BY MORRISON HEADY.
SOUTHERN METHODIST PUBLISHING HOUSE.
Entered, according to Act of Congress, in the year 1884,
BY THE BOOK AGENTS OF THE METHODIST EPISCOPAL CHURCH, SOUTH,
in the Office of the Librarian of Congress, at Washington.
Some one has said that inasmuch as the Preface to a book is the last thing that is written, it ought to be the last that is read. I suppose that some readers prefer to omit the Preface until they have read the book, for many writers, Lord Lytton among the number, really destroy the illusion of a work of fiction by specifying the conditions under which it was written. A certain amount of faith in the reality of the things recorded is, to many minds, essential to true enjoyment of the story.
However the case may be, I prefer that the reader of this volume should read these lines of mine before he proceeds farther. The author of this little book is both blind and deaf! For many years he has been absolutely blind. He has utterly lost the sense of hearing also; and whilst he speaks with singular clearness, and with some modulation of voice, he can receive no communication from his fellow-creatures except through an alphabet which he carries upon his hand! Every word must be spelled letter by letter.
Thus deprived of two of his senses, it is a marvel that he is able to write at all. That he has written a book of more than ordinary interest I am sure the reader will decide when he has read it. There are passages of true poetry scattered here and there, and some descriptive scenes that will not suffer by comparison with those of the best of living authors. Under other circumstances, I would exercise my editorial prerogative, and change the form of some of his expressions; but the style of Mr. Heady is peculiar: it is his own, and the merit of originality should not be denied to him, even in those rare instances in which he breaks away from the trammels of recognized laws of language.
I am sure that the knowledge of the infirmities under which this author writes will secure to him a lenient spirit of criticism, whilst it inspires admiration in view of the great excellence of his work. Not a line, not a word of complaint against the Providence that has afflicted him—not the slightest allusion to his personal disabilities—will be found anywhere in this volume. The spirit of the writer is cheerful, to the verge of gayety itself. He has a keen sense of the ridiculous, and exhibits a quiet humor which is couched in quaint and striking phrases.
How thankful ought we to be, to whom the gracious God has given the use of all our senses! Should we not stand reproved in the presence of this blind and deaf man, who uses for the benefit of others the means that he possesses, whilst we, enjoying all of God's bounties, have made so little use of them? This work is a sermon to the despondent, complaining spirit, and a word of vigorous exhortation to the slothful man. May this moral of the book leave its record for good in the heart of every reader!
Book Editor, M.E. Church, South.
NASHVILLE, Dec., 1883.
Nearly twenty years had now elapsed since Daniel Boone had spent that memorable twelve-month all alone in the depths of the boundless wilderness; yet was Kentucky still the Hunter's Paradise, or the land of the Dark and Bloody Ground, just as the wild adventurer or peaceful laborer might happen to view it. In the more central regions, it is true, a number of thriving settlements had already sprung up, and by this time—1789, or thereabout—were quite too populous and strong to apprehend any further serious molestation from their Indian neighbors. But between these points and the Ohio River lay a wide border of debatable land, where the restless savages still kept up their hostile demonstrations, which, though less bloody and wasting than at an earlier period, were yet sufficiently frequent and harassing to keep the white settlers in perpetual disquietude and fear.
Sometimes different settlements would unite their forces into strong parties of from fifty to two hundred riflemen, when a dash would be made across the river and the war carried for a week or two into the enemy's country. But as the Indians, with their characteristic wariness, had usually timely notice of the approaching danger, and would abandon their villages for the more secure shelter of the forest, the white invaders could do little more in the way of vengeance and intimidation than burn the deserted towns and level the corn-fields to the ground. A brief interval of quiet would sometimes follow these raids; but it happened not unfrequently that the pioneers would hardly be back to their several stations, disbanded, and fairly at their labors in the field, when there again was the Indian war-whoop ringing along the periled border as melodiously as ever, and the pillaging, murdering, scalping, and burning going on in the good old orthodox fashion the pesky red ravagers loved so well.
What greatly aggravated this distressing state of things, Kentucky was still but a district of Virginia, hence powerless to use to the full extent the means of self-defense which otherwise had lain within her reach; while the seat of government was so remote from the scenes of disorder that the mother State could succor her infant settlements scarcely more than had they lain on the other side of the Rocky Mountains, instead of the Alleghenies. Thus trammeled, Kentucky could do little more than, like a tethered bison, butt at the dangers which year in and year out beset her on every side. To be sure, conventions composed of her best men, and having for their object her erection into a separate State of the Union, had been for the last three years, and for the next three years continued to be, as frequent as camp-meetings—quite as demonstrative too, and noisy, and quite as much to the purpose, so far as concerned the object in view. Why, does not beseem us here to inquire. Finally, just as the danger was over and gone, and the last hand of hostile Indians that ever raised the war-whoop in the land of the "Dark and Bloody Ground" had been driven across the Ohio, Kentucky was untrammeled, and suffered to rear her bleeding front among the mighty sisterhood of States—an independent, sovereign part of the independent, sovereign whole, as the phrase should go, until the great rebellion should call for new constructions and clear definitions. Thenceforth for twenty years the fiery lines of war receded fitfully northward, till stayed at the Battle of the Thames, quenched in the life-blood of the heroic, the high-minded, the hapless Tecumseh.
CHAPTER I. PAGE How Big Black Burl Figured in the Paradise 9
CHAPTER II. How Little Bushie Figured in the Paradise 17
CHAPTER III. How Big Black Burl and Bushie Figured in Each Other's Eyes 26
CHAPTER IV. How Somebody was Lost in the Paradise 39
CHAPTER V. How Grumbo Figured in the Paradise 46
CHAPTER VI. How Big Black Burl Figured on the War-path by Day 52
CHAPTER VII. How Big Black Burl Figured on the War-path by Night 60
CHAPTER VIII. How Big Black Burl Figured in a Quandary 67
CHAPTER IX. How Big Black Burl Figured in Ambush 73
CHAPTER X. How Big Black Burl Figured in the Fight 81
CHAPTER XI. How Little Bushie Figured in the Fight 90
CHAPTER XII. How Big Black Burl and Grumbo Figured After the Fight 99
CHAPTER XIII. How Big Black Burl Figured in his Triumph 109
CHAPTER XIV. How Big Black Burl Figured in Oratory 117
CHAPTER XV. How Big Black Burl Sewed it Up in his War-cap 127
CHAPTER XVI. How Big Black Burl Figured on the Peace-path 136
CHAPTER XVII. How the Glory of his Race Figured in his Rising 147
CHAPTER XVIII. How the Eagle and the Lion and the Big Bear Figured in the Great North-west 154
CHAPTER XIX. How Big Black Burl Figured at the Death-stake 164
CHAPTER XX. How Kumshakah Figured in The Light of the Setting Sun 174
CHAPTER XXI. How the Glory of his Race Figured in his Setting 180
HOW BIG BLACK BURL FIGURED IN THE PARADISE.
Six feet six he stood in his moccasins, yet seemed not tall, so broad he was and ponderously thick. He had an elephantine leg, with a foot like a black-oak wedge; a chimpanzean arm, with a fist like a black-oak maul; eyes as large and placid as those of an ox; teeth as large and even as those of a horse; skin that was not skin, but ebony; a nose that was not a nose, but gristle; hair that was not hair, but wool; and a grin that was not a grin, but ivory sunshine. Such was the outward man of Big Black Burl.
Brave as a lion, deliberate as a bear, patient as an ox, faithful as a mastiff, affectionate as a Newfoundland dog, sagacious as a crow, talkative as a magpie, and withal as cheery and full of song as a sky-lark. Such was the inward man of Big Black Burl.
Built up and limbed as just described, our hero, as you may well imagine, must have been a man of prodigious bodily strength. To be sure, a tall, supple, well-knit, athletic white man like Simon Kenton, for example, might, in a wrestling-match and by some unexpected sleight of foot, have kicked his heels from under him and brought him flat on his back with ease. But keeping him there would have been an altogether different matter. That would have taken Simon Kenton, Daniel Boone, and Benjamin Logan, all men of uncommon bone and muscle, and all upon him at once; and even then he would have tumbled and tousled them so lustily as at last to force them from sheer loss of breath to yield the point and let him up.
The station, in and around which our colored hero was wont to figure, was one of the most exposed points along the northern border, and, being the rendezvous of many of Kentucky's boldest hunters, was looked upon by the more interior settlements as their bulwark of defense against incursions of the Indians. Now, be it known that in the numerous skirmishes which took place in that quarter between the Reds and the Whites, Big Black Burl played a rather conspicuous part; proving himself for deeds of warlike prowess a signal illustration of African valor—a worthy representative, indeed, of his great countryman Mumbo Jumbo, the far-famed giant-king of Congo. In testimony whereof, there were the scalps of his enemies taken by his own hand in secret ambush and in open fight, and which, strung together like pods of red pepper, or cuttings of dried pumpkin, hung blackening in the smoke of his cabin.
Scalps! Your pardon, Christian reader; but the truth must be confessed, bald as it is, and worse than bald. It was the fashion of the day: the Reds took scalps and the Whites took scalps. It were, then, hardly fair in us to find fault with the Blacks for doing the same, especially as they could neither read nor write nor cipher, nor had been taught the absolute truths of any creed whence, as a natural consequence, proceeds that profound fixedness of belief which needs must make itself manifest in the persistent exemplification of every Christian virtue. Had they enjoyed these inestimable advantages, the Blacks—depend upon it—would have denied themselves so barbarous a luxury, and set a more Christian example to the unchristian Whites then dwelling in the Paradise. The glory of such a manifestation was reserved to the nineteenth century, when the lovers of the great brotherhood of man should discover and proclaim to the listening earth the latent saint inherent in the nature of ebony, from Ham, the favorite son of Noah, down to Uncle Tom, the best man that ever lived.
