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OUR route, which lay along what is called the old Spanish road, I found to be much better defined on the map, than upon the face of the country. We had, in many instances, no other guide to the path than the blazes on the trees. The bee hunter was a cheerful communicative companion, and by his pleasant conversation rendered our journey any thing but fatiguing. He knew all about the country; had undergone a variety of adventure, and described what he had witnessed with such freshness, and so graphically, that if I could only remember one-half he told me about the droves of wild horses, buffalo, various birds, beautiful scenery of the wide spreading and fertile prairies, and his adventures with the roving tribes of Indians, I should fill my book, I am sure, much more agreeably than I shall he able to do on my own hook. When he'd get tired of talking, he'd commence singing, and his list of songs seemed to be as long as a rainy Sunday. He had a fine clear voice, and though I have heard the Woods sing at the Park
Theatre, in New York, I must give the Bee hunter the preference over all I have ever heard, except my friend Jim Crow, who, it must be allowed, is a real steamboat at the business, and goes a leetle ahead of any thing that will come after him.
He gave me, among other matters, the following account of an encounter between one of the early settlers and the Indians: —
"Andrew Tumlinson," said he, "belonged to a family which the colonists of De Witt will long remember as one of their chief stays in the dangers of settling those wilds, trod only by the children of the forest. This indefatigable champion of revenge for his father's death, who had fallen some years before by Indian treachery, had vowed never to rest until he had received satisfaction. In order the better to accomplish his end, he was one of the foremost, if possible, in every skirmish with the Indians; and that he might be enabled to do so without restraint, he placed his wife under the care of his brother-in-law, shouldered his rifle, and headed a ranging party, who were resolved to secure peace to those who followed them, though purchased by their own death.
"He had been frequently victorious, in the most desperate fights, where the odds were greatly against him, and at last fell a victim to his own imprudence. A Caddo had been seized as a spy, and threatened with death, in order to compel him to deliver up his knife. The fellow never moved a muscle, or even winked, as he beheld the rifles pointed at him. He had been found lurking in the yard attached to the house of a solitary and unprotected family, and he knew that the whites were exasperated at his tribe for injuries that they had committed. When discovered he was accompanied by his little son.
"Tumlinson spoke to him in Spanish, to learn what had brought him there at such a time, but instead of giving any satisfaction, he sprung to his feet, from the log where he was seated, at the same time seizing his rifle which was lying beside him. The owner of the house, with whom the Indian had been on a friendly footing, expostulated with him, and got him to surrender the gun, telling him that the whites only wished to be satisfied of his friendly intentions, and had no desire to injure one who might be useful in conciliating his red brethren.
"He appeared to acquiesce, and wrapping his blanket more closely around his body, moved on in silence ahead of the whites. Tumlinson approached him, and though the rest of the party privately cautioned him not to go too nigh, as they believed the Indian had a knife under his blanket, he disregarded the warning, trusting for safety to his rifle and dexterity.
"He continued to interrogate the captive until he awakened his suspicions that his life was not safe. The Indian returned no answer but a short caustic laugh at the end of every question. Tumlinson at length beheld his countenance become more savage, which was followed by a sudden movement of the right hand beneath his blanket. He fired, and the next instant the Caddo's knife was in his heart, for the savage sprung with the quickness of the wild cat upon his prey. The rifle ball had passed through the Indian's body, yet his victim appeared to be no more in his grasp than a sparrow in the talons of an eagle, for he was a man of gigantic frame, and he knew that not only his own life, but that of his little son, would be taken on the spot. He called to the boy to fly, while he continued to plunge his knife into the bosom of his prostrate victim. The rest of the party levelled their rifles, and the victor shouted, with an air of triumph, — 'Do your worst. I have sacrificed another pale face to the spirits of my fathers.' They fired, and he fell dead across the body of the unfortunate Tumlinson. The poor boy fell also. He had sprung forward some distance, when his father was shot, and was running in a zig-zag manner, taught them in their youth, to avoid the balls of their enemies, by rendering it difficult for the best marksman to draw a sight upon them."
