The Grateful Indian, by W.H.G. Kingston.
This quite short book contains eight sections, of which the last three are collections of verse written by Kingston, including one collection of verse written when he was still at school. Not bad, either.
Of the other five sections, three are nautical short stories by Kingston, while the other two are excellent stories by lady-writers, not all that usual at the date of publication. Of these we would particularly commend "An Adventure on the Black Mountain", by Frances Wilbraham. The Black Mountain is Montenegro, a Balkan country, and this is the first time your reviewer has been offered any insight into that country. Well worth reading—a must, in fact, in the light of recent events (Chapter Four, in the book).
The dates of the stories are roughly the end of the eighteenth century, but, though dated, they are nevertheless interesting to read or listen to.
THE GRATEFUL INDIAN, BY W.H.G. KINGSTON.
THE GRATEFUL INDIAN, A TALE OF RUPERT'S LAND. BY WILLIAM H.G. KINGSTON.
We cannot boast of many fine evenings in old England—dear old England for all that!—and when they do come they are truly lovely and worthy of being prized the more. It was on one of the finest of a fine summer that Mr Frampton, the owner of a beautiful estate in Devonshire, was seated on a rustic bench in his garden, his son Harry, who stood at his knee, looking up inquiringly into his face.
"Father," said Harry, "I have often heard you speak about the North American Indians—the Red men of the deserts. Do tell me how it is that you know so much about them—have you ever been in their country?"
"Yes, my boy; I passed several of the earlier years of my life in that part of North America which may truly be said to belong as yet to the Red men, though as there are but some fifty thousand scattered over the whole central portion of it, it must be acknowledged that they do not make the best possible use of the territory they inhabit. A glance at the map of North America will show you where the Red River is, with its settlement founded by Lord Selkirk. I was very young when I went there with my father, my elder brother Malcolm, and John Dawes, a faithful servant who had been brought up in the family from childhood. John was a great sportsman, a most kind-hearted fellow, and could turn his hand to anything. We went through Canada to Lake Superior, and from thence it took us, by a chain of lakes and rivers, about twenty-five days to reach the banks of the Red River. I need not describe how we selected our ground, built a cottage, ploughed a field, and stocked our farm; we will suppose all these preliminaries over and our party permanently settled in our new home. I must tell you before I proceed a little about the Indians of this region."
There are different tribes. Some are called Crees, others Ojibways or Salteaux, and these are constantly at war with the Sioux to the south, chiefly found across the United States boundary. There are also found on the prairies Assiniboines, Blackfeet, Bloodies, and others with scarcely more attractive names. All these people were at that time sunk in the most abject state of heathenism, and were constantly at war with each other. They were clothed chiefly in skins made into leather, ornamented with feathers and stained grass and beads. The tents of the prairie Indians were of skins, and those of the Indians who inhabit the woods of birch bark. Many had rifles, but others were armed only with bows and spears, and the dreadful scalping-knife. Of these people the Sioux bore the worst character, and were the great enemies of the half-bred population of the settlements. These halfbreds, as they are called, are descended from white fathers and Indian mothers. There are some thousands of them in the settlements, and they live chiefly by hunting and fishing, and retain many Indian customs and habits of life. Such was the strangely mixed community among whom we found ourselves.
The autumn was coming on, and the days were shortening, but the weather was very fine—sharp frosts at night, though warm enough, yet bracing, with a bright sky and pure atmosphere during the day. Sometimes a light silvery mist or haze hung over the landscape. Such is the Indian summer, the most delightful period of the year in North America.
The day's work was over, and while my brother and I were preparing the table, and Sam Dawes was cooking the supper, we were startled by a loud and peculiar shout, or rather shriek. Our father, who had been sitting reading, started up, and taking his rifle from the wall, turned to the door. Sam, quitting his frying-pan, also took down his rifle and followed with us. In the distance was an Indian decked with war paint and feathers bounding over the ground towards us, while further off were five or six more, as if in hot pursuit of the first.
"That first fellow is an Ojibway by his adornments, and a young man by the way he runs," observed Sam. "He's seeking protection here, that's poz."
"And he shall enjoy it, though we should have to fight for him," observed my father warmly. "We must teach the Red men that we always protect those in distress."
The fugitive came on at great speed. He was flying for his life. His pursuers, however, were gaining on him. They had fire-arms in their hands, but did not use them.
"They have exhausted their powder," observed my father. "That is fortunate."
The young Indian was within fifty yards of us. We could see the gleam of the scalping knives which his foes had drawn, thirsting for his blood. He bounded on up to the door of the hut and fell exhausted within. Then for the first time his pursuers perceived that we stood armed at the entrance. Guessing truly that we possessed plenty of ammunition, and two or more of their number might fall if they attempted to advance, they paused, casting glances of disappointed vengeance towards their victim, who lay unconscious behind us. Our father told Malcolm and me to take him in and to try and revive him. We did so, and when we had moistened his lips with water he quickly revived. Springing up he seized Malcolm's gun and hurried to the door. The other Indians had not moved. On seeing him, however, they instantly darted behind some trunks of trees for shelter, and then we saw them darting away till they got beyond range of our fire-arms. The young Indian would have followed, but my father restrained him, and gave him to understand that though he had saved his life he had no intention of allowing him to take the lives of others. Darkness was coming on, and we soon lost sight of the band. Having closed our door with more than usual care, we placed food before our guest, of which he eagerly partook, and then told us that his name was Sigenok; that he with others of his tribe had been out hunting, and had been surprised by a war party of Sioux, who had taken the scalps of all the rest. He had wandered away unarmed from the camp when he saw all his companions killed. To revenge them, which the Indian thought was his first duty, was then impossible, so he took to flight, hoping to retaliate on another occasion. His wary foes, however, discovered his trail and followed. He had caught sight of them when they were not aware of it, and redoubled his speed, making for the settlements. He gave us to understand that he could not have continued his flight many more hours, and that he was very grateful to us for preserving his life. We had brought a dog from England, and we had lately got another, both very sagacious animals, and so we stationed them outside the hut at a little distance to give us due notice should the Sioux return.
Sigenok, as soon as he had satisfied his hunger, proving his confidence in us, laid himself down in a corner of the room and was immediately fast asleep. He spent two days with, us to recover his strength, which had been greatly tried, and then set off to carry to his tribe the sad tidings of the loss of their friends. For an Indian, he was a good-looking young man, and decked with his war paint and feathers he had a picturesquely savage appearance.
The winter came—we did not feel the cold so much as we expected—it passed on and spring approached. We were looking forward to the pleasures of summer and to a buffalo hunt which we had promised ourselves, when, after finding the heat unusually great at night, on rising in the morning, loud cracks in the ice were heard, and we discovered that a thaw had commenced. We were surprised at the rapidity with which the snow melted, and the low shrubs and the green grass appeared, and long dormant Nature seemed to be waking up to life.
"How jolly," exclaimed Malcolm; "we shall soon be able to paddle about in our canoe; we may as well have look at her to see that she is in order."
We had a supply of gum with which to cover up the seams as the Indians do, and our canoe was soon fit for launching.
"We must look to the plough and our spades," remarked our father; "we shall speedily be able to get in our seeds."
Perhaps Sam Dawes thought more of his fishing lines and nets and guns.
The next day an Indian coming up from the lake told us that there was an extraordinary accumulation of ice at the mouth of the river, which had begun to swell, with an impetuous torrent, carrying vast masses along with it. Speedily it rose higher and higher, the waters came up the bank and then filled the narrow gully which usually discharged water into it after rain, but now carried its waters backward into the plain.
"It will soon subside," observed our father. "That current will soon carry away the barriers at the month." So we all went as usual to bed.
The next morning when we looked out we were on an island. The water covered our field and the greater part of the garden round the house. Between us and the house of the nearest settler to the south was one sheet of water, while to the north not an habitation was visible. We made out at the distance of a mile our neighbour and his family crossing in a large boat to the hills on the east. "We may possibly have to follow his example," observed our father; "but I hope that the waters may decrease before that becomes necessary."
The sheep and cows were now collecting of their own accord in the garden, and we had to drive up the pigs, whose stye was threatened with submersion. The scene was truly one of desolation as we looked beyond our own homestead; trunks of trees and palings, and now and then a haystack, and barns, and parts of houses, and occasionally whole dwellings came floating by, showing what ravages the flood must have committed above us. Malcolm and I agreed that it was fortunate we had repaired our canoe. As the waters extended, the current in the river was less strong. Our father observed this. "My sons," he said, "freight your canoe with the tent and some provisions, and take this case of books, and go off to the hills. Should the waters increase return for Sam and me; we must remain to look after the cattle. Mounted on our horses we shall be able to drive them to yonder rising ground on the south-west."
