James Fenimore Cooper.

Oak openings, or, The bee-hunter online

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steps so soon, and the females were obliged to remain with
the husband and brother.

"You had better get out of the river while all the canoes
are on this side," said Margery, as she and le Bourdon
walked toward the boats in company, the council having
ended, and everything beginning to assume the appearance
of action. " Remember you will be quite alone, and have a
long, long road to travel ! "



2O4 THE OAK OPENINGS.

" I do remember all this, Margery, and see the necessity
for all of us getting back to the settlements as fast as we
can. I don t half like this Peter; his name is a bad one
in the garrisons, and it makes me miserable to think that
you may be in his power."

"The missionary and the corporal, as well as my brother,
seem willing to trust him what can two females do, when
their male protector has made up his mind in such a mat
ter?"

"One who would very gladly be your protector, pretty
Margery, has not made up his mind to the prudence of
trusting Peter at all. Put yourself under my care, and my
life shall be lost, or I will carry you safe to your friends in
Detroit."

This might be deemed tolerably explicit; yet was it not
sufficiently so to satisfy female scruples, or female rights.
Margery blushed, and she looked down, while she did not
look absolutely displeased. But her answer was given
firmly, and with a promptitude that showed she was quite
in earnest.

" I cannot quit Dorothy, placed as she is and it is my
duty to die with brother," she said.

"Have you thought enough of this, Margery? may not
reflection change your mind? "

"This is a duty on which a girl is not called to reflect;
she must feet, in a matter of conscience."

The bee-hunter fairly sighed, and from a very resolute
he became a very irresolute sort of person. As was natural
to one in his situation, he let out the secret current his
thoughts had taken, in the remarks which followed.

" I do not like the manner in which Peter and Pigeons-
wing are now talking together," he said. " When an Injin
is so earnest, there is generally mischief brewing. Do you
see Peter s manner?"

" He seems to be telling the young warrior something
that makes both forget themselves. I never saw two men



THE OAK OPENINGS. 2O5

who seem so completely to forget all the rest of the world
as them two savages! What can be the meaning, Bourdon,
of so much fierce earnestness? "

" I would give the world to know possibly the Chippewa
may tell me. We understand each other tolerably well,
and, just as you spoke, he gave me a secret sign that I have
a right to think means confidence and friendship. That
savage is either a fast friend, or a thorough villain."

"Is it safe to trust any of them, Bourdon? No no
your best way will be to go down the lakes, and get back to
Detroit as soon as you can. Not only your property, but
your li/e, is at risk."

" Go, and leave you here, Margery here, with a brother
whose failing you know as well as I do, and who may, at
any moment, fall back into his old ways! I should not be
a man to do it! "

" But brother can get no liquor, now, for it is all emptied.
When himself for a few days, Gershom is a good protector,
as well as a good provider. You must not judge brother
too harshly, from what you have seen of him, Bourdon."

" I do not wish to judge him at all, Margery. We all
have our failin s, and whiskey is his. I dare say mine are
quite as bad, in some other way. It s enough for me, Mar
gery, that Gershom is your brother, to cause me to try to
think well of him. We must not trust to there being no
more liquor among us; for, if that so ger is altogether
without his rations, he s the first so ger I ever met with who
was!"

" But this corporal is a friend of the minister, and minis
ters ought not to drink! "

"Ministers are like other men, as them that live much
among em will soon find out. Hows ever, if you ze////stay,
Margery, there is no more to be said. I must cache * my
honey, and get the canoe ready to go up stream again.

* A Western term, obviously derived from catcher, to conceal. Cache is much used
by the Western adventurers.



2O6 THE OAK OPENINGS.

Where you go, Margery, I go too, unless you tell me that
you do not wish my company."

This was said quietly, but in the manner of one whose
mind was made up. Margery scarce knew how to take it.
That she was secretly delighted, cannot be denied; while,
at the same time, that she felt a generous and lively con
cern for the fortunes of le Bourdon, is quite as certain. As
Gershom just then called to her to lend her assistance in
preparing to embark, she had no leisure for expostulation,
nor do we know that she now seriously wished to divert the
bee-hunter from his purpose.

