James Fenimore Cooper.

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followed the Revolution. There is reason to believe that
the spirit of God, in a greater or less degree, accompanied
all; for all were self-denying and zealous, though the fruits
of near two centuries of labor have, as yet, amounted to lit
tle more than the promise of the harvest at some distant
day. Enough, however, was known of the missionaries, and
their views in general, to prepare the council, in some small
degree, for the forthcoming exhibition.

Parson Amen had caught some of the habits of the In
dians, in the course of years of communication and inter
course. Like them he had learned to be deliberate, calm,
and dignified in his exterior; and, like them, he had ac
quired a sententious mode of speaking.

" My children," he said, for he deemed it best to assume
the parental character, in a scene of so great moment, " as
Peter has told you, the spirit of God is among you ! Chris
tians know that such has he promised to be always with his
people, and I see faces in this circle that I am ready to
claim as belonging to those who have prayed with me, in
days that are long past. If your souls are not touched by
divine love, it does not kill the hope I entertain of your yet
taking up the cross, and calling upon the Redeemer s name.
But, not for this have I come with Peter, this night. I am
now here to lay before you an all-important fact, that Provi
dence has revealed to me, as the fruit of long labor in the
vineyard of study and biblical inquiry. It is a tradition



THE OAK OPENINGS. 26/

and red men love traditions it is a tradition that touches
your own history, and which it will gladden your hearts to
hear, for it will teach you how much your nation and tribes
have been the subject of the especial care and love of the
Great Spirit. When my children say, speak, I shall be
ready to speak."

Here the missionary took his seat, wisely awaiting a
demonstration on the part of the council,- ere he ventured
to proceed any further. This was the first occasion on
which he had ever attempted to broach, in a direct form, his
favorite theory of the " lost tribes." Let a man get once
fairly possessed of any peculiar notion, whether it be on
religion, political economy, morals, politics, arts, or any
thing else, and he sees little beside his beloved principle,
which he is at all times ready to advance, defend, demon
strate, or expatiate on. Nothing can be simpler than the
two great dogmas of Christianity, which are so plain that
all can both comprehend them and feel their truth. They
teach us to love God, the surest way to obey him, and to
love our neighbor as ourselves. Any one can understand
this; all can see how just it is, and how much of moral
sublimity it contains. It is Godlike, and brings us near
the very essence of the Divinity, which is love, mercy, and
truth. Yet how few are content to accept the teachings of
the Saviour in this respect, without embarrassing them with
theories that have so much of their origin in human fancies.
We do not mean by this, however, that Parson Amen was
so very wrong in bestowing a part of his attention on that
wonderful people, who, so early set apart by the Creator as
the creatures of his own especial ends, have already played
so great a part in the history of nations, and who are de
signed, so far as we can penetrate revelation, yet to enact
their share in the sublime drama of human events.

As for the council, "its members were moved by more than
ordinary curiosity to hear what further the missionary might
have to say, though all present succeeded admirably in sup-



268 THE OAK OPENINGS.

pressing the exhibition of any interest that might seem weak
and womanly. After a decent delay, therefore, Bear s Meat
intimated to the parson that it would be agreeable to the
chiefs present to listen co him further.

"My children, I have a great tradition to tell you," the
missionary resumed, as soon as on his feet again; "a very
great and divine tradition; not a tradition of man s, but one
that came direct from the Manitou himself. Peter has
spoken truth; there is but one Great Spirit; he is the Great
Spirit of all colors, and tribes, and nations. He made all
men of the same clay." Here a slight sensation was per
ceptible among the audience, most of whom were very de
cidedly of a different opinion, on this point of natural his
tory. But the missionary was now so far warmed with his
subject as to disregard any slight interruption, and pro
ceeded as if his listeners had betrayed no feeling. "And
he divided them afterward into nations and tribes. It was
then he caused the color of his creatures to change. Some
he kept white, as he had made them. Some he put behind
a dark cloud, and they became altogether black. Our wise
men think that this was done in punishment for their sins.
Some he painted red, like the nations on this continent."
Here Peter raised a finger, in sign that he would ask a
question; for, without permission granted, no Indian would
interrupt the speaker. Indeed, no one of less claims than
Peter would hardly have presumed to take the step he now
did, and that because he saw a burning curiosity gleaming
in the bright eyes of so many in the dark circle.

