James Fenimore Cooper.

The bee-hunter; or, The oak openings (Volume 2) online

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There have been tears from holier eyes than mine

Pour'd o'er thee, Zion ! yea, the Son of Man

This thy devoted hour foresaw, and wept. MII.MAN.





Printed by Schulze and Co., 13, Poland Street.





There is no other land like thee,

No dearer shore ;
Thou art the shelter of the free ;
The home, the port of liberty
Thou hast been, and shall ever be

'Till time is o'er.
Ere I forget to think upon
My land, shall mother curse the son

She bore.


THE independent, not to say controlling, man
ner of Peter, would seem to put all remonstrances
and arguments at defiance. Le Bourdon soon had
occasion to see that both the missionary and the



corporal submitted to his wishes, and that there
was no use in gainsaying anything he proposed.
In all matters he did as he pleased 5 his two com
panions submitting to his will as completely as if
one of them had seen in this supposed child of
Israel, Joshua, the son of Nun, and the other even
Aaron, the high priest, himself.

Peter's preparations were soon made. Every
thing belonging to the missionary and the corporal
was removed from the canoe, which then contained
only the extra clothing and the special property of
the Indian himself. As soon as ready, the latter
quietly and fearlessly paddled away, his canoe
going easily and swiftly down before the wind.
He had no sooner got clear of the rice, than the
Bee-hunter and Margery ran away to the emi
nence, to watch his movements, and to note his
reception among the Pottawattamies. Leaving
them there, we shall accompany the canoe, in its
progress towards the northern shore.

At first, Peter paddled quietly on, as if he had
no other object before him than the passage of
the river. When quite clear of the rice, however,
he ceased, and undid his bundle of clothes, which
were carefully put away in the knapsack of a sol-


dier. From this repository of his effects, the chief
carefully drew forth a small bundle, on opening
which, no less than seven fresh human scalps ap
peared. These he arranged, in order, on a wand-
like pole, when, satisfied with the arrangement, he
resumed the paddle. It was apparent, from the
first, that the Pottawattamies on the north shore
had seen the strange canoe when it entered the
river, and they now collected in a group at the
ordinary landing beneath the chiente, to await its
approach. Peter ceased his own exertions, as soon
as he had got within a hundred yards of the beach,
took the scalp-pole in his hand, arose, and per
mitted the canoe to drift down before the wind,
certain it would take the desired direction from
the circumstance of his having placed it precisely
to windward of the landing. Once or twice he
slowly waved the pole in a way to draw attention
to the scalps, which were suspended from its end,
each obvious and distinct from its companions.

Napoleon, when he returned from the campaign
of Austerlitz; or Wellington, when he entered the
House of Commons to receive the thanks of its
speaker, on his return from Spain ; or the chief of
all the battles of the Rio Bravo del Norte; or him

B 2


of the valley of Mexico, whose exploits fairly
rival those of Cortes himself, could scarcely be a
subject of greater interest to a body of spectators,
assembled to do him honour, than was this well-
known Indian, as he drew near to the Pottawat-
tamies, waving his scalps in significant triumph !
Glory, as the homage paid by man to military
renown is termed, was the common impulse with
them all. It is true, that, measured by the stan
dards of reason and right, the wise and just might
find motives for appreciating the victories of those
named differently from the manner in which they
are usually regarded through the atmosphere of
success; but in the common mind it was all glory
alike. The name of (i Onoah" passed in murmurs
of admiration from mouth to mouth ; for as it ap
peared, the person of this renowned Indian was
recognized by many on the shore, sometime ere
,he reached it himself.

