  No doubt the spirit of my former friend was embittered by the
white man's injustice; no doubt I should find him rancorous against our
race; he had reason--still I had no fears that I myself was not an
exception to this wholesale resentment.

Whatever the result, I resolved to seek him, and once more extend to him
the hand of friendship.

I was on the eve of setting forth, when a summons from the
commander-in-chief called me to his quarters.  With some chagrin, I
obeyed the order.

I found the commissioner there, with the officers of higher rank--the
Ringgolds and several other civilians of distinction.

On entering, I perceived that they were in "caucus," and had just ended
the discussion of some plan of procedure.

"The design is excellent," observed General Clinch, addressing himself
to the others; "but how are Omatla and `Black Dirt' [Note 1] to be met?
If we summon them hither, it may create suspicion; they could not enter
the fort without being observed."

"General Clinch," said the elder Ringgold--the most cunning diplomatist
of the party--"if you and General Thompson were to meet the friendly
chiefs outside?"

"Exactly so," interrupted the commissioner.  "I have been thinking of
that.  I have sent a messenger to Omatla, to inquire if he can give us a
secret meeting.  It will be best to see them outside.  The man has
returned--I hear him."

At this moment, a person entered the room, whom I recognised as one of
the interpreters who had officiated at the council.  He whispered
something to the commissioner, and then withdrew.

"All right, gentlemen!" exclaimed the latter, as the interpreter went
out; "Omatla will meet us within the hour.  Black Dirt will be with him.
They have named the `Sink' as the place.  It lies to the north of the
fort.  We can reach it without passing the camp, and there will be no
risk of our being observed.  Shall we go, General?"

"I am ready," replied Clinch, taking up his cloak, and throwing it over
his shoulders; "but, General Thompson," said he, turning to the
commissioner, "how about your interpreters?  Can they be intrusted with
a secret of so much importance?"

The commissioner appeared to hesitate.  "It might be imprudent," he
replied at length, in a half soliloquy.

"Never mind, then--never mind," said Clinch; "I think we can do without
them.  Lieutenant Randolph," continued he, turning to me, "you speak the
Seminole tongue fluently?"

"Not fluently, General; I speak it, however."

"You could interpret it fairly."

"Yes, General; I believe so."

"Very well, then; that will do.  Come with us!"

Smothering my vexation, at being thus diverted from my design, I
followed in silence--the commissioner leading the way, while the
General, disguised in cloak and plain forage cap, walked by his side.

We passed out of the gate, and turned northward around the stockade.
The tents of the Indians were upon the southwest, placed irregularly
along the edge of a broad belt of "hommocky" woods that extended in that
direction.  Another tract of hommock lay to the north, separated from
the larger one by savannas and open forests of pine timber.  Here was
the "Sink."  It was nearly half a mile distant from the stockade; but in
the darkness we could easily reach it without being observed from any
part of the Seminole camp.

We soon arrived upon the ground.  The chiefs were before us.  We found
them standing under the shadows of the trees by the edge of the pond.

My duty now began.  I had little anticipation that it was to have been
so disagreeable.

"Ask Omatla what is the number of his people--also those of Black Dirt,
and the other chiefs who are for us."

I put the question as commanded.

"One-third of the whole Seminole nation," was the ready reply.

"Tell them that ten thousand dollars shall be given to the friendly
chiefs, on their arrival in the west, to be shared among them as they
deem best--that this sum is independent of the appropriation to the
whole tribe."

"It is good," simultaneously grunted the chiefs, when the proposition
was explained to them.

"Does Omatla and his friends think that all the chiefs will be present
to-morrow?"

"No--not all."

"Which of them are likely to be absent?"

"The mico-mico will not be there."

"Ha!  Is Omatla sure of that?"

"Sure.  Onopa's tents are struck: he has already left the ground."

"Whither has he gone?"

"Back to his town."

"And his people?"

"Most of them gone with him."

For some moments the two generals communicated together in a half
whisper.  They were apart from me: I did not not hear what they said.
The information just acquired was of great importance, and seemed not to
discontent them.

"Any other chief likely to be absent to-morrow?" they asked, after a
pause.

"Only those of the tribe of `redsticks.'"  [Note 2.]

"Hoitle-mattee?"

"No--he is here--he will remain."

"Ask them if they think _Osceola_ will be at the council to-morrow."

From the eagerness with which the answer was expected, I could perceive
that this was the most interesting question of all.  I put it directly.

"What!" exclaimed the chiefs, as if astonished at the interrogatory.
"The Rising Sun!  He is sure to be present: he will _see it out_!"

"Good!" involuntarily ejaculated the commissioner, and then turning to
the General, he once more addressed him in a low tone.  This time, I
overheard what passed between them.

"It seems, General, as if Providence was playing into our hands.  My
plan is almost sure to succeed.  A word will provoke the impudent rascal
to some rudeness--perhaps worse--at all events, I shall easily fix a
pretext for shutting him up.  Now that Onopa has drawn off his
following, we will be strong enough for any contingency.  The hostiles
will scarcely outnumber the friendly, so that there will no chance of
the rascals making resistance."

"Oh! that we need not fear."

"Well--with _him_ once in our power the opposition will be crushed--the
rest will yield easily--for, beyond doubt, it is he that now intimidates
and hinders them from signing."

"True," replied Clinch in a reflective tone; "but how about the
government, eh?  Will it endorse the act, think you?"

"It will--it must--my latest dispatch from the President almost suggests
as much.  If you agree to act, I shall take the risk."

"Oh, I place myself under your orders," replied the commander-in-chief,
evidently inclined to the commissioner's views, but still not willing to
share the responsibility.  "It is but my duty to carry out the will of
the executive.  I am ready to cooperate with you."

"Enough then--it shall be done as we have designed it.  Ask the chiefs,"
continued the speaker, addressing himself to me, "ask them, if they have
any fear of signing to-morrow."

"No--not of the signing, but _afterwards_."

"And what afterwards?"

"They dread an attack from the hostile party--their lives will be in
danger."

"What would they have us do?"

"Omatla says, if you will permit him and the other head chiefs to go on
a visit to their friends at Tallahassee, it will keep them out of
danger.  They can stay there till the removal is about to take place.
They give their promise that they will meet you at Tampa, or elsewhere,
whenever you summon them."

The two generals consulted together--once more in whispers.  This
unexpected proposal required consideration.

Omatla added:

"If we are not allowed to go to Tallahassee, we cannot, we dare not,
stay at home; we must come under the protection of the fort."

"About your going to Tallahassee," replied the commissioner, "we shall
consider it, and give you an answer to-morrow.  Meanwhile, you need not
be under any apprehension.  This is the war-chief of the whites; he will
protect you."

"Yes," said Clinch, drawing himself proudly up.  "My warriors are
numerous and strong.  There are many in the fort, and many more on the
way.  You have nothing to fear."

"It is good!" rejoined the chiefs.  "If troubles arise, we shall seek
your protection; you have promised it--it is good."

"Ask the chiefs," said the commissioner, to whom a new question had
suggested itself--"ask them if they know whether Holata Mico will remain
for the council of to-morrow."

"We cannot tell now.  Holata Mico has not declared his intention.  We
shall soon know it.  If he designs to stay his tents will stand till the
rising of the sun; if not, they will be struck before the moon goes
down.  The moon is sinking--we shall soon know whether Holata Mico will
go or stay."

"The tents of this chief are not within sight of the fort?"

"No--they are back among the trees."

"Can you send word to us?"

"Yes, but only to this place; our messenger would be seen entering the
fort.  We can come back here ourselves, and meet one from you."

"True--it is better so," replied the commissioner, apparently pleased
with the arrangement.

A few minutes passed, during which the two generals communicated with
each other in while whispers, the chiefs stood apart, silent and
immobile as a pair of statues.

The commander-in-chief at length broke the silence:

"Lieutenant! you will remain upon the ground till the chiefs return.
Get their report, and bring it direct to my quarters."

Salutations were exchanged; the two generals walked off on the path that
led to the fort, while the chiefs glided silently away in the opposite
direction.  I was left alone.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

Note 1.  So Lusta Hajo was called by the Americans.  His full name was
Fuchta-Lusta-Hajo, which signifies "Black Crazy Clay."

Note 2.  A name given to the Micosaucs, from their custom of setting up
red poles in front of their houses when going to war.  A similar custom
exists among other tribes; hence the name "Baton Rouge," applied by the
French colonists.



CHAPTER THIRTY TWO.

SHADOWS IN THE WATER.

Alone with my thoughts, and these tainted with considerable acerbity.
More than one cause contributed to their bitterness.  My pleasant
purpose thwarted--my heart aching for knowledge--for a renewal of tender
ties--distracted with doubts--wearied with protracted suspense.

In addition to these, my mind was harassed by other emotions I
experienced disgust at the part I had been playing.  I had been made the
mouth-piece of chicanery and wrong; aiding conspiracy had been the first
act of my warlike career; and although it was not the act of my own
will, I felt the disagreeableness of the duty--a sheer disgust in its
performance.

Even the loveliness of the night failed to soothe me.  Its effect was
contrary; a storm would have been more congenial to my spirit.

And it was a lovely night.  Both the earth and the air were at peace.

Here and there the sky was fleeced with white cirrhi, but so thinly,
that the moon's disk, passing behind them, appeared to move under a
transparent gauze-work of silver, without losing one ray of her
effulgence.  Her light was resplendent in the extreme; and, glancing
from the glabrous leaves of the great laurels, caused the forests to
sparkle, as though beset with a million of mirrors.  To add to the
effect, fire-flies swarmed under the shadows of the trees, their bodies
lighting up the dark aisles with a mingled coruscation of red, blue and
gold--now flitting in a direct line, now curving, or waving upward and
downward, as though moving through the mazes of some intricate
_cotillon_.

In the midst of all this glittering array, lay the little tarn, shining,
too, but with the gleam of plated glass--a mirror in its framework of
fretted gild.

The atmosphere was redolent of the most agreeable perfumes.  The night
was cool enough for human comfort, but not chill.  Many of the flowers
refused to close their corollas--for not all of them were brides of the
sun.  The moon had its share of the sweets.  The sassafras and bay-trees
were in blossom, and dispensed their odours around, that, mingling with
the aroma of the aniseed and the orange, created a delicious fragrance
in the air.

There was a stillness in the atmosphere, but not silence.  It is never
silent in the southern forests by night.  Tree-frogs and cicadas utter
their shrillest notes after the sun has gone out of sight, and there is
a bird that makes choice melody during the moonlight hours--the famed
mimic of the American woods.  One, perched upon a tall tree that grew
over the edge of the pond, appeared trying to soothe my chafed spirit
with his sweet notes.

I heard other sounds--the hum of the soldiery in the fort, mingling with
the more distant noises from the Indian camp, now and then some voice
louder than the rest, in oath, exclamation, or laughter, broke forth to
interrupt the monotonous murmur.

How long should I have to wait the return of the chiefs?  It might be an
hour, or two hours, or more?  I had a partial guide in the moon.  They
said that Holata would depart before the shining orb went down, or not
at all.  About two hours, then, would decide the point, and set me free.

I had been standing for half the day.  I cared not to keep my feet any
longer; and choosing a fragment of rock near the water's edge, I sat
down upon it:

My eyes wandered over the pond.  Half of its surface lay in shadow; the
other half was silvered by the moonbeams, that, penetrating the pellucid
water, rendered visible the white shells and shining pebbles at the
bottom.  Along the line where the light and darkness met, were outlined
several noble palms, whose tall stems and crested crowns appeared
stretching towards the nadir of the earth--as though they belonged to
another and a brighter firmament beneath my feet.  The trees, of which
these were but the illusory images, grew upon the summit of a ridge,
which, trending along the western side of the pond, intercepted the rays
of the moon.

I sat for some time gazing into this counterpart of heaven's canopy,
with my eyes mechanically tracing the great fan-like fronds.

All at once, I was startled at perceiving a new image upon the aqueous
reflector.  A form, or rather the shadow of one, suddenly appeared among
the trunks of the palms.  It was upright, and evidently human, though of
magnified proportions--beyond a doubt, a human figure, yet not that of a
man.

The small head, apparently uncovered, the gentle rounding of the
shoulders, the soft undulation of the waist, and the long, loose draping
which reached nearly to the ground, convinced me that the shadow was
that of a woman.

When I first observed it, it was moving among the stems of the
palm-trees; presently it stopped, and for some seconds remained in a
fixed attitude.  It was then I noted the peculiarities that distinguish
the sex.

My first impulse was to turn round, and, if possible, get a sight of the
figure that cast this interesting shadow.  I was myself on the western
edge of the pond, and the ridge was behind me.  Facing round I could not
see the summit nor yet the palms.  Rising to my feet, I still could not
see them: a large live-oak, under which I had seated myself,
intercepting my view.

I stepped hastily to one side, and then both the outline of the ridge
and the palm-trees were before my eyes; but I could see no figure,
neither of man nor woman.

I scanned the summit carefully, but no living thing was there; some
fronds of the saw-palmetta, standing along the crest, were the only
forms I could perceive.

I returned to where I had been seated; and, placing myself as before,
again looked upon the water.  The palm shadows were there, just as I had
left them; but the image was gone.

There was nothing to be astonished at.  I did not for a moment believe
myself under any delusion.  Some one had been upon the ridge--a woman, I
supposed--and had passed down under the cover of the trees.  This was
the natural explanation of what I had seen, and of course contented me.

At the same time, the silent apparition could not fail to arouse my
curiosity; and instead of remaining seated, and giving way to dreamy
reflections, I rose to my feet, and stood looking and listening with
eager expectation.

Who could the woman be?  An Indian, of course.  It was not probable that
a white woman should be in such a place, and at such an hour.  Even the
peculiar outlines of the shadow were not those that would have been cast
by one habited in a garb of civilisation: beyond a doubt, the woman was
an Indian.

What was she doing in that solitary place, and alone?

These questions were not so easily answered; and yet there was nothing
so remarkable about her presence upon the spot.  To the children of the
forest, time is not as with us.  The hours of the night are as those of
the day--often the hours of action or enjoyment.  She might have many a
purpose in being there.  She might be on her way to the pond for water--
to take a bath; or it might be some impassioned maiden, who, under the
secret shadows of this secluded grove, was keeping assignation with her
lover.

A pang, like a poisoned arrow, passed through my heart: "_might it be
Maumee_?"

The unpleasantness which this conjecture caused me is indescribable.  I
had been all day the victim of dire suspicions, arising from some
half-dozen words, casually dropped from the lips of a young officer, and
which I had chanced to overhear.  They had reference to a beautiful girl
among the Indians, apparently well-known at the fort; and I noticed that
the tone of the young fellow was that of one either triumphant or
boasting.  I listened attentively to every word, and watched not only
the countenance of the speaker, but those of his auditory--to make out
in which of the two categories I should place him.  His vanity appeared
to have had some sacrifice made to it--at least by his own statement;
and his listeners, or most of them, agreed to concede to him the
happiness of a _bonne fortune_.  There was no name given--no hint that
would enable me to connect the subject of the conversation with that of
my own thoughts; but that the girl was an Indian, and a "beauty," were
points, that my jealous heart almost accepted as sufficient for
identification.

I might easily have become satisfied.  A word, a simple question, would
have procured me the knowledge I longed for; and yet I dared not say
that word.  I preferred passing long hours--a whole day--upon the rack
of uncertainty and suspicion.

Thus, then, was I prepared for the painful conjectures that sprang into
my thoughts on beholding that mirrored form.

The pain was of short duration; almost instantaneous was the relief.  A
shadowy figure was seen gliding around the edge of the pond; it emerged
into the open moonlight, not six paces from where I stood.  I had a full
and distinct view of it.  It was a woman--an Indian woman.  It was _not_
Maumee.



CHAPTER THIRTY THREE.

HAJ-EWA.

I saw before me a woman of middle age--somewhere between thirty and
forty--a large woman, who once possessed beauty--beauty that had been
abused.  She was the wreck of a grand loveliness, whose outlines could
not be effaced--like the statue of some Grecian goddess, broken by
Vandal hands, but whose very fragments are things of priceless value.

Not that her charms had departed.  There are men who affect to admire
this ripe maturity; to them, she would have been a thing of peerless
splendour.  Time had made no inroad upon those large rounded arms, none
upon the elliptical outlines of that noble bust.  I could judge of
this--for it was before my eyes, in the bright moonlight, nude, from
neck to waist, as in the hour of infancy.  Alone the black hair, hanging
in wild dishevelment over the shoulders, formed a partial shrouding.
Nor had time laid a finger upon this: amidst all that profusion of rich
raven clusters, not a strand of silver could be detected.

Time could not affect, nor had it, that fine facial outline.  The
moulding of the chin; the oval of those lips; the aquiline nose, with
its delicate spirally curved nostril; the high, smooth front; the eye--
the eye--what is it? why that unearthly flash? that wild unmeaning
glance?  Ha! that eye--Merciful heavens! _the woman is mad_!

Alas! it was true--she was mad.  Her glance would have satisfied even a
casual observer, that reason was no longer upon its throne.  But I
needed not to look at her eye; I knew the story of her misfortunes, of
her wrongs.  It was not the first time I had looked upon that womanly
form--more than once I had stood face to face with Haj-Ewa [Note 1], the
mad queen of the Micosaucs.

Beautiful as she was, I might have felt fear at her presence--still
worse than fear, I might have been terrified or awed--the more so on
perceiving that her necklace was a green serpent; that the girdle around
her waist, that glittered so conspicuously in the light of the moon, was
the body of an enormous rattlesnake, living and writhing!

Yes, both were alive--the smaller serpent wound about her neck, with its
head resting upon her bosom; the more dangerous reptile knotted around
her waist, its vertebrated tail hanging by her side, while its head,
held in her hand, protruding through her fingers, exhibited a pair of
eyes that scintillated like diamonds.

On the head of Haj-Ewa was no other covering than that which nature had
provided for it; but those thick black clusters afforded ample
protection against sun and storm.  On her feet she wore moccasins, but
those were hidden by the long "hunna," that reached to the ground.  This
was the only garment she wore.  It was profusely adorned with beads and
embroidery--with the bright plumage of the green parroquet--the skin of
the summer-duck, and the for of various wild animals.  It was fastened
round her waist, though not by the girdle already described.

Truly, I might have felt terror, had this singular appearance been new
to me.  But I had seen all before--the green snake, and the crotalus,
the long hanging tresses, the wild flash of that maniac eye--all before,
all harmless, all innocuous--at least to me.  I knew it, and had no
fear.

"Haj-Ewa!"  I called out, as she advanced to where I was standing.

"I-e-ela!"  [an expression of astonishment, usually lengthened out into
a sort of drawl] exclaimed she with a show of surprise.

"Young Randolph! war-chief among the pale-faces!  You have not then
forgotten poor Haj-Ewa?"

"No, Ewa, I have not.  What seek you here?"

"Yourself, little mico."

"Seek _me_?"

"No--I have found you."

"And what want you with me?"

"Only to save your life, your young of life, pretty mico--your fair
life--your precious life--ah! precious to her, poor bird of the forest!
Ah! there was one precious to me--long, long ago.  Ho, ho, ho!

  "O why did I trust in a pale-faced lover?
          Ho, ho, ho!  [Literally, Yes, yes, yes!]
  Why did I meet him in the wild woods' cover?
          Ho, ho, ho!
  Why did I list to his lying tongue,
  That poisoned my heart when my life was young?
          Ho, ho, ho!

"Down, _chitta mico_!"  [Note 1] she cried, interrupting the strain, and
addressing herself to the rattlesnake, that at my presence had protruded
his head, and was making demonstrations of rage--"down, great king of
the serpents! 'tis a friend, though in the garb of an enemy--quiet, or I
crush your head!"

"I-e-ela!" she exclaimed again, as if struck by some new thought; "I
waste time with my old songs; he is gone, he is gone! they cannot bring
him back.  Now, young mico, what came I for? what came I for?"

As she uttered these interrogatives, she raised her hand to her head, as
if to assist her memory.

"Oh! now I remember.  _Hulwak_ [it is bad].  I lose time.  You may be
killed, young mico--you may be killed, and then--Go! begone, begone,
begone! back to the topekee [fort].  Shut yourself up; keep among your
people: do not stray from your blue soldiers; do not wander in the
woods!  Your life is in danger."

All this was spoken in a tone of earnestness that astonished me.  More
than astonished, I began to feel some slight alarm, since I had not
forgotten the attempted assassination of yesterday.  Moreover, I knew
that there were periods when this singular woman was not positively
insane.  She had her lucid intervals, during which she both talked and
acted rationally, and often with extraordinary intelligence.  This might
be one of those intervals.  She might be privy to some scheme against my
life, and had come, as she alleged, to defeat it.

But who was my enemy or enemies? and how could she have known of their
design?

In order to ascertain this, I said to her:

"I have no enemy, Ewa; why should my life be in danger?"

"I tell you, pretty mico, it is--you have enemies.  I-e-ela! you do not
know it?"

"I never wronged a red man in my life."

"Red--did I say red man?  _Cooree_ [boy], pretty Randolph, there is not
a red man in all the land of the Seminoles that would pluck a hair from
your head.  Oh! if they did, what would say the Rising Sun?  He would
consume them like a forest fire.  Fear not the red men--your enemies are
not of that colour."

"Ha! not red men?  What, then?"

"Some white--some yellow."

"Nonsense, Ewa!  I have never given a white man cause to be my enemy."

"_Chepawnee_ [fawn] you are but a young fawn, whose mother has not told
it of the savage beasts that roam the forest.  There are wicked men who
are enemies without a cause.  There are some who seek your life, though
you never did them wrong."

"But who are they?  And for what reason?"

"Do not ask, chepawnee!  There is not time.  Enough if I tell you, you
are owner of a rich plantation, where black men make the blue dye.  You
have a fair sister--very fair.  Is she not like a beam from yonder moon?
And I was fair once--so he said.  Ah! it is bad to be beautiful Ho, ho,
ho!

  "Why did I trust in a pale-faced lover?
  Ho, ho, ho!  Why did I meet him--

"_Hulwak_!" she exclaimed, again suddenly breaking off the strain: "I am
mad; but I remember.  Go! begone!  I tell you, go: you are but an
_echochee_ [fawn], and the hunters are upon your trail.  Back to the
topekee--go! go!"

"I cannot, Ewa; I am here for a purpose; I must remain till some one
comes."

"Till some one comes! _hulwak_! _they_ will come soon."

"Who?"

"Your enemies--they who would kill you; and then the pretty doe will
bleed--her poor heart will bleed: she will go mad--she will be like
Haj-Ewa."

"Whom do you speak of?"

"Of--Hush! hush! hush!  It is too late--they come--they come! see their
shadows upon the water!"

I looked, as Haj-Ewa pointed.  Sure enough there were shadows upon the
pond, just where I had seen hers.  They were the figures of men--four of
them.  They were moving among the palm-trees, and along the ridge.

In a few seconds the shadows disappeared.  They who had been causing
them had descended the slope, and entered among the timber.

"It is too late now," whispered the maniac, evidently at that moment in
full possession of her intellect.  "You dare not go out into the open
woods.  They would see you--you must stay in the thicket.  There!"
continued she, grasping me by the wrist, and, with a powerful jerk,
bringing me close to the trunk of the live-oak: "this is your only
chance.  Quick--ascend!  Conceal yourself among the moss.  Be silent--
stir not till I return.  _Hinklas_!"  [It is good--it is well.]

And so saying, my strange counsellor stepped back under the shadow of
the tree; and, gliding into the umbrageous covert of the grove,
disappeared from my sight.

I had followed her directions, and was now ensconced upon one of the
great limbs of the live-oak--perfectly hidden from the eyes of any one
below by festoons of the silvery _tillandsia_.  These, hanging from
branches still higher up, draped around me like a set of gauze curtains,
and completely enveloped my whole body; while I myself had a view of the
pond--at least, that side of it on which the moon was shining--by means
of a small opening between the leaves.

At first I fancied I was playing a very ridiculous _role_.  The story
about enemies, and my life being in danger, might, after all, be nothing
more than some crazy fancy of the poor maniac's brain.  The men, whose
shadows I had seen, might be the chiefs on their return.  They would
reach the ground where I had appointed to meet them, and not finding me
there, would go back.  What kind of report should I carry to
head-quarters?  The thing was ridiculous enough--and for me, the result
might be worse than ridiculous.

Under these reflections, I felt strongly inclined to descend, and meet
the men--whoever they might be--face to face.

Other reflections, however, hindered me.  The chiefs were only _two_--
there were _four_ shadows.  True, the chiefs might be accompanied by
some of their followers--for better security to themselves on such a
traitorous mission--but I had noticed, as the shadows were passing over
the pond--and notwithstanding the rapidity with which they moved--that
the figures were not _those of Indians_.  I observed no hanging drapery,
nor plumes.  On the contrary, I fancied there were _hats_ upon their
heads, such as are worn only by white men.  It was the observation of
this peculiarity that made me so ready to yield obedience to the
solicitations of Haj-ewa.

Other circumstances had not failed to impress me: the strange assertions
made by the Indian woman--her knowledge of events, and the odd allusions
to well-known persons--the affair of yesterday: all these, commingling
in my mind, had the effect of determining me to remain upon my perch, at
least for some minutes longer.  I might be relieved from my unpleasant
position sooner than I expected.

Without motion, almost without breathing, I kept my seat, my eyes
carefully watching, and ears keenly bent to catch every sound.

My suspense was brief.  The acuteness of my eyes was rewarded by a
sight, and my ears by a tale, that caused my flesh to creep, and the
blood to run cold in my veins.  In five minutes' time, I was inducted
into a belief in the wickedness of the human heart, exceeding in
enormity all that I had ever read or heard of.

Four demons filed before me--demons, beyond a doubt: their looks, which
I noted well--their words, which I heard--their gestures, which I saw--
their designs, with which I in that hour became acquainted--fully
entitled them to the appellation.

They were passing around the pond.  I saw their faces, one after
another, as they emerged into the moonlight.

Foremost appeared the pale, thin visage of Arens Ringgold; next, the
sinister aquiline features of Spence; and, after him, the broad brutal
face of the bully Williams.

There were _four_--who was the fourth?

"Am I dreaming?--Do my eyes deceive me?  Is it real?  Is it an illusion?
Are my senses gone astray--or is it only a resemblance, a counterpart?
No--no--no!  It is no counterpart, but the man himself!--that black
curling hair, that tawny skin, the form, the gait--all, all are his.  _O
God! it is Yellow Jake_!"

------------------------------------------------------------------------

Note 1.  Literally, "crazy wife," from _Haja_, crazy, and _Ewa_ or
_Awa_, wife.  Philologists have remarked the resemblance of this
Muscogee word to the Hebraic name of the mother of mankind.

Note 2.  "Chief of the snakes"--the rattlesnake is so styled by the
Seminoles, being the most remarkable serpent in their country.  They
have a superstitions dread of this reptile.



CHAPTER THIRTY FOUR.

A PRETTY PLOT.

To dispute the identity was to doubt the evidence of my senses.  The
mulatto was before me--just as I remembered him--though with changed
apparel, and perhaps grown a little bigger in body.  But the features
were the same--that _tout ensemble_ the same as that presented by Yellow
Jake, the _ci-devant_ woodman of our plantation.

And yet how could it _possibly_ be he?  And in the company of Arens
Ringgold too, one of the most active of his intended executioners?  No,
no, no! altogether improbable--utterly impossible!  Then must I be
deluded--my eyes deceiving me--for as certain as I looked upon man, I
was looking upon Jake the mulatto!  He was not twenty feet from where I
lay hidden; his face was full towards me; the moon was shining upon it
with a brilliancy scarcely inferior to the light of day.  I could note
the old expression of evil in his eyes, and mark the play of his
features.  It _was_ Yellow Jake.

To confirm the impression, I remembered that, notwithstanding all
remonstrance and ridicule, the black pertinaciously adhered to his
story.  He would listen to no compromise, no hypothesis founded upon
resemblance.  He had seen Yellow Jake, or his ghost.  This was his firm
belief, and I had been unable to shake it.

Another circumstance I now remember: the strange behaviour of the
Ringgolds during the postprandial conversation--the action of Arens when
I mentioned the mulatto's name.  It had attracted my attention at the
time, but what was I to think now?  Here was a man supposed to be dead,
in company of three others who had been active in assisting at his
death--one of them the very keenest of his executioners, and all four
now apparently as thick as thieves!  How was I to explain, in one
moment, this wonderful resurrection and reconciliation?

I could not explain it--it was too complicated a mystery to be
unravelled by a moment's reflection; and I should have failed, had not
the parties themselves soon after aided me to an elucidation.

I had arrived at the only natural conclusion, and this was, that the
mulatto, notwithstanding the perfect resemblance, _could not be_ Yellow
Jake.  This, of course, would account for everything, after a manner;
and had the four men gone away without parley, I should have contented
myself with this hypothesis.

But they went not, until after affording me an opportunity of
overhearing a conversation, which gave me to know, that, not only was
Yellow Jake _still in the land of the living_, but that Haj-Ewa had
spoken the truth, when she told me _my life was in danger_.

"Damn! he's not here, and yet where can he have gone?"

The ejaculation and interrogative were in the voice of Arens Ringgold,
uttered in a tone of peevish surprise.  Some one was sought for by the
party who could not be found.  Who that was, the next speaker made
manifest.

There was a pause, and then reached my ears the voice of Bill Williams--
which I easily recognised, from having heard it but the day before.

"You are sartint, Master Arens, he didn't sneak back to the fort 'long
wi' the ginral?"

"Sure of it," replied Master Arens; "I was by the gate as they came in.
There were only the two--the general and the commissioner.  But the
question is, did he leave the hommock along with them?  There's where we
played devil's fool with the business--in not getting here in time, and
watching them as they left.  But who'd have thought he was going to stay
behind them; if I had only known that--You say," he continued, turning
to the mulatto--"you say, _Jake_, you came direct from the Indian camp?
He couldn't have passed you on the path."

"_Carajo_!  _Senor_ Aren!  No?"

The voice, the old Spanish expression of profanity, just as I had heard
them in my youth.  If there had been doubt of the identity, it was gone.
The testimony of my ears confirmed that of my eyes.  The speaker was
Yellow Jake.

"Straight from Seminole come.  Cat no pass me on the road; I see her.
Two chiefs me meet.  I hide under the palmettoes; they no me see.
_Carrambo_! no."

"Deuce take it! where can he have gone!  There's no signs of him here.
I know he _might have a reason_ for paying a visit to the Indians--that
I know; but how has he got round there without Jake seeing him!"

"What's to hinder him to hev goed round the tother road?"

"By the open plain?"

"Yes--that away."

"No--he would not be likely.  There's only one way I can explain it: he
must have come as far as the gate along with the general, and then kept
down the stockade, and past the sutler's house--that's likely enough."

This was said by Ringgold in a sort of half soliloquy.

"Devils?" he exclaimed in an impatient tone, "we'll not get such a
chance soon again."

"Ne'er a fear, Master Arens," said Williams--"ne'er a fear.  Plenty o'
chances, I kalkerlate--gobs o' chances sech times as these."

"We'll make chances," pithily added Spence, who now spoke for the first
time in my hearing.

"Ay, but here was a chance for _Jake--he_ must do it, boys; neither of
you must have a hand in it.  It _might leak out_; and then we'd all be
in a pretty pickle.  Jake can do it, and not harm himself, for _he's
dead_, you know, and the law can't reach him!  Isn't it so, my yellow
boy?"

"_Carrambo! si, senor_.  No fear have, Don Aren Ringgol; 'for long, I
opportunity find.  Jake you get rid of enemy--never hear more of him;
soon Yellow Jake good chance have.  Yesterday miss.  She bad gun, Don
Aren--not worth shuck gun."

"He has not yet returned inside the fort," remarked Ringgold, again
speaking in a half soliloquy.  "I think he has not.  If no, then he
should be at the camp.  He must go back to-night.  It may be after the
moon goes down.  He must cross the open ground in the darkness.  You
hear, Jake, what I am saying?"

"Si, senor; Jake hear all."

"And you know how to profit by the hint, eh?"

"_Carrambo_! si, senor.  Jake know."

"Well, then, we must return.  Hear me, Jake--if--"

Here the voice of the speaker fell into a half whisper, and I could not
hear what was said.  Occasionally there were phrases muttered so loudly
that I could catch their sound, and from what had already transpired,
was enabled to apprehend something of their signification.  I heard
frequently pronounced the names of Viola the quadroon, and that of my
own sister; the phrases--"only one that stands in our way,"--"mother
easily consent,"--"when I am master of the plantation,"--"pay you two
hundred dollars."

These, with others of like import, satisfied me that between the two
fiends some contract for the taking of my life had already been formed;
and that this muttered dialogue was only a repetition of the terms of
the hideous bargain!

No wonder that the cold sweat was oozing from my temples, and standing
in bead-like drops upon my brow.  No wonder that I sat upon my perch
shaking like an aspen--far less with fear than with horror at the
contemplated crime--absolute horror.  I might have trembled in a greater
degree, but that my nerves were to some extent stayed by the terrible
indignation that was swelling up within my bosom.

I had sufficient command of my temper to remain silent; it was prudent I
did so; had I discovered myself at that moment, I should never have left
the ground alive.  I felt certain of this, and took care to make no
noise that might betray my presence.

And yet it was hard to hear four men coolly conspiring against one's
life--plotting and bargaining it away like a piece of merchandise--each
expecting some profit from the speculation!

My wrath was as powerful as my fears--almost too strong for prudence.
There were four of them, all armed.  I had sword and pistols; but this
would not have made me a match for four desperadoes such as they.  Had
there been only two of them--only Ringgold and the mulatto--so desperate
was my indignation, at that moment, I should have leaped from the tree
and risked the encounter _coute qui coute_.

But I disobeyed the promptings of passion, and remained silent till they
had moved away.

I observed that Ringgold and his brace of bullies went towards the fort,
while the mulatto took the direction of the Indian camp.



CHAPTER THIRTY FIVE.

LIGHT AFTER DARKNESS.

I stirred not till they were gone--till long after.  In fact, my mind
was in a state of bewilderment, that for some moments hindered me either
from acting or thinking; and I sat as if glued to the branch.
Reflection came at length, and I began to speculate upon what I had just
heard and seen.

Was it a farce to frighten me?  No, no--they were not the characters of
a farce--not one of the four; and the re-appearance of Yellow Jake,
partaking as it did of the wild and supernatural, was too dramatic, too
serious to form an episode in comedy.

On the contrary, I had just listened to the prologue of an intended
tragedy, of which I was myself to be the victim.  Beyond doubt, these
men had a design upon my life!

Four men, too, not one of whom could charge me with ever having done him
a serious injury.  I knew that all four disliked me, and ever had--
though Spence and Williams could have no other cause of offence than
what might spring from boyish grudge--long-forgotten by me; but
doubtless their motive was Ringgold's.  As for the mulatto, I could
understand his hostility; though mistaken, it was of the deadliest kind.

But what was I to think of Arens Ringgold, the leader in this designed
assassination?  A man of some education--my equal in social rank--a
gentleman!

O Arens Ringgold--Arens Ringgold!  How was I to explain it?  How account
for conduct so atrocious, so fiendish?

I knew that this young man liked me but little--of late less than ever.
I knew the cause too.  I stood in the way of his relations with my
sister--at least so thought he.  And he had reason; for, since my
father's death, I had spoken more freely of family affairs.  I had
openly declared that, with my consent, he should never be my brother;
and this declaration had reached him.  I could easily believe,
therefore, that he was angry with me; but anger that would impel a man
to such demoniac purpose, I could not comprehend.

And what meant those half-heard phrases--"one that stands in our way,"
"mother easily consent," "master of the plantation," coupled with the
names of Viola and my sister?  What meant they?

I could give them but one, and that a terrible interpretation--too
fearful to dwell upon.

I could scarcely credit my senses, scarcely believe that I was not
labouring under some horrid hallucination, some confusion of the brain
produced by my having been _en rapport_ with the maniac!

But no; the moon had been over them--my eyes open upon them--my ears
open, and could not have deceived me.  I saw what they did--I heard what
they said.  They designed to kill me!

"Ho, ho, young mico, you may come down.  The _honowaw-hulwa_ [bad men]
are gone.  _Hinklas_!  Come down, pretty mico--down, down, down!"

I hastened to obey, and stood once more in the presence of the mad
queen.

"Now you believe Haj-Ewa?  Have an enemy, young mico?  Ho--four enemies.
Your life in danger?  Ho? ho?"

"Ewa, you have saved my life; how am I to thank you for the service you
have done me?"

"Be true to _her_--true--true--true."

"To whom?"

"Great Spirit! he has forgotten her!  False young mico! false pale-face!
Why did I save him?  Why did I not let his blood fall to the ground?"

"Ewa!"

"_Hulwak, hulwak_!  Poor forest-bird! the beauty-bird of all; her heart
will sicken and die, her head will go mad."

"Ewa, explain."

"_Hulwak_! better he should die than desert her.  Ho, ho! false
pale-face, would that he had died before he broke poor Ewa's heart; then
Ewa would have lost only her heart; but her head--her head, that is
worse.  Ho, ho, ho!

  "Why did I trust in a pale-faced lover?
          Ho, ho, ho!
  Why did I meet him--"

"Ewa," I exclaimed with an earnestness that caused the woman to leave
off her wild song, "tell me! of whom do you speak?"

"Great Spirit, hear what he asks!  Of whom?--of whom? there is more than
one.  Ho, ho! there is more than one, and the true one forgotten.
_Hulwak, hulwak_! what shall Ewa say?  What tale can Ewa tell?  Poor
bird! her heart will bleed, and her brain be crushed.  Ho, ho!  There
will be two Haj-Ewas--two mad queens of the Micosaucs."

"For Heaven's sake! keep me not in suspense.  Tell me, Ewa, good Ewa, of
whom are you speaking?  Is it--"

The name trembled upon my tongue; I hesitated to pronounce it.
Notwithstanding that my heart was full of delightful hope, from the
confidence I felt of receiving an affirmative answer, I dreaded to put
the question.

Not a great while did I hesitate; I had gone too far to recede.  I had
long waited to satisfy the wish of a yearning heart; I could wait no
longer.  Ewa might give me the satisfaction.  I pronounced the words:

"Is it--Maumee?"

The maniac gazed upon me for some moments without speaking.  The
expression of her eye I could not read; for the last few minutes, it had
been one of reproach and scorn.  As I uttered the name, it changed to a
look of bewilderment; and then her glance became fixed upon me, as if
searching my thoughts.

"If it be Maumee," I continued, without awaiting her reply--for I was
now carried away by the ardour of my resuscitated passion--"if it be
she, know, Ewa, that her I love--Maumee I love."

"You love Maumee?  You still love Maumee?" interrogated the maniac with
startling quickness.

"Ay, Ewa--by my life--by my--"

"_Cooree, cooree_! swear not--_his_ very oath.  _Hulwak_! and he was
false.  Speak again, young mico? say you love Maumee--say you are true,
but do not swear."

"True--true?"

"Hinklas!" cried the woman in a loud and apparently joyful
tone--"_Hinklas_! the mico is true--the pretty pale-faced mico is true,
and the _haintclitz_ [the pretty one] will be happy."

          Ho, ho!
  Now for the love, the sweet young love
      Under the tala tree [Palm, _Chamaerops palmetto_].
  Who would not be like yonder dove--
          The wild little dove--
          The soft little dove--
  Sitting close by his mate in the shade of the grove--
  Co-cooing to his mate in the shade of the grove,
      With none to hear or see?

"Down, _chitta mico_!" she exclaimed, once more addressing the
rattlesnake; "and you, _ocola chitta_!  [Green snake.]  Be quiet both.
It is _not_ an enemy.  Quiet, or I crush your heads!"

"Good Ewa--"

"Ho! you call me good Ewa.  Some day, you may call me bad Ewa.  Hear
me!" she continued, raising her voice, and speaking with increased
earnestness--"hear me, George Randolph!  If ever you are bad--false like
_him_, like _him_, then Haj-Ewa will be your enemy; _chitta mico_ will
destroy you.  You will, my king of serpents? you will?  Ho, ho, ho!"

As she spoke the reptile appeared to comprehend her, for its head was
suddenly raised aloft, its bright basilisk eyes gleamed as though
emitting sparks of fire--its forked, glittering tongue was protruded
from its mouth, and the "skirr-rr" of the rattles could be heard for
some moments sounding continuously.

"Quiet! now quiet!" said she, with a motion of her fingers, causing the
serpent to resume its attitude of repose.  "Not he, _chitta_! not he,
thou king of the crawlers!  Quiet, I say!"

"Why do you threaten me, Ewa?  You have no cause."

"_Hinklas_!  I believe it, fair mico, gallant mico; true, I believe it."

"But, good Ewa, explain to me--tell me of--"

"_Cooree, cooree_! not now, not to-night.  There is no time,
_chepawnee_!  See! look yonder to the west!  _Netle-hasse_ [the night
sun--the moon] is going to bed.  You must be gone.  You dare not walk in
the darkness.  You must get back to the _topekee_ before the moon is
hid--go, go, go!"

"But I told you, Ewa, I had business here.  I dare not leave till it is
done."

"_Hulwak_! there is danger then.  What business, mico!  Ah!  I guess.
See! they come for whom you wait?"

"True--it is they, I believe."

I said this, as I perceived the tall shadows of the two chiefs flitting
along the further edge of the pond.

"Be quick, then: do what you must, but waste not time.  In the darkness
you will meet danger.  Haj-Ewa must be gone.  Good night, young mico:
good night."

I returned the salutation; and facing round to await the arrival of the
chiefs, lost sight of my strange companion.

The Indians soon came upon the ground, and briefly delivered their
report.

Holata Mico had struck his tents, and was moving away from the
encampment.

I was too much disgusted with these traitorous men to spend a moment in
their company; and, as soon as I had gained the required information, I
hurried away from their presence.

Warned by Haj-Ewa, as well as by the words of Arens Ringgold, I lost no
time in returning to the fort.  The moon was still above the horizon;
and I had the advantage of her light to protect me from being surprised
by any sudden onset.

I walked hastily, taking the precaution to keep in the open ground, and
giving a wide berth to any covert that might shelter an assassin.

I saw no one on the way, nor around the back of the stockade.  On
arriving opposite the gate of the fort, however, I perceived the figure
of a man--not far from the sutler's store--apparently skulking behind
some logs.  I fancied I knew the man; I fancied he was the mulatto.

I would have gone after him, and satisfied myself; but I had already
hailed the sentinel, and given the countersign; and I did not desire to
cause a flurry among the guard--particularly as I had received
injunctions to pass in as privately as possible.

Another time, I should likely encounter this Jacob _redivivus_; when I
should be less embarrassed, and perhaps have a better opportunity of
calling him and his diabolical associates to an account.  With this
reflection, I passed through the gate, and carried my report to the
quarters of the commander-in-chief.



CHAPTER THIRTY SIX.

IN NEED OF A FRIEND.

To pass the night under the same roof with a man who intends to murder
you is anything but pleasant, and repose under the circumstance, is next
to impossible.  I slept but little, and the little sleep I did obtain
was not tranquil.

Before retiring for the night, I had seen nothing of the Ringgolds,
neither father nor son; but I knew they were still in the fort, where
they were to remain as guests a day or two longer.  They had either gone
to bed before my return, or were entertained in the quarters of some
friendly officer.  At all events, they did not appear to me during the
remainder of the night.

Neither saw I aught of Spence and Williams.  These worthies, if in the
fort, would find a lodgment among the soldiers, but I did not seek them.

Most of the night I lay awake, pondering on the strange incidents of the
day, or rather upon that one episode that had made me acquainted with
such deadly enemies.

I was in a state of sad perplexity as to what course I should pursue--
uncertain all night long; and when daylight shone through the shutters,
still uncertain.

My first impulse had been to disclose the whole affair at head-quarters,
and demand an investigation--a punishment.

On reflection, this course would not do.  What proofs could I offer of
so grave an accusation?  Only my own assertions, unbacked by any other
evidence--unsustained even by probability--for who would have given
credence to crime so unparalleled in atrocity?

Though certain the assassins referred to me, I could not assert that
they had even mentioned my name.  My story would be treated with
ridicule, myself perhaps with something worse.  The Ringgolds were
mighty men--personal friends both of the general and commissioner--and
though known to be a little scoundrelly and unscrupulous in worldly
affairs, still holding the rank of gentlemen.  It would need better
evidence than I could offer to prove Arens Ringgold a would-be murderer.

I saw the difficulty, and kept my secret.

Another plan appeared more feasible--to accuse Arens Ringgold openly
before all, and challenge him to mortal combat.  This, at least, would
prove that I was sincere in my allegations.

But duelling was against the laws of the service.  It would require some
management to keep clear of an arrest--which of course would frustrate
the scheme before satisfaction could be obtained.  I had my own thoughts
about Master Arens Ringgold.  I knew his courage was but slippery.  He
would be likely enough to play the poltroon; but whether so or not, the
charge and challenge would go some way towards exposing him.

I had almost decided on adopting this course, though it was morning
before I had come to any determination.

I stood sadly in need of a friend; not merely a second--for this I could
easily procure--but a companion in whom I could confide, and who might
aid me by his counsel.  As ill luck would have it, every officer in the
fort was a perfect stranger to me.  With the Ringgolds alone had I any
previous acquaintance.

In my dilemma, I thought of one whose advice might stand me in good
stead, and I determined to seek it.  Black Jake was the man--he should
be my counsellor.

Shortly after daylight the brave fellow was by my side.  I told him all.
He appeared very little surprised.  Some suspicion of such a plot had
already taken possession of his mind, and it was his intention to have
revealed it to me that very morning.  Least of all did he express
surprise about Yellow Jake.  That was but the confirmation of a belief,
which he entertained already, without the shadow of a doubt.  He knew
positively that the mulatto was living--still more, he had ascertained
the mode by which the latter had made his almost miraculous escape.

And yet it was simple enough.  The alligator had seized him, as was
supposed; but the fellow had the adroitness to "job" its eyes with the
knife, and thus cause it to let go its hold.  He had followed the
example of the young Indian, using the same weapon!

This occurred under water, for the mulatto was a good diver.  His limbs
were lacerated--hence the blood--but the wounds did not signify, nor did
they hinder him from making further efforts to escape.

He took care not to rise to the surface until after swimming under the
bank; there, concealed by the drooping branches, he had glided out, and
climbed up into a live-oak--where the moss sheltered him from the eyes
of his vengeful pursuers.  Being entirely naked, there was no sign left
by dripping garments, to betray him; besides, the blood upon the water
had proved his friend.  On seeing that, the hunters were under the full
belief that he had "gone under," and therefore took but little pains to
search further.

Such was Black Jake's account of this affair.  He had obtained it the
evening before from one of the friendly Indians at the fort, who
professed to have the narration from the mulatto's own lips.

There was nothing improbable in the story, but the contrary.  In all
likelihood, it was strictly true; and it at once dispersed the
half-dozen mysteries that had gathered in my mind.

The black had received other information.  The runaway had taken refuge
with one of the half-negro tribes established amid the swamps that
envelop the head-waters of the Amazura.  He had found favour among his
new associates, had risen to be a chief, and now passed under the
cognomen of the "Mulatto-mica."

There was still a little mystery: how came he and Arens Ringgold in
"cahoot?"

After all, there was not much puzzle in the matter.  The planter had no
particular cause for hating the runaway.  His activity during the scene
of the baffled execution was all a sham.  The mulatto had more reason
for resentment; but the loves or hates of such men are easily set
aside--where self-interest interferes--and can, at any time, be commuted
for gold.

No doubt, the white villain had found the yellow one of service in some
base undertaking, and _vice versa_.  At all events, it was evident that
the "hatchet had been buried" between them, and their present relations
were upon the most friendly footing.

"Jake!" said I, coming to the point on which I desired to hear his
opinion, "what about Arens Ringgold--shall I call him out?"

"Golly, Massr George, he am out long 'go--I see um 'bout, dis two hour
an' more--dat ar bossy doant sleep berry sound--he hant got de good
conscience, I reck'n."

"Oh! that is not what I mean, my man."

"Wha--what massr mean?"

"To call him out--challenge him to fight me."

"Whaugh! massr, d'you mean to say a dewel ob sword an' pistol?"

"Swords, pistols, or rifles--I care not which weapon he may choose."

"Gorramity!  Massr George, don't talk ob such a thing.  O Lordy! no--you
hab moder--you hab sister.  'Spose you get kill--who know--tha bullock
he sometime kill tha butcha--den, Massr George, no one lef--who lef take
care on ya moder?--who be guardium ob ya sister Vagin? who 'tect Viola--
who 'tect all ob us from dese bad bad men?  Gorramity! massr, let um
lone--doant call 'im out!"

At that moment, I was myself called out.  The earnest appeal was
interrupted by the braying of bugles and the rolling of drums,
announcing the assembling of the council; and without waiting to reply
to the disinterested remonstrance of my companion, I hastened to the
scene of my duties.



CHAPTER THIRTY SEVEN.

THE FINAL ASSEMBLY.

The spectacle of yesterday was repeated: the troops in serried lines of
blue and steel--the officers in full uniform with shining epaulettes--in
the centre the staff grouped around the general, close buttoned and of
brilliant sheen; fronting these the half-circle of chiefs, backed by
concentric lines of warriors, plumed, painted, and picturesque--horses
standing near, some neighing under ready saddles, some picketed and
quietly browsing--Indian women in their long _hunnas_, hurrying to and
fro--boys and babes at play upon the grass--flags waring above the
soldiers--banners and pennons floating over the heads of the red
warriors--drums beating--bugles braying; such was the array.

Again the spectacle was imposing, yet scarcely so much as that of the
preceding day.  The eye at once detected a deficiency in the circle of
the chiefs, and nearly half of the warriors were wanting.  The
assemblage no longer impressed you with the idea of a multitude--it was
only a respectable crowd, with room enough for all to gather close
around the council.

The absence of many chiefs was at once perceived.  King Onopa was not
there.  The coronet of British brass--lacquered symbol of royalty,
yesterday conspicuous in the centre--was no longer to be seen.  Holato
Mico was missing, with other leaders of less note; and the thinness in
the ranks of the common warriors showed that these chiefs had taken
their followers along with them.  Most of the Indians on the ground
appeared to be of the clans of Omatla, "Black Dirt," and Ohala.

Notwithstanding the fewness of their following, I saw that
Hoitle-mattee, Arpiucki, negro Abram, and the dwarf were present.
Surely these stayed not to sign?

I looked for Osceola.  It was not difficult to discover one so
conspicuous, both in figure and feature.  He formed the last link in the
now contracted curve of the chiefs.  He was lowest in rank, but this did
not signify, as regarded his position.  Perhaps he had placed himself
there from a feeling of modesty--a well-known characteristic of the man.
He was in truth the very youngest of the chiefs, and by birthright
entitled to a smaller command than any present; but, viewing him as he
stood--even at the bottom of the rank--one could not help fancying that
he was the head of all.

As upon the preceding day, there was no appearance of bravado about him.
His attitude, though stately and statuesque, was one of perfect ease.
His arms were folded over his full chest--his weight resting on one
limb, the other slightly retired--his features in repose, or now and
then lit up by an expression rather of gentleness.  He seemed the
impersonation of an Apollo--or, to speak less mythologically, a
well-behaved gentleman waiting for some ceremony, of which he was to be
a simple spectator.  As yet, nothing had transpired to excite him; no
words had been uttered to rouse a spirit that only _seemed_ to slumber.

Ere long, that attitude of repose would pass away--that soft smile would
change to the harsh frown of passion.

Gazing upon his face, one could hardly fancy such a transformation
possible, and yet a close observer might.  It was like the placid sky
that precedes the storm--the calm ocean that in a moment may be
convulsed by the squall--the couchant lion that on the slightest
provocation may be roused to ungovernable rage.

During the moments that preceded the inauguration of the council, I kept
my eyes upon the young chief.  Other eyes were regarding him as well; he
was the cynosure of many, but mine was a gaze of peculiar interest.

I looked for some token of recognition, but received none--neither nod
nor glance.  Once or twice, his eye fell upon me, but passed on to some
one else, as though I was but one among the crowd of his pale-faced
adversaries.  He appeared not to remember me.  Was this really so? or
was it, that his mind, preoccupied with great thoughts, hindered him
from taking notice?

I did not fail to cast my eyes abroad--over the plain--to the tents--
towards the groups of loitering women.  I scanned their forms, one after
another.

I fancied I saw the mad queen in their midst--a centre of interest.  I
had hopes that her _protegee_ might be near, but no.  None of the
figures satisfied my eye: they were all too _squaw-like_--too short or
too tall--too corpulent or too _maigre_.  She was not there.  Even under
the loose _hunna_ I should have recognised her splendid form--_if still
unchanged_.

If--the hypothesis excites your surprise.  Why changed, you ask?
Growth?--development?--maturity?  Rapid in this southern clime is the
passage from maiden's form to that of matron.

No; not that, not that.  Though still so young, the undulating outlines
had already shown themselves.  When I last looked upon her, her stature
had reached its limits; her form exhibited the bold curve of Hogarth, so
characteristic of womanhood complete.  Not that did I fear.

And what then?  The contrary?  Change from attenuation--from illness or
grief?  Nor this.

I cannot explain the suspicions that racked me--sprung from a stray
speech.  That jay bird, that yestreen chattered so gaily, had poured
poison into my heart.  But no; it could not be Maumee?  She was too
innocent.  Ah! why do I rave?  There is no guilt in love.  If true--if
she--hers was not crime; he alone was the guilty one.

I have ill described the torture I experienced, consequent upon my
unlucky "eaves-dropping."  During the whole of the preceding days it had
been a source of real suffering.  I was in the predicament of one who
had, heard too much, and to little.

You will scarcely wonder that the words of Haj-Ewa cheered me; they
drove the unworthy suspicion out of my mind, and inspired me with fresh
hopes.  True, she had mentioned no name till I myself had pronounced it;
but to whom could her speech refer?  "Poor bird of the forest--her heart
will bleed and break."  She spoke of the "Rising Sun:" that was Osceola,
who could the "haintclitz" be? who but Maumee?

It might be but a tale of bygone days--a glimpse of the past deeply
impressed upon the brain of the maniac, and still living in her memory.
This was possible.  Haj-Ewa had known us in these days, had often met us
in our wild wood rambles, had even been with us upon the island--for the
mad queen could paddle her canoe with skill, could ride her wild steed,
could go anywhere, went everywhere.

