James Fenimore Cooper
Part 6 out of 9
returned the missionary. "I wish I could answer 'yes'; but the truth
forces me to say 'no.' The pale-faces have traditions that make
against the Jews, and the judgments of God weigh heavy on the
children of Israel. But all good Christians, now, look with friendly
eyes on this dispersed and persecuted people, and wish them well. It
will give the white men very great pleasure to learn that I have
found the lost tribes of Israel in the red men of America."
"Will my brother tell us WHY this will give his people pleasure? Is
it because they will be glad to find old enemies, poor, living on
narrow hunting-grounds, off which the villages and farms of the
pale-faces begin to push them still nearer to the setting sun; and
toward whom the small-pox has found a path to go, but none to come
"Nay, nay, Bear's Meat, think not so unkindly of us of the white
race! In crossing the great salt lake, and in coming to this quarter
of the world, our fathers were led by the finger of God. We do but
obey the will of the Great Spirit, in pressing forward into this
wilderness, directed by his wisdom how to spread the knowledge of
his name among those who, as yet, have never heard it; or, having
heard, have not regarded it. In all this, the wisest men are but
babes; not being able to say whither they are to go, or what is to
"This is strange," returned the unmoved Indian. "It is not so with
the red men. Our squaws and pappooses do know the hunting-ground of
one tribe from the hunting-ground of another. When they put their
feet on strange hunting-grounds, it is because they INTENDED to go
there, and to steal game. This is sometimes right. If it is right to
take the scalp of an enemy, it is right to get his deer and his
buffalo, too. But we never do this without knowing it. If we did, we
should be unfit to go at large, unfit to sit in council. This is the
first time I have heard that the pale-faces are so weak, and they
have such feeble minds, too, that they do not know where they go."
"My brother does not understand me. No man can see into the future--
no man can say what will happen to-morrow. The Great Spirit only can
tell. It is for him, then, to guide his children in their
wanderings. When our fathers first came out of their canoes upon the
land, on this side of the great salt lake, not one among them knew
anything of this country between the great lakes of sweet water.
They did not know that red men lived here. The Great Spirit did
know, and intended then, that I should this night stand up in this
council, and speak of his power and of his name, and do him
reverence. It was the Great Spirit that put it into my mind to come
among the Indians; and it is the Great Spirit who has led me, step
by step, as warriors move toward the graves of their fathers, to
make the discovery, that the Indians are, in truth, the children of
Israel, a part of his own chosen and once much-favored people. Let
me ask my friends one or two questions. Do not your traditions say
that your fathers once came from a far-off land?"
Bear's Meat now took his seat, not choosing to answer a question of
this nature, in the presence of a chief so much respected as Peter.
He preferred to let the last take up the dialogue where he now saw
fit to abandon it. As the other very well understood the reason of
this sudden movement, he quietly assumed the office of spokesman;
the whole affair proceeding much as if there had been no change.
"Our traditions DO tell us that our fathers came from a far-off
land," answered Peter, without rising.
"I thought so!--I thought so!" exclaimed the simple-minded and
confiding missionary. "How wonderful are the ways of God! Yes, my
brother, Judea is a far-off land, and your traditions say that your
fathers came from such a distance! This, then, is something proved.
Do not your traditions say, that once your tribes were more in favor
with the Great Spirit than they are now?"
"Our traditions do say this: once our tribes did not see the face of
the Manitou looking dark upon them, as it now does. That was before
the pale-faces came in their big canoes, across the great salt lake,
to drive the Indians from their hunting-grounds. It was when the
small-pox had not found the path to their villages. When fire-water
was unknown to them, and no Indian had ever burned his throat with
"Oh, but I speak of a time much more distant than that. Of a time
when your prophets stood face to face with God, and talked with the
Creator. Since that day a great change has come over your people.
Then your color was light, like that of the fairest and handsomest
of the Circassian race; now, it has become red. When even the color
is changed, it is not wonderful that men should no longer be the
same in other particulars. Yes; once all the races of men were of
the same color and origin."
"This is not what our traditions say. We have heard from our fathers
that the Great Spirit made men of different colors; some he made
light, like the pale-faces; some red, like the Injins; some black,
like the pale-faces' slaves. To some he gave high noses; to some low
noses: to some flat noses. To the pale-faces he gave eyes of many
colors. This is the reason why they see so many things, and in so
many different ways. To the red men he gave eyes of the same color,
and they always see things of the same color. To a red man there is
no change. Our fathers have always been red. This we know. If them
Jews, of whom my brother speaks, were ever white, they have not been
our fathers. We tell this to the medicine-man, that he may know it,
too. We do not wish to lead him on a crooked path, or to speak to
him with a forked tongue. What we have said, is so. Now, the road is
open to the wigwam of the pale-faces, and we wish them safe on their
journey home. We Injins have a council to hold around this fire, and
will stay longer."
At this plain intimation that their presence was no longer
desirable, it became necessary for them to depart. The missionary,
filled with zeal, was reluctant to go, for, in his eyes, the present
communications with the savages promised him not only the conversion
of pagans, but the restoration of the Jews! Nevertheless, he was
compelled to comply; and when le Bourdon and the corporal took their
departure, he turned, and pronounced in solemn tone the Christian
benediction on the assembly. The meaning of this last impressive
office was understood by most of the chiefs, and they rose as one
man, in acknowledgment.
The three white men, on retiring from the circle, held their way
toward Castle Meal. Hive followed his master, having come out of the
combat but little injured. As they got to a point where a last look
could be had of the bottom-land of the council, each turned to see
what was now in the course of proceeding. The fire glimmered just
enough to show the circlet of dark faces, but not an Indian spoke or
moved. There they all sat, patiently waiting for the moment when the
"strangers" might "withdraw" to a sufficient distance, to permit
them to proceed with their own private affairs without fear of
"This has been to me a most trying scene," observed the missionary,
as the three pursued their way toward the garrison. "How hard it is
to convince men against their wishes. Now, I am as certain as a man
can be, that every one of these Injins is in fact a Jew; and yet,
you have seen how small has been my success in persuading them to be
of the right way of thinking, on this subject."
"I have always noticed that men stick even to their defects, when
they're nat'ral," returned the bee-hunter. "Even a nigger will stand
up for his color, and why shouldn't an Injin? You began wrong,
parson. Had you just told these chiefs that they were Jews, they
might have stood THAT, poor creatures, for they hardly know how
mankind looks upon a Jew; but you went to work to skin them, in a
lump, making so many poor, wishy-washy pale-faces of all the red-
skins, in a body. You and I may fancy a white face better than one
of any other color; but nature colors the eye when it colors the
body, and there's not a nigger in America who doesn't think black
the pink of beauty."
"Perhaps it was proceeding too fast to say anything about the change
of color, Bourdon. But what can a Christian minister do, unless he
tell the truth? Adam could have been but of one color; and all the
races on earth, one excepted, must have changed from that one
"Aye, and my life on it, that all the races on 'arth believe that
one color to have been just that which has fallen to the luck of
each partic'lar shade. Hang me if I should like to be persuaded out
of my color, any more than these Injins. In America, color goes for
a great deal; and it may count for as much with an Injin as among us
whites. No, no, parson; you should have begun with persuading these
savages into the notion that they're Jews; if you could get along
with THAT, the rest might be all the easier."
"You speak of the Jews, not as if you considered them a chosen
people of the Lord, but as a despised and hateful race. This is not
right, Bourdon. I know that Christians are thus apt to regard them;
but it does not tell well for their charity or their knowledge."
"I know very little about them, Parson Amen; not being certain of
ever having seen a Jew in my life. Still, I will own that I have a
sort of grudge against them, though I can hardly tell you why. Of
one thing I feel certain--no man breathing should ever persuade me
into the notion that I'M a Jew, lost or found; ten tribes or twenty.
What say you, corporal, to this idea?"
"Just as you say, Bourdon. Jews, Turks, and infidels, I despise: so
was I brought up, and so I shall remain."
"Can either of you tell me WHY you look in this uncharitable light,
on so many of your fellow-creatures? It cannot be Christianity, for
such are not its teachings or feelings. Nor is either of you very
remarkable for his observance of the laws of God, as they have been
revealed to Christian people. MY heart yearns toward these Injins,
who are infidels, instead of entertaining any of the feelings that
the corporal has just expressed."
"I wish there were fewer of them, and that them few were farther
from Castle Meal," put in le Bourdon, with point. "I have known all
along that Peter meant to have a great council; but will own, now
that I have seen something of it, I do not find it quite as much to
my mind as I had expected it would be."
"There's a strong force on 'em," said the corporal, "and a hard set
be they to look at. When a man's a young soldier, all this paint,
and shaving of heads, and rings in noses and ears, makes some
impression; but a campaign or two ag'in' the fellows soon brings all
down to one color and one uniform, if their naked hides can be so
called. I told 'em off, Bourdon, and reconn'itred 'em pretty well,
while they was a making speeches; and, in my judgment, we can hold
good the garrison ag'in' 'em all, if so be we do not run short of
water. Provisions and water is what a body may call fundamentals, in
"I hope we shall have no need of force--nay, I feel persuaded there
will not be," said Parson Amen. "Peter is our friend; and his
command over these savages is wonderful! Never before have I seen
red men so completely under the control of a chief. Your men at Fort
Dearborn, corporal, were scarcely more under the orders of their
officers, than these red-skins are under the orders of this chief!"
"I will not go to compare rig'lars with Injins, Mr. Parson,"
answered the corporal, a little stiffly. "They be not of the same
natur' at all, and ought not to be put on a footing, in any
particular. These savages may obey their orders, after a fashion of
their own; but I should like to see them manoeuvre under fire. I've
fit Injins fourteen times, in my day, and have never seen a decent
line, or a good, honest, manly, stand-up charge, made by the best
among 'em, in any field, far or near. Trees and covers is necessary
to their constitutions, just as sartain as a deer chased will take
to water to throw off the scent. Put 'em up with the baggonet, and
they'll not stand a minute."
"How should they, corporal," interrupted le Bourdon laughing, "when
they've no baggonets of their own to make a stand with? You put one
in mind of what my father used to say. He was a soldier in
revolution times, and sarved his seven years with Washington. The
English used to boast that the Americans wouldn't 'stand up to the
rack,' if the baggonet was set to work; 'but this was before we got
our own toothpicks,' said the old man. 'As soon as they gave US
baggonets, too, there was no want of standing up to the work.' It
seems to me, corporal, you overlook the fact that Injins carry no
"Every army uses its own weapons. If an Injin prefers his knife and
his tomahawk to a baggonet, it is no affair of mine. I speak of a
charge as I see it; and the soldier who relies on a tomahawk instead
of a baggonet, should stand in his tracks, and give tomahawk play.
No, no, Bourdon, seeing is believing. These red-skins can do nothing
with our people, when our people is properly regimented, well
officered, and thoroughly drilled. They're skeary to new beginners--
THAT I must acknowledge--but beyond that I set them down as nothing
remarkable as military men."
"Good or bad, I wish there were fewer of them, and that they were
farther off. This man Peter is a mystery to me: sometimes he seems
quite friendly; then, ag'in, he appears just ready to take all our
scalps. Do you know much of his past history, Mr. Amen?"
