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BUT HERE (METHINKS) MIGHT INDIA'S SONS EXPLORE
THEIR FATHER'S DUST, OR LIFT, PERCHANCE OF YORE
THEIR VOICE TO THE GREAT SPIRIT:—
Gertrude of Wyoming.
The traveller, in the boundless lands,
Where the fair West its stores expands,
Oft marks with cheerful green unblent,
High pil'd to Heaven the bleak ascent;
But as along the vale he sweeps,
More gently swell the fir clad steeps,
Till all the sunny summit rise
With golden crown amid the skies.
SLEEP has been aptly called “nature's grand restorative,” and is at once a temporary refuge from distress, and one of the best preparations for its endurance.—From the toils of the mind and of the body, it is alike a relief, and embraces, without distinction, the prince and the beggar.
In the enjoyment of this comfort did the various tenants of Mr. Holland's mansion fit themselves for their respective duties on the day following, and get rid of the effects of their different grievances on the preceding. The lawyers, according to their wont, indulged themselves in late morning sleep, with its accompanying visions of pleasure, until the announcement of breakfast. But the earliest crowing of the cock roused to their labors the busy family, and Gideon was prompt in following their example. Taking leave of his kind entertainers, he repaired to Waynesville, and found Eoneguski impatiently waiting his arrival. The latter had been a good deal alarmed when first missing his young friend, and, through the hands of Mercury, gathered together his moveables, which Gideon's own disordered mind had forgotten, and to which the attention of Mr. Holland had not been drawn. These the Indian carefully preserved, to be replaced in the possession of their owner as soon as they should meet again. Upon diligent inquiry, he learned whither Gideon had gone, and all uneasiness was at an end when he traced him to the keeping of Moses Holland.
Many of the Cherokees who were at Waynesville they day before had already preceded them towards the Indian country, and others were preparing to march in the same direction. Gideon was gratified to find his property, about which he began to feel some uneasiness, in the hands of his swarthy friend; but the buoyancy of spirits with which he had set out upon his expedition was greatly diminished by the reduced weight of his purse, and the recollection of the contemptible figure he must have cut at Waynesville under the influence of spirits. Nor did it escape his observation that Eoneguski was less cheerful than he had been previous to their arrival, although he was entirely ignorant of the cause.
Nothing remarkable occurred on their journey, which now lay along an Indian trail in a southwesterly direction, frequently crossing and re-crossing Richland Creek, and failing this noisy attendant, they soon found themselves pursuing, in the same way, the course of another stream called Scott's Creek. Here the scenery became more wild—the Balsam towered above them in dark majesty, generally throwing its shade upon the stream, which, now and then escaping into bright sunshine, sparkled, as in delight, to fell the genial warmth. But whether in sunshine or in shade, Scott's Creek gushed along its rocky bed, furiously lashing those huge hard impediments against which it incessantly smote, and ever throwing up its spray as it recoiled from these rough encounters. With renewed courage it glided past them, foaming and bubbling—here making melody with a regular tinkling flash, and there hissing continually, as in hot displeasure. But they chose not to follow Scott's Creek through all the sinuosities by which it found its way to the Tuckasege, but leaving it to quarrel and fret alone the remainder of its rough journey, they struck across to that river by a nearer route.
Having passed the Tuckasege, they did not rely upon the guidance of Savanna Creek from its very mouth, but cutting across another angle of four or five miles, they encountered this stream some distance above, and avoided an hour of unnecessary travelling. Having here fallen in with it, however, they left it no more until it conducted them up the steep side of the Cowee Mountain, the most easy and practicable route. On reaching the summit of this mountain, a large section of what was then, and still is, called the Tennessee Valley, was spread out before them. But Gideon could not avoid an expression of astonishment at the apparent incongruity of the name and the thing. To be sure, he found himself upon the summit of a mountain, the side of which, when he looked down it westwardly, seemed nearly perpendicular; and, in the distant haze of the horizon, over against him, mountains still more lofty lifted up their heads, in silvery brightness, borrowed from the snow with which they were crowned. But in the intermediate space called the Valley, mountain beyond mountain rose in thick array, apparently leaving not a spot of level ground for the eye to rest upon. As they descended Gideon could not fail to remark a considerable increase of temperature, and, upon closer observation, not only a greater advance, by two or three weeks, of vegetation, but numerous plants were discovered entirely unknown on the opposite side of the mountain. A great change in the nature of the soil was also perceptible; the light dark mould prevalent on the eastern side being exchanged on the western for a compact hard clay, of a hue somewhat resembling brick dust, with occasional veins of sand running through it.
As they descended towards the valley the air became still more mild, and Gideon remembered the promise of Eoneguski, that “here he would find the game more plenty, and that the sun would shine more brightly.” Part of it he found realized, and his doubts were removed as to the remainder.
Continuing to descend, their way became less precipitous until they reached the Tennessee River, on the near side of which an Indian hut or two was scattered among fields almost level, presenting the appearance of long use, and having suffered seriously from improvident culture. Similar fields occupied the acclivity of the opposite bank, with a very narrow slip of irregular low ground running along the margin of the stream. On the farther side of these fields, about one-fourth of a mile from the river, rose the village of Eonee. “There,” said the Indian, pointing to it, with a rather melancholy smile, “is the home of Eoneguski.”
While they were preparing to cross the Tennessee, a mound of earth, about one hundred yards from its margin, in the direction they were going, attracted the attention of Gideon. It was evidently not the work of nature, but had been accumulated with great exertion of human toil. Whether the earth of which it was composed had been gathered from the ground immediately around it, or brought from a distance, could not be determined with any certainty. It was situated on the most extensive level which, in that vicinity, the low grounds of the Tennessee afforded. On one side of it flowed that river, and on the other a small swampy creek, which, so far as we have ever learned, is not honored with a name. The mound was, at the base, about four hundred feet in circumference, and that side of it which fronted the angle formed by the junction of the river and creek, in a northerly direction, rose to the height of twenty or twenty-five feet in a cone, forming an angle with the surface of the earth of about seventy or seventy-five degrees. This was probably the case with the whole circumference; but on the opposite side from the one which fronted the junction of the creek and river, a projection sloped off in a southerly direction about fifty feet in width, forming a gradual and easy ascent from the level ground to the summit, where was a smooth area about sixty-six feet in circumference, surrounded by an embankment about two feet high.—Upon it, and around it, were scattered here and there small fragments of what had evidently once been earthen vessels of great antiquity; but how they had come there, or to what purposes been applied, were matters for conjecture.
Gideon had frequently heard of what were called by those who spake, “Indian mounts,” as well as various suppositions as to how they were erected, and for what objects designed, but he had never seen hem; and as their course now lay directly past one, Eoneguski could not refuse so far to gratify his curiosity as to allow him a few moments to examine it. All that he had heard about these mounds now flashed upon his mind. One theory was, that, in compliance with a superstition among them, the Indians within a certain district of country brought, each, a spadefull of earth from the land he cultivated to an appointed place, by which Heaven was propitiated, and fertility imparted to the soil, and the seasons rendered fruitful; and that the earth thus collected, was thrown up into a regular shaped “mount.” This theory seemed to derive countenance from the fact, that the mound now before him, so far as he could discover, was entirely composed of rich soil, and that no portion of dead unfruitful matter entered into its formation. Besides, there was but little appearance of the earth immediately around it having been deprived of any of its original elevation.
Another theory was, that those “mounts” were places of sepulture for the dead. But the only circumstance which seemed to have any bearing upon this question was, that there were scattered around the one under observation, very small fragments of what were once apparently the bones of some animal, but whether they ever formed a portion of that wonderful fabric “man,” he was compelled to leave to Cuvier, or some other person better skilled than himself to decide.
He had heard, also, that these mounds were erected as trophies of victory by the successful party, on the scenes of great battles distinguished in the bloody traditionary annals of the warlike aborigines. But to the truth or falsehood of this supposition he could find no clue.
Again, it had been said they were designed as places of strength when the country was assailed by an invading foe. If any thing gave the slightest color to this supposition, it was that those spike-formed stones, supposed to have been used by the Indians to head their arrows, before they became acquainted with iron and fire-arms, and commonly called “Indian arrows,” were found there in considerable abundance; and that the position acquired strength from being flanked and fronted by the river and the creek, the remaining side communicating exclusively with the defenders, who, successively ascending in parties, as their predecessors became weary, or expended their ammunition, might, from the commanding elevation of the mount, more effectually annoy the enemy, while their own force was placed by it in comparative safety. But these circumstances were more than counterbalanced by its being evident to the eye most unpractised in military affairs, that means of defence much more simple, less costly, and incomparably better fitted for the purpose, could not have escaped the attention of the rudest warrior. Besides, the very small number of men which it was capable of receiving, and the certainty that an enemy, the least gifted with craft, by making a small circuit, might come upon their rear, or take some other route, rendered such expensive labor of little utility.
The last supposition, and probably the most plausible he called to his recollection, was, that they were erected for religious purposes. In connection with this idea, he had heard the fragments of earthen vessels spoken of as being the remains of those used on sacrificial occasions. He also observed, what had at first escaped his notice, another mound, not more than one-tenth the size of the larger, a few feet to the eastward of it, with a plain oval summit; but this furnished no additional light to the subject of his speculations.
Hastily leaving this novelty, out of deference to an impatience which he concluded Eoneguski would feel to embrace his father after so long an absence, Gideon, not without some sense of delicacy lest he might be prying into matters which, from the uncertainty attending them, he reasonably inferred were the subjects of profound secrecy among the Indians, inquired of Eoneguski the origin and design of those mounts.
“Those mounts,” said the Indian, “have filled the soul of Eoneguski with wonder no less than that of his white brother.—The Oewoehee have not always peopled these hills and valleys.—Many moons ago,” he continued, catching up a handful of sand and shaking it, as he extended his hand toward Gideon, to signify more than he could count, “before the white people came across the great waters, the fathers of my people hunted their game on the hills which lie far away yonder, (pointing towards the northeast,)—but the Great Spirit was angry with his children, and sent the angel of death to destroy them;—they fell thicker and faster than the vanquished in battle—but they saw not the warrior by whose arm they were smitten. Terror seized them—and they fled from the graves of their fathers—from the unburied bodies of their kindred—whose flesh was festering in the open air, and their bones bleaching in the sun and wind;—for they had learnt that to touch them even for burial was death. They fled from the breath of the destroyer, and, like the wandering Iroquois, they travelled in search of another home, where the wing of the angel of death might not overtake them. Long, long they wandered, and passing by numerous tribes of their red brethren, who did not offer them the pipe of peace, and crossing streams wide and deep, to which the Tennessee is but as the papoose to the full grown warrior—they came to this land, resolved to perish or make it their place of rest. But the land was not empty—no, the Great Spirit hath left no part of his beautiful creation where the eye of man is not to enjoy it, and his heart to throb with gratitude to his Creator. But they came, as I have heard come the waves of the mighty ocean, which roll on and on, each forcing another from its place;—and thus did my fathers chase from their abodes the ancient inhabitants of this land, to yield it in their turn to the pale faces.” He paused —
He resumed—“Yes, Gideon, come it will, when the Oewoehee must be swept from their homes by the children of thy people.—It may be when Gideon and Eoneguski have passed away to the land of the blessed;—but come it will.” This was uttered with an emotion which somewhat disconcerted Gideon, but he made no answer.
Eoneguski paused again, and then with more firmness continued, “The people whom my fathers found in this valley were taller and more comely than either your people or mine—they were fairer than we, but darker than you—they knew much, very much more than our people, but were far less wise than yours. They called themselves the children of the Sun, and worshipped fire as the Great Spirit. Our fathers have told us that they erected these mounts, but for what purpose they knew not. But they have passed away—far away—to the country where, it is said, they behold their god when he sinks to rest in the evening on the bosom of the great waters. They are gone.—The god whom they worshipped yet shines upon the land—but his children are not here to rejoice in his beams.—Not an echo is heard from the mountains which once rung with their voices.—You look in vain for one print of their footstep beside the mounts they erected.—They stand alone—and tell, in a voice which the ear hears not—that here they have been.”
From the tradition thus communicated by Eoneguski, and from many vestiges of a higher degree of civilization than that known to the Indians, being discovered in various parts of the country now constituting the United States of America, it seems probable that the same race of people which were found in Mexico and South America, originally made their way from some part of the old world to the northern portion of the continent of North America. In the regular spread of population, or attracted by a more genial clime, they were driven, like the precedent wave by its successor, by arrivals from the overcharged fountains of the trans-marine world, and gradually progressed southwardly. This idea is greatly confirmed by the heliotrophic habits, common to the Mexicans, with the people mentioned by Eoneguski. If this much be true, it is not unlikely that these mounds were erected for depositories of the sacred fire, whose light, from that elevated position, might at night be seen from a great distance, to cheer the hearts of the Ghebers. The water at hand, and the smaller mound were, it is probable, not without their use on sacrificial occasions. The wide and easy ascent on the one side was, probably, for the priests, while the uninitiated were gathered around the other sides of this huge altar. Perhaps even human victims were there offered up, and furnished the bones which have led so many to what we must think an erroneous conclusion, that these mounds were places of sepulture.
The chief his old bewilder'd head withdrew,
And clasped him by the arm, and looked him through and through.
FILIAL duty is dignified in the divine law with the first place among the relative obligations of mankind, and the voice of nature echoes the celestial proclamation. Even among the inferior animals, love towards the authors of their being exists to some extent, and in the human family its greater or less development is one of the most distinctive marks by which the advance of an individual or class in moral excellence may be known. The total absence of it characterizes the monster only, while its highest exhibitions touch the hearts of the beholders with the most delightful sense of moral beauty. It differs from parental love in being more of a sentiment and less of an instinct, although both these may partake, in some degree, of either quality. It is the first affection the heart can know, and is probably the root from whence the others spring, and in proportion to its strength so is apt to be that of all succeeding it. An affectionate son seldom fails to fulfil with propriety the subsequent relations of life.
It was with no small share of this benevolent sentiment that Eoneguski approached the hut of his father, filled at the same time with anxiety respecting his condition. The subject of the mound had beguiled the way between it and the wigwam of Eonah, where Gideon and Eoneguski found themselves ere they were aware. The aged chief did not advance to meet his son and his scarcely less welcome companion, but, bound by disease to his couch, could only in a recumbent posture express his satisfaction at beholding them. He caused Gideon to stand up before him and place himself in every light and position, while he carefully studied his form, countenance, and manner. At length, shaking his head mournfully, “The eyes of Eonah are dim,” he said, “and they look in vain for the form and features of his pale brother.—But why should I wonder?” he added, with a bitter smile, “is any thing now as it was in the days that have long passed by?—and if Aymor himself now stood before me—how unlike would he be to that Aymor, who, more than three hundred moons ago, was a captive to the bow of Eonah? Is not Eonah himself changed?—Where is the fleetness of his foot?—where the strength of his arm?—Never more will he join in the dance, either for peace or war.”
Eoneguski perceived with sorrow that the apprehensions conveyed to his mind by Mercury were the shadows of a sad reality, and that although Eonah might possibly linger for a season, he was lying on that couch from whence he was never more to rise in his own strength.
With the delicate politeness which one would scarcely have looked for in a savage, he had another wigwam arranged for Gideon, that he might not be disturbed by the infirmities of the aged chief. It was not long in being prepared, and Eoneguski, having seen Gideon comfortably fixed, according to his own ideas of comfort, returned to the wigwam of Eonah.
“The spirit of Eoneguski is sad,” he said, addressing the old chief, “to see the hand of the Great Spirit laid in anger on his father.”
“Is the Great Spirit angry with all whom he afflicts!” inquired Eonah, in a faint voice.
“Do the red men ever torture their friends?” said Eoneguski. “Is it not their enemies only, whom they have taken in battle?”
“Are all his creatures, then, the enemies of the Great Spirit?” said the old chief; “for who is there that breathes, and is a stranger to affliction?”
“The Great Spirit himself only knows,” replied the son; “yet, surely, he never afflicts his children, but when they displease him. Has the Saga visited my father?”
“No,” replied Eonah; “the chief of Eonee has seen too many moons, to believe that Susquanannacunahata is wiser than others—or that he is a favorite of the Great Spirit. Susquanannacunahata is a bad man.”
“Let not my father say so,” replied Eoneguski; “our people reverence the words of Susquanannacunahata. He is a Great Medicine, and will renew strength in the limbs of the chief of Eonee. He is a great Prophet, and will turn away from him the wrath of the Great Spirit.”
“When strength was in the bones of Eonah,” said the chief, “he listened to the words of Susquanannacunahata, and pretended to believe them; but he laughed at them in his heart, for he knew that Susquanannacunahata was a villain.”
“And why,” said Eoneguski, with a sarcastic bitterness he could not repress, “should my father listen to words he did not believe, and pretend to respect him whom he knew to be a villain?”
“Eoneguski,” said the old chief, “listen to your father. A few days more and I must follow my ancestors to that country where there is no more age nor sickness;—whose streams are clearer than the drops of dew;—whose fruits are more luscious than the melon or peach;—whose valleys rejoice at the same moment, in the sweet roasting-ear and the fully ripe corn;—and over whose hills the uncounted game is forever bounding. Then must Eoneguski become the chief of the Eonee;—and he must shew himself valiant in fight, and wise in council.—Such has been thy father, Eonah.—He knew the people of Eonee believed that the Great Spirit sometimes spoke to one of his children, and made him a Prophet and a Great Medicine. He knew that the voice of the Prophet and Medicine was louder in the ears of the people than that of their chief.—What was Eonah to do?—Must he tell the people that the Saga was an impostor, and a villian; and cause himself to be hated and despised among them?—A wiser counsel directed the course of thy father; and by the hands of the Saga he turned about the hearts of his people, according to his pleasure; and answers which they foolishly thought were sent from Heaven, were dictated by their chief. Susquanannacunahata has been to me a spy upon Chuheluh; and through him have I been able to defeat the schemes of that wily Fox. In the meantime Chuheluh has believed that the Saga was plotting with him for the accomplishment of his purposes; and has been looking forward to the moment when success should repay him for his many defeats.—But every plan he has formed has been communicated to me by the Saga, and by his assistance it has been counteracted.—Yet, think not it is because the Saga loves Eonah that he hath preferred his service to that of Chuheluh. No—it is because he knows that I know him; and he fears me.—But Chuheluh, wise as he is, hath superstition, like the rest of the Oewoehee; and although Susquanannacunahata hath presumed so far upon his credulity as to let him see too much, so that he at length begins to doubt the inspiration of the Saga, yet he hath not altogether burst those cords of superstition his mother twined around his heart, in his father's wigwam.—But time hath made Susquanannacunahata acquainted with the properties of many herbs, and he may alleviate pangs beyond his art to cure. I have, therefore, thought of sending for him—yet it is chiefly for thy sake, my son, that I wish him to come—he holds the keys of the hearts of the people of Eonee, and he must open them to Eoneguski: and the power which the father has exercised over the Saga, we must transfer to the son.”
He paused—then suddenly starting, as if some new thought had flashed upon his mind—
“Why,” he exclaimed, “Why was Eoneguski so long in overtaking the victim of his vengeance? I know that my son is swift in the chase; and the game escapes not upon which he fixes the aim of his rifle. Why was the young warrior so long absent?”
Eoneguski was silent, for he knew that, should he tell the whole truth, his answer must fall upon the heart of his dying father with a weight sufficient to crush it: and, to speak at all, and to speak the truth, were, with Eoneguski, one.
The old chief turned his dim eyes inquisitively on his son.
“Show me,” he continued, impatiently, “Show me the scalp of John Welch—bring it near, for the eyes of Eonah are dim; and he would look upon the first scalp his son has wrenched from the head of a pale face.”
“I have no scalp,” said Eoneguski, calmly.
“Hah!” said the chief: “And what will Eoneguski say, when they shall ask him, 'Where is the blood of the Leech?'—If he shall answer, 'Eoneguski is not a woman—he hath avenged the blood of the Leech'—then will they tauntingly ask, 'and where is the scalp of the murderer?' What will Eoneguski say?—The red men boast not their deeds of valor, unless they can show the scalps of their enemies.”
Eoneguski was still silent; yet it was not on his own account he desired to conceal the truth, but feared its effects upon the prejudiced and proud heart of his father.
Eonah again turned his face towards him:—“Will not Eoneguski tell me,” he resumed “why he hath left it in the power of Chuheluh to bring the body of John Welch, and deny that your hand is red with his blood.”
“Another time,” said Eoneguski, “and the son of Eonah will tell his father all that hath passed since he left him. When the Saga shall have come, and restored health to the chief of Eonee, he will be able to hear it.—But his strength is not now sufficient.”
“The chief of Eonee will soon be no more,” said the old man, solemnly; “and it will cheer him on the bed of death to listen while his son rehearses his deeds of valor.—Let the young warrior begin,” he added, impatiently, “for the heart of Eonah longs for the feast of vengeance, when he shall hear how the murderer of the Leech fell beneath the arm of Eoneguski.—But he is sad to learn that the young warrior knows not the use of the scalping-knife.”
Finding there was no hope of parrying the subject—
“John Welch yet lives,” said Eoneguski, with that dogged composure which always accompanies, in a resolute man, the doing an act whose consequences he knows will be deeply painful to himself, but from the performance of which there is no escape with honor.
A yell, such as is uttered by a stricken hound, burst from Eonah, and startled even Gideon in the neighboring wigwam. The old chief writhed in agony, like a wounded serpent; and Eoneguski even feared that it was the final struggle between life and death, which had been, according to his fears, thus prematurely brought on by himself. He hesitated whether or not to call for assistance, but deemed it would be unavailing. He was also restrained by a shame and apprehension which ought only to have accompanied the consciousness of guilt, of which he was entirely clear.
It may be here remarked, that it not unfrequently happens that persons are placed in circumstances, where a consciousness that there is ground of suspicion against them, produces an effect upon their conduct and manner very similar to that of actual guilt; and what is only their apprehension of what will be the determination of other minds as things appear, is mistaken for their own conviction of the fact by those who behold them. Such was the situation of Eoneguski, who, struck with the embarrassment he must experience in making any witness of his father's situation, acquainted with its immediate cause, was in this way held in indecision until the violent paroxysm, into which the old chief had been thrown, began to subside, and he saw that it was not mortal. As soon as he perceived that his father was sufficiently recovered to comprehend what he should say to him; and aware that any act of officiousness on his part, would not be well received without the previous approval of the chief, he thus addressed him—
“What can Eoneguski do for his afflicted father—shall he send for the Saga, to Sugar Town?”
“No!” he replied, with astonishing power of voice. “Begone, and leave me!—Eonah will perish like the decaying oak, which time and the wind have shorn of its branches.—The last bough has fallen in dishonor from the aged trunk.—Eonah has no son!—and never again shall his ear be mocked with the cry of 'Father.'—Begone—I say begone and leave me!”
Eoneguski knelt beside the couch of his father, and feelings too powerful for even the stoicism in which he had been brought up to control, forced the tears in rapid succession down his cheeks, while sobs, frequent and violent, heaved his bosom.
“Is Eonah already dead?” said the almost frantic chief, “that no obedience is rendered to his voice. Once more I say, begone!” and with an arm so palsied by disease that an infant's would have overmatched it in force, he dealt his son a blow as he knelt beside him—“Coward, I say, begone!”
Unconsciously the hand of Eoneguski was upon his scalping-knife.
“A blow,” he muttered to himself—“A blow;” and the scalping-knife was partially withdrawn from the belt in which it was suspended;—“But it is he,” he said, rising to his feet, “and it is enough.”
He walked moodily out of the hut, and entered that of Gideon, where Mercury had already furnished a repast, which awaited only his arrival.
“The Skiagusta requires Mercury in his wigwam,” said he to that sable attendant, “as soon as he has completed his attendance upon Gideon, and spread for him his couch. Eoneguski is heavy, and desires not to eat,” he added, turning to Gideon; “but Gideon is in the house of his father.” He threw himself down in the corner of the wigwam, but it was not to sleep.
Here, undisturbed by untimely questions, he cast in his mind the distressing embarrassments by which he was beset, and deliberated on the part it became him to act. He had been treated with an indignity which an Indian is not wont to tolerate, even from a father, yet he cherished no desire of revenge, and although the injured party would gladly have exchanged pledges of forgiveness. But he knew it was vain, in the present mental condition of the chief, to hope, by any advances or explanations, to appease his anger, or sooth his offended pride. He would have consulted the Saga, in his anxiety to act for the best, but the confidence he once reposed in his counsels was destroyed—for Eonah had denounced him as a villain. In the course of his reflections, “Absence,” thought he, “may re-awaken the yearnings of paternal love, which indignation will continue to stifle while kept alive by my presence. But whither shall I go?” he said, in bitterness of soul. “Where shall the son seek for shelter, against whom his father hath closed his door in displeasure?—I will go to Tesumtoe,” he said, at length, “the heart of the Little Deer will be open to Eoneguski.—Her smiles will come upon him like the warm sun upon one perishing with cold. He will tell her the story of his griefs, and she will bid sorrow fly away, and say that the smiles of the Great Spirit are on the actions of Eoneguski.”
These last reflections had so happy and soothing an effect upon the troubled spirits of the Indian, that he fell into a quiet slumber, visited by dreams of peace and happiness.
In the meantime, Gideon, rather disappointed in the manner of his reception at Eonee, having, during Eoneguski's absence, gathered, from the communication of Mercury, much useful information respecting Indian habits, and the advantageous nature of the alliance which Eoneguski was about to form with the Little Deer; with many other matters which, with the gossipping disposition of a negro, Mercury thought proper to intrust him with, was well prepared, by appetite, to profit by the intimation his host gave him to proceed with his supper. Having despatched it, nothing was left for him but to throw himself upon his couch, and ruminate upon all he had seen and heard. He was annoyed by the apparent depression of Eoneguski's spirits, at which he was not, however, much surprised, naturally enough ascribing it to the severe illness of his father. Sleep soon put an end to Gideon's speculations upon the affairs of real life, and sent him to chase in dreams the shadows of fancy.
The next morning Eoneguski inquired of Mercury into the condition of his father, and, learning that he was peevish and irritable, determined to put in execution the plan conceived by him on the preceding night. As soon, therefore, as they had finished their morning meal, “Gideon,” said he, “has seen that the chief of Eonee is not in a condition to treat the son of his friend as becomes him; in a few days he will be better, and will desire to see Gideon, and talk with him. You will not wonder that it is the purpose of Eoneguski to visit the Little Deer at Tesumtoe. Gideon will go with him, for the Little Deer will be glad when she sees the friend of Eoneguski.”
Having charged Mercury to be diligent in his attention to the old chief during his absence, Eoneguski set out with his white companion for Tesumtoe. On their way they passed by Sugar Town, and Eoneguski's solicitude for his father prompted him to call upon the Saga and request that he would visit him, charging him, at the same time, (lest he might, on that account, reject his medical assistance,) not to let Eonah know that he owed to himself the visit of the Saga.
They found the Saga neither in dishabille, as did Chuheluh, nor yet in all the imposing apparel of savage conjuration, in which he wrought so powerfully upon the mind of John Welch. Although Wissa admitted them with some caution, yet he did not, as usual, close the door upon the first visiter, but seemed quite delighted to see Eoneguski, and, (could he have as well understood them,) as solicitous to obey his behests, as those of his master. But before Eoneguski was allowed to communicate his wishes to the Saga, Gideon was forced to retire. The latter was a good deal impressed with the appearance of the Saga, and lost no time, after Eoneguski rejoined him, in inquiring into his name and character, of which he had not before heard any thing. The Indian had no difficulty in communicating what was publicly known of the Saga, (being, indeed, the extent of his own knowledge, except the few slight hints so recently received from Eonah;) but that was not enough to satisfy the curiosity of Gideon.—Speculations on the character and appearance of this mysterious personage served to amuse him occasionally during the remainder of their progress towards Tesumtoe, the way to which he nevertheless found somewhat tedious.
Love rules the court, the camp, the grove,
And men below, and saints above;
For love is Heav'n and Heav'n is love.
THE empire of this gentle passion, which the poet describes as so universal, includes even the untaught child of the forest, who doubtless experiences, in his simple wooings all those pleasing agitations of the imagination which impart to love half its zest in the most civilized condition of life. He is as sensible to the chilling influence of a frown, and the genial effect of a smile, from the chosen of his heart, as his white brethren. He feels as keenly apprehensions for her safety and her constancy, and sympathizes as deeply in all that concerns her. He is as severely tormented with fears that his conduct or motives may be misunderstood, and pants as ardently for her approbation.
Such at least was the experience of the noble savage, of whom we have had so much occasion to speak. As he approached Tesumtoe indescribable emotion caused his heart now to rise buoyantly in his bosom, like a joyful bark, freighted with objects of delight upon the gentle waves of a summer sea, and then to sink sadly down with the weight of gloomy thoughts which poured into his soul, like the same vessel, when, through some unlucky opening, the treacherous waters flow in and swamp her. Now would hope whisper to him words of comfort, and then would doubt chill him with suggestions of fearful import. He had not been unconscious from the first that the presence of Gideon must embarrass both himself and the Little Deer, and impart to their interview a coldness by no means agreeable. But he comforted himself in the conscious fulfilment of duty for the sacrifice he was making, convinced that it could not have been pleasant to Gideon to have remained at Eonee under existing circumstances.
It was evening when they reached Tesumtoe, a village near the head of one of the forks of the Tennessee River, along which their journey for the most part lay, as it meandered through a long narrow valley, from which the hills gradually sloped upon each side, terminating in numerous peaks or spurs of various heights and dimensions.
Their course from Eonee had been directly south—the mildness of the climate had increased in their progress in a ratio truly astonishing—and the full moon of a delightful spring evening was pouring down upon them a flood of light as they entered the village, where all was quiet. So still and calm did every thing appear, that any one, whose imagination suitable reading had supplied with the thought, would have been struck with a feeling similar to that of the great poet, whose name is prefixed to this chapter, when looking upon the ruins of Pompeii, he exclaimed, “The city of the dead, the city of the dead.” But to Gideon it suggested the recollection of some of those ambuscades he had heard of Indians laying for an unwary foe, where a quiet, even deeper than peace herself is wont to know, is broken in the twinkling of an eye, by noise and uproar the loudest, the wildest, the most continued and appalling, ever uttered by the grating voice of war.
Impressed with this thought he moved accordingly, and, as he followed his guide, was ready at the slightest noise, for flight, or to assume the attitude of defence, as circumstances might dictate. They had not proceeded far, however, when, from the wigwams, as they passed, the men came out to look upon them, while the women and children might be seen slyly peeping from the doors and loop holes, which answered the purposes of windows, as well as the smaller crevices of the cabins.
On they moved through this city of automata, where not even a laugh, whispered remark, or word of salutation, reached their ears as they proceeded. The noiseless tread of his guide was answered by no echo, but Gideon distinctly heard his own heavy step reverberated here and there, unmingled with any sound save the maundering of the Tennessee River, as it flowed past the foot of the acclivity, and the voices of the Wekolis', which, in considerable numbers, poured forth their wild plaintive cry from the lofty tree tops interspersed through the village.
They approached, at length, a building of far better appearance than any Gideon had seen since he entered the Indian country, which indeed, exceeded, both in looks and comfort, those of the ordinary white settlers. It was not situated on the street, like the other huts in the village, but had, in front of it, a neat yard, paled in with pieces of riven timber, about the height, breadth, and thickness of ordinary paling. But they were perfectly rough, and no nails entered into the construction of this fence, the paling being secured in their places, by crossing and interlacing, with three rails, which ran along horizontally, one above another, about two feet apart, each end being inserted in the side of a post.—These posts being set in the ground, at intervals of eight or ten feet successively, and having rails inserted in their sides, as before mentioned, into which, in their turns, the palings were wrought, formed a continued fence, considered in rude life both neat and substantial.
As Eoneguski opened the gate of this enclosure, a large shaggy wolf dog rose from his lair, and shaking himself so that his ears flapped against the sides of his head, began to bay fiercely. “True-nose,” said Eoneguski, “poor fellow;” the dog ceased barking, and wagging his tail, and showing his long white teeth, as much as to say, “see what I could have done to an enemy,” came up to the Indian and laid his nose in his hand, but, seeing Gideon, withdrew it again, and began to growl surlily. “Be quiet, True-nose,” said Eoneguski, and the growling ceased; but the dog stood still, wagging his tail, and looking steadfastly upon the stranger, as if studying his physiognomy, and saying, at the same time, “pray, who are you?”
“If you love me, love my dog,” is a homely adage, in which, with great simplicity, expression is given to what all have felt. But Eoneguski was in his own mind, on the present occasion, inclined to carry it somewhat further, and infer from the affection of the quadruped the unchanged attachment of the family to which he belonged. True-nose, however, on his part, got the full benefit of the adage, for the Indian thrust his hand into his knapsack, and drawing out the remnants of his travelling provisions, threw them down to the huge black animal, and patted him affectionately.
By this time a black servant girl had opened the door of the dwelling, and stood examining the strangers by the clear moon-light. “True-nose knows one of them,” she exclaimed, in the Indian tongue, and quickly herself recognized in the darker of the two strangers an old acquaintance.
A considerable stir was now heard in the interior of the dwelling, such as those who have come unexpected visiters to a house in more polished society, where young ladies happen to dwell, are no strangers. Meantime the visiters entered, and were shown into an apartment of considerable comfort, and somewhat elegantly furnished. In the hearth burnt a fire evidently intended rather for light than warmth. A solitary individual sat within the apartment, whom Eoneguski approached as one from whom he expected a kind reception. It was a female, dressed in a style of neatness approaching to elegance, far surpassing any thing that Gideon had ever before witnessed. More than sixty winters seemed to have sprinkled their snows upon hair originally jet black, but now rivalling in whiteness the cap, well suited to her age, from beneath which a lock here and there strayed down, like skeins of silver thread, over a brow whose complexion, together with that of the other exposed parts of her person, proclaimed in a silent, but convincing language, that she was a Cherokee half-breed. But age had not bent her frame, nor extinguished the fire of a bright black eye, which turned not on Eoneguski as he approached, but rested wildly on Gideon, with a troubled yet inquisitive glance. She spoke not—and as her countenance, on which the vestiges of beauty lingered, changed distinctly but rapidly, seen as it was in the evening of life, it might remind one of an interesting ruin upon which the moon-beam now rests brightly, and now is thrown into partial and then into complete shadow, by the cloudy rack passing over the disk of that planet, urged onward by the wind. The unpleasant suspicion flashed upon the mind of Gideon, that Insanity was hanging out the ensigns of her tyranny over the ruined empire of Reason. This impression gathered strength when he observed that the female frequently carried her hands across her forehead, bosom, and other parts of her person, forming thereby imaginary lines in a horizontal direction, which she immediately crossed at right angles by others made perpendicularly. At length her eyes became immoveably fixed upon Gideon, with pupils widely dilated, while she herself assumed a position not unlike that of a cat about to spring upon its prey. Nothing was left to Gideon and Eoneguski but to gaze upon her in mute astonishment. Whilst doing so, Gideon perceived a large strain of beads suspended upon her neck of different sizes, these of equal ones occurring at regular intervals. The beads were formed of some red substance with which Gideon was unacquainted, and to them was appended a black cross, of the material of which he was also ignorant, although he had no difficulty in determining that the ring by which it was suspended, as well as the four tips of the cross, were of pure gold. Gideon became convinced by her manner that she had taken him for a person she knew; an impression attributed by him to some vagary of a disordered intellect. In a short time, however, she appeared herself convinced that she was in error. Her eye glided off from Gideon with an air of disappointment, and she gradually assumed a more natural look and manner. Eoneguski seemed to think that now was his time for addressing her, and made another effort to approach. But so far from meeting his advances, she turned away her head, and stretched forth her hands, as if to signify “Stand off.”
