THE LOG SCHOOL-HOUSE ON THE COLUMBIA
A Tale of the Pioneers of the Great Northwest
Author of the Zigzag Books
New York D. Appleton and Company
A year or more ago one of the librarians in charge of the young people's books in the Boston Public Library called my attention to the fact that there were few books of popular information in regard to the pioneers of the great Northwest. The librarian suggested that I should write a story that would give a view of the heroic lives of the pioneers of Oregon and Washington.
Soon after this interview I met a distinguished educator who had lately returned from the Columbia River, who told me the legend of the old chief who died of grief in the grave of his son, somewhat in the manner described in this volume. The legend had those incidental qualities that haunt a susceptible imagination, and it was told to me in such a dramatic way that I could not put it out of my mind.
A few weeks after hearing this haunting legend I went over the Rocky Mountains by the Canadian Pacific Railway, and visited the Columbia River and the scenes associated with the Indian story. I met in Washington, Yesler, Denney, and Hon. Elwood Evans, the historian; visited the daughter of Seattle, the chief, "Old Angeline"; and gathered original stories in regard to the pioneers of the Puget Sound country from many sources. In this atmosphere the legend grew upon me, and the outgrowth of it is this volume, which, amid a busy life of editorial and other work, has forced itself upon my experience.
28 WORCESTER STREET, BOSTON, July 4, 1890
I. GRETCHEN'S VIOLIN
II. THE CHIEF OF THE CASCADES
III. "BOSTON TILICUM"
IV. MRS. WOODS'S TAME BEAR, LITTLE "ROLL OVER"
V. THE NEST OF THE FISHING EAGLE
VI. THE MOUNTAIN LION
VII. THE "SMOKE-TALK"
VIII. THE BLACK EAGLE'S NEST OF THE FALLS OF THE MISSOURI
IX. GRETCHEN'S VISIT TO THE OLD CHIEF OF THE CASCADES
X. MRS. WOODS MEETS LITTLE "ROLL OVER" AGAIN
XI. MARLOWE MANN'S NEW ROBINSON CRUSOE
XII. OLD JOE MEEK AND MR. SPAULDING
XIII. A WARNING
XIV. THE POTLATCH
XV. THE TRAUMEREI AGAIN
XVI. A SILENT TRIBE
XVII. A DESOLATE HOME AND A DESOLATE PEOPLE
XVIII. THE LIFTED CLOUD—THE INDIANS COME TO THE SCHOOLMASTER
II. The Oregon Trail
III. Governor Stevens
IV. Seattle the Chief
V. Whitman's Ride for Oregon
VI. Mount Saint Helens
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.
Gretchen at the Potlatch Feast E. J. Austen (Frontispiece)
Indians spearing fish at Salmon Falls
"Here were mountains grander than Olympus." The North Puyallup Glacier, Mount Tacoma
In the midst of this interview Mrs. Woods appeared at the door of the cabin A. E. Pope
The eagle soared away in the blue heavens, and the flag streamed after him in his talons E.J. Austen
The mountain lion D. Carter Beard
An Indian village on the Columbia
Afar loomed Mount Hood
A castellated crag arose solitary and solemn
At the Cascades of the Columbia
Multnomah Falls in earlier years. Redrawn by Walter C. Greenough
The old chief stood stoical and silent. E. J. Austen
Middle block-house at the Cascades
An elderly woman and a German girl were walking along the old Indian trail that led from the northern mountains to the Columbia River. The river was at this time commonly called the Oregon, as in Bryant's poem:
"Where rolls the Oregon, And no sound is heard save its own dashings."
The girl had a light figure, a fair, open face, and a high forehead with width in the region of ideality, and she carried under her arm a long black case in which was a violin. The woman had lived in one of the valleys of the Oregon for several years, but the German girl had recently arrived in one of the colonies that had lately come to the territory under the missionary agency of the Rev. Jason Lee.
There came a break in the tall, cool pines that lined the trail and that covered the path with glimmering shadows. Through the opening the high summits of Mount St. Helens glittered like a city of pearl, far, far away in the clear, bright air. The girl's blue eyes opened wide, and her feet stumbled.
"There, there you go again down in the hollow! Haven't you any eyes? I would think you had by the looks of them. Well, Gretchen, they were placed right in the front of your head so as to look forward; they would have been put in the top of your head if it had been meant that you should look up to the sky in that way. What is it you see?"
"Oh, mother, I wish I was—an author."
"An author! What put that into your simple head? You meant to say you would like to be a poet, but you didn't dare to, because you know I don't approve of such things. People who get such flighty ideas into their loose minds always find the world full of hollows. No, Gretchen, I am willing you should play on the violin, though some of the Methody do not approve of that; and that you should finger the musical glasses in the evening—they have a religious sound and soothe me, like; but the reading of poetry and novels I never did countenance, except Methody hymns and the 'Fool of Quality,' and as for the writing of poetry, it is a Boston notion and an ornary habit. Nature is all full of poetry out here, and what this country needs is pioneers, not poets."
There came into view another opening among the pines as the two went on. The sun was ascending a cloudless sky, and far away in the cerulean arch of glimmering splendors the crystal peaks and domes of St. Helens appeared again.
The girl stopped.
"What now?" said the woman, testily.
"Look yonder—what for? That's nothing but a mountain, a great waste of land all piled up to the sky, and covered with a lot of ice and snow. I don't see what they were made for, any way—just to make people go round, I suppose, so that the world will not be too easy for them."
"Oh, mother, I do not see how you can feel so out here! I never dreamed of anything so beautiful!"
"Feel so out here! What do you mean? Haven't I always been good to you? Didn't I give you a good home in Lynn after your father and mother died? Wasn't I a mother to you? Didn't I nurse you through the fever? Didn't I send for you to come way out here with the immigrants, and did you ever find a better friend in the world than I have been to you?"
"Yes, mother, but—"
"And don't I let you play the violin, which the Methody elder didn't much approve of?"
"Yes, mother, you have always been good to me, and I love you more than anybody else on earth."
There swept into view a wild valley of giant trees, and rose clear above it, a scene of overwhelming magnificence.
"Oh, mother, I can hardly look at it—isn't it splendid? It makes me feel like crying."
The practical, resolute woman was about to say, "Well, look the other way then," but she checked the rude words. The girl had told her that she loved her more than any one else in the world, and the confession had touched her heart.
"Well, Gretchen, that mountain used to make me feel so sometimes when I first came out here. I always thought that the mountains would look peakeder than they do. I didn't think that they would take up so much of the land. I suppose that they are all well enough in their way, but a pioneer woman has no time for sentiments, except hymns. I don't feel like you now, and I don't think that I ever did. I couldn't learn to play the violin and the musical glasses if I were to try, and I am sure that I should never go out into the woodshed to try to rhyme sun with fun; no, Gretchen, all such follies as these I should shun. What difference does it make whether a word rhymes with one word or another?"
To the eye of the poetic and musical German girl the dead volcano, with its green base and frozen rivers and dark, glimmering lines of carbon, seemed like a fairy tale, a celestial vision, an ascent to some city of crystal and pearl in the sky. To her foster mother the stupendous scene was merely a worthless waste, as to Wordsworth's unspiritual wanderer:
"A primrose by the river's brim, A yellow primrose was to him, And it was nothing more."
She was secretly pleased at Gretchen's wonder and surprise at the new country, but somehow she felt it her duty to talk querulously, and to check the flow of the girl's emotions, which she did much to excite. Her own life had been so circumscribed and hard that the day seemed to be too bright to be speaking the truth. She peered into the sky for a cloud, but there was none, on this dazzling Oregon morning. The trail now opened for a long way before the eyes of the travelers. Far ahead gleamed the pellucid waters of the Columbia, or Oregon. Half-way between them and the broad, rolling river a dark, tall figure appeared.
"Gretchen, look! There goes the Yankee schoolmaster. Came way out here over the mountains to teach the people of the wilderness, and all for nothing, too. That shows that people have souls—some people have. Walk right along beside me, proper-like. You needn't ever tell any one that I ain't your true mother. If I ain't ashamed of you, you needn't be ashamed of me. I wish that you were my own girl, now that you have said that you love me more than anybody else in the world. That remark kind o' touched me. I know that I sometimes talk hard, but I mean well, and I have to tell you the plain truth so as to do my duty by you, and then I won't have anything to reflect upon.
"Just look at him! Straight as an arrow! They say that his folks are rich. Come out here way over the mountains, and is just going to teach school in a log school-house—all made of logs and sods and mud-plaster, adobe they call it—a graduate of Harvard College, too."
A long, dark object appeared in the trees covered with bark and moss. Behind these trees was a waterfall, over which hung the crowns of pines. The sunlight sifted through the odorous canopy, and fell upon the strange, dark object that lay across the branching limbs of two ancient trees.
Gretchen stopped again.
"Mother, what is that?"
"A grave—an Indian grave."
The Indians bury their dead in the trees out here, or used to do so. A brown hawk arose from the mossy coffin and winged its way wildly into the sunny heights of the air. It had made its nest on the covering of the body. These new scenes were all very strange to the young German girl.
