James Fenimore Cooper.

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expressing regret at his failure in the attempt to convince
the savages that they were Jews, when Peter joined them.

" You tired you lie down in daytime, like sick squaw,
eh?" asked the Indian, in a slightly satirical manner.
" Bess be up, sich fine day, and go wid me to see some more
chief."

" Most gladly, Peter," returned the missionary, springing
to his feet with alacrity " and I shall have one more op
portunity to show your friends the truth of what I have told
them."



THE OAK OPENINGS. 39!

" Yes, Injin love to hear trut hate to hear lie. Can tell
em all you want to say. He go too, eh? " pointing to the
corporal, who rather hung back, as if he saw that in the in
vitation which was not agreeable to him.

" I will answer for my friend," returned the confiding mis
sionary, cheerfully. " Lead on, Peter, and we will follow."

Thus pledged, the corporal no longer hesitated ; but he
accompanied Parson Amen, as the latter fell into the tracks
of the chief, and proceeded rapidly in the direction of the
spring in the piece of bottom-land, where the council first
described had been held. This spot was about two miles
from the palisaded house, and quite out of view, as well as
out of reach of sound. As they walked side by side, taking
the footsteps of the great chief for their guides, the cor
poral, however, expressed to his companion his dislike of
the whole movement.

" We ought to stand by our garrison in times like these,
Mr. Amen," said the well-meaning soldier. " A garrison is
a garrison; and In j ins seldom do much on a well-built and
boldly-defended spot of that natur . They want artillery,
without which their assaults are never very formidable."

" Why talk you of warlike means, corporal, when we are
in the midst of friends? Is not Peter our known and well-
tried associate, one with whom you and I have travelled far;
and do we not know that we have friends among these
chiefs, whom we are now going to visit? The Lord has led
me into these distant and savage regions, to carry his word,
and to proclaim his name; and a most unworthy and un
profitable servant should I prove, were I to hesitate about
approaching them I am appointed to teach. No, no; fear
nothing. I will not say that you carry Caesar and his for
tunes, as I have heard was once said of old, but I will say
you follow one who is led of God, and who marches with
the certainty of being divinely commanded."

The corporal was ashamed to oppose so confident an en
thusiasm, and he offered no further resistance. Together



392 THE OAK OPENINGS.

the two followed their leader, who, turning neither to the
right hand nor to the left, soon had them out of sight of the
castle, and well on their way toward the spring. When
about half the distance was made, the direction took the
party through a little thicket, or rather along its margin, and
the missionary, a good deal to his surprise, saw Pigeons-
wing within the cover, seemingly preparing for another
hunt. This young warrior had so lately returned from one
excursion of this nature, that he was not expected to go forth
so soon on another. Nor was he accustomed to go out so
early in the day. This was the hour in which he ordinarily
slept; but there he was, beyond a question, and apparently
looking at the party as it passed. So cold was his manner,
however, and so indifferent did he seem, that no one would
have suspected that he knew aught of what was in contem
plation. Having satisfied himself that his friend, the bee-
hunter, was not one of those who followed Peter, the Chip-
pewa turned coldly away, and began to examine the flint of
his rifle. The corporal noted this manner, and it gave him
additional confidence to proceed; for he could not imagine
that any human being would manifest so much indifference,
when sinister designs existed.

Peter turned neither to the right hand nor to the left, until
he had led the way down upon the little arena of bottom-land
already described, and which was found well sprinkled with
savages. A few stood, or sat about in groups, earnestly
conversing ; but most lay extended at length on the green
sward, in the indolent repose that is so grateful to an Indian
warrior in his hours of inaction. The arrival of Peter, how
ever, instantly put a new face on the appearance of matters.
Every man started to his feet, and additions were made to
those who were found in the arena by those who came out
of the adjacent thickets, until some two or three hundred of
the red men were assembled in a circle around the newly-
arrived pale-faces.