The Indian was confounded. “I must be bewitched;” he exclaimed internally; “some evil eye has fallen on Eoneguski that he should be strange to every one; his actions are misconstrued, and his friends look coldly upon him.—But where is the Little Deer?” he continued, still holding communion with his own thoughts, “Will she too turn away her head from her young warrior?”
A light step was now heard in an adjoining apartment. Eoneguski glided out of the room, and soon Gideon perceived, at no great distance, low murmuring voices, like the sound of many bees gathering their luscious stores from a parterre of flowers. As for himself, he was alone with the incomprehensible being who had not opened her lips in speech since his arrival, and whose presence had inspired him with no very agreeable feelings, and little was left to him but to contemplate her more particularly. Her countenance had gradually become more composed; the wild fire of her eye had abated, and, as Gideon looked and looked again, he discovered attractions where there had been nothing before but painful repulsion. The traces of beauty became more conspicuous, and many virtuous feelings shone dimly through the haze of melancholy that had now settled down and shaded her countenance.
At length, in a sweet musical voice, the tones of which thrilled through his heart, she broke in upon the silence. “Stranger,” she said, “you are welcome to the wigwam of Yenacona.—It is long—very long since Yenacona has looked upon a complexion such as thine— but pale faces are glancing, and fair locks are waving in the visions of past days which crowd upon her soul.—White hands rocked the cradle of her infancy, and fair tresses were twined around her infant fingers, as she drew nurture from a mother's bosom.—Those lessons which breathed from a mother's lips, and coming fresh and warm upon the heart of childhood, find there a home as eternal as memory itself, are associated in the mind of Yenacona, with a being of thy race as gentle as the dove—beautiful as the firmament—and pure as the light;—a being such as our fancy paints the angels.—But there is a love, whose warmth, compared to that for a mother, is as the scorching plain of Summer to the mild sunny valley of the Spring—and with such a love glowed the young heart of Yenacona towards one whose manly brow was pale as thine, and around which clustered the brown locks of Europe. But it is past:—Wonder not, then, stranger, if the sight of thee should stir in its very depths the heart of Yenacona;—if it should recall to her presence the departed and the dead, and thicken the shadows of grief that daily rest upon her soul.—But I have said you are welcome—language cannot speak how welcome—for what to the mourner affords such delight as stirring anew the ashes of her grief?—But,” she added, in a low, guttural voice, pointing towards the adjoining apartment, from whence the murmuring sounds still proceeded, while a fearful change came over her countenance, “he is not welcome. He has made the widow childless—he has created for her new sorrows, and not merely stirred the old.—If a Christian might hate and curse one who has wronged her, on my knees would I beseech the Virgin and the Saints, and even the everlasting Father himself, for curses on the head of yon bloody savage.”
Unconsciously suiting the action to the word, she had risen from her chair, and with eyes uplifted to Heaven, had clasped together her dark meagre hands, and bent one of her knees as in the act of throwing herself into the posture of supplication. But suddenly recovering herself, and raising her crucifix to her lips, “Dear Saviour,” she continued, “who, in thy human agony, didst in the garden of Gethsemane sweat drops of blood—pardon the frailty of a poor child of earth, and impute not to her as guilt the involuntary outpourings of human passion:—and for him—enable me to say—'Father forgive the poor misguided savage—for he knew not what he did.' “
Just at this moment Eoneguski returned to the apartment, and Yenacona meeting him, said, with a faint smile, “Eoneguski forgive the rudeness of your first reception; but you will not wonder when you know that new sorrows have visited the heart of Yenacona, already crushed with its ancient burden—and yet I will not deceive you—Eoneguski is not forbid the wigwam of Yenacona—but he cannot be welcomed there as in times that are past.”
“It is enough,” said the Indian, “there is One,” pointing solemnly upward, “who knows the heart of Eoneguski, and He will one day speak, and say that it is right towards Yenacona. But a dark cloud now rests upon the path of Eoneguski, and his friends cannot see him as he is. But the Great Spirit will send his sun to chase away the cloud, and their faces will again look kindly upon him. Yenacona has said that he is not driven from her dwelling;—but the heart of Eoneguski is proud—and would swell too large for the home of Yenacona—but the Little Deer is here—and the heart of Eoneguski grows small when he thinks of the Little Deer—and he will not turn his back upon Yenacona.”
A light irresolute step was again heard approaching the door, and, pale as an Indian girl could be, the Little Deer entered. Her eyes were red with weeping, and an unwiped tear rested unconsciously on her cheek. Suffice it to say, she was the beau ideal of Indian beauty, and, although in evident sorrow, her step was as elastic as the animal whose name she bore. Her dress, allowing for their difference of age, was a good deal in the style of that of Yenacona, that is, upon the European model, in which neatness was carried by taste to the very verge of elegance. She had about her no Catholic ornaments, such as were worn by Yenacona, but a gold chain was suspended upon her neck and bosom; large earrings hung down, almost resting upon her shoulders; and a pair of wide rich armlets ornamented her wrists, as if to call away the attention from the round polished, well turned, arms immediately above them.
Cupid, a little heated with the scene in the adjoining apartment, was bathing himself in the tear-drop on the cheek of the Little Deer just as she entered, and, startled at the sight of Gideon, at whom he was provoked for thus taking him by surprise, he hastily caught one of the arrows from the quiver he had committed to the keeping of the Little Deer, and let drive at the luckless youth with his whole force.—Gideon had only time to perceive his danger, as he felt the keen polished shaft mercilessly cleaving its rapid way among his heart-strings to the very centre of life, and electrifying his whole system with a fire which ran tingling and tittillating through every fibre. It blazed out at his cheeks in glowing flame, and he panted for relief from its scorching heat. But his fate was sealed—the Promethean fire had seized upon his vitals, and there was no escape from its consuming power.
Meantime the Little Deer continued to advance, and seated herself by the side of Yenacona. There was some little embarrassment among all the parties.—Eoneguski, like a true Indian, had thought nothing of the ceremonial of introductions, but the other three at once perceived that in each other, which seemed to say, “amongst us there must be something beyond the rough intercourse of savages.” Yenacona was the first to manifest the presence of mind required on the occasion. “You have not favored us with the name of our new guest, Eoneguski,” she said, addressing him.
“He is the son of a friend of the chief of Eonee,” replied the Indian, a little disconcerted at perceiving that he had neglected what would have been proper on the occasion, “and is called Gideon Aymor.”
The color forsook the cheeks of Yenacona, and she was apparently ready to sink down with some powerful emotion; but resisting her feelings, whatever they might have been, with much effort, “Mr. Aymor,” she said, in her peculiarly sweet voice, and with a melancholy smile, “I have already told you that you are welcome to my dwelling, and informed you of my name. This maiden is my niece, who, after the custom of her people, is called—the Little Deer.”
Gideon endeavored to act well his part in his very novel situation, and strove for his best bow. Never before had he felt more desirous to please, and never before had he been so fully convinced that he was a bumpkin. But Love has some generosity in his tyranny, and while he plays his subjects many distressing pranks, not unfrequently supplies them with an inspiration more rich and genuine than that borrowed from Castalia, and better qualifying them to show to advantage. The imagination of Gideon was very highly excited by the circumstances under which he was placed, and he seemed to himself in a region of enchantment. His opinion that Yenacona was insane and disagreeable, had given way to an impression that she was highly gifted, both in mind and body, and a being, in all respects, invested with most attractive interest.
“Lady,” said he, in reply to her introduction of the Little Deer, “when I left the land of the whites, I foolishly believed I was leaving all that could please the eye, or interest the feelings, and deemed not that I was coming to bask in the light of beauty,”—(bowing to the Little Deer,) “or to drink wisdom from a deeper fountain,” (making a similar obeisance to Yenacona,) “than it ever was my lot to encounter in my own country.”
He would have said more, but conscience told him that he was plotting treason against his friend Eoneguski, and, like other traitors, he was apprehensive of detection.
A repast, more sumptuous than any of which Gideon had ever before partaken, was spread for the guests, and even wines of the “sunny France” were not wanting to cheer their hearts. The guests did not stint their cheer, and even Eoneguski's multiplied vexations became like dark specks in the distant horizon, while a landscape of exquisite beauty, over which moved every object that could delight his soul, lay immediately before him. With hearts swimming in ecstasy, they both retired to repose, and Gideon dreamed of chasing the Little Deer through the valleys of desire, and over the hills of doubt, and across the plains of hope, with eager haste, but tedious duration.
The next morning came, and Eoneguski, compelled by a sense of duty, set out on his return to Eonee, to see how matters stood with his dying father; but there was no necessity for the return of Gideon, and Eoneguski did not regret when he heard Gideon accept the invitation of Yenacona to remain some days longer with her. He thought that, under existing circumstances, a friend at court might not be inconvenient, and especially as the illness of Eonah might render Gideon's situation unpleasant at Eonee, and would probably prevent his own speedy return to Tesumtoe.
Not in those climes where I have late been straying—
Not in those visions to the heart displaying
Forms which it sighs but to have only dream'd,
Hath aught like thee in truth or fancy seem'd.
A THIEF, from some place of concealment, beholds an unconscious miser burying, in a secret corner of the earth, his cherished treasure, which a life of toil and successful industry have been spent in accumulating. Having made the deposite, the unsuspecting wretch turns to depart, and the heart of the thief leaps with joy and anxiety to seize the precious hoard, as he beholds the last wave of the garments of the departing owner.
Such were the feelings of Gideon, when he caught the last glimpse of Eoneguski's receding form, and he was left alone with the Little Deer. On downy pinions the hours flew past him, while opportunities numberless presented themselves of seeing and conversing with her, and even the broad wings of time brushed him not in his transit. While thus situated, there was, with him, no computation of hours, and the game, which had been one of his inducements for coming to the Indian country, was entirely forgotten. He seldom saw the melancholy of Yenacona interrupted by a smile, but frequently, when he happened to be alone with her, she seemed about to speak, and then, as if checking herself, would suddenly resume her book or needle, with both of which she was quite familiar. Nor had her niece failed so to share the benefit of her aunt's skill in these important matters, as to become likewise considerably proficient.
Gideon had been some time at Tesumtoe, when one day in a stroll around the village, he was led in his wandering towards the banks of the Tennessee. Spring had now fairly opened, and the bushes on the margin of the stream had all put forth their emerald gems, and the larger trees were fast following their example. Casting his eye along the river, he was not a little surprised at observing about equi-distant from each other, as far as the eye could reach, slender smoke-wreaths curling up towards heaven, and forming at last a continuous cloud, hanging lazily over the middle of the stream, like a canopy.
“What can this mean,” thought he, and drew near for the purpose of satisfying his curiosity. But it was still more excited when he perceived that the columns of smoke were sent up by as many small fires, over each of which some vessel, used for culinary purposes, was simmering or blubbering away, according to their respective fortune. But if it was still more excited by these things, it was in no degree lessened, when opposite to each of these little cauldrons a promiscuous group of men and women was splashing and sporting about in the river like so many “geese at play.” Presently they came out to the miniature cauldrons, and with sticks dipped up from them some boiling herbs, with which, after suffering them to cool for a moment, they rubbed rapidly their feet and legs, and, running to the river again, plunged in. This process being repeated several times, they put on their garments, and having extinguished their fires, bore off the vessels they had been using to their respective cabins.
Gideon in vain inquired of one or two Indians the meaning of what he had witnessed. All he could get out of them, was, that it was an ancient custom, but what it meant, or whether it was practised for health or religion, they could not, or would not inform him.
“If Eoneguski were here,” thought he to himself, “he would explain it to me.” But Eoneguski was not there, and his next thought was, “Perhaps I can learn it from the Little Deer.”
He returned to the dwelling of Yenacona, and would probably have thought no more about the matter, but while at dinner it accidentally occurred to him, and he mentioned what he had seen, and inquired into the meaning of it.
“It is one of the superstitious rites of the poor deluded Cherokees,” said Yenacona, crossing herself, “and I doubt whether they themselves know what it means.”
“Do all the Cherokees practise it?” said Gideon, casting at the same time an expressive glance across the table at the Little Deer.
“All, I believe,” replied Yenacona, “who have not forsaken the idolatry of their people, and become followers of the Cross;—all I mean who have not become Christians.”
“Is the Little Deer a Christian?” inquired Gideon, abruptly.
Yenacona looked at her niece—their eyes met—and the clear red skin of the Little Deer was suffused with a blush, which occupied her whole face, neck and bosom.
“I trust I am a Christian,” said she, timidly and faintly.
“If she is not now a Christian, I hope soon to see her so,” said Yenacona. “But she has not yet discarded the superstitions of her fathers, and, among others, observes the Spring bath of cold water and bitter herbs.”
“And was the Little Deer,” inquired Gideon, with some warmth, “among the damsels who this day bared themselves in the broad light of Heaven, and shamelessly flounced about in the Tennessee River?”
The Little Deer blushed again, and there was an expression of anger as well as of shame in her countenance, but she answered softly, “It is the custom of my people.”
Gideon was silent. His faith to Eoneguski was stealing in to occupy the place of love to the Little Deer, which the effusion of cold Tennessee water had partially expelled. “What!” said he internally, “marry a woman over whose person the wanton air has liberty to breathe once a year; aye, and unscreened too from the most licentious eye!”
How much further he may have pursued his reflections is uncertain, but he was here interrupted by the fascinating tones of Yenacona's voice.
“Yes!” said she, “the Little Deer considers herself the betrothed bride of an Indian chief, and he would not consent that his wife should throw off the customs of his people.”
“The Little Deer will never be a bride,” replied a low tremulous voice, almost choked with emotion.
A speedy change came over the feelings of Gideon. The simplicity of innocence, that master charm in woman, was so evident in all that was said or done by the Little Deer, and was so striking in the tone and matter of her last remark, that she was restored to his imagination in all her original purity, and had his knowledge of scripture supplied him with it, he would have been struck with the force of the expression as applicable to her, “To the pure, all things are pure;” and he felt that she was no more contaminated by her late exposure, than the infant in whose existence days only could be numbered. Her plaintive voice made an undesigned appeal to his heart, which was irresistible, and she was reinstated in its full possession.
“But can it be,” thought he, “that her purpose of marrying Eoneguski is already unsettled? What can be the cause? Is it possible that my good fortune is such, that a kind feeling for me has already shaken the firm hold my Indian friend once held upon her affections?”
He determined to probe the matter deeper. “It will make at least one heart miserable should the Little Deer keep that determination,” said he, with an affection of gaiety.
“I do not doubt it,” said the Little Deer sighing.
“But it is the will of Heaven that my words should come to pass.”
“I trust there is some mistake in that,” said Gideon.
“It is kind in you to wish it so,” she replied, “but you will wish in vain.”
“That must depend upon yourself,” said he.
“Not so,” she replied, “for neither our wishes nor our actions are always under our control.”
“If the Little Deer does not marry,” said he, “it must be because she does not wish it, for she may choose for herself a mate among the best and the proudest.”
The Little Deer blushed again, but not so deeply as before;—it was just perceptible.
“I know,” said she, “that what you have told me is not true, and yet I am not offended with you. Is it not strange, that a known attempt to deceive us should afford us pleasure?”
“How have I attempted to deceive you?”
“Did you not say, I might choose for myself a mate among the best and the proudest?—In one sense, I feel that it is true, but not as you meant I should understand you. But as I said before, I am not angry, and am even grateful for your attempted deception.”
“The white men,” said Yenacona, with a smile approaching more nearly one of pleasure than Gideon had ever before seen playing upon her lips, “are skilled in the art of flattery, as it is called, and the Little Deer has confessed the truth:—It is music to a woman's ear.—Our mother Eve heard it in Eden, and what nothing else could have done—it won her to sin, and forfeit Paradise.—Let the Little Deer take heed.”
“Gideon Aymor is not skilled in the art of flattery,” said he, “and speaks only to the Little Deer what he believes in his heart.”
“Ah! Mr. Aymor, although you here see Yenacona in a wilderness, she is no stranger to the deference paid to woman by all classes of the white men, and hence the women of the red race always lend to them a more willing ear than to the men of their own tribes. By the one they are addressed in language approaching idolatry—by the other with professions of proud superiority.”
“By Heaven,” thought Gideon to himself, “she is teaching me how to woo her niece, and supplant Eoneguski.” “None of my race,” he said in reply, “has ever been more subdued by the charms of woman, than is Gideon Aymor by those of the Little Deer.”
“Come,” said the Little Deer, “if I were foolish enough to believe you in earnest, I should have reason to be angry. Mr. Aymor came here as the friend of Eoneguski to visit”—she hesitated, and became embarrassed.
“There is nothing which Gideon Aymor would not do rather than incur the displeasure of the Little Deer.”
“The Little Deer is not easily offended with her friends, when no offence is intended,” she replied.
Dinner being ended, the maiden arose from the table, and retired to her own apartment, leaving Gideon alone with Yenacona.
There was a thoughtful silence of some minutes.—
“Mr. Aymor will pardon me,” at length said the latter, “for asking how I am to understand what has just passed in my presence? Is it his purpose seriously to assail the heart of the Little Deer? or are his expressions to be understood as the unmeaning gallantry of a passing hour? Mr. Aymor will remember that the Little Deer is my niece—nay, (let me utter the afflictive truth,)—the only being who owns one drop of kindred blood, or can claim any peculiar interest in the heart of Yenacona. Excuse me for saying you are beneath the shelter of my roof, a welcome participant of its poor hospitality. I have said, I am no stranger to the effect upon the heart of a simple Indian girl, when her ears drink in the strange but delicious music of delicate flattery, which the men of your race know so well how to pour forth as a lovely song. If then you would not desire to win the heart of the Little Deer, cease to drop upon her ear the poison of flattery; for why should the guest of Yenacona make her niece unhappy?—Tell me then in truth, does the white man wish to win the heart of the poor Indian maiden?”
Gideon was not a little surprised at being so abruptly interrogated upon a subject which, even in the rude simplicity of the society in which he had been brought up, it would have been thought indelicate in the relation of a young woman to be the first to break to one who might be her suitor. Yet he could not but acquiesce in the propriety of Yenacona's question, under the circumstances, dictated as it appeared to be, by a proper regard for the honor and happiness of her niece—but the answer was to him a matter somewhat perplexing.—It was true, he felt for the Little Deer something of passion, and was fully aware of her advantageous prospects, to say nothing of her immediate possessions—but he was not altogether prepared to take an Indian squaw as his wife—nor had he made up his mind to the villany of winning her heart to abuse the possession;—neither had he so far overcome the claims of gratitude and friendship to Eoneguski, as to betray his confidence and avow himself his rival;—and as he had not time for much deliberation, each consideration contributed to the formation of the very hasty answer he gave.
“The Little Deer is lovely,” he said, “and Gideon Aymor cannot look upon her without feeling the power of her beauty. But is she not the betrothed of Eoneguski? and is not her heart already too much his to be won by another?”
“It is true,” replied Yenacona, “that she hath promised herself in marriage to Eoneguski; but she was then a heathen like himself; since that time the glorious light of the gospel hath sent a few scattered rays across the dark soul of the Little Deer, as the luminary of Heaven pours here and there a slender stream of light into the thick darkness of a dungeon through some occasional chink, found only by his searching power. And is there any fellowship between light and darkness? and can one who hath caught but the faintest glimpse of 'that light which cometh down from above,' voluntarily shut her eyes upon it forever, and again plunge into the unmitigated gloom of heathen superstition? Mr. Aymor, my own sad experience supplies me with a melancholy warning against an alliance between a Christian and a Heathen. The Little Deer hath been already instructed that there is no obligation to keep faith with heretics, and that it would be a damning sin to do so in a compact to be consummated with sacramental solemnity. But there is a still greater difficulty.—The Little Deer can never be the wife of Eoneguski, and she knows it. What does Mr. Aymor say? Does he desire to possess the heart of the Little Deer?”
“Might I do so if I would?” he said.
“I have told you,” replied Yenacona, “of the power of a weapon which I have seen you use so dexterously—farther than this I can say nothing of your prospects.”
“But would the voice of Yenacona be employed for or against my suit?”
“That is what I desire to know,” said Yenacona, “from Mr. Aymor, himself, and therefore it is that I wish you to answer my questions.”
“Then I will confess that I desire to win the heart of the Little Deer,” said Gideon, having gradually advanced to self-committal.
“Swear to me then,” she said, solemnly, assuming a countenance of dignified severity—“Swear to me upon this sacred symbol of the sufferings of our crucified Lord, that when you have won the heart of the Little Deer you will wear it near your own, as I have done for years past this holy crucifix,” she said, applying to her lips that which she wore appended to the rosary around her neck, “until death shall dismiss one of you to Paradise.”
She extended towards him the cross, but Gideon, instead of complying with her demand, drew back with irresolution.
“Do you hestitate?”—said she; and, after a pause, added, “It is the only condition upon which Yenacona can consent to your becoming a suitor to her niece. Nay, more, after what has passed, it is the only condition upon which you can longer remain a tenant of the wigwam of Yenacona.”
Gideon was perplexed, and, after some moments reflection, “I am ready to comply,” he said, and reached out his hand towards the crucifix.
“Hold!”—cried Yenacona, in a tone of voice which sent a chill through his blood, and caused his fell of hair to rise like quills upon the fretful porcupine—“here is no priest as Heaven's vicegerent to receive the vow—here is no sacred cathedral, with its dark, heavy arches, to whisper back their solemn utterance—but hark!—dost thou not hear?”—
So deeply interested had Gideon been in the conversation, both at dinner and afterwards, that those indications so perceptible to all who know any thing of the country of which we are writing, that mark the near approach of a spring or summer thunder storm, had entirely escaped his attention. But when Yenacona directed his ear towards it, he distinctly heard a loud rushing sound, (to borrow a simile from the scriptures,) “like the voice of many waters.” He saw that the trees upon the mountain top over against them were powerfully agitated, and veiled their heavy summits before some great power passing over them.
“The Lord bowed the Heavens, and came down,”—she said, in a loud, solemn tone of voice, pointing upwards with her right hand, while she stood in tragic dignity, with a countenance in which the deepest religious awe was mingled with sacerdotal severity,—“the earth shook and trembled, the foundations of the hills also moved and were shaken.—He rode upon a cherub, and did fly;—yea, He did fly upon the wings of the wind.—His pavilion round about him were dark waters and thick clouds of the sky.”
She paused— A dark shadow was seen careering onwards from the direction of the mountain, and a deep and sudden gloom settled over the village. But nothing yet was heard save the uninterrupted roaring, hissing sound which first caught the attention of Gideon. Suddenly a broad glare of light burst through the gloom that surrounded them—it dazzled, for an instant, the vision of Gideon, and in another he beheld its reflection playing over the ornaments on the person of Yenacona, like the bright fiery tongue of a serpent. Her silver locks glistened, and seemed almost inflamed from its reflected lustre. Another instant, and a crash, such as might have attended the bursting of the whole fabric of nature, was heard immediately above them. Gideon felt as if he were himself smitten by some powerful arm, and cowered almost to the floor. Yenacona stood erect, though much excited, like the priestess of some ancient oracle, when under the maddening influence, mistaken by the deluded worshippers for the inspiration of her god.
“The Lord also thundered in the Heavens,” she continued, “and the Highest gave forth his voice.”—Then suddenly changing her flexible voice, and subduing it to a deep guttural whisper, “In the immediate presence of thy Eternal Judge;”—she continued, “with the voice of His might now sounding in thy ears, bow down upon thy knees and swear.”—
Gideon found himself a passive instrument in the hands of the mysterious being in whose presence he stood; to whom his imagination, for the present, attributed a more intimate connection with the tremendous war of the elements then going on, than either truth or reason could justify; and almost unconsciously did as he was commanded.—He threw himself upon his knees and kissed the crucifix, as each one of the thousand mountains filling the valley of the Tennessee, caught the long sound above them, and sent it rolling onwards until it fell faintly on the listening ear, as it died away in the distance.
“This is well!”—shouted Yenacona, “and a gleam of joy may yet come to the heart of the wretched.”
Gideon arose pale and agitated, as the heavy cloud began to pour itself out upon the earth, more like the gushing and dashing of a million of small cataracts, than the gentle rain descending from Heaven. Peal upon peal of thunder rent the air—now booming with the dull and heavy sound of a distant cannon—then with the clear, shrill crack of a rifle, and anon sounding as if the cloud had been a heavy screen of some strong dark material suddenly rent asunder by a gigantic arm. Gideon and Yenacona stood silent;—each wrapped in the thoughts or apprehensions peculiar to their respective bosoms.
At length the fall of rain gradually moderated, until the numberless small streams it had formed, as they poured along their muddy little currents to mingle with the Tennessee, could be distinctly heard above the diminished clamor of the storm, as the voice of the son grows more loud and manly as that of the parent is sinking into “childish treble pipes again.” The thunder peals were changed to a low, distant grumbling, like the growl of a retreating lion, uttered in warning to those who might think of pursuit.
“'Tis past,”—said Yenacona, “the fury of the storm is over;—but the vow hath been uttered under circumstances no less imposing than those under which she exacted it from him.“
The sun now suddenly burst forth, and a joyous smile seemed to suffuse itself over the face of nature. A golden network was spread over the earth, like a gorgeous mantle, as, in the process of prismatic refraction, the yellow, orange, and red rays which shot down into the sparkling rain drops, along with the violet, indigo, blue, and green, shone out more conspicuously in their separation from their less pretending companions. Far in the east the sky began at first, near the horizon, at two points distant from each other, to assume a variegated luminous appearance, which gradually projected, in the segment of a circle, towards the zenith, meeting and forming a most resplendent rainbow.
“There was a rainbow round about the throne,” said Yenacona, with a countenance reflective of the calm cheerful beauty of the scene without, 'in sight like unto an emerald.'—It is the arch of peace and glory—it is the bow of promise.—Mr. Aymor,” she continued, turning to Gideon, “Heaven hath heard your vow, and will smile upon is fulfilment.”
“Then,” said Gideon, somewhat recovered from his perplexity and agitation, “I may count, madam, on your kind offices.”
“You may,” she replied, “but most depends on yourself;—become a Christian, not only in theory but in practice, and do your utmost to render the Little Deer so, and your success is certain.”
“The most wicked white man I ever saw,” said Gideon, “would like to have his wife a Christian; and the value of the Little Deer, great as it now is, would be doubled in my eyes, were she to become so entirely a Christian as to throw off all the absurd and disgusting practises of the Cherokees.”
“Our help is from the Lord,” said Yenacona, kissing her crucifix, “and our lady and St. Tamany will doubtless accept my petitions for your success.”
She curtsied, and retired from the apartment, with the dignity of a queen, leaving Gideon to recover, at leisure, his self-possession.
And dost thou ask what secret wo,
I bear corroding joy and youth?
And wouldst thou vainly seek to know
A pang ev'n thou must fail to sooth?
THERE is a native innocence and simplicity common in the female heart, but rarely found among the ruder sex. The former is characterized, besides, by a more rigid adherence to principle, when once adopted, in spite of the sacrifices to which it may lead. Women are, perhaps, more easily deceived than men, in questions of propriety, and lend a more submissive ear to any one who assumes to be a teacher; but when sound lessons are once taught, the fruits of sound practice follow with most infallible certainty. Let them once be fully satisfied that an action involves a violation of principle, and it is seldom that considerations of mere expediency can tempt them to its commission. The decisions of the moral sense are probably not more correct in them than with men, but they are more inflexible. In some atmospheres paintings are said to preserve their freshness of coloring much better and longer than in others; and there seems to be, in the female bosom, a peculiar aptitude to retain in their pristine beauty each delineation of moral excellence. The simplicity of the female character melts us into love, its virtuous firmness excites our admiration, and commands our esteem.
The storm described in our last chapter as being so opportune in the scene between Gideon and Yenacona, was an awful visitation to one of the inmates of the same dwelling. That morning the soft south breeze had early chased away the fog which, in the course of the night, had risen, like rags of silver gauze, from the bosom of the river, in the mellow moonlight, and uniting, finally, in one mass, had overspread the valley, wrapping each object in one general robe of invisibility. The rising sun had called the breeze into being, with his earliest rays, and, like a dutiful offspring, the breeze, in its turn, flew, upon cheerful wing, to chase away every thing that might obscure the glories of its parent.
The Little Deer heard the foliage of a perennial vine stirring under the gentle breath of the zephyr, and rose from her couch. “Thou incomprehensible Being,” she exclaimed, opening her casement, and falling upon her knees, in the attitude of adoration, “whom my fathers have worshipped in their simplicity, as the Great Spirit, and of whom wonderful things are told by the white men, who adore thee as the triune God, assist the feeblest of thy creatures in her search after truths, upon which rest her present and everlasting peace.—And if thy red children are lost in ignorance, which covers them as the fog did recently my native valley, let thy breath come gently, and chase away the dark shadows, as the soft breeze disperses the vapor, that the light of truth may cheer and warm their hearts.—But how shall thy will be communicated to a being such as I am?—Approach me not in thy terrors, for how should I stand before thee?—But pour into my soul, as the dew falleth upon the earth, the suggestions of thy will.—This day is one of the customs of my people to be observed, and it is denounced by some, as not only vain and unprofitable, but dangerous and wicked.—Pity my blindness, oh, August Being, and teach me (for I am in a great strait) how it behoveth me to act.—If my people are right, I should be base and recreant not to share with them the reproach of well-doing;—but if they are wrong, give me some manifestation that it is so, for I would not go with the multitude to do evil.”
Having said this, she determined to conform to the custom of the Cherokees, as she had always done, unless something should occur that she might interpret into a Divine rebuke. But the morning passed on in calmness, and not the slightest circumstance transpired unusually to affect her mind; and the arguments of Yenacona, neither few nor slackly pressed, had proven insufficient to convince her.
The appointed hour arrived, and she repaired, with the other maidens of Tesumtoe to their parent stream; but not, as had been supposed by Gideon, did she expose her person among the mingled multitude.—No, the lessons of delicacy imparted to her by her aunt, had not been thrown away, but impressed themselves deeply on her character. Like another Diana, with a few chosen friends of her own sex, she sought a sequestered spot, where a cave in a rock, making up to the very brink of the stream, enabled them to conform to the customs of their people, without violence to their modesty.
The ceremony was over, and she had returned home, and nothing had yet occurred to convince the maiden of the impropriety of the act in which she had been engaged. But at dinner the young white stranger, who had been kind and attentive to her during his stay at Tesumtoe—who had frequently addressed to her words of commendation—and for whom she entertained a sisterly affection, had evidently shrunk from her with something like horror, when he understood that she had participated in the ceremony he accidentally witnessed. This simple circumstance went farther than any thing had previously done to shake her confidence in the rectitude of her course. She retired from the dinner table self-dissatisfied, and repaired to her own apartment, full of unpleasant reflections.
Before leaving the table she had observed some symptoms of the storm, but they made no impression, until she found herself alone, and then the gloom which the gathering cloud threw over her apartment painfully added to the distress of her mind. A thought of anguish flashed upon her, with the first faint glimmer of the distant lightning. “This is the sign,”—she said to herself, “and the Terrible One is displeased with what I have done.”
She heard the hoarse rushing sound, as the cloud swept down from the mountain. “He is coming,”—she murmured,—“He is coming in anger;”—and threw herself upon her bed, with palpitating heart and labored respiration.
A blaze of intense light burst into the apartment, licking up, as it were, in an instant, its whole contents, and departing as suddenly as it came, left behind an almost impalpable gloom. Another moment, and the awful crash, apparently just above her head, as if tearing for itself a way through the very roof of the building, completed the triumph over her mind of the imposing thought that, in partial compliance with her own prayer, the Eternal himself was chiding her with His awful voice, or was coming to make, in her destruction, an example of terror to the residue of her people. In an agony of fear she hid her face in the bed-clothing, and remained, almost breathless, while the storm was expending its fury.
When, at length, it could only be heard indistinctly rumbling in the distance, she again became collected. And when the bright sun came forth anew, and laughed in joyously through the window of her apartment, she arose, and looked out upon the cheerful earth, and her heart could not withhold its sympathy. A feeling of delight, such as she had never before experienced, gushed in upon her soul, and overpowered its faculties. As in the morning, she opened the window, and threw herself on her knees before it. The air kissed her fevered cheeks with the same balmy and refreshing influence. “Thou art merciful to thy children,” she exclaimed, “oh thou Parent of the universe;—thy terrors have passed by me, and I am not consumed;—once more am I permitted to rejoice in thy smiles.—From henceforth I will know thee no more as the terrible Great Spirit of the red men, but as 'Our Father who art in Heaven.' “
A gentle tap at the door of her apartment startled her—she arose, and opened it. “Dear aunt,” she exclaimed, as the person entered, “I can now pronounce, with confidence, at least one part of what you have taught me as the Apostles' Creed. I can say 'I believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth.' “
“It is well, my daughter,” said Yenacona, “the smoking flax will yet burst into flame, and the nations of the red men will become the nations of God and of his Christ.”
The Little Deer then proceeded to relate to her aunt the effects of the recent storm upon her feelings, which Yenacona did all in her power to enforce and perpetuate. “I once heard some beautiful verses,” she said, “quite to the purpose, one of which I remember—
'God moves in a mysterious way,
His wonders to perform;
He plants his footsteps in the sea,
And rides upon the storm.' “
The fine voice of Yenacona gave to the harmony and exalted poetry of the verse greatly increased effect, and, through their assistance, added to the impression already made upon the feelings of her niece.
But the agitation of mind under which we have seen the Indian maid laboring, did not arise alone from doubt respecting the Spring bath of bitter herbs, or the terrible manner in which those doubts had been acted upon.—No!—She had been for some time much harassed by the interesting subject of religion, and her aunt, who had first called her attention to it, was exceedingly active in pressing upon her those truths which are recognised by all classes of Christians, as well as many of the peculiar tenets of her own church. She had been for many months engaged to the young brave of Eonee to become his bride, and the promise had been made with the approval of both her heart and understanding. But while her growing faith in the Christian religion was daily unsettling the approbation of her understanding, a recent event seemed to demand a reversal of the decision of her heart. She was in that state of nervous irritability incident to the constant attrition upon her mind of these interesting and perplexing subjects, at the time of her lover's return to Tesumtoe. When Eoneguski, on that evening, glided from the presence of Gideon and Yenacona, into the adjoining apartment, as he anticipated, he found there the Little Deer. She was alone, but did not, according to his expectation, advance to meet her young brave after so long a separation, in affectionate confidence. On the contrary, when she heard the sound of approaching footsteps, tremor seized upon her limbs, and they were no longer adequate to her support; to save herself from falling, she sank down into a chair, and, with her head leaning upon the back, was weeping and sobbing. She did not even look up, as Eoneguski entered; who laid his hand tenderly on her shoulder, and said, in an affectionate tone of voice, “Why does grief bow down the beautiful head of the Little Deer, as do the heavy rain drops the blossoms of the lily?—But the sun kisses away the rain drop from the lily—and shall not Eoneguski dry up the tears that dim the bright eyes of the Little Deer?”
Instead of soothing her, the Indian lover was surprised and mortified to find that he was but opening anew the sources of her grief; for her tears flowed faster, and her sobs became more deep and audible.