The trail was bordered with young ferns; wild violets lay in beds of purple along the running streams, and the mountain phlox with its kindling buds carpeted the shelving ways under the murmuring pines. The woman and girl came at last to a wild, open space; before them rolled the Oregon, beyond it stretched a great treeless plain, and over it towered a gigantic mountain, in whose crown, like a jewel, shone a resplendent glacier.
Just before them, on the bluffs of the river, under three gigantic evergreens, each of which was more than two hundred feet high, stood an odd structure of logs and sods, which the builders called the Sod School-house. It was not a sod school-house in the sense in which the term has been applied to more recent structures in the treeless prairie districts of certain mid-ocean States; it was rudely framed of pine, and was furnished with a pine desk and benches.
Along the river lay a plateau full of flowers, birds, and butterflies, and over the great river and flowering plain the clear air glimmered. Like some sun-god's abode in the shadow of ages, St. Helens still lifted her silver tents in the far sky. Eagles and mountain birds wheeled, shrieking joyously, here and there. Below the bluffs the silent salmon-fishers awaited their prey, and down the river with paddles apeak drifted the bark canoes of Cayuses and Umatillas.
A group of children were gathered about the open door of the new school-house, and among them rose the tall form of Marlowe Mann, the Yankee schoolmaster.
He had come over the mountains some years before in the early expeditions organized and directed by Dr. Marcus Whitman, of the American Board of Missions. Whether the mission to the Cayuses and Walla Wallas, which Dr. Whitman established on the bend of the Columbia, was then regarded as a home or foreign field of work, we can not say. The doctor's solitary ride of four thousand miles, in order to save the great Northwest territory to the United States, is one of the most poetic and dramatic episodes of American history. It has proved to be worth to our country more than all the money that has been given to missionary enterprises. Should the Puget Sound cities become the great ports of Asia, and the ships of commerce drift from Seattle and Tacoma over the Japan current to the Flowery Isles and China; should the lumber, coal, minerals, and wheat-fields of Washington, Oregon, Montana, and Idaho at last compel these cities to rival New York and Boston, the populous empire will owe to the patriotic missionary zeal of Dr. Whitman a debt which it can only pay in honor and love. Dr. Whitman was murdered by the Indians soon after the settlement of the Walla Walla country by the pioneers from the Eastern States.
Mr. Mann's inspiration to become a missionary pioneer on the Oregon had been derived from a Boston schoolmaster whose name also the Northwest should honor. An inspired soul with a prophet's vision usually goes before the great movements of life; solitary men summon the march of progress, then decrease while others increase. Hall J. Kelley was a teacher of the olden time, well known in Boston almost a century ago. He became possessed with the idea that Oregon was destined to become a great empire. He collected all possible information about the territory, and organized emigration schemes, the first of which started from St. Louis in 1828, and failed. He talked of Oregon continually. The subject haunted him day and night. It was he who inspired Rev. Jason Lee, the pioneer of the Willamette Valley. Lee interested Senator Linn, of Missouri, in Oregon, and this senator, on December 11, 1838, introduced the bill into Congress which organized the Territory.
Some of the richly endowed new schools of Oregon would honor history by a monumental recognition of the name of Hall J. Kelley, the old schoolmaster, whose dreams were of the Columbia, and who inspired some of his pupils to become resolute pioneers. Boston was always a friend to Washington and Oregon. Where the old schoolmaster now rests we do not know. Probably in a neglected grave amid the briers and mosses of some old cemetery on the Atlantic coast.
When Marlowe Mann came to the Northwest he found the Indian tribes unquiet and suspicious of the new settlements. One of the pioneers had caused a sickness among some thievish Indians by putting emetic poison in watermelons. The Indians believed these melons to have been conjured by the white doctor, and when other sickness came among them, they attributed it to the same cause. The massacre at Wauelaptu and the murder of Whitman grew in part out of these events.
Mr. Mann settled near the old Chief of the Cascades. He sought the Indian friendship of this chief, and asked him for his protection.
"People fulfill the expectation of the trust put in them—Indians as well as children," he used to say. "A boy fulfills the ideals of his mother—what the mother believes the boy will be, that he will become. Treat a thief as though he were honest, and he will be honest with you. We help people to be better by believing in what is good in them. I am going to trust the friendship of the old Chief of the Cascades, and he will never betray it."
It was summer, and there was to be a great Indian Potlatch feast under the autumn moon. The Potlatch is a feast of gifts. It is usually a peaceful gathering of friendly tribes, with rude music and gay dances; but it bodes war and massacre and danger if it end with the dance of the evil spirits, or the devil dance, as it has been known—a dance which the English Government has recently forbidden among the Northwestern tribes.
The Indians were demanding that the great fall Potlatch should end with this ominous dance of fire and besmearings of blood. The white people everywhere were disturbed by these reports, for they feared what might be the secret intent of this wild revel. The settlers all regarded with apprehension the October moon.
The tall schoolmaster watched the approach of Mrs. Woods and Gretchen with a curious interest. The coming of a pupil with no books and a violin was something unexpected. He stepped forward with a courtly grace and greeted them most politely, for wherever Marlowe Mann might be, he never forgot that he was a gentleman.
"This is my gal what I have brought to be educated," said Mrs. Woods, proudly. "They think a great deal of education up around Boston where I came from. Where did you come from?"
"So I have been told—from Harvard College. Can I speak with you a minute in private?"
"Yes, madam. Step aside."
"I suppose you are kinder surprised that I let my gal there, Gretchen, bring her violin with her; but I have a secret to tell ye. Gretchen is a kind of a poet, makes rhymes, she does; makes fool rhyme with school, and such things as that. Now, I don't take any interest in such things. But she does play the violin beautiful. Learned of a German teacher. Now, do you want to know why I let her bring her violin? Well, I thought it might help you. You've got a hard lot of scholars to deal with out here, and there are Injuns around, too, and one never knows what they may do.
"Well, schoolmaster, you never heard nothin' like that violin. It isn't no evil spirit that is in Gretchen's violin; it's an angel. I first noticed it one day when husband and I had been havin' some words. We have words sometimes. I have a lively mind, and know how to use words when I am opposed. Well, one day when husband and I had been havin' words, which we shouldn't, seein' we are Methody, Gretchen began to cry, and went and got her violin, and began to play just like a bird. And my high temper all melted away, and my mind went back to the old farm in New England, and I declare, schoolmaster, I just threw my apron over my head and began to cry, and I told Gretchen never to play that tune again when I was talking to husband for his good.
"Well, one day there came a lot of Injuns to the house and demanded fire-water. I am Methody, and don't keep any such things in the house. Husband is a sober, honest man. Now, I've always noticed that an Injun is a coward, and I think the best way to get along with Injuns is to appear not to fear them. So I ordered the stragglers away, when one of them swung his tommyhawk about my head, and the others threatened to kill me. How my heart did beat! Gretchen began to cry; then she ran all at once for her violin and played the very same tune, and the Injuns just stood like so many dumb statues and listened, and, when the tune was over, one of them said 'Spirits,' and they all went away like so many children.
"Now, I thought you would like to hear my gal play between schools, and, if ever you should get into any trouble with your scholars or Injuns or anybody, just call upon Gretchen, and she will play that tune on the violin."
"What wonderful tune is it, madam?"
"I don't know. I don't know one tune from another, though I do sing the old Methody hymns that I learned in Lynn when I am about my work. I don't know whether she knows or not. She learned it of a German."
"I am glad that you let her bring the instrument. I once played the violin myself in the orchestra of the Boston Handel and Haydn Society."
"Did you? Then you like it. I have a word or two more to say about Gretchen. She's a good gal, and shows her bringing up. Teach her reading, writing, and figures. You needn't teach her no grammar. I could always talk without any grammar, in the natural way. I was a bound-girl, and never had much education. I have had my ups and downs in life, like all the rest of the world. You will do the best you can for Gretchen, won't you?"
"Yes, my dear madam, and for every one. I try to make every one true to the best that is in them. I am glad to have Gretchen for a scholar. I will speak to her by and by."
How strange was the scene to Gretchen! She remembered the winding Rhine, with its green hills and terraced vineyards and broken-walled castles; Basel and the singing of the student clubs in the gardens on summer evenings; the mountain-like church at Strasburg; and the old streets of Mayence. She recalled the legends and music of the river of song—a river that she had once thought to be the most beautiful on earth. But what were the hills of the Rhine to the scenery that pierced the blue sky around her, and how light seemed the river itself to the majestic flow of the Columbia! Yet the home-land haunted her. Would she go back again? How would her real parents have felt had they known that she would have found a home here in the wilderness? Why had Providence led her steps here? Her mother had been a pious Lutheran. Had she been led here to help in some future mission to the Indian race?
"Dreaming?" said Mrs. Woods. "Well, I suppose it can't be helped. If a body has the misfortune to be kiting off to the clouds, going up like an eagle and coming down like a goose, it can't be helped. There are a great many things that can't be helped in this world, and all we can do is to make the best of them. Some people were born to live in the skies, and it makes it hard for those who have to try to live with them. Job suffered some things, but—I won't scold out here—I have my trials; but it may be they are all for the best, as the Scripture says."
