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Title: The Prairie-Bird
Author: Murray, Charles Augustus
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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                         TRANSCRIBER’S NOTES:

—Obvious print and punctuation errors were corrected.

—Table of Contents and List of Illustration were not in the original
 work; they have been produced and added by Transcriber.



                                  THE

                             PRAIRIE–BIRD.

[Illustration: MONSIEUR PERROT IS SCALPED P. 276]



                                  THE

                             PRAIRIE–BIRD

                                BY THE

                     HON. CHARLES AUGUSTUS MURRAY.

                _WITH ILLUSTRATIONS BY J. B. ZWECKER._

                                LONDON:

                       GEORGE ROUTLEDGE & SONS,
                        THE BROADWAY, LUDGATE;
                     NEW YORK: 416, BROOME STREET.



PREFACE.


“I hate a Preface!” Such will probably be the reader’s exclamation
on opening this volume. I will, however, pursue the subject a little
further in the form of a dialogue.

_Author._—“I entirely agree in your dislike of a Preface; for a good
book needs none, and a dull book cannot be mended by it.”

_Reader._—“If then you coincide in my opinion, why write a preface?
Judging from appearances, your book is long enough without one!”

_A._—“Do not be too severe; it is precisely because the road which
we propose to travel together is of considerable extent, that I wish
to warn you at the outset of the nature of the scenery, and the
entertainment you are likely to meet with, in order that you may, if
these afford you no attraction, turn aside and seek better amusement
and occupation elsewhere.”

_R._—“That seems plausible enough; yet, how can I be assured that the
result will fulfil your promise? I once travelled in a stage coach,
wherein was suspended, for the benefit of passengers, a coloured print
of the watering–place which was our destination; it represented a
magnificent hotel, with extensive gardens and shrubberies, through
the shady walks of which, gaily attired parties were promenading on
horseback and on foot. When we arrived, I found myself at a large,
square, unsightly inn by the sea–side, where neither flower, shrub,
nor tree was to be seen: and on inquiry, I was informed that the print
represented the hotel as the proprietor _intended it to be_! Suppose I
were to meet with a similar disappointment in my journey with you?”

_A._—“I can at least offer you this comfort; that whereas you could
not have got out of the stage half–way on the road without much
inconvenience, you can easily lay down the book whenever you find it
becoming tedious: if you seek for amusement only, you probably will
be disappointed, because one of my chief aims has been to afford you
correct information respecting the habits, condition, and character of
the North American Indians and those bordering on their territory. I
have introduced also several incidents founded on actual occurrences;
and some of them, as well as of the characters, are sketched from
personal observation.”

_R._—“Indeed! you are then the individual who resided with the
Pawnees, and published, a few years since, your Travels in North
America. I suppose we may expect in these volumes a sort of
_pot–pourri_, composed of all the notes, anecdotes, and observations
which you could not conveniently squeeze into your former book?”

_A._ (_looking rather foolish._)—“Although the terms in which you have
worded your conjecture are not the most flattering, I own that it is
not altogether without foundation; nevertheless, Gentle Reader——“

_R._—“Spare your epithets of endearment, or at least reserve them
until I have satisfied myself that I can reply in a similar strain.”

_A._—“Nay, it is too churlish to censure a harmless courtesy that has
been adopted even by the greatest dramatists and novelists from the
time of Shakspeare to the present day.”

_R._—“It may be so; permit me, however, to request, in the words of
one of those dramatists to whom you refer, that you will be so obliging
as to

                  ‘Forbear the prologue,
  And let me know the substance of thy tale!’”

  _The Orphan._



CONTENTS

  FIRST VOLUME

  CHAPTER                                                           PAGE

       I. IN WHICH THE READER WILL FIND A SKETCH OF A VILLAGE IN
          THE WEST, AND WILL BE INTRODUCED TO SOME OF THE DRAMATIS
          PERSONÆ.                                                     1

      II. CONTAINING AN ACCOUNT OF THE MARRIAGE OF COLONEL
          BRANDON, AND ITS CONSEQUENCES.                               8

     III. CONTAINING SOME FURTHER ACCOUNT OF COLONEL AND MRS.
          BRANDON, AND OF THE EDUCATION OF THEIR SON REGINALD.        15

      IV. CONTAINING SUNDRY ADVENTURES OF REGINALD BRANDON AND
          HIS FRIEND ETHELSTON ON THE CONTINENT; ALSO SOME FURTHER
          PROCEEDINGS AT SQUIRE SHIRLEY’S; AND THE RETURN OF
          REGINALD BRANDON TO HIS HOME.—IN THIS CHAPTER THE
          SPORTING READER WILL FIND AN EXAMPLE OF AN UNMADE RIDER
          ON A MADE HUNTER.                                           20

       V. AN ADVENTURE IN THE WOODS.—REGINALD BRANDON MAKES THE
          ACQUAINTANCE OF AN INDIAN CHIEF.                            31

      VI. REGINALD AND BAPTISTE PAY A VISIT TO WAR–EAGLE.—AN
          ATTEMPT AT TREACHERY MEETS WITH SUMMARY PUNISHMENT.         39

     VII. CONTAINING SOME PARTICULARS OF THE HISTORY OF THE TWO
          DELAWARES AND OF BAPTISTE. THE LATTER RETURNS WITH
          REGINALD TO MOOSHANNE, THE RESIDENCE OF COLONEL BRANDON.    50

    VIII. CONTAINING A SKETCH OF MOOSHANNE.—REGINALD INTRODUCES
          HIS SISTER TO THE TWO DELAWARES.                            59

      IX. HOW REGINALD BRANDON RETURNED TO MOOSHANNE WITH HIS
          SISTER, ACCOMPANIED BY WINGENUND; AND WHAT BEFELL THEM
          ON THE ROAD.                                                71

       X. IN WHICH THE READER IS UNCEREMONIOUSLY TRANSPORTED TO
          ANOTHER ELEMENT IN COMPANY WITH ETHELSTON; THE LATTER
          IS LEFT IN A DISAGREEABLE PREDICAMENT.                      79

      XI. ETHELSTON’S FURTHER ADVENTURES AT SEA, AND HOW HE BECAME
          CAPTOR AND CAPTIVE IN A VERY SHORT SPACE OF TIME.           87

     XII. VISIT OF WINGENUND TO MOOSHANNE.—HE REJOINS WAR–EAGLE,
          AND THEY RETURN TO THEIR BAND IN THE FAR WEST.—M.
          PERROT MAKES AN UNSUCCESSFUL ATTACK ON THE HEART OF A
          YOUNG LADY.                                                 97

    XIII. IN WHICH THE READER WILL FIND THAT THE COUCH OF AN
          INVALID HAS PERILS NOT LESS FORMIDABLE THAN THOSE WHICH
          ARE TO BE ENCOUNTERED AT SEA.                              107

     XIV. NARRATING THE TRIALS AND DANGERS THAT BESET ETHELSTON;
          AND HOW HE ESCAPED FROM THEM, AND FROM THE ISLAND OF
          GUADALOUPE.                                                117

      XV. WHAT TOOK PLACE AT MOOSHANNE DURING THE STAY OF ETHELSTON
          IN GUADALOUPE.—DEPARTURE OF REGINALD FOR THE FAR–WEST.     128

     XVI. THE ESCAPE OF ETHELSTON FROM GUADALOUPE, AND THE
          CONSEQUENCES WHICH ENSUED FROM THAT EXPEDITION.            136

    XVII. EXCURSION ON THE PRAIRIE.—THE PARTY FALL IN WITH A
          VETERAN HUNTER.                                            148

   XVIII. REGINALD AND HIS PARTY REACH THE INDIAN ENCAMPMENT.        156

  SECOND VOLUME

       I. REGINALD AND HIS PARTY AT THE INDIAN ENCAMPMENT.           165

      II. REGINALD HOLDS A CONVERSATION WITH THE MISSIONARY.         173

     III. AN ARRIVAL AT MOOSHANNE.—A CALM ASHORE AFTER A STORM
          AT SEA.                                                    181

      IV. AN ELK–HUNT.—REGINALD MAKES HIS FIRST ESSAY IN
          SURGERY.—THE READER IS ADMITTED INTO PRAIRIE–BIRD’S TENT.  193

       V. SYMPTOMS OF A RUPTURE BETWEEN THE DELAWARES AND
          OSAGES.—MAHÉGA COMES FORWARD IN THE CHARACTER OF A
          LOVER.—HIS COURTSHIP RECEIVES AN UNEXPECTED INTERRUPTION.  212

      VI. ETHELSTON PREPARES TO LEAVE MOOSHANNE.—MAHÉGA APPEARS AS
          AN ORATOR, IN WHICH CHARACTER HE SUCCEEDS BETTER THAN IN
          THAT OF A LOVER.—A STORM SUCCEEDED BY A CALM.              222

     VII. IN WHICH THE READER WILL FIND A MORAL DISQUISITION
          SOMEWHAT TEDIOUS, A TRUE STORY SOMEWHAT INCREDIBLE, A
          CONFERENCE THAT ENDS IN PEACE, AND A COUNCIL THAT
          BETOKENS WAR.                                              239

    VIII. WAR–EAGLE AND REGINALD, WITH THEIR PARTY, PURSUE THE
          DAHCOTAHS.                                                 257

      IX. A DESERTED VILLAGE IN THE WEST.—MAHÉGA CARRIES OFF
          PRAIRIE–BIRD, AND ENDEAVOURS TO BAFFLE PURSUIT.            264

       X. AN AMBUSCADE.—REGINALD BRANDON FINDS HIS HORSE, AND M.
          PERROT NEARLY LOSES HIS HEAD.—WHILE INDIAN PHILOSOPHY
          IS DISPLAYED IN ONE QUARTER, INDIAN CREDULITY IS
          EXHIBITED IN ANOTHER.                                      273

      XI. ETHELSTON VISITS ST. LOUIS, WHERE HE UNEXPECTEDLY MEETS
          AN OLD ACQUAINTANCE, AND UNDERTAKES A LONGER JOURNEY THAN
          HE HAD CONTEMPLATED.                                       290

     XII. THE OSAGES ENCAMP NEAR THE BASE OF THE ROCKY
          MOUNTAINS.—AN UNEXPECTED VISITOR ARRIVES.                  297

    XIII. WAR–EAGLE’S PARTY FOLLOW THE TRAIL.—A SKIRMISH AND ITS
          RESULTS.—THE CHIEF UNDERTAKES A PERILOUS JOURNEY ALONE,
          AND HIS COMPANIONS FIND SUFFICIENT OCCUPATION DURING HIS
          ABSENCE.                                                   307

     XIV. AN UNEXPECTED MEETING.—REGINALD PREPARES TO FOLLOW THE
          TRAIL.                                                     328

      XV. SHOWING HOW WINGENUND FARED IN THE OSAGE CAMP, AND THE
          ISSUE OF THE DILEMMA IN WHICH PRAIRIE–BIRD WAS PLACED BY
          MAHÉGA.                                                    337

     XVI. MAHÉGA FINDS THE BODIES OF HIS TWO FOLLOWERS SLAIN BY
          WAR–EAGLE.—SOME REFLECTIONS ON THE INDIAN
          CHARACTER.—WAR–EAGLE RETURNS TO HIS FRIENDS, AND THE
          OSAGE CHIEF PUSHES HIS WAY FURTHER INTO THE MOUNTAINS.     347

  THIRD VOLUME

       I. WAR–EAGLE AND HIS PARTY REACH THE DESERTED CAMP OF THE
          OSAGES.—THE LATTER FALL IN WITH A STRANGE BAND OF
          INDIANS, AND MAHÉGA APPEARS IN THE CHARACTER OF A
          DIPLOMATIST.                                               367

      II. CONTAINING VARIOUS INCIDENTS THAT OCCURRED TO THE PARTY
          FOLLOWING THE TRAIL.—PLOTS AND COUNTERPLOTS, AND A
          DISCUSSION UPON ORATORY, WHICH IS VERY MUCH OUT OF PLACE,
          AND, FORTUNATELY FOR THE READER, IS NOT VERY LONG.         385

     III. A SCENE IN THE TENT OF PRAIRIE–BIRD, WHO GIVES SOME GOOD
          ADVICE, AND RECEIVES IN A SHORT SPACE OF TIME MORE THAN
          ONE UNEXPECTED VISITOR.—THE CROWS LED BY MAHÉGA ATTACK
          THE DELAWARE CAMP BY NIGHT.—THE DEFEATED PARTY ACHIEVE A
          KIND OF TRIUMPH, AND THE VICTORS MEET WITH AN UNEXPECTED
          LOSS.                                                      403

      IV. THE NEGOTIATION SET ON FOOT BY REGINALD FOR THE RELEASE
          OF HIS FRIENDS.—BESHA BECOMES AN IMPORTANT PERSONAGE.      422

       V. DAVID MUIR AND HIS DAUGHTER PAY A VISIT TO COLONEL
          BRANDON.—THE MERCHANT BECOMES AMBITIOUS; HE ENTERTAINS
          PROJECTS FOR JESSIE’S FUTURE WELFARE, WHICH DO NOT
          COINCIDE WITH THAT YOUNG LADY’S WISHES.                    430

      VI. BESHA PURSUES HIS CAREER AS A DIPLOMATIST.—AN AGREEABLE
          TETE–A–TETE DISAGREEABLY INTERRUPTED.—THE STEPS THAT
          MAHÉGA TOOK TO SUPPORT HIS DECLINING INTERESTS AMONG THE
          CROWS.                                                     440

     VII. WINGENUND DEVISES A PLAN FOR THE LIBERATION OF HIS
          FRIENDS, AND SEEKS TO OBTAIN BY MEANS EQUALLY UNUSUAL AND
          EFFECTIVE THE CO–OPERATION OF THE ONE–EYED
          HORSE–DEALER.—A FURTHER MARCH INTO THE
          MOUNTAINS.—WINGENUND PAYS A VISIT TO HIS FRIENDS, AND THE
          LATTER MAKE ACQUAINTANCE WITH A STRANGE CHARACTER.         460

    VIII. THE ROOT–DIGGER MAKES FRIENDS WITH THE PARTY.—AN
          ADVENTURE WITH A GRISLY BEAR.—THE CONDUCT OF WAR–EAGLE.    478

      IX. MAHÉGA IS FOUND IN STRANGE COMPANY, AND WINGENUND DEFERS,
          ON ACCOUNT OF MORE IMPORTANT CONCERNS, HIS PLAN FOR THE
          LIBERATION OF HIS FRIENDS.—A COUNCIL, A COMBAT, AND A
          SKIRMISH, IN WHICH LAST THE CROWS RECEIVE ASSISTANCE FROM
          A QUARTER WHENCE THEY LEAST EXPECTED IT.                   487

       X. WINGENUND AND HIS FRIENDS RETURN TOWARDS THEIR CAMP.—A
          SERIOUS ADVENTURE AND A SERIOUS ARGUMENT OCCUR BY THE
          WAY.—SHOWING, ALSO, HOW THE EXTREMES OF GRIEF, SURPRISE,
          AND JOY MAY BE CROWDED INTO THE SPACE OF A FEW MINUTES.    507

      XI. CONTAINING A TREATY BETWEEN THE CROWS AND DELAWARES, AND
          THE DEATH OF AN INDIAN CHIEF.                              527

     XII. WAR–EAGLE’S FUNERAL.—THE PARTY COMMENCE THEIR HOMEWARD
          JOURNEY.—BESHA EXERTS HIS DIPLOMATIC TALENTS FOR THE LAST
          TIME, AND RECEIVES SEVERAL REWARDS, WITH SOME OF WHICH HE
          WOULD WILLINGLY HAVE DISPENSED.                            540

    XIII. THE SCENE IS SHIFTED TO THE BANKS OF THE MUSKINGUM, AND
          PRAIRIE–BIRD RETURNS TO THE HOME OF HER CHILDHOOD.         553

  SUPPLEMENTARY CHAPTER.                                             557



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS

  MONSIEUR PERROT IS SCALPED                            FACING PAGE    i

  WINGENUND AND LUCY                                       ”     ”    70

  PRAIRIE–BIRD AND MAHÉGA                                  ”     ”   218

  REGINALD AND THE CROW CHIEF                              ”     ”   313

  MAHÉGA SPYING THE CAMP OF THE DELAWARES                  ”     ”   398

  WAR–EAGLE AND THE GRIZZLY BEAR                           ”     ”   482



THE

PRAIRIE–BIRD.



CHAPTER I.

 IN WHICH THE READER WILL FIND A SKETCH OF A VILLAGE IN THE WEST, AND
 WILL BE INTRODUCED TO SOME OF THE DRAMATIS PERSONÆ.


There is, perhaps, no country in the world more favoured, in respect
to natural advantages, than the state of Ohio in North America: the
soil is of inexhaustible fertility; the climate temperate; the rivers,
flowing into Lake Erie to the north, and through the Ohio into the
Mississippi to the south–west, are navigable for many hundreds of
miles; the forests abound with the finest timber, and even the bowels
of the earth pay, in various kinds of mineral, abundant contribution
to the general wealth: the southern frontier of the state is bounded
by the noble river from which she derives her name, and which obtained
from the early French traders and missionaries the well–deserved
appellation of “La Belle Rivière.”

Towns and cities are now multiplying upon its banks; the axe has laid
low vast tracts of its forest; the plough has passed over many thousand
acres of the prairies which it fertilised; and crowds of steam–boats,
laden with goods, manufactures, and passengers, from every part of the
world, urge their busy way through its waters.

Far different was the appearance and condition of that region at the
period when the events detailed in the following narrative occurred.
The reader must bear in mind that, at the close of the last century,
the vast tracts of forest and prairie now forming the states of Ohio,
Indiana, and Illinois, were all included in what was then called
the North–west Territory; it was still inhabited by numerous bands
of Indian tribes, of which the most powerful were the Lenapé, or
Delawares, the Shawanons, the Miamies, and the Wyandotes, or Hurons.

Here and there, at favourable positions on the navigable rivers,
were trading–posts, defended by small forts, to which the Indians
brought their skins of bear, deer, bison, and beaver; receiving in
exchange powder, rifles, paint, hatchets, knives, blankets, and other
articles, which, although unknown to their forefathers, had become to
them, through their intercourse with the whites, numbered among the
necessaries of life. But the above–mentioned animals, especially the
two last, were already scarce in this region; and the more enterprising
of the hunters, Indian as well as white men, made annual excursions to
the wild and boundless hunting–ground, westward of the Mississippi.

At the close of the eighteenth century, the villages and settlements
on the north bank of the Ohio, being scarce and far apart, were built
rather for the purpose of trading with the Indians than for agriculture
or civilised industry; and their inhabitants were as bold and hardy,
sometimes as wild and lawless, as the red men, with whom they were
beginning to dispute the soil.

Numerous quarrels arose between these western settlers and their Indian
neighbours; blood was frequently shed, and fierce retaliation ensued,
which ended in open hostility. The half–disciplined militia, aided
sometimes by regular troops, invaded and burnt the Indian villages;
while the red men, seldom able to cope with their enemy in the open
field, cut off detached parties, massacred unprotected families; and
so swift and indiscriminate was their revenge, that settlements, at
some distance from the scene of war, were often aroused at midnight by
the unexpected alarm of the war–whoop and the fire–brand. There were
occasions, however, when the Indians boldly attacked and defeated the
troops sent against them; but General Wayne, having taken the command
of the western forces (about four years before the commencement of our
tale), routed them at the battle of the Miamies with great slaughter;
after which many of them went off to the Missain plains, and those who
remained no more ventured to appear in the field against the United
States.

One of the earliest trading ports established in that region was
Marietta, a pretty village situated at the mouth of the Muskimgum
river, where it falls into the Ohio. Even so far back as the year 1799
it boasted a church; several taverns; a strong block–house, serving as
a protection against an attack from the Indians; stores for the sale of
grocery; and, in short, such a collection of buildings as has, in more
than one instance in the western states of America, grown into a city
with unexampled rapidity.

This busy and flourishing village had taken the lead, of all
others within a hundred miles, in the construction of vessels for
the navigation of the Ohio and Mississippi; nay, some of the more
enterprising merchants there settled, had actually built, launched,
and freighted brigs and schooners of sufficient burthen to brave the
seas of the Mexican gulf; and had opened, in their little inland port,
a direct trade with the West Indian islands, to which they exported
flour, pork, maize, and other articles, their vessels returning laden
with fruit, coffee, sugar, and rum.

The largest store in the village, situated in the centre of a row
of houses fronting the river, was built of brick, and divided into
several compartments, wherein were to be found all the necessaries
of life,—all such at least as were called for by the inhabitants of
Marietta and its neighbourhood; one of these compartments was crowded
with skins and furs from the north–west, and with clothes, cottons,
and woollen stuffs from England; the second with earthenware, cutlery,
mirrors, rifles, stoves, grates, &c.; while in the third, which was
certainly the most frequented, were sold flour, tea, sugar, rum,
whiskey, gunpowder, spices, cured pork, &c.; in a deep corner or recess
of the latter was a trap–door, not very often opened, but which led
to a cellar, wherein was stored a reasonable quantity of Madeira and
claret, the quality of which would not have disgraced the best hotel in
Philadelphia.

Over this multifarious property on sale presided David Muir, a bony,
long–armed man, of about forty–five years of age, whose red bristly
hair, prominent cheek bones, and sharp, sunken grey eyes, would,
without the confirming evidence of his broad Scottish accent, have
indicated to an experienced observer the country to which he owed his
birth. In the duties of his employment, David was well seconded by his
helpmate, a tall, powerful woman, whose features, though strong and
masculine, retained the marks of early beauty, and whose voice, when
raised in wrath, reached the ears of every individual, even in the
furthest compartment of the extensive store above described.

David was a shrewd, enterprising fellow, trustworthy in matters of
business, and peaceable enough in temper; though in more than one
affray, which had arisen in consequence of some of his customers,
white men and Indians, having taken on the spot too much of his
“fire–water,” he had shown that he was not to be affronted with
impunity; nevertheless, in the presence of Mrs. Christie (so was his
spouse called) he was gentle and subdued, never attempting to rebel
against an authority which an experience of twenty years had proved
to be irresistible. One only child, aged now about eighteen, was the
fruit of their marriage; and Jessie Muir was certainly more pleasing
in her manners and in her appearance than might have been expected
from her parentage; she assisted her mother in cooking, baking, and
other domestic duties; and, when not thus engaged, read or worked in
a corner of the cotton and silk compartment, over which she presided.
Two lads, engaged at a salary of four dollars a–week, to assist in the
sale, care, and package of the goods, completed David’s establishment,
which was perhaps the largest and the best provided that could be found
westward of the Alleghany mountains.

It must not be supposed, however, that all this property was his own:
it belonged for the most part to Colonel Brandon, a gentleman who
resided on his farm, seven or eight miles from the village, and who
entrusted David Muir with the entire charge of the stores in Marietta;
the accounts of the business were regularly audited by the colonel once
every year, and a fair share of the profits as regularly made over to
David, whose accuracy and integrity had given much satisfaction to his
principal.

Three of the largest trading vessels from the port of Marietta were
owned and freighted by Colonel Brandon; the command and management of
them being entrusted by him to Edward Ethelston, a young man who, being
now in his twenty–eighth year, discharged the duties of captain and
supercargo with the greatest steadiness, ability, and success.

As young Ethelston and his family will occupy a considerable place in
our narrative, it may be as well to detail briefly the circumstances
which led to his enjoying so large a share of the Colonel’s affection
and confidence.

About eleven years before the date mentioned as being that of the
commencement of our tale, Colonel Brandon, having sold his property in
Virginia, had moved to the north–west territory, with his wife and his
two children, Reginald and Lucy. He had persuaded, at the same time,
a Virginian friend, Digby Ethelston, who, like himself, was descended
from an ancient royalist family in the mother country, to accompany him
in this migration. The feelings, associations, and prejudices of both
the friends had been frequently wounded during the war which terminated
in the independence of the United States; for not only were both
attached by those feelings and associations to the old country, but
they had also near connections resident there, with whom they kept up a
friendly intercourse.

It was not, therefore, difficult for Colonel Brandon to persuade his
friend to join him in his proposed emigration. The latter, who was
a widower, and who, like the colonel, had only two children, was
fortunate in having under his roof a sister, who, being now past the
prime of life, devoted herself entirely to the charge of her brother’s
household. Aunt Mary (for she was known by no other name) expressed
neither aversion nor alarm at the prospect of settling permanently in
so remote a region; and the two families moved accordingly, with goods
and chattels, to the banks of the Ohio.

The Colonel and his friend were both possessed of considerable
property, a portion of which they invested in the fur companies, which
at that time carried on extensive traffic in the north–west territory;
they also acquired from the United States government large tracts of
land at no great distance from Marietta, upon which each selected an
agreeable site for his farm or country residence.

Their houses were not far apart, and though rudely built at first, they
gradually assumed a more comfortable appearance; wings were added,
stables enlarged, the gardens and peach–orchards were well fenced, and
the adjoining farm–offices amply stocked with horses and cattle.

For two years all went on prosperously: the boys, Edward Ethelston
and Reginald Brandon, were as fond of each other as their fathers
could desire: the former, being three years the senior, and possessed
of excellent qualities of head and heart, controlled the ardent
and somewhat romantic temper of Reginald: both were at school near
Philadelphia: when on a beautiful day in June, Mr. Ethelston and
Aunt Mary walked over to pay a visit to Mrs. Brandon, leaving little
Evelyn (who was then about eight years old) with her nurse at home:
they remained at Colonel Brandon’s to dine, and were on the point of
returning in the afternoon, when a farm–servant of Mr. Ethelston’s
rushed into the room where the two gentlemen were sitting alone; he was
pale, breathless, and so agitated that he could not utter a syllable:
“For heaven’s sake speak! What has happened?” exclaimed Colonel Brandon.

A dreadful pause ensued: at length, he rather gasped than _said_, “The
Indians!” and buried his face in his hands, as if to shut out some
horrid spectacle!

Poor Ethelston’s tongue clove to his mouth; the prescient agony of a
father overcame him.

“_What_ of the Indians, man?” said Colonel Brandon, angrily; “‘sblood,
we have seen Indians enough hereabout before now;—what the devil have
they been at?”

A groan and a shudder was the only reply.

The Colonel now lost all patience, and exclaimed, “By heavens, the
sight of a red–skin seems to have frightened the fellow out of his
senses! I did not know, Ethelston, that you trusted your farm–stock to
such a chicken–heart as this!”

Incensed by this taunt, the rough lad replied, “Colonel for all as you
be so bold, and have seen, as they say, a bloody field or two, you’d a’
been skeared if you’d a’ seen _this_ job; but as for my being afeared
of Ingians in an up and down fight, or in a tree skrimmage—I don’t
care who says it—t’aint a fact.”

“I believe it, my good fellow,” said the Colonel; “but keep us no
longer in suspense—say what has happened?”

“Why, you see, Colonel, about an hour ago, Jem and Eliab was at work in
the ‘baccy–field behind the house, and nurse was out in the big meadow
a walkin’ with Miss Evelyn, when I heard a cry as if all the devils
had broke loose; in a moment, six or eight painted Ingians with rifles
and tomahawks dashed out of the laurel thicket, and murdered poor Jem
and Eliab before they could get at their rifles which stood by the
_worm_ fence[1]; two of them then went after the nurse and child in the
meadow, while the rest broke into the house, which they ransacked and
set o’ fire!”

“But my child?” cried the agonised father.

“I fear it’s gone too,” said the messenger of this dreadful news. “I
saw one devil kill and scalp the nurse, and t’other,”—here he paused,
awe–struck by the speechless agony of poor Ethelston, who stood with
clasped hands and bloodless lips, unable to ask for the few more words
which were to complete his despair.

“Speak on, man, let us know the worst;” said the Colonel, at the same
time supporting the trembling form of his unhappy friend.

“I seed the tomahawk raised over the sweet child, and I tried to rush
out o’ my hidin’ place to save it, when the flames and the smoke broke
out, and I tumbled into the big ditch below the garden, over head in
water; by the time I got out and reached the place, the red devils were
all gone, and the house, and straw, and barns all in a blaze!”

Poor Ethelston had only heard the first few words—they were
enough—his head sunk upon his breast, his whole frame shuddered
convulsively; and a rapid succession of inarticulate sounds came from
his lips, among which nothing could be distinguished beyond “child,”
“tomahawk,” “Evelyn.”

It is needless to relate in detail all that followed this painful
scene; the bodies of the unfortunate labourers and of the nurse were
found; all had been scalped; that of the child was not found; and
though Colonel Brandon himself led a band of the most experienced
hunters in pursuit, the trail of the savages could not be followed:
with their usual wily foresight they had struck off through the forest
in different directions, and succeeded in baffling all attempts at
discovering either their route or their tribe. Messengers were sent to
the trading–posts at Kaskaskia, Vincennes, and even to Genevieve, and
St. Louis, and all returned dispirited by a laborious and fruitless
search.

Mr. Ethelston never recovered this calamitous blow: several fits of
paralysis, following each other in rapid succession, carried him off
within a few months. By his will he appointed a liberal annuity to Aunt
Mary, and left the remainder of his property to his son Edward, but
entirely under the control and guardianship of Colonel Brandon.

The latter had prevailed upon Aunt Mary and her young nephew to become
inmates of his house; where, after the soothing effect of time had
softened the bitterness of their grief, they found the comforts, the
occupations, the endearments, the social blessings embodied in the word
“home.” Edward became more fondly attached than ever to his younger
companion Reginald; and Aunt Mary, besides aiding Mrs. Brandon in the
education of her daughter, found time to knit, to hem, to cook, to
draw, to plant vegetables, to rear flowers, to read, to give medicine
to any sick in the neighbourhood, and to comfort all who, like herself,
had suffered under the chastising hand of Providence.

Such were the circumstances which (eleven years before the commencement
of this narrative) had led to the affectionate and paternal interest
which the Colonel felt for the son of his friend, and which was
increased by the high and estimable qualities gradually developed
in Edward’s character. Before proceeding further in our tale, it is
necessary to give the reader some insight into the early history of
Colonel Brandon himself, and into those occurrences in the life of his
son Reginald which throw light upon the events hereafter to be related.



CHAPTER II.

CONTAINING AN ACCOUNT OF THE MARRIAGE OF COLONEL BRANDON, AND ITS
CONSEQUENCES.


George Brandon was the only son of a younger brother, a scion of an
ancient and distinguished family: they had been, for the most part,
staunch Jacobites, and George’s father lost the greater part of
his property in a fruitless endeavour to support the ill–timed and
ill–conducted expedition of Charles Edward, in 1745.

After this he retired to the Continent and died, leaving to his son
little else besides his sword, a few hundred crowns, and an untarnished
name. The young man returned to England; and, being agreeable,
accomplished, and strikingly handsome, was kindly received by some of
his relations and their friends.

During one of the visits that he paid at the house of a neighbour
in the country, he fell desperately in love with Lucy Shirley, the
daughter of the richest squire in the country, a determined Whig, and
one who hated a Jacobite worse than a Frenchman. As George Brandon’s
passion was returned with equal ardour, and the object of it was young
and inexperienced as himself, all the obstacles opposed to their union
only served to add fuel to the flame; and, after repeated but vain
endeavours on the part of Lucy Shirley to reconcile her father, or her
only brother, to the match, she eloped with her young lover; and, by a
rapid escape into Scotland, where they were immediately married, they
rendered abortive all attempt at pursuit.

It was not long before the young couple began to feel some of the
painful consequences of their imprudence. The old squire was not to
be appeased; he would neither see his daughter, nor would he open one
of the many letters which she wrote to entreat his forgiveness: but,
although incensed, he was a proud man and scrupulously just in all his
dealings: Lucy had been left 10,000_l._ by her grand–mother, but it was
not due to her until she attained her twenty–first year, or _married
with her father’s consent_. The squire waved both these conditions;
he knew that his daughter had fallen from a brilliant sphere to one
comparatively humble. Even in the midst of his wrath he did not wish
her to starve, and accordingly instructed his lawyer to write to Mrs.
Brandon, and to inform her that he had orders to pay her 500_l._
a–year, until she thought fit to demand the payment of the principal.

George and his wife returned, after a brief absence, to England, and
made frequent efforts to overcome, by entreaty and submission, the
old squire’s obduracy; but it was all in vain: neither were they more
successful in propitiating the young squire, an eccentric youth, who
lived among dogs and horses, and who had imbibed from his father an
hereditary taste for old port, and an antipathy to Jacobites. His
reply to a letter which George wrote, entreating his good offices in
effecting a reconciliation between Lucy and her father, will serve
better than an elaborate description to illustrate his character; it
ran as follows:—

 “Sir,

 “When my sister married a Jacobite, against Father’s consent, she
 carried her eggs to a fool’s market, and she must make the best of her
 own bargain. Father isn’t such a flat as to be gulled with your fine
 words now: and tho’ they say I’m not over forw’rd in my schoolin’, you
 must put some better bait on your trap before you catch

  “MARMADUKE SHIRLEY, Jun.”

It may well be imagined, that after the receipt of this epistle George
Brandon did not seek to renew his intercourse with Lucy’s brother: but
as she had now presented him with a little boy, he began to meditate
seriously on the means which he should adopt to better his fortunes.

One of his most intimate and esteemed friends, Digby Ethelston, being,
like himself, a portionless member of an ancient family, had gone out
early in life to America, and had, by dint of persevering industry,
gained a respectable competence: while in the southern colonies he
had married the daughter of an old French planter, who had left the
marquisate to which he was entitled in his own country, in order
to live in peace and quiet among the sugar–canes and cotton–fields
of Louisiana. Ethelston had received with his wife a considerable
accession of fortune, and they were on the eve of returning across the
Atlantic, her husband having settled all the affairs which had brought
him to England.

His representations of the New World made a strong impression on
the sanguine mind of George Brandon, and he proposed to his wife to
emigrate with their little one to America. Poor Lucy, cut off from her
own family, and devoted to her husband, made no difficulty whatever,
and it was soon settled that they should accompany the Ethelstons.

George now called upon Mr. Shirley’s solicitor, a dry, matter–of–fact,
parchment man, to inform him of their intention, and of their wish
that the principal of Lucy’s fortune might be paid up. The lawyer took
down a dusty box of black tin whereon was engraved “Marmaduke Shirley,
Esq., Shirley Hall, No. 7.”; and after carefully perusing a paper of
instructions, he said, “Mrs. Brandon’s legacy shall be paid up, sir,
on the 1st of July, to any party whom she may empower to receive it on
her behalf, and to give a legal discharge for the same.”

“And pray, sir,” said George, hesitating, “as we are going across the
Atlantic, perhaps never to return, do you not think Mr. Shirley would
see his daughter once before she sails, to give her his blessing?”

Again the man of parchment turned his sharp nose towards the paper, and
having scanned its contents, he said, “I find nothing, sir, in these
instructions on that point. Good morning, Mr. Brandon.—James, show in
Sir John Waltham.”

George walked home dispirited, and the punctual solicitor failed
not to inform the squire immediately of the young couple’s intended
emigration, and the demand for the paying up of the sum due to Lucy.
In spite of his long–cherished prejudices against George Brandon’s
Jacobite family, and his anger at the elopement, he was somewhat
softened by time, by what he heard of the blameless life led by the
young man, and by the respectful conduct that the latter had evinced
towards his wife’s family; for it had happened on one occasion that
some of his young companions had thought fit to speak of the obstinacy
and stinginess of the old squire: this language George had instantly
and indignantly checked, saying, “My conduct in marrying his daughter
against his consent, was unjustifiable: though he has not forgiven her,
has he behaved justly and honourably. Any word spoken disrespectfully
of my wife’s father, I shall consider a personal insult to myself.”

This had accidentally reached the ears of the old squire; and though
still too proud and too obstinate to agree to any reconciliation, he
said to the solicitor: “Perkins, I will not be reconciled to these
scapegraces; I will have no intercourse with them, but I will _see_
Lucy before she goes; she must not see me. Arrange it as you please:
desire her to come to your house to sign the discharge for the
10,000_l._, in person; you can put me in a cupboard, in the next room;
where you will; a glass door will do;—you understand?”

“Yes, sir. When?”

“Oh, the sooner the better; whenever the papers are ready.”

“It shall be done, sir.” And thus the interview closed.

Meantime George made one final effort in a letter, which he addressed
to the squire, couched in terms at once manly and respectful; owning
the errors that he had committed, but hoping that forgiveness might
precede this long, this last separation.

This letter was returned to him unopened; and, in order to conceal from
Lucy the grief and mortification of his high and wounded spirit, he was
obliged to absent himself from home for many hours; and when he did
return, it was with a clouded brow.

Certainly the fate of this young couple, though not altogether
prosperous, was in one particular a remarkable exception to the usual
results of a runaway match; they were affectionately and entirely
devoted to each other: and Lucy, though she had been once, and only
once, a disobedient daughter, was the most loving and obedient of wives.

The day fixed for her signature arrived. Mr. Perkins had made all his
arrangements agreeably to his wealthy client’s instructions; and when,
accompanied by her husband, she entered the solicitor’s study, she was
little conscious that her father was separated from her only by a frail
door, which being left ajar, he could see her, and hear every word that
she spoke.

Mr. Perkins, placing the draft of the discharge into George Brandon’s
hand, together with the instrument whereby his wife was put in
possession of the 10,000_l._, said to him, “Would it not be better,
sir, to send for your solicitor to inspect these papers on behalf of
yourself and Mrs. Brandon, before she signs the discharge?”

“Allow me to inquire, sir,” replied George, “whether Mr. Shirley has
perused these papers, and has placed them here for his daughter’s
signature?”

“Assuredly, he has, sir,” said the lawyer, “and I have too, on
his behalf; you do not imagine, sir, that my client would pay the
capital sum without being certain that the discharge was regular and
sufficient!”

“Then I am satisfied, sir,” said George, with something of disdain
expressed on his fine countenance. “Mr. Shirley is a man of honour, and
a father; whatever he has sent for his daughter’s signature will secure
her interests as effectually as if a dozen solicitors had inspected it.”

At the conclusion of this speech, a sort of indistinct _hem_ proceeded
from the ensconced squire; to cover which, Mr. Perkins said, “But,
sir, it is not usual to sign papers of this consequence without
examining them.”

“Lucy, my dear,” said George, turning with a smile of affectionate
confidence to his wife; “to oblige Mr. Perkins, I will read through
these two papers attentively: sit down for a minute, as they are
somewhat long:” so saying, he applied himself at once to his task.

Meantime Lucy, painfully agitated and excited, made several attempts to
address Mr. Perkins; but her voice failed her, as soon as she turned
her eyes upon that gentleman’s rigid countenance: at length, however,
by a desperate effort, she succeeded in asking, tremulously, “Mr.
Perkins, have you seen my father lately?”

“Yes, ma’am,” said the lawyer nibbing his pen.

“Oh! tell me how he is!—Has the gout left him?—Can he ride to the
farm as he used?”

“He is well, madam, very well, I believe.”

“Shall you see him soon again, sir?”

“Yes, madam, I must show him these papers, when signed.”

“Oh! then, tell him, that his daughter, who never disobeyed him but
once, has wept bitterly for her fault; that she will probably never
see him again, in this world; that she blesses him in her daily
prayers. Oh! tell him, I charge you as you are a man, tell him, that I
could cross the ocean happy—that I could bear years of sickness, of
privation, happy—that I could die happy, if I had but my dear, dear
father’s blessing.” As she said this, the young wife had unconsciously
fallen upon one knee before the man of law, and her tearful eyes were
bent upon his countenance in earnest supplication.

Again an indistinct noise, as of a suppressed groan or sob, was heard
from behind the door, and the solicitor wiping his spectacles and
turning away his face to conceal an emotion of which he felt rather
ashamed, said: “I will tell him all you desire, madam; and if I receive
his instructions to make any communication in reply, I will make it
faithfully, and without loss of time.”

“Thank you, thank you a thousand times,” said Lucy: and resuming her
seat, she endeavoured to recover her composure.

George had by this time run his eye over the papers; and although
he had overheard his wife’s appeal to the solicitor, he would not
interrupt her, nor throw any obstacle in the way of an object which he
knew she had so much at heart. “I am perfectly satisfied, sir,” said
he; “you have nothing to do but to provide the witnesses, and Mrs.
Brandon will affix her signature.”

Two clerks of Mr. Perkins’ were accordingly summoned, and the discharge
having been signed in their presence, they retired. Mr. Perkins now
drew another paper from the leaves of a book on his table, saying: “Mr.
Brandon, the discharge being now signed and attested, I have further
instructions from Mr. Shirley to inform you, that although he cannot
alter his determination of refusing to see his daughter, or holding
any intercourse with yourself, he is desirous that you should not in
America find yourself in straitened circumstances; and has accordingly
authorised me to place in your hands this draft upon his banker for
5000_l._”

“Mr. Perkins,” said George, in a tone of mingled sadness and pride;
“in the payment of the 10,000_l._, my wife’s fortune, Mr. Shirley,
though acting honourably, has only done justice, and has dealt as
he would have dealt with strangers; had he thought proper to listen
to my wife’s, or to my own repeated entreaties for forgiveness and
reconciliation, I would gratefully have received from him, as from a
father, any favour that he wished to confer on us; but, sir, as he
refuses to see me under his roof, or even to give his affectionate and
repentant child a parting blessing, I would rather work for my daily
bread than receive at his hands the donation of a guinea.”

As he said this, he tore the draft and scattered its shreds on the
table before the astonished lawyer. Poor Lucy was still in tears,
yet one look assured her husband that she _felt_ with him. He added
in a gentler tone, “Mr. Perkins, accept my acknowledgments for your
courtesy;” and, offering his arm to Lucy, turned to leave the room.



CHAPTER III.

CONTAINING SOME FURTHER ACCOUNT OF COLONEL AND MRS. BRANDON, AND OF THE
EDUCATION OF THEIR SON REGINALD.


While the scene described in the last chapter was passing in the
lawyer’s study, stormy and severe was the struggle going on in the
breast of the listening father; more than once he had been on the
point of rushing into the room to fold his child in his arms; but that
obstinate pride, which causes in life so many bitter hours of regret,
prevented him, and checked the natural impulse of affection: still, as
she turned with her husband to leave the room, he unconsciously opened
the door on the lock of which his hand rested, as he endeavoured to
get one last look at a face which he had so long loved and caressed.
The door being thus partially opened, a very diminutive and favourite
spaniel, that accompanied him wherever he went, escaped through the
aperture, and, recognising Lucy, barked and jumped upon her in an
ecstasy of delight.

“Heavens!” cried she, “it is—it must be Fan!” At another time she
would have fondly caressed it, but one only thought now occupied her:
trembling on her husband’s arm, she whispered, “George, papa _must_ be
here.” At that moment her eye caught the partially opened door, which
the agitated squire still held, and breaking from her husband, she flew
as if by instinct into the adjacent room, and fell at her father’s feet.

Poor Mr. Perkins was now grievously disconcerted; and calling out,
“This way, madam, this way; that is not the right door,” was about to
follow, when George Brandon, laying his hand upon the lawyer’s arm,
said, impressively,

“Stay, sir; that room is sacred!” and led him back to his chair. His
quick mind had seized in a moment the correctness of Lucy’s conjecture,
and his good feeling taught him that no third person, not even he,
should intrude upon the father and the child.

The old squire could not make a long resistance when the gush of
his once loved Lucy’s tears trickled upon his hand, and while her
half–choked voice sobbed for his pardon and his blessing; it was in
vain that he summoned all his pride, all his strength, all his anger;
Nature would assert her rights; and in another minute his child’s head
was on his bosom, and he whispered over her, “I forgive you, Lucy: may
God bless you, as I do!”

For some time after this was the interview prolonged, and Lucy seemed
to be pleading for some boon which she could not obtain; nevertheless,
her tears, her old familiar childish caresses, had regained something
of their former dominion over the choleric but warm–hearted squire;
and in a voice of joy that thrilled even through the quiet man of
law, she cried, “George! George, come in!” He leaped from his seat,
and in a moment was at the feet of her father. There, as he knelt by
Lucy’s side, the old squire put one hand upon the head of each, saying,
“My children, all that you have ever done to offend me is forgotten:
continue to love and to cherish each other, and may God prosper you
with every blessing!” George Brandon’s heart was full: he could not
speak; but straining his wife affectionately to his bosom, and kissing
her father’s hand, he withdrew into a corner of the room, and for some
minutes remained oppressed by emotions too strong to find relief in
expressions.

We need not detail at length the consequences of this happy and
unexpected reconciliation. The check was re–written, was doubled,
and was accepted. George still persevered in his wish to accompany
his friend to Virginia; where, Ethelston assured him, that with his
20,000_l._ prudently managed, he might easily acquire a sufficient
fortune for himself and his family.

How mighty is the power of circumstance; and upon what small pivots
does Providence sometimes allow the wheels of human fortune to be
turned! Here, in the instance just related, the blessing or unappeased
wrath of a father, the joy or despair of a daughter, the peace or
discord of a family, all, all were dependent upon the bark and caress
of a spaniel! For that stern old man had made his determination, and
would have adhered to it, if Lucy had not thus been made aware of his
presence, and, by her grief aiding the voice of nature, overthrown all
the defences of his pride.

It happened that the young squire was at this time in Paris, his
father having sent him thither to see the world and learn to fence.
A letter was, however, written by Lucy, announcing to him the happy
reconciliation, and entreating him to participate in their common
happiness.

The arrangements for the voyage were soon completed; the cabin of a
large vessel being engaged to convey the whole party to Norfolk in
Virginia. The old squire offered no opposition, considering that George
Brandon was too old to begin a profession in England, and that he might
employ his time and abilities advantageously in the New World.

We may pass over many of the ensuing years, the events of which have
little influence on our narrative, merely informing the reader that the
investment of Brandon’s money, made by the advice of Ethelston, was
prosperous in the extreme. In the course of a year or two, Mrs. Brandon
presented her lord with a little girl, who was named after herself.
In the following year, Mrs. Ethelston had also a daughter: the third
confinement was not so fortunate, and she died in childbed, leaving, to
Ethelston, Edward, then about nine, and little Evelyn a twelvemonth old.

It was on this sad occasion that he persuaded his sister to come out
from England to reside with him, and take care of his motherless
children: a task that she undertook and fulfilled with the love and
devotion of the most affectionate mother.

In course of time the war broke out which ended in the independence
of the colonies. During its commencement, Brandon and Ethelston both
remained firm to the crown; but as it advanced, they became gradually
convinced of the impolicy and injustice of the claims urged by England.
Brandon having sought an interview with Washington, the arguments, and
the character, of that great man decided him: he joined the Independent
party, obtained a command, and distinguished himself so much as to
obtain the esteem and regard of his commander. As soon as peace was
established, he had, for reasons before stated, determined to change
his residence, and persuaded Ethelston to accompany him with his family.

After the dreadful domestic calamity mentioned in the first chapter,
and the untimely death of Ethelston, Colonel Brandon sent Edward, the
son of his deceased friend, to a distant relative in Hamburgh, desiring
that every care might be given to give him a complete mercantile and
liberal education, including two years’ study at a German university.

Meanwhile the old Squire Shirley was dead; but his son and successor
had written, after his own strange fashion, a letter to his sister,
begging her to send over her boy to England, and he would “make a man
of him.” After duly weighing this proposal, Colonel and Mrs. Brandon
determined to avail themselves of it; and Reginald was accordingly sent
over to his uncle, who had promised to enter him immediately at Oxford.

When Reginald arrived, Marmaduke Shirley turned him round half a dozen
times, felt his arms, punched his ribs, looked at his ruddy cheeks and
brown hair, that had never known a barber, and exclaimed to a brother
sportsman who was standing by, “D—n if he ain’t one of the right sort!
eh, Harry?” But if the uncle was pleased with the lad’s appearance,
much more delighted was he with his accomplishments: for he could _walk
down_ any keeper on the estate, he sat on a horse like a young centaur,
and his accuracy with a rifle perfectly confounded the squire. “If this
isn’t a chip of the old block, my name isn’t Marmaduke Shirley,” said
he; and for a moment a shade crossed his usually careless brow, as he
remembered that he had wooed, and married, and been left a childless
widower.

But although, at Shirley Hall, Reginald followed the sports of the
field with the ardour natural to his age and character, he rather
annoyed the squire by his obstinate and persevering attention to his
studies at college: he remembered that walking and shooting were
accomplishments which he might have acquired and perfected in the woods
of Virginia; but he felt it due to his parents, and to the confidence
which they had reposed in his discretion, to carry back with him some
more useful knowledge and learning.

With this dutiful motive, he commenced his studies; and as he advanced
in them, his naturally quick intellect seized on and appreciated the
beauties presented to it. Authors, in whose writings he had imagined
and expected little else but difficulties, soon became easy and
familiar; and what he had imposed upon himself from a high principle as
a task, proved, ere long, a source of abundant pleasure.

In the vacations he visited his good–humoured uncle, who never failed
to rally him as a “Latin–monger” and a book–worm: but Reginald bore
the jokes with temper not less merry than his uncle’s; and whenever,
after a hard run, he had “pounded” the squire or the huntsman, he
never failed to retaliate by answering the compliments paid him on his
riding with some such jest as, “Pretty well for a book–worm, uncle.”
It soon became evident to all the tenants, servants, and indeed to the
whole neighbourhood, that Reginald exercised a despotic influence over
the squire, who respected internally those literary attainments in his
nephew which he affected to ridicule.

When Reginald had taken his degree, which he did with high honour and
credit, he felt an ardent desire to visit his friend and school–fellow,
Edward Ethelston, in Germany: he was also anxious to see something
of the Continent, and to study the foreign languages. This wish he
expressed without circumlocution to the squire, who received the
communication with undisguised disapprobation: “What the devil can the
boy want to go abroad for? not satisfied with wasting two or three
years poking over Greek, Latin, mathematics, and other infernal ‘atics’
and ‘ologies,’ now you must go across the Channel to eat sour–krout,
soup–maigre, and frogs! I won’t hear of it, sir;” and in order to keep
his wrath warm, the squire poked the fire violently.

In spite of this determination, Reginald, as usual, carried his point,
and in a few weeks was on board a packet bound for Hamburgh, his purse
being well filled by the squire, who told him to see all that could be
seen, and “not to let any of those Mounseers top him at any thing.”
Reginald was also provided with letters of credit to a much larger
amount than he required; but the first hint which he gave of a wish to
decline a portion of the squire’s generosity raised such a storm, that
our hero was fain to submit.



CHAPTER IV.

 CONTAINING SUNDRY ADVENTURES OF REGINALD BRANDON AND HIS FRIEND
 ETHELSTON ON THE CONTINENT; ALSO SOME FURTHER PROCEEDINGS AT SQUIRE
 SHIRLEY’S; AND THE RETURN OF REGINALD BRANDON TO HIS HOME.—IN THIS
 CHAPTER THE SPORTING READER WILL FIND AN EXAMPLE OF AN UNMADE RIDER ON A
 MADE HUNTER.


Reginald having joined his attached and faithful friend Ethelston at
Hamburgh, the young men agreed to travel together; and the intimacy
of their early boyhood ripened into a mature friendship, based upon
mutual esteem. In personal advantages, Reginald was greatly the
superior; for although unusually tall and strongly built, such was the
perfect symmetry of his proportions, that his height, and the great
muscular strength of his chest and limbs, were carried off by the grace
with which he moved, and by the air of high breeding by which he was
distinguished: his countenance was noble and open in expression; and
though there was a fire in his dark eye which betokened passions easily
aroused, still there was a frankness on the brow, and a smile around
the mouth, that told of a nature at once kindly, fearless, and without
suspicion.

Ethelston, who was, be it remembered, three years older than his
friend, was of middle stature, but active, and well proportioned:
his hair and eyebrows were of the jettest black, and his countenance
thoughtful and grave; but there was about the full and firm lip an
expression of determination not to be mistaken. Habits of study
and reflection had already written their trace upon his high and
intellectual brow; so that one who saw him for the first time might
imagine him only a severe student; but ere he had seen him an hour
in society, he would pronounce him a man of practical and commanding
character. The shade of melancholy, which was almost habitual on his
countenance, dated from the death of his father, brought prematurely by
sorrow to his grave, and from the loss of his little sister, to whom he
had been tenderly attached. The two friends loved each other with the
affection of brothers; and after the separation of the last few years,
each found in the other newly developed qualities to esteem.

The state of Europe during the autumn of 1795 not being favourable for
distant excursions, Ethelston contented himself with showing his friend
all objects worthy of his attention in the north of Germany, and at the
same time assisted him in attaining its rich though difficult language.
By associating much, during the winter, with the students from the
universities, Reginald caught some of their enthusiasm respecting the
defence of their country from the arms of the French republic: he
learnt that a large number of Ethelston’s acquaintances at Hamburgh had
resolved in the spring to join a corps of volunteers from the Hanseatic
towns, destined to fight under the banner of the Archduke Charles: to
their own surprise, our two friends were carried away by the stream,
and found themselves enrolled in a small but active and gallant band of
sharpshooters, ordered to act on the flank of a large body of Austrian
infantry. More than once the impetuous courage of Reginald had nearly
cost him his life; and in the action at Amberg, where the Archduke
defeated General Bernadotte, he received two wounds, such as would
have disabled a man of less hardy constitution. It was in vain that
Ethelston, whose bravery was tempered by unruffled coolness, urged his
friend to expose himself less wantonly; Reginald always promised it,
but in the excitement of the action always forgot the promise.

After he had recovered from his wounds, his commanding officer, who had
noticed his fearless daring, a quality so valuable in the skirmishing
duty to which his corps were appointed, sent for him, and offered to
promote him. “Sir,” said Reginald, modestly, “I thank you heartily, but
I must decline the honour you propose to me. I am too inexperienced
to lead others; my friend and comrade, Ethelston, is three years my
senior; in action he is always by my side, sometimes before me; he has
more skill or riper judgment; any promotion, that should prefer me
before him, would be most painful to me.” He bowed and withdrew. On the
following day, the same officer, who had mentioned Reginald’s conduct
to the Archduke, presented both the friends, from him, with a gold
medal of the Emperor; a distinction the more gratifying to Reginald,
from his knowledge that _he_ had been secretly the means of bringing
his friend’s merit into the notice of his commander.

They served through the remainder of that campaign, when the arms of
the contending parties met with alternate success: towards its close,
the Archduke having skilfully effected his object of uniting his forces
to the corps d’armée under General Wartenleben, compelled the French to
evacuate Franconia, and to retire towards Switzerland.

This retreat was conducted with much skill by General Moreau; several
times did the French rear–guard make an obstinate stand against
the pursuers, among whom Reginald and his comrades were always the
foremost. On one occasion, the French army occupied a position so
strong that they were not driven from it without heavy loss on both
sides; and even after the force of numbers had compelled the main body
to retire, there remained a gallant band who seemed resolved to conquer
or die upon the field. In vain did the Austrian leaders, in admiration
of their devoted valour, call to them to surrender: without yielding an
inch of ground, they fell fighting where they stood. Reginald made the
most desperate efforts to save their young commander, whose chivalrous
appearance and brilliantly decorated uniform made him remarkable from a
great distance: several times did he strike aside a barrel pointed at
the French officer; but it was too late; and when at length, covered
with dust, and sweat, and blood, he reached the spot, he found the
young hero, whom he had striven to save, stretched on the ground by
several mortal wounds in his breast; he saw, however, Reginald’s kind
intention, smiled gratefully upon him, waved his sword over his head,
and died.

The excitement of the battle was over; and leaning on his sword,
Reginald still bent over the noble form and marble features of the
young warrior at his feet; and he sighed deeply when he thought how
suddenly had this flower of manly beauty been cut down. “Perhaps,” said
he, half aloud, “some now childless mother yet waits for this last
prop of her age and name; or some betrothed lingers at her window, and
wonders why he so long delays.”

Ethelston was at his side, his eyes also bent sadly upon the same
object: the young friends interchanged a warm and silent grasp of the
hand, each feeling that he read the heart of the other! At this moment,
a groan escaped from a wounded man, who was half buried under the
bleeding bodies of his comrades: with some difficulty Reginald dragged
him out from below them, and the poor fellow thanked him for his
humanity: he had only received a slight wound on the head from a spent
ball, which had stunned him for the time; but he soon recovered from
its effects, and looking around, he saw the body of the young commander
stretched on the plain.

“_Ah, mon pauvre Général!_” he exclaimed: and on further inquiry,
Reginald learnt that it was indeed the gallant, the admired, the
beloved General Marceau, whose brilliant career was thus untimely
closed.

“I will go,” whispered Ethelston, “and bear these tidings to the
Archduke; meantime, Reginald, guard the honoured remains from the
camp–spoiler and the plunderer.” So saying he withdrew: and Reginald,
stooping over the prostrate form before him, stretched it decently,
closed the eyes, and, throwing a mantle over the splendid uniform, sat
down to indulge in the serious meditations inspired by the scene.

He was soon aroused from them by the poor fellow whom he had dragged
forth, who said to him, “Sir, I yield myself your prisoner.”

“And who are you, my friend?”

“I was courier, valet, and cook to M. de Vareuil, aide–de–camp to the
General Marceau; both lie dead together before you.”

“And what is your name, my good fellow?”

“Gustave Adolphe Montmorenci Perrot.”

“A fair string of names, indeed,” said Reginald, smiling. “But pray,
Monsieur Perrot, how came you here? are you a soldier as well as a
courier?”

“Monsieur does me too much honour,” said the other, shrugging his
shoulders. “I only came from the baggage–train with a message to my
master, and your avant–garde peppered us so hotly that I could not get
back again. I am not fond of fighting: but somehow, when I saw poor
Monsieur de Vareuil in so sad a plight, I did not wish to leave him.”

Reginald looked at the speaker, and thought he had never seen in one
face such a compound of slyness and honesty, drollery and sadness. He
did not, however, reply, and relapsed into his meditation. Before five
minutes had passed, Monsieur Perrot, as if struck by a sudden idea,
fell on his knees before Reginald, and said,

“Monsieur has saved my life—will he grant me yet one favour?”

“If within my power,” said Reginald, good–humouredly.

“Will Monsieur take me into his service? I have travelled over all
Europe; I have lived long in Paris, London, Vienna; I may be of use to
Monsieur; but I have no home now.”

“Nay, but Monsieur Perrot, I want no servant; I am only a volunteer
with the army.”

“I see what Monsieur is,” said Perrot, archly, “in spite of the dust
and blood with which he is disfigured. I will ask no salary; I will
share your black bread, if you are poor, and will live in your pantry,
if you are rich: I only want to serve you.”

Monsieur Perrot’s importunity overruled all the objections that
Reginald could raise; and he at last consented to the arrangement,
provided the former, after due reflection, should adhere to his wish.

Ethelston meanwhile returned with the party sent by the Archduke to pay
the last token of respect to the remains of the youthful General. They
were interred with all the military honours due to an officer whose
reputation was, considering his years, second to none in France, save
that of Napoleon himself.

After the ceremony, Monsieur Perrot, now on parole not to bear arms
against Austria, obtained leave to return to the French camp for a
week, in order to “arrange his affairs,” at the expiration of which
he promised to rejoin his new master. Ethelston blamed Reginald for
his thoughtlessness in engaging this untried attendant. The latter,
however, laughed at his friend, and said, “Though he is such a
droll–looking creature, I think there is good in him; at all events,
rest assured I will not trust him far without trial.”

A few weeks after these events, General Moreau having effected his
retreat into Switzerland, an armistice was concluded on the Rhine
between the contending armies; and Reginald could no longer resist the
imperative commands of his uncle to return to Shirley Hall. Monsieur
Gustave Adolphe Montmorenci Perrot had joined his new master, with a
valise admirably stocked, and wearing a peruke of a most fashionable
cut. Ethelston shrewdly suspected that these had formed part of
Monsieur de Vareuil’s wardrobe, and his dislike of Reginald’s foppish
valet was not thereby diminished.

On the route to Hamburgh the friends passed through many places where
the luxuries, and even the necessaries of life, had been rendered
scarce by the late campaign. Here Perrot was in his element; fatigue
seemed to be unknown to him; he was always ready, active, useful as
a courier, and unequalled as a cook or a caterer; so that Ethelston
was compelled to confess, that if he only proved honest, Reginald had
indeed found a treasure.

At Hamburgh the two friends took an affectionate farewell, promising
to meet each other in the course of the following year on the banks of
the Ohio. Reginald returned to his uncle, who stormed dreadfully when
he learnt that he had brought with him a French valet, and remained
implacable, in spite of the circumstances under which he had been
engaged; until one morning, when a footman threw down the tray on which
he was carrying up the squire’s breakfast of beef–steaks and stewed
kidneys, half an hour before “the meet” at his best cover–side. What
could now be done? The cook was sulky, and sent word that there were
no more steaks nor kidneys to be had. The squire was wrath and hungry.
Reginald laughed, and said, “Uncle, send for Perrot.”

“Perrot be d—d!” cried the squire. “Does the boy think I want some
pomatum? What else can that coxcomb give me?”

“May I try him, uncle?” said Reginald, still laughing.

“You may try him: but if he plays any of his jackanapes pranks, I’ll
tan his hide for him, I promise you!”

Reginald having rung for Perrot, pointed to the remains of the good
things which a servant was still gathering up, and said to him, “Send
up breakfast for Mr. Shirley and myself in one quarter of an hour from
this minute: you are permitted to use what you find in the larder; but
be punctual.”

Perrot bowed, and, without speaking, disappeared.

“The devil take the fellow! he has _some_ sense,” said the angry
squire; “he can receive an order without talking; one of my hulking
knaves would have stood there five minutes out of the fifteen, saying,
‘Yes, sir; I’ll see what can be done;’ or, ‘I’ll ask Mr. Alltripe,’ or
some other infernal stuff. Come, Reginald, look at your watch. Let us
stroll to the stable; we’ll be back to a minute; and if that fellow
plays any of his French tricks upon me, I’ll give it him.” So saying,
the jolly squire cut the head off one of his gardener’s favourite
plants with his hunting whip, and led the way to the stable.

We may now return to Monsieur Perrot, and see how he set about the
discharge of his sudden commission; but it may be necessary, at the
same time, to explain one or two particulars not known to his master
or to the squire. Monsieur Perrot was very gallant, and his tender
heart had been smitten by the charms of Mary, the still–room maid;
it so happened on this very morning that he had prepared slyly, as a
surprise, a little _déjeûner à la fourchette_, with which he intended
to soften Mary’s obduracy. We will not inquire _how_ he had obtained
the mushroom, the lemon, and the sundry other good things with which he
was busily engaged in dressing a plump hen–pheasant, when he received
the above unexpected summons. Monsieur Perrot’s vanity was greater
than either his gourmandise or his love; and, without hesitation, he
determined to sacrifice to it the hen–pheasant: his first step was to
run to the still–room; and having stolen a kiss from Mary, and received
a box on the ear as a reward, he gave her two or three very brief but
important hints for the coffee, which was to be made immediately; he
then turned his attention to the hen–pheasant, sliced some bacon, cut
up a ham, took possession of a whole basket of eggs, and flew about the
kitchen with such surprising activity, and calling for so many things
at once, that Mr. Alltripe left his dominion, and retired to his own
room in high dudgeon.

Meanwhile the squire, having sauntered through the stables with
Reginald, and enlightened him with various comments upon the points and
qualities of his favourite hunters, took out his watch, and exclaimed,
“The time is up, my boy; let us go in and see what your precious
mounseer has got for us.” As they entered the library, Monsieur opened
the opposite door, and announced breakfast as quietly and composedly as
if no unusual demand had been made upon his talents. The squire led the
way into the breakfast–room, and was scarcely more surprised than was
Reginald himself at the viands that regaled his eye on the table. In
addition to the brown and white loaves, the rolls, and other varieties
of bread, there smoked on one dish the delicate salmi of pheasant, on
another the squire’s favourite dish of bacon, with poached eggs, and on
a third a most tempting _omelette au jambon_.

Marmaduke Shirley opened his eyes and mouth wide with astonishment,
as Monsieur Perrot offered him, one after another, these delicacies,
inquiring, with undisturbed gravity, if “Monsieur desired any thing
else? as there were other dishes ready below?”

“Other dishes! why, man, here’s a breakfast for a court of aldermen,”
said the squire; and having ascertained that the things were as
agreeable to the taste as to the eye, and that the coffee was more
clear and high–flavoured than he had ever tasted before, he seized
his nephew’s hand, saying, “Reginald, my boy, I give in; your Master
Perrot’s a trump, and no man shall ever speak a word against him in
this house! A rare fellow!” Here he took another turn at the omelette;
“hang me if he shan’t have a day’s sport;” and the squire chuckling
at the idea that had suddenly crossed him, rang the bell violently:
“Tell Repton,” said he to the servant who entered, “to saddle ‘Rattling
Bess,’ for Monsieur Perrot, and to take her to the cover–side with the
other horses at ten.”

“She kicks a bit at starting,” added he to Reginald; “but she’s as safe
as a mill; and though she rushes now and then at the fences, she always
gets through or over ‘em.”

Now it was poor Perrot’s turn to be astonished. To do him justice, he
was neither a bad horseman (as a courier) nor a coward; but he had
never been out with hounds, and the enumeration of “Rattling Bess’”
qualities did not sound very attractive to his ear: he began gently
to make excuses, and to decline the proposed favour: he had not the
“proper dress:”—“he had much to do for Monsieur’s wardrobe at home:”
but it was all to no purpose, the squire was determined; Repton’s coat
and breeches would fit him, and go he _must_.

With a rueful look at his master, Perrot slunk off, cursing in
his heart the salmi and the omelette, which had procured him this
undesired favour: but he was ordered to lose no time in preparing
himself; so he first endeavoured to get into Mr. Repton’s clothes:
that proved impossible, as Mr. R. _had_ been a racing jockey, and
was a feather–weight, with legs like nutcrackers. Having no time for
deliberation, Monsieur Perrot drew from his valise the courier suit
which he had worn in France; and to the surprise of the whole party
assembled at the door, he appeared clad in a blue coat turned up with
yellow, a cornered hat, and enormous boots, half a foot higher than
his knees. He was ordered to jump up behind the squire’s carriage, and
away they went to the cover–side, amid the ill–suppressed titter of the
grooms and footmen, and the loud laughter of the maids, whose malicious
faces, not excepting that of Mary, were at the open windows below.

When they reached the place appointed for “the meet,” and proceeded to
mount the impatient horses awaiting them, Perrot eyed with no agreeable
anticipation the long ears of Rattling Bess laid back, and the restless
wag of her rat–tail, and he ventured one more attempt at an escape.
“Really, sir,” said he to the squire, “I never hunted, and I don’t
think I can manage that animal; she looks very savage.”

“Never mind her, Monsieur Perrot,” said the squire, enjoying the poor
valet’s ill–dissembled uneasiness. “She knows her business here as well
as any whipper–in or huntsman; only let her go her own way, and you’ll
never be far from the brush.”

“Very well,” muttered Perrot; “I hope _she_ knows _her_ business; I
know mine, and that is to keep on her back, which I’ll do as well as I
can.”

The eyes of the whole field were upon this strangely attired figure;
and as soon as he got into the saddle, “Rattling Bess” began to kick
and plunge violently: we have said that he was not in some respects
a bad horseman; and although in this, her first prank, he lost one
of his stirrups, and his cornered hat fell off, he contrived to keep
both his seat and his temper: while the hounds were drawing the cover,
one of the squire’s grooms restored the hat, and gave him a string
wherewith to fasten it, an operation which he had scarcely concluded,
when the inspiring shouts of “Tally ho,” “Gone away,” “Forward,” rang
on his ears. “Rattling Bess” seemed to understand the sounds as well
as ever alderman knew a dinner–bell; and away she went at full gallop,
convincing Monsieur Perrot, after an ineffectual struggle of a few
minutes on his part, that both the speed and direction of her course
were matters over which he could not exercise the smallest influence.

On they flew, over meadow and stile, ditch and hedge, nothing seemed
to check Rattling Bess; and while all the field were in astonished
admiration at the reckless riding of the strange courier, that worthy
was catching his breath, and muttering through his teeth, “Diable
d’animal, she have a mouth so hard, like one of Mr. Alltripe’s
bif–steak,—she know her business—and a sacré business it is—holà
there! mind yourself!” shouted he, at the top of his voice, to a
horseman whose horse had fallen in brushing through a thick hedge,
and was struggling to rise on the other side just as Rattling Bess
followed at tremendous speed over the same place; lighting upon the
hind–quarters of her hapless predecessor, and scraping all the skin
off his loins, she knocked the rider head over heels into the ploughed
field, where his face was buried a foot deep in dirty mould: by a
powerful effort she kept herself from falling, and went gallantly over
the field; Perrot still muttering, as he tugged at the insensible
mouth, “She know her business, she kill dat poor devil in the dirt, she
kill herself and me too.”

A few minutes later, the hounds, having overrun the scent, came to a
check, and were gathered by the huntsman into a green lane, from whence
they were about to “try back” as Rattling Bess came up at unabated
speed. “Hold hard there, hold hard!” shouted at once the huntsman, the
whips, and the few sportsmen who were up with the hounds. “Where the
devil are you going, man?” “The fox is viewed back.” “Halloo!—you’re
riding into the middle of the pack.” These and similar cries scarcely
had time to reach the ears of Perrot, ere “Rattling Bess” sprang over
the hedge into a green lane, and coming down upon the unfortunate
dogs, split the head of one, broke the back of another, and, laming
two or three more, carried her rider over the opposite fence, who,
still panting for breath, with his teeth set, muttered, “She know her
business, sacré animal.”

After crossing two more fields, she cleared a hedge, so thick that he
could not see what was on the other side; but he heard a tremendous
crash, and was only conscious of being hurled with violence to the
ground: slowly recovering his senses, he saw Rattling Bess lying a few
yards from him, bleeding profusely; and his own ears were saluted by
the following compassionate inquiry from the lips of a gardener, who
was standing over him, spade in hand: “D—n your stupid outlandish
head, what be you a doin’ here?”

The half–stunned courier, pointing to Rattling Bess, replied: “She know
her business.”

The gardener, though enraged at the entire demolition of his melon–bed,
and of sundry forced vegetables under glass, was not an ill–tempered
fellow in the main; and seeing that the horse was half killed, and the
rider, a foreigner, much bruised, he assisted poor Perrot to rise; and
having gathered from him that he was in the service of rich Squire
Shirley, rendered all the aid in his power to him and to Rattling Bess,
who had received some very severe cuts from the glass.

When the events of the day came to be talked over at the Hall,
and it proved that it was the squire himself whom Perrot had so
unceremoniously ridden over,—that the huntsman would expect some
twenty guineas for the hounds killed or maimed—that the gardener would
probably present a similar or a larger account for a broken melon–bed
and shivered glass—_and_ that Rattling Bess was lame for the season,
the squire did not encourage much conversation on the day’s sport; the
only remark that he was heard to make, being, “What a fool I was to put
a frog–eating Frenchman on an English hunter!”

Monsieur Perrot remained in his room for three or four days, not caring
that Mary should see his visage while it was adorned with a black eye
and an inflamed nose.

Soon after this eventful chase, Reginald obtained his uncle’s leave
to obey his father’s wishes by visiting Paris for a few months. His
stay there was shortened by a letter which he received from his sister
Lucy, announcing to him his mother’s illness; on the receipt of which
he wrote a few hurried lines of explanation to his uncle, and sailed by
the first ship for Philadelphia, accompanied by the faithful Perrot,
and by a large rough dog of the breed of the old Irish wolf–hound,
given to him by the squire.

On arriving, he found his mother better than he had expected; and,
as he kissed off the tears of joy which Lucy shed on his return, he
whispered to her his belief that she had a little exaggerated their
mother’s illness, in order to recall him. After a short time, Ethelston
also returned, and joined the happy circle assembled at Colonel
Brandon’s.

It was now the spring of 1797, between which time and that mentioned
as the date of our opening chapter, a period of nearly two years,
nothing worthy of peculiar record occurred. Reginald kept up a faithful
correspondence with his kind uncle, whose letters showed how deeply
he felt his nephew’s absence. Whether Monsieur Perrot interchanged
letters with Mary, or consoled himself with the damsels on the banks of
the Ohio, the following pages may show. His master made several hunting
excursions, on which he was always accompanied by Baptiste, a sturdy
backwoodsman, who was more deeply attached to Reginald than to any
other being on earth; and Ethelston had, as we have before explained,
undertaken the whole charge of his guardian’s vessels, with one of the
largest of which he was, at the commencement of our tale, absent in the
West India Islands.



CHAPTER V.

 AN ADVENTURE IN THE WOODS.—REGINALD BRANDON MAKES THE ACQUAINTANCE OF
 AN INDIAN CHIEF.


It was a bright morning in April; the robin was beginning his early
song, the woodpecker darted his beak against the rough bark, and the
squirrel hopped merrily from bough to bough among the gigantic trees of
the forest, as two hunters followed a winding path which led to a ferry
across the Muskingum river.

One was a powerful athletic young man, with a countenance strikingly
handsome, and embrowned by exercise and exposure: his dress was a
hunting shirt, and leggings of deer–skin; his curling brown locks
escaped from under a cap of wolf–skin; and his mocassins, firmly
secured round the ankle, were made from the tough hide of a bear: he
carried in his hand a short rifle of heavy calibre, and an ornamented
couteau–de–chasse hung at his belt. His companion, lower in stature,
but broad, sinewy, and weather–beaten, seemed to be some fifteen or
twenty years the elder: his dress was of the same material, but more
soiled and worn; his rifle was longer and heavier; and his whole
appearance that of a man to whom all inclemencies of season were
indifferent, all the dangers and hardships of a western hunter’s life
familiar; but the most remarkable part of his equipment was an enormous
axe, the handle studded with nails, and the head firmly riveted with
iron hoops.

“Well, Master Reginald,” said the latter; “we must hope to find old
Michael and his ferry–boat at the Passage des Rochers, for the river is
much swollen, and we might not easily swim it with dry powder.”

“What reason have you to doubt old Michael’s being found at his post?”
said Reginald: “we have often crossed there, and have seldom found him
absent.”

“True, master; but he has of late become very lazy; and he prefers
sitting by his fire, and exchanging a bottle of fire–water with a
strolling Ingian for half a dozen good skins, to tugging a great
flat–bottomed boat across the Muskingum during the March floods.”

“Baptiste,” said the young man, “it grieves me to see the reckless
avidity with which spirits are sought by the Indians; and the violence,
outrage, and misery which is the general consequence of their
dram–drinking.”

“Why you see, there is something very good in a cup of West Ingy rum.”
Here Baptiste’s hard features were twisted into a grin irresistibly
comic, and he proceeded: “It warms the stomach and the heart; and
the savages, when they once taste it, suck at a bottle by instinct,
as natural as a six–weeks’ cub at his dam. I often wonder, Master
Reginald, why you spoil that fine _eau de vie_ which little Perrot puts
into your hunting flask, by mixing with it a quantity of water! In my
last trip to the mountains, where I was first guide and turpret[2],
they gave me a taste now and then, and I never found it do me harm; but
the nature of an Ingian is different, you know.”

“Well, Baptiste,” said Reginald, smiling at his follower’s defence of
his favourite beverage; “I will say that I never knew you to take more
than you could carry; but your head is as strong as your back, and you
sometimes prove the strength of both.”

The conversation was suddenly interrupted by the report of Reginald’s
rifle, and a grey squirrel fell from the top of a hickory, where he
was feasting in fancied security. Baptiste took up the little animal,
and having examined it attentively, shook his head gravely, saying,
“Master Reginald, there is not a quicker eye, nor a truer hand in the
territory, but—“

As he hesitated to finish the sentence, Reginald added, laughing,
“but—but—I am an obstinate fellow, because I will not exchange my
favourite German rifle, with its heavy bullet, for a long Virginia
barrel, with a ball like a pea; is it not so, Baptiste?”

The guide’s natural good–humour struggled with prejudices which, on
this subject, had been more than once wounded by his young companion,
as he replied, “Why, Master Reginald, the deer, whose saddle is on my
shoulder, found my pea hard enough to swallow; and look here, at this
poor little vermint, whom you have just killed,—there is a hole in
his neck big enough to let the life out of a grisly bear; you have hit
him nearly an inch further back than I taught you to aim before you
went across the great water, and learnt all kinds of British and German
notions!”

Reginald smiled at the hunter’s characteristic reproof, and replied, in
a tone of kindness, “Well, Baptiste, all that I do know of tracking a
deer, or lining a bee, or of bringing down one of these little vermint,
I learnt first from you; and if I am a promising pupil, the credit is
due to Baptiste, the best hunter in forest or prairie!”

A glow of pleasure passed over the guide’s sunburnt countenance; and
grasping in his hard and horny fingers his young master’s hand, he
said, “Thank’ee, Master Reginald; and as for me, though I’m only a poor
‘Coureur des bois,’[3] I a’n’t feared to back my pupil against any man
that walks, from Dan Boone, of Kentucky, to Bloody–hand, the great
war–chief of the Cayugas.”

As he spoke, they came in sight of the river, and the blue smoke
curling up among the trees showed our travellers that they had not
missed their path to Michael’s log–house and ferry. “What have we
here?” exclaimed Baptiste, catching his companion by the arm; “’tis
even as I told you; the old rogue is smoking his pipe over a glass
of brandy in his kitchen corner; and there is a wild–looking Indian
pulling himself across with three horses in that crazy batteau, almost
as old and useless as its owner!”

“He will scarcely reach the opposite bank,” said Reginald; “the river
is muddy and swollen with melted snow, and his horses seem disposed to
be unquiet passengers.”

They had now approached near enough to enable them to distinguish the
features of the Indian in the boat: the guide scanned them with evident
surprise and interest; the result of which was, a noise which broke
from him, something between a grunt and a whistle, as he muttered,
“What can have brought _him_ here?”

“Do you know that fine–looking fellow, then?” inquired Reginald.

“Know him, Master Reginald—does Wolf know Miss Lucy?—does a bear
know a bee tree? I should know him among a thousand red–skins, though
he were twice as well disguised. Tête–bleu, master, look at those wild
brutes how they struggle; he and they will taste Muskingum water before
long.”

While he was speaking one of the horses reared, another kicked
furiously, the shallow flat boat was upset, and both they and the
Indian fell headlong into the river. They had been secured together
by a “laryette,” or thong of hide, which unfortunately came athwart
the Indian’s shoulder, and thus he was held below the water, while the
struggles of the frightened animals rendered it impossible for him to
extricate himself. “He is entangled in the laryette,” said the guide;
“nothing can save him,” he added in a grave and sadder tone. “’Tis a
noble youth, and I would have wished him a braver death! What are you
doing, Master Reginald?—are you mad? No man can swim in that torrent.
For your father’s sake—“

But his entreaties and attempts to restrain his impetuous companion
were fruitless, for Reginald had already thrown on the ground his
leathern hunting shirt, his rifle, and ammunition; and shaking off the
grasp of the guide as if the latter had been a child, he plunged into
the river, and swam to the spot where the feebler struggles of the
horses showed that they were now almost at the mercy of the current.
When he reached them, Reginald dived below the nearest, and dividing
the laryette with two or three successful strokes of his knife, brought
the exhausted Indian to the surface. For a moment, he feared that he
had come too late; but on inhaling a breath of air, the red–skin seemed
to regain both consciousness and strength, and was able in his turn to
assist Reginald, who had received, when under water, a blow on the
head from the horse’s hoof, the blood flowing fast from the wound.
Short but expressive was the greeting exchanged as they struck out
for the bank, which one of the horses had already gained: another was
bruised, battered, and tossed about among some shelving rocks lower
down the river; and the third was being fast hurried towards the same
dangerous spot, when the Indian, uttering a shrill cry, turned and swam
again towards this, his favourite horse, and by a great exertion of
skill and strength, brought it to a part of the river where the current
was less rapid, and thence led it safely ashore.

These events had passed in less time than their narration has occupied:
and the whole biped and quadruped party now stood drenched and dripping
on the bank. The two young men gazed at each other in silence, with
looks of mingled interest and admiration: indeed, if a sculptor had
desired to place together two different specimens of youthful manhood,
in which symmetry and strength were to be gracefully united, he could
scarcely have selected two finer models: in height they might be about
equal; and though the frame and muscular proportions of Reginald were
more powerful, there was a roundness and compact knitting of the
joints, and a sinewy suppleness in the limbs of his new acquaintance,
such as he thought he had never seen equalled in statuary or in life.
The Indian’s gaze was so fixed and piercing, that Reginald’s eye
wandered more than once from his countenance to the belt, where his
war–club was still suspended by a thong, the scalp–knife in its sheath,
and near it a scalp, evidently that of a white man, and bearing the
appearance of having been recently taken.

With a slight shudder of disgust, he raised his eyes again to the
chiselled features of the noble–looking being before him, and felt
assured that though they might be those of a savage warrior, they
could not be those of a lurking assassin. The Indian now moved a step
forward, and taking Reginald’s hand, placed it upon his own heart,
saying distinctly in English, “My brother!”

Reginald understood and appreciated this simple expression of gratitude
and friendship; he imitated his new friend’s action, and evinced, both
by his looks and the kindly tones of his voice, the interest which, to
his own surprise, the Indian had awakened in his breast.

At this juncture they were joined by the guide, who had paddled himself
across in a canoe that he found at the ferry, which was two hundred
yards above the spot where they now stood. At his approach, the young
Indian resumed his silent attitude of repose; while, apparently
unconscious of his presence, Baptiste poured upon his favourite a
mingled torrent of reproofs and congratulations.

“Why, Master Reginald, did the mad spirit possess you to jump into the
Muskingum, and dive like an otter, where the water was swift and dark
as the Niagara rapids! Pardie, though, it was bravely done! another
minute, and our red–skin friend would have been in the hunting–ground
of his forefathers. Give me your hand, master; I love you better
than ever! I had a mind to take a duck myself after ye; but thought,
if bad luck came, I might serve ye better with the canoe.” While
rapidly uttering these broken sentences, he handed to Reginald the
hunting–shirt, rifle, and other things, which he had brought over in
the canoe, and wrung the water out of his cap, being all the time in
a state of ill–dissembled excitement. This done, he turned to the
young Indian, who was standing aside, silent and motionless. The guide
scanned his features with a searching look, and then muttered audibly,
“I knew it must be he.”

A gleam shot from the dark eye of the Indian, proving that he heard and
understood the phrase, but not a word escaped his lips.

Reginald, unable to repress his curiosity, exclaimed, “Must be who,
Baptiste? Who is my Indian friend—my brother?”

A lurking smile played round the mouth of the guide, as he said in a
low tone to the Indian, “Does the paint on my brother’s face tell a
tale? Is his path in the night? Must his name dwell between shut lips?”

To this last question the Indian, moving forward with that peculiar
grace and innate dignity which characterised all his movements,
replied, “The War–Eagle hides his name from none: his cry is heard from
far, and his path is straight: a dog’s scalp is at his belt!” Here he
paused a moment; and added, in a softened tone, “But the bad Spirit
prevailed: the waters were too strong for him; the swimming–warrior’s
knife came; and again the War–Eagle saw the light.”

“And found a brother—is it not so?” added Reginald.

“It is so!” replied the Indian: and there was a depth of pathos in the
tone of his voice as he spoke, which convinced Reginald that those
words came from the heart.

“There were three horses with you in the bac,” said the guide: “two are
under yonder trees;—where is the third?”

“Dead, among those rocks below the rapids,” answered War–Eagle,
quietly. “He was a fool, and was taken from a fool, and both are now
together;” as he spoke he pointed scornfully to the scalp which hung at
his belt.

Reginald and Baptiste interchanged looks of uneasy curiosity, and then
directing their eyes towards the distant spot indicated by the Indian,
they distinguished the battered carcass of the animal, partly hid by
the water, and partly resting against the rock, which prevented it from
floating down with the current.

The party now turned towards the horses among the trees; which, after
enjoying themselves by rolling in the grass, were feeding, apparently
unconscious of their double misdemeanor, in having first upset the
bac, and then nearly drowned their master by their struggles in the
water. As Reginald and his two companions approached, an involuntary
exclamation of admiration burst from him.

“Heavens, Baptiste! did you ever see so magnificent a creature as that
with the laryette round his neck? And what a colour! it seems between
chestnut and black! Look at his short, wild head, his broad forehead,
his bold eye, and that long silky mane falling below his shoulder!
Look, also, at his short back and legs! Why, he has the beauty of a
barb joined to the strength of an English hunter!”

It may be well imagined that the greater portion of this might have
been a soliloquy, as Baptiste understood but few, the Indian none, of
the expressions which Reginald uttered with enthusiastic rapidity.
Both, however, understood enough to know that he was admiring the
animal, and both judged that his admiration was not misplaced.

Our hero (for so we must denominate Reginald Brandon) approached to
handle and caress the horse; but the latter, with erect ears and
expanded nostrils, snorted an indignant refusal of these civilities
and trotted off, tossing high his mane as if in defiance of man’s
dominion. At this moment, the War–Eagle uttered a shrill, peculiar cry,
when immediately the obedient horse came to his side, rubbing his head
against his master’s shoulder, and courting those caresses which he had
so lately and so scornfully refused from Reginald.

While the docile and intelligent animal thus stood beside him, a sudden
ray of light sparkled in the Indian’s eye, as with rapid utterance, not
unmingled with gesticulation, he said, “The War–Eagle’s path was toward
the evening sun; his tomahawk drank the Camanchee’s blood; the wild
horse was swift, and strong, and fierce; the cunning man on the evening
prairie said he was _Nekimi_[4],—‘the Great Spirit’s angry breath;’
but the War–Eagle’s neck–bullet struck—“

At this part of the narrative, the guide, carried away by the
enthusiasm of the scene described, ejaculated, in the Delaware tongue,
“That was bravely done!”

For a moment the young Indian paused; and then, with increased
rapidity and vehemence, told in his own language how he had captured
and subdued the horse; which faithful creature, seemingly anxious
to bear witness to the truth of his master’s tale, still sought and
returned his caresses. The Indian, however, was not thereby deterred
from the purpose which had already made his eye flash with pleasure.
Taking the thong in his hand, and placing it in that of Reginald, he
said, resuming the English tongue, “The War–Eagle gives Nekimi to his
brother. The white warrior may hunt the mastoche[5], he may overtake
his enemies, he may fly from the prairie–fire when the wind is strong:
Nekimi never tires!”

Reginald was so surprised at this unexpected offer, that he felt
much embarrassed, and hesitated whether he ought not to decline the
gift. Baptiste saw a cloud gathering on the Indian’s brow, and said
in a low voice to his master, in French, “You must take the horse; a
refusal would mortally offend him.” Our hero accordingly accompanied
his expression of thanks with every demonstration of satisfaction
and affection. Again War–Eagle’s face brightened with pleasure; but
the effect upon Nekimi seemed to be very different, for he stoutly
resisted his new master’s attempts at approach or acquaintance,
snorting and backing at every step made by Reginald in advance.

“The white warrior must learn to speak to Nekimi,” said the Indian,
quietly; and he again repeated the short, shrill cry before noticed.
In vain our hero tried to imitate the sound; the horse’s ears remained
deaf to his voice, and it seemed as if his new acquisition could prove
but of little service to him.

War–Eagle now took Reginald aside, and smeared his hands with some
grease taken from a small bladder in his girdle, and on his extending
them again towards the horse, much of the fear and dislike evinced by
the latter disappeared. As soon as the animal would permit Reginald
to touch it, the Indian desired him to hold its nostril firmly in his
hand, and placing his face by the horse’s head, to look up steadfastly
into its eye for several minutes, speaking low at intervals to accustom
it to his voice: he assured him that in a few days Nekimi would through
this treatment become docile and obedient.



CHAPTER VI.

REGINALD AND BAPTISTE PAY A VISIT TO WAR–EAGLE.—AN ATTEMPT AT
TREACHERY MEETS WITH SUMMARY PUNISHMENT.


The other horse being now secured, the party prepared to resume their
journey; and as it appeared, after a few words whispered between the
Indian and the guide, that their routes were in the same direction,
they struck into the forest, Baptiste leading, followed by Reginald,
and War–Eagle bringing up the rear with the two horses.

After walking a few minutes in silence, “Baptiste,” said our hero, in
French, “what was the story told about the horse? I understood little
of what he said in English, and none of what he spoke in his own
tongue.”

“He told us, Master Reginald, that he was out on a war–party against
the Camanchees, a wild tribe of Indians in the South west: they steal
horses from the Mexicans, and exchange them with the _Aricarás_,
Kioways, Pawnees, and other Missouri Indians.”

“Well, Baptiste, how did he take this swift horse with his
‘neck–bullet,’ as he called it?”

“That, Master Reginald, is the most difficult shot in the prairie;
and I have known few red–skins up to it. The western hunters call it
‘creasing:’—a ball must be shot just on the upper edge of the spine
where it enters the horse’s neck: if it is exactly done, the horse
falls immediately, and is secured; then the wound is afterwards healed:
but if the ball strikes an inch lower, the spine is missed, or the
horse is killed. Few red–skins can do it,” muttered the guide; “and the
‘doctor’ here,” shaking his long rifle, “has failed more than once; but
War–Eagle has said it, and there are no lies in _his_ mouth.”

“Tell me, Baptiste,” said Reginald, earnestly; “tell me something about
my brother’s history, his race, and exploits.”

“Afterwards, my young master. I know not that he understands us now;
but these Indians are curious critturs in hearing; I believe if you
spoke in that strange Dutch lingo which you learnt across the water,
the red–skins would know how to answer you—stay,” added he, putting
his rifle to his shoulder, “here is work for the doctor.”

Reginald looked in the direction of the piece, but saw nothing; and the
guide, while taking his aim, still muttered to himself, “The pills are
very small, but they work somewhat sharp.” Pausing a moment, he drew
the trigger; and a sudden bound from under a brake, at fifty yards’
distance, was the last death–spring of the unlucky deer whose lair had
not escaped the hunter’s practised eye.

“Bravely shot,” shouted Reginald; “what says War–Eagle?”

“Good,” replied the Indian.

“Nay,” said Baptiste; “there was not much in the shot; but your French
waly–de–sham might have walked past those bushes without noting the
twinkle of that crittur’s eye. Our red–skin friend saw it plain enough,
I warrant you,” added he, with an inquiring look.

“War–Eagle’s path is not on the deer track,” said the young chief, with
a stern gravity.

In a very few minutes an additional load of venison was across the
sturdy shoulders of the guide, and the party resumed their march in
silence.

They had not proceeded far, when the Indian halted, saying,
“War–Eagle’s camp is near; will my white brother eat and smoke?—the
sun is high; he can then return to his great wigwam.”

Reginald, who was anxious to see more of his new friend, and in whom
the morning’s exercise had awakened a strong relish for a slice of
broiled venison, assented at once, and desired him to lead the way.

As he was still followed by the two horses, War–Eagle was somewhat in
advance of his companions, and Baptiste whispered, in French, “Beware,
Master Reginald—you may fall into a trap.”

“For shame,” said the latter, colouring with indignation; “can you
suspect treachery in _him_? Did you not yourself say he could not lie?”

“Your reproof is undeserved,” said the cool and wary hunter; “War–Eagle
may not be alone, there may be turkey–buzzards with him.”

“If there be a score of vultures,” said Reginald, “I will follow him
without fear—he would not lead us into harm.”

“Perhaps you are right,” was the guide’s answer; and again the party
resumed their march in silence.

They soon arrived at a place where the forest was less densely
wooded; some of the larger trees appeared to have been overthrown by
a hurricane, and some of the lesser to have fallen by the axe. Nekimi
trotted forward, as if making for a spot that he recognised, and the
Indian recalled him with the same cry that he had before used, adding,
however, another, and a shriller sound.

The guide shook his head, and muttered something inaudibly between
his teeth, loosening at the same time the huge axe in his belt, and
throwing his long rifle over his arm, ready for immediate use.

These preparations did not escape the observation of Reginald; and
although he said nothing, he felt more uneasy than he cared to own; for
it struck him that if the guide, who seemed to have so high an opinion
of War–Eagle, was apprehensive of treachery or of some unforeseen
danger, there was less ground for his own confidence.

Meantime the Indian walked composedly forward until he reached the
_camp_[6],—a pretty spot, sheltered on the windward side by a laurel
thicket, and on the other commanding a view of the open glade, and of
a small stream winding its silent course towards the river which our
party had so lately left.

On a grassy plot, between two venerable trees, the embers of a
smouldering fire sent up the thin blue vapour which rises from the
burning of green wood, several logs of which were still piled for fuel;
while sundry bones and feathers, scattered at no great distance, gave
sufficient evidence of recent feasting.

War–Eagle glanced hastily around his camp; and leaving Nekimi to
feed at liberty, secured the less tractable horse; while he was thus
employed, the guide whispered in a low voice, “There are three or four
Indians here! I trace their marks on the grass, and I know it by this
fire; it is a war party—there are no squaws here; Master Reginald,
keep your ears and eyes open, but show no distrust; if he offers a
pipe, all may yet be right.”

Although the guide said this so distinctly that Reginald heard every
syllable, he was to all appearance busily engaged in throwing some dry
sticks on the fire, and easing himself of the skins and the venison
with which he was loaded. The Indian now took from a hollow in one of
the old trees before–mentioned, a pipe, the bowl of which was of red
sandstone, and the stick painted and ornamented with stained porcupine
quills; he also drew out a leather bag of _kinne–kinek_[7]; and having
filled and lighted his pipe, seated himself at a short distance from
the fire, and gravely invited Reginald to sit on his right, and the
guide on his left. As soon as they were seated, War–Eagle inhaled a
large volume of smoke; and looking reverently up to the sky, sent forth
a long whiff, as an offering to the Great Spirit; then simply saying,
“My brother is welcome,” he passed the pipe to Reginald, and afterwards
to Baptiste.

For some time they smoked in silence: not a sound was heard but the
crackling of the wood on the fire, and the occasional chirrup of a
robin in the neighbouring bushes. This silent system not suiting
Reginald’s ardent temperament, he abruptly addressed the Indian as
follows:—

“Has my brother come far from his people?”

A cloud gathered on the chief’s brow, and the guide thought that a
storm of wrath would be excited by this unlucky question; but the
Indian, looking steadily upon the frank open countenance of the
speaker, replied, in a voice rather melancholy than fierce, “War–Eagle
has few people: the bones of his fathers are _not far_!”

Our hero, anxious to dismiss a subject which seemed painful to his new
friend, turned the conversation to his equipment, and observed, “My
brother walks abroad without fear; he is almost without arms.”

The Indian, carelessly resting his hand upon his war–club, said
(speaking rather to himself, than to his companions), “It has tasted
blood: ask the Dahcotahs!”

“The Dahcotahs are dogs,” said the guide, angrily. “Their skins are
red, but their hearts are white!”

War–Eagle, turning upon him a penetrating look, continued,
“Grande–Hâche is a warrior; he has smoked, has feasted, has fought
among the _Lenapé_[8]; he has struck more than one Dahcotah chief.
But the Grande–Hâche cannot rest: the scalp of his mother hangs in
the lodge of the _Assiniboins_[9]; her spirit is unquiet in the dark
hunting–ground.”

The guide made no reply, but the forced compression of his lips, and
the muscular contraction that passed over his sinewy frame, showed how
deeply he cherished that vengeance which the Indian’s word awakened.

“This is then,” said our hero to himself, “the cause of that fierce
unextinguishable hate which Baptiste has always borne to these Sioux;
I cannot wonder at it.” Reginald continued, however, his conversation
respecting his new friend’s equipment, in the same tone: “My brother’s
war–club is strong, and that iron spike in its head is sharp; but the
rifle kills from far, and the white men are not all friends to him.”

“War–Eagle has ears and eyes; he can see snakes in the grass,” was the
calm reply.

“Nay, but my brother is careless,” said Reginald laughing;
“Grande–Hâche, as you call him, and I are two men, both strong and
armed with rifles: if we were not his brothers, the War–Eagle would be
in danger.”

“The bad Spirit made the thick water and the horses too strong for
War–Eagle,” said the latter, referring to the morning’s accident, “but
he could not be hurt by his brother’s rifle.”

“And why so?” demanded Reginald.

“Because,” said the Indian, “the white warrior has smoked, has taken
his brother’s gift, and the Great Spirit has written on his face that
he cannot speak lies.”

“You are right, my brave friend,” said Reginald (not a little gratified
by the untutored compliment); “but if you fall in with white men who
carry rifles, and who _do_ speak lies—how fares it with you then?”

“War–Eagle is always ready,” said he, in the same unmoved tone; “the
Grande–Hâche is a great warrior—my brother will take many scalps; yet
_if_ their tongues were forked—_if_ their hearts were bad—both would
die where they now sit—they have neither ears nor eyes—but the Lenapé
is a chief, they are as safe here as in the great white village.”

Though inwardly nettled at this taunt, which he felt to be not
altogether undeserved, the guide took no other notice of it than to
strain to the utmost those organs of sight and hearing which the
red–skin had held so cheap, but in vain: the forest around them seemed
wrapt in solitude and silence; the eyes of Reginald, however, served
him better on this occasion. “By heaven, the Indian speaks truth,” said
he; “I see them plainly—one, two, three! and we, Baptiste, are at
their mercy.”

This he spoke in French, and the guide answered in the same language:
“Do you see Indians, Master Reginald, where I can see naught but trees,
and logs, and grass; if it is so—I am an owl, and no hunter!”

“Glance your eye,” said our hero, calmly, “to yon old fallen log, that
lies fifty or sixty yards to your right, there are three small parallel
lines visible there,—they are three gun–barrels; the sun shone on them
a minute since, and their muzzles are directed full upon us.”

“It is true; your eyes are younger than mine, I suppose,” said the
guide, apparently more disconcerted at that circumstance than at the
imminent peril of their situation; he added, in a low, determined tone,
“but they must shoot very true, if they wish to prevent me from taking
this deep and deceitful villain with me on the long journey.”

During the whole of this conversation, War–Eagle sat in unmoved
silence, occasionally puffing out a whiff from the fragrant herb in
his pipe. Reginald met the unexpected danger with the straightforward,
daring courage which was the characteristic of his mind; Baptiste with
the cool resolution which was the result of a life of stratagems,
perils, and escapes.

“War–Eagle,” said the former, “you speak true; Grande–Hâche and I have
shut our eyes and ears; but they are now open; I see your warriors.”

The Indian turned his searching eye full upon the speaker; he met a
look bold, open, fearless as his own. “Where can my white brother see
warriors?” he inquired.

“Their guns are across yonder log,” said Reginald; “and their muzzles
are pointed here.”

“It is so,” said War–Eagle; “the red men are on the war–path; they seek
blood; is my white brother not afraid?”

“War–Eagle is a chief,” replied the young man; “he cannot lie,—he has
said that his white brother is as safe as in the wigwam of his father!”

Again the Indian bent a scrutinising look upon the countenance of the
speaker, and again met the same smile of fearless confidence. With more
emotion than he had yet shown, he said, “The Great Spirit has given to
my white brother the big heart of a Lenapé!”

He now made a signal to his ambuscade to come forth, on which they
started up from behind the large fallen tree which had hitherto
screened them, and advanced slowly towards the camp. They were three
in number; two of them active looking men, of moderate stature, but of
symmetrical proportions; the third a lad, apparently about seventeen
years old; the faces of the two former were painted with black
stripes, which gave them an appearance at once fierce and grotesque;
they were lightly clad in hunting–shirts, leggins, and mocassins,
all of elk–skin, and each carried a tomahawk, scalp–knife, and the
gun before mentioned; the young lad carried no other weapon but the
gun; his hunting–shirt was fancifully ornamented with tassels of
porcupine quills, and was fastened at the waist by a belt studded with
party–coloured beads; his leggins were fringed, and his mocassins were
also braided with the quills of the porcupine; in figure he was slight
and tall; as he drew near, Reginald thought his countenance even more
remarkable than that of War–Eagle: indeed its beauty would have been
almost effeminate, had it not been for the raven blackness of the
hair, and the piercing fire of the dark eyes. The three came forward
in silence, the lad being rather in advance of the others, and stood
before the War–Eagle.

He bade them, in his own language, to be seated, and smoke the pipe
with the white men. They did so, with the exception of the lad, who
not being yet a warrior, passed it untouched; and when it had gone
round, War–Eagle harangued his party: as he narrated the events of
the morning, Reginald was struck by the deep and flexible modulation
of his voice; and although he did not understand a word of the
language, fancied that he knew when the chief related his immersion and
subsequent preservation by the white man’s knife.

At this portion of the tale, the Indian youth made no attempt
to conceal his emotion; his glistening eyes were fixed upon the
speaker, and every feature of his intelligent countenance beamed with
affectionate interest: as War–Eagle described his being struck under
water, stunned by a blow from a horse’s foot, and that the thick water
covered him, a hurried exclamation escaped from the boy’s lips; and
when his chief related how the white warrior had dived, had cut the
cord in which he was entangled, and had brought him again to the air
and to life, the youth, no longer able to control his feelings, threw
himself into Reginald’s arms, exclaiming, in good English,

“The Great Spirit reward the white warrior: he has given me back my
chief—my brother!”

Our hero was no less astonished than was the guide, at such
uncontrolled emotion in a youth of a nation so early taught to conceal
their feelings; nor were they less surprised at the clearness and
purity of accent with which he expressed himself in English.

“I only did, my boy,” said Reginald, kindly, “what you would have done
had you been in my place.”

“You are a great warrior,” said the youth, running his eye over the
powerful frame beside him: “Wingenund would have gone into the strong
river, and would have died with the War–Eagle.”

“Is Wingenund, then, your name, my brave boy?”

“It was my forefather’s name,” said the youth, proudly. “I have yet no
name; but War–Eagle says I may have one soon, and I will have no other.”

“I feel sure you will deserve your forefather’s name,” said Reginald.
“What does it mean in my language?”

“It means, ‘The Beloved.’”

“The youth speaks true,” murmured the guide (who, though busily engaged
in rounding off a bullet with his knife, lost not a word or gesture
that passed), “he speaks only truth; I knew his forefather well: a
braver and a better heart never dwelt among the Lenapé.”

The boy looked gratefully at the weather–beaten hunter; and as he cast
his eyes down in silence, it would have been difficult to say whether
pleasure, pride, or pain predominated in their expression.

“Tell me,” resumed Reginald, “how come you to speak English like a
white man?”

“The good father and Olitipa taught me.”

Reginald looked at the guide for an explanation; that worthy personage
shook his head, saying, “The boy talks riddles; but they are not hard
to guess. The good father must be some missionary, or priest; and
Olitipa would in their tongue signify ‘pretty prairie–fowl;’ so it is
probably the name of a Delaware woman—perhaps his sister.”

“_Kehella là_—so it is,” said the boy: “Olitipa is in your tongue
‘pretty prairie–bird,’ and she is my sister.”

“Where is Prairie–bird?” inquired Reginald, amused by the youth’s
_naïveté_.

“Far, far away, beyond the great river! But we will go back
soon;—shall we not?” inquired he, looking up timidly at War–Eagle.

“_Pechu lenitti_,[10]” answered the chief; and leaning towards the
youth, he added some words in a whisper, which made him start up to
obey the orders he had received.

Reginald was not long left in ignorance of their nature, as in a few
minutes the active lad had refreshed the fire, and was busy in broiling
some venison steaks, which, after the exercise of the morning, sent up
a steam far from unpleasant to the senses of any of those present.

“Master Reginald,” said the guide, “that silly perroquet of yours,
Gustave Perrot, is always telling fine stories of what he has seen in
Europe, and talking of the scent of roses, and the sweet sounds of
music, till the girls in the clearins think he’s a book–author and a
poet: did you ever smell any scent, or hear any music, sweeter than
comes from the hissing and frizzing of those slices of fat venison
after a six hours’ hunt in the woods?”

“Perhaps not,” said Reginald, laughing; “but we are only hunters, and
Monsieur Perrot is a man of taste.”

“Whom have we here,” grumbled the guide, as an Indian appeared in the
distance. “Friend War–Eagle, is this another of your band?”

“He is,” replied the chief: “all are now here.”

The new comer was a powerful, athletic–looking man: his face was
painted one half black, and the other half striped with bars of red;
the sleeves of his hunting–shirt were so short and loose, that his
naked arms were visible, one of which was tatooed in the form of a
lizard, and on the other he wore an armlet of brass; his leggins and
mocassins were soiled and torn, and the perspiration streaming from his
matted hair showed that he had travelled both far and fast. He was,
like the rest, equipped with rifle, tomahawk, and scalp–knife; his
countenance, as far as it could be distinguished through its disguise
of paint, was expressive of cunning and ferocity. Though probably much
surprised at seeing two white men sitting thus amicably with his chief,
he took little notice of them, or of the rest of the party; but without
asking, or being asked, any questions, seated himself on the opposite
side of the fire, lighted his pipe, and smoked.

“Master Reginald,” said the guide, in French, “I do not like that
fellow. I know not how he comes to be with our friend here, for he
belongs to another tribe; I have seen him before.”