"Say on, Peter," answered the missionary to this sign;
" I will reply."

"Let my brother say why the Great Spirit turned the
Indian to a red color. Was he angry with him? or did he
paint him so out of love? "

"This is more than I can tell you, friends. There are
many colors among men, in different parts of the world, and
many shades among people of the same color. There are



THE OAK OPENINGS. 269

pale-faces fair as the lily, and there are pale-faces so dark,
as scarcely to be distinguished from blacks. The sun does
much of this; but no sun, nor want of sun, will ever make
a pale-face a red-skin, or a red skin a pale-face."

" Good that is what we Indians say. The Manitou has
made us different; he did not mean that we should live on
the same hunting-grounds," rejoined Peter, who rarely
failed to improve every opportunity in order to impress on
the minds of his followers the necessity of now crushing the
serpent in its shell.

"No man can say that," answered Parson Amen. "Un
less my people had come to this continent, the word of God
could not have been preached by me, along the shores of
these lakes. But I will now speak of our great tradition.
The Great Spirit divided mankind into nations and tribes.
When this was done, he picked out one for his chosen peo
ple. The pale-faces call that favorite, and for a long time
much-favored people, Jews. The Manitou led them through
a wilderness, and even through a salt lake, until they reached
a promised land, where he permitted them to live for many
hundred winters. A great triumph was to come out of that
people the triumphs of truth and of the law, over sin and
death. In the course of time

Here a young chief rose, made a sign of caution, and
crossing the circle rapidly, disappeared by the passage
through which the rill flowed. In about a minute he re
turned, showing the way into the centre of the council to
one whom all present immediately recognized as a runner,
by his dress and equipments. Important news was at hand;
yet not a man of all that crowd either rose or spoke, in im
patience to learn what it was !



2/O THE OAK OPENINGS.



CHAPTER XVII.

Who will believe that, with a smile whose blessing
Would, like the patriarch s, soothe a dying hour ;

With voice as low, as gentle, and caressing
As e er won maiden s lips in moonlight bower ;

With look like patient Job s, eschewing evil ;

With motions graceful as the birds in air ;
Thou art, in sober truth, the veriest devil

That e er clinched fingers in a captive s hair ?

HALLECK S Red-Jacket.

ALTHOUGH the arrival of the runner was so totally unex
pected, it scarcely disturbed the quiet of that grave as
sembly. His approaching step had been heard, and he was
introduced in the manner mentioned, when the young chief
resumed his seat, leaving the messenger standing near the
centre of the circle, and altogether within the influence of
the light. He was an Ottawa, and had evidently travelled
far and fast. At length he spoke; no one having put a
single question to him, or betrayed the least sign of impa
tient curiosity.

"I come to tell the chiefs what has happened," said the
runner. " Our Great Father from Quebec has sent his young
men against the Yankees. Red warriors, too, were there in
hundreds " here a murmur of interest was slightly appar
ent among the chiefs "their path led them to Detroit; it
is taken."

A low murmur, expressive of satisfaction, passed round
the circle, for Detroit was then the most important of all the
posts held by the Americans, along the whole line of the
great lakes. Eye met eye in surprise and admiration ; then
one of the older chiefs yielded to his interest in the subject,
and inquired:

" Have our young men taken many pale-face scalps? "

" So few that they are not worth counting. I did not see
one pole that was such as an Indian loves to look on."



THE OAK OPENINGS. 271

"Did our young men keep back, and let the warriors
from Quebec do all the fighting? "

" No one fought. The Yankees asked to be made prison
ers, without using their rifles. Never before have so many
captives been led into the villages with so little to make
their enemies look on them with friendly eyes."

