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Chapter 12 The storm.

  • Two days after the events of the last chapter, the brigade was making one o_he traverses which have already been noticed as of frequent occurrence in th_reat lakes. The morning was calm and sultry. A deep stillness pervade_ature, which tended to produce a corresponding quiescence in the mind, and t_ill it with those indescribably solemn feelings that frequently arise befor_ thunderstorm. Dark, lurid clouds hung overhead in gigantic masses, pile_bove each other like the battlements of a dark fortress, from whose ragge_mbrasures the artillery of heaven was about to play.
  • “Shall we get over in time, Louis?” asked Mr Park, as he turned to the guide, who sat holding the tiller with a firm grasp; while the men, aware of th_ecessity of reaching shelter ere the storm burst upon them, were bending t_he oars with steady and sustained energy.
  • “Perhaps,” replied Louis, laconically.—“Pull, lads, pull! else you’ll have t_leep in wet skins to-night.”
  • A low growl of distant thunder followed the guide’s words, and the men pulle_ith additional energy; while the slow, measured hiss of the water, and th_lank of oars, as they cut swiftly through the lake’s clear surface, alon_nterrupted the dead silence that ensued.
  • Charley and his friend conversed in low whispers; for there is a strange powe_n a thunderstorm, whether raging or about to break, that overawes the hear_f man,—as if Nature’s God were nearer then than at other times; as i_e—whose voice indeed, if listened to, speaks even in the slightest evolutio_f natural phenomena—were about to tread the visible earth with more tha_sual majesty, in the vivid glare of the lightning flash, and in the awfu_rash of thunder.
  • “I don’t know how it is, but I feel more like a coward,” said Charley, “jus_efore a thunderstorm than I think I should do in the arms of a polar bear. D_ou feel queer, Harry?”
  • “A little,” replied Harry, in a low whisper; “and yet I’m not frightened. _an scarcely tell what I feel, but I’m certain it’s not fear.”
  • “Well, I don’t know,” said Charley. “When father’s black bull chased Kate an_e in the prairies, and almost overtook us as we ran for the fence of the bi_ield, I felt my heart leap to my mouth, and the blood rush to my cheeks, as _urned about and faced him, while Kate climbed the fence; but after she wa_ver, I felt a wild sort of wickedness in me, as if I should like to tantalis_nd torment him,—and I felt altogether different from what I feel now while _ook up at these black clouds. Isn’t there something quite awful in them, Harry?”
  • Ere Harry replied, a bright flash of lightning shot athwart the sky, followe_y a loud roar of thunder, and in a moment the wind rushed, like a fiend se_uddenly free, down upon the boats, tearing up the smooth surface of the wate_s it flew, and cutting it into gleaming white streaks. Fortunately the stor_ame down behind the boats, so that, after the first wild burst was over, the_oisted a small portion of their lug sails, and scudded rapidly before it.
  • There was still a considerable portion of the traverse to cross, and the guid_ast an anxious glance over his shoulder occasionally, as the dark waves bega_o rise, and their crests were cut into white foam by the increasing gale.
  • Thunder roared in continued, successive peals, as if the heavens were breakin_p, while rain descended in sheets. For a time the crews continued to pl_heir oars; but as the wind increased, these were rendered superfluous. The_ere taken in, therefore, and the men sought partial shelter under th_arpaulin; while Mr Park and the two boys were covered, excepting their heads, by an oilcloth, which was always kept at hand in rainy weather.
  • “What think you now, Louis?” said Mr Park, resuming the pipe which the sudde_utburst of the storm had caused him to forget. “Have we seen the worst o_t?”
  • Louis replied abruptly in the negative, and in a few seconds shouted loudly, “Look out, lads! here comes a squall. Stand by to let go the sheet there!”
  • Mike Brady, happening to be near the sheet, seized hold of the rope, an_repared to let go; while the men rose, as if by instinct, and gazed anxiousl_t the approaching squall, which could be seen in the distance extending alon_he horizon, like a bar of blackest ink, spotted with flakes of white. Th_uide sat with compressed lips, and motionless as a statue, guiding the boa_s it bounded madly towards the land, which was now not more than half a mil_istant.
  • “Let go!” shouted the guide, in a voice that was heard loud and clear abov_he roar of the elements.
  • “Ay, ay,” replied the Irishman, untwisting the rope instantly, as with a shar_iss the squall descended on the boat.
  • At that moment the rope became entangled round one of the oars, and the gal_urst with all its fury on the distended sail, burying the prow in the waves, which rushed inboard in a black volume, and in an instant half filled th_oat.
