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the spirit in which it had been first bestowed. He probably
saw that the cross was revered by one class of missionaries,
while another scarce endeavored to conceal their distaste
for it, a circumstance that might have confounded a neo
phyte of less acuteness than himself.*

Beneath the rattlesnake, or " totem " of his tribe, Onoah
had rudely drawn an expanded hand, in that attitude which
denotes caution, or " beware." This might be termed the

* In the times of the crusades, the cross was adopted as an emblem of general use.
All the castles and churches were adorned with this touching memorial of the origin
of the Christian faith, in beautiful commemoration of the price paid for human sal
vation. Apertures were made for the windows, and a stone cross was erected in each,
whence the French term of " crozsee" The same thing was done for the doors, which,
by removing the panels, would be found to contain so many crosses. This last custom
became general, and a cross, or crosses, are to be found at this very hour in nearly
every old panelled door in the country, even to the humblest dwellings of the descend
ants of the Puritans and Quakers. Ignorance preserved the emblems at the very
moment these pious and critical saints were throwing aside gowns and cassocks, church
music and kneeling, along with everything else that, by the perversity of human in
genuity, could be made to appear connected, in the remotest degree, with the sim
plicity of human faith. There is something amusing in finding these quiet little ma
terial emblems of the crucifixion intrenching themselves in the very bedrooms and
"cupboards" (to use the vernacular) of "the saints," par excellence, at the precise
period when not only their voices, but their hands were raised to dislodge them from
that most appropriate of all positions, the summit of the church- spire that "silent
finger pointing to the skies" in order to put still in honor of the vernacular) a
4 rooster" in its stead!


motto of his coat of arms; the " gare a qui la touchc" or
" noli me tangere" of his device.

The head was shaved, as is usual with a warrior, carrying
only the chivalrous scalp-lock, but the chief was not in his
paint. The outline of this celebrated savage s features was
bold and eagle-like; a comparison that his steady, calm,
piercing eye well sustained. The chin was full and ex
panded, the lips compressed and firm, the teeth were short,
but even and sound, his smile courteous, and, at times,

In the way of attire, Onoah was simply dressed, consult
ing the season and his journey. He had a single eagle s
feather attached to the scalp-lock, and wore a belt of wam
pum of more than usual value, beneath which he had thrust
his knife and tomahawk; a light, figured and fringed hunt
ing-shirt of cotton covered his body, while leggings of deer
skin, with a plain moccasin of similar material, rose to his
knee. The latter, with the lower part of a stout sinewy
thigh, was bare. He also carried a horn and pouch, and a
rifle of the American rather than of the military fashion
that is, one long, true, and sighted to the deviation of a

On landing, Peter (for so he was generally called by the
whites, when in courtesy they omitted the prefix of " Scalp
ing " ) courteously saluted the party assembled around the
bow of the canoe. This he did with a grave countenance,
like a true American, but in simple sincerity, so far as hu
man eye could penetrate his^ secret feelings. To each man
he offered his hand, glancing merely at the two females;
though it may be questioned if he ever before had looked
upon so perfect a picture of female loveliness as Margery
at that precise instant presented, with her face flushed with
excitement, her spirited blue eye wandering with curiosity,
and her beautiful mouth slightly parted in admiration.

"Sago, sago! " said Peter, in his deep, guttural enuncia
tion, speaking reasonably good English. " Sago, sago all,


ole and young, friend come to see you, and eat in your wig
wam which head-chief, eh? "

"We have neither wigwam nor chief here," answered le
Bourdon, though he almost shrunk from taking the hand of
one of whom he had heard the tales of which this savage
had been the hero; "we are common people, and have no
one among us who holds the States commission. I live by
taking honey, of which you are welcome to all you can want,
and this man is a helper of the sutlers at the garrisons. He
was travelling south to join the troops at the head of the
lake, and I was going north to Mackinaw, on my way in,
toward the settlements."

