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THE OAK OPENINGS. 167

his real respect for the bee-hunter, of whose prowess he
had so lately been a witness, kept him a little within bounds
"but it bess not take nobody in. What Injin say to
squaw, he do what pale-face say, he no do."

" Is that true, Bourdon? " demanded Margery, laughing at
the Indian s earnestness.

" I shall be honest, and own that there may be some truth
in it for the Injin promises nothing, or next to nothing,
and it is easy to square accounts, in such cases. That white
men undertake more than they always perform, is quite
likely to be the fact. The Injin gets his advantage in this
matter, by not even thinking of treating his wife as a woman
should be treated."

"How should treat woman ?" put in Pigeonswing with
warmth. "When warrior eat venison, gib her rest, eh?
Dat no good what you call good, den? If good hunter
husband, she get nough if an t good hunter, she don t get
nough. Just so wid Injin sometime hungry, sometime
full. Dat way to live!"

" Aye, that may be your red man s ways, but it is not the
manner in which we wish to treat our wives. Ask pretty
Margery, here, if she would be satisfied to wait until her
husband had eaten his dinner, and then come in for the
scraps. No no Pigeonswing; we feed our women and
children Jirst, and come in last, ourselves."

" Dat good for pappoose he little ; want venison squaw
tough ; use to wait. Do her good."

Margery now laughed outright, at these specimens of In
dian gallantry, which only too well embody the code of the
red man s habits. Doubtless the heart has its influence
among even the most savage people, for nature has not put
into our breasts feelings and passions to be discarded by
one s own expedients, or wants. But no advocate of the
American Indian has ever yet been able to maintain that
woman fills her proper place in his estimate of claims. As
for Margery, though so long subject to the whims, passions,



1 68 THE OAK OPENINGS.

and waywardness of a drunkard, she had reaped many of the
advantages of having been born in that woman s paradise,
New England. We are no great admirers of the legacy left
by the Puritan to his descendants, taken as an inheritance
in morals, manners, and customs, and as a whole; though
there are parts, in the way of codicils, that there is no por
tion of the Christian world which might not desire to emu
late. In particular, do we allude to the estimate put upon,
and the treatment received by their women. Our allusion
is not to the refinements and gracefulness of polished in
tercourse ; for of them, the Blarney Rock of Plymouth has
transmitted but a meagre account in the inventory, and per
haps the less that is said about this portion of the family
property the better; but, dropping a few degrees in the
social scale, and coming down to the level where we are
accustomed to regard people merely as men and women, we
greatly question if any other portion of the world can fur
nish a parallel to the manly, considerate, rational, and wisely
discriminating care, that the New England husband, as the
rule, bestows on his wife; the father on his daughter; or the
brother on his sister. Gershom was a living, and, all things
considered, a remarkable instance of these creditable traits.
When sober, he was uniformly kind to Dorothy; and for
Margery he would at any time risk his life. The latter,
indeed, had more power over him than his own wife pos
sessed, and it was her will and her remonstrances that most
frequently led him back from the verge of that precipice
over which he was so often disposed to cast himself. By
some secret link she bound him closest to the family dwell
ing, and served most to recall the days of youth and com
parative innocence, when they dwelt together beneath the
paternal roof, and were equally the objects of the affection
and solicitude of the same kind mother. His attachment
to Dorothy was sincere, and, for one so often brutalized by
drink, steady; but Dorothy could not carry him as far back,
in recollections, as the one only sister who had passed the



THE OAK OPENINGS. 169

morning of life with him, in the same homely but comfort
able abode.

We have no disposition to exaggerate the character of
those whom it is the fashion to term the American yeomen,
though why such an appellation should be applied to any
in a state of society to which legal distinctions are un
known, is what we could never understand. There are no
more of esquires and yeomen in this country than there are
of knights and nobles, though the quiet manner in which
the transition from the old to the new state of things has
been made, has not rendered the public mind very sensible
to the changes. But, recurring to the class, which is a pos
itive thing and consequently ought to have a name of some
sort or other, we do not belong to those that can sound its
praises without some large reservations on the score of both
principles and manners. Least of all, are we disposed to
set up these yeomen as a privileged class, like certain of the
titular statesmen of the country, and fall down and worship
a calf not a golden one by the way of our own setting up,
We can see citizens in these yeomen, but not princes, who
are to be especially favored by laws made to take from oth
ers to bestow on them. But making allowances for human
infirmities, the American freeholder belongs to a class that
may justly hold up its head among the tillers of the earth.
He improves daily, under the influence of beneficent laws,
and if he don t get spoiled, of which there is some danger,
in the eagerness of factions to secure his favor, and through
that favor his vote if he escape this danger, he will ere
long make a reasonably near approach to that being, which
the tongue of the flatterer would long since have persuaded
him he had already more than got to be.