These forbearing remarks were not wholly meant for Gretchen's reproval. Mrs. Woods liked to have the world know that she had her trials, and she was pleased to find so many ears on this bright morning open to her experiences.
She liked to say to Gretchen things that were meant for other ears; there was novelty in the indirection. She also was accustomed to quote freely from the Scriptures and from the Methodist hymnbook, which was almost her only accomplishment. She had led a simple, hard-working life in her girlhood; had become a follower of Jason Lee during one of the old-time revivals of religion; had heard of the Methodist emigration to Oregon, and wished to follow it. She hardly knew why. Though rough in speech and somewhat peculiar, she was a kind-hearted and an honest woman, and very industrious and resolute. Mr. Lee saw in her the spirit of a pioneer, and advised her to join his colony. She married Mr. Woods, went to the Dalles of the Columbia, and afterward to her present home upon a donation claim.
THE CHIEF OF THE CASCADES.
Marlowe Mann was a graduate of Harvard in the classic period of the college. He had many scholarly gifts, and as many noble qualities of soul as mental endowments. He was used to the oratory of Henry Ware and young Edward Everett, and had known Charles Sumner and Wendell Phillips at college, when the Greek mind and models led the young student in his fine development, and made him a Pericles in his dreams.
But the young student of this heroic training, no matter how well conditioned his family, usually turned from his graduation to some especial mission in life. "I must put myself into a cause," said young Wendell Phillips. Charles Sumner espoused the struggle of the negro for freedom, and said: "To this cause do I offer all I have." Marlowe Mann was a member of the historic Old South Church, like Phillips in his early years. There was an enthusiasm for missions in the churches of Boston then, and he began to dream of Oregon and the mysterious empire of the great Northwest, as pictured by the old schoolmaster, Kelley; just at this time came Dr. Whitman to the East, half frozen from his long ride, and asked to lead an emigration to Walla Walla, to save the Northern empire to the territory of the States. He heard the doctor's thrilling story of how he had unfurled the flag over the open Bible on the crags that looked down on the valleys of the Oregon, and his resolution was made. He did not follow Dr. Whitman on the first expedition of colonists, but joined him a year or two afterward. He built him a log-cabin on the Columbia, and gave his whole soul to teaching, missionary work among the Indians, and to bringing emigrants from the East.
The country thrilled him—its magnificent scenery, the grandeur of the Columbia, the vastness of the territory, and the fertility of the soil. Here were mountains grander than Olympus, and harbors and water-courses as wonderful as the AEgean. He was almost afraid to map the truth in his extensive correspondence with the East, lest it should seem so incredible as to defeat his purpose.
When the log school-house was building, Mr. Mann had gone to the old Chief of the Cascades and had invited him to send his Indian boy to the school. He had shown him what an advantage it would be to the young chief to understand more thoroughly Chinook and English. He was wise and politic in the matter as well as large-hearted, for he felt that the school might need the friendliness of the old chief, and in no way could it be better secured.
"The world treats you as you treat the world," he said; "and what you are to the world, the world is to you. Tell me only what kind of a neighborhood you come from, and I will tell you what kind of a neighborhood you are going to; we all see the world in ourselves. I will educate the boy, and his father will protect the school. The Indian heart is hot and revengeful, but it is honest and true. I intend to be honest with the Indians in all things, and if there should occur a dance of the evil spirits at the Potlatch, no harm will ever come to the log school-house; and I do not believe that such a dance with evil intent to the settlers will ever take place. Human nature is all one book everywhere."
As he stood there that morning, with uncovered head, an unexpected event happened. The children suddenly said:
"Look!" and "Umatilla!"
Out of the forest came an aged Indian, of gigantic stature—Umatilla, one of the chiefs of the Cascades; and beside him walked his only son, the Light of the Eagle's Plume, or, as he had been named by the English, Benjamin.
Umatilla, like Massasoit, of the early colonial history of Plymouth, was a remarkable person. Surrounded by warlike tribes, he had been a man of peace. He was a lover of Nature, and every shining cloud to his eye was a chariot. He personified everything, like the ancient Greeks. He talked in poetic figures; to him the sky was alive, every event had a soul, and his mind had dwelt upon the great truths of Nature until he had become more of a philosopher than a ruler.
He had been the father of a large family, but six of his sons had died of the plague, or rather of the treatment which the medicine-men had used in the disease, which was to sweat the victims in hot earthen ovens, and then plunge them into the Columbia.
His whole heart in his old age was fixed upon his only son, Benjamin. The two were seldom separated. To make the boy happy was the end of the old chief's life.
The two approached the courtly schoolmaster.
"White master," said the old chief, "I have brought to you the Light of the Eagle's Plume. He is my heart, and will be the heart of my people when my suns are all passed over and my stars gone out. Will you teach him to be a good chief? I want him to know English, and how to worship the Master of Life. Will you take him to your school lodge?"
The tall master bowed low, and took the Indian boy by the hand.
The boy was a princely youth. His figure would have held the eye of a sculptor in long admiration. The chisel of a Phidias could hardly have exceeded such a form. His features were like the Roman, his eye quick and lustrous, and his lips noble and kindly. He wore a blanket over his shoulders, gathered in a long sash, ornamented with shells, about his loins, and a crest of eagle plumes and shells on his head indicated his rank and dignity. He could speak some words of Chinook, and English imperfectly. He had mingled much with the officers of the Hudson Bay Company, and so had learned many of the customs of civilization.
"I am honored," said the courtly, tall schoolmaster, "in having such a youth for my pupil. Chief of the Umatillas, I thank thee. All that is good in me will I give to your noble boy. I live with my eye upon the future; the work of my life is to lead people to follow their better natures and to be true to their best selves. There is a good angel in all men here"—he put his hand on his heart—"it leads men away from evil; it seeks the way of life; its end is yonder with the Infinite. Chief of the Umatillas, I will try to teach the young man to follow it. Do you understand?"
The aged chief bowed. He caught the meaning of the thought, if not of the rather formal words. He comprehended the idea that the tall schoolmaster believed goodness to be immortal. The regions of the Cascades were indeed beautiful with their ancient forests and gleaming mountain walls, but he had been taught to believe that the great Master of Life had provided eternal scenes that transcended these for those who were worthy to receive them.
An unexpected turn came to this stately and pacific interview. Mrs. Woods was piqued at the deference that the tall schoolmaster had shown to the chief and his son. She walked about restlessly, cut a rod from one of the trees with a large knife which she always carried with her, and at last called the master aside again.
"Say, mister, here. You ain't going to take that young Injun into your school, are you? There'll be trouble, now, if you do. Know Injuns—you don't. You are young, but 'tain't best for you to eat all your apples green. I've always been very particular about the company I keep, if I was born poor and have had to work hard, and never studied no foreign languages. I warn you!"
She raised her voice, and Benjamin heard what she had said. He suspected her ill-will toward him from her manner, but he comprehended the meaning of her last words.
He at first looked puzzled and grieved, then suddenly his thin lips were pressed together; the passion of anger was possessing him, soon to be followed by the purpose of revenge.
Mrs. Woods saw that she had gone too far in the matter, and that her spirit and meaning had been discovered by the son of the chief. The danger to which she had exposed herself made her nervous. But she began to act on her old principle never to show fear in the presence of an Indian.
"Here, mister, I must go now," she said, in a loud voice. "Take this rod, and govern your school like a man. If I were a teacher, I'd make my scholars smart in more ways than one." She held out the rod to the master.
There was a movement in the air like a flash. Benjamin, with noiseless feet, had slipped up behind her. He had conceived the idea that the offer of the rod somehow meant enmity to him. He seized the rod from behind the woman, and, sweeping it through the air, with kindled eye and glowing cheeks, wheeled before the master.
"Boston tilicum, don't you dare!"
"Boston tilicum" was the Chinook for an American, and the Chinook or trade language had become common to all the tribes on the Columbia. The early American traders on the Northern Pacific coast were from Boston.
He raised the rod aloft defiantly like a young champion, and presented a heroic figure, which excited the tremulous admiration and wonder of the little group. He then pointed it toward Mrs. Woods, and said contemptuously in Chinook:
The scene changed to the comical. Mrs. Woods snatched off her broad sun-bonnet, revealing her gray hair, and assumed an appearance of defiance, though her heart was really trembling with fear.
"I ain't afraid of no Injuns," she said, "and I don't take any impudence from anybody. I've had to fight the whole world all my life, and I've always conquered. There—now—there!"
She whipped the rod out of the young Indian's hand.
Benjamin's eyes blazed.
"Closche nanitch" (look out), he said. "I am an Umatilla. Siwash (Indian) will remember. There are hawks in the sky."
"Kamooks" (dog), returned Mrs. Woods, defiantly. "Kamooks."
She would have said "cultus" had she dared. "Cultus" is the most insulting word that can be applied to an Indian, and, when it is used, it invites the most deadly revenge. The word had come to her lips, but she had not the courage to invoke the consequences of such a taunt.
