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THE CENTRAL STATES AND THE GREAT LAKES
In 1786 a little building stood at North Bend, Ohio, near the junction of the Miami and Ohio Rivers, from which building the stars and stripes were flying. It was one of a series of blockhouses built for the protecting of cleared land while the settlers were coming in, yet it was a trading station rather than a fort, for the attitude of government toward the red men was pacific. The French of the Mississippi Valley were not reconciled, however, to the extension of power by a Saxon people, and the English in Canada were equally jealous of the prosperity of those provinces they had so lately lost. Both French and English had emissaries among the Shawnees when it had become known that the United States intended to negotiate a treaty with them.
It was the mild weather that comes for a time in October, when Cantantowit blesses the land from his home in the southwest with rich colors, plaintive perfumes of decay, soft airs, and tender lights a time for peace; but the garrison at the fort realized that the situation was precarious. The Shawnees had camped about them, and the air was filled with the neighing of their ponies and the barking of their dogs. To let them into the fort was to invite massacre; to keep them out after they had been summoned was to declare war.
Colonel George Rogers Clarke, of Virginia, who was in command, scoffed at the fears of his men, and would not give ear to their appeals for an adjournment of the meeting or a change of the place of it. At the appointed hour the doors were opened and the Indians came in. The pipe of peace was smoked in the usual form, but the red men were sullen and insolent, and seemed to be seeking a cause of quarrel. Clarke explained that the whites desired only peace, and he asked the wise men to speak for their tribe. A stalwart chief arose, glanced contemptuously at the officer and his little guard, and, striding to the table where Clarke was seated, threw upon it two girdles of wampum—the peace-belt and the war-belt. "We offer you these belts," he said. "You know what they mean. Take which you like."
It was a deliberate insult and defiance. Both sides knew it, and many of the men held their breath. Clarke carelessly picked up the war-belt on the point of his cane and flung it among the assembled chiefs. Every man in the room sprang to his feet and clutched his weapon. Then, with a sternness that was almost ferocious, Clarke pointed to the door with an imperative action, and cried, "Dogs, you may go!"
The Indians were foiled in their ill intent by his self-possession and seeming confidence, which made them believe that he had forces in the vicinity that they were not prepared to meet. They had already had a bitter experience of his strength and craft, and in the fear that a trap had been set for them they fled tumultuously. The treaty was ratified soon after.
When the new First Regiment of United States Infantry paused at Marietta, Ohio, on its way to garrison Vincennes, its officers made a gay little court there for a time. The young Major Hamtramck—contemptuously called by the Indians "the frog on horseback," because of his round shoulders—found especial pleasure in the society of Marianne Navarre, who was a guest at the house of General Arthur St. Clair; but the old general viewed this predilection with disfavor, because he had hoped that his own daughter would make a match with the major. But Louisa longed for the freedom of the woods. She was a horsewoman and a hunter, and she had a sentimental fondness for Indians.
When Joseph Brandt (Thayendanegea) camped with his dreaded band near the town, it was she who—without her father's knowledge, and in the disguise of an Indian girl—took the message that had been entrusted to a soldier asking the tribe to send delegates to a peace council at the fort. Louisa and Brandt had met in Philadelphia some years before, when both were students in that city, and he was rejoiced to meet her again, for he had made no secret of his liking for her, and in view of the bravery she had shown in thus riding into a hostile camp his fondness increased to admiration. After she had delivered the message she said, "Noble warrior, I have risked my life to obtain this interview. You must send some one back with me." Brandt replied, "It is fitting that I alone should guard so courageous a maiden," and he rode with her through the lines, under the eyes of a wondering and frowning people, straight to the general's door. Soon after, Brandt made a formal demand for the hand of this dashing maid, but the stubborn general refused to consider it. He was determined that she ought to love Major Hamtramck, and he told her so in tones so loud that they reached the ears of Marianne, as she sat reading in her room. Stung by this disclosure of the general's wishes, and doubting whether the major had been true to her—fearful, too, that she might be regarded as an interloper—she made a pretext to return as quickly as possible to her home in Detroit, and left no adieus for her lover.
It was not long after that war broke out between the settlers and the Indians, for Brandt now had a personal as well as a race grudge to gratify, though when he defeated St. Clair he spared his life in the hope that the general would reward his generosity by resigning to him his daughter. At all events, he resolved that the "frog on horseback," whom he conceived to be his rival, should not win her. The poor major, who cared nothing for Louisa, and who was unable to account for the flight of Marianne, mourned her absence until it was rumored that she had been married, when, as much in spite as in love, he took to himself a mate. After he had been for some time a widower he met Marianne again, and learned that she was still a maiden. He renewed his court with ardor, but the woman's love for him had died when she learned of his marriage. Affecting to make light of this second disappointment, he said, "Since I cannot be united to you in life, I shall be near you in death."
"A soldier cannot choose where he shall die," she answered.
"No matter. I shall sleep in the shadow of your tomb."
As it fell out they were indeed buried near each other in Detroit. Thus, the stupidity and obstinacy of General St. Clair, in supposing that he could make young folks love to order, thwarted the happiness of four people and precipitated a war.
In the early part of this century Bill Quick, trapper and frontiersman, lived in a cabin on the upper Scioto, not far from the present town of Kenton, Ohio. One evening when he returned from the hunt he found his home rifled of its contents and his aged father weltering in his blood on the floor. He then and there took oath that he would be revenged a hundredfold. His mission was undertaken at once, and for many a year thereafter the Indians of the region had cause to dread the doom that came to them from brake and wood and fen,—now death by knife that flashed at them from behind a tree, and the next instant whirled through the air and was buried to the hilt in a red man's heart; now, by bullet as they rowed across the rivers; now, by axe that clove their skulls as they lay asleep.
Bill Quick worked secretly, and, unlike other men of the place and time, he did not take his trophies Indian-fashion. The scalp was not enough. He took the head. And presently a row of grinning skulls was ranged upon his shelves. Ninety-nine of these ghastly prizes occupied his cabin, and the man was confident that he should accomplish his intent. But the Indians, in terror, were falling away toward the lakes; they were keeping better guard; and ere the hundredth man had fallen before his rifle he was seized with fatal illness. Calling to him his son, Tom, he pointed to the skulls, and charged him to fulfil the oath he had taken by adding to the list a hundredth skull. Should he fail in this the murdered ancestor and he himself would come back to haunt the laggard. Tom accepted the trust, but everything seemed to work against him. He never was much of a hunter nor a very true shot, and he had no liking for war; besides, the Indians had left the country, as he fancied. So he grumbled at the uncongenial task appointed for him and kept deferring it from week to week and from year to year. When his conscience pricked him he allayed the smart with drink, and his conscience seemed to grow more active as he grew older.
On returning to the cabin after a carouse he declared that he had heard voices, that the skulls gibbered and cracked their teeth together as if mocking his weakness, and that a phosphorescent glare shone through the sockets of their eyes. In his cups he prattled his secret, and soon the whole country knew that he was under oath to kill a red-skin-and the country laughed at him. On a certain day it was reported that a band of Indians had been seen in the neighborhood, and what with drink and the taunts of his friends, he was impelled to take his rifle and set out once more on the war-path. A settler heard a shot fired not long after. Next day a neighbor passing Tom Quick's cabin tapped at the door, and, receiving no answer, pushed it open and entered. The hundredth skull was there, on the shelves, a bullet-hole in the forehead, and the scalp gone. The head was Quick's.
Two miles south of Munger, Ohio, in the heart of what used to be called the Black Swamp, stood the Woodbury House, a roomy mansion long gone to decay. John Cleves, the last to live in it, was a man whose evil practices got him into the penitentiary, but people had never associated him with the queer sights and sounds in the lower chambers, nor with the fact that a man named Syms, who had gone to that house in 1842, had never been known to leave it. Ten years after Syms's disappearance it happened that Major Ward and his friend John Stow had occasion to take shelter there for the night—it being then deserted,—and, starting a blaze in the parlor fireplace, they lit their pipes and talked till late. Stow would have preferred a happier topic, but the major, who feared neither man nor devil, constantly turned the talk on the evil reputation of the house.
While they chatted a door opened with a creak and a human skeleton appeared before them.
"What do you want? Speak!" cried Ward. But waiting for no answer he drew his pistols and fired two shots at the grisly object. There was a rattling sound, but the skeleton was neither dislocated nor disconcerted. Advancing deliberately, with upraised arm, it said, in a husky voice, "I, that am dead, yet live in a sense that mortals do not know. In my earthly life I was James Syms, who was robbed and killed here in my sleep by John Cleves." With bony finger it pointed to a rugged gap in its left temple. "Cleves cut off my head and buried it under the hearth. My body he cast into his well." At these words the head disappeared and the voice was heard beneath the floor, "Take up my skull." The watchers obeyed the call, and after digging a minute beneath the hearth a fleshless head with a wound on the left temple came to view. Ward took it into his hands, but in a twinkling it left them and reappeared on the shoulders of the skeleton.
"I have long wanted to tell my fate," it resumed, "but could not until one should be found brave enough to speak to me. I have appeared to many, but you are the first who has commanded me to break my long silence. Give my bones a decent burial. Write to my relative, Gilmore Syms, of Columbus, Georgia, and tell him what I have revealed. I have found peace." With a grateful gesture it extended its hand to Ward, who, as he took it, shook like one with an ague, his wrist locked in its bony clasp. As it released him it raised its hand impressively. A bluish light burned at the doorway for an instant. The two men found themselves alone.
Near Gallipolis, Ohio, there stood within a few years an old house of four rooms that had been occupied by Herman Deluse. He lived there alone, and, though his farming was of the crudest sort, he never appeared to lack for anything. The people had an idea that the place was under ban, and it was more than suspected that its occupant had been a pirate. In fact, he called his place the Isle of Pines, after a buccaneers' rendezvous in the West Indies, and made no attempt to conceal the strange plunder and curious weapons that he had brought home with him, but of money he never appeared to have much at once. When it came his time to die he ended his life alone, so far as any knew—at least, his body was found in his bed, without trace of violence or disorder. It was buried and the public administrator took charge of the estate, locking up the house until possible relatives should come to claim it, and the rustic jury found that Deluse "came to his death by visitation of God."