“What can Eoneguski do,” he inquired, after a pause, “to relieve the distresses of the Little Deer?”—Still he received no answer.
“Is the presence of Eoneguski no longer pleasant to the Little Deer?” he said.
“Have pity upon me,” said the Little Deer, at length, “and do not afflict me with questions which I am now unable to answer.”
Eoneguski folded his arms, and elevating himself to his full height, looked for some moments steadfastly upon the interesting object before him, with her long black hair dishevelled and hanging over her beautifully formed neck and shoulders, now moved by convulsive heavings. The strife of passions was in his soul, while melancholy composure sat upon his countenance. At length he spoke—“Eoneguski hath returned from wanderings long, difficult, and dangerous—”
“Tell me not of thy wanderings,” interrupted the Little Deer, “they are grief to my soul.”
“Hah!” said the warrior, “dost thou too condemn me?—Said I not that the eye of the Evil Spirit was on the path of Eoneguski?”
“I do condemn thee, but it is with a bleeding heart,” replied the maiden, while she almost gasped for utterance.
“There is kindness in thy voice,” he said, mournfully, “and it is soothing to my soul;—it comes, as in former days, like the plaintive note of the Wekolis, when he tells of the coming of a happier season.”
“I fear,” said the Indian girl, in a correspondent tone of voice, “that happiness has forever fled from the Little Deer, and that the son of the Eonee chief, if he ever finds it, must seek for it with some more fortunate maiden.”
“Say not so,” he answered, “the happiness of Eoneguski is in the keeping of the Little Deer.”
“How can she who hath lost her own, be a safe depository of that of another?” she said, for the first time looking him in the face, with a look as forcibly inquisitive as her question.
“She shall find it again;” he replied—“if the conduct of Eoneguski hath displeased the Little Deer, let her hear his reasons, and her gentle heart will exchange censure for approbation.”
“Alas! I know not what to approve or what to censure;” she answered. “I am now bewildered with doubts; when time shall have solved them, I will listen and decide whether the fate of Eoneguski and the Little Deer shall be one, or whether two separate paths must conduct them through the journey of life.”
The Indian was startled. “Is it so?”—he inquired, “and does the fate of Eoneguski hang in balanced scales before the eyes of the Little Deer?—To doubt is to decide!—If the heart of the Little Deer was not changed towards Eoneguski, she would not speak doubtfully of their being one.”
He turned, as if about to leave the apartment—“Eoneguski,” she said, with more calmness than she had yet manifested, “you know nothing of what is passing in the bosom of the Little Deer—act not with rashness, but wait with patience the decision of time.”
“What am I to understand?” he said. “Tell me, at once, in what hath Eoneguski changed in the estimation of the Little Deer?”
“A terrible strife,” she replied, “is going on in the bosom of the Little Deer.—Wouldst thou crush the heart of one you profess to love?—Then press me not now, for an answer to thy questions.”
The Indian was perplexed. He stood for a moment thoughtfully, and then replied—“I said I have returned from wanderings long, difficult, and dangerous—yet the Indian warrior laughs at fatigue and danger. But the Evil Spirit cast his eye upon Eoneguski, and sorrow and trouble came upon his soul—their clouds were dark and heavy. 'Let the storm descend,' I said, 'for the Little Deer is the sun in the sky of Eoneguski, and her smiles will come upon him with their light and warmth, and the shadows of evil will vanish away.' But I have come, and the sun of my sky is dark—the cloud rests upon it, and it sends forth no smile to cheer the heart of Eoneguski.”
The Little Deer could not resist the appeal. As in a stormy day, through a rent in the opening clouds, the clear sunshine rests for a moment on some solitary spot, gilding it with glory, while the dark masses hover over the surrounding scenery, and closing again, hastily snatch away the transitory and partial brightness, so did a transient smile beam through the tears of the Little Deer upon her lover, and was instantly succeeded by the former sadness.
“It is enough,” said he; “Eoneguski is contented. He will come again when the clouds have passed away from the sun of his sky.”
So saying, he left the Indian maiden to compose herself for an interview with the stranger.
It is no wonder, then, that the simple and conscientious heart of the Indian girl, strongly charged as it was with her national superstitions, and for the displacement and succession of which the sublime truths of Christianity were struggling, should have been so powerfully affected by the storm we have described. The deductions drawn from it by her were interwoven with the web of her destiny, and threw a complexion upon the whole of her future conduct.
On the other hand, perplexing in the extreme were the speculations of Eoneguski upon what was passing in the soul of the Little Deer. They furnished much employment for his mind on his lonely journey to Eonee; and of the various conjectures which he made, but one seemed, even to himself, entitled to consideration. “She loves me,” he said, “and her heart refuses to cast me off. But she has heard that I have returned without the scalp of an enemy whose track I was pursuing, and her pride disdains an alliance with the sluggard or the coward. The proud daughter of Moytoy would match only with a hero. The Great Spirit will yet teach the Little Deer that Eoneguski is neither a coward nor a sluggard.”
The story of Gideon had satisfied Eoneguski that John Welch was one whose life was protected from his vengeance by many of the strongest considerations, and determined him to abandon the pursuit. Still there was room for doubt; and the impressions made upon his mind were of too delicate and important a nature to allow of their communication to those most interested in their truth, until all doubt was removed. It was his purpose to have seized the earliest opportunity of making them known to Eonah, and taking his counsel and opinion. We have seen how that purpose was frustrated for the present, leaving him in difficulty in his interview with the Little Deer, and compelling him to withhold explanations, which he conceived would have fully justified him in her estimation. But a cautious regard for the happiness of others induced him to submit to a present hardship, rather than relieve himself by causing deep, affecting, and perhaps groundless excitement in others. “But John Welch,” he continued, “has been the Evil Spirit to me. Why did he cross my path, causing its flowers to wither, and thorns to spring up?”
But gasping, heav'd the breath that Lara drew,
And dull the film along his dim eye grew.
TO watch by the bed of the dying is one of the most solemn and affecting of relative duties, and exercises most powerfully the feelings of the heart. The various sufferings, both of mind and body, which the patient undergoes, keep sympathy continually awake; and a ray of hope occasionally breaking through the thickest gloom, prevents the lethargy despair would occasion. In the solemn stillness that pervades the chamber, busy memory is left free to wander back over the path of former intercourse, and gather up the incidents which mark the worth of the dying, and endear him to the heart—while fancy is searching in the gloom of the future for what must so soon become distressing reality.
When Eoneguski reached Eonee, he found every thing in a state of gloomy excitement, and soon learned that his father was supposed to be dying, and that the people were in that restless condition, by which a swarm of bees indicate the absence of their sovereign, and their sense of the necessity of speedily filling, with another, her vacated throne. He flew to the wigwam of the dying chief, and the crowd gathered around the door gave way at his approach. He threw himself on his knees, beside the couch, but dared not give farther vent to his feelings, in the presence of the stern countenances looking watchfully upon him.
The face of Eonah, during the short absence of his son, had become much more haggard; his eyes, before quite dim, were now entirely sightless; and the arm with which he had dealt his son the impotent blow, lay nerveless beside him. Nothing but the moving of the chest, and a snoring noise, like that of one sleeping, spoke any thing of life in the once matchless warrior. But death seemed loath to complete his triumph, and, for many hours, to pause in his advance. Meantime the dutiful savage sat by his father, and ever and anon moistened his lips with a feather, and an occasional drop of the fluid finding its way much lower, refreshed, for a brief instant, his throat and palate. The hope that he would ever again so far revive as to revoke the malediction which sat distressingly upon the feelings of Eoneguski, it seemed folly to indulge; and nothing was left to him but, with melancholy interest, to trim, according to his limited skill, the lamp of life just glimmering in the socket, and watch its progress toward final extinction. He learned that, during his absence, the Saga had visited the chief, and after having administered a few herbs, pronounced him entirely beyond his reach; and, complaining of the infirmities of age, had returned immediately, to repose himself in his wigwam at Sugar Town.
It was midnight, and Eoneguski, who had just risen from a brief nap, dismissed Mercury to repose, to take his own turn of watching by the dying chief. There was perfect silence in the hut, save the breathing of Eonah, which was growing fainter and more faint.—Dim, very dim was the light in the apartment, and the weary watcher, whose animal spirits were subdued by multiplied afflictions, had sunk into that half sleeping state, in which things real and imaginary form mingled and shifting pictures before the mind.—He was standing, in fancy, near the banks of the Homony, watching for Welch, and distinctly heard the low hissing ripple of its waters: “Humph,” said he, starting, “it is the breathing of my father.”
He again relapsed into the half unconscious state, and one of the scenes of his earliest manhood was before him;—he was hunting deer amongst his native mountains and valleys;—a stag was bounding, at no great distance, unsuspectingly towards him;—he knew it by the slow successive leaps with which the earth resounded.—The hunter prepared for the slaughter of his noble game, and in so doing, jostled his seat, and awoke himself.—It was his own heart, laboring under the accumulation of half stagnated blood, he had heard.
Yet again he was in the land of shadows;—the Little Deer was before him, as in their earliest acquaintance—when confidence was between them;—she was in the wigwam of her mother, in the heat of a summer's day, and her head had fallen back in gentle slumber against the back of the chair whereon she sat.—He softly approached, and sunk down on the ground beside her;—her head declined still lower, and, among the thick masses of her long glossy hair, he was horror stricken at beholding a venemous little serpent intertwined, fixing upon him its bright fiery eyes, and threateningly licking out its forked tongue.—He reached forth his hand to tear the serpent from the head of the beloved one, and, as he attempted to seize it by the throat, it fixed upon one of his fingers its poisonous fangs—The pain awoke him, and he found himself stretched along by the fire, in his father's wigwam, with a live coal near him. It was evident that, heavy with sleep, he had slid down from his seat, and, under the impulse of fancy, having stretched forth his arm, one of his fingers came in contact with the fire.
He resumed his position, and, for a few moments, the slight pain of the burn kept him awake. It soon, however, subsided, and again the semi-transparent veil was let down over him. He was in the wigwam of Eonah, watching the feverish slumbers of his dying father;—strength had apparently deserted forever the limbs of the aged warrior, and they lay upon his couch in more than infantile imbecility;—his eyelids were half closed, as if in their last sleep, and the mouth lay widely distended, that there might be no hindrance to the ingress and egress of the unwilling breath.—Presently there was a quivering of the heavy eyelids, and their curtains were drawn up from the dim sightless orbs they had hitherto partially shaded;—the widely opened mouth closed as by a mechanical spring;—the hitherto rigid nostrils began to play in natural respiration, and the chief arose to a sitting posture.
Eoneguski started, as he had done on former occasions, under the impression that he was awaking from the mockery of a dream. But either his senses were still the dupes of delusion, or he was witnessing nothing less than a most surprising reality. There sat before him, in the dim light, the aged chief, with open eyes, evidently striving to apply those organs to their natural use. “Where am I?”—he said, in a voice quite natural.
Eoneguski was greatly moved, but he was, as we have had occasion to shew, a man of firmness, and hastened to relieve the solicitude of the inquirer, by the answer, “You are in your own wigwam at Eonee.”
“It is the voice of Eoneguski—of my only son,” said the chief.—“They told me he was a recreant and a coward, but I knew it was false—my young warrior hath returned, and his hand is red with the blood of John Welch—dripping warm from his scalp.—But fly to the Saga at Sugar Town, and tell him that the angel of death has quitted his prey for a season—that Eonah yet lives, and calls for the aid of the Great Medicine—fly—fly I say.”
Obedient to the paternal behest, Eoneguski woke up Mercury to attend upon the chief, whilst he moved his sinewy limbs, and bent himself to outstrip in speed the fabled Apollo, when he followed the flying footsteps of the beautiful Daphne. He left behind him the shadows of night when he arrived at the door of Susquanannacunahata, and made the frail tenement shake with his impatient demand for admittance.
Wissa rose, muttering some unearthly sound of displeasure, and proceeded to reconnoitre the person of the untimely visiter; but he no sooner perceived who it was than every trace of displeasure faded from his countenance, and the door was thrown open for him to enter. The Saga opened his dim eyes, and turned them upon the visiter, who approached his couch.
“Who art thou,” said the Saga.
“I am Eoneguski,” was the reply.
“Thou comest to the Saga,” said the Prophet, “to pour flattery into his ears, that thou mayst be the chief of Eonee in the room of the deceased Eonah.”
“The Great Spirit hath spared Eonah,” replied the young Indian, “and Eoneguski is breathless with the haste in which he hath flown to bring the Saga word, that he may snatch the prey from the angel of death—Eonah says come and heal him.”
The suddenness of the information that Eonah was yet alive, deprived Susquanannacunahata of his usual self-command; for, had he learnt that one had actually arisen from the dead, his surprise could not have been in reality greater, or more unequivocally expressed in his countenance.
“Thy brain is disordered, and thou dreamest,” he said.—“The spirit of Eonah is in the land of the blessed.”
“I do not dream,” was the reply; “but come thou and stay the spirit of the aged warrior, while I fly back and tell him that thou comest.”
“It is enough,” said the Saga, “I will come.”
Eoneguski once more like the swift race horse devoured the ground between Sugar Town and Eonee, and was soon again beside the couch of his father. He was astonished to perceive him lying in seeming composure with the powers of life wonderfully renovated, and having taken, as Mercury informed him, a good deal of nourishment.
“Has he come?” said the chief, addressing Eoneguski.
“No,” replied the young man;—“the feathers of the aged eagle are few, and the strength of his wing is small—there is no speed in his flight.—The sun, now high in the Heavens, must be low ere the Saga will reach Eonee.”
“I must live to see him,” said Eonah, composedly; and, turning his face to the wall, signified that he desired silence, and soon his chest was heaving with the full deep breathing of healthy sleep.
Meantime Wissa had prepared for the Saga his travelling vehicle, which consisted of a cart drawn by two small aged oxen, which looked not as if their food had been as visionary as the prognostications of their master. It was impossible it should be so in the rich native pastures among which they were allowed to stray with a freedom as unrestrained as those of the ancient Tityrus, while their master, like him, expatiated in vaticinatory dignity. The black boy was not long in arranging the simple geer, which consisted of a yoke only, with a withe attached to it, through which the tongue of the cart protruded, and to which it was very inartificially secured. Blankets and buffalo skins formed for the Prophet a comfortable couch in the body of the car, and in this primitive style, with Wissa for his charioteer, he proceeded to Eonee.
As Eoneguski had anticipated, the sun was low when he reached his place of destination; for his slow paced cattle were left very far behind by the winged steeds of Phoebus. It was difficult to say which was the nearest death, the patient or the physician; as, exhausted by his journey, the Saga was borne in on his couch, and laid down by the side of Eonah.
“Why does not the Great Medicine heal himself?” said the latter, sarcastically.
“Age is a disease,” said the Saga, in a tone of voice scarcely beyond a whisper, “that defies the art of the greatest Medicine.”
“Thou hast done wonders for Eonah,” continued the chief;—“thou art doubtless rejoiced to have snatched him from the grave.”
“It is the Great Spirit who gives power to the Medicine,” replied the Saga, still faintly, “and it is to him that life and death belong.”
“It is well,” said Eonah, “and thou knowest Susquanannacunahata—thou hast reason to know—that he can impart a healing influence to what was intended to destroy.”
He signed for all but the Saga, Eoneguski and Wissa to leave the wigwam. The signal was obeyed, and the door closed.
“Yes,” he continued, “I have long known thee, Susquanannacunahata—and I knew that thou hatest me, because I knew thee; but I dreamed not that thou wouldst poison the cup of him who trusted thee.”
Conscious guilt put its seal upon the time-worn face of the Saga as he assayed to deny with his tongue what his looks confessed. “Remember,” said he, while the words trembled upon his lips, “remember Eonah where thou now liest—cheat not thyself with the hope of life;—thou art on thy bed of death—lie not then in the presence of its angel.—Stain not thy own soul with falsehood, that thou may'st dishonor these hairs which are bleached with the dews of more than twelve hundred moons.”
“Eonah does not cheat himself with the hope of life,” replied the chief; “he feels that he is hastening to the hunting grounds of the blessed; but in the presence of the angel of death he charges the Saga of Sugar Town with putting poison in the sick man's cup.”
“The charge disproves itself:” said the Saga—“Art thou not alive, and better than when the Saga came to thy door?”
“It is true,” replied Eonah, “but it is not to thee I am indebted for it; another hand threw in the antidote, (the Saga turned his eyes suddenly upon Wissa, who sat with the dull unapprehensive look of one who is deaf,) where thine had deposited the poison.—But fear not; Eonah, as we have said, is hastening to join the ghosts of his fathers, and thirsts not for vengeance. Thy guilt shall be buried in the grave of Eonah, and in the faithful bosom of Eoneguski, upon one condition.”—
A gleam of joy flitted across the dark gloomy features of the Saga, as he listened for the condition—
“The hearts of the Eonee,” continued the chief, “are in the hands of the Saga—let him turn them towards Eoneguski, as their chief, when Eonah shall sleep in quiet.”
“The hands of the Saga are pure from the guilt imputed to him,” replied the Prophet.—“Nay, does he not love the race of Eonah? and who but Eoneguski could he desire to see as the chief of the Eonee?”
“It is well,” said the chief; “let the heads of the people hear thee express, in our presence, the wish that Eoneguski shall be the chief of the Eonee when his sire is no more.”
The old Prophet assayed to speak, but the words he uttered, if any, were not heard, and, in an instant, more than a dozen of the principal aged men of Eonee were in the wigwam of their chief. Among them was Chuheluh. Raising himself on his couch, with an animation which greatly surprised them, Eonah addressed the assembled elders:—
“Fathers,” he said, “the bow of the warrior is unstrung;—his arrows are broken, and his tomahawk and scalping-knife are dull.—Fathers, Eonah is no longer wise in council, nor valiant in fight—the feathers are no longer in the wing of the Eagle, and the teeth of the Lion are broken. Let the brave repose where sleep the fathers of his race, after the ancient manner of the Oewoehee.—But who shall henceforth lead you in the chase?—Who shall be the first among you in the strife of the manly ball play?—Who shall lead the dance at the joyous feast of the early roasting-ear?—Whose shout shall be heard the first and the loudest among the Eonee when they gather with the rest of the Oewoehee to the feast of battle?”
A melancholy murmur ran through the assembly as the speaker paused, and turned his sightless eyes in every direction—“The blood of Eonah,” he continued, “runs in the veins of Eoneguski;—he will be wise in council, and valiant in battle, like his sire. The Saga hath said it is the will of the Great Spirit that the young brave shall be the chief of the Eonee, when the sun of Eonah has set?”
Every eye was turned upon the Saga, expecting him to speak, but he was silent. After waiting for some moments—“Is the Saga in the wigwam?” inquired Eonah.
“He is,” answered several voices.
“Has the heart of the Saga changed?—Let him remember,”—he said, in a tone of warning.
“The Saga changes not,”—was the reply, with a stammering voice. He was about to proceed, but his eye caught that of Chuheluh, and there was something in the look of the latter that did not escape the notice of even the dim vision of the Saga, and his speech was checked.
“Eonah is yet alive,” cried the impatient chief.—“Is it the will of Heaven that Eoneguski should be the chief of the Eonee, or that another should die the death of an assassin?”
“It is the will of Heaven,” said the Saga, closing his eyes in desperation, like the bull when he rushes madly on those who provoke him to conflict—“It is the will of Heaven that Eoneguski should be the chief of the Eonee.”
“Susquanannacunahata is a false-hearted villain!” cried a voice in the throng.
“Slay the impious wretch!”—cried another.—“Who dares to charge the Great Prophet and Medicine with villany?”
Many hands were ready to execute the sentence, but no one could tell who was the offender; suspicion, however, rested on Chuheluh, for he, who had but a few minutes before constituted one of the members of the assembly, was no where to be seen.
The rest of the elders approached, one by one, the bed of their dying chief, and taking, as they were conscious, a last look of their leader in many a scene of mirth and danger, retired in melancholy silence.
When they were all gone—“Does Eonah,” inquired the Saga, “desire that Susquanannacunahata should prepare any thing for the infirmities of his body?”
“The dealings of Eonah and Susquanannacunahata are finished in this life,” was the answer.
“Then Susquanannacunahata may return to his wigwam at Sugar Town?”
“He may,” replied Eonah, “but first let him give me his hand—let us part as those who have shared together the couch and the cup—the wigwam and the battle field—the love of the customs of our brave fathers—and a bitter hatred of the pale faces.—Eonah despises villany, but in spite of it he respects a brave man.—We part, Susquanannacunahata, yet it is but as the sun sets to rise on the morrow.—Soon—very soon, we shall meet to part no more—for Eonah is on his bed of death—and yet Susquanannnacunahata will be the first to sing his death-song.”
He ceased, and the Saga was conducted in silence to his car, and soon its wheels were heard slowly creaking, as Wissa urged with a goad the tardy cattle.
When they were left alone in the hut—“Did I not tell you,” said Eonah to Eoneguski, “he was a villain.—I saw him cast the poison into the cup he gave me, but it was not unexpected, and the same person who prepared me for the deed, cast in the antidote to obviate its effects.”
A good deal of conversation passed between the father and son, son, which it is beside our purpose to relate; suffice it to say, that Eonah made no allusion to the harshness with which he had treated Eoneguski, and the latter had the satisfaction of believing that it was the act of a moment of mental incoherency, and had retained no place in the memory of the old chief.
Revenge his God—to murder lead, * * * * * *
When wreak'd his wrath, he turns to dart
His sting into his patron's heart.
THERE is nothing so humbling to human pride as detected baseness, and the higher the previous pretensions of the malefactor, the more galling and intolerable the vengeance with which his own pride visits him. There are thousands in the world whose only restraint from guilt is the fear of its detection by men—utterly unmindful of that sleepless eye which spies out all their actions. Save only as this fear may disturb their quiet, many pass through the successive days of a long life with perfect composure in the commission of crimes most revolting to virtue, who are driven to desperation and suicide by the disclosure of the smallest of their villanies. They are seized with the sorrow which, saith the Scriptures, worketh death, and nothing can alleviate it but self-destruction, or a deeper plunge into open and shameless wickedness.
Such was the scorpion preying on the heart of the Saga, as he was pursuing his way homeward, with no company but that of the dumb Wissa. It was night, and the moon had not risen—a balmy air was blowing freshly from the south, being nearly the direction in which they were travelling, but a sudden turn in the road on the descent of a hill of some length, threw them facing, as it were, to the right about. All at once the glimmering reflection of a bright light was perceptible before them;—Wissa pointed it out to the Saga; but it was a subject upon which they could not well exchange their thoughts by signs, and it remained therefore for each to speculate as he might upon what considerably surprised them both. But they had not much time for speculation, for the Saga presently heard behind him the roaring sound of a conflagration, and looking back beheld a sheet of flame descending the hill above them in swift pursuit. He did not make the discovery sooner than Wissa, whose quicker eye placed him pretty nearly on an equality with his master, who supposed himself in the exclusive possession, as between them, of the faculty of hearing.
“Fire! master,” cried Wissa; possibly like the younger Croesus, impelled by a sense of imminent danger to exert a force sufficient to rupture the bonds by which his tongue had been so long held in confinement.
Much as the Saga was moved by the immediate danger that threatened him, he was for an instant scarcely conscious of it, so much was he affected at hearing an articulate sound from the lips of the dumb. Wissa's first idea was to urge the cattle to a speed which might outrun the flames, and the animals themselves were not so unconscious of danger as to be backward in obeying the incitements which Wissa dealt them thickly en croupe.
They struck off in an awkward run, and the cart once getting fairly in motion, from the natural effect of gravitation, became impatient of the yet slow gait of the cattle, and pressing forcibly upon them, united with Wissa in urging them to greater exertions. For a time they resisted with native stubbornness this new impulse, but finding it at length too powerful, they scampered away, no longer mindful of their direction, which they regulated, like running water, by the descent of the hill. Wissa finding his seat on the front part of the cart no longer tenable, yielded to his fate, and narrowly escaped, as he fell, being run over by one or both wheels. Although not projected from a height near so great, he was in danger, like another Phæton, of suffering from intense heat, to escape which, he no sooner touched the ground than he arose and took security of his heels.
Thundering down the precipitous hill side with his now ungoverned oxen, the Saga's bed was no longer one of “thrice driven down.”—Jostled from side to side in his clumsy vehicle, his aged bones were nearly dislocated, and he felt himself every instant as trembling upon the verge of fate. At length one of the wheels encountered a large rock, and that side of the cart was carried up many feet from the ground, projecting the Saga with nearly the force of a rocket, and sending him to find a rough resting place upon a bed of stones. Here, bruised and mangled, he met a sudden and unlooked for termination to his journey, and fancied it the end of his earthly career. He lay uttering groans of agony, which, at length, arrested the attention of Wissa, who having placed himself where the direction of the fire no longer endangered his own person, became properly solicitous for the fate of his master. Having found him in his battered and helpless condition, his next concern was to strive for the recovery of their cart and oxen. He was not long in finding the former by the light of the fire, though truly in a wretched condition; but of the oxen he could neither see nor hear either hair or hide, hoof or horn.
Having now acquired the use of speech, and finding that alone he could do but little for the comfort of his wounded master, he sallied out in search of assistance, and after a time succeeded in collecting three or four Indians, whose superstitious reverence for the Saga, (more than doubled by the supposed miracle of speech being given to the dumb to meet his necessities,) inspired them with alacrity in his service. They were not long in constructing a hurdle, and having gathered up his scattered couch, formed quite an easy conveyance for the mangled Seer, on which they transported him to his wigwam in Sugar Town, in less time than he could have reached it in his slow-moving wain.
For several days he here lingered out a painful existence, suffering under the complicated misery of bodily wounds and bruises of the spirit. Not a gleam of hope cheered the gloom of the prospect before him. Like an aged tree, time had but strengthened his hold upon the soil where he was rooted, and great must be the force that could wrench him from it. But of that force he now felt the application, and fearful was the cracking of the aged fibres. The retrospect of his life presented nothing to console him, and conscience was loud in her demands for atonement to many who had been the victims of his fraud and violence. Many of those, alas, had long since passed beyond the reach of his offices of atonement, and for his wrongs to them his system of religion furnished no means of appeasing the clamors of conscience. But even his unenlightened mind dictated retribution to all those to whom it was yet in his power to make it, and, late as it was, to one at least—the most innocent and wronged among the many whom he had visited with affliction—he resolved to send and pour the only balm in his power into a long festering wound. Yet was it with reluctance that he adopted this determination, and consented to abandon the further prosecution of a revenge, which had, for years past, been his living principle of action. His purpose was not carried into execution until just at the moment when, by the fiat of that very demon at whose altar he had so devoutly ministered his dark spirit, and the body it had actuated for a century, were about to dissolve forever their unholy union.
It seem'd as if, in murmurs nigh,
Throbb'd on her ear some melody,
She once had lov'd, and sung;—
And well known voices whisper'd near,
Even to her darkling memory dear.
SOWING in deceit, and reaping in sorrow, seem to follow each other, as natural consequences, and one or the other of these unprofitable employments occupies most of the time of a large portion of our race. But these moral processes differ widely from the physical ones we make use of to typify them, in the absence, in the one, of those regular periods which mark the other. In the former it often happens that one man is sowing his invisible seed, at the same moment that another is reaping his crop of ruin.
This was the case with Gideon Aymor and the Saga at Sugar Town; and while the latter was, in bitterness of soul, gathering in the destructive harvest of a life of fraud, the former was busily sowing in deceit and treachery. We left him under the auspices of Yenacona, resolved to win and wear the Little Deer, if he could, regardless of her plighted troth, and his own obligations to Eoneguski. The undertaking seemed to have inspired the singular devotee herself with new life and energy, and she embarked at once deeply in the cause. Nor was Gideon himself either slow or skilful in assailing and besieging, by turns, that disturbed citadel—the heart of the swarthy beauty. But little time, however, elapsed, before a serious interruption took place in the plans of the confederates.
The evening succeeding that on which they had entered into their stormy alliance, two Africans arrived at Tesumtoe—the one as envoy to Gideon, and the other to Yenacona. Gideon, in his, at once recognised Mercury, who had come from Eoneguski to request his immediate presence at Eonee, at the last rites with which the remains of Eonah were to be honored. He felt that it was an invitation he could not, with propriety, disregard, however reluctant he might be to abandon his present highly advantageous position. But as the rites were not to be performed until the third day, he had yet some hours, during which he might remain at Tesumtoe. He soon discovered that the tidings of the other messenger, whatever they might be, powerfully affected both his hostess and her niece. They had hurried meetings, and as quickly separated, each repairing to her own apartment.—Again they might be seen restlessly flitting hither and thither, with handkerchiefs at their faces, while neither of them, as usual, favored him with her company. His curiosity was excited, and he strove to gather something from Mercury to satisfy it. But Mercury could afford him no relief.
The night passed away restlessly, and Gideon was not a little surprised at receiving a very early summons to visit Yenacona in her own apartment. Obeying it, with haste, he was struck, as he entered, with a great change in her appearance. She was clothed in deep rich mourning, and it was evident that much of her time, since he last saw her, had been spent in weeping, yet her countenance was less dejected than usual; there was on her cheek a feverish flush, and the light of some new hope was kindled in her eye. She had just risen from her morning devotions, for the time-worn cushion beside her still bore the impressions of her knees, and an ancient breviary lay not far distant. She made a sign to Aymor to be seated. “I am sorry to hear,” she said, in the most touching tone of her sweet melancholy voice, “that Mr. Aymor is about to leave us for a time;—for a time, did I say?—it may be forever—for in this uncertain world, how difficult is it for friends, once separated, to meet again, even when that awful distinction which divides the living from the dead has not passed between them?”
“I cannot be less sorry than yourself,” said Gideon, “for the loss will be entirely on my side; but I trust our separation will be, indeed, a short one.—Remember,” he added, with an attempt at gayety, “that the conquest of the heart of the Little Deer is not yet achieved.”
“Thanks to St. Tamany,” she replied, clasping her hands devoutly, and then crossing herself several times, “the insurmountable obstacle to the union of Eoneguski and the Little Deer does not exist.”
Gideon colored with surprise and vexation. “And is this your engagement to befriend me in my suit,” he said, a little angrily, “that you rejoice in the brightening prospects of my rival?”
“And why should I not rejoice?” she almost yelled. “Mr. Aymor, she continued, with more calmness, “you are not a father, and even if you were, you could then but faintly conceive the deep affection which binds the mother to her offspring. Turn not upon her, then, the look of displeasure, if joy is stirred in her heart, which has yearned with a mother's longings for her first and only born, when she finds contradicted the cruel story that his blood had been poured out, to allay the unappeaseable thirst of the devouring flame, or the vengeance of a relentless foe.”
The wild emotion that accompanied the latter part of what was thus uttered, confounded Gideon, and suggested to him the oft adopted, and as frequently dismissed, idea, that the person in whose presence he sat was a lunatic. He was silent. She threw her keen eyes upon him, and seemed to look into his very soul. “I know your thoughts, Mr. Aymor,” she said, “but I pardon you.—Yes, the brain of Yenacona is unsettled—and well it may be.—It was that you might learn the story of her woes, I have sent for you.—You will change anger for pity, when you shall hear my sufferings. But it is not to seek your useless compassion that I trouble you.—No! Mr. Aymor, there is one earthly comfort, (it may be yet within my reach,) for which my soul panteth, as doth the hart after the water brooks; and it is with the hope that you may assist me in finding my lost one, I afflict you with the rehearsal of my sad story. You will be surprised to learn that, notwithstanding the usual longevity of the Indian, and the security which that blood commonly possesses against the early inroads of time upon the constitution, I have not yet attained my fiftieth year. It was not time who stole from these locks their original blackness;—it was the effect of horror and complicated grief, when I had realized less than twenty times the promise of the everlasting Father, that there should be a regular succession of seed time and harvest. But if my poor brain will suffer it,” she said, pressing her hands strongly against her head for some moments, like one in agony, “I will give you a short recital of my origin and wretched life. It may aid you in the discovery of my poor lost one, should the hand of Providence hereafter cast you together,”
There was too much interest in the person, her manner, and the circumstances under which he was addressed, for Gideon to decline listening to the proposed recital; and Yenacona, perceiving he would be no heedless auditor, proceeded, as follows:—
“Something more than fifty years ago, two powerful sovereigns of Europe, whose ancestors had been contending, during centuries, for supremacy in the old world, having formed a new and wider field for strife in the transatlantic home of the red men, were struggling together, each for its exclusive possession, with a fury which had been the growth of ages, nurtured by an almost uninterrupted series of mutual wrongs. Each, in his turn, courted the aid of the warlike natives in his war of extermination against his white brother.—The simple red men did not spurn proposals, that they should shed their blood, and throw away their lives, for the gratification and aggrandizement of those who had treacherously driven them from the graves of their fathers, and taken possession of the very spots where once smoked their ancestral hearths.—No! they lent a willing ear to these solicitations, and yelled with a thirst of blood, common to them, with their seducers.
“Yet think not the red men were unconscious of the arts practised upon them, or that they were viewed by their employers as dupes, whose blind facility they despised, while they turned it to their own purposes.—No! they saw, indeed, that they were led as sheep to the slaughter—but it was not with the heart of sheep they came to the shambles. Their bosoms burned with indignation nearly equal against those who led them to the place of slaughter, and those by whom they were actually slain. But they saw that the day of the red men had passed away, and that their tribes, numerous as they were, could not stand against the united power of the whites. In craft, then, and not in blind facility or weak simplicity, did they cherish the feuds of their enemies. They hoped, by partaking in their quarrel, to make them the means of destroying each other, that the ultimate conqueror might be, in turn, subdued by the rightful proprietors of the land. But disunion, and want of concert in opinion and action, marred, with them, as they have often done, and will yet do again, the plans of wiser people, and were the ostensible causes of the failure of their success.
“On one side floated the oriflamme of France, and on the other the lion of England; and each of the numerous Indian tribes, according to their fancy, gathered to the waving of the broad silken folds of the one or the other, according as they were moved by the thousand mysterious workings of the human heart.
“What would have been the result had all the tribes of the red men united themselves with one only of the contending parties, can be known to Him alone in whose eye there is neither past nor future.
“Moytoy, then, wore the four scalps and five eagles' tails, the diadem or emblem of royalty of the Oewoehee, and sixty times one hundred warriors were obedient to his voice. But the pride of Moytoy was not in his diadem, or the number of his warriors.—It was in his two brave sons, Toleniska and Attacallaculla. Moytoy espoused the quarrel of England, and sent his son Toleniska with a portion of his warriors to battle, while he himself, time honored, remained at home with his younger son, Attacallaculla, and the rest of his people.
“Far to the northward of us two streams meet, after having wandered by a winding way for countless miles, the one from the north, called the Alleghany, and the other from the south, called the Monongahela; uniting, they form a noble river, and rush on to swell the glory of the father of waters. Where those two streams meet, the armies of France found a place of strength, and from hence it became the desire of the English to expel them. An accomplished General came for the purpose from that distant land, and headed the forces of England, aided by a few Anglo-American officers, among whom was one since known to the red men as their—Father Washington.