But the young Indian further excited her. He shook the rod at her, and her passion mastered her prudence. She struggled with herself, and was silent for a few moments. But, suddenly catching the young Indian's eye, which had in it a savage triumph, she exclaimed:
The old chief stepped forward and lifted his hands.
"Pil-pil" (blood), said Benjamin. "There are hawks in the air—"
"Be still!" said the chief.
"—they whet their beaks," continued Benjamin. "Potlatch!"
The whole company were filled with excitement or terror. Gretchen trembled, and began to cry. Three Indians were seen coming down the trail, and the sight seemed to fill Benjamin with a mysterious delight. Mrs. Woods saw them with secret fear, and the master with apprehension. Several of the children began to cry, and there was a look of pain, terror, or distress on all the faces.
Suddenly Gretchen stepped apart from the group and lifted to her shoulder her violin.
A hunting strain rose on the bright morning air. It seemed like the flight of a singing bird.
The chief's arms dropped. The music arose like a sweet memory of all that is good and beautiful.
The three Indians stopped to listen. The music became more sweet and entrancing. The anger went out of Benjamin's face, and there came better feelings into his soul.
The music breathed of the Rhine, of vineyards and festivals, but he understood it not; to him it recalled the mysterious legends of the Umatillas, the mysteries of life, and the glory of the heroes who slept on the island of the dead or amid the sweetly sighing branches of the trees. The air was the Traumerei.
When the music ceased there was a long silence. In it Mrs. Woods turned away slowly, with a word of advice to Gretchen that under other circumstances would have appeared amusing:
"Behave yourself like a lady," she said, "and remember your bringing up. Good-morning to ye all."
The little group watched her as she moved safely away. A little black bear crossed her path as she was entering the wood, and stopped on the way. But her steps were growing rapid, and, as she did not seem to regard him as a matter of any consequence, he turned and ran. The company smiled, and so the peril of the morning seemed to pass away.
The scene would have been comical but for the painful look in the kindly face of the old Chief of the Cascades. He had come toward the school-house with high hopes, and what had happened caused him pain. The word "Potlatch," spoken by the Indian boy, had caused his brow to cloud and his face to turn dark.
"We will all go into the house," said the master. "Umatilla, will you not honor us with a visit this morning?"
"No—me come this afternoon for the boy; me wait for him outside. Boston tilicum, let me speak to you a little. I am a father."
"Yes, and a good father."
"I am a father—you no understand—Boston tilicum—father. I want you to teach him like a father—not you understand?"
"Yes, I understand."
"Father—teacher—you, Boston tilicum."
"Yes, I understand, and I will be a father teacher to your Benjamin."
"I die some day. You understand?"
"Yes, I understand."
"You understand, Boston tilicum, you understand. What I want my boy to become that I am for my boy. That you be."
"Yes, Umatilla, I believe an Indian's word—you may trust mine. I will be to your boy what you may have him become. The Indian is true to his friends. I believe in you. I will be true."
The old chief drew his blanket round him proudly.
"Boston tilicum," said he, "if ever the day of trouble comes, I will protect you and the log school-house. You may trust my word. Indian speak true."
The tall schoolmaster bowed.
"Nika atte cepa" (I like you much), said the chief. "Potlatch shall no harm you. Klahyam klahhye—am!" (Good-by).
Mrs. Woods hurried homeward and tried to calm her excited mind by singing a very heroic old hymn:
"Come on, my partners in distress, My comrades in the wilderness, Who still your bodies feel."
The blue skies gleamed before her, and overhead wheeled a golden eagle. To her it was an emblem, a good omen, and her spirit became quiet and happy amid all the contradictions of her rough life. She sat down at last on the log before her door, with the somewhat strange remark:
"I do hate Injuns; nevertheless—"
Mrs. Woods was accustomed to correct the wrong tendencies of her heart and tongue by this word "nevertheless," which she used as an incomplete sentence. This "nevertheless" seemed to express her better self; to correct the rude tendencies of her nature. Had she been educated in her early days, this tendency to self-correction would have made her an ideal woman, but she owed nearly all her intellectual training to the sermons of the Rev. Jason Lee, which she had heard in some obscure corner of a room, or in Methodist chapel, or under the trees.
Her early experience with the Indians had not made her a friend to the native races, notwithstanding the missionary labors of the Rev. Jason Lee. The first Indian that made her a visit on the donation claim did not leave a favorable impression on her mind.
This Indian had come to her door while she was engaged in the very hard work of sawing wood. He had never seen a saw before, and, as it seemed to him to be a part of the woman herself, he approached her with awe and wonder. That the saw should eat through the wood appeared to him a veritable miracle.
Mrs. Woods, unaware of her visitor, paused to take breath, looked up, beheld the tall form with staring eyes, and started back.
"Medicine-woman—conjure!" said the Indian, in Chinook.
Mrs. Woods was filled with terror, but a moment's thought recalled her resolution. She lifted her hand, and, pointing to the saw in the wood, she said, with a commanding tone:
The Indian obeyed awkwardly, and wondering at the progress of the teeth of the saw through the wood. It was a hot day; the poor Indian soon became tired, and stopped work with a beating heart and bursting veins.
"Saw—saw!" said Mrs. Woods, with a sweep of her hands, as though some mysterious fate depended upon the order.
The saw went very hard now, for he did not know how to use it, and the wood was hard, and the Indian's only thought seemed to be how to escape. Mrs. Woods held him in her power by a kind of mental magnetism, like that which Queen Margaret exercised over the robber.
"Water!" at last gasped the Indian.
"Saw—saw!" said Mrs. Woods; then turned away to bring him water.
When she looked around again, an unexpected sight met her eyes. The Indian was flying away, taking the saw with him. She never beheld either again, and it was a long time before any Indian appeared at the clearing after this odd event, though Mrs. Woods ultimately had many adventures among the wandering Siwashes.
A saw was no common loss in these times of but few mechanical implements in Oregon, and Mrs. Woods did not soon forgive the Indian for taking away what he probably regarded as an instrument of torture.
"I do hate Injuns!" she would often say; but quite likely would soon after be heard singing one of the hymns of the missionaries at the Dalles:
"O'er Columbia's wide-spread forests Haste, ye heralds of the Lamb; Teach the red man, wildly roaming, Faith in Immanuel's name,"
which, if poor poetry, was very inspiring.
Marlowe Mann—"Boston tilicum," as the Siwashes called all the missionaries, teachers, and traders from the East—sat down upon a bench of split log and leaned upon his desk, which consisted of two split logs in a rough frame. A curious school confronted him. His pupils numbered fifteen, representing Germany, England, Sweden, New England, and the Indian race.
"The world will some day come to the Yankee schoolmaster," he used to say to the bowery halls of old Cambridge; and this prophecy, which had come to him on the banks of the Charles, seemed indeed to be beginning to be fulfilled on the Columbia.
He opened the school in the same serene and scholarly manner as he would have done in a school in Cambridge.
"He is not a true gentleman who is not one under all conditions and circumstances," was one of his views of a well-clothed character; and this morning he addressed the school with the courtesy of an old college professor.
"I have come here," he said, "with but one purpose, and that is to try to teach you things which will do you the most good in life. That is always the best which will do the most good; all else is inferior. I shall first teach you to obey your sense of right in all things. This is the first principle of a true education. You will always know the way of life if you have this principle for your guide.
"Conscience is the first education. A man's spiritual nature is his highest nature, and his spiritual concerns transcend all others. If a man is spiritually right, he is the master of all things. I would impress these truths on your minds, and teach them at the beginning. I have become willing to be poor, and to walk life's ways alone. The pilot of the Argo never returned from Colchis, but the Argo itself returned with the Golden Fleece. It may be so with my work; if so, I will be content. I have selected for our Scripture lesson the 'incorruptible seed.'"
He rose and spoke like one before an august assembly; and so it was to him, with his views of the future of the great empire of the Northwest. A part of the pupils could not comprehend all that he said any more than they had understood the allusion to the pilot of the Argo; but his manner was so gracious, so earnest, so inspired, that they all felt the spirit of it, and some had come to regard themselves as the students of some great destiny.
"Older domes than the pyramids are looking down upon you," he said, "and you are born to a higher destiny than were ever the children of the Pharaohs."
"With the exception of Gretchen, not one of the pupils fully understood the picturesque allusion. Like the reference to the pilot of the Argo, it was poetic mystery to them; and yet it filled them with a noble curiosity to know much and a desire to study hard, and to live hopefully and worthily. Like the outline of some unknown mountain range, it allured them to higher outlooks and wider distances.
"He talked to us so grandly," said Gretchen to Mrs. Woods one evening, "that I did not know half that he was saying; but it made me feel that I might be somebody, and I do intend to be. It is a good thing to have a teacher with great expectations."
"Yes," said Mrs. Woods, "when there is so little to expect. People don't take a lot of nothing and make a heap of something in this world. It is all like a lot of feathers thrown against the wind. Nevertheless it makes one happier to have prospects, if they are far away. I used to; but they never came to nothing, unless it was to bring me way out here."