Meantime, the industrious lad had broiled his venison steaks, and
having gathered some broad leaves, which served on this occasion
for plates, he brought the first slice to Reginald, the second to
Baptiste, the next to War–Eagle, and so on, until he went through the
party; after which, without tasting anything himself, he took his
station close to his chief and his new friend. During the meal, the
Indian last arrived talked much in a suppressed voice to the one next
to him, and seemed studiously to avert his eyes from his chief and the
two white men.

“Tarhé,” said War–Eagle, addressing him, “is there not _tassmanané_[11]
for the stranger? he is my brother, and his path has been long.”

Tarhé went to his “câche,” a spot not many yards distant, and taking
out two or three small cakes, brought them round behind his chief, and
offered one to our hero, who was in the act of receiving it, when the
miscreant, drawing the knife from his girdle, aimed a blow at the back
of the unsuspecting Reginald.

Nothing could have saved him from instant death, had not the gallant
boy thrown himself between the savage and his victim. The knife went
through his arm; and so deadly was the force by which it was guided,
that it still descended, and inflicted a slight scratch on Reginald’s
shoulder.

War–Eagle sprang like a tiger from the ground, and with one blow of
his tremendous war–club dashed the ruffian to the earth; then turning
suddenly his angry glance upon the two other Indians, he asked if they
had any part in Tarhé’s plot. Neither had stirred from their seat, and
both declared they had known nothing of his intention. It was well for
them that the chief believed them, for this act of vile treachery had
aroused all the slumbering fire within him, and the veins started like
blue cords upon his temples.

Reginald’s first impulse, when he jumped upon his feet, was to hasten
to the wounded youth, whose features were now lighted up by a smile of
happiness. “Tell me, my brave, generous boy, are you much hurt?”

“No,” said he, “I should have been hurt if the War–Eagle’s camp had
been stained with the blood of his white brother.”

The sturdy guide himself could not repress his admiration of this
gallant boy’s conduct, who now stood looking intently upon War–Eagle,
his features animated by excitement and by pride, and the knife still
fixed up to the very handle in his arm,

“War–Eagle,” said Baptiste, “the Lenapé are men,—their boys are
warriors: that dog is not a Lenapé,” added he, pointing to the
prostrate body of Tarhé.

“_Tah–Delamattenos_[12],” said the chief indignantly. The youth now
moving a step forward, came before his chief with an air of modest
dignity, and slowly drew the reeking knife from his arm, while a stream
of blood gushed from the wound; not a muscle of his frame trembled,
not a feature varied its expression, as he said, in a voice of musical
gentleness, “War–Eagle, will Wingenund allow his grandson now to bear
his name?”

“_Wingenund!_” said War–Eagle, looking upon him with affectionate
pride, “the chiefs at the Council–fire shall know that the blood of the
well–beloved still flows in a young warrior’s veins.”

“My good friend,” said the guide to the chief, “you have no time to
lose, the lad will bleed to death!”

Reginald sprang forward, and closing as he best could the gaping wound,
bound his handkerchief tightly over it.

There was, indeed, no time to be lost; for the blood had flowed more
freely than his youthful frame could endure. A painful dizziness came
over him; and murmuring, almost inaudibly, “The White Warrior is safe,
and Wingenund is happy,” he fell senseless into Reginald’s arms.



CHAPTER VII.

 CONTAINING SOME PARTICULARS OF THE HISTORY OF THE TWO DELAWARES AND OF
 BAPTISTE. THE LATTER RETURNS WITH REGINALD TO MOOSHANNE, THE RESIDENCE
 OF COLONEL BRANDON.


“I fear he will die!” said Reginald, in a tone of the deepest grief, as
he stooped over the inanimate form of the wounded boy.

“Die!” said the War–Eagle, almost fiercely; “yes, he will die! but not
by the bite of yonder serpent,” pointing to the body of the Wyandot:
“He will die when the Great Spirit orders it; but before he dies, the
murderers of his father shall hear his war–whoop! His tomahawk shall
be red in their blood; their scalps shall hang at his belt! _then_
Wingenund may go to his ancient people in the happy hunting fields!”

“My brother,” said Reginald, earnestly, and still supporting the
insensible frame of Wingenund, “do not lead this youth to shed the
white man’s blood! He cannot call back those who are gone! We have a
book which the Great Spirit gave to our forefathers; it speaks His own
words, and He tells us, ‘Vengeance is mine;’ and He also tells us that
if we would please Him, we must forgive those who have injured us: His
arrows are very sharp; His anger is fierce; His justice is sure. Leave
Him to punish those bad men, and teach the ‘well–beloved’ to be the
white man’s friend.”

For a minute the chief seemed buried in deep thought; then suddenly
starting from his reverie, he spoke a few words in a low tone to one of
his men, who instantly moved away, and disappeared in the forest.

War–Eagle then replied in a tone rather of melancholy than of reproof,
“The Great Spirit never speaks to the red man in words: if He is angry,
He thunders; if He is pleased, He sends rain and sunshine, to make the
corn and fruits to grow, and sweet grass to fatten the deer. My brother
says the Great Spirit has spoken plainly to the white man in words, and
that those words are painted in a book. War–Eagle believes it because
my brother’s tongue is not forked: but he would ask,—Did those white
men, who came in the night like wolves to the couch of the fawn, who
murdered the father, the kindred, the little sisters of Wingenund,—did
those men hear the Great Spirit’s words?”

“My brother,” said Reginald, “there are among white men many wolves
and serpents: men whose hands are bloody, and their tongue forked. The
Great Spirit does not forbid to punish, or even to kill such men, in
defence of ourselves, our wigwams, our children, or our friend. He is
not angry with War–Eagle for striking down that Huron whose hand was
raised to shed his brother’s blood; but when the grass of many seasons
has grown over the graves of those who were injured, then the Great
Spirit commands man to let his anger sleep, to bury his hatchet, and to
forgive.”

“It may be so,” said War–Eagle, gravely; “the Good Father in the
Western Hunting–ground has said the same; Olitipa, whose voice is like
the mockingbird, and who speaks only truth, she has spoken the same;
but it is very dark, War–Eagle cannot see it.”

“Who is the Prairie–bird?” inquired Reginald, whose curiosity had twice
been excited by the mention of this extraordinary name.

Before the chief could reply, the Indian, whom he had sent, returned
with a mess made from several leaves, herbs, and roots, which he had
bruised and reduced to a kind of glutinous pulp. War–Eagle now took off
the bandage from the youth’s arm: after examining it carefully, and
applying some of the above mixture to both the orifices of the wound,
he bound it again, more strongly and skilfully than before; then taking
him in his arms, as if he had been a little child, he carried him down
to the rivulet; and by dint of bathing his temples and rubbing forcibly
his hands and feet, soon restored the suspended animation.

When he was recovered so far as to be able to speak, Reginald, sitting
down by him, said a thousand kind things to him, such as were prompted
by the gratitude of a generous heart.

While they were conversing, the guide drew near to the chief; and
pointing to the body of the Wyandot, which still lay where he had
fallen, said, “He is surely dead!”

“He is so,” replied the other, gravely; “when War–Eagle is angry he
does not strike his enemy’s forehead twice.”

The guide now turned over the body; and seeing that the iron point of
the war–club had entered just above the eyes, and had sunk deep into
the brain, he knew that instant death must have ensued. The chief
calling the two Indians, desired them to bury the body where it would
be safe from wolves and buzzards. “But,” he added, sternly, “let not
the spot be marked for his kindred: he died like a dog, and none should
lament him.”

As they turned away to execute these orders, the guide observed to the
chief “that Huron has not been long with the War–Eagle.”

“True,—but how does the Grande–Hâche know it?”

“His eye has been on him more than once; Grande–Hâche sees, but he can
hold his tongue.”

“Grande–Hâche is a warrior,” replied the chief: “he has seen many
things; he has talked with the wise men; does he know why yon Huron
wished to kill the young white brave?”

“He does,” said Grande–Hâche; but as he did not of himself state what
he knew, it would have been contrary to the usages of Indian courtesy
to have questioned him further.

Baptiste now diverting the conversation to another topic, said, “It is
singular that War–Eagle, on a war–path far from his village, should
have only strangers with him excepting the youth who is wounded!”

“What means the Grande–Hâche?”

“He means,” replied the guide, “that the other two, now gone to bury
the Huron, are _Southern men_[13]—they are not Lenapé.”

“Grande–Hâche has ears and eyes open—how can he know that he speaks
truth?” said the chief.

“Because he _has_ eyes and ears;” replied the guide. “Does War–Eagle
think that Grande–Hâche has hunted twenty years among the red nations,
and knows not yet the mocassin and tongue of a Shawanon? I knew them
at a glance,” added he, with shrewd smile, “as well as I knew the
War–Eagle in the batteau, though both he and they have put on their
faces the paint of the _Mengwe_.”[14]

“Grande–Hâche speaks truth,” replied the chief dryly, without showing
the surprise and annoyance that he felt at the penetration of the
guide. “The men are Shawanons, they hunt with the Lenapé, beyond the
great river—they are brothers.”

So saying, he broke off the conversation, and turning towards
Wingenund, saw that he was talking as earnestly and freely with
Reginald as if they had been long intimate; while he contemplated this
friendly intercourse with a smile of satisfaction, the guide felt
himself called upon to remind his companion that the sun was getting
low, that they had yet some miles to walk, and that the Colonel would
be anxious and impatient.

“True,” said Reginald, springing up, “I must take leave of my brother,
and of my young preserver; but we shall meet again; we will hunt
together, and be friends.”

“Let it be so,” said the lad, with an ardour which he cared not to
conceal; “and Wingenund will tell Prairie–bird that the white warrior
who drew War–Eagle from the deep water will come to see her, and she
will thank him.”

While the boy was speaking, the chief turned away, and busied himself
in fastening a thong halter firmly to the head of Nekimi, whom he again
led to his new master.

Reginald now undid from his waist the silver buckled belt with the
couteau–de–chasse which it supported, and buckling it round the youth,
he said, “Wingenund must wear this, and must not forget his white
friend.”

The boy’s eyes sparkled with pleasure, as he received this gift; but
he was still too weak to stand, and he only murmured, in a low voice,
“Wingenund will not forget.”

The chief now taking the guide aside said to him, in his own language,
“How is my white brother called?”

“I call him ‘Master Reginald.’”[15]

After one or two ludicrous attempts at an imitation, War–Eagle shook
his head, saying, “It is not good—may his Lenapé friend call him
‘Netis?’”[16]

As soon as Reginald was informed of what had passed, and of the meaning
of his new name, he accepted it with pleasure, and Wingenund repeated
it again and again as our hero bid him farewell.

War–Eagle insisted upon accompanying him, and leading Nekimi through
the forest, until they reached the broad wheel track which passed
Colonel Brandon’s house, and thence led through other clearings to the
village of Marietta. As they went along, Reginald desired Baptiste
in a whisper to talk with the chief, and endeavour to draw from him
what article of dress, ornament or use, he would most value, as he
was anxious to make his Indian brother a present; and the guide, by
skilfully manœuvring his conversation, soon learnt that War–Eagle had,
on this last excursion, lost his rifle, and that he was also short of
ammunition. They now emerged from the forest upon the great road, if
it might be so called, leading to Marietta; and the Indian putting the
halter of Nekimi into Reginald’s hand, said that he would return to his
camp. Our hero, taking him by the hand, said, “Netis wishes to see his
brother at this spot to–morrow at noon.”

“War–Eagle will come,” was the brief reply; and shaking both the white
men cordially by the hand, he turned and disappeared among the trees.

Reginald and the guide were within a few miles of Colonel Brandon’s
house; but they could not proceed very fast, owing to the evident
reluctance shown by Nekimi to follow his new master; he neighed,
snorted, jumped, and played all manner of pranks in his endeavour to
get loose; but this War–Eagle had foreseen, and the tough halter of
undressed hide was well enough secured to defy all his efforts at
escape.

“This has been a strange day of adventures, Baptiste,” said Reginald;
“it has been to me one of the pleasantest of my life!”

“Why, Master Reginald, it has been a day of events, such as they are;
you have been twice at the outside edge of t’other world, with water
and cold iron.”

“Oh, there was not much harm in the water,” said Reginald, laughing;
“had it not been for the knock which one of the horses gave me on the
head; but that villainous attempt of the Huron makes me shudder;—to
offer a man food, and stab him while he is taking it! I thought such a
thing was unknown in Indian history.”

“It is almost,” said the guide. “But a Huron—and a Dahcotah!” added
he, bitterly—“would murder a brother to gratify revenge.”

“But I had never injured him, Baptiste.”

“His memory is better than yours, Master Reginald. He and his brother
were two of the leading warriors in that unfortunate affair where St.
Clair was beat by the Ingians, upon the north fork of the Miami. I was
there, too, and the ‘Doctor’s’ pills did some service—but not much to
signify, neither. Colonel Brandon did all that man could do, but at
last he was forced back. Well, that Tarhé and his brother, first in the
pursuit, killed two of our poor fellows, and were scalping ‘em, when
the Colonel called out to ‘em, and fired. He killed Tarhé’s brother
dead. I see’d it all; and I took a long squint with the Doctor at
Tarhé, which only lamed his arm a bit; for, you see, Master Reginald,
I was a long ways off; and a chap don’t shoot quite so fine when he’s
a retreatin’ double–quick, with a few hundred red–skins yellin’ in his
rear. However, that Tarhé has been more than once down at Marietta, and
round the neighbours’ clearins; and he knowed you, Master Reginald,
just as well as a Kentucky hog knows an acorn.”

“Now I understand it, so far, Baptiste. But if the fellow wanted to
take my life, why did he not hide in the laurel–thicket, and shoot me
as I passed? Why did he make the attempt where my death was sure to be
revenged?”

“Now, Master Reginald, you are asking a poor ignorant crittur,—who
knows nought but a little huntin’, and, may be, knows a beaver–skin
from a buffalo–hide,—all the ins and outs of a red Ingian’s crooked
mind! May be, he wanted to force War–Eagle into shedding white man’s
blood. I saw that one of those Shawanons was up to his game; and if
a general skrimmage had come, they’d have tried to do for me. Or,
perhaps, when he found his knife so convenient to the back of your
neck, he couldn’t lose the chance, for the bad spirit had got hold of
him.”

“By heavens!” cried Reginald, “I never can sufficiently admire the
quickness, and the heroic courage of that boy, Wingenund! Did you see,
Baptiste, how he drew that great knife _slowly_ out of his wounded arm;
and how all the time he smiled upon War–Eagle, as if to show him that
he despised the pain?”

“He is a brave youth,” said the guide. “I know the stock he comes from:
if he were a coward, the grisly bear might breed sheep!”

“Pray tell me something of his parents, and of his story. Is he related
to War–Eagle?”

“He is,” said the guide. “They are the children of two brothers.
War–Eagle of the eldest; Wingenund of the youngest.”

“Are these two brothers alive, Baptiste?”

“No: both were murdered by the white men, in time of peace, without
provocation. There was a third brother, who, happening to be absent
from the village on a hunt, escaped. He has now gone to the far west,
beyond the great river. Both the War–Eagle and the boy are called his
sons; and the latter, as he told us to–day, lives in his lodge.”

“Then all these three brothers were the children of Wingenund?”

“Yes.”

“And who was he?”

“One of the old Lenapé:—first in council, and foremost in the fight! I
remember him well when I was a boy,” said the guide, warming with his
subject. “He taught me to follow a trail, and to travel in the woods,
with no other guide than the wind, the stars, and the bark of the
trees; and before I was as old as that boy, his grandson, he lent me
his rifle to shoot the first Dahcotah as ever I killed.”

“What was the party, Baptiste?” said Reginald (anxious to keep the
guide from the subject of the Dahcotahs), “what party was it that
committed the atrocious murder upon the Indians in time of peace?”

“Why, Master Reginald, though you were but a youngster, don’t you
remember hearing that twelve or fourteen years ago a party of white
men, led by Williamson, Harvey, and some other rough chaps from the
Kentucky side, fell upon a village of friendly Indians on the banks
of Tuscarawas river, and murdered all they found—man, woman, and
child? Some of these poor red–skins had been made Christians, and were
called Moravians; and their village as was destroyed was called by some
outlandish name, too long by half for me to speak or to remember.[17]
They had given over their own nat’ral life of smoking, hunting, and
fighting, and did nothing but plant, and sow, and pray! And, after all,
that’s the way they was served, Master Reginald!”

“Horrible and disgraceful cruelty!” said the young man: and rather
thinking aloud, than addressing his companion, he added, “It is no
wonder that the Indians should receive so unwillingly Christian
precepts, when they have such examples of Christian practice. I am
not surprised that War–Eagle should find it hard to forgive _such_
injuries.”

“And yet you are surprised, Master Reginald,” said the guide, in a deep
voice, almost hoarse from repressed emotion, “that _I_ do not forgive
the Dahcotah? Did he not burn the log–hut where I was born and raised?
Did he not murder those who gave me birth? Did he not drive me out, a
child, into the woods, to live by berries, or wild fruits, or what I
could find or kill? Is not my father’s scalp (not half revenged!) now
hanging before a Dahcotah lodge! Oh! let me come but within rifle range
of the throat–cutter,[18] and if he comes off with a whole skin, I
_will_ forgive him!”

Our hero, seeing that further discussion would only increase an
excitement which already mastered his companion’s self–control, said to
him kindly, “Well, Baptiste, it must be owned that you have received
from these people deep, irreparable wrong! You are a man, and would
not pay them in their own base coin, by killing one of their squaws
or children: but if it is ever your fortune to meet them in a fair
stand–up fight, when I am with you, then you shall see that I can stand
by a friend, and share in his just feelings of resentment.”

“I know it—I know it, Master Reginald,” said the guide, grasping the
hand extended to him; and having now recovered an equanimity which
nothing but the Dahcotah subject ever disturbed, he added,

“If you and I were to take a summer–hunt towards the mountains, with
that light–limbed War–Eagle, who has the eyes, and ears, and the spring
of a painter[19], we might p’raps bring in a handsome load o’ skins,
and may be, pay off the throat–cutters an old debt or two.”

“It is more likely than you imagine, Baptiste, that we should make an
excursion to the West this spring; for my father told me the other
day—but see, there he is, with Lucy on his arm, and Aunt Mary, and
Wolf by her side!”

As he said this, the young man bounded forward, and in a moment was in
the midst of them, kissing his sister, shaking his father and Aunt Mary
affectionately by the hand, and patting Wolf’s great shaggy head.

“Dear Reginald! what has kept you so long?” said Lucy, reproachfully;
“where can you have been? Why, your clothes are all soiled; and see,
papa,” she added, turning deadly pale; “there is blood upon his
hunting–shirt and upon his cheek!”

“What a little coward art thou,” said Reginald, “to be the daughter
of a soldier! Why, Lucy, the few drops of blood upon my clothes must
surely have come from your cheeks, which are as pale as a magnolia
flower! Harkee, Lucy, I must do something to drive the rosy current
back to its proper channel; come here, girl:” and bending her head
aside, he whispered something in her ear.

Never was the effect of magic more rapid, or more potent; for in an
instant the obedient blood rushed to the fair girl’s cheek, suffusing
at the same time her neck and temples with the same glowing hue:
casting upon her brother a look at once playful and appealing, she
pinched his ear between her tiny fingers till he fairly begged pardon,
and promised not to do so again.

As it was now evident that Reginald was not much hurt, Lucy turned
her eyes towards the hunter, who approached, leading Nekimi still
snorting, prancing, and curvetting at the full length of his laryette.
“Baptiste,” said the Colonel, “where have you found that wild, untamed
animal?”

“He belongs,” said the hunter, “to Master Reginald.”

The Colonel looked to his son for an explanation, who giving an arm to
his sister, while the Colonel escorted Aunt Mary, turned homewards, and
narrated, as they went, the events described in this and the foregoing
chapter.



CHAPTER VIII.

CONTAINING A SKETCH OF MOOSHANNE.—REGINALD INTRODUCES HIS SISTER TO
THE TWO DELAWARES.


THE day following that on which the events related in the preceding
pages occurred there was an assemblage more than usually numerous,
gathered in and around the capacious store of David Muir, in Marietta:
immediately in front of his door was a small party, who, from their
bearing and appearance, might be easily recognised as leading persons
in the little community. In the midst of them was a roughly–dressed
country lad, whose haggard appearance indicated wretchedness or
fatigue, or both: near the group stood his horse, reeking with sweat,
and showing that the messenger, for such he was, had not spared the
spurs on the road. Many and eager were the questions put to him; and
the countenances of his auditors evinced no ordinary degree of interest
in his replies; several women, and a dozen or two of boys and girls,
made repeated endeavours to penetrate into this important circle; and
having contrived to overhear a disjointed word, here and there, such
as “Indian,” “scalped,” “rifle,” &c. they slunk away, one by one, to
spread it abroad through the village, that a neighbouring settlement
had been attacked by a large body of Indians, armed with rifles and
tomahawks; and that every man, woman, and child, excepting this
messenger, who had escaped, was scalped!

We will, however, introduce the reader into the centre of the
above–mentioned group, and detail to him the substance of the news
which created so much excitement.

It appears that on the preceding day, two brothers, named Hervey, were
riding homeward after attending a marriage, at a small settlement
twenty miles to the northward of Marietta: they were not above half a
mile in advance of several other men, also returning from the marriage;
both were armed with rifles, having been shooting at a target for a
wager, when on a sudden, a single Indian, uttering a loud war–whoop,
sprang from a thicket by the road, and at one stroke of his war–club
felled the elder brother to the earth; before the second could come up
to his assistance, the same Indian aimed a sweeping blow at his head
with the butt–end of his rifle; the younger Hervey warded the blow
also with his rifle, but it fell with such force that both barrels
were broken off from the stocks: with the rapidity of lightning, the
Indian struck him heavily on the head, and he fell stunned from his
horse. A few minutes afterwards, he recovered, and found some of
his friends standing over him; his unfortunate brother lay dead and
scalped at his side: his horse and the Indian had disappeared. Several
young men dashed off immediately in pursuit, and tracked the hoofs
successfully until the fugitive had entered the hardy and stony bed of
a rivulet falling into the Muskingum; hence all further search proved
unsuccessful, and they returned dispirited to their companions.

It was long since so daring an outrage had been committed in the
territory; seldom was it that the red–skins would attack white men
in open day, unless they were greatly superior in numbers; but for a
single Indian to fall upon two armed whites, killing one and leaving
the other for dead, almost within call of his friends, was an instance
of audacity to which the oldest hunter could scarcely remember a
parallel: it was evident also that the savage had been aware of a party
of whites being at hand, otherwise he would certainly have shot one
brother before he attacked the other; but, avoiding the discharge of
his rifle, he had effected his purpose with a war–club.

Another striking circumstance was the clear evidence afforded that the
killing of the elder Hervey was an act of personal revenge; because the
younger brother when knocked from his horse had fallen helpless at the
Indian’s feet; and the latter, purposely to show that he had spared his
life and scalp, had struck a knife through the lappet of his coat into
the ground, with force enough to bury it up to the haft. Four or five
of the best hunters had recommenced the pursuit; and although they once
struck the trail of a man on foot evidently running from them, they
were again baffled by the river, and returned to the settlement.

Such was the sum of the messenger’s intelligence, which caused, as
can easily be imagined, no little sensation in Marietta and the
neighbouring districts.

“I know some of the worst o’ them red–skin devils,” said a bulky young
man, whose countenance betrayed violent passions, and strong symptoms
of free indulgence in David Muir’s “fire–water;” “tell me what was this
Ingian like?—how did Dick Hervey describe him?”

“He hadn’t over much time to look at him,” said the messenger, “afore
he was sent to sleep; but he says he was a very tall powerful chap,
streaked over the face with black.”

“Was he a young un or an old un?”

“A young un, and active as a deer, or he couldn’t have knocked those
two Herveys off their critturs, as a man knocks off a corncob with an
ash plant.”

“I wish I had him here,” said the young giant, shutting a hand as
heavy and large as a shoulder of mutton. “I’d give him a real Kentucky
hug.”

None of the bystanders seemed able to form any guess as to who the
perpetrator of this bold outrage might be. It was resolved, however,
to take all possible measures for his discovery; a meeting of the
principal inhabitants was convened, a description of the Indian’s
person, and of the marks by which Hervey’s horse might be recognised,
was written, and several copies thereof made, and forwarded to the
nearest posts and ferries; at the same time a reward of a hundred
dollars was offered to any person who should discover the offender, and
a hundred more for his seizure, dead or alive.

During the discussion of these and other plans at the meeting, our
old acquaintance David Muir, who felt himself not to be one of the
least important persons present, said, “I’m thinking, gentlemen, it
would be as weel to send a messenger out to Colonel Brandon, wi’ this
intelligence; he kens the Indians as weel’s ony man in this country
side, mayhap he’ll gie us some gude counsel; and, sirs,” added David,
his grey eyes twinkling at his own sagacity, “be sure ye dinna forget
to tak the advice o’ yon lang–headed chiel, Battiste; if the Indian
deevil’s o’ this side the Mississippi, Battiste will fin’ him out, as
sure as twa threes mak sax.”

This was one of the longest orations which David had ever delivered in
public; and both his suggestions being approved, carried _nem. con._,
and the meeting dissolved, David returned to his store with his hands
thrust into his coat–tail pockets, and his countenance big with the
consciousness of having rendered essential service to the territory.

We must now return to Reginald, who, on the morning of this same day,
rose with the sun; and feeling himself nothing the worse from his
slight wounds, or from his diving adventure, sallied forth to see
how Baptiste had provided for Nekimi’s safety and comfort. All means
having failed to entice him into a stable, the hunter had secured him
firmly to an oak, casting down for him abundance both of food and
litter. Reginald approached him, holding in his hand some bread; and
having given the sharp shrill cry (which to Lucy’s great alarm he had
practised more than once in the house), he was agreeably surprised
to perceive that the horse recognised it, and seemed less averse to
his caresses. Having fed him, and carefully observed all the rules
laid down by War–Eagle for gaining his affections, he returned to the
house, and began to collect the various articles which he proposed to
give to his Indian brother; among these was a good Kentucky rifle,
and a handsome buck’s–horn knife for the chief; he selected also a
light fowling–piece, which he had used as a boy, and which he intended
for Wingenund; to these he added several pounds of powder, and a
due proportion of lead; he also threw into the package a few beads
and a large cornelian ring, which had been long the occupant of his
dressing–case.

When he had collected all these together, he gave them to Baptiste,
desiring him to be ready to accompany him to the rendezvous after
breakfast; and having finished his preparations, he knocked at the door
of Lucy’s room, to inquire whether she was ready to preside at the
morning meal.

“Come in, Reginald,” she said; “if I am rather late it is your fault;
for your adventures of yesterday have driven sleep from my pillow; and
even when I did fall asleep, I dreamt of nothing but your Indian hero.”

“Say you so, faithless one?” replied Reginald; “I shall tell that
to——“

“Hush, now, Reginald,” said the blushing girl, putting her little hand
upon his mouth; “did you not promise me yesterday that you would not do
so again?”

“Perhaps I did,” said her brother; “and I will keep it if you will come
down stairs and give me a very good cup of coffee.”

In the breakfast–room they were joined by the Colonel and Aunt Mary;
and while they discuss that most comfortable of family meals, we
will give the reader a slight sketch of the house in which they were
assembled.

It was built of substantial brick of a dun red colour, and had
originally been a regular and solid building of moderate dimensions;
but the Colonel had added on one side a wing, containing a library and
sitting–rooms for himself and his son, while on the opposite side he
had built additional apartments for Aunt Mary, and a small conservatory
for Lucy. Thus the building had gradually assumed a straggling and
irregular shape, the back court being occupied by stables, barns,
and extensive farm offices. The site of the house was on a gentle
elevation, sloping down to a little brook, which wound its bubbling
way through a deep grove of oak, maple, and sycamore, and circling
round the base of the hill, fell at the distance of half a mile into
the Muskingum river. The spot still retained the name of “Mooshanne”
(signifying, in the Delaware language, Elk Creek), probably owing to
the little streamlet above mentioned having been a favourite resort
of an animal which the rifles of Reginald and Baptiste had rendered
somewhat scarce in the neighbourhood.

We left the family assembled at the breakfast–table, where the
conversation still turned upon the adventures of the preceding day.

“Reginald,” said Lucy, “I should like to go with you to–day, to see
your Indian brother, and that heroic boy.”

“I fear,” replied her brother, “it is farther than you could easily
walk; and, moreover, Wingenund will scarcely accompany his chief; he
must be still too weak from his wound.”

“Nay, Reginald; if the distance is the only difficulty, I can ride
Snowdrop; and if Wingenund does come, I will reward him for his brave
defence of my brother, by giving him some little trinket, which he may
take back to his sister. You cannot refuse me now,” added she, in a
coaxing tone, the power of which over her brother was all but despotic.

“Of course I cannot, if you obtain Aunt Mary’s and the Colonel’s
permission,” said Reginald, smiling.

Lucy met with no further opposition. Snowdrop was ordered to be
saddled: in a few minutes the happy girl was equipped, and provided
with a coral necklace for the chief, and a pretty brooch, destined for
her brother’s preserver.

The party now assembled before the door, consisting of Reginald,
Baptiste, and Lucy, mounted on her favourite grey pony: our hero slung
his rifle across his shoulders; the sturdy woodsman, besides carrying
his own enormous axe, walked lightly under the two rifles and the other
articles to be presented to the chief, and Wolf played around them his
fantastic and unwieldy gambols.

Cheerful and smiling was the woodland scenery through which they
passed; the dew–drops still glittered in the beams of the morning sun,
and the air was impregnated with the vernal fragrance arising from a
thousand opening buds and blossoms.

“See, Lucy,” said her brother, as he walked by her side, while the
tact of the sturdy hunter kept him a few paces in the rear, “see how
those mischievous squirrels hop and chatter upon the boughs! They seem
to know that your presence is a protection to them.”

“I often wonder, Reginald, how you can shoot such playful and graceful
animals; you, who have taste enough to admire their beauty, and who can
find sport more worthy of your rifle.”

“It is childish sport, Lucy; yet they are no contemptible additions to
the table; their furs are useful; and there is some skill in shooting
them, that is, in shooting them properly.”

“If I were a man, I would shoot nothing but lions and tigers, buffaloes
or bears!” said his sister.

“A pretty Amazon, truly!” said Reginald, laughing: “yet, methinks your
thoughts are not always so warlike. Come, Lucy, now that we are alone
(for our good Baptiste is out of ear–shot), you need not pout or blush
if I ask you whether Ethelston is expected soon to return?”

“Indeed, I know not, Reginald,” said his sister, blushing, in spite of
his prohibition. “His last letter to the Colonel mentioned something
about privateers and the rupture with France. Papa did not appear
desirous of communicating much upon the subject, so I dropt it.”

“True,” said Reginald; “the French will not soon forget or forgive the
loss of their fine frigate, The Insurgente, which was taken the other
day so gallantly by The Constellation. I doubt not they will endeavour
to cripple our trade in the West Indies. Edward has got a little craft
that can run, if she cannot fight.”

“I am sure Edward will never run if it is possible to fight,” said
Lucy, a little piqued.

“There, again, you speak the truth: it is because his courage is
so tempered by his judgment, that he is fit to be entrusted with
other lives and property than his own: if it is _not_ possible to
fight, he will have sense and skill enough to show the Frenchman his
heels.—By–the–by, Lucy, which vessel is he now commanding?”

Again there was a decided blush, and almost a pout on Lucy’s full lip,
as she said, “You know, brother, that The Adventure and the Pocahuntas
are both in port, and the vessel he is now on board of is the—“

—“Oh! I remember,” said Reginald, laughing; “she was to have been
called the ‘Lucy;’ but Edward did not choose to hear that name in every
common sailor’s and negro’s mouth; so he altered it to The Pride of
Ohio, which means, in his vocabulary, the same thing.”

“I wish,” said Lucy, “there was any Mary, or Charlotte, or Catherine,
or any other name under the sun, about which I could tease you! Have a
little patience, Mr. Reginald; my turn will come; you shall see what
mercy I will show you then!”

Thus did the brother and sister spar and jest with each other until
they reached the spot appointed for the interview. As they had arrived
rather before the time, they imagined that the War–Eagle had not yet
come; but Baptiste, putting his finger to his mouth, blew a long shrill
signal whistle, and in a few minutes the chief appeared, accompanied by
Wingenund. As they emerged from the forest, and approached, Reginald
looked at his sister to see the effect produced by their appearance;
for the chief was dressed in a manner calculated to display his noble
figure and countenance to better advantage than on the preceding day.
His long black hair was parted on his forehead, and gathered into
a mass, confined by a narrow fillet made from the fur of the white
weasel, and surmounted by an eagle’s feather. It seemed that his vow
of war and revenge was for the time cancelled; for the lines of black
paint which had disfigured his visage were removed, and the commanding
form and features were not marred by any grotesque or fanciful attire.
His brawny neck was bare, and a portion of his bold, open chest
appeared beneath the light hunting–shirt, which was his only upper
vesture. The ponderous war–club was still at his girdle, but the scalp
had disappeared; and his light, free step upon the grass was like that
of a young elk on the prairie.

The dress of Wingenund was unaltered. He was still very weak from
the loss of blood, and the pain consequent upon his wound; his arm
rested in a sling, made from the plaited bark of elm: and the air of
languor cast over his countenance by sleeplessness and suffering, gave
additional effect to the delicacy of his features, and the deep dark
lustre of his eyes.

“Our new brother is indeed a fine looking creature!” said Lucy,
as War–Eagle drew near. “What a haughty step and bearing he has!
Wingenund looks too gentle to be an Indian!”

“He is as brave as gentle, Lucy: look at his arm!” and, as she did look
at the wounded limb, she remembered that only yesterday it had saved
her brother’s life.

The greeting between Reginald and the two Indians was affectionate
and cordial: he then presented his sister to them both in turn.
The chieftain placing his hand upon his heart, fixed upon her that
penetrating look with which he had before scrutinised her brother: it
was not the bold stare of vulgarity admiring beauty, but the child of
nature reading, after his own fashion, a page in her book.

“War–Eagle,” said Lucy to him, in her own gentle tone of voice, “I know
all that passed yesterday, and you are now my brother!”

As she pronounced his name in English, a gleam shot from his eye, and
a perceptible and sudden change came over his countenance: it seemed
produced by some unexpected association; and Lucy was surprised at the
deep pathos of his voice, as he replied, “The Great Spirit has made the
sun to shine upon my white brother’s path! His heart is brave; his arm
is strong; and his sister is like a flower of the prairie!—her voice
comes upon the ear like a pleasant dream!” These last words he spoke
rather to himself than addressing those around him.

Lucy was not displeased with the Indian’s compliment, and was about to
speak to Wingenund, when Reginald said aloud, “Come, let us withdraw
among those thick trees; we have many things to talk about.” His
proposal being assented to, the whole party were soon re–assembled
under a branching oak, screened from the public track by a thicket of
rhododendron.

While they were effecting this manœuvre, the guide took an opportunity
of interchanging a few sentences with the War–Eagle; the result of
which was apparently satisfactory to the honest woodsman, for his face
instantly resumed its usual frank and careless expression.

“Lucy,” said her brother, “as you have thought proper to accompany me
here, you must play your part as Queen of the Feast. I hope my brothers
will value these baubles more from your hands than from mine.” Thus
instructed, Lucy opened the canvasss package, which the guide had
hitherto carried, and presenting the large rifle to the chief, she said
to him:

“War–Eagle, your brother and your white sister give you this rifle, as
a mark of their friendship; and with it they give you powder and lead
enough to shoot all the deer and bears in the territory.”

The chief placed her hand and her brother’s both upon his heart,
saying, “War–Eagle thanks you. May the Great Spirit love you, and guard
your path!”

He then poised and examined the rifle, which was a piece of no ordinary
beauty and excellence; while Baptiste whispered to him, in his own
language, “It is loaded.”

Lucy then turned to Wingenund, and, presenting him with the lighter
fowling–piece, said to him, “With this, a sister thanks Wingenund for a
brother’s life.”

The boy cast his eyes modestly to the ground, saying, “Wingenund is
too happy. War–Eagle will tell his name to the braves in council. The
sister of Netis is good to him; Wingenund is ready to die!”

“Indeed,” said Lucy to the guide, “I fear he is very faint and ill; ask
the chief how he passed the night!”

“Wingenund is not ill,” said the boy, with a smile; “he is very happy.”

Meanwhile Baptiste, having conferred with the chief, replied, “Why,
Miss Lucy, the wound was a very bad ‘un, and he lost a power o’ blood;
once or twice in the night, War–Eagle thought he might not get over it;
but he is better now, and though unable to bear much fatigue, he is a
hardy young plant, and will take as much killing as an eel.”

“Come, Baptiste,” said Reginald; “I know you put something to eat and
drink into that sack with the ammunition: War–Eagle must feast with us
to–day.”

The guide opening his capacious wallet, drew from it a venison pasty,
some bread, and a couple of bottles of Madeira. Lucy declined taking
more than a crust of bread, merely tasting the wine to the health of
the hunters. Wingenund was equally abstemious, and sat a little apart
with his new sister; while Reginald, Baptiste, and the Chief made a
more substantial luncheon. The latter being asked, by Reginald, how he
liked the wine, replied carelessly, “Good.” But it was evident that he
drank it rather from courtesy than because it pleased his palate.

Reginald now desired the guide to speak to the War–Eagle in his own
tongue, and to gather from him all the requisite particulars for his
joining the Delawares in their summer–hunt beyond the Mississippi. He
had long been anxious to visit some of those scenes which Baptiste had
so often described; and his father having expressed a wish that he
should go to St. Louis on some business connected with his investments
in the fur–trade, he thought that so fair an opportunity ought not to
be lost.

While the guide and the chief conversed in a low and earnest tone
of voice, and Reginald listened with an idle curiosity, imagining
now and then that he could catch their meaning, Lucy became much
interested in her conversation with Wingenund: she was surprised at
his intelligence, and proficiency in English, and was touched by the
melancholy expression of his countenance and of his deep lustrous eyes.
As she was speaking, he suddenly and impressively placed his finger on
her arm, then raised it to his own lips, as a sign to her to be silent;
then creeping two or three yards from the party, he threw himself
full length upon the grass with his ear to the ground. Lucy listened
attentively, but could hear nothing but the gentle breeze stirring the
leaves, and the regular sound of Snowdrop’s teeth as he nibbled the
young grass.

The three hunters were still busy with their arrangements for the
summer, when Wingenund, resuming his sitting posture, uttered an almost
imperceptible sound, like the hiss of a small serpent. Instantly, as if
by instinct, the War–Eagle grasped his rifle, and looked inquiringly on
the intelligent countenance of the boy.

“Wingenund hears men and horses,” was the short reply.

Baptiste strained his practised ears to the utmost, as did Reginald,
without success. Even War–Eagle seemed for a moment unable to catch the
sound. He then whispered to Reginald, “Wingenund speaks truth, there
are men—not a few.”

Several minutes elapsed before our hero and the guide could distinguish
the tramp of horses and the voices of men speaking angrily.

Our hero and his party being effectually screened from view by the
dense _laurel_[20] thicket, could listen unobserved to the conversation
of those who were approaching; and the following expressions delivered
in a loud and authoritative tone, at once attracted and absorbed their
attention: “It is impossible that the fellow should escape, we have
scouts out in every direction. There can be no doubt that the camp
which we have just found in the woods is the one where he passed the
night with other red–skins, for the embers are still warm. Dickenson
and Brown are gone south towards Marietta; Henderson and his party are
tracking the prairies to the north: it is impossible he should long
escape; and young Hervey thinks he should know him anywhere!”

While the person who appeared to be the leader of the unseen party
was thus speaking, War–Eagle whispered a few sentences to Wingenund,
to which the intelligent youth only replied by a look; the chief then
conversed apart, in a low earnest voice, with the guide, who ended by
grasping his hand, and saying, in the Delaware tongue, “Grande–Hâche
will do it at the risk of his life.”

The chief appeared satisfied, and rising with calm dignity, he
tightened the belt at his waist, to which he hung his newly acquired
knife and ammunition; and throwing his rifle into the hollow of his
left arm, he said to Reginald, “War–Eagle must leave his brother Netis;
Grande–Hâche will tell him all; before two moons have passed, Netis
will come to hunt the bison with his brother; and he shall smoke with
the braves of the Lenapé.”

“He will,” replied Reginald, warmly pressing his hand, and at the same
time passing the cornelian ring upon one of the fingers of the chief.
“If the Great Spirit gives him life, he will come and hunt, and smoke
with his Lenapé brother.”

The chief, now turning to Lucy, drew from his head the eagle feather
which was passed through his hair, and which was quaintly stained, and
ornamented with porcupine quills: offering it gracefully to her, he
said, in a voice of musical gentleness, “War–Eagle wishes happiness to
the ‘pale flower of Mooshanne;’ many braves have tried to pluck this
feather from his head; no Dahcotah nor Pawnee has touched it and lived!
The Sister of Netis may fasten it in her hair—let none but a brave
warrior raise his eyes to it there.”

[Illustration: WINGENUND AND LUCY  P. 71]

“Thank you, dear War–Eagle,” said Lucy, kindly; “I promise you it shall
never be touched by an unworthy hand; and do you take this string of
red beads,” giving him at the same time a coral necklace, “and wear it
for the sake of your white sister.”

The chief received this gift with evident pleasure; and waving his hand
in adieu, whispering at the same time one parting word to Wingenund,
he strode leisurely away, and was soon lost in the deep glades of the
forest.



CHAPTER IX.

 HOW REGINALD BRANDON RETURNED TO MOOSHANNE WITH HIS SISTER, ACCOMPANIED
 BY WINGENUND; AND WHAT BEFELL THEM ON THE ROAD.


Lucy Brandon was not a little surprised at the chief’s sudden
departure; and, with the frankness natural to her character, inquired
of her brother whether he could explain its cause. Reginald appeared
either unable or unwilling to do so; and an appeal to the guide
produced only the following unsatisfactory reply:

“War–Eagle is like the bird after which he’s called—it ain’t easy to
explain or to follow his flight.”

Wingenund remained silent, but every now and then he fixed his bright
and speaking eyes upon Lucy, as if he would divine her thoughts.
That young lady, though at a loss to account for her embarrassment,
entertained a fear that all was not right, and proposed to her brother
to return to Mooshanne.

Snowdrop was soon caught, and the little party moved leisurely
homeward, Reginald and the guide leading the way, and Wingenund
walking by the side of Lucy’s pony; after riding a few minutes, she
recovered her spirits, and remembering that there was no foundation
for any surmises of evil, she resumed the conversation with her young
companion, which the chief’s departure had interrupted. “Tell me,
Wingenund, who is the ‘Black Father,’ of whom you speak?”

“He is very good,” said the boy, seriously; “He talks with the Great
Spirit; and he tells us all that the Great Spirit has done; how He made
the earth, and the water; and how He punishes bad men, and makes good
men happy.”

“He is a white man, then?” said Lucy.

“He is,” replied the lad; “but though he is a white man, he always
speaks truth, and does good, and drinks no fire–water, and is never
angry.”

What a humiliating reflection is it, thought Lucy to herself, that
in the mind of this young savage the idea of white men is naturally
associated with drunkenness and strife! “Tell me, Wingenund,” she
continued, “is the ‘Black Father’ old?”

“Many winters have passed over his head, and their snow rests upon his
hair.”

“Does he live with you always?”

“He comes and he goes, like the sunshine and the rain; he is always
welcome; and the Lenapé love him.”

“Can he speak your tongue well?”

“He speaks many tongues, and tries to make peace between the tribes;
but he loves the Lenapé, and he teaches ‘the Prairie–bird’ to talk with
the Great Spirit.”

“Does your sister speak to the Black Father in her own tongue?”

“Sometimes, and sometimes in the English; but often in a strange
tongue, written on a great book. The Black Father reads it, and the
Prairie–bird opens her ears, and looks on his face, and loves his
words; and then she tells them all to me. But Wingenund is a child of
the Lenapé—he cannot understand these things!”

“You will understand them,” said Lucy, kindly, “if you only have
patience: you know,” she added, smiling, “your sister understands them,
and she is a Lenapé too!”

“Yes,” said the boy; “but nobody is like Prairie–bird.”

“She must, indeed, be a remarkable person,” said Lucy, humouring her
young companion’s fancy; “still, as you have the same father and
mother, and the same blood, whatever she learns, you can learn too.”

“I have no father or mother,” said Wingenund, sadly, and he added, in
a mysterious whisper, drawing near to Lucy, “Prairie–bird never had a
father or mother.”

“Never had a father or mother!” repeated Lucy, as the painful thought
occurred to her, that poor Wingenund was deranged.

“Never,” said the boy, in the same tone; “she came from _there_,”
pointing, as he spoke, towards the north–west quarter of the heaven.

“How melancholy is it,” said Lucy to herself, “to think that this
brave, amiable boy should be so afflicted! that so intelligent and
quick a mind should be like a lyre with a broken string! Still,”
thought she, “I will endeavour to understand his meaning, and to
undeceive him.”

“Dear Wingenund, you are mistaken—your sister had the same father and
mother as yourself; she may have learnt much, and may understand things
strange to you, but you might learn them too.”

“Wingenund’s father and mother are dead,” said the boy, in a voice of
deep and suppressed emotion; “he will not tell you _how_ they died, for
it makes his heart throb and his eyes burn; but you are good to him,
and shall not see his anger. Prairie–bird never had a father; the Great
Spirit gave her to the Lenapé.”

While Lucy was musing how she should endeavour to dispel this strange
delusion, which seemed to have taken such firm hold of her young
companion’s mind, Reginald and Baptiste halted, and the latter said,
“You see that party approaching; they may put some troublesome
questions, leave me to answer them. Wingenund, you know what I mean?”

“Wingenund does not understand English,” said the boy, a slight smile
of irony lurking in the corner of his mouth.

The approaching party consisted of eight or ten men, all armed with
rifles, excepting two, who were mounted, and who carried cutlasses
and large horse–pistols; among the pedestrians towered the gigantic
form of young Mike Smith, who has already been presented to the reader
before the store of David Muir in Marietta; and among the horsemen was
the younger Hervey, leading his friends to scour the whole country in
search of the slayer of his brother: they were all in a high state of
excitement; and despite the cool and unmoved demeanour of the guide,
he was not without apprehension that they might desire to wreak their
vengeance on Wingenund.

“Ha! Baptiste,” said Hervey, grasping the guide’s hand; “you are the
very man we are in search of; we have already been to the Colonel’s,
and he told us we should find you with his son, and with Miss Brandon,
in this quarter. We want your assistance, man, and that speedily too.”

“How can I serve you?” said the guide; “what is the matter? you seem
bent on a hunt.”

“A hunt?” exclaimed Hervey, “yes, a hunt of a red–skin devil! Harkee,
Baptiste!” and stooping from his horse, he repeated to the guide,
in a low voice, but clear enough to be heard by all present, the
circumstances attending his brother’s death.

“A daring act, indeed,” said the guide musing: “but could not you
follow the trail while it was fresh, yesterday?”

“We followed it to a creek leading to the Muskingum, and there we lost
it.”

“Can you describe the appearance of the Indian?” inquired the guide.

“A tall, handsome fellow, as straight as a poplar, and with a leap like
a painter, so he seemed; but d—n him, he gave me such a knock on the
head, that my eyes swam for five minutes.”

A cold shudder ran through Lucy’s limbs as, comparing this slight
sketch of War–Eagle with his sudden departure and the guide’s caution
to Wingenund, she recognised in the chief the object of their
search: glancing her eye timidly at Wingenund, she could read on his
countenance no traces of uneasiness; he was playing with Snowdrop’s
mane; his gun resting on the ground, and he himself apparently
unconscious of what was passing.

After a minute’s reflection, the guide continued: “You say that the
Indian’s rifle was broken in half; did you notice anything about it?”

“Nothing: it was a strong coarse piece; we have brought the stock with
us; here it is,” he added, calling up one of his party to whom it had
been entrusted.

The guide took it in his hand, and at the first glance detected the
imitation of a feather, roughly but distinctly cut with a knife:
his own suspicions were at once confirmed, although his countenance
betrayed no change of expression; but Mike Smith, who had been looking
over his shoulder, had also observed the marks of the feather, and
noticed it immediately aloud, adding, “Come, Baptiste, you know all the
Ingian marks between Alleghany and the Missouri; what red–skin has
this belonged to?”

“Mike,” said the guide coolly, “a man’s tongue must shoot far and true
to hit such a mark as that.”

“And yet, Baptiste, if I’d been as long at the guiding and trapping as
you, I think I’d a’ know’d something about it.”

“Ay, that’s the way of it,” replied Baptiste; “you young ‘uns always
think you can shave a hog with a horn spoon! I’spose, Master Mike,
you can tell a buzzard from a mockingbird; but if I was to show you a
feather, and ask you _what_ buzzard it belonged to, the answer might
not be easy to find.”

“You’re an old fool,” growled Mike, angrily; and he added, as his eye
rested suddenly upon Wingenund, “What cub is that standing by Miss’s
white pony? we’ll see if he knows this mark. Come here, you devil’s
brat.”

Not a muscle in the boy’s face betrayed his consciousness that he was
addressed.

“Come here, you young red–skin!” shouted Mike yet more angrily, “or
I’ll sharpen your movements with the point of my knife.”

Reginald’s fiery temper was ill calculated to brook the young
backwoods–man’s coarse and violent language: placing himself directly
between him and Wingenund, he said to the former in a stern and
determined tone, “Master Smith, you forget yourself; that boy is one of
my company, and is not to be exposed either to insult or injury.”

“Here’s a pretty coil about a young red–skin,” said Mike, trying to
conceal his anger under a forced laugh; “how do we know that he ain’t
a brother or a son of the Ingian we’re in search of? s’ blood, if we
could find out that he was, we’d tar him, and burn him over a slow
fire!”

“I tell you again,” said Reginald, “that he is guilty of no crime; that
he saved my life, yesterday, at the risk of his own; and that, while I
live, neither you nor any of your party shall touch a hair of his head.”

Baptiste fearing the result of more angry words, and moved by an
appealing look from Miss Brandon, now interposed, and laying his
hand on Smith’s shoulder, said, “Come, Master Mike, there is no use
in threatening the young red–skin, when you see that he does not
understand a word that you say: tell me what you wish to inquire of
him, and I will ask him in his own tongue.”

“His tongue be d——d,” said Mike; “I’ll wager a hat against a gallon
of David Muir’s best, that the brat knows English as well as you or I,
although he seems to have nothing to do but to count the tassels on the
edge of his shirt. I’ll show you, without hurting him,” he added in a
lower tone, “that I’m not far wrong.”

“You swear not to injure him?” said Reginald, who overheard what passed.

“I do,” said Mike; “I only want to show you that he can’t make a fool
of Mike Smith.” Here he called up one of the men from the rear; and
having whispered something in his ear, he said, in a loud and distinct
tone of voice, “Jack, we have found out that this Indian cub belongs to
the party, one of whom murdered poor Hervey. Life for life is the law
of the backwoods: do you step a little on one side; I will count four,
and when I come to the four, split me the young rascal’s head, either
with a bullet or with your axe.”

“For Heaven’s sake, as you are men,” exclaimed Lucy, in an agony,
“spare him!”

“Peace, Miss Brandon,” said Mike; “your brother will explain to you
that it must be so.”

The guide would fain have whispered a word to the boy, but he was too
closely watched by Smith, and he was obliged to trust to Wingenund’s
nerves and intelligence.

“Are you ready, Jack?” said Mike, audibly.

“Yes!” and he counted slowly, pausing between each number,
“one—two—_three_!” At the pronunciation of this last word, Wingenund,
whose countenance had not betrayed, by the movement of a muscle, or
by the expression of a single feature, the slightest interest in what
was passing, amused himself by patting the great rough head which Wolf
rubbed against his hand as if totally unconscious that the deadly
weapon was raised, and that the next word from the hunter’s lips was to
be his death warrant.

“D—n it, you are right, after all, Baptiste,” said Mike Smith; “the
brat certainly does not understand us, or he’d have pricked his ears
when I came to number three; so, do you ask him, in his own lingo, if
he knows that mark on the rifle–butt, and can tell us to what red–skin
tribe it belongs?”

The guide now addressed a few words to Wingenund in the Delaware
tongue, while Reginald and Lucy interchanged a glance of wonder and
admiration at the boy’s sagacity and courage.

“He tells me that he has seen this mark before,” said the guide.

“Has he?” replied Mike; “ask him whether it is that of a Shawnee or a
Wyandot, of an Iroquois or of a Delaware?”

After again conferring with Wingenund, the guide muttered to himself,
“This youngster won’t tell a lie to keep a bullet from his brain or
a halter from his neck; I must act for him.” He added, in a louder
tone, “Mike, a word with you: it is not unlikely that the Ingian
you’re in search of, is the same who gave the boy that wound, and who
tried to kill Master Reginald yesterday: if it is so, he wants no more
punishing; he has his allowance already.”

“How so?” said Mike.

“He is dead, man,—killed on the spot. Do you and Hervey meet me here
to–morrow, an hour before noon; I will take you to the place where the
body is buried, and you shall judge for yourselves whether it is that
of the man you seek.”

“It’s a bargain,” said Mike; “we’ll come to the time. Now, lads,
forward to Hervey’s clearing. Let’s have a merry supper to–night; and
to–morrow, if the guide shows us the carcase of this rascal, why we
can’t hurt that much; but we’ll pay off a long score, one day or other,
with some of the red–skins. Sorry to have kept you waitin’, Miss; and
hope we haven’t scared you,” said the rough fellow, making, as he drew
off his party, an awkward attempt at a parting bow to Lucy.

“That was a clever turn of Baptiste’s,” said Reginald in a low voice to
his sister; “he has made them believe that the cowardly knave who tried
to stab me was the perpetrator of the daring outrage which they seek to
avenge!”

“And was it really War–Eagle?” said Lucy, with a slight shudder,—“he
who looks so noble and so gentle,—was it he who did it?”

“I believe so,” said Reginald.

“But is it not wrong in us to be friends with him, and to aid his
escape?”

“Indeed,” replied her brother, “it admits of doubt; let us ask the
guide, he will speak now without reserve;” and accordingly Reginald
repeated to Baptiste the question and his sister’s scruples.

“Why you see, Miss,” said the wary hunter, “there is no proof that
War–Eagle did it; though I confess it was too bold a deed to have been
done by that dog of a Wyandot: but I will tell you, Miss,” he added,
with increasing energy and vehemence, “IF the War–Eagle did it, you
will yourself, when you know all, confess that he did it nobly, and
that he deserves no punishment from man. That elder Hervey was one of
the bloodthirsty band by whom the harmless Christian Indians[21] were
murdered; and it is believed that it was by Hervey’s own hand that
Wingenund’s father fell; _if_ War–Eagle revenged this cruel murder, and
yet spared the life of the younger brother, when lying helpless at his
feet, who shall dare to blame him, or move a foot in his pursuit?”

“He speaks the truth, Lucy,” said her brother; “according to the rules
by which retaliation is practised by mankind, War–Eagle would have been
justified in punishing with death such an act of unprovoked atrocity:
but it is a dangerous subject to discuss; you had better forget _all_
you have heard about it; and in case of further inquiries being made in
your presence, imitate the happy unconsciousness lately displayed by
Wingenund.”

“Come here, my dear young brother,” he added in a kindly tone, “and
tell us,—did you really think that hot–headed chap was going to shoot
you when he counted number three?”

“No,” said the boy with a scornful smile.

“And why not? for he’s a violent and angry man.”

“He dared not,” was the reply.

“How so?”

“He is a fool!” said the boy, in the same scornful tone; “a fool
scarcely fit to frighten the fawn of an antelope! If he had touched me
or attempted to shoot me, Netis and Grande–Hâche would have killed him
immediately.”

“You are right, my young brave,” said Reginald, “he dared not hurt you.
See, dear Lucy,” he added apart to his sister, “what a ripe judgment,
what an heroic spirit, what nerves of iron, are found in the slender
frame of this wounded boy, exhausted by fatigue and suffering!”

“We will at least give him a hearty supper,” said Lucy, “and an
affectionate welcome to our home.”

Wingenund thanked her with his dark eyes, and the little party
proceeded leisurely, without incident or interruption, to Mooshanne.



CHAPTER X.

 IN WHICH THE READER IS UNCEREMONIOUSLY TRANSPORTED TO ANOTHER ELEMENT IN
 COMPANY WITH ETHELSTON; THE LATTER IS LEFT IN A DISAGREEABLE PREDICAMENT.


It is time that we should now turn our attention to Ethelston, who
is much too important a personage in our narrative to be so long
neglected, and respecting whose safety Lucy began to feel the jealous
anxiety of love; for The Pride of Ohio had been long expected in
Marietta, and several French frigates and corvettes were reported
to be cruising among the West Indian Islands, actively engaged in
revenging upon American commerce the loss which they had sustained in
The Insurgente. We shall soon see that Lucy’s alarm was not altogether
groundless, and that her lover’s prolonged absence was not without
sufficient cause. About a month preceding the occurrences detailed in
the last chapter, Ethelston, having landed his merchandise in safety
at Port Royal, and having taken on board a small cargo of sugar and
coffee, prepared to return to New Orleans. He had heard of the French
men–of–war cruising in the neighbourhood, and prudently resolved to
risk as little as possible on this trip: he took therefore securities
for a great portion of the amount due to him, which he left in the
charge of the vessel’s consignees, and conveyed on board only a
sufficient cargo to put The Pride of Ohio in perfect sailing trim,
and to give her a fair chance of escape in case she were chased by
an enemy. His little brig was well rigged and manned, and he felt
confident that few, if any, of the French cruisers would match her for
speed. His mate, or sailing–master, was Gregson, a hardy weather–beaten
old sailor, who had served on board of every kind of craft, from a
man–of–war to a fishing–cobble, and knew every headland, reef, and
current in that dangerous sea, as well as a Liverpool pilot knows the
banks and shoals in the mouth of the Mersey. The Pride of Ohio mounted
three guns; two eighteen–pound carronades, and one long nine–pounder:
ten stout fellows and a black cook completed her complement: the
last–mentioned person deserves special notice, as he was a character
strangely formed by the alternations of fortune which he had seen.
A native of the interior of western Africa, he had in early life
been chosen, on account of his extraordinary strength and courage,
a chief of the Lucumi tribe, to which he belonged; but having been
unfortunately made a prisoner, he was taken down to the coast and
sold to a slaver: thence he had been conveyed to some of the Spanish
Islands, and afterwards to Virginia, where he had come into possession
of Colonel Brandon, who finding him possessed of many good qualities,
and of a sagacity very rare among his countrymen, had offered him his
liberty when he moved to Ohio; but Cupid (for so was the negro called)
had grown so much attached to his master, that he begged to be allowed
to remain in his service, and, from one employment to another, had now
become cook and steward on board The Pride of Ohio. In frame he was
Herculean; and though he rarely exerted his strength, he had shown on
various occasions that it was nearly if not quite equal to that of any
other two men in the vessel. He spoke but little, and was sullen and
reserved in his manners; but as he never disobeyed orders, and never
was guilty of aggression or violence, Cupid was, upon the whole, a
favourite with the crew.

To Ethelston he was invaluable; for he was always at his post, was
scrupulously honest with respect to money or stores placed under his
charge, and on more than one occasion his shrewdness and readiness had
surprised his young commander. The captain (for so was Ethelston called
on board) always treated Cupid kindly, and never allowed him to be made
the subject of those jeers and insults to which free negroes in the
States are usually exposed. On this account the cook, who never forgot
that he _had_ been a warrior, entertained towards him the warmest
feelings of attachment and gratitude.

How or where he had obtained the name he bore, none seemed to know; and
Ethelston remembered having heard that when first he came into Colonel
Brandon’s possession, and was asked his name, he had sullenly replied,
“The name I once had is at home: a slave has neither name nor home!” A
terrible gash across his forehead and left cheek (received, probably,
in the war when he was captured,) had disfigured a countenance that had
been originally expressive of haughtiness and determination, and had,
perhaps, led the slave–dealer to bestow upon him in irony the name by
which he was now called.

The Pride of Ohio had made good two days of her homeward passage,
when, in endeavouring to round a point on the southern coast of Cuba,
Ethelston descried a ship some miles to windward, and a–head, which
a careful examination through his glass convinced him was a French
frigate. His mate being below at the time, he sent for him on deck,
anxious to see whether the experienced sailor’s observation would
confirm his opinion. As soon as he appeared, handing him the glass, he
said, “Gregson, see what you make of that fellow on our larboard bow.”

“Make of her!” said the mate; “the devil take him that made her, and
him that brought her athwart us, say I, captain! She’s a Frenchman; and
though we can’t well see her hull yet, I doubt it won’t be long before
we see her row of teeth.”

“I thought so myself,” said Ethelston. “We must hold our course steady;
and if we can round the point, we may then bear away, and show her a
pair of heels. Turn the hands up, Gregson; trim the sails, and stand
by for a run. Put Harrison at the helm; he can keep her a point nearer
than that youngster.”

“Ay, ay, sir!” was the reply; and having executed the order, he
returned to Ethelston, who was still sweeping the southern horizon
with his glass, and examining the strange ship, whose hull was now
distinctly visible.

The young man’s countenance wore a grave expression, as, returning the
glass to his mate, he said, “Gregson, it is, as we supposed, a French
frigate. We may, perhaps, creep along under the shore without his
noticing our small craft.”

The old seaman riveted the glass upon the stranger, as if he wished to
count every sail and plank. During the examination, he grunted two or
three inarticulate ejaculations, in unison with which his hard features
underwent various contortions; and his young commander waited with no
little impatience for what he called his “overhauling.”

“She’s neither more nor less than that infernal Epervier, commanded by
L’Estrange. She’s one of the fastest sailers in their navy; and as for
our creeping past her without being seen, he’s the wrong sort o’ man
for that fun: herring or whale, all’s fish for his net!”

“I have often heard of him,” said Ethelston: “they say he’s a fine
fellow.”

“That he is, to give the devil his due, as jolly an old dog as ever
lived, and much too good a seaman for a mounseer. Look’ee there,
captain,” added he, after another squint through the glass; “he’s
altering his course already—two or three points free, and the reefs
shaken out o’ the tops’ls. We shall hear from him soon.”

“Can we give him the slip by bearing up for the eastern passage?—We
should then show him our tail; and a stern chase is a long one.”

“We might try if you wish it, captain; but it blows fresh, and she
won’t be very fond of this lee shore. I think, if you allow me to
advise, we’d better hug it; take the chance of a long shot in rounding
that headland, and then run for the inner channel behind the Isle of
Pines. He’ll not be after following us there; or, if he does, the
frigate’s keel will chance to scrape acquaintance with a reef.”

“You are right, Gregson,” said Ethelston. “The Pride may fetch that
point on this tack. Keep a close luff, Harrison.”

“Luff it is, sir,” was the reply, as Ethelston went below to consult
his chart, and to prepare himself for entering the intricate channel
between the Isle de Pinos and the main island.

The gallant little brig well sustained her high character as a sailer,
and dashed her bows fearlessly through the foaming waves, under a press
of canvasss such as few vessels of her tonnage could have borne. The
breeze was freshening, and the frigate now shaped her course with the
evident intention of cutting off the chase from rounding the headland
before mentioned.

The men on board the brig were now clustered forward, anxiously
debating the probable issue; while Cupid steamed away in his caboose,
preparing the dinner as quietly as if there had been no frigate to
windward, nor a rock–bound shore to leeward; but though he seemed thus
busied in his usual avocations, he cast every now and then his dark eye
upon The Epervier; and few on board could estimate better than himself
the danger of their situation.

Ethelston, having finished a careful examination of his chart, now came
on deck, and a single glance sufficed to show him that he could not
round the point a–head without coming within range of the frigate’s
guns: but the brig had kept her offing, and he had little doubt of her
making good her escape, unless she were crippled by a shot from the
enemy.

The Epervier now hoisted her colours for the brig to heave–to; and
that being disregarded, she fired a shot, which fell short of her
bows. Finding that no notice was taken of this, L’Estrange ordered his
first lieutenant to fire at the saucy brig in good earnest, to bring
her to her senses. Fortunately for the latter, there was a short angry
sea running, and the distance being considerable, the first shot did
not take effect. Several of the hands on board the brig had served in
men–of–war; these were now oracles among their messmates, and they
looked with some anxiety at their young captain, curious to see how he
would behave under fire, for they believed he had never smelt powder:
and although strict and firm in his command, he was usually so gentle
and quiet in his manner, that they considered him rather a studious
than a fighting character. Their curiosity was not, however, much
gratified; for Ethelston, without appearing to notice the frigate, kept
his eye steadfastly fixed upon the cape a–head; and, after a brief
silence, he said, “Gregson, there is a strong current which sets in
shore here, The Pride cannot weather that point on this tack.”

“You are right, sir,” said the mate; “L’Estrange has got his bristles
up, he is nearing us every minute, and if we carry on this course, in
another half–hour, both will go ashore.”

“Ha!” exclaimed the young captain, the colour rising in his cheek, as a
sudden thought flashed across him. “If we could ensure that both would
go to pieces among those breakers, it would be a glorious death for the
little brig to die!”

He spoke these words in an under tone, and rather musing to himself
than addressing his officer. The latter, however, overheard them, and
looked at him with an astonishment which he could not repress; for he
also knew as little as the crew of the determined courage that reposed
under the calm and quiet demeanour of his young commander. Again a
wreath of smoke issued from the bows of the frigate, and a round shot
passed through the rigging of the chase, doing fortunately no material
damage, but proving that they were now within easy range.

“I fear it will not do, sir,” said the mate, in reply to Ethelston’s
last words; “she can pepper away at us, and yet make her offing good.”

“Then there remains but one chance for us,” said the captain; “answer
her signal, show your colours, ‘bout ship, and stand for the frigate.”

The mate was, if possible, more surprised at this order than he had
been before at the proposal to try and cast both vessels ashore; but
he was too good a seaman to hesitate or to ask any questions; and in a
few minutes the gallant little brig had answered the signal, and was
standing out towards the frigate on the starboard tack.

We will now transport the reader for a few minutes on board The
Epervier, and make him acquainted with the captain, into whose
clutches the poor little brig seemed destined to fall. L’Estrange was
a fine–looking, middle–aged man, who had spent the greater part of
his life at sea, and had married, when very young, a Spanish creole,
whose beauty was her only dower; he had several children by this
marriage, the eldest of whom was now a lieutenant on board his ship;
the remainder of the family resided at Point à Pitre, in Guadaloupe,
for the captain was in truth rather of the “ancien régime;” he loved
his country, but he hated the Directory and other fruits of the French
revolution; so that he never went to Europe, and would have been but
rarely employed, had he not been known to be one of the most skilful
and experienced officers in the French navy. Such was the man who now
stood on the frigate’s quarter–deck; and after examining The Pride
again through his glass, turned to his first lieutenant and desired
him to cease firing. “That obstinate trader,” added he, “seemed very
anxious to escape, and thought but little of the risk she ran of going
ashore, or of being riddled by our shot!”

“She’s one of those saucy Americans,” said the lieutenant, “that think
nothing afloat can match ‘em; however, she’s made a mistake this time;
and I hope, sir, when she’s overhauled, she’ll prove worth the trouble
she’s given.”

The frigate, by this time, finding herself too close in on a lee shore,
hauled to the wind; and, disliking the broken and rugged appearance
of the coast, determined not to lie–to for the brig until she had
made sufficient offing. This was precisely the calculation that
Ethelston had made; and he now paced his deck with a calm and satisfied
countenance; whilst his men, grouped on the forecastle, were quite
at a loss to discover his intentions: the mate, however, was clearer
sighted, and could not withhold his admiration from the decision and
boldness of a manœuvre, the success of which must soon be tested.

The captain of the frigate went below to dinner, having given orders
to the lieutenant to stand out on the same tack for another half–hour,
then to lie–to, until the brig should come alongside.

Meantime, Ethelston, who had kept his eye fixed upon the headland so
often mentioned, muttering to himself, “she will fetch it now,” desired
the man at the helm to yaw the brig about, to throw her up now and then
in the wind, so as to fall astern of the frigate as much as possible,
yet not apparently varying the course. Having done so as long as he
judged it practicable without awakening the enemy’s suspicion, he saw,
to his inexpressible delight, the frigate shorten sail to enable him to
come up; instantly seizing this advantage, he ordered his mate to put
the brig about, and run for the Isle of Pines. It may well be imagined
that this bold manœuvre was not many moments unperceived on board the
frigate; and L’Estrange’s astonishment was great, when, from the noise
overhead, and from the heeling of the ship, he found that her course
was being altered. Springing on deck, he saw that he had been outwitted
by the saucy brig, which was crowding all sail, and seemed not unlikely
to effect her escape. The old captain chafed, and stormed, and swore
that the obstinate little trader should pay dearly for her insolence.

The Epervier was a fast sailer, and, as she now dashed the spray from
her bows under a press of canvass, it was soon evident that the brig
could not yet round the point without coming within range of her guns.

Ethelston’s mind was now made up; and finding his men cheerful and
inspirited by the success of his manœuvre, he yet hoped to bring his
vessel into the intricate channel behind the island, where the frigate
would not venture to follow: it was not long before she again saluted
him; and one of the shot passing through the brig’s bulwarks, close to
him, shivered the binnacle into a hundred pieces. Observing symptoms of
uneasiness in the man at the helm, and that he swerved from the course,
Ethelston gave him a stern reproof, and again desired Harrison to come
to the helm. The frigate, which still held the weather–gage, seemed
now resolved to cut off the brig from the headland, and to sink her if
she attempted to weather it. Ethelston saw his full danger, and was
prepared to meet it; had he commanded a vessel of war, however small,
he would not have shrunk from the responsibility he was about to incur;
but, remembering that his little brig was but a trader, and that the
crew ought not to be exposed, without their own consent, to danger so
imminent as that before them, he desired Gregson to call them aft, when
he addressed them as follows:

“My lads,—you see the scrape we are in: if we can round that point, we
may yet escape; but to do so, we must run within a few hundred yards
of the frigate’s broadside. What say you, my lads, shall we strike, or
stand the chance?—a French prison, or hurrah for the Belise?”

“Hurrah for the Belise,” shouted the men, animated by their young
commander’s words, and by his fearless bearing; so the little brig held
on her way.

A few minutes proved that he had neither magnified nor underrated the
danger: his chart gave him deep water round the headland; and he now
ordered Harrison to keep her away, and let her run close in shore,
thereby increasing her speed, and the distance from the enemy.

The surprise and wrath of L’Estrange, at the impudent daring of a
craft which he now perceived to be really nothing but an insignificant
trader, are not to be described. He bore up after her, and having
desired the men to stand to their guns, generously determined to give
the saucy chase one more chance; but finding his repeated signal for
her to heave–to, disregarded, he reluctantly gave the order to fire.
Fortunately for The Pride, the sea was running high, and naval gunnery
had not then reached the perfection which it has since attained; and
though her rigging was cut up from stem to stern, and her fore–topmast
was shot away, and though she received several shot in her hull,
she still answered her helm, and gallantly rounding the point, ran
in shore, and was in a few minutes among shoals which, to her light
draught, were not dangerous, but where it would have been madness in
the frigate to follow.



CHAPTER XI.

ETHELSTON’S FURTHER ADVENTURES AT SEA, AND HOW HE BECAME CAPTOR AND
CAPTIVE IN A VERY SHORT SPACE OF TIME.


It seemed almost miraculous that not a man on The Pride of the Ohio
was killed by the frigate’s broadside; nor was one wounded, excepting
Ethelston, who received a slight hurt in the left arm from a splinter;
but he paid no attention to it, and calmly gave all the requisite
orders for repairing the damaged spars and rigging.

As soon as all was made snug, he let the men go below to dinner; and
leaning over the shivered bulwarks of his little craft, seemed busily
employed in counting the shot that had struck her; but his eyes were
for a time fixed upon the water, through which she was cutting her easy
way, and his thoughts were afar off, as he whispered almost audibly to
himself, “Dear, dear Lucy—your namesake is wounded and disfigured, but
she is not disgraced. Thank Heaven, no Frenchman’s foot has yet trodden
her deck, and—“

Here he was interrupted by Gregson, who having been carefully observing
the frigate through his glass, came up to him, and said, “Beg pardon,
sir; but she is getting ready her boats, and the breeze is failing
fast; in another hour we shall have scarce a cat’s paw.”

Ethelston started from his short reverie, and immediately convinced
himself that the mate spoke the truth: “You are right,” said he, “but
we have a good hour to spare, for the frigate is nearly becalmed.
Let the men have their dinner quietly, say nothing to them about the
matter, and give ‘em an extra glass of grog; but no drunkenness,
Gregson; they may want the full use of their heads and hands to–night;
send Cupid to my cabin, and tell him to bring me a slice of cold meat
and a glass of Madeira.”

So saying, he went below: the mate looked after him, and turning his
quid three or four times in his cheek, he muttered, “Damme if he makes
any more count of the frigate’s guns or boats than a bear does of a
bee–hive! They spoilt as good a commodore as ever stept a deck when
they made a trading–skipper of him!” Having vented this characteristic
encomium on his young commander, the old seaman went forward to execute
his orders.

Meanwhile Ethelston, consulting his chart, found that the reefs and
shoals, as laid down, rendered the navigation of the coast extremely
dangerous, even for the light draught of his brig; having only allowed
himself a few minutes for refreshment, he again went on deck, and
observing the frigate still becalmed, he ordered the mate to shorten
sail, take soundings, and to desire the carpenter to make a report of
the leakage, or any other serious injury sustained by the frigate’s
shot.

During this time L’Estrange was not idle on board The Epervier. Nettled
at the successful trick played upon him, he resolved as the breeze
gradually died away to capture the chase with his boats: for this duty
the launch and the pinnace were assigned: the former had a carronade
and twenty–five hands, and was commanded by his son; the latter had
a swivel, and thirteen hands, commanded by a junior lieutenant. The
object of L’Estrange being to prevent an unnecessary effusion of blood,
by sending a force strong enough to render resistance hopeless on the
part of what he called a dirty little sugar–boat. The crew of The
Pride of Ohio, elated by the success of their captain’s manœuvre, and
exhilarated by the extra grog served out, were in high good humour, and
laughing over the events of the morning with reckless merriment, when
they received an order from Ethelston to come aft. On their obeying the
summons, he again addressed them as follows:—

“My lads, you have thus far done your duty like men; but our work is
not yet over. The Epervier is determined to sink or capture our little
craft; she is now getting out her boats for that service: if we resist,
we shall have warm work of it; if we strike without a fight, we may rot
in a French dungeon. Again I ask you, my lads, will you stick by The
Pride, and hurrah for home, or a sailor’s grave?”

A hearty and simultaneous cheer from the crew was the only reply.

“I knew it, my lads,” continued Ethelston, his countenance, usually so
calm, now glowing with enthusiasm; “I knew that you would not desert
her while she could float! It is now my duty to tell you that she has
received two awkward shots just between wind and water line, and that
she leaks apace. We must stop them as well as we may; but be prepared
for the boats from The Epervier;—they shall at least buy us a dear
bargain!”

Ethelston now called the mate, and gave him full instructions for
the plan of defence from the expected attack. The long gun and the
carronades were got ready and loaded, the former with round shot, the
latter with grape; small arms and cutlasses were served out to the
men, and the deck cleared of every thing that might impede them in
the approaching struggle. Meantime Ethelston ordered to be hoisted a
new ensign, given to the brig by Lucy, and said to be partly worked
by her own fair fingers. As soon as it was run up, he sent aloft a
boy, with orders to nail it to the mast–head, which was done amid the
repeated cheers of the crew. They were not long kept in suspense: the
breeze had died away; the flapping sails and creaking yards gave the
usual sullen indications of a calm, when the boats from The Epervier
advanced at a steady and measured stroke towards the brig. Ethelston
gave the long gun to the charge of Gregson, reserving to himself that
of the carronades; he issued also special orders not to fire, under any
circumstances, until he gave the word, or, in case he fell, until they
received the order from Gregson, who would succeed him in the command.

During all these preparations, Cupid appeared indifferent to what was
passing, and continued busily occupied with his pots and pans in the
caboose. This conduct caused some little surprise in Ethelston, who
knew that the black was not the stupid, phlegmatic character that
he now seemed; and he accordingly sent Gregson to inquire whether,
in the event of an attack from the frigate’s boats, he meant to
fight?—desiring the mate at the same time to offer him a cutlass.
The African grinned when he received this message, and replied that
he meant to do his best. He declined, however, the proffered cutlass,
informing the mate, that he had got a toasting–fork of his own, ready
for the mounseers; as he said this, he showed him the fragment of a
capstan–bar, the end of which he had sharpened and burnt hard in the
hot cinders: it was an unwieldy kind of club, and in the hands of an
ordinary man, could have been but of little service; but his gigantic
strength enabled him to wield it like a common cudgel. The truth is,
that Cupid would have preferred being armed with cutlass and pistol,
both of which he could use as well as any man on board; but he had tact
enough to know that the prejudice against his colour forbad his taking
his place on deck among the other defenders of the vessel.

The boats being now within hail, Lieutenant L’Estrange stood up in the
launch and ordered the brig to strike her colours and receive him on
board. Finding this order unheeded, he repeated it through the trumpet
in a sterner tone, adding that, if not immediately obeyed, he should
fire upon her. Not a man stirred on board the brig, neither was any
reply made to the lieutenant, who forthwith discharged the contents of
his carronade into her hull, by which one man was killed dead, and two
were wounded by splinters; he then desired his men to pull hard for
the brig to board her, while others had orders to fire small arms at
all whom they could see above the bulwarks. The boats had approached
within fifty yards before Ethelston gave the word to fire. Gregson
pointed the long gun upon the smaller boat with so true an aim that
the heavy shot went clean through her, and she filled and went down
in a few minutes, the survivors of her crew being picked up by the
launch. Meanwhile, Ethelston fired a volley of grape into the latter
with terrible effect, several being killed on the spot, and many of
the remainder severely wounded. Nothing daunted by this murderous
fire, the gallant young lieutenant held on his way to the brig, and
again discharging his carronade at the distance of only a few yards,
her timbers were fearfully rent, and amidst the smoke and confusion
thereby created, he and his crew scrambled up her sides to board.
The combat was now hand to hand; nor was it very unequal, so many of
the Frenchmen having been killed and wounded in the boats; they were
strong enough, however, to make good their footing on deck, and inch
by inch they forced back the crew of the brig. Ethelston fought with
the courage of a lion; his voice was heard above the din of the fray,
animating his men; and several of the boldest of the enemy had already
felt the edge of his cutlass. Nor was young L’Estrange less gallant in
his attack; and his followers being more numerous than their opponents,
drove them back gradually by main force. It was at this moment that
Cupid, who had hitherto remained unnoticed in his caboose, thought
fit to commence his operations; which he did by throwing a great pan
of greasy boiling water over three or four of the assailants, and
then laying about him with his huge club, which felled a man almost
at every blow. The excruciating pain occasioned by the hot liquid,
together with the consternation produced by this unexpected attack in
their rear, completed the dismay of the Frenchmen. At this crisis young
L’Estrange slipped and fell on the deck: Gregson, bestriding him, was
about to dispatch him; when Ethelston, who was already bleeding from
a severe cutlass wound in the forehead, rushed forward to save him;
but the infuriated youth, perhaps mistaking his intention, drew his
last remaining pistol, and fired with so true an aim, that Ethelston’s
left arm fell powerless at his side. A flush of anger came over his
countenance; but seeing Gregson again raising his hand to dispatch
the young officer, he again interposed, and desired the mate to spare
him,—an order which the seaman reluctantly obeyed.

Ethelston now entreated L’Estrange to give up his sword, and to save
further bloodshed; and the young man, seeing that his followers were
mostly overpowered and wounded, presented it with a countenance in
which grief and shame were blended with indignation. “Stay,” said
Ethelston; “before I receive your sword, the conditions on which I
receive it are, that you give your parole, that neither you nor any
one of your men shall bear arms against the United States during the
continuance of this war, whether you and I are recaptured or not; and
the launch becomes my prize.”

To these terms the youth assented, and ordered such of his men as
were not quite disabled, to lay down their arms. In a few minutes,
all who were unhurt were busily engaged in tending the dying and
wounded. Fortunately an assistant–surgeon, who had volunteered on this
service from the frigate, was among those unhurt, and he set about his
professional duties with as much alacrity as if he had been in the ward
of an hospital. Cupid retreated quietly to his caboose, and Ethelston
continued giving his orders with the same clearness and decision that
had marked his whole conduct. Young L’Estrange looked over the brig’s
low sides into the water: his heart was too full for utterance; and
his captor, with considerate kindness, abstained from addressing him.
The surgeon, observing that the blood still flowed from the wound on
Ethelston’s forehead, and that his left arm hung at his side, now
came and offered his services. Thanking him courteously, he replied,
smiling, “I took my chance of wounds on equal terms with those brave
fellows, and I will take my chance of cure on equal terms also; when
you have attended to all those who are more seriously hurt, I shall be
happy to avail myself of your skill.”

The surgeon bowed and withdrew. An audible groan burst from the
unhappy L’Estrange; but still he spoke not; and Ethelston held a brief
consultation with his mate and the carpenter, the result of which was,
an order given to the former, in a low tone of voice, “to prepare
immediately, and to send Cupid to him in the cabin.”

As he was going down, L’Estrange came to him, and asked him,
confusedly, and with an averted countenance, if he might speak to him
alone for a minute. Ethelston begged him to follow him into his cabin,
when, having shut the door, he said, “Mr. L’Estrange, we are alone,
pray speak; is there any thing in which I can serve you?”

The youth gazed on him for a moment, in an agony that could not yet
find relief in words, and then falling on the floor, burst into a
flood of tears. Ethelston was moved and surprised at this violent
grief in one whom he had so lately seen under the influence of pride
and passion. Taking him kindly by the hand, he said, “Pray compose
yourself! these are misfortunes to which all brave men are liable. You
did all that a gallant officer could do;—success is at the disposal of
a higher power; you will meet it another day.”

“Never, never!” said the young lieutenant, vehemently; “the loss of
my boat is nothing; the failure of our attack is nothing; but I am a
dishonoured coward, and Heaven itself cannot restore a tainted honour!”

“Nay, nay,” replied Ethelston; “you must not say so. I maintain that
you and your crew fought gallantly till every hope of success was
gone—the bravest can do no more!”

“You are blindly generous,” said the youth passionately; “you _will_
not understand me! When every hope was gone—when I lay at the mercy
of your mate’s cutlass—you sprang forward to save my life. I, like
a savage—a monster—a coward, as I am,—fired and tried to kill
you;—even then, without a word of anger or reproach, you, although
wounded by my pistol, again interposed, and saved me from the death I
deserved. Oh, would that I had died an hundred deaths rather than have
lived to such disgrace!”

And again the unhappy young officer buried his face in his hands, while
his whole frame still trembled convulsively with grief. Ethelston used
every exertion to soothe and allay his agitation. He assured him that
the wound he had received was not serious, that the pistol was fired
under a strong excitement, and in the turmoil of a bloody fray, when
no man’s thoughts are sufficiently collected to regulate his conduct;
and he forgave him so freely, and mingled his forgiveness with so
many expressions of kindness and esteem, that he succeeded at length
in restoring him to a certain degree of composure. Nothing, however,
would satisfy L’Estrange but that he should have his wounds instantly
dressed; and he ran himself and summoned the surgeon, resolving to be
present at the operation.

When Ethelston’s clothes were removed, it appeared that, besides a
few flesh–cuts, of no great consequence, he had received two severe
shot wounds: one from a musket–ball, which had sunk deep into the
left shoulder; the other from L’Estrange’s pistol, by which the bone
of the left arm was broken. The latter was soon set and bandaged; but
the ball could not be extracted from the former, either because the
surgeon’s skill was not equal to the task, or from his not having with
him the instruments requisite for the operation. As soon as this was
over, Ethelston dismissed the surgeon; and turning good–humouredly to
L’Estrange he said, “Now, my young friend, I want your assistance. I
must lose no time in putting all our men aboard the launch, and taking
in as many stores and necessaries as she will hold, for this brig is
doomed; your swivel and the frigate’s guns have finished her; she is
fast settling down, and in a couple of hours I expect her to sink.”

“On my word, sir,” said L’Estrange, “you will pardon me if I say that
you are the strangest gentleman that I ever yet knew to command a
trading brig! You out–manœuvre a frigate, capture her boats, fight as
if you had done nothing but fight all your life, sit as quiet under
that surgeon’s probes and tortures as if you were eating your dinner,
and now talk calmly of scuttling your brig, for which you have run all
these risks!”

“It is my philosophy, Monsieur L’Estrange. I tried first to get away
without fighting; when that was impossible, I fought as well as I
could. What has happened since, and what is yet to come, I bear as well
as I can! All that I ask of you is, to keep your fellows in order, and
make them assist mine in removing the wounded and the requisite stores
on board the launch.” So saying, and again saluting his prisoner, he
went on deck.

Though he struggled thus manfully against his emotion, it was with a
heavy heart that Ethelston prepared to bid a final adieu to his little
vessel, which he loved much for her own sake,—more perhaps for the
name she bore. While giving the necessary orders for this melancholy
duty, his attention was called by Gregson to a sail that was coming
up with the light evening breeze astern. One look through the glass
sufficed to show him that she hoisted French colours; and L’Estrange,
who now came on deck, immediately knew her to be The Hirondelle,—an
armed cutter, that acted on this cruise as a tender to The Epervier.
A momentary glow overspread the countenance of Ethelston, as he felt
that resistance was hopeless, and that in another hour his brig would
be sunk, and his brave crew prisoners. But being too proud to allow
the French officer to see his emotion, he controlled it by a powerful
effort, and continued to give his orders with his accustomed coolness
and precision.

Though young L’Estrange’s heart beat high at this sudden and
unlooked–for deliverance, he could not forbear his admiration at his
captor’s self–possession; and his own joy was damped by the remembrance
of that portion of his own conduct which he had so deeply lamented, and
also of the parole he had given, not to bear arms again during the
war. Meantime the removal of the men, the stores, the provisions, and
papers from the brig went on with the greatest order and despatch.

Ethelston was the last to leave her: previous to his doing so, he made
the carpenter knock out the oakum and other temporary plugs with which
he had stopped the leaks, being determined that she should not fall
into the hands of the French. This being completed, the launch shoved
off; and while pulling heavily for the shore, the crew looked in gloomy
silence at their ill–fated brig. Ethelston was almost unmanned; for his
heart and his thoughts were on Ohio’s banks, and he could not separate
the recollections of Lucy from the untimely fate of her favourite
vessel. He gazed until his sight and brain grew dizzy; he fancied that
he saw Lucy’s form on the deck of the brig, and that she stretched her
arms to him for aid. Even while he thus looked, the waters poured fast
into their victim. She settled,—sunk; and in a few minutes scarce a
bubble on their surface told where The Pride of Ohio had gone down!
A groan burst from Ethelston’s bosom. Nature could no longer endure
the accumulated weight of fatigue and intense pain occasioned by his
wounds: he sunk down insensible in the boat, and when he recovered his
senses, found himself a prisoner on board The Hirondelle.

Great had been the surprise of the lieutenant who commanded her at the
disappearance of the brig which he had been sent to secure; and greater
still at the condition of the persons found on board the launch. His
inquiries were answered by young L’Estrange with obvious reluctance: so
having paid the last melancholy duties to the dead, and afforded all
the assistance in his power to the wounded, he put about the cutter,
and made sail for The Epervier.

As soon as young L’Estrange found himself on the frigate’s deck, he
asked for an immediate and private audience of his father, to whom he
detailed without reserve all the circumstances of the late expedition.
He concluded his narration with the warmest praises of Ethelston’s
courage, conduct, and humanity, while he repeated that bitter censure
of his own behaviour which he had before expressed on board The Pride
of Ohio. The gallant old captain, though mortified at the failure of
the enterprise and the loss of men that he had sustained, could not
but appreciate the candour, and feel for the mortification of his
favourite son; and he readily promised that Ethelston should be treated
with the greatest care and kindness, and that the most favourable
terms, consistent with his duty, should be offered to the prisoners.

Young L’Estrange gave up his own berth to Ethelston, whose severe
sufferings had been succeeded by a weakness and lethargy, yet more
dangerous. The surgeon was ordered to attend him; and his care was
extended to all the wounded, without distinction of country.

After a few days, Captain L’Estrange determined to exchange Gregson,
the mate, and the remainder of the brig’s crew, for some French
prisoners lately taken by an American privateer: they were accordingly
placed for that purpose on board the cutter, and sent to New Orleans.
Young L’Estrange having learned from the mate the address of Colonel
Brandon, and his connection with Ethelston, wrote him a letter, in
which he mentioned the latter in the highest and most affectionate
terms, assuring the Colonel that he should be treated as if he were
his own brother; and that, although the danger arising from his wounds
rendered it absolutely necessary that he should return to Guadaloupe
with the frigate, his friends might rely upon his being tended with the
same care as if he had been at home. Cupid, at his own urgent entreaty,
remained with his master, taking charge of all his private baggage and
papers.

We need not follow the fate of the cutter any further than to say that
she reached her destination in safety; that the proposed exchange was
effected, and the prisoners restored to their respective homes.

The surgeon on board The Epervier succeeded at length in taking out
the ball lodged in Ethelston’s shoulder; and when they arrived at
Guadaloupe, he pronounced his patient out of danger, but enjoined the
strictest quiet and confinement, till his recovery should be further
advanced. The ardent young L’Estrange no sooner reached home than he
prevailed on his father to receive Ethelston into his own house. He
painted to his sister Nina, a girl of seventeen, the sufferings and
the heroism of their guest in the most glowing colours; he made her
prepare for him the most refreshing and restoring beverages; he watched
for hours at the side of his couch; in short, he lavished upon him all
those marks of affection with which a hasty and generous nature loves
to make reparation for a wrong. In all these attentions and endeavours,
he was warmly seconded by Nina, who made her brother repeat more than
once the narrative of the defence and subsequent loss of the brig. How
Ethelston’s recovery proceeded under the care of the brother and sister
shall be told in another chapter.



CHAPTER XII.

 VISIT OF WINGENUND TO MOOSHANNE.—HE REJOINS WAR–EAGLE, AND THEY RETURN
 TO THEIR BAND IN THE FAR WEST.—M. PERROT MAKES AN UNSUCCESSFUL ATTACK
 ON THE HEART OF A YOUNG LADY.


We must now return to Mooshanne, where Colonel Brandon received
Wingenund very kindly; and within half an hour of the arrival of the
party, they were all seated at his hospitable board, whereon smoked
venison steaks, various kinds of fowls, a substantial ham, cakes of
rice, and Indian maize. On the side–table were cream, wild honey,
cheese, and preserved fruits, all these delicacies being admirably
served under the superintendence of Aunt Mary, who was delighted
with Wingenund, praised the extreme beauty of his eyes and features,
telling the Colonel, in a whisper, that if she had been thirty–five
years younger, she should have been afraid of losing her heart! The
youth was indeed the hero of the day: all were grateful to him for his
gallant preservation of Reginald’s life, and all strove with equal
anxiety to make him forget that he was among strangers. Nor was the
task difficult; for though he had only the use of one hand, it was
surprising to see the tact and self–possession with which he conducted
himself, the temperate quietness with which he ate and drank, and the
ease with which he handled some of the implements at table, which he
probably saw for the first time. Baptiste was a privileged person in
the Colonel’s house, and was allowed to dine as he pleased, either with
its master, or with Perrot and the other servants. On this occasion,
he was present in the dining–room, and seemed to take a pleasure in
drawing out the young Delaware, and in making him talk on subjects
which he knew would be interesting to the rest of the party. Wingenund
was quiet and reserved in his replies, except when a question was
put to him by Lucy, to whom he gave his answers with the greatest
_naïveté_, telling her more than once, that she reminded him of his
sister Prairie–bird, but that the latter was taller, and had darker
hair. Whilst addressing her, he kept his large speaking eyes so riveted
upon Lucy’s countenance, that she cast her own to the ground, almost
blushing at the boy’s earnest and admiring gaze. To relieve herself
from embarrassment, she again inquired about this mysterious sister,
saying, “Tell me, Wingenund, has she taught you to read, as well as to
speak our tongue?”

“No,” said the youth; “Prairie–bird talks with the Great Spirit, and
with paper books, and so does the Black Father; but Wingenund cannot
understand them,—he is only a poor Indian.”

Here Reginald, whose curiosity was much excited, inquired, “Does the
Prairie–bird look kindly on the young chiefs of the tribe?—Will she be
the wife of a chief?”

There was something both of surprise and scorn in Wingenund’s
countenance, as he replied, “Prairie–bird is kind to all—the young
chiefs find wives among the daughters of the Delawares;—but the
antelope mates not with the moose, though they feed on the same
Prairie. The Great Spirit knows where the Prairie–bird was born! but
her race is unknown to the wise men among the Tortoises.”

Reginald and his sister were equally at a loss to understand his
meaning; both looked inquiringly at the guide, who was rubbing his
ear, as if rather puzzled by the young Delaware’s answer. At length
he said, “Why, Miss Lucy, you see, much of what the lad says is as
plain to me as the sight on my rifle: for the tribes of the Lenapé
are as well known to me as the _totems_ of the Oggibeways. The Great
nation is divided into three tribes:—the Minsi, or the Wolf–tribe
(sometimes called also Puncsit, or round–foot); the Unalacticos, or the
Turkey–tribe; and the _Unamis_, or the Tortoise–tribe. The last are
considered the principal and most ancient; and as Wingenund’s family
are of this band, he spoke just now of their wise men. But who, or what
kin’ o’ crittur this Prairie–bird can be, would puzzle a Philadelphy
lawyer to tell, let alone a poor hunter who knows little out of the
line of his trade.”

“Then, Baptiste,” said Lucy, smiling; “your trade is a pretty extensive
one, for I think you have more knowledge in your head on most subjects
than half the lawyers and clerks in the territory.”

“There it is, Miss Lucy; you’re always a givin’ me a little dose of
flattery, just as I give my patches a bit of grease to make the Doctor
swallow his lead pills. You ladies think we’re all alike,—young
sparks, and tough old chaps like me,—if you do but dip your fingers
into the honey–pot, you know we shall lick them as soon as your backs
are turned! But it is getting late,” he added, rising from his seat;
“and I have much to say to this youth, who is already tired; with your
leave, Miss, I will retire with him, and see that he has a comfortable
sleeping quarter, and that he wants for nothing.”

“Pray do so,” said Lucy; “let him be treated as if he were one of our
own family. I am sure, dear papa, such would be your wish,” she added,
turning to her father.

“It is indeed, my child,” said the Colonel. “Wingenund, again I beg you
to receive a father’s best thanks for your brave defence of his son.”

“It was nothing,” replied the boy modestly. “You are all good, too
good to Wingenund; when he gets to the Far Prairie, he will tell the
Prairie–bird and the Black Father to speak to the Great Spirit, that He
may smile on my white father and on my brother; and,” he added, slowly
raising his dark eloquent eyes to Lucy’s face, “that he may send down
pleasant sunshine and refreshing dew on the Lily of Mooshanne.” So
saying, he turned and left the room, accompanied by the guide.

“Well,” exclaimed the Colonel, as the youth disappeared, “they may call
that lad a savage; but his feelings, ay, and his manners too, would put
to shame those of many who think themselves fine gentlemen.”

“He is, indeed, a noble young fellow,” said Reginald, “and worthy to be
the relative and pupil of my Indian brother. I would that you had seen
_him_, father: you are in general rather sceptical as to the qualities
of the red–skins. I think the War–Eagle would surprise you!”

“Indeed, Reginald,” said the Colonel, “I have seen among them so
much cruelty, cunning, and drunkenness, that the romantic notions
which I once entertained respecting them are completely dissipated.
Nevertheless, I confess that many of their worst faults have arisen
from their commerce with the whites; and they still retain some virtues
which are extremely rare among us.”

“To which do you allude?” inquired Reginald.

“More especially, to patience under suffering, a padlocked mouth when
entrusted with a secret, and unshaken fidelity in friendship.”

“These are indeed high and valuable qualities,” replied Reginald.
“Moreover, it strikes me that in one principal feature of character the
Indian is superior to us; he acts up to his creed. That creed may be
entirely based on error; it may teach him to prefer revenge to mercy,
theft to industry, violence to right; but such as he has learnt it from
his fathers, he acts up to it more firmly and consistently than we do,
‘who know the right and still the wrong pursue.’”

“Your observation is just,” replied his father; “they are benighted,
and do many of the deeds of darkness. What shall we say of those who do
them under the light of a noonday sun?”

“And yet,” said Lucy, “this Wingenund seems half a Christian, and more
than half a gentleman, either by nature, or by the instructions of the
strange being he calls the Prairie–bird!”

“Upon my word, Lucy,” said her brother, with a malicious smile, “I
thought, while the lad was speaking of his sister on the Prairie, his
eyes were strangely fixed upon the white lady in the wigwam. It is
fortunate he is going soon; and still more fortunate that a certain
cruising captain is not returned from the West Indies.” As this
impertinent speech was made in a whisper, it did not reach Aunt Mary
or the Colonel; and the only reply it drew from Lucy, was a blushing
threat of a repetition of the same punishment which she had inflicted
in the morning for a similar offence. He begged pardon, and was
forgiven; soon after which the little party broke up and retired to
rest.

Meantime Baptiste, who knew that the well–intentioned offer of a
bed–room and its comforts would be a great annoyance to Wingenund, took
the lad out with him to a dry barn behind the house, where there was an
abundant supply of clean straw, and where he intended to lodge him for
the night. “Wingenund,” said he, “you will rest here for some hours;
but we must go long before daylight to meet War–Eagle, according to my
promise.”

“I will be ready,” replied the youth; and casting himself down on a
bundle of straw, in five minutes his wounds and fatigues were forgotten
in a refreshing sleep, over which hovered the bright dreams of youth,
wherein the sweet tones of his sister’s voice were confused with the
blue eyes of Lucy; and yet withal, a sleep such as guilt can never
know, and the wealth of the Indies cannot purchase.

Before three o’clock on the following morning, the guide re–entered the
barn with a light step; not so light, however, as to escape the quick
ear of the young Indian, who leapt from his straw couch, and throwing
his rifle over his shoulder, stood before the hunter. “I hope you slept
well,” said the latter, “and that your arm gives you less pain?”

“I slept till you came,” said the boy, “and the pain sleeps still. I
feel nothing of it.”

“Wingenund will be like his father,” said the guide; “he will laugh at
pain and fatigue and danger; and his war–path will be sprinkled with
the blood of his enemies.”

The youth drew himself proudly up; and though gratified by the guide’s
observation, merely replied, “The Great Spirit knows.—I am ready; let
us go.”

Baptiste had provided a couple of horses, and they started at a brisk
pace, as he wished to reach the spot where he had appointed to meet
War–Eagle soon after daylight. To one less familiar with the woods,
the tangled and winding path through which he led the way would have
offered many impediments; but Baptiste went rapidly forward without
hesitation or difficulty, Wingenund following in silence; and after a
brisk ride of three hours they came to an opening in the forest, where
a log–hut was visible, and beyond it the broad expanse of Ohio’s stream.

The guide here whispered to Wingenund to remain concealed in the
thicket with the horses, whilst he reconnoitred the hut; because he
knew that it was sometimes used as a shelter and a rendezvous by
some of the lawless and desperate characters on the borders of the
settlements.

Having finished his examination, and ascertained that the hut was
empty, he returned to Wingenund, and desired him to come down to the
water’s edge, where he was to make a signal for War–Eagle, who ought to
be now at no great distance. The youth accordingly went to the river’s
bank, and understanding from the guide that there was no occasion for
further concealment, he gave three whistles in a peculiar tone, but
exceedingly loud and shrill. For some time they listened for a reply.
Nothing was heard, except the beak of the woodpecker upon the bark of
the elm, and the notes of the various feathered choristers chirping
their matin song.

After a pause of several minutes, the guide said, “Surely some accident
has detained War–Eagle! Perhaps he has failed in getting the canoe.
Repeat the signal, Wingenund.”

“War–Eagle is here,” replied the youth, who was quietly leaning on his
rifle, with an abstracted air.

Again, the guide listened attentively; and as he was unable to
distinguish the slightest sound indicative of the chief’s approach,
he was rather vexed at the superior quickness implied in Wingenund’s
reply, and said somewhat testily, “A moose might hear something of him,
or a bloodhound might find the wind of him, but I can make out nothing,
and my ears an’t used to be stuffed with cotton, neither!”

“Grande–Hâche is a great warrior, and Wingenund would be proud to
follow in his war–path; eyes and ears are the gift of the Great Spirit.”

“How know you that War–Eagle is here?” inquired the guide impatiently.

“By that,” replied the boy, pointing to a scarcely perceptible mark
on the bank a few yards from his feet, “that is the mocassin of the
War–Eagle; he has been to the hut this morning; below that foot–print
you will see on the sand the mark of where his canoe has touched the
ground.”

“The boy is right,” muttered Baptiste, examining the marks carefully.
“I believe I am no hunter, but an ass after all, with no better ears
and eyes than Master Perrot, or any other parlour–boarder.”

In a very few minutes the sound of the paddle was heard, and War–Eagle
brought his canoe to the bank; a brief conversation now took place
between him and Baptiste, in which some particulars were arranged for
Reginald’s visit to the Western Prairie. The guide then taking from his
wallet several pounds of bread and beef, and a large parcel of tobacco,
added these to the stores in the bottom of the canoe, and having
shaken hands heartily with the chief and Wingenund, returned leisurely
on his homeward way; but he still muttered to himself as he went; and
it was evident that he could not shake off the annoyance which he felt
at being “out–crafted,” as he called it, “by a boy!”

We will not follow the tedious and toilsome voyage of War–Eagle and
his young friend in the canoe, a voyage in which, after descending the
Ohio, they had to make their way up the Mississippi to its junction
with the Missouri, and thence up the latter river to the mouth of the
Osage river, which they also ascended between two and three hundred
miles before they rejoined their band. It is sufficient for the
purposes of our tale to inform the reader that they reached their
destination in safety, and that Wingenund recovered from the effects of
his severe wound.

When Baptiste returned to Mooshanne, he found the family surprised and
annoyed at the sudden disappearance of their young Indian guest; but
when he explained to Reginald that he had gone to rejoin his chief
by War–Eagle’s desire, Reginald felt that the best course had been
adopted, as the boy might, if he had remained, have fallen in the way
of the exasperated party who were seeking to revenge Hervey’s death.

It was about noon when Mike Smith, and several of those who accompanied
him the preceding day, arrived at Mooshanne, and insisted upon Baptiste
showing them the spot where he had told them that an Indian had been
recently buried, Reginald declined being of the party, which set forth
under the conduct of the guide, to explore the scene of the occurrences
mentioned in a former chapter.

During their absence, Reginald was lounging in his sister’s boudoir,
talking with her over the events of the preceding days, when they heard
the sound of a vehicle driven up to the door, and the blood rushed into
Lucy’s face as the thought occurred to her that it might be Ethelston;
the delusion was very brief, for a moment afterwards the broad accent
of David Muir was clearly distinguishable, as he said to his daughter,
“Noo, Jessie, haud a grip o’ Smiler, whilst I gie a pull at the
door–bell.”

Much to the surprise of the worthy “merchaunt” (by which appellation
David delighted to be designated), the door was opened by no less a
personage than Monsieur Gustave Perrot himself, who seeing the pretty
Jessie in her father’s spring–cart, hastened with characteristic
gallantry to assist her to descend; in the performance of which
operation he extended both his hands to support her waist, saying, in
his most tender tone, “Take care, Miss Jessie; now shump, and trust all
your leetle weight with me.”

But while he was speaking, the active girl, putting one foot on the
step, and touching him lightly on the arm, stood on the ground beside
him.

“Weel, Mr. Parrot, and how’s a’ wi’ ye the day?” said David, who was
busily employed in extracting various packages and parcels from the
cart.

“All ver’ well, thank you, Mr. Muir; wonderful things happen, though.
My young Mr. Reginald he be drowned and stabbed, and quite well!”

“Gude save us!” said David in horror; “drowned and stabbed, and quite
well! Ye’re surely no in earnest, Mr. Parrot!”

“I speak only the truth always,—Miss Jessie, the fresh air and the
ride make your cheek beautiful rosy.”

“Mr. Perrot,” replied Jessie, smiling, “that is a poor compliment! You
are so gallant a gentleman, you should praise the roses in a lady’s
cheek without mentioning that she owes them to a rough road and a fresh
breeze!”

This dialogue on roses was here interrupted by David, who said, “May
be, Mr. Parrot, ye’ll just let Smiler be ta’en round to the stable, and
desire ane o’ the lads to help us in with these twa parcels; yon muckle
basket, there, is brimfull of all the newest kick–shaws, and modes, as
they call ‘em, frae Philadelphy; so Jessie’s just come wi’ me to gie
Miss Lucy the first choice; and she’s a right to hae it too, for she’s
the bonniest and the best young lady in the territory.”