In the corn-field, barefooted and shirt-sleeved, Burl was like the patient, plodding, slow-paced ox; but let the alarm-cry of "Indians! Indians!" ring along the border, and in a trice, with moccasins on feet, war-cap on head, rifle on shoulder, tomahawk and limiting-knife in belt, he was out upon the war-path—a roaring lion, thirsting for scalps and glory. Indeed, so famous did he in time become for his martial exploits as to win for himself among Whites a distinguished title of "The Fighting Nigger;" while among the Reds, by whom he was regarded as a sort of Okeeheedee—half man and half devil—he grew to be known as "The Big Black Brave of the Bushy Head." When out on his "Injun" hunts, the Fighting Nigger usually chose to be alone. His instinct told him—and that monitor rarely spoke to Big Black Burl in vain—that he must not presume too far upon that fellowship into which, in virtue of his great achievements, the White hunters had condescended to admit him; lest familiarity, which breeds contempt, might incur him the risk of being snubbed, or thrust out altogether as an impertinent intruder, who had forgotten where he stood in the social scale. Whereas, by the general observance of this prudent policy, not only should he win additional commendations from his White superiors for additional deservings, but secure to himself the undivided honor of the scalps—the trophies of victory—taken by his own hand in battle. For, colored though he was, with a nose inclining neither to the Roman nor Grecian, our hero showed that he cherished a genuine, therefore jealous, love of glory. In this respect, we may liken the Fighting Nigger to such godlike specimens of our race as Alexander the Great; to Napoleon the Great; or, perhaps more fitly still, to Mumbo Jumbo the Great, the far-famed giant-king of Congo.
But if there was one thing in the Paradise that Big Black Burl loved more than scalps and glory, it was his little master, Bushie—or, as the name had been written down in the Good Book, some eight or nine years before, Bushrod Reynolds, jr. Bushrod Reynolds, sr., the father, and Jemima Reynolds, the mother, were natives of the Old Dominion, whence they had migrated but a few months prior to the birth of their little son; Bushrod, with his whole worldly estate across his shoulder, in the shape of rifle and ax; Jemima, with her whole paternal inheritance close at her heels, in the shape of an unshapely, gigantic negro youth, destined in after years to win for himself among the Red warriors of the wilderness the high-sounding title of "The Big Black Brave of the Bushy Head." With brave and cheerful hearts, which the pioneer must maintain, or sink, they had gone to work, and cutting out a broad green patch from the vine-inwoven forest, had erelong, in the midst of the sunshine thus let in, built them a rustic home. Here, in the due course of nature, a playful little pioneer made his appearance, whom they bundled up in red flannel and christened Bushrod, and called Bushie—Burl's household idol.
Now, as a hunter and Indian fighter, Bushrod Reynolds had few equals, even in the Paradise—a land prolific beyond precedence of the heroic in that line. Hence it naturally followed that he should take the lead of the other pioneers, who made Fort Reynolds—as in compliment to him the station was called—their place of refuge from the incursions of the Indians, or their rallying-point for repelling the invaders. Thus on a certain day it so befell that an Indian chase was started near Fort Reynolds—a band of the Red marauders having made a bloody, burning pounce upon the settlements the previous night, and now, loaded with booty and scalps, were making all speed for the Ohio River, to throw that broad barrier between themselves and danger.
The chase had been kept up for several miles, and the pursuers as yet had failed to catch a glimpse of the fugitives. Swifter of foot than his comrades, Captain Reynolds had imprudently, perhaps unconsciously, pushed on far in advance, when on a sudden he found himself waylaid and set upon by four or five of the savages, who, bolder than their fellows, had dared to be the hindermost and cover the retreat. These, having caught sight of their foremost pursuer, and marking that he ran quite alone, had agreed among themselves to waylay and capture him; a prisoner being a more coveted prize than a scalp, since, while yet alive, he could be both scalped and roasted. But he resisted so desperately, dealing about their heads such ugly blows with the butt of his rifle, as quickly to convince them that he was not to be taken alive; and aware that the rest of their pursuers should soon be upon them, and exasperated by the bruises he had given them, they shot him down on the spot—nor turned to renew their flight till they had scalped him, though still alive and conscious. The Red dastards were yet in sight when the other hunters gained the spot, where they found their leader wounded and dying. With a commanding gesture, he sternly bid them forward, nor mar the chase for him, who had but a few moments to live. Fortunately, it so chanced that on the present occasion Big Black Burl was with the White hunters; therefore they left him to minister to his dying master, and again pushed on in hotter, fiercer pursuit.
For many a weary mile of bush-entangled forest and grass-entangled glade, of rocky dell and precipitous hill, the chase for life and death went on—nor ceased till it had brought pursued and pursuer to the banks of the broad Ohio. Here they who had dared to be the hindermost found themselves reduced to desperate straits, whether to fight or swim—their comrades, unmindful of them, having pushed off in all the canoes, and being by this time far out upon the river. Needing but a glance to tell them where their chances lay, with a loud yell of defiance, they leaped from the high bank into the deep stream and swam for dear life. The instant after, the rifles of the White hunters rang out from among the trees along the shore: there was a stain of blood upon the water, and the next moment they who but now had stemmed the current with desperate sinews floated lifeless with it—all who dared to be the hindermost.
Meanwhile, the faithful Burl had borne his wounded master to the banks of a forest brook which ran hard by, and had set him down, reclined against the trunk of a tree. Then he took his powder-horn, having emptied its contents into his ammunition-pouch, and filling it from the stream, gave his master to drink—the clear, cool, sparkling water, so refreshing to the tired and thirsty, but to the wounded man sweet and grateful beyond expression. When he had drained the flask and revived a little, that hapless hunter thus addressed his slave: "Burl, you have ever been faithful to me. Have I been as kind to you?"
A big sob was the only answer, but it came from the depths of the heart, and said "Yes" a hundred times.
"Then, be faithful still. You have a brave heart and a strong arm, and to your support and protection must I, in some sort, leave my poor wife and child. Then give me your word, your solemn promise, that you will be as faithful to Miss Jemima as you have been to me; and that you will take good care of her fatherless boy, till he be old and strong enough to shift for himself and for his mother, too. Do you give me your promise?"
"O master!" Burl at length sobbed out, "it ain't much a pore nigger kin do fur White folks in dat way; but what I kin do I will do, an' won't never stop a doin' it." Here, with a blubbering expression of grief, the poor fellow broke down.
"Your hand upon it, my good old boy," whispered the dying hunter, his breath now almost gone. "Bid Miss Jemima and dear little Bushie good-by for me, and carry them my dying blessing."
In pledge of the promise, never to be broken, Burl took the hand that was now powerless to take his, and held it till death had fixed its answering grasp and the hunter was gone to find another paradise. Then he laid his master's body upon the streamlet's brink, to wash away the blood. How gently the huge hand laved the gory locks and dashed the soft water into the dead, pale face! It was a stern, rugged, weather-beaten face; but the light of the last loving thoughts still lingered upon it, lending it a beauty in death which it had never known in life. This part of his pious duty duly done, then tenderly in his mighty arms he took up the precious burden and laid it across his shoulder to bear it to the distant home. Through the fast lengthening shadows of sunset, through the glimmering shades of twilight, through the melancholy starlight, through woods, woods, woods, he bore it, till the lamp that always burned at the little square window, when the hunter was abroad in the night, was spied from afar, telling that the faithful, loving heart was waiting and watching as she should never wait and watch again.
Burl stepped softly over the low rail-fence into the yard and laid his master's body upon a puncheon bench which stood under a forest-tree directly in front of the cabin. Having composed the limbs of the dead, he stole with noiseless tread across the porch to the cabin door, at which he softly knocked with his knuckles, but holding it fast by the latch-handle, lest it should be too suddenly opened. Straightway a quick step was heard approaching the door from within. The wooden bolt slid back with a thump, the wooden latch went up with a click, but the door remained shut.
"It's nobody but me, Miss Jemimy; nobody here but me. You's awake, is you?"
"Yea, Burl, I'm awake," answered a gentle voice within; and again the latch went up with a click.
"Not yit, Miss Jemimy, not yit. I said dare's nobody here but me; but didn't 'zacly mean what I said. You's awake, now, is you—wide awake?"
"Yes, Burl, I am wide awake, and have been all night long. But why do you ask? And why do you hold the door so fast?" And now there was a tremor of alarm in the gentle voice.
"Den, put out de light, Miss Jemimy; O put out de light!" and the great sob which shook the door told the rest.
In sweet pity we shall refrain from dwelling further upon the scene. But as Burl stood out there in the night and witnessed the widow's anguish, and heard the wail of her fatherless child, from that heart whence had ascended to heaven the promise never to be broken there rose a terrible oath that never from that day forward, while he had life in his heart and strength in his arm, should an opportunity for vengeance slip his hand. How faithfully that oath was kept full many a Red man's scalp, which hung blackening from his cabin beams, but too plainly attested.
HOW LITTLE BUSHIE FIGURED IN THE PARADISE.
"No, Bushie, my boy, you can't go to the corn-field to-day," said Mrs. Reynolds to her son of nine years old, one fine May morning, about two years after the sad event recorded in the foregoing chapter. The little fellow had been teasing his mother for two or three hours to let him go to the field where Burl was plowing corn, knowing full well, as every only child does, the efficacy of importunity.
"But, mother, Burl is singing so big and glad out there, and I should so love to be with him. And I should so love to watch the squirrels running up and down the trees and along on top of the fence; and the little ground-squirrels slipping from one hollow log to another; and the little birds building their nests; and the big crows flopping their wings about the limbs of the old dead trees. And then, too, Burl would be—"
"Let Burl go on with his singing," interrupted the mother; "and let the squirrels go on with their playing; and the birds with their nest-building; and the crows with their idling about the limbs of the old dead trees. All this is very nice, I know, but hardly worth the risk you must be at in getting there to enjoy it."
"But, mother," urged Bushie, "Burl would be so glad to see me sitting up there, on top of the fence, just where he and old Cornwallis would be coming out at the end of the row. I know just 'zacly what he'd say, the minute he sees me: 'I yi, you dogs!'"
"Yes, and somebody else might be glad to find a little white boy sitting up there on top of the fence," rejoined the mother, with a warning look. "Somebody who would steal up from behind, as soft as a cat upon a bird, and before knowing it, there! you would find a big red hand clapped over your mouth to keep you from screaming for help. Then, hugged tight in a pair of red arms, cruel and strong, off you'd go through the woods and over the hills and across the Ohio to old Chillicothe, there to be made a wild Indian of, for the rest of your days, if not roasted alive at once. Only this morning, Captain Kenton, on his way from Limestone to Lexington, dropped in at breakfast-time, and told us that he had seen fresh Indian signs in the woods not more than five miles from the fort. And, Bushie, my boy, have you forgotten that only this spring Burl shot a panther in the woods between here and the field? And that only last winter he knocked a bear in the head with his ax, at the big sink-hole spring in the middle of the field? And that only last fall he trapped and killed that terrible one-eyed wolf in the black hollow just beyond the field?" And seeing her little son opening his mouth and fetching a breath for a fresh effort, the mother, with more decision, added: "No, Bushie, no! Play about the fort as much as you please, but go to the field to-day you must not, and you shall not. There!" And with this she clapped his little coon-skin cap upon his head, and ramming it down to his ears, bid him go and hunt up the other children and play at home, like mother's good boy.