"There," said Peter, sternly, fastening his eye with a



THE OAK OPENINGS. 393

hostile expression on Bough of the Oak and Ungque, in
particular "there are your captives. Do with them as you
will. As for them that have dared to question my faith, let
them own that they are liars! "

This was not a very amicable salutation, but savages are
accustomed to plain language. Bough of the Oak appeared
a little uneasy, and Ungque s countenance denoted dissatis
faction; but the last was too skilful an actor to allow many
of the secrets of his plotting mind to shine through the
windows of his face. As for the crowd at large, gleams of
content passed over the bright red faces, illuminating them
with looks of savage joy. Murmurs of approbation were
heard, and Crowsfeather addressed the throng, there, where
it stood, encircling the two helpless and as yet but half-
alarmed victims of so fell a plot.

" My brothers and my young men can now see," said this
Pottawattamie, "that the tribeless chief has an Injin heart.
His heart is not a pale-face heart it is that of a red man.
Some of our chiefs have thought that he had lived too much
with the strangers, and that he had forgotten the traditions
of our fathers, and was listening to the song of the medicine-
priest. Some thought that he believed himself lost, and a
Jew, and not an Injin. This is not so. Peter knows the
path he is on. He knows that he is a redskin, and he looks
on the Yankees as enemies. The scalps he has taken are
so numerous they cannot be counted. He is ready to take
more. Here are two that he gives to us. When we have
done with these two captives, he will bring us more. He
will continue to bring them, until the pale-faces will be as
few as the deer in their own clearings. Such is the will of
the Manitou."

The missionary understood all that was said, and he was
not a little appalled at the aspect of things. For the first
time he began to apprehend that he was in danger. So
much was this devout and well-intentioned servant of his
church accustomed to place his dependence on a superin-



394 THE OAK OPENINGS.

tending Providence, that apprehension of personal suffering
seldom had any influence on his exertions. He believed
himself to be an object of especial care; though he was ever
ready to admit that the wisdom which human minds cannot
compass, might order events that, at first sight, would seem
to be opposed to that which ought to be permitted to come
to pass. In this particular Parson Amen was a model of
submission, firmly believing that all that happened-was in
furtherance of the great scheme of man s regeneration and
eventual salvation.

With the corporal it was very different. Accustomed to
war with red men, and mosj acquainted with them in their
worst character, he ever suspected treachery, and had fol
lowed Peter with a degree of reluctance he had not cared to
express. He now thoroughly took the alarm, however, and
stood on his guard. Although he did not comprehend more
than half of that which Peter had said, he understood quite
enough to see that he and the missionary were surrounded
by enemies, if not by executioners.

" We have fallen into a sort of ambush here, Parson
Amen," cried the corporal, rattling his arms as he looked to
their condition, " and it s high time we beat the general. If
there were four on us we might form a square; but being
only two, the best thing we can do will be to stand back to
back, and for one to keep an eye on the right flank, while he
nat rally watches all in front; and for the other to keep an
eye on the left flank, while he sees to the rear. Place your
back close to mine, and take the left flank into your part of
the lookout. Closer, closer, my good sir; we must stand
solid as rooted trees, to make anything of a stand."

The missionary, in his surprise, permitted the corporal to
assume the position described, though conscious of its use-
lessness in their actual condition. As for the Indians, the
corporal s manner and the rattling of his arms induced the
circle to recede several paces; though nothing like alarm
prevailed among them. The effect, nevertheless, was to



THE OAK OPENINGS. 395

leave the two captives space for their evolutions, and a sort
of breathing time. This little change had the appearance
of something like success, and it greatly encouraged the
corporal. He began to think it even possible to make a re
treat that would be as honorable as any victory.

" Steady keep shoulder to shoulder, Parson Amen, and
take care of your flank. Our movement must be by our left
flank, and everything depends on keeping that clear. I
shall have to give you my baggonet, for you re entirely with
out arms, which leaves my rear altogether exposed."

"Think nothing of your arms, Brother Flint they would
be useless in my hands in any case; and, were we made of
muskets, they could be of no use against these odds. My
means of defence come from on high ; my armor is faith ;
and my only weapon, prayer. I shall not hesitate to use
the last on this, as on all other occasions."