"Not as much as I wish I did," the missionary replied. "No one can
tell me aught concerning Peter, beyond the fact of his being a sort
of a prophet, and a chief of commanding influence. Even his tribe is
unknown; a circumstance that points us to the ancient history of the
Jews for the explanation. It is my own opinion that Peter is of the
race of Aaron, and that he is designed by Divine Providence to play
an important part in the great events on which we touch. All that is
wanting is, to persuade HIM into this belief, himself. Once persuade
a man that he is intended to be something, and your work is half
done to your hands. But the world is so full of ill-digested and
random theories, that truth has as much as it can do to obtain a
sober and patient hearing!"
Thus is it with poor human nature. Let a man get a crotchet into his
head--however improbable it may be, however little supported by
reason or fact, however ridiculous, indeed--and he becomes
indisposed to receive any evidence but that which favors his theory;
to see any truths but such as he fancies will harmonize with HIS
truths; or to allow of any disturbing causes in the great workings
of his particular philosophy. This notion of Parson Amen's
concerning the origin of the North American savage, did not
originate with that simple-minded enthusiast, by any means. In this
way are notions formed and nurtured. The missionary had read
somewhat concerning the probability that the American Indians were
the lost tribes of Israel; and possessed with the idea, everything
he saw was tortured into evidence in support of his theory. There is
just as much reason for supposing that any, and all, of the heathen
savages that are scattered up and down the earth have this origin,
as to ascribe it to our immediate tribes; but to this truth the good
parson was indifferent, simply because it did not come within the
circle of his particular belief.
Thus, too, was it with the corporal. Unless courage, and other
military qualities, were manifested precisely in the way in which HE
had been trained, they were not courage and military qualities at
all. Every virtue has its especial and conventional accessories,
according to this school of morals; nothing of the sort remaining as
it came from above, in the simple abstract qualities of right and
wrong. On such feelings and principles as these, do men get to be
dogmatical, narrow-minded, and conceited!
Our three white men pursued their way back to the "garrison,"
conversing as they went, much in the manner they did in the dialogue
we have just recorded. Neither Parson Amen nor the corporal seemed
to apprehend anything, not-withstanding the extraordinary scene in
which one had been an actor, and of which the other had been a
witness. Their wonder and apprehensions, no doubt, were much
mitigated by the fact, that it was understood Peter was to meet a
large collection of the chiefs in the Openings, and the minds of all
were, more or less, prepared to see some such assemblage as had that
night got together. The free manner in which the mysterious chief
led the missionary to the circle, was, of itself, some proof that HE
did not desire concealment; and even le Bourdon admitted, when they
came to discuss the details, that this was a circumstance that told
materially in favor of the friendliness of his intentions. Still,
the bee-hunter had his doubts; and most sincerely did he wish that
all in Castle Meal, Blossom in particular, were safe within the
limits of civilized settlements.
On reaching the "garrison," all was safe. Whiskey Centre watched the
gate--a sober man, now, perforce, if not by inclination; for being
in the Openings, in this respect, is like being at sea with an empty
spirit-room. He was aware that several had passed out, but was
surprised to learn that Peter was of the number. That gate Peter had
not passed, of a certainty; and how else he could quit the palisades
was not easily understood. It was possible to climb over them, it is
true; but the feat would be attended with so great an exertion, and
would be so likely to lead to a noise which would expose the effort,
that all had great difficulty in believing a man so dignified and
reserved in manner as this mysterious chief would be apt to resort
to such means of quitting the place.
As for the Chippewa, Gershom reported his return a few minutes
before; and the bee-hunter entered, to look for that tried friend,
as soon as he learned the fact. He found Pigeonswing laying aside
his accoutrements, previously to lying down to take his rest.
"So, Chippewa, YOU have come back, have you?" exclaimed le Bourdon.
"So many of your red-skin brethren are about, that I didn't expect
to see you again for these two or three days."
"No want to eat, den, eh? How you all eat, if hunter don't do he
duty? S'pose squaw don't cook vittles, you no like it, eh? Juss so
wid hunter--no KILL vittles, don't like it nudder."
"This is true enough. Still, so many of your people are about, just
now, that I thought it probable you might wish to remain outside
with them for a day or two."
"How know red man about, eh? You SEE him--you COUNT him eh?"
"I have seen something like fifty, and may say I counted that many.
They were chiefs, however, and I take it for granted, a goodly
number of common warriors are not far off. Am I right, Pigeonswing?"
"S'pose don't know--den, can't tell? Only tell what he know."
"Sometimes an Injin GUESSES, and comes as near the truth as a white
man who has seen the thing with his own Pigeonswing made no answer;
though le Bourdon fancied, from his manner, that he had really
something on his mind, and that, too, of importance, which he wished
"I think you might tell me some news that I should like to hear,
Chippewa, if you was so minded."
"Why you stay here, eh?" demanded the Indian, abruptly. "Got plenty
honey--bess go home, now. Always bess go home, when hunt up. Home
good place, when hunter well tired."
"My home is here, in the Openings, Pigeonswing. When I go into the
settlements, I do little but loaf about among the farm-houses on the
Detroit River, having neither squaw nor wigwam of my own to go to. I
like this place well enough, if your red brethren will let me keep
it in peace."
"Dis bad place for pale-face, juss now. Better go home, dan stay in
Openin'. If don't know short path to Detroit, I show you. Bess go,
soon as can; and bess go ALONE. No good to be trouble wid squaw,
when in hurry."
The countenance of le Bourdon changed at this last intimation;
though the Indian might not have observed it in the darkness. After
a brief pause, the first answered in a very determined way.
"I believe I understand you, Chippewa," he said. "I shall do nothing
of the sort, however. If the squaws can't go, too, I shall not quit
them. Would you desert YOUR squaws because you thought them in
"An't your squaw yet. Bess not have squaw at all, when Openin' so
full of Injin. Where you t'ink is two buck I shoot dis mornin', eh?
Skin 'em, cut 'em up, hang 'em on tree, where wolf can't get 'em.
Well, go on after anudder; kill HIM, too. Dere he is, inside of
palisade, but no tudder two. He bot' gone, when I get back to tree.
Two good buck as ever see! How you like dat, eh?"
"I care very little about it, since we have food enough, and are not
likely to want. So the wolves got your venison from the trees, after
all your care; ha! Pigeonswing."
"Wolf don't touch him--wolf CAN'T touch him. Moccasin been under
tree. See him mark. Bess do as I tell you; go home, soon as ever
can. Short path to Detroit; an't two hundred pale-face mile."
"I see how it is, Pigeonswing; I see how it is, and thank you for
this hint, while I honor your good faith to your own people. But I
cannot go to Detroit, in the first place, for that town and fort
have fallen into the hands of the British. It might be possible for
a canoe to get past in the night, and to work its way through into
Lake Erie, but I cannot quit my friends. If you can put us ALL in
the way of getting away from this spot, I shall be ready to enter
into the scheme. Why can't we all get into the canoe, and go down
stream, as soon as another night sets in? Before morning we could be
twenty miles on our road."
"No do any good," returned Pigeonswing, coldly. "If can't go alone,
can't go at all. Squaw no keep up when so many be on trail. No good
to try canoe. Catch you in two days--p'raps one. Well, I go to
sleep--can't keep eye open all night."
Hereupon, Pigeonswing coolly repaired to his skins, lay down, and
was soon fast asleep. The bee-hunter was fain to do the same, the
night being now far advanced; but he lay awake a long time, thinking
of the hint he had received, and pondering on the nature of the
danger which menaced the security of the family. At length, sleep
asserted its power over even him, and the place lay in the deep
stillness of night.
And stretching out, on either hand,
O'er all that wide and unshorn land,
Till weary of its gorgeousness,
The aching and the dazzled eye
Rests, gladdened, on the calm, blue sky.
No other disturbance occurred in the course of the night. With the
dawn, le Bourdon was again stirring; and as he left the palisades to
repair to the run, in order to make his ablutions, he saw Peter
returning to Castle Meal. The two met; but no allusion was made to
the manner in which the night had passed. The chief paid his
salutations courteously; and, instead of repairing to his skins, he
joined le Bourdon, seemingly as little inclined to seek for rest, as
if just arisen from his lair. When the bee-hunter left the spring,
this mysterious Indian, for the first time, spoke of business.
"My brother wanted to-day to show Injin how to find honey," said
Peter, as he and Bourdon walked toward the palisades, within which
the whole family was now moving. "I nebber see honey find, myself,
ole as I be."
"I shall be very willing to teach your chiefs my craft," answered
the bee-hunter, "and this so much the more readily, because I do not
expect to pracTYSE it much longer, myself; not in this part of the
country, at least."
"How dat happen?--expec' go away soon?" demanded Peter, whose keen,
restless eye would, at one instant, seem to read his companion's
soul, and then would glance off to some distant object, as if
conscious of its own startling and fiery expression. "Now Br'ish got
Detroit, where my broder go? Bess stay here, I t'ink."
"I shall not be in a hurry, Peter; but my season will soon be up,
and I must get ahead of the bad weather, you know, or a bark canoe
will have but a poor time of it on Lake Huron. When am I to meet the
chiefs, to give them a lesson in finding bees?"
"Tell by-'em-by. No hurry for dat. Want to sleep fuss. See so much
better, when I open eye. So you t'ink of makin' journey on long
path. If can't go to Detroit, where can go to?"
"My proper home is in Pennsylvania, on the other side of Lake Erie.
It is a long path, and I'm not certain of getting safely over it in
these troubled times. Perhaps it would be best for me, however, to
shape at once for Ohio; if in that state I might find my way round
the end of Erie, and so go the whole distance by land."
The bee-hunter said this, by way of throwing dust into the Indian's
eyes, for he had not the least intention of travelling in the
direction named. It is true, it was HIS most direct course, and the
one that prudence would point out to him, under all the
circumstances, had he been alone. But le Bourdon was no longer
alone--in heart and feelings, at least. Margery now mingled with all
his views for the future; and he could no more think of abandoning
her in her present situation, than he could of offering his own
person to the savages for a sacrifice. It was idle to think of
attempting such a journey in company with the females, and most of
all to attempt it in defiance of the ingenuity, perseverance, and
hostility of the Indians. The trail could not be concealed; and, as
for speed, a party of the young men of the wilderness would
certainly travel two miles to Margery's one.
Le Bourdon, notwithstanding Pigeonswing's remonstrances, still had
his eye on the Kalamazoo. He remembered the saying, "that water
leaves no trail," and was not without hopes of reaching the lake
again, where he felt he should be in comparative security; his own
canoe, as well as that of Gershom, being large, well fitted, and not
altogether unsuited to those waters in the summer months. As it
would be of the last importance, however, to get several hours'
start of the Indians, in the event of his having recourse to such a
mode of flight, it was of the utmost importance also to conceal his
intentions, and, if possible, to induce Peter to imagine his eyes
were turned in another direction.
"Well, s'pose go dat way," answered the chief, quietly, as if
suspecting no artifice. "Set 'bout him by-'em-by. Today muss teach
Injin how to find honey. Dat make him good friend; and maybe he help
my pale-face broders back to deir country. Been better for ebbery
body, if none come here, at all."