It was but a few nights after this that the Rev. Henry Galbraith returned from a visit of a month to Cincinnati and reached his home after a night of boisterous storm. The snow was so deep and the roads so blocked with windfalls that he put up his horse in Gallipolis and started for his house on foot.
"But where did you pass the night?" inquired his wife, after the greetings were over. "With old Deluse in the Isle of Pines," he answered. "I saw a light moving about the house, and rapped. No one came; so, as I was freezing, I forced open the door, built a fire, and lay down in my coat before it. Old Deluse came in presently and I apologized, but he paid no attention to me. He seemed to be walking in his sleep and to be searching for something. All night long I could hear his footsteps about the house, in pauses of the storm."
The clergyman's wife and son looked at each other, and a friend who was present—a lawyer, named Maren—remarked, "You did not know that Deluse was dead and buried?" The clergyman was speechless with amazement. "You have been dreaming," said the lawyer. "Still, if you like, we will go there to-night and investigate."
The clergyman, his son, and the lawyer went to the house about nine o'clock, and as they approached it a noise of fighting came from within—blows, the clink of steel, groans, and curses. Lights appeared, first at one window, then at another. The men rushed forward, burst in the door, and were inside—in darkness and silence. They had brought candles and lighted them, but the light revealed nothing. Dust lay thick on the floor except in the room where the clergyman had passed the previous night, and the door that he had then opened stood ajar, but the snow outside was drifted and unbroken by footsteps. Then came the sound of a fall that shook the building. At the same moment it was noticed by the other two men that young Galbraith was absent. They hurried into the room whence the noise had come. A board was wrenched from the wall there, disclosing a hollow that had been used for a hiding-place, and on the floor lay young Galbraith with a sack of Spanish coins in his hand. His father stooped to pick him up, but staggered back in horror, for the young man's life had gone. A post-mortem examination revealed no cause of death, and a rustic jury again laid it to a "visitation of God."
Until it was worn away by the elements a curious relief was visible on the bluffs of the Mississippi near Alton, Illinois. It was to be seen as late as 1860, and represented a monster once famous as the "piasa bird." Father Marquette not only believed it but described it as a man-eater in the account of his explorations, where he mentions other zoological curiosities, such as unicorns with shaggy mane and land-turtles three feet long with two heads, "very mischievous and addicted to biting." He even showed a picture of the maneater that accorded rudely with the picture on the rocks. It was said to prey on human flesh, and to be held in fear by the Indians, who encountered it on and near the Mississippi. It had the body of a panther, wings like a bat, and head and horns of a deer. Father Marquette gave it a human face. The sculpture was undoubtedly made by Indians, but its resemblance to the winged bulls of Assyria and the sphinxes of Egypt has been quoted as confirmation of a prehistoric alliance of Old and New World races or the descent of one from the other. It has also been thought to stand for the totem of some great chief-symbolizing, by its body, strength; by its wings, speed; by its head, gentleness and beauty. But may not the tradition of it have descended from the discovery of comparatively late remains, by primitive man, of the winged saurians that crawled, swam, dived, or flew, lingering on till the later geologic period? The legend of the man-eater may even have been told by those who killed the last of the pterodactyls.
Michel De Coucy, of Prairie de Rocher, Illinois, sat before his door humming thoughtfully, and trying to pull comfort out of a black pipe. He was in debt, and he did not like the sensation. As hunter, boatman, fiddler he had done well enough, but having rashly ventured into trade he had lost money, and being unable to meet a note had applied to Pedro Garcia for a loan at usurious interest. Garcia was a black-whiskered Spaniard who was known to have been a gambler in New Orleans, and as Michel was in arrears in his payments he was now threatening suit. Presently the hunter jumped up with a glad laugh, for two horsemen were approaching his place—the superior of the Jesuit convent at Notre Dame de Kaskaskia and the governor of the French settlements in Illinois, of whom he had asked advice, and who had come from Fort Chartres, on the Mississippi, to give it in person. It was good advice, too, for the effect of it was that there was no law of that time—1750—by which a Spaniard could sue a Frenchman on French territory. Moreover, the bond was invalid because it was drawn up in Spanish, and Garcia could produce no witness to verify the cross at the bottom of the document as of Michel's making.
Great was the wrath of the Spaniard when Michel told him this, nor was it lessened when the hunter bade him have no fear—that he might be obliged to repudiate part of the interest, but that every livre of the principal would be forthcoming, if only a little time were allowed. The money lender walked away with clenched fists, muttering to himself, and Michel lit his pipe again.
At supper-time little Genevieve, the twelve-year-old daughter of Michel, did not appear. The table was kept waiting for an hour. Michel sat down but could not eat, and, after scolding awhile in a half-hearted fashion, he went to the clearing down the road, where the child had been playing. A placard was seen upon a tree beside the way, and he called a passing neighbor to read to him these words: "Meshell Coosy. French rascal. Pay me my money and you have your daughter. Pedro Garcia."
Accustomed as he was to perils, and quick as he generally was in expedient, Michel was overwhelmed by this stroke. The villagers offered to arm themselves and rescue the child, but he would not consent to this, for he was afraid that Garcia might kill her, if he knew that force was to be set against him. In a day or two Michel was told to go to Fort Chartres, as favorable news awaited him. He rode with all speed to that post, went to the official quarters, where the governor was sitting, and as he entered he became almost insane with rage, for Garcia stood before him. Nothing but the presence of others saved the Spaniard's life, and it was some time before Michel could be made to understand that Garcia was there under promise of safe conduct, and that the representatives of King Louis were in honor bound to see that he was not injured. The points at issue between the two men were reviewed, and the governor gave it as his decision that Michel must pay his debt without interest, that being forfeit by the Spaniard's abduction of Genevieve, and that the Spaniard was to restore the girl, both parties in the case being remanded to prison until they had obeyed this judgment.
"But I have your promise of safe conduct!" cried the Spaniard, blazing with wrath.
"And you shall have it when the girl returns," replied the governor. "You shall be protected in going and coming, but there is no reference in the paper that you hold as to how long we may wish to keep you with us."
Both men were marched away forthwith, but Michel was released in an hour, for in that time the people had subscribed enough to pay his debt. The Spaniard sent a messenger to a renegade who had little Genevieve in keeping, and next day he too went free, swearing horribly, but glad to accept the service of an armed escort until he was well out of town. Michel embraced his child with ardor when once she was in his arms again; then he lighted his pipe and set out with her for home, convinced that French law was the best in the world, that Spaniards were not to be trusted, and that it is safer to keep one's earnings under the floor than to venture them in trade.
A century ago this rough eminence, a dozen miles from Chattanooga, Tennessee, was an abiding place of Cherokee Indians, among whom was Arinook, their medicine-man, and his daughter. The girl was pure and fair, and when a white hunter saw her one day at the door of her father's wigwam he was so struck with her charm of person and her engaging manner that he resolved not to return to his people until he had won her for his wife. She had many lovers, though she favored none of them, and while the Cherokees were at first loth to admit a stranger to their homes they forgot their jealousy when they found that this one excelled as a hunter and fisherman, that he could throw the knife and tomahawk better than themselves, and that he was apt in their work and their sports.
They even submitted to the inevitable with half a grace when they found that the stranger and the girl of whom they were so fond were in love. With an obduracy that seems to be characteristic of fathers, the medicine-man refused his consent to the union, and the hearts of the twain were heavy. Though the white man pleaded with her to desert her tribe, she refused to do so, on the score of duty to her father, and the couple forlornly roamed about the hill, watching the sunset from its top and passing the bright summer evenings alone, sitting hand in hand, loving, sorrowing, and speaking not. In one of their long rambles they found themselves beside the Tennessee River at a point where the current swirls among rocks and sucks down things that float, discharging them at the surface in still water, down the stream. Here for a time they stood, when the girl, with a gush of tears, began to sing—it was her death-song. The white man grasped her hand and joined his voice to hers. Then they took a last embrace and flung themselves into the water, still hand in hand.
When the river is low you may hear their death-song sounding there. The manitous of the river and the wood were offended with the medicine-man because of his stubbornness and cruelty, although he suffered greatly because of the death his daughter died, and he the cause of it. For now strange Indians appeared among the Cherokees and drove the deer and bear away. Tall, strong, and large were these intruders, and they hung about the village by day and night—never speaking, yet casting a fear about them, for they would throw great rocks farther than a warrior could shoot an arrow with the wind behind him; they had horns springing from their heads; their eyes were the eyes of wild-cats, and shone in the dark; they growled like animals, shaking the earth when they did so, and breathing flame; they were at the bedside, at the council-fire, at the banquet, seeming only to wait for a show of enmity to annihilate the tribe.
At length the people could endure their company no longer, and taking down their lodges they left Wallen's Ridge and wandered far away until they came to a valley where no foot had left its impress, and there they besought the Great Spirit to forgive the wrong their medicine-man had done, and to free them from the terrible spirits that had been living among them. The prayer was granted, and the lodges stood for many years in a safe and happy valley.
Here is the myth of Endymion and Diana, as told on the shores of Saginaw Bay, in Michigan, by Indians who never heard of Greeks. Cloud Catcher, a handsome youth of the Ojibways, offended his family by refusing to fast during the ceremony of his coming of age, and was put out of the paternal wigwam. It was so fine a night that the sky served him as well as a roof, and he had a boy's confidence in his ability to make a living, and something of fame and fortune, maybe. He dropped upon a tuft of moss to plan for his future, and drowsily noted the rising of the moon, in which he seemed to see a face. On awaking he found that it was not day, yet the darkness was half dispelled by light that rayed from a figure near him—the form of a lovely woman.
"Cloud Catcher, I have come for you," she said. And as she turned away he felt impelled to rise and follow. But, instead of walking, she began to move into the air with the flight of an eagle, and, endowed with a new power, he too ascended beside her. The earth was dim and vast below, stars blazed as they drew near them, yet the radiance of the woman seemed to dull their glory. Presently they passed through a gate of clouds and stood on a beautiful plain, with crystal ponds and brooks watering noble trees and leagues of flowery meadow; birds of brightest colors darted here and there, singing like flutes; the very stones were agate, jasper, and chalcedony. An immense lodge stood on the plain, and within were embroideries and ornaments, couches of rich furs, pipes and arms cut from jasper and tipped with silver. While the young man was gazing around him with delight, the brother of his guide appeared and reproved her, advising her to send the young man back to earth at once, but, as she flatly refused to do so, he gave a pipe and bow and arrows to Cloud Catcher, as a token of his consent to their marriage, and wished them happiness, which, in fact, they had.
