TRADITIONS OF THE NORTH AMERICAN INDIANS:
A SECOND AND REVISED EDITION OF
"TALES OF AN INDIAN CAMP."
JAMES ATHEARN JONES.
IN THREE VOLUMES.
LONDON: HENRY COLBURN AND RICHARD BENTLEY, NEW BURLINGTON STREET. 1830. F. SHOBERL, JUN., LONG ACRE.
THE THIRD VOLUME.
Page The Lake of the White Canoe 1 A Legend of the Bomelmeeks 33 The King of the Elks 47 The Daughters of the Sun 77 The Maiden and the Bird 91 The Island of Eagles 117 Legend of Aton-Larre 145 The Fire-Spirit 167 The Origin of Women 175 The Hill of Fecundity. A Tradition of the Minnatarees 183 TALES OF A WHITE MAN'S GHOST. I. Garanga 191 II. The Warning of Tekarrah 213 III. The Legend of Pomperaug 237 IV. The Son of Annawan 251 V. The Cascade of Melsingah 279 Legend of Coatuit Brook 305 The Spirits of Vapour 313 The Devil of Cape Higgin 321
TALES OF AN INDIAN CAMP.
THE LAKE OF THE WHITE CANOE.
Wo! Wo! Wo Wo to the sons of the far-off land, Weak in heart and pale in face, Deer in battle, moose in a race, Panthers wanting claw and tooth Wo to the red man, strong of hand, Steady of purpose, lithe of limb, Calm in the toils of the foe, Knowing nor tears nor ruth Wo to them and him, If, cast by hard fate at the midnight damp, Or an hour of storm in the dismal swamp, That skirts the Lake of the White Canoe!
Wo to him and them, If, when the night's dim lamps are veil'd, And the Hunter's Star is hid, And the moon has shut her lid, For their wearied limbs the only birth Be the cold and frosty earth, And their flesh be burnt by the gum exhal'd From the cedar's poisonous stem, And steep'd in the blistering dew Of the barren vine in the birchen copse, Where rear the pines their giant tops Above the Lake of the White Canoe!
My brother hears—'t is well— And let him shun the spot, The damp and dismal brake, That skirts the shallow lake, The brown and stagnant pool[A], The dark and miry fen, And let him never at nightfall spread His blanket among the isles that dot The surface of that lake; And let my brother tell The men of his race that the wolf hath fed Ere now on warriors brave and true, In the fearful Lake of the White Canoe.
Wo! Wo! Wo! To him that sleeps in those dark fens! The she-wolf will stir the brake, And the copper-snake breathe in his ear, And the bitterns will start by tens, And the slender junipers shake With the weight of the nimble bear, And the pool resound with the cayman's plash, And the owl will hoot in the boughs of the ash, Where he sits so calm and cool; Above his head, the muckawiss[B] Will sing his gloomy song; Frogs will scold in the pool, To see the musk-rat carry along The perch to his hairy brood; And, coil'd at his feet, the horn-snake will hiss, Nor last nor least of the throng, The shades of the youth and maid so true, That haunt the Lake of the White Canoe.
And, if he chance to sleep, Still will his okki whisper wo, For hideous forms will rise: The spirits of the swamp Will come from their caverns dark and deep, Where the slimy currents flow, With the serpent and wolf to romp, And to whisper in the sleeper's ear Of wo and danger near; And mist will hide the pale, cold moon, And the stars will seem like the sparkling flies That twinkle in the prairie glades, In my brother's month of June— Murky shades, dim, dark shades, Shades of the cypress, pine, and yew, In the swamp of the Lake of the White Canoe.
Wo! wo! wo! He will hear in the dead of the night— If the bittern will stay his toot, And the serpent will cease his hiss, And the wolf forget his howl, And the owl forbear his hoot, And the plaintive muckawiss, And his neighbour the frog, will be mute— A plash like the dip of a water-fowl, In the lake with mist so white; And two forms will float on his troubled view, O'er the brake, with a meteor light, And he'll hear the words of a tender song, Stealing like a spring-wind along The Lake of the White Canoe.
That song will be a song of wo, Its burthen will be a gloomy tale; It will cause the rain to flow; It will tell of youthful love, Fond but blighted love; It will tell of father's cruelty; It will cause the rain to flow; It will tell of two lovely flowers That grew in the wilderness; And the mildew that touch'd the leaf; And the canker that struck the bud; And the lightning that wither'd the stem; And 't will speak of the Spirit-dove, That summon'd them away, Deeming them all too good and true, For aught save to paddle a White Canoe
[Footnote A: The water of the little lake (Drummond's Pond), to which this tradition relates, is coloured brown by the roots of the juniper and cedar.]
[Footnote B: Whip-poor-will.]
With these wild stanzas, preliminary to a tradition current among the tribes of that region, Walk in the Water, a Roanoke chief of great celebrity, commenced his tale. Undoubtedly most of the Indians present were as well acquainted with the story as the narrator, but that circumstance seemed to abate nothing of the interest with which it was listened to; it certainly did not diminish the attention of the audience. In this respect, these wild foresters deserve to become a pattern for careful imitation. They never interrupt a speaker. However incongruous or ill put together his tale, or insulting the matter or manner of his speech, or revolting his opinions to their preconceived notions and prejudices, he is heard patiently until he has said all that he has to say. And, after he has seated himself, sufficient time is given him to recollect whether he has left unsaid any thing in his opinion of importance to the correct interpretation of his views.
It will be seen from the specimens interspersed through these volumes, that the poetry of the Indians is in general of the warlike, or of the tender and pathetic kind. Their only poetry is found in their songs. They are sung in a kind of measure, always harmonious to an Indian ear, and frequently to ours. The music is well adapted to the words. It would be idle to attempt to give an idea of it by means of our musical notes, as has been done by other writers; I should probably meet with the fate of those who have tried in the same manner to describe the melodies of the ancient Greeks. They sing it in short lines or sentences, not always the whole at once, but most generally in detached parts, as time permits, and as the occasion or their feelings prompt them. Their accent is very pathetic and melancholy; a by-stander unacquainted with their language would suppose that they were details of some great affliction: both sexes sing in chorus, first the men and then the women. At times the women join in the general song, or repeat the strain which the men have just finished. It seems like two parties singing in questions and answers, and is, upon the whole, very agreeable and enlivening. After thus singing for about a quarter of an hour, they conclude each song with a loud yell, not unlike the cat-bird, which closes its pretty song with mewing like a cat. The voices of the women are clear and full, and their intonations generally correct.
The Dismal Swamp, which gave rise to this genuine Indian tradition, is one of the gloomiest spots on the face of the earth. It is situated in the state of Virginia, and covers a very large space. On the south side of this wild and gloomy region the marshy border is thickly overgrown with immense reeds, and, as far as the eye can take in, waves slowly and heavily one dark green sea. Then, on all the other skirts of the forest itself, the lofty trees are covered to their summits by the yellow jessamine, and other quick-growing creepers, breathing odour, and alive with the chirping of insects and the melody of birds. In the open and less marshy skirts of the vast forest, gigantic tulip-trees shoot up their massy and regular-built trunks, straight and pillar-like, until they put forth their broad arms covered with the magnificent foliage of their glossy deep green leaves, interspersed with superb white and yellow tulip-shaped flowers. Under their shade are sheltered, like shrubs, trees which elsewhere would be the pride of the forest, or the park—the stately gum-tree, and the magnolia, with its broad shining leaves and beautiful white flowers; whilst at their feet you force your way through tangles of the honeysuckle, or thickets of the moisture-loving bay, rich with its large rose-coloured clusters. But, the moment you penetrate beyond the sun's cheering influence into the deeper recesses of the swamp itself, how solemn is the change! There, the cypress and the juniper, rising without a branch to interrupt the regularity of their tall trunks for a hundred feet, stand thick and close together, like so many tall columns reared to support the roof of a vast temple. All is silent as the grave. Not an insect buzzes or chirps about you; no cry or song of bird or beast is heard. You seem to have penetrated beyond the bounds not only of human society and existence but of animal life, and to be passing through the still and dark valley of the shadow of death.
As the traveller pushes his doubtful way along, he will come upon some broad, lake-like sheet of water, still, silent, and sluggish, calmly reflecting the quiet solemnity of the forest. I say still and silent, but these little lakes are visited at certain seasons of the year by myriads of wild fowl, the clapping of whose wings, as they rise from the water, may be heard to a great distance. The water of all those lakes is of the same colour as the roots and bark of the juniper and cedar-trees, from which it receives its hue. And, when the sun flashes on the amber-coloured lake, and the cypress forest throws its gloomy shade over its face, the traveller becomes thrilled with awe and astonishment. He fancies that he has never seen any spot so fitted to be the residence of spirits of a malignant influence, and expects to see evil eyes cast upon him from every copse. The bird and bat, as they flit through the shades of night, magnified by the misty exhalations, seem the envious demons of the spot; and, foolish man! he more regards the dangers which are unreal than those which are real—is more afraid of the spirits which cannot harm, than of the ravenous beasts and poisonous serpents with which he is environed, and whose fangs are death in its most hideous shape.
Having introduced this not altogether gratuitous description of a spot celebrated in America for its picturesque situation and horrors, I resume the rhythmical tale of the chief of the Roanokes.