It was soon understood by every one that the river was to
be crossed, in order that Gershom might get his household
effects, previously to ascending the Kalamazoo. This set
all at work but the Chippewa, who appeared to le Bourdon
to be watchful and full of distrust. As the latter had a job
before him, that would be likely to consume a couple of
hours, the others were ready for a start long before he had
his hole dug. It was therefore arranged that the bee-hunter
should complete his task, while the others crossed the
stream, and went in quest of Gershom s scanty stock of
household goods. Pigeonswing, however, was not to be
found, when the canoes were ready, and Peter proceeded
without him. Nor did le Bourdon see anything of his
friend until the adventurers were fairly on the north shore,
when he rejoined le Bourdon, sitting on a log, a curious
spectator of the latter s devices to conceal his property, but
not offering to aid him in a single movement. The bee-
hunter too well understood an Indian warrior s aversion to
labor of all sorts, unless it be connected with his military
achievements, to be surprised at his companion s indifference
to his own toil. As the work went on, a friendly dialogue
was kept up between the parties.

" I didn t know, Pigeonswing, but you had started for the
openings, before us," observed le Bourdon. " That tribeless
old Injin made something of a fuss about your being out of



THE OAK OPENINGS. 2O/

the way; I dare say he wanted you to help back the furni
ture down to the canoes."

" Got squaw what he want better to do dat? "

" So you would put that pretty piece of work on such per
sons as Margery and Dolly! "

" Why not, no ? Bot squaw bot know how. Dere
business to work for warrior."

" Did you keep out of the way, then, lest old Peter should
get you at a job that is onsuitable to your manhood ? "

" Keep out of way of Pottawattamie," returned the Chip-
pewa; "no want to lose scalp radder take his n."

" But Peter says the Pottawattamies are all gone, and that
we have no longer any reason to fear them; and this medi
cine-priest tells us, that what Peter says we can depend on
for truth."

" Dat good medicine-man, eh ? T ink he know a great
deal, eh?"

"That is more than I can tell you, Pigeonswing; for
though I ve been a medicine-man myself, so lately, it is in
a different line altogether from that of Parson Amen s."

As the bee-hunter uttered this answer, he was putting the
last of his honey-kegs into the cache, and as he rose from
completing the operation, he laughed heartily, like one who
saw images in the occurrences of the past night, that tended
to divert himself, if they had not the same effect on the
other spectators.

"If you medicine-man, can tell who Peter be? Winne-
bagoe, Sioux, Fox, Ojebway, Six Nations all say don t know
him. Medicine-man ought to know who he be, eh? "

" I am not enough of a medicine-man to answer your
question, Pigeonswing. Set me at finding a whiskey-spring,
or any little job of that sort, and I ll turn my back to no
other whiskey-spring finder on the whole frontier; but, as
for Peter, he goes beyond my calculations, quite. Why is
he called Scalping Peter in the garrisons, if he be so good
an Injin, Chippewa? "



2O8 THE OAK OPENINGS.

"You ask question you answer. Don t know, less he
take a good many scalps. Hear he do take all he can find
den hear he don t."

"But you take all you can find, Pigeonswing; and that
which is good in you, cannot be so bad in Peter."

" Don t take scalp from friend. When you hear Pigeons-
wing scalp friend, eh? "

" I never did hear it; and hope I never shall. But when
did you hear that Peter is so wicked? "

" S pose he don t, cause he got no friend among pale
face. Bes take care of dat man ? "

" I m of your way of thinking, myself, Chippewa ; though
the corporal and the priest think him all in all. When I
asked Parson Amen how he came to be the associate of one
who went by a scalping name, even he told me it was all
name ; that Peter hadn t touched a hair of a human head, in
the way of scalping, since his youth, and that most of his
notions and ways were quite Jewish. The parson has al
most as much faith in Peter, as he has in his religion; I m
not quite sure he has not even more."

" No matter. Bes always for pale-face to trust pale-face,
and Injin to trust Injin. Dat most likely to be right."

