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THEIR FATHER'S DUST, OR LIFT, PERCHANCE OF YORE
THEIR VOICE TO THE GREAT SPIRIT:—
Gertrude of Wyoming.
HAVING heard of you as one ever ready to promote the literature of your Country, and to develope its history, I have determined to forward you the accompanying, with a request that you will commit it to the press, if, according to your judgment, it possesses sufficient merits.
In writing this manuscript I cannot claim to rank as an Author, having merely thrown together, with very little embellishment, facts that I have been enabled to collect from a variety of scattered sources.
A few years ago I was a traveller through the western part of North Carolina, and having stopped early in the evening at a small village, on the southwestern side of the Tennessee River, in the indulgence of a curiosity common to myself, with most travellers, I inquired if the neighborhood furnished anything to gratify an admirer of the works either of nature or of art. My host, who was, by the way, an amiable and intelligent man, promptly answered, that there was within the limits of the village itself, an “Indian mound,” and that the Falls of the Sugar Town Fork, a few miles distant, were esteemed quite an interesting spectacle to such as loved to see nature in wildness and grandeur. Moved by no love of gain, which might seek to prolong, as much as possible, the stay of a guest where the visits of travellers were like those of angels, he kindly offered to accompany me the next day as far on the way to the Falls as the residence of Mr. McDonald, who was, he informed me, the clerk of the court—a scholar, a gentleman, and one deeply versed in the legendary lore of the country, which he took great pleasure in imparting whenever it was his fortune to meet with an intelligent and interested listener.
My host excused himself from accompanying me farther, by assuring me that I should find in Mr. McDonald a willing and much more able guide than himself, in my progress up the Sugar Town Fork, and that the pressure of his own business would require his immediate return to the village.
Accordingly, the next morning, I proceeded with my worthy host in quest of adventures, and would have crossed the Tennessee River at a new and convenient bridge, but was assured by him I should save half a dollar in going and returning by fording the stream, which, although quite rapid, was scarcely deep enough to swim my horse. I was but little practised as a highland traveller, and did not, I confess, feel very comfortable in looking upon the stream gliding swiftly beneath me; and although my horse did not actually swim, my head did, and I was heartily glad when I touched terra firma on the opposite side. But I did not trouble my friend with any voluntary exhibitions of alarm; but, on the contrary, flattered myself with the hope that I had succeeded in impressing him very favorably with both my courage and experience.
We had not progressed far before I perceived that fifty cents for crossing the bridge at the village would have been a very idle expenditure of money, for as we advanced we had to cross and recross the stream every hundred or two yards, where it was very little narrower or shallower than where we first encountered it. It is true, as our general course was up the stream, both its width and depth did somewhat diminish at each successive ford, but it was very gradually, and before we reached Mr. McDonald's, my brain had become quite steady, and my confidence perfectly established.
When I entered the house of Mr. McDonald it was not with the feelings of a stranger; his first salutation being sufficient to satisfy me that he was a man after my own heart. Had he lived in a city, he would have been a book-worm, and wasted all his means in acts of benevolence; but in his present situation, with a scanty library, he was forced to read the book of nature, or, at least, many of its most striking pages; and the demands upon his generous feelings were few, and never such as to tax the pocket.
Should these pages ever find their way back to the region of which they treat, Mrs. McDonald will pardon the introduction of her name, as a most sincere and respectful offering of gratitude. She is a lady in the most significant sense of that term; and I was almost compelled to doubt the evidence of my own senses when my eye glanced from the wild scenery around me, to the interesting woman, who, had she been bred in courts, would not have been half so successful in throwing an air of elegance over the rustic comforts by which she was surrounded.
In a short time Mr. McDonald and I were ready to pursue our way, leaving my host of the village to return at his leisure. An hour's riding brought us where Mr. McDonald informed me our horses could no longer be useful; we accordingly tied them to a limb of a tree, and began, on foot, to encounter the very steep ascent formed by the mountains so closing in as to leave only a very narrow pass for the brawling stream. After laborious climbing for another hour, we reached the Falls, which, I confess, disappointed me, and I was even so impolite as to acknowledge it to my guide. But the wild and picturesque scenery through which I had passed, would have repaid me for my fatigue, had I found nothing more. But the phrenologists say my organ of alimentiveness is a good deal developed, and proves that I have an especial relish for good eating and drinking; and I do not know that the aforesaid propensity of my nature has ever been more highly treated than on my present visit.
As we turned to descend—“We must take a salmon home with us for dinner,” said Mr. McDonald.
“A salmon?” said I, in unfeigned surprise.
“Yes,” replied my host, in his quiet way, “a salmon.”
“You are jesting with me,” said I.
“Indeed I am not,” said Mr. McDonald, deliberately seating himself by the side of the stream we had regained, and pulling off his coat, shoes and stockings, and rolling up his pantaloons and shirt sleeves.
In a moment more he was in the water, turning over the large rocks, with as much earnestness as if he had expected to find a bag of gold beneath each of them. I looked on, puzzled what to think of my new acquaintance. At length he succeeded in slightly shaking a very large rock, which defied all his efforts to turn it over, when instantly there dashed from beneath it what, at first, appeared to me to be a perfect monster. Mr. McDonald immediately rushed in pursuit, and a more amusing spectacle I never witnessed for twelve or fifteen minutes. The water was splashed about in every direction, so as to leave not a dry garment upon the pursuer, as a large fish darted from one hiding place to another, with fruitless efforts to avail himself of it. Sometimes the hand of the extraordinary fisherman was fairly upon him, but the lubricity of his scales would save him, and afford him another chance for escape. At length, however, when nearly exhausted with his bootless exertions, Mr. McDonald succeeded in dexterously thrusting his hand into the gills of the fish, which now lashed the water into a perfect foam, and sent the spray in every direction, like a shower of rain. But the relentless foe held on, with tenacious grasp, and dragged him to the shore. My assistance now seemed necessary to prevent the captive from regaining his native element, so completely had the captor expended his strength in the double labor of turning over the rocks to dislodge the game and securing it afterwards.
As soon as Mr. McDonald had sufficiently recovered himself, we repaired to our horses, with our prize, which he fastened behind his saddle. We then proceeded to his house, where Mrs. McDonald prepared for us a most sumptuous dinner, of which the captive fish constituted an important part, and was, by far, the finest, both in looks and flavor, I had ever tasted.
I am an admirer of good wine, and consequently have no great relish for what is commonly called native wine, but that which my host furnished on this occasion of his own vintage was to me uncommonly palatable.
After dinner my friend began to exhibit his propensity for legendary recital, and, among other things, inquired of me if I had ever been at Tesumtoe?
To this I replied in the negative. “Then,” said he, “you have never seen the plain black cross which marks the head of a grave in the village graveyard.”
“Of course not,” said I.
“Around that cross,” said he, “clusters some of the most interesting incidents connected with this part of the country.”
I encouraged the mood of my friend, and, with short intervals for sleep, and our necessary meals, it was far into the next day when I was compelled to break off, much against my will, leaving his recital unfinished. I returned to the village that evening, and the next morning resumed my journey.
In the following sheets I have thrown together parts of Mr. McDonald's narrative, mingled with much I had gathered from other sources; and trust they will not be found destitute of interest. They embody to some extent the prevailing customs of one tribe, at least, of our aborigines, and some effort is made to impart the interest of romance to a portion of its transactions with the whites.
Since these pages were written, the removal of the Cherokees to the west of the Mississippi has been completed. Only the few particularly referred to in the latter part of the following story remain, and these, I perceive, have recently attracted the notice of some contributor to the newspapers. From this newspaper account, I should be led to infer they must have multiplied considerably since my friend Mr. McDonald's information respecting them. But it is possible he may not have meditated in his conversations with me, the most perfect accuracy, little suspecting I was “a chiel' amang them takin' notes.”
It may be, therefore, that should you see fit to usher to the light my humble labors, many other errors and inaccuracies may be detected by persons more knowing than myself. Should this be the case, I pray such to understand, that I do not hold myself accountable for accuracy in a single particular—that all that is therein set forth is endorsed without recourse—that Mr. McDonald and the rest who have furnished me with materials are alone responsible for their being genuine—and that so far from holding myself liable to the imputation of the shameful vices of wilful lying, or imprudently repeating things without regard to their truth or falsehood, I do not admit that it would be just and proper, even to ascribe to me the amiable weakness of—credulity. I was myself entertained, without inquiring, or greatly caring, whether what I heard was true or false, and I am perfectly willing to afford to others a like opportunity.
Should I fail in amusing and instructing those who may favor these pages with a perusal, contempt will shield them from any severe scrutiny upon the point of truth and accuracy. On the other hand, if where the former are afforded, the latter were also required, Homer and Milton would never have insinuated the beauteous fabrications of their respective fancies into the texture of the religious creeds of their several ages, nor have become the standards of taste and models of poetic excellence for all generations.
As in this age of utilitarianism no story can be considered worth perusing, from which no instructive moral can be drawn, I should be sorry to believe my labors deficient in this particular. From the uniform success attendant in my story on the white man, in every species of contest with the savage, whether in love or war, and whether single handed or in numbers, we may learn to set a just value upon the advantages of civilization. From thence nothing can be more natural than for us to advance another step, and feel our hearts warmed with gratitude to Providence, who has cast our own lot in the fortunate class.
But I will not anticipate further, leaving to every reader to select for himself from the moral and intellectual repast we set before him, and if he rises from it unamused and uninstructed, I must indulge my vanity so far as to attribute the fault to him, rather than myself.
Should the Public, however, that just arbiter from whose judgment there is no appeal, give to my production any decided mark of approval, it is more than probable you may hear again from one who is,
Your obedient servant,
TO PETER FORCE, ESQ.
—Above me are the Alps,
Those palaces of Nature, whose vast walls
Have pinnacled in clouds their snowy scalps.
* * * * * * * * *
But ere these matchless heights I dare to scan,
There is a spot should not be pass'd in vain.
THE spirit of adventure and a love of freedom, rather than ease, have been prominent characteristics of the Anglo-Americans, from the very beginning of their existence as a people. Indeed, if the origin of this race could be traced to the age of Fable, these principles would be found personified by the poets; and superstitious Americans might claim a mythological descent from a demigod called Enterprise, by the Genius of Liberty, whom he accidentally encountered in the wilds of Briton. But no clouds of uncertainty hover over the origin of our Heaven-favored nation, and, without a figure, its existence may be traced to the joint effect of a bold love of enterprise, and an intolerance of oppression. These moved our ancestors to forsake the home of their fathers, and seek for fortune and freedom in an untrodden wilderness. Though no civilized man had preceded them thither, the savage was there, claiming the lordship of the soil by Nature's charter—possession—authenticated by her law—superior force. Yet, it was the will of Heaven that this physical law should be superseded, and that the Red men should yield their homes to greatly inferior numbers of the Whites, receding before their rapidly increasing masses, ceaselessly, as the roll of the billows of the ocean, until checked by the voice of Him who hath set for the sea her appointed boundaries.
Many years ago, Robert Aymor removed to that region of country which lies immediately to the westward of the Blue Ridge, within the chartered limits of the State of North Carolina. His father before him had been one of those who constituted portions of the vanguard of the white settlers, who, planting their feet successively on each spot of earth while yet warm with the departing footstep of the Aboriginal possessor, traced him closely in his retreat towards the setting sun. This mode of life had become endeared to Robert, by the sacred influence of paternal example, and was followed as the one for which he was best fitted, both by habit and disposition.
Robert Aymor was an illiterate man, in the more proper acceptation of the term, although he was not ignorant of the rudiments of reading, writing, and arithmetic, and was accounted no bad practical surveyor. But he was a man of strong natural sense, had been a shrewd observer of men and things, and had carefully treasured up the traditionary lore of his ancestors. His inward man was, therefore, far above the contempt of the most pretending, and could rather look down from its own elevation upon most with whom it was its fortune to encounter. In personal advantages he had no cause to complain of nature. She had given him a strong athletic frame, about six feet two inches in height when standing in his moccasins, although this height was rendered less striking from that peculiar stoop, which is generally described by the term round-shouldered. Locks, which were in early life as black as the raven's wing, now intermingled here and there with hair rivalling the snow in whiteness, clustered around a high broad forehead. Long shaggy brows overhung small clear grey eyes, deep buried in their sockets. His nose was long, thin, and sharp, such as is usually selected to grace the face of a miser; and, as is generally the case with one of that description, continually threatened approach to a chin, projecting beneath it, and seeming, in its turn, ambitiously aspiring to the place of its rival. But these doughty champions were kept apart by a mouth on which an expression of soft benevolence sat continually. Whatever might be said in disparagement of particular features in the face of Robert Aymor, his mouth imparted to the whole countenance a winning expression, which disarmed at once the purpose of scrutiny, and subdued any prejudice with which a stranger might have approached him. No people upon earth are usually so soon obedient to the promptings of nature, to select for themselves an helpmate, as the settlers of a new country; yet Robert Aymor was rather an exception to this general rule, for reasons which will appear in the course of the story. But his case formed no exception to the haste with which this important act is generally performed, at whatever period of life convenience may dictate it:—the choice commonly devolving upon the first good looking object on which the eyes of the swain may fall, after he has resolved to marry.
Dorothy Hays was a hearty buxom lass, fair, and round featured—her father resided contiguous to the parent of Robert Aymor; she crossed his path at the critical moment, and they became man and wife. But it was not long after marriage that Aymor made a discovery, which hung like a cloud over his prospects of happiness. His Dolly proved to be one of those weak persons, whom unscrupulous rudeness might have called a fool. From the moment that, what was at first suspicious apprehension, became fixed conviction, Aymor felt, that respect for his wife, the only fetter with which wayward love can effectually be bound, was wanting, and that he must thenceforth pass through life the listless slave of conjugal duty, and not the cheerful subject of connubial affection. But he was, in his way, a conscientious man, and resolved that Dolly should never know the distressing discovery he had made, nor find any thing in his manner different from what she would have done had she been all that, in the blindness of passion, he once imagined her. This was a resolution not altogether in the power of human nature to keep, and, when mortified by her follies, or wearied with her stupidity, hasty expressions would escape his lips, which happily for herself she was incapable of feeling in all their cutting severity. What a riddle is man! And what cause for grateful admiration has he to the Author of all good, that the root of some of his holiest feelings, and some of his highest moral enjoyments, is found amid his very vices, his foibles, and his griefs! And thus did Robert Aymor often experience an overflowing of tenderness for his wife, and pleasure in offering her atoning kindnesses, after one of those bursts of impatience, she possessed no other means of calling forth or producing.
At the period when our story opens, Robert Aymor was more than fifty years of age, and his wife some years younger, although a stranger might have judged her the elder of the two. Time, which had rendered him more gaunt, and thus, notwithstanding the slight increase in his natural stoop, added to his apparent height, had greatly increased her natural obesity, and she now moved with difficulty a mass of matter scarcely less in circumference than in height. That attention to personal neatness, by which so many efface for a season those traces by which Time is ever striving to mark his transit, was in her case entirely wanting. Her broad round face, through the texture of whose skin the multitudinous veins, with their crimson currents, distinctly shewed, as if the latter were ready to burst forth, was in perfect contrast with the meagre, weather-beaten visage of her husband. Her sex, her age, and her intellect, all conspired to render her garrulous, whilst the very extravagance of her loquacity but served to increase that taciturnity so natural to the situation of Aymor. The ordinary fruits of matrimony had not been denied to this couple, and Dolly, as far as possible, had atoned for mental barrenness, by an unusual fecundity of body. The young olive plants encircled the table of Aymor—his quiver was full of those arrows which are a blessing from the Lord—and if more than a dozen children could save from that misfortune, he need not have been ashamed when he met his enemy in the gates.
Gideon, the eldest of these mountain shoots, is the one with whom, in the progress of our story, we shall have most to do, and was, at the period we speak of, about the age when a man is said to be handsome, if ever. A little more than a score of years were accomplished since his birth, and had conferred upon him the honors of manhood. In person Gideon was more upon the model of his mother, than his father. In height he did not exceed five feet nine inches, and from her he had borrowed a full black eye, snub nose, and plump sensual lips. But although his figure was rather broad in proportion to his height, there was no superfluous flesh about him, and he was, upon the whole, well formed, both for strength and activity. His intellectual character was a combination of those of his two parents. He possessed his father's shrewdness, though not to the full extent, and was, perhaps, his equal in courage and enterprise, but was quite deficient in his characteristic generosity and frankness of disposition. Altogether he was well calculated to work his way through the world, and especially in that mode of life which had been followed by his family for several generations; he was bold, active, and enterprising, and shrunk not from the labors incident to the rude husbandry of the time and place, or the dangers and fatigues of hunting.
From a small range of mountains, on the western side of French Broad River, commonly called the Homony Hills, issues a clear rapid stream, also called Homony Creek. This stream takes its rise near the very summit of the ridge, and winding its way for seven or eight miles, serves like the thread of Ariadne, to guide the wanderer through the mazes of a labyrinth, to the only practicable passage across this barrier of nature's own erection. In various places along its course through the mountain hollow, small and narrow, but beautiful and fertile pieces of land spread themselves out in a perfect level, presenting a pleasing contrast with the wild and precipitous hills in which they are embosomed. These delightful spots of ground become more numerous and extensive as the stream progresses on its rapid and irriguous way, until, where it finally emerges from the gorge of the mountain, it meanders through a rich plain, containing many acres, and at last loses itself in French Broad River.
This plain, at the time we speak of, was in part occupied by the farm of Robert Aymor, lying around the point, which like a promontory, of no great extent, stretched itself out from the foot of the mountain into the plain. Upon this elevation Aymor had erected his comfortable log dwelling. The abrupt and rocky edges of this hill were concealed by a thick evergreen growth of mountain ivy and laurel, while the level on its summit, shorn of all brush and underwood, was crowned with a magnificent growth of mountain ash, chestnut and poplar, which, in the summer heat, lent their refreshing shade to the cottage they surrounded. Yet their branches were not now stretching out their leafy canopy, to shelter from solstitial heat the panting sufferer, but, stript of their verdant honors, were rudely torn and shaken by the wintry blasts, or hung, as in mockery, with the gathering snow wreath. Night had come down upon the earth, with a darkness unmitigated, save by the phosphoric light emitted from the snow, which had been for hours falling fast and thickly. The wind howled piteously through the hollows of the Hommony, while the dash of its stream could scarcely be heard in its feeble efforts to escape from the icy prison in which stern nature was hastening to confine it. The family of Robert Aymor, in this inclement night, was gathered around, or rather, partly within and partly around a fire-place but little inferior in size to a small bed room, from the centre of which a large pile of wood was sending up a lively blaze, roaring as it ascended, as if in defiance, or in imitative mockery of the storm without.
“Atha! my dear,” said Aymor, as he drew near the fire, and gave it a punch with the poking stick, “put the children to bed: Lucy and Sylvia are asleep already, and the rest are not far behind them.”
“For God's sake, Bob Aymor,” said his wife, “let the children alone, if they're a mind to sleep by the fire I can't see why it ain't just as good as putting them to bed.”
“Mother!” replied Atha, modestly, “I think father is right, the poor little things can't be comfortable in the way they are fixed, and, besides, there is danger of their taking cold.”
“I hav'nt another word to say about it, Atha; I know you'll always side with your father, so just fix it your own way.”
Atha, a pretty country girl, a year or two younger than her brother Gideon, proceeded to fulfil the command of her father, and, for a time, the sounds of “harmony not understood,” filled the cottage, as she successively stripped the members of the juvenile multitude, and consigned them to their respective places of repose. At length, all was again quiet within the cottage, and the storm, as if to make up for the time in which its clamor had been drowned by the noise of the children, raged more loudly without.
“It is a fearful night,” said Atha, shivering, as she returned towards the cheerful hearth, “and God knows I pity from my heart the many poor creatures who are exposed to it, without a house to shelter, or a fire to warm them.”
“You are thinking of John Welch, now,” said her mother. “I don't care the peeling of a 'tater where he is; and, if I was you, I wouldn't be such a fool, as to have him always in my head.”
“It isn't kind in you, mother, to take me up in this way,” replied Atha, sorrowfully; “I am sure I did not say a word about John Welch, and even if a thought of him had come across my mind, when I heard the wind howl so dismally, it is no wonder, when you know, mother, we have been playmates ever since I can remember anything, and that I may have been the cause of his exposure to this dreadful storm, and, gracious knows, how many other troubles and dangers.” An unbidden tear gathered in the eye of the innocent girl, which she hastened to wipe away with the corner of her apron.
“You know it wa'nt my fau't, Atha,” continued her mother, in a softened tone of voice, “I always thought John Welch good enough for anybody, but Bob Aymor must always carry a high head, and I look for the day to come when he'll wish he had carried it lower.”
“Don't blame father,” said Atha, sobbing, “I know he acted for the best, and is now as sorry as any of us that he treated the poor fellow so harshly.”
“You are right, Atha, my dear,” said her father, pulling her head gently down upon his bosom, “Welch was a noble fellow, although my pride revolted at the Indian blood in his veins; but it wasn't much after all,—and you love him Atha.—Cheer up, my girl, he will return to us again, and all shall yet be well. Who knows but he may come back to us this night, as stormy as it is?”
Atha shook her head with mournful incredulity, but the words of her father, accompanied by the kind expression of his countenance, had fallen with balsamic influence upon her wounded feelings, and, to use a hackneyed figure of the poets, a tranquil smile lighted up her countenance as she wiped away her tears, like a rainbow painted on a departing cloud.
“Now, I wonder, Bob Aymor,” cried Dolly, at the very pitch of her voice, “if you do really ever expect to see John Welch again? For my part, I'd as soon look for cranberries in the cornfield;—and to night too? why you might as well expect an angel from Heaven!”
The latch of the outer door was now heard to move, and as every eye involuntarily turned in that direction, the thought flashed through every mind “It is he!” The heart of Atha throbbed violently—she gasped for breath, and was constrained to cling to her father's chair for support. The door opened, and a figure entered—“My God!” exclaimed Atha, as the light fell upon straight black locks, and was reflected from piercing black eyes, which gave expression to a bright copper-colored countenance. But, with the quickness of thought, she perceived that her eager hope had mislead her, and that no drop of the white man's blood animated the being who now approached the fire. He had upon his entrance shaken from his hat and the blanket wrapped about his shoulders, the masses of snow which had gathered upon them, as well as from his moccasins of tanned deer-skin, of one piece with the leggins encasing his lower extremities. The leggins and moccasins were laced up with strings of horse hair, composed of mingled strains of red, blue, and yellow, of a very bright dye. The eyelet holes, through which the strings passed, were inwrought with the quill part of the feathers of birds, dyed in the same variety of colors with the horse hair. Breeches of the same material with his leggins, and a hunting shirt of coarse cotton, completed the habiliments of the stranger. His wrists were ornamented with bracelets, formed of beads, and his ears with large rings suspended from their tips. At his back hung a bow and quiver, and on his right side, beneath his blanket, a shot pouch and powder horn. In his right hand he bore a rifle, the breech of which he brought down upon the floor, as he advanced.
This apparition, who, when they discovered that it was a full blooded Indian, ceased to interest the hopes or apprehensions of the family circle, upon which he had obtruded himself, (for they were no strangers to such visiters,) was about the middle stature, of a graceful active form, with the proverbial straightness of his race. With a measured and stately pace he advanced towards the fire, without deigning to address himself to any one, and silently changed his position from time to time, so as most advantageously to diffuse the genial glow through his chilled members. Those in whose presence he stood, were too well acquainted with the habits of his race to feel any surprise, or sense of rude treatment, from the unceremonious entrance, or silent freedom of the savage. A significant “umph!” announced, at length, that the process of warming himself had been so far accomplished, as, according to his own ideas of propriety, to render silence no longer becoming.
“The white man,” he said, addressing Aymor, “has
often found food and shelter in the wigwams of the Cherokees. In my
father's hut the white man is welcome to warm by the blaze of his fire,
and to satisfy his hunger from the pot of *Connehany,
* Connehany, a kind of sour homony.
“You are welcome,” said Aymor, laconically. A significant glance from her father was sufficient and Atha proceeded to set before the famished son of the forest the remnants of their evening meal. Having satisfied the cravings of hunger, by availing himself, in moderation, of what was set before him, the Indian, wrapped in his blanket, laid down to repose beside the fire. His host and family soon sought their respective places of rest, and sepulchral stillness reigned through the mansion, whose inmates had undergone the change so typical of that at which our nature shudders.
In shape, mein, manners, prowess, solid parts,
A man complete.
B. F. B.
THERE is a wide difference in the habits of various portions of the great family of man, in their distribution of the twenty-four hours, which constitute the day. By some, the order of nature is entirely reversed, and the gratuitous brightness of Heaven is shut out from their dwellings, while they press the bed of untimely slumber, and are, consequently, driven to purchase from art much of the light by which their labors are performed, and their revelry enjoyed. Such were not the habits in which Robert Aymor had been trained; and he, in his turn, both by precept and example, enforced upon his household the custom of early rising.
But on the morning succeeding the evening mentioned in our last
chapter, the family of Aymor did not find themselves intruders upon the
unfinished slumbers of their guest. He had left the cottage, at what hour
none of them could tell, for his departure had been as noiseless as the
fall of the flakes of snow, with which all nature was covered. Some
little gossip there was among them, who he could be; but his
unceremonious departure was to them a matter of no more surprise than his
abrupt entrance, and, in a few moments, the thoughts of him were
completely dismissed from their minds. There was a suspension in the
storm,—and the day passed on, cold, cheerless, and cloudy, without
any actual fall of either snow, rain, or hail. Night quickly returned,
and with it the renewed storm, although with mitigated violence. Then
also returned to the cottage of Aymor, the visiter of the preceding
evening, in the same guise and accoutrements, and with the addition of a
heavy burden upon his shoulders, beneath which he staggered near to the
fire-place, and threw it upon a rude bench. “Aha!” said he,
as he gave it a slap with his hand, and regarded it with a smile of
satisfaction, which seemed to glance off from that object towards the
family circle, “*How-wih.”
* How-wih, signifies in the Cherokee tongue, “Deer.”
The next morning, like the preceding, did not find his Indian guest in the cottage of Aymor, but his place was not empty in the evening at the hospitable board, nor was his blanket wrapped form wanting at bed time to repose beside the hearth. For several successive days and nights the Indian came and went, in the same manner, always bringing with him some piece of choice game for the table of his kind entertainer, of whom his independent soul seemed to disdain the receipt of unrequited benefits. When, however, the weather had somewhat moderated, he no longer constituted a member of the evening circle around Aymor's hearth, although he would occasionally drop in at irregular hours, sometimes to apprize Aymor where he would find a fat buck which the Cherokee had brought down with his rifle, too ponderous for convenient carriage by his single strength, and sometimes to be himself the bearer of some lighter present.
At length it became a matter of casual inquiry with Aymor, as well as with other members of his family, what the object of the Indian could be, in thus remaining so long in their neighborhood, where he was too often seen, to allow the supposition that he ever left it far; and one less bold and fearless than Aymor, might have suspected a motive fraught with danger to himself. He was not ignorant of the craft of the savage, and that with him an appearance of friendship, is not unfrequently the fair cluster of flowers beneath which the deadliest malice lies coiled, like a serpent, for a more fatal and effectual spring. But he knew, also, that the savage, in common with other human beings, seldom acts without a motive, and has too much sagacity to hazard, in the mere wantonness of mischief, his own safety; and that between himself and the Cherokee wanderer, now in his vicinity, there could be no just cause of feud. The truth is, Aymor's bosom was almost a stranger to fear, and the only sentiment excited in his mind in relation to the purpose of the savage, was one of simple curiosity. Even this did not much trouble him, and he permitted the Indian daily to cross his path unquestioned. Indeed, how could he obtrude himself into the confidence of one who seemed so much to shun conversation, and upon whose providence he was hourly feeding? Such was the literal fact, for Aymor could not say that he had sat down to a meal since this stranger had visited his house, that some article supplied by him did not constitute its most attractive portion.
Gideon Aymor, as we have said, was active and enterprising, yet something had prevented him from giving his wonted attention to forest sports for some weeks previous to the arrival of the Indian, and for some time afterwards. At length this cause of temporary suspension passed away, and he began to resume his gun, and would frequently in his wanderings fall in with this new acquaintance. Although he did not at first find the Indian very communicative, similarity of pursuit would carry them far and long together, until at length kindly feelings sprang up between them. Gideon perceived, after a few days hunting with the Indian, that he had greatly overrated his own skill in woodcraft, and was, in that art, simple as it may seem, at an immeasurable distance behind his companion, from whom he was hourly learning some new piece of stratege—sometimes to steal, unawares, upon the unsuspecting game—sometimes to attract it within reach of his treacherous aim—at others to place himself in a situation to meet, in their silly flight, victims who fancied they were leaving him far behind. Besides these, he learnt from him much that he knew not before, in the preparation, carriage, and use of his weapons, and the best methods of butchering the larger game after he had brought it down, as well as the habits and places of resort of the different animals, together with many other things, manifesting profound sagacity in the teacher, and highly convenient for an accomplished hunter to know.
As restraint wore off between them, Gideon was emboldened to inquire of his companion, in direct terms, the name he bore. “I am called Eoneguski, or the Big Bear,” was the reply; and with that Gideon was satisfied.
Some weeks had passed by unheeded since Eoneguski had been in habits of association with Gideon, when, one morning, the latter joined the former upon a preconcerted excursion. Gideon had hitherto worn his shot-pouch suspended by a narrow belt of leather, which passed over his shoulder, extending diagonally to the opposite side. That was now thrown aside, and a broad one, of net woollen, occupied its place. It was of a bright scarlet color, except a space upon the middle of the breast, which was left white, describing two hearts blended. The device, the neatness of the execution, the novelty, and, above all, the bright red color, (being a well known Indian dye, of which the whites were generally ignorant,) attracted the attention of the savage, who laid his hand upon the belt, with one of those calm expressions of admiration which is the utmost savages generally allow themselves. “It is a present from my sister Atha,” said Gideon, “it was net by her two or three years ago, for her sweetheart, John Welch, but some how or other she never gave it to him; and my father objected to her having any thing more to say to him, so she gave it to me several weeks since, and I just fancied this morning that I would put it on.”
Gideon saw no motion, either in the countenance or frame of the Indian, during these remarks, which were made by himself with the most familiar indifference. But he had unconsciously waked from their repose passions wild and active, within a heart in which they resided in tremendous power. Yet pride, the most powerful among them, even in the savage, held the rest in subjection, and allowed them not to betray themselves in the workings of the countenance.
After a short pause, the Indian replied, “Your sister loves John Welch?” But, without design, there was something in the tone of his voice which startled him to whom the question was addressed. Gideon turned a surprised, hasty, and inquisitive glance upon the countenance of the savage, but perceiving nothing there, in its cold composure, to justify the suspicion which, with the instantaneous energy of electricity, the question, with its tone of voice, had stirred into being, he replied with a smile of renewed confidence, “I believe—nay, I may say, I know she does.”
“Would she marry him?” was the quick reply.
“She would, if my father's consent could be obtained: of that she has despaired hitherto, but I believe, if John Welch ever again makes his appearance, they will be married.” His habitual self-command was insufficient to suppress a groan which now escaped the savage. Again the formerly short-lived suspicions of Gideon sprung up in his mind, and agitated it with contending thoughts. He cast a stern, inquisitive look once more upon the face of the Indian; but the page was blank he sought to read, and he was again baffled in his attempt to penetrate the thoughts of his companion. The subject was now dropped between them, and, with listless apathy, the two hunters continued their route, scarcely exchanging a word, and each seemingly occupied with other thoughts than of the business they were on. Their labor was more unproductive than usual, and they finally separated as men who have been better friends, without being at the same time able to make any well defined complaint against each other.
Many days elapsed and Gideon had not rejoined the Indian in his woodland excursions, and notwithstanding this, the latter continued to pay his occasional visits to the cottage of Aymor. Yet he could not but remark a great alteration in the manner of his reception, with two, at least, of its inmates. That of Gideon was cold and distant, whilst Atha's amounted almost to shuddering abhorrence. This change was deeply mortifying to the pride of the savage, and he half resolved to expose himself no more to such trials. But pushed onward by that most irresistible of all forces in noble natures, the sense of duty, he determined to bear with present inconveniences, in the hope of enjoying the happy result, when he should stand more than justified before those by whom he was now evidently suspected.
It will not have escaped the reader, that the interest manifested by Eoneguski in his sister's love affairs had induced Gideon to suspect him of entertaining towards her presumptuous hopes for himself, and the groan which had escaped the Indian confirmed the suspicion, so as to arouse the youth's indignation, and even hatred, against his late friend. His conduct had been according; but the ridiculous position in which he would have stood, should his suspicions prove groundless, was a seal upon his lips, and prevented his charging Eoneguski with his supposed offence. The sagacious savage was not slow in discovering these suspicions, and penetrating their nature; but his native dignity, delicacy, and pride, recoiled from speaking of them, and he therefore suffered himself to remain, unjustly, their object, until some favorable occasion should present itself for their removal. He naturally accounted for the loathing horror which Atha manifested towards him, by Gideon's having infused into her mind his own suspicions. Natural as this was, he was, however, mistaken, and Gideon and Atha were acting, although, seemingly, so consentaneously against him, upon totally different motives.
The cold weather was passing a way, and in the more sheltered valleys
and coves, where Spring could be most secure from the rude intrusions of
Winter, (in those fits of passion which he sometimes manifests when
reluctantly yielding up his empire,) she was amusing herself with a few
of her earliest favorites, dropping here and there a floral gem upon the
margin of some brook, as she bent over it in listening to its song of
welcome. The wounded pride of the Indian, although it had not been
sufficient to restrain them altogether, had yet greatly diminished the
frequency of his visits at the house of Aymor: and several days had
elapsed since he had made any of his usual presents to the family; when
his heart thus held communion with itself:—“It can be borne
no longer; Why should the white man believe a lie? I will go to
him—he shall know the truth—and Eoneguski and Gideon shall
once more be friends, or open enemies. Why do I linger here, when the
Great Spirit has said, that my errand shall not be accomplished? I will
go once more to the home of Aymor, and they shall all see the heart of
Eoneguski, and I will then return to my own sunny land, where the voice
of the * wekolis
'Twas evening, and the sun was stealing the last kiss from the beautiful landscape which surrounded the dwelling of Aymor, when Eoneguski glided into it with a shy timidity, very different from his wonted manner, bearing in his hand a brace of beautiful pheasants he had just brought down from one of the summits of the Homony. “You had better keep them, Eoneguski,” said Gideon, “your presents are no longer acceptable here.”
The savage retreated a step, as though he had discovered at his feet a rattlesnake, coiled in its deadly folds. “It is well;” said he, “the son of Eonah licks not the foot that spurns him.” He turned to depart—hesitated for a moment—then turned again to Gideon. “Young man,” continued he, “the Great Spirit knows the hearts he has made, and nothing is hid from his eyes; but his children cannot read the hearts of each other. I would that mine were open to you, like my hand, (extending at the same time his palm,) that you might see how much you wrong me. Come to me tomorrow, just as you hill is again bathed in the returning light of the sun, and Gideon and Eoneguski will yet be friends. Promise me this, and my spirit will be satisfied; if not, the son of Eonah must wash out, as he is wont to do, insult in the offender's blood.—But you will come; I know you will come,” continued he, in a beseeching tone of voice, “for why should the knife be between us?”
“Where shall I come?” inquired Gideon.
“It will not be the first time,” he replied, “that you have seen where Eoneguski sleeps.”
“It is enough, I will come,” said Gideon.
“And is the gift of the Cherokee still despised by the white man?” inquired the savage.
“No!” replied Gideon, “we are friends again; at least until I see whether you can make good your promise.” “It is well,” replied the Indian, once more placing the pheasants upon the table, and retreating from the cottage.
The noise of parting boughs was heard—
Within the wood a footstep stirr'd;
The partner of her grief appears,
To kiss away her falling tears.
FROM the side of the elevation on which the house of Aymor was situated, gushed forth a fountain, clear and copious. It was from that side which fronted the south, and while, therefore, it was a spot among the earliest to acknowledge the genial influence of spring, and where autumn delighted the latest to linger—in the midst of summer, shaded, as it was, by thick foliage, and fanned by the breath of the “sweet south,” it was remarkable for its refreshing coolness. This then was a favorite resort for the family, for many reasons. Apart from the temptations already mentioned, which it held out for hours of idleness, it had many attractions for the foot of industry. Here the spring-house was erected, (that most essential requisite for those who would have good milk and butter,) within whose ample area all the interesting labors of the dairy were performed. Here, likewise, that most necessary article in the art of purification, clear water, was to be found in sufficient abundance, and thither, accordingly, those members on whom devolved the duty of restoring to their original purity, the soiled garments of the family, periodically repaired.
On the morning when Gideon had sallied out, graced with that belt already described, as wrought by the fair hands of his sister Atha, he had not passed by her unnoticed, though her heart was too full to venture a word of address to him. The sight of that belt brought with it mingled emotions of pain and pleasure. It had, as Gideon said, been wrought by her, in the innocence of virgin love, as a slight offering of affection to him whose heart she supposed, and therefore thought it no impropriety to represent, as blended with her own. But after she had finished it she could never find courage to present it, although opportunities were not wanting to have done so, until her father's expressed disapprobation of their union had determined her to smother an affection she could never hope to extinguish. Abandoning, therefore, all thought of giving it to him for whom it was originally designed, she had no difficulty in yielding it to the request of her brother. It was a request made by him, more in idleness than desire, and it was, therefore, some time after receiving the gift, before he put it to any use. This morning, in the waywardness of fancy, he happened to put it on, and, by so doing, powerfully stirred the heart of his sister, newly excited by hopes, which had withered in the winter of her father's frown, but were now putting forth afresh under the warmth of his approving smile. It was with great timidity she ventured to launch her bark of hope;—for that lover, her union with whom her father's approbation had been all that was wanting, was now, she knew not where, and might never reappear to claim the hand awaiting only his demand. In this state of things an agitation was produced in her spirits, by the sight of the belt, unfitting her for a time for her usual occupations, and to recover her self-possession, she sauntered down to the fountain.