It was many seasons ago, How long I cannot tell my brother, That this sad thing befell; The tale was old in the time of my father, To whom it was told by my mother's mother. My brother hears—'tis well— Nor may he doubt my speech; The red man's mind receives a tale As snow the print of a mocassin; But, when he hath it once, It abides like a footstep chisell'd in rock, The hard and flinty rock. The pale man writes his tales Upon a loose and fluttering leaf, Then gives it to the winds that sweep Over the ocean of the mind; The red man his on the evergreen Of his trusty memory(1). When he from the far-off land would know The tales of his father's day, He unrolls the spirit-skin[A], And utters what it bids: The Indian pours from his memory His song, as a brook its babbling flood From a lofty rock into a dell, In the pleasant summer-moon.— My brother hears.—
He hears my words—'tis well— And let him write them down Upon the spirit-skin, That, when he has cross'd the lake, The Great Salt Lake, The lake, where the gentle spring winds dwell, And the mighty fishes sport, And has called his babes to his knee, And his beauteous dove to his arms, And has smok'd in the calumet With the friends he left behind, And his father, and mother, and kin, Are gather'd around his fire, To learn what red men say, He may the skin unroll, and bid His Okki this tradition read[B]— The parting words of the Roanoke, And his tale of a lover and maiden true, Who paddle the Lake in a White Canoe.
There liv'd upon the Great Arm's brink[C], In that far day, The warlike Roanokes, The masters of the wilds: They warr'd on distant lands, This valiant nation, victors every where; Their shouts rung through the hollow oaks, That beetle over the Spirit Bay[D], Where the red elk comes to drink; The frozen clime of the Hunter's Star Rang shrill with the shout of their bands, And the whistle of their cress[E]; And they fought the distant Cherokee, The Chickasaw, and the Muscogulgee, And the Sioux of the West. They liv'd for nought but war, Though now and then would be caught a view Of a Roanoke in a White Canoe.
Among this tribe, this valiant tribe, Of brave and warlike Roanokes, Were two—a youth and maid, Who lov'd each other well, Long and fondly lov'd, Lov'd from the childish hour, When, through the bosky dell, Together they fondly rov'd, In quest of the little flower, That likes to bloom in the quiet shade Of the tall and stately oaks. The pale face calls it the violet— 'Tis a beautiful child when its leaves are wet With the morning dew, and spread To the beam of the sun, and its little head Sinks low with the weight of the tear That gems its pale blue eye, Causing it to lie Like a maiden whose heart is broke.— Does my brother hear?
He hears my words—'tis well— The names of this fond youth and maid Tell who they were, For he was Annawan, the Brave, And she Pequida, the girl of the braid, The fairest of the fair. Her foot was the foot of the nimble doe, That flies from a cruel carcajou, Deeming speed the means to save; Her eyes were the eyes of the yellow owl, That builds his nest by the River of Fish; Her hair was black as the wings of the fowl[F] That drew this world from the great abyss. Small and plump was her hand; Small and slender her foot; And, when she opened her lips to sing, Ripe red lips, soft sweet lips, Lips like the flower that the honey-bee sips, The birds in the grove were mute, The bittern forgot his toot, And the owl forbore his hoot, And the king-bird set his wing, And the woodpecker ceas'd his tap On the hollow beech, And the son of the loon on the neighbouring strand Gave over his idle screech, And fell to sleep in his mother's lap.
And she was good as fair, This maid of the Roanokes; She was mild as a day in spring; Morning, noon, and night, Young Pequida smil'd on all, But most on one. She smil'd more sweet if he were there, And her laugh more joyous rung, And her step had a firmer spring, And her eye had a keener light, And her tongue dealt out blither jokes, And she had more songs to spare, And she better mock'd the blue jay's cry, When his dinner of maize was done; And better far, when he stood in view, Could she paddle the Lake in her White Canoe.
And who was he she lov'd? The bravest he of the Roanokes, A leader, before his years Were the years of a full-grown man; A warrior, when his strength Was less than a warrior's need; But, when his limbs were grown, And he stood erect and tall, Who could bend the sprout of the oak Of which his bow was made? Who could poise his choice of spears, To him but a little reed? None in all the land. And who had a soul so warm? Who was so kind a friend(2)? And who so free to lend To the weary stranger bed and bread, Food for his stomach, rest for his head, As Annawan, the Roanoke, The valiant son of the chief Red Oak?
They liv'd from infancy together; They seem'd two sides of a sparrow's feather; Together they roam'd o'er the rocky hill, And through the woody hollow, And by the river brink, And o'er the winter snows; And they sat for hours by the summer rill, To watch the stag as he came to drink, And to see the beaver wallow; And when the waters froze, They still had a sport to follow O'er the smooth ice, for, full in view, Lay the glassy Lake of the White Canoe.
The youth was the son of a chief, And the maiden a warrior's daughter; Both were approv'd for deeds of blood; Both were fearless, strong, and brave: One was a Roanoke, The other a captive Maqua boy, In battle sav'd from slaughter(3)— A single ear from a blighted sheaf, Planted in Aragisken land[G]; And these two men were foes. When they to manhood came, And each had skill and strength to bend A bow with a warrior's aim, And to wield the club of massy oak That a warrior-man should wield, And to pride themselves on a blood-red hand, And to deem its cleanness shame, Each claim'd to lead the band, And angry words arose, But the warriors chose Red Oak, Because his sire was a Roanoke.
Then fill'd the Maqua's heart with ire, And out he spoke: "Have his deeds equall'd mine? Three are the scalps on his pole[H]— In my smoke are nine; I have fought with a Cherokee; I have stricken a warrior's blow, Where the waves of Ontario roll; I have borne my lance where he dare not go; I have looked on a stunted pine In the realms of endless frost, And the path of the Knisteneau And the Abenaki crost. While the Red Oak planted the land, It was mine to lead the band."
Then fiercely answer'd the rival Brave, And bitter strife arose; Loud and angry words, Noisy boasts and taunts, Menaces and blows, These foolish men each other gave; And each like a panther pants For the blood of his brother chief; Each himself with his war-club girds, And forth he madly goes, His wrath and ire to wreak; But the warriors interpose. Thenceforth they met as two eagles meet, When food but for one lies dead at their feet, And neither dare be the thief: Each is prompt to show his ire; The eye of each is an eye of fire, And trembles each hand to give The last and fatal blow; And thus my brother may see them live With the feelings that wolf-dogs know.
And when each of these brave men Had built himself a lodge, And each had a bird in his nest, And each had a babe at his knee, Their hate had no abatement known, Still each was his brother's enemy. And thirsted for his blood. And when those babes had grown, The one to be a man In stature, years, and soul, With a warrior's eye and brow, And his poll a shaven poll[I], And his step as a wild colt's free, And his voice like the winter wind, Or the roaring of the sea; The other a maiden ripe, With a woman's tender heart, Full of soft and gentle wishes, Sighs by day and dreams by night, Their hostile fathers bade them roam Together no more o'er the rocky dell, And through the woody hollow, And by the river brink, And o'er the winter snows, Nor sit for hours by the summer rill, To watch the stag as he came to drink, And to see the beaver wallow, Nor when the waters froze, Have a pleasant sport to follow, O'er the smooth ice; they bade them shun, Each other as the stars the sun.
What did they then—this youth and maid? Did they their fathers mind?— I will tell my brother.— They met—in secret met'Twas not in the rocky dell, Nor in the woody hollow, Nor by the river brink, Nor o'er the winter snows, Nor by the summer rill, Watching the stag as he came to drink, And to see the beaver wallow, That these two lovers met, Nor when the waters froze, Giving good sport to follow: But, when the sky was mild, And the moon's pale light was veil'd, And hushed was every breeze, In prairie, village, and wild, And the bittern had stayed his toot, And the serpent had ceased his hiss, And the wolf forgot his howl, And the owl forbore his hoot, And the plaintive wekolis[J], And his neighbour, the frog, were mute— Then would my brother have heard A plash like the dip of a water-fowl, In the lake with mist so white, And the smooth wave roll to the bank, And have seen the current stirr'd By something that seemed a White Canoe, Gliding past his troubled view.
And thus for moons they met By night on the tranquil lake, When darkness veils the earth; Nought care they for the wolf, That stirs the brake on the bank; Nought that the junipers shake With the weight of the nimble bear, Nor that bitterns start by tens, Nor to hear the cayman's plash, Nor the hoot of the owl in the boughs of the ash, Where he sat so calm and cool: And thus each night they met, And thus a summer pass'd.
Autumn came at length, With all its promised joys, Its host of glittering stars, Its fields of yellow corn, Its shrill and healthful winds, Its sports of field and flood. The buck in the grove was sleek and fat, The corn was ripe and tall; Grapes clustered thick on the vines; And the healing winds of the north Had left their cells to breathe On the fever'd cheeks of the Roanokes, And the skies were lit by brighter stars Than light them in the time of summer. Then said the father of the maid, "My daughter, hear— A bird has whispered in my ear, That, often in the midnight hour, They who walk in the shades, The murky shades, dim, dark shades, Shades of the cypress, pine, and yew, That tower above the glassy lake, Will see glide past their troubled view Two forms as a meteor light, And will note a white canoe, Paddled along by two, And will bear the words of a tender song, Stealing like a spring-wind along; Tell me, my daughter, if either be you?"
Then down the daughter's cheek Ran drops like the summer rain, And thus she spoke: "Father, I love the valiant Annawan; Too long have we roam'd o'er the rocky dell, And through the woody hollow, And by the river brink, And o'er the winter snows, To tear him from my heart: Too long have we sat by the summer rill, To watch the buck as he came to drink, And to see the beaver wallow, To live from him apart— My father hears."
"Thou lov'st the son of my foe, And know'st thou not the wrongs That foe hath heap'd on me? The nation made him chief— Why made they him a chief? Had his deeds equall'd mine? Three were the scalps on his pole, In my smoke were nine: I had fought with a Cherokee; I had struck a warrior's blow, Where the waves of Ontario roll; I had borne my lance where he dare not go; I had look'd on a stunted pine, In the realms of endless frost, And the path of the Knisteneau, And the Abenaki crost; While the Red Oak planted his land, It was mine to lead the band. Since then we never spoke, Unless to utter reproach, And bandy bitter words; We meet as two hungry eagles meet, When a badger lies dead at their feet— Each would use a spear on his foe, Each an arrow would put to his bow, And bid its goal be his foeman's breast, But the warriors interpose, And delay the vengeance I owe. Thou hear'st my words—'t is well.