There were many Indian warriors in the service of France, and they were scattered in ambush around the place of strength. The British General was ignorant of the arts of savage warfare, and mistook quiet for safety. But Father Washington was no stranger to the customs of the red men, and modestly offered to the General a word of suggestion—but it was repelled with insult. Toleniska heard what had happened—he knew that Washington was right, and that the thousands, both of white and red men, upon whom their young leader looked round with confidence, were conducted by his rashness within the very jaws of destruction. But a voice more powerful than his had been disregarded, and he was silent. It is not for me to describe the scene that followed, suffice it to say, that the followers of Toleniska, with their white allies, were mowed down by a few Indians in ambush, like the ripe grain in harvest, and the survivors, like sheep scattered in the wilderness, were left to perish or find their way home deprived of their brave, but rash and inexperienced leader.
“The desire of spoil, for the gratification of which ample means lay scattered around them, prevented the victorious Indians from pursuing their routed adversaries; so that the Cherokees had, in their turn, opportunities of indulging their native desire of pillage—and although vanquished, they returned home not spoiled, but spoilers. All whom they encountered, who had the misfortune to bear upon their tongues the French accent, became the subjects of their furious vengeance, and they left many bloody hearthstones and smoking ruins behind them, while they bore away spoil, scalps, and prisoners. In passing through the State of Virginia, their mistaken zeal for the English led them to the destruction of a few French families there settled in peace and quietness, little dreaming of the horrors impending over them. Their neighbors, outraged by this deed of violence, pursued the Cherokees to avenge their blood. The unconscious savages were no less surprised than their recent victims, at finding themselves so unexpectedly attacked by those in whose cause they supposed their late violence to have been committed, and lost more in killed and wounded by the hands of their friends, than they had done by the hostile Indians. Those who escaped came home, some of them bloody, and all of them frantic with a rage, which first indicated itself in a proposal to subject to the torture the few prisoners they retained. The satisfaction with which this proposal was received, was manifested by yells of savage triumph. Preparations were immediately made for the consummation of the fell purpose, and the venerable Moytoy himself presided at the bloody sacrifice.”—
Yenacona became greatly moved, and paused to collect herself—“The prisoners,” she at length proceeded, “were brought forth, and again the air was rent with yells of ferocious joy. Among them was a delicate, fair haired girl, pale and drooping as a flower long plucked from its parent stem. The horror of the scene did not arouse her from a state of unconsciousness, in which she was sustained upon her feet only by the rough grasp of those who were thirsting for her blood. The rest of the prisoners were all of the stronger sex, and, therefore, could have substracted nothing from the pity which, by gentle bosoms, would have been yielded without measure to the innocent creature, who, apparently in the sixteenth summer of her being, was about to perish by a cruel and lingering death, without a tear of sympathy or a look of compassion to sooth her anguish. The other victims had been stripped, that nothing might interfere with the modes of torture which the malice or ingenuity of the savage group might suggest.—An unceremonious hand was laid upon the unresisting girl for the same purpose.—'Hold!'—shouted a manly voice.—'Stand back, ye inhuman savages, and profane her not by your touch!'
“A tall figure rushed from among the crowd, and forcing back the persons who held her, received into his arms the passive and almost lifeless maiden—'Behold!'—he said, 'Behold—the bride of Attacallaculla—and touch her not on the peril of your lives.'—The blood-thirsty savages made a rush to reclaim their victim, but Attacallaculla, with a blow of his tomahawk, stretched at his feet one of her assailants, and checked the advance of his associates.
“All was now confusion, and every eye was turned upon Moytoy, whose tongue was chained in astonishment. Attacallaculla, suddenly recollecting himself, dropped upon his knee before his father, and acknowledged, penitentially, his breach of the deference due to him.—'But my father will not deny the maiden to his son?' he said.
“A general cry from the barbarian throng, that the victims should be sacrificed without exception, prevented any relentings which Moytoy might have indulged in favor of his son, and he therefore sternly commanded him to surrender the girl.
“ 'Never!' exclaimed Attacallaculla firmly, 'Never while the heart of the young warrior beats with love and valor!'
“ 'Then force must overcome thy rashness,' said Moytoy, angrily.
“ 'Hear me, but once,'—said Attacallaculla, composedly.—'I know that my single arm is no match for your legions, and that you have the power to snatch this maiden by force from my embrace—but you can never, against my will, convey her to the torture.—The knife of Attacallaculla is sharp,'—he said, as he held up the keen and glittering blade with a triumphant smile, 'and can, in an instant, dismiss the soul of the maiden where your power cannot reach her.—And think you the spirit of Attacallaculla would linger behind her?—No! no!' he shouted, 'it should wing its way with hers to the land of the blessed, where none would be found so cruel as to part us.'
“Toleniska now interposed, and prevailed upon the people and his father to yield to the passion of Attacallaculla, and proceed with the sacrifice of the other victims. The prospect it afforded of a more speedy gratification of their own cruel longings, made more acceptable to the people a course which the popularity of Attacallaculla with themselves, and the alarmed affection of Moytoy for his son, inclined all parties to adopt.
Attacallaculla bore the maiden off in triumph to his wigwam, while the rest of the party proceeded with their feast of vengeance; and the shrieks and groans of agony that burst from the victims, were mingled with the shouts of hellish joy uttered by their tormentors.
“It was long ere the stranger awoke to a knowledge of what had transpired in many of the past weeks of her existence, and for that knowledge she was dependant entirely upon the information of others. Memory had no record of any event, since, at one fell swoop, she had seen her whole family a prey to the destroyers.
Attacallaculla, whilst he did every thing in his power for her comfort, avoided any allusion to her becoming his wife, until time had taken away the freshness of those wounds with which her heart was bleeding: and when he did at length speak to her of love, the marked disgust it inspired was no way flattering to his pride, while it gave a new impulse to her tide of grief. In time, however, she remembered her paternal home as a tale that is told;—the voices to which her ear had in former times vibrated with joy, were now still in death;—and the roof that once echoed to their sounds, had been given to the flames. She listened to the story of her gallant rescue from the tormentors, and was convinced that the noble pulses of love and valor might be as strong beneath the skin of the red man, as of the white. To Attacallaculla she owed her existence—he was of the first among the people to whom she was united, with but little to induce a desire of severance; and she at length consented upon one condition to become his wife. This condition was that they should be married according to the rites of her own religion—the holy Catholic faith.
“A great difficulty was thus thrown in the way of Attacallaculla, but he resolved to surmount it. He set out for Charleston, in the State of South Carolina, and soon returned, bringing with him a priest of the true faith; who, after having administered to the ghostly comfort of Maria, (for that was her name,) united her in the holy estate of matrimony with the preserver of her life.
“These were the parents of Yenacona.—Maria proved to be no portionless wife to Attacallaculla. All the treasures, amounting to a large sum, which had been purloined by the Indians from the house of her father, were justly declared to be hers, and, among them, were the jewels you have seen worn by the Little Deer and myself.—Behold the most precious of them all,”—she said, applying her lips to the crucifix; “nor must this holy book be forgotten,” she added, laying her hand on the ancient silver clasped breviary.—She paused a moment, and then continued:—
“For some time happiness, at least on the part of Attacallaculla, dwelt in his wigwam, and Maria bore her lot with calmness, if not with cheerfulness. My birth gave rise to the first difference between them—my father insisting on my bearing the name of Yenacona, in honor of a Cherokee festival, so called, during which I came into existence, and my mother preferring the Christian one, and her own, of Maria. But her gentle spirit was forced to yield, and, painful as it was, she allowed her daughter to be called by the heathen name of Yenacona.
“A difference of a more serious character followed a few years afterwards. My father, according to the practice of his people, who see no impropriety in polygamy, desired to increase his household with another wife. My mother was of course shocked at the proposal, and did every thing in her power to prevent this overthrow of her peace; but her efforts were unavailing, and, the same day that another wife was introduced into the wigwam of Attacallaculla, Maria left it a homeless wanderer.
“Toleniska was indignant at the conduct of his brother, and took me to his own wigwam, where he treated me with a father's tenderness, Attacallaculla being too much interested in his new connexion to concern himself much respecting either my mother or myself. For some years I lived in as much comfort in the house of my uncle as my family afflictions would allow. I had a distinct and kind remembrance of my absent parent, and felt the most anxious solicitude respecting her fate. Nor was I indifferent to my father, whose neglect distressed and mortified me. But Toleniska did all in his power to win me from the remembrance of my sorrows, and direct, to new objects, the affections of my heart. His efforts were at first kind and well directed, but false notions of the character and rights of our illfated sex, often lead those to whose care it is committed, in zeal for its supposed welfare and happiness, to practice upon it the most intolerable cruelty. The stream of existence which would probably have otherwise flowed peacefully in an onward course, is, by ill-judged interference, turned out of its regular current, deviating first to the right, and then to the left, encountering obstacles against which it chafes and lashes, and agitated, turbid and muddy, it rushes headlong with accelerated impetuosity to the end of its troubled course.”
She ceased for a moment, and seemed lost in reflection.
And when they trac'd by that sad light
The scene of that unfinish'd rite,
And many a look uncertain cast,
The stranger and the child had past.
“WHAT would have been the tenor of Yenacona's life,” she at length proceeded, “but for the ill-advised solicitude of Toleniska in her behalf, it is impossible to know; but that gave direction to all its subsequent destiny, and heaped upon her distresses which few could have borne.
“The attack suffered by the Cherokees, already mentioned, in their passage through Virginia, had so exasperated them, that frequent skirmishes from thenceforth took place between them and the whites, in which a conspicuous part was taken by Toleniska, Eonah, (the chief of the Eonee,) and Soquilla, (a distinguished man among the people of Sugar Town.) These were continued for ten or twelve years, until the boundary line, eastward of the Indian hunting grounds, was run by Tryon, the Governor, or as he was called by the red men, the Great Wolf of North Carolina. Then, as they say, the tomahawk was buried, and the peace pipe was smoked by the red men with their white brothers.
“An intimacy of the closest kind sprung up in the meantime among these three chiefs, and I frequently saw Eonah and Soquilla at the wigwam of Toleniska. Soquilla was already an old man, older than either Eonah or Toleniska; but he cast eyes of love upon the young Yenacona, almost as soon as she had passed the age of childhood. Strange as it may seem, it met the wishes of Toleniska, that she should become his wife, and they did not think it necessary to inquire whether or not it was acceptable to her. Without consulting her it was settled between them, that whenever she should attain sufficient age, she was to become the wife of Soquilla. Soquilla did not neglect means to make himself agreeable to Yenacona, and she was not ignorant of his expectations; but delicacy and diffidence prevented her from speaking of what was never distinctly proposed to her. Perhaps she was to blame in not boldly avowing her determination never to become the wife of Soquilla.—By it she might have been saved much sorrow; but maidenly modesty is her only apology.
“Time passed on, and Soquilla demanded that he might lead Yenacona to his wigwam as his wife. Toleniska assented, and then, for the first time, the proposal was formally made her. A prompt negative was her unexpected answer, and both Toleniska and Soquilla were petrified with surprise;—for the Cherokee girls are wont to submit very implicitly in these matters to the wishes of their friends. The latter complained of ill-usage in having his suit so long entertained to be at last dismissed, while the former talked much of parental authority, and the duty of obedience. Both chiefs were violent and passionate, and I was seriously alarmed for the consequences.
“I was no longer safe in my uncle's house, and I knew it would be vain to seek an asylum in that of my father. All the tenderness of love for my mother awoke in my young heart, and I thought of the maternal bosom as my only place of refuge. It was but the day before this crisis in my affairs, that I had providentially learned she was in Charleston, under the guardianship of the priest by whom she was married to my father. There I determined to seek her, and share her lot for good or for evil; and escaping, without suspicion, from those who might be disposed to detain me, I followed the same tedious and difficult road my poor mother had trodden years before, and reached Charleston.
“I had no difficulty in finding a person so conspicuous as the worthy priest, and was by him quickly conducted to the arms of my parent. Here an entirely new scene of existence opened upon me, and overwhelmed me with surprise and pleasure. I beheld things more wonderful and delightful than it had ever entered into my imagination to conceive. No pains were spared to effect my rapid improvement in mind, body, and soul. I was carefully instructed in the holy mysteries of the Catholic faith, and baptized—Maria, (after my mother.) I was soon thought fit to mingle in the very superior society of which my mother formed a part, and curiosity (for I can attribute it to nothing higher) rendered me rather recherché.
“There was a calm gravity in the manner of my mother, but she was quite cheerful, and enjoyed, apparently, a share of happiness. Her circumstances were easy, having been rendered so by the disinterested kindness of the priest, who, by relating her singular and interesting story, obtained for her large contributions from the liberal and benevolent, among whom were persons distantly related to her exterminated family. From being an object of compassion, she became one of esteem and admiration as her acquaintance extended, and several advantageous offers were not wanting to her for marriage. But although she did not assign that as the reason for her refusal, she still considered herself as the wife of Attacallaculla, and nothing could have tempted her during his life into another alliance, although now that I, the only circumstance which had ever called her heart back to the Indian country, had found my way to her, she considered her intercourse with it forever at an end. That indeed was my belief concerning myself, and although we occasionally adverted to persons and things familiar to us in my native land, it was as we would allude to those in a far away country to which it were madness to think of vision extending, or the faintest sound coming from it.
“For myself I had never until then known any thing of happiness, when my delighted spirit was bathing in its deepest sea. Desires were formed only to be gratified, and the world was to me not less beautiful than when, fresh from the hand of its Creator, it spread out in glory before the first of the human race. I flew, like the wanton butterfly, from one to another of the flowers by which I was surrounded, and rifled their sweets. But the pleasures I tasted were those of innocence only, and I knew neither surfeit nor weariness. My spirit was as pure as the blue air above me, and scarcely less elastic. The mere sense of existence was a source of more exquisite delight than the wicked have in their wildest dissipations, for it was mingled with gratitude to the Being who gave it. I rejoiced in the creatures of God as sharers with myself in his paternal love. I advanced rapidly to the very acme of human bliss, only to realize its transitory nature, and witness its departure like a dream of the morning.
“The visiters at my mother's house were principally families of a common origin with herself, that is, French, and among them was a young man called Israel De Lisle.—I have said there was once a manly brow as pale as thine, around which clustered the brown locks of Europe—they are yet fresh in the memory of Yenacona.—But the worm has fed sweetly on that brow—and the grave has swallowed up the heart of Yenacona.—Did I speak of Israel De Lisle?—Pardon me—it was a dream—it was a vision which my bewildered fancy is forever chasing through the fields of air, but can never overtake it.—A gay young Frenchman—no! he was not gay—there was sadness in his countenance—and, oh! was there not pathos in his voice when he spoke of love to Yenacona? But it is past! Tell me, Mr. Aymor, do men love like women?—I cannot tell. Israel De Lisle told me that he loved—and the heart of Yenacona—I know not if Yenacona has a heart.”—
Gideon again discovered a fire, like that of madness, kindling in her eye, and whether or not his looks evinced his thoughts, she stopped and collected herself.— “Mr. Aymor,” she continued, after a pause, “you think that my mind is wandering—and you are right—but He whose spirit moved upon that deep where darkness had brooded from everlasting, and said, 'Let there be light, and there was light,' can quiet in a moment the most troubled spirit.—There,” said she, kissing her crucifix, “it is done;” and then proceeded with composure:—“Israel De Lisle and Yenacona were married, and in the splendid cathedral, whose pealing organ made its heavy arches ring with the sounds of solemn mirth, the descendant of barbarian Kings was united by a holy sacrament with one in whose veins, in all probability, ran the blood of some ancient sovereign of the most polished nation upon earth.—He was all that my heart could wish, and my cup of happiness, before nearly full, was now overflowing. He was not only young, handsome, and amiable, but wealthy and talented also; and although a Frenchman by family, was himself a native of Charleston, and attached to the existing Government of the country of his birth.
“Disaffection to the parent country, as it was called, was, however, widely prevailing in the British American Colonies, and resistance to some of the measures of the Government had already taken place. South Carolina was a partaker with other States in this feeling of insubordination, and Lord William Campbell, the then Colonial Governor, was desirous to defeat by any means in his power the plans of the opponents of Government. To give them full employment then, in defending themselves against a dangerous enemy in their own neighborhood, he resorted to stirring up the bordering Indian tribes, among whom suitable agents were sent for the purpose. The talents and ambition of De Lisle, connected with his known attachment to the existing Government, together with his alliance by marriage with the Cherokee tribe, pointed him out as one who might be advantageously employed in that quarter. His acceptance of the trust was a fatal shock to the new found happiness of Yenacona and her mother But De Lisle had hastily given his promise to Lord William Campbell, and in those mistaken notions of honor, natural to youth, could not think of retracting, whatever difficulties or improprieties might lie in the way of the fulfilment of his undertaking.
“We took leave of my afflicted mother, and set out with our infant, but a few months old, for the Indian country. We arrived at this place, where De Lisle opened a small store for the professed purpose of trading with the Indians, and erected our house with the avowed intention of making a permanent residence.—The grand-daughter of the recently dead Moytoy was received with enthusiasm among his devoted people, and her husband came at once into their esteem and confidence. My uncle Toleniska was rejoiced to see me once more, forgiving all that was past, while our little George, called by him and the rest of the Indians, Oocomoo, became the darling of his heart. My father received us coldly, and never deigned to make any inquiry after my mother. The proud and passionate Soquilla did not condescend to speak to me.
“De Lisle was but too successful in his embassy, and for many months the white inhabitants of the States of North and South Carolina, and Georgia, bordering on the Cherokee country, were harassed with the most frequent and distressing visitations of savage warfare, until, stung to madness, they determined to destroy at once the whole tribe, as they would have done a hoard of venomous insects.
“General Griffith Rutherford, of North Carolina, with Colonel Williamson, of South Carolina, were engaged in the performance of the deed; and, although not consummated to the full, terrible was the chastisement inflicted upon the deluded Indians.—The Cherokee nation gathered their warriors to make a stand for their frontier, and, consequently, most exposed villages. Amongst them was Etchoe, and, after several skirmishes and battles, here a formidable and most decisive struggle took place between the whites and the red men. De Lisle could not desert those whom he had lead into danger, and accordingly aided their operations, not only by his counsel, but his bravery, and accompanied them wherever his services could be most advantageous.
“I had already sacrificed too much to my affection for De Lisle, to allow him to leave me behind, while engaged in this enterprise, and perhaps moved by a sort of instinct of the race from which I was in part descended, I took my infant and bore him as I followed the footsteps of his father.
“We were in Etchoe when the place was assailed.—Men, Mr. Aymor, may love the sounds of battle, and delight to bathe their footsteps in blood—but there is nothing in woman to sustain her courage amid the terrifying clamor of war—or to relieve the sickening horror with which she beholds the mangled remains of hundreds of her species.—What think you then must have been my situation amid the deafening din of that awful hour—while my husband—my father—and my uncle, were among those engaged in mortal strife—where neither the helplessness of my sex, nor the infancy of my child, were any security against violence from men of blood, roused by repeated outrage into frantic fury? I will not attempt to paint the horrors of my condition, to which no language could do justice.
“At length intelligence was brought me that De Lisle was taken prisoner. I had been made perfectly acquainted by himself with the perilous condition in which he would stand, should the event occur, of which I was just informed; and it was principally for this reason I had insisted on following him, hoping that I might under Providence, be the means of saving him from so dreadful a fate. He could expect nothing less, (he had told me) than that his life would be speedily and ignominiously ended by his enraged countrymen.
“Entirely forgetful for the moment of my child, and filled with the wildest alarm for the condition of my husband, I flew in the direction where I thought there was most prospect of finding him, with the gloomy hope that if I could not save I might at least comfort him by my presence. By making hurried inquiries of all I met, whether friend or foe, I arrived at length where a group of white persons were assembled, busily engaged, and although they were armed, Mr. Aymor, it was no soldiery employment that occupied them.—I cast my eye upwards—and a rope was dangling from the limb of a tree—and I saw that it had been newly cut with a knife.—It was enough—I read from thence a tale of horror, and sunk senseless upon the body of my husband.—
“Mr. Aymor, do you now wonder that this brain is fevered?—Are you not rather surprised that the wretched wife of Israel De Lisle was ever separated alive from his murdered corpse?—But He who tempers the wind to the shorn lamb, enables the frailest of his creatures to bear all that may be necessary for the fulfilment of his own inscrutable purposes; and I have escaped with life from what might have crushed thousands of stouter hearts, to endure a complication of calamities; and for thirty years that sickening fluctuation of hope and despair, which wears away the sufferer, like a moth fretting a garment.”—
She paused, closed her eyes, and lifting them towards Heaven—remained for a few moments uttering something in whispered accents, which was probably not intended for the ear of Gideon; then kissing her crucifix most devoutly—proceeded:—
“I know not how long I may have remained in a state of insensibility, but when I recovered I was among strangers, whom I knew to be some of Rutherford's army. My hair, as they told me, had changed during my mental absence, (which lasted two or three days,) from its native blackness to the snowy color in which you behold it, (releasing as she spoke one of her tresses from its confinement.) I inquired after my husband, and, in a compassionate manner, which checked a hatred of my species, at that time growing up in my heart, a soldier informed me, with tears in his eyes, that 'I need not be so cast down, for they had not left the brave fellow a prey to the birds and the beasts, but had buried him as became a soldier fighting in a better cause.' I beg ged to be directed to the melancholy spot. 'I fear, poor woman,' said he, 'that you will never find it, but if Bob Aymor was a freeman instead of a sergeant in Captain Lenoir's company, he would lead you to it as straight as an arrow; but although I can never bear the tears of a woman, I can hardly venture the risk of being shot as a deserter for the sake of them.—Besides, should I encounter a party of your friends they would scarcely spare me for being engaged in an act of kindness to you.—But I will give you the best directions in my power, and God grant that you may succeed, for I know it will be a satisfaction to your poor heart, even to look once more upon the spot where he lies.—Come, cheer up, and take a sup from my canteen; it will quicken your comprehension, and you will be the better able to understand my directions, and, besides, something stronger to follow them.'
“I accepted the courtesy of the kind soldier, partly because I felt conscious that I would be benefited by something of a cordial nature, and partly because I saw that by so doing I should gratify the benevolent feelings of the generous man, who took so unaffected an interest in my afflictions. He then, with a great deal of pains, endeavored to make me understand the direction I should take in my search for my husband's grave; and after having been, as I supposed, instructed beyond the possibility of mistake, I set out, without any effort being made to detain me. I had gone some distance, when, looking back, I saw the tall soldier leaning upon the muzzle of his musket, while his left cheek reclined upon his hand, in the very spot where I had left him, pensively contemplating me as I departed.
“This explains to you, Mr. Aymor, in part, the interest I have taken in all that concerns you since I learned your name, and have found in you the son of the kind soldier; and although you cannot be said to be like him, there is something in the expression of your countenance that awakens the recollection of him in a heart where his memory is so indelibly engraven.
“But to return to my gloomy narrative—my search was fruitless for the grave of my husband—often did I say in my heart, with Mary Magdalen at the sepulchre of our Lord—'Tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away.' But there was no voice to answer me in the depth of the solitudes where I sought him. It is, perhaps, well that I found him not. The cause in which he died did not prosper, and Fame only decks with her trophies the brow of the living and the tomb of the dead, when success points her to the object. But Infamy has lifted the name of De Lisle to no bad eminence.—Forgotten, like the spot of his burial, by all save one in whose heart his memory is yet freshly preserved in the balm of connubial affection, he sleeps in a quiet upon which even the officiousness of love may not intrude, until that great day when the same voice which spake the earth into existence, shall call upon her to yield up her dead.”
The grief of the speaker seemed for a moment to have lost its agony; and, with a melancholy smile, she wiped away the tears that had gathered in her eyes.
“The first act in my tragic life is ended, Mr. Aymor;” she said—“allow me to suspend a moment the narration of the melancholy events which have made me what you see.” She poured a few drops of hartshorn into a tumbler, and adding to it a little water, drank it off as a needful cordial.
“When I had become weary and desperate,” she proceeded, “in my search for the grave of his father, the child of Israel De Lisle rushed upon my thoughts for the first time since I had left him at Etchoe, and I turned with a mother's apprehensions from the husband, whom I knew to be dead, to the child, whom I trusted was still living. Exhausted as I was, I made what haste I could towards Etchoe, and soon discovered, what had before escaped my observation—a huge volume of smoke rolling up towards Heaven.—'It is the smoking remnants of the wigwams of the people of Etchoe,' I said to myself—'which, some hours since, have been given to the flames by the vengeance of the white people;'—for although there was still a large quantity of smoke, it was evidently of that kind which rises when the process of combustion is nearly completed, and not such as is sent up from fiercely raging flames. My next apprehension was that my poor infant, who had been left by its mother amid a multitude of dangers, had perished in its helplessness, and that the consuming element had snatched from me even the sad consolation of beholding his remains. With a highly excited imagination I hastened forward to witness a scene of awful devastation, and my heart almost died within me when I beheld it. But the purpose upon which I was so anxiously bent, of finding some clue to the fate of my lost child, sustained me.
“The village of Etchoe was, as I had anticipated, scattered piles of smoking ruins, and around and within it lay mingled the bodies of white men and Indians, in all the various attitudes in which death had taken or placed them. Among these horror-striking objects my search necessarily lead me. Some of the bodies I found yet warm with recent life, while others were stark and cold; in not one of them was there any lingering of vitality, but along a stream of water flowing near the village a row of poor wretches, with their faces to the ground, and some of them, lying even in the stream itself, indicated with painful certainty that they had dragged themselves, with their expiring strength, to the cool gurgling brook, with the vain hope of slaking that burning thirst by which the death wounded are said to be tortured. Within the village the half-roasted bodies sent forth a smell so nearly resembling that with which my nostrils had been so often regaled from the smoking board, that I almost fainted with sickening disgust.— But I pursued my search until I came to a warrior, whose forehead, cleft by a tomahawk, showed through its yawning chasm the soft white brain.—My eye rested for a moment on his features, and nature made her appeal to my heart.—It was Attacallaculla—it was my father.—I sunk down beside him, and the scenes of other years came freshly before me.—I melted into tenderness, and kissed, in the bitterness of affectionate grief, the icy lips of my stern parent.
“While I was pouring out my filial sorrows over the body of Attacallaculla, a party of Cherokees had returned to the village, seizing the first favorable occasion to recover and dispose of their dead. I was startled by their whoop, which was immediately followed by the loud flapping of the wings of myriads of vultures, as they arose, affrighted from their loathsome repast.
“One common receptacle was prepared for all the fragments of mortality scattered around us, save the scalps of the white men, which were borne away as trophies; and, yielding to a necessity I could not resist, I took a final embrace of the remains of my Indian parent, and beheld them deposited, to mingle with the dust both of those who had been his friends and those who had been his enemies in life.
“This party of Cherokees was commanded by Eonah, who kindly took me under his protection, and, after diligent inquiries for my lost child, as fruitless as had been the search for the grave of my husband, I returned to the banks of the Tennessee River. Your father I found was a prisoner to Eonah's party, and I vainly entreated for his liberty. Finding that I had nothing to hope from interference in his behalf, I left him to his fate, and proceeded to my cheerless home, widowed and childless.
“I had not formed plans for my future life, when a messenger brought me word that my poor mother, having heard of the tragic events I have just described, sickened, and in a few hours expired.
“The only voice whose call might have attracted me from these scenes of painful interest, being now hushed forever, nothing remained to me but to linger about this spot, hallowed by the last months of the life of my lamented husband, and where I should be most likely to recover, or at least to gather tidings of the fate of my lost child. Here, years have passed away, and I have been constantly agitated between hope and despair;—sometimes hearing that my infant had cruelly perished, and again that he is alive and prosperous. On the evening of your arrival, I believed him recently slain by Eoneguski, and the last messenger, whose coming has so affected me, brings word that he is yet alive, but no one knows where.”
“He is alive,” said Gideon, abruptly.
“Heaven bless you!” said Yenacona, eagerly springing up, and seizing upon Gideon—“Have you seen him?”
“Seen him,” replied Gideon, “I have known him from my infancy.”
“Where is he?—Merciful Heaven tell me where?” cried Yenacona, almost frantic.
“That is more than I am able to do.—I am myself partly in search of him,” said Gideon, as Yenacona threw herself in her seat with an air of disappointment.
He then proceeded to relate all he knew of the person whom he supposed to be her son.
“It is he!” she exclaimed, “it can be no other, for your story corresponds with what was told me by the cruel Soquilla.”
She now urged Gideon, by the most powerful appeals to his humanity, his professions of regard for her, and his love to the Little Deer, to return to the Homony as soon as he had discharged his obligation to Eoneguski, by being present at the funeral of Eonah, and make diligent search for Oocomoo, and apprise him where he might find a mother, anxiously longing to embrace him.
Her child was gone—her cry was vain—
And fev'rish madness fir'd her brain.
THE story of Yenacona awakened in the bosom of Gideon a new interest in behalf of John Welch, whom he was now more willing than ever to see the husband of his sister, descended as he believed him to be from the blood of Europe combined with that of the royal stock of the Oewoehee. Nor did it fail, together with the farther information he obtained, to place the Little Deer upon more elevated ground than she had hitherto occupied in his estimation. It threw around her romantic associations, to which the heart of no lover is indifferent, and her relationship to Welch gave her a claim to respect somewhat upon the score of family connexion.
The same day of his interview with Yenacona, Gideon, having renewed his application for her assistance, and taken leave of her and the Little Deer, departed for Eonee. While he is engaged in this journey, we will take occasion more fully to complete the story of Yenacona, and relate some other matters which ought properly to precede the funeral of Eonah.
After the battle of Etchoe, Yenacona, so far as she knew, was without a relation in the world, except Ooconoota, a son of her father by his last wife, and she spent her time in brooding over her afflictions, or in acts of penance or charity, according to the faith she professed, until she became quite fanatical, and occasionally her mind was wild and fanciful, if not actually deranged. Slight circumstances were now and then communicated to her, that induced a faint hope that her child might yet be alive, and again the spark thus kindled would be more hopelessly than ever extinguished.
At length a celebrated Saga was settled at Sugar Town, coming from a far country, having power to bring to light the most secret things, and she was urged by many to apply to him for intelligence of her son.—Her Christian principles opposed any application to a soothsayer, as such, but she naturally conjectured that the supposed Saga had supplied himself with extensive means of intelligence, that might, perchance, reach to the fact of which she was in search, and, yielding to persuasions of which she was almost daily the subject, she determined to repair to the wigwam of the Prophet.
Her ancient admirer, Soquilla, had been gloomy, discontented, and misanthropic, from the time that Yenacona had fled to avoid him, and so frequently acted with cruelty and violence to those who happened to fall into his power, that he had become obnoxious to the hatred of almost every individual of his tribe. He was among the missing at the battle of Etchoe, and was supposed to have fallen with the multitudes of the slain in that sanguinary contest, and no loss sustained by the nation was so little regretted, if it was not to many a subject of rejoicing. But Yenacona was not one of those who rejoiced; she had been harassed, it was true, by his unwelcome addresses, and subjected to great inconvenience to avoid them, but that inconvenience had led her to the only brief scenes of happiness she had enjoyed in this fluctuating life; and now that Soquilla was no more, she remembered him as one who had loved her well, if not wisely, and assigned him a place among the many whose fate she deplored.
But thoughts of every thing but her lost child were banished from her mind, when she visited the Saga, with the faint hope of learning something consolatory respecting him. She was alone, and, walking up to the closed door of his wigwam, gave a timid irresolute knock. For some time she waited in anxious expectation before the door was opened, although her knock was repeated more than once. At length she was admitted, and trembled with agitation as she found herself alone, with one, of whom she had heard such wonderful things, though she had not heretofore credited the half. His face and person were so enveloped as to defy scrutiny, while, through a mask he wore, he could uninterruptedly speculate on the looks and actions of the person before him.
She was speechless, and almost ready to sink, when, to add to her painful impressions, the Saga, in a strange unearthly voice, addressed her in a sort of wild blank verse, which, as heretofore, we have endeavored to paraphrase in rhyme.
Gentle mortal, speak thy thought
To the list'ning Saga's ear;
If Fate's mysteries are sought,
Wisely hast thou ventur'd here.
Stay! thou needs't not speak thy thought,
Visions crowd upon my view—
A long lost infant here is sought—
A mother's tears thy cheeks bedew.
“Hold!” cried Yenacona, in outraged piety.—“I am a worshipper of the true God, and am not to be cheated with the jugglery which affects to pry into his inscrutable mysteries, otherwise than under the guidance of his own Holy Spirit. I doubt not you are wise, and I perceive that I am not unknown to you. I came not for information, as relying on the heathenish inspiration of which you boast, but taking it for granted that, for the purpose of sustaining the reputation of your art, you have provided yourself with extensive sources of information, I trusted it might be in your power, through natural means, to tell me what of every thing earthly it most concerns me to know. I am, indeed, a wretched mother, anxiously in search of her long lost offspring. Tell me, then, I implore you, if your knowledge extends so far—is my child yet alive?”
“Yenacona,” said a voice entirely different from that which had before spoken, the well remembered tones of which thrilled through her whole frame, “hast thou ever tasted the sweetness of revenge?”
The word “revenge” sounded in her ears as if it came from the lips of a demon, and filled her soul with chilling apprehensions; but conscious that the crisis called for all her self-possession, she summoned it to her aid, and, in her own peculiarly sweet tone of voice, “No!” she replied, “the soul of Yenacona has never panted with that thirst, which is the torment of the wicked. It was in mercy to themselves, as he always speaks, that the Everlasting Father hath said to his children, 'Vengeance is mine, I will repay.' “
Ha! ha! ha! rang a wild demoniac laugh through the wigwam of the Saga, and he cried, tauntingly, “Where are the beautiful black locks of Yenacona?—and methinks the scalding tear-drop has worn unseemly furrows in her soft smooth cheek since she despised the love of Soquilla.—Tell me, thou beautiful worshipper of the true God, what thou wouldst give to embrace the lovely boy, for whom thou hast so long gone sorrowing?”
“All that I can command,” she said, calmly; “and if the wide earth were hers, what mother would refuse to exchange it for her only son?”
“But,” replied the person who addressed her, in ironical imitation of her own composed manner, “suppose you should learn that the flames had devoured the infant, into which he was cast, to writhe like a young serpent, by one who hated him for the sake of his mother; and suppose the wretch (you would call him) who had stood by rejoicing while the blood of his young heart hissed upon the glowing embers, and his roasting limbs sent to his nostrils their savory steams, were given up to be dealt with according to your pleasure, would not your soul rejoice in the feast of vengeance, as you prepared for him unutterable tortures?”
“I am sick and horror-stricken at the diabolical images you have presented to my mind,” she said; “but such a monster as you have imagined, lives not to breathe the pure air of Heaven. Yet, if perchance there should be one who had so injured Yenacona, she would bow herself in humility before her Creator, and say—Father forgive him for he knew not what he did.”
There was a pause, and at length the voice resumed—“Thou speakest as a woman, Yenacona, and knowest nothing of the noble passions which stir the soul of a warrior.—Thou dreamest not of that joy which moves wild laughter in the throat of Soquilla, when he looks upon the faded beauty which once drove him to madness.—When he thinks upon the dishonorable grave of Israel De Lisle—upon the raging flames which wrapped the pale body of the young Oocomoo”—and again the wretch laughed out wildly in joy and derision.
“Monster!” cried Yenacona, in agony—“Is it true you thus murdered my child?”
He arose, and grasped her firmly by the arm, and leading her to the door of the wigwam, pointed to the blue sky above them.—“Does Yenacona,” he said, solemnly, “believe that the God of the Christians has his dwelling place far above us, beyond that beautiful arch, where no eye can reach him?”
