Chapter 8 Dick and his friends visit the Indians and see man_onders—Crusoe, too, experiences a few surprises and teaches Indian dogs _esson—An Indian dandy—A foot-race.
The Pawnee village, at which they soon arrived, was situated in the midst of _ost interesting and picturesque scene.
It occupied an extensive plain which sloped gently down to a creek, (I_merica small rivers or riverlets are termed “creeks”) whose winding cours_as marked by a broken line of wood, here and there interspersed with a fin_lump of trees, between the trunks of which the blue waters of the lak_parkled in the distance. Hundreds of tents or “lodges” of buffalo skin_overed the ground, and thousand of Indians—men, women, and children—move_bout the busy scene. Some were sitting in their lodges, lazily smoking thei_ipes. But these were chiefly old and infirm veterans, for all the young me_ad gone to the hunt which we have just described. The women were stoopin_ver their fires, busily preparing maize and meat for their husbands an_rothers, while myriads of little brown and naked children romped abou_verywhere, filling the air with their yells and screams, which were onl_qualled, if not surpassed, by the yelping dogs that seemed innumerable.
Far as the eye could reach were seen scattered herds of horses. These wer_ended by little boys who were totally destitute of clothing, and who seeme_o enjoy with infinite zest the pastime of shooting-practice with little bow_nd arrows. No wonder that these Indians become expert bowmen. There wer_rchins there, scarce two feet high, with round bullets of bodies and shor_pindle-shanks, who could knock blackbirds off the trees at every shot, an_ut the heads of the taller flowers with perfect certainty! There was muc_eed, too, for the utmost proficiency they could attain, for the ver_xistence of the Indian tribes of the prairies depends on their success i_unting the buffalo.
There are hundreds and thousands of North American savages who woul_ndoubtedly perish and their tribes become extinct if the buffaloes were t_eave the prairies or die out. Yet, although animals are absolutely essentia_o their existence, they pursue and slay them with improvident recklessness, sometimes killing hundreds of them merely for the sake of the sport, th_ongues, and the marrow-bones. In the bloody hunt described in the las_hapter, however, the slaughter of so many was not wanton, because the villag_hat had to be supplied with food was large, and, just previous to the hunt, they had been living on somewhat reduced allowance. Even the blackbirds, sho_y the brown-bodied urchins before mentioned, had been thankfully put into th_ot. Thus precarious is the supply of food among the Red-men, who on one da_re starving, and the next are revelling in superabundance.
But to return to our story. At one end of this village the creek sprang over _edge of rock in a low cascade and opened out into a beautiful lake, the boso_f which was studded with small islands. Here were thousands of those smalle_pecies of wild water-fowl which were either too brave or too foolish to b_cared away by the noise of the camp. And here, too, dozens of children wer_porting on the beach or paddling about in their light bark canoes.
“Isn’t it strange,” remarked Dick to Henri, as they passed among the tent_owards the centre of the village, “isn’t it strange that them Injuns shoul_e so fond o’ fightin’ when they’ve got all they can want—a fine country, lot_’ buffalo, an’ as far as I can see, happy homes?”
“Oui, it is remarkaibel, vraiment. But dey do more love war to peace. De_oves to be excited, I s’pose.”
“Humph! One would think the hunt we seed a little agone would be excitemen_nough. But, I say, that must be the chief’s tent, by the look o’t.”
Dick was right; the horsemen pulled up and dismounted opposite the principa_hief’s tent, which was a larger and more elegant structure than the others.
Meanwhile an immense concourse of women, children, and dogs gathered round th_trangers, and, while the latter yelped their dislike to white men, the forme_hattered continuously, as they discussed the appearance of the strangers an_heir errand, which latter soon became known. An end was put to this by San- it-sa-rish desiring the hunters to enter the tent, and spreading a buffal_obe for them to sit on. Two braves carried in their packs and then led awa_heir horses.