"Nevertheless, I trust you, Pigeonswing; and, hitherto,
you have not deceived me! "

The Chippewa cast a glance of so much meaning on the
bee-hunter, that the last was troubled by it. For many a
day did le Bourdon remember that look; and painful were
the apprehensions to which it gave birth. Until that morn
ing, the intercourse between the two had been of the most
confidential character; but something like a fierce hatred
was blended in that look. Could it be that the feelings of
the Chippewa were changed? and was it possible that Peter
was in any way connected with this alteration in looks and
sentiments? All these suspicions passed through le Bour
don s mind, as he finished his cache; and sufficiently dis
agreeable did he find it to entertain them. The circum-



THE OAK OPENINGS. 2OQ

stances, however, did not admit of any change of plan; and,
in a few minutes, the two were in the canoe, and on their
way to join their companions.

Peter had dealt fairly enough with those who accompa
nied him. The Pottawattamies were nowhere to be seen, and
Gershom led the corporal to the place where his household
goods had been secreted, in so much confidence, that both
the men left their arms behind them. Such was the state of
things when le Bourdon reached the north shore. The
young man was startled, when his eyes fell on the rifles;
but, on looking around, there did not really appear to be
any sufficient reason why they might not be laid aside for a
few minutes.

The bee-hunter, having disposed of all his honey, had
now a nearly empty canoe; accordingly, he received a por
tion of Gershom s effects; all of which were safely trans
ported from their place of concealment to the water side.
Their owner was slowly recovering the use of his body and
mind, though still a little dull, from his recent debauch.
The females supplied his place, however, in many respects;
and two hours after the party had landed, it was ready again
to proceed on its journey into the interior. The last article
was stowed in one of the canoes, and Gershom announced
his willingness to depart.

At this moment, Peter led the bee-hunter aside, telling
his friends that he would speedily rejoin them. Our hero
followed his savage leader along the foot of the declivity,
in the rear of the hut, until the former stopped at the place
where the first, and principal fire of the past night, had been
lighted. Here Peter made a sweeping gesture of his hand,
as if to invite his companion to survey the different objects
around. As this characteristic gesture was made, the Indian
spoke.

" My brother is a medicine-man/ he said. " He knows
\vhere whiskey grows let him tell Peter where to find the
spring."

14



2IO THE OAK OPENINGS.

The recollection of the scene of the previous night came
so fresh and vividly over the imagination of the bee-hunter,
that, instead of answering the question of the chief, he
burst into a hearty fit of laughter. Then, fearful of giving
offence, he was about to apologize for a mirth so ill-timed,
when the Indian smiled, with a gleam of intelligence on his
swarthy face, that seemed to say, " I understand it all," and
continued

"Good the chief with three eyes" in allusion to the
spy-glass that le Bourdon always carried suspended from
his neck " is a very great medicine-man ; he knows when
to laugh, and when to look sad. The Pottawattamies were
dry, and he wanted to find them some whiskey to drink, but
could not our brother, in the canoe, had drunk it all.
Good."

Again the bee-hunter laughed; and though Peter did not
join in his mirth, it was quite plain that he understood its
cause. With this good-natured sort of intelligence between
them, the two returned to the canoes; the bee-hunter always
supposing that the Indian had obtained his object, in re
ceiving his indirect admission, that the scene of the previous
night had been merely a piece of ingenious jugglery. So
much of a courtier, however, was Peter, and so entire his
self-command, that on no occasion, afterward, did he ever
make any further allusion to the subject.

The ascent of the river was now commenced. It was not
a difficult matter for le Bourdon to persuade Margery, that
her brother s canoe would be too heavily loaded for such a
passage, unless she consented to quit it for his own. Pig-
eonswing took the girl s place, and was of material assist
ance in forcing the light, but steady craft, up stream. The
three others continued in the canoe in which they had en
tered the river. With this arrangement, therefore, our ad
venturers commenced this new journey.

Every reader will easily understand, that ascending such
a stream as the Kalamazoo was a very difficult thing from



THE OAK OPENINGS. 211

descending it. The progress was slow, and at many points
laborious. At several of the " rifts," it became necessary to
"track "the canoes up; and places occurred at which the
only safe way of proceeding was to unload them altogether,
and transport boats, cargoes, and all, on the shoulders of
the men, across what are called, in the language of the
country, " portages," or " carrying-places." In such toil as
this, the corporal was found to be very serviceable; but
neither of the Indians declined to lend their assistance, in
work of this manly character. By this time, moreover, Ger-
shorn had come round, and was an able-bodied, vigorous as
sistant, once more. If the corporal was the master of any
alcohol, he judiciously kept it a secret; for not a drop passed
any one s lips during the whole of that toilsome journey.