Here, throwing herself upon a seat where she had often in the happy and artless days of childhood, sat, in pastime with her now absent lover, the past, the present, and future, shifted rapidly in her mind their varigated scenery. Absorbed in reflection, she almost unconsciously commenced humming to a well known air, the following words, which had been brought to the western wilds by some visiter from a more civilized region:—
Love slyly weaves his flow'ry chain,
And binds the captive heart;
The cool fresh flow'rs inflict no pain
So deep the tyrant's art.
Another, yet another wreath
He archly throws around;
The flow'rs abroad their fragrance breathe;
Th' unconscious heart is bound.
As gossamers in fairy plies,
The captive insect bind,
The heart subdued and panting lies
In flow'ry chains confin'd.
But when has vanished from that chain
The fresh and fragrant breath;
The captive strives, to break, in vain,
A bondage strong as death.
The gay soft leaves no more conceal
The lurking thorns beneath,
But give the wounded heart to feel
Flow'rs form not all the wreath.
Too late against its bondage vile
The heart may efforts make;
The fetters gather strength, the while
The heart alone may break.
“And do I find my Atha planning rebellion against the dominion of Love,” said a melancholy voice, close to her ear, “at the very moment, when I am drawn hither the passive slave of his will, at you know not what risk, to enjoy with the chosen of my heart, one brief interview.” It were needless to say, that Atha did not remain motionless in her seat, when she saw the arms of John Welch stretched out to embrace her; she uttered a cry of wild delight, and threw herself upon his bosom. “Atha, my dear,” said Welch, “you must calm your transports; I have already said that I have but a moment to remain with you, and even that is fraught with imminent peril.”
“You need not fear any longer to be here,” she said, looking up in his face with a smile of confidence, “my father is not now displeased, but is anxiously desiring to see you.”
“A few days ago, Atha, and that information would have made me a happy man, but now it is as the sight of water to one dying under the scorching fire of fever, to whom strength no longer remains to stretch forth his hand and bring it to his lips.”
“Gracious Heavens! John,” cried Atha, in alarm, “what can you mean?”
“I scarcely know myself, love; my brain is, I fear, unsettled; but there is amid the wild confusion within me one idea more horribly distinct than every other, and that is, that I am now looking for the last time on Atha Aymor.”
“I now perceive,” said Atha, “a great change in your appearance. My God! how pale and haggard you are, and there is a wildness in your eye, which frightens me, even more than your strange and unintelligible language. Tell me, for Heaven's sake, what is the matter.”
“You see not, Atha, the stain of blood upon this hand; yet this hand is bloody. All the waters of Broad River cannot wash it clean. A weight presses on my conscience, scarcely less than if that huge rock, which juts out from the mountain side, rested upon it. A cold blooded murderer can never be the husband of Atha Aymor!”
“Oh John! your brain is disordered; you are not a murderer,” said the girl, shuddering, and shrinking instinctively from a bosom to which she had hitherto clung with confiding tenderness; “I can never believe it.”
“Your kind heart, would, I doubt not, find much to plead in extenuation of my offence, did you know all, but no time is now allowed me for explanation. The avenger of blood is behind me, Atha, and I know—yes, I know well, it would drive you to madness to see me perish before your eyes. But even your presence would be no security against my relentless pursuer. I came here to seek refuge among the haunts of my youth, until the storm should be overpast, but the fiend who maddened me to my ruin, hath deceived me even in this promise of safety. One of my pursuers has anticipated my arrival; I must leave you or die. Like the hunted deer, I must continue my flight, or fall a prey to the hunter, who is already on my very haunches. Breathe it not for many days to any human creature, lest it reach the ears of the fell Eoneguski, who would raise anew the yell of pursuit, and slake, in my blood, his thirst of vengeance. I have but just escaped from the deadly aim of his rifle, and would not that he should have the slightest clue to the track I have taken. Towards thee, dearest, no pressure of adversity can ever change the feelings of my heart, but I must now fly for my life. May that Being who is the God of the Christian, and the Great Spirit of the Red man, and alike the Father of both, watch over and protect you.” He imprinted a burning kiss on her speechless lips, and dived into the thickest of the forest.
Overpowered by her feelings, Atha had sunk back into her seat during the last speech of Welch, in a state so far bordering on insensibility as to be unable to speak herself, while, at the same time, not a word was lost either to her ear or understanding of all that he uttered. Nor did she, in her mental conflict, offer any resistance to his proposed departure, but passively received his parting embrace, and silently gazed upon his receding form. When the last glimpse of his person had faded from her eye, she became distressingly conscious of the desolation of her condition. With him had departed from her the chief object of existence, and she was awfully waked up from a transient vision of happiness, leaving behind it a gloom tenfold thicker than that which it had for a moment displaced. But a few moments since, and the presence of John Welch, she had fondly imagined was all that was wanting to complete her earthly happiness. The wish to see him had been most unexpectedly and suddenly fulfilled, but he seemed only to have come that he might extinguish, with his own hand, her little lamp of hope, which, with such careful anxiety, she had been kindling and trimming. He had come but to tell her, that he was unworthy of her love, and that unworthy as he was, each moment threatened, by a bloody death, to cut him of from reformation. “But why should I despair?” she said, to herself, “all may yet be well; his tenderness of conscience may have construed an act of necessary self-defence, into wilful murder. I will not for a moment believe him guilty, until a knowledge of the facts forces upon me the horrid conviction. And for his life, I will trust to that Being whose glance is in the sun-beam, and whose breath I feel in the air which surrounds me. He will preserve him, and yet bring him back to me unchanged, as he himself said, by the pressure of adversity.”
However men may differ in hours of prosperity, the hearts of all, when laden with afflictions, turn instinctively to Him who is alone able to bear them in their stead. And who has failed in thus turning, to find support to his fainting spirit? The lifting up of her thoughts towards Heaven, acted like magic upon both the mental feelings and physical strength of Atha Aymor, so that she found herself at once able to return to the dwelling of her father, and resume her labors with more composure than when she left it.
In obedience to the injunction of Welch, she did not speak of having seen him; but it was with difficulty she could repress a cry of horror whenever the Indian came into her presence. Exceedingly painful, then, were her feelings, when she heard her brother accept his proposal to meet him under the circumstances described in the last chapter. For an instant the thought came into her mind that she might use Gideon as an intercessor between Welch and Eoneguski, but from the fear lest an awkward attempt to save her lover, might but increase his danger, she did not pursue it. And now her imagination pictured to itself her rash brother, weltering beneath the tomahawk of the increased savage, of whose bloody propensities she had formed so horrid an estimate. She begged, she entreated Gideon, in every form of appeal she could think of, as soon as Eoneguski had left the house, to run after him and retract his imprudent promise; or, if he deemed it more safe, allow it for the present to allay the resentment of the Indian, without entertaining on his own part any serious purpose to fulfil it. But Gideon was a man not easily diverted from his purposes, either by entreaties or threats; and the same motives which impelled him so far to smother his pride, as to accept the invitation of the savage, backed, as it was, by a threat, were quite sufficient to render all the entreaties of his sister but as the breath of the breeze: the tears upon her cheek but as the dew upon the flower.
Child of a race whose name my bosom warms,
— how welcome here.
THE morning fulfilled the promises of the preceding evening, and the sun returned over the eastern mountain with a brightness equal to that in which he had descended behind the western. But he was met by a fierce westerly wind, which seemed determined to maintain, for winter, a contest for the Homony Valley, with that powerful ally of spring, now approaching, with the evident purpose of establishing over it the dominion of the latter. This is not a contest to be decided in the brief space of a single day, but occupies, with varied success, weeks, if not months, in the region of which are speaking. Sometimes, the champion of spring comes forth in the morning, in his renewed strength, and the hoar frost and ice flakes, reflecting his ray, tell of the conquest of the enemy during his indolent absence. By mid-day the hoar frost, ascending in light vapor, and the little rills of water trickling away from the ice flakes, proclaim, that in spite of the northern and western blasts opposing him, he has regained all his losses of the night, and greatly weakened the might of his antagonists. But towards evening his strength begins to faint, and he retires to refresh himself, leaving the field to the possession of his foes.
It was one of those days of strife, thus mentioned, that Gideon, true to his appointment, set out a little after sun-rise, to the temporary home of Eoneguski. It was situated in a hollow, formed by nature in the side of the mountain, about two miles from Aymor's residence. No path or road lead to it; but he who now sought it was too well acquainted with the landmarks in its vicinity to experience any difficulty in finding a place where he had often been before. A lodge of the simplest construction was formed, by piling up long pieces of oaken bark around the root of a large tree, weighted down by some heavier materials. The omission of a few pieces of bark, in front, left an opening, serving the purposes of a door, which, by a little accommodation of the person to its form, one could enter without much inconvenience. In front of this lodge Gideon discovered the Indian, busily engaged in the preparation of a meal. He had just time to remove from the fire the food he was preparing, and place it upon a large log, when his guest arrived. Without any previous salutation, “Eat” said the Indian, pointing to the food, and without permitting the fixed composure of his countenance to relax into a smile, “Eat, we are friends,” in a tone of voice, compounded of assertion and interrogation.
Whatever might have been the state of Gideon's appetite, he knew too much of the habits of the race to which his host belonged, to anticipate any friendly intercourse with him, should he decline his invitation to eat. He accordingly, without further ceremony, partook of a sufficiency of what was set before him, to satisfy the savage, rather than his own appetite. A gourd full of water was next brought by the Indian from a neighboring brook; “Drink,” said he, and Gideon drank. The host now gave two or three whiffs from a pipe, formed of clay, through a reed of considerable length, and handing it to his guest, “Smoke,” said he. This being done, the savage ceremonial was completed.
“What has the red man done to bring the cloud between him and his white brother?” Eoneguski began. This was a puzzling question to Gideon; and as his moral courage was not altogether equal to his physical, he shrunk from the difficulty, in obedience to the first impulse, but to add in his own experience to the numberless proofs that the path of truth, however uninviting at its entrance, is, after all, the easiest to tread.—
“You have done nothing,” he replied.
“And does the white man take up and throw aside his friend, as the Indian does his blanket?” said Eoneguski, casting his own from him with indignation. “Will he put winter in his looks, as he passes by him, and tell him he hath done nothing? Let not the young man speak with a forked tongue.”
“You misunderstand me,” said Gideon, stammering, and ashamed of his own subterfuge. “The white man does not cast off his friend without cause, nor is Gideon wont to speak with the tongue of falsehood. I said you had done nothing to offend me, Eoneguski, but if I have not misjudged the thoughts of your heart, they are deeply offensive to me.”
“Look upon the heart of Eoneguski,” said the savage, “for he carries it in his hand, and shew me the black spot which is offensive to Gideon.”
“I am almost ashamed to ask you the question,” replied Gideon, “But tell me, have you not cast an eye of presumptuous love upon my sister?”
“Now you have spoken like a man,” said the Indian, taking him eagerly by the hand, “for you have spoken according to your thought, and not with the false tongue of the deceiver. The red man has dared to look upon the beautiful daughter of the white man—and why may he not?—Are mine eyes forbidden to drink in the glorious radiance of the sun, or to gaze with delight upon the moon, when she touches with her beam, the mountain of my birth?—I know that they are far beyond the reach of this arm, and no desire to possess them disquiets me when I behold them. With no other eye have I looked upon the lovely daughter of Aymor, and no desire hath kindled in my soul when I beheld her. The love of Eoneguski is far away, with one of the daughters of his own people. Are you satisfied?”
“I confess that I have wronged you,” replied Gideon, after a pause, “and I crave your pardon. But as I have thus far trespassed upon you, allow me to go one step farther.—Why have you so long been wandering in this vicinity? And why were you so much disquieted when I spoke of my sister's love affairs with John Welch?”
“Freedom,” replied the Indian, proudly, “is the birth-right of the red man. He wanders as free as the bird which sits on yonder bough, wheresoever it pleases him. He tells not his own, and he asks not another for his path. But I am ready to satisfy you, if you will first tell me all that you know of John Welch, and the story of your sister's love.”
“Your terms are but reasonable,” replied Gideon, “and I am ready to comply with them.”
The Indian reclined himself upon the log which had lately been their table, and listened to Gideon, who proceeded as follows:—
“What I am about to relate, is rather what I have heard from others, than what I have myself actually witnessed; but I can avouch for its truth with no less certainty. More than twenty years ago, (you have no doubt heard, and may perhaps remember,) the place where we now sit, with all the country around, even for many miles eastwardly of the Blue Mountains, was subject to the invasion of the Cherokee Indians. The white man could not lie down at evening in safety, nor go out in the morning to his daily labor without apprehension. Behind each log and thicket the enemy of his race laid in ambush, and the report of the rifle, or the glitter of the tomahawk, gave the first intimation of the fate they bore. The stillness of his midnight repose was suddenly broken by the war-whoop, and a light more glaring than that of the sun, burst upon his eyes from the consuming rafters of his dwelling. His own destruction would but follow that of his wife and little ones, whose reeking scalps were torn away, or their brains dashed out before his eyes.
“My father then dwelt in the valley of the Yadkin, beyond the Blue Mountains, and the Brushy Hills some distance above, where that river sweeps around, and seems to turn disdainfully off from the Pilot Mountain, standing in its solitary grandeur, and catching for leagues in every direction, the eye of the traveller. He was then a youth, something about my present age, residing in the house of my grandfather. Our people were beset on every hand—from the east, the British soldiers, and, what was worse, the Tories, were pouring in, killing and destroying them; and from the west were continual alarms of destruction by the Indians. Like brave men, our people determined to look the danger in the face, and overcome it, or fall beneath it. Whilst others were left to do what they could with the British and Tories, General Rutherford marched with about two thousand volunteers, to break up the Indian settlements in this vicinity. My father was among the followers of General Rutherford, and delights, even to this day, to tell of the hardships of that campaign. But the deed was done—retribution was taken—for every drop of white blood shed by the Indians, they were compelled to yield at least ten from their own veins, and slaughter, not less cruel than their own, was visited upon them.—Their houses were burnt—their fields ravaged—and their wives and little ones experienced as little respect or pity for age or sex, as they themselves had been accustomed to shew.
“Among the volunteers who fought under General Rutherford, was one John Welch, one of the most reckless and daring of them all. One day, while they were engaged in the destruction of an Indian village, amid the blaze of a consuming wigwam, he heard the plaintive cries of a child. He rushed impetuously forward among the crackling flames, and speedily returned, bearing in his arms a little boy, about two years of age, somewhat scorched it was true, but, to all appearance, not materially injured.—The child threw his arms fondly around the neck of his deliverer, kissed him, and manifested in every way of which he was capable, the liveliest gratitude. 'If it is an Indian,' said Welch, 'I'll take care of it;' and his rugged heart was evidently waked up to new feelings, by the innocent fondness of the child. The long straight black hair, the eyes, and the place where it was found, all indicated for it an Indian descent; but a spriteliness and delicacy of feature, and fairness of complexion, never found among the aboriginal savages, proclaimed a decided predominance of European blood. This, upon closer examination, did not fail to strike his deliverer, and as his belief in the preponderance of white blood in his protegé increased, so did the feeling, so nearly allied to parental affection, towards him. In fine, he adopted the foundling, and, for the want of a name, furnished him with his own, and shared with him his couch and fare; bearing him with him on his return to the settlements.
“The army had on its march homewards, repassed the Blue Mountains, and was making its way across the Brushy Hills, at the most practicable point. It had halted near the summit for refreshment, when John Welch was told that one of the Indian prisoners was dying, and wished to see him, and also desired that he would bring with him the child he had rescued from the flames. Welch immediately obeyed the summons, and hastening towards the front of the encampment, where the prisoners were, found an aged Indian lying upon a blanket, apparently in the last agony. A large sword gash in his side, which had been sewed up, but from which the blood continually oozed, was the obvious cause of his present condition, and, to all human appearance, his death warrant. Several other prisoners, of both sexes, were hovering over him, with apparent solicitude, and it was evident from their manner, as well as from his own costume and appearance, that he was their chief. As soon as the child saw the aged warrior he sprang from the arms of Welch, and flew towards him, uttering an Indian exclamation, which may be rendered 'papa;' and began to caress him fondly. The Indian, seemingly, regardless of the endearments of the child, cast his languid eye upon Welch, and addressed him in a feeble tone of voice. 'Stranger,' he said, 'thou hast come at the bidding of Toleniska, and it is well, for the voice of Toleniska shall be heard no more; he has hated the white man with a hatred which has never slumbered, although the blood of the white man has mingled its pale stream with the dark current which rolls through the veins of Toleniska. The fields where I have lain in ambush on his steps, are thick in yonder valley, whereon I now look proudly down, from my bed of death. Number the hairs of your own head, and then may you tell the scalps which Toleniska has borne away from your nation. But you came not to hear the death song of Toleniska.—It was to be the first white man to whom the proud heart of Toleniska would allow him to say, 'I thank you.' You might have saved my wigwam from destruction—you might have rescued Toleniska himself from the grasp of the tormentors, and his heart would have been firm as the rock upon this mountain side. But you have snatched from the flames the pale blossom of his love, and the heart of Toleniska is melted. He thought that his darling had perished with the hundreds of brave warriors who fell fighting for their wives, their children, and the graves of their fathers. It is but now that he heard that the white man had saved him at the hazard of his own life. Go!—cherish the being thou hast saved, and the Great Spirit will reward thee. Toleniska is hastening to join his fathers in the hunting grounds of the blessed.' The Indian drew the corner of his blanket over his face, and, for a time, all was stillness around him. At length one ventured to remove the blanket—and Toleniska was no more. He was buried by the direction of the General upon the side of the trail which crosses it at the very top of the mountain, and there the remains of his grave are yet to be seen; from whence that passage over the Brushy Hills is called the Indian Grave Gap.
“Upon the confines of what was then the white settlement, General Rutherford erected for its protection against the invasion of the Indians, a fort, which was called Fort Defiance.” (We interrupt for a moment the story of Gideon, to inform the reader, that the remains of this fort are yet to be seen in Wilkes County, upon the plantation of General Lenoir, a time-worn and venerable remnant of the brave spirits who constituted the army of General Rutherford, in which he held a distinguished rank. The fort occupies the brow of a hill, overlooking, for many miles, in a northwardly and eastwardly direction, the valley of the Yadkin; and behind, the position of the fort in every other direction, stretches out an extensive plain, of very fertile land, so as to leave no elevation in its vicinity by which the fort itself could be commanded. To return to the story of Gideon.) “As soon as Welch's tour of duty was accomplished, he settled in the neighborhood of Fort Defiance, and shortly afterwards married, but as they were not blessed with children of their own, all that store of parental love, which nature has so kindly provided in the human heart, was expended by Welch and his wife upon their orphan charge. Nor was their kindness illy repaid, for never was child more dutiful or affectionate to real parents than he was to them, nor were advantages often more diligently improved than did the boy those afforded him.
“My father did not return so soon as Welch from the Indian expedition; when he did, however, he found that my grandfather also had removed into the vicinity of Fort Defiance. Here my father did not remain long, until he courted and married my mother. I was born, and, in process of time, my sister Atha. A close intimacy existed between the families of Welch and my father, and there was scarcely a day that some member of the one was not at the house of the other, mingling together both in sports and labors. Very soon Atha, although several years younger than Welch, became his favorite companion, and was evidently regarded by him with all that tender solicitude which would have well become an elder brother. Her little sorrows it was his highest pleasure to allay, as well as to furnish amusements for her gayer hours.” Gideon paused.—“There is a melancholy pleasure in looking back upon those days,” he said, “and even now my mind is so occupied with the thoughts which crowd in upon it, that I feel inclined to pause in my story, and indulge myself in these recollections. Look,” continued he, pointing to the most distant spot in the valley, of which they commanded an extensive view, “See how beautiful from the blue mist which covers it, is that spot above all others before us; perhaps there is something like this in the feeling with which we look back upon past events—the more distant, the more lovely and interesting do they appear to the memory. Whatever may be the cause, there is no period of my own existence, of which the retrospect is so pleasant, as that in which some few prominent facts stand forth among the dim shadows of those which have nearly faded from my recollection.
“But I will proceed:—
“Many years had not passed away, before, to persons of the habits of my father, the neighborhood of Fort Defiance became an old settlement. Cottages began to gather thickly around him, and the range ceased to be sufficiently extensive for the herds of cattle which claimed from it their support. About this time the Indian boundary was prescribed by an act of the Congress of the United States, and my father found that the red men must yield these hills and vallies to the possession of the whites. He was not ignorant of the advantages of being among the first to pasture his cattle upon a range fresh from the hands of nature, and he accordingly moved to the place where you now see him. The very spot where his improvements are, caught his eye, (at a time when but little hope remained to him of life, any where,) as a lovely scene of retirement, where, with his family about him, a herdsman might enjoy every comfort the world could afford. Hither he was very soon followed by some of his former neighbors, and among others, by Welch.
“Whether Welch and his wife were at all influenced by the circumstance, I will not say, but I have understood, that after we had moved away from Fort Defiance, the boy John lost his spirits, and became pale and sickly. If that was so he found something wonderfully restorative in the waters of the Homony, for I remember him soon after his arrival here, a handsome and hearty boy. His disposition was in perfect accordance with his handsome exterior, but all his endowments, as well of mind as of body, seemed to be valued by him only so far as they might commend him to Atha Aymor. The most skilful marksman in the neighborhood, the best of his game was always for her, and when amongst the smooth stones of the Homony he would occasionally seize a fine mountain trout, it was much too good for any one besides. Is it to be wondered at, if attentions so kind and persevering, made an impression upon her who was their object?
“When Atha had entered her fourteenth year, a change of manner, which had been almost imperceptibly stealing on, became distinctly marked towards John Welch. There was no longer that easy freedom heretofore characterizing their intercourse, but, on the contrary, she was embarrassed and shy whenever he came into her presence, and blushed and turned pale by turns when his name was mentioned. Thus matters continued for some years longer, and, I believe, no one in the neighborhood doubted that a match was one day to take place between them. Welch was the reputed only child of his parents, and, although they could not boast of wealth, their circumstances were easy, and his Indian tinge was scarcely sufficient to have been thought of by the most scrupulous, as any objection. Indeed, if his complexion could have been changed in the slightest degree, it would have detracted from his comeliness. Neither my father nor mother took any notice of the report in circulation, and whether they ever heard it I know not, but they said nothing about it, nor was any effort made to diminish the intercourse between the families.
“Everything appeared to be going on smoothly until a few months since, when John ventured to make proposals to my father for marriage with my sister. As calm as you see my father in common, Eoneguski, he is terrible when roused. You are no stranger to the fury of the hurricane—and it is not often, but I have now and then, seen my father in a tempest of passion, when I would rather encounter a hurricane than meet him. One of those occasions was when Welch first dared to avow to him his love for my sister. It seemed to me as if my father towered a foot or two above his ordinary height,—his teeth and fists clenched forcibly—his eyes seemed ready to burst from their sockets, and, for an instant, rested wildly upon his rifle, which lay quietly upon the crotchets above the door. 'And is it come to this,' said he, when he could find utterance, 'that I am to see my blood mingled with that of a Cherokee Indian? D——n seize me if I would not sooner tear out your savage heart with my own hands—Talk to me of love.—Begone! this instant, or by my soul it will be but adding another to the miserable miscreants of your tribe which these hands have slaughtered! Begone, I say, and if ever you suffer me to lay eyes on you again, wo be to your life.' The tumult attracted us all to the place, but we knew too well the mood of the man with whom we had to do, to venture the breathing a word in behalf of him whom we all loved, and now so sincerely pitied. As soon as he had collected himself from the first shock of his surprise, Welch left the house, and the door was closed forcibly after him by my father, who strode up and down like a lion. The first symptom of returning composure was a glance of anxious inquiry towards the bed, where Atha had thrown herself in an agony of emotion. Next, his motions became less rapid, and, finally, settled down into a pretty quiet walk, until stopping near the bed where Atha was almost unconsciously undergoing the solicitous efforts of my mother to soothe her, 'Atha,' said he, 'you need fear nothing from my violence to John Welch,' and left the house.
“He was a good while absent, and when he returned, was apparently composed, but still silent and thoughtful, and every now and then I perceived an expression of anguish pass across his countenance, which made me shudder; for, in spite of myself, the thought was forced upon my mind, that he had committed some violence upon John Welch, if he had not actually put him to death. But mine, I believe, was the only brain into which the dark suspicion ever came. In a day or two my father began to speak to his family in his wonted manner, and there was even an increased tenderness in his tone of voice whenever he addressed Atha. Shortly afterwards we learned that the very next morning after his interview with my father Welch had taken a formal leave of his parents, and gone—no one knew whither. Since then my sister Atha has been like a drooping flower, and, though Welch's name has been but seldom mentioned among us, it is evident that my father's feelings have undergone a great change towards him; and on the very night on which you paid us your first visit, he had gone so far as to tell Atha, that if John Welch ever returned, of which he seemed to have great hopes, she might become his wife.
“I believe my part of our compact is now fulfilled,” said Gideon, throwing himself in his turn into the attitude of a listener.
Oh! hast thou, Christian Chief, forgot the morn
When I with thee the cup of peace did share;
Then stately was this head, and dark this hair
That now is white as Apalachia's snows.
IT were impossible to describe the emotions of the savage during the recital of Gideon, many parts of which were not so new to him as the speaker supposed. But he forbore to interrupt the thread of the narrative by any exclamation or inquiry, nor did he allow his countenance to betray aught of what was passing within him. For some time after the narrator had ceased, he remained silent; perhaps pondering what he had heard, or, probably, recollecting himself for the performance of his own task. At length, perceiving in his companion some marks of impatience, he proceeded:—
“I remember, although more than two hundred and fifty moons have
since passed away, when the father of Gideon came to Eonee, the captive
of mine,” A scowl of displeasure began to gather upon the
countenance of Gideon. “Let not the storm gather on thy
brow,” said Eoneguski, “but listen to my story, as I have
done to thine. The people cried aloud for vengeance, and demanded that
the prisoner should be given to the tormentors. Their hearts were furious
for the wigwams which the fire had devoured—for the women and
children whose blood had been drank by the long knives of the white
men—and for their young men and warriors whose bones lay in heaps
on the Tuckasege, at Bay's Town. 'Give us,' said they, 'give us up the *Skiagusta
* Skiagusta is a common Indian expression for any sort of a great man.
“I crept to the knees of my father, and he bent his ear to the voice of his son:—'Let the stranger go,' I said,—'Give him not up to the fury of the tormentors.'
“ 'Foolish boy,' said Eonah, 'would you have me give freedom to the enemy whom the Great Spirit has delivered into my hands?'
“ 'The Great Spirit hath delivered him into your hands, my
father,' I said, 'but it is that you may make of him an offering of peace
for your tribe. The *Oewoehee
* Oewoehee, title borne by the Cherokee tribe amongst themselves.
“ 'Hush!' said the chief of Eonee.
“ 'Has Eoneguski ever before asked anything of his father?' I said.
“ 'No!' replied the chief.
“ 'And shall his first request be denied him?' If the white man perishes, let the chief of Eonee prepare to heap the stones on the body of his son.'
“I saw that Eoneguski had triumphed over the hitherto unconquered spirit of his father.—Eonah bade the people go, and when the next sun should rise he would hearken to them again.
“When we three were left alone in the wigwam, 'Stranger,' said the chief, 'the papoos has saved the life of the white Skiagusta. Eonah has turned a deaf ear to the voice of his people, requiring thee to be given up to the tormentors, and hath listened to his son, who demands that you may be allowed to depart to your own people. Go! and when you see the war cloud gathering in fury against the red men, remember that the Cherokee did not strike when he might.'
“ 'The white man is not ungrateful,' said your father, 'and in him from henceforth the red man will find a friend. Tell the Cherokee, when he wanders from his tribe, across the Blue Mountains, to inquire for Robert Aymor. And may the Great Spirit bless the chief and his son, who have looked in pity on their white brother, for we are all His children. The heart of the white man's mother will rejoice when she looks upon her son, and in gratitude to his deliverers, will think no more of the blood of her race which has been shed by their tribe, and her spirit will bless the Cherokee people.'
“ 'Here is your shot-pouch and rifle,' said Eonah, 'the white man shall not go away defenceless. The way is long to the settlements, and he would perish without a rifle to provide him with game, for he dare not seek for food in the wigwams of the Oewoehee.'
“ 'The rifle is yours,' said Aymor, 'it is yours by right of conquest.'
“ 'I know it is mine,' said my father, 'but the Eonee chief has given the white man his life; and is the white man too proud to accept a gift from one of whom he has not been ashamed to accept his life?'
“ 'God forbid,' said Aymor, 'I do not disdain your gifts, but I would that my red brother should keep them in memory of him who is so largely his debtor, and as a token by which the Eonee chief, should he ever require them, either for himself or another, may demand the services of Robert Aymor, or any of his blood, even at the hazard of life.'
“ 'It shall be as you say,' replied the chief of Eonee, 'but my white brother must take in their stead the rifle and shot-pouch of Eonah.'
“ 'You shall now see,' said Aymor, 'that the white man disdains not the gift of his red brother. I accept it joyfully, and pledge myself that arms hitherto so gallantly borne by Eonah, shall not be disgraced in the hand of his pale brother.'
“ 'Go!' said my father, 'it is enough.'
“ 'Many hundred moons ago,' said Aymor, 'my fathers came across the great blue waters. Before leaving his native land it was the fortune of one whose blood is in my veins, to perform an action which distinguished him in the eyes of a great lord, whom he served, and for which it was his pleasure to give him a chain of silver. In all the changes of fortune the pride of the family has preserved this chain, and it fell at last into the hands of my father, who wore it appended to an old family watch. When I set out on this expedition, 'Robert,' said my father, 'you are now going to tread the path of honor, as many of your fathers have done before you. Should it be your lot, my gallant boy, to fall on the battle field, let this watch and chain be found on your person, that it may be seen it is no common clown who lies on the bed of glory.' When you made me a prisoner, Eonah, you deprived me of the watch, but to guard against accidents, I had separated the chain from it, and concealed it so effectually that insensible as I was at the time, you did not find it. I do not mention this to reproach you for taking the watch;—it is yours, and you are welcome to it, among the other remembrances of your white brother: but the chain is mine, and I may bestow it as I choose. It cannot leave the family in whose possession it has been for so many generations, more worthily than as an offering of gratitude to the noble boy, whom I shall ever remember as the preserver of my life.' So saying, he threw the chain over my neck, where it now hangs as you see.” As he uttered this, Eoneguski opened his hunting shirt, with an air of satisfaction, and disclosed to Gideon the trophy of his youthful humanity.
“My father,” continued Eoneguski, “was both surprised and confused. 'The watch is here,' he said, 'it is yours,—say not a word, for it will make the father of my white brother sad, and he will think meanly of Eonah, when he hears that he has robbed his son of his watch. Here take it—Now go—There is peace between us.'
“ 'He must not go,' I said, 'until the dark shadow comes down upon the earth, or how shall he escape the hands of his enemies?'
“ 'Hath not Eonah bid him go?' said the chief, 'and who shall dare to gainsay the words of Eonah.'
“ 'Pardon me, my father,' I said, 'but you know that the Oewoehee do not always hearken to the voice of their chief, and they are now thirsty for vengeance. Let the Skiagusta remain quiet in the wigman until the shadows come down from the Nantahala Mountains, and then may be escape in safety.'
“ 'Be it as you will,' said Eonah.
“I bade the white man lie down in the corner of the wigwam, and covered him with the skin of a buffaloe. 'Sleep,' said I, 'for to night the Skiagusta must travel for his life. When all is still in Eonee, and the red men sleep in quiet, I will come, and you shall fly away, like a bird escaping from the snare.'
“Scarcely had I left speaking with the white man, when the people once more gathered in a crowd, and demanded that he should be given up to them.
“ 'It shall not be,' said my father, 'Eonah hath said that the white man shall live.'
“ 'We will not listen to the voice of Eonah,' said one amongst the crowd, 'the white man shall die.'
“ 'Chuheluh is right,' said a hundred voices, 'we will not listen to the voice of Eonah—the white man shall die.'
“Chuheluh had always aspired to rival Eonah with the people, and become the chief of Eonee. But he had never been able to win the hearts of the people from their chief. Many times was it in the power of Eonah to destroy Chuheluh, (the Fox,) but Eonah, (the Bear,) said he scorned to make war upon the Fox. But this did not prevent Chuheluh from continuing his efforts to stir up the people; and it was he who now urged them to come back and insist that the captive should at once be delivered up to them.
“ 'If the white man dies,' replied my father, 'Eonah dies with him. Can the Fox take the life of the Bear?'
“ 'The Fox loves the Bear too well,' replied the cunning Chuheluh, 'to take away his life; but the banks of the Tuckasege are smoking with the blood of the Oewoehee, and the spirits of our slaughtered warriors are crying for vengeance.'
“ 'The Great Spirit has told me,' replied Eonah, 'that the white man must live. You say well, Chuheluh, that the banks of the Tuckasege are smoking with the blood of the Oewoehee;—its very waves are rolling red with it to the father of waters. But must the blood of the Oewoehee continue to flow, until its fountains are dried up? Must the war cloud continue to pour down its torrents, until they sweep us away from the earth? And who shall turn away the anger of the white man from the Oewoehee? Eonah has sent the white Skiagusta to speak words of peace to his people.'
“ 'The tongue of Eonah is like my two fingers,' said Chuheluh, extending the two middle fingers of his right hand, separated as far as possible.
“ 'The Fox is ever a liar,' said Eonah.
“ 'I will see,' said Chuheluh, 'if the Fox is more given to falsehood than the Bear;' and advanced towards the door of the wigwam, with the purpose of entering to search for the stranger.
“ 'Chuheluh passes not the threshold of Eonah alive,' said my father, sternly.
“ 'It is well;' said Chuheluh. He looked behind him, and perceived that his followers, who had been gradually dropping away during the conversation, were reduced to a very small number. Soon these also departed, and were quickly followed by himself.
“All was now quiet in Eonee, and, in a few hours, Aymor, hidden by the shadow of the night, had left the wigwam of Eonah.”
The Indian paused in his story, and casting his eye upon the face of Gideon, endeavored to read in it the impression made upon his mind by the incidents recited. Perhaps even a bosom like his was not exempt from that amiable weakness which is gratified by the approbation of our fellow-men; and counts on meeting it as a matter of course, whenever conscience whispers, “You have done well.” If so, he doubtless expected to read, in the countenance of his companion, some lively indication of gratitude towards the preserver of his father. Possibly his expectations may have gone so far as even to have prepared him for some passionate expression of grateful feeling on the part of his guest, whose race he knew possessed not that philosophic apathy of manner which marked his own. It may be, that his own feelings were deeply stirred by a recurrence to these interesting passages of his early life. But whatever may have been his reason, the Indian paused—nor was the silence interrupted by any remark from his auditor.
And hast thou then forgot? he cried, forlorn,
And ey'd the group with half indignant air.
THE dark eye of the Indian glided from the face of Gideon, and gathering his blanket about him in closer folds, he heaved a sigh, and proceeded—
“Time passed away, and we occasionally heard of Aymor, as one in whom the Cherokee always found a friend, but nothing occurred to bring him and either Eonah or his son together. At length the Indian boy became a young man, and was allowed to mingle among the men of his tribe. He chased the deer, the elk, the buffaloe, and the bear, and hunted his game from the White Mountains, where the sun sinks to rest in the evening, to the Blue Mountains which feel the first of his rising beams;—from the Unaca Mountains from whence the cold blasts sweep down in winter, to the warm banks of the Chatugaja where the song of the bird tells earliest of summer. As you pass from Eonee to the Chatugaja, Sugar Town and Tesumtoe are on your path. At both these places would Eoneguski sometimes linger, and mingle in the dance with their young men and maidens. You will not wonder to hear that the daughters of the Oewoehee are lovely in the eyes of Eoneguski—lovelier by far than the fairest daughters of the white man.” Gideon smiled. “Nay,” said Eoneguski, “it is so; but amongst them all he has seen none to match the Little Deer of Tesumtoe. She is the light of the eyes—the star of the hopes of Eoneguski. Not a moon has passed away until now, since he first beheld her, that he has not flown upon the wings of Love from Eonee to Tesumtoe, to listen to the music of her voice, and look upon her beauty. The best of his venison and the choicest of his furs and buffaloe skins, have been laid at her feet;—nor hath the Little Deer refused the presents of Eoneguski. A few moons more and he will give her venison, and she will give him bread, and he will lead her to his wigwam, and thus, according to the customs of our people, she will become his wife. Then will the heart of Eoneguski rejoice, and Gideon shall be there to share the joy of his friend.”
The ordinary quiet of the Indian's features was broken by a smile, expressive of the most pleasurable anticipations, but it was evanescent as those joys are wont to be which stir the smiles of mortals, and he continued—
“One day as I was returning to Eonee from a visit to Tesumtoe, I arrived at Sugar Town, and saw a crowd of people gathered thick together, as you have seen the buzzards in the dusk of the evening upon the branches of a dead tree; and, like them, the people were still pouring in from every direction. I made my way towards the groupe of persons, and all seemed to give way in consternation before me, as though I had been some evil spirit. It was in vain that I called to them, and begged to know the cause of the tumult. The more I called, the more alarmed the people became, and the more rapidly did they flee before me. When at length I reached the place where the crowd had been the thickest, no one remained but a single squaw, seated on the ground, and a man lying with his head in her lap, whose spirit appeared to be passing away. He was speechless, and she was wiping away, with a piece of coarse cloth, the bloody froth continually oozing from between his lips. I now saw that his head was mashed terribly, and a bloody war-club lying near him, was evidently the instrument with which it had been done. I recognised in the dying man the Leech, one of the people of Eonee, and of my own blood.
“ 'Whose hand is red with this deed?' I inquired.
“ 'The hand of John Welch,' replied the woman.
“ 'Where is the murderer?' I asked.
“ 'He has returned to the white settlements;' was her reply.
“By this time the Leech had ceased to breathe.