“I believe,” replied the unhappy woman, “that the God of the Christians dwelleth in light to which no human eye can approach.”
“Then it is not less certain,” said he, with bitterness, “that the hand of Soquilla committed to the flames the offspring of De Lisle and the false Yenacona.”
No longer able to doubt the truth of the horrid story, the shock of conviction subdued, as by a thunderstroke, both the mental and physical powers of Yenacona, and she sunk down beside the door way of the Saga, apparently lifeless.
“Revenge is sweet,” he said, as he bent over her.—“Yes, it is true Soquilla did commit the boy to the flames, but a meddlesome pale face rescued him—and he yet lives. But he lives not for Yenacona, while she is ignorant of his life—Hah! she breathes not—she must revive—or the feast of Soquilla's revenge will be ended?”
He administered to her some one of the numerous potions with which he was in the habit of healing human maladies, and in a short time she revived, but it was with an almost obliterated intellect. She was conveyed home, and by slow degrees regained very nearly, if not altogether, her original mind. Time rolled on, and Ooconoota, the brother of Yenacona, had become a father. He died, and left his only daughter in the care of her mother. Time still rolled on, and the girl had grown to budding womanhood. She had seen Eoneguski, the favorite young brave of the Oewoehee, and won his heart. Her lover visited her frequently at her mother's wigwam, and she was soon to become his wife. But death's shafts fly thickly, and one of them smote the mother of the Little Deer.
The benevolent Yenacona beheld her young niece an orphan, and felt gushing up from the depths of its source the stream of maternal affection, and flowing copiously towards the Little Deer. Shyly at first the Indian maiden partook of its refreshing waters, until gradually becoming emboldened, she threw herself unreservedly into the stream. She was taken to the house of her aunt, who availed herself of every opportunity of operating upon her religious opinions, and bringing her insensibly to abandon the superstitions in which she had been brought up, and to embrace the truths of Christianity. Eoneguski continued to visit the Little Deer after her removal to the dwelling of her aunt, and was kindly received by the latter, who had not forgotten the “auld lang syne” kindnesses of Eonah.—But in her heart she deprecated that her niece, to whom her attachment was daily growing more ardent, should become the wife of a heathen. She remembered the trials of her mother, but to look more repugnantly upon one whom she confidently hoped to make a Christian, uniting herself in marriage with a superstitious savage.
She had made some progress in christianizing the mind of the Little Deer, when an unusually long absence of Eoneguski afforded her an opportunity of suggesting, with much effect, her objections to an union with him. We have seen that the mind of the Little Deer was embued with a true delicacy, (for Yenacona had always given some attention to her training, even while she resided in the house of her mother,) which revolted at the idea intimated by her aunt, that in marrying Eoneguski she might be compelled to share her husband with another, and this consideration so far operated as to induce her to think seriously of a life of celibacy.
While Yenacona was so much interested in the Little Deer as to lose for a time the more acute remembrance of her own weighty griefs, and to assume even the appearance of cheerfulness, Soquilla, who, although he had no opportunities of seeing her, heard frequently of her state, of which he diligently inquired on every occasion, rejoiced in the intelligence that she was a prey to sorrow. As soon, therefore, as he heard of her becoming composed and cheerful, with fiendish malignity, he resolved to stir her grief afresh, and rightly judging that what he knew to be true, would be more effectual than the most ingenious fabrication, sent her word by a confidential agent that her child had wonderfully escaped the flames, and was now a handsome young warrior. That he had recently been in the Indian country, where he had slain one of the people of Eonee, and, being compelled to fly, was pursued by Eoneguski, whose known skill and bravery ensured the destruction of the object of his pursuit.—Misery again was the lot of Yenacona, and she was left to conclude that fate, which had been so long tantalizing her with ever disappointed hopes, must have at length completed its work. She mingled her sorrows with those of the Little Deer, who was shocked to believe that the son of her aunt had fallen by the hands of Eoneguski. But they were both aware of the imperativeness of the custom upon which the young Indian acted, and his ignorance of their relationship to his victim; and they could not therefore in reason attach to him any real censure. It was under these circumstances that they were so much excited when they next saw him, while their violent conflict of feeling, prevented, during his brief stay, any explanation.
There is no pow'r within my soul,
My arm or weapon to control—
Sunken and cold; but it may rise
With my lost tribe's last battle cries,
And death will come, like the last play
Of lightning in a stormy sea.
TRAGEDY is confessedly, when well executed, the highest effort of genius; and the polished mind is distinguished from the vulgar by its preference for scenes that stir the deeper passions, over those which excite only laughter and the sense of the ridiculous. The tone of mind in which a fellow creature approaches nature's last trial, is an infallible subject of interested observation. The fear of death is the common weakness of our race, and none are more ashamed of it than those who are most conscious of its existence. The coward is equally interested with the brave man in the character of his species, and feels not less proud than he at beholding another vindicating its honor by a triumph over the tyrant who fills his own bosom with the most servile apprehensions, and is no less ready with his offering of grateful admiration. On the other hand, he is no less indignant at any exhibition of unmanly weakness in encountering the foe from whom there is no retreat, although he may be conscious at the same time that his own conduct would be more pusillanimous.
In addition to these causes of exciting interest in the contemplation of a scene of death, there is a consciousness, scarcely perceived, that the mind thus occupied is engaged in a most useful exercise. Man instinctively feels that the day with him for which all other days were made, is the day of death, and that he is destined at last to enter the arena with that champion before whom the heroes of all ages have fallen. Like Julius Cæsar, every man would like to die with decency, and there is an elevation produced, which enables one to copy while he admires the noble bearing of a brave spirit in its conflict with death; while the ridiculous and graceless carriage of cowardice excites contempt, and repels from imitation. These are probably some, if not all the secrets of tragic pleasure, and of the elevated rank of tragic composition.
To two scenes of death we are invited in this chapter, with such moral improvements as each reader may for himself deduce from them.
The wounded Saga, whom we left at Sugar Town, was, as we have seen, the same person with Soquilla, the early admirer of Yenacona—and according to his own admission, had been led by a spirit of revenge to a most fiendish act. After this he disappeared from amongst the Cherokees, and, travelling through distant tribes, collected information to fit him for the part he subsequently acted. He returned to his own country in disguise, and under the assumed name of Susquanannacunahata, or the Long Blanket. He was really an old man, but violent passions had done more than time to give him the appearance of extreme antiquity.
An accomplice was necessary for his success in the character of a prophet, and he determined to confide in his old friend Eonah, to whom he could render himself useful when his influence should be established as a prophet and physician. He was not disappointed; for Eonah, a good deal embarrassed from time to time by the ambitious plans of Chuheluh, and with his seditious practices, was very willing to avail himself of such a means of influence over the public mind as the scheme of Soquilla afforded. Eonah was accordingly the first to offer to the foreign Saga, who had deigned to settle amongst the Cherokees, marks of respect and confidence in his sacred character—and we have already seen with how much fidelity he was repaid.
For some days after the Saga was wounded, as we have described, he was nearly insensible, and it was plain he could not long survive. The day was one of those which Spring sometimes borrows from Summer, like a jewel in an Ethiop's ear, ten-fold more beautiful from contrast.
“Raise the casement,” said the Saga, in a faint voice, to Wissa, who, with the power of speech seemed to have recovered that of hearing also—“and let the fresh air breathe upon the fevered cheek of the dying.—This is the day,” he continued, “on which the Oewoehee celebrate the Bath of Herbs.—It will be the last day of the life of Susquanannacunahata.—This day four hundred and thirty moons ago, Soquilla beheld Yenacona for the first time, at the Bath of Herbs.—The day of the Bath of Herbs has been an evil day to Susquanannacunahata.—When there is no more breath in the body of Susquanannacunahata,” he said, addressing Wissa—“fly to Tesumtoe, and whisper in the ear of Yenacona, that Soquilla is no more—tell her that Oocomoo is yet alive, and that the hands of Eoneguski are unstained with his blood.”
He then fell into a state of insensibility, in which he remained for some hours. Towards evening the roar of an approaching storm was heard from a distance—it drew nearer—and at length came onward with fearful fury and rapidity.
“It is the voice of the Death Angel!” said the Saga, starting in alarm—“and my spirit must take its flight upon his dark broad wing.—Dark! did I say?—There will be a dazzling brightness in the wing of the angel, when mounted by Susquanannacunahata—and there shall be glorious splendor in the departure of the Saga.—Hark!—do you not hear the rumbling of the wheels of his chariot, as it approaches?”
The wind now roared fiercely through the mountain hollows—“Depart from me,” said the Saga—“for no eye must look upon the death struggle of the great Prophet and Medicine.” Wissa knew not how to act. “Depart, I say;”—repeated the Saga.
Wissa left the hut, but had not progressed far in the open air, when, in an instant, he felt a tumultuous rushing of the blood towards his brain, as if seeking for itself an outlet from his ears, and before his mind could answer itself the hasty question—“What does this mean?”—it lost the consciousness of its own being. This was probably the joint effect of intense light and a violent concussion of the atmosphere, which deprived Wissa, for a time, of sense and motion. But a torrent of rain descended upon him, and waked up his dormant faculties to a scene filling him with amazement and horror.
The wigwam of the Saga was in bright conflagration, and, regardless of the fast falling rain, in which the clouds seemed to be emptying themselves in cataracts, the flames each moment gathered additional fury. He approached the hut, but a dense sulphurous vapor, issuing from it, mingled with liquid fire, drove him back in despair. He sought assistance from the tenants of the neighboring huts, and they readily enough encountered the storm; but when they reached the late sanctuary of the Saga, it was only to look on in consternation, while the flames blazed out in every direction, roaring in defiance of any who might desire to subdue them, and leaping and quivering as if eager to seize on those who should be rash enough to approach them. In a few minutes the wigwam of the Saga of Sugar Town was an heap of ashes, and nothing could be distinguished as the remains of its late aged inhabitant, unless it were a portion of ashes about the place where the bed once was, whose chalky whiteness indicated that they might be the residuum of human bones.
The storm now ceased, and the sun burst forth upon the scene, smiling thereon as in approbation or mockery. Wissa looked on for a time in melancholy silence, and then turned, with a sigh, to bear his master's last message to her who had so unwillingly been the ruling spirit of his destiny.
Eonah, who, when left by the Saga, had lingered on from hour to hour, each, to all human appearance, his last, until the day whose evening storm has so much affected many of the characters of our story, was them just ready to take his flight to the world of spirits. Yet the storm affected not him. It passed over him unmoved by its wind and unshaken by its thunder. But when all was once more quiet, the resplendent rainbow glowing in the East, threw its prismatic glories full before the eyes of Eonah, and renewed for a time their faded vision. He gazed intently on the lovely meteor, until the Heaven-wrought picture faded from the cloud.
Eoneguski called softly the name of his father, but there was no voice in answer—he looked upon his face, and all there was still. There was no speculation beneath the motionless eyelids. He closed them with a gentle hand—and the young chief stood alone by the corpse of his father.
Seek we thy once loved home?—
The hand is gone that cropp'd its flowers—
Cold is the hearth within the bowers.
And should we thither roam,
Its echo and its empty tread
Would sound like voices from the dead.
IN every age and country honor to the dead hath been ranked among the works of piety, however wide may have been the differences in their modes of showing it. The pyramids and obelisks of Egypt yet stand as wondrous and stupendous monuments of their veneration for the departed, to say nothing of the laborious and ingenious exertions by which they endeavored to rescue the frail body itself from the grasp of corruption. The scorched inhabitant of India testifies, in various ways, his fond recollection of those who were dear to him in life, and sometimes even by annihilating the distinction between them. Solemn and affecting were the rites with which the ancient Hebrews committed their deceased brethren to the earth, and said to the departing spirit, “Go in peace.” In Greece and Rome, games and other expensive marks of respect perpetuated, for ages, the memory of the dead. And among the wild aborigines of our own land, simple expressions of regret are offered for departed relations, while their graves are approached with the most sacred awe, and time, in his flight, is not suffered to efface them.
Gideon arrived at Eonee at the expected time, without any thing remarkable having befallen him on his journey. He was cordially received by Eoneguski, whose countenance wore an expression of sadness, but there were no extravagant indications of grief. Gideon felt a little conscience smitten by the frank manner of the generous savage, whose confidence he was abusing, but endeavored to bear himself as if nothing had happened.
The body of Eonah, arrayed in the best apparel left by the old chief, was decently laid out upon a sort of scaffold, formed of boards, in his own wigwam, to which every one had free ingress, to look upon the remains of their departed chief.
Early the next morning persons came pouring in from every direction, to witness the obsequies of one so distinguished. Most unvarying solemnity was in the manner of all, but there was no tumultuous expression of grief from any, nor did a tear-drop glisten upon a single cheek. Gideon remarked that, besides the clothes now actually worn by the deceased chief, a large quantity of wearing apparel was laid on the scaffold beside him, and, upon inquiry, he learned that it was the remainder of his wardrobe. His pipe, tomahawk, and scalping-knife were also there; and, as Eoneguski deposited a rifle, “This,” said he, in a whisper to Gideon, “was once the property of your father, who left it with Eonah, in exchange for his own, when Aymor returned to the white settlements.” Gideon felt as if he were near an old friend, as he looked upon the rifle which had once been his father's, and was almost instinctively impelled to stretch forth his hand and grasp it. But he was surrounded by a multitude of strangers, who might misunderstand the act, and to whom it would be difficult to make explanations, and so he restrained himself.
At length the hour arrived when the body was to be conveyed to its last resting place. A half dozen of the most aged and respectable among those present approached the scaffold with decent solemnity, arranged themselves around it, and, raising it from that whereon it rested, conveyed it, with all its contents, out of the wigwam. They then marched slowly towards a slight eminence within view of the village, and, without regard to order or arrangement, the crowd followed them. When the bearers had reached the top of the eminence, thickly covered with oblong hillocks of stone, they halted, and deposited their burden. A circle was then formed round it, of which every one present constituted a portion. They then passed round the corpse, in procession, each person causing the earth to return at intervals a sharp distinct sound, as he smote it with his foot, in unison with the rest of the company, the whole repeating, at the same time, short sentences, in a measured tone, substantially as follow:—
Low lies the chieftain on the lone hill top,
Where all the mighty dead nightly assemble,
Mingling their voices with the sad night wind—
In dismal cadence.
Cold is his wan cheek—marble his pale brow—
Quench'd is his bright eye—fix'd are his clos'd lips—
No more the warm breath passing between them—
Comes from his bosom.
Still as the broad leaf, when the air ceases
Stirring its greenness on the steep hill side,
When the mild summer reigns o'er all nature—
Our chieftain lies low.
Call to him, ancient braves—he may not answer;—
Let the loud war-whoop ring through the forests;—
Dull on the warrior's ear still must its sound fall,—
Let woman's plaintive voice rise from the valleys,
Calling the chieftain to wake from his slumber,
Yet may he not come to join in the gay dance
With bounding footstep.
Bound in his icy sleep here must we leave him;
Kitchi Manitou hath claimed his free spirit,
Borne it away to the land of the blessed,
There to rest ever.
The sun may not scorch him—the rain may not wet him;—
His body shall moulder unseen and in quiet,
Many long moons beneath the huge stone pile
Heap'd high above him.
Son of the brave—advance—'tis thy duty—
Lay the first stone on the brow of thy father,—
Let no unmanly tear course down thy young cheek,
Staining its valor.
Think of his brave deeds—think of his glory,—
Weep not for him whose warfare is ended,—
Through the Elysian fields henceforth he wanders in
All now stood still, and Eoneguski, looking upwards, smote his forehead with his right hand, and then, bending himself, took up a massy flat stone, and deposited it gently on the face of his father. This seemed to be a signal—for instantly every one present was engaged in hastily gathering up the loose fragments of rock scattered over the hill, and heaping them upon the body of Eonah, until it, together with all the apparel and arms lying beside it, were effectually covered by the accumulated masses.
When this was accomplished, they hastened back to the late dwelling of Eonah, with the same disregard to order that had characterized their departure from it—all save Eoneguski, who lingered for some time, apparently engaged in melancholy meditation beside the newly made grave of his brave and venerated sire.
When the funeral party arrived at the late residence of Eonah, they perceived a person approaching it with a firebrand, with the evident design of setting it on fire. “Why should the wigwam of Eonah be given to the fire?” inquired one.
“Because,” replied he who bore the torch, “he was a bad man—he was a tyrant—he oppressed the people of Eonee, and was a friend to the enemies of his nation.”
“It is false!” said the first speaker, “Eonah was a good man;—his wigwam shall not be given to the flames.”
“Hath not the Great Spirit himself devoured with flames the wigwam of the Saga of Sugar Town, and was he not confederate with Eonah?” said the bearer of fire.
“The Great Spirit deals according to his pleasure,” replied the first speaker, “but no mortal shall put fire to the wigwam of Eonah.”
The remainder of the crowd having now ascertained the subject of contest, united in the decision that Eonah was a good man, and that the usual expression of the public disapprobation of one recently dead, by setting fire to his wigwam, would be an act of gross injustice to his memory. The incendiary, who was no other than Chuheluh himself, was forced to yield, and reluctantly throw aside the brand, by which he had intended to destroy the wigwam of Eonah, with the secret purpose that it should injuriously affect the prospects of his son as his successor in the chieftainship of Eonee.
The public opinion being thus formally expressed respecting the character of the deceased, parties were despatched, some to bring in game, and others, spirits, that funeral festivities might be kept, suitable to his worth. Many of the parties were successful in both objects, and cheer, that would have done credit to a funeral in Ireland, was provided in abundance. For many days Eonee was a scene of noise and drunken revelry, and, according to the custom of barbarian nations in every age, the dead was lamented and honored, by the living betaking themselves with more zeal and perseverance to unlimited indulgence in animal pleasures. When the last piece of game had been devoured, and the last drop of the fire-water, provided for the funeral of Eonah, had ceased to affect the reason of him who swallowed it, the business of life was resumed as usual, and the people repaired to hold a council relative to his successor.
Thy guilt these applications seek—
Sirrah, 'tis conscience makes you squeak.
So saying, on the Fox he flies—
The self-convicted felon dies.
GOVERNMENT, even amongst the most civilized nations, has been generally formed out of a concurrence of circumstances, adding a feature now, and another then, until what was at first a rude chaos, assumes something like order and regular beauty. In the process of formation, it often undergoes entire changes in its prominent characteristics. Now it is a monarchy—now an aristocracy, or perhaps a hierarchy—and then a pure democracy.
The rude Government of the Cherokees differed very little in its history from others, and mingled in some degree all these characteristics. They have generally had a principal chief, who has sometimes borne a title equivalent to King. The subordinate chiefs, who were numerous, answered to an aristocracy.—The prophets swayed the minds of the chiefs and people, with a power which, in effect, placed the Government in their hands, while the people at large held all accountable to them, and made and deposed them at pleasure. Generally speaking, the offices of both the general and local chiefs were hereditary, but whenever moved thereto by circumstances, deemed by them sufficient, the people suspended the regular operation of the law, and committed the princely power to other hands.
It was for the purpose of inquiring into the propriety of acknowledging the hereditary right of Eoneguski as their local chief, or of disallowing it, and appointing some one more acceptable, that the people of Eonee assembled after the funeral rites of their late chieftain were over. Much the larger portion would have been for acknowledging Eoneguski with acclamation, had not his manhood been stained by the termination of his expedition against John Welch, and but for some reports unfavorable to the late chief, respecting the escape of Aymor, during the war against the whites many moons before: all of which Chuheluh had been active in propagating with a view to his own success.
Eoneguski was not ignorant of the difficulties in his way, and with an eloquence, the joint result of native talent and conscious integrity, he told his unvarnished story to the conviction and admiration of the assembled council. Chuheluh perceived at once the hopelessness of his prospects, and one less ambitious and self-confident than he, would have abandoned them. But after having been tantalized by them through the greater part of his life, and led on from one act of baseness to another, he could not make up his mind to a fate he nevertheless saw to be inevitable, but resolved upon one last desperate effort. He replied to Eoneguski, and spoke of him and his deceased father in terms of the grossest opprobrium. He went on to allege a most nefarious combination between the late Saga and Chieftain to impose the son of the latter upon the people as their chief.
Whilst Chuheluh was pressing this subject with a good deal of warmth, two persons entered the place where the council was holden;—the one a respectable elder of the tribe, and the other the servant of the late Saga, Wissa, staggering under the burden of two ox-hides carefully rolled up. As soon as the eye of Chuheluh fell upon the ox-hides, he stammered, turned pale, and looked as if seeking an opportunity for escape. But the attempt would have been fruitless. The hides were now spread out before the council, and many present recognised in them those which once covered the oxen of the Saga.
Chuheluh was formally charged with being the cause of the death of the Saga, by purposely setting fire to the mountain behind him, and of having availed himself of the confusion to steal and kill his oxen.
The bare suspicion of such atrocities was sufficient to put him aside, as the opponent of Eoneguski, who was hailed by acclamation as the chieftain of Eonee, while his late competitor was compelled to stand before the assembled council to answer the imputed crimes of murder and theft. His guilt was fully established as to the theft, through the zeal and sagacity of Wissa, who had traced the cattle to his possession. Wissa had secretly taken persons of character along with him, and found both the hides, and a good part of the flesh, salted away in the wigwam of Chuheluh. This evidence against him being corroborated by other circumstances remarkably strong, left no doubt of his guilt upon any mind as to this part of the accusation. But his having set fire to the mountain, and especially with any murderous purpose, was not so fully established: so that whilst he was left upon the charge of homicide, under strong suspicions, to be dealt with according to the unerring judgment of Him from whom nothing is hid, the council pronounced him guilty of the larceny, and sentenced him accordingly.
Stripes seem to have been a punishment pointed out by nature for all offences of much magnitude, yet not sufficiently flagrant to merit death, but the mode and severity in which they shall be inflicted, have greatly differed, according to the age and country in which they have been applied. Amongst the Cherokees they constitute the punishment for every crime except homicide, and respecting that a custom prevails, it has been one of the purposes of this story, in part, to illustrate. For all other crimes, without regard to age or sex, stripes are the proper atonement. Indeed, the softer sex, with a severity upon that subject, which seems to have visited them in all times and places, receive them for an offence to which public opinion attaches no blame to the males; but cruel are the scourgings to which the unfortunate squaw is generally subjected who has broken her allegiance to Diana. Happily, however, this seldom occurs, and upon few subjects have their more fortunate neighbors, the whites, greater reason to blush at the superior virtue of their Cherokee neighbors.
But for whatever crime inflicted, whipping is, with the Cherokees, no light punishment. It is, indeed, more properly beating than whipping; and is, in fact, called poling. They have a set of officers denominated light-horsemen, answering in their functions somewhat to our office of sheriff, whose duty it is to arrest fugitives, and inflict these formidable castigations upon those against whom they are denounced. This is done with a long heavy pole, and the blows sometimes extend in number to five or six hundred, dealt with all the force of the operator, who is not (neither is he expected to be) at all solicitous for the consequences. The number of blows is to be inflicted in the usual manner, without regard to the life of the subject. If he dies it is in the regular course of things, and no concern is felt about it by any one. With passionless composure, the light-horseman accomplishes his task, and no fire of anger or indignation flashes from his eye to inflame the resentment of his victim—no look of compassion to alleviate his sufferings.
There is perhaps no situation in which the fortitude and capacity for endurance of an Indian is so obviously manifested as when undergoing these sentences of their barbarian judicatures. No appeal is ever made for reversal, suspension or mitigation of the sentence—not an imploring look is cast upon the man of authority; but as if studiously avoiding any accidental motions of sympathy in his favor, the culprit throws into his countenance the most iron stoicism. When undergoing punishment, the involuntary perspiration may bathe the limbs—the lacerated vessels may pour forth their crimson tribute—exhausted nature may faint or even fail—but not a sigh will heave the bosom—not a tear moisten the eye—not a groan burst from the laboring chest—not a breath of complaint separate the inflexible lips—not one convulsive motion disturb the cold marble serenity of the countenance.
It was thus that Chuheluh, under the sentence of the council, atoned for his theft of the Saga's cattle, by the endurance of three hundred stripes, neither lightly nor unskilfully laid on, with a long pole. But while the light-horseman did nothing to disparage his professional skill, Chuheluh failed not, on his part, to give to a scene so degrading, all the moral grandeur it could borrow from his own immoveable stoicism, and, like the young Spartan who had stolen a fox, his countenance was as placid as the summer heaven, whilst his very vitals were in agony. But his bodily sufferings were nothing to his mental anguish. From early youth he had cherished ambitious hopes, and while striving, even during the life of Eonah, to undermine and supplant him, had always flattered himself that the natural termination of the power of that chieftain, should he live to see it, would certainly be the beginning of his own.
As soon as the late Saga had established his influence over the people of Eonee, the sagacious Chuheluh set himself to win his favor, with the hope of using him for the advancement of his own purposes. He was not long in succeeding so far as to obtain from the Saga the desired promise, that he would do for him his utmost, not only to secure to him the succession, when the important event occurred, but seize any opportunity that might present itself to hasten its advance. But various plausible pretexts were, from time to time, resorted to by the Saga to defer the consummation of their joint plans. His patience was often nearly exhausted, but something propitious would occur to renew his hopes and his confidence in the Saga. His interference in Welch's behalf, after he had made him his dupe, so far as to kill the Leech, was, at first, but the impulse of grateful kindness; but when Eoneguski had taken the part of avenger, a new motive was given to his tutelary concern for Welch. If Eoneguski should perish in the pursuit, without any blame or suspicion attaching to himself, his own way would be made clear and even; and to send the pursuer home bootless, would tend to disgrace him, and increase the chances for the success of a competitor.
It was no wonder, then, that the Fox took so much pains to secure Welch from the grasp of Eoneguski, but had it been in his power, it was not his wish, to have removed him so far beyond his reach, as that he should cease to operate as a decoy bird, leading him from home, into scenes of difficulty and danger. The failure of Welch's health, however, rendered the farther prosecution of this plan impracticable, and forced the Fox to abandon it for some other, by which to gratify his ambitious longings. He returned home, freighted with new materials for operation.
He had known Soquilla previously to the battle of Etchoe, and heard of his disappointed love for Yenacona, whose child had disappeared at that place. Years afterwards, when Susquanannacunahata established himself as a Saga at Sugar Town, Chuheluh, notwithstanding his disguise, was struck with a resemblance to the lost Soquilla. Still he took it for granted he was what he pretended, and the matter passed off from his memory. When, however, on a visit to him, concerning the affair of Welch, he perceived the agitation of the Saga, the suspicion came upon him that Soquilla and Susquanannacunahata were one; and when he left the hut, he lingered for some moments on the outside, and overheard the soliloquy, and received confirmation to his suspicion, with the information that Soquilla had attempted to destroy the child of Yenacona, who had, however, escaped, and was yet alive in the person of Welch. He then stole off silently, so that it might not be known he had heard any thing, although the use he should make of the information he had obtained was not then determined on.
On his return from escorting Welch, he forthwith proceeded to the wigwam of the Saga, and familiarly addressed him as Soquilla. The Saga was startled.—“Nay,” said Chuheluh, “it is time we should understand each other—you have long enough amused me with promises you never intended to fulfil. Soquilla knew not there was an eye upon him, when the helpless Oocomoo was cast into the flames.—Come, let us be friends.—The Saga can serve Chuheluh, and Chuheluh can destroy the Saga.”
No man is so hardened or self-possessed, as not to yield to the overwhelming effect of the literal reading, in his hearing, of facts he supposed secret.—Soquilla confessed all, and the early destruction of Eonah, and Chuheluh's appointment in his stead, was the price agreed upon for the keeping, by the latter, the secrets of the Saga. The illness of Eonah, and his calling in the assistance of the Saga, presented a favorable occasion for the fulfilment of his engagement, to which he was most importunately urged by his confederate. But Wissa, who was present at all their conferences, determined to defeat their plans. He apprised Eonah of his danger, and his acquaintance with his master's unwritten herbal, supplied him with the proper antidote. It was in this fortunate way that Eonah escaped falling into the pit he had himself contributed to dig; for, as we have seen, it was his own countenance to which Susquanannacunahata was indebted for much of his influence and power, to do mischief among the people of the Valley. But his sagacity had penetrated the dangerous nature of the Saga, before it had become the interest of that master of deceit to destroy him.
Some years after the Saga's establishment at Sugar Town, the necessity for some familiar was apparent, and his desire to procure one was communicated to Eonah. The chief very early entertained suspicions of Soquilla's fidelity, and was anxious to provide himself with a spy upon his actions, and a fortunate occasion was now presented for so doing. He undertook to supply him with a person suitable to his purpose, and, with the assistance of Mercury, procured Wissa, and fully instructed him in the part he was to act. Wissa very successfully affected both deafness and its necessary attendant, when connate with its subject, dumbness. The facility with which he comprehended, and obeyed or answered, the signs given him, delighted the Saga. In short, his new master found him all that he could desire, and never for a moment suspected that his misfortunes were feigned, until their fatal descent down the mountain, or that, through his agency, Eonah was put in possession from time to time of all that it was material for him to know respecting his movements. Wissa's fidelity to Eonah was made quite secure, by the assurance of his freedom, upon well doing, whenever the life of the Saga should cease; and, at the same time, to remove any temptation from the lad to accelerate the day of his liberation, any practises upon the life of his master should operate, he was told, as a forfeiture of all his claims.
Chuheluh was deeply disappointed when the Saga's drugs failed in putting an immediate period to the life of Eonah. He strongly suspected the Great Medicine of a want of fidelity in the performance of his part of their compact, and his suspicions were confirmed, when, to the assembled elders, Eoneguski was nominated as the favorite of Heaven for the succession to his father. In the first transports of passion he was about denouncing him as an impostor, and exposing the whole of his wickedness, when he perceived the tide setting too strongly against himself to hope for a favorable hearing. He therefore prudently withdrew, in haste and secrecy. But it was with a heart burning with vengeance, which he resolved speedily to visit upon the pretended Saga. He according procured an accomplice, waylaid the helpless old man, with the intention of destroying him, by opportunely setting fire to the woods, in the belief that the flames, proving too rapid for the dull heavy cattle, both they and their owner would be offered as burnt sacrifices to the spirit of Revenge, of which the latter had been so faithful a worshipper.
The result has already been shown, and, as soon as Chuheluh saw, or rather heard, the frightened cattle coming over the mountain without either cart or driver, he concluded that a catastrophe very grateful to himself had left them without an owner, and those feelings of cupidity, always exceedingly powerful in their action upon his mind, united with some untimely suggestions of prudence, to make beef of the animals, lest they might attract attention.
This was not the first occasion on which his dexterity with the bow proved available to the Fox, for the moon was no sooner risen than he pursued the oxen, and, with the assistance of his comrade, noiselessly slaughtered them, and carried them to his own home. Here they would have remained secretly enough, but for the active Wissa, who, although he might not have been entirely unmoved by the belief that, as the only member of the family of the Saga, the cattle of right belonged to himself; yet was he chiefly actuated by a desire to disgrace and bring to justice the ancient enemy of his patron Eonah, and the present competitor of Eoneguski, whom he loved.
The detection and punishment with which Chuheluh was righteously overtaken, were not deplored by him so much on their own account, as their being the final overthrow of all those ambitious hopes which, notwithstanding their frequent and signal disappointments, had hitherto been, to him, the main spring of action, and sole source of anticipated happiness. But now that he had undergone public and degrading punishment, he could not hope to be acknowledged as a chieftain among the proud Cherokees.
Friendship is constant in all other things
Save in the office and affairs of love,
Therefore all hearts in love use their own tongues.
IN turning the face homewards after a long absence, the joyous thoughts that fill the mind are not unfrequently mingled with others quite as painful as those that attended the departure. Undefined apprehensions of many and unfavorable changes in persons and scenes remembered with kindness and affection, steal in and make sad the heart. Sometimes a guilty sense of change in the heart itself, forbids it to anticipate a cheerful welcome by those towards whom it is conscious of having weakened its allegiance. Sometimes the very excess of joyful anticipation conveys a melancholy admonition of the proneness of all earthly hopes to deceive and disappoint. Pure and sinless, or light and frivolous, must be the bosom in which joy dances alone, in its return, after wandering upon the earth, to the peaceful ark from whence it set out. At least the feelings of Gideon Aymor were not so unmingled, when, in compliance with his promise to Yenacona, he set out with reluctant footsteps to visit his father's home, after the funeral festivities of Eonah were ended.
He found his family impatient for his return, and many were the inquiries why he had been so long absent. They were interested in the recital of such parts of his adventures as he thought proper to communicate, including every thing, in fact, except his imprudence at Waynesville, and his ignoble passion for the Little Deer. In the latter affair he could not think of encountering the wrath of his father, which, he doubted not, would be stirred into transports still more violent, when a family alliance with a full-blooded Indian was the subject—tremendous as it had been when one, whose ruddy tinge was scarcely perceptible, ventured to make such proposals.
They were all deeply affected by the account of Welch's parentage—and the pale emaciated Atha felt her heart overflowing with filial tenderness towards the pious and afflicted Yenacona, whom, she trusted, one day personally to behold.
Dolly kissed Gideon as she would have done a babe, and was delighted at once more beholding her first-born son—and “I'll never stir,” said she, “if there's any use talking about it—I do believe I love Giddy more than all the rest of you put together.”
She was as good, nay, better than her word, with respect to the clothing—for an entire new suit had been provided for the youth, with which he was not a little gratified, thinking they might give him a more advantageous appearance at Tesumtoe, whither, he hoped, shortly to find some pretext for returning.
But Gideon had not a few difficulties to encounter in making up his accounts at home. The old man inquired with some solicitude into the fate of the ten hard dollars, and Gideon, by stammering and hesitating, and having always to turn back when he had gotten partly through with the tale, and make a new beginning, succeeded, finally, in wearing out his patience, and thus escaped the avowal of his shame, or the actual utterance of a falsehood; which latter, however glibly he might have done with others, he seldom felt safe in attempting under the penetrating glance of his father.
To Atha he was forced, again and again, to repeat all that concerned Welch, and to witness the renewed conflict of passion, which each recital produced, threatening, in its violence, the immediate destruction of a frame once healthy and robust, but now alarmingly delicate and attenuated.
But these were not all the difficulties with which Gideon was beset. On the very morning after his arrival—“Run over,” said his mother to one of the younger children, “to Sile Stevens', and tell Patty that Giddy's come home—and that she must come right over and see him.—Run, I say.—I tell you what, Giddy,” continued she—“if you'd a staid much longer, you wouldn't a been in time to a seen even the burying of Patty—you can't think how she's taken on about you.—The poor cretur denies it, and says it's nothing but low spirits and loss of appetite that ails her—she talked of getting well when the weather moderated, and she could go out into the fields, and take more exercise—but we all knew better; and if you were the man you ought to be, you'd a gone right over this morning the first thing, and seed her yourself, and not a waited for me to send for her.”
“Mother,” said Gideon, with some confusion—“what is Patty Stevens to me, that I should be in such a hurry to go over and see her?”
“Come, Giddy,” replied his mother—“don't be a fool, or try to make your mother one. Don't we all know that you and Patty Stevens are as good as engaged to be married, and that you are to be married as soon as you are a little older, and get settled?”
“Other people know more about my affairs than I do myself, then—I am sure I never thought any more of Patty Stevens than of other girls in the neighborhood.”