A gleam of fierce delight passed athwart the dark features
of Peter. It is probable that he fell into the same error, on
hearing these tidings, as that which so generally prevailed
for a short time among the natives of the old world, at the
commencement of both of the two last wars of the republic,
when the disasters with which they opened induced so many
to fall into the fatal error of regarding Jonathan as merely
a "shopkeeper." A shopkeeper, in a certain sense, he
may well be accounted; but among his wares are arms, that
he has the head, the heart, and the hands to use, as man has
very rarely been known to use them before. Even at this
very instant, the brilliant success which has rendered the
armed citizens of this country the wonder of Europe, is re
acting on the masses of the old world, teaching them their
power, and inciting them to stand up to the regularly armed
bands of their rulers, with a spirit and confidence that,
hitherto, has been little known in their histories. Happy,
thrice happy will it be, if the conquerors use their success
in moderation, and settle down into the ways of practical
reason, instead of suffering their minds to be led astray in
quest of the political jack-o -lanterns, that are certain to con
duct their followers into the quagmires of impracticable and
visionary theories. To abolish abuses, to set in motion the
car of state on the track of justice and economy, and to dis
tinguish between that which is really essential to human
happiness and human rights, and that which is merely
the result of some wild and bootless proposition in po
litical economy, are the great self-imposed tasks that the
European people seem now to have assumed; and God
grant that they may complete their labors with the mod-



272 THE OAK OPENINGS.

eration and success with which they would appear to have
commenced them!

As for Peter, with the curse of ignorance weighing on his
mind, it is to be presumed that he fancied his own great
task of destroying the whites was so much the lighter, in
consequence of the feeble defence of the Yankees at Detroit.
The runner was now questioned by the different chiefs for
details, which he furnished with sufficient intelligence and
distinctness. The whole of that discreditable story is too
prominent in history, and of too recent occurrence, to stand
in need of repetition here. When the runner had told his
tale, the chiefs broke the order of their circle, to converse
the more easily concerning the great events which had just
occurred. Some were not backward in letting their con
tempt for the " Yankees " be known. Here were three of
their strong places taken, in quick succession, and almost
without a blow. Detroit, the strongest of them all, and de
fended by an army, had fallen in a way to bring the blush
to the American face, seemingly leaving the whole of the
northwestern frontier of the country ravished from the red
man, exposed to his incursions and depredations.

"What does my father think of this? " asked Bear s Meat
of Peter, as the two stood apart, in a cluster of some three
or four of the principal personages present. "Does the
news make his heart stronger? "

" It is always strong when this business is before it.
The Manitou has long looked darkly upon the red men, but
now his face brightens. The cloud is passing from before
his countenance, and we can begin again to see his smile.
It will be with our sons as it was with our fathers. Our
hunting-grounds will be our own, and the buffalo and deer
will be plenty in our wigwams. The fire-water will flow
after them that brought it into the country, and the red man
will once more be happy, as in times past! "

The ignis fatuus of human happiness employs all minds,
all faculties, all pens, and all theories, just at this particu-



THE OAK OPENINGS. 273

lar moment. A thousand projects have been broached, will
continue to be broached, and will fail, each in its time,
showing the mistakes of men, without remedying the evils
of which they complain. This is not because a beneficent
Providence has neglected to enlighten their minds, and to
show them the way to be happy, here and hereafter; but
because human conceit runs, pari passu, with human woes,
and we are too proud to look for our lessons of conduct, in
that code in which they have been set before us by unerring
wisdom and ceaseless love. If the political economists, and
reformers, and revolutionists of the age, would turn from
their speculations to those familiar precepts which all are
taught and so few obey, they would find rules for every
emergency; and, most of all, would they learn the great
secret which lies so profoundly hid from them and their
philosophy, in the contented mind. Nothing short of this
will ever bring the mighty reform that the world needs.
The press may be declared free, but a very brief experi
ence will teach those who fancy that this one conquest will
secure the victory, that they have only obtained King Stork
in the lieu of King Log; a vulgar and most hideous tyrant
for one of royal birth and gentle manners. They may set
up the rule of patriots by profession, in place of the domin
ion of those who have so long pretended that the art of
governing descends from male to male, according to the
order of primogeniture, and live to wonder that love of
country should have so many weaknesses in common with
love of itself. They may rely on written charters for their
liberties, instead of the divine right of kings, and come per
chance to learn, that neither language, nor covenants, nor
signatures, nor seals avail much, as against the necessities
of nations, and the policy of rulers. Do we then regard re
form as impossible, and society to be doomed to struggle on
in its old sloughs of oppression and abuses? Far from it.
We believe and hope, that at each effort of a sage character,
something is gained, while much more than had been ex-
18