It might only be a souvenir of these happy days that caused her to speak
as she had done--in the chaos of her intellect, mistaking the past for
the present.  Heaven forbid!

The thought troubled me, but not long; for I did not long entertain it.
I clung to the pleasanter belief.  Her words were sweet as honey, and
formed a pleasing counterpoise to the fear I might otherwise have felt,
on discovering the plot against my life.  With the knowledge that Maumee
once loved--still loved me--I could brave dangers a hundred-fold greater
than that.  It is but a weak heart that would not be gallant under the
influence of love.  Encouraged by the smiles of a beautiful mistress,
even cowards can be brave.  Arens Ringgold was standing by my side.
Entrained in the crowd, our garments touched; we conversed together!

He was even more polite to me than was his wont--more _friendly_!  His
speech scarcely betrayed the habitual cynicism of his nature; though,
whenever I looked him in the face, his eye quailed, and his glance
sought the ground.

For all that, he had no suspicion--not the slightest--that I knew I was
side by side with the man who designed to murder me.



CHAPTER THIRTY EIGHT.

CASHIERING THE CHIEFS.

To-day the commissioner showed a bolder front.  A bold part had he
resolved to play, but he felt sure of success; and consequently there
was an air of triumph in his looks.  He regarded the chiefs with the
imperious glance of one determined to command them; confident they would
yield obedience to his wishes.

At intervals his eye rested upon Osceola with a look of peculiar
significance, at once sinister and triumphant.  I was in the secret of
that glance: I guessed its import; I knew that it boded no good to the
young Seminole chief.  Could I have approached him at that moment, I
should have held duty but lightly, and whimpered in his ear a word of
warning.

I was angry with myself that I had not thought of this before.  Haj-Ewa
could have borne a message on the previous night; why did I not send it?
My mind had been too full.  Occupied with my own thoughts, I had not
thought of the danger that threatened my friend--for in this light I
still regarded Powell.

I had no exact knowledge of what was meant; though, from the
conversation I had overheard, I more than half divined the
commissioner's purpose.  Upon some plea, _Osceola was to be arrested_.

A plea was needed; the outrage could not be perpetrated without one.
Even the reckless agent might not venture upon such a stretch of power
without plausible pretext; and how was this pretext to be obtained?

The withdrawal of Onopa and the "hostiles," while Omatla with the
"friendlies" remained, had given the agent the opportunity.  _Osceola
himself was to furnish the plea_.

Would that I could have whispered in his ear one word of caution!

It was too late: the toils had been laid--the trap set; and the noble
game was about to enter it.  It was too late for me to warn him.  I must
stand idly by--spectator to an act of injustice--a gross violation of
right.

A table was placed in front of the ground occupied by the general and
staff; the commissioner stood immediately behind it.  Upon this table
was an inkstand with pens; while a broad parchment, exhibiting the
creases of many folds, was spread out till it occupied nearly the whole
surface.  This parchment was the treaty of the Oclawaha.

"Yesterday," began the commissioner, without further preamble, "we did
nothing but talk--to-day we are met to act.  This," said he, pointing to
the parchment, "is the treaty of Payne's Landing.  I hope you have all
considered what I said yesterday, and are ready to sign it?"

"We have considered," replied Omatla for himself and those of his party.
"We are ready to sign."

"Onopa is head chief," suggested the commissioner; "let him sign first.
Where is Miconopa?" he added, looking around the circle with feigned
surprise.

"The mico-mico is not here."

"And why not here?  He should have been here.  Why is he absent?"

"He is sick--he is not able to attend the council."

"That is a _lie_, Jumper.  Miconopa is shamming--you know he is."

The dark brow of Hoitle-mattee grew darker at the insult, while his body
quivered with rage.  A grunt of disdain was all the reply he made, and
folding his arms, he drew back into his former attitude.

"Abram! you are Miconopa's private counsellor--you know his intentions.
Why has he absented himself?"

"O Massr Ginral!" replied the black in broken English, and speaking
without much show of respect for his interrogator, "how shed ole Abe
know the 'tention of King Nopy?  The mico no tell me ebberting--he go he
please--he come he please--he great chief; he no tell nobody his
'tention."

"Does he intend to sign?  Say yes or no."

"No, den!" responded the interpreter, in a firm voice, as if forced to
the answer.  "That much ob his mind Abe _do_ know.  He no 'tend to sign
that ar dockament.  He say no, no."

"Enough!" cried the commissioner in a loud voice--"enough!  Now hear me,
chiefs and warriors of the Seminole nation!  I appear before you armed
with a power from your Great Father the President--he who is chief of us
all.  That power enables me to punish for disloyalty and disobedience;
and I now exercise that right upon Miconopa.  _He is no longer king of
the Seminoles_!"

This unexpected announcement produced an effect upon the audience
similar to that of an electric shock.  It started the chiefs and
warriors into new attitudes, and all stood looking eagerly at the
speaker.  But the expression upon their faces was not of like import--it
varied much.  Some showed signs of anger as well as surprise.  A few
appeared pleased, while the majority evidently received the announcement
with incredulity.

Surely the commissioner was jesting?  How could _he_ make or unmake a
king of the Seminoles?  How could the Great Father himself do this?  The
Seminoles were a free nation; they were not even tributary to the
whites--under no political connection whatever.  They themselves could
alone elect their king--they only could depose him.  Surely the
commissioner was jesting?

Not at all.  In another moment, they perceived he was in earnest.
Foolish as was the project of deposing King Onopa, he entertained it
seriously.  He had resolved to carry it into execution; and as far as
decrees went, he did so without further delay.

"Omatla! you have been faithful to your word and your honour; you are
worthy to head a brave nation.  From this time forth, _you_ are King of
the Seminoles.  Our Great Father, and the people of the United States,
hail you as such; they will acknowledge no other.  Now--let the signing
proceed."

At a gesture from the commissioner, Omatla stepped forward to the table,
and taking the pen in his hand, wrote his name upon the parchment.

The act was done in perfect silence.  But one voice broke the deep
stillness--one word only was heard uttered with angry aspirate; it was
the word "traitor."

I looked round to discover who had pronounced it; the hiss was still
quivering upon the lips of Osceola; while his eye was fixed on Omatla
with a glance of ineffable scorn.

"Black Crazy Clay" next took the pen, and affixed his signature, which
was done by simply making his "mark."

After him follower Ohala, Itolasse Omatla, and about a dozen--all of
whom were known as the chiefs that favoured the scheme of removal.

The hostile chiefs--whether by accident or design I know not--stood
together, forming the left wing of the semi-circle.  It was now their
turn to declare themselves.

Hoitle-mattee was the first about whose signing the commissioner
entertained any doubt.  There was a pause, significant of apprehension.

"It is your turn, Jumper," said the latter at length, addressing the
chief by his English name.

"You may _jump_ me, then," replied the eloquent and witty chief, making
a jest of what he meant for earnest as well.

"How? you refuse to sign?"

"Hoitle-mattee does not write."

"It is not necessary; your name is already written; you have only to
place your finger upon it."

"I might put my finger on the wrong place."

"You can sign by making a cross," continued the agent, still in hopes
that the chief would consent.

"We Seminoles have but little liking for the cross; we had enough of it
in the days of the Spaniards.  _Hulwak_!"

"Then you positively refuse to sign?"

"Ho!  Mister Commissioner does it surprise you?"

"Be it so, then.  Now hear what I have to say to you."

"Hoitle-mattee's ears are as open as the commissioner's mouth," was the
sneering rejoinder.

"I depose Hoitle-mattee from the chieftainship of his clan.  The Great
Father will no longer recognise him as chief of the Seminoles."

"Ha, ha, ha!" came the scornful laugh in reply.  "Indeed--indeed!  And
tell me," he asked, still continuing to laugh, and treating with
derision the solemn enunciation of the commissioner, "of whom am I to be
chief, General Thompson."

"I have pronounced," said the agent, evidently confused and nettled by
the ironical manner of the Indian; "you are no more a chief--we will not
acknowledge you as one."

"But my people?--what of them?" asked the other in a fine tone of irony;
"have they nothing to say in this matter?"

"Your people will act with reason.  They will listen to their Great
Father's advice.  They will no longer obey a leader who has acted
without faith."

"You say truly, agent," replied the chief, now speaking seriously.  "My
people will act with reason, but they will also act with patriotism and
fidelity.  Do not flatter yourself on the potency of our Great Father's
advice.  If it be given as a father's counsel, they will listen to it;
if not, they will shut their ears against it.  As to your disposal of
myself, I only laugh at the absurdity of the act.  I treat both act and
agent with scorn.  I have no dread of your power.  I have no fear of the
loyalty of my people.  Sow dissension among them as you please; you have
been successful elsewhere in making traitors,"--here the speaker glared
towards Omatla and his warriors--"but I disregard your machinations.
There is not a man in my tribe that will turn his back upon
Hoitle-mattee--not one."

The orator ceased speaking, and, folding his arms, fell back into an
attitude of silent defiance.  He saw that the commissioner had done with
him, for the latter was now appealing to Abram for his signature.

The black's first answer was a decided negative--simply "No."  When
urged to repeat his refusal, he added:

"No--by Jovah!  I nebber sign the damned paper--nebber.  Dat's enuf--
aint it, Bossy Thompson?"

Of course, this put an end to the appeal, and Abram was "scratched" from
the list of chiefs.

Arpiucki followed next, and "Cloud" and the "Alligator," and then the
dwarf Poshalla.  All these refused their signatures, and were in turn
formally deposed from their dignities.  So, likewise, were Holata Mico
and others who were absent.

Most of the chiefs only laughed as they listened to the wholesale
cashiering.  It was ludicrous enough to hear this puny office holder of
an hour pronounce edicts with all the easy freedom of an emperor!  [Note
1.]

Poshala, the last who had been disgraced, laughed like the others; but
the dwarf had a bitter tongue, and could not refrain from a rejoinder.

"Tell the fat agent," cried he to the interpreter--"tell him that I
shall be chief of the Seminoles when the rank weeds are growing over his
great carcass--ha, ha!"

The rough speech was not carried to the ears of the commissioner.  He
did not even hear the scornful cachinnation that followed it, for his
attention was now entirely occupied with one individual--the youngest of
the chiefs--the last in the line--Osceola.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

Note 1.  The United States government afterwards disapproved of this
absurd dethronement of the chiefs; but there is no doubt that Thompson
acted under secret instructions from the President.



CHAPTER THIRTY NINE.

THE SIGNATURE OF OSCEOLA.

Up to this moment the young chief had scarcely spoken; only when Charles
Omatla took hold of the pen he had hissed out the word traitor.

He had not remained all the time in the same attitude, neither had his
countenance shown him indifferent to what was passing.  There was no
constraint either in his gestures or looks--no air of affected
stoicism--for this was not his character.  He had laughed at the wit of
Jumper, and applauded the patriotism of Abram and the others, as
heartily as he had frowned disapproval of the conduct of the traitors.

It was now his turn to declare himself, and he stood, with modest mien,
in the expectation of being asked.  All the others had been appealed to
by name--for the names of all were well-known to the agent and his
interpreters.

I need hardly state that at this crisis silence was on tiptoe.
Throughout the ranks of the soldiery--throughout the crowd of warriors--
everywhere--there was a moment of breathless expectancy, as if every
individual upon the ground was imbued with the presentiment of a scene.

For my part I felt satisfied that an explosion was about to take place;
and, like the rest, I stood spell-bound with expectation.

The commissioner broke the silence with the words:

"At last we have come to you, _Powell_.  Before proceeding further, let
me ask--Are you acknowledged as a _chief_?"

There was insult in the tone, the manner, the words.  It was direct and
intended, as the countenance of the speaker clearly showed.  There was
malice in his eye--malice mingled with the confidence of prospective
triumph.

The interrogation was irrelevant, superfluous.  Thompson knew well that
Powell was a chief--a sub-chief, it is true, but still a chief--a
war-chief of the Redsticks, the most warlike tribe of the nation.  The
question was put for mere provocation.  The agent tempted an outburst of
that temper that all knew to be none of the gentlest.

Strange to say, the insult failed in its effect, or it seemed so.  They
who expected an angry answer were doomed to disappointment.  Osceola
made no reply.  Only a peculiar smile was observed upon his features.
It was not of anger, nor yet of scorn: it was rather a smile of silent,
lordly contempt--the look which a gentleman would bestow upon a
blackguard who is abusing him.  Those who witnessed it were left under
the impression that the young chief regarded his insulter as beneath the
dignity of a reply, and the insult too gross, as it really was, to be
answered.  Such impression had I, in common with others around me.

Osceola's look, might have silenced the commissioner, or, at least, have
caused him to have changed his tactics, had he been at all sensitive to
derision.  But no--the vulgar soul of the plebeian official was closed
against shame, as against justice; and without regarding the repulse, he
pressed on with his plan.

"I ask, are you a chief?" continued he, repeating the interrogatory in a
still more insulting tone.  "Have you the right to sign?"

This time his questions were answered, and by a dozen voices at once.
Chieftains in the ring, and warriors who stood behind it; shouted in
reply:

"The Rising Sun?--a chief!  He _is_ a chief.  He has the right to sign."

"Why call his right in question?" inquired Jumper, with a sneering
laugh.  "Time enough when he wishes to exercise it.  He is not likely to
do that now."

"But I am," said Osceola, addressing himself to the orator, and speaking
with marked emphasis.  "I have the right to sign--_I shall sign_."

It is difficult to describe the effect produced by this unexpected
avowal.  The entire audience--white men as well as red men--was taken by
surprise; and for some moments there was a vibratory movement throughout
the assembly, accompanied by a confused murmur of voices.  Exclamations
were heard on all sides--cries of varied import, according to the
political bias of those who uttered them.  All, however, betokened
astonishment; with some, in tones of joy; with others, in the accents of
chagrin or anger.  Was it Osceola who had spoken?  Had they heard
aright?  Was the "Rising Sun" so soon to sink behind the clouds?  After
all that had transpired--after all he had promised--was _he_ going to
turn traitor?

Such questions passed rapidly among the hostile chiefs and warriors;
while those of the opposite party could scarcely conceal their delight.
All knew that the signing of Osceola would end the affair; and the
removal become a matter of coarse.  The Omatlas would have nothing more
to fear; the hostile warriors, who had sworn it might still resist; but
there was no leader among them who could bind the patriots together as
Osceola had done.  With this defection the spirit of resistance would
become a feeble thing; the patriots might despair.

Jumper, Cloud, Coa Hajo, and Abram, Arpiucki and the dwarf, seemed all
equally stricken with astonishment.  Osceola--he on whom they had
reposed their fullest confidence--the bold designer of the opposition--
the open foe to all who had hitherto advocated the removal--he, the pure
patriot in whom all had believed--whom all had trusted, was now going to
desert them--now, in the eleventh hour, when his defection would be
fatal to their cause.

"He has been bribed," said they.  "His patriotism has been all a sham:
his resistance a cheat.  He has been bought by the agent!  He has been
acting for him all along.  _Holy-waugus!  Iste-hulwa-stchay_.  [bad
man--villain].  'Tis a treason blacker than Omatla's!"

Thus muttered the chiefs to one another, at the same time eyeing Osceola
with the fierce look of tigers.

With regard to Powell's defection, I did not myself know what to make of
it.  He had declared his resolution to sign the treaty; what more was
needed?  That he was ready to do so was evident from his attitude; he
seemed only to wait for the agent to invite him.

As to the commissioner being a party to this intention, I knew he was
nothing of the kind.  Any one who looked in his face, at that moment,
would have acquitted him of all privity to the act.  He was evidently as
much astonished by Osceola's declaration as any one upon the ground, or
even more so; in fact, he seemed bewildered by the unexpected avowal; so
much so, that it was some time before he could make rejoinder.

He at length stammered out:

"Very well, Osceola!  Step forward here, and sign then."

Thompson's tone was changed; he spoke soothingly.  A new prospect was
before him.  Osceola would sign, and thus agree to the removal.  The
business upon which the supreme government had deputed him would thus be
accomplished, and with a dexterity that would redound to his own credit.
"Old Hickory" would be satisfied; and then what next? what next?  Not a
mission to a mere tribe of savages, but an embassy to some high court of
civilisation.  He might yet be ambassador? perhaps to Spain?

Ah!  Wiley Thompson! thy castles in the air (_chateaux en Espagne_) were
soon dissipated.  They fell as suddenly as they had been built; they
broke down like a house of cards.

Osceola stepped forward to the table, and bent over it, as if to scan
the words of the document.  His eyes ran rapidly across the parchment;
he seemed to be searching for some particular place.

He found it--it was a name--he read it aloud: "Charles Omatla."

Raising himself erect, he faced the commissioner; and, in a tone of
irony, asked the latter if he still desired him to sign.

"You have promised, Osceola."

"Then will I keep my promise."

As he spoke the words, he drew his long Spanish knife from its sheath,
and raising it aloft, struck the blade through the parchment till its
point was deep buried in the wood.

"That is my signature!" cried he, as he drew forth the steel.  "See,
Omatla! it is through _your_ name.  Beware, traitor!  Undo what you have
done, or its blade may yet pass through your heart!"

"Oh! that is what he meant," cried the commissioner, rising in rage.
"Good.  I was prepared for this insolence--this outrage.  General
Clinch!--I appeal to you--your soldiers--seize upon him--arrest him!"

These broken speeches I heard amidst the confusion of voices.  I heard
Clinch issue some hurried orders to an officer who stood near.  I saw
half a dozen files separate from the ranks, and rush forward; I saw them
cluster around Osceola--who the next moment was in their grasp.

Not till several of the blue-coated soldiers were sent sprawling over
the ground; not till guns had been thrown aside, and a dozen strong men
had fixed their gripe upon him, did the young chief give over his
desperate struggles to escape; and then apparently yielding, he stood
rigid and immobile, as if his frame had been iron.

It was an unexpected _denouement_--alike unlooked for by either white
men or Indians.  It was a violent proceeding, and altogether
unjustifiable.  This was no court whose judge had the right to arrest
for contempt.  It was a council, and even the insolence of an individual
could not be punished without the concurrence of both parties.  General
Thompson had exceeded his duty--he had exercised a power arbitrary as
illegal.

The scene that followed was so confused as to defy description.  The air
was rent with loud ejaculations; the shouts of men, the screams of the
women, the cries of children, the yells of the Indian warriors, fell
simultaneously upon the ear.  There was no attempt at rescue--that would
have been impossible in the presence of so many troops--so many
traitors; but the patriot chiefs, as they hurried away from the ground,
gave out their wild `Yo-ho-ehee'--the gathering war-word of the Seminole
nation--that in every utterance promised retaliation and revenge.

The soldiers commenced dragging Osceola inside the fort.

"Tyrant!" cried he, fixing his eye upon the commissioner, "you have
triumphed by treachery; but fancy not that this is the end of it.  You
may imprison Osceola--hang him, if you will--but think not that his
spirit will die.  No; it will live, and cry aloud for vengeance.  It
speaks!  Hear ye yonder sounds?  Know ye the `war-cry' of the Redsticks?
Mark it well; for it is not the last time it will ring in your ears.
_Ho--yo-ho-ehee! yo-ho-ehee_!  Listen to it, tyrant! it is your
death-knell--it is your death-knell!"

While giving utterance to these wild threats, the young chief was drawn
through the gate, and hurried off to the guard-house within the
stockade.

As I followed amid the crowd, some one touched me on the arm, as if to
draw my attention.  Turning, I beheld Haj-Ewa.

"To-night, by the we-wa," [spring, pond, water] said she, speaking so as
not to be heard by those around.  "There will be shadows--more shadows
upon the water.  Perhaps--"

I did not hear more; the crowd pressed us apart; and when I looked
again, the mad queen had moved away from the spot.



CHAPTER FORTY.

"FIGHTING GALLAGHER."

The prisoner was confined in a strong, windowless blockhouse.  Access to
him would be easy enough, especially to those who wore epaulets.  It was
my design to visit him; but, for certain reasons, I forbore putting it
in execution, so long as daylight lasted.  I was desirous that my
interview should be as private as possible and therefore waited for the
night.

I was influenced by other reasons; my hands were full of business; I had
not yet done with Arens Ringgold.

I had a difficulty in deciding how to act.  My mind was a chaos of
emotions; hatred for the conspirators--indignation at the unjust
behaviour of the agent towards Osceola--love for Maumee--now fond and
trusting--anon doubting and jealous.  Amid such confusion, how could I
think with clearness?

Withal, one of these emotions had precedence--anger against the villain
who intended to take my life was at that moment the strongest passion in
my breast.

Hostility so heartless, so causeless, so deadly, had not failed to imbue
me with a keen desire for vengeance; and I resolved to punish my enemy
at all hazards.

He only, whose life has been aimed at by an assassin, can understand the
deadly antipathy I felt towards Arens Ringgold.  An open enemy, who acts
under the impulse of anger, jealousy, or fancied wrong, you may respect.
Even the two white wretches, and the yellow runaway, I regarded only
with contempt, as tools pliant for any purpose; but the arch-conspirator
himself I now both hated and despised.  So acute was my sense of injury,
that I could not permit it to pass without some act of retaliation, some
effort to punish my wronger.

But how?  Therein lay the uncertainty!  How?  A duel?

I could think of no other way.  The criminal was still inside the law.
I could not reach him, otherwise than by my own arm.

I well weighed the words of my sable counsellor; but the faithful fellow
had spoken in vain, and I resolved to act contrary to his advice, let
the hazard fall as it might.  I made up my mind to the challenge.

One consideration still caused me to hesitate: _I must give Ringgold my
reasons_.

He should have been welcome to them as a dying souvenir; but if I
succeeded in only _half-killing_ him, or he in half-killing me, how
about the future?  I should be showing my hand to him, by which he would
profit; whereas, unknown to him, I now knew his, and might easily foil
his designs.

Such calculations ran rapidly through my mind, though I considered them
with a coolness that in after-thought surprises me.  The incidents that
I had lately encountered--combined with angry hatred of this plausible
villain--had made me fierce, cold and cruel.  I was no longer myself;
and, wicked as it may appear, I could not control my longings for
vengeance.

I needed a friend to advise me.  Who could I make the confidant of my
terrible secret?

Surely my ears were not deceiving me?  No; it was the voice of my old
school-fellow, Charley Gallagher.  I heard it outside, and recognised
the ring of his merry laugh.  A detachment of rifles had just entered
the fort with Charley at their head.  In another instant we had
"embraced."

What could have been more opportune?  Charley had been my "chum" at
college--my bosom companion.  He deserved my confidence, and almost upon
the instant, I made known to him the situation of affairs.

It required much explanation to remove his incredulity; he was disposed
to treat the whole thing as a joke--that is, the conspiracy against my
life.  But the rifle shot was real, and Black Jake was by to confirm my
account of it: so that my friend was at length induced to take a serious
view of the matter.

"Bad luck to me!" said he, in Irish accent: "it's the quarest case that
ever came accrast your humble frind's experience.  Mother o' Moses! the
fellow must be the divil incarnate.  Geordie, my boy, have ye looked
under his instip?"

Despite the name and "brogue," Charley was not a Hibernian--only the son
of one.  He was a New-Yorker by birth, and could speak good English when
he pleased; but from some freak of eccentricity or affectation, he had
taken to the brogue, and used it habitually, when among friends, with
all the rich garniture of a true Milesian, fresh from the "sod."

He was altogether an odd fellow, but with a soul of honour, and a heart
true as steel.  He was no dunce either, and the man above all others
upon whose coat tail it would not have been safe to "trid."  He was
already notorious for having been engaged in two or three "affairs," in
which he had played both principal and second, and had earned the
bellicose appellation of "Fighting Gallagher."  I knew what _his_ advice
would be before asking it--"Call the schoundrel out by all manes."

I stated the difficulty as to my reasons for challenging Ringgold.

"Thrue, _ma bohill_!  You're right there; but there need be no throuble
about the matther."

"How?"

"Make the spalpeen challenge you.  That's betther--besides, it gives you
the choice of waypons."

"In what way can I do this?"

"Och! my innocent gossoon!  Shure that's as asy as tumblin' from a
haycock.  Call him a liar; an' if that's not sufficiently disagraable,
twake his nose, or squirt your tobacco in his ugly countenance.  That'll
fetch him out, I'll be bail for ye.

"Come along, my boy!" continued my ready counsellor, moving towards the
door.  "Where is this Mister Ringgowld to be sarched for?  Find me the
gint, and I'll shew you how to scratch his buttons.  Come along wid ye!"

Not much liking the plan of procedure, but without the moral strength to
resist, I followed this impetuous son of a Celt through the doorway.



CHAPTER FORTY ONE.

PROVOKING A DUEL.

We were scarcely outside before we saw him for whom we were searching.
He was standing at a short distance from the porch, conversing with a
group of officers, among whom was the dandy already alluded to, and who
passed under the appropriate appellation of "Beau Scott."  The latter
was aide-de-camp to the commander-in-chief, of whom he was also a
relative.

I pointed Ringgold out to my companion.

"He in the civilian dress," I said.

"Och! man, ye needn't be so purticular in your idintification.  That
sarpint-look spakes for itself.  Be my sowl! it's an unwholesome look
altogither.  That fellow needn't fear wather--the say'll niver drown
_him_.  Now, look here, Geordy, boy," continued Gallagher, facing
towards me and speaking in a more earnest tone: "Follow my advice to the
letther!  First trid upon his toes, an' see how he takes it.  The
fellow's got corns; don't ye see, he wears a tight boot?  Give him a
good scrouge; make him sing out.  Ov course, he'll ask you to
apologise--he must--you won't.  Shurely that'll do the bizness without
farther ceremony?  If it don't, then, by Jabus! hit him a kick in the
latter end."

"No, Gallagher," said I, disliking the programme, "it will never do."

"Bad luck to it, an' why not?  You're not going to back out, are ye?
Think man! a villain who would murdher you! an' maybe will some day, if
you let him escape."

"True--but--"

"Bah! no buts.  Move up, an' let's see what they're talking about,
anyhow.  I'll find ye a chance, or my name's not Gallagher."

Undetermined how to act, I walked after my companion, and joined the
group of officers.

Of course, I had no thoughts of following Gallagher's advice.  I was in
hopes that some turn in the conversation might give me the opportunity I
desired, without proceeding to such rude extremes.

My hopes did not deceive me.  Arens Ringgold seemed to tempt his fate,
for I had scarcely entered among the crowd, before I found cause
sufficient for my purpose.

"Talking of Indian beauties," said he, "no one has been so successful
among them as Scott here.  He has been playing Don Giovanni ever since
he came to the fort."

"Oh," exclaimed one of the newly arrived officers, "that does not
surprise us.  He has been a lady-killer ever since I knew him.  The man
who is irresistible among the belles of Saratoga, will surely find
little difficulty in carrying the heart of an Indian maiden."

"Don't be so confident about that, Captain Roberts.  Sometimes these
forest damsels are very shy of us pale-faced lovers.  Lieutenant Scott's
present sweetheart cost him a long siege before he could conquer her.
Is it not so, lieutenant?"

"Nonsense," replied the dandy with a conceited smirk.

"But she yielded at last?" said Roberts, turning interrogatively towards
Scott.

The dandy made no reply, but his simpering smile was evidently intended
to be taken in the affirmative.

"Oh yes," rejoined Ringgold, "she yielded at last: and is now the
`favourite,' it is said."

"Her name--her name?"

"Powell--Miss Powell."

"What!  That name is not Indian?"

"No, gentlemen; the lady is no savage, I assure you; she can play and
sing, and read and write too--such pretty _billets-doux_.  Is it not so,
lieutenant?"

Before the latter could make reply, another spoke:

"Is not that the name of the young chief who has just been arrested?"

"True," answered Ringgold; "it is the fellow's name.  I had forgotten to
say that she is his sister."

"What! the sister of Osceola?"

"Neither more nor less--half-blood like him too.  Among the whites they
are known by the name of Powell, since that was the cognomen of the
worthy old gentleman who begot them.  Osceola, which signifies `the
Rising Sun,' is the name by which he is known among the Seminoles; and
_her_ native appellation--ah, that is a very pretty name indeed."

"What is it?  Let us hear it; let us judge for ourselves."

"Maumee."

"Very pretty indeed!"

"Beautiful!  If the damsel be only as sweet as her name, then Scott is a
fortunate fellow."

"Oh, she is a very wonder of beauty; eyes liquid and full of fiery
love--long lashes: lips luscious as honeycombs; figure tall; bust full
and firm; limbs like those of the Cyprian goddess; feet like
Cinderella's--in short, perfection."

"Wonderful.  Why, Scott, you are the luckiest mortal alive.  But say,
Ringgold! are you speaking in seriousness.  Has he really conquered this
Indian divinity?  Honour bright--_has he succeeded_?  You understand
what I mean?"

"_Most certainly_," was the prompt reply.

Up to this moment I had not interfered.  The first words of the
conversation had bound me like a spell, and I stood as if glued to the
ground.  My brain was giddy, and my heart felt as if the blood passing
through it was molten lead.  The bold enunciations had so staggered me,
that it was some time before I could draw my breath; and more than one
of the bystanders noticed the effect which the dialogue was producing on
me.

After a little, I grew calmer, or rather more resolute.  The very
despair that had passed into my bosom had the effect of steeling my
nerves; and just as Ringgold uttered the flippant affirmative, I was
ready for him.

"Liar!"  I exclaimed; and before the red could mount into his cheek, I
gave it a slap with the back of my hand, that no doubt helped to
heighten the colour.

"Nately done!" cried Gallagher; "there can be no mistake about the
maynin of that."

Nor was there.  My antagonist accepted the act for what it was meant--a
deadly insult.  In such company, he could not do otherwise; and,
muttering some indistinct threats, he walked away from the ground,
attended by his especial friend, the lady-killer, and two or three
others.

The incident, instead of gathering a crowd, had the contrary effect; it
scattered the little group who had witnessed it; the officers retiring
in-doors to discuss the motives, and speculate as as to when and where
"the affair would come off."

Gallagher and I also left the ground; and, closeted in my quarters,
commenced preparing for the event.



CHAPTER FORTY TWO.

THE CHALLENGE.

At the time of which I write duelling was not uncommon in the United
States army.  In _war-time_, it is not uncommon yet, as I can testify
from late experience.  It is contrary to the regulations of the American
service--as I believe it is of every other in the civilised world.
Notwithstanding, an infringement of the _code militaire_ in this regard,
is usually looked upon with leniency--more often "winked at" than
punished.  This much I can affirm--that any officer in the American army
who has received the "lie direct," will find more honour in the breach
of this military rule than in its observance.

After all that has been said and written about duelling, the outcry
against it is a sad sham, at least in the United States of America--
nothing less than a piece of superb hypocrisy.  Universal as has been
this condemnation, I should not like to take shelter under it.  I well
know that it would not protect me from being called by that ugly
appellation, "poltroon."  I have noticed over and over again, that the
newspapers loudest in their declamations against duelling, are the first
to fling "coward" in the teeth of him who refuses to fight.

It is even so.  In America, moral courage, though much be-praised, does
not find ready credence.  A refusal to meet the man who may challenge
you is not thus explained.  It is called "backing out," "shewing the
white feather;" and he who does this, need look no more upon his
ladye-love; she would "flog him with her garters."

More than once have I heard this threat, spoken by pretty lips, and in
the centre of a brilliant circle.  His moral courage must be great who
would provoke such chastisement.  With such a sentiment over the land,
then, I had nailed Arens Ringgold for a meeting; and I joyed to think I
had done so without compromising my secret.

But ah! it was a painful provocation he had given me; and if he had been
the greatest coward in the world, he could not have been more wretched
than I, as I returned to my quarters.

My jovial companion could no longer cheer me, though it was not fear for
the coming fight that clouded my spirits.  Far from it--far otherwise.
I scarcely thought of that.  My thoughts were of Maumee--of what I had
just heard.  She was false--false--betraying, herself betrayed--lost--
lost forever!

In truth was I wretched.  One thing alone could have rendered me more
so--an obstacle to the anticipated meeting--anything to hinder my
revenge.  On the duel now rested my hopes.  It might enable me to
disembarrass my heart of the hot blood that was burning it.  Not all--
unless he too stood before me--he, the seducer who had made this misery.
Would I could find pretext for challenging him.  I should do so yet.
Why had I not?  Why did I not strike him for that smile?  I could have
fought them both at the same time, one after the other.

Thus I raved, with Gallagher by my side.  My friend knew not all my
secret.  He asked what I had got "aginst the aide-de-cong."

"Say the word, Geordie, boy, an' we'll make a four-handed game ov it.
Be Saint Pathrick!  I'd like mightily to take the shine out of that
purty paycock!"

"No, Gallagher, no.  It's not your affair; you could not give _me_
satisfaction for that.  Let us wait till we know more.  I cannot believe
it--I cannot believe it."

"Believe what?"

"Not now, my friend.  When it is over I shall explain."

"All right, my boy!  Charley Gallagher's not the man to disturb your
saycrets.  Now let's look to the bull-dogs, an' make shure they're in
barking condition.  I hope the scamps won't blab at head-quarters, an'
disappoint us after all."

It was my only fear.  I knew that arrest was possible--probable--
certain, if my adversary wished it.  Arrest would put an end to the
affair; and I should be left in a worse position than ever.  Ringgold's
father was gone--I had ascertained this favourable circumstance; but no
matter.  The commander-in-chief was the friend of the family--a word in
his ear would be sufficient.  I feared that the aide-de-camp Scott,
instructed by Arens, might whisper that word.

"After all, he daren't," said Gallagher; "you driv the nail home, an'
clinched it.  He daren't do the dhirty thing--not a bit of it; it might
get wind, an' thin he'd have the kettle to his tail; besides, _ma
bohill_, he wants to kill you anyhow; so he ought to be glad of the fine
handy chance you've given him.  He's not a bad shot, they say.  Never
fear, Geordie, boy! he won't back out this time; he must fight--he will
fight.  Ha!  I told you so.  See, yonder comes Apollo Belvidare!  Holy
Moses! how Phoebus shines!"

A knock--"Come in,"--the door was opened, and the aide-de-camp appeared
in full uniform.

"To arrest me," thought I, and my heart fell.

But no; the freshly written note spoke a different purpose, and I was
relieved.  It was the challenge.

"Lieutenant Randolph, I believe," said the gentleman, advancing towards
me.

I pointed to Gallagher, but made no reply.

"I am to understand that Captain Gallagher is your friend."

I nodded assent.

The two faced each other, and the next instant were _en rapport_;
talking the matter over as cool as cucumbers and sweet as sugar-plums.

From observation, I hazard this remark--that the politeness exhibited
between the seconds in a duel cannot be surpassed by that of the most
accomplished courtiers in the world.

The time occupied in the business was brief.  Gallagher well knew the
routine, and I saw that the other was not entirely unacquainted with it.
In five minutes, everything was arranged--place, weapons, and distance.

I nodded; Gallagher made a sweeping salaam; the aide-de-camp bowed
stiffly and withdrew.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

I shall not trouble you with my reflections previous to the duel, nor
yet with many details of the affair itself.  Accounts of these deadly
encounters are common enough in books, and their sameness will serve as
my excuse for not describing one.

Ours differed only from the ordinary kind in the weapon used.  We fought
with _rifles_, instead of swords or pistols.  It was my choice--as the
challenged party, I had the right--but it was equally agreeable to my
adversary, who was as well skilled in the use of the rifle as I.  I
chose this weapon because it was the _deadliest_.

The time arranged was an hour before sunset.  I had urged this early
meeting in fear of interruption; the place, a spot of level ground near
the edge of the little pond where I had met Haj-Ewa; the distance, ten
paces.

We met--took our places, back to back--waited for the ominous signal,
"one, two, three,"--received it--faced rapidly round--and fired at each
other.

I heard the "hist" of the leaden pellet as it passed my ear, but felt no
stroke.

The smoke puffed upward.  I saw my antagonist upon the ground: he was
not dead; he was writhing and groaning.

The seconds, and several spectators who were present, ran up to him, but
I kept my ground.

"Well, Gallagher?"  I asked, as my friend came back to me.

"Winged, by japers!  You've spoilt the use ov his dexter arm--bone broke
above the ilbow-joint."

"That all?"

"Arrah, sowl! aren't it enough?  Hear how the hound whimpers!"

I felt as the tiger is said to feel after tasting blood, though I cannot
now account for my ferocity.  The man had sought my life--I thirsted for
his.  This combined with the other thought had nigh driven me mad.

I was not satisfied, and would make no apology; but my antagonist had
had enough; he was eager to be taken from the ground on any terms, and
thus the affair ended.

It was my first duel, but not my last.



CHAPTER FORTY THREE.

THE ASSIGNATION.

Our opponents passed silently away--the spectators along with them--
leaving my second and myself upon the ground.

It was my intention to stay by the pond.  I remembered the invitation of
Haj-Ewa.  By remaining, I should avoid the double journey.  Better to
await her coming.

A glance to the western horizon shewed me that the sun had already sunk
below the tree-tops.  The twilight would be short.  The young moon was
already in the heavens.  It might be only a few minutes before Haj-Ewa
should come.  I resolved to stay.

I desired not that Gallagher should be with me; and I expressed the wish
to be left alone.

My companion was a little surprised and puzzled at the request; but he
was too well bred not to yield instant compliance.

"Why, Geordie, boy!" said he, about to retire, "shurely there's
something the matther wid ye?  It isn't this thrifling spurt we've been
engaged in?  Didn't it ind intirely to your satisfaction?  Arrah, man!
are ye sorry you didn't kill him dead?  Be my trath, you look as
milancholic and down-hearted as if he had killed _you_!"

"Dear friend, leave me alone.  On my return to quarters, you shall know
the cause of my melancholy, and why I now desire to part from your
pleasant company."

"Oh, that part I can guess," rejoined he with a significant laugh;
"always a petticoat where there's shots exchanged.  Niver mind, my boy,
no saycrets for Charley Gallagher; I'm bad at keepin' them.  Ov coorse,
you're going to meet betther company than mine; but laste you might fall
in with worse--an' by my sowl! from what ye've towld me, that same isn't
beyond the bounds of probability--take this little cheeper.  I'm a great
dog-braker, you know."  Here the speaker handed me a silver call, which
he had plucked from his button.  "If any thing inconvenient or
disagraable should turn up, put that between your lips, an' Charley
Gallagher will be at your side in the mention of Jack Robison's name.
Cupid spade ye with your lady-love.  I'll go an' kill time over a
tumbler ov nagus till ye come."

So saying, my warm-hearted friend left me to myself.

I ceased to think of him ere he was gone out of sight--even the bloody
strife, in which I had been so recently engaged, glided out of my mind.
Maumee--her falsehood and her fall--alone occupied my thoughts.

For a long while, I made no doubt of what I had heard.  How could I,
with proofs so circumstantial?--the testimony of those cognisant of the
scandal--of the chief actor in it, whose silent smile spoke stronger
than words.  That smile of insolent triumph--why had I permitted it to
pass without challenge, without rebuke?  It was not too late--I should
call upon him to speak plainly and point blank--yes or no.  If yes, then
for a second duel more deadly than the first.

Notwithstanding these resolves to make my rival declare himself, I
doubted not the damning truth; I endeavoured to resign myself to its
torture.

For a long while was my soul upon the rack--more than an hour.  Then, as
my blood grew more cool, reflections of a calmer nature entered my mind;
and at intervals, I experienced the soothing influence of hope; this
especially when I recalled the words of Haj-Ewa, spoken on the preceding
night.  Surely the maniac had not been mocking me?  Surely it was not a
dream of her delirious brain? a distorted _mirage_ of memory--the memory
of some far-away, long-forgotten scene, by her only remembered?  No, no;
her tale was not distorted--her thoughts were not delirious--her words
were not mockeries!

How sweet it was to think so!

Yes--I began to experience intervals of placid thought: more than
placid--pleasant.

Alas! they were evanescent.  The memory of those bold meretricious
phrases, those smiling innuendoes, dissipated or darkened them, as
cumuli darken the sun.  "He _had_ succeeded."  She was now his
favourite.  "Most certainly"--words worse than death.  Withal it was a
foul testimony on which to build a faith.

I longed for light, that true light--the evidence of the senses--that
leaves nought uncertain.  I should seek it with rash directness,
reckless of the result, till it illumined her whole history, proving the
past a disgrace, the future a chaos of utter despair.  I longed for
light; I longed for the coming of Haj-Ewa.

I knew not what the maniac wanted--something, I supposed, concerning the
captive.  Since noon, I had little thought of him.  The mad queen went
everywhere, knew every one; she must know all, understand all--ay, well
understand; she, too, had been betrayed.

I repaired to our place of meeting on the preceding night; there I might
expect her.  I crossed the little ridge among the stems of the
palmettoes; it was the direct route to the shadowy side of the tank.  I
descended the slope, and stood as before under the spreading arms of the
live-oak.

Haj-Ewa was before me.  A single moonbeam slanting athwart the leaves,
shone upon her majestic figure.  Under its light the two serpents
glittered with a metallic lustre, as though her neck and waist were
encircled with precious gems.

"_Hinklas_! pretty mico! you are come.  Gallant mico! where was thine
eye and thine arm that thou didst not kill the _Iste-hulwa_?"
[Literally bad man--villain.]

  "Ah! the hunter of the deer--
  He was stricken so with fear
  When he stood before the wolf,
  The gaunt wicked wolf,
  When he saw the snarling wolf,
  He trembled so with fear,
  That unharmed the fierce wolf ran away.

"Ha, ha, ha! was it not so, brave mico?"

"It was not fear that hindered me, Ewa.  Besides, the wolf did not go
unscathed."

"Ho! the wolf has a wounded leg--he will lick himself well again; he
will soon be strong as ever.  _Hulwak_! you should have killed him, fair
mico, ere he bring the pack upon you."

"I could not help my ill luck.  I am unfortunate every way."

"_Cooree, cooree_--no.  You shall be happy, young mico; you _shall_ be
happy, friend of the red Seminole.  Wait till you see--"

"See what?"

"Patience, _chepawnee_!  To-night under this very tree, you will see
what is fair--you will hear what is sweet--and perchance Haj-Ewa will be
revenged."

This last phrase was spoken with an earnest emphasis, and in a tone that
shewed a strong feeling of resentment against some one unknown.  I could
not comprehend the nature of the expected vengeance.

"His son--yes," continued the maniac, now in soliloquy, "it must be--it
must: his eyes, his hair, his form, his gait, his _name_; _his_ son and
_hers_.  Oh, Haj-Ewa will have revenge."

Was I myself the object of this menace?  Such a thought entered my mind.

"Good Ewa! of whom are you speaking?"

Roused by my voice, she looked upon me with a bewildered stare, and then
broke out into her habitual chant:

  "Why did I trust to a pale-faced lover?
  Ho, ho, ho!" etc.

Suddenly stopping, she seemed once more to remember herself, and essayed
a reply to my question.

"Whom, young mico?  Of him the fair one--the wicked one--the _Wykome
hulwa_ [the spirit of evil].  See! he comes, he comes!  Behold him in
the water.  Ho, ho! it is he.  Up, young mico! up into thy leafy bower;
stay till Ewa comes!  Hear what you may hear--see what you may see; but,
for your life, stir not till I give you the signal.  Up, up, up!"

Just as on the preceding night, half lifting me into the live-oak, the
maniac glided away amidst the shadows.

I lost no time in getting into my former position, where I sat silent
and expecting.

The shadow had grown shorter, but there was still enough to shew me that
it was the form of a man.  In another moment, it vanished.

Scarcely an instant had elapsed, ere a second was flung upon the water,
advancing over the ridge, and as if following the track of the former
one, though the two persons did not appear to be in company.

That which followed I could trace in full outline.  It was the figure of
a woman, one whose upright bearing and free port proved her to be young.

Even the shadow exhibited a certain symmetry of form and gracefulness of
motion, incompatible with age.  Was it still Haj-Ewa?  Had she gone
round through the thicket, and was now following the footsteps of the
man?

For a moment I fancied so; but I soon perceived that my fancy was
astray.

The man advanced under the tree.  The same moonbeam, that but a moment
before had shone upon Haj-Ewa, now fell upon him, and I saw him with
sufficient distinctness; he was the aide-de-camp.

He stopped, took out his watch, held it up to the light, and appeared to
be inquiring the hour.

But I heeded him no further.  Another face appeared under that silvery
ray--false and shining as itself: it was the face that to me seemed the
loveliest in the world--the face of Maumee.



CHAPTER FORTY FOUR.

AN ECLAIRCISSEMENT.

These were the shadows upon the water promised by Haj-Ewa--black shadows
upon my heart.

Mad queen of the Micosaucs! what have I done to deserve this torture?
Thou too my enemy!  Had I been thy deadliest foe, thou couldst scarcely
have contrived a keener sting for thy vengeance.

Face to face stood Maumee and her lover--seduced and seducer.  I had no
doubt as to the identity of either.  The moonbeam fell upon both--no
longer with soft silvery light, but gleaming rude and red, like the
chandeliers of a bagnio.  It may have been but a seeming--the reflection
of an inflamed imagination that influenced me from within; but my belief
in her innocence was gone--hopelessly gone; the very air seemed tainted
with her guilt--the world appeared a chaos of debauchery and ruin.

I had no other thought than that I was present at a scene of
assignation.  How could I think otherwise?  No signs of surprise were
exhibited by either, as they came together.  They met as those who have
promised to come--who have often met before.

Evidently each expected the other.  Though other emotions declared
themselves, there was not the slightest sign of novelty in the
encounter.

For me, it was a terrible crisis.  The anguish of a whole life
compressed into the space of a single moment could not have been more
unendurable.  The blood seemed to scald my heart as it gushed through.
So acute was the pang, I could scarcely restrain myself from crying
aloud.

An effort--a stern determined effort--and the throe was over.  Firmly
bracing my nerves--firmly grasping the branches--I clung to my seat,
resolved to know more.

That was a fortunate resolution.  Had I at that moment given way to the
wild impulse of passion, and sought a reckless revenge, I should in all
likelihood have carved out for myself a long lifetime of sorrow.
Patience proved my guardian angel, and the end was otherwise.

Not a word--not a motion--not a breath.  What will they say?--what do?

My situation was like his of the suspended sword.  On second thoughts,
the simile is both trite and untrue: the sword had already fallen; it
could wound me no more.  I was as one paralysed both in body and soul--
impervious to further pain.

Not a word--not a motion--not a breath.  What will they say?--what do?

The light is full upon Maumee; I can see her from head to foot.  How
large she has grown--a woman in all her outlines, perfect, entire.  And
her loveliness has kept pace with her growth.  Larger, she is lovelier
than ever.  Demon of jealousy! art thou not content with what thou hast
already done?  Have I not suffered enough?  Why hast thou presented her
in such witching guise?  O that she were scarred, hideous, hag-like--as
she shall yet become!  Even thus to see her, would be some
satisfaction--an anodyne to my chafed soul.

But it is not so.  Her face is sweetly beautiful--never so beautiful
before.  Soft and innocent as ever--not a line of guilt can be traced on
those placid features--not a gleam of evil in that round, rolling eye!
The angels of heaven are beautiful; but they are good.  Oh, who could
believe in crime concealed under such loveliness as hers?

I expected a more meretricious mien.  There was a scintillation of cheer
in the disappointment.

Do not suppose that these reflections occupied time.  In a few seconds
they passed through my mind, for thought is quicker than the magnetic
shock.  They passed while I was waiting to hear the first words that, to
my surprise, were for some moments unspoken.  To my surprise; _I_ could
not have met her in such fashion.  My heart would have been upon my
tongue, and lips--

I see it now.  The hot burst of passion is past--the springs tide of
love has subsided--such an interview is no longer a novelty--perhaps he
grows tired of her, foul libertine that he is!  See! they meet with some
shyness.  Coldness has risen between them--a love quarrel--fool is he as
villain--fool not to rush into those arms, and at once reconcile it.
Would that his opportunities were mine!--not all the world could
restrain me from seeking that sweet embrace.

Bitter as were my thoughts, they were less bitter on observing this
attitude of the lovers.  I fancied it was half-hostile.

Not a word--not a motion--not a breath.  What will they say;--what do.

My suspense came to an end.  The aide-de-camp at length found his
tongue.

"Lovely Maumee, you have kept your promise."

"But you, sir, have not yours?  No--I read it in your looks.  You have
yet done nothing for us?"

"Be assured, Maumee, I have not had an opportunity.  The general has
been so busy, I have had no chance to press the matter upon him.  But do
not be impatient.  I shall be certain to persuade him; and your property
shall be restored to you in due time.  Tell your mother not to feel
uneasy: for _your_ sake, beautiful Maumee, I shall spare no exertion.
Believe me, I am as anxious as yourself; but you must know the stern
disposition of my uncle; and, moreover, that he is on the 'most friendly
terms with the Ringgold family.  In this will lie the main difficulty,
but I fear not that I shall be able to surmount it."

"O sir, your words are fine, but they have little worth with us now.  We
have waited long upon your promise to befriend us.  We only wished for
an investigation; and you might easily have obtained it ere this.  We no
longer care for our lands, for greater wrongs make us forget the less.
I should not have been here to-night, had we not been in sad grief at
the misfortune--I should rather say outrage--that has fallen upon my
poor brother.  You have professed friendship to our family.  I come to
seek it now, for now may you give proof of it.  Obtain my brother's
freedom, and we shall then believe in the fair words you have so often
spoken.  Do not say it is impossible; it cannot even be difficult for
you who hold so much authority among the white chiefs.  My brother may
have been rude; but he has committed no crime that should entail severe
punishment.  A word to the great war-chief, and he would be set free.
Go, then, and speak that word."

"Lovely Maumee! you do not know the nature of the errand upon which you
send me.  Your brother is a prisoner by orders of the agent, and by the
act of the commander-in-chief.  It is not with us as among your people.
I am only a subordinate in rank, and were I to offer the counsel you
propose, I should be rebuked--perhaps punished."

"Oh, you fear rebuke for doing an act of justice?--to say naught of your
much offered friendship?  Good, sir!  I have no more to say, except
this--we believe you no longer.  You need come to our humble dwelling no
more."

She was turning away with a scornful smile.  How beautiful seemed that
scorn!

"Stay, Maumee!--fair Maumee, do not part from me thus--doubt not that I
will do all in my power--"

"Do what I have asked you.  Set my brother free--let him return to his
home."

"And if I should--"

"Well, sir."

"Know, Maumee, that for me to do so would be to risk everything.  I
might be degraded from my rank--reduced to the condition of a common
soldier--disgraced in the eyes of my country--ay, punished, perhaps, by
imprisonment worse than that which your brother is likely to endure.
All this would I risk by the act."

The girl paused in her step, but made no reply.  "And yet all these
chances shall I undergo--ay, the danger of death itself--if you, fair
Maumee,"--here the speaker waxed passionate and insinuating--"if you
will only consent."

"Consent--to what, sir?"

"Lovely Maumee, need I tell you?  Surely you understand my meaning.  You
cannot be blind to the love--to the passion--to the deep devotion with
which your beauty has inspired me--"

"Consent to what, sir?" demanded she, repeating her former words, and in
a soft tone, that seemed to promise compliance.  "Only to love me, fair
Maumee--_to become my mistress_."  For some moments, there was no reply.
The grand woman seemed immobile as a statue.  She did not even start on
hearing the foul proposal, but, on the contrary, stood as if turned to
stone.

Her silence had an encouraging effect upon the ardent lover; he appeared
to take it for assent.  He could not have looked into her eye, or he
would there have read an expression that would have hindered him from
pressing his suit farther.  No--he could not have observed that glance,
or he would hardly have made such a mistake.

"Only promise it, fair Maumee; your brother shall be free before the
morning, and you shall have everything--"

"Villain, villain, villain!  Ha, ha! ha, ha!  Ha, ha! ha, ha, ha!"

In all my life, I never heard aught so delightful as that laugh.  It was
the sweetest sound that ever fell upon my ears.  Not all the
wedding-bells that ever rang--not all the lutes that ever played--not
all the harps and hautboys--the clarions and trumpets--in the world,
could have produced such melodious music for me.

The moon seemed to pour silver from the sky--the stars had grown bigger
and brighter--the breeze became filled with delicious odours, as if a
perfumed censer had been spilled from heaven, and the whole scene
appeared suddenly transformed into an Elysium.



CHAPTER FORTY FIVE.

TWO DUELS IN ONE DAY.

The crisis might have been my cue to come down; but I was overpowered
with a sense of delightful happiness, and could not stir from my seat.
The arrow had been drawn out of my breast, leaving not a taint of its
poison--the blood coursed pleasantly through my veins--my pulse throbbed
firm and free--my soul was triumphant.  I could have cried out for very
joy.

With an effort, I held my peace, and waited for the _denouement_--for I
saw that the scene was not yet at an end.

"Mistress, indeed!" exclaimed the bold beauty in scornful accent.  "And
this is the motive of your proffered friendship.  Vile wretch! for what
do you mistake me? a camp-wench, or a facile squaw of the Yamassee?
Know, sir, that I am your equal in blood and race; and though your
pale-faced friends have robbed me of my inheritance, there is that which
neither they nor you can take from me--the honour of my name.  Mistress,
indeed!  Silly fellow!  No--not even your _wife_.  Sooner than sell
myself to such base love as yours, I should wander naked through the
wild woods, and live upon the acorns of the oak.  Rather than redeem him
at such a price, my brave brother would spend his lifetime in your
chains.  Oh, that he were here!  Oh, that he were witness of this foul
insult!  Wretch! he would smite thee like a reed to the earth."

The eye, the attitude, the foot firmly planted, the fearless determined
bearing--all reminded me of Osceola while delivering himself before the
council.  Maumee was undoubtedly his sister.

The _soi-disant_ lover quailed before the withering reproach, and for
some time stood shrinking and abashed.

He had more than one cause for abasement.  He might feel regret at
having made a proposal so ill received; but far more at the
disappointment of his hopes, and the utter discomfiture of his designs.

Perhaps, the moment before, he would have smothered his chagrin, and
permitted the girl to depart without molestation; but the scornful
apostrophe had roused him to a sort of frenzied recklessness; and
probably it was only at that moment that he formed the resolve to carry
his rudeness still further, and effect his purpose by force.

I could not think that he had held such design, anterior to his coming
on the ground.  Professed libertine though he was, he was not the man
for such perilous emprise.  He was but a speck of vain conceit, and
lacked the reckless daring of the ravisher.  It was only when stung by
the reproaches of the Indian maiden, that he resolved upon proceeding to
extremes.