“ 'Let him be buried,' I said, 'as a brave man should, or the people of Eonee will lay the wigwams of Sugar Town in ashes. I fly on the wings of vengeance to overtake the murderer.' “
We must interrupt the story, (that the reader may the better understand it,) to explain a law, or rather custom, of the Oewoehee. When one Indian kills another, if they belong to the same town, it is the right of every member of the same family with the deceased, unless the killing is altogether accidental, to pursue the murderer to death, and the whole family is disgraced if no member of it avenges the blood of his fallen brother. As long as the murderer himself can be reached, it is supposed that he will be the victim most acceptable to the spirit of the deceased; and therefore he is preferred, and public opinion requires that he should be selected. If, however, he cannot be had, it is no uncommon thing for some other member of the same family to be sacrificed. The same law and custom, which allow and require the relations of the first deceased to avenge his death, authorize and demand of the relations of the victim of this vengeance, in like manner, to seek satisfaction, and so on forever, until so much blood has been spilt that the chiefs and people are induced to interfere and prohibit the farther continuance of the fued. The same law and custom which obtain between families of the same town, obtain also between different towns, making the right and duty of revenge coextensive with the township itself, although the claims of each individual to become the avenger, are not equal; but right is reserved in regular gradation for the nearest relations or most dignified persons. It was for this reason, when the people of Sugar Town recognised in Eoneguski an Eonee, that, not knowing with what zeal and violence he might urge his right of vengeance for his slaughtered kinsman, or whom he might choose for his victim, they prudently fled from him.
“Every Cherokee honors and respects the laws and customs of his people, and is bound to comply with them,” continued Eoneguski. “As almost an eye witness of the transaction, as a relation of the deceased, and, above all, as the son of the chief, no one was so much bound as myself to avenge the blood of the Leech, upon his murderer. I therefore determined to pursue him, leaving to the people of Sugar Town, under the threatened vengeance of the Eonee, to give to my kinsman the burial of a brave man. Never before had Eoneguski thirsted for blood. But he knew that Welch had been brought up in the white settlements, and that but little of the red man's blood warmed his heart. 'He has risen upon the Leech,' something whispered in my ear, 'because of the ancient grudge of the white man against the red, and, like an evil spirit, has stirred anew the half forgotten strife between the people of Eonee and Sugar Town.'
“Many moons ago Cheasquah, (or the Bird,) one of the people of Sugar Town, and the Leech drank together, until the Leech grew drunk and angry, and took away the life of the Bird. For a long time the people of Sugar Town pursued the Leech, and thirsted for revenge—at length the spirit of vengeance slumbered, and they suffered him to come quietly home, and we all thought that the tomahawk was buried. It was after this time that Welch left the stream of the Homony and came into the Indian country, and talked of his Cherokee blood—and said that he had left forever the house of the white man, to spread his blanket in the wigwam of the red. He knew not which of the many families of the Cherokees had poured into his heart the drop of red blood; but he joined himself to the people of Sugar Town, and they received him among them as a scion of their stock, and he became the son of their chief Santuchee. He mingled with the Eonee, and was not a stranger to Eoneguski. He sometimes spoke of the stream and mountains of the Homony, with a sigh, while an expression of melancholy delight sat upon his countenance: and I knew that his heart was beside its waters, and that to them he would return whenever some cause of temporary exile should have passed away. When he fled from the smoking blood of the Leech, thither I was certain he would be drawn by a power he could no more resist than could a feather from the eagle's wing the impulse of the storm. Obedient to the customs of my people, thither I determined to pursue his steps, and while he fancied himself secure from the red man's vengeance, overtake him with slow, though it might be, but the certain advance of fate.
“My path from Sugar Town to Homony lay past Eonee, and there I stopped for a night to lay open my heart to Eonah, and consult with him—for words of wisdom fall from the lips of age.
“Eonah gave his blessing to his son, and called upon the Great Spirit that he might return with his hand red with the blood of the Leech. 'The dwelling of the white man, Eoneguski,' he said, 'whom you saved from the tormentors, is where he can hear the soft murmurs of the Homony when it sparkles in the sun of summer, and the loud dash of its cataracts when it pours them down swollen with the floods of winter. If difficulties should beset your path—should winter come upon you with unwonted fierceness, or sickness take away the strength of the young warrior, call upon my pale brother to redeem his pledge. Take with you his own rifle and shot-pouch, and let him look upon them, and the chain of white metal, which he cast about your neck, and we shall see whether any thing but falsehood is to be found amongst the pale faces. But try not the strength of your staff, my son, while your own limbs are able to support you—bring not old things to remembrance, unless necessity should press you—and, above all, tell not the pale face of his debt of gratitude, while there remain to you any other means of safety. But should his keen grey eye, (for Eonah has not forgotten his eagle glance,) find in thy lineaments any record by which his youthful benefactor may be remembered, or any resemblance to the manly person of Eonah, return with thy whole heart his friendly greeting, and tell him that Eonah yet lives; and although the Nantahala Mountains are not more thickly covered with the snows of winter, than are his locks with the frosts of time, and although his limbs tremble with the palsy of age, he yet hopes to live many moons, and once more look his pale brother in the face.'
“I saw that the heart of Eonah was moved at parting with his son, and that a voice whispered words of doubt and unwonted apprehension. But no tear gathered in his eye, nor did his lip tremble, when he said to me—Go!
“I was no stranger to the path which lay before me, for often had I trodden it in my hunting parties, even to the ground whereon we now stand. I was no stranger to the inhabitants of your father's house. Many are the times when both you and your father have passed near enough to Eoneguski to have felt his breath—but you knew not that he was there. The dwelling of John Welch was known to me, and many are the times, before he had stirred the vengeance of Eoneguski, that he could have torn his scalp from his brain, before any white man had dreamed there was an Indian on this side of the Homony Mountains. It was not long after I set out, before I discovered that I was on the trail of my purposed victim. You have seen, Gideon, how seldom the game escapes Eoneguski, when once heis on its trail—but even his sagacity was outdone by the ingenuity of Welch plotting for his life. For weeks I pursued him from cove to cove—from mountain top to mountain top—from valley to valley—and just as I began to find his foot prints yet warm upon the leaves, they would suddenly disappear, and I could see them no more for a great distance. At last I thought I would try another scheme of the hunter, and, chasing him no longer, waylay his den, and take him as he came in unsuspicious of danger. I was stealing cautiously on the way to my appointed stand, when the elements seemed to combine, that the fearful shadows which had visited the soul of Eonah, should be realized in the destruction of his son, amid his blood-thirsty wanderings. The soul of Eoneguski began to misgive him, and he almost fancied he could hear the reproving voice of the Great Spirit in the howlings of the storm. For two days he pursued his journey, and not the track of a beast disturbed the smooth whiteness of the snow—not the wing of a bird could be seen waving darkly amid its falling flakes. With limbs benumbed with cold, and starving with hunger, he reached the dwelling of your father.—I need not tell Gideon how I was received. Nothing waked in the bosom of the white man the remembrance of Eonah or of his son;—even his own rifle and shot-pouch were forgotten.
“The elements were, for several nights, too inclement, I knew, for John Welch to travel, but by day his pathway to the house of him he called father was not unwatched, until the weather became moderate, when both night and day witnessed the almost sleepless watchings of Eoneguski. But even then his spirit grew dark within him, at the thought of shedding blood, and especially the blood of the unsuspecting and defenceless. His watchings at length became less strict, and he joined Gideon in pursuing the game far from the place where the object of his vengeance must pass. Once or twice on my visits to the house of your father the name of Welch was casually mentioned, and, like the flashes of lightning in a distant cloud, such as sometimes lingers in the evening sky of summer when no thunder is heard, did the color come and go in the cheek of your sister; and in the changing color of that cheek Eoneguski read a tale of Love—and he sickened at the thought that he might bring upon that cheek the steady paleness of despair, and cause the heart of the maiden to break with anguish. He thought of the Little Deer at Tesumtoe, and Eoneguski became a woman.
“It was the same morning on which the cloud passed between Gideon and Eoneguski, that, as I was waiting your arrival, something stirred among the bushes, and I prepared my rifle to bring down a buck before Gideon should appear, when in full view burst forth the person of John Welch—the man whose steps I had been so long pursuing, and for whose blood I had suffered with such feverish thirst. The rifle was raised—the cock was drawn back—and the finger rested on the trigger—John Welch stood still, like one of the trees deep-rooted beside him, conscious that the never-failing aim of Eoneguski was upon him.—At that moment the howling of the storm sounded in my ears, as when it raged along the sides of the Homony—I thought of Robert Aymor—of Gideon—of Atha—and the Little Deer—for an instant a dream fell upon me—and when I awoke Welch had disappeared.
“The tale of Eoneguski is now told. To the Great Spirit he commits the destiny of John Welch—his errand here is over—to-morrow he bends his returning foot-steps to the Indian country, to the embraces of his father, and to warm and cheer himself in the smiles of the Little Deer.”
Gideon could not be other than a deeply interested listener to the recital of Eoneguski; all the seeming mysteries in whose conduct were now made as clear as the noon-day sun. His feelings were a good deal affected, and he remained for some time silent. “It is long,” continued Eoneguski, “since the tomahawk was buried between the Cherokee and his white brothers. We are all the children of our Great Father who lives far away over the Blue Mountains, and at his command the Cherokee has stood beside his white brothers when other red men have risen against them. Has not Gideon heard that Eoneguski has always urged the red men to be submissive to their Great Father, and to stand up in his defence.
“If I ever did, I have forgotten it,” replied Gideon.
“Will not Gideon go with Eoneguski to Eonee? It will make the chilled blood of Eonah grow warm again to see the son of his friend. You will find game more plenty in the Indian country;—and there the sun is wont to shine more brightly.”
“I should like to go,” said Gideon, “if the consent of my father can be obtained.”
“When he shall remember in Eoneguski the Indian boy, he cannot refuse his request, even should his ear be deaf to the voice of his son.”
Eoneguski accompanied Gideon to the house of his father, with a mind greatly relieved by their mutual disclosures: and, as is usually the case under such circumstances, they were each better pleased with the other than if no misunderstanding had ever existed between them.
Yes, thou recallest my pride of years, for then
The bow-string of my spirit was not slack;
Nor foeman then, nor cougar's crouch I fear'd,
For I was strong as mountain cataract.
EVERY cup of human happiness is, by the decree of Heaven, drugged with some bitter ingredient; and, in the most sterling ore of human excellence, will be found some base ingredients of unworthy passion. When Eoneguski repaired with Gideon to the house of his father, his character and person were of course placed in a light altogether new; and although Aymor was gratified at meeting in him with the young benefactor of his early life, yet even his generous nature was at the same time sensible of an embarrassment, like that of a debtor in the presence of a large creditor, whose claim he is conscious is more than sufficient to render him bankrupt. Yet he was willing to make what payment he might, and censured unsparingly his own blindness, which had not detected at a glance one whose features he now so distinctly remembered, and who bore so strong a resemblance to the brave Eonah. The rifle and shot-pouch were not so much to be wondered at, as his attention had never been called particularly to them, and as for the silver chain, he had never seen it, Eoneguski having always worn it concealed beneath his hunting shirt. But how should be excuse himself for not being struck with the name of Eoneguski? It was true he had never heard it mentioned whilst he was in the custody of Eonah: but he had subsequently heard that a son of that chief had arisen by that name, greatly distinguished as an advocate for peace with the whites, and he must naturally have conjectured that he could be no other than the one to whom he was himself so deeply indebted. He could only say, that when he first heard the name of Eoneguski mentioned in his family, as that of his tawny visiter, it was after curiosity concerning him had subsided, and the sound happened not to awaken in his mind any old associations. He however trusted that Eoneguski would not return to his bark cabin in the hollow of the mountain, but make his regular lodging at his own house. He renewed, at the same time, his ancient assurances of a willingness to serve the Cherokee to the utmost of his power.
“To-morrow,” said the Indian, “Eoneguski must return to his people; his only request of Aymor is that he will allow Gideon to accompany him, and revive in the heart of the aged Eonah the remembrance of the time when the marrow of strength was in his bones—when his foot was swift in the chace—and his arm strong in the battle.”
“It is a long, and I have reason to think it a dangerous way,” said Aymor, “and you need not wonder if I should fear for my son.”
“He shall be safe,” replied the Indian; “if any harm befalls the young man, Eoneguski will return, and be the slave of his father. Does Aymor doubt the faith of Eoneguski?”
“How can I,” replied Aymor. “If my son wishes to go with Eoneguski, gratitude will not allow me to forbid him.”
“I do,” said Gideon.
“It is enough,” said the Indian. “To-morrow at the same hour that you visited him this morning, Eoneguski will expect you. But before I depart,” he continued, addressing Aymor, “I would gladly be informed what befell the white man after his deliverance from his enemies, and his departure from the wigwam of Eonah.”
“It is scarcely worth the hearing,” replied Aymor, “but if the son of Eonah desires it, I may not refuse his request. It is a subject on which, perhaps, I am too fond of dwelling, but it is the infirmity of age to obtrude upon others the adventures of their youth; and I have pleasantly beguiled many a winter's evening in telling over the incidents in which I was concerned, in Rutherford's campaign, in which neither Eonah nor my youthful advocate was forgotten. But I have so often told them over, that I am scarcely able to commence any where but at the beginning, and then go regularly through. But that would be altogether too tedious for the present occasion, and, besides, it is not what you wish to hear.”
Aymor reflected a moment, as endeavoring to select a suitable place of commencement, then suddenly turning to Eoneguski, “Did your father ever tell you how he came to make me a prisoner?”
“No,” was the reply.
“Well, as it is somewhat amusing, I will begin there.”
Eoneguski, addressing himself with real interest to what he was about to hear, and Aymor's own family having arranged themselves to listen, for the hundreth time, to one of the incidents with which they were perfectly familiar, he went on—
“You must know, then, that I was a sergeant in Captain Lenoir's company, which was left to guard the baggage and some prisoners at a village we had just destroyed, while the rest of the army went on to attack another, some distance off. The captain learnt, some how or other, while we were here, that a party of the Indians had passed the main body of our army, and intended at night to surprise us, destroy our baggage, retake our prisoners, and scalp every individual among us. When the report got out among the soldiers, if ever I saw frightened men it was then; indeed, the officers were no great deal better, except the captain, who was as brave a man as ever existed. He was slow of speech, and always used the longest words he could think of, except when he happened to be vexed, and then he talked fast enough, and very much like other men in a passion. While the men were going about with their heads low, like partridges in a brush heap, when they hear the scream of the hawk, the captain, who was but a low man, not exceeding five feet seven inches, walked about the camp as straight as an Indian, and almost tall enough to look me right in the eyes. I do think he was the proudest man I ever saw, at the thoughts of having a brush to himself—that is to say, with no superior officer present. He made the best preparations for the enemy that his means afforded, and did every thing in his power to cheer up the spirits of the men. It wouldn't do, however—long pale faces were to be seen in every corner of the encampment, and what added to the unfavorable prospect, whether the water disagreed with them or not, I cannot tell, but a most distressing complaint broke out suddenly among them, so that there was scarcely a man fit for duty. This was a severe blow to the pride of our captain, who came up to me, with the most comical expression of countenance, 'Bob,' said he, 'did you ever see such a pack of cowards?'
“ 'Oh Captain!' said I, 'the fit will soon work off.'
“ 'Work off?' said he, 'yes, if it don't work off soon, it will work the rascals to death, and there'll be no body left for the Indians to scalp but you and me.'
“ 'I'll tell you what I would do, Captain,' said I, 'serve them out another canteen a piece of whiskey, and I'll engage you'll have no more difficulty.'
“ 'I will follow your advice, Bob,' and away he flew like one who had just got possession of some bright thought. The liquor was served out, and I defy the best doctor in the country to discharge as many invalids from the hospital in a couple of hours as we did then. 'Who cares for an Indian?' might be heard shouted from every part of the encampment; 'he must be a poor shoat of a white man who couldn't whip two or three of them.'
“ 'What a delightful change, Bob,' said the Captain, approaching me with every feature beaming with pleasure; 'there is not a man amongst them who would not put Hector, Ajax, or Achilles to the blush.'
“ 'They ought to blush for their own cowardice, if for nothing else,' I replied.
“ 'Never mind,' replied the Captain, 'it is all over now, and I forgive them.—Bob,' continued he, in perfect ecstasy, 'this promises to be the most glorious day of my life.—I have been in several what might be called severe conflicts, but never before has it been my lot to direct with my own voice the storm of battle.'
“ 'Why Captain, said I, 'are you certain after all that the Indians will attack us?'
“The Captain looked thoughtfully for a moment, and even disappointed, when suddenly brightening up—'It must be so Bob,' he said, 'from what I have heard; there can be no doubt of it. But I'll tell you what you must do. Take the muster roll, and draft twenty men, and go andreconnoitre. Do you understand me?—that is, beat about and find out slyly what the Indians are doing, and come and let me know.' Then pausing a moment—'I ought by rights,' he continued, 'to send out one of my lieutenants, but I am certain either of them would create a false alarm, and throw every thing into dangerous confusion. I must however offer them the job, giving them to understand at the same time, that the enterprise is a dangerous one, and that I should prefer having my subalterns about me, whose counsel I may stand in need of, and that Sergeant Aymor can be better spared, and will answer the purpose.'
“ 'Agreed, Captain,' said I, 'any way you please.'
“The two lieutenants and ensign all concurred in saying, that, they 'shrunk from no office of responsibility or danger, and did not regard the whole Cherokee tribe more than a swarm of insects, but if Captain Lenoir thought they could be more useful by remaining in camp, they had no objection to the reconnoitring party being commanded by Sergeant Aymor.'
“I accordingly proceeded to draft my men, and as ill luck would have it, among others the lot fell upon a fat squab of a fellow, by the name of Thompson. He was not more than eighteen years of age, and his flesh was as soft as a pumpkin; he was pop-eyed, and had a stupid downcast look; around a pair of thick blubber lips, which would have been no discredit to a real negro, and indeed all about his cheeks and chin, was a soft white fuzz, which gave to his face the appearance of a mullen leaf, with the dew upon it. His voice was sometimes squeaking, like a young goose in harvest, and then coarse, like that of a large bull-frog. He did not lack for size—indeed, he might have passed well for a young giant, but he was as weak as an infant, and breathed like a wind-broken horse, after the slightest exercise.
“As soon as he was drafted, 'Sergeant' said he, 'I depend upon you. My mother told me to be sure always to get one of the officers to take care of me, and keep me out of danger. I always liked you, Sergeant, and I know you'll take care of me.' I wished the poor boy at the devil, and had much rather have left him behind, and gone with my nineteen men. But I felt proud of the notice which the captain had taken of me, and determined to go on smoothly, and make the best of every thing, and with as little fuss as possible. So off I marched in pursuit of the Indians. My men all did better than I expected, and even my youngster was beginning to rise smartly in my estimation. We marched slyly along, as silent as the dead, peeping cautiously into every covert, lest we might be in the midst of the Indians before we were aware of it.
“The strength of Thompson at length began to fail, and he to wheeze like a man dying with the asthma. I perceived that his canteen was nearly full, and advised him to apply to it; he did so frequently, until it became evident that it was seriously affecting his brain, but he continued to wheeze, and even more loudly. 'Why Thompson,' at length said one of the men, we might as well have brought a blacksmith's bellows along with us as you, by way of enabling us to steal unperceived upon the Indians.'
“At this moment a rifle bullet whizzed amongst us, and one of our men fell dead upon the spot. Without a moment's reflection, or waiting for orders, all of the party, except Thompson and I, directed their rifles somewhat towards the place from whence the fatal bullet seemed to come, made one general discharge, and, as if by common consent, immediately turned about and ran down the hill, in the same direction from whence we had come, like so many frightened cattle. As they leaped over the bushes, the coat-tails of such as wore them, might be seen flying high in the air, and their path was strewed with pieces of coats, hunting shirts, and breeches, which the bushes tore from them in their flight. In vain I called to them, and strove to rally them, and had just concluded to follow their example as the wisest course left me, when a volley of bullets whistled about us, and, to my consternation and surprise, Thompson threw upon me the whole weight of his huge carcass, with his arms around my neck, crying out like a great baby, 'For God's sake, Sergeant, don't leave me, it would break my poor mother's heart to hear that I had been scalped by the Indians.'
“We were on the brow of a high hill, upon the top of which, it seemed, the Indians had laid their ambush, to fire upon us just as we should clear the natural breastwork which the slope of the hill afforded us. It was this ascent, which was very considerable, that I supposed tried, so severely, the strength and wind of poor Thompson. Just at the side of the slope as we ascended the hill, suddenly broke off a steep precipice, near to the edge of which I stood when Thompson threw himself upon me. I exerted my whole strength to shake him off, but the frightened creature clung to me like a bear, when he is wounded, and knows that if he lets go it is all over with him. I scuffled to get loose, and he to hold on, edging off at the same time from the Indians, until we fell together over a steep place, I suppose at least twenty feet perpendicular.
“What happened after that I know not, but the first thing I remember was waking up from sleep, and finding myself stretched out upon a buffaloe's skin, surrounded by a number of fierce Indian warriors. Fortunately for me, I understood the Indian language, and found it so useful to me then that I have taken care since to teach it to all my family—not that I could get any satisfaction out of the Indians, as to what passed while I was out of my senses, or what they intended doing with me, but I could ask for what I wanted, and if it was to be had, I generally got it. I soon found that the party of Indians was altogether too weak to have beaten up Captain Lenoir's quarters, but I suppose they calculated on the effects of a surprise, and this the runaways put entirely out of the question, for, as I afterwards learned, they got safely back to camp. What became of poor Thompson I have never learned to this day. I perceived that the Indians were very apprehensive of going in the direction of their own country, for fear of encountering some of the detachments of General Rutherford, who was now between them and it; so they fell back in this direction, and one night actually encamped upon the very spot where we now are. Prisoner, as I was, and expecting to be treated as Indians often treat their prisoners, I could not help being struck with its beautiful and advantageous situation; and when I came to this country, I looked it out and settled upon it.
“After beating about for a few days, and burying their dead at various places, the party, in whose custody I was, turned their faces westwardly. One day as we were pursuing our march with great caution, I heard the sound of drums and fifes, as it were, down in the very bowels of the earth. We were upon the top of a very high hill, overhanging a deep valley. The chief of our party, (it was Eonah himself,) made us lie close, and I distinctly saw the long line of men to which I belonged, winding like a thread through the gulf beneath me;—I could distinguish the general, my own company, and even my brave little captain, by the places they occupied, but the horses did not look much larger than goats, nor the men than rabbits. For an instant I could scarcely avoid crying out to them, but I knew that immediate death would be the consequence, and, although my heart beat so loudly, that I fancied they might almost hear it, I saw the last of my countrymen pass the angle of the mountain, and heard the last faint sound of their distant drum, without uttering an exclamation. Nothing particular afterwards occurred to me until we reached Eonee, and with what happened there you are as well acquainted as myself.”
“True,” replied Eoneguski, “but you have not told me what I was most anxious to learn, and that is, what befell you after your departure from Eonee.”
“Oh, hang it,” cried Dolly, “I have heard that plaguy story so often that it makes me sick. For God's sake, Bob Aymor, can you never find any thing to tell a body but your everlasting stories about the war?”
“I am only complying with the wishes of the stranger,” replied her husband, tartly, “and nobody is compelled to listen who does not desire to hear. But I fear,” he continued, addressing Eoneguski, “even you will be weary of my story.”
“The Cherokee,” said the Indian, “asks nothing that he does not wish. I have said that I desire to listen to the white man's story.”
—— his unclosed eye
Yet low'ring on his enemy,
As if the hour that seal'd his fate
Surviving, left his quenchless hate.
A MAN does not treat a rebuke with more deference from feeling suspicious that others may suppose it is somewhat merited; and a consciousness that he might have been rather frequent and tedious in his recitals of the events of Rutherford's campaign, did not enable Aymor to bear with more patience the intimations which his wife occasionally gave him, that she for one was tired of them. On the contrary, while it increased for a time the smart they gave to his wounded pride, it imparted to them a somewhat abiding effect, by subduing that self-complacency which enables a man to bear even injuries with something of calmness, and encounter difficulties with composure. The fretting operation of mortified pride was added to the sense of intended insult, and, notwithstanding the cavalier manner in which he affected to treat the impertinence of his wife, as recorded in the last chapter, it yet made upon him a serious impression, and disinclined him to comply with the request of the Indian. But he could not refuse, and was compelled to proceed under all the disadvantages of performing a reluctant task, with a mind agitated by excitements unconnected with the subject of his story.
“I will now,” continued he, “attempt the relation of what happened to me after I left the wigwam of your father, the Bear. It was, as you remember, although there was no moon in the heavens, a beautiful star-light night when we parted, and I stole down softly past the dwellings in Eonee. All was still—not a glimmer of fire-light was to be seen amongst them—and not a dog growled to shew that he scented a stranger. I came to the Tennessee River, and heard it gushing along its rocky bed, unmingled with any other sound. A solitary canoe was lazily swinging backwards and forwards, to and from the bank to which it was fastened by a rope of papaw bark. I drew it towards me, so as to rest the bow firmly upon the bank, then laid my rifle into it, and having seated myself, paddled quickly across the river, but not without much difficulty from a rapid current continually sweeping me down.
“I had just fastened the canoe, and having taken my rifle, was preparing to ascend the bank on this side of the river, when a party of Indians started up. 'Aha,' said one of them, (whose voice I recognised to be the same with that of the Indian with whom your father had words concerning me in the evening, and whom he called the Fox,) turning to his comrades, 'Who is the liar now, the Fox or the Bear?—How long is it,' he said, addressing himself to me, 'since you left the wigwam of Eonah?'
“ 'Shew me first your right to ask?' I answered.
“ 'The right,' said he, 'by which the white man burns the wigwams, ravages the fields, and murders the wives and children of the red men whom he calls his brothers—the right by which the wolf crushes the bones and laps the blood of the lamb when he is hungry—the right by which the eagle stoops upon the dove from his towering height—the right by which the tornado lays low the trees of the forest—the right by which the lightning rives asunder the firm rooted oak—Power!'
“And he looked round upon his comrades as if to give the same direction to the eyes of him whom he addressed.
“ 'I am under the protection of a power greater than yours,' I said, emboldened by what I had heard in the evening's interview.
“ ''Tis false,' he replied, 'the power of Eonah is at an end—the Oewoehee will no longer be cheated of their rights.'
“ 'If the solemn assurance of Eonah, that I should pass unmolested will not protect me, I have nothing else to which I can trust, and you must do with me as you like,' I said.
“ 'Have you the word of Eonah,' said another, who appeared to be next in consequence to the Fox, stepping towards me, 'that you should pass in safety through the Indian country?'
“ 'I have,' I replied.
“ 'How shall we know it?' continued my last inter-rogator.
“ 'Know you,' said I, 'the shot-pouch and rifle of Eonah?'
“ 'I do,' he answered.
“ 'Look upon these then,' I said, 'are they not sufficient to assure you that I am under the protection of Eonah?'
“ 'It is enough,' replied the Indian.
“I now saw the other Indians gradually drop away, until the Fox and I were left alone.
“ 'You have thirsted for my blood like a savage, as you are,' I said, 'but the Great Spirit has protected me. The day may yet come when vengeance shall overtake you for having pursued me with so much malice.'
“ 'Dog!' said he, 'do you threaten the Fox?' in a sharp shrill voice, not unlike the barking of that animal.
“ 'I dare to threaten you!' I replied, 'but I despise you too much to do so.'
“I heard the cock of his rifle click, and knew there was no time to be lost—I threw off my shot-pouch, and laid aside my rifle, in an instant, and sprung upon him, with my whole strength, endeavoring to wrest his rifle from his grasp. But he held on firmly, and we jerked each other hither and thither, in our struggle, until we found ourselves up to our knees in the river. There had been a swell in the stream, and in a moment or two more we were beyond our depth. The possession of the rifle now became a matter of small consequence. I relaxed my grasp upon it, and fastened upon the throat of the Fox. I felt the rifle strike against my knees, as it sunk towards the bottom of the stream, and immediately afterwards the hands of the Fox about my throat, in fruitless efforts to grasp it. I found his strength was gone, and began to fear that, much against my will, as well as my interest, I had taken away his life. Indeed, the rush of the water in my ears informed me it was time to strive for my own preservation. I accordingly made the proper exertions, rose to the top of the water, and regained the shore. There I did not stop longer than was necessary to gather up my property and recover my breath, but in that time I distinctly heard the Fox splashing in the water, as the current bore him down, and blowing like an otter.
“I now hastily pursued my journey, guiding my course as well as I could by the stars, and the direction (of which I had a general notion) of the Cowee range of mountains, which I soon began to ascend with much toil. Day was beginning to break when I reached the crest, which was not much wider than that of a good large buffaloe, for I scarcely knew I was up, before I was again descending. My work became much easier, and it was not long before I found myself upon the margin of the Tuckasege, which rolls at the base. Here I saw a new difficulty before me—this stream, like the Tennessee, was a good deal swollen, and was therefore too deep to wade. I spent some time in travelling up and down the bank, with the hope of accidentally meeting with a canoe, but my labor was fruitless. It was true I saw one on the opposite bank, but it might as well, for all the good it could do me, have been beside the one in which I had crossed the Tennessee; indeed, much better, for I was apprehensive that it might have carried over persons I had rather not encounter.
“Concluding therefore that I must once more depend upon my strength as a swimmer, I chose to land somewhat above the place where the canoe was fastened on the other side. But I must now be encumbered with my rifle and shot-pouch, both of which it was necessary at all hazards to keep dry. When I found there was no other way of getting over the stream, I thought there would be no use in shilly-shallying about it, so I gathered the flap of my shot-pouch in my teeth, and raised my rifle with one hand high above my head, and having plunged into the river, tugged for the opposite shore. The water was cold, and almost took away my breath, the rapidity of the current carrying me some distance below where I had intended landing: but I got through safely, and, shaking myself like a water dog, went ahead.
“I had walked on just long enough for my clothes to be getting dry, and began to think seriously of something to eat, when a large grey squirrel came tripping across my way, and ran up a hickory tree near which I was passing. Thinks I to myself, now I will make trial of the Bear's rifle, and for the want of something better, bring down that long tailed gentleman for my breakfast. I fired, and, as I expected, the squirrel fell dead. I took him up, intending in a short time, and at some convenient place, to kindle a fire and broil him; and I have had many a worse meal than he would have furnished, even as I should have to eat him without bread or salt.
“Having reloaded my rifle, I pursued my journey. I had not gone far, when I saw lying at a short distance before me an Indian. If he was alone I did not fear him, and if he was not alone, I knew that retreat was perfectly useless. So I marched on. As I approached him, he had the appearance of one dead—he lay in perfect stillness, and I could not even perceive that his bosom heaved, as it should have done, if he were yet breathing—besides this, streams of blood, now clotted and dry, had run in various directions over his face and bosom—his right arm lay under him, and his left across his body—his half open eyes had the glazed appearance of death—and his relaxed lip shewed the set teeth of one who had died in agony. I took hold of the foot and with difficulty lifted up one of the legs a little way, which fell back to its place as soon as I let it go, with the rigidity of death. I then took hold of the arm, which lay across the body, and was about raising it up in the same manner, when, as quick as lightning, the creature rose up to a sitting posture, and plunged into my bosom a knife he held concealed in his hand beneath him.
“ 'Aha,' said he, and I recognised the voice and devilish countenance of the Fox. I instantly threw myself upon him, and seizing him by the wrist of his right hand withdrew the knife. It was bloody, and the wretch yelled with delight as he beheld it. I snatched the knife from his grasp, and planting my knees upon his body, and bearing my left hand firmly upon his forehead, raised my right with the intention of plunging the knife into his heart. He saw my purpose, and instead of asking for mercy, 'Strike,' said the savage, 'for Chuheluh is avenged.'
“He doubtless supposed the wound he had given me must be mortal, and such it certainly would have been, but for the most providential circumstance—for the want of some more convenient place to stow away my game, I had, without any design, thrown the squirrel I had just killed, into the bosom of my shirt, on my left side. Nevertheless, I was certain that the knife had touched me, for I distinctly felt the blood trickling down my side, although I was not conscious of any pain. But I was satisfied, from my feelings, that my wound was not mortal, and I even believed it not very deep, from the length of the knife blade, and a confidence I had from its direction, that it must have passed through the body of the squirrel before it reached mine. For a moment the fate of the Fox was balanced in my mind—I thought of my obligations to his chief, and the dangers which might beset me in my progress home should I provoke farther the ill-will of any of his people—and the life of the Fox was saved.
“ 'Go!' said I; 'for the second time I grant you your life.' Without making any reply, he instantly rose to his feet, and flew with the utmost speed in the direction of the Tuckasege, never casting a look behind him, as if he feared a change of my purpose in relation to that life for which he had been too proud to beg. I could not help laughing to see with what speed and earnestness he ran. I now examined the state of my wound, and found it, as I had expected, quite shallow, nearly the whole of the knife, from the longitudinal position which the squirrel had assumed in my bosom, as I bent over the Indian, having been buried in its body, and deriving therefrom its bloody appearance.
“Nothing remarkable afterwards occurred until I reached Fort Defiance, where I found my father mourning for me as a dead man. He received me as one newly risen, and was scarcely less rejoiced at beholding again the old family watch, for which, however, he would have considered the Fox's knife a full equivalent. I have kept the knife to this day,” said Aymor, producing that formidable weapon. “As for the chain, my manner of disposing of it was highly approved by my father.”
Soon after Aymor had finished his story, Eoneguski took leave of the family, with the dignified composure of a savage. “The children of men,” said he, “are like leaves scattered over the earth, the winds breathe upon them, and they are gathered in heaps—it blows again, and they are scattered widely asunder.”
As soon as he was gone, Gideon repeated in detail what he had heard upon the mountain side, some of the particulars of which he had previously communicated. The auditors were variously affected, according as they stood related to the different circumstances; and in the estimation of all Eoneguski was greatly elevated.
Atha was much relieved to learn that he had abandoned his purpose of revenge upon Welch, and deeply affected by the causes which lead to its formation. Confirmation was, however, distressingly added to Welch's self-condemnation—that his hands were actually stained with blood, was placed beyond doubt, but the causes which lead to the homicide were yet in obscurity, and there was still room to hope that his act was the offspring of necessity or accident. New causes of anxiety were thus opened upon her mind, from which she sought alleviation by disclosing to her family her interview with Welch, at the fountain, of which there no longer existed a necessity for concealment. Aymor regretted still more deeply, when, hearing of Welch's trials and difficulties, his harshness towards him, but cheered himself with renewed hopes of his return, which he thought derived support from his having been seen in the neighborhood. Dolly wept, and declared that “she wished she might never stir if John Welch wasn't good enough for any Aymor in the world, and that she did not think him the paring of her toe nail the worse for having killed a drotted Injun.”
As one who spies a serpent in his way,
Glist'ning and basking in the summer ray.
THERE is unquestionably a vast difference between that mere animal principle, found in the males of almost every species of the brute creation, in common with man, spurring its subject on to the accomplishment of his purposes, regardless, or unconscious of danger—and that moral determination which characterizes the higher order of moral constitutions, and prompts to the performance of duty, in a confident reliance upon the protecting arm of an overruling power, and to willingness, at the same time, in submission to His will, to perish in its discharge. And yet both these are described in our language by the word Courage. It is true, that some have admitted a distinction, which they represent by the phrases, “physical" and “moral” courage: while others again deny that the latter has any existence at all, and will not allow the possession of the admired quality of courage to any who are not stimulated to the prosecution of their purposes in the face of danger, by a mere constitutional impulse.
It would seem to be a sufficient outrage upon moral dignity to place these two qualities upon an equal footing, but it is surely worse than Epicurean brutality to degrade the latter to a rank below the former, or altogether deny its existence. The word Courage is, doubtless, of French origin, and is probably derived from Coeur, (the heart,) indicating its character as a moral principle, from its being the chief offspring of that region of our moral nature. But as in those ages, when necessity for great individual exposure was most necessary, intellectual cultivation was at its lowest ebb, the mere animal impulse was much more common than the moral sentiment; and, by popular acclamation, not only procured an equal rank with the latter, but finally usurped the whole possession, which it seems resolutely bent, through the assistance of its friends, forever to maintain.
In whatever their differences, in these two qualities, may otherwise consist, we may safely assert that the one quality is the property of the brute and the fool, and the other of the wise man and the Christian. The one disregards danger, in ignorance of its existence—the other sees it, but feels that it is a duty to encounter it, and that, to do so successfully, it must be done with firmness.
It is not our purpose, then, to represent in the conduct of Robert Aymor in his various conflicts with the Fox, the mere champion of brute force and fearlessness, but a man of strong moral powers, backed by such physical ones as made them effectual; and to exhibit the happy effects of that habitual self-control over the moral constitution, which will infallibly elevate a man to a more dignified rank in the scale of being than any thing besides; and, for the practise of which, no high degree of intellectual culture, in the general signification of that expression, is it all necessary. Aymor was never insensible of the danger to which he was exposed in his various interviews with his malicious enemy, and would gladly have avoided them, but they did not drive him from his onward path of duty, or render themselves fatal, by giving to fear a triumph over his faculties.
In order to connect and explain that portion of Aymor's story, contained in our last chapter, it is necessary that we should detail, to some extent, the thoughts, purposes, and actions of Chuheluh, in his attempt to stir up the populace of Eonee against their chief. When he found that he was foiled in his attempt to excite them to madness at the refusal to surrender the prisoner to be be put to death, his disappointment was very great.—His sagacity, however, enabled him to discover, beyond all doubt, that Aymor was in the wigwam of Eonah, notwithstanding what had been said to the contrary. Another scheme suggested itself to his mind. This was to stir up a party of Indians from among those who had not been present at his interview with Eonah, under the pretence that the prisoner had escaped against the will of their chief, to waylay him at the river, and reconduct him to Eonee; and he trusted that he should be able in the course of the night, so to excite the thirst of the savages for blood, that a rebellion might break out against Eonah, who would, doubtless, endeavor to resist or severely reprove any violence on the person of the captive.
In this plan we have already witnessed his ill success. Some farther explanation is, however, necessary. The jealousy and personal hatred of Chuheluh towards Eonah so far got the better of his habitual cunning, when Aymor referred to his power as greater than his own, that he was induced to reply in such way as lead to a discovery by the Indians who accompanied him, of the deception he had practised upon them, and that, under the pretence of serving their chieftain, he was endeavoring to stir them up to rebellion against him.