To one accustomed to be treated kindly, as was the case
with Margery, the Chippewa s theory for the management of
squaws contained much to excite her mirth, as well as her
resentment, as she now made apparent by her remarks.

" You do not deserve to have a wife, Pigeonswing," she



I/O THE OAK OPENINGS.

cried, half-laughing, yet evidently alive to the feelings of
her sex " can have no gratitude for a wife s tenderness and
care. I wonder that a Chippewa girl can be found to have
you?"

" Don t want him," coolly returned the Indian, making his
preparations to light his pipe "got Winnebagoe squaw,
already; good nough for me. Shoot her t other husband
and take his scalp den she come into my wigwam."

" The wretch ! " exclaimed Margery.

But this was a word the savage did not understand, and
he continued to puff at the newly lighted tobacco, with all
of a smoker s zeal. When the fire was secured, he found
time to continue the subject.

"Yes, dat good war-path got rifle; got wife; got two
scalp! Don t do so well, ebbery day."

"And that woman hoes your corn, and cooks your veni
son ? " demanded the bee-hunter.

" Sartain capital good to hoe no good to cook make
deer meat too dry. Want to be made to mind business.
Bye m by teach him. No 1 arn all at once, like pale-face
pappoose in school."

" Pigeonswing, have you never observed the manner in
which the white man treats his squaw? "

" Sartain see him make much of her put her in warm
corner wrap blanket round her give her venison fore he
eat himself see all dat, often what den? Dat don t make
it right."

" I give you up, Chippewa, and agree with Margery in
thinking you ought not to have a squaw, at all."

"T ink alike, den why no get marry?" asked the In
dian, without circumlocution.

Margery s face became red as fire ; then her cheeks set
tled into the color of roses, and she looked down, embar
rassed. The bee-hunter s admiration was very apparent to
the Indian, though the girl did not dare to raise her eyes
from the ground, and so did not take heed of it. But this



THE OAK OPENINGS.



gossiping was suddenly brought to an end by a most unex
pected cause of interruption ; the manner and form of which
it shall be our office to relate, in the succeeding chapter.



CHAPTER XI.

So should it be for no heart beats

Within his cold and silent breast ;
To him no gentle voice repeats

The soothing words that make us blest.

PEABODY.

THE interruption came from Dorothy, who, on ascending
the little height, had discovered a canoe coming into the
mouth of the river, and who was running, breathless with
haste, to announce the circumstance to the bee-hunter.
The latter immediately repaired to the eminence, and saw
for himself the object that so justly had alarmed the woman.
The canoe was coming in from the lake, after running be
fore the wind, which now began to abate a little in its
strength, and it evidently had been endeavoring to proceed
to the northward. The reason for its entering the river,
was probably connected with the cookery or food of the
party, since the lake was each minute getting to be safer,
and more navigable for so light a craft. To le Bourdon s
great apprehension, he saw the savages on the north shore
making signal to this strange canoe, by means of smoke, and
he foresaw the probability of his enemies obtaining the
means of crossing the stream, should the strangers proceed
in the desired direction. To counteract this design, he ran
down to a spot on the beach where there was no rice-plant,
and showing himself to the strangers, invited them to land
on the south side, which was much the nearest, and in other
visible respects quite as convenient as the opposite bank of
the river. One of the strangers soon made a gesture with
an arm, implying assent, and the bows of this strange canoe



THE OAK OPENINGS.

were immediately turned toward the spot where the bee-
hunter stood.

As the canoe drew near, the whole party, including Pig-
eonswing, came to the margin of the water to receive the
strangers. Of the last, there were three; one paddling at
each end of the light bark, and a third seated in its centre,
doing nothing. As the bee-hunter had his glass, with which
he examined these visitors, he was soon questioned by his
companions concerning their character and apparent pur
poses.