"Why is my brother in such haste?" demanded Peter,
mildly. "Bees get tired of making honey? "

" The times are troubled, and the red men have dug up
the hatchet; a pale-face cannot tell when his wigwam is

"Where my brodder wigwam?" asked Peter, looking
warily around him. "See he an t here; where is he? "

" Over in the openings, far up the Kalamazoo. We left
it last week, and had got to the hut on the other shore, when
a party of Pottawattamies came in from the lake, and drove
us over here for safety."

On hearing this, Peter turned slowly to the missionary,
raising a finger as one makes a gesture to give emphasis to
his words.

" Tole you so," said the Indian. " Know dere was Pot-
tawattamie dere. Can tell em great way off."

" We fear them, having women in our party," added the
bee-hunter, "and think they might fancy our scalps."

" Dat like enough; all Injin love scalp in war-time.
You Yankee, dey Br ish; can t travel on same path now, and
not quarrel. Must not let Pottawattamie catch you."

" How are we to help it, now you have come in ? We had
all the canoes on this side of the river, and were pretty safe,
but should you cross and place your canoe in their hands,


there is nothing to prevent them from doing what they
please with us. If you will promise not to cross the river
till we can get out well on the lake, we may shift our
ground, however, and leave no trail."

" Muss cross over yes, muss cross over, else Pottawatta-
mie fink it strange yes, muss cross over. Shan t touch
canoe, dough."

"How can you help it, if they be so minded? You are
but a single man, and they are twenty."

On hearing this, Corporal Flint pricked up his ears, and
stood if possible more erect than ever, for he considered
himself a part of a man at least, and one moreover who had
served in all the wars of the west, from the great battle of
St. Clair to that of Mad Anthony. He was spared the ne
cessity of a reply, however, for Peter made a significant ges
ture which as much as told him that he would take that
office on himself.

" No need be afeard," said Peter, quietly. " Know Pot-
tawattamie know all chief. Nobody touch canoe of Onoah
when he say don t touch him."

" Yet they are Injins of the British, and I see you here in
company with a soldier of Uncle Sam."

"No matter; Onoah go just where he please. Sometime
to Pottawattamie ; sometime to Iroquois. All Ojebways
know Onoah. All Six Nation know him well. All Injin
know him. Even Cherokee know him now, and open ears
when he speak. Muss cross river, and shake hand with

There was nothing boastful, or vaunting, in Peter s man
ner while he thus announced his immunity or power, but he
alluded to it in a quiet, natural way, like one accustomed
to being considered a personage of consequence. Mankind,
in general, make few allowances for the influence of habit;
the sensibilities of the vainglorious themselves being quite
as often wounded by the most natural and direct allusions
of those who enjoy advantages superior to their own, as by


those that are intended to provoke comparisons. In the
present instance, however, no such feeling could exist, the
Indian asserting no more than his extended reputation
would fully maintain.

When Peter had thus expressed himself, the missionary
thought it meet to add a few words in explanation. This
he did, however, aside, walking a little apart with the bee-
hunter, in order so to do. As for Gershom, no one seemed
to think him of sufficient importance to throw away any in
terest or care on him.

"You can trust to Peter, friend bee-hunter," the mission
ary observed, " for what he promises he will perform. I
know him well, and have put myself altogether in his hands.
If he says that the Pottawattamies are not to have his canoe,
the Pottawattamies will not get it. He is a man to be de
pended on."

" Is not this, then, Scalping Peter, who bears so terrible
a name on all this frontier? " demanded le Bourdon.

"The same; but do not disturb yourself with names:
they hurt no one, and will soon be forgotten. A descend
ant of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob, is not placed
in the wilderness by the hand of divine power for no pur
pose; since he is here, rely on it, it is for good."

"A descendant of Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob! Is
not Peter, then, a red-skin and an Injin? "

"Certainly; though no one knows his tribe but himself.
I know it, friend bee-hunter, and shortly shall proclaim it
throughout the length and breadth of the land. Yes, it has
been given to me to make this important discovery, though I
sometimes think that Peter himself is really as ignorant as
all around him of the tribe to which he properly belongs."