Mr. Perrot, having given these necessary orders, David, with his
papers, was soon closeted with the Colonel in his business room; and
Jessie was ushered into the young lady’s boudoir, where her brother
still sat, with the intention of giving his sister the benefit of his
advice in the selection of what David called kick–shaws and modes for
her toilet. Meanwhile Perrot was preparing a formidable attack upon
Jessie’s heart, through the medium of some venison steaks, a delicate
ragout of squirrel, and sundry other tit–bits, with which he hoped
to propitiate the village beauty. As Jessie entered the room, her
salutation of Lucy was modestly respectful; and she returned Reginald’s
bow with an unembarrassed and not ungraceful courtesy. While she was
drawing out and placing on a table the silken contents of her basket,
Reginald inquired of her whether any news was stirring in Marietta.

“None,” replied she, “except the killing of Hervey. All the town is
speaking of it, and they say it will cause more bloodshed; for Mike
Smith vows, if he cannot find the real offender, he’ll shoot down the
first Indian he finds in the woods.”

“Mike Smith is a hot–headed fool,” replied Reginald; but remembering
sundry reports which had reached his ear, he added, “I beg your pardon,
Miss Jessie, if the words give you offence.”

“Indeed you have given none, Master Reginald,” said Jessie, colouring a
little at the implied meaning of his words; “Mike comes very often to
our store, but I believe it is more for whiskey than any thing else.”

“Nay,” said Reginald; “I doubt you do him injustice. They say he
prefers the end of the store which is the furthest from the bar.”

“Perhaps he may,” replied Jessie; “I am always better pleased when he
stays away, for he is very ill–tempered and quarrelsome! Well, Miss,”
continued she, “are not these pink ribbons beautiful, and these two
light shawls,—they come from the British East India House?”

“They are indeed the prettiest and most delicate that I ever saw,”
replied Lucy; “and see here, Reginald,” said she, drawing him aside,
“these French bead necklaces will do famously for some of your Delaware
friends.” She added in a whisper, “Ask her if there is no other news at
the town?”

“What about?” inquired her brother. A silent look of reproach was her
only reply, as she turned away, and again busied herself with the
silks. He was instantly conscious and ashamed of his thoughtlessness,
which, after a few moments’ silence, he proceeded to repair, saying,
“Pray tell me, Miss Jessie, has your father received no intelligence of
The Pride of the Ohio?”

“Alas! not a word,” replied the girl, in a tone of voice so melancholy,
that it startled them both.

“But why speak you in so sad a voice about the vessel, Jessie, if you
have heard no bad news regarding her?” said Reginald, quickly.

“Because, sir, she has been very long over–due, and there are many
reports of French ships of war; and we, that is, my father, is much
interested about her.”

Poor Lucy’s colour came and went; but she had not the courage to say a
word. After a short pause, Reginald inquired, “Have any boats come up
lately from New Orleans?”

“Yes, sir, Henderson’s came up only a few days ago, and Henry Gregson,
who had been down on some business for my father, returned in her.”

“That is the young man who assists your father in the store? I believe
he is a son of the mate on board The Pride. I have remarked that he is
a very fine–looking young fellow!”

“He is the son of Captain Ethelston’s mate,” said Jessie, casting down
her eyes, and busying herself with some of her ribbons and silks. “But
I hope,” continued she, “that you, Mr. Reginald, are not seriously
hurt. Mr. Perrot told me you had been drowned and stabbed!”

“Not quite so bad as that,” said Reginald, laughing; “I had, indeed,
a swim in the Muskingum, and a blow from a horse’s hoof, but am none
the worse for either. Do not forget, Miss Jessie, to send off a
messenger immediately that any news arrive of The Pride. You know what
a favourite she is, and how anxious we are here about her!”

“Indeed I will not forget,” replied Jessie.

Lucy sighed audibly; and after purchasing a few ribbons and shawls, as
well as a stock of beads for her brother, she allowed Jessie to retire,
begging, at the same time, her acceptance of one of the prettiest
shawls in her basket. As the latter hesitated about receiving it, Lucy
threw it over the girl’s shoulder, saying playfully, “Nay, Jessie,
no refusal; I am mistress here; and nobody, not even Mr. Reginald,
disputes my will in this room.”

Jessie thanked the young lady, and saluting her brother, withdrew to
a back parlour, where Monsieur Perrot had already prepared his good
things, and where her father only waited her coming to commence a
dinner which his drive had made desirable, and which his olfactory
nerves told him was more savoury than the viands set before him at
Marietta by Mrs. Christie.

“Call ye this a squirrel ragoo?” said the worthy merchaunt; “weel now
it’s an awfu’ thing to think how the Lord’s gifts are abused in the
auld country! I hae seen dizens o’ they wee devils lilting and looping
amaing the woods in the Lothians; and yet the hungry chaps wha can
scarce earn a basin o’ porritch, or a pot o’ kail to their dinner,
would as soon think o’ eatin’ a stoat or a foumart!”

While making this observation, Davie was despatching the “ragoo” with
a satisfaction which showed how completely he had overcome his insular
prejudices. Nor were Perrot’s culinary attentions altogether lost upon
Miss Jessie; for although she might not repay them entirely according
to the wishes of the gallant Maître d’Hôtel, she could not help
acknowledging that he was a pleasant good–humoured fellow, and that his
abilities as a cook were of the highest order. Accordingly, when he
offered her a foaming glass of cider, she drank it to his health, with
a glance of her merry eye sufficient to have turned the head of a man
less vain and amorous than Monsieur Perrot.

The dinner passed pleasantly enough; and as David Muir drove his
daughter back to Marietta, his heart being warmed and expanded by the
generous cider (which, for the good of his health, he had crowned with
a glass of old rum), he said, “Jessie, I’m thinking, that Maister
Parrot is a douce and clever man; a lassie might do waur than tak’ up
wi’ the like o’ him! I’se warrant his nest will no be ill feathered!”

“Perhaps not,” replied Jessie; and turning her head away, she sighed,
and thought of Henry Gregson.



CHAPTER XIII.

 IN WHICH THE READER WILL FIND THAT THE COUCH OF AN INVALID HAS PERILS
 NOT LESS FORMIDABLE THAN THOSE WHICH ARE TO BE ENCOUNTERED AT SEA.


We left Ethelston stretched on a sick couch in Guadaloupe, in the house
of Captain L’Estrange, and tended by his daughter Nina, and by her
brother, the young lieutenant. The latter grew daily more attached to
the patient, who had been his captor, and was now his prisoner; but
he was obliged, as soon as Ethelston was pronounced out of danger,
to sail for Europe, as he was anxious to obtain that professional
distinction which his parole prevented his gaining in service against
the United States. And in France there seemed a promising harvest of
combat and of glory, sufficient to satisfy the martial enthusiasm even
of the most adventurous of her sons. When he sailed, he again and again
pressed upon his sister to bestow every attention upon Ethelston;
and as the Captain was much busied with his command, and as Madame
L’Estrange was entirely devoted to her boudoir,—where, with two
chattering parrots to amuse her, and a little black girl to fan her
while listlessly poring over the pages of Florian in a fauteuil,—the
whole charge devolved upon the willing and kind–hearted Nina. She was
the third and youngest daughter of Monsieur and Madame L’Estrange; but
(her two elder sisters being married) she was the only one resident
with her parents.

Sixteen summers had now passed over her, and her disposition was like
that of her brother,—frank, impetuous, and warm–hearted. Her feelings
had never been guided or regulated by her handsome but indolent mother;
her mind had been allowed to seek its food at hap–hazard among the
romances, poems, and plays upon the shelves in the drawing–room. Her
father spoilt and her brother petted her. A governess also she had,
whom she governed, and to whose instructions she owed little, except
a moderate proficiency in music. Her countenance was a very beautiful
mirror, reflecting the warm and impassioned features of her character.
Her complexion was dark, though clear, and her hair black and glossy.
The pencilling of her eyebrows was exceedingly delicate; and the eyes
themselves were large, speaking, and glowing with that humid lustre
which distinguishes creole beauty. Nothing could exceed the rosy
fulness of her lip, and the even whiteness of the teeth which her
joyous smile disclosed. Her figure was exquisitely proportioned; and
her every movement a very model of natural grace. She seemed, indeed,
impregnated with the fervour of the sunny climate in which she had been
reared; and her temper, her imagination, her passions, all glowed with
its ardent but dangerous warmth. According to the usage of her country,
she had been betrothed, when a child, to a neighbouring planter, one of
the richest in the island; but as he was absent in Europe, and there
remained yet two years before the time fixed for the fulfilment of the
contract, she rarely troubled her head about the marriage or her future
destiny.

Such was the girl who now officiated as nurse to Ethelston, and who,
before she had seen him, had gathered from her brother such traits of
his character as had called forth all the interest and sympathy of her
romantic disposition. Although not eminently handsome, we have before
noted that his countenance was manly and expressive, and his manners
courteous and engaging. Perhaps also the weakness, remaining after the
crisis of his fever, imparted to the usually gentle expression of his
features that touching attraction which is called by a modern poet “a
loving languor.” At all events, certain it is, that ere poor Nina had
administered the third saline draughd to her grateful patient, her
little heart beat vehemently; and when she had attended his feverish
couch one short week, she was desperately in love!

How fared it in the meantime with Ethelston? Did his heart run any risk
from the dark eloquent eyes, and the gracefully rounded form of the
ministering angel who hovered about his sick–room? At present none,
for Lucy was shrined there; and he had been taught by young L’Estrange
to consider his sister in the light of a nursery–girl, still under the
dominion of the governess.

Days and weeks elapsed, Ethelston’s recovery progressed, and he was
able to stroll in the shade of the orange and citron groves which
sheltered Captain L’Estrange’s villa to the northward. Here, with his
eyes fixed on the sea, would he sometimes sit for hours, and devise
schemes for returning to his home. On these occasions he was frequently
accompanied by Nina, who walked by his side with her guitar in her
hand; and under the pretence of receiving instructions from him in
music, she would listen with delight, and hang with rapture on every
syllable that he uttered. Though he could not avoid being sensible of
her ripening beauty, his heart was protected by the seven–fold shield
of a deep and abiding attachment; and as he still looked upon Nina as
a lovely girl, completing her education in the nursery, he gladly gave
her all the assistance that she asked under her musical difficulties;
and this he was able to do, from having made no small proficiency in
the science during his long residence in Germany.

Sometimes he paid his respects to Madame L’Estrange; but that lady was
so indolent, and so exclusively devoted to her parrots and her lap–dog,
that his visits to her were neither frequent nor of long duration. The
Captain was very seldom ashore; and thus Ethelston was obliged to spend
his time alone, or in the society of the young girl who had nursed him
so kindly during his illness. Her character seemed to have undergone a
sudden and complete change. The conquering god, who had at first only
taken possession of the outworks of her fancy, had now made himself
master of the citadel of her heart. She loved with all the intense
absorbing passion of a nature that had never known control. The gaiety
and buoyancy of her spirits had given place to a still, deep flood of
feeling, which her reason never attempted to restrain. Even when with
_him_ she spoke little. Her happiness was too intense to find a vent in
words; and thus she nursed and fed a flame, that needed only the breath
of accident to make it burst forth with a violence that should burn up
or overleap all the barriers of self–control.

Nor must the reader imagine that Ethelston was dull or blind, because
he observed not the state of Nina’s affections. His own were firmly
rooted elsewhere; he was neither of a vain nor a romantic disposition;
and he had been duly informed by Monsieur L’Estrange, that in the
course of two years Nina was to be married to Monsieur Bertrand, the
young planter, to whom, as we have before mentioned, she had been
betrothed by her parents since her thirteenth year. He could not help
seeing that, although her intellect was quick, and her character
enthusiastic, her education had been shamefully neglected both by
Madame L’Estrange and the governess. Hence he spoke, counselled, and
sometimes chid her, in the tone of an elder brother, heedless of the
almost imperceptible line that separates friendship from love in the
bosom of a girl nurtured under a West Indian sun.

In this state were matters, when, on a fine evening, Ethelston strolled
alone into his favourite orange–grove, to look out upon the ocean, and,
in the enjoyment of its refreshing breeze, to ruminate on his strange
captivity, and revolve various plans of escape.

Captain L’Estrange had paid a visit to his home on the preceding day,
and finding his prisoner so completely restored to health and strength,
had said to him, jokingly, “Indeed, fair sir, I think I must put you
on your parole, or in chains; for, after the character given of you by
my son, I cannot allow so dangerous a person to be at large during the
continuance of hostilities between our respective nations.”

Ethelston answered, half in earnest, and half in jest, “Nay, sir, then
I must wear the chains, for assuredly I cannot give my parole; if an
American vessel were to come in sight, or any other means of flight to
offer itself, depend upon it, in spite of the kindness and hospitality
I have met with here, I should weigh anchor in a moment.”

“Well, that is a fair warning,” said the old Commodore; “nevertheless I
will not lock you up just yet, for I do not think it very likely that
any strange sail will come under the guns of our fort; and I will run
the risk of your flying away on the back of a sea–gull.” Thus had they
parted; and the old gentleman was again absent on a cruise.

Ethelston was, as we have said, reclining listlessly under an
orange–tree, inhaling the cool breeze, laden with the fragrance of its
blossoms, now devising impossible plans of escape, and now musing on a
vision of Lucy’s graceful figure, gliding among the deep woods around
Mooshanne. As these thoughts passed through his mind, they imparted a
melancholy shade to his brow, and a deep sigh escaped from his lips.

It was echoed by one yet deeper, close to his ear; and starting from
his reverie, he beheld Nina, who had approached him unawares, and who,
leaning on her guitar, had been for the last few minutes gazing on his
countenance with an absorbed intensity, more fond and riveted than that
with which the miser regards his treasure, or the widowed mother her
only child.

When she found herself perceived, she came forward, and covering her
emotion under an assumed gaiety, she said, “What is my kind instructor
thinking of? He seems more grave and sad than usual.”

“He is thinking,” said Ethelston, good–humouredly, “that he ought to
scold a certain young lady very severely for coming upon him slily, and
witnessing that gravity and sadness in which a captive must sometimes
indulge, but which her presence has already dissipated.”

“Nay,” said Nina, still holding her guitar, and sitting down on the
bank near him; “you know that I am only obeying papa’s orders in
watching you; for he says you would not give your parole, and I am sure
you were thinking of your escape from Guadaloupe.”

“Perhaps you might have guessed more wide of the mark, Mademoiselle
Nina,” said Ethelston.

“And are you then so very anxious to—to—see your home again?”
inquired Nina, hesitating.

“Judge for yourself, Nina,” he replied, “when I remind you that for
many months I have heard nothing of those who have been my nearest
and dearest friends from childhood; nothing of the brave men who were
captured with me when our poor brig was lost!”

“Tell me about your friends and your home. Is it very beautiful? Have
you the warm sun, and the fresh sea–breeze, and the orange–flowers,
that we have here?”

“Scarcely,” replied Ethelston, smiling at the earnest rapidity with
which the beautiful girl based her inquiries on the scene before her;
“but we have in their place rivers, on the bosom of which your father’s
frigate might sail; groves and woods of deep shade, impenetrable to the
rays of the hottest sun; and prairies smiling with the most brilliant
and variegated flowers.”

“Oh! how I should love to see that land!” exclaimed Nina, her fervid
imagination instantly grasping and heightening its beauties. “How I
should love to dwell there!”

“Nay, it appears to me not unlikely that you should at some time visit
it,” replied Ethelston. “This foolish war between our countries will
soon be over, and your father may wish to see a region the scenery of
which is so magnificent, and which is not difficult of access from
here.”

“Papa will never leave these islands, unless he goes to France, and
that he hates,” said Nina.

“Well then,” continued Ethelston, smiling, as he alluded for the first
time to her marriage, “you must defer your American trip a year or two
longer; then, doubtless, Monsieur Bertrand will gladly gratify your
desire to see the Mississippi.”

Nina started as if stung by an adder; the blood rushed and mantled over
her face and neck; her eyes glowed with indignation, as she exclaimed,
“I abhor and detest Monsieur Bertrand. I would die before I would marry
him!” Then adding in a low voice, the sadness of which went to his
heart, “and this from you too!” She covered her face with her hands and
wept.

Never was man more astonished than Ethelston at the sudden storm which
he had inadvertently raised. Remembering that Madame L’Estrange had
told him of the engagement as being known to Nina, he had been led to
suppose from her usual flow of spirits, that the prospect was far from
being disagreeable to her. Young L’Estrange had also told him that
Bertrand was a good looking man, of high character, and considered,
from his wealth, as the best match in the French islands; so that
Ethelston was altogether unprepared for the violent aversion which Nina
now avowed for the marriage, and for the grief by which she seemed so
deeply agitated. Still he was as far as ever from divining the true
cause of her emotion, and conjectured that she had probably formed an
attachment to one of the young officers on board her father’s ship.
Under this impression he took her hand, and sympathising with the
grief of one so fair and so young, he said to her kindly, “Forgive me,
Nina, if I have said any thing to hurt your feelings; indeed I always
have believed that your engagement to Monsieur Bertrand was an affair
settled by your parents entirely with your consent. I am sure Monsieur
L’Estrange loves his favourite child too well to compel her to a
marriage against her inclination. Will you permit your Mentor (as you
have more than once allowed me to call myself) to speak with him on the
subject?”

Nina made no reply, and the tears coursed each other yet faster down
her cheek.

“Your brother is absent,” continued Ethelston; “you seem not to confide
your little secrets to your mother—will you not let me aid you by my
advice? I am many years older than you.—I am deeply grateful for all
your kindness during my tedious illness; believe me, I will, if you
will only trust me, advise you with the affectionate interest of a
parent, or an elder brother.”

The little hand trembled violently in his, but still no reply escaped
from Nina’s lips.

“If you will not tell me your secret,” pursued Ethelston, “I must
guess it. Your aversion to the engagement arises not so much from your
dislike to Monsieur Bertrand, as from your preference of some other,
whom perhaps your parents would not approve?”

The hand was withdrawn, being employed in an ineffectual attempt to
check her tears. The slight fillet which bound her black tresses had
given way, and they now fell in disorder, veiling the deep crimson glow
which again mantled over the neck of the weeping girl.

Ethelston gazed on her with emotions of deep sympathy. There was a
reality, a dignity about her speechless grief, that must have moved
a sterner heart than his; and as he looked upon the heaving of her
bosom, and upon the exquisite proportions unconsciously developed in
her attitude, he suddenly felt that he was speaking, not to a child in
the nursery, but to a girl in whose form and heart the bud and blossom
of womanhood were thus early ripened. It was, therefore, in a tone,
not less kind, but more respectful than he had hitherto used, that he
said, “Nay, Nina, I desire not to pry into your secrets—I only wish to
assure you of the deep sympathy which I feel with your sorrow, and of
my desire to aid or comfort you by any means within my power; but if my
curiosity offends you, I will retire, in the hope that your own gentle
thoughts may soon afford you relief.”

Again the little hand was laid upon his arm, as Nina, still weeping,
whispered, “No, no,—you do not offend me.—Do not leave me, I entreat
you!”

A painful silence ensued; and Ethelston, more than ever confirmed in
the belief that she had bestowed her affections on some young middy,
or lieutenant, under her father’s command, continued, in a tone which
he attempted to render gay: “Well then, Nina, since you will not give
your confidence to Mentor, he must appoint himself your confessor; and
to commence, is he right in believing that your dislike to Monsieur
Bertrand arises from your having given your heart elsewhere?”

There was no reply; but her head was bowed in token of acquiescence!

“I need not inquire,” pursued he, “whether the object of your choice
is, in rank and character, worthy of your affection?”

In an instant the drooping head was raised, and the dark tresses thrown
back from her brow, as, with her eyes flashing through the moisture
by which they were still bedewed, Nina replied, “Worthy!—worthy the
affection of a queen!”

Ethelston, startled by her energy, was about to resume his inquiries,
when Nina, whose excited spirit triumphed for the moment over all
restraint, stopped him, saying, “I will spare you the trouble of
further questions. I will tell you freely, that till lately, very
lately, I cared for none.—Monsieur Bertrand and all others were
alike to me; but fate threw a stranger in my path.—He was a friend
of my brother;—he was wounded.—For hours and hours I watched by his
couch;—he revived;—his looks were gentle; his voice was music.—I
drew counsel from his lips;—he filled my thoughts, my dreams, my
heart, my being! But he—he considered me only as a silly child;—he
understood not my heart;—he mocked my agony;—he saved my brother’s
life,—and is now accomplishing the sister’s death!”

The excitement which supported Nina during the commencement of
this speech gradually died away. Towards its close, her voice grew
tremulous, and as the last words escaped her quivering lips, exhausted
nature gave way under the burden of her emotion, and she fainted!

The feelings of Ethelston may be better imagined than described. As
the dreadful import of the poor girl’s words gradually broke upon him,
his cheeks grew paler and paler; and when, at their conclusion, her
senseless form lay extended at his feet, the cold dew of agony stood
in drops upon his forehead! But Nina’s condition demanded immediate
aid and attention. Mastering himself by a powerful effort, he snatched
a lemon from a neighbouring tree; he cut it in half, and sustaining
the still insensible girl, he chafed her hands, and rubbed her temples
with the cool refreshing juice of the fruit. After a time, he had the
consolation of seeing her restored gradually to her senses; and a faint
smile came over her countenance as she found herself supported by his
arm. Still she closed her eyes, as if in a happy dream, which Ethelston
could not bring himself to disturb; and, as the luxuriant black tresses
only half veiled the touching beauty of her countenance, he groaned at
the reflection that he had inadvertently been the means of shedding
the blight of unrequited love on a budding flower of such exquisite
loveliness. A long silence ensued, softened, rather than interrupted,
by the low wind as it whispered through the leaves of the orange–grove;
while the surrounding landscape, and the wide expanse of ocean, glowed
with the red golden tints of the parting sun. No _unplighted_ heart
could have resisted all the assailing temptations of that hour. But
Ethelston’s heart was not unplighted; and the high principle and
generous warmth of his nature served only to deepen the pain and
sadness of the present moment. He formed, however, his resolution; and
as soon as he found that Nina was restored to consciousness, and to
a certain degree of composure, he gently withdrew the arm which had
supported her, and said, in a voice of most melancholy earnestness,
“Dear Nina! I will not pretend to misunderstand what you have said. I
have much to tell you; but I have not now enough command over myself
to speak, while you are still too agitated to listen. Meet me here
to–morrow at this same hour; meanwhile, I entreat you, recall those
harsh and unkind thoughts which you entertained of me; and believe me,
dear, dear sister, that I would, rather than have mocked your feelings,
have died on that feverish couch, from which your care revived me.” So
saying, he hastened from her presence in a tumult of agitation scarcely
less than her own.

For a long time she sat motionless, in a kind of waking dream; his
parting words yet dwelt in her ear, and her passionate heart construed
them now according to its own wild throbbings, now according to its
gloomiest fears. “He has much to tell me,” mused she; “he called me
dear Nina; he spoke not in a voice of indifference; his eye was full
of a troubled expression that I could not read. Alas! alas, ‘twas only
pity! He called me ‘dear sister!’—what can he mean?—Oh that to–morrow
were come! I shall not outlive the night unless I can believe that he
loves me!” And then she fell again into a reverie; during which all
the looks and tones that her partial fancy had interpreted, and her
too faithful memory had treasured, were recalled, and repeated in a
thousand shapes; until, exhausted by her agitation, and warned by the
darkness of the hour, Nina retired to her sleepless couch.

Meanwhile Ethelston, when he found himself alone in his room,
scrutinised with the most unsparing severity his past conduct,
endeavouring to remember every careless or unheeded word by which he
could have awakened or encouraged her unsuspected affection. He could
only blame himself that he had not been more observant; that he had
considered Nina too much in the light of a child; and had habitually
spoken to her in a tone of playful and confidential familiarity. Thus,
though his conscience acquitted him of the most remote intention of
trifling with her feelings, he accused himself of having neglected to
keep a watchful guard over his language and behaviour, and resolved,
at the risk of incurring her anger or her hatred, to tell her firmly
and explicitly on the morrow, that he could not requite her attachment
as it deserved, his heart having been long and faithfully devoted to
another.



CHAPTER XIV.

 NARRATING THE TRIALS AND DANGERS THAT BESET ETHELSTON; AND HOW HE
 ESCAPED FROM THEM, AND FROM THE ISLAND OF GUADALOUPE.


The night succeeding the occurrences related in the last chapter
brought little rest to the pillow either of Nina or of Ethelston; and
on the following day, as if by mutual agreement, they avoided each
other’s presence, until the hour appointed for their meeting again
in the orange–grove. Ethelston was firmly resolved to explain to her
unreservedly his long engagement to Lucy, hoping that the feelings of
Nina would prove, in this instance, rather impetuous than permanent.
The tedious day appeared to her as if it never would draw to a close.
She fled from her mother, and from the screaming parrots; she tried
the guitar, but it seemed tuneless and discordant; her pencil and her
book were by turns taken up, and as soon laid aside; she strolled even
at midday into the orange–grove, to the spot where she had last sat
by him, and a blush stole over her cheek when she remembered that she
had been betrayed into an avowal of her love; and then came the doubt,
the inquiry, whether he felt any love for her? Thus did she muse and
ponder, until the hours, which in the morning had appeared to creep so
slowly over the face of the dial, now glided unconsciously forward. The
dinner–hour had passed unheeded; and before she had summoned any of
the courage and firmness which she meant to call to her aid, Ethelston
stood before her. He was surprised at finding Nina on this spot,
and had approached it long before the appointed time, in order that
he might prepare himself for the difficult and painful task which he
had undertaken. But though unprepared, his mind was of too firm and
regulated a character to be surprised out of a fixed determination;
and he came up and offered his hand to Nina, greeting her in his
accustomed tone of familiar friendship. She received his salutation
with evident embarrassment; her hand and her voice trembled, and her
bosom throbbed in a tumult of anxiety and expectation. Ethelston saw
that he could not defer the promised explanation; and he commenced it
with his usual gentleness of manner, but with a firm resolve that he
would be honest and explicit in his language. He began by referring
to his long illness, and, with gratitude, to her care and attention
during its continuance; he assured her, that having been told both by
Madame L’Estrange and her brother, that she was affianced to Monsieur
Bertrand, he had accustomed himself to look on her as a younger sister;
and, as such, had ventured to offer her advice and instruction in her
studies. He knew not, he dreamt not, that she could ever look upon him
in any other light than that of a Mentor.

Here he paused a moment, and continued in a deeper and more earnest
tone “Nina—dear Nina, we _must_ be as Mentor and his pupil to each
other, or we must part. I will frankly lay my heart open to you. I will
conceal nothing; then you will not blame me, and will, I hope, permit
me to remain your grateful friend and brother. Nina, I am not blind
either to your beauty, or to the many, many graces of your disposition.
I do full justice to the warmth and truth of your affections: you
deserve, when loved, to be loved with a whole heart—“

“O spare this!” interrupted Nina, in a hurried whisper: “Spare this,
speak of yourself!”

“I was even about to do so,” continued Ethelston; “but, Nina, such a
heart I have not to give. For many months and years, before I ever saw
or knew you, I have loved, and still am betrothed to another.”

A cold shudder seemed to pass through Nina’s frame while these few
words were spoken, as if in a moment the health, the hope, the blossom
of her youth were blighted! Not a tear, not even a sob, gave relief
to her agony; her bloodless lip trembled in a vain attempt to speak
she knew not what, and a burning chill sat upon her heart. These words
may appear to some strange and contradictory: happy, thrice happy, ye
to whom they so appear! If you have never known what it is to feel
at once a scorching heat parching the tongue, and drying up all the
well–springs of life within, while a leaden weight of ice seems to
benumb the heart, then have you never known the sharpest, extreme pangs
of disappointed love!

Ethelston was prepared for some sudden and violent expression on
the part of Nina, but this death–like, motionless silence almost
overpowered him. He attempted, by the gentlest and the kindest words,
to arouse her from this stupor of grief. He took her hand; its touch
was cold. Again and again he called her name; but her ear seemed
insensible, even to his voice. At length, unable to bear the sight of
her distress, and fearful that he might no longer restrain his tongue
from uttering words which would be treason to his first and faithful
love, he rushed into the house, and hastily informing Nina’s governess
that her pupil had been suddenly taken ill in the orange–grove, he
locked himself in his room, and gave vent to the contending emotions by
which he was oppressed.

It was in vain that he strove to calm himself by the reflection that
he had intentionally transgressed none of the demands of truth and
honour;—it was in vain that he called up all the long–cherished
recollections of his Lucy and his home;—still the image of Nina would
not be banished; now presenting itself as he had seen her yesterday,
in the full glow of passion, and in the full bloom of youthful
beauty,—and now, as he had just left her, in the deadly paleness and
fixed apathy of despair. The terrible thought that, whether guiltily
or innocently, he had been the cause of all this suffering in one to
whom he owed protection and gratitude, wrung his heart with pain that
he could not repress; and he found relief only in falling on his knees,
and praying to the Almighty that the sin might not be laid to his
charge, and that Nina’s sorrow might be soothed and comforted by Him,
who is the God of consolation.

Meanwhile the governess had, with the assistance of two of the negro
attendants, brought Nina into the house. The poor girl continued in
the same state of insensibility to all that was passing around; her
eyes were open, but she seemed to recognise no one, and a few vague
indistinct words still trembled on her lips.

The doctor was instantly summoned, who pronounced, as soon as he
had seen his patient, that she was in a dangerous fit, using sundry
mysterious expressions about “febrile symptoms,” and “pressure on the
brain,” to which the worthy leech added shakings of the head yet more
mysterious.

For many days her condition continued alarming; the threatened fever
came, and with it a protracted state of delirium. During this period
Ethelston’s anxiety and agitation were extreme; and proportionate was
the relief that he experienced, when he learnt that the crisis was
past, and that the youthful strength of her constitution promised
speedy recovery.

Meanwhile he had to endure the oft–repeated inquiries of the governess,
“How he happened to find Mademoiselle just as the fit came on?” and of
Madame L’Estrange, “How it was possible for Nina to be attacked by so
sudden an illness, while walking in the orange–grove?”

When she was at length pronounced out of danger, Ethelston again began
to consider various projects for his meditated escape from the island.
He had more than once held communication with his faithful Cupid on the
subject, who was ready to brave all risks in the service of his master;
but the distance which must be traversed before they could expect to
find a friendly ship or coast, seemed to exclude all reasonable hope of
success.

It would be impossible to follow and portray the thousand changes
that came over Nina’s spirit during her recovery. She remembered but
too well the words that Ethelston had last spoken: at one moment she
called him perfidious, ungrateful, heartless; then she chid herself
for railing at him, and loaded his name with every blessing, and the
expression of the fondest affection: now she resolved that she would
never see nor speak to him more; then she thought that she must see
him, if it were only to show how she had conquered her weakness. Amidst
all these contending resolutions, she worked herself into the belief
that Ethelston had deceived her; and that, because he thought her a
child, and did not love her, he had invented the tale of his previous
engagement to lessen her mortification. This soon became her settled
conviction; and when it crossed her mind, she would start with passion
and exclaim, “He shall yet love me, and me alone!”

The only confidant of her love was a young negress, who waited upon
her, and who was indeed so devoted to her that she would have braved
the Commodore’s utmost wrath, or perilled her life, to execute her
mistress’ commands.

It happened one evening that this girl, whose name was Fanchette, went
out to gather some fruit in the orange–grove; and while thus employed
she heard the voice of some one speaking. On drawing nearer to the spot
whence the sound proceeded, she saw Ethelston sitting under the deep
shade of a tree, with what appeared a book before him.

Knowing that Nina was still confined to her room, he had resorted
hither to consider his schemes without interruption, and was so busily
employed in comparing distances, and calculating possibilities, on
the map before him, that Fanchette easily crept to a place whence she
could, unperceived, overhear and observe him. “I must and will attempt
it,” he muttered aloud to himself; “we must steal a boat. Cupid and I
can manage it between us; my duty and my love both forbid my staying
longer here: with a fishing–boat we might reach Antigua or Dominica,
or at all events chance to fall in with an American or a neutral
vessel. Poor dear Nina,” he added, in a lower tone. “Would to God I
had never visited this shore! _this_,” he continued, drawing a locket
from his breast, “this treasured remembrance of one far distant has
made me proof against thy charms, cold to thy love, but not, as Heaven
is my witness, unmoved or insensible to thy sufferings.” So saying he
relapsed into silent musing; and as he replaced the locket, Fanchette
crept noiselessly from her concealment, and ran to communicate to
her young mistress her version of what she had seen. Being very
imperfectly skilled in English, she put her own construction upon
those few words which she had caught, and thought to serve Nina best
by telling her what she would most like to hear. Thus she described
to her how Ethelston had spoken to himself over a map; how he had
mentioned islands to which he would sail; how he had named her name
with tenderness, and had taken something from his vest to press it to
his lips.

Poor Nina listened in a tumult of joy; her passionate heart would
admit no doubting suggestion of her reason. She was too happy to bear
even the presence of Fanchette, and rewarding her for her good news by
the present of a beautiful shawl which she wore at the moment, pushed
the delighted little negress out of the room, and threw herself on
her couch, where she repeated a hundred times that _he_ had been to
her orange–grove, where they had last parted, had named her name with
tenderness, had pressed some token to his lips—what could that be?
It might be a flower, a book, any thing—it mattered not—so long as
she only knew he loved her! Having long wept with impassioned joy, she
determined to show herself worthy of his love; and the schemes which
she formed, and resolved to carry into effect, evinced the wild force
and energy of her romantic character. Among her father’s slaves was one
who, being a steady and skilful seaman, had the charge of a schooner
(originally an American prize), which lay in the harbour, and which
the Commodore sometimes used as a pleasure–yacht, or for short trips
to other parts of the island: this man (whose name was Jacques) was
not only a great favourite with the young lady, but was also smitten
with the black eyes and plump charms of M’amselle Fanchette, who thus
exercised over him a sway little short of absolute. Nina having held a
conference with her abigail, sent for Jacques, who was also admitted
to a confidential consultation, the result of which, after–occurrences
will explain to the reader. When this was over, she acquired, rather
than assumed, a sudden composure and cheerfulness: the delights of a
plot seemed at once to restore her to health; and on the following
day she sent to request that Ethelston would come to see her in her
boudoir, where she received him with a calmness and self–possession
for which he was altogether unprepared. “Mr. Ethelston,” said she, as
soon as he was seated, “I believe you still desire to escape from your
prison, and that you are devising various plans for effecting that
object; you will never succeed unless you call me into your counsel.”

Ethelston, though extremely surprised at the composure of her manner
and language, replied with a smile, “M’amselle Nina, I will not deny
that you have rightly guessed my thoughts; but as your father is my
jailor, I did not dare to ask your counsel in this matter.”

“Well, Mr. Mentor,” said the wayward girl, “how does your wisdom
propose to act without my counsel?”

“I confess I am somewhat at a loss,” said Ethelston, good–humouredly;
“I must go either through the air or the water; and the latter, being
my proper element, is the path which I would rather attempt.”

“And what should you think of me, if I were to play the traitoress, and
aid you in eluding the vigilance of my father, and afford the means of
escape to so formidable an enemy?”

Ethelston was completely puzzled by this playful tone of banter, in one
whom he had last seen under a paroxysm of passion, and in whose dark
eye there yet lurked an expression which he could not define; but he
resolved to continue the conversation in the same spirit, and replied,
“I would not blame you for this act of filial disobedience; and though
no longer your father’s prisoner, I would, if I escaped, ever remain
his friend.”

“And would you show no gratitude to the lady who effected your release?”

“I owe her already more—far more, than I can pay; and, for this last
crowning act of her generosity and kindness, I would—“

As he hesitated, she inquired, abruptly, “You would what, Ethelston?”
For a moment she had forgotten the part she was acting; and both the
look that accompanied these words, and the tone in which they were
pronounced, reminded him that he stood on the brink of a volcanic
crater.

“I would give her any proof of my gratitude that she would deign to
accept, yes _any_,” he repeated earnestly, “even to life itself,
knowing that she is too noble and generous to accept aught at my hands
which faith and honour forbid me to offer.”

Nina turned aside for a moment, overcome by her emotion; but recovering
herself quickly, she added, in her former tone of pleasantry, “She will
not impose any hard conditions; but to the purpose; has your sailor–eye
noticed a certain little schooner anchored in the harbour?”

“What!” said Ethelston, eagerly, “a beautiful craft, of about twenty
tons, on the other side of the bay?”

“Even the same.”

“Surely I have! She is American built, and swims like a duck.”

“Well then,” replied Nina, “I think I shall do no great harm in
restoring her to an American! How many men should you require to manage
her?”

“I could sail her easily with one able seaman, besides my black friend
Cupid.”

“Then,” said Nina, “I propose to lend her to you; you may send her back
at your convenience; and I will also provide you an able seaman: write
me a list of the stores and articles which you will require for the
trip, and send it me in an hour’s time: prepare your own baggage, and
be ready upon the shortest notice. It is now my turn to command, and
yours to obey. Good–b’ye, Mr. Mentor.” So saying, she kissed her hand
to him, and withdrew.

Ethelston rubbed his eyes as if he did not believe their evidence.
“Could this merry, ready–witted girl be the same as the Nina whom he
had seen, ten days before, heart–broken, and unable to conceal or
repress the violence of her passion?” The longer he mused, the more
was he puzzled; and he came at length to a conclusion at which many,
more wise and more foolish than himself, had arrived, that a woman’s
mind, when influenced by her affections, is a riddle hard to be solved.
He had not, however, much time for reflection, and being resolved at
all risks to escape from the island, he hastened to his room, and,
within the hour specified by Nina, sent her a list of the stores and
provisions for the voyage.

Meanwhile Fanchette had not been idle: she had painted to Jacques, in
the liveliest colours, the wealth, beauty, and freedom of the distant
land of Ohio, artfully mingling with this description promises and
allurements which operated more directly on the feelings of her black
swain; so that the latter, finding himself entreated by Fanchette, and
commanded by his young mistress, hesitated no longer to betray his
trust, and desert the Commodore.

Ethelston, having communicated the prosperous state of affairs to
Cupid, and desired him to have all ready for immediate escape, hastened
to obey another summons sent to him by Nina. He found her in a mood no
less cheerful than before; and although she purposely averted her face,
a smile, the meaning of which he could not define, played round the
corner of her expressive mouth. Though really glad to escape homeward,
and disposed to be grateful to Nina for her aid, he could not help
feeling angry and vexed at the capricious eagerness with which she
busied herself in contriving the departure of one to whom she had so
lately given the strongest demonstration of tenderness; and although
his heart told him that he could not love her, there was something in
this easy and sudden withdrawal of her affection which wounded that
self–love from which the best of men are not altogether free. These
feelings gave an unusual coldness and constraint to his manner, when he
inquired her further commands.

To this question Nina replied by saying, “Then, Mr. Ethelston, you are
quite resolved to leave us, and to risk all the chances and perils of
this voyage?”

“Quite,” he replied: “it is my wish, my duty, and my firm
determination; and I entered the room,” he added, almost in a tone
of reproof, “desirous of repeating to you my thanks for your kind
assistance.”

Nina’s countenance changed; but, still averting it from Ethelston, she
continued in a lower voice, “And do you leave us without pain—without
regret?”

There was a tremor, a natural feeling in the tone in which she uttered
these few words, that recalled to his mind all that he had seen her
suffer, and drove from it the harsh thoughts which he had begun to
entertain; and he answered, in a voice from which his self–command
could not banish all traces of emotion, “Dear Nina, I shall leave you
with regret that would amount to misery, if I thought that my visit had
brought any permanent unhappiness into this house. I desire to leave
you as a Mentor should leave a beloved pupil—as a brother leaves a
sister; with a full hope, that when I am gone, you will fulfil your
parents’ wishes, your own auspicious destinies, and that, after years
and years of happiness among those whom Fate has decreed to be the
companions of your life, you will look back upon me as upon a faithful
adviser of your youth,—an affectionate friend, who——“

Nina’s nerves were not strung for the part she had undertaken:
gradually her countenance had grown pale as marble; a choking sensation
oppressed her throat; and she sunk in a chair, sobbing, rather than
uttering, the word, “Water.” It was fortunately at hand; and having
placed it in a glass by her side, Ethelston retired to the window to
conceal his own emotion, and to allow time for that of Nina to subside.

After a few minutes she recovered her self–possession; and although
still deadly pale, her voice was distinct and firm, as she said,
“Ethelston, I am ashamed of this weakness; but it is over: we will not
speak of the past, and will leave to Fate the future. Now listen to me:
all the arrangements for your departure will be complete by to–morrow
evening. At an hour before midnight, a small boat, with one man, will
be at the Quai du Marché, below the Place St. Louis. It is far from the
fort, and there is no sentry near the spot: you can then row to the
vessel and depart. But is it not too dangerous?” she added. “Can you
risk it? for the wind whistles terribly, and I fear the approach of a
hurricane!”

Ethelston’s eye brightened as he replied, “A rough night is the fairest
for the purpose, Nina.”

“Be it so,” she replied. “Now, in return for all that I have done for
you, there is only one favour I have to ask at your hands.”

“Name it,” said Ethelston, eagerly.

“There is,” she continued, “a poor sick youth in the town, the child
of respectable parents in New Orleans; he desires to go home, if it be
only to die there: and a nurse will take care of him on the passage, if
you will let him go with you?”

“Assuredly I will,” said Ethelston; “and will take as much care of him
as if he were my brother.”

“Nay,” said Nina, “they tell me he is ordered to be perfectly quiet,
and no one attends him but the nurse; neither will he give any trouble,
as the coxswain says there is a small cabin where he can remain alone
and undisturbed.”

“You may depend,” said Ethelston, “that all your orders about him shall
be faithfully performed; and I will see, if I live, that he reaches his
home in safety.”

“He and his nurse will be on board before you,” said Nina; “and as soon
as you reach the vessel, you have nothing to do but to escape as quick
as you can. Now I must bid you farewell! I may not have spirits to see
you again!” She held out her hand to him; it was cold as ice; her face
was still half–averted, and her whole frame trembled violently.

Ethelston took the offered hand, and pressed it to his lips, saying, “A
thousand, thousand thanks for all your kindness! If I reach home alive
I will make your honoured father ample amends for the theft of his
schooner; and if ever you have an opportunity to let me know that you
are well and happy, do not forget that such news will always gladden
my heart.” He turned to look at her as he went; he doubted whether the
cold rigid apathy of her form and countenance was that of despair or of
indifference; but he dared not trust himself longer in her presence;
and as he left the room she sunk on the chair against which she had
been leaning for support.

When Ethelston found himself alone, he collected his thoughts, and
endeavoured in vain to account for the strange deportment of Nina in
bidding him farewell. The coldness of her manner, the abrupt brevity
of her parting address, had surprised him; and yet the tremor, the
emotion, amounting almost to fainting, the forced tone of voice in
which she had spoken, all forbad him to hope that she had overcome her
unhappy passion; he was grieved that he had scarcely parted from her in
kindness; and the pity with which he regarded her was, for the moment,
almost akin to love.

Shaking off this temporary weakness, he employed himself forthwith in
the preparations for his departure: among the first of which was a
letter, which he wrote to Captain L’Estrange, and left upon his table.
On the following day he never once saw Nina; but he heard from one of
the slaves that she was confined to her room by severe headache.

The wind blew with unabated force, the evening was dark and lowering,
as, at the appointed hour, Ethelston, accompanied by his faithful
Cupid, left the house with noiseless step. They reached the boat
without obstruction; pushed off, and in ten minutes were safe on deck:
the coxswain whispered that all was ready; the boat was hoisted up, the
anchor weighed, and the schooner was soon dashing the foam from her
bows on the open sea.



CHAPTER XV.

 WHAT TOOK PLACE AT MOOSHANNE DURING THE STAY OF ETHELSTON IN
 GUADALOUPE.—DEPARTURE OF REGINALD FOR THE FAR–WEST.


While the events related in the last two chapters occurred at
Guadaloupe, Reginald was busily employed at Mooshanne in completing
the preparations for his projected visit to the Delawares, in the
Far–west; he had (by putting in practice the instructions given him by
War–Eagle respecting Nekimi) at length succeeded in gaining that noble
animal’s affection; he neighed at Reginald’s approach, knew and obeyed
his voice, fed from his hand, and received and returned his caresses,
as he had before done those of his Indian master. It was when mounted
on Nekimi that our hero found his spirit most exulting and buoyant;
he gave him the rein on the broadest of the neighbouring prairies,
and loved to feel the springy fleetness and untiring muscles of this
child of the western desert. Sometimes, after a gallop of many miles,
he would leap from the saddle, to look with pride and pleasure on the
spirited eye, the full veins, the expanded nostril of his favourite;
at other times he would ride him slowly through the most tangled and
difficult ground, admiring the instinctive and unerring sagacity with
which he picked his way.

Among Reginald’s other accomplishments, he had learnt in Germany to
play not unskilfully on the horn; and constantly carrying his bugle
across his shoulders, Nekimi grew so accustomed to the sound, that
he would come to it from any distance within hearing of its call. It
appeared to Reginald so probable that the bugle might render him good
service on his summer excursion, that he not only practised his horse
to it, but he prevailed on Baptiste to learn his various signals,
and even to reply on another horn to some of the simplest of them.
The honest guide’s first attempts to sound the bugle were ludicrous
in the extreme; but he good–humouredly persevered, until Reginald
and he could, from a considerable distance, exchange many useful
signals agreed upon between them, and of course intelligible to none
but themselves. Among these were the following: “Beware!”—“Come to
me,”—“Be still,”—“Bring my horse,” and one or two others for hunting
purposes, such as “A bear!”—“Buffalo!” To these they added a reply,
which was always to signify “I understand.” But if the party called was
prevented from obeying, this signal was to be varied accordingly.

At the same time Reginald did not omit to learn from the guide a number
of Delaware words and phrases, in order that when he arrived among his
new friends he might not be altogether excluded from communication with
such of them as should not understand English; in these preparations,
and occasional hunts in company with Baptiste, his time would have
glided on agreeably enough, had he not observed with anxiety the
settled melancholy that was gradually creeping over his sister Lucy.
It was in vain that he strove to comfort her by reminding her of the
thousand trifling accidents that might have detained Ethelston in
the West Indies, and have prevented his letters from reaching home.
She smiled upon him kindly for his well–meant endeavours, and not
only abstained from all complaint, but tried to take her part in
conversation; yet he saw plainly that her cheerfulness was forced, and
that secret sorrow was at her heart. She employed herself assiduously
in tending her mother, whose health had of late become exceedingly
precarious, and who was almost always confined to her apartments. Lucy
worked by her side, conversed with her, read to her, and did all in her
power to hide from her the grief that possessed her own bosom. Reginald
marked the struggle, which strengthened, if possible, the love that he
had always felt for his exemplary and affectionate sister.

One day he was sitting with her in the boudoir, which commanded, as we
have before observed, a view of the approach to the house, where they
saw a horseman coming at full speed. As he drew near, he seemed to be a
middle–aged man, wearing a broad–brimmed hat, a coarse over–coat, and
loose trowsers; his knees were high up on the saddle, and he rode in so
careless and reckless a manner, that it was marvellous how the uncouth
rider could remain on his horse in a gallop. Reginald threw open the
window; and as the strange–looking figure caught a sight of him, the
steed was urged yet faster, and the broad–brimmed hat was waved in
token of recognition.

“Now Heaven be praised!” exclaimed Reginald aloud: “’tis Gregson the
mate!” He turned towards his sister: the blood had fled from her cheeks
and lip, her hands were clasped together, and she whispered, in a voice
scarcely articulate, “Heaven be merciful!”

“Nay, Lucy,” said her sanguine brother, “why this grief? are you not
glad that The Pride is returned?”

“Oh, Reginald!” said Lucy, looking on him reproachfully through the
tears which now streamed from her eyes. “Think you that if _he_ had
been alive and well, he would have allowed another to come here before
him! Go and speak to the man—I cannot see him—you will return and
tell me all.”

Reginald felt the reproof, and, kissing her affectionately, hastened
from the room.

Who shall attempt to lift the veil from Lucy’s heart during the
suspense of the succeeding minutes? It is fortunate for human nature,
that at such a moment the mind is too confused to be conscious of
its own sufferings: the mingled emotions of hope and fear, the
half–breathed prayer, the irresistible desire to learn, contending with
the dread of more assured misery,—all these unite in producing that
agony of suspense which it is impossible to describe in words, and
of which the mind of the sufferer can scarcely realise afterwards a
distinct impression.

After a short absence, Reginald returned, and said to his sister,
“Lucy, Ethelston is not here, but he is alive and safe.”

She hid her face in her brother’s breast, and found relief in a flood
of grateful tears. As soon as Lucy had recovered her composure, her
brother informed her of Ethelston’s captivity, and of the serious,
though not dangerous, wounds that he had received; but he mingled with
the narration such warm praises of his friend’s heroic defence of the
brig, and so many sanguine assurances of his speedy release and return,
that her fears and her anxiety were for a time absorbed in the glow of
pride with which she listened to the praises of her lover’s conduct,
and in the anticipation of soon having his adventures from his own
lips. The faithful mate received a kind welcome from the Colonel, and
though the latter had sustained a severe loss in the brig, he viewed it
as a misfortune for which no one could be blamed; and directed all his
anxiety and his inquiries to the condition of Ethelston, whom he loved
as his own son.

“Depend on’t, Colonel,” said Gregson, “he’ll come to no harm where is
he; for L’Estrange is a fine old fellow, and Master Ethelston saved his
son’s neck from my cutlass. I was cuttin’ at him in downright airnest,
for my dander was up; and you know, Colonel, a man a’nt particular nice
in a deck scurry like that!”

“And what made him so anxious to save the youngster?” inquired the
Colonel.

“Why I s’pose he thought the day was our own, and the lieutenant too
smart a lad to be roughly handled for naught; but the young mad–cap put
a pistol–ball into his arm by way of thanks.”

“Well, and did Ethelston still protect him?”

“Ay, sir, all the same. I’ve served with a number of captains o’ one
sort or other, smugglers, and slave cruisers, and old Burt, that the
Cuba pirates used to call Gunpowder Jack, but I will say I never saw a
better man than Ethelston step a deck, whether it’s ‘up stick and make
sail,’ or a heavy gale on a lee–shore, or a game at long bowls, or a
hammer–away fight at yard–arm to yard–arm, it’s all one to our skipper,
he’s just as cool, and seems as well pleased, as when it’s a free
breeze, a clear sea, and Black Cupid has piped to dinner.”

“He is a gallant young fellow,” said the Colonel, brushing a little
moisture from the corner of his eye; “and we will immediately take
all possible measures for his liberation, both by applying, through
Congress, for his exchange, and by communicating with the French agents
at New Orleans.”

The conversation was protracted for some time; and after its
termination, the mate having satisfied himself that the Mooshanne
cider had lost none of its flavour, and that Monsieur Perrot’s flask
contained genuine cognac, returned in high spirits to Marietta.

The preparations for Reginald’s expedition now went briskly forward, as
the business which the Colonel wished him to transact with the trading
companies on the Mississippi did not admit of delay. A large canoe
was fitted out at Marietta, capable of containing sixteen or eighteen
persons, and possessing sufficient stowage for the provisions and goods
required: the charge of it was given to an experienced voyageur, who
had more than once accompanied Baptiste in his excursions to the Upper
Mississippi and the Great Lakes; he was a steady determined man, on
whose fidelity reliance might be placed, and well calculated, from
the firmness of his character, to keep in order the rough and sturdy
fellows who formed his crew. Born and bred in that wild border region
which now forms the State of Michigan, the woods, rapids, and lakes had
been familiar to him from his childhood; unlike most of his tribe, he
was singularly grave and taciturn; he always wore a bearskin cap, and,
whether in his bateau, his canoe, or his log–hut, his bed was of the
same material, so that he was known only by the name of “Bearskin;” his
paternal appellation, whatever it might have been originally, having
become altogether obsolete and unknown. His crew consisted of four
stout fellows, who, like most of the Indian borderers, were as skilful
in the use of the paddle on the river as in that of the rifle on the
land. Among them was the gigantic form of Mike Smith, before mentioned
in this narrative; all these were engaged by the Colonel, at a liberal
salary, for six months, which was to be proportionately increased if
they were detained in his service for a longer period. It was also
settled that Monsieur Gustave Perrot should take his passage in the
canoe; and to his care were entrusted the Indian presents, clothes,
and other articles, which were his master’s own property. Reginald had
resolved to cross the territory on horseback, accompanied by Baptiste,
and he therefore meant to carry with him only such arms, and other
articles, as were likely to be required on the journey.

The orders given to Bearskin were, to make the best of his way to St.
Louis, and having delivered the letters with which he was entrusted,
there to await Reginald’s arrival. The cargo of the canoe consisted
chiefly (with the exception of a full supply of arms and provisions)
of powder, cutlery, clothes of various colours, paints, mirrors, and a
great variety of beads. Her equipment was soon completed, and she left
Marietta amid the cheers of the crowd assembled on the wooden pier in
front of David Muir’s store, the latter observing to our old friend
the mate, who stood at his elbow, “I’m thinking, Maister Gregson, they
chaps will hae eneugh o’ the red–skin deevils, an’ fur–huntin’ amongst
a wheen wild trappers and daft neer–do–weels ayont the Mississippi!
Weel a weel, ye maun just step ben and tak’ a stoup o’ cognac to the
success o’ Bearskin and his crew.”

Although there was much in the merchant’s harangue that was like
Greek or Hebrew to the mate, the closing invitation being adapted as
well to his comprehension as to his inclination, he expressed a brief
but cheerful acquiescence, and the worthy couple entered the house
together. As soon as they were seated in the parlour, Jessie placed
on the table some excellent corn–cakes and cheese, together with the
before–mentioned cognac, and busied herself with even more than her
wonted alacrity, to offer these good things to the father of the youth
towards whom she entertained, as we have said, a secret but very
decided partiality. She carried her hospitality so far as to bring a
bottle of old madeira from David’s favourite corner in the cellar,
which she decanted with great dexterity, and placed before the mate.
The jolly tar complimented the merchant, after his own blunt fashion,
both on the excellence of his liquor, and the attractions of his
daughter, saying, in reference to the latter, “I can tell you, Master
Muir, that I hold Jessie to be as handsome and as handy a lass as any
in the territory. If I were twenty years younger, I should be very apt
to clap on all sail, and try to make a prize of her!”

At this moment his son entered from the store, under the pretext of
speaking to David about the sale of some goods, but with the object
of being for a few minutes near to Jessie. He had never spoken to her
of love, being afraid that his suit would certainly be rejected by
her parents, who, from their reputed wealth, would doubtless expect
to marry their daughter to one of the principal personages in the
commonwealth of Marietta. As he entered, his eyes encountered those of
Jessie, who was still blushing from the effect of the compliment paid
to her by his father.

“Harry, my boy,” shouted the mate, “you are just come in time; I have
filled a glass of David’s prime 84, and you must give me a toast! Now,
my lad, speak up; heave a–head!”

“Father, I am ashamed of you!” replied the youth, colouring. “How can
you ask for another toast when Miss Jessie’s standing at your elbow?”

“The boy’s right,” said the sailor, “and he shall drink it, too; shan’t
he, David?”

“I’m thinking ye’ll no need to ask him twice. Jessie, hand the lad a
glass!”

At her father’s bidding she brought another glass from the cupboard;
and in giving it to young Gregson, one or other of them was so
awkward, that, instead of it, he took her hand in his; and although he
relinquished it immediately, there was a pressure, unconscious perhaps,
but so distinctly perceptible to Jessie, that she blushed still deeper,
and felt almost relieved by hearing her name called from the store in
the loudest key of her mother’s shrill voice, while it was repeated
yet more loudly by the honest mate, who gave the toast as she left the
room, “Here’s Jessie Muir,—a long life, and a happy one, to her!”

Henry Gregson drank the madeira, but he scarcely knew whether it was
sweet or sour, for his blood still danced with the touch of Jessie’s
hand; and setting down the glass, he returned abruptly to the store,
whether in the hope of stealing another look at her, or to enjoy his
own reflections on the last few minutes, the reader may determine for
himself.

The mate and the merchant continued their sitting until the bottle of
madeira was empty, and the flask of cognac was considerably diminished:
and although their conversation was doubtless highly interesting, and
worthy of being listened to with the greatest attention, yet, as it did
not bear immediately upon the events of our narrative, we will leave it
unrecorded amongst the many other valuable treasures of a similar kind
which are suffered day by day to sink into oblivion.

M. Perrot being now fairly under way, and having taken with him all
the articles required by Reginald for his Indian expedition, our hero
resolved no longer to delay his own departure, being about to encounter
a very tedious land journey before he could reach St. Louis, and being
also desirous of performing it by easy marches, in order that Nekimi
might arrive at the Osage hunting–camp fresh, and ready for any of
those emergencies in which success might depend upon his strength
and swiftness. Baptiste was now quite in his element; and an early
day being fixed for their departure, he packed the few clothes and
provisions which they were likely to require on the journey, in two
capacious leather bags, which were to be slung across the rough hardy
nag which had accompanied him on more than one distant expedition, and
he was soon able to announce to Reginald that he was ready to start at
an hour’s notice.

The parting of our hero from his family was somewhat trying to his
firmness; for poor Lucy, whose nerves were much affected by her own
sorrows, could not control her grief. Aunt Mary also shed tears,
whilst, mingled with her repeated blessings, and excellent counsel, she
gave him several infallible recipes for the cure of cuts, bruises, and
the bite of rattlesnakes. The Colonel squeezed his hand with concealed
emotion, and bid him remember those whom he left behind, and not incur
any foolish risk in the pursuit of amusement, or in the excitement
of Indian adventure. But it was in parting with his mother that his
feelings underwent the severest trial, for her health had long been
gradually declining; and although she evinced the resigned composure
which marked her gentle uncomplaining character, there was a deep
solemnity in her farewell benediction, arising from a presentiment
that they might not meet again on this side of the grave. It required
all the beauty of the scenery through which he passed, and all the
constitutional buoyancy of his spirits, to enable Reginald to shake off
the sadness which crept over him, when he caught from a rising ground
the last glimpse of Mooshanne; but the fresh elasticity of youth ere
long prevailed, and he ran his fingers through the glossy mane that
hung over Nekimi’s arching crest, anticipating with pleasure the wild
adventures by flood and field that they would share together.

Reginald wore the deer–skin hunting–suit that we have before described:
his rifle he had sent with the canoe, the bugle was slung across
his shoulders, a brace of horse–pistols were in the holsters, and a
hunting–knife hanging at his girdle completed his equipment. The sturdy
guide was more heavily armed; for besides his long rifle, which he
never quitted, a knife hung on one side of his belt, and at the other
was slung the huge axe which had procured him the name by which he was
known among some of the tribes; but in spite of these accoutrements,
and of the saddle–bags before mentioned, his hardy nag paced along with
an enduring vigour that would hardly have been expected from one of so
coarse and unpromising an exterior; sometimes their way lay through
the vast prairies which were still found in the states of Indiana and
Illinois; at others among dense woods and rich valleys, through which
flowed the various tributaries that swell Ohio’s mighty stream, the
guide losing no opportunity of explaining to Reginald as they went all
the signs and secret indications of Indian or border wood–craft that
occurred. They met with abundance of deer, and at night they made
their fire; and, having finished their venison supper, camped under the
shelter of some ancient oak or sycamore. Thus Reginald’s hardy frame
became on this preliminary journey more inured to the exposure that he
would have to undergo among the Osages and Delawares of the Far–west:
they fell in now and then with straggling bands of hunters and of
friendly Indians, but with no adventures worthy of record; and thus,
after a steady march of twenty days, they reached the banks of the
Mississippi, and crossed in the ferry to St. Louis.



CHAPTER XVI.

THE ESCAPE OF ETHELSTON FROM GUADALOUPE, AND THE CONSEQUENCES WHICH
ENSUED FROM THAT EXPEDITION.


We left Ethelston on the deck of the little schooner, which was bearing
him rapidly from the shores of Guadaloupe, under the influence of an
easterly wind, so strong that all his attention was absorbed in the
management of the vessel. During the night the gale increased, and blew
with unabated violence for forty–eight hours. The Seagull, for so she
was called, scudded lightly before it; and on the third day, Ethelston
had made by his log upwards of five hundred miles of westerly course.

Having only two hands on board, and the weather being so uncommonly
boisterous, he had been kept in constant employment, and had only been
able to snatch a few brief intervals for sleep and refreshment: he
found Jacques the coxswain an active able seaman, but extremely silent
and reserved, obeying exactly the orders he received, but scarcely
uttering a word, even to Cupid; it was he alone who attended upon the
invalid and the nurse in the after–cabin; and the weather having now
moderated, Ethelston asked how the youth had borne the pitching and
tossing of the vessel during the late gale. Jacques replied, that he
was not worse, and seemed not to suffer from the sea. The captain was
satisfied, and retired to his cabin; he had not been there long before
Cupid entered; and carefully shutting the door behind him, stood before
his master, with a peculiar expression of countenance, which the
latter well knew to intimate some unexpected intelligence.

“Well, Cupid, what is it?” said Ethelston, “is there a suspicious sail
in sight?”

“Very suspicious, Massa Ethelston,” replied the black, grinning and
lowering his voice to a whisper, “and suspicious goods aboard the
schooner.”

“What mean you, Cupid?”

“There is some trick aboard. I not like that Jacques that never speak,
and I not like that sick boy and his nurse, that nobody never see.”

“But why should you be angry, Cupid, with the poor boy because he
is sick? I have promised to deliver him safe to his friends at New
Orleans, and I hope soon, with this breeze, to perform my promise.”

“Massa Ethelston, I believe it all one damn trick—I not believe there
is one sick boy: when Jacques come in and go out of that cabin he
creep, and look, and listen, and watch like the Colonel’s grey cat at
the cheese cupboard. Cupid no pretend to much learnin’, but he no be
made fool of by damn French nigger, and he no tell Massa Ethelston a
lie.” So saying, the African withdrew as quietly as he had entered.

After musing some time on his follower’s communication and suspicions,
he resolved to unravel whatever mystery might be attached to the
matter, by visiting the invalid immediately. On his knocking gently at
the door for admission, he was answered from within by the nurse that
her patient was asleep, and ought not now to be disturbed; but being
determined not to allow another day to pass in uncertainty, he went on
deck, and summoning Jacques, told him to go down presently and inform
the nurse that in the evening, as soon as her patient was awake, he
should pay him a visit.

Jacques received this mandate with some confusion, and began to stammer
something about the “poor boy not being disturbed.”

“Harkee, sir,” said Ethelston sternly; “I am captain on board this
craft, and will be obeyed: as you go into that cabin three or four
times a day to attend upon the invalid, methinks my presence cannot be
so dangerous. I will take the risk upon myself: you hear my orders,
sir, and they are not to be trifled with!”

Jacques disappeared, and Ethelston remained pacing the deck. In about
half an hour the latter came up to him and said, “The young gentleman
will receive the captain at sundown.”

“Very well,” replied Ethelston, and continued to pace the deck,
revolving in his mind all the strange events of the last month,—his
illness, the unfortunate passion of Nina, and her strange behaviour
when he bid her farewell.

At the appointed time he went down, and again knocked at the side cabin
door for admission: it was opened by the nurse, apparently a young
woman of colour, who whispered to him in French, “Go in, sir, and speak
gently to him, for he is very delicate.” So saying, she left the cabin,
and closed the door behind her.

Ethelston approached the sofa, on which the grey evening light
permitted him to see a slight figure, covered with a mantle; and
addressing the invalid kindly, he said, “I fear, young sir, you must
have suffered much during the gale.”

“No, I thank you,” was the reply, but so faintly uttered as to be
scarcely audible.

“Can I do anything to make your stay on board more comfortable?”

“Yes,” was the whispered answer.

“Then tell me what, or how; as I have promised to do all in my power to
make the voyage agreeable to you.”

After a pause of a minute, during which the invalid seemed struggling
with repressed emotion, the mantle was suddenly thrown aside,
the recumbent figure sprang from the sofa, and Nina stood before
him! “Yes,” she said; “you _have_ promised—and my ears drank in
the promise: for it, and for you, I have abandoned home, country,
kindred,—what do I say,—I have abandoned nothing; for you are to me
home, kindred, country, every thing! Dear, dear Ethelston! this moment
repays me for all I have suffered.” As she spoke thus, she threw her
arms round his neck, and hid her blushing face upon his breast.

Ethelston was so completely taken by surprise, that for a moment
he could not utter a syllable. Mistaking his silence for a full
participation in her own impassioned feelings, and looking up in her
face, her eyes beaming with undisguised affection, and her dark tresses
falling carelessly over her beautiful neck, she continued, “Oh,
speak—speak one gentle word,—nay, rather break not this delicious
silence, and let me dream here for ever.”

If Ethelston was for a moment stupified, partly by surprise, and partly
by the effect of her surpassing loveliness, it was _but_ for a moment.
His virtue, pride, and honour were aroused, and the suggestions of
passion found no entrance to his heart. Firmly, but quietly replacing
her on the sofa she had quitted, he said, in a voice more stern than
he had ever before used when addressing her. “Nina, you have grieved
me more than I can express; you have persisted in seeking a heart
which I frankly told you was not mine to give. I see no longer in
you the Nina whom I first knew in Guadaloupe,—gentle, affectionate,
and docile,—but a wild, headstrong girl, pursuing a wayward fancy,
regardless of truth, and of that maidenly reserve which is woman’s
sweetest charm. Not only have you thus hurt my feelings, but you have
brought a stain upon my honour,—nay, interrupt me not,” he added,
seeing that she was about to speak; “for I must tell you the truth, and
you must learn to bear it, even though it may sound harsh to your ears.
I repeat, you have brought a stain upon my honour,—for what will your
respected father think of the man whom he received wounded, suffering,
and a prisoner—whom he cherished with hospitable kindness, and who now
requites all his benefits by stealing from his roof the daughter of
his love, the ornament and blessing of his home? Nina, I did not think
that you would have brought this disgrace and humiliation upon my name!
I have now a sacred and a painful duty before me, and I will see you
no more until I have restored you to the arms of an offended father.
I hope he will forgive you, as I do, for the wrong that you have done
to both of us. Farewell, Nina.” With these words, spoken in a voice
trembling with contending emotions, he turned and left the cabin.

Reader! have you ever dwelt in Sicily, or in any other southern island
of volcanic formation? If so, you may have seen a verdant spot near
the base of the mountain, where the flowers and the herbage were
smiling in the fresh beauty of summer,—where the luxuriant vine
mingled her tendrils with the spreading branches of the elm,—where
the air was loaded with fragrance, and the ear was refreshed by the
hum of bees and the murmur of a rippling stream: on a sudden, the
slumbering mountain–furnace is aroused—the sulphurous crater pours
forth its fiery deluge, and in a moment the spot so lately teeming
with life, fertility, and fragrance is become the arid, barren abode
of desolation. If, reader, you have seen this fearful change on the
face of nature, or if you can place it vividly before your imagination,
then may you conceive the state of Nina’s mind, when her long–cherished
love was thus abruptly and finally rejected by the man for whom she had
sacrificed her home, her parents, and her pride! It is impossible for
language to portray an agony such as that by which all the faculties of
her soul and body seemed absorbed and benumbed. She neither spoke nor
wept, nor gave any outward sign of suffering, but, with bloodless and
silent lips, sat gazing on vacancy.

Fanchette returned, and looked on her young mistress with fear and
dread. She could neither elicit a word in reply, nor the slightest
indication of her repeated entreaties being understood. Nina suffered
her hands to be chafed, her temples to be bathed, and at length broke
into a loud hysteric laugh, that rang through the adjoining cabin, and
sent a thrill to the heart of Ethelston. Springing on deck, he ordered
Jacques to go below, and aid Fanchette in attending on her young lady;
and then, with folded arms, he leaned over the low bulwark, and sat
meditating in deep silence on the events of the day.

The moon had risen, and her beams silvered the waves through which the
schooner was cutting her way; scarcely a fleeting cloud obscured the
brightness of the sky, and all nature seemed hushed in the calm and
peaceful repose of night. How different from the fearful storm now
raging in the bosom of the young girl from whom he was divided only by
a few inches of plank! He shuddered when that thought arose, but his
conscience told him that he was acting aright, and, indulging in the
reverie that possessed him, he saw a distant figure in the glimmering
moonlight, which, as it drew near, grew more and more distinct, till
it wore the form, the features, and the approving smile of his Lucy!
Confirmed and strengthened in his resolutions, he started from his
seat, and bid the astonished Cupid, who was now at the helm, to prepare
to go about, and stand to the eastward. Jacques was called from below,
the order was repeated in a sterner voice, the sails were trimmed, and
in a few minutes the schooner was close–hauled and laying her course,
as near as the wind would permit, for Guadaloupe.

While these events were passing on board The Seagull, Captain
L’Estrange had returned in the frigate to Point à Pitre. His grief and
anger may be better imagined than described, when he learnt the flight
of his daughter and of his prisoner, together with the loss of his
yacht and two of his slaves.

Concluding that the fugitives would make for New Orleans, he dispatched
The Hirondelle immediately in pursuit, with orders to discover them if
possible, and to bring them back by stratagem or force. He also wrote
to Colonel Brandon, painting in the blackest colours the treachery and
ingratitude of Ethelston, and calling upon him, as a man of honour, to
disown and punish the perpetrator of such an outrage on the laws of
hospitality.

Meanwhile the latter was straining every nerve to reach again the
island from which he had so lately escaped. In this object he was
hindered, not only by baffling winds, but by the obstinacy of Jacques,
who, justly fearing the wrath of his late master, practised every
manœuvre to frustrate Ethelston’s design. But the latter was on his
guard; and unless he was himself on deck, never trusted the helm in the
coxswain’s hands.

He learnt from Fanchette that Nina was in a high fever, and quite
delirious; but though he inquired constantly after her, and ordered
every attention to be paid to her that was within his power, he adhered
firmly to the resolution that he had formed of never entering her cabin.

After a few days’ sailing to the eastward, when Ethelston calculated
that he should not now be at a great distance from Guadaloupe, he fell
in with a vessel which proved to be The Hirondelle. The Seagull was
immediately recognised; and the weather being fair, the lieutenant, and
eight men, came on board. The French officer was no sooner on the deck
than he ordered his men to seize and secure Ethelston, and to place the
two blacks in irons.

It was in vain that Ethelston indignantly remonstrated against such
harsh and undeserved treatment. The officer would listen to no
explanation; and without deigning a reply, ordered his men to carry
their prisoners on board The Hirondelle.

On reaching Point à Pitre, they were all placed in separate places
of confinement; and Nina was, not without much risk and difficulty,
conveyed to her former apartment in her father’s house. The delirium of
fever seemed to have permanently affected the poor girl’s brain. She
sang wild snatches of songs, and told those about her that her lover
was often with her, but that he was invisible. Sometimes she fancied
herself on board a ship, and asked them which way the wind blew, and
whether they were near the shore. Then she would ask for a guitar, and
tell them that she was a mermaid, and would sing them songs that the
fishes loved to hear.

The distracted father often sat and listened to these incoherent
ravings, until he left the room in an agony not to be described; and
when alone, vented the most fearful imprecations on the supposed
treachery and ingratitude of Ethelston. He could not bring himself to
see the latter; “for,” said he, “I must kill him, if I set eyes on his
hateful person:” but he one day wrote the following lines, which he
desired to be delivered to his prisoner:—

“A father, whose indignation is yet greater than his agony, desires to
know what plea you can urge in extenuation of the odious crimes laid
to your charge:—the deliberate theft of his slaves and yacht, and the
abduction and ruin of his child, in recompense for misplaced trust,
kindness, and hospitality?”

Poor Ethelston, in the gloomy solitude of the narrow chamber where
he was confined, read and re–read the above lines many times before
he would trust himself to reply to them. He felt for the misery of
L’Estrange, and he was too proud and too generous to exculpate himself
by the narration of Nina’s conduct: nay, although he knew that by
desiring L’Estrange to examine separately Fanchette and Jacques, his
own innocence, and the deceit practised upon him, would be brought to
light, he could not bring himself to forget that delicacy which Nina
had herself forgotten; nor add, to clear himself, one mite to the heavy
weight of visitation that had already fallen upon her. He contented
himself with sending the following answer:—

  “Sir,

 “Your words, though harsh, would be more than merited by the crimes
 of which you believe me guilty. There is a Being above, who reads the
 heart, and will judge the conduct of us all. If I am guilty of the
 crimes imputed to me, His vengeance will inflict on me, through the
 stings of conscience, punishment more terrible even than the wrath of a
 justly offended father could desire for the destroyer of his child. If
 I am not guilty, He, in His own good time, will make it known, and will
 add to your other heavy sorrows regret for having unjustly charged with
 such base ingratitude

  “Your servant and prisoner,
  “E. ETHELSTON.”

On receiving the above letter, which seemed dictated by a calm
consciousness of rectitude, L’Estrange’s belief of his prisoner’s
guilt was for a moment staggered; and had he bethought himself of
cross–examining the other partners in the escape, he would doubtless
have arrived at the truth; but his feelings were too violently excited
to permit the exercise of his reason; and tearing the note to pieces,
he stamped upon it, exclaiming in a paroxysm of rage, “Dissembling
hypocrite! does he think to cozen me with words, as he has poisoned
poor Nina’s peace?”

Her disorder now assumed a different character. The excitement of
delirium ceased, and was succeeded by a feebleness and gradual wasting,
which baffled all the resources of medicine; and such was the apathy
and stupor that clouded her faculties, that even her father could
scarcely tell whether she knew him or not. In this state she continued
for several days; and the physician at length informed L’Estrange that
he must prepare himself for the worst, and that all hope of recovery
was gone.

Madame L’Estrange had, under the pressure of anxiety, forgotten her
habitual listlessness, and watched by her daughter’s couch with a
mother’s unwearied solicitude. On the night succeeding the above sad
announcement, Nina sunk into a quiet sleep, which gave some hope to
her sanguine parents, and induced them also to permit themselves a few
hours’ repose.

In the morning she awoke: her eye no longer dwelt on vacancy: a slight
flush was visible on her transparent cheek, and she called her father,
in a voice feeble indeed, but clear and distinct. Who shall paint the
rapture with which he hailed the returning dawn of reason and of hope?
But his joy was of brief duration; for Nina, beckoning him to approach
yet nearer, said “God be thanked that I may yet beg your blessing and
forgiveness, dearest father!” then pressing her wasted hand upon her
brow, she continued, after a short pause, “Yes, I remember it all
now—all; the orange–grove—the flight—the ship—the last meeting! Oh;
tell me, where is he?—where is Ethelston?”

“He is safe confined,” answered L’Estrange, scarcely repressing his
rage; “he shall not escape punishment. The villain shall yet know the
weight of an injured father’s—“ Ere he could conclude the sentence,
Nina, by a sudden exertion, half rose in her bed, and grasping his arm
convulsively, said, “Father, curse him not—you know not what you say;
it is on me, on me alone, that all your anger should fall: listen, and
speak not, for my hours are numbered, and my strength nearly spent.”
She then proceeded to tell him in a faint but distinct voice, all the
particulars already known to the reader, keeping back nothing in her
own defence, and confessing how Ethelston had been deceived, and how
she had madly persisted in her endeavours to win his love, after he
had explicitly owned to her that his heart and hand were promised to
another.

“I solemnly assure you,” she said in conclusion, “that he never spoke
to me of love, that he warned me as a brother, and reproved me as a
father; but I would not be counselled. His image filled my thoughts,
my senses, my whole soul—it fills them yet; and if you wish your poor
Nina to die in peace, let her see you embrace him as a friend and son.”
So saying she sunk exhausted on her pillow.

L’Estrange could scarcely master the agitation excited by this
narration. After a short pause he replied, “My poor child! I fear you
dream again. I wrote only a few days ago to Ethelston, charging him
with his villany, and asking what he could say in his defence? His
reply was nothing but a canting subterfuge.”

“What was it?” inquired Nina, faintly.

L’Estrange repeated the words of the note. As he did so a sweet smile
stole over her countenance; and clasping her hands together, she
exclaimed, “Like himself—noble, generous Ethelston! Father, you are
blind; he would not exculpate himself by proclaiming your daughter’s
shame! If you doubt me, question Fanchette—Jacques—who know it all
too well; but you will not doubt me, dear—dear father! By that Being
to whose presence I am fast hastening, I tell you only the truth; by
His name I conjure you to comfort my last moments, by granting my last
request!”

L’Estrange averted his face: and rising almost immediately, desired an
attendant to summon Ethelston without delay.

A long pause ensued: Nina’s lips moved as if in silent prayer; and
her father, covering his face with his hands, struggled to control
the anguish by which his firmness was all but overpowered. At length
Ethelston entered the room; he had been informed that Nina was very
ill, but was by no means aware of the extremity of her danger.
Naturally indignant at the treatment he had lately received, knowing
it to be undeserved, and ignorant of the purpose for which he was now
called, his manner was cold, and somewhat haughty, as he inquired the
commands which Captain L’Estrange might have for his prisoner.

The agonised father sought in vain for utterance: his only reply was to
point to the almost lifeless form of his child.

One glance from the bed to the countenance of L’Estrange was sufficient
to explain all to Ethelston, who sprang forward, and, wringing the old
captain’s hand, faltered in a voice of deep emotion, “Oh! forgive me
for so speaking,—I knew nothing—nothing of this dreadful scene!” then
turning from him, he fixed his eyes upon Nina, while the convulsive
working of his features showed that his habitual self–command was
scarcely equal to support the present unexpected trial.

The deadly paleness of her brow contrasted with the disordered tresses
of her dark hair, the long eyelashes, reposing upon the transparent
cheek, which wore a momentary hectic glow, the colourless lip, and the
thin wan fingers, crossed meekly upon her breast,—all gave to her form
and features an air of such unearthly beauty, that Ethelston almost
doubted whether the spirit still lingered in its lovely mansion: but
his doubts were soon resolved; for having finished the unuttered but
fervent prayer which she had been addressing to the Throne of Grace,
she again unclosed her eyes; and when they rested upon his countenance,
a sweet smile played round her lip, and a warmer flush came over her
cheek. Extending her hand to him, she said, “Can you forgive me for all
the wrong I have done you?”

In reply, he pressed her fingers to his lips, for he could not speak.
She continued: “I know that I grievously wronged my parents; but the
wrong which I did to you was yet more cruel. God be thanked for giving
me this brief but precious hour for atonement. You more than once
called me your sister and your friend!—be a brother to me now. And
you, dearest father, if your love outweighs my fault,—if you wish your
child to die happy, embrace him for my sake, and repair the injustice
that you have done to his generous nature!”

The two men looked at each other; their hearts were melted, and their
cordial embrace brought a ray of gladness to Nina’s eyes. “God be
thanked!” she murmured faintly. “Let my mother now come, that I may
receive her blessing too.”

While L’Estrange went to summon his wife to a scene which the weakness
of her mind and nerves rendered her unequal to support, Nina continued:
“Dear, dear Ethelston, let me hear your voice; the madness, the
passion, the jealousy, that filled my bosom are all past; but the love
is there, imperishable: tell me, my friend, counsellor, brother, that
you are not angry with me for saying so now.”

Again the wasted fingers were pressed to his burning lip; his tongue
could not yet find utterance, but a tear which fell upon them told to
the sufferer that there was no indifference in that silence.

Captain L’Estrange now entered, accompanied by his wife. Although
a weak and foolish woman, her heart was not dead to those natural
affections of a mother which the present scene might be expected to
call forth; she wept long and violently over her dying child, and
perhaps her grief might be embittered by a whisper of conscience
that her sufferings were more or less attributable to neglected
education. Fearing that her mother’s excessive agitation might exhaust
Nina’s scanty store of remaining strength, Ethelston suggested to
Captain L’Estrange to withdraw her into the adjoining apartment; and
approaching the sufferer, he whispered a few words in her ear. A sweet
smile played upon her countenance as she answered, “Yes, and without
delay.”

Following her retiring parents from the room, he motioned to the
priest, who was waiting at the door, to enter; and the sad party
remained together while the confessor performed the rites of his sacred
office. Madame L’Estrange was so overpowered by her grief, that she was
removed, almost insensible, to her own apartment; while, upon a signal
from the holy man, Ethelston and the father re–entered that of Nina.

Addressing the latter, she said, in a faint voice, “Dearest father, I
have made my peace with Heaven; let me add one more prayer to you for
peace and forgiveness on earth!”

“Speak it, my child; it is already granted,” said the softened veteran.

“Pardon, for my sake, Fanchette and Jacques: they have committed a
great offence; but it was I who urged them to it.”

“It is forgiven; and they shall not be punished,” replied L’Estrange:
while Ethelston, deeply touched by this amiable remembrance of the
offending slaves at such a moment, whispered to her in a low voice—

“‘Blessed are the peace–makers; for they shall be called the children
of God!’”

A grateful pressure of the hand which he had placed in hers was the
only reply, as she continued, addressing L’Estrange, “And let them
marry, father; I know they love each other; and those who love should
marry.” Here her voice became feebler and feebler, as, once more
opening her dark eyes, which shone with preternatural lustre upon
Ethelston, she added, “You, too, will marry; but none will ever love
you like your ... sister!—closer—closer yet! let me feel your breath.
Father, join your hand to his—so! This death is—Par——“

The closing word died upon her lips; but the angelic smile that
lingered there seemed to emanate from that Paradise which their last
moments strove in vain to name. Her earthly sorrows were at rest, and
the bereaved father fell exhausted into Ethelston’s arms.



CHAPTER XVII.

EXCURSION ON THE PRAIRIE.—THE PARTY FALL IN WITH A VETERAN HUNTER.


We must now return to Reginald and his trusty follower; Baptiste, whom
we left at St. Louis, where they were busily employed in disposing of
Colonel Brandon’s share of the peltries brought in by the trapping
party, which he had partly furnished the preceding year. They did not
find much difficulty in effecting an advantageous sale to two of the
other partners in the expedition,—active, enterprising men, who, from
their connection with the Mackinaw Fur Company, were sure of reselling
at considerable profit.

As soon as these affairs were settled, Reginald, who had been joined
by Perrot, Bearskin, and the remaining crew of the canoe, resolved
to defer no longer his proposed journey into the Osage country. He
left all the arrangements to Baptiste and Bearskin, under whose
superintendence the preparations advanced so rapidly, that at the end
of a week they were satisfactorily completed.

It had been determined to leave the canoe at St. Louis, and to perform
the journey by land; for this purpose a strong saddle–horse was
purchased for each of the party, together with six pack–horses, and as
many mules, for the transfer of the ammunition, baggage, and presents
for their Indian allies. Four additional Canadian “coureurs des bois”
were engaged to take charge of the packs; so that, when they started
for the Western Prairies, the party mustered twelve in number, whose
rank and designation were as follow:—

Reginald Brandon; Baptiste, his lieutenant; Bearskin, who, in the
absence of the two former, was to take the command; M. Perrot, Mike
Smith, with three other border–hunters, and the four Canadians,
completed the party.

Baptiste had taken care to place among the packages an abundance of
mirrors, cutlery, and other articles most highly prized by the savages.
He had also selected the horses with the greatest care, and two spare
ones were taken, in case of accidents by the way. When all was ready,
even the taciturn Bearskin admitted that he had never seen a party so
well fitted out, in every respect, for an Indian expedition.

It was a lovely morning when they left St. Louis, and entered upon
the broad track which led through the deep Missourian forest, with
occasional openings of prairie towards a trading–post lately opened
on the Osage, a river which runs from S. W. to N. E. and falls into
the Missouri. Of all the party, none were in such exuberant spirits
as Perrot, who, mounted on an active, spirited, little Mestang
horse[22], capering beside the bulky figure of Mike Smith, addressed
to him various pleasantries in broken English, which the other, if he
understood them, did not deign to notice.

It was now near the close of May, and both the prairie and the woodland
scenery were clad in the beautiful and varied colours of early summer;
the grassy road along which they wound their easy way was soft and
elastic to the horses’ hoofs; and as they travelled farther from the
settlements scattered near St. Louis, the frequent tracks of deer
which they observed tempted Reginald to halt his party, and encamp for
the night, while he and Baptiste sallied forth to provide for them a
venison supper.

After a short hunting ramble they returned, bearing with them the
saddle of a fine buck. A huge fire was lighted; the camp–kettles and
other cooking utensils were in immediate request, and the travellers
sat down to enjoy their first supper in the Missourian wilderness.

Monsieur Perrot was now quite in his element, and became at once an
universal favourite, for never had any of the party tasted coffee or
flour–cakes so good, or venison steaks of so delicate a flavour. His
good–humour was as inexhaustible as his inventive culinary talent; and
they were almost disposed to believe in his boasting assurance, that so
long as there was a buffalo–hide or an old mocassin left among them,
they should never want a good meal.

Having supped and smoked a comfortable pipe, they proceeded to bivouac
for the night. By the advice of Baptiste, Reginald had determined to
accustom his party, from the first, to those precautionary habits which
might soon become so essential to their safety; a regular rotation of
sentry duty was established, the horses were carefully secured, and
every man lay down with his knife in his belt, and his loaded rifle
at his side: the packs were all carefully piled, so as to form a low
breastwork, from behind which they might fire in case of sudden attack;
and when these dispositions were completed, those who were not on the
watch wrapped themselves in their blankets or buffalo skins, and, with
their feet towards the fire, slept as comfortably as on a bed of down.

For two days they continued their march in a north–west direction,
meeting with no incident worthy of record; the hunters found abundance
of game of every description, and Monsieur Perrot’s skill was daily
exercised upon prairie–hens, turkeys, and deer. On the third day,
as they were wending their way leisurely down a wooded valley, the
sharp crack of a rifle was heard at no great distance. Reginald,
desiring to ascertain whether Indians or White men were hunting in
the neighbourhood, halted his party, and went forward, accompanied
by Baptiste, to endeavour, unperceived, to approach the person whose
shot they had heard. A smooth grassy glade facilitated their project,
and a slight column of smoke curling up from an adjoining thicket
served to guide them towards the spot. Ere they had advanced far, the
parting of the brushwood showed them that the object of their search
was approaching the place where they stood, and they had barely time to
conceal themselves in a bush of sumach, when the unknown hunter emerged
from the thicket, dragging after him a fine deer. He was a powerful man
of middling height, not very unlike Baptiste in dress and appearance,
but even more embrowned and weather–beaten than the trusty guide; he
seemed to be about fifty years of age, and the hair on his temples was
scant and grey; his countenance was strikingly expressive of boldness
and resolution, and his eye seemed as clear and bright as that of a
man in the early prime of life. Leaning his rifle against an adjoining
tree, he proceeded to handle and feel his quarry, to ascertain the
proportions of fat and meat; the examination seemed not unsatisfactory,
for when it was concluded he wiped the perspiration from his brow, and
with a complacent smile muttered half aloud, “Ah, ‘t ain’t every day
as a man can find a saddle like that in old Kentuck now—what with
their dogs, and girdlins, and clearins, and hog–feedings, and the
other devilments of the settlements, the deer’s all driven out of
the country, or if it ain’t driven out, they run all the fat off, so
that it’s only fit to feed one of your tradin’ town–bred fellows, who
wouldn’t know a prime buck from a Lancaster sheep!”

After this brief soliloquy, the veteran sportsman tucked up the sleeve
of his hunting–shirt, and proceeded to skin and cut up his quarry,
with a skill and despatch that showed him to be a perfect master of
his craft. Reginald and Baptiste had remained silent observers of his
proceedings, but the former inferred from the pleased twinkle of the
guide’s grey eyes, and the comic working of the muscles of his mouth,
that the solitary hunter was no stranger to him: touching Baptiste
lightly, he whispered, “I see that we have come across an acquaintance
of yours in this remote place.”

“That we have Master Reginald,” said the guide; “and you’d have known
him too, if you’d spent some of the years in Kentuck as you passed at
those colleges in the old country; but we’ll just step out and hail
him, for though he ain’t particular fond of company, he’s not the man
to turn his back on a friend to whom he has once given his hand.”

So saying he rose from his hiding–place, and coming out on the open
glade, before Reginald could inquire the stranger’s name, the guide
said aloud, “A prime buck, colonel; I see your hand’s as steady as
ever!”

At the first sound of a voice addressing him in his own language, a
shade of displeasure came across the hunter’s countenance; but as he
recognised the speaker it disappeared instantly, and he replied, “Ha!
Baptiste, my old friend, is that you? What chase are you on here?”

So saying, he grasped the horney hand of the guide with a heartiness
which proved that the latter was really welcome.

“Why, colonel, I’m out on a kind o’ mixed hunt this turn with this
young gentleman, whose father, Colonel Brandon, you’ve known many a
day. Master Reginald, I’m sure you’ll be glad to be acquainted with
Colonel Boone, howbeit you little expected to find him in this part of
the airth.”

At the mention of the stranger’s name, Reginald’s hand was raised
unconsciously to his cap, which he doffed respectfully as he said, “I
am indeed glad to meet the celebrated Daniel Boone, whose name is as
familiar to every western hunter as that of Washington or Franklin in
our cities.”

“My young friend,” said the colonel, laughing good–humouredly, “I am
heartily glad to see your father’s son, but you must not bring the ways
of the city into the woods, by flattering a rough old bear–hunter with
fine words.”

“Nay,” said Reginald, “there is no flattery, for Baptiste here has
spoken of you to me a hundred times, and has told me as often, that a
better hunter or a better man does not breathe. You seem to have known
him some time, and must therefore be able to judge whether he is of a
flattering sort or not.”

“Why, it wasn’t much his trade, I allow,” replied the colonel, “in old
times, when he and I hunted bear for three weeks together in the big
laurel thicket at Kentucky Forks. I believe, Baptiste, that axe at your
belt is the very one with which you killed the old she, who wasn’t
pleased because we shot down two of her cubs; she hadn’t manners enough
to give us time to load again: and when you split her skull handsomely,
she was playing a mighty unpleasant game with the stock of my rifle.
Ah, that was a reasonable quiet country in those days,” continued the
colonel: “we had no trouble, but a lively bit of a skrimmage, now and
then, with the Indians, until the Browns, and Frasers, and Micklehams,
and heaven knows how many more, came to settle in it; and what with
their infernal ploughs, and fences, and mills, the huntin’ was clean
spoilt. I stayed as long as I could, for I’d a kind o’ likin’ to it;
but at last I couldn’t go ten mile any way without comin’ to some
clearin’ or log–hut; so says I to myself, ‘colonel, the sooner you
clear out o’ this, the better you’ll be pleased.’”

“Well, colonel,” said the guide, “I heard you had moved away from the
Forks, and had gone further down west, but they never told me you had
crossed the big river.”

“I only came here last fall,” replied the colonel; “for I found, in
Kentucky, that as fast as I moved, the settlers and squatters followed;
so I thought I’d dodge ‘em once for all, and make for a country where
the deer and I could live comfortably together.”

“As we have thus accidentally fallen in with you,” said Reginald, “I
hope you will take a hunter’s meal with us before we part; our men and
baggage are not a mile from this spot, and Colonel Boone’s company will
be a pleasure to us all.”

The invitation was accepted as frankly as it was given.

Baptiste shouldered the colonel’s venison, and in a short time the
three rejoined Reginald’s party. Daniel Boone’s name alone was
sufficient in the west to ensure him a hearty welcome. Perrot’s
talents were put into immediate requisition, and ere long the game and
poultry of the prairie were roasting before a capital fire, while the
indefatigable Frenchman prepared the additional and unusual luxuries of
hot maize–cakes and coffee.

During the repast, Reginald learnt from Colonel Boone that various
parties of Indians had been lately hunting in the neighbourhood. He
described most of them as friendly, and willing to trade in meat or
skins for powder and lead; he believed them to belong to the Konsas,
a tribe once powerful, and resident on the river called by that name,
falling into the Missouri, about a hundred miles to the north–west of
the place where our party were now seated; but the tribe had been of
late reduced by the ravages of the small–pox, and by the incursions of
the Pawnees, a nation more numerous and warlike, whose villages were
situated a hundred miles higher up the same river.[23]

The colonel described the neighbourhood as abounding in elk, deer,
bear, and turkeys: but he said that the beaver and the buffalo were
already scarce, the great demand for their skins having caused them
to be hunted quite out of the region bordering on the settlements.
After spending a couple of hours agreeably with our party, the
veteran sportsman shouldered his trusty rifle, and wishing our hero
a successful hunt and shaking his old comrade Baptiste cordially by
the hand, walked off leisurely in a northerly direction, towards his
present abode; which was not, he said, so far distant but that he
should easily reach it before sundown.

As the last glimpse of his retiring figure was lost in the shades of
the forest, the guide uttered one of those grunts which he sometimes
unconsciously indulged. Reginald knew that on these occasions there was
something on his mind: and guessing that it referred to their departed
guest, he said,—

“Well, Baptiste, I am really glad to have seen Daniel Boone; and I can
truly say I am not disappointed; he seems to be just the sort of man
that I expected to see.”

“He is a sort,” said the guide, “that we don’t see every day, Master
Reginald. Perhaps he ain’t much of a talker; and he don’t use to
quarrel unless there’s a reason for ‘t; but if he’s once aggravated, or
if his friend’s in a scrape, he’s rather apt to be dangerous.”

“I doubt it not,” said Reginald; “there is a quiet look of resolution
about him; and, in a difficulty, I would rather have one such man with
me than two or three of your violent, noisy brawlers.”

As he said this his eye inadvertently rested upon the huge figure of
Mike Smith, who was seated at a little distance, lazily smoking his
pipe, and leaning against a log of fallen timber. The guide observed
the direction of Reginald’s eye, and guessed what was passing in his
mind. A grave smile stole for a moment over his features; but he made
no reply, and in a few minutes, the marching orders being issued, the
party resumed their journey.

On the following day they reached a point where the track branched
off in two directions; the broader, and more beaten, to the N. W.;
the other towards the S. W. The guide informed them that the former
led along by the few scattered settlements that were already made on
the southern side of the Missouri, towards the ferry and trading–post
near the mouth of the Konsas river; while the smaller, and less beaten
track, led towards the branch of Osage river, on which the united party
of Delawares and Osages, whom they sought, were encamped.

Having followed this track for fifty miles, they came to a spot well
known among hunters by the name of the Elk Flats, where the branch of
the Osage, called Grand River, is fordable. Here they crossed without
accident or difficulty, except that M. Perrot’s horse missed his
footing, and slipped into a deeper part of the stream. The horse swam
lustily, and soon reached the opposite bank; but the Frenchman had cast
himself off, and now grasped with both hands an old limb of a tree that
was imbedded near the middle of the river; he could just touch the
ground with his feet; but, being a bad swimmer, he was afraid to let go
his hold, for fear of being again swept away by the current, while his
rueful countenance, and his cries for assistance, provoked the mirth of
all the party.

After enjoying his valet’s alarm for a few minutes, Reginald, who had
already crossed, entered the river again with Nekimi, and approaching
Perrot, desired him to grasp the mane firmly in his hand, and leave the
rest to the animal’s sagacity, which instruction being obeyed, he was
safely brought ashore, and in a short time was laughing louder than the
rest at his own fright, and at the ludicrous predicament from which he
had been extricated.

The packages were all conveyed across without accident, and the party
found themselves encamped in what was then considered a part of the
Osage country. Here they were obliged to use greater vigilance in the
protection of their camp and of their horses during the night, as they
had not yet smoked the pipe with the chiefs, and were liable to an
attack from a party of warriors or horse–stealers.

The night passed, however, without any disturbance; and on the
following day at noon they reached a spot which Baptiste recognised
as a former camping–place of the Osages, and which he knew to be not
distant from their present village. Here his attention was suddenly
drawn to an adjoining maple, on the bark of which sundry marks were
rudely cut, and in a fork of the tree were three arrows, and as many
separate bunches of horsehair. He examined all these carefully, and
replaced them exactly as he found them; after which he informed
Reginald that three braves of the Osages had gone forward during the
past night on a war–excursion towards the Konsas, and all these marks
were left to inform their followers of their purpose, and the exact
path which they intended to pursue. He also advised Reginald to halt
his party here, while he went on himself with one of the men to the
village, it being contrary to the customs of Indian etiquette for a
great man to come among them unannounced.

Reginald adopted his counsel, and the sturdy guide, accompanied by one
of the coureurs des bois, set out upon his mission, the result of which
will appear in the following chapter.



CHAPTER XVIII.

REGINALD AND HIS PARTY REACH THE INDIAN ENCAMPMENT.


The guide and his companion pursued their way leisurely along a beaten
track, which led them through a well–timbered valley, watered by one of
the branches of Grand River, until it emerged upon a rising slope of
open prairie. Having gained its summit, they saw at a little distance
the Indian encampment stretched along the banks of a rivulet, which,
after curving round the base of the hill on which they now stood, found
its way to the line of heavy timber that marked the course of the main
river. They were soon hailed by a mounted Delaware scout, to whom
Baptiste explained the peaceful nature of his mission, and desired to
be shown into the presence of the principal chiefs.

As the guide walked through the scattered lodges of the Delawares, his
eye rested on more than one Indian to whom he was well known; but as
he was now acting in the capacity of ambassador, it was not consistent
with Indian usage that he should speak or be spoken to by others on
the way. So well did he know the habits of the people among whom he
now found himself, that when he arrived before the lodge of the Great
Chief, he passed by War–Eagle and Wingenund, who had come to its
entrance on the approach of a stranger, and giving them merely a silent
sign of recognition, took the place pointed out to him in the centre of
the lodge, by the side of the venerable man who was the head of this
emigrant band of the Lenapé; to whom, as the highest proof of their
respect and veneration, they had given the name of Tamenund[24], by
which alone he was now known throughout the nation.

The pipe of welcome having been presented, and been smoked for a few
minutes with becoming gravity, Baptiste opened to Tamenund the object
of his visit, and informed him that a white warrior and chief, already
known to some of the Delawares present, desired to eat, to smoke, and
to hunt with them for a season as a brother. To this Tamenund, who
had already been informed by War–Eagle of the character and conduct
of Reginald, as well as of his promised visit, replied with becoming
dignity and hospitality, that the young white chief should be welcome;
that his heart was known to be great among the Delawares, and that
both he and his people should be held as brothers; at the same time he
informed the guide, that as they were about to move their encampment
immediately to a more favourable spot, it might be better for the
white chief to join them on the following morning, when all should be
prepared for his reception.

The guide having acceded to this suggestion, rose to take his leave,
and retired with his companion from the village. Before they had gone a
mile on their return, they heard behind them the trampling of horses,
and Baptiste recognised War–Eagle and Wingenund approaching at full
speed, who greeted him cordially, and made many inquiries about Netis
and the Lily of Mooshanne.

Having acquired the desired information, it was agreed, that before
noon on the following day Reginald should come to the spot where they
were now conversing, and that War–Eagle should be there to escort and
accompany him to his first meeting with the Delaware and Osage chiefs.

These preliminaries being arranged, the Indians galloped back to the
village, and Baptiste returned without accident or interruption to
Reginald’s camp, where he gave an account of his mission and of the
arrangements for the morrow’s conference.

Early on the following morning they set forth towards the Indian
village. By Baptiste’s advice, Reginald attired himself more gaily
than usual; his hunting–shirt and leggins of elk–skin were ornamented
with fringes; the bugle slung across his shoulders was suspended by
a green cord adorned with tassels; on his head he wore a forage–cap,
encircled by a gold band; a brace of silver–mounted pistols were stuck
in his belt, and a German boar–knife hung at his side; he had allowed
Baptiste to ornament Nekimi’s bridle with beads after the Indian
fashion; and the noble animal pranced under his gallant rider, as if
conscious that he was expected to show his beauty and his mettle. The
dress and appearance of Reginald, though fanciful and strange, was
rendered striking by the grace and muscular vigour of his frame, as
well as by the open, fearless character of his countenance; and the
party of white men went gaily forward, confident in the favourable
impression which their young leader would make on their Indian allies.

When they reached the spot where Baptiste had, on the preceding day,
parted from War–Eagle, they descried two Indians sitting at the root
of an old maple–tree, as if awaiting their arrival: a single glance
enabled Reginald to recognise them, and springing from his horse, he
greeted War–Eagle and Wingenund with affectionate cordiality, and read
in the looks of both, though they spoke little, that he was heartily
welcome. When they had saluted Baptiste, Reginald introduced them
in form to the other members of his party, and, among the rest, to
Monsieur Perrot, who having as yet seen few Indians, and those of the
meanest class, was surprised at the noble and dignified appearance of
War–Eagle, to whom he doffed his cap with as much respect as if he had
been a field–marshal of France.

Having made a short halt, during which the pipe was passed round,
and some cakes of Indian corn and honey set before their guests, the
party again moved forward, under the guidance of War–Eagle. Leaving
the heavy timber in the valley, they ascended the opposite hill, where
a magnificent prospect opened upon their view; below them was an
undulating prairie of boundless extent, through the middle of which ran
a tributary branch of Grand River; behind them lay the verdant mass
of forest from which they had lately emerged; the plain in front was
dotted with the lodges of the Delawares and Osages, while scattered
groups of Indians, and grazing horses, gave life, animation, and
endless variety to the scene.

Halting for a moment on the brow of the hill, War–Eagle pointed out to
Reginald the lodge of his father Tamenund, distinguished above the rest
by its superior size and elevation, and at the same time showed him at
the other extremity of the encampment, a lodge of similar dimensions,
which he described as being that of the Osage chief.

“How is he called?” inquired Reginald.

“Mahéga,” replied the War–Eagle.

At the mention of this name, the guide uttered one of those peculiar
sounds, something between a whistle and a grunt, by which Reginald
knew that something was passing in his mind; but on this occasion,
without apparently noticing the interruption, he continued, addressing
War–Eagle, “Will Mahéga receive me too as a brother—is the Osage chief
a friend to the white men?”

“Mahéga is a warrior,” replied the Indian; “he hunts with the Lenapé,
and he must be a friend of their brother.”

Not only did this answer appear evasive, but there was also something
more than usually constrained in the tone and manner of War–Eagle,
which did not escape the observation of Reginald, and with the
straightforward openness of his character, he said, “War–Eagle, my
heart is open to you, and my tongue can be silent if required—speak to
me freely, and tell me if Mahéga is a friend or not; is he a brave or a
snake?”

War–Eagle, fixing his searching eye upon Reginald’s countenance,
replied, “Mahéga is a warrior—the scalps in his lodge are many—his
name is not a lie, but his heart is not that of a Lenapé—War–Eagle
will not speak of him:—Grande–Hâche knows him, and my brother’s eyes
will be open.”

Having thus spoken, the young chief added a few words in his own tongue
to Baptiste; and making a sign for Wingenund to follow, he galloped off
at speed towards the encampment.

Reginald, surprised, and somewhat inclined to be displeased by their
abrupt departure, turned to the guide, and inquired the cause of it,
and also the meaning of War–Eagle’s last words.

Baptiste, shaking his head significantly, replied in a low voice, “I
know Mahéga well—at least I have heard much of him; his name signifies
‘Red–hand,’ and, as the young chief says, it tells no lie, for he has
killed many: last year he attacked a war–party of the Outagamis[25]
near the Great River, and cut them off to a man; he himself killed
their chief and several of their warriors: they say he is the
strongest and the bravest man in the nation.”

“It seems to me,” said Reginald, “that War–Eagle and he are not very
good friends.”

“They are not,” replied Baptiste; “the young Delaware has evidently
some quarrel with him, and therefore would not speak of him—we shall
learn what it is before many days are over: meanwhile, Master Reginald,
say nothing to any others of the party on this subject, for they may
take alarm, or show suspicion; and if they do, your summer hunt may
chance to end in rougher play than we expect. I will keep my eye on
‘Red–hand,’ and will soon tell you what tree he’s making for.”

“Why did they gallop off so abruptly?” inquired Reginald.

“They are gone to rejoin the bands which are coming out to receive us
on our entrance,” replied the guide. “We must put our party in the best
array, and get the presents ready, for we have not many minutes to
spare.”

The event proved the correctness of his calculation; for they had
scarcely time to select from the packs those articles destined to
be presented to the chiefs at this interview, before they saw two
large bands of mounted Indians gallop towards them from the opposite
extremities of the encampment. As they drew near that which came
from the Delaware quarter, and was headed by War–Eagle in person,
they checked their speed, and approached slowly; while their leader,
advancing in front of the band, saluted Reginald and his party with
dignified courtesy. Meanwhile the body of Osages continued their career
with headlong speed, shouting, yelling, and going through all the
exciting manœuvres of a mock fight, after their wild fashion. Their
dress was more scanty and less ornamented than that of the Delawares;
but being tricked out with painted horsehair, porcupine quills, and
feathers, it bore altogether a more gay and picturesque appearance;
neither can it be denied that they were, in general, better horsemen
than their allies; and they seemed to delight in showing off their
equestrian skill, especially in galloping up to Reginald’s party at
the very top of their speed, and then either halting so suddenly as to
throw their horses quite back upon their haunches, or dividing off to
the right and to the left, and renewing their manœuvres in another
quarter with increased extravagance of noise and gesture.

Reginald having learned from Baptiste that this was their mode of
showing honour to guests on their arrival, awaited patiently the
termination of their manœuvres; and when at length they ceased, and
the Osage party reined their horses up by the side of the Delawares,
he went forward and shook hands with their leader, a warrior somewhat
older than War–Eagle, and of a fine martial appearance. As soon as he
found an opportunity, Reginald, turning to Wingenund, who was close
behind him, inquired, in English, if that Osage chief was Mahéga?