All this time Crusoe had kept as close as possible to his master’s side, feeling extremely uncomfortable in the midst of such a strange crowd, the mor_specially that the ill-looking Indian curs gave him expressive looks o_atred, and exhibited some desire to rush upon him in a body, so that he ha_o keep a sharp look out all round him. When, therefore, Dick entered the ten_rusoe endeavoured to do so along with him, but he was met by a blow on th_ose from an old squaw, who scolded him in a shrill voice and bade him begone.
Either our hero’s knowledge of the Indian language was insufficient to enabl_im to understand the order, or he had resolved not to obey it, for instead o_etreating he drew a deep gurgling breath, curled his nose, and displayed _ow of teeth that caused the old woman to draw back in alarm. Crusoe’s was _orgiving spirit. The instant that opposition ceased he forgot the injury, an_as meekly advancing when Dick held up his finger.
“Go outside, pup, and wait.”
Crusoe’s tail drooped; with a deep sigh he turned and left the tent. He too_p a position near the entrance, however, and sat down resignedly. So meek, indeed, did the poor dog look, that six mangy-looking curs felt thei_astardly hearts emboldened to make a rush at him with boisterous yells.
Crusoe did not rise. He did not even condescend to turn his head toward them, but he looked at them out of the corner of his dark eye, wrinkled—ver_lightly—the skin of his nose, exhibited two beautiful fangs, and gav_tterance to a soft remark, that might be described as quiet, deep-tone_argling. It wasn’t much, but it was more than enough for the valiant six, wh_aused and snarled violently.
It was a peculiar trait of Crusoe’s gentle nature, that, the moment any dange_eased, he resumed his expression of nonchalant gravity. The expression o_his occasion was misunderstood, however, and, as about two dozen additiona_elping dogs had joined the ranks of the enemy, they advanced in close orde_o the attack.
Crusoe still sat quiet and kept his head high, but he _looked_ at them agai_nd exhibited four fangs for their inspection. Among the pack there was on_ndian dog of large size—almost as large as Crusoe himself—which kept well i_he rear, and apparently urged the lesser dogs on. The little dogs didn’_bject, for little dogs are generally the most pugnacious. At this big do_rusoe directed a pointed glance, but said nothing. Meanwhile a particularl_mall and vicious cur, with a mere rag of a tail, crept round by the back o_he tent, and, coming upon Crusoe in the rear, snapped at his tail sharply, and then fled shrieking with terror and surprise, no doubt, at its ow_emerity.
Crusoe did not bark; he seldom barked; he usually either said nothing, or gav_tterance to a prolonged roar of indignation of the most terrible characte_ith barks, as it were, mingled through it. It somewhat resembled tha_eculiar and well-known species of thunder, the prolonged roll of which i_arked at short intervals in its course by cannon-like cracks. It was _ontinuous, but, so to speak, _knotted_ roar.
On receiving the snap, Crusoe gave forth _the_ roar with a majesty and powe_hat scattered the pugnacious front rank of the enemy to the winds. Those tha_till remained, half stupefied, he leaped over with a huge bound and alighted, fangs first, on the back of the big dog. There was one hideous yell, a muffle_cramble of an instant’s duration, and the big dog lay dead upon the plain!
It was an awful thing to do; but Crusoe evidently felt that the peculia_ircumstances of the case required that an example should be made—and to sa_ruth, all things considered, we cannot blame him. The news must have bee_arried at once through the canine portion of the camp, for Crusoe was neve_nterfered with again after that.
Dick witnessed this little incident; but he observed that the Indian chie_ared not a straw about it, and as his dog returned quietly and sat down i_ts old place, he took no notice of it either, but continued to listen to th_xplanations which Joe gave to the chief, of the desire of the Pale-faces t_e friends with the Red-men.
Joe’s eloquence would have done little for him on this occasion had his hand_een empty; but he followed it up by opening one of his packs, and displayin_he glittering contents before the equally glittering eyes of the chief an_is squaws.
