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force his way in. The bee-hunter admitted the dog, which
had been trained to suppress his bark, though this animal
was too brave and large to throw away his breath when he
had better rely on his force. Powerful animals, of this
race, are seldom noisy, it being the province of the cur,
both among dogs and men, to be blustering and spitting out
their venom, at all hours and seasons. Hive, however, in
addition to his natural disposition, had been taught, from
the time he was a pup, not to betray his presence unneces
sarily by a bark; and it was seldom that his deep throat
opened beneath the arches of the oaks. When it did, it
told like the roaring of the lion in the desert.

Hive was no sooner admitted to the "garrison," than he
manifested just as strong a desire to get out, as a moment
before he had manifested to get in. This, le Bourdon well
knew, indicated the presence of some thing, or creature,
that did not properly belong to the vicinity. After con
sulting with the corporal, Pigeonswing was called; and
leaving him as a sentinel at the gate, the two others made
a sortie. The corporal was as brave as a lion, and loved
all such movements, though he fully anticipated encounter
ing savages, while his companion expected an interview
with bears.

As this movement was made at the invitation of the dog,
it was judiciously determined to let him act as pioneer, on
the advance. Previously to quitting the defences, however,
the two adventurers looked closely to their arms. Each ex
amined the priming, saw that his horn and pouch were ac
cessible, and loosened his knife in its sheath. The cor
poral, moreover, fixed his " baggonet," as he called the
formidable, glittering instrument that usually embellished
the end of his musket a musket being the weapon he chose
to carry, while the bee-hunter himself was armed with a long
western rifle.



254 THE OAK OPENINGS.



CHAPTER XVI.

The raptures of a conqueror s mood

Rushed burning through his frame
The depths of that green solitude

Its torrents could not tame,
Though stillness lay, with eve s hist smile,
Round those far fountains of the Nile.

MRS. HEMANS.

WHEN the bee-hunter and Corporal Flint thus went forth in
midnight, from the "garrison" of Castle Meal {Chateau au
J/z>/), as the latter would have expressed it, it was with no
great apprehension of meeting any other than a four-footed
enemy, notwithstanding the blast of the horn the worthy
corporal supposed he had heard. The movements of the
dog seemed to announce such a result rather than any other,
for Hive was taken along as a sort of guide. Le Bourdon,
however, did not permit his mastiff to run off wide, but,
having the animal at perfect command, it was kept close to
his own person.

The two men first moved toward the grove of the Kitchen,
much to Hive s discontent. The dog several times halted,
and he whined, and growled, and otherwise manifested his
great dislike to proceed in that direction. At length so
decided did his resistance become, that his master said to
his companion :

" It seems to me best, corporal, to let the mastiff lead us.
I have never yet seen him so set on not going in one way,
and on going in another. Hive has a capital nose, and we
may trust him."

"Forward," returned the corporal, wheeling short in the
direction of the dog; "one thing should be understood,
however, Bourdon, which is thisyou must act as light
troops in this sortie, and I as the main body. If we come
on the inimy, it will be your duty to skrimmage in front as
long as you can, and then fall back on your resarves. I



THE OAK OPENINGS. 255

shall depend chiefly on the baggonet, which is the best tool
to put an Injin up with; and as he falls back, before my
charge, we must keep him under as warm a fire as possible.
Having no cavalry, the dog might be made useful in move
ments to the front and on our flanks."

"Pooh, pooh, corporal, you re almost as much set in the
notions of your trade as Parson Amen is set in his idees
about the lost tribes. In my opinion there ll be more tribes
jound in these openings before the summer is over than we
shall wish to meet. Let us follow the dog, and see what
will turn up." Hive was followed, and he took a direction
that led to a distant point in the openings, where not only
the trees were much thicker than common, but where a small
tributary of the Kalamazoo ran through a ravine, from the
higher lands adjacent into the main artery of all the neigh
boring watercourses. The bee-hunter knew the spot well,
having often drank at the rivulet, and cooled his brow in
the close shades of the ravine, when heated by exertions in
the more open grounds. In short, the spot was one of the
most eligible for concealment, coolness, and pure water,
within several miles of Castle Meal. The trees formed a
spacious grove around it, and, by means of the banks, their
summits and leaves answered the purpose of a perfect screen
to those who might descend into the ravine, or, it would be
better to say, to the bottom. Le Bourdon was no sooner
satisfied that his mastiff was proceeding toward the great
spring which formed the rivulet at the head of the ravine
mentioned, than he suspected Indians might be there. He
had seen signs about the spot, which wore an appearance of
its having been used as a place of encampment or for
" camping out," as it is termed in the language of the west
and, coupling the sound of the horn with the dog s move
ments, his quick apprehension seized on the facts as afford
ing reasonable grounds of distrust. Consequently he re
sorted to great caution, as he and the corporal entered the
wood which surrounded the spring, and the small oval bit



