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XL. - AN INDIAN NARRATIVE.
[This interesting story is from A Journey through Kansas, by Rev. C. B. Boynton and T. B. Mason, published in Cincinnati, in 1855.]
She had many
The mounds of the western prairies are among the most interesting features of the country. They are so regular in form that they are generally supposed to have been the work of human hands; but by whom they were reared, or for what purpose, is unknown.
A few years since, at the base of one of these mounds, there resided a chief, whose young daughter was a girl of uncommon beauty, as well as of a pure and noble spirit. admirers among
braves of her nation. Her nature was simple and beautiful; and loving one among them all, and only one, she hesitated not to let her preference be known, not only to the Young Eagle who had won her heart, but also to those whose suit she rejected. Among her unsuccessful suitors one only so laid it to heart as to desire revenge. He, the Prowling Wolf, was filled with rage, and took little pains to conceal his enmity, though he showed no desire for open violence.
Both these young men were brave, and both skilful in the use of weapons ; but while the Young Eagle was of a frank and generous spirit, and swayed by such high impulses as a young savage may feel, the Wolf was reserved, dark, and sullen; and his naturally lowering brow seemed, after the maiden had refused him, to settle into an habitual scowl. The friends of the Young Eagle feared for his safety. He, however, was too happy in the smiles of his chosen bride to trouble himself concerning the enmity of another, especially when he knew himself to be his equal both in strength and skill.
The Indian customs did not permit the young couple to be much alone with each other; but they sometimes contrived to meet at twilight at the top of the mound, and spend there together a happy hour. Young Eagle was a favorite with his tribe, except among the kinsmen of the Wolf; and
among the whites, too, he had made many friends, one of whom had given him a Colt's revolver, the only one owned in the tribe. Delighted with this formidable weapon, he had made it a plaything till he became skilful in its use, and always wore it about him in addition to his other arms. This was a second cause of enmity, which the Wolf laid up in his heart. He seemed to be planning some dark scheme; but his secret, if he had one, was confided to no one. Bitter words sometimes passed between the young warriors, but nothing more; yet it was felt that at any time a sudden rousing of passion might end in bloodshed.
One summer evening, just as the moon was up, Young Eagle sought the top of the mound for the purpose of meeting his future bride ; for their marriage was agreed upon, and the appointed day was near. One side of this mound is a naked rock, which, for thirty feet or more, is almost perpendicular. Just on the edge of this precipice is a foot path ; and by it a large, flat rock forms a convenient seat for those who would survey the valley, while a few low bushes are scattered over a part
of the crest of the mound. On this rock Young Eagle sat down to await the maiden's coming. In a few moments the bushes rustled near him; and rising, as he thought, to meet her, a tomahawk flashed by his head, and the next instant he was in the arms of a strong man, and forced to the brink of the precipice. The eyes of the two met in the moonlight, and each knew then that the struggle was for life. Pinioned as his arms were by the other's hold, the Young Eagle frustrated the first effort of his foe; and then a desperate wrestle followed. The grasp of the Wolf was broken; and each, seizing his adversary by the throat with the left hand, sought his weapon with the right — the one his knife, the other his revolver.
In the struggle, the handle of the knife of the Wolf had been turned in his belt; and missing it at the first grasp, ere he could recover himself, the revolver was at his breast, and a bullet through his heart. One flash of hatred from the closing eye, and the arm of the dying warrior relaxed; and as the body sank, the Eagle hurled it over the precipice, and in his wrath fired bullet after bullet into the lifeless frame as it rolled heavily down.
The young girl, who was ascending the mound to meet her lover, heard these successive shots, and, knowing well from what source such rapid discharges alone could come, hastened on, and reached the summit just as the fight was over. She soon brought her family to the spot, and every circumstance of the transaction showed at once the dangerous position in which the Eagle was placed. There was no witness of the combat, and no means whatever of showing that he had slain the Wolf in self-defence.