He pointed to a slight elevation, between which and us he considered that the water was not more than one foot and a-half deep. Accustomed to obey without question, Malcolm and I, having loaded our canoe with as many valuables as she could possibly carry, prepared to cross to the eastern hills, hoping that our father and Sam would start at once with the cattle towards the more remote but seemingly more accessible ground to the west. Just as we were shoving off he remarked—
"The water has not risen lately; we may still avoid a remove. Heaven prosper you, my dear boys."
We hoped that his words would prove true—the sky was bright, the water smooth, and it was difficult to believe that there was any danger. Malcolm and I were expert with the use of the paddle, but in crossing the river we were swept down some way, and narrowly escaped staving in the canoe against stumps of trees or palings and remnants of buildings. We persevered, however, and at length reached the eastern hills, or the mountains as they were called. Here we found our neighbour and several other families encamped. He told us that he had driven his cattle off on the first day, and wished that we had done the same. The waters did not appear to be rising, though we looked with anxiety towards our home; but it was too small a speck to be visible among the wide expanse of waters at the distance we were from it. We had put up our tent and were intending to occupy it, when we recollected that there were several of the other settlers' wives and daughters without so good a covering, so we went and begged them to occupy it, while we slept under our canoe.
The night was bright and starlight, but we could not sleep much for thinking of our father and Sam Dawes. We resolved as early as we could see in the morning to go back to them. We were awoke early in the morning by a peculiar murmuring and hollow sound. As soon as it was daylight we looked out over the flooded country. We asked others if they had heard the noise. They replied that they had, and that it was caused by the water rushing over the land. "Then the flood must have increased," exclaimed Malcolm and I with anxiety.
"No doubt about it, boys," was the unsatisfactory reply.
We were for starting off immediately, but one of the farmer's wives, to whom we had given up our tent, insisted on preparing some breakfast for us, and in putting a supply of food into our canoe.
"It is a long voyage, my boys, and you do not know what you may require before you return," she observed.
We paddled on very anxiously. We had only the line of eastern hills we were leaving and some high land to the south to guide us, but we thought that we could not help hitting upon the spot where our abode stood. For a long way we paddled on easily enough, only taking care not to run against stumps of trees, and as we got nearer the settlement, stakes or ruined buildings were our chief danger. Too many evidences met us on either side that the water had increased considerably since the previous day. In vain our eyes ranged around, in no direction was our cottage visible. We must have mistaken the locality. The current was here very strong, we thought that we might have drifted down further than we had calculated on doing. We went further west, and then steered south, where the current was less strong. After going some way, Malcolm stopped paddling suddenly, and exclaimed—
"Look, Harry! look there! Do you know that tree?"
"Its head is very like one that grows close to the house," I answered.
We had both mechanically turned the head of the canoe in the direction in which he pointed. We had been engaged in fastening a flag-staff to the tree near our house. A minute would decide whether this was it. Our hearts sank within us, our paddles almost dropped from our hands, when we perceived among the bare branches the rope and the pole which we had been about to erect. Where was our cottage? where our kind father and the faithful Sam? Not a vestige of the cottage remained, it had too evidently been carried away by the flood.
"Had they been able to escape with the cattle?" was the question we asked each other. We hoped they might; but still it was too possible that our father would have persisted in remaining in the house, as a sailor will by his ship, to the last, and Sam, we knew, would never have deserted him. We could just distinguish the heads of some strong palings above the water, marking the position of our cottage. We made fast to the tree for a few minutes to rest and recover ourselves, and to consider what course to pursue. We naturally turned our eyes towards the rising ground in the south-west, to which our father intended to drive the cattle. It seemed a long, long way off, still we determined to attempt to reach it. We felt thankful that the farmer's wife had supplied us with provisions, though we were too anxious just then to be hungry. We left the tree and paddled on, but it was very hard work, for there was a current against us setting towards Lake Winnipeg; but the canoe was light, and as there was no wind we managed to stem it. Hitherto the sky had been bright, and there had been a perfect calm, but as we paddled on we saw clouds rising above the high ground for which we were steering. They rose, and rose, and then rushed across the sky with fearful rapidity, and the water ahead of us, hitherto bright and clear, seemed turned into a mass of foam, which came sweeping up towards us.
"We cannot face it," exclaimed Malcolm. "Quick, quick, about with the canoe, we must run before it."
We were hardly in time. The blast very nearly upset the canoe, and we had to throw our whole weight over on the side the wind struck her, to prevent this, as she spun round like a top, and away we flew before it. All we could do was to keep the canoe before the wind, and to steer her clear of logs of wood or stumps of trees, against which she might have been cast and knocked to pieces.
"But where are we going?" we asked ourselves. "If we continue thus, we may be driven into Lake Winnipeg, and hurled among the masses of ice which are dashing about on its waters."
We thought still more about our father and Sam. How disappointed they would be, should they have reached the dry land when the storm came on, and they knew that we could not get to them. But our attention, I must own, was soon concentrated on our own situation. The rain fell in torrents, sufficient of itself almost to swamp our light canoe, while the thunder roared and the lightning darted from the sky, filling my heart, at all events, with terror. I felt both awe-struck and alarmed, and could scarcely recover myself sufficiently to help Malcolm. He was far less moved, and continued guiding the canoe with his former calmness. At last I could not help crying out—
"Oh, Malcolm, how is it that you cannot see our danger?"
"I do, Harry, clearly," he answered gravely; "but we are in the performance of our duty, and God will take care of us."
His words and tone made an impression on me which I have never forgotten. When dangers have surrounded me, I have asked myself, "Am I engaged in the performance of my duty? then why need I fear, God will protect me. He always has protected me." The grandest receipt for enabling a person to be truly brave, is that he must ever walk on in the strict line of duty.
We were driving northward at a fearful rate, for the rapidity of the current was greatly increased by the wind. We wished that we could get back to our oak tree, as we might make fast to its branches, but it was nowhere visible. To have paddled against the gale would have only exhausted our strength to no purpose. As Malcolm found that he could guide the canoe without me, he told me to bail out the water. As I turned round to do so, I shouted with joy, for I thought I saw a large boat under full sail coming down towards us. On it came, much faster than we were driving; but as it drew near, it looked less and less like a boat, till to my bitter disappointment I discovered that it was a large haystack which had been floated bodily away. At length just before us appeared a clump of trees, and we, hoped that the ground on which they stood might be out of water. Malcolm steered towards the spot. We might remain there till the storm was over. The trees bent with the wind, and it appeared as if they could not possibly stand. We approached the spot perhaps with less caution than we had before employed. Suddenly the canoe spun round, a large rent appeared in her bows, over she went, and we were thrown struggling into the water. Before we could regain the canoe she had floated far away, and not without a severe struggle did we succeed in reaching the land. We climbed up by some bushes, and found ourselves on the summit of a little knoll rising out of the water, and not comprising more than fifty square yards. Our first impulse was to look out to see what had become of our canoe, and we stood watching it with a bewildered gaze as it floated away half filled with water. It was not till it had disappeared in the distance that we remembered it had contained all our provisions. That was bad enough, but we had never experienced hunger, and did not know how long we might exist without food. What appeared then worse was, that the waters were rising round our island, and we might soon have no dry spot on which to rest our feet. We might climb up into the trees, but we had seen other trees washed away, and such might be the fate of these our last refuge. The day wore on, the storm ceased, and the weather again became calm and beautiful. I now grew excessively hungry, and cried very much, and felt more wretched than I had ever done before. Malcolm, who bore up wonderfully, tried to comfort me, and suggested that we should hunt about foe roots or underground nuts such as we had seen the Indians eat. We fortunately had our pocket knives, and with these we dug in all directions, till we came upon some roots which looked tempting, but then we remembered that we had no means of kindling a fire to cook them, nor could we tell whether they were poisonous or not. The hunt had given us occupation, and prevented us for a time from dwelling on our misfortunes.
We then tried every device we could think of to kindle a fire, for we wished to dry our clothes, if we could not cook our roots. None of our attempts succeeded, and Malcolm suggested that we should run round and round our island to try and warm ourselves before night came on. At last I felt very sleepy, and so did Malcolm, but he said that he would let me sleep first while he watched, lest the waters should rise and carry us away before we had time to climb up a tree.
I lay down and was asleep in a minute, and when I awoke the stars were shining out brightly through the branches of the trees, the young grass blades reflecting them on their shining surfaces, while I saw my good brother still walking up and down keeping guard over me. The noise of the rushing waters sounded in my ears and made me desire to go to sleep again, but I aroused myself, ashamed that I had slept so long, and urged my brother to lie down.
"No, Harry," he answered, "I wished you to get as much rest as possible; but look there, we shall soon be obliged to climb a tree for refuge."
Walking a few paces, I found that the water had greatly encroached on our island; a southerly wind had begun to blow, which sent large waves rolling in on us.