The missionary then called on the circle of curious sav
ages by whom he was surrounded, and who certainly con
templated nothing less than his death, in common with those
of all his white companions, to unite with him in addressing
the Throne of Grace. Accustomed to preach and pray to
these people in their own dialect, the worthy parson made a
strong appeal to their charities, while supplicating the
favors of Divine Providence in behalf of himself and his
brother captive. He asked for all the usual benedictions
and blessings on his enemies, and made a very happy ex
position of those sublime dogmas of Christianity, which
teach us to " bless them that curse us," and to " pray for
those who despitefully use us." Peter, for the first time in
his life, was now struck with the moral beauty of such a
sentiment, which seldom fails, when duly presented, of pro
ducing an effect on even the dullest minds. His curiosity
was touched, and instead of turning coldly, as had been his
intention, and leaving the captives in the hands of those to
whom he had delivered them, he remained in the circle, and
paid the closest attention to all of the proceedings. He had



396 THE OAK OPENINGS.

several times previously heard the missionary speak of this
duty as a command of God s, but never before had he
deemed it possible to realize such a thing in practice.

The Indians, if not absolutely awe-struck by the singular
spectacle before them, seemed well disposed to let the mis
sionary finish his appeal; some wondering, others doubting,
and all more or less at a loss to know what to make of an
exhibition so unusual. There stood the corporal, with his
back pressed closely to that of his companion, his musket
at " make ready," and his whole mien that of a man with
every nerve screwed to the sticking-point; while the mis
sionary, the other side of the picture, with outstretched
arms, was lifting his voice in prayer to the throne of the
Most High. As this extraordinary scene continued, the
corporal grew excited; and ere long his voice was occa
sionally heard, blended with that of the clergyman, in terms
of advice and encouragement.

" Blaze away, Mr. Amen," shouted the soldier. " Give
em another volley you re doing wonders, and their front
has given ground ! One more such volley as the last, and
we ll make a forward movement, ourselves attention!
prepare to march by the left flank, as soon as there is a good
opening! "

That good opening, however, was never made. The sav
ages, though astonished, were by no means frightened, and
had not the smallest idea of letting their captives escape.
On the contrary, Bear s Meat, who acted as commander-in-
chief on this occasion, was quite self-possessed, and so far
from being impressed with the missionary s prayer, he lis
tened to it only in the hope of hearing some admission of
weakness escape. But the excitement of the corporal soon
produced a crisis. His attempts to make a movement "by
the left flank," caused his column of defence to be broken,
and obtaining no assistance from Parson Amen, who was
still pouring out his soul in prayer, while endeavoring to
bring things back to their original state, he suddenly found



THE OAK OPENINGS. 397

himself surrounded and disarmed. From that instant, the
corporal changed his tactics. So long as he was armed, and
comparatively free, he had bethought him only of the means
of resistance; now that these were denied him, he sub
mitted, and summoned all his resolution to bear the penal
ties of his captivity, in a manner that might not do discredit
to his regiment. This was the third time that Corporal
Flint had been a prisoner among the Indians, and he was
not now to learn the nature of their tender mercies. His
forebodings were not of the most pleasant character; but
that which could not be helped, he was disposed to bear
with manly fortitude. His greatest concern, at that fearful
moment, was for the honor of his corps.

All this time, Parson Amen continued his prayer. So
completely was his spirit occupied with the duty of offering
up his petition, that he was utterly unconscious of what else
had passed ; nor had he heard one of the corporal s appeals
for " attention," and to be " steady," and to march " by the
left flank." In a word, the whole man was intent on
prayer; and when thus employed, a six-pounder discharged
in the circle would hardly have disconcerted him. He per
severed, therefore, uninterrupted by his conquerors, until
he concluded in his own way. Having thus fortified his
soul, and asked for succor where he had now so long been
accustomed to seek and to find it, the worthy missionary
took his seat quietly on a log, on which the corporal had
been previously placed by his captors.