Crowsfeather and the other chiefs, advanced to
meet the visitor; the young men standing in
the background, in respectful admiration. Peter
now stepped from the canoe, and greeted
each of the principal men with the courteous
gravity of a savage. He shook hands with each,


calling one or two by name, a proof of the parties
having met before; then the following dialogue
occurred. All spoke in the tongue of the Potta-
wattamies, but as we have had occasion to remark
on previous occasions, it is to be presumed that
the reader would scarcely be able to understand
what was said, were we to record it, word for word,
in the language in which it was uttered. In con
sequence of this difficulty, and for other reasons
to which it may not be necessary to allude, we
shall endeavour to translate that which passed, as
closely as the English idioms will permit us so to

" My father is very welcome I" exclaimed
Crowsfeather, who, by many degrees, exceeded all
his companions in consideration and rank. (s I
see he has taken many scalps, as is his practice,
and that the pale-faces are daily getting to be
fewer. Will the sun ever rise on that day when
their wigwams will look like the branches of the
oak in winter ? Can my father give us any hope
of seeing that hour ?"

"It is a long path from the salt-lake out of
which the sun rises, to that other salt-lake in
which it hides itself at night. The sun sleeps each


night beneath water, but it is so hot, that it is
soon dried when it comes out of its bed in the
morning. This is the Great Spirit's doings, and
not ours. The sun is his sun; the Indians can
warm themselves by it, but they cannot shorten
its journey a single tomahawk-handle's length.
The same is true of time ; it belongs to the Ma-
nitou, who will lengthen or shorten it, as he may
see fit. We are his children, and it is our duty
to submit. He has not forgotten us. He made
us with his own hand, and will no more turn us
out of the land than a father will turn his child
from the wigwam "

"We hope this is so; but it does not seem
thus to our poor weak eyes, Onoah. We count
the pale faces, and every summer they grow fast
as the grass on the prairies. We can see more
when the leaf falls than when the tree is in bud ;
and, then, more when the leaf is in bud than when
it falls. A few moons will put a town where the
pine stood, and wigwams drive the wolves from
their homes. In a few years we shall have no
thing but dogs to eat, if the pale-face dogs do not
eat us."

" Squaws are impatient, but men know how


to wait. This land was given to the red man by
the Great Spirit, as I have often told you, my
children; if he has let in the pale-faces for a few
winters, it is to punish us for having done wrong.
Now that we are sorry for what we have done, he
will help us to drive away the strangers, and give
us the woods again to hunt in by ourselves. Have
not messengers from our Great Father in Mon
treal been among the Pottawattamies to strengthen
their hearts ?"

"They are always whispering in the ears of
our tribes. I cannot remember the time when
whisperers from Montreal have not been among
us. Their blankets are warm, their fire-water is
strong, their powder is good, and their rifles
shoot well; but all this does not stop the chil
dren of Uncle Sam from being more at night than
they were in the morning. The red men get tired
of counting them. They have become plentier
than the pigeons in the spring. My father has
taken many of their scalps, but the hair must
grow after his knife, their scalps are still so

<c See \" rejoined Peter, lowering his pole so
that all might examine his revolting trophies,


f( these come from the soldiers at the head of the
lake. Blackbird was there with his young men ;
no one of them all got as many scalps ! This is
the way to stop the white pigeons from flying over
us in such flocks as to hide and darken the sun."

Another murmur of admiration passed through
the crowd, as each young warrior bent forward to
count the number of the scalps, and to note, by
signs familiar to themselves, the ages, sex, and
condition of the different victims. Here was
another, among a hundred others of which they
had heard, of the prowess of the mysterious
Onoah, as well as of his inextinguishable hatred
of the race that was slowly, but unerringly, sup
planting the ancient stock, causing the places
that once knew the people of their tribes "to
know them no more." As soon as this little burst
of feeling had subsided, the conversation went on.

ic We have had a pale-faced medicine-man
among us, Onoah," continued Crowsfeather, " and
he has so far blinded us that we know not what
to think."

The chief then recounted the leading events of
the visit of the Bee-hunter to the place, stating
each occurrence fairly, as he understood it, and as


fairly confessing that even the chiefs were at a loss
to know what to make of the affair. In addition
to this account, he gave the mysterious Onoah
the history of the prisoner they had taken, the
death of Elksfoot, their intention to torture that-
very morning the Chippewa they had captured,
and his flight, together with the loss of their
young man, and the subsequent escape of their
unknown enemies, who had taken away all of
their own canoes. How far the medicine-man
had anything to do with the other events of his
narrative, Crowsfeather very candidly admitted he
could not even conjecture. He was still at a loss
whether to set down the conjurer for a pretender
or as a real oracle. Peter, however, was less cre
dulous even than the chiefs. He had his super
stitious notions, like all uneducated men, but a
clear head and quick intellect placed him far above
the weaknesses of the red men in general. On
receiving a description of the person of the un
known ee medicine-man," he at once recognised the
Bee-hunter. With an Indian to describe and an
Indian to interpret or apply, escape from discovery
was next to impossible.