Although the difficult places in the river were sufficiently
numerous, most of the reaches were places having steady,
but not swift currents toward the lake. In these reaches
the paddles, and those not very vigorously applied, enabled
the travellers to advance as fast as was desirable; and such
tranquil waters were a sort of resting-places to those who
managed the canoes. It was while ascending these easy
channels, that conversation most occurred; each speaker
yielding, as was natural, to the impulses of the thoughts
uppermost in his mind. The missionary talked much of the
Jews; and, as the canoes came near each other, he entered
at large, with their different occupants, into the reasons he
had for believing that the red men of America were the lost
tribes of Israel. " The very use of the word * tribes, "
would this simple-minded, and not very profound expounder
of the word of God, say, " is one proof of the truth of what
I tell you. Now, no one thinks of dividing the white men
of America into * tribes. Who ever heard of the * tribe of
New England, or of the tribe of Virginia, or of the * tribe
of the Middle States? * Even among the blacks, there are

* The reader is not to infer any exaggeration in this picture. There is no end to the
ignorance and folly of sects and parties, when religious or political zeal runs high. The



212 THE OAK OPENINGS.

no tribes. There is a very remarkable passage in the sixty-
eighth Psalm, that has greatly struck me, since my mind
has turned to this subject ; * God shall wound the head of
his enemies/ saith the Psalmist, * and the hairy scalp of such
a one as goeth on still in his wickedness/ Here is a very
obvious allusion to a well-known, and what we think, a
barbarous practice of the red men ; but, rely on it, friends,
nothing that is permitted on earth is permitted in vain.
The attentive reader of the inspired book, by gleaning here
and there, can collect much authority for this new opinion
about the lost tribes; and the day will come, I do not
doubt, when men will marvel that the truth hath been so
long hidden from them. I can scarcely open a chapter, in
the Old Testament, that some passage does not strike me
as going to prove this identity, between the red men and
the Hebrews; and, were they all collected together, and
published in a book, mankind would be astonished at their
lucidity and weight. As for scalping, it is a horrid thing
in our eyes, but it is honorable with the red men ; and I
have quoted to you the words of the Psalmist, in order to
show the manner in which divine wisdom inflicts penalties
on sin. Here is plain justification of the practice, provided
always that the sufferer be in the bondage of transgression,
and obnoxious to divine censure. Let no man, therefore, in
the pride of his learning, and, perhaps, of his prosperity,
disdain to believe things that are so manifestly taught and
foretold; but let us all bow in humble submission to the
will of a Being who, to our finite understanding, is so per
fectly incomprehensible."

We trust that no one of our readers will be disposed to

writer well remembers to have heard a Universalist, of more zeal than learning, ad
duce, as an argument in favor of his doctrine, the twenty-fifth chapter and forty -sixth
verse of St. Matthew, where we are told that the wicked " shall go away into ever
lasting punishment ; but the righteous into life eternal" ; by drawing a distinction
between the adjectives, and this so much the more, because the Old Testament speaks
of everlasting hills," and everlasting valleys" ; thus proving, from the Bible, a
substantial difference between " everlasting " and "eternal." Now, every Sophomore
knows that the word used in Matthew is the same in both cases, being " au6fto>>," or
"existing forever."

*



THE OAK OPENINGS. 213

deride Parson Amen s speculations on this interesting sub
ject, although this may happen to be the first occasion on
which he has ever heard the practice of taking scalps justi
fied by Scripture. Viewed in a proper spirit, they ought
merely to convey a lesson of humility, by rendering appar
ent the wisdom, nay the necessity, of men s keeping them
selves within the limits of the sphere of knowledge they
were designed to fill, and convey, when rightly considered,
as much of a lesson to the Puseyite, with abstractions that
are quite as unintelligible to himself as they are to others;
to the high-wrought and dogmatical Calvinist, who in the
midst of his fiery zeal, forgets that love is the very essence
of the relation between God and man; to the Quaker, who
seems to think the cut of a coat essential to salvation; to
the descendant of the Puritan, who whether he be Socinian,
Calvinist, Universalist, or any other " ist," appears to be
lieve that the "rock" on which Christ declared he would
found his church was the " Rock of Plymouth " ; and to the
unbeliever, who, in deriding all creeds, does not know
where to turn to find one to substitute in their stead. Hu
mility, in matters of this sort, is the great lesson that all
should teach and learn; for it opens the way to charity, and
eventually to faith, and through both of these to hope;
finally, through all of these, to heaven.