After the conflict which ensued between the Fox and himself, Aymor left him struggling in the water, little expecting to encounter him again, but Chuheluh was an adroit swimmer, and, although Aymor had brought him, in the process of drowning, to the very verge of insensibility, and so far exhausted his strength as to render his situation exceedingly precarious, he was yet enabled, after many desperate struggles, to land some distance below, on the same side with Aymor. With the recovery of his self-possession, came feelings of the most malignant revenge towards his late antagonist, as well from the sting of disappointed expectations, as indignation at the personal disgrace and danger to which he had been subjected. Neither did the loss of his rifle, which lay buried in the mud and sand at the bottom of the Tennessee, sit lightly on his mind.
The purpose of revenge was no sooner formed, than his fertile brain teemed with plans for its execution. The only weapons now remaining to him were his tomahawk and scalping-knife, and with one or both of these must the blood of his victim be spilt. The scheme most grateful to his feelings, and that which, appeared most likely to succeed, could be best accomplished with the scalping-knife.
Preparatory to his other arrangements he accordingly wounded in several places both his face and breast with that instrument, not very deeply it is true, but sufficiently so to let the blood flow about over them, in pretty copious streams; which being suffered to clot and harden, gave to him the appearance of one upon whom violence had been inflicted. His next step was to touch the point of his knife with a very deadly poison, so that if the wounds he meant to inflict upon Aymor should, from any circumstance, fail to be mortal in themselves, the venom infused into them might be certain, in a very short time, to subdue the powers of life. Thus equipped, he put away his tomahawk, the better to assume the appearance of a spoiled and defenceless victim of violence.
These arrangements were all completed in less time than we have taken to relate them, and with eager haste he set out upon the trail of Aymor. After a time he came in view of him, unperceived by his intended victim, and dogged his steps until he reached the summit of the Cowee Mountain. Here he ascertained from the direction he was taking, the place where Aymor would probably strike the Tuckasege, and taking his own course rapidly down the mountain another way, came where he hoped to find a canoe, and was not disappointed. With the characteristic dexterity of an Indian navigator, he caused the canoe to glide across the stream, and had just time to debark and conceal himself among the shrubbery, when he saw Aymor coming down to the river in search of some means of passing over. He continued to watch until he discovered that Aymor was preparing to throw himself into the river to swim, when he retired a little distance farther from the bank, and intently observed his contest with the current, which he once or twice feared would rob him of his victim, and even thought of plunging in, to assist the waters in their conquest, and share in their triumph. But his plans were otherwise formed;—and who does not prefer doing things in his own way? Aymor was accordingly permitted to land, and pursue his journey, while Chuheluh sought a fitting opportunity to consummate his purpose. As he kept at a little distance from the side of Aymor, concealing himself from observation by the shrubbery, and treading with a light feathery footstep, he came suddenly upon a squirrel seated upon its haunches, with its beautiful bushy tail curled over its back, busily engaged in gnawing out the kernel from a hickory-nut. So noiselessly had the savage approached, that he had almost grasped the animal before it discovered him. Dropping at the same moment both its brush and its hickory-nut, the squirrel tripped away in the direction of Aymor, and finding its enemies so thick about it, retreated precipitately up the large hickory tree, on whose fruit it had been regaling.
Chuheluh saw that Aymor was looking up after the squirrel, and concluded he was contemplating for the animal the same fate impending over himself. The delay thus produced was just sufficient for the purposes of the Fox, who hastened forward and threw himself where he supposed he must attract observation, in the position already described by Aymor, and counterfeited, with practised skill, the symptoms of death;—and we have already been informed what followed.
But Aymor was mistaken in the cause of Chuheluh's flight. The truth was, that he looked upon Aymor's fate as sealed, and having glutted his vengeance, had no desire to expose himself to any accountability, either to the whites or his own people, as a murderer, and, therefore, wished to be as far and as early removed as possible from the scene. But he was as much mistaken in his calculation, as Aymor in his conjecture, for the body of the squirrel had been as effectual in disarming the knife of its venom, as in shielding the heart of Aymor from its reach; and thus proved a defence in all respects as effectual as the fabled ægis of Minerva.
In sooth his form was free and bold,
And cast in nature's noblest mould.
* * * * * * * * * * *
But I had look'd to see as soon
Th' uncavern'd wolf, in frolic boon,
With bounding fawns unfeared agree,
As that between them love should be.
* * * * * * * * * * *
I chided and forbade—alas!
Too late to save my child it was.
CONTIGUOUS parts of the several States of North Carolina, Georgia, and Tennessee, from their long possession by the Cherokee tribe of Indians, have since the period of which we speak, been generally known by the name and style of the Indian Nation. Yet this was after the once boundless territory had been subjected to several of those paring processes, called treaties. At the time our story commences, the southern and western boundary was quite undefined; but within what has since been called the “Nation,” as well as the formerly limitless possessions of the Cherokees, lay the country to which Gideon Aymor was invited by the generous and hospitable hero of our story.
But to bring up all our characters as nearly as possible to the same point of time, before we accompany Gideon on his visit, we must return to the evening when, according to the story, John Welch ventured to ask Robert Aymor's approval of his passion for his daughter.
Aymor, as we have seen, was, in his way, a proud man, and, notwithstanding the great obligations he was under to a portion of that race, collectively he entertained towards the Indians the most deep rooted contempt and hatred. Nor was he at all singular in this. It will be found, we believe, among the whites generally, that with those whose minds have not been liberalized by education, or whose natural dispositions are not uncommonly noble, previous to much knowledge of Indian character, the prevalent feeling towards that people is one of apprehensive dislike, if not of shuddering horror—the result doubtless of the stories which almost all have heard from their infancy, of their ferocious cruelty and subtle vindictiveness. Those who, by familiar intercourse with them, have enjoyed opportunities of better knowledge, instead of that kindness, which is the ordinary effect of familiar intercourse between any two of the creatures of God, suffer a contempteous hatred to spring up. This circumstance presents, both to the divine and the philosopher, a theme for melancholy reflection. We strongly suspect that it is only to be accounted for by the fact, that such persons usually, like Aymor, are borderers, who make use of the advantages with which Providence has blessed them, not to improve the condition of their less favored brethren of the red skin—not to impart to them from their stores of knowledge, which, like the miraculous cruise of oil, suffer no diminution from pouring a portion of them out—not to shew them the way to individual comfort and collective prosperity—not to point them to the flowery path of virtue, and to those ways of pleasantness which are only to be found in the pursuits of piety, under the direction of a heaven-descended religion—but to cheat and defraud them of the little they have—and that they may fall the easier prey to their cupidity, so far from removing from their eyes the bandage of ignorance, they rather strive continually to thicken its folds—those things which might procure to them individual comfort and collective prosperity, as fast as they arise, are artfully abstracted, and the fascinations of vice are presented to their infatuated hearts, and, chiefly among these, the allurements of drunkenness—that practice most injurious to themselves, and best calculated to put them in the power of the spoiler. Obedient to a law of nature, which prescribes more bitter hatred from the inflicter of wrong towards him who suffers, than even that from the sufferer towards him who inflicts, they habitually hate whom they habitually wrong, and contempt is added for the stupidity which sees not, or the tame humility which suffers the wrong.
Nay more, the lands which the theoretic justice and liberality of the governments of the white people have secured to the exclusive possession of the Indians, bearing to the wide inheritance from which they have been driven, about the same proportion that the cloud seen by the servant of the Prophet, no larger than a man's hand, bore to the masses of vapor which immediately sprung up, and deluged the land of Israel, are stretched out before them. The native freshness of these lands is like that in which this whole continent was beheld by the first of its transatlantic visiters—trees are seen shooting high up among the clouds of heaven, while around their massy trunks luxuriant vines climb up and cling for support, bearing down their branches to the earth by the rich and ponderous clusters of their fruit—while beneath this covert the long rank grass spreads out its perennial verdure. These lands they look upon, from their impassible confines, as the Israelitish leader did from the top of Pisgah upon the rich valleys where dwelt the children of Edom—with a longing glance. But the laws of the country are strict, and highly penal, and no means of possessing them is allowed, but alliance by marriage with the despised race. Many, very many, comply with the desperate condition, but more sit like the vulture, watching the moment when some relaxation of the law shall invite them to the spoil, or until a provision in some treaty shall cause another removal of this treaty-tossed people, as that bird watches the extinction of the last spark of life from his destined prey. Meantime, protracted expectation, causes them to fret against the obstacle which opposes the gratification of their wishes, until they almost feel that the Indian is an intruder upon the soil of his nativity, and might justly be crushed like a reptile in their path, impeding their advance to fame and fortune.
In such a state of things who can wonder that Aymor was opposed to the marriage of his daughter with one of the Indian race? It is true, that for Welch individually, he even felt an attachment, and had scarcely once thought of his Indian blood, until it was forcibly presented to his consideration in that mental coup d'æil to which one is subjected with whom any important connection is proposed. He certainly had not been ignorant of the intimacy between the families, and he was not a man so little observant of nature, as to be unconscious of the probable effect of daily intercourse between two persons of their period of life, of opposite sexes, and, especially, when cut off, as it were, from the rest of the world, each was so highly gifted with those qualifications most likely to attract the other. But the truth is, like other men of a sanguine temperament, he was never disposed to believe what he did not wish to be true, and if the subject ever flashed across his mind he dismissed it at once, as one upon which he might never be called to decide: and therefore not being guarded by previous reflection, the whole magazine of his passions was exposed to ignition as soon as this subject was brought, like a sudden spark, in contact with it, and the effect has been already described. When the explosion was over, Reason, who, had she been consulted in time, might have prevented the mischief altogether, had nothing left to her but to regret those evils she could not repair, and apply herself to the hindrance of their farther spread.
It is the wont of every man who acts habitually under the restraint of reason, when he finds that a naturally hasty temper has triumphed for a time, like a tamed beast over the authority of its keeper, to retire alone until the monster returns to obedience, lest, in the mean time, he may do mischief which cannot be repaired. And this, Aymor, who was a philosopher in his way, practised on the present occasion, and went out as soon as he had sufficiently recollected himself to acquire composure, to think calmly over the subject; and not as Gideon feared, with any hostile intent towards Welch. The result was, that perceiving the strong attachment of his daughter, and considering the subject in all its bearings, he gradually became reconciled to, and at length even wished for that to which he had been so violently opposed.
Meantime Welch, writhing under the torture of disappointed love, and with the pride of his spirit wounded to agony, took the desperate resolution of forsaking those scenes which continually reminded him of his former happiness, and present disgrace and bereavement, with the protecting roof of those who had more than supplied to him the places of father and mother, and lose, amid the coarseness and ignorance of that people with whose blood he had been taunted, that refinement of character and sensibility of heart, which gave to his present distresses all their power over him. He could not, however, reconcile it to himself to depart without taking leave of his kind benefactors, but yielded not to their most earnest entreaties, an abandonment of his purpose, a promise of speedy return, or even the knowledge of his place of destination. Yet his own family and that of Aymor, though visited with some fears to the contrary, were disposed to consider his conduct as the waywardness of a boy, who had been crossed in love, and to believe that he would persevere in it only during the violence of the excitement which had caused its adoption. They therefore confidently expected, that in a few weeks at furthest, his rifle would again be heard waking up the echoes of the Homony. But, in his own mind, the purpose of Welch was firmly fixed, and he hastened on gloomily to its fulfilment.
For a considerable part of his way Welch had no difficulty in procuring every thing for his comfort, for at that period the white settlements, though thin, were at convenient distances, to meet his necessities with a ready supply, in a spirit of hospitality, that prominent virtue of border life. Indeed, the settlements had become so numerous, even on the western side of Pigeon River, that a court-house had been erected at a place called at first Mount Prospect, but which very soon afterwards acquired those additional constituents of a town—a tavern, a store, and a blacksmith's shop: and was yclept Waynesville, doubtless in honor of mad Anthony, and by the way of salutary admonition to the Indians in the vicinity not to provoke any more of those wholesome chastisements, which, in times past, that hero was wont to bestow upon the red skins.
Passing by Waynesville, a few hours walking carried Welch within the Indian country, as settled by the act of the Legislature of North Carolina, in 1783, and far out of sight of any dwelling of the whites. A new feeling of desolation came over the spirits of the young man when he had passed what he was told was the imaginary line separating the jurisdiction of civilized man from that of the savage—when he reflected that he was going into voluntary exile—from the dominion of those distinctly prescribed and well settled laws, under whose protection he had grown up from infancy to manhood, to yield himself to the capricious determinations of savage justice—from the endearments of tried friends, to the cold reception of strangers—that he had cast away a comfortable provision to him, as certain as a birth-right, and become a wandering dependant upon the charity of chance—that he had torn asunder cords of affection, as strong as blood commonly knows, and was going in a desperate search for the fountain by whose impurity the stream of his existence had been poisoned.
Reflections, such as these, must have damped the ardor of his advance, had not Pride whispered him, “Behind you is misery and disgrace,” and Hope sighed softly, “Before you—you know not what.” Thus spurred on and invited, he pressed forward, trusting much to accident—and casually falling in with an Indian, who led him hither and thither, according to his own business or caprice. Welch at length found himself at a place called Sugar Town.
We are apt to believe that the name of Sugar Town is an awkward corruption by the white people of Saga Town, for here, at the time we speak of, lived an ancient Indian, called Saga, or Prophet—that is, a sage or wise man, who was believed to possess most astonishing powers of prescience, and was of course looked up to with unbounded reverence and respect by the whole Cherokee public. On all extraordinary and solemn occasions he was the chief director of ceremonies, and answered in his various functions to the office both of priest and physician, as exercised among people more civilized. We think it probable that Sugar Town (or rather Saga Town) was early the chosen place of prophetic residence for the Valley Indians, and from thence took its name, being at a convenient site from whence official calls to any part of the Valley might be answered. For the Overhills and Middle Settlements, (the other great branches of the Cherokee family,) it is likely provision was made for their bodily and spiritual wants, by a Saga residing among themselves, while the Prophet of the Valley, from his central position, maintained over his brethren a kind of pre-eminence, and was, in all probability, supposed to be more deeply embued with the spirit of divination. However all this may have been, a famous prophet resided at the Indian village which has become known to the white people as Sugar Town, at the time the unfortunate Welch terminated at that place his wanderings for a season.
Welch had commenced inquiries with almost the first Indian he met, for a clue by which to ascertain the persons who had laid on him the burden of existence—but his inquiries had been hitherto altogether fruitless, and were continued with as little success after his arrival at Sugar Town. From day to day he purposed an application to the renowned Saga, but the accounts he heard of him filled him with a kind of superstitious awe, which caused the procrastination of what he determined shortly to perform. Upon his arrival at the village, destiny had conducted him to the house of the old chief, called Santuchee, or the Panther, where he was kindly received, and pressed to spread his blanket, as his home, and share the daily connehany. No offer could seem more opportune than such an one to a homeless wanderer, and was therefore gratefully accepted.
There were no tenants of the wigwam but the aged Panther, and his no less aged squaw, Wattuna, and notwithstanding it was the wigwam of the chief, there was an appearance of gloom and of decay about it, the evident effect of neglect, to be found no where else in the village. Dejection sat heavily upon the countenances of the aged couple, unbroken by the slightest or most ordinary expression of pleasure. This was not company in which a young man, bowed down with distresses of his own, would be likely to regain that mental quiet of which Welch was in pursuit, or in which he would speedily enjoy the sunshine of cheerfulness. A painful curiosity to know, and desire to console the afflictions of his benefactors, however, superseded in his mind, to a great extent, its own grievances, and became subjects of engrossing interest. But a sense of delicacy did not allow him to seek through the lips of strangers the private history of a family of which he had become a member; nor was he altogether willing, by addressing the parties themselves, to probe anew wounds which, though evidently not healed, had probably by time became partially callous. But he could not bear the gloomy silence that continually reigned in what was now his home, and finally determined, at all hazards, to penetrate the sad mystery.
The figurative language in which savages are wont to express themselves, has been a subject of remark and admiration to more polished nations, and has, as we conceive, been unjustly ascribed to something peculiar in the genius of the people. We are disposed to attribute it rather to the poverty of their language, than to any boldness or richness of conception in themselves. In a paucity of words, the speaker is necessarily compelled to use them frequently in a figurative sense, just as those who are thrown together without a common language, are driven to the use of signs. Let a man who is but little imaginative in the use of his own language, supposing it a pretty copious one, (English for instance,) have occasion to speak in one which, from its own barrenness, or his circumscribed knowledge of it, furnishes him with few terms, and his style will be changed at once into one bold, sententious, and figurative. Such was the case with Welch, as he addressed Santuchee in the Cherokee tongue.
“Why is my father sad?” he said, one day, addressing the Panther, “and why is there no sunshine in his countenance?”
“There is no sunshine in the sky of Santuchee,” replied the Panther, shaking his head mournfully—“the sun which once shone upon his path, has set.—For many moons has Santuchee sat in the cheerless shadow of the night.”
“The sun shall rise again upon the path of my father,” said Welch, “and the dark shadows of the night shall fade away.”
The old man suddenly rose up, and with a strength that almost made Welch cry out with pain, seized him by the wrist, and with the wild countenance of a maniac, looked him in the face. Welch was not a coward, yet he was alarmed, and like many others have done, both before and after him, heartily wished that he had not intermeddled officiously in other men's matters.
“Can the stranger,” said the old man, in a deep guttural voice, and with the emphasis of one who really sought information—“Can the stranger wake the sleep of the dead?”
Surprised and alarmed as he was, Welch answered with calmness, “That belongs alone to the Great Spirit.”
“Then say not,” replied the old chief, (and he made the frail cabin ring again with a frantic laugh, throwing from him at the same time with violence the arm of Welch,) “Then say not to Santuchee—his sun shall rise.”
He walked moodily back towards his seat, and threw himself upon it, like one yielding to despair.
For a moment Welch thought of prosecuting the matter no further, but the ice was now broken, and he hoped that the worst was over, and, besides, every motive that had stimulated him to the first onset, had, by the present result, been put into more lively action. He therefore proceeded after a short pause—
“The Great Spirit hath not left the world in darkness when the sun has set—look out upon the stars and the broad bright moon, how gloriously they sparkle upon the Tennessee waters—there may yet be light upon the path of my father, though the sun of his sky is hid in the grave.”
“There is no moon nor star in the sky of Santuchee,” said the old chief, with emotion, “Cheasquah was the only light of his eyes, or the warmth of his heart.”
“And tell me, my father,” continued Welch, “who was Cheasquah?”
“Dost thou ask me stranger,” said the old man, passionately, “dost thou ask me who was Cheasquah? Begone from my wigwam—it is but to mock the grief of his father that you tell him your ears are strangers to the fame of Cheasquah.—He was the warrior of his tribe,” he cried, with animation—“he flew with the wing of the bird in the chase—he was the lion in the battle”—but, resuming his melancholy tone of voice, “the Leech has sucked the life-blood of Santuchee, and the voice of the Bird no more gives its music to his ear.”
A kind of hysteric passion now seized upon Santuchee, which, as soon as it had passed away, was succeeded by a sound sleep. In the mean time Wattuna had been a perfectly passive listener to the conversation between Welch and her husband, and did not appear either alarmed or surprised at its effect upon the latter; but Welch had too much reason to be dissatisfied with the result of his experiment upon the old chief to renew it upon Wattuna, and was forced to content himself for the present with the information, that he was dwelling in the house of bereaved parents, without knowing how this misfortune had come upon them.
Days passed away, when Welch, finding himself alone with Santuchee, at some little distance from the village, prompted by a desire of carrying into execution a purpose he had formed, of becoming, by regular adoption, a member of his family, in despair of discovering that to which by nature he belonged, he addressed him as follows—
“Let my father adopt his son in the room of the lost Cheasquah. He will bend his head as low to the words of wisdom as if he were the child of his own blood. And now that the elder blossom is white on the head of Santuchee, and the marrow of strength is no longer in his bones, he will have a young warrior upon whose arm he may lean, to support the steps of his tottering age.”
The first expression of joy which Welch had ever seen light up the countenance of the Panther, now flashed across it—he regarded Welch for a moment with a look of complacency, then eagerly exclaimed—
“Will the young man avenge the blood of Cheasquah?”
The embarrassment of Welch was great upon this most unexpected question, and he was by no means ready with an answer satisfactory to himself. His mind glanced like lightning over the field of difficulties thus spread out before him, and a cold perspiration suffused his person. But this was no time for reflection—he had been the first to stir the subject, little conscious of the consequences to which it might lead; and it was not for him to leave unanswered a question provoked by himself, unless, indeed, he might avoid it, by asking another. This plan he adopted, and inquired with affected composure, “On whom should I avenge it?”
“On the accursed Leech,” replied the chief.
“And who is the Leech, my father?” continued Welch.
“He is one of the people of Eonee,” replied the Panther.
“Where is Eonee?” said Welch.
“Follow the waters of the Cowee,” said Santuchee, “and they will lead you to it.”
“How many moons have passed,” inquired Welch, “since the Leech shed the blood of Cheasquah?”
Santuchee held up his two hands for an instant, then touched with the fore-finger of his right hand the tips of each of the fingers, and the thumb of his left, and the little finger of the same a second time—“Sixty?” said Welch. Santuchee nodded assent—“And why,” continued Welch, “has vengeance slumbered until now?”
“Santuchee,” replied the chief, “was thirsty for vengeance, and for these many moons (holding up his hands as before, and then touching with his right forefinger the tips of the two middle fingers of his other hand,) he followed the Leech upon the mountains.—But the Leech was active, like the young stag, and the chill of age was in the blood of the Panther. The young man laughed at the gray haired warrior, and the spirit of Cheasquah rebuked his weakness.—Will the young man avenge the troubled spirit of Cheasquah?”
“Father!” replied Welch, “the Great Spirit is angry with those who spill the blood of his children. How then can I shed the blood of the Leech?”
“Did the Leech fear the anger of the Great Spirit when he poured out the blood of Cheasquah?” said Santuchee, reproachfully.
“The blood of the Leech cannot bring back Cheasquah to rejoice the spirit of his father,” said Welch.
“But it can refresh the spirit of Santuchee, which is thirsty for vengeance,” cried the old chief, passionately. “Its drops will be instead of the tears of Wattuna.—It can send the spirit of Cheasquah in peace to the hunting grounds of the blessed. Will the young man avenge for me the blood of Cheasquah?”
“Father,” said Welch, imploringly, “there is nothing that the young man would not gladly do for his father, but his hands are as yet unstained with the blood of his race;—then bid him not take away the life of the Leech.”
“Away!” said the old man, furiously, “Santuchee will have no son until Cheasquah is avenged.” So saying, he turned away from Welch, leaving him rooted to the spot in amazement and perplexity.
“Wretched man, that I am,” said the youth to himself, “why was I not contented with the quiet I enjoyed? why did I officiously arouse the sleeping lion?—My own rashness has driven me from my home—my ungrateful interference has disturbed the quiet of my benefactor—it has raised a storm to destroy my own hopes of repose, and wrecked the peace of those who had given me the protection of their roof.”
In self-reproaches, such as these, did Welch pass many minutes, ere he moved from the spot where Santuchee had left him.
—but who art thou,
Of foreign garb and fearful brow?
And what are these to thine or thee,
That thou shouldst either pause or flee?
He stood—some dread was in his face.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
THE concatenation in which misfortunes are generally found has been a frequent subject of remark, and has even grown into a proverb. It is not impossible, that what are commonly called misfortunes, are generally, in truth, the natural fruits of mismanagement, or imprudently indulged passion. If this be so, it is no way astonishing that the same imprudence or unskillfulness which produces one mishap, should be the parent of many. Yet it is very seldom that the victim of trouble is disposed to consider his own vices or foibles the causes of his griefs, but is rather inclined to look for them in some inscrutable purpose of Providence, marking him out for affliction and disappointment, and even believes, that for the accomplishment of his evil destiny, the laws of nature are sometimes changed or suspended.
Into a frame somewhat conformable to this last view, did the mind of Welch settle, after having exhausted itself in fruitless self-reproaches, as he walked gloomily from the scene of his last interview with Santuchee, regardless of the direction in which he might wander. He was unwilling to return to the wigwam of the Panther, where he doubted somewhat of the reception he might meet; and whatever might be the outward manner, he could scarcely expect a hearty welcome upon any other condition than that upon which he shuddered even to think. Besides, he dreaded a renewal of those solicitations in which now, that the ice was broken, there was great reason to apprehend the utmost perseverance. He dreaded them, both on account of their immediately distressing effect upon his moral sense, and the tendency they might possibly have ultimately to plunge him into a guilt, towards which he had never yet felt the slightest impulse; for he was not ignorant of the sapping operation of continued temptation or solicitation, upon the best principles. He therefore resolved to fly—though he knew not whither.
By a most unaccountable fatality he found himself at length walking with troubled steps upon the banks of the Cowee or Tennessee River. The murmur of the stream was soothing to his spirits, and seemed to invite him to bury in its bosom his worldly troubles. But Providence has mercifully ordained, that when the author of all Evil is permitted, under the pressure of heavy calamity, to whisper to the mind rebellious suggestions of suicide, there should generally be in the way of the otherwise facile listener, something in the accomplishment repugnant to a lesser instinct of nature, even when that master one, the horror of destruction, has been subdued. And so was it with Welch, who, however much he might have been disposed to lie down under the tempter's lullaby, upon some lonely couch, and forget all his sorrows in a sleep that was to know no waking, yet found something in the cold surface of a stream ruffled into waves, and along its edges crisped into ice by a bleak December blast, forbidding obedience to its own inviting murmurs, or the urgent promptings of despair. Thus attracted by one power, and repelled by another, he naturally took the intermediate direction, and unconsciously pursued along its side the seared leaves which the gusts of wind cast upon the surface of the stream, until he found himself in sight of Eonee. Here he bethought himself of renewing his search after his natural parents, and, among others, had occasional conversations with Eoneguski. But fate conducted him to the wigwam of Chuheluh as his place of residence while he remained in Eonee.
It has been already said, that, like many other men of less talent than himself, Chuheluh aspired to the highest office in the community to which he belonged, and like them, found it an indispensable means of success to traduce and endeavor to supplant those who stood higher than himself in public confidence. Among those most ardently attached to the family of the present chief of the Eonee, (being himself a member of it,) and one of those most active in countervailing the deceitful and traitorous practises of Chuheluh, and at the same time the most indefatigable and successful, was the Leech. He was therefore an object of especial hatred to Chuheluh, who was perfectly aware of Welch's recent residence at Sugar Town, and that he was there looked upon as already an adopted member of that community, and the son of their chief, and that it was daily expected Santuchee would, by some solemn and public act, indicate his desire that Welch might become his successor. This impression, although quite general, had not excited towards Welch, any ill-will in the bosoms of that people; it had, on the contrary, endeared him to them, and he was daily advancing in their esteem. Upon these circumstances, connected with others, as soon as Chuheluh found himself upon terms of intimacy with Welch, did he build the hope of being able to rid himself of his troublesome and hated foe, the Leech, without involving himself in the peril which might attend his destruction. Our acquaintance, the Fox, was now well stricken in years, nearly thirty having elapsed since we saw him, in the prime of life, struggling with Aymor.
A few days after Welch had taken up his residence, as the partaker of the hospitalities of his wigwam, they were alone together. “Chuheluh is wise,” said the Fox, “he hath seen many moons—his bosom keeps like the grave the secrets of his friend.”
He waited for an answer, but Welch made no reply.
“Chuheluh and the young man are one,” he continued, “he need not fear to trust him.”
Welch was still silent, naturally concluding that the Fox alluded to the causes of his coming to the Indian country, of which nothing could have induced him to speak. He did not for a moment suppose that the Fox had any allusion to the feud between Santuchee and the Leech. But that was, in truth, the subject in which the Fox just then felt an interest above every other, and from the first had suspected that Welch had come to Eonee for the purpose of avenging the quarrel of his adopted family.
“My brother need not wear the veil in the presence of Chuheluh,” he once more proceeded. “The eye of Chuheluh is keen, and he sees into the hearts of men.—But my brother need not fear, for Chuheluh loves not the Leech.”
“John Welch and the Leech are strangers,” replied Welch.
“But Chuheluh will point him out to my brother,” replied the Fox.
“John Welch cares not to see the Leech,” he said.
“Why will my brother seek to deceive Chuheluh?” asked the crafty Fox.—“He came here to avenge upon the Leech the blood of Cheasquah, and Chuheluh is wise, and will give him counsel.”
“You would not counsel me to take the life of one of your own people?” said Welch, artlessly.
“Is not the blood of Cheasquah—of your brother—on his hand?—Chuheluh reverences the laws of his people.”
“Of what law do you speak?” inquired Welch.
“That,” replied Chuheluh, “which says to the warrior—Your brother is dead—the murderer is before you;—which says “Avenge the blood of your brother, or you are a woman.
“Is such the law of the Oewoehee?” said Welch, with mingled surprise and concern.
“It is,” replied the Fox, “and Chuheluh knows that his brother is brave, and will not let the women point at him and say, where is the blood of Cheasquah?”
“But why,” inquired Welch, anxious to avoid the point upon which Chuheluh was pressing him, “why has not the blood of Cheasquah been avenged long since?—It is many moons since he ceased to live.”
“Because the vengeance of the Panther wanted wings to bear it,” replied the Fox, “and because his eye no longer looked keenly along the barrel of his rifle.”
“And why did not some of the people of Sugar Town lend to their aged chief their swiftness and strength?”
“Because it was the son of their chief who was slain, and it was his right to avenge the deed, and none of his people dared to move until he said—Go!”
“And why did not Santuchee say to some of them, Go?”
“That,” said Chuheluh, “you might ask Santuchee, but I doubt not that he waited for an adopted son to avenge the blood of his brother. And John Welch hath come, for he is the adopted son of Santuchee.”
“By the white man's law,” said Welch, “none may take away the life of his brother, but by the word of a Skiagusta. And they teach that the Great Spirit is angry if he does.”
“And is my brother governed by the laws of the cowardly pale faces? Let not my brother say so. The blood of Cheasquah cries to him for vengeance—the dark soul of Santuchee appeals to him in melting accents—and the tears of Wattuna fall warm upon his feet.”
A groan of agony now burst from the bosom of Welch, and the Fox, startled by it, turned upon him a countenance of amazement. But immediately comprehending the nature of the struggle in his mind, “My brother,” said he, “is sick—to-morrow I will go with him to the Saga, at Sugar Town, and he will heal my brother.”
Desperate as this hope was, Welch had heard of the wisdom and reputed goodness of the Saga, as well as the terrors of savage conjuration, in which he was wont to array himself, and therefore instantly resolved to make him the confident of his difficulties, with the hope that he would point out to him some way of escape: and, at the same time, fulfil his procrastinated purpose of seeking from him information concerning his parentage.
“It is well,” said Welch, “we will go to the Saga.”
“Chuheluh does not willingly leave his sick brother,” said the Fox, “but he cannot be with him again until to-morrow, when he will guide his footsteps to the Prophet and Medicine. But my brother will be safe in the wigwam of Chuheluh, and let him think upon his words, for Chuheluh is wise.”
Leaving John Welch, fevered both in mind and body, Chuheluh hastened, by a circuitous route, lest observation might defeat his purpose, to the residence of the Prophet, which was in one of the very outer wigwams of the village of Sugar Town. It was about sunset when he arrived, and knocking at the door, was admitted by a negro lad, the property of the Saga, apparently about fifteen years of age. This boy had been purchased as one possessing qualifications, or rather disqualifications, which rendered him peculiarly apt for the service of a juggler, in which secrets might come into his possession for the keeping of which it was important there should be the best security. Nature had, it seemed, denied to him the power both of speech and of hearing. Yet, although he uttered no articulate sounds, he had many others at command, which habit had enabled him to make, by the use of particular muscles, and to regulate their kind and intensity. It may be, that one, unable to hear the voices of others, may yet have the auditory nerve sufficiently sensitive to be conscious of sounds uttered by himself. Whether this be so or not, upon a sign made to him by his master, this boy was capable of sending forth sounds bearing a strong resemblance to the cries and other noises made by several of the brute animals, so as to deceive a very intelligent listener. Besides this, he seemed to have an intuitive perception, upon the most cursory view, of those persons whom his master would be willing to see in dishabille, as well as those for whom it was necessary that the note of preparation should be sounded. As soon, therefore, as he perceived that it was Chuheluh who asked admittance, a significant gesture, and a wider spread of the humble portal, invited him to enter.
Chuheluh was not backward in accepting the courtesy of the sable porter. He found the Prophet stretched at full length upon a pile of blankets and buffaloe skins—his left elbow resting upon it, with the arm and hand elevated, supporting his head. His weather-beaten face was seamed with the furrows of age—his eyes were dim, though not altogether sightless; and his face, which time had reduced to an almost negro blackness, strikingly contrasted with long straight locks, of snowy whiteness. His frame was large and well knit together, and his extreme leanness would have shewn to the skilful anatomist, without the assistance of the knife, each muscle, fibre, and ligament of his body.
“What does Chuheluh require of Susquanannacunahata?” said the Saga.
“The son of the Saga has business with his father,” replied Chuheluh.
“The hand of time is heavy on Susquanannacunahata, he needs repose,” said the Prophet.
“Is my father sick?” inquired the Fox.
“Age is a perpetual sickness, and Susquanannacunahata is old. Have I not already told you that you shall be the chief of the Eonee, when Eonah shall go to his last sleep, whither he is hastening. Why would you harass one already oppressed with infirmities?”
“It is not of the chieftainship of the Eonee, or the death of Eonah, that I would now speak with you,” said Chuheluh.
“It is well,” said the Saga, apparently gratified with the prospect of some other subject, “say on; the ears of Susquannacunahata are open.”
“A young man has come,” said Chuheluh, “from the settlements of the pale faces, and has spread his blanket in the wigwam of Santuchee.”
The Saga was agitated, as if fearing to learn something that might affect him injuriously. “It is true,” he replied, after a pause; and searching with his dim eye the countenance of Chuheluh, as if to read his thoughts—“He is the adopted child of Santuchee.”
“He comes to-morrow that he may hear words of wisdom from the Saga.—There is a cloud upon his soul,” said Chuheluh.
The Saga became more agitated.—“What would the young man know of the Saga?” he stammeringly inquired.
“You remember,” replied Chuheluh, “that the blood of Cheasquah, the young warrior of Sugar Town, is on the hand of the Leech?”
“I know it,” replied the Saga, breathing freer, as if relieved of a burden.
“The young man,” continued the Fox, “would be the adopted son of Santuchee, and yet would dance together with the Leech, the dance of friendship, when the green corn is gathered.”
“He is a woman,” said the Saga, emphatically.
“It is enough,” said Chuheluh, “to-morrow when the sun shall come with its light to Eonee, Chuheluh and the young man will set out for the wigwam of the Saga, and he shall speak words of wisdom to the young man.”
“It is enough,” replied the Prophet, and Chuheluh departed.
It did not escape the observation of Wissa, or the Cat, (for that was the name borne by the slave, probably in allusion to his activity and slyness,) that Chuheluh had left his master much more excited and restless than he was wont to be from the calls of ordinary visiters, but his thoughts respecting it were, for very sufficient reasons, locked, for the present, within that narrow region of mysteries—his own heart.
We have sometimes thought that the practice of thinking aloud, otherwise called soliloquizing, is much more prevalent with children and persons in advanced life, than those in whom the natural powers are in maturity and vigor. On some other occasion, we may, perhaps, account for, and defend the existence of this phenomenon, but, for the present, we will content ourselves with barely stating it as a fact. Whether correct in it or not, as a general proposition, the Saga of Sugar Town furnishes an instance of a very aged man, who was in the habit, when he supposed himself alone, of speaking aloud what was passing in his mind. It was probably in part for this very reason that he selected, as an attendant, one of whose services he might avail himself, while his infirmity of deafness would relieve him from all fear of ill consequences from his habit of conversing with himself. One instance of his indulgence in this propensity occurred as soon as Chuheluh had left him.
“The boy yet lives,” he said, “blooming like the bay flower, whom Soquilla gave to the fire-god's breath. Soquilla loved—the Great Spirit saw the heart of Soquilla, and knows that he loved fiercely the niece of Toleniska. The pale face came, and spoke soft words to the niece of Toleniska, and she became his wife. But Soquilla was avenged.—He gave to the fire-god the child of the pale face and the niece of Toleniska; and they thought that the long-knives of the white men had drank his blood.—Since then the niece of Toleniska has sat in sadness, and Soquilla has said—Revenge is sweet. But the child of the pale face and the niece of Toleniska, escaped from the embrace of the fire-god, and the boy has come again.—But he must not see the niece of Toleniska, nor bring gladness to her heart. He shall make his hands red with the blood of the Leech, and fly far away from the vengeance of the Eonee, and the night shall be dark in the heart of the niece of Toleniska—because she despised the love of Soquilla.”
These words were overheard by his late artful visiter, who had lingered near the wigwam, and they conveyed to him intelligible information.
It was but a short time before day when Chuheluh regained his wigwam, and hastened to seek that repose for which the fatigues, induced by his journey, had so well prepared him. Meantime Welch was tossing about, and courting, in vain, the solace of sleep and relief from the cares which pressed upon his mind.—He had not the slightest purpose of consummating the bloody deed to which he had been so strongly urged, from quarters so unexpected, but wished, if possible, to avoid it, without having any cause to reproach himself with ingratitude to Santuchee, or any loss of fame amongst his new associates; and his great object in visiting the Saga was obtaining such counsel as might reconcile these conflicting difficulties. Having fixed upon this source, as one from which he hoped to derive comfort, Welch could obtain no rest of body or quiet of mind until he should see the result of his expedition. The Fox accordingly found him ready, as soon as his own habitually short slumber had been completed, to set out for Sugar Town.
And one there was, around whose limbs was coil'd
The scaly skin of a snake despoil'd;
The jaws by his cheeks that open stood
Seem'd clogg'd and dripping yet with blood.