"Should the wind increase, they will completely sweep over where we stand," I exclaimed. "Oh, Malcolm, what shall we do?"
"Trust in God," he replied calmly. "From how many dangers has He not already preserved us. But remember, our father has often told us that it is our business while praying to God for help, to exert ourselves, and so let us at once try and find a tree we can climb quickly in case of necessity, and whose boughs will afford us a resting-place."
I loved Malcolm dearly. I admired him now more than ever, and was ready to do whatever he wished. We soon found a tree up which we could help each other. The wind howled and whistled through the trees, the waves lashed the shore furiously, and Malcolm had just time to shove me up the tree, when one larger than the rest swept completely over the ground on which we had been standing, with a force sufficient to have carried us off with it. We had seated ourselves among the branches, which waved to and fro in the wind, and as we looked down, we saw the water foaming round the trunk, and often it seemed as if it must be uprooted and sent drifting down with the current.
Malcolm said that he felt very sleepy, and told me that if I would undertake to hold him on, he would rest for a few minutes. I gladly promised that I would do as he wished, but asked him how he could think of sleeping while the tempest was raging round us.
"Why, Harry, we are as safe up here as on the ground," he answered, in his usual sweet tone of voice, "God is still watching over us!"
I need scarcely say how tightly I held on to his clothes, trembling lest he should fall. I felt no inclination to go to sleep, indeed I soon found that I must have slept the greater part of the night, for before Malcolm again opened his eyes, I observed the bright streaks of dawn appearing over the distant hills in the east. Daylight quickly came on. It was again perfectly calm, and on looking down, we could see the blades of grass rising above the water. Malcolm woke up, saying that he felt much better. Looking down below us, he said that he thought the water had decreased since he went to sleep. He might have been right, I could not tell. At that moment there was only one thing I thought of, the pain I was suffering from hunger. "I shall die! I shall die!" I exclaimed. Malcolm cheered me up.
"Help will come though we cannot now see how," he observed; "God will protect us. Trust in Him."
Still I felt that I should die. It is very difficult to sustain gnawing hunger, such as I then felt for the first time. I have no doubt that Malcolm felt the same, but he was too brave to show it. Hour after hour passed by; the water did not appear to be rising; the blades of grass were still seen below us round the tree. I however felt that I could not endure many more hours of suffering. "I must fall, indeed I must," I cried out over and over again. I should indeed have let go my hold, had not my brave brother kept me up. Even he at last showed signs of giving way, and spoke less encouragingly than before. He was silent for some time. I saw him looking out eagerly, when he exclaimed—
"Cheer up, Harry, there is a canoe approaching; it will bring us help."
I gazed in the direction towards which he pointed. At first I could only see a speck on the water. It grew larger and more distinct, till I could see that it was certainly a canoe. Then we discovered that there were two Indians in it. We shouted, but our voices sounded shrill and weak. The Indians heard us, for they waved their paddles and turned the head of the canoe towards the clump of trees. The canoe could not get under the tree, but one of the Indians jumped out, and Malcolm told me to slide down. The Indian caught me and carried me in his arms to the canoe, for I was too weak to walk. Malcolm followed, and the Indian helped him along also. It was not till we had been placed in the canoe that we recognised in our preserver the young Indian, Sigenok, whose life we had saved. We pronounced his name. He gave a well-satisfied smile.
"Ah, you have not forgotten me, nor I you," he said in his own language. "Favours conferred bind generous hearts together. Sigenok guessed that you were in distress. Your elder brother has long been looking for you."
It appeared that Sigenok had been at a distance hunting when the flood commenced; that he had hastened back, and soon perceiving from the height the water had attained that our house was in danger, had embarked in his canoe and hastened toward it, but on his nearing the spot found that it had been swept away. Guessing that we had escaped to the eastern hills, he paddled there, when our friends told him that we had proceeded in search of our father and servant. Having ascertained the exact time of our departure, with the wonderful powers of calculation possessed by Red men, he had decided the events which had occurred and the course we had pursued, and was thus able to look for us in the right direction. Had he not found us there, he would have visited other places which he mentioned, where we might have taken refuge. As he was leaving the hills the farmer's wife had given him a supply of food for us, and on his producing it our hunger was soon satisfied. We now told him of our anxiety about our father and Sam Dawes. He listened attentively, and then shook his head.
"They and the cattle never reached the hills," he observed. "We will search for them. There are still some hours of daylight. If the house has held together, they will be found much further down than this."
I fancied by the Indian's manner that his hopes were slight. We now shoved off from the little island which had afforded us so valuable a refuge, and Sigenok and his companion paddled off at a rapid rate to the north. Anxious as I was, I soon fell asleep, and so I believe did Malcolm for a short time. I was aroused by a shout from Sigenok. I lifted up my head and saw a dark object in the distance rising above the water.
"It is our house!" exclaimed Malcolm, "Sigenok says so. Oh, that our father may be there!"
We kept our eyes anxiously fixed on the distant object. It was growing dusk. Malcolm said that he saw something moving on it.
"Man there, alive!" observed Sigenok.
Our hopes were raised; but he spoke only of one man. How long the time appeared occupied in reaching the spot! Even through the gloom we could now distinguish the outline of our log hut, which had grounded on a bank among some strong fences and brushwood, and was now fixed securely, partly tilted over.
"Who is there? who is there?" we shouted. "Father, father! we are Malcolm and Harry!"
"Woe's me, young masters, your father is not here," said a voice which, hollow and husky as it was, we recognised as that of Sam Dawes. We were soon up to our hut, to the roof of which Sam was clinging. The Indians lifted him into the canoe, for he had scarcely strength to help himself.
"But our father, Sam! our father!" we exclaimed. "Where is he? what has happened?"
"He no speak till he eat," observed Sigenok, after he had secured the canoe to the hut.
We took the hint, and gave him some food. In a short time he revived, and told us that our father, after we went away, would not believe that the water would rise higher, and that they had retired to rest as usual, when they were awoken by the sound of the water rushing round the house; that they both ran out and mounted their horses to drive off the cattle, as had been arranged. Our father took the lead, urging on before him the cows and horses, while he followed with the sheep, when his horse fell and he was thrown into a deep hole. As he scrambled out, the current took him off his legs. He was nearly drowned, but after floundering about for some time, he found himself carried up against the hut. He immediately climbed to the roof and shouted as loud as he could in the hopes of recalling our father, but there was no answer. Again and again he shouted. He tried to pierce the gloom which still hung over the land, though it was nearly morning. He felt a wish to leap off and try and follow his master, but what had become of his horse he could not ascertain. The waters were increasing round the cottage. He felt it shake violently, when, to his horror, it lifted and floated bodily away. The logs had been put together in a peculiar manner, dove-tailed into each other, which accounted for this. He told us how forlorn and miserable he felt, without another human being in sight, believing that his master was lost, uncertain as to our fate, and that he himself was hurrying to destruction. More than once he felt inclined to drop off the roof, but love of life, or rather a sense of the wickedness of so doing, prevailed, and he clung on till the hut grounded where we found it.
We were now in as secure a place as any we could find in the neighbourhood, and so Sigenok proposed seeking some necessary rest before continuing our search. We proposed going into the house to sleep, but we found that our bed-places had been carried away, and so, of course, had every particle of furniture, as the bottom of the hut had literally come out. We therefore returned to the canoe to sleep. At early dawn we once more paddled south. There was little current and a perfect calm. The waters, too, were subsiding, for several slight elevations, before submerged, were now visible. After paddling for many hours, we reached the south-western hills I have before described. Several settlers were there, but no one had seen our father. We crossed back to the eastern hills before nightfall. There were no tidings of him there. The flood subsided, and we, like others, set off to return to the now desolate site of our former abode. Sigenok conveyed us in his canoe, and we pitched our tent on the very spot our hut had occupied. In vain we searched for our father, in vain we made inquiries of other settlers, no one had seen him. Day after day we waited, thinking that he might have been swept downward with the flood clinging to a piece of timber or some other floating body, and that he might as yet be unable to return. Sam Dawes looked more and more sad when we spoke of his return. Sigenok, who had remained by us, shook his head. "He gone, no come back," he observed. Our hearts sank within us as the sad truth forced itself on our minds that we were orphans.
Long we continued to hope against hope. Neither was our father's body, nor were any of the cattle he was driving off ever discovered. The current must have swept them down into Lake Winnipeg.
"I ain't much of a person for it, young masters," said Sam Dawes, taking a hand of each of us and looking at us affectionately, "but I loves ye as sons, and I'll be in the place of a father, that I will."
Faithfully did Sam Dawes keep his word.
"Grief is right and does us good in the end, depend on't, or it wouldn't be sent; but it mustn't make us forget duty. Now you see it is our duty to live, and we can't live without food, and we can't get food without we work, so let's turn to and plough and sow the ground."