"Then listen to my words— The soul of a Maqua never cools; His ire can never be assuag'd, But with the smell of gore I thirst for the Red Oak's blood; I live but for revenge; Thou shalt not wed his son; Choose thee a mate elsewhere, And see that ye roam no more By night o'er the rocky dell, And through the woody hollow, But when the sun its eye-lids closes, See that thine own the example follow."
And the father of the youth Spake thus unto his son: "A bird has whispered in my ear, That when the stars have gone to rest, And the moon her eye-lids hath clos'd, Who walk beside the lake Will see glide past their troubled view Two forms as a meteor light, And will note a white canoe Paddled along by two, And will hear the words of a tender song. Stealing like a spring wind along. Tell me, my son, if either be you?"
Then answer'd the valiant son, "Mine is a warrior's soul, And mine is an arm of strength; I scorn to tell a lie; The bird has told thee true. And, father, hear my words: I now have come to man's estate; Who can bend the sprout of the oak, Of which my bow is made? Who can poise my choice of spears, To me but a slender reed? I fain would build myself a lodge, And take to that lodge a wife: And, father, hear thy son— I love the Red Oak's daughter."
"Thou lov'st the daughter of my foe; And know'st thou not the taunts His tongue hath heap'd on me: The nation made me chief, And thence his ire arose; Thence came foul wrongs and blows, And neither yet aveng'd. He boasted that his fame exceeded mine: Three, he said, were the scalps on my pole, While in his lodge were nine— He did not tell how many I struck, Nor spoke of my constancy, When the Nansemonds tore my flesh, With burning pincers tore; And he said he had fought with a Cherokee, And had struck a warrior's blow, Where the waves of Ontario roll, And had borne his lance where I dare not go, And had look'd on a stunted pine, In the realms of endless frost; And the path of the Knisteneau And the Abenaki crost: While—bitter taunt!—cruel taunt! And for it I'll drink his blood, And eat him broil'd in fire— The Red Oak planted his land, It was his to lead the band.
"And listen further to my words— My wrath can never be assuag'd; Thou shalt not wed his daughter, Choose thee a wife elsewhere; Choose thee one any where, Save in the Maqua's lodge. The Nansemonds have maidens fair, With bright black eyes, and long black locks, And voice like the music of rills; The Chippewa girls of the frosty north Have feet like the nimble antelopes' That bound on their native hills; And their voice is like the dove's in spring— Take one of those doves to thy cage; But see no more, by day or night, The Maqua warrior's daughter." And haughtily he turn'd away.
Night was abroad on the earth; Mists were over the face of the moon, And the stars were like the sparkling flies That twinkle in the prairie glades, In my brother's month of June: And hideous forms had risen; The spirits of the swamp Had come from their caverns dark and deep, Where the slimy currents flow, With the serpent and wolf to romp, And to whisper in the sleeper's ear Of death and danger near.
Then to the margin of the lake A beauteous maiden came; Tall she was as a youthful fir, Upon the river's bank; Her step was the step of the antelope; Her eye was the eye of the doe; Her hair was black as a coal-black horse; Her hand was plump and small; Her foot was slender and small; And her voice was the voice of a rill in the moon, Of the rill's most gentle song. Beautiful lips had she, Ripe red lips, Lips like the flower that the honey-bee sips, When its head is bow'd by dew.
She stood beneath the shade Of the dark and lofty trees, That threw their image on the lake, And waited long in silence there. "Why comes he not, my Annawan, My lover, brave and true? He knows his maiden waits for him Beneath the shade of the yew, To paddle the lake in her White Canoe." But Annawan came not: "He has miss'd me sure," the maiden said, "And skims the lake alone; Dark though it be, and the winds are high, I'll seek my warrior there." Then lightly to her white canoe The fair Pequida sprung, And is gone from the shore alone.
Loud blew the mighty winds, The clouds were dense and black, Thunders rolled among the hills, Lightnings flash'd through the shades; The spirits cried aloud Their melancholy cries, Cries which assail the listening ear When danger and death are near: Who is he that stands on the shore, Uttering sounds of grief? 'Tis Annawan, the favour'd youth, Detain'd so long lest envious eyes Should know wherefore at midnight hour He seeks the lake alone. He finds the maiden gone, And anguish fills his soul, And yet, perchance in childish sport, She hides among the groves. Loudly he calls, "My maiden fair, Thy Annawan is here! Where art thou, maid with the coal-black hair? What does thy bosom fear? If thou hast hid in playful mood In the shade of the pine, or the cypress wood, If the little heart that so gently heaves Is lightly pressing a bed of leaves; Tell me, maiden, by thy voice Bid thy lover's heart rejoice; Ope on him thy starry eyes; Let him clasp thee in his arms, Press thy ripe, red lips to his. Come, my fair Pequida, come!"
No answer meets the warrior's ears, But glimmering o'er the lake appears A solitary, twinkling light— It seems a fire-fly lamp; It moves, with motion quick and strange, Over the broad lake's breast. The lover sprung to his light canoe, And swiftly followed the meteor spark, But the winds were high, and the clouds were dark, He could not find the maid, Nor near the glittering lamp.
He went to his father's lodge, And laid him on the earth, Calmly laid him down. Words he spoke to none, Looks bestow'd on none. They brought him food—he would not eat— They brought him drink—he would not drink— They brought him a spear and a bow, And a club, and an arrowy sheaf, And shouted the cry of war, And prais'd him, and nam'd him a Chief, And told how the treacherous Nanticokes Had slain three Braves of the Roanokes; That a man of the tribe who never ran Had vow'd to war on the Red Oak's son— But he show'd no signs of wrath; His thoughts were abroad in another path.
Sudden he sprung to his feet, Like an arrow impell'd by a vigorous arm. "You have dug her grave," said he, "In a spot too cold and damp, All too cold and damp, For a soul so warm and true. Where, think ye, her soul has gone? Gone to the Lake of the Dismal Swamp, Where all night long by a fire-fly lamp She paddles her White Canoe. And thither I will go!" And with that he took his quiver and bow, And bade them all adieu.
And the youth returned no more; And the maiden returned no more; Alive none saw them more; But oft their spirits are seen By him who sleeps in that swamp. When the night's dim lamps are veil'd, And the Hunter's Star is hid, And the moon has shut her lid, And the she-wolf stirs the brake, And the bitterns start by tens, And the slender junipers shake With the weight of the nimble bear, And the pool resounds with the cayman's plash, And the owl sings out of the boughs of the ash, Where he sits so calm and cool, And above his head the muckawiss Sings his gloomy song, And croak the frogs in the pool, And he hears at his feet the horn-snake's hiss; Then often flit along The shades of the youth and maid so true, That haunt the Lake of the White Canoe.
[Footnote A: The Indians could never be brought to believe that paper was any other than a tanned skin invested with the powers of a spirit.]
[Footnote B: See note, vol. i. page 195.]
[Footnote C: Chesapeak bay.]
[Footnote D: Bay of Saganaum, in Lake Huron.]
[Footnote E: Cress or crease, a poisoned arrow, seldom used, however, by the tribes east of the Rocky Mountains.]
[Footnote F: Bird of Ages—See the Tradition vol. ii. page 35.]
[Footnote G: Virginia.]
[Footnote H: Scalps are suspended from a pole in the lodge, and usually in the smoke.]
[Footnote I: Alluding to the custom of the Indian of shaving off all the hair except the scalp-lock.]
[Footnote J: Wekolis—another name for the whip-poor-will.]
(1) Trusty memory.—p. 9.
The memory of the Indians is as astonishing as their native sagacity and penetration. They are entirely destitute of those helps which we have invented to ease our memory, or supply the want of it; yet they are never at a loss to recall to their minds any particular circumstance with which they would impress their hearers. On some occasions, they do indeed make use of little sticks to remind them of the different subjects they have to discuss; and with ease they form a kind of local memory, and that so sure and infallible, that they will speak for a great length of time—sometimes for three or four hours together—and display twenty different presents, each of which requires an entire discourse, without forgetting any thing, and even without hesitation.
(2) Kind Friendship.—p. 14.
Every Indian has a friend nearly of the same age as himself, to whom he attaches himself by the most indissoluble bonds. Two persons, thus united by one common interest, are capable of undertaking and hazarding every thing in order to aid and mutually succour each other; death itself, according to their belief, can only separate them for a time: they are well assured of meeting again in the other world never to part, where they are persuaded they shall have occasion for the same services from one another. Charlevoix tells of an Indian who was a christian, but who did not live according to the maxims of the gospel, and who, being threatened with hell by a Jesuit, asked this missionary whether he thought his friend who was lately departed had gone into that place of torment; the father answered him that he had good grounds to think that the Lord had had mercy upon him, and taken him to heaven. "Then, I won't go to hell, neither?" replied the Indian, and this motive brought him to do every thing that was desired of him; that is to say he would have been full as willing to go to hell as heaven, had he thought to find his companion there.
It is said that these friends, when they happen to be at a distance from each other, reciprocally invoke one another in all dangers. The assistance they promise each other may be surely depended upon.
(3) A Maqua saved from slaughter.—p. 15.
The following is the practice and ceremony of adoption: A herald is sent round the village or camp, to give notice that such as have lost any relations in the late expedition are desired to attend the distribution which is about to take place. Those women, who have lost their sons or husbands, are generally satisfied in the first place; afterwards, such as have been deprived of friends of a more remote degree of consanguinity, or who choose to adopt some of the youth. The division being made, which is done as in other cases without the least dispute, those who have received any share lead them to their tents or huts, and, having unbound them, wash and dress their wounds if they happen to have received any; they then clothe them, and give them the most comfortable and refreshing food their store will afford.