This brother, who was commanding, tall, and so dazzling in his gold and silver ornaments that one could hardly look upon him, was abroad all day, while his sister was absent for a part of the night. He permitted Cloud Catcher to go with him on one of his daily walks, and as they crossed the lovely Sky Land they glanced down through open valley bottoms on the green earth below. The rapid pace they struck gave to Cloud Catcher an appetite and he asked if there were no game. "Patience," counselled his companion. On arriving at a spot where a large hole had been broken through the sky they reclined on mats, and the tall man loosing one of his silver ornaments flung it into a group of children playing before a lodge. One of the little ones fell and was carried within, amid lamentations. Then the villagers left their sports and labors and looked up at the sky. The tall man cried, in a voice of thunder, "Offer a sacrifice and the child shall be well again." A white dog was killed, roasted, and in a twinkling it shot up to the feet of Cloud Catcher, who, being empty, attacked it voraciously.
Many such walks and feasts came after, and the sights of earth and taste of meat filled the mortal with a longing to see his people again. He told his wife that he wanted to go back. She consented, after a time, saying, "Since you are better pleased with the cares, the ills, the labor, and the poverty of the world than with the comfort and abundance of Sky Land, you may return; but remember you are still my husband, and beware how you venture to take an earthly maiden for a wife."
She arose lightly, clasped Cloud Catcher by the wrist, and began to move with him through the air. The motion lulled him and he fell asleep, waking at the door of his father's lodge. His relatives gathered and gave him welcome, and he learned that he had been in the sky for a year. He took the privations of a hunter's and warrior's life less kindly than he thought to, and after a time he enlivened its monotony by taking to wife a bright-eyed girl of his tribe. In four days she was dead. The lesson was unheeded and he married again. Shortly after, he stepped from his lodge one evening and never came back. The woods were filled with a strange radiance on that night, and it is asserted that Cloud Catcher was taken back to the lodge of the Sun and Moon, and is now content to live in heaven.
No one knew how it was that Lizon gained the love of Julienne, at L'Anse Creuse (near Detroit), for she was a girl of sweet and pious disposition, the daughter of a God-fearing farmer, while Lizon was a dark, ill-favored wretch, who had come among the people nobody knew whence, and lived on the profits of a tap-room where the vilest liquor was sold, and where gaming, fighting, and carousing were of nightly occurrence. Perhaps they were right in saying that it was witchcraft. He impudently laid siege to her heart, and when she showed signs of yielding he told her and her friends that he had no intention of marrying her, because he did not believe in religion.
Yet Julienne deserted her comfortable home and went to live with this disreputable scamp in his disreputable tavern, to the scandal of the community, and especially of the priest, who found Lizon's power for evil greater than his own for good, for as the tavern gained in hangers-on the church lost worshippers. One Sunday morning Julienne surprised the people by appearing in church and publicly asking pardon for her wrong-doing. It was the first time she had appeared there since her flight, and she was as one who had roused from a trance or fever-sleep. Her father gladly took her home again, and all went well until New-Year's eve, when the young men called d'Ignolee made the rounds of the settlement to sing and beg meat for the poor—a custom descended from the Druids. They came to the house of Julienne's father and received his welcome and his goods, but their song was interrupted by a cry of distress—Lizon was among the maskers, and Julienne was gone. A crowd of villagers ran to the cabaret and rescued the girl from the room into which the fellow had thrust her, but it was too late—she had lost her reason. Cursing and striking and blaspheming, Lizon was at last confronted by the priest, who told him he had gone too far; that he had been a plague to the people and an enemy to the church. He then pronounced against him the edict of excommunication, and told him that even in his grave he should not rest; that the church, abandoned by so many victims of his wiles and tyrannies, should be swept away.
The priest left the place forthwith, and the morals of the village fell lower and lower. Everything was against it, too. Blight and storm and insect pest ravaged the fields and orchards, as if nature had engaged to make an expression of the iniquity of the place. Suddenly death came upon Lizon. A pit was dug near his tavern and he was placed in a coffin, but as the box was lowered it was felt to grow lighter, while there poured from it a swarm of fat and filthy snakes. The fog that overspread the earth that morning seemed to blow by in human forms, the grave rolled like a wave after it had been covered, and after darkness fell a blue will-o'-the-wisp danced over it. A storm set in, heaping the billows on shore until the church was undermined, and with a crash it fell into the seething flood. But the curse had passed, and when a new chapel was built the old evils had deserted L'Anse Crease.
Not only was Mackinack the birthplace of Hiawatha: it was the home of God himself—Gitchi Manitou, or Mitchi Manitou—who placed there an Indian Adam and Eve to watch and cultivate his gardens. He also made the beaver, that his children might eat, and they acknowledged his goodness in oblations. Bounteous sacrifices insured entrance after death to the happy hunting-grounds beyond the Rocky Mountains. Those who had failed in these offerings were compelled to wander about the Great Lakes, shelterless, and watched by unsleeping giants who were ten times the stature of mortals.
These giants still exist, but in the form of conical rocks, one of which-called Sugar-Loaf, or Manitou's Wigwam—is ninety feet high. A cave in this obelisk is pointed out as Manitou's abiding-place, and it was believed that every other spire in the group had its wraith, whence has come the name of the island—Michillimackinack (place of great dancing spirits). Arch Rock is the place that Manitou built to reach his home from Sunrise Land the better. There were many such monuments of divinities in the north. They are met with all about the lakes and in the wooded wilderness, the most striking one being the magnificent spire of basalt in the Black Hills region of Wyoming. It is known as Devil's Tower, or Mateo's Tepee, and by the red men is held to be the wigwam of a were-animal that can become man at pleasure. This singular rock towers above the Belle Fourche River to a height of eight hundred feet.
Deep beneath Mackinack was a stately and beautiful cavern hall where spirits had their revels. An Indian who got leave to quit his body saw it in company with one of the spirits, and spread glowing reports of its beauties when he had clothed himself in flesh again. When Adam and Eve died they, too, became spirits and continued to watch the home of Manitou.
Now, there is another version of this tradition which gives the, original name of the island as Moschenemacenung, meaning "great turtle." The French missionaries and traders, finding the word something too large a mouthful, softened it to Michillimackinack, and, when the English came, three syllables served them as well as a hundred, so Mackinack it is to this day. Manitou, having made a turtle from a drop of his own sweat, sent it to the bottom of Lake Huron, whence it brought a mouthful of mud, and from this Mackinack was created. As a reward for his service the turtle was allowed to sleep there in the sun forever.
Yet another version has it that the Great Spirit plucked a sand-grain from the primeval ocean, set it floating on those waters, and tended it until it grew so large that a young wolf, running constantly, died of old age before reaching its limits. The sand became the earth. Prophecy has warned the Winnebagoes that Manibozho (Michabo or Hiawatha) shall smite by pestilence at the end of their thirteenth generation. Ten are gone. All shall perish but one pure pair, who will people the recreated world. Manibozho, or Minnebojou, is called a "culture myth," but the Indians have faith in him. They say that he lies asleep on the north shore of Lake Superior, beneath the "hill of four knobs," known as the Sleeping Giant. There offerings are made to him, and it was a hope of his speedy rising that started the Messiah craze in the West in 1890.
There were many water gods about Lake Superior to whom the Indians paid homage, casting implements, ornaments, and tobacco into the water whenever they passed a spot where one of these manitous sat enthroned. At Thunder Cape, on the north shore, lies Manibozho, and in the pillared recess of La Chapelle, among the Pictured Rocks, dwelt powerful rulers of the storm to whose mercy the red men commended themselves with quaint rites whenever they were to set forth on a voyage over the great unsalted sea. At Le Grand Portal were hidden a horde of mischievous imps, among whose pranks was the repetition of every word spoken by the traveller as he rested on his oars beneath this mighty arch. The Chippewas worked the copper mines at Keweenaw Point before the white race had learned of a Western land, but they did so timidly, for they believed that a demon would visit with injury or death the rash mortal who should presume to pillage his treasure, unless he had first bestowed gifts upon him. Even then they went ashore with fear, lighted fires around a surface of native copper, hacked off a few pounds of the softened metal, and ran to their canoes without looking behind them.
There was another bad manitou at the mouth of Superior Bay, where conflicting currents make a pother of waters. This spirit sat on the bottom of the lake, gazing upward, and if any boatman ventured to cross his domain without dropping a pipe or beads or hatchet into it, woe betide him, for his boat would be caught in a current and smashed against a rocky shore. Perhaps the most vexatious god was he who ruled the Floating Islands. These islands were beautiful with trees and flowers, metal shone and crystals sparkled on their ledges, sweet fruits grew in plenty, and song-birds flitted over them. In wonder and delight the hunter would speed toward them in his canoe, but as he neared their turfy banks the jealous manitou, who kept these fairy lands for his own pleasure, would throw down a fog and shut them out of sight. Never could the hunter set foot on them, no matter how long he kept up his search.
On the Pictured Rocks of Lake Superior dwelt an Ojibway woman, a widow, who was cared for by a relative. This relative was a hunter, the husband of an agreeable wife, the father of two bright children. Being of a mean and jealous nature, the widow begrudged every kindness that the hunter showed to his wife—the skins he brought for her clothing, the moose's lip or other dainty that he saved for her; and one day, in a pretence of fine good-nature, the old woman offered to give the younger a swing in a vine pendent from a tree that overhung the lake.
The wife accepted, and, seating herself on the vine, was swayed to and fro, catching her breath, yet laughing as she swept out over the water. When the momentum was greatest the old woman cut the stem. A splash was heard—then all was silent. Returning to the lodge, the hag disguised herself in a dress of the missing woman, and sitting in a shadow, pretended to nurse the infant of the household. The hunter, returning, was a little surprised that his wife should keep her face from him, and more surprised that the old woman did not appear for her share of the food that he had brought; but after their meal he took his little ones to the lake, to enjoy the evening breeze, when the elder burst into tears, declaring that the woman in the lodge was not his mother, and that he feared his own mother was dead or lost.