Now, Bushie loved his mother dearly, even tenderly, for a juvenile pioneer, especially at meal-times and at nights; the fort, too, in bad weather, he liked well enough. But on Burl, between meals, and on the woods and fields, in fine weather, he fairly doted. The weather on the present occasion was as fine as the heart of a healthy, growing, adventurous boy could wish for recreation under the open sky—it being, indeed, the last day of May, which, as nobody ever makes a holiday of it, is always perfectly delightful. Therefore was he strongly tempted to give a snapping pull at the apron-strings and make for sweet liberty—a thing he was in the habit of doing about once a week, when the keenest switching and the liveliest dancing that one could wish to witness would follow, sure as fate. To do our urchin hero justice, however, he rarely yielded to the temptation without making some considerable effort to resist it; efforts such as older transgressors are apt to set down largely to their own credit in their private accounts between self and conscience, vaguely hoping thereby to bamboozle somebody besides themselves—perhaps the recording angel. So, this morning, he hunted up the other children, as his mother had bidden him, and made a manful—nay, desperate—effort to be sportive at home; but the little fort, within the shelter of whose wooden walls had been their home ever since that melancholy night two years ago, had never seemed to him so dull and lonesome. The hunters and field-laborers, belonging to the station, were all abroad, and the other children seemed as little inclined to play as himself.
Finding that quiet amusement was not likely to come of its own accord, Bushie was minded to draw it out by a little gentle persuasion, and to this intent challenged the tallest boy of the company—taller than himself by a head, though not so broad—to cope with him in a boxing match. Having already tried that game several times and invariably come off with a savage griping in the pit of the stomach, the tall boy made it a point just then to hear his mother's call—though heard by no one else—which answering, he walked off briskly, under press of filial obedience, to see what was wanted. As if hoping to force what would not come of its own accord, or by persuasion, Bushie now laid unauthorized hands on Grumbo's tail, and giving it a cracking pull, got his finger bitten; ditto, then, on Tom's tail, and giving it a cracking jerk, got his leg scratched. Evidently, quiet amusement at home to-day was a consummation quite out of the question, however devoutly to be wished. So, he gave it up as a moral achievement beyond his present resources, and with the feeling of a boy who though he had failed in the discharge of duty had yet endeavored well, he went and stood in the gate-way of the fort, which, as it directly faced the distant field, was just the place to give the Tempter a fair chance at him.
The sky—how sunny and blue it bent above him! The woods—how shady and green they rose before him! The little log fort—how dull and lonesome it lay behind him! The little log grist-mill down there on the banks of the river at the foot of the hill—how tiresomely it went on creaking and humming and droning, forever repeating, "What a pity! what a pity! what a pity!" or, "Clip it, Bushie! clip it, Bushie! clip it, Bushie!" according to the tune one's fancy might chance to be singing at the moment. The Tempter was creeping upon him apace. The melodious strains of that powerful voice—how cheerily, sweetly they come resounding through the echoing woods, growing more and more distinct as the singer neared the hither end of his furrow! The distance was too great for Bushie to distinguish the words of the song; but to his longing ears, the burden of it seemed to be something very much to this effect:
"Come, come, come, Bushie, come! Burl a' plowin' in de fiel', A singin' for his little man to come."
Here the Tempter crept up close to him and whispered in his ear: "Don't you hear him Bushie? He's singing for you. Clip it! Panthers, bears, wolves, Indians! Pshaw! They'll never dare to come a-nigh you, with that voice ringing in their ears. Clip it! Ain't he singing for his little man to come? Clip it! I say. To be sure your mother will switch you well for running away, but who minds that? It's all over in the shake of a sheep's tail, and by the time you've rubbed your back and legs a little, eaten your supper, and said your prayers, you'll be feeling just as comfortable as ever. Clip it, I say; clip it!"
Bushie could endure it no longer. So, after a short, one-sided debate between the good of him and the evil of him—the evil allowing the good but a half-say in the matter—our little white hero formed the bold design of making a sudden sally from the fort and surprising our big black hero in the open field. First, though, he must make sure that the coast was clear—i.e., that his mother was too busy about her household concerns to notice him and put her foot on his adventure. So, going back to the house, he peeped in at the door and reconnoitered. Finding the chances rather in his favor, he returned to the gate, whistling as he went, and otherwise making a big pretense of being perfectly satisfied with his present surroundings, which, as there was nobody to be hoodwinked by it, was stratagem wasted. But no sooner did his foot touch the great oaken sill than with a sheep-like jump he had cleared his skirts of the gate, and now across the open clearing, in the center of which stood the fort, he was clipping away with a swiftness perfectly marvelous in one of his age. Splendidly done, my fine rogue! How the mother of a well-ordered family of precise boys and prim girls would like to have the mending of your morals—i.e., the switching of your skedaddling young legs—this fine morning!
Gaining the covert of the woods unobserved, he struck into a bridle-path which ran winding amongst the trees and grape-vines toward the field, where he soon subsided, first into a dog-trot, then into a brisk walk, which he maintained for the rest of the way with long and guilty strides. When he was come to the fence which divided the woods from the field, with squirrel-like nimbleness he climbed up and perched himself on the rider, or topmost rail, just where his black chum and old Cornwallis should be coming out at the end of the furrow.
Perhaps it were well to take advantage of the present moment, while we have him so conspicuously before us, to draw a life-size portrait of our little hero—which, however, at first glance may seem somewhat larger than life, the subject being uncommonly well grown for a boy of his age. His body and limbs are as round, smooth, tight, and hard as those of a buckskin doll; the materials used in their construction being of the most substantial description, and consisting chiefly of Johnny-cakes, hominy, venison and other wild meat, with as much milk, maple molasses, and pumpkin-pie as the unsettled nature of the times would admit. His eyes are blue and bright, large and wide open—such as can look you full in the face, yet without boldness or impertinence. One would naturally suppose that a boy who was in the weekly habit of breaking away from apron-string control, and getting a whipping for it, ought to have long, narrow, half-shut eyes, of some uncertain color, which, though they can stare boldly enough at your boots, buttons, or breastpin, can never look you full in the face, like those big blue ones we have up there before us. His hair does not fall in clustering ringlets over his ears and around his neck, as we usually find it in nice, interesting little boys who figure in story-books; but it is pretty enough, being of a dark, rich brown, as glossy as watered silk. His nose is a good one, though at its present stage of development showing rather too much of the pug to look well on canvas; but it will gradually ripen into the Roman as the owner ripens into years and experience, and comes to a full knowledge of his own importance in the world. The mouth, too, is a good one; not a rosebud mouth, such as we sometimes see in fancy pictures of the boy Washington, with his little hatchet; of the boy Napoleon, with his little cannon; or of the boy Samuel, at his perpetual devotions; but a large mouth, handsomely formed, and capable, with the help of dimples in the cheeks and the shine in the eyes, of as bright and loving a smile as heart of fond mother could wish.
The outfit of our little hero is in keeping with the rustic simplicity of the times, consisting of but three garments—an outside shirt, an inside shirt, and a hairy coon-skin cap: the latter having no visor, but being in lieu adorned behind with the ringed tail, just as it grew on the living animal. The cap conceals one of his best features—a forehead bold, broad, round, and white, which, could it be seen, would much improve our portrait. The inside shirt, as may be seen by the collar, is of homespun cotton; the outside shirt of fair, soft buckskin, secured at the waist by a belt of the same material, and falling a little below the knees. Saving the buckskin of mother nature's own providing, the sturdy young legs are without covering—a deficiency which admits of plausible explanation. In those days of simple living and simple thinking, parents, going from cause to effect by shorter cuts than they do at the present time, were much more strict and direct in the training of their children; and breeches softening, as needs must, the severity of the switch, hence the moral efficacy thereof, boys, for the first ten years of their travels in the Paradise, were seldom allowed to wear them—buckskin breeches especially. Nor should we be surprised if just here were to be looked for the reason why our grandfathers and great-grandfathers were so much more energetic, manly, and upright than their grandsons and great-grandsons, and so many more of them broad-backed, clean-limbed, and six feet high.
The background to our portrait is a forest, lofty, shaggy, and dense, and the home of a thousand wild things, which, being invisible at this moment, could not, with due regard to fidelity, be introduced into our picture. The foreground is a cultivated clearing of about one hundred acres, with woody walls, unbroken in their leafy density, hemming it in on every side. Directly in front is a field of corn, the dark and thrifty green of which may well bespeak the deep, rich soil of the Paradise. Farther in are several other inclosures, either white with clover or brightly green with blue-grass, or darkly green with the yet unripened wheat. In the midst of all, and forming the central feature, stands a cabin, deserted and lowly since that unhappy night two years ago.
Scattered about the clearing, singly or in clumps, or even in small groves, are to be seen the giant survivors of the primeval forest, which, rearing high aloft their green heads and flinging afar their mighty arms, yield pleasant shade to the horses, sheep, and cattle grazing about them. But more numerous are to be seen those that are not survivors, though still standing, drained of their sap of life by the woodman's ax, which hacked those jagged girdles around their huge trunks. Standing there leafless, rigid, and gray, they remind us, in their branching nakedness, of the antlered elk, and in their gigantic unsightliness of the monstrous mastodon, that thing of grisly bone which, as a thing of life, no son of Adam ever beheld. Hard by stands an enormous oak, whose main bough, scathed and deadened by lightning, is thrust from out its ragged green robe like the extended, unsleeved arm of a giant, leaving a broad gap in the foliage open to the sky.
Upon this blasted limb of the oak, as if met there to hold an indignation meeting relative to the scare-crows posted about the field, or to the objectionable nature of the plowman's music, or to some real or fancied cause of grievance, have congregated a large assembly of sober-feathered, sober-visaged, but noisy, wrangling, turbulent crows, who, like many unfeathered bipeds on the like occasions, seem to have left their good breeding and good sense at home. Crows and their ways have always excited much interest in the minds of philosophic men, and the maneuvers of these before us have been watched with lively curiosity by our little friend Bushie ever since we began drawing his portrait.
HOW BIG BLACK BURL AND BUSHIE FIGURED IN EACH OTHER'S EYES.
I spied a jay-bird on a tree, A ridin' on a swingin' lim'; He cocked his eye an' winked at me, I cocked my gun an' winked at him; An' de jay-bird flew away— De jay-bird flew away— An' lef' de lim' a-swingin'— A-swingin'.