" Do you wish to keep it a secret from me, too ? I own
that, in my eyes, the tribe of a red-skin goes a good way in
making up my opinions of the man. Is he a VVinnebagoe? "

" No, my friend, the Winnebagoes have no claims on him
at all."


" Nor a Pottawattamie, Ottawa, or Ojebway ot any sort? "

" He is none of these. Peter cometh of a nobler tribe
than any that beareth such names."

"Perhaps he is an Injin of the Six Nations? They tell
me that many such have found their way hither since the
war of the revolution."

"All that may be true, but Peter cometh not of Pottawat
tamie, Ottawa, nor Ojebway."

" He can hardly be of the Sacs or the Foxes; he has not
the appearance of an Injin from a region so far west."

" Neither, neither, neither," answered Parson Amen, now
so full of his secret as fairly to let it overflow. " Peter is a
son of Israel ; one of the lost children of the land of Judea,
in common with many of his red brethren mind, I do not
say all, but with many of his red brethren though he may
not know exactly of what tribe himself. This last point
has exercised me greatly, and days and nights have I pon
dered over the facts. Turn to Genesis xlix and i4th, and
there will you find all the authorities recorded. * Zebulon
shall dwell at the haven of the sea. That refers to some
other red brother, nearer to the coast, most clearly. Issa-
char is a strong ass, crouching down between two burdens ;
and bowed his shoulder to bear, and became a servant
unto tribute. That refers, most manifestly, to the black
man of the Southern States, and cannot mean Peter. * Dan
shall be a serpent by the way, an adder in the path. There
is the red man for you, drawn with the pencil of truth!
* Gad, a troop shall overcome him. Here, corporal, come
this way and tell our new friend how Mad Anthony with his
troopers finally routed the red-skins. You were there, and
know all about it. No language can be plainer: until the
4 long-knives and leather-stockings came into the woods,
the red man had his way. Against them, he could not pre

"Yes," returned Corporal Flint, who delighted in talking
of the wars, " it was very much as Parson Amen says. The


savages, by their nimbleness and artifices, would first am
bush us, and then break away from our charges, until the
gin ral bethought him of bringing cavalry into the wilder
ness. Nobody ever thought of such a plan, until old An
thony invented it. As soon as we got the fire of the sav
ages, at the Mawmee, we charged with the baggonet, and
put em up ; and no sooner was they up, than away went the
horse into them, flourishing the * long knife, and pressing
the heel of the * leather-stocking into the flanks of their
beasts. Mr. Amen has found a varse in Scriptur s that does
come near to the p int, and almost foretells our victory, and
that, too, as plain as it stood in dispatches, arterward, from

" * Gad, a troop shall overcome him/ " put in the mission
ary, triumphantly.

"That s it that s it; there was just one troop on em,
and not a man more! Mad Anthony said a troop would
answer, arter we had put the red-skins up out of their am
bushes, or any other bushes; and so it did. I must ac
knowledge that I think more of the Scriptur s than ever,
since Parson Amen read to me that varse."

" Hearken unto this, friend bee-hunter," added the mis
sionary, who by this time had fairly mounted his hobby, and
fancied he saw a true Israelite in every other Indian of the
west, "and tell me if words were ever more prophetic
* Benjamin shall ravin as a wolf; in the morning he shall
devour his prey, and at night he shall divide the spoil.
The art of man could not draw a more faithful picture of
these Indians."

Boden was not much skilled in sacred lore, and scarce
knew what to make of all this. The idea that the American
Indians were the descendants of the lost tribes of Israel was
entirely new to him; nor did he know anything to boast of,
touching those tribes, even in their palmiest days, and
while in possession of the promised land ; still he had some
confused recollection of that which he had read when a


child what American has not? and was enabled to put a
question or two, in return for the information now received.