  • “Let go!” roared the guide again, in a voice of thunder; while Mike struggle_ith awkward energy to disentangle the rope.
  • As he spoke, an Indian, who during the storm had been sitting beside the mast, gazing at the boiling water with a grave, contemplative aspect, sprang quickl_orward, drew his knife, and with two blows (so rapidly delivered that the_eemed but one) cut asunder first the sheet and then the halyards, which le_he sail blow out and fall flat upon the boat. He was just in time. Anothe_oment and the gushing water, which curled over the bow, would have fille_hem to the gunwale. As it was, the little vessel was so full of water tha_he lay like a log, while every toss of the waves sent an additional torren_nto her.
  • “Bail for your lives, lads!” cried Mr Park, as he sprang forward, and, seizin_ tin dish, began energetically to bail out the water. Following his example, the whole crew seized whatever came first to hand in the shape of dish o_ettle, and began to bail. Charley and Harry Somerville acted a vigorous par_n this occasion—the one with a bark dish (which had been originally made b_he natives for the purpose of holding maple-sugar), the other with his cap.
  • For a time it seemed doubtful whether the curling waves should send most wate_into_ the boat, or the crew should bail most out of it. But the latter soo_revailed, and in a few minutes it was so far got under that three of the me_ere enabled to leave off bailing and reset the sail, while Louis Peltie_eturned to his post at the helm. At first the boat moved but slowly, owing t_he weight of water in her; but as this grew gradually less, she increased he_peed and neared the land.
  • “Well done, Redfeather,” said Mr Park, addressing the Indian as he resumed hi_eat; “your knife did us good service that time, my fine fellow.”
  • Redfeather, who was the only pure native in the brigade, acknowledged th_ompliment with a smile.
  • “ _Ah, oui_ ,” said the guide, whose features had now lost their ster_xpression. “Them Injins are always ready enough with their knives. It’s no_he first time my life has been saved by the knife of a redskin.”
  • “Humph! bad luck to them,” muttered Mike Brady; “it’s not the first time tha_y windpipe has been pretty near spiflicated by the knives o’ the redskins, the murtherin’ varmints!”
  • As Mike gave vent to this malediction, the boat ran swiftly past a low, rock_oint, over which the surf was breaking wildly.
  • “Down with the sail, Mike,” cried the guide, at the same time putting the hel_ard up. The beat flew round, obedient to the ruling power, made one las_lunge as it left the rolling surf behind, and slid gently and smoothly int_till water under the lee of the point.
  • Here, in the snug shelter of a little bay, two of the other boats were found, with their prows already on the beach, and their crews actively employed i_anding their goods, opening bales that had received damage from the water, and preparing the encampment; while ever and anon they paused a moment, t_atch the various boats as they flew before the gale, and one by one double_he friendly promontory.
  • If there is one thing that provokes a voyageur more than another, it is bein_ind-bound on the shores of a large lake. Rain or sleet, heat or cold, icicle_orming on the oars, or a broiling sun glaring in a cloudless sky, the sting_f sandflies, or the sharp probes of a million mosquitoes, he will bear wit_omparative indifference; but being detained by high wind for two, three, o_our days together—lying inactively on shore, when everything else, it may be, is favourable: the sun bright, the sky blue, the air invigorating, and all bu_he wind propitious—is more than his philosophy can carry him through wit_quanimity. He grumbles at it; sometimes makes believe to laugh at it; ver_ften, we are sorry to say, swears at it; does his best to sleep through it; but whatever he does, he does with a bad grace, because he’s in a bad humour, and can’t stand it.
  • For the next three days this was the fate of our friends. Part of the time i_ained, when the whole party slept as much as was possible, and the_endeavoured_ to sleep _more_ than was possible, under the shelter afforded b_he spreading branches of the trees. Part of the time was fair, wit_ccasional gleams of sunshine, when the men turned out to eat and smoke an_amble round the fires; and the two friends sauntered down to a sheltere_lace on the shore, sunned themselves in a warm nook among the rocks, whil_hey gazed ruefully at the foaming billows, told endless stories of what the_ad done in time past, and equally endless _prospective_ adventures that the_arnestly hoped should befall them in time to come.
  • While they were thus engaged, Redfeather, the Indian who had cut the ropes s_pportunely during the storm, walked down to the shore, and sitting down on _ock not far distant, fell apparently into a reverie.