2/4 THE OAK OPENINGS.

pected is lost; and such we think will continue to be the
course of events, until men shall reach that period in their
history when, possibly to their wonder, they will find that a
faultless code for the government of all their affairs has
been lying neglected, daily and hourly, in their very hands,
for eighteen centuries and a half, without their perceiving
the all-important truth. In due season this code will super
sede all others, when the world will, for the first time, be
happy and truly free.

There was a marked resemblance between the hopes and
expectations of Peter, in reference to the overthrow of his
pale-face enemies on the American continent, and those of
the revolutionists of the old world in reference to the over
throw of their strong-intrenched foes on that of Europe.
Each fancies success more easy of attainment than the end
is likely to show; both overlook the terrible power of their
adversaries; and both take the suggestions of a hope that is
lively rather than enlightened, as the substitute for the les
sons of wisdom.

It was some little time ere the council had so far regained
its calm, as to think of inviting the missionary to resume
his discourse. The last had necessarily heard the news,
and was so much troubled by it, as to feel no great disposi
tion to proceed; but Peter intimating that "the ears of his
friends were open," he was of opinion it would be wisest to
go on with his traditions.

" Thus it was, my children/ Parson Amen continued, the
circle being just as quiet and attentive as if no interruption
had occurred " the Great Spirit, selecting from among the
nations of the earth, one to be his chosen people. I cannot
stop, now, to tell you all he did for this nation, in the way
of wonders and powers; but, finally, he placed them in a
beautiful country, where milk and honey abounded, and
made them its masters. From that people, in his earthly
character, came the Christ whom we missionaries preach to
you, and who is the great head of our church. Although



THE OAK OPENINGS. 275

the Jews, or Israelites, as we call that people, were thus
honored and thus favored of the Manitou, they were but
men, they had the weaknesses of men. On more than one
occasion they displeased the Great Spirit, and that so seri
ously as to draw down condign punishment on themselves,
and on their wives and children. In various ways were
they visited for their backsliding and sins, each time re
penting and receiving forgiveness. At length the Great
Spirit, tired of their forgetfulness and crimes, allowed an
army to come into their land, and to carry away as captives
no less than ten of their twelve tribes; putting their people
in strange hunting-grounds. Now, this happened many
thousands of moons since, and no one can say with certainty
what has become of those captives, whom Christians are ac
customed to call * the lost tribes of Israel. 9}

Here the missionary paused to arrange his thoughts, and
a slight murmur was heard in the circle as the chiefs com
muned together, in interested comments on what had just
been said. The pause, however, was short, and the speaker
again proceeded, safe from any ungracious interruption,
among auditors so trained in self-restraint.

" Children, I shall not now say anything touching the
birth of Christ, the redemption of the world, and the history
of the two tribes that remained in the land where God had
placed his people; for that is a part of the subject that
comes properly within the scope of my ordinary teaching.
At present I wish only to speak of yourselves; of the red
man of America, of his probable origin and end, and of a
great discovery that many of us think we have made, on this
most interesting topic in the history of the good book.
Does any one present know aught of the ten lost tribes of
whom I have spoken ? "

Eye met eye, and expectation was lively among those
primitive and untaught savages. At length Crowsfeather
arose to answer, the missionary standing the whole time,
motionless, as if waiting for a reply.



2/6 THE OAK OPENINGS.

" My brother has told us a tradition," said the Pottawat-
tamie. " It is a good tradition. It is a strange tradition.
Red men love to hear such traditions. It is wonderful that
so many as ten tribes should be lost, at the same time, and
no one know what has become of them ! My brother asks
us if we know what has become of these ten tribes. How
should poor red men, who live on their hunting-grounds,
and who are busy when the grass grows in getting together
food for their squaws and pappooses, against a time when
the buffalo can find nothing to eat in this part of the world,
know anything of a people that they never saw? My
brother has asked a question that he only can answer. Let
him tell us where these ten tribes are to be found, if he
knows the place. We should like to go and look at them."