Thus ended the discourse for that moment. Peter was not fond of much
talking, when he had not his great object in view, but rather kept
his mind occupied in observation. For the next hour, every one in
and about Castle Meal was engaged in the usual morning avocations,
that of breaking their fasts included; and then it was understood
that all were to go forth to meet the chiefs, that le Bourdon might
give a specimen of his craft.
One, ignorant of the state of political affairs on the American
continent, and who was not aware of the vicinity of savages, would
have seen nothing that morning, as the party proceeded on its little
excursion, in and around that remote spot, but a picture of rural
tranquillity and peace. A brighter day never poured its glories on
the face of the earth; and the Openings, and the glades, and even
the dark and denser forests, were all bathed in the sunlight, as
that orb is known to illuminate objects in the softer season of the
year, and in the forty-third degree of latitude. Even the birds
appeared to rejoice in the beauties of the time, and sang and
fluttered among the oaks, in numbers greater than common. Nature
usually observes a stern fitness in her adaptation of means to ends.
Birds are to be found in the forests, on the prairies, and in the
still untenanted openings of the west--and often in countless
numbers; more especially those birds which fly in flocks, and love
the security of unoccupied regions--unoccupied by man is meant--
wherein to build their nests, obey the laws of their instincts, and
fulfil their destinies. Thus, myriads of pigeons, and ducks, and
geese, etc., are to be found in the virgin woods, while the
companionable and friendly robin, the little melodious wren, the
thrush, the lark, the swallow, the marten, and all those pleasant
little winged creatures, that flit about our dwellings and grounds,
and seem to be sent by Providence, expressly to chant their morning
and evening hymns to God in our ears, most frequent the peopled
districts. It has been said by Europeans that the American birds are
mute, in comparison with those of the Old World. This is true, to a
certain extent, as respects those which are properly called forest
birds, which do, in general, appear to partake of the sombre
character that marks the solemn stillness of their native haunts. It
is not true, however, with the birds which live in our fields, and
grounds, and orchards, each of which sings its song of praise, and
repeats its calls and its notes, as richly and as pleasantly to the
ear, as the birds of other lands. One large class, indeed, possesses
a faculty that enables it to repeat every note it has ever heard,
even to some of the sounds of quadrupeds. Nor is this done in the
discordant tones of the parrot; but in octaves, and trills, and in
rich contra-altos, and all the other pleasing intonations known to
the most gifted of the feathered race. Thus it is, that one American
mocking-bird can outsing all the birds of Europe united.
It seemed that morning as if every bird that was accustomed to glean
its food from the neighborhood of Castle Meal was on the wing, and
ready to accompany the party that now sallied forth to catch the
bee. This party consisted of le Bourdon, himself, as its chief and
leader; of Peter, the missionary, and the corporal. Margery, too,
went along; for, as yet, she had never seen an exhibition of Boden's
peculiar skill. As for Gershom and his wife, they remained behind,
to make ready the noontide meal; while the Chippewa took his
accoutrements, and again sallied out on a hunt. The whole time of
this Indian appeared to be thus taken up; though, in truth, venison
and bear's meat both abounded, and there was much less necessity for
those constant efforts than he wished to make it appear. In good
sooth, more than half his time was spent in making those
observations, which had led to the advice he had been urging on his
friend, the bee-hunter, in order to induce him to fly. Had
Pigeonswing better understood Peter, and had he possessed a clearer
insight into the extent and magnitude of his plans of retributive
vengeance, it is not probable his uneasiness, at the moment, would
have been so great, or the urgency for an immediate decision on the
part of le Bourdon would have appeared as urgently pressing as it
now seemed to be.
The bee-hunter took his way to a spot that was at some distance from
his habitation, a small prairie of circular form, that is now
generally known in that region of the country by the name of Prairie
Round. Three hours were necessary to reach it, and this so much the
more, because Margery's shorter steps were to be considered.
Margery, however, was no laggard on a path. Young, active, light of
foot, and trained in exertions of this nature, her presence did not
probably retard the arrival many minutes.
The extraordinary part of the proceedings was the circumstance, that
the bee-hunter did not tell any one whither he was going, and that
Peter did not appear to care about putting the question to him.
Notwithstanding this reserve on one side, and seeming indifference
on the other, when the party reached Prairie Round, every one of the
chiefs who had been present at the council of the previous night,
was there before it. The Indians were straggling about, but remained
sufficiently near the point where the bee-hunter and his followers
reached the prairie, to assemble around the group in a very few
minutes after it made its appearance.
All this struck le Bourdon as fearfully singular, since it proved
how many secret means of communication existed between the savages.
That the inmates of the habitations were closely observed, and all
their proceedings noted, he could not but suspect, even before
receiving this proof of Peter's power; but he was not aware until
now, how completely he and all with him were at the mercy of these
formidable foes. What hope could there be for escape, when hundreds
of eyes were thus watching their movements, and every thicket had
its vigilant and sagacious sentinel? Yet must flight be attempted,
in some way or other, or Margery and her sister would be hopelessly
lost--to say nothing of himself and the three other men.
But the appearance of the remarkable little prairie that he had just
reached, and the collection of chiefs, now occupied all the present
thoughts of le Bourdon. As for the first, it is held in repute, even
at the present hour, as a place that the traveller should see,
though covered with farms, and the buildings that belong to
husbandry. It is still visited as a picture of ancient civilization,
placed in the setting of a new country. It is true that very little
of this part of Michigan wears much, if any, of that aspect of a
rough beginning, including stubs, stumps, and circled trees, that it
has so often fallen to our share to describe. There are dense
forests, and those of considerable extent; and wherever the axe is
put into them, the progress of improvement is marked by the same
steps as elsewhere; but the lovely openings form so many exceptions,
as almost to compose the rule.
On Prairie Round there was even a higher stamp of seeming
civilization--seeming, since it was nature, after all, that had
mainly drawn the picture. In the first place, the spot had been
burnt so recently, as to leave the entire expanse covered with young
grasses and flowers, the same as if it were a well-kept park. This
feature, at that advanced period of the summer, was in some degree
accidental, the burning of the prairies depending more or less on
contingencies of that sort. We have now less to do with the cause,
than with its consequences. These were most agreeable to the eye, as
well as comfortable to the foot, the grass nowhere being of a height
to impede movement, or, what was of still more importance to le
Bourdon's present pursuit, to overshadow the flowers. Aware of this
fact, he had led his companions all that distance, to reach this
scene of remarkable rural beauty, in order that he might make a
grand display of his art, in presence of the assembled chiefs of
that region. The bee-hunter had pride in his craft, the same as any
other skilful workman who had gained a reputation by his cunning,
and he now trod the prairie with a firmer step, and a more kindling
eye, than was his wont in the commoner haunts of his calling. Men
were there whom it might be an honor to surprise, and pretty Margery
was there also, she who had so long desired to see this very
But to revert once more to the prairie, ere we commence the
narrative of what occurred on it. This well-known area is of no
great extent, possessing a surface about equal to that of one of the
larger parks of Europe. Its name was derived from its form, which,
without being absolutely regular, had so near an approach to a
circle as to justify the use of the appellation. The face of this
charming field was neither waving, or what is called "rolling," nor
a dead flat, as often occurs with river bottoms. It had just enough
of undulation to prevent too much moisture, and to impart an
agreeable variety to its plain. As a whole, it was clear of the
forest; quite as much so as if the axe had done its work there a
thousand years before, though wood was not wanting. On the contrary,
enough of the last was to be seen, in addition to that which formed
the frame of this charming landscape, to relieve the view from all
appearance of monotony, and to break it up into copses, thickets,
trees in small clusters, and in most of the varieties that embellish
native scenery. One who had been unexpectedly transferred to the
spot, might well have imagined that he was looking on the site of
some old and long-established settlement, from which every appliance
of human industry had been suddenly and simultaneously abstracted.
Of houses, out-buildings, fences, stacks, and husbandry, there were
no signs; unless the even and verdant sward, that was spread like a
vast carpet, sprinkled with flowers, could have been deemed a sign
of the last. There were the glades, vistas, irregular lawns, and
woods, shaped with the pleasing outlines of the free hand of nature,
as if consummate art had been endeavoring to imitate our great
mistress in one of her most graceful moods.
The Indians present served largely to embellish this scene. Of late
years, horses have become so common among the western tribes, the
vast natural meadows of those regions furnishing the means necessary
to keep them, that one can now hardly form a picture of those
savages, with-out representing them mounted, and wielding the spear;
but such was not the fact with the time of which we are writing, nor
was it ever the general practice to go mounted, among the Indians in
the immediate vicinity of the great lakes. Not a hoof of any sort
was now visible, with the exception of those which belonged to a
herd of deer, that were grazing on a favorite spot, less than a
league distant from the place where le Bourdon and his companions
reached the prairie. All the chiefs were on foot, and very few were
equipped with more than the knife and tomahawk, the side-arms of a
chief; the rifles having been secreted, as it might be, in deference
to the festivities and peaceful character of the occasion. As le
Bourdon's party was duly provided with rifles, the missionary and
Margery excepted, this was a sign that no violence was contemplated
on that occasion at least. "Contemplated," however, is a word very
expressive, when used in connection with the out-breakings of human
passions, as they are wont to exhibit themselves among the ignorant
and excited. It matters not whether the scene be the capital of some
ancient European monarchy, or the wilds of America, the workings of
such impulses are much the same. Now, a throne is overturned,
perhaps, before they who do it are yet fully aware of what they
ought to set up in its place; and now the deadly rifle, or the
murderous tomahawk is used, more in obedience to the incentives of
demons, than in furtherance of justly recognized rules of conduct.
Le Bourdon was aware of all this, and did not so far confide in
appearances, as to overlook the watchfulness that he deemed
The bee-hunter was not long in selecting a place to set up his
apparatus. In this particular, he was mainly governed by a lovely
expanse of sweet-scented flowers, among which bees in thousands were
humming, sipping of their precious gifts at will. Le Bourdon had a
care, also, not to go far from the forests which encircled the
prairies, for among its trees he knew he had to seek the habitations
of the insects. Instead of a stump, or a fallen tree, he had
prepared a light framework of lath, which the corporal bore to the
field for him, and on which he placed his different implements, as
soon as he had selected the scene of operations.
It will not be necessary for us to repeat the process, which has
already been described in our opening chapters; but we shall only
touch such parts of it as have a direct connection with the events
of the legend. As le Bourdon commenced his preparations, however,
the circle of chiefs closed around him, in mute but close attention
to every-thing that passed. Although every one of them had heard of
the bee-hunters of the pale-faces, and most of them had heard of
this particular individual of their number, not an Indian present
had ever seen one of these men practise his craft. This may seem
strange, as respects those who so much roamed the woods; but we have
already remarked that it exceeded the knowledge of the red man to
make the calculations that are necessary to take the bee by the
process described. Usually, when he obtains honey, it is the result
of some chance meeting in the forest, and not the fruits of that
far-sighted and persevering industry, which enables the white man to
lay in a store large enough to supply a neighborhood, in the course
of a few weeks' hunting.
Never was a juggler watched with closer attention, than was le
Bourdon, while setting up his stand, and spreading his implements.