The log school-house was a curious place. The children's benches consisted of split logs on pegs, without backs. The sides of the building were logs and sods, and the roof was constructed of logs and pine boughs. All of the children were barefooted, and several had but poor and scanty clothing. Yet the very simplicity of the place had a charm.
Benjamin sat alone, apart from the rest. It was plain to be seen that he was brooding over the painful event of the morning. Gretchen had grown cheerful again, but the bitter expression on the young Indian's face seemed to deepen in intensity. Mr. Mann saw it. To quiet his agitation, he began his teaching by going to him and sitting down beside him on the rude bench and opening to him the primer.
"You understand English?" said Mr. Mann.
"A little. I can talk Chinook."
In the Chinook vocabulary, which was originally the trade language of all the tribes employed by the Hudson Bay Company in collecting furs, most of the words resemble in sound the objects they represent. For example, a wagon in Chinook is chick-chick, a clock is ding-ding, a crow is kaw-kaw, a duck, quack-quack, a laugh, tee-hee; the heart is tum-tum, and a talk or speech or sermon, wah-wah. The language was of English invention; it took its name from the Chinook tribes, and became common in the Northwest. Nearly all of the old English and American traders in the Northwest learned to talk Chinook, and to teach Chinook was one of the purposes of the school.
"Can you tell me what that is?" asked Mr. Mann, pointing to the letter A in the primer.
"No; that is the letter A."
"How do you know?"
Our digger of Greek roots from Cambridge was puzzled. He could not repeat the story of Cadmus to this druid of the forest or make a learned talk on arbitrary signs. He answered happily, however, "Wise men said so."
"That is the letter B."
"Yes, aha! Boston tilicum, you let her be. Old woman no good; me punish her. Knock-sheet—stick her" (club her).
Mr. Mann saw at once the strange turn that the young Indian's mind had taken. He was puzzled again.
"No, Benjamin; I will teach you what to do."
"Teach me how to club her? You are good! Boston tilicum, we will be brothers—you and I. She wah-wah, but she is no good."
"That is C."
"Aha! She heap wah-wah, but she no good."
"Now, that is A, B, and that is C. Try to remember them, and I will come soon and talk with you again."
"Yes," said Mr. Mann, doubtful of the Indian's thought.
"You heap wah-wah. You good. She heap wah-wah. She no good. Potlatch come; dance. She wah-wah no more. I wah-wah."
Mr. Mann was pained to see the revengeful trend of the Indian's thought. The hints of the evil intention of the Potlatch troubled him, but his faith in the old chief and the influence of his own integrity did not falter.
Gretchen was the most advanced scholar in the school. Her real mother had been an accomplished woman, and had taken great pains with her education. She was well instructed in the English branches, and had read five books of Virgil in Latin. Her reading had not been extensive, but it had embraced some of the best books in the English language. Her musical education had been received from a German uncle, who had been instructed by Herr Wieck, the father of Clara Schumann. He had been a great lover of Schumann's dreamy and spiritual music, and had taught her the young composer's pieces for children, and among them Romance and the Traumerei. He had taught her to play the two tone poems together in changing keys, beginning with the Traumerei and returning again to its beautiful and haunting strains. Gretchen interpreted these poems with all the color of true feeling, and under her bow they became enchantment to a musical ear and a delight to even as unmusical a soul as Mrs. Woods.
Gretchen's chief literary pleasure had been the study of the German poets. She had a poetic mind, and had learned to produce good rhymes. The songs of Uhland, Heine, and Schiller delighted her. She had loved to read the strange stories of Hoffman, and the imaginative works of Baron Fouque. She used to aspire to be an author or poet, but these aspirations had received no countenance from Mrs. Woods, and yet the latter seemed rather proud to regard her ward as possessing a superior order of mind.
"If there is anything that I do despise," Mrs. Woods used to say, "it is books spun out of the air, all about nothin'! Dreams were made for sleep, and the day was made for work. I haven't much to be proud of in this world. I've always been a terror to lazy people and to Injuns, and if any one were to write my life they'd have some pretty stirring stories to tell. I have no doubt that I was made for something."
Although Mrs. Woods boasted that she was a terror to Indians, she had been very apprehensive of danger since the Whitman colony massacre. She talked bravely and acted bravely according to her view of moral courage, but with a fearful heart. She dreaded the approaching Potlatch, and the frenzy that calls for dark deeds if the dance of the evil spirits should conclude the approaching feast.
There was a sullen look in Benjamin's face as he silently took his seat in the log school-house the next morning. Mr. Mann saw it, and instinctively felt the dark and mysterious atmosphere of it. He went to him immediately after the opening exercises, and said:
"You haven't spoken to me this morning; what troubles you?"
The boy's face met the sympathetic eye of the master, and he said:
"I was happy on the morning when I came—sun; she hate Indian, talk against him to you; make me unhappy—shade; think I will have my revenge—pil-pil; then music make me happy; you make me happy; night come, and I think of her—she hate Indian—shade. Me will have my revenge—pil-pil. She say I have no right here; she have no right here; the land all belong to Umatilla; then to me; I no have her here. Look out for the October moon—Potlatch—dance—pil-pil."
"I will be a friend to you, Benjamin."
"Yes, Boston tilicum, we will be friends."
"And I will teach you how to be noble—like a king. You felt good when I was kind to you?"
"Yes, Boston tilicum."
"And when the music played?"
"Yes, Boston tilicum."
"Then you must be good to her; that will make her feel good toward you. Do you see?"
There came a painful look into the young Indian's face.
"I good to her, make her good? She good to me make me good? She no good to me. She say I no right here. The land belong to Umatilla. She must go. You stay. Look out for the October moon. She wah-wah no more."
"It is noble to be good; it makes others good."
"Then why isn't she good? She make me ugly; you make me good. I think I will punish her—pil-pil; then you speak kind, and the music play, then I think I will punish her not. Then dark thoughts come back again; clouds come again; hawks fly. What me do? Me am two selves; one self when I think of you, one when I think of her. She say I have no right. She have no right. All right after Potlatch. I wah-wah; she wah-wah no more."
"Be good yourself, Benjamin. Be kind to her; make her kind. You do right."
The young Indian hesitated, then answered:
"I do as you say. You are friend. I'll do as I feel when the music play. I try. So you say."
The cloud passed. The teacher paid the Indian boy special attention that morning. At noon Gretchen played Von Weber's Wild Hunt of Lutzow, which drove Napoleon over the Rhine. The rhythm of the music picturing the heroic cavalry enchanted Benjamin, and he said: "Play it over again." After the music came a foot-race among the boys, which Benjamin easily won. The afternoon passed quietly, until in the cool, lengthening shadows of the trail the resolute form of Mrs. Woods appeared.
Benjamin saw her, and his calm mood fled. He looked up at the master.
"I is come back again—my old self again. She say I no business here; she no business here. She wah-wah."
The master laid his hand on the boy's shoulder kindly and bent his face on his.
"I do as you say," the boy continued. "I will not speak till my good self come again. I be still. No wah-wah."
He dropped his eyes upon a page in the book, and sat immovable. He was a noble picture of a struggle for self-control in a savage and untutored heart.
Mrs. Woods asked for Gretchen at the door, and the master excused the girl, thanking her for the music that had delighted the school at the noon-hour. As she was turning to go, Mrs. Woods cast a glance toward Benjamin, and said to the master in an undertone: "He's tame now—quiet as a purring cat. The cat don't lick cream when the folks are around. But he'll make trouble yet. An Injun is a Injun. I hate Injuns, though Parson Lee says I am all wrong. When you have seen as many of 'em as I have, you'll know more than you do now."
Benjamin did not comprehend the words, but he felt that the woman had said something injurious to him. The suspicion cut him to the quick. His black eye sparkled and his cheek burned. The scholars all seemed to be sorry at the impression that Mrs. Woods's muttered words had left in his mind. He had struggled for two days to do his best—to follow his best self.
School closed. Benjamin rose like a statue. He stood silent for a time and looked at the slanting sun and the dreamy afternoon glories of the glaciers, then moved silently out of the door. The old chief met him in the opening, and saw the hurt and troubled look in his face.
"What have you been doing to my boy?" he said to the master. "Has he not been good?"
"Very good; I like him," said Mr. Mann. "He is trying to be good here," pointing to his heart. "The good in him will grow. I will help him."
The old chief and the boy walked away slowly out of the shadows of the great trees and up the cool trail. The tall master followed them with his eye. In the departing forms he saw a picture of the disappearing race. He knew history well, and how it would repeat itself on the great plateau and amid the giant forests of the Oregon. He felt that the old man was probably one of the last great chiefs of the Umatillas.
On one of the peninsulas of the Oregon, the so-called Islands of the Dead, the old warriors of the tribes were being gathered by the plagues that had come to the territories and tribal regions ever since the Hudson Bay Company established its posts on the west of the mountains, and Astoria had been planted on the great river, and settlers had gathered in the mountain-domed valley of the Willamette. Wherever the white sail went in the glorious rivers, pestilence came to the native tribes. The Indian race was perceptibly vanishing. Only one son of seven was left to Umatilla. What would be the fate of this boy?