Whilst their new domestics are feeding, they endeavour to administer consolation to them; they tell them they are redeemed from death, they must now be cheerful and happy; and, if they serve them well without murmuring or repining, nothing shall be wanting to make them such atonement for the loss of their country and friends as circumstances will allow of.
If any men are spared, they are commonly given to the widows that have lost their husbands by the hands of the enemy, should there be any such, to whom, if they happen to prove agreeable, they are soon married. The women are usually distributed to the men, from whom they do not fail of meeting with a favourable reception. The boys and girls are taken into the families of such as have need of them. The lot of their conquerors becomes in all things theirs.
A LEGEND OF THE BOMELMEEKS.
Twenty-four men, and twenty-four women, from the twenty-four tribes of the wilderness, were met upon the top of the hill Gerundewagh. There were none upon the earth but those twenty-four tribes, and none upon the hill but these twice twenty-four people. They were all friends, and as brothers. There was no strife in the land; no blood deluged the beautiful vales of the wilderness; no cry of war shook the hills. Bows and arrows, and spears, were used for the destruction of bears, and wolves, and panthers; and the ochre, which now stains the brow of the Indian with the red hue of war, was used for the ornamenting of pipes. There was but one language upon the earth—all the tribes understood each other. If a Bomelmeek said to an Algonquin, "Give me meat or drink," he brought him meat or drink—if he said, "Smoke in my pipe," he smoked in the proffered pledge of peace, or he refused. If an Iroquois youth said to a girl of the Red Hurons, "Give me thy heart, and become the star of my cabin," she gave him her heart, and became the star of his cabin, or she bade him think of her no more. It was not then as it is now, that men fell out, and came to blows, because they mistook the words that were spoken. "Yes" was "yes," and "no" was "no," with all the tribes of the land, and interpreters were a thing unknown. So these twice twenty-four people from the twenty-four tribes of the earth sat down upon the top of the hill Gerundewagh, and smoked their pipes.
Whilst they were puffing out clouds of smoke, and enjoying greatly the pleasure which an Indian so covets, one of them, whose sight was keener than the rest, casting his eye far over the western wilderness, cried out, that he saw two somethings whose heads peered far above the woods. Very soon the rest of the people assembled at the hill Gerundewagh were able to see the same somethings, which resembled much the trunks of trees which have been divested of their branches, and look out in the blush of the morning through the vapours of a damp valley. What they were no human tongue could tell, but it was seen that they were approaching the hill Gerundewagh. As the heads came nearer, people were seen flying before them, and the heads following in quick pursuit. At length the twice twenty-four on the hill were able to see that the heads belonged to two enormous snakes, which were moving in devious paths about the land, devouring the inhabitants as fast as they were able to discover and swallow them. Seeing this, and the danger to which they were exposed of becoming also food for the monsters, they set about fortifying the high hill Gerundewagh, that their lives might be safe from the appalling danger, and within their fortification they collected all sorts of defensive materials. Having made themselves tolerably secure, they had leisure to view the war of extermination, which the snakes waged with the sons of the land who were not thus protected.
In the mean time, the snakes, having discovered by their acute power of smelling distant objects that the hill Gerundewagh contained human bodies, with whose flesh they were now become much in love, they immediately bent their course to it. In coming thither, they were compelled to cross, or rather to come down the river Mohawk, which, upon their thus getting lengthways of it, diverted from its natural course, overflowed its banks, sweeping away every impediment, and forming those beautiful meadows which have remained ever since covered with a robe of green. Having at length reached the hill, around whose base they threw themselves in many coils, they commenced the work of death by poisoning the air with their pernicious breath. Soon the atmosphere, which before had been pure, was changed in its nature; appearances resembling the motions of the waves of the great lake Superior when slightly agitated in the hot mornings of summer were seen in the horizon, and have never left it. Before, the rains descended in soft showers in the pauses of gentle winds, now they fell in torrents, accompanied with howling tempests and cold hurricanes. Lightnings, which before only played across the horizon, as the red light of autumn evenings streaks the northern sky, now rent asunder the flinty rock, and rived the knotty oak. Men, who had before died only of old age, now poisoned by the breath of the monsters, fell sick in the morning of life, with the brightness of youthful hope in their eye, and the down of unripe years on their cheek. The hair now often grew grey ere the knee became feeble; the teeth rotted out while there was enough to put between them; the eye often failed to see the beautiful objects, and the ear to drink in the soft sounds, which the Great Master of all created for the food of each. The heart now grew sometimes to be trembling and irresolute, and the soul to have its visions of infelicity. But I speak of after-time; first let me talk of that which is first.
The twice twenty-four, who were of a very bold and courageous nature, and feared nothing more than to be thought cowards, attacked the serpents with their bows and arrows. It was fruitless, however, to wage war with creatures covered with an impenetrable coat of scales. The serpents were not even startled by the arrows, so that no resource but death remained to the twice twenty-four. Their food being soon gone, they were compelled to venture out in quest of the means of sustaining life. As fast as they came out at the gate of the fortification, the one or other of the monsters snapped them up at a mouthful, until there remained of all those who occupied it at first but ten women and eleven men. What was to be done? I could not have told had I been there, but the eleventh man had the art and cunning to deliver the land from the assaults of the venomous serpents. He said to his brothers, "One of the serpents is a woman. I know it by her eyes, which are very bright, and beguiling, and roving, and treacherous. I know it by her sputtering, if all does not go right, and her frequent viewing herself in the waters of Lake Canandaigua, and the noisy chatter she is continually making about nothing. These are signs which cannot be misunderstood; she is a woman, I know. Now, if I can but catch the old man, asleep, I will make love to her, and it shall go hard but I will get her to assist in his destruction." So the Eleventh Man—who was a curious creature for making love to women, and knew all the arts necessary to be used, and all the nonsense proper to be uttered, knew when to look, and when to shut his eyes, when to be passionate, and when to be cold, and all that sort of thing—set about winning the love of the frail wife of the Great Snake. Whenever the old man took a nap, which was very often, then of a certainty would you see the Bomelmeek on the top of the fortification, winking and blinking, ogling and sighing, and doing other fooleries, at the Squaw-Snake. And soon could it be seen that she had noticed his declarations of love, and was not disposed to be very cruel or "ridiculous." Oh, it was a curious sight to see the courtship, though not more curious than I have seen other courtships. When he winked, she winked; when he ogled her, she ogled him; when he sighed, she—taking care to turn her head the other way, for her breath was not the myrtle's or the orange blossom's—sighed also, and very loud. So foolery was exchanged for foolery, and the thing throve well. Still the Eleventh Man dared not, for some time, venture out of the fortification, for he had remarked her taste for human flesh, and her dexterity in snapping off heads, and did not know but her love for him might extend to a wish to try the flavour of his meat, and that she might, in a moment of soft dalliance, practise on him her skill in unjointing necks. Women have been known to inflict a greater evil than either on the man they have pretended to love. At least, so the Eleventh Man said, and, as I have before told my brother, he was a knowing man in these matters. It soon became plain that something must be done. There was no food remaining in the fort, and the speedy death of all must ensue, unless it were procured. The Eleventh Man, who was as courageous in war as he was in peace, with the high-mindedness which belongs to an Indian(1), said he would go and submit himself to the good will of the pretty creature. So, taking his spear, and his bow and arrow, for he knew that women like to be wooed by warriors, and delight in the handsome bearing and gay dress of lovers, and often die and perish of a fever for feathers and gewgaws, he chose the moment when the old man was wrapped in a deep sleep, and ventured out. A woman can hear the lightest step of a lover when she is fast asleep, and when the thunder of the western hills would not awake her. And so it was with the Squaw-Snake, who, though very drowsy with watching the stars, and squinting at the moonas folks always do when they are in love—had no sooner heard the step of her beloved on the green sod than she advanced to meet him. Now comes the perilous moment! Bomelmeek, beware! She is raising her tail, at whose end is a horrible sting to clasp thee as with a pair of arms. And look, see her jaws, white with foam, and larger than the largest tree of the forest, are extended to kiss thy cheek, or scarcely worse to snap off thy head. Brave man! With what undaunted firmness he suffers himself to be taken to her arms—no, not to her arms, but her tail—and how patiently he suffers his cheeks that have felt the breath of sweet lips to be slabbered by a nasty snake! Oh! if he fall a victim to his love for his nation, he will deserve to live as long in the remembrance of the Bomelmeeks, as their great founder, the Earwig.
Fond and long continued were the caresses of the Eleventh Man and the Squaw-Snake, and luckily they were not interrupted by the old man, who, unlike many husbands I have known, contrived to sleep just as long as they wished he should. Before he awaked, it had been agreed between them that the death of the old man should be accomplished. So she bade him dip in the poison of her sting the points of two arrows, both intended to be put to a good use. He did so, and then retired within the fortification. Drawing his bow to his ear, and pointing an arrow at the head of the aged husband, he let fly with unerring skill. This done, he levelled the other arrow with the same precision at the head of the faithless wife. Wounded to death by the poisoned darts, the horrid monsters rolled down the hill in great agony, sweeping away, in their descent, all the trees upon the side to its very bottom, and amidst their contortions disgorging the heads of the Indians they had swallowed. Those heads rolled into Lake Canandaigua, where they were converted into stones, and are to be found there to this day. The Indian, as seated in his canoe he glides over the lake, frequently sees them lying on its pebbly bottom, and the larger bark of the white man is often dashed to pieces against them. So the eleven men and the ten women were freed from the serpents.