  • “I like that fellow,” said Harry, pointing to the Indian.
  • “So do I. He’s a sharp, active man. Had it not been for him we should have ha_o swim for it.”
  • “Indeed, had it not been for him I should have had to sink for it,” sai_arry, with a smile, “for I can’t swim.”
  • “Ah, true, I forgot that. I wonder what the redskin, as the guide calls him, is thinking about,” added Charley, in a musing tone.
  • “Of home, perhaps, ‘sweet home,’” said Harry, with a sigh. “Do you think muc_f home, Charley, now that you have left it?”
  • Charley did not reply for a few seconds; he seemed to muse over the question.
  • At last he said slowly—
  • “Think of home? I think of little else when I am not talking with you, Harry.
  • My dear mother is always in my thoughts, and my poor old father. Home? ay; an_arling Kate, too, is at my elbow night and day, with the tears streaming fro_er eyes, and her ringlets scattered over my shoulder, as I saw her the day w_arted, beckoning me back again, or reproaching me for having gone away—Go_less her! Yes, I often, very often, think of home, Harry.”
  • Harry made no reply. His friend’s words had directed his thoughts to a ver_ifferent and far-distant scene—to another Kate, and another father an_other, who lived in a glen far away over the waters of the broad Atlantic. H_hought of them as they used to be when he was one of the number, a unit i_he beloved circle, whose absence would have caused a blank there. He though_f the kind voice that used to read the Word of God, and the tender kiss o_is mother as they parted for the night. He thought of the dreary day when h_eft them all behind, and sailed away, in the midst of strangers, across th_ide ocean to a strange land. He thought of them now— _without_ him—accustome_o his absence, and forgetful, perhaps, at times that he had once been there.
  • As he thought of all this a tear rolled down his cheek, and when Charle_ooked up in his face, that tear-drop told plainly that he too though_ometimes of home.
  • “Let us ask Redfeather to tell us something about the Indians,” he said a_ength, rousing himself. “I have no doubt he has had many adventures in hi_ife. Shall we, Charley?”
  • “By all means.—Ho, Redfeather! are you trying to stop the wind by looking i_ut of countenance?”
  • The Indian rose, and walked towards the spot where the boys lay.
  • “What was Redfeather thinking about?” said Charley, adopting the somewha_ompous style of speech occasionally used by Indians. “Was he thinking of th_hite swan and his little ones in the prairie; or did he dream of giving hi_nemies a good licking the next time he meets them?”
  • “Redfeather has no enemies,” replied the Indian. “He was thinking of the grea_anito, (God) who made the wild winds, and the great lakes, and the forest.”
  • “And pray, good Redfeather, what did your thoughts tell you?”
  • “They told me that men are very weak, and very foolish, and wicked; and tha_anito is very good and patient to let them live.”
  • “That is to say,” cried Harry, who was surprised and a little nettled to hea_hat he called the heads of a sermon from a redskin, “that _you_ , being _an, are very weak, and very foolish, and wicked; and that Manito is very goo_nd patient to let _you_ live?”
  • “Good,” said the Indian calmly; “that is what I mean.”
  • “Come, Redfeather,” said Charley, laying his hand on the Indian’s arm, “si_own beside us, and tell us some of your adventures. I know that you must hav_ad plenty, and it’s quite clear that we’re not to get away from this plac_ll day, so you’ve nothing better to do.”
  • The Indian readily assented, and began his story in English.
  • Redfeather was one of the very few Indians who had acquired the power o_peaking the English language. Having been, while a youth, brought much int_ontact with the fur-traders, and having been induced by them to enter thei_ervice for a time, he had picked up enough of English to make himself easil_nderstood. Being engaged at a later period of life as guide to one of th_xploring parties sent out by the British Government to discover the famou_orth-west Passage, he had learned to read and write, and had become so muc_ccustomed to the habits and occupations of the “palefaces,” that he spen_ore of his time, in one way or another, with them than in the society of hi_ribe, which dwelt in the thick woods bordering on one of the great prairie_f the interior. He was about thirty years of age; had a tall, thin, but wir_nd powerful frame; and was of a mild, retiring disposition. His face wore _abitually grave expression, verging towards melancholy; induced, probably, b_he vicissitudes of a wild life (in which he had seen much of the rugged sid_f nature in men and things) acting upon a sensitive heart and a naturall_arm temperament. Redfeather, however, was by no means morose; and when seate_long with his Canadian comrades round the camp fire, he listened wit_vidently genuine interest to their stories, and entered into the spirit o_heir jests. But he was always an auditor, and rarely took part in thei_onversations. He was frequently consulted by the guide in matters o_ifficulty, and it was observed that the “redskin’s” opinion always carrie_uch weight with it, although it was seldom given unless asked for. The me_espected him much because he was a hard worker, obliging, and modest—thre_ualities that ensure respect, whether found under a red skin or a white one.
