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.”