But now it was that the strangest circumstance was revealed to the survivors. The poison which the serpents had poured on the earth with their pernicious breath had so operated that a confusion of tongues had taken place, and different nations no longer understood each other. The Iroquois could no longer speak in the dialect of the Natchez; the Bomelmeeks of the land of Frost no longer sung their war-songs in the tongue of the Walkullas of the land of Flowers. The Senecas attempted in vain to make known their wishes to the Red Hurons of the Lakes, who were alike puzzled to converse with the Narragansetts of the Land of Fish. A youth of one nation, if he wished to take a woman of another nation to wife, had now to talk with his eyes, whereas before he made use of his tongue to tell his lies with.
So the land was re-peopled from the survivors of the hill Gerundewagh, and the confusion of tongues went on increasing, and has done so to this day. The Bomelmeeks have faded from the land; the descendants of the Eleventh Man, of whom there were very many, alone remaining, one of whom now tells this story, which is certainly true.
(1) High-mindedness of the Indian.—p. 39.
The Indians very frequently evince a pride and greatness of mind which would not have disgraced the heroes of ancient Greece and Rome. "The greatest part of them," says Charlevoix, "have truly a nobleness and an equality of soul which we cannot arrive at with all the helps we can obtain from philosophy and religion." Always master of themselves, in the most sudden misfortunes, we cannot perceive the least alteration in their countenances. A prisoner who knows not in what his captivity will end, or which is perhaps still more surprising, who is still uncertain of his fate, does not lose on this account a quarter of an hour's sleep. Even the first emotions do not find them at fault. The following well attested stories shew their high-mindedness, and one of them their singular chivalry of character.
A Huron Captain was one day insulted and struck by a young man. Those who were present would have punished this audaciousness on the spot. "Let him alone," said the Captain, "Did you feel the earth tremble? He is sufficiently informed of his folly."—Charlevoix, ii. 64.
This passion of the Indians, which I have called pride, but which might perhaps be better denominated high-mindedness, is generally combined with a great sense of honour, and not seldom produces actions of the most heroic kind. An Indian of the Lenape nation, who was considered a very dangerous person, and was much dreaded on that account, had publicly declared that as soon as another Indian, who was then gone to Sandusky, should return from thence, he would certainly kill him. This dangerous Indian called in one day at my house on the Muskingum, to ask me for some tobacco. While this unwelcome guest was smoking his pipe by my fire, behold! the other Indian whom he had threatened to kill, and who at that moment had just arrived, also entered the house. I was much frightened, as I feared the bad Indian would take that opportunity to carry his threat into execution, and that my house would be made the scene of a horrid murder. I walked to the door, in order not to witness a crime that I could not prevent, when, to my great astonishment, I heard the Indian whom I thought in danger address the other in these words: "Uncle, you have threatened to kill me—you have declared that you would do it, the first time we should meet. Now I am here, and we are together. And I take it for granted that you are in earnest, and that you are really determined to take my life as you have declared. Am I now to consider you as my avowed enemy, and, in order to secure my own life against your murderous designs, to be the first to strike you, and imbrue my hands in your blood? I will not, I cannot do it. Your heart is bad, it is true, but still you appear to be a generous foe, for you gave me notice of what you intended to do; you have put me on my guard, and did not attempt to assassinate me by surprise; I therefore will spare you until you lift up your arm to strike, and then, uncle, it will be seen which of us shall fall." The murderer was thunderstruck, and, without replying a word, slunk off, and left the house.—Heckew. 161, 2.
Mr. Heckewelder relates another instance of Indian heroism and magnanimity, not below the preceding. In the year 1782, a young white prisoner had been sent by the war-chief of the Wyandots of Lower Sandusky as a present to another chief, who was called the Half-King of Upper Sandusky, for the purpose of being adopted into his family in the place of one of his sons, who had been killed the preceding year, while at war with the people on the Ohio. The wife of the Half-King refused to receive the prisoner in lieu of her son, and this amounted to a sentence of death. The young man was therefore taken away for the purpose of being tortured and burnt on the pile. While the dreadful preparations were making near the village, the unhappy victim being already tied to the stake, and the Indians arriving from all quarters to join in the cruel act, or to witness it, two English traders, Messrs. Arundel and Robbins, shocked at the idea of the cruelties which were about to be perpetrated, and moved by feelings of pity and humanity, resolved to unite their exertions to endeavour to save the prisoner's life, by offering a ransom to the war-chief, which he, however, refused, because he said it was an established rule among them, that when a prisoner, who had been given as a present, was refused adoption, he was irrevocably doomed to the stake, and it was not in the power of any one to save his life. The two generous Englishmen, however, were not discouraged, and determined to try a last effort. They well knew what effects the high-minded pride of an Indian is capable of producing, and, to this strong and noble passion they directed their attacks. "But," said they in reply to the answer which the chief had made them, "among all those chiefs whom you have mentioned, there is none who equals you in greatness; you are considered not only as the greatest and bravest, but as the best man in the nation." "Do you really believe as you say?" said the Indian, looking them full in the face. "Indeed we do." Then, without saying another word, he blackened himself, and, taking his knife and tomahawk in his hand, made his way through the crowd to the unhappy victim, crying out with a loud voice, "What have you to do with my prisoner?" and at once cutting the cords with which he was tied, took him to his house.—Heckew. 162, 3.
Nutall, in his Travels through the Arkansa territory, says, among the most extraordinary actions which they (the Arkansas) performed against the Chickasaws is the story which has been related to me by Major Lewismore Vaugin, one of the most respectable residents in this territory. The Chickasaws, instead of standing their ground against the Quapaws (a band of Arkansaws) were retreating before the Quapaws, whom they had descried at a distance, in consequence of the want of ammunition. The latter, understanding the occasion, were determined to obviate the excuse, whether real or pretended, and desired the Chickasaws to land on an adjoining sand-beach of the Mississippi, giving them the unexpected promise of supplying them with powder for the contest. The chief of the Quapaws then ordered all his men to empty their powder-horns into a blanket, after which he divided the whole with a spoon, and gave the half to the Chickasaws. They then proceeded to the combat, which terminated in the killing of ten Chickasaws, and the loss of five prisoners, with the death of a single Quapaw.—Page 85.
THE KING OF THE ELKS.
When the Great Beaver, the spirit who next to Michabou had the greatest share in the creation and government of men and things, made the animals, he endowed certain of them with wisdom, and all with the powers of speech. The black bear could then converse with the cayman, and the whispers of the porpoise in the ears of the walruss and the flounder expressed the thoughts which were passing in his mind. The wants which the heron and the goosander now express by nods and winks, were then conveyed by plain, straightforward words; and the grunts and squeaks of the hog, and the bleating of the kid, and the neighing of the horse, and the howl of the dog, and the crowing of the cock, and the cackling of the hen, and the other means by which beasts, and birds, and other creatures, at this day make known their wants and wishes, were then unknown. If the ox was hungry, or the dog wished to visit a cousin, he said so, and if the hog wanted his belly scratched, he spoke out like a man. If the cock felt proud, instead of jumping upon a pole, and flapping his wings, and uttering a senseless cock-a-doodle-doo, as the vain thing does now, he asked the pullet "if she did not think he was a handsome fellow," and she replied ay or no, as she thought. The panther told his mother, in plain intelligible words, if he wanted a wife; and when the hen had excluded her egg, instead of cackling, she said, "There!" There was then no difficulty in understanding the beasts, for they told their wants and wishes in good plain Indian, which was far better than it is now, when you are obliged to guess at half they say. And not only could they convey their meaning better, but their meaning was worth more when you knew it. In truth the beasts at that time were much wiser and more cunning than men, and where the Indian caught one beaver in his trap, the beaver caught ten Indians in his. In war and peace their schemes and stratagems were better devised, and more successfully executed, and their talks[A] were as full of sweet and wise words as the sky is of wild pigeons in the season of their flight from the rigours of approaching winter. What a pity that the folly of the Great Chief of the Elks should have lost the beasts the most important faculties conferred upon them by the Great Hare, and led to the withdrawing of the all-glorious gift of speech.
[Footnote A: Talk—oration, also synonimous with "cabinet council, or general meeting, with a view to matters of high importance."]
There was among the Ottawas, that lived on the banks of the Lake of the Great Beaver(1), a young man whose origin none knew with certainty, but who was supposed by all to be a son of the god. Sixteen snows before the time of which I am speaking, there was found in the great village of our people, upon the morning of a warm day in the Frog-Moon, a little boy who might have seen the flowers bloom twice—older he could not have been. None knew whence he came, nor could he tell them, or give any information whereby it could be ascertained who were his parents, or what the place of his birth, or why he was abandoned. He did not belong to the tribe—of that they were certain; nor did the features of his face resemble those of any of the surrounding nations, nor were his words, or the tones of his voice, such as ever had been listened to by Ottawa ears. Indeed there were evidences that he owed his being to the love of the god of the lake for one wearing the human form. He was shaped like a man—that is, he stood upright, and his feet and hands, and legs and arms, were fashioned like those of an Ottawa, save that the former were flat, and webbed and clawed like the paws of a white beaver(2). The head, which was placed upon a pair of shoulders similar to those of a man, resembled more nearly those heads which the hunter sees looking out of the cabins of the cunning little people[A] than the heads of men. It was shaped very nearly like the head of a mountain-rat; the nose was long, the eyes little and red, the ears short and round, hairy on the outside, and smooth within. Then to the form the boy added the habits of the beaver. Every day he would repair to the lake, and sport for half a sun in its clear, cool bosom. The food he preferred further indicated from whom he sprung. He would undertake a journey of half a sun to find a crawfish; he would climb with great labour, and at the risk of his neck, the tallest poplar of the forest for its juicy buds, and the slender tree for its frightened and bashful leaves, that wither and die if one do but so much as touch them. He had much cunning and subtlety, as well he might have, if the blood of the god whom Indians adore ran in his veins.
[Footnote A: Cunning little people, the common Indian appellation for those sagacious animals, the beavers.]