Although Onoah, or the " Tribeless," as he was

B 3


also frequently called by the red men, from the
circumstance of no one's knowing to what parti
cular section of the great Indian family he be
longed, perfectly understood that the Bee-hunter
he had seen on the other shore was the indivi
dual who had been playing the part of a conjuror
among these Pottawattamies, he was very careful
not to reveal the fact to Crowsfeather. He had
his own policy, and was fully aware of all the
virtue there is in mystery and reserve. With an
an Indian these qualities go farther even than
with a white man; and we of the Circassian
race are not entirely exempt from the folly of
being deceived by appearances. On the present
occasion Peter kept his knowledge to himself,
still leaving his red brethren in doubt and uncer-
tainity ; but he took care to be right in his own
opinions by putting as many questions as were
necessary for that purpose. Once assured of his
fact, he turned to other subjects of even greater
interest to himself and his companions.

The conference which now took place between
the " Tribeless " and Crowsfeather was held apart,
both being chiefs of too much importance to be
intruded on at a moment like that. The two


chiefs exhibited a very characteristic picture while
engaged in this conference. They seated them
selves on a bank, and drawing their legs partially
under them,, sat face to face, with their heads less
than two feet asunder, occasionally gesticulating
with dignity, but each speaking in his turn
with studied decorum. Crowsfeather was highly
painted, and looked fierce and warlike, but Onoah
had nothing extraordinary about him, with the ex
ception of the decorations and dress already
described, unless it might be his remarkable
countenance. The face of this Indian ordinarily
wore a thoughtful cast, an expression which it is
not unusual to meet with in a savage ; though at
times it lighted up, as it might be with the heat of
inward fires, like the crater giving out its occa
sional flames beneath the hues of a saddened
atmosphere. One accustomed to study the human
face, and to analyze its expressions, would possi
bly have discovered in that countenance lines of
deep artifice, together with the traces of a pro
found and constitutional enthusiasm. He was
bent, at that very moment, on a scene worthy of
the loftiest spirit living; the regeneration and


union of the people of his race, with the view to
recover the possessions they had yielded to the
pale-faces ; but it was a project blended with the
ferocity and revenge of a savage noble while

Not idly had the whites, scattered along that
frontier, given the sobriquet of ee Scalping " to
Peter. As his pole now showed, it had been earned
in a hundred scenes of bloody vengeance; and
so great had been his success, that the warrior,
prophet, and councillor, for all these characteris
tics were united in his single person, began to
think the attainment of his wishes possible. As a
matter of course, much ignorance of the power of
the Anglo-Saxon race on this continent was
blended with these opinions and hopes; but
it was scarcely an ignorance exceeding that
of certain persons of far higher pretensions
in knowledge, who live in another hemisphere,
and who often set themselves up as infalli
ble judges of all things connected with maw
and his attributes. Peter, the " Tribeless," was
not more in fault than those who fancied they saw
the power of this great Republic in the gallant


little band collected at Corpus Christi, under its
indomitable chief, and who, march by march
nay, foot by foot, as it maybe have perseveringly
predicted the halt, the defeat, the disasters, and
final discomfiture which it has not yet pleased
Divine Providence to inflict on this slight effort
of the young Hercules, as he merely moves in his
cradle. Alas ! the enemy that most menaces the
overthrow of this new and otherwise invincible
exhibition of human force, is within ; seated in the
citadel itself; and must be narrowly watched, or
he will act his malignant purpose, and destroy the
fairest hopes that ever yet dawned on the fortunes
of the human race !