The hunter hurled his spear into the earth and prayed that, if his wife were dead, her body might be found, so he could mourn over it and give it burial. Instantly a bolt of lightning came from a passing cloud and shot into the lake, while the thunder-peal that followed shook the stones he stood on. It also disturbed the water and presently something was seen rising through it. The man stepped into a thicket and watched. In a few moments a gull arose from the lake and flew to the spot where the children were seated. Around its body was a leather belt, embroidered with beads and quills, which the hunter recognized, and, advancing softly, he caught the bird—that changed at once into the missing woman. The family set forth toward home, and as they entered the lodge the witch—for such she was—looked up, with a start, then uttered a cry of despair. Bending low, she moved her arms in both imprecation and appeal. A moment later a black, ungainly bird flew from the wigwam and passed from sight among the trees. The witch never came back to plague them.
An Indian who lived far in the north was so devoted to the chase that he was never at home for the whole of a day, to the sorrow of his two boys, who liked nothing so much as to sport with him and to be allowed to practise with his weapons. Their mother told them that on no account were they to speak to him of the young man who visited the lodge while their father was away, and it was not until they were well grown and knew what the duty of wives should be that they resolved to disobey her. The hunter struck the woman dead when he learned of her perfidy. So greatly did her spirit trouble them, however, that they could no longer abide in their old home in peace and comfort, and they left the country and journeyed southward until they came to the Sault Sainte Marie.
As they stood beside the falls a head came rolling toward them on the earth—the head of the dead woman. At that moment, too, a crane was seen riding on the surface of the water, whirling about in its strongest eddies, and when one of the boys called to it, "O Grandfather, we are persecuted by a spirit; take us across the falls," the crane flew to them. "Cling to my back and do not touch my head," it said to them, and landed them safely on the farther shore.
But now the head screamed, "Come, grandfather, and carry me over, for I have lost my children and am sorely distressed," and the bird flew to her likewise. "Be careful not to touch my head," it said. The head promised obedience, but succumbed to curiosity when half-way over and touched the bird's head to see what was the matter with him. With a lurch the crane flung off his burden and it fell into the rapids. As it swept down, bumping against the rocks, the brains were pounded out and strewn over the water. "You were useless in life," cried the crane. "You shall not be so in death. Become fish!" And the bits of brain changed to roe that presently hatched to a delicate white fish, the flesh whereof is esteemed by Indians of the lakes, and white men, likewise. The family pitched a lodge near the spot and took the crane as their totem or name-mark. Many of their descendants bear it to this day.
Among the lumbermen of Alger, Michigan, was William Cloud, an Indian, usually called Cloudy, who was much employed on a chute a mile and a half out of the village. The rains were heavy one spring, and a large raft of logs had been floated down to the chute, where they were held back by a gate until it was time to send them through in a mass. When the creek had reached its maximum height the foreman gave word to the log-drivers to lower the gate and let the timber down. This order came on a chilly April night, and, as it was pitchy dark and rain was falling in sheets, the lumbermen agreed to draw cuts to decide which of them should venture out and start the logs. Cloudy drew the fatal slip. He was a quiet fellow, and without a word he opened the door, bent against the storm, and passed into the darkness. An hour went by, and the men in the cabin laughed as they described the probable appearance of their comrade when he should return, soaked through and through, and they wondered if he was waiting in some shelter beside the path for the middle of the night to pass, for the Indians believed that an evil spirit left the stream every night and was abroad until that hour.
As time lengthened the jest and talk subsided and a moody silence supervened. At length one of the number resolved to sally out and see if any mishap had fallen to the Indian. He was joined by three others, and the party repaired to the creek. Above the chute it was seen that the gate—which was released by the withdrawal of iron pins and sank of its own weight-had not quite settled into place, and by the light of a lantern held near the surface of the rushing current an obstruction could be dimly seen. The gate was slightly raised and the object drawn up with pike-poles. It was the mangled body of Cloudy. He was buried beside the creek; but the camp was soon abandoned and the chute is in decay, for between the hours of ten and twelve each night the wraith of the Indian, accompanied by the bad spirit of the stream, ranges through the wood, his form shining blue in the gloom, his groans sounding above the swish and lap of the waters.
Father Marquette reached Sault Sainte Marie, in company with Greysolon Du Lhut, in August, 1670, and was received in a manner friendly enough, but the Chippewas warned him to turn back from that point, for the Ojibways beyond were notoriously hostile to Europeans, their chief—White Otter—having taken it on himself to revenge, by war, his father's desertion of his mother. His father was a Frenchman. Inspired by his mission, and full of the enthusiasm of youth and of the faith that had led him safely through a host of dangers and troubles, Marquette refused to change his plans, and even ventured the assertion that he could tame the haughty Otter and bring him to the cross. At dawn he and his doughty henchman set off in a war-canoe, but, on arriving in White Otter's camp and speaking their errand, they were seized and bound, to await death on the morrow. The wife of the chief spoke, out of the kindness of her heart, and asked mercy for the white men. To no avail. The brute struck her to the ground. That night his daughter, Wanena, who had seen Du Lhut at the trading post and had felt the stir of a generous sentiment toward him, appeared before the prisoners when sleep was heaviest in the camp, cut their bonds, led them by an obscure path to the river, where she enjoined them to enter a canoe, and guided the boat to the Holy Isle. This was where the Ojibways came to lay offerings before the image of Manitou, whose home was there believed to be. There the friendly red men would be sure to find and rescue them, she thought, and after a few hours of sleep she led them into a secluded glen where stood the figure rudely carved from a pine trunk, six feet high, and tricked with gewgaws. As they stood there, stealthy steps were heard, and before they could conceal themselves White Otter and eight of his men were upon them. Du Lhut grasped a club from among the weapons that—with other offerings—strewed the earth at the statue's feet and prepared to sell his life dearly. The priest drew forth his crucifix and prayed. The girl dropped to the ground, drew her blanket over her head, and began to sing her death-song.
"So the black-coat and the woman-stealer have come to die before the Indian's god?" sneered the chief.
"If it be God's will, we will die defying your god and you," replied Marquette. "Yet we fear not death, and if God willed he could deliver us as easily as he could destroy that worthless image." He spoke in an undertone to Du Lhut, and continued, confidently, "challenge your god to withstand mine. I shall pray my God to send his fire from the sky and burn this thing. If he does so will you set us free and become a Christian?"
"I will; but if you fail, you die."
"And if I win you must pardon your daughter."
White Otter grunted his assent.
The sun was high and brought spicy odors from the wood; an insect hummed drowsily, and a bird-song echoed from the distance. Unconscious of what was being enacted about her, Wanena kept rocking to and fro, singing her death-song, and waiting the blow that would stretch her at her father's feet. The savages gathered around the image and watched it with eager interest. Raising his crucifix with a commanding gesture, the priest strode close to the effigy, and in a loud voice cried, in Chippewa, "In the name of God, I command fire to destroy this idol!"
A spot of light danced upon the breast of the image. It grew dazzling bright and steady. Then a smoke began to curl from the dry grass and feathers it was decked with. The Indians fell back in amazement, and when a faint breeze passed, fanning the sparks into flame, they fell on their faces, trembling with apprehension, for Marquette declared, "As my God treats this idol, so can he treat you!"
Then, looking up to see the manitou in flames, White Otter exclaimed, "The white man's God has won. Spare us, O mighty medicine!"
"I will do so, if you promise to become as white men in the faith and be baptized." Tamed by fear, the red men laid aside their weapons and knelt at a brook where Marquette, gathering water in his hands, gave the rite of baptism to each, and laid down the moral law they were to live by. Wanena, who had fainted from sheer fright when she saw the idol burning, was restored, and it may be added that the priest who Christianized her also married her to Du Lhut, who prospered and left his name to the city of the lake. News of the triumph of the white men's God went far and wide, and Marquette found his missions easier after that. Du Lhut alone, of all those present, was in the father's secret. He had perpetrated a pious fraud, justified by the results as well as by his peril. A burning-glass had been fastened to the crucifix, and with that he had destroyed the idol.
Trading thus on native ignorance a Frenchman named Lyons at another time impressed the Indians at Dubuque and gained his will by setting a creek on fire. They did not know that he had first poured turpentine over it.
The Indian demi-god, Sleeping Bear, had a daughter so beautiful that he kept her out of the sight of men in a covered boat that swung on Detroit River, tied to a tree on shore; but the Winds, having seen her when her father had visited her with food, contended so fiercely to possess her that the little cable was snapped and the boat danced on to the keeper of the water-gates, who lived at the outlet of Lake Huron. The keeper, filled with admiration for the girl's beauty, claimed the boat and its charming freight, but he had barely received her into his lodge when the angry Winds fell upon him, buffeting him so sorely that he died, and was buried on Peach Island (properly Isle au Peche), where his spirit remained for generations—an oracle sought by Indians before emprise in war. His voice had the sound of wind among the reeds, and its meanings could not be told except by those who had prepared themselves by fasting and meditation to receive them. Before planning his campaign against the English, Pontiac fasted here for seven days to "clear his ear" and hear the wisdom of the sighing voice.
But the Winds were not satisfied with the slaying of the keeper. They tore away his meadows and swept them out as islands. They smashed the damsel's boat and the little bark became Belle Isle. Here Manitou placed the girl, and set a girdle of vicious snakes around the shore to guard her and to put a stop to further contests. These islands in the straits seem to have been favorite places of exile and theatres of transformation. The Three Sisters are so called because of three Indian women who so scolded and wrangled that their father was obliged to separate them and put one on each of the islands for the sake of peace.
It was at Belle Isle that the red men had put up and worshipped a natural stone image. Hearing of this idol, on reaching Detroit, Dollier and De Galinee crossed over to it, tore it down, smashed it, flung the bigger piece of it into the river, and erected a cross in its place. The sunken portion of the idol called aloud to the faithful, who had assembled to wonder at the audacity of the white men and witness their expected punishment by Manitou, and told them to cast in the other portions. They did so, and all the fragments united and became a monster serpent that kept the place from further intrusion. Later, when La Salle ascended the straits in his ship, the Griffin, the Indians on shore invoked the help of this, their manitou, and strange forms arose from the water that pushed the ship into the north, her crew vainly singing hymns with a hope of staying the demoniac power.