ONE generation of men treat as the most childish follies the superstitions of another, while, in every bosom, in some form or other, this mysterious counterfeit of true Religion has erected her altar, and relentlessly demands some mark of homage. Her exactions are increased according to the obedience of the worshipper, and, while none have the strength effectually to escape her dominion, others are found in different degrees of servitude, until, steeped in blood and writhing in misery, the most degraded of her slaves pay to her their ceaseless and maddening devotions. John Welch was neither the most abject slave of superstition, nor yet one of those who could boast the greatest exemption from her influence. While, therefore, he was far from acknowledging the extravagant pretensions made for the Saga, to preternatural power, it was not without a painful feeling of awe, approaching to fear, that he contemplated an interview with this extraordinary personage.
It was near meridian, when, in company with Chuheluh, Welch reached the house of the Saga, the door of which was closed, both on account of the weather and the custom of the Prophet at every season. A gentle rap from Chuheluh was sufficient to cause the door to open slowly, and the sly countenance of Wissa to peer from behind it. A single look was enough to remove the doubts which, it may be supposed, dictated the cautious proceeding of Wissa, for he at once threw the door wide on its clumsy hinges, and signed to them to enter. Chuheluh yielded precedence to Welch as a stranger, who started back in amazement at the wild uncouth object, which would have been sufficiently striking, even when surrounded by all the wonders of an European or Asiatic metropolis, and was, of course, tenfold more horrible in an Indian wigwam.
The vatican seat on which the Saga had placed himself, was a high-backed split-bottomed chair, so far as Welch was able to judge from the very small portion of it unconcealed by the envelopments and appendages about the sacred person. The snow white hair of the Prophet hung long and straight over his dark brown cheeks and brow wrinkled by time and passion, and in combination with his general emaciation, his dull rhuemy eyes, withered skinny lips, and almost toothless gums, gave to him a look altogether spectral. These appearances about the head and face were not rendered more agreeable by the accoutrement of the other parts of his person. Around his shoulders was thrown, somewhat after the manner of a Spanish cloak, the shaggy skin of a buffaloe, fastened around his neck by tying together the skins of the two fore legs, to which the hoofs had been left hanging down in front, as in mockery of ornament; an effect correspondent to which was produced by the tail and the skins of the two hind legs pendent in like manner from the other extremity. His breast and the fore part of his body, as far down as the middle, was covered with a thick coat of birds' feathers, of various colors, which adhered as if owing their unusual location entirely to nature. An asenoge, or petticoat, formed of an Indian or negro blanket, depended from thence some distance below his knees, and all of it, except two black stripes usually found near the ends of blankets of that description, and now constituting a sort of border around the tail of the asenoge, was dyed of a deep scarlet color. The top part was ingeniously appended to the stuffed skins of two large spotted serpents, of the kind vulgarly called the king snake, the necks of which being tyed together in front, confined it to its place, while the heads hung before with their red mouths wide open, disclosing their fangs and forked tongues, and their small eyes glistening with the malicious fire of life. This garment, probably, had some connection with the name of the Prophet, which was Susquanannacunahata, or the Long Blanket.
Like Laocoon's, the body of the Saga was in wreathed in the folds of two prodigious serpents, of the constrictor species, which, creeping around him in opposite directions, and passing over his shoulders, peered out from beneath his rough tunic, with their fiery malignant eyes, and their deep red throats fearfully distended, as if to swallow any one who ventured to approach. At the same time their forked tongues were alarmingly projected, while hisses, loud and incessant, filled the apartment, mingled with that horrific sound, conceivable only by those who have heard it made by the rattlesnake with his characteristic appendage. To complete the equipment of the Saga, nothing further need be mentioned, save that his lower extremities were encased in the common buck-skin leggins and moccasins of the Indian, while, to exclude the idea of his power of doing mischief being altogether imaginary, a rifle of most extraordinary length and size was leaning beside him.
Welch looked round, with the purpose of retreat, and found himself alone in the wigwam with this vision of terror. To add to his painful situation, numbers of the smaller objects of human aversion, such as the lizard, the toad, the newt, the spider, the ear-wig, the earth worm, the snail, and bugs and other insects of various sorts and sizes, were creeping about the wigwam. In none of them, it was true, did the principle of life seem very active: they had evidently been roused into partial sensibility from the torpor proper to their natures at that season. But it was impossible to say how much farther the terrible being might go, who had already so far triumphed over the laws of nature, should it suit his purposes. A cold shuddering sensation passed over Welch, when he perceived that the door was fastened, and, as he did not discover how, there was a distressing apprehension that any attempt he should make to open it might be altogether fruitless.
Meantime, the hissing and rattling which had subsided for an instant, burst forth with augmented shrillness. He knew not what to do, and doubted whether to speak or remain silent. Another dying fall was coming on in the inharmonious music, when the Prophet began to rock himself from side to side in his chair, with the regularity of a pendulum, and to chaunt a wild strain, which, as we are no admirers of rhythm, without rhyme, we have endeavored to paraphrase, as follows:—
Dark shadows o'er the Saga's soul
Pass like the clouds athwart the sky;
The future, like a written scroll,
He reads with dim prophetic eye.
Mortal, wouldst thou secrets know,
By the Great Spirit darkly trac'd;
Come, while the Saga's pale lips flow
With words prophetic.—Mortal haste.
Haste; nor fear the hissing snake,
The lizard, toad, nor swelt'ring newt;
The winds of Heaven now fiercely shake
The tree where hangs instruction's fruit.
Come, gather the fruit as it falls to the ground;
While wisdom is speaking, come list to the sound;
The Saga's soul swells with a thought full of fear—
'Tis of that idle mortal thou waitest to hear.
Cast a look on thy hand, thou wilt see it blood red;—
Beside thee, a son of Eonee lies dead;
The deed is inscribed in the record of fate—
That deed must be finished—then why dost thou wait?
But hark! the wild spirit of Cheasquah cries out
Like a joyful young brave, with his fierce battle shout;
He spreads out his wings for the land of the blest,
In glory to join with his fathers at rest.
The soul of Santuchee no longer bends low;—
His hand once again rests in strength on his bow;
The tears which Wattuna wept warm o'er her son
Have ceas'd; and smiles follow, for vengeance is done.
If Welch was painfully affected by what he saw and heard previously, what a vast increase of distress must he have experienced, when, hearing this unearthly being chiming in with Santuchee and Chuheluh, and urging him to the commission of a deed against which all his feelings revolted? Nor was it less appalling to find the thoughts of his heart, thus known and alluded to, without either question or prompting. He threw himself at the feet of the Saga—“Dread Being,” he exclaimed, “tell me, I adjure you, by what means the secrets of my heart have been laid open, and how you became acquainted with the subject upon which I have come to apply to you for counsel?”
The Prophet paused for a moment, as if to recollect himself, and then commenced rocking to and fro, as before, when the poetic tide began again to flow:—
Spirit who waits on the Saga's call,
Come, oh come, from thy cloudy hall,
And tell to the mortal, who asks to know,
Who secret things to the Seer doth show?
There was a pause of a moment, and a voice in another tone and manner responded:—
The naked Spirit flies through ocean, earth, and skies;
It rides upon the storm in a cherub's viewless form;
In the zephyr's gentle breath it sweeps o'er hill and heath;
In the sun's meridian ray, unseen, it loves to play;
In the silver moon-beam bright it joys to sport at night;
There is nothing done by men without the Spirit's ken;
And all it swiftly bears to the ancient Saga's ears.
“Trifle not with the credulity of a poor mortal,” said Welch; “drive him not to madness, by filling his soul with thy terrors. I came not to consult the powers of an invisible world, but to bow before one of my own race, to whom age hath given wisdom, and ask his advice in matters by which I am greatly perplexed.”
The Saga was now still, and his lips appeared not to move, but Welch distinctly heard, as if it proceeded from his chest, what follows:—
Wretch profane! who dares to tread
The sacred floor, where Spirits walk;
Ruin hovers o'er thy head,
As, o'er the bird, the famished hawk.
Hence! nor tempt the Saga's rage;—
Question not his magic pow'r;
Wisdom falls from lips of age;
This is inspiration's hour.
Hence! nor dare to question more;
Thou hast heard the doom of fate;
Pass again the charmed door;
Let thy bosom swell with hate.
Vengeance to thy bosom take—
Cherish her with pious care;
Thoughts congenial there awake;
For deeds of blood thy soul prepare.
Grasp the rifle—bare the knife;
Take the war-club, stain'd with gore;
Wait not for the equal strife,
But quickly say, “He lives no more.”
Then fly thee again to the white man's home,
Where the red man's vengeance dare not come;
And there, in gloomy patience wait
What more remains of the doom of fate.
“Is pity to be found no where?” said Welch, plaintively. “In the land of the white man the ministers of the Great Spirit are ever the friends of peace, and to them I have heard, the distressed and broken-hearted never apply in vain for consolation. Does not the Great Spirit demand peace among the red men, as well as among the white? And ought not the prophets of the red men, like the priests of the white, to be a refuge from the evil spirit, when he whispers thoughts of darkness to the soul of the unhappy?”
The Saga once more began to rock himself, and speak to the effect following:—
Come lion spirit, come and pour—
In fierce wild torrents bid them roll—
Thoughts, which shall valor rouse once more
Upon the trembling coward's soul.
All fill'd with passions fierce and bold,
Give him again the red man's heart;
Or press the drop out pale and cold
Infus'd there by the white man's art.
The hoarse growl of a lion now seemed to come from beneath the seat of the Saga, and again, while he forbore to rock himself, and his lips were motionless, words to the following effect proceeded from his chest:—
In haste from distant lands I come,
Obedient to the Saga's call;
I leave my sandy desert home
To loose thee Valor from thy thrall.
Come, rouse thee from thy leaden sleep;
Let pale-faced Fear before thee fly;
Let Mercy cease weak tears to weep;
No more in rest inglorious lie.
Why should the women raise the song,
And taunting ask, where Cheasquah lies;
“Squaws only to his race belong,”
They sing; “his blood for vengeance cries.
“Cheasquah can never chase the deer—
“A spirit o'er the Elysian plains,
“Until a fierce young brave appear,
“Who boasts his blood within his veins.
“Henceforth will ne'er be seen again
“Santuchee's blood in war or chase;
“No Indian maid will ever deign
“To match with his degraded race.”
“This is too much,” said Welch, rising from his recumbent posture.—“You will drive me to madness.”
The hissing and rattling now recommenced with increased fury, and, intermingled with them, were articulate sounds, which appeared to come from a distance.
From the wizard's home!
Or the brave, there come.
But slaves like thee,
With a white man's heart,
He scorns to see;
So in haste depart.
The Saga's scorn
Henceforth shall pursue,
From e'en to morn,
Such a wretch as you.
The door opes wide—
Thy doom is tri'd;
Then why dost thou stay?
The door grated on its hinges, and, hopeless of gathering any thing comfortable, Welch, in obedience to the intimation he had received, retreated from the wigwam, like many wiser men, with his malady much increased through the unwise means to which he had resorted for a cure. He had scarcely passed the threshold of the Prophet's residence, with trembling knees and tottering footsteps, when a heavy and unusually long war-club, apparently cast away by accident, invited him to take it up, as a support in walking. He accepted the invitation, and with a countenance wildly staring, passed on, he knew not whither. His mind had been too deeply agitated to think of inquiries concerning his parentage, and was now so unsettled as to be scarcely conscious of the absence of his companion Chuheluh. But he had not proceeded far, when he discovered him in conversation with another Indian, and both were evidently much excited. Welch was naturally attracted towards them, and, as he approached, heard the Fox saying—“Chuheluh is old, and the Leech is yet in the prime of life.—Would the Leech slay Chuheluh, as he did Cheasquah?”
“What is Cheasquah to you?” said the Leech: “Art thou not an Eonee, base wretch as thou art? Let any of the race of Cheasquah,” continued the excited Indian, “ask the Leech for his blood—he is ready to answer him;” looking fiercely towards John Welch.
“I am here,” said Welch, in a state approaching the very confines of madness, “and I belong to the race of Cheasquah.”
“Liar!” said the Leech, “thou art one of the pale faces; the race of Santuchee are women; but I despise a pale face more than a woman.”
“Dost thou despise me?” said Welch; “Dost thou despise the gray hairs of Santuchee?”
“I do,” replied the Leech.
“It is enough!” said Welch.—“It is mine to take vengeance for the blood of Cheasquah, and for the wrong done to the gray hairs of Santuchee.”
He slung the war-club with his whole force, and the Leech lay at his feet weltering in blood.
Welch stood petrified with horror, like Cain, the first murderer, when Heaven's vicegerent in his own bosom, demanded of him, in those accents more awful than the vollied thunder, “Where is thy brother?”
There was commotion in Sugar Town. Its inhabitants ran together to the bloody scene, and amongst them came a young female, in affright and agony of spirit. She ran to the dying man—threw herself on the ground beside him, and placed his head upon her lap—she called wildly his name, and anon entreated him in the most moving accents, to speak to her. But alike vain were both her cries and her intreaties—a seal had been placed upon those lips, which even the spell of love could not remove. Nothing was left to the poor Indian maiden but to use all her simple art to smooth the passage of the spirit of her young warrior from its bloody tenement. The crowd of spectators were gratified by that deed of blood which was not to many of them entirely unexpected, and by which a long desired revenge was accomplished. But the joy which lighted up all other countenances, kindled not in the heart of the desolate maiden, who ever and anon tenderly wiped away from the lips of the dying man the bloody froth which bubbled from between them. For Welch, therefore, there seemed little cause to apprehend immediate ill consequences for what he had done; but far other thoughts than those of present personal danger weighed upon his heart, and banished every purpose of flight.
How long he would have remained like a fixed statue, contemplating the dying agonies of the Leech, it is impossible to say; but he was waked from his reverie by Chuheluh, entreating him earnestly to fly. “The avenger of blood is behind you,” he said, “and will soon be upon you—fly then, while the cry of the hunter is yet at a distance.—Fly,” continued he, “to the white settlements, for there is no more safety for Welch among the Cherokees.”
Chuheluh was confident that the bereaved maiden would be anxious, as soon as the life had departed from the Leech, to put some avenger upon the track of the slayer, and dropped the last expression as a ruse, for he was far from designing that Welch should fly to the white settlements. Meantime he continued to lead him away, until they were out of sight of Sugar Town, when he took a direction precisely opposite to that he had indicated. They were scarcely gone, before the arrival of Eoneguski, whose part in the matter has been already described by himself.
We have thus seen several persons variously contributing to bring Welch into his present difficulty, but they were all actuated by different motives. Santuchee disclosed his in the very act of soliciting Welch to the deed of blood—a sincere and undisguised desire to be revenged on the murderer of his son, as well in obedience to the dictates of untutored nature, as a sense of duty, according to the notions concerning it in which he had been brought up. The Prophet had motives personal to himself, in desiring to have Welch expelled from the Indian country, and gladly laid hold of the occasion presented, of exerting all his skill as a conjurer, to spur him on to the perpetration of a deed which would probably cause his death, or compel him to fly from the Indian country. Chuheluh wished the death of the Leech, for reasons which have been already mentioned, and, in the advancement of his purpose, had used Welch as an instrument, and taken every means in his power to fashion him to the end. It was for this, after having exhausted upon him all his own artful logic, that he brought him within reach of the fascinations of the Saga. He designedly suffered Welch to precede him on their arrival at the wigwam, knowing that he himself would be excluded upon the entrance of the first visiter. If the Saga succeeded in affecting the mind of Welch, according to his hopes and expectations, the Fox was fully aware of the advantage to be derived from the readiness of a suitable weapon, and accordingly placed the war-club in the tempting situation in which it was found by Welch. This he did, anticipating what happened most favorably for the plans of the tempters of the unfortunate man, that the Leech was attracted to Sugar Town, on this very day, by his ill-fated attachment to the girl whom we saw administering to him, with so much solicitude, in his death struggle. Their affection was mutual, and had been of long standing, but Cheasquah had also been a suiter to the maiden, and was the favorite of her parents, as the only son of Santuchee, their chief, and the probable heir of his property and honors. This rivalry made the two suiters prompt to engage in a quarrel, which terminated fatally for Cheasquah, and stirred up a vengeance no less fatal to the other: and thus did the poor girl prove the innocent cause of the death of both her lovers.
The death of Cheasquah had of course interrupted all correspondence between the Leech and his sweetheart, but they had recently renewed it with increased tenderness. They flattered themselves that the cloud which had hung so long and threateningly over their prospects, had passed away—that age had extinguished the fire of Santuchee, and that no one else, since so many moons had gone by, would care to avenge the blood of Cheasquah. Filled with these cheering hopes, the Leech was making his way to the object of his love, when he met with the Fox, with whom we have already seen he was at perpetual strife. The Fox hailed the expected and auspicious event, and contrived to provoke the Leech, by referring to the arrival of an avenger for the slaughtered Cheasquah. Insulting language passed between them, and they had both become much excited when the Fox perceiving Welch approaching, in a state bordering on madness, adroitly brought back the conversation to the death of Cheasquah. The Leech had heard of the adopted son of Santuchee, and the speculations idly bandied about, that he might attempt the long deferred vengeance of his family, and accordingly bore himself towards him with that appearance of bullying contempt, so natural to the situation in which he was placed, and thus brought on a catastrophe which might otherwise have been avoided.
* * * * * * * * * * *
A price upon his houseless head.—
Oh! his are wrongs, that, but with death
From burning memory can depart;
All the pure waters of the faith
Could wash them ne'er from human heart.
IT is consolatory to believe that there is truth in that beautiful sentence in Byron, “None are all evil,” &c.; and that, amid the rank weeds of depravity, by which many hearts are overrun, there is always some flower of excellence flourishing in unusual beauty. Man is not like the devils, given over to unqualified depravity; he is only “very far gone from original righteousness;” and, in the confusion of his moral wreck, there are here and there some rich portions of the property of Heaven, with which his vessel was in the beginning so abundantly freighted.
Chuheluh was ambitious and vain, vindictive, dishonest, and artful, but he was brave, and would undergo no less toil and danger to discharge an admitted debt of gratitude, than he would to resent an injury he had either sustained or imagined. Having therefore achieved his object through the instrumentality of Welch, he was seriously desirous to avert from his instrument the more immediate and dangerous consequences of his act, and was accordingly conducting him towards the Unaka, or Unacoy Mountain, with the intention of finding a retreat for him at old Chota, among the Overhill Cherokees. They had not progressed far, however, before the mind of Welch began to act for itself, and a longing desire seized upon it to return to the scenes of his childhood, and he felt that his conscience would be eased of half its burden, and his person relieved from more than half its danger, if he could once more breathe an atmosphere sanctified by the presence of Atha Aymor.
“Chuheluh is leading John Welch,” he first broke silence, “where his back is upon the mid-day sun,”—pointing at the same time towards the south—“he must go in that direction in which his face will meet it as it rises in the morning, over the Cowee Mountain.”
“Why will the young man throw away his life?” replied the Fox. “Did I not say that Chuheluh is wise?—he will lead the young man to a place of safety.”
“There is but one place of safety for John Welch,” he said, “and that is far away over the Cowee Mountain.”
“Thither the men of Eonee will pursue thee,” replied the Fox, “and the young man will fall by their rifles, as the deer which bounds among the cliffs, thoughtless of danger; but let my brother follow the steps of Chuheluh, and he will lead him where he may lie down like the cautious stag, among the thick woven ivy, where the keen eye of the hunter cannot pierce.”
“John Welch is the stag, in whose side the arrow of the hunter is already fastened; he pants for the cool streams of his far away home; let him take a last refreshing draught from their limpid currents, and lie down beside them and die.”
“Let cowards die!” said the Fox; “but John Welch is a brave man, and he will fight against death like another enemy, and when he can resist him no longer, then, and not till then, will he give up and say—I am not afraid.”
“It is not the fear of death which is heavy on my soul,” replied Welch; “I fear the Great Spirit, it is true, but he knows the hearts of his children, and will pity them. But I have done wickedly, and the faces of those I love will be dark when they hear it. I will go back to them and ask their forgiveness and die.”
Long and warm was the struggle between the Fox and his protégé; the former to prevent, and the latter to urge, his return to the settlements. At length Welch remarked, “I must go.—It was the word of the Prophet, who bade me slay the Leech, that I should fly to the home of the white man, and there I should be safe from the vengeance of the red. Urge me no further, it is my fate.”
“It is enough,” said the Fox, “Go!—Let us obey the voice of the Great Prophet, for he utters words of wisdom! But you go not alone. Chuheluh will guide your returning footsteps to the white settlements, and you shall be safe from the Eonee, for Chuheluh is wise.”
They now turned hastily in a direction nearly at right angles with the one they had been pursuing, the Fox leading, and Welch closely following him. Little discourse, however, passed between them, each being seemingly engaged in his own reflections, until the sun began to sink behind the Nantahala Mountains. As its broad red disk rested for an instant upon the very summit of the ridge, it caught the eye of Welch, and a deep sigh escaped him.
“The thoughts of my brother are sad,” said the Fox, stopping suddenly, and looking full upon him.
“They are sad,” replied Welch—“For the first time you sun is leaving John Welch to the gloom of a night whose shades are thickened by the consciousness of guilt. This morning I welcomed him as a visiter from the land of shadows, full of the smiles of love and happiness, sent by the Great Spirit to his children. Now he is bearing back those treasures in seeming sadness, and leaving desolate that world which was unworthy to enjoy them, and especially from me—wretched me—to whom they may never return. This morning its beams were reflected by the cheerful glances of the Leech and the Indian maiden, full of the happy thought that his rays would light them to each other. Now they fall upon the heavy sightless lids of the Leech, and the dark tearful lashes of the maiden. To-morrow he will come again, but he will bring no joy to the eye of the maiden—no warmth to the heart of the Leech. He will chase away the shadows of the night, which are now gathering around us, but he will not chase away the shadows of guilt—he will not bring again the light of innocence to the heart of John Welch.”
“Umph,” said the Fox, contemptuously, and walked on.
There was a religious pathos in the language of Welch, the Fox did not exactly comprehend, and he was provoked to see that Welch was so obstinately bent upon being miserable, while he was industriously engaged in providing for his safety. Besides, it was a cutting reproof to himself, as the principal author of this complicated ruin, over which Welch was so feelingly lamenting.
When it was quite dark they found themselves in the midst of a thick morass, where the evergreens, clustering around and amongst the close growth of other timber now stripped of its foliage, furnished a tolerable nocturnal retreat from pursuit, however illy it might have served that purpose in the day time.
“Here,” said the Fox, “we are not far from Eonee. We shall require meal and a gourd—Chuheluh will go and fetch them—Let the young man wait his return.”
“Will you not betray me to the Eonee?” inquired Welch, anxiously.
“Why should I?” replied the Fox; “have I not told you I loved not the Leech?”
So saying, he waited not a reply from Welch, whom he left in no enviable condition, either of mind or body. Standing in a cold marshy piece of ground, (the dampness of which to be sure was somewhat diminished by its partially frozen state,) oppressed with the consciousness of a crime to which he had been most strangely and fatally lead—without security that one of those who had been most instrumental in leading him to its perpetration, would not avail himself of his power of betraying him into the hands of those who were probably already in pursuit, with purposes of vengeance—exposed to the accidental encounter of some human wanderer, whose curiosity might be as fatal to him as a more ferocious passion—or to the visit of some famished bear or panther, whose hunger might impel him to deeds of unwonted boldness—had Welch to chew the cud of bitter fancy, unmixed with sweetness.
“Oh! Atha Aymor,” he exclaimed internally, “into what troubles have I been precipitated by my ill-fated passion. For how many years wert thou the sunshine of happiness upon my path. Pursuing by its holy light the visions of hope, my feet pressed not upon the thorns of guilt. But a cloud has passed between us, and I have wandered in darkness, beset with dangers and difficulties. Blindly flying from sorrow, I have fallen upon guilt, and am pierced to agony by its stings. Weak and exhausted, let me once more find thee—let me hear thy lips pronounce the assurance of forgiveness, and I will lie down in quiet, and the heart of John Welch will be still forever.”
In reflections such as these, time passed on, until all the painful circumstances of his situation were enhanced by duration. At length he heard bold firm steps advancing towards him, as they crumpled the frozen leaves, and shattered the thin ice with which the little water puddles were coated. The crisis of his fate seemed now approaching; and that life, which he had just before so coolly thought of resigning, regained in his estimation its original value, and he felt instinctively he would do much to preserve it. But what could he do? Flight was now hopeless, and to attempt it would but attract with certainty the notice of this nocturnal traveller. Welch was entirely without weapons, for even the war-club, the instrument of his violence, had been left at Sugar Town, to witness against him by the blood upon it. His only plan then was, by perfect silence, to avail himself of the security against detection, afforded by night and the thickness of his swampy retreat. But the very necessity for silence seemed to stir his heart to such violent throbbing, that its sound alone might have attracted an ear of any quickness. But this was not all—he became more keenly sensible of the chilliness of the night, and the excited muscles began to quiver, until they caused his teeth to rattle, as though he were in an ague fit.
About one hundred yards from the place of his concealment the Tennessee River was gushing along, and reflecting from its rippled bosom the numerous stars of a winter night; and through the openings in the bushes, by which he was surrounded, Welch caught glimpses here and there of a portion of its stream. Endeavoring, in obedience to that very feeling which had stirred them into action, to silence those noisy indications of fear, already mentioned, they became more violent, and the hair of his flesh rose up as he perceived, between him and the river, immediately opposite one of those openings, in the shrubbery, the distinctly marked outline of an Indian warrior, with his rifle on his shoulder. At that instant, in the excitement of interested observation, Welch threw more weight than had hitherto rested upon his forward leg, and caused some portion of his unsure footing to give way, with considerable noise. Quick as thought was the click of the Indian's rifle, as he checked his onward career, and turned his face in the direction of Welch. But the latter could not distinguish any feature. All that he could perceive as he stood between him and the bright water which flowed at his back, was the clear outline of the warrior and his rifle, as though they had been cut out of some opaque body, and fixed upon a bright luminous ground. After a moment's pause, “Humph!” muttered the Indian to himself, “it is nothing,” and pursued his way. He passed on, and gave Welch an opportunity of drawing a long breath, and relieving his lungs from the pressure of the air, which his half suppressed respiration had kept for some time confined.
Presently he heard a voice; it was Eoneguski's— “The Leech is dead,” he said, mournfully. “Umph!” replied the person addressed, “When did he die?”
“The sun when it rose,” replied the first speaker, “laughed joyously in the face of the Leech, it went down in sadness upon the last sleep of the young warrior.”
“Was he struck by men, or the Great Spirit?” inquired the second speaker, in which Welch recognised the voice of the Fox.
“The hand of the murderer is red with his blood,” replied Eoneguski; “the red man has died by the hand of the pale face.”
“Show me his path,” with well affected excitement, said the Fox, “and Chuheluh will avenge the blood of the Leech.”
“Chuheluh must not go,” said Eoneguski; “Eoneguski is not a woman. They must not ask Eoneguski where is the blood of the Leech”.
“It is well;” said the Fox.—“Who is the pale faced murderer, and whither will Eoneguski go in search of him?”
“It is John Welch,” replied Eoneguski, “he hath fled to the white settlements; but the foot of Eoneguski is swift, and his aim is sure; and Welch shall fall among the pale faces, like the stag among the heard of deer, and none shall see the hunter whose shaft has drank his blood.”
“It is well,” said the Fox, “the Great Spirit will speed Eoneguski on his errand, but to night he will rest in the wigwam of his father; the next sun will find the young warrior refreshed for his journey.”
“It is well,” replied Eoneguski.
“A flock of turkeys,” said the Fox, “are in yonder swamp. I will find them on their perch, and placing them between me and the stars, will supply a feast for Eoneguski, when he returns from the slaughter of his enemy.”
“They are there,” said Eoneguski, “I heard some of the branches, as I passed, falling with their weight.”
The two speakers now separated, passing each other, and pursuing their way in opposite directions.
It may well be imagined that the feelings of Welch were much wrought upon during this dialogue. By it he distinctly learned, that the danger he so narrowly escaped, had in no degree been magnified by imagination, and, what was to him, under present circumstances, a matter of no slight moment, he was pretty satisfactorily informed, that for some reason, best known to himself, Chuheluh had a sincere purpose and desire to enable him to escape his pursuer, and that time for flight would be afforded him. He had not space, however, for much reflection, when he was rejoined by the Fox. “Come,” said the latter, in a whisper, “you may gain the start of the avenger. Chuheluh is wise, and knows from whence to expect danger, and how to escape it.”
Welch perceived that the Fox was not aware of his having overheard the conversation between him and Eoneguski, and, perhaps, by ears less anxiously attentive than those of Welch, it would not have been heard, but he resolved, for his own better satisfaction, to probe him a little further on the subject.
“Did not Chuheluh converse with some one just now?” inquired Welch.
“Why does my brother ask?” replied Chuheluh.
“Because I thought I heard at a distance the sound of human voices.”
“It was but the murmuring of the river,” replied the Fox—“Hush! do you not hear it now?”
“It is well;” replied Welch, fully satisfied that the Fox had his own reasons for wishing him to suppose he was not indebted to any ordinary means for the information he possessed. Whatever might be his motive, Welch was determined to humor him, and forbore to give any intimation of what he had overheard.
Then through the forest's tangled way,
* * * * * * * * * * *
Their path the Indians hold;
Each stepping where the first had gone,
'Twas but the mark of one.
THERE is, perhaps, no moral phenomenon more striking than that complete control, which, in seasons of difficulty, superior knowledge gives to one mind over another. On these occasions even vanity, which, in the quiet of ordinary life, contends so powerfully in each mind for its own high rank, and disdain of a superior, is hushed into silence, and quietly suffers the tame submission. All factitious circumstances are forgotten, and with the meekness of childhood, the lessons of experience are listened to and obeyed until the danger is overpast.
Being convinced of Chuheluh's purposes to deliver him, and of an experience on his part in such matters greatly surpassing his own, Welch passively yielded himself to his dictation. Obedient to a signal, he followed him down to the river, where they found a canoe tied, into which they entered without speaking. Chuheluh plied the paddle, and by the time they had fairly left one shore, the prow of the canoe rested upon the other. In the same silent manner they left the river, and walked rapidly on in the direction of the Cowee Mountain, which they soon began to ascend, without much diminution of their speed. But if was not long ere Welch found himself obliged to entreat his companion that their pace might be slackened, as his strength was not adequate to the exertion he was making, and must soon fail altogether, and leave him in the power of his enemies. “Courage,” replied the Fox, “a place of rest and refreshment is at hand.”
A deer now bounded across their path, and, in a moment more, was struggling upon the ground, pierced by an arrow from the bow of Chuheluh. The Fox drew out his scalping-knife, and, having stripped the skin from the brawny part of the thigh of the deer, cut out several large slices, and deposited them in a kind of knapsack, which he carried slung across his shoulders, beneath his blanket. Having taken off his knapsack, he handed it to Welch, intimating that he should carry it. Welch found it not without weight, containing, besides the meat, and a gourd of about a pint measure, a peck of parched corn, beat or ground into meal. They then resumed their walk, after the loss of but little time, until they reached the summit of the mountain.
Upon the very crest, from whence they had a commanding view down both its sides, Chuheluh selected a spot where, from the appearance of the trees, an abundant harvest of chestnuts had been deposited among the leaves, with which the ground was pretty thickly covered. Having scraped away a quantity of the leaves, for about a yard in circumference, so as to make the ground entirely bare, they proceeded to kindle a fire of sticks, and then to scoop out the earth from a moist place in the side of the mountain, scarcely deserving the name of a spring. The hollow they had formed, however, soon filled itself with water, of which they were enabled to dip a gourdful at a time, neither very clear nor well tasted, though not at all deficient in one of the most important qualities of good water—coldness. In the gourd Chuheluh deposited a handful of meal, and filled it with water, then having stirred about the preparation, until the meal and water was thoroughly blended, drank it off with evident gusto, and Welch followed his example. By the time these arrangements were completed their fire had burnt into glowing embers, upon which Chuheluh laid some of the slices of venison, and, notwithstanding his mental sufferings, and, unaided as the venison was by either bread or salt, Welch found it very savory fare. Having thus completed their meal, the Fox proceeded to extinguish the fire, and to scatter about the leaves hither and thither, baring the ground for a few inches, in several places within the circumference of many yards.
“If one shall come to this spot,” said the Fox, “he will not think the sons of men have been feasting here, but that the hog or turkey has been turning up the leaves in search of mast.—My brother will watch by me,” he added, “until Chuheluh shall refresh himself with sleep, and then, in turn, I will watch by my brother.”
Without waiting for a reply, the Fox wrapped his blanket about him, and coiling himself up at the root of a large tree, was soon in a sound sleep. Welch was much refreshed by the nourishment he had taken, but a disposition to sleep stole over him as he listened to the monotonous music of the snoring Fox, he was scarcely able to resist. Indeed, he began to be seriously apprehensive, he would fail in his duty, as a watchful sentinel, and prove himself unworthy the confidence which, from the apparent composure of his sleep, the Fox reposed in him. Fortunately, however, for Welch, the tax upon his vigilance was not greater than he was able to bear, for in a much shorter time than he could have believed possible, the Fox had completed his slumbers; and, arising with a snort—“Sleep,” said he to Welch: and Welch, without waiting for a second invitation, gladly availed himself of the one received, and was quickly in that state, which, like death, its great prototype, levels all distinctions—in which visions of happiness and misery come with equal pace to the tempest rocked sea boy, and the luxurious loiterer on the thrice driven bed of down.
The dreams of Welch were of mingled pain and pleasure; but, such as they were, Chuheluh watched over his slumbers with as much apparent patience as could the tenderest mother over the roseate slumbers of her first born. After a time, however, his manner changed: and as the sleep of Welch was protracted he became restless, looking out with increased anxiety in the direction they had come, and ever and anon eastwardly, as if in search of something from both quarters. At length, far in the east, a fire appeared to be kindling upon the top of the Blue Mountains.
“Come,” said the Fox, shaking his companion, “you can sleep no longer—the Fox slumbers not while the hound is on his trail.—Look yonder,” continued he, as the rays of light came stealing towards them, while the top of the distant mountain, over against them, seemed, for a considerable extent, in a blaze. Welch started up in surprise, and cast his eye in the direction indicated. And now a bright round object was just appearing above the trees, which crowned the opposite mountain.
“It is the moon,” said Welch.
“It is the moon,” replied the Fox; “we must be going.”
Having restored the place from whence they had obtrained their needful but scanty supply of water, as nearly as possible to the condition in which they had found it, the Fox indicated to Welch his wish that he should precede him, as well as the direction he should take, and followed after him, carefully restoring every leaf displaced by his footsteps, and every bough and twig he removed in his progress, to their original position.
They pursued their way without speaking, for several miles, until, by a circuitous route, they reached the Tuckasege. They walked down the margin of that stream for some distance, until they found a canoe, into which they both leaped, but instead of striking directly across, Chuheluh paddled up the stream, until they reached a landing nearly opposite the place where they first came to the river. Here the Fox sprung into the water, and turning the canoe adrift, signified to Welch to follow his example, and waded some distance farther up, in the edge of the stream, when suddenly pulling aside a parcel of shrubbery, overhanging the water, disclosed to Welch a cave, a little above the present level of the current.
“This,” said he, “is a place where a fox has often found security from his pursuers;” and so saying, bent himself to creep in; but his entrance was disputed by one of those animals. The quadruped was in no way disposed to quit her rightful possession, in favor of the biped, but, with a couple of half grown cubs at her back, seemed resolved upon maintaining it. But a dexterous blow with the tomahawk of Chuheluh, soon settled the controversy, by laying the old fox dead, whilst the young ones scampered past them, terrified at the overthrow of their champion. Chuheluh now entered the cave, followed by Welch, where they found more than room enough for them both to lie, in considerable comfort, in a fine warm atmosphere. The cave was so situated as, through the shrubbery, to command a view of the river for some distance both above and below. The Tuckasege hear represents a large bow very much bent, and the cave was about the point where the arrow would have crossed it in the act of shooting.
“Here,” said Chuheluh, “with plenty of food, provided the river did not rise upon us, we should be perfectly secure from pursuit; but our food is scarce, and on the very first rain, the water will be certain to fill up our cave. Our stay, then, must be a short one, but it will be sufficient to enable us to dodge our pursuer, and the young man shall see that Chuheluh is wise.”
The canoe they had left had floated calmly down the stream, and lodged against the opposite bank, at the lower extremity of the are, being about the same place from whence they had taken it. This was not conformable to the wishes and calculations of Chuheluh, who intended it should have proceeded without interruption far down the river. Our two adventurers in their comfortable retreat, renewed their convenient arrangement of watching and sleeping by turns, although Chuheluh, in generous consideration of the greater necessity of his companion, did much more than an equal share of the former. This unequal necessity might be partially owing to the different habits of the two persons, but was, probably, not altogether independent of their respective ages. Nature seems to have provided sleep, in part, at least, as a state in which the motion of the complicated animal machine, being for a time suspended or retarded, she may, with the more convenience, repair any loss or derangement in its minute springs or pivots; but in age, the great mechanic being about to cast aside her work, as no longer worthy of repair, permits it to run on as it may, with fewer and shorter checks in its operations.
It was after Welch had enjoyed a long interval of repose, that he felt the hand of Chuheluh laid upon his own. It awoke him, and he could scarcely realize the situation in which he found himself. There lay out before, and nearly on a level with him, the waters of the Tuckasege, the smallest rise in whose stream would force them in, to smother him in certain death. The sun was now shining upon them with the chilly lustre of a winter morning, and they were sending up towards heaven light fleeces of vapor, as if in exchange for the scant supply of warmth he was pouring upon them. The fanciful divines of other days would have likened it to the incense of piety, ascending in grateful return for the kindly visitation of the Sun of Righteousness. Chuheluh laid his finger on his lip, and pointed in the direction of the canoe. It was still swinging lazily backwards and forwards: as forced in by the current, it would strike against the bank and recoil again upon the stream. But the shore was not as they had left it—lone and tenantless. One now stood upon its brink, in the habiliments of a warrior, tall, strong, and active. The dead fox had adhered to the side of the canoe, attracted, as is usual, for a smaller body by a larger, when floating in a fluid—it drew the attention of the warrior, who took it up—examined its blood-boltered head, and threw it back again into the waters, to be carried whithersoever they might please. He then looked about in every direction, and seemed bewildered. He walked up and down the bank, examining carefully for foot prints, and seemed dissatisfied with the result of his investigation.