“Why, brother!” said Atha, in a tone of voice which plainly indicated that she was in doubt whether to consider the speaker in jest or in earnest, together with indignant disappointment if she was to believe the latter—“is it possible you can say you have never thought any more of Patty Stevens than other girls in the neighborhood?—If it is true, Gideon,” she continued, adopting that tone and manner, so dignified and yet so animated, with which a virtuous woman always speaks of a base action—“you are a bad man.—Yes, my own brother, as you are, if what you are now saying is true, you have cruelly deceived poor Patty Stevens, and have acted the part of a villain!”
A cloud of displeasure flitted across the face of Gideon, as he heard his sister couple the word villain with his name, while conscience whispered “It is a just association.” But, for many reasons, it was not his cue to be angry, and assuming a dignified gravity of manner—“Sister,” he replied, “this, from another, I should have resented, but you know you may say to me what you please—yet you have deceived yourself.—Patty Stevens, I know, will not, cannot say, that I have ever spoken to her of marriage, or given her any reason to suppose that I have thought of her as a wife. I may have paid her some little attentions when I have met her, such as are common between young men and women, but nothing farther.”
“This will not do, Gideon.—Is it to me you have the boldness to say you have never done more than pay to Patty Stevens such little attentions as are common among young people?—Was I not present last fall, on that beautiful moon-light evening, when, sitting by the fountain, you chose all pretty things, of earth and air, to represent the beauties and excellencies you told her she possessed beyond all others of her sex?—And, ah! Gideon, did she not believe the flattering tale?—Were not her blushes seen even by the pale moon-beam?—And were not the tell-tale beatings of her heart heard, as she bent her listening ear? Tell me not that you have forgotten this.—Did I not mark the triumphant sparkle of your eye which seemed to say, 'She is mine,' as you drew her towards you, and she leaned upon you confidingly?—But I perceive it is past, and I must add to my other sorrows that of seeing my sensitive young friend perish in the bloom of her girlhood, from the cruel inconstancy of my own brother!”
She rose from her seat, and, as she turned off indignantly, left the conscience-stricken Gideon to his own reflections.
Patty Stevens, the subject of the foregoing discussion, was a pretty innocent girl, whose father occupied a farm adjoining that of Robert Aymor, and various circumstances seemed to concur in marking her out as the destined wife of Gideon. And whether it was the frequent expression of this thought, in the hearing of the parties, or some other cause, it so happened that neither of them showed any aversion to having, in due time, fulfilled what was so generally prophesied. Patty Stevens, like Atha Aymor, was one of those persons who seem naturally gifted with a sense of delicacy and propriety, and elegance of manners, not usual in their sphere of life. These, with a handsome face and person, and great goodness of heart, (with which they are apt to be associated,) assured her an interest in all who became acquainted with her. Her cheerfulness of manner was such as simple innocence usually displays, until a short time before our story opens, when a marked change took place, and she became serious and abstracted. It was probably about this time that the scene described by Atha, occurred at the fountain, and the most likely cause of this change was, that Gideon had avowed himself her lover.
The heart of a virgin is like the outspread surface of a clear smooth lake, which faithfully reflects in freshness the flower that grows on its margin—the green glossy leaf that hangs over it—the clear sky suspended like a vast azure curtain above it—the soft mild countenances of the moon and stars—and the bright joyous face of the sun, just as it receives them. It is alike a stranger to concealment and impurity. But the breath of love passes over the one, and the winds of Heaven over the other, and the surface of each is ruffled, and the unsuspected dregs, deeply deposited by nature, are stirred up. The placid smoothness is no more—the sparkling brightness has vanished;—it no longer reflects, like a mirror, what it receives—nor artlessly exposes to view its own contents.
Such was the change in Patty Stevens. She was thoughtful—she was absent;—now she was pale—and now the color came rushing to her cheeks, and none knew why. The song no more accompanied the merry whirring of her wheel, or, if she sang, her notes were sad and plaintive. No more she ate, as one who labored for her daily bread—but sparingly and seldom. Her parents were alarmed at these changes in their daughter, and sought, without success, from her, who scarcely knew the reason why she was less happy than in former days. She only felt it would distress her to believe herself an object of indifference to Gideon Aymor, and yet his declaration that he loved her, had disturbed the simple joy of her heart, and she was less happy than before. An undefinable anxiety haunted her perpetually, and she found herself frequently constrained to relieve, by tears, a heart full, almost to bursting, with she knew not what. She was burthened with a consciousness that she could not now, as in former days, unbosom to her mother, without blushing, every thought of her heart; and yet so holy were her feelings, that, even had the power been given, she would not have drawn the thinnest veil between her own bosom and the searching eye of Heaven.
More and more marked grew the symptoms of change in Patty Stevens, until Gideon Aymor's departure for the Indian country, and then did they increase with a rapidity which alarmed every one who knew her, and then did the least sagacious among her acquaintances solve her mystery without farther difficulty. Unsuspicious of being, as she was, the talk of the neighborhood, the poor girl “let concealment, like a worm i'the bud, prey,” not only “on her damask cheek,” but on the very seat of life. Hectic fever had already hung out the banner of his triumph in her slightly flushed cheek and preternaturally bright eye, when Gideon returned.
She was sitting with her mother, in conversation more than commonly cheerful, and with greater apparent strength than was her wont, when the breathless ambassadress of Dolly Aymor announced her message. No painter on earth could have caught them both at the same time, and it would have been a difficult matter to have chosen between the interesting intensity of expression in the two faces of the mother and daughter. In both was something of surprise, at the thoughtless vulgarity, or unfeeling rudeness, of the message—for they were at some loss which to consider it. But in the mother's was, also, that alarmed apprehension which would probably have been produced by seeing a pistol suddenly discharged at her beloved child; for nothing less fatal did she anticipate from the shock upon her delicate system of the tidings communicated. But we must leave to the imagination of the reader the mingled play of passion in the bright flashing eye, the thin delicate features, and pale lips of the daughter, who, at length, fixing a keen look upon the child, “Was Mr. Aymor by,” she said, calmly, “when your mother sent you with this message?”
“Oh, yes,” replied the artless respondent, “Gideon was by.”
“Tell your mother, then,” she continued, with a composure which altogether surprised her own parent, “that Patty Stevens is glad, for her sake, to hear of the return of her old playmate, but it is not in her power to visit Mrs. Aymor to-day.”
The child, altogether indifferent to the sort of answer she might carry back, and quite unconscious that the one she now bore was torn, by pride, from the bleeding heartstrings of her who sent it, flew off as lightly as if it had been a message of peace and happiness.
The struggle made by Patty Stevens to conduct herself with dignity and firmness during the short stay of the little Aymor, was entirely successful; but she was no sooner gone, than her feelings overpowered her, and she was compelled to betake herself to bed, where she lay for several days in one of those unfavorable paroxysms for which consumption, then obviously preying upon her, is so remarkable, generally succeeded by periods of flattering and deceitful convalescence previous to the final sacrifice of its victim.
The answer returned by Patty Stevens made very different impressions upon Dolly, Atha, and Gideon.—The former understood nothing beyond the literal signification of the words. Atha, with the sympathy of one who fully understood her friend's character, read in it the expression of that dignified delicacy she knew her to possess, and the question put to her little sister, as to Gideon's presence, told also of wounded pride and affection that scorned to complain.—Gideon was not insensible to the reproach, couched in the language of indifference, and felt that it was richly merited. But he had formed his plans, and nothing of this kind could divert him from their fulfilment. Although, in point of person, he would not have hesitated for a moment in giving to Patty Stevens a decided preference over the Little Deer, yet the poverty of the former, contrasted with the fortune and expectations of the latter, together with the chieftainship of Tesumtoe, which would probably fall to her husband, were sufficient, in the eyes of an avaricious and ambitious man, to reverse the decision of taste, and were considerations too prevailing with him, to allow of his return to the allegiance from which he had been seduced. He remained for some days, making fruitless inquiries after Welch, from whom nothing had been heard, and forming and breaking successively resolutions to pay at least a visit of kindness to Patty Stevens. Day succeeded day, and this visit was not paid, and his thoughts began to turn impatiently towards the Indian country, although the fear of his father's displeasure restrained his lips from the expression of his wishes, and he felt conscious the unsatisfactory tidings he would bear to Yenacona must greatly diminish the cordiality of his reception at Tesumtoe.
How oft the sight of means to do ill deeds
Makes ill deeds done. Hadst not thou been by—
A fellow by the hand of nature mark'd,
Quoted, and sign'd to do a deed of shame—
This murder had not come into my mind.
AN argument is sometimes founded for the immediate agency of the Evil Spirit in human affairs, upon the frequent and appropos occurrence of opportunities and temptations to the fulfilment of sinister purposes, it is thought scarcely allowable to attribute to the wise and merciful arrangement of a just Providence. Whatever may be the cause, every man's experience will testify that opportunities to do evil have seldom failed to wait obsequiously upon the desire—and not unfrequently opportunity itself has presented to the mind the first suggestion of an unlawful purpose.
The experience of Gideon Aymor was something of this kind—for while he was greatly at a loss for some pretext and opportunity of accomplishing his design to disregard his plighted promises to Patty Stevens, the prejudices of his father, and his obligations of gratitude and friendship to Eoneguski—the arrival of a stranger at his father's house, seemed providentially to supply him with what he needed.
It was the middle of a beautiful afternoon in the month of June, when a large man, with a broad brimmed white hat, and a shabby suit of black, rode up to the house of Robert Aymor on a substantial and rather elegant horse, (which had evidently suffered neither from hard riding nor want of food,) and requested lodging for the night. To refuse compliance with such a request would, in that day and country, have been looked upon as highly disgraceful to the master of any mansion—and so certain was the applicant of success, that he scarcely waited for an answer before he began to dismount.
There was nothing in the appearance of the stranger very prepossessing, neither was it very forbidding. He was fat as well as large in person; and a florid complexion, with a calm, inexpressive countenance, indicated a life of ease and plentiful living. The cut of his garments, a soft, drawling voice, such as is ascribed to Titus Oates, the famous plotter in English history, with the style of his remarks, proclaimed him at once an itinerant Methodist preacher. There was something in his countenance, as Robert Aymor welcomed him to his dwelling, that called up some early associations in the mind of the old farmer, but he satisfied himself with the supposition that it was only a slight resemblance to a person he had once known, who had, in all probability, long since perished.
“Thais ais a woild country you laive in, Mr. Aiymore, but Goad haas been exciadingly merciful toa ye, aand gaiven ye maany sons aand daaghters, with the mains of proviading for thair caomfort,” he said.
“Yes, thank God,” replied Aymor—“I have no reason to complain; and as for the country, wild as you think it, sir, I should be loath to exchange it, unless it might be for one still wilder.”
“Aivry maan to hais oawn laiking, Maister Aiymore, but for mai paart, Ai hoape ait wail gainerally be mai haapy loat to woarship the Goad of mai faythers, noat amoang the haills, but in the plaain,” said the priest.
“I wonder, stranger;” said Aymor—“that, seeing you have such a dislike to our rough country, you should venture into it.”
“Ai, Maister Aiymore, aam, aas you seea, a praacher of the goaspel, aand wharesoaaver mai Maaster caals, Ai aam boand to foalow,” answered the stranger.
“And have you a call to preach in this neighborhood, sir?—If so, you are heartily welcome, I assure you, for we are all glad of an opportunity of going to meeting; but it is very seldom we have it,” said Aymor.
“Mai caal, Maister Aiymore, is, blaassed be Goad, to triaals aand daifficulties, aiven graater thaan Ai shoad haave to encounter haare.—Ai goa to daispainse the woard of laife to the staarving chaildren of the raid main in the Tainnesay Vaalley;” replied the preacher.
“I doubt it's rather a hopeless undertaking you are engaged in, then,” said Aymor, bluntly—“and it seems to me that pious men like you, who are willing to make such great sacrifices to a sense of duty, might save yourselves a vast deal of trouble, and do much more good, by remaining among civilized people, and preaching to men and women of your own color.”
“The commaand,” replied the preacher—“ais to praach the goaspel to aall nations;—wai scaatter the saad abroaad oaver the faace of the aarth, aand wai knoaw noat whaich shaall spraing up, aand whaich shaall pairish.”
“I know but little about these things, friend,” said Aymor—“but I must still think you are engaged in an unprofitable job.”
“Thai aissue ais waith Haim who haath saant mai foarth;” said the preacher—“Paal maay plaant, aand Aipolos maay waater, but ait ais Goad who gaiveth the aincrease.”
“Neither planting or watering in a poor soil will ever make crop,” replied the countryman—“and it is just as hopeless an undertaking, it seems to me, to convert the Cherokee Indians to Christianity.”
“Ai aam soarry, fraind Aiymore, thaat you caan aiffoard mai so laittle coansolaation, but Ai must staill saay, 'Hais waill be doane;'“ replied the stranger.
For some time the preacher and his host conversed together upon the subject of his mission to the Cherokees, without the latter being the more convinced of its utility, or the former inclined to abandon it. By degrees the way was prepared for a proposal, which the stranger had all along intended to make, that is, that Aymor would allow his eldest son to accompany the missionary as a guide into the Indian country.
“If you were a weakly man,” said Aymor—“in common charity I would allow my son to accompany you, not as a guide—for the track is easily enough found—but to assist you in making your way through the difficulties you may have to encounter.—But you are altogether too stout a man to require any other help than that of your own gigantic arm.”
If the stranger was before solicitous for a guide, he was now doubly so, and pressed Aymor with renewed zeal to allow Gideon to accompany him.
“As for danger,” continued Aymor, seeming rather to pursue the current of his own reflections, than to give attention or make any direct answer to the appeals of the stranger—“there would really be none, if it were not for your horse; and, for that reason, you had better take it on foot; for the Cherokees are perfect devils for horse stealing, and rather than miss a fine animal like yours, I scarcely think your missionary character would be any security against the tomahawk and scalping-knife.”
The missionary became pale as death, and, as he turned his bloodless countenance with a horrid stare upon his host, the latter beheld, as in a picture, the very expression worn by the unfortunate Thompson, when they found themselves, during Rutherford's campaign, suddenly in the midst of the Indian ambuscade.
“As I live!” said Aymor—“it is he, and my first impression was right—your name is Thompson, sir, and no offence, I hope, but I see that putting on a black coat any more than a red one, will not make a man brave, who is not so by nature.”
“Thoampson ais mai naame, Ai must oawn;” replied the preacher.—“Ai thoaght, Maister Aiymore, Ai woald noat maake maiself knoawn to ye, but ait ais, perhaaps, aas waall aas ait ais; foar surely, Maister Aiymore, you waill noat refuse to aan oald aacquaintance the vary smaall request Ai waas maaking?”
“Truly, I can hardly find it in my heart,” replied Aymor—“and it happens fortunately for you, that Gideon is fresh from that country, and can tell you all about it beforehand, as well as lead you from place to place, when you are there, and make you acquainted with such persons as you may desire to know.”
The assent thus obtained, was a great relief to Thompson, who passed a most agreeable evening with his old friend in talking over by-gone times, and did not fail to avail himself of every occasion of obtaining from Gideon information respecting the persons and places they might meet with in their projected journey.
Much dissatisfied was every member of Aymor's family, except Gideon himself, at the arrangement made with Thompson; and even Aymor was not at heart much pleased with what he had done, but could not think of retracting a promise given in the warmth of feelings excited by the unexpected discovery of an old, though not highly esteemed, acquaintance. To Gideon nothing could be more opportune, and he actually felt towards the preacher as to a benefactor who had, from mere benevolence, travelled out of his way to render him a great kindness.
Every thing was in readiness the next morning for Gideon's departure, and though the plan of the march was not exactly to his liking, he yet preferred any thing to remaining at home. He thought that equality wanting which should exist between fellow travellers, in his trudging on foot, while his more fortunate companion was mounted on a good horse, and murmuringly mentioned it. Aymor proposed to obviate the difficulty by allowing Thompson to leave the horse in his care until his return, “And if,” said he smiling, “the Indians should take it in their heads to make a martyr of you, Thompson, I can adopt the old saying—'It is an ill wind that blows nobody any good.'“
This mode of putting the matter did not tend to reconcile Thompson to the proposed arrangement; on the contrary, as safety was with him at all times a very important consideration, and he could not but feel it more within his reach on horseback than on foot, in a wild country, it added to the firmness of his purpose not to part with his horse. But in truth, the shortness of breath, which the reader may remember was an early infirmity of Thompson, had not been cured by time, but remained to disqualify him altogether for pedestrianism, and he therefore promptly refused to leave his horse behind him.
It was next proposed as a means of putting the travellers on an equality, that they should adopt the expedient called—riding and tying. But this was, if possible, still more abhorrent to the Rev. Mr. Thompson than leaving his horse altogether; for, besides subjecting him to labor, to which he was altogether inadequate, he would be exposed among the mountain wilds without any one to keep up his spirits by conversation, or to defend him in case of actual danger. Nothing remained then but for Aymor to stretch his generosity still farther, and not only part with his son to accommodate his friend, but also supply him with a horse, saddle and bridle.
A victor mounted upon a noble war-horse, with splendid trappings, found among the spoils of his vanquished rival, could not have been more elated than Gideon at this additional stroke of fortune, which placed him upon a tolerable animal, in effect his own, on his return to push his half accomplished plans in the Indian country.
The travellers were at length upon the road, and a part of the way was beguiled by making and answering inquiries concerning the different things they saw, and what and whom they would be likely to encounter in their farther progress. But conversation could be maintained between them only with great effort, and that constraint which always prevails on both sides when persons of dissimilar ages, habits, and modes of thinking, are thrown together, left each of the travellers much time to amuse himself with his own thoughts, or to study the accidental developments of the others' character.
Gideon kept in restraint the natural levity, and even wickedness of his own, not altogether from respect to the clerical habit of his associate, but also from an unaccountable inclination to impose himself upon the parson as one very moral, and having some pretensions to piety. On the other hand he found at intervals his companion breaking in upon the usual gravity of his manner, and then hastily resuming it again, watching at the same time the effect upon Gideon of such expressions as might slightly savour of levity or irreverence; like one occasionally peeping out from a disguise to see whether he may venture to throw it off altogether, or a person cautiously feeling his way over ground where he suspects the safety of his footing. Thus encouraged, Gideon gradually lowered his pretensions to propriety, and the preacher's moments of incautious levity became more frequent, until the former began to think that a parson after all when fully found out, is much like other men.
As they journeyed on they lost more and more of their original frigidity, until the ice was fairly melted between them, and, by the expiration of the first day, one had little to learn of the other, at least so each imagined for himself, while at the same time he probably laid to his soul the flattering unction that he had learned more than he had taught.
The sun as he rose from his place of rest,
Shone on many a warlike crest,
And kiss'd with his beam full many a face,
Handsome and blushing in female grace,
As gath'ring crowds rejoicing come
To join in the feast of the harvest home
AT length, as the travellers found themselves beyond the older settlements, the scenery became more wild, and the way more lonely. There was no more levity in the manner of the missionary, but restless anxiety and starting apprehensiveness assumed over it an uninterrupted dominion. The mind of Thompson, although no way remarkable for strength, was not deficient in fancy, and this may probably account for the extreme timidity of his disposition; for his imagination, fertile in suggesting subjects of apprehension, did not find in his reason a correspondent power of distinguishing between the real and the false, and penetrating through the first appearances of things into their actual nature.
It is not likely, then, he would be insensible to the beauties of the varied scenery through which he was passing; on the contrary, but for the gloom that a sense of insecurity threw over the whole, few men could be more alive to the rich variety of pictures presented to his eye. Sometimes he found himself passing between two lofty peaks, aspiring high towards Heaven, and holding each other in rivalry, while the trees with which they were crowned, appeared to reach over from one mountain in the direction of the other, with their varigated foliage, as if endeavoring to span the chasm between. Here the luxuriant pea-vine, with its beautiful blossoms, hung for miles the steep hill side with interminable garlands, and there a bare rock, indistinctly seen through the waving shrubbery, assumed an antic shape, or rose a majestic castle, which fancy inhabited with some gigantic tenant of the wilds.—Here, high on the cliff, an adventurous rustic had located his rude dwelling, overlooking the country for miles around, and having in its elevation more the appearance of a retreat for some winged inhabitant of the air, than for a being who must trust to the labor of climbing to reach his home.—There, where two opposite mountains by receding from each other, seemed abruptly broken off, the winding way suddenly opened in a beautiful vista, upon a little plain, so perfectly level as to form a delightful contrast with all that surrounded it. In these very choice spots, few and far between, as if to heighten to the utmost the contrast, human labor had been industriously expended in snatching them with speed from the wild dominion of nature, giving them the appearance of old settlements, and even making in their embellishment considerable displays of taste.
In one of them a neat little dwelling rose in the midst, whose newly whitened chinking gave it a cool snow-like appearance, standing out as it did in striking relief from the dark green mountain side, forming its back ground. Near it was the orchard, laden with the promises of a future luscious supply, with here and there a tree of earlier kind, even now holding out upon its bending branches the fully ripe fruit. Not far distant was the field of Indian corn, waving in the southern breeze its long broad leaves, and filling the air with the yellow pollen from its tassels.—Meadows, over whose rich verdure herds and flocks were scattered, or having been reserved for the purpose, offering a heavy harvest to the mower's scythe, skirted along the clear rapid stream, to which the lovely valley owed all its fertility and beauty, if not its existence, as did the famous Tempe to Peneus. Babbling along through this little Eden, the brook soon came in rude contact with the base of one of the mountains, where they again approached each other, and ran dashing and foaming for miles through a solitary wild, where our travellers were forced to follow it in their journey. Yet nothing befell them, worthy of particular notice, until they passed the Cowee Mountain, and found themselves in the great Tennessee Valley.
It was early in the morning when they were suddenly surrounded by Indians, armed with rifles, and all bending their course in the same direction with themselves. The woods appeared to be teeming with its red children, sending them forth as some huge molehill is wont to do the swarming emmets. It may well be supposed it was not the missionary spirit which at that moment filled the soul of Thompson. Concern for his own bodily safety absorbed all interest in the spiritual dangers of those, in search of whom he had travelled so far, to snatch them as brands from the burning. He had the prudence, however, to suppress any expression of uneasiness, and left Gideon to find out, in his own way, what these alarming indications meant. He was not, himself, without a suspicion that it might betoken the accomplishment, to his hand, of the main object of his mission, yet that did not serve to mitigate much his apprehensions, as a misconception of his character, against which he had no security, might be absolutely fatal to him.
Gideon, on his part, was not long in entering into conversation with one of the Indians, in his own language, and obtaining from him a partial solution of the cause of this unusual excitement.
“Look!” said the Indian, pointing to a field of corn, upon the margin of the river that rolled beyond it, “the Great Spirit has sent bread to his red children.”
Gideon did as he was directed, and, not without some surprise, perceived that the corn was already in that state commonly called “roasting-ear,” while the most forward he had left behind him was scarcely more than just “shooting and tasselling.” This reminded him again of the saying of Eoneguski, in relation to the superior mildness of climate of the Tennessee Valley over other parts of the mountain region.
“I do not understand you yet,” he said, addressing the Indian.—“What has yon field of corn to do with this assembling of your people?”
“To-day,” said the Indian, “the Oewoehee dance the Yenacona. The Great Spirit has sent rain upon the earth, and the sweet roasting-ear has come, and the Indian eats it, and is glad, and his heart pours out its joy to the Great Spirit.”
Gideon knew too well the character of the common Indian, to expect from one of them any thing like a clear explanation. Enough had been told him to enable him to perceive that some Indian ceremony was to be performed, indicative of their gratitude to the Great Spirit, for having sent them rain and fruitful seasons. He was struck, too, with the identity of the name mentioned by the Indian with that of the aunt of the Little Deer, and remembered that she had told him of her being named after one of the festivals of the Oewoehee.
Having communicated to Thompson the result of his inquiries, the mind of that worthy personage was relieved, and he fell into a train of reflections upon what he had just heard. “Ai haave oaften haerde, fraind Gaideon,” he at length broke silence, “thaat the aaborigines of our laand are the tain traibes of the children of Aisrael, whaich haave oatherwaise bain aintirely loast, and whaat you haave jaist communicated saims graately to faivour thaat balaife. We raid in Hoaly Wrait thaat, by Divain authority, the choasen people waare requaired to oaffer unto Jehoavah the fairst fruits of aall thair aincraise, and the faistive cealebraation of thaise people saims vaary laike a realict oaf thaat aancient caustom.”
“Perhaps it may be so,” said Gideon, impatiently, “but, in the name of Heaven, Parson, why don't you talk faster, it tires me to death to listen to you, taking an hour to say what another man would do in five minutes.”
“ 'Bea noat raash waith thai mouath,' saiath the waise maan, aand Ai do waal, Maister Aiymore, not to be haasty of spaich.”
Our travellers had now come in view of a large concourse of Indians, of both sexes, in a sort of encampment, and many fires were kindled on a plain near the river, around which crowds were busily engaged, as if in some species of cookery. Upon a nearer approach, they perceived it was Indian corn the natives were roasting in the shuck, and as each ear was thought to be sufficiently cooked, it was deposited in a basket, whereof many were provided for the purpose.
Gideon and his companion mingled in the crowd without attracting much attention, every one being apparently absorbed in what was going on.—The former, however, encountered many acquaintances, who seemed pleased to see him, and with whom he conversed freely, and obtained more explicit information respecting the ceremony in which they were engaged. At length he met with Eoneguski, by whom he was welcomed back into the Indian country with cordiality, and asked of his success in inquiring after Welch.—Gideon made Eoneguski acquainted with Thompson, as well as with the object of his visit to the Valley, and his having accompanied him as a guide.
Eoneguski was as the chief of the Eonee, the master of ceremonies on the present occasion—no prophet having yet succeeded in the Valley the deceased Susquanannacunahata. All the corn being now prepared and deposited in baskets, Eoneguski approached one of them, and, taking from it an ear, commenced eating, and his example was soon followed by all present, except Gideon and the missionary, who waited for an invitation, which they were not, however, long in receiving. Gideon found no difficulty in disposing of his roasting-ear as quickly as the best Indian among them, but his companion was, in the first place, greatly embarrassed with the shuck, and, when he had finally succeeded in stripping that off, was very awkward in removing the grains of corn with his teeth, observing to Gideon, in an under tone, that he was not much accustomed to “aating like a hoarse.”
This very intelligible part of the ceremony being suspended, our two neophytes waited with some interest for the next proceeding, when Eoneguski, taking up his rifle, carefully examined its condition, and, opening the pan, looked to the situation of the priming, and, not seeming to be satisfied with it, threw it out and put in fresh. His example in this, also, was followed by the other male Indians. The young chief then grasping his rifle by the middle, sprang forward, with a shrill whoop, into a measured tread, accompanied by a chant, wild and monotonous, to the effect following:—
The Great Spirit dwells in the blue air above—
His sun shines upon us in beauty and love—
He sends down his rain, all the mountain streams swelling,
And plenty is found in each Cherokee dwelling.
The corn-stalks wave thickly abroad o'er each field—
Connehany and bread to the papoos they yield;
While the squaw tends the corn in the vale by the river,
The brave treads the mountain with strung bow and quiver.
Hark! a sound loud and distant now visits the ear—
Is it mutt'ring thunder from clouds, that I hear?
No! 'tis* Yo-ne-sa-ha, with his legions comes rushing,
* Yo-ne-sa-ha, signifies the Buffalo.
His flesh is provided for sav'ry meat—
For the Cherokee youth who is fearless and fleet—
His skin forms a mantle—when nightly watch keeping—
Or a couch for the brave—while in peace he is sleeping.
See! the woods are alive with the elk and the deer—
The beaver, the bear, and the otter are here—
On the hill, on the plain, in the deep mountain hollow,
There is game of all sorts for the Indian to follow.
The Great Spirit sends us all hearts that are brave—
No hand brings the red man to bow as a slave—
We loudly shout forth—let the universe hear us—
Who wakes up our vengeance may tremblingly fear us.
Then thanks to the Spirit our fathers who blest,
And call'd them away in their glory to rest—
Let us strive by brave deeds—though we linger behind them—
When call'd from this land—with the blessed to find them.
Let friendship and kindness forever unite,
Our hearts in a chain strong, and lasting, and bright—
The Oewoehee race then like you noble river,
Rolling on, shall continue forever and ever.
So far as the only two white men present were able to discover, there was no fixed rule by which the Cherokee chief regulated his course, further than that after various meanderings, he described irregular circles, and used gesticulations suited to the different parts of the song. In all this he was strictly followed in succession by every male Indian present, armed like himself. When they had kept up this exercise for several minutes, they all stopped at once, like the several portions of a complicated machine at the touching of a certain spring;—the song ceased, and elevating the muzzles of their rifles, they discharged them in the air. Reloading them, the same process was gone through, several times, until their guns had been twelve times discharged, when they were laid aside, and the dance resumed, which was now joined in by the women, as it appeared, promiscuously with the men.
The measure of the chant was changed, as well as the words, which were to the effect following:—
Ev'ry thing around is love—
Earth beneath—and Heav'n above—
Affection in the early beam
Lights upon th' inconstant stream.
The clouds descend in kissing show'rs—
Nature smiles in op'ning flow'rs—
Wooing winds young leaflets kiss—
And the leaflets stir with bliss.
Objects still—and those that move—
All confess the pow'r of love.
Why should man alone be found—
(Who with love should most abound,)
To deny its gentle pow'r,
In this kind and genial hour?
Lot him love his God on high—
Who sheds His love o'er earth and sky—
All objects let him love in common—
And most of all—bewitching woman.
This being ended, Eoneguski addressed the crowd, who listened with mute attention to an oration of considerable length, inculcating the advantages of union, and dependence on the Great Spirit; after which they resumed the eating of corn, until all that had been prepared was consumed.
It was now evening, and the Indians separated, seeking their homes by the various trails along which they had come together in the morning. Gideon and Thompson became the guests of Eoneguski at Eonee.
Impatient as was Gideon to reach Tesumtoe, and as specious a pretence as his business with Yenacona afforded, he could not break through the various excuses of Thompson to remain at Eonee.
During their sojourn at that place, it did not escape his observation that Thompson sought various and protracted interviews with Eoneguski, which the latter after the first two or three, seemed anxious to avoid. But Gideon was not disposed to attribute them to any other object than such as might be connected with his clerical mission.
Happening one day to be alone with Eoneguski, he perceived the mind of the chieftain was laboring with something he wished, yet hesitated to communicate.—At length the Indian commenced, “I will tell my brother a story.”
“Say on,” replied Gideon, adopting the laconic manner of him with whom he was conversing.
“A white man was hunting deer among the mountains;” the chief continued.—“Many warm days had visited the earth, and one night the snow came down silently and unlooked for, as he whose heart is black with vengeance, steals upon his enemy. The white man for many hours saw nothing—for the Great Spirit sent no game for his rifle. The white man grew faint and weary. Far before him in the snow he saw something shining with bright colors. He approached it and took it up.—It was a snake, but the white man was not wise, and knew not that it was a snake—and the heart of the white man was kind. 'It is a poor creature,' he said, 'stiffened and perishing with the cold.—I will warm it, and it shall live.' The simple white man laid the snake in his bosom.—Soon, as if the bright sun had poured out its warmth, it began to move. The white man heard a shrill rattle, and cast out the traitor—but it was too late—the creature had struck its poison to his heart, and the white man died.”
While he was relating this story, Eoneguski fixed not his eye upon the countenance of Gideon, or he would there have read the conscious guilt giving it an application entirely different from that designed.
“I am the serpent,” thought Gideon, to himself, “and Eoneguski is the unwary benefactor whom I have stung in the most vital part;—but he must proceed in a different way, if he means to get round me.—I am not to be caught or diverted from my purpose by well contrived stories.”
“My brother does not pity the white man;” said Eoneguski.
Gideon replied aloud, “He deserved to perish for his folly.”
“The wise,” said the Indian, “read lessons in the folly of others.”
“True,” replied Gideon, “but I trust both you and I, Eoneguski, are too wise to take a serpent to his bosom.”
“Did the white man believe it was a snake he saw among the snow?” said Eoneguski, rising, and looking steadfastly upon Gideon. “Beware of Thompson,” he added, and departed, regardless of any solicitations for further explanation.
“Beware of Thompson,” repeated Gideon, to himself.—“Why?—how can that formal hypocrite, as I know him to be, injure me? No! by Heaven, he is just such a tool as I need to work with.—The credulous Indian I see is still unsuspicious of me as a rival.”—
— How am I a villain
To counsel Cassio to this parallel course,
Directly to his good? * * * * *
When devils will their blackest sins put on
They do suggest with heavenly shews
As I do now. * * * * * * * *
SOME such reflections as the great poet in the foregoing lines puts into the mouth of the arch villain Iago, may be supposed to have passed through the mind of Thompson, in contemplation of the part he had chosen for himself, operating as it did with complicated effect upon a variety of individuals.
It was the next day after Gideon's interview with Eoneguski, recorded in the last chapter, that he set out in company with Thompson for Tesumtoe, and arrived there in good time to be well received by Yenacona and the Little Deer. Gideon introduced his companion to them, and explained the object of his intended sojourn in the Indian country. Yenacona would have been much better pleased with such an undertaking by one of her own church, but a long separation from the society of persons of that persuasion had softened the bigotry belonging to her sect so much as to cause her to prefer that the light of the Gospel should be spread among the savages even by heretics, than that they should go without it altogether. She therefore received Thompson with quite a hearty welcome. Her grief was at first passionate on learning Gideon's ill-success in his search for Welch—but soon subsided into her wonted pensive sadness
The soft insinuating manners of Thompson gradually won upon her, and he soon so far prevailed with the Little Deer as to render her the first fruits of his missionary labors. She avowed herself a Christian of the Methodist persuasion, and received from his hands the sacraments as administered by that church. Yenacona's orthodoxy was severely tried, but the personal character of the preacher had so far won upon her, and her zeal for the Little Deer becoming a Christian in any form, was so strong, as to prevent her making any difficulty. She was the more reconciled by the reflection, that were they to wait for union with the Church according to the Roman ritual, the opportunity might be lost altogether of snatching the Little Deer from the heathenism of her nation.
Gideon now imagined the success of his own plans certain, and that nothing remained but for him to apprise Thompson of the manner in which he expected his services. He hastened to do so, but did not find his clerical friend quite so pliant as he had anticipated; for although he did not actually refuse his assistance, he would make no promise to afford it, but rather treated the matter as a thing to be duly considered, before any decided action, than as one in which the path of duty was plain. At the time of his communication, however, Gideon perceived a smile of pleasure suddenly to light up the countenance of Thompson, succeeded by a restlessness of manner which suffered no abatement, until he found a pretext for returning to Eonee for a day or two, alone.
Gideon made use of this occasion to do something for himself, but if he met with nothing to produce absolute despair, there was but little to encourage hope.—Thompson returned to Tesumtoe at the appointed time, but evidently chapfallen and disappointed; so much so, that it did not escape the observation of the females, who, however, considered the affairs of one so holy, unfit subjects for their prying curiosity.
It was the next day after his return from Eonee, that Thompson addressed Gideon as follows:—
“Fraind Gaideon, Ai haave taaken counsel of the Loard consairning the maatter whaich you spaake to me of soam daays saince, aand it is boarne in upoan my maind thaat it maight be waal for us to understand aich oather. The Scraipture saiath, 'who so kaipeth hais mouath aand hais taounge, kaipeth hais soal from trouable.' Aand the saame Scraipture saiath 'a taalebearer revaaleth seacrets, but hai thaat ais of a faiathful spairit coansaeleth the maatter.' Ai would knoaw, thain, fraind Gaideon, if thou wouldest kaape my coaunsel as Ai do thain?”