The master went home troubled over the event of the afternoon. He was asking the Indian to be better than his opponent, and she was a well-meaning woman and nominally a Christian.
His first thought was to go to Mrs. Woods and ask her to wholly change her spirit and manners, and, in fact, preach to her the same simple doctrine of following only one's better self that he had taught to the young prince. But he well knew that she had not a teachable mind. He resolved to try to reach the same result through Gretchen, whom she upbraided with her tongue but loved in her heart.
Mrs. Woods had come to regard it as her appointed mission to abuse people for their good. She thought it tended toward their spiritual progress and development. She often said that she felt "called to set things right, and not let two or three people have their own way in everything"—a view of life not uncommon among people of larger opportunities and better education.
Benjamin came to school the next morning silent and sullen, and the master went to him again in the same spirit as before.
"She say I no right here," he said. "She suffer for it. She wah-wah. Look out for the October moon."
"No, you are a better Indian now."
"The better Indian harms no one—one's good self never does evil. You are to be your good self, and please me."
The young Indian was silent for a time. He at last said, slowly:
"But me know who will."
"Do what, Benjamin?"
"Make her suffer—punish."
"I know a bad Indian who will. He say so."
"You must not let him. You are son of a chief."
"I will try. I no wah-wah now."
At noon Benjamin was light-hearted, and led the sports and games. He was very strong, and one of his lively feats was to let three or four children climb upon his back and run away with them until they tumbled off. He seemed perfectly happy when he was making the others happy, and nothing so delighted him as to be commended. He longed to be popular, not from any selfish reason, but because to be liked by others was his atmosphere of contentment. He was kindly above most Indians, a trait for which his father was famous. He was even kindly above many of the white people.
The next morning he came to school in good humor, and a curious incident occurred soon after the school began. A little black bear ventured down the trail toward the open door, stopping at times and lifting up its head curiously and cautiously. It at last ventured up to the door, put its fore feet on the door-sill, and looked into the room.
"Kill it!" cried one of the boys, a recent emigrant, in the alarm. "Kill it!"
"What harm it do?" said the Indian boy. "Me drive it away."
The young Indian started toward the door as at play, and shook his head at the young bear, which was of the harmless kind so well known in the Northwest, and the bear turned and ran, while the Indian followed it toward the wood. The odd event was quite excusable on any ground of rule and propriety in the primitive school.
"It no harm; let it go," said the boy on his return; and the spirit of the incident was good and educational in the hearts of the school.
The charm of his life was Gretchen's violin. It transfigured him; it changed the world to him. His father was a forest philosopher; the boy caught a like spirit, and often said things that were a revelation to Mr. Mann.
"Why do you like the violin so much?" said the latter to him one day.
"It brings to me the thing longed for—the thing I long to know."
"Why, what is that?"
"I can't tell it—I feel it here—I sense it—I shall know—something better—yonder—the thing we long for, but do not know. Don't you long for it? Don't you feel it?"
The tall schoolmaster said "Yes," and was thoughtful. The poor Indian had tried to express that something beyond his self of which he could only now have a dim conception, and about which even science is dumb. Mr. Mann understood it, but he could hardly have expressed it better.
The boy learned the alphabet quickly, and began to demand constant attention in his eagerness to learn. Mr. Mann found that he was giving more than the allotted time to him. To meet the case, he appointed from time to time members of the school "monitors," as he called them, to sit beside him and help him.
One day he asked Gretchen to do this work. The boy was delighted to be instructed by the mistress of the violin, and she was as pleased with the honor of such monitorial duties to the son of a chief. But an unexpected episode grew out of all this mutual good-will and helpful kindness.
Benjamin was so grateful to Gretchen for the pains that she took with his studies that he wished to repay her. He had a pretty little Cayuse pony which he used to ride; one day after school he caused it to be brought to the school-house, and, setting Gretchen upon it, he led it by the mane up the trail toward her home, a number of the pupils following them. On the way the merry-making party met Mrs. Woods. She was as astonished as though she had encountered an elephant, and there came into her face a look of displeasure and anger.
"What kind of doings are these, I would like to know?" she exclaimed, in a sharp tone, standing in the middle of the way and scanning every face. "Riding out with an Injun, Gretchen, are you? That's what you are doing. Girl, get off that horse and come with me! That is the kind of propriety that they teach out in these parts, is it? and the master came from Harvard College, too! One would think that this world was just made to enjoy one's self in, just like a sheep pasture, where the lambs go hopping and skipping, not knowing that they were born to be fleeced."
She hurried Gretchen away excitedly, and the school turned back. Benjamin was disappointed, and looked more hurt than ever before. On the way he met his old father, who had come out to look for him, and the rest of the scholars dispersed to their homes.
That evening, after a long, vivid twilight, such as throws its splendor over the mountain ranges in these northern latitudes, Mrs. Woods and Gretchen were sitting in their log-house just within the open door. Mr. Woods was at the block-house at Walla Walla, and the cabin was unprotected. The light was fading in the tall pines of the valleys, and there was a deep silence everywhere, undisturbed by so much as a whisper of the Chinook winds. Mrs. Woods's thoughts seemed far away—doubtless among the old meadows, orchards, and farm-fields of New England. Gretchen was playing the musical glasses.
Suddenly Mrs. Woods's thoughts came back from their far-away journeys. She had seen something that disturbed her. She sat peering into a tract of trees which were some three hundred feet high—one of the great tree cathedrals of the Northwestern forests. Suddenly she said:
"Gretchen, there are Injuns in the pines. Watch!"
Gretchen looked out, but saw nothing.
The shadows deepened.
"I have twice seen Injuns passing from tree to tree and hiding. Why are they there? There—look!"
A sinewy form in the shadows of the pines appeared and disappeared. Gretchen saw it.
"They mean evil, or they would not hide. Gretchen, what shall we do?"
Mrs. Woods closed the door and barred it, took down the rifle from the side of the room, and looked out through a crevice in the split shutter.
There was a silence for a time; then Mrs. Woods moved and said: "They are coming toward the house, passing from one tree to another. They mean revenge—I feel it—revenge on me, and Benjamin—he is the leader of it."
The flitting of shadowy forms among the pines grew alarming. Nearer and nearer they came, and more and more excited became Mrs. Woods's apprehensions. Gretchen began to cry, through nervous excitement, and with the first rush of tears came to her, as usual, the thought of her violin.
She took up the instrument, tuned it with nervous fingers, and drew the bow across the strings, making them shriek as with pain, and then drifted into the air the music of the Traumerei.
"Fiddling, Gretchen—fiddling in the shadow of death? I don't know but what you are right—that tune, too!"
The music trembled; the haunting strain quivered, rose and descended, and was repeated over and over again.
"There is no movement in the pines," said Mrs. Woods. "It is growing darker. Play on. It does seem as though that strain was stolen from heaven to overcome evil with."
Gretchen played. An hour passed, and the moon rose. Then she laid down the violin and listened.
"Oh, Gretchen, he is coming! I know that form. It is Benjamin. He is coming alone. What shall we do? He is—right before the door!"
Gretchen's eye fell upon the musical glasses, which were among the few things that she had brought from the East and which had belonged to her old German home. She had tuned them early in the evening by pouring water into them, as she had been taught to do in her old German village, and she wet her fingers and touched them to the tender forest hymn:
"Now the woods are all sleeping."
"He has stopped," said Mrs. Woods. "He is listening—play."
The music filled the cabin. No tones can equal in sweetness the musical glasses, and the trembling nerves of Gretchen's fingers gave a spirit of pathetic pleading to the old German forest hymn. Over and over again she played the air, waiting for the word of Mrs. Woods to cease.
"He is going," said Mrs. Woods, slowly. "He is moving back toward the pines. He has changed his mind, or has gone for his band. You may stop now."
Mrs. Woods watched by the split shutter until past midnight. Then she laid down on the bed, and Gretchen watched, and one listened while the other slept, by turns, during the night. But no footstep was heard. The midsummer sun blazed over the pines in the early morning; birds sang gayly in the dewy air, and Gretchen prepared the morning meal as usual, then made her way to the log school-house.
She found Benjamin there. He met her with a happy face.
"Bad Indian come to your cabin last night," said he. "He mean evil; he hate old woman. She wah-wah too much, and he hate. Bad Indian hear music—violin; he be pleased—evil hawks fly out of him. Good Indian come back. One is tied to the other. One no let the other go. What was that low music I hear? Baby music! Chinook wind in the bushes! Quail—mother-bird singing to her nest! I love that music.
"Say, you play at Potlatch, frighten away the hawks; mother-birds sing. No devil dance. Say, I have been good; no harm old wah-wah. Will you—will you play—play that tin-tin at Potlatch under the big moon?"
A great thought had taken possession of the young Indian's mind, and a great plan—one worthy of a leader of a peace congress. Gretchen saw the plan in part, but did not fully comprehend it. She could only see that his life had become a struggle between good and evil, and that he was now following some good impulse of his better nature.