“No,” replied the youth, “that is a brave[26], called in their tongue
the Black–Wolf. Mahéga,” he added, with a peculiar smile, “is very
different.”

“How mean you, Wingenund?”

“Black–Wolf,” replied the youth, “is a warrior, and has no fear, but he
is not like Mahéga;—an antelope is not an elk!”

While this conversation was going on, the party entered the encampment,
and wound their way amongst its scattered lodges, towards that of
Tamenund, where, as the War–Eagle informed Reginald, a feast was
prepared for his reception, to which Mahéga and the other Osage leaders
were invited.

On arriving before the Great Lodge, Reginald and his companions
dismounted, and giving their horses to the youths in attendance, shook
hands in succession with the principal chiefs and braves of the two
nations. Reginald was much struck by the benevolent and dignified
countenance of the Delaware chief; but in spite of himself, and of a
preconceived dislike which he was inclined to entertain towards Mahéga,
or Red–hand, his eye rested on that haughty chieftain with mingled
surprise and admiration. He was nearly a head taller than those by
whom he was surrounded; and his limbs, though cast in an Herculean
mould, showed the symmetrical proportions which are so distinctive
of the North American Indians: his forehead was bold and high, his
nose aquiline, and his mouth broad, firm, and expressive of most
determined character; his eye was rather small, but bright and piercing
as a hawk’s; his hair had been all shaven from his head, with the
exception of the scalp–lock on the crown, which was painted scarlet,
and interwoven with a tuft of horsehair dyed of the same colour. Around
his muscular throat was suspended a collar formed from the claws of
the grisly bear, ornamented with party–coloured beads, entwined with
the delicate fur of the white ermine; his hunting–shirt and leggins
were of the finest antelope skin, and his mocassins were adorned with
beads and the stained quills of the porcupine. He leant carelessly on a
bow, which few men in the tribe could bend. At his back were slung his
arrows in a quiver made with wolf–skin, so disposed that the grinning
visage of the animal was seen above his shoulder; while a war–club and
scalping–knife, fastened to his belt, completed the formidable Mahéga’s
equipment.

As he glanced his eye over the party of white men, there was an
expression of scornful pride on his countenance, which the quick
temper of their youthful leader was ill–disposed to brook, had not
the prudent counsels of the guide prepared him for the exercise of
self–command. Nevertheless, as he turned from the Osage chief to the
bulky proportions of his gigantic follower, Mike Smith, he felt that
it was like comparing a lion with an ox; and that, in the event of a
quarrel between them, the rifle alone could render its issue doubtful.

The feast of welcome was now prepared in the lodge of Tamenund, which
was composed of bison–skins stretched upon poles, arranged in the form
of a horse–shoe, and covering an extent of ground apparently not less
than twenty yards in length. Reginald observed also several smaller
lodges immediately adjoining that of the chief, on one side, and on
the other a circular tent of wax–cloth, or painted canvasss, evidently
procured from white men, as it was of excellent texture, and its door,
or aperture, protected by double folds of the same material.

Whilst he was still looking at this comparatively civilised dwelling,
with some curiosity to know by whom it might be tenanted, the folds
of the opening were pushed aside, and an elderly man appeared, who,
after contemplating for a moment the newly–arrived group, came forward
to offer them a friendly salutation. He was apparently between fifty
and sixty; but his years were not easily guessed, for his snow–white
hair might seem to have numbered seventy winters; while from the
uprightness of his carriage, and the elasticity of his step, he
seemed scarcely past the vigour of middle life. In figure he was tall
and slight; his countenance, though tanned by long exposure to the
sun, was strikingly attractive, and his mild blue eye beamed with
an expression of benevolence not to be mistaken. His dress was a
black frock of serge, fastened at the waist by a girdle of the same
colour, from which was suspended a small bag, wherein he carried
the few simples and instruments requisite for his daily offices of
charity and kindness. Dark grey trowsers of the coarsest texture, and
mocassins of buffalo–hide, completed the dress of Paul Müller, already
mentioned by Wingenund to Reginald as the “Black Father:” under which
name, translated according to their various languages, the pious and
excellent missionary was known among the Delawares, Osages, Ioways,
Otoes, Konsas, and other tribes then inhabiting the regions lying
between the Missouri and the Arkansas.

Such was the man who now came forward to greet the newly–arrived party;
and such was the irresistible charm of his voice and manner, that from
the first Reginald felt himself constrained to love and respect him.

The feast being now ready, and Reginald having pointed out Baptiste
and Bearskin as his officers, or lieutenants, they were invited with
him to sit down in the lodge of Tamenund, with the principal chiefs
of the Delawares, the chief and Great Medicine–man[27] of the Osages,
and the Black Father. (Mike Smith and the other white men being
feasted by a brave in an adjoining lodge.) The pipe was lighted, and
having been passed twice round the party with silent gravity, the
Great Medicine–man made a speech, in which he praised the virtues and
hospitality of Tamenund, and paid many compliments to the white guests;
after which a substantial dinner was set before them, consisting of
roasted buffalo–ribs, venison, and boiled maize.

Reginald had never before been present at an Indian feast, and though
he had the appetite naturally belonging to his age and health, he soon
found that he was no match, as a trencherman, for those among whom
he was now placed; and before they had half finished their meal, he
replaced his knife in its sheath, and announced himself satisfied.

The old chief smiled good–humouredly, and said that he would soon
do better; whilst Mahéga, quietly commencing an attack upon a third
buffalo–rib, glanced at him with a look of contempt, that he was at no
pains to conceal, and which, as may well be imagined, increased our
hero’s dislike for the gigantic Osage.


END OF THE FIRST VOLUME.



SECOND VOLUME.



CHAPTER I.

REGINALD AND HIS PARTY AT THE INDIAN ENCAMPMENT.


While Reginald and his two companions were feasting with Tamenund, a
similar repast was laid before the rest of the party, in the lodge of
a brave named Maque–o–nah, or the “Bear–asleep,” at which Mike Smith
occupied the centre or principal seat, and next to him sat Monsieur
Perrot,—the latter personage being very curious to see the culinary
arrangements made for this, his first Indian banquet. He was horrified
at observing the carelessness with which they thrust half the side of a
buffalo to the edge of a huge fire of undried wood, leaving a portion
of the meat to be singed and burnt, while other parts were scarcely
exposed to the heat: he could not refrain from expressing to one of
the Canadian coureurs des bois, in his own language, his contempt
and pity for the ignorant savages who thus presumed to desecrate a
noble science, which ranked higher, in his estimation, than poetry,
painting, or sculpture: but he was warned that he must be very careful
neither to reject nor show any distaste for the food set before him,
as by so doing he would give mortal offence to his entertainers. It
was ludicrous in the extreme to watch the poor Frenchman’s attempts at
imparting to his features a smile of satisfaction, when a wooden bowl
was placed before him, filled with half–boiled maize, and beside it one
of the buffalo–ribs, evidently less favoured by the fire, as it was
scarcely warmed through, and was tough and stringy as shoe–leather.
After bestowing upon sundry portions of it many fruitless attempts
at mastication, he contrived, unperceived, to slip what remained of
the meat into the pocket of his jacket, and then laughed with great
self–satisfaction at the trick he had played his uncivilised hosts.

When the feast was concluded in Tamenund’s lodge, Reginald desired
his men to unpack one of the bales, which he pointed out, and to
spread its contents before him; the savages gathered round the
coveted and glittering objects with eager but silent astonishment,
while he separated the presents which, by the advice of Baptiste,
were now distributed among their chiefs; to Tamenund he apportioned
a large blanket of scarlet cloth, a silver–mounted pistol, and a
basket containing mirrors, beads, and trinkets, for his wives and
daughters; to Mahéga, a bridle ornamented with beads, several pounds
of tobacco, powder, and lead, a fowling–piece, and a blanket of blue
woollen–stuff. The features of the Osage chief relaxed into a grim
smile of satisfaction as he received these valuable gifts; and he so
far overcame the repulsive sternness of his usual character as to seize
Reginald’s hand, and to tell him that he was a great chief, and good to
his Indian brothers. The other presents having been distributed among
the chiefs and braves, according to their rank, the feast was broken
up, and they retired to their respective lodges; Reginald, Baptiste,
and M. Perrot being accommodated in that of Tamenund’s himself, and
Bearskin, with the rest of the white men’s party, in those lodges which
have before been mentioned as being contiguous to that of the old chief.

During the first night that he spent in his new quarters, the
excitement and novelty of the scene banished sleep from the eyes of
Reginald; and, finding himself restless, he arose half an hour before
daybreak, to enjoy the early freshness of the morning. Throwing his
rifle over his arm, he was about to leave the lodge, when Baptiste
touched him, and inquired, in a low voice, if he were prepared with
a reply in case of being challenged by any of the scouts around the
encampment; with some shame he confessed he had forgotten it; and the
guide then instructed him, if he were challenged, to say “_Lenapé
n’a ki Netis_,” or “I am Netis, the friend of the Delawares.” Being
thus prepared, and carrying with him the few articles requisite for a
Prairie toilet, he stepped out into the open air. Close by the opening
of the lodge, he saw a tall figure stretched on the grass, enveloped
in a buffalo robe, the hairy fell of which was silvered with the heavy
night–dew: it was War–Eagle, who rarely slept in lodge or tent, and
whose quick eye, though he neither moved nor spoke, discerned his white
brother in a moment, although the latter could not recognise his friend.

Reginald pursued his way through the encampment to its extremity, where
the streamlet before mentioned wound its course among the dells and
hillocks of the Prairie, until it reached the larger river that flowed
through the distant forest. After following the banks of the stream for
one or two miles, the red streaks in the eastern horizon gave notice of
day’s approach, and observing near him a hill, somewhat more elevated
than those by which it was surrounded, Reginald climbed to its top, in
order to witness the effect of sunrise on that wild and picturesque
scene.

To the westward, the undulations of the Prairie, wrapped in heavy folds
of mist, rose in confused heaps, like the waves of a boundless ocean:
to the south he could just distinguish the lodges and the smouldering
fires of the encampment, whence, at intervals, there fell upon his ear
mingled and indistinct sounds, disagreeable perhaps in themselves, but
rendered harmonious by distance, and by their unison with the wildness
of the surrounding objects; while to the eastward lay a dense and
gloomy range of woods, over the summits of whose foliage the dawning
sun was shedding a stream of golden light.

Reginald gazed upon the scene with wonder and delight; and every moment
while he gazed called into existence richer and more varied beauties.
The mists and exhalations rising from the plain curled themselves into
a thousand fantastic shapes around the points and projections of the
hills, where they seemed to hang like mantles which the earth had cast
from her bosom, as being rendered unnecessary by the appearance of the
day; swarms of children and of dusky figures began to emerge from the
encampment, and troops of horses to crop the pasture on the distant
hills; while the splendour of the sun, now risen in its full glory,
lit up with a thousand varying hues the eastern expanse of boundless
forest. Reginald’s heart was not insensible to the impressions
naturally excited by such a scene; and while he admired its variegated
beauties, his thoughts were raised in adoration to that almighty and
beneficent Being, whose temple is the earth, and whose are the “cattle
upon a thousand hills.”

Having made his way again to the banks of the stream, and found a spot
sheltered by alder and poplar trees, he bathed and made his morning
toilet; after which he returned towards the encampment, his body
refreshed by his bathe, and his mind attuned to high and inspiring
thoughts by the meditation in which he had been engaged. As he strolled
leisurely along, he observed a spot where the trees were larger, and
the shade apparently more dense than the other portions of the valley;
and, being anxious to make himself acquainted with all the localities
in the neighbourhood of his new home, he followed a small beaten path,
which, after sundry windings among the alders, brought him to an open
space screened on three sides by the bushes, and bounded on the fourth
by the stream. Reginald cast his eyes around this pleasant and secluded
spot, until they rested upon an object that riveted them irresistibly.
It was a female figure seated at the root of an ancient poplar, over
a low branch of which one arm was carelessly thrown, while with the
other she held a book, which she was reading with such fixed attention
as to be altogether unconscious of Reginald’s approach. Her complexion
was dark, but clear and delicate, and the rich brown hair which fell
over her neck and shoulders, still damp and glossy from her morning
ablutions, was parted on her forehead by a wreath of wild flowers
twined from amongst those which grew around the spot: the contour of
her figure, and her unstudied attitude of repose, realised the classic
dreams of Nymph and Nereid, while her countenance wore an expression of
angelic loveliness, such as Reginald had never seen or imagined.

He gazed—and gazing on those sweet features, he saw the red full lips
move unconsciously, while they followed the subject that absorbed
her attention; and forgetful that he was intruding on retirement, he
waited, entranced, until those downcast eyes should be raised. At
length she looked up, and seeing the figure of a man within a few
paces of her, she sprang to her feet with the lightness of a startled
antelope; and darting on him a look of mingled surprise and reproof,
suppressed the exclamation of alarm that rose to her lips. Reginald
would fain have addressed the lovely being before him—he would fain
have excused his unintended intrusion; but the words died upon his
lips, and it was almost mechanically that he doffed his hunting–cap,
and stood silent and uncovered before her! Recovering from the
momentary confusion, she advanced a step towards him, and with an
ingenuous blush held out her hand, saying in a gentle tone of inquiry,
and with the purest accent, “Netis, my brother’s friend?”

“The same, fair creature,” replied Reginald, whose wonder and
admiration were still more excited by the untaught grace and dignity
of her manner, as well as by hearing his own tongue so sweetly
pronounced; “but, in the name of Heaven, who—what—whence can you be?”
Blushing more deeply at the animation and eagerness of his manner,
she was for a moment silent; when he continued, striking his hand on
his forehead:—“Oh, I have it, fool, tortoise, that I was. You are
‘Prairie–bird,’ the sister of whom Wingenund has told me so much.”
Then, gently pressing the little hand which he had taken, he added,
“Dear Wingenund! he saved my life; his sister will not consider me a
stranger?”

Again a warmer blush mantled on the cheek of Prairie–bird, as she
replied, “You are no stranger: you speak of Wingenund’s good deed: you
are silent about your own! You drew War–Eagle from the deep and swift
waters. I have heard it all, and have often wished to see you and
thank you myself.” There was a modest simplicity in her manner, as she
uttered these few words that confirmed the impression made on Reginald
by the first glimpse of her lovely form and features; but beyond this
there was something in the tone of her voice that found its way direct
to his heart; it fell upon his ear like an old familiar strain of
music, and he felt unwilling to break the silence that followed its
closing accents.

It is not our province, in a simple narrative of this kind, to discuss
the oft–disputed question, whether love at first sight deserves the
name of love; whether it is merely a passing emotion, which, though
apparently strong, a brief lapse of time may efface; or, whether there
be really secret irresistible natural impulses, by which two human
beings, who meet together for the first time, feel as if they had known
and loved each other for years, and as if the early cherished visions
of fancy, the aspirations of hope, the creations of imagination, the
secret, undefined longings of the heart, were all at once embodied
and realised.[28] We are inclined to believe that, although not
frequent, instances sometimes occur of this instinctive sympathy and
attraction, and that, when they do so, the tree of affection (like the
fabled palm at the touch of the genius’ wand) starts into immediate
luxuriance of flower and foliage, striking its tenacious roots far into
the kindly soil, destined thenceforward to become the nurture of its
verdant youth, the support of its mature strength, and at length the
resting–place of its leafless and time–stricken decay.

Such seemed to be the case with Reginald and Prairie–bird; for, as they
looked one at the other, each was unconsciously occupied with teeming
thoughts that neither could define nor express, and both felt relieved
at hearing approaching footsteps and the voice of the Black Father, who
called out in English,

“Come, my child, I have allowed you full time this morning; we will
return to the camp.” As he spoke his eye fell upon Reginald, and he
added, courteously, “You have been early abroad, young sir.”

“I have,” replied Reginald. “I went to the top of yonder heights to see
the sun rise, and was amply repaid by the beauty of the scene: on my
return, I wandered accidentally into this secluded spot, and trust that
my intrusion has been forgiven.”

“I believe that my dear child and pupil would forgive a greater offence
than that, in one who has shown so much kindness to her brothers,”
replied the missionary, smiling: and he added, in a low voice,
addressing the Prairie–bird in his own language, “Indeed, my child, I
think he deserves our friendly welcome; for, unless his countenance
strongly belies his character, it expresses all those good qualities
which Wingenund taught us to expect.”

“Stay, sir,” and Reginald, colouring highly; “let me not participate,
without your knowledge, in your communications to Prairie–bird. I have
travelled much in Germany, and the language is familiar to me.”

“Then, my young friend,” said Paul Müller, taking his hand kindly, “you
have only learnt, from what I said, how hard a task you will have to
fulfil the expectations that Wingenund has led us to entertain.”

“I can promise nothing,” replied Reginald, glancing towards the maiden,
“but a true tongue, a ready hand, and an honest heart; if these can
serve my friend’s sister, methinks she may expect them without being
disappointed.”

The words in themselves were nothing remarkable, but there was an
earnest feeling in the tone in which they were spoken that made
Prairie–bird’s heart beat quicker: she answered him by a look, but
said nothing. Wonderful is the expression, the magic eloquence of
the human eye; and yet how is its power tenfold increased when the
rays of its glance pass through the atmosphere even of dawning love.
Reginald longed to know whence and who she could be, this child of the
wilderness, who had so suddenly, so irresistibly, engaged his feelings;
above all, he longed to learn whether her heart and affections were
free; and that single look, translated by the sanguine self–partiality
of love, made him internally exclaim, “Her heart is not another’s!”
Whether his conjecture proved correct the after–course of this tale
will show: meanwhile we cannot forbear our admiration at the marvellous
rapidity with which our hero, at his first interview with Prairie–bird,
settled this point to his own satisfaction. The little party now
strolled towards the camp; and as they went, Reginald, seeing that
Prairie–bird still held in her hand the book that he had seen her
peruse with so much attention, said,

“May I inquire the subject of your studies this morning?”

“Certainly,” she replied, with grave and sweet simplicity; “it is the
subject of my study every morning: the book was given me by my dear
father and instructor now by my side. I have much to thank him for; all
I know, all I enjoy, almost all I feel, but most of all for this book,
which he has taught me to love, and in some degree to understand.”

As she spoke she placed in Reginald’s hand a small copy of Luther’s
translation of the Bible. In the fly–leaf before the title–page was
written, “Given to Prairie–bird by her loving father and instructor,
Paul Müller.” Reginald read this inscription half aloud, repeating
to himself the words “Müller,” “father;” and coupling them with the
strange enigmas formerly uttered by Wingenund respecting the origin of
Prairie–bird, he was lost in conjecture as to their meaning.

“I see your difficulty,” said the missionary, “you do not understand
how she can call Wingenund and War–Eagle brothers, and me father. In
truth, she has from her earliest childhood been brought up by Tamenund
as his daughter, and as I reside chiefly with this Delaware band, I
have made it my constant occupation and pleasure to give her such
instruction as my humble means admit; she has been entrusted to us by
the mysterious decrees of Providence; and though the blood of neither
flows in her veins, Tamenund and I have, according to our respective
offices, used our best endeavours to supply the place of natural
parents.”

“Dear, dear father,” said Prairie–bird, pressing his hand to her
lips, and looking up in his face with tearful eyes, “you are and have
been every thing to me,—instructor, comforter, guide, and father! My
Indian father, too, and my brothers, are all kind and loving to me. I
have read in the books that you have lent me many tales and histories
of unkindness and hatred between parents and children, among nations
enlightened and civilised. I have had every wish gratified before
expressed, and every comfort provided. What could a father do for a
child that you have not done for me?”

As she spoke she looked up in the missionary’s face with a countenance
so beaming with full affection, that the old man pressed her in his
arms, and kissing her forehead, muttered over her a blessing that he
was too much moved to pronounce aloud; after a pause of a few minutes,
he said to Reginald, with his usual benevolent smile, “We only know
you yet by your Indian name of ‘Netis’—how are you called in the
States? We inquired of War–Eagle and Wingenund, but they either did not
remember, or could not pronounce your name?”

“Reginald Brandon,” replied our hero.

Prairie–bird started, and abruptly said, “Again, again; say it once
more?”

Reginald repeated it, and she pronounced the first name slowly after
him, pressing her hand upon her forehead, and with her eye fixed on
vacancy, while broken exclamations came from his lips.

“What are you thinking of, dear child?” said the missionary, somewhat
surprised and alarmed by her manner.

“Nothing, dear father,” she replied, with a faint smile; “it was a
dream, a strange dream, which that name recalled, and confused my
head: we are now close to the camp, I will go in and rest awhile;
perhaps you may like to talk more with Ne—I mean,” she added,
hesitating, “with Reginald.” So saying, and saluting them with that
natural grace which belonged to all her movements, she withdrew towards
the camp, and Reginald’s eyes followed her retreating figure until it
was lost behind the canvasss folds that protected the opening to her
tent.



CHAPTER II.

REGINALD HOLDS A CONVERSATION WITH THE MISSIONARY.


Reginald still kept his eyes on the opening through which Prairie–bird
had disappeared into the tent, as though they could have pierced
through the canvasss that concealed from his view its lovely
inhabitant: his feelings were in a state of confusion and excitement,
altogether new to him; for if, in his European travels, he had paid
a passing tribute of admiration to the beauties who had crossed his
path, and whom his remarkable personal advantages had rendered by no
means insensible to his homage, the surface only of his heart had
been touched; whereas now its deepest fountains were stirred, and the
troubled waters gushed forth with overwhelming force.

He was recalled to himself by the voice of the missionary, who, without
appearing to notice his abstraction, said, “My son, if you choose
that we should prolong our walk, I am ready to accompany you.” If the
truth must be told, Reginald could at that moment scarcely endure
the presence of any human being: he felt an impulse to rush into the
woods, or over the plain, and to pour forth in solitude the torrent
of feelings by which he was oppressed; but he controlled himself, not
only because he really felt a respect for the good missionary, but also
because he hoped through him to obtain some information respecting
the extraordinary being who had taken such sudden possession of his
thoughts: he replied, therefore, that he would willingly accompany him,
and they took their way together along the banks of the streamlet,
alternately observing on the scenery and surrounding objects.

This desultory conversation did not long suit the eager and
straightforward character of Reginald Brandon; and he changed it by
abruptly inquiring of his companion, whether he knew any thing of the
history and parentage of Prairie–bird.

“Not much,” replied Paul Müller, smiling; “she was with this band of
Delawares when I first came to reside among them: if any one knows her
history, it must be Tamenund; but he keeps it a profound secret, and
gives out among the tribe that she was sent to him by the Great Spirit,
and that as long as she remains with the band they will be successful
in hunting and in war.”

“But how,” inquired Reginald, “can he make such a tale pass current
among a people who are well known to consider the female sex in so
inferior and degraded a light?”

“He has effected it,” replied the missionary, “partly by accident,
partly by her extraordinary beauty and endowments, and partly, I must
own, by my assistance, which I have given because I thereby ensured to
her the kindest and most respectful treatment, and also endeavoured,
under God’s blessing, to make her instrumental in sowing the seed of
His truth among these benighted savages.”

“Let me understand this more in detail,” said Reginald, “if the
narration does not trouble you.”

“Her first appearance among the Delawares, as they have told me,” said
the missionary, was as follows:—“Their prophet, or Great Medicine–man,
dreamt that under a certain tree was deposited a treasure, that should
enrich the tribe and render them fortunate: a party was sent by order
of the chief to search the spot indicated; and on their arrival they
found a female child wrapped in a covering of beaver–skin, and reposing
on a couch of turkey–feathers: these creatures being supposed to
preside peculiarly over the fate of the Delawares, they brought back
the child with great ceremony to the village, where they placed her
under the care of the chief; set apart a tent or lodge for her own
peculiar use; and ever since that time have continued to take every
care of her comfort and safety.”

“I suppose,” interrupted Reginald, “the dream of the Great Medicine,
and all its accompaniments, were secretly arranged between him and the
chief?”

“Probably they were,” replied Paul; “but you must beware how you say as
much to any Delaware: if you did not risk your life, you would give
mortal offence. After all, an imposition that has resulted in harm to
no one, and in so much good to an interesting and unprotected creature,
may be forgiven.”

“Indeed I will not gainsay it,” replied our hero: “pray continue your
narrative.”

“My sacred office, and the kindly feelings entertained towards me by
these Indians, gave me frequent opportunities of seeing and conversing
with Olitipa, or the ‘Prairie–bird;’ and I found in her such an
amiable disposition, and so quick an apprehension, that I gave my best
attention to the cultivation of talents which might, I hoped, some day
produce a harvest of usefulness. In reading, writing, and in music, she
needed but little instruction. I furnished her from time to time with
books, and paper, and pencils: an old Spanish guitar, probably taken
from some of the dwellings of that people in Missouri, enabled her to
practise simple melodies; and you would be surprised at the sweetness
with which she now sings words, strung together by herself in English
and German, and also in the Delaware tongue, adapting them to wild
airs, either such as she hears among the Indians, or invents herself.
I took especial pains to instruct her in the practical elements of a
science that my long residence among the different tribes has rendered
necessary and familiar to me,—I mean that of medicine, as connected
with the rude botany of the woods and prairies; and so well has she
profited by my instruction, and by her own persevering researches, that
there is scarcely a tree, or gum, or herb, possessing any sanatory
properties, which she does not know and apply to the relief of those
around her.”

“Indeed,” said Reginald, laughing; “I had not expected to find this
last among the accomplishments of Prairie–bird.”

“You were mistaken then,” replied Paul Müller; “nay more, I fear that,
in your estimate of what are usually termed female accomplishments, you
have been accustomed to lay too much stress on those which are light
or trifling, and too little on those which are useful and properly
feminine: even in settled and civilised countries the most grievous
fevers and ailments to which we are subject require the ministration of
a female nurse; can it be then unreasonable that we should endeavour to
mingle in their education some knowledge of the remedies which they may
be called upon to administer, and of the bodily ills which it is to be
their province to alleviate?”

“You are right,” answered Reginald, modestly; “and I entreat your
pardon for the hasty levity with which I spoke on the subject. I am
well aware that, in olden times, no young woman’s education was held
to be complete without some knowledge both of the culinary and healing
arts; and I much doubt whether society has not suffered from their
having altogether abandoned the cultivation of these in favour of
singing, dancing, and reading of the lightest kind.”

“It is the character of the artificial state to which society is fast
verging,” replied Paul, “to prefer accomplishments to qualities,
ornament to usefulness, luxury to comfort, tinsel to gold: setting
aside the consideration of a future state, this system might be well
enough, if the drawing–room, the theatre, and the ball were the sum of
human life; but it is ill calculated to render man dignified in his
character, and useful to his fellow–creatures, or woman what she ought
to be,—the comfort, the solace, the ornament of home.”

“These observations may be true as regards England or France,” replied
Reginald; “but you surely would not apply them to our country?”

“To a certain extent, I do,” answered the missionary. “I have been now
thirty years on this continent, and have observed that, as colonists,
the Americans have been very faithful imitators of these defects in
their mother country; I am not sure that they will be rendered less so
by their political emancipation.”

The conversation was now straying rather too far from the subject to
which Reginald desired to confine it: waving, therefore, all reply
to the missionary’s last observation, he said, “If I understood you
aright, there were, beyond these studies and accomplishments of
Prairie–bird, some other means employed by you, to give and preserve to
her the extraordinary influence which you say that she possesses over
the Indians.”

“There were,” replied Paul Müller: “amongst others, I enabled her
to vaccinate most of the children in this band, by which means they
escaped the fatal effects of a disorder that has committed dreadful
ravages among the surrounding tribes: and I have instructed her in some
of the elementary calculations of astronomy; owing to which they look
upon her as a superior being, commissioned by the Great Spirit to live
among them, and to do them good: thus her person is safe, and her tent
as sacred from intrusion as the Great Medicine Lodge. I am allowed to
occupy a compartment in it, where I keep our little stores of books and
medicines; and she goes about the camp on her errands of benevolence,
followed by the attachment and veneration of all classes and ages!”

“Happy existence!” exclaimed Reginald; “and yet,” added he, musing,
“she cannot, surely, be doomed through life to waste such sweetness on
an air so desert!”

“I know not,” answered the missionary. “God’s purposes are mysterious,
and the instruments that he chooses for effecting them, various as the
flowers on the prairie. Many an Indian warrior has that sweet child
turned from the path of blood,—more than one uplifted tomahawk has
fallen harmless at the voice of her entreaty; nay, I have reason to
hope, that in Wingenund, and in several others of the tribe, she has
partially uprooted the weeds of hatred and revenge; and sown in their
stead the seeds of gospel truth. Surely, Reginald Brandon, you would
not call such an existence wasted?”

“That would I not, indeed,” replied the young man, with emphasis. “It
is an angel’s office!” he added, inaudibly, “and it is performed by an
angel!”

Although he could have talked or listened on the subject of the
Prairie–bird for hours together, Reginald began already to feel that
sensitive reserve respecting the mention of her name to another which
always accompanies even the earliest dawnings of love; and he turned
the conversation by inquiring of the venerable missionary, whether he
would kindly communicate something of his own history; and explain how
he had come from so remote a distance to pass the evening of life among
the Indians.

“The tale is very brief, and the motives very simple. I was born in
Germany, and having early embraced the tenets of the United Brethren,
of whom you have probably heard in that country under the name of
‘Herrn–Hüter,’ I received a pressing invitation from Heckewelder,
then in England, to join him in his projected missionary journey to
North America. I gladly accepted the offer, and after a short stay in
London, embarked with that learned and amiable man,—who soon became
what he now is, the nearest and dearest friend I have on earth;—and
I placed myself under his guidance in the prosecution of the grand
objects of our undertaking, which were these—to endeavour to convert
the Indian nations to Christianity, not, as the Spaniards had pretended
to attempt, by fire, and sword, and violence; but by going unarmed
and peaceably among them, studying their languages, characters, and
history; and while showing in our own persons an example of piety and
self–denial, to eradicate patiently the more noxious plants from their
moral constitution, and to mould such as were good and wholesome to
the purposes of religious truth. God be praised, our labours have not
been altogether without effect; but I blush for my white brethren when
I confess that the greatest obstacle to our success has been found in
the vices, the open profligacy, the violence, and the cruelty of those
who have called themselves Christians. Heckewalder has confined his
exertions chiefly to the Indians remaining in Pennsylvania and the
Western territory; mine have been mostly employed among the wandering
and wilder tribes who inhabit this remote and boundless region.”

“I have often heard your pious friend’s name,” said Reginald; “he
enjoys the reputation of being the most eminent Indian linguist in our
country, and he is supposed to know the Delaware language as well as
his own.”

“He is indeed,” said Paul, “the most skilful and successful labourer
in this rude but not unfruitful vineyard. Now and then, at remote
intervals, I contrive, by means of some returning hunter or Indian
agent, to communicate with him, and his letters always afford me matter
of consolation and encouragement; though I was much cast down when he
announced to me the cruel and wanton massacre of his Indian flock near
the banks of the Ohio.”

“I have heard of it,” replied Reginald; “I regret to say that the
outrage was committed not very far from the spot where my father lives.”

“Do you live in that neighbourhood?” exclaimed the missionary, suddenly
catching his arm; “then you may, perhaps,—but no, it cannot be,” he
muttered to himself; “this youth can know nothing of it—“

“My honoured friend,” replied Reginald, colouring at the idea suggested
by the words which he had overheard, “I trust you do not believe that
my father, or any of my kindred, had a share in those atrocities!”

“You misunderstood me altogether, I assure you,” answered the
missionary; “my exclamation had reference to another subject. But I
see War–Eagle coming this way; probably he is bent upon some hunting
excursion, in which you may wish to be his companion.”

“I shall gladly do so,” replied Reginald, “as soon as I have
breakfasted: my faithful follower, Perrot, desired very much that I
should taste some collops of venison, which he said that he could dress
in a style somewhat superior to that of the Indian cookery. Will you
share them with me?”

The missionary excused himself, as he had already taken his morning
meal, and was about to return to the tent of Prairie–bird.

Reginald assured the good man of the pleasure which he had found in his
conversation, and expressed a hope that he would be enabled soon to
enjoy it again, as there was much information respecting the habits,
religion, and character of the different Indian tribes which he felt
anxious to acquire, and which none could be better able to communicate.

“Whatever instruction or information I may have collected during my
residence among them, is freely at your service,” replied Paul Müller;
“and if you find yourself in any difficulty or embarrassment where my
advice can be of use, you may always command it. You know,” he added,
smiling, “they consider me Great Medicine, and thus I am able to say
and do many things among them which would not be permitted in another
white man.” So saying, he shook hands with Reginald, and returned
slowly towards the encampment.

War–Eagle now came up, and greeting his friend with his usual
cordiality, inquired whether he would accompany him in the chase of
the elk, herds of which had been seen at no great distance. Reginald
acceded to the proposal; and, having hastily dispatched the collops
prepared by Perrot, the two friends left the village on foot, and took
their way towards the timber in the valley.

The day was hot, and the speed at which the agile Indian unconsciously
strode along, would have soon discomfited a less active pedestrian than
Reginald; but having been well seasoned in his hunting excursions with
Baptiste, he found no difficulty in keeping pace with his friend; and
he amused himself, as they went, by asking him a variety of questions
respecting the country, the tribe, and its language, to all of which
War–Eagle replied with much intelligence and candour.

As Reginald had not seen Wingenund, he asked his companion how it
happened that the youth did not accompany them. “He is gone,” replied
War–Eagle, “to bring turkeys to the camp.”

“Does he shoot them?” inquired Reginald.

“No, he takes them—my white brother shall see; it is not far from the
Elk Path.”

When they reached the wooded bottom, War–Eagle struck into a small
track which seemed to have been made by a streamlet in spring, and
having followed it for about a mile, they came to a more open woodland
scene, where the Indian pointed, as they passed along, to scattered
feathers, and foot–tracks of turkeys in abundance. They had not
proceeded far, when he uttered a low exclamation of surprise as he
discovered Wingenund stretched at the foot of a tree, with his eyes
busily fixed upon something which he held in his hand, and which so
riveted his attention that he was not aware of their approach. Beside
him lay two old and two young turkeys, which he had caught and killed:
the friends had not looked at him many seconds, before he raised his
eyes and perceived them: starting to his feet, he made an ineffectual
attempt to conceal that which he had been holding in his hand, which
was, in fact, a sheet of coarse white paper. Reginald drew near and
said to him, “Come, Wingenund, you must show Netis what you hold in
your hand: I am sure it is no harm; and if it is a secret, I will keep
it.”

Wingenund, in some confusion, handed the scroll to Reginald, who saw at
the first glance that it was a fragment of an elementary vocabulary of
Delaware and English words, written in a free bold character: he ran
his eye over the paper, which contained chiefly phrases of the most
simple kind, such as, “_N’menne_, I drink,” “_N’ani pa wi_, I stand,”
“_Tokelân_, it rains,” “_Loo_, true,” “_Yuni_, this,” “_Na–ni_, that,”
&c. &c., and a smile came over his features when his eye met his own
name, “Netis,” with its translation, “dear friend.” Below this he
read, “N’quti,” “Nisha,” “Nacha,” “Newo,” and a succession of single
words, which he rightly conjectured to be numerals, 1, 2, 3, 4, &c.,
and at the bottom of the page was a long sentence in the Lenapé tongue,
which began as follows:—“_Ki wetochemelenk talli epian awassagame_,
&c.”—“What is this last sentence, Wingenund?” inquired Reginald.

“It is the prayer,” replied the youth, “that the Good Spirit taught the
white men to say, when he came to live among them.”

“And who wrote all these words for you?”

“Prairie–bird wrote them, and every day she teaches me to understand
the marks on the paper.”

Reginald’s eyes strayed unconsciously to that part of the sheet where
he had seen his own name written by the Prairie–bird’s hand. “Happy
boy!” he mentally ejaculated, “to sit at her feet, and draw instruction
from her lips!”—“With such a teacher, methinks I could learn the
Lenapé tongue in a month!—What says my brother?” continued he aloud,
addressing War–Eagle, whose fine countenance wore an expression of
indifference, almost amounting to contempt. “What says my brother of
this paper?”

“It is perhaps good,” replied the Indian gravely, “for the Black
Father, and for the white man—but not for the Lenapé. The Great Spirit
has given him a heart to feel, and a hand to fight, and eyes to see the
smallest track on the grass—that is enough. Our fathers knew no more,
and they were great, and strong, and brave!—chiefs among the nations!
What are we now? Few, and weak, and wandering. It is better for us
to live and die like them, and we shall hunt with them in the happy
fields.—Let us go and show Netis where Wingenund takes the turkeys.”
So saying, he turned and led the way, followed by his two companions.



CHAPTER III.

AN ARRIVAL AT MOOSHANNE.—A CALM ASHORE AFTER A STORM AT SEA.


While the events, narrated in the preceding chapter, were occurring
in the Western wilderness, the family at Mooshanne had been thrown
into a state of the greatest dismay and confusion, by the arrival of
Captain L’Estrange’s first letter announcing the flight of Ethelston
with his daughter, and depicting his conduct in the blackest colours.
Colonel Brandon had perused its contents half a dozen times, and they
had produced traces of anxiety upon his countenance, too evident to
escape the observation of Lucy, so that he was obliged to break to her
by degrees the painful intelligence of her lover’s infidelity: with a
calmness that surprised him, she insisted on reading the letter; as she
proceeded her brow crimsoned with indignation, and those blue eyes,
usually beaming with the gentlest expression, flashed with an angry
lustre.

Colonel Brandon knew full well the affection she had long conceived
for Ethelston, and though his own feelings were deeply wounded by
the misconduct of one whom he had loved and trusted as a son, they
were at present overpowered by the fears which he entertained of the
effect which this unexpected blow might produce on Lucy’s health
and happiness. He was, therefore, relieved by observing the anger
expressed on her countenance, and prepared himself to hear the deserved
reproaches on her former lover, which seemed ready to burst from her
tongue. What was his surprise when he saw her tear the letter in pieces
before his face, and heard her, while she set her pretty little foot
upon them, exclaim,

“Dear, dear father, how could you for a moment believe such a tale of
vile, atrocious falsehood?”

However disinclined the Colonel might be to believe any thing to the
disadvantage of Ethelston, there was so much circumstantial evidence
to condemn him, that he felt it his duty to prepare his child for the
worst at once, and to point out to her how they already knew that
Ethelston had been wounded and conveyed to the house of L’Estrange,
that his long absence was unexplained, and lastly that the character
of the French commodore, as an officer, and a man of honour, was
unimpeached.

Lucy heard him to the end; the glow on her cheek assumed a warmer hue,
and the little foot beat with a nervous and scarcely perceptible motion
on the floor, as she replied, “Father I will believe that the letter is
a forgery, or that the French officer, or commodore, or admiral, is a
madman, but never that Ethelston is a villain.”

“My dear Lucy,” said the Colonel, “I am almost as unwilling to think
ill of Ethelston as you can be yourself; but alas! I have seen more
than you of the inconstancy of men; and I know, too well, that many who
have enjoyed a good reputation have yet been found unable to withstand
temptation, such as may have beset Ethelston while an inmate of the
same house with the Creole beauty—“

“Dear father,” answered Lucy, colouring yet more deeply; “though it
were possible that Ethelston, in the presence of greater attractions,
may have yielded to them his affections, and withdrawn them from one
who had hoped to possess and treasure them for life,—though this may
be possible, it is not possible that he should be guilty of a violation
of the laws of hospitality and honour, such as that slanderous paper
lays to his charge. Promise me, dearest father, to suspend your belief,
and never to speak on this subject again, until it is God’s pleasure
that the truth shall be brought to light.”

“I promise you, my sweet child,” said her father; “and may that
merciful Being grant that your trust be not disappointed!”

“I have no fears,” said Lucy; and, as she spoke, her eyes beamed with
that full undoubting love such as can only be felt by one who has never
known what it is to deceive or to be deceived.

Days and weeks passed on without any intelligence of Ethelston; and
while the fears of Colonel Brandon became more confirmed, the agony
of suspense and the sickness of deferred hope began to prey upon the
spirits of his daughter: she never alluded to the forbidden subject;
but her nervous anxiety, when the weekly letter–bag was opened, clearly
showed that it was ever in her mind: nevertheless she continued her
occasional excursions to Marietta, and visited, as usual, those around
Mooshanne who were sick or in distress; so that neither her mother nor
Aunt Mary detected the anxiety by which she was tortured. One evening,
half an hour before sunset, as the family party were seated at their
simple supper, the clatter of a horse’s hoofs was heard approaching at
full speed, from which the rider dismounted, and, lifting the latch of
the unlocked door, entered the house. Traversing the vestibule with
hasty strides, and apparently guided by instinct to the apartment in
which the family were assembled, he threw open the door, and Ethelston
stood before the astonished party. His countenance was haggard from
fatigue and exposure to the sun, and his whole appearance indicated
exhaustion. Lucy turned deadly pale, and Colonel Brandon’s constrained
manner, as he rose from his chair, must have convinced the new comer
that his return was productive of other feelings than those of
unmingled pleasure. He was moving, however, a few steps forward to pay
his first respects to Mrs. Brandon, when the Colonel, touching him
lightly on the arm, said, “Mr. Ethelston, I must crave a few words with
you in the adjoining room.”

Hitherto Lucy had remained silent, with her eyes fixed intently on
Ethelston’s countenance; he returned her look with one as long and
fixed: the expression of his eyes was mournful, rather than joyous, but
there was no trace of uneasiness or of shame. Springing from her seat,
she placed her hand imploringly on the Colonel’s arm saying,

“Dear father, I told you so from the first,—I knew it always—I read
it now plain as the sun in heaven,—that vile letter _was_ a string of
falsehoods;—he is returned as he left us, with an untarnished honour.”

“Thank you, dear Lucy,” said Ethelston, advancing and pressing her
extended hands to his lips: “blessings on that trusting affection which
has rendered it impossible for you to believe aught to the prejudice of
one on whom you have deigned to fix it. Colonel Brandon,” he continued,
“I can guess how you have been misled, and appearances were for a short
time so much against me, that I acquit of all intentional malice those
who have misled you. Judge for yourself whether, if I were stained by
the crime of which I have been accused, I could now ask, on my bended
knee, for the blessing of you, my second father, and thus hold in mine,
as I dare to do, the hand of your pure, trusting, and beloved child.”

There was a truth in every tone of his voice, and a convincing dignity
in his manner, that swept away all doubts like a torrent. The Colonel
embraced him with cordial affection; Aunt Mary kissed her favourite
nephew over and over again; Mrs. Brandon wept tears of joy on his neck;
and Lucy was so overpowered by delight, that she was perhaps scarcely
conscious of all that passed around.

After they were in some degree recovered from their emotion, and had
pressed Ethelston to take some refreshment, he said to the Colonel,
“Now I am prepared to give you an account of my adventures, and to
explain those circumstances that led to the misunderstanding under
which you have so long laboured.”

“Not a word—not a word will I hear of explanation to–night, my dear
boy,” replied the Colonel. “I am already ashamed that I have not shown
the same undoubting confidence in your rectitude, both of purpose and
conduct, that has been evinced from first to last by Lucy. You are
weary and exhausted; the agitation of this scene has been trying to all
of us; we will defer your narrative until to–morrow. Our first duty
this evening is to return our thanks to Providence for having protected
you through all danger, and restored you safe to the comforts of home.”

As he spoke, the worthy old gentleman took down a Bible from the shelf;
and having desired Lucy to summon all the servants into the room, he
read an appropriate chapter, and added to the selected prayer for the
evening a few impressive and affecting words of thanksgiving, for the
safe return of the long–lost member of the family.

This duty was scarcely concluded, when the outer door was violently
opened; a heavy step was heard approaching, and, without waiting to be
admitted or announced, the sturdy figure of Gregson entered the room.

“The captain himself, as I live!” said the honest mate. “Beg pardon,
Colonel Brandon, but I heard a report of his having been seen going ten
knots an hour through Marietta. So up I sticks, made sail, and was in
his wake in less time than our nigger cook takes to toss off a glass of
grog.”

“Give me your hand, Gregson,” said Ethelston, kindly; “there is not a
truer nor an honester one between Marietta and China.”

“Thank ye, thank ye, captain,” said the mate, giving him a squeeze
that would have broken the knuckles of any hand but a sailor’s; “the
flipper’s well enough in its way, and I trust the heart’s somewhere
about the right place; but what the devil have they been at with you
in Guadaloupe?” added he, observing his chief’s wearied and wasted
appearance; “considering how long those rascally Frenchmen have had
you in dock, they’ve sent you to sea in precious state, both as to hull
and rigging.”

“I confess, I am not over ship–shape,” said Ethelston, laughing; “but
my present condition is more owing to the fatigues of my tedious
journey from New Orleans than to any neglect on the part of the
Frenchmen.”

The Colonel now invited the worthy mate to be seated; and Lucy
brewed for him, with her own fair fingers a large tumbler of toddy,
into which, by her father’s desire, she poured an extra glass of
rum. Ethelston, pretending to be jealous of this favour, insisted
on his right to a draught, containing less potent ingredients, but
administered by the same hand; and an animated conversation ensued,
in the course of which Gregson inquired after the welfare of his old
friend Cupid, the black cook.

“Poor fellow, he is no more,” replied Ethelston, in a tone of deep
feeling; “he died as he had lived, proud, brave, faithful to the last.
I cannot tell you the story now, it is too sad a one for this our first
evening at home:” as he spoke, his eyes met those of Lucy, and there he
read all that his overcharged heart desired to know.

Soon after the allusion to this melancholy incident, the little party
broke up; the evening being already far advanced, Gregson returned to
Marietta, and the members of the Colonel’s family retired to their
respective apartments, leaving Ethelston alone in the drawing–room.
For a few minutes he walked up and down, and pressed his hand upon
his forehead, which throbbed with various and deep emotions. He took
up the music whereon Lucy had written her name, and the needlework
on which her fingers had been employed: he sat down on the chair she
had just left, as if to satisfy himself with the assurance that all
around him was not a dream; and again he vented the full gratitude of
his heart in a brief but earnest ejaculation of thanksgiving. After
a short indulgence in such meditations, he retired to that rest of
which he stood so much in need. The room that had been prepared for
him was up stairs, and, on crossing a broad passage that led to it,
he suddenly met Lucy, who was returning to her own from her mother’s
apartment. Whether this meeting was purely accidental, or whether
Lucy, remembering that she had not said good–night quite distinctly to
her lover, lingered in her mother’s room until she heard his step on
the stair, we have no means of ascertaining, and therefore leave it
undecided: certain it is, however, that they did meet in the passage
above mentioned, and that Ethelston, putting down his candle on a
table that stood by, took Lucy’s unresisting hand and pressed it in
his own: he gazed on her blushing countenance with an intensity that
can only be understood by those who, like him, have been suddenly
restored to a beloved one, whose image had been ever present during a
long absence, assuaging the pain of sickness, comforting him in trials,
dwelling with him in the solitude of a prison, and sustaining him in
the extremest perils of the storm, the fight, and the shipwreck! Though
he had never been formally betrothed to her in words, and though his
heart was now too full to give utterance to them, he had heard enough
below to satisfy him that she had never doubted his faith—he felt that
their troth was tacitly plighted to each other, and now it was almost
unconsciously that their lips met and sealed the unspoken contract.

That first, long, passionate kiss of requited love! Its raptures have
been the theme of glowing prose, of impassioned verse, in all ages
and climes; the powers of language have been exhausted upon it, the
tongue and the pen of genius have, for centuries, borrowed for its
description the warmest hues of fancy and imagination—and yet how
far short do they fall of the reality! how impossible to express in
words an electric torrent of feeling, more tumultuous than joy, more
burning than the desert’s thirst,—yet sweeter and more delicious
than childhood’s dream of Paradise, pouring over the heart a stream
of bliss, steeping the senses in oblivion of all earthly cares, and
so mysteriously blending the physical with the immaterial elements of
our nature, that we feel as if, in that embrace, we could transfuse a
portion of our soul and spirit into the beloved object on whose lip
that first kiss of long–treasured love is imprinted.

Brief and fleeting moments! they are gone almost before the mind is
conscious of them! They could not, indeed, be otherwise than brief,
for the agony of joy is like that of pain, and exhausted nature would
sink under its continued excess. Precious moments, indeed! to none can
they be known more than once in life; to very many, they can never
be known at all. They can neither be felt nor imagined by the mere
worldling, nor the sensualist; the sources of that stream of bliss must
be unadulterated by aught low, or selfish; it is not enough that

  “Heart and soul and sense in concert move:”

desire must go hand in hand with purity, and virtue be the handmaid of
passion, or the blissful scene will lose its fairest and brightest hues.

The step of some servant was heard approaching; and Lucy, uttering a
hasty good–night, returned to her room, where she bolted her door,
and gave herself up to the varied emotions by which she was overcome.
Tears bedewed her eyes, but they were not tears of grief; her bosom
was agitated, but it was not the agitation of sorrow; her pillow was
sleepless, but she courted not slumber, for her mind dwelt on the
events of the past day; and gratitude for her lover’s return, together
with the full assurance of his untarnished honour, and undiminished
affection, rendered her waking thoughts sweeter than any that sleep
could have borrowed from the land of dreams.

On the following morning, after breakfast, when the family were
assembled in the library, Ethelston, at the request of Colonel Brandon,
commenced the narrative of his adventures. As the reader is already
acquainted with them, until the closing scene of poor Nina’s life, we
shall make mention of that part of his tale no further than to state
that, so far as truth would permit, in all that he told, as well as all
that he forbore to tell, he feelingly endeavoured to shield her memory
from blame; the sequel of his story we shall give in his own words.

“I remained only a few days with L’Estrange after his daughter’s
death; during which time I used my best endeavours to console him;
but, in spite of the affectionate kindness which he showed me, I
felt that my presence must ever recall and refresh the remembrance
of his bereavement, and I was much relieved when the arrival of one
of his other married daughters, with her family, gave me an excuse
and an opportunity for withdrawing from Guadaloupe. The vessel which
had brought them from Jamaica proposed to return immediately, and I
easily obtained L’Estrange’s permission to sail with her, only on the
condition of not serving against France during the continuance of
these hostilities: when I bade him farewell he was much affected, and
embraced me as if he were parting with a son; so I have at least the
melancholy satisfaction of knowing that I retain his best wishes and
his esteem.

“My voyage to Port Royal was prosperous. On arriving I found a brig
laden with fruit, just about to sail in a few days for New Orleans. I
confess I did not much like the appearance either of the vessel or her
commander; but such was my impatience to return to Mooshanne, that I
believe I would have risked the voyage in an open boat.” Here Ethelston
looked at Lucy, on whose countenance a blushing smile showed that
she well knew the meaning of his words. “I embarked,” continued he,
“accompanied by my faithful Cupid, on board the Dos Amigos: the captain
was an ignorant rum–drinking Creole; besides himself there was only one
white man in the crew, and the coloured men were from all countries
and climates, the most reckless and turbulent gang that I had ever
seen on board a ship. During the first half of the voyage, the weather
being favourable, we crept along the southern coast of Cuba, and passed
almost within sight of the Isla de Pinos, which I had so much cause to
remember; thence we steered a north–westerly course, and doubled the
Cape of Saint Antonio in safety, whence we had a prospect of a fair
run to the Belise; but, two days after we had lost sight of the Cuban
coast, it came on to blow a gale of wind, which gradually increased
until it became almost a hurricane from the south–west.

“The brig drove helplessly before it; and from her leaky and shattered
condition, as well as from the total want of seamanship exhibited by
her drunken captain, I hourly expected that she would founder at sea:
for twenty–four hours the gale continued with unabated violence, and
the weather was so thick that no object could be discerned at two
hundred yards’ distance. I remained constantly on deck, giving such
assistance as I could render, and endeavouring to keep the captain’s
lips from the rum–bottle, to which he had more frequent recourse as
the danger became more imminent. Being at length wearied out, I threw
myself in my clothes on my cot, and soon fell asleep. I know not how
long I slept; but I was awakened by a violent shock, accompanied by a
grating, grinding sound, from which I knew in an instant that the brig
had struck on a rock. Almost before I had time to spring from my cot,
Cupid dashed into the cabin, and, seizing me with the force of a giant,
dragged me on deck. At this moment the foremast fell with a tremendous
crash, and a heavy sea swept over the devoted vessel, carrying away the
boat, all loose spars, and many of the crew. Cupid and I held on by the
main rigging, and were not swept away; but wave after wave succeeded
each other with resistless fury, and in a few moments we were both
struggling, half stunned and exhausted, in the abyss of waters, holding
on convulsively to a large hencoop, which had providentially been
thrown between us.

“One wild shriek of despair reached my ear, after which nothing was
heard but the tumultuous roar of the angry elements.”

At this part of Ethelston’s narrative, Lucy covered her face with her
hands, as if she would thereby shut out the dreadful view, and in spite
of all her struggle for self–command, a tear stole down her colourless
cheek.

“It was, indeed, a fearful moment,” he continued, “and yet I did not
feel deserted by hope; I was prepared for death, I prayed fervently,
and I felt that my prayer was not unheard; even then, in that strife
of foaming sea and roaring blast, God sent the vision of an angel to
comfort and sustain me! It wore the form of one who has ever dwelt in
my thoughts by day, and in my dreams by night; who seemed as near to me
then, as she does now that her gentle tears are flowing at this recital
of my trials.”

While speaking the last words, his low voice trembled until it fell
into a whisper, and Lucy, overcome by her feelings, would have fallen
from her chair, had not his ready arm supported her. A dead silence
reigned in the room; Aunt Mary wept aloud, and Colonel Brandon walked
to the window to conceal his emotion. After a few minutes, as he turned
again towards them, Ethelston, who still supported Lucy, beckoned him
to approach, and, addressing him in a tone of deep and earnest feeling,
said,

“Colonel Brandon, my guardian, friend, and benefactor; add yet this
one to all your former benefits, and my cup of gratitude will be full
indeed:” as he spoke he took the unresisting hand of Lucy in his own:
the Colonel looked inquiringly and affectionately at his daughter, who
did not speak, but raised her tearful eyes to his, with an expression
not to be misunderstood. Pressing their united hands between his own,
and kissing Lucy’s forehead, he whispered,

“God bless you, my children:” after a pause he added, with a suppressed
smile, “Ethelston shall finish his narrative presently;” and, taking
Aunt Mary’s arm, he left the room.

We will imitate the Colonel’s discretion, and forbear to intrude upon
the sacred quiet of a scene where the secret, long–cherished love of
two overflowing hearts was at length unreservedly interchanged; we need
only say that ere the Colonel returned with Aunt Mary, after an absence
of half an hour, Lucy’s tears were dried, and her cheeks were suffused
with a mantling blush, as she sprung into her father’s arms, and held
him in a long and silent embrace.

“Come, my child,” said the Colonel, when he had returned her
affectionate caress: “sit down, and let us hear the conclusion of
Ethelston’s adventures—we left him in a perilous plight, and I am
anxious to hear how he escaped from it.”

“Not without much suffering, both of mind and body, my dear sir,”
continued Ethelston in a serious tone of voice; “for the sea dashed to
and fro with such violence the frail basket–work to which Cupid and I
were clinging, that more than once I was almost forced to quit my hold,
and it was soon evident that its buoyant power was not sufficient to
save us both, especially as Cupid’s bulk and weight were commensurate
with his gigantic strength. His coolness under these trying
circumstances was remarkable: observing that I was almost fainting
from the effects of a severe blow on the head from a floating piece of
the wreck, he poured into my mouth some rum from a small flask that he
had contrived to secure, and then replacing the stopper, he thrust the
flask into my breast pocket, saying, ‘Capt’n drink more when he want:’
at this moment a large spar from the wreck was driven past us, and the
faithful creature said, ‘Capt’n, hencoop not big enough for two, Cupid
swim and take spar to ride;’ and, ere I could stop him, he loosed his
hold and plunged into the huge wave to seize the spar: more I could not
see, for the spray dashed over me, and the gloom and the breakers hid
him in a moment from my sight. I felt my strength failing, but enough
remained for me to loose a strong silk kerchief from my neck, and to
lash myself firmly to the hencoop. Again and again the wild sea broke
over me; I felt a tremendous and stunning blow—as I thought, the last,
and I was no more conscious of what passed around.

“When I recovered my senses, I found myself lying upon some soft
branches, and sheltered by low bushes, a few hundred yards from the
sea–beach; two strange men were standing near me, and gave evident
signs of satisfaction when they saw my first attempts at speech and
motion; they made me swallow several morsels of sea–biscuit steeped in
rum, and I was soon so far restored as to be able to sit up, and to
learn the particulars of my situation. The island near which the brig
had been wrecked, was one of the Tortugas; the two men who had carried
me up to a dry spot from the beach, belonged to a small fishing–craft,
which had put in two days before the hurricane for a supply of water
and in hopes of catching turtle. Their vessel was securely moored in a
little natural harbour, protected by the outer ledge of rocks: the reef
on which the brig had struck was upwards of a mile from the spot where
they had found me; and I could not learn from them that they had seen
any portion of her wreck, or any part of her crew, alive or dead.

“As soon as my bruised condition permitted me to drag my limbs along,
I commenced a careful search along the low rocky shore, in hopes of
learning something of the fate of Cupid, and at length was horrified on
discovering the mutilated remains of the faithful creature, among some
crevices in the rocks. He had clung to the spar which still lay beside
him with the pertinacious strength of despair: his hands and limbs
were dreadfully mangled, and his skull fractured by the violence with
which he had been driven on the reef. I remembered how he had resigned
the hencoop to save my life; and the grief that I evinced for his
loss moved the compassion of the fishermen, who aided me to bury him
decently on the island.

“We remained there two days longer, until the gale had subsided, during
which time I frequently visited poor Cupid’s grave; and though many
of our countrymen would be ashamed of owning such regret for one of
his colour, I confess that when on that lonely spot I called to mind
his faithful services, and his last noble act of generous courage, I
mourned him as a friend and brother.

“When the fishing–smack put to sea, I prevailed on her captain to
visit the reef where the brig had struck; but we found not a spar nor
plank remaining; nor am I to this moment aware whether any others of
her crew survived the wreck; but it is more than probable that they
perished to a man. Upon the promise of a considerable sum of money, I
prevailed upon the fishermen to give me a passage to New Orleans, where
we arrived without accident or adventure, and my impatience to reach
home only permitted me to stay in that city a few hours, when, having
provided myself with a horse, I rode on hither by forced marches, and
arrived in the travel–worn condition that you observed yesterday.”



CHAPTER IV.

AN ELK–HUNT.—REGINALD MAKES HIS FIRST ESSAY IN SURGERY.—THE READER IS
ADMITTED INTO PRAIRIE–BIRD’S TENT.


We left Reginald Brandon in the skirt of the forest bounding the
Western Prairie, accompanied by Wingenund and War–Eagle. The latter,
having taken the lead, conducted his companions through a considerable
extent of ground, covered with bushes of alder and scrub–oak, until
they reached an open forest glade, where the Indian pointed out to
Reginald a large square building, composed of rough logs, and covered
with the same material. In the centre of one side was a low aperture,
or door, about fifteen inches in height, in front of which was a train
of maize laid by Wingenund. On approaching this turkey–pen, or trap,
they observed that there were already two prisoners, a large gobbler
and a female bird, although not more than an hour had elapsed since the
lad had taken out the four turkeys which have been before mentioned.
When the captives became aware of the approach of the party, they
ran about the pen from side to side, thrusting out their long necks,
peering through the crevices in the logs, jumping and flying against
the top, in their violent endeavours to escape.

“Do they never stoop their heads?” inquired Reginald, “and go out at
the same door by which they entered?”

“Never,” replied Wingenund.

“That is singular,” said Reginald, “for the bird is in general very
sagacious and difficult to be taken or killed;—how does it happen that
they are so unaccountably stupid as not to go out where they came in?”

Before answering the question addressed to him, Wingenund cast a
diffident look towards War–Eagle, and on receiving from the chief a
sign to reply, he said,

“Netis knows that the Great Spirit distributes the gifts of wisdom and
cunning like the sunshine and the storm; even the Black Father does not
understand all his ways. How can Wingenund tell why the turkey’s eye is
so quick, his ear so sharp, his legs so swift?—and yet he is sometimes
a fool; when he picks up the maize, his head is low; he walks through
the opening; he is in a strange place; he is frightened; and fear takes
from him all the sense that the Great Spirit had given him. Wingenund
knows no more.”

“My young brother speaks truly, and wisely, beyond his years,” said
Reginald, kindly. “It is, as you say, fear makes him forget all the
capacities of his nature: it is so with men, why should it be otherwise
with birds? Does War–Eagle say nothing?”

“My brother’s words are true,” replied the chief, gravely; “he has
picked out one arrow, but many remain in the quiver.”

“My brother speaks riddles,” said Reginald; “I do not understand him.”

“Fear is a bad spirit,” replied the chief, raising his arm, and
speaking with energy. “It creeps round the heart of a woman, and crawls
among the lodges of the Dahcotahs; it makes the deer leap into the
river when he would be safer in the thicket; it makes the turkey a
fool, and keeps him in the pen: but there are other bad spirits, that
make the heart crooked and the eyes blind.”

“Tell me how so?” inquired Reginald, desirous of encouraging his Indian
friend to continue his illustration.

“Does my brother know the antelope,” replied War–Eagle; “he is very
cunning and swift; his eye is quick as the turkey’s; the hunter could
not overtake him: but he lies down in a hollow and hides himself; he
fastens a tuft of grass to his bow and holds it over his head; the Bad
Spirit gets into the antelope; he becomes a fool; he comes nearer and
nearer to look at the strange sight;—the hunter shoots and he dies.
There are many had spirits. The Wyandot who struck at my white brother,
he was a cunning snake; he had taken scalps, the ball of his rifle did
not wander; if he had crept in the bushes on my brother’s path, Netis
would now be in the happy hunting–fields of the white warriors. But a
bad spirit took him; he offered food while his heart was false, and he
thrust his head under the tomahawk of War–Eagle. There are many bad
spirits.—I have spoken.”

Reginald listened with interest to these sentiments of his Indian
friend, expressed, as they were, in broken sentences and in broken
English, the purport of them being, however, exactly conveyed in
the foregoing sentences; but he refrained from pursuing the subject
further, observing that War–Eagle was slinging the turkeys over
Wingenund’s shoulder, and preparing to pursue their course in search
of the elk. Leaving the youth to return with his feathered burden to
the encampment, the two friends continued their excursion, War–Eagle
leading the way, and stopping every now and then to examine such tracks
as appeared to him worthy of notice. They had not proceeded far, when
they reached a spot where the path which they were following crossed
a small rivulet, and, the soil being soft on its bank, there were
numerous hoof–prints of deer and elk, but so confused by the trampling
of the different animals, that Reginald could not distinguish the one
from the other. It was not so, however, with the Indian; for, pointing
downward to a track at his foot, he made a sign, by raising both his
hands above his head, to indicate a pair of antlers, and whispered to
Reginald “very big.”

“An elk?” inquired the latter; making a silent affirmative sign,
War–Eagle pursued the trail which conducted them to the top of a small
rising ground, where it appeared to branch in several directions, and
became almost imperceptible from the shortness of the grass and the
hardness of the soil. But these seemed to offer no impediment to the
Indian’s pursuit of his quarry, for turning short at a right angle to
their former course, he descended the hillock in a different direction,
walking with a swift noiseless step, as if he saw his game before him.

Reginald’s surprise overcame even his eagerness for the sport, trained
as he had been in the woods, and justly held one of the quickest and
most skilful hunters in the territory. He had looked in vain on the
ground which they were now traversing for the slightest point or
footmark: touching, therefore, his friend lightly on his shoulder, he
whispered, “Does my brother guess the elk’s path?—or can he smell it,
like the Spaniard’s dog?”

A good–humoured smile played on the Delaware’s lip as he replied, “The
trail of the elk is broad and easy; War–Eagle could follow it by the
moon’s light! My white brother will see: he is an elk–chief; his squaws
are with him.”

As he spoke he showed several marks, which Reginald could scarcely
distinguish, on the short grass: a few yards further War–Eagle added,
pointing to a low bush beside them, “If Netis does not see the elk’s
foot, he can see his teeth.”

On examining the bush, Reginald perceived that a small fresh twig
from the side of it had been recently cropped, and suppressing his
astonishment at his friend’s sagacity, in following with such apparent
ease a trail that to him was scarcely discernible, he allowed him
to proceed without further interruption, closely watching his every
movement, in the hope that he might be able to discover some of the
indications by which the Indian was guided. Moving lightly forward,
they soon had occasion again to cross the brook before mentioned; and
on the soft edge of its banks War–Eagle pointed in silence to the track
of the large hoof of the elk, and to the smaller print left by the feet
of its female companions. Desiring Reginald to remain still, the Indian
now crept stealthily forward to the top of a small hillock covered
with brushwood, where he lay for a few seconds with his ear touching
the ground. Having once raised his head to look through a low bush in
front of him, he sunk again upon the ground, and made a signal for his
friend to creep to the spot. Reginald obeyed, and peering cautiously
through the leaves of the same bush, he saw the stately elk browsing at
a distance of an hundred and fifty yards, the two hinds being beyond
him. The intervening ground being barren and almost flat, offering no
cover for a nearer approach, his first impulse was to raise his rifle
for a distant shot; but War–Eagle, gently pressing down the barrel,
motioned him to crouch behind the bush. When they were again concealed,
the Delaware whispered to his friend, that he would go round and creep
on the elk from the opposite quarter.

Reginald, in reply, pointed to the top branches of a young poplar
gently waving in the breeze.

“War–Eagle knows it,” said the Indian, gravely, “the wind is from that
quarter; it is not good; but he will try; if elk smell him, he comes
this way, and Netis shoot him.” So saying, he crept down the little
hillock by the same path which they had followed in the ascent, and
then striking off in an oblique direction, was soon lost to view.

Reginald, still concealed behind the bush, silent and motionless, with
his hand on the lock of his rifle, watched intently every movement of
the antlered monarch of the woods: the latter, unconscious of danger,
lazily picked the tenderest shoots from the surrounding bushes, or
tossed his lofty head to and fro, as if to display the ease and grace
with which it bore those enormous antlers. More than once, as he turned
to brush off from his side some troublesome fly, Reginald thought
he had become suddenly aware of the Indian’s approach; but it was
not so, for in spite of the disadvantage of the wind, the practised
Delaware moved towards his unsuspecting prey with the stealthy creep
of a panther. Reginald’s impatience was such that minutes seemed to
him hours; and his fingers played with the lock of his rifle, as if he
could no longer control their movement: at length a sudden snort from
one of the hinds announced that she smelt or heard some object of alarm
as she came trotting to the side of her lordly protector.

Turning himself to windward, and throwing forward his ears, the elk
listened for a moment, while his upturned and wide distended nostril
snuffed the breeze, to discover the danger of which he had been warned
by his mate. That moment was not lost by the Delaware, and the report
of his rifle echoed through the forest. Tossing his head with a sudden
start, the elk fled from his now discovered foe, and came bounding over
the barren space in front of the bush where Reginald was concealed.
With a coolness that did great credit to his nerves as a hunter, the
latter remained motionless, with his eye on the game and his finger on
the trigger, until the elk passed his station at full speed: then he
fired, and with so true an aim, that ere it had gone fifty yards, the
noble beast fell to the earth, and immediately Reginald’s hunting–knife
put an end to its pain and to its life. The young man looked over the
quarry with pride and pleasure, for it was the largest he had ever
seen; and the shot (which had pierced the heart) was well calculated
to raise War–Eagle’s opinion of his skill in wood–craft. Whilst he
was still contemplating the animal’s bulk and fine proportions, the
exclamation “good!” uttered in English, gave him the first notice that
the Delaware was at his side.

“Ha! my friend,” said Reginald, grasping his hand cordially; “you sent
him down towards me in fine style. Tell me War–Eagle, are there many
elks as large in this country?”

“Not many,” replied the Indian; “War–Eagle told his white brother that
the elk’s foot on the trail was big.”

“Was my brother very far when he shot?” inquired Reginald; “when his
rifle speaks, the ball does not wander in the air.”

“War–Eagle was far,” replied the Indian, quietly, “but the elk carries
the mark of his rifle—Netis shot better.” On examination, it appeared
that the chief was right; his bullet had passed through the fleshy part
of the animal’s neck; but not having cut the windpipe, the wound was
not mortal, and but little blood had flowed from it.

While the Indian was busied in skinning and cutting up the elk,
Reginald amused himself by reconnoitring the ground over which his
friend had crept before he shot, and he was struck by the extraordinary
sagacity with which the latter had made his approach; for on that side
there were but few and scattered bushes, nor was there any rugged or
broken ground favourable for concealment.

When the choicest portions of meat were duly separated and enveloped in
the skin, War–Eagle hung them up on an adjacent tree, carefully rubbing
damp powder over the covering, to protect the meat from the wolves and
carrion birds; after which the friends proceeded on their excursion.

Having found fresh tracks of elk leading towards the open Prairie, they
followed them, and succeeded in killing two more, after which they
returned to the encampment, whence War–Eagle despatched a young Indian
with a horse, and with directions as to the locality of the meat, which
he was instructed to bring home.

As Reginald walked through the lodges of the Osage village, he observed
a crowd of Indians collected before one of them, and curiosity
prompted him to turn aside and observe what might be passing. Making
his way without difficulty through the outer circle of spectators, he
found himself before a lodge, in front of which a wounded boy of twelve
or fourteen years of age was extended on a buffalo–robe. On inquiry,
Reginald learnt from an Indian who could speak a few words of English,
that the lad had been struck down and trampled on by a vicious horse:
although no sounds escaped from his lips, the involuntary writhing
of the youthful sufferer showed the acuteness of the pain which he
endured; while a bulky Indian, in the garb of an Osage medicine–man,
was displaying beside him the various absurd mummeries of his vocation.

This native quack was naked to the waist; his breast and back being
painted over with representations of snakes and lizards. Instead of
the usual breech–cloth, or middle garment, he wore a kind of apron of
antelope skins, hemmed, or skirted with feathers of various colours:
the borders of his leggings were also adorned with the wings of an owl;
in one hand he held a tomahawk, the haft of which was painted white,
and in the other a hollow gourd, containing a few hard beans, or stones
of the wild cherry, which latter instrument he rattled incessantly
round the head of his patient, accompanying this Æsculapian music with
the most grotesque gesticulations, and a sort of moaning howl—all
these being intended to exorcise and drive away the evil spirit of pain.

While Reginald was contemplating the strange spectacle with mingled
curiosity and compassion he heard a confused murmur among those Indians
nearest to the corner of the lodge, and thought he could distinguish
the name of Olitipa: nor was he mistaken, for almost immediately
afterwards the crowd divided, and Prairie–bird appeared before the
lodge. Her dress was the same as that which Reginald had before seen,
excepting that, in place of the chaplet of wild flowers, she wore on
her head a turban of party–coloured silk, the picturesque effect of
which blending with her dark hair and the oriental character of her
beauty, reminded our hero of those Circassian enchantresses whom he had
read of in eastern fable, as ruling satrap or sultan with a power more
despotic than his own!

Prairie–bird, walking gently forward with modest self–possession,
took her place by the side of the sufferer, as if unconscious of the
numerous eyes that were observing all her movements: the medicine–man,
whose exorcisms had been hitherto attended with no success, retreated
into the lodge, whence he narrowly and silently observed the
proceedings of his fair rival in the healing art.

It was not difficult for Prairie–bird to ascertain that the boy’s hurts
were very serious; for the hot brow, the dry lip, the involuntary
contortions of the frame, gave clear evidence of acute pain and fever.
She deeply regretted that the missionary had been absent when she was
summoned, as his assistance would have been most useful; nevertheless,
she resolved to do all in her power towards the mitigation of
sufferings, the cure of which seemed beyond the reach of her simple
remedies. Opening a bag that hung at her girdle, she drew from it
some linen bandage, and various salves and simples, together with a
small case of instruments belonging to Paul Müller, and kneeling by
her young patient’s side, she breathed a short but earnest prayer for
the blessing of Heaven on her humble exertions. During this pause, the
Indians observed a strict and attentive silence; and Reginald felt
a kind of awe mingle itself with his impassioned admiration, as he
contemplated the unaffected simplicity and loveliness of her kneeling
figure.

A serious wound in the young patient’s temple claimed her first care,
which having washed and closed, she covered with a healing plaster;
but observing that the symptoms of fever had rather increased than
diminished, she knew that the lancet should be immediately applied,
and cast her anxious eyes around in the hope that the missionary might
have heard of the accident, and be now on his way to the lodge. While
looking thus around, she became for the first time aware of Reginald’s
presence; and a slight blush accompanied her recognition of him;
but her thoughts recurring immediately to the object of her present
attention, she asked him in a clear low voice to come nearer, on which
he moved forward from the circle of spectators, and stood before the
lodge.

Prairie–bird, pointing to the form of the young Indian, said, in
English, “The poor boy is much hurt, he will die if he is not bled; the
Black Father is absent; can Reginald take blood from the arm?”

“I do not pretend to much skill in surgery, fair Prairie–bird,” replied
the young man, smiling; “but I have learnt to bleed my horse and my
dog, and if the necessity be urgent, methinks I can open a vein in this
boy’s arm without much risk of danger.”

“It is indeed urgent,” said the maiden, earnestly; “here are Paul
Müller’s instruments; I pray you take a lancet and proceed without
delay.”

Thus urged, Reginald selected a lancet, and having proved its
sharpness, he passed a bandage tightly round the sufferer’s arm, and
set about his first surgical operation with becoming care and gravity,
the Osages drawing near and looking on in attentive silence. Before
applying the lancet, he said in a low voice to Prairie–bird, “Must I
allow a considerable quantity of blood to flow ere I stanch it?” and
on her making an affirmative sign, he added, “Let me entreat you to
turn your eyes away, it is not a fitting sight for them, and they might
affect the steadiness of my nerves.”

With a deep blush Prairie–bird cast down her eyes, and began to employ
them busily in searching her little bag for some cordial drinks and
healing ointment, to be administered after the bleeding should be over.

Reginald acquitted himself of his task with skill and with complete
success, and found no difficulty in stanching the blood, and placing
a proper bandage on the arm; after which the restoratives prepared
by Prairie–bird were applied, and in a very short time they had the
satisfaction of finding the symptoms of fever and pain subside, and
were able to leave the youthful patient to repose, Prairie–bird
promising to visit him again on the morrow.

An elderly brave of the Osages now stepped forward, and presented
Prairie–bird with a girdle of cloth, ornamented with feathers, quills,
and beads, of the gayest colours,—an offering which she received with
that modest grace which was inseparable from her every movement; the
same brave (who was, in fact, the father of the wounded boy,) presented
Reginald with a painted buffalo robe, which, as soon as he had
displayed its strange designs and devices, he desired a young Indian to
convey to the white chief’s lodge. Our hero having, in return, given
to the Osage a knife with an ornamented sheath, which he had worn, in
addition to his own, in case of being suddenly called upon to make such
a present, prepared to accompany Prairie–bird to her lodge.

As they left the circle, Reginald’s eye encountered that of Mahéga,
fixed with a scowling expression on himself and his fair companion;
but he passed on without noticing the sullen and haughty chief, being
resolved not to involve himself in any quarrel in her presence. They
walked slowly towards the lodge of Tamenund, and it must be confessed
that they did not take exactly the shortest path to it, Reginald
leading the way, and Prairie–bird following his occasional deviations
with marvellous acquiescence.

The young man turned the conversation on the character of Paul Müller,
knowing it to be a subject agreeable to Prairie–bird, and well
calculated to give him an opportunity of listening to that voice which
was already music to his ear; nor was he disappointed, for she spoke
of him with all the warmth of the most affectionate regard; and the
expression of her feelings imparted such eloquence to her tongue and
to her beaming eyes, that Reginald looked and listened in enraptured
silence. As they drew near her tent, she suddenly checked herself, and
looking up in his face with an archness that was irresistible, said,
“Pray pardon me, I have been talking all this time, when I ought to
have been listening to you, who are so much wiser than myself.”

“Say not so,” replied Reginald, with an earnestness that he attempted
not to conceal: “say not so, I only regret that we have already reached
your tent, for I should never be weary of listening to your voice.”

Prairie–bird replied with that ingenuous simplicity peculiar to her:

“I am glad to hear you say so, for I know you speak the truth, and it
makes me very happy to give you pleasure. Now I must go into my tent.”

So saying she held out her hand to him, and nothing but the presence
of several Indians loitering near prevented his obeying the impulse
which prompted him to press it to his lips. Checking it by an effort
of prudence, he withdrew into the lodge of Tamenund, and mused on the
qualities of this extraordinary child of the wilderness,—her beauty,
her grace, her dignity, and, above all, that guileless simplicity that
distinguished her beyond all that he had ever seen; in short, he mused
so long on the subject that we will leave him to his meditations, as we
fear it must be confessed that he was almost, if not quite, “in love;”
and the reflections of parties so circumstanced, are rarely interesting
to others.

What were the feelings of Prairie–bird when she once more found herself
alone in her tent, and vainly endeavoured to still the unwonted tumult
in her heart? Her thoughts, in spite of herself, would dwell on the
companion who had escorted her from the Osage lodge: his words still
rung in her ears; his image was before her eyes; she felt ashamed that
one, almost a stranger, should thus absorb all her faculties; and was
the more ashamed, from being conscious that she did not wish it were
otherwise; her heart told her that it would not exchange its present
state of tumult and subjection for its former condition of quiet and
peace!

Lest the reader should be inclined to judge her as harshly as she
judged herself, we will beg him to remember the circumstances and
history of this singular girl. Brought up among a roving tribe of
Indians, she had fortunately fallen into the hands of a family
remarkable for the highest virtues exhibited by that people: the
missionary, Paul Müller, had cultivated her understanding with the most
affectionate and zealous care; and he was, with the exception of an
occasional trader visiting the tribe, almost the only man of her own
race whom she had seen; and though entertaining towards Tamenund the
gratitude which his kindness to her deserved, and towards War–Eagle
and Wingenund the affectionate regard of a sister, both the knowledge
imparted by the missionary, and her own instinctive feeling, had taught
her to consider herself among them as a separate and isolated being.
These feelings she had of course nourished in secret, but they had
not altogether escaped the penetration of Wingenund, who, it may be
remembered, had told Reginald on their first meeting that the antelope
was as likely to pair with the elk, as was his sister to choose a mate
among the chiefs of the Osage or the Lenapé.

On the return of the two Delawares from their excursion to the
Muskingum, Wingenund had related to Prairie–bird the heroic gallantry
with which the young white chief had plunged into the river to save
War–Eagle’s life: he had painted, with untutored but impassioned
eloquence, the courage, the gentleness, the generosity, of his new
friend. Prairie–bird’s own imagination had filled up the picture, and
the unseen preserver of her Indian brother was therein associated with
all the highest qualities that adorned the heroes of such tales as she
had read or heard recounted by the missionary.

She had reached that age when the female heart, unsupported by maternal
protection, and severed from the ties of kindred, naturally seeks for
something on which to rest its affection. Are we then to wonder if,
when Reginald Brandon first stood before her, when she saw in his noble
form and expressive features all her secret imaginations more than
realised, when he addressed her in her own tongue, and in a tone of
voice gentle even to tenderness; are we to wonder, or to blame, this
nursling of the wilderness, if the barriers of pride and reserve gave
way beneath the flood which swept over them with fresh and irresistible
force? Often had she, on various pretexts, made Wingenund repeat to
her the adventures and occurrences of his excursion to the Ohio; and
as the artless boy described, in language as clear as his memory was
tenacious, the dwelling of Reginald’s father, the range of buildings,
the strange furniture, the garden, the winding brook that bounded its
enclosure, and above all the fair features and winning gentleness
of the Lily of Mooshanne, Prairie–bird would cover her averted face
with her hands, as if struggling to banish or to recall some wild
delusive dream, and her lips would move in unconscious repetition of
“Mooshanne.” Surprised at her agitation, Wingenund had once so far laid
aside the strictness of Indian reserve as to inquire into its cause;
and she replied, with a melancholy smile,

“Wingenund has painted the Lily of Mooshanne in colours so soft and
sweet, that Olitipa longs to embrace and love her as a sister.”

The boy fixed his penetrating eye upon her countenance, in deep
expressive silence, the innate delicacy of his feeling triumphed, and
Prairie–bird’s secret meditations were thenceforward undisturbed.

To return from this retrospective digression. Prairie–bird’s tent was
divided, by a partition of buffalo skins, into two compartments, in the
outer of which was her guitar, the books lent her by the missionary,
a small table and two chairs, or rather stools, the latter rudely but
efficiently constructed by his own hands; in the corner also stood the
chest, where his medicines, instruments, and other few valuables were
deposited; in the inner compartment was a bed, composed of Mexican
grass, stretched upon four wooden feet, and covered with dressed
antelope skins and blankets of the finest quality. Here also was a
chest, containing her quaint but not ungraceful apparel, and the other
requisites for her simple toilet; at night a female slave, a captive
taken from one of the southern tribes, slept in the outer compartment,
and the ever watchful Wingenund stretched himself on a buffalo robe
across the aperture, so that the slumbers of the fair Prairie–bird were
securely guarded even during the absence of Paul Müller; and when he
was with the tribe, his small tent was separated from hers only by a
partition of skins, which in case of alarm might be cut open by a sharp
knife in a moment. There was, in truth, little fear for the security
of this extraordinary girl, who was looked upon, as we have before
observed, by all the tribe with mingled awe and affection.

In the outer room of the two compartments above mentioned she was now
sitting, with her eyes cast upon the ground, and her fingers straying
unconsciously over the strings of her guitar, when she was aroused from
her long reverie by the soft voice of the female slave who had entered
unperceived, and who now said, in the Delaware tongue,

“Are Olitipa’s ears shut, and is the voice of Wingenund strange to
them?”

“Is my brother there,” replied the maiden, ashamed at her fit of
absence; “tell him, Lita, that he is welcome.”

The girl addressed by the name of Lita was about seventeen years
of age, small, and delicately formed, exceedingly dark, her wild
and changeful countenance being rather of a gipsy than of an Indian
character. She had been taken, when a child, by a war–party which had
penetrated into the country of the Comanches, a powerful and warlike
tribe still inhabiting the extensive prairies on the Mexican and Texian
frontier. She was devotedly attached to Prairie–bird, who treated her
more like a friend than a slave, but towards all others she observed
an habitual and somewhat haughty silence. Had her fate condemned her
to any other lodge in the encampment, the poor girl’s life would have
been a continued succession of blows, labour, and suffering; for her
spirit was indomitable, and impracticable to every other control
than kindness; but as the good–humoured Tamenund had appropriated
her services to his favourite child, she passed most of her time in
Olitipa’s tent, and thus avoided the ill–usage to which she might
otherwise have been exposed.

Such was the girl who now went to the folding aperture of the tent,
and desired Wingenund to come in. The youth entered, followed by a
boy bearing a large covered dish or basket of wicker–work, which
having placed on the table, he withdrew. Prairie–bird could not
fail to observe in her young brother’s countenance and carriage an
unusual stateliness and dignity, and she remarked at the same time
the circumstance of his having brought with him the boy to carry her
basket, a service which he had been accustomed to perform with his own
hands. Making him a sign to sit down, she thus accosted him, in terms
allusive to the customs of the tribe:—

“Has my young brother dreamt? Has the breath of the Great Spirit passed
over his sleep?”

“It is so,” replied Wingenund. “The chiefs and the braves have sat at
the council–fire; the name of Wingenund was on their tongues, the deeds
of his fathers are not forgotten; he is not to do the work of squaws;
his name will be heard among the warriors of the Lenapé.”

From this reply Prairie–bird knew that her young brother was about to
undergo the fasting, and other superstitious ordeals, through which
those youths were made to pass who wished to be enrolled among the
warriors of the tribe at an earlier age than usual. These superstitious
observances were repugnant to her good sense and enlightened
understanding; and as she had hitherto acted in the capacity of
monitress and instructress, she was perhaps not pleased at the prospect
of his suddenly breaking loose from her gentle dominion: she said to
him, therefore, in a tone more grave than usual,—

“Wingenund has heard the Black Father speak;—were his ears shut? Does
he not know that there is one God above, who rules the world alone? The
totems[29], and the symbols and the dreams of the medicine–men, are
for those poor Indians whose minds are under a cloud. Wingenund cannot
believe these things!”

“My sister speaks wisely,” replied the youth; “the wind cannot blow
away her words: but Wingenund is of the Lenapé, the ancient people; he
wishes to live and die among their braves; he must travel in the path
that his fathers have trod, or the warriors will not call his name when
the hatchet is dug up.”

“Let not the hatchet be dug up,” said the maiden, anxiously. “Have I
not told my brother that God is the avenger of blood spilt by man? why
should his foot be set on the war–path?”

“While the hatchet is below the earth,” replied the youth, in the low,
musical accent of his tribe, “Wingenund will sit by his sister and
listen to her wisdom; he will go out with War–Eagle and bring back the
skin of the antelope or the doe for her apparel, the meat of the deer
and the bison for her food; he will open his ears to the counsel of the
Black Father, and will throw a thick blanket over thoughts of strife
and blood. But if the Washashee (the Osage) bears a forked tongue (here
the youth sank his voice to a whisper of deep meaning),—if he loosens
the scalp–knife while his hand is on the poacan[30]—if the trail of
the Dahcotah is found near our village, Wingenund must be awake: he is
not a child: the young men will hear his voice, and the old men shall
say, ‘He is the son of his father.’ It is enough. Let my sister eat the
meat that War–Eagle has sent her: for three suns Wingenund tastes not
food.”

So saying, the lad threw his robe over his shoulder and left the
tent. Prairie–bird gazed long and thoughtfully on the spot where her
brother’s retreating figure had disappeared; she felt grieved that
all the lessons and truths of Christianity which she had endeavoured
to instil into his mind were unable to change the current of his
Indian blood: she had hoped to see him become a civilised man and a
convert, and, through his amiable character, and the weight of his
name, to win over many others of the Lenapé tribe. In addition to this
disappointment, she was alarmed at the purport of his parting words:
he had hinted at some treachery on the part of their Osage allies,
and that a trail of the Dahcotahs had been seen near the encampment.
These subjects of anxiety, added to the excitement which her feelings
had lately undergone, so completely engrossed the maiden’s attention,
that, although the corn–cakes were of the sweetest kind, and the
venison of the most delicate flavour, the basket of provisions remained
untouched on the table when Paul Müller entered the tent.

His brow was grave and thoughtful, but his countenance relaxed into its
usual benevolent expression, as his affectionate pupil sprang forward
to greet and welcome him.

“Dear father, I am so glad you are come!” she exclaimed; “I have been
waiting for you most impatiently, and I have been in need of your aid.”

“I heard, my child, as I walked through the village, that you had been
tending the wounds of a boy much hurt by a horse; was the hurt beyond
your skill?”

“Not exactly,” she replied, hesitating. “It was needful that blood
should flow from his arm; and, as you were not there, I was forced to
ask the assistance of Netis—that is, of Reginald.”

“Well,” said the missionary, smiling, “I hope he proved a skilful
leech?”

“He would not allow me to look on,” she replied: “but, though it was
his first trial, he drew the blood, and stanched it, as skilfully as
you could have done it yourself; and then he walked with me to the
tent.”

“And you conversed much by the way?” inquired the missionary.

“Oh yes; and he made me tell him a great deal about you, and I was
ashamed of talking so much; but then he told me that it gave him
pleasure to hear me talk. How can it please him to hear me talk, dear
father? I know nothing, and he has seen and read so much.”

Paul Müller averted his face for a moment to conceal from her the smile
which he could scarcely repress, as he replied,

“My child, he has perhaps seen and read much; but the life and habits
of the Indians are new to him, and of these you can tell him many
things that he does not know.”

“Tell me, dear father,” she said, after a short silence, “are there
others like him in my country? I mean, not exactly like him, but more
like him than the traders whom I have seen; they are so rough, and they
drink fire–water, and they never think of God or his mercies: but he is
so noble, his countenance made me afraid at first, but now, when he
speaks to me, his voice is as gentle as the fawn calling to its dam!”

Paul Müller saw very well how it fared with the heart of Prairie–bird.
He remembered that Reginald was the son of a wealthy proprietor, who
would probably have insuperable objections to his son’s marrying a
foundling of the wilderness, and he hesitated whether he should not
give her some warning caution on a subject which he foresaw would so
soon affect her peace of mind. On the other hand, he was convinced
that Reginald was a man of generous and decided character, and, while
he resolved carefully to observe the intercourse between them, he
would not mar the unsuspecting purity of her nature, nor throw any
obstacle in the way of an attachment which he believed might lead to
the happiness of both parties. In coming to this conclusion, it must
not be forgotten that he was a Moravian missionary, long resident in
the Far–west, and therefore not likely to trouble his head with the
nice distinctions of European aristocracy. In the country which was
now his home, he might be justified in deeming a match equal, if the
man were honest and brave, and the bride young and virtuous, without
reference to their birth, connections, or worldly possessions. Under
the impression of considerations like these, the missionary replied to
the maiden’s inquiry:

“My child, I will not say that among the cities and settlements of
the white men, there are many who would gain by comparison with
Reginald Brandon; for not only has he the accidental advantages of
fine features, and a form singularly graceful and athletic, but he
seems to me to possess the far higher and rarer qualities of a modest,
generous mind, and an honest heart: nevertheless, my child, I will
pray you, even in respect to him, not to forget what I have told you
regarding the general infirmity and waywardness of our nature; keep
a watch on your eyes and on your heart, and Providence will rule all
for the best:—we will speak no more on this subject now; let us take
some food from the basket on your table.” Prairie–bird spread the
simple meal in thoughtful silence, and when the missionary had asked a
blessing on it, they sat down together. After a pause of some minutes
she communicated to him her anxiety on account of the hints dropped by
Wingenund respecting the suspected treachery of some of their Osage
allies, and the circumstance of a hostile trail having been discovered
near the encampment. “It is too true,” replied the missionary gravely,
“there are signs of approaching strife; and even that boy, whom I have
so long endeavoured to instruct and lead aright, his blood is beginning
to boil. I fear it is almost as hard for an Indian to change his nature
as an Ethiopian his skin. He has told you the truth, and we must be
prepared for approaching trouble.”

After musing for a few moments, Paul Müller, fixing his eye on
Prairie–bird, continued: “Do you know any cause of quarrel between the
Osage and Lenapé chiefs?”

“None,” replied the maiden in unaffected surprise. “How should I know?
I go not near their council–fire.”

“True,” said the missionary; “but your eyes are not often shut in broad
day. Have you spoken to Mahéga of late? have you observed him?”

“He has spoken to me more than once, and often meets me on my return
from any far lodge in the village. I do not like him; he is fierce and
bad, and he beats his young squaw, Wetopa.”

“You are right, my child; avoid him; there is evil in that man; but if
you meet him, do not show any dislike or suspicion of him; you would
only kindle strife: you are among faithful and watchful friends; and if
they were all to slumber and sleep, you have a Friend above, whose eye
is never closed, and whose faithfulness is everlasting. Farewell, my
child. I must converse awhile with Tamenund. Do you solace an hour with
your guitar; it will put your unquiet thoughts to rest.”

Prairie–bird was so accustomed to pay implicit obedience to the
slightest wishes and suggestions of her beloved preceptor, that as
he left the tent she mechanically took up the guitar, and passed her
fingers through the strings. By degrees the soul of music within her
was stirred, and ere long vented itself in the following hymn.

The words were in the Delaware tongue, and composed by herself—the
melodies (for more than one were introduced into the irregular chaunt)
were such as she had caught or mingled from Indian minstrelsy, and the
whole owed its only attraction to the sweet and varied tones of her
voice. The first measure was a low recitative, which might be thus
rendered in English:—

  “The sun sinks behind the western hills;
  Deep red are the curtains of his couch.
  One by one the stars appear;
  Many they are and lustrous.
  The pale moon is among them!
  They walk in their appointed path,
  Singing on their way, ‘God made us all!’
          _Machelenda sutch Ktelewunsoacan_,
                          or
          Hallowed be thy name.”

Here the measure changed, and sweeping the strings with a bolder hand,
she continued her untutored hymn, blending her Christian creed with the
figures and expressions of the people among whom she dwelt.

  “The Great Spirit of the Lenapé is God.
  He has sent His word to gladden the heart of man.
  But clouds still darken the minds of the ancient people.
  The Great Spirit knows that they are blind and deaf,
  Yet His ear is open to hear,
  His hand is ready to guide.
                      (_ut suprà._)
        Hallowed be thy name!”

Again the measure changed, as in the richest tones of her melodious
voice she pursued her theme.

  “Sion and the everlasting mountains are thy footstool!
  Lightnings are about thy throne.
  Thunder is thy voice.
  And the evil spirit trembles before thee!
  The eagle cannot soar to thy habitation;
  His eye cannot look on thy brightness;
  Yet dost thou give life to the insect,
  And breath to the merry wren!
  Thou leadest the wild horse to the pasture,
  And the thirsty fawn to the stream.
        Hallowed be thy name.”

Here the measure resumed its low and plaintive melody, as she thus
concluded her song.

  “Who sings the praise of God?
  It is ‘Prairie–bird,’ the poor child of the wilderness.
  But God spurns not her prayer;
  She is a stray–leaf, that knows not the tree
  Whence the rude wind hath blown it;
  But God planted the parent stem.
  And not a branch or leaf thereof is hid from His sight.
  The young whip–poor–will flies to its mother’s nest,
  The calf bleats to the bison–cow:
  No mother’s voice says to Olitipa,’Come here!’
  The wide prairie is her home!
  God is a Father to Olitipa!
        Hallowed be thy name!”

In singing the last few words, the tones of her voice were “most
musical, most melancholy;” and though no human eye marked the
teardrop that stole down her cheek, it would appear that her song
had excited sympathy in some human bosom, for a deep sigh fell upon
her ear: startled at the sound, Prairie–bird looked around her tent,
but no one could be seen; she listened, but it was not repeated, and
the maiden remained unconscious that at the very first touch of her
guitar Reginald had crept out of the adjoining lodge, and, enveloped
in a buffalo robe on the grass at the back of her tent, had heard from
beginning to end her plaintive hymn, and had paid the unconscious
tribute of a heavy sigh to the touching pathos of its closing strain.



CHAPTER V.

 SYMPTOMS OF A RUPTURE BETWEEN THE DELAWARES AND OSAGES.—MAHÉGA COMES
 FORWARD IN THE CHARACTER OF A LOVER.—HIS COURTSHIP RECEIVES AN
 UNEXPECTED INTERRUPTION.


Paul Müller, having left the lodge of Prairie–bird, fulfilled his
intention of entering that of Tamenund: he found the venerable
chieftain seated upon a buffalo robe; his back leaned against a bale
of cloth, a highly ornamented pipe–stem at his lips, while from its
other extremity a thin column of smoke, rising in wavy folds, found
its way out of the accidental rents and crevices in the skins which
covered the lodge. War–Eagle was listening in an attitude of respectful
attention to the words which fell from his father; but the subject of
conversation was evidently of some importance, as the women and the
youths were whispering together at a distance from the two principal
persons. The entrance of the missionary was not unnoticed, for Tamenund
made him a signal to draw near and sit down; several times the pipe was
passed round in silence, when the old chief addressing his guest in
the Delaware tongue, said, “The Black Father knows that there are dark
clouds in the sky!”

“He does,” replied the missionary. A glance of intelligence passed
between War–Eagle and Tamenund, as the latter proceeded.

“What says the Black Father? Is the storm to break, or will the sun
shine again?”

“The Great Spirit only knows,” replied the missionary; “if the sun
shines, we will be thankful; if the storm falls, we will wrap round us
the cloak of patience.”

A fierce gleam shot from the young chief’s eye, but he spoke not a
word until Tamenund addressed him thus:—“What says War–Eagle? let him
speak.”

“The snows of many winters are on my father’s forehead; the Black
Father has learnt wisdom from the Great Spirit: it is more fitting for
War–Eagle to listen than to speak,” replied the young man, curbing the
angry thoughts that glowed in his breast.

“Nay, my son,” said the missionary, “let War–Eagle speak, and his
saying be afterwards weighed by the aged heads.”

War–Eagle then proceeded to explain how Wingenund, in returning from
the turkey–pen, had caught a glimpse of a distant figure, whom he knew
at a glance to belong to another tribe. Hastily concealing himself
among the bushes, he waited till the strange Indian passed, and then
resolving to watch him, crept stealthily on his trail.

Having made his way to a hollow in the thickest part of the forest,
he sat down on the stump of an alder–tree, where he made and twice
repeated a low signal whistle, which was soon answered by another
Indian, who approached in an opposite direction, and in whom, to his
great surprise, Wingenund recognised Mahéga. He was not near enough to
overhear their conversation, neither was he aware whether they spoke
in the Delaware tongue; but after conversing in a low tone for some
minutes, they separated, and Wingenund again put himself on the trail
of the stranger; the latter frequently stopped in his course, looked
round and listened, but the youth was too practised and sagacious to
be baffled by these precautions, and finally succeeded in tracking the
object of his pursuit to an encampment containing ten or a dozen armed
Indians, whom he knew at once to form a war–party, but could not decide
to what tribe they belonged; he succeeded, however, in securing a
mocassin which one of them had dropped, and returned unperceived to the
Delaware village.

Such was the outline of the occurrences now rapidly sketched by
War–Eagle; and in concluding his narrative, he held up the mocassin
above mentioned, and presented it to the aged chief. The latter
examined it for a moment in silence, and restoring it to the warrior,
pronounced, in a low guttural tone, the word “Dahcotah.”

“Yes,” said the War–Eagle, in a deep whisper, indicative of the
indignant passion that boiled within; “yes, the Dahcotah is in the
woods; he prowls like a prairie–wolf. The Great Spirit has made him a
dog, and if he sets his foot on the hunting–ground of the Lenapé, let
not his wife complain if she looks along his path in vain, and strikes
her breast, saying, ‘The wife of the Dahcotah is a widow!’ But the Evil
Spirit has crept into the heart of the Washashee, a snake is in the
council–chamber of the Lenapé, and lies are on the tongue of Mahéga! Is
it enough, or must War–Eagle speak more?”

“The words of my son are hard,” replied Tamenund, shaking his head
sorrowfully; “the Dahcotah are dogs, they are on a deer–hunt; their
heart is not big enough to make them dig up the hatchet to fight with
the Lenapé. Tamenund cannot believe that the tongue of Mahéga is so
forked, or his heart so black, that two suns have not passed since he
sat and smoked in this lodge, and spoke of Olitipa, the daughter of the
Prairie. He said that her voice was music to him, that her form was in
his dreams, and he asked Tamenund to give her to him as a wife.”

At these words the suppressed rage of the youthful warrior had
well–nigh burst the iron bands of Indian self–control; he ground his
teeth audibly together, his dilated form trembled through every nerve
and muscle; but observing the keen eye of the missionary fixed upon his
countenance, he subdued in a moment the rising tempest, and asked, in a
voice the forced calmness of which was fearful, “What said my father?”

Tamenund replied that the maiden was Great Medicine in the tribe, that
she was a gift of the Great Spirit, and that her dwelling could never
be in the lodge of an Osage chief. “He went away without speaking,”
added the old man seriously; “but his eye spoke bad words enough!”

“My father said well,” exclaimed the impetuous young man; “let Mahéga
seek a wife among his dog–brothers the Dahcotahs! War–Eagle will smoke
no more in his lodge.”

After a brief pause, Tamenund continued:

“My son has told half his thoughts, let him speak on.”

“Nay,” returned the young warrior, “let my father consult the Medicine,
and the counsellors who have seen many winters: War–Eagle will whisper
to his braves, and when the ancient men in council have spoken, he will
be ready.”

With this ambiguous answer, he folded his buffalo robe over his
shoulder and left the lodge.

The missionary saw that mischief was brewing, yet knew not how to
prevent it. He had gained extraordinary influence among the Delawares
by never interfering in their councils, unless when he felt assured
that the result would justify the advice which he offered; but on the
present occasion it was evident that his Indian friends had sufficient
grounds for suspecting their Osage allies of treachery; he resolved,
therefore, to wait and observe, before making those attempts at
reconciliation which became his character and his mission. Influenced
by this determination, he spoke a few words to the aged chief on
indifferent matters, and shortly afterwards retired to his own lodge.

During the preceding conversation Baptiste had been seated at a little
distance, his whole attention apparently engaged in mending a rent in
his mocassins, but scarcely a word had escaped his watchful ear; and
while he heard with secret delight that there was every chance of a
fight with the Sioux, towards whom he cherished, as we have before
observed, an unextinguished hatred, he could not view without much
uneasiness the dangerous position in which Reginald’s party might be
placed by a rupture between the Delawares and Osages, in a wild region
where either party might so soon obtain the ready aid of the Pawnees,
or some other warlike and marauding tribe; he resolved, however, for
the present to content himself with putting his young leader on his
guard, reserving a fuller explanation until he should have been able
to ascertain the intentions of his Delaware friends: in this last
endeavour he did not anticipate much difficulty, for the experienced
woodsman had proved his steadiness to them in many a fray, and his
courage and skill were no less proverbial among them than was his
mortal enmity to the Dahcotahs.

Nothing occurred during the ensuing night to disturb the quiet of the
encampment, if that may be denominated quiet which was constantly
interrupted by the chattering of wakeful squaws, the barking of dogs,
the occasional chaunt of a warrior, and the distant howling of hungry
wolves. Our hero’s dreams were, like his waking thoughts, full only of
Prairie–bird; and when he rose at daybreak he expressed no wish to roam
or hunt, but lingered within view of that small circular lodge, which
contained the treasure that he valued most on earth. To the cautious
warning of Baptiste he answered, smiling, “You confess yourself that
you only suspect; you know our friends and their language, their wiles,
and their stratagems. I trust the safety of my party to your sagacity;
if your suspicions are turned into certainty, tell me, and I am ready
to act.”

As the young man left the lodge without even taking his cutlass or his
rifle, Baptiste, looking after him, shrugged his shoulders, adding in
an under tone, just loud enough to be heard by Monsieur Perrot, who sat
at his side,—

“‘Suspicion,’ ‘certainty,’ ‘sagacity,’—why surely he is mad! He talks
as if plots and plans were measured out by rule amongst the red–skins,
as they may be ‘mongst lords and princes in Europe! This comes of his
towering, as they call it, amongst the Dutch, and other outlandish
tribes. Surely, he’s lived enough in the territory to know that with
these Ingians, and special near a Sioux trail, the first suspicion a
man is like to get is an arrow in his ribs or a tomahawk in his brain.
Capote–bleu, Maître Perrot, what do you think of your master, is he
mad?”

“Very much mad,” said the good–humoured valet, grinning, whilst he
continued assiduously to pound some coffee–beans which he was preparing
for breakfast; “very much mad, Monsieur Baptiste; he very mad to
leave Paris to go to his fox–huntin’ oncle in England; he more mad to
leave dat for the backwoods by de Muskingum; but he dam mad to leave
Mooshanne to come here where dere is nothing but naked savages and
naked prairies.”

“Ah! Maître Perrot,” replied the guide, “my father was a Canada
Frenchman, and although he was, mayhap, never further east than
Montreal, he was as fond of talking of Paris as a bear is of climbing a
bee–tree!”[31]

“He very right, Monsieur Ba’tiste; de world without Paris is no more
dan a woman widout a tongue; but as you know our language, I will speak
it to you, for pronouncing English is no better dan breaking stones wid
your teeth!” And the merry valet forthwith inflicted upon his graver
companion a Parisian tirade, that very soon went beyond the latter’s
stock of Canadian French.

The morning dawned with unusual splendour; the sun gradually rose
over the wooded hills that bounded the eastern horizon, and the light
breeze shook the dew–drops from the flowers, as Prairie–bird, fresh and
lovely as the scene around her, tripped lightly over the grass to the
sequestered spot which we have before mentioned as being her favourite
resort: there, seated at the root of the aged tree where Reginald had
first seen her, she opened the volume which was her constant companion,
and poured forth the grateful feelings of her heart, in the words of
the inspired Prophet–King; at her feet flowed the brawling stream
which fed the valley below the encampment; the merry birds sang their
matins among the leafy branches above her head, and around her sprang
sweet–scented flowers and blossoms of a thousand varied hues. There are
some spots, and some brief seasons, on earth, so redolent of freshness,
beauty, and repose, as almost to revive the Paradise lost by our first
parents; but soon, too soon, the effects of primeval sin and its
punishment are felt, and the atmosphere of heavenly peace is tainted by
the miasma of human passion!