"Here!" exclaimed the missionary, the instant Crows-
feather ceased speaking, and even before he was seated.
" Here in this council on these prairies in these
openings here, on the shores of the great lakes of sweet
water, and throughout the land of America, are these tribes
to be found. The red man is a Jew; a Jew is a red man.
The Manitou has brought the scattered people of Israel to
this part of the world, and I see his power in the wonderful
fact. Nothing but a miracle could have done this! "

Great was the admiration of the Indians at this announce
ment! None of their own traditions gave this account of
their origin; but there is reason to believe, on the other
hand, that none of them contradict it. Nevertheless, here
was a medicine-priest of the pale-faces boldly proclaiming
the fact, and great was the wonder of all who heard, thereat!
Having spoken, the missionary again paused, that his words
might produce their effect. Bear s Meat now became his
interrogator, rising respectfully, and standing during the
colloquy that succeeded.

"My brother has spoken a great tradition," said the
Menominee. " Did he first hear it from his fathers? "

" In part, only. The history of the lost tribes has come



THE OAK OPENINGS. 2/7

down to us from our fathers; it is written in the good book
of the pale-faces; the book that contains the word of the
Great Spirit."

" Does the good book of the pale-faces say that the red
men are the children of the people he has mentioned? "

" I cannot say that it does. While the good book tells
us so much, it also leaves very much untold. It is best
that we should look for ourselves, that we may find out
some of its meanings. It is in thus looking, that many
Christians see the great truth which makes the Indians of
America and the Jews beyond the great salt lake, one. and
the same people."

" If this be so, let my brother tell us how far it is from
our hunting-grounds to that distant land across the great
salt lake."

"I cannot give you this distance in miles exactly; but I
suppose it may be eleven or twelve times the length of
Michigan."

" Will my brother tell us how much of this long path is
water, and how much of it is dry land? "

" Perhaps one-fourth is land, as the traveller may choose;
the rest must be water, if the journey be made from the ris
ing toward the setting sun, which is the shortest path; but,
let the journey be made from the setting toward the rising
sun, and there is little water to cross; rivers and lakes of
no great width, as is seen here, but only a small breadth of
salt lake."

"Are there, then, two roads to that far-off land, where the
red men are thought to have once lived?

" Even so. The traveller may come to this spot from
that land by way of the rising sun, or by way of the setting
sun."

The general movement among the members of the coun
cil denoted the surprise with which this account was re
ceived. As the Indians, until they have had much inter
course with the whites, very generally believe the earth to



2/8 THE OAK OPENINGS.

be flat, it was not easy for them to comprehend how a given
point could be reached by directly opposite routes. Such
an apparent contradiction would be very likely to extort
further questions.

"My brother is a medicine-man of the pale-faces; his
hairs are gray," observed Crowsfeather. " Some of your
medicine-men are good, and some wicked. It is so with
the medicine-men of the red-skins. Good and bad are to be
found in all nations. A medicine-man of your people
cheated my young men by promising to show them where
fire-water grows. He did not show them. He let them
smell, but he did not let them drink. That was a wicked
medicine-man. His scalp would not be safe did my young
men see it again " here the bee-hunter, insensibly to him
self, felt for his rifle, making sure that he had it between
his legs; the corporal being a little surprised at the sudden
start he gave. " His hair does not grow on his head closer
than the trees grow to the ground. Even a tree can be cut
down. But all medicine-men are not alike. My brother is
a good medicine-man. All he says may not be just as he
thinks, but he believes what he says. It is wonderful how
men can look two ways; but it is more wonderful that they
should go to the same place by paths that lead before and
behind. This we do not understand; my brother will tell
us how it can be."

"I believe I understand what it is that my children would



Online LibraryJames Fenimore CooperOak openings, or, The bee-hunter → online text (page 22 of 41)