Every grave, dark countenance was turned toward him, and each keen,
glistening eye was riveted on his movements. As the vessel with the
comb was set down, the chiefs nearest recognizing the substance
murmured their admiration; for to them it seemed as if the operator
were about to make honey with honey. Then the glass was a subject of
surprise: for half of those present had never seen such an utensil
before. Though many of the chiefs present had visited the
"garrisons" of the northwest, both American and English, many had
not; and, of those who had, not one in ten got any clear idea of the
commonest appliances of civilized life. Thus it was, then, that
almost every article used by the bee-hunter, though so simple and
homely, was the subject of a secret, but well-suppressed admiration.
It was not long ere le Bourdon was ready to look for his bee. The
insects were numerous on the flowers, particularly on the white
clover, which is indigenous in America, springing up spontaneously
wherever grasses are permitted to grow. The great abundance of the
bees, however, had its usual effect, and our hero was a little
difficult to please. At length, a fine and already half-loaded
little animal was covered by the glass and captured. This was done
so near the group of Indians, that each and all noted the process.
It was curious, and it was inexplicable! Could the pale-faces compel
bees to reveal the secret of their hives, and was that encroaching
race about to drive all the insects from the woods and seize their
honey, as they drove the Indians before them and seized their lands?
Such was the character of the thoughts that passed through the minds
of more than one chief, that morning, though all looked on in
When the imprisoned bee was put over the comb, and le Bourdon's cap
was placed above all, these simple-minded children of the woods and
the prairies gazed, as if expecting a hive to appear beneath the
covering, whenever the latter should be removed. It was not long
before the bee "settled," and not only the cap, but the tumbler was
taken away. For the first time since the exhibition commenced, le
Bourdon spoke, addressing himself to Peter.
"If the tribeless chief will look sharply," he said, "he will soon
see the bee take flight. It is filling itself with honey, and the
moment it is loaded--look--look--it is about to rise--there, it is
up--see it circling around the stand, as if to take a look that it
may know it again--there it goes!"
There it did go, of a truth, and in a regular bee-line, or as
straight as an arrow. Of all that crowd, the bee-hunter and Margery
alone saw the insect in its flight. Most of those present lost sight
of it, while circling around the stand; but the instant it darted
away, to the remainder it seemed to vanish into air. Not so with le
Bourdon and Margery, however. The former saw it from habit; the
latter from a quick eye, intense attention, and the wish not to miss
anything that le Bourdon saw fit to do, for her information or
amusement. The animal flew in an air-line toward a point of wood
distant fully half a mile, and on the margin of the prairie.
Many low exclamations arose among the savages. The bee was gone, but
whither they knew not, or on what errand. Could it have been sent on
a message by the pale-face, or had it flown off to give the alarm to
its companions, in order to adopt the means of disappointing the
bee-hunter? As for the last, he went coolly to work to choose
another insect; and he soon had three at work on the comb--all in
company, and all uncovered. Had the number anything to do with the
charm, or were these three to be sent to bring back the one that had
already gone away? Such was the sort of reasoning, and such the
queries put to themselves, by several of the stern children of
nature who were drawn up around the stand.
In the mean time le Bourdon proceeded with his operations in the
utmost simplicity. He now called Peter and Bear's Meat and
Crowsfeather nearer to his person, where they might share with
Margery the advantage of more closely seeing all that passed. As
soon as these three chiefs were near enough, Ben pointed to one bee
in particular, saying in the Indian dialect:
"My brothers see that bee in the centre--he is about to go away. If
he go after the one that went before him, I shall soon know where to
look for honey."
"How can my brother tell which bee will first fly away?" demanded
The bee-hunter was able to foresee this, by knowing which insect had
been longest on the comb; but so practised had his eye become, that
he knew with tolerable accuracy, by the movements of the creatures,
those that had filled themselves with honey from those that had not.
As it did not suit his purpose, however, to let all the minutiae of
his craft be known, his answer was evasive. Just at that moment a
thought occurred to him, which it might be well to carry out in
full. He had once saved his life by necromancy, or what seemed to
the simple children of the woods to be necromancy, and why might he
not turn the cunning of his regular art to account, and render it
the means of rescuing the females, as well as himself, from the
hands of their captors? This sudden impulse from that moment
controlled his conduct; and his mind was constantly casting about
for the means of effecting what was now his one great purpose-
escape. Instead of uttering in reply to Bear's Meat's question the
simple truth, therefore, he rather sought for such an answer as
might make the process in which he was engaged appear imposing and
"How do the Injins know the path of the deer?" he asked, by way of
reply. "They look at the deer, get to know him, and understand his
ways. This middle bee will soon fly."
"Which way will he go?" asked Peter. "Can my brother tell us THAT?"
"To his hive," returned le Bourdon, carelessly, as if he did not
fully understand the question. "All of them go to their hives,
unless I tell them to go in another direction. See, the bee is up!"
The chiefs now looked with all their eyes. They saw, indeed, that
the bee was making its circles above the stand. Presently they lost
sight of the insect, which to them seemed to vanish; though le
Bourdon distinctly traced its flight for a hundred yards. It took a
direction at right angles to that of the first bee, flying off into
the prairie, and shaping its course toward an island of wood, which
might have been of three or four acres in extent, and distant rather
less than a mile.
While le Bourdon was noting this flight, another bee arose. This
creature flew toward the point of forest, already mentioned as the
destination of the insect that had first risen. No sooner was this
third little animal out of sight, than the fourth was up, humming
around the stand. Ben pointed it out to the chiefs; and this time
they succeeded in tracing the flight for, perhaps, a hundred feet
from the spot where they stood. Instead of following either of its
companions, this fourth bee took a course which led it off the
prairie altogether, and toward the habitations.
The suddenly conceived purpose of le Bourdon, to attempt to mystify
the savages, and thus get a hold upon their minds which he might
turn to advantage, was much aided by the different directions taken
by these several bees. Had they all gone the same way, the
conclusion that all went home would be so very natural and obvious,
as to deprive the discovery of a hive of any supernatural merit, at
least; and to establish this was just now the great object the bee-
hunter had in view. As it was, the Indians were no wiser, now all
the bees were gone, than they had been before one of them had flown.
On the contrary, they could not understand how the flights of so
many insects, in so many different directions, should tell the bee-
hunter where honey was to be found. Le Bourdon saw that the prairie
was covered with bees, and well knew that, such being the fact, the
inmates of perhaps a hundred different hives must be present. All
this, however, was too novel and too complicated for the
calculations of savages; and not one of those who crowded near, as
observers, could account for so many of the bees going different
Le Bourdon now intimated a wish to change his ground. He had noted
two of the bees, and the only question that remained to be decided,
as IT respected THEM, was whether they belonged to the precise
points toward which they had flown, or to points beyond them. The
reader will easily understand that this is the nature of the fact
determined by taking an angle, the point of intersection between any
two of the lines of flight being necessarily the spot where the hive
is to be found. So far from explaining this to those around him,
however, Boden kept it a secret in his own breast. Margery knew the
whole process, for to HER he had often gone over it in description,
finding a pleasure in instructing one so apt, and whose tender,
liquid blue eyes seemed to reflect every movement of his own soul
and feelings. Margery he could have taught forever, or fancied for
the moment he could; which is as near the truth as men under the
influence of love often get. But, as for the Indians, so far from
letting them into any of his secrets, his strong desire was now to
throw dust into their eyes, in all possible ways, and to make their
well-established character for superstition subservient to his own
Boden was far from being a scholar, even for one in his class in
life. Down to this hour, the neglect of the means of public
instruction is somewhat of a just ground of reproach against the
venerable and respectable commonwealth of which he was properly a
member, though her people have escaped a knowledge of a great deal
of small philosophy and low intriguing, which it is fair to presume
that evil spirits thrust in among the leaves of a more legitimate
information, when the book of knowledge is opened for the
instruction of those who, by circumstances, are prevented from doing
more than bestowing a few hurried glances at its contents. Still,
Ben had read everything about bees on which he could lay his hands.
He had studied their habits personally, and he had pondered over the
various accounts of their communities--a sort of limited monarchy in
which the prince is deposed occasionally, or when matters go very
wrong--some written by really very observant and intelligent
persons, and others again not a little fanciful. Among other books
that had thus fallen in le Bourdon's way, was one which somewhat
minutely described the uses that were made of bees by the ancient
soothsayers in their divinations. Our hero had no notion of reviving
those rites, or of attempting to imitate the particular practices of
which he had read and heard; but the recollection of them occurred
most opportunely to strengthen and encourage the design, so suddenly
entertained, of making his present operation aid in opening the way
to the one great thing of the hour--an escape into Lake Michigan.
"A bee knows a great deal," said le Bourdon, to his nearest
companions, while the whole party was moving some distance to take
up new ground. "A bee often knows more than a man."
"More than pale-face?" demanded Bear's Meat, a chief who had
attained his authority more by means of physical than of
"Sometimes. Pale-faces have gone to bees to ask what will happen.
Let me ask our medicine-man this question. Parson Amen, have YOU any
knowledge of the soothsayers of old using bees when they wished to
know what was about to happen?"
Now, the missionary was not a learned man, any more than the bee-
hunter; but many an unlearned man has heard of this, and he happened
to be one of the number. Of Virgil, for instance, Parson Amen knew
but little; though in the progress of a very loose, but industrious
course of reading, he had learned that the soothsayers put great
faith in bees. His answer was given in conformity with this fact,
and in the most perfect good faith, for he had not the smallest
suspicion of what Boden wished to establish.
"Certainly--most certainly," answered the well-meaning missionary--
"the fortune-tellers of old times often went to their bees when they
wished to look into the future. It has been a subject much talked of
among Christians, to account for the soothsaying, and witchcraft,
and other supernatural dealings of those who lived in the times of
the prophets; and most of them have held the opinion that evil
spirits have been--nay, still are permitted to work their will on
certain men in the flesh. But bees were in much favor with the
soothsayers of old."
This answer was given in English, and little of it was comprehended
by Peter, and the others who had more or less knowledge of that
language, beyond the part which asserted the agency of bees in
witchcraft. Luckily, this was all le Bourdon desired, and he was
well satisfied at seeing that the idea passed from one chief to
another; those who did not know the English at all, being told by
those who had some knowledge of the tongue, that "bees were thought
to be 'medicine' among the pale-faces."
Le Bourdon gained a great deal of ground by this fortunate
corroboration of his own still more fortunate thought Matters were
pretty nearly desperate with him, and with all his friends, should
Peter really meditate evil; and as desperate diseases notoriously
require remedies of the same character, he was ready to attempt
anything that promised even the smallest chance of success.
"Yes, yes--" the bee-hunter pursued the discourse by saying--"bees
know a great deal. I have sometimes thought that bees know more than
bears, and my brother must be able to tell something of them?"
"Yes; my name is Bear's Meat," answered that chief, complacently.
"Injin always give name that mean somet'ing. Kill so many bear one
winter, got dat name."
"A good name it is! To kill a bear is the most honorable thing a
hunter can do, as we all know. If my brother wishes to hear it, I
will ask my bees when he is to kill another."
The savage to whom this was addressed fairly started with delight.