MRS. WOODS'S TAME BEAR.
Mrs. Woods was much alone during this summer. Her husband was away from home during the working days of the week, at the saw and shingle mill on the Columbia, and during the same days Gretchen was much at school.
The summer in the mountain valleys of Washington is a long serenity. The deep-blue sky is an ocean of intense light, and the sunbeams glint amid the cool forest shadows, and seem to sprinkle the plains with gold-dust like golden snow. Notwithstanding her hard practical speech, which was a habit, Mrs. Woods loved Nature, and, when her work was done, she often made little journeys alone into the mountain woods.
In one of these solitary excursions she met with a little black cub and captured it, and, gathering it up in her apron like a kitten, she ran with it toward her cabin, after looking behind to see if the mother bear was following her. Had she seen the mother of the cunning little black creature in her apron pursuing her, she would have dropped the cub, which would have insured her escape from danger. But the mother bear did not make an early discovery of the loss in her family. She was probably out berrying, and such experiences of stolen children were wholly unknown to the bear family in Washington before this time. The Indians would not have troubled the little cub.
The black bear of the Cascades is quite harmless, and its cubs, like kittens, seem to have a sense of humor unusual among animals. For a white child to see a cub is to desire it to tame for a pet, and Mrs. Woods felt the same childish instincts when she caught up the little creature, which seemed to have no fear of anything, and ran away with it toward her home.
It was Saturday evening when she returned, and she found both Mr. Woods and Gretchen waiting to meet her at the door. They were surprised to see her haste and the pivotal turning of her head at times, as though she feared pursuit from some dangerous foe.
Out of breath, she sank down on the log that served for a step, and, opening her apron cautiously, said:
"Where did you get that?" said Mr. Woods.
"I stole it."
"What are you going to do with it?"
"For company. I haven't any neighbors."
"But what do you want it for?"
"It is so cunning. It just rolled over in the trail at my feet, and I grabbed it and ran."
"But what if the mother-bear should come after it?" asked Gretchen.
"I would shoot her."
"That would be a strange way to treat your new neighbors," said Mr. Woods.
Mr. Woods put a leather strap around the neck of the little bear, and tied the strap to a log in the yard. The little thing began to be alarmed at these strange proceedings, and to show a disposition to use its paws in resistance, but it soon learned not to fear its captors; its adoption into the shingle-maker's family was quite easily enforced, and the pet seemed to feel quite at home.
There was some difficulty at first in teaching the cub to eat, but hunger made it a tractable pupil of the berry dish, and Mrs. "Woods was soon able to say:
"There it is, just as good as a kitten, and I would rather have it than to have a kitten. It belongs to these parts."
Poor Mrs. Woods! She soon found that her pet did "belong to these parts," and that its native instincts were strong, despite her moral training. She lost her bear in a most disappointing way, and after she supposed that it had become wholly devoted to her.
She had taught it to "roll over" for its dinner, and it had grown to think that all the good things of this world came to bears by their willingness to roll over. Whenever any member of the family appeared at the door, the cub would roll over like a ball, and expect to be fed, petted, and rewarded for the feat.
"I taught it that," Mrs. Woods used to say. "I could teach it anything. It is just as knowing as it is cunning, and lots of company for me out here in the mountains. It thinks more of me than of its old mother. You can educate anything."
As the cub grew, Mrs. Woods's attachment to it increased. She could not bear to see its freedom restrained by the strap and string, and so she untied the string from the log and let it drag it about during the day, only fastening it at night.
"There is no danger of its running away," said she; "it thinks too much of me and the berry dish. I've tamed it completely; it's as faithful to its home as a house-cat, and a great deal more company than a cat or dog or any other dumb animal. The nicest bird to tame is a blue-jay, and the best animal for company is a cub. I do believe that I could tame the whole race of bears if I only had 'em."
Mrs. Woods had a pet blue-jay that she had taken when young from its nest, and it would do many comical things. It seemed to have a sense of humor, like a magpie, and to enjoy a theft like that bird. She finally gave it the freedom of the air, but it would return at her call for food and eat from her hand. The blue-jay is naturally a very wild bird, but when it is tamed it becomes very inquisitive and social, and seems to have a brain full of invention and becomes a very comical pet. Mrs. Woods called her pet bear Little Roll Over.
One day a visitor appeared at the emigrant's cabin. A black she-bear came out of the woods, and, seeing the cub, stood up on her haunches in surprise and seemed to say, "How came you here?" It was evidently the mother of the cub.
The cub saw its mother and rolled over several times, and then stood up on its haunches and looked at her, as much as to say, "Where did you come from, and what brought you here?" In the midst of this interesting interview Mrs. Woods appeared at the door of the cabin.
She saw the mother-bear. True to her New England instincts, she shook her homespun apron and said: "Shoo!"
She also saw that the little bear was greatly excited, and under the stress of temptation.
"Here," said she, "roll over."
The cub did so, but in the direction of its mother.
Mrs. Woods hurried out toward it to prevent this ungrateful gravitation.
The mother-bear seemed much to wonder that the cub should be found in such forbidden associations, and began to make signs by dipping her fore paws. The cub evidently understood these signs, and desired to renew its old-time family relations.
"Here," said Mrs. Woods, "you—you—you mind now; roll over—roll over."
The cub did so, true to its education in one respect, but it did not roll in the direction of its foster-mother, but rolled toward its own mother. It turned over some five or more times, then bounded up and ran toward the she-bear. The latter dropped her fore feet on the earth again, and the two bears, evidently greatly delighted to find each other, quickly disappeared in the woods. As the cub was about to enter the bushes it turned and gave a final glance at Mrs. Woods and rolled over.
This was too much for Mrs. Woods's heart. She said:
"After all I have done for ye, too! Oh, Little Roll Over, Little Roll Over, I wouldn't have thought it of you!"
She surveyed the empty yard, threw her apron over her head, as stricken people used to do in Lynn in the hour of misfortune, and sat down on the log at the door and cried.
"I never have had any confidence in Injuns," she said, "since my saw walked off. But I did have some respect for bears. I wonder if I shall ever meet that little cre'tur' again, and, if I do, if it will roll over. This world is all full of disappointments, and I have had my share. Maybe I'll get it back to me yet. Nevertheless—"
Mrs. Woods often talked of Little Roll Over and its cunning ways; she hoped she would some time meet it again, and wondered how it would act if she should find it.
THE NEST OF THE FISHING EAGLE.
Benjamin continued to attend the school, but it was evident that he did so with an injured heart, and chiefly out of love for the old chief, his father. He had a high regard for his teacher, whose kindness was unfailing, and he showed a certain partiality for Gretchen; but he was as a rule silent, and there were dark lines on his forehead that showed that he was unhappy. He would not be treated as an inferior, and he seemed to feel that he was so regarded by the scholars.
He began to show a peculiar kind of contempt for all of the pupils except Gretchen. He pretended not to see them, hear them, or to be aware of their presence or existence. He would pass through a group of boys as though the place was vacant, not so much as moving his eye from the direct path. He came and went, solitary and self-contained, proud, cold, and revengeful.
But this indifference was caused by sensitiveness and the feeling that he had been slighted. The dark lines relaxed, and his face wore a kindly glow whenever his teacher went to his desk—if the split-log bench for a book-rest might be so called. "I would give my life for Gretchen and you," he said one day to Mr. Mann; and added: "I would save them all for you."
There was a cluster of gigantic trees close by the school-house, nearly two hundred feet high. The trees, which were fir, had only dry stumps of limbs for a distance of nearly one hundred feet from the ground. At the top, or near the top, the green leaves or needles and dead boughs had matted together and formed a kind of shelf or eyrie, and on this a pair of fishing eagles had made their nest.
The nest had been there many years, and the eagles had come back to it during the breeding season and reared their young.
For a time after the opening of the school none of the pupils seemed to give any special attention to this high nest. It was a cheerful sight at noon to see the eagles wheel in the air, or the male eagle come from the glimmering hills and alight beside his mate.
One afternoon a sudden shadow like a falling cloud passed by the half-open shutter of the log school-house and caused the pupils to start. There was a sharp cry of distress in the air, and the master looked out and said:
"Attend to your books, children; it is only the eagle."
But again and again the same swift shadow, like the fragment of a storm-cloud, passed across the light, and the wild scream of the bird caused the scholars to watch and to listen. The cry was that of agony and affright, and it was so recognized by Benjamin, whose ear and eye were open to Nature, and who understood the voices and cries of the wild and winged inhabitants of the trees and air.
He raised his hand.
"May I go see?"
The master bowed silently. The boy glided out of the door, and was heard to exclaim:
"Look! look! the nest—the nest!"
The master granted the school a recess, and all in a few moments were standing without the door peering into the tall trees.
The long dry weather and withering sun had caused the dead boughs to shrink and to break beneath the great weight of the nest that rested upon them. The eagle's nest was in ruins. It had fallen upon the lower boughs, and two young half-fledged eaglets were to be seen hanging helplessly on a few sticks in mid-air and in danger of falling to the ground.