The conference between the two chiefs lasted
fully an hour. Crowsfeather possessed much of
the confidence of Peter, and as for Onoah, neither
Tecumthe nor his brother, the prophet, com
manded as much of the respect of Crowsfeather as
he did himself. Some even whispered that the
"Tribeless" was the individual who lay behind
all, and that the others named merely acted as he
suggested or advised. The reader will obtain all
the insight into the future that it is necessary
now to give him, by getting a few of the remarks


made by the two colloquists, just before they
joined the rest of the party.

" My father, then, intends to lead his pale-faces
on a crooked path, and take their scalps when he
has done with them/ 5 said Crowsfeather, who had
been gravely listening to Peter's plans of future
proceeding " but who is to get the scalp of the
Chippewa ?"

"One of my Pottawattamie young men; but not
until I have made use of him. I have a medi
cine-priest of the pale-faces and a warrior with me,
but shall not put their scalps on my pole until
they have paddled me further. The council is to
be first held in the Oak Openings " we translate
this term freely, that used by Peter meaning
rather " the open woods of the prairies " " and I
wish to show my prisoners to the chief, that they
may see how easy it is to cut off all the Yankees.
I have now four men of that people, and two
squaws in my power ; let every red man destroy
as many, and the land will soon be clear of them

This was uttered with gleamings of ferocity in
the speaker's face; that rendered his countenance
terrible. Even Crowsfeather quailed a little be-


fore that fierce aspect ; but the whole passed away
almost as soon as betrayed, and was succeeded by
a friendly and deceptive smile,, that was charac
teristic of the wily Asiatic rather than of the
aboriginal American.

" They cannot be counted/ 5 returned the Potta-
wattamie chief, as soon as his restraint was a little
removed by this less terrific aspect of his compa
nion, "if all I hear is true; Blackbird says that
even the squaws of the pale-faces are numerous
enough to overcome all the red men that remain."

" There will be two less, when I fasten to my
pole the scalps of those on the other side of the
river," answered Peter, with another of his tran
sient, but startling, gleams of intense revenge.
ee But no matter, now: my brother knows all I
wish him to do. Not a hair of the head of any of
these pale-faces must be touched by any hand but
mine. When the time comes, the knife of Onoah
is sure. The Pottawattamies shall have their
canoes, and can follow us up the river. They
will find us in the Openings, and near the Prairie
Round. They know the spot; for the red men
love to hunt the deer in that region. Now, go
and tell this to your young men ; and tell them


that corn will not grow nor the deer wait to be
killed by any of your people, if they forget to do
as I have said. Vengeance shall come when it is

Crowsfeather communicated all this to his war
riors^ who received it as the ancients received the
words of their oracles. Each member of the
party endeavoured to get *an accurate notion of
his duty, in order that he might comply to the
very letter with the injunctions received. So pro
found was the impression made among all the
red men of the North-west by the previous la
bours of the " Tribeless," to awaken a national
spirit, and so great was their dread of the conse
quences of disobedience, that every warrior pre
sent felt as if his life were the threatened penalty
of neglect or disinclination to obey.

No sooner, however, had Crowsfeather got
through with his communication, than a general
request was made that the problem of the
whiskey-spring might be referred to Onoah for
solution. The young men had strong hopes, not
withstanding all that had passed, that this spring
might yet turn out to be a reality. The scent
was still there, strong and fragrant, and they


could not get rid of the notion that " fire-water"
grew on that spot. It is true, their faith had been
somewhat disturbed by the manner in which the
medicine-man had left them, and by his failure to
draw forth the gushing stream which he had im-
plieclly promised^ and in a small degree performed;
nevertheless, little pools of whiskey had been
found on the rock, and several had tasted and
satisfied themselves of the quality of the liquor.
As is usual, that taste had created a desire for
more, a desire that seldom slumbered on an
Indian palate when strong drinks were connected
with its gratification.