256 THE OAK OPENINGS.

of bottom that lay spread before it, like a little lawn. Hive
was kept close at his master s side, though he manifested a
marked impatience to advance. " Now, corporal," said the
bee-hunter in a low tone, " I think we have lined some sav
ages to their holes. We will go round the basin and de
scend to the bottom, in a close wood which grows there.
Did you see that?"

" I suppose I did," answered the corporal, who was as
firm as a rock. " You meant to ask me if I saw fire? "

" I did. The red men have lighted their council fire in
this spot, and have met to talk around it. Well, let em
hearken to each other s thoughts, if they will; we shall be
neither the better nor the worse for it."

" I don t know that. When the commander-in-chief calls
together his principal officers, something usually comes of
it. Who knows but this very council is called in order to
take opinions on the subject of besieging or of storming
our new garrison ? Prudent soldiers should always be ready
for the worst."

" I have no fear, so long as Peter is with us. That chief
is listened to by every red-skin; and while we have him
among us there will be little to care for. But we are getting
near to the bottom and must work our way through these
bushes with as little noise as possible. I will keep the dog
quiet."

The manner in which that sagacious animal now behaved
was truly wonderful. Hive appeared to be quite as much
aware of the necessity of extreme caution as either of the
men, and did not once attempt to precede his master his own
length. On one or two occasions he actually discovered the
best passages, and led his companions through them with
something like the intelligence of a human being. Neither
growl nor bark escaped him ; on the contrary, even the hack
ing breathing of an impatient dog was suppressed, precisely
as if the animal knew how near he was getting to the most
watchful ears in the world.



25 8 THE OAK OPENINGS.

was a warrior, and each warrior was in his paint. These
were facts that the familiarity of the two white men with
Indian customs rendered only too certain. What was still
more striking was the fact that all present appeared to be
chiefs; a circumstance which went to show that an impos
ing body of red men was most likely somewhere in the
openings, and that too at no great distance. It was while
observing and reflecting on all these things, a suspicion
first crossed the mind of le Bourdon that this great council
was about to be held, at that midnight hour, and so near his
own abode, for the purpose of accommodating Peter, whose
appearance in the dark crowd, from that instant, he began
to expect.

The Indians already present were not seated. They
stood in groups conversing, or stalked across the arena, re
sembling so many dark and stately spectres. No sound was
heard among them, a circumstance that added largely to the
wild and supernatural aspect of the scene. If any spoke, it
was in a tone so low and gentle, as to carry the sound no
farther than to the ears that were listening; two never spoke
at the same time and in the same group, while the moccasin
permitted no footfall to be audible. Nothing could have
been more unearthly than the picture presented in that lit
tle, wood-circled arena, of velvet-like grass and rural beauty.
The erect, stalking forms, half naked, if not even more; the
swarthy skins; the faces fierce in the savage conceits which
were intended to strike terror into the bosoms of enemies,
and the glittering eyes that fairly sparkled in their midst,
all contributed to the character of the scene, which le Bour
don rightly enough imagined was altogether much the most
remarkable of any he had ever been in the way of witness
ing.

Our two spectators might have been seated on the fallen
tree half an hour, all of which time they had been gazing at
what was passing before their eyes; with positively not a
human sound to relieve the unearthly nature of the picture.