  • “I shall tell you,” he began, in a soft, musing tone, as if he were wanderin_n memories of the past—“I shall tell you how it was that I came by the nam_f Redfeather.”
  • “Au!” interrupted Charley, “I intended to ask you about that; you don’t wea_ne.”
  • “I did once. My father was a great warrior in his tribe,” continued th_ndian; “and I was but a youth when I got the name.
  • “My tribe was at war at the time with the Chipewyans, and one of our scout_aving come in with the intelligence that a party of our enemies was in th_eighbourhood, our warriors armed themselves to go in pursuit of them. I ha_een out once before with a war-party, but had not been successful, as th_nemy’s scouts gave notice of our approach in time to enable them to escape.
  • At the time the information was brought to us, the young men of our villag_ere amusing themselves with athletic games, and loud challenges were bein_iven and accepted to wrestle, or race, or swim in the deep water of th_iver, which flowed calmly past the green bank on which our wigwams stood. O_ bank near to us sat about a dozen of our women—some employed in ornamentin_occasins with coloured porcupine quills; others making rogans of bark fo_aple sugar, or nursing their young infants; while a few, chiefly the ol_omen, grouped themselves together and kept up an incessant chattering, chiefly with reference to the doings of the young men.
  • “Apart from these stood three or four of the principal men of our tribe, smoking their pipes, and although apparently engrossed in conversation, stil_vidently interested in what was going forward on the bank of the river.
  • “Among the young men assembled there was one of about my own age, who ha_aken a violent dislike to me because the most beautiful girl in all th_illage preferred me before him. His name was Misconna. He was a hot-tempered, cruel youth; and although I endeavoured as much as possible to keep out of hi_ay, he sought every opportunity of picking a quarrel with me. I had just bee_unning a race along with several other youths, and although not the winner, _ad kept ahead of Misconna all the distance. He now stood leaning against _ree, burning with rage and disappointment. I was sorry for this, because _ore him no ill-will, and if it had occurred to me at the time, I would hav_llowed him to pass me, since I was unable to gain the race at any rate.
  • “‘Dog!’ he said at length, stepping forward and confronting me, ‘will yo_restle?’
  • “Just as he approached I had turned round to leave the place. Not wishing t_ave more to do with him, I pretended not to hear, and made a step or tw_owards the lodges. ‘Dog!’ he cried again, while his eyes flashed fiercely, and he grasped me by the arm, ‘will you wrestle, or are you afraid? Has th_rave boy’s heart changed into that of a girl?’
  • “‘No, Misconna,’ said I. ‘You _know_ that I am not afraid; but I have n_esire to quarrel with you.’
  • “‘You lie!’ cried he, with a cold sneer,—‘you are afraid; and see,’ he added, pointing towards the women with a triumphant smile, ‘the dark-eyed girl see_t and believes it too!’
  • “I turned to look, and there I saw Wabisca gazing on me with a look of blan_mazement. I could see, also, that several of the other women, and some of m_ompanions, shared in her surprise.
  • “With a burst of anger I turned round. ‘No, Misconna,’ said I, ‘I am _not_fraid, as you shall find;’ and springing upon him, I grasped him round th_ody. He was nearly, if not quite, as strong a youth as myself; but I wa_urning with indignation at the insolence of his conduct before so many of th_omen,—which gave me more than usual energy. For several minutes we swayed t_nd fro, each endeavouring in vain to bend the other’s back; but we were to_ell matched for this, and sought to accomplish our purpose by takin_dvantage of an unguarded movement. At last such a movement occurred. M_dversary made a sudden and violent attempt to throw me to the left, hopin_hat an inequality in the ground would favour his effort. But he was mistaken.
  • I had seen the danger, and was prepared for it, so that the instant h_ttempted it I threw forward my right leg, and thrust him backwards with al_y might. Misconna was quick in his motions. He saw my intention—too late, indeed, to prevent it altogether, but in time to throw back his left foot an_tiffen his body till it felt like a block of stone. The effort was no_ntirely one of endurance. We stood, each with his muscles strained to th_tmost, without the slightest motion. At length I felt my adversary give way _ittle. Slight though the motion was, it instantly removed all doubt as to wh_hould go down. My heart gave a bound of exultation, and with the energy whic_uch a feeling always inspires, I put forth all my strength, threw him heavil_ver on his back, and fell upon him.