The journey up the Kalamazoo lasted many days, the as
cent being often so painful, and no one seeming in a hurry.
Peter waited for the time set for his council to approach,
and was as well content to remain in his canoe, as to " camp
out" in the openings. Gershom never was in haste, while
the bee-hunter would have been satisfied to pass the summer
in so pleasant a manner, Margery being seated most of the
time in his canoe. In his ordinary excursions, le Bourdon
carried the mastiff as a companion; but, now that his place
was so much better filled, Hive was suffered to roam the
woods that lined most of the river-banks, joining his master
from time to time at the portages or landings. As for the



214 THE OAK OPENINGS.

missionary and the corporal, impatience formed no part of
their present disposition. The first had been led, by the
artful Peter, to expect great results to his theory from the
assembly of chiefs which was to meet in the " openings " ;
and the credulous parson was, in one sense, going as blindly
on the path of destruction, as any sinner it had ever been
his duty to warn of his fate, was proceeding in the same
direction in another. The corporal, too, was the dupe of
Peter s artifices. This man had heard so many stories to
the Indian s prejudice, at the different posts where he had
been stationed, as at first to render him exceedingly averse
to making the present journey in his company. The neces
sity of the case, as connected with the preservation of his
own life after the massacre of Fort Dearborn, and the influ
ence of the missionary, had induced him to overlook his
ancient prejudices, and to forget opinions that, it now oc
curred to him, had been founded in error. Once fairly
within the influence of Peter s wiles, a simple-minded sol
dier like the corporal, was soon completely made the In
dian s dupe. By the time the canoe reached the mouth of
the Kalamazoo, as has been related, each of these men
placed the most implicit reliance on the good faith and
friendly feelings of the very being whose entire life, both
sleeping and waking thoughts, were devoted, not only to his
destruction, but to that of the whole white race on the
American continent. So bland was the manner of this ter
rible savage, when it comported with his views to conceal
his ruthless designs, that persons more practised and observ
ant than either of his two companions might have been its
dupes, not to say its victims. While the missionary was
completely mystified by his own headlong desire to estab
lish a theory, and to announce to the religious world where
the lost tribes were to be found, the corporal had aided in
deceiving himself, also, by another process. With him^
Peter had privately conversed of war, and had insinuated
that he was secretly laboring in behalf of his great father at



THE OAK OPENINGS. 21 5

Washington, and against the other great father down at
Montreal. As between the two, Peter professed to lean to
the interests of the first; though, had he laid bare his in
most soul, a fiery hatred of each would have been found to
be its predominant feeling. But Corporal Flint fondly fan
cied he was making a concealed march with an ally, while
he thus accompanied one of the fiercest enemies of his race.

Peter is not to be judged too harshly. It is always re
spectable to defend the fireside, and the land of one s nativ
ity, although the cause connected with it may be sometimes
wrong. This Indian knew nothing of the principles of col
onization, and had no conception that any other than its
original owners original so far as his traditions reached
could have a right to his own hunting-grounds. Of the
slow but certain steps by which an overruling Providence
is extending a knowledge of the true God, and of the great
atonement through the death of his blessed Son, Peter had
no conception ; nor would it probably have seemed right to
his contracted mind, had he even seen and understood this
general tendency of things. To him, the pale-face appeared
only as a rapacious invader, and not a creature obeying the
great law of his destiny, the end of which is doubtless to
help knowledge to abound, until it shall "cover the whole
earth as the waters cover the sea." Hatred, inextinguish
able and active hatred, appeared to be the law of this man s
being; and he devoted all the means, aided by all the intel
ligence he possessed, to the furtherance of his narrow and
short-sighted means of vengeance and redress. In all this,
he acted in common with Tecumseh and his brother, though
his consummate art kept him behind a veil, while the others
were known and recognized as open and active foes. No
publication speaks of this Peter, nor does any orator enu
merate his qualities, while the other two chiefs have been



Online LibraryJames Fenimore CooperOak openings, or, The bee-hunter → online text (page 17 of 41)