This proposal may seem like mockery, but among the valuables placed by our father in the canoe was a good supply of seed corn and other seeds, and we had discovered our plough driven deep into the ground. Sigenok disappeared the moment he understood our intentions, and Sam looked very blank, and said that he feared he did not like work and had gone off.
"I think not," observed Malcolm; and he was right. In a few hours Sigenok returned with two horses and several hides well tanned, and needles, and fibre for thread. I thought Sam would have hugged him, he was so delighted. Without loss of time they set to work and cut out a set of harness, and, lighting a lamp, seated at the entrance to our tent, laboured at it the greater part of the night, Malcolm and I helping as far as we could. Sam made us go to sleep, but as I looked up they were still at work, and when I awoke in the morning it was finished. The horses were a little restive, evidently not being accustomed to ploughing, but they obeyed Sigenok's voice in a wonderful way, though it was necessary in the first place to teach him what ought to be done. It is said by some that Indians will not labour. I have reason to know that they will when they have a sufficient motive. Sigenok showed this. His motive was gratitude to us, and affection excited by compassion. No white man would have laboured harder. When the wheat and Indian corn was in the ground, he with his horses helped Sam and us to bring in stuff for fencing and to put it up. All this time he slept outside our tent, under shelter of a simple lean-to of birch bark. Another day he disappeared, and we saw him in the evening coming up the river towing some timber. He brought a heavy log up on his shoulders. "There is part of your house," he observed, "we can get the rest in time."
So we did; we borrowed a large boat, and taking advantage of a northerly wind, we brought up, piece by piece, the whole of our hut, which had grounded near the banks of the river. Our neighbours, in spite of the value of their time to themselves, came and helped us, and we very soon had our hut over our heads, though, excepting the articles we had saved in the canoe, we had no furniture remaining.
"Sigenok live here with you," observed our Indian friend.
"Of course; very glad," we answered, thinking he intended to take up his abode in our hut.
We had arranged that morning to go to the Port [Fort Garry, belonging to the Hudson's Bay Company.] to obtain flour and other articles. We were not without money, for our father had put his desk in the canoe, and in it we found a sum of money, considerable for our wants. On our return from the Port, we found that Sigenok had erected close to our door an Indian wigwam. It was very simple of construction. It consisted of about a dozen long poles stuck in the ground in a circle, and fastened together at the top so as to make the figure of a cone. Against these poles were placed large slabs of birch bask. It comes off the tree in layers, which, having a tendency to regain their circular form, cling round the cone, and are further secured with bands of fibre. In the centre is the fire, while the smoke escapes through an opening left in the top; some mats on the ground, and some lines stretched across on which clothes or other articles can be hung up, form the chief furniture of these wigwams. To these may be added a bundle of hides or mats, and an iron pot.
We had purchased some bedding at the Fort, and Sam and Malcolm soon knocked up some rough furniture, which served our purpose. We should often have been on short commons had not Sam and Sigenok been expert fishermen, so that we were never without an ample supply of white-fish, or gold-eyes, or sturgeon.
"This very well," observed Sigenok. "Fish very good, but in winter buffalo better."
"Will you help us to go and hunt the buffalo, then?" we both exclaimed.
Sigenok nodded; it was what he had proposed to himself that we should do. Although a wood Indian, he had connections among the prairie Indians, and from living with them had become a good rider and expert hunter. Sam did not like our going; he was afraid some accident might happen to us, but he had not the heart to tell us so. He was to remain at home to take care of the farm. Sigenok procured two other horses, one for himself, and another to drag a light cart which we bought, made entirely of wood. It was laden with our tent and provisions, and our rifles and powder and shot. We felt in high spirits when we were ready to start, and wishing Sam an affectionate farewell, set off to join a large band of hunters proceeding to the plains. There were nearly three hundred men, besides their wives and children. The greater number were half-breeds, but there were also a large body of Indians, among whom we found Sigenok's relatives, who received as in the most cordial manner, and told us that we should be their brothers, that our friends should be their friends, and our foes their foes. The half-breeds had nearly five hundred carts, each with a distinguishing flag; and there must have been even a larger number of hunters, all mounted. Their tents, or lodges, are formed of dressed buffalo-skins. They are pitched in a large circle, with the carts outside; and when in a hostile country, with the animals in the centre, otherwise they feed outside the circle. They have a captain, and regular officers under him; and a flag hoisted on a pole in the centre serves as a signal. When hauled down, it is a sign that the march is to be continued. When the whole body was on the move, it reminded us of a caravan in the East, with the long line of carts winding along over the plain, and the horsemen galloping about on either side. For several days we travelled on without seeing any buffalo, till one day, soon after we had camped, notice was brought by the scouts that a large herd were in the neighbourhood. All was now excitement and preparation in the camp. Sigenok called us early in the morning, and, after a hasty breakfast, in high spirits we mounted our horses, and accompanied the band of hunters. We made a wide circuit, so as to let the wind blow from the buffaloes towards us. I should tell you that the animal denominated the buffalo by the North Americans is what is properly called the bison by naturalists. They roam in vast herds over the interior of North America, from Mexico as far north as the large river Saskatchewan and Lake Winnipeg. We rode on, drawing nearer and nearer, till, as we ascended a slight elevation, we saw over it on the plain on the other side a vast herd of big-headed, dark, hairy monsters, more buffaloes than I supposed existed on the whole continent. They were feeding quietly, as if not aware of the approach of foes. Our captain, an experienced hunter, rode along the ranks commanding silence, directing every man to look to his arms, and exhorting the novices not to shoot each other, a danger which might justly be apprehended. Each hunter now ascertained that his rifle was loaded, and then filled his mouth with bullets—a ready-at-hand pouch, that he might the more quickly drop them into his piece. I was afraid of following this example, for fear of the bullets dropping down my throat or of my gun bursting. Malcolm and I kept close to Sigenok. He told us to do what he did, not to lose sight of him, assuring us that our horses understood hunting perfectly. Our hearts beat with eagerness. We had now got near enough, in the opinion of our leader, to charge. The signal was given, and at headlong speed the band of huntsmen dashed in among the astonished animals. The buffaloes fled in all directions, the horsemen following, firing right and left, and loading again with extraordinary rapidity, seldom missing; and as each animal fell, the hunter who had killed it dropped some article of his dress, or other mark, by which he might distinguish it. It was the most exciting scene in which I was ever engaged—the hunters, so lately a dense and orderly body, were now scattered far and wide over the plain, many miles apart, in pursuit of the buffaloes; some terror-stricken, others infuriated to madness. Sigenok had killed five or six, and Malcolm had also, much to our gratification, killed one, though I had not been so successful, from nervousness, I fancy; when the Indian being at some distance, as we were in full chase of another buffalo, a huge bull started out from behind a knoll, and rushed towards us. My brother's horse started at the unexpected sight, and putting his foot into a badger hole, stumbled, and threw him over his head. The faithful animal stood stock still, but on came the bull. I shrieked out to Malcolm to leap on his horse and fly, but he was stunned, and did not hear me. The bull was not twenty paces from him; in another instant he would have been gored to death. I felt thankful that I had not before fired. Raising my rifle to my shoulder, I pulled the trigger, the huge animal was within ten paces of him; over it went, then rose on its knees, and struggled forward. I galloped up to Malcolm, who was beginning to recover his senses. With a strength I did not fancy I possessed I dragged him up, and helped him on his horse just before the monster fell over the spot where he had lain, and would have crushed him with his weight. By the time Sigenok returned, the buffalo was dead. He highly praised me when he heard what had occurred, but said that we had had hunting enough that day, and that he would now summon his people to take possession of the animals we had killed. The skins are called robes, and are valued as articles of trade, being taken by the far traders and sent to Canada, England, Russia, and other parts of the world. Parts of the flesh of the slain animals was carried into the camp for immediate consumption, but the larger portion was prepared forthwith in a curious way for keeping. The meat is first cut into thin slices and dried in the sun, and these slices are then pounded between two stones till the fibres separate. This pounded meat is then mixed with melted fat, about fifty pounds of the first to forty pounds of the latter, and while hot is pressed into buffalo-skin bags, when it forms a hard, compact mass. It is now called pemmikon, from pemmi, meat, and kon, fat, in the Cree language. One pound of this mixture is considered as nutritious as two of ordinary meat, and it has the advantage of keeping for years through all temperatures.
Soon after the grand hunting-day I have described, our scout brought word that a party of Sioux were in the neighbourhood. Our fighting-men attacked them and killed several. A scalp-dance took place, and other orgies which I will not describe. I was so horrified with what I saw, that I agreed with Malcolm that we would get back to the settlements as soon as we could. We expressed our wish to Sigenok, and he promised to return with us on the following day. Malcolm's great wish was to withdraw Sigenok from his savage companions, and to induce him to settle down as a civilised man and a Christian. We talked to him on the subject, but he replied, that he had been all his life accustomed to hunting, and fighting, and that he could not abandon them. The next day we set out, leaving the larger body of Indians still encamped.