The time had arrived for the chiefs to proceed in the ex
ecution of their purposes. Peter, profoundly struck with
the prayers of the missionary in behalf of his enemies, had
taken a station a little on one side, where he stood rumi
nating on what he had just heard. If ever precept bore the
stamp of a divine origin, it is this. The more we reflect on
it, the clearer do our perceptions of this truth become. The
whole scheme of Christ s redemption and future existence is
founded in love, and such a system would be imperfect



398 THE OAK OPENINGS.

while any were excluded from its benefits. To love those
who reciprocate our feelings is so very natural, that the
sympathies which engender this feeling are soonest at
tracted by a knowledge of their existence; love producing
love, as power increases power. But to love those who hate
us, and to strive to do good to those who are plotting evil
against ourselves, greatly exceeds the moral strength of
man, unaided from above. This was the idea that puzzled
Peter, and he now actually interrupted the proceedings, in
order to satisfy his mind on a subject so totally new to him.
Previously, however, to taking this step, he asked the per
mission of the principal chiefs, awakening in their bosoms
by means of his explanations some of the interest in this
subject that he felt himself.

" Brother medicine-man," said the mysterious chief,
drawing nearer to the missionary, accompanied himself by
Bear s Meat, Crowsfeather, and one or two more, " you have
been talking to the Great Spirit of the pale-faces. We have
heard your words, and think them well. They are good
words for a man about to set out on the path that leads to
the unknown lands. Thither we must all go some time,
and it matters little when. We may not all travel the same
path. I do not think the Manitou will crowd tribes of dif
ferent colors together there, as they are getting to be
crowded together here.

" Brother, you are about to learn how all these things
really are. If red men, and pale-faces, and black men are
to live in the same land, after death, you will shortly know
it. My brother is about to go there. He and his friend,
this warrior of his people, will travel on that long path in
company. I hope they will agree by the way, and not
trouble each other. It will be convenient to my brother to
have a hunter with him; the path is so long, he will be
hungry before he gets to the end. This warrior knows how
to use a musket, and we shall put his arms with him in his
grave.



THE OAK OPENINGS. 399

" Brother, before you start on this journey, from which no
traveller ever returns, let his color be what it may, we wish
to hear you speak further about loving our enemies. This
is not the Indian rule. The red men hate their enemies,
and love their friends. When they ask the Manitou to do
anything to their enemies, it is to do them harm. This is
what our fathers taught us: it is what we teach our children.
Why should we love them that hate us : why should we do
good to them that do us harm ? Tell us now, or we may
never hear the reason."

"Tell you I will. Peter, and the Lord so bless my words
that they may soften your hearts, and lead you all to the
truth, and to dependence on the mediation of his blessed
Son! We should do good to them that do evil to us, be
cause the Great Spirit has commanded us so to do. Ask
your own heart if this is not right. If they sound like
words that are spoken by any but those who have been
taught by the Manitou, himself. The devils tell us to re
venge, but God commands us to forgive. It is easy to do
good to them that do good to us ; but it tries the heart sore
ly to do good to them that do us evil. I have spoken to
you of the Son of the Great Spirit. He came on earth, and
told us with his own mouth all these great truths. He said
that next to the duty of loving the Manitou, was the duty of
loving our neighbors. No matter whether friend or enemy,
it was our duty to love them, and do them all the good we
can. If there is no venison in their wigwams, we should
take the deer off our own poles, and carry it and put on
theirs. Why have I come here to tell you this? When at
home, I lived under a good roof, eat of abundance, and
slept in a soft and warm bed. You know how it is here.
We do not know to-day what we shall eat to-morrow. Our
beds are hard, and our roofs are of bark. I come, because
the Son of the Manitou, he who came and lived among men,
told us to do all this. His commands to his medicine-men
were, to go forth, and tell all nations, and tribes, and colors,



4OO THE OAK OPENINGS. t

the truth to tell them to love them that sought to do them
harm, and to do good for evil. "

Parson Amen pausing a moment to take breath, Ungque,
who detected the wavering of Peter s mind, and who acted
far more in opposition to the mysterious and tribeless chief
than from any other motive, profited by the occasion thus
afforded to speak. Without this pause, however, the breed
ing of an Indian would have prevented any interruption.

" I open my mouth to speak," said The Weasel, in his
humblest manner. " What I say is not fit for the wise
chiefs to hear. It is foolish, but my mind tells me to say
it. Does the medicine-man of the pale-faces tell us that
the Son of the Great Spirit came upon earth, and lived
among men ? "

"I do; such is our belief; and the religion we believe
and teach cometh directly from his mouth."