Peter heard the request with gravity, and con
sented to look into the matter with a due regard
to his popularity and influence. He had his own
superstitious views, but among them there did
not happen to be one which admitted the pos
sibility of whiskey's running in a stream from the
living rock. Still he was willing to examine the
charmed spot, scent the fragrant odour, and make
up his own estimate of the artifices by which the
Bee-hunter had been practising on the untutored
beings into whose hands chance had thrown him.

While the young men eagerly pointed out the


precise spots where the scent was the strongest,
Peter maintained the most unmoved gravity. He
did not kneel to smell the rocks, like the other
chiefs, for this an innate sense of propriety told
him would be undignified; but he made his ob
servations closely, and with a keen Indian-like
attention to every little circumstance that might
aid him in arriving at the truth. All this time,
great was the awe and deep the admiration of the
lookers-on. Onoah had succeeded in creating a
moral power for himself among the Indians of
the North-west which much exceeded that of any
other red man of that region. The whites scarcely
heard of him, knew but little of his career, and
less of his true character, for both were shrouded
in mystery. There is nothing remarkable in this
ignorance of the pale-faces of the time. They did
not understand their own leaders ; much less the
leaders of the children of the openings, the
prairies, and the forest. At this hour, what is
really known by the mass of the American people
of the true characters of their public men ? No
nation that has any claim to civilization and pub
licity knows less, and for several very obvious
reasons. The want of a capital in which the


intelligence of the nation periodically assembles,
and whence a corrected public opinion on all
such matters ought constantly to flow, as truth
emanates from the collisions of minds, is one of
these reasons. The extent of the country, which
separates men by distances that no fact can travel
over without incurring the dangers of being per
verted on the road, is another. But the most
fatal of all the influences that tend to mislead the
judgment of the American citizen, is to be found
in the abuse of a machinery that was intended to
produce an exactly contrary effect. If the tongue
was given to man to communicate ideas to his
fellows, so has philosophy described it as " a gift
to conceal his thoughts." If the press was de
vised to circulate truth, so has it been changed
into a means of circulating lies. One is easily,
nay, more easily, sent abroad on the four winds
of the heavens than the other. Truth requires
candour, impartiality, honesty, research, and in
dustry ; but a falsehood, whether designed or not,
stands in need of neither. Of that which is the
most easily produced, the country gets the most ;
and it were idle to imagine that a people who
blindly and unresistingly submit to be put, as it


might be, under the feet of falsehood, as respects
all their own public men, can ever get very accu
rate notions of those of other nations.

Thus was it with Onoah. His name was un
known to the whites, except as a terrible and
much-dreaded avenger of the wrongs of his race.
With the red men it was very different. They
had no " forked tongues" to make falsehood take
the place of truth ; or if such existed, they were
not believed. The Pottawattamies now present
knew all about Tecumseh*, of whom the whites
had also various and ample accounts. This
Shawanee chief had long been active among
them, and his influence was extended far and
near. He was a bold, restless, and ingenious
warrior; one, perhaps, who better understood
the art of war, as it was practised among red men,
than any Indian then living. They knew the
name and person, also, of his brother Elks-
watawaf, or the Prophet, whose name has also
become incorporated with the histories of the
times. These two chiefs were very powerful,
though scarce dwelling regularly in any tribe;

* A " tiger stooping for his prey."
f " A door opened."


but their origin, their careers, and their characters
were known to all, as were those of their common
father, Pukeesheno*, and their mother, Meethe-
taskef. But with Onoah it was very different.
With him the past was as much of a mystery as
the future. No Indian could say even of what
tribe he was born. The totem that he bore on
his person belonged to no people then existing on
the continent, and all connected with him, his
history, nation, and family, was conjecture and

It is said that the Indians have traditions which
are communicated only to a favoured few, and
which by them have been transmitted from gene
ration to generation. An enlightened and edu
cated red man has quite recently told us in person,
that he had been made the repository of some of
these traditions, and that he had thus obtained
enough of the history of his race to be satisfied
that they were not derived from the lost tribes of
Israel, though he declined communicating any
more. It is so natural to resort to secresy in

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Online LibraryJames Fenimore CooperThe bee-hunter; or, The oak openings (Volume 2) → online text (page 1 of 14)