Prairie–bird had enjoyed for some time her study and her meditations
undisturbed, when her attention was caught by the sound of approaching
footsteps: the conscious blood rushed to her cheek as she expected
to see the same visitor who had so suddenly presented himself on the
preceding day, when, to her surprise and annoyance, the gigantic figure
of Mahéga stood before her, on the opposite side of the streamlet by
which she was seated: although simple, unsuspecting, and fearless by
nature, there was something in the countenance and bearing of this
formidable chief that had always inspired her with mingled dislike and
awe: remembering on the present occasion the hint lately given to her
by the missionary, she returned the haughty greeting of the Indian by
a gentle inclination of her head, and then summoned composure enough
to continue her reading, as if desirous to avoid conversation: such,
however, was not Mahéga’s intention, who, softening, as far he was
able, the rough tones of his voice, addressed to her, in the Delaware
tongue, a string of the finest Indian compliments on her beauty and
attractions. To these the maiden coldly replied by telling him, that
she thanked him for his good words, but that as she was studying the
commands of the Great Spirit, she wished not to be disturbed.

Mahéga, nothing checked by this reply, continued to ply her with
protestations and promises, and concluded by telling her that she
_must_ be his wife; that he was a warrior, and would fill her wigwam
with spoils and trophies. As he proceeded, his countenance became more
excited, and the tones of his voice had already more of threat than of
entreaty. Prairie–bird replied, with forced calmness, that she knew he
was a great warrior, but that she could not be his wife: their paths
were different; his led to war, and spoils, and power in ruling his
tribe; hers to tending the sick and fulfilling the commands of the
Great Spirit given in the Medicine Book. Irritated by the firm though
gentle tone of her reply, the violent passion of the chief broke out in
a torrent of harsh and menacing words: he called her a foundling and
a slave; adding, that in spite of the Delaware squaws and their white
allies, she should sleep in his lodge, although the honour was greater
than she deserved.

Fired with indignation at this brutal menace, the spirited girl
rose from her seat, and, looking him full in the face, replied,
“Prairie–bird is a foundling; if Mahéga knows his parents, he disgraces
their name; she would rather be the slave of Tamenund than the wife of
Mahéga.”

A demoniac grin stole over the features of the savage, as he replied:
“The words of Olitipa are bitter. Mahéga laughs at her anger; she is
alone and unprotected; will she walk to his lodge, or must the warrior
carry her?”

[Illustration: PRAIRIE–BIRD AND MAHÉGA      P. 219]

So saying, he advanced to the very edge of the narrow stream! The
maiden, although alarmed, retained sufficient presence of mind to
know that to save herself by flight was impossible; but the courage
of insulted virtue supported her, and she answered him in a tone that
breathed more of indignation than of fear:

“Olitipa is not alone—is not unprotected! The Great Spirit is
her protector, before whom the stature of Mahéga is as a blade of
grass, and his strength like that of an infant. See,” she continued,
drawing from her girdle a small, sharp–pointed dagger, “Olitipa is
not unprotected: if Mahéga moves a foot to cross that stream, this
knife shall reach her heart; and the great Mahéga will go to the
hunting–fields of the dead, a coward, and a woman–slayer.”

As she spoke these words she held the dagger pointed to her bosom, now
heaving with high emotion; her form seemed to dilate, and her dark eye
kindled with a prouder lustre. The glow on her cheek, and the lofty
dignity of her attitude, only heightened her beauty in the eyes of
the savage, and confirmed him in carrying out his fell purpose, to
ensure the success of which he saw that stratagem, not force, must be
employed: assuming, therefore, a sarcastic tone of voice, he replied,—

“Olitipa trusts to the edge of her knife; Mahéga laughs at her.” Then
he continued, in a louder key, as if addressing an Indian behind her,
“Let Wânemi seize her arm and hold it.”

As the surprised maiden turned her head in the direction where she
expected to see the Indian to whom Mahéga was speaking, that crafty
chief cleared the brook at a bound, and seizing her waist, while a
smile of triumph lit up his features, said, “The pretty one is Mahéga’s
prisoner; there is no one here but himself; a cunning tale tickled the
ears of Olitipa.”

The hapless girl saw how she had been outwitted by the savage: she
struggled in vain to free herself from his grasp, and a faint scream of
despair broke from her lips.

The spring of a famished tiger on a heifer is not more fiercely
impetuous than was the bound with which Reginald Brandon rushed from
the adjacent thicket upon Mahéga,—reckless of his opponent’s huge
bulk and strength, forgetful that he was himself unarmed. The cry of
Prairie–bird had strung with tenfold power every sinew in his athletic
frame: seizing with both hands the throat of Mahéga, he grasped it with
such deadly force that the Indian was compelled to release his hold
of the maiden,—but he still retained her knife, and in the struggle
plunged it into the arm and shoulder of Reginald, who relaxed not,
however, his iron grasp, but still bore his opponent backwards, until
the foot of the latter tripped over a projecting root, and he fell with
tremendous force upon his head, the blood gushing in torrents from his
nose and mouth. Reginald, who had been dragged down in his fall, seized
the dagger, and, as he raised it above his head, felt a light touch
upon his arm, and turning round saw Prairie–bird kneeling at his side,
her face pale as monumental marble, and the sacred volume still clasped
in her hand.

“Kill him not, Reginald,” she said, in a low impressive voice;
“‘Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord!’”

Breathless, and flushed with the late severe struggle, the young
man replied: “I will spare the villain, dear Prairie–bird, at your
bidding: he is stunned and senseless now, but he will soon recover, and
his fury and thirst for revenge will know no bounds; he shall know,
however, that I _have_ spared him.” So saying, he cut off the dyed and
ornamented scalp–lock from the top of Mahéga’s head, and, laying it
beside the prostrate chieftain, arose, and retired with Prairie–bird
from the spot.

They walked together some distance in silence, for her heart
was overcharged with contending emotions; and as they went she
unconsciously clung to his arm for support: at length she stopped, and
looking up in his face, her eyes glistening with tears, she said,

“How am I ever to thank you?—my first debt of gratitude is due to
Heaven; but you have been its brave, its blessed instrument of my
deliverance from worse than death!” and a shudder passed over her frame
as the rude grasp of Mahéga recurred to her remembrance.

“Dear Prairie–bird,” he replied; “as a man I would have done as much
for the poorest and most indifferent of your sex—how then am I repaid
a thousand, thousand fold by having been allowed to serve a being so
precious!” The deep mellow tone in which he spoke these words, and the
look by which they were accompanied, brought the truant colour again
to the cheek of his companion, and as she cast her full dark eyes
downwards, they rested on the arm that supported her, and she saw that
his sleeve was stained and dropping with blood!

“Oh! you are wounded, badly hurt, I fear. Tell me, tell me, Reginald,”
she continued, with an intensity of anxiety that her expressive
countenance betrayed, “are you badly hurt?”

“Indeed, dear Prairie–bird, I cannot tell you: I felt the Indian strike
me twice with the dagger before he fell; I do not think the wounds are
serious, for you see I can walk and assist your steps too.”

While he thus spoke he was, however, growing faint from loss of blood,
and the wound in his shoulder, having become cold and stiff, gave him
exquisite pain. Prairie–bird was not deceived by the cheerfulness of
his manner; she saw the paleness that was gradually stealing over his
countenance, and, with ready presence of mind, insisted on his sitting
down on the trunk of a fallen tree beside their path. The suffering
condition of Reginald redoubled instead of paralysing her energies; she
filled his cap with fresh water from the brook, urged him to taste a
few drops, and sprinkled more over his face and temples; then ripping
up the sleeve of his hunting–shirt, she found the blood still welling
from two severe wounds between the elbow and shoulder in the left arm:
these she bathed and carefully closed, applying to them a healing
salve, which she drew from the small bag that she wore at her girdle,
after which she bandaged the arm firmly with her kerchief; then,
kneeling beside him, strove to read in his face the success of her
simple surgery.

In the course of a few minutes the dizzy sensation of faintness that
had been produced by loss of blood, passed away, and the delighted
Prairie–bird, seeing on his countenance the beaming smile of returning
consciousness and strength, murmured to herself, “Oh! God I thank
thee!” then hiding her face in her hands, wept with mingled emotion and
gratitude. Reginald heard the words, he marked the tears, and no longer
able to suppress the feelings with which his heart overflowed, he drew
her gently towards him with his yet unwounded arm, and whispered in her
ear the outpourings of a first, fond, passionate love!

No reply came from her lips, her tears (tears of intense emotion)
flowed yet faster; but a sensible pressure on the part of the little
hand which he clasped within his own, gave him the blest assurance that
his love was returned; and again and again did he repeat those sacred
and impassioned vows by which the hopes, the fears, the fortunes, the
affections, the very existence of two immortal beings, are inseparably
blended together. Her unresisting hand remained clasped in his, and
her head leaned upon his shoulder, that she might conceal the blushes
that suffused her countenance: still he would not be satisfied without
a verbal answer to his thrice urged prayer, that he might call her his
own; and when at length she raised her beaming eyes to his, and audibly
whispered, “For ever,” he sealed upon those sweet lips the contract of
unchanged affection.

Bright, transitory moments of bliss! lightning flashes that illumine
the dark and stormy path of life, though momentary in your duration,
how mighty in your power, how lasting in your effects! Sometimes
imparting a rapturous glow and kindling an unceasing heat that death
itself cannot extinguish, and sometimes under a star of evil destiny
searing and withering the heart rendered desolate by your scorching
flame!

It is not necessary to inform the gentle reader how long the
_tête–à–tête_ on the fallen tree continued; suffice it to say, that
Prairie–bird forgot her fright, and Reginald his wounds; and when
they returned to the village, each sought to enjoy in solitude those
delicious reveries which deserve certainly the second place in love’s
catalogue of happiness.



CHAPTER VI.

 ETHELSTON PREPARES TO LEAVE MOOSHANNE.—MAHÉGA APPEARS AS AN ORATOR, IN
 WHICH CHARACTER HE SUCCEEDS BETTER THAN IN THAT OF A LOVER.—A STORM
 SUCCEEDED BY A CALM.


While the events described in the last chapter were in progress, the
hours sped smoothly onward at Mooshanne. Lucy and Ethelston thought
themselves justly entitled to a liberal compensation for the trials
of their long separation; and, as the spring advanced, morning and
evening generally found them strolling together, in the enjoyment of
its opening beauties. Sometimes Aunt Mary encountered them during the
busy round of her visits to the poultry, the piggery, or to the cottage
of some neighbour, whither sorrow or sickness called her. The mate
frequently came over from Marietta to see his captain, and to inquire
whether there was no early prospect of another voyage, for he already
began to find that time travelled slowly ashore; and although he
consoled himself, now and then, with a pipe and social glass in David
Muir’s back parlour, he longed to be afloat again, and told the worthy
merchant that he would rather have made the fresh–water trip in the
canoe, than be laid up in dock, while he felt his old hull still stout
and seaworthy. His son Henry continued to advance in the good graces of
Jessie Muir; but unfortunately for the youth his father had discovered
his attachment, and lost no opportunity of bantering him in the
presence of the young lady, accompanying his jokes with sundry grins,
and severe pokes in the ribs, which caused sometimes a disagreeable
alternation of vexation and confusion: nevertheless David Muir remained
habitually blind to the state of his daughter’s affections, and Dame
Christie was a great deal too much occupied with the cares of domestic
government (including the occasional lectures and reproofs administered
to David) to admit of her troubling her head with what she would have
termed their childish fancies.

Such was the general state of affairs on the banks of the Muskingum,
when Colonel Brandon received letters from St. Louis, informing him
that, since the departure of his son, various disputes had arisen
between the agents of the different companies, and that unless a
speedy and amicable arrangement could be effected, a heavy loss must
necessarily fall upon the fur–proprietors and others interested in the
speculation. By the same post a letter bearing a foreign post–mark
was placed in the hands of Ethelston, during the perusal of which, an
expression of sadness spread itself over his countenance, and he fell
abstractedly into a reverie, the subject of which was evidently of a
painful nature. Such indications were not likely to escape the anxious
and observant eye of love; and Lucy, laying her hand lightly on his
arm, said in a tone half joking, half serious, “Am I not entitled to
know all your secrets now, Edward?”

“I think not,” he replied in the same tone; “and I am rather disposed
to refuse gratifying your curiosity, until you consent to acquiring
such a title as shall be indisputable.” Lucy coloured; but as she
still held out her hand and threatened him with her displeasure, if
he continued disobedient, he gave her the letter, saying, “I suppose
I must submit; the contents are sad, but there is no reason why I
should withhold them from yourself, or from your father.” With these
words he left the room: after a short pause, Lucy, at the Colonel’s
request, read him the letter, which proved to be from young Lieutenant
L’Estrange, and which, being translated, ran as follows:—

  “My Honoured Friend,

 “I need not tell you of the grief that I experienced on revisiting my
 changed and desolate home. My father has told me all that passed during
 your stay in the island. He looks upon those days not in anger, but in
 sorrow; he is sensible that for a time he did you injustice, and fears
 that, in the first bitterness of his grief, he may have omitted to make
 you full reparation. These feelings he entreats me to convey to you, and
 desires me to add, that from the first day of your arrival, to that of
 your final departure, your conduct was like yourself,—noble, upright,
 and generous. The misfortune that we still bewail, we bow to, as being
 the infliction of a Providence whose ways are inscrutable. Accept the
 renewed assurance of the highest regard and esteem of your friend,

  “EUGENE L’ESTRANGE.”

As Lucy read this letter, her eyes filled with tears, though,
perhaps, she could scarcely have explained, whether she wept over the
afflictions that had befallen the L’Estrange family, or the generous
testimony which it bore to her lover’s conduct. The Colonel, too, was
much affected, and gladly acquiesced in his daughter’s proposal, that
they should for the future abstain from renewing a subject which must
cause such painful recollections to Ethelston.

Ere many hours had elapsed, the latter was summoned to attend the
Colonel, who informed him that the intelligence lately received from
St. Louis was of a nature so important to his affairs, that it required
immediate attention. “There is no one,” he continued, “to whom I
can well entrust this investigation, except yourself, for none has
deserved or received so much of my confidence.” There was an unusual
embarrassment and hesitation observable in Ethelston’s countenance, on
hearing these words, which did not escape his guardian’s quick eye, and
the latter added, “I see, my dear fellow, that you are not disposed to
leave Mooshanne again so soon; you are thinking about certain promises,
and a certain young lady,—is it not so, Edward?”

“It is so, indeed, my best and kindest of friends,” said Ethelston.
“Can you think or wish that it should be otherwise?”

“Nay,” said Colonel Brandon, smiling, “I will not deny that you are
entitled to entertain such thoughts, but believe me, when I assure you
seriously that this expedition is essential to your own interests and
to mine. A great portion of the property left to you under my care by
your father, is invested in these Fur companies; and ere you enter on
the responsibilities of a married life, it is necessary that you put
your affairs in such a posture, as to ensure some future provision for
the lady of whom you are thinking. These arrangements will not detain
you at St. Louis for more than six weeks or two months, by that time
Reginald will have returned from his Indian excursion; you will come
home together, and I will then listen patiently to whatever you may
think fit to say, regarding the young lady in question;—shall it be
so, Edward?”

“How can I be grateful enough!” replied Ethelston, taking the Colonel’s
hand; “give me only leave to explain to Lucy the cause and probable
duration of my absence, then I am ready to receive your instructions,
and to set about it immediately.” We will not inquire too minutely how
Lucy received this explanation from her lover’s lip, nor what means he
took to reconcile her to the proposed arrangement; it is sufficient
to state, that she finally acquiesced with her habitual gentleness,
and that, in a few days after the above conversation, Ethelston had
completed his preparations for his journey to St. Louis.

We will again take leave of him and of Mooshanne for a season, and
return to Mahéga, whom we left bleeding and senseless, at no great
distance from the Osage and Delaware encampment. Indeed, we should,
ere this, have accused ourselves of inhumanity towards that chief, for
leaving him so long in such sorry plight, had he not merited severe
punishment, for his rough and brutal behaviour to Prairie–bird.

When Mahéga recovered his senses, he was still so much confused from
the stunning effects of the severe blow that he had received on the
head, as well as from loss of blood, that he could not recall to mind
the events immediately preceding his swoon; nor did they present
themselves distinctly to his memory, until his eye rested upon his
stained scalp–lock, and beside it the knife that Reginald Brandon had
driven firmly into the turf. Then he remembered clearly enough the
struggle, his fall, and the maiden’s escape; and the rage engendered by
this remembrance was rendered yet more violent, when he reflected on
the insult that his scalp had sustained from an enemy who had scorned
to take his life.

Fierce as were the passions that boiled within the breast of the
Osage, his self–command was such that he was able to control all
outward demonstration of them; and, rising slowly, he first effaced
in the stream all the sanguinary marks of the late contest, and then
took his way toward the camp, revolving in his mind various projects
for securing the two principal objects that he was determined to
accomplish,—the possession of Prairie–bird, and the death of Reginald
Brandon!

Although a wild uninstructed savage, Mahéga was gifted with talents of
no common order. Bold, and inflexible in carrying out his purposes, he
had cunning sufficient to make unimportant concessions to the opinions
of other chiefs and braves in council: unlike the great majority
of his tribe and race, he was well aware of the power and strength
resulting from union, and although all his ambition ultimately centred
in himself, he had the art of persuading his countrymen that he sought
only their interests and welfare; thus, while many hated, and more
feared Mahéga, he was the most influential chief in the tribe, on
account of his daring courage, his success in war, and the reckless
liberality with which he distributed among others his share of booty,
or of spoil. When the Delaware band had migrated to the banks of the
Osage river, Mahéga’s first impulse had been to attack and destroy
them; but finding that the new comers were better supplied with arms
and ammunition, the issue of a conflict seemed doubtful. Moreover, as
they were visited by many traders, he calculated that, by keeping on
friendly terms with them, he should acquire for his tribe, and for
himself, many advantages greater than they had before enjoyed.

Acting upon these motives, he had not only encouraged peace with the
Delawares, but had effected through his own influence the league that
had for some time united the two bands in our encampment; nor had he
been mistaken in his expectations, for, since their union with the
band of Delawares, the Osages had been enabled to beat off the Pawnees
and other roving tribes, from whose inroads upon their hunting–ground
they had before been exposed to frequent and severe disasters; the
objects which he had contemplated, had thus been for the most part
accomplished. The tribe was plentifully supplied with arms and
ammunition by the traders; his own influence amongst them was higher
than ever; but he could not brook a rival to his fame as a warrior
in War–Eagle, nor bear to be checked and thwarted in his ambitious
schemes, by the mild authority of Tamenund.

The mind of Mahéga being thus prepared for seizing the earliest
opportunity of coming to a rupture with the Delawares it may well be
imagined how his most violent and rancorous passions were excited by
the scornful rejection of his suit on the part of Prairie–bird, and the
disgrace he had incurred in his rencounter with her white protector. He
resolved no longer to delay the meditated blow; he had already made a
secret league with the warlike and powerful Dahcotahs; and the occasion
seemed most favourable for wreaking his vengeance on the relatives of
Prairie–bird, and the white men now resident in the Delaware camp.

Having once formed his determination, he set about carrying it into
effect with the sagacity and profound dissimulation which had already
obtained for him such an ascendancy in the Osage council. No sooner had
he reached his lodge, than he dressed himself in his Medicine robe[32],
adorned his face with corresponding streaks of paint, and concealing
the loss of his scalp–lock by a Spanish kerchief, which he folded round
his head, somewhat after the fashion of a turban, he sallied forth to
visit the chiefs and braves, on whose co–operation he felt that success
must mainly depend.

Some of these were already prepared to adopt his views, by their
previous participation in the league with the Dahcotahs; others he
bent and moulded to his purpose by arguments and inducements suited to
their character or circumstances; and ere he returned to his lodge,
he felt confident that his proposed plans would be supported by the
most influential warriors in the tribe, and that he should easily bear
down the opposition of the more cautious and scrupulous, who might be
disposed to keep faith with their Delaware allies.

In the meanwhile War–Eagle was not idle, he visited the principal
braves and warriors of his tribe, and found them unanimous in their
resolution to break off all communication with the Osages, as soon as
the latter should commit any overt act that should justify them in
dissolving the league into which they had entered. He also resolved to
watch closely the movements of Mahéga, of whose malice and influence
he was fully aware; with this view he selected an intelligent Delaware
boy, who knew the Osage language, and desired him to hover about the
tent of the chief, and to bring a report of all that he should see or
hear.

Towards the close of day, Mahéga sent runners about his village, after
the usual Indian fashion, to summon the warriors and braves, most of
whom were already prepared for the harangue which he was about to
address to them; as soon as a sufficient number were collected, the
wily chief came forth from his lodge, in the dress before described,
and began by thanking them for so readily obeying his call.

“Why did Mahéga call together the warriors?” he continued; “Was it to
tell them that a broad bison–trail is near the camp? The Medicine–men
have not yet smoked the hunting–pipe to the Wahcondah.—Was it to tell
them of the scalps taken by their fathers? The young men have not been
called to the war–dance, their ears have not heard the Drum.[33]—Was
it to tickle their ears with words like dried grass? Mahéga’s tongue is
not spread with honey; he has called the Washashe to open their ears
and eyes, to tell them that snakes have crept under their lodges, that
the dogs in the village have become wolves!”

As he paused, the auditors looked each at the other; those who were
not yet instructed in the speaker’s project being at a loss to catch
the meaning of his words. Seeing that he had arrested their attention,
he proceeded: “When Mahéga was young, when our fathers were warriors,
who was so strong as the Washashe? Our hunters killed the deer and the
bison from the Neska to the Topeo–kà.[34] The Konzas were our brothers,
and we were afraid of none. But the Mahe–hunguh[35] came near, their
tongues were smooth, their hands were full, and the Washashe listened
to their talk:—is it not so?”

A deep murmur testified the attention of his auditors; but Mahéga knew
that he was venturing on dangerous ground, and his present object was
rather to incite them to vengeance against the band of Delawares and
their guests, than against the white men in general. He resumed his
harangue in a milder tone.

“The Long–knives smoked the pipe of peace with us, we gave them meat
and skins, and they gave us paint and blankets, and fire–weapons with
Medicine–powder and lead,—all that was well; but who came with the
Long–knives,—the Lenapé!” He paused a moment, then looking fiercely
round, he continued in a louder strain; “and who are these Lenapé? They
were beggars when they came to us! Their skin is red, but their hearts
are pale. Do we not know the tale of their fathers? Were they not
slaves to the warriors of other nations?[36] Were they not women? Did
they not leave the war–path to plant maize, and drink the fire–water of
the Long–knives? They gave up their hunting–ground; they left the bones
of their fathers; they crossed the Ne–o–hunge[37], and asked for the
friendship of the Washashe. We lighted the pipe for them; we received
them like brothers, and opened to them our hunting–ground; but their
hearts are bad to us, Washashes. Mahéga tells you that the Lenapé are
snakes!”

Another deep guttural sound, indicative of increased excitement,
gratified the speaker’s ear, and he continued in a strain yet bolder:
“Is Mahéga not a chief? Has he not struck the bodies of his enemies?
Are there no scalps on his war–shirt? He was good to these Lenapé,
he treated their warriors like brothers, he offered to make Olitipa
his wife, they gave him bitter words and threw dirt upon his lodge.
Shall the Washashe Chief be called a dog?” he exclaimed in a voice of
thunder; “Shall he sit on the ground while a Lenapé spits in his face?”

A shout of anger and fury burst from the audience, as, waving his
hand impatiently for silence, he went on: “The Lenapé knew that their
hearts were false, their arms weak, their tongues forked, and they
have brought in a band of Long–knives to defend them and to drive the
Washashe from their hunting–grounds. Shall it be so? Shall we hold our
backs to be scourged like children? Shall we whine like starved wolves?
See how the pale faces can insult your chief!” As he spoke, Mahéga tore
the turban with one hand from his head, and holding up his severed
scalp–lock with the other, while every muscle of his countenance worked
with fury, “See what the hand of a white–face boy has done. Mahéga
slept under a tree, and he whom they call Netis, the stranger who has
eaten our meat and smoked with our chiefs, stole upon Mahéga, struck
him on the head, and cut off his hair.” As he uttered this audacious
falsehood, which was, of course, believed by all who heard him, a
terrific shout burst from the assembled Osages, and the wily chief,
striking while the iron was hot, went on:—

“It is enough—the Washashes are not women; they will dig up the
hatchet, and throw it into the council lodge of these white–faced
and pale–hearted dogs. The great chief of the Dahcotahs has spoken
to Mahéga; he seeks the friendship of the Washashes; the Dahcotahs
are men; the bisons on their hunting–grounds are like the leaves in
the forest. They wish to call the Washashes brothers, they wait for
Mahéga’s words.—What shall he say?”

A tremendous shout was raised in reply, a shout that could be heard
throughout the whole encampment. Mahéga saw that his triumph was
complete, and folding his Medicine robe over his shoulder, he once more
waved his hand for silence, and dismissed the assembly, saying, “Before
the sun sinks again the chiefs and braves will meet in council. The
Washashes will hear their words and they will be ready.” As he spoke he
cast his dark eye expressively downwards to the tomahawk suspended at
his belt, and slowly re–entered his lodge.

Meanwhile the youth who had been sent by War–Eagle to observe what was
passing in the Osage encampment, executed his commission with fidelity
and address. Although not sufficiently familiar with the language to
catch all that fell from Mahéga, he yet learnt enough to satisfy his
young chief that a rupture was at hand. It only remained now to be
proved whether it would take place as the result of an open council, or
whether the Osages would withdraw secretly to their new Dahcotah allies.

On the morning succeeding the events above related, War–Eagle left the
encampment before daybreak, partly to see whether he could discover
any unusual stir among the Osages, and partly to revolve in his mind
the course of conduct that he should suggest if called upon to give
his opinion before the Lenapé council. Many various emotions were
struggling in his bosom, and in this respect the descendants of Adam,
whether their skins be white or red, so far resemble each other, that
on such occasions they seek to avoid the turmoil of their fellow–men,
and to be for a season alone amid the works of inanimate nature.

It was with impressions and feelings far different that Reginald and
Prairie–bird found themselves soon after sunrise together, as if by
tacit appointment, by the great tree, under which he had first seen
her. In order to guard against the treachery of which he believed
Mahéga capable, he had communicated to Baptiste the events of the
preceding morning, and had desired him to watch the movements of the
latter, especially guarding Prairie–bird against any renewal of his
violence.—The trusty forester, who had grown extremely taciturn since
he had observed his young master’s attachment, shrugged his shoulders,
and briefly promised to obey his instructions. He was too shrewd to
oppose a torrent such as that by which Reginald was carried away; and,
although it must be confessed, that he had many misgivings as to the
reception that the tidings would meet with at the hands of Colonel
Brandon, the beauty and gentleness of Prairie–bird had so far won
upon his rough nature that he was well disposed to protect her from
the machinations of the Osage. With these intentions he followed her
when she left her lodge, and as soon as she entered the thicket before
described, he ensconced himself in a shady corner whence he could
observe the approach of any party from the encampment.

We will now follow the steps of War–Eagle, who, having satisfied
himself by a careful observation of the out piquette that no immediate
movement was on foot among the Osages, turned towards the undulating
prairies to the westward of the village.

He was in an uneasy and excited mood, both from the treachery of the
Osages towards his tribe, and various occurrences which had of late
wounded his feelings in the quarter where they were most sensitive.

The victory over self is the greatest that can be achieved by man; it
assumes, however, a different complexion in those who are guided by
the light of nature, and in those who have been taught by revelation.
In the heathen it is confined to the actions and to the outward man,
whereas in the Christian it extends to the motives and feelings of the
heart. The former may spare an enemy, the latter must learn to forgive
and love him. But in both cases the struggle is severe in proportion to
the strength of the passion which is to be combated. In War–Eagle were
combined many of the noblest features of the Indian character; but his
passions had all the fierce intensity common to his race; and although
the instructions of Paul Müller, falling like good seed on a wild but
fertile soil, had humanised and improved him, his views of Christianity
were incipient and indistinct, while the courage, pride, and feelings
of his race were in the full zenith of their power. He had long known
that Prairie–bird was not his sister in blood, she had grown up from
childhood under his eye, and, unconsciously perhaps at first, he had
loved her, and still loved her with all the impassioned fervour of his
nature. It may be remembered in the earlier portion of this tale, when
he first became acquainted with Reginald, that he had abstained from
all mention of her name, and had avoided the subject whenever young
Wingenund brought it forward. He had never yet asked Olitipa to become
his wife, but the sweet gentleness of her manner, and her open contempt
for the addresses of the handsome and distinguished Osage, had led him
to form expectations favourable to his own suit. At the same time there
was something in the maiden’s behaviour that had frequently caused him
to doubt whether she loved him, and sharing in the awe with which she
inspired all the Indians around her, he had hitherto hesitated and
feared to make a distinct avowal. Of late he had been so much occupied
in observing the suspicious movements of the Osages that his attention
had been somewhat withdrawn from Olitipa: he was aware of her having
become acquainted with Reginald, and the adventure of the preceding
day, which had been communicated to him, filled him with an uneasiness
that he could not conceal from himself, although he had succeeded in
concealing it from others.

In this frame of mind, he was returning to the camp, along the course
of the streamlet passing through the grove where the rencounter of
the preceding day had occurred. When he reached the opening before
described, his eyes rested on a sight that transfixed him to the
spot. Seated on one of the projecting roots of the ancient tree was
Prairie–bird, her eye and cheek glowing with happiness, and her ear
drinking in the whispered vows of her newly–betrothed lover; her hand
was clasped in his, and more than once he pressed it tenderly to his
lips. For several minutes the Indian stood silent and motionless as a
statue; despair seemed to have checked the current of his blood, but
by slow degrees consciousness returned; he saw her, the maiden whom
he had served and loved for weary months and years, now interchanging
with another tokens of affection not to be mistaken, and that other a
stranger whom he had himself lately brought by his own invitation from
a distant region.

The demon of jealousy took instant possession of his soul; every
other thought, feeling, and passion was for the time annihilated, the
nobler impulses of his nature were forgotten, and he was in a moment
transformed to a merciless savage, bent on swift and deadly vengeance.
He only paused as in doubt, _how_ he should kill his rival—perhaps,
whether he should kill them both; his eye dwelt upon them with a stern
ferocity, as he loosened the unerring tomahawk from his belt; another
moment he paused, for his hand trembled convulsively, and a cold sweat
stood like dew upon his brow. At this terrible crisis of his passion, a
low voice whispered in his ear, in the Delaware tongue,

“Would the Lenapé chief stain his Medicine with a brother’s blood?”
War–Eagle, turning round, encountered the steady eye of Baptiste;
he gave no answer, but directed his fiery glance towards the spot
where the unconscious lovers were seated, and the half–raised weapon
still vibrated under the impulse of the internal struggle that shook
every muscle of the Indian’s frame. Profiting by the momentary pause,
Baptiste continued, in the same tone, “Shall the tomahawk of the
War–Eagle strike an adopted son of the Unâmi?[38] The Bad Spirit has
entered my brother’s heart; let him hold a talk with himself, and
remember that he is the son of Tamenund.”

By an effort of self–control, such as none but an Indian can exercise,
War–Eagle subdued, instantaneously, all outward indication of the
tempest that had been aroused in his breast. Replacing the tomahawk in
his belt, he drew himself proudly to his full height, and, fixing on
the woodsman an eye calm and steady as his own, he replied,

“Grande–Hâche speaks truth; War–Eagle is a chief; the angry spirit
is strong; but he tramples it under his feet.” He then added, in a
lower tone, “War–Eagle will speak to Netis; not now; if his white
brother’s tongue has been forked, the medicine of the Unâmi shall not
protect him. The sky is very black, and War–Eagle has no friend left.”
So saying, the Indian threw his light blanket over his shoulder and
stalked gloomily from the spot.

Baptiste followed with his eye the retreating figure of the Delaware,
until it was lost in the dense foliage of the wood.

“He _is_ a noble fellow,” said the rough hunter, half aloud, leaning
on his long rifle, and pursuing the thread of his own reflections. “He
is one of the old sort of Ingians, and there’s but few of ‘em left.
I’ve been with him in several skrimages, and I’ve seen him strike and
scalp more than one Dahcotah; but I never saw the glare of his eye so
wild and bloodthirsty before; if he had kept his purpose, my old sinews
would have had some trouble to save Master Reginald from that tomahawk.
It’s well for him that I’ve lived long enough among the Delawares to
know the ins and outs of their natur’, as well as John Skellup at
the ferry knows the sand–bars and channels in Bearcreek Shallows. I
thought the Unâmi Medicine whispered in his ear might do something;
but I scarcely hoped it could smother such a fire in a minute. I
remember, when I was young, I was in a hot passion, now and then,
myself. _Capote!_ I’m sometimes in a passion still, when I think of
those cut–throat Sioux, and if my bristles are up, it takes some time
to smooth ‘em down.” Here the woodsman’s hand unconsciously rested for
a moment on the huge axe suspended at his belt; but his musings took
another course, as he continued his muttered soliloquy:—

“Well, I sometimes think the bears and the deer have more reason than
human critturs, ay, and I believe that shot isn’t overwide o’ the mark.
Look at them two youngsters, Master Reginald and War–Eagle, two brave
honest hearts as ever lived; one saves the other’s life; they become
brothers and swear friendship; of a sudden, I am obliged to step in
between ‘em, to prevent one from braining the other with a tomahawk.
And what’s the cause of all this hate and fury? Why, love,—a pair of
black eyes and red lips;—a strange kind of love, indeed, that makes
a man hate and kill his best friend. Thank Heaven, I have nothing to
do with such love; and I say, as I said before, that the dumb animals
have more reason than human critturs. Well, I must do all I can to make
‘em friends again, for a blind man might see they’ll need each other’s
help, ere many days are past!”

So saying, the woodsman threw his rifle into the hollow of his arm, and
moved towards Reginald Brandon, who, unconscious of the danger that he
had so narrowly escaped, was still engaged with Prairie–bird in that
loving dialogue which finds no satiety in endless reiteration.

Baptiste drew near, and after the usual greetings, took an opportunity,
as he thought unobserved by Prairie–bird, of making a sign to Reginald
that he wished to speak with him in private; but the maiden, watchful
of every movement directly or indirectly affecting her lover, and
already aware of the intrigues and treachery of the Osages, said to
him with her usual simplicity of manner, “Baptiste, if you have aught
to say requiring my absence, I will go; but as there are dangers
approaching that threaten us all alike, do not fear to speak before me.
I know something of these people, and though only an unskilled maiden,
my thoughts might be of some avail.”

The sturdy hunter, although possessed of a shrewd judgment, was
somewhat confused by this direct appeal; but after smoothing down the
hair of his fur cap for a few moments, as was his custom when engaged
in reflection, he resolved to speak before her without concealment;
and he proceeded accordingly, with the blunt honesty of his nature,
to narrate to them all the particulars of his late interview with
War–Eagle. During his recital, both the auditors changed colour
more than once, with different yet sympathetic emotions; and when
he concluded, Reginald suddenly arose, and, fixing his eye upon the
maiden’s countenance, as if he would read her soul, he said,

“Prairie–bird, I conjure you by all you love on earth, and by all your
hopes of Heaven! tell me truly, if you have known and encouraged these
feelings in War–Eagle?”

The dark eyes that had been cast to the ground with various painful
emotions were raised at this appeal, and met her lover’s searching look
with the modest courage of conscious truth as she replied,—

“Reginald, is it possible that you can ask me such a question? Olitipa,
the foundling of the Delawares, loved War–Eagle as she loved Wingenund;
she was brought up in the same lodge with both; she called both,
brother; she thought of them only as such. Had War–Eagle ever asked for
other love, she would have told him she had none other to give. She
knew of none other, until—until——” The presence of a third person
checked the words that struggled for utterance; her deep eyes filled
with tears, and she hid them on Reginald’s bosom.

“I were worse than an infidel, could I doubt thy purity and truth,”
he exclaimed with fervour; “Baptiste, I will speak with my Indian
brother—I pity him from my heart—I will strive all in my power to
soothe his sorrow; for I, and I alone, can know what _he_ must suffer,
who has, in secret and in vain, loved such a being as this! Let us
return.”

Slowly and sadly they wended their way to the encampment, the guide
bringing up the rear. He was thoroughly convinced that Prairie–bird
had spoken the truth: every look, every accent carried conviction with
it; but he feared for the meeting between the young men, being fully
aware of the impetuosity of Reginald’s character, and of the intense
excitement that now affected the Indian’s mind. He determined, however,
to leave them to themselves, for he had lived enough among men of
stormy and ungoverned passions to know, that in a _tête–à–tête_ between
two high and generous spirits a concession will often be made, to which
pride might, in the presence of others, never have submitted.

On reaching their quarters in the encampment, they found Paul Müller
standing thoughtfully before Prairie–bird’s tent, into which, after
exchanging a brief but cordial greeting, he and the maiden withdrew,
leaving Reginald and the guide to retire into the adjoining lodge of
Tamenund.

War–Eagle, who had posted himself in a spot whence, without being seen
himself, he could observe their movements, now walked slowly forward
to the entrance of the tent, into which he was immediately invited by
the missionary; his manner was grave and composed, nor could the most
observant eye have traced in the lines of his countenance the slightest
shade of excitement or agitation.

After the usual salutation, he said, “War–Eagle will speak to the Black
Father presently; he has now low words for the ear of Olitipa.”

Paul Müller, looking on him with a smile, benevolent though somewhat
melancholy, said, “I shut my ears, my son, and go, for I know that
War–Eagle will speak nothing that his sister should not hear;” and
so saying, he retired into his adjacent compartment of the tent.
Prairie–bird, conscious of the painful scene that awaited her, sat in
embarrassed silence, and for upwards of a minute War–Eagle contemplated
without speaking the sad but lovely expression of the maiden’s
countenance; that long and piercing look told him all that he dreaded
to know; he saw that Baptiste had spoken to her; he saw that his hopes
were blasted; and still his riveted gaze was fixed upon her, as the
eyes of one banished for life dwell upon the last receding tints of
the home that he is leaving for ever. Collecting, at length, all the
stoic firmness of his nature, he spoke to her in the Delaware tongue;
the words that he used were few and simple, but in them, and in the
tone of his voice, there was so much delicacy mingled with such depth
of feeling, that Prairie–bird could not refrain from tears.

Answering him in the same language, she blended her accustomed
sincerity of expression with gentle words of soothing kindness; and,
in concluding her reply, she took his hand in hers, saying, “Olitipa
has long loved her brothers, War–Eagle and Wingenund; let not a cloud
come between them now; her heart is not changed to the great warrior of
Lenapé; his sister trusts to his protection; she is proud of his fame;
she has no other love to give him; her race, her religion, her heart
forbid it! but he is her dear brother; he will not be angry, nor leave
her.

“Mahéga and the Osages are become enemies; the Dahcotah trail is near;
Tamenund is old and weak; where shall Olitipa find a brother’s love,
and a brother’s aid, if War–Eagle turns away his face from her now?”

The noble heart to which she appealed had gone through its fiery ordeal
of torture, and triumphed over it. After the manner of his tribe, the
Delaware, before relinquishing her hand, pressed it for a moment to
his chest, in token of affection, and said, “It is enough; my sister’s
words are good, they are not spilt upon the ground; let Mahéga or the
Dahcotahs come near the lodge of Olitipa, and they shall learn that
War–Eagle is her brother!” The chieftain’s hand rested lightly on his
tomahawk, and his countenance, as he withdrew from the tent, wore an
expression of high and stern resolve.

How often in life is the observation forced upon us, that artlessness
is the highest perfection of art! It is an axiom, the truth of
which remains unchallenged under whatever aspect we view it, and is
indisputable even in its converse; thus, as in writing, the apparent
ease and simplicity of style is the result of frequent correction
and laborious study; so in corporeal exercises, the most assiduous
practice must be combined with the highest physical qualifications,
ere the dancer or the posture–master can emulate the unconscious grace
displayed in the movements of a sportive kitten, or a playful child.

Had Prairie–bird been familiar with all the learned treatises on
rhetoric that have appeared from the time of Aristotle to the present
day, she could not have selected topics better calculated to move
and soften the heart of her Indian brother. And yet she had no other
instructor in the heart than the natural delicacy of her sex and
character. While the tribute to his warlike fame gratified his pride,
the unstudied sisterly affection of her tone and manner soothed his
wounded feelings; and while the brief picture of her unprotected state
aroused all his nobler and more generous sentiments, no breath of
allusion to his successful rival’s name kindled the embers of jealousy
that slumbered beneath them.

As he walked from her tent, the young Indian’s heart dilated within
him; he trod the earth with a proud and lordly step; he had grappled
with his passion; and though it had been riveted “to his soul with
hooks of steel,” he had plucked it forth with an unflinching hand,
and he now met his deep–rooted grief with the same lofty brow and
unconquerable will with which he would have braved the tortures of the
Dahcotah stake.



CHAPTER VII.

 IN WHICH THE READER WILL FIND A MORAL DISQUISITION SOMEWHAT TEDIOUS, A
 TRUE STORY SOMEWHAT INCREDIBLE, A CONFERENCE THAT ENDS IN PEACE, AND A
 COUNCIL THAT BETOKENS WAR.


It is not a feature in the character of Indians to do anything by
halves; their love and their hate, their patience and impatience, their
abstinence and self–indulgence, all are apt to run into extremes.
Moderation is essentially a virtue of civilisation; it is the result
of forethought, reasoning, and a careful calculation of consequences,
whereas the qualities of the Indian are rather the children of impulse,
and are less modified by conflicting motives; hence, the lights and
shades of character are broader and more distinct; and though it may be
perhaps impossible that Indian villany should assume a deeper dye than
that which may unfortunately be met with among civilised nations, it is
not asserting too much to say, that there are to be found among these
savages instances of disinterested, self–devoted heroism, such as are
rarely heard of beyond the world of chivalry and romance.

This assertion will be received by many readers with an incredulous
smile, and still more will be disposed to believe that it can be true
only in reference to such virtues or actions as are the immediate
result of a generous impulse; but examples are not wanting to prove
the argument to be defensible upon higher grounds. It will readily
be admitted, that retributive justice, although consonant to the
first principles of reason and natural law, cannot, when deliberately
enforced, be considered in the light of a sudden impulse, much less
can it be so considered when the party enforcing it is to be himself
the sufferer by it; and those who are conversant with the history of
the Indian nations can testify that parallel instances to that which
follows have frequently occurred among them.

Some years ago, a young married Indian, residing on the western bank of
the Mississippi, quarrelled with another of his tribe, and in the heat
of passion killed him with a blow of his tomahawk. After a few moments’
reflection, he walked direct to the village, and presenting himself
before the wigwam of the murdered man, called together his relations,
and addressed them as follows:

“Your relative was my friend; we were together,—some angry words arose
between us,—I killed him on the spot. My life is in your hands, and
I have come to offer it to you; but the summer hunting–season has now
begun. I have a wife and some young children; they have done you no
wrong; I wish to go out into the woods to kill a plentiful supply of
meat, such as may feed them during the winter; when I have done that, I
will return and give myself to you.”

The stern assembly of mourners gave their assent, and the young man
retired; for many weeks he toiled indefatigably in the chase, his wife
jerked and dried the meat as he daily brought it in, until he saw that
the supply was ample for the ensuing winter; he then bid farewell to
her and to his little ones, and once more presenting himself before
the wigwam of his late friend, he said, “I am come: my squaw has meat
for the winter, my life is now yours!” To these words the eldest male
relative of the deceased replied, “It is well:” and rising from the
ground, executed on the unresisting offender the summary justice of
Indian retribution, by cleaving his skull with a tomahawk. Neither the
self–devotion of the one, nor the unrelenting severity of the other,
excited any peculiar sensation, each having acted according to the
strict, though barbarous usage of the tribe.

Amongst a people accustomed to look with stoic composure on scenes
such as that just described, War–Eagle had already won a distinguished
name, and he supported it on this trying occasion by resigning what was
dearer to him than life, and crushing, as under a weight of iron, that
passion which had been for years the hope and nourishment of his heart;
whether, albeit crushed and smothered, it still lingered there, is a
secret which it is neither our wish nor our province to betray, but
regarding which the reader may form his own opinion from the subsequent
conduct of the chief.

His first step was to seek Reginald Brandon, whom he desired, by a
silent signal, to leave the lodge and follow him. Our hero mechanically
obeyed, in a painful state of excitement and agitation, feeling that
he had been the unconscious means of blasting all the dearest hopes
of his Indian friend; and although he had intended no injury, he was
sensible that he had done one, such as man can rarely forgive, and
can never repair; for even had the romantic generosity of friendship
prompted him to resign all pretensions to Prairie–bird, he felt that
such a resignation, while he was secure of her affections, would be
mere mockery and insult. He knew also how prominent a feature is
revenge in the Indian character, and thought it not improbable that he
might be now following his conductor to some secluded spot, where their
rivalry should be decided by mortal strife, and the survivor return to
claim the lovely prize. This last thought, which would, under any other
circumstances, have nerved his arm and made his heart exult within
him, now overwhelmed him with sadness, for he loved both Wingenund and
War–Eagle, they were endeared to him by reciprocal benefits, and he
shrunk from a quarrel with the latter as from a fratricide.

Meanwhile the Indian strode rapidly forward; neither could Reginald
detect the feelings that lurked beneath the dignified and unmoved
composure of his countenance.

After walking in silence for some minutes, they reached a small hollow,
where a few scattered alder–bushes screened them from the observation
of the stragglers round the skirts of the Delaware camp: here the chief
suddenly halted, and turning towards Reginald, bent on him the full
gaze of his dark and lustrous eyes; the latter observed with surprise
that their expression, as well as that of his usually haughty features,
was a deep composed melancholy.

At length the Delaware broke the long and painful silence, addressing
his companion, after his imperfect notion of English, in the following
words:—

“The Great Spirit sent a cloud between Netis and War–Eagle—a very
black cloud; the lightning came from it and blinded the eyes of the
Lenapé chief, so that he looked on his brother and thought he saw an
enemy. The Bad Spirit whispered in his ear that the tongue of Netis was
forked; that the heart of Olitipa was false; that she had listened to a
mockingbird, and had mingled for War–Eagle a cup of poison.”

The Delaware paused for a moment; his eye retained its steady but sad
expression, his lips were firmly compressed, and not a muscle betrayed
the intensity of his feeling; but Reginald appreciated rightly the
self–control that had conquered, in so severe a struggle, and grasping
his friend’s hand, he said,—

“Noble and generous son of the Lenapé, the Bad Spirit has no power
over a heart like yours! Are we not brothers? Have not the waters of
the Muskingum, and the treacherous knife of the Huron, tied our hearts
together, so that no fear, no suspicion, no falsehood, can come between
them? Netis believed that War–Eagle loved Olitipa only as a sister, or
he would rather have given his scalp to Mahéga than have spoken soft
words in the maiden’s ear!”

“My brother’s words are true,” replied the Delaware, in the low and
musical tone for which his voice was remarkable; “War–Eagle knows
it; he has dreamt, and is now awake: Olitipa is his sister—the
Great Spirit decrees that no child of an Indian warrior shall call
her mother. It is enough.” The countenance of the Delaware assumed a
sterner expression as he continued:—

“My brother must be ready; let his rifle be loaded and his eye open,
for Tamenund has seen the snow of many winters; the Black Father
is good and true, but his hand knows not the tomahawk: the Osage
panther will crouch near the tent of Olitipa, and the feet of the
Cut–throats[39] will not be far; before the sun goes down War–Eagle
will see his brother again.”

Thus saying, and waiting no reply, he returned with hearty strides
towards the village. Reginald gazed long and earnestly after the
retreating figure of the Indian, forgetting awhile, in admiration of
his heroic self–control, the dangers that beset his beloved and his
party.

“Could I,” he asked himself, “could I, under the same circumstances,
with all the light, and aid, and high motives of Christianity, have
shown the forbearance, generosity, and self–command displayed by this
noble heathen? Could I have seen all my long–cherished hopes, my warm
and passionate love, blasted in a moment, and have so soon, so frankly,
and so fully exculpated and forgiven the man to whom I owed my misery?
I hope I might have done so, still I am afraid to ask my heart the
question!”

Reginald’s cheek glowed under the influence of this self–scrutiny,
and he gladly availed himself of the approach of Paul Müller, to whom
he related what had passed, and expressed in the warmest terms his
admiration of his Indian brother’s conduct. The good missionary felt
inexpressibly relieved at hearing the amicable issue now announced to
him, for although he had never been made a confidant of War–Eagle’s
feelings towards Olitipa, his own observation had shown him of late
that they were not exactly fraternal, and he had viewed with dread a
rivalry between the two high–spirited young men, at a crisis when the
aid of both might be so necessary to protect his fair pupil from the
perils by which she was surrounded.

Meanwhile the machinations of Mahéga, which had been conducted with
his accustomed secrecy and cunning, were almost ripe for execution;
several runners had interchanged communication between him and the
Dahcotah chief, the latter of whom was delighted at the prospect,
thus unexpectedly offered, of taking vengeance on his ancient and
hated Lenapé foes. A secret council of the Osages had been held, at
which a treaty with the Sioux and a rupture with the Delawares were
discussed, and almost unanimously carried, Mahéga appearing rather to
have coincided in the general determination than to have caused it by
his influence and intrigues. The result of this council was, that the
Osage village immediately struck their lodges, the horses were driven
in, skins, poultry, provisions, and all their utensils were packed
upon them, and in a few hours the whole body moved in a north–easterly
direction towards the upper fork of the river Konzas.

While they were departing, the Delaware council was summoned by a
crier; Reginald and Baptiste were also invited to attend, the former
in compliment to his station in the tribe as adopted brother of
War–Eagle; the latter being recognised as a warrior of tried courage
and experience. The Chiefs and Braves having seated themselves in
a semicircle, the centre of which was occupied by Tamenund, the
Great Medicine pipe was first passed round in silence, and with the
accustomed solemnities, after which Tamenund arose, and in a voice
feeble from age, but distinctly audible, proceeded to explain to the
assembly the affairs respecting which they had met to consult: while
he was speaking, one of the Indians appointed to guard the entrance of
the council lodge, came in and announced a messenger from the Osage
encampment. Tamenund paused, and desired the messenger to be introduced.

All eyes were bent sternly on the envoy, who advanced with a haughty
and dignified step into the centre of the lodge, where he stood still,
and resting on a long lance which he held in his right hand, awaited,
according to Indian custom, a signal from the council–chief to deliver
his errand. His dress, and the paint by which his body was adorned,
had evidently been prepared with every attention to the niceties of
Indian diplomacy, some portions of it being significant of peace or
alliance, and others of hostile preparation; his right side was painted
red, with streaks of black; on his left arm he wore a round shield of
buffalo–hide, a quiver of arrows hung at his back, a tomahawk and knife
were in his girdle, and in his left hand he carried a large string of
wampum[40], adorned with sundry ribbons and thongs of party–coloured
deer–skin.

The Delawares recognised in the messenger a young kinsman of Mahéga,
one who had already distinguished himself by several feats of daring
gallantry, and had been lately enrolled among the braves of his
nation: he had hitherto been upon the most friendly terms with the
Lenapé, was familiar with their language, and had volunteered on more
than one occasion to follow War–Eagle on the war–path; but the lines
of paint and his accoutrements were now, as has before been observed,
so carefully selected, that their practised eyes were unable to decide
whether peace or war was the object of his mission; neither was any
inference to be drawn from his countenance or bearing, for after
the first cold salutation on entering, he leaned on his lance in an
attitude of haughty indifference. Under these circumstances he was
not invited to sit, neither was the pipe handed to him, but Tamenund
briefly addressed him as follows:

“The messenger of the Osage may speak. The ears of the Lenapé are open.”

“Flying–arrow,” replied the young man, in a modest and quiet tone,
“knows that many winters have passed over the head of the Lenapé chief;
he is sorry to speak hard words to Tamenund.”

“Let the young warrior speak freely; Tamenund knows that he is the
mouth of the Osage council,” was the grave reply.

“The Washashe say that the Lenapé have walked in a crooked path.
The council have assembled; and the words delivered to Flying–arrow
are these: The Washashe allowed the Lenapé to kill meat on their
hunting–ground, they smoked the pipe together, and gave each other the
wampum–belt of peace; but the Lenapé hearts are white, though their
skin is red; their tongues are smooth with telling many lies: they
have brought the pale–faces here to aid them in driving the Washashe
from the hunting–fields of their fathers! Is it not true?” continued
the fearless envoy, in a louder strain; “they have done all they can
to throw dirt upon the lodges of those whom they call brothers. When
Mahéga offered to take the daughter of Tamenund as his wife, what was
said to him? Does not the pale–face who crept upon him and defiled his
medicine, still sit and smoke at the Lenapé fire? Mahéga says, let
Tamenund give him Olitipa for a wife, and the pale–face, called Netis,
as a prisoner, and let him send back the other white men to the Great
River; then Mahéga will believe that the hearts of the Lenapé are true
to the friendship pledged on this belt.”

Thus saying, he shook the wampum before the assembled Delawares with
an air of proud defiance. A brief pause followed this daring speech;
the heart of War–Eagle boiled within him, but a scornful smile sat upon
his haughty countenance, as he waited composedly for the reply of his
father, who seemed engaged in deep and serious meditation.

Reginald had, of course, been unable to follow the envoy’s discourse,
but his quick ear had detected his own name; and a fierce look,
which accompanied its pronunciation, told him that he was personally
interested in the object of the Osage’s message. Having gathered
from Baptiste, in a whisper, the nature of Mahéga’s charge and
demand, a flush of indignation coloured his brow, but the examples of
self–command that he had so lately seen, and that he still witnessed
in the iron features by which he was surrounded, taught him to place
a like restraint upon his own feelings, and to await the reply of the
aged chief.

The latter, fixing his eye sternly upon the envoy, thus addressed
him: “Mahéga has filled the young brave’s mouth with lies. The hearts
of the Lenapé are true as the guiding–star.[41] They are faithful to
their friends, they fear no enemies. Tamenund will not give Olitipa to
Mahéga, nor his adopted son to be the Washashe’s prisoner. Tamenund
is old, but he is not blind, Mahéga wishes to become a friend of the
Dahcotahs. It is well; he will find among them hearts as bad and
tongues as forked as his own! I have spoken.”

A deep murmur of approbation followed the aged chief’s brief but
energetic harangue, and as soon as it was concluded, the fearless
messenger drew a sharp knife from his girdle, and severing the
wampum–belt, he cast the two halves on the ground, saying, “It is well!
thus is the league between the Washashe and the Lenapé divided.”

Baptiste, to whom Reginald had again addressed a few words in a
whisper, now rose, and having requested permission of Tamenund, said
to the Osage messenger, “Netis desires you to tell Mahéga that he is
a liar,—brave enough to frighten women, but nothing more. If he is a
warrior, let him come to–morrow at sunrise to the open prairie, north
of the camp; the friends of both shall stand back three arrow–flights
apart; Netis will meet him with a rifle and a hunting–knife; Olitipa
will not be there to save his life again!”

Another murmur of approbation went round the assembly, many of whom
had already heard of the rough treatment that the gigantic Osage had
received at Reginald’s hands, but hearing it now confirmed by the lips
of a tried warrior, like Grande–Hâche, they looked with increased
respect and esteem on the adopted brother of War–Eagle.

“Flying–arrow will tell Mahéga,” was the brief reply; and the messenger
glancing his eye haughtily around the circle, left the lodge and
returned to the encampment of his tribe. After his departure the
council continued their deliberations for some time, and had not yet
concluded them when a distant and repeated shouting attracted their
attention, and a Delaware youth, of about fifteen years of age, rushed
into the lodge, breathless, and bleeding from a wound inflicted by
an arrow, which had pierced his shoulder. A few hurried sentences
explained to the chiefs the news of which he was the bearer. It
appeared that he had been tending, in a bottom not far distant, a herd
of horses, chiefly belonging to Tamenund, War–Eagle, and the party of
white men, when a band of mounted Sioux came sweeping down the valley
at full speed; two or three young Delawares, who formed the out–picquet
on that side, had been taken completely by surprise, and paid with
their lives the penalty of their carelessness.

The wounded youth who brought the intelligence had only escaped by
his extreme swiftness of foot, and by the unwillingness of the enemy
to approach too near the camp. Thus had the Dahcotahs succeeded in
carrying off, by a bold stroke, upwards of one hundred of the best
horses from the Delaware village; and Reginald soon learnt, to his
inexpressible annoyance and regret, that Nekimi was among the number
of the captives. A hurried consultation followed, in which War–Eagle,
throwing off the modest reserve that he had practised during the
council, assumed his place as leader of the Lenapé braves, of whom he
selected forty of the most active and daring, to accompany him on the
difficult and dangerous expedition that was to be instantly undertaken
for the recovery of the stolen horses.

Reginald and Baptiste eagerly volunteered, and were instantly accepted
by War–Eagle; but it was not without some persuasion on the part of
the guide, that the chief allowed Monsieur Perrot to be of the party;
that faithful valet insisted, however, so obstinately upon his right
to attend his master, that, on Baptiste enjoining that he should
implicitly obey orders, he was permitted to form one of the selected
band.

In less than half an hour, from the receipt of the above disastrous
intelligence, the party left the camp well armed and equipped, each
man carrying three pounds of dried buffalo meat; and Baptiste secured
twice that quantity to his sturdy person, thinking it probable that
Reginald’s endurance of hunger might not prove proportionate to
his active qualities. The latter had, indeed, forgotten the meat
altogether, for he passed the last few minutes of his stay within the
camp, in bidding farewell to Prairie–bird, and in assuring her that he
would not be long absent, but trusted soon to return with his favourite
Nekimi. At his departure, Reginald left the strictest orders with
Bearskin (who remained in charge of his party) to keep a faithful watch
over the safety of Prairie–bird, and to follow the injunctions that he
might receive from Tamenund and Paul Müller.

The small band, who, at the instigation of Mahéga, had stolen the
Delaware horses, were chosen warriors, well mounted, thoroughly trained
to the predatory warfare in which they were now engaged, and ready,
either to defend their prize against an equal force, or to baffle the
pursuit of a superior one. As War–Eagle had lost many of his best
horses, he resolved to follow the enemy’s trail on foot, but he desired
two or three of his most active and enterprising followers, whose
horses had not been stolen, to hover on the rear of the retreating
party, to watch their motions, and bring back any intelligence that
might aid him in the pursuit.

The select band of Delawares moved swiftly forward under the guidance
of their young leader; close upon his steps followed Reginald, burning
with impatience to recover his favourite steed; next to him came
Baptiste, then Perrot, and the remainder of the Lenapé warriors.

The prairie–grass trodden down by the hoofs of the galloping and
affrighted steeds driven from their pasture, afforded a trail that
could be traced without difficulty, and the trampled banks of several
slow and lazy streams, which they passed in their course, marked the
headlong course taken by their fugitive steeds and their fierce drivers.

We will leave the pursuers for a time, and follow the movements of
Mahéga, who was now acting in concert with the Sioux, and who contrived
by his superior address to direct their plans, as completely as if he
had been himself the chief of their tribe. Having accompanied the Osage
village, fourteen or fifteen miles on their route to the northward,
he ordered a halt by the side of a stream, in a valley adjacent to
the encampment of their new allies, the two bands forming a body so
superior in number to the Delawares, that they had no cause to fear
an attack, especially as they learnt from their scouts that War–Eagle
and his followers had gone in an opposite direction in pursuit of the
horse–stealing party.

The evening was dark, and favoured the execution of a plot which Mahéga
had formed, and in furtherance of which all his preceding measures had
been taken. As soon as the sun had set, he selected one hundred of the
bravest and most experienced warriors in his tribe, whom he armed only
with bow and arrows, knife, and tomahawk; strictly forbidding the use
of any fire–arms; for he well knew that the latter were far from being
effective weapons in the hands of his followers, especially in such an
expedition as that in which he was engaged. Swiftly and silently they
moved under their leader’s guidance, who, directing his course towards
the south–east, brought them, after a few hours’ march, to the line of
wood skirting the great Prairie. Aware that the warriors remaining in
the Delaware encampment would be prepared against any surprise from
the quarter in which the Sioux were posted, his present object was
to make his attack from the opposite side, in order to effect which,
undiscovered, the greatest skill and rapidity were necessary.

It was on occasions such as these that the qualities of the Osage chief
were most conspicuously exhibited; with light and noiseless step, he
led his party through the depths of the forest, and during a swift
march of many hours not a word was spoken; now and then he paused as
a startled deer rustled through the thicket, and once or twice, when
a stray moonbeam, forcing its way through the foliage, silvered the
bark of the sycamore, he cast his eye upwards, as if to learn from the
leaves the direction of the wind, or to scan the heaven in search of
one of those stars, which the imperfect, but sagacious astronomy of the
Indians teaches them to recognise as guides.

Leave we them to pursue their dark and circuitous path and let us
transport the reader to the interior of the Delaware encampment, where
(as it may be remembered) Bearskin was left in command of that portion
of the white men who had not accompanied their leader in pursuit of the
Sioux.

Paul Müller sat late at night in the tent of the Prairie–bird; on the
rude table lay the Bible from which he had been reading, and explaining
some difficulties that had perplexed her strong, yet inquiring mind;
afterwards they had turned the conversation to the scenes which had
occurred within the last few days, and which were calculated to inspire
serious anticipations of coming evil. Prairie–bird made no effort to
conceal from her affectionate instructor how entirely her heart was
given to Reginald; she knew his bold and fearless disposition; she knew
too the wily cunning of the powerful tribe against whom his expedition
was undertaken, and more than one heavy sigh escaped her when she
thought of the risks that he must incur.

The good missionary employed every possible argument to allay her
fears, but none so effectively as that which referred to the protection
of that Being who had been from childhood her hope, her trust, and her
shield, and, bidding her good night, he had the pleasure of seeing her
agitated spirit resume its usual composure. He then wrapped his cloak
round his shoulders, and went out to see what provision Bearskin had
made for the security of the camp, during the absence of Reginald,
War–Eagle, and their party. The rough old boatman was smoking his pipe
over the embers of a fire in front of the lodge where he slept; beside
him lay, half–asleep, the gigantic Mike Smith; and the other white men
were within the lodge, each having his rifle within reach, and his
knife and pistols in his belt. Bearskin returned the greeting of the
missionary with blunt civility, and informed him that he had been to
the lodge of Tamenund, where it had been agreed to throw forward an
outpost of a dozen light, active, young Indians, half a mile beyond
the camp, in the direction of the Sioux: runners had also been sent
round to desire the warriors to be ready, and all the usual precautions
taken, such as are observed by Indians in the neighbourhood of a
dangerous enemy.

Satisfied with these arrangements, Paul Müller returned to his tent,
and throwing himself on the pile of buffalo skins that formed his bed,
was soon fast asleep. He knew not how long he had slept, when he was
aroused by a cry such as none who has once heard it can mistake or
forget. Scarcely had that shrill and savage whoop pierced the dull
silence of the night, when every creature within the encampment sprang
to their feet; the braves and warriors, seizing their weapons, rushed
to the quarter whence the cry proceeded, while the women and children,
crowding round the aged and defenceless men, waited in suspense the
result of the sudden and fierce attack. The noise and the tumult came
from the northern quarter, that most remote from the lodges of Tamenund
and Prairie–bird. Sixty of the chosen Osage warriors had fallen upon
the small outpost placed to give the alarm, and, driving them easily
before them and killing some, entered the camp almost simultaneously
with the survivors. This band was led by that daring young warrior
before introduced to the reader under the name of Flying–arrow, who now
burned with desire to render his name in the war annals of his tribe
famous as that of his kinsman Mahéga. Nor were the Delaware warriors
slow to meet the invaders, with a courage equal to their own; the
conflict was fierce and confused, for the moon was no longer up, and
the pale stars were contending, in a cloudy sky, with the dim grey
hue that precedes the dawn of day, so that the dusky figures of the
combatants were scarcely visible, and by their voices alone could they
distinguish friends from foes.

At the first alarm, Bearskin, with his habitual coolness, ordered Mike
Smith, with three of his men, to retire into the rear, to assist in
protecting the lodge of Tamenund and the tent of Prairie–bird, while
he led the remainder to check the advance of the Osages from the
northward. For some time the latter seemed to be gaining ground, but
the Delawares, still superior in number and hastening to the spot,
aided by Bearskin and his followers, recovered their lost advantage,
and the combat raged with renewed fury.

At this crisis Mahéga, who had succeeded in gaining, unperceived, the
valley to the southward of the Delaware camp, fell upon their rear
with his reserve of forty men; overthrowing all who opposed him, he
forced his way towards the white tent, which the advancing light of
dawn rendered now easily distinguishable from the dark–coloured lodges
around it; shouting his battle–cry with a voice like a trumpet, he
rushed onward, caring not, apparently, for scalps or trophies, but
determined on securing the prize for which he had already broken his
faith, and imbrued his hands in the blood of allies who had done him no
injury. A gallant band of Delawares surrounded their aged chief, whose
trembling hand now grasped a tomahawk that had for twenty years reposed
idly in his belt. Prairie–bird had sprung from her couch, and already
joined in the brief, but earnest prayer, which Paul Müller breathed
at her side; he recognised the Osage war–cry, and divining the chief
object of their terrible leader, he whispered solemnly to her,—

“My dear child, if I am soon taken from you, keep, nevertheless, your
trust in God. I see that knife still in your girdle; I know what you
have once dared; if it be the will of Heaven, you must be prepared
patiently to endure pain, sorrow, confinement, or oppression; remember,
it is only as the last resource against dishonour, that you may have
recourse to it.”

The maiden replied not, but a glance from her dark eye assured him
that he was understood, and would be obeyed; many emotions contended
in her bosom, but, for the moment, reverence and attachment to her
affectionate instructor prevailed over all others, and, dropping on her
knees before him, she covered his hand with kisses, saying,

“Dear Father, if we must be separated, bless, bless your grateful
child.”

The worthy missionary, albeit accustomed to resign himself entirely
to the will of Heaven, could scarcely command himself sufficiently to
utter aloud the blessing that he implored upon her head; but the shouts
and cries of the combatants were every moment approaching nearer, and
seizing his staff, he went to the aperture in front of the lodge, in
order to ascertain how the tide of conflict was turning.

The first object that met his view was the aged Tamenund, who had
fallen in his hurried endeavour to rush to the combat, but was
now partly supported and partly detained by his wailing wives and
daughters, while the tomahawk that had dropped from his nerveless arm
lay upon the ground beside him. As soon as he saw Paul Müller, he
called him, and said, in a low voice,

“The breath of Tamenund is going; he has lived long enough; the voices
of his fathers are calling to him from the far hunting–fields; he will
go, and pray the Great Spirit to give the scalps of these snake–tongued
Washashe to the knife of War–Eagle.” After a moment’s pause, the old
man continued: “I know that the heart of the Black Father is good to
the Lenapé; he has been a friend of many days to the lodge of Tamenund;
he must be a father to Olitipa; she is a sweet–scented flower; the
Great Spirit has given rain and sunshine to nourish its growth, and its
roots are deep in Tamenund’s heart; the Black Father will not allow it
to be trodden under the feet of Mahéga.” While saying these words he
drew from under his blanket a small leathern bag, the neck of which was
carefully closed with ligaments of deer sinew that had been dipped in
wax, or some similarly adhesive substance. “This,” he added, “is the
medicine–bag of Olitipa; the Black Father must keep it when Tamenund is
gone, and, while it is safe, the steps of the Bad Spirit will not draw
near her.”

The missionary took the bag and concealed it immediately under his
vest, but, before he had time to reply to his aged friend, a terrific
cry announced that the Osages had succeeded in breaking through the
Delaware ranks, and a fearful scene of confusion, plunder, and massacre
ensued; the faithful missionary hastened to the side of his trembling
pupil, resolved to die in defending her from injury, while the air was
rent by the shouts of the victors, and the yells and shrieks of those
suffering under their relentless fury.

Mike Smith and his men plied their weapons with determined courage and
resolution, and several of the Osages paid with their lives the forfeit
of their daring attack; still the survivors pressed forward, bearing
back the white men by force of numbers, and allowing not a moment for
the reloading of the fire–arms. The voice of Mahéga rose high above
the surrounding din, and all seemed to shrink from the terrible weapon
which he wielded as if it had been a light cane or small–sword; it
was a short bludgeon, headed with a solid ball of iron, from which
protruded several sharp iron spikes, already red with human blood.
Mike Smith came boldly forward to meet him, holding in his left hand
a discharged horse–pistol, and in his right a heavy cutlass, with
which last he made a furious cut at the advancing Osage. The wary
chief neither received nor parried it, but, springing lightly aside,
seized the same moment for driving his heavy mace full on the unguarded
forehead of his opponent, and the unfortunate woodsman dropped like an
ox felled at the shambles; the fierce Indian, leaping forward, passed
his knife twice through the prostrate body, and tearing off the scalp,
waved the bloody trophy over his head.

Disheartened by the fall of their brave and powerful companion, the
remaining white men offered but a feeble resistance, and the Osage
chief rushed onwards to the spot where only some wounded Delawares
and a few devoted and half–armed youths were gathered around the aged
Tamenund, determined to die at his side. It is not necessary to pursue
the sickening details of the narrative.

The old man received his death–blow with a composed dignity worthy of
his race, and his faithful followers met their fate with equal heroism,
neither expecting nor receiving mercy.

The victory was now complete, and both the scattered Delawares and the
remaining white men fled for shelter and safety to the nearest points
in the dense line of forest; few, if any, would have reached it, had
not the war–pipe of Mahéga called his warriors around him. None dared
to disobey the signal, and in a few minutes they stood before him in
front of the tent within which the faithful missionary still cheered
and supported his beloved pupil. The fierce Osage, counting over his
followers, found that fifteen were killed or mortally wounded: but the
loss on the part of their opponents was much heavier, without reckoning
upwards of a score prisoners, whose hands and legs were tightly
fastened with bands of withy and elm–bark.

Mahéga, putting his head into the aperture of the tent, ordered Paul
Müller to come forth.

“Resistance is unavailing,” whispered the missionary to the weeping
girl; “it will be harder with thee if I obey not this cruel man.
Practise now, dear child, the lessons that we have so often read
together, and leave the issue to Him who has promised never to leave
nor forsake those who trust in Him.”

So saying, he kissed her forehead, and gently disengaging himself from
the hand that still clung to his garment, he went forth from the tent,
and stood before Mahéga.

That wily chief was well aware that both the missionary and his fair
pupil had many warm friends among his own tribe; there was in fact
scarcely a family among them that had not experienced from one, or
both, some act of charity or kindness; he had resolved therefore to
treat them without severity, and while he assured himself of the person
of Olitipa, to send her instructor to some distant spot, where neither
his advice nor his reproofs were to be feared; with this determination
he addressed him briefly, as follows:—

“The Black Father will travel with my young men towards the east; he
is no longer wanted here; he may seek the lodges of the Lenapé squaws
beyond the Great River; he may advise them to remain where they are,
to dig and grow corn, and not to come near the hunting fields of the
Washashe. My young men will travel three days with him; they may meet
strangers,—if he is silent, his life is safe; if he speaks, their
tomahawk drinks his blood; when they have left him, his tongue and his
feet are free. I have spoken.”

Mahéga added a few words in a lower tone to the young warrior who was
to execute his orders, and who, with two others, now stood by his
prisoner; there was a lowering frown on the brow of the chief, and a
deep meaning in his tone, showing plainly that there would be danger in
disobeying the letter of those commands.

Paul Müller, advancing a few steps, addressed the chief in the Delaware
tongue, with which he knew him to be familiar. “Mahéga is a great
chief, and the Black Father is weak, and must obey him; before he goes
he will speak some words which the chief must lock up in his heart.
He loves Olitipa; he wishes to make her his wife; it may be, after a
season, that she may look kindly upon him; but she is not like other
maidens, she is under the care of the Great Spirit. Mahéga is strong,
but her medicine is stronger. She can hide the moon behind a cloud, and
gather the fire of the sun as the daughters of the Washashe gather the
river–waters in a vessel; let the chief remember the Black Father’s
last words. If Mahéga protects Olitipa and what belongs to her in the
tent, it may be better for him when the Great Spirit is angry; if he
offers her harm or insult, he will die like a dog, and wolves will pick
his bones.”

The missionary delivered this warning with a dignity and solemnity so
earnest, that the eye of the fierce but superstitious savage quailed
before him; and pleased to mark the effect of his words, Paul Müller
turned and left the spot, muttering in his own tongue to himself, “God
will doubtless forgive my endeavour to protect, through this artifice,
a forlorn and friendless maiden, left in the hands of a man so cruel
and unscrupulous.”

In a few minutes the good missionary had completed the slight
preparation requisite for his journey, and, accompanied by his Indian
escort, left the ruined and despoiled village with a heavy heart.

As soon as Mahéga was somewhat recovered from the startling effect of
Paul Müller’s parting address, he made his dispositions for the further
movements of his band with his usual rapidity and decision; he was well
aware that his position was now one of great peril, that in a short
time War–Eagle and his party would be informed of all that had passed,
and would seek a bloody revenge; he knew also that some of the fugitive
Whites or Delawares might speedily arm a body of the inhabitants of
the frontier against him, and that he would be altogether unable to
maintain himself in the region that he now occupied.

Under these circumstances he made up his own mind as to the course that
he would pursue; and having first given all the necessary orders for
the burial of the Osage dead and the care of the wounded, as well as
for the security of the prisoners, he called together the heads of his
party, and having laid before them his plans, asked their advice with a
tone and manner probably resembling that with which, a few years later,
Napoleon was in the habit of asking the counsel of his generals and
captains; a tone indicating that his course being already determined,
nothing was expected of them but compliance.



CHAPTER VIII.

WAR–EAGLE AND REGINALD, WITH THEIR PARTY, PURSUE THE DAHCOTAHS.


We left Reginald, and War–Eagle’s party, in pursuit of the marauding
band of Sioux horse–stealers. They continued their toilsome march
with unabated speed until nightfall, when the trail was no longer
distinguishable: they then halted, and while they ate a scanty supper,
the mounted Delawares, who had been sent forward, returned, bringing
with them two wearied horses which had escaped, in the hurried flight,
from their captors.

War–Eagle, summoning Baptiste to his side, questioned the young man
closely as to the appearance and direction of the trail. From their
answers he learnt that its course was northward, but that it bore
gradually towards the east, especially after a brief halt, which the
Sioux had made for refreshment; a gleam shot athwart the dusky features
of the young chief at this intelligence, but he made no observation,
and contented himself with asking the opinion of his more experienced
companion.

The guide, taking off his hunting–cap, allowed the evening breeze
to play through the grisly hairs which were scattered, not too
plentifully, on his weather–beaten forehead, as if his reflective
powers might thence derive refreshment; but, apparently, the expedient
was not, at least on this occasion, rewarded with success; for, after
meditating in silence for a few seconds, he shook his head and owned
that he saw no clue to the intentions of the party whom they were
pursuing. The young chief had his eye still bent upon the ground,
seemingly employed in observing a large rent, which the day’s march
had made in his mocassin; but the woodsman read in the lines of his
intelligent countenance that the mind was busily engaged in following a
connected train of thought.

After allowing a few minutes to pass in silence, the guide, addressing
his companion, said, “Can War–Eagle see the Dahcotah path? It is hid
from the eyes of Grande–Hàche.”

“The night is dark, and the eyes cannot see the trail; but the wolf
finds his way to the wounded bison, and the blue dove keeps her course
to her nest in the mountain. The Great Spirit has not made the Lenapé
warrior more ignorant than the bird, or the brute; War–Eagle knows
the path of the Dahcotah dogs.” He then bent down towards the ear of
Baptiste, and whispered to him long and earnestly in the Delaware
tongue.

“Capote–bleu! but the boy is right,” exclaimed the guide, in his own
mixed dialect; “the dogs have only taken this northern start to mislead
us; they are not making for the Missouri river, but intend to double
back and join their village, now lying to the eastward of us. The boy
is right; my brain must be getting as worn–out as my hunting–shirt,
or I should have understood their drift. I see his plan is to be in
cash[42] for them on their return. Well, if he can make sure of his
game, I will say that he’s fit to be a war–chief, for these Sioux have
a long start, and the village must be many miles to the right.”

As he made these reflections half aloud, Reginald caught their general
bearing; and though he had great confidence in the sagacity of his
Indian friend, still he felt a chill of disappointment at the idea
that the pursuit was to be abandoned, for what appeared to him the
hopeless chance of intercepting a small band of Sioux, of whose course
they were ignorant, in a boundless extent of prairie like that around
him. He had, however, good sense enough to conceal all traces of his
disappointment, knowing that on such an expedition there can be but one
leader, and that, without unanimity and discipline, failure must ensue.

War–Eagle now called one of the young Lenapé warriors to his side,
and gave him brief instructions, to the effect, that he was to choose
three others of the best runners of the party, and, accompanied by the
mounted Indians, to start with the earliest dawn on the Dahcotah trail,
which they were to follow as close as possible without discovering
themselves. He then desired Reginald and Baptiste to divide the band
into watches, and to sleep alternately, but not to move until he
returned.

Having given these few directions, without allowing himself either
food or rest after a march of so many hours, he drew his belt tighter
around his loins, and started on his solitary excursion. Reginald
watched the retreating figure of his friend, until it was lost in the
deepening gloom, and turning to the guide, he said,—

“Baptiste, I cannot but envy War–Eagle the possession of sinews
that seem unconscious of fatigue, and eyes that require no slumber!
We have marched from daylight until this late hour without either
rest or refreshment, and I confess I am very glad of this seat on
my buffalo–robe, and this slice of dried venison, with a draught of
water; War–Eagle, however, walks off into the prairie, as if he had
just started fresh from repose, and Heaven only knows where or for what
purpose he is going.”

“Master Reginald,” replied the guide, throwing himself lazily down by
the side of his young leader; “I will not deny that War–Eagle’s sinews
are strung like the bow of a Pawnee, for I have been on a trail with
him before, and few could follow it so long or so true; but there has
been a time,” he added, casting his eyes down on his worn and soiled
leggins, “when these limbs of mine would have kept me for a week at
the heels of the fleetest Dahcotah that ever crossed the country of
the Stone–eaters.[43] Those days are gone, but when the game’s afoot,
perhaps there may be younger men who might give out before old Baptiste
yet.”

As he spoke, the eye of the guide rested with a comic grin on Monsieur
Perrot, who, with a countenance somewhat rueful, was endeavouring to
masticate a crude pomme de prairie[44] that one of the Delawares had
given to him, with the assurance that it was “very good!”

“I believe you, Baptiste,” said Reginald, humouring the old hunter’s
pardonable vanity; “I believe you, indeed, and if the Sioux offer us a
long chase, as appears likely, the crack of your rifle will be heard
before the foremost of our party has come to close quarters with them;
but you have not answered my question relative to War–Eagle’s excursion
during this dark night.”

“He is gone,” replied the guide, “to examine the ground carefully,
perhaps even to approach the northern border of the Dahcotah
encampment; he will then judge of the route by which these
horse–stealing vagabonds are likely to return, and will choose a place
for us to conceal ourselves for an attack.”

“I understand it all, Baptiste; it seems to be a bold, well–devised
plan, if War–Eagle is only correct in his guess at their intentions:
meanwhile let us post our sentries, and get what sleep we can, for
to–morrow may be a busy day.”

They accordingly divided their party into watches, Baptiste and Perrot
with one Indian taking the first, and Reginald undertaking the charge
of the second. The night was gloomy, and few stars were visible through
the thick clouds, by which the heavens were overspread; the men were
partially sheltered by some stunted alder–bushes which grew by the side
of the stream with whose waters they had cooled their thirst, and those
who were not destined to the first watch soon fell asleep, lulled by
the distant howling of a hungry pack of prairie–wolves.

Towards the close of Reginald’s watch, about an hour before daybreak,
a dusky figure glided with noiseless step towards the encampment; the
young man cocked his rifle, in order to be prepared against surprise,
but in the next moment recognised the commanding form of his friend,
and hailed him by name.

“Netis!” replied the chief, sitting down beside him, and wringing the
water from his leggins, which had been saturated partly by the heavy
dew on the long grass through which he had made his way, and partly by
the streams which he had been obliged to ford.

“Has my brother found a path?” inquired Reginald in a whisper; “has he
been near the Dahcotah village?”

“He has,” replied the chief; “he has seen their lodges.”

“Can my brother find the path by which the horse–stealers will return!”

“He can guess, he cannot be sure,” replied the young Indian, modestly.

Here the conversation closed, and in a few minutes the little party
were aroused and afoot, their leader being resolved that not a moment
should be lost, as soon as there was sufficient light for pursuing the
trail.

When on the point of starting, Baptiste, taking War–Eagle aside,
whispered in his ear a few words, on which the latter appeared to
reflect seriously and somewhat in doubt: he nodded his head, however,
and replied, “Well, it is good.”

The guide informed Reginald that at his own request he was to accompany
the party on the trail.

“You see, Master Reginald,” he continued, “I am a true–scented old
hound, and if these young ones run too fast, I may perhaps help ‘em at
a pinch; then if we catch the scoundrels, you will be in their front,
and we in their rear, and they will be as bad off as a Kentucky coon
between two of old Dan Boone’s cur dogs. Remember the signals,” he
added impressively, touching the bugle slung across his shoulder. “We
have not practised them of late, but I have forgot none of them; they
may do us a good turn here; stick close to War–Eagle, you are sworn
brothers, and, according to Indian fashion, if he falls you must die
with him or revenge him.”

“That will I, honest Baptiste,” replied our hero; “the Lenapé shall not
say that their chief was deserted by his adopted brother; neither will
I forget the signals—farewell!”

Here the two parties separated, that of Baptiste resuming their pursuit
of the trail, and that of War–Eagle following in silence the rapid
strides of their young chief across the prairie to the eastward. He
marched for several hours in silence—his brow wore an expression
of thoughtfulness, and he stopped several times as if to scan the
bearing and the distance of every remarkable elevation or object in
the undulating prairie which they were crossing. It was now about
midday; they had walked since daybreak without halt or food; the rays
of the sun were fiercely hot, and it required all the determined energy
of Reginald’s character to enable him to endure in silence the heat
and thirst by which he was oppressed; as for Monsieur Perrot, he had
contrived to secrete a small flask of brandy about his person, more
than one mouthful of which, mingled with the muddy water of the pools
which they passed, had hitherto enabled him to keep pace with the rest
of the party, but he was now beginning to lag behind, and some of the
Indians were obliged to urge and assist him forward.

At this juncture War–Eagle suddenly stopped, and uttering a sound like
a low hiss, crouched upon the ground, an attitude into which the whole
party sunk in a moment. Laying a finger lightly on Reginald’s arm, he
pointed to the upper range of a distant hill, saying, “There are men!”
Our hero, shading his eyes with his hand, looked in the direction
indicated, but, after a careful survey, he could see nothing but the
faint green reposing in the sunny haze of noon: he shook his head; but
War–Eagle replied with a quiet smile—

“My brother saw the rifles behind the log near the Muskingham; his eyes
are very true, but they have not looked much at the prairie; let him
use his medicine glass–pipe.”

When Reginald had adjusted his telescope, he looked again to the spot
on which the bright clear eye of War–Eagle was still riveted like the
gaze of a Highland deer–hound, who has caught sight of a hart browsing
on the further side of some wide and rocky glen.

“By Heaven, it is true!” he exclaimed. “I see them—one, two, three,
mounted Indians; they are at speed—and buffalo are galloping before
them.”

“That is good,” said War–Eagle; “keep the glass–pipe before them, and
say if they go out of sight, or if more appear.”

Reginald did so; and after a few minutes, reported that they had
disappeared over a neighbouring height, and that no others had come in
view.

Upon this, War–Eagle rose, saying, “My brother shall drink and
rest—there are shade and water not far.” As he had said, half an
hour’s march brought them to a clump of stunted alders, beside which
flowed a stream, the waters of which were tolerably fresh and cool.
Here they ate some dried buffalo–meat, and satisfied their thirst,
after which they followed with renewed spirits their gay leader,
whose iron and sinewy frame seemed (like that of Antæus of old) to
gather fresh strength every time that his foot fell upon the earth.
The prairie through which they now passed was extremely hilly and
broken, intersected by many steep and narrow ravines; threading his way
among these, the chief frequently stopped to examine the foot–marks
which had been left by bison or other animals, and often bent his
searching glance along the sides of the hills around him. The only
living creatures seen during the whole march were a few bulls, lazily
cropping the prairie grass, as if conscious that their tough carcase,
and burnt, soiled hides, rendered them at this season worthless to the
hunters, who had driven from them the cows and the younger bulls of the
herd. Emerging from these defiles, the party came to a broader valley,
the sides of which were very steep; along the bottom ran a stream of
considerable magnitude, on the banks of which was a large tract of
copse–wood, consisting apparently of alder, poplar, and birch, and
affording ample space for concealing a body of several hundred men.

Towards this wood War–Eagle led the way; and when he reached a few
bushes, distant from it some hundred yards, he desired the rest of the
party to lie still, while he went forward alone to explore. During his
absence Reginald occupied himself with examining through his glass the
sides of the valley, but could see neither man nor any other living
creature; and when War–Eagle returned and conducted them into the wood,
Reginald could read on his friend’s countenance that he was in high
spirits at having reached this point undiscovered.

When they came to the centre of the woodland, they found a broad trail,
near which they were carefully posted by their chief, in such a manner
that, themselves unseen, they could command a view of any one passing
along it.

The party led by Baptiste was not less successful in carrying out the
instructions given to them by War–Eagle. After a rapid and toilsome
march of many hours upon the Dahcotah trail, they came at length in
sight of their enemies; although at a distance of many miles, the
prudence and caution of the experienced scout controlled the impetuous
ardour of the young Delawares, who were burning to revenge the insult
offered to their tribe. But Baptiste was aware that to attack with
his present force would be hopeless, and he bent all his energies to
creep as near to the Sioux as possible, so that he might be ready to
dash in upon their rear, in case he should find that the ambuscade of
War–Eagle was successfully laid; at the same time the hardy woodsman
was determined not to allow them, under any circumstances, to gain
the village without making by day or by night one bold effort for the
recovery of the horses.

A habit of self–control was one of the distinguishing features of the
guide’s character; and although his hatred of the Sioux was fierce
and intense, as we have seen in the earlier part of this tale, he now
conducted his operations with a cool deliberation that might almost
have been mistaken for indifference: selecting the most intelligent
warrior among the Lenapé, he sent him forward to creep on the trail;
he himself followed at a short distance; then the other runners at
short intervals, and the mounted Indians were desired to keep entirely
out of sight in the rear. In this order they continued the pursuit;
and by the skilful selection of ground, and taking advantage of every
trifling hill or ravine over which they passed, he contrived at length
to approach as near as he deemed it prudent to venture until he should
see the result of the stratagem devised by War–Eagle.



CHAPTER IX.

A DESERTED VILLAGE IN THE WEST.—MAHÉGA CARRIES OFF PRAIRIE–BIRD, AND
ENDEAVOURS TO BAFFLE PURSUIT.


We must now shift the scene to the spot where the Delaware village had
been encamped. What a change had a few days produced! The lodges of the
chiefs, with their triangular poles bearing their shields and trophies;
the white tent of Prairie–bird; the busy crowds of women and children;
the troops of horses, the songs and dances of the warriors—all
were gone! and in their stead nothing was to be seen but a flock of
buzzards, gorging themselves on a meal too revolting to be described,
and a pack of wolves snarling and quarrelling over the remains of the
unfortunate Lenapé victims.

On the very spot where the tent of Olitipa had been pitched, and
where the marks of the tent–poles were still easily recognised, stood
a solitary Indian, in an attitude of deep musing; his ornamented
hunting–shirt and leggins proclaimed his chieftain rank; the rifle on
which he leaned was of the newest and best workmanship, and his whole
appearance was singularly striking; but the countenance was that which
would have riveted the attention of a spectator, had any been there
to look upon it, for it blended in its gentle yet proud lineaments a
delicate beauty almost feminine, with a high heroic sternness, that
one could scarcely have thought it possible to find in a youth only
just emerging from boyhood: there was too a deep silent expression of
grief, rendered yet more touching by the fortitude with which it was
controlled and repressed. Drear and desolate as was the scene around,
the desolation of that young heart was yet greater: father, brother,
friend! the beloved sister, the affectionate instructor; worst of all,
the tribe, the ancient people of whose chiefs he was the youngest and
last surviving scion, all swept away at “one fell swoop!” And yet no
tear fell from his eye, no murmur escaped his lip, and the energies
of that heroic though youthful spirit rose above the tempest, whose
fearful ravages he now contemplated with stern and gloomy resolution.

In this sketch the reader will recognise Wingenund, who had been
absent, as was mentioned in a former chapter, on a course of watching
and fasting, preparatory to his being enrolled among the band of
warriors, according to the usages of his nation. Had he been in the
camp when the attack of the Osages was made, there is little doubt that
his last drop of blood would have there been shed before the lodge
of Tamenund; but he had retired to a distance, whence the war–cry
and the tumult of the fight never reached his ear, and had concluded
his self–denying probation with a dream of happy omen—a dream that
promised future glory, dear to every ambitious Indian spirit, and in
which the triumphs of war were wildly and confusedly blended with the
sisterly tones of Olitipa’s voice, and the sweet smile of the Lily of
Mooshanne.

Inspired by his vision, the ardent boy returned in high hope and
spirits towards the encampment; but when he gained the summit of a
hill which overlooked it, a single glance sufficed to show him the
destruction that had been wrought during his absence; he saw that the
lodges were overthrown, the horses driven off, and that the inhabitants
of the moving village were either dispersed or destroyed. Rooted to the
spot, he looked on the scene in speechless horror, when all at once his
attention was caught by a body of men moving over a distant height in
the western horizon, their figures being rendered visible by the deep
red background afforded by the setting sun: swift as thought the youth
darted off in pursuit.

After the shades of night had fallen, the retreating party halted,
posted their sentries, lit their camp–fires, and, knowing that nothing
was to be feared from an enemy so lately and so totally overthrown,
they cooked their meat and their maize, and smoked their pipes, with
the lazy indifference habitual to Indian warriors when the excitement
of the chase or the fight has subsided. In the centre of the camp rose
a white tent, and beside it a kind of temporary arbour had been hastily
constructed from reeds and alder–boughs; beneath the latter reclined
the gigantic form of Mahéga, stretched at his length, and puffing out
volumes of _kinnekenik_[45] smoke with the self–satisfied complacency
of success.

Within the tent sat Prairie–bird, her eyes meekly raised to heaven, her
hands crossed upon her bosom, and a small basket of corn–cakes being
placed, untasted, upon the ground beside her. At a little distance,
in the corner of the tent, sate her female Indian attendant, whom
Mahéga had permitted, with a delicacy and consideration scarcely to be
expected from him, to share her mistress’s captivity. He had also given
orders that all the lighter articles belonging to her toilet, and to
the furniture of her tent, should be conveyed with the latter, so that
as yet both her privacy and her comfort had been faithfully secured.

Guided by the fires, Wingenund, who had followed with unabated speed,
had no difficulty in finding the Osage encampment; neither was his
intelligent mind at a loss to apprehend what had occurred: he had
long known the views and plans entertained by Mahéga respecting
Prairie–bird, and when, from a distant eminence he caught a sight of
her white tent pitched in the centre of a retreating Indian band, he
understood in a moment her present situation, and the disastrous events
that had preceded it. Although he believed that both War–Eagle and
Reginald must have fallen ere his sister had been made a captive, he
resolved at all hazards to communicate with her, and either to rescue
her, or die in the attempt.

Having been so long encamped with the Osages, he was tolerably well
versed in their language; and he also knew so well the general
disposition of their outposts, that he had no doubt of being able to
steal into their camp. As soon as he had gained, undiscovered, the
shelter of a clump of alders, only a few bow–shots distant from the
nearest fire, he stripped off and concealed his hunting–shirt, cap,
leggins, and other accoutrements, retaining only his belt, in which he
hid a small pocket–pistol, lately given to him by Reginald, and his
scalp–knife, sheathed in a case of bison–hide. Thus slightly armed, he
threw himself upon the grass, and commenced creeping like a serpent
towards the Osage encampment.

Unlike the sentries of civilised armies, those of the North American
Indians frequently sit at their appointed station, and trust to their
extraordinary quickness of sight and hearing to guard them against
surprise. Ere he had crept many yards, Wingenund found himself near
an Indian, seated with his back against the decayed stump of a tree,
and whiling away his watch by humming a low and melancholy Osage air;
fortunately, the night was dark, and the heavy dew had so softened the
grass, that the boy’s pliant and elastic form wound its onward way
without the slightest noise being made to alarm the lazy sentinel.
Having passed this outpost in safety, he continued his snaky progress,
occasionally raising his head to glance his quick eye around and
observe the nature of the obstacles that he had yet to encounter: these
were less than he expected, and he contrived at length to trail himself
to the back of Olitipa’s tent, where he ensconced himself unperceived
under cover of a large buffalo–skin, which was loosely thrown over her
saddle, to protect it from the weather. His first object was to scoop
out a few inches of the turf below the edge of the tent, in order that
he might conveniently hear or be heard by her, without raising his
voice above the lowest whisper.

After listening attentively for a few minutes, a gentle and regular
breathing informed him that one sleeper was within; but Wingenund,
whose sharp eyes had already observed that there were two saddles under
the buffalo robe which covered him, conjectured that her attendant
was now her companion in captivity, and that the grief and anxiety of
Olitipa had probably banished slumber from her eyes. To resolve these
doubts, and to effect the purpose of his dangerous attempt, he now
applied his mouth to the small opening that he had made at the back of
the tent, and gave a low and almost inaudible sound from his lips like
the chirping of a cricket. Low as it was, the sound escaped not the
quick ear of Olitipa, who turned and listened more intently: again it
was repeated, and the maiden felt a sudden tremor of anxiety pervade
her whole frame, as from an instinctive consciousness that the sound
was a signal intended for her ear.

Immediately in front of the lodge were stretched the bulky forms of two
half–slumbering Osages. She knew that the dreaded Mahéga was only a
few paces distant, and that if some friend were indeed near, the least
indiscretion on her part might draw down upon him certain destruction;
but she was courageous by nature, and habit had given her presence of
mind. Being aware that few, if any, of her captors spoke the English
tongue, she said, in a low but distinct voice, “If a friend is near,
let me hear the signal again?”

Immediately the cricket–chirrup was repeated. Convinced now beyond
a doubt that friendly succour was nigh, the maiden’s heart throbbed
with hope, fear, and many contending emotions; but she lost not her
self–possession; and having now ascertained the spot whence the sound
proceeded, she moved the skins which formed her couch to that part of
the tent, and was thus enabled to rest her head within a few inches of
the opening made by Wingenund below the canvass.

“Prairie–bird,” whispered a soft voice, close to her ear—a voice that
she had a thousand times taught to pronounce her name, and every accent
of which was familiar to her ear.

“My brother!” was the low–breathed reply.

“If the Washashee do not hear, let my sister tell all, in few words.”

As Prairie–bird briefly described the events above narrated, Wingenund
found some comfort in the reflection that War–Eagle, Reginald, and
their band had escaped the destruction which had overwhelmed the Lenapé
village: when she concluded, he replied,

“It is enough; let my sister hope; let her speak fair words to Mahéga:
Wingenund will find his brothers, they will follow the trail, my sister
must not be afraid; many days and nights may pass, but the Lenapé will
be near her, and Netis will be with them. Wingenund must go.”

How fain was Prairie–bird to ask him a thousand questions, to give him
a thousand cautions, and to send as many messages by him to her lover!
but, trained in the severe school of Indian discipline, she knew that
every word spoken or whispered increased the danger already incurred
by Wingenund, and in obedience to his hint she contented herself with
silently invoking the blessing of Heaven on the promised attempt to be
made by himself and his beloved coadjutors for her rescue.

“That pale–faced maiden speaks to herself all through the night,” said
one of the Osage warriors to his comrade stretched beside him before
the tent.

“I heard a sort of murmuring sound,” replied the other; “but I shut
my ears. Mahéga says that her words are like the voices of spirits;
it is not good to listen! Before this moon is older I will ask her to
curse Pâketshu, that Pawnee wolf who killed my two brothers near the
Nebraske.”[46]

Profiting by this brief dialogue, Wingenund crept from under the
buffalo–skin; and looking carefully around to see whether any new
change had taken place since his concealment, he found that several of
the Osage warriors, who had been probably eating together, were now
stretched around the tent, and it was hopeless to attempt passing so
many cunning and vigilant foes undiscovered. While he was meditating
on the best course to be pursued, his attention was called to a noise
immediately in front of the tent, which was caused by the horse ridden
by Olitipa having broken from its tether and entangled its legs in the
halter. Springing on his feet, Wingenund seized the leather–thong,
using at the same time the expressions common among the Osages for
quieting a fractious horse.

“What is it?” exclaimed at once several of the warriors, half raising
themselves from their recumbent posture.

“Nothing,” replied Wingenund, in their own tongue; “the pale–faced
squaw’s horse has got loose.”

So saying, he stooped leisurely down, and fastened the laryette again
to the iron pin from which it had been detached. Having secured the
horse, he stood up again, and stepped coolly over several of the Osages
stretched around the tent; and they, naturally mistaking him for
one of their own party, composed themselves again to sleep. Thus he
passed through the encampment, when he again threw himself upon the
ground, and again succeeded in eluding the vigilance of the outposts,
and in reaching safely the covert where he had left his rifle and his
accoutrements.

The active spirit of Wingenund was not yet wearied of exertion. Seeing
that the course taken by the Osages was westerly, he went forward in
that direction, and having ascended an elevated height commanding a
view of the adjoining valleys, he concealed himself with the intention
of watching the enemy’s march.

On the following morning the Osages started at daybreak, and marched
until noon, when Mahéga halted them, and put in execution the plan that
he had formed for throwing off any pursuit that might be attempted.
He had brought four horses from the Delaware encampment: of these he
retained two for the use of Prairie–bird and her attendant, and ordered
their hoofs to be covered with thick wrappers of bison–hide[47]; he
selected also ten of the warriors, on whose courage and fidelity he
could best depend; the remainder of the band he dismissed, under the
conduct of Flying–arrow, with the remaining two horses laden with a
portion of the Delaware spoils and trophies, desiring them to strike
off to the northward, and, making a trail as distinct as possible, to
return by a circuitous march to the Osage village. These orders were
punctually obeyed, and Mahéga, having seen the larger moiety of his
band start on their appointed route, led off his own small party in
a southwesterly direction, through the hardest and roughest surface
that the prairie afforded, where he rightly judged that their trail
could with difficulty be followed, even by the lynx–eyed chief of the
Delawares.

From his concealment in the distance, Wingenund observed the whole
manœuvre: and having carefully noted the very spot where the two trails
separated, he ran back to the deserted Lenapé village to carry out the
plan that he had formed for the pursuit. On his way he gathered a score
of pliant willow rods, and these lay at his feet when he stood in the
attitude of deep meditation, described at the commencement of this
chapter. He knew that if War–Eagle and his party returned in safety
from their expedition, their steps would be directed at once to the
spot on which he now stood, and his first care was to convey to them
all the information necessary for their guidance. This he was enabled
to do by marking with his knife on slips of elm–bark various figures
and designs, which War–Eagle would easily understand. To describe these
at length would be tedious, in a narrative such as the present; all
readers who know anything of the history of the North American Indians
being aware of their sagacity in the use of these rude hieroglyphics:
it is sufficient here to state, that Wingenund was able to express,
in a manner intelligible to his kinsman, that he himself marked the
elm–bark, that Olitipa was prisoner to Mahéga, that the Osage trail was
to the west; that it divided, the broad trail to the north being the
wrong one; and that he would hang on the right one, and make more marks
for War–Eagle to follow.

Having carefully noted these particulars, he stuck one of his rods into
the ground, and fastened to the top of it his roll of elm–bark: then
giving one more melancholy glance at the desolate scene around him, he
gathered up his willow–twigs, and throwing himself again upon the Osage
trail, never rested his weary limbs until the burnt grass, upon a spot
where the party had cooked some bison–meat, assured him that he was on
their track; then he laid himself under a neighbouring bush and slept
soundly, trusting to his own sagacity for following the trail over the
boundless prairie before him.

While these events were passing on the Missouri prairie, Paul Müller
having been escorted to the settlements and set free by the Osages,
pursued his way towards St. Louis, then the nucleus of Western
trade, and the point whence all expeditions, whether of a warlike or
commercial nature, were carried on in that region. He was walking
slowly forward, revolving in his mind the melancholy changes that had
taken place in the course of the last few weeks, the destruction of
the Lenapé band, and the captivity of his beloved pupil, when he was
overtaken by a sturdy and weather–beaten pedestrian, whose person
and attire seemed to have been roughly handled of late, for his left
arm was in a sling, various patches of plaster were on his face and
forehead, his leggins were torn to rags, and the barrel of a rifle
broken off from the stock was slung over his shoulder.

The missionary, turning round to greet his fellow–traveller with his
accustomed courtesy, encountered a countenance which, notwithstanding
its condition, he recognised as one that he had seen in the Delaware
village.

“Bearskin, my good friend,” said he, holding out his hand, and grasping
heartily the horny fist of the voyageur, “I am right glad to see you,
although it seems that you have received some severe hurts; I feared
you had fallen among the other victims of that terrible day.”

“I can’t deny that the day was rough enough,” replied Bearskin, looking
down upon his wounded arm; “and the red–skin devils left only one other
of my party besides myself alive: we contrived to beat off those who
attacked our quarter, but when we found that Mahéga had broken in upon
the rear, and had killed Mike Smith and his men, we made the best of
our way to the woods: several were shot and scalped, two of us escaped:
I received, as you see, a few ugly scratches, but my old carcase is
accustomed to being battered, and a week will set it all to rights.”

“You know,” replied the missionary, “that I have some skill in curing
wounds. When we reach St. Louis we will take up our lodging in the same
house, and I will do what I can to relieve your hurts. Moreover, there
are many things on which I wish to speak with you at leisure, and I
have friends there who will supply us with all that is needful for our
comfort.”

While they were thus conversing, the tall spires of the cathedral
became visible over the forest, which then grew dense and unbroken to
the very edge of the town, and in a few minutes Bearskin, conducted
by the missionary, was snugly lodged in the dwelling of one of the
wealthiest peltry–dealers in the famous frontier city of St. Louis.



CHAPTER X.

 AN AMBUSCADE.—REGINALD BRANDON FINDS HIS HORSE, AND M. PERROT NEARLY
 LOSES HIS HEAD.—WHILE INDIAN PHILOSOPHY IS DISPLAYED IN ONE QUARTER,
 INDIAN CREDULITY IS EXHIBITED IN ANOTHER.


We left War–Eagle and his party posted in a thicket of considerable
extent, in the centre of a valley through which he had calculated that
the marauding band of Sioux would return with the captured horses
to their village; long and anxiously did he wait in expectation of
their appearance; and both himself and Reginald began to fear that
they must have taken some other route, when they saw at a distance
an Indian galloping down the valley towards them; as he drew near,
the head–dress of eagle’s feathers, the scalp–locks on his leather
hunting–shirt, and the fringes by which his leggins were adorned,
announced him to the practised eye of the young Delaware chief, as a
Dahcotah brave of some distinction; but what was the astonishment of
Reginald, at recognising in the fiery steed that bore him, his own lost
Nekimi. By an unconscious movement he threw forward his rifle over the
log which concealed him, and was preparing to secure a certain aim,
when War–Eagle, touching his arm, whispered, “Netis not shoot, more
Dahcotahs are coming,—noise of gun not good here, Netis have enough
fight soon,—leave this man to War–Eagle, he give Netis back his horse.”

Reginald, although disappointed at not being allowed to take vengeance
on the approaching savage, saw the prudence of his friend’s counsel,
and suffering himself to be guided by it, waited patiently to see how
the Delaware proposed to act. The latter, laying aside his rifle, and
armed only with his scalp–knife and tomahawk, crept to a thick bush on
the edge of the broad trail passing through the centre of the thicket;
in his hand he took a worn–out mocassin, which he threw carelessly upon
the track, and then ensconced himself in the hiding–place which he
had selected for his purpose. The Dahcotah warrior, who had been sent
forward by his chief to reconnoitre, and to whom Nekimi had been lent
on account of the extraordinary speed which that animal had been found
to possess, slackened his speed as he entered the thicket, and cast his
wary eyes to the right and to the left, glancing occasionally at the
sides of the hills which overhung the valley.

The Delawares were too well concealed to be seen from the path, and he
rode slowly forward until he came to the spot where lay the mocassin
thrown down by War–Eagle.

“Ha!” said the Sioux, uttering a hasty ejaculation, and leaping
from his horse to examine its fashion. As he stooped to pick it up,
War–Eagle sprung like a tiger upon him, and with a single blow of
his tomahawk laid the unfortunate warrior dead at his feet. Throwing
Nekimi’s bridle over his arm, he drew the body into the adjacent
thicket, and, having found in the waistband the small leathern bag in
which the Indians of the Missouri usually carry the different coloured
clays wherewith they paint themselves, he proceeded to transform
himself into a Sioux. Putting on the Dahcotah head–dress and other
apparel, aided by one of the most experienced of his band, he disguised
himself in a few minutes so effectually that, unless upon a very close
inspection, he might well be taken for the Indian whom he had just
killed.