" What, do you take the savages of America for Jews ? " he
asked, understanding the general drift of the missionary s

" As sure as you are there, friend bee-hunter, though you
are not to suppose that I think Peter Onoah of the tribe of
Benjamin. No, I turn to the 2ist verse for the tribe of
Peter Naphthali Naphthalis, the root of his stock.
* Naphthali is a hind, let loose: he giveth goodly words.
Now, what can be plainer than this? A hind let loose is a
deer running at large, and, by a metaphor, that deer in-
[cludes the man that hunts him. Now, Peter has been nay,
is still a renowned hunter, and is intended to be enume
rated among the hinds let loose; * he giveth goodly words/
would set that point at rest, if anything were wanting to put
it beyond controversy, for Onoah is the most eloquent
speaker ear ever listened to! No one, that has ever heard
him speak, can doubt that he is the one who * giveth goodly
words/ "

To what other circumstance the well-intentioned mission
ary would next have alluded, in the course of this demon
stration of a theory that had got to be a favorite with him,
is more than can now be related, since the Indian himself
drew near, and put an end to the conversation. Peter had
made up his mind to cross the river at once; and came to
say as much to his companions, both of whom he intended
to leave behind him. Le Bourdon could not arrest this
movement, short of an appeal to force ; and force he did not
like to use, doubting equally its justice and its prudence.



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 shalt 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, manner of Peter,
would seem to put all remonstrances and arguments at defi
ance. 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; his two companions
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. Everything belong
ing 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 eminence, to watch his movements,
and to note his reception among the Pottawattamies. Leav
ing them there, we shall accompany the canoe, in its prog
ress toward 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 soldier. From this repository of his effects,
the chief carefully drew forth a small bundle, on opening


which, no less than seven fresh human scalps appeared.
These he arranged in order on a wand-like pole, when, sat
isfied 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 land
ing beneath the chiente, to await its approach. Peter ceased
his own exertion, as soon as he had got within a hundred
yards of the beach, took the scalp-pole in his hand, arose,
and permitted the canoe to drift down before the wind, cer
tain it would take the desired direction, from the circum
stance of his having placed it precisely to windward of the
landing. Once or twice he slowly v/aved 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 Aus-
terlitz; or Wellington, when he entered the House of Com
mons 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 of the valley of Mexico, whose exploits
fairly rival those of Cortes himself, could scarcely be a sub
ject of greater interest to a body of spectators, assembled to
do him honor, than was this well-known Indian, as he drew
near to the Pottawattamies, 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 standards 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 " Onoah " passed in murmurs of admiration,
from mouth to mouth ; for, as it appeared, the person of this
renowned Indian was recognized by many on the shore,
some time ere he reached it himself.

Crowsfeather, and the other chiefs, advanced to meet the


visitor; the young men standing in the background, in re
spectful 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 be
fore; then the following dialogue occurred. All spoke in
the tongue of the Pottawattamies, but, as we have had occa
sion 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 lan
guage in which it was uttered. In consequence of this
difficulty, and for other reasons to which it may not be nec
essary to allude, we shall endeavor to translate that which
passed, as closely as the English idioms will permit us so
to do.

" My father is very welcome! " exclaimed Crowsfeather,
who, by many degrees, exceeded all his companions in con
sideration and rank. " 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 han
dle s length. The same is true of time; it belongs to the
Manitou, 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 nothing 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 Montreal been among the Pottawattamies
to strengthen their hearts? "

" They are always whispering in the ears of our tribes.
I cannot remember the time when whispers 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 children of Uncle
Sam from being more at night than they were in the morn
ing. 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 so many. 7

"See!" rejoined Peter, lowering his pole so that all
might examine his revolting trophies, "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 pigeon 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 instance 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, supplanting 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.

" We have had a pale-face medicine-man among us,
Onoah," continued Crowsfeather, " and he has so far blind
ed 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 Elks-
foot, their intention to torture that very morning the Chip-
pewa 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 candid
ly admitted he could not even conjecture. He was still at a
loss whether to set down the conjurer for a pretender, or as

Online LibraryJames Fenimore CooperOak openings, or, The bee-hunter → online text (page 15 of 41)