It was a bright afternoon. The distress of the two birds was pathetic, and their cries called about them other birds, as if in sympathy.
The eagles seldom descended to any point near the plain in their flight, but mounted, as it were, to the sun, or floated high in the air; but in their distress this afternoon they darted downward almost to the ground, as though appealing for help for their young.
While the school was watching this curious scene the old chief of the Umatillas came up the cool highway or trail, to go home with Benjamin after school.
The eagles seemed to know him. As he joined the pitying group, the female eagle descended as in a spasm of grief, and her wing swept his plume. She uttered a long, tremulous cry as she passed and ascended to her young.
"She call," said the old chief. "She call me."
"I go," said Benjamin, with a look at his father.
"Yes, go—she call. She call—the God overhead he call. Go!"
A slender young pine ran up beside one of the giant trees, tall and green. In a moment Benjamin was seen ascending this pine to a point where he could throw himself upon the smallest of the great trees and grasp the ladder of the lower dead branches. Up and up he went in the view of all, until he had reached a height of some hundred and fifty feet.
The eagles wheeled around him, describing higher circles as he ascended. He reached the young eagles at last, but passed by them. What was he going to do?
There was a shelf of green boughs above him, which would bear the weight of a nest. He went up to them at a distance of nearly two hundred feet. He then began to gather up the fallen sticks of the old nest, and to break off new sticks and to construct a new nest. The old chief watched him with pride, and, turning to the master, said:
"Ah-a—that is my boy. He be me. I was he once—it is gone now—what I was."
When Benjamin had made a nest he descended, and at the peril of his own life, on the decayed limbs, he rescued the two young eagles that were hanging with heads downward and open beaks. He carried them up to the new nest and placed them in it, and began to descend.
But a withered bough that he grasped was too slender for his weight, and broke. He grasped another, but that too gave way. He tried to drop into the top of the tall young pine below him, but, in his effort to get into position to do so, limb after limb of dead wood broke, and he came falling to the earth, amid the startled looks of the chief and the cries of the children.
The ground was soft, and his body lay for a time half imbedded in it.
He was senseless, and blood streamed from his nose and reddened his eyes. The old chief seized his arm and tried to raise him, but the effort brought no sign of life, and his body was lowered slowly back again by the agonized father, who sat down and dropped his head on his son's breast.
Mr. Mann brought water and wet the boy's lips and bathed his brow. He then placed his hand over the boy's heart and held it there. There was a long silence. The old chief watched the teacher's hand. He seemed waiting for a word of hope; but Mr. Mann did not speak.
The old chief lifted his head at last, and said; appealingly:
"Boston tilicum, you do not know how I feel! You do not know—the birds know—you do not know!"
The teacher rubbed the boy's breast and arms, and said:
"He will revive."
"What, Boston tilicum?"
"He will live."
The dark face brightened. The old man clasped the boy's hand and drew it to his breast. The children attempted to brush the earth out of the young hero's dark, matted hair, but the old chief said, mysteriously:
"No touch him! he is mine."
At last a convulsive movement passed over the boy's body. The teacher again pressed his hand on the heart of his pupil, and he quickly exclaimed: "It beats."
The fiery sun gleamed from the snowy mountains. There were cool murmurs of winds in the trees, and they sent forth a resinous odor into the air. The balm dropped down like a messenger of healing.
Presently the boy's eyes opened and gazed steadily into the blue air.
The eagles were wheeling about the trees. The boy watched them, as though nothing had passed. They were making narrowing circles, and at last each alighted on the new nest beside their young.
He turned his face slowly toward his father.
"Saved!" he said. "They are happy. I fell. Let's go."
He rose up. As he did so the male eagle rose from his nest and, uttering a glad scream, wheeled in the sky and made his way through the crimson haze toward the fishing grounds of the lower Columbia.
The chief's eye followed him for a time; then the old man turned a happy face on the schoolmaster and children and said:
"I know how he feels—the Manitou overhead—he made the hearts of all; yours—the birds—mine. He is glad!"
There was something beautiful and pathetic in the old chief's sense of the common heart and feeling of all conscious beings. The very eagles seemed to understand it; and Master Mann, as he turned away from the school-house that day, said to Gretchen:
"I myself am being taught. I am glad to learn all this large life. I hope that you will one day become a teacher."
Gretchen went home that afternoon with a glad heart. Benjamin did not return to the school again for several days, and when he came back it seemed to be with a sense of humiliation. He seemed to feel somehow that he ought not to have fallen from the tree.
The fourth of July came, and Master Mann had invited the school to come together on the holiday for patriotic exercises. He had one of the pupils read the Declaration of Independence on the occasion, and Gretchen played the President's March on the violin. He himself made an historical address, and then joined in some games out of doors under the trees.
He brought to the school-house that day an American flag, which he hung over the desk during the exercises. When the school went out to play he said:
"I wish I could hang the flag from a pole, or from the top of one of the trees."
Benjamin's face brightened.
"I will go," he said; "I will go up."
"Hang it on the eagle's nest," said one of the pupils. "The eagle is the national bird."
Mr. Mann saw that to suspend the national emblem from the eagle's nest would be a patriotic episode of the day, and he gave the flag to Benjamin, saying:
"Beware of the rotten limbs."
"I no woman," said Benjamin; and, waving the flag, he moved like a squirrel up the trees. He placed the flag on the nest, while the eagles wheeled around him, screaming wildly. He descended safely, and made the incident an object lesson, as Mr. Mann repeated the ode to the American eagle, found at that time in many reading-books.
While Mr. Mann was doing so, and had reached the line—
"Bird of Columbia, well art thou," etc.,
one of the eagles swept down to the nest and seized the banner in his talons. He rose again into the air and circled high, then with a swift, strong curve of the wings, came down to the nest again, and, seizing the flag, tore it from the nest and bore it aloft to the sky.
It was a beautiful sight. The air was clear, the far peaks were serene, and the glaciers of Mount Hood gleamed like a glory of crystallized light. The children cheered. The bird soared away in the blue heavens, and the flag streamed after him in his talons. He dropped the flag at last over a dark, green forest. The children cheered again.
It was miles away.
"I go find it," said Benjamin; and he darted away from the place and was not seen until the next day, when he returned, bringing the flag with him.
Marlowe Mann never forgot that fourth of July on the Columbia.
THE MOUNTAIN LION.
One morning, as Mrs. Woods sat in her door picking over some red whortleberries which she had gathered in the timber the day before, a young cow came running into the yard, as if for protection. Mrs. Woods started up, and looked in the direction from which the animal had come running, but saw nothing to cause the alarm.
The cow looked backward, and lowed. Mrs. Woods set down her dish of red berries, took her gun, and went out toward the timber where the cow had been alarmed.
There was on the edge of the timber a large fir that the shingle-maker had felled when he first built his house or shack, but had not used, owing to the hardness of the grain. It lay on the earth, but still connected with its high stump, forming a kind of natural fence. Around it were beds of red phlox, red whortleberry bushes, and wild sunflowers.
The horny stump and fallen tree had been made very interesting to Mrs. Woods in her uneventful life by a white squirrel that often had appeared upon it, and made a pretty picture as it sat eating in the sun, its head half covered with its bushy tail. White squirrels were not common in the timber, and this was the only one that Mrs. Woods had ever seen.
"I wish that I could contrive to catch that there white squirrel," she said to Gretchen one day; "it would be a sight of company for me when you are gone. The bear used me mean, but I kind o' like all these little children of Natur'. But I don't want no Injuns, and no more bears unless he comes back again. The schoolmaster may like Injuns, and you may, but I don't. Think how I lost my saw; Injun and all went off together. I can seem to see him now, goin'."
As Mrs. Woods drew near the fallen tree she looked for the white squirrel, which was not to be seen. Suddenly the bushes near the stump moved, and she saw the most evil-looking animal that she had ever met drawing back slowly toward the fallen tree. It was long, and seemed to move more like an immense serpent than an animal. It had a catlike face, with small ears and spiteful eyes, and a half-open mouth displaying a red tongue and sharp teeth. Its face was sly, malicious, cruel, and cowardly. It seemed to be such an animal as would attack one in the dark. It was much larger than a dog or common black bear.
Mrs. Woods raised her gun, but she thought that she was too far from the house to risk an encounter with so powerful an animal. So she drew back slowly, and the animal did the same defiantly. She at last turned and ran to the house.
"Gretchen," she said, "what do you think I have seen?"
"The white squirrel."
"No; a tiger!"
"But there are no tigers here; so the chief said."
"But I have just seen one, and it had the meanest-looking face that I ever saw on any living creature. It was all snarls. That animal is dangerous. I shall be almost afraid to be alone now."
"I shall be afraid to go to school."
"No, Gretchen, you needn't be afraid. I'll go with you mornin's and carry the gun. I like to walk mornin's under the trees, the air does smell so sweet."
That night, just as the last low tints of the long twilight had disappeared and the cool, dewy airs began to move among the pines, a long, deep, fearful cry was heard issuing from the timber. Mrs. Woods started up from her bed and called, "Gretchen!"