The number of ball holes in the body seemed to bear evidence against him, and he knew that the friends of the Wolf would take advantage of every circumstance in order to procure his death as a murderer. He felt that death was certain if he submitted himself for trial, and therefore determined to defend himself as best he might, and await the result, as his only chance for life.
It is a law among the Indians that the shedding of blood may be rightfully avenged by the nearest kinsman of the slain, the murderer being allowed to defend himself as best he may. At the same time the friends of the deceased are at liberty to accept a ransom for the life that has been taken, and a compromise is often effected, and the affair settled.
The Young Eagle at once formed his resolution, sustained by the advice of his friends. Completely armed, he took possession of the top of the mound, which was so shaped, that, while he was himself concealed, no one could approach him by day without being exposed to his fire. He had, besides, two devoted and skilful allies, who, together with his position, rendered him far more than a match for his single adversary, the
avenger of blood, the brother of the Wolf. These allies were his bride, and a large, sagacious hound, which had long been his hunting companion, and had guarded him many a night when camping on the prairies. The girl had in her veins the blood of Indian heroes, and she quailed not. She demanded with lofty enthusiasm to be made his wife ; and then, acquainted with every stratagem of savage war, and with every faculty sharpened by affection and her husband's danger, she watched, warned, and shielded him at all times with a vigilance that never failed.
XLI. - THE SAME SUBJECT, CONCLUDED.
In vain the brother of the Wolf surveyed from afar this fortress of the Eagle.” It was evident that long before he could reach a point from which the young warrior could be seen, he would himself be within the range of his rifle, without a cover of any kind. Often, by night, he attempted to ascend the mound; but scarcely could he put his foot upon its base before the dog of the Eagle would give his master the alarm, and then to approach would only be to go to his own death. It was known that the Young Eagle's food could be brought to him by no one but his wife; but no one saw her form, or heard her footsteps on the mound.
The brother of the Wolf knew well that the Eagle's wife must supply him with food, and determined, if possible, to entrap him. He therefore studied and imitated her gait, and carefully observed her dress; and when he felt that he was perfect in his part, he arrayed himself one evening in a dress the exact counterpart of hers, with knife and tomahawk concealed beneath, and bearing some food openly before him, took, just at twilight, the common path up the mound, where he knew the mere sound of footsteps would be less likely to alarm the dog or his master; and he hoped to approach so near without suspicion, that he might by a sudden rush secure his victim.
His plan was skilfully executed. He imitated well the light step of Eagle's wife; the approaching form was one familiar to the dog, and he had not caught the scent. He wagged his tail, as he lay with his eye fixed, as if he would soon bound forward with a welcome. The Eagle addressed his supposed wife in gentle tones, and bade her hasten. The avenger of blood was within ten feet of his intended victim, and thought that all was gained; when the dog, with one yell and one bound, threw himself upon him, and bore him to the earth, with his jaws grappled to his throat.
Entangled by the female dress, and throttled by the hound, he could not draw his knife; and the Eagle, who understood the scene at a glance, deprived him of his weapons while held by the dog, and then pinioned his arms. “ Now go to your friends," said the young warrior ; “I crave not your blood. Your brother sought my life on this very spot, and I slew him, but only to save my own. But stay; you shall go home as a warrior should. You have shown some skill in this.” He then cut the pinions from his arms, and gave him back his weapons. They were taken in silence, and the humbled, yet grateful foe withdrew.
Three months thus had passed away, and negotiations were opened for a ransom. The friends in such a case to treat, but do not engage to accept what may be offered for life. This is to be decided only on a spot appointed for the ceremony, and with the shedder of blood unarmed, completely in their power, and bound by the law to make no resistance. When the parties are present, and the proposed ransom is offered, it is considered by the friends of the slain man, and if accepted all is settled; but if not, they have the right to slay the murderer on the spot, without resistance from him or his friends.
In this case the friends of the Wolf agreed to consider a ransom, and Young Eagle consented to abide the issue, he and his friends hoping that the sparing of the brother's life might have some influence in the decision. Besides, it was now generally believed in the tribe that the Wolf had been the aggressor.