He was eagerly signifying his cheerful assent to the proposal, when
Peter quietly interposed, and changed the discourse to himself, in a
way that he had, and which would not easily admit of denial. It was
apparent to le Bourdon that this mysterious Indian was not content
that one so direct and impetuous in his feelings as Bear's Meat, and
who was at the same time so little qualified to manage his portion
of an intellectual conversation, should be foremost any longer. For
that reason he brought himself more into the foreground, leaving to
his friend the capacity of listener and observer, rather than that
of a speaker and actor. What took place under this new arrangement,
will appear as the narrative proceeds.
--Therefore, go with me;
I'll give the fairies to attend on thee;
And they shall fetch thee jewels from the deep,
--Peas-blossom! cobweb! moth! and mustard-seed,
As le Bourdon kept moving across the prairie, while the remarks were
made that have been recorded in the preceding chapter, he soon
reached the new position where he intended to again set up his
stand. Here he renewed his operations; Peter keeping nearest his
person, in jealous watchfulness of the least movement he made. Bees
were caught, and scarce a minute elapsed ere the bee-hunter had two
of them on the piece of comb, uncovered and at liberty. The
circumstance that the cap was momentarily placed over the insects,
struck the savages as a piece of necromancy, in particular. The
reader will understand that this is done in order to darken the
tumbler, and induce the bee to settle down on the honey so much the
sooner. To one who understood the operation and its reason, the
whole was simple enough; but it was a very different matter with men
as little accustomed to prying into the habits of creatures as
insignificant as bees. Had deer, or bisons, or bears, or any of the
quadrupeds of those regions, been the subject of the experiment, it
is highly probable that individuals could have been found in that
attentive and wondering crowd, who could have enlightened the ablest
naturalists on the subject of the animals under examination; but
when the inquiry descended to the bee, it went below the wants and
usages of savage life.
"Where you t'ink dis bee go?" demanded Peter, in English, as soon as
le Bourdon raised the tumbler.
"One will go in this direction, the other in that," answered the
bee-hunter, pointing first toward the corner of the woods, then
toward the island in the prairie--the two points toward which two of
the other bees had flown.
The predictions might or might not prove true. If they did, the
effect must be great; if they did not, the failure would soon be
forgotten in matters of more interest. Our hero, therefore, risked
but little, while he had the chance of gaining a very great
advantage. By a fortunate coincidence, the result completely
justified the prediction. A bee rose, made its circles around the
stand, and away it went toward the island-like copse in the prairie;
while its companion soon imitated its example, but taking the other
prescribed direction. This time Peter watched the insects so closely
that he was a witness of their movements, and with his own eyes he
beheld the flight, as well as the direction taken by each.
"You tell bee do dis?" demanded Peter, with a surprise that was so
sudden, as well as so great, that it overcame in some slight degree
his habitual self-command.
"To be sure I did," replied le Bourdon, carelessly. "If you wish to
see another, you may."
Here the young man coolly took another bee, and put it on the comb.
Indifferent as he appeared, however, he used what was perhaps the
highest degree of his art in selecting this insect. It was taken
from the bunch of flowers whence one of his former captives had been
taken, and there was every chance of its belonging to the same hive
as its companion. Which direction it might take, should it prove to
be a bee from either of the two hives of which the positions were
now known, it altogether exceeded Boden's art to tell, so he
dexterously avoided committing himself. It was enough that Peter
gazed attentively, and that he saw the insect dart away,
disappearing in the direction of the island. By this time more of
the savages were on the alert, and now knowing how and where to look
for the bee, they also saw its course.
"You tell him ag'in go dere?" asked Peter, whose interest by this
time was so manifest, as to defy all attempts at concealment.
"To be sure I did. The bees obey ME, as your young men obey YOU. I
am their chief, and they KNOW me. I will give you further proof of
this. We will now go to that little bit of wood, when you shall all
see what it contains. I have sent three of my bees there; and here,
one of them is already back, to let me know what he has seen."
Sure enough, a bee was buzzing around the head of le Bourdon,
probably attracted by some fragment of comb, and he cunningly
converted it into a messenger from the copse! All this was wonderful
to the crowd, and it even greatly troubled Peter. This man was much
less liable to the influence of superstition than most of his
people; but he was very far from being altogether above it. This is
the fact with very few civilized men; perhaps with no man whatever,
let his philosophy and knowledge be what they may; and least of all,
is it true with the ignorant. There is too much of the uncertain, of
the conjectural in our condition as human beings, to raise us
altogether above the distrusts, doubts, wonder, and other weaknesses
of our present condition. To these simple savages, the manner in
which the bees flew, seemingly at le Bourdon's bidding, to this or
that thicket, was quite as much a matter of astonishment, as any of
our most elaborate deceptions are wonders to our own ignorant and
vulgar. Ignorant! And where is the line to be drawn that is to place
men beyond the pale of ignorance? Each of us fails in some one, if
not in very many of the important branches of the knowledge that is
even reduced to rules Among us. Here is seen the man of books, so
ignorant of the application of his own beloved theories, as to be a
mere child in practice; and there, again, can be seen the expert in
practice, who is totally unacquainted with a single principle of the
many that lie at the root of his very handicraft. Let us not, then,
deride these poor children of the forest, because that which was so
entirely new to them, should also appear inexplicable and
As for Peter, he was more confounded than convinced. His mind was so
much superior to those of the other chiefs, as to render him far
more difficult to mislead; though even he was not exempt from the
great weaknesses of ignorance, superstition, and its concomitants--
credulity, and a love of the marvellous. His mind was troubled, as
was quite apparent to Ben, who watched HIM quite as narrowly as he
was observed himself, in all he did. Willing to deepen the
impression, our artist now determined to exhibit some of the higher
fruits of his skill. The production of a considerable quantity of
honey would of itself be a sort of peace-offering, and he now
prepared to turn the certainty of there being a hive in the little
wood to account--certainty, because three bees had taken wing for
it, and a very distinct angle had been made with two of them.
"Does my brother wish any honey?" asked le Bourdon carelessly; "or
shall I send a bee across Lake Michigan, to tell the Injins further
west that Detroit is taken?"
"Can Bourdon find honey, NOW?" demanded Peter.
"Easily. Several hives are within a mile of us. The bees like this
prairie, which is so well garnished with flowers, and I am never at
a loss for work, in this neighborhood. This is my favorite bee-
ground; and I have got all the little creatures so that they know
me, and are ready to do everything that I tell them. As I see that
the chiefs love honey, and wish to eat some, we will now go to one
of my hives."
Thus saying, le Bourdon prepared for another march. He moved with
all his appliances, Margery keeping close at his side, carrying the
honey-comb and honey. As the girl walked lightly, in advance of the
Indians, some fifteen or twenty bees, attracted by the flavor of
what she carried, kept circling around her head, and consequently
around that of Boden; and Peter did not fail to observe the
circumstance. To him it appeared as if these bees were so many
accompanying agents, who attended their master in order to do his
bidding. In a word, Peter was fast getting into that frame of mind,
when all that is seen is pressed into the support of the theory we
have adopted. The bee-hunter had some mysterious connection with,
and control over the bees, and this was one among the many other
signs of the existence of his power. All this, however, Boden
himself disregarded. His mind was bent on throwing dust into the
eyes of the Indians; and he was cogitating the means of so doing, on
a much larger scale than any yet attempted.
"Why dem bee fly 'round young squaw?" demanded Peter--"and fly round
"They know us, and go with us to their hive; just as Injins would
come out of their villages to meet and honor visitors."
This was a ready reply, but it scarcely satisfied the wily savage to
whom it was given. Just then Crowsfeather led Peter a little aside,
and began talking earnestly to that chief, both continuing on with
the crowd. Le Bourdon felt persuaded that the subject of this
private conference was some of his own former backslidings in the
character of conjuror, and that the Pottawattamie would not deal
very tenderly with his character. Nevertheless, it was too late to
retrace his steps, and he saw the necessity of going on.
"I wish you had not come out with us," the bee-hunter found an
occasion to say to Margery. "I do not half like the state of things,
and this conjuration about the bees may all fall through."
"It is better that I should be here, Bourdon," returned the spirited
girl. "My being here may make them less unfriendly to you. When I am
by, Peter always seems more human, and less of a savage, they all
tell me, than when I am not by."
"No one can be more willing to own your power, Margery, than I; but
Injins hold the squaws too cheap, to give you much influence over
this old fellow."
"You do not know--he may have had a daughter of about my age, or
size, or appearance; or with my laugh, or voice, or something else
that reminds him of her, when he sees me. One thing I am sure of--
Peter is no enemy of MINE"
"I hope this may prove to be true! I do not see, after all, why an
Injin should not have the feelin's you name. He is a man, and must
feel for his wife and children, the same as other--"
"Bourdon, what ails the dog? Look at the manner in which Hive is
Sure enough, the appearance of Hive was sufficiently obvious to
attract his master's attention. By this time the crowd had got
within twenty rods of the little island-like copse of wood, the
mastiff being nearly half that distance in advance. Instead of
preceding the party, however, Hive had raised his form in a menacing
manner, and moved cautiously from side to side, like one of his kind
that scents a foe. There was no mistaking these movements; and all
the principal chiefs soon had their attention also drawn to the
behavior of the dog.
"Why he do so?" asked Peter. "He 'fraid of bee, eh?"
"He waits for me to come up," answered le Bourdon. "Let my brother
and two other chiefs come with me, and let the rest stay here. Bees
do not like crowds. Corporal, I put Margery in your keeping, and
Parson Amen will be near you. I now go to show these chiefs what a
bee can tell a man."
Thus saying, le Bourdon advanced, followed by Peter, Bear's Meat,
and Crowsfeather. Our hero had made up his mind that something more
than bees were to be found in the thicket; for, the place being a
little marshy, bushes as well as trees were growing on it, and he
fully expected a rencontre with bears, the creatures most disposed
to prey on the labors of the bee--man excepted. Being well armed,
and accompanied by men accustomed to such struggles, he had no
apprehensions, and led the way boldly, feeling the necessity of
manifesting perfect confidence in all his own acts, in order to
command the respect of the observers. As soon as the bee-hunter
passed the dog, the latter growled, showed his teeth fiercely, and
followed, keeping closely at his side. The confidence and alacrity
with which le Bourdon moved into the thicket, compelled his
companions to be on the alert; though the first broke through the
belt of hazels which enclosed the more open area within, a few
instants before the Indians reached the place. Then it was that
there arose such a yell, such screechings and cries, as reached far
over the prairie, and might have appalled the stoutest heart. The
picture that was soon offered to the eye was not less terrific than
the sounds which assailed the ear. Hundreds of savages, in their
war-paint, armed, and in a crowded maze, arose as it might be by one
effort, seemingly out of the earth, and began to leap and play their
antics amid the trees. The sudden spectacle of a crowd of such
beings, nearly naked, frightfully painted, and tossing their arms
here and there, while each yelled like a demon, was enough to
overcome the nerves of a very resolute man. But le Bourdon was
prepared for a conflict and even felt relieved rather than alarmed,
when he saw the savages. His ready mind at once conceived the truth.
This band belonged to the chiefs, and composed the whole, or a
principal part of the force which he knew they must have outlying
somewhere on the prairies, or in the openings. He had sufficiently
understood the hints of Pigeonswing to be prepared for such a
meeting, and at no time, of late, had he approached a cover, without
remembering the possibility of its containing Indians.