“These,” said Joe, “are the gifts that the great chief of the Pale-faces send_o the great chief of the Pawnees, and he bids me say that there are many mor_hings in his stores which will be traded for skins with the Red-men, whe_hey visit him; and he also says that if the Pawnees will not steal horses an_ore from the Pale-faces they shall receive gifts of knives, and guns, an_owder and blankets every year.”
“ _Wah_!” grunted the chief; “it is good. The great chief is wise. We wil_moke the pipe of peace.”
The things that afforded so much satisfaction to San-it-sa-rish were th_eriest trifles. Penny looking-glasses in yellow gilt tin frames, beads o_arious colours, needles, cheap scissors, and knives, vermilion paint, an_oarse scarlet cloth, etcetera. They were of priceless value, however, in th_stimation of the savages, who delighted to adorn themselves with legging_ade from the cloth, beautifully worked with beads by their own ingeniou_omen. They were thankful, too, for knives even of the commonest description, having none but bone ones of their own; and they gloried in daubing thei_aces with intermingled streaks of charcoal and vermilion. To gaze at thei_isages, when thus treated, in the little penny looking-glasses is thei_ummit of delight!
Joe presented the chief with a portion of these coveted goods and tied up th_emainder. We may remark here, that the only thing which prevented the savage_rom taking possession of the whole at once, without asking permission, wa_he promise of the annual gifts, which they knew would not be forthcoming wer_ny evil to befall the deputies of the Pale-faces. Nevertheless, it cost the_ severe struggle to restrain their hands on this occasion, and Joe and hi_ompanions felt that they would have to play their part well in order t_ulfil their mission with safety and credit.
“The Pale-faces may go now and talk with the braves,” said San-it-sa-rish, after carefully examining everything that was given to him; “a council will b_alled soon, and we will smoke the pipe of peace.”
Accepting this permission to retire, the hunters immediately left the tent, and being now at liberty to do what they pleased, they amused themselves b_andering about the village.
“He’s a cute chap that,” remarked Joe, with a sarcastic smile; “I don’t fee_uite easy about gettin’ away. He’ll bother the life out o’ us to get all th_oods we’ve got, and, ye see, as we’ve other tribes to visit, we must giv_way as little as we can here.”
“Ha! you is right,” said Henri; “dat fellow’s eyes twinkle at de knives an_ings like two stars.”
“Fire-flies, ye should say. Stars are too soft an’ beautiful to compare to th_yes o’ yon savage,” said Dick, laughing. “I wish we were well away from them.
That rascal Mahtawa is an ugly customer.”
“True, lad,” returned Joe; “had _he_ bin the great chief our scalps had bi_ryin’ in the smoke o’ a Pawnee wigwam afore now. What now, lad?”
Joe’s question was put in consequence of a gleeful smile that overspread th_ountenance of Dick Varley, who replied by pointing to a wigwam towards whic_hey were approaching.
“Oh! that’s only a dandy,” exclaimed Joe. “There’s lots o’ them in every Inju_amp. They’re fit for nothin’ but dress, poor contemptible critters.”
Joe accompanied his remark with a sneer, for of all pitiable objects, h_egarded an unmanly man as the most despicable. He consented, however, to si_own on a grassy bank and watch the proceedings of this Indian dandy, who ha_ust seated himself in front of his wigwam for the purpose of making hi_oilet.
He began it by greasing his whole person carefully and smoothly over wit_uffalo-fat, until he shone like a patent leather boot; then he rubbed himsel_lmost dry, leaving the skin sleek and glossy. Having proceeded thus far h_ook up a small mirror, a few inches in diameter, which he or some othe_ember of the tribe must have procured during one of their few excursions t_he trading forts of the Pale-faces, and examined himself, as well as h_ould, in so limited a space. Next, he took a little vermilion from a smal_arcel and rubbed it over his face until it presented the somewhat demonia_ppearance of a fiery red. He also drew a broad red score along the crown o_is head, which was closely shaved, with the exception of the usual tuft o_calp-lock on the top. This scalp-lock stood bristling straight up a fe_nches, and then curved over and hung down his back about two feet. Immens_are and attention was bestowed on this lock. He smoothed it, greased it, an_laited it into the form of a pigtail. Another application was here made t_he glass, and the result was evidently satisfactory, to judge from th_eaming smile that played on his features. But, not content with the genera_ffect, he tried the effect of expression—frowned portentously, scowle_avagely, gaped hideously, and grinned horribly a ghastly smile.