Such was a stanza from one of the songs that Big Black Burl was singing while he plowed. The words were simple and crude enough, yet would the melody now and then be varied with an improvised cadence of wild and peculiar sweetness, such as one might readily fancy had often been heard in the far-off, golden days of Pan and Silvanus, and the other cloven-heeled, funny-eared genii of the greenwood.
Though a swell in the ground hid them from his view, Bushie could tell almost to the minute when Burl and old Cornwallis made their turn at the farther side of the field, by the singing, which now began to draw gradually nearer. The morning was breezy, and ever and anon, when a wave of air came softly flowing over the rustling corn, the song would reach his ear with an augmented volume and distinctness that made the unseen singer seem for the moment a hundred yards nearer than he really was. At length, right leisurely, they crept in sight—Cornwallis first, with his piebald face; then, as the old horse would dip his head to nibble at the green blades under his nose, short glimpses of Burl, though for awhile no further down than his enormous coon-skin cap, made, it is said, of the biggest raccoon that was ever trapped, treed, or shot in the Paradise. But presently, observing the old horse prick up his ears at some object ahead, Burl sighted the woods from between them, and caught a glimpse of the little figure perched up there on the topmost rail of the fence, square in front. Whereat, snapping short his melody in its loudest swell, the plowman, in an altogether different key and tone, and at the top of his tremendous voice, sent forward his favorite greeting: "I yi, you dogs!" "I yi, you——" piped back Bushie; but just as he would have added "dogs," he thought that "coons" would be more pat; but not acting upon the thought in time for right effect, he supplied its place with a grin which said more plainly than words could have said it—than even "dogs" or "coons"—"I knew you would be glad to see me out here!"
And glad Burl was, for as the plow, with the pleasant smell of fresh earth and growing herbs floating about it in the air, ran out of the furrow into the fence corner, he said, looking up with huge complacency at his little master: "He's come out to de fiel' to see his ol' nigger, has he? Well, me an' Corny's a little tired, so we'll take a little blow here in de shade uf de woods, an' hab a little good soshyble talk wid our little marster."
So saying, he threw his plow-line over the plow-handle, and mounted the panel of the fence next to the one on which Bushie was sitting, and squared himself for the confab, which the little master opened thus; "Burl, just look at them crows up there on the dead limb of that big acorn-tree; what are they doing?"
"Dey's holdin' a pra'er-meetin', I 'spec'. No, not dat—camp-meetin', dey's so noisy. Or, may be, now"—eyeing his black brethren with close attention—"may be dey's holdin' a kunvintion, like Gener'l Wilkerson an' t' other big guns, to hab ol' Kaintuck stan' 'pon her own legs, so she kin lay off lan' as she please, an' fight de Injuns on her own hook."
"But why do they make so much noise?" inquired Bushie.
"Beca'se dey likes to hear 'emselves talk—eb'rybody wantin' to do all de talkin', an' nobody wantin' to do none uf de list'nin'—jes' like people."
"Don't you wish you had Betsy Grumbo out here, Burl? How she'd make their black feathers fly! And the woods are alive with squirrels. Just see how they are running up and down the trees and along the top of the fence."
"Ef I had Betsy Grumbo out here, de woods wouldn't be alive wid squirrels, an' dem black rogues up dar wouldn't be so near by—so easy an' sassy."
"Why wouldn't they?" inquired Bushie.
"Beca'se dey'd smell Betsy's breaf, an' make 'emselves scarce."
"What's the matter with Betsy's breath?"
"W'y, Bushie, if Betsy is always belchin' gunpowder, don't you know her breaf mus' smell uf gunpowder?"
"Burl," said Bushie, turning his eyes from the crows and fixing them wide open on his black chum's face, "I killed a rattlesnake yesterday, while I was out in the woods hunting May-apples—a rattlesnake as big as your leg."
"Now, Bushie, ain't you lettin' on?" said Burl with an incredulous grin. "Wusn't it a black-snake, big as your leg?"
"Do rattlesnakes always rattle with their tails when they poke out their heads to bite a man?"
"Yas, always; or to bite a boy, either."
"And are rattlesnakes ever black?"
"Neber, 'ceptin on de back, an' dare dey's brown an' yaller."
"Well, then, I reckon it must have been a black-snake, for it was black, and didn't rattle its tail when it poked out its head to bite me."
"Now, dare's reason in dat; dare's reason in all things," said Burl, looking at his little master, with his head turned slightly downward and his eyes turned slightly upward, showing more of the whites, which was his way of looking wise. "Things as has reason in 'em I likes. Says I to sich things, 'Come 'long, me an' you can agree; walk in my house an' take a cheer, an' make yo'se'f at home.' But things as hain't got reason in 'em, says I to sich things, 'You g' 'long; me an' you can't agree; I's no use for you, don't want you in my house. Scat!'"
"And, Burl, after I killed the snake I saw a painter."
"Now, Bushie, lettin' on agin, ain't you? Wusn't it our yaller Tom dare at de fort, gwine out to see his kinfolks 'mong de wilecats 'way off yander?"
"Do painters always scream like a skeered woman or a burnt baby, when they go a-jumping from one tree to another? And do they always keep a-swinging their long, limber tails?"
"Dat's de cretor's music, an' dem's de cretor's capers," replied Burl.
"Then I just know it was a painter," said Bushie, more certain of his panther than he had been of his snake; "for that was just the way he carried on."
"An' what did you do to de painter, Bushie? Kilt him, too, I 'spect."
"No, I just looked cross-eyed at him and skeered him away."
"H-yah, h-yah, h-yah!" laughed the black giant, till the fence shook and rattled.
"Now, Burl," said Bushie, regarding his black chum with great soberness, "didn't you tell me if ever I saw a painter I must skeer him away by looking cross-eyed at him?"
"Look at me, Bushie, de way you did at de painter," said Burl, with a broad grin. "I wants to see how well you've larnt your lesson."
Complying at once, Bushie pulled down and screwed up his quizzical little face in such a marvelous manner that eyes, nose, mouth, and coon-skin cap seemed on the point of breaking out into a family row beyond hope of ever coming again to a good understanding one with another.
"No wonder the varmint was skeered and went screamin' away!" And the black giant laughed till the forest shook to its roots, and every inquisitive squirrel and prying fox within a half mile peered warily forth from its hole to discover what jovial monster this might be that had invaded their leafy wilds. Suddenly checking his laughter, Burl said: "But, Bushie, I forgot to ax you if you axed your modder to let you come out here to de fiel'. Did you?"
"An' she said you might come, did she?"
"Just look up yonder, Burl, and see how the crows have gone to fighting."
"You g' 'long with your crows, an' look at me right, an' tell me if yo' modder said you might come."
"And Burl, after I skeered the painter away," remarked Bushie, "I saw two buffalo bulls fighting right on the high river-bank, and the one that got his tail up hill pushed the other clean——"
"You g' 'long with your bulls too, an' no mo' uf yo' dodgin', but look me right in de face an' answer my question."
Now, Bushie had never told a lie—that is to say, a downright lie—in all his life. It must be owned, however, that he would sometimes try to dodge the truth, by throwing out some remark quite foreign to the offense under consideration; an effective way of whipping the father of fibs around the stump, as many people who ought to know can testify. Or, failing to clear his skirts by this shift, he would go on picking at the mud-daubing in the wall, near which he might chance to be standing, or breaking off splinters from the fence on which he might chance to be sitting, without saying a word either foreign or akin to the matter in hand. But let him once be fairly cornered, convinced that dodging the question was out of the question, then would he turn himself square about, and looking you full in the face, out with the naked truth as bluntly as if he had "chawed" it into a hard wad and shot it at you from his pop-gun. So, in the present instance, throwing down the handful of splinters he had broken from the rail, he turned his big blue eyes full upon the face of his black inquisitor, and bluntly answered, "No, she didn't."
"Did she say you mus'n't come?"
"Yes, she did."
"Den, why didn't you mind yo' modder?"
"Ah, Bushie, my boy, beca'se won't do. Dare's painters an' wolves fur bad little boys as runs away frum home an' hain't got nothin' to say fur 'emselves but beca'se. An' Injuns, too, wid cuttin' knives an' splittin' tomahawks fur sich boys; yes, an' bars too. W'y, Bushie, don't you 'member how we reads in de Good Book 'bout de bad town-boys who come out to de big road one day an' throwed dirt at de good ol' 'Lishy, de bal'-headed preacher, an' made ugly mouths at him, an' jawed him, an' sassed him, an' all de time kep' sayin', 'G' 'long, you ol' bal'-head; g' 'long, you ol' bal'-head!' Den de good ol' 'Lishy looked back an' cussed 'em, when two she-bars heerd him an' come out uf de woods wid der cubs at der heels, an' walked in on der hin' legs 'mong dem bad town-boys, a scratchin' an' a clawin', a bitin' an' a gnawin', right an' lef', an' neber stoppin' till dey had tore an' chawed 'em every one up. Now, you see, Bushie, dese bad town-boys had run 'way frum home dat mornin' when der modders had said dey mus'n't, an' hadn't nothin' to say fur 'emselves but beca'se."
"Burl, did you ever see Colonel Daniel Boone?"—breaking off this disagreeable subject as he would a rail-splinter.
"What's Colonel Danel Boone got to do wid de good ol' 'Lishy an' de bad town-boys? You look me right in de face an' tell me you's sorry fur not mindin' your modder. Now, ain't you?"
"No, I ain't."
"Ah, Bushrod, Bushrod, you's a hard little case, I'm afeard," said Burl, with a grave shake of the head; but determined to bring the delinquent to a sense of his evil ways, he thus proceeded: "But, s'posin' now, while you's runnin' 'way you's to git lost 'way down yander in de black holler whar I kilt de one-eyed wolf las' fall, an' hafter stay dare all night all by yo'se'f, nothin' fur a good warm supper but a cap full of pawpaws or pussimmons, an' nothin' fur a good warm feather-bed but a pile of dry leabs. Wouldn't you be sorry den?"
"He's a pow'ful hard little case" said Burl to himself; "I mus' try him a leetle stronger. Well, den, sposin' next mornin' you's to wake up an' see a she-bar, wid a pack uf hungry cubs at her heels all a-comin' at you on dare hin' legs, an' all begin a scratchin' an' a clawin', a bitin' an' a gnawin' all over you, an' all at once. Wouldn't you be sorry den?"