“It is Eoneguski,” whispered the Fox: “With a good rifle, John Welch might send him to his friend, the Leech, and then fly away to the white settlements, secure from pursuit. John Welch should be welcome to the bow of Chuheluh, but he is unpractised in the use of the bow, and the distance is considerable. What would my brother say if Chuheluh were to send an arrow, and quiet forever the fears of John Welch?”
“Let me die rather,” said Welch.
So noiseless was their cautious tread,
The wakeful squirrel over head,
Knew not that aught beneath him sped.
UNDER every variety of circumstances there must be a vast difference in the feelings of the pursued and the pursuer; and in one or both of these situations every animated creature is sometimes found. Every man has experienced the throbbing apprehension and desperate despondence, which, by turns, quicken and paralyze the energies of the one, and the intrepid confidence and doubtful irresolution which alternately impel and retard the progress of the other. For the former, the great variety of expedients for escape serve, while they embarrass in the selection, rather to amuse the mind, like the speculative sciences; while the absolute necessity for success on the part of the other of tending towards the point whither the pursued is pressing, renders him fearful of the consequences of mistake, and exercises his mind like a dull mathematical problem. But the most obvious and general difference between them is, that the object of the pursuer is some temporary gratification, and is only the preferred among many employments he might have found for his mind and body, while the pursued is usually striving for the preservation of life itself, or of something on which its value materially depends.
Thus relatively situated, were Eoneguski and Welch. The former had fallen upon the trail of the latter, after an early outset from Eonee, with a determination of speedily sacrificing him to family vengeance; and Chuheluh had so managed as to impose upon him the belief that he was on the track of a solitary wanderer. He pursued the trail until he came to the place where the fugitives had taken their refreshment, but owing to the prudent precaution of the wily Fox, was unable to trace it any farther. Before they reached the Tuckasege, however, the Fox found that too much time would be lost in effacing the vestiges of their flight, and trusted once more to the chance of Eoneguski's failing to find it, and accordingly made all the haste he could, without regard to consequences, until they came to that river. Eoneguski finding himself bewildered at the place where the fugitives had rested, determined to proceed to the Tuckasege, regardless of the trail, confident, that at some of its crossing places, he would find the track of Welch, on his way to the white settlements. He accordingly fell again upon his trail, just before he reached the river, which conducted him to the place where the canoe lay. Here he was again a good deal puzzled—there were the tracks leading to the water, but none leading from it—there was the slain fox, indicating the recent presence of some human being—and yet there was no canoe on the other side.
“He must have swam across,” he said, to himself, and accordingly leaped into the canoe, and was quickly on the same side of the river with the undiscovered object of his pursuit. Here he resumed his search for tracks, but without success. Several times did Welch and Chuheluh hear his footsteps sound upon the hollow ground, above them, and once did his hand rustle the very bushes concealing the entrance of their cave.—And then again did the heart of Welch throb so loudly as to endanger his discovery, as he felt the blood receding from his extremities. Chuheluh cast upon him a look of surprise, mingled with contempt, while not the slightest ensign of fear was exhibited in his own countenance or manner.
When they perceived, by the sound of his steps, that Eoneguski was departing—“Let him beware,” whispered Chuheluh, through his clinched teeth; “he may feel the fang of the snake before he hears the rattle.”
Long and anxious was the suspense under which Welch remained in his place of concealment. At length, when every thing had become perfectly quiet, Chuheluh cautiously put forth his head, and gradually raised himself to a level with the bank over their retreat, and peered carefully around in every direction. There lay the canoe in which he had come over, but Eoneguski himself was not visible. Chuheluh then climbed up the bank, and having been absent a few minutes, returned, and in a soft voice called to Welch—“Come,” said he, “the sun is on our path, let us travel while it shines.”
It was not without apprehension that Welch did as he was directed, and, greatly refreshed, they pursued their journey. Chuheluh pointed out to Welch the trail of Eoneguski. “There he went,” said he, “we must change our direction, unless you are willing to meet him like a man, and settle the matter at once.”
“I have blood enough on my hands already,” said Welch, sighing, “for God's sake let us shun him.”
“I wish my brother was not so much of a pale face,” said Chuheluh, “but I am his servant, and will obey. Let us go on by the way of Scott's Creek, and turning the end of the Balsam Mountain, place it between us and our enemy, and whilst he is basking on its sunny side, thinking to slay you as you pass, we will, by a more circuitous route, reach the Homony in safety.”
No plan could have been more gratifying to Welch than this, and he accordingly adopted it with alacrity. They journeyed on the course thus indicated, with the necessary intervals for sleep and refreshment, until the evening of the following day, when Chuheluh stopping suddenly, said, “Look there!” and immediately dodged behind a large tree; “that is what I was afraid of,” he added, “and have watched closely against it.” Welch endeavored to follow his example, at the same time casting his eye in the direction indicated by the Fox.
Upon one of the loftiest pinnacles of the Balsam stood what had the indistinct appearance of a human being, whose outline was blended with the clouds overhanging the mountain. “It is he,” said Chuheluh: “he has seen you, but I have escaped his observation.”
A loud yell now rang, as from the very heavens, with a descent of the dark body down the side of the mountain, with a rapidity scarcely surpassed by the flight of a bird. Chuheluh was convinced that he was right in his conjecture, that Welch had been discovered.
“Your heels must do something for you now,” said the Fox; “we have a great way the start of him, it is true, but he has the advantage of the steep mountain side, and there is no time to be lost;” indicating to Welch the direction he should take, he himself following, and treading exactly in the steps which Welch made, in rapid succession. The eye had been deceived as to the proximity of the object of their apprehension, who, although apparently suspended immediately above them, was in fact a mile or two distant, and had now ceased to be visible. But Chuheluh was not satisfied with the progress of their flight. “Go on,” said he to Welch, “as fast as you can, until you meet with me again;—do not even stop to look behind you, while I make some better provision for your safety.”
“For Heaven's sake do not kill my pursuer,” said Welch.
“I will not,” said the Fox, “unless he forces me to it.—But this is no time for conversation—Haste I say.”
Welch felt too strongly the urgency of his case to hesitate, but flew onward with his utmost speed. The Fox retraced, for some distance, the way over which Welch and he had passed, carefully effacing their footmarks, and all other signs of their passage; then diverging from it by an angle of about twenty degrees, he returned in a different direction so as to divide his own track from that of Welch more and more distantly the farther they both advanced. This latter track he took care to make exceedingly plain, so that it should not escape the notice of the most inattentive observer. He continued this route with considerable speed, until he struck the base of another of those ridges of small mountains or large hills, with which that section of country is filled. Here his speed was necessarily slackened, but he nevertheless continued to press forward, until nearly one half of the height had been surmounted. A chasm, not very conspicuous, in a large rock, attracted his practised vision, and gathering together a quantity of leaves, and having effaced for some distance the appearances of his advance, he threw himself into the chasm, and carefully disposing the leaves over him, awaited the issue of the matter with perfect composure.
Eoneguski, after his fruitless search for Welch at the river, had determined to proceed and waylay him in the pass between the Balsam and the opposite ridge of mountains, a few miles to the westward of Waynesville, through which he supposed he would certainly pass. He therefore continued his way along the bed of Scott's Creek, which, like the Homony, described at the beginning of our story, conducts the traveller, by the most practicable way, across the ridge of mountains in which it takes it rise.
But, as we have seen, guided by the sagacity of Chuheluh, in place of pursuing this route, Welch turned the point of the mountain where Scott's Creek sweeps around in its impetuous search for the Tuckasege, into which it is continually pouring a willing tribute. This compelled them to cross the Balsam at another place, and fall into the valley of the Big Pigeon. Eoneguski was not long in discovering that his plan would not meet with success, and accordingly ascended that pinnacle of the mountain, called by way of pre-eminence, the Balsam, which commanded a view of both valleys for a great extent. This whole ridge takes its name from a species of fir, with which it abounds, endowed, in the estimation of the Indians, and common white people, with the most sanative virtues.
Eoneguski had just reached his elevated observatory, when he was discovered by the quick eye of Chuheluh. In another instant, his own caught the object of his pursuit, without observing his companion. A yell of savage joy burst from his lips, as he stooped like an eagle upon his quarry. He was not long in getting upon the trail of the fugitive, which he followed with untiring speed. When he came to the point where Chuheluh had made his diversion, he passed it without suspicion, and took the track that had been purposely marked for him, pursuing it until it was no longer perceptible. He was again at fault, and like an experienced hound, traversed backwards and forwards, and endeavored to take it off, but in vain. “The creature must here,” he thought to himself, “have either sunk into the bowels of the earth, or taken wings, and flown away.”
After many vain attempts to regain the thread by which to pursue his victim, Eoneguski determined to continue his ascent up the mountain, and try the effect of another observation from its summit. Meantime Chuheluh, who had enjoyed, from his hiding place, the embarrassment of the pursuer, and, with difficulty restrained the indulgence of his mortal feelings towards him, as soon as he perceived the way was clear, came forth, and struck off in a direction, which would cut, at a very acute angle, the path he had indicated to Welch. The latter was so worn down by his exertions that he was getting along at a very slow rate, scarcely exceeding that of the animal after which the river, of which so much has been said, is called, viz: the Tuckasege, or, Travelling Terapin, when Chuheluh discovered him at some distance before. His own tireless strength enabled him soon to overtake Welch, and he was not long in conducting him to a place convenient for refreshing themselves.
“We are, for some time at least,” said he, “safe—the Fox has thrown the hound far off his trail, and he will be long in finding it again. But our way must now lie immediately across the one taken by Eoneguski, and, the loss of an hour or two, may be many days gained to us.”
It was near dusk, and a herd of swine was rooting about among the leaves near them. Chuheluh fixed his eyes upon the nearest and best looking, and the notch of the arrow was upon the string—
“What are you after?” said Welch.
“Pork,” replied the Indian, and the arrow flew.
“Good Heavens,” exclaimed Welch, “another crime. I know by the hogs being here in such abundance, that we are beyond the Indian boundary, and we shall be brought to the whipping post for stealing.”
“Humph,” said the Indian, coolly cutting off a few slices of the pork, and laying them on the coals he had previously provided. He could not, however, prevail on Welch to share with him, although that circumstance did not detract, as it seemed, in the slightest degree from the zest with which he devoured the pork. Yet Welch did not disdain a draught of the parched meal and water, which he found by experience as refreshing and nourishing a draught, under fatigue, as he had ever tasted. Chuheluh informed him that upon it alone the Indians usually performed their longest and most rapid journeys, and joined with Welch in his regret, that their stock was now so nearly exhausted, without any immediate prospect of a fresh supply.
Having finished their repast, they concluded to sleep and watch by turns, until the rising of the moon, which was no sooner agreed upon than the savage, with his characteristic energy, began to carry the plan into execution. The moon having risen, Chuheluh proceeded to cut off a few more slices of the hog he had butchered, and stowed them in the knapsack, which Welch now declined carrying farther. But the savage, who seemed resolved on humoring him in every thing, made no difficulty about taking it himself.
The course of Welch, after parting with Chuheluh, had been north, and they now struck off along the ridge of the mountain, in a direction nearly eastwardly, progressing quietly and cautiously, until Chuheluh stopped suddenly, and laying his hand upon the arm of Welch, pointed out to him the indistinct marks of a human trail. He then signed to Welch to stand still, whilst he himself followed the trail to a cliff, towards which it lead. Having arrived at the cliff, Chuheluh looked over, then cast his eye back towards Welch, smiling, and beckoning him to approach softly. Welch obeyed, and looking over the cliff, about ten feet perpendicular, beheld his persecutor stretched out at its base.
The arms of the warrior were unnerved in sleep, and the moon-light, beneath which he lay, was not more calm and peaceful than his countenance. The glitter of his armor was all that indicated the deceitfulness of the apparent calm, and that the disturbance of his repose would be the waking of terror. A bitter smile played upon the countenance of Chuheluh—he stooped down and grasped with both his hands a massy rock, which tasked his whole strength to raise it—he bent over the precipice and poised it for an instant—then turning suddenly upon Welch, put it into his arms and pushed him towards the cliff. Welch staggered with his heavy burden, and it fell upon the bare rock whereon they were standing. The explosion was loud, and was answered and re-answered by the echoes of the mountain. The warrior started from his repose, and obedient to instinct, Welch and his conductor fled before him, who was immediately on their track. But the statagems of Chuheluh were again effectual; they succeeded in eluding their pursuer, and to play with him, for many succeeding days, a game of hide and seek—crossing streams and valleys, and flitting from mountain top to mountain top, until they were conducted to the northward of the Grandfather Mountain, which towers in venerable majesty, as though in truth the great progenitor of the multitudes of inferior mountains, which occupy for many miles around him. From his capacious bosom streams issue forth, to water and fertilize the valleys of four large States, in so many different directions, seeking their way to the vast Atlantic.
Fatigue, exposure, scantiness of food, and distress of mind, began, at length, to prove too trying to the constitution of Welch, manifesting their deleterious influence in symptoms of approaching pleurisy. “You are no longer able to shift,” said the Fox, in a tone of compassion, which surprised and affected Welch, “and my brother must seek for refuge in some home of the white man.—The Fox would gladly have conducted the young man to the Homony, but that is impossible; yet he has enabled him to dodge his pursuer, who is now completely thrown off his trail. He will place him within reach of some of his own people of the pale face, and Chuheluh will return to Eonee.”
Welch saw the necessity of his situation, and the impossibility of reaching, at present, his desired haven.
And dost thou not remember how we cheer'd
Upon the last hill top, when white men's huts appear'd?
EVENTS, to which, in some states of mind, the same person would prefer even self-destruction, are, in others, hailed as the kindest arrangements of Providence; and every one must have been struck, in his own experience, with the preparatory circumstances which have preceded every trying incident in his life, qualifying him for its toleration.
Had any circumstance occurred to Welch, immediately after his departure from Eonee, calculated to delay for any great length of time, his arrival at the Homony, he would, probably, have preferred the immediate execution of the vengeance that threatened him, to enduring the mental agony with which he would have been visited. But now that his patience had been gradually subjected to trial, the prospect of undergoing an illness, which, if it did not immediately take his life, must detain him for a length of time from the scene of his melancholy hopes, in lingering debility, and in a situation in all probability exceedingly comfortless, was looked upon with scarcely a repining thought. On the contrary, he dragged on his enfeebled footsteps, in eager search for some white man's cabin, where he might press the couch of disease, and await the uncertain issue.
He had crossed with his Indian guide the head water of the Great Kanawha, called at that place New River: one of those streams issuing from the Grandfather Mountain, and the most limpid among those currents, where the unwary traveller, deceived by the apparent proximity of the bottom, through the clear fluid, finds himself plunging into a depth of eight or ten feet, when prepared only for three or four. They stood upon the summit of the Blue Mountain, from whence, with a shout, Chuheluh caught a glimpse of the Pilot or Ararat, the ancient guide of his people in their wanderings. There it stood, resembling in its shape and isolated position, a fortress erected in ancient times, by some gigantic race of civilized warriors. Although fully sixty miles distant, it appeared just at hand, while the country around it, as far as the eye could reach, seemed a vast interminable ocean, the inequalities of whose surface were its mighty waves, and the little farms here and there visible, so many delightful islets, inviting to rest from toils and dangers the tempest tost mariner. The evening was stretching out the shadows of the trees and mountains, as this glorious scene was presented to the wanderers, and its beauty was rendered more touching by the contrast of the extensive tract of deep gloomy shade which intervened, and its own sunny boundless expanse. It was the land of bright interminable bliss, beyond “the dark valley of the shadow of death,” which it separated from the longing beholder.
Sick and weary, now leaning upon his assiduous guide, Welch progressed down the mountain, scarcely conscious of this scene of grandeur until night began to close upon them, when they heard at some distance the sound of a blacksmith's hammer upon the yielding iron, and ever and anon, ringing upon the bare anvil.
“That sound denotes the residence of a white man,” said Welch faintly. They continued to approach the place from whence it proceeded, until they perceived the sparks rising thickly from the smithery.
“Go,” said the Fox—“John Welch is safe, and Chuheluh must return to his own people.—Let not my brother grieve for the death of the Leech, for he slew him only as one Indian brave should always slay another, who has killed his brother. Some moons hence, when the Eonee have forgotten the Leech, John Welch will come to Sugar Town, and become their chief, and John Welch and Chuheluh will strengthen one another, for Chuheluh will be the chief of Eonee, when the aged Eonah shall be no more.”
Welch was a little startled by this last intimation, of what he had never before heard, but there was no time now for expressing his surprise. But shaking the Fox by the hand, after the manner of the white man, “We part,” he said, faintly and mournfully, “never to meet more until we shall both appear in the land of shadows. For your untiring assistance in rescuing me from the avenger of the Leech, I thank you. It is a debt of gratitude, I can never repay. But you owed me much. The soul of John Welch would have still been pure and spotless, had you not assisted to plunge him into guilt, and I shall, for that reason, never cease to deplore that I ever knew you.”
Tears came to the relief of Welch, the united effect of bodily disease, penitential sorrow, and the conviction that he was, in truth, beholding, for the last time, one at whose hands he had experienced irreparable wrong, with much of kindness. “We are brothers,” said Chuheluh, “it is enough,”
Welch continued to direct his enfeebled footsteps towards the blacksmith's shop, from whence alternately proceeded the roaring of the bellows and the clattering of the hammer. As he approached the door, the brawny hand of a stout Irishman, more than six feet high, grasped the end of the lever with which he was plying the bellows. A complexion naturally of the fairest, was brought through the instrumentality of smoke, coal dust, and the scales of iron, into pretty perfect harmony with his black eyes and hair, and shaggy beard. We need not say he had on a leathern apron, and that the sleeves of his shirt, his only upper garment, were rolled up far above the elbows; that he was bareheaded—and, that cold as it was, his face was suffused with perspiration. The expression of his countenance was that of vanity, mingled with good humor, and even benevolence, and none who looked upon it but were struck with astonishment when they first heard the harsh discordant voice accompanying it, scarcely less loud and dissonant than that of the Cyclops Polyphemus, or the sound of his own bellows.
“By the powers,” said he, in a voice with which he intended to express great kindness, but that caused Welch to start back in alarm—“By the powers, my man, but ye are not wal.”
“I am very sick indeed,” replied Welch, faintly.
“By my sowl then,” said the blacksmith, “and it's a lucky man ye are, whom chance has brought to the door of Doctor Wuddy himself.”
“I beg your pardon,” said Welch, “I took you for a blacksmith.”
“And isn't it a smith I am, replied the Irishman—“but what segnifies ones fataguing oneself with one trade all the days of ones life: besides, the coonthry is not suffaciently sattled for a man to make a living by the smithey itsalf, and happy am I who is cliver, and wid a dale of ingenuity to find oot anoder ginatale way of making a livelihood. My lancet is ould, and a little rusty, it is thrue, but I am a torough disciple of Dr. Rush, and make gud use of it, and can blade as well as any man in the county of Wilkes, and the divil fly away wid him that can draw a toot faster nor me.—There is a root,” said he, pulling one out of his breeches pocket, somewhat resembling a potatoe, and about the same size, from which some busy knife had apparently been engaged in whittling off shavings from time to time, “that is good for all the disases with which man is afflicted.”
While delivering this harangue the smith was busily engaged in setting his shop to rights, previous to leaving it—such as extinguishing the fire, &c.—throwing off his leathern apron, and hanging it upon the end of a cold chissel, sticking in one of the logs of which the shop was built, and washing some of the more recent dye from his hands, face and arms. Then stroking down his shirt sleeves and slipping over them a home-spun jacket and coat, “I think,” said he, “it'll be time to quet for the night,” as he took an old hat from a resting place, similar to that on which he had deposited his apron, and from which he had taken his coat and waistcoat. Slightly fastening the crazy door after him as he left the shop, “Come, my man,” he continued, “we will sa what can be done for ye.”
Paths lead through the woods, in many directions, to this Lemnian tabernacle, destined, some years afterwards, to be dignified with a place in the statute book of North Carolina. Indeed, something like a road was then to be seen, in or near the same place where a finely graduated turnpike has since been laid out, forming one of the many channels of those streams of emigration which are continually pouring from the eastern parts of that State into the boundless West. Into one of these paths the medical blacksmith struck, with long and rapid strides, little suited to the weakly condition of Welch; but he did his best to keep up, in a sort of a trot, until they discovered the smoke rolling up towards them from a low rude stone chimney, built without lime, and, except the stem or narrow part of it, without mortar of any kind. This chimney was attached to a small log cabin, situated in a narrow ravine or glen, through which gushed down from the mountain, in a course more direct than usual, a clear rapid stream. There was no appearance of cultivation around the cabin, the native empire of the forest being nearly unbroken, except an acre or two of level ground on the margin of the stream, which being enclosed with a fence of brush, was, as the doctor told Welch, his patch for roasting-ears and potatoes. Both of these crops he had frequently lost by the overflowing of the stream in violent gusts, to which that part of the country is subject. “Faith,” said the doctor, “the potata grows here tolerably anny how; but it's a good root, and I sometimes thenk of moving higher up the mountain, or into the county of Ashe, where they grow as wal, if not bater, than in swate Ireland itsalf.”
Three or four little urchins, as black and as dirty as if they had been wallowed in their father's coal heap, were now peeping round nearly as many corners of the cottage, to whom the doctor paid no attention.—“Judy,” said he, as he passed the main entrance of the building, “pit on a pot of wather, and sind it into the doctor's shop.”
He passed on, followed by Welch, into a kind of shed apartment, of small dimensions, the loose broken floor of which was strewed with herbs and roots of various kinds, and a few coarse temporary shelves ornamented one of its sides, crowded with vials, some whole and some broken, some empty, and others in all the intermediate stages between that and fullness. Besides these, there were bladders of various sizes, and some other things, of whose utility the inexperienced Welch was utterly ignorant, and need not be more particularly called to the attention of the refined reader. In one corner was an apology for a bed, which seemed dirty enough to be offensive to the nostrils, but Welch's sense of smelling was already overpowered by the varied effluvia of the doctor's shop, and was happily unconscious of any qualities of that kind with which his destined sick-bed might be gifted.
“Lie down hare,” said the doctor, assisting Welch, to disencumber himself as far as was necessary, “and I'll take a drap of blood from ye in a jiffy—sind me a candle, Judy,” he bellowed. But there was no great haste to render obedience to his call. After waiting for some time, with astonishing meekness, the doctor rose, and went himself in pursuit of what he wanted. In the mean time, Welch, no longer excited by exercise, found himself growing chilly, which sensation increased rapidly, until his frail couch shook under him, and its very joints creaked. The doctor returned with a small dipped candle, the lower end of which was wrapped about with rags, and thrust into the neck of a bottle, by way of candlestick. He looked at his patient, “By the howkies,” said he, “it'll not do to blade him now—sind me the het wather, Judy, my woman.”
A little half dressed slut at length came in, lugging an iron pot, nearly as large as herself, full of boiling water.—“Lat it down, Marry, honey,” said he, “and bring me the tapot.”
The little girl tripped away, and returned very quickly with a piece of blue ware, which had once been a teapot, but was now deprived of many of the constituents of that highly useful vessel. It had no top, nor was much left of its spout, neither was the handle entire, but such as it was, the doctor seized it, and crammed into it a large quantity of some herb, to which he added a few shavings from the root he carried in his breeches pocket, and, dipping the teapot into the iron one, filled it up with hot water, then taking one of the bladders from the shelf, he laid it where the top should have been, and pressed it down with his hand. After holding it in this position for ten or fifteen minutes, he poured a part of the liquid contents of the teapot into a filthy looking unwashed green gallipot. “This,” said he, addressing Welch, “is the stuff;” at the same time stretching out his hand with the gallipot.
Welch was too sorely pressed with disease, to refuse, or question any proffer of assistance, and accordingly seized the gallipot, and eagerly swallowed its contents, although his throat was scalded in the process. Draught after draught was thus administered to him, in pretty quick succession. “It'll mak you swat,” said the doctor, “like a bul.” But the doctor's expectations were not realized;—the chill passed off, it was true, and perhaps sooner in consequence of the hot potions administered, than it would otherwise have done; but it was succeeded by a raging fever, and a skin as dry as the dust of summer.
“Now,” said the doctor, “for the lancet;” and he accordingly fell to work, with all the delicate caution of a butcher, to phlebotomize his patient. The skin could be distinctly heard to pop asunder, as the blunt instrument separated it, by dint of violent pressure, and Welch roared with a pain even more acute than that with which his left side was suffering, in the high inflammation of pleurisy. A few drops of blood, as black as the hand of the surgeon, followed the withdrawal of the lancet, but the large gaping orifice immediately afterwards exhibited its red dry lips, from which nothing exuded.
“Burn the lancet,” said the surgeon, “let us try again.”
“Wait a little,” said Welch.
“There is no time to be loast,” replied the relentless physician, and in a moment more another gash, almost as wide, if not as deep, as if it had been made with the tomahawk of Eoneguski, was in the arm of Welch. But had the Prophet smitten the rock at Horeb with as little success, the tribes of Israel must have perished with thirst; a few more drops of deeply colored fluid followed, and then ceased as before.
“By the howky,” said the Irishman, “it shall blade,” passing the lancet a few times over a rough whetstone, and then along the toe of his own shoe—“It is sharp enough now,” he added—“Come, stratch oot yere arram, man, and hould this stick as if it were in a vice.”
Poor Welch submitted to his fate, and with a desperate plunge, the doctor buried all that part of the lancet which had been originally burnished, in the flesh of his patient. The blood now spouted up in a large dark stream, sprinkling doctor, bed, and patient, with a crimson shower.
“It's a petty for the bed,” said the doctor, it's a nice clane bed, and no one has slapt in it, since my last patient, who desased about a mont' ago, wid de same desase wid yourself, God help ye, and is byrred up by. Ye will sa his grave if ye live to recover from your seekness. I had half a mind to make an 'atomy of him, but I had not the convaniences, so I gev it up.”
This was delightful intelligence for Welch; but he had the consolation of being perplexed with no choice of alternatives. There was but one road before him, and along that he had only to press forward to what ever issue it might conduct. “Ye'll do for the night, I thank,” said the doctor, after having staunched the blood, and Welch really felt that he was benefited by the butchery to which he had been subjected.
For some days, however, he remained quite ill, and sometimes apprehended that Doctor Wooddie would soon have another chance for an 'atomy. But in process of time he recovered, whether in despite of, or by the assistance of the blacksmith's remedies, it is difficult to say; and had the honor of an introduction to the lady of the mansion, who disappointed, in no degree, the expectations he had formed. She had never deigned during his confinement to look in upon him, or offer him any of those attentions so natural to her sex, whose hearts are ever wont to move at the cry of distress. But when Welch came to find, that the unfavorable conjectures, which some of the dialogues overheard by him, between her and the accomplished blacksmith, had enabled him to form, were but small portions of the reality, he did not regret the loss of her society.
Unfavorable as his conclusions were, he could not but perceive, that what he now saw, was not what once had been—and that the uncomely ruin he beheld, might once have been an edifice of beauty—that the withered leaves upon which he looked, might formerly have been the petals of a very fair flower—that the odor of sharp vinegar was now exhaling from a cask where the most delicious wine might have once sent forth its enticing flavor. Mrs. Wooddie was tall and spare, her long gray hair escaping in disordered but straight locks, from beneath her dirty cap, as if disgusted with the foul prison in which it was evidently her intention to confine them. The most striking features in her lean sallow face, were a sharp aquiline nose, and a pair of piercing black eyes, which so accompanied, gave to her an expression of fierceness and hecatine malignity. Her arms were long and skinny, and the veins rose beneath their covering, on the backs of her hands, like so many huge earth worms, greatly adding to her disgusting and hag-like appearance.
It was plain that the doctor and his spouse entertained for each other no enviable degree of connubial affection. A close observer, however, would have seen that it was an indifference not co-extensive with their acquaintance with each other, for that would have been comparatively a happy state—one of quiet insensibility, like that of a still-born foetus, which had never felt the capacities for pain and pleasure of that nature, of which it had partially partaken. But theirs were the expiring struggles of an affection which had once been lively, and whose strength had resisted attacks severe and frequent—notwithstanding which it had continued to exist—and, after enduring agonies cruel and protracted, was reduced to that distressing condition in which intervals of insensibility and suffering alternate with each other—like the perfect human subject, who, endowed by nature with a constitution unusually vigorous, is, by casualty, brought through frequent attacks of sickness, to the bed of death, where tenacity of life maintains a long, painful, and doubtful, but finally unsuccessful contest with its destroyer.
Welch was not long in finding out that the doctor added to his other accomplishments that of being, in his own conceit, a profound politician. A ponderous file of the National Intelligencer, which had been accumulating for years, swung backwards and forwards against the wall of the log cabin, as it was moved by the wind.
“Dere's few houses en de coonthry,” said the doctor, with a look of importance, as he observed Welch's eye passing in that direction, “whare you wud sa sich a theng as dat—I have been a shubscriber to dat paper for tin years, and not wan of dem es messing. I wud as shune parrt wid wan of my childer. I was wan of de boys dat farst cried Jifferson and Leeberty, and, by de howky, I'll steck by dem tull de last. I have jist been rading about dat affair of de Lippard and de Chisapake. Och! but I rackon it'll mak some fun yet. We'll tache King George dat hes sheps are not de only wans which haave a right to sail upon de wide ocean, which was made for all de nations upon de 'arth. By de powers! but I should like to be a sargeon, or a sargeon's mate, on boord an Amarican shep-of-war. Don't ye thenk I wuld be a nate hand for cutting aff a lag?”
“My habits of life have illy qualified me to judge of these matters,” said Welch, modestly, and the conversation dropped.
'Tis as our healthful food were turn'd to bane,
And flowers should fill the air with loathsome scents—
The soft south wind lose its refreshing sweetness,
And the bright sun benumb the shiv'ring frame,
For woman, formed to soothe and cheer mankind,
To plague his heart and drive all quiet from him.
THERE is a wearisome interval to the convalescent, between the cessation of the violent tortures of disease, which destroy all relish for life, or that insensibility to outward objects produced by great debility, and his return to all the privileges and enjoyments of health. Long before his time he fancies himself able to perform all the functions of health, and is stimulated by the desires incident to it. He is constantly subjected to those restraints of prudence, which he can scarcely persuade himself are necessary, or doomed to disappointment and inconvenience, from rashly breaking through them. The fields and the woods put on their most inviting appearance, and yet he dare not venture upon out-door exercise. Some matter of business is peculiarly necessary and pressing, but he is unable to travel to the scene, or engage in it if he were there. Some favorite author occurs to him, and solicits his attention to its instructive or amusing pages, but his weak eyes and dizzy brain forbid his looking into them. Some choice amusement strikes his fancy with unusual charms, but the voice of his friends, and his own conscious feebleness unite in restraining him from its participation. Some delicious dish salutes his nostrils with its fragrant steam, and solicits his palate to an exquisite gratification, but his physician tells him that relapse, if not death, lurks within it, and he must of necessity refrain. Day succeeds day, and still he is not sick, and yet cannot act as those who are well. He looks with envy upon their freedom, and repines at his own state as the worst of slavery. His situation becomes more and more intolerable, until, finally, he assumes the pleasures and occupations of health, not because the time has arrived at which he ought to have done so, but because he determines that he will.
Somewhat such was the condition of Welch, who had recovered from actual disease, and was fast regaining his strength, when he was one day seated in conversation with the doctor in the presence his comely spouse;—we say presence, for, however free in the use of her tongue, when she supposed Welch out of hearing, this lady was commonly very taciturn, and even sulky when he was by, and rarely intermingled in the discourse between him and the doctor. It was a little before noon, when, what was evidently an imitation of the whistle of a partridge, was heard at no great distance from the house. Welch was too well acquainted with the note of that bird to be deceived, although the imitation was quite a successful one. Instantaneously he saw the eye of Mrs. Wooddie flash forth its fire, and there was a subdued but sly expression in that of Jonathan, (for that was his name of baptism, if indeed he ever was baptized,) under the glance of his wife.
“It is time for me to veesit a patient up by, on de mountain,” said he, as he arose with ill affected indifference, “Mr. Walch ye mun excuse me. Bussness, ye know, must not ba naglacted. Judy, I shall be back in time for denner.”
Judy deigned him no reply, and Jonathan departed. As soon as he was gone Judy's manner became more and more excited, and there was evidently a violent struggle for some time going on in her mind, between a desire to speak, and an effort at suppression. The former at length prevailed:—“Mr. Welch,” said she, sobbing, “I am the most abused woman under the sun.”
A pretty woman's tears are always interesting—an amiable woman in distress never appeals in vain to the heart of man; but tears are desecrated when found on homely or withered cheeks, and the distresses of one in whose disposition we perceive any thing diabolical, excite no pity. Such were the thoughts of Welch, at this most unexpected burst of pathos and confidence from one whom he had hitherto seen in the stern coldness of marble, scarcely ever speaking except when addressed. He knew not what to say, and was, of course, silent.
“Pardon me, Mr. Welch,” she continued, “but my feelings can no longer be confined to my own bosom. God only knows how I have loved that ungrateful man. For him I left my father's house, and have toiled like a slave to assist him in raising our family. I believed our love mutual, until he took up the trade of doctor, and ever since then there has been a great change betwixt us.”
Welch now felt his situation little less perplexing than when he had imprudently obtruded himself into the family affairs of Santuchee, but then it had been his own act, and now he was about to be unwillingly involved in that proverbially most delicate of all matters, the domestic squabbles of husband and wife. Things had, however, reached a crisis, at which he felt constrained to say something, although he scarcely knew what. “How, madam,” he at length broke silence, “can your husband's change of employment have affected your happiness.”
“Why, Mr. Welch,” she replied, “I am almost ashamed to tell you; but it is nevertheless the truth, that ever since he has been a doctor, whistles, such as those you have just now heard, and other strange noises, are made near our house, both by night and by day, and as soon as Mr. Wooddie hears them, he starts up and leaves the house. Sometimes in the doctor's shop, as he calls it, I hear him whispering with people, and I am not allowed to enter; and I am sure from all this, Mr. Welch, that I am a deeply injured woman, and am determined to put up with it no longer, if there is law in the land. I was a fool for marrying an Irishman, as I had always heard, when I was a girl, that they were not to be trusted. He tells me that it is only patients who consult him, about things which they would not wish to make public, and do not even like to have it known they have consulted a doctor; and that the success of his business depends upon his keeping his patients' secrets. But I am too old a bird to be caught with such chaff, and in spite of his impudent turns, we have squabbled and quarrelled over the matter until I really believe we have come to hate one another. He now scarcely takes the trouble to deny any thing I charge him with; but as sure as Heaven I will have justice.”
In a strain like this, did the old woman go on, interrupted only now and then by advice given by Welch, in no urgent way, that she would be calm, and not act precipitately in the matter. To him the whole affair wore a kind of tragico-comico appearance, which rendered his situation exceedingly perplexing, and he hardly knew whether to consider his landlady a sort of female Othello, (although from the want of a knowledge of that gentleman, the idea was not so expressed in his mind, yet was it substantially the same,) a lunatic, or, in truth, a pitiable victim of conjugal maltreatment. He was, at length, fortunately relieved, by the early arrival of the doctor, in whom, notwithstanding a look of uneasiness he now and then cast towards his better half, as much as to say, “behave yourself before folk,” Welch sought, in vain, for any expression of conscious guilt. Judy, for some reason, best known to herself, did not think proper to disregard the glances of her husband, which she probably understood, and no allusion was made, either to her conversation with Welch, or the signal that had caused it.
A storm had set in just after Welch's arrival at the blacksmith's residence, and continued to render the weather exceedingly unpleasant for many successive days. But now the moderated season, as well as his own improved health, invited him to prosecute his return towards those scenes dear to his remembrance on the distant Homony. Yet an embarrassing difficulty presented itself to his mind: he knew too well the habits of the common people of the country, to suppose that any thing would be expected from him for his board and lodging at the house of the blacksmith; but the professional claims of the doctor were another matter. Although he might have a few very small coins left of the inconsiderable stock with which he set out upon his pilgrimage, he was convinced that it would be a greater insult to the professional dignity of Wooddie to make such a paltry offering, than frankly to acknowledge his poverty, and promise something more equal to his meritorious services, should fortune become propitious.
But it is a severe trial to a proud heart to put in the plea of poverty under any circumstances, and Welch felt that it was little inferior to the hardest trial he had yet encountered; but like all his preceding trials, it met him without leaving any mode of escape; he might procrastinate, but the difficulty must come at last, and the longer postponed the greater in the end. He therefore, one morning, more inviting than usual, plucked up courage to address Wooddie on the subject. “I am exceedingly obliged to you, Doctor Wooddie,” he said, “for the many kindnesses you have rendered me, and regret much that it is not in my power—”
“I know it man,” said the benevolent blacksmith, interrupting him, “I did not expact it—I knew ye had no money when I first laid eyes on ye—I tould Judy so. She wunted me to tarn ye adreft, saying dat I cud not affoord it, and dat she waud haave notheng to do wath sich a pace of extravagance as pheesicing and fading a lazy idle vagabone, while our own childer were half naked and starrving. But I tould her, by the howky, dat starrve or no starrve, it shud niver be sid dat Dochtor Jonathan Wuddy had tarned away a seck bodee fram hes doore, and dat by Jasus we were leving in a Chrestian counthry, and I wud shuner coot de troat of ivery mudder's son of my own childer, aye, and har's into de barrgin, dan sind ye away tull ye were wanst more hale and hearty.”
“I am ten thousand times obliged to you,” said Welch, “but fear I shall never see the day when I shall be able to give you any worthy proof of my gratitude.”
“Not a nudder ward abouth et,” said the Irishman, “a gintleman is alwaise fully paid by de dade itself, whin he diz a ginerous action.”
“You will pardon me,” said Welch, “if I allude to a delicate subject; but great allowances must be made for a gratitude such as mine.”