As soon as this operation was completed, he desired Reginald and the
rest of the party to remain concealed, and if he succeeded in luring
the enemy to the spot, on no account to fire until their main body had
reached the bush from which he had sprung on the Sioux. Having given
this instruction, he vaulted on Nekimi’s back, and returned at speed
to the upper part of the valley, from which direction he knew that the
Dahcotahs must be approaching. He had not ridden many miles ere he
saw them advancing at a leisurely rate, partly driving before them,
and partly leading, the horses stolen from the Delawares. This was an
occasion on which War–Eagle required all his sagacity and presence of
mind, for should he betray himself by a false movement or gesture, not
only would the enemy escape the snare laid for them, but his life would
pay the forfeit of his temerity. Wheeling his horse about, he returned
towards the thicket, and, after riding to and fro, as if making a
careful investigation of its paths and foot–marks, he went back to the
broad trail, and as soon as the foremost of the Dahcotahs were within
a couple of hundred yards, he made the signal “All right[48],” and
rode gently forward through the wood. So well did his party observe the
orders which he had given them, that, although he knew the exact spot
where they were posted, and scanned it with the most searching glance
of his keen eye, not a vestige of a human figure, nor of a weapon could
he detect, and a smile of triumph curled his lip as he felt assured of
the success of his plan. No sooner had he passed the bush where the
Dahcotah had fallen, than he turned aside into the thicket, and, having
fastened Nekimi securely to a tree, tore off his Sioux disguise, and
resuming his own dress and rifle, concealed himself on the flank of his
party.

The Dahcotahs, who had, as they thought, seen their scout make the
sign of “All right,” after a careful examination of the wood, entered
it without either order or suspicion; neither did they discover their
mistake until the foremost reached the fatal bush, when a volley from
the ambuscade told among them with terrible effect. Several of the
Sioux fell at this first discharge, and the confusion caused by this
unexpected attack was increased by the panic among the horses, some of
which being frightened, and others wounded, they reared and plunged
with ungovernable fury.

Although taken by surprise, the Dahcotah warriors behaved with
determined courage; throwing themselves from their horses, they dashed
into the thicket to dislodge their unseen foes, and the fight became
general, as well as desultory, each man using a log or a tree for his
own defence, and shooting, either with rifle or bow, at any adversary
whom he could see for a moment exposed. The Sioux, though more
numerous, were unprovided with efficient fire–arms; and sensible of the
advantages thence arising to their opponents, they made desperate, and
not unsuccessful efforts to bring the fight to close quarters. Reginald
and War–Eagle were side by side, each endeavouring to outdo the other
in feats of gallantry, and at the same time to watch over the safety of
his friend.

Monsieur Perrot caught the general spirit of the affray, and, as he
afterwards said of himself, “fought like a famished lion!” when,
unluckily, his pistol snapped in the face of a Sioux warrior, who
struck him a blow that felled him to the earth. Stepping lightly over
the form of his prostrate foe, the savage, grasping a knife in his
right hand, and seizing the luckless Frenchman’s hair with his left,
was about to scalp him, when the knife dropped from his hand, and he
stood for a moment petrified with astonishment and horror. The whole
head of hair was in his left hand, and the white man sat grinning
before him with a smooth and shaven crown.

Letting fall what he believed to be the scalp of some devil in human
shape, the affrighted Sioux fled from the spot, while Perrot, replacing
his wig, muttered half aloud, “_Bravo! ma bonne perruque! je te dois
mille remerçimens!_”

At this crisis, while the issue of the general combat was still
doubtful, the sound of a bugle was heard in the distance, and the
signal immediately answered by Reginald, who shouted aloud to
War–Eagle, that Grande–Hâche was at hand. Inspired by the knowledge
of approaching reinforcement, the Delawares fought with renewed
confidence, while the Dahcotahs, startled by the strange and unknown
bugle calls, were proportionately confused and thrown into disorder.
The panic among them was complete when the sharp crack of Baptiste’s
rifle was heard in the rear, and one of their principal braves fell
dead at the root of the tree which sheltered him from the fire of
War–Eagle’s party. Hemmed in between the two hostile bands, the Sioux
now gave up all hope of concealment, and fought with the courage of
despair; but the resistance which they offered was neither effective
nor of long duration. Baptiste, wielding his terrible axe, seemed
resolved this day to wreak his fierce and long–delayed vengeance on
the tribe at whose hands he had sustained such deadly injury; and
regardless of several slight wounds which he received in the fray,
continued to deal destruction among all who came within reach. Nor were
Reginald and War–Eagle less active in the fight; the struggle was hand
to hand; the Sioux seeming to expect no quarter, and being determined
to fight while they could wield a knife or tomahawk.

Their chief, a man of stature almost as powerful as that of Mahéga,
seemed gifted with a charmed life, for although he exposed himself
freely to the boldest of his opponents, animating his men by shouting
aloud the terrible war–cry of the Dahcotahs[49], and rushing to their
aid wherever he found them giving way, he was hitherto unhurt, and
bent every effort to destroy War–Eagle, whom he easily recognised
as the leader, and most formidable of the Delawares. An opportunity
soon offered itself, as War–Eagle was engaged with another of the
Dahcotahs. The chief aimed at his unguarded head a blow that must have
proved fatal, had not Reginald warded it off with his cutlass; the
Indian turned furiously upon him, and a fierce combat ensued, but it
was not of long duration, for after they had exchanged a few strokes,
a successful thrust stretched the Dahcotah chief upon the ground. An
exulting cry burst from the Delawares, and the panic–struck Sioux
fled in every direction. The pursuit was conducted with the merciless
eagerness common to Indian warfare, and as Reginald felt no inclination
to join in it, he returned his cutlass to its sheath, and busied
himself in securing all the horses that came within his reach.

One by one the Delawares came back to the place of rendezvous, some
bearing with them the scalps which they had taken, others leading
recaptured horses, and all in the highest excitement of triumph.

War–Eagle set free Nekimi, and led it towards its master. As soon as it
was near enough to hear his voice, Reginald called to the noble animal,
which, shaking its flowing mane, came bounding and snorting towards
him. He caressed it for a short time, then vaulted upon its back, and
was delighted to find that its spirit and strength had suffered no
diminution since its capture. Again he dismounted, and Nekimi followed
him unled, playing round him like a favourite dog. While he thus amused
himself with his recovered steed, Baptiste sat by the side of a small
streamlet, cleaning his axe and his rifle, and listening with a grim
smile to Monsieur Perrot’s account of the danger from which he had been
saved by his peruke. In the midst of his narrative, seeing some blood
on the sleeve of his companion’s shirt, he said, “Baptiste, you are
surely wounded?”

“Yes,” replied the other; “one of the red–skins gave me a smartish
stroke with a knife in that skrimmage—however, I forgive him, as I
paid him for it.”

“But would it not be better to attend to your wound first, and to your
weapons afterwards?”

“Why, no, Monsieur Perrot, that isn’t our fashion in the woods; I like
first to make the doctor ready for service, and then it will be time
enough to put a little cold water and a bandage to the cut.”

The good–humoured Frenchman insisted upon his proposal, but had some
difficulty in persuading the rough guide to let him dress the wound,
which, though deep and painful, was not dangerous.

On the following day, War–Eagle returned with his triumphant party and
with the rescued horses towards the Delaware village, every bosom, save
one, beating high with exultation. Reginald could scarcely control
his impatience to relate to Prairie–bird the events of the successful
expedition. The young warriors anticipated with joy the beaming smiles
with which they would be welcomed by the Lenapé maidens; while those
of maturer age looked forward to the well–merited applause of their
chiefs, and the fierce excitement of the war–dance with which their
victory would be celebrated. Baptiste had satiated his long–cherished
vengeance on the tribe which had destroyed his parents, and Monsieur
Perrot prepared many jokes and gibes, which he proposed to inflict upon
Mike Smith, and those who had not partaken in the glory which he and
his party had gained.

War–Eagle alone shared not in the general joy! Whether it was that he
could not prevent his thoughts from reverting to Prairie–bird, or that
he was oppressed by a vague and mysterious presentiment of calamity,
his demeanour was grave, even to sadness, and the trophies of victory
hung neglected from the fringes of his dress.

Having taken the shortest route, they arrived, a few hours before
nightfall, at a point where a broad trail led direct to the encampment;
and War–Eagle, whose penetrating eye had marked his friend’s
impatience, and who never lost an opportunity of proving to him the
warmth of his attachment, said to him,

“Netis should go forward and tell Tamenund and the chiefs, that the
Lenapé war–party are coming, and that the Dahcotah scalps are many. It
will be a pleasant tale for the ancient chiefs, and it is good that
they hear it from the mouth of the bravest warrior.”

This compliment was paid to him aloud, and in the hearing of the whole
band, who signified their approbation by the usual quick and repeated
exclamation.[50]

Reginald replied, “No one is bravest here; where War–Eagle leads, none
but brave men are worthy to follow.”

The next minute Nekimi was in full speed towards the village; and the
Delaware band, with Baptiste and Perrot, moved leisurely forward after
him.

Scarcely two hours had elapsed when a single horseman was seen riding
towards them, in whom, as he drew near, they had some difficulty in
recognising Reginald, for his dress was soiled, his countenance haggard
and horror–stricken, while the foaming sides and wide–dilated nostril
of Nekimi showed that he had been riding with frantic and furious
speed. All made way for him, and he spoke to none until he drew his
bridle by the side of War–Eagle, and beckoned to him and to Baptiste
to come aside. For a moment he looked at the former in silence with an
eye so troubled, that the guide feared that some dreadful accident had
unsettled his young master’s mind, but that fear was almost immediately
relieved by Reginald, who, taking his friend’s hand, said to him, in a
voice almost inarticulate from suppressed emotion,

“I bring you, War–Eagle, dreadful—dreadful news.”

“War–Eagle knows that the sun does not always shine,” was the calm
reply.

“But this is darkness,” said Reginald, shuddering; “black darkness,
where there is neither sun nor moon, not even a star!”

“My brother,” said the Indian, drawing himself proudly to his full
height; “my brother speaks without thinking. The sun shines still, and
the stars are bright in their place. The Great Spirit dwells always
among them; a thick cloud may hide them from our eyes, but my brother
knows they are shining as brightly as ever.”

The young man looked with wonder and awe upon the lofty countenance of
this untaught philosopher of the wilderness; and he replied, “War–Eagle
is right. The Great Spirit sees all, and whatever he does is good! But
sometimes the cup of misfortune is so full and so bitter, that man can
hardly drink it and live.”

“Let Netis speak all and conceal nothing,” said the chief: “what has he
seen at the village?”

“_There is no village!_” said the young man in an agony of grief. “The
lodges are overthrown; Tamenund, the Black Father, Olitipa, all are
gone; wolves and vultures are quarrelling over the bones of unburied
Lenapé!”

As Reginald concluded his tragic narrative, an attentive observer
might have seen that the muscles and nerves in the powerful frame of
the Indian contracted for an instant, but no change was visible on his
haughty and commanding brow, as he stood before the bearer of this
dreadful news a living impersonation of the stern and stoic philosophy
of his race.

“War–Eagle,” said Reginald, “can you explain this calamity—do you see
through it—how has it happened?”

“_Mahéga_,” was the brief and emphatic reply.

“Do you believe that the monster has murdered all, men, women, and
children?” said Reginald, whose thoughts were fixed on Prairie–bird,
but whose lips refused to pronounce her name.

“No,” replied the chief; “not all, the life of Olitipa is safe, if she
becomes the wife of that wolf; for the others, War–Eagle cannot tell.
The Washashe love to take scalps, woman, child, or warrior, it is all
one to them; it is enough. War–Eagle must speak to his people.”

After a minute’s interval, the chief accordingly summoned his faithful
band around him, and in brief but pathetic language informed them of
the disaster that had befallen their tribe. Reginald could not listen
unmoved to the piercing cries and groans with which the Delawares rent
the air on receiving this intelligence, although his own heart was
racked with anxiety concerning the fate of his beloved Prairie–bird.
While the surrounding warriors thus gave unrestrained vent to their
lamentations, War–Eagle stood like some antique statue of bronze, in
an attitude of haughty repose, his broad chest thrown forward, and his
erect front, bearing the impress of an unconquerable will, bidding
defiance alike to the human weakness that might assail from within,
and the storms of fate that might threaten from without. The stern and
impressive silence of his grief produced, ere long, its effect upon his
followers; by degrees the sounds of wailing died away, and as the short
twilight of that climate was rapidly merging into darkness, the chief,
taking Reginald’s arm, moved forward, whispering to him in a tone, the
deep and gloomy meaning of which haunted his memory long afterwards,

“The spirit of Tamenund calls to War–Eagle and asks, ‘Where is Mahéga?’”

On the following morning War–Eagle rose an hour before daybreak, and
led his party to the spot where the lodges of their kindred had so
lately stood, and where they had anticipated a reception of honour
and triumph. The chief strode forward across the desolate scene,
seemingly insensible to its horrors; faithful to his determination,
all the energies of his nature were concentrated in the burning thirst
for revenge, which expelled, for the time, every other feeling from
his breast. The Delaware warriors, observant of the stern demeanour
of their leader, followed him in gloomy silence; and although each
shuddered as he passed the well–known spot where, only a few days
before, an anxious wife had prepared his food, and merry children had
prattled round his knee, not a groan nor a complaint was uttered; but
every bosom throbbed under the expectation of a vengeance so terrible,
that it should be remembered by the Osages to the latest hour of their
existence as a tribe.

War–Eagle moved directly forward to the place where the lodge of
Tamenund and the tent of the Prairie–bird had been pitched. As they
approached it Reginald felt his heart faint within him, and the colour
fled from his cheek and lip.

Baptiste, taking his master’s hand, said to him, in a tone of voice the
habitual roughness of which was softened by genuine sympathy, “Master
Reginald, remember where you are; the eyes of the Lenapé are upon the
adopted brother of their chief; they have lost fathers, brothers,
wives, and children; see how they bear their loss; let them not think
Netis less brave than themselves.”

“Thank you, thank you, honest Baptiste,” said the unhappy young man,
wringing the woodman’s horny hand; “I will neither disgrace my own, nor
my adopted name; but who among them can compare his loss with mine! so
young, so fair, so gentle, my own affianced bride; pledged to me under
the eye of Heaven, and now in the hands of that fierce and merciless
villain.”

At this moment a cry of exultation burst from the lips of War–Eagle, as
his eye fell upon the wand and slips of bark left by Wingenund. One by
one the chief examined them, and deciphering their meaning with rapid
and unerring sagacity, communicated to his friend that the youth was
still alive and free; that Olitipa, though a prisoner, was well, and
that a fine trail was open for them to follow.

“Let us start upon it this instant,” cried Reginald, with the
re–awakened impetuosity of his nature.

“War–Eagle must take much counsel with himself,” replied the chief,
gravely. “The ancient men of the Lenapé are asleep, their bones are
uncovered; War–Eagle must not forget them; but,” he added, while a
terrible fire shot from his dark eye, “if the Great Spirit grants him
life, he will bring Netis within reach of Mahéga before this young
moon’s horn becomes a circle.”

Having thus spoken, he resumed his scrutiny of the ciphers and figures
drawn upon the bark; nor did he cease it until he fully understood
their purport; he then called together his band, and explained to them
his further plans, which were briefly these:—

He selected ten of the youngest and most active, who were to accompany
him, with Reginald, Baptiste, and Perrot, on the trail of Mahéga; the
remainder of the party, under the guidance of an experienced brave,
were to follow the more numerous body of the Osages, to hang on their
trail, and never to leave it while there remained a chance or a hope
of an enemy’s scalp. Two of the Delawares were at the same time
despatched, one to seek the aid and sympathy of the Konsas and other
friendly, or neutral tribes, the other to prowl about the woods in the
neighbourhood, to collect any fugitives who might have escaped, and
guide any party that might be formed to aid in the meditated pursuit.
He also ordered the larger party to gather the bones and relics of
their kindred, and to perform the rites of sepulture, according to the
custom of the tribe.

While the chief was giving these instructions to the several parties
above designated, Reginald sat musing on the very grass over which the
tent of his beloved had been spread; no blood had there been spilt; it
had been spared the desecration of the vulture and the wolf; her spirit
seemed to hover unseen over the spot; and shutting his eyes, the lover
fancied he could still hear her sweet voice, attuned to the simple
accompaniment of her Mexican guitar.

How long this waking dream possessed his senses he knew not, but he was
awakened from it by War–Eagle, who whispered in his ear, “The trail
of Mahéga waits for my brother.” Ashamed of his temporary weakness,
Reginald sprung to his feet, and thence upon the back of Nekimi. The
chief having chosen four of the strongest and best from the recaptured
horses, one for the use of Perrot, the others for such emergencies as
might occur, left the remainder with the main body of the Delawares,
and, accompanied by his small party thoroughly well armed and equipped,
started on the trail in pursuit of the Osages.

While these events were passing near the site of the Lenapé village,
Mahéga pursued his westward course with unremitting activity, for
although he felt little apprehension from the broken and dispirited
band of Delawares, he knew that he was entering a region which was the
hunting–ground of the Pawnees, Otoes, Ioways, and other tribes, all of
whom would consider him a trespasser, and would be disposed to view
his present expedition in the light of a hostile incursion; for this
reason, although he was amply provided with presents for such Indians
as he might fall in with, from the plunder of the Delaware lodges, he
marched with the greatest rapidity and caution, and never relaxed his
speed until he had passed that dangerous region, and had entered upon
the higher, and, comparatively, less frequented plain, lying between
the waters of the Nebraska, or Platte River, and the lower ridges,
known by the name of the Spurs of the Rocky Mountains.

During the whole of this tedious march the attention paid to the
comfort of Olitipa by her wild and wayward captor was constant and
respectful; secure, as he thought, from pursuit, he had determined to
gain her confidence and affection, and thus to share in that mysterious
knowledge and power which he believed her to possess, and which he
well knew that force or harshness would never induce her to impart.
Thus she remained continually attended by her favourite Lita; when the
band halted for refreshment, the choicest morsels were set apart for
her use, and the young branches of the willow or poplar were gathered
to shelter her from the sun. Mahéga rarely addressed her, but when he
did so it was in language calculated to dispel all apprehension of
present injury or insult; and Prairie–bird, remembering the parting
counsel of the missionary, replied to the haughty chief’s inquiries
with courtesy and gentleness; although she could not help shuddering
when she remembered his former violence, and the dreadful massacre at
the Delaware village, she felt deeply grateful to Heaven for having
softened the tiger’s heart towards her, and for having led him, by
means and motives unknown to herself, to consult her safety and her
comfort.

On one occasion during the march, Mahéga availed himself of her
mysterious acquirements, in a manner that reflected great credit
upon his sagacity, at the same time that it increased, in a tenfold
degree, the awe with which she had inspired him and his adherents.
They had made their usual halt at noon, by the side of a small stream;
Prairie–bird and her faithful Lita were sheltered from the burning
rays of the sun by an arbour of alder–branches, which the Osages had
hastily, but not inconveniently, constructed; Mahéga and his warriors
being occupied in eating the dainty morsels of meat afforded by a
young buffalo cow killed on the preceding day, when a large band of
Indians appeared on the brow of a neighbouring hill, and came down at
full speed towards the Osage encampment Mahéga, without manifesting
any uneasiness, desired his men to pile a few of their most valuable
packages within the arbour of Olitipa, and to form themselves in a
semicircle around, for its protection, their bows and rifles being
ready for immediate use. Having made these dispositions, he waited the
approach of the strangers, quietly cutting his buffalo beef, and eating
it, as if secure of their friendly intentions. Having come within
a hundred yards, they drew in their bridles on a signal from their
leader, who seemed disposed to take a more deliberate survey of the
party. From their appearance Mahéga knew that they must belong to one
of the wild roving tribes who hunt between the sources of the Platte
and Arkansas rivers, but the name or designation of their tribe he was
at first unable to make out. Their weapons were bows and arrows, short
clubs, and knives; their dress, a hunting–shirt of half–dressed skin, a
centre–cloth of the same material, and mocassins on their feet, leaving
the legs entirely bare; the leader had long hair, clubbed at the back
of his head, and fastened with sinew–strings round a wooden pin, to
which were attached several stained feathers, which danced in the wind,
and heightened the picturesque effect of his costume.

A rapid glance sufficed to show him that the new comers, although
apparently busied about their meal without distrust, were not only well
armed but ready for immediate service; nor did his eye fail to note
the martial bearing and gigantic proportions of Mahéga, who sat like a
chief expecting the approach of an inferior.

Influenced by these observations, the leader of the roving band
resolved that the first intercourse at least should be of a peaceful
nature, prudently reflecting, that as his own numbers were far
superior, the nearer the quarters the greater would be their advantage.
Having uttered a few brief words to his followers, he advanced with a
friendly gesture towards Mahéga, and the following dialogue took place,
in the ingenious language of signs before referred to:—

_Mahéga._—“What tribe are you?”

_Leader._—“Ari–ca–rá.[51] What are you, and whither going?”

_M._—“Washashee, going to the mountains.”

_L._—“What seek you there?”

_M._—“Beaver, otter, and grisly bear–skins.”

_L._—“Good. What is in the green–branch wigwam?”

_M._—“Great Medicine—let the Aricará beware.” To this the chief added
the sign usually employed for their most solemn mysteries.

While this conversation was going on, the rovers of the wilderness
had gradually drawn nearer, not, however, unperceived by Mahéga,
who, throwing down a strip of blanket at a distance of twenty yards
from the arbour of Prairie–bird, explained by a sign sufficiently
intelligible, that if the main body of them crossed that line, his
party would shoot.

At a signal from their leader they again halted; and Mahéga observed
that from time to time they threw hasty glances over the hill whence
they had come, from which he inferred that more of their tribe were in
the immediate neighbourhood.

Meanwhile their leader, whose curiosity urged him to discover what
Great Medicine was contained in the arbour, advanced fearlessly alone
within the forbidden precincts, thus placing his own life at the mercy
of the Osages.

Ordering his men to keep a strict watch on the movements of the
Aricarás, and to shoot the first whom they might detect in fitting an
arrow to his bow–string, Mahéga now lighted a pipe, and courteously
invited their leader to smoke; between every successive whiff exhaled
by the latter, he cast an inquisitive glance towards the arbour, but
the packages and the leafy branches baffled his curiosity; meanwhile
the preliminaries of peace having been thus amicably interchanged, the
other Aricarás cast themselves from their horses, and having given them
in charge to a few of the youngest of the party, the remainder sat in a
semicircle, and gravely accepted the pipes handed to them by order of
Mahéga.

That chief, aware of the mischievous propensities of his new friends,
and equally averse to intimacy or hostility with such dangerous
neighbours, had bethought himself of a scheme by which he might at once
get rid of them by inspiring them with superstitious awe, and gratify
himself with a sight of one of those wonders which the missionary had
referred to in his last warning respecting the Prairie–bird. It was not
long before the curious Aricará again expressed his desire to know the
Great Medicine contents of the arbour. To this Mahéga replied,

“A woman,” adding again the sign of solemn mystery.

“A woman!” replied the leader, in his own tongue, expressing in his
countenance the scorn and disappointment that he felt.

“A woman,” repeated Mahéga, gravely; “but a Medicine Spirit. We travel
to the mountains; she will then go to the land of spirits.”

The Aricará made here a gesture of impatient incredulity, with a sign
that, if he could not see some medicine–feat, he would believe that the
Osage spoke lies.

Mahéga, desiring him to sit still, and his own party to be watchful,
now approached the arbour, and, addressing Prairie–bird in the Delaware
tongue, explained to her their present situation, and the dangerous
vicinity of a mischievous, if not a hostile tribe, adding, at the same
time,

“Olitipa must show some wonder to frighten these bad men.”

“What is it to Olitipa,” replied the maiden, coldly, “whether she is a
prisoner to the Osage, or to the Western Tribe? perhaps they would let
her go.”

“Whither?” answered the chief. “Does Olitipa think that these prairie
wolves would shelter her fair skin from the sun, or serve and protect
her as Mahéga does? If she were their prisoner they would take from
her every thing she has, even her medicine book, and make her bring
water, and carry burdens, and bear children to the man who should take
Mahéga’s scalp.”

Bad as was her present plight and her future prospect, the poor girl
could not help shuddering at the picture of hopeless drudgery here
presented to her eyes, and she replied,

“What does the Osage chief wish? How should his prisoner frighten these
wild men?”

“The Black Father said that Olitipa could gather the beams of the sun,
as our daughters collect the waters of the stream in a vessel,” said
the chief in a low tone.

Instantly catching the hint here given by her beloved instructor, and
believing that nothing done in obedience to his wishes could be in
itself wrong, she resolved to avail herself of this opportunity of
exciting the superstitious awe of the savages, and she replied,

“It is good. Let Mahéga sit by the strange men; Olitipa will come.”

Hastily winding a party–coloured kerchief in the form of a turban,
around the rich tresses of her dark hair, and throwing a scarf over her
shoulder, she took her small bag, or reticule, in her hand, and stepped
forth from the arbour. Such an apparition of youthful bloom, grace,
and beauty, extracted, even from the wild leader of the Aricarás, an
exclamation of astonished admiration. Having seated herself upon a
finely painted bison robe, placed for her by Lita, she waited gravely
until Mahéga should have prepared the stranger chief for what was to
follow.

It was now scarcely an hour after noon, and the sun shone full upon
them, with bright and excessive heat; Mahéga, pointing upward,
explained to the Aricará that the Woman–Spirit would bring some fire
down from that distant orb. He could not give any further information,
being totally ignorant of the nature of the wonder to be wrought, and
as anxious to witness it as the wild chief himself.

“Where will she place it?” he inquired.

“In the chief’s hand,” replied the maiden, whose intelligent mind had
long since, during her residence with the Delawares, become familiar
with the language of signs.

The two leaders now explained to their followers, in their respective
tongues, the great medicine which they were about to see; and the
latter, forgetful alike of distrust and precaution, crowded with
irresistible curiosity about the spot, Mahéga alone preserving his
habitual self–command, and warning those nearest to him to be prepared
against treachery or surprise. The only ornament worn by the Aricará
leader was a collar, made of dark blue cloth, adorned with porcupine
quills, and girt with the formidable claws of the grisly bear. This
collar, being at once a trophy of his prowess, and a proof of its
having been gained among the Rocky Mountain traders (from whom alone
the cloth could have been procured in that remote region), was highly
prized both by the owner and his followers, and was, therefore, as well
as from its colour, selected by Prairie–bird as a fitting object on
which to work her “medicine wonder.” She desired him to take it from
his neck, and to place it on the grass, with his hands below it, that
no fire might come near it. When he had complied with her request, she
drew from her bag a burning–glass, and, carefully adjusting the focus,
held it over the dark blue cloth, in which ere long a hole was burnt,
and the astonished leader’s hand below was scorched.

It is impossible to depict the wonder and awe of the attentive savages;
they looked first at her, then at her glass, then at the sun; then
they re–examined the cloth, and ascertained that it was indeed burnt
through, and that the smell of fire still rested on the edge of the
aperture. After this they withdrew several paces from the spot, the
leader inquiring with submissive signs whether he might replace the
collar? To which inquiry the maiden gravely bowing assent, retired
again into the arbour. For some time a profound silence ensued, the
Osages being as much awe–struck as the Aricarás; even Mahéga himself
was not proof against the prevalent feeling of superstitious terror;
and thus, while desiring Prairie–bird to terrify others, he had
unconsciously furnished her with a mysterious and powerful check upon
himself.

It was not long before the Aricarás rose to take leave,—their chief
presenting Mahéga with a fine horse; and receiving in return sundry
ornaments and trinkets, of no real value, but highly prized from
their rarity in that wild and desolate region. As they withdrew, they
cast many a furtive glance at the arbour and its mysterious tenant,
seemingly glad when they found themselves at such a distance as
rendered them safe from her supernatural influence. On their return to
their own people, they related, with considerable exaggeration, the
wonders which they had witnessed; and Prairie–bird was long afterwards
spoken of in the tribe by a name equally impossible to print, or to
pronounce, but which, if translated into English, would be, “The
Great–Medicine–Daughter–of–the–burning–sun!”


After this adventure, Mahéga pursued his uninterrupted way towards
the spurs of the Rocky Mountains; his manner and bearing towards
Prairie–bird being more deferential than ever, and the passion that
he entertained for her being checked and awed by the miraculous power
that she had displayed; he still nourished strong hopes of being able
ultimately to gain her affection, but in the meantime resolved to
turn her supernatural skill to good account, by frightening such wild
roving bands as they might fall in with, and extorting from their
superstitious fears valuable presents in horses and peltry.

Meanwhile, the maiden’s observant eye had marked the effect upon
Mahéga produced by the burning–glass, in spite of his well–dissembled
indifference, and she secretly determined that the chief use that
she could make of such exhibitions as were calculated to excite
superstitious awe among Indians, should be to maintain the command
over Mahéga which she was conscious she now possessed.

During the whole of this long and toilsome march, the faithful and
indefatigable Wingenund hovered over the trail at such a distance as
never to be perceived by any of the party, and left at occasional
intervals a willow–rod, or a slip of bark, so marked as to be a sure
guide to an eye less keen and sagacious than that of War–Eagle. His
only food was dried undressed buffalo meat; his drink, the stream where
the Osages had slacked their thirst; his bed, the barren prairie;
he made no fire to scare away the prowling wolves, that yelped and
howled at night round his solitary couch, his only protection from
their ravenous hunger being a tuft of damp grass, over which he rubbed
some powder from his flask. Twice was he descried and pursued by
roving bands of Indians, but on both occasions saved himself by his
extraordinary fleetness of foot; and the moment that the immediate
danger was over, renewed his weary and difficult task.

Cheered by his deep affection for his sister, encouraged by the
approval which he knew that his exertions would meet from War–Eagle
and Reginald, and, more than all, stimulated by the eager desire to
distinguish himself as a Delaware chief on this his first war–path,
the faithful youth hung over the long and circuitous trail of his
enemies with the patience and unerring sagacity of a bloodhound; and
though she saw him not, Prairie–bird felt a confident assurance that
her beloved young brother would be true to his promise, and would never
leave nor desert her while the pulses of life continued to beat in his
affectionate heart.



CHAPTER XI.

 ETHELSTON VISITS ST. LOUIS, WHERE HE UNEXPECTEDLY MEETS AN OLD
 ACQUAINTANCE, AND UNDERTAKES A LONGER JOURNEY THAN HE HAD CONTEMPLATED.


During the occurrence of the events related in the preceding chapters,
the disputes and difficulties attending the distribution of peltries
among the different fur companies at St. Louis had rather increased
than diminished, and Ethelston had found himself compelled, however
unwillingly, again to bid adieu to Lucy, and take a trip to the
Mississippi for the arrangement of his guardian’s affairs in that
quarter; a considerable portion of the fortune that he inherited from
his father was invested in the same speculation, and he could not,
without incurring the charge of culpable negligence, leave it in the
hands of others at a great distance, many of whose interests might
perhaps be at variance with those of Colonel Brandon and himself.

He had been only a short time in St. Louis when, one day, on passing
the cathedral, he met two men, whose appearance attracted his
attention. The one was past the meridian of life, and the benevolent
thoughtfulness of his countenance accorded well with the sober suit of
black that indicated the profession to which he belonged; the other
was a stout, square–built man, evidently cast in a coarser mould than
his companion, but apparently conversing with him on terms of friendly
familiarity. After looking stedfastly at this second, Ethelston felt
convinced that he was not mistaken in addressing him: “Bearskin, my
good friend, how come you to be in St. Louis? I thought you were busy,
bear and buffalo hunting with my friend Reginald, among the Delawares
of the Missouri?”

“Ha! Master Ethelston,” replied the sturdy voyageur, “I am right glad
to see your face here. We have been in some trouble of late, and
instead of our hunting the bears, the bears has hunted us.”

“I see you have been in some trouble,” said Ethelston, noticing for the
first time the boatman’s scars and bruises; “but tell me,” he added,
hastily catching him by the arm, “has any evil befallen my friend, my
brother Reginald?”

“No harm that I knows of,” replied the other; “but I must say that
things wern’t what a man might call altogether pleasant, where I left
him.”

“What!” exclaimed Ethelston, with an indignation that he made no
attempt to conceal, “you left him in danger or in difficulties, and can
give no account of him? Bearskin, I would not have believed this of
you, unless I had it from your own lips!”

“Master Ethelston,” answered the justly offended voyageur, “a man that
goes full swing down the stream of his own notions, without heeding oar
or helm, is sure to run athwart a snag; here’s my worthy friend here,
Paul Müller, and though he is a preacher, I’ll hold him as honest a man
as any in the territory; he can tell you the whole story from one end
to t’other; and when he’s done so, perhaps you’ll be sorry for what
you’ve said to old Bearskin.”

“I am already sorry,” replied Ethelston, moved by the earnest
simplicity of the scarred and weather–beaten boatman. “I am already
sorry that I have done you wrong, but you will make allowance for my
impatience and anxiety concerning my brother’s fate!” (Ethelston always
spoke of Reginald as his brother, for he had a secret and undefined
pleasure in so doing, as it implied his union with the sister of his
friend.) Paul Müller, easily guessing from the few words that had
passed that the person now addressing Bearskin was the Edward Ethelston
of whom Reginald had so often spoken to him, said,

“Sir, you certainly did an injustice to Bearskin, in thinking him
capable of deserting a friend in need; but the apology you have offered
is, I am sure, sufficient to satisfy him. The intelligence which I
have to communicate respecting Reginald Brandon and his party is in
some respects exceedingly melancholy; if you will accompany me to our
lodging, which is just at hand, I will explain it to you in full;
meanwhile, rest satisfied with the assurance that, to the best of our
belief, your friend is safe and well in health.”

As soon as they had entered the house, Bearskin, forgetting the hasty
words which had so much hurt his feelings, busied himself in preparing
some refreshment for Ethelston, while the missionary related to him
all that had occurred since his friend joined the Delaware encampment.
He did not even conceal from him the violent passion that the latter
had conceived for Prairie–bird, and the despair with which, on his
return to the village from the Sioux expedition, he would learn the
destruction of her kindred, and her own captivity among the Osages.

“Indeed, my good sir,” said Ethelston, “I must freely confess that
this portion of your intelligence is the only one that brings with
it any comfort: the fate of Mike Smith and his companions, and the
destruction of the unoffending Delawares, are disasters deeply to be
lamented; but, surely, the fact of the Osage chief having carried
off the Indian maiden whom you call Prairie–bird, and who seems to
have exercised such a strange fascination over Reginald Brandon, can
scarcely be regretted: for she will be more likely to find a congenial
mate among the red–skins, and a bitter disappointment will be spared to
my excellent guardian Colonel Brandon.”

“I know not, my son,” answered the missionary mildly; “the ways of
Providence are inscrutable, and it does frequently happen, as you say,
that events which we lament at the moment, afford afterwards just
grounds for rejoicing. Nevertheless, I cannot view this matter exactly
as you do, for I have known the maiden from her childhood, and she is
a more fitting bride for a Christian gentleman, than for a heathen
warrior.”

“I did, indeed, hear the Colonel, and the other members of the family
at Mooshanne, say that the Delaware youth who so bravely defended the
life of Reginald at the risk of his own had spoken in the highest
terms of praise respecting his sister the Prairie–bird, as if she
were a being of a superior race; but you, my good father, are above
the prejudices which darken the minds of these Indians; and you must
therefore know, that whatever may be her beauty and amiable qualities,
she is, after all, the daughter of a Delaware chief, and, as such,
could not be a welcome inmate of my guardian’s house.”

“Nay, my son,” replied the missionary, “she is but the adopted child
of the venerable Delaware who lately fell in the massacre which I
have related to you; she was not of his blood nor of his race; such
qualities and nature as she possesses have been in some measure the
fruit of my own care and toil. Were it not that you might mistake my
language for that of boasting, I would say, that although the prairie
has been her dwelling, and a Lenapé tent her home, she does not in her
education fall far short of your maidens in the settlements, who have
had greater advantages of instruction.”

The conversation was here interrupted by the entrance of a negro with
refreshment, preceded by Bearskin, bearing in his hand a bottle of
French brandy, of which he vaunted, not without reason, the excellent
quality and flavour; but Ethelston continued to converse in an under
tone with the missionary, his countenance evincing every moment
increased eagerness and interest in the subject of their discourse,
which so absorbed his attention, that he never noticed the honest
boatman’s repeated attempts to call his attention to the refreshment
which he had prepared. Even Paul Müller was unable to comprehend this
sudden change in his manner, and his vehement desire to know all the
most minute particulars respecting a person of whom he had spoken a few
minutes before in terms of disparagement; but he attributed it to the
interest which he took in his friend’s selected bride, and satisfied
his curiosity to the best of his ability.

When all his many and rapidly uttered questions were answered,
Ethelston rose from his seat, and abruptly took his departure, saying,
as he left the room, “Thanks, thanks, my good friends, you shall see me
again ere long.”

“Indeed I care not much how long it may be before I see his face
again,” said Bearskin sulkily. “Here have I been bothering myself to
make Pompey bring up these cakes and, fruits, and I have opened a
bottle of Father Antin’s best brandy, and he goes off without tasting
with us, or so much as taking a drop to wash down the ill words which
were in his mouth a while since.”

“Nay, my good friend,” replied the missionary, “be not hasty to censure
Master Ethelston, for he is a true and zealous friend to Reginald
Brandon, and the news from the west seems to have affected him with
much anxiety and alarm.”

“That’s all very well for you learned folk,” said the unpacified
boatman, “but we don’t do things after that fashion on the river–side;
and for all he’s the son of an old friend of the Colonel’s, when he
comes this way again he’s like to hear something of my notion of his
manners.”

“What sort of character bears he at home?”

“Why, to tell the truth, his character’s indifferent good; I never
heard of his bein’ rude or uncivil–like before.”

“Well, then, Bearskin, if he comes here again, give him an opportunity
for explaining his sudden departure, before you take or express
any offence at conduct of which you may not rightly understand the
motives. Come, my good friend, clear your brow, and let us partake with
gratitude of the excellent cheer that you have provided.”

Thus saying the missionary placed himself with his companion at table,
and the ill–temper of the latter was dispelled by the first glass of
Father Antin’s cognac.

After this interview with Paul Müller, Ethelston pursued the business
which had brought him to St. Louis with such vigour and energy, that
at the close of a week’s negotiation he was able to inform Colonel
Brandon that by sacrificing a small portion of the disputed claim, he
had adjusted the matter upon terms which he trusted his guardian would
not consider disadvantageous; his letter concluded thus:

“Having now explained these transactions, and informed you in another
letter of the melancholy fate of Mike Smith and some of his companions,
I must announce to you my intention of setting off immediately in
search of Reginald, with the best–appointed force that I can collect
here, for I am seriously apprehensive for his safety, surrounded as
he is by roving tribes of Indians, with some of whom he and his party
are at open war; while the band of Delawares, upon whose friendship he
might have relied, is almost destroyed. As it may be a work of some
time and difficulty to find Reginald in a region of such boundless
extent, I must entreat you not to feel uneasy on my account, should my
absence be more protracted than I would wish it to be, for I shall be
accompanied by Bearskin and other experienced trappers; and I know that
even Lucy would have no smile for me on my return, if I came back to
Mooshanne without making every exertion to extricate her brother from
the difficulties in which these unexpected incidents have involved him.”

By the same post Ethelston wrote also to inform Lucy of his resolution;
and though she felt extremely vexed and anxious on account of the
lengthened absence which it foretold, still she did him the justice in
her heart to own that he was acting as she would have wished him to act.

Not a day passed that he did not consult with Paul Müller, and also
with the most experienced agents of the fur companies, in order that
he might provide the articles most requisite for his contemplated
expedition, and secure the services of men thoroughly trained and
accustomed to mountain and prairie life.

In this last respect he was fortunate enough to engage a man named
Pierre, a half–breed from the Upper Missouri, whose life had been spent
among the most remote trading–posts, where his skill as a hunter, as
well as in interpreting Indian languages, was held in high estimation.
Bearskin, who was almost recovered from his wound, and from his short
fit of ill–humour with Ethelston, agreed to join the party, and the
good missionary resolved to brave all dangers and fatigues in the
hope of rejoining, and perhaps of being instrumental in rescuing, his
beloved pupil.

With unwearied industry and exertion Ethelston was able, in one week
subsequent to the date of his letter, to leave St. Louis in search
of his friend, attended by eight hardy and experienced men, all of
whom, excepting the missionary, were well armed, and furnished with
excellent horses, mules, and every necessary for their long and arduous
undertaking.

Guided by Bearskin, they reached without accident or adventure the site
of the desolate Lenapé village, in the Osage country, and there fell
in with one of the young Delawares detached by War–Eagle to observe
what might be passing in the neighbourhood: from this youth they learnt
that War–Eagle and Reginald, with a small party, had gone westward in
pursuit of Mahéga, and that the large body of the surviving Delawares
were on the trail of the more numerous band of the treacherous Osages.

Ethelston wished to go on at once in search of his friend, but the
youth insisted that he should first assist his band in taking vengeance
on their enemies. Promises and threats proved equally unavailing; and
after the missionary had exhausted all his eloquence in endeavouring to
promote peace, he was himself compelled to assure Ethelston that his
only chance of finding the trail of his friend in a spot so intersected
by multitudinous paths, was to accede to the terms proposed by the
Indian; he concluded in these words:

“Doubtless the conduct of these Osages was bloodthirsty and
treacherous. I cannot deny that they deserve punishment, but I
would fain have left them to the chastisement of a higher Power;
I know, however, that I cannot change the notion of retributive
justice entertained by the Indians; and although I cannot prevent
retaliation, my presence may soften the severities by which it is
usually accompanied; at all events I will not shrink from the attempt,
especially as it is the only means by which we can possibly hope to
trace those in whose safety we are so deeply interested.”

Ethelston could not press any further objection; and his party, under
the guidance of the young Delaware, was soon in rapid motion upon
the trail of the larger body of the Osages, who were, as it may be
remembered, already pursued by a band of Lenapé warriors.

Towards the close of the second day’s march, Ethelston and his party
met the latter returning in triumph from a successful pursuit of their
enemies, whom they had overtaken and surprised before they could reach
the main body of the Osage village. The attack was made by night, and
the Delawares had taken many scalps without the loss of a single man;
but their number was not sufficient to justify their remaining in the
neighbourhood of a force so much superior to their own, so they had
retreated to the southward, and were now on the way to their former
village, where they intended to perform more at leisure the funeral
ceremonies due to their aged chief, and those who had been killed with
him, and to appease their unquiet spirits by offering at their graves
the trophies taken during their late expedition. A few of the most
daring and adventurous entreated permission to join Ethelston’s band
in his search for War–Eagle, their favourite leader; nor was he by any
means sorry to grant their request, justly considering the addition of
ten well–armed Lenapé warriors as a most desirable reinforcement to his
party.

As soon as the selection was made, they separated at once from the
remaining body of Delawares, and, guided by the youth before mentioned,
threw themselves upon the trail of Mahéga and his pursuers.



CHAPTER XII.

 THE OSAGES ENCAMP NEAR THE BASE OF THE ROCKY MOUNTAINS.—AN UNEXPECTED
 VISITOR ARRIVES.


After parting with the Aricarás, Mahéga travelled westward for many
days over that barren and desolate region lying between the sources
of the Platte and Arkansas rivers, without falling in with any other
Indians: his party was guided by a grim and scarred warrior, who had
been on several hunting excursions to the Rocky Mountains, in the
course of which he had been more than once engaged with the Shiennes,
Crows, and other tribes, whose names have of late years become
familiar to the general reader, but who were then known only to the
few adventurous spirits who had pushed their way into that wild and
dangerous country.

Prairie–bird, attended by her faithful Lita, and mounted on her
high–mettled and sure–footed pony, was placed near the centre of the
line of march, and Mahéga himself always brought up the rear, that
being the post usually occupied by an Indian chief on all occasions,
excepting when engaged in attack or pursuit of a foe.

The maiden seemed to have resigned herself composedly to her captive
condition; and if she still harboured thoughts, or projects of escape,
none could detect them in the quiet observant eye with which she
noted the new and interesting objects presented to her view. They had
already passed the chain of hills known as the Ozark range, and leaving
the Black Hills to the northward, were crossing the sandy elevated
plain which lies between them and the Rocky Mountains: the sand of
this district is of a reddish hue, and in many places the hollows and
small ravines are incrusted with salt, which gives them, at first, the
appearance of being covered with snow; large masses of rock salt are
also of frequent occurrence, and give to the waters of all the smaller
tributaries of the Upper Arkansas a brackish and briny taste.

One evening, a little before sunset, Prairie–bird checked her horse,
to enjoy at leisure the magnificent panorama before her; and even the
suspicious Mahéga forbore to interrupt her enjoyment of its beauties,
contenting himself with viewing them as reflected on her own lovely
countenance. To the northward was an abrupt crag of sandstone rock,
towering above the plain, over which the party were now travelling;
its rugged outline broken into a thousand fissures and rents, probably
by the might of a rushing torrent in bygone years, frowned like the
turrets and battlements of an ancient feudal castle, and the maiden’s
fancy (recurring to some of the tales which had found their way into
her slender library) peopled its lofty towers and spacious courts below
with a splendid host of chivalry, fairest and foremost amongst whom was
the proud and martial figure of Reginald Brandon!

Brushing a teardrop from her eye, she averted it from the castellated
bluff, and turned it westward, where was spread a gradually ascending
plain, covered with cedars, pines, and rich masses of various forest
growth; far beyond which the Great Peak, highest of the Northern Andes,
reared its majestic form, the setting sun shedding a flood of golden
light upon the eternal snow reposing on its crest. With admiring
wonder, Prairie–bird, to whom the dread magnificence of mountain
scenery was new, gazed on the mighty landscape stretched out before
her; she held her breath as the rays of the sinking sun changed the
golden fleecy haze around the distant peak to a rosy hue, and soon
again to a deeper saffron tint; and when, at last, it disappeared
behind the rocky barrier in the west, Prairie–bird covered her eyes
with her hands, as if to enjoy over again in memory a scene of such
surpassing beauty.

“Yes,” she exclaimed half aloud; “many of the works of man are
wonderful, and the fictions of his fancy yet more marvellous; even
visions such as rose before my imagination, when contemplating yon
rugged craggy height; but what are they, when compared to the living
wonders of creation! Almighty Creator—merciful Father! Thou hast led
the steps of thy feeble and helpless child to this wild and remote
mountain solitude! It is filled with Thy presence! Thou art her
protector and guide—her trust is in Thee!”

Mahéga gazed with awe on the maiden as, with parted lips, and eyes
upturned to the glowing western heaven, she seemed to commune with
some unseen mysterious Being; and the other Indians, watchful of their
leader’s countenance, kept at a respectful distance until her short
reverie was past, when the party resumed their march towards the spot
chosen for the evening encampment.

The journey over the ascending sandy plain before mentioned, occupied
several days, at the end of which they reached the opening of a fertile
valley, sheltered on three sides by steep ridges, well covered with
wood, and watered by a clear stream: far as the eye could reach, the
plain to the southward was studded with vast herds of buffalos grazing
in undisturbed security; the timid antelope bounded across the distant
prairie; and as the travellers entered the valley, the quick eye of
Mahéga detected on the velvet turf stretched beneath the northern
ridge, numerous tracks of the mountain deer and of the argali, or
bighorn, a species of goat, the chamois of the Rocky Mountains, found
generally among the most rugged cliffs and precipices; to the scenery
of which his long beard, bright eyes, and enormous twisted horn, give
a wild and picturesque effect. Mahéga was so struck with the singular
advantages offered by this valley, both as affording a sheltered camp,
ample pasturage for the horses, and a plentiful supply of game, that
he resolved to take up there his summer quarters, and in selecting the
spot for his encampment displayed the sagacity and foresight peculiar
to his character.

About a mile from the point where the valley opened upon the plain,
there was, at the base of the northern ridge, a curved and secluded
verdant basin of turf, the entrance to which was so narrow and so well
shaded by overhanging trees, that it was not visible from any distance,
and could not be approached on any other side, owing to the precipitous
height of the crags by which it was surrounded; on an elevated peak or
promontory, immediately above the opening which led to this natural
lawn, grew a number of thick, massive, dwarf cedars, from under the
shade of which a clear–sighted man could command a view of the whole
valley, and give early notice, to those encamped below, of the approach
of danger. Having satisfied himself that by posting a watchman there he
could secure himself against the unperceived attack of any foe, Mahéga
left three of his most trustworthy men in charge of Olitipa, and having
despatched the remainder of his party to kill buffalo, proceeded to
make a careful scrutiny of the valley, in order to ascertain whether
there were signs of Indians in the neighbourhood, and whether, in the
event of his being compelled to shift his quarters, he could find any
defile through which it might be practicable to effect a retreat.

For three whole days he pursued his search with unremitting toil,
during which time he ascertained that there were no visible traces of
Indians being near, and that three miles higher up the valley there
was a transverse opening in the northern ridge, which led to another
and a larger valley, through which flowed a river of considerable
magnitude. In the mean time the Osages had not been idle, and although
little pleased to perform menial services, such as are usually left
to their women, they pitched the tent of Olitipa, with much taste,
at the foot of a huge rock, and between two lofty pines; next to it
they constructed, at a distance of only a few yards, a lodge for their
chief, by stretching double piles of buffalo–hide over bent poles, cut
after their fashion; and again, beyond that, they raised a larger and
ruder skin lodge for themselves; the guitar, and the few moveables
belonging to Prairie–bird were carefully piled in her tent; and, as
a watch was stationed at the opening to the valley, she was free to
wander as she pleased among the trees which bordered the edge of the
lawn on which they were encamped.

“Surely,” said the maiden, casting her eyes upward to the beetling
crags above, and then letting them rest upon the green turf at her
feet, “if it be God’s pleasure that I should be a captive still, he has
granted me, at least, the favour of a goodly prison wherein to dwell.”

She observed with gratitude the change that had taken place in the
demeanour of Mahéga towards herself: so far from being harsh or
violent, he was respectful in the highest degree; and, whether the
change was owing to his fears, or to more creditable motives on the
part of the Osage, she followed the advice tendered by the missionary,
by treating him with courteous gentleness. Whenever he addressed her,
it was in Delaware; and her perfect familiarity with that tongue
rendered it easy for her to make such replies as the occasion might
demand,—sometimes ambiguous, sometimes mysterious, but always such as
were not calculated to irritate or offend his pride.

Venison and buffalo meat abounded in the Osage camp, the choicest
morsels being always set apart for the use of Prairie–bird; and Lita
gathered for her various kinds of berries, which are plentiful in that
region, some of them resembling the gooseberry, the serviceberry, and
others of excellent flavour; there was also found an esculent root,
called by the Indians “_o–ka–no–mi_,” of a farinaceous quality, which
the Comanche girl had often seen on her native plains, and from which,
when she had beaten and pulverised it between two flat stones, she
baked a kind of cake, that was by no means unpalatable.

The Osages had now been encamped nearly a week on this pleasant and
sheltered spot, dividing their time between their two favourite
occupations of hunting and smoking: neither had any fresh Indian trail
been discovered, to arouse their suspicion or their watchfulness.
Before retiring to rest, it was usual for Mahéga to come before the
tent of Prairie–bird; and she, aware of the helplessness of her
situation, came forth to meet him, receiving with guarded courtesy
the fine compliments which he thought fit to pay her, and replying
in a tone which, although not directly encouraging to his hopes, was
calculated to soothe the irritation which her former treatment of him,
and the recollection of his unsuccessful struggle with Reginald, had
left upon his mind.

And here we may pause to observe how the strange contradictions
that are found in the human character frequently produce a line of
conduct which would, at first sight, appear irreconcilable with all
probability, and yet which is in strict accordance with the secret
workings of the wayward will by which it is directed. Thus Mahéga, when
he first became smitten with the beauty of Prairie–bird in the Delaware
camp, where she was surrounded by friends and protectors, wooed her
with the rough impetuosity of his nature, and, finding his advances
rejected, he resorted, as we have seen, to brutal violence, his passion
being so much heightened by the obstacles which it encountered, that,
in order to gratify it, he provoked that quarrel with the Delawares in
which so much blood, both of his own people and of his allies, had been
already shed. Now that he was triumphant, and felt secure of the person
of his captive, a new and ardent desire had arisen within him,—a
desire to compel her to love him. In this pursuit, also, his proud and
haughty spirit led him to anticipate success; and thus, for a time, the
darker and more malignant feelings of his bosom slumbered undisturbed.

One evening, when he had held his customary talk with Prairie–bird,
he retired to his lodge, and the maiden to her tent, where she took
up her long–neglected guitar, and ran her fingers carelessly through
its strings. Lita sat by her side, braiding the front of a pair of
mocassins with stained quills of the porcupine; and, although neither
sigh nor tear betrayed her feelings, Prairie–bird, whose heart now led
her intuitively to dive into that of her companion, saw that sad and
busy thoughts were there: the Comanche girl, proud and reserved as she
was with others, had been won, by the gentleness of her mistress, to
entertain for her an attachment, that was now strengthened and cemented
by the trials and dangers which they had shared together. It might,
indeed, be supposed that, as both were now captives of the chief of
another tribe, the relation of distress and servant had ceased; yet
Lita seemed to think otherwise, and her attendance upon Prairie–bird
was, if possible, more devoted than before.

“For whom are you ornamenting those mocassins, Lita?” inquired the
latter, with a sad smile.

“For whom?” repeated Lita, casting up her dark eyes, and fixing them
on her mistress as if she would read her soul. The tone in which the
exclamation was uttered, and the look by which it was accompanied,
assured Prairie–bird that her conjectures were well founded.

When the heart is full, one overflowing drop tells the contents of the
golden chalice; and from the two words spoken by her companion, Olitipa
gathered her meaning as well as if she had replied, “Is there any other
being on earth but one for whom I can be braiding them?”

The voice of Prairie–bird trembled with a conscious fellow–feeling as
she said, “Lita,—I ask not to know your secret, but I pray to the
Great Spirit so to direct the steps of him for whom those mocassins are
made, that he may receive them at your hands, and wear them for your
sake!”

On hearing these words, a deep blush came over the face and neck of
the Comanche girl; a word of kindness had touched a spring which, in
her wild and wayward nature, would have been unmoved by fear or by
violence, and she threw herself into the arms of Prairie–bird, giving
vent to long–concealed emotions in a flood of tears.

Scarcely had she regained her composure and resumed her braiding, when
the quick ear of Prairie–bird caught the sound of a low chirrup, like
that of a grasshopper, close at the back of the tent: she remembered to
have heard that signal before; the blood fled from her cheek, and she
held her breath in agitated silence: again the sound was repeated, and
Prairie–bird stole to the corner of the tent whence it proceeded, and
stooping her head, said, in English, “If Wingenund is there, let him
speak.”

“My sister!” whispered the soft voice of the youth in reply.

“’Tis he! ’tis my dear young brother himself!”

“Is all quiet, Prairie–bird?”

“All is quiet.”

“Then Wingenund will pull out one of these tent–pegs, and creep in
below the canvass,—he has much to say to his sister.”

In spite of the emotion caused by her brother’s sudden appearance,
and by the recollection that, if discovered, his life would certainly
be forfeited, Prairie–bird retained sufficient presence of mind to
continue passing her fingers through the chords of her guitar, in order
to drown the noise made by Wingenund in removing the fastenings, and
effecting his entrance below the tent. At length he stood before her;
and, after gazing sadly, fondly, on his countenance for a few moments,
she fell upon his neck and wept! The figure was indeed that of her
favourite brother; but oh, how changed since she had last seen him!
Cold, wet, sleepless nights, fatigue, and hunger, had all combined
to wear and exhaust a frame which, although cast in nature’s fairest
and most graceful mould, had not yet reached the enduring strength of
manhood: his once gay attire was soiled and ragged, the mocassins on
his feet were of undressed bison–hide, torn, and scarcely affording any
protection against the stones and thorny plants with which that region
abounds; his light bow, with a few arrows still hung at his back, and
the hunting–knife at his girdle: this was all that remained of the gay
accoutrements with which he had been adorned in the Osage village;
yet, although the frame was emaciated, and the cheeks sunken, the
proud lustre of his eye told of a spirit unquenched by suffering, and
rising superior to the trials which had almost destroyed its earthly
tenement. Prairie–bird longed to ask a hundred questions in a breath:
how he had come? whether he had seen or learnt any thing of War–Eagle,
and of Reginald? but affectionate compassion for her young brother’s
sad condition overcoming every other feeling, she said to him, “Dear,
dear Wingenund, you are wearied to death, sit by me and rest; you are
starved, are you not?”

“Wingenund has not eaten for two days,” replied the youth, seating
himself gently at his sister’s side.

Fortunately, more than half of the evening meal apportioned to
Prairie–bird and Lita remained untouched in the tent, and the latter
instantly set before the youth some well–cooked cakes and bison meat,
luxuries such as had not passed his lips for many a day; and having
also placed a vessel of water within his reach, she went, with the
intuitive delicacy and sagacity of her sex, towards the opening of
the tent, so as to afford Prairie–bird an opportunity of speaking
unrestrainedly to her brother, and at the same time to secure them as
far as possible against interruption. Wingenund, with all his heroic
patience and self–denial, was a young half–starved Indian, and the
delicacies set before him vanished in a few minutes, as if they had
been placed before a famished wolf. Prairie–bird offered him a draught
of water, adding, with an affectionate smile, “My brother, ’tis well
that there is no more meat; a full meal is dangerous after so long a
fast!”

“It is enough,” replied the youth; “Wingenund is well now.”

“Tell me, then, how you have followed to this distant region, and
whether you have seen any thing of War–Eagle, and of—his friends?”

“Wingenund has seen none,” he replied; “nothing except the trail of
Mahéga, and that he would have followed to the big salt lake, or to
death.”

“But how has it been possible for you to pursue the trail undiscovered,
to find food, and to avoid strange Indians on the path?”

“Wingenund kept far behind the Washashee; their eyes could not reach
him; he has left on every day’s trail marks that War–Eagle will know;
they will speak to him as plainly as my sister’s Medicine–book tells
her the Great Spirit’s will. He will come soon, and his friends with
him.”

“But my brother has not told me how he procured food on this toilsome
journey?”

“When the Lenapé’s heart is full he thinks little of food,” replied the
youth proudly. He added, in a more subdued tone: “It was not easy to
find meat, for the Washashee had driven the bison from their path, and
Wingenund could not leave their trail. Twice he has met bad Indians,
who tried to kill him.”

“And how did he escape them, being without a horse?” inquired
Prairie–bird.

“They were too many for him to fight, and he ran from them; but being
weak with hunger, one Aricará overtook him by the waters of the
Arkansas. Wingenund shot him, and, plunging into the river, dived; and
the others never found him; but Wingenund lost his rifle, and since
then he has eaten only roots and fruit.”

The simple narrative of the hardships and sufferings which her young
brother had undergone for her sake, and which his emaciated appearance
attested but too well, brought fresh tears to the eyes of Prairie–bird;
but she checked them as well as she was able, and said, “Tell me yet
one more thing; how have you been able to reach this spot unperceived
by the Osage watchmen?”

“Wingenund saw from far the camp chosen by Mahéga; he saw that he
could not approach it in front; but the rocks behind are rough and
high; he made a rope of bark and grass, climbed up the height, and let
himself down from a pine–tree above the tent; but in case he should
be discovered and killed by the Osages, he has left an arrow where
War–Eagle is sure to find it, and the arrow will show him where to
come.”

“Dear, dear Wingenund, you are indeed a brother,” said the maiden,
deeply moved by the mingled foresight, patience, and devotion that he
had evinced. “You are, indeed, a worthy son of the ancient people.”

Here she was interrupted by a shrill cry; Lita was at the same instant
thrown rudely aside by Mahéga, who rushed into the tent, followed by
two of his warriors. Wingenund sprang to his feet; but ere he could
draw the knife from his girdle he was seized by the Osages, and his
arms pinioned behind his back.

Dark and louring was the frown which the angry chief cast upon his
prisoner. The Delaware youth quailed not before it; the hour of trial
had arrived, and the haughty spirit rising within him, triumphed over
all that he had undergone; all that he knew he had yet to undergo. He
drew himself to the full height of his graceful figure; and fixing his
bright keen eye full upon Mahéga, awaited his fate in silence.

“Has the cunning antelope of the Delawares run so far to see the den of
the Black Wolf?” demanded the chief, with a contemptuous sneer. “Has
the buffalo bull sent the calf on a path that he was afraid to tread
himself? Have the Lenapé girls sent one of their number to carry wood
and water for the Washashee warriors?”

Mahéga paused; and on finding that his cowardly and brutal jeers called
forth no reply, nor changed a muscle on the haughty countenance before
him, his anger grew more ungovernable, and he exclaimed in a voice of
thunder, “If the cur–dog will not bark, the whip, and the knife, and
the fire shall find him a tongue! If he wishes not to be torn in pieces
on the spot, let him say what brought him to the Osage camp, and where
he has left War–Eagle and his pale–faced friends!”

Neither to the threats nor the inquiries of Mahéga did Wingenund deign
to make any reply, and the enraged chief struck him across the face
with the heavy bull–hide whip suspended from his wrist[52]; the blow
was given with such force that it laid open the youth’s cheek, and
a stream of blood poured from the cut. At the sight of this unmanly
outrage, the self–control of Prairie–bird almost gave way; but a look
from her brother recalled her to herself, and checked the impulse which
would have led to the utterance of entreaty mingled with indignant
reproach.

“Speak not, my sister,” said the hero boy in the Delaware tongue;
“speak not to the cowardly Washashee wolf! Waste not your breath on one
who has only courage to strike when his enemy’s hands are tied!”

Mahéga fixed his eyes upon the maiden, and a sudden thought lighted up
his countenance with a gleam of malignant triumph. Approaching close to
her, he said in a stern low whisper, “To–morrow, before the sun goes
down, Olitipa becomes the bride of Mahéga, or that boy is burnt at a
slow fire with such tortures as the Lenapé never thought of in dreams!”
So saying, he ordered the prisoner to be carefully guarded, and left
the tent.



CHAPTER XIII.

 WAR–EAGLE’S PARTY FOLLOW THE TRAIL.—A SKIRMISH AND ITS RESULTS.—THE
 CHIEF UNDERTAKES A PERILOUS JOURNEY ALONE, AND HIS COMPANIONS FIND
 SUFFICIENT OCCUPATION DURING HIS ABSENCE.


Notwithstanding the pains that Wingenund had taken to leave on the
trail such occasional indications as might assist War–Eagle in
following it, the progress made by the latter was much slower than
might have been expected by any one who knew the fierce desire of
vengeance that burnt within him. Several times did the impatience
of Reginald Brandon vent itself in words, which he addressed in an
under–tone to Baptiste.

“I fear that my Delaware brother has lost some of his energies, in
this great calamity which has befallen his tribe; when he followed the
Dahcotah trail his foot was light and swift; now, when more than life
and death may hang upon the events of an hour, his march is heavy and
slow as that of a jaded ox.”

“Master Reginald,” replied the guide, “you do the War–Eagle wrong. A
trail on this hard barren region is not like one in the prairies of
Illinois or Missouri, where, in every little bottom, there are patches
of long grass on which it is marked as plain as a high–road. We have
passed to–day several trails of strange Indians, probably Aricarás or
Upsarokas[53]; had the War–Eagle made a mistake and followed one of
these, we might have wandered several days before we recovered our
right route; watch his eye, it is bent on the ground, not a blade of
grass escapes it; he has not time for a word, even with you.”

“I believe you are right, Baptiste; yet I have now studied my Delaware
brother’s countenance and character for some time. I have seen him
under the influence of strong, ay of deadly passion, and I truly
wondered at his self–control; but there seems now to be a dull heavy
load upon his spirit, as if it were overwhelmed.”

“Look at your feet this moment,” quoth the guide; “and tell me if, on
this hard spot, you can trace the trail on which we are moving.”

“In truth I could not,” said Reginald, looking down; “I grant our
friend’s sagacity in following it, but what has that to do with the
state of his mind and temper, which we were discussing?”

“More, perhaps, than you think, Master Reginald. Along this very path
the steps of Mahéga and his warriors have passed, the hoofs of the
horse hearing Olitipa have trod it: it is now broad daylight, yet you
can see nothing; do you wonder, then, that you cannot discern the trail
of the thoughts and purposes that travel, in the dark, over the heart
of the Delaware?”

“Baptiste,” said Reginald, smiling, “I knew that you were a skilful
hunter, and an experienced woodsman; but I never before knew that you
were a philosopher!”

“Nor I either, Master Reginald; but perhaps I may not be one after all.
What is a philosopher?”

This blunt question from the sturdy guide, seemed somewhat puzzling to
his young master: and the former continued, laughing, “Well, I suppose
it’s some curious kind o’ crittur or other that we never heard of in
the woods; and you don’t seem to have met it often yourself, or you’d
not find it so hard to give a description of it!”

“You are right, Baptiste; it is a creature not very often met with,
either in the woods or in civilised life; but as I have likened you
to it, I am in duty bound to describe it to you as well as I can. A
philosopher is a man whose desires are moderate, and his passions under
due control; who can trace human actions to their real motives, and
effects to their true causes; who can read the character of others
without prejudice, and study his own without self–partiality; who can
bear prosperity without pride, and adversity without repining;—such is
my idea of a philosopher: the sketch is rough, but sufficient to give
you some notion of the object in view.”

The guide was, silent for a few moments; he took off his hairy cap and
twirled it several times round in his bony hands, as was his frequent
custom when perplexed. At length he replied, “Well, Master Reginald, if
that be what you call a philosopher, I’m sure War–Eagle is more like
one than I am, and perhaps you’ll not take offence if I say that he is
more like one than you are yourself: it comes natural to an Ingian to
read his neighbour’s heart, and hide what passes in his own; and, as to
governing his passions, I think you have seen enough to convince you
that, although they were as hot and wild as was the horse which you
bestride, they are now as obedient to the bridle as Nekimi.”

“I grant it,” said Reginald, reining in the proud steed alluded to
in the guide’s illustration; “I grant it; and see how earnestly our
Delaware friend is now bent upon his task; he has made a signal for the
party to halt, and is stooping to examine a blade of grass, as if life
itself depended upon his acute sagacity.”

It was, indeed, as the young man said; the Delaware chief had stooped
to examine a bunch of grass by the side of the trail, in which his
quick glance had detected a small object which would have escaped a
less–practised eye: with a subdued exclamation of surprise he seized
it, and concealed it for a moment in his hand, a ray of animation
lighting up his fine countenance; it was but for a moment, his
features almost immediately relapsed into their usual melancholy grave
expression; and drawing near to Reginald, he put into his hands a small
golden clasp, saying,

“My brother, War–Eagle knows it well; it was given by the Black
Father to Olitipa: the trail is clear as the great white pathway of
heaven.”[54]

Reginald took the clasp, and seizing the hand which held it, he pressed
it in silence to his heart: he had marked the varying expression on
War–Eagle’s countenance; he saw how a moment’s recollection had changed
the sanguine exultation of the lover, to the sad yet steady firmness
of the friend; and his heart yearned towards his Indian brother with
an affection that words could not express; but they were not needed;
his moistened eye and glowing cheek spoke volumes to his friend, and
War–Eagle bounded forward again upon the trail, his spirit excited by
an incident which, though slight in itself, had called forth high and
generous emotions.

A few minutes after the Delaware had resumed his post as guide, our
hero purposely fell into the rear of the party, and throwing the rein
loosely over the neck of his horse, turned the precious golden relic
over and over between his fingers, and pressed it a thousand times
to his lips; the ground over which they were travelling was a broken
series of ravines or ridges, and thus he was enabled to indulge in the
extravagant endearments which he bestowed upon the senseless trinket,
without being exposed to the curious eyes of his fellow–travellers, now
out of his sight.

He was aroused from his reverie by a terrific yell, accompanied by a
sharp sensation of pain; and on raising his eyes perceived at once that
he was cut off from his party by a mounted band of Indians, one of whom
had shot an arrow through the fleshy part of his thigh, into the flap
of the saddle, where it was still sticking. Instantly deciding that
it was better to trust to the speed of Nekimi than to the desperate
chance of forcing his way through the Indians in front, he struck the
steed with his heel, and turning his head towards the open prairie to
the left of the trail, went off at full speed, followed by several
mounted warriors; his first care was to secure the clasp within his
hunting–shirt; his next to examine the priming of his rifle, and of the
pistols at his saddle–bow; finding these all in order, he looked round
at his pursuers, who, although urging their horses by yells and blows,
did not gain upon Nekimi, even when going at an easy gallop.

Re–assured by finding the advantage which he had over his enemies in
the speed of his horse, Reginald cut the arrow where it pinned his leg
to the saddle, and then, without much pain or difficulty, drew the
shaft from the flesh. Being now satisfied that he had nothing to fear
from the wound, he turned the head of his horse in a direction parallel
to the trail on which his party had been marching, as he felt that his
ultimate safety must depend upon his not being separated from them.

A loud yell followed by a succession of rifle–shots announced to him
that the attack on his friends had commenced; and although the broken
nature of the ground still prevented him from seeing them, he could
gather from the sound that they were at no great distance; rightly
judging that they must be anxious respecting his own safety, he now
applied his bugle to his lips, and blew a clear blast, which Baptiste
immediately recognised as the concerted signal for “All’s well,” and
cheerily responded to.

The Indians in pursuit of Reginald reined in their horses, and stood
gazing at each other in astonishment, at sounds which had never before
reached their ear; and all, excepting one, wheeled to rejoin the
main body of their band; he who remained was evidently a chief, or
principal brave, his dress was splendidly adorned with scalp–locks,
eagle–feathers, and beads; and instead of the shaven crown and single
tuft of hair usually worn by the Pawnees, and other Indians of the
Platte and Missouri region, his long black hair streamed over his
shoulders, and fell upon the haunches of the wild spirited courser on
which he was mounted. When he found that the number of his enemies
was reduced to a single one, Reginald was not of a temper to consider
flight as any longer necessary; so he checked the speed of Nekimi, and
trotting to the summit of a rising ground in front of him, saw, at
a little distance, in the ravine below, the skirmish that was still
continued between his friends and the attacking party.

But he was not long permitted to remain an idle spectator; for
the Indian, having recovered from the surprise occasioned by the
bugle–call, was again approaching him at full speed. Reginald turned
his horse towards his assailant, and deliberately raising his rifle,
waited until the latter should be near enough to afford him a certain
aim; but the Indian observing his cool determined bearing, and having
some experience of the dangerous nature of the white man’s weapon,
suddenly wheeled his horse, and galloped to and fro in a zigzag
direction, sometimes advancing, sometimes retreating, with a rapidity
that left Reginald in doubt whether he were meditating an attack, or
desirous only of exhibiting his wonderful powers of horsemanship.

These doubts were, however, soon resolved; for in one of these swift
evolutions, when passing the spot where Reginald stood, at a distance
of fifty yards, the Indian suddenly threw himself half off his horse,
and hanging over its side, discharged from under the animal’s neck an
arrow, which whizzed close by Reginald’s ear; then, when he was himself
out of shot, resumed his seat in the saddle, and again wheeling his
horse, prepared to repeat a manœuvre which had so nearly been attended
with success.

On this second occasion Reginald was resolved to try his chance with
the rifle; and when his enemy, emboldened by the quiet and apparently
surprised demeanour of the white man, threw himself again over the
side of his horse, and came within a nearer range, our hero levelled
his rifle at the animal, whose body shielded completely that of his
opponent, and the ball taking effect behind the shoulder, both horse
and man rolled upon the grass.

[Illustration: REGINALD AND THE CROW CHIEF  P. 312]

Reginald sprung from his saddle and hastened to the spot, hoping to
secure the Indian while still encumbered by the fallen horse; but the
active savage leapt upon his feet, and not having time to fit an arrow
to the string, struck a furious but unsuccessful blow at the young
man’s head, with his bow; then uttering his war–cry, rushed upon him
with a long sharp knife that he had drawn from his belt; but the Indian
had mistaken both the skill and strength of the opponent with whom he
thus rashly endeavoured to close, and in a moment Reginald’s cutlass
was buried in his chest. In vain he summoned all his remaining strength
to strike a last blow; both hand and eye refused their aid, and he fell
heavily forward upon the grass. Reginald, sheathing his cutlass, knelt
by the side of the wounded man, and strove to stanch the blood; but his
efforts were fruitless, the lungs were pierced, and it was evident that
death was fast approaching.

The Indian, still conscious of what was passing around, and
momentarily expecting the scalp–knife upon his forehead, the usual
fate of the conquered amongst those of his race, gazed in surprise
upon the countenance of the young man, who was now tending him with
compassionate anxiety: they could not interchange a word; the Indian
feebly raised his hand to his head with an inquiring look, and then
pointed to the knife. Reginald shook his head, as if to intimate that
he need be under no apprehension of that indignity; and then continued
his earnest but ineffectual endeavours to stanch the flowing blood,
while the sufferer’s head rested upon his shoulder.

During this time not a groan escaped from the lips of the savage
warrior: but feeling his end at hand, he gathered his dying energies;
and taking from his neck the magnificent collar which he wore,
made from the claws of a grisly bear, bound together with skins of
snow–white ermine, he gave it to Reginald, making him a sign that he
should wear it; then supporting himself in a sitting posture by the
end of his bow, which he had caught up from the ground, and with his
eye steadily fixed upon the snow–clad peak now visible in the western
horizon, the prairie–warrior breathed his last.

As soon as Reginald was assured that life was extinct, he stretched
the unconscious limbs, closed the eyes, gathered the massive hair
over the rigid countenance, and arranged the arms and accoutrements
decently beside the fallen chieftain, knowing well that it would not
be long before the body was borne off by those of his own tribe. There
was neither exultation nor triumph on the young man’s countenance, as
he looked from the lifeless form of his late adversary to that of the
steed, which lay dead beside him, on which, not many minutes before,
he was careering over his native plains in the pride and vigour of
manhood; he felt that the strength, the activity, the courage of the
savage warrior, were equal to his own; that it had depended upon a
single successful thrust whether of the two should be now taking his
last uncoffined sleep in the wilderness. Sad thoughts of his waiting
mother and sister, musings on the fate of Prairie–bird, stole upon
his heart, and he continued gazing almost unconsciously on the body
of the Indian, until he was aroused by a shrill blast from the bugle
of Baptiste; the signal–blast was “Beware:” and casting his eyes
around, he saw that the band of Indians who had been skirmishing with
War–Eagle’s party were advancing at full speed to the spot where he
stood. His spirit rekindled by this fresh excitement, he caught up
his rifle, and vaulting on the back of Nekimi, gave him the rein. The
pursuers soon found that their chance of overtaking him was hopeless;
and while they gathered round the body of their fallen chief, Reginald
rejoined his party, who received him with a shout of triumph that
reached the ears of the mourners on the far prairie.

As Reginald dismounted and walked gravely through the group to salute
War–Eagle, every eye was fixed upon the bear–claw collar around his
neck, and he received the silent homage which Indian warriors pay to
successful valour.

There was also a quiet dignified modesty in the young man’s bearing and
demeanour, which did not escape their observant and approving eyes.
“My brother is welcome,” said War–Eagle, extending his hand to greet
his friend; “he has killed a great chief; when the warriors tell their
deeds at the war–dance, the tongue of Netis will not be silent.”

“The red man of the prairie was brave,” replied Reginald; “he died like
a warrior. I trust his spirit is gone to the happy land.”

“Master Reginald,” said the guide, thrusting his large bony hand into
that of our hero, “it did my heart good to see the Ingian fall; he
sprang upon you like a tiger, and I feared he might catch you unawares.”

“No, Baptiste, no; he was a gallant fellow, and I am truly sorry that,
in self–defence, I was obliged to kill him; but the advantages were all
on my side; Nekimi was far swifter than his horse, and his knife was
no match for my cutlass. Do you know to what tribe he and his party
belonged?”

“Capote–bleu, Master Reginald—this is the first time you have seen
_Les Corbeaux_—Upsaroka they call themselves; they are a wild race.”
And he added, in a lower tone, “We shall see more of them before we go
much further.”

“In the skirmish which they had with you, were any wounded on either
side?”

“Not many, for the rascals galloped about in such an unaccountable
flurry, it wasn’t easy to make sure work with the rifle; but the Doctor
scored the ribs of one, and I think War–Eagle struck another; they kept
at a very unfamiliar distance, and their arrows were as harmless as
snow–flakes.”

“How fared it with Monsieur Perrot?” inquired Reginald, who saw the
light–hearted valet grinning with satisfaction at his master’s victory
and safe return, “did he not try his skill upon any of these marauding
Crows?”

“Well, I hardly know,” said the guide. “Master Perrot is like the bear
in the tree, he fights very well when he can’t help it; but I conceive
he’s not over fond of the red–skins ever since that Dahcotah handled
his wig so roughly! What say you, Monsieur Perrot?”

“Monsieur Baptiste is not altogether wrong,” replied the good–humoured
valet; “if one of those red Corbeaux come very near to peck me, I do my
best to pluck his feathers out; but I much rather see a fat partridge
or capon than one of them!”

The conversation between the Frenchman and the guide was interrupted by
War–Eagle, who made a sign to the latter, as well as to Reginald, that
he wished to speak with them apart.

“Brother,” said the chief, addressing our hero, “the Upsarokas are
many; their warriors are like the bison–herds; they will soon return to
our path, we must be ready for them. What is my brother’s counsel?”

“Baptiste,” said the young man, “you have more experience in these
matters than I have; speak first.”

The guide did not reply immediately; he bent his eyes upon the ground,
and his fingers rested on the head of the massive hatchet from whence
he derived his Indian name. When he spoke, it was with slow but
decisive enunciation. “War–Eagle has spoken truly, the Crows will
return in greater numbers; they will seek revenge for the death of
their chief; they are brave, but their arms are bad—we are few, but
our weapons can do service. My counsel is, that we choose a strong camp
and await their coming; we will then handle them so that they shall
not desire to interrupt us again; or perhaps they may offer to make a
treaty upon our own terms.”

“The words of Grande–Hâche are wise,” rejoined the chief; “he does not
waste his breath in blowing against the wind. What says my brother
Netis?”

“He says,” replied Reginald, with his characteristic impetuosity, “that
the counsel of Grande–Hâche may be good for our own safety, but it will
not bring us nearer to Mahéga. Netis would follow the Osage trail in
spite of all the Crows between the Platte and the Mountains.”

“My brother speaks like a warrior without fear,” said the chief in
reply; “yet we cannot follow the trail of the Washashee while fighting
by day and by night with the Upsaroka. War–Eagle will join the counsel
of Grande–Hâche to that of Netis. Let us choose a strong camp, bring in
plenty of meat, and prepare to receive the Upsaroka. I will steal away
alone in the night. I will follow the trail of Mahéga, and return to
tell my brother what I have seen. It is enough, I have spoken.”

Both the guide and Reginald approved the chief’s decision; and although
our hero would rather have accompanied him on the trail, he felt that
he would impede the progress of his Indian brother, whose fleetness of
foot was so much greater than his own; he therefore acquiesced with
cheerfulness, and they set forward to select a camp that should unite
the advantages of a defensible position to those of a plentiful supply
of water.

For several hours War–Eagle pursued the Osage trail without halting,
but his keen eye roved occasionally from side to side in search of a
spot favourable for encampment, while Reginald and Baptiste brought up
the rear of the party; the former mounted on Nekimi, prepared to gallop
forward to the front and give the alarm, in case of the re–appearance
of the marauding Crows. About an hour before sunset they reached a
valley watered by a small stream, the taste of which proved refreshing,
and free from the salt with which that region abounds; near the centre
of the valley was a thick copse of alder and willow, covering a space
of fifty or sixty yards square. On forcing his way through the outer
bushes, War–Eagle found an open plot of fine level turf, entirely
surrounded by the copse which sheltered it from view on all sides.

The Delaware, having brought his party into this natural encampment,
and picqueted the horses within the space above mentioned, made a
careful examination of the thicket, in which he was accompanied by
Reginald and Baptiste; they then selected the points from which they
could best command the approaches from different quarters; at these
they piled logs and branches matted with grass and turf, from behind
which secure though slight breastwork they could take deliberate aim
at any hostile party approaching from the prairie. Before dusk their
preparations were complete; the watch was set, and the remainder, after
a frugal supper, forgot the fatigues of the day in sleep.

The night passed without the occurrence of any alarm; and an hour
before daylight War–Eagle arose and prepared himself for his perilous
expedition, after the ancient fashion of his tribe; a fashion which the
Delawares, in common with most of the semi–civilised Indians, have in
these modern days neglected, if not forgotten.

Having smeared himself from head to foot with an ointment made from the
fat and marrow of deer, he painted his face and chest with stripes of a
dark colour, purposely making the form and device to resemble those of
the Missourian nations. He wore upon his legs a light pair of deer–skin
leggins, without ornament, supported at the waist by his belt; from
the latter was suspended on one side his tomahawk, on the other his
knife; he also stuck into it a brace of loaded pistols given to him
by Reginald, and within the folds secured some bullets and charges of
powder, as well as a few slices of dried buffalo–meat: his throat,
chest, and arms were naked, with the exception of a small light
blanket, which, when thrown across his shoulder, did not in the least
impede the free exercise either of his hands or feet. As speed was now
his chief object, he left both his rifle and his heavy war–club in the
charge of Reginald, who looked on with mingled feelings of admiration
and envy, while his friend was preparing for his solitary journey.
Knowing that War–Eagle, if successful in his undertaking, would see
the Prairie–bird, he longed to send by him a thousand messages of
love; yet he remembered and respected the feelings of his friend, and,
controlling his own, embraced him in silence.

As War–Eagle was about to depart, Reginald was surprised at seeing him
attach to his belt a small bunch of feathers, carefully tied together,
and he imagined that they might be in some measure connected with
his Indian brother’s totem, or heraldic designation; but the latter
resolved his doubts by saying to him and to Baptiste,

“War–Eagle will follow the trail of Washashee as swiftly as his feet
can run: whenever it is difficult to find, or divides in a fork, he
will stick one of these small feathers in the grass; let ‘Attō’ follow
first on the trail, he has been often on the war–path, and his eyes
are good; Grande–Hâche with his long rifle should come next: let my
brother go last with Nekimi, and let him always have eyes in his back;
the Upsarokas are cunning, and the wives of a dead chief are lamenting.
If War–Eagle lives, he will return quick and meet his brothers on the
trail; if he is killed, he will meet them afterwards in the fields
where his fathers hunt. Farewell.” So saying, the Delaware chief
pointed impressively to the distant ridge of the mountains, and left
the encampment.

After the departure of War–Eagle, Reginald busied himself, with the
aid of Baptiste in making further preparations against the expected
attack. On inquiring of the latter, he learnt, with much satisfaction,
that Attō or A–tō (_Anglicè_, “The Deer”), who had been designated
by the chief as leader on the trail in his absence, was a tried and
experienced warrior. His appearance, indeed, was not much in his
favour, for he was small and spare in stature, and his features, though
not positively ugly, were stern, and rarely lighted up by expression;
his eye was piercing rather than brilliant; and he scarcely ever spoke,
excepting in reply to a question: his swiftness of foot, which was
almost equal to that of War–Eagle himself, had procured for him the
appellation by which he was known in the tribe. It should however,
in justice to him, be mentioned, that he seldom ran _from_ an enemy,
for his courage was proverbial; and in a former expedition against
the Dahcotahs, he had made several escapes so extraordinary, that
his comrades had given him a name consisting of sixteen or seventeen
syllables, which we will not inflict upon civilised eyes or ears, but
which signifies, “The–man–who–cannot–be–killed–by–an–arrow.”

Reginald, finding that Attō was familiar with the English tongue, and
desirous to be on good terms with his new officer, addressed him as
follows:—

“Does Attō think that the Upsaroka will come to–day?”

“They will come.”

“Will they attack us in this position?”

“Perhaps; the Upsarokas are fools—they do not know the Lenapé.”

“Are you satisfied with the arrangements we have made for the defence?”

“Yes; but you should let the horses feed outside, with a guard, or they
will soon eat up the grass within; it will be time enough to drive them
in when the Upsaroka come.”

“You are right,” said Reginald, frankly, and he ordered it to be done
immediately.

Savages are extremely like ourselves in all that concerns the internal
workings of self–respect; and if Reginald already stood high in
Attō’s opinion for his courage and bodily advantages, the Indian was
disposed to think more highly of him when he found, even in a matter so
trifling, that the young man listened to and followed his counsel.

The forenoon passed without any tidings of the Crows; and Reginald,
impatient of a state of inaction, resolved to sally forth upon Nekimi,
and to make a sweep over the adjacent undulating prairie, to see
whether he could discover any signs of them.

Armed with his knife, pistols, and cutlass, he slung his spy–glass
over his shoulder, and vaulted on the back of his favourite, charging
Baptiste and Attō, now left in joint command of the garrison, to keep a
sharp look–out, and promising to return before dusk.

How did his blood dance with excitement as he found himself trotting
briskly across the virgin turf of that wild, boundless, vegetable
ocean; beneath him a steed, bold, eager, joyous as himself; above
him a blue immensity of unclouded sky; and around him breezes fresh
from the snowy chambers of the Northern Andes! Nor were the sources
of excitement from within wanting to complete its measure,—a
consciousness of youth, and health, and strength; a mind capable of
appreciating the wonders of nature, and of following them up to their
Almighty Framer; a heart filled to overflowing with the image of a
kindred being whose love he doubted not, and whom, in spite of dangers
and obstacles, his ardent and sanguine spirit whispered that he would
soon rejoin!

Again and again did he draw from his bosom the precious clasp, which
assured him that he was following her footsteps; and then replacing it,
he would stoop over the neck of Nekimi, and caressing his playful ear,
and gently pressing his flank, the noble creature caracoled, neighed,
and bounded beneath him, like the “wild and wanton herd” described in
one of the most exquisite scenes depicted by our immortal dramatist.[55]

Notwithstanding the excited flow of his spirits, Reginald did not
forget the object of his excursion: he not only noted carefully the
various remarkable features of the surrounding country, so as to
secure, in case of need, his retreat to the encampment, but he scanned
the side of every hill, and the bosom of every valley that he passed,
to see whether any parties of the Upsaroka were yet within view.

He had ridden many miles without seeing any thing alive, except a few
straggling buffalos and antelopes, and was on the point of returning
towards the camp, when he descried some moving body on the sky–line
in the eastern horizon: throwing himself from his horse, he adjusted
his telescope, and fixing it on the object, ascertained at once that
it was a large party of Indians on horseback. Although his glass was
of excellent quality, they were so distant that he could not count
them, but he was satisfied that they considerably exceeded a hundred.
Observing that their course was directed westward, he was able, by
descending an oblique ravine, to reach the edge of a copse which they
were likely to pass at no great distance, whence, himself unseen, he
might watch their movements, and form a more accurate estimate of their
force.

He had not been long stationed at the post which he had selected
for this purpose, when the band came full in view on the ridge of a
neighbouring hill.

That it was a war–party of the Crows he could no longer doubt, as their
dress and appearance were precisely the same, and they were following,
with the faultless sagacity of a pack of blood–hounds, the trail which
he and his companions had trodden on the preceding day.

Being completely sheltered from their view by the copse, he was able
to observe their movements, and to plan his own accordingly; he
counted upwards of two hundred and fifty mounted warriors; and his
impression was that their numbers amounted in all to nearly three
hundred: they moved forward upon the trail at an even pace until they
reached the brow of the hill, whence they could perceive, although
at a considerable distance, the thicket in which the Delawares were
encamped. Pausing here, they held a brief council: it was clear that
they suspected that the above–named wood contained those of whom they
were in pursuit; nor was it long before their lynx eyes detected a
slight column of smoke curling up above the trees, on seeing which
they shouted aloud, while their rapid and vehement gesticulations
sufficiently explained to Reginald the discovery that they had made.

It was evidently not the present intention of the Crows to make an
open attack; for they now divided their force into two bands, each of
which pursued its course along the back of the ridges which crowned
the valley wherein the encampment lay, and thus they would be enabled
to reach a point not far distant from their enemy on opposite sides,
before their approach could be perceived.

The position of Reginald himself was now critical, for in his eagerness
to watch the motions of the Indians, he had allowed them to get between
him and his own party; it only remained for him, therefore, to decide
whether he should endeavour to reach the camp unperceived, or, trusting
to the speed of Nekimi, ride boldly towards it; he chose the latter,
rightly judging the impossibility of escaping Indian eyes in so open
a country; and he thought it also probable, that if they meditated a
night attack upon the encampment, they would permit him to enter it
without showing themselves.

Having therefore examined the priming of his pistols, and loosened his
cutlass in the sheath, he pushed his way through the thicket, and,
emerging on the opposite side, rode deliberately forward.

Choosing the most open ground, he pursued his homeward way down the
valley; and though his eye glanced occasionally to the hills on each
side, not an Indian was to be seen, and in less than an hour he found
himself again within the precincts of the wooded camp.

The gravity of his demeanour, as he joined his companions, led them
to conjecture that he had seen some trace of their enemies, which
impression was confirmed amongst them when he led Baptiste and Attō
aside to hold with them a council of war.

Having briefly detailed what he had seen, he expressed his belief
that the Crows had divided their force for the purpose of attacking
the camp in the course of the ensuing night, and concluded by asking
their opinion as to the most advisable means of defence. After a short
deliberation, it was agreed that four men should watch at the opposite
sides of the thicket, each of whom being well sheltered behind a log of
wood already rolled to its edge, could detect the approach of an enemy
from the prairie, and that each should be provided with two loaded
rifles, so that in case of his being obliged to fire one to give the
alarm, he might still have another ready for immediate use.

These preparations having been made, and the horses brought within the
encampment, the little party sat down to their supper, and afterwards
smoked their pipes as unconcernedly as if neither Crows nor danger were
lurking in the neighbourhood. Night came on, and those whose turn it
was to sleep, announced by their heavy breathing that the hour of rest
was not unwelcome. Monsieur Perrot snored so loudly from beneath the
pile of blankets in which he had enveloped himself, that he more than
once received a slight admonition from the elbow of the half–awakened
guide, who lay beside him. Reginald, however, was in a mood which would
have no fellowship with sleep; his thoughts were of Prairie–bird, still
in Mahéga’s power, of his Indian brother, now far on his solitary and
dangerous journey, of the lurking foes whose attack he hourly expected,
and of the familiar faces at Mooshanne, whom distance and absence now
rendered doubly dear. The night was dark, for the young moon, after
traversing her appointed section of the southern sky, had disappeared,
and the twinkling stars threw but an uncertain light, rendered yet more
doubtful by the leafy branches which waved gently to and fro under the
light breath of the night breeze.

In order to give some employment to his unquiet spirit, Reginald
resolved to visit the several stations where his sentries were posted,
and, throwing his rifle over his shoulder, arose and commenced his
rounds. Moving with a slow and noiseless step, he went to each of
the posts in succession, and finding all the watchmen on the alert,
whispered to each a word of approbation. The last station that he
visited was occupied by Attō; and Reginald, sitting down behind the
log, conversed with him for a short time, in a low tone of voice, each
pausing at intervals, to listen and look out upon the valley. On a
sudden, Attō, touching his arm, pointed to a spot near the summit of
the neighbouring hill; and, following the direction indicated, Reginald
could plainly see a small light, as of a dry stick, which burnt for a
few seconds, and was then extinguished.

“Let Netis watch,” whispered the Indian; “Attō will return directly;”
and with these words he disappeared in the thicket.

Not many minutes elapsed ere he came back, and, in the same subdued
tone, said, “All is well now, the Upsaroka are coming, Attō saw the
same light on the other hill; it is a sign for both parties to attack
from opposite sides at once.”

“All is well, indeed,” thought Reginald, within himself. “This fellow
must have a strange stomach for fighting, when he applies such a term
to an expected conflict, where the odds are to be two or three hundred
to ten.”

These were Reginald’s thoughts for a moment; but his words were:
“Baptiste, Perrot, and I will remain at this post; you can spare us
also one of your warriors; you will guard the opposite post with three
others; there will remain one to move constantly round within the edge
of the thicket, to summon us to any point where the Crows may threaten
an attack. Is the plan good, what says my brother?”

“It is good,” replied the Indian, and they set about it forthwith in
earnest and in silence.

Reginald and Baptiste, having previously examined all the logs which
were now to serve for their defence, lost no time in selecting their
respective stations; the Indian warrior allotted to them was placed
between them; Monsieur Perrot, safely ensconced behind the fallen trunk
of an alder, was to load his master’s rifle, and when discharged,
to replace it by another; and the defenders of the camp were all
instructed not to fire until their enemies were so near as to afford a
certain aim.

The side on which Reginald was stationed was the most open to attack,
from its being adjacent to the brook that flowed through the centre
of the valley, the banks of which, being dotted here and there with
alder–bushes, afforded an occasional covert to an approaching enemy.
Nearly an hour had elapsed, and Reginald began to suspect that they
had mistaken the intentions of the Upsaroka, when Baptiste pointed
in silence towards the prairie, and on following with his eye the
direction of his companion’s finger, he saw a dusky object in motion.
Looking steadily forward, each with his finger on the trigger of
his rifle, Reginald and Baptiste could now distinguish the figures
of several Indians, creeping along the ground towards the thicket.
On a sudden the report of Attō’s rifle in the opposite quarter was
heard, and the creeping figures starting up, advanced with shouts
and yells, vainly hoping that the spot which they had selected for
attack was defenceless. When they were within a few paces, Reginald
and Baptiste fired at once, and the two leading Indians fell; most
of their companions retired in dismay, one only sprung forward with
desperate courage, and his evil destiny bringing him close past the log
behind which the guide was posted, the latter cleft the skull of the
unfortunate savage with his tremendous hatchet.

Maddened by disappointment, and by the loss of several of their
comrades, the Crows let fly a shower of arrows at the edge of the
thicket, and retreated on all sides, filling the air with their cries
and yells. Reginald, having crossed over to visit Attō at his post,
found that the Delaware had not fired in vain, for a reeking scalp
already hung at his belt, and it appeared that the enemy had retired
on this side also, as soon as they found themselves exposed to the
murderous fire of unseen marksmen.

Not long after this unsuccessful attack on the part of the Upsarokas,
day broke, and having mounted their horses, which had been left at
some distance, they returned towards the encampment; and galloping to
and fro, endeavoured, by every kind of insulting gesticulation, to
induce their cautious enemies to come forth, or at least to exhaust
their ammunition by firing at random; but Reginald’s party kept close
within their covert, taking no notice whatever of these bravadoes,
although several of the horsemen came within a distance which would
have rendered them an easy mark for the guide’s unerring rifle; their
insolence produced only a grim smile on his weather–beaten countenance,
as he whispered to Reginald.

“They are somewhat out of their reckoning as to the ‘Doctor’s’ range;
poor devils, if they’ll only keep off, I don’t want to hurt any more of
them. But if that long–haired fellow, capering on a brown horse, were
a Dahcotah, I’d make a hole in his hunting–shirt before he was many
minutes older.”

“I am glad to find you in a merciful humour, Baptiste,” replied the
young man. “I too would willingly avoid farther slaughter of these
Crows; and while fighting with them, we are losing time more precious
to me than gold.”

As he was yet speaking, his attention was caught by the sound of a
scuffle within the thicket, followed by a shout; and immediately
afterwards Attō and another Delaware came forward, dragging with them a
Crow, whom the quick eye of the former had detected lurking under dense
foliage of an alder–bush.

“Whom have you here?” exclaimed Reginald; “and where did you find him?”

“Upsaroka,” replied Attō; “he must have crept like a snake under the
grass, for the Delawares are not blind, yet he is here.”

The prisoner was a tall bold–looking youth, and he seemed resolutely
prepared to meet the fate which a spy and an enemy must expect in that
wild region.

“’Tis a fine lad,” said Baptiste dryly, “and he has given us a lesson
to keep a better look out; ’tis clear that he has crept down the brook,
while we have been watching those galloping thieves; tie the rogue’s
hands, my friend Attō, and let us scour the thicket from one end to
the other. Two or three such as him within the camp in the middle of
the night, would be apt to interfere with our rest.”

The prisoner having been bound, Attō proceeded with two of his
warriors to search every corner of the thicket, while Baptiste with
the remainder watched the various parties of horsemen who were still
hovering at a distance.

Reginald was left for a few minutes alone with the youth, whom he
looked at with mingled compassion and admiration, for it was clear that
he had devoted his own life to obtain a triumph for his tribe; and
although he had not the expressive intellectual beauty of Wingenund,
nor the heroic stamp of form and feature by which War–Eagle was
distinguished, yet there was a certain wild fierceness in his eye
betokening a spirit that awakened a feeling of sympathy in Reginald’s
breast. While looking steadfastly on the youth under the influence
of these feelings, he observed that the Delawares, in their hurried
anxiety to secure the prisoner, had bound the thongs so tightly round
his arms as to cause a stoppage of the blood, the veins around the
ligature being already swollen to a painful extent.

With the unhesitating generosity of his nature, Reginald stepped
forward, and, loosening the thong, left the youth at liberty; at the
same time he smiled, and, pointing to the knife in his belt, made the
sign of “No,” intimating that he should not repay this benefit by using
that weapon.

The quick–sighted savage understood him as plainly as if the hint had
been given in his own language, for he instantly detached the knife
from his belt and presented it to Reginald. There was so much natural
dignity and sincerity in his manner while doing so, that our hero, in
receiving his weapon, gave him in exchange a spare knife that hung in
his own belt, making at the same time the Indian sign for friendship.

The nerves which were strung to endure expected torture and a lingering
death, were not prepared for this unlooked–for clemency; the youth
spoke a few soft words in his own tongue, looking earnestly in
Reginald’s face, and had not yet recovered his self–possession, when
Attō returned with his companions, to report that the prisoner must
have come upon this dangerous war–path alone, as no other of his tribe
was lurking in or near the thicket.

“Attō,” said Reginald, addressing the Delaware; “this youth belongs by
right to the hand that took him, he is yours; I ask you to give him to
me, to do with him as I like.”

“The hand and the heart of Attō are both open to Netis; he is brother
to the war–chief of the Lenapé—Attō is glad to give him what he asks.”

“Attō is a brave man,” replied Reginald, “and worthy of his race; he
can see that this youth is on his first war–path; he came to the camp
to make himself a name; if the quick eye of Attō had not found him,
there would have been a war–cry in the night—is it not so, brothers?”

The Delawares gave their usual exclamation of assent.

“Brothers,” continued Reginald, “Attō has given this youth to me—I
thank him: the hand of Netis is not shut, it holds a collar which hung
upon the neck of a great warrior, it will not be ashamed to hang on the
neck of Attō.”

As he said this, he threw over the neck of the Delaware the magnificent
bear–claw collar which adorned his own. This was perhaps the happiest
moment of Attō’s life, for such a collar could be worn only by braves
of the highest rank in Indian aristocracy, and the acclamation with
which his comrades hailed the presentation of the gift, assured
Reginald that it had been neither unwisely nor unworthily bestowed.

The latter then turned towards the prisoner, and made him a sign to
follow towards the outer edge of the thicket, in the direction where
Baptiste and he had shot the two Indians who led the attack; their
bodies still lay where they fell; the youth gazed upon them with stern
composure. Reginald inquired by a sign if he knew them: he replied
in the affirmative; and he added, pointing to the nearer of the two,
a sign which Reginald did not comprehend; he turned to Attō for an
explanation.

“He says,” replied the Delaware, “that was his father.”

Reginald, much affected, placed the youth’s hand against his own breast
in token of regard, and made him understand that he was free to go
himself, and to remove the bodies without interruption.

The young Crow replied by a look of gratitude too expressive to
require the interpretation of language, and moving towards the body of
his father, bore it into the midst of his wondering companions, who
received him with repeated wailings and cries: none, however, seemed
disposed to believe in his assurance that they might take away the
other body likewise; he was obliged to return himself: and then one
of his tribe, seeing that he stood uninjured beside it, came out from
their ranks and assisted him to bear it off.



CHAPTER XIV.

 AN UNEXPECTED MEETING.—REGINALD PREPARES TO FOLLOW THE TRAIL.


For two days the band of Crows hovered round the encampment, sometimes
showing themselves on the adjacent heights, at others drawing off to
a distance, in hopes of enticing some of Reginald’s party to venture
into the open country; but although he himself chafed and fretted like
an impatient steed, he was sensible of the risk that must attend any
error or imprudence while in the neighbourhood of an enemy so crafty
and so strong in numbers, and he never permitted the watchfulness of
his little garrison to be relaxed for a moment: the horses were driven
to feed under the guard of two armed Delawares, and were not sent to a
distance whence their return could be intercepted, and the watches were
regularly set and relieved during the whole night.

On the third day the Crows, finding that all their endeavours to draw
their cautious enemy from the covert were vain, held a council of
war, after which three or four of their principal chiefs approached
the encampment, making, as they advanced, signs of amity and truce.
Reginald went out to meet them, accompanied by Baptiste and Attō,
leaving orders with the remainder of his party to hold themselves in
readiness against any attempt at treachery: halting at a spot not more
than eighty yards from the wood, he awaited the Crow leaders, who came
forward to meet him without any apparent suspicion or treacherous
design.

They had taken the precaution to bring with them the youth to whom
Reginald had already shown kindness, and whose presence they rightly
conjectured would facilitate the amicable nature of their mission.

Reginald acknowledged with a smile the friendly greeting of his young
protégé, and then drawing himself up to his full height, awaited in
silence the opening of the parley.

The Crow _partisan_[56] first glanced his keen eye over the persons of
those whom he was about to address, as if scanning them for the purpose
of ascertaining their qualities and character, and whether he should
best succeed by endeavouring to circumvent or to overawe them. Keen
as he was, his penetration was here at fault; for although no three
persons could be more dissimilar than those before him, yet, whether
taken collectively or severally, they looked like men who would not be
easily over–reached: his eye first rested on the spare sinewy frame and
impenetrable countenance of Attō; thence it glanced to the muscular
frame and shrewd hard features of the guide; and turning from them, it
found but little encouragement in the bright bold eye and commanding
form of Reginald Brandon.

Perceiving with the intuitive sagacity of an Indian that the latter was
the leader of his party, the partisan opened the parley by pointing his
forefinger at Reginald, and then pressing the closed fingers against
his own breast: he then pointed to himself with the same finger, and
afterwards stretching both arms horizontally, moved them up and down
with a vibrating motion, concluding his pantomime by again raising the
forefinger of his right hand vertically to the height of his forehead.
Reginald, who could not understand these gestures, turned to Attō,
saying, “Does my brother know what the stranger speaks?—if so, let him
explain.”

“He says,” replied the Delaware, “that he wishes to be friends with
you, and he tells you by the last signs that he is an Upsaroka, and a
chief.”[57]

“Tell him,” said Reginald, “that if his heart is true, and his tongue
not forked, we also wish to be friends with him and his people.”

The Crow replied by making the conventional sign for “good,” adding to
it that for “truth.”

On this being explained to Reginald, the latter desired Baptiste to
bring from the camp some tobacco, a pipe, and a few trinkets for
distribution among the Crows. On the return of the guide, the whole
party took their seats, Reginald placing the partisan on his right, and
the young prisoner whom he had released on his left. After the pipe had
been smoked with due gravity and decorum, he divided among his guests
some beads and other fanciful ornaments, according to their rank, with
which they seemed highly delighted; the chief in particular testified
his satisfaction by repeated gesticulations of friendship and affection
towards his white–brother, whom he invited to go and feast with him and
his braves: this invitation Reginald begged leave to decline; but he
desired Attō to explain to his guest that he would visit him on some
other occasion.

While these civilities were passing between the respective parties,
a great commotion was observed among the Crows stationed on the
neighbouring hill, some of whom were seen galloping to and fro, as if
communicating some unexpected intelligence. The partisan arose, and
took his leave with courteous dignity, explaining by signs that he
wished to ascertain what was passing among his people.

As he withdrew, the youth whose life Reginald had spared, turned
his head and gave the latter a look which he understood to convey a
warning, but it was so rapid that he could not feel assured that he had
rightly construed its meaning. Reginald remained for some time on the
spot watching the motions of the Crows, who had now gathered in their
scattered horsemen, and were evidently awaiting with some impatience
the return of their chief. Reginald’s eye was still fixed upon them,
when Attō, pointing to the eastward, whispered,

“Men are coming!”

Turning his head in the direction indicated, Reginald thought he
perceived a moving object in the distance.

“I see something in that quarter, but not distinctly; are you sure it
is a party of men?”

“Sure.”

“Mounted, or on foot?”

“Both,” replied the Delaware, without removing his bright keen eye
from the object: “they are upon our trail,” he added; “if they are not
friends, we had better return to the camp.”

Meanwhile Reginald unslung his telescope, and having at length brought
it to bear upon the advancing party, he exclaimed—

“By Heaven! there are white men as well as Indians, their horses, and
loaded mules!”

“How many?” inquired Baptiste.

“They seem to me to be fifteen or twenty strong: should their
intentions appear suspicious, we are near enough to retire into our
camp; if they are friends, they will soon see us, and approach without
fear or hesitation.”

The guide shook his head as if distrusting all new comers in that
remote region; but they were within rifle–shot of the covert, and
could, if necessary, retire thither under the protection of the fire of
those within it.