In order to afford me some idea of the state of society in the more thickly- settled parts of Texas, the Bee hunter told me that he had set down to the breakfast table, one morning at an inn, at San Felipe, and among the small party around the board were eleven who had fled from the states charged with having committed murder. So accustomed are the inhabitants to the appearance of fugitives from justice that they are particularly careful to make inquiries of the characters of newcomers, and generally obtain early and circumstantial information concerning strangers. "Indeed," said he, "it is very common to hear the inquiry made, 'What did he do that made him leave home?' or, 'What have you come to Texas for?' intimating almost an assurance of one's being a criminal. Notwithstanding this state of things, however, the good of the public, and of each individual, is so evidently dependent on the public morals, that all appear ready to discountenance and punish crime. Even men who have been expatriated by fear of justice, are here among the last who would be disposed to shield a culprit guilty of a crime against life or property." Thimblerig was delighted at this favourable account of the state of society, and said that it would be the very place for him to flourish in; he liked their liberal way of thinking, for it did not at all tally with his ideas of natural law, that a man who happened to give offence to the straight laced rules of action established by a set of people contracted in their notions, should be hunted out of all society, even though willing to conform to their regulations. He was lawyer enough, he said, to know that every offence should be tried on the spot where it was committed; and if he had stolen the pennies from his grandmother's eyes in Louisiana, the people in Texas would have nothing to do with that affair, nohow they could fix it. The dejected conjurer pricked up his ears, and from that moment was as gay and cheerful as a blue bird in spring.
As we approached Nacogdoches, the first object that struck our view was a flag flying at the top of a high liberty pole. Drums were heating, and fifes playing, giving an indication, not to be Misunderstood, of the spirit that had been awakened in a comparative desert. The people of the town no sooner saw us than many came out to meet us. The Bee hunter, who was known to them, introduced me; and it seems that they had already received the news of my intended visit, and its object, and I met with a cordial and friendly reception.
Nacogdoches is the capitol of the department of that name, and is situated about sixty miles west of the river Sabine, in a romantic dell, surrounded by woody bluffs of considerable eminence, within whose inner borders, in a semicircle embracing the town, flow the two forks of the Nana, a branch of the Naches. It is a flourishing town, containing about one thousand actual citizens, although it generally presents twice that number on account of its extensive inland trade, one-half of which is supported by the friendly Indians. The healthiness of this town yields to none in the province, except Bexar, and to none whatsoever south of the same latitude, between the Sabine and the Mississippi. There was a fort established here, by the French, as far back as the year 1717, in order to overawe the wandering tribes of red men, between their borders and the colonists of Great Britain. The soil around it is of an easy nature and well adapted to cultivation.
I passed the day at Nacogdoches in getting information from the principal patriots as to the grievances imposed upon them by the Mexican government; and I passed the time very pleasantly, but I rather reckon not quite as much so as my friend the Bee hunter. In the evening, as I had missed him for several hours while I was attending to the affairs of the patriots, I inquired for my companion, and was directed, by the landlord, to an apartment appropriated to his family, and accordingly I pushed ahead. Before I reached the door, I heard the joyous and musical voice of the young rover singing as usual.
"I'd like to have a little farm,
And leave such scenes as these,
Where I could live, without a care,
Completely at my ease.
I'd like to have a pleasant house
Upon my little farm,
Airy and cool in summer time
In winter close and warm."
"And is there nothing else you'd like to have to make you happy, Edward?" demanded a gentle voice, which sounded even more musical in my ear than that of the Bee hunter.
"Yes, in good faith there is, my gentle Kate; and I'll tell you what it is," he exclaimed, and resumed his song: —
"I'd like to have a little wife
I reckon I know who;
I'd like to have a little son
A little daughter too;
And when they'd climb upon my knee,
I'd like a little toy
To give my pretty little girl,
Another for my boy."
"O, fie, for shame of you to talk so, Edward!" exclaimed the same gentle voice.
"Well, my pretty Kate, if you'll only listen, now, I'll tell you what I wouldn't like."
"Let me hear that, by all means."