  • “A shout of applause from my comrades greeted me as I rose and left th_round; but at the same moment the attention of all was taken from myself an_he baffled Misconna by the arrival of the scout, bringing us information tha_ party of Chipewyans were in the neighbourhood. In a moment all was bustl_nd preparation. An Indian war-party is soon got ready. Forty of our brave_hrew off the principal parts of their clothing; painted their faces wit_tripes of vermilion and charcoal; armed themselves with guns, bows, tomahawks, and scalping-knives, and in a few minutes left the camp in silence, and at a quick pace.
  • “One or two of the youths who had been playing on the river’s bank wer_ermitted to accompany the party, and among these were Misconna and myself. A_e passed a group of women, assembled to see us depart, I observed the gir_ho had caused so much jealousy between us. She cast down her eyes as we cam_p, and as we advanced close to the group she dropped a white feather as if b_ccident. Stooping hastily down, I picked it up in passing, and stuck it in a_rnamented band that bound my hair. As we hurried on, I heard two or three ol_ags laugh, and say, with a sneer, ‘His hand is as white as the feather: i_as never seen blood.’ The next moment we were hid in the forest, and pursue_ur rapid course in dead silence.
  • “The country through which we passed was varied, extending in broken bits o_pen prairie, and partly covered with thick wood, yet not so thick as to offe_ny hindrance to our march. We walked in single file, each treading in hi_omrade’s footsteps, while the band was headed by the scout who had brough_he information. The principal chief of our tribe came next, and he wa_ollowed by the braves according to their age or influence. Misconna and _rought up the rear. The sun was just sinking as we left the belt of wood lan_n which our village stood, crossed over a short plain, descended a dar_ollow, at the bottom of which the river flowed, and following its course fo_ considerable distance, turned off to the right and emerged upon a sweep o_rairie-land. Here the scout halted, and taking the chief and two or thre_raves aside, entered into earnest consultation with them.
  • “What they said we could not hear; but as we stood leaning on our guns in th_eep shade of the forest, we could observe by their animated gestures tha_hey differed in opinion. We saw that the scout pointed several times to th_oon, which was just rising above the tree-tops, and then to the distan_orizon; but the chief shook his head, pointed to the woods, and seemed to b_uch in doubt, while the whole band watched his motions in deep silence bu_vident interest. At length they appeared to agree. The scout took his plac_t the head of the line, and we resumed our march, keeping close to the margi_f the wood. It was perhaps three hours after this ere we again halted to hol_nother consultation. This time their deliberations were shorter. In a fe_econds our chief himself took the lead, and turned into the woods, throug_hich he guided us to a small fountain which bubbled up at the root of a birc_ree, where there was a smooth green spot of level ground. Here we halted, an_repared to rest for an hour, at the end of which time the moon, which no_hone bright and full in the clear sky, would be nearly down, and we coul_esume our march. We now sat down in a circle, and taking a hasty mouthful o_ried meat, stretched ourselves on the ground with our arms beside us, whil_ur chief kept watch, leaning against the birch tree. It seemed as if I ha_carcely been asleep five minutes when I felt a light touch on my shoulder.
  • Springing up, I found the whole party already astir, and in a few minutes mor_e were again hurrying onwards.
  • “We travelled thus until a faint light in the east told us that the day was a_and, when the scout’s steps became more cautious, and he paused to examin_he ground frequently. At last we came to a place where the ground san_lightly, and at the distance of a hundred yards rose again, forming a lo_idge, which was crowned with small bushes. Here we came to a halt, and wer_old that our enemies were on the other side of that ridge; that they wer_bout twenty in number, all Chipewyan warriors, with the exception of on_aleface—a trapper and his Indian wife. The scout had learned, while lyin_ike a snake in the grass around their camp, that this man was merel_ravelling with them on his way to the Rocky Mountains, and that, as they wer_ war-party, he intended to leave them soon. On hearing this the warriors gav_ grim smile, and our chief, directing the scout to fall behind, cautiousl_ed the way to the top of the ridge. On reaching it we saw a valley of grea_xtent, dotted with trees and shrubs, and watered by one of the many river_hat flow into the great Saskatchewan. It was nearly dark, however, and w_ould only get an indistinct view of the land. Far ahead of us, on the righ_ank of the stream, and close to its margin, we saw the faint red light o_atch-fires; which caused us some surprise, for watch-fires are never lighte_y a war-party so near to an enemy’s country. So we could only conjecture tha_hey were quite ignorant of our being in that part of the country; which was, indeed, not unlikely, seeing that we had shifted our camp during the summer.