We had travelled on for two days, when the belief being entertained that we had no enemies to fear, there was less than the usual caution observed by the natives in our march. We were passing through a sparsely wooded country, I was in advance with Sigenok, while Malcolm and several young Indians, whose interest he wished to excite by descriptions of England and the wonders of the civilised world, brought up the rear, at a considerable distance. Suddenly Sigenok stopped, the crack of a rifle was heard, several others followed. "The Sioux!" he exclaimed, turning round his horse. "Quick! quick! our friends are attacked." No other order was required; keeping close to him we all galloped back the way we had come, getting our rifles ready for action as we proceeded. A terrible anticipation of misfortune seized me as I thought of Malcolm, and the fate which might have overtaken him. Still he and his companions might be defending themselves, and we should be in time to rescue them. My heart sunk when the firing ceased. I knew that the Sioux would not have attacked the party unless greatly superior in numbers, and I dreaded that all was over, and that having slaughtered their victims they had retired victorious. Sigenok might have thought the same, for he sent out scouts on either side, and advanced with greater caution than before, though still at a rapid pace. We pulled up at an open glade. Sad was the sight which met our eyes. On every side were strewed the bodies of our companions, all denuded of their scalps. I almost fell fainting from my horse. I dreaded to find the body of my dear brother among them; still I eagerly hurried on to ascertain his fate. He was not to be found among the slain. My hopes slightly revived. He might have escaped and be concealed somewhere near, or he might have been carried off as a prisoner. My blood ran cold when I thought of this latter possibility, for I had heard of the horrible mode in which the Red men tortured their prisoners, and I dreaded lest such should be the lot of my poor brother. The rage and fury of the Indians at finding that their friends had thus been cut off was terrific, and their threats of vengeance terrible. I had hitherto, till this expedition, seen the Red men only under more favourable aspects. I now perceived what they could become when excited by passion. Still the loss of my brother made me anxious that they should immediately undertake an expedition which might result in his recovery. I saw the Indians examining the ground round on every side, and they soon pronounced an opinion that the party who had attacked their friends did not equal them in numbers, and would not have succeeded had they not lain in ambush and taken them by surprise. We must have passed close to the Sioux, but in consequence of the superiority of our numbers they were afraid to attack us. A council was immediately held; the principal men spoke, and various plans were suggested. The result of them was, that it was determined to form a camp on the spot, while twenty well-mounted warriors should go in pursuit of the Sioux. I entreated Sigenok to allow me to accompany him. "You are young for warfare, but your heart is strong—you shall go," he answered. No time was to be lost. It was of great consequence to follow up the foe so rapidly that they might not be prepared for our approach. A hurried meal was taken, and each warrior furnishing himself with a supply of pemmikon for several days, we immediately set off. Three men, on foot, always kept ahead to act as scouts and to feel the way, while their horses were led by the rest, and when the first were tired others took their places. The Sioux must have retreated very rapidly, for two whole days passed, and though my friends assured me we were on the right trail, we had not overtaken them. I was almost in despair, and began to doubt that, even if Malcolm was alive, he could be with them. I had just expressed my fears to Sigenok when one of the scouts came hurrying back and exhibited a tag—the end of a boot-lace, such as my brother had worn. This Sigenok considered a sure sign that Malcolm was with them. My eagerness, therefore, increased to overtake them, but the Indians assured me that great caution was requisite, and that instead of going faster, it might be necessary to go slower. This is often the case I have since found in other affairs of life. More scouts were now sent out and still greater caution used. It was the intention of my companions, if possible, to make the onslaught on the camp of their foes at night. All depended, however, on our approach not being suspected. The Sioux, of course, would have scouts out, and the difficulty was to avoid their meeting ours, or discovering any traces. At last, just before dusk, one of our scouts brought in word that they had encamped, and that we were about two miles from them. It was suspected, from the way in which they had formed their camp, they must have thought that they had distanced us. We had now no longer any doubt about overtaking them, but the question was as to the best means of making the attack. The Indians' chief thought was of revenging themselves for the loss of their relatives, my only desire was to recover my brother should he still be alive. We continued to advance till we got within about half a mile of the Sioux camp—the hilly nature of the ground and the woods concealing our approach. Beyond that we dared not proceed, as the country was so open that we might easily have been seen had we made the attempt. The band, accordingly, here left their horses under charge of five of their number, and as soon as it was dusk they commenced their stealthy approach to the camp. Sigenok and another young and active Indian undertook to look after me. Not a word was spoken after we set out—not a leaf was moved, scarcely a blade of grass was uselessly pressed down. On they crept slowly, and so gently that I could scarcely hear the footfalls even of my two companions. I imitated their way of walking, and as I had on mocassins I also was able to avoid making the slightest noise. We had got within a thousand yards of the camp when we all stopped to listen. The camp was still astir, and there were sounds of feasting and revelry. The Indians with me ground their teeth—their enemies, fancying themselves secure, were about to indulge in a scalp-dance over the scalps they had taken in the morning. As yet the scouts had not got near enough to ascertain if my brother was with them. I entreated Sigenok to let me go and ascertain. "Not without me," was his answer. "Bah, we will go." I eagerly and fearlessly pressed on. We had to crawl along the ground lest our figures might be perceived, by the sharp eyes of the Sioux, against the sky. We reached a small stream. The camp was formed a little way beyond it. We waded across it, and creeping up, looked over the bank. In the centre was a fire which, as it blazed up, threw a strange light on the groups of fierce savages clustering round it. At a little distance was a figure which attracted all my attention—it was that of my brother. He was seated on a log of wood, close to which a stake was driven in, and to this his wrists were tightly secured, though his feet were free. His head was bent down; he sat perfectly quiet, as if resigned to his fate. By the gestures of his captors I thought that they were talking about him, and I feared that they were proposing forthwith to put him to death. I dared not ask Sigenok what he thought; the slightest sound might have betrayed us. Oh how I longed to rush forward and join his fate, whatever that might be. I believe that I should have done so when I saw him lift up his pale countenance, so expressive of grief and pain, had not Sigenok held me back. He was, I was sure, thinking of me, and how miserable I should be when he was taken from me, and I was left alone in the world. Sigenok now made a sign to me to retreat; keeping close to him as before, I unwillingly left the spot. We crawled on till we rejoined our companions. It may seem surprising that the Sioux should have been so completely off their guard; but this arose from their despising their foes, the fact being that the Ojibways are generally very unwarlike, and they, therefore, believed that they would not venture to follow them. My companions' plans were soon formed. It was arranged that the whole party should creep forward as we had done, and that each man should single out one of the enemy according to his position, and that at a signal from Sigenok, the low croak of a frog, all should fire at the same moment. With the sound of the first shot the men with the horses were to come galloping on, as if a fresh party were approaching the scene of conflict. As, undoubtedly, all the Sioux would not be killed, some might, otherwise, attempt to rush on their concealed foes, but, with the fear of falling into the hands of their enemies, they would now take to flight. My heart beat quick as we now moved on towards the camp of our treacherous foes. The night was very dark, and so noiseless were the movements of the Indians that, till I actually touched Sigenok's heel, I fancied at one time that I must be alone. The shouting and shrieking of the Sioux as they sang their songs of triumph yet farther assisted us to approach. In another moment the death volley would be given, and most of those fierce savages would be laid low. My only wish all the time was to rush forward and to release my beloved brother. How breathlessly I waited for the signal! The warriors were moving about, and Sigenok was not yet satisfied, apparently, with the positions which they had taken up. Little did they dream of the danger which threatened them. Sigenok's object was to wait till the Sioux were separated as much as possible, so that there should be no mistake as to which of them should be aimed at by the warriors of our party. After sitting down for some time, they all arose with eager and violent gestures; some went in the direction of the temporary wigwams they had formed, and others advanced towards Malcolm. By their looks and gesticulations I had little doubt that it was with the intention of torturing him. Poor Malcolm lifted up his countenance and gazed with calm resignation at his approaching tormentors. My knees trembled for very anxiety. Just then I heard a low "croak! croak!" Though warned, I believed that it was really a frog close to me. It was followed by a click as if caused by the cocking of the rifles. The Sioux one and all started and looked round. Their quick ears had detected the sound. There was another low croak, and at the same instant a rattling volley, and fourteen savages lay stretched on the grass. The rest rushed in all directions seeking for shelter, but in their alarm, scarcely perceiving whence the volley had proceeded, some darted towards the bank of the stream, where my friends still lay concealed rapidly reloading their rifles. Scarcely had the smoke cleared off than I saw through it a savage darting towards Malcolm with uplifted knife, resolved apparently, before he died, to plunge it in his bosom. I shrieked out, and sprang forward to throw myself between them. The savage saw me, and was about to vent his rage on my head, but at the moment his gleaming knife was uplifted to strike, a bullet struck him, fired from Sigenok's rifle, and he fell within a foot of me, in vain endeavouring to reach me with his weapon. I sprang to my brother's side, he was unhurt, my knife was busily employed in cutting through the thongs which bound him. More shots were heard as my Ojibway friends caught sight of their Sioux foes endeavouring to escape. A few of the latter had, however, got to some distance and were trying to catch their horses, on which their only hope of safety now depended. The object of the Ojibways was, of course, to prevent them, lest they should carry the news of what had happened to their tribe, who would, in their turn, send off another war party in pursuit of us.