Instead of betraying alarm, therefore, when this cloud of phantom-
like beings rose before his eyes, le Bourdon stood firm, merely
turning toward the chiefs behind him, to ascertain if they were
taken by surprise, as well as himself. It was apparent that they
were; for, understanding that a medicine-ceremony was to take place
on the prairie, these young men had preceded the party from the hut,
and had, ununknown to all the chiefs, got possession of this copse,
as the best available cover, whence to make their observations on
what was going on.
"My brother sees his young men," said le Bourdon, quietly, the
instant a dead calm had succeeded to the outcries with which he had
been greeted. "I thought he might wish to say something to them, and
my bees told me where to find them. Does my brother wish to know
Great was the wonder of the three chiefs, at this exhibition of
medicine power! So far from suspecting the truth, or of detecting
the lucky coincidence by which le Bourdon had been led to the cover
of their warriors, it all appeared to them to be pure necromancy.
Such an art must be of great service; and how useful it would be to
the warrior on his path, to be accompanied by one who could thus
command the vigilance of the bees.
"You find enemy all same as friend?" demanded Peter, letting out the
thought that was uppermost, in the question.
"To be sure. It makes no difference with a bee; he can find an enemy
as easily as he can find a friend.'
"No whiskey-spring dis time?" put in Crowsfeather, a little
inopportunely, and with a distrust painted in his swarthy face that
le Bourdon did not like.
"Pottawattamie, you do not understand medicine-men. OUGHT I to have
shown your young men where whiskey was to be had for nothing? Ask
yourself that question. Did you wish to see your young men wallowing
like hogs in such a spring? What would the great medicine-priest of
the pale-faces, who is out yonder, have said to THAT?"
This was a coup de maitre on the part of the bee-hunter. Until that
moment, the affair of the whiskey-spring had weighed heavily in the
balance against him; but now, it was suddenly changed over in the
scales, and told as strongly in his favor. Even a savage can
understand the morality which teaches men to preserve their reason,
and not to lower themselves to the level of brutes, by swallowing
"fire-water"; and Crowsfeather suddenly saw a motive for regarding
our hero with the eyes of favor, instead of those of distrust and
"What the pale-face says is true," observed Peter to his companion.
"Had he opened his spring, your warrior would have been weaker than
women. He is a wonderful medicine-man, and we must not provoke him
to anger. How COULD he know, but through his bees, that our young
men were here?"
This question could not be answered; and when the chiefs, followed
by the whole band of warriors, some three or four hundred in number
came out upon the open prairie, all that had passed was communicated
to those who awaited their return, in a few brief, but clear
explanations. Le Bourdon found a moment to let Margery comprehend
his position and views, while Parson Amen and the corporal were put
sufficiently on their guard not to make any unfortunate blunder. The
last was much more easily managed than the first. So exceedingly
sensitive was the conscience of the priest, that had he clearly
understood the game le Bourdon was playing, he might have revolted
at the idea of necromancy, as touching on the province of evil
spirits; but he was so well mystified as to suppose all that passed
was regularly connected with the art of taking bees. In this
respect, he and the Indians equally resembled one of those familiar
pictures, in which we daily see men, in masses, contributing to
their own deception and subjection, while they fondly but blindly
imagine that they are not only inventors, but masters. This trade of
mastery, after all, is the property of a very few minds; and no
precaution of the prudent, no forethought of the wary, nor any
expedient of charters, constitutions, or restrictions, will prevent
the few from placing their feet on the neck of the many. We may
revive the fable of King Log and King Stork, as often, and in as
many forms as we will; it will ever be the fable of King Log and
King Stork. We are no admirers of political aristocracies, as a
thousand paragraphs from our pen will prove; and, as for monarchs,
we have long thought they best enact their parts, when most
responsible to opinion; but we cannot deceive ourselves on the
subject of the atrocities that are daily committed by those who are
ever ready to assume the places of both, making their fellow-
creatures in masses their dupes, and using those that they affect to
Ben Boden was now a sort of "gouvernement provisoire" among the
wondering savages who surrounded him. He had got them to believe in
necromancy--a very considerable step toward the exercise of despotic
power. It is true, he hardly knew, himself, what was to be done
next; but he saw quite distinctly that he was in a dilemma, and must
manage to get out of it by some means or other. If he could only
succeed in this instance, as well as he had succeeded in his former
essay in the black art, all might be well, and Margery be carried in
triumph into the settlements. Margery, pro haec vice, was his
goddess of liberty, and he asked for no higher reward, than to be
permitted to live the remainder of his days in the sunshine of her
smiles. Liberty! a word that is, just now, in all men's mouths, but
in how few hearts in its purity and truth! What a melancholy
mistake, moreover, to suppose that, could it be enjoyed in that
perfection with which the imaginations of men love to cheat their
judgments, it is the great good of life! One hour spent in humble
veneration for the Being that gave it, in common with all of earth,
its vacillating and uncertain existence, is of more account than
ages passed in its service; and he who fancies that in worshipping
liberty, he answers the great end of his existence, hugs a delusion
quite as weak, and infinitely more dangerous, than that which now
came over the minds of Peter and his countrymen, in reference to the
intelligence of the bee. It is a good thing to possess the defective
and qualified freedom, which we term "liberty"; but it is a grave
error to set it up as an idol to be worshipped.
"What my brother do next?" demanded Bear's Meat, who, being a
somewhat vulgar-minded savage, was all for striking and wonder-
working exhibitions of necromancy. "P'raps he find some honey now?"
"If you wish it, chief. What says Peter?--shall I ask my bees to
tell where there is a hive?"
As Peter very readily assented, le Bourdon next set about achieving
this new feat in his art. The reader will recollect that the
positions of two hives were already known to the bee-hunter, by
means of that very simple and every-day process by which he earned
his bread. One of these hives was in the point of wood already
mentioned, that lay along the margin of the prairie; while the other
was in this very copse, where the savages had secreted themselves.
Boden had now no thought of giving any further disturbance to this
last-named colony of insects; for an insight into their existence
might disturb the influence obtained by the jugglery of the late
discovery, and he at once turned his attention toward the other hive
indicated by his bees.
Nor did le Bourdon now deem it necessary to resort to his usual
means of carrying on his trade. These were not necessary to one who
knew already where the hive was to be found, while it opened the way
to certain mummeries that might be made to tell well in support of
his assumed character. Catching a bee, then, and keeping it confined
within his tumbler, Ben held the last to his ear, as if listening to
what the fluttering insect had to say. Having seemingly satisfied
himself on this point, he desired the chiefs once more to follow
him, having first let the bee go, with a good deal of ceremony. This
set all in motion again; the party being now increased by the whole
band of savages who had been "put up" from their cover.
By this time, Margery began to tremble for the consequences. She had
held several short conferences with le Bourdon, as they walked
together, and had penetrated far enough into his purposes to see
that he was playing a ticklish game. It might succeed for a time,
but she feared it must fail in the end; and there was always the
risk of incurring the summary vengeance of savages. Perhaps she did
not fully appreciate the power of superstition, and the sluggishness
of the mind that once submits to its influence; while her woman's
heart made her keenly alive to all those frightful consequences that
must attend an exposure. Nevertheless, nothing could now be done to
avert the consequences. It was too late to recede, and things must
take their course, even at all the hazards of the case. That she
might not be wholly useless, when her lover was risking so much for
herself--Margery well understanding that her escape was the only
serious difficulty the bee-hunter apprehended--the girl turned all
her attention to Peter, in whose favor she felt that she had been
daily growing, and on whose pleasure so much must depend. Changing
her position a little, she now came closer to the chief than she had
"Squaw like medicine-man?" asked Peter, with a significance of
expression that raised a blush in Margery's cheek.
"You mean to ask me if I like to SEE medicine-men perform," answered
Margery, with the readiness of her sex. "White women are always
curious, they say--how is it with the women of the red men?"
"Juss so--full of cur'osity. Squaw is squaw--no matter what color."
"I am sorry, Peter, you do not think better of squaws. Perhaps you
never had a squaw--no wife, or daughter?"
A gleam of powerful feeling shot athwart the dark countenance of the
Indian, resembling the glare of the electric fluid flashing on a
cloud at midnight; but it passed away as quickly as it appeared,
leaving in its stead the hard, condensed expression, which the
intensity of a purpose so long entertained and cultivated, had
imprinted there, as indelibly as if cut in stone.
"All chief have squaw--all chief have pappoose--" was the answer
that came at last. "What he good for, eh?"
"It is always good to have children, Peter; especially when the
children themselves are good."
"Good for pale-face, maybe--no good for Injin. Pale-face glad when
pappoose born--red-skin sorry."
"I hope this is not so. Why should an Injin be sorry to see the
laugh of his little son?"
"Laugh when he little--p'raps so; he little, and don't know what
happen. But Injin don't laugh any more when he grow up. Game gone;
land gone; corn-field gone. No more room for Injin--pale-face want
all. Pale-face young man laugh--red-skin young man cry. Dat how it
"Oh! I hope not, Peter! I should be sorry to think it was so. The
red man has as good a right--nay, he has a BETTER right to this
country than we whites; and God forbid that he should not always
have his full share of the land!"
Margery probably owed her life to that honest, natural burst of
feeling, which was uttered with a warmth and sincerity that could
leave no doubt that the sentiment expressed came from the heart.
Thus singularly are we constructed! A minute before, and no
exemption was made in the mind of Peter, in behalf of this girl, in
the plan he had formed for cutting off the whites; on the contrary,
he had often be-thought him of the number of young pale-faces that
might be, as it were, strangled in their cradles, by including the
bee-hunter and his intended squaw in the contemplated sacrifice. All
this was changed, as in the twinkling of an eye, by Margery's honest
and fervent expression of her sense of right, on the great subject
that occupied all of Peter's thoughts. These sudden impulses in the
direction of love for our species, the second of the high lessons
left by the Redeemer to his disciples, are so many proofs of the
creation of man in the image of his maker. They exert their power
often when least expected, and are ever stamped by the same
indelible impression of their divine origin. Without these
occasional glimpses at those qualities which are so apt to lie
dormant, we might indeed despair of the destinies of our race. We
are, however, in safe and merciful hands; and all the wonderful
events that are at this moment developing themselves around us, are
no other than the steps taken by Providence in the progress it is
steadily making toward the great and glorious end! Some of the
agencies will be corrupt; others deluded; and no one of them all,
perhaps, will pursue with unerring wisdom the precise path that
ought to be taken; but even the crimes, errors, and delusions, will
be made instrumental in achieving that which was designed before the
foundations of this world were laid!
"Does my daughter wish this?" returned Peter, when Margery had thus
frankly and sincerely given vent to her feelings. "Can a pale-face
squaw wish to leave an Injin any of his hunting-grounds?"
"Thousands of us wish it, Peter, and I for one. Often and often have
we talked of this around our family fire, and even Gershom, when his
head has not been affected by fire-water, has thought as we all have
thought. I know that Bourdon thinks so, too; and I have heard him
say that he thought Congress ought to pass a law to prevent white
men from getting any more of the Injin's lands."