" Let the medicine-man tell the chiefs how long the Son
of the Great Spirit stayed on earth, and which way he went
when he left it."

Now, this question was put by Ungque through profound
dissimulation. He had heard of the death of Christ, and
had obtained some such idea of the great sacrifice as would
be apt to occur to the mind of a savage. He foresaw that
the effect of the answer would be very likely to destroy
most of the influence that the missionary had just been
building up, by means of his doctrine and his prayers.
Parson Amen was a man of singular simplicity of character,
but he had his misgivings touching the effect of this reply.
Still he did not scruple about giving it, or attempt in any
manner to mystify or to deceive.

" It is a humiliating and sad story, my brethren, and one
that ought to cause all heads to be bowed to the earth in
shame," he answered. " The Son of the Great Spirit came
among men; he did nothing but good; told those who heard
him how to live and how to die. In return for all this,
wicked and unbelieving men put him to death. After death



THE OAK OPENINGS. 4<DI

his body was taken up into Heaven the region of departed
spirits, and the dwelling-place of his Father where he now
is, waiting for the time when he is to return to the earth, to
reward the good and to punish the wicked. That time will
surely come ; nor do I believe the day to be very distant."

The chiefs listened to this account with grave attention.
Some of them had heard outlines of the same history be
fore. Accounts savoring of the Christian history had got
blended with some of their own traditions, most probably
the fruits of the teachings of the earlier missionaries, but
were so confused and altered as to be scarcely susceptible
of being recognized. To most of them, however, the history
of the incarnation of the Son of God was entirely new ; and
it struck them as a most extraordinary thing altogether that
any man should have injured such a being! It was, per
haps, singular that no one of them all doubted the truth of
the tradition itself. This they supposed to have been trans
mitted with the usual care, and they received it as a fact not
to be disputed. The construction that was put on its cir
cumstances will best appear in the remarks that followed.

" If the pale-faces killed the Son of the Great Spirit,"
said Bough of the Oak, pointedly, " we can see why they
wish to drive the red men from their lands. Evil spirits
dwell in such men, and they do nothing but what is bad. I
am glad that our great chief has told us to put the foot on
this worm and crush it, while yet the Indian foot is large
enough to do it. In a few winters they would kill us, as
they killed the Spirit that did them nothing but good! "

"I am afraid that this mighty tradition hath a mystery in
it that your Indian minds will scarcely be willing to re
ceive," resumed the missionary, earnestly. "I would not,
for a thousand worlds, or to save ten thousand lives as
worthless as my own, place a straw in the way of the faith
of any; yet must I tell the thing as it happened. This Son
of the Great Spirit was certainly killed by the Jews of that
day, so far as he could be killed. He possessed two natures,
42



4O2 THE OAK OPENINGS.

as indeed do all men : the body and soul. In his body he
was man, as we all are men ; in his soul he was a part of
the Great Spirit himself. This is the great mystery of our
religion. We cannot tell how it can happen, but we believe
it. We see around us a thousand things that we cannot un
derstand, and this is one of them."

Here Bear s Meat availed himself of another pause to
make a remark. This he did with the keenness of one ac
customed to watch words and events closely, but with a sim
plicity that showed no vulgar disposition to scepticism.

" We do not expect that all the Great Spirit does can be
clear to us Indians," he said. " We know very little ; he
knows everything. Why should we think to know all that
he knows ? We do not. That part of the tradition gives us
no trouble. Indians can believe without seeing. They are
not squaws, that wish to look behind every bush. But my
brother has told too much for his own good. If the pale
faces killed their Great Spirit, they can have no Manitou,
and must be in the hands of the Evil Spirit. This is the
reason they want our hunting-grounds. I will not let them
come any nearer to the setting sun. It is time to begin to
kill them, as they killed their Great Spirit. The Jews did
this. My brother wishes us to think that red men are Jews !
No; red men never harmed the Son of the Great Spirit.
They would receive him as a friend, and treat him as a
chief. Accursed be the hand that should be raised to harm
him. This tradition is a wise tradition. It tells us many
things. It tells us that In j ins are not Jews. They never



Online LibraryJames Fenimore CooperOak openings, or, The bee-hunter → online text (page 32 of 41)