The approach of our horses was now heard. Sigenok with a dozen other men threw themselves on their backs almost without stopping them, and galloped off in hot pursuit of their flying enemies. I stood by the side of my brother, who was too much bewildered to understand what had happened. His first words were, "Harry, dear Harry, tell me is it a dream or a reality. Am I really free?"
"Free, Malcolm, I trust," I answered; "though I might almost ask you the same question; I can scarcely believe my happiness."
"Now I take your hand and hear your voice, I know that it is true," he said eagerly. "And that poor savage who lies so helpless there, I thought he was going to kill me; but I have been mercifully protected; I will tell you all about it by and by. Oh what a dreadful state of existence is this wild life; we will quit it, and return to our quiet home and never leave that. I had often read about savages, and thought them very fine fellows, but little knew what they really are—how bloodthirsty, cruel, murderous. Let us fly, Harry, let us fly at once. Do not stay here."
I pacified him after a little time, and persuaded him to remain till Sigenok returned. "He, though still a savage, is, at all events, faithful," I observed; "he will not desert us till he has seen us home and safe again with Sam Dawes. I wish that we could wean him altogether from his mode of life, and induce him to become a civilised man."
While Malcolm and I were talking, the rest of the Ojibways had collected, with the exception of those who had gone in pursuit of the Sioux. The fire had sunk low, and I was thankful that the darkness prevented us from watching the horrid task in which they were engaged— that of scalping their fallen foes. The exclamations they uttered while thus employed, showed the delight they took in the dreadful work. "Our brothers are avenged! our brothers are avenged!" they kept shouting. "Their mothers, and wives, and children will not mourn alone; there will be grief and wailing also in the lodges of the Sioux. They will no longer be able to boast that they are the great warriors of the plains. We have conquered them; we have slain them; we have their scalps to show." Nearly an hour thus passed; so greatly excited all the time were the savages that they took little notice of us.
At last we heard shouts in the distance, which became louder and louder, till by the light of the fire, which had been renewed, we saw Sigenok and his companions ride into the camp flourishing at the end of their spears the dreadful trophies of their success. But I should not have described those scenes at all, were it not to afford you a true picture of savage life, not as it is painted by romance writers, but as it really is, debased, and wretched, and hopeless. We soon reached the camp and recommenced our return to the settlements as rapidly as we could push on.
Sigenok told us that the Sioux of whom they had gone in chase, had nearly effected their escape, but that he had come up with them as they were attempting to pass a broad river, and where, from being in the water, not hearing the approach of their foes, he and his companions had shot them all down, so that he believed not one had got off. Still, had one escaped he might prove as dangerous as many, and therefore it might be safer to proceed homeward at once. We urged him to do so, and accordingly without even resting, we at once set out to return to the camp. We reached it in safety; but I will not attempt to describe the scenes which took place, and the savage triumph even of the women; how they shrieked, and shouted, and danced, and clapped their hands till they appeared like so many furies rather than human beings. As a war party of the Sioux would be able to travel much faster than we could, the household goods were at once packed, and we set out on our return homeward. We travelled rapidly, and to guard against surprise we had scouts in the rear constantly on the watch for the approach of a foe. The conversation of the men all the way related to the events of the expedition, and they evidently gloated over the way in which they had put their enemies to death.
As we proceeded I often turned my head when I heard any noise behind me, expecting to see the enemy darting out of a wood, or scouring over the prairie in chase of us, and at night, while we were encamped, I frequently started up under the belief that the Sioux were upon us.
"All our sufferings, and the dangers we have gone through, and the horrors we have witnessed, have been owing to our folly," observed Malcolm; "had we remained at home, steadily assisting Sam Dawes to cultivate the farm, we should have escaped them all. We will be wiser in future."
With great satisfaction, and gratitude for the dangers we had escaped, our eyes once more rested on the silvery waters of the Red River, as it wound its way through the rich plains of the settlement, towards the lengthened expanse of Lake Winnipeg. Malcolm and I, putting our spurs into our mustangs' flanks, galloped on eager to announce our arrival to Sam Dawes. He was labouring by himself, putting up a fence to a new field. He saw us coming, and, throwing down his axe, hurried forward to meet us. Never was there a more happy meeting. He had a great deal to tell us, as we had to tell him. Gathering up his tools, he walked by our sides to the hut; a hut though it was no longer, for by his persevering industry he had converted it into a very comfortable residence; while he had replaced, though in a somewhat rough fashion, nearly all the furniture we had lost. My brother and I felt ashamed at having deserted him for so long, while he was labouring for our benefit.
"Well, dear masters, I did ofttimes feel sad and lonely like while you were away, but now I've got you back safe all that seems as light as a feather," he exclaimed, pressing our hands and looking into our faces with the affection of a parent. He told us that great changes had taken place in the settlement during our absence, that a clergyman had settled near us, that a church was built and a school established, and that many new colonists had bought land along the banks of the river for many miles towards the south as well as to the north of us. The good clergyman had also induced several families of Indians to settle in the neighbourhood, and that they seemed to have accepted with joy the glad tidings of salvation which he had been the means of offering them.
"I wish that Sigenok would come and join them then," exclaimed Malcolm warmly; "so brave and energetic a man would bring many others over to the truth."
The next day Sigenok himself came in to see us. Malcolm opened the subject of which he had been speaking. Sigenok listened attentively, and said that he would go and hear what the missionary had to say. He did so.
The winter set in, and the river and lake were frozen over, and the ground was covered with snow, and sleighs had taken the place of carts, and thick buffalo-skin coats of light dress, and stoves were lighted and windows closed, and the whole face of Nature seemed changed. Sigenok came to us. "Ah!" he exclaimed, "when I knew you first my heart was like the great prairie when the fire has passed over it, all black and foul; now it is white like that field of glittering snow on which we gaze. I am a Christian; I look with horror on my past life, and things which I considered before praiseworthy and noble, I now see to be abominable and vile."
Day after day, in spite of cold and wind and snow, did Sigenok come up to the missionary's house to receive instruction in the new faith which had brought such joy to his heart. Many followed in his footsteps, and there now exists a whole village of Christian Indians in the settlement who have put away and for ever their medicine men and their charms, and their false Manitou, and their cruelties and bloodthirstiness, and are worshippers of the true God in sincerity and simplicity of faith. Several of the Indian boys brought up at the school have obtained a considerable amount of learning, and some are ordained ministers of the gospel, and others catechists and schoolmasters at various missionary stations scattered throughout the wide extent of Rupert's Land.
You may like to hear something more about that wonderful land, that terra ignota of British Central America. At the time of which I have been speaking it was supposed that the only fertile land was to be found on the banks of the Red River, but it is now ascertained that an extremely rich and fertile belt extends from the Red River right across the continent, for eight hundred miles or more, to the base of the Rocky Mountains, where it unites with the new province of Columbia. This fertile belt is capable of supporting innumerable herds of cattle, flocks of sheep, and droves of horses, and of giving employment and happy homes to millions of the human race. It produces wheat and barley, and oats, and Indian corn, or maize, in great perfection, and potatoes and a variety of other roots and vegetables of all sorts, and the finest grass for hay, and hemp and tobacco, and many other plants with difficulty grown in England. The rivers are full of fish, and game of all sorts abound. The climate is very uniform throughout, like that of Upper Canada—warm in summer and very cold in winter, but dry and healthy in the extreme.