  • “Our chief now made arrangements for the attack. We were directed to separat_nd approach individually as near to the camp as was possible without risk o_iscovery, and then, taking up an advantageous position, to await our chief’_ignal, which was to be the hooting of an owl. We immediately separated. M_ourse lay along the banks of the stream, and as I strode rapidly along, listening to its low, solemn murmur, which sounded clear and distinct in th_tillness of a calm summer night, I could not help feeling as if it wer_eproaching me for the bloody work I was hastening to perform. Then th_ecollection of what the old woman said of me raised a desperate spirit in m_eart. Remembering the white feather in my head, I grasped my gun an_uickened my pace. As I neared the camp I went into the woods and climbed _ow hillock to look out. I found that it still lay about five hundred yard_istant, and that the greater part of the ground between it and the plac_here I stood was quite flat, and without cover of any kind. I therefor_repared to creep towards it, although the attempt was likely to be attende_ith great danger, for Chipewyans have quick ears and sharp eyes. Observing, however, that the river ran close past the camp, I determined to follow it_ourse as before. In a few seconds more I came to a dark, narrow gap where th_iver flowed between broken rocks, overhung by branches, and from which _ould obtain a clear view of the camp within fifty yards of me. Examining th_riming of my gun, I sat down on a rock to await the chief’s signal.
  • “It was evident, from the careless manner in which the fires were placed, tha_o enemy was supposed to be near. From my concealment I could plainl_istinguish ten or fifteen of the sleeping forms of our enemies, among whic_he trapper was conspicuous, from his superior bulk, and the reckless way i_hich his brawny arms were flung on the turf, while his right hand clutche_is rifle. I could not but smile as I thought of the proud boldness of th_aleface—lying all exposed to view in the grey light of dawn while an Indian’_ifle was so close at hand. One Indian kept watch, but he seemed more tha_alf asleep. I had not sat more than a minute when my observations wer_nterrupted by the cracking of a branch in the bushes near me. Starting up, _as about to bound into the underwood, when a figure sprang down the bank an_apidly approached me. My first impulse was to throw forward my gun, but _lance sufficed to show me that it was a woman.
  • “‘Wah!’ I exclaimed, in surprise, as she hurried forward and laid her hand o_y shoulder. She was dressed partly in the costume of the Indians, but wore _hawl on her shoulders and a handkerchief on her head that showed she had bee_n the settlements; and from the lightness of her skin and hair, I judged a_nce that she was the trapper’s wife, of whom I had heard the scout speak.
  • “‘Has the light-hair got a medicine-bag, or does she speak with spirits, tha_he has found me so easily?’
  • “The girl looked anxiously up in my face as if to read my thoughts, and the_aid, in a low voice,—‘No, I neither carry the medicine-bag nor hold palave_ith spirits; but I do think the good Manito must have led me here. I wandere_nto the woods because I could not sleep, and I saw you pass. But tell me,’ she added, with still deeper anxiety, ‘does the white-feather come alone? Doe_e approach _friends_ during the dark hours with a soft step like a fox?’
  • “Feeling the necessity of detaining her until my comrades should have time t_urround the camp, I said: ‘The white-feather hunts far from his lands. H_ees Indians whom he does not know, and must approach with a light step.
  • Perhaps they are enemies.’
  • “‘Do Knisteneux hunt at night, prowling in the bed of a stream?’ said th_irl, still regarding me with a keen glance. ‘Speak truth, stranger,’ (and sh_tarted suddenly back); ‘in a moment I can alarm the camp with a cry, and i_our tongue is forked.—But I do not wish to bring enemies upon you, if the_re indeed such. I am not one of them. My husband and I travel with them for _ime. We do not desire to see blood. God knows,’ she added in French, whic_eemed her native tongue, ‘I have seen enough of that already.’
  • “As her earnest eyes looked into my face a sudden thought occurred to me.
  • ‘Go,’ said I, hastily, ‘tell your husband to leave the camp instantly and mee_e here; and see that the Chipewyans do not observe your departure. Quick! hi_ife and yours may depend on your speed.’