She had turned her back upon him, and was moving away.

"Not so fast!" cried he, rushing after, and grasping her by the wrist;
"not so fast, my brown-skinned charmer!  Do you think you can cast me
off so lightly?  I have followed you for months, and, by the god of
Phoebus, I shall make you pay for the false smiles you have treated me
to.  You needn't struggle; we are alone here; and ere we part, I
shall--"

I heard no more of this hurried speech--I had risen from my perch, and
was hurrying down to the rescue; but before I could reach the spot,
another was before me.

Haj-Ewa--her eyes glaring fiercely--with a wild maniac laugh upon her
lips--was rushing forward.  She held the body of the rattlesnake in her
extended hands, its head projected in front, while its long neck was
oscillating from side to side, showing that the reptile was angry, and
eager to make an attack.  Its hiss, and the harsh "skirr-rr" of its
rattles could be heard sounding at intervals as it was carried forward.

In another instant, the maniac was face to face with the would-be
ravisher--who, startled by her approach, had released his hold of the
girl, and falling back a pace, stood gazing with amazement at this
singular intruder.

"_Ho, ho_!" screamed the maniac, as she glided up to the spot.  "His
son, his son!  _Ho_!  I am sure of it, just like his false father--just
as he on the day he wronged the trusting Ewa.  _Hulwak_!  It is the
hour--the very hour--the moon in the same quarter, horned and wicked--
smiling upon the guilt.  _Ho, ho_! the hour of the deed--the hour of
vengeance!  The father's crime shall be atoned by the son.  Great
Spirit! give me revenge!  _Chitta mico_! give me revenge!"

As she uttered these apostrophic appeals, she sprang forward, holding
the snake far outstretched--as if to give it the opportunity of striking
the now terrified man.

The latter mechanically drew his sword, and then, as if inspired by the
necessity of defending himself, cried out:

"Hellish sorceress! if you come a step nearer, I shall run you through
the body.  Back, now!  Keep off, or, by--I shall do it!"

The resolution expressed by his tone proved that the speaker was in
earnest; but the appeal was unheeded.  The maniac continued to advance
despite the shining blade that menaced her, and within reach of whose
point she had already arrived.

I was now close to the spot; I had drawn my own blade, and was hurrying
forward to ward off the fatal blow which I expected every moment would
be struck.  It was my design to save Haj-Ewa, who seemed recklessly
rushing upon her destruction.

In all probability, I should have been too late, had the thrust been
given; but it was not.

Whether from terror at the wild unearthly aspect of his assailants, or,
what is more likely, fearing that she was about to fling the snake upon
him, the man appeared struck with a sudden panic, and retreated
backward.

A step or two brought him to the edge of the water.  There were loose
stones strewed thickly along the shore; among these his feet became
entangled; and, balancing backward, he fell with a plash upon the pond!

The water deepened abruptly, and he sank out of sight.  Perhaps the
sudden immersion was the means of saving his life; but the moment after,
he rose above the surface, and clambered hastily up on the bank.

He was now furious, and with his drawn sword, which he had managed to
retain hold of, he rushed towards the spot where Haj-Ewa still stood.
His angry oaths told his determination to slay her.

It was not the soft, yielding body of a woman, nor yet of a reptile,
that his blade was to encounter.  It struck against steel, hard and
shining as his own.

I had thrown myself between him and his victims, and had succeeded in
restraining Haj-Ewa from carrying out her vengeful design.  As the
assailant approached, his rage, but more, the water half-blinding him,
hindered him from seeing me; and it was not till our blades had rasped
together, that he seemed aware of my presence.

There was a momentary pause, accompanied by silence.

"You, Randolph!" at length he exclaimed in a tone of surprise.

"Ay, Lieutenant Scott--Randolph it is.  Pardon my intrusion, but your
pretty love-scene changing so suddenly to a quarrel, I deemed it my duty
to interfere."

"You have been listening?--you have heard?--and pray, sir, what business
have you either to play the spy on my actions, or interfere in my
affairs?"

"Business--right--duty--the duty which all men have to protect weak
innocence from the designs of such a terrible Blue Beard as you appear
to be."

"By --, you shall rue this."

"Now?--or when?"

"Whenever you please."

"No time like the present.  Come on."

Not another word was spoken between us; but, the instant after, our
blades were clinking in the fierce game of thrust and parry.

The affair was short.  At the third or fourth lunge, I ran my antagonist
through the right shoulder, disabling his arm.  His sword fell jingling
among the pebbles.

"You have wounded me!" cried he; "I am disarmed," he added, pointing to
the fallen blade.  "Enough, sir; I am satisfied."

"But not I--not till you have knelt upon these stones, and asked pardon
from her whom you have so grossly insulted."

"Never!" cried he; "never!"--and as he uttered these words, giving, as I
presumed, a proof of determined courage, he turned suddenly; and, to my
utter astonishment, commenced running away from the ground!

I ran after, and soon overtook him.  I could have thrust him in the
back, had I been sanguinarily inclined; but instead, I contented myself
with giving him a foot-salute, in what Gallagher would have termed his
"postayriors," and with no other adieu, left him to continue his
shameful flight.



CHAPTER FORTY SIX.

A SILENT DECLARATION.

  "Now for the love, the sweet young love,
  Under the _tala_ tree," etc.

It was the voice of Haj-Ewa, chanting one of her favourite melodies.
Far sweeter the tones of another voice pronouncing my own name:

"George Randolph!"

"Maumee!"

"_Ho, ho_! you both remember?--still remember?  _Hinklas_!  The island--
that fair island--fair to you, but dark in the memory of Haj-Ewa.
_Hulwak_!  I'll think of't no more--no, no, no!

  "Now for the love, the sweet young love,
  Under--

"It was once mine--it is now yours, mico! yours, _haintclitz_!  Pretty
creatures! enjoy it alone; you wish not the mad queen for a companion?
Ha, ha!  _Cooree, cooree_!  I go; fear not the rustling wind, fear not
the whispering trees; none can approach while Haj-Ewa watches.  She will
be your guardian.  _Chitta mico_, too.  Ho, _chitta mico_!

"Now for the love, the sweet young love."

And again renewing her chant, the strange woman glided from the spot,
leaving me alone with Maumee.

The moment was not without embarrassment to me--perhaps to both of us.
No profession had ever passed between us, no assurance, not a word of
love.  Although I loved Maumee with all my heart's strength, although I
now felt certain that she loved me, there had been no mutual declaration
of our passion.  The situation was a peculiar one, and the tongue felt
restraint.

But words would have been superfluous in that hour.  There was an
electricity passing between us--our souls were _en rapport_, our hearts
in happy communion, and each understood the thoughts of the other.  Not
all the words in the world could have given me surer satisfaction that
the heart of Maumee was mine.

It was scarcely possible that _she_ could misconceive.  With but slight
variation, my thoughts were hers.  In all likelihood, Haj-Ewa had
carried to her ears my earnest declaration.  Her look was joyful--
assured.  She did not doubt me.

I extended my arms, opening them widely.  Nature prompted me, or perhaps
passion--all the same.  The silent signal was instantly understood, and
the moment after, the head of my beloved was nestling upon my bosom.

Not a word was spoken.  A low fond cry alone escaped her lips as she
fell upon my breast, and twined her arms in rapturous compression around
me.

For some moments we exchanged not speech; our hearts alone held
converse.

Soon the embarrassment vanished, as a light cloud before the summer sun:
not a trace of shyness remained; and we conversed in the confidence of
mutual love.

I am spared the writing of our love-speeches.  You have yourself heard
or uttered them.  If too common-place to be repeated, so also are they
too sacred.  I forbear to detail them.

We had other thoughts to occupy us.  After a while, the transport of our
mutual joys, though still sweet, assumed a more sober tinge; and,
half-forgetting the present, we talked of the past and the future.

I questioned Maumee much.  Without guile, she gave me the history of
that long interval of absence.  She confessed, or rather declared--for
there was no coquettish hesitation in her manner--that she had loved me
from the first--even from that hour when I first saw and loved her:
through the long silent years, by night as by day, had the one thought
held possession of her bosom.  In her simplicity, she wondered I had not
known of it!

I reminded her that her love had never been declared.  It was true, she
said; but she had never dreamt of concealing it.  She thought I might
have perceived it.  Her instincts were keener: she had been _conscious
of mine_!

So declared she, with a freedom that put me off my guard.

If not stronger, her passion was nobler than my own.

She had never doubted me during the years of separation.  Only of late;
but the cause of this doubt was explained: the pseudo-lover had poured
poison into her ears.  Hence the errand of Haj-Ewa.

Alas! my story was not so guileless.  Only part of the truth could I
reveal; and my conscience smote me as I passed over many an episode that
would have given pain.

But the past was past, and could not be re-enacted.  A more righteous
future was opening before me; and silently in my heart did I register
vows of atonement.  Never more should I have cause to reproach myself--
never would my love--never could it wander away from the beautiful being
I held in my embrace.

Proudly my bosom swelled as I listened to the ingenuous confession of
her love, but sadly when other themes became the subject of our
converse.  The story of family trials, of wrongs endured, of insults put
upon them--and more especially by their white neighbours, the
Ringgolds--caused my blood to boil afresh.

The tale corresponded generally with what I had already learned; but
there were other circumstances unknown to public rumour.  He, too--the
wretched hypocrite--had _made love to her_.  He had of late desisted
from his importunities, through fear of her brother, and dared no longer
come near.

The other, Scott, had made his approaches under the guise of friendship.
He had learned, what was known to many, the position of affairs with
regard to the Indian widow's plantation.  From his relationship in high
quarters, he possessed influence, and had promised to exert it in
obtaining restitution.  It was a mere pretence--a promise made without
any intention of being kept; but, backed by fair words, it had deceived
the generous, trusting heart of Osceola.  Hence the admission of this
heartless cur into the confidence of a family intimacy.

For months had the correspondence existed, though the opportunities were
but occasional.  During all this time had the _soi-disant_ seducer been
pressing his suit--though not very boldly, since he too dreaded the
frown of that terrible brother--neither successfully: he had _not_
succeeded.

Ringgold well knew this when he affirmed the contrary.  His declaration
had but one design--to sting _me_.  For such purpose, it could not have
been made in better time.

There was one thing I longed to know.  Surely Maumee, with her keen
quick perception, from the girlish confidence that had existed between
them--surely she could inform me.  I longed to know the relations that
had existed between my sister and her brother.

Much as I desired the information, I refrained from asking it.

And yet we talked of both--of Virginia especially, for Maumee remembered
my sister with affection, and made many inquiries in relation to her.
Virginia was more beautiful than ever, she had heard, and accomplished
beyond all others.  She wondered if my sister would remember those walks
and girlish amusements--those happy hours upon the island.

"Perhaps," thought I, "_too well_."

It was a theme that gave me pain.

The future claimed our attention; the past was now bright as heaven, but
there were clouds in the sky of the future.

We talked of that nearest and darkest--the imprisonment of Osceola.  How
long would it last?  What could be done to render it as brief as
possible?

I promised to do everything in my power; and I purposed as I promised.
It was my firm resolve to leave no stone unturned to effect the
liberation of the captive chief.  If right should not prevail, I was
determined to try stratagem.  Even with the sacrifice of my commission--
even though personal disgrace should await me--the risk of life itself--
I resolved he should be free.

I needed not to add to my declaration the emphasis of an oath; I was
believed without that.  A flood of gratitude was beaming from those
liquid orbs; and the silent pressure of love-burning lips was sweeter
thanks than words could have uttered.

It was time for parting; the moon told the hour of midnight.

On the crest of the hill, like a bronze statue outlined against the pale
sky, stood the mad queen.  A signal brought her to our side; and after
another embrace, one more fervid pressure of sweet lips, Maumee and I
parted.

Her strange but faithful guardian led her away by some secret path, and
I was left alone.

I could scarcely take myself away from that consecrated ground; and I
remained for some minutes longer, giving full play to triumphant and
rapturous reflections.

The declining moon again warned me; and, crossing the crest of the hill,
I hastened back to the Fort.



CHAPTER FORTY SEVEN.

THE CAPTIVE.

Late as was the hour, I determined to visit the captive before going to
rest.  My design would not admit of delay; besides, I had a suspicion
that, before another day passed, my own liberty might be curtailed.  Two
duels in one day--two antagonists wounded, and both friends to the
commander-in-chief--myself comparatively friendless--it was hardly
probable I should escape "scot free."  Arrest I expected as certain--
perhaps a trial by court-martial, with a fair chance of being cashiered
the service.

Despite my lukewarmness in the cause in which we had become engaged, I
could not contemplate this result without uneasiness.  Little did I care
for my commission: I could live without it; but whether right or wrong,
few men are indifferent to the censure of their fellows, and no man
likes to bear the brand of official disgrace.  Reckless as one may be of
self, kindred and family have a concern in the matter not to be lightly
ignored.

Gallagher's views were different.

"Let them arrist and cashear, an' be hanged!  What need you care?  Divil
a bit, my boy.  Sowl, man, if I were in your boots, with a fine
plantation and a whole regiment of black nagers, I'd snap my fingers at
the sarvice, and go to raisin' shugar and tobaccay.  Be Saint Pathrick!
that's what I'd do."

My friend's consolatory speech failed to cheer me; and, in no very
joyous mood, I walked towards the quarters of the captive, to add still
further to my chances of "cashierment."

Like an eagle freshly caught and caged--like a panther in a pentrap--
furious, restless, at intervals uttering words of wild menace, I found
the young chief of the _Baton Rouge_.

The apartment was quite dark; there was no window to admit even the grey
lustre of the night; and the corporal who guided me in carried neither
torch nor candle.  He went back to the guard-house to procure one,
leaving me in darkness.

I heard the footfall of a man.  It was the sound of a moccasined foot,
and soft as the tread of a tiger; but mingling with this was the sharp
clanking of a chain.  I heard the breathing of one evidently in a state
of excitement, and now and then an exclamation of fierce anger.  Without
light, I could perceive that the prisoner was pacing the apartment in
rapid, irregular strides.  At least his limbs were free.

I had entered silently, and stood near the door, I had already
ascertained that the prisoner was alone; but waited for the light before
addressing him.  Preoccupied as he appeared to be, I fancied that he was
not conscious of my presence.

My fancy was at fault.  I heard him stop suddenly in his tracks--as if
turning towards me--and the next moment his voice fell upon my ear.  To
my surprise, it pronounced my name.  He must have seen through the
darkness.

"You, Randolph!" he said, in a tone that expressed reproach; "you, too,
in the ranks of our enemies?  Armed--uniformed--equipped--ready to aid
in driving us from our homes!"

"Powell!"

"Not Powell, sir; my name is Osceola."

"To me, still Edward Powell--the friend of my youth, the preserver of my
life.  By that name alone do I remember you."

There was a momentary pause.  The speech had evidently produced a
conciliating effect; perhaps memories of the past had come over him.

He replied:

"Your errand?  Come you as a friend? or only like others, to torment me
with idle words?  I have had visitors already; gay, gibbering fools,
with forked tongues, who would counsel me to dishonour.  Have _you_ been
sent upon a like mission?"

From this speech I concluded that Scott--the pseudo-friend--had already
been with the captive--likely on some errand from the agent.

"I come of my own accord--as a friend."

"George Randolph, I believe you.  As a boy, you possessed a soul of
honour.  The straight sapling rarely grows to a crooked tree.  I will
not believe that you are changed, though enemies have spoken against
you.  No--no; your hand, Randolph--your hand! forgive me for doubting
you."

I reached through the darkness to accept the proffered salute.  Instead
of one, I grasped both hands of the prisoner.  I felt that they were
manacled together: for all that, the pressure was firm and true; nor did
I return it with less warmth.

Enemies had spoken against me.  I needed not to ask who these were: that
had been already told me; but I felt it necessary to give the captive
assurance of my friendship.  I needed his full confidence to insure the
success of the plan which I had conceived for his liberation; and to
secure this, I detailed to him what had transpired by the pond--only a
portion of what had passed.  There was a portion of it I could not
intrust even to the ears of a brother.

I anticipated a fresh paroxysm of fury, but was agreeably disappointed.
The young chief had been accustomed to harsh developments, and could
outwardly control himself; but I saw that my tale produced an impression
that told deeply, if not loudly, upon him.  In the darkness, I could not
see his face; but the grinding teeth and hissing ejaculations were
expressive of the strong passions stirring within.

"Fool!" he exclaimed at length--"blind fool that I have been!  And yet I
suspected this smooth-tongued villain from the first.  Thanks, noble
Randolph!  I can never repay this act of chivalric friendship;
henceforth you may command Osceola!"

"Say no more, Powell; you have nothing to repay; it was I who was the
debtor.  But come, we lose time.  My purpose in coming here is to
counsel you to a plan for procuring your release from this awkward
confinement.  We must be brief, else my intentions may be suspected."

"What plan, Randolph?"

"You must sign the treaty of the Oclawaha."



CHAPTER FORTY EIGHT.

THE WAR-CRY.

A single "Ugh!" expressive of contemptuous surprise, was all the reply;
and then a deep silence succeeded.

I broke the silence by repeating my demand.

"You must sign it."

"Never!" came the response, in a tone of emphatic determination.
"Never!  Sooner than do that, I will linger among these logs till decay
has worn the flesh from my bones, and dried up the blood in my veins.
Sooner than turn traitor to my tribe, I will rush against the bayonets
of my jailers, and perish upon the spot.  Never!"

"Patience, Powell, patience!  You do not understand me--you, in common
with other chiefs, appear to misconceive the terms of this treaty.
Remember, it binds you to a mere conditional promise--to surrender your
lands and move west, only in case a _majority of your nation agree to
it_.  Now, to-day a majority has _not_ agreed, nor will the addition of
your name make the number a majority."

"True, true," interrupted the chief, beginning to comprehend my meaning.

"Well, then, you may sign, and not feel bound by your signature, since
the most essential condition still remains unfulfilled.  And why should
you not adopt this ruse?  Ill-used as you certainly have been, no one
could pronounce it dishonourable in you.  For my part, I believe you
would be justified in any expedient that would free you from so wrongful
an imprisonment."

Perhaps my principles were scarcely according to the rules of moral
rectitude; but at that moment they took their tone from strong emotions;
and to the eyes of friendship and love the wrong was not apparent.

Osceola was silent.  I observed that he was meditating on what I had
urged.

"Why, Randolph," said he, after a pause, "you must have dwelt in
Philadelphia, that famed city of lawyers.  I never took this view
before.  You are right; signing would _not_ bind me--it is true.  But
think you that the agent would be satisfied with my signature?  He hates
me; I know it, and his reasons.  I hate _him_, for many reasons; for
this is not the first outrage I have suffered at his hands.  Will he be
satisfied if I sign?"

"I am almost certain of it.  Simulate submission, _if you can_.  Write
your name to the treaty, and you will be at once set free."

I had no doubt of this.  From what I had learned since Osceola's arrest,
I had reason to believe that Thompson repented his conduct.  It was the
opinion of others that he had acted rashly, and that his act was likely
to provoke evil consequences.  Whispers of this nature had reached him;
and from what the captive told me of the visit of the aide-de-camp, I
could perceive that it was nothing else than a mission from the agent
himself.  Beyond doubt, the latter was tired of his prisoner, and would
release him on the easiest terms.

"Friend!  I shall act as you advise.  I shall sign.  You may inform the
commissioner of my intention."

"I shall do so at the earliest hour I can see him.  It is late: shall I
say good night?"

"Ah, Randolph! it is hard to part with a friend--the only one with a
white skin now left me.  I could have wished to talk over other days,
but, alas! this is neither the place nor the time."

The haughty mien of the proud chief was thrown aside, and his voice had
assumed the melting tenderness of early years.

"Yes," he continued, "the only white friend left--the only one I have
any regard for--one other whom I--"

He stopped suddenly, and with an embarrassed air, as if he had found
himself on the eve of disclosing some secret, which on reflection he
deemed it imprudent to reveal.

I awaited the disclosure with some uneasiness, but it came not.  When he
spoke again, his tone and manner were completely changed.

"The whites have done us much wrong," he continued, once more rousing
himself into an angry attitude--"wrongs too numerous to be told; but, by
the Great Spirit!  I shall seek revenge.  Never till now have I sworn
it; but the deeds of this day have turned my blood into fire.  Ere you
came, I had vowed to take the lives of two, who have been our especial
enemies.  You have not changed my resolution, only strengthened it; you
have added a third to the list of my deadly foes: and once more I
swear--by Wykome, I swear--that I shall take no rest till the blood of
these three men has reddened the leaves of the forest--three white
villains, and one red traitor.  Ay, Omatla! triumph in your treason--it
will not be for long--soon shalt thou feel the Vengeance of a patriot--
soon shalt thou shrink under the steel of Osceola!"

I made no reply, but waited in silence till this outburst of passion had
passed.

In a few moments the young chief became calm, and again addressed me in
the language of friendship.

"One word," said he, "before we part.  Circumstances may hinder us--it
may be long ere we meet again.  Alas! our next meeting may be as foes in
the field of fight--for I will not attempt to conceal from you that I
have no intention to make peace.  No--never!  I wish to make a request;
I know, Randolph, you will accede to it without asking an explanation.
Accept this token, and if you esteem the friendship of the giver, and
would honour him, wear it conspicuously upon your breast.  That is all."

As he spoke, he took from around his neck a chain, upon which was
suspended the image of the Rising Sun--already alluded to.  He passed
the chain over my head, until the glistening symbol hung down upon my
breast.

I made no resistance to this offering of friendship, but promising to
comply with his request, presented my watch in return, and, after
another cordial pressure of hands, we parted.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

As I had anticipated, there was but little difficulty in obtaining the
release of the Seminole chief.  Though the commissioner entertained a
personal hatred against Osceola--for causes to me unknown--he dared not
indulge his private spite in an official capacity.  He had placed
himself in a serious dilemma by what he had already done; and as I
communicated the purposed submission of the prisoner, I saw that
Thompson was but too eager to adopt a solution of his difficulty, easy
as unexpected.  He therefore lost no time in seeking an interview with
the captive chief.

The latter played his part with admirable tact; the fierce, angry
attitude of yesterday had given place to one of mild resignation.  A
night in the guard-house, hungered and manacled, had tamed down his
proud spirit, and he was now ready to accept any conditions that would
restore him to liberty.  So fancied the commissioner.

The treaty was produced.  Osceola signed it without saying a word.  His
chains were taken off--his prison-door thrown open--and he was permitted
to depart without further molestation.  Thompson had triumphed, or
fancied so.

It was but fancy.  Had he noticed, as I did, the fine satirical smile
that played upon the lips of Osceola as he stepped forth from the gate,
he would scarcely have felt confidence in his triumph.

He was not allowed to exult long in the pleasant hallucination.

Followed by the eyes of all, the young chief walked off with a proud
step towards the woods.

On arriving near the edge of the timber, he faced round to the fort,
drew the shining blade from his belt, waved it above his head, and in
defiant tones shouted back the war-cry, "Yo-ho-ehee!"

Three times the wild signal pealed upon our ears; and at the third
repetition, he who had uttered it turned again, sprang forward into the
timber, and was instantly lost to our view.

There was no mistaking the intent of that demonstration; even the
self-glorifying commissioner was convinced that it meant "war to the
knife," and men were hurriedly ordered in pursuit.

An armed crowd rushed forth from the gate, and flung themselves on the
path that had been taken by the _ci-devant_ captive.

The chase proved bootless and fruitless; and after more than an hour
spent in vein search, the soldiers came straggling back to the fort.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

Gallagher and I had stayed all the morning in my quarters, expecting the
order that would confine me there.  To our astonishment it came not:
there was no arrest.

In time, we obtained the explanation.  Of my two duelling antagonists,
the first had not returned to the fort after his defeat, but had been
carried to the house of a friend--several miles distant.  This partially
covered the scandal of that affair.  The other appeared with his arm in
a sling; but it was the impression, as Gallagher learned outside, that
his horse had carried him against a tree.  For manifest reasons the
interesting invalid had not disclosed the true cause of his being
"crippled," and I applauded his silence.  Except to my friend, I made no
disclosure of what had occurred, and it was long before the affair got
wind.

Upon duty, the aide-de-camp and I often met afterwards, and were
frequently compelled to exchange speech; but it was always of an
official character, and, I need not add, was spoken in the severest
reserve.

It was not long before circumstances arose to separate us; and I was
glad to part company with a man for whom I felt a profound contempt.



CHAPTER FORTY NINE.

WAR TO THE KNIFE.

For some weeks following the council at Fort King, there appeared to be
tranquillity over the land.  The hour of negotiation had passed--that
for action was nigh; and among the white settlers the leading topic of
conversation was how the Indians would act?  Would they fight, or give
in?  The majority believed they would submit.

Some time was granted them to prepare for the removal--runners were sent
to all the tribes, appointing a day for them to bring in their horses
and cattle to the fort.  These were to be sold by auction, under the
superintendence of the agent; and their owners were to receive a fair
value for them on their arrival at their new home in the west.  Their
plantations or "improvements" were to be disposed of in a similar
manner.

The day of auction came round; but, to the chagrin of the commissioner,
the expected flocks did not make their appearance, and the sale had to
be postponed.

The failure on the part of the Indians to bring in their cattle was a
hint of what might be expected; though others, of a still more palpable
nature, were soon afforded.

The tranquillity that had reigned for some weeks was but the ominous
silence that precedes the storm.  Like the low mutterings of the distant
thunder, events now began to occur, the sure harbingers of an
approaching conflict.

As usual, the white man was the aggressor.  Three Indians were found
hunting outside the boundary of the "reserve."  They were made captives
by a party of white men, and, fast bound with raw-hide ropes, were
confined in a log-stable belonging to one of the party.  In this
situation they were kept three days and nights, until a band of their
own tribe hearing of their confinement, hastened to their rescue.  There
was a skirmish, in which some Indians were wounded; but the white men
fled, and the captives were released.

"On bringing them forth to the light, their friends beheld a most
pitiable sight,"--I am quoting from a faithful history--"the rope with
which these poor fellows were tied had worn through the flesh: they had
temporarily lost the use of their limbs, being unable to stand or walk.
They had bled profusely, and had received no food during their
confinement; so it may readily be imagined that they presented a
horrible picture of suffering."

Again: "Six Indians were at their camp near Kanapaha Pond, when a party
of whites came upon them, took their guns from them, examined their
packs, and commenced whipping them.  While in the act, two other Indians
approached, and seeing what was going on, fired upon the whites.  The
latter returned the fire, killed one of the Indians, and severely
wounded the other."

Exasperation was natural--retaliation certain.  On the other side, read:

"On the 11th of August, Dalton, the mail-carrier between Fort King and
Fort Brooke, was met within six miles of the latter place by a party of
Indians, who seized the reins of his horse, and dragging him from the
saddle, shot him dead.  The mangled body was discovered some days
afterwards concealed in the woods."

"A party of fourteen mounted men proceeded on a scout towards
Wacahonta--the plantation of Captain Gabriel Priest--and when within one
mile of the place, they came upon a small hommock, through which some of
the party declined passing.  Four of them, however, dashed into it, when
the Indians suddenly arose from ambush, and fired upon them.  The two in
advance were wounded.  A Mr Foulke received a bullet in his neck, but
was picked up by those in his rear, and borne off.  The other, a son of
Captain Priest, had his arm broken, and his horse shot dead under him.
He fled, and sinking his body in a swamp, succeeded in eluding the
search of the pursuers."

"About the same time, a party of Indians attacked a number of men who
were employed cutting live-oak timber on an island in Lake George.  The
men escaped by taking to their boats, though two of their number were
wounded."

"At New River, on the south-east side of the peninsula, the Indians
attacked the house of a Mr Cooley--murdered his wife, children, and a
tutor engaged in the family.  They carried off twelve barrels of
provisions, thirty hogs, three horses, one keg of powder, over two
hundred pounds of lead, seven hundred dollars in silver, and two
negroes.  Mr Cooley was absent at the time.  On his return, he found
his wife shot through the heart with her infant child in her arms, and
his two oldest children also shot in the same place.  The girl still
held her book in her hands, and the boy's lay by his side.  The house
was in flames."

"At Spring Garden, on the Saint Johns, the extensive plantation of
Colonel Rees was laid waste, and his buildings burnt to the ground.
Sugar-cane, sufficient to manufacture ninety hogsheads, was destroyed;
besides thirty hogsheads of sugar, and _one hundred and sixty-two
negroes were carried off_.  The mules and horses were also taken.  The
same Indians destroyed the buildings of M. Depeyster, with _whose
negroes they formed a league_; and being supplied with a boat, they
crossed the river and fired the establishment of Captain Dummett.  Major
Heriot's plantation was laid waste, and _eighty of his negroes moved off
with the Indians_.  Then on towards San Augustine, where the extensive
plantations of General Hernandez were reduced to a ruin; next, Bulow's,
Dupont's of Buen Retiro, Dunham's, McRae's of Tomoka Creek, the
plantations of Bayas, General Herring, and Bartalone Solano, with nearly
every other from San Augustine southward."

Simple historic facts.  I quote them as illustrating the events that
ushered in the Seminole war.  Barbarous though they be, they were but
acts of retaliation--the wild outburst of a vengeance long pent up--a
return for wrongs and insults patiently endured.

As yet, no general engagement had taken place; but marauding parties
sprang up simultaneously in different places.  Many of those who had
inflicted outrage upon the Indians were forthwith repaid; and many
barely escaped with their lives.  Conflagration succeeded conflagration,
until the whole country was on fire.  Those who lived in the interior,
or upon the borders of the Indian reserve, were compelled to abandon
their crops, their stock, their implements of husbandly, their
furniture, and indeed every article of value, and seek shelter within
the forts, or concentrate themselves in the neighbouring villages,
around which stockades were erected for their better security.

The friendly chiefs--the Omatlas and others--with about four hundred
followers, abandoned their towns, and fled to Fort Brooke for
protection.

The strife was no longer hypothetical, no longer doubtful; it was
declared in the wild _Yo-ho-ehee_! that night and day was heard ringing
in the woods.



CHAPTER FIFTY.

TRACING A STRANGE HORSEMAN.

As yet but few troops had reached Florida, though detachments were on
the way from New Orleans, Fort Moultrie, Savannah, Mobile, and other
depots, where the soldiers of the United States are usually stationed.
Corps of volunteers, however, were being hastily levied in the larger
towns of Georgia, Carolina, and Florida itself; and every settlement was
mustering its quota to enter upon the campaign.

It was deemed advisable to raise a force in the settlements of the
Suwanee--my native district--and on this duty my friend Gallagher was
dispatched, with myself to act as his lieutenant.

Right gladly did I receive this order.  I should escape from the
monotonous duties of the fort garrison, of which I had grown weary
enough; but what was a still more pleasant prospect, I should have many
days at home--for which I was not without longing.

Gallagher was as overjoyed as myself.  He was a keen sportsman; though,
having spent most of his life within the walls of cities, or in forts
along the Atlantic seaboard, he had found only rare opportunities of
enjoying either the "fox-chase" or "deer-drive."  I had promised him
both to his heart's content, for both the game and the "vermin" were
plenteous in the woods of the Suwanee.

Not unwillingly, therefore, did we accept our recruiting commission;
and, bidding adieu to our companions at the fort, set out with light
hearts and pleasant anticipations.  Equally joyous was Black Jake to get
back once more to the "ole plantayshun."

In the quarter of the Suwanee settlements, the Indian marauders had not
yet shown themselves.  It lay remote from the towns of most of the
hostile tribes, though not too distant for a determined foray.  In a
sort of lethargic security, the inhabitants still remained at their
houses--though a volunteer force had already been mustered--and patrols
were kept in constant motion.

I had frequent letters from my mother and Virginia; neither appeared to
feel any alarm: my sister especially declared her confidence that the
Indians would not molest them.

Withal, I was not without apprehension; and with so much the greater
alacrity did I obey the order to proceed to the settlements.

Well mounted, we soon galloped over the forest road, and approached the
scenes of my early life.  This time, I encountered no ambuscade, though
I did not travel without caution.  But the order had been given us
within the hour; and having almost immediately set forth, my
assassin-enemies could have had no warning of my movements.  With the
brave Gallagher by my side, and my stout henchman at my back, I dreaded
no open attack from white men.

My only fear was, that we might fall in with some straggling party of
red men--now our declared enemies.  In this there was a real danger; and
we took every precaution to avoid such an encounter.

At several places we saw traces of the Indians nearly fresh.  There were
moccasin prints, in the mud, and the tracks of horses that had been
mounted.  At one place we observed the debris of a fire still
smouldering, and around it were signs of the red men.  A party had there
bivouacked.

But we saw no man, red or white, until we had passed the deserted
plantation upon the creek, and were approaching the banks of the river.
Then for the first time during our journey a man was in sight.

He was a horseman, and at a glance we pronounced him an Indian.  He was
at too great a distance for us to note either his complexion or
features; but the style of dress, his attitude in the saddle, the red
sash and leggings, and above all, the ostrich-plumes waving over his
head, told us he was a Seminole.  He was mounted upon a large black
horse; and had just emerged from the wood into the opening, upon which
we had ourselves entered.  He appeared to see us at the same time we
caught sight of him, and was evidently desirous of avoiding us.

After scanning us a moment, he wheeled his steed, and dashed back into
the timber.

Imprudently enough, Gallagher put spurs to his horse and galloped after.
I should have counselled a contrary course; but that the belief was in
my mind that the horseman was Osceola.  In that case, there could be no
danger; and from motives of friendship, I was desirous of coming up with
the young chief, and exchanging a word with him.  With this view I
followed my friend at a gallop--Jake coming on in the rear.

I was almost sure the strange horseman was Osceola.  I fancied I
recognised the ostrich-plumes; and Jake had told me that the young chief
rode a fine black horse.  In all likelihood, then it was he; and in
order to hail, and bring him to a halt, I spurred ahead of Gallagher--
being better mounted.

We soon entered the timber, where the horseman had disappeared.  I saw
the fresh tracks, but nothing more.  I shouted aloud, calling the young
chief by name, and pronouncing my own; but there was no reply, save the
echo of my voice.

I followed the trail for a short distance, continuing to repeat my
cries; but no heed was given to them.  The horseman did not wish to
answer my hail, or else had ridden too far away to understand its
intent.

Of course, unless he made a voluntary halt, it was vain to follow.  We
might ride on his trail for a week without coming up with him.
Gallagher saw this as well as myself; and abandoning the pursuit, we
turned once more towards the road, with the prospect of soon ending our
journey.

A cross-path, which I remembered, would bring us by a shorter route to
the landing; and for this we now headed.

We had not ridden far, when we again struck upon the tracks of a horse--
evidently those made by the horseman we had just pursued, but previously
to our having seen him.  They led in a direct line from the river,
towards which we were steering.

Some slight thought prompted me to an examination of the hoof-prints.  I
perceived that they were _wet_--water was oozing into them from the
edges; there was a slight sprinkling of water upon the dead leaves that
lay along the trail.  The horseman had been swimming--he had been across
the river!

This discovery led me into a train of reflection.  What could he--an
Indian--want on the other side?  If Osceola, as I still believed, what
could _he_ be doing there?  In the excited state of the country, it
would have been risking his life for an Indian to have approached the
settlement--and to have been discovered and captured would have been
certain death.  This Indian, then, whoever he was, must have some
powerful-motive for seeking the other side.  What motive?  If Osceola,
what motive?

I was puzzled--and reflected; I could think of no motive, unless that
the young chief had been playing the spy--no dishonourable act on the
part of an Indian.

The supposition was not improbable, but the contrary; and yet I could
not bring myself to believe it true.  A cloud had swept suddenly over my
soul, a presentiment scarcely defined or definable was in my thoughts, a
demon seemed to whisper in my ears: _It is not that_.

Certainly had the horseman been across the river?  Let us see!

We rode rapidly along the trail, tracing it backwards.

In a few minutes it guided us to the bank, where the tracks led out from
the water's edge.  No corresponding trail entered near.  Yes, he had
been across.

I plied the spur, and plunging in, swam for the opposite shore.  My
companion followed without asking any questions.

Once more out of the river, I rode up the bank.  I soon discovered the
hoof-marks of the black horse where he had sprung off into the stream.

Without pausing, I continued to trace them backwards, still followed by
Gallagher and Jake.

The former wondered at my eagerness, and put some questions, which I
scarcely answered coherently.  My presentiment was each moment growing
darker--my heart throbbed in my bosom with a strange indescribable pain.

The trail brought us to a small opening in the heart of a magnolia
grove.  It went no further.  We had arrived at its end.

My eyes rested upon the ground with a sort of mechanical gaze.  I sat in
the saddle in a kind of stupor.  The dark presentiment was gone, but a
far darker thought occupied its place.

The ground was covered with hoof-tracks, as if horses had been halted
there.  Most of the tracks were those of the black horse; but there were
others of not half their dimensions.  There was the tiny shoe-mark of a
small pony.

"Golly!  Mass'r George," muttered Jake, coming forward in advance of the
other, and bending his eyes upon the ground; "lookee dar--dat am tha
track ob de leetle White Fox.  Missa Vaginny's been hya for sartin."



CHAPTER FIFTY ONE.

WHO WAS THE RIDER?

I felt faint enough to have reeled from the saddle; but the necessity of
concealing the thoughts that were passing within me, kept me firm.
There are suspicions that even a bosom friend may not share; and mine
were of this character, if suspicions they could be called.  Unhappily,
they approached the nature of convictions.

I saw that Gallagher was mystified; not, as I supposed, by the tracks
upon the ground, but by my behaviour in regard to them.  He had observed
my excited manner on taking up the trail, and while following it; he
could not have failed to do so; and now, on reaching the glade, he
looked upon a pallid face, and lips quivering with emotions to him
unintelligible.

"What is it, Geordie, my boy?  Do you think the ridskin has been after
some dhirty game?  Playing the spy on your plantation, eh?"

The question aided me in my dilemma.  It suggested a reply which I did
not believe to be the truth.

"Likely enough," I answered, without displaying any embarrassment; "an
Indian spy, I have no doubt of it; and evidently in communication with
some of the negroes, since this is the track of a pony that belongs to
the plantation.  Some of them have ridden thus far to meet him; though
for what purpose it is difficult to guess."

"Massa George," spoke out my black follower, "dar's no one ebber ride da
White Fox, 'ceptin'--"

"Jake!"  I shouted, sharply interrupting him, "gallop forward to the
house, and tell them we are coming.  Quick, my man!"

My command was too positive to be obeyed with hesitation; and, without
finishing his speech, the black put spurs to his cob, and rode rapidly
past us.

It was a manoeuvre of mere precaution.  But the moment before, I had no
thought of dispatching an _avant courier_ to announce us.  I knew what
the simple fellow was about to say: "No one ebber ride da White Fox,
'ceptin' Missa Vaginny;" and I had adopted this ruse to stifle his
speech.

I glanced towards my companion, after Jake had passed out of sight.  He
was a man of open heart and free of tongue, with not one particle of the
secretive principle in his nature.  His fine florid face was seldom
marked by a line of suspicion; but I observed that it now wore a puzzled
expression, and I felt uneasy.  No remark, however, was made by either
of us; and turning into the path which Jake had taken, we rode forward.

The path was a cattle-track--too narrow to admit of our riding abreast;
and Gallagher permitting me to act as pilot, drew his horse into the
rear.  In this way we moved silently onward.

I had no need to direct my horse.  It was an old road to him: he knew
where he was going.  I took no heed of him, but left him to stride
forward at his will.

I scarcely looked at the path--once or twice only--and then I saw the
tracks of the pony--backward and forward; but I heeded them no more; I
knew whence and whither they led.

I was too much occupied with thoughts within, to notice aught without or
around me.

Could it have been any other than Virginia?  Who else?  It was true what
Jake had intended to say--that no one except my sister ever rode "White
Fox"--no one upon the plantation being permitted to mount this favourite
miniature of a steed.

Yes--there was an exception.  I had seen Viola upon him.  Perhaps Jake
would have added this exception, had I allowed him to finish his speech.
Might it have been Viola?

But what could be her purpose in meeting the Seminole chief? for that
the person who rode the pony had held an interview with the latter,
there could not be the shadow of a doubt; the tracks told that clearly
enough.

What motive could have moved the quadroon to such a meeting?  Surely
none.  Not surely, either; how could _I_ say so?  I had been long
absent; many strange events had transpired in my absence--many changes.
How could I tell but that Viola had grown "tired" of her sable
sweetheart, and looked kindly upon the dashing chieftain?  No doubt
there had been many opportunities for her seeing the latter; for, after
my departure for the north, several years had elapsed before the
expulsion of the Powells from their plantation.  And now, that I thought
of it, I remembered something--a trifling circumstance that had occurred
on that very day when young Powell first appeared among us: Viola had
expressed admiration of the handsome youth.  I remembered that this had
made Black Jake very angry; that my sister, too, had been angry, and
scolded Viola, as I thought at the time, for mortifying her faithful
lover.  Viola was a beauty, and like most beauties, a coquette.  My
conjecture might be right.  It was pleasant to think so; but, alas, poor
Jake!

Another slight circumstance tended to confirm this view.  I had observed
of late a change in my henchman; he was certainly not as cheerful as of
yore; he appeared more reflective--serious--dull.

God grant that this might be the explanation!

There was another conjecture that offered me a hope; one that, if true,
would have satisfied me still better, for I had a strong feeling of
friendship for Black Jake.

The other hypothesis was simply what Gallagher had already suggested--
although White Fox was not allowed to be ridden, some of the people
might have _stolen him for a ride_.  It was possible, and not without
probability.  There might be disaffected slaves on our plantation--there
were on almost every other--who were in communication with hostile
Indians.  The place was more than a mile from the house.  Riding would
be pleasanter than walking; and taking the pony from its pastures might
be easily accomplished, without fear of observation.  A great black
negro may have been the rider after all.  God grant that _this_ might be
the true explanation!

The mental prayer had scarcely passed my thoughts, when an object came
under my eyes, that swept my theories to the wind, sending a fresh pang
through my heart.

A locust tree grew by the side of the path, with its branches extending
partially across.  A strip of ribbon had caught on one of the spines,
and was waving in the breeze.  It was silk, and of fine texture--a bit
of the trimming of a lady's dress torn off by the thorn.

To me it was a sad token.  My fabric of hopeful fancies fell into ruin
at the sight.  No negro--not even Viola--could have left such evidence
as that; and I shuddered as I spurred past the fluttering relic.

I was in hopes my companion would not observe it; but he did.  It was
too conspicuous to be passed without notice.  As I glanced back over my
shoulder, I saw him reach out his arm, snatch the fragment from the
branch, and gaze upon it with a puzzled and inquiring look.

Fearing he might ride up and question me, I spurred my horse into a
rapid gallop, at the same time calling to him to follow.

Ten minutes after, we entered the lawn and pulled up in front of the
house.  My mother and sister had come out into the verandah to receive
us; and we were greeted with words of welcome.

But I heard, or heeded them not; my gaze was riveted on Virginia--upon
her dress.  It was a _riding-habit_: the plumed chapeau was still upon
her head!

My beautiful sister--never seemed she more beautiful than at that
moment; her cheeks were crimsoned with the wind, her golden tresses
hanging over them.  But it joyed me not to see her so fair: in my eyes,
she appeared a fallen angel.

I glanced at Gallagher as I tottered out of my saddle: I saw that he
comprehended all.  Nay, more--his countenance wore an expression
indicative of great mental suffering, apparently as acute as my own.  My
friend he was--tried and true; he had observed my anguish--he now
guessed the cause; and his look betokened the deep sympathy with which
my misfortune inspired him.



CHAPTER FIFTY TWO.

COLD COURTESY.

I received my mother's embrace with filial warmth; my sister's in
silence--almost with coldness.  My mother noticed this, and wondered.
Gallagher also shewed reserve in his greeting of Virginia; and neither
did this pass unobserved.

Of the four, my sister was the least embarrassed; she was not
embarrassed at all.  On the contrary, her lips moved freely, and her
eyes sparkled with a cheerful expression, as if really joyed by our
arrival.

"You have been on horseback, sister?"  I said, in a tone that affected
indifference as to the reply.

"Say, rather, pony-back.  My little Foxey scarcely deserves the proud
title of horse.  Yes, I have been out for an airing."

"Alone?"

"Quite alone--_solus bolus_, as the black people have it."

"Is it prudent, sister?"

"Why not?  I often do it.  What have I to fear?  The wolves and panthers
are hunted out, and White Fox is too swift either for a bear or an
alligator."

"There are creatures to be encountered in the woods more dangerous than
wild beasts."

I watched her countenance as I made the remark, but I saw not the
slightest change.

"What creatures, George?" she asked in a drawling tone, imitating that
in which I had spoken.

"Redskins--Indians," I answered abruptly.

"Nonsense, brother; there are no Indians in this neighbourhood--at
least," added she with marked hesitation, "none that _we_ need fear.
Did I not write to tell you so?  You are fresh from the hostile ground,
where I suppose there is an Indian in every bush; but remember, Geordy,
you have travelled a long way, and unless you have brought the savages
with you, you will find none here.  So, gentlemen, you may go to sleep
to-night without fear of being awakened by the _Yo-ho-ehee_."

"Is that so certain, Miss Randolph?" inquired Gallagher, now joining in
the conversation, and no longer "broguing" it.  "Your brother and I have
reason to believe that some, who have already raised the war-cry, are
not so far off from the settlements of the Suwanee."

"_Miss_ Randolph!  Ha, ha, ha!  Why _Mister_ Gallagher, where did you
learn that respectful appellative?  It is so distant you must have
fetched it a long way.  _It_ used to be Virginia, and Virgine, and
Virginny, and simple 'Gin--for which last I could have spitted you,
_Mister_ Gallagher, and would, had you not given up calling me so.
What's the matter?  It is just three months since we--that is, you and
I, Mister Gallagher--met last; and scarcely two since Geordy and I
parted; and now you are both here--one talking as solemnly as Solon, the
other as soberly as Socrates!  George, I presume, after another spell of
absence, will be styling me _Miss_ Randolph--I suppose that's the
fashion at the fort.  Come, fellows," she added, striking the balustrade
with her whip, "your minds and your mouths, and give me the reason of
this wonderful `transmogrification,' for by my word, you shall not eat
till you do!"

The relation in which Gallagher stood to my sister requires a little
explanation.  He was not new either to her or my mother.  During their
sojourn in the north, he had met them both; but the former often.  As my
almost constant companion, he had ample opportunity of becoming
acquainted with Virginia; and he had, in reality, grown well acquainted
with her.  They met on the most familiar terms--even to using the
diminutives of each other's names; and I could understand why my sister
regarded "Miss Randolph" as a rather distant mode of address; but I
understood, also, why he had thus addressed her.

There was a period when I believed my friend in love with Virginia; that
was shortly after their introduction to each other.  But as time wore
on, I ceased to have this belief.  Their behaviour was not that of
lovers--at least, according to my notion.  They were too _friendly_ to
be in love.  They used to romp together, and read comic books, and
laugh, and chatter by the hour about trivial things, and call each other
jack-names, and the like.  In fact, it was a rare thing to hear them
either talk or act soberly when in each other's company.  All this was
so different from my ideas of how two lovers _would_ act--so different
from the way in which _I_ should have acted--that I gave up the fancy I
had held, and afterwards regarded them as two beings whose characters
had a certain correspondence, and whose hearts were in unison for
friendship, but not for love.

One other circumstance confirmed me in this belief: I observed that my
sister, during Gallagher's absence, had little relish for gaiety, which
had been rather a characteristic of her girlish days; but the moment the
latter would make his appearance, a sadden change would come over her,
and she would enter with _abandon_ into all the idle bagatelle of the
hour.

Love, thought I, does not so exhibit itself.  If there was one in whom
she felt a heart-interest, it was not he who was present.  No--Gallagher
was not the man; and the play that passed between them was but the fond
familiarity of two persons who esteemed each other, without a spark of
love being mixed up in the affection.

The dark suspicion that now rested upon his mind, as upon my own, had
evidently saddened him--not from any feeling of jealousy, but out of
pure friendly sympathy for me--perhaps, too, for her.  His bearing
towards her, though within the rules of the most perfect politeness,
_was_ changed--much changed; no wonder she took notice of it--no wonder
she called for an explanation.

"Quick!" cried she, cutting the vine-leaves with her whip.  "Is it a
travesty, or are you in earnest?  Unbosom yourselves both, or I keep my
vow--you shall have no dinner.  I shall myself go to the kitchen, and
countermand it."

Despite the gloomy thoughts passing within, her manner and the odd
menace compelled Gallagher to break into laughter--though his laugh was
far short of the hearty cachinnation she had been accustomed to hear
from him.

I was myself forced to smile; and, seeing the necessity of smothering my
emotions, I stammered forth what might pass for an explanation.  It was
not the time for the true one.

"Verily, sister," said I, "we are too tired for mirth, and too hungry as
well.  Consider how far we have ridden, and under a broiling sun!
Neither of us has tasted a morsel since leaving the fort, and our
breakfast there was none of the most sumptuous--corncakes and weak
coffee, with pickled pork.  How I long for some of Aunt Sheba's Virginia
biscuits and `chicken fixings.'  Pray, let us have our dinner, and then
you shall see a change in us!  We shall both be as merry as sand-boys
after it."

Satisfied with this explanation, or affecting to be so--for her response
was a promise to let us have our dinner--accompanied by a cheerful
laugh--my sister retired to make the necessary change in her costume,
while my friend and I were shown to our separate apartments.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

At dinner, and afterwards, I did my utmost to counterfeit ease--to
appear happy and cheerful.  I noticed that Gallagher was enacting a
similar _metier_.

Perhaps this seeming may have deceived my mother, but not Virginia.  Ere
many hours had passed, I observed signs of suspicion--directed equally
against Gallagher as myself.  She suspected that all was not right, and
began to show pique--almost spitefulness--in her conversation with us
both.



CHAPTER FIFTY THREE.

MY SISTER'S SPIRIT.

For the remainder of that day and throughout the next, this
unsatisfactory state of things continued, during which time the three of
us--my friend, my sister, and myself--acted under a polite reserve.  It
was triangular, for I had not made Gallagher my confidant, but left him
entirely to his conjectures.  He was a true gentleman; and never even
hinted at what he must have well-known was engrossing the whole of my
thoughts.  It was my intention to unbosom myself to him, and seek his
friendly advice, but not until a little time had elapsed--not till I had
obtained a full _eclaircissement_ from Virginia.

I waited for an opportunity to effect this.  Not but that many a one
offered--many a time might I have found her alone; but, on each
occasion, my resolution forsook me.  I actually dreaded to bring her to
a confession.

And yet I felt that it was my duty.  As her brother--the nearest male
relative, it was mine to guard her honour--to preserve the family
escutcheon pure and untarnished.

For days was I restrained from this fraternal duty--partly through a
natural feeling of delicacy--partly from a fear of the disclosure I
might draw forth.  I dreaded to know the truth.  That a correspondence
had passed between my sister and the Indian chief--that it was in all
probability still going on--that a clandestine meeting had taken place--
more than one, mayhap--all this I knew well enough.  But to what length
had these proceedings been carried?  How far had my poor sister
compromised herself?  These were the interrogatories to which I dreaded
the answer.

I believed she would tell me the truth--that is, if entreated; if
commanded, _no_.

Of the last, I felt satisfied.  I knew her proud spirit--prouder of
late.  When roused to hostility, she could be capable of the most
obstinate resistance--firm and unyielding.  There was much of my
mother's nature in her, and little of my father's.  Personally, as
already stated, she resembled her mother; intellectually, there was also
a similitude.  She was one of those women--for she now deserved the
title--who have never known the restraint of a severe discipline, and
who grow up in the belief that they have no superior, no master upon
earth.  Hence the full development of a feeling of perfect independence,
which, among American women, is common enough, but, in other lands, can
only exist among those of the privileged classes.  Uncontrolled by
parent, guardian, or teacher--for this last had not been allowed to
"rule by the rod"--my sister had grown to the age of womanhood, and she
felt herself as masterless as a queen upon her throne.

She was independent in another sense--one which exerts a large influence
over the freedom of the spirit--her fortune was her own.

In the States of America, the law of entail is not allowed; it is even
provided against by statute.  Those statesmen presidents who in long
line succeeded the Father of the Republic, were wise legislators.  They
saw lurking under this wicked law--which, at most, appears only to
affect the family relations--the strong arm of the political tyrant;
and, therefore, took measures to guard against its introduction to the
land.  Wisely did they act, as time will show, or, indeed, has shown
already; for had the congress of Washington's day but sanctioned the law
of entail, the great American republic would long since have passed into
an oligarchy.

Untrammelled by any such unnatural statute, my father had acted as all
men of proper feeling are likely to do; he had followed the dictates of
the heart, and divided his property in equal shares between his
children.  So far as independence of fortune went, my sister was my
equal.

Of course, our mother had not been left unprovided for, but the bulk of
the patrimonial estate now belonged to Virginia and myself.

My sister, then, was an heiress--quite independent of either mother or
brother--bound by no authority to either, except that which exists in
the ties of the heart--in filial and sororal affection.

I have been minute with these circumstances, in order to explain the
delicate duty I had to perform, in calling my sister to an account.

Strange that I reflected not on my own anomalous position.  At that
hour, it never entered my thoughts.  Here was I affianced to the sister
of this very man, with the sincere intention of making her my wife.

I could perceive nothing unnatural, nothing disgraceful in the
alliance--neither would society.  Such, in earlier times, had done
honour to Rolfe, who had mated with a maiden of darker skin, less
beauty, and far slighter accomplishments than Maumee.  In later days,
hundreds of others had followed his example, without the loss either of
_caste_ or character; and why should not I?  In truth, the question had
never occurred to me, for it never entered my thoughts that my purpose
in regard to _my_ Indian _fiancee_ was otherwise than perfectly _en
regle_.

It would have been different had there been a taint of _African blood_
in the veins of my intended.  Then, indeed, might I have dreaded the
frowns of society--for in America it is not the colour of the skin that
condemns, but the blood--the blood.  The white gentleman may marry an
Indian wife; she may enter society without protest--if beautiful, become
a belle.