“To be sure I will,” said Gideon.
“Laif, even the laif of they fraind, will be in thy haands; therefore, swair to me, as Eleazer swaare unto Aabaraham, thaat you wail not, to any laiving soal, rapaet aany thaing thaat paasses betwaixt thai and mai.”—
“I swear,” said Gideon, impatiently—“say on.”
Thompson looked wildly and cautiously around, to make sure that there was no one in hearing.—“Ai doa exsaedingly fair aand traimble,” he said, “laist soame aincoainsaideration of thaine should betraay me.”
“I have said that you may trust me,” said Gideon, “and surely that ought to satisfy you.”
With pale countenance and quivering lips Thompson proceeded:—“You haave saiad thaat you would becoame the hausband of the Laittle Dair; knoast thou noat thaat, by thaat allaiance, you would becoame immaidiately the chaif of the people of Tesumtoe, aand, by maarrying a descaindant of the aancient kaings of the Oowoahai, as they caal themselves, the whole Chairokaa naation maight coam under your control.”
“Do you suppose,” replied Gideon, “that if I was ignorant of all this, I should be so desirous for the match?”
“Aind aif thaiy waishes could be aaccoamplished,” said Thompson, “hoaw wouldest thou use thai power? Wouldst thou laid foarth, aat the baidding of Coangraiss, thaiy waarriors, or wouldst thou be wailling to resaive waalthe and honore from the majesty of Aingland, and foallow hais coammaands?”
“I understand you,” said Gideon, impetuously, “this is what Eoneguski meant.”
Thompson started, like the toad mentioned in Milton's Paradise Lost, when touched by the spear of Ithuriel.—“Aionaguski daidst thou saay?—Haas thaat chaif communicaated aany thaing whaich paassed betwaixt haim and mai?”
“No!” replied Gideon, “but he told me to beware of thee, and I now understand him.—A missionary, indeed!—Are not the Creeks and other Indians, in different parts of the country, already engaged in murdering the white settlers? and is it not to stir them up to the same savage outrages, you have come amongst the Cherokees?—I have heard of such people before.”
“You haave swoarn, aand Ai knoaw you wail not betraay mai,” said the frightened Thompson.
“I will not betray you,” replied Gideon, “but it is upon the condition that the Little Deer is mine; and you may rest assured that when the Cherokee nation comes under my control, it shall never make war upon the United States.”
“Goad permitting, Ai wail use mai poar aindaivours in your behaalf,” said the humbled missionary, as they separated.
A few words are now necessary, according to the plan of our story, to explain how Thompson came to appear in his present situation, over whose fate uncertainty hung in the earlier part of our narrative. The Indians, by whom he was taken at the same time with Robert Aymor, did not esteem him much of a prize, and he accordingly fell into the hands of one of the British emissaries, by whom he was taken to Canada. Here it is not important what befell him until he joined the Methodist Church, and passing through the intermediate grade of exhorter, finally became an itinerant preacher.
The notorious affair of John Henry, during Mr. Madison's administration, sufficiently discloses the practices resorted to, in no degree creditable to the British name, by which the reduction of her quondam colonies to their broken allegiance was sought to be effected. Mr. Thompson's calling, together with the natural association produced by the adventures of his early life, in which he had picked up something of the Cherokee language, indicated him as one who might be advantageously employed in the general plan of operations among the Cherokee Indians. It is said that every man has his price, but, for the honor of human nature, it is to be hoped this is rather the maxim of the cynic than of truth. At any rate, the Rev. Mr. Thompson was not a high priced man. Besides, he was not much accustomed to question the propriety of what had received the sanction of high authority, and lent a willing ear to the very advantageous proposals that were made him.
He passed through the United States, unquestioned, as an ordinary itinerant preacher, and received all that kindness and respectful attention his cloth is always so certain of commanding among all classes of the Anglo-Americans. His journey was, therefore, upon the whole, pleasant, until he found himself in the mountainous parts of North Carolina. Although his native land, there was nothing there to bind to it his affections—for his mother, as he had long since heard, fell under the weight of her grief, upon learning his capture and disappearance among the Indians. There came over him a feeling of loneliness—his heart was ready to fail him; and he longed for some stout companion, upon whose prowess he could rely in any difficulties that might beset him. As he came into the vicinity of his old acquaintance, Aymor, his recollection of the pusillanimous part he had acted in their last interview, made him rather ashamed to encounter him, and, besides, he somewhat feared the prying sagacity of the old whig. But he learned that he was the father of a stout son, who had grown up with an hereditary character for courage and perseverance, and Thompson was determined to avail himself, if possible, of so suitable a companion.—To time, and the great change in his habit, he trusted for security against being recognised by his old sergeant. We have already witnessed the result of his plan, and now, passing over intermediate events, must pursue him to Eonee, where, in his private interviews before mentioned with Eoneguski, he commenced upon that chief the operation of stirring up the Cherokees against the white people.
He was altogether disappointed in the tone of mind manifested by the chief on the subject of his communications, and, notwithstanding he varied the attack on every occasion and in every form, and prolonged his stay at Eonee to increase his opportunities, he had not the smallest reason to flatter himself with the hope of success, when he departed for Tesumtoe. The information there communicated by Gideon relative to the Little Deer, opened to him a new field of speculation. He could appeal to the love and jealousy of Eoneguski, and make the hand of the Little Deer the price of the insurrection of the Cherokee tribe.
He accordingly made haste to Eonee, full of the plan, and confident of its success; but when he arrived there, Eoneguski was from home, and he learned such tidings respecting him, as blasted entirely his cherished anticipations. Full of chagrin he returned to Tesumtoe, and resolved to effect a part of his purpose, at least, in a different way, and to bargain with Gideon for its accomplishment. His timid nature was entirely unfit to encounter, in a negotiation, the bold though unprincipled temper of Gideon, who, seeing at once his advantage, was determined to have things at his own price, while it was in his power, rather than unnecessarily involve himself in difficult and disgraceful stipulations. Although foiled in his schemes hitherto, and having apparently surrendered at discretion, Thompson was yet, at heart, determined to play out his part with less boldness perhaps, but with more safety, and whilst he lulled Gideon into confident security, watched the course of events, ready to take advantage of any favorable occurrence.
What sound was that so wildly sad,
As by prophetic spirit made—
So sudden mid the silence deep,
Breaking on nature's death-like sleep?
——— it was no dream of fear.
Behold an Indian face appear—
He stands within the cot * * *
THE war of 1812, between England and the United States, is remembered by both parties, even to this day, with something of bitterness. It is probable that errors and misapprehensions on both sides led to this war, and doubtless the same causes may have continued to keep alive the feelings of unkindness with which it was necessarily attended. There is no circumstance connected with it so hardly construed by the people of the United States against the people of England, as their stirring up our tawny neighbors, and our dark-skinned domestics, to harass, in the most horrid of all forms of warfare, those who were allied to them by so many of the most sacred ties. How far the nation of Great Britain may be responsible for this outrage on humanity and civilized warfare, opinions will differ; and while charity inclines, if possible, to exonerate it, irresistible testimony fixes the stain indelibly upon many of the agents of the Government.
Eoneguski had been for some time conscious that events were going on in the political world, and that attempts were making calculated to involve his people in hostilities with the whites, already commenced by some of the neighboring tribes. He was not less conscious than other superior men of his complexion, of the oppressions of the white people upon the Indians, and of the iniquity of the principles which regulated their intercourse with them. But he had also the sagacity to perceive it was only through the forbearance of the whites that any thing was left to the scattered red men; and that it was only tempting Fate, to throw themselves out of the protection of the Government of the United States—a very ineffectual one, truly—but, at the same time, their only defence against the depredations of the border settlers. He wisely believed it better contentedly to preserve the little that was left them, than, by a hopeless attempt to improve their condition, expose to certain destruction their present comforts. These opinions he had early entertained, and taken great pains to propagate among the extensive family of the red men.
The young chief paid to the Little Deer a visit just after Gideon's departure on his return homeward, and had found her mind still unsettled; so that nothing satisfactory could be learned as to the footing on which they stood, and he had purposed renewing his visit immediately after the celebration of the Green Corn Feast, at which his presence could not be dispensed with by his people. But his interviews with Thompson convinced him of the existence of a crisis at which his public duty was important and urgent; and having taken great pains to put the Valley Indians upon their guard, he set out, as soon as Gideon and Thompson had departed to Tesumtoe, upon an expedition among the Overhill Cherokees, to counteract any unfavorable influences that might be exercised among them.
It was during this absence that Thompson returned to Eonee, and learning from Chuheluh, whom he had successfully assailed during his first visit, the cause of Eoneguski's departure, he considered his chance of doing any thing with him entirely hopeless. With the assistance of Chuheluh, however, he experimented upon some few others, but was so much disheartened as to abandon operations for the present in that region, and return to Tesumtoe.
Eoneguski was gratified by the success he met with in quieting the minds of the Cherokees, who had not entirely escaped exciting influences artfully put in action, that, but for his timely interference, might very speedily have kindled into a flame of hostility against the United States, too fierce and raging to be extinguished.
He had scarcely reached home, felicitating himself on his success, when, reposing at night in his wigwam, he felt some one shake him gently, and whisper in a mandatory tone of voice, “Eoneguski, awake!”
Surprised at so unexpected a salutation, under circumstances so unusual, he sprang upon his feet, grasped his scalping-knife, and strove, by the indistinct light, to discover who had thus intruded upon his slumbers.
“The chief of the Eonee,” continued a soft, insinuating, but manly voice, in the Indian tongue, and an under tone—“is in his own wigwam—surrounded by his own people;—he need fear no danger.—It is the stranger that has come unbidden beneath his roof, who has cause for apprehension.”
“The stranger is always welcome to the home of Eoneguski,” replied the chief—“He need fear nothing.”
“My heart is a stranger to fear;” replied the unknown—“but when my errand is over, I would go from the wigwam unseen, as I came.”
“It shall be as you say,” replied the chief—“the people of Eonee are blind when their chief wills not they should see.”
“Let not the chief of the Eonee use the tongue of the deceiver;" replied the stranger—“May I go unquestioned, even if my speech should be displeasing to him?”
“The chief of Eonee speaks but one language;” was the reply—“his wigwam is the home of the stranger, and he may come and go as it pleases him, as into the dwelling of his father.”
Eoneguski now prepared to strike a light, but the stranger checked him.
“I doubt not the faith of the Cherokee brave,” he said—“but the business I am on requires haste, and may be done in darkness, and I would not be seen when I leave the wigwam.”
“It is enough;” said Eoneguski—“My ears are open, let the stranger speak.”
“I would not speak to your ears only, but to your heart also;" replied the stranger.—“I would stir up the red blood that warms it.—I would cause visions of glory to pass before you.—I would invite you to the feast of Revenge, and make you drunk with the blood of your enemies.—Hark! do you not hear the spirits of your fathers calling aloud for vengeance?—See the widely extended plains smoking with their blood, and whitening with their bones!—Look around you, and behold the red men bending in slavery beneath the pale faces!—Do you not feel the galling chains upon your own limbs?—Do you not hear their distant clank as they are borne along by your children for countless generations?—Are these barren fields the only heritage left you by your fathers?—No! ascend the highest peak of the Blue Mountains, and strain your eyesight to its utmost, and still far beyond its reach the fruitful lands in broad succession stretch themselves out a portion of your birth-right.—And can the warrior sleep with fetters upon his limbs while the harvest of Revenge is ripe, and ready to be gathered?—when the Great Spirit calls him to snatch from the spoiler his ravished birth-right?—For shame! for shame!—Shall the daughter of Moytoy see the boundless empire of her father reduced by the coward sons of the pale face to a space too narrow for the hunting ground of a single Cherokee brave?—And will the son of Eonah calmly look upon the wrongs of the maiden, in whose veins flows the noblest blood of her tribe, and not make the hearts of her oppressors to quail at his manly war-cry?—No! I see the red men flocking from every quarter of the Heavens, like the countless wood pigeons.—The earth is darkened, and echoes with the noise of their coming.—The hearts of the pale faces are as the hearts of women before them;—and as the fire devours the dry grass of the prairie as it sweeps over it, so are the pale faces before the countless braves of the red men!”
Surprise chained in silence the tongue of Eoneguski, as he at length perceived by the dim light, the outline of a tall Indian warrior, in a state of perfect nudity, who, not long preserving his low tone of voice, had broken out into loud and rapid utterance, accompanied by wild and violent gesticulation, and seemed some unearthly being amid the sombre gloom by which he was surrounded, while his dark bright eyes scintillated in the warmth of his declamation, like two luminous bodies.
The chief, availing himself of the first slackening of the bold stream of eloquence—“Stranger,” said he, “Eoneguski is not intoxicated by the excitement thou art pouring into his soul.—He is not a fool, to mistake for a star of Heaven a meteor of the evening.—He feels like thee, the wrongs of his people, and the Great Spirit sees his heart, and knows it is no coward fear that restrains him from action. But do not our fathers tell us, that many hundred moons ago the red men were as countless as the stars, when the pale faces crossed the great waters, as a feeble handful?—Did our fathers then stand before them?”
“No!” shouted the stranger, “but our fathers were then overcome, as their posterity have been ever since, not by manly force—but by falsehood and guile.”
“But,” said Eoneguski, “the white men are now as full of falsehood and guile as ever, and if they were too much for our fathers, when they had the advantage of superior force, what have we to hope for now, when the white men have become countless as the stars, and the red men have dwindled to a handful?”
“It is of that I speak,” replied the stranger.—“Let not the red men trust to the pale faces.—The Great Spirit gave to the red man strength and activity, as to the buffalo and the deer.—He gave him, like all his creatures, capacity to endure the changes of season without any covering.—The winds of Heaven pierced him, and the white snow came upon his naked skin, and he knew no unmanly shivering.—The scorching rays of the sun fell upon him, and he neither felt a blister nor panted with thirst.—The earth produced him bread without cultivation—and the woods and waters supplied him with meat.—But the white skins came among the red men, and taught them their effeminate customs, and made them their slaves.—Let the red men return to the habits of their fathers.—Let them cast aside the clothing which serves but to fetter the limbs of freemen.—Let them drink the water as it falls from Heaven, unmingled with the intoxicating poisons of the white men—and let their meat be the fish and the game with which it supplies them.—Then may they defy the arts of the pale faces, and retrieve the long lost possessions of their fathers.”
“The white men have in these things at least been the benefactors of the red,” replied Eoneguski, “in that they have taught them some of the comforts of civilized life. It were folly to cast away the benefits we have derived from them, because they may have wronged and oppressed us. But it would not be enough to part with all these to enable us to make successful war with the whites. They need no longer resort to guile:—they are too strong for us. As the brook vainly encounters with its feeble current the broad stream of the river, so would the red men be borne down by the superior force of the whites.”
“Neither the guile nor the strength of the whites shall avail them any thing,” replied the stranger. “The red men have found in the white men, over the great waters, the enemies of their oppressors, and they will strengthen the arms of their red brothers—and they shall be victorious.”
“And trust you,” said Eoneguski, “the weight of a warrior upon a flimsy reed?—Will it not break under him, and pierce his flesh when he leans upon it for support?—To whom think you will your white allies give the fields which their strength and valor shall assist you to conquer?—Think you the white men beyond the great waters love their red brothers more than those of their own blood?”
“They are but the instruments of the Great Spirit,” replied the stranger.—“The elements of nature and the hearts of men are alike in His hands, and He hath commanded the white skins of England to assist their red brothers.”
“And how are we to know that the hand of the Great Spirit is with us?” inquired the chief.
“Listen,” said the stranger, again subduing his voice to a whisper—“Listen to the sign.—The pale faces have roamed at large over this wide country, and in their pride have vainly thought no place inaccessible to their accursed lust of territory and power. But there is yet a spot which the Great Spirit hath preserved for his red children only.—The foot of the pale face hath never yet intruded upon its sacred precincts.—Some invisible power hath turned him aside, whenever, in his wanderings, he hath happened to approach it. On one side flows the Coosa, and on the other the Tallapoosa, bending like the bow of a warrior, and uniting with the Coosa, almost encircles the Holy Ground. There the tall and firm set hickory stands in thick clusters, and sends up its leafy branches towards the blue sky.—There, should every thing else fail us, the red men may retreat and lie down in safety under the broad wing of the Great Spirit, and not a pale face can come nigh to hurt us.”
“I fear,” replied Eoneguski, “this is but a delusion. It is a dream that has visited my brother while he slept.”
“A dream!” cried the astonished stranger.—“A dream!—Has the chief of Eonee never heard of a Prophet far away on the great waters, which men call the Lakes?
“I have heard wonderful things of him,” said Eoneguski.
“He is my brother,” replied the stranger. “Our mother gave to her nation three warriors at a birth; one of them is Elkswattawa, the Prophet of the Lakes, and he hath sent me hither from the frozen North, with a message from the Great Spirit to his red children in this sunny land.—And I,” continued the stranger, elevating himself to his full dignified height, “I am Tecumseh.” He paused—but there was no answer. “Does my brother,” he added, “doubt the message of the Great Spirit?”
Eoneguski was no stranger to the fame of Tecumseh, and brave as he was himself, could not repress a sense of inferiority, and a feeling of awe in the presence of the great man who had dignified by his valor and abilities the complexion he bore. These feelings were in no degree diminished by the circumstances under which they met. It was the stillness of midnight, and an inhabitant of a region countless miles distant from Eonee, was standing before the Cherokee chief, in his own wigwam. He had glided into it as noiselessly and imperceptibly as a spirit, and might, if he had so desired, have slain its sleeping tenant, without waking him from his slumbers.
But Eoneguski did not for a moment hesitate whether he should lend himself to the schemes of the Shawnee chief. Yet he had no wish to incur his displeasure, or be wanting in marks of that respect he really felt for him. He was therefore quite at a loss so to frame his observations to the now undisguised hero as that they might, without flattering his hopes of obtaining a proselyte, manifest towards him his personal good will.
“Eoneguski is proud,” he at length replied, “to look upon a warrior so renowned as Tecumseh, and feels that his wigwam is honored by his presence.—But he may not consent to join with him in taking the war-club against his great father at Washington.”
“He that is not for us, is against us,” said the Shawnee chief, loudly and fiercely—“When then Tecumseh and Eoneguski meet again, it will be as enemies.—Some slight remains of weak compassion would linger around the heart of Tecumseh when he saw a pale face prostrate before him, begging for his life.—But for the dastard red skin who had fought for her enemies, or had refused to lend his arm in the struggles of his country, he would trample him in the earth, and smile as he writhed beneath his tread.”
“I have been deaf to your persuasions—and your threats are not more effectual,” replied Eoneguski.
“Perhaps,” continued the Shawnee chief, contemptuously, “your degenerate love of the whites may be gratified by the surrender of your guest.—Trust me, the scalp of Tecumseh would be well paid for by your father at Washington.”
“Tempt me not too far,” replied Eoneguski, “lest the world have cause to pronounce Tecumseh a fool, and Eoneguski a villain.”
“By Heaven,” said Tecumseh, approaching the Cherokee chief, and raising the tomahawk he had all along held in his hand, “it would be well thus to terminate thy scruples.” The bright blade passed before the eyes of Eoneguski, but no quick drawing of the breath, or hurried palpitation of the heart, indicated to Tecumseh that he had stirred any emotion in the bosom of his host. “You are brave,” he said, “and Tecumseh would fain have such to battle beside him in the cause of freedom. But he is a fool who spends his labor in vain attempts to move the firm-rooted rock.—We met as friends—from henceforth we are enemies.—Yet I hold you to your pledge of hospitality, and claim to go as I came, unseen of any one.—Eoneguski must not follow me, even with his eyes.”
So saying, Tecumseh left the hut, and the scrupulous generosity of Eoneguski restrained him from looking out to see whither he went.
The Eonee chief endeavored once more to compose himself to sleep, but the exciting interview through which he had passed, long kept him waking.
The next morning his mind reverted, as to a vision, to the events of the night. He could not realize as a fact that he had holden actual converse with the Northern warrior, of whom fame said so much. But the doubts that lingered in his mind were fully removed by the stories told by others, and the otherwise unaccountable absence of Chuheluh, and three or four more of the inhabitants of the village, including his own slave Mercury. The truth was, that not a wigwam in Eonee had been left unvisited by the Shawnee chief between late bed-time and an hour or two before day, and Eoneguski's was neither the first nor the last. With each tenant he stipulated that he should not be watched, a stipulation easily made, by appealing to the pride of hospitality, upon which all the savage tribes greatly value themselves; and even Eoneguski did not suspect its sole object to have been to enable the Shawnee chief to glide unseen into other tenements. Tecumseh's first visit had been to Chuheluh, by whom he was not unexpected, and from whom he received such hints, as to the tenants of the respective wigwams, as enabled him to suit his style to the characters of the persons he was addressing. But even with this advantage his success was by no means flattering, and, finding himself unable to raise the great mass of the town, the Northern warrior determined to take with him, at once, to his rendezvous at Tookabatcha, such individuals as were disposed to enlist their fortunes in the great cause to which he had devoted himself.
He had already succeeded in stirring up the great body of the Creeks and other Southern tribes, while his brother, the Prophet, was, with equal success, infusing into the Northwestern hoards the sanguine hope with which their own bosoms were filled, that, by a general revolt of the whole Indian family, the race of Anglo-Americans would be entirely extirpated, and the country restored to its ancient possessors.
The last attempt of Tecumseh had been with the Cherokees, and gliding through the nation like a spirit, visible only to such as he desired might see him, carefully sounded almost every individual. The last night of this dangerous, bold and difficult mission was spent in Eonee, after which he retraced his steps into what is now the State of Alabama, to his head quarters at Tookabatcha. On his route thither he was joined, according to previous concert, by such of the Cherokees as he had been able to seduce from the general loyalty of the tribe to the United States, scarcely exceeding in all forty or fifty, together with Mercury, the slave of Eoneguski, who, apprehensive of punishment for some recent villanies in which he had been detected, availed himself of this method of escape.
At Tookabatcha, Tecumseh held a final consultation with his Southern confederates, when it was arranged that Weatherford and the Little Warrior, and others of inferior note, should conduct the military operations of the Southern department, and that Monohoe should be the great prophet of the South, as Elkswattawa was of the North.
Having completed these arrangements, this extraordinary being returned northwardly, to fire the train previously laid, by which the whole United States was to be kindled into war. But he was lead thither, by an overruling Providence, to meet the fate prepared for himself, his restless and ambitious brother, and hundreds of their hapless and deluded followers;—to furnish, in his fall at the battle of the Thames, an imperishable laurel for the brow of a gallant American, and to transmit to him, as a sobriquet, the distinguished name of—Tecumseh.
A cry of Areouski broke our sleep,
And rapid, rapid whoops came o'er the deep,
And deathfully their thunders seem'd to sweep;
Till utter darkness swallowed up the sight,
As if a shower of blood had quench'd the fiery fight.
MEANTIME Thompson was carrying on his double operations in different parts of the Cherokee country, but was much more successful in winning many of the savages to the benign influence of the doctrines of the Cross, than to the adoption of the cruel scheme of murdering their white neighbors. His clerical duties kept him much from Tesumtoe, and thus afforded him a reasonable excuse to Gideon for the very slow progress he was making in his matters. But that impatient youth was not neglectful of his own interests, notwithstanding the little encouragement he received.
As for Eoneguski, the unsettled state of public affairs, and the vast consequences involved in the present crisis, kept him, as a faithful chieftain, constantly watchful over his people, lest some powerful excitement might hurry them into acts of irremediable imprudence. No concerns exclusively personal, however important, was, in his estimation, a sufficient excuse at this time for a day's absence from his people, and he was therefore continually passing among them, like a guardian spirit, endeavoring to keep their minds in proper temper. But it was not many weeks after the visit of Tecumseh, when tidings reached Eonee that the Creeks had already commenced the work of destruction upon the white settlements. Then did the native thirst for blood begin to manifest itself among the savage charge of Eoneguski, in extreme restlessness and neglect of the pursuits of peace. Already he began to fear his power of restraining their bloody propensities was nearly exhausted, when it was announced that their great father at Washington had called upon his red children to fight for him.
The invited guests never flocked more joyously to a marriage banquet, than did the people of Eonee rally around their chief, no longer reluctant to lead them to battle. Fierce yells rang through the village, and with frantic gesticulations, such as distinguished the ancient Bacchanals, were they hourly running up and down the streets. The infection spread throughout the Cherokee country, including Sugar Town and Tesumtoe, and war-clubs and red sticks were paraded in every direction.—But who was to lead the people of Tesumtoe? Their hereditary chief was a female, and dangerous jealousies and bloodshed were the usual fruits of an election.—Gideon had resolved to offer himself as their leader, but one of the critical events to which Thompson looked was now come. He was not a man to be unconscious of the danger of his situation, but he trusted finally to Gideon's friendship as a sheet anchor, to save him, should matters come to the worst. With fear and trembling, he determined upon a last assault upon Eoneguski, and, hastening to Eonee, represented to him his own influence with the Little Deer, and the danger of her being lost to the chieftain without his assistance, offering, at the same time, a positive assurance of success, if he would yet change his side in the coming strife.
The chief did not turn upon him, as he had apprehended, with any furious burst of anger, but elevating himself to his full height, and fixing upon the trembling coward a look of disdain, pointed to the sun.
“The Great Spirit,” he said—“has marked for him his path through the sky—onward he pursues it forever and forever.—Such is Eoneguski.—Where the Great Spirit points the way, thither he follows.—No frown shall terrify him; no smile shall win him from his duty!”
So saying, and without waiting for a reply from the astounded missionary, he passed on.
Thompson now made his utmost speed back to Tesumtoe, resolving seriously, as the only plan from which he had any thing to hope, to strive his utmost to bring about the marriage between Gideon and the Little Deer; and to make sure of taking one, at least, from the strength of the American army, he represented to Gideon the advantage he might derive in his suit, by remaining behind and urging it, while Eoneguski was absent engaged in battle. The idea seemed plausible, and Gideon adopted it, declining to offer himself as a leader to the people of Tesumtoe, who finally united their forces with those of Eoneguski. Their example was followed by the people of Sugar Town, whose aged chief, Santuchee, was unfitted by infirmity for the fatigues of the campaign.
These circumstances placed under the command of Eoneguski more than three hundred warriors. With these he set out upon his march, being joined by the respective parties as he passed by Sugar Town and Tesumtoe, on his way to the Great Look-Out Mountain, which, like the Pilot or Ararat, has been, from time immemorial, one of the objects by which the Indians guide themselves in their wanderings. Following the eastern base of this mountain, and passing by several others towns, Eoneguski came to Canuhtown, one of the southern frontier villages of his nation, where the Pathkiller, one of the oldest chiefs of the Overhill Cherokees, had already established himself with a considerable force, with which Eoneguski united his own.
They had not been long in this position when they learned from their scouts, that the Creeks, and other hostile tribes, were flocking like pigeons to their roost, to a place not very distant, in numbers sufficient to overwhelm them. The Pathkiller, whose name is indicative of his speed, as well as his great power of endurance, immediately flew in person to the American General to inform him of the danger that threatened his allies, entrusting the command to Eoneguski during his absence. The Pathkiller soon returned with sufficient reinforcements, and several bloody battles were fought in quick succession, in which, while Eoneguski distinguished himself as among the bravest and most skilful warriors, the result gave him no reason to doubt the correctness of his judgment, or regret his determination in the choice of his party.
Amidst multiplied disadvantages, and under the most unfavorable circumstances, did the genius and bravery of the American Commander-in-chief, time after time, snatch victory from the very grasp of his enemies. So numerous and decided were the defeats experienced at his hands by the hostile savages, that they were at length induced superstitiously to believe that in the person of Andrew Jackson, General Anthony Wayne, the hero of the third part of a century past, had verified his threat of rising from the dead, and coming to chastise their insolence and misguided rebellion against the United States. Still they maintained their confidence in Monohoe, who continued to prophesy to them smooth things, and, in the face of repeated defeats, to promise them ultimate success. Incantations, like those of the Saga at Sugar Town, were continually practised by him to impose upon the superstitious credulity of his deluded followers.
“The Holy Ground,” he would tell them—“still remains unprofaned by the foot of a white man, and in their final stand on that sacred spot, the Great Spirit, if not before, will work out for his red children a miraculous deliverance.”
After several months fighting, with some few and very short intervals of comparative repose, the infatuated savages began to gather towards the ark of promised safety, panting for rest to their war-tost spirits. But, like the desperate gamester, who flatters himself there is a magical virtue in his last piece of coin, and trembles for the moment when he must put it up, and witness the gratifying fulfilment of his expectations, or the final wreck of his hopes, so did the disheartened savages cast a wistful eye of trembling confidence towards the Holy Ground, yet hesitated to take there their final stand; preferring the light of a sickly hope to the gloom of despair.
The Tallapoosa River, just above the place recognised by the Indians as the Holy Ground, makes a most extraordinary bend, forming a striking resemblance to a large horse-shoe, called, in their language, Tohopeka. This peninsula, if cannon and boats were excluded from the attack, was assailable but at one narrow point, where it joined the main land by an isthmus not more than three hundred yards in width. It caught the eye of the savages as the place where the predictions of their prophets were to be fulfilled;—and where they might make their immoveable stand, and exclude the whites forever from the Holy Ground. With a skill not looked for in savages, but which these had learned by severe experience, they fortified this narrow neck of land against the approach of an enemy. The lofty timber with which the isthmus was covered, they cut down, one tree upon another, through the openings in which they were enabled to make a well-directed fire upon an assailing foe, while a thick covert was provided for themselves against the shot of an enemy. With prudent foresight they further provided, in case of the worst, a means of retreat in their canoes, which were arranged in great numbers around the peninsula.
With these preparations, the Southern limb of that great army of red men, which had been called into being mainly by the restless and ambitious genius of a single individual, awaited, with desperate courage, the expected attack. Hitherto the Americans, in their numerous victories, had only scotched the snake, not killed it; now their insidious enemy had, as it were, coiled himself for his last desperate spring, and the opportunity was presented to crush him forever.
Not long was the trial of patience to which the Indians were subjected. They had scarcely completed their arrangements, when the tall, gaunt form of General Jackson appeared in the distance, mounted on a superb charger, at the head of a mingled force of whites and savages. With the stroke of his sagacious eye, the American General at once saw the advantages of the position occupied by the enemy, and comprehended the best means of counteracting them. An elevation in the ground, at the most suitable distance for the action of the few pieces of small artillery in the service, was selected, and his battery erected upon it. He perceived the arrangements made for escape, in case the foe should find themselves unable to maintain their strong position, and deliberated, for an instant, whether it would be better to leave them this coward hope, by which the desperation of their resistance would be diminished, or, by removing it, force upon them the alternatives of death, conquest, or submission—and thus, by increasing the hazard of success, render it more effectual, if obtained. He determined upon the latter course, and to that end despatched Eoneguski with his command with instructions, while the attention of the hostile Indians was occupied in the defence of their breastwork, to swim unperceived to their canoes, and bring them away. To cut off every hope of retreat, a party was sent to the opposite side of the river to intercept any who might have the hardihood to attempt escape by swimming.
These arrangements being completed, the deep-mouthed cannon began to pour upon the breastwork their destructive contents; while the gallant Montgomery, at the head of his detachment, advanced to the charge. The leaden hail from the rifles of the savages, fell thickly upon this devoted party, but they pressed forward, to make a lodgment within the enemy's works. The first to place his footsteps upon the unsure footing afforded by the interwoven boughs of the inartificial breastwork, was Montgomery himself; but scarcely was his plume seen to rise aloft, when it fell, stained with the blood pouring from a mortal wound in his head. Another and another followed their intrepid leader, but to share with him death and glory.
A desire to avenge their comrades, now added to the incentives of those who were behind to rush onwards, and presently a living multitude was making its way over the trunks and branches of trees, against the slackened fire of their adversaries. Among the foremost of these was a tall, sinewy man, on whom time had left many distinct traces, but had not extinguished the fire of his eye, nor much abated his strength, originally great. He was the first to make a leap from the breastwork, but his foot becoming entangled among the branches of a tree, he fell within the enemy's works. Instantly the fingers of a savage were twisted in his grey hair, and the tomahawk was uplifted to dash into his brain. The yell of the savage, as he prepared to strike, was answered by a correspondent one immediately above him, which, for an instant, arrested his attention; when, as quick as thought, a man precipitated himself from the breastwork, and received into his shoulder the tomahawk destined for the head of his prostrate comrade. The shock disengaged the hand of the savage from the hair of the veteran, who, springing upon his feet, in turn saved his deliverer from farther injury, by laying the Indian dead with a blow of his musket.
A moment's freedom from immediate danger enabled the two recently united in imminent peril to recognise each other, and “Mr. Aymor,” escaped from one lip, while “John Welch,” was uttered in almost breathless surprise, by the other. But there was no time for conversation, the blood was pouring from the wounded shoulder of Welch in a rapid stream, and already objects began to swim around him. He fell, and no ties of friendship were at such a crisis sufficient to divert a soldier from the onward path of duty. The Americans had now gained in considerable numbers a footing on the inner side of the breastwork, and were driving back the savage force towards the river. Duty and inclination both called upon Aymor to add his bayonet to the wall of bristling steel, gradually enclosing the foe in a narrower circle. He left Welch weltering in his blood, and, as he believed, never to rise again.
Meantime Eoneguski and his party had glided down to the river on each side of the Horseshoe, and like so many water-moccasins, dropped into the stream. No sensible agitation of the water indicated the advance of these expert swimmers, who, while the hostile Indians were occupied in the defence of their breastwork, entirely unperceived bore off every canoe, and placed it where it could be commanded by the fire of the American artillery.
This task being completed, the Cherokee chief followed the track marked by the slain, and sprung into the works just in time to sustain the Americans, as the enemy, having retreated to the river, and finding their canoes gone, had rallied in desperation, and roled back the tide of battle upon their pursuers. A deadly fire poured in upon the adversaries by Eoneguski and his party, forced them to recoil, and regained the doubtful advantage.
As yet the foe maintained themselves in numbers upon another part of the works, where their courage and enthusiasm were sustained by Monohoe, the prophet, who, in the face of the American artillery, most grotesquely dressed, was practising his incantations, and giving to his followers confident assurances of victory. Ever and anon as a cannon-ball severed a bough on which he stood, he would entirely disappear, to the dismay of those who trusted in his Divine mission, but rising unhurt, or concealing his injuries, with a triumphant yell he would boldly resume a conspicuous position. Sometimes he would spread forth his hands with shouts of defiance towards the Americans, and then leap from bough to bough, with the activity of a squirrel, and thus by the most fearless exposure of his person, give the strongest assurance of his own confidence in the sacred character to which he pretended.
Among the Cherokees who were fighting for the United States, was one who, on account of having accidentally appropriated to himself the cast-off boots of one of the officers, was known in the army by the nickname of “Shoe-Boots.” But in the fanciful spirit which seems to direct that people in their choice of names, he had assumed for himself that of the “Game Cock.” He laid claim to the extravagant bravery of that bird, and had made himself quite expert in the imitation of his crowing; besides this he garnished the upper part of his person with feathers, and was in truth one of those light-hearted persons who are constantly cheerful, and meet danger with indifference, because they seem to be unconscious of its existence. Shoe-Boots, (or the Game Cock,) formed a part of the corps of reserve, and was quite restless under the inactivity to which he was doomed. Observing at a distance the astonishing boldness and good fortune of Monohoe, he remarked to an officer standing near him, that, with a single fire of his rifle, he could put an end to the strife. “Let me,” said he, “but bore with a bullet the false tongue of Monohoe, and those dogs who trust in him will fight no longer.”