Then our dandy fitted into his ears, which were bored in several places, sundry ornaments, such as rings, wampum, etcetera, and hung several strings o_eads round his neck. Besides these he affixed one or two ornaments to hi_rms, wrists, and ankles, and touched in a few effects with vermilion on th_houlders and breast. After this, and a few more glances at the glass, he pu_n a pair of beautiful moccasins, which, besides being richly wrought wit_eads, were soft as chamois leather, and fitted his feet like gloves; a pai_f leggings of scarlet cloth were drawn on, attached to a waist-belt, an_ound below the knee with broad garters of variegated bead-work.
It was some time before this Adonis was quite satisfied with himself. He re- touched the paint on his shoulders several times, and modified the glare o_hat on his wide-mouthed, high-cheek-boned visage before he could tear himsel_way; but at last he did so, and, throwing a large piece of scarlet cloth ove_is shoulders, he thrust his looking-glass under his belt, and proceeded t_ount his palfrey, which was held in readiness near to the tent door by one o_is wives. The horse was really a fine animal, and seemed worthy of a mor_arlike master. His shoulders, too, were striped with red paint, and feather_ere intertwined with his mane and tail, while the bridle was decorated wit_arious jingling ornaments.
Vaulting upon his steed, with a large fan of wild goose and turkey feathers i_ne hand, and a whip dangling at the wrist of the other, this incomparabl_andy sallied forth for a promenade—that being his chief delight when ther_as no buffalo hunting to be done. Other men who were not dandies sharpene_heir knives, smoked, feasted, and mended their spears and arrows at suc_easons of leisure, or played at athletic games.
“Let’s follow my buck,” said Joe Blunt.
“Oui. Come ’long,” replied Henri, striding after the rider at a pace tha_lmost compelled his comrades to run.
“Hold on!” cried Dick, laughing; “we don’t want to keep him company. A distan_iew is quite enough o’ sich a chap as that.”
“Mais, you forgit, I cannot see far.”
“So much the better,” remarked Joe; “it’s my opinion we’ve seen enough o’ him.
Ah! he’s goin’ to look on at the games. Them’s worth lookin’ at.”
The games to which Joe referred were taking place on a green level plain clos_o the creek, and a little above the waterfall before referred to. Some of th_ndians were horse-racing, some jumping, and others wrestling; but the gam_hich proved most attractive was throwing the javelin, in which several of th_oung braves were engaged.
This game is played by two competitors, each armed with a dart, in an aren_bout fifty yards long. One of the players has a hoop of six inches i_iameter. At a signal they start off on foot at full speed, and on reachin_he middle of the arena the Indian with the hoop rolls it along before them, and each does his best to send a javelin through the hoop before the other. H_ho succeeds counts so many points—if both miss, the nearest to the hoop i_llowed to count, but not so much as if he had “ringed” it. The Indians ar_ery fond of this game, and will play at it under a broiling sun for hour_ogether. But a good deal of the interest attaching to it is owing to the fac_hat they make it a means of gambling. Indians are inveterate gamblers, an_ill sometimes go on until they lose horses, bows, blankets, robes, and, i_hort, their whole personal property. The consequences are, as might b_xpected, that fierce and bloody quarrels sometimes arise in which life i_ften lost.
“Try your hand at that,” said Henri to Dick.
“By all means,” cried Dick, handing his rifle to his friend, and springin_nto the ring enthusiastically.
A general shout of applause greeted the Pale-face, who threw off his coat an_ightened his belt, while a young Indian presented him with a dart.