Long were the shores of Detroit vexed by the Snake God of Belle Isle and his children, the witches, for the latter sold enchantments and were the terror of good people. Jacques Morand, the coureur de bois, was in love with Genevieve Parent, but she disliked him and wished only to serve the church. Courting having proved of no avail, he resolved on force when she had decided to enter a convent, and he went to one of the witches, who served as devil's agent, to sell his soul. The witch accepted the slight commodity and paid for it with a grant of power to change from a man's form to that of a were-wolf, or loup garou, that he might the easier bear away his victim. Incautiously, he followed her to Grosse Pointe, where an image of the Virgin had been set up, and as Genevieve dropped at the feet of the statue to implore aid, the wolf, as he leaped to her side, was suddenly turned to stone.
Harder was the fate of another maiden, Archange Simonet, for she was seized by a were-wolf at this place and hurried away while dancing at her own wedding. The bridegroom devoted his life to the search for her, and finally lost his reason, but he prosecuted the hunt so vengefully and shrewdly that he always found assistance. One of the neighbors cut off the wolf's tail with a silver bullet, the appendage being for many years preserved by the Indians. The lover finally came upon the creature and chased it to the shore, where its footprint is still seen in one of the bowlders, but it leaped into the water and disappeared. In his crazy fancy the lover declared that it had jumped down the throat of a catfish, and that is why the French Canadians have a prejudice against catfish as an article of diet.
The man-wolf dared as much for gain as for love. On the night that Jean Chiquot got the Indians drunk and bore off their beaver-skins, the wood witches, known as "the white women," fell upon him and tore a part of his treasure from him, while a were-wolf pounced so hard on his back that he lost more. He drove the creatures to a little distance, but was glad to be safe inside of the fort again, though the officers laughed at him and called him a coward. When they went back over the route with him they were astonished to find the grass scorched where the women had fled before him, and little springs in the turf showed where they had been swallowed up. Sulphur-water was bubbling from the spot where the wolf dived into the earth when the trader's rosary fell out of his jacket. Belle Fontaine, the spot was called, long afterward.
When the Hurons came to Sandwich, opposite the Michigan shore, in 1806, and camped near the church for the annual "festival of savages," which was religious primarily, but incidentally gastronomic, athletic, and alcoholic, an old woman of the tribe foretold to Angelique Couture that, ere long, blood would be shed freely and white men and Indians would take each other's lives. That was a reasonably safe prophecy in those days, and, though Angelique repeated it to her friends, she did not worry over it. But when the comet of 1812 appeared the people grew afraid—and with cause, for the war soon began with England. The girl's brothers fought under the red flag; her lover, Francois Navarre, under the stars and stripes.
The cruel General Proctor one day passed through Sandwich with prisoners on his way to the Hurons, who were to put them to death in the usual manner. As they passed by, groaning in anticipation of their fate, foot-sore and covered with dust, Angelique nearly swooned, for among them she recognized her lover. He, too, had seen her, and the recognition had been noticed by Proctor. Whether his savage heart was for the moment softened by their anguish, or whether he wished to heighten their pain by a momentary taste of joy, it is certain that on reaching camp he paroled Francrois until sunset. The young man hastened to the girl's house, and for one hour they were sadly happy. She tried to make him break his parole and escape, but he refused, and as the sun sank he tore himself from her arms and hastened to rejoin his companions in misery.
His captors admired him for this act of honor, and had he so willed he could have been then and there received into their tribe. As it was, they allowed him to remain unbound. Hardly had the sun gone down when a number of boats drew up at the beach with another lot of prisoners, and with yells of rejoicing the Indians ran to the river to drive them into camp. Francois's opportunity was brief, but he seized it. In the excitement he had been unobserved. He was not under oath now, and with all speed he dashed into the wood. Less than a minute had elapsed before his absence was discovered, but he was a cunning woodman, and by alternately running and hiding, with gathering darkness in his favor, he had soon put the savages at a distance.
A band of English went to Angelique's home, thinking that he would be sure to rejoin her; but he was too shrewd for that, and it was in vain that they fired guns up the chimneys and thrust bayonets into beds. Angelique was terrified at this intrusion, but the men had been ordered not to injure the woman, and she was glad, after all, to think that Francois had escaped. Some days later one of the Hurons came to her door and pointed significantly to a fresh scalp that hung at his belt. In the belief that it was her lover's she grew ill and began to fade, but one evening there came a faint tap at the door. She opened it to find a cap on the door-step.
There was no writing, yet her heart rose in her bosom and the color came back to her cheeks, for she recognized it as her lover's. Later, she learned that Francois had kept to the forest until he reached the site of Walkerville, where he had found a canoe and reached the American side in safety. She afterward rejoined him in Detroit, and they were married at the end of the war, through which he served with honor and satisfaction to himself, being enabled to pay many old scores against the red-coats and the Indians.
In 1868 there died in Detroit a woman named Marie Louise Thebault, more usually called Kennette. She was advanced in years, and old residents remembered when she was one of the quaintest figures and most assertive spirits in the town, for until a few years before her death she was rude of speech, untidy in appearance, loved nothing or respected nothing unless it might be her violin and her money, and lived alone in a little old house on the river-road to Springwells. Though she made shoes for a living, she was of so miserly a nature that she accepted food from her neighbors, and in order to save the expense of light and fuel she spent her evenings out. Yet she read more or less, and was sufficiently acquainted with Volney, Voltaire, and other skeptics to shock her church acquaintances. Love of gain, not of company, induced her to lease one of her rooms to a pious old woman, from whom she got not only a little rent, but the incidental use of her fuel and light.
When the pious one tried to win her to the church it angered her, and then, too, she had a way of telling ghost stories that Kennette laughed at. One of these narratives that she would dwell on with especial self-conviction was that of Lieutenant Muir, who had left his mistress, when she said No to his pleadings, supposing that she spoke the truth, whereas she was merely trying to be coquettish.
He fell in an attack on the Americans that night, and came back, bleeding, to the girl who had made him throw his life away; he pressed her hand, leaving the mark of skeleton fingers there, so that she always kept it gloved afterward. Then there was the tale of the two men of Detroit who were crushed by a falling tree: the married one, who was not fatally hurt, begged his mate to call his wife, as soon as his soul was free, and the woman, hearing the mournful voice at her door, as the spirit passed on its way to space, ran out and rescued her husband from his plight. She told, too, of the feu follet, or will-o'-the-wisp, that led a girl on Grosse Isle to the swamp where her lover was engulfed in mire and enabled her to rescue him. There was Grand'mere Duchene, likewise, who worked at her spinning-wheel for many a night after death, striking fear to her son's heart, by its droning, because he had not bought the fifty masses for the repose of her soul, but when he had fulfilled the promise she came no more. Another yarn was about the ghost-boat of hunter Sebastian that ascends the straits once in seven years, celebrating his return, after death, in accordance with the promise made to Zoe, his betrothed, that—dead or alive—he would return to her from the hunt at a certain time.
To all this Kennette turned the ear of scorning. "Bah!" she cried. "I don't believe your stories. I don't believe in your hell and your purgatory. If you die first, come back. If I should, and I can, I will come. Then we may know whether there is another world."
The bargain was made to this effect, but the women did not get on well together, and soon Kennette had an open quarrel with her lodger that ended by her declaring that she never could forgive her, but that she would hold her to her after-death compact. The lodger died, and while talking of her death at the house of a neighbor a boy, who had arrived from town, casually asked Kennette—knowing her saving ways—why she had left the light burning in her house. Grasping a poker, she set off at once to punish the intruder who had dared to enter in her absence, but when she arrived there was no light. On several evenings the light was reported by others, but as she was gadding in the neighborhood she never saw it until, one night, resolved to see for herself, she returned early, softly entered at the back door, and went to bed. Hardly had she done so when she saw a light coming up-stairs. Sitting bolt upright in bed she waited. The light came up noiselessly and presently stood in the room—not a lantern or candle, but a white phosphorescence. It advanced toward her, changing its form until she saw a cloudy likeness to a human being. For the first time in her life she feared. "Come no nearer!" she cried. "I know you. I believe you, and I forgive."
The light vanished. From that night it was remarked that Kennette began to age fast—she began to change and become more like other women. She went to church and her face grew softer and kinder. It was the only time that she saw the spirit, but the effect of the visit was permanent.
Among all the impish offspring of the Stone God, wizards and witches, that made Detroit feared by the early settlers, none were more dreaded than the Nain Rouge (Red Dwarf), or Demon of the Strait, for it appeared only when there was to be trouble. In that it delighted. It was a shambling, red-faced creature, with a cold, glittering eye and teeth protruding from a grinning mouth. Cadillac, founder of Detroit, having struck at it, presently lost his seigniory and his fortunes. It was seen scampering along the shore on the night before the attack on Bloody Run, when the brook that afterward bore this name turned red with the blood of soldiers. People saw it in the smoky streets when the city was burned in 1805, and on the morning of Hull's surrender it was found grinning in the fog. It rubbed its bony knuckles expectantly when David Fisher paddled across the strait to see his love, Soulange Gaudet, in the only boat he could find—a wheel-barrow, namely—but was sobered when David made a safe landing.
It chuckled when the youthful bloods set off on Christmas day to race the frozen strait for the hand of buffer Beauvais's daughter Claire, but when her lover's horse, a wiry Indian nag, came pacing in it fled before their happiness. It was twice seen on the roof of the stable where that sour-faced, evil-eyed old mumbler, Jean Beaugrand, kept his horse, Sans Souci—a beast that, spite of its hundred years or more, could and did leap every wall in Detroit, even the twelve-foot stockade of the fort, to steal corn and watermelons, and that had been seen in the same barn, sitting at a table, playing seven-up with his master, and drinking a liquor that looked like melted brass. The dwarf whispered at the sleeping ear of the old chief who slew Friar Constantine, chaplain of the fort, in anger at the teachings that had parted a white lover from his daughter and led her to drown herself—a killing that the red man afterward confessed, because he could no longer endure the tolling of a mass bell in his ears and the friar's voice in the wind.