When, as I hope the case may be before long, those lakes and rivers along which we travelled on our journey from Lake Superior to the Red River are made navigable for steamers, this country will become the great highway to British Columbia, to China, Japan, and the wide-spreading shores and isles of the Pacific. With a line of settlements established across it, the journey may easily be performed, and some day, Harry, you and I will run over, and we will pay a visit to the very scenes which I have been describing to you; but instead of roving savages, murdering and scalping in every direction, living by hunting and fishing, I hope that we may find the Indians settled down as Christian men, and persevering cultivators of the soil which Providence will compel to yield a rich return for their labour. You will wish to know more of your uncle Malcolm's and my proceedings. We soon became acquainted with the good clergyman I have mentioned, and after a time he suggested to us that, as our education was far from perfect, it would be wise if we recommenced our studies. This we did, and though we continued to help Sam Dawes in his farm labours even more efficiently than before, so steady was our application when engaged with our books under our kind tutor, that we made considerable progress in our studies. For three years or more we lived on very happily, with nothing to change our course of life, when we received notice from England that a relation of our father's especially wished us to return. On consulting our friend the clergyman, he strongly recommended us to accept the invitation offered us. As we expected speedily to return we left Sam Dawes in charge of the farm, though he was almost heart-broken at parting from us. He would, indeed, never have consented to remain had he not believed that it was for our interest to do so. On reaching England great was our surprise to find that our relative intended to leave us his property. On ascertaining our attainments in knowledge, he insisted on our both going to the university. Your uncle Malcolm took high honours, and entered into holy orders. I became, as was our relative, a merchant, and without allowing business to absorb me, I have considerably increased the small portion he left me. Your uncle Malcolm and I have constantly talked of going over to visit Sam Dawes, but circumstances have prevented us. We long ago made over the farm to him, and he has greatly increased and improved it. He is, we hear, a hale old man. And now, Harry, I have told you a long story enough for to-day. Some other time I will tell you more about the wonders of Rupert's Land.
THE SHEPHERD LORD, BY JULIA CORNER, AUTHOR OF THE "HISTORICAL LIBRARY," ETCETERA.
It is now about four hundred years since a great feast was held at Skipton Castle, to celebrate the birth of a son and heir to the noble house of De Clifford. The young lord of the domain had just succeeded to the title and vast possessions of his father, Thomas Lord Clifford, who was killed in the battle of Saint Albans, at the beginning of the civil wars between the rival houses of York and Lancaster, and, by his death, his only son John, then not much more than twenty years of age, became lord of the great manor of Skipton in Yorkshire, and of Brougham Castle, with its wide lands, in Westmoreland, besides other castles and estates in different parts of the Northern Counties. A rich and powerful family were the De Cliffords, descended from Richard of Normandy, the uncle of William the Conqueror, and the first Lord Clifford was the father of the lady called Fair Rosamond, who lived in the reign of King Henry the Second, and was so beautiful that it is said in some histories of England that the queen was jealous of her, and obliged her to take poison; but this story is now supposed to be untrue, as there is reason to believe that Fair Rosamond became a nun and died in a convent. The De Cliffords held the Barony of Clifford in Herefordshire, and the extensive manor of Skipton in Yorkshire, when the grandson of Rosamond's father married a rich heiress, who brought him the Barony of Westmoreland, to which Brougham Castle belonged, and after that other lords of the race acquired estates by their marriages, so that the wealth and grandeur of the family had been continually increasing. The wife of the present Lord Clifford, the beautiful and accomplished Lady Margaret, was the only child, consequently the heiress of Henry Bromflete Lord de Vesci, who was also possessed of large estates, one of which was Londesborough in Yorkshire, so that Henry, the hero of this tale, was born heir to great riches and honours, and in his childhood was surrounded with all the magnificence of a royal prince, for his father lived in kingly state, and his mother had her maids of honour, her squires and pages, just like a queen. It was not long after young Henry's birth that Lord Clifford removed his family from Skipton to Brougham Castle, where two more children were born, a boy who was named Richard, and a girl named Elizabeth. These children had their separate nurses and attendants, as was befitting their high station, and Henry's chief nurse, whose name was Maud, was as fond of him as if he had been her own child, for he was a very sweet-tempered, affectionate boy, and he loved her better than any one else in the world, except his parents and his little brother and sister.
Lord Clifford was now very seldom at home, being deeply engaged in the wars, but he came sometimes and stayed for a few days or weeks, as it might be, and on these occasions Henry, as soon as he was old enough, used to dine in the Castle hall, where not less than a hundred knights and gentlemen, besides a great number of pages and domestics of all kinds, sat down to dinner all together every day, for such was the custom of those times in great families. The dinner hour was about noon, or even earlier, when everybody belonging to the establishment assembled in the hall, where they took their places at the board according to their rank. At the upper end was a table raised above the rest on a dais, for the lord of the castle and his family, with any guests of distinction that might happen to be present, and below this was a long oak table extending from it lengthways down the centre of the hall, in the middle of which stood an enormous salt-cellar, as a sort of boundary between such as were of gentle birth, and those of lower degree; the former sitting above, the latter below the salt. The style of living in those days would appear very uncivilised to us in this more refined age, for the dishes were set on the board without any cloth, and the people ate off wooden or pewter plates, and used their fingers instead of forks, while many of the nobles would have their favourite hounds beside them, and feed them from the table; for, as the floor was always thickly strewed with rushes, they did not mind throwing down pieces of meat to their dogs. However there was always great plenty, and such a banquet was thought very grand then; and the young Henry de Clifford, as being the eldest son, was treated with great homage by all his father's dependents. Often, too, chiefly for his amusement, mummers, jugglers, and tumblers were allowed to exhibit their performances in the hall, for he took great delight in such entertainments, and no indulgence, however costly, was thought too great for De Clifford's heir, whose pleasure was studied by every member of the numerous household. It was well for him that his wise and excellent mother taught him not to be too proud of his exalted rank, or haughty in his manners to those of humbler grade, but to be courteous and kind to every one, even to the lowest menial, so as to gain the good-will of all; and, as he was a very docile boy, and moreover believed that nobody in the world was so good or so beautiful as his own dear mother, he did not fail to profit by her gentle precepts, and become all that she could wish. Poor boy! he little dreamed then how greatly he would stand in need of a humble spirit, or what a sad reverse of fortune he was destined soon to experience.
His good nurse Maud had left to go to her own home at Skipton, where she married a shepherd belonging to the estate, and after her departure Henry was much more with his mother, who had begun to instruct him in such branches of learning as were considered essential to the education of the young nobility. She taught him to play on the harp and other stringed instruments, to recite verses, sing many of the songs she had herself learned from the minstrels in her father's halls, and, what was of still more importance, she was about to teach him to read, which was not a common accomplishment in those days, for there were no printed books in England till some time afterwards. Printing was then a new invention, and only practised in Germany at one or two of the principal towns, so that the only means of learning to read was from manuscripts written by the monks, generally on parchment or vellum, and beautifully illuminated with a border round every page, in brilliant colours intermixed with gold. In every monastery some of the monks were always employed in making copies of the manuscripts their libraries contained, and others in illuminating them; but these written books were so expensive that none but very rich people could afford to buy them. Lady Clifford, however, possessed a few of these valuable works, and was intending that her son, who was now in his seventh year, should begin to study them, when a heavy blow fell upon the house of De Clifford; and the noble youth, who was born to be a great and wealthy lord, was reduced to the humble condition of a shepherd's boy.
Henry was very desirous to know something about the war that kept his father so much from home, and Lady Margaret took great pains to explain to him how it had been occasioned, and why the English people should all be fighting against each other. She told him it was the opinion of many persons that the king, Henry the Sixth, who was then reigning, had no right to the crown, which belonged properly to the Duke of York, who had come over from Ireland and raised an army for the purpose of dethroning the sovereign, and getting himself made king in his stead. She also told him that King Henry, though a very good man, was neither very brave nor very clever, so that he did not take an active part in the war himself, but trusted everything to his queen, Margaret of Anjou, a Frenchwoman, whose bold and daring spirit enabled her to support her husband's cause.
"But which do you think is right, mother?" said Henry.
"It is a difficult question to answer, my child; your father takes the part of the king, or rather of the queen, for the king is now a prisoner in the hands of his enemies. But the claim of the Duke of York is not without foundation, and those who take his part of course believe him to be in the right. But it is a sad thing, my Henry, that a dispute between two princes should cause so much misery and bloodshed as has already been occasioned by this unhappy quarrel, and it may be a long time yet before peace is restored."
"Why do they say my father is for Lancaster and the Red Rose?"
"Because our king's grandfather, Henry the Fourth, was Duke of Lancaster before he became king. He gained the crown by force from his cousin Richard the Second, and although the people consented to have him for their king, and his son Henry the Fifth after him, and now his grandson Henry the Sixth, it does not prove that he had a right to take the crown from Richard."
"And who is this Duke of York, mother? Why do they think he ought to be the king?"
"To make you understand that, Henry, I must go back a little further to the reign of Edward the Third. He, you know, was the father of that good and brave prince Edward, whom we call the Black Prince, and who would have been king if he had not died before his father. The Black Prince had four younger brothers, but he had a son also, who succeeded to the throne at the death of his grandfather. He was the Richard the Second whose crown was taken from him by the Duke of Lancaster, his cousin, who is, therefore, considered a usurper. This Duke of Lancaster was also a grandson of Edward the Third, but his father was one of the younger sons of that king; and the Duke of York, who has now come forward to claim the crown, and stirred up all this terrible strife, is a descendant of one of King Edward's elder sons. Do you understand all this?"