All this I knew, while, at the same time, I was slave to a belief in the
monstrous anomaly that where the blood is mingled from the other side--
where the woman is white and the man red--the union becomes a
_mesalliance_, a disgrace.  By the friends of the former, such a union
is regarded as a misfortune--a fall; and when the woman chances to be a
_lady_--ah! then, indeed--

Little regard as I had for many of my country's prejudices, regarding
race and colour, I was not free from the influence of this social maxim.
To believe my sister in love with an Indian, would be to regard her as
lost--fallen!  No matter how high in rank among his own people--no
matter how brave--how accomplished he might be--no matter if it were
Osceola himself!



CHAPTER FIFTY FOUR.

ASKING AN EXPLANATION.

Suspense was preying upon me; I could endure it no longer.  I at length
resolved upon demanding an explanation from my sister, as soon as I
should find her alone.

The opportunity soon offered.  I chanced to see her in the lawn, down
near the edge of the lake.  I saw that she was in a mood unusually
cheerful.

"Alas!" thought I, as I approached full of my resolutions--"these
smiles!  I shall soon change them to tears.  Sister."

She was talking to her pets, and did not hear me, or pretended she did
not.

"Sister!"  I repeated, in a louder voice.

"Well, what is it?" she inquired, drily, without looking up.

"Pray, Virginia, leave off your play, and talk to me."

"Certainly, that is an inducement.  I have had so little of your tongue
of late, that I ought to feel gratified by your proposal.  Why don't you
bring your friend, and let him try a little in that line too.  You have
been playing double dummy long enough to get tired of it, I should
think.  But go on with the game, if it please you; it don't trouble me,
I assure you.

  "A Yankee ship and a Yankee crew,
  Tally high ho, you know!
  Won't strike to the foe while the sky it is blue,
  And a tar's aloft or alow.

"Come now, little Fan!  Fan! don't go too near the bank, or you may get
a ducking, do you hear?"

"Pray, sister Virginia, give over this badinage: I have something of
importance to say to you."

"Importance!  What! are you going to get married?  No, that can't be
it--your face is too portentous and lugubrious; you look more like one
on the road to be hanged--ha, ha, ha!"

"I tell you, sister, I am in earnest."

"Who said you wasn't?  In earnest?  I believe you, my boy."

"Listen to me, Virginia.  I have something important--very important to
talk about.  I have been desirous of breaking the subject to you ever
since my return."

"Well, why did you not? you have had opportunities enough.  Have I been
hid from you?"

"No--but--the fact is--"

"Go on, brother; you have an opportunity now.  If it be a petition, as
your looks appear to say, present it; I am ready to receive it."

"Nay, Virginia; it is not that.  The subject upon which I wish to
speak--"

"What subject, man?  Out with it!"

I was weary with so much circumlocution, and a little piqued as well; I
resolved to bring it to an end.  A word, thought I, will tame down her
tone, and render her as serious as myself, I answered:

"Osceola."

I looked to see her start, to see her cheek turn alternately red and
pale; but to my astonishment no such symptoms displayed themselves; not
the slightest indication of any extraordinary emotion betrayed itself
either in her look or manner.

She replied almost directly and without hesitation:

"What! the young chief of the Seminoles? our old playfellow, Powell?  He
is to be the subject of our discourse?  You could not have chosen one
more interesting to _me_.  I could talk all day long about this brave
fellow!"

I was struck dumb by her reply, and scarcely knew in what way to
proceed.

"But what of him, brother George?" continued my sister, looking me more
soberly in the face.  "I hope no harm has befallen him?"

"None that I know of: the harm has fallen upon those nearer and dearer."

"I do not understand you, my mysterious brother."

"But you shall.  I am about to put a question to you--answer me, and
answer me truly, as you value my love and friendship."

"Your question, sir, without these insinuations.  I can speak the truth,
I fancy, without being scared by threats."

"Then speak it, Virginia.  Tell me, is Powell--is Osceola--your lover?"

"Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha!"

"Nay, Virginia, this is no laughing matter."

"By my faith, I think it is--a very capital joke--ha, ha, ha!"

"I want no trifling, Virginia; an answer."

"You shall get no answer to such an absurd question."

"It is not absurd.  I have good reasons for putting it."

"Reasons--state them, pray!"

"You cannot deny that something has passed between you?  You cannot deny
that you have given him a meeting, and in the forest too?  Beware how
you make answer, for I have the proofs.  We encountered the chief on his
return.  We saw him at a distance.  He shunned us--no wonder.  We
followed his trail--we saw the tracks of the pony--oh! you met: it was
all clear enough."

"Ha, ha, ha!  What a pair of keen trackers--you and your friend--astute
fellows!  You will be invaluable on the warpath.  You will be promoted
to be chief spies to the army.  Ha, ha, ha!  And so, this is the grand
secret, is it? this accounts for the demure looks, and the odd-fashioned
airs that have been puzzling me.  My honour, eh? that was the care that
was cankering you.  By Diana!  I have reason to be thankful for being
blessed with such a chivalric brace of guardians.

  "In England, the garden of beauty is kept
  By the dragon of prudery, placed within call;
  But so oft this unamiable dragon has slept,
  That the garden was carelessly watched after all.

"And so if, I have not the dragon prudery to guard me, I am to find a
brace of dragons in my brother and his friend.  Ha, ha, ha!"

"Virginia, you madden me--this is no answer.  Did you meet Osceola?"

"I'll answer that directly: after such sharp espionage, denial would not
avail me.  I _did_ meet him."

"And for what purpose?  Did you meet as lovers?"

"That question is impertinent; I won't answer _it_."

"Virginia!  I implore you--"

"And cannot two people encounter each other in the woods, without being
charged with love-making?  Might we not have come together by chance? or
might I not have had other business with the Seminole chief?  You do not
know all my secrets, nor do I intend you shall either."

"Oh, it was no chance encounter--it was an appointment--a love-meeting:
you could have had no other affair with _him_."

"It is natural for you to think so--very natural, since I hear you
practise such _duettos_ yourself.  How long, may I ask, since you held
your last _tete-a-tete_ with your own fair charmer--the lovely Maumee?
Eh! brother?"

I started as if stung.  How could my sister have gained intelligence of
this?  Was she only guessing? and had chanced upon the truth?

For some moments I could not make reply, nor did I make any to her last
interrogatory.  I paid no heed to it, but, becoming excited, pressed my
former inquiries with vehemence.

"Sister!  I must have an explanation; I insist upon it--I demand it!"

"Demand!  Ho! that is your tone, is it?  That will scarcely serve you.
A moment ago, when you put yourself in the imploring attitude, I had
well-nigh taken pity on you, and told you all.  But, _demand_, indeed!
I answer no demands; and to show you that I do not, I shall now go and
shut myself in my room.  So, my good fellow, you shall see no more of me
for this day, nor to-morrow either, unless you come to your senses.
Good-by, Geordy--and _au revoir_, only on condition you behave yourself
like a gentleman.

"A Yankee ship and a Yankee crew, Tally high ho, you know!  Won't strike
to the foe, etc, etc."

And with this catch pealing from her lips, she passed across the
parterre, entered the verandah, and disappeared within the doorway.

Disappointed, mortified, sad, I stood riveted to the spot, scarcely
knowing in what direction to turn myself.



CHAPTER FIFTY FIVE.

THE VOLUNTEERS.

My sister kept her word.  I saw no more of her for that day, nor until
noon of the next.  Then she came forth from her chamber in full riding
costume, ordered White Fox to be saddled, and mounting, rode off alone.

I felt that I had no power over this capricious spirit.  It was idle to
attempt controlling it.  She was beyond the dictation of fraternal
authority--her own mistress--and evidently determined upon having her
will and her way.

After the conversation of yesterday, I felt no inclination to interfere
again.  She was acquainted with my secret; and knowing this, any counsel
from me would come with an ill grace, and be as ill received.  I
resolved, therefore, to withhold it, till some crisis should arrive that
would render it more impressive.

For several days this coolness continued between us--at which my mother
often wondered, but of which she received no explanation.  Indeed, I
fancied that even _her_ affection towards me was not so tender as it
used to be.  Perhaps I was wronging her.  She was a little angry with me
about the duel with Ringgold, the first intelligence of which had
gravely affected her.  On my return I had received her reproaches, for
it was believed that I alone was to blame in bringing the affair about.
"Why had I acted so rudely towards Arens Ringgold?  And all about
nothing?  A trumpery Indian belle?  What mattered it to me what may have
been said about the girl?  Likely what was said was nothing more than
the truth.  I should have behaved with more prudence."

I perceived that my mother had been informed upon most of the material
points connected with the affair.  Of one, however, she was ignorant:
she knew not who the "trumpery Indian belle" was--she had not heard the
name of Maumee.  Knowing her to be ignorant of this, I listened with
more calmness to the aspersive remarks.

For all that, I was somewhat excited by her reproaches, and several
times upon the point of declaring to her the true cause why I had called
Ringgold to an account.  For certain reasons I forbore.  My mother would
not have believed me.

As for Ringgold himself, I ascertained that a great change in his
fortunes had lately taken place.  His father was dead--had died in a fit
of passion, whilst in the act of chastising one of his slaves.  A
blood-vessel had burst, and he had fallen, as if by a judgment of God.

Arens, the only son, was now master of his vast, ill-gotten wealth--a
plantation with some three hundred slaves upon it; and it was said that
this had only made him more avaricious than ever.

His aim was--as it had been that of the older Ringgold--to become owner
of everybody and everything around him--a grand money-despot.  The son
was a fit successor to the father.

He had played the invalid for a while--carrying his arm in a sling--and,
as people said, not a little vain of having been engaged in a duel.
Those who understood how that affair had terminated, thought he had
little reason to be proud of it.

It seemed the hostility between him and myself had brought about no
change in his relations with our family.  I learned that he had been a
constant visitor at the house; and the world still believed him the
accepted suitor of Virginia.  Moreover, since his late accession to
wealth and power, he had grown more than ever a favourite with my
ambitious mother.  I learned all this with regret.

The old home appeared to have undergone a change.  There was not the
same warmth of affection as of yore.  I missed my kind, noble father.
My mother at times appeared cold and distant, as if she believed me
undutiful.  My uncle was her brother, and like her in everything; even
my fond sister seemed for the moment estranged.

I began to feel as a stranger in my own house, and, feeling so, stayed
but little at home.  Most of the day was I abroad, with Gallagher as my
companion.  Of course, my friend remained our guest during our stay on
the Suwanee.

Our time was occupied partly with the duties upon which we had been
commanded, and partly in following the amusement of the chase.  Of
deer-hunting and fox running we had an abundance; but I did not enjoy it
as formerly; neither did my companion--ardent sportsman though he was--
seem to take the delight in it which he had anticipated.

Our military duties were by no means of an arduous nature, and were
usually over before noon.  Our orders had been, not so much to recruit
volunteers as to superintend the organisation of those already raised;
and "muster them into service."  A corps had already advanced some
length towards formation, having elected its own officers and enrolled
most of its rank and file.  Our part was to inspect, instruct, and
govern them.

The little church, near the centre of the settlement, was the
head-quarters of the corps; and there the drill was daily carried on.

The men were mostly of the poorer class of white settlers--small renting
planters--and squatters who dwelt along the swamp-edges, and who managed
to eke out a precarious subsistence partly by the use of their axes, and
partly from the product of their rifles.  The old hunter Hickman was
among the number; and what did not much surprise me, I found the
worthies Spence and Williams enrolled in the corps.  Upon these scamps I
was determined to keep a watchful eye, and hold them at a wary distance.

Many of the privates were men of a higher class--for the common danger
had called all kinds into the field.

The officers were usually planters of wealth and influence; though there
were some who, from the democratic influence of elections, were but ill
qualified to wear epaulettes.

Many of these gentlemen bore far higher official titles than either
Gallagher or myself.  Colonels and majors appeared to be almost as
numerous as privates.  But for all this, they did not demur to our
exercising authority over them.  In actual war-time, it is not uncommon
for a lieutenant of the "line," or the lowest subaltern of the regular
army, to be placed in command of a full colonel of militia or
volunteers!

Here and there was an odd character, who, perhaps, in earlier life had
"broken down" at West Point, or had gone through a month of campaigning
service in the Greek wars, under "Old Hickory."  These, fancying
themselves _au fait_ in the military art, were not so pleasant to deal
with; and at times it required all Gallagher's determined firmness to
convince them that _he_ was commander-in-chief upon the Suwanee.

My friend's reputation as a "fire eater," which had preceded him, had as
much weight in confirming his authority as the commission which he
brought with him from "head-quarters."

Upon the whole, we got along smoothly enough with these gentlemen--most
of whom seemed desirous of learning their duty, and submitted to our
instructions with cheerfulness.

There was no lack of champagne, brandy, and cigars.  The neighbouring
planters were hospitable; and had my friend or myself been inclined
towards dissipation, we could not have been established in better
quarters for indulging the propensity.

To this, however, neither of us gave way; and our moderation no doubt
caused us to be held in higher esteem, even among the hard drinkers by
whom we were surrounded.

Our new life was by no means disagreeable; and but for the
unpleasantness that had arisen at home, I could have felt for the time
contented and happy.

At home--at home--there was the canker: it appeared no longer a home.



CHAPTER FIFTY SIX.

MYSTERIOUS CHANGES.

Not many days had elapsed before I observed a sudden change in the
conduct of Gallagher; not towards myself or my mother, but in his manner
towards Virginia.

It was the day after I had held the conversation with her, that I first
noticed this.  I noticed at the same time that her manner towards him
was equally altered.

The somewhat frosty politeness that had hitherto been observed between
them, appeared to have suddenly thawed, and their old genial friendship
to become reestablished on its former footing.

They now played, and sang, and laughed together, and read, and chattered
nonsense, as they had been used to do in times past.

"Ah!" thought I, "it is easy for him to forget; he is but a friend, and,
of course, cannot have the feelings of a brother.  Little matters it to
him what may be her secret relations, or with whom.  What need he care
about her improprieties?  She is good company, and her winning way has
beguiled him from dwelling upon that suspicion, which he must have
entertained as well as myself.  He has either forgotten, forgiven, or
else found some explanation of her conduct that seems to satisfy him.
At all events, _I_ appear to have lost his sympathy, while _she_ has
regained his confidence and friendship."

I was at first astonished at this new phase in the relations of our
family circle--afterwards puzzled by it.

I was too proud and piqued to ask Gallagher for an explanation; and, as
he did not volunteer to give one, I was compelled to abide in ignorance.

I perceived that my mother also regarded this altered behaviour with
surprise, and also with a feeling of a somewhat different kind--
suspicion.

I could guess the reason of this.  She fancied that they were growing
too fond of each other--that, notwithstanding he had no fortune but his
pay-roll, Virginia might fancy the dashing soldier for a husband.

Of course my mother, having already formed designs as to the disposal of
her daughter, could not calmly contemplate such a destiny as this.  It
was natural enough, then, she should look with a jealous eye upon the
gay confidence that had been established between them.

I should have been glad if I could have shared my mother's suspicions;
happy if my sister had but fixed her affections there.  My friend would
have been welcome to call me brother.  Fortuneless though he might be, I
should have made no opposition to that alliance.

But it never entered my thoughts that there was aught between the two
but the old rollicking friendship; and love acts not in that style.  So
far as Captain Gallagher was concerned, I could have given my mother
assurance that would have quieted her fears.

And yet to a stranger they might have appeared as lovers--almost to any
one except myself.  They were together half the day and half the night:
they rode together into the woods, and were sometimes absent for hours
at a time.  I perceived that my comrade began to care little for _my_
company, and daily less.  Stranger still, the chase no longer delighted
him!  As for duty, this he sadly neglected, and had not the "lieutenant"
been on the ground, I fear the "corps" would have stood little chance of
instruction.

As days passed on, I fancied that Gallagher began to relapse into a more
sober method.  He certainly seemed more thoughtful.  This was when my
sister was out of sight.  It was not the air he had worn after our
arrival--but very different.

It certainly resembled the bearing of a man in love.  He would start on
hearing my sister's voice from without--his ear was quick to catch every
word from her, and his eyes expressed delight whenever she came into the
room.  Once or twice, I saw him gazing at her with an expression upon
his countenance that betokened more than friendship.

My old suspicions began to return to me.  After all, he _might_ be in
love with Virginia?

Certainly, she was fair enough to impress the heart even of this
adamantine soldier.  Gallagher was no lady's man--had never been known
to seek conquests over the sex--in fact, felt some awkwardness in their
company.  My sister seemed the only one before whom he could converse
with fluency or freedom.

Notwithstanding, and after all, he _might_ be in love!

I should have been pleased to know it, could I only have insured him a
reciprocity of his passion; but alas! that was not in my power.

I wondered whether _she_ ever thought of him as a lover; but no--she
could not--not if she was thinking of--

And yet her behaviour towards him was at times of such a character, that
a stranger to her eccentricities would have fancied she loved him.  Even
I was mystified by her actions.  She either had some feeling for him,
beyond that of mere friendship, or made show of it.  If he loved her,
and she knew it, then her conduct was cruel in the extreme.

I indulged in such speculations, though, only when I could not restrain
myself from dwelling upon them.  They were unpleasant; at times, even
painful.

I lived in a maze of doubt, puzzled and perplexed at what was passing
around me; but at this time there turned up a new chapter in our family
history, that, in point of mystery, eclipsed all others.  A piece of
information reached me, that, if true, must sweep all these new-sprung
theories out my mind.

I learned that my sister was _in love with Arens Ringgold_--in other
words, that she was "listening to his addresses!"



CHAPTER FIFTY SEVEN.

MY INFORMANT.

This I had upon the authority of my faithful servant, Black Jake.  Upon
almost any other testimony, I should have been incredulous; but his was
unimpeachable.  Negro as he was, his perceptions were keen enough; while
his earnestness proved that he believed what he said.  He had reasons,
and he gave them.

I received the strange intelligence in this wise:

I was seated by the bathing-pond, alone, busied with a book, when I
heard Jake's familiar voice pronouncing my name: "Massr George."

"Well, Jake?"  I responded, without withdrawing my eyes from the page.

"Ise wanted all da mornin to git you 'lone by yarself; Ise want to hab a
leetle bit ob a convasayshun, Massr George."

The solemn tone, so unusual in the voice of Jake, awoke my attention.
Mechanically closing the book, I looked up in his face: it was solemn as
his speech.

"A conversation with me, Jake?"

"Ye, massr--dat am if you isn't ingage?"

"Oh, by no means, Jake.  Go on: let me hear what you have to say."

"Poor fellow!" thought I--"he has his sorrows too.  Some complaint about
Viola.  The wicked coquette is torturing him with jealousy; but what can
I do?  I cannot _make_ her love him--no.  `One man may lead a horse to
the water, but forty can't make him drink.'  No; the little jade will
act as she pleases in spite of any remonstrance on my part.  Well,
Jake?"

"Wa, Massr George, I doant meself like to intafere in tha 'fairs ob da
family--daat I doant; but ye see, massr, things am a gwine all wrong--
all wrong, by golly!"

"In what respect?"

"Ah, massr, dat young lady--dat young lady."

Polite of Jake to call Viola a young lady.

"You think she is deceiving you?"

"More dan me, Massr George--more dan me."

"What a wicked girl!  But perhaps, Jake, you only fancy these things?
Have you had any proofs of her being unfaithful?  Is there any one in
particular who is now paying her attentions?"

"Yes, massr; berry partickler--nebber so partickler before--nebber."

"A white man?"

"Gorramighty, Massr George!" exclaimed Jake in a tone of surprise; "you
do talk kewrious: ob coorse it am a white man.  No odder dan a white man
dar shew 'tention to tha young lady."

I could not help smiling.  Considering Jake's own complexion, he
appeared to hold very exalted views of the unapproachableness of his
charmer by those of her own race.  I had once heard him boast that he
was the "only man ob colour dat could shine _thar_."  It was a white
man, then, who was making his misery.

"Who is he, Jake?"  I inquired.

"Ah, massr, he am dat ar villain debbil, Arens Ringgol!"

"What!  Arens Ringgold?--he making love to Viola!"

"Viola!  Gorramighty, Massr George!" exclaimed the black, staring till
his eyes shewed only the whites--"Viola!  Gorramighty, I nebber say
Viola!--nebber!"

"Of whom, then, are you speaking?"

"O massr, did I not say da young lady? dat am tha young Missa--Missa
Vaginny."

"Oh! my sister you mean.  Poh, poh!  Jake.  That is an old story.  Arens
Ringgold has been paying his addresses to my sister for many years; but
with no chance of success.  You needn't trouble yourself about that, my
faithful friend; there is no danger of their getting married.  She
doesn't like him, Jake--I wonder who does or could--and even if she did,
I would not permit it.  But there's no fear, so you may make your mind
easy on that score."

My harangue seemed not to satisfy the black.  He stood scratching his
head, as if he had something more to communicate.  I waited for him to
speak.

"'Scoose me, Massr George, for da freedom, but dar you make mighty big
mistake.  It am true dar war a time when Missa Vaginny she no care for
dat ar snake in da grass.  But de times am change: him father--da ole
thief--he am gone to tha udda world? tha young un he now rich--he big
planter--tha biggest on da ribber: ole missa she 'courage him come see
Missa Vaginny--'cause he rich, he good spec."

"I know all that, Jake: my mother always wished it; but that signifies
nothing--my sister is a little self-willed, and will be certain to have
her own way.  There is no fear of her giving her consent to marry, Arens
Ringgold."

"'Scoose me, Massr George, scoose me 'gain--I tell you, massr, you make
mistake: she a'most consent now."

"Why, what has put this notion into your head, my good fellow?"

"Viola, massr.  Dat ere quadroon tell me all."

"So, you are friends with Viola again?"

"Ye, Massr George, we good friend as ebber.  'Twar only my s'picion--I
wor wrong.  She good gal--she true as de rifle.  No more s'picion o'
her, on de part ob Jake--no."

"I am glad of that.  But pray, what has she told you about Arens
Ringgold and my sister?"

"She tell me all: she see somethin' ebbery day."

"Every day!  Why, it is many days since Arens Ringgold has visited
here?"

"No, massr; dar you am mistake 'gain: Mass Arens he come to da house
ebbery day--a'most ebbery day."

"Nonsense; I never saw him here.  I never heard of his having been,
since my return from the fort."

"But him hab been, for all dat, massr; I see him meseff.  He come when
you gone out.  He be here when we goes a huntin'.  I see um come
yest'day, when you any Mass Garger wor away to tha volunteers--dat he
war sat'n."

"You astonish me."

"Dat's not all, massr.  Viola she say dat Missa Vaginny she 'have
different from what she used to: he talk love; she not angry no more;
she listen to him talk.  Oh, Massr George, Viola think she give her
consent to marry him: dat would be dreadful thing--berry, berry
dreadful."

"Jake," said I, "listen to me.  You will stay by the house when I am
absent.  You will take note of every one who comes and goes; and
whenever Arens Ringgold makes his appearance on a visit to the family,
you will come for me as fast as horse can carry you."

"Gollys! dat I will, Massr George: you nebber fear, I come fass enuff--
like a streak ob de greased lightnin'."

And with this promise the black left me.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

With all my disposition to be incredulous, I could not disregard the
information thus imparted to me.  Beyond doubt, there was truth in it.
The black was too faithful to think of deceiving me, and too astute to
be himself deceived.  Viola had rare opportunities for observing all
that passed within our family circle; and what motive could she have for
inventing a tale like this?

Besides Jake had himself seen Ringgold on visits--of which _I_ had never
been informed.  This confirmed the other--confirmed all.

What was I to make of it?  Three who appear as lovers--the chief,
Gallagher, Arens Ringgold!  Has she grown wicked, abandoned, and is
coquetting with all the world?

Can she have a thought of Ringgold?  No--it is not possible.  I could
understand her having an affection for the soldier--a romantic passion
for the brave and certainly handsome chief; but for Arens Ringgold--a
squeaking conceited snob, with nought but riches to recommend him--this
appeared utterly improbable.

Of course, the influence was my mother's; but never before had I
entertained a thought that Virginia would yield.  If Viola spoke the
truth, she had yielded, or was yielding.

"Ah, mother, mother! little knowest thou the fiend you would introduce
to your home, and cherish as your child."



CHAPTER FIFTY EIGHT.

OLD HICKMAN.

The morning after, I went as usual to the recruiting quarters.
Gallagher was along with me, as upon this day the volunteers were to be
"mustered into service," [Note 1] and our presence was necessary at the
administering of the oath.

A goodly company was collected, forming a troop more respectable in
numbers than appearance.  They were "mounted volunteers;" but as each
individual had been his own quartermaster, no two were either armed or
mounted alike.  Nearly all carried rifles, though there were a few who
shouldered the old family musket--a relic of revolutionary times--and
were simply armed with single or double barrelled shot-guns.  These,
however, loaded with heavy buck-shot, would be no contemptible weapons
in a skirmish with Indians.  There were pistols of many sorts--from the
huge brass-butted holsters to small pocket-pistols--single and double
barrelled--but no revolvers, for as yet the celebrated "Colt" [Note 2]
had not made its appearance in frontier warfare.  Every volunteer
carried his knife--some, dagger-shaped with ornamented hafts; while the
greater number were long, keen blades, similar to those in use among
butchers.  In the belts of many were stuck small hatchets, an imitation
of the Indian tomahawk.  These were to serve the double purpose of
cutting a way through the brushwood, or breaking in the skull of a
savage, as opportunity might offer.

The equipments consisted of powder-horns, bullet-pouches, and
shot-belts--in short, the ordinary sporting gear of the frontiersman or
amateur hunter when out upon the "still-hunt," of the fallow deer.

The "mount" of the troop was as varied as the arms and accoutrements:
horses from thirteen hands to seventeen; the tall, raw-boned steed; the
plump, cob-shaped roadster; the tight, wiry native of the soil, of
Andalusian race [Note 3]; the lean, worn-out "critter," that carried on
his back the half-ragged squatter, side by side with the splendid
Arabian charger, the fancy of some dashing young planter who bestrode
him, with no slight conceit in the grace and grandeur of his display.
Not a few were mounted upon mules, both of American and Spanish origin;
and these, when well trained to the saddle, though they may not equal
the horse in the charge, are quite equal to him in a campaign against an
Indian foe.  Amid thickets--through forests of heavy timber, where the
ground is a marsh, or strewn with logs, fallen branches, and matted with
protrate parasites, the hybrid will make way safely, when the horse will
sink or stumble.  Some of the most experienced backwoods hunters, while
following the chase, prefer a mule to the high-mettled steed of Arabia.

Motley were the dresses of the troop.  There were uniforms, or
half-uniforms, worn by some of the officers; but among the men no two
were dressed in like fashion.  Blanket-coats of red, blue, and green;
linsey woolseys of coarse texture, grey or copper-coloured; red flannel
shirts; jackets of brown linen, or white--some of yellow nankin cotton--
a native fabric; some of sky-blue cottonade; hunting-shirts of dressed
deer-skin, with moccasins and leggins; boots of horse or alligator hide,
high-lows, brogans--in short, every variety of _chaussure_ known
throughout the States.

The head-gear was equally varied and fantastic.  No stiff shakos were to
be seen there; but caps of skin, and hats of wool and felt, and straw
and palmetto-leaf, broad-brimmed, scuffed, and slouching.  A few had
forage-caps of blue cloth, that gave somewhat of a military character to
the wearers.

In one respect, the troop had a certain uniformity; they were all eager
for the fray--burning for a fight with the hated savages, who were
committing such depredations throughout the land.  When were they to be
led against them?  This was the inquiry constantly passing through the
ranks of the volunteer array.

Old Hickman was among the most active.  His age and experience had
procured him the rank of sergeant by free election; and I had many
opportunities of conversing with him.  The alligator-hunter was still my
true friend, and devoted to the interests of our family.  On this very
day I chanced to be with him alone, when he gave proof of his attachment
by volunteering a conversation I little expected from him.  Thus he
began:

"May a Injun sculp me, lootenant, if I can bar the thought o' that puke
a marrin' yur sister."

"Marrying my sister--who?"  I inquired in some surprise.  Was it
Gallagher he meant?

"Why, in coorse the fellar as everybody sez is a goin' to--that cussed
polecat o' a critter, Ary Ringgold."

"Oh! him you mean?  Everybody says so, do they?"

"In coorse--it's the hul talk o' the country.  Durn me, George Randolph,
if I'd let him.  Yur sister--the putty critter--she ur the finest an'
the hansomest gurl in these parts; an' for a durned skunk like thet,
not'ithstandin' all his dollars, to git her, I can't a bear to hear o't.
Why, George, I tell you, he'll make her mis'able for the hul term o'
her nat'ral life--that ere's whet he'll be sartint to do--durnation to
him!"

"You are kind to counsel me, Hickman; but I think the event you dread is
not likely ever to come to pass."

"Why do people keep talkin' o't, then?  Everybody says it's a goin' to
be.  If it wan't thet I'm an old friend o' yur father, George, I wudn't
ha' tuk sich a liberty; but I war his friend, an' I'm _yur_ friend; an'
thurfor it be I hev spoke on the matter.  We may talk o' Injuns; but
thur ain't ne'er a Injun in all Floridy is as big a thief as them
Ringgolds--father an' son, an' the hul kit o' them.  The old un' he's
clurred out from hyar, an' whar he's gone to 'tain't hard to tell.  Ole
Scratch hez got hold o' him, an' I reck'n he'll be catchin' it by this
time for the deviltries he carried on while about hyar.  He'll git paid
up slick for the way he treated them poor half-breeds on tother side the
crik."

"The Powells?"

"Ye-es--that wur the durndest piece o' unjustice I ever know'd o' in all
my time.  By --, it wur!"

"You know what happened them, then?"

"Sartinly I do; every trick in the hul game.  Twur a leetle o' the
meanest transackshun I ever know'd a white--an' a white that called
himself a gentleman--to have a hand in.  By --, it wur!"

Hickman now proceeded, at my request, to detail with more minuteness
than I had yet heard them, the facts connected with the robbery of the
unfortunate family.

It appeared by his account that the Powells had not voluntarily gone
away from the plantation; that, on the contrary, their removal had been
to the friendless widow the most painful thing of all.  Not only was the
land of great value--the best in the whole district--but it had been to
her the scene of a happy life--a home endeared by early love, by the
memory of a kind husband, by every tie of the heart's affection; and she
had only parted from it when driven out by the strong arm of the law--by
the staff of the sheriff's officer.

Hickman had been present at the parting scene, and described it in rough
but feeling terms.  He told me of the sad unwillingness which the family
exhibited at parting; of the indignant reproaches of the son--of the
tears and entreaties of mother and daughter--how the persecuted widow
had offered everything left her--her personal property--even the
trinkets and jewels--souvenirs given her by her departed husband--if the
ruffians would only allow her to remain in possession of the house--the
old homestead, consecrated to her by long happy years spent under its
roof.

Her appeals were in vain.  The heartless persecutor was without
compassion, and she was driven forth.

Of all these things, the old hunter spoke freely and feelingly; for
although a man of somewhat vulgar speech and rough exterior, he was one
whose heart beat with humanity, and who hated injustice.  He had no
friendship for mere wrong-doers, and he heartily detested the whole
tribe of the Ringgolds.  His narration re-kindled within me the
indignant emotions I had experienced on first hearing of this monstrous
act of cruelty; and my sympathy for Osceola--interrupted by late
suspicions--was almost restored, as I stood listening to the story of
his wrongs.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

Note 1.  In the United States, a volunteer corps or regiment "raises
itself."  When the numbers are complete, and the officers are elected,
if the government accept its services, both officers and men are then
"mustered in"--In other words, sworn to serve for a fixed period, under
exactly the same regulations as the regular troops, with like pay,
rations, etc.

Note 2.  The military corps first armed with Colt's pistols was the
regiment of Texan Rangers.  Its first trial in actual warfare occurred
in the war between the United States and Mexico in a skirmish with the
guerilla band of Padre Jaranta. 125 guerrilleros were put _hors de
combat_ in less than fifteen minutes by this effective weapon.

Note 3.  The horse was introduced into Florida by the Spaniards; hence
the breed.



CHAPTER FIFTY NINE.

A HASTY MESSENGER.

In the company of Hickman, I had walked off to some distance from the
crowd, in order that our conversation should be unrestrained.

As the moments passed, the old hunter warmed into greater freedom of
speech, and from his manner I fancied he had still other developments to
make.  I had firm faith in his devotion to our family--as well as in his
personal friendship for myself--and once or twice I was on the eve of
revealing to him the thoughts that rendered me unhappy.  In experience,
he was a sage, and although a rude one, he might be the best counsellor
I could find.  I knew no other who possessed half his knowledge of the
world--for Hickman had not always lived among the alligators; on the
contrary, he had passed through various phases of life.  I could safely
trust to his devotedness: with equal safety I might confide in the
resources of his judgment.

Under this belief, I should have unburdened myself of the heavy secrets
weighing upon my mind--of some of them at least--had it not been that I
fancied he already knew some of them.  With the re-appearance of Yellow
Jake I knew him to be acquainted: he alleged that he had never felt sure
about the mulatto's death, and had heard long ago that he was alive; but
it was not of him I was thinking, but of the designs of Arens Ringgold.
Perhaps Hickman knew something of these.  I noticed that when his name
was mentioned in connection with those of Spence and Williams, he
glanced towards me a look of strange significance, as if he had
something to say of these wretches.

I was waiting for him to make a disclosure, when the footfall of a
fast-going horse fell upon my ear.  On looking up, I perceived a
horseman coming down the bank of the river, and galloping as earnestly
as if riding a "quarter-race."

The horse was white, and the rider black; I recognised both at a glance;
Jake was the horseman.

I stepped out from among the trees, in order that he should see me, and
not pass on to the church that stood a little beyond.  I hailed him as
he advanced.

He both saw and heard me; and abruptly turning his horse, came galloping
up to the spot where the old hunter and I were standing.

He was evidently upon an errand; but the presence of Hickman prevented
him from declaring it aloud.  It would not keep, however, and throwing
himself from the saddle, he drew near me, and whispered it into my ear.
It was just what I was expecting to hear--Arens Ringgold was at the
house.

"That dam nigga am thar, Massr George."

Such was literally Jake's muttered announcement.

I received the communication with as much show of tranquillity as I
could assume; I did not desire that Hickman should have any knowledge of
its nature, nor even a suspicion that there was anything extraordinary
upon the _tapis_; so dismissing the black messenger with a word, I
turned away with the hunter; and walking back to the church enclosure,
contrived to lose him in the crowd of his comrades.

Soon after, I released my horse from his fastening; and, without saying
a word to any one--not even to Gallagher--I mounted, and moved quietly
off.

I did not take the direct road that led to our plantation, but made a
short circuit through some woods that skirted close to the church.  I
did this to mislead old Hickman or any other who might have noticed the
rapid arrival of the messenger; and who, had I gone directly back with
him, might have held guesses that all was not right at home.  To prevent
this, I appeared to curious eyes, to have gone in an opposite direction
to the right one.

A little rough riding through the bushes brought me out into the main
up-river road; and then, sinking the spur, I galloped as if life or
death were staked upon the issue.  My object in making such haste was
simply to get to the house in time, before the clandestine visitor--
welcome guest of mother and sister--should make his adieus.

Strong reasons as I had for hating this man, I had no sanguinary
purpose; it was not my design to kill Arens Ringgold--though such might
have been the most proper mode to dispose of a reptile so vile and
dangerous as he.  Knowing him as I did, freshly spurred to angry passion
by Hickman's narrative of his atrocious behaviour, I could at that
moment have taken his life without fear of remorse.

But although I felt fierce indignation, I was yet neither mad nor
reckless.  Prudential motives--the ordinary instinct of self-safety--
still had their influence over me; and I had no intention to imitate the
last act in the tragedy of Samson's life.

The programme I had sketched out for myself was of a more rational
character.

My design was to approach the house--if possible, unobserved--the
drawing-room as well--where of course the visitor would be found--an
abrupt _entree_ upon the scene--both guest and hosts taken by surprise--
the demand of an explanation from all three--a complete clearing-up of
this mysterious _imbroglio_ of our family relations, that was so
painfully perplexing me.  Face to face, I should confront the triad--
mother, sister, wooer--and force all three to confession.

"Yes!" soliloquised I, with the eagerness of my intention driving the
spur into the flanks of my horse--"Yes--confess they shall--they must--
one and all, or--"

With the first two I could not define the alternative; though some dark
design, based upon the slight of filial and fraternal love, was lurking
within my bosom.

For Ringgold, should he refuse to give the truth, my resolve was first
to "cowhide" him, then kick him out of doors, and finally command him
never again to enter the house--the house, of which henceforth I was
determined to be master.

As for etiquette, that was out of the question; at that hour, my soul
was ill attuned to the observance of delicate ceremony.  No rudeness
could be amiss, in dealing with the man who had tried to murder me.



CHAPTER SIXTY.

A LOVER'S GIFT.

As I have said, it was my design to make an entrance unobserved;
consequently, it was necessary to observe caution in approaching the
house.  To this end, as I drew near the plantation, I turned off the
main road into a path that led circuitously by the rear.  This path
would conduct me by the hommock, the bathing-pond, and the
orange-groves, without much danger of my approach being noticed by any
one.  The slaves at work within the enclosures could see me as I rode
through the grounds; but these were the "field-hands."  Unless seen by
some of the domestics, engaged in household affairs, I had no fear of
being announced.

My messenger had not gone directly back; I had ordered him to await me
in an appointed place, and there I found him.

Directing him to follow me, I kept on; and having passed through the
fields, we rode into the thick underwood of the hommock, where halting,
we dismounted from our horses.  From this point I proceeded alone.

As the hunter steals upon the unexpecting game, or the savage upon his
sleeping foe, did I approach the house--my home, my father's home, the
home of mother and sister.  Strange conduct in a son and a brother--a
singular situation.

My limbs trembled under me as I advanced, my knees knocked together, my
breast was agitated by a tumult of wild emotions.  Once I hesitated and
halted.  The prospect of the unpleasant scene I was about to produce
stayed me.  My resolution was growing weak and undecided.

Perhaps I might have gone back--perhaps I might have waited another
opportunity, when I might effect my purpose by a less violent
development--but just then voices fell upon my ear, the effect of which
was to strengthen my wavering resolves.  My sister's voice was ringing
in laughter, that sounded light and gay.  There was another--only one.
I easily recognised the squeaking treble of her despicable suitor.  The
voices remaddened me--the tones stung me, as if they had been designedly
uttered in mockery of myself.  How could she behave thus? how riot in
joy, while I was drooping under dark suspicions of her misbehaviour?

Piqued as well as pained, I surrendered all thought of honourable
action; I resolved to carry through my design, but first--to play the
listener.

I drew nearer, and heard clearer.  The speakers were not in the house,
but outside, by the edge of the orange grove.  Softly treading, gently
parting the boughs, now crouching beneath them, now gliding erect, I
arrived unobserved within six paces of where they stood--near enough to
perceive their dresses glistening through the leaves--to hear every word
that passed between them.

Not many had been spoken, before I perceived that I had arrived at a
peculiar moment--a crisis.  The lover had just offered himself for a
husband--had, perhaps for the first time, seriously made his
declaration.  In all probability it was this had been eliciting my
sister's laughter.

"And really, Mr Ringgold, you wish to make me your wife?  You are in
earnest in what you have said?"

"Nay, Miss Randolph, do not mock me; you know for how many years I have
been devoted to you."

"Indeed, I do not.  How could I know that?"

"By my words.  Have I not told you so a hundred times?"

"Words!  I hold words of little value in a matter of this kind.  Dozens
have talked to me as you, who, I suppose, cared very little about me.
The tongue is a great trifler, Mr Arens."

"But my actions prove my sincerity.  I have offered you my hand and my
fortune; is not that a sufficient proof of devotion?"

"No, silly fellow; nothing of the sort.  Were I to become your wife, the
fortune would still remain your own.  Besides, I have some little
fortune myself, and that would come under your control.  So you see the
advantage would be decidedly in your favour.  Ha, ha, ha!"

"Nay, Miss Randolph; I should not think of controlling yours; and if you
will accept my hand--"

"Your hand, sir?  If you would win a woman, you should offer your
_heart_--hearts, not hands, for me."

"You know that is yours already; and has been for long years: all the
world knows it."

"You must have told the world, then; and I don't like it a bit."

"Really, you are too harsh with me: you have had many proofs of how long
and devotedly I have admired you.  I would have declared myself long
since, and asked you to become my wife--"

"And why did you not?"

Ringgold hesitated.

"The truth is, I was not my own master--I was under the control of my
father."

"Indeed?"

"That exists no longer.  I can now act as I please; and, dearest Miss
Randolph, if you will but accept my hand--"

"Your hand again!  Let me tell you, sir, that this hand of yours has not
the reputation of being the most open one.  Should I accept it, it might
prove sparing of pin-money.  Ha, ha, ha!"

"I am aspersed by enemies.  I swear to you, that in that sense you
should have no cause to complain of my liberality."

"I am not so sure of that, notwithstanding the oath you would take.
Promises made before marriage are too often broken after.  I would not
trust you, my man--not I, i' faith."

"But you can trust me, I assure you."

"You cannot assure me; besides, _I_ have had no proofs of your
liberality in the past.  Why, Mr Ringgold, you never made me a present
in your life.  Ha, ha, ha!"

"Had I known you would have accepted one--it would gratify me--Miss
Randolph, I would give you anything I possess."

"Good!  Now, I shall put you to the test: you shall make me a gift."

"Name it--it shall be yours."

"Oh, you fancy I am going to ask you for some trifling affair--a horse,
a poodle, or some bit of glittering _bijouterie_.  Nothing of the sort,
I assure you."

"I care not what.  I have offered you my whole fortune, and therefore
will not hesitate to give you a part of it.  Only specify what you may
desire, and I shall freely give it."

"That sounds liberal indeed.  Very well, then, you have something I
desire to possess--and very much desire it--in truth, I have taken a
fancy to be its owner, and had some designs of making offers to you for
the purchase of it."

"What can you mean, Miss Randolph?"

"A plantation."

"A plantation!"

"Exactly so.  Not your own, but one of which you are the proprietor."

"Ah!"

"I mean that which formerly belonged to a family of half-bloods upon
Tupelo Creek.  Your father _purchased_ it from them, I believe!"

I noted the emphasis upon the word "purchased."  I noted hesitation and
some confusion in the reply.

"Yes--yes," said he; "it was so.  But you astonish me, Miss Randolph.
Why care you for this, when you shall be mistress of all I possess?"

"That is my affair.  I _do_ care for it.  I may have many reasons.  That
piece of ground is a favourite spot with me; it is a lovely place--I
often go there.  Remember, my brother is owner here--he is not likely to
remain a bachelor all his life--and my mother may desire to have a home
of her own.  But no; I shall give you no reasons; make the gift or not,
as you please."

"And if I do, you will--"

"Name conditions, and I will not accept it--not if you ask me on your
knees.  Ha, ha, ha!"

"I shall make none, then: if you will accept it, it is yours."

"Ah, that is not all, Master Arens.  You might take it back just as
easily as you have given it.  How am I to be sure that you would not?  I
must have the _deeds_."

"You shall have them."

"And when?"

"Whenever you please--within the hour, if you desire it."

"I do, then.  Go, get them!  But remember, sir, _I make no conditions--
remember that_?"

"Oh," exclaimed the overjoyed lover, "I make none.  I have no fears: I
leave all to you.  In an hour, you shall have them.  Adieu!"

And so saying, he made a hurried departure.

I was so astonished by the nature of this dialogue--so taken by surprise
at its odd ending--that for a time I could not stir from the spot.  Not
until Ringgold had proceeded to some distance did I recover
self-possession; and then I hesitated what course to pursue--whether to
follow him, or permit him to depart unmolested.

Virginia had gone away from the ground, having glided silently back into
the house.  I was even angrier with her than with him; and, obedient to
this impulse, I left Ringgold to go free, and went straight for an
explanation with my sister.

It proved a somewhat stormy scene.  I found her in the drawing-room in
company with my mother.  I stayed for no circumlocution; I listened to
no denial or appeal, but openly announced to both the character of the
man who had just left the house--openly declared him my intended
murderer.

"Now, Virginia! sister! will you marry this man?"  "Never, George--
never!  I never intended it--Never!" she repeated emphatically, as she
sank upon the sofa, burying her face in her hands.

My mother was incredulous--even yet incredulous!

I was proceeding to the proofs of the astounding declaration I had made,
when I heard my name loudly pronounced outside the window: some one was
calling me in haste.

I ran out upon the verandah to inquire what was wanted.

In front was a man on horseback, in blue uniform, with yellow facings--a
dragoon.  He was an orderly, a messenger from the fort.  He was covered
with dust, his horse was in a lather of sweat and foam.  The condition
of both horse and man showed that they had been going for hours at
top-speed.

The man handed me a piece of paper--a dispatch hastily scrawled.  It was
addressed to Gallagher and myself.  I opened and read:

"Bring on your men to Fort King as fast as their horses can carry them.
The enemy is around us in numbers; every rifle is wanted--lose not a
moment.  Clinch."



CHAPTER SIXTY ONE.

THE ROUTE.

The dispatch called for instant obedience.  Fortunately my horse was
still under the saddle, and in less than five minutes I was upon his
back, and galloping for the volunteer camp.

Among these eager warriors, the news produced a joyous excitement,
expressed in a wild _hurrah_.  Enthusiasm supplied the place of
discipline; and, in less than half an hour, the corps was accoutred and
ready for the road.

There was nothing to cause delay.  The command to march was given; the
bugle sounded the "forward," and the troop filing "by twos," into a long
somewhat irregular line, took the route for Fort King.

I galloped home to say adieu.  It was a hurried leave-taking--less happy
than my last--but I rode away with more contentment, under the knowledge
that my sister was now warned, and there was no longer any danger of an
alliance with Arens Ringgold.

The orderly who brought the dispatch rode back with the troop.  As we
marched along, he communicated the camp-news, and rumours in circulation
at the fort.  Many events had occurred, of which we had not heard.  The
Indians had forsaken their towns, taking with them their wives,
children, cattle, and chattels.  Some of their villages they had
themselves fired, leaving nothing for their pale-faced enemies to
destroy.  This proved a determination to engage in a general war, had
other proofs of this disposition been wanting.  Whither they had gone,
even our spies had been unable to find out.  It was supposed by some
that they had moved farther south, to a more distant part of the
peninsula.  Others alleged that they had betaken themselves to the great
swamp that stretches for many leagues around the head-waters of the
Amazura river, and known as the "Cove of the Ouithlacoochee."

This last conjecture was the more likely, though so secretly and
adroitly had they managed their migration, that not a trace of the
movement could be detected.  The spies of the friendly Indians--the
keenest that could be employed--were unable to discover their retreat.
It was supposed that they intended to act only on the defensive--that
is, to make plundering forays on whatever quarter was left unguarded by
troops, and then retire with their booty to the fastnesses of the swamp.
Their conduct up to this time had rendered the supposition probable
enough.  In such case, the war might not be so easily brought to a
termination! in other words, there might be no war at all, but a
succession of fruitless marches and pursuits; for it was well enough
understood that if the Indians did not choose to stand before us in
action, we should have but little chance of overhauling them in their
retreat.

The fear of the troops was, that their adversaries would "take to the
cover," where it would be difficult, if not altogether impossible, to
find them.

However, this state of things could not be perpetual; the Indians could
not always subsist upon plunder, where the booty must be every day
growing less.  They were too numerous for a mere band of robbers, though
there existed among the whites a very imperfect idea of their numbers.
Estimates placed them at from one to five thousand souls--runaway
negroes included--and even the best informed frontiersmen could give
only rude guesses on this point.  For my part, I believed that there
were more than a thousand warriors, even after the defection of the
traitor clans; and this was the opinion of one who knew them well--old
Hickman the hunter.

How, then, were so many to find subsistence in the middle of a morass?
Had they been provident, and there accumulated a grand commissariat?
No: this question could at once be answered in the negative.  It was
well-known that the contrary was the case--for in this year the
Seminoles were without even their usual supply.  Their removal had been
urged in the spring; and, in consequence of the doubtful prospect before
them, many had planted little--some not at all.  The crop, therefore,
was less than in ordinary years; and previous to the final council at
Fort King, numbers of them had been both buying and begging food from
the frontier citizens.

What likelihood, then, of finding subsistence throughout a long
campaign?  They would be starved out of their fortresses--they must come
out, and either stand fight, or sue for peace.  So people believed.

This topic was discoursed as we rode along.  It was one of primary
interest to all young warriors thirsting for fame--inasmuch as, should
the enemy determine to pursue so inglorious a system of warfare, where
were the laurels to be plucked?  A campaign in the miasmatic and
pestilential climate of the swamps was more likely to yield a luxuriant
crop of cypresses.

Most hoped, and hence believed, that the Indians would soon grow hungry,
and shew themselves in a fair field of fight.

There were different opinions as to the possibility of their subsisting
themselves for a lengthened period of time.  Some--and these were men
best acquainted with the nature of the country--expressed their belief
that they could.  The old alligator-hunter was of this way of thinking.

"Thuv got," said he, "that ere durned brier wi' the big roots they calls
`coonty' [_Smilax pseudo-china_]; it grows putty nigh all over the
swamp, an' in some places as thick as a cane-brake.  It ur the best o'
eatin', an' drinkin' too, for they make a drink o' it.  An' then thar's
the acorns o' the live-oak--them ain't such bad eatin', when well
roasted i' the ashes.  They may gather thousands of bushels, I reckon.
An' nixt thar's the cabbidge in the head o' the big palmetter; thet
ere'll gi' them greens.  As to their meat, thar's deer, an' thar's bar--
a good grist o' them in the swamp--an' thares allaygatur, a tol'ably
goodish wheen o' them varmint, I reckon--to say nothin o' turtle, an'
turkey, an' squirrels an' snakes, an' sandrats, for, durn a red skin! he
kin eat anythin' that crawls--from a punkin to a polecat.  Don't you
b'lieve it, fellars.  Them ere Injuns aint a gwine to starve, s'easy as
you think for.  Thu'll hold out by thar teeth an' toe-nails, jest so
long as thar's a eatable thing in the darnationed swamp--that's what
thu'll do."

This sage reasoning produced conviction in the minds of those who heard
it.  After all, the dispersed enemy might not be so helpless as was
generally imagined.

The march of the volunteers was not conducted in a strict military
style.  It was so commenced; but the officers soon found it impossible
to carry out the "tactics."  The men, especially the younger ones, could
not be restrained from occasionally falling out of the lines--to help
themselves to a pull out of some odd-looking flask; and at intervals one
would gallop off into the woods, in hopes of getting a shot at a deer or
a turkey he had caught a glimpse of through the trees.

Reasoning with these fellows, on the part of their officers, proved
rather a fruitless affair; and getting angry with them was only to
elicit a sulky rejoinder.

Sergeant Hickman was extremely wroth with some of the offenders.

"Greenhorns!" he exclaimed; "darnationed greenhorns! let 'em go on at
it.  May a allaygatur eet me, if they don't behave diff'rent by-'m-by.
I'll stake my critter agin any hoss in the crowd, that some o' them ere
fellars'll get sculped afore sundown; durned if they don't."

No one offered to take the old hunter's bet, and fortunately for them,
as his words proved prophetic.

A young planter, fancying himself as safe as if riding through his own
sugar-canes, had galloped off from the line of march.  A deer, seen
browsing in the savanna, offered an attraction too strong to be
resisted.

He had not been gone five minutes--had scarcely passed out of sight of
his comrades--when two shots were heard in quick succession; and the
next moment, his riderless horse came galloping back to the troop.

The line was halted, and faced in the direction whence the shots had
been heard.  An advance party moved forward to the ground.  No enemy was
discovered, nor the traces of any, except those exhibited in the dead
body of the young planter, that lay perforated with a brace of bullets
just as it had fallen out of the saddle.

It was a lesson--though an unpleasant one to his comrades--and after
this, there were no more attempts at deer-stalking.  The man was buried
on the spot where he lay, and with the troop more regularly and
compactly formed--now an easier duty for its officers--we continued the
march unmolested, and before sunset were within the stockade of the
fort.



CHAPTER SIXTY TWO.

A KNOCK ON THE HEAD.

Excepting the memory of one short hour, Fort King had for me no pleasant
reminiscences.  There had been some new arrivals in my absence, but none
of them worthy of companionship.  They only rendered quarters more
crowded, and accommodation more difficult to obtain.  The sutlers and
the blacklegs were rapidly making their fortunes; and these, with the
quartermaster, the commissary [Note 1], and the "beef-contractor,"
appeared to be the only prosperous men about the place.

The "beau" was still chief aide-de-camp, gaily caparisoned as ever; but
of him I had almost ceased to think.

It was not long before I was ordered upon duty--almost the moment after
my arrival--and that, as usual, of a disagreeable kind.  Before I had
time to obtain a moment's rest after the long ride--even before I could
wash the road-dust from my skin--I was summoned to the head-quarters of
the commander-in-chief.

What could he want with me, in such hot haste?  Was it about the duels?
Were these old scores going to be reckoned up?

Not without some apprehension did I betake myself into the presence of
the general.

It proved however, to be nothing concerning the past; though, when I
learned the duty I was to perform, I half regretted that it was not a
reprimand.

I found the agent closeted with the commander-in-chief.  They had
designed another interview with Omatla and "Black Dirt."  I was merely
wanted as an interpreter.

The object of this fresh interview with the chiefs was stated in my
hearing.  It was to arrange a plan for concerted action between the
troops and the friendly Indians, who were to act as our allies against
their own countrymen; the latter--as was now known by certain
information--being collected in large force in the "Cove of the
Ouithlacoochee."  Their actual position was still unknown; but that, it
was confidently hoped, would be discovered by the aid of the friendly
chiefs, and their spies, who were constantly on the run.

The meeting had been already pre-arranged.  The chiefs--who, as already
stated, had gone to Fort Brooke, and were there living under protection
of the garrison--were to make a secret journey, and meet the agent and
general at an appointed place--the old ground, the hommock by the pond.

The meeting had been fixed for that very night--as soon as it should be
dark enough to hide the approach of both tempters and traitors.

It was dark enough almost the moment the sun went down--for the moon was
in her third quarter, and would not be in the sky until after sunset.

Shortly after twilight, therefore, we three proceeded to the spot--the
general, the agent, and the interpreter, just as we had done on the
former occasion.

The chiefs were not there, and this caused a little surprise.  By the
noted punctuality with which an Indian keeps his assignation, it was
expected they would have been on the ground, for the hour appointed had
arrived.

"What is detaining them?  What can be detaining them?" mutually inquired
the commissioner and general.