Without waiting for an answer, but greatly tickled with his own idea, Shoe-Boots ran off in the direction of the subject of his remarks, regardless of the shower of bullets falling around him, until he came within “point blanc” shot of Monohoe, when he stopped, and elevating his rifle, took deliberate aim at the mouth of the prophet. The bullet, true to the mark, took effect, and Monohoe fell, to the horror of those fighting by his side.
Had Shoe-Boots been contented with his exploit, and immediately retreated, all might have been well. But perceiving his success, and proud of his achievement, he struck his arms against his side, in imitation of the flapping of a chicken's wings, and crowed oft and loudly. But his triumph was exceedingly brief, for the savages, although disheartened, were also enraged at the fall of their prophet, and made one general and deadly discharge of their rifles, and retreated from their breastworks. Like the ancient Parthians, their retreating fire was not the least destructive, and Shoe-Boots was among its victims; and, like the nervous Judge of Israel, the intrepid Indian found triumph and death in the same instant. As Shoe-Boots had foreseen, the hopes of the enemy expired with Monohoe, and nothing like regular resistance was longer maintained. Still they asked no quarters, but from the thick coverts within which they were enabled to conceal themselves, stragglers continued to annoy the American army.
The Commander-in-chief, now humanely anxious to prevent farther carnage on either side, desired to communicate to the enemy under a flag of truce his benevolent purposes. But in the present temper of the savages there was little reason to hope that respect would be accorded to that sacred symbol in civilized warfare, and the post of its bearer would be one of extreme danger. Eoneguski removed all difficulty by offering himself to the task—was accepted, and proceeded on his hazardous errand. Aymor with others kept within such distance that they might render aid if necessary. Eoneguski had just proclaimed in a loud voice, and in the Indian tongue, the message of mercy, when Aymor discovered an old Indian thrusting out his gun from an ambuscade, and levelling it at the speaker. Instantly his own was directed against the head of the sly savage, who was too intently engaged in his object to perceive him. With haste Aymor drew the trigger, and anticipated the deadly purpose of the assailant. The convulsive grasp of death discharged the rifle of the purposed assassin, but his bullet flew aimless. Eoneguski and Aymor had only time to discover at the same moment that it was their old enemy Chuheluh, to whom Heaven had awarded the just fate of perishing by his own devices, when numberless bullets, flying in that direction, one of which slightly wounded Eoneguski in the breast, convinced them that their post was hardly tenable. The unequal contest was now resumed, in which the hope-forsaken savages seemed to court destruction, and it is probable they would have been in this gratified to a man, had not night spread over them her mantle of protection.
Aymor repaired to the spot where he left Welch, whom, beyond his most sanguine hope, he found still breathing, but utterly insensible. With the aid of friends he conveyed him to the hospital of the American army, and put him in the reach of surgical assistance. He obtained permission to be with him while the army remained stationary, and had the satisfaction of finding the efforts of the surgeon soon successful in restoring him to sensation. The promise of recovery quickly succeeded, and before Aymor was forced to leave him mutual explanations had taken place between them, in which it appeared that Welch had, since his last interview with Atha, led the life of an unhappy wanderer, at a loss what to do until he encountered the army of General Jackson, with which he had united himself, partly from patriotism, and partly to find excitement for a depressed mind. For Aymor's part, as soon as the Indian war had fairly broken out, he found his old military passion returning, and with his former rank of sergeant, entered General Graham's corps as a volunteer. This corps had not yet united with the Southern army, but Aymor had been sent to reconnoitre, and had fallen in with General Jackson just in time for the battle of Tohopeka.
It was agreed that as soon as Welch was recovered, he should repair to Aymor's residence, on the Homony, and in the mean time Aymor should keep to himself the knowledge of his existence, lest it might not be well received by some of the Indians present, and farther lest as his recovery was yet doubtful, hope might be excited in the minds of those dear to him, only to render their disappointment the more severe. The latter consideration acquired additional consequence from what Aymor told Welch of the existence of his mother, and the harassing state of hope and fear in which she had so long been kept concerning him. After these explanations the two friends were compelled to separate, Aymor leaving Welch with the rest of the wounded, while he himself went on with the army in the fulfilment of his duties as a soldier.
Unconquer'd—yet when at his side
His boldest and his wisest died;
Yet he escap'd—though he might hear
The hunters round him uproar make,
And bullets whisper'd death was near;
Nor yet his limbs had learn'd to quake,
Nor his heart caught the taint of fear.
TO an opinion once deliberately formed the mind clings with the grasp of death, and the tenacity with which it is holden is generally in a ratio with its opposition to reason. The cause probably is, that such opinions are originally adopted merely because they are agreeable, and being so, their identity with truth is not much examined. They are chosen by the mind, as it were, from affection, and not of right, and some passion, always more sensitive than the understanding, would be violated in their surrender. There is nothing more deplorably wretched and naked than the human mind, when stripped of some comfortable robe of opinion, in which she has seen fit to array herself, stolen by falsehood from truth, and officiously lent her. Overwhelmed with shame, she droops into inactivity, and scarcely makes an effort to seek for more substantial and tenable clothing. Or, to drop the figure, when some reliance for security from danger, which has been looked to with confidence, proves, at the crisis, entirely unavailing, a person is prone to give up in despair, instead of striving to obtain some better dependance.
It is in a contrary course of conduct that elevated minds are distinguished from the vulgar, and that courage and genius make their most striking displays. The credulous hope entertained by the hostile savages, that there was a magic virtue in the Holy Ground, which had not been tested, was now generally known among the Americans, and had not escaped the ears of the Commander-in-chief. Rumor also said, a few days after their signal defeat at the Horseshoe, that they were already embodied in this fortress of their strength, with a determination to succeed, or re-enact, with increased ferocity, the scenes of Tohopeka. Thither the American General resolved immediately to pursue them, and follow up the blow he had just given, before they had time to recover from its stunning influence. With this view, as soon as arrangements could be made suitable to the decisive character of the movement, he took up his march for the Holy Ground.
The dauntless Weatherford, the brave brave but unsuccessful hero of so many battles, strove in vain to infuse his own confident spirit into such of his compatriots as were left after their defeat at Tohopeka. But the voice of Monohoe was wanting, to wake, with its mystic spell, their languishing hopes, by dispensing imaginary promises from Heaven, with a jugglery that defied detection. Nor was it merely that his voice was wanting to summon up their blood, but, like the primitive Christians, they were laboring under that depression which necessarily followed the beholding him, to whom they had implicitly trusted as their Saviour, dying like a common man, and consigned to corruption. The shepherd had been smitten, and the sheep were consequently scattered in dismay. With Monohoe fell the confidence of those who had heretofore believed in his promises and predictions, and at the same time was their faith shaken in the mystic security of the Holy Ground.
The efforts of Weatherford were ineffectual to rally there a number of followers sufficient, by their natural force, to make even a show of resistance. But one hope, therefore, remained, and even his masculine mind became disposed to cling to it, as the drowning mariner seizes upon the slightest object floating upon the surface of the great deep, in the desperate trust that it may possibly prove the means of his deliverance.
The last hope of Weatherford and his followers was, that their prophets might not after all be lying prophets, and that the Great Spirit would, indeed, by his Almighty power, retain for his red children the exclusive possession of the Holy Ground. He therefore gathered around him the small group that remained of the countless force, with which he had, a few months before, gone forth to battle, to watch with composure the result—to witness with triumph some signal destruction of their enemies, as soon as they should place their unhallowed feet upon the consecrated ground—or yield themselves, with calm resignation, to resistless power—resolved to encounter, with unshrinking fortitude, any tortures to which vengeance might subject them. The experiment, pregnant with the fate of themselves and posterity, was now to be made.
All that could be done, in their own strength, had been already tried by the red people, to reclaim the dominion their ancestors had, for moons without number, maintained over the boundless continent, and bequeathed to them. Their efforts had been worse than fruitless, and unless an Almighty power now wrought for them, the empire of the whites must be established forever. That the destruction of the whites might be as general and effectual as possible, Weatherford and his party took their stand on the southern extremity of the Holy Ground, that, in the pursuit, the whole American army might be decoyed, like an entire flock of birds, into a vast net.
Meantime the American General pressed on with his victorious army, anticipating a last conflict, more severe than all that had preceded it. With that characteristic foresight which so happily mingled with his natural boldness of temper, he was ever on the qui vive against an ambuscade, the favorite artifice of savage warfare. But all was stillness and desolation as he passed along, as if some destructive blast had swept before him on his path, and borne a way every hostile creature, as the dried leaves are carried by the winds of autumn. The villages were tenantless, and not an unfriendly Indian of any age or sex was visible.
The army of the United States entered the mysterious covert of the sacred woods—their unhallowed feet were pressing upon the mystic soil—and yet the Heavens were calm above them—nor did the indignant earth open to receive them. No angry cloud muttered its thunders—nor did any sudden quaking of nature indicate the presence of an avenging Deity. Onward the army passed over the rich unctuous ground, and beneath the massy branches of those time-rooted hickories, that had waved for ages unseen by the eye of a single white man—and yet not a red skin was found in this sanctuary of their hopes.
The savages at length beheld their advance; they perceived that the whole American army was within the sacred precincts, and in a few moments more would have traversed its whole extent. The smile with which Hope had continued to cheer them was now suddenly withdrawn, and they contemplated in sadness the last wave of her pinion, as she flew forever from he sacred grove, of which she had been so long and so constantly a tenant.
The savages in their turn, became visible to their enemies, and, as quick as thought, the American army was in order of battle, and making preparations for a desperate conflict. Courage and fear were stirring the hearts of the brave and the timid, in the immediate prospect of a bloody strife, when a single Indian warrior was seen advancing towards the American Commander-in-chief, from the hostile ranks, with slow but resolute steps. No weapon was in his hand, save an unstrung bow, which, with down cast eyes, he seemed contemplating as he moved along.
“I am Weatherford,” he said, as he approached the General.—“I am in your power; do with me as you please.—I am a soldier.—I have done to your nation all the harm that I could.—I have fought them, and fought them bravely.—If I had an army, I would fight them still.—I am the last among my people to say we will fight no longer.—But I have no army.—My people are all gone.—Nothing is left to me but to weep over the misfortunes of my nation.”
Struck with the noble bearing of the speaker, the boldness and force, yet deep pathos, of his remarks, the General replied—
“I do not ask you to lay down your arms.—The United States does not solicit you for peace.—But the terms on which your nation can be saved have been already disclosed to you.—Upon these, and no other, can peace be granted.—But if it is your wish to continue the war, no advantage shall be taken of you.—Although in my power, you may yet go free—you are at liberty to join the war party.—But remember, if hereafter you are taken in arms, you will have forfeited your life.—If you really desire peace, remain where you are, and you shall be protected.”
“Now you may well address me thus;” replied the undaunted warrior—“there was a time when I had a choice, and could have answered you.—I have none now.—Even hope has ended.—Our grain and cattle are all wasted and destroyed, and our women and children are perishing with hunger.—Once I could animate my warriors to battle, but I cannot animate the dead.—My warriors can no longer hear my voice—their bones are at Talledega, Tallushatchee, Emucfaw, and Tohopeka.—Weatherford comes not thus unarmed without reflection.—While hope remained, I never left my post, or supplicated peace.—But my people are gone, and I now ask it for my nation and for myself.—You are a brave man—I rely on your generosity.”
With Weatherford's submission, whose example was followed by all that remained of the hostile tribes, except a few who retreated to the wilds of Florida, the war was ended, and a treaty having been entered into, by which the boundary lines of the several tribes of Indians were settled, Eoneguski and the rest of the disbanded followers of General Jackson, returned to their respective homes.
In the conditions of the treaty Eoneguski was desirous that the noble stream having its source in the State of South Carolina, passing through a corner of North Carolina, cutting, for a considerable extent, three other large States, and finally losing itself in the great Ohio River, should, with the lands lying along it, be acknowledged as the property of his tribe. This claim was founded upon an alleged ancient possession, in proof of which tradition was referred to, as well as the name of the stream itself, being the Cherokee or Tennessee River. But Eoneguski was compelled to acquiesce in terms much less advantageous. Through the valley of this great stream had been the path of Tecumseh, in his late fatal visit to the Southern tribes of Indians, and the great politician, as well as warrior, of the United States, negotiating with his yet unsheathed sword, dripping with hostile blood, declared that a communication so dangerously inviting between the Northern and Southern Indians, must be closed forever. From his flat there was no appeal, and the treaty was concluded upon the terms he prescribed. His was a spirit destined to impress its genius upon the times in which he lived, and control, by its force, the current of events. By its association with him, a tree before unknown in story, has usurped the place of the laurel, and the Hickory, which abounded in one of the scenes of his numerous military triumphs, has become consecrated to Fame. He has, in his extraordinary career, made it alike the badge of martial glory and of civic honor—and his death is destined to give it yet farther dignity, and render its leaf emblematic of an imperishable name.
Had she been true—
If Heaven would make me such another world,
Of one entire and perfect chrysolite—
I'd not have sold her for it.
IT is in the approving smile of woman that the warrior of all complexions, and all ages, has sought the reward of his toils, dangers, and self-denials. At the feet of a mother, a sister, a wife, or a mistress, are laid his blood-stained laurels, to wither or to flourish, as she may determine.
Towards Tesumtoe, then, on his way homeward, did the heart of Eoneguski turn with hope and fear, both awakened to increased intensity. “She will no longer despise me as a coward,” he said to himself—“and will rejoice that my hand is not stained with the blood of John Welch, when she learns that he is her own kinsman.”
Months had now elapsed since unexplained scruples had ruffled the even current of his wooing, and he trembled to learn that they had been confirmed or abandoned. His generous nature had never for a moment attached suspicion to Gideon, neither had his worst fears pointed to the danger of a rival. Doubly severe, then, was his trial, when, arriving at Tesumtoe, he learned that the Little Deer had not only resolved to extinguish his hopes, but had actually become the wife of his treacherous friend. The influence gained over her by Thompson had been successfully used for inflaming the objections of prudence and religion to her union with Eoneguski, and exalting into duty and necessity an alliance with Gideon.
Availing themselves of the first moment of weakness, the ungenerous lover and the unprincipled priest, had riveted upon their victim a chain which nothing but death could sever. Thompson married them, according to the formulary of that church of which he was a priest, and the bride a member. Yenacona was induced, by a number of considerations, reluctantly to witness a rite which held, in her estimation, the rank of a sacrament, performed by one whose divine authority she could not fully recognise.
It was not long after the solemnization of these nuptials, that intelligence reached Tesumtoe of the total overthrow of the hostile savages, and Thompson conceiving his situation no longer safe, made a precipitate retreat from the Indian nation, leaving Gideon to manage his affairs in the best way he could. From thenceforth obscurity again rested upon the fate of the missionary—he was never more heard of, and it is not impossible that, like many other cowards, he ran into the grasp of danger in his very endeavor to flee from it—that he perished in some of the mountain wilds by the hand of some straggling Indian, moved by covetousness, or perhaps revenge, as the friend of Eoneguski, for the part Thompson was supposed to have taken in causing his disappointment with the Little Deer.
Language cannot describe the stunning effect upon the Indian chief of learning the total wreck of his hopes; the annihilation of what had been to him, as an individual, for so long a time, the mainspring of action. But no exclamation escaped him—silent and downcast he pursued his way homeward, like one disgraced and discomfited; and not as a victor bearing on his brow the wreath of triumph. Violent was the inward struggle, yet faint were its outward indications upon his placid countenance. Dark thoughts of vengeance at times crowded themselves upon his soul, and the false heart of Gideon already, in his fancy, quivered in agony, as its dark recesses were searched by the blade of his scalping-knife. But better thoughts, the inborn offspring of his own noble spirit, rose indignant, and chased away these base intruders.
“No!” he said, internally—“Gideon is the son of Robert Aymor, the friend of Eonah, the benefactor of Eoneguski—but for Robert Aymor the false Chuheluh had laid Eoneguski low at Tohopeka.—Did Robert Aymor save the life of Eoneguski that he might slay his son?—No! rather let Eoneguski die, and let Gideon live and be happy.—And is not Gideon young?” he continued—“and did he come unasked to look upon the beauty of the Little Deer?—Why did Eoneguski bring Gideon from the Homony to gaze upon the beauty of the Little Deer, and forget his friend in the madness of intoxication?” And then would his mind turn with crimination upon the Little Deer; and, like other unfortunate lovers, the falsehood and duplicity of the sex became fruitful themes for bitter reflection. The revengeful wish was now and then half formed that her union might prove unhappy, and that stung with disappointment, the inconstant beauty might have reason vainly to repine at her unwise selection. But honest shame for the weakness would strangle in the birth the ungenerous sentiment. “No!” would he murmur to himself—“let her live, and be as happy as her fathers in the land of the blessed.—May her corn be abundant—her table ever spread with game and venison.—May the sun always be bright in her sky, and may her husband cherish her forever with a love as strong and durable as would have been that of Eoneguski.”
Such were the thoughts which, in the first transports of disappointment, agitated the bosom of the Cherokee chief; but he soon began to look with more calmness upon his destiny, resolving to lead a life of celibacy, and fix the paternal feelings of his bosom, thus forever cut off from their natural objects, upon the whole people of Eonee, and hold them as the extensive family of his affection.
But he was not long suffered to enjoy, unmolested, this new dream of mitigated happiness and philosophic content. Scarcely had the treaty been signed which ascertained the territorial rights of the Cherokee Indians, when the covetous eyes of the neighboring white people were fixed upon the fairest portion of their possessions, and commissioners were appointed to negotiate for a purchase. The sad experience of past times filled Eoneguski with the most painful forebodings of the result. To negotiate had been, in the history of the intercourse between the white and the red men, but a term to express less harshly a declaration, on the part of the former what lands they wanted of the latter; the price they were willing to pay; and their determination to have them at that price, “peaceably if they could, forcibly if they must.” The village of his birth; the scene of his early sports; of his youthful affections; of his manly trials; the hearthstone; the tombs; the ashes of his fathers; were all included in the present demand. With a prophetic eye he saw them already surrendered to the relentless grasp of the stranger, and the simple red men abandoning, in bitterness of soul, the homes of their fathers, which they ardently desired, but wanted the sagacity to retain.
But the Eonee chief determined not to surrender, without an effort of peaceful opposition, these dear possessions, and accordingly passed with rapid and unwearied footsteps from one portion to another of the Cherokee country, entreating and urging the leading men of his tribe, by the most thrilling appeals, and the most convincing arguments, not to consent to the sale of their territory. He had the mortification, though not unexpected by him, of finding himself, in many instances, already forestalled, and that the personal advantages promised to some of the chiefs had blinded their eyes to official duty, and to the interests of those for whom they were acting as representatives. His mortification was, however, not unmingled with satisfaction, at ascertaining that a great number entered warmly into his views and feelings, and there was a flattering probability that, in the council to be holden relative to the measure, his own party might prove the stronger.
Gideon Aymor, by his marriage with the Little Deer, had acquired a voice potential, both as the immediate chief of Tesumtoe, and also as being, by alliance, the representative of the Cherokee kings, and consequently presiding chief of the nation. A white man, in all his prejudices and feelings, and destitute of any local attachments to spots sacred in the eyes of the whole Cherokee tribe, he was easily operated upon, by a considerable pecuniary advantage, personal to himself, to throw his whole weight in favor of the sale.
Eoneguski and Gideon were thus fully arrayed against each other, as the leaders of their respective parties. The irritation of their late rivalry in love had, it might be supposed, scarcely yet subsided, when they were thus chafed into open personal strife by their political relations. Each was indefatigable in enlisting partisans, in anticipation of the council that was to determine whether the ground on which their contest was chiefly maintained was to be alienated, or remain the property of its aboriginal possessors. They frequently met, and their strife occasionally grew so warm as to threaten an immediate and bloody issue.
The eventful day at length arrived, and with it the commissioners of the United States, at Eonee. They spent the greater part of it in submitting their proposals to the assembled chiefs, and operating upon the hopes, the fears, the ambition, and avarice of the respective members of the council, according as they were most assailable. The night was dark and cloudy, but the council fires were lighted, and the grave leaders of the Cherokee nation were seated around them to debate the important question. Long and heated was the debate, and, at a late hour in the night, the party of Gideon prevailed, by a small majority. No expression of dissatisfaction or disappointment escaped the lips of the discomfited party, but in an instant, as if upon a preconcerted signal, the council fires were extinguished, and the clashing of warlike weapons broke in upon the stillness. Next came heavy blows, and then deep groans of agony. No articulate sound was heard in the thickmêlée, but the voice of Eoneguski, calling upon both parties to cease their unnatural strife, and reminding them they were brethren.—That, according to the customs of their nation, a vote had fairly been taken, and that it was the duty of the vanquished party to submit peaceably to a result which, however he might himself regret, was yet lawful. For a long time his entreaties were like the breath of the winds upon the troubled ocean, serving only to aggravate the fearful turmoil.—But at length the sounds of strife grew fainter. Eoneguski had placed himself between the contending parties, and, at the infinite peril of his own person, accompanied the mediatorial accents of his voice, by intercepting many a deadly blow from each side directed against an adversary.
Towards the close of the scene, by the dim light, he discovered Gideon near him, bleeding and bloody, yet pressing on fiercely towards his antagonists. Now was vengeance for all his wrongs within the grasp of the Cherokee chief—his enemy within his reach, wounded, exhausted, and blind with passion—himself fresh, uninjured, cool and collected—a single blow of his vigorous arm could lay the traitor dead at his feet, and none would suspect from whence the destruction came. The Little Deer might yet console him amid his afflictions.—“Gideon,” he said, in a voice which, in spite of himself, quivered with emotion, “cease from blood.—It is Eoneguski.—It is thy friend who speaks.—His heart is warm with the memory of days that are past.—He has forgotten his displeasure.—Let Gideon live and be happy, and fill with comfort the heart of the Little Deer.”
At this moment a stout Indian was rushing upon Gideon, with his tomahawk elevated, to cleave him to the earth. There was no time for warning or interference, when a pale shadow passed between the white man and the assailing Indian. The shriek of a female was heard, as the tomahawk descended. The blood spouted out, both upon Gideon and Eoneguski, from the deep gash made by the trenchant weapon, as the shadow fell to the earth. Surprise at what had happened, chained motionless the lately impetuous Indian, and he did not renew his attack upon Gideon. Dark as it was, the battle ceased instantly, as it would have done in some ancient tournament, when the dropping of the warder's staff indicated the pleasure of the presiding power.
“A light! a light!” was the quick cry from both Gideon and Eoneguski. Not long were they in rekindling a yet smoking firebrand, and bearing it to the spot where a young female lay upon the ground, with the blood gushing freely from her heart, in which the tomahawk had been deeply buried. She had evidently been handsome, although now an emaciated skeleton. Her dress, and the expression yet lingering in her countenance, proclaimed that the fair and now lifeless body had recently been the tenement of an insane spirit.—This was all that could be read of her history by any present—save one. Gideon Aymor no sooner caught a glimpse of her face, half concealed by the blood-stained tresses, than he passionately exclaimed—“It is Patty Stevens!” and, turning away, retired from the scene.
Deeply affected were both the savages and the American commissioners, when they looked upon this innocent victim of a strife, to which they were all in some measure parties, and interest actively awoke to learn her story.
In that mysterious way, in which the most secret facts, if they possess any interest, gain publicity, the delicate and sentimental attachment of the sensitive creature to Gideon became known; and it farther appeared that, after his second departure to the Indian country, she continued to decline.—That her chief comfort was the society of her friend Atha, until, by an occurrence not uncommon in the history of consumption, the pulmonary excitement was transferred to the brain, and she became frantic. After a time the violent symptoms of frenzy subsided, and her malady assumed the form of quiet melancholy, accompanied by a total absence of her reasoning powers. In this state of mind her extreme attachment to Atha continued to manifest itself, and she would not consent to be long out of her presence.
Soon after his marriage with the Little Deer, Gideon sent for his sister Atha, to whom many considerations concurred in making the invitation not less acceptable than exciting, and she accordingly went. The hapless victim of insanity, missing her friend, became restless and impatient, and finally made her escape, and arrived at Tesumtoe half starved and emaciated, by the precarious subsistence she had met with in her wanderings. There she took no notice of any one but Atha, whom she was delighted to see, manifesting her pleasure by all the indications proper to childhood. Of Gideon she seemed to have no recognisance; but on the day of his departure to attend the council at Eonee, she also was missing. Doubtless she was led by an inexplicable instinct, for which the insane are remarkable, and had lingered unseen, as a sort of guardian spirit over the author of her misfortunes, until the clashing of arms brought her within the area where the council had been holden. She was just in time to interpose her own life between his and the weapon destined for its destruction.
Several Indians, dead and wounded, were found upon the scene of strife, but the number was far less than might have been expected, unquestionably owing, in a great measure, to the interference of Eoneguski.
My task is done—my song hath ceas'd—my theme
Has died into an echo; it is fit
The spell should break of this protracted dream, * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
And what is writ—is writ;
Would it were worthier * * *
THE fruitless struggle was over, and the morning sun rose upon the stark and bloody bodies of the few Indians who had secured to themselves the possession of at least a few feet of their native soil, by dying in the contest for its destiny, and the contract was signed by which that beautiful country, now constituting the County of Macon, in North Carolina, was transferred from the Cherokees to the white people.
As soon as the dead bodies of the Indians, who had fallen, were committed to the earth, and the other necessary arrangements could be made, the remains of Patty Stevens, attended by the American Commissioners, Yenacona, Atha, Gideon, the Little Deer, and a very large number of Indians, including Eoneguski, were conveyed to the Homony with imposing solemnity, to repose forever beside its murmuring waters.
Robert Aymor, who had returned from the South-western expedition, was greatly excited when he saw the distant party winding its way along the road we have so often had occasion to mention, and his parental bosom was disquited with apprehensions for one or both of his absent children. He was not long however in learning the melancholy truth, or in mingling his sympathy with the grief of the bereaved parents, who were summoned to his residence, where the funeral party had halted. The piteous tidings spread quickly to all the little farm-houses which skirted the Homony, and their tenants came flocking in to pay their last testimony of respect to their neighbor's daughter.
When all that could reasonably be expected had arrived, and preparations were making to convey the deceased to her narrow bed, two individuals apparently fatigued and travel-worn, were seen approaching. No circumstances, however affecting, are sufficient to quell in the human heart the principle of curiosity, and few eyes but were now turned from that calm and quiet object lying before them, in the melancholy beauty of death, to the two persons advancing; and many were not long in detecting in one of them their lost acquaintance John Welch. The imagination of the reader must supply what followed this discovery. Deep sorrow and intense joy were seen mingling their currents—and tears for the dead were blended with shouts of joy for the unhoped for return of the living.
“By de powers my man,” said Welch's companion, “may de divil fly away wid me if I know wheder to laugh or cry whin I look you way, and say de poor crater yonder, just about de age of my own Marry lying stiff and cowld, and de owld man and woman waping over har as if deir hearts were breaking—by de powers says I, but I must wape wid dem.—But I turn on de idder side, and sais de sparkle of de eye, and de smiling faces wid which so manny are resaiving you, and Jonathan, siz I, you may jist as will go crazy at onest wid plishure.”
When the excitement was a little over—“Who is this you have brought with you here,” said Aymor, in an under tone to Welch.
“He is one,” replied Welch, “to whom I am greatly indebted—he is both a physician and blacksmith, and is commonly called Dr. Wooddie.”
“I am no stranger to him by name, although I have not to my knowledge seen him before,” answered Aymor—“but he is heartily welcome to the Homony, both on your account, and his own.”
Doctor Wooddie was soon at home in the house of Robert Aymor, and it is only necessary to add, by way of explanation of his arrival with Welch, that having gone as a volunteer on the Southwestern expedition, he lingered a little after his discharge on his way homeward, and arrived at the place where Welch was recovered of his wound, just in time to accompany him to the Homony in his progress towards home.
As soon as the simple ceremony of interring the young martyr to innocent affection was over, most of Robert Aymor's guests departed, including the Commissioners, who had completed their business, and the large body of the Indians who had attended them thus far. Some of the guests remained to witness the espousals of John Welch and Atha, to which there was not only no longer any impediment, but they met the hearty approbation of the friends and relations of both parties.
Eoneguski was reluctantly one of those who remained, but consented to do so that he might thereby testify the sincerity of his reconciliation with Welch, as well as conceal any appearance of chagrin at the disappointment of his hopes by the Little Deer.
As soon as the wedding was over, Doctor Wooddie prosecuted his return to his blacksmith's and doctor's shop, on the Blue Ridge, to his termagant wife and sooty children, living to this day not only in fact, but in the everlasting records of the acts of Assembly.
A few days more, and Aymor parted not only with all his guests, but two of his children, who had, by marriage, become duly incorporated with the red people, whom, in the aggregate, he detested, however much he might esteem and regard particular individuals. Soon afterwards old lawyer Johns carried off his second daughter, and has contributed his share, notwithstanding his very late beginning, to the fast growing population of the western region.
Robert Aymor, now well stricken in years, with the dignified title of General Aymor, with a numerous posterity around him, still dwells on the Homony. As the hero of two wars, he was elected to represent his county in the General Assembly, where he was also chosen a Brigadier General of the State militia.
His wife Dolly was delighted with this latter dignity, and in the joy of her heart, exclaimed upon his return home—“Bob Aymor, they tell me that they have made you a Gineral—What shall I be called now?”
“An old fool, as you always were;” replied the impatient husband, provoked at this new instance of his wife's folly. But he very soon, by some act of kindness, bound up the wound he had inflicted, and this ill-matched couple are likely to jog on to the end of their journey, as harmoniously as most whom fortune has paired, living in habits of intimacy with their old neighbors Welch and Stevens, who, with their respective wives, are still spared by Providence.
After becoming the father of several children, lawyer Johns paid nature's great debt, and the places that once knew him, now know him no more. It is more than probable a similar fate has befallen the rest of the legal corps, practising at Waynesville, at the time mentioned in our story.
For many years after our acquaintance with him in the vicinity of Waynesville, the hospitable mansion of Mr. Holland invited to its ever open door the wayworn traveller, who always departed with his body recruited, by a comfortable bed and wholesome viands, and his spirit refreshed by the unpretending piety and moral excellence of the worthy family, at the head of which the old man forcibly reminded him of one of the ancient patriarchs
John Welch and Gideon Aymor, with their respective wives, and Yenacona, whose life, passing like a stormy day, now promised to close in brightness and peace, took an affecting leave of their friends on the Homony. To Robert Aymor's family the latter during her short visit had greatly endeared herself, and planted in the hearts of the younger members seeds of piety, which, in due time, it is to be hoped, sprang up into everlasting life.
John Welch determined to assume the rights his maternity conferred upon him, and take his proper station in the great Cherokee family. On his arrival in the “Nation,” he adopted the name of Oocomoo, which had been given him in infancy by the natives. His birthright divested Gideon of the chieftainship of Tesumtoe, as well as the principality of the whole Cherokee tribe—Oocomoo being descended from the oldest fruitful branch of the family of Moytoy. Besides this, the venerable Santuchee, who, preceded by his faithful Wattuna, had long been trembling on the very verge of existence, and was finally precipitated into the grave, by the determination of the tribe to alienate the lands in which Sugar Town was included, committed his people with his last breath, to the guardianship of Oocomoo.
Tesumtoe was also within the territory recently transferred to the white people, and consequently all such of its late proprietors as were not willing to mingle with the whites, subject to all the disadvantages of their tawny complexions, were compelled to seek for themselves another place of residence. Nothing remained to the tribe of those possessions, which once constituted the middle settlements; and a small corner on the Hiwassee was all that was left of their formerly innumerable Valley towns. On the Hiwassee Gideon, in right of his wife, was a large proprietor, and there determined to fix his home, where, profiting by his recent striking lessons of the heart, and the example of his amiable and pious wife, he lived prosperously, and, by comparison, virtuously, rearing a numerous and well-trained offspring. But arrangements, which extinguished the Indian title on the eastern side of the father of waters, forced him at length to seek a distant and untried home, teaching him, by bitter experience, the natural tendency of those measures which, opposed by Eoneguski, had been advocated by himself.
Oocomoo, with his wife and mother, as the head chief of his tribe, transferred his residence, immediately after his marriage, to the Overhill territory, where he remained until the event above mentioned, against the occurrence of which he made every effort in his power. Previous to his departure for the “Far West,” nature, as if reluctant to remove Yenacona so distant from the remains of her beloved De Lisle, peacefully terminated her earthly trials, and gave to all of her that was mortal a resting place in her own land. She desired to be buried after the Christian manner, and that a plain black cross might mark the place of her sepulture at Tesumtoe. Her request was strictly complied with, and Oocomoo and Atha dropped tears of affectionate regret over the extraordinary being, to whom the former owed his birth, ere they turned, with reluctant footsteps, to the untrodden wilds on the westward of the great Mississippi.
Eoneguski foresaw with sagacious eye, that the red men, as a nation, were to find no permanent resting place until driven, like the predecessors of his fathers, beyond the ken of those who now coveted their possessions. He felt that the people of Eonee were dissolved, as a family, as soon as it was decided that their town must be sold, and that they should remove from those objects around which their affections had so long rallied in common. All the strong ties that bound him to his tribe had thus been severed;—towards it he felt no longer drawn by those affections of the heart which would have led him to exclaim, in the beautiful and pathetic language of the Bible, “Whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge—thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God—where thou diest I will die, and there also will I be buried.” He preferred still to linger near the scenes of his joys and his afflictions—of his hopes and disappointments—where a tear of filial piety might occasionally water the grave of Eonah, and the pleasing dreams of his youth revisit his heart by the pale light of memory, while walking among the objects with which they were associated.
Having made known his purpose to his tribe, he accordingly converted all his property into moveables, and purchased of the State of North Carolina a large body of land upon the waters of the Oconalufty, in the County of Haywood.
Thither he was followed by a number of his people, amounting to upwards of an hundred, who dwell on his lands, cultivating them for their own benefit, yielding to him only a competent support, and looking up to him as a father. Like the chieftain of a Highland clan in Scotland, he possesses over them unlimited control, but exercises it only with kindness and benevolence.
Wissa, no longer a slave, but, according to the promise of Eonah, fulfilled by his dutiful son, a freeman, holds for this fragment of the red family the post of linkister, and conducts in that capacity its intercourse with the whites, with so much integrity and propriety as to maintain for it that high respect which the noble and elevated character of its head is so well calculated to inspire.
With this faithful attendant upon his steps, may Eoneguski occasionally be seen, during the sessions of courts, both at Waynesville and Franklin. The latter is the ancient site of Eonee, and the county seat of Macon County, as Waynesville is of Haywood. At Franklin a deeper shade of melancholy settles over the countenance of our hero than at Waynesville, but at either place the beholder is struck with his dignified and interesting appearance, and is irresistibly led to inquire, “Who is that?” The answer is always given in that subdued manner and tone of voice indicative of the deep respect, approaching to reverence, with which the speaker is accustomed to look upon his person—“It is Eoneguski.—It is the old Chief.”
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