The Crows still hovered upon the summit of the adjoining hill, and
several minutes of breathless interest elapsed ere the approaching
band emerged from a hollow, upon a point of the valley where they were
now clearly distinguishable, and proved to be, as Reginald had said, a
mixed party of Indians and white men.

He was not aware that among the latter was a telescope as good, and a
horseman whose eye was more practised in the use of it than his own;
that horseman galloped out in front of his band, and advanced at full
speed to the spot where Reginald stood, and almost before the latter
could rightly use his faculties of sight or speech, that horseman flung
himself from his horse, and Reginald was in the arms of Ethelston.

There is nothing that stirs the heart to its very depths, more than the
meeting of a friend after a long separation; not such a friend as is
found in the ordinary intercourse of worldly society, but a friend whom
we really esteem and love, a friend whom we have learnt to cherish in
our bosom’s core,—this must have been felt by all (alas! they are not
very many) who have deserved and obtained such a blessing in life. How,
then, must these stirrings of the heart be increased if such a friend
comes to our aid and comfort when we thought him thousands of miles
distant, when we are in anxiety and peril, when he brings us the latest
tidings of our home! We will not attempt to describe the meeting of
the two long–separated and loving friends under such circumstances, nor
to relate one hundredth part of the inquiries which each had to make
and to reply to.

The reader is already in possession of the information which they had
to communicate to each other, and can easily understand how Ethelston
and his party, guided by the young Delaware, had followed the trail on
which they had been preceded by the bands of Mahéga and of Reginald:
the latter greeted with cordial pleasure Paul Müller, who now advanced
to offer him his friendly salutation, while Pierre Baptiste, and
Bearskin, who had weathered many a stormy day by flood and field
together, interchanged the grasp of their horny hands with undisguised
satisfaction.

In the meeting between the two bands of the Delawares there was less
demonstration, but it may be doubted whether there was less excitement,
as the last comers narrated to their comrades the bloody vengeance
which they had taken on some of their foes, and dilated upon that which
they anticipated in pursuit of Mahéga.

Ethelston’s party being provided with some coffee, sugar, biscuits,
and other luxuries, which had been long strange to Reginald’s camp,
the evening of their arrival was devoted to a great merry–making,
Monsieur Perrot undertaking the office of chief cook and master of
the ceremonies, both of which he executed with so much skill and
good–humour as to win the favour of all present. In the midst of the
feasting, the security of the encampment was never endangered by the
omission of due precautions; for the horses were driven in and the
sentries posted, as on the preceding night, Reginald being well aware
of the treacherous character of his Crow neighbours, and his suspicions
aroused by the slight, but significant look given to him at parting by
the youth whose life he had spared.

While they were seated round a blazing fire enjoying the good cheer
which Perrot had provided, Pierre, fixing his eyes upon the bear–claw
collar worn by Attō, uttered an exclamation of surprise, and springing
from his seat, went to examine it closer; having done so, he pronounced
slowly and with emphasis a name as long as a Sanscrit patronymic.

“What does that mean, Pierre?” inquired Ethelston, who had found in
the latter a guide of great shrewdness and experience.

“It is the name of the Upsaroka to whom that collar belonged, in our
tongue, ‘The man whose path is red.’ I saw it upon his neck last year,
when I was at the post near the Upper Forks. He came to trade with us
for a few knives and blankets—he was a great war–chief, and had killed
more Black–feet than any man in his tribe.”

“Well, Pierre, his own turn has come now; he will kill no more
Black–feet, nor white men either,” said Baptiste to his comrade.

“Did yonder Lenapé kill him, and in fair fight, man to man?”

“He was killed in fair fight, man to man; not by Attō, but by a young
war–chief whom the Lenapé call Netis,” replied the guide.

Pierre fixed his quick grey eye upon the athletic figure of Reginald
Brandon, who coloured slightly as he encountered at the same time the
glance of Paul Müller.

“It is true,” he said, “I had foolishly separated myself from the
rest of my party; I was intercepted in attempting to return, and only
escaped paying the penalty of my carelessness by the speed of my horse.
The Crow chief was better mounted than the rest of his tribe, and as
soon as I paused to breathe my horse he attacked, and slightly wounded
me; in defending myself, I killed him.”

“My son,” observed the missionary, “he died as he had lived, reckless
and brave; it rejoices me to hear you speak of the deed as one of
necessity and self–preservation.”

“I know not,” muttered Pierre, “what he calls necessity; but it’s a
fine feather in the youth’s cap, and our Delawares shall know it too.”

One of the most remarkable features in the character of this man was
the facility with which he acquired the habits and languages of the
different tribes among whom his roving life had thrown him; moreover,
he had the faculty of remembering with unerring certainty, any face,
or spot, or tree, or path, that he had once seen—so that his services
as guide and interpreter were highly valued; and as Pierre, though
a good–humoured fellow, was shrewd enough in matters of business,
he usually exacted, and had no difficulty in obtaining a liberal
remuneration from the rival leaders of the fur–trade companies; he was
tolerably well versed in the language of the Crows and the Black–feet,
the two great nations inhabiting the vast region between the upper
waters of the rivers Platte and Missouri; and there were few of the
roving tribes upon either bank of the latter among whom he could not
make himself understood. As an interpreter, he dealt fairly by his
employer, although he hated the Black–feet, in consequence of a warrior
of that tribe having carried off an Indian _belle_ to whom Pierre was
paying his addresses. This offence he had never forgiven, and it gave
him in all subsequent transactions, a natural leaning towards the
Crows, the mortal and hereditary foes of his successful rival’s tribe.

While Pierre related, in an under tone, to those Delawares of his party
who did not understand English, the victory obtained over the great
war–chief of the Crows by Reginald Brandon, the latter kept up a long
and interesting conversation with Ethelston, whom he found already
informed by the missionary of his engagement to Prairie–bird.

On this subject, Reginald, who knew the prudence of his friend’s usual
character, scarcely expected his sympathy or concurrence; he was
therefore the more agreeably surprised when he found him disposed to
enter into all his plans for the recovery of his betrothed, with a zeal
and enthusiasm almost equal to his own.

“The good missionary,” said Ethelston, “has told me much of the early
life, as well as of the character and qualities of Prairie–bird. I
cannot tell you how deeply she has engaged my interest; my own feelings
towards your sister render me capable of appreciating yours; and I
pledge my faith, dear Reginald, that I will spare neither toil nor
exertion, nor life itself, to aid you in this precious search.”

Reginald grasped his hand,—there was no need of words of gratitude
between them,—and ere long both turned to consult with Paul Müller,
as to their further proceedings. After due deliberation, they agreed
that on the following morning they should pursue the trail, regardless
of their Crow neighbours, whom they had now little cause to fear, and
that previous to starting they would hold a council, at which Reginald
should propose the distribution of their respective posts, on the line
of march, in the event of their wishing him to retain that of leader.

The night having passed without any alarm, Reginald summoned a general
council of war before daybreak: as soon as they were assembled he
told them, through Baptiste, who acted as interpreter, that they were
now strong enough to pursue the trail, without fear of interruption
from the Crows; and that if the latter were foolish enough to make an
attack, they would soon have cause to repent it. He then added that
War–Eagle their chief being absent on the war–path, it was necessary
for some one to act as leader until his return; and, as his party had
been joined by so many warriors of experience, he would gladly place
himself under the advice and guidance of the man whom they might select.

When Baptiste had finished this speech, the oldest warrior of
Ethelston’s party arose and said: “Is it not true that War–Eagle, when
he went, appointed Netis leader in his place?” (A murmur of assent came
from the lips of Attō and his party.) “Is it not true,” continued the
Indian, “that Netis is a brave and skilful warrior?—one who need not
be silent when the braves strike the war–post? His heart is true to the
Lenapé, and he will tell them no lies. If the white men are content
with Netis, the Lenapé wish no other leader. I have spoken.”

As the scarred and weather–beaten warrior resumed his seat, another and
a general murmur of approbation broke from the Delawares; and Ethelston
having spoken a few words of similar import to the white men, Reginald
found himself by universal acclamation chosen leader of the party.

After modestly thanking them for their good opinion, his first act was
to appoint Attō as guide upon the trail, desiring him to select any two
whom he might wish to assist him, in the event of its becoming forked,
or otherwise difficult to follow; Monsieur Perrot, with the provisions
and loaded mules, occupied the centre of the line of march, in which
comparatively secure post he was accompanied by Paul Müller, the main
body of the hunters and the Delawares being distributed before and
behind the baggage.

For himself Reginald reserved the rear–guard, where he retained
Ethelston, Baptiste, and a young Delaware, whom he might despatch upon
any emergency to communicate with the front. He also appointed four of
the best mounted of his men, two on each side of his party, to protect
the flanks against any sudden attack, Pierre being sent forward to
render any assistance to Attō that he might require.

These arrangements being complete, and made known to the respective
parties, they were about to set forth on their journey, when Attō
informed Reginald that the Crow youth was coming swiftly across the
valley towards the encampment, pursued at a distance by several
horsemen of his tribe; the lad was riding one of the swiftest and most
untamed of the wild horses with which that region abounds, yet he had
neither bridle nor saddle, guiding the animal with a leather thong,
which he had thrown round its nose, and urging it to its utmost speed
with a bow which he held in his right hand. A few minutes brought the
foaming little steed and its rider to the edge of the thicket, where
the latter, still holding the leather thong, stood in silence before
Reginald; his eyes were literally sparkling with indignant rage, and
he did not even deign to look behind him to see whether his pursuers
approached: the latter, however, did not choose to venture near the
encampment; but as soon as they saw that he had gained its shelter,
they gave a few loud and discordant yells, and disappeared behind the
hill.

The services of Pierre were now put into requisition; and as soon as
the youth found an ear that could understand his tale, he told it with
a rapidity and vehemence that showed the strong excitement of his
feelings: the story, as interpreted by Pierre, was briefly thus:—

The youth was present on the preceding day at a war–council, where
the Crows proposed a plan for inveigling the white men to a feast,
and then attacking them unawares, at the same time desiring him to
use the favour that he had found in their eyes as an additional
means for entrapping them: this he positively refused to do, and
boldly told the assembled chiefs that their counsels were wicked and
treacherous, and that he would in no wise aid or abet them. Indignant
at this remonstrance from a stripling, the partisan had ordered him
to be whipped severely with thongs, and to be tied hand and foot; the
sentence was executed with the utmost cruelty; but he had contrived
early in the morning to slip off his bands, and springing to his feet,
he seized the fleetest horse belonging to the partisan, and, leaping
on its back, galloped off to warn his protector against the meditated
treachery.

The truth of the tale required no confirmation, for the glow of
resentment burnt too fiercely in his eye to be dissembled, and the
light covering of antelope skin which he had thrown across his
shoulders, was saturated with his blood. Reginald’s first natural
impulse was to punish the perpetrators of this outrage, but he checked
it when he remembered the magnitude of the stake that bound him to the
trail, “Tell him, Pierre,” said he, “that I thank him for his single
tongue, and I love him for his honest brave heart. Ask him if there is
anything that I can do for him.”

“Nothing,” replied the youth to this question: “tell him that I have
warned him against the forked tongues of my tribe, because he gave me
my life, and was good to me, but I must not forget that his hand is red
with my father’s blood. The day is very cloudy; the Great Spirit has
given a hard task to the son of the fallen chief; his back is marked
like the back of a slave; he has lived enough.”

The voice of the youth faltered as he pronounced the last words; the
thong dropped from his feeble grasp, and as he fell to the ground, the
wild horse broke away and galloped across the valley. “He is dying,”
said Reginald, bending over him; “see, here below his hunting shirt is
the broken shaft of an arrow, which one of his pursuers has shot with
too true an aim.” While he spoke the young Crow breathed his last.



CHAPTER XV.

 SHOWING HOW WINGENUND FARED IN THE OSAGE CAMP, AND THE ISSUE OF THE
 DILEMMA IN WHICH PRAIRIE–BIRD WAS PLACED BY MAHÉGA.


We trust that the compassionate reader is now desirous to learn
something more of the fate of Prairie–bird and her unfortunate brother
Wingenund, whom we left a prisoner in the hands of the merciless chief
of the Osages. For a long time after the latter had left her tent, his
parting threat rung in her ears, that she must on the morrow give her
consent to be his bride, or by her refusal consign Wingenund to a cruel
and lingering death. Her busy imagination pourtrayed in vivid colours
the scene of torture, and the heroic fortitude with which she knew
he would endure it, and as she turned from that picture, the figure
of Reginald Brandon rose to her view, as if upbraiding her with the
violation of her plighted troth; torn by these contending struggles,
the poor girl sobbed convulsively, and the tears forced their way
through the fingers with which she in vain endeavoured, either to
suppress or conceal them. Lita threw her arms round her mistress’s
neck, and strove by her affectionate, yet simple, endearments to soothe
her grief: for a long time they proved unsuccessful, but when at last
she whispered,—

“The Great Spirit is very good; he is stronger than Mahéga; let
Prairie–bird speak with him as she often did when the Black Father was
with her—“

“True, Lita,” she replied, looking gratefully at the Comanche girl
through her tears; “you remind me of what I ought not to have
forgotten.”

The next moment, saw her prostrate upon her couch—the book of comfort
in her hand, and her earnest prayers ascending toward Heaven.

She rose from her devotions with a calmed and strengthened spirit; the
first result of which was a desire to converse with Wingenund, and to
decide with him upon the morrow’s fearful alternative.

Mahéga willingly consented to the interview, justly believing that it
would rather forward than retard his plan for compelling her consent,
compared with which the boy’s life weighed not a feather in the
balance, so he ordered him to be conveyed to her tent; and the guards
who conducted him having informed her that if she unbound his hands, he
would be instantly seized and removed, they retired to the aperture,
awaiting the termination of the meeting with their habitual listless
indifference.

Prairie–bird cared not whether they listened, as she spoke to her young
brother in English, of which she knew that they understood little or
nothing.

“Dear Wingenund,” she said, “you heard the threat uttered by that
savage, after he struck you?”

“I did.”

“Is there no device or means by which we can contrive your escape? we
may trust the Comanche girl.”

“I do not see any,” replied the boy calmly; “the eyes of the Osage
chief are open, the hands of his warriors are many and ready. It does
not matter; War–Eagle and Netis will be here soon; then all will go
well.”

“All well!” said Prairie–bird, shuddering. “Know you not, that
to–morrow I must consent to be the wife of the Osage, or be the cause,
and the witness of my brother’s horrible death?”

Wingenund looked at her with unfeigned surprise.

“The daughter of Tamenund—the Prairie–bird sent by the Great Spirit,
from an unknown land, to dwell among the lodges of the Lenapé—she who
has learnt all the wise words of the Black Father—she to become the
wife of that wandering wolf! Can my sister’s heart beat towards him?”

“Heaven knows how I loathe and dread him! worse than the most poisonous
snake in the prairie.”

“I thought so,” he replied. “And how ought a wife to feel towards the
man whom she marries?”

“To feel that he is the joy, the food, the treasure of her heart; the
object of her secret thoughts by day, of her dreams by night; that
when she prays to Heaven, his name is on her lips; that she loves him
as—as—“

“As Prairie–bird loves Netis,” said Wingenund, smiling.

The conscious girl blushed at the impassioned eagerness into which
her feelings had betrayed her, but she did not attempt to deny her
brother’s conclusion, and he continued more gravely: “Then my sister
could not be the wife of the Osage, without leading a life of misery
and falsehood. No, no,” he added, his bright eye kindled as he spoke;
“let to–morrow come; Wingenund is ready; he will show that wolf how the
Lenapé die. Let to–morrow come, and Mahéga shall learn that Wingenund
despises his hate as much as Prairie–bird scorns his love. My sister,
I have spoken it. The deeds of my fathers are before my eyes; the
blood of the ancient people is in my veins; words cannot change my
mind. Farewell! and when you see War–Eagle and Netis, tell them that
the Washashe fire drew neither complaint nor cry from the lips of
Wingenund.”

As he spoke, his agonised sister looked up in his face, and read but
too plainly the high, unconquerable determination legibly stamped upon
its proud expressive features. She saw that the instinctive feelings of
his race had triumphed over all the gentler impressions which she and
the missionary had endeavoured to implant, and, knowing that now she
might as well attempt to bend a stubborn oak as to effect any change
in his resolution, she embraced him in silence, and suffered the Osage
guards to lead him from the tent.

Composing herself by a strong effort of self–command, Prairie–bird
revolved in her mind various schemes for saving the life of her devoted
brother; one after another she considered and rejected, until at length
the idea occurred to her that perhaps she might contrive to work
upon the superstitious fears of Mahéga. With this view she examined
carefully all her slender stock of instruments and curiosities,—the
novelty of the burning–glass was past, the ticking of the watch given
to her by Paul Müller, though it might surprise the Osage, could not
be expected to alarm, or induce him to abandon his determination.
Then she cast her despairing eyes upon the few volumes which formed
her travelling library; among these her attention was accidentally
directed to the almanack which the good Father had brought to her,
from the settlements, when he gave her the watch, and she sighed when
she thought how often she had amused herself in the spring comparing
them together, calculating the lapse of time, and the changes of
season which they severally announced. Her observation of the sabbaths
had been most punctual, nor had it been interrupted by the toils and
privations of the journey, so she had no difficulty in finding the week
or the day then passing. “July,” she exclaimed, reading to herself
half aloud, “only two weeks of this sad month are yet past, methinks
they seem more like fourteen months than fourteen days! See here, too,
on the opposite leaf prophecies regarding wind and weather. How often
would the dear Father point these out to me, and strive to explain the
wonderful terms in which they describe the movements of the stars; he
was very patient, but they were too hard for me; I am sure he tried
to make me understand these strange words, ‘Aphelion,’ ‘Apogee,’
‘Perigee,’ but if he ever succeeded, I have forgotten it all. What is
this notice in larger letters? to–morrow, to–morrow it stands written,
‘Total eclipse of the sun, visible at Philadelphia, 9h. 42m.’—surely
surely it will be visible here too. I will trust to it, I will build
my faith upon it, and Wingenund’s life shall yet be saved.” So saying,
she clasped her hands together, and her lovely countenance beamed with
re–awakened hope.

Lita, who had been watching her mistress with affectionate solicitude,
and listening with childish wonder to her half–uttered soliloquy, was
overcome with surprise at this sudden change in her demeanour; she
thought that Prairie–bird had been conversing with some unseen being;
under which impression she approached, and asked, timidly,

“Has Olitipa seen a Good Spirit, and have her ears drunk words of
comfort?”

“Olitipa has received words of comfort,” replied her mistress, kindly;
“they seem to her words from Heaven; she trusts that she may not be
deceived; she will address her evening prayer to the Great Merciful
Spirit above, and retire to rest, at least to such rest as it may be
His will to give her.”

For many hours after Prairie–bird had been stretched upon her furry
couch did her thoughts dwell upon the solar eclipse now the foundation
of her hopes; she remembered how the missionary had explained to
her that it was visible at one hour in one part of the earth, at a
different hour in another part; then she wondered whether at the
spot where she now was it would be seen sooner or later than at
Philadelphia,—this doubt her science could not resolve, and it held
her long in anxious suspense; but overwearied nature at length claimed
her rights, and she sank into an unrefreshing dreamy slumber, in which
the images of Wingenund, Mahéga, and Reginald Brandon were stalking
confusedly over an eclipsed and darkened region of earth.

Early on the following morning Mahéga, who had resolved not to lose
this favourable opportunity for working upon the fears of Prairie–bird,
caused a pile of dry branches of wood to be placed round a tree, which
stood nearly opposite to her tent, to which he ordered Wingenund to
be secured with thongs of bison–hide; after which he and his warriors
seated themselves in a semicircle before their victim, passing the
pipe deliberately from mouth to mouth, as if to enjoy his suspense and
terror.

If such was their object, it met with little success, for the young
Delaware, in the brightest day of his youth and freedom, had never
worn so proud and lofty an air as that which now sat enthroned upon his
brow.

“A thousand warriors of the Lenapé, whose blood is in my veins, have
gone before me to the happy fields,—they knew not fear, and I the last
of their children will bring no shame upon their race; when I come they
will say, ‘Welcome, Wingenund!’ and before many winters and summers are
past, War–Eagle and Netis, Prairie–bird and the Black Father, will join
me, and the blue eyes of the Lily of Mooshanne will be there also, and
we will dwell in a land of streams and flowers, of numberless deer, and
abundant corn, unvexed by cold, or want, or pain.”

Such was the vision that rose before the mental eye of the youth, and
so completely was he engrossed by it, that he took not the slightest
notice of the group assembled to put him to a slow and agonising death.

Meanwhile Prairie–bird having prayed earnestly to Heaven to support
her, and pardon the deceit which she was about to practise, dressed
herself with more than usual care, and coming forth from her tent,
stood before Mahéga with a dignity of demeanour, to the effect of which
even his fierce and intractable nature was not insensible. He rose not,
however, at her approach, but contented himself with inquiring, “Has
Olitipa come to save her brother’s life, or to kill him?”

“Neither,” replied the maiden, firmly; “she is come to give good
counsel to Mahéga; let him beware how he neglects it!”

“Let not Olitipa’s speech travel in circles,” said the angry chief.
“Mahéga has said that this day she should consent to be his wife, or
she must see that feeble boy burnt before her eyes,—there are but two
paths,—which does Olitipa choose?”

“The feet of foolish men often wander where there is no path at all,”
replied Prairie–bird; and she added, with solemnity, pointing upward to
Heaven: “There is only _one_ path, and one Guide, the Great Spirit who
dwells above!”

Those of the Osages who were familiar with the Delaware tongue in which
she was speaking, looked at each other, as if wondering at her words,
but Mahéga, whose passion was only increased by her exceeding beauty,
answered vehemently,

“It is easy for Olitipa to talk and to make children believe that her
words are those of the Great Spirit—Mahéga is not a child.”

“If he compare his strength with that of the Great Spirit,” said the
maiden, boldly, “Mahéga’s is less than the least finger of a child.
Who can tell the power of the Great Spirit? The strong wind is his
breath,—the thunder is his voice,—the sun is his smile. If He is
angry and withdraws the sun, day is turned into night—darkness and
fear dwell in the hearts of men.”

The energy of her language and manner were not altogether without their
effect even upon the stern nature of Mahéga; nevertheless, he replied,

“These are but the notes of singing–birds. Mahéga waits for the choice
of Olitipa,—she becomes his wife, or the fire is kindled at the feet
of Wingenund.”

Prairie–bird cast an anxious glance athwart the blue vault above; not
a cloud was in the sky, and the sun shone with the full brightness of
an American July. She would not yet abandon hope, but, making a strong
and successful effort to maintain her composure, she said in a firm,
impressive tone, “Mahéga, let there be a bargain between us; you seek
Olitipa for a wife; if it be the will of the Great Spirit, she will
submit, and her brother’s life will be spared; but if the Great Spirit
is displeased, and shows his anger by drawing a cloak over the face of
that bright sun in the heavens, Mahéga will obey His will, and let the
brother of Olitipa go away unhurt.—Is Mahéga content that it shall be
so?

“He is,” replied the chief, “if the sign be such as he and the Osage
warriors may look upon with wonder; not a mist, or dark cloud.”

“It will be such as will make Mahéga _tremble_,” replied the maiden
with dignity. “Warriors of the Washashe, you have heard the treaty.
Before the sun has reached yon western peak, the answer of the Great
Spirit will be known.” Having thus spoken, she withdrew into the tent,
leaving the Osages gazing upon each other with undisguised awe and
amazement.

The maiden threw herself upon her couch in an agony of suspense,
greater than can be described! It was terrible to think that her
every hope of escaping from the dreadful alternative, was staked upon
a sentence in an almanack, of the correctness of which she had not
the slightest power to judge. Even the well–intentioned attempts at
consolation made by her affectionate Lita were of no avail; her unhappy
mistress entreated her to remain at the door of the tent, and report
whatever might occur; within and without a profound stillness reigned.
The prisoner stood motionless by the sapling to which he was bound;
Mahéga smoked his pipe in the full confidence of anticipated triumph,
surrounded by his warriors, who, less sceptical, or more superstitious
than their chief, looked and listened, expecting some confirmation of
the last words of Prairie–bird.

Although the sun could not be opposite the rock which she had pointed
out for nearly three hours, of which not a fourth part had yet elapsed,
the anxious girl began to imagine that hope was at an end. Visions of
future degradation and misery shot through her brain; she tore from her
hot brow the fillet that confined her hair, which floated in glossy
luxuriance over her shoulders. The reproaches of Reginald Brandon rung
in her ears. The loathed embrace of Mahéga crept over her shuddering
frame! At this crisis her eye fell upon the handle of the sharp knife
concealed in her bosom; she drew it forth; the triumph of the powers
of Evil seemed at hand, when a cry of surprise and terror from Lita
recalled her wandering senses. She sprang to the door; visible darkness
was spreading over the scene, and the terrified Osages were looking
upward to the partially obscured disk of the sun, over the centre of
which an opaque circular body was spread; a brilliant ring being left
around its outer ridge.[58]

Prairie–bird gazed upon the wondrous spectacle like one entranced; the
late fearful struggle in her breast had given a supernatural lustre to
her eye; her frame was still under high nervous excitement, and as,
with long hair floating down her back, she pointed with one hand to
the eclipsed sun, and with the other to Mahéga, well might the savage
imagine that he saw before him a prophetess whose will the Spirit of
Fire must obey. Under the influence of awe and dread, which he strove
in vain to conceal, he moved forward, and said to her, “It is enough!
let Olitipa speak to the Great Spirit that the light may come again.”

The sound of his voice recalled the mind of Prairie–bird to a
consciousness of what had passed. She answered not, but with a gesture
of assent motioned to him to withdraw, and supporting herself against
one of the trees that grew in front of her tent, she knelt beside it,
and, veiling her face in the redundant tresses of her hair, found
relief in a flood of tears. Overwhelmed by a sense of the merciful
interposition by which she and her brother had been saved, and by a
feeling of deep contrition for the sudden impulse of self–destruction
to which, in a moment of mental agony, she had yielded, she thought
neither of the continuance nor the withdrawing of the dark phenomenon
of external nature, but of the evil gloom which had for the time
eclipsed the light of grace in her heart, and the tears which bedewed
her cheek were tears of mingled penitence and gratitude.

Still, Nature held on her appointed course; after a few minutes the
moon passed onward in her path, and the rays of the sun, no longer
intercepted, again shed their brightness over earth and sky.

The Osages, attributing these effects to the communing of Prairie–bird
with the Great Spirit, stood in silent awe as she arose to retire to
her tent, and her secret humiliation became, in their eyes, her triumph.

Mahéga, finding that he had no pretext for refusing to release
Wingenund, and that his warriors evidently expected him to fulfil his
promise, ordered the youth to be unbound; and in the height of his
generosity, desired that some food might be offered to him, which
Wingenund scornfully rejected.

The Osage chief having called aside two of those most devoted to him,
spoke to them a few words apart; and then, addressing his liberated
prisoner in the Delaware tongue, he said, “The Osage warriors will
conduct Wingenund two hours on his journey: he will then be free to go
where he likes; but if he is again found skulking round the Osage camp,
nothing shall save his life.”

Wingenund knew that he was to be turned loose in a desolate region,
unarmed and half–starved, but his proud spirit would not permit him
to ask the slightest boon of his enemy; and without a word of reply,
without even directing a look towards his sister’s tent, he turned and
followed his conductors.

For several miles they pursued the back–foot[59] of the trail by which
they had come from the eastward, Wingenund being placed in the centre
without weapon of any kind, and the two Osages marching one before, and
the other behind him, being well armed with bow, knife, and tomahawk.
The youth, unconscious that they had secret instructions from Mahéga to
kill him as soon as they reached a convenient and sufficiently distant
spot, made no attempt to escape, but walked quietly between them,
considering within himself whether he should endeavour to rejoin his
party, or persevere in hovering in the neighbourhood of the Osages: if
a suspicion of Mahéga’s treachery did cross his mind, he allowed it
not to influence his bearing, for he moved steadily forward, not even
turning his head to watch the Osage behind him.

About five or six miles from Mahéga’s camp, the trail passed along the
edge of a low wood, which skirted the banks of the same stream that
flowed through the upper valley. This was the place where they proposed
to kill their prisoner, and hide his body in the bushes, the chief
having commanded that the murder should be kept secret from the rest
of his party. They had just passed a thicket on the side of the trail,
when the terrible battle–cry of War–Eagle rose behind them, and his
tomahawk clove the skull of the Osage in the rear. Quick as thought,
Wingenund sprang upon the one in front, and pinioned his arms; the
Osage tried in vain to disengage them from the grasp of his light and
active opponent. Brief was the struggle, for the deadly weapon of the
Delaware chief descended again, and the second Osage lay a corpse upon
the trail.

The brothers, having exchanged an affectionate but hasty greeting,
took the spoils from their enemies according to Indian fashion,
War–Eagle contenting himself with their scalps, and his brother taking
such weapons and articles of dress as his present condition rendered
necessary for his comfort and defence; after which, they threw the two
bodies into the thicket, into which the Osages had intended to cast
that of Wingenund, and continued their course at a rapid rate towards
the eastward, War–Eagle relating as they went the events which had
brought him so opportunely to the scene of action: they were briefly as
follow:—

When he left his party, he never halted nor slackened his speed until
he saw the smoke of the Osage camp–fire: concealing himself in the
adjoining wood, he had witnessed all the surprising occurrences of the
day; and in the event of the Osages actually proceeding to set fire
to the faggots around Wingenund, he was prepared to rush upon them
alone, and either rescue his brother or perish with him: but, with the
self–command and foresight of an Indian, he kept this desperate and
almost hopeless attempt for the last chance; and when to his surprise
and joy he saw the prisoner sent upon the trail with a guard of only
two Osages, he took advantage of a bank of rising ground, behind
which he crept, and moving swiftly forward under its shelter, gained
unperceived the thicket, where he had so successfully waylaid them.

Fearing a pursuit, the brothers never abated their speed throughout the
evening, or the early portion of the night. A few hours before dawn,
some scattered bushes near the path offering them a precarious shelter,
they lay down to snatch a short repose; a mouthful of dried bison–meat,
which remained in War–Eagle’s belt, he gave to his exhausted brother;
and one blanket covering them both, they slept soundly and undisturbed
until the sun was high in heaven.



CHAPTER XVI.

 MAHÉGA FINDS THE BODIES OF HIS TWO FOLLOWERS SLAIN BY WAR–EAGLE.—SOME
 REFLECTIONS ON THE INDIAN CHARACTER.—WAR–EAGLE RETURNS TO HIS FRIENDS,
 AND THE OSAGE CHIEF PUSHES HIS WAY FURTHER INTO THE MOUNTAINS.


Mahéga waited anxiously the return of the two men whom he had sent with
Wingenund, being desirous to learn whether they had faithfully executed
the treacherous commission with which he had entrusted them. When he
found that the evening passed away, and that the successive hours of
the night brought no intelligence of them, he became alarmed lest they
should have fallen in with some hostile band of Indians; an occurrence
which, in addition to the loss of two of his warriors, would threaten
imminent danger to his whole party.

At the earliest peep of dawn he set out in search of them, accompanied
by three of his followers, giving orders to the remainder to observe
a strict watch during his absence. Traversing the little valley in
front of his camp with hasty strides, he struck into the eastward
trail, and followed it with unabated speed until he reached the spot
where the deadly struggle of the preceding evening had arisen. Here
the indications were too evident to leave a moment’s doubt upon his
mind; the grass on and beside the trail was stained with blood, and
from the neighbouring thicket were heard the snarls and yells of a
pack of wolves quarrelling over their horrible banquet; while high in
air several buzzards were wheeling round and round, as if endeavouring
to find courage to descend and dispute the prey with the quadruped
spoilers.

Dashing into the thicket, and driving the snarling wolves before him,
Mahéga found his worst fears realised, and his horror–struck warriors
stood in silence beside the mangled remains of their comrades. The
conduct of Indians under such circumstances is uncertain and various as
their mood, their impulse, their tribe, and their age. Sometimes they
indulge in fearful threats of vengeance; sometimes in the most woeful
howlings and lamentations; at others they observe a silence as still as
the death which they are contemplating.

The Osages, on this occasion, following the example of their leader,
spoke not a word, although the sight before them (far too horrible for
description) was sufficient to try the strongest nerves; it was chiefly
by the immoveable firmness of his character that Mahéga had gained
and maintained the despotic influence which he exercised over his
followers; neither did it fail him on this occasion, for he proceeded
to examine the mutilated remains of his deceased warriors with his
usual coolness and sagacity, in order that he might discover by whom
the deed had been perpetrated; on a close inspection of the skulls,
he found that both had been fractured by a tomahawk blow, which had
fallen in a direction almost vertical, but rather at a posterior angle
of inclination, whence he immediately inferred that they had been
killed by some enemy who had surprised and attacked them from behind,
and not in an open fight: after a long and careful observation of the
fractures, he was of opinion that they were made by the same weapon.
This inference, however, he kept to himself; and directing two of his
followers to pay such offices to the dead as were possible under the
circumstances, and then to return to the camp, he went forward with
the remaining Osage, to satisfy himself as to the manner in which the
calamity had occurred: he remembered to have seen Wingenund starting on
the trail, and, although he knew him to be bold and active, he could
not for an instant entertain the belief that a stripling, wearied with
a sleepless night, stiff from being so many hours bound with thongs,
and totally unprovided with arms, could have killed his two guards, who
were strong, wary, and well–armed men!

For some distance Mahéga continued his course in moody silence, the
beaten trail affording no indication sufficient to guide him in his
conjecture, but at length he reached a place where it crossed a small
rivulet, the flat banks of which were sprinkled with a kind of gravelly
sand: here he paused and examined every inch of the ground with the eye
of a lynx; nor was it long before he detected the foot–prints which he
sought, a smaller and a greater, the latter showing longer intervals,
and a deeper impression.

Rising from his stooping scrutiny, the eyes of the chief glared with
fury, as he turned to his follower, and, in a voice almost inarticulate
with rage, groaned the hated name of War–Eagle.

“It is,” he continued vehemently, “plain as the moon in the sky, the
trail of the cursed Lenapé and the light foot of his brother; see here,
War–Eagle has walked through the water, and Wingenund has sprung over
it; the dew has fallen since they passed, they are far before us; but
Mahéga must not sleep till their scalps are in his belt. Is Toweno
ready?” inquired the fierce chief, tightening his girdle while he
loosened the tomahawk suspended from it.

“Toweno is ready,” replied the Indian, “to fight or run by the side of
Mahéga from morning until night; his hand is not weak, nor are his feet
slow, but the great chief must not let the angry spirit bring a cloud
before his eyes.”

“Let Toweno speak,” said Mahéga, controlling his fierce impatience,
“his words will find a path to open ears.”

“War–Eagle,” pursued the Osage, “is swift of foot and cunning as a
twice–trapped wolf. He has not come upon this far war–path alone.
Wingenund has been prowling round the camp; and while Mahéga follows
the trail of War–Eagle, the youth may guide the pale–faced warrior
called Netis, with his band, to the encampment of the Washashe. Toweno
has need of no more words.”

Mahéga saw in a moment the truth and force of his follower’s
suggestion, and smothering for the moment his passion for revenge, he
resolved to return at once to his encampment.

“The counsel of Toweno is good,” said he; “when a friend speaks, Mahéga
is not deaf.”

Among the features that distinguish the character of the North American
Indian, there is none more remarkable, none more worthy of the study
and the imitation of civilised man, than the patience and impartial
candour with which they listen to the advice or opinion of others:
although so prone to be swayed by passion and governed by impulse,
the Indian seems to have a wonderful power of laying aside these
predispositions, when discussing a matter privately with a friend, or
openly in council. The decorum with which all their public discussions
are conducted has been observed and recorded by every writer familiar
with their habits, from the time of Charlevoix, and of the interesting
“Letters Edifiantes” to the present day. Colden, Tanner, Mackenzie,
and many others who have described the Northern tribes, concur in
bearing their testimony to the truth of this observation; Heckewalder,
Loskiel, Smith, Jefferson, confirm it in the central region; and the
Spanish writers bear frequent witness to it in their descriptions
of the Southern tribes whom they met with in their campaigns in
Florida and the adjacent country. In reading the account given of the
numerous tribes inhabiting the vast region between the Mississippi
and the Rocky Mountains, by Clarke, Lewis, Long, and others, the same
observation forces itself upon us almost at every page, and it is the
more remarkable when we reflect upon two facts: first, that we find
this characteristic attributed to forty or fifty different nations
inhabiting a continent larger than Europe, by the concurring testimony
of travellers from different countries, and holding the most opposite
opinions.

Secondly, we do not find a similar characteristic distinguishing other
savages, or nomadic tribes in Asia, Africa, or the Pacific Islands.

There is not a public body in Europe, from the British parliament down
to the smallest burgh meeting, that might not study with advantage the
proceedings of an Indian council, whether as described in the faithful
pages of the German missionaries, or, as it may still be seen by any
one who has leisure and inclination to visit those remote regions,
where the Indian character is least changed and contaminated by
intercourse with the whites. Such an observer would find his attention
attracted to two remarkable facts; first, that no speaker is ever
interrupted; and, secondly, that only those speak who from age, rank,
and deeds, are entitled to be listened to.

It is a popular and plausible reply to say, that discussions concerning
the complicated business of a great country cannot be carried on like
the unimportant “talks” of these savage tribes. This reasoning is
shallow and full of sophistry; for many of the Indian councils above
referred to have involved all the dearest interests of the nation;
their soil, their pride, their ancestral traditions, all were at stake,
perhaps all with little more than a nominal alternative, to be bartered
for the grasping white man’s beads, whiskey, and subsidies. In these
councils, every listening Indian must have felt that his own home, the
lodge built by his father, and the patch of maize cultivated by his
family, were dependent on the issue of the negotiation, and yet it
is not upon record that a chief or elder brave was ever interrupted
in his speech, or that the decorum of the council was infringed by
irregularity or tumult on the part of those who might have considered
themselves injured and aggrieved.

Even in regard to time, it is a great mistake to suppose that anything
is gained by interruption; for an obstinate talker will carry his point
in the end; and although the persevering exclamations and groanings,
and crowings of an impatient House of Commons may succeed in drowning
his voice, and forcing him to sit down, he will rise again on some
other occasion, and inflict upon his hearers a speech whose bulk and
bitterness are both increased by the suppressed fermentation which it
has undergone.

Leaving the moody and dispirited Osage chief to find his way back to
his encampment, we will now return to Reginald Brandon and his party,
whom we left starting westward on the trail, marching in regular order,
and prepared, without delaying the progress, to repel any hostile
attempt on the part of the Crows. The latter band seemed, however, so
impressed with the strength, discipline, and appointments of the white
men’s force, now that it had received a strong reinforcement, that
they gave up all present intention of molesting it, and went off in
an opposite direction in search of game, horses, or booty where these
might be acquired with less risk and danger.

Reginald and Ethelston went together on the line of march; and although
the spirits of the former were damped by the recent and melancholy
fate of the Crow youth, in whom he had felt much interest, the buoyant
hilarity of his disposition did not long resist his friend’s endeavours
to banish that subject from his thoughts, and to turn the conversation
to topics more immediately connected with the object of their present
expedition.

Reginald having once confided to Ethelston his love for Prairie–bird,
found a pleasure in describing to him her beauty, her natural grace,
her simplicity,—in short, all those charms and attractions which had
carried by storm the fortress of his heart; and it seemed that his
friend was no less willing to listen than he to talk upon the subject;
repeating question after question, regarding her with an unwearied
intensity of curiosity that excited at length the surprise of Reginald
himself.

“Indeed, Edward,” he said, laughing, “did I not know that you are
devoted to a certain lady on the banks of the Muskingum, and that your
attachments are reasonably steady, I could almost believe that the
fidelity and eloquence with which I have described Prairie–bird had
made you fall in love with her yourself.”

“Perhaps you are claiming more merit for your own eloquence than
is due to it,” said Ethelston, in a similar tone, “you forget that
before I joined you, Paul Müller and I had travelled many hundred
miles together; and it is a topic upon which he speaks as warmly and
partially as yourself.”

“Well he may!” replied Reginald with energy, “for she owes everything
to his affectionate care and instruction, in return for which she loves
and venerates him as if he were her father.”

In such conversation did the friends while away many weary hours on
the march; and at the midday halt and evening camp, they were joined
by the worthy missionary, who, justly proud of his pupil, and knowing
that he was addressing those who would not soon be weary of hearing
her praises, told them many anecdotes of her early youth, with an
earnestness and feeling which often caused Reginald to avert his face,
and Ethelston to shade his brow thoughtfully with his hand.

Nor was the march unenlivened by scenes of a merrier kind, for
Pierre, Baptiste, and Monsieur Perrot kept up a constant round of
fun and raillery around their camp–kettle; the latter continuing to
act as chief cook for all the white men and half–bred in the party,
and leaving the Delawares to dress their food after their own fancy.
Provisions were abundant in the camp, and Perrot contrived by his
ingenuity to give a variety both in appearance and flavour to supplies,
which in truth consisted of little more than parched maize, biscuit,
coffee, and bison–meat. He talked incessantly, and his lively sallies
not only amused his two companions, but often drew a smile from
Reginald, in spite of the anxiety occasioned by the object of the
expedition.

“Master Baptiste,” said the valet cook (as nearly as his language may
be rendered into English), “methinks those great hands of yours are
better skilled in chopping Sioux skulls, or felling bee–trees, than in
the science of butchery; see here, what unchristian lumps of meat you
have brought me to dress!”

“Were it not for these great hands, as you call them,” replied the
sturdy guide, “you, Master Perrot, with those fine–skinned fingers,
would often ere this have seen little of either deer or bison–meat for
your supper.”

“As for that, I deny not that you are tolerably successful in hunting,
and your load of venison is sometimes brought decently home; but in the
cutting up of a bison, your education has been much neglected.”

“It may be so, Monsieur Perrot,” answered Baptiste: “I do not pretend
to much skill in the matter, and yet methinks I should understand as
much of it as one who had never seen a bison a month since; and who
could not now dress a cow’s udder half so well as an Osage squaw.”
Pierre laughed outright at his comrade’s depreciation of Perrot’s
culinary skill; and the latter, whose temper was not a whit ruffled by
this disparagement of his talents, inquired with the utmost gravity,

“Pray, Baptiste, instruct me in this matter, for I doubt not, although
you have so grievously mutilated the ox, that your method of dressing
the cow’s udder must be worth learning.”

“Nay,” replied Baptiste, “I will show you that when we come among cows
and squaws; meanwhile I recommend you to make yourself a spare peruke,
as we may soon be running foul of those Osages, or some other roving
Indians, who may chance to carry off that moveable scalp on the top of
your head.”

This allusion to Perrot’s disaster and narrow escape among the Sioux,
turned the laugh against him; but he quickly checked its current by
placing before his companions some buffalo steaks, and cakes of maize
flour, which practically contradicted all that they had been saying in
his disparagement of the good–humoured Frenchman’s cookery.

Towards the close of the second day’s march, one of the Delawares,
who had been sent forward to reconnoitre, galloped to the rear and
reported that he had seen one or two men at a great distance a–head,
nearly in the line of the trail which they were now following. Reginald
immediately sprung upon Nekimi, who was walking like a pet–dog at
his side; and, accompanied by Ethelston, rode forward to examine the
strangers with his telescope. The undulations of the intervening
ground hid them for a considerable time from his view, and when they
reappeared they were near enough to be clearly distinguished through
his glass.

“War–Eagle,” he exclaimed, “Heaven be praised! It is my brave Indian
brother returning with young Wingenund. Edward, I will now present to
you the noblest creature that ever yet I encountered in human shape.
My feelings would prompt me to rush forward and embrace him; but we
must conform ourselves to Indian usage here, or we shall lose the good
opinion of our Delaware friends.”

Reginald had confided to his friend all that had passed between himself
and War–Eagle, not even omitting his unfortunate and long–cherished
passion for Prairie–bird, so that Ethelston awaited his approach with
no ordinary interest.

As the Delaware chieftain advanced with erect front, his expanded chest
thrown slightly forward, and the fine symmetry of his form developed
in every movement as he stepped lightly over the prairie, Ethelston
felt that he had never seen, either in nature or in the works of art, a
finer specimen of manhood; and when he witnessed the grave simplicity
which mingled with his cordial greeting of Reginald Brandon, he
could not deny that features, form, and bearing stamped the Delaware
chieftain at once as one of the lords of the creation. Neither did the
gentle gracefulness of the slighter figure by whom he was accompanied
escape Ethelston’s notice, and he felt no difficulty in recognising, in
the interesting features of the youth, that Wingenund of whose high and
amiable qualities he had heard so much from Reginald.

“These are, indeed,” said Ethelston to himself, “worthy descendants
of the Lenapé princes, whose sway in bygone days extended over many
hundred leagues of fertile territory, from the Ohio to the Atlantic
coast: whose broad lands are now tilled by the Saxon plough, on the
site of whose ancient villages now stand the churches and the popular
streets of Baltimore, and the city of Brotherly Love. With the loss
of their dominion, most of these once–powerful tribes have lost the
highest and best characteristics of their race; subdued by the rifle,
corrupted by the silver, degraded by the ardent spirits of the white
man, they present but too often a spectacle in which it is difficult to
recognise any traces of the attributes with which the narratives of our
early travellers and missionaries invest them. But these are, indeed,
features which a Titian would not have scorned to delineate; these are
forms which the pencil of Michael Angelo and the chisel of Praxiteles
would have rejoiced to immortalise.”

While these thoughts were rapidly passing through the mind of
Ethelston, the greeting between Reginald and War–Eagle was exchanged;
and the former had given to his Indian brother a hasty sketch of the
events which had occurred in his absence and of those which had led to
the reinforcement brought by Ethelston. A gleam of joy shot athwart
the features of the Delaware, as he learnt the vengeance which
his warriors had taken of their enemies; and his quick eye glanced
with gratified pride over the scalps which they displayed, and the
magnificent bear–claw collar dependent from Attō’s neck. The Lenapé
braves saw too that the tomahawk of their leader had not slept in its
belt on his solitary war–path, for the scalps of the two unfortunate
Osages whom he had slain hung close to its handle; and though there was
no shout of triumph, an audible murmur of satisfaction ran through the
whole band.

When Reginald presented Ethelston to War–Eagle as his earliest and most
faithful friend from childhood, the chief, taking him by the hand,
said, “The friend of Netis is the friend of War–Eagle,—their hearts
are one; he is very welcome.” Reginald then presented Wingenund to his
friend, as the gallant youth who had saved his life on the banks of the
Muskingum.

“I feel as if I had long known him,” said Ethelston, shaking his hand
cordially; “I have come lately from Mooshanne, where his name is not
forgotten.”

“Is the Lily of Mooshanne well?” inquired the youth, fixing his dark
and earnest eyes full upon the countenance of the person whom he was
addressing. Ethelston had been prepared by his friend’s description
of Wingenund for a demeanour and character highly interesting; but
there was a melody, a pathos, a slight tremor in the tone in which he
spoke those few words, there was also in his countenance a touching
expression of melancholy, that thrilled to the heart of Ethelston. How
quick is the jealous eye of love! Ethelston knew that Wingenund had
passed only one day in the society of Lucy, yet he saw in an instant
the deep impression which that day had left on the young Indian’s mind.

“The Lily of Mooshanne is well,” he replied. “If she had known that I
should visit her brother, and his Lenapé friends, she would have bid me
speak many kind words to them from her.”

Wingenund passed on, and War–Eagle related to the two friends the
leading circumstances of his own expedition, omitting all mention of
the fatigue, the hunger, the sleepless nights that he had undergone,
before he discovered and reached the Osage camp.

As he described the scene of Wingenund being tied to the post, with
the dried faggots at his feet, and the appearance of Prairie–bird when
Mahéga called upon her to pronounce her own or her brother’s fate,
both of his auditors held their breath with anxious suspense, which
gave place to astonishment, as he proceeded to relate with undisguised
awe the mystery of the solar eclipse, which led to the liberation of
Wingenund.

When he had concluded his narrative, Reginald was speechless; and
Ethelston, catching the Delaware’s arm, inquired in a low whisper, “Has
the Osage dared, or will he dare, to make Prairie–bird his wife by
force?”

“He has not,” replied the chief; “the words of Olitipa, and the black
sun, made him afraid.” He added, drawing himself proudly to his full
height, “Had the wolf threatened to touch her with his paw, the
tomahawk of War–Eagle would have pierced his heart, or the bones of the
Lenapé chief and his brother would have been picked by the buzzards of
the mountains.” So saying, War–Eagle joined his expectant warriors.

In the meantime Mahéga returned to his camp, in a vexed and gloomy
state of mind; as he passed the tent of Prairie–bird, a darker frown
lowered upon his brow; and having entered his lodge, he seated himself,
without speaking to any of those who had assembled there in expectation
of his return.

The youngest of the Osages present having handed him a lighted pipe,
retired to a corner of the lodge, where he resumed his occupation
of sharpening the head of a barbed arrow, leaving the chief to his
own meditations. These dwelt mainly upon Prairie–bird, and were of a
nature so mingled and vague, as to cause him the greatest perplexity.
The effect of her beauty and attractions upon his passions had rather
increased than diminished: he loved her as much as one so fierce and
selfish could love another; yet, on the other hand, he felt that he
ought to hate her, as being the sister of War–Eagle, and the betrothed
of the man who had struck and disgraced him: with these contending
feelings there was blended a superstitious awe of her communion with
the world of spirits, and a remote hope that some of these supernatural
agencies might turn her heart in his favour, and induce her not only to
become his bride, but zealously to employ all her mysterious powers in
the furtherance of his ambitious schemes.

Such was the train of thought pursued by the Osage, as he leaned
against the pile of furs that supported his back, and stretching his
huge limbs at their ease, watched the eddying wreaths of fragrant
smoke, which gently puffed from his mouth and _nostril_, wound their
slow way to the fissures in the lodge–roof by which they escaped.[60]

The suggestion of Toweno had made a strong impression upon Mahéga’s
mind, and led him to expect, at no distant period, an attack on the
part of the Delawares; and as he was uncertain of the force which his
enemy might bring against him, he resolved to make a timely retreat to
some spot where a pursuit, if attempted by the Delawares, might enable
him to take them at a disadvantage.

Calling to him an Osage who was leaning against one of the outer posts
that supported the lodge, he desired him to make, with a comrade,
a careful search of the neighbourhood, and to report any trail or
suspicious appearance that they might find; and when he had given these
orders he summoned Toweno, and started with him towards the head of
the little valley, without informing him of the object which he had
in view; but as the latter was the only person to whom the chief had
entrusted the secret of the câche, where his most valuable spoils were
deposited, and as they were now marching in that direction, he was not
at a loss to divine Mahéga’s intentions. After a brief silence, the
chief said to his follower, “Do the thoughts of Toweno walk upon the
same path with the thoughts of Mahéga?”

“They do,” he replied.

“Can Toweno speak them?”

“Mahéga intends to leave the camp before the Lenapé come; and taking
some goods with him as presents to the mountain tribes, to find a safe
place where the enemy cannot follow him.”

“Toweno says well,” answered the chief, with a grim smile, “but that is
not enough, the Lenapé must be made a fool, he must be put upon a wrong
trail.”

“That is good, if it can be done,” said Toweno, gravely, “but it is not
easy to put sand in the eyes of War–Eagle.”

“Mahéga will put sand into his eyes, and a knife into his heart before
this moon becomes a circle,” replied the chief, clutching as he went
the haft of his scalp–knife, and unconsciously lengthening his stride
under the excitement produced by the thoughts of a conflict with his
hated foe. They had now reached the “câche,” which was a large dry
hole in the side of a rocky bank, the entrance to which was closed by
a stone, and admirably concealed by a dense thicket of brambles and
wild raspberry bushes: having rolled away the stone, Mahéga withdrew
from the câche a plentiful supply of beads, vermillion, powder, and
cloths of various colour, being part of the plunder taken from the camp
of the unfortunate Delawares, and wrapping in two blankets as much as
he and his companion could carry, they replaced the stone, carefully
concealing their foot–prints as they retreated, by strewing them with
leaves and grass. At a spot very near the câche was the skeleton of
a deer, which Mahéga had killed on a former occasion, and purposely
dragged thither. As soon as they reached this point, they took no
further precaution to conceal their trail, because, even if it were
found, the party discovering it would stop under the impression that it
was made by the hunters who had killed the deer. On returning to the
camp they met the two Osages who had been despatched to reconnoitre,
and who reported that they had found one fresh Indian trail in the
woods opposite the little valley, and that they had followed it as far
as the stream, where, from its direction and appearance, they were
assured it was the trail of War–Eagle; and Mahéga now first learnt
that his daring foe had been within eighty yards of the spot selected
for the torture of Wingenund. His was not a nature to give way to idle
regrets; equally a stranger to fear and to remorse, the future troubled
him but little, the past not at all, excepting when it afforded him
food wherewith to cherish his revenge; so the information now received
did not interrupt him in carrying into execution his plans for retreat.
Accordingly, he desired Toweno to summon his warriors to a council,
and in a short time the band, now reduced to eight besides himself,
assembled in front of his lodge. Here he harangued them with his usual
cunning sagacity, pointing out to them the risk of remaining in their
present position, and setting before them in the most favourable light
the advantages which might accrue from their falling in with some
of the peaceable tribes among the mountains, and carrying back from
them to the banks of the Osage and Kansas rivers a plentiful cargo of
beaver and other valuable skins. Having concluded his harangue, he
opened before them the largest (although the least precious) of the
bales brought from the câche, which he divided equally amongst them,
so that each warrior knowing what belonged to him, might use it as he
thought fit; the remaining bale he ordered to be carefully secured in
wrappers of hide, and to be reserved for negotiations for the benefit
of the whole band. The Osages were loud in their approbation of the
speech, and of the liberal distribution of presents by which it had
been accompanied, and they retired from his lodge to make immediate
preparations for departure.

While these were rapidly advancing, Mahéga, who had made himself
thoroughly familiar with the neighbouring locality, considered and
matured his plans for retreat, the chief object of which was to mislead
the Delawares, in the event of their attempting a pursuit. The result
of his meditations he confined to his own breast, and his followers
neither wished nor cared to know it, having full reliance upon his
sagacity and judgment. Meanwhile, Prairie–bird remained quietly in her
tent, grateful for the deliverance of her young brothers, and indulging
in a thousand dreamy visions of her own escape, contrived and effected
by Reginald and War–Eagle. These were suddenly interrupted by the
entrance of Lita, who, while engaging in carrying water from the brook,
had gathered from one of the Osages some intelligence of what was going
forward. If the truth must be told, this Indian, separated from the
woman–kind of his own tribe, had begun to look on the expressive gipsy
countenance of the Comanche girl with an eye of favour; and she not
being slow to detect the influence which she had acquired, encouraged
him just enough to render him communicative, and willing to offer her
such attentions as were admissible in their relative situations. Yet
in her heart she scorned him as a “dog of an Osage,” and though he
knew her to be only a slave, there was something in her manner that
attracted him in spite of himself; it was not difficult for the quick
girl to gather from her admirer the news of Wingenund’s escape, and
the death of the two Osages sent to guard him; but when she heard the
latter attributed with an execration to the hand of War–Eagle, she was
obliged to avert her face, that her informant might not observe the
look of triumph that gleamed in her dark eyes.

Having ascertained at the same time that Mahéga was about to strike his
camp and resume his march, she rewarded the Osage by an arch smile,
that sent him away contented, while she, taking up her water–vessel,
pursued her way to her mistress’s tent.

To the latter Lita lost no time in communicating what she had learnt,
and was disappointed to observe that Prairie–bird seemed rather vexed
than gratified by the intelligence.

“Does Olitipa not rejoice?” inquired she eagerly, “that the scalps of
the Washashee dogs who kept Wingenund prisoner are hanging at the belt
of the Lenapé chief?”

“Olitipa is tired of blood,” answered the maiden, mournfully, “and the
loss of his warriors will make Mahéga more fierce and cruel to us.
See already he prepares to go on a distant path, where the eyes of
War–Eagle and Netis may not find us;” and the poor girl shuddered at
the prospect of a journey to regions yet more wild and remote, and a
captivity yet more hopeless of deliverance.

“Let him go where never Washashee foot stepped before,” replied Lita,
“where no trail is seen but that of the bighorn, and the black–tailed
deer: War–Eagle will follow and will find him.”

Prairie–bird smiled sadly at the eagerness of her companion, and then
desired her aid in getting their wardrobe and few moveables ready for
the expected journey. While they were thus employed Mahéga called
Prairie–bird to the door of her tent, where she found the chief, with
his arm wrapped round with a cloth; and believing him to be wounded,
she acceded at once to his request that she would give him one of her
kerchiefs for a bandage. During the remainder of the evening she saw
nothing more of him or of his people, and she slept undisturbed until
an hour before dawn, when she was awakened by the bustle of preparation
for departure.

As soon as her light tent was struck and fastened to the poles which
supported it, she observed that a kind of cradle had been constructed
by the Osages, which was covered with skins, and was adapted to
the purpose of carrying herself or her moveables, when slung to the
tent–poles, as well as to convey its contents dry over any river that
might obstruct their passage.

The Osage party was now divided into two, of which one was reserved
by Mahéga for his own guidance, the other being entrusted to that of
Toweno: all the horses were placed under the charge of the latter,
including those carrying the packages, and the palfrey usually ridden
by Prairie–bird: this party bent their course to the northward,
and Mahéga accompanied them a few hundred yards, repeating many
instructions to Toweno, which seemed from his earnest gesticulation to
be both minute and important.

The heart of Prairie–bird sank within her, when she saw her favourite
horse led away, and herself left with Lita on foot, attended by Mahéga
and four of his men: knowing, however, the inutility of any present
attempt either at resistance or flight, she awaited in uncomplaining
silence the further commands of her captor, although she easily saw
through the mocking veil of courtesy with which he disguised his
anticipated triumph over her baffled friends. To his inquiry whether
she preferred travelling on foot to being carried in the wicker–frame
by two of his men, she replied, without hesitation, in the affirmative;
upon which he presented her with a pair of mocassins, to be worn over
her own, so ingeniously contrived that although they did not encumber
her movements by their weight, they yet rendered it impossible that
her foot–print should be recognised, even by the practised eye of
War–Eagle. A similar pair was also placed on the feet of Lita.

It may easily be imagined that the Osages, during their residence
at this encampment, made various excursions for hunting and other
purposes; they had used on these occasions old trails made by native
tribes or by the bison; one of these ran in a north–east direction,
skirting the base of the high western hills, and offering the prospect
of easy travelling, through an undulating and partially wooded country.
Into this path Mahéga struck at once, leading the way himself, followed
by Prairie–bird and Lita, the four Osages bringing up the rear. This
line of march being adopted by the cunning chief, first, that he might
have frequent opportunity of watching and speaking with the maiden,
and secondly, that his men might be the better enabled to fulfil his
strict injunction that they should carefully remove any trace which she
might purposely or accidentally leave on the trail.

Such an idea did not, however, appear to have entered the thoughts
of Prairie–bird, for she followed the Osage chief with a blithe and
cheerful air, replying good–humouredly to the observations which he
from time to time addressed to her, and pointing out to Lita the
beauties of the scenery through which they were passing.

It was indeed a lovely region, abounding in rock, herbage, and
magnificent timber, the latter affording an agreeable shelter from the
rays of the sun, while the fresh breeze, blowing from the snow–capped
mountains, which bounded the western prospect, rendered the exercise of
walking pleasant in the highest degree.

They had followed the trail for some time without meeting with any game
when the quick eye of Mahéga detected a mountain–deer, browsing at
no great distance, and in a moment an arrow from his bow pierced its
flank; the wounded animal bounded onward into the glade, and the chief
sprang forward in pursuit. The Osages fixed their keen and eager eyes
on the chase, muttering half–aloud expressions of impatient discontent
at being prevented from joining it. Swift as had been the arrow of
Mahéga, it was not more so than the thought and hand of Prairie–bird,
who contrived while her guards were gazing intently on the deer and its
pursuer, to let fall unperceived a small slip of paper upon the trail:
so completely did she appear absorbed in watching the chase, that the
movement was unnoticed even by Lita, and the party continued their way
a few hundred steps when a signal from Mahéga, now out of sight, soon
brought one of his followers to assist him in cutting up the quarry.

Before leaving her tent, Prairie–bird had prepared and secreted about
her person several small slips of paper, on each of which she had
written the word, “Follow,” trusting to her own ingenuity to find an
opportunity of dropping one now and then unobserved by the Osages.

Such an opportunity having now occurred, it had been successfully
employed, and the maiden went forward with a lighter heart, in the
confident hope that Providence would cause some friendly eye to rest
upon the slight, yet guiding token left upon her path.

For two days Mahéga pursued his march leisurely, as if fearless
of pursuit, halting frequently to afford rest and refreshment to
Prairie–bird, and camping at night, on some sheltered spot, where his
men constructed for her protection a hut, or bower of branches, over
which was thrown a covering of skins: before setting out in the morning
this bower was destroyed, and the branches dragged to some distance in
several directions; and Mahéga having carefully examined the spot, was
the last to leave it, in order to ensure that no indication or trace of
his fair prisoner might remain.

On the third day about noon they reached the banks of a broad stream,
which two of the Osages crossed immediately, with instructions from
their chief to make a visible trail in a N.E. direction for some
distance, when they were to enter the river again at another place, and
to wade or swim down it until they rejoined him: meanwhile Prairie–bird
and Lita, with such articles as they wished to keep dry, were placed in
the light coriole or wicker–boat covered with skins, and Mahéga guided
its course down the stream, followed by the remainder of his men: they
descended the bed of the river for several miles in this way; and
although more than one trail appeared on the banks as a crossing–place
for Indians or bison, he passed them all unheeded, until he came to a
broad track which had very lately been trodden by so many feet that
the trail of his own party could not be distinguished upon it; here he
halted until he was rejoined by the men whom he had left behind, when
they proceeded forward at a brisk pace, towards the spot which he had
appointed as the rendezvous for his party in charge of the packages and
the horses.

Mahéga was now in high spirits, being confident that the precautions
which he had taken would throw the pursuers off the scent, and enable
him to follow out his plans, which were to trade during the summer,
with the Shosonies and other tribes hovering about the spurs of the
mountains, procuring from them beaver and other valuable furs in
exchange for the fine cloths and goods which he had brought from the
Delaware camp; after which he proposed to return to the northern
portion of the Osage country, enriched by his traffic, and glorying in
the possession of his mysterious and beautiful bride.

Such were the projects entertained by the Osage chief, and he brooded
over them so abstractedly, that he afforded to the ever–watchful
Prairie–bird an opportunity of dropping another of her small slips of
paper unperceived; she did not neglect it, although almost hopeless of
her friends ever discovering her path after the many precautions taken
by Mahéga, and the long distance down the course of the river, where no
trail nor trace of the passage of his party could be left.

On reaching the rendezvous he found his detachment with the horses and
luggage already arrived: they had come by a circuitous route, availing
themselves of several Indian trails by the way, on one of which Toweno
had, by direction of his chief, scattered some shreds of the kerchief
that he obtained from Prairie–bird; after which he had returned upon
the same trail, and diverged into a transverse one, which had enabled
him to reach the rendezvous by the time appointed.

Prairie–bird being again mounted upon her favourite palfrey, the whole
party set forward with increased speed, which they did not relax
until towards evening, when they saw in the distance numerous fires,
betokening the neighbourhood of a populous Indian village. Mahéga
then ordered a halt, and having sent forward Toweno to reconnoitre,
encamped in a sheltered valley for the night. When Prairie–bird found
herself once more, after the fatigues of the two preceding days, under
the cover of her own tent, she looked round its small circular limits,
and felt as if she were at home! Casting herself upon her couch of
furs, she offered up her grateful thanks to the Almighty Being who had
hitherto so mercifully protected her, and soon forgot her cares and
weariness in sound and refreshing slumbers.


END OF THE SECOND VOLUME.



THIRD VOLUME.



CHAPTER I.

 WAR–EAGLE AND HIS PARTY REACH THE DESERTED CAMP OF THE OSAGES.—THE
 LATTER FALL IN WITH A STRANGE BAND OF INDIANS, AND MAHÉGA APPEARS IN THE
 CHARACTER OF A DIPLOMATIST.


A bright sun shone upon the little valley which, twenty–four hours
before, had been deserted by the Osages, when a tall form glided
cautiously to its entrance, half concealed by the bushes that fringed
its edge. Glancing hastily around, War–Eagle, for he it was, who was
guiding his party in pursuit, returned to announce to them his belief
that the enemy had decamped: nevertheless, the usual precautions were
adopted against a surprise. A small body of Delawares were thrown
forward to reconnoitre the neighbouring woods, under the command of
Attō, while the chief, accompanied by Reginald, Ethelston, and the rest
of the party, entered the deserted Osage encampment; every nook and
cranny among the adjacent woods and rocks were diligently explored, and
not till then were they convinced that their crafty foe had given them
the slip. While the rest of the party were busied in this search, the
eye of Reginald Brandon rested in absorbed attention upon the spot to
which his steps had been first led, as if by the power of instinct; it
was a small plot, completely sheltered by the rock which guarded the
front of the recess; a few holes made in the turf showed where pegs
had been driven in to secure a circular tent. “Here,” said Reginald to
Ethelston, “here is the spot trodden by her dear feet—here have her
weary limbs reposed during the long watches of the night—here have her
prayers been offered up at noon and eve for that rescue which we seem
doomed, alas! never to accomplish!”

“Say not a word, my son,” said Paul Müller, laying his hand kindly
on the excited Reginald’s shoulder; “say not a word, my son, which
would seem to limit the power or the mercy of that Being to whom those
prayers were addressed. Hope is the privilege, perseverance the duty of
man; let us faithfully use these bounties, and leave the issue to His
all–wise disposal.”

“I am indeed ashamed of my hasty expression, worthy father,” said
Reginald, frankly; “but I will draw encouragement from your suggestion,
and banish every desponding thought, while there remains a chance of
success, or even a glimmering of hope.”

Wingenund, who had approached unobserved to the side of his friend,
whispered to him in a low voice, “Netis is right: here it was that
Olitipa sat when Wingenund was a prisoner; she is not far, the Lenapé
warriors never lose a trail.”

While they were thus conversing, a messenger from War–Eagle summoned
them to a consultation on the plan of pursuit which should be adopted.

It may not be unnecessary to inform those who have never been upon
the prairies of the Far–west, that a trail is easily followed when
the party pursued is in full retreat, because any indication of
footsteps is a sure guide to its course; whereas, in a camping–place,
where a party has remained for a considerable time, numberless paths
are trodden in various directions during its stay, some for hunting
excursions, some for bringing water, others for leading horses to and
from their pasturage, so that the pursuer is at a loss to discover by
which of these paths those of whom he is in pursuit have retreated.

War–Eagle being well aware that Mahéga was not less skilled than
himself in all the stratagems and devices of Indian warfare, set about
this difficult task with a deliberation that did not suit the eager
temper of Reginald Brandon; nevertheless, he had so much confidence in
the sagacity of his Indian brother, that he restrained all expression
of his impatience, and agreed without objection to the method proposed
by him at the council. Agreeably to this plan, Paul Müller, Perrot,
and several of the hunters and Delawares, remained on guard at the
camp, while the main body, divided into small parties of two or three
in each, were to explore every trail that offered a probability of
success, and to return before nightfall to report the result of their
search. War–Eagle set out, accompanied by Attō; Reginald was joined by
Ethelston and Baptiste; the other parties took the respective quarters
assigned to them, and Wingenund, who remained some time after they had
started, left the camp alone.

The trail followed by Reginald and his friends led towards the upper
part of the valley, over broken and bushy ground, intersected here
and there by streamlets, and small springs, which just afforded water
enough to soften the herbage, in which they were soon lost. Had he been
less absorbed by the object of the expedition, Reginald could not have
failed to admire the tranquil beauty of this sheltered and secluded
spot; but the rich foliage of the forest trees, the merry chirrup of
the birds, the fragrance exhaled by the numberless shrubs and flowers,
the tempting clusters of wild raspberries, scattered around their
path,—all these were passed unheeded by men whose senses and faculties
were centered only on _the trail_. With equal modesty and good sense,
Reginald had desired Baptiste to take the lead, knowing that the sturdy
forester’s experience in such matters was far greater than his own.

After they had marched a considerable distance in silence, Reginald
inquired the opinion of his guide.

“Why, you see,” replied the latter, “the Osages have driven their
horses several times this way to feed, and their marks are plain
enough; but if a man may judge by the looks of the country forward,
this is not likely to be the right trail. It seems to get smaller the
further we go; and I’m inclined to think it’s only been a hunting–path
into the woods.”

After this unsatisfactory observation, Baptiste again went forward,
until he stopped at the skeleton of a deer; the same, it may be
remembered, as was mentioned in a former chapter. Here all traces of a
further trail ceased, and the disappointed Reginald exclaimed,—

“Baptiste, your suggestion was only too correct; we have lost our time;
let us return, and search in some other direction.”

“Not so fast, Master Reginald,” replied the cautious guide; “there’s
as many tricks in an Indian’s brain as there are holes in a honeycomb.
The animal has been dead some time, and unless this grass deceive me,
it has been trodden within these two days. Voyons vîte, as they say up
north. Stand quite still: and you, too, Master Ethelston, keep on that
side of the deer’s bones, while I have a bit of a hunt after the wood
fashion.”

So saying, the guide, resting the “Doctor” upon the skeleton, and
throwing himself upon his knees, began to turn over the leaves, and to
examine minutely every blade of grass and fallen twig, muttering, as he
pursued his task, “If War–Eagle, or one of his double–sighted Delawares
were here, he would pick out this trail in no time. My eyes are not so
good as they were some years back; but they will serve this purpose,
however! This is only bungling work, after all: one—two;—yes, I think
there’s been two of them. Capote! they’ve strewed sticks and leaves
over the back–trail!” And the rough woodsman as, creeping forward on
his knees, he discovered each succeeding step on the trail, hummed
snatches of an old Canadian song, the only words of which that the two
friends could distinguish, being, “Vogue, vogue, la bonne pirogue!”

“Has it not often been a matter of surprise to you,” said Ethelston
in a whisper to Reginald, “that the language, and even the dialect of
the guide so constantly varies? Sometimes he speaks very intelligible
English; at others, his phrases and exclamations are mostly French;
and, on other occasions, he mingles the two most strangely together.”

“I confess,” replied Reginald, “the same thought has often occurred
to me; yet it is not, perhaps, so strange as it would at first sight
appear, when we remember the vicissitudes of his early life, the number
of years that he spent in youth among the French boatmen and traders
of the northern lakes, his excursions with them into the country of
the Upper Sioux and the Chippewyan nations; while for the last fifteen
years he has been much employed by my father, and, from his honesty
and trustworthy qualities, has been thrown a great deal into constant
intercourse with persons of respectability and education.”

Meanwhile, Baptiste having ascertained the direction of the trail,
cast his eyes forward, and, like a shrewd reasoner, jumped to his
conclusion,—in this instance, more correctly than is usually the case
with the persons to whom he has been likened. Pushing aside the bushes
which grew at the base of a rock, he soon observed a large aperture,
closed by a stone of corresponding dimensions. This last was, with
the aid of Reginald, soon displaced, and the “câche” of the Osages,
together with the plundered treasure it contained, was exposed to view.

“So, so!” chuckled the guide, “we have found the thieving fox’s
hole;—an’ they do not cover their trail somewhat better from the eyes
of War–Eagle, we shall have their skins before three nights are over;
why, a town lawyer could have treed this coon!”

Reginald and Ethelston could not forbear laughing at the low estimation
in which the woodsman held the ferreting powers of a town lawyer,—an
estimation so contrary to that entertained by those who have any
experience in the capacity of a class so unjustly depreciated. They
resolved to carry with them to the camp the whole contents of the cave,
with a view to their being forthwith appropriated and disposed of by
War–Eagle, now the chief of the tribe.

Three large blankets were easily tied into the form of so many sacks,
of which each threw one over his shoulder, and they returned with their
recovered spoil to the encampment.

Great was the surprise of the Delawares when they saw the three white
men coming in, hot and weary with their load; greater still, when
the blankets were opened, and their contents laid out upon the turf,
among which were found lead, powder, cloth, knives, beads, paint,
medicine–bags, and a variety of small articles, plundered from the
lodge of the unfortunate Tamenund, and those adjoining. Among these
were a few books and instruments belonging to Prairie–bird and Paul
Müller, all of which were immediately delivered over to the latter.

War–Eagle’s party was already so well supplied with necessaries of
every kind, that only a small portion of the goods was required for
their use; and the chief, after permitting every man to claim anything
which might have belonged to himself or his relatives, ordered the
remainder to be packed in bales of convenient size, so that they might
be either carried with them, or concealed, as circumstances might
render advisable.

The council was opened by War–Eagle, who desired the several parties,
who had been out in different directions, to state the result of the
search. This was done with the brief simplicity usually observed by
Indians on such occasions. But nothing of importance was elicited;
for of the trails which they had examined, none seemed to be that
pursued by the Osages in their retreat. During the speech of one of the
Delaware warriors, Wingenund, who had not before made his appearance,
noiselessly entered the circle, and taking his place by the side of
Reginald, leaned in silence upon his rifle.

Baptiste, whose age and experience entitled him to speak and who
suspected that the chief had not been altogether unsuccessful in his
search, addressed him thus:—“Has War–Eagle no word for his warriors?
Grande–Hâche and Netis have found the stolen goods: has the path of the
thief been dark to the eyes of the chief?”

“The foot of War–Eagle has been on the Washashee trail,” was the calm
reply.

A murmur of satisfaction ran through the assembly, and Reginald could
scarcely restrain the open expression of his impatient joy.

“The trail is fresh,” continued the chief: “not more than two dews have
fallen on the prints of foot and hoof.”

“Did my brother see the foot–marks of Olitipa and the Comanche girl?”
inquired Reginald, hastily.

“He did not; but he saw the trail of Olitipa’s horse; iron is on two of
its feet.”[61]

During this conversation, Wingenund more than once looked up in the
face of his white brother, then cast his eyes again upon the ground
without speaking. The expression of the youth’s countenance did not
escape the observation of War–Eagle, who thus addressed him: “Has the
young warrior of the race of Tamenund seen nothing? He has been far
over the prairie; his step was the last to return to camp; his eyes are
not shut: there are words in his breast; why are his lips silent?”

The youth modestly replied, in a voice, the singularly musical tone of
which charmed and surprised Ethelston, who had seldom heard him speak
before, “Wingenund waited until warriors who have seen many summers,
and travelled the war–path often, should have spoken. Wingenund has
been on the Washashee trail.”

At this announcement an exclamation of surprise was uttered by several
of the bystanders, for all had seen that the direction whence the youth
had returned to the camp was quite different from that which had been
pursued by War–Eagle, and yet the latter had affirmed that he had been
on the trail of the enemy. The chief himself was, indeed, surprised,
but he knew the diffidence, as well as the acute sagacity of the young
speaker; and although confident that he was not mistaken in his own
judgment, he was not by any means disposed to overrule, without careful
inquiry, that of his brother. The conversation between them was thus
pursued:—

“Were there horses on the trail found by Wingenund?”

“There were not.”

“Were the men many in number?”

“Wingenund cannot surely say; the trail was old and beaten; buffalo had
passed on it; of fresh marks he could not see many; more than four, not
so many as ten.”

“Let my brother point with his finger to the line of the trail.”

The youth slowly turned, cast his eye upward at the sun, thence at
the rocks overhanging the valley to the northward, and then pointed
steadily in a north–easterly direction.

War–Eagle, well assured that his own observation had been correct,
and that he had followed a trail leading towards the north–west, thus
continued: “There are many nations and bands of Indians here; a false
light may have shone on the path. How does my young brother know that
the feet of the Washashee had trodden it?”

There was a natural dignity, without the slightest touch of vanity,
in the manner of the youth, as he replied: “The Great Spirit has
given eyes to Wingenund, and he has learnt from War–Eagle to know the
mocassin of a Washashee from that of a Dahcotah, a Pawnee, a Shawano,
or a Maha.”

After musing a moment, War–Eagle continued, “Did my brother find the
foot of Olitipa and the Comanche girl on the path?”

“He could not find the mark of their feet, yet he believes they are on
the path,” was the unhesitating reply.

Reginald and Ethelston looked at the speaker with undisguised
astonishment; and War–Eagle, although he could not believe but what the
latter was mistaken, continued thus to question him: “My brother’s
speech is dark; if he could find no trail of the women, why does he
think that they are on the path? Have the Washashee carried them?”

“Not so,” replied Wingenund. “Twice the trail crossed a soft bank of
sand, where water runs from the mountains in winter: there were the
marks of two who had passed lately, their feet large as those of the
warriors, the tread light as that of a woman or young boy.”

The chief was very reluctant to say or do aught that might give pain to
his young brother, whose future success as war–leader of the Lenapé had
ever been the object of his fondest hopes; but in the urgent business
in which they were now engaged, he felt that all other considerations
must be secondary to the recovery of Olitipa, and revenge on Mahéga for
the loss and disgrace inflicted on the Lenapé.

“My brother has eyes as sharp, and feet as light, as a panther,”
he said in a kindly tone, “but a trail in this strange country may
deceive a man who has been on the war–path for twenty summers. The
trail followed by War–Eagle goes through that small valley between the
hills,” pointing to the north–west. “Attō was with him; they knew the
iron hoof of Olitipa’s horse; they found this scrap, torn from her
dress by a bramble stretching across the path. Is my brother satisfied?”

As the chief spoke he held up before the council a shred of a silk
kerchief, such as none, certainly, except she whom they sought, was
likely to have worn in that region. Again a murmur of approbation ran
through the assembly; and Reginald, vexed that his young friend should
have been subjected to such a disappointment, looked towards him, in
order to see whether he bore it with equanimity.

The countenance of Wingenund underwent not any change, save that a
quiet smile lurked in the corner of his mouth, as he replied, “My
brother and Attō are both known on the war–path; their feet are swift,
and no lies are found on their lips; it must be true that they have
seen the hoof–print of Olitipa’s horse; it is true that the piece of
dress torn off by the bramble belonged to her. Very cunning are the
Washashee wolves; they have tried to blind the eyes of the Lenapé; they
have made two paths; let my brother follow that which he has found and
Wingenund the other; perhaps they joined beyond the mountain.”

“There is sense in what the lad proposes,” said Baptiste, who had
listened attentively hitherto, without speaking, and who remembered
the acuteness shown by Wingenund near the banks of the Ohio. “If he is
sure that he has been on the Washashee trail, ’tis like enough they
have divided, to throw us off the scent; they will come together again
further north.”

Again War–Eagle mused in silence for a few minutes; then abruptly
turning towards Reginald, he inquired, “What is the thought of Netis?”

“I think,” replied the latter, “that Wingenund would never have spoken
as he has spoken, were it not that he felt assured of all that he said.
I would venture my life, and what is now far dearer to me than my life,
on the truth of his words.”

The youth looked gratefully at the speaker, and a smile of gratified
pride stole over his eloquent countenance.

“It is enough,” said War–Eagle, with dignity, “let Wingenund go upon
his path; he shall not go alone. Which path does my brother Netis
choose? he has heard all that has been said?”

Reginald was sorely puzzled: on one side was the sagacious experience
of the chief, added to the strong evidence afforded by the shred of
silk; on the other, the confident assurance of a youth, of whose
diffidence and acuteness he had seen so many proofs. While he was
still hesitating, he saw the eyes of the latter fixed upon him with an
earnest, imploring expression, that decided him at once.

“I will go with my young brother,” he said firmly; “Grande–Hâche,
Ethelston, and six men shall go with us; War–Eagle, with the rest of
the party, shall go on the large Washashee trail that he has struck.
Let the chief say how we shall meet beyond the mountain, if either of
the trails prove false.”

“It is good,” said War–Eagle; “Attō shall lead the warriors who go with
my white brother, and before the third sun rises we will come together
again, and talk of what we have seen.”

Having thus spoken, the chief waved his hand to intimate that the
council was dissolved; and calling Wingenund and Attō aside, he gave
them clear and rapid instructions as to the course to be pursued in
case of the trails diverging to opposite quarters, and he established
at the same time various signals, to be used in case of necessity.

Pierre and M. Perrot asked and obtained leave to join Reginald’s
party; most of the horses, and all the spare baggage, followed that
of War–Eagle, who led them off through the defile in the mountains
before alluded to, while Wingenund led the way to the trail which he
had discovered, with the light springy step of an antelope, and an
expression of bright confidence on his countenance, which communicated
a similar feeling to those who might otherwise have been disinclined to
trust themselves to the guidance of a youth on his first war–path.

While these things were passing in the allied camp, the Osage named
Toweno, who had, it may be remembered, been sent forward by Mahéga to
reconnoitre, returned on the following morning to his chief, bringing
him intelligence that the fires seen at a distance were those of a
numerous band of Upsarokas: he had crept near enough to recognise
them as such by their dress, the trappings of their horses, and other
indications not to be mistaken. On receiving this information, Mahéga
revolved in his mind various plans for gaining the good will of his
dangerous neighbours, and of securing their alliance as a protection
against any further hostilities that might yet be attempted by those
in pursuit of his trail. As he had often before profited by the shrewd
advice of his follower, so did he invite him now to give his opinion
as to the best course to be adopted; and in order that the discussion
might not be overheard, he walked slowly with Toweno down a glade which
led towards the Crow camp.

They had not proceeded far, when they saw a fine bison–cow coming
directly towards them: from her languid and crippled movement, it was
evident that she was wounded; while from her struggles to get forward,
it was equally clear that she was pursued. The Osages lost not a moment
in crouching below the cover of a thick bush; and scarcely had they
done so, when a mounted Indian appeared, urging his tired horse up
the glade after the wounded cow. It happened that she fell, unable
to proceed further, not many yards from the spot where Mahéga was
concealed; and her pursuer slackening his pace, approached leisurely;
and having shot another arrow into her side, despatched her with the
long knife which hung at his belt.

He was a tall, fine–looking man, in the prime of life, with remarkably
high cheek bones, an aquiline nose, and a mass of long hair, gathered
or clubbed at the back of his head; his hunting–shirt and leggings
denoted by their ornaments a warrior of rank in his tribe, and his
whole appearance and bearing were indicative of habitual authority.

The little steed which had borne him, and which in truth would have
been termed among white men a pony, stood panting beside its master,
whose weight seemed entirely disproportioned to its size and strength;
and the Crow hunter now stooped over the bison–cow, examining her
condition and her fat with the attention of a practised Indian gourmand.

Meanwhile, half a minute sufficed for Mahéga to explain his intentions
in a whisper to his follower, and less than half a minute sufficed
to carry them into execution. Rushing together upon the Crow while
he was stooping with his back towards them, they seized and pinioned
him before he had time to catch up his knife or to offer the least
resistance. Never was there an attack more unexpected, nor a victory
more easily obtained; and the discomfited Crow looked upon his two
captors with an astonishment that he could not conceal. Their dress
and tribe were altogether strange to him; and the scouts around the
camp having brought in no report of any suspicious appearance or trail
having been discovered, it could not be wondered at if he imagined that
they must have pounced upon him from the clouds.

As soon as Mahéga had assured himself that the hands of the prisoner
were securely tied, he led him towards a spot more sheltered from
observation, Toweno following with the horse; and if the Crow felt
at first any uneasiness respecting their intentions towards him, it
must have been soon dispelled, as the Osage chief assured him, in the
language of signs, that no harm was intended to him, and that he would
soon be at liberty.

After a short consultation with Toweno, the chief determined to conduct
the prisoner to his camp, on reaching which his arms were unbound, and
he was courteously invited to take a seat by his captors. The Crow
obeyed without any apparent reluctance, having satisfied himself by
a hasty glance around that he was watched by several well–armed men,
and that any attempt at escape or resistance must be for the present
hopeless of success.

The pipe of peace having been smoked between the Osage and his
prisoner, some meat and cakes were placed before the latter, of which
he partook without hesitation; but he could not resist casting sundry
curious glances at the white tent, wondering what it might contain;
he observed also the numerous packs and bales scattered around, and
thought within himself that, whatever might be his own fate, many of
these would ere long fall into the hands of his tribe.

As soon as he had finished his meal, Mahéga resumed the conversation
in the language of signs, explained to him that he wished to become
friends with the Upsaroka; that he had come from very far with few
followers, having fought with the Pale–faces; that the tent was Great
Medicine, and contained that which brought wealth and good things to
friends, but terror and misfortunes to enemies.

It may be supposed that the Upsaroka did not, in his present
circumstances, regret these peaceful overtures; on the contrary, he
bound himself by the most solemn promises to do every thing in his
power towards establishing friendship between their respective tribes,
and he gave Mahéga to understand by his gestures that he was not
without authority among the Crows.[62]

Upon receiving this assurance the Osage chief suffered his prisoner to
depart, restoring to him his horse, and presenting him with several
trinkets in token of friendship.

The first use which the latter made of his recovered liberty was
to invite Mahéga to return with him to the Upsaroka village, an
invitation which, to the surprise of his followers, he accepted without
hesitation.

With a parting caution to Toweno to keep his men watchful and ready
against a surprise, he threw a battle–robe[63] over his broad
shoulders, and, armed with his rifle, tomahawk, and knife, accompanied
his new ally towards the Crow village.

On approaching it, he found that it consisted of more than a hundred
lodges, containing, probably, two hundred men, besides women and
children.

Great was their surprise when they saw the gigantic stranger advancing
with his conductor towards the lodge of the principal chief, to whom he
was nearly related.

The mien and bearing of the Osage, as he entered the lodge, were alone
sufficient to secure for him a courteous invitation to sit in the place
of honour; while the Crow who had been his prisoner briefly narrated to
the head chief the circumstances under which the stranger visited his
camp.

The pipe of friendship having been smoked in due form, the Crow
chief whispered a few words in the ear of a youth beside him, who
disappeared immediately, and the party sat in silence until he
returned, accompanied by an individual whose appearance was singular in
the extreme: his head was of an enormous size, and covered with black
shaggy hair; his features were coarse and forbidding, nor was their
expression improved by a patch of leather plastered over the cavity
which had once been occupied by his left eye; his shoulders were broad,
and his arms of unusual length; his stature was scarcely five feet, and
his legs were bandy, with clumsy knees, like those of a buffalo–bull:
this unsightly ogre rejoiced in the name of Besha–ro–Kata, signifying,
in the Crow language, “the little bison,” but he was commonly called
“Besha,” or the “Bison,” the diminutive termination being omitted.

His origin was involved in a mystery that neither he nor any one else
could satisfactorily explain, for he had been born in that wild region
watered by the Arkansas, and his mother, a Comanche woman, was said
to have divided her favours, previous to the birth of Besha, between
a half–bred trader to Santa Fé, and a runaway negro from one of the
southern slave–states; she died while he was yet an infant; and as he
had never been owned or claimed by either of his reputed fathers, it
was a miracle that he ever lived to manhood.

In his early years he hovered about the hunting parties of Osages,
Comanches, Pani–picas, and other tribes, who frequented the region
where he had been left to shift for himself, and at other seasons none
knew whether he lived upon roots, berries, and honey, or wandered to
tribes yet more remote from his birth–place. He was never known, either
in summer or winter, to wear any other dress than a bison–skin with
the hair outwards, in the centre of which he cut a hole, and passing
his head through the aperture, wore this uncouth skin like the Poncha
of the Mexicans. From these early rambling habits, he had picked up
a smattering of many Indian dialects, and of these the Osage was one
with which he was the most familiar; he enjoyed a high reputation among
the Crows, not only from his being often useful as an interpreter, but
because he was, without exception, the most skilful horse–stealer in
the whole region between the Arkansas and the mountains. He was also
deeply versed in the knowledge of all the properties of plants, roots,
and herbs, so much so, that, unless fame wronged him, more than one
of his enemies had died by the agency of subtle poison. Such was the
personage who, fixing his single cunning eye upon Mahéga, inquired,
on the part of the Crows, his object in paying them a visit. The
conversation, rendered into English, was in substance as follows:—

_Besha._ “Has the Washashee come to hunt and trap among the Stony
Mountains?”

_Mahéga._ “He has not; he has come towards the setting sun, because the
enemies on his path were too many for him—he wished for peace.”

_B._ “Has the Washashee a name in his tribe?”

_M._ “He has a name; when the war–post is struck, Mahéga is not
silent,” said the chief, haughtily.

_B._ “Mahéga!” repeated the horse–stealer, to whom the name was
evidently not unknown. “Mahéga, the Red–hand!—does he wander so far
from his village?”

_M._ “He wanders, but there is Great Medicine in his lodge; blood has
been on his path, and his enemies do not laugh.”

_B._ “Whom are the men with whom Mahéga has dug up the hatchet?”

_M._ “Pale–faces, and cowardly red–skins, who are their friends.”

When this reply was translated, a great sensation was visible among
the Crows, several of whom whispered together. After receiving a few
instructions from the chief, Besha proceeded with his inquiry.

_B._ “Are the Pale–faces on the trail of Mahéga?”

_M._ “They are.”

_B._ “How many?”

_M._ “Mahéga does not know.”

_B._ “Is there a pale–faced warrior with them,—young and tall, riding
a dark horse, very swift and strong?”

_M._ “There is,” said the Osage, astonished in his turn at hearing
Reginald thus accurately described by the interpreter.

Again there was a murmur, and consultation among the Crows, after which
Besha thus proceeded:

“What is the wish of Mahéga? the Upsaroka ears are open.”

M. “He wishes to make friends with them, to join his strength to
theirs, to drive these Pale–face thieves out of the Crow country.
Mahéga’s warriors are few, but they are not squaws; his hands are not
empty; he has presents for the chiefs, and he will not forget the
interpreter.” He added, sinking his voice almost to a whisper, “He has
many things, enough to make the tribe rich, hid in a cave far to the
south; if the Crow will be his brother, he shall find that Mahéga has
an open hand.”

The cunning chief was aware of the thieving propensities of the
Upsaroka, and he purposely threw out this last hint that they might
be induced to spare his baggage, in the hope of ultimately possessing
themselves of the more important treasure in his “câche.” Nor was his
stratagem without effect, for the discovery and possession of the
contents of that câche became forthwith the principal object of the
Crow chief; and the readiest mode of attaining it was to make friends
with the party who could alone guide him to it.

Fortune had in this instance been more propitious to Mahéga than he
deserved; for, as the reader has probably conjectured, he had fallen
in with that very Upsaroka band, a detachment of which had been so
roughly handled a few days before by Reginald Brandon and the Delawares
under his command.

The high contracting parties being thus united by the strong ties of
avarice, and revenge against a common enemy, an offensive and defensive
alliance was entered into immediately. Mahéga soon discovered the
motive which impelled his new friends so strongly to espouse his
cause, and was thereby satisfied that, for the present at least, he
might trust them. Before nightfall, the white tent of Prairie–bird was
pitched at the edge of the Upsaroka camp, and the Osages took up their
quarters around it, so that none could leave or enter it unperceived by
them.

Early on the following morning Mahéga received a visit from the Crow
chief, who, accompanied by Besha, came ostensibly to show him courtesy,
but in reality to inspect his packages, horses, men, and equipments;
and, if possible, to solve the mystery of the Great Medicine in the
white tent. The Osage warriors, strong, weather–beaten men, every one
provided with a rifle in addition to the usual arms of an Indian, had
no reason to fear the scrutinising eye of the Crow; indeed, the latter
began already to calculate how he might best avail himself of their aid
in an expedition which he meditated against his hereditary enemies the
Black Feet.

After the pipe had been smoked, and food set before his guests, Mahéga
desired one of the smaller packages to be opened, from which he
selected a blanket, and spreading upon it various beads and trinkets,
presented the whole, in token of friendship, to the Upsaroka chief, who
seemed highly delighted with the gift.

His expressions of gratitude, conveyed through Besha, were unbounded.
He did not, however, think it requisite to express, at the same
time, his vehement desire to become the possessor of all the goods
and chattels belonging to the Osage; neither did the latter forget
to propitiate the interpreter, whom he presented with a knife and
ornamented sheath, both of which were graciously accepted.

The Crow was resolved not to leave the spot until he had solved the
enigma of the mysterious tent; and finding that his guest still kept
silence on the subject, he directed Besha to use his best exertions
towards the gratification of his curiosity. An opportunity being
afforded by the appearance of Lita, who went out to draw some water
from the stream, the interpreter inquired whether that woman was the
“Great Medicine” of which he had spoken.

Mahéga, who was desirous of impressing the Crows with a due respect for
Prairie–bird, shook his head, replying, “That is the slave of the Great
Medicine.”

_Besha._ “Is the Great Medicine a chief—a wise man?”

_Mahéga._ “No: it is in the form of a woman; but its power is very
great. It talks with the Great Spirit, and the Wahconda[64] listens to
its speech!”

_Besha._ “Many are the medicine–men who talk with the Great Spirit;
they see dreams, and give counsel to the warriors and chiefs; there is
no new Medicine here.”

“My brother speaks truth,” said Osage, smiling scornfully. “But if the
medicine–men of the Upsaroka call to the sun, will he come out of his
path, or hide his face at their words?”

Having thus spoken, Mahéga lowered his voice, as if afraid of being
overheard by the mysterious tenant of the tent, and related to the
wondering Besha the circumstances attending the late eclipse.

The interpreter having given the explanation to his chief, they looked
at each other in speechless astonishment; for not only was there an air
of truth in the statement of Mahéga, but the Crows having themselves
observed the mystery of the darkened sun, were thereby led to listen
with believing awe to the wonderful disclosure made by the Osage.

Perceiving his advantage, the latter again relapsed into silence, which
was broken, after a few minutes, by the interpreter, who inquired, on
the part of his chief, whether the Great Medicine of the tent would
receive a present from him. To this the cautious Osage replied, that
the daughter of the Unknown cared not for the things belonging to other
women; but that her smile and her good words would bring prosperity
to those with whom she dwelt, while her curse would ensure their
destruction; on which account it would not do any harm if the Upsaroka
were to offer a present to her Medicine.

The latter now finding that, during this visit at least, his curiosity
would not be gratified by a sight of the mysterious dweller in the
tent, arose, and took a courteous leave of the Osage chief, who
remained for some time ruminating abstractedly over his future plans,
and the probability of their ultimate success.

Scarcely half an hour had elapsed ere Besha returned, accompanied by
two young Indians, one of whom led a wild horse, which he presented
on the part of his chief to Mahéga; and the other was the bearer of
a large package of beaver–skins of the finest quality, which he laid
down at the door of the tent, and retired, casting back uneasy glances,
apparently relieved at having safely executed a commission fraught with
danger.

Mahéga presented each of the youths with a handsome knife, and Besha
with a mirror, wherein he contemplated his cyclopean countenance
with undisguised satisfaction; so long, indeed, did he continue this
admiring self–inspection, that the two young Crows left him engaged in
it, and returned to their quarters.

They had not been long gone before the interpreter commenced a
confidential conversation with the Osage chief, during which each
endeavoured, with little success on either side, to overreach
the other: at the same time, the conference was not without its
satisfactory issue to both parties; for Mahéga ascertained that the
Crows viewed the mixed band of Whites and Delawares with feelings as
hostile as his own, and that they were as deeply impressed as he could
desire with awe for the mysterious powers of Prairie–bird. On the other
hand, Besha satisfied himself that his own services would be almost
indispensable to the Osage, and that the latter was neither unwilling
nor unable to reward them liberally; so that after a complimentary
conversation of some length, these two rogues parted, with many
expressions of mutual regard and esteem.

Scarcely was the interpreter out of sight, when Mahéga sprung from the
ground to examine more closely the steed presented to him by the Crow
chief. It was a strong, high–mettled bay colt, untamed, and almost
untameable; if the truth must be told, the latter had given it to his
guest because neither he nor any of his warriors could subdue its
violent and vicious spirit, although the Crows are renowned among the
Indian nations as bold and expert horsemen.

On whatever side Mahéga endeavoured to approach to mount it, the horse
struck fiercely at him, using both hind and fore feet with equal
rapidity; but the Osage, penetrating at once the motives of the Crow’s
liberality, smiled in disdain of the shallow trick, and, seizing his
opportunity, threw himself upon the wild, unsaddled animal, despite of
whose furious plunging and resistance, he sat unmoved like a centaur;
and plying his whip and heel with unmitigated severity, compelled it to
gallop at full speed over the prairie, until he thought fit to bring it
back to the camp, wearied, breathless, and subdued. Then throwing the
halter to one of his men, he quietly resumed his pipe, leaving the Crow
chief and his people to draw their own conclusions from what they had
seen.



CHAPTER II.

 CONTAINING VARIOUS INCIDENTS THAT OCCURRED TO THE PARTY FOLLOWING THE
 TRAIL.—PLOTS AND COUNTERPLOTS, AND A DISCUSSION UPON ORATORY, WHICH IS
 VERY MUCH OUT OF PLACE, AND, FORTUNATELY FOR THE READER, IS NOT VERY
 LONG.


There is scarcely any position or occasion in life more gratifying to
a young and generous spirit, than when it finds itself, for the first
time, entrusted with a high responsibility. The elastic mind, far from
succumbing under the unwonted burden, springs upward with increased
vigour to resist its pressure; and the trials and difficulties which
threaten to overwhelm it, only serve to call forth and multiply its
energies. Such was the case with Wingenund, who now found himself,
although not yet seventeen years of age, leading a gallant band on a
trail—a task which is at all times the greatest trial of an Indian
warrior’s skill; and, if successful, lays the foundation of his fame.
The issue at stake was, in this instance, heightened by the importance
of the object to be attained, and by the remarkable circumstance that
he had ventured to differ from, and overrule, the opinion of his elder
brother, the most sagacious warrior of the tribe.

Fully impressed with the serious responsibility that he had incurred,
the youth set forth upon the trail with a gravity of demeanour which
contrasted strongly with his almost boyish years. Yet while his keen
eye darted from point to point, suffering not a blade of grass to
escape its scrutiny, his countenance wore a beaming look of confidence,
that imparted its cheering influence to the whole party.

For some hours he marched rapidly forward, with the assured step of
a man who was treading a familiar path. Attō followed at no great
distance, next to whom, on the trail, came Reginald, with Ethelston,
Baptiste, and the other Whites, the line being closed by the Delawares,
who brought up the rear. It may easily be imagined that Reginald bent
his eyes anxiously on the path; but although frequent traces were
discernible of the passage of men, as well as of various animals, he
could not discover the slightest indication of the marks for which he
looked; neither did the observation of the more experienced Baptiste
meet with any better success.

When Wingenund reached the streamlet, on the sandy edge of which he
had before noticed the light tread of a foot, which in spite of its
dimension, he believed to be that of Prairie–bird or her attendant,
he halted the party, and summoned Attō to a close examination of the
trail. Stooping over it, the Indian looked long and earnestly, after
which he shook his head, as if dissatisfied, and muttered a few words,
the meaning of which Baptiste was not near enough to catch. Wingenund
made no reply, and crossing the brook resumed the trail on its opposite
bank.

“Does Attō find the mark of women’s feet on the sand?” inquired
Baptiste.

“He is not sure; bison have passed over the marks, and trodden them,”
was the evasive reply, and the party proceeded on the track.

Nothing of any importance occurred for some time to enliven the tedium
of the march. The sanguine hopes of Reginald had been checked by what
had fallen from Attō, of whose acuteness he justly entertained a high
opinion. Ethelston seemed buried in deep reflection; and even the comic
sallies of Monsieur Perrot failed to excite any mirth in those to whom
they were addressed.

“Ethelston, I fear that I acted imprudently,” said his friend in a
low voice “when I preferred the counsel of this youth to the more
experienced opinion of War–Eagle; yet there was something in his manner
that I could not resist.”

“Doubtless,” replied Ethelston, “the counsel of the elder warrior was
entitled to the greater weight; and yet I do not think that he would
himself have placed this detachment under the guidance of Wingenund,
unless he felt sure that the latter had strong grounds for the tenacity
with which he clung to his opinion.”

“I would willingly peril my life on his truth and fidelity,” said
Reginald. “The question is, whether on this occasion he may not have
been led into some error by the very eagerness of his wishes, and the
ardour of his temperament.”

Scarcely had he uttered these words, when Wingenund stooped to pick
up a small object which his quick eye had caught beside the trail; in
another minute he placed it in the hand of Reginald, while a triumphant
smile lit up his animated features. The object referred to was a slip
of folded paper, damp with the dew which had fallen upon it. Reginald
opened its folds, then gazed upon it in silence, with a fixed look,
like one in a trance, while his powerful frame trembled from head to
foot. The paroxysm of excitement lasted but for a moment, then putting
the slip of paper into the hand of Ethelston, he threw himself into the
arms of Wingenund; and if a tear escaped him, it fell unseen upon the
bosom which he pressed with grateful affection to his heart.

Meanwhile Ethelston made himself master of the secret which had
produced an effect so sudden as to cause the greatest astonishment in
the whole party, now gathered round to ascertain what had happened.
He had read on the slip the magical word “Follow,” written in a
distinct legible hand, and every doubt as to the Prairie–bird having
passed along the trail vanished in an instant. This was no sooner made
known to the hunters, and by Baptiste to the Delawares, than a shout
of triumph from the whole party roused Reginald from the momentary
weakness into which he had been betrayed.

“Follow thee!” he exclaimed aloud, holding the paper in his left hand,
and grasping a rifle in his right; “Follow thee, dearest one! yes, over
prairie and mountain, through valley and river, in cold or in heat, in
hunger or thirst, there are those here who will never cease to follow
thee, until thou art set free, and the injuries done to thyself and
thy kindred dearly avenged!”

Again a shout of sympathetic enthusiasm broke from the party, as they
caught the words of their leader, and read on his glowing countenance
the intense ardour of feelings, too strong to be repressed.

What must have been, in the meantime, the sensations of the Delaware
youth? The affectionate yearnings of his heart towards his adopted
brother, his deep anxiety for his sister’s fate, his future fame
as the rising war–chief of his tribe, all these combined together
to swell the triumph of the hour; yet there was not visible in his
features the slightest appearance of gratified pride or vanity; and if
his dark eye beamed with a brighter lustre, it was not so much with
self–congratulation at what he had done, as with high aspirations for
the glorious task before him.

Ethelston, who had watched him closely, was surprised at his calm,
unmoved demeanour, and whispered to Baptiste, “Wingenund evinces little
anxiety or emotion on this occasion; and yet this undoubted token which
he has found on the trail must be a great triumph to him, after the
doubts expressed by so many warriors of greater experience.”

“It’s partly the natur’, and partly the trainin’ of the boy,” replied
the guide, leaning on his long rifle; “the stronger his feelings the
less will he show ‘em to another man. I reckon this has been one of
the proudest moments in his life, yet, as you say, he looks almost as
if he’d nothin’ to do with the matter; and he’d look the same if the
Osages were pinchin’ his flesh with hot tongs. Wingenund is three years
older now than he was last month!”

“You are right,” Baptiste, replied Ethelston: “it is not days, nor
weeks, nor months, but rough trials, brave deeds, and deep feelings
that make up the calendar of human life.”

So saying, he sighed, and musingly resumed his place in the line of
march, remembering in how short a space of time Nina’s unrequited love
had, while she was still younger than the lad of whom he was speaking,
consigned her, wasted and heart–broken, to the grave.

Again Wingenund moved swiftly forward on the trail, and the whole
party followed, their hopes excited, and their spirits raised by the
occurrence above related. Reginald walked silently on, still clasping
in his hand the magic token which had conjured up hopes and thoughts
too deep for utterance. From time to time his lips unconsciously
murmured “Follow!” and then the idea shot like fire through his brain,
that all his power to obey the dear behest hung upon the sagacity of
the youth who was now tracing the steps of an enemy, skilled in all
the wiles of Indian warfare, and whose object it clearly was to baffle
pursuit.

Before the close of day the watchful perseverance of Wingenund was
again rewarded by finding another of the slips of paper dropped by
Prairie–bird, which he brought, as before, to Reginald. The magic
“Follow” again met his longing eyes; and as he announced it to the rest
of the party, a joyful anticipation of success pervaded every breast.

After a brief consultation with Attō, Wingenund now resolved to halt
for the night, as the increasing darkness rendered it impossible any
longer to distinguish the trail with accuracy; so the horses were
picketed, the succession of sentries arranged, and the party bivouacked
under the shelter of two enormous pines, where the preparations for a
substantial supper were soon completed, Monsieur Perrot taking charge
of that destined for Reginald and Ethelston, while Bearskin and the
other hunters prepared a meal for themselves and the Delawares apart.
Wingenund was about to join the latter party; but at the earnest
request of the two friends, he placed himself beside them, Baptiste
being invited to sit down with them also.

It may be imagined that the conversation turned chiefly upon the
all–engrossing subject of the pursuit in which they were engaged; and
Ethelston was struck by the change which he observed in the demeanour
of Wingenund; for the latter had now put off the gravity and somewhat
haughty bearing of the aspiring warrior, and had resumed the playful
and touching simplicity of manner that was natural to his years, and
accorded equally well with the almost feminine delicacy of his features
and the soft melody of his voice. He took no pains to conceal the
pleasure with which he received the warm and sincere encomium that
Reginald passed upon the patience and sagacity that he had displayed in
his arduous task.