Scarcely an instant passed till the answer came.  It came from afar, and
in a singular utterance; but it could be no other than a reply to the
question--so both my companions conjectured.

Borne upon the night-breeze was the sound of strife--the sharp cracking
of rifles and pistols; and distinctly heard above all, the shrill
_Yo-ho-ehee_.

The sounds were distant--away amid the far woods; but they were
sufficiently distinct to admit of the interpretation, that a
life-and-death struggle was going on between two parties of men.

It could be no feint, no false alarm to draw the soldiers from the fort,
or terrify the sentinel on his post.  There was an earnestness in the
wild treble of those shrill cries, that convinced the listener that
human blood was being spilled.

My companions were busy with conjectures.  I saw that neither possessed
a high degree of courage, for that is not necessary to become a general.
In my warlike experience, I have seen more than one hiding behind a
tree or piece of a wall.  One, indeed, who was afterwards elected the
chief of twenty millions of people, I have seen skulking in a ditch to
screen himself from a stray shot, while his lost brigade, half a mile in
the advance, was gallantly fighting under the guidance of a
sub-lieutenant.

But why should I speak of these things here?  The world is full of such
heroes.

"It is they, by --," exclaimed the commissioner.  "They have been
waylaid; they are attacked by the others; that rascal Powell for a
thousand!"

"It is extremely probable," replied the other, who seemed to have a
somewhat steadier nerve, and spoke more coolly.  "Yes, it must be.
There are no troops in that direction; no whites either--not a man.  It
must therefore be an affair among the Indians themselves; and what else
than attack upon the friendly chiefs?  You are right, Thompson; it is as
you say."

"If so, general, it will be of no use our remaining here.  If they have
waylaid Omatla, they will of course have superior numbers, and he must
fall.  We need not expect him."

"No; he is not likely to come, neither he nor Lusta.  As you say, it is
idle for us to remain here.  I think we may as well return to the fort."

There was a moment's hesitation, during which I fancied both generals
were debating in their own minds whether it would be _graceful_ thus to
give up their errand and purpose.

"If they should come,"--continued the soldier.

"General," said I, taking the liberty to interrupt him, "if you desire
it, I will remain upon the ground for a while, and see.  If they should
come," I added, in continuation of the broken sentence, "I can proceed
to the fort, and give you notice."

I could not have made a proposition more agreeable to the two.  It was
instantly accepted, and the brace of official heroes moved away, leaving
me to myself.

It was not long ere I had cause to regret my generous rashness.  My late
companions could scarcely have reached the fort when the sounds of the
strife suddenly ceased, and I heard the _caha-queene_--the Seminole
shout of triumph.  I was still listening to its wild intonations, when
half-a-dozen men--dark-bodied men--rushed out of the bushes, and
surrounded me where I stood.

Despite the poor light the stars afforded, I could see shining blades,
guns, pistols, and tomahawks.  The weapons were too near my eyes to be
mistaken for the fire-flies that had been glittering around my head,
besides, the clink of steel was in my ears.

My assailants made no outcry, perhaps because they were too near the
fort; and my own shouts were soon suppressed by a blow that levelled me
to the earth, depriving me as well of consciousness as of speech.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

Note 1.  In the United States army, these two offices are quite
distinct.  A "commissary" caters only for the inner man; a
quartermaster's duty is to shelter, clothe, arm, and equip.  A wise
regulation.



CHAPTER SIXTY THREE.

AN INDIAN EXECUTIONER.

After a short spell of obliviousness, I recovered my senses.  I
perceived that the Indians were still around me, but no longer in the
menacing attitude in which I had seen them before being struck down; on
the contrary, they appeared to be treating me with kindness.  One of
them held my head upon his knee, while another was endeavouring to
staunch the blood that was running freely from a wound in my temples.
The others stood around regarding me with interest, and apparently
anxious about my recovery.

Their behaviour caused me surprise, for I had no other thought than that
they had intended to kill me; indeed, as I sank under the stroke of the
tomahawk, my senses had gone out, under the impression that I _was_
killed.  Such a reflection is not uncommon to those whom a blow has
suddenly deprived of consciousness.

My surprise was of an agreeable character.  I felt that I still lived--
that I was but little hurt; and not likely to receive any further damage
from those who surrounded me.

They were speaking to one another in low tones, pronouncing the
prognosis of my wound, and apparently gratified that they had not killed
me.

"We have spilled your blood, but it is not dangerous," said one,
addressing himself to me in his native tongue.  "It was I who gave the
blow.  _Hulwak_! it was dark.  Friend of the Rising Sun! we did not know
you.  We thought you were the _yatika-clucco_ [the `great speaker'--the
commissioner].  It is his blood we intended to spill.  We expected to
find him here; he has been here: where gone?"

I pointed in the direction of the fort.

"_Hulwak_!" exclaimed several in a breath, and in a tone that betokened
disappointment; and then turning aside, they conversed with each other
in a low voice.

"Fear not," said the first speaker, again standing before me, "friend of
the Rising Sun! we will not do further harm to you; but you must go with
us to the chiefs.  They are not far off.  Come!"

I was once more upon my feet, and perhaps by a desperate effort might
have escaped.  The attempt, however, might have cost me a second
knock-down--perhaps my life.  Moreover, the courtesy of my captors at
once set my mind at ease.  Go where they might, I felt that I had
nothing to fear from them; and, without hesitation, I consented to
accompany them.

My captors, throwing themselves into single file, and assigning me a
position in their midst, at once started off through the woods.  For
some time we walked rapidly, the path taken by the leader of the party
being easily followed, even in the darkness, by those behind.  I
observed that we were going in the direction whence had been heard the
sounds of the conflict, that had long since ceased to vibrate upon the
air.  Of whatever nature had been the struggle, it was evidently brought
to a close, and even the victors no longer uttered the _caha-queene_.

We had advanced about a mile when the moon arose; and the woods becoming
more open, I could see my captors more distinctly.  I recognised the
features of one or two of them, from having seen them at the council.
They were warriors of the Micosauc tribe, the followers of Osceola.
From this I conjectured that he was one of the chiefs before whom I was
being conducted.

My conjecture proved correct.  We had not gone much further, when the
path led into an opening in the woods, in the midst of which a large
body of Indians, about a hundred in all, were grouped together.  A
little apart was a smaller group--the chiefs and head warriors.  In
their midst I observed Osceola.

The ground exhibited a singular and sanguinary spectacle.  Dead bodies
were lying about, gashed with wounds still fresh and bleeding.  Some of
the dead lay upon their backs, their unclosed eyes glaring ghastly upon
the moon, all in the attitudes in which they had fallen.  The
scalping-knife had done its work, as the whitish patch upon the crowns,
laced with seams of crimson red, shewed the skulls divested of their
hirsute covering.  Men were strolling about with the fresh scalps in
their hands, or elevated upon the muzzles of their guns.

There was no mystery in what I saw; I knew its meaning well.  The men
who had fallen were of the traitor tribes--the followers of Lusta Hajo
and Omatla.

According to the arrangement with the commissioner, the chiefs had left
Fort Brooke, accompanied by a chosen band of their retainers.  Their
intention had become known to the patriots--their movements had been
watched--they had been attacked on the way; and, after a short struggle,
overpowered.  Most of them had fallen in the melee--a few, with the
chief Lusta Hajo, had contrived to escape; while still another few--
among whom was Omatla himself--had been taken prisoners during the
conflict, and were yet alive.  They had been rescued from death only to
suffer it in a more ceremonial shape.

I saw the captives where they stood, close at hand, and fast bound to
some trees.  Among them I recognised their leader, by the grace of
Commissioner Thompson, "king of the Seminole nation."

By those around, his majesty was now regarded with but slight deference.
Many a willing regicide stood near him, and would have taken his life
without further ceremony.  But these were restrained by the chiefs, who
opposed the violent proceeding, and who had come to the determination to
give Omatla a trial, according to the laws and customs of their nation.

As we arrived upon the ground, this trial was going on.  The chiefs were
in council.

One of my captors reported our arrival.  I noticed a murmur of
disappointment among the chiefs as he finished making his announcement.
They were disappointed: I was not the captive they had been expecting.

No notice was taken of me; and I was left free to loiter about, and
watch their proceedings, if I pleased.

The council soon performed its duty.  The treason of Omatla was too
well-known to require much canvassing; and, of course, he was found
guilty, and condemned to expiate the crime with his life.

The sentence was pronounced in the hearing of all present.  The traitor
must die.

A question arose--who was to be his executioner?

There were many who would have volunteered for the office--for to take
the life of a traitor, according to Indian philosophy, is esteemed an
act of honour.  There would be no difficulty in procuring an
executioner.

Many actually did volunteer; but the services of these were declined by
the council.  This was a matter to be decided by vote.

The vote was immediately taken.  All knew of the vow made by Osceola.
His followers were desirous he should keep it; and on this account, he
was unanimously elected to do the deed.  He accepted the office.

Knife in hand, Osceola approached the captive, now cowering in his
bonds.  All gathered around to witness the fatal stab.  Moved by an
impulse I could not resist, I drew near with the rest.

We stood in breathless silence, expecting every moment to see the knife
plunged into the heart of the criminal.

We saw the arm upraised, and the blow given, but there was no wound--no
blood!  The blow had descended upon the thongs that bound the captive,
and Omatla stood forth free from his fastenings!

There was a murmur of disapprobation.  What could Osceola mean?  Did he
design that Omatla should escape--the traitor condemned by the council--
by all?

But it was soon perceived he had no such intention--far different was
his design.

"Omatla!" said he, looking his adversary sternly in the face, "you were
once esteemed a brave man, honoured by your tribe--by the whole Seminole
nation.  The white men have corrupted you--they have made you a renegade
to your country and your cause; for all that, you shall not die the
death of a dog.  I will kill, but not _murder_ you.  My heart revolts to
slay a man who is helpless and unarmed.  It shall be a fair combat
between us, and men shall see that the right triumphs.  Give him back
his weapons!  Let him defend himself, if he can."

The unexpected proposal was received with some disapprobation.  There
were many who, indignant at Omatla's treason, and still wild with the
excitement produced by the late conflict, would have butchered him in
his bonds.  But all saw that Osceola was determined to act as he had
proposed; and no opposition was offered.

One of the warriors, stepping forward, handed his weapons to the
condemned chief--only his tomahawk and knife, for so Osceola was himself
armed.

This done, by a sort of tacit understanding, the crowd drew back, and
the two combatants stood alone in the centre.

The struggle was brief as bloody.  Almost at the first blow, Osceola
struck the hatchet from his antagonist's hand, and with another stroke,
rapidly following, felled Omatla to the earth.

For a moment the victor was seen bending over his fallen adversary, with
his long knife unsheathed, and glittering in the moonlight.

When he rose erect, the steel had lost its sheen--it was dimmed with
crimson blood.

Osceola had kept his oath.  He had driven his blade through the heart of
the traitor--Omatla had ceased to live.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

White men afterwards pronounced this deed an assassination--a murder.
It was not so, any more than the death of Charles, of Caligula, of
Tarquin--of a hundred other tyrants, who have oppressed or betrayed
their country.

Public opinion upon such matters is not honest; it takes its colour from
the cant of the times, changing like the hues of the chameleon.  Sheer
hypocrisy, shameful inconsistency!  He only is a murderer who kills from
a murderer's motive.  Osceola was not of this class.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

My situation was altogether singular.  As yet, the chiefs had taken no
notice of my presence; and notwithstanding the courtesy which had been
extended to me by those who conducted me thither, I was not without some
apprehensions as to my safety.  It might please the council, excited as
they were with what had just transpired, and now actually at war with
our people, to condemn me to a fate similar to that which had befallen
Omatla.  I stood waiting their pleasure therefore in anything but a
comfortable frame of mind.

It was not long before I was relieved from _my_ apprehensions.  As soon
as the affair with Omatla was ended, Osceola approached, and in a
friendly manner stretched out his hand, which I was only too happy to
receive in friendship.

He expressed regret that I had been wounded and made captive by his
men--explained the mistake; and then calling one of his followers,
ordered him to guide me back to the fort.

I had no desire to remain longer than I could help upon such tragic
ground; and, bidding the chief adieu, I followed my conductor along the
path.

Near the pond, the Indian left me; and, without encountering any further
adventures, I re-entered the gates of the fort.



CHAPTER SIXTY FOUR.

A BANQUET WITH A BAD ENDING.

As by duty bound, I delivered a report of the scene I had involuntarily
been witness to.  It produced a lively excitement within the fort, and
an expedition was instantly ordered forth, with myself to act as guide.

A bit of sheer folly.  The search proved bootless, as any one might have
prophesied.  Of course, we found the place, and the bodies of those who
had fallen--upon which the wolves had already been ravening--but we
discovered no living Indians--not even the path by which they had
retreated!

The expedition consisted of several hundred men--in fact, the whole
garrison of the fort.  Had we gone out with a smaller force, in all
probability, we should have seen something of the enemy.

The death of Omatla was the most serious incident that had yet occurred;
at all events, the most important in its bearings.  By the whites,
Omatla had been constituted king; by killing, the Indians shewed their
contempt for the authority that had crowned him, as well as their
determination to resist all interference of the kind.  Omatla had been
directly under the protection of the white chiefs: this had been
guaranteed to him by promise as by treaty; and therefore the taking his
life was a blow struck against his patrons.  The government would now be
under the necessity of avenging his death.

But the incident had its most important bearings upon the Indians,
especially upon Omatla's own people.  Terrified by the example, and
dreading lest similar retribution might be extended to themselves, many
of Omatla's tribe--sub-chiefs and warriors--forsook their alliance, and
enrolled themselves in the ranks of the patriots.  Other clans that had
hitherto remained undecided, acting under similar motives, now declared
their allegiance to the national will, and took up arms without further
hesitation.

The death of Omatla, besides being an act of stern justice, was a stroke
of fine policy on the part of the hostile Indians.  It proved the genius
of him who had conceived and carried it into execution.

Omatla was the first victim of Osceola's vow of vengeance.  Soon after
appeared the second.  It was not long before the tragedy of the
traitor's death was eclipsed by another, far more thrilling and
significant.  One of the chief actors in this drama disappears from the
stage.

On our arrival at the fort, it was found that the commissariat was
rapidly running short.  No provision had been made for so large a body
of troops, and no supplies could possibly reach Fort King for a long
period of time.  We were to be the victims of the usual improvidence
exhibited by governments not accustomed to warlike operations.  Rations
were stinted to the verge of starvation; and the prospect before us
began to look very like starvation itself.

In this emergency, the commander-in-chief performed an act of great
patriotism.  Independent of his military command, General Clinch was a
citizen of Florida--a proprietor and planter upon a large scale.  His
fine plantation lay at a short distance from Fort King.  His crop of
maize, covering nearly a hundred acres, was just ripening; and this,
without more ado, was rationed out to the army.

Instead of bringing the commissariat to the troops, the reverse plan was
adopted; and the troops were marched upon their food--which had yet to
be gathered before being eaten.

Four-fifths of the little army were thus withdrawn from the fort,
leaving rather a weak garrison; while a new stockade was extemporised on
the general's plantation, under the title of "Fort Drane."

There were slanderous people who insinuated that in this curious matter
the good old general was moved by other motives than those of mere
patriotism.  There was some talk about "Uncle Sam"--well-known as a
solvent and liberal paymaster--being called upon to give a good price
for the general's corn; besides, so long as an army bivouacked upon his
plantation, no danger need be apprehended from the Indian incendiaries.
Perhaps these insinuations were but the conceits of camp satire.

I was not among those transferred to the new station; I was not a
favourite with the commander-in-chief, and no longer upon his staff.  My
duties kept me at Fort King, where the commissioner also remained.

The days passed tamely enough--whole weeks of them.  An occasional visit
to Camp Drane was a relief to the monotony of garrison-life, but this
was a rare occurrence.  The fort had been shorn of its strength, and was
too weak for us to go much beyond its walls.  It was well-known that the
Indians were in arms.  Traces of their presence had been observed near
the post; and a hunting excursion, or even a romantic saunter in the
neighbouring woods--the usual resources of a frontier station--could not
have been made without some peril.

During this period I observed that the commissioner was very careful in
his outgoings and incomings.  He rarely passed outside the stockade, and
never beyond the line of sentries.  Whenever he looked in the direction
of the woods, or over the distant savanna, a shadow of distrust appeared
to overspread his features, as though he was troubled with an
apprehension of danger.  This was after the death of the traitor chief.
He had heard of Osceola's vow to kill Omatla; perhaps he had also heard
that the oath extended to himself; perhaps he was under the influence of
a presentiment.

Christmas came round.  At this season, wherever they may be found--
whether amid the icy bergs of the north, or on the hot plains of the
tropic--on board ship, within the walls of a fortress--ay, even in a
prison--Christians incline to merry-making.  The frontier post is no
exception to the general rule; and Fort King was a continued scene of
festivities.  The soldiers were released from duty--alone the sentinels
were kept to their posts; and, with such fare as could be procured,
backed by liberal rations of "Monongahela," the week passed cheerily
enough.

A "sutler" in the American army is generally a thriving adventurer--with
the officers liberal both of cash and credit--and, on festive occasions,
not unfrequently their associate and boon companion.  Such was he, the
sutler, at Fort King.

On one of the festal days, he had provided a sumptuous dinner--no one
about the fort so capable--to which the officers were invited--the
commissioner himself being the honoured guest.

The banquet was set out in the sutler's own house, which, as already
mentioned, stood outside the stockade, several hundred yards off, and
near to the edge of the woods.

The dinner was over, and most of the officers had returned within the
fort, where--as it was now getting near night--it was intended the
smoking and wine-drinking should be carried on.

The commissioner, with half a dozen others--officers and civilian
visitors--still lingered to enjoy another glass under the hospitable
roof where they had eaten their dinner.

I was among those who went back within the fort.

We had scarcely settled down in our seats, when we were startled by a
volley of sharp cracks, which the ear well knew to be the reports of
rifles.  At the same instant was heard that wild intonation, easily
distinguishable from the shouting of civilised men--the war-cry of the
Indians!

We needed no messenger to inform us what the noises meant: the enemy was
upon the ground, and had made an attack--we fancied upon the fort
itself.

We rushed into the open air, each arming himself as best he could.

Once outside, we saw that the fort was not assailed; but upon looking
over the stockade, we perceived that the house of the sutler was
surrounded by a crowd of savages, plumed and painted in full fighting
costume.  They were in quick motion, rushing from point to point,
brandishing their weapons, and yelling the _Yo-ho-ehee_.

Straggling shots were still heard as the fatal gun was pointed at some
victim endeavouring to escape.  The gates of the fort were standing wide
open, and soldiers, who had been strolling outside, now rushed through,
uttering shouts of terror as they passed in.

The sutler's house was at too great a distance for the range of
musketry.  Some shots were discharged by the sentries and others who
chanced to be armed, but the bullets fell short.

The artillerists ran to their guns; but on reaching these, it was found
that the stables--a row of heavy log-houses--stood directly in the range
of the sutler's house--thus sheltering the enemy from the aim of the
gunners.

All at once the shouting ceased, and the crowd of dusky warriors was
observed moving off towards the woods.

In a few seconds they had disappeared among the trees--vanishing, as if
by magic, from our sight.

He who commanded at the fort--an officer slow of resolve--now mustered
the garrison, and ventured a sortie.  It extended only to the house of
the sutler, where a halt was made, while we contemplated the horrid
scene.

The sutler himself, two young officers, several soldiers and civilians,
lay upon the floor dead, each with many wounds.

Conspicuous above all was the corpse of the commissioner.  He was lying
upon his back, his face covered with gore, and his uniform torn and
bloody.  Sixteen bullets had been fired into his body; and a wound more
terrible than all was observed over the left breast.  It was the gash
made by a knife, whose blade had passed through his heart.

I could have guessed who gave that wound, even without the living
testimony that was offered on the spot.  A negress--the cook--who had
concealed herself behind a piece of furniture, now came forth from her
hiding-place.  She had been witness of all.  She was acquainted with the
person of Osceola.  It was he who had conducted the tragedy; he had been
the last to leave the scene; and before taking his departure, the
negress had observed him give that final stab--no doubt in satisfaction
of the deadly vow he had made.

After some consultation, a pursuit was determined upon, and carried out
with considerable caution; but, as before, it proved fruitless: as
before, even the track by which the enemy had retreated could not be
discovered!



CHAPTER SIXTY FIVE.

"DADE'S MASSACRE."

This melancholy finale to the festivities of Christmas was, if possible,
rendered more sad by a rumour that shortly after reached Fort King.  It
was the rumour of an event, which has since become popularly known as
"Dade's massacre."

The report was brought by an Indian runner--belonging to one of the
friendly clans--but the statements made were of so startling a
character, that they were at first received with a cry of incredulity.

Other runners, however, continuously arriving, confirmed the account of
the first messenger, until his story--tragically improbable as it
appeared--was accepted as truth.  It was true in all its romantic
colouring; true in all its sanguinary details.  The war had commenced in
real earnest, inaugurated by a conflict of the most singular kind--
singular both in character and result.

An account of this battle is perhaps of sufficient interest to be given.

In the early part of this narrative, it has been mentioned that an
officer of the United States army gave out the vaunt that he "could
march through all the Seminole reserve with only a corporal's guard at
his back."  That officer was Major Dade.

It was the destiny of Major Dade to find an opportunity for giving proof
of his warlike prowess--though with something more than a corporal's
guard at his back.  The result was a sad contrast to the boast he had so
thoughtlessly uttered.

To understand this ill-fated enterprise, it is necessary to say a word
topographically of the country.

On the west coast of the peninsula of Florida is a bay called "Tampa"--
by the Spaniards, "Espiritu Santo."  At the head of this bay was erected
"Fort Brooke"--a stockade similar to Fort King, and lying about ninety
miles from the latter, in a southerly direction.  It was another of
those military posts established in connection with the Indian reserve--
a depot for troops and stores--also an entrepot for such as might arrive
from the ports of the Mexican gulf.

About two hundred soldiers were stationed here at the breaking out of
hostilities.  They were chiefly artillery, with a small detachment of
infantry.

Shortly after the fruitless council at Fort King, these troops--or as
many of them as could be spared--were ordered by General Clinch to
proceed to the latter place, and unite with the main body of the army.

In obedience to these orders, one hundred men with their quota of
officers, were set in motion for Fort King.  Major Dade commanded the
detachment.

On the eve of Christmas, 1835, they had taken the route, marching out
from Fort Brooke in high spirits, buoyant with the hope of encountering
and winning laurels in a fight with the Indian foe.  They flattered
themselves that it would be the first conflict of the war, and
therefore, that in which the greatest reputation would be gained by the
victors.  They dreamt not of defeat.

With flags flying gaily, drums rolling merrily, bugles sounding the
advance, cannon pealing their farewell salute, and comrades cheering
them onwards, the detachment commenced its march--that fatal march from
which it was destined never to return.

Just seven days after--on the 31st of December--a man made his
appearance at the gates of Fort Brooke, crawling upon his hands and
knees.  In his tattered attire could scarcely be recognised the uniform
of a soldier--a private of Dade's detachment--for such he was.  His
clothes were saturated with water from the creeks, and soiled with mud
from the swamps.  They were covered with dust, and stained with blood.
His body was wounded in five places--severe wounds all--one in the right
shoulder, one in the right thigh, one near the temple, one in the left
arm, and another in the back.  He was wan, wasted, emaciated to the
condition of a skeleton, and presented the aspect of one.  When, in a
weak, trembling voice, he announced himself as "Private Clark of the 2nd
Artillery," his old comrades had with difficulty identified him.

Shortly after, two others--privates Sprague and Thomas--made their
appearance in a similar plight.  Their report was similar to that
already delivered by Clark: that Major Dade's command had been attacked
by the Indians, cut to pieces, massacred to a man--that they themselves
were the sole survivors of that band who had so lately gone forth from
the fort in all the pride of confident strength, and the hopeful
anticipation of glory.

And their story was true to the letter.  Of all the detachment, these
three miserable remnants of humanity alone escaped; the others--one
hundred and six in all--had met death on the banks of the Amazura.
Instead of the laurel, they had found the cypress.

The three who escaped had been struck down and left for dead upon the
field.  It was only by counterfeiting death, they had succeeded in
afterwards crawling from the ground, and making their way back to the
fort.  Most of this journey Clark performed upon his hands and knees,
proceeding at the rate of a mile to the hour, over a distance of more
than sixty miles!



CHAPTER SIXTY SIX.

THE BATTLE-GROUND.

The affair of Dade's massacre is without a parallel in the history of
Indian warfare.  No conflict of a similar kind had ever occurred--at
least, none so fatal to the whites engaged in it.  In this case they
suffered complete annihilation--for, of the three wounded men who had
escaped, two of them shortly after died of their wounds.

Nor had the Indians any great advantage over their antagonists, beyond
that of superior cunning and strategy.

It was near the banks of the Amazura ["Ouithlacoochee" of the
Seminoles], and after crossing that stream, that Major Dade's party had
been attacked.  The assault was made in ground comparatively open--a
tract of pine-woods, where the trees grew thin and straggling--so that
the Indians had in reality no great advantage either from position or
intrenchment.  Neither has it been proved that they were greatly
superior in numbers to the troops they destroyed--not more than two to
one; and this proportion in most Indian wars has been considered by
their white antagonists as only "fair odds."

Many of the Indians appeared upon the ground mounted; but these remained
at a distance from the fire of the musketry; and only those on foot took
part in the action.  Indeed, their conquest was so soon completed, that
the horsemen were not needed.  The first fire was so deadly, that Dade's
followers were driven into utter confusion.  They were unable to
retreat: the mounted Indians had already outflanked them, and cut off
their chance of escape.

Dade himself, with most of his officers, fell at the first volley; and
the survivors had no choice but fight it out on the ground.  A
breastwork was attempted--by felling trees, and throwing their trunks
into a triangle--but the hot fire from the Indian rifles soon checked
the progress of the work; and the parapet never rose even breast-high
above the ground.  Into this insecure shelter the survivors of the first
attack retreated, and there fell rapidly under the well-aimed missiles
of their foes.  In a short while the last man lay motionless; and the
slaughter was at an end.

When the place was afterwards visited by our troops, this triangular
inclosure was found, filled with dead bodies--piled upon one another,
just as they had fallen--crosswise, lengthways, in every attitude of
death!

It was afterwards noised abroad that the Indians had inhumanly tortured
the wounded, and horribly mutilated the slain.  This was not true.
There were no wounded left to be tortured--except the three who
escaped--and as for the mutilation, but one or two instances of this
occurred--since known to have been the work of runaway negroes actuated
by motives of personal revenge.

Some scalps were taken; but this is the well-known custom of Indian
warfare; and white men ere now have practised the fashion, while under
the frenzied excitement of battle.

I was one of those who afterwards visited the battle-ground on a tour of
inspection, ordered by the commander-in-chief; and the official report
of that tour is the best testimony as to the behaviour of the victors.
It reads as follows:

"Major Dade and his party were destroyed on the morning of the 28th of
December, about four miles from their camp of the preceding night.  They
were advancing in column of route when they were attacked by the enemy,
who rose in a swarm out of the cover of long grass and palmettoes.  The
Indians suddenly appeared close to their files.  Muskets were clubbed,
knives and bayonets used, and parties clenched in deadly conflict.  In
the second attack, our own men's muskets, taken from the dead and
wounded, were used against them; a cross-fire cut down a succession of
artillerists, when the cannon were taken, the carriages broken and
burned, and the guns rolled into a pond.  Many negroes were in the
field; but no scalps were taken by the Indians.  On the other hand, the
negroes, with hellish cruelty, pierced the throats of all whose cries or
groans shewed that there was still life in them."

Another official report runs thus:

We approached the battle-field from the rear.  Our advanced guard had
passed the ground without halting when the commanding officer and his
staff came upon one of the most appalling scenes that can be imagined.
We first saw some broken and scattered boxes; then a cart, the two oxen
of which were lying dead, as if they had fallen asleep, their yokes
still on them: a little to the right, one or two horses were seen.  We
next came to a small inclosure, made by felling trees, in such a manner
as to form a triangular breastwork.  Within the triangle--along the
north and west faces of it--were about thirty bodies, mostly mere
skeletons, although much of the clothing was left upon them.  They were
lying in the positions they must have occupied during the fight.  Some
had fallen over their dead comrades, but most of them lay close to the
logs, with their heads turned towards the breastwork, over which they
had delivered their fire, and their bodies stretched with striking
regularity parallel to each other.  They had evidently been shot dead at
their posts, and the Indians had not disturbed them, except by taking
the scalps of some--which, it is said, was done by their negro allies.
The officers were all easily recognised.  Some still wore their rings
and breastpins, and money was found in their pockets!  The bodies of
eight officers and ninety-eight men were interred.

"It may be proper to observe that the attack was not made from a
hommock, but in a thinly-wooded country--the Indians being concealed by
palmettoes and grass."

From this report, it appears that the Indians were fighting--not for
plunder, not even from motives of diabolical revenge.  Their motive was
higher and purer--it was the defence of their country--of their hearths
and homes.

The advantage they had over the troop of Major Dade was simply that of
ambush and surprise.  This officer, though a man of undoubted gallantry,
was entirely wanting in those qualities necessary to a leader--
especially one engaged against such a foe.  He was a mere book-soldier--
as most officers are--lacking the genius which enables the great
military chieftain to adapt himself to the circumstances that surround
him.  He conducted the march of his detachment as if going upon parade;
and by so doing he carried it into danger and subsequent destruction.

But if the commander of the whites in this fatal affair was lacking in
military capacity, the leader of the Indians was not.  It soon became
known that he who planned the ambush and conducted it to such a
sanguinary and successful issue, was the young chief of the Baton
Rouge--Osceola.

He could not have stayed long upon the ground to enjoy his triumph.  It
was upon that same evening, at Fort King--forty miles distant from the
scene of Dade's massacre--that the commissioner fell before his vow of
vengeance!



CHAPTER SIXTY SEVEN.

THE BATTLE OF "OUITHLACOOCHEE."

The murder of the commissioner called for some act of prompt
retribution.  Immediately after its occurrence, several expresses had
been dispatched by different routes to Camp Drane--some of whom fell
into the hands of the enemy, while the rest arrived safely with the
news.

By daybreak of the following morning the army, more than a thousand
strong, was in motion; and marching towards the Amazura.  The avowed
object of this expedition was to strike a blow at the _families_ of the
hostile Indians--their fathers and mothers, their wives, sisters and
children--whose lurking-place amidst the fastnesses of the great swamp--
the "Cove"--had become known to the general.  It was intended they
should be _captured, if possible_, and held as hostages until the
warriors could be induced to surrender.

With all others who could be spared from the fort, I was ordered to
accompany the expedition, and accordingly joined it upon the march.
From the talk I heard around me, I soon discovered the sentiment of the
soldiery.  They had but little thought of making captives.  Exasperated
by what had taken place at the fort--further exasperated by what they
called "Dade's massacre," I felt satisfied that they would not stay to
take prisoners--old men or young men, women or children, all would alike
be slain--no quarter would be given.

I was sick even at the prospect of such a wholesale carnage as was
anticipated.  Anticipated, I say, for all confidently believed it would
take place.  The hiding-place of these unfortunate families had become
known--there were guides conducting us thither who knew the very spot--
how could we fail to reach it?

An easy surprise was expected.  Information had been received that the
warriors, or most of them, were absent upon another and more distant
expedition, and in a quarter where we could not possibly encounter them.
We were to make a descent upon the nest in the absence of the eagles;
and with this intent the army was conducted by silent and secret
marches.

But the day before, our expedition would have appeared easy enough--a
mere exciting frolic, without peril of any kind; but the news of Dade's
defeat had produced a magical effect upon the spirits of the soldiers,
and whilst it exasperated, it had also cowed them.  For the first time,
they began to feel something like a respect for their foe, mingled
perhaps with a little dread of him.  The Indians, at least, knew how to
kill.

This feeling increased as fresh messengers came in from the scene of
Dade's conflict, bringing new details of that sanguinary affair.  It was
not without some apprehension, then, that the soldier marched onwards,
advancing into the heart of the enemy's country; and even the reckless
volunteer kept close in the ranks as he rode silently along.

About mid-day we reached the banks of the Amazura.  The stream had to be
crossed before the Cove could be reached, for the vast network of swamps
and lagoons bearing this name extended from the opposite side.

A ford had been promised the general, but the guides were at fault--no
crossing-place could be found.  At the point where we reached it, the
river ran past, broad, black, and deep--too deep to be waded even by our
horses.

Were the guides playing traitor, and misleading us?  It certainly began
to assume that appearance; but no--it could not be.  They were Indians,
it is true, but well proved in their devotion to the whites.  Besides,
they were men compromised with the national party--doomed to death by
their own people--our defeat would have been their ruin.

It was not treason, as shewn afterwards--they had simply been deceived
by the trails, and had gone the wrong way.

It was fortunate for us they had done so!  But for this mistake of the
guides, the army of General Clinch might have been called upon to repeat
on a larger scale the drama so lately enacted by Dade and his
companions.

Had we reached the true crossing, some two miles further down, we should
have entered an ambush of the enemy, skillfully arranged by that same
leader who so well understood his forest tactics.  The report of the
warriors having gone on a distant expedition was a mere _ruse_, the
prelude to a series of strategic manoeuvres devised by Osceola.

The Indians were at that moment where we should have been, but for the
mistake of the guides.  The ford was beset upon both sides by the foe--
the warriors lying unseen like snakes among the grass, ready to spring
forth the moment we should attempt the crossing.  Fortunate it was for
Clinch and his army that our guides possessed so little skill.

The general acted without this knowledge at the time--else, had he known
the dangerous proximity, his behaviour might have been different.  As it
was, a halt was ordered; and, after some deliberation, it was determined
we should cross the river at the point where the army had arrived.

Some old boats were found, "scows," with a number of Indian canoes.
These would facilitate the transport of the infantry, while the mounted
men could swim over upon their horses.

Rafts of logs were soon knocked together, and the passage of the stream
commenced.  The manoeuvre was executed with considerable adroitness, and
in less than an hour one half of the command had crossed.

I was among those who got first over; but I scarcely congratulated
myself on the success of the enterprise.  I felt sad at the prospect of
being soon called upon to aid in the slaughter of defenceless people--of
women and children--for around me there was no other anticipation.  It
was with a feeling of positive relief, almost of joy, that I heard that
wild war-cry breaking through the woods--the well-known Yo-ho-ehee of
the Seminoles.

Along with it came the ringing detonations of rifles, the louder report
of musketry; while bullets, whistling through the air, and breaking
branches from the surrounding trees, told us that we were assailed in
earnest, and by a large force of the enemy.

That portion of the army already over had observed the precaution to
post itself in a strong position among heavy timber that grew near the
river-bank; and on this account the first volley of the Indians produced
a less deadly effect.  For all that, several fell; and those who were
exposed to view were still in danger.

The fire was returned by the troops, repeated by the Indians, and again
answered by the soldiers--now rolling continuously, now in straggling
volleys or single shots, and at intervals altogether ceasing.

For a long while but little damage was done on either side; but it was
evident that the Indians, under cover of the underwood, were working
themselves into a more advantageous position--in fact, _surrounding_ us.
The troops, on the other hand, dare not stir from the spot where they
had landed, until a larger number should cross over.  After that it was
intended we should advance, and force the Indians from the covert at the
point of the bayonet.

The troops from the other side continued to cross.  Hitherto, they had
been protected by the fire of those already over; but at this crisis a
manoeuvre was effected by the Indians, that threatened to put an end to
the passing of the river, unless under a destructive fire from their
rifles.

Just below our position, a narrow strip of land jutted out into the
stream, forming a miniature peninsula.  It was a sand-bar caused by an
eddy on the opposite side.  It was lower than the main bank, and bare of
timber--except at its extreme point, where a sort of island had been
formed, higher than the peninsula itself.

On this island grew a thick grove of evergreen trees--palms, live-oaks,
and magnolias--in short, a hommock.

It would have been prudent for us to have occupied this hommock at the
moment of our first crossing over; but our general had not perceived the
advantage.  The Indians were not slow in noticing it; and before we
could take any steps to hinder them, a body of warriors rushed across
the isthmus, and took possession of the hommock.

The result of this skillful manoeuvre was soon made manifest.  The
boats, in crossing, were swept down by the current within range of the
wooded islet--out of whose evergreen shades was now poured a continuous
stream of blue fiery smoke, while the leaden missiles did their work of
death.  Men were seen dropping down upon the rafts, or tumbling over the
sides of the canoes, with a heavy plunge upon the water, that told they
had ceased to live; while the thick fire of musketry that was directed
upon the hommock altogether failed to dislodge the daring band who
occupied it.

There were but few of them--for we had seen them distinctly as they ran
over the isthmus--but it was evident they were a chosen few, skilled
marksmen every man.  They were dealing destruction at every shot.

It was a moment of intense excitement.  Elsewhere the conflict was
carried on with more equality--since both parties fought under cover of
the trees, and but little injury was sustained or inflicted by either.
The band upon the islet were killing more of our men than all the rest
of the enemy.

There was no other resource than to dislodge them from the hommock--to
drive them forth at the bayonet's point--at least this was the design
that now suggested itself to the commander-in-chief.

It seemed a forlorn hope.  Whoever should approach from the land-side
would receive the full fire of the concealed enemy--be compelled to
advance under a fearful risk of life.

To my surprise, the duty was assigned to myself.  Why, I know not--since
it could not be from any superior courage or ardour I had hitherto
evinced in the campaign.  But the order came from the general, direct
and prompt; and with no great spirit I prepared to execute it.

With a party of rifles--scarcely outnumbering the enemy we were to
attack at such a serious disadvantage--I started forth for the
peninsula.

I felt as if marching upon my death, and I believe that most of those
who followed me were the victims of a similar presentiment.  Even though
it had been a certainty, we could not now turn back; the eyes of the
whole army were upon us.  We must go forwards--we must conquer or fall.

In a few seconds we were upon the island, and advancing by rapid strides
towards the hommock.  We had hopes that the Indians might not have
perceived our approach, and that we should get behind them unawares.

They were vain hopes.  Our enemies had been watchful; they had observed
our manoeuvre from its beginning; had faced round, and were waiting with
rifles loaded, ready to receive us.

But half conscious of our perilous position, we pressed forwards and had
got within twenty yards of the grove, when the blue smoke and red flame
suddenly jetted forth from the trees.  I heard the bullets shower past
my ears; I heard the cries and groans of my followers, as they fell
thickly behind me.  I looked around--I saw that every one of them was
stretched upon the ground, dead or dying!

At the same instant a voice reached me from the grove:

"Go back, Randolph! go back!  By that symbol upon your breast your life
has been spared; but my braves are chafed, and their blood is hot with
fighting.  Tempt not their anger.  Away! away!"



CHAPTER SIXTY EIGHT.

A VICTORY ENDING IN A RETREAT.

I saw not the speaker, who was completely hidden behind the thick
trellis of leaves.  It was not necessary I should see him, to know who
addressed me; on hearing the voice I instantly recognised it.  It was
Osceola who spoke.

I cannot describe my sensations at that moment, nor tell exactly how I
acted.  My mind was in a chaos of confusion--surprise and fear mingling
alike in my emotions.

I remember facing once more towards my followers.  I saw that they were
not all dead--some were still lying where they had fallen, doubled up,
or stretched out in various attitudes of death--motionless--beyond
doubt, lifeless.  Some still moved, their cries for help showing that
life was not extinct.

To my joy, I observed several who had regained their feet, and were
running, or rather scrambling, rapidly away from the ground; and still
another few who had risen into half-erect attitudes, and were crawling
off upon their hands and knees.

These last were still being fired upon from the bushes; and as I stood
wavering, I saw one or two of them levelled along the grass by the fatal
bullets that rained thickly around me.

Among the wounded who lay at my feet, there was a young fellow whom I
knew.  He appeared to be shot through both limbs, and could not move his
body from the spot.  His appeal to me for help was the first thing that
aroused me from my indecision; I remembered that this young man had once
done me a service.

Almost mechanically, I bent down, grasped him around the waist, and
raising his body, commenced dragging him away.

With my burden I hurried back across the isthmus--as fast as my strength
would permit--nor did I stop till beyond the range of the Indian rifles.
Here I was met by a party of soldiers, sent to cover our retreat.  In
their hands I left my disabled comrade, and hastened onward to deliver
my melancholy report to the commander-in-chief.

My tale needed no telling.  Our movement had been watched, and our
discomfiture was already known throughout the whole army.

The general said not a word; and, without giving time for explanation,
ordered me to another part of the field.

All blamed his imprudence in having ordered such a desperate charge--
especially with so small a force.  For myself, I had gained the credit
of a bold leader; but how I chanced to be the only one, who came back
unscathed out of that deadly fire, was a puzzle which at that moment I
did not choose to explain.

For an hour or more the fight continued to be carried on, in the shape
of a confused skirmish among swamps and trees, without either party
gaining any material advantage.  Each held the position it had taken
up--though the Indians retained the freedom of the forest beyond.  To
have retired from ours, would have been the ruin of the whole army;
since there was no other mode of retreat, but by recrossing the stream,
and that could only have been effected under the fire of the enemy.

And yet to hold our position appeared equally ruinous.  We could effect
nothing by being thus brought to a stand-still, for we were actually
besieged upon the bank of the river.  We had vainly endeavoured to force
the Indians from the bush.  Having once failed, a second attempt to cut
our way through them would be a still more perilous emprise; and yet to
remain stationary had also its prospects of danger.  With scanty
provisions, the troops had marched out of their cantonments.  Their
rations were already exhausted--hunger stared the army in the face.  Its
pangs were already felt, and every hour would render them more severe.

We began to believe that we were _besieged_; and such was virtually the
fact.  Around us in a semi-circle swarmed the savages, each behind his
protecting tree--thus forming a defensive line equal in strength to a
fortified intrenchment.  Such could not be forced, without the certainty
of great slaughter among our men.

We perceived, too, that the number of our enemies was hourly increasing.
A peculiar cry--which some of the old "Indian fighters" understood--
heard at intervals, betokened the arrival of fresh parties of the foe.
We felt the apprehension that we were being outnumbered, and might soon
be overpowered.  A gloomy feeling was fast spreading itself through the
ranks.

During the skirmishes that had already occurred, we noticed that many of
the Indians were armed with fusils and muskets.  A few were observed in
uniform, with military accoutrements!  One--a conspicuous leader--was
still more singularly attired.  From his shoulders was suspended a large
silken flag, after the fashion of a Spanish cloak of the times of the
_conquistadores_.  Its stripes of alternate red and white, with the blue
starry field at the corner, were conspicuous.  Every eye in the army
looked upon it, and recognised in the fantastic draping, thus tauntingly
displayed, the loved flag of our country.

These symbols were expressive.  They did not puzzle us.  Their presence
among our enemies was easily explained.  The flag, the muskets and
fusils, the uniforms and equipments, were trophies from the battle-field
where Dade had fallen.

Though the troops regarded these objects with bitter indignation, their
anger was impotent: the hour for avenging the disastrous fate of their
comrades had not yet arrived.

It is not improbable we might have shared their destiny, had we remained
much longer upon the ground; but a plan of retreat offered, of which our
general was not loath to take advantage.  It was the happy idea of a
volunteer officer--an old campaigner of the "Hickory" wars--versed in
the tactics of Indian fighting.

By his advice, a feint was made by the troops who had not yet crossed--
the volunteers.  It was a pretended attempt to effect the passage of the
river at a point higher up stream.  It was good strategy.  Had such a
passage been possible, it would have brought the enemy between two
fires, and thus put an end to the "surround;" but a crossing was not
intended--only a ruse.

It had the effect designed; the Indians were deceived by it, and rushed
in a body up the bank to prevent the attempt at crossing.  Our
beleaguered force took advantage of their temporary absence; and the
"regulars," making an adroit use of the time, succeeded in getting back
to the "safe side" of the river.  The wily foe was too prudent to follow
us; and thus ended the "battle of the Ouithlacoochee."

In the hurried council that was held, there was no two opinions as to
what course of action we should pursue.  The proposal to march back to
Fort King was received with a wonderful unanimity; and, with little loss
of time, we took the route, and arrived without farther molestation at
the fort.



CHAPTER SIXTY NINE.

ANOTHER "SWAMP-FIGHT."

After this action, a complete change was observed in the spirit of the
army.  Boasting was heard no more; and the eagerness of the troops to be
led against the enemy was no longer difficult to restrain.  No one
expressed desire for a second expedition across the Ouithlacoochee, and
the "Cove" was to remain unexplored until the arrival of reinforcements.
The volunteers were disheartened, wearied of the campaign, and not a
little cowed by the resistance they had so unexpectedly encountered--
bold and bloody as it was unlooked for.  The enemy, hitherto despised,
if it had aroused by its conduct a strong feeling of exasperation and
vengeance, had also purchased the privilege of respect.

The battle of the Ouithlacoochee cost the United States army nearly a
hundred men.  The Seminole loss was believed to be much greater; though
no one could give a better authority for this belief than that of a
"guess."  No one had _seen_ the enemy's slain; but this was accounted
for by the assertion, that during the fight they _had carried their dead
and wounded from the field_!

How often has this absurd allegation appeared in the dispatches of
generals both victorious and defeated!  It is the usual explanation of a
battle-field found too sparsely strewn by the bodies of the foe.  The
very possibility of such an operation argues either an easy conflict, or
a strong attachment between comrade and comrade--too strong, indeed, for
human nature.  With some fighting experience, I can affirm that I never
saw a _dead_ body, either of comrade or foeman, moved from the ground
where he had fallen, so long as there was a shot ringing upon the ear.

In the battle of the Ouithlacoochee, no doubt some of our enemies had
"bit the dust;" but their loss was much less than that of our own
troops.  For myself--and I had ample opportunity for observation--I
could not swear to a single "dead Indian;" nor have I met with a comrade
who could.

Notwithstanding this, historians have chronicled the affair as a grand
"victory," and the dispatch of the commander-in-chief is still extant--a
curious specimen of warlike literature.  In this document may be found
the name of almost every officer engaged, each depicted as a peerless
hero!  A rare monument of vanity and boasting.

To speak the honest truth, we had been well "whipped" by the red skins;
and the chagrin of the army was only equalled by its exasperation.

Clinch, although esteemed a kind general--the "soldier's friend," as
historians term him--was no longer regarded as a great warrior.  His
glory had departed.  If Osceola owed _him_ any spite, he had reason to
be satisfied with what he had accomplished, without molesting the "old
veteran" further.  Though still living, he was dead to fame.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

A fresh commander-in-chief now made his appearance, and hopes of victory
were again revived.  The new general was Gaines, another of the
"veterans" produced by seniority of rank.  He had not been ordered by
the Government upon this especial duty; but Florida being part of his
military district, had volunteered to take the guidance of the war.

Like his predecessor, Gaines expected to reap a rich harvest of laurels,
and, like the former, was he doomed to disappointment.  Again, it was
the cypress wreath.

Without delay, our army--reinforced by fresh troops from Louisiana and
elsewhere--was put in motion, and once more marched upon the "Cove."

We reached the banks of the Amazura, but never crossed that fatal
stream--equally fatal to our glory as our lives.  This time, _the
Indians crossed_.

Almost upon the ground of the former action--with the difference that it
was now upon the nether bank of the stream--we were attacked by the red
warriors; and, after some hours of sharp skirmishing, compelled to
shelter our proud battalions within the protecting pickets of a
stockade!  Within this inclosure we were besieged for a period of nine
days, scarcely daring to trust ourselves outside the wooden walls.
Starvation no longer stared us in the face--it had actually come upon
us; and but for the _horses_ we had hitherto bestrode--with whose flesh
we were fain to satisfy the cravings of our appetites--one half the army
of "Camp Izard" would have perished of hunger.

We were saved from destruction by the timely arrival of a large force
that had been dispatched to our rescue under Clinch, still commanding
his brigade.  Having marched direct from Fort King, our former general
had the good fortune to approach the enemy from their rear, and, by
surprising our besiegers, disentangled us from our perilous situation.

The day of our delivery was memorable by a singular incident--an
armistice of a peculiar character.

Early in the morning, while it was yet dark, a voice was heard hailing
us from a distance, in a loud "Ho there!--Halloa!"

It came from the direction of the enemy--since we were _surrounded_, it
could not be otherwise--but the peculiar phraseology led to the hope
that Clinch's brigade had arrived.

The hail was repeated, and answered; but the hope of a rescue vanished
when the stentorian voice was recognised as that of Abram, the black
chief, and quondam interpreter of the council.

"What do you want?" was the interrogatory ordered by the
commander-in-chief.

"A talk," came the curt reply.

"For what purpose?"

"We want to stop fighting."

The proposal was agreeable as unexpected.  What could it mean?  Were the
Indians starring, like ourselves, and tired of hostilities?  It was
probable enough: for what other reason should they desire to end the war
so abruptly?  They had not yet been defeated, but, on the contrary,
victorious in every action that had been fought.

But one other motive could be thought of.  We were every hour expecting
the arrival of Clinch's brigade.  Runners had reached the camp to say
that he was near, and, reinforced by it, we should be not only strong
enough to raise the siege, but to attack the Indians with almost a
certainty of defeating them.  Perhaps they knew, as well as we, that
Clinch was advancing, and were desirous of making terms before his
arrival.

The proposal for a "talk" was thus accounted for by the
commander-in-chief, who was now in hopes of being able to strike a
decisive blow.  His only apprehension was, that the enemy should
retreat, before Clinch could get forward upon the field.  An armistice
would serve to delay the Indians upon the ground; and without
hesitation, the distant speaker was informed that the talk would be
welcome.

A meeting of _parlementaires_ from each side was arranged; the hour, as
soon as it should be light.  There were to be three of the Indians, and
three from the camp.

A small savanna extended from the stockade.  At several hundred yards'
distance it was bounded by the woods.  As soon as the day broke, we saw
three men emerge from the timber, and advance into the open ground.
They were Indian chiefs in full costume; they were the commissioners.
All three were recognised from the camp--Abram, Coa Hajo, and Osceola.

Outside musket-range, they halted, placing themselves side by side in
erect attitudes, and facing the inclosure.

Three officers, two of whom could speak the native tongue, were sent
forth to meet them.  I was one of the deputation.

In a few seconds we stood face to face with the hostile chiefs.



CHAPTER SEVENTY.

THE TALK.

Before a word was uttered, all six of us shook hands--so far as
appearance went, in the most friendly manner.  Osceola grasped mine
warmly; as he did so, saying with a peculiar smile:

"Ah, Randolph! friends sometimes meet in war as well as in peace."

I knew to what he referred, but could only answer him with a significant
look of gratitude.

An orderly, sent to us with a message from the general, was seen
approaching from the camp.  At the same instant, an Indian appeared
coming out of the timber, and, keeping pace with the orderly,
simultaneously with the latter arrived upon the ground.  The deputation
was determined we should not outnumber it.

As soon as the orderly had whispered his message, the "talk began."

Abram was the spokesman on the part of the Indians, and delivered
himself in his broken English.  The others merely signified their assent
by a simple nod, or the affirmation "Ho;" while their negative was
expressed by the exclamation "Cooree."

"Do you white folk want to make peace?" abruptly demanded the negro.

"Upon what terms?" asked the head of our party.

"Da tarms we gib you are dese: you lay down arm, an' stop de war; your
sogas go back, an' stay in dar forts: _we Indyen_ cross ober da
Ouithlacoochee; an' from dis time forth, for ebber after, we make the
grand ribber da line o' boundary atween de two.  We promise lib in peace
an' good tarms wi' all white neighbour.  Dat's all got say."

"Brothers!" said our speaker in reply, "I fear these conditions will not
be accepted by the white general, nor our great father, the president.
I am commissioned to say, that the commander-in-chief can treat with you
on no other conditions than those of your absolute submission, and under
promise that you will now agree to the removal."

"_Cooree! cooree_! never!" haughtily exclaimed Coa Hajo and Osceola in
one breath, and with a determined emphasis, that proved they had no
intention of offering to surrender.

"An' what for we submit," asked the black, with some show of
astonishment.  "We not conquered!  We conquer you ebbery fight--we whip
you people, one, two, tree time--we whip you; dam! we kill you well too.
What for we submit?  We come here gib condition--not ask um."

"It matters little what has hitherto transpired," observed the officer
in reply; "we are by far stronger than you--we must conquer you in the
end."

Again the two chiefs simultaneously cried "_Cooree_!"

"May be, white men, you make big mistake 'bout our strength.  We not so
weak you tink for--dam! no.  We show you our strength."

As the negro said this, he turned inquiringly towards his comrades, as
if to seek their assent to some proposition.

Both seemed to grant it with a ready nod; and Osceola, who now assumed
the leadership of the affair, faced towards the forest, at the same time
giving utterance to a loud and peculiar intonation.

The echoes of his voice had not ceased to vibrate upon the air, when the
evergreen grove was observed to be in motion along: its whole edge; and
the next instant, a line of dusky warriors shewed itself in the open
ground.  They stepped forth a pace or two, then halted in perfect order
of battle--so that their numbers could easily be told off from where we
stood.

"Count the red warriors!" cried Osceola, in a triumphant tone--"count
them, and be no longer ignorant of the strength of your enemy."

As the Indian uttered these words, a satirical smile played upon his
lips; and he stood for some seconds confronting us in silence.

"Now," continued he, once more pointing to his followers, "do yonder
braves--there are fifteen hundred of them--do they look starving and
submissive?  No! they are ready to continue the war till the blood of
the last man sinks into the soil of his native land.  If they must
perish, it will be here--here in Florida--in the land of their birth,
upon the graves of their fathers.

"We have taken up the rifle because you wronged us, and would drive us
out.  For the wrongs we have had revenge.  We have killed many of your
people, and we are satisfied with the vengeance we have taken.  We want
to kill no more.  But about the removal, we have not changed our minds.
We shall never change them.

"We have made you a fair proposition: accept it, and in this hour the
war shall cease; reject it, and more blood shall be spilled--ay, by the
spirit of Wykome! rivers of blood shall flow.  The red poles of our
lodges shall be painted again and again with the blood of our pale-faced
foes.  Peace or war, then--you are welcome to your choice."

As Osceola ceased speaking, he waved his hand towards his dusky warriors
by the wood, who at the sign disappeared among the trees, silently,
rapidly, almost mysteriously.

A meet reply was being delivered to the passionate harangue of the young
chief, when the speaker was interrupted by the report of musketry, heard
in the direction of the Indians, but further off.  The shots followed
each other in rapid succession, and were accompanied by shouts, that,
though feebly borne from the far distance, could be distinguished as the
charging cheers of men advancing into a battle.