"I yi!" cried Burl triumphantly, "I thought dat would bring de little sinner to his milk." And having brought the young transgressor to know and feel the evil of his ways, he was now ready to answer the inquiry touching Colonel Daniel Boone, and more than ready, since it had a direct bearing upon subjects in which he took particular interest.
"So my little man would like to know ef I eber seed Colonel Danel Boone. Did I eber see a bar? Did I eber see a buck? Did I eber see a buffalo? Course, I's seed Colonel Danel Boone, many an' many a time, an' I knows him too, like a book."
"Is he the greatest man in the world, Burl? I've heard he was."
To which, with that profound air which men are apt to assume when called upon for an opinion touching a matter of moment, and aware what weight their judgment will carry in the minds of their listeners, and that it therefore behooves them to be cautious in expressing it, Big Black Burl, with emphatic pauses between phrases and now and then an emphatic gesture, thus made response:
"Well——take him up dis side an' down dat——at de britch an' in de barr'l——Mars Dan—Colonel Boone, I mean—is——I s'pose you may say——de greates' man in de worl', but," an emphatic gesture, "if you mean by dat, is he de greates' Injun-fighter in de worl', den says I, No, sir, Colonel Boone ain't de greates' Injun-fighter in de worl'. He's a leetle too tender-hearted to be a real, giniwine, tip-top, out-an'-out Injun-fighter. W'y, sir, he neber tuck a skelp in all his life. Time an' agin has I been out wid him Injun-huntin', a-scourin' de woods, hot on de heels uf de red varmints, an' when he shoots 'em down, dare he lets 'em lay an' neber fetches a har uf de skelps. Den says he, 'It does seem sich a pity to kill de pore cretors, dey looks so much like humins, but it's boun' to be done: ef we don't kill 'em dey'll kill us, nip an' tuck.' Den says I, 'Mars Dan—no, I don't say dat—Colonel Boone,' says I, 'what you gwine to do wid de skelps?' Says he, 'Jest let 'em stay whar dey is fur de buzzards.' Den says I, 'Colonel Boone, let me have de skelps to hang up in my cabin to 'member you by.' Says he, 'Burlman Rennuls,' dat's me, you know, Bushie; 'Burlman Rennuls,' says he, 'you's 'tirely welcome to de skelps, ef you kin take 'em widout cuttin' an' spilin' de skin.' H-yah, h-yah, h-yah!" And the black braggart laughed as sincerely as if he were for the moment self-deceived into thinking that he was dealing in facts. But quickly recovering his lofty air, which had vanished while he laughed, the Fighting Negro thus proceeded with his observations upon the lights of the age: "Now, ef you'd like to know my 'pinion as to who's de greates' Injun-fighter in de worl', den says I agin, it ain't Colonel Boone; I will say it ain't Colonel Logan; yes, an' I'll say it ain't Giner'l Clarke; but dat man, sir, is——" an emphatic pause, "Cap'n Simon Kenton. Cap'n Simon Kenton, sir, is de greates' Injun-fighter in de worl'."
"Does Cap'n Kenton take scalps?" inquired Bushie.
"Does he take de skin uf a bar when he traps it? Does he take de tail-feathers uf a eagle when he shoots it? Course he takes skelps. How'd people know he had kilt de red varmints ef he didn't hab de top-nots to show fur it? Cap'n Kenton, sir, is a man uf grit. None o' yo' tender-hearted flinch in Cap'n Kenton; ef he's got any tender feelin's in him, dey's all fur us white folks. Flint, sir, flint, lead, an' steel is all he has fur de red rubbish."
"But mother says it is wrong for white men to take scalps," observed Bushie.
Whereat the Fighting Negro was somewhat taken aback, and for a full minute quite at a loss for an answer which would justify himself and Captain Kenton in their practice of taking scalps, and yet not gainsay Miss Jemima's disapprobation of the same. But after taking a bird's-eye view of the landscape before him, and with it a bird's-eye view of the subject, he was his collected self again. He began his answer by observing, in a general way, that Miss Jemima doubtless meant that the practice in question was wrong so far only as it concerned the duties and obligations of husbands and fathers, without intending her stricture to apply to bachelors, like himself and Captain Kenton. Having thus skillfully accommodated both sides of the matter in dispute, the Fighting Negro, with a persuasive gesture, wound up his vindication thus: "So, you see, Bushrod, Jemimy Rennuls wus right, an' Burlman Rennuls wus right. Dare's reason in all things. Now, when you grows up an' gits to be a married man, den comes I to you an' says, 'Cap'n Rennuls;' dat'll be you, you know, Bushie; 'Cap'n Rennuls,' says I, 'you's a married man now, got a wife, gwine to be a man of fam'ly, den it won't do fur you to take skelps. Jes' leab dat part uf de business to de bucks dat hain't got no do's, like me an' Cap'n Kenton. I say, Cap'n Rennuls, don't you take no skelps, yo' wife won't like it.'" And the Fighting Negro triumphantly crossed his legs. A delicate and difficult question had been settled, and to the entire satisfaction of at least one party concerned.
Now, between these two personages of our story, so widely different from each other in size, age, color, and condition, there existed, as doubtless has already been discovered, a sort of mutual-admiration understanding, which always kept them on the best of terms one with another, no matter how roughly they might be at rubs with the rest of the world: the black giant making a household idol, so to speak, of his little master; the little master a pattern, so to speak, of the black giant. So, when the pattern crossed his legs, the idol needs must cross his legs likewise. But in the act, the rail on which he was sitting, giving a sudden turn, marred the new attitude before it was fairly assumed; when, up with a flourish, flew the little naked heels, as high as the little coon-skin cap had been, and backward tumbled the household idol into a dense clump of pea-vines which, with a smart sprinkling of briers, grew in the fence-corner behind him. In an instant the little man had vanished, and there instead lay sprawling a yelling urchin; the yelling, however, considerably smothered by his coon-skin cap rammed down over his mouth, and by his two shirts turned up over his head. With a swing of his huge limbs that made the knitted panels shake and rattle, Burl had flung himself over the fence, and was now engaged in the ticklish task of extricating his little master from amongst the vines and briers, the latter being just sufficiently thick to spice the disaster. When he had succeeded in fishing him out, pulled down the shirts, and pushed up the cap, he began vigorously rubbing the bare young legs with the palm of his hand, spitting upon it, the better, as he said, to draw out the smarting and the stinging of the brier-scratches. Then setting his idol, still howling, upon his own panel of the fence, Burl began looking about him with wide-open eyes, as if in quest of something lost, wondering the while what could have become of his little man.
"Has he tuck de wings uf a duck an' flew away?"—giving a broad stare at the open sky, then, with a disappointed shake of the head, added: "N-o-h. Has he tuck de claws uf a coon an' clum a tree?"—attentively scanning the tree-tops. "N-o-h," with another disappointed shake of the head. "May be he's changed hisself into a groun'-squirrel, an' crep' into a hollow log"—peeping narrowly into the hollow trunk of a fallen tree near by, "N-o-h. Den whar can my little man a-went to?"—now quite desperate, taking a general survey of the neighboring country, and scratching his back with the knuckle of his thumb. "'Pon my honor, I b'lieve he's plowin' on tudder side de fiel'; thought I heerd him a-whistlin ober dar"—feigning to listen for a moment. "N-o-h; jes' Bob White a-whistlin' ober dar. Den sholey he's tuck his gun an' went to de lick to shoot us a buffalo calf for dinner; or, if not dat, he's went a Injun-huntin' wid my frien' Cap'n Kenton. Sho's you bawn, he's went a Injun-huntin' wid my frien' Cap'n Kenton. W'y, dar he is!" exclaimed he with delighted surprise, bringing his eyes at last to bear upon his little master, who, having made a manful effort to call back his manhood, was now the howling urchin no longer, though he did look a little chap-fallen, nor had he yet left off rubbing his legs. "Dar's my little man, come back to tell me how my frien' Cap'n Kenton is gittin' along. While he was gone I thought I heerd a buffalo bull-calf ober dar in de woods a bellerin' as if Grumbo had him by de tail; but when I went to look fur him I couldn't find him. Den I thought it mus' be a wilecat kitten a-mewin' ober dar in de woods, but couldn't find a kitten nudder. Wonder ef my little man couldn't tell me what it was I heerd."
The little man looked as if he knew nothing at all about the matter, and was quite willing to take Burl's word for it and let the noise in question pass either for the bellowing of a buffalo bull-calf or for the mewing of a wild-cat kitten, he cared not a whistle which. By this time Burl had climbed back over the fence into the field, and was now slowly turning his horse and plow to run his next furrow.
"Well, Bushie, me an' ol' Corny's had our blow. So we mus' pitch in agin an' go to scratching', an' keep a-scratchin' an' keep a-scratchin'; ef we don't, our little marster won't hab no roasin'-ears fur summer, no johnny-cakes an' punkin-pies fur winter. So you jes' stay whar you is, an' when de dinner horn blows I'll put you on ol' Cornwallis an' take you home a-ridin'."
And with a pleasant smell of fresh earth and growing herbs floating about them in the air, plow and plowman went their way, the singing recommencing with the work, as naturally as consequence follows cause:
"Squirly is a pretty bird, He carries a bushy tail, He eats up all de farmer's corn An' hearts it on de rail. He hearts it on de rail, young gals, He hearts it on de rail."
Louder and louder, higher and higher rose the giant voice, till filling all the hollow clearing, it overflowed the leafy walls of forest green in waves of jocund and melodious sound.
HOW SOMEBODY WAS LOST IN THE PARADISE.
For an hour or two the plowing and singing went cheerily on; Bushie, the while, shifting his perch upon the fence to keep himself on a line with the furrow next to be run. When the plow was not in sight he amused himself by watching the squirrels at play, or the birds at nest-building, or the crows where they still kept their station on the blasted limb of the oak. By this time the assembly had grown more noisy and obstreperous than ever, till finally, all order and decorum lost, the big talk broke up in a big row, the radicals turning tails upon each other and flying away to the north and the south; the conservatives, understanding each other no better, flying away to the east and the west.
Each time, as he neared the end of his furrow, Burl cutting short his singing the moment he spied his little master, would send forward at the top of his stentorian lungs his wonted greeting, "I yi, you dogs!" This was a favorite expression with him, and variously to be understood according to circumstances. Treading the peace-path barefooted and shirt-sleeved, he was wont to use it as a form of friendly greeting, in the sense of "hail fellow well met," or "Good-morning, my friend," or as a note of brotherly cheer, equivalent to "Hurrah, boys!" or "Bully for you!" But treading the war-path, moccasin-shod and double-shirted, with rifle on shoulder and hatchet in belt, he used the expression in an altogether different sense. Then it became his battle-cry, his note of defiance, his war-whoop, his trumpet-call to victory and scalps. Taken by the Indians, who never heard it but to their cost, it was understood as the English for "Die, die, red dogs!"