"I should not like my wife to shake
A broomstick at my head
For then I might begin to think
She did not love her Ned;
But I should always like to see
Her gentle as a dove;
I should not like to have her scold —
But be all joy and love."
"And there is not much danger, Edward, of her ever being otherwise."
"Bless your sweet lips, that I am certain of," exclaimed the Bee hunter, and I heard something that sounded marvellously like a kiss. But he resumed his song: —
"If I had these I would not ask
For any thing beside;
I'd be content thus smoothly through
The tedious world to glide.
My little wife and I would then
No earthly troubles see
Surrounded by our little ones,
How happy we would be."
I have always endeavoured to act up to the golden rule of doing as I would be done by, and as I never liked to be interrupted on such occasions, I returned to the bar-room, where I found Thimblerig seated on a table practising with his thimbles, his large white Vicksburg hat stuck in a most independent and impudent manner on the side of his head. About half a dozen men were looking on with amazement at his skill, but he got no bets. When he caught my eye his countenance became sort of confused, and he hastily thrust the thimbles into his pocket, saying, as he jumped from the table, "Just amusing myself a little, Colonel, to kill time, and show the natives that some things can be done as well as others. — Let us take an ideer." So we walked up to the bar, took a nip, and let the matter drop.
My horse had become lame, and I found I would not he able to proceed with him, so I concluded to sell him and get another. A gentleman offered to give me a mustang in exchange, and I gladly accepted of his kindness. The mustangs are the wild horses, that are to be seen in droves of thousands pasturing on the prairies. They are taken by means of a lazo, a long rope with a noose, which is thrown around their neck, and they are dragged to the ground with violence, and then secured. These horses, which are considerably smaller than those in the states, are very cheap, and are in such numbers, that in times of scarcity of game the settlers and the Indians have made use of them as food. Thousands have been destroyed for this purpose.
I saw nothing of the Bee hunter until bed-time, and then I said nothing to him about what I had overheard. The next morning, as we were preparing for an early start, I went into the private apartment where my companion was, but he did not appear quite as cheerful as usual. Shortly afterward a young woman, about eighteen, entered the room. She was as healthy and blooming as the wild flowers of the prairie. My companion introduced me, she courtesied modestly, and turning to the Bee hunter, said, "Edward, I have made you a new deer skin sack since you were last here. Will you take it with you? Your old one is so soiled."
"No, no, dear Kate, I shall not have leisure to gather wax this time."
"I have not yet shown you the fine large gourd that I have slung for you. It will hold near a gallon of water." She went to a closet, and producing it, suspended it around his shoulders.
"My own kind Kate!" he exclaimed, and looked as if he would devour her with his eyes.
"Have I forgotten any thing? — Ah! yes, your books." She ran to the closet, and brought out two small volumes. "One is sufficient this time, Kate — my Bible. I will leave the poet with you." She placed it in his hunting bag, saying,
"You will find here some biscuit and deer sinews, in case you should get bewildered in the prairies. You know you lost your way the last time, and were nearly famished."
"Kind and considerate Kate."
I began to find out that I was a sort of fifth wheel to a wagon, so I went to the front of the tavern to see about starting. There was a considerable crowd there, and I made them a short address on the occasion. I told them, among other things, that "I will die with my Betsey in my arms. No, I will not die — I'll grin down the walls of the Alamo, and the Americans will lick up the Mexicans like fine salt."
I mounted my little mustang, and my legs nearly reached the ground. The thimble conjurer was also ready; at length the Bee hunter made his appearance, followed by his sweetheart, whose eyes looked as though she had been weeping. He took a cordial leave of all his friends, for he appeared to be a general favourite; he then approached Kate, kissed her, and leaped upon his horse. He tried to conceal his emotion by singing, carelessly,
bridled, and booted rode he,
A plume in his helmet, a sword at his knee."
The tremulous and plaintive voice of Kate took up the next two lines of the song, which sounded like a prophecy:
toom cam' the
saddle, all bluidy to see,
And hame cam' the steed, but hame never cam' he."
We started off rapidly, and left Nacogdoches amid the cheering of true patriots and kind friends.