The Nain Rouge it was who claimed half of the old mill, on Presque Isle, that the sick and irritable Josette swore that she would leave to the devil when her brother Jean pestered her to make her will in his favor, giving him complete ownership. On the night of her death the mill was wrecked by a thunder-bolt, and a red-faced imp was often seen among the ruins, trying to patch the machinery so as to grind the devil's grist. It directed the dance of black cats in the mill at Pont Rouge, after the widow's curse had fallen on Louis Robert, her brother-in-law. This man, succeeding her husband as director of the property, had developed such miserly traits that she and her children were literally starved to death, but her dying curse threw such ill luck on the place and set afloat such evil report about it that he took himself away. The Nain Rouge may have been the Lutin that took Jacques L'Esperance's ponies from the stable at Grosse Pointe, and, leaving no tracks in sand or snow, rode them through the air all night, restoring them at dawn quivering with fatigue, covered with foam, bloody with the lash of a thorn-bush. It stopped that exercise on the night that Jacques hurled a font of holy water at it, but to keep it away the people of Grosse Pointe still mark their houses with the sign of a cross.
It was lurking in the wood on the day that Captain Dalzell went against Pontiac, only to perish in an ambush, to the secret relief of his superior, Major Gladwyn, for the major hoped to win the betrothed of Dalzell; but when the girl heard that her lover had been killed at Bloody Run, and his head had been carried on a pike, she sank to the ground never to rise again in health, and in a few days she had followed the victims of the massacre. There was a suspicion that the Nain Rouge had power to change his shape for one not less offensive. The brothers Tremblay had no luck in fishing through the straits and lakes until one of them agreed to share his catch with St. Patrick, the saint's half to be sold at the church-door for the benefit of the poor and for buying masses to relieve souls in purgatory. His brother doubted if this benefit would last, and feared that they might be lured into the water and turned into fish, for had not St. Patrick eaten pork chops on a Friday, after dipping them into holy water and turning them into trout? But his good brother kept on and prospered and the bad one kept on grumbling. Now, at Grosse Isle was a strange thing called the rolling muff, that all were afraid of, since to meet it was a warning of trouble; but, like the feu follet, it could be driven off by holding a cross toward it or by asking it on what day of the month came Christmas. The worse of the Tremblays encountered this creature and it filled him with dismay. When he returned his neighbors observed an odor—not of sanctity—on his garments, and their view of the matter was that he had met a skunk. The graceless man felt convinced, however, that he had received a devil's baptism from the Nain Rouge, and St. Patrick had no stancher allies than both the Tremblays, after that.
It is no more possible to predicate the conduct of an Indian than that of a woman. In Detroit lived Wasson, one of the warriors of the dreaded Pontiac, who had felt some tender movings of the spirit toward a girl of his tribe. The keeper of the old red mill that stood at the foot of Twenty-fourth Street adopted her, with the consent of her people, and did his best to civilize her. But Wasson kept watch. He presently discovered that whenever the miller was away a candle shone in the window until a figure wrapped in a military cloak emerged from the shadows, knocked, and was admitted. On the night that Wasson identified his rival as Colonel Campbell, an English officer, he stole into the girl's room through the window and cut her down with his hatchet. Colonel Campbell, likewise, he slew after Pontiac had made prisoners of the garrison. The mill was shunned, after that, for the figure of a girl, with a candle in her hand, frightened so many people by moving about the place that it was torn down in 1795.
But the red man was not always hostile. Kenen, a Huron, loved a half-breed girl, whom he could never persuade into a betrothal. One day he accidentally wounded a white man in the wood, and lifting him on his shoulder he hurried with him to camp. It was not long before he found that the soft glances of the half-breed girl were doing more to cure his victim than the incantations of the medicine-man, and in a fit of anger, one day, he plucked forth his knife and fell upon the couple. Her look of innocent surprise shamed him. He rushed away, with an expression of self-contempt, and flung his weapon far into the river. Soon after, the white man was captured by the Iroquois. They were preparing to put him to the torture when a tall Indian leaped in among them, with the cry, "I am Kenen. Let the pale face go, for a Huron chief will take his place." And, as the bonds fell from the prisoner's wrists and ankles, he added, "Go and comfort the White Fawn." The white man was allowed to enter a canoe and row away, but as he did so his heart misgave him: the words of a deathsong and the crackling of flames had reached his ears.
The story of Hiawatha—known about the lakes as Manabozho and in the East as Glooskapis the most widely disseminated of the Indian legends. He came to earth on a Messianic mission, teaching justice, fortitude, and forbearance to the red men, showing them how to improve their handicraft, ridding the woods and hills of monsters, and finally going up to heaven amid cries of wonder from those on whose behalf he had worked and counselled. He was brought up as a child among them, took to wife the Dakota girl, Minnehaha ("Laughing Water"), hunted, fought, and lived as a warrior; yet, when need came, he could change his form to any shape of bird, fish, or plant that he wished. He spoke to friends in the voice of a woman and to enemies in tones like thunder. A giant in form, few dared to resist him in battle, yet he suffered the common pains and adversities of his kind, and while fishing in one of the great lakes in his white stone canoe, that moved whither he willed it, he and his boat were swallowed by the king of fishes. He killed the creature by beating at its heart with a stone club, and when the gulls had preyed on its flesh, as it lay floating on the surface, until he could see daylight, he clambered through the opening they had made and returned to his lodge.
Believing that his father had killed his mother, he fought against him for several days, driving him to the edge of the world before peace was made between them. The evil Pearl Feather had slain one of his relatives, and to avenge that crime Hiawatha pressed through a guard of fire-breathing serpents which surrounded that fell personage, shot them with arrows as they struck at him, and having thus reached the lodge of his enemy he engaged him in combat. All day long they battled to no purpose, but toward evening a woodpecker flew overhead and cried, "Your enemy has but one vulnerable point. Shoot at his scalp-lock." Hiawatha did so and his foe fell dead. Anointing his finger with the blood of his foe, he touched the bird, and the red mark is found on the head of every woodpecker to this day. A duck having led him a long chase when he was trying to capture it for food, he angrily kicked it, thus flattening its back, bowing its legs, despoiling it of half of its tail-feathers, and that is why, to this day, ducks are awkward.
In return for its service in leading him to where the prince of serpents lived, he invested the kingfisher with a medal and rumpled the feathers of its head in putting it on; hence all kingfishers have rumpled knots and white spots on their breasts. After slaying the prince of serpents he travelled all over America, doing good work, and on reaching Onondaga he organized a friendly league of thirteen tribes that endured for many years. This closed his mission. As he stood in the assemblage of chiefs a white bird, appearing at an immense height, descended like a meteor, struck Hiawatha's daughter with such force as to drive her remains into the earth and shattered itself against the ground. Its silvery feathers were scattered, and these were preserved by the beholders as ornaments for their hair—so the custom of wearing feather head-dresses endures to our time. Though filled with consternation, Hiawatha recognized the summons. He addressed his companions in tones of such sweetness and terms of such eloquence as had never been heard before, urging them to live uprightly and to enforce good laws, and unhappy circumstance!—promising to come back when the time was ripe. The expectancy of his return has led to ghost-dances and similar demonstrations of enmity against the whites. When he had ended he entered his stone canoe and began to rise in air to strains of melting music. Higher and higher he arose, the white vessel shining in the sunlight, until he disappeared in the spaces of the sky.
Incidents of the Hiawatha legend are not all placed, but he is thought to have been born near the great lakes, perhaps at Mackinack. Some legends, indeed, credit him with making his home at Mackinack, and from that point, as a centre, making a new earth around him. The fight with his father began on the upper Mississippi, and the bowlders found along its banks were their missiles. The south shore of Lake Superior was the scene of his conflict with the serpents. He hunted the great beaver around Lake Superior and brought down his dam at the Sault Sainte Marie. A depression in a rock on the southern edge of Michipicotea Bay is where he alighted after a jump across the lake. In a larger depression, near Thunder Bay, he sat when smoking his last pipe. The big rocks on the east side of Grand Traverse Bay, near Antrim City, Michigan, are the bones of a stone monster that he slew.
So trifling an incident as the kicking of the duck has been localized at Lake Itasca. [It is worth passing mention that this name, which sounds as if it were of Indian origin, is held by some to be composed of the last syllables of veritas and the first letters of caput, these words-signifying "the true head"—being applied by early explorers as showing that they were confident of having found the actual source of the Mississippi.] Minnehaha lived near the fall in Minneapolis that bears her name. The final apotheosis took place on the shores of Lake Onondaga, New York, though Hiawatha lies buried under a mountain, three miles long, on the east side of Thunder Bay, Lake Superior, which, from the water, resembles a man lying on his back. The red man makes oblation, as he rows past, by dropping a pinch of tobacco into the water. Some say that Hiawatha now lives at the top of the earth, amid the ice, and directs the sun. He has to live in a cold country because, if he were to return, he would set the earth on fire with his footsteps.
The promise of the return to earth of various benign spirits has caused much trouble among the red men, and incidentally to the white men who are the objects of their fanatic dislike. The New Mexicans believed that when the Emperor Montezuma was about to leave the earth he planted a tree and bade them watch it, for when it fell he would come back in glory and lead them to victory, wealth, and power. The watch was kept in secret on account of the determination of the Spaniards to breakup all fealty to tribal heroes and traditions. As late as 1781 they executed a sentence of death on a descendant of the Peruvian Incas for declaring his royal origin. When Montezuma's tree fell the people gathered on the house-tops to watch the east-in vain, for the white man was there. In 1883 the Sanpoels, a small tribe in Washington, were stirred by the teaching of an old chief, who told them that the wicked would soon be destroyed, and that the Great Spirit had ordered him to build an ark for his people. The remains of this vessel, two hundred and eighty-eight feet long, are still to be seen near one of the tributaries of the Columbia.