“Ha dune wid your gratitude and dilicacy, I say,” replied the doctor; “divil a bit of dilicacy shud dere iver ba betune a dochtor and his patient.”
“But it is not about myself I am going to speak, it is about Mrs. Wooddie.”
“Och! blood and 'ounds, and what can ye have to do wid Mrs. Wuddy?” cried the doctor, laughing, “dat is a dilicate bissness indade.”
“The subject I allude to, doctor,” said Welch, “is urgent, and I must again apologize for mentioning it, but my regard for you, sir, is my only inducement.”
“Why what de divil can be de maning of all this?” said the doctor, at this time manifesting without any affectation, both surprise and concern—“Mrs. Wuddy—and dilicacy—and regard for me. Take care, my man, Mrs. Wuddy is nather young nor beautiful, but if ye dare to insinnivate anny theng to the prajudice of har charracter, by de howlies I'll lay ye biside de fallow onder de tray yonder, widout de halp of a pleurishy.”
“Good Heavens! doctor,” said Welch, somewhat alarmed at the difficulty in which he was involving himself, “I know nothing, and can say nothing, to the prejudice of Mrs. Woody's character, but you must excuse me for saying that I am afraid yours will not so well bear investigation.”
“Och! by de powers, and is that all,” cried the doctor, and the woods rang again with his obstreperous laughter; “if it's my charracter ye are for invistigating, fire away Flannagan—but stop, by de howlies, Dochtor Wuddy is a gintleman. Pray sir, what haave ye to say agin de charracter of Dochtor Wuddy?” setting his arms a kimbo, and placing himself before Welch, in an attitude of mock defiance.
“I have already told you, doctor,” said Welch, with gravity, after getting rid of the smile, which the doctor's manner had irresistibly provoked, “that this is no joke. Your own happiness and that of your family are surely not matters to be trifled with.”
“And pray, sar,” said the doctor, again becoming serious, “what right have ye to know anny theng of de hapiness of mysilf or famely?”
“I must proceed doctor,” replied Welch, “coolly, even at the risk of your displeasure, as the only way in which I can make some slight return for your kindness. It has not escaped my notice that the happiness of Mrs. Wooddie is destroyed by jealousy, and my own observation has furnished some very slight evidence of the justness of her apprehensions.”
“Thin gev me lave to till you,” said the doctor, promptly, “dat dose whech came oonder yere notice has desaved ye, as dey haave dune Mrs. Wuddy; and sence ye have mintioned de subject, Mr. Walch, I will be fray to confass dat dat theng has plagued me sadly. It is thrue, dat we're leving like cat and dug, but what am I to du, de wumman wul not hare rason. I must leve by my profassion, and mun doctor famales, no less than males, and de wan has quite as manny sacrets as de ither; and bekase I am not always revaling to Mrs. Wuddy de meesteries of my shope, why notheing will du but de wumman mun be jallous. For a long time I striv to convence her, but finding at last dat sha wud not hare rason, I gev it up, and jist lit har haave har own tirrivies about it.”
“And do you say, then, doctor, that these signals which are heard from time to time,” inquired Welch, “are entirely professional, and have nothing to do with the subject of Mrs. Wooddie's apprehensions?”
“Upon de 'onor of a gintleman it is so,” replied the doctor.
With this assurance, and the permission of the parties, Welch succeeded before leaving the house of the kind and hospitable blacksmith, in settling the domestic disquiet which had so long prevailed, and Wooddie admitted that, if the present state of things could only last for a single fortnight, it would be more than a compensation for all the services he had rendered Welch, for it was in fact a deliverance from domestic purgatory.
Having thus, after the highest example, left peace in the place of his sojourn, although it existed not in his own bosom, Welch once more sallied out, alone and defenceless, to encounter the adventures of a long and difficult journey. None, however, very material befel him, until just as he was approaching, with throbbing heart and excited feelings, the place of his destination, when he encountered, like an apparition, the person of his persecutor, whose exhausted patience he had counted on having long since conducted him back to Eonee. But finding the relentlessness of his pursuit, and having made a most unhoped for and miraculous escape from the uplifted rifle of Eoneguski, he was convinced that here there could be no rest for the sole of his foot, but that in continued flight he must find his only hope of safety.
Chance, or something else, however, conducted him near to the spring of Robert Aymor in his alarmed retreat, and the sweet tones of a well known voice, as it poured forth the notes of a plaintive song, compelled him, like that of the ancient Syren's, to linger near a scene of danger.
Imperceptibly to himself, he drew nearer and nearer, until he was in the actual presence of the being he most loved on earth, but to pass from her again like a fleeting vision of the fancy. He left her, to perform in his own person, the destiny of the first shedder of human blood, wandering hither and thither in the continual apprehension that whomsoever he met would slay him, and forever denied repose by the continual lashings of conscience.
Farewell! a word that hath been, and must be
A sound that makes one linger—yet—farewell.
HIS departure from home upon a distant excursion, is, to every youth, an era indelibly marked in the calendar of memory. Feelings are then stirred into action, which, for the first time, disclose their hitherto unknown existence. These may vary, according to the circumstances or object of the journey; but whatever they may be, in kind there is an intensity in their degree which is never afterwards known, how frequent soever they may appear. It is then he first discovers what hold each simple object about the paternal domain has acquired upon his heart, and the pain he must suffer in tearing it away. If his departure be involuntary, the operation will be more severe, but even when otherwise, it is by no means trivial. The wounds thus inflicted will be felt more keenly, and heal more slowly, in some dispositions than in others, but in all a scar is left for the notice of memory.
We now return to Gideon Aymor, whom we left some chapters back, preparing for a journey with Eoneguski, to the Indian country, and even his bold and gay disposition was not exempt from feelings that almost caused him to repent of his engagement. But pride, as is often the case, united with other principles of action, to spur him on to performance.
In conformity with the arrangement of the preceding evening, being furnished with a timely meal, through the tender solicitude of Atha, and his second sister, a year or two younger, he took an affecting leave of his family, to set out for the appointed place of meeting with Eoneguski. His were the feelings of a spirited youth, of his habits of life, entering on his first adventure, and some of them manifested themselves in a certain tightness of the throat, which impeded articulation and deglutition, and a disagreeable titillation of the nostrils, as he thought of parting with those objects of affection, amongst whom nearly every hour of his existence had hitherto been spent. Demonstrations of sorrow were much more unequivocal on the other side—the younger children entreated “brother Gideon,” in those moving accents, of which infancy only is capable, “not to leave them;” and the elder ones, including Atha, wept profusely, and begged him, “if he would go, to take care of himself, and return soon.”
Dolly wiped her eyes, and blew her nose, loud and oft, and said, among other things, interrupted by sobs—“I was always willing, Giddy, for you to see the world, but drot my skin if I think there's much to be learnt amongst the Injuns. Now if you were going to Rolley I should be right glad, for there you might learn something, but if I was Bob Aymor you should'nt budge one step with this Injun, as clever as he is. But he's always for his gratitude, and sich notions—I wonder what good his gratitude ever done him? But it's useless for me to talk to him—he's as obstinate as a pig, and if you try to drive him one way, he's sartain to go another. But Giddy, my son, your poor mother will be longing to see you, so do pray come back soon, and I'll have a nice suit made for you out of the cloth that Patty Stevens wove for me;—and poor creature you hav'nt even took leave of her—she'll be most dead to see you before you come back.”
Having exchanged the parting embrace with all the other members of the family, Gideon turned to his father, who had maintained a calm dignified silence, while his son was receiving the clamorous expressions of regret at his departure. But Robert Aymor's was a heart full of the kindest affections, and there was now in the quiet of his countenance a shade of melancholy, which indicated that he was no indifferent spectator of the scene.
Language is inadequate to express the feelings that agitate the heart of a benevolent father, when his son passes, for the first time, beyond the reach of the paternal eye, and where the paternal arm can no longer be stretched forth for his assistance.
“I will walk a little with you, Gideon,” said Aymor, as he lead the way to the door. Gideon followed.—“You saw, my son,” said the old man, as they walked along, with more feeling in his voice than Gideon had supposed the occasion warranted—“that I gave you rather an unwilling permission to accept the invitation of yon worthy savage; but you are now at an age when I feel it is proper you should begin to think and act for yourself: besides, you know that I am bound hand and foot to the protector of my life, and could refuse him nothing that had the shew of reason to support his claim. You might, by withholding your own consent, have relieved me from the difficulty. But that is past, and it is now too late for us to retract. I do not mean to blame your choice. No, I remember too well what, at your age, would have been my own under like circumstances, and feel that it is natural. But it is yet in your power to gratify me, by making your stay in the Indian country as short as possible. I have been told, and partly believe it, that the savage life is so natural to man, that even the most civilized readily fall into, and learn to prefer it. Now, I have flattered myself with a better destiny for my children, and though we live in the wilds, have endeavored to improve their minds, and fit them, as far as I was able, to fill any station to which Providence may call them; therefore, my son, stay not among these savages any longer than may be necessary slightly to gratify curiosity, and enable you to depart without offending the quick jealousy of those to whom we are so deeply indebted. The time is not far distant when the savages must yield the possession of the country into which you are going, to the white people; it may not be amiss, then, in your travels through it, to cast your eyes about you, and fix them upon those spots on which settlements can most advantageously be made, should it suit your own convenience, or that of your friends, at some future day, to establish there a possession.
“I believe, Gideon,” continued the old man, after a pause, “that there is no place where, what we are told is the root of all evil, may not be found useful to a man, and the want of a little of it may sometimes convert a slight difficulty into a very serious one. Here are ten silver dollars, which I would not advise you to spend without necessity—keep them for a rainy day, and do not let them burn holes in your pockets; and remember, my son, wherever you go, that you came of honest parents, and in whatever situation you may find yourself, that you are a free-born American, and a North Carolinian. Endeavor to avoid fights and quarrels, but if any one rushes on you, never, if you are the son of Robert Aymor, shew the white feather. Firmness and bravery are necessary to get through the world, and if a man exhibits them in his first contest, there are ten chances to one that he never has another. But if once he plays the craven, he will either be kicked about all the rest of his days, or must fight many hard battles to convince the bullies, of which the world is full, that the first mistake was an accident. But firmness and bravery, as I said, are needful to get along with the Indians above all people; they are like hounds—if you run from them they are certain to follow and tear you to pieces, whereas, if you stand still, and put on a bold face, each one is afraid to be the first to lay hold of you. Once more, my boy, come back to us as soon as you can—take care of yourself—and, in all situations, behave like a true-hearted American.” He wrung the hand of his son with a hearty grasp—closed his lips firmly together, and strode off in the direction of his own house.
Gideon did not venture a reply, nor, indeed, did one seem expected. he drew the back of his hand across his eyes, to remove the moisture gathering there, and, as soon as his father's back was turned, commenced charming away his grief by the music of his dollars, as he dropped them from one hand into the other. It was the first time he had ever been master of any such sum, and felt himself inexhaustibly rich. The mountains of his native State had not then began to yield their treasures to the miner, and few and scattered were the pieces of the precious metals which found their way into the purses of the mountaineers.
Having at length deposited his wealth in his pocket, and readjusted his knapsack and rifle, Gideon was bending himself to a brisker gait, and breasting, with active step, the side of the Homony Mountain, as the cheerful rays of the sun, ushering in a clear spring morning, gilded the peaks towering loftily above him. He was a little behind his appointed time, and was endeavoring to regain that which is proverbially irrecoverable, when a shout, clear and shrill, multiplied by echo, beyond computation, told him his companion had become impatient, and was chiding his delay. He answered the call, though not so loudly as it had been made, and a reply, in a tone still lower, assured him he had been heard. A few moments more brought him where the hospitable savage had, as on the preceding day, prepared for him a repast; but Gideon declined partaking of it, making him with difficulty understand how impossible it would have been, according to the customs of the white people, for him to have left his father's house upon a distant journey, without joining the family in the morning meal.
The travellers were soon on their way, and Gideon could not but remark an expression of lively satisfaction in the countenance of Eoneguski, as he turned his face westwardly. They had not walked more than a mile or two, when they came into the road leading from Morristown, since called Asheville, the county seat of Buncombe, to Waynesville, before mentioned, as the county seat of Haywood. Gideon was not ignorant of this portion of their road, for curiosity had already carried him with his father two or three times to Waynesville, to witness that caricature of one of the most dignified of human institutions, a County Court, in a frontier settlement. There was every probability they would witness another of these edifying spectacles, as the approaching week was the regular term of its session at Waynesville. Having once fallen into the Morristown road, they could no more have lost it until it conducted them to Waynesville, had they even been entire strangers. But to Eoneguski it was a familiar way, and Gideon remembered each of the numerous fords of the Homony, as he successively came to them in following the highway, which was conveniently made to pass along the inclined plain through which the stream had cut its serpentine course: or, rather, which it had formed, by depositing first on one side and then on the other, the freight of earth, timber, mud, and gravel, with which it was charged in floods of rain, when it poured down furiously from its parent mountain. This unerring guide conducted the travellers to the top of the ridge, which then sloped off gently into the valley of the Pigeon River, about one mile distant. Gideon did not fail to perceive the immense elevation of the bed of this stream over the French Broad, into which the Homony disembogued itself within two or three miles of his father's residence. The inference was irresistible from the fact, that in the previous part of their journey, a distance of twelve or fifteen miles, they had been continually ascending a pretty steep acclivity, of course varying greatly and frequently in its angle with the horizon, while their descent, which had not much exceeded a mile, was comparatively easy. He therefore concluded that it was only an indentation in the crown of the mountain, (and not a valley between two mountains,) worn there in time by torrents of heavy rain, swelling, occasionally, the generally moderate stream of the Pigeon, and forming its bed. Had this opinion needed confirmation, circumstances were not wanting. When they reached the western side of the river, Gideon observed that the trees were covered, both on the body and limbs, with a short green moss, and, notwithstanding the great depth, and apparent fertility of the soil in which they were rooted, they bore a dwarfish, unhealthy appearance, the natural effects of an elevated alpine atmosphere. Neither was there here the smallest indication of the presence of Spring, although she had made considerable advances at many places behind them.
They had not progressed far on the western side of Pigeon River, when Eoneguski cast his eye towards the sky, and said, “There is a sound of rain—I feel the breath of the coming storm.”
Gideon, it is true, perceived that the tops of the trees on the higher spurs of the mountains were considerably agitated, and occasionally a sound could be heard, which can be best explained by comparing it to the distant surf of the ocean; but the sun set in beauty, and there was scarcely a cloud to be seen.
“It will not be a night for the open air,” Eoneguski again broke silence—“you must ask lodging from some of your white brethren: and they will not deny it to the red man also.”
Another short distance brought them to the residence of a new settler, who appeared to be comfortable. His door was open to the travellers, without distinction of complexion. They were admitted to the hospitalities of his table, and, whatever might be said of other portions of his fare, Irish potatoes of a better quality, or prepared in a more savory manner, could not have graced the board of an epicure. Nothing remarkable befel our travellers, who slept soundly until morning, when their ears were assailed by the rain beating loudly and fast upon the roof, to which their attic lodging brought them in close proximity. The fate of many a traveller who has since passed through that pluvious region, was theirs, and for four successive days the rain continued to pour down, with little or no cessation. They were forced to remain unwilling pensioners upon the ungrudging hospitality of their host. The steep mountain side in front of his residence had become one vast cataract, and the valley through which their journey lay was converted into the bed of a deep rapid stream, continually rushing with eager haste to swell the increasing current of Richland Creek. The impetuous fluid, as it ran foaming and dashing in every direction, mingled with the voice of the winds, filled the air with an endless variety of sounds—sometimes it was a low monotonous murmur, like that of a multitude of wild beasts growling over their prey—then it was the loud eager howl of an army of famished wolves—now it was the startling roar of a den of lions, impatiently expecting their banquet—and then was it the shrill hissing of a multitude of serpents.
Amid these ravings of the storm without, the travellers, with the regular inmates of their hospitable retreat, gathered more closely around the cheerful hearth, and experienced that agreeable sensation which accompanies the proximity of danger, with the consciousness of security against it. It was thus they consoled themselves for the real disappointment they experienced in the interruption of their journey. For two nights their sleep was comfortable and undisturbed, but on the third, a contemptible foe, rendered formidable by numbers, entirely banished repose from their pillows, and made them solicitous for a change of quarters. An army of rats, driven by the incessant and chilling rain from their own habitations, but illy defended against such an enemy, took refuge in the same retreat with the sojourners, and, according to their nature, slumbering in the day time, held, at night, their disgusting orgies in every part of the habitation, and even upon the very beds and persons of its inmates. There was no fire-place in the loft occupied by the travellers, and they sought partial relief by setting a lighted candle in the middle of the floor. But as soon as they fell asleep, the vermin assailed the candle, and, gnawing it around, caused it to fall over and extinguish itself—when, making lawful prize of the remainder, they renewed their gallopings, and aroused sleepers.
During the fifth night the wind blew from the northwest, and the odious rain ceased to descend, and, by morning, the floods, like thoughtless spendthrifts, had exhausted their superabundant resources, and were calmly flowing along in their wonted channels.
An Indian by a white man's side,
Alternate plac'd* * * * *
THERE is a feeling of renovation and elasticity with which a traveller resumes his suspended journey; and in no situation is it so signally perceived, as, when bending his way homeward, the suspension has been occasioned by natural interpositions, altogether insurmountable, and to which he has been obliged to chide his spirit into reluctant submission. A delightful sense of freedom expands the bosom of the pilgrim, recently weather-bound, when he finds himself once more treading at large upon the earth, and pressing onward, in the pursuit of his journey. His heart goes bounding before him, as it were, toward those objects of affection he is striving to reach.
With such feelings did Eoneguski, after the cessation of the rain, resume his way towards the Indian country, and Gideon was, to a considerable extent, a participator in his pleasure.
The rain, for the last few hours of its fall, had been converted into ice as soon as it descended upon the branches of the trees, and other objects, whose capacity for the transmission of caloric rendered them fit for the purpose. Early in the morning the appearance presented was beautifully picturesque. All nature clothed in her vitrious livery, seemed a vast fairy creation, sparkling with a lustre which belonged not to this world; but when the rays of the rising sun fell upon it, and were immediately scattered abroad, in refracted and reflected splendor, the dazzled eye was overcome, and the imagination bewildered with the rich variety of unwonted beauty.
Eight miles of journeying, over the worst of roads, brought our travellers to Waynesville, situated on a steep ridge, at the foot of which flowed Richland Creek. The recent rains and frosts had rendered the streets, or rather the street, of Waynesville, almost impassible. The rich soapy earth, of which the surface was composed, for a considerable depth, suffered those who walked over it, to sink three or four inches at every step, and adhered afterwards with the most obstinate tenacity to whatever came in contact with it, whether shoes, moccasins, bare feet or clothing. This sea of mud had been wrought up to a state of regular fluidity by the multitude of passengers on foot and on horse-back.
The sun had melted into vapor the pageant of the morning, and it was no more.—Like an unprincipled lover to the lip of beauty, his kisses had been fatal to the inconsiderate object on which they were lavished, and by whom they were so eagerly and joyously received. And yet the scene at Waynesville was highly picturesque, or at least would have been so to one who saw it as a novelty. Comparatively speaking, to few of our readers would it have been familiar. It was Tuesday of the county court week, and here were mingled in simple and unpolished familiarity, the rugged pioneer of civilized society, his unabashed wife and daughters—the red skinned aboriginal, with his squaw—and here and their a thick lipped African, male or female, with their ceaseless bursts of merriment and song, and cheerful laughter-loving countenances. In every direction around the village might be seen horses, bearing on their backs the saddles of men or women, fastened by the bridle to stake, tree, or fence, according to the convenience or whim of the owner, waiting, with drooping head and half shut eyes, the lapse of the tedious hours their riders might think proper to consume in business or pleasure, regardless of their privation, both of food and water. Now and then some truant steed, availing himself of an insecure fastening, by the careless owner, or of some defect in the bridle, or of his own peculiar skill in such matters, had broken from his confinement, and approached some dosing animal of his own species, and smelling at him, or giving him a shrewd nip with his teeth, caused him to utter a loud squeal, with a threatening elevation of one of the hind feet. Having performed this prank, after the manner of a school-boy upon some lounging companion, he would kick up his heels with a triumphant snort, and gallop off to prosecute the same teazing process upon a new subject. Except occasional occurrences of this sort, and now and then salutary neighings, upon the arrival of another individual, or company, these animals might be seen standing as motionless the livelong day as the objects to which they were secured. But as it wore towards night, a low whinny, at the sound of any approaching footstep, indicated their impatience to be gone.
Not thus uniform and quiet in their deportment were the human creatures assembled at Waynesville, but, on the contrary, variety and noise were their prevailing characteristics. Perhaps few occasions ever present themselves on which the philosopher would have found a map for the study of human nature in its undisguised traits, more conveniently spread out before him. Probably nothing would have presented itself as more strikingly obvious than the great difference between two portions of the human race, who, with about the same practical habits of civilization and refinement, had the one risen from a lot of deeper ignorance and barbarism, and the other descended by gradual progression from a state of knowledge and polish, once the boast of its ancestors. The vulgarity of the one was manifestly the effect of ignorance, and although it might offend, did not shock. It was seen to be the cold dictate of necessity to express an idea, for which other language was wanting, which idea was itself the suggestion of no impure passion or filthy imagination, but occurred in the ordinary pursuit of the business of life, and excited therefore in the mind no sympathetic sense of guilty shame. In the other, there was a grossness at once shocking to delicacy—an evident gusto and guilty pleasure which the speaker took in it—it reflected the impure passions of his own heart, and had a brightness of coloring imparted to it by a polluted imagination—the mysterious sympathies of depraved nature were awakened—and virtue felt the infusion of poisonous contagion, and was self-abased and insulted, as we should be by the ruffian who cast dirt upon our clean and spotless garments. In short, in the latter case, both the speaker and the hearer had eaten of the tree of knowledge, and between them, as with our first parents, after their fatal transgression, the fig leaves were necessary for the preservation alike of comfort and purity. In the other, it was perceived that their eyes had not been opened, and they knew not that they were naked, and there was therefore neither guilt nor shame, to awaken sinful or painful sympathies.
In general, the savage, like the child, in his progress in knowledge, first learns that which is innocent or substantially useful, without attaining to that which enables him to refine upon and multiply crime, and, consequently, to increase its seductiveness, its power of mischief, and its guilt. In declining civilization, nearly all the knowledge which tended to purify and ennoble the heart, has gradually run off, leaving its dregs mingled with practical depravities, to which they have given a more vigorous growth. In the one, animal love is in a natural, and, consequently, healthy state, and, by necessity, therefore, is neither inordinate nor improperly directed, a result to which exercise, and simplicity of diet in no slight degree contribute. In the other, imagination having been once roused into action, and but illy supplied with suitable food, busies itself in throwing a luxurious drapery round forbidden pleasures, and inflames the passions by its warmly colored paintings, and, to this effect diet more highly stimulating in its nature, and more gluttonously consumed, greatly add. These tributary circumstances of themselves, also, present striking points of difference in the two classes of character under consideration. Beside these, music, with all its magic power to rouse, direct, control, or allay, the various passions of the human heart, is scarcely known to the one, while in a considerable degree of perfection it is always found with the other. The accurate knowledge of money, with a passion correspondent to it, which would seem to be in itself entirely artificial, but whose seeds are found in every heart, with greater or less proneness and capacity for putting forth and growing, strongly distinguishes the lapsarian from refinement, from the improving savage.
But of all the distinguishing characteristics between them, not one is more striking than the relative bearing of the softer sex towards the other. He who had visited Waynesville on the day we speak of, would have seen the numerous white women there assembled, laughing and talking in high treble, with easy freedom, among the men, and, although the parental relationship might have imposed some restriction upon the unmarried ones, yet the presence of a husband would have been entirely unknown from any difference it produced in the demeanor of a wife. So easy and unrestrained were their manners, that they could not have been more so in a circle exclusively female. Turning his attention from these towards a group of squaws, (for in such exclusive groups would he generally have found them,) our spectator would have seen them conversing calmly and noiselessly, and if any thing occasionally stirred their mirth, a slight illumination of the countenance, and an exhibition of the teeth through the parted lips, would be the only indication. This only would he have seen if they thought themselves unobserved, for the approach of a man, even of their own race, would fix their tongues in marble silence, and especially that of her who chanced to acknowledge him as her husband.
Nor was the demeanor of the men less marked with difference. Although the Indians walked about among the white people with obvious freedom from the slightest apprehension of personal danger, there was yet in their deportment that caution, and apparent self-restraint, which always characterize him who is suspicious of being watched, and apprehensive of ridicule or contempt. Single individuals might be seen threading their way in various directions through the crowd, in perfect silence, or exchanging some very short observation with any who chanced to address them, each arrayed in a manner peculiar to himself, with articles, some more primitive, and some more modern, mingled in various proportions, according to the whim or luck of the wearer, in the collection of his wardrobe. Here might be found one with straight black locks flowing about his shoulders in their native freedom—there another with a printed cotton pocket handkerchief worn after the manner of a turban, with a manifest attempt at a display of taste, and a conceited sense of ornamental effect, increased doubtless in his estimation, by one of the corners hanging down some length behind, in travesty resemblance of a queue. In another place might be marked one with a new wool hat, most buckishly adjusted upon the top of his head, attracting observation by the paper and twine yet remaining in which it had been enveloped by the manufacturer. Others were visible in small parties regaling themselves from a gourd or tin cup, with a supply of what was called whiskey, or brandy, from one of the wagons or carts, whose owners, in spite of the difficulties, lust of gain had induced to drive over roads nearly perpendicular, and otherwise scarcely passible, to supply the urgent demand, they knew would be found for their merchandise, at immense profits to themselves. Still the males and females constituted separate parties, and the latter were very little noticed by the former. Long, however, would the Cherokees drink before it could be seen by their manner that they were not engaged in a matter of the utmost solemnity—few were their words, and although a smile might occasionally light up their countenances, no uproarious laughter was heard among them.
Not so with the white men—laughter, mirthful shouts, and loud and unrestrained talking, were almost as indicative with them of the purpose to drink, as of the “forgone conclusion,” and by a sort of volition, the animal spirits were set in rapid motion previous to any impulse given them by that which doubtless owes its most common name to its effect upon them. Frequent were the coarse jests and entendres, almost too plain to be called double; and some of them addressed to the women, who, far from being abashed or offended, rather took pride in a ready apprehension, and generally repaid with an interest, which turned the laugh against the discomfited disciple of Momus. Rare, indeed, was the character who disdained altogether the rites of Bacchus, on the contrary his temporary altars, the tails of carts and wagons, scattered over the court-yard, were most devoutly thronged, and, among the numberless hats, a bonnet might occasionally be seen, whose wearer was no less assiduous and constant at the shrine than the male worshippers among whom she mingled. The myrtle and vine have ever been celebrated by the poets as luxuriously intertwined; and it is sufficient to say, that if their union was preserved with less regard to elegance at Waynesville than at many other places, there was no actual disruption, and the Paphian divinity was not wholly neglected.
The heart of the philanthropist must have bled—the towering plume of national pride been lowered on the crest of any intelligent patriot, who witnessed the disgusting display of morals and manners which that time and place presented. But the reader must remember it is many years since.
It is not to be imagined after all, however, that there was any great moral triumph on the part of our red brethren. No! among them, also, “the fire-water” produced its natural effect; but the subjects of its influence were not so numerous as among the whites, while the proportions as to sexes were much the same. But it was not a greater aversion to drunkenness on their part that produced the difference; for except such of the Cherokees as had embraced the Christian religion, they had no conception of drunkenness being any violation of moral propriety, on the contrary, they threw the sacred pall of oblivion over every act perpetrated during one of its paroxysms—except homicide. Hence it is, that among the white people, drunkenness has a more debilitating effect upon the moral constitution, than among the Indians. In the one it is a mere bodily disease, affecting the mental powers, and when the individual recovers, his self-respect is in no degree diminished, and conscience has not been wounded, and, consequently, is no way enfeebled by the debauch. The other, offending and wounding conscience while he is steeping his senses in the stupifying draught, has for one of his objects the administering an, opiate to this troublesome monitor, who, when he comes to himself, wakes with, and turns revengefully upon him. She tells him that he has brutalized and degraded himself—that he is morally defiled in the eye of Heaven, and disgraced in the sight of man. Stung with remorse, he drinks again—not like the savage, for mere indulgence of appetite—but to drown the clamors of conscience, as a thing more easy and expeditious than to appease her by repentance. In the natural man the pride of conscious rectitude, (the best known substitute for true religion, as a security against vicious practises,) when once thrown down, can not be at once restored to its original perpendicularity, and every prostration diminishes for a time, at least, the angle of its subsequent elevation, until, at last, it can no more be raised from its degradation; and thus does the perpetration of one known crime always diminish the safety of the moral fabric, while the same act committed by him who esteems it not a crime, leaves his moral condition comparatively unchanged.
What then, it may be asked, (returning to the subject from which we have been unconsciously lead,) rendered the Indians at Waynesville more sober than the white people? The answer is—prudence. Conscious of the secret workings of their own hearts, they had no confidence in the amicable shew made by the whites. They were like the stranger upon Mount Vesuvius, who, having read or heard of the sudden and treacherous bursts of destruction from its vine-clad and peaceful sides, sweeping individuals, cities, the works of nature, and of art, into general ruin—walks with caution amid the seeming safety. Besides, they dared not trust themselves; they knew that their own hearts, like so many magazines of combustibles, were ready to ignite by the slightest spark, and that unless an ever watchful prudence was there to ward them off, such sparks must inevitably find their way thither. They were not ignorant that in the explosion which would ensue, ruin might overtake some of their white neighbors, but they knew also that like the magazines before mentioned, the destruction of themselves, the instruments of mischief, would be certain and effectual. But there was a minor object of apprehension, that experience had taught them was neither slight nor unlikely to beset them, should they, by intoxication, deprive themselves of the power of resistance: and that was being seduced by the whites into “trades,” as they were called, in which most decided, advantages were certain to be on one side. These considerations were sufficient to restrain the bulk of them from the indulgence of an inclination, common, perhaps, to the whole. But a few, by a sort of tacit permission of the rest, ventured, in the confidence that the presence and number of their comrades would be an ample security against any of the dreaded evils. This privilege of self-indulgence was not the result of accident or of special favor, but was conferred in regular order of distribution upon each member of the party, at different times, in their respective turns.
When an Indian becomes drunk it affects him very much as it would a white man, save that his usual gravity, being contrasted with his present wildness and levity, makes them appear the more extravagant, and he seems to be in fact transported into greater excesses by his animal spirits, from their being usually, as it were, corked up like fixed air in a bottle. For a time he retains a consciousness that he is exposing himself, as well as of the cause, and in the midst of his vagaries is ever crying out in a mingled tone of rapture and apology, “Whiskey too much.” When his companions find he is becoming too riotous or dangerous, they without hesitation bind him as they would a madman, until the paroxysm is over; and the subject of this treatment, when he comes to himself, is neither offended nor considers himself ill-used.
Such is a partial description of the spectacle which awaited Gideon and Eoneguski on their arrival at Waynesville. Most of the circumstances were, however, but repetitions of what they had both before witnessed at the same place. Here, for a time, they separated, each mingling with the people of their respective complexions. Among the one Eoneguski saw not an individual whom he did not personally know, and among the other Gideon met with a few acquaintances, who were not slow in bringing in others to widen the circle. This proved to be a heavy and unthought of tax upon the purse of Gideon. Having witnessed the temporary consequence which others acquired in the company, by calling for a fresh supply of liquor, at their own expense, with the ostentation and liberality so natural to youth, he followed the example. The tide of popularity that flowed in upon him in consequence of his first display, intoxicated him much more than the liquor of which he partook, and the flattery thus purchased served only to give him an appetite for more. Partly through the influence of spirits, and partly from the commendations which became more and more fulsome, as those who uttered them grew more intoxicated, (until they were belched forth with the fumes of liquor in his face by the maudlin wretches who hung upon and caressed him)—Gideon was led on by degrees until two of the ten hard dollars given him by his father, with so many lessons of prudence, had taken their flight from his pocket, and he was fast falling into that state in which the rest would soon unconsciously follow.
Eoneguski beheld with anxiety what was going on. He remembered the solemn pledge he had given to Aymor for the safety of his son, and already began to repent his rashness; for here was a danger, and a serious one too, which it would be folly for him even to attempt averting. Such an effort would certainly offend the associates of Gideon, and perhaps bring upon himself their fatal vengeance; and there was no small reason to apprehend that under existing circumstances even Gideon would resent any endeavor to control his actions, and repel it with insult. There was in his own situation what would give to such an insult ten-fold force, and greatly increase his difficulty of acting properly under it. His reception among his own people at Waynesville had been such as to chafe his pride, and render him dissatisfied. They had inquired after the fate of John Welch, and soon discovered that Eoneguski had not been successful in his undertaking. It flew about from ear to ear, and a contemptuous curl of the upper lip of each listener had not escaped his observation. One or two drunken squaws had gone so far as tauntingly to ask him, “Where is the blood of the Leech!” To add to his unhappiness, he had learned that his absence, or some other cause, had so preyed upon the spirits of Eonah, that the old chief must ere long find his home among the graves of his ancestors. Stung to agony with his own private vexations, Eoneguski was yet sensible to the claims of friendship and the demands of duty, but he was at a loss for suitable means of executing what he knew to be desirable. Satisfied of the inutility, and even imprudence, of a direct personal application, he endeavored to seek out a suitable agent.
Upon the arrival of the travellers at Waynesville, of the many knots or assemblages of persons, one consisting partly of Indians and partly of whites, was gathered around a figure in an Indian costume, who was regaling them with the shrill music of a fife.—But the feathers of a peacock were not sufficient to enable the jackdaw to pass for a genuine bird of Juno, neither could the Indian dress enable Mercury (for that was the name of the person of whom we speak) to pass for a Cherokee. His complexion had been borrowed from a hotter sun, shining upon plains more arid than those of America, and he or his ancestors must at some period have slaked their thirst at one of the many streams which pour their waters into the mysterious Niger. Upon seeing Eoneguski his eye sparkled with delight; the tones of the fife ceased abruptly, and he hastily pressed through the crowd towards him. It was with an effort that he suppressed a cry of pleasure, or the most clamorous salutations; and it is doubtful whether he would have succeeded in so doing unrebuked by the calm, dispassionate manner of Eoneguski. In spite of all his efforts, he exclaimed with a laugh, which, with a white man, would have been more expressive of mirth than of joy, “I'm so glad to see yer.”
The Indian deigned no reply, but leading the way to a more retired spot, the following interview took place between them.
“You have forgotten, Mercury,” said Eoneguski, “the lessons of Eonah. You remember not that you have been adopted among the Oewoehee, and that, like them, you should let the fire burn in concealment beneath the ashes.”
“I do my best,” said Mercury, laughing, “but it's of no use. Yer see there's no sich thing as making an Injun out of a nigger. I'm downright glad to see yer, and I can't help showing it.”
“Is Eonah well?—Is the old warrior as when I parted from him?” inquired Eoneguski, changing the subject of conversation.
Mercury shook his head mournfully, and then looking significantly at Eoneguski, “No!” he said, “there must soon be a new chief of the Eonee.”
Eoneguski was silent. His countenance was calm, but his bosom heaved not in respiration with its wonted tranquillity. After a long pause, he twice opened his lips to speak, but as often closed them again, under the influence of some powerful restraint. At length he inquired, “Is there any voice from Tesumtoe?”
“There is none,” replied Mercury, “but they say no news is good news, and I reckon,” looking archly at Eoneguski, “the Little Deer is well. I hope, for her sake, that the crows and buzzards owe us a dinner, and that John Welch won't come any more, to trouble the people of Eonee.”
They continued for some time to converse, Eoneguski just throwing in an observation, or asking a question now and then, (as the boy blows his breath upon his toy windmill, and then looks calmly on, entertained with its rapid rotation, until its slackening speed gives notice that a new impulse is required,) while the garrulous African, in his loose, disjointed manner, communicated to him by degrees all that it most concerned him to know of what had transpired since his departure from the Indian country. At length they separated; the one, like Orpheus, to charm the ear of dulness with his music, and the other to mingle with the people of his tribe.
The sable personage with whom Eoneguski thus held discourse, was a slave of his father, who had been promoted for his sagacity and supposed fidelity to the confidential post of 'Linkister,' as it is called in corruption, it may be of linguist. However, in the part of the country of which we are writing, the term linkister is received and adopted both by Indians and white people, and applied by them to the person who acts as interpreter in intercourse between the two. This very responsible station Mercury had for some years enjoyed, more to the profit, it is said, of the white people who had dealings with it, than to that of the tribe for whom, as well as for himself, his master, as their chief, allowed him to act. The white people, it is thought, found him among the moderns, as the divinity, after whom, it is probable, he was named, is reputed to have been amongst the ancients—a safe ally in schemes of knavery, and one to whom a timely application, made in a suitable manner, would be attended with the most fortunate results. But the Cherokees confided implicitly in their linkister, and were probably fleeced accordingly.
His situation in life had rendered Mercury a most extraordinary compound of the white man, the Indian, and the negro, in habits and moral character; his countenance wore by turns the expression of contemplative philosophy, the inexpressive calmness of stoicism, and the thoughtless levity of the Epicurean.
It was to this personage that Eoneguski determined to apply, in the line of his profession, to negotiate between himself and Gideon. It justly occurred to him that Mercury's better knowledge of the character of the white people would enable him more successfully to approach Gideon, while in turn the white man's pride and jealousy would be less awakened by an intimation from an humble slave, than from the haughty son of a Cherokee chief. After coming to this determination, before Eoneguski could find Mercury, another person had extricated Gideon from his immediate difficulty.
One venerable man, belov'd of all,
* * * * * *
How rev'rend was the look he bore,
This gentle Pennsylvanian sire.