THE OAK OPENINGS. 259

No one spoke, coughed, laughed, or exclaimed, in all that
period. Suddenly, every chief stood still, and all the faces
turned in the same direction. It was toward the little gate
way of the rill, which being the side of the arena most re
mote from the bee-hunter and the corporal, lay nearly in
darkness as respected them. With the red men it must
have been different, for they all appeared to be in intent
expectation of some one from that quarter. Nor did they
have to wait long; for, in half a minute, two forms came
out of the obscurity, advancing with a dignified and delib
erate tread to the centre of the arena. As these newcomers
got more within the influence of the flickering light, le
Bourdon saw that they were Peter and Parson Amen. The
first led, with a slow, imposing manner, while the other fol
lowed, not a little bewildered with what he saw. It may be
as well to explain here, that the Indian was coming alone
to this place of meeting, when he encountered the mission
ary wandering among the oaks, looking for le Bourdon and
the corporal, and, instead of endeavoring to throw off this
unexpected companion, he quietly invited him to be of his
own party.

It was evident to le Bourdon, at a glance, that Peter was
expected, though it was not quite so clear that such was the
fact as regarded his companion. Still, respect for the great
chief prevented any manifestations of surprise or discontent,
and the medicine-man of the pale-faces was received with as
grave a courtesy as if he had been an invited guest. Just
as the two had entered the dark circle that formed around
them, a young chief threw some dry sticks on the fire, which
blazing upward, cast a stronger light on a row of as ter
rifically looking countenances as ever gleamed on human
forms. This sudden illumination, with its accompanying
accessories, had the effect to startle all the white spectators,
though Peter looked on the whole with a calm like that of
the leafless tree, when the cold is at its height, and the cur
rents of the wintry air are death-like still. Nothing ap-



26O THE OAK OPENINGS.

peared to move him, whether expected or not; though use
had probably accustomed his eye to all the aspects in which
savage ingenuity could offer savage forms. He even smiled,
as he made a gesture of recognition, which seemed to salute
the whole group. It was just then, when the fire burned
brightest, and when the chiefs pressed most within its influ
ence, that le Bourdon perceived that his old acquaintances,
the head-men of the Pottawattamies, were present, among
the other chiefs so strangely and portentously assembled in
these grounds, which he had so long possessed almost en
tirely to himself.

A few of the oldest of the chiefs now approached Peter,
and a low conversation took place between them. What
was said did not reach le Bourdon, of course; for it was
not even heard in the dark circle of savages who surrounded
the fire. The effect of this secret dialogue, however, was to
cause all the chiefs to be seated, each taking his place on
the grass; the whole preserving the original circle around
the fire. Fortunately, for the wishes of le Bourdon, Peter
and his companions took their stations directly opposite to
his own seat, thus enabling him to watch every lineament
of that remarkable chief s still more remarkable counte
nance. Unlike each and all of the red men around him,
the face of Peter was not painted, except by the tints im
parted by nature; which, in his case, was that of copper a
little tarnished, or rendered dull by the action of the atmos
phere. The bee-hunter could distinctly trace every linea
ment; nor was the dark roving eye beyond the reach of his
own vision. Some attention was given to the fire, too, one
of the younger chiefs occasionally throwing on it a few
dried sticks, more to keep alive the flame, and to renew the
light, than from any need of warmth. One other purpose,
however, this fire did answer; that of enabling the young
chiefs to light the pipes that were now prepared ; it seldom
occurring that the chiefs thus assembled without smoking
around their council-fire.



THE OAK OPENINGS. 26 1

As this smoking was just then more a matter of ceremony
than for any other purpose, a whiff or two suffices for each
chief; the smoker passing the pipe to his neighbor as soon
as he had inhaled a few puffs. The Indians are models of
propriety, in their happiest moods, and every one in that
dark and menacing circle was permitted to have his turn
with the pipe, before any other step was taken. There were
but two pipes lighted, and mouths being numerous, some
time was necessary in order to complete this ceremony.
Still, no sign of impatience was seen, the lowest chief hav
ing as much respect paid to his feelings, as related to his
attention, as the highest. At length the pipes completed
their circuit, even Parson Amen getting, and using, his
turn, when a dead pause succeeded. The silence resembled
that of a Quaker meeting, and was broken only by the rising
of one of the principal chiefs, evidently about to speak.
The language of the great Ojebway nation was used on this
occasion, most of the chiefs present belonging to some one
of the tribes of that stock, though several spoke other
tongues, English and French included. Of the three whites
present, Parson Amen alone fully comprehended all that
was said, he having qualified himself in this respect, to
preach to the tribes of that people ; though le Bourdon un
derstood nearly all, and even the corporal comprehended a
good deal. The name of the chief who first spoke at this
secret meeting, which was afterward known among the Ojeb-
ways by the name of the " Council of the Bottom Land,
near to the spring of gushing water," was Bear s Meat, an
appellation that might denote a distinguished hunter, rather
than an orator of much renown.