While making his turns between rounds, Burl, glancing complacently up at his little master, would make some remark about the squirrels and the birds who seemed to be in a "monstrous" fine humor that morning, or about the crows who seemed to be in a "monstrous" bad humor: "De corn now gittin' too tall an' strong for 'em to pull up—de black rogues!" Once or twice it was a sympathetic inquiry about "our little legs," with a comment upon the efficacy of spit for drawing out "de smartin' an' stingin' of brier-scratches." Oftener, however, than any thing else, it was the assurance that by the time the plowing should reach a certain shell-bark hickory that stood near the middle of the field the dinner-horn would be blowing, when the little man should go home "a-ridin' ol' Cornwallis;" the little man always answering this with a grin of glad anticipation. The turn by this time fairly made, the plowing and singing would recommence:
"Come, come! come, corn, come! Burl a-plowin' in de fiel', A-singin' fur de roasin'-ear to come.
"Come, come! come, corn, come! Burl a-plowin' in de fiel', A-singin' fur de johnny-cake to come.
"Come, come! come, punkin, come! Burl a-plowin' in de fiel', A-singin' fur de punkin-pie to come."
On nearing his eighth or ninth round, Burl was on the point of shouting forward the accustomed greeting, when he saw that his little master had vanished from the fence. At this, however, he was not surprised, naturally supposing that the boy having grown weary with waiting so long, and lonesome, had returned to the fort. Now the fact was, Burl had gone to the field that morning before Captain Kenton had called at the station with the intelligence of having seen fresh Indian traces in the wood but a few miles from the place. This circumstance was therefore unknown to him, else had the faithful fellow never lost sight of his little master until he had seen him safe back home. So, without any suspicion of danger, he went on singing at his work as before:
"Wher' now is our Hebrew childern? Wher' now is our Hebrew childern? Wher' now is our Hebrew childern? Safe in de promis' lan'. Dey went up frum de fiery furnace, Dey went up frum de fiery furnace, Dey went up frum de fiery furnace, Safe to de promis' lan'. By an' by we'll go an' see dem, By an' by we'll go an' see dem, By an' by we'll go an' see dem, Safe in de promis' lan'."
Thus questioning, answering, promising, the song, or perhaps hymn it might be called, went on through several stanzas, telling in dolorous cadences how our good "ol' Danel went up frum de den uf lions;" how "our good ol' 'Ligy went up on wheels uf fire;" how "our good ol' Samson went up wid de gates uf Gaza;" how "our good ol' Noah went up frum de mount uf Areat;" how "our good ol' Mary went up in robes uf whiteness," etc., all "safe to de promis' lan'," the comforting assurance over and over repeated that "by an' by we'll go an' see dem, safe in de promis' lan'." Long as it was, the song was much too short for Big Black Burl, as indeed was every song that he sung. But being a "dab" at improvising words, as well as music, he could easily spin out his melodies to any length he pleased. So, on getting to the end of his hymn, ignoring the fact, he went right on ad libitum until he had sent up, in some manner, scriptural or not, or from some locality, scriptural or not, every good old Hebrew he could think of, safe to the promised land, winding up thus with our good old Jonah:
"Wher' now is our good ol' Jonah? Wher' now is our good ol' Jonah? Wher' now is our good ol' Jonah? Safe in de promis' lan'. He went up frum—I don't know wher' frum; He went up frum—I don't know wher' frum; He went up frum—I don't know wher' frum, Safe to de promis' lan'. By an' by we'll go an' see him; By an' by we'll go an' see him; By an' by we'll go an' see him, Safe in de promis' lan'."
Having got to the end of his Hebrew rope, the singer, pausing but long enough for a "Gee up, Corny," to his slow-paced plow-horse, passed recklessly from sacred to profane, and fell to roaring "Ol' Zip Coon," from which to pass in turn, by a cut as short, to "Hark! from the tombs a doleful sound."
When the dinner-horn blew, he unhitched old Cornwallis from the plow and, mounting him, rode leisurely home. Having tied his horse to a long trough set on two wide red-oak stumps just outside the gate of the fort, and throwing in a dozen ears of corn, he went on into Miss Jemima's kitchen to get his own dinner. Drawing a puncheon-stool up to the puncheon-table, he sat down to his noonday meal with an appetite which had been sharp enough from his morning labors, but to which his singing had lent an edge keen as a tomahawk. He had cut him a long, thick slice of bacon and was in the act of conveying the first solid inch of the savory fat to his lips when the fork thus loaded was stayed midway between plate and open mouth by the voice of his mistress, who came to the kitchen-door to inquire if Bushie had not come in with him. Burl looked quickly round, saying with a tone of surprise: "Why, Miss Jemimy, hasn't Bushie come home?"
"No; nor has he been seen in or about the fort for more than three hours," replied the mother.
Bolting the solid inch of bacon which the while he had held poised on his fork, he rose quickly from the table and was hurrying out of the house when his mistress, with more alarm at heart than look or tone betrayed, inquired of him whither he was going.
"Jus' back to de fiel' ag'in to git Bushie. Come out to de fiel' whar I was plowin', he did; staid a good smart bit, settin' on de fence, waitin' fur de dinner-horn to blow, when he was to ride ol' Corny home. He's shorely laid down on de grass in de fence-corner an' went to sleep. But I'll go an' bring him home right away."
And with this explanation Burl was off to the field again, though with but the slightest hope of finding his little master out there asleep on the grass in the fence-corner, as he had suggested. On reaching the spot where he had last seen the boy he made a careful examination of the ground, and it was not long before his keen and practiced eye discovered in the crushed leaves and bruised weeds the traces of three Indians. The savages had evidently crept upon the child and made him their captive before he could cry for help, while he who would have rescued him or perished was blithely singing at his work on the other side of the field. For several moments Big Black Burl stood as if dumbfounded, gazing fixedly down at the hated foot-prints in the leaves. But when he raised his eyes and beheld the cabin where, deserted and lonely, it stood in the midst of the waving green, another look came into his face—one of vengeful and desperate determination right terrible to see.
Speeding back to the fort, he found his mistress standing in her cabin door-way waiting and watching his return. No need to be told the afflicting tidings, she read them in his hurried gait and dismayed countenance. She uttered not a cry, shed not a tear, but, with lips and cheeks blanched as with the hue of death, she sunk down upon a wooden settee that stood close behind her. And there, at the door of her desolate house, the widowed mother sat—continued to sit through the long, sad, weary hours of absence and suspense, waiting and watching, her eyes turned ever toward the perilous north. Fortunately about a dozen of the hunters belonging to the station had just come in from the forest, who, upon learning what had happened, promptly volunteered to set out at once in pursuit of the savages and rescue, if possible, the unlucky Bushie, the boy being a great favorite with everybody at the fort.
No more work in the field that day for Big Black Burl—he must now leave the peace-path to tread the war-path. But, before setting out, he must touch up his toilet a little, for, though careless enough of his personal appearance as a field-hand, our colored hero took a great pride in coming out on grand occasions like the present in a guise more beseeming his high reputation as an Indian-fighter. So, going at once to his own cabin, where he kept all his war and martial rigging perpetually ready for use in a minute's notice, he dashed through the process with a celerity quite astonishing in one who was usually so heavy and deliberate in his motions. First, he drew on his moccasins, each of which was roomy enough to hide a half-grown raccoon; then, over his buckskin breeches he tied a pair of bear-skin leggins, hairy and wide; then, he drew on over his buckskin under-shirt a bear-skin hunting-shirt ample enough for the shoulders of Hercules, securing it at the waist with a broad leathern belt, into which he stuck his sheathed hunting-knife and his tomahawk, or battle-ax it might be called, it was so ponderous. His ammunition-pouch and powder-horn—that on the left-hand side, this on the right—he then slung over his shoulders by two wide leathern straps, crossing each other on breast and back. Last, he doffed his coon-skin cap and donned another of bear-skin, more portentous still in its dimensions; and with Betsy Grumbo—his long, black rifle; the longest, so said, in the Paradise—gleaming aslant his shoulder, the Fighting Nigger sallied from his cabin, completely armed and rigged for war. Giving a loud, fife-like whistle, he was instantly joined by a huge brindled dog of grim and formidable aspect. As he passed by the door where his mistress sat, in her mute, tearless, motionless grief, he turned to her for a moment, cap in hand, and with terrible sublimity said: "Miss Jemimy, you see me come back wid Bushie, or you neber see yo' ol' nigger no mo'."
He then joined the white hunters, who by this time were ready likewise, and led the way to the spot where he had last seen his unfortunate little master.
HOW GRUMBO FIGURED IN THE PARADISE.
The brindled dog, until his part of the work in hand should be made known to him, stalked on with an air of grim, consequential indifference, keeping his muzzle close under the shadow of his master's hunting-shirt, content for the time with the little that might be seen ahead from between the moving legs before him. Now, Grumbo—for such was the name of the brindled dog—was a personage of consequence in his day, and is to play a rather prominent part in our story. Therefore, it were but due him, in memory of his great exploits, and of the signal service which on this particular occasion he rendered the settlement, that we draw a full-length portrait of our canine hero likewise.
Had you met his dogship in the fort, you would, at first glance, have put him down in your mind as an uncommonly large, well-conditioned wolf, whose habits and tastes had been so far civilized as to admit of his tolerating the companionship of man and subsisting on a mixed diet; but at the second glance, noting his color, and the shape of his head, with a certain loftiness of mien and suppleness of backbone—neither of which is ever to be found in the wolf—you would have pronounced him a little lion, shorn of his brindled mane. On further acquaintance, however—I cannot say intimate acquaintance, his excellency being of far too reserved a turn for that—you would have discovered him to be a most remarkable dog, whose character was well worth your study, made up as it was of every quality deemed most desirable in the larger breeds of his race.