THERE is in almost every community some individual particularly distinguished for his piety and benevolence—like Abram, in Canaan, or Lot, in Sodom. Heaven, even more merciful now than in ancient days, seems willing not only to spare, but to visit with continual manifestations of its favor, (doubtless for their sakes,) each portion of the earth in which Providence has cast them. Like a candle in a dark night, the solitary light of one of these blessed beings is seen amid the moral gloom by which he is surrounded at an immense distance, and cheers the heart of the beholder with its unpretending lustre. In the presence of such men the most hardened profligacy is awed into respectful silence, and he who laughs at the terrors of the Almighty in theory, finds his spirit rebuked and subdued by even so inconsiderable a reflection of his moral perfections.
The vicinity of Waynesville was favored with the presence of one of these guardian angels. Among the first to choose for himself a place of rest in the evening of his life, upon the fertile margin of Richland Creek, was Moses Holland. What had been his early history we shall not now have leisure to inquire. Suffice it to say, those who looked upon him in the decline of his manhood would have perceived that his youth could have claimed, if not the very first, at least a high place among the rustic heroes of his day, and that he need not have shunned in any athletic strife the stoutest among them. Raising their eyes from his large muscular limbs, his round body, deep chest, and broad brawny shoulders, they would have seen a clear, bright eye, and thin firmly compressed lips, declaring, even in silence, that in a righteous quarrel the spirit would be found as willing as the flesh was strong. But when his countenance was more closely considered, they would have read in its expression the short summary of the divine law—Love to God, and benevolence to all his creatures. Long bleached locks flowed down his back and shoulders, surmounted by an ancient beaver, from which time and use had entirely worn away the nap, leaving it quite smooth, and in some places even glossy. The brim was broad, and turned up at the two sides, coming to a point in front, and forming with the hinder part a triangle. This hinder part was also a little turned up by reason of the cape of his coat continually pressing against it. The rest of his costume was a plain homespun suit, consisting of coat, waistcoat, and breeches, of the quality common at this day among the peasantry in all parts of the State. The coat was of the cut vulgarly called shad-bellied—the waistcoat pockets hung down very low, rendered more remarkable by a triangular scollop cut out of the lower part of the front—the breeches buttoned very tight below the knee, finely displaying a well turned calf and ancle above a thick-soled low-quartered shoe, fastened with a large white metal buckle. The old man stooped but little, yet he did not disdain the aid of a staff, formed of substantial hickory, with an iron ferule at the bottom, to which it tapered from a globular head about two inches in diameter, of the same entire piece with the rest of the stick, and worn as smooth and nearly as highly polished as ivory, by the continual attrition and perspiration of the hand.
It is needless to inquire what had on this day attracted Mr. Holland to Waynesville, yet he was there—perhaps to testify his respect for the institutions of his country— perhaps to transact some private business of his own—perhaps to befriend some widow, who, in the midst of her bereavement, was driven by necessity to apply to the county court for authority to snatch the shreds of her husband's property, probably rendered his by his marriage with her, or by her subsequent industry or frugality, from the grasp of wretches who commonly hover over the proprietary remains of a dead man, like the vulture over the dead brute—perhaps in some other way, to obey the promptings of a benevolent heart. Gratifications for a benevolent temper are scattered by Providence widely and thickly over every quarter of the earth, and its possessor never long wants occasions for one of those feasts of the heart which only such as he can know.
It was but a short time, therefore, before Mr. Holland espied Gideon, and partly through inquiries and partly by observation, comprehended his situation. The determination to attempt his deliverance followed close upon the discovery of his difficulties. The crowd respectfully gave way before him as he walked up to Gideon; “Young man,” he began in a singing tone of voice, peculiar to himself, “you must go home with me.”
“Why, who the devil are you?” said Gideon, with his hat twisted out of all shape, the hind part being before, and conceitedly turned up, setting his arms a kimbo and turning round upon Mr. Holland, in a blustering manner.
“Never mind,” said he, “you shall have a good dinner, and a cup of coffee at night, and a bed to lie on, and that's more nor you'll get at Waynesville.”
“And how far do you live from here?” said Gideon, with a face almost purple with liquor.
“Not more nor two miles,” replied the old man.
“Well, you are a kind old codger, any how,” said Gideon, with a simial attempt to look pleased, “give me your hand.—Come, take a drink with us.”
“Excuse me, my friend,” replied Mr. Holland, have a great deal better liquor nor this, at my house, so come along with me.”
“Oh, as for that,” cried Gideon, after the manner of an irritated drunkard, “I don't care a d—n for your liquor, except in the way of fellowship; (hiccoughing) and if you are two proud to drink with me, why you may just be off as quick as you like.”
“You are the son of Bob Aymor, I hear,” said the persevering old man; “I have the pleasure of knowing your father.”
“Well, do you now?” said Gideon, with an idiotic laugh, followed by an awkward attempt to settle his countenance into gravity; “and what may your name be?”
“My name,” replied the old gentleman, “is Moses Holland.”
“I think I've heard of you before,” said the youngster, standing with his legs wide apart to prop himself up, and his mouth hanging half open, whilst his head dangled about from side to side in the imbecility of intoxication. “They tell me that you are a mighty religious man, and don't hold at all with frolicking and such like. But you don't think I'm drunk, do you? (hiccoughing.) My father is not a religious man, Mr. Holland, but he knows what's right, and I should'nt like so well for him to hear that I had been in a frolic.”
“I did'nt come here to find fault with you, and I scorn to be a tale-bearer; so come along with me, and we shall soon be good friends.”
So saying, he laid his hand gently upon the young man, who yielded passively to his fate, and was lead away by the venerable Mr. Holland.
The companions of Gideon, who had stood by with drunken amazement during this interview, now turned upon each other looks of stupid wonder and disappointment, as the reader may have seen a flock of silly sheep when one of their number has been carried off by the shearer.
The dwelling of Mr. Holland, we have already said, was near Richland Creek, where, with the advantages of experience and early choice, he had selected one of the most productive among the many tracts of fertile land which border and give name to this stream. His house, situated on the acclivity of a hill, overlooked a considerable extent of the richest low grounds, which, with the aid of a large family of children, he had brought into a state of cultivation but rarely found in that part of the country; for, it may be as well to mention, that he was from Pennsylvania, and had brought with him many of the sound maxims, and much of the agricultural experience abounding in that State.
Mr. Holland was not ignorant of the wants of his guest, and, upon their arrival, a bed was quickly provided for him, in which he was scarcely deposited before he sunk into a profound slumber.
“I am afraid we shall have our hands full of drunkards to-night,” said Mrs. Holland to her husband, after his return from the room where he had been disposing of Gideon. “I suppose Smoothly and Rowell will both come home tipsy, as usual, and old Johns will not be far behind them.”
“I hope not, my dear,” replied Mr. Holland, “but the Lord's will be done. Happy should I be if it would please him to bring them to a knowledge of the error of their way. But Mary, my dear, we must bear with the frailties of our fellow creatures, and do the best we can to make them comfortable. We are ourselves but unprofitable servants, and have little reason to complain of others. Edie,” he continued, addressing his eldest daughter, “let us have our dinner soon. The best of every thing must be kept hot and nice for the lawyers against they come home hungry at night. I reckon that poor young man in the other room will hardly be wanting any thing either until then.”
Edith, a sedate, sweet tempered girl, hastened to comply with the wishes of her father, whose affectionate glance followed her with complacency, as she moved about from place to place in the fulfilment of her task.
We have said that Mr. Holland had a large family of children, yet all but the two younger were the offspring, not of the present Mrs. Holland, but of the deceased object of their father's first and early love, whom death had years ago snatched from his arms, leaving him several pledges of their affection, of all whom Edith most strongly resembled her deceased parent. It is hardly to be wondered at, then, if some chords of his heart vibrated when he heard and saw this daughter whose voice, look, and manner presented so striking a copy of her buried mother, that were stirred by nothing else.
When the dinner was at length spread upon the simple board, and the family gathered around, it would have presented a most exquisite study for the painter. Seldom has the chisel perpetuated a scene so beautifully interesting. With patriarchal dignity, mingled with a humility of manner which seemed to bow itself in the very dust before the August Being he was addressing, the venerable man closed his eyes, and elevating his hands, invoked a blessing upon their meal, while almost every gradation of human existence, from middle age to extreme infancy, hung attentively upon his looks and words.
I ne'er the paths of learning tried,
Nor have I roam'd in foreign parts
To read mankind, their laws and arts.
The little knowledge I have gain'd
Was all from simple nature drain'd.
IT was long past the hour to which the County Court (or as it is called in the statutes, the Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions) for Haywood County, had adjourned, when the voice of the Sheriff was heard crying out “O yes! oh yes!—this Worshipful Court has sot in consequence of adjournment. God save the State and this Worshipful Court.” This, it is believed, is a very short and somewhat modified compend of the appointed formula, to say nothing of the adoption in its introduction of the Saxon adverb of affirmation for the French verb signifying “Hear.” But without at all criticising the terms in which the invitation was given, many in obedience to it, flocked towards the building where Justice had erected, at Waynesville, her temporary altar and opened her temple.
The latter was a coarse building, consisting of unplaned boards loosely put together, and scarcely serving to defend either priests or worshippers from sun, wind, rain, or snow. But poor as were her own accommodations, Justice was obliged to share them with Bacchus; and a kind of shed attached to the main body of the building, formed a bar-room, to which the thirsty mountaineers might repair for refreshment. Nor was the barroom patronized by the lay gents only, for the Worshipful Magistracy, and even some of the gentlemen of the long robe found the business of the court rather dry, and frequently betook themselves to the oblivious streams, so much more varied, if not so permanently efficacious in their influence as the waters of the fabled Lethe.
Of all the political phenomena which the United States of America presents, there is none more remarkable than what is commonly known as the county court system. In the first place, the magistrates, or justices of the peace, as they are indifferently called, are appointed from the mass of the population of their respective counties, without any regard either to character or intelligence, and the natural consequence is, that a large proportion must (if nothing worse than blind chance directed the choice,) be entirely deficient in both. A still further consequence is, that those whose qualifications are the best that the country can afford—ashamed of their associates, or wearied with a burthen which brings with it neither honor nor profit—first grossly neglect the duties of their station, and, finally, resign it. This leaves the office almost exclusively in the hands of the worst qualified of those who may aspire to it, namely, the whole white population of the county who may have witnessed the transit of twenty-one years. Three, at least, of this body—and in practice generally, more than ten times that number, assemble once in three months at the court-house of their county, to hold the county court. To this tribunal, extensive powers, in their nature legislative, so far as the police of the county is concerned, are committed. But, besides this, they have a jurisdiction in contests between citizens respecting property, entirely unlimited in amount; and a criminal jurisdiction extending far enough to allow them to sentence the most respectable citizen in the community, to the public whipping-post; and, although the right of appeal is secured by law, yet so radically whimsical must be the doings of a tribunal thus constituted, that instances are not wanting, where the sheriff, under the side-bar sentence of the court, has been applying the lash, while the subject's counsel was engaged in moving a new trial, an arrest of judgment, or demanding an appeal. It is true, that facts in their proceedings are committed to the investigation of a jury; but it is a jury generally taken with as little regard to qualification, from the same mass with the magistracy. But the most intricate questions of law—the most abstruse points of evidence, are to be decided by this tribunal, by mere intuition; for it is not even supposed that they have ever looked into any other law book than Haywood's Manual, Potter's Justice, or the pamphlet Acts of Assembly.
It cannot be denied that they usually have the matter discussed before them by an intelligent bar, but the manner of the discussion is more after the furious mode of the prize-fighters at a fair for victory,—not truth, in which violent gesticulation and round and reckless assertion are alone to be found, than the calm, dispassionate ratiocinatory process of one who seeks, by fair argument and clear illustration to enlighten the minds of the motley court upon a subject lying before it, shrouded in the gloom of the profoundest ignorance. The result is, that some individual member of the profession acquires, by an extraordinary boldness of manner, or some other fortuitous circumstance, an absolute control over the decisions of the court, leading the minds of its members captive at his will, as Satan is said to do those of the wicked. All hope of justice is thus cut off from those to whom this fortunate advocate may happen to be opposed, save now and then, when some other bias, even more powerful than his influence, may chance to operate. Such was the nature of the tribunal through whose lips, under the etherial inspiration of rye whiskey, or apple jack, the perfection of reason was to be uttered at Waynesville.
But the pen of the British Spy is wanting to describe the bar by whose breath these instruments of justice were stirred into sound. The North Carolina bar, and it is probable the same remarks apply substantially to the bar of every other State in our broad Union, is another phenomenon; or at least must appear so to the eye of any observing European. Every American, particularly in the South, who can afford him an education, destines at least one of his sons for the bar, the pulpit, or the band of Esculapius, and much the greater number for the former of these professions. Whether it is the effect of climate we will not undertake to pronounce; but certain it is, in the South, at least, a long preparation for any thing is utterly abhorrent to an American: so that after the shortest possible cut to a diploma in one of our colleges, and sometimes without ever having seen a college, the embryo jurist applies to some judge, or lawyer, for whose character he entertains a respect, to furnish him with a receipt for the shortest method of obtaining a license to practise law—with a loan, either gratis or for compensation, of the book or books which may be included in the prescribed course. Perhaps, in a majority of cases, Blackstone is relied upon, as he is certainly competent to qualify him for the examination, so called, upon which his license is to depend. When his chosen Mentor, who is wont to be very pliant to the wishes of the student, pronounces his vessel sufficiently freighted, the young adventurer applies, with but little danger of denial, to the proper authority for a license, to put forth upon the sea of forensic fortune. But in most instances there is a weary interval between his making appearance at the bar and his appearance as an advocate; or, to use the professional phrase, between getting his license and getting business.
In this interval the work of preparation is pressed with indefatigable zeal, and his intercourse with the seniors of the bar proves no less instructive to him, professionally, than his books. We say professionally, and might add, generally, as a man of the world. Whatever may be said of the profession elsewhere, here, at least, experience has so well established with it the truth of the maxim, that “Honesty is the best policy,” that an aberration of one of its members from the path of the strictest integrity is more rare than among any other class of people. With them the spirit of chivalry is no antiquated dream of romance, and a coward or poltron would be tolerated amongst them no longer than until the fact was discovered. There is, in their intercourse, a cordiality of manner and frank confidence truly delightful, together with a generous interest in each other's welfare, the offspring of a fraternity more heartfelt, if possible, than that of blood.
These are some of the intellectual and moral influences which the young member of the profession is brought under as soon as he begins to associate with his seniors. But there is another influence which he finds stealing, almost imperceptibly, over him, equally conducive, perhaps, to his present enjoyment, but greatly to be deplored by those who contemplate him as an immortal being, upon whom rests a dread moral accountability. As a body, the members of the bar are perfect utilitarians, who have culled all those qualities of the human character calculated to render them respectable, useful, and happy, in this life, and wiser in their generation than the children of light—they pursue their worldly objects with no divided aim. The thoughts of futurity are not allowed to disturb their quiet, and, as the only security against their inconvenient intrusions, they generally become free-thinkers. Intolerant of the slightest breach of the code of honor or honesty, that portion of the moral law which is not found written in either of these codes, is overlooked as immaterial. All this, it is to be hoped, nay, is believed, to be what the profession once was, rather than what it now is, for we have reason to think that, while it has lost nothing in these latter days of its pristine virtues, many of its more objectionable traits have been altogether discarded.
Thus fitted out with a large stock of knowledge, acquired in that study which high authority has pronounced to be the proper one for all mankind, the North Carolina lawyer will appear before the higher or lower tribunals of his country with an effect which would astonish one of the learned sergeants of Westminster Hall. When he listened to the power of argument with which he managed the facts—when he perceived that, in the absence of nearly every visible form, he spoke of the principles laid down in Chitty and Tidd with the most perfect familiarity, and applied them to his case, he would be greatly amazed—he could not believe that a training so totally different from that bestowed upon the English barrister had produced such results. But could he enter the arena with the rustic looking advocate he would find himself unable, with all his professional tactics and experience, to withstand the force and fury of his encounter. Far be it from us to detract from the highly polished and able advocates of Great Britain. All that we desire, in our bold comparison, is to show, in full relief, the truth, that each is best qualified for the station he fills, and that different trainings are necessary for different fields of action.
The sketch above made of a North Carolina lawyer shows the usual result upon a mind of an order naturally high, and under ordinary circumstances; but the same is, in various degrees, produced upon other orders, and the picture would be differently shaded, according to the circumstances under which it is drawn. For instance, in the older parts of the State you see the lawyer dressed in finer clothes, of a more fashionable cut, and with something more of the cit in his manners than his brother of the new settlements. The one glides in his sulky over the level plains, with perhaps a servant at his back; the other jogs along, over hill and valley, and sometimes scaling the side of a precipice, with his time-worn and well-filled saddlebags flapping against the sides of his horse.
Of this latter class, six had found their way to Waynesville, and were maintaining a friendly strife, first for fees from those gulls of the law who hovered about the court-house, and next for the successful issue of the causes committed to their charge.
Mr. Johns is, by right of seniority, first entitled to consideration amongst them. He was a tall lank man, about fifty years of age, with locks originally black, thickly sprinkled with gray. In his countenance there was a sneaking craven expression, better becoming a criminal than an advocate, and yet it was in the defence of criminals, strange as it may seem, he had attained a proud pre-eminence in all the courts he attended. A stranger would have taken him for the humblest of the bumpkins who hovered about the bar; and when he opened his mouth, its harsh and unmusical tones would never have suggested, that in them dwelt the notes of soft persuasion. But when he witnessed the sad sufferings of the English language in the throat, palate, tongue, and beautiful teeth of Mr. Johns, as it was slowly and stammeringly uttered, he would wonder still more wherein lay his resemblance to the facund Mercury. And a yet higher flight would await his astonishment when he looked upon his mean countenance—his bleared lack-lustre eyes—the graceless stoop of his shoulders—his open collar, exposing a scraggy neck, from which the pomum adami protruded like a large wen—his slovenly ill-arranged clothing—and his spindle shanks appearing beneath his pantaloons, a world too short as well as too wide, and exposing their nakedness, (for they always disdained, except in the severest weather, the comfort of a stocking.) And yet this man, having neither the gait, air, action, nor utterance of a Christian, was certainly a successful criminal advocate, nay, even bore away the palm from all competition—but
What conjuration, or what magic,”
he won his causes, withal, is, perhaps, a professional secret. He usually occupied no place within the bar, and save when actually engaged in the management of a cause, might be seen mingling with the people of the court-yard, until his social habits had stretched him (which was frequently the case) upon the bed of penitence.
Next in age stood Mr. Rowell, as brave a man, and as generous a spirit, as ever lived. He had been almost cradled upon the wave, and had often “felt it bounding beneath him like a steed who knows its rider.” He had heard the thunder of his country's cannon mingled with that of her enemy's—had witnessed the soul-stirring scenes of a naval conflict, and could say with Æneas, “all which I saw and part of which I was”—had seen the flag of his country flying at a mast-head, where that of an enemy had recently waved in proud defiance—had heard the groans of the wounded and dying—had mingled his voice in the shouts of victory—in short, had been an officer in the United States Navy. But the voice of love will be heard even amid the howlings of a storm, and his shaft will sometimes wound a heart which has passed scatheless through the thick flying dangers of a battle. But we have not time to tell the tale; suffice it, that Mars could not refuse the surrender of a subject whom Venus claimed, and Mr. Rowell left the navy of his country for an employment more auspicious to connubial bliss. He married, studied, and became a lawyer. The western part of his native State presented to him the most inviting theatre, and thither he repaired. His stock, both of law and literature, was limited, but a fine fund of natural good sense, united with his high spirit, commanded the respect of the people, and he succeeded beyond his most sanguine hopes. But he, too, was the occasional slave of intemperance, and his person, originally no way remarkable, was now beginning to exhibit those melancholy signs, by which the tyrant marks those whom he destines ultimately for his victims. But his mind rose strangely above the wreck of his body, and seemed, if not to gather more, at least to lose nothing, of its pristine strength. Like a giant, whose natural vigor remains unimpaired, while his castle is tumbling into ruins about him. At the time we speak of, Mr. Rowell had seated himself in a rickettyricketty chair, behind an old barrel with the head upwards, which served him both as table and writing-desk.
Next to him sat Mr. Smoothly, a gentleman of fine education and natural genius. Language flowed from his lips with ease and smoothness—like a stream of oil, it poured along without interruption, and apparently without effort. But the happiness of selection which marked every word, indicated that it was quickness and not languor of mind which caused the absence of apparent exertion. The ear that heard was charmed with the music of his voice, and the fancy was delighted with the richness and beauty of his figures. The muses did not disdain his advances, but condescended to breathe upon him the inspiration which prompts to the production of “immortal verse.” He was a cunning master of melody, and could set the table in a roar, by night or by day, with the felicitous flashes of his wit. And yet Smoothly was not a successful advocate; and it is not improbable that, as others have done, he found the practise of the law rather an expensive business. He, too, was intemperate, and had probably been driven by that pernicious habit to the present rude scene, from one much better suited for the exhibition of his genius and accomplishments. This day he had come into court in the stupor of intoxication, and throwing himself into his accustomed seat, had cocked up his heels upon a crazy table, and fallen back in his chair into a deep sleep, and was sending forth the sluggard's serenade in strains deep and sonorous.
The remaining members of the bar were sober orderly gentlemen, who attended to their business with commendable industry, and were no way distinguished by any characteristic marks.
Such were the juris-consults who were congregated on this occasion to supply the good people of Haywood with the needful modicum from the treasures of their legal learning.
Eoneguski having made his way into the courthouse, was observing with the curiosity of an inquisitive but uninformed mind, every thing that was going on, and, probably, in his simple process of reasoning, forming not the most elevated opinion of the whites from the scene before him. But his thoughts, such as they were, he confined to his own bosom.
After several weighty matters had been discussed, a most unlucky specimen of female elegance was called up to the bar, bearing in her arms an infant, whose beauty, contrasted with his homely mother, said much in favor of his father's personal advantages. The subsequent proceedings disclosed that Mr. Rowell was engaged in the very charitable work, as county solicitor, of assisting the infant in a search such as that which so much troubled Captain Marryatt's hero, Japhet. Amid a perfect Babel of sounds, the jury was impannelled, and the examination of the mother read, charging a gentleman present with a paternity which he, by his plea, had denied. Witness after witness was examined on each side, contradicting and supporting the charge, until the day was nearly consumed, when the testimony of the witnesses was succeeded by the arguments of counsel—Mr. Rowell opening, old Johns replying, and Mr. Rowell again concluding. Zealous and warm were they both, and the bystanders, who had been before restless and noisy, now listened with the most breathless attention, eager to catch every word. Even a discordant violin, which, regardless of its proximity to the scene of grave judicial proceeding, had been sending forth, unceasingly, its screams and groans, was suddenly hushed into silence, as the accomplished performer rose to have his own ears tickled in turn, for the delightful irritation with which he had gratified those of others.
An aged man, whose head was as bald as that of the eagle whose effigy graces the flag of his country, and glistened like an onion newly stripped of its covering, was the clerk of the court, who availed himself of this season of general quiet to indulge in a comfortable nap. Being seated immediately under the chairman of the court, (an inveterate chewer of tobacco,) the defenceless cranium of the clerk received the greater portion of saliva which his worship, from time to time, spurted forth. The accumulated fluid ran in brown streams over the face of the deep sleeper, and finally trickled down from his chin. Still he slept on as if in rivalry of Mr. Smoothly, who sat just opposite him. At length the justice wished to change his quid, and carelessly throwing the old one from him, it chanced to fall into the open mouth of the sleeping lawyer, who had an utter abhorrence of the weed, and yet it did not wake him.
Mr. Johns had finished his defence, and Rowell was proceeding, with great success, to fix the charge upon the client of Johns, whose innocence the latter supposed he had most triumphantly established. Rowell had become warmed, and every one was borne away upon the fervid stream of his eloquence, except the little cherub, on whose account was all this stir and excitement. This interesting creature, in the artless joy of his heart, was playing with the ribbon of his mother's bonnet, and crowed and laughed, perfectly unconscious that he was born to a life of shame, or that the seal of infamy was stamped upon his beautiful brow. All else, we have said, were riveted in mute attention on the lips of Rowell, and even the crier of the court, to whose eyes nature had denied the blessed light of Heaven, bent his sightless orbs upon the speaker, and seemed perfectly enraptured. As Rowell was rushing on, trampling, as it were, his adversary beneath his feet, the infant, whose eyes had been wandering from face to face with the most joyous expression, suddenly turned them upon the traverser, and cried out in the first accents of childhood, “Papa!” Rowell, with great presence of mind, seized upon the incident. “Yes, gentlemen,” said he, “nature now speaks through the lips of infancy, and asserts her claim; and the same Almighty Being who opened the mouth of the dumb ass, and caused her to utter the voice of rebuke to his prophet, hath also, on this occasion, taught language to the unpractised tongue, and, through the mouth of a babe, hath uttered the voice of irresistible truth.”
A half drunken creature, who had long stood, with open mouth, just at the back of the speaker, transported by this last happy flight, clapped his hands together, and exclaimed, in a voice of thunder, “By G—d, if old gimlet would only keep sober, I would rather have him than any of them.”
Rowell was overwhelmed; the stream of water which sets in motion the complicated machinery of a mill, stops not more suddenly, when the gate is lowered, than did his voice upon the present occasion—
“Surprise in secret chains his words suspends.”
Every eye was fixed upon him, and a grotesque resemblance to that contemptible tool mentioned by the clown, which had never before been noticed, now forcibly struck all present, and the effect was irresistible. A shout of laughter rang through the hall of justice, and startled the sleepers from their leaden slumbers; and while the one gagged and sputtered to eject the discarded quid of the justice, which had been soaking in his throat for the last half hour, the other, feeling the moisture upon his head and face, inquisitively put up his hand to ascertain what it was. This attempt to explore the matter but served the more to confound him, while it gave a wider spread to his loathsome mask.—At length the truth flashed upon his mind, and he vented his vexation in the most bitter curses upon the magistrate, who, in turn, swore roundly that the thing was entirely accidental. None but the oaths of the magistrate reached the ears of the blind crier, who, as soon as he heard them, and not imagining from whence they came, called out, in all the formality of official consequence, “What profane wretch is that swearing in court; I'll soon have him before their worships.”
A confusion and uproar, now too wild to admit of suppression or control, dissolved the court for the day, and it is doubtful whether the paternity of the poor little babe has been settled, even up to this period. The balance of the day was spent in horse racing, fighting, and other kindred amusements, with which most of the inhabitants of Waynesville and its vicinity were wont to beguile their idle hours.
For Albert's home they sought.
IN the ruder stages of society the quantity of food is a matter of much more importance than its quality; and in the more early periods of civilization food can be dispensed with altogether, for a season, if an abundant supply of intoxicating liquors be only substituted. Thus it is the practice to provide at places where men are wont to assemble, rather against the demands of artificial thirst, than hunger or the necessity for sleep.
The tavern which had contributed to give Waynesville the rank of a town, wanted all the substantial utility of such an institution. Drink, truly, such as it was, could be obtained there in great abundance; but eating and sleeping were matters altogether of too trivial concern to merit the provident attention of the landlord. From pure kindness of heart, therefore, and not in compliance with any avaricious yearnings for gain, did Mr. Holland, to supply the defect of accommodation at Waynesville, open his hospitable doors. Thither, amongst others, the gentlemen of the bar resorted for that comfort for which they would have sought in vain any where else in the vicinity of Waynesville. It was, in fact, a great inconvenience, both to him and his worthy spouse, but from the motives before mentioned they submitted to it, and although he could not afford the finding both his guests and their horses altogether gratis, yet the old gentleman took from them barely enough to defray his actual expense, without accepting any thing for trouble. Yet of this he had a large share, and it is to be feared that his courtesy was not very gratefully repaid by those who were its recipients. His piety was notorious, and although he did prevent, by the most positive prohibition, the desecration of his mansion by card playing, yet in that day, when there were no temperance societies to back him in what would have been considered a manifest breach of common civility, as well as a gross encroachment upon personal freedom, he could not withhold from his guests intoxicating drinks of the best quality within his reach, and had thus frequently the mortification, from the abuse of his favors, to perceive himself instrumental in the production of consequences disgraceful to them, distressing to his family, and painfully offensive to his own moral sense. To most outbreaking profanity he was compelled often to submit, though not without some word or look expressive of his disapprobation; and his ears were not spared occasional disdainful hints relative to the graces by which, in spite of them, he scrupulously accompanied every meal.
To Mr. Holland's the gentlemen of the long robe repaired, after the very sudden dissolution of the court, as described in the last chapter, amusing themselves as they went, and even after their arrival, with good humored raillery upon Johns, Rowell, and Smoothly, relative to their respective parts in the closing scene. These gentlemen, like those of the profession in other parts of the State, were exceedingly free and easy in their intercourse with each other out of court, and it would have argued great want of tact in any one seriously to have resented a sally of pleasantry of which he might be the subject. Mr. Holland, although a pious man, was not one of those who imagined religion to consist in a vinegar countenance or starched formality of manner, and enjoyed as much as any of them the humor of the scene, which he succeeded at length in gathering almost entire by putting together the several parts furnished by each contributor. “Why, Smoothly,” he said, after laughing until his very sides were sore, “you must have enjoyed the squire's quid, you held on to it so long. I think a'ter awhile you'll make a tolerable tobacco chewer.”
“Well, father Holland,” said Smoothly, “don't you think a gentleman might be excused for washing down such a joke as that with a good drink?”
“Ah, Smoothly,” said Rowell, who was constantly vacillating between good purposes and evil practice, “any thing for an excuse.”
“Well boys,” said old Johns, “I am like the feller who, hearing one cry out for licker bekase he was cold, and another bekase he was warm, called to the waiter, 'Bring me a glass of brandy and water, bekase I likes it.' So Holland do let me have something to drink, bekase I likes it. I second Smoothly's motion.”
Gideon, who had by this time come to himself, enjoyed very much this new society into which he was thrown, and it was quite a treat to him to listen to the stale professional jokes and tales with which, after supper, Johns, Rowell, and Smoothly amused themselves until late bed-time; while in an adjoining apartment, the three other members of the bar, regardless of the mirthful cachinnations which frequently assailed them, were arranging the facts and law of the trials for the succeeding day.
Mr. Holland and Johns had sunk into that quiet, contemplative state, that the pipe, to which they were both considerably enslaved, is so apt to induce; and the conversation had begun somewhat to flag between Smoothly and Rowell, (a thing altogether insufferable in a professional circle,) while Gideon, with all the interest of a novice, was impatiently listening for some new sally from the lawyers, entitled, by the mint from whence it proceeded, to pass as genuine wit.
“Come, Smoothly,” at length said Rowell, “the squire's quid seems not only to have taken away your appetite, but destroyed your spirits.”
“Not so fast,” replied Smoothly, “I don't think you have much to brag upon; in the first place, I was not so sorely watered as yourself, and am now at least as cheerful, if not quite so witty.”
“Why, you are disposed to be severe,” answered Rowell, a little ruffled. “You know very well that no one pretends to vie with you in wit, writing verses, or pretty speaking.”
“And you know Rowell,” said Smoothly tauntingly, “that you consider yourself a perfect Isocrates in composing speeches, but not being so deficient in brass as poor Isocrates, you are not far behind Demosthenes in delivery.”
“If I were disposed to be as severe as you, Smoothly,” said Rowell, “I might retort on you, and say, what I do not allege as the fact, that you resemble much more Theodorus, the father of Isocrates, than that celebrated orator himself; for the former had no higher reputation than that of being a good maker of music.”
“And if you were to say it,” replied Smoothly, “I should hold it as no reproach, for I believe with Shakspeare, that 'he who has no music in his soul is fit for treasons, stratagems, and spoils.' “
This observation was accompanied with a look of provoking significance at Rowell, who was notoriously deficient both in fondness for music, and the power of making it.
“Do you mean any serious personal application of your remark?” inquired Rowell, with stern composure.
“Qui capit, ille facit, you understand some Latin, sir, I suppose,” replied Smoothly, with cool indifference.
“Better, sir, than you do the conduct becoming a gentleman,” said Rowell, tartly.
“I suppose you would have a man to learn his manners before the mast of a vessel, or in the accomplished society of some modern Palinurus,” replied Smoothly, with most provoking coolness.
“No, sir, such society would be altogether too good for you, and as you are fond of classical names, I know none which you may more justly appropriate to yourself than that of Thersites.”
“I am fearful,” replied Smoothly, “that a fate similar to his awaits me, for I see that Achilles already has his fist doubled,” looking at the right hand of Rowell, which he had in his excitement closed after the manner of one about to strike.
“D—n it, Smoothly,” said Rowell, recovering his good humor, “you are too hard for me.”
“If you would only read more, Rowell, I should be no match for you,” replied Smoothly. “Now you did not know that it was for laughing at him for appearing as a mourner at the death of Penthesilea, that Achilles, with a blow of his fist, slew Thersites; (a very small matter, surely, for which to take a man's life;) or you might have kept up the ball on your side by saying something like this—I will not follow the example of Achilles, and slay even such a wretch for such a trifle.—Drink less Rowell, and read more.”
“Well,” said old Johns, “happy to find the conversation once more coming back to plain every day English; what Smoothly says puts me in mind of the old story of the kittle calling the pot black; come, both of you drap it like a hot potato, and let Smoothly give us a song. Father Holland you have no objections to Mr. Smoothly's giving us a song; it won't disturb the family, will it?”
“Why, if it's a dacent song, Mister Johns, I have no objection in the world; but you know Smoothly, you sung a song here once that I could not stand.”
“I can't sing at all,” said Smoothly. “I feel that infernal tobacco juice in my throat this minute; besides, I have a cold, and my voice, Johns, is nearly as much cracked as your own.”
“I thank you for the compliment,” replied Johns, “if not for your great willingness to oblige. I never saw one of your rale singers that was worth a pipe of tobacco; they are sartain to have a cold, if a man axes them to sing; and when nobody cares about hearing them, they are eternally singing or whistling, like the wind through the key-hole of a winter night.”
“Let him alone boys,” said Mr. Holland; “don't persuade him, or you won't git a song to-night.”
“Come, Smoothly,” said Rowell, “you remind me of the dutchman's horse—devilish hard to catch, and not worth much after you are caught.”
“Well, boys,” at length, said Smoothly “if you want me to sing, you must make father Holland bring out another decanter, for Johns, like a great sponge, as he is—has sucked up all the first one.”
“It would be monstrous hard to cheat you out of your share of what's going, Smoothly, your mouth is always ready to catch its portion, even to scattering quids of tobacco.”
This mere allusion to the affair at the court-house was more amusing to the company assembled round Mr. Holland's hearth, than would have been far better wit, and produced a general burst of laughter at Smoothly's expense, who, however, was not himself diverted—from the subject of the liquor.
Gideon, who had occasionally heard Mr. Smoothly sing, and from whom, indeed, his sister Atha had learned several songs, including the one given towards the beginning of our story, was waiting with eager impatience to hear the preliminaries settled, and have his ear greeted by the melodious voice of that gentleman; he was, therefore, much gratified when the good natured Mr. Holland finally consented to bring forth the other decanter, from which Mr. Smoothly having moistened his throat, entered upon the following preface:—“Gentlemen, a man somewhat in the habit of singing is more at a loss to please himself in the selection of a song, than one whose stock being small, furnishes him with a very narrow field of choice: any of you, then, will oblige me by naming the song you would prefer—”
“Oh, any thing you please,” was the general cry, leaving Smoothly still in difficulty.
At length, said Gideon, modestly, “If Mr. Smoothly remembers a song which he composed, was the word, I think he used at our house, during a long spell of rain, I, for one, should like to hear it.”
Smoothly blushed. “I remember it, Mr. Aymor, but I should rather be excused from singing it: won't something else answer as well.”
But it was too late; the company all pounced upon this song, and nothing else would serve them, though none of them had heard it, except Gideon. Smoothly sung one or two other songs, with a view of putting them off, but at every pause the song called for by Mr. Aymor was insisted on. At length, Smoothly struck up to the air with which the public has been made familiar, by Thomas Moore's song of Love's Young Dream, the following words:—
The down of youth was on my chin;
As Time pass'd by
I long'd impatient to begin
Life's scenes to try.
Love's warm desire—
Were stirring up my heart,
Which bounded wildly in my breast,
And keenly felt their smart;
Disdaining tame inglorious rest—
It spurn'd each soothing art.
The world—a wide extensive plain,
Was richly spread
With all the human heart would gain;
Whilst o'er my head
Hope's arch so bright
With radiant light
Was gilding all the scene,
Where Love erected num'rous bow'rs
In deepest, fadeless green,
While, far beyond thro' mingling flow'rs
Fame's lofty heights were seen.
Approaching me, there came three dames,
In gay attire;
Beauty in one awoke to flames
Love's kindling fire.
A myrtle wreath
Whence odors breathe,
With grace she bore along,
And, smiling, said, “Sweet youth 'tis thine.
“Love's votaries among
“Come learn such heav'nly wreaths to twine,
“And join Cytherea's throng.”
Ere yet this lovely speaker ceas'd,
Her breath ambition's fire increas'd,
To brighter flame.
A wreath of bays
With pride displays—
“Bend thy fair head, my boy,
“Which with this glorious crown I'll grace,
“And fill thy soul with joy;
“And Venus there shall find no place,
“Who woos but to destroy.”
Confus'd—I stood in doubtful choice:
The third fair spake.
A vine she bore, and cri'd “Rejoice!
“To bliss awake!
“Here, take this cup,
“Drain ev'ry sup,
“'Tis fill'd with juice Divine;
“Bid Love and Fame now stand aside,
“And when you've tasted Wine,
“The arms of both will open wide,
“And Love and Fame be thine.”
With eager haste I seiz'd the cup;
'Twas bright pure gold—
Its crimson waves I swallow'd up,
With courage bold.
My wild delight
Soon put to flight
Love, and her sister Fame;
Who never since will condescend,
My fellowship to claim.
The cup remains—my only friend—
My solace—and my shame.
Mr. Smoothly surpassed himself in execution, and there was in the tone in which the last verse was uttered a pathetic sensibility of its truth, as applied to himself, in which the hearers felt deep sympathy. This induced a gloom, which, acting as a sedative upon all their feelings, fitted them for repose.
The lawyers having retired, late as it was, Mr. Holland and his household surrounded their family altar, and offered to the Almighty their evening sacrifice, previously to committing themselves to their respective pillows.
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