This boy, if boy it was, or young beaver, if my brothers think it was a beaver—let them settle the matter for themselves—grew up with the form of a man, tall as a man, and with the speech of a man, but endowed with many of the attributes of a beaver—indeed he bore in his faculties a greater resemblance to that animal than to man, and his actions were more nearly patterned after the four-legged animal than the two-legged. His temper was very mild and good, and his industry equalled that of the cunning little people from whom he derived his origin. He was always doing something; night, noon, morning, wet or dry, he was at work for himself or others. While the lazy Ottawas were sleeping on the sunny side of their cabins, he was fetching home wood for the fire, or mending the nets, or weeding the corn. And then he was so peaceable that, for the eighteen snows that he lived in the great village of the Ottawas, none had ever beheld him angry, or seen disquietude in his eye, or heard repining from his lips. He coveted not distinction in war, he never spoke of the field of strife, nor sang a war-song, nor fasted to procure bloody dreams, nor shaved his crown to the gallant scalp-lock, nor painted his cheeks and brow with the ochre of wrath, nor taught himself to dance the war-dance—his actions and pursuits were those of a woman, and his thoughts and wishes all for peace. Among a people so valiant, and so fond of eating their foes[A], as the Ottawas, a disposition so feeble and woman-like as that possessed by the Child of the Hare would have drawn down great anger and contempt upon its possessor. But, believing that the youth had their favourite god for his father, they never reproached him for his cowardice and preference of peace to war, but contented themselves with saying that "he was a very, very good boy, but he would never become a chief of a people more warlike than the wren or the prairie dog." The laugh that would follow these speeches had nothing of ill-nature in it, for all loved the boy, cowardly and ugly as he was, and each would have shielded him from harm at the risk of his own life. And thus lived the Child of the Hare till the snows of the seventeenth winter had melted and gone to the embrace of the Great Lake.
[Footnote A: As I have remarked in a note (vol. i, page 305.) this is a metaphorical expression, signifying nothing more than that they will wage a bloody and destructive war.]
It was then that the boy, who had become a man in stature, was seen to absent himself from the village, and to shun the toils which had once been pleasures to him. No one knew whither he went, or for what purpose. Usually, at the going down of the sun, he would repair to the forest, and be absent for the greater portion of the period of darkness. Sometimes his journeys were undertaken by daylight. The aged men asked him whither he went—he made no answer; the young maidens, always famous for coming at the bottom of secrets, and tracking mysteries as one tracks a badger, sought to win the secret, but with no greater success. At last, a cunning old woman found out—what will not a cunning old woman find out—the secret.
Upon a large plain, which stretched from very near the great village of the Ottawas, a full day's journey towards the land of the rising sun, there dwelt a people, with whom the Ottawas had always been at peace. They were a set of very awkwardly-shaped beings, of a stature not exceeding the stubborn little beast's which our white brother rode hither, with four legs, and a beard upon the neck as long as that worn by the people one sees at the City of the Rock. Their heads were very long, their muzzles very thick, their nostrils very wide, and each wore upon his head, even before he was married, a pair of long and wide-spreading horns. They were covered with long hair, the colour of which was a mixture of light gray, and dark red. Though they were apparently a very heavy, clumsy, unwieldy people, the Ottawas, when they joined them on hunting expeditions, or assisted them in their wars against their enemies, found it no small labour to keep at their side, so long and steady was their trot. It was only when there had been a deep snow, which, melting somewhat, and being afterwards frozen, would not bear their weight, that our people proved a match for them in speed of travelling. For the foot of the strange people, being forked, broke through the crust which the frost had formed on the surface of the snow, and they went plunging and plunging with little progress till their strength was exhausted.
The Elks—for this was the name of these odd neighbours of the Ottawas—were upon the whole a very good-tempered, friendly people. But, when they were once angered, it was a great deal best to keep out of their way till they had cooled—a course one should pursue at all times with passionate folks. Whenever an Elk was enraged with an Ottawa, the latter hid himself till he had become pleased again. So upon the whole the two nations rubbed their noses together with more sincerity than any two nations of the wilds. It was not for the interest of either people to throw down the hatchet; they were of great and frequent service to each other. Whenever an Ottawa woman was hard to do with the pains of travail[A], she sent for a wise Old Elk, who speedily delivered her; and, when the Carcajous picked quarrels, as they were always doing with their pacific neighbours, the Ottawas became either mediators, or the allies of the Elks. There could be no doubt that but for our Braves, the Carcajous and the Foxes, who always make war in company(3), would have destroyed the Elks from the face of the Great Island. But the Ottawas joined the weaker party, which made them more than a match(4) for any thing breathing, as doubtless our brother knows. And it is because our people rescued the good Elks from the fangs of their cruel and merciless ancestors that the Carcajous have been, and to this day are, such bitter enemies to our people, and open their jugulars, and take their scalps whenever they can.
[Footnote A: The Indians affirm that the Elk has a bone in his heart, which, being reduced to powder, and taken in broth, facilitates delivery, and softens the pains of child-bearing.—Charlevoix.]
I am not able to tell my brother in what moon it was that a woman of our nation, determined to learn why the Child of the Hare absented himself so frequently from the village, followed him at early nightfall into the thick and gloomy forest which adjoined the lands of the Ottawas. It was a dark, and wild, and thickly wooded, dell, into which this fearless woman precipitated herself at early nightfall, but she had a powerful motive to encounter danger—there was a secret to be caught, a mystery to be unravelled, and she went with alacrity and pleasure. It is much that a woman will do to come at the bottom of a mystery, which has for some time baffled her and put her nose at fault; and many dangers and inconveniences, and much toil and trouble, must that journey promise, whose danger and inconvenience, and toil and trouble, shall deter her from attempting it when its object is the learning what, in spite of her, has long remained hidden. So the curious woman followed the Child of the Hare into the deep dell at early nightfall.
They travelled onward, he ahead, and she behind, keeping him constantly in view for a long time, until they came, all at once, just as the sun was rising, to a deep valley surrounded by high hills, through which there was but one path—a beaten and travelled path—that in which they came. But what most surprised this adventurous woman was, that though this valley lay but a little boy's journey of half a sun from the Ottawa village, and though she had, as she supposed, visited every part of the contiguous wilderness, she had never beheld it till now, nor heard it spoken of by her people. But that circumstance did not prevent her from admiring the beautiful spot—it was indeed the most lovely ever beheld by mortal eyes, and well did it deserve the many fond epithets she heaped upon it. Stretched out as far as the eye could reach, this valley lay green and glossy as a grove of oaks in the Buck-Moon, when their leaves are fully expanded to meet the warm and cheering rays of the great star of day. In the centre of this valley was a small lake fringed with willows, alders, pemines, and grape-vines. It was not altogether bare of trees, though they were few and scattered as a party of shamefaced warriors straggling home from a beaten field. Here perhaps stood a lofty pine with several little ones around it, resembling a happy father with his children at his knee partaking of the fruits of his hunt—yonder, a cedar, lone and solitary as a man whose friends have all been killed by an unskilful autmoin(5) in the Fever-Moon. Well did the woman deem that the cold breath of the boisterous and stormy Matcomek[A] had never reached the spot—it seemed as if it had never been visited by anything more rough than the south wind in the time of spring.
[Footnote A: The God of the winter.]
As this woman, who had followed the child of the Hare into the woods at early nightfall, stood chewing a piece of the hot root which takes away the crying sin of barrenness, and renders women fruitful and beloved[A], there came to her ears a sound as of many angry voices mingling their accents together. Filled with a womanly curiosity to know what it was, and anxious to behold the combat which it promised, she stepped quickly over the small hillock which intercepted her view of a part of the valley. What a scene burst upon her eyes! Upon a grassy knoll, shaded from the beams of the rising sun by the range of hills I have spoken of, were assembled a greater number of Elks than even my brother could count by the aid of his great medicine[B]. In the centre of the assembled nation, stood an Elk of wondrous stature, the great chief, or as my brother would call it, the King of the Valley. He was so large, that the biggest of his people seemed but musquitoes by the side of a buffalo. His legs were so long, that the deepest snow-drift was no impediment to his running his blithest race; and his skin, which was covered with red and grey hair, was proof against the utmost fury of the Ottawa bender of the bow. From each of his shoulders proceeded an arm, which well supplied the place, and performed the uses, of the same limb among our people. His eyes were of the size of the largest bison-hide, and the antlers, which towered above his head, resembled an oak which decay has stricken to the disrobing of its leaves, and the dismantling of its smaller, but not its larger limbs. Not the mighty animal which strode down from the mountains of thunder to slaughter the buffaloes of the prairies[C], was at all to be compared with him for size. At least, so said the woman, who followed the Child of the Hare into the deep dell at early nightfall.
[Footnote A: Ginseng, called by the Potowatomies Abesoatchenza, which signifies a child. I presume it has acquired its name rather from the figure of its root than from the tradition. They make great use of it in medicine.]
[Footnote B: The implements of writing, especially paper, are esteemed by the Indians as medicines, or spirits, of great power. Books are viewed in the same light. Singing hymns from a book delights them much, as they conceive, that the book is a spirit, which teaches the singer to sing for their diversion.]
[Footnote C: The Mammoth. See note, vol. ii, p. 111.]
"What brought you here?" demanded one of the Elks, a very elderly one, who was named the Broadhorns, of the woman, as she approached the outside of the circle. "Do you not know that it is death for any one to come into the camp of the Great Chief of the Elks, unless he is sent for? What brought you here?"
"I followed the Child of the Beaver."
"Oho, and so you have come to the marriage, but you are too late."
"What marriage?" demanded the woman, straining her eyes still wider than my pale-faced brother does at this moment. "Who? How? What! Who's to be married?"