"Yes, I think I do; but I cannot tell which is in the right after all."
"No, my dear boy, I dare say you cannot, neither can I inform you, for there is much to be said on both sides. I do not pretend to judge between them, I can only be grieved to see how much sorrow is caused by the war, and wish that it was ended."
"But you have not told me now, mother, why they say my father is for the Red Rose."
"The Red Rose, Henry, is a badge to distinguish the king's party. The crimson rosette they all wear is meant to represent a red rose. The friends of the Duke of York wear a white one, and from these party signs the war has come to be called the 'War of the Roses.'"
One day, soon after this conversation, it was just before Christmas, the Lady Margaret, who often entered into the diversions of her children, was teaching her two boys to shoot at a target in the gallery above the hall, with a miniature bow and arrows. Some of her maidens were present looking on at the sport, and when either of the boys shot near the mark they clapped their hands in applause, and exclaimed, "In good truth, that was well aimed, my Lord Henry!" or "Bravely done, my Lord Richard! It went within a hair's breadth." And so they went on laughing and playing for a long while, one or other of the damsels, and sometimes the lady herself, trying their skill, the two boys being highly delighted with the sport, when they were suddenly interrupted by the sound of the warder's horn, and in another moment the loud, heavy tramp of many horses was heard.
"It is my lord returned!" cried Lady Margaret. "Now, heaven be praised. Come with me, Henry, to the gate to meet your father; and you, Cicely, bring down Richard. He must not say we are slow to bid him welcome."
The drawbridge had been let down, the castle-gates flung wide open, and in a few minutes the hall was filled with a host of soldiers who had returned with their lord from the wars. The noble chief responded lovingly to the affectionate greetings of his lady and his boys, then left the hall with them, whilst the seneschal collected all the chief domestics and their servitors to make ready a banquet for the unexpected guests. A sumptuous feast was speedily prepared, and Lord Clifford, with the Lady Margaret and his son Henry, dined in state that day—it was for the last time—in Brougham Castle.
The joy occasioned by his return was but short-lived, for it was quickly known that he was to depart again on the morrow, and much news was told to the inmates of the castle by those who had newly arrived. It appeared that the whole country was in a dreadful state. The king had been made prisoner at the last battle, and the queen was now in the northern counties with her son, the young prince Edward, endeavouring to raise fresh forces. These were hard times for the poor country-people, who suffered greatly from famine, as the soldiers were marching about in all directions, pillaging and destroying wherever they came. Almost every nobleman in England had joined either one side or the other, and many men, who would much rather have stayed at home in peace with their families, to work in the fields, or tend their flocks and herds, were compelled to take up arms at the bidding of their lords; but the peasantry in those days were so dependent on the nobles that every man was obliged to obey the commands of the lord of the land whereon he dwelt, for although the lower orders were not vassals and serfs as they used to be in earlier times, still they were not so free as they are now. Lord Clifford had come home chiefly for the purpose of leaving some of his trusty followers to defend the castle in case it should be attacked, which he thought probable, and as he had taken away all the fighting-men, there had latterly been none left in the castle but such as were too old or infirm to do much service. He therefore appointed a sufficient number to remain as a guard, then prepared to bid adieu once more to his wife and children. Lord Clifford was fierce and cruel in the wars, but he was fondly attached to his own family, and it was perhaps in some measure owing to his strong feelings with regard to domestic ties, united with a natural ferocity of disposition, that made him so unsparing towards his enemies as to obtain the name of "the butcher," by which he is distinguished in history to this very day; for when his father fell at the battle of Saint Albans, he made a vow that he would revenge his death by never showing mercy to a partisan of the house of York, and he kept that vow but too well, as you will presently hear.
The gentle Lady Margaret watched, with a saddened heart and tearful eyes, the hurried preparations for her husband's departure, while Henry and Richard stood near him, gazing with childish admiration on his stately form arrayed in armour of polished steel, over which he wore a tabard, or short coat of crimson velvet, richly embroidered with gold, and under its wide open sleeves the shining armour looked very splendid. His helmet was adorned with a plume of feathers, and as he was a tall, handsome man, no doubt he looked very magnificent in the eyes of his children. It was the last time they ever saw him.
Brougham Castle stood on the bank of a narrow river, and its principal entrance was an arched gateway opening to the riverside. The drawbridge had been let down, and some of the horsemen had already passed over, and were waiting on the opposite bank for their leader, who still lingered to say a few more parting words to the beloved ones he was leaving behind. The little baby girl was brought to him for a last kiss, then he took Richard in his arms, and kissed him too, and stroking the glossy curls of Henry's light brown hair, he said—
"I wish you were a few years older, my son, that you might go with me to fight for your king and queen."
"I thank God that he is not old enough," returned Lady Margaret; "it is grief enough for me to part with my husband. Oh! that these cruel wars were over, for they bring nothing but sorrow to the land!"
"Thou hast but a faint heart, my Margaret. Our queen is a lioness compared with thee!"
"I would not wish to resemble her then," said the lady.
"Nor would I desire that thou shouldst," replied her husband. "But keep up a brave spirit, for thou mayest need it."
Again he embraced her lovingly, and mounting his gallant charger he rode from the castle-gate, with about fifty knights and esquires in his train, all well armed and mounted.
The first news that reached Brougham, was a cause of the deepest sorrow to Lady Margaret, although it told of a great battle that had been won by her husband's party at Wakefield, and also of the death of Richard, Duke of York, who had fallen on the field. But it also told of a barbarous deed done by Lord Clifford, which she was sure would turn all hearts against him; and so it did, for it shocked both friends and foes, and has left a blot on his name that will never be effaced.
It was after the battle was over, as he was riding towards the town to rejoin the queen, that he overtook the young Earl of Rutland, second son of the unfortunate Duke of York, a youth about fourteen years of age, who had just heard of his father's fate, and, overwhelmed with grief, was being hurried away by his tutor, Sir Robert Aspall, who had been left in charge of him near the field of battle, to seek refuge in a neighbouring convent. Clifford seized the affrighted boy, who fell on his knees and begged for mercy.
"Who is he?" demanded the fierce nobleman in a thundering tone.
"He is the son of a prince who is now beyond thy power," answered the venerable tutor. "But I pray you to spare him, for he is too young to do hurt to thee or thy cause."
"He is a son of York, and he shall die!" exclaimed Lord Clifford, plunging his dagger into the heart of the hapless boy, who fell dead at his feet.
It was in consequence of this wanton act of cruelty, and of the numbers he slew at the battle of Wakefield with his own hand, that he was thenceforth called "the butcher," a terrible distinction, which will cling to his memory for ever.
Lady Clifford lamented sadly over the fate of poor Rutland, for she would have given all the wealth she had in the world, rather than her lord should have been guilty of such a wicked deed; and when she looked at her dear boy Henry, she wondered that the thought of his own son should not have softened a father's heart, and prevented him from destroying an innocent youth, even though he was the son of an enemy.
One day, soon after this news was brought, there came to the castle one of those wandering minstrels who were in the habit of going about the country with their harps, and were sure to find a welcome at the mansions of the great, where, in return for a night's lodging and entertainment, they would amuse the company with their songs and music. Lady Clifford never went down to the great hall when her lord was away, but confined herself to her own private apartments with her female attendants and her children, but she readily gave permission for the domestics to admit the minstrel for their own amusement, and right glad they were of this indulgence, as they had spent but a dull Christmas.
"May we not go down, dear mother, to hear the minstrel play and sing?" said Henry.
"Yes, you and Richard may go for awhile if you wish it," replied Lady Margaret; and, sending for the old seneschal or steward of the castle, she bade him take charge of the boys while they listened to the harper's songs. There were not many people in the castle now, but all that were there assembled in the hall to make merry with the new comer, except Lady Clifford herself, and the little Lady Elizabeth. The minstrel sang a long ballad all about the warlike achievements of the De Cliffords in former times, filling up the pauses with the animated strains of his harp, and when the song was done, and the servants were preparing to dance, the boys returned to their mother, highly delighted with what they had heard.
The next morning the seneschal came to his mistress and told her that the minstrel begged for a private audience, as he had something of importance to communicate, "And I think, my lady," said the old man, "it is about our lord that he wishes to speak, for he has just come from Wakefield."
"Then bring him hither, Hubert," said the lady, "I will hear what he has to say."
Hubert bowed respectfully and withdrew, but soon returned with the minstrel, who was instantly recognised by Lady Margaret as a faithful retainer of Lord de Vesci, her father; and seeing by his looks that what he had to communicate was for her ear only; she dismissed all who were present, and remained alone with him.
"What is it, Rolf," she asked in alarm. "Why do you come here in disguise? what of my father? is he well?"