  • “The girl instantly comprehended my meaning. In a moment she sprang up th_ank; but as she did so the loud report of a gun was heard, followed by _ell, and the war-whoop of the Knisteneux rent the air as they rushed upon th_evoted camp, sending arrows and bullets before them.
  • “On the instant I sprang after the girl and grasped her by the arm. ‘Stay, white-cheek; it is too late now. You cannot save your husband, but I thin_e’ll save himself. I saw him dive into the bushes like a caribou. Hid_ourself here; perhaps you may escape.’
  • “The half-breed girl sank on a fallen tree with a deep groan, and clasped he_ands convulsively before her eyes, while I bounded over the tree, intendin_o join my comrades in pursuing the enemy.
  • “As I did so a shrill cry arose behind me, and looking back, I beheld th_rapper’s wife prostrate on the ground, and Misconna standing over her, hi_pear uplifted, and a fierce frown on his dark face.
  • “‘Hold!’ I cried, rushing back and seizing his arm. ‘Misconna did not come t_ill _women_. She is not our enemy.’
  • “‘Does the young wrestler want _another_ wife?’ he said, with a wild laugh, a_he same time wrenching his arm from my gripe, and driving his spear throug_he fleshy part of the woman’s breast and deep into the ground. A shriek ren_he air as he drew it out again to repeat the thrust; but before he could d_o, I struck him with the butt of my gun on the head. Staggering backwards, h_ell heavily among the bushes. At this moment a second whoop rang out, an_nother of our band sprang from the thicket that surrounded us. Seeing no on_ut myself and the bleeding girl, he gave me a short glance of surprise, as i_e wondered why I did not finish the work which he evidently supposed I ha_egun.
  • “‘Wah!’ he exclaimed; and uttering another yell plunged his spear into th_oman’s breast, despite my efforts to prevent him—this time with more deadl_ffect, as the blood spouted from the wound, while she uttered a piercin_cream, and twined her arms round my legs as I stood beside her, as i_mploring for mercy. Poor girl! I saw that she was past my help. The wound wa_vidently mortal. Already the signs of death overspread her features, and _elt that a second blow would be one of mercy; so that when the Indian stoope_nd passed his long knife through her heart, I made but a feeble effort t_revent it. Just as the man rose, with the warm blood dripping from his kee_lade, the sharp crack of a rifle was heard, and the Indian fell dead at m_eet, shot through the forehead, while the trapper bounded into the ope_pace, his massive frame quivering, and his sunburned face distorted with rag_nd horror. From the other side of the brake six of our band rushed forwar_nd levelled their guns at him. For one moment the trapper paused to cast _lance at the mangled corpse of his wife, as if to make quite sure that sh_as dead; and then uttering a howl of despair, he hurled his axe with _iant’s force at the Knisteneux, and disappeared over the precipitous bank o_he stream.
  • “So rapid was the action that the volley which immediately succeeded passe_armlessly over his head, while the Indians dashed forward in pursuit. At th_ame instant I myself was felled to the earth. The axe which the trapper ha_lung struck a tree in its flight, and as it glanced off the handle gave me _iolent blow in passing. I fell stunned. As I did so my head alighted on th_houlder of the woman, and the last thing I felt, as my wandering sense_orsook me, was her still warm blood flowing over my face and neck.
  • “While this scene was going on, the yells and screams of the warriors in th_amp became fainter and fainter as they pursued and fled through the woods.
  • The whole band of Chipewyans was entirely routed, with the exception of fou_ho escaped, and the trapper whose flight I have described; all the rest wer_lain, and their scalps hung at the belts of the victorious Knisteneu_arriors, while only one of our party was killed.
  • “Not more than a few minutes after receiving the blow that stunned me, _ecovered, and rising as hastily as my scattered faculties would permit me, _taggered towards the camp, where I heard the shouts of our men as the_ollected the arms of their enemies. As I rose, the feather which Wabisca ha_ropped fell from my brow; and as I picked it up to replace it, I perceive_hat it was _red_ , being entirely covered with the blood of the half-bree_irl.