" Brothers of the many tribes of the Ojebways," com
menced this personage, " the Great Spirit has permitted us
to meet in council. The Manitou of our fathers is now
among these oaks, listening to our words, and looking in at
our hearts. Wise Indians will be careful what they say in
such a presence, and careful of what they think. All should



262 THE OAK OPENINGS.

be said and thought for the best. We are a scattered na
tion, and the time is come when we must stop in our tracks,
or travel beyond the sound of each other s cries. If we
travel beyond the hearing of our people, soon will our chil
dren learn tongues that Ojebway ears cannot understand.
The mother talks to her child, and the child learns her
words. But no child can hear across a great lake. Once
we lived near the rising sun. Where are we now? Some
of our young men say they have seen the sun go down in
the lakes of sweet water. There can be no hunting-grounds
beyond that spot; and if we would live, we must stand still
in our tracks. How to do this, we have met to consider.

" Brothers, many wise chiefs and braves are seated at this
council-fire. It is pleasant to my eyes to look upon them.
Ottawas, Chippeways, Pottawattamies, Menominees, Hu-
rons, and all. Our father at Quebec has dug up the hatchet
against the Yankees. The war-path is open between De
troit and all the villages of the red men. The prophets are
speaking to our people, and we listen. One is here; he is
about to speak. The council will have but a single sense,
which will be that of hearing."

Thus concluding, Bear s Meat took his seat, in the same
composed and dignified manner as that in which he had
risen, and deep silence succeeded. So profound was the
stillness, that, taken in connection with the dark lineaments,
the lustrous eyeballs that threw back the light of the fire,
the terrific paint and the armed hands of every warrior pres
ent, the picture might be described as imposing to a degree
that is seldom seen in the assemblies of the civilized. In
the midst of this general but portentous calm, Peter arose.
The breathing of the circle grew deeper, so much so as to
be audible, the only manner in which the intensity of the
common expectation betrayed itself. Peter was an experi
enced orator, and knew how to turn every minutiae of his art
to good account. His every movement was deliberate, his
attitude highly dignified even his eye seemed eloquent.



THE OAK OPENINGS. 263

Oratory ! what a power art thou, wielded, as is so often
the case, as much for evil as for good. The very reasoning
that might appear to be obtuse, or which would be over
looked entirely when written and published, issuing from
the mouth, aided by the feelings of sympathy and the im
pulses of the masses, seems to partake of the wisdom of
divinity. Thus is it, also, with the passions, the sense of
wrong, the appeals to vengeance, and all the other avenues
of human emotion. Let them be addressed to the cold eye
of reason and judgment, in the form of written statements,
and the mind pauses to weigh the force of arguments, the
justice of the appeals, the truth of facts: but let them come
upon the ear aided by thy art, with a power concentrated by
sympathy, and the torrent is often less destructive in its
course, than that of the whirlwind that thou canst awaken!

" Chiefs of the great Ojebway nation, I wish you well,"
said Peter, stretching out his arms toward the circle, as if
desirous of embracing all present. "The Manitou has been
good to me. He has cleared a path to this spring, and to
this council-fire. I see around it the faces of many friends.
Why should we not all be friendly? Why should a red
man ever strike a blow against a red man? The Great Spirit
made us of the same color, and placed us on the same hunt
ing-grounds. He meant that we should hunt in company;
not take each other s scalps. How many warriors have
fallen in our family wars? Who has counted them? Who
can say? Perhaps enough, had they not been killed, to
drive the pale-faces into the sea! "

Here Peter, who as yet had spoken only in a low and
barely audible voice, suddenly paused, in order to allow the
idea he had just thrown out to work on the minds of his
listeners. That it was producing its effect was apparent by
the manner in which one stern face turned toward another,
and eye seemed to search in eye some response to a query
that the mind suggested, though no utterance was given to
it with the tongue. As soon, however, as the orator thought



264 THE OAK OPENINGS.

time sufficient to impress that thought on the memories of
the listeners had elapsed, he resumed, suffering his voice
gradually to increase in volume, as he warmed with his
subject.