"Ha! foul play!" cried the chiefs in a breath; "pale-faced liars! you
shall rue this treason;" and, without waiting to exchange another
sentence, all three sprang off from the spot, and ran at full speed
towards the covert of the woods.

We turned back within the lines of the camp, where the shots had also
been heard, and interpreted as the advance of Clinch's brigade attacking
the Indian outposts in the rear.  We found the troops already mustered
in battle-array, and preparing to issue forth from the stockade.  In a
few minutes, the order was given, and the army marched forth, extending
itself rapidly both right and left along the bank of the river.

As soon as the formation was complete, the line advanced.  The troops
were burning for revenge.  Cooped up as they had been for days,
half-famished, and more than half disgraced, they had now an opportunity
to retrieve their honour; and were fully bent upon the punishment of the
savage foe.  With an army in their rear, rapidly closing upon them by an
extended line--for this had been pre-arranged between the commanders--
another similarly advancing upon their front, how could the Indians
escape?  They must fight--they would be conquered at last.

This was the expectation of all--officers and soldiers.  The
commander-in-chief was himself in high spirits.  His strategic plan had
succeeded.  The enemy was surrounded--entrapped; a great victory was
before him--a "harvest of laurels."

We marched forward.  We heard shots, but now only solitary or
straggling.  We could not hear the well-known war-cry of the Indians.

We continued to advance.  The hommocks were carried by a charge, but in
their shady coverts we found no enemy.

Surely they must still be before us--between our lines and those of the
approaching reinforcement?  Is it possible they can have retreated--
escaped?

No!  Yonder they are--on the other side of the meadow--just coming out
from the trees.  They are advancing to give us battle!  Now for the
charge--now--

Ha! those blue uniforms and white belts--those forage-caps and sabres--
these are not Indians!  It is not the enemy!  They are our friends--the
soldiers of Clinch's brigade!

Fortunate it was that at that moment there was a mutual recognition,
else might we have annihilated one another.



CHAPTER SEVENTY ONE.

MYSTERIOUS DISAPPEARANCE OF AN ARMY.

The two divisions of the army now came together, and after a rapid
council had been held between the commanders, continued scouring the
field in search of our enemy.  Hours were spent in the search; but not
an Indian foe could be found!

Osceola had performed a piece of strategy unheard of in the annals of
war.  He had carried an army of 1,600 men from between two others of
nearly equal numbers, who had completely enfiladed him, without leaving
a man upon the ground--ay, without leaving a trace of his retreat.  That
host of Indian warriors, so lately observed in full battle-array, had
all at once broken up into a thousand fragments, and, as if by magic,
had melted out of sight.

The enemy was gone, we knew not whither; and the disappointed generals
once more marched their forces back to Fort King.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

The "dispersion," as it was termed, of the Indian army, was of course
chronicled as another "victory."  It was a victory, however, that killed
poor old Gaines--at least his military fame--and he was only too glad to
retire from the command he had been so eager to obtain.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

A third general now took the field as commander-in-chief--an officer of
more notoriety than either of his predecessors--Scott.  A lucky wound
received in the old British wars, seniority of rank, a good deal of
political buffoonery, but above all a free translation of the French
"system of tactics," with the assumption of being their author, had kept
General Scott conspicuously before the American public for a period of
twenty years [Note 1].  He who could contrive such a system of military
manoeuvring could not be otherwise than a great soldier; so reasoned his
countrymen.

Of course wonderful things were expected from the new
commander-in-chief, and great deeds were promised.  He would deal with
the savages in a different way from that adopted by his predecessors; he
would soon put an end to the contemptible war.

There was much rejoicing at the appointment; and preparations were made
for a campaign on a far more extensive scale than had fallen to the lot
of either of the chiefs who preceded him.  The army was doubled--almost
trebled--the commissariat amply provided for, before the great general
would consent to set foot upon the field.

He arrived at length, and the army was put in motion.

I am not going to detail the incidents of this campaign; there were none
of sufficient importance to be chronicled, much less of sufficient
interest to be narrated.  It consisted simply of a series of harassing
marches, conducted with all the pomp and regularity of a parade review.
The army was formed into three divisions, somewhat bombastically styled
"right wing," "left wing," and "centre."  Thus formed, they were to
approach the "Cove of the Ouithlacoochee"--again that fatal Cove--from
three different directions, Fort King, Fort Brooke, and the Saint
John's.  On arriving on the edge of the great swamp, each was to fire
minute-guns as signals for the others, and then all three were to
advance in converging lines towards the heart of the Seminole fastness.

The absurd manoeuvre was carried out, and ended as might have been
expected, in complete failure.  During the march, no man saw the face of
a red Indian.  A few of their camps were discovered, but nothing more.
The cunning warriors had heard the signal guns, and well understood
their significance.  With such a hint of the position of their enemy,
they had but little difficulty in making their retreat between the
"wings."

Perhaps the most singular, if not the most important, incident occurring
in Scott's campaign was one which came very near costing me my life.  If
not worthy of being given in detail, it merits mention as a curious case
of "abandonment."

While marching for the "Cove" with his centre wing, the idea occurred to
our great commander to leave behind him, upon the banks of the Amazura,
what he termed a "post of observation."  This consisted of a detachment
of forty men--mostly our Suwanee volunteers, with their proportion of
officers, myself among the number.

We were ordered to fortify ourselves on the spot, and _stay_ there until
we should be relieved from our duty, which was somewhat indefinitely
understood even by him who was placed in command of us.  After giving
these orders, the general, at the head of his "central wing," marched
off, leaving us to our fate.

Our little band was sensibly alive to the perilous position in which we
were thus placed, and we at once set about making the best of it.  We
felled trees, built a blockhouse, dug a well, and surrounded both with a
strong stockade.

Fortunately we were not _discovered_ by the enemy for nearly a week
after the departure of the army, else we should most certainly have been
destroyed to a man.  The Indians, in all probability, had followed the
"centre wing," and thus for a time were carried out of our
neighbourhood.

On the sixth day, however, they made their appearance, and summoned us
to surrender.

We refused, and fought them--again, and again, at intervals, during a
period of fifty days!

Several of our men were killed or wounded; and among the former, the
gallant chief of our devoted band, Holloman, who fell from a shot fired
through the interstices of the stockade.

Provisions had been left with us to serve us for _two weeks_; they were
eked out to last for seven!  For thirty days we subsisted upon raw corn
and water, with a few handfuls of acorns, which we contrived to gather
from the trees growing within the inclosure.

In this way we held out for a period of fifty days, and still no
commander-in-chief--no army came to relieve us.  During all that gloomy
siege, we never heard word of either; no white face ever showed itself
to our anxious eyes, that gazed constantly outward.  We believed
ourselves abandoned--forgotten.

And such in reality was the fact--General Scott, in his eagerness to get
away from Florida, had quite forgotten to relieve the "post of
observation;" and others believing that we had long since perished, made
no effort to send a rescue.

Death from hunger stared us in the face, until at length the brave old
hunter, Hickman, found his way through the lines of our besiegers, and
communicated our situation to our "friends at home."

His tale produced a strong excitement, and a force was dispatched to our
relief, that succeeded in dispersing our enemies, and setting us free
from our blockhouse prison.

Thus terminated "Scott's campaign," and with it his command in Florida.
The whole affair was a burlesque, and Scott was only saved from ridicule
and the disgrace of a speedy recall, by a lucky accident, that fell in
his favour.  Orders had already reached him to take control of another,
"Indian war"--the "Creek"--that was just breaking out in the States of
the southwest; and this afforded the discomfited general a well-timed
excuse for retiring from the "Flowery Land."

Florida was destined to prove to American generals a land of melancholy
remembrances.  No less than seven of them were successively beaten at
the game of Indian warfare by the Seminoles and their wily chieftains.
It is not my purpose to detail the history of their failures and
mishaps.  From the disappearance of General Scott, I was myself no
longer with the main army.  My destiny conducted me through the more
romantic by-ways of the campaign--the paths of _la petite guerre_--and
of these only am I enabled to write.  Adieu, then, to the grand
historic.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

Note 1.  Scott's whole career, political as well as military, had been a
series of _faux pas_.  His campaign in Mexico will not bear criticism.
The numerous blunders he there committed would have led to most fatal
results, had they not been neutralised by the judgment of his inferior
officers, and the indomitable valour of the soldiery.  The battle of
Moline del Rey--the armistice with Santa Anna, were military errors
unworthy of a cadet fresh from college.  I make bold to affirm that
every action was a mob-fight--the result depending upon mere chance; or
rather on the desperate bravery of the troops upon one side, and the
infamous cowardice of those on the other.



CHAPTER SEVENTY TWO.

THE CONDITION OF BLACK JAKE.

We had escaped from the blockhouse in boats, down the river to its
mouth, and by sea to Saint Marks.  Thence the volunteers scattered to
their homes--their term of service having expired.  They went as they
listed; journeying alone, or in straggling squads of three and four
together.

One of these groups consisted of old Hickman the hunter, a companion of
like kidney, myself, and my ever faithful henchman.

Jake was no longer the "Black Jake" of yore.  A sad change had come over
his external aspect.  His cheek-bones stood prominently out, while the
cheeks themselves had fallen in; his eyeballs had retreated far within
their sockets, and the neglected wool stood out over his temples in a
thick frizzled shock.  His skin had lost its fine ebon polish, and
showed distinct traces of corrugation.  Wherever "scratched" by his now
elongated finger-nails, a whitish dandruffy surface was exhibited.

The poor fellow had fared badly in the blockhouse; and three weeks of
positive famine had played sad havoc with his outward man.

Starvation, however, but little affected his spirits.  Throughout all,
he had preserved his jovial mood, and his light humour often roused me
from my despondency.  While gnawing the corn cob, and washing down the
dry maize with a gourd of cold water, he would indulge in rapturous
visions of "hominy and hog-meat," to be devoured whenever it should
please fate to let him return to the "ole plantayshun."  Such delightful
prospects of future enjoyment enabled him the better to endure the
pinching present--for anticipation has its joys.  Now that we were free,
and actually heading homewards; now that his visions were certain soon
to become realities, Jake's jovialty could no longer be kept within
bounds; his tongue was constantly in motion; his mouth ever open with
the double tier of "ivories" displayed in a continuous smile; while his
skin seemed to be rapidly recovering its dark oily lustre.

Jake was the soul of our party, as we trudged wearily along; and his gay
jokes affected even the staid old hunters, at intervals eliciting from
both loud peals of laughter.--For myself I scarcely shared their mirth--
only now and then, when the sallies of my follower proved irresistible.
There was a gloom over my spirit, which I could not comprehend.

It should have been otherwise.  I should have felt happy at the prospect
of returning home--of once more beholding those who were dear--but it
was not so.

It had been so on my first getting free from our blockhouse prison; but
this was only the natural reaction, consequent upon escape from what
appeared almost certain death.  My joy had been short-lived: it was past
and gone; and now that I was nearing my native home, dark shadows came
over my soul; a presentiment was upon me that all was not well.

I could in no way account for this feeling, for I had heard no evil
tidings.  In truth, I had heard nothing of home or of friends for a
period of nearly two months.  During our long siege, no communication
had ever reached us; and at Saint Marks we met but slight news from the
settlements of the Suwanee.  We were returning in ignorance of all that
had transpired there during our absence--if aught _had_ transpired
worthy of being known.

This ignorance itself might have produced uncertainty, doubt, even
apprehension; but it was not the sole cause of my presentiment.  Its
origin was different.  Perhaps the recollection of my abrupt departure--
the unsettled state in which I had left the affairs of our family--the
parting scene, now vividly recalled--remembrances of Ringgold--
reflections upon the wicked designs of this wily villain--all these may
have contributed to form the apprehensions under which I was suffering.
Two months was a long period; many events could happen within two
months, even in the narrow circle of one's own family.  Long since it
had been reported that I had perished at the hands of the Indian foe; I
was believed to be dead, at home, wherever I was known; and the belief
might have led to ill results.  Was my sister still true to her word, so
emphatically pronounced in that hour of parting?  Was I returning home
to find her still my loved sister?  Still single and free? or had she
yielded to maternal solicitation, and become the wife of the vile
caitiff after all?

With such conjectures occupying my thoughts, no wonder I was not in a
mood for merriment.  My companions noticed my dejection, and in their
rude but kind way, rallied me as we rode along.  They failed, however,
to make me cheerful like themselves.  I could not cast the load from my
heart.  Try as I would, the presentiment lay heavy upon me, that all was
not well.

Alas, alas! the presentiment proved true--no, not true, but worse--worse
than my worst apprehensions--worse even than that I had most feared.

The news that awaited me was not of marriage, but of death--the death of
my mother--and worse than death--horrid doubt of my sister's fate.
Before reaching home, a messenger met me--one who told an appalling
tale.

The Indians had attacked the settlement, or rather my own plantation--
for their foray had gone no further: my poor mother had fallen under
their savage knives; my uncle too: and my sister?  _She had been carried
off_!

I stayed to hear no more; but, driving the spurs into my jaded horse,
galloped forward like one suddenly smitten with madness.



CHAPTER SEVENTY THREE.

A BAD SPECTACLE.

My rate of speed soon brought me within the boundaries of the
plantation; and, without pausing to breathe my horse, I galloped on,
taking the path that led most directly to the house.  It was not the
main road, but a wood-path here and there closed up with "bars."  My
horse was a spirited animal, and easily leaped over them.

I met a man coming from the direction of the house--a white man--a
neighbour.  He made motions as if to speak--no doubt, of the calamity.
I did not stop to listen.  I had heard enough.  My eyes alone wanted
satisfaction.

I knew every turn of the path.  I knew the points where I should first
come in sight of the house.

I reached it, and looked forwards.  Father of mercy! there was no house
to be seen!

Half-bewildered, I reined up my horse.  I strained my eyes over the
landscape--in vain--no house.

Had I taken the wrong road, or was I looking in the wrong direction?
No--no.  There stood the giant tulip-tree, that marked the embouchure of
the path.  There stretched the savanna; beyond it the home-fields of
indigo and maize; beyond these the dark wood-knoll of the hommock; but
beyond this last there was nothing--nothing I could recognise.

The whole landscape appeared to have undergone a change.  The gay white
walls--the green _jalousies_--the cheerful aspect of home, that from
that same spot had so often greeted me, returning hungry and wearied
from the hunt--were no longer to be seen.  The sheds, the negro-cabins,
the offices, even the palings had disappeared.  From their steads I
beheld thick volumes of smoke ascending to the sky, and rolling over the
sun till his disc was red.  The heavens were frowning upon me.

From what I had already learned, the spectacle was easy of
comprehension.  It caused no new emotion either of surprise or pain.  I
was not capable of suffering more.

Again putting my horse to his speed, I galloped across the fields
towards the scene of desolation.

As I neared the spot, I could perceive the forms of men moving about
through the smoke.  There appeared to be fifty or a hundred of them.
Their motions did not betoken excitement.  Only a few were moving at
all, and these with a leisurely gait, that told they were not in action.
The rest stood in groups, in lounging attitudes, evidently mere
spectators of the conflagration.  They were making no attempt to
extinguish the flames, which I now observed mingling with the smoke.  A
few were rushing to and fro--most of them on horseback--apparently in
the endeavour to catch some horses and cattle, that, having escaped from
the burnt inclosure, were galloping over the fields, neighing and
lowing.

One might have fancied that the men around the fire were those who had
caused it; and for a moment such an idea was in my mind.  The messenger
had said that the foray had just taken place--that very morning at
daybreak.  It was all I had heard, as I hurried away.

It was yet early--scarcely an hour after sunrise--for we had been
travelling by night to avoid the hot hours.  Were the savages still upon
the ground?  Were those men Indians?  In the lurid light, amidst the
smoke, chasing the cattle--as if with the intention of driving them
off--the conjecture was probable enough.

But the report said they had gone away: how else could the details have
been known?--the murder of my mother, the rape of my poor sister?  With
the savages still upon the ground, how had these facts been ascertained?

Perhaps they had gone, and returned again to collect the booty, and fire
the buildings?  For an instant such fancies were before my mind.

They had no influence in checking my speed.  I never thought of
tightening the rein--my bridle arm was not free; with both hands I was
grasping the ready rifle.

Vengeance had made me mad.  Even had I been certain that the dark forms
before me were those of the murderers, I was determined to dash forwards
into their midst, and perish upon the body of a savage.

I was not alone.  The black was at my heels; and close behind, I could
hear the clattering hoofs of the hunters' horses.

We galloped up to the selvidge of the smoke.  The deception was at an
end.  They were not Indians or enemies, but friends who stood around,
and who hailed our approach neither with words nor shouts, but with the
ominous silence of sympathy.

I pulled up by the fire, and dismounted from my horse: men gathered
around me with looks of deep meaning.  They were speechless--no one
uttered a word.  All saw that it was a tale that needed no telling.

I was myself the first to speak.  In a voice so husky as scarcely to be
heard, I inquired: "Where?"

The interrogatory was understood--it was anticipated.  One had already
taken me by the hand, and was leading me gently around the fire.  He
said nothing, but pointed towards the hommock.  Unresistingly I walked
by his side.

As we neared the pond, I observed a larger group than any I had yet
seen.  They were standing in a ring, with their faces turned inwards,
and their eyes bent upon the earth.  _I knew she was there_.

At our approach, the men looked up, and suddenly the ring opened--both
sides mechanically drawing back.  He who had my hand conducted me
silently onwards, till I stood in their midst.  I looked upon the corpse
of my mother.

Beside it was the dead body of my uncle, and beyond, the bodies of
several black men--faithful slaves, who had fallen in defence of their
master and mistress.

My poor mother!--shot--stabbed--_scalped_.  Even in death had she been
defeatured!

Though I had anticipated it, the spectacle shocked me.

My poor mother!  Those glassy eyes would never smile upon me again--
those pale lips would neither chide nor cheer me more.

I could control my emotions no longer.  I burst into tears; and falling
upon the earth, flung my arms around the corpse, and kissed the cold
mute lips of her who had given me birth.



CHAPTER SEVENTY FOUR.

TO THE TRAIL.

My grief was profound--even to misery.  The remembrance of occasional
moments of coldness on the part of my mother--the remembrance more
especially of the last parting scene--rendered my anguish acute.  Had we
but parted in affection--in the friendly confidence of former years--my
loss would have been easier to endure.  But no; her last words to me
were spoken in reproach--almost in anger--and it was the memory of these
that now so keenly embittered my thoughts.  I would have given the world
could she have heard but one word--to know how freely I forgave her.

My poor mother! all was forgiven.  Her faults were few and venial.  I
remembered them not.  Ambition was her only sin--among those of her
station, almost universal--but I remembered it no more.  I remembered
only her many virtues--only that she was my _mother_.  Never until that
moment had I known how dearly I loved her.

It was no time to indulge in grief.  Where was my sister?

I sprang to my feet, as I gave wild utterance to the interrogatory.

It was answered only by signs.  Those around me pointed to the forest.
I understood the signs--the savages had borne her away.

Up to this hour I had felt no hostility towards the red men; on the
contrary, my sentiments had an opposite inclination.  If not friendship
for them, I had felt something akin to it.  I was conscious of the many
wrongs they had endured, and were now enduring at the hands of our
people.  I knew that in the end they would be conquered, and must
submit.  I had felt sympathy for their unfortunate condition.

It was gone.  The sight of my murdered mother produced an instantaneous
change in my feelings; and sympathy for the savage was supplanted by
fierce hostility.  Her blood called aloud for vengeance, and my heart
was eager to obey the summons.

As I rose to my feet, I registered vows of revenge.

I stood not alone.  Old Hickman and his fellow-hunter were at my back,
and fifty others joined their voices in a promise to aid me in the
pursuit.

Black Jake was among the loudest who clamoured for retribution.  He too
had sustained his loss.  Viola was nowhere to be found--she had been
carried off with the other domestics.  Some may have gone voluntarily,
but all were absent--all who were not dead.  The plantation and its
people had no longer an existence.  I was homeless as well as
motherless.

There was no time to be wasted in idle sorrowing; immediate action was
required, and determined upon.  The people had come to the ground armed
and ready, and a few minutes sufficed to prepare for the pursuit.

A fresh horse was procured for myself; others for the companions of my
late journey; and after snatching a breakfast hastily prepared, we
mounted, and struck off upon the trail of the savages.

It was easily followed, for the murderers had been mounted, and their
horses' tracks betrayed them.

They had gone some distance up the river before crossing, and then swam
their horses over to the Indian side.  Without hesitation, we did the
same.

The place I remembered well.  I had crossed there before--two months
before--while tracking the steed of Osceola.  It was the path that had
been taken by the young chief.  The coincidence produced upon me a
certain impression; and not without pain did I observe it.

It led to reflection.  There was time, as the trail was in places less
conspicuous, and the finding it delayed our advance.  It led to inquiry.

Had any one seen the savages?--or noted to what band they belonged?  Who
was their leader?

Yes.  All these questions were answered in the affirmative.  Two men,
lying concealed by the road, had seen the Indians passing away--had seen
their captives, too; my sister--Viola--with other girls of the
plantation.  These were on horseback, each clasped in the arms of a
savage.  The blacks travelled afoot.  They were _not_ bound.  They
appeared to go willingly.  The Indians were "Redsticks"--_led by
Osceola_.

Such was the belief of those around me, founded upon the report of the
men who had lain in ambush.

It is difficult to describe the impression produced upon me.  It was
painful in the extreme.  I endeavoured not to believe the report.  I
resolved not to give it credence, until I should have further
confirmation of its truthfulness.

Osceola!  O heavens!  Surely he would not have done this deed?  It could
not have been he?

The men might have been mistaken.  It was before daylight the savages
had been seen.  The darkness might have deceived them.  Every feat
performed by the Indians--every foray made--was put down to the credit
of Osceola.  Osceola was everywhere.  Surely he had not been there?

Who were the two men--the witnesses?  Not without surprise did I listen
to the answer.  They were _Spence and Williams_!

To my surprise, too, I now learned that they were among the party who
followed me--volunteers to aid me in obtaining revenge for my wrongs!

Strange, I thought; but stranger still that Arens Ringgold was _not_
there.  He had been present at the scene of the conflagration; and, as I
was told, among the loudest in his threats of vengeance.  But he had
returned home; at all events he was not one of the band of pursuers.

I called Spence and Williams, and questioned them closely.  They adhered
to their statement.  They admitted that it was dark when they had seen
the Indians returning from the massacre.  They could not tell for
certain whether they were the warriors of the "Redstick" tribe, or those
of the "Long Swamp."  They believed them to be the former.  As to who
was their leader, they had no doubt whatever.  It was Osceola who led
them.  They knew him by the three ostrich feathers in his head-dress,
which rendered him conspicuous among his followers.

These fellows spoke positively.  What interest could they have in
deceiving me?  What could it matter to them, whether the chief of the
murderous band was Osceola, Coa Hajo, or Onopa himself?

Their words produced conviction--combined with other circumstances,
deep, painful conviction.  The murderer of my mother--he who had fired
my home, and borne my sister into a cruel captivity--could be no other
than Osceola.

All memory of our past friendship died upon the instant.  My heart
burned with hostility and hate, for him it had once so ardently admired.



CHAPTER SEVENTY FIVE.

THE ALARM.

There were other circumstances connected with the bloody affair, that
upon reflection appeared peculiar and mysterious.  By the sudden shock,
my soul had been completely benighted; and these circumstances had
escaped my notice.  I merely believed that there had been an onslaught
of the Indians, in which my mother had been massacred, and my sister
borne away from her home--that the savages, not satisfied with blood,
had added fire--that these outrages had been perpetrated in revenge for
past wrongs, endured at the hands of their pale-faced enemies--that the
like had occurred elsewhere, and was almost daily occurring--why not on
the banks of the Suwanee, as in other districts of the country?  In
fact, it had been rather a matter of wonder, that the settlement had
been permitted to remain so long unmolested.  Others--far more remote
from the Seminole strongholds--had already suffered a like terrible
visitation; and why should ours escape?  The immunity had been remarked,
and the inhabitants had become lulled by it into a false security.

The explanation given was that the main body of the Indians had been
occupied elsewhere, watching the movements of Scott's triple army; and,
as our settlement was strong, no small band had dared to come against
it.

But Scott was now gone--his troops had retired within the forts--their
summer quarters--for winter is the season of campaigning in Florida; and
the Indians, to whom all seasons are alike, were now free to extend
their marauding expeditions against the trans-border plantations.

This appeared the true explanation why an attack upon the settlement of
the Suwanee had been so long deferred.

During the first burst of my grief, on receiving news of the calamity, I
accepted it as such: I and mine had merely been the victims of a general
vengeance.

But the moments of bewilderment soon passed; and the peculiar
circumstances, to which I have alluded, began to make themselves
apparent to my mind.

First of all, why was our plantation the only one that had been
attacked?--our house the only one given to the flames?--our family the
only one murdered?

These questions startled me; and natural it was that they did so.  There
were other plantations along the river equally unprotected--other
families far more noted for their hostility to the Seminole race--nay,
what was yet a greater mystery, the Ringgold plantation lay in the very
path of the marauders; as their trail testified, they had passed around
it to reach our house; and both Arens Ringgold and his father had long
been notorious for bitter enmity to the red men, and violent aggressions
against their rights.

Why, then, had the Ringgold plantation been suffered to remain
unmolested, while ours was singled out for destruction?  Were we the
victims of a _particular and special vengeance_?

It must have been so; beyond a doubt, it was so.  After long reflection,
I could arrive at no other conclusion.  By this alone could the mystery
be solved.

And Powell--oh! could it have been he?--my friend, a fiend guilty of
such an atrocious deed?  Was it probable? was it possible?  No--neither.

Despite the testimony of the two men--vile wretches I knew them to be--
despite what they had seen and said--my heart refused to believe it.

What motive could he have for such special murder?--ah! what motive?

True, my mother had been unkind to him--more than that, ungrateful; she
had once treated him with scorn.  I remembered it well--he, too, might
remember it.

But surely he, the noble youth--to my mind the _beau ideal_ of heroism--
would scarcely have harboured such petty spite, and for so long?--would
scarcely have repaid it by an act of such bloody retribution?  No--no--
no.

Besides, would Powell have left untouched the dwelling of the Ringgolds?
of Arens Ringgold, one of his most hated foes--one of the four men he
had sworn to kill?  This of itself was the most improbable circumstance
connected with the whole affair.

Ringgold had been at home--might have been entrapped in his sleep--his
black retainers would scarcely have resisted; at all events, they could
have been overcome as easily as ours.

Why was _he_ permitted to live?  Why was _his_ house not given to the
flames?

Upon the supposition that Osceola was the leader of the band, I could
not comprehend why he should have left Arens Ringgold to live, while
killing those who were scarcely his enemies.

New information imparted to me as we advanced along the route, produced
new reflections.  I was told that the Indians had made a hasty
departure--that they had in fact retreated.  The conflagration had
attracted a large body of citizen soldiery--a patrol upon its rounds--
and the appearance of these, unexpected by the savages, had caused the
latter to scamper off to the woods.  But for this, it was conjectured
other plantations would have suffered the fate of ours--perhaps that of
Ringgold himself.

The tale was probable enough.  The band of marauders was not large--we
knew by their tracks there were not more than fifty of them--and this
would account for their retreat on the appearance even of a smaller
force.  The people alleged that it was a retreat.

This information gave a different complexion to the affair--I was again
driven to conjectures--again forced to suspicions of Osceola.

Perhaps I but half understood his Indian nature; perhaps, after all,
_he_ was the monster who had struck the blow.

Once more I interrogated myself as to his motive--what motive?

Ha! my sister, Virginia--O God! could love--passion--fiendish desire to
possess--

"The Indyens!  Indyens!  Indyens!"



CHAPTER SEVENTY SIX.

A FALSE ALARM.

The significant shout at once put a period to my reflections.

Believing the savages to be in sight, I spurred towards the front.  The
horsemen had drawn bridle and halted.  A few, who had been straggling
from the path, hurried up and ranged themselves close to the main body,
as if for protection.  A few others, who had been riding carelessly in
the advance, were seen galloping back.  It was from these last the cry
of "Indyens" had come, and several of them still continued to repeat it.

"Indyuns?" cried Hickman, interrogatively, and with an air of
incredulity.  "Whar did ye see them?"

"Yonder," responded one of the retreating horsemen--"in yon clump o'
live-oaks.  It's full o' them."

"I'll be dog-goned if I believe it," rejoined the old hunter, with a
contemptuous toss of the head.  "I'll lay a plug o' Jeemes's River, it
war stumps yez seed!  Indyuns don't show 'emselves in timmer like this
hyar--specially to sech verdunts as you.  Ye'll _hear_ 'em afore you see
'em, I kalklate."

"But we did hear them," replied one, "we heard them calling out to one
another."

"Bah!" exclaimed the hunter; "y'ull hear 'em different from that, I
guess, when you gets near enough.  It'll be the spang o' thar rifles
y'ull hear fust thing.  Dog-gone the Indyun's thar.  Twar a coon or a
cat-bird ye've heern a screamin'!  I know'd ye'd make a scamper the fust
thing as flittered afore ye."

"Stay whar yez are now," he added in a tone of authority, "jest stay
whar yez are a bit."

So saying, he slipped down from his saddle, and commenced hitching his
bridle to a branch.

"Come, Jim Weatherford," he said, addressing himself to his hunter
comrade, "you come along--we'll see whether it be Indyuns or stumps
thet's gin these fellows sech a dog-goned scare."

Weatherford, anticipating the request, had already dropped to the
ground; and the two having secured their horses, rifle in hand, slunk
silently off into the bushes.

The rest of the party, gathering still more closely together, remained
in their saddles to await the result.

There was but slight trial upon their patience; for the two pioneers
were scarce out of sight, when we heard their voices ringing together in
loud peals of laughter.

This encouraged us to advance.  Where there was so much merriment there
could be but little danger; and, without waiting for the return of the
scouts, we rode forwards, directing our course by their continued
cachinnations.

An opening brought both of them into view; Weatherford was gazing
downwards, as if examining some tracks; while Hickman, who saw us coming
up, stood with extended arm, pointing toward the straggling woods that
lay beyond.

We turned our eyes in the direction indicated.  We observed a number of
half-wild, horned cattle, that, startled by the trampling of our troops,
were scampering off among the trees.

"Now," cried the hunter, triumphantly; "thar's yur Indyuns!  Ain't they
a savage consarn?  Ha! ha! ha!"

Every one joined in the laugh except those who had given the false
alarm.

"I know'd thar war no Indyuns," continued the alligator-hunter.  "That
ain't the way they'll make thar appearance.  Yu'll hear 'em afore you
sees 'em; an' jest one word o' advice to you greenhorns--as don't know a
red Indyun from a red cow--let somebody as diz know, go in the devance,
an' the rest o' ye keep well togither; or I'll stake high on't thet some
o' yez 'll sleep the night 'ithout har on yur heads."

All acknowledged that Hickman's advice was sage and sound.  The hint was
taken, and leaving the two old hunters henceforth to lead the pursuit,
the rest drew more closely together, and followed them along the trail.

The plan adopted in this instance, was that followed in all well-devised
tracking parties when in pursuit of an enemy.  It matters not of what
elements the body is composed--be it naval, military or civilian--be
there present, commodores, generals or governors--all yield the _pas_ to
some old hunter or scout, who follows the trail like a sleuth hound, and
whose word is supreme law for the nonce.

It was evident the pursued party could not be far in advance of us.
This we knew from the hour at which they had been seen retreating from
the settlement.  After my arrival on the plantation, no time had been
lost--only ten minutes spent in preparation--and altogether there was
scarce an hour's difference between the times of our starting.  The
fresh trail confirmed the fact--they could not be a league ahead of us,
unless they had ridden faster than we.  This was scarce probable,
encumbered as they were with their black captives, whose larger tracks,
here and there distinctly perceptible, showed that they were marching
afoot.  Of course, the savage horsemen would be detained in getting them
forwards; and in this lay our main hope of overtaking them.

There were but few who feared for the result, should we only be able to
come up with the enemy.  The white men were full of wrath and revenge,
and this precluded all thoughts of fear.  Besides, we could tell by
their trail that the Indians scarce outnumbered us.  Not above fifty
appeared to constitute the band.  No doubt they were able warriors, and
our equals man to man; but those who had volunteered to assist me were
also the "true grit"--the best men of the settlement for such a purpose.

No one talked of going back.  All declared their readiness to follow the
murderers even to the heart of the Indian territory--even into the
"Cove" itself.

The devotion of these men cheered me; and I rode forwards with lighter
heart--lighter with the prospect of vengeance, which I believed to be
near.



CHAPTER SEVENTY SEVEN.

"A SPLIT TRAIL."

It proved not to be so near us as we had anticipated.  Pressing forward,
as fast as our guides could lift the trail, we followed it for ten
miles.  We had hoped to find revenge at half the distance.

The Indians either knew that we were after them; or, with their wonted
wisdom were marching rapidly under the mere suspicion of a pursuit.
After the committal of such horrid atrocities, it was natural for them
to suppose they would be pursued.

Evidently they were progressing as fast as we--but not faster; though
the sun was broiling hot, sap still oozed from the boughs they had
accidentally broken--the mud turned up by their horses' hoofs, as the
guides expressed it, had not yet "crusted over," and the crushed herbage
was wet with its own juice and still procumbent.

To the denizen of the city, accustomed to travel from street to street
by the assistance of sign boards at every corner and numbers on every
door, it must appear almost incredible that the wild savage, or
untutored hunter, can, without guide or compass, unerringly follow, day
after day, the track of some equally cunning foe.  To the pursuing party
every leaf, every twig, every blade of grass is a "sign," and they read
them as plainly as if the route were laid down upon a map.  While the
pursuing party is thus attentive to detect "sign," the escaping one is
as vigilant to avoid leaving any--and many are the devices resorted to,
to efface the trail.

"Jest helf a hour ahead," remarked old Hickman, as he rose erect after
examining the tracks for the twentieth time--"jest helf a hour, dog-darn
'em!  I never knowed red skins to travel so fast afore.  Thar a
streakin' it like a gang o' scared bucks, an' jest 'bout now thar breech
clouts are in a purty considerable sweat, an' some o' thar duds is
stannin at an angle o' forty-five, I reckon."

A peal of laughter was the reply to this sally of the guide.

"Not so loud, fellars! not so loud," said he, interrupting the laughter
by an earnest wave of his hand.  "By jeroozalim! tha'll hear ye; an if
they do, tha'll be some o' us 'ithout scalps afore sundown.  For yer
lives, boys, keep still as mice--not a word, or we'll be heern--tha'r as
sharp eared as thar own dogs, and, darn me, if I believe thar more'n
helf a mile ahead o' us."

The guide once more bent himself over the trail, and after a short
reconnoissance of the tracks, repeated his last words with more
emphasis.

"No, by --! not more'n half a mile--Hush, boys, keep as quiet as
possums, an' I promise ye we'll tree the varmints in less'n a hour.
Hush!"

Obedient to the injunctions, we rode forwards, as silently as it was
possible for us to proceed on horseback.

We strove to guide our horses along the softer borders of the path to
prevent the thumping of their hoofs.  No one spoke above a whisper; and
even then there was but little conversation, as each was earnestly
gazing forwards, expecting every moment to see the bronzed savages
moving before us.

In this way we proceeded for another half mile, without seeing aught of
the enemy except their tracks.

A new object, however, now came in view--the clear sky shining through
the trunks of the trees.  We were all woodsmen enough to know that this
indicated an "opening" in the forest.

Most of my companions expressed pleasure at the sight.  We had now been
riding a long way through the sombre woods--our path often obstructed by
slimy and fallen logs, so that a slow pace had been unavoidable.  They
believed that in the open ground we should move faster; and have a
better chance of sighting the pursued.

Some of the older heads, and especially the two guides, were affected
differently by the new appearance.  Hickman at once gave expression to
his chagrin.

"Cuss the clarin," he exclaimed; "it are a savanner, an' a big 'un,
too--dog-gone the thing--it'll spoil all."

"How?"  I inquired.

"Ye see, Geordy, if thar a'ready across it, they'll leave some on
t'other side to watch--they'll be sarten to do that, whether they know
we're arter 'em or not.  Wall, what follers?  _We_ kin no more cross
'ithout bein' seen, than a carryvan o' kaymils.  An' what follers that?
Once they've sighted us, in coorse they'll know how to git out o' our
way; judjin' from the time we've been a travellin'--hey! it's darned
near sundown!--I reckon we must be clost to thar big swamp.  If they spy
us a-comin' arter, they'll make strait custrut for thar, and then I know
what they'll do."

"What?"

"They'll scatter thar; and ef they do, we might as well go sarchin' for
bird's-nests in snow time."

"What should we do?"

"It are best for the hul o' ye to stop here a bit.  Me and Jim
Weatherford'll steal forbad to the edge of the timmer, an' see if
they're got acrosst the savanner.  Ef they are, then we must make roun'
it the best way we kin, an' take up thar trail on the tother aide.
Thar's no other chance.  If we're seen crossin' the open ground, we may
jest as well turn tail to 'em, and take the back-track home agin."

To the counsel of the alligator-hunter there was no dissenting voice.
All acknowledged its wisdom, and he was left to carry out the design
without opposition.

He and his companion once more dismounted from their horses, and,
leaving us standing among the trees, advanced stealthily towards the
edge of the opening.

It was a considerable time before they came back; and the other men were
growing impatient.  Many believed we were only losing time by this tardy
reconnoissance, and the Indians would be getting further away.  Sonde
advised that the pursuit should be continued at once, and that, seen or
not, we ought to ride directly onwards.

However consonant with my own feelings--burning as I was for a conflict
with the murderers--I knew it would not be a prudent course.  The guides
were in the right.

These returned at length, and delivered their report.  There _was_ a
savanna, and the Indians had crossed it.  They had got into the timber
on its opposite side, and neither man nor horse was to be seen.  They
could scarcely have been out of sight, before Hickman and Weatherford
arrived upon its nearer edge, and the former averred that he had seen
the tail of one of their horses, disappearing among the bushes.

During their absence, the cunning trackers had learned more.  From the
sign they had gathered another important fact--that there was no longer
_a trail for us to follow_!

On entering the Savanna the Indians had _scattered_--the paths they had
taken across the grassy meadow, were as numerous as their horses.  As
the hunter expressed it, the trail "war split up into fifty pieces."
The latter had ascertained this by crawling out among the long grass,
and noting the tracks.

One in particular had occupied their attention.  It was not made by the
hoof-prints of horses, though some of these ran alongside, but by the
feet of men.  They were naked feet; and a superficial observer might
have fancied that but one pair of them had passed over the ground.  The
skilled trackers, however, knew this to be a _ruse_.  The prints were
large, and misshapen, and too deeply indented in the soil to have been
produced by a single individual.  The long heel, and scarcely convex
instep--the huge balls, and broad prints of the toes, were all signs
that the hunters easily understood.  They knew that it was the trail of
the negro captives who had proceeded thus by the direction of their
captors.

This unexpected ruse on the part of the retreating savages created
chagrin, as well as astonishment.  For the moment all felt outwitted--we
believed that the enemy was lost--we should be cheated of our revenge.
Some even talked of the idleness of carrying the pursuit further.  A few
counselled us to go back; and it became necessary to appeal to their
hatred of the savage foe--with most of them a hereditary passion--and
once more to invoke their vengeance.

At this crisis, old Hickman cheered the men with fresh hope.  I was glad
to hear him speak.

"We can't get at 'em to-night, boys," said he, after much talk had been
spent; "we dasent cross over this hyar clearin' by daylight, an' it's
too big to git roun' it.  It 'ud take a twenty mile ride to circumvent
the durned thing.  Ne'er a mind!  Let us halt hyar till the dark comes
on.  Then we kin steal across; an' if me an' Jim Weatherford don't scare
up the trail on the tother side, then this child never ate allygator.  I
know they'll come thegither agin, an' we'll be like enough to find the
durned varments camped somewhar in a clump.  Not seein' us arter 'em any
more, they'll be feelin' as safe as a bear in a bee tree--an' that's
jest the time to take 'em."

The plan was adopted; and, dismounting from our jaded horses, we awaited
the setting of the sun.

There are few situations more trying to the boiling blood and pent-up
fury of the pursuer--especially if he have bitter cause for vengeance--
than a "check" in the chase; the loss of the trail of course often
involves the escape of the foe, and though it may be after a while
recovered, yet the delay affords such advantage to the enemy, that every
moment serves only to increase the anxiety and whet the fury of the
pursuer.  This then was my case on the present occasion.  While yielding
to the advice of the hunter, because I knew it to be the best plan under
the circumstances, I nevertheless could scarce control my impatience, or
submit to the delay--but felt impelled to hurry forward, and alone and
single-handed, if need be, inflict upon the savage miscreants the
punishment due to their murderous deeds.



CHAPTER SEVENTY EIGHT.

CROSSING THE SAVANNA.

We now suffered the very acme of misery.  While riding in hot haste
along the trail, there was an excitement, almost continuous, that
precluded the possibility of intense reflection, and kept my mind from
dwelling too minutely upon the calamity that had befallen me.  The
prospect of retribution, ever appearing nearer at hand--at every step
nearer--all but cancelled my emotions of grief; and motion itself--
knowing it to be forward, and towards the object of hatred--had a
certain effect in soothing my troubled soul.

Now that the pursuit was suspended, and I was free to reflect on the
events of the morning, my soul was plunged into the deepest misery.  My
fancy distressed me with dire images.  Before me appeared the corpse of
my murdered mother--her arms outstretched, waving me on to vengeance.
My sister, too, wan, tearful, dishevelled! dishonoured!

No wonder that with painful impatience I awaited the going down of the
sun.  I thought I had never seen that grand orb sink so slowly.  The
delay tortured me almost to distraction.

The sun's disc was blood red, from a thick haze that hung over the
woods.  The heavens appeared lowering, and angry--they had the hue of my
own spirit.

At length, twilight came on.  Short it was--as is usual in Southern
latitudes--though it appeared long and tardy in passing away.  Darkness
followed, and once more springing to my saddle, I found relief in
motion.

Emerging from the timber, we rode out upon the open savanna.  The two
hunters, acting as guides, conducted us across.  There was no attempt
made to follow any of the numerous trails.  In the darkness, it would
have been impossible, but even had there been light enough left them,
the guides would have pursued a different course.

Hickman's conjecture was, that on reaching the opposite side, the
marauding party would come together at some rendezvous previously agreed
upon.  The trail of any one, therefore, would be sufficient for our
purpose, and in all probability would conduct us to their camp.  Our
only aim, then, was to get across the savanna unobserved; and this the
darkness might enable us to accomplish.

Silently as spectres we marched over the open meadow.  We rode with
extreme slowness, lest the hoof-strokes should be heard.  Our tired
steeds needed no taming down.  The ground was favourable--a surface of
soft, grassy turf, over which our animals glided with noiseless tread.
Our only fears were, that they should scent the horses of the Indians,
and betray us by their neighing.

Happily our fears proved groundless; and, after half an hour's silent
marching, we reached the other side of the savanna, and drew up under
the shadowy trees.

It was scarce possible we could have been observed.  If the Indians had
left spies behind them, the darkness would have concealed us from their
view, and we had made no noise by which our approach could have been
discovered, unless their sentinels had been placed at the very point
where we re-entered the woods.  We saw no signs of any, and we believed
that none of the band had lingered behind, and we had not been seen.

We congratulated one another in whispers; and in like manner deliberated
on our future plans of proceeding.  We were still in our saddles--with
the intention to proceed further.  We should have dismounted upon the
spot, and waited for the light of morning to enable us to take up the
trail, but circumstances forbade this.  Our horses were suffering from
thirst, and their riders were no better off.  We had met with no water
since before noon, and a few hours under the burning skies of Florida
are sufficient to render thirst intolerable.  Whole days in a colder
climate would scarce have an equal effect.

Both horses and men suffered acutely--we could neither sleep nor rest,
without relief--water must be sought for, before a halt could be made.

We felt hunger as well, for scarce any provision had been made for the
long march--but the pangs of this appetite were easier to be endured.
Water of itself would satisfy us for the night, and we resolved to ride
forward in search of it.

In this dilemma, the experience of our two guides promised relief.  They
had once made a hunting excursion to the savanna we had crossed.  It was
in the times when the tribes were friendly, and white men were permitted
to pass freely through the "reserve."  They remembered a pond, at which,
upon that occasion, they had made their temporary encampment.  They
believed it was not far distant from the spot where we had arrived.  It
might be difficult to find in the darkness, but to suffer on or search
for it were our only alternatives.

The latter was of course adopted; and once more allowing Hickman and
Weatherford to pioneer the way, the rest of us rode silently after.

We moved in single file, each horse guided by the one that immediately
preceded him; in the darkness no other mode of march could be adopted.
Our party was thus strung out into a long line, here and there curving
according to the sinuosities of the path, and gliding like some
monstrous serpent among the trees.



CHAPTER SEVENTY NINE.

GROPING AMONG THE TIMBER.

At intervals the guides were at fault; and then the whole line was
forced to halt and remain motionless.  Several times both Hickman and
Weatherford were puzzled as to the direction they should take.  They had
lost the points of the compass, and were bewildered.

Had there been light, they could have recovered this knowledge by
observing the bark upon the trees--a craft well-known to the backwoods
hunter--but it was too dark to make such an observation.  Even amidst
the darkness, Hickman alleged he could tell north from south by the
"feel" of the bark: and for this purpose I now saw him groping against
the trunks.  I noticed that he passed from one to another, trying
several of them, the better to confirm his observations.

After carrying on these singular manoeuvres for a period of several
minutes, he turned to his comrade with an exclamation that betokened
surprise:--

"Dog-gone my cats, Jim," said he, speaking in an undertone, "these woods
are altered since you and I war hyar--what the ole scratch kin be the
matter wi' 'em?  The bark's all peeled off and thar as dry as punk."

"I was thinkin' they had a kewrious look," replied the other, "but I
s'posed it was the darkness o' the night."

"Neer a bit of it--the trees is altered someways, since we war hyar
afore!  They are broom pines--that I recollect well enough--let's git a
bunch o' the leaves, and see how they looks."

Saying this, he reached his hand upwards, and plucked one of the long
fascicles that drooped overhead.

"Ugh!" continued he, crushing the needles between his fingers, "I see
how it are now.  The darnationed moths has been at 'em--the trees are
dead.

"D'yer think thar all dead?" he inquired after a pause, and then
advancing a little, he proceeded to examine some others.

"Dead as durnation!--every tree o' 'em--wal! we must go by guess-work--
thar's no help for it, boys.  Ole Hick kin guide you no furrer.  I'm
dead beat, and know no more 'bout the direkshun o' that ere pond, than
the greenest greenhorn among ye."

This acknowledgment produced no very pleasant effect.  Thirst was
torturing all those who heard it.  Hitherto, trusting that the skill of
the hunters would enable them to find water, they had sustained it with
a degree of patience.  It was now felt more acutely than ever.

"Stay," said Hickman, after a few moments had elapsed.  "All's not lost
that's in danger.  If I arn't able to guide ye to the pond, I reckon
I've got a critter as kin.  Kin you, ole hoss?" he continued, addressing
himself to the animal he bestrode--a wiry old jade that Hickman had long
been master of--"kin you find the water?  Gee up, ole beeswax! and let's
see if you kin."

Giving his "critter" a kick in the ribs, and at the same time full
freedom of the bridle, he once more started forwards among the trees.

We all followed as before, building fresh hopes upon the instinct of the
animal.

Surely the pride of man ought to be somewhat abased, when he reflects,
that he, "the lord of the creation," is oftentimes foiled in attempts
which, by the mere instincts of the lower animals, are of easy
accomplishment.  What a lesson of humility this ought to teach to the
wanton and cruel oppressor of those noble animals, whose strength, and
instinct, and endurance, are all made subservient to his comfort.  It is
in the hour of danger and peril alone, that man realises his dependence
upon agencies other than his own lordly will.

We had not proceeded far, when it became known that Hickman's horse had
got scent of the water.  His owner alleged that he "smelt" it, and the
latter knew this, as well as if it had been one of his hounds taking up
the trail of a deer.

The horse actually exhibited signs of such an intelligence.  His muzzle
was protruded forwards, and now and then he was heard to sniff the air;
while, at the same time, he walked forward in a direct line--as if
making for some object.  Surely he was heading for water.  Such was the
belief.

It produced a cheering effect, and the men were now advancing in better
spirits, when, to their surprise, Hickman suddenly drew up, and halted
the line I rode forward to him to inquire the cause.  I found him silent
and apparently reflective.

"Why have you stopped?"  I inquired.

"You must all o' ye wait here a bit."

"Why must we?" demanded several, who had pressed along side.

"'Taint safe for us to go forrad this way; I've got a idea that them red
skins is by the pond--they've camped there for sartin--it's the only
water that is about hyar; and its devilitch like that thar they've
rendevoozed an' camped.  If that be the case, an' we ride forrad in this
fashion, they'll hear us a-comin' an' be off agin into the bushes, whar
we'll see no more o' them.  Ain't that like enough, fellers?"

This interrogatory was answered in the affirmative.

"Wal then," continued the guide; "better for yous all to stay hyar,
while me and Jim Weatherford goes forrad to see if the Indyuns is thar.
We kin find the pond now.  I know whar it lies by the direkshun the hoss
war taken.  It aint fur off.  If the red skins aint thar, we'll soon be
back, an' then ye kin all come on as fast as ye like."

This prudent course was willingly agreed to, and the two hunters, once
more dismounting, stole forwards afoot.  They made no objection to my
going along with them.  My misfortunes gave me a claim to be their
leader; and, leaving my bridle in the hands of one of my companions, I
accompanied the guides upon their errand.

We walked with noiseless tread.  The ground was thickly covered with the
long needles of the pine, forming a soft bed, upon which the footstep
made no sound.  There was little or no underwood, and this enabled us to
advance with rapidity, and in a few minutes we were a long way from the
party we had left behind.

Our only care was about keeping the right direction, and this we had
almost lost--or believed so--when, to our astonishment we beheld a light
shining through the trees.  It was the gleam of a fire that appeared to
be blazing freely.  Hickman at once pronounced it the camp fire of the
Indians.

At first we thought of returning, and bringing on our comrades to the
attack; but upon reflection, we determined to approach nearer the fire,
and make certain whether it was the enemy's camp.

We advanced no longer in erect attitudes; but crawling upon our hands
and knees.  Wherever the glare penetrated the woods, we avoided it, and
kept under the shadow of the tree-trunks.  The fire burned in the midst
of an opening.  The hunters remembered that the pond was so placed; and
now observing the sheen of water, we knew it must be the same.

We drew nearer and nearer, until it was no longer safe to advance.  We
were close to the edge of the timber that concealed us.  We could see
the whole surface of the open ground.  There were horses picketed over
it, and dark forms recumbent under the fire light.  They were murderers
asleep.

Close to the fire, one was seated upon a saddle.  He appeared to be
awake, though his head was drooped to the level of his knees.  The blaze
was shining upon this man's face; and both his features and complexion
might have been seen, but for the interposition of paint and plumes.

The face appeared of a crimson red, and three black ostrich feathers,
bending over the brow, hung straggling down his cheeks.  These plumed
symbols produced painful recognition.  I knew that it was the head-dress
of Osceola.

I looked further.  Several groups were beyond--in fact, the whole open
space was crowded with prostrate human forms.

There was one group, however, that fixed my attention.  It consisted of
three or four individuals, seated or reclining along the grass.  They
were in shade, and from our position, their features could not be
recognised; but their white dresses, and the outlines of their forms,
soft even in the obscurity of the shadow, told that they were females.

Two of them were side by side, a little apart from the others; one
appeared to be supporting the other, whose head rested in her lap.

With emotions fearfully vivid, I gazed on these two forms.  I had no
doubt they were Viola and my sister.



CHAPTER EIGHTY.

SIGNAL SHOTS.

I shall not attempt to depict my emotions at that moment.  My pen is
unequal to the task.  Think of my situation, and fancy them if you can.

Behind me, a mother murdered and basely mutilated--a near relative slain
in like fashion--my home--my whole property given to the flames.  Before
me, a sister torn from the maternal embrace--borne ruthlessly along by
savage captors--perhaps defiled by their fiendish leader.  And he, too,
before my eyes--the false, perfidious friend, the ravisher--the
murderer!  Had I not cue for indulging in the wildest emotions?

And wild they were--each moment growing wilder, as I gazed upon the
object of my vengeance.  They were fast rising beyond my control.  My
muscles seemed to swell with renewed rage--the blood coursed through my
veins like streams of liquid fire.

I almost forgot the situation in which we were.  But one thought was in
my mind--vengeance.  Its object was before me--unconscious of my
presence as if he had been asleep--almost within reach of my hand;
perfectly within range of my rifle.

I raised the piece to the level of those drooping plumes.  I sighted
their tips--I knew that the eyes were underneath them--my finger rested
against the trigger.

In another instant, that form--in my eyes, hitherto heroic--would have
been lifeless upon the grass; but my comrades forbade the act.

With a quick instinct, Hickman grasped the lock of my gun.  Covering the
nipple with his broad palm; while Weatherford clutched at and held the
barrel.  I was no longer master of the piece.

I was angry at the interruption, but only for an instant.  A moment's
reflection convinced me they had acted right.  The old hunter, putting
his lips close to my ear, addressed me in an earnest whisper:

"Not yit, Geordie, not yit; for your life, don't make a fuss!  'Twould
be no use to kill _him_.  The rest o' the varmints ud be sartin to git
off, and sartin to toat the weemen along wi' 'em.  We three aint enough
to stop 'em--we'd only get scalped ourselves.  We must slide back for
the others; an' then we'll be able to surround 'em--that's the idea,
aint it, Jim?"

Weatherford, fearing to trust his voice, nodded an affirmative.

"Come, then," added Hickman, in the same low whisper, "we musn't lose a
minute; let's get back as rapidly as possible.  Keep your backs low
down--genteely, genteely;" and as he continued giving these injunctions,
he faced towards the ground, extended his body to its full length, and,
crawling off like an alligator, was soon lost behind the trunks of the
trees.

Weatherford and I followed in similar fashion, until safe beyond the
circle of the fire light, when all three of us came to a stop, and arose
erect to our feet.