“Now, see that ye do us credit, lad,” said Joe.
“I’ll try,” answered Dick.
In a moment they were off. The young Indian rolled away the hoop, and Dic_hrew his dart with such vigour that it went deep into the ground, but misse_he hoop by a foot at least. The young Indian’s first dart went through th_entre.
“Ha!” exclaimed Joe Blunt to the Indians near him, “the lad’s not used to tha_ame, try him at a race. Bring out your best brave—he whose bound is like th_unted deer.”
We need scarcely remind the reader that Joe spoke in the Indian language, an_hat the above is a correct rendering of the sense of what he said.
The name of Tarwicadia, or the little chief, immediately passed from lip t_ip, and in a few minutes an Indian, a little below the medium size, bounde_nto the arena with an indiarubber-like elasticity that caused a shade o_nxiety to pass over Joe’s face.
“Ah, boy!” he whispered, “I’m afeared you’ll find him a tough customer.”
“That’s just what I want,” replied Dick. “He’s supple enough, but he want_uscle in the thigh. We’ll make it a long heat.”
“Right, lad, yer right.”
Joe now proceeded to arrange the conditions of the race with the chiefs aroun_im. It was fixed that the distance to be run should be a mile, so that th_ace would be one of two miles, out and back. Moreover, the competitors wer_o run without any clothes, except a belt and a small piece of cloth round th_oins. This to the Indians was nothing, for they seldom wore more in war_eather, but Dick would have preferred to keep on part of his dress. The law_f the course, however, would not permit of this, so he stripped and stoo_orth, the beau-ideal of a well-formed, agile man. He was greatly superior i_ize to his antagonist, and more muscular, the savage being slender an_xtremely lithe and springy.
“Hah! I will run too,” shouted Henri, bouncing forward with clumsy energy, an_hrowing off his coat just as they were going to start.
The savages smiled at this unexpected burst and made no objection, considerin_he thing in the light of a joke.
The signal was given, and away they went. Oh! it would have done you good t_ave seen the way in which Henri manoeuvred his limbs on this celebrate_ccasion! He went over the ground with huge elephantine bounds, runs, an_umps. He could not have been said to have one style of running; he had _ozen styles, all of which came into play in the course of half as man_inutes. The other two ran like the wind; yet, although Henri _appeared_ to b_oing heavily over the ground, he kept up with them to the turning point. A_or Dick, it became evident in the first few minutes that he could outstri_is antagonist with ease, and was hanging back a little all the time. He sho_head like an arrow when they came about half-way back, and it was clear tha_he real interest of the race was to lie in the competition between Henri an_arwicadia.
Before they were two-thirds of the way back, Dick walked in to the winnin_oint, and turned to watch the others. Henri’s wind was about gone, for h_xerted himself with such violence that he wasted half his strength. Th_ndian, on the contrary, was comparatively fresh, but he was not so fleet a_is antagonist, whose tremendous strides carried him over the ground at a_ncredible pace. On they came neck and neck, till close on the score tha_arked the winning point. Here the value of enthusiasm came out strongly i_he case of Henri. He _felt_ that he could not gain an inch on Tarwicadia t_ave his life; but, just as he came up, he observed the anxious faces of hi_omrades and the half-sneering countenances of the savages. His heart thumpe_gainst his ribs, every muscle thrilled with a gush of conflicting feelings, and he _hurled_ himself over the score like a cannon shot, full six inche_head of the little chief!
But the thing did not by any means end here. Tarwicadia pulled up the instan_e had passed. Not so our Canadian. Such a clumsy and colossal frame was no_o be checked in a moment. The crowd of Indians opened up to let him pass, bu_nfortunately a small tent that stood in the way was not so obliging. Into i_e went, head-foremost, like a shell, carried away the corner-post with hi_houlder, and brought the whole affair down about his own ears, and those o_ts inmates, among whom were several children and two or three dogs. I_equired some time to extricate them all from the ruins, but when this wa_ffected, it was found that no serious damage had been done to life or limb!