" Who are they, Bourdon ? " demanded the impatient
Margery " and why do they come here ? "

" The last is a question they must answer for themselves,
but the person paddling in the bows of the canoe seems to
be a white man, and a soldier or a half-soldier, if one may
judge from his dress. The man in the middle of the canoe
is white, also. This last fellow seems to be a parson yes,
he is a clergyman, though pretty well used up in the wilder
ness, as to dress. The third man is a red-skin, beyond all
doubt."

" A clergyman ! " repeated Margery, in surprise. " What
should a clergyman be doing here? "

" There are missionaries scattered about among the sav
ages, I suppose you know, and this is probably one of them.
A body can tell one of these parsons by his outside, as far
as he can see him. The poor man has heard of the war,
most likely, and is trying to get back into the settlements,
while his scalp is safe on his head."

"Don t hurt him" put in the Chippewa, pointedly.
"Know mean well talk about Great Spirit Injin don t
scalp sich medicine-men if don t mind what he say, no
good to take his scalp."

" I m glad to hear this, Pigeonswing, for I had begun to
think no man s scalp was safe under your fingers. But what
can the so ger be doing down this-away? A body would
think there was business enough for all the so gers up at



THE OAK OPENINGS. 173

the garrison, at the head of the lake. By the way, Pigeons-
wing, what has become of your letter to the captain at Fort
Dearborn, to let him know of the war? "

" Chaw him up, like so much baccy," answered the Chip-
pewa "yes, chaw him up, lest Pottawattamie get hold on
him, and ask one of King George s men to read him. No
good to hab letter in sich times."

"The general who employed you to carry that letter, will
scarce thank you for your care."

" Yes, he do t ank all same pay all same letter no use
now."

"How can you know that? The letter might be the
means of preventing the garrison from falling into the ene
my s hands."

"Got dere, already. Garrison all kill, scalp, or pris ner.
Pottawattamie talk tell me dat."

"Is this possible! Mackinaw and Chicago both gone,
already ! John Bull must have been at work among the sav
ages a long time, to get them into this state of readiness! "

" Sartain work long as can member. Alway somebody
talkin for great Montreal Fadder among red men."

" It must be as you say, Chippewa but, here are our visi
tors let us see what we can make of them"

By this time, the canoe was so near as to render it easy
to distinguish countenances and dress, without the aid of
the glass so near, indeed, that a swift-moving boat, like the
canoe, might be expected soon to reach the shore. The
truth of the observation of the bee-hunter was confirmed, as
the strangers approached. The individual in the bows of
the canoe was clearly a soldier, in a fatigue-dress, and the
musket between his legs was one of those pieces that gov
ernment furnishes to the troops of the line. The man in the
middle of the boat could no more be mistaken than he in its
bows. Each might be said to be in uniform the well-worn,
nay, almost threadbare black coat of the " minister," as much
denoting him to be a man of peace, as the fatigue-jacket



THE OAK OPENINGS.

and cap on the person of his hard-featured and weather-
beaten companion indicated that the last was a man of war.
As for the red man, Pigeonswing declared that he could not
yet tell his tribe, though there was that about his air, attire,
and carriage that proclaimed him a chief and, as the Chip-
pewa fancied, a chief of note. In another minute, the bows
of the light craft grated gently on the shingle of the beach.

" Sago, sago," said the soldier, rising to step ashore
" sago all, friends, and I hope we come to a welcome camp."

" You are welcome," returned the bee-hunter. " Welcome
as strangers met in the wilderness, but more welcome, as I
see by your dress that you are a veteran of one of Uncle
Sam s regiments."

"Quite true, Mr. Bee-hunter; for such I see is your call-
in , by the honey vessel and glass you carry, and by the oth
er signs about you. We are travelling toward Mackinaw,
and hope to fare as friends, while we stay in your good
company."

" In going to Mackinaw, do you expect to meet with an
American or an English garrison ? "

" One of our own, to be sure," returned the soldier, look
ing up from his work, like one struck by the question.

" Mackinaw has fallen, and is now an English post, as
well as Chicago."

"This, then, must alter our plans, Mr. Amen!" ex
claimed the soldier, addressing the minister. " If the ene
my has Mackinaw, it will not do for us to trust ourselves on
the island."