"Yes," he continued, "the Manitou has been very kind.
Who is the Manitou? Has any Indian ever seen hijn?
Every Indian has seen him. No one can look on the hunt
ing-grounds, on the lakes, on the prairies, on the trees, on
the game, without seeing his hand. His face is to be seen
in the sun at noonday; his eyes in the stars at night. Has
any Indian ever heard the Manitou? When it thunders, he
speaks. When the crash is loudest, then he scolds. Some
Indian has done wrong. Perhaps one red man has taken
another red man s scalp! "

Another pause succeeded, briefer, and less imposing than
the first, but one that sufficed to impress on the listeners
anew, the great evil of an Indian s raising his hand against
an Indian.

" Yes, there is no one so deaf as not to hear the voice of
the Great Spirit when he is angry," resumed Peter. " Ten
thousands of buffalo bulls, roaring together, do not make as
much noise as his whisper. Spread the prairies, and the
openings, and the lakes, before him, and he can be heard
in all, and on all, at the same time.

"Here is a medicine-priest of the pale-faces; he tells me
that the voice of the Manitou reaches into the largest vil
lages of his people, beneath the rising sun, when it is heard
by the red man across the great lakes, and near the rocks of
the setting sun. It is a loud voice; woe to him who does
not remember it. It speaks to all colors, and to every -peo
ple, and tribe, and nation.

" Brothers, that is a lying tradition which says, there is
one Manitou for a Sac, and another for the Ojebway one
Manitou for the red man, and another for the pale-face. In
this, we are alike. One Great Spirit made all; governs all;
rewards all; punishes all. He may keep the happy hunt-



THE OAK OPENINGS. 265

ing-grounds of an Indian separate from the white man s
heaven, for he knows that their customs are different, and
what would please a warrior would displease a trader; and
what would please a trader would displease a warrior. He
has thought of these things, and has made several places
for the spirits of the good, let their colors be what they
may. Is it the same with the places of the spirits of the
bad? I think not. To me it would seem best to let them
go together, that they may torment one another. A wicked
Indian and a wicked pale-face would make a bad neighbor
hood. I think the Manitou will let them go together.

" Brothers, if the Manitou keeps the good Indian and the
good pale-face apart in another world, what has brought
them together in this? If he brings the bad spirits of all
colors together in another world, why should they come to
gether here, before their time? A place for wicked spirits
should not be found on earth. This is wrong; it must be
looked into.

"Brothers, I have now done; this pale-face wishes to
speak, and I have said that you would hear his words.
When he has spoken his mind, I may have more to tell you.
Now, listen to the stranger. He is a medicine-priest of the
white men, and says he has a great secret to tell our people
when he has told it, I have another for their ears too.
Mine must be spoken when there is no one near but the
children of red clay."

Having thus opened the way for the missionary, Peter
courteously took his seat, producing a little disappointment
among his own admirers, though he awakened a lively curi
osity to know what this medicine-priest might have to say
on an occasion so portentous. The Indians in the regions
of the great lakes had long been accustomed to mission
aries, and it is probable that even some of their own tradi
tions, so far as they related to religious topics, had been
insensibly colored by, if not absolutely derived from, men
of this character; for the first whites who are known to have



266 THE OAK OPENINGS.

penetrated into that portion of the continent were Jesuits,
who carried the cross as their standard and emblem of
peace. Blessed emblem ! that any should so confound their
own names and denunciatory practices with the revealed
truth, as to imagine that a standard so appropriate should
ever be out of season and place, when it is proper for man
to use aught, at all, that is addressed to his senses, in the
way of symbols, rites, and ceremonies ! To the Jesuits suc
ceeded the less ceremonious and less imposing priesthood
of America, as America peculiarly was in the first years that



Online LibraryJames Fenimore CooperOak openings, or, The bee-hunter → online text (page 21 of 41)