We stood for a moment listening _backwards_.  We were not without
anxiety lest our retreat might have disturbed the camp; but no sounds
reached us save those to which we had been listening--the snore of some
sleeping savage, the "crop-crop" of the browsing horses, or the stamp of
a hoof upon the firm turf.

Satisfied that we had passed away unobserved, we started upon the
back-track, which the hunters could now follow like a path well-known to
them.

We advanced, dark as it was, almost in a run; and were progressing
rapidly, when our speed was suddenly checked by the report of a gun.

Each halted as if shot.  Surprise it was that stopped us; for the report
came not from the Indian camp, but the opposite direction--that in which
our party had been left.

But it could not be one of them who had fired.  They were at too great a
distance for their guns to have been heard so distinctly.  Had they
advanced nearer, tired of waiting for our return?  Were they still
advancing?  If so, the shot was most imprudent; it would be certain to
put the camp on the _qui vive_.  What had they fired at?  It might have
been an accidental discharge--it must have been.

These conjectures were rapid as thought itself.  We did not communicate
them to one another; each fancied them for himself.

We had scarce time even to speak, when a second shot rang in our ears.
It came from the same direction as the former, appearing almost a
repetition; and had there been time to reload, we should so have judged
it; but there had not been time, even for the most accomplished
rifleman.  Two guns, therefore, had been fired.

My companions were puzzled as well as myself.  The firing was
inexplicable under any other hypothesis than that some Indians had
strayed from their camp and were making signals of distress.

We had no time to reflect.  We could now hear behind us the camp in full
alarm, and we knew it was the shots that had caused it.  We heard the
shouts of men, the neighing and hurried trampling of horses.

Without pausing longer, we again hurried onwards in the direction of our
friends.

Further on we perceived some men on horseback.  Two there appeared to
be; but in the darkness we were not certain, as their forms were scarce
distinguishable.

They appeared to retreat as we approached, gliding off, like ghosts,
among the trees.

No doubt these were they who had fired the shots.  They were just in the
direction whence the reports had come, and at the proper distance.

Were they Indians or whites?  Hoping they were our friends, risking the
chances of their being our foes, Old Hickman hailed them.

We paused to listen.  There was no reply, not even an exclamation from
either.  We could hear, by the hoof-strokes of their horses, that they
were hurrying off in a direction altogether different from either our
party or the camp.

There was something mysterious in the behaviour of these horsemen.  For
what purpose had they fired their guns?  If to signal the camp, why had
they retreated from us, as we came from it?  Why, moreover, had they
gone off in a direction that did not lead to it? for its position was
now known to them by the noise of the alarm they had themselves
occasioned.  To me their behaviour was inexplicable.  Hickman appeared
to have found some clue to it, and the knowledge seemed to have a
angular effect upon him.  He exhibited signs of surprise, mingled with
strong feelings of indignation.

"Devil swamp 'em! the wuthless skunks, if't are them, an' I'm good as
sure it are.  I can't a be mistaken in the crack o' them two guns.  What
say ye, Jim Weatherford?  D'ye recognise 'em?"

"I war thinkin' I'd heern them afore somewhars, but I can't 'zactly tell
whar--stay; one on 'em's precious like the ring o' Ned Spence's rifle."

"Preecious like--it are the same; and t'other's Bill Williams's.  What
on airth kin the two be arter?  We left 'em long wi' the rest, and hyar
they are now--I'm sartint it's them, gallivantin' about through the
woods, an' firin' off their guns to spoil everything we've done.
They've sot the Indyuns off to a sartinty.  Devil swamp 'em both!--what
_kin_ they be arter?--some hellnifferous game, I 'spect!  By the tarnal
catawampus, I'll make both on 'em pay for this when we git thegither!
Come along, quick, fellers!  Let's git the party up, or we'll be too
late.  Them Indyuns'll make track, and slope afore we git near 'em.
Darn the shots! they've spoilt the hull bizness.  Quick! come along
hyar!"

Obedient to the old hunter's directions, we hurried on after him.



CHAPTER EIGHTY ONE.

AN EMPTY CAMP.

We had not gone far before we came within ear-shot of voices, mingled
with the hollow thumping of horses' hoofs.

We recognised the voices as those of our comrades, and hailed them as
they came nearer, for we perceived that they were advancing towards us.

They had heard the reports; and, believing them to proceed from our
rifles, had fancied we were engaged with the Indians, and were now
riding forwards to our aid.

"Hollow, boys!" shouted Hickman, as they drew nearer.  "Is Bill Williams
and Ned Spence among ye?  Speak out, if ye be!"

There was no reply to this interrogatory.  It was succeeded by a dead
silence of some seconds' duration.  Evidently the two men were not
there, else they would have answered for themselves.

"Where are they?"  "Where have they gone to?" were the inquiries that
passed through the crowd.

"Ay, whar are they?" repeated Hickman.  "Thar not hyar, that's plain.
By the 'tarnal allygator, thar's some ugly game afoot atween them two
fellers!  But, come, boys, we must forrad.  The Indyuns is jest afore
ye: it's no use creepin' any more.  Thar a gwine to slope; and if we
don't git up to 'em in three shakes o' a squirrel's tail, thar won't be
a cussed varmint o' 'em on the groun'.  Hooraw for redskins' scalps!
Look to your guns.  Let's forrad, and gie 'em partickler hell!"

And with this emphatic utterance, the old hunter dashed into the front,
and led the way towards the camp of the savages.

The men followed, helter-skelter, the horses crowding upon each other's
heels.  No strategic method was observed.  Time was the important
consideration, and the aim was to get up to the camp before the Indians
could retreat from it.  A bold charge into their midst, a volley from
our guns, and then with knives and pistols to close the conflict.  This
was the programme that had been hastily agreed upon.

We had arrived near the camp--within three hundred yards of it.  There
was no uncertainty as to the direction.  The voices of the savages, that
continued to be heard ever since the first alarm, served to guide us on
the way.

All at once these voices became bushed.  No longer reached us, either
the shouting of the men, or the hurried trampling of their horses.  In
the direction of the camp all was still as death.

But we no longer needed the guidance of sounds.  We were within sight of
the camp fires--or at least of their light, that glittered afar among
the trees.  With this as our beacon, we continued to advance.

We rode forwards, but now less recklessly.  The change from confused
noise to perfect silence had been so sudden and abrupt as to have the
effect of making us more cautious.  The very stillness appeared
ominous--we read in it a warning--it rendered us suspicious of an
ambuscade--the more so as all had heard of the great talent of the
"Redstick Chief" for this very mode of attack.

When within a hundred yards of the fires, our party halted.  Several
dismounted, and advanced on foot.  They glided from trunk to trunk till
they had reached the edge of the opening, and then came back to report.

The camp was no longer in existence--its occupants were gone.  Indians,
horses, captives, plunder, had all disappeared from the ground!

The fires alone remained.  They showed evidence of being disturbed in
the confusion of the hasty decampment.  The red embers were strewed over
the grass--their last flames faintly flickering away.

The scouts continued to advance among the trees, till they had made the
full circuit of the little opening.  For a hundred yards around it the
woods were searched with caution and ease; but no enemy was
encountered--no ambuscade.  We had arrived too late, and the savage foes
had escaped us--had carried off their captives from under our very eyes.

It was impossible to follow them in the darkness; and, with mortified
spirits, we advanced into the opening, and took possession of the
deserted camp.  It was our determination to remain there for the rest of
the night, and renew the pursuit in the morning.

Our first care was to quench our thirst by the pond--then that of our
animals.  The fires were next extinguished, and a ring of sentries--
consisting of nearly half the number of our party--was placed among the
tree-trunks, that stood thickly around the opening.  The horses were
staked over the ground, and the men stretched themselves along the sward
so lately occupied by the bodies of their savage foes.  In this wise we
awaited the dawning of day.

To none of our party--not even to myself--was this escape of the enemy,
or "circumvention," as he termed it, so mortifying as to old Hickman,
who, though priding himself upon his superior cunning and woodcraft, was
obliged to confess himself outwitted by a rascally Redstick.



CHAPTER EIGHTY TWO.

A DEAD FOREST.

My comrades, wearied with the long ride, were soon in deep slumber--the
sentries only keeping awake.  For me, was neither rest nor sleep--my
misery forbade repose.

Most of the night I spent in passing to and fro around the little pond,
that lay faintly gleaming in the centre of the open ground.

I fancied I found relief in thus roving about; it seemed to still the
agitation of my spirit, and prevented my reflections from becoming too
intense.

A new regret occupied my thoughts--I regretted that I had not carried
out my intention to fire at the chief of the murderers--I regretted I
had not killed him on the spot--the monster had escaped, and my sister
was still in his power--perhaps beyond the hope of rescue.  As I thought
thus, I blamed the hunters for having hindered me.

Had they foreseen the result, they might have acted otherwise; but it
was beyond human foresight to have anticipated the alarm.

The two men who had caused it were again with us.  Their conduct, so
singular and mysterious, had given rise to strong suspicion of their
loyalty, and their re-appearance--they had joined us while advancing
towards the camp--had been hailed with an outburst of angry menace.
Some even talked of shooting them out of their saddles, and this threat
would most probably have been carried into effect, had the fellows not
offered a ready explanation.

They alleged that they had got separated from the troop before it made
its last halt, how they did not say; that they knew nothing of the
advance of the scouts, or that the Indians were near; that they had got
lost in the woods, and had fired their guns as signals in hopes that we
should answer them.  They acknowledged having met three men afoot, but
they believed them to be Indians, and kept out of their way; that
afterwards seeing the party near, they had recognised and ridden up to
it.

Most of the men were contented with this explanation.  What motive,
reasoned they, could the two have in giving an alarm to the enemy?  Who
could suspect them of rank treason?

Not all, however, were satisfied; I heard old Hickman whisper some
strange words to his comrade, as he glanced significantly towards the
estrays.

"Keep yur eye skinned, Jim, and watch the skunks well; thares somethin'
not hulsome about 'em."

As there was no one who could openly accuse them, they were once more
admitted into the ranks, and were now among those who were stretched out
and sleeping.

They lay close to the edge of the water.  In my rounds, I passed them
repeatedly; and in the sombre darkness, I could just distinguish their
prostrate forms.  I regarded them with strange emotions, for I shared
the suspicions of Hickman and Weatherford.  I could scarce doubt that
these fellows had strayed off on purpose--that, actuated by some foul
motive, they had fired their guns to warn the Indians of the approach of
our party.

After midnight there was a moon.  There were no clouds to intercept her
beams, and on rising above the tree-tops, she poured down a flood of
brilliant light.

The sleepers were awakened by the sudden change; some rose to their
feet, believing it to be day.  It was only upon glancing up to the
heavens they became aware of their mistake.

The noise had put every one on the alert, and some talked of continuing
the pursuit by the light of the moon.

Such a course would have coincided with my own wishes; but the
hunter-guides opposed it.  Their reasons were just.  In open ground they
could have lifted the trail, but under the timber the moon's light would
not have availed them.

They could have tracked by torch-light, but this would only be to expose
us to an ambuscade of the enemy.  Even to advance by moonlight would be
to subject ourselves to a like danger.  Circumstances had changed.  The
savages now knew we were after them.  In a night-march the pursued have
the advantage of the pursuers--even though their numbers be inferior.
The darkness gives them every facility of effecting a surprise.

Thus reasoned the guides.  No one made opposition to their views, and it
was agreed that we should keep our ground till daylight.

It was time to change the sentinels.  Those who had slept now took post,
and the relieved guard came in and flung themselves down, to snatch a
few hours of rest.

Williams and Spence took their turn with the rest.  They were posted on
one side the glade, and next to one another Hickman and Weatherford had
fulfilled their guard tour.

As they stretched themselves along the grass, I noticed that they had
chosen a spot near to where the suspected men were placed.  By the
moonlight, they must have had a view of the latter.

Notwithstanding their recumbent attitudes, the hunters did not appear to
go to sleep.  I observed them at intervals.  Their heads were close
together, and slightly raised above the ground, as if they were
whispering to one another.

As before, I walked round and round--the moonlight enabling me to move
more rapidly.  Ofttimes did I make the circuit of the little pond--how
oft, it would be difficult to determine.

My steps were mechanical--my thoughts had no connection with the
physical exertions I was making, and I took no note of how I progressed.

After a time there came a lull over my spirits.  For a short interval
both my griefs and vengeful passions seemed to have departed.

I knew the cause.  It was a mere psychological phenomenon--one of common
occurrence.  The nerves that were organs of the peculiar emotions under
which I had been suffering, had grown wearied and refused to act.  I
knew it was but a temporary calm--the lull between two billows of the
storm.

During its continuance, I was sensible to impressions from external
objects.  I could not help noticing the singularity of the scene around
me.  The bright moonlight enabled me to note its features somewhat
minutely.

We were encamped upon what, by backwoodsmen, is technically termed a
_glade_--oftener, in their idiom, a "gleed"--a small opening in the
woods, without timber or trees of any sort.  This one was circular--
about fifty yards in diameter--with the peculiarity of having a pond in
its midst.  The pond, which was only a few yards in circumference, was
also a circle, perfectly concentric with the glade itself.  It was one
of those singular natural basins found throughout the peninsula, and
appearing as if scooped out by mechanic art.  It was deeply sunk in the
earth, and filled with water till within three feet of its rim.  The
liquid was cool and clear, and under the moonbeams shone with a silvery
effulgence.

Of the glade itself nothing more--except that it was covered with
sweet-smelling flowers, that now, crushed under the hoofs of horses and
the heels of man, gave forth a redoubled fragrance.

The picture was pretty.

Under happier circumstances, I should have contemplated it with
pleasure.  But it was not the picture that so much occupied my attention
at that moment.  Rather was it the framing.

Around the glade stood a ring of tall trees, as regular as if they had
been planted; and beyond these, as far as the eye could penetrate the
depths of the forest, were others of like size and aspect.  The trunks
of all were nearly of one thickness--few of them reaching a diameter of
two feet, but all rising to the height of many yards, without leaf or
branch.  They stood somewhat densely over the ground, but in daylight
the eye might have ranged to a considerable distance through the
intervals, for there was no underwood--save the low dwarf palmetto--to
interrupt the view.  They were straight, and almost cylindrical as
palms; and they might have been mistaken for trees of this order, had it
not been for their large heads of leaves terminating in cone-shaped
summits.

They were not palms--they were pines--"broom" pines [_Pinus Australis_],
a species of trees with which I was perfectly familiar, having ridden
many hundreds of miles shaded by the pendant fascicles of their acicular
foliage.

The sight of these trees, therefore, would have created no curiosity,
had I not noticed in their appearance something peculiar.  Instead of
the deep green which should have been exhibited by their long, drooping
leaves, they appeared of a brownish yellow.

Was it fancy? or was it the deceptive light of the moon that caused this
apparent change from their natural hue?

One or the other, soliloquised I, on first noticing them; but as I
continued to gaze, I perceived that I was in error.  Neither my own
fancy nor the moon's rays were at fault; the foliage was really of the
colour it appeared to be.  Drawing nearer to them, I observed that the
leaves were withered, though still adhering to the twigs.  I noticed,
moreover, that the trunks were dry and dead-like--the bark scaled or
scaling off--that the trees, in short, were dead and decaying.

I remembered what Hickman had stated while groping for the direction.
That was at some distance off; but, as far as I could see, the woods
presented the same dim colour.

I came to the conclusion that the _whole forest was dead_.

The inference was correct, and the explanation easy.  The sphinx [Note
1] had been at work.  The whole forest was dead.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

Note 1.  _Sphinae coniferarum_.  Immense swarms of insects, and
especially the larva of the above species, insinuate themselves under
the bark of the "long-leafed" (broom) pine, attack the trunk, and cause
the tree to perish in the course of a year.  Extensive tracts are met
with in Florida covered solely with dead pines that have been thus
destroyed.



CHAPTER EIGHTY THREE.

A CIRCULAR CONFLICT.

Strange as it may seem, even in that hour these observations had
interested me; but while making them I observed something that gratified
me still more.  It was the blue dawn that, mingling with the yellower
light of the moon, affected the hue of the foliage upon which I had been
gazing.  Morning was about to break.

Others had noticed it at the same instant, and already the sleepers were
rising from their dewy couch, and looking to the girths of their
saddles.

We were a hungry band; but there was no hope of breakfast, and we
prepared to start without it.

The dawn was of only a few minutes' duration, and, as the sky continued
to brighten, preparations were made for the start.  The sentries were
called in--all except four, who were prudently left to the last minute,
to watch in four different directions.  The horses were unpicketed and
bridled--they had worn their saddles all night--and the guns of the
party were carefully re-primed or capped.

Many of my comrades were old campaigners, and every precaution was taken
that might influence our success in a conflict.

It was expected that before noon we should come up with the savages, or
track them home to their lair.  In either case, we should have a fight,
and all declared their determination to go forwards.

Some minutes were spent in arranging the order of our march.  It was
deemed prudent that a few of the more skilled of the men should go
forwards as scouts on foot, and thoroughly explore the woods before the
advance of the main body.  This would secure us from any sudden attack,
in case the enemy had formed an ambuscade.  The old hunters were once
more to act as trackers, and lead the van.

These arrangements were completed, and we were on the point of
starting--the men had mounted their horses, the scouts were already
entering the edge of the timber, when, all on a sudden, several shots
were heard, and at the same time, the alarm-cries of the sentries who
had fired them.  The four had discharged their pieces almost
simultaneously.

The woods appeared to ring with a hundred echoes.  But they were not
echoes--they were real reports of rifles and musketry; and the shrill
war-cry that accompanied them was easily distinguished above the
shouting of our own sentries.  The Indians were upon us.

Upon us, or, to speak less figuratively, _around_ us.  The sentries had
fired all at once, therefore, each must have seen Indians in his own
direction.  But it needed not this to guide us to the conclusion that we
were surrounded.  From all sides came the fierce yells of the foe--as if
echoing one another--and their bullets whistled past us in different
directions.  Beyond doubt, the glade was encompassed within their lines.

In the first volley two or three men were hit, and as many horses.  But
the balls were spent and did but little damage.

From where they had fired, the glade was beyond the "carry" of their
guns.  Had they crept a little nearer, before delivering their fire, the
execution would have been fearful--clumped together as we were at the
moment.

Fortunately, our sentries had perceived their approach, and in good time
given the alarm.

It had saved us.

There was a momentary confusion, with noise--the shouting of men--the
neighing and prancing of horses; but above the din was heard the guiding
voice of old Hickman.

"Off o' yer horses, fellers! an' take to the trees--down wi' ye, quick!
To the trees, an' keep 'em back! or by the tarnal arthquake, every
mother's son o' us'll git sculped!  To the trees! to the trees!"

The same idea had already suggested itself to others; and before the
hunter had ceased calling out, the men were out of their saddles and
making for the edge of the timber.

Some ran to one side, some to another--each choosing the edge that was
nearest him, and in a few seconds our whole party had ensconced itself--
the body of each individual sheltered behind the trunk of a tree.  In
this position we formed a perfect circle, our backs turned upon each
other, and our faces to the foe.

Our horses, thus hurriedly abandoned, and wild with the excitement of
the attack, galloped madly over the ground, with trailing bridles, and
stirrups striking against their flanks.  Most of them dashed past us;
and, scampering off, were either caught by the savages, or breaking
through their lines, escaped into the woods beyond.

We made no attempt to "head" them.  The bullets were hurtling past our
ears.  It would have been certain death to have stepped aside from the
trunks that sheltered us.

The advantage of the position we had gained was apparent at a single
glance.  Fortunate it was, that our sentries had been so tardily
relieved.  Had these been called in a moment sooner, the surprise would
have been complete.  The Indians would have advanced to the very edge of
the glade, before uttering their war-cry or firing a shot, and we should
have been at their mercy.  They would have been under cover of the
timber, and perfectly protected from our guns, while we in the open
ground must have fallen before their fire.

But for the well-timed alarm, they might have massacred us at will.

Disposed as we now were, our antagonists had not much advantage.  The
trunks of the trees entrenched us both.  Only the concave side of our
line was exposed, and the enemy might fire at it across the opening.
But as the glade was fifty yards in diameter, and at no point had we
permitted the Indians to get up to its edge, we knew that their bullets
could not carry across; and were under no apprehension on this score.

The manoeuvre, improvised though it was, had proved our salvation.  We
now saw it was the only thing we could have done to save ourselves from
immediate destruction.  Fortunate it was that the voice of Hickman had
hurried us so quickly to our posts.

Our men were not slow in returning the enemy's fire.  Already their
pieces were at play; and every now and then was heard the sharp
whip-like "spang" of the rifles around the circle of the glade.  At
intervals, too, came a triumphant cheer, as some savage, who had too
rashly exposed his red body, was known to have fallen to the shot.

Again the voice of the old hunter rang over the glade.  Cool, calm, and
clear, it was heard by every one.

"Mind yer hind sights, boys! an' shoot sure.  Don't waste neer a grain
o' yer powder.  Ye'll need the hul on't, afore we've done wi' the cussed
niggers.  Don't a one o' ye pull trigger till ye've drawed a bead on a
red skin."

These injunctions were full of significance.  Hitherto the younger
"hands" had been firing somewhat recklessly--discharging their pieces as
soon as loaded, and only wounding the trunks of the trees.  It was to
stay this proceeding that Hickman had spoken.

His words produced the desired effect.  The reports became less
frequent, but the triumphant cheer that betokened a "hit," was heard as
often as ever.  In a few minutes after the first burst of the battle,
the conflict had assumed altogether a new aspect.  The wild yells
uttered by the Indians in their first onslaught--intended to frighten us
into confusion--were no longer heard; and the shouts of the white men
had also ceased.  Only now and then were heard the deep "hurrah" of
triumph, or a word spoken by some of our party to give encouragement to
his comrades.  At long intervals only rang out the "yo-ho-ehee," uttered
by some warrior chief to stimulate his braves to the attack.

The shots were no longer in volleys, but single, or two or three at a
time.  Every shot was fired with an aim; and it was only when that aim
proved true, or he who fired it believed it so, that voices broke out on
either side.  Each individual was too much occupied in looking for an
object for his aim, to waste time in idle words or shouts.  Perhaps in
the whole history of war, there is no account of a conflict so quietly
carried on--no battle so silently fought.  In the interludes between the
shots there were moments when the stillness was intense--moments of
perfect but ominous silence.

Neither was battle ever fought, in which both sides were so oddly
arrayed against each other.  We were disposed in two concentric
circles--the outer one formed by the enemy, the inner, by the men of our
party, deployed almost regularly around the glade.  These circles were
scarce forty paces apart--at some points perhaps a little less, where a
few of the more daring warriors, sheltered by the trees, had worked
themselves closer to our line.  Never was battle fought where the
contending parties were so near each other without closing in
hand-to-hand conflict.  We could have conversed with our antagonists,
without raising our voices above the ordinary tone; and were enabled to
aim, literally, at the "whites of their eyes."

Under such circumstances was the contest carried on.



CHAPTER EIGHTY FOUR.

A DEAD SHOT BY JAKE.

For fall two hours this singular conflict was continued, without any
material change in the disposition of the combatants.  Now and then an
odd man might be seen darting from tree to tree, with a velocity as if
projected from a howitzer--his object either to find a trunk that would
afford better cover to his own body, or a point that would uncover the
body--or a portion of it--of some marked antagonist.

The trunks were barely thick enough to screen us; some kept on their
feet, taking the precaution to make themselves as "small" as possible,
by standing rigidly erect, and keeping their bodies carefully aligned.
Others, perceiving that the pines "bulged" a little at the roots, had
thrown themselves flat upon their faces, and in this attitude continued
to load and fire.

The sun was long since ascending the heavens--for it had been near
sunrise when the conflict began.  There was no obscurity to hide either
party from the view of the other, though in this the Indians had a
slight advantage on account of the opening in our rear.  But even in the
depth of the forest there was light enough for our purpose.  Many of the
dead fascicles had fallen--the ground was deeply bedded with them--and
those that still drooped overhead formed but a gauzy screen against the
brilliant beams of the sun.  There was light sufficient to enable our
marksmen to "sight" any object as large as a dollar piece, that chanced
to be within range of their rifles.  A hand--a portion of an arm--a leg
badly aligned--a jaw bone projecting outside the bark--a pair of
shoulders too brawny for the trunk that should have concealed them--even
the outstanding skirt of a dress, was sure to draw a shot--perhaps two--
from one side or the other.  A man to have exposed his full face for ten
seconds would have been almost certain of receiving a bullet through his
skull, for on both sides there were sharpshooters.

Thus two hours had passed, and without any great injury received or
inflicted by either party.  There were some "casualties," however, and
every now and then a fresh incident added to the number, and kept up the
hostile excitement.  We had several wounded--one or two severely--and
one man killed.  The latter was a favourite with our men, and his death
strengthened their desire for vengeance.

The Indian loss must have been greater.  We had seen several fall to our
shots.  In our party were some of the best marksmen in Florida.  Hickman
was heard to declare he "had drawed a bead upon three, and wherever he
drawed his bead he was dog-goned sartin to put his bullet."  Weatherford
had shot his man, killing him on the spot.  This was beyond conjecture,
for the dead body of the savage could be seen lying between two trees
where it had fallen.  His comrades feared that in dragging it away, they
might expose themselves to that terrible rifle.

The Indians had not yet learned that refinement of civilised warriors,
who seek from their opponents a temporary truce in which to pay an empty
compliment to the dead, while with cunning eye and wary step they seize
the opportunity to scrutinise where to make the most effectual onslaught
upon the living.

After a time, the Indians began to practise a chapter of tactics, which
proved that in this mode of warfare they were our superiors.  Instead of
one, two of them would place themselves behind a tree, or two trees that
stood close together, and as soon as one fired, the other was ready to
take aim.  Of course, the man at whom the first shot had been
discharged, fancying his _vis-a-vis_ now carried an empty gun, would be
less careful about his person, and likely enough to expose it.

This proved to be the case, for before the bit of craft was discovered,
several of our men received wounds, and one man of our number was shot
dead by his tree.  This ruse freshly exasperated our men--the more so
that they could not reciprocate the strategy, since our numbers were not
sufficient to have taken post by "twos."  It would have thinned our line
so that we could not have defended the position.

We were compelled, therefore, to remain as we were--more careful not to
expose ourselves to the cunning "fence" of our enemies.

There was one case, however, in which the savages were paid back in
their own coin.  Black Jake and I were partners in this _revanche_.

We occupied two trees almost close together; and had for antagonists no
less than three savages, who had been all the morning most active in
firing at us.  I had received one of their bullets through the sleeve of
my coat, and Jake had the dandruff driven out of his wool, but neither
of us had been wounded.

During the contest I had got "sight" upon one, and fancied I had spilled
his blood.  I could not be certain, however, as the three were well
sheltered behind a clump of trees, and covered, also, by a thicket of
dwarf palmettoes.

One of these Indians, Jake wished particularly to kill.  He was a huge
savage--much larger than either of the others.  He wore a head-dress of
king vulture plumes, and was otherwise distinguished by his costume.  In
all probability, a chief.  What was most peculiar in this man's
appearance was his face, for we could see it at intervals, though only
for an instant at a time.  It was covered all over with a scarlet
pigment--vermilion it was--and shone through the trees like a
counterpart of the sun.

It was not this, however, that had rendered the Indian an object of
Jake's vengeance.  The cause was different.  The savage had noticed
Jake's peculiar colour, and had taunted him with it several times during
the fray.  He spoke in his native tongue, but Jake comprehended it well
enough.  He was spited--exasperated--and vowed vengeance against the
scarlet chief.

I contrived at length to give him an opportunity.  Cunningly adjusting
my cap, so that it appeared to contain my head, I caused it to protrude
a little around the trunk of the tree.  It was an old and well-known
ruse, but for all that, in Jake's phraseology, it "fooled" the Indian.

The red countenance appeared above the palmettoes.  A puff of smoke rose
from below it.  The cap was jerked out of my hand as I heard the report
of the shot that had done it.

A little after, I heard another crack, louder and nearer--the report of
the negro's piece.  I peeped around the tree to witness the effect.  A
spot of darker red dappled the bright disk of the Indian's face--the
vermilion seemed suddenly encrimsoned.  It was but a glance I had, for
in the next instant the painted savage doubled back among the bushes.

During all the time we had been engaged, the Indians did not appear
desirous of advancing upon us--although, certainly, they were superior
to us in point of numbers.  The party we had been pursuing must have
been joined by another one as numerous as itself.  Not less than a
hundred were now upon the ground, and had been so from the beginning of
the fight.  But for this accession they would hardly have dared to
attack us, and but for it we should have charged them at once, and tried
the chances of a hand-to-hand conflict.  We had seen, however, that they
far outnumbered us, and were content to hold our position.

They appeared satisfied with theirs, though by closing rapidly inwards
they might have overpowered us.  After all, their ranks would have been
smartly thinned before reaching our line, and some of their best men
would have fallen.  No men calculate such chances more carefully than
Indians; and perhaps none are inferior to them in charging a foe that is
entrenched.  The weakest fort--even the most flimsy stockade--can be
easily defended against the red warriors of the West.

Their intention having been foiled by the failure of their first charge,
they appeared not to contemplate another--contented to hold us in
siege--for to that situation were we, in reality, reduced.  After a
time, their firing became less frequent, until it nearly ceased
altogether, but we knew that this did not indicate any intention to
retreat; on the contrary, we saw some of them kindling fires afar off in
the woods, no doubt with the design of cooking their breakfasts.

There was not a man among us who did not envy them their occupation.



CHAPTER EIGHTY FIVE.

A MEAGRE MEAL.

To us the partial armistice was of no advantage.  We dared not stir from
the trees.  Men were athirst, and water within sight--the pond
glittering in the centre of the glade.  Better there had been none,
since they dared not approach it.  It only served to tantalise them.
The Indians were seen to eat, without leaving their lines.  A few waited
on the rest, and brought them food from the fires.  Women were observed
passing backwards and forwards, almost within range of our guns.

We were, all of us, hungry as famished wolves.  We had been twenty-four
hours without tasting food--even longer than that--and the sight of our
enemies, feasting before our very faces, gave a keen edge to our
appetites, at the same time rekindling our indignation.  They even
taunted us on our starving condition.

Old Hickman had grown furious.  He was heard to declare that he "war
hungry enough to eat a Indyen raw, if he could git his teeth upon one,"
and he looked as if he would have carried but the threat.

"The sight o' cussed red skins," continued he, "swallerin' hul collops
o' meat, while Christyian whites haint neery a bone to pick, are enough
to rile one to the last jeint in the eends o' the toes--by the tarnal
allygator, it ar!"

It is a bare place, indeed, where such men as Hickman and Weatherford
will not find resources; and the energies of both were now bent upon
discovery.  They were seen scratching among the dead needles of the
pines, that, as already stated, formed a thick layer over the surface of
the ground.

Of what were they in search? worms?--grubs?--larvae or lizards?  One
might have fancied so; but no--it had not come to that.  Hungry as they
were, they were not yet ready to feed upon the _reptilia_.  A better
resource had suggested itself to them; and shortly after, an exclamation
of joy announced that they had discovered the object of their search.

Hickman was seen holding up a brownish coloured mass, of conical form,
somewhat resembling a large pineapple.  It was a cone of the broom pine,
easily recognisable by its size and shape.

"Now, fellers!" shouted he, in a voice loud enough to be heard by all
around the glade, "jest gather a wheen o' these hyar tree-eggs, and
break 'em open; ye'll find kurnels inside o' 'em that aint bad chawin'--
they aint equal to hog an' hominy; but we hant got hog an' hominy, and
these hyar'll sarve in a pinch, I reck'n.  Ef ye'll only root among the
rubbage aroun' ye, ye'll scare up a wheen--jest try it."

The suggestion was eagerly adopted, and in an instant "all hands" were
seen scratching up the dead leaves in search of pine cones.

Some of these were found lying upon the surface, near at hand, and were
easily procured, while others, were jerked within reach by ramrods or
the barrels of rifles.  Less or more, every one was enabled to obtain a
supply.

The cones were quickly cut open, and the kernels greedily devoured.  It
was by no means an inferior food; for the seeds of the broom pine are
both nutritive and pleasant to the palate.  Their quality gave universal
satisfaction--it was only in quantity they were deficient, for there was
not enough of them within reach to stay the cravings of fifty stomachs
hungry as ours were.

There was some joking over this dry breakfast, and the more reckless of
the party laughed while they ate, as though it had been a nutting
frolic.  But the laughter was short-lived--our situation was too serious
to admit of much levity.

It was an interval while the firing of the enemy had slackened, almost
ceased; and we had ample time to consider the perils of our position.
Up to this time, it had not occurred to us that, in reality, we were
_besieged_.  The hurried excitement of the conflict had left us no time
for reflection.  We only looked upon the affair as a skirmish that must
soon come to an end, by one side or the other proving victorious.

The contest no longer wore that look; it had assumed the aspect of a
regular siege.  We were encompassed on every side--shut up as if in a
fortress, but not half so secure.  Our only stockade was the circle of
standing trees, and we had no blockhouse to retire to--no shelter in the
event of being wounded.  Each man was a sentry, with a _tour_ of guard
duty that must be continual!

Our situation was indeed perilous in the extreme.  There was no prospect
of escape.  Our horses had all galloped off long since; one only
remained, lying dead by the side of the pond.  It had been killed by a
bullet, but it was not from the enemy.  Hickman had fired the shot; I
saw him, and wondered at the time what could be his object.  The hunter
had his reasons, but it was only afterwards I learned them.

We could hold our ground against five times our number--almost any
odds--but how about food?  Thirst we did not fear.  At night we should
have relief.  Under the cover of night we could approach the pond, one
after another.

We had no apprehension from want of water; but how about food?  The
cones we had gathered were but a bite; there were no more within reach;
we must yield to hunger--to famine.

We conversed with one another freely, as if face to face.  We canvassed
our prospects; they were gloomy enough.

How was the affair to end?  How were we to be delivered from our
perilous situation?  These were the questions that occupied the thoughts
of all.

We could think of only one plan that offered a plausible chance of
escape; and that was to hold our position until nightfall, make a sally
in the darkness, and fight our way through the lines of our foes.  It
would be running the gauntlet; a few of us would certainly fall--perhaps
many--but some would escape.  To stay where we were would be to expose
our whole party to certain sacrifice.  There was no likelihood of our
being rescued by others; no one entertained such a hope.  As soon as
hunger overcame us, we should be massacred to a man.

Rather than patiently abide such a fate, we resolved, while yet strong,
to risk all chances, and fight our way through the enemy's line.
Darkness would favour the attempt; and thus resolved, we awaited the
going down of the sun.



CHAPTER EIGHTY SIX.

A BULLET FROM BEHIND.

If we thought the time long, it was not from want of occupation.  During
the day, the Indians at intervals renewed their attack; and
notwithstanding all our vigilance, we had another man killed, and
several slightly wounded.

In these skirmishes, the savages showed a determination to get nearer
our line, by making their advances from tree to tree.

We perfectly understood their object in this.  It was not that they had
any design of closing with us, though their numbers might have justified
them in doing so.  They were now far more numerous than at the beginning
of the fight.  Another fresh band had arrived upon the ground--for we
had heard the shouts of welcome that hailed their coming.

But even with this accession of strength, they did not design to come to
the encounter of sharp weapons.  Their purpose in advancing was
different.  They had perceived that by getting close to our convex line,
they would be near enough to fire upon those on the opposite side of the
glade, who, of course, were then exposed to their aim.

To prevent this, therefore, became our chief object and anxiety, and it
was necessary to redouble our vigilance.

We did so, regarding with scrutinous glances the trunks behind which we
knew the savages were skulking, and eyeing them as keenly as the ferret
hunter watches the burrows of the warren.

They had but slight success in their endeavours to advance.  It cost
them several of their boldest men; for the moment one of them essayed to
rush forwards, the cracks of three or four rifles could be heard; and
one of these was sure to deliver its messenger of death.  The Indians
soon became tired of attempting this dangerous manoeuvre; and as evening
approached, appeared to give up their design, and content themselves by
holding us in siege.

We were glad when the sun set and the twilight came on; it would soon
pass, and we should be able to reach the water.  The men were maddened
with thirst, for they had been suffering from it throughout the whole
day.  During the daylight many would have gone to the pond, had they not
been restrained by the precepts of the more prudent, and perhaps more
effectually by an example of which they had all been witnesses.  One,
more reckless than the rest, had risked the attempt; he succeeded in
reaching the water, drank to satisfaction, and was hastening back to his
post, when a shot from the savages stretched him dead upon the sward.
He was the man last killed; and his lifeless body now lay in the open
ground, before the eyes of his comrades.

It proved a warning to all; for, despite the torture of thirst, no one
cared to repeat the rash experiment.

At length the welcome darkness descended--only a glimmer of grey light
lingered in the leaden sky.  Men in twos and threes were now seen
approaching the pond.  Like spectres they moved, silently gliding over
the open ground, but in stooping attitudes, and heads bent eagerly
forwards in the direction of the water.

We did not all go at once--though all were alike eager to quench their
thirst--but the admonitions of the old hunter had their effect: and the
more continent agreed to bear their pangs a little longer, and wait till
the others should get back to their posts.

It was prudent we so acted; for, at this crisis, the Indians--no doubt
suspecting what was going forward--renewed their fire with fresh energy.

Whole volleys were discharged inwards and without aim, the darkness must
have hindered an aim, but for all that, the bullets buzzed past our ears
as thickly as hornets upon their flight.  There was a cry raised that
the enemy was closing upon us; and those who had gone to the water
rushed rapidly back--some even without staying to take the much desired
drink.

During all this time I had remained behind my tree.  My black follower
had also stuck to his post like a faithful sentinel as he was.  We
talked of relieving one another by turns.  Jake insisted that I should
"drink first."

I had partially consented to this arrangement, when the fire of the
enemy suddenly reopened.  Like others, we were apprehensive that the
savages were about to advance; and we knew the necessity of keeping them
back.  We agreed to keep our ground for a little longer.

I had "one eye round the trunk of the tree, with my rifle raised" to the
level--and was watching for a flash from the gun of some savage, to
guide me in my aim--when, all on a sudden, I felt my arm jerked upwards,
and my gun shaken out of my grasp.

There was no mystery about it.  A bullet had passed through my arm,
piercing the muscles that upheld it.  I had shown too much of my
shoulder, and was wounded--nothing more.

My first thought was to look to my wound.  I felt it distinctly enough,
and that enabled me to discover the place.  I saw that the ball had
passed through the upper part of my right arm, just below the shoulder,
and in its further progress had creased the breast of my uniform coat,
where its trace was visible in the torn cloth.

There was still light sufficient to enable me to make these
observations; and furthermore, that a thick stream of blood was gushing
from the wound.

I commenced unbuttoning my coat, the better to get at the wound.  The
black was ready by my side, rending his shirt into ribbons.

All at once I heard him uttering an exclamation of surprise followed by
the words, "Gorramighty!  Mass George--dat shot come from ahind!"

"From behind?"  I shouted, echoing his words, and once more looking to
the wound.

"Yes, mass, yes--sartin he come from ahind."

Some suspicion of this had already been in my thoughts: I fancied that I
had "_felt_" the shot from that quarter.

It had been no fancy.  On a more minute examination of the wound, and
the torn traces upon the breast of my coat, the direction of the bullet
was plainly perceived.  Undoubtedly it had struck me from behind.

"Good God, Jake!"  I exclaimed, "it is so.  The Indians have advanced to
the other side of the glade--we are lost!"

Under this belief, we both faced towards the opening, when at that
moment, as if to confirm us, another bullet whistled past our ears, and
struck with a heavy "thud" into the tree by which we were kneeling.
This one had certainly been fired from the other side of the glade--we
saw the flash and heard the report of the gun that had sent it.

What had become of our comrades on that side?  Had they abandoned their
posts, and permitted the Indians to advance?  Were they all by the pond,
and thus neglecting their duty?

These were the first conjectures both of my companion and myself.  It
was too dark for us to see our men under the shadows of the pines, but
neither did they appear in the open ground.  We were puzzled, and
shouted aloud for an explanation.

If there were replies, we heard them not--for at that moment a wild yell
from our savage enemies drowned all other cries, and a sight burst upon
our eyes that caused the blood to curdle within our veins.

Directly in point of the position that Jake and I held, and close to the
Indian line, a red flame was seen suddenly springing up from the earth.
It rose in successive puffs, each leaping higher and higher, until it
had ascended among the tops of the trees.  It resembled the flashes of
large, masses of gunpowder ignited upon the ground, and such in reality
it was.  We read the intention at a glance.  The Indians were attempting
to fire the forest!

Their success was almost instantaneous.  As soon as the sulphureous
blaze came in contact with the withered fascicles of foliage, the latter
caught as though they had been tinder; and with the velocity of
projected rockets, the flames shot out in different directions, and
danced far above the tops of the tree.  We looked around; on all sides
we beheld a similar spectacle.  That wild yell had been the signal for a
circle of fires.  The glade was encompassed by a wall of flame--red,
roaring, and gigantic.  The whole forest was on fire.  From all points
the flame appeared closing inwards, sweeping the trees as if they had
been withered grass, and leaping in long spurts high into the heavens.

The smoke now came thick and heavy around us--each moment growing denser
as the fire approached--while the heated atmosphere was no longer
endurable.  Already it stifled our breathing.

Destruction stared us in the face, and men shouted in despair.  But the
roar of the burning pines drowned their voices, and one could not hear
even his comrade who was nearest.  Their looks were significant--for
before the smoke fell, the glade was lit up with intense brilliance, and
we could see one another with unnatural distinctness.  In the faces of
all appeared the anxiety of awe.

Not long continued I to share it.  Too much blood had escaped from my
neglected wound; I tried to make into the open ground, as I saw others
doing; but, before I got two steps from the tree, my limbs tottered
beneath me, and I fell fainting to the earth.



CHAPTER EIGHTY SEVEN.

A JURY AMID THE FIRE.

I had a last thought, as I fell.  It was that my life had reached its
termination--that in a few seconds my body would be embraced by the
flames, and I should horribly perish.  The thought drew from me a feeble
scream; and with that scream my consciousness forsook me.  I was as
senseless as if dead--indeed, so far as sensibility went, I _was_ dead;
and, had the flames at that moment swept over me, I should not have felt
them.  In all probability, I might have been burned to a cinder without
further pain.

During the interval of my unconsciousness, I had neither dream nor
apparition.  By this, I knew that my soul must have forsaken its earthly
tenement.  It may have been hovering above or around, but it was no
longer within me.  It had separated from my senses, that were all dead.

Dead, but capable of being restored to life, and haply a restorative was
at hand, with one capable to administer it.

When my soul returned, the first perception I had was that I was up to
my neck in water.  I was in the pond, and in a recumbent position--my
limbs and body under the water, with only my head above the surface,
resting against the bank.  A man was kneeling over me, himself half
immersed.

My returning senses soon enabled me to tell who the man was--my faithful
Jake.  He had my pulse in his hand, and was gazing into my features with
silent earnestness.  As my open eyes replied to his gaze, he uttered an
exclamation of joy, and the words: "Golly, Massa George! you lib--thank
be to Gorramighty, you lib.  Keep up ya heart, young massa--you's a
gwine to git ober it--sartin, your a gwine to git ober it."

"I hope so, Jake," was my reply, in a weak voice; but, feeble though it
was, it roused the faithful fellow into a transport of delight, and he
continued to utter his cheering ejaculations.

I was able to raise my head and look around.  It was a dread spectacle
that on all sides greeted my eyes, and there was plenty of light
wherewith to view it.  The forest was still on fire, burning with a
continued roar, as of thunder or a mighty wind--varied with hissing
noises, and loud crackling that resembled the platoon firing of
musketry.  One might have fancied it a fusilade from the Indians, but
that was impossible.  They must have long since retreated before the
spreading circle of that all-consuming conflagration.  There was less
flame than when I had last looked upon it; and less smoke in the
atmosphere.  The dry foliage had been suddenly reduced to a cinder, and
the twiggy fragments had fallen to the earth, where they lay in a dense
bed of glowing embers.

Out of this rose the tall trunks, half stripped of their branches, and
all on fire.  The crisp scaling bark had caught freely, and the resinous
sapwood was readily yielding to the flames.  Many had burned far
inwards, and looked like huge columns of iron heated to redness.  The
spectacle presented an aspect of the infernal world.

The sense of feeling, too, might have suggested fancies of the same
region.  The heat was intense to an extreme degree.  The atmosphere
quivered with the drifting caloric.  The hair had crisped upon our
heads--our skins had the feel of blistering, and the air we inhaled
resembled steam from the 'scape pipe of an engine.

Instinctively I looked for my companions.  A group of a dozen or more
were upon the open ground near the edge of the pond, but these were not
all.  There should have been nearer fifty.  Where were the others?  Had
they perished in the flames?  Where were they?

Mechanically, I put the question to Jake.

"Thar, massa," he replied, pointing downwards, "Tha dey be safe yet--
ebbery one ob un, I blieve."

I looked across the surface of the pond.  Three dozen roundish objects
met my glance.  They were the heads of my companions.  Like myself,
their bodies were submerged, most of them to the neck.  They had thus
placed themselves to shun the smoke, as well as the broiling heat.

But the others--they on the bank--why had they not also availed
themselves of this cunning precaution?  Why were they still standing
exposed to the fierce heat, and amid the drifting clouds of smoke?

The latter had grown thin and gauze-like.  The forms of the men were
seen distinctly through it, magnified as in a mist.  Like giants they
were striding over the ground, and the guns in their hands appeared of
colossal proportions.  Their gestures were abrupt, and their whole
bearing showed they were in a state of half frenzied excitement.

It was natural enough amidst the circumstances that surrounded them.  I
saw they were the principal men of our party.  I saw Hickman and
Weatherford both gesticulating freely among them.  No doubt they were
counselling how we should act.

This was the conjecture I derived from my first glance; but a further
survey of the group convinced me I was in error.  It was no deliberation
about our future plans.  In the lull between the volleys of the
crackling pines, I could hear their voices.  They were those of men
engaged in angry dispute.  The voices of Hickman and Weatherford
especially reached my ear, and I perceived they were talking in a tone
that betokened a high state of indignation.

At this moment, the smoke drifting aside, discovered a group still
further from the edge of the pond.  There were six men standing in
threes, and I perceived that the middle man of each three was tightly
grasped by the two others.  Two of them were prisoners!  Were they
Indians? two of our enemies, who, amid the confusion of the fire, had
strayed into the glade, and been captured?

It was my first thought; but at that instant, a jet of flame, shooting
upwards, filled the glade with a flood of brilliant light.  The little
group thus illuminated could be seen as distinctly as by the light of
day.

I was no longer in doubt about the captives.  Their faces were before
me, white and ghastly as if with fear.  Even the red light failed to
tinge them with its colour; but wan as they were, I had no difficulty in
recognising them.  They were Spence and Williams.



CHAPTER EIGHTY EIGHT.

QUICK EXECUTIONERS.

I turned to the black for an explanation, but before he could make reply
to my interrogatory, I more than half comprehended the situation.

My own plight admonished me.  I remembered my wound--I remembered that I
had received it from _behind_.  I remembered that the bullet that struck
the tree, came from the same quarter.  I thought we had been indebted to
the savages for the shots; but no, worse savages--Spence and Williams
were the men who had fired them!

The reflection was awful--the motive mysterious.

And now returned to my thoughts the occurrences of the preceding night--
the conduct of these two fellows in the forest--the suspicious hints
thrown out by old Hickman and his comrades, and far beyond the preceding
night, other circumstances, well marked upon my memory, rose freshly
before me.

Here again was the hand of Arens Ringgold.  O God, to think that this
arch-monster--

"Dar only a tryin' them two daam raskell," said Jake, in reply to the
interrogatory I had put, "daat's what they am about, Mass'r George,
dat's all."

"Who?"  I asked mechanically, for I already knew who were meant by the
"two daam raskell."

"Lor, Massr George? doant you see um ober yonder--Spence an' William--
golly! tha'r boaf as white as peeled pumpkins!  It war them that shot
you, an' no Indians, arter all.  I knowd dat from tha fust, an' I tol'
Mass' Hickman de same; but Mass' Hickman 'clare he see um for hisself--
an' so too Mass' Weatherford--boaf seed 'um fire tha two shots.  Thar a
tryin' 'on 'em for tha lives, dat's what tha men am doin'."

With strange interest I once more turned my eyes outward, and gazed,
first at one group, then the other.  The fire was now making less
noise--the sapwood having nearly burnt out--and the detonations caused
by the escape of the pent gases from the cellular cavities of the wood
had grown less frequent.  Voices could be heard over the glade, those of
the improvised jury.

I listened attentively.  I perceived that a dispute was still raging
between them.  They were not agreed upon their verdict--some advocating
the immediate death of the prisoners; while others, adverse to such
prompt punishment, would have kept them for further inquiry.

There were some who could not credit their guilt--the deed was too
atrocious, and hence improbable; under what motive could they have
committed it?  At such a time, too, with their own lives in direst
jeopardy?

"Ne'er a bit o' jeppurdy," exclaimed Hickman in reply to the
interrogatory, "ne'er a bit o' jeppurdy.  Thar haint been a shot fired
at eyther on 'em this hul day.  I tell ye, fellers, thar's a
un'erstannin' 'atween them an' the Indyens.  Thar no better'n spies, an'
thar last night's work proves it; an' but for the breakin' out of the
fire, which they didn't expect, they'd been off arter firin' the shots.
'Twar all bamfoozle about thar gettin' lost--them fellers git lost,
adeed!  Both on 'em knows these hyar wuds as well as the anymals thet
lives in 'em.  Thum both been hyar many's the time, an' a wheen too
often, I reckin.  Lost! wagh!  Did yez iver hear o' a coon gittin'
lost?"  Some one made reply, I did not hear what was said, but the voice
of the hunter again sounded distinct and clear.

"Ye palaver about thar motive--I s'pose you mean thar reezuns for sech
bloody bizness!  Them, I acknullidge, aint clar, but I hev my sespicions
too.  I aint a gwine to say who or what.  Thar's some things as mout be,
an' thar's some as moutn't; but I've seed queer doin's in these last
five yeern, an' I've heern o' others; an if what I've heern be's true--
what I've seed I know to be--then I tell ye, fellers, thar's a bigger
than eyther o' thesen at the bottom o' the hul bizness--that's what thar
be."

"But do you really say you saw them take aim in that direction; are you
sure of that?"

This inquiry was put by a tall man who stood in the midst of the
disputing party--a man of advanced age, and of somewhat severe aspect.
I knew him as one of our neighbours in the settlement--an extensive
planter--who had some intercourse with my uncle, and out of friendship
for our family had joined the pursuit.

"Sure," echoed the old hunter with emphasis, and not without some show
of indignation; "didn't me an' Jim Weatherford see 'em wi' our own two
eyes? an' thar good enough, I reckin, to mark sich varmints as them.
We'd been a watchin' 'em all day, for we knowd thar war somethin' ugly
afoot.  We seed 'em both fire acrost the gleed--an' sight plum-centre at
young Randolph; besides, the black himself sez that the two shots comed
that away.  What more proof kin you want?"

At this moment I heard a voice by my side.  It was that of Jake, calling
out to the crowd.

"Mass' Hickman," cried he, "if dey want more proof, I b'lieve dis nigger
can gib it.  One ob de bullets miss young mass'r, an' stuck in da tree;
yonner's the verry tree itself, that we wa behind, it ain't burn yet, it
no take fire; maybe, gen'lem'n, you mout find tha bullet tha still?
maybe you tell what gun he 'longs to?"

The suggestion was instantly adopted.  Several men ran towards the tree
behind which Jake and I had held post; and which, with a few others--
near it, for some reason or other--had escaped the flames, and still
stood with trunks unscathed in the foreground of the conflagration.

Jake ran with the rest and pointed out the spot.

The bark was scrutinised, the hole found, and the leaden witness
carefully picked out.  It was still in its globe shape, slightly torn by
the grooves of the barrel.  It was a rifle ballet, and one of the very
largest size.

It was known that Spence carried a piece of large calibre.  But the guns
of all the party were paraded, and their measure taken.  The bullet
would enter the barrel of no other rifle save that of Spence.

The conclusion was evident--the verdict was no longer delayed.  It was
unanimous, that the prisoners should die.

"An' let 'em die like dogs as they are," cried Hickman, indignantly
raising his voice, and at the same time bringing his piece to the level,
"Now, Jim Weatherford! look to yer sights!  Let 'em go thar, fellers!
an' git yerselves out o' the way.  We'll gie 'em a chance for thar
cussed lives.  They may take to yonner trees if they like, an' git
'customed to it--for they'll be in a hotter place than that afore long.
Let 'em go I let 'em go!  I say, or by the tarnal I'll fire into the
middle o' ye!"

The men who had hold of the prisoners, perceiving the menacing attitude
of the hunter, and fearing that he might make good his words, suddenly
dropped their charge, and ran back towards the group of jurors.

The two wretches appeared bewildered.  Terror seemed to hold them
speechless, and fast glued to the spot.  Neither made any effort to
leave the ground.  Perhaps the complete impossibility of escape was
apparent to them, and prostrated all power to make the attempt.  Of
course, they could not have got away from the glade.  Their taking to
the trees was only mockery on the part of the indignant hunter.  In ten
seconds, they would have been roasted among the blazing branches.

It was a moment of breathless suspense.  Only one voice was heard--that
of Hickman:

"Now Jim, you sight Spence--gie tother to me."  This was said in a
hurried undertone, and the words had scarcely passed, when the two
rifles cracked simultaneously.

The execution was over.  The renegades had ceased to live.

This speedy punishment of convicted rascals is a severe commentary upon
the more refined proceedings of our judicial trials, in which every
effort is made, and every argument strained to enable the culprit--known
to be guilty--to escape the punishment due to his crimes, a result which
is generally effected, either by some legal technicality or political
machinery.



CHAPTER EIGHTY NINE.

AN ENEMY UNLOOKED FOR.

As, upon the stage of a theatre, the farce follows the grand melodrama,
this tragic scene was succeeded by an incident ludicrous to an extreme
degree.  It elicited roars of laughter from the men, that, under the
circumstances, sounded like the laughter of madmen; maniacs indeed might
these men have been deemed--thus giving way to mirth, with a prospect
before them so grim and gloomy--the prospect of almost certain death,
either at the hands of our savage assailants, or from starvation.

Of the former we had no present fear.  The flames that had driven us out
of the timber, had equally forced them from their position; and we knew
they were now far from us.  They could not be near.