The face of Peter would have been a remarkable study, during the few
moments that his fierce will was in the process of being brought in
subjugation to the influence of his better feelings. At first he
appeared bewildered; then compunction had its shade; and human
sympathy came last, asserting its long dormant, but inextinguishable
power. Margery saw some of this, though it far exceeded her
penetration to read all the workings of that stern and savage mind;
yet she felt encouraged by what she did see and understand.
While an almighty and divine Providence was thus carrying out its
own gracious designs in its own way, the bee-hunter continued bent
on reaching a similar end by means of his own. Little did he imagine
how much had been done for him within the last few moments, and how
greatly all he had in view was jeoparded and put at risk by his own
contrivances--contrivances which seemed to him so clever, but which
were wanting in the unerring simplicity and truth that render those
that come from above infallible. Still, the expedients of le Bourdon
may have had their agency in bringing about events, and may have
been intended to be a part of that moral machinery, which was now at
work in the breast of Peter, for good.
It will be remembered that the bee-hunter habitually carried a small
spy-glass, as a part of the implements of his calling. It enabled
him to watch the bees, as they went in and came out of the hives, on
the highest trees, and often saved him hours of fruitless search.
This glass was now in his hand; for an object on a dead tree, that
rose a little apart from those around it, and which stood quite near
the extreme point in the forest, toward which they were all
proceeding, had caught his attention. The distance was still too
great to ascertain by the naked eye what that object was; but a
single look with the glass showed that it was a bear. This was an
old enemy of the bee-hunter, who often encountered the animal,
endeavoring to get at the honey, and he had on divers occasions been
obliged to deal with these plunderers, before he could succeed in
his own plans of pilfering. The bear now seen continued in sight but
an instant; the height to which he had clambered being so great,
most probably, as to weary him with the effort, and to compel him to
fall back again. All this was favorable to le Bourdon's wishes, who
immediately called a halt. The first thing that Bourdon did, when
all the dark eyes were gleaming on him in fierce curiosity, was to
catch a bee and hold it to his ear, as it buzzed about in the
"You t'ink dat bee talk?" Peter asked of Margery, in a tone of
confidence, as if a newly-awakened principle now existed between
"Bourdon must think so, Peter," the girl evasively answered, "or he
would hardly listen to hear what it says."
"It's strange, bee should talk! Almos' as strange as pale-face wish
to leave Injin any land! Sartain, bee talk, eh?"
"I never heard one talk, Peter, unless it might be in its buzzing.
That may be the tongue of a bee, for anything I know to the
By this time le Bourdon seemed to be satisfied, and let the bee go;
the savages murmuring their wonder and admiration.
"Do my brothers wish to hunt?" asked the bee-hunter in a voice so
loud that all near might hear what he had to say.
This question produced a movement at once. Skill in hunting, next to
success on the war-path, constitutes the great merit of an Indian;
and it is ever his delight to show that he possesses it. No sooner
did le Bourdon throw out his feeler, therefore, than a general
exclamation proclaimed the readiness of all the young men, in
particular, to join in the chase.
"Let my brothers come closer," said Ben, in an authoritative manner;
"I have something to put into their ears. They see that point of
wood, where the dead basswood has fallen on the prairie. Near that
basswood is honey, and near that honey are bears. This my bees have
told me. Now, let my brothers divide, and some go into the woods,
and some stay on the prairie; then they will have plenty of sweet
As all this was very simple, and easily to be comprehended, not a
moment was lost in the execution. With surprising order and
aptitude, the chiefs led off their parties; one line of dark
warriors penetrating the forest on the eastern side of the basswood,
and another on its western; while a goodly number scattered
themselves on the prairie itself, in its front. In less than a
quarter of an hour, signals came from the forest that the battue was
ready, and Peter gave the answering sign to proceed.
Down to this moment, doubts existed among the savages concerning the
accuracy of le Bourdon's statement. How was it possible that his
bees should tell him where he could find bears? To be sure, bears
were the great enemies of bees--this every Indian knew--but could
the bees have a faculty of thus arming one enemy against another?
These doubts, however, were soon allayed by the sudden appearance of
a drove of bears, eight or ten in number, that came waddling out of
the woods, driven before the circle of shouting hunters that had
been formed within.
Now commenced a scene of wild tumult and of fierce delight. The
warriors on the prairie retired before their enemies until all of
their associates were clear of the forest, when the circle swiftly
closed again, until it had brought the bears to something like close
quarters. Bear's Meat, as became his appellation, led off the dance,
letting fly an arrow at the nearest animal. Astounded by the great
number of their enemies, and not a little appalled by their yells,
the poor quadrupeds did not know which way to turn. Occasionally,
attempts were made to break through the circle, but the flight of
arrows, aimed directly at their faces, invariably drove the
creatures back. Fire-arms were not resorted to at all in this hunt,
spears and arrows being the weapons depended on. Several ludicrous
incidents occurred, but none that were tragical. One or two of the
more reckless of the hunters, ambitious of shining before the
representatives of so many tribes, ran rather greater risks than
were required, but they escaped with a few smart scratches. In one
instance, however, a young Indian had a still narrower SQUEEZE for
his life. Literally a SQUEEZE it was, for, suffering himself to get
within the grasp of a bear, he came near being pressed to death, ere
his companions could dispatch the creature. As for the prisoner, the
only means he had to prevent his being bitten, was to thrust the
head of his spear into the bear's mouth, where he succeeded in
holding it, spite of the animal's efforts to squeeze him into
submission. By the time this combat was terminated, the field was
strewn with the slain; every one of the bears having been killed by
hunters so much practised in the art of destroying game.
She was an only child--her name Ginevra,
The joy, the pride of an indulgent father;
And in her fifteenth year became a bride,
Marrying an only son, Francesco Dona,
Her playmate from her birth, and her first love.
During the hunt there was little leisure for reflection on the
seemingly extraordinary manner in which the bee-hunter had pointed
out the spot where the bears were to be found. No one of the Indians
had seen him apply the glass to his eye, for, leading the party, he
had been able to do this unobserved; but, had they witnessed such a
procedure, it would have been as inexplicable as all the rest. It is
true, Crowsfeather and one or two of his companions had taken a look
through that medicine-glass, but it rather contributed to increase
the conjuror's renown, than served to explain any of the marvels he
Peter was most struck with all that had just occurred. He had often
heard of the skill of those who hunted bees, and had several times
met with individuals who practised the art, but this was the first
occasion on which he had ever been a witness, in his own person, of
the exercise of a craft so wonderful! Had the process been simply
that of catching a bee, filling it with honey, letting it go, and
then following it to its hive, it would have been so simple as to
require no explanation. But Peter was too intelligent, as well as
too observant, not to have seen that a great deal more than this was
necessary. On the supposition that the bee flew TOWARD the forest,
as had been the fact with two of the bees taken that morning, in
what part of that forest was the hunter to look for the bee-tree? It
was the angle that perplexed Peter, as it did all the Indians; for
that angle, to be understood, required a degree of knowledge and
calculation that entirely exceeded all he had ever acquired. Thus is
it with us ever. The powers, and faculties, and principles that are
necessary fully to comprehend all that we see and all that surrounds
us, exist and have been bestowed on man by his beneficent Creator.
Still, it is only by slow degrees that he is to become their master,
acquiring knowledge, step by step, as he has need of its services,
and learns how to use it. Such seems to be the design of Providence,
which is gradually opening to our inquiries the arcana of nature, in
order that we may convert their possession into such uses as will
advance its own wise intentions. Happy are they who feel this truth
in their character of individuals! Thrice happy the nations which
can be made to understand, that the surest progress is that which is
made on the clearest principles, and with the greatest caution! The
notion of setting up anything new in morals, is as fallacious in
theory as it will be found to be dangerous in practice.
It has been said that a sudden change had come over the fierce
purposes of Peter. For some time, the nature, artlessness, truth,
feminine playfulness and kindness, not to say personal beauty of
Margery, had been gradually softening the heart of this stern
savage, as it respected the girl herself. Nothing of a weak nature
was blended with this feeling, which was purely the growth of that
divine principle that is implanted in us all. The quiet, earnest
manner in which the girl had, that day, protested her desire to see
the rights of the red man respected, completed her conquest; and, so
far as the great chief was concerned, secured her safety. It may
seem singular, however, that Peter, with all his influence, was
unable to say that even one that he was so much disposed to favor,
should be spared. By means of his own eloquence, and perseverance,
and deep desire for vengeance, however, he had aroused a spirit
among his followers that was not so easily quelled. On several
occasions, he had found it difficult to prevent the younger and more
impetuous of the chiefs from proceeding at once to secure the scalps
of those who were in their power; and this he had done, only by
promising to increase the number of the victims. How was he then to
lessen that number? and that, too, when circumstances did not seem
likely to throw any more immediately into his power, as he had once
hoped. This council must soon be over, and it would not be in his
power to send the chiefs away without enumerating the scalps of the
pale-faces present among those which were to make up the sum of
Taking the perplexity produced by the bee-hunter's necromancy, and
adding it to his concern for Margery, Peter found ample subject for
all his reflections. While the young men were dressing their bears,
and making the preparations for a feast, he walked apart, like a man
whose thoughts had little in common with the surrounding scene. Even
the further proceedings of le Bourdon, who had discovered his bee-
tree, had felled it, and was then distributing the honey among the
Indians, could not draw him from his meditations. The great council
of all was to be held that very day--there, on Prairie Round--and it
was imperative on Peter to settle the policy he intended to pursue,
previously to the hour when the fire was to be lighted, and the
chiefs met in final consultation.
In the mean time, le Bourdon, by his distribution of the honey, no
less than by the manner in which he had found it, was winning golden
opinions of those who shared in his bounty. One would think that the
idea of property is implanted in us by nature, since men in all
conditions appear to entertain strong and distinct notions of this
right. Natural it may not be, in the true signification of the term;
but it is a right so interwoven with those that are derived from
nature, and more particularly with our wants, as almost to identify
it with the individual being. It is certain that all we have of
civilization is dependent on a just protection of this right; for,
without the assurance of enjoying his earnings, who would produce
beyond the supply necessary for his own immediate wants? Among the
American savages the rights of property are distinctly recognized,
so far as their habits and resources extend. The hunting-ground
belongs to the tribe, and occasionally the field; but the wigwam,
and the arms, and the skins, both for use and for market, and often
the horses, and all other movables, belong to the individual. So
sacred is this right held to be, that not one of those who stood by,
and saw le Bourdon fell his tree, and who witnessed the operation of
bringing to light its stores of honey, appeared to dream of meddling
with the delicious store, until invited so to do by its lawful
owner. It was this reserve, and this respect for a recognized
principle, that enabled the bee-hunter to purchase a great deal of
popularity, by giving away liberally an article so much prized.
None, indeed, was reserved; Boden seeing the impossibility of
carrying it away. Happy would he have been, most happy, could he
have felt the assurance of being able to get Margery off, without
giving a second thought to any of his effects, whether present or
As has been intimated, the bee-hunter was fast rising in the favor
of the warriors; particularly of those who had a weakness on the
score of the stomach. This is the first great avenue to the favor of
man--the belly ruling all the other members, the brains included.
All this Peter noted, and was now glad to perceive; for, in addition
to the favor that Margery had found in his eyes, that wary chief had
certain very serious misgivings on the subject of the prudence of
attempting to deal harshly with a medicine man of Boden's calibre.