"Amen " was not the real name of the missionary; but it
was a sobriquet bestowed by the soldiers, on account of the
unction with which this particular word was ordinarily pro
nounced, and quite likely, too, because it was the word of
all others most pleasant to their ears, after a sermon, or a
prayer. It had, by long use, got to be so familiar, that the
men did not scruple to use it to the good man s face. This
missionary was a Methodist; a sect that possessed, in that



THE OAK OPENINGS. 175

day, very few clergymen of education, most of its divines
coming of a class in life that did not predispose them to
take offence at light invasions on their dignity, and whose
zeal and habitual self-denial had schooled them into a sub
mission to far more positive personal privations, than any
connected with the mere tongue. That there are " wolves
in sheep s clothing " among the Methodists, as well as among
the other religious sects of the country, our daily experience
shows; but the mind must be sadly inclined to believe evil
of others, which does not see in the humble and untiring
efforts of this particular sect of Christians, more than mere
fanaticism or hypocrisy can produce.

"You are right, corporal," returned the missionary;
" since this is the case, I see no better course for us to pur
sue, than to put ourselves altogether in the hands of Onoah.
He has counselled us well, hitherto, and will do better by
us than any other guide to be found, out in this wilderness."

Le Bourdon could scarcely trust his sense of hearing!
Onoah was the Indian appellation of the terrible and most
dreaded savage, who, in English, went by the name of Scalp
ing Peter, or " Scalping Pete," among all the white dwellers
on that frontier, and at all the garrisons of the Americans,
far and near. The Indian name, indeed, was said to mean
" scalp," in several of the dialects of the Iroquois. Perhaps
it may be well, also, to explain here, that the term "garri
son " did not imply, in the language of that region, the troops
only who garrisoned a post, but it was even oftener applied
to the post itself than to those who held it. Thus old, emp
ty, and deserted forts, those that have actually been aban
doned, and are devoted to decay, are almost universally
styled the "garrisons," even though a soldier had not put
foot in them for a quarter of a century. This is one of the
proofs of the convertible nature of our language, of which
the country affords so many, and which has changed the
smaller-sized rivers into " creeks," " lakes " into " ponds,"
"squares" into "parks," public promenades on the water



1/ THE OAK OPENINGS.

into " batteries " ; to all of which innovations, bad as they
may be, and useless and uncalled for, and wanton as they
are, we are much more willing to submit, than to the new
fangled and lubberly abomination of saying " on a steam
boat," or "on a ship."

While le Bourdon was so much astounded at hearing the
terrible name of Onoah, which was familiar enough to him,
neither of his white companions betrayed any emotion. Had
the Indian been termed " Scalping Peter," it is probable that
both Dorothy and Margery would have screamed, if not ac
tually fled; but they knew nothing of the appellation that
was given to this mysterious chief, in the language of the
red men. To this circumstance, therefore, was it owing that
the utterance of his name did not produce a general commo
tion. The bee-hunter observed, nevertheless, a great change
in the demeanor of the Chippewa, the instant the missionary
had uttered the ominous word, though he did not seem to be
alarmed. On the contrary, Boden fancied that his friend
Pigeonswing was pleased, rather than terrified, at ascertain
ing the character of their visitor, though he no longer put
himself forward, as had been the case previously; and from
that moment the young warrior appeared to carry himself in
a more subdued and less confident manner than was his
wont. This unexpected demeanor on the part of his friend,
somewhat confounded le Bourdon, though it in a degree re
lieved his apprehensions of any immediate danger. All
this time, the conversation between the missionary and the
corporal went on in as quiet and composed a manner, as if
each saw no ground for any other uneasiness than that con
nected with the fall of Mackinaw.

"Yes, sir," returned the soldier, "Onoah is a good guide,
and a great hand at a council-fire; but these is war-times,
and we must stand to our arms, each accordin to his edica-
tion and temper you, sir, with preachin and praying and
I with gun and baggonet."

"Ah! corporal, the preaching and praying would be of



THE OAK OPENINGS. 1 77

quite as much account with you men of war, as your arms
and ammunition, if you could only be made to think so.
Look at Fort Dearborn ! It was defended by human means,
having its armed band, and its guns and swords, and cap
tains and corporals ; yet you have seen their pride lowered,
their means of defence destroyed, and a large part of your
comrades massacred. All this has been done to armed
men, while the Lord has brought me, an unarmed and hum
ble teacher of his word, safely out of the hands of the Phil
istines, and placed me here in safety, on the shores of the
Kalamazoo."