"Oh, you know nothing of the matter I see," answered the Elk Broadhorns. "Why, the youth, whom the Ottawas call the Child of the Hare, but whom the Elks call the Pig-faced Boy of the Ottawas, has married the daughter of a wise old man, who is akin to the Great Elk."
"Oho, and is that the cause of the hubbub?" demanded the woman.
"Not altogether," answered the Broadhorns; "you see gathered together but the usual number that attend the steps of our great chief, running of his errands, and doing him homage. But, come along, you must go and spread the blanket of friendship before the great man, whom all the Elks, no matter where found, as well as the inhabitants of the valley, worship and obey."
With that, the old Elk, who appeared to be an Elk of authority, spoke to the crowd, commanding them to make way for the woman who had come from the camp of their friends, the Ottawas, to visit the Great Chief. Immediately an opening was made in the crowd, through which the woman and her conductor reached the presence of the mighty king of the valley. Behold her, then, before the being of whom she had heard her people talk morning, noon, and night, but whom no Ottawa had ever beheld till now. She was beginning to deprecate his anger at her intrusion on his dominions, when, in a tone intended to be very kind, but which, nevertheless, was louder than the loudest tones of the manza ouackanche[A], he spoke, and bade her say, "why she had come uninvited to the marriage-feast of the Pig-faced boy of the Ottawas."
[Footnote A: "Iron possessed by an evil spirit;" their name for a gun or rifle.]
The woman, gathering boldness from the mild and gentle behaviour of the questioner, answered, that, for a long time, the young man, whom the Ottawas called the Child of the Hare, but whom the Elks, it appeared, knew by another name, had wandered at the beginning of night, often continuing absent for days together, without their being able to discover what became of him; and that curiosity had induced her to follow his footsteps, with the idea of finding out the cause of his absence. This was all, and here she was.
The reason she gave seemed to content the Great Chief, who merely laughed a little, and said something about "curiosity"—"a woman napping"—"a weazel asleep." Then, calling to him the old man, who had assisted her through the crowd, he bade him bring the Pig-face and the Little Maiden before him. The old man, making a very low bow after the fashion of the white people, which is also the fashion of the bear, and the "child of the Evil Spirit," who are both very mannerly—especially the last, unless you provoke him, when he is a very naughty fellow—departed immediately on the mission, leaving the adventurous Ottawa woman surrounded by the whole nation of the Elks. Does not my brother suspect that she began to regret that she followed the Pig-face into the glen at early nightfall?
While he was absent, which was not long, the Great Chief amused himself with talking to the woman. He asked her a great many questions about her people, and praised them much for their singular courage and valour, and their great sagacity, and their coolness and resolution in bearing the torments inflicted by their enemies. He talked of the wisdom of his own nation, and told her all about the fits they were so subject to, and how they cured themselves by rubbing their ears with their hind feet, till the blood came, and how their hoofs were a medicine to drive away all kinds of falling sickness, except that occasioned by drinking the strong water that is made of women's tongues and warriors' hearts[A]. He was going on to relate long stories of the wars of the Elks with their inveterate enemies, the Carcajous, when there arose, upon the outside of the camp, a great noise, which prevented his proceeding. The sound was like that of a dozen old women, engaged in scolding their husbands for their lack of good fortune in the hunt. Soon a space was cleared, and that which made the noise appeared in the midst, in the shape of a mighty hare, whose tongue went faster than the wings of a wild duck escaping from a fowler. Awe, and fear, and trembling, seized on the Ottawa woman, for she knew that she stood in the presence of the god of her people, the Great Michabou. Nor was that awe and fear diminished, when the angry god spoke in a voice of thunder to the Great Elk, demanding why he had enticed the son whom he loved into a marriage with the daughter of a paltry Elk.
[Footnote A: An Ottawa, who was a great drunkard, on being asked by one of the French governors of Canada what he thought the brandy of which he was so fond was made of, replied: "Of women's tongues and warriors' hearts; for," said he, "after I have drunk of it, I can talk for ever, and fight the devil."]
The Great Chief, notwithstanding his seeming courage, trembled like a leaf, while he answered, that it was not a match of his making.
"Now you lie," answered the god. "You know that you have dared to do it, because it was told you by a wise Ottawa priest—no thanks to him—that from the marriage of the Pig-face with a maiden Elk a being should spring, who should destroy his father's father, and make the Great Chief of the Elks a spirit to rule in his place."
The Great Elk, caught with a lie in his mouth, continued silent, as a warrior who is stealing on his sleeping foe, while the Great Hare continued:
"I cannot prevent the marriage, for that is accomplished, and what is done cannot be undone, even by a god. But I can prevent the consequences which you hoped would ensue. I can take away from the beasts, particularly the Elks, the wisdom to devise stratagems to effect their purpose of usurping my power; and I can take away their speech, which will further spoil their sport."
Turning to the Ottawa woman, he bade her draw a thread from her robe of woven mulberry-bark, which she did, and gave it to him. Then, going up to the Great Elk, he bade him, in a very angry voice, hold out his tongue. The trembling monster obeyed, displaying a tongue which would have furnished the whole tribe of Ottawas with food for a season. The god then made, with the sharp point of a thorn, a hole in the under part of his tongue, half way between the root and the end, and another in the skin upon the inner side of his jaw, and passing through these holes the thread obtained from the Ottawa woman, he tied down the tongue effectually. When he had done this, patting the Ottawa woman on the shoulder, he bade her run, like a good woman, as she was, to the nearest grove, and fetch him some black mushrooms, some pemine berries, a handful of leaves from the squaw maple[A], and a small quantity of the flowers of the dog-wood. She did as she was directed, and brought them and laid them at his feet. These he caused to be pounded, beaten together, moistened with the spittle of the Great Elk, and fashioned into many little balls about the bigness of the eye-balls of a humming-bird[B]. When the mass had been all made into balls, he commanded all to be silent. When the camp had become so hushed, that the chirp of a grasshopper or the hum of a bee might have been heard from limit to limit, he cried with a loud voice:—
[Footnote A: The female maple, distinguished from the male by having its wood paler and more streaked.]
[Footnote B: Called by the French Canadians, l'Oiseau Mouche, or the fly-bird. The name has two derivations; the first, from the smallness of the animal; the second, from the humming noise it makes with its wings. Its body is not larger than an ordinary May-bug.]
"Ruling spirits of the beasts, and birds, and fishes, come hither! Presiding Manitous of all, save man, that inhabit the earth, the air, the water, hear and obey the voice of Michabou."
He had scarcely done speaking, when the air was darkened with wings of Manitous hastening to the spot, and, but that the footsteps of spirits are lighter than the shade which falls upon the earth at sunset, the valley had shaken with the weight of the hoofs and feet which pressed it. There were the spirits of all the fish in the waters, and fowls and birds in the air, and beasts and four-legged or more-legged creatures on or in the earth, and some very strange-looking creatures there were(6). To each of these spirits, as he presented himself, the Great Hare gave one of the little round balls, commanding him to swallow it. All obeyed readily, except the Manitou of the Mocking-Birds and the Manitou of the strange bird with a hooked nose, which Ononthio's[A] people have taught to cry, "Damn the Indians." The last bit off only a small piece of this ball, and the first, after chewing his, spat it all out with great disdain. That is the reason that these two still retain a portion of their speech—all the other creatures swallowed their balls, and thenceforth never spoke with the tongues of men.
[Footnote A: Great Mountain, a name given to one of the early French governors, and continued to be used generally for the French as long as they held Canada. The story means a parrot probably.]
The Great Hare, having deprived the beasts of the faculty of speech, and taken from them a principal portion of the wit and wisdom which they were about to make such bad use of, turned to the Ottawa woman, and kindly offered her all the little balls that were left. She took them, and carefully wrapped them up in a corner of her robe. Before she died, which was not till her years were more than the years of a tortoise, she called her eldest daughter to the side of her couch and gave her the balls, telling her to bestow them upon her eldest daughter, with such directions as would ensure their remaining among the Ottawas as long as grass shall grow and water run. They have been handed down from daughter to daughter, and son to son, till the present time. And that my brother may not think that I have a forked tongue, but speak the words of truth, I will show him the little balls. There they are, wrapped up in a piece of the robe which was worn at the time by the Ottawa woman, to whom they were given by the Great Hare.
So saying, the Ottawa story-teller unrolled a piece of dressed deer skin, and took from thence a number of small balls, about the size of pills sold by apothecaries, which he gave to M. Verdier.
(1) Lake of the Great Beaver.—p. 49.
Among the Ottawas, the Great Beaver is, next to Michabou, the chief deity. He it was who formed lake Nipissing; and all the rapids or currents, which are found in the river Ottawa, are the remains of the causeway which he built in order to complete his design. They also add, that he died in the same place, and that he is buried under a mountain which you perceive on the northern shore of lake Nipissing. It has been observed that this mountain, viewed from one side, naturally enough represents the figure of a beaver, which circumstance has, no doubt, occasioned all these tales. The Indians, however, stoutly maintain that it was the Great Beaver who gave this form to the mountain after he had made choice of it for his burial-place, and they never pass by it without rendering him their homage by offering him the smoke of their tobacco.
(2) White Beaver.—p. 49.
It has been asserted by travellers, that there is a species of the beaver perfectly white. I doubt the story much. If there were white beavers they would be found in the polar regions, yet it is a fact that there they are quite black. Their colour, in temperate countries, is brown, and it becomes lighter and lighter in proportion as they approach toward the south, yet no where becomes white.
(3) Carcajous and Foxes make war in company.—p. 55.