Now that the burnt branches had fallen from the pines, and the foliage
was entirely consumed, the eye was enabled to penetrate the forest to a
great distance.  On every side we commanded a _vista_ of at least a
thousand yards, through the intervals between the red glowing trunks;
and beyond this we could hear by the "swiz" of the flames, and the
continual crackling of the boughs, that fresh trees were being embraced
within the circle of conflagration, that was each moment extending its
circumference.

The sounds grew fainter apace, until they bore a close resemblance to
the mutterings of distant thunder.  We had fancied that the fire was
dying out; but the luminous ring around the horizon proved that the
flames were still ascending.  It was only that the noise came from a
greater distance, that we heard it less distinctly.

Our human foes must have been still further away, they must have retired
before the widening rim of the conflagration.  But they had calculated
upon doing so before applying the torch.  In all likelihood, they had
retreated to the savanna, to await the result.

Their object in firing the forest was not so easily understood.  Perhaps
they expected that the vast volume of flame would close over and consume
us, or, more like, that we should be smothered under the dense clouds of
smoke.  This might in reality have been our fate, but for the proximity
of the pond.  My companions told me, that their sufferings from the
smoke had been dreadful in the extreme--that they should have been
stifled by it, had they not thrown themselves into the pond, and kept
their faces close to the surface of the water, which was several feet
below the level of the ground.  It had been to me an hour of
unconsciousness.  My faithful black had carried me lifeless, as he
supposed, to the water, and placed me among the rest.

It was afterwards--when the smoke had partially cleared away--that the
spies were brought to account.  Hickman and Weatherford, deeply
indignant at the conduct of these monsters, would not hear of delay.
They insisted upon immediate punishment; and the wretches were seized
upon, dragged out of the pond, and put upon their trial.  It was at this
crisis that my senses returned to me.

As soon as the dread sentence had been carried into execution, the
_ci-devant_ jurors came rushing back to the pond, and plunged their
bodies into the water.  The heat was still intense, and painful of
endurance.

There were two only who appeared to disregard it, and still remained
upon the bank.  These were the two hunters.

Knives in hand, I saw them stooping over a dark object that lay near.
It was the horse that Hickman had shot in the morning; and I now
perceived the old hunter's motive, that had hitherto mystified me.  It
was an act of that cunning foresight that characterised this man,
apparently instinctive.

They proceeded to skin the horse, and, in a few seconds, had pealed off
a portion of the hide--sufficient for their purpose.  They then cut out
several large pieces of the flesh, and laid them aside.  This done,
Weatherford stepped off to the edge of the burning timber, and presently
returned with an armful of half consumed fagots.  These were erected
into a fire, near the edge of the pond; and the two, squatting down by
its side, commenced broiling the pieces of horse-flesh upon sapling
spits, and conversing as coolly and cheerily as if seated in the chimney
corner of their own cabins.

There were others as hungry as they, who took the hint, and proceeded to
imitate their example.  The pangs of hunger were harder to bear than the
hot atmosphere, and in a few minutes' time, a dozen men might have been
observed, grouped like vultures around the dead horse hacking and hewing
at the carcass.

At this crisis occurred the incident which I have characterised as
ludicrous.

With the exception of the few engaged in their coarse _cuisine_, the
rest of us remained in the water.  We were lying around the circular rim
of the basin--our bodies parallel to one another, and our heads upon the
bank.  We were not dreaming of being disturbed by an intruder of any
kind--at least for a time.  We were no longer in fear of the fire, and
our savage foemen were far off.

All at once, however, an enemy was discovered in an unexpected quarter--
right in the midst of us.

Just in the centre of the pond, where the water was deepest, a monstrous
form rose suddenly to the surface; at the same time that our ears were
greeted with a loud bellowing, as if half a score of bulls were let
loose into the glade.

In an instant, the water was agitated and lashed into foam, and the
spray fell in showers around our heads.

Weird-like and sudden, as was the apparition, there was nothing
mysterious about it.  The hideous form, and deep barytone were
well-known to all.  It was simply an alligator.

But for its enormous size the presence of the reptile would scarce have
been regarded; but it was one of the largest of its kind--its long body
almost equalling the diameter of the pond, with huge gaunt jaws that
seemed capable of swallowing a man at a single "gulp."  Its roar, too,
was enough to inspire even the boldest with terror.

It produced this effect; and the wild frightened looks of those in the
water--their confused plunging and splashing, as they scrambled to their
feet and hastened to get out of it--their simultaneous rushing up the
bank, and scattering off into the open ground--all contributed to form a
spectacle ludicrous in the extreme.

In less than ten seconds' time the great saurian had the pond to
himself; where he continued to bellow, and lash the water in his rage.

He was not permitted to exult long in his triumph.  The hunters, with
several others, seized their rifles, and ran forwards to the edge of the
pond, when a volley from a dozen guns terminated the monster's
existence.

Those who had been "ashore," were already convulsed with laughter at the
scared fugitives; but the latter, having recovered from their momentary
affright, now joined in the laugh, till the woods rang with a chorus of
wild cachinnations.

Could the Indians have heard us at that moment, they must have fancied
as mad, or more likely dead, and that our voices were those of their own
fiends, headed by Wykome himself--rejoicing over the holocaust of their
pale-faced foes.



CHAPTER NINETY.

A CONFLICT IN DARKNESS.

The forest continued to burn throughout the night, the following day,
and the night after.  Even on the second day, most of the trees were
still on fire.

They no longer blazed, for the air was perfectly still, and there was no
wind to fan the fire into flame.  It was seen in red patches against the
trunks, smouldering and gradually becoming less, as its strength
spontaneously died out.

From many of the trees it had disappeared altogether, and these no
longer bore any resemblance to trees, but looked like huge,
sharp-pointed stakes, charred and black, as though profusely coated with
coal-tar.

Though there were portions of the forest that might now have been
traversed, there were other places where the fire still burned fiercely
enough to oppose our progress.  We were still besieged by the igneous
element--as completely confined within the circumscribed boundaries of
the glade, as if encompassed by a hostile army of twenty times our
number--indeed, more so.  No rescue could possibly reach us.  Even our
enemies, so far as _our_ safety was concerned, could not have "raised
the siege."

So far the old hunter's providence had stood us in good stead.  But for
the horse some of us must have succumbed to hunger; or, at all events,
suffered its extreme.  We had been now four days without food--except
what the handful of pine cones and the horse-flesh afforded us; and
still the fiery forest hemmed us in.  There was no alternative but to
stay where we were until, as Hickman phrased it, "the woods should git
_cool_."

We were cheered with the hope that another day would effect this
purpose, and we might travel with safety.

The prospect before us was gloomy as that around us.  As our dread of
the fire declined, that of our human foes increased in an inverse
proportion.  We had but little hope of getting off without an encounter.
They could traverse the woods as soon as we, and were certain to be on
the look-out.  With them the account was still to be settled.  The
gauntlet was yet to be run.

But we had grown fierce and less fearful.  The greatest coward of our
party had become brave, and no one voted for either skulking or hanging
back.  Stand or fall, we had resolved upon keeping together, and cutting
our way through the hostile lines, or dying in the attempt.  It was but
the old programme, with a slight change in the _mise-en-scene_.

We waited only for another night to carry our plans into execution.  The
woods would scarce be as "cool" as we might have desired, but hunger was
again hurrying us.  The horse--a small one--had disappeared.  Fifty
starved stomachs are hard to satisfy.  The bones lay around clean
picked--those that contained marrow, broken into fragments and emptied
of their contents; even the hideous saurian was a skeleton!

A more disgusting spectacle was presented by the bodies of the two
criminals.  The heat had swollen them to enormous proportions, and
decomposition had already commenced.  The air was loaded with that
horrid effluvia peculiar to the dead body of a human being.

Our comrades who fell in the fight had been buried, and there was some
talk of performing the like office for the others.  No one objected; but
none volunteered to take the trouble.  In such cases men are overpowered
by an extreme apathy; and this was chiefly the reason why the bodies of
these wretches were suffered to remain without interment.

With eyes bent anxiously towards the west, we awaited the going down of
the sun.  So long as his bright orb was above the horizon, we could only
guess at the condition of the fire.  The darkness would enable us to
distinguish that part of the forest that was still burning, and point
out the direction we should take.  The fire itself would guide us to the
shunning of it.

Twilight found us on the tiptoe of expectation, and not without hope.
There was but little redness among the scathed pines--the smoke appeared
slighter than we had yet observed it.  Some believed that the fires were
nearly out--all thought the time had arrived when we could pass through
them.

An unexpected circumstance put this point beyond conjecture.  While we
stood waiting, the rain began to fall--at first in big solitary drops,
but in a few moments it came pouring down as if all heaven's fountains
had been opened together.

We hailed the phenomenon with joy.  It appeared an omen in our favour.
We could hardly restrain ourselves from setting forth at once; but the
more cautious counselled the rest to patience, and we stood awaiting the
deeper darkness.

The rain continued to pour--its clouds hastening the night.  As it
darkened, scarce a spark appeared among the trees.

"It is dark enough," urged the impatient.  The others yielded, and we
started forth into the bosom of the ruined forest.  We moved silently
along amid the black, calcined trunks.  Each grasped his gun tight and
ready for use.  Mine was held only in one hand--the other rested in a
sling.

In this plight I was not alone.  Half a dozen of my comrades had been
also "winged;" and together we kept in the rear.  The better men marched
in front, Hickman and Weatherford acting as guides.

The rain beat down upon us.  There was no longer a foliage to intercept
it.  As we walked under the burnt branches, the black char was driven
against our faces, and as quickly washed off again.  Most of the men
were bareheaded--their caps were over the locks of their guns to keep
them dry--some sheltered their priming with the skirts of their coats.

In this manner we had advanced nearly half a mile, we knew not in what
direction; no guide could have found path in such a forest.  We only
endeavoured to keep straight forward, with the view of getting _beyond_
our enemies.  So long unmolested, we had begun to hope that we might.

Alas! it was a momentary gleam.  We were underrating the cunning of our
red foes.  They had watched us all the time--had dogged our steps, and
at some distance off, were marching on both sides of us, in two parallel
lines.  While dreaming of safety we were actually in their midst!

The flashes of a hundred guns through the misty rain--the whistling of
as many bullets--were the first intimation we had of their presence.

Several fell under the volley.  Some returned the fire--a few thought
only of making their escape.

Uttering their shrill cries, the savages closed in upon us.  In the
darkness they appeared to outnumber the trees.

Save the occasional report of a pistol, no other shot was heard--no one
thought of reloading.  The foe was upon us before there was time to draw
a ramrod.  The knife and hatchet were to be the arbiters of the fight.

The struggle was sanguinary as it was short.  Many of our brave fellows
met their death; but each killed his foeman--some two or three of them--
before he fell.

We were soon vanquished.  The enemy was five to one--how could it be
otherwise?  They were fresh and strong; we weak with hunger--almost
emaciated--many of us wounded--how could it be otherwise?

I saw but little of the conflict--perhaps no one saw more; it was a
straggle amidst opaque darkness.

With my one hand--and that the left--I was almost helpless.  I fired my
rifle at random, and had contrived to draw a pistol; but the blow of a
tomahawk hindered me from using it, at the same time felling me
senseless to the earth.

I was only stunned, and when my senses returned to me, I saw that the
conflict was over.  Dark as it was, I could perceive a number of black
objects lying near me upon the ground.  They were the bodies of the
slain.

Some were those of my late comrades--others their foes--in many
instances locked in each other's embrace!

The savages were stooping over, as if separating them.  On the former
they were executing their last hideous rite of vengeance--they were
scalping them.

A group was nearer; the individuals composing it were standing erect.
One in their midst appeared to issue commands.  Even in the grey light I
could distinguish three waving plumes.  Again Osceola!

I was not free, or at that moment I should have rushed forwards and
grappled him, vain though the vengeful effort might have been.  But I
was not free.

Two savages knelt over me, as if guarding me against such an attempt.  I
perceived my black follower near at hand--still alive, and similarly
cared for.  Why had they not killed us?

At this moment a man was seen approaching.  It was not he with the
ostrich-plumes, though the latter appeared to have sent him.

As he drew near, I perceived that he carried a pistol.  My hour was
come.  The man stooped over me, and placed the weapon close to my ear.
To my astonishment he fired it into the air!

I thought he had missed me, and would try again.  But this was not his
purpose.  He only wanted a light.

While the powder was ablaze, I caught a glance of the countenance.  It
was an Indian's, but I thought I had seen it before; and from some
expression the man made use of, he appeared to know me.

He passed quickly from me, and proceeded to the spot where Jake was held
captive.  The pistol must have had two barrels, for I saw him fire it
again, stooping in the same manner over the prostrate form of the black.
He then rose and called out:

"It is they--still alive."

This information appeared meant for him of the black plumes, for the
moment it was given he uttered some exclamation I did not comprehend,
and then walked away.

His voice produced a singular impression upon me.  I fancied it did not
sound like Osceola's!

We were kept upon the ground only for a few minutes longer, and then a
number of horses were brought up.  Upon two of these Jake and I were
mounted, and fast tied to the saddles.  A signal was then given, and,
with an Indian riding on each side of us, we were carried off through
the woods.



CHAPTER NINETY ONE.

THE BLACK PLUMES.

We journeyed throughout the whole night.  The burnt woods were left
behind, and having crossed a savanna, we rode for several hours through
a forest of giant oaks, palms, and magnolias.  I knew this by the
fragrance of the magnolia blossoms, that, after the fetid atmosphere
that we had been breathing, smelt sweet and refreshing.  Just as day was
breaking, we arrived at an opening in the woods, where our captors
halted.

The opening was of small extent--a few acres only--bounded on all sides
by a thick forest of palms, magnolias, and live-oaks.  Their foliage
drooped to the ground, so that the glade appeared encompassed by a vast
wall of green, through which no outlet was discernible.

Through the grey light, I perceived the outlines of an encampment.
There were two or three tents with horses picketed around them, and
human forms, some of them upright and moving about, others recumbent
upon the grass, singly, or in clusters, as if sleeping together for
mutual warmth.  A large fire was burning in the midst, and around it
were men and women, seated and standing.

Within the limits of this camp we had been carried, but no time was left
us for observation.  The moment we halted, we were dragged roughly from
our horses, and flung prostrate upon the grass.  We were next turned
upon our backs.  Thongs were tied around our waists and ancles, our arms
and limbs drawn out to their full extent, and we were staked firmly to
the ground, like hides spread out for drying.  Of course, in this
attitude, we could see no more of the camp--nor the trees--nor the earth
itself--only the blue heavens above us.

Under any circumstances, the position would have been painful, but my
wounded arm rendered it excruciating.

Our arrival had set the camp in motion.  Men came out to meet us, and
women stooped over us, as we lay on our backs.  There were Indian squaws
among them, but, to my surprise, I noticed that most of them were of
African race--mulattoes, samboes, and negresses!

For some time they stood over, jeering and taunting us.  They even
proceeded to inflict torture--they spit on us, pulled out handfuls of
our hair by the roots, and stuck sharp thorns into our skin, all the
while yelling with a fiendish delight, and jabbering an unintelligible
patois, that appeared a mixture of Spanish and Yamassee.

My fellow-captive fared as badly as myself.  The homogenous colour of
his skin elicited no sympathy from these female fiends.  Black and white
were alike the victims of their hellish spite.

Part of their jargon I was able to comprehend, aided by a slight
acquaintance with the Spanish tongue, I made out what was intended to be
done with us--we were to be _tortured_.

We had been brought to the camp to be _tortured_.  We were to be the
victims of a grand spectacle, and these infernal hags were exulting in
the prospect of the sport our sufferings should afford them.  For this
only had, we been _captured_, instead of being _killed_.

Into whose hound hands had we fallen?  Were they human beings?  Were
they Indians?  Could they be Seminoles, whose behaviour to their
captives hitherto, had repelled every insinuation of torture?

A shout arose as if in answer to my questions.  The voices of all around
were mingled in the cry, but the words were the same:

"_Mulato-mico! mulato-mico! viva, mulato-mico_!"

The trampling of many hoofs announced the arrival of a band.  They were
the warriors who had been engaged in the fight--who had conquered and
made us captive.  Only half a dozen guards had been with us on the
night-march, and had reached the camp at daybreak.  The new comers were
the main body, who had stayed upon the field to complete the
despoliation of their fallen foes.  I could not see them, though they
were near, for I heard their horses trampling around.

I lay listening to that significant shout:

"_Mulato-mico! viva, mulato-mico_!"

To me the words were full of terrible import.  The phrase "Mulato-mico"
was not new to me, and I heard it with a feeling of dread.  But it was
scarce possible to increase apprehensions already excited to the full.
A hard fate was before me.  The presence of the fiend himself could not
make it more certain.

My fellow-victim shared my thoughts.  We were near, and could converse.
On comparing our conjectures, we found that they coincided.

But the point was soon settled beyond conjecture.  A harsh voice sounded
in our ears, issuing an abrupt order, that scattered the women away; a
heavy footstep was heard behind--the speaker was approaching.

In another instant his shadow fell upon my face; and the man himself
stood within the limited circle of my vision.

Despite the pigment that disguised his natural complexion--despite the
beaded shirt, the sash, the embroidered leggins--despite the _three
black plumes_, that waved over his brow, I easily identified the man.
He was no Indian, but a mulatto--"yellow Jake" himself.



CHAPTER NINETY TWO.

BURIED ALIVE.

I had expected the man.  The cry "Mulato-mico," and afterwards his
voice--still well remembered--had warned me of his coming.  I expected
to gaze upon him with dread; strange it may seem, but such was not the
case.  On the contrary, I beheld him, with a feeling akin to joy.  Joy
at the sight of _those three blade plumes_ that nodded above his
scowling temples.

For a moment I marked not his angry frowns, nor the wicked triumph that
sparkled in his eye.  The ostrich feathers were alone the objects of my
regard--the cynosure of my thoughts.  Their presence upon the crest of
the "mulatto king" elucidated a world of mystery--foul suspicion was
plucked from out my bosom--the preserver of my life--the hero of my
heart's admiration was still true--Osceola was true!

In the momentary exultation of this thought, I almost forgot the gloom
of my situation; but soon the voice of the mulatto once more roused me
to a consciousness of its peril.

"_Carajo_!" cried he, in a tone of malignant triumph.  "_Al fin
venganza_!  (At last vengeance!)--Both, too, white and black--master and
slave--my young tyrant and my rival! ha! ha! ha!

"Me tie to tree," continued he, after a burst of hoarse laughter.  "Me
burn, eh? burn 'live?  Your turn come now--trees plenty here; but no, me
teach you better plan.  _Corrambo, si_! far better plan.  Tie to tree,
captive sometime 'scape, ha! ha! ha!  Before burn, me show you sight.
Ho, there!" he shouted, motioning to some of the bystanders to come
near.  "Untie hands--raise 'em up--both faces turn to camp--_basta_!
_basta_! that do.  Now white rascal--Black rascal look!--what see
yonder?"

As he issued these orders, several of his creatures pulled up the stakes
that had picketed down our arms, and raised us into a sitting posture,
our bodies slewed round, till our faces bore full upon the camp.  It was
broad daylight--the sun shining brightly in the heavens.  Under such a
light every object in the camp was distinctly visible--the tents--the
horses--the motley crowd of human occupants.  We regarded not these.  On
two forms alone our eyes rested--they were my sister and Viola.

They were close together, as I had seen them once before--Viola seated
with her head drooping, while that of Virginia rested in her lap.  The
hair of both was hanging in dishevelled masses--the black tresses of the
maid mingling with the golden locks of her mistress.  They were
surrounded by guards, and appeared unconscious of our presence.  But one
was dispatched to warn them.

As the messenger reached them, we saw them both start, and look
inquiringly abroad.  In another instant their eyes were upon us.  A
thrilling scream announced that we were recognised.  They cried out
together.  I heard my sister's voice pronouncing my name.  I called to
her in return.  I saw her spring to her feet, toss her arms wildly above
her head, and attempt to rush towards me.  I saw the guards taking hold
of her, and rudely dragging her back.  Oh, it was a painful sight! death
itself could not have been so hard to endure.  But we were allowed to
look upon them no longer.  Suddenly jerked upon our backs, our wrists
were once more staked down, and we lay in our former recumbent
attitudes.

Painful as were our reflections, we were not allowed to indulge in them
alone.  The monster continued to stand over us, taunting us with
spiteful words, and, worse than all, gross allusions to my sister and
Viola.  Oh, it was horrible to bear!  Molten lead poured into our ears
could scarce have tortured us more.

It was almost a relief when he desisted from speech, and we saw him
commence making preparations for our torture.  We knew that the hour was
nigh; for he had himself said so, as he issued the orders to his
fellows.  Some horrible mode of death had been promised, but what it was
we were yet in ignorance.

Not long did we remain so.  Several men were seen approaching the spot,
with spades and pickaxes in their hands.  They were negroes--old
field-hands--and knew how to use such implements.

They stopped near us, and commenced digging the ground.  O God! were we
to be buried alive?

This was the conjecture that first suggested itself.  If true, it was
terrible enough; but it was not true.  We were designed to undergo a
still more horrible fate!

Silently, and with the solemn air of grave-diggers, the men worked on.
The mulatto stood over directing them.  He was in high glee,
occasionally calling to us in mockery, and boasting how skillfully he
should perform the office of executioner.

The women and savage warriors clustered around, laughing at his sallies,
or contributing their quota of grotesque wit, at which they uttered
yells of demoniac laughter.  We might easily have fancied ourselves in
the infernal regions, in the middle of a crowd of jibbering fiends, who
stood grinning down upon us, as if they drew delight from our anguish.

We noticed that few of the men were Seminoles.  Indians there were; but
these were of dark complexion, nearly black.  They were of the tribe of
Yamassees--a race conquered by the Seminoles, and partially engrafted
into their nation.  But most of those we saw were black negroes,
samboes, and mulattoes, descendants of Spanish maroons, or "runaways"
from the American plantations.  There were many of the latter; for I
could hear English spoken among them.  No doubt there were some of my
own slaves mixing with the motley crew, though none of them came near,
and I could only note the faces of those who stood over me.

In about half an hour the diggers had finished their work.  Our stakes
were drawn, and we were dragged forwards to the spot where they had been
engaged.

As soon as I was raised up, I bent my eyes upon the camp; but my sister
was no longer there.  Viola, too, was gone.  They had been taken either
inside the tents or back among the bushes.

I was glad they were not there: they would be spared this pang of a
horrid spectacle; though it was not likely that from any such motive the
monster had removed them.

Two dark holes yawned before us, deeply dug into the earth.  They were
not graves; or if so, it was not intended our bodies should be placed
vertically in them.

If their shape was peculiar, so too was the purpose for which they were
made.

We were soon to become acquainted with it.

We were conduced to the edge of the cavities, seized by the shoulders,
and each of us plunged into the one that was nearest.  They proved just
deep enough to bring our throats on a level with the surface, while
standing erect.  The loose earth was then shovelled in, and kneaded
firmly around us.  More was added, until our shoulders were covered up,
and only our heads appeared above ground.

The position was ludicrous enough; and we might have laughed ourselves,
but that we were standing in our graves.  From the fiendish spectators
it drew yells of laughter.  What next?  Was this to be the end of their
proceedings?  Were we to be thus left to perish, miserably, and by
inches?  Hunger and thirst would in time terminate our existence; but,
oh, the long hours of anguish that must be endured!  Whole days of
misery we must suffer before the spark of life should forsake us--whole
days of horror and--Ha! they had not yet done with us!

No: a death like that we had been fancying appeared too easy to the
monster who directed them.  The resources of his hatred were far from
being exhausted: he had still other, and far keener, torture in store
for us.

"Carajo! good!" cried he, as he stood admiring his contrivance; "better
than tie to tree--good fix, eh!  No fear 'scape--_Carrai_, no.  _Bring
fire_!"

Bring fire!  It was to be fire, then, the extreme instrument of torture.
We heard the word--that word of fearful sound.  We were to die by fire!

Our terror had arrived at its height.  It rose no higher when we saw
fagots carried up to the spot, and built in a ring around our heads.  It
rose no higher when we saw the torch applied, and the dry wood catching
the flame.  It rose no higher as the blaze grew red, and redder, and we
felt its angry glow upon our skulls, soon to be calcined like the sticks
themselves.

No; we could suffer no more.  Our agony had reached the acme of
endurance, and we longed for death to relieve us.  If another pang had
been possible, there was cause for it in those screams now proceeding
from the opposite edge of the camp.  Even in that dread hour, we could
recognise the voices of my sister and Viola.  The unmerciful monster had
brought them out again to witness the execution.  We saw them not; but
their wild plaints proved that they were spectators of the horrid scene.

Hotter and hotter grew the fire, and nearer licked the flames.  I heard
my hair crisping and singing at the fiery contact.

Objects swam dizzily before my eyes.  The trees tottered and reeled, the
earth whirled round.  My skull ached as if it would soon split; my brain
was drying up; my senses were fast forsaking me.



CHAPTER NINETY THREE.

DEVILS OR ANGELS.

Was I enduring the tortures of the future world?  Were these its fiends
that grinned and jibbered around me?  See! they scatter and fall back!
Some one approaches who can command them.  Pluto himself?  No; it is a
woman--a woman here?--is it Proserpine?  If a woman, surely _she_ will
have mercy upon me!  Vain hope!  There is no mercy in hell.  Oh, my
brain!  Horror! horror!

There _are_ women--these are women--they look not fiends!  No, they are
angels!  Would they were angels of mercy!

But they are.  See! one interferes with the fire.  With her foot she
dashes it back, scattering the fagots in furious haste.  Who is she?  If
I were alive, I would call her Haj-Ewa; but dead, it must be her spirit
below.

But there is another.  Ha! another, younger and fairer.  If they be
angels, this must be the loveliest in heaven.  It is the spirit of
Maumee!

How comes she in this horrid place among fiends?  It is not the abode
for her.  She was guilty of do crime that should send her here.

Where am I?  Have I been dreaming?  I was on fire just now--only my
brain it was that was burning; my body was cold enough--where am I?

Who are you, that stand over me, pouring coolness upon my head?  Are you
not Haj-Ewa, the mad queen?

Whose soft fingers are those I feel playing upon my temples?  Oh--the
exquisite pleasure imparted by their touch!  Bend down, that I may look
upon your face, and thank you--"Maumee!  Maumee!"

Then I am not dead.  I live.  I am saved!

It was Haj-Ewa, and not her spirit.  It was Maumee herself--whose
beautiful, brilliant eyes were looking into mine.  No wonder I had
believed it to be an angel.

"Carajo!" sounded a voice, that appeared hoarse with rage.  "Remove
those women!--pile back the fires.  Away, mad queen!--go back to your
tribe! these my captives--your chief no claim--_Carrambo_!--you not
interfere; pile back the fires!"

"Yamassees!" cried Haj-Ewa, advancing towards the Indians; "Obey him
not! or dread the wrath of Wykome!  His spirit will be angry, and follow
you in vengeance.  Wherever you go the _chitta mico_ will be on your
path, and its rattle in your ears.  _Hulwak_!  It will bite your heel as
you wander in the woods.  Speak I not truth, thou king of the Serpents?"

As she uttered the interrogatory, she raised the rattlesnake in her
hands, holding it so that it might be distinctly seen by those whom she
addressed.  The reptile hissed, accompanying the sibilation with a sharp
"skirr" of its tail.  Who could doubt that it was an answer in the
affirmative?

Not the Yamassees, who stood awe-bound and trembling in the presence of
the mighty sorceress.

"And you, black runaways and renegades," she continued to the negro
allies--"you who have no god, and fear not Wykome--dare to rebuild the
fires--dare to lift one fagot--and you shall take the place of your
captives.  A greater than yon yellow monster, your chief, will soon be
on the ground.  _Hinklas_!  Ho! yonder the Rising Sun! he comes--he
comes!"

As she ceased speaking, the hoof-strokes of a horse echoed through the
glade, and a hundred voices simultaneously raised the shout: "Osceola!
Osceola!"  That cry was grateful to my ears.  Though already rescued, I
had begun to fear it might prove only a short relief.  Our delivery from
death was still far from certain--our advocates were but weak women.
The mulatto king, in the midst of his fierce satellites, would scarce
have yielded to their demands.  Alike disregarded would have been their
entreaties.  The fire would have been re-kindled, and the execution
carried out to its end.

In all probability this would have been the event, had not Osceola in
good time arrived upon the ground.

His appearance, and the sound of his voice, at once reassured me.  Under
his protection we had nothing more to fear, and a soft voice whispered
in my ear that he came as our _deliverer_.

His errand was soon made manifest.  Drawing bridle, he halted near the
middle of the camp, directly in front of us.  I saw him dismount from
his fine black horse--like himself, splendidly caparisoned--and handing
the reins to a bystander, he came walking towards us.  His port was
superb--his costume brilliantly picturesque; and once more, I beheld
those three ostrich-plumes--the real ones; that had played such a part
in my suspicious fancy.

When near the spot, he stopped, and gazed inquiringly towards us.  He
might have smiled at our absurd situation, but his countenance betrayed
no signs of levity.  On the contrary, it was serious and sympathetic.  I
fancied it was sad.

For some moments he stood in a fixed attitude, without saying a word.
His eyes wandered from one to the other--my fellow-victim and myself; as
if endeavouring to distinguish us.  No easy task.  Smoke, sweat and
ashes, must have rendered us extremely alike, and both difficult of
identification.

At this moment, Maumee glided up to him, whispered a word in his ear,
and returning again, knelt over me, and chafed my temples with her soft
hands.

With the exception of the young chief himself, no one heard what his
sister had said; but upon _him_ her words appeared to produce an
instantaneous effect.  A change passed over his countenance.  The look
of sadness gave place to one of furious wrath; and turning suddenly to
the yellow king, he hissed out the word "Fiend!"

For some seconds he spoke no more, but stood gazing upon the mulatto, as
though he would annihilate him by his look.  The latter quailed under
the conquering glance, and trembled like a leaf, but made no answer.

"Fiend and villain!" continued Osceola, without changing either tone or
attitude.  "Is this the way you have carried out my orders?  Are these
the captives I commanded you to take?  Vile runaway of a slave! who
authorised you to inflict the fiery torture?  Who taught you?  Not the
Seminoles, whose name you have adopted and disgraced.  By the spirit of
Wykome! but that I have sworn never to torture a foe, I should place you
where these now stand, and burn your body to ashes!  From my sight--
begone!  No--stay where you are.  On second thoughts, I may need you."
And with this odd ending to his speech, the young chief turned upon his
heel, and came walking towards us.

The mulatto did not vouchsafe a reply, though his looks were full of
vengeance.  Once, during the flagellation, I thought I noticed him turn
his eyes towards his ferocious followers, as if to invoke their
interference.

But these knew that Osceola was not alone.  As he came up, the trampling
of a large troop had been heard, and it was evident that his warriors
were in the woods not far distant.  A single _yo-ho-ehee_, in the
well-known voice of their chief, would bring them upon the ground before
its echoes had died.

The yellow king seemed himself to be aware of their proximity.  Hence it
was that he replied not.  A word at that minute might have proved his
last; and with a sulky frown upon his face, he remained silent.

"Release them!" said Osceola, addressing the _ci-devant_ diggers; "and
be careful how you handle your spades."

"Randolph!" he continued, bending over me; "I fear I have scarce been in
time.  I was for off when I heard of this, and have ridden hard.  You
have been wounded--are you ill hurt?"

I attempted to express my gratitude, and assure him I was not much
injured; but my voice was so freak and hoarse as to be hardly
intelligible.  It grew stronger, however, as those fair fingers
administered the refreshing draught, and we were soon conversing freely.

Both of us were quickly "unearthed," and with free limbs stood once more
upon the open ground.  My first thoughts were to rush towards my sister,
when, to my surprise, I was restrained by the chief.

"Patience," said he; "not yet, not yet--Maumee will go and assure her of
your safety.  See! she knows it already!  Go, Maumee!  Tell Miss
Randolph, her brother is safe! and will come presently.  But she must
remain where she is, only for a little while.  Go, sister, and cheer
her."

Turning to me, he added in a whisper; "She has been placed there for a
purpose--you shall see.  Come with me--I shall show you a spectacle that
may astonish you--there is not a moment to be lost; I hear the signal
from my spies.  A minute more, and we are too late--come! come!"

Without opposing a word, I hastened after the chief, who walked rapidly
towards the nearest edge of the woods.

He entered the timber, but went no farther.  When fairly under cover of
the thick foliage, he stopped, turned round, and stood facing towards
the camp.

Obedient to a sign, I imitated his example.



CHAPTER NINETY FOUR.

THE END OF ARENS RINGGOLD.

I had not the slightest idea of the chief's intention, or what was the
nature of the spectacle I had been promised.  Somewhat impatient, I
questioned him.

"A new way of winning a mistress," said he, with a smile.

"But who is the lover?--who to be the mistress?"  I inquired.

"Patience, Randolph, and you shall see.  Oh! it is a rare experiment--a
most cunning plot, and would be laughable were it not for the tragedy
mixed up with it.  You shall see.  But for a faithful friend, I should
not have known of it, and would not have been here to witness it.  For
my presence and your life, as it now appears--more still, perhaps, the
safety of your sister--you are indebted to Haj-Ewa."

"Noble woman!"

"Hist! they are near--I hear the tread of hoofs.  One--two--three.  It
must be they--yes--yonder.  See!"

I looked in the direction pointed out, a small party of horsemen--half a
dozen in all--was seen emerging from the timber, and riding with a brush
into the open ground.  As soon as they were fairly uncovered, they
spurred their horses to a gallop, and with loud yells dashed rapidly
into the midst of the camp.  On reaching this point they fired their
pieces--apparently into the air--and then continuing their shouts, rode
on.

I saw that they were _white_ men, and this surprised me, but what
astonished me still more, was that I _knew_ them.  At least I knew their
faces, and recognised the men as some of the most worthless scamps of
our own settlement.

A third surprise awaited me, on looking more narrowly at their leader.
Him I knew well.  Again it was Arens Ringgold.

I had not time to recover from the third surprise, when still a fourth
was before me.  The men of the camp--both negroes and Yamassees--
appeared terrified at this puny attack, and scattering off, hid
themselves in the bushes.  They yelled loudly enough, and some fired
their guns as they retreated; but, like the attacking party, their shots
appeared directed into the air!  Mystery of mysteries! what could it
mean?

I was about to inquire once more, when I observed that my companion was
occupied with his own affairs, and did not desire to be disturbed.  I
saw that he was looking to his rifle, as if examining the sights.

Glancing back into the glade, I saw that Ringgold had advanced close to
where my sister was seated, and was just halting in front of the group.
I heard him address her by name, and pronounce some phrase of
congratulation.  He appeared about to dismount with the design of
approaching her on foot, while his men, still upon horseback, were
galloping through the camp, huzzaing fiercely and firing pistols through
the air.

"His hour is come," muttered Osceola, as he glided past me; "a fate
deserved and long delayed--it is come at last," and with these words, he
stepped forth into the open ground.

I saw him raise his piece to the level, its muzzle pointed towards
Ringgold, and the instant after, the report rang over the camp.

The shrill "_Car-ha-queene_" pealed from his lips, as the planter's
horse sprang forwards with an empty saddle, and the rider himself was
seen struggling upon the grass.

The others uttered a terrific cry, and with fear and astonishment
depicted in their looks, galloped back into the bushes--without waiting
to exchange a word with their wounded leader, or a shot with the man who
had wounded him.

"My aim has not been true," said Osceola, with singular coolness; "he
still lives.  I have received much wrong from him and his--ay, very much
wrong--or I might spare his wretched life.  But no--my vow must be
kept--he must die!"

As he said this he, rushed after Ringgold, who had regained his feet,
and was making towards the bushes, as with a hope of escape.

A wild scream came from the terrified wretch, as he saw the avenger at
his heels.  It was the last time his voice was heard.

In a few bounds Osceola was by his side--the long blade glittered for an
instant in the air--and the downward blow was given, so rapidly, that
the stroke could scarce be perceived.

The blow was instantaneously fatal.  The knees of the wounded man
suddenly bent beneath him, and he sank lifeless on the spot where he had
been struck--his body after death remaining doubled up as it had fallen.

"The fourth and last of my enemies," said Osceola, as he returned to
where I stood; "the last of those who deserved my vengeance, and against
whom I had vowed it."

"Scott?"  I inquired.

"He was the third--he was killed yesterday, and by this hand.  Hitherto
I have fought for revenge--I have had it--I have slain many of your
people--I have had full satisfaction, and henceforth--"

The speaker made a long pause.

"Henceforth?"  I mechanically inquired.

"I care but little how soon they kill me."

As Osceola uttered these strange words, he sank down upon a prostrate
trunk, covering his face with his hands.  I saw that he did not expect a
reply.

There was a sadness in his tone, as though some deep sorrow lay upon his
heart, that could neither be controlled nor comforted.  I had noticed it
before; and thinking he would rather be left to himself, I walked
silently away.

A few moments after I held my dear sister in my arms, while Jake was
comforting Viola in his black embraces.

His old rival was no longer near.  During the sham attack he had
imitated his followers, and disappeared from the field; but though most
of the latter soon returned, the yellow king, when sought for, was not
to be found in the camp.  His absence roused the suspicions of Osceola,
who was now once more in action.  By a signal his warriors were
summoned; and came galloping up.  Several were instantly dispatched in
search of the missing chief, but after a while these came back without
having found any traces of him.  One only seemed to have discovered a
clue to his disappearance.  The followers of Ringgold consisted of only
five men.

The Indian had gone for some distance on the path by which they had
retreated.  Instead of five, there were six sets of horse tracks upon
the trail.

The report appeared to produce an unpleasant impression upon the mind of
Osceola.  Fresh scouts were sent forth, with orders to bring back the
mulatto, _living_ or _dead_.

The stern command proved that there were strong doubts about the fealty
of the Yellow Chief, and the warriors of Osceola appeared to share the
suspicions of their leader.

The patriot party had suffered from defections of late.  Some of the
smaller clans, wearied of fighting, and wasted by a long season of
famine, had followed the example of the tribe Omatla, and delivered
themselves up at the forts.  Though in the battles hitherto fought, the
Indians had generally been successful, they knew that their white foemen
far outnumbered them, and that in the end the latter must triumph.  The
spirit of revenge, for wrongs long endured, had stimulated them at the
first; but they had obtained full measure of vengeance, and were
content.  Love of country--attachment to their old homes--mere
patriotism was now balanced against the dread of almost complete
annihilation.  The latter weighed heaviest in the scale.

The war spirit was no longer in the ascendant.  Perhaps at this time had
overtures of peace been made, the Indians would have laid down their
arms, and consented to the removal.  Even Osceola could scarce have
prevented their acceptance of the conditions, and it was doubted whether
he would have made the attempt.

Gifted with genius, with full knowledge of the strength and character of
his enemies, he must have foreseen the disasters that were yet to befall
his followers and his nation.  It could not be otherwise.

Was it a gloomy forecast of the future that imparted to him that
melancholy air, now observable both in his words and acts?  Was it this,
or was there a still deeper sorrow--the anguish of a hopeless passion--
the drear heart-longing for a love he might never obtain?

To me it was a moment of strong emotions, as the young chief approached
the spot where my sister was seated.  Even then was I the victim of
unhappy suspicions, and with eager scrutiny I scanned the countenances
of both.

Surely I was wrong.  On neither could I detect a trace of aught that
should give me uneasiness.  The bearing of the chief was simply gallant
and respectful.  The looks of my sister were but the expressions of a
fervent gratitude.  Osceola spoke first.

"I have to ask your forgiveness, Miss Randolph, for the scene you have
been forced to witness; but I could not permit this man to escape.
Lady, he was your greatest enemy, as he has been ours.  Through the
cooperation of the mulatto, he had planned this ingenious deception,
with the design of inducing you to become his wife; but failing in this,
the mask would have been thrown off, and you--I need not give words to
his fool intent.  It is fortunate I arrived in time."

"Brave chief!" exclaimed Virginia--"twice have you preserved the lives
of my brother and myself--more than our lives.  We have neither words
nor power to thank you.  I can offer only this poor token to prove my
gratitude."

As she said this, she advanced towards the chief, and handed him a
folded parchment, which she had drawn from her bosom.

Osceola at once recognised the document.  It was the title deeds of his
patrimonial estate.

"Thanks, thanks!" he replied, while a sad smile played over his
features.  "It is, indeed, an act of disinterested friendship.  Alas! it
has come too late.  She who so much desired to possess this precious
paper, who so much longed to return to that once loved home, is no more.
My mother is dead.  On yesternight her spirit passed away."

It was news even to Maumee, who, bursting into a wild paroxysm of grief,
fell upon the neck of my sister.  Their arms became entwined, and both
wept--their tears mingling as they fell.

There was silence, broken only by the sobbing of the two girls and at
intervals the voice of Virginia murmuring words of consolation.  Osceola
himself appeared too much affected to speak.

After a while, the chief aroused himself from his sorrowing attitude.

"Come, Randolph!" said he--"we must not dwell on the past, while such a
doubtful future is before us.  You must go back to your home and rebuild
it.  You have lost only a house.  Your rich lands still remain, and your
negroes will be restored to you.  I have given orders; they are already
on the way.  This is no place for her," and he nodded towards Virginia.
"You need not stay your departure another moment.  Horses are ready for
you; I myself will conduct you to the borders, and beyond that _you have
no longer an enemy to fear_."

As he pronounced the last words, he looked significantly towards the
body of the planter, still lying near the edge of the woods.  I
understood his meaning, but made no reply.

"And she," I said--"the forest is a rude home, especially in such
times--may _she go_ with us?"

My words had reference to Maumee.  The chief grasped my hand and held it
with earnest pressure.  With joy I beheld gratitude sparkling in his
eye.

"Thanks!" he exclaimed, "thanks for that friendly offer.  It was the
very favour I would have asked.  You speak true; the trees must shelter
her no more.  Randolph, I can trust you with her life--with her honour.
Take her to your home!"



CHAPTER NINETY FIVE.

THE DEATH WARNING.

The sun was going down as we took our departure from the Indian camp.
For myself, I had not the slightest idea of the direction in which we
were to travel, but with such a guide there was no danger of losing the
way.

We were far from the settlements of the Suwanee--a long day's journey--
and we did not expect to reach home before another sun should set.  That
night there would be moonlight, if the clouds did not hinder it; and it
was our intention to travel throughout the early part of the night, and
then encamp.  By this means the journey of to-morrow would be shortened.

To our guide the country was well-known, and every road that led through
it.

For a long distance the route conducted through open woods, and we could
all ride abreast; but the path grew narrower, and we were compelled to
go by twos or in single file.

Habitually the young chief and I kept in the advance--our sisters riding
close behind us.  Behind them came Jake and Viola, and in the rear half
a dozen Indian horsemen--the guard of Osceola.  I wondered he had not
brought with him more of his followers, and even expressed my surprise.

He made light of the danger.

The soldiers, he said, knew better than to be out after night, and for
that part of the country through which we would travel by daylight, no
troops ever strayed into it.  Besides, there had been no scouting of
late--the weather was too hot for the work.  If we met any party they
would be of his own people.  From them, of course, we had nothing to
fear.  Since the war began he had often travelled most of the same route
alone.  He appeared satisfied there was no danger.

For my part, I was not satisfied.  I knew that the path we were
following would pass within a few miles of Fort King.  I remembered the
escape of Ringgold's crew.  They were likely enough to have ridden
straight to the fort, and communicated an account of the planter's
death, garnished by a tale of their own brave attack upon the Indian
camp.  Among the authorities, Ringgold was no common man; a party might
be organised to proceed to the camp.  We were on the very road to meet
them.

Another circumstance I thought of--the mysterious disappearance of the
mulatto, as was supposed, in company with these men.  It was enough to
create suspicion.  I mentioned my suspicion to the chief:

"No fear," said he, in reply, "my trackers will be after them--they will
bring me word in time--but no," he added, hesitatingly, and for a moment
appearing thoughtful; "they may not get up with them before the night
falls, and then--you speak true, Randolph--I have acted imprudently.  I
should not care for these foolish fellows--but the mulatto--that is
different--he knows all the paths, and if it should be that he is
turning traitor--if it--Well! we are astart now, and we must go on.
_You_ have nothing to fear--and as for me--Osceola never yet turned his
back upon danger, and will not now.  Nay, will you believe me, Randolph,
I rather seek it than otherwise?"

"Seek danger?"

"Ay--death--death!"

"Speak low--do not let _them_ hear you talk thus."

"Ah! yes," he added, lowering his tone, and speaking in a half
soliloquy, "in truth, I long for its coming."

The words were spoken with a serious emphasis that left no room to doubt
of their earnestness.

Some deep melancholy had settled upon his spirit and preyed upon it
continually.  What could be its cause?

I could remain silent no longer.  Friendship, not curiosity, incited me.
I put the inquiry.

"_You_ have observed it, then?  But not since we set out--not since you
made that friendly offer?  Ah!  Randolph, you have rendered me happy.
It was she alone that made the prospect of death so gloomy."

"Why speak you of death?"

"Because it is near."

"Not to you?"

"Yes--to me.  The presentiment is upon me that I have not long to live."

"Nonsense, Powell."

"Friend, it is true--I have had my death warning."

"Come, Osceola!  This is unlike--unworthy of you.  Surely you are above
such vulgar fancies.  I will not believe you can entertain them."

"Think you I speak of supernatural signs?  Of the screech of the
war-bird, or the hooting of the midnight owl?  Of omens in the air, the
earth, or the water?  No--no.  I _am_ above such shallow superstitions.
For all that, I know I must soon die.  It was wrong of me to call my
death warning a presentiment--it is a physical fact that announces my
approaching end--it is _here_."

As he said this, he raised his hand, pointing with his fingers as if to
indicate the chest.

I understood his melancholy meaning.

"I would rather," he continued, after a pause, "rather it had been my
fate to fall upon the field of battle.  True, death is not alluring in
any shape, but that appears to me most preferable.  I would choose it
rather than linger on.  Nay, I have chosen it.  Ten times have I thus
challenged death--gone half-way to meet it; but like a coward, or a coy
bride, it refuses to meet _me_."

There was something almost unearthly in the laugh that accompanied these
last words--a strange simile--a strange man!

I could scarce make an effort to cheer him.  In fact, he needed no
cheering: he seemed happier than before.  Had it not been so, my poor
speech, assuring him of his robust looks, would have been words thrown
away.  He knew they were but the false utterances of friendship.

I even suspected it myself.  I had already noticed the pallid skin--the
attenuated fingers--the glazed and sunken eye.  This, then, was the
canker that was prostrating that noble spirit--the cause of his deep
melancholy.  I had assigned to it one far different.

The future of his sister had been the heaviest load upon his heart.  He
told me so as we moved onward.

I need not repeat the promises I then made to him.  It was not necessary
they should be vows: my own happiness would hinder me from breaking
them.



CHAPTER NINETY SIX.

OSCEOLA'S FATE--CONCLUSION.

We were seated near the edge of the little opening where we had
encamped, a pretty parterre, fragrant with the perfume of a thousand
flowers.  The moon was shedding down a flood of silvery light, and
objects around appeared almost as distinct as by day.  The leaves of the
tall palms--the waxen flowers of the magnolias--the yellow blossoms of
the zanthoxylon trees could all be distinguished in the clear moonbeams.

The four of us were seated together, brothers and sisters, conversing
freely, as in the olden times, and the scene vividly recalled those
times to all of us.  But the memory now produced only sad reflections,
as it suggested thoughts of the future.  Perhaps we four should never
thus meet again.  Gazing upon the doomed form before me, I had no heart
for reminiscences of joy.

We had passed Fort King in safety--had encountered no white face--
strange I should fear to meet men of my own race--and no longer had we
any apprehension of danger, either from ambush or open attack.

The Indian guards, with black Jake in their midst, were near the centre
of the glade, grouped by a fire, and cooking their suppers.  So secure
did the chieftain feel that he had not even placed a sentinel on the
path.  He appeared indifferent to danger.

The night was waning late, and we were about retiring to the tents,
which the men had pitched for us, when a singular noise reach us from
the woods.  To my ears it sounded like the surging of water--as of heavy
rain, or the sough of distant rapids.

Osceola interpreted it otherwise.  It was the continuous "whistling" of
leaves, caused by numerous bodies passing through the bushes, either of
men, or animals.

We instantly rose to our feet, and stood listening.

The noise continued, but now we could hear the snapping of dead
branches, and the metallic clink of weapons.

It was too late to retreat.  The noise came from every ride.  A circle
of armed men were closing around the glade.

I looked towards Osceola.  I expected to see him rush to his rifle that
lay near.  To my surprise he did not stir.

His few followers were already on the alert, and had hastened to his
side to receive his orders.  Their words and gestures declared their
determination to die in his defence.

In reply to their hurried speeches, the chieftain made a sign that
appeared to astonish them.  The butts of their guns suddenly dropped to
the ground, and the warriors stood in listless attitudes, as if they had
given up the intention of using them.

"It is too late," said Osceola in a calm voice, "too late! we are
completely surrounded.  Innocent blood might be spilled, and mine is the
only life they are in search of.  Let them come on--they are welcome to
it now.  Farewell, sister!  Randolph, farewell!--farewell, Virg--."

The plaintive screams of Maumee--of Virginia--my own bursting, and no
longer silent grief, drowned the voice that was uttering those wild
adieus.

Clustered around the chief, we knew not what was passing, until the
shouts of men, and the loud words of command proceeding from their
officers, warned us that we were in the midst of a battalion of
soldiers.  On looking up we saw that we were hemmed in by a circle of
men in blue uniform, whose glancing barrels and bayonets formed a
_chevaux de frise_ around us.

As no resistance was offered, not a shot had been fired; and save the
shouting of men, and the ringing of steel, no other sounds were heard.
Shots were fired afterwards, but not to kill.  It was a _feu-de-joie_ to
celebrate the success of this important capture.

The capture was soon complete--Osceola, held by two men, stood in the
midst of his pale-faced foes a prisoner.  His followers were also
secured, and the soldiers fell back into more extended line--the
prisoners still remaining in their midst.

At this moment a mail appeared in front of the ranks, and near to where
the captives were standing.  He was in conversation with the officer who
commanded.  His dress bespoke him an Indian; but his yellow face
contradicted the supposition.  His head was turbaned, and three black
plumes drooped over his brow.  There was no mistaking the man.  The
sight was maddening.  It restored all his fierce energy to the captive
chief; and flinging aside the soldiers, as if they had been tools, he
sprang forth from their grasp, and bounded towards the yellow man.
Fortunate for the latter, Osceola was unarmed.  He had no weapon left
him--neither pistol nor knife--and while wringing a bayonet from the gun
of a soldier, the traitor found time to escape.

The chief uttered a groan as he saw the mulatto pass through the serried
line, and stand secure beyond the reach of his vengeance.

It was but a fancied security on the part of the mulatto.  The death of
the renegade was decreed, though it reached him from an unexpected
quarter.

As he stood outside, bantering the captives, a dark form was seen
gliding up behind him.  The form was that of a woman--a majestic woman--
whose grand beauty was apparent even in the moonlight.  But few saw
either her or her beauty.  The prisoners alone were facing towards her,
and witnessed her approach.

It was a scene of only a few seconds' duration.  The woman stole close
up to the mulatto, and for a moment her arms appeared entwined around
his neck.  There was the sheen of some object that in the moonlight
gleamed like metal.  It was a living weapon--it was the dread
_crotalus_!

Its rattle could be heard distinctly, and close following came a wild
cry of terror, as its victim felt the cold contact of the reptile around
his neck, and its sharp fangs entering his flesh.

The woman was seen suddenly to withdraw the serpent, and holding its
glistening body over her head, she cried out:

"Grieve not, Osceola! thou art avenged!--the chitta mico has avenged
you!"

Saying this, she glided rapidly away, and before the astonished
listeners could intercept her retreat, she had entered among the bushes
and disappeared.

The horror-struck wretch tottered over the ground, pale and terrified,
his eyes almost starting from their sockets.

Men gathered around and endeavoured to administer remedies.  Gunpowder
and tobacco were tried, but no one knew the simples that would cure him.

It proved his death-stroke; and before another sun went down, he had
ceased to live.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

With Osceola's capture the war did not cease--though I bore no further
part in it.  Neither did it end with his death, which followed a few
weeks after--not by court-martial execution, for he was no rebel, and
could claim the privilege of a prisoner of war, but of that disease
which he knew had long doomed him.  Captivity may have hastened the
event.  His proud spirit sank under confinement, and with it the noble
frame that contained it.

Friends and enemies stood around him in his last hour, and listened to
his dying words.  Both alike wept.  In that chamber there was not a
tearless cheek--and many a soldier's eye was moist as he listened to the
muffled dram that made music over the grave of the _noble Osceola_.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

After all, it proved to be the jovial captain who had won the heart of
my capricious sister.  It was long before I discovered their secret--
which let light in upon a maze of mysteries--and I was so spited about
their having concealed it from me, that I almost refused to share the
plantation with them.

When I did so at length, under threat of Virginia--not her solicitor--I
kept what I considered the better half for myself and Maumee.  The old
homestead remained ours, and a new house soon appeared upon it--a
fitting casket for the jewel it was destined to contain.

I had still an out-plantation to spare--the fine old Spanish clearing on
the Tupelo Greek.  I wanted a man to manage it--or rather a "man and
wife of good character without incumbrances."

And for the purpose, who could have been better than black Jake and
Viola, since they completely answered the above conditions?

I had another freehold at my disposal--a very small one.  It was
situated by the edge of the swamp, and consisted of a log cabin, with
the most circumscribed of all "clearings" around it.  But this was
already in possession of a tenant whom, although he paid no rent, I
would not have ejected for the world.  He was an old alligator-hunter of
the name of Hickman.

Another of like "kidney"--Weatherford by name--lived near on an
adjoining plantation; but the two were oftener together than apart.
Both had suffered a good deal of rough handling in their time, from the
claws of "bars," the jaws and tails of alligators, and the tomahawk of
Indians.  When together or among friends, they were delighted to narrate
their hair-breadth escapes, and both were often heard to declare that
the "toughest scrape they ever come clar out o', wor when they wor on a
jury-trial, surrounded by a burnin' forest o' dog-goned broom pines, an'
about ten thousand red Indyuns."

They did come clear out of it, however, and lived long after to tell the
tale with many a fanciful exaggeration.

THE END.





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