" For that matter, Mr. Amen, the Lord has done the same
by me, with a musket on my shoulder and a baggonet by my
side," returned the literal corporal. " Preachin may be
good on some marches; but arms and ammunition answers
well enough on others. Hearken to the Hebrew, who knows
all the ways of the wilderness, and see if he don t give you
the same opinion."

" The Hebrew is one of the discarded of the Lord, as he
is one chosen of the Lord ! " returned the missionary. " I
agree with you, however, that he is as safe an adviser, for a
human adviser, as can be easily found ; therefore will I con
sult him. Child of the seed of Abraham," he added, turn
ing to Onoah, " thou hast heard the tidings from Macki
naw ; we cannot think, any longer, of pursuing our journey
in that direction; whither, then, wouldst thou advise that we
shall direct our steps ? I ask this question of thee first, as
an experienced and sagacious dweller in the wilderness: at
a more fitting time, I intend to turn to the Lord, and seek
divine aid for the direction of our footsteps."

"Aye," observed the corporal, who entertained a good
deal of respect for the zealous, but slightly fanatical mis
sionary, though he believed an Indian was always safe to
consult in matters of this sort, "try both if one staff should
fail, it may be well to have another to lean on. A good
soldier always keeps a part of his troops for a reserve. I

12



I?8 THE OAK OPENINGS.

remember when Mad Anthony gave the command to charge
the inemy, at the Mawmee, we was all for going forward,
like so many furious devils, but the old man said, No;
keep them men in resarve, he said, for no one knows when
his flank may be turned, or he may catch a volley from his
rear. Well, what does Onoah tell you, Mr. Amen? "

By this time the strange Indian had landed, thus giving
le Bourdon an opportunity of examining his person and at
tire more closely than he had hitherto done. This renowned
savage renowned, as fame is regarded on a frontier, where
the posts of the whites were then a hundred leagues asunder
was in the summer-dress of the woods, and any one ac
quainted with the customs of the North American Indian
could at once perceive that he bore on his person the sym
bols of authority and rank. The insignia of the golden
fleece, or of the Saint Esprit, are not more infallible evi
dences of high personal degree among the nobles of Europe,
than were the emblems borne by this savage, of his consid
eration among the people of his color and origin, along the
shores of those wild and inland seas of fresh water, which
then were seldom ploughed by a keel; which have since got
to be familiar with the steamers, the propeller, brig, ship,
and schooner; and which, ere the close of the present cen
tury, will, in all probability, be whitened, like the Mediter
ranean, with the canvas of the thousand craft that will be
required for the navigation of their borders.* Around his
neck Onoah wore what might be termed a gorget of tubes,
made of the red pipe-stone of the west, and which were
carved and wrought with care, if not with much skill.
Above this he had a rude representation of a rattlesnake
drawn on his breast with yellow paint. This was under
stood to be the " totem," or " arms," of his tribe ; though

* In crossing Lake Erie, within the last few months, the writer, in a run of
twenty-four hours, counted no less than sixty-three vessels, met, overtaken, and seen.
He remembers that water, in the first ten years of the present century, when a single
sail was an object of interest and curiosity. The change must have been witnessed to
be appreciated.



THE OAK OPENINGS. 1/9

what that tribe was, where it dwelt, or whence it came, it
was commonly believed among both the red-skins and pale
faces of the region, no one but himself knew. On a small
silver medal that was suspended above the gorget was
stamped the image of that cross on which the Son of God,
in his human character, suffered death for the redemption
of men. It would seem that this savage, keen, sharp-witted,
and observant as he was, though not a believer in the doc
trines inculcated by the Bible, had none of that holy horror
of this sacred emblem that so singularly besets the imagina
tions of many who profess to place all their hopes of salva
tion on the sacrifice that was made on its great original.
He wore an ancient medal of the Jesuits, one that had
passed through generations of his family, as a political
rather than as a religious symbol, though perfectly aware of



Online LibraryJames Fenimore CooperOak openings, or, The bee-hunter → online text (page 14 of 41)