  • “The place where Misconna had fallen was vacant as I passed, and I found hi_tanding among his comrades round the camp fires, examining the guns and othe_rticles which they had collected. He gave me a short glance of deep hatred a_ passed, and turned his head hastily away. A few minutes sufficed to collec_he spoils, and so rapidly had everything been done that the light of day wa_till faint as we silently returned on our track. We marched in the same orde_s before, Misconna and I bringing up the rear. As we passed near the plac_here the poor woman had been murdered, I felt a strong desire to return t_he spot. I could not very well understand the feeling, but it lay so stron_pon me that, when we reached the ridge where we first came in sight of th_hipewyan camp, I fell behind until my companions disappeared in the woods, and then ran swiftly back. Just as I was about to step beyond the circle o_ushes that surrounded the spot, I saw that some one was there before me. I_as a man, and as he advanced into the open space and the light fell on hi_ace, I saw that it was the trapper. No doubt he had watched us off th_round, and then, when all was safe, returned to bury his wife. I crouched t_atch him. Stepping slowly up to the body of his murdered wife, he stoo_eside it with his arms folded on his breast and quite motionless. His hea_ung down, for the heart of the white man was heavy, and I could see, as th_ight increased, that his brows were dark as the thunder-cloud, and th_orners of his mouth twitched from a feeling that the Indian scorns to show.
  • My heart is full of sorrow for him now,” (Redfeather’s voice sank as h_poke); “it was full of sorrow for him even _then_ , when I was taught t_hink that pity for an enemy was unworthy of a brave. The trapper stood gazin_ery long. His wife was young; he could not leave her yet. At length a dee_roan burst from his heart, as the waters of a great river, long held down, swell up in spring and burst the ice at last. Groan followed groan as th_rapper still stood and pressed his arms on his broad breast, as if to crus_he heart within. At last he slowly knelt beside her, bending more and mor_ver the lifeless form, until he lay extended on the ground beside it, an_wining his arms round the neck, he drew the cold cheek close to his, an_ressed the blood-covered bosom tighter and tighter, while his form quivere_ith agony as he gave her a last, long embrace. Oh!” continued Redfeather, while his brow darkened, and his black eye flashed with an expression o_ierceness that his young listeners had never seen before, “may the curse—” H_aused. “God forgive them! how could they know better?
  • “At length the trapper rose hastily. The expression of his brow was still th_ame, but his mouth was altered. The lips were pressed tightly like those of _rave when led to torture, and there was a fierce activity in his motions a_e sprang down the bank and proceeded to dig a hole in the soft earth. Fo_alf an hour he laboured, shovelling away the earth with a large flat stone; and carrying down the body, he buried it there, under the shadow of a willow.
  • The trapper then shouldered his rifle and hurried away. On reaching the tur_f the stream which shuts the little hollow out from view, he halted suddenly, gave one look into the prairie he was thenceforth to tread alone, one shor_lance back, and then, raising both arms in the air, looked up into the sky, while he stretched himself to his full height. Even at that distance I coul_ee the wild glare of his eye and the heaving of his breast. A moment after, and he was gone.”
  • “And did you never see him again?” inquired Harry Somerville eagerly.
  • “No, I never saw him more. Immediately afterwards I turned to rejoin m_ompanions, whom I soon overtook, and entered our village along with them. _as regarded as a poor warrior, because I brought home no scalps, and eve_fterwards I went by the name of _Redfeather_ in our tribe.”
  • “But are you still thought a poor warrior?” asked Charley, in some concern, a_f he were jealous of the reputation of his new friend.
  • The Indian smiled. “No,” he said: “our village was twice attacked afterwards, and in defending it Redfeather took many scalps. He was made a chief!”
  • “Ah!” cried Charley, “I’m glad of that. And Wabisca, what came of her? Di_isconna get her?”
  • “She is my wife,” replied Redfeather.
  • “Your wife! Why, I thought I heard the voyageurs call your wife the whit_wan.”
  • “ _Wabisca_ is _white_ in the language of the Knisteneux. She is beautiful i_orm, and my comrades call her the white swan.”
  • Redfeather said this with an air of gratified pride. He did not, perhaps, lov_is wife with more fervour than he would have done had he remained with hi_ribe; but Redfeather had associated a great deal with the traders, and he ha_mbibed much of that spirit which prompts “ _white men_ ” to treat thei_emales with deference and respect—a feeling which is very foreign to a_ndian’s bosom. To do so was, besides, more congenial to his naturall_nselfish and affectionate disposition, so that any flattering allusion to hi_artner was always received by him with immense gratification.
  • “I’ll pay you a visit some day, Redfeather, if I’m sent to any place withi_ifty miles of your tribe,” said Charley, with the air of one who had full_ade up his mind.
  • “And Misconna?” asked Harry.
  • “Misconna is with his tribe,” replied the Indian, and a frown overspread hi_eatures as he spoke. “But Redfeather has been following in the track of hi_hite friends; he has not seen his nation for many moons.”