A frenzy swept over the West in 1890, inspiring the Indians by promise of the coming of one of superhuman power, who was generally believed to be Hiawatha, to threaten the destruction of the white population, since it had been foretold that the Messiah would drive the white men from their land. Early in the summer of that year it was reported that the Messiah had appeared in the north, and the chiefs of many tribes went to Dakota, as the magi did to Bethlehem, to learn if this were true. Sitting Bull, the Sioux chief, told them, in assembly, that it was so, and declared that he had seen the new Christ while hunting in the Shoshone Mountains. One evening he lost his way and was impelled by a strange feeling to follow a star that moved before him. At daybreak it paused over a beautiful valley, and, weary with his walk, he sank on a bed of moss. As he sat there throngs of Indian warriors appeared and began a spirit dance, led by chiefs who had long been dead. Presently a voice spoke in his ear, and turning he saw a strange man dressed in white. The man said he was the same Christ who had come into the world nineteen hundred years before to save white men, and that now he would save the red men by driving out the whites. The Indians were to dance the ghost-dance, or spirit dance, until the new moon, when the globe would shiver, the wind would glow, and the white soldiers and their horses would sink into the earth. The Messiah showed to Sitting Bull the nail-wounds in his hands and feet and the spear-stab in his side. When night came on the form in white had disappeared—and, returning, the old chief taught the ghost-dance to his people.
Surmounting Red Banks, twelve miles north of Green Bay, Wisconsin, on the eastern shore, and one hundred feet above the water, stands an earthwork that the first settlers found there when they went into that country. It was built by the Sauks and Outagamies, a family that ruled the land for many years, rousing the jealousy of neighboring tribes by their wealth and power. The time came, as it did in the concerns of nearly every band of Indians, when war was declared against this family, and the enemy came upon them in the darkness, their canoes patroling the shore while the main body formed a line about the fort. So silently was this done that but one person discovered it—a squaw, who cried, "We are all dead!"
There was nothing to see or hear, and she was rated for alarming the camp with foolish dreams; but dawn revealed the beleaguering line, and at the lifting of the sun a battle began that lasted for days, those within the earthworks sometimes fighting while ankle-deep in the blood of their fellows. The greatest lack of the besieged was that of water, and they let down earthen jars to the lake to get it, but the cords were cut ere they could be drawn up, the enemy shouting, derisively, "Come down and drink!" Several times they tried to do so, but were beaten back at every sally, and it seemed at last as if extermination was to be their fate.
When matters were at their darkest one of the young men who had been fasting for ten days—the Indian custom when divine direction was sought addressed his companions to this effect: "Last night there stood by me the form of a young man, clothed in white, who said, 'I was once alive, but I died, and now I live forever. Trust me and I will deliver you. Be fearless. At midnight I will cast a sleep on your enemies. Go forth boldly and you shall escape.'" The condition was too desperate to question any means of freedom, and that night all but a handful of disbelievers left the fort, while the enemy was in a slumber of exhaustion, and got away in safety. When the besiegers, in the morning, found that the fort had been almost deserted, they fell on the few that remained to repent their folly, and put them to the knife and axe, for their fury was excessive at the failure of the siege.
Any of the noble rivers and secluded lakes of Wisconsin were held in esteem or fear by the northern tribes, and it was the now-forgotten events and superstitions connected with them, not less than the frontier tendency for strong names, that gave a lurid and diabolical nomenclature to parts of this region. Devils, witches, magicians, and manitous were perpetuated, and Indians whose prowess was thought to be supernatural left dim records of themselves here and there—as near the dells of the Wisconsin, where a chasm fifty feet wide is shown as the ravine leaped by chief Black Hawk when flying from the whites. Devil's Lake was the home of a manitou who does not seem to have been a particularly evil genius, though he had unusual power. The lake fills what is locally regarded as the crater of an extinct volcano, and the coldness and purity kept by the water, in spite of its lacking visible inlets or outlets, was one cause for thinking it uncanny.
This manitou piled the heavy blocks of Devil's Door-Way and set up Black Monument and the Pedestalled Bowlder as thrones where he might sit and view the landscape by day—for the Indians appreciated the beautiful in nature and supposed their gods did, too—while at night he could watch the dance of the frost spirits, the aurora borealis. Cleft Rock was sundered by one of his darts aimed at an offending Indian, who owed his life to the manitou's bad aim. The Sacrifice Stone is shown where, at another time, a girl was immolated to appease his anger. Cleopatra's Needle, as it is now called, is the body of an ancient chief, who was turned into stone as a punishment for prying into the mysteries of the lake, a stone on East Mountain being the remains of a squaw who had similarly offended. On the St. Croix the Devil's Chair is pointed out where he sat in state. He had his play spells, too, as you may guess when you see his toboggan slide in Weber Canon, Utah, while Cinnabar Mountain, in the Yellowstone country, he scorched red as he coasted down.
The hunter wandering through this Wisconsin wilderness paused when he came within sight of the lake, for all game within its precincts was in the manitou's protection; not a fish might be taken, and not even a drop of water could be dipped to cool the lips of the traveller. So strong was this fear of giving offence to the manitou that Indians who were dying of wounds or illness, and were longing for a swallow of water, would refuse to profane the lake by touching their lips to it.
Keusca was a village of the Dakota Indians on the Wisconsin bluffs of the Mississippi eighteen hundred miles from its mouth. The name means, to overthrow, or set aside, for it was here that a tribal law was broken. Sacred Wind was a coquette of that village, for whose hand came many young fellows wooing with painted faces. For her they played the bone flute in the twilight, and in the games they danced and leaped their hardest and shot their farthest and truest when she was looking on. Though they amused her she cared not a jot for these suitors, keeping her love for the young brave named the Shield—and keeping it secret, for he was her cousin, and cousins might not wed. If a relative urged her to marry some young fellow for whom she had no liking, she would answer that if forced to do so she would fling herself into the river, and spoke of Winonah and Lovers' Leap.
She was afraid to wed the Shield, for the medicine-men had threatened all who dared to break the marriage laws with unearthly terrors; yet when the Shield had been absent for several weeks on the war-path she realized that life without his companionship was too hollow to be endured—and she admired him all the more when he returned with two scalps hanging at his belt. He renewed his wooing. He allayed her fears by assurances that he, too, was a medicine-man and could counteract the spells that wizards might cast on them. Then she no longer repressed the promptings of her heart, but yielded to his suit. They agreed to elope that night.
As they left the little clearing in the wood where their interview had taken place, a thicket stirred and a girl stole from it, looking intently at their retreating forms. The Swan, they had named her; but, with a flush in her dusky cheeks, her brows dark, her eyes glittering, she more recalled the vulture—for she, too, loved the Shield; and she had now seen and heard that her love was hopeless. That evening she alarmed the camp; she told the parents of Sacred Wind of the threatened violation of custom, and the father rose in anger to seek her. It was too late, for the flight had taken place. The Swan went to the river and rowed out in a canoe. From the middle of the stream she saw a speck on the water to the southward, and knew it to be Sacred Wind and her lover, henceforth husband. She watched until the speck faded in the twilight—then leaning over the side of the boat she capsized it, and passed from the view of men.
Pipestone, a smooth, hard, even-textured clay, of lively color, from which thousands of red men cut their pipe-bowls, forms a wall on the Coteau des Prairies, in Minnesota, that is two miles long and thirty feet high. In front of it lie five bowlders, the droppings from an iceberg to the floor of the primeval sea, and beneath these masses of granite live the spirits of two squaws that must be consulted before the stone can be dug. This quarry was neutral ground, and here, as they approached it, the men of all tribes sheathed their knives and belted up their axes, for to this place the Great Spirit came to kill and eat the buffalo, and it is the blood of this animal that has turned the stone to red. Here, too, the Thunder Bird had her nest, and her brood rent the skies above it with the clashing of their iron wings.
A snake having crawled into this nest to steal the unhatched thunders, Manitou caught up a piece of pipestone, hastily pressed it between his hands, giving it the shape of a man, and flung it at the reptile. The stone man's feet stuck fast in the ground, and there he stood for a thousand years, growing like a tree and drawing strength and knowledge out of the earth. Another shape grew up beside him—woman. In time the snake gnawed them free from their foundations and the red-earth pair wandered off together. From them sprang all people.
Ages after, the Manitou called the red men to the quarry, fashioned a pipe for them, told them it was a part of their flesh, and smoked it over them, blowing the smoke to north, south, east, and west, in token that wherever the influence of the pipe extended there was to be brotherhood and peace. The place was to be sacred from war and they were to make their pipes from this rock. As the smoke rolled about him he gradually disappeared from view. At the last whiff the ashes fell out and the surface of the rock for miles burst into flame, so that it melted and glazed. Two ovens opened at its foot, and through the fire entered the two spirits Tsomecostee and Tsomecostewondee—that are still its guardians, answering the invocations of the medicine-men and accepting the oblations of those who go to make pipes or carve their totems on the rock.
A game of lacrosse was played by Indian girls on the ice near the present Fort Snelling, one winter day, and the victorious trophies were awarded to Wenonah, sister of the chief, to the discomfiture of Harpstenah, her opponent, an ill-favored woman, neglected by her tribe, and jealous of Wenonah's beauty and popularity. This defeat, added to some fancied slights, was almost more than she could bear, and during the contest she had been cut in the head by one of the rackets—an accident that she falsely attributed to her adversary in the game. She had an opportunity of proving her hatred, for directly that it was known how Wenonah had refused to marry Red Cloud, a stalwart boaster, openly preferring a younger warrior of the tribe, the ill-thinking Harpstenah sought out the disappointed suitor, who sat moodily apart, and thus advised him, "To-morrow is the Feast of Virgins, when all who are pure will sit at meat together. Wenonah will be there. Has she the right to be? Have you not seen how shamelessly she favors your rival's suit? Among the Dakotas to accuse is to condemn, and the girl who is accused at the Virgins' Feast is disgraced forever. She has shown for Red Cloud nothing but contempt. If he shows no anger at it the girls will laugh at him."
With this she turned away and left Red Cloud to his meditations. Wenonah, at the door of her brother's wigwam, looked into the north and saw the stars grow pale through streams of electric fire. "The Woman of the North warns us of coming evil," muttered the chief. "Some danger is near. Fire on the lights!" And a volley of musketry sent a shock through the still air.
"They shine for me," said Wenonah, sadly. "For I shall soon join our father, mother, and sister in the land of spirits. Before the leaves fell I sat beside the Father of Waters and saw a manitou rise among the waves. It said that my sisters in the sunset world were calling to me and I must soon go to them." The chief tried to laugh away her fancies and comforted her as well as he might, then leading her to the wigwam he urged her to sleep.