He had the obstinacy of the bull-dog, the fierceness of the blood-hound, the steadiness of the stag-hound, the sagacity of the shepherd-dog, and the faithfulness and watchfulness of the mastiff, with the courage and strength of them all combined. To this imposing array of canine virtues, those who enjoyed his more intimate acquaintance—the few—would have added the affectionate docility of the Newfoundland, and the delicate playfulness of the Italian greyhound. It must be owned, however, that he displayed little enough of the last-named qualities, excepting to Burlman Reynolds, Jemima Reynolds, and little Bushie, in whose society only would he now and then deign to unbend—i.e., untwist and wag his iron hook of a tail—and, for a few moments snatched from the press of public business, play the familiar and agreeable. If he ever caught any one railing at Grumbo—any colored individual, that is, in bad odor with his dogship—and cursing him for a misbegotten wolf, Big Black Burl would be all afire in the flash of a gun-flint, and ready to pulverize the false muzzle that dared dab the fair name of his four-footed chum with a slur so foul. Sometimes, though, the white hunters, also, would curse Grumbo—denouncing him as a dog too wanting in the milk of human kindness to be allowed a place in human society, unmuzzled, excepting when on duty. Too mindful of what was expected of him as a man of color to give his white superiors the denial flat, Burl would, nevertheless, hasten to disprove the charge, by citing some act of signal service rendered by the injured one to his master at some moment of sore, besetting need. For example:
One day the Fighting Nigger was out in the forest "a Injun huntin'," his trusted dog on a hot scent far in advance, his trusty gun, Betsy Grumbo, in "bitin'" order, on his shoulder. On a sudden, with no other warning than a rough chorus of growls at his very heels, he found himself set upon by a whole family of bears, who spying him, as he passed unawares too near the door of their domestic den, had sallied out, higgledy-piggledy, to give the intruder battle. To step to one side and with the bullet already in his rifle lay the old he-bear, who led the onslaught, dead on the spot was easy enough; so would it have been as easy to dispatch the old she-bear, had she but allowed him time to reload his piece. But enraged at the sight of her slain lord, and afflicted at the thought of her fatherless cubs at her heels, the dam, rearing upon her hind legs, bore down upon him at once, at the same time growling out to her litter to fall, tooth and nail, on the enemy in flank and rear.
So sudden was the charge that the unlucky Burl had barely time to thrust out his gun against the chief assailant, when he found himself completely beset. Wielding his unloaded rifle as he would a pike—poking, pushing, punching therewith at the infuriated dam, in throat and breast and ribs—he contrived for a time to keep himself clear of the terrible claws continually making at him in such fierce, unwelcome greeting. But the odds were against the black hunter. Swift to obey their mother's command, the cubs with their milk-teeth were pulling and tugging at his buckskin breeches in a manner exceedingly lively, which, though it did not reach his skin, was making heavy demands on his breath, fast growing short and shorter.
He could not hope to hold out long in a contest so unequal. Where was Grumbo—his trusty, his courageous Grumbo? why was he not there to succor his master in that hour of peril? In his extremity he essayed to whistle for his dog, but his breath was too far spent for that. Mustering up all the remaining strength of his lungs, he sent pealing afar through the forest wilds the old familiar battle-cry, "I yi, you dogs!" at the same moment fetching the dam a poke of unusual vigor and directness, which brought her for once sprawling upon her back. But in the act, while yet his whole weight was thrown upon his right foot, one of the cubs, more sturdy than the rest, caught up his left foot by the top of the moccasin and continued to hold it up so stiffly as to reduce him to the necessity either of coming to his knees or of hopping about on one foot; and hop was what he did, encumbered as was the hopping limb with the rest of the litter. Hardly had he given a hop with one foot and a kick with the other, to free himself from the obstinate little tormentors, when the dam, recovering herself in a twinkling, was bearing down upon him again on her hind legs with greater fury than ever. Against such desperate odds how could he hold out longer, reduced as he was to an empty gun, one leg, and no dog? Still hopping about on one foot and kicking with the other, he had unsheathed his hunting-knife to do what he might with that in the unmotherly hug which he felt must come at last, when here, in the nick of time, having heard his master's call from afar, the heroic Grumbo came dashing up to the rescue. Without yelp, or bark, or growl, or any other needless ado, this jewel of a dog laid hold of the she-bear's stump of a tail, which his instinct told him was the enemy's vulnerable point, and with a sudden, forcible, backward pull, brought her ladyship growling to her all-fours. The cubs, seeing their dam's extremity, left off worrying the legs of the almost breathless hunter to fall tooth and nail on the new enemy. But heeding them no more than so many fleas to be scratched off at his leisure, Grumbo continued to maintain his vantage-ground, holding the she-bear still by the tail with jaws inflexible as death, and merely turning from right to left as she turned from right to left, to keep himself on a line with her and beyond the reach of her claws and teeth.
Meanwhile, having inspected Betsy Grumbo, to make sure that she had sustained no damage in the conflict, Burl put her in "extry bitin' order" by loading her with two bullets and a double charge of powder. Then stepping a few paces to one side, so as not to endanger Grumbo, he took deliberate aim and let the dam have it full in the body, just behind the shoulder. With a fierce growl she sunk down lifeless by the side of her slain lord, the jaws of the dog still clinched like a vice upon her tail.
"An' dat's de way," to finish Burl's own story in his own words, "Burlman Rennuls an' Grumbo woun' up de ol' she-bar. Den goes I up to de cubs, whar dey still kep a-gnawin' an' a-scratchin' an' a-clawin' ober Grumbo, an' tickles 'em to death wid de pint uf my knife. Den I looks roun' an' dare's Grumbo still a-holdin' on to de varmint's tail like a dead turtle to a corn-cob. Says I: 'Grumbo, onscrew yo' vice an' stop yo' chawin'; de varmint's dead. Don't you know Betsy Grumbo alwus bites in de heart, an' bars never play 'possum?' Den Grumbo lets go slow an' easy as uf he's afeerd de varmint wus makin' a fool uf him an' Burlman Rennuls, too. Den we skins de bars, an' we kindles a fire; briles some uf de bar meat on de coals, streeks uf lean an' lumps uf fat; an' den we sets down an' shakes hans—me an' Grumbo—ober de sweetest dinner eber et in ol' Kaintuck. An' now you say Grumbo got no human feelin's in him. Git out!"
Should any of the white hunters choose to hint a doubt as to the truth of this story, Big Black Burl had but to point to the bear-skin bed in his cabin, on which he slept; to the bear-skin rug under the shed at his door, where Grumbo slept by day and watched by night; to his bear-skin leggins, his bear-skin hunting-shirt, and bear-skin war-cap—and the thing was settled and established beyond doubt or controversy.
Concerning these and the like points Grumbo himself maintained a grim and dignified reserve, never speaking of them to common dogs, nor even to his master, excepting when the subject was forced upon him; though that was certainly frequent enough for wholesome airing. Grand, gloomy, and peculiar, he sat upon his bear-skin, a maneless lion, wrapped in the solitude of his own originality. Aloof from the vulgar pack, he lived and moved and had his being but in the atmosphere of the Fighting Nigger, in whose society only could he hope to find a little congenial companionship, and to whom only he unbosomed the workings of his mighty heart.
Methinks I see him now, with that air of consequence and mystery hanging about him, like the fog from his own shaggy hide after a winter wetting; with those short ears perpetually cocked, as if he felt that his destiny was cast in an age and a land where to hunt, kill, and utterly root out bears, panthers, wolves, and Indians from the top of the earth was the sole end and aim of existence. I see him with that great brush of a tail curled tightly—nay, inflexibly—over his right leg, as if his was a will and a spirit not to be subdued or shaken by any power less than that irresistible and inexorable fate which has declared, and without repeal, that "every dog shall have his day." All this methinks I see, and as vividly too as if I had the living Grumbo before my bodily eyes; for, in the course of his long and eventful career, it grew to be as characteristic of our canine hero as, twenty years later, became a little cocked hat, a gray great-coat, military boots, and a certain attitude, of that famous Corsican, Napoleon the First—commonly, vulgarly, bogusly called the Great.
HOW BIG BLACK BURL FIGURED ON THE WAR-PATH BY DAY.
Having followed Big Black Burl to the spot where he had last seen his little master, the white hunters made a narrow inspection of the Indian traces on the ground, which had evidently been left by feet in too great haste for much attempt at concealment or disguise. The black hunter then set his dog on the trail, who, with that grim fixedness of purpose betokened by a certain iron twist of the tail, now took the lead, and the chase for life and death began. Thus surely led, they followed the trail with rapid ease for about two miles, when it was lost in another trail, larger and quite as fresh, made, it would seem from the number of foot-prints, by at least twenty Indians. This they followed likewise, till at the distance of five or six miles farther on in the forest it brought them to the banks of a small, shallow river, just where it was formed by two tributaries, or "forks" as we Western people call such streams before they unite and pursue their course together. Here the trail suddenly disappeared; nor was there any sign of its reaeppearance on the opposite bank, nor, so far as could be seen from that point, on the banks of either fork.
Now, of all the stratagems for baffling pursuit practiced in Indian warfare, none perhaps are so often resorted to as that of wading up and down shallow streams, in whose beds no foot-print may be left that eye of man can discern, or scent thereof upon the water that nose of dog can detect. That the savages they were now pursuing had to this intent availed themselves of one or the other of these three streams there could be no doubt, but hardly one chance in ten that they had chosen the main stream, as that ran in the direction of the settlement, and was, in fact, that self-same little river which turned the little log grist-mill at Fort Reynolds, eight miles below. It was, then, all but certain that the Indians had waded up one of the two forks, whose rocky channels wound among a group of low, rugged hills, which browed the more level country around the station; but which fork had been chosen for the purpose, the most experienced hunter of them all was unable to determine, as the wily savages had left not a tell-tale trace behind, and the two streams seemed equally favorable to the success of the stratagem in question. In order, then, to double their chances of overtaking the enemy, though it would double the odds against themselves should they succeed in doing so, it was resolved to divide the party into two squads—each to ascend a fork until the trail should reaeppear upon its banks, then to notify the other, when reuniting they would again pursue the chase together.
As there was one chance in ten that the Indians—some of them at least, and perhaps the very ones who had the little captive in custody—had descended the main stream, Big Black Burl determined to try the fortunes of war in that direction on his own account, feeling quite sure that without any further aid of his the white hunters would be equal to any emergency that should arise in their quarter. Besides, as we have already seen, the Fighting Nigger usually chose to be alone when out on expeditions of this kind, partly because his instinct told him that if he would keep in good odor with his white superiors he must not rub against them more than occasion should absolutely demand, but chiefly that he might enjoy the undivided honor of the scalps taken by his own hand in war, should such be his good fortune. So, making a third squad of himself and dog, the black hunter detached himself from the white hunters, and three parties set out on their several ways.