“Netis owes me no thanks,” he said, smiling. “Love for my sister, and
revenge on the Washashes, who like cowards and false friends slew my
kindred,—these lead me on the trail.”

“It is not your eagerness, nor the strength of your motives that I
call in question, dear Wingenund; but I am surprised that you are able
to follow so slight a trail without being deceived by the tricks and
devices of the Osage.”

“The Black Father has often told me that among the southern men there
are dogs who can follow the foot of a man by day or night, and will
never leave the scent till they seize him. If an antelope is wounded,
the wolf will hunt the track of her blood on the prairie till he finds
her; if a bison is killed, turkey buzzards, many in number, fly from
far to to the carcass, though there is no trail in the air for them to
follow. Is it wonderful that the Great Spirit should bestow on the son
of his ancient people a gift enjoyed by these beasts and fowls?”

“What you say is true,” replied Reginald, “yet certainly we who live in
settlements have not these faculties; at least we have them in a very
inferior degree.”

“The wise men of our nation have always said that the eyes and ears of
white men are not good; but the Black Father says that their speech is
not true, for that the Great Spirit has made the ears and eyes of red
and white men alike, only the Pale–faces do not improve them, as we do,
by use.”

“Your Black Father may say what he likes,” interposed Baptiste, “but
I maintain that the ears of a white man are no more like the ears
of a real Ingian than the paws of a bear are like the legs of an
antelope. I remember, though it’s now some twenty years ago, I was
out on a hunt in the North with a Delaware comrade; he was called in
the tribe, ‘The–man–who–hears–from–far;’—to say truth, I thought he
often pretended to hear things that never happened, only just to keep
up his name. We had walked all the morning, and having killed an elk,
sat down to cook it on the prairie. All at once he held up his finger
for me to keep silence; and turning his head to listen, his countenance
changed, and his ear pricked up like that of a scared doe. Nay, Master
Reginald, you need not smile, for it’s as true as a gun–barrel; and
said I, ‘What’s the matter now?’ He made no answer, but went a little
way off; and lying down, put the side of his head to the ground. He
soon returned, and told me that ‘a big canoe was coming over the
lake.’—‘What,’ said I, ‘over that lake we passed this morning beyond
those high woods?’—‘Yes,’ he replied, ‘the same; I hear the paddles
dip in the water.’ I laughed in his face, and told him he was dreaming;
for the lake was, may be, two miles off; but he declared that he had
heard the paddles as plain as he now heard my voice. I tried to listen,
but could not hear a sound; however, I knew that if he was right,
the canoe would be full of enemies, seein’ that we had no particular
friends then in the Dahcotah country, and I thought it better to
believe him for once: so we put more sticks on the fire, to make as
great a smoke as we could, and then ran off to the top of a hill, where
a big pine–tree grew; and as it was about half–way between the fire and
the lake, we clomb in among its branches, where we could have a good
look–out on both. We remained some time without hearing or seeing any
thing; and I began to conceive that my comrade had made a fool of me,
as well as of himself, when we saw five or six Sioux devils peep out of
the brush at the edge of the prairie, where they pointed to the smoke
that rose from our fire, and began to creep cautiously towards it.”

At this point the narrative of the guide was unexpectedly interrupted
by a sharp cry uttered by Monsieur Perrot, who jumped up from his seat,
and capered like a harlequin, making at the same time the most doleful
grimaces and ejaculations. Wingenund was the first to perceive and to
explain to Reginald the cause of the unfortunate valet’s distress, in
doing which he laughed with such hearty inexpressible mirth, that the
tears started from his eyes.

It appears that Monsieur Perrot, in his anxiety to hear Baptiste’s
adventure, had unconsciously edged himself nearer and nearer to the
fire, by the side of which was a small pile of dry burrs and prickly
adhesive twigs; while sitting upon these, and listening intently to
the narrative, they had become accidentally ignited, and not only
burnt him as he sat, but adhered to his nether garments when he jumped
up, where they continued to crackle and smoke in spite of the efforts
which he made to disengage himself from them. To add to his terror, he
remembered at this critical juncture that there was a powder–flask in
the hinder pocket of his jacket; a circumstance which he communicated
to his master with renewed exclamations, and unavailing attempts to rid
himself of the dangerous magazine. On hearing this, Ethelston emptied
a vessel full of water over a blanket that lay beside him, in which he
immediately enveloped the alarmed valet, and by this ready application
of one element freed him from the more serious danger to be apprehended
from the other.

As soon as the gravity of the party was in some degree restored,
Reginald requested the guide to conclude the narrative which had been
so unexpectedly interrupted, expressing at the same time his curiosity
to learn how Baptiste and his comrade had extricated themselves from
their unpleasant position among the branches of the pine–tree.

“Why, you see, Master Reginald, as soon as they were fairly busied in
making their way to the fire which we had left burning, we slipped
down the tree, and struck into the wood, where we had no difficulty in
finding their back–trail to the lake, and creeping cautiously towards
the shore, we found that the hot–headed fools had left no one to watch
their canoe, which we spied under the boughs of an alder that hung
over the lake; so we just stuck a piece of stick in the ground, with a
Delaware mark on it to vex ‘em on their return, when we paddled away
to the other side; and having bored two holes in the canoe, and broken
the paddles, we went on our way; and since that time I’ve always held
my own opinion about an Indian’s ears, and I’m not likely to change it
now.”

Whether the guide’s story was tedious, or that the fatigues of the day
had produced their effects upon his hearers, certain it is, that soon
after its conclusion both the ears and eyes of the greater portion were
closed in sleep; and nothing having occurred during the night to alarm
those who had watched, the whole party set forward as soon as daylight
broke on the following morning.

Wingenund had no difficulty in making out the trail until he reached
the banks of the river, in crossing which Mahéga had taken so much
pains to mislead his pursuers. Here the youth halted, and informed
Reginald that he might look for game during the remainder of the day,
as it would be necessary for him and Attō to search for War–Eagle’s
party, and with them to find the right trail on the opposite bank.

The two Delawares started at a rapid pace to the westward, bestowing
as they went careful attention on various tracks of bison and other
animals which had crossed at the different fords that they passed.
After a toilsome march of some hours, they fell in with War–Eagle’s
party, whom they found occupied in a like investigation. The chief
learnt his young brother’s success with undisguised pleasure; his
nature was too noble to entertain a thought of jealousy; and one of the
first wishes of his heart was to see Wingenund take his place among
the first warriors of the tribe. He had ascertained beyond a doubt,
that although the horses of the Osages had crossed the river opposite
to the trail which he had been following, they had not travelled far
in that direction, but had returned to the bed of the river for the
obvious purpose of baffling pursuit; and the Delawares now crossed to
the northern bank, and after minute examination of every path and track
which led from it, they arrived in the evening at the point from whence
Wingenund started, confident that the right trail must, if the Osages
had crossed at all, be at some spot lower down the stream.

The whole party, now again reunited, encamped for the night, and
related, over their evening meal, the indications and tracks which
they had remarked on their respective lines of march. At the earliest
dawn War–Eagle was again afoot, and after an hour’s patient search, he
struck a trail, which he pronounced, without hesitation, to be that of
the Osages. As it led through a wooded and hilly region along the base
of the Great Mountains, abounding in narrow and dangerous passes, every
precaution was used against ambush or surprise; War–Eagle, Wingenund,
and Attō leading the advance, with several of the most swift and
skilful of their warriors, and the white men, who brought up the rear,
being cautioned against straggling or falling behind the main body.

Another slip of paper found upon the trail, bearing Prairie–bird’s
inspiring watchword “Follow,” raised the spirits of the party to the
highest pitch. They halted at midday to refresh themselves and their
horses for an hour under the shade of some spreading cedars, above
which rose a high conical peak, on the sides of which were scattered a
few dwarf oaks, and other timber of stunted growth. Obeying a signal
from War–Eagle, Reginald climbed with him to the summit of this hill,
whence they could command an extensive view of the sand–hills and
undulating ocean of prairie to the eastward, while above them to the
westward towered the lofty and still distant mountain–tops, clad in
their bright mantle of eternal snow.

But it was not to enjoy the splendour of this magnificent prospect that
the Delaware had toiled up this steep ascent, or that he now cast his
restless and searching eye towards the north and east horizon: he had
another object in view. Neither did he seem to have altogether failed
in its attainment, for after gazing long and intently upon a spot to
the northward, his countenance brightened, and he desired Reginald,
who was unable to distinguish so distant a speck with the naked eye,
to examine it carefully with his telescope, for that he would see
something there that would make his heart beat.

Reginald did so, and having succeeded in catching the indicated object
with his glass, he exclaimed, “War–Eagle, my brother, you are right, I
can see them plainly, one—two—three—aye, twenty Indian lodges, and
_the white tent_ among them. Heaven be praised for all its mercies, we
shall save her yet!”

For a few moments the chief was silent; then he said, “Let my brother
use the glass again, and say how many lodges he can count.”

“There seem to be very many,” said Reginald, after a careful survey,
“more than fifty, but I cannot count them, for the tent is on a small
hill, and some may be hid behind it.”

“Mahéga smokes the pipe with a powerful tribe,” said the Delaware,
musing; and the two friends descended the hill, each contemplating,
according to the bent of their respective characters, the difficulties
yet to be encountered, and the means by which those difficulties might
be overcome.

Meanwhile it must not be supposed that Mahéga remained in idle security
a resident in the Crow encampment; he appreciated too justly the skill
and perseverance of War–Eagle to suppose that the latter would not
strike and follow his trail, he therefore turned his attention to the
strengthening of his alliance with his new friends by every means in
his power. In this endeavour his own sagacity was admirably, though
perhaps unconsciously, seconded by the winning manners and character
of Prairie–bird; for the Crows, who had been prepared to look upon her
with a feeling akin to dread, were agreeably surprised by her extreme
beauty, and the gentleness of her demeanour.

The cunning Osage, knowing that she could only be drawn from the strict
seclusion in which she lived by her never–failing willingness to
alleviate suffering, had caused several children, and others afflicted
with illness, to be brought to her, and she never declined giving them
such remedies from her remaining stock of medicine as she thought most
likely to afford relief. The general success of her simple pharmacy
fully answered the expectations of Mahéga, in the increasing anxiety
daily evinced by the Crows to guard and protect the “Great Medicine” of
the tent; and thus, while obeying the dictates of her own gentle and
humane feeling, the maiden little knew that she was strengthening the
cords of her captivity.

Neither did Mahéga neglect to take every precaution against an attack
or surprise on the part of War–Eagle and his party. Although ignorant
of their precise force, he knew that they would in all probability be
well armed, and was far from satisfied with the position of the present
encampment occupied by the Crows.

After conversing once or twice with Besha, and the judicious admixture
of a few presents to that _dis_interested personage, he learnt that
there was at a distance of half a day’s march to the northward a
favourite stronghold of the Crows, to which they frequently resorted
when attacked by an enemy too numerous to be resisted in the open
plain, and it was represented to be in a neighbourhood affording
abundance of game, and a plentiful supply of pasture for the horses.

Mahéga found it not a very difficult task to persuade the Crow chief
to withdraw to this post, representing to him the formidable equipment
of the Delawares aided by their white allies, and he urged him also to
send a few of his best runners to hang about the trail by which he had
himself arrived, so that timely notice of the enemy’s approach might be
received.

The Crow acquiesced in both suggestions, and the united band moved
off accordingly to the post above referred to, which they reached in
the afternoon of the same day; it was a conical hill, covered on one
side with low juniper bushes, and rising suddenly out of the prairie
at a distance of several miles from the higher range of mountains to
the west; a few hundred yards further to the east was another height
of similar elevation, but of less circumference, and between these
two lay a valley of extreme fertility, watered by a stream so cool and
clear, that it bespoke at once the mountain source whence it flowed;
the eastern side of this second hill was almost perpendicular, so as
to be secure against any attack from that quarter; while an enemy
approaching from the valley would be exposed to missiles shot from
either height.

Mahéga saw at a glance the strength of the position, and proposed to
the chief that he, with his Osages, should garrison the smaller height,
leaving the larger hill and the intermediate valley to be occupied by
the Crows.

This arrangement being agreed upon, the tent of Prairie–bird was
pitched near the summit, on a spot where the ground gently sloped to
the westward, and a few scattered oaks, cedars, and pines afforded
not only a partial shelter from the rays of the sun, but a sufficient
supply of fuel for cooking the venison and bison–meat, which the
hunters had brought in abundantly. Some twenty lodges of the Crows were
placed upon the opposite and larger height; these consisted chiefly
of the principal braves and warriors; the intermediate valley being
occupied by the remainder of the band; and an ample space was left for
picketing the horses at night between the two hills.

On arriving at her new quarters, Prairie–bird could not avoid being
struck by the singularity as well as by the beauty of the scenery.
It was evident that the face of the sandstone rock, above which her
tent was pitched, had been eaten away by the action of water and
the elements; and she imagined that ere many years should pass, the
precipitous cliff on its eastern front would partially fall in, and
leave in its place a broken and turreted ruin, such as she had before
noted and admired on the western borders of the great prairie. It was a
great relief to her that she was so much by herself; for the lodge of
Mahéga and his followers was pitched somewhat lower down the hill than
her own tent, and she was yet further removed from the dirt and other
annoyances of the Crow lodges. This was, indeed, a great luxury, as the
quantity of bison–meat brought into the camp on the first day’s hunt
was so great, that the Upsaroka women were spreading and drying it in
every direction; and as these ladies are not usually very particular in
removing the offal, the odour thence arising in the valley below was
not the sweetest that could be imagined.

Mahéga was in high good humour in consequence of the successful
result of his arrangements; for he now occupied a post not only well
protected against the attack of an enemy, but where his baggage could
not be purloined by the light–fingered youths, who are so proverbially
abundant among the Crows. But however secure he might feel, he did
not relax his usual vigilance, in which he was zealously seconded
by Toweno; and whenever the one was absent from the garrison, even
for a short time, the other always remained at home on the watch. He
renewed, also, a rude breastwork of unhewn logs, which had been thrown
up by the Crows on some former occasion, and which afforded a shelter,
from behind which he and his men could fire upon an approaching enemy
without being themselves exposed.

They had not long been settled in their new quarters before the
detachment which had been sent to reconnoitre returned to report that
they had seen the united band of white men and Delawares, about thirty
in number, advancing cautiously along the base of the hills towards the
Upsaroka camp. The scouts had recognised Reginald as the person who had
killed one of their principal warriors; and the announcement of his
approach was received with a yell that showed how determinately the
Crows were bent on revenge.

A war–council was immediately held, which Mahéga was summoned to
attend; and although the wary Osage kept himself in the background, and
showed no disposition to offer his advice until twice pressed by Besha
to do so, it was soon evident that his spirit would rule the meeting,
and that on him would devolve the conduct of the struggle in which they
must soon expect to be engaged: such was the impression already made
upon his new allies by his gigantic stature, and the air of command
that accompanied his every word and gesture.

Unless the advantage of numbers was to be very great on his side,
Mahéga did not augur favourably of the result of an open conflict
between the Crows and the small but well–appointed force opposed to
them. He formed a just estimate of the skill and sagacity of War–Eagle,
and of the impetuous courage of Reginald Brandon. He hated both,
especially the latter, with all the bitter intensity of which his
nature was capable; and resolved that no stratagem should be left
untried to heap upon them every species of suffering and disgrace.

With this view, he conferred long, through the medium of Besha, with
the leading warriors of the Crows as to the nature of the ground in
the neighbourhood of the enemy’s line of march; being determined, if
possible, to lead them into an ambush; or at least to attack them in
some defile or pass, where the bow and arrow would be a better match
for the rifle than in the open plain. Not being altogether satisfied
with the replies which he received, he declined giving his opinion
until he should have reconnoitred the district in person, and set forth
without delay, accompanied by the dwarfish interpreter and two Crow
warriors, all being mounted on swift horses.

Having reached the base of the first range of hills, the Crow who acted
as guide struck into a narrow winding ravine; after following the
course of which for some distance, the party emerged upon an elevated
table land, which they crossed at full speed, and found themselves at
the base of a second range of hills, more broken and abrupt than the
first. Here the guide and Mahéga dismounted, and having concealed the
horses, and left them behind the projection of a rock in charge of the
other two, they climbed with some difficulty to the brow of a sandstone
cliff, whence they could command an extensive view of the region to the
southward.

Creeping cautiously to the edge of the height, and screening themselves
behind the junipers and scanty bushes growing there, they could easily
distinguish the camp of the Delawares and white men in the valley
below. The band had come to a halt, and were evidently engaged in
refreshing themselves and their horses with their midday meal.

The Osage chief glared upon them like a tiger on his anticipated prey.
He examined the ground in front and rear and flank of their position;
he noted the breadth of the pass where the valley opened out upon the
plain beyond, and questioned his guide closely as to the route which
they would probably take in advancing towards the Crow encampment.

We will leave him for a time to pursue these investigations, while we
return to Reginald and War–Eagle, whom we left deliberating as to the
most advisable course to be pursued for the rescue of Prairie–bird.

[Illustration: MAHÉGA SPYING THE CAMP OF THE DELAWARES  P. 398]

The Delaware chief having been soon informed by his scouts of the
enemy’s retreat to another and stronger position, lost no time in
pushing forward his party to the point in the valley where it had
(as above mentioned) been descried by Mahéga and his guide. Reginald
and the other white men were at a loss to imagine why War–Eagle had
selected for his halt a spot where a dense thicket on the side of
each hill seemed to offer to an enemy, familiar with the country, a
favourable opportunity for attacking him unawares; and even Baptiste,
when questioned upon the subject, shook his head, saying: “Wait till
to–morrow; we shall know by that time what hole the coon is making for.”

As for the Delawares, they ate their bison–meat and smoked their pipe
with as much indifference as if they were in the heart of their own
hunting–ground, being confident in the skill of their leader, from
the experience of many a foray and fight. The latter, having thrown
forward two or three of his men as outposts, to guard against surprise,
summoned Wingenund, to whom he gave, in an earnest voice, some minute
directions, which did not reach the ears of others in the party; and
the youth, as soon as he had received them, went up to Reginald, and
said to him, “Will Netis lend Nekimi to Wingenund? He will be back
before the moon is up,—and if he meets the Upsarokas, he must leave
them behind.”

Reginald testified his willing assent to the youth’s request, and in
a few minutes Nekimi was bounding over the prairie beneath his light
burthen with a speed that soon brought him to a point whence he could
command a view of the two heights, upon and between which the Crows
were encamped.

The sand–hills in that region project in many places from the base
of the Great Mountains into the open plain, like the promontories
of an indented shore into the ocean, and it was by skirting one of
these until he reached its extremity that he contrived to watch the
encampment of the Crows without being observed by their scouts; for
several hours he stood motionless by the side of Nekimi, under the
shade of a pine, with that untiring patience which renders an Indian
unequalled as a spy, when he saw four horsemen emerge from the camp,
and gallop off towards the base of the mountains. As soon as they
entered a valley where they were screened from his view, he put Nekimi
to his speed, and by a shorter cut reached the head of the same valley
before them; then leaving his horse behind a thicket of junipers, he
crept forward, and hiding himself in some brushwood, waited for the
passing of the horsemen.

As the roughness of the ground had compelled them to slacken their
speed, he had no difficulty in recognising Mahéga, but the features
of the misshapen interpreter and the Crow warriors were, of course,
strange to him. He watched the Osage chief and his companion as they
climbed the hill, from the top of which they made their observations
of the Delaware camp; and as they returned and remounted their horses,
they passed so near to his hiding–place that the youth distinctly heard
two or three words which Mahéga spoke to Besha in the Osage tongue. As
soon as they were out of sight he hastened to the spot where he had
left Nekimi, and returned at full speed to make his report to War–Eagle.

The chief had evidently been awaiting with some impatience the return
of his messenger, and when he received the intelligence which the
latter brought back, he said, “It is well, let Netis and the chiefs be
called to council—there is no time to lose.”

A few minutes sufficed to assemble the leaders, who were expected to
take a part in the deliberations about to be entered upon, all of them
being well aware of their vicinity to the enemy of whom they had so
long been in pursuit; but when called upon to express their opinion as
to the course to be adopted, a manifest reluctance prevailed, arising
probably from the wild and rugged nature of the region, and from their
ignorance of the strength of the band with which Mahéga had allied
himself. After a brief pause, Baptiste, who was thoroughly versed in
the character of the Delawares, arose and said, “Are the tongues of
the warriors tied? the sun will not stay in his path, neither will the
grass grow beneath the feet of the Washashee and Upsaroka; the white
men and the Lenapé wait to hear the voice of the Great Chief—let
War–Eagle speak.”

Thus called upon, the Delaware leader came forward to address the
council. He painted the wrongs that his tribe had suffered at the
hands of the Osages, the treachery and cruelties practised on their
wives and children; then he dwelt on the spoiling of their lodges, the
abduction of Prairie–bird, and the attempted murder of Wingenund.
Having thus roused the passions of his Delaware hearers, he gradually
brought them back to a calmer state of reflection, by representing to
them the dangers and difficulties of their present position, owing to
the alliance formed by their implacable enemy with the Upsaroka, who
knew every pass and dangerous defile of the country through which they
were marching, and he impressed upon them the necessity of their having
recourse to stratagem in order to make up for their deficiency in
numbers and in local knowledge. He then proceeded to unfold his plan of
operations, which (as afterwards explained by Baptiste to Reginald and
his friend) was nearly in the following words:—

“Mahéga and the Upsaroka will attack our camp to–night—the wolf
shall fall into a trap—they will come to take scalps, let them look
after their own—but we must divide our party—Wingenund has seen the
Washashee camp, he shall guide ten warriors to it in the dark, and
while Mahéga is leading his blind followers here, the tomahawk and the
fire shall be in his lodge!”

A deep murmur of approbation satisfied the chief as to the sentiments
of his stern and determined band; and Ethelston, although he knew not
the meaning of the words which had been uttered, was struck by the
dignity with which they had been spoken, and by the rich and varied
intonation of War–Eagle’s voice.

“Reginald,” said he, “how much I regret that I could not follow your
Indian brother in his discourse. His attitudes brought to my mind the
orators of old, as represented to us by classic pen and chisel: it
seemed as if I could almost gather his meaning from his eloquence of
eye and tone!”

“Certainly,” replied Reginald, “whether the merit of oratory consists
in action, as held by the ‘old man eloquent who fulmined over Greece,’
or in the art of persuasion, by convincing the judgment while moving
the passions of the hearers, as held by the best authors who have since
written on the subject, War–Eagle possesses it in an eminent degree.”

“Yes,” replied Ethelston, “I admit the persuasive power, and the action
at once graceful and commanding, but I maintain that there is yet a
stronger element, the mention of which you, and the authors whom you
quote, have strangely neglected, namely, truth; that immortal essence,
which pervades the whole intelligent creation, before which falsehood
shrinks abashed, and sophistry vanishes into vapour. This it is that
guides the winged words of man direct to the heart of his brother; by
this, and this alone, did the voice of Luther triumph over the thunders
of the Vatican, and beneath its mighty influence the haughty Felix
trembled before the captive apostle. This is, if I mistake not, the
secret of your Indian friend’s oratory; every word that he utters finds
an echo in the breast of those whom he is addressing. The injuries that
he recounts are recent; the dangers against which he warns them are
real and present; and the vengeance to which he guides them, they pant
for with a thirst ardent as his own.”

“Far be it from me,” replied Reginald, “to disparage the might and
majesty of truth, or to doubt that in the end it must triumph over
error and falsehood, as certainly as Good shall obtain the victory
over Evil. Nevertheless, I hold, that as the object of eloquence
frequently is to ‘make the worse appear the better cause,’ and to guide
the hearers, not so much to their own real good as to the immediate
purpose of the speaker, there are some occasions, where he will more
effectively attain it by working on the prejudices, frailties, and
passions, than he could by the most direct appeal to justice or to
truth. If Felix trembled at the denunciations of Paul, the bolder and
mightier spirit of Wallenstein quailed before the wily astrologer,
who pretended to have interwoven his destinies with the mysterious
movements of the planets.”

“I see the scope of your argument, Reginald, and acknowledge its force.
It is because men obey the dictates of passion more willingly than
those of conscience, that they are more easily led by the factious
sophistry of a Cleon than by the virtuous wisdom of a Socrates.
Nevertheless, you will not deny that even sophistry and faction bear
testimony to the might of truth, by putting on her semblance, and
disguising themselves as her followers, thus do they achieve success,
until they encounter some champion strong enough to unmask and detect
them; as the Trojans fled before Patroclus clad in the armour of
Achilles, until Hector pierced his disguise, and killed him.”

“Is it not strange,” said Reginald, laughing, “that in this wild
and remote region, and amidst its wandering tribes, we should renew
discussions, which we so often held together in early days on the
banks of the Elbe and Rhine! I remember that you generally beat me
in argument, and yet permitted me to retain possession of the field
of battle. On this occasion I think we must draw off our forces, and
neither claim the victory. The Indians are already preparing for the
night’s expedition, and interests so dear to me depend upon its result,
that I look forward to it with the deepest anxiety. If War–Eagle is
correct in his calculation, that the Osages and their allies will
attack our camp to–night, it is uncertain whether they will carry
Prairie–bird with them, or leave her behind under a guard. We must be
prepared for either plan; and in dividing our force arrange it so, that
if we succeed, she may be sure of falling into the hands of those fit
and authorised to protect her. I will take with me Wingenund, and our
steady friends Baptiste and Pierre: do you remain with War–Eagle, Paul
Müller, and the main body reserved for the defence of the camp.”

“Be it so,” replied Ethelston, “I trust we shall not be long separated,
and that before this hour to–morrow we shall have rescued your
betrothed from her captors.” He added, with a smile, “Remember that in
our German expedition you made me many promises of discretion, which in
the excitement of action you were somewhat apt to forget; you must not
do so now that you are engaged in the cause of one, to whom your life
is perhaps dearer than it is to yourself.”

“Baptiste himself shall not be more cautious than I will be,” replied
Reginald, grasping his friend’s hand; and they parted to make the
requisite preparations for their respective duties.



CHAPTER III.

 A SCENE IN THE TENT OF PRAIRIE–BIRD, WHO GIVES SOME GOOD ADVICE, AND
 RECEIVES IN A SHORT SPACE OF TIME MORE THAN ONE UNEXPECTED VISITOR.—THE
 CROWS LED BY MAHÉGA ATTACK THE DELAWARE CAMP BY NIGHT.—THE DEFEATED
 PARTY ACHIEVE A KIND OF TRIUMPH, AND THE VICTORS MEET WITH AN UNEXPECTED
 LOSS.


The evening passed away with the rapidity usual in that western region,
where twilight has no sooner thrown its dusky hue over mountain and
plain, than it again yields its place to the darker gloom of night;
and yet it were a libel upon nature to call by the name of gloom that
uncertain light in which that mighty landscape reposed. The moon was
half full, and her beams, scarcely piercing through the deep foliage of
the wooded vale, streaked with silver lines its mossy herbage; eastward
lay the vast expanse of undulating prairie, on which countless herds
of bison lazily cropped the dew–sprinkled grass, while high above the
scene towered the gigantic peaks of the Western Andes slumbering in a
light as cold and pale as their own eternal snow.

Nothing was heard to disturb the reign of silence save the distant
murmur of the streamlets as they plashed from rock to rock in their
descent to the quiet river that flowed beneath; or here and there the
stealthy foot of the panther or prowling bear. A few stars glimmering
in the vault above, and clouds of ever–varying shape flitted athwart
its surface, now hiding, and again partially revealing, the dark
outlines of forest, vale, and rugged cliff.

It was an hour and a scene calculated to inspire thoughts of awe,
piety, and gratitude towards the Creator; of love, gentleness, and
peace towards His creatures; and yet through those groves and glens
feet more stealthy than the panther’s step, foes more fell than the
prowling bear, now wound their silent way, bent on their secret errand
of destruction and of blood.

In one quarter Reginald, followed by Baptiste, Pierre, and six men,
moved swiftly across the prairie, under the guidance of Wingenund,
towards the camp of the Osages; in another, Mahéga led a numerous band
through the defiles before described, to surprise the encampment of
the Delawares; while at the latter place War–Eagle, aided by Attō and
his chosen warriors, was making all the necessary dispositions for
a stratagem by which he hoped to defeat the expected attack of his
enemies.

It was already several hours past midnight, the moon had withdrawn her
light, and Prairie–bird was buried in the refreshing sleep that visits
the eyelids of guileless youth; Lita slumbered on a couch of skins
stretched across the entrance of her mistress’s tent, before which at
a little distance the Osage sentry, seated by the breastwork thrown
up for the defence of the position, hummed a low and plaintive air of
his tribe. Suddenly his ear caught the sound of approaching feet,
and quick as thought the arrow was fitted to his bow–string, but he
checked the hasty movement, remembering that sentries were posted at
the base of the hill, who would not have permitted any hostile step to
approach unchallenged. As the new comers drew near he distinguished
through the gloom the figures of a man and a woman, the former short
and square–built, the latter slight and graceful.

“What do the strangers seek?” inquired Toweno, for he it was whom
Mahéga had left in charge of his camp, and who now guarded the tent of
Prairie–bird.

“Toweno is a great warrior among the Washashee; his voice is welcome
to the ear of a friend,” replied in the Osage tongue, the rough voice
of Besha, the horse–dealer. “The Upsaroka maiden wishes to speak with
Olitipa, the Great Medicine of the tent.”

“This is not a time for maidens to visit or to speak,” replied Toweno;
“the feet of the braves are on the night–path, and many wives who sleep
now will be widows ere the sun is up.”

“Besha knows it well,” answered the horse–dealer; “nor can he
understand how Toweno is in the camp while Mahéga and his warriors are
on the bloody–path.”

“The Pale–faces are cunning,” replied the Osage, “and Mahéga would
not leave the rich skins of otter, beaver, and bison, and the Great
Medicine of the tent, without a guard.”

“The Pale–faces will not come near the high–camp,” said Besha, casting
a rapid glance over the bales of fur and cloth. “Have you many warriors
left with you?”

“Four of the Washashee, and four times four of the Upsaroka, is the
band in camp[65]; but what does the woman desire of Olitipa?”

“She is the youngest and favourite wife of the Upsaroka chief,” replied
Besha, lowering his voice, “and she desires a medicine that his love
for her may never change; her heart is good towards the Washashee,
and her hands are not empty.” Here he whispered a few words to his
companion, and the girl timidly extending her hand placed in that of
the Osage a small roll of tobacco.

The grim features of the warrior relaxed into a smile, as his fingers
closed upon the scarce and much–coveted leaf[66], and without further
delay he moved to the entrance of the tent, and wakening Lita, desired
her to arouse her mistress for a conference with the bride of the
Upsaroka chief.

Although surprised at this unexpected summons, Prairie–bird hastened
to receive her visitor, supposing that some sudden illness or accident
must be the cause of her coming at such an hour. Her simple toilet was
soon made; and fastening to her girdle the bag containing the slender
stock of instruments and trifles that she always carried with her, she
stepped into the outer compartment of the tent, and desired Lita to
admit the stranger.

The Crow girl, led by Besha, came forward with apparent reluctance,
obviously under the influence of the greatest terror, and Prairie–bird
was, for the moment, annoyed at the admission into her tent of a man
whom she had only seen once or twice before, and whose appearance was
forbidding in the extreme; but quickly remembering that without him it
would have been impossible to communicate with her visitor, she desired
Lita to place three mats; and seating herself upon one, kindly took the
Crow girl by the hand, drawing her gently to that nearest to herself;
then motioning to Besha to occupy the third, she requested him in the
Delaware tongue, to explain the object of this nightly visit.

“The tale of the Upsaroka maid is secret,” he replied; “it is only for
the ears of Olitipa.”

At a signal from her mistress, Lita, throwing a blanket over her
shoulder, stepped into the open air, and leaned against the breastwork
not far from the post of Toweno.

“Does the ‘Bending–willow’ wish all to be told?” inquired Besha of his
companion in a whisper.

Bending–willow, who had not yet dared to lift her eyes from the ground,
now timidly raised them; and encountering the kind and encouraging
glance of Prairie–bird, answered, “Let all be told.”

Having received this permission, the one–eyed horse–dealer proceeded to
relate, with more feeling than could have been expected from his harsh
and uncouth appearance, the story of his fair companion. She was the
daughter of the principal brave in the nation; both he and his only
son had fallen lately in a bloody engagement with the Black–feet. The
father had, with his dying breath, bequeathed his surviving child to
the protection of his chief, and the latter had fulfilled the trust
by giving her in marriage to his eldest son, a gallant youth, who,
although not yet twenty–five years of age, had already two wives in
his lodge, and had taken many scalps from the Black–feet, against whom
he was now absent on an expedition undertaken to avenge the slain
relations of his newly–espoused bride.

Bending–willow, who had not yet seen eighteen summers, was passionately
fond of her young lord, who now returned her affection with an ardour
equal to her own; this had moved the spite and jealousy of his two
former wives, who took no pains to conceal their hatred of her; and
although they dared not strike or ill–treat her as long as she remained
the favourite, they endeavoured by every means in their power to vex
and annoy her, and to bring her, by degrees, under the suspicion and
distrust of their husband.

It was to obtain from Prairie–bird a medicine by which she might secure
his continued affection, that Bending–willow had made this visit; and
she had come stealthily by night, in hopes of escaping thereby the
observation of her watchful colleagues.

During the horse–dealer’s recital, Prairie–bird glanced more than once
at the young woman’s countenance, of which she was enabled by the red
light of the wormwood torch that burnt near the centre of the tent, to
distinguish the features and expression; both were remarkably pleasing
and attractive, while the long black hair falling over her shoulders in
two plaits, interwoven with beads of various colours, was set off by
the delicate hue of the fawn–skin dress, which displayed to advantage
the symmetry of her slight and graceful figure. Prairie–bird took her
hand in silence, and the Crow girl fixed her eyes with guileless and
admiring wonder upon the surpassing loveliness of the “Great Medicine
of the tent,” which struck her the more forcibly, as she had come in
the expectation of seeing a person decked out and ornamented after the
fantastic fashion adopted among the Indian tribes by those who pretend
to supernatural powers.

After a brief silence, Prairie–bird, addressing her visitor through the
interpreter, said, “When the wives of the young chief scold and speak
bad words to Bending–willow, what does she reply?”

“She gives them bad words again, sharper and harder than their own,”
answered the bride hastily.

Prairie–bird shook her head, and continued, “Has Bending–willow watched
their faces when they scold and heap angry words upon her? How do they
look then?”

“They look ugly and spiteful as spotted snakes!”

“Bending–willow has come for a medicine to make the love of her husband
endure fresh and green as the valleys watered by the Nebraska! Does she
think he would love her if when he returns to his lodge he hears sharp
angry tones in her voice, and sees spiteful looks in her countenance?
The Great Spirit has made her face and voice sweet as the breath of
the morning; if she makes them ugly and harsh, the medicine of Olitipa
cannot preserve her husband’s love.”

The Crow bride cast down her eyes, evidently confused and puzzled by
this address. At length she inquired, in a subdued tone, “What, then,
is the counsel of Olitipa? What is Bending–willow to do when these
sharp tongues scold and rail at her?”

Prairie–bird opened the volume that lay beside her, and answered, “The
words of the Great Spirit are, ‘A soft answer turneth away anger!’
When the tongues of the women are bitter against Bending–willow, let
her give gentle words in reply; they will be ashamed, and will soon be
silent.”

“But,” said the quick–tempered bride, “the angry spirit gets into the
heart of Bending–willow: when fire is in the breast, cool water flows
not from the tongue!”

“Olitipa will give a medicine to her sister,” replied our heroine;
and opening a case that stood near her, she drew thence a small
hand–mirror. Presenting this to her visitor, she added, “When
Bending–willow finds the angry spirit in her heart, and bitter words
ready on her tongue, let her look at her face in this medicine–glass,
and say to herself, ‘Are these the soft eyes that the chief loves to
look upon?’”

The bride took the glass, and contemplated her features therein,
apparently not without satisfaction. But their expression was troubled,
for she was frightened at the words which Prairie–bird had told her
were those of the Great Spirit, and her eyes wandered from the book
to the maiden, as if she would willingly learn more of her mysterious
communion with the powers above.

At this crisis the wild war–cry of the Crows rang through the tent;
several shots followed each other in rapid succession, mingled with the
whistling of arrows and the clash of blows, while loud above the din of
conflict rose the voice of Toweno, urging and encouraging his men.

Besha started to his feet, and rushed from the tent to learn whence
came this sudden and unexpected attack, and Lita hastened to the side
of her mistress, as if resolved to share her fate, whatever that might
be.

Louder and nearer came the mingled cries and yells of battle, and a
stray rifle–ball pierced the canvass of the tent, leaving a rent in it
close to the head of Prairie–bird. She neither stirred nor spoke; and
as the wailing and terrified Bending–willow, the daughter and the bride
of warriors inured to scenes of blood, looked on the pale, calm cheek
of the Christian maiden, whose hand still rested on the mysterious
volume, she felt as if in the presence of a superior being, and crept
closer to her side for protection and security.

But we must leave the tent and its inmates, and turn to the scene of
strife without. The darkness of night was giving place to the grey hue
of dawn, and a faint streak of light was already discernible in the
eastern horizon, ere Reginald’s party, guided by Wingenund, was able
to reach the base of the hill on which the Osages were posted. His
intention had been to arrive there several hours sooner; but he had
been prevented by various obstacles, such as might be expected to occur
on a night–march through so rugged and difficult a country, and also by
the necessity of making a considerable circuit to avoid being seen by
the Crows encamped, as was before mentioned, on a hill on the opposite
side of the valley.

Reginald had no means of ascertaining the force that might be left to
guard the camp and the tent, and it appeared rash in the extreme to
attempt by daylight the storming, with only ten men, a position so
fortified by nature, and defended by warriors familiar with its local
advantages. But his impetuous ardour had communicated itself to all
his party, and it was unanimously agreed that the attack should be made.

In the sketch before given of the Osage camp, it was stated that the
hill was steep, and of a conical shape, sloping less abruptly towards
the valley, while the front that it presented to the prairie eastward
was precipitous and inaccessible. The attacking party had made their
approach from this quarter, rightly conjecturing that it would be left
unguarded. They succeeded in gaining the base of the cliff unperceived;
but in spite of the caution with which they advanced towards the more
sloping face of the hill, they were descried by the enemy’s outposts,
who discharged at them a flight of arrows, uttering at the same time
the shrill war–cry that had startled the party within the tent.

There being now light sufficient to enable the combatants to
distinguish each other, the rifles of the white men told with fatal
effect, and several of the Crows fell at their first fire; the
remainder retreated fighting, towards the breastwork above, whither
Reginald’s party pursued them with an impetuosity not to be resisted.
When, however, the Crows gained the protection of the breastwork, they
recovered from their temporary panic, and, animated by the example of
Toweno and the few Osages with him, let fly their arrows with precision
and effect.

The leader of the Osages, and one of his band, were provided with
rifles, and although the attacking party availed themselves of the
occasional shelter of trees and bushes in their ascent, two of them
received severe bullet–wounds from the marksmen securely posted above.
They were not unnoticed by the quick eye of Baptiste, who, having
reloaded his long rifle, deliberately waited until the Osage beside
Toweno showed the upper part of his head above the breastwork as he
aimed at Reginald, now within pistol–shot of him. The finger of the
savage was on the trigger, when a ball from the rifle of the guide
struck him in the centre of the forehead, and with a convulsive bound
he fell dead on the spot, overthrowing in his fall Toweno, whose rifle
was thereby for the moment rendered unserviceable.

“Forward! Master Reginald,” shouted the guide; “Wingenund is already at
the breastwork!”

Light as an antelope, and active as a mountain cat, the Delaware youth
had distanced all his companions in the ascent, and, regardless of the
fearful odds of numbers opposed to him, was already clambering over
the stockade, when an arrow pierced his arm, and a war–club, hurled
with equal force and precision, struck him on the head, and he fell
backwards at the feet of Reginald. The latter rendered desperate by the
fall of his Indian brother, caught from Baptiste the huge axe that hung
at his belt, and springing forward to the stockade, soon hewed himself
a passage through its wooden barrier—wounded slightly by an arrow in
his thigh, grazed by another on the cheek, his hunting–cap pierced
and carried from his head, it seemed as though his life were charmed
against the missiles of the enemy—and despite every obstacle, he stood
at length within the breastwork, followed by Baptiste and his brave
companions. The guide, whose cool and wary eye noted every movement,
had reserved the fire of the pistols in his belt, and twice, while his
young master was hewing with reckless daring at the tough barrier, had
an unerring ball from _them_ rendered powerless an arm raised for his
destruction.

Although still superior in numbers in the proportion of two to one, the
allied band of Osages and Crows were so discouraged by the storming
of their barrier, that they offered but a feeble resistance, each
endeavouring to provide for his own safety. Toweno alone, aided by one
of the bravest warriors of his band, determined in this fatal crisis
to execute the bloody orders of Mahéga; and by a preconcerted signal,
as soon as Reginald made good his footing within the breastwork, they
rushed into the tent of Prairie–bird.

From the beginning of the affray, the terrified Upsaroka bride had
never moved from the side of our heroine, on whose countenance she
fixed her anxious eyes, as if expecting from her some display of
supernatural power for their common protection; Lita clung also to the
arm of her mistress; and the Christian maiden, trusting to that Word
on which her hand and her heart alike reposed, awaited with patient
resignation the issue of a peril, of which she knew neither the nature
nor the extent. That the camp was attacked she was well aware, by the
shouts and cries of the combatants; but who the attacking party might
be, and whether likely to fail or to succeed, she had no means of
judging.

Besha had from the commencement of the affray shot several arrows from
the breastwork at the invaders; but seeing them press forward with such
determined resolution, he bethought himself of the bride, for whose
safety he was responsible, and retired within the tent, resolved, if
possible, to withdraw her from the scene of confusion while there might
yet be time for escape; but Bending–willow obstinately refused to quit
the side of Prairie–bird, and he was still urging his entreaties to
that effect, when the two Osages burst into the tent.

“Let the Medicine–woman of the Bad Spirit die,” shouted Toweno, as
he raised his tomahawk to strike; but Besha caught the descending
blow, and endeavoured to avert the murderous weapon from his hold.
Meanwhile the other Osage advanced to execute the fell purpose of his
leader, when the devoted Lita, throwing herself in his way, clung
to his upraised arm with the strength of despair. Slight, however,
was the resistance which she could offer; and the savage, throwing
her with violence to the ground, again raised his knife above the
head of his unresisting victim. Lita shrieked aloud, and the fate
of Prairie–bird seemed inevitable, when a warlike figure burst into
the tent, and Reginald Brandon, still wielding the axe of Baptiste,
stood in the midst of the group. His fiery glance fell upon the savage
about to strike his beloved, and swift as thought that terrible weapon
descending, clove the Indian’s skull.

By this time Toweno had freed himself from Besha, whom he had rendered
almost helpless by two severe wounds with his scalp–knife, and he now
flew at Reginald with the fury of a tiger at bay; but the presence
of Prairie–bird nerved her lover’s arm with threefold strength, and
parrying the blow which his opponent aimed at his throat, he passed
his cutlass through the body of the Osage, and threw him, bleeding and
mortally wounded, several yards from the tent. At this moment a shout
of triumph without, raised by Baptiste and his companions, assured
Reginald that the victory was complete, and that those of the enemy who
survived had fled and left him in possession of the camp. Then he cast
himself on his knees by the side of his betrothed, and as she leaned
her head upon his shoulder, a flood of tears relieved the suppressed
emotions caused by the fearful trial that she had undergone. Few and
broken were the words that passed between them, yet in those few words
what volumes of the heart’s grateful and affectionate language were
expressed!

The entrance of Baptiste recalled to the recollection of Reginald
the duties that still remained for him to perform, while the wounds
received by Besha in her defence pleaded with the maiden for such
remedies as she had within her power. After briefly explaining to her
lover the circumstances which had brought the horse–dealer and his
still trembling companion to her tent, she sought her stock of healing
ointments and salves; while Reginald, although slightly wounded, went
out to arrange with Baptiste and Pierre for the defence of their
newly–acquired possession, and to ascertain the loss which his party
had sustained. This last was less than he had feared it might prove;
and it was with heartfelt pleasure that he shook by the hand young
Wingenund, who had recovered from the stunning effects of the blow
which he had received in his gallant attack upon the breastwork.

“Let my young brother go into the tent,” said Reginald; “rest will do
him good, and the eyes of Olitipa will be glad to see him.”

As the youth turned away, Baptiste added, “Let not the man nor the Crow
woman escape; we may want them yet.”

Wingenund replied by a sign of intelligence, and entered the
compartment of the tent where he found his sister exercising her office
of charity.

We will now leave Reginald Brandon and his party busily employed
in repairing the breach made in the breastwork, in examining and
strengthening all the defences of the post (which they found much
stronger than they had expected), and in making all the requisite
preparations for the attack which they anticipated on the return of
Mahéga and his Crow allies. The booty, ammunition, and supplies found
in the camp exceeded their expectations, as in searching the Osage
lodges they discovered all the goods stolen by the latter from the
Delawares. The eyes of Baptiste and Pierre brightened at the sight of
this recovered treasure; those experienced hunters well knowing that
the Osage chief, when deprived of the means of offering presents or
bribes, would not long retain the friendship of his treacherous allies.

We will now go back for a few hours, and see with what success he met
in the expedition which he undertook against the camp of War–Eagle.
So confident did he feel in its issue, that he had prevailed upon
two–thirds of the fighting men of the Crows to join his party,
promising them abundance of scalps and plunder, as well as revenge
for the losses which they had sustained at the hands of Reginald’s
band. Having already carefully noted all the land–marks on the path by
which he meant to make his approach, he followed it with instinctive
sagacity, and a few hours’ rapid night–march along the base of the
hills brought him to the opening of the narrow valley, at the upper
extremity of which the enemy’s camp was posted. Here they slackened
their speed, and advanced in silence with noiseless step, Mahéga
stealing onward in front, darting his quick glance from side to side,
as if he would penetrate the gloom, rendered yet deeper by the trees
and rocks, beneath which they wound their cautious way. It was not long
before he was enabled to distinguish the site of the Delaware camp, by
the ruddy glare cast by the watch–fires on the surrounding foliage. The
Osage stopped and pointed out the welcome beacon to his followers—not
a word was spoken—every warrior there knew the preconcerted plan of
attack, and was aware that a careless step upon a dry stick might
discover and defeat it. Mahéga carried a rifle, and the discharge of it
was to be immediately followed by a flight of arrows from his party,
after which they were to rush on the surprised foe, with battle–axe and
tomahawk. Onward moved the dusky band; and it seemed as if fate had
given the enemy into their power. Not a deer nor a mountain–cat was
startled from its lair to give warning of their approach; and at length
Mahéga succeeded in creeping to the bushy summit of a hillock, whence,
at a distance of less than fifty yards, he commanded a view of the camp
below.

“For once have the cunning and watchfulness of War–Eagle failed him,”
said the triumphant Osage to himself, as he loosened the thong of his
war–club, and thrust forward the barrel of his rifle.

One by one of his followers crept forward, until they lay in line
beside him, behind the crest of the hillock, over which their eager
eyes looked down with savage anticipation upon the Delaware camp. The
moon had entirely withdrawn her light, and all the scene was wrapt
in impenetrable gloom, save where the camp–fires cast a red glare on
the bark and branches of the surrounding trees, and on the figures
which lay around, enveloped in blanket or in bison–robe; no sound
disturbed the deep silence of the night, except the nibbling bite
of the horses as they cropped the cool grass of the valley below the
camp. For a minute Mahéga contemplated, with fierce delight, the
helpless condition of his hated foes, then taking deliberate aim at
a blanketed form supported against the tree nearest to the fires, he
pulled the fatal trigger, and without waiting to see the effect of his
shot, he shouted his battle–cry, and sprang forward with his war–club
towards the camp. Scarcely had the bullet left his rifle ere the Crows
discharged their arrows, each aiming at the figure that he could the
most easily distinguish; then they rushed forward to complete the work
of destruction with knife and tomahawk.

Leaping into the camp, fifty of the savages were already in the
full glare of its fires, when a shrill whistle was heard, and the
simultaneous report of a dozen rifles echoed through mountain, forest,
and valley. So near were the marksmen, and so true their aim, that not
a bullet failed to carry a death or fatal wound; and the surviving
Crows now first ascertained that the figures which they had been
piercing were stuffed with grass, and wrapped in blankets or robes, so
as to resemble sleeping warriors! Great was their terror and dismay;
they knew neither the number nor position of their concealed foe,
and the master–spirit who had led them, and to whose guidance they
trusted for their extrication, was nowhere to be seen. Such had been
the impetuous haste of the Osage to satisfy his desire for vengeance,
that in his rapid descent upon the enemy’s camp he had caught his foot
in a tough and tangled ground–brier, and had fallen headlong forwards.
It happened that the very spot where he fell was the post of one of
the concealed Delawares, who grappled with him before he could rise to
continue his course.

Though taken thus by surprise and at disadvantage, the fierce Osage
lost not for a moment his courage or self–possession; seizing the
upraised arm of his antagonist, he wrenched the knife from his grasp,
and, swift as thought, drove it into the heart of his foe; then tearing
off the scalp, and suspending it to his belt, he looked upon the scene
of confusion and slaughter below. A glance sufficed to show him that he
had fallen into the trap that he had prepared for others, and that a
continued contest with an enemy armed with rifles, and securely hidden,
must be attended with great and unavailing loss. His own person had
not yet come within the light of the fires, neither had the groans of
the dying Delaware been heard amid the yells of the Crow attack, and
the succeeding report of the guns; thus was the Osage enabled to retire
unobserved a score of paces into the wood, bearing with him the yet
undischarged rifle of the Delaware whom he had slain; then he applied
his war–whistle[67] to his lips, and blew a loud and shrill recal.

Glad were his faithful followers and the terrified Crows to hear and
obey the signal; yet did they not leave the scene without further
loss, for ere they got behind the circle around which the camp–fires
shed their uncertain light, another volley was fired after them by the
enemy, and although none were killed by this second discharge, many
were so grievously wounded that they were with difficulty borne off by
their companions. It was some relief to them in their hasty retreat to
find that they were not pursued. Mahéga placed himself in the rear; he
even lingered many yards behind the rest, crouching now and then behind
tree or bush in hopes of being able to slake his burning thirst for
revenge—but in vain; War–Eagle was too sagacious to pursue by night,
in an unknown and broken country, an enemy who, although dismayed and
panic–struck, still out–numbered his band in the proportion of three to
one.

“Bloody–hand, the great warrior of the Osages, will not come again soon
to visit the Lenapé camp,” said War–Eagle, in answer to Ethelston’s
congratulations, as they stood surrounded by their victorious handful
of men on the spot whence they had just driven the enemy with so much
slaughter. “Let Attō count the dead,” continued the chief, “and bring
in the wounded, if any are found.”

“War–Eagle,” said the missionary, who from his concealment had been
an unwilling spectator of the late brief, but sanguinary skirmish,
“forbear to exercise here the cruel usages of Indian war; let the
wounded be cared for, and the dead be put to rest in peace below the
earth.”

“The ears of War–Eagle are open to the Black Father’s words,”
replied the chief sternly; “if any wounded are found, they shall
suffer no further hurt: but the scalps of the dead shall hang on the
medicine–pole of the Lenapé village, that the spirits of Tamenund and
his fathers may know that their children have taken vengeance on the
forked–tongued Washashee.”

Further conversation was interrupted by a cry uttered by Attō, who had
found the body of the unhappy Delaware slain by Mahéga. The whole party
hastened to the spot; and War–Eagle, without speaking a word, pointed
to the reeking skull whence the fierce Osage had torn the scalp.

Paul Müller, feeling that all reply would be ill–timed and unavailing,
turned away, and walked towards the feeding–place of the horses, while
the Delawares scalped and threw into an adjacent hollow the bodies of
the Crows and Osages who had fallen. Of the latter they counted two,
and of the former ten, besides a much greater number whom they knew to
have been borne off mortally wounded.

As the missionary strolled onward, accompanied by Ethelston, a low
moan caught his ear, and, stooping down, he discerned an Indian coiled
up in a position indicative of intense agony under the branches of
a juniper. They carried him back to the camp–fire, and on examining
him by its light, he proved to be a young Crow warrior, shot through
the body, who had dragged himself with difficulty for some distance,
and had then fallen exhausted to the ground. Doubtless he expected
to be immediately scalped and despatched; nor could he for some time
be induced to believe that those into whose hands he had fallen were
indeed endeavouring to alleviate his sufferings.

War–Eagle, faithful to his promise, rendered every assistance in his
power to the worthy missionary while thus employed; but it might easily
be seen, by the scornful curl of his lip, that he looked upon this care
of an enemy wounded in battle as an absurd and effeminate practice.

Day broke, and the dispirited band of Crow and Osage warriors returned
from their fruitless expedition, only to find a worse disaster at home.
Great, indeed, was their dismay, when they were met by a scout from
their village, who informed them that a party of white men had stormed
the Osage camp by night, and still retained possession of it, having
destroyed the greater proportion of those left to defend it. In his
description of the attack, the height, the strength, the daring and
impetuous courage of the young warrior who had led it were painted in
colours exaggerated by terror; yet the Osage chief had no difficulty
in recognising the hated rival who had struck and disgraced him, and
who was now master of the fate of her for whose sake he had toiled, and
plotted, and suffered so much.

Stung to the quick by these suggestions of wounded jealousy and pride,
he ground his teeth with fury that would not be repressed, and he
swore that before two suns had risen and set, either he or his rival,
or both, should see the light of day no more. His position was now
precarious in the extreme, all his goods and ammunition having fallen
into the enemy’s hands, excepting that which he and his few remaining
followers had about their persons. He knew that if he no longer
possessed the means of making presents, the Crows would abandon, if not
betray him at once, and he resolved to strike some sudden and decisive
blow before that thought should obtain possession of their minds.

This resolve imparted again to his manner its usual fierce and haughty
grandeur; and, although the Crows loved him not, they could not help
looking with a certain awe upon the man who, amid the confusion and
panic of the late disastrous attack upon the Delaware camp, had borne
away from the victorious enemy the bloody trophy which now hung at his
belt, and who, although he had lost by a single blow his lodges, his
supplies, and the Great Medicine of the tent, preserved unsubdued the
commanding pride of his demeanour.

The success of the stratagem which he now meditated will appear in due
season; meanwhile, we must return to the camp of War–Eagle, who began
his march at dawn of day, with the view of rejoining Reginald and his
band with the least possible delay.

Although he did not anticipate any attempt at reprisals on the part of
the Crows, to whom he had just given so severe a lesson, yet he was
aware of Mahéga’s having escaped, and well knew that he would leave
untried no schemes for obtaining revenge.

On this account the Delaware chief went forward to the front, taking
with him several of his warriors, whom he sent out from time to time
to examine the ground, and leaving Attō with Ethelston and Paul Müller
to bring up the rear. The latter could not be prevailed upon to abandon
the wounded Crow, whom he had placed upon his own horse, which he led
by the bridle, while Ethelston supported the sufferer in the saddle.

Ever since the occasion when Reginald Brandon had presented to Attō
the bear–claw collar as a testimony to his bravery, the Delaware had
attached himself more and more to the white men; and although, with the
instinctive sagacity of his race, he foresaw that the best exertions
of the two now in his company would fail to effect a cure of the
wounded man, he willingly and good–humouredly assisted their charitable
endeavours.

In this order they had marched for some hours, and the leaders of the
band having attained the summit of a ridge, already saw at no great
distance the two remarkable hills before mentioned as the favourite
encampment of the Crows. Encouraged by the sight, they descended the
opposite slope with increased speed, War–Eagle being most anxious to
learn the success of Reginald’s detachment. The whole band had passed
over the summit of the ridge, excepting the small party who escorted
the wounded Crow, when the latter grew so faint from the effects of
internal bleeding that they were no longer able to keep him in the
saddle, and deposited him gently on the grass. The poor fellow pointed
to his parched lips, and made an imploring sign for water. Paul Müller,
casting his eyes around, saw at a small distance a broken ravine or
fissure, in which he hoped that some rain–water might be found, and he
desired Attō to hasten thither with all speed.

The Delaware obeyed, and had approached within a few paces of its edge,
when an arrow from an unseen enemy pierced him through the breast; and
Mahéga, leaping from his concealment, killed the brave fellow with his
club, and attached another Lenapé scalp to his belt. He was followed
by eight or ten well–armed Crow warriors, who, passing him while he
stooped over his fallen enemy, hastened forward and surrounded Paul
Müller, Ethelston, and the wounded man. Great was their astonishment at
recognising in the latter a highly esteemed brave of their own tribe,
and greater still at observing that the two white men were so busily
engaged in tending and supporting him in his sufferings, as not to
have noticed their approach.

When Ethelston became aware of their presence, his first impulse
was to lay his hand upon a pistol in his belt; but, with the steady
self–possession of true courage, he saw at a glance that he should, by
unavailing resistance, only cause the certain death of himself and his
peaceable companion; so he continued his attentions to the wounded man,
and poured into his mouth the last few drops of a cordial which he had
reserved in a leathern flask.

Fresh from the slaughter of the unfortunate Attō, Mahéga now came
forward, and would have sacrificed the unresisting missionary to his
blind fury, had not one of the Crow warriors caught his arm, and
pointed in an attitude of remonstrance to his wounded comrade.

The Osage perceived at once that the time was not propitious for his
indiscriminate revenge, and contented himself with explaining by signs
to his allies that ere long the party now out of sight behind the hill
would reappear over its crest in search of their missing companions.

This hint was not lost upon the Crows, who forthwith deprived Ethelston
of his arms, and, tying him with a leather thong to the missionary,
hurried them along in an oblique direction towards an adjoining
thicket, while some of them relieved each other in the care of the
dying man.

War–Eagle was already far advanced in his descent of the hill on the
opposite side, when his progress was arrested by shouts and cries
from the rear. On looking round he perceived that these proceeded
from Monsieur Perrot, who was waving his arms, and with other
gesticulations, indicative of the greatest excitement, calling upon the
chief to return.

“Varicle, Varicle, come quick back!”

Although the latter had little regard for the character of the French
valet, he saw that something alarming had occurred; and hastening
to the spot, scarcely waited to hear his explanation that “Monsieur
Etelston, de Black Fader, and de vounded Corbeau, were not to be seen,”
but pushed on at once to the top of the hill, over which he had so
lately passed.

Casting his anxious eyes around, he looked in vain for the missing
members of his party; but he saw at a considerable distance on the
back trail the missionary’s pony quietly cropping the prairie–grass.
Having called one of his men to his side, and given him a few brief
instructions, he returned speedily towards the scene of the late
catastrophe, and, on approaching it, found the scalped and plundered
body of Attō, from which the Crows had carried off the arms, the belt,
and the bear–claw collar given to him by Reginald. Although deeply
grieved at the loss of the bravest of his followers, War–Eagle was
too much inured to scenes of strife and bloodshed to give way to any
emotion save the ardent desire for revenge; and he struck off alone
upon the enemy’s trail, some of his party following him at a distance.

As he approached the thicket, his attention was caught by a column of
smoke ascending from a point near the centre of it; and he judged that
the band must be very strong, either in their position or in numbers,
if they could have the audacity thus to light a camp–fire, in defiance
as it were of his pursuit. Influenced by this consideration, he waited
until his whole party had come up, when he again moved forward towards
the wood, cautiously watching every bush and shrub, in momentary
expectation of seeing the enemy start from the covert.

These precautions seemed, however, altogether unnecessary; for he
reached unmolested the spot whence he had seen the smoke ascend, and on
his arrival found that the fire was consuming the last mortal remains
of some human being, whose bones were mingled with its dying embers.
This he knew at once to have been the wounded Crow who had expired in
the arms of his companions, and to whom they had paid in their retreat
this hasty funeral rite, to prevent his body from being liable to any
indignities in the event of a pursuit. The quiver and tomahawk of the
deceased warrior were suspended by a branch over his funeral pyre, and
War–Eagle turned from the spot in moody, silent meditation. He felt
assured that the retreating party were now too far advanced for him to
overtake them, unless he gave up the idea of joining Reginald; and he
thought it by no means improbable that this attack had been devised for
the purpose of preventing that junction, so important to the safety
of both parties; wherefore he resolved to effect it without delay,
and afterwards to employ all possible means for the recovery of the
prisoners.

With this view he returned upon his steps; and having seen the last
honours paid to the remains of the faithful Attō, again proceeded in
the direction of the Crow camp.

As his little band drew near upon the prairie, it was distinctly
visible from both the fortified hills, and some fifty or sixty horsemen
galloped out from the higher of the two, with the apparent intention
of attacking him; but the steady front presented by the white men
and Delawares deterred them from approaching too near the glittering
tubes levelled to receive them, and they galloped and wheeled in rapid
circles over the prairie, taking care, however, to keep beyond rifle
range. At this juncture the cheering notes of a bugle rose on the air;
and Reginald, who had descried his friends, now came down with two men
from his little garrison to meet them. The Crows, seeing that further
opposition on the open ground was unavailing, retired with threats and
yells to their camp; and a few minutes afterwards the parties under
War–Eagle and Reginald were reunited within the little fortress so
hardly won by the latter, who now learnt, with unspeakable regret,
the capture of Ethelston and Paul Müller, and the death of the brave
warrior who had shared with him the perils of the first skirmish with
the Crows.



CHAPTER IV.

 THE NEGOTIATION SET ON FOOT BY REGINALD FOR THE RELEASE OF HIS
 FRIENDS.—BESHA BECOMES AN IMPORTANT PERSONAGE.


Scarcely had War–Eagle entered within the breastwork by the side of
his friend, ere his eager and indefatigable spirit prompted him to
inspect the defences of the new camp, and to guard every approach
open to the attacks of their dangerous neighbours. On this service
Baptiste willingly agreed to accompany the chief; and while they were
thus employed, Reginald undertook the painful task of communicating to
Prairie–bird the intelligence that her beloved instructor was, with his
friend Ethelston, a captive in the hands of the Crows.

Trials and sufferings of her own the maiden could bear with fortitude;
but her feelings towards the missionary were those of the fondest
daughter towards a parent; and when she thought of the risk that be
incurred of ill–usage or death at the hands of his captors, she burst
into tears, and exclaimed, “Oh, Reginald! cannot he be rescued ere it
be too late?”

At the sound of that voice, and the sight of those tears, Reginald’s
heart would have prompted him to rush headlong into the camp of the
Upsarokas; but he felt that he would thereby only sacrifice his own
life without effecting the object in view; and, moreover, he was by no
means certain whether Mahéga and his party had conveyed their prisoner
to the central camp.

The doubt and anxiety of his mind were plainly visible on his
countenance, when a low voice whispered in his ear, “May Wingenund
speak to Netis?”

“Surely, dear brother,” said Reginald, laying his hand kindly on the
youth’s shoulder, “when I remember that it was Wingenund who guided me
over the prairie to his sister’s tent, I were worse than ungrateful to
reject his counsel now!”

“That young woman,” he replied, pointing to the captive bride seated
in the corner of the tent, “is dear to the Upsaroka chief; she is his
youngest wife, and his heart is warm towards her. Let the one–eyed
stranger from the unknown tribes, who speaks many tongues, go back to
the Crow camp, and tell the chief that if his prisoners are hurt, his
bride shall be burnt alive; if they are set free, she shall return
unhurt to his lodge.”

“It is a brave device, dear Wingenund, and shall be executed without
loss of time; but can we trust the stranger?”

“Methinks you may,” said Prairie–bird, “for he received his wound in
defending me from those cruel men.”

“True,” replied Reginald; “let my brother speak to him in the Delaware
tongue, and explain the message he is to bear.”

“It is well,” answered the youth; adding, with an arch look, “and let
Netis not send him away with empty hands. There is cunning in the
stranger’s eye, he knows that Mahéga is poor; and he will rather make
friends with those who have something to give.”

“Be it so,” said Reginald, laughing; and he forthwith desired one of
his men to select from a package containing knives, powder, tobacco,
and cloth, a quantity equal to the usual Indian price for a horse.
Wingenund, having waited in silence the return of the messenger,
addressed the prisoner as follows:—

“Has the stranger a name in his tribe?”

“He is called Besha in the southern prairies.”

“Besha dwells among the Crows. They have shed the blood of white men
and Delawares in battle; his scalp belongs to those who have taken him.”

The horse–dealer bowed in silence, and the youth continued:

“But the heart of the white chief is great; he will not take Besha’s
life, neither will he bind his limbs. Besha is free to go where he
likes.”

The horse–dealer stared as if he did not quite believe his ears; but
Wingenund, without appearing to notice his surprise, proceeded.

“That is not all. Besha received a wound in defending Olitipa from the
Washashee. The white chief’s hand is open; it is quick to reward good
deeds, and to punish bad ones; the presents in that package, of knives
and cloth, tobacco and powder, are for Besha: he may return to the
Upsaroka camp, and his friends shall not say that he comes with empty
hands.”

The deep–set eye of the horse–dealer gleamed with pleasure as he fixed
it on the welcome bale, and heard these words. His first movement was
to rise from the ground, and place the right hands of Reginald and of
Wingenund on his heart in token of gratitude; then turning towards the
latter, he inquired, “Is there a dark cloud over the Upsaroka bride?
Will the white chief kill her, or make her a slave?”

“Let Besha open his ears,” replied the youth, earnestly, “and let not
the wind blow away good counsel. The Washashee and the Upsaroka have
taken captive two white men from this band; these have killed no red
man; they have done no harm. If any hurt be done to them, or their
lives be taken, the Upsaroka bride shall be burnt before the next
setting sun; but if they are sent back free and unhurt, she shall
return to her husband the same hour, and a present four times as great
as this shall be given to Besha.”

Having thus spoken, the youth placed the package in the horse–dealer’s
hands, and made him a sign to go. Before obeying this hint, the latter
whispered a few words to Bending–willow, in which he comforted her
with the assurance that he would labour incessantly for her release;
after which he departed towards the Crow camp, with a gait somewhat
tottering and uncertain, from the joint effect of the weight of his
burthen and the wound that he had so lately received.

We will now leave Reginald engaged in the sad yet dear employment of
comforting his betrothed, and striving, by a thousand suggestions, to
relieve her anxiety respecting the fate of her beloved instructor, and
her lover’s friend. Neither will we follow War–Eagle and Baptiste in
securing the important post which they had so unexpectedly won; but we
will return to the Crow camp, where Mahéga had newly arrived with his
prisoners, and where every thing was in a state of alarm and confusion.

Great had been the panic consequent on the double defeat which they had
sustained; nor had its effects been entirely removed by the successful
blow last struck by Mahéga, and the capture of the two white men. The
Osage chief had lost all his warriors, with the exception of four, his
baggage and ammunition were in the hands of the enemy, and he well knew
that his only remaining chance of retaining the support of his allies,
was in vigorously pursuing the success which he had so opportunely
gained. The Crow chief, on the other hand, disheartened by the loss and
disgrace which had befallen his tribe, and vexed beyond measure at the
detention of his son’s favourite wife, justly attributed both these
misfortunes to an alliance which had brought no increase either to his
power or his wealth.

Such was the state of parties when the council of the Upsarokas met to
decide upon the fate of their prisoners. The debate being carried on
in their own language, Mahéga was unable to gather the sentiments of
the several speakers, and he declined to sit in the circle, but stood
leaning against the outer post of the council lodge, his quick eye bent
upon the countenance of each successive speaker, as if he would read
there the purport of his harangue. One fierce and hot–headed warrior
proposed that the prisoners should be instantly put to death, and a
sudden attack be made with their whole force on the opposite hill,
which would be easily recovered, and an abundance of plunder acquired.
An older Indian next addressed the meeting in a persuasive tone, that
suited well the sharp and cunning expression of his countenance. He
argued, that the Crows had derived no advantage, but rather loss and
misfortune, from their alliance with Mahéga, and that it was their
interest to make friends with the newly arrived band, who were more
rich and powerful; wherefore he advised that the lives of the prisoners
should for the present he spared.

The debate was at its height, and the assembly apparently divided in
opinion, when Besha entered the council–lodge, and sat down in the
outer circle near to the entrance. All eyes were turned to him, as
the report of his capture had already spread through the village, and
his wasted appearance, as well as the bandages over his neck and arm,
showed that he had been wounded in the late affray. After a brief
silence, the chief desired that he would relate what had occurred, a
command which the horse–dealer obeyed without hesitation.

Although not gifted with any orational powers, he was a shrewd fellow,
thoroughly versed in all the wiles of Indian diplomacy, and well
aware, as a resident guest among the Crows, that his best chance
of a favourable hearing was to frame his speech according to their
interests, which happened in the present instance to tally with his
own. In relating the events which had occurred in the opposite camp,
he exaggerated the strength and wealth of the enemy, dwelling at large
upon the clemency shown to himself, and upon the desire evinced for
peace; stating, in conclusion, that he was the bearer of a specific
message, or proposal, to the great chief. At this announcement there
was a general murmur of curiosity, and Mahéga bit his lip with vexation
at his inability to understand what was going on.

At a signal from the chief, Besha proceeded to inform the council, that
Bending–willow, the bride of their favourite and absent war–leader,
was now a captive; and he recounted faithfully the circumstances
under which she had visited the white tent with him, and the terrible
threats held out respecting her in the event of any injury being done
to the white prisoners. The effect of this announcement was so great,
that it was visible even to Mahéga; nor was he surprised when Besha
explained to him, by order of the chief, that the council had decided
upon sparing the lives of the white men, at least until the return of
the war–leader and his band of braves, now absent on a foray into the
country of the Black–feet.

Agreeably to this decision, Paul Müller and Ethelston were confined
in a lodge adjoining that of the chief, under a Crow guard, to whom
strict orders were given to prevent their escape, and also to protect
them against any attempt on the part of Mahéga or his followers. Besha
was allowed to see them, and they learnt from him that their friends
had been completely successful, and had recaptured the Great Medicine
of the tent, as well as the ammunition and baggage. He further informed
them, that he would do all in his power to effect their release; adding
a significant hint that he should not be unwilling to receive tangible
proofs of their gratitude.

The captives were, upon the whole, much comforted by this interview;
and on his departure, Ethelston said, addressing his companion,
“Reverend father, we have cause to be grateful for the intelligence
communicated to us by this man, inasmuch as we expected no less than to
be put to an immediate and perhaps a cruel death. Yet, methinks, for
a messenger of good tidings, he has the most uncomely and villanous
countenance that ever I beheld.”

“I will not say that his face recommends him,” said Paul Müller,
smiling; “albeit the expression thereof may have been altered for the
worse by the loss of an eye. I have seen him more than once before
among the tribes bordering upon the Mexican frontier, and if my memory
serves me, he bore the reputation of being a crafty and designing knave
in his vocation; but I never heard him charged with cruelty or thirst
of blood.”

“What, then, do you think are the motives for the friendly exertions
which he professes to make in our behalf?”

“We will hope that they are partly owing to a grateful sense of the
treatment he has experienced at the hands of our friend Reginald, and
partly from the expectation of presents and rewards, which the Osage is
no longer in a condition to offer. Meanwhile, we must solace ourselves
in our captivity with the reflection, that my beloved pupil is safe
under the charge of friends upon whose fidelity and devotion we can
fully rely.”

Leaving the captives to comfort each other with these and other
similar suggestions, we will return to Reginald Brandon, who forgot
not, even in the enjoyment of Prairie–bird’s society, to occupy
himself constantly in devising plans for their liberation. In these he
was warmly seconded by War–Eagle and Baptiste; but, after carefully
reconnoitring the Crow camp, they agreed that it was too strong to
be carried by open attack by their small party, especially as they
had learnt from Besha that the husband of Bending–willow, the son of
the great chief, had just returned with his band, consisting of fifty
chosen warriors, from a successful foray into the Black–foot country.

The wily horse–dealer was allowed, in his mixed capacity of interpreter
and envoy, to pass from camp to camp; and, as both parties were
desirous of securing his co–operation, presents were liberally heaped
upon him; and his grey eye twinkled, as he cast it upon the increasing
pile of goods at the back of his lodge. “There will soon be enough to
exchange for a hundred beaver–skins,” said he to himself; “then Besha
will look for some fine horses, and go towards the east.”

While he was thus congratulating himself on his prospects of future
wealth, a tall figure darkened the entrance of his lodge, and the
young war–chief stood before him. “_White–bull_[68] would speak with
Besha,” said the former in a haughty tone, adjusting with dignity the
cream–coloured robe from which he took his designation.

“Let the young chief be seated,” replied the horse–dealer, making at
the same time a signal to one of his lads to offer food and a pipe to
his guest.

White–Bull’s first impulse was to refuse this hospitality, but he
checked it; and having tasted a morsel, and emitted two voluminous
puffs of smoke from the pipe, he turned to the horse–dealer, and said
in a stern deep tone, “Bending–willow is a prisoner in the white
tent! Besha took her there, he must bring her back, for the heart of
White–bull is dark—there is no light or pleasure without her.”

“The will of the bride was strong,” he replied; “she would take no
counsel from Besha; if he did not go with her she would go alone to
consult the Medicine of the tent; Besha went with her that none might
do her harm.”

“The ears of White–bull are not to be tickled by the songs of birds,”
said the young chief, fiercely. “Besha took her to the white men’s
camp, and he must bring her back before two suns have set, or his heart
shall be cut out from his body.”

“White–bull knows that there are two white prisoners here; let him
give them to Besha, and he will bring back Bending–willow before the
sun is in the west.”

“The white prisoners belong to the war–council,” said the young man
sullenly. “White–bull cares not whether they live or die; but he wants
his bride, whom the fool Besha led away to a place where she was caught
like a beaver in a trap; if he does not bring her back within two
sunsets, the blade of this knife shall be red. White–bull has spoken,
and his words are not wind!” So saying, the violent youth passed with
angry strides from the horse–dealer’s lodge.

Besha now found himself in an awkward predicament, in endeavouring to
extricate himself from which his first step was to consult the young
chief’s father, hoping that the latter would give his consent at once
to release the prisoners for the recovery of the favourite bride. But
the old man would not agree to the proposal, giving as his reason, that
the council had resolved either to take the lives of the prisoners,
or to make the enemy pay many horses and much goods for their ransom.
“Besha has a tongue,” continued the crafty old man; “he can speak with
the white men; he can tell them that if the bride is given up, their
friends shall be returned; they will believe him, and all will be well.”

Besha, though not particularly scrupulous in his morality, was startled
at first by this proposal of treacherous and deliberate falsehood
towards one who had spared his life and had given him his liberty,
besides loading him with presents; but his conscience being of an
extremely elastic texture, he soon reconciled himself to the idea by
the reflection that it was his best, if not his only chance of saving
his life from the fury of the incensed White–bull. He made no reply to
the old chief; but, as he went away, the two rogues exchanged a look
which satisfied them that they understood each other.

The horse–dealer proceeded without delay to the lodge where Paul
Müller and Ethelston were confined, into which he was admitted by
their guards. Having explained to the missionary that he was about
to visit the white men’s camp for the purpose of liberating him and
his companion by the recovery of the captive bride, he desired to be
furnished with a sign by which they would be induced to give her up
without hesitation; for Besha, in his rambles on the Mexican frontier,
had frequently met with the Spanish traders, and although he could not
read letters himself, he knew how they were used for the interchange
of communication at a distance.

Before giving any reply, Paul Müller explained the state of affairs to
his companion, and asked his counsel.

“Methinks we should trust the fellow,” said Ethelston, “for he has
hitherto befriended us: but let us not write any thing that can
endanger the safety of Prairie–bird.”

“I agree with you, my son,” he replied, “and will write accordingly.”

So saying, he took a small pocket–book from his breast, and wrote with
a pencil upon a leaf of it the following words:

“Ethelston and Paul Müller send their affectionate greeting. The bearer
says that he can liberate them if the captive bride is restored.
Reginald Brandon will consult with those about him, and do what he
thinks best. Let the safety of Prairie–bird, and of those who are now
her protectors, be the first object. Glad and thankful should we be to
embrace our dear friends again; but we are well and cheerful here: in
joy and in sorrow, in life and in death, we are in the hands of One who
rules all for the best. Farewell.”

Having received the paper, Besha lost no time in setting off to the
opposite camp.



CHAPTER V.

 DAVID MUIR AND HIS DAUGHTER PAY A VISIT TO COLONEL BRANDON.—THE
 MERCHANT BECOMES AMBITIOUS; HE ENTERTAINS PROJECTS FOR JESSIE’S FUTURE
 WELFARE, WHICH DO NOT COINCIDE WITH THAT YOUNG LADY’S WISHES.


While the events related in the preceding chapters were passing in the
great Western wilderness, the days of early summer glided smoothly on
at Mooshanne, uninterrupted by any incident worthy of record. Aunt Mary
continued her round of busy occupation with her usual indefatigable
activity. Never could there occur in the neighbourhood a case of
sickness or of sorrow to which she did not hasten to administer the
needful consolation; and in the town of Marietta her benevolent
exertions were assisted by Jessie Muir, whose attendance in her
father’s store enabled her to gather all the current news from the
numerous customers who frequented it.

“The merchant” (for so David Muir was designated by all who did
not wish to affront him) grew daily in importance and dignity. His
speculations in trade had been, for the most part, successful; and
two or three of his suggestions for the improvement of the town had
been adopted. A sharp attack of fever had subdued for a season the
domineering spirit of Dame Christie; and David found himself not only
respected by the neighbours, but even enjoyed the sweet though brief
delusion, that he was master in his own house.

Neither his pride nor his increasing wealth interrupted, however, his
close attention to business; and Colonel Brandon, finding that the
affairs entrusted to him were managed with great punctuality and skill,
treated him with corresponding confidence.

On a fine summer’s morning, about a month after Ethelston’s departure
for the Far–west, the merchant’s four–wheeled chaise stood before his
door, drawn, not by a sorry pony, but by a strong horse, the condition
and appearance of which betokened the thriving circumstances of the
owner. Jessie Muir, wearing a very becoming bonnet, and a shawl newly
arrived from England, had just cast a passing look into the oval mirror
in the back–parlour, and was busily employed in giving directions
respecting the contents of a parcel about to be placed in the seat
of the chaise, while Henry Gregson was listening with ill–dissembled
impatience to the repeated cautions given to him by David as to his
conduct during the brief absence which he meditated.

“Noo, Hairy,” (for thus was the name of Harry pronounced in David’s
north–country dialect,) “ye maun be vera carefu’ o’ the store, and see
that the lads attend weel to the folk wha come to buy, and that Jane
stays aye amang the caps an’ shawls and printed cottons, instead of
keekin out o’ the window at a wheen idle ne’er–do–weels in the street;
and as for the last lot of Bohea, ye can truly say it’s the finest that
ever cam’ to Marietta: I’m thinkin’ the minister’s wife will be fain
to buy a pun’ or twa. And, Hairy, mind that ye ... but the deil’s in
the lad! what are ye glow’ring at, over my shoulder, as if ye se’ed a
wraith, an’ no listening to what I’m sayin’?”

Here the merchant turned round, and his eye happening to fall upon a
parcel of fire–irons so carelessly placed on an upper shelf, that they
threatened the destruction of a pile of crockery below, he ordered
the shop–boy to secure the offending tongs, and, turning to Harry,
continued in a more complacent tone, “It’s nae wonder, lad, that ye
could na tak’ your een off they irons; they had like to make an awfu’
smash amaing the cups and saucers; I’m glad to see that ye ‘re so canny
and carefu’ o’ the goods.”

Harry bit his lips, and made no reply, while the merchant, who had
already seen Jessie take her seat in the chaise, was preparing to
follow, when he turned to the young man, and said in a low voice, “Ye
‘ll not forget that the mistress will need her gruel at midday?”

“I will take care that it is not forgotten, and I suppose, sir, the
glass of French brandy is to be put into it?”

“Glass o’ French brandy, ya daft chiel,” said the merchant, forgetting
for a moment the prudential whisper; then resuming it, he added, “Wha
talks o’ glasses o’ French brandy? Ye ken tho’ that the mistress has
no gotten her strength yet, and she said she would like just four
spoonfu’s o’ brandy in the gruel to gie’t a taste and keep the cauld
out o’ her wame. Ye ken the mistress’ ain spoon in the tea–cup–board?”

“Yes, sir, I know it well,” replied Harry, with demure gravity, adding,
half–aloud, as his principal drove from the door, “and a precious
gravy–spoon it is; before it is four times filled and emptied it will
make the largest wine–glass in the store run over the brim, and the old
lady’s tongue go like a mill–wheel. Never mind, for Jessie’s sake, I’ll
brew the gruel as stiff as my father’s grog, and bear Dame Christie’s
scolds without complaint.”

“He’s a canny, douce lad, yon Hairy,” said the merchant to his
daughter, as they jolted leisurely along the uneven, but picturesque
road that led from Marietta to Mooshanne, “and does na’ care to rin
about the toon like ither idle gillies, but seems aye content to min’
the store; did ye see, Jessie, how he caught wi’ ae blink o’ his ee the
airns that were about to fa’ amongst my best Wedgewood?”

Had the merchant not been occupied as he put this question, in guiding
the wheels between sundry deep ruts and holes in the road, he could
not have failed to observe the heightened colour that it brought into
Jessie’s countenance; for the maiden was conscious that at the moment
referred to, Harry’s gaze had been fixed, not upon the fire–irons or
the Wedgewood, but upon her own comely self.

It is one of the peculiar properties and triumphs of love, that,
not content with securing its own position in the human heart, it
delights in unsettling and metamorphosing the tenants by which it was
previously occupied. Under its wayward sway boldness becomes timidity,
and fierceness is transformed into gentleness, while bashfulness is
rendered bold, and simplicity has recourse to the devices of cunning.

Thus Jessie Muir, who was naturally of a frank open disposition, but
who had a secret presentiment that her father would reject the suit of
her lover if it were now to be declared, acquiesced demurely in his
observation respecting the attention shown by Harry Gregson to the
business of the store.

“Weel, a–weel,” continued the merchant, “he’s a gude lad, and no
ill–faured neither; I’m thinkin’, Jessie, that he and Jean will maybe
fancy each other; they’re aye thegither i’ the store, an’ the bit
lassie might gae further and fare waur than by takin’ up wi’ Hairy.”

This speech was too much for Jessie’s equanimity; the coolness with
which her father spoke of his servant–maid “takin’ up” with her lover,
stung her to the quick, and she replied tartly, “Father, I wish you
would mind your driving among these holes and stumps, instead of
talking about Jean and her idle nonsense. Indeed, father, that last
jolt nearly threw me out of the chaise.”

“Weel, Jessie, ye need na mak’ such a pother about a stump mair or less
atween Marietta and Mooshanne; and though I’ll no say that my drivin’
is like that of Jehu, the son of Jehoshaphat, ye need na fear that I’ll
coup the braw new chaise for a’ that.”

Jessie was well pleased to have turned her father’s thoughts into
another channel; and being a little ashamed of the momentary irritation
to which she had given way, she now exerted herself to please and amuse
him, in which she succeeded so well that they reached Mooshanne in
cheerful mood, and with wheels uninjured by hole or stump.

Colonel Brandon, seeing the merchant drive up to the door just as he,
with Lucy and Aunt Mary, were about to sit down to dinner, went himself
to the door, and, with the frank hospitality of his nature, invited
him and his daughter to share their family meal. This invitation was
no small gratification to the pride of David Muir, who had on former
visits to Mooshanne regaled himself with Monsieur Perrot in the pantry.
The boxes and parcels having been safely deposited, and the chaise sent
round to the stable, Lucy aided Jessie to uncloak and unbonnet, and in
a few minutes the party, thus increased, found themselves assembled at
the Colonel’s table.

“My worthy friend,” said the latter, addressing his guest, “you seem
to have brought an unusual variety of packages to–day; I suppose the
greater part of them are for Lucy’s benefit rather than for mine?”

“Maybe Jessie has brought a few things fresh frae Philadelphy for Miss
Lucy to look at,” replied David; “but the maist part o’ what I hae wi’
me the day, came late yestreen, by Rob Mitchell’s batteau from St.
Louis. There’s a wheen letters and parcels frae Messieurs Steiner and
Roche, which will, nae doubt, explain the settlement o’ the matter
anent your shares in the fur trade.”

“Are there not any other letters from Saint Louis?” inquired Lucy,
colouring slightly.

“There’s nane, my bonny young leddy,” replied David, “excepting twa,
ane frae auld Miller, to acknowledge the receipt o’ the last ten
barrels o’ saut pork that I sent him, and anither frae Reuben Stiggs,
wha keeps the great outfitting store for trappers, to order an early
freight o’ blankets, bibles, religious tracts, scalp–knifes, and
whisky, for the Indian trade.”

In spite of her disappointment, Lucy could not forbear smiling at the
gravity with which the merchant enumerated this strange mixture of
goods ordered for a warehouse, to which the missionary and the trapper
both resorted for their respective supplies.

The dinner passed agreeably enough; and Jessie Muir having soon
recovered from the diffident shyness by which she had been at first
overcome, amused Lucy and Aunt Mary by her quiet, but shrewd,
observations on persons and things in Marietta; while the merchant
enjoyed, with evident satisfaction, several glasses from a certain
bottle of madeira, which he knew to have been for some years deposited
in his own warehouse.

As soon as dinner was over, the ladies retired to Lucy’s boudoir, where
she examined the contents of the packages which Jessie had brought
for her inspection, while Colonel Brandon looked over the letters and
papers from St. Louis. These proved to be of considerable importance,
as they announced that all the points in dispute with the other fur
company had been satisfactorily arranged, and that his own shares,
as well as those in which Ethelston’s property was chiefly invested,
had risen greatly in value. During the perusal of this correspondence
the Colonel spoke from time to time familiarly and unreservedly with
his companion. He had learnt from Lucy the attachment that existed
between Henry Gregson and the merchant’s daughter, and had formed an
internal resolution to contribute to its successful issue by advancing
to the young man a sum sufficient to enable him either to enter into
partnership with the merchant, or to commence business on his own
account; but it was not his intention to develope this scheme until
he had spoken with the elder Gregson; wherefore, he contented himself
for the present with sounding the merchant in vague and general terms
respecting the disposal of his daughter’s hand.

“My good friend,” said the Colonel, “now that we have despatched our
business, it occurs to me that I ought to remind you of a circumstance
which may not yet have entered your thoughts, namely, that your
daughter Jessie is grown up to be a very pretty, sensible, and discreet
young woman, and that having no son of your own, you ought to seek for
her a worthy husband, who might hereafter aid her in comforting the
declining years of Dame Christie and yourself.”

During this address the merchant fidgeted on his chair, and betrayed
other evident symptoms of uneasiness; but he made no reply, and
the Colonel continued: “I think I know of a young man who has long
entertained an attachment for her; and, if I am not mistaken, Miss
Jessie would be more likely to smile than to frown upon his suit.
Feeling myself not a little interested in his future prospects, I
should, if Mrs. Muir and yourself approve the match, willingly
contribute, as far as lies in my power, to their comfortable
settlement.”

“Really, Colonel Brandon, ye’re vera kind, I can no’ fin’ words
to thank ye,” stammered David, who seemed to have lost his
self–possession; and before he could recover it so far as to make any
distinct reply, Lucy came into the room; and taking the Colonel’s arm,
looked up affectionately into his face, saying, “Dear father, you
have given enough time now to business; come into my room and hear
one of Jessie’s Scotch songs. I have just been listening to one which
was written, as she tells me, by Robert Burns; it is so simple and so
beautiful, she has promised to sing it over again for you.”

The Colonel smiled, and followed his daughter, saying to the merchant
as they left the room, “We will speak further on that subject the next
time that we meet.”

As soon as the little party was assembled in the boudoir, Colonel
Brandon entreated Jessie Muir to fulfil her promise of singing again
the song which had given so much pleasure to his daughter. Blushing
slightly, Jessie complied, and sung, in a voice of much natural
sweetness, and without accompaniment:—

  “Oh! wert thou in the cauld, cauld blast,
    On yonder lea, on yonder lea;
  My plaidie to the angry _airt_,[69]
    I’d shelter thee, I’d shelter thee.
  Or did misfortune’s bitter storms
    Around thee blaw, around thee blaw;
  Thy _bield_[70] should be my bosom,
    To share it a’, to share it a’.

  “Or were I in the wildest waste,
    Sae black an’ bare, sae black and bare;
  The desert were a paradise,
    If thou wert there, if thou wert there:
  Or were I monarch of the globe,
    Wi’ thee to reign, wi’ thee to reign;
  The brightest jewel in my crown
    Should be my queen, should be my queen.”

The Colonel having bestowed not undeserved praise upon the taste and
feeling with which Jessie had sung her simple melody, added, “Yet I do
not remember these words among the songs of the Ayrshire bard. Lucy,
you have often read to me from the volume of his poems which came from
England; do you recollect having seen this song amongst them?”

“Indeed I do not,” replied Lucy; “yet it is so full of his peculiar
force of expression and feeling, that it is difficult to believe it to
have been written by any one else.”

“I have been told,” said Jessie, “that this song was found among his
papers after his death. This may be the reason why you have not seen it
in your volume.”

The conversation having once turned upon the subject of the writings of
Ayrshire’s immortal bard, whose fame was then spreading far and wide
over the habitable globe, it dwelt for some time upon the attractive
theme; and the tall pines were already beginning to cast their
lengthened shadows over the lawn, ere the merchant remembered that Dame
Christie might be “wearyin’” for his return, and perhaps scold him
for exposing himself and his daughter to the perils of the Mooshanne
stump–studded track in the dusk of the evening. The chaise having
been ordered to the door, David Muir put on his hat and cloak, while
Jessie donned her bonnet and shawl; and a few minutes saw them jogging
steadily away on their return to Marietta.

For some time, neither broke the silence of the deep forest through
which they were driving, for each had their own subject for meditation.
Jessie, whose spirit was softened by the songs of her father–land, and
had been touched by the gentle kindness of Lucy’s manner towards her,
looked steadily towards the west; and while she thought that she was
admiring the gigantic hemlock pines, whose huge limbs now came out in
bold relief from the ruddy saffron sky beyond, her musings blended in
sweet, but vague, confusion the banks of Allan, Doon, and Ayr, with
those of the river beside her, and pictured the “Jamies,” “Willies,”
and other “braw, braw lads” of Scottish minstrelsy, in the form of no
less a personage than Harry Gregson.

She was roused from her reverie by the voice of her father, whose
meditations had taken quite a different direction, as will be seen by
the conversation that ensued between them.

“Jessie, it’s a gae bonnie house, yon Mooshanne, an’ the mailen’s[71]
the best in th’ haill territory.”

“Indeed, father, it is a very pretty house, and most kind are those who
live in it.”

“Wad ye no’ like to live in it yoursel, Jessie?”

“To say truth, father, I would rather live in a smaller house that I
might call my own.”

“But suppose ye might ca’ yon fine house your own, what wad ye say
then, lassie?” This inquiry was enforced with a significant poke from
the merchant’s elbow.

Jessie looked up in her father’s face, and seeing that it was unusually
grave, she replied, “Father, I do not understand what you are aiming
at. I am very happy in our house at Marietta, and wish for none better.”

“Ye’re a fule,” said the merchant, angrily. “I tell ye, Jessie, ye’re
no better than a fule; and when fortun’ hands oot her han’ to ye, ye’ll
no’ gang half–way to tak’ it. Hae ye no’ seen how oft Maister Reginald
comes to our store, and hangs aboot it like a tod round a hen–roost?”

“Indeed, father, I have made no such remark; and if Master Reginald did
often come to our store, it was for powder, or a knife, or some trifle
for Miss Lucy, and not for any other cause.”

“Hoot awa’ wi’ your pouther and knives, ye blind hizzie,” said the
merchant; “it was to see and speak wi’ yoursel”, and no’ for any other
cause.”

“Father, I am sure you are mistaken; Master Reginald would never so far
forget the difference in our rank and condition, and I should be very
sorry if he did.”

“What do ye mean, lass, about difference o’ rank and condeetion? Are
the Muirs no’ as weel–born as ony lord or duke in the auld kintra? Do
ye no’ ken that my mother’s father’s sister was married to Muir of
Drumliwhappit, an’ that he was near cousin to the Laird o’ Blagowrie,
wha married the sister o’ the Earl o’ Glencairn? Rank and condeetion,
indeed! as I tauld ye, just now, ye’re neither mair nor less than a
fule, Jessie. Why, the Colonel spak’ wi’ me anent the matter this vera
day, an’ said that he’d do what lay in his power to mak a’ smooth an’
comfortable.”

Jessie Muir was now, indeed, surprised; for she had hitherto imagined
that the idea of Reginald Brandon having taken a fancy to her, was one
of those crotchets which the merchant sometimes took up, and which
he would then maintain with all the pertinacious obstinacy of his
character; but she knew him to be incapable of a direct untruth, and
was therefore overwhelmed with astonishment at the communication last
made to her.

We should not faithfully portray Jessie’s character, were we to say
that she experienced no secret gratification when she learnt that her
hand was sought by one possessed of so many advantages of person and
fortune; but we should do her injustice were we not to add, that the
sensation endured only for a moment; and then, her heart reverting to
Henry Gregson, she thought only of the increased obstacles which would
now interfere with their attachment, and she burst into tears.

“Dinna greet, lassie, dinna greet,”[72] said the merchant, surprised
and somewhat softened by this unexpected emotion, and he muttered to
himself, “There’s no kenning the twists and krankums o’ a woman’s mind!
I tell her that she’s courted by a weel–faured young man, wi’ the best
prospects in the haill territory, and she taks on to greet like a
_skelpit wean_.”[73]

After various ineffectual attempts to draw from her any explanation of
the cause of her grief, he ceased to interrogate her, wisely resolving
to consult Dame Christie on the subject, and they drove on in silence
until they reached their home in Marietta.

As they entered the house they were met by Harry Gregson, who led
the way into the parlour, where he placed in the merchant’s hand a
paper which had arrived during his absence, and which proved to be
an extensive order for articles to be shipped for St. Louis on the
following day.

Whilst David Muir ran his eye over the list, calculating the amount of
profit which he might expect to realise from the whole, young Gregson,
observing the tears not yet dry upon Jessie’s cheek, cast upon her a
look of anxious affectionate inquiry, which seemed only to increase her
confusion and distress.

“Father, I am tired,” she whispered, in a subdued voice, “and will go
to my room to rest.” Having received his embrace, she turned towards
the door, where Gregson presented to her a candle that he had lighted
for her, and in so doing he took her hand and pressed it; she withdrew
it gently, and, in reply to his “Good night, Miss Jessie,” gave him in
silence a parting look so full of mingled tenderness and grief, that
his anxiety was no longer to be controlled, and he resolved to draw
from the merchant some explanation of her agitation. Seeing that he had
at length finished his careful perusal of the paper, he said, “I think,
sir, that Miss Jessie looks very unwell this evening; has any thing
happened to hurt or alarm her?”

“Naething, naething, my gude lad, only I tauld her some news that ought
to have made her blithe as a lavrock,[74] and she thought fit to wet
her een wi’ dool[75] anent it.”

“That is strange, indeed,” replied the young man; and he added, in a
hesitating tone, “I hope, sir, you will not think me impertinent, as I
take so much interest in all that concerns your family, if I inquire
what was the nature of the good news that you communicated to Miss
Jessie?”

“Why, Hairy,” replied the merchant, sinking his voice to a confidential
whisper, “as ye’re a discreet cannie lad, that’ll no crack[76] about
they things all ower the toon, I may just tell ye that, Jessie—“

“David! David!” screamed a shrill voice from the room above, “are ye
gaun to haver[77] there the lee–lang night?”

“Comin’ this moment, Christie,” said the obedient husband, leaving the
room as he spoke, with the air and countenance of one so thoroughly
hen–pecked, that Harry Gregson, in spite of his anxiety, laughed
outright; saying to himself, as many a lover has said before and since,
“How unlike is Jessie’s voice to that of her mother!”



CHAPTER VI.

 BESHA PURSUES HIS CAREER AS A DIPLOMATIST.—AN AGREEABLE TETE–A–TETE
 DISAGREEABLY INTERRUPTED.—THE STEPS THAT MAHÉGA TOOK TO SUPPORT HIS
 DECLINING INTERESTS AMONG THE CROWS.


We left Besha engaged in an attempt to liberate the bride of the young
Crow chief, by proposing to Reginald and his party an exchange of
prisoners.

On arriving at the camp, he was allowed to pass by the sentries, and
took his way up the hill to the tent of Prairie–bird. As soon as the
object of his errand became known, a council was held, consisting of
Reginald Brandon, War–Eagle, Baptiste, Pierre, and Wingenund; and,
having heard the proposal made on the part of the Crows they proceeded
to deliberate on the course to be pursued.

They could have no hesitation in agreeing to an exchange of prisoners,
could that be effected upon equal terms; but the Crows insisted upon
the return of Bending–willow, as a preliminary step towards the release
of their prisoners, and to this Baptiste and Pierre were most strongly
opposed, especially the latter, who had experienced on more than one
occasion the proverbial treachery of the Upsaroka tribe.

Reginald was disposed, with the fearless generosity of his nature,
to be satisfied with binding them, by the most solemn obligations
recognised by their customs, to release their prisoners on the safe
return of Bending–willow; but his opinion was overruled by his
companions, and the horse–dealer’s mission wore a most unpromising
aspect, when he bethought him of delivering the note written by Paul
Müller to Reginald.

The perusal of this effected an immediate alteration in the sentiments
of the council, and the restoration of the captive bride was decided
upon. She was seated in the outer compartment of Prairie–bird’s tent,
when Besha entered, accompanied by Reginald, to inform her of her
liberation.

Pierre, who was still suspicious of some treachery, and who had some
knowledge of the Crow language, placed his ear at the corner of the
aperture, with the intention of discovering any under–plot that might
be going forward.

Besha, however, was too crafty to be caught in such a trap, or else
he did not intend to make Bending–willow the confidant of his real
intentions; so he simply announced to her that she was free to return
to her husband’s lodge, and that the white prisoners were to be
restored in exchange for her.

Shaking off the sadness by which she had been of late overcome, she
sprang to her feet, and her eyes sparkling with grateful joy, she
pressed her hand upon Reginald’s breast, then, looking round, she
pronounced distinctly the name of “Olitipa.”

On hearing herself thus called, Prairie–bird came forth from her inner
tent, and having learnt the intelligence that, by the restoration of
her new friend, the liberation of Paul Müller was to be effected,
she embraced the former and presented her with a necklace of coral.
Bending–willow returned the embrace with affectionate earnestness, and
was then led by Besha from the tent.

As they passed towards the stockade, Pierre, whose suspicions were not
yet entirely lulled, and who felt a deep interest in the safety of
Ethelston, came up to the horse–dealer, and whispered in his ear, “If
the tongues of the Crows or of Besha are forked, if the white prisoners
are detained or injured, many widows shall howl in the camp, and the
tongues of the wolves shall be red with Upsaroka blood!”

The prairie–guide spoke these words in a tone of deep meaning, and
Besha knew that he was not a man likely to utter an idle or empty
threat; he answered accordingly, “If Besha lives, the prisoners shall
return unhurt before the next sunset,” and, so saying, pursued his
unmolested way to the Crow camp.

While they were crossing the valley which separated the two
encampments, Reginald, War–Eagle, and Baptiste still lingered near the
door of the tent, discussing the events of the day, and expressing
their respective opinions as to the probable conduct of the Crows.

“What says Prairie–bird?” inquired Reginald, addressing the maiden, who
had been a not uninterested auditor of the discussion.

“Has not the Crow chief,” she replied, “given a faithful promise that
on the return of the bride he would restore my father and his friend
unhurt?”

“He has.”

“What, then, is the doubt?”

“The doubt is, whether the word of the Crow can be believed: whether he
may not still detain or injure his prisoners.”

Prairie–bird mused for a few seconds, as if debating within herself the
possibility of such falsehood; then raising her head, she said in a
tone of emphasis, “Fear not: my father and your friend will return to
us uninjured.”

“I accept the omen, sweet prophetess!” exclaimed Reginald, cheerfully;
“and will believe that their thoughts are honest and straightforward,
as you deem them, unless their conduct should prove the contrary; in
that event,” he added, turning to War–Eagle, “my Indian brother and I
will see what our own heads and hands can do to set free our friends.”

The chief replied not; but the sarcastic smile that played over his
dark features, showed how little he shared in Prairie–bird’s opinion of
Upsaroka faith.

Meanwhile, Bending–willow returned in safety to her lodge, where Besha
presented her, with an air of triumph, to her impatient lord. The other
wives and women retired while she related to him her adventures; and
from the mingled laughter and caresses with which he listened to her
narrative, it is probable that she confessed to him the motive that had
induced her to seek the Medicine of the white tent.

As soon as she concluded, he desired one of his young men to lead
before the lodge a favourite horse, swift, high–couraged, and strong,
from the back of which he had killed, with lance and bow, many a bison
cow. Placing the bridle of raw hide in the hands of the horse–dealer,
he said, “Besha has brought back the Sweet–scented–willow to its bed,
he shall not go away with empty hands. When he rides through the
village the warriors shall say that his horse is fit to carry a chief;
and if any speak to him bad words, let him tell them to beware, for
White–bull calls him brother!”

So saying, the young savage, who had now completely recovered his good
humour, half–lifted, half–threw the astonished dealer upon the horse’s
back, and turned again into the lodge to renew his caresses to his
recovered bride.

“All goes well!” thought Besha within himself, as he rode towards his
own quarters, proving, with professional skill, the paces and qualities
of his new steed. “All goes well! and this animal will fetch me two
hundred dollars in the lower Arkansas country; few such are to be
found there. I wonder where this Crow thief found or stole it? If I
can manage with fine words to get a few more skins from this tribe,
and a few more presents from the white men, I will join the summer
return–train from the Black Hills, and make my way back towards the
east.”

Indulging in these honest and disinterested meditations, the
horse–dealer arrived before his own lodge, where his Indian wife
awaited his coming with a savoury mess of bison–meat and marrow;
after despatching which he smoked his pipe, without permitting any
reflections concerning the prisoners whose cause he had so shamelessly
betrayed to disturb his appetite or his present lazy enjoyment.

It was fortunate for them that they had an advocate more honest
and zealous in a quarter where they least suspected it. This was
Bending–willow; who, after showing to her lover–husband the coral
necklace given to her by Prairie–bird, and repeating to him the kind
treatment that she had experienced in the tent, entreated him to use
his influence for the restoration of the prisoners.

This she was not able to effect, as he stated that they belonged to
the great council, who would decide upon their fate, after consulting
the Medicine; but she obtained from him a promise that he would in
the meantime protect them from all chance injury, as well as from the
violence of any personal enemy who might bear them ill–will.

The deliberations of the Indian tribes are, in fact, carried on in
a manner more strongly resembling those of civilised nations than
is usually believed; that is, a few leading men meet together, and
arrange the plan of operations to be pursued, after which they convoke
the grand council, by whatever name it may be called, and insensibly
lead its members to propose, second, and carry the measures previously
agreed upon. Thus it was with the Crows upon the present occasion.
The old chief of the band, as soon as he learnt the safe return of
Bending–willow, sent for his son the White–bull, whose rank as leader
of the braves entitled him to be present at a secret council; two other
warriors, of more advanced age and experience, were also admitted; and
these four being assembled, they entered upon their deliberations with
a freedom of thought and speech such as could not have been consistent
with the forms and usages of a public meeting.

It would be tedious to relate in order the various arguments that were
adduced by the several speakers in turn; suffice it to say, that the
father of White–bull, independent of his claim to authority as chief,
happened to be the oldest man and the greatest rogue present; all which
concurrent advantages gave a preponderating influence to his advice.
The result was, as might have been expected, its adoption by the
unanimous consent of his three companions; and, as the aftermovements
of the band were regulated by it, a brief sketch of its purport and
objects will not be misplaced.

His counsel, stript of Indian imagery and ornament, was that they
should for the present detain the prisoners; and in order to avoid the
consequences of the violent ebullition of resentment which might be
expected on the part of the white men and Delawares, that they should
instantly decamp, and marching towards the south and west by the most
intricate and difficult passes, make their way to the neighbourhood of
the district where Mahéga informed them that he had concealed his goods
and stores. These it was their intention, of course, to appropriate,
and afterwards to deal with their dangerous and haughty possessor as
might be found most expedient. Meanwhile it was certain that the allied
band would follow their trail for the recovery of the prisoners; and
if they did so, with their baggage and Prairie–bird’s tent, the Crows
had little fear of being overtaken, excepting when they chose to halt
for the purpose; if, on the contrary, the allied band should divide,
the chief knew that from the intimate acquaintance of his warriors with
the localities, they would easily find means to attack and overcome the
weakened party left in charge of the tent and its wonderful mistress.

The outline of operations being settled, it was further agreed that
the prisoners should be entrusted to