Next day is the Virgins' Feast and Wenonah is among those who sit in the ring, dressed in their gayest. None who are conscious of a fault may share in the feast; nor, if one were exposed and expelled, might any interpose to ask for mercy; yet a groan of surprise and horror goes through the company when Red Cloud, stalking up to the circle, seizes the girl roughly by the shoulder and orders her away. No use to deny or appeal. An Indian warrior would not be so treacherous or unjust as to act in this way unless he had proofs. Without a word she enters the adjacent wood, draws her knife, and strikes it to her heart. With summer came the fever, and it ravaged through the band, laying low the infant and the counsellor. Red Cloud was the first to die, and as he was borne away Harpstenah lifted her wasted form and followed him with dimming eyes, then cried, "He is dead. He hated Wenonah because she slighted him. I hated her because she was happy. I told him to denounce her. But she was innocent."
Several of the Dakotas, who had been in camp near the site of St. Paul, left their families and friends, when the hunting season opened, and went into the north. On their arrival at another village of their tribe, they stayed to rest for a little, and one of the men used the time to ill-advantage, as it fell out, for he conceived an attachment for a girl of this northern family, and on his way southward he wedded her and took her home with him. Proper enough to do, if he had not been married already. The first wife knew that any warrior might take a second, if he could support both; but the woman was stronger than the savage in her nature, and when her husband came back, with a red-cheeked woman walking beside him, she felt that she should never know his love again. The man was all attention to the young wife, whether the tribe tarried or travelled. When they shifted camp the elder walked or rowed behind with her boy, a likely lad of ten or twelve.
It was when they were returning down the river after a successful hunt that the whole company was obliged to make a carry around the quick water near the head of St. Anthony's Falls. While the others were packing the boats and goods for transportation by hand to the foot of the cataract, the forsaken wife chose a moment when none were watching to embark with her boy in one of the canoes. Rowing out to an island, she put on all her ornaments, and dressed the lad in beads and feathers as if he were a warrior. Her husband, finding her absent from the party, looked anxiously about for some time, and was horrified to see her put out from the island into the rapid current. She had placed the child high in the boat, and was rowing with a steady stroke down the stream. He called and beckoned franticly. She did not seem to hear him, nor did she turn her head when the others joined their cries to his. For a moment those who listened heard her death-song, then the yeasty flood hid them from sight, and the husband on the shore fell to the earth with a wail of anguish.
The Chippewas and Sioux had come together at Fort Snelling to make merry and cement friendships. Flying Shadow was sad when the time came for the tribes to part, for Track Maker had won her heart, and no less strong than her love was the love he felt for her. But a Chippewa girl might not marry among the Sioux, and, if she did, the hand of every one would be against her should ever the tribes wage war upon each other, and war was nearer than either of them had expected. The Chippewas left with feelings of good will, Flying Shadow concealing in her bosom the trinkets that testified to the love of Track Maker and sighing as she thought of the years that might elapse ere they met again.
Two renegade Chippewas, that had lingered behind the band, played the villain after this pleasant parting, for they killed a Sioux. Hardly was the news of this outrage received at the fort ere three hundred warriors were on the trail of their whilom guests and friends, all clamoring for revenge. Among them was Track Maker, for he could not, as a warrior, remain behind after his brother had been shot, and, while his heart sank within him as he thought of the gentle Flying Shadow, he marched in advance, and early in the morning the Chippewas were surprised between St. Anthony's Falls and Rum River, where they had camped without fear, being alike ignorant and innocent of the murder for which so many were to be punished.
The Sioux fell upon them and cut down all alike—men, women, and children. In the midst of the carnage Track Maker comes face to face with Flying Shadow, and with a cry of gladness she throws herself into his arms. But there is no refuge there. Gladly as he would save her, he knows too well that the thirst for blood will not be sated until every member of that band is dead. He folds her to his bosom for an instant, looks into her eyes with tenderness—then bowing his head he passes on and never glances back. It is enough. She falls insensible, and a savage, rushing upon her, tears the scalp from her head.
The Sioux win a hundred scalps and celebrate their victory with dance and song. Track Maker has returned with more scalps than any, and the maidens welcome him as a hero, but he keeps gravely apart from all, and has no share in the feasting and merry-making. Ever the trusting, pleading, wondering face of Flying Shadow comes before him. It looks out at him in the face of the deer he is about to kill. He sees it in the river, the leaves, the clouds. It rises before him in dreams. The elder people say he is bewitched, but he will have none of their curatives. When war breaks out he is the first to go, the first to open battle. Rushing among his enemies he lays about him with his axe until he falls, pierced with a hundred spears and arrows. It is the fate he has courted, and as he falls his face is lighted with a smile.
There was rough justice in the West in the old days. It had to be dealt severely and quickly, for it was administered to a kind of men that became dangerous if they saw any advantage or any superiority in their strength or numbers over the decent people with whom they were cast. They were uncivilized foreigners and native renegades, for the most part, who had drifted to the frontier in the hope of making a living without work more easily than in the cities. As there were no lawyers or courts and few recognized laws, the whole people constituted themselves a jury, and if a man were known to be guilty it was foolishness for any one to waste logic on his case. And there is almost no record of an innocent man being hanged by lynchers in the West. For minor offences the penalty was to be marched out of camp, with a warning to be very cautious about coming that way again, but for graver ones it was death.
In 1840 a number of desperate fellows had settled along Cedar River, near its confluence with the Iowa, who subsisted by means of theft from the frugal and industrious. Some of these men applied themselves especially to horse-stealing, and in thinly settled countries, where a man has often to go twenty or thirty miles for supplies, or his mail, or medical attendance, it is thought to be a calamity to be without a horse.
At last the people organized themselves into a vigilance committee and ran down the thieves. As the latter were a conscienceless gang of rascals, it was resolved that the only effectual way of reforming them would be by hanging. One man of the nine, it is true, was supposed before his arrest to be a respectable citizen, but his evil communications closed the ears of his neighbors to his appeals, and it was resolved that he, too, should hang.
Not far away stood an oak with nine stout branches, and to this natural gallows the rogues were taken. As a squall was coming up the ceremonies were short, and presently every limb was weighted with the form of a captive. The formerly respectable citizen was the last one to be drawn up, and hardly had his halter been secured before the storm burst and a bolt of lightning ripped off the limb on which he hung. During the delay caused by this accident the unhappy man pleaded so earnestly for a rehearing that it was decided to give it to him, and when he had secured it he conclusively proved his innocence and was set free. The tree is still standing. To the ruffians it was a warning and they went away. Even the providential saving of one man did not detract from the value of the lesson to avoid bad company.
In the Dakota camp on the bank of Spirit Lake, or Lake Calhoun, Iowa, lived Cloudy Sky, a medicine-man, who had been made repellent by age and accident, but who was feared because of his magic power. At eighty years of age he looked for a third wife, and chose the daughter of a warrior, his presents of blankets and calicoes to the parents winning their consent. The girl, Harpstenah (a common name for a third daughter among the Sioux), dreaded and hated this man, for it was rumored that he had killed his first wife and basely sold his second. When she learned what had been decided for her she rushed from the camp in tears and sat in a lonely spot near the lake to curse and lament unseen. As she sat there the waters were troubled. There was no wind, yet great waves were thrown up, and tumbled hissing on the shore. Presently came a wave higher than the rest, and a graceful form leaped from it, half shrouded in its own long hair.
"Do not tremble," said the visitant, for Harpstenah had hidden her face. "I am the daughter of Unktahe, the water god. In four days your parents will give you to Cloudy Sky, as his wife, though you love Red Deer. It is with you to wed the man you hate or the man you love. Cloudy Sky has offended the water spirits and we have resolved upon his death. If you will be our agent in destroying him, you shall marry Red Deer and live long and happily. The medicine-man wandered for years through the air with the thunder birds, flinging his deadly fire-spears at us, and it was for killing the son of Unktahe that he was last sent to earth, where he has already lived twice before. Kill him while he sleeps and we will reward you."
As Harpstenah went back to the village her prospective bridegroom ogled her as he sat smoking before his lodge, his face blackened and blanket torn in mourning for an enemy he had killed. She resolved to heed the appeal of the manitou. When Red Deer heard how she had been promised to the old conjurer, he was filled with rage. Still, he became thoughtful and advised caution when she told him of the water spirit's counsel, for the dwellers in the lakes were, of all immortals, most deceitful, and had ever been enemies of the Dakotas. "I will do as I am bidden," she said, sternly. "Go away and visit the Tetons for a time. It is now the moon of strawberries" (June), "but in the moon when we gather wild rice" (September) "return and I will be your wife."
Red Deer obeyed, after finding that she would not elope with him, and with the announcement that he was going on a long hunt he took his leave of the village. Harpstenah made ready for the bridal and greeted her future husband with apparent pleasure and submissiveness. He gave a medicine feast in token of the removal of his mourning, and appeared in new clothing, greased and braided hair, and a white blanket decorated with a black hand—the record of a slain enemy.
On the night before the wedding the girl creeps to his lodge, but hesitates when she sees his medicine-bag hanging beside the door—the medicine that has kept its owner from evil and is sacred from the touch of woman. As she lingers the night-breeze seems to bring a voice from the water: "Can a Dakota woman want courage when she is forced to marry the man she hates?"
She delays no longer. A knife-blade glitters for an instant in the moonlight—and Cloudy Sky is dead. Strange, is it not, that the thunder birds flap so heavily along the west at that moment and a peal of laughter sounds from the lake? She washes the blood from the blade, steals to her father's lodge, and pretends to sleep. In the morning she is loud in her grief when it is made known to her that the medicine-man was no more, and the doer of the deed is never discovered. In time her wan face gets its color and when the leaves begin to fall Red Deer returns and weds her.
They seem to be happy for a time, and have two sons who promise to be famous hunters, but consumption fastens on Red Deer and he dies far from the village. The sons are shot by enemies, and while their bodies are on their way to Harpstenah's lodge she, too, is stricken dead by lightning. The spirit of Cloudy Sky had rejoined the thunder birds, and the water