Touching the whiskey-spring he had been doubtful, from the first;
even Crowsfeather's account of the wonderful glass through which
that chief had looked, and seen men reduced to children and then
converted into giants, had failed to conquer his scepticism; but he
was not altogether proof against what he had that day beheld with
his own eyes. These marvels shook his previous opinion touching the
other matters; and, altogether, the effect was to elevate the bee-
hunter to a height, that it really appeared dangerous to assail.
While Peter was thus shaken with doubts--and that, too, on a point
on which he had hitherto stood as firm as a rock--there was another
in the crowd, who noted the growing favor of le Bourdon with deep
disgust. This man could hardly be termed a chief, though he
possessed a malignant power that was often wielded to the
discomfiture of those who were. He went by the significant
appellation of "The Weasel," a sobriquet that had been bestowed on
him for some supposed resemblance to the little pilfering, prowling
quadruped after which he was thus named. In person, and in physical
qualities generally, this individual was mean and ill-favored; and
squalid habits contributed to render him even less attractive than
he might otherwise have been. He was, moreover, particularly
addicted to intemperance; lying, wallowing like a hog, for days at a
time, whenever his tribe received any of the ample contribution of
fire-water, which it was then more the custom than it is to-day, to
send among the aborigines. A warrior of no renown, a hunter so
indifferent as to compel his squaw and pappooses often to beg for
food in strange lodges, of mean presence, and a drunkard, it may
seem extraordinary that the Weasel should possess any influence amid
so many chiefs renowned for courage, wisdom, deeds in arms, on the
hunt, and for services around the council-fire. It was all due to
his tongue. Ungque, or the Weasel, was eloquent in a high degree--
possessing that variety of his art which most addresses itself to
the passions; and, strange as it may seem, men are oftener and more
easily led by those who do little else than promise, than by those
who actually perform. A lying and fluent tongue becomes a power of
itself, with the masses; subverting reason, looking down justice,
brow-beating truth, and otherwise placing the wrong before the
right. This quality the Weasel possessed in a high degree, and was
ever willing to use, on occasions that seemed most likely to defeat
the wishes of those he hated. Among the last was Peter, whose known
ascendancy in his own particular tribe had been a source of great
envy and uneasiness to this Indian. He had struggled hard to resist
it, and had even dared to speak in favor of the pale-faces, and in
opposition to the plan of cutting them all off, purely with a
disposition to oppose this mysterious stranger. It had been in vain,
however; the current running the other way, and the fiery eloquence
of Peter proving too strong even for him. Now, to his surprise, from
a few words dropped casually, this man ascertained that their
greatest leader was disposed so far to relent, as not to destroy ALL
the pale-faces in his power. Whom, and how many he meant to spare,
Ungque could not tell; but his quick, practised discernment detected
the general disposition, and his ruthless tendency to oppose, caused
him to cast about for the means of resisting this sudden inclination
to show mercy. With the Weasel, the moving principle was ever that
of the demagogue; it was to flatter the mass that he might lead it;
and he had an innate hostility to whatever was frank, manly, and
The time had now come when the Indians wished to be alone. At this
council it was their intention to come to an important decision; and
even the "young men," unless chiefs, were to be merely distant
spectators. Peter sent for le Bourdon, accordingly, and communicated
his wish that all the whites would return to the castle, whither he
promised to join them about the setting of the sun, or early the
"One of you, you know--dat my wigwam," said the grim chief, smiling
on Margery with a friendly eye, and shaking hands with the bee-
hunter, who thought his manner less constrained than on former
similar occasions. "Get good supper for ole Injin, young squaw; dat
juss what squaw good for."
Margery laughingly promised to remember his injunction, and went her
way, closely attended by her lover. The corporal followed, armed to
the teeth, and keeping at just such a distance from the young
people, as might enable them to converse without being overheard. As
for the missionary, he was detained a moment by Peter, the others
moving slowly, in order to permit him to come up, ere they had gone
their first mile. Of course, the mysterious chief had not detained
Parson Amen without a motive.
"My brother has told me many curious things," said Peter, when alone
with the missionary, and speaking now in the language of the
Ojebways--"many very curious things. I like to listen to them. Once
he told me how the pale-face young men take their squaws."
"I remember to have told you this. We ask the Great Spirit to bless
our marriages, and the ceremony is commonly performed by a priest.
This is our practice, Peter; though not necessary, I think it good."
"Yes; good alway for pale-face to do pale-face fashion, and for
Injin to do Injin fashion. Don't want medicine-man to get red-skin
squaw. Open wigwam door, and she come in. Dat 'nough. If she don't
wish to come in, can't make her. Squaw go to warrior she likes;
warrior ask squaw he likes. But it is best for pale-face to take his
wife in pale-face fashion. Does not my brother see a young man of
his people, and a young maiden, that he had better bring together
"You must mean Bourdon and Margery," answered the missionary, in
English, after a moment's reflection. "The idea is a new one to me;
for my mind has been much occuoccupied of late, with other and more
important matters; though I now plainly see what you mean!"
"That flower of the Openings would soon fade, if the young bee-
hunter should leave it alone on the prairies. This is the will of
the Great Spirit. He puts it into the minds of the young squaws to
see all things well that the hunters of their fancy do. Why he has
made the young with this kindness for each other, perhaps my brother
knows. He is wise, and has books. The poor Injins have none. They
can see only with the eyes they got from Injins, like themselves.
But one thing they know. What the Great Spirit has commanded, is
good. Injins can't make it any better. They can do it harm, but they
can do it no good. Let my brother bless the couple that the Manitou
has brought together."
"I believe I understand you. Peter, and will think of this. And now
that I must leave you for a little while, let me beg you to think of
this matter of the origin of your tribes, candidly, and with care.
Everything depends on your people's not mistaking the truth, in this
great matter. It is as necessary for a nation to know its duties, as
for a single man. Promise me to think of this, Peter."
"My brother's words have come into my ears--they are good," returned
the Indian, courteously. "We will think of them at the council, if
my brother will bless his young man and young maiden, according to
the law of his people."
"I will promise to do this, Peter; or to urge Bourdon and Margery to
do it, if you will promise to speak to-day, in council, of the
history of your forefathers, and to take into consideration, once
more, the great question of your being Hebrews."
"I will speak as my brother wishes--let him do as I wish. Let him
tell me that I can say to the chiefs before the sun has fallen the
length of my arm, that the young pale-face bee-hunter has taken the
young pale-face squaw into his wigwam."
"I do not understand your motive, Peter; but that which you ask is
wise, and according to God's laws, and it shall be done. Fare you
well, then, for a season. When we again meet, Bourdon and Margery
shall be one, if my persuasions can prevail, and you will have
pressed this matter of the lost tribes, again, home to your people.
Fare you well, Peter; fare you well."
They separated; the Indian with a cold smile of courtesy, but with
his ruthless intentions as respected the missionary in no degree
changed. Boden and Margery alone were exempt from vengeance,
according to his present designs. An unaccountable gentleness of
feeling governed him, as connected with the girl; while
superstition, and the dread of an unknown power, had its full
influence on his determination to spare her lover. There might be
some faint ray of human feeling glimmering among the fierce fires
that so steadily burned in the breast of this savage; but they were
so much eclipsed by the brighter light that gleamed around them, as
to be barely perceptible, even to himself. The result of all these
passions was, a determination in Peter to spare those whom he had
advised the missionary to unite--making that union a mysterious
argument in favor of Margery--and to sacrifice all the rest. The red
American is so much accustomed to this species of ruthless
proceeding, that the anguish he might occasion the very beings to
whom he now wished to be merciful, gave the stern chief very little
concern. Leaving the Indians in the exclusive possession of Prairie
Round, we will return to the rest of the party.
The missionary hastened after his friends as fast as he could go.
Boden and Margery had much to say to each other in that walk, which
had a great deal about it to bring their thoughts within the circle
of their own existence. As has been said, the fire had run through
that region late, and the grasses were still young, offering but
little impediment to their movements. As the day was now near its
heat, le Bourdon led his spirited, but gentle companion, through the
groves, where they had the benefit of a most delicious shade, a
relief that was now getting to be very grateful. Twice had they
stopped to drink at cool, clear springs, in which the water seemed
to vie with the air in transparency. As this is not the general
character of the water of that region, though marked exceptions
exist, Margery insisted that the water was eastern and not western
"Why do we always think the things we had in childhood better than
those we enjoy afterward?" asked Margery, after making one of these
comparisons, somewhat to the disadvantage of the part of the country
in which she then was. "I can scarce ever think of home--what I call
home, and which was so long a home to me--without shedding tears.
Nothing here seems as good of its kind as what I have left behind
me. Do you have the same longings for Pennsylvania that I feel for
the sea-coast and for the rocks about Quincy?"
"Sometimes. When I have been quite alone for two or three months, I
have fancied that an apple, or a potato, or even a glass of cider
that came from the spot where I was born, would be sweeter than all
the honey bees ever gathered in Michigan."
"To me it has always seemed strange, Bourdon, that one of your kind
feelings should ever wish to live alone, at all; yet I have heard
you say that a love of solitude first drew you to your trade."
"It is these strong cases which get a man under, as it might be, and
almost alter his nature. One man will pass his days in hunting deer;
another in catching fish; my taste has been for the bees, and for
such chances with other creatures as may offer. What between
hunting, and hiving, and getting the honey to market, I have very
little time to long for company. But my taste is altering, Margery;
The girl blushed, but she also smiled, and, moreover, she looked
"I am afraid that you are not as much altered as you think," she
answered, laughingly, however. "It may seem so now; but when you
come to LIVE in the settlements again, you will get tired of
"Then I will come with you, Margery, into these Openings, and we can
live TOGETHER here, surely, as well, or far better than I can live
here ALONE. You and Gershom's wife have spoiled my housekeeping. I
really did not know, until you came up here, how much a woman can do
in a chiente.
"Why, Bourdon, you have lived long enough in the settlements to know
"That is true; but I look upon the settlements as one thing, and on
the Openings as another. What will do there isn't needed here; and
what will do here won't answer there. But these last few days have
so changed Castle Meal, that I hardly know it myself."
"Perhaps the change is for the worse, and you wish it undone,
Bourdon," observed the girl, in the longing she had to hear an
assurance to the contrary, at the very moment she felt certain that
assurance would be given.
"No, no, Margery. Woman has taken possession of my cabin, and woman
shall now always command there, unless you alter your mind, and
refuse to have me. I shall speak to the missionary to marry us, as
soon as I can get him alone. His mind is running so much on the
Jews, that he has hardly a moment left for us Christians."
The color on Margery's cheek was not lessened by this declaration;
though, to admit the truth, she looked none the less pleased. She
was a warm-hearted and generous girl, and sometimes hesitated about
separating herself and her fortunes from those of Gershom and
Dorothy; but the bee-hunter had persuaded her this would be
unnecessary, though she did accept him for a husband. The point had
been settled between them on previous occasions, and much
conversation had already passed, in that very walk, which was
confined to that interesting subject. But Margery was not now
disposed to say more, and she adroitly improved the hint thrown out
by Boden, to change the discourse.
"It is the strangest notion I ever heard of," she cried, laughing,
Back to Full Books