The carcajou, or wild cat, is the natural enemy of the elk, which, by the by, has become almost as rare an animal on the western continent as the mastodon or mammoth. As soon as he comes up with the elk, he leaps upon him, and fastens upon his neck, about which he twists his long tail, and then cuts his jugular. The elk has no means of shunning this disaster, but by flying to the water the moment he is seized by this dangerous enemy. The carcajou, who cannot endure the water, quits his hold immediately; but, if the water happen to be at too great a distance, he will destroy the elk before he reaches it. As this hunter does not possess the faculty of smelling with the greatest acuteness, he carries with him three foxes, which he sends on the discovery. The moment they have got scent of an elk, two of them place themselves by his side, and the third takes post behind him. They manage the matter with so much adroitness, that they compel him to go to the place where they have left the carcajou, with whom they afterwards settle about dividing the prey. At least so say the Indians.
(4) Made them more than a match.—p. 55.
The North American Indians are the vainest people living. "As ignorant as a white man," "as foolish as a white man," are common expressions with them. As they only value physical greatness, their low opinion of us proceeds from their observing how very deficient we are in the qualities which confer that species of superiority. They value, beyond every other acquirement, that of apparent insensibility to pain—we start, perhaps cry out, at the twinge of a tooth; in war we become the dupes of the commonest stratagem, while they can never be surprised. They see that they excel us in hunting—in endurance of pain—in the power of encountering the fatigues and perils of savage life—indeed, in every kind of knowledge which is deemed by them of value—by their standard they are our superiors. "You are almost as clever as an Indian," "You are as stupid as a white man," are common expressions with them. They consider themselves as created for the noblest of purposes. The Great Spirit made them, that they should live, hunt, and prepare medicines and charms, in which they fancy they excel. White men, on the other hand, were doomed to the drudgeries of manufacturing cloths, guns, &c., for the use of the Indians.
The Five Nations called themselves Ougwe-hohougwe, that is, men surpassing all others. This opinion, which they took care to instil into their children, gave them that courage which made them so terrible to their neighbours, and, indeed, to distant nations, for their hostile incursions extended as far as Florida.
(5) Unskilful Autmoin.—p. 57.
The Indian physicians possessed great skill as far as simples were concerned. But it was their practice to profess to cure diseases, rather by jugglery and witchcraft, than by those means which were simple and near at hand. Could they be brought to look upon a disease as purely natural, which they cannot, and treat it accordingly, their materia medica would possess wonderful efficacy in their hands. The great use which they make of their simples is for the cure of wounds, fractures, dislocations, luxations, and ruptures. It is certain that they are in possession of secrets and remedies which are admirable. A broken bone is immediately set, and is perfectly solid in eight days' time. It is related by a traveller, that a French soldier, who was in garrison in a fort in Acadia, was seized with the epilepsy, and the fits were become almost daily, and extremely violent; an Indian woman that happened to be present at one of his fits, made him two boluses of a pulverised root, the name of which she did not disclose, and desired that one might be given him at his next fit, predicting certain consequences and his complete cure by the second bolus, which actually took place, and he ever after enjoyed a perfect state of health.
In Acadia, the quacks or physicians were called by the name in the text, Autmoin; it was commonly the chief of the village who was invested with this dignity. The ceremonies and practices observed by the Acadian jugglers being common to the "profession" throughout the Indian nations, I shall insert an account of them from Charlevoix.
When they visited a patient, they first inspected him for a considerable time, after which they breathed upon him. If this produced nothing, "of certainty," said they, "the devil is in him; he must, however, very soon go out of him; but let every one be upon his guard, as this wicked spirit will, if he can, out of spite, attack some here present." They then fell into a kind of rage, were shaken with agony, shouted aloud, and threatened the pretended demon; they spoke to him, as if they had seen him with their eyes, made several passes at him, as if they would stab him, the whole being only intended to conceal their imposture.
On entering the cabin, they take care to fix into the ground a bit of wood, to which a cord is made fast. They afterwards present the end of the cord to the spectators, inviting them at the same time to draw out the bit of wood, and as scarce any one ever succeeds in it, they are sure to tell him it is the devil who holds it; afterwards making as if they would stab this pretended devil, they loosen, by little and little, the piece of wood, by raking up the earth round it, after which they easily draw it up, the crowd shouting the while. To the under part of this piece of wood was fastened a little bone, or some such thing, which was not at first perceived, and the quacks, shewing it to the company, "Behold," cried they, "the cause of the disease; it was necessary to kill the devil to get at it."
This farce lasted three or four hours, after which the physician stood in need of rest and refreshment. He went away, assuring them that the sick person would infallibly be cured, provided the disease had not already got the better, that is to say, provided the devil, before his retreat, had not given him his death-wound. The business was to know, whether he had or not. This the autmoin pretended to discover by his dreams, but he took care never to speak clearly, till he saw what turn the disease took. On perceiving it incurable, he went away; every one likewise, after his example, abandoned the patient. If, after three days were expired, he were still alive, "The devil," said he, "will neither allow him to be cured, nor suffer him to die; you must, out of charity, put an end to his days." Immediately the greatest friend of the patient brought cold water, and poured it on his face till he expired.
In a note, vol. i., pages 141, 142, there is an account of the ceremonies practised by the Delaware jugglers.
(6) Spirits of beasts.—p. 66.
Every species has its presiding genius, and to these the Indians frequently address their prayers. Some of them are held in great estimation, some are little valued. The genius of the beavers is much respected. They were formerly of opinion that beavers were endued with reason, and had a government, laws, and language, of their own; that they had officers who assigned to each his task, and placed sentries to give the alarm at the approach of an enemy, and to punish the lazy. A volume would scarcely afford sufficient space to relate their traditions about this animal.
The bear is also a venerated animal—it is not, however, deemed so auspicious to dream of the bear as of the beaver. Before setting out upon an expedition in search of him, a fast is necessary in order to induce his guardian genius to discover where the greatest number can be found. They also, at these fasts, invoke the spirits of the bears they have killed in their former huntings. The skins of bears are commonly worn by the jugglers while performing their feats of pretended witchcraft, and their teeth, &c., are held to be powerful amulets or charms.
They endeavour, on all occasions, to propitiate the spirits of the beasts, being persuaded that every species of animals has a genius that watches for their preservation. A Frenchman having one day thrown away a mouse he had just taken, a little girl took it up to eat it; the father of the child, who perceived it, snatched it from her, and fell to caressing the dead animal. The Frenchman asked him the reason of it. "It is," answered he, "in order to appease the guardian spirit of the mice, that they may not torment my child after she has eaten it." After which he restored the animal to the girl, who ate it.
An Indian came to Mackenzie, requesting him to furnish him with a remedy that might be applied to the joints of his legs and thighs, of which he had, in a great measure, lost the use for five winters. This affliction he attributed to his cruelty about that time, when having found a wolf with two whelps, in an old beaver lodge, he set fire to it and consumed them.—Mackenzie's Journal of a Voyage, &c. 4to. London, 1801.
THE DAUGHTERS OF THE SUN.
In the southern part of the lands which were once occupied by the Creeks, the Walkullas, and other tribes of Indians, lies the marsh Ouaquaphenogan. On one side of it is the river Flint; on the other, the Oakmulgee. This marsh is of very great extent, so great that it takes several moons to travel around it. In the wet season, and when the great rains of the southern sky are falling upon the earth, the whole surface of this marsh appears a vast lake. It is interspersed here and there with large islands and knolls of rich land, one of which, the largest island, situated in the centre of the lake, the present generation of Creeks represent to be a most blissful spot of earth. They term this little island, also, Ouaquaphenogan, and relate the following tradition of its discovery, which I will repeat to my brother.
Once upon a time, many ages ago, there were four young hunters in the nation of the Creeks, and these four young hunters upon the morning of a beautiful day in summer took their hunting spears, and their bows and arrows, and repaired to the forest. The hunting-ground to which they directed their steps lay upon the skirt of this marsh. It was the dry season of the year, and the surface of the lake was again a bog or morass. The four hunters, finding a narrow and crooked path, leading over the waste from the high grounds above the morass, determined, with a view to ascertain if no kind of game dwelt upon it, to thread this path for a short distance, but by no means to venture so far as to lose sight of the beacons which should guide their feet back to their village. They knew that very many hunters had been lost on this marsh, that there were many who had lived to tell the story of their bewilderment, and many who, never having returned from the chace, could only be supposed to have been tempted to the fatal morass, and perished in its mazes. Thus, armed with the knowledge of what had happened to many, and was supposed to have happened to more, the hunters ventured into the narrow and crooked path, which led to the island Ouaquaphenogan, in the lake of the same name.
The four hunters had not walked far, when one of them said to another, "Where are the hills which glitter in the morning sun, behind the cabins of our fathers?" The other answered, "I see them not, nor do I know which way they should be sought for. Deep fogs obscure the earth, and hide the sun from our eyes; the signs are wanting which should direct our feet in the path of our return; for the moss grows equally on every side of the tree; the waters lie dead, and sleeping, and stagnant, so that no one may gather from their flow a knowledge of his path; it is not the hour of the day for the Hunter's Star to shine upon the eyes of our judgment; no wind stirs to inform us whether it comes from the flowery land of the South, or the cold hills of the North—how then can I assist my bewildered brothers, who am myself bewildered? I see not whence we came, I know not where we are; I only know this—that we have ventured into a narrow and crooked path in the Lake Ouaquaphenogan, and are lost, as many of our nation have been before, in the intricate mazes into which it is death to venture." So concluded the young hunter.
The four bewildered hunters still continued their endeavours to retrace their path, but without success. Still more dark and dismal grew those mazes—more wet and miry the morass. Night came, but it brought no stars to enable them to find their road back to their dwellings, nor south nor north winds were abroad to direct their steps—the waters were still stagnant, and still did moss grow upon every side of the tree. No bird flew by, to direct by the course of his flight to his roosting-place, or to the nest of his beloved, on the dry hills beyond the waste—no plaint of animals, which love not the water or damp grounds, was heard in the distance. They knew no better than a child of the last moon the path which should lead them back to safety.