At a signal from his master, understood perfectly by the sagacious animal, Grumbo, wading and swimming, made his way to the opposite side of the river, where, shaking the water from his shaggy hide, he turned and at a slow dog-trot began following the windings of the shore, keeping his keen and practiced nose bent with sharp and critical attention upon the ground. Abreast, with the water between them, Burl at brisk pace followed the windings of his shore, keeping his keen and practiced eye bent likewise with sharp and critical attention upon the ground, that not a mark or sign unusual in grass, leaves, mud, or sand might pass unnoted by. At intervals along the banks lay wide beds of solid rock, or pebbles mixed with mud or sand, left high and dry by the summer shrinking of the stream, where the Indians might easily have quitted the water without leaving a trace perceptible to the eye. At such places Burl would call Grumbo over to help the eye with the more unerring nose, when, having satisfied themselves that the trail had not yet left the water, the dog, swimming and wading, would return to his side, and abreast the two go on as before. Thus they proceeded till they had searched the banks for nearly a mile and the dog had made his third or fourth passage. Coming then to a bed of limestone rock which spread wide and dry between the edge of the water and the skirts of the forest, Grumbo sent over to his master a short, low bark, which said to the ear addressed, as plainly as words could have said it, "The Red varmints!" Whereat, having satisfied himself that the fording was not more than belly-deep to a tall horse, Burl slipped off his moccasins and leggins, and rolling up his buckskin breeches till nothing was to be seen below his hunting-shirt but his great black legs, now in his turn waded over to the dog's side of the river, sure that here was the place where the Indians had quitted the water and taken again to the woods. In a trice he had reaerranged his toilet, and now was briskly following the unerring Grumbo on the rediscovered trail. But for more than fifty yards after quitting the rocky margin of the stream, not a sign there could he discern, so artfully had the cunning savages concealed or disguised their foot-prints. Cunning as they may have thought themselves, it was all as plain to Grumbo's far-scenting nose as it could have been to Burl's far-sighted eye, and he a reader, had they written it in letters on the ground, "Here we are, and here we go."
Indeed, they had not advanced more than a hundred paces farther, when the traces of three Indians became distinctly visible in the leaves and soft vegetable mold of the woods—as if they who had left them there had thought that as they had thus far so completely concealed their trail they might thenceforth proceed with less circumspection, as now quite beyond the risk of pursuit. On closely inspecting the foot-prints, Burl knew by certain signs—such as the unusual slenderness of one and the mark of a patched moccasin in the other—that two of them had been left by feet whose traces he had examined at the corn-field fence. The third foot-print he had not seen that day, he was sure, nor its like until that moment, never in all his border experience. It was the longest and, excepting his own, the broadest foot-print he had ever seen, and must have been left there by the tread of a giant. The individual, then, who had captured his little master, and had him now in keeping, might not be of this party; and so far as concerned the main object of this their solitary adventure, they might, after all, be on a cold trail. Nevertheless, they pushed on with speed and spirit. They had not proceeded more than a furlong farther, when Grumbo stopped short, and giving a double sniff uttered a quick, low yelp both of surprise and joy, so it seemed, which said, as plainly as words could have said it, "Halloo! what's this?" Then, after another quick sniff or two, looking up at his master and expressing himself by wag of tail and glance of eye, he added: "Good luck in the wind ahead."
That Grumbo had actually expressed this much may fairly be inferred from Burl's answer: "O you's got a sniff of our pore little master's sweet little feet, has you, at las'? Well, we kin foller our noses now an' know whar we gwine."
Had Burl needed any interpretation of his dog's language in this particular instance, he would have found it, a few yards farther on, in two little foot-prints left clearly impressed in the clayey margin of a forest brook but a few hours before. He stopped to look at them, and his big eyes filled with tears of pitying tenderness at the sight. Grumbo, too, smelt of them, and as he slowly drew in the familiar scent, his wild eyes grew almost human in their look of affection, like those of a Newfoundland. Burl now turned to inspect more narrowly the foot-prints of the Indians, which were likewise left deeply impressed in the stiff clay of the brook's margin. Nearest to those of the boy's were the traces of the slender-footed Indian, who, in the act of taking the long stride that was to clear him of the water, seemed to have taken a short step aside to pick the little fellow up and lift him over dry-shod. This was further evident from the reaeppearance of the little foot-prints on the other bank, side by side, instead of one in advance of the other. Farthest to the left were the traces of the savage who wore the patched moccasin. Between them, broad, long, and deep, and at huge strides apart, were the foot-prints of the giant. At these traces of some redoubtable warrior, so it would seem, Big Black Burl, with grave and fixed attention, gazed for many moments. Then, as if to bring the dimensions of the savage more vividly before his mind's eye, he measured one of the prints by laying his own foot over it, and found that, although not the broader of the two, it was the longer, from which it was fairly to be inferred that the red giant must be at least seven feet high, standing in his moccasins.
"Shorely, Grumbo," said the black hunter, addressing his dog, "it mus' be dat Black Thunder, de big Injun we hears de white hunters talk so much about. Dey say he blacked his face wid gunpowder when he fus' started out a-fightin', an' ain't neber gwine to wash it off tel he's got 'nough uf us white folks's skelps to rig up his huntin'-shirt an' make it fine. I jes' as soon de ol' Scratch git de grips uf his clutches on our little master, as dat Black Thunder. It's 'you tickle me an' I tickle you' betwixt him an' de ol' Scratch. O you ol' Black Thunder!" with a sudden burst of energy, apostrophizing the absent brave; "jes' let de Fightin' Nigger git de whites uf his eyes on yo' red ugliness once, he'll give you thunder—gunpowder thunder, he will. Jes' let Betsy Grumbo git her muzzle on yo' red ugliness once, may be she won't bark an' bite! May be she won't make yo' fine feathers fly! May be she won't, now! O plague yo' red hide! Yug, yug, yug!" And with this terrible malediction, the black giant shook his mighty fist at the foot-prints of the red giant in the mud—Grumbo catching his master's spirit, and giving the echo in a deep savage growl.
Having lost but a few moments in making these observations, with renewed spirit and vigor they resumed the pursuit. Burl now felt confident that the chances of war were decidedly in their favor, let them but come upon the enemy under screen of night and undiscovered; and for more than this he would not ask, to bring his war-path to a brilliant end. Ever and anon, after they trudged on for a mile or two, Grumbo, fetching a harder sniff than usual, would give one of his quick, low yelps of satisfaction—when his master would know that at such places the Indians, after carrying their little captive for some distance, to rest his young limbs a bit, had here set him down again to walk. This usually happened on their reaching the tops of the higher hills, or the heads of the longer and more rugged hollows. Whenever they came to where the ground was moist and the trail was left distinctly marked, Burl always noticed that the boy's foot-prints were nearest those of the slender-footed Indian, as if they had walked together side by side; and by certain signs, similar to those he had observed at the first brook, he knew that the same hand had carried the little fellow over all the streams which ran across the trail. Nothing further happened to break the monotony of the tramp till, after having left full many a mile of tangled forest behind them, they came, late in the day, to where, a little to one side, lay a dead eagle, stripped of its magnificent plumage. Burl turned it over, and perceiving that the bullet-wound which had caused its death was still fresh and open, he knew that the bird had been brought down but a few hours before. Here again, clearly to be distinguished from those of the others, were to be seen the traces of the boy and the slender-footed Indian, still side by side, and going out to the dead eagle, where they were repeated many times, as if these two had lingered around the fallen monarch of the air, while the others walked slowly onward.
Now the sun was gliding swiftly down the steep slopes of the western sky, and long and somber stretched the shadows of the hills across the lonely, unhomed valleys of the immense wilderness. Full many an irksome mile of bushy dell and rocky hill and forest-crested ridge lay traversed and searched behind them; untraversed and unsearched, lay as many more before them. Where should the weary little feet find rest in the night now coming on? The little birds had their nests, the little squirrels their holes: should the forlorn little captive find where to lay his head in those inhospitable wilds? And far away, at the door of her desolate home, still sat the widowed mother, waiting and watching, her eyes turned ever toward the perilous north. And there, at the foot of the hill, the little log grist-mill, making the little log fort yet sadder and lonesomer every hour, still went on humming and droning its dolorous tune—a tune whose burden seemed ever to be, "What a pity! what a pity! what a pity!"
HOW BIG BLACK BURL FIGURED ON THE WAR-PATH BY NIGHT.
By this time the sun was almost down. Since early morning, not a morsel of food had Burlman Reynolds tasted, excepting the solid inch of bacon at dinner-time, which, as he had bolted it half unknown to himself at the moment, and in his trouble of mind had long since forgotten, could hardly have had more effect in breaking his fast than had he merely dreamed of eating a meal. A gnawing sensation under his belt now began to warn him that it was high time he should be ministering to the wants of the inner man. Aware that while out on the war-path he could not safely trust to the tell-tale rifle for procuring food, he had, with the foresight of a true warrior, fortified himself against future need, by slipping into his ammunition-pouch, on quitting the fort, a double handful of jerked venison. So, making answer at last to the call of hunger—sons of Ebony are not wont to be tardy in answering such calls—he drew out his prog, and without abating his speed, lest time be lost, ministered to the inner man as he walked along. Nor did his four-footed comrade-in-arms—who had an inner man also, or rather inner dog, to be ministered to likewise—fail to receive a liberal share of the store in hand. What was offered him, Grumbo took and ate grimly, without any show of relish or satisfaction—merely, so it would seem, as something not to be well dispensed with under the circumstances; perhaps as a valuable means to the end they jointly had in view.
Our two adventurers had not finished their pedestrian supper till the sun was set and twilight stealing on apace, deepening with its glimmering shades the dusky shadows of the wilderness. Soon it was too dark for the trail to be seen; nevertheless, they pushed on with unabated speed, the hunter following his dog, the dog following his nose. A dog's nose may be followed, and nobody made the victim of misplaced confidence; and this is more than can be said of a man's nose, which is always sure to be at fault from a cold, or out of joint in some way, when the owner has nothing better to guide him.
The black hunter now moved with greater circumspection—lest stumbling upon the enemy unawares, thus warning them of their danger, he should cheat himself of the chances of war, which he could hope to hold in his favor so long as he had concealment and secrecy on his side. So, while the dog followed the invisible trail, he followed the scarcely visible dog—kept a sharp lookout about him, expecting every moment to catch the gleam of the Indian camp-fire from among the trees. But, as if to render security doubly secure, the savages seemed bent on making a long day's tramp of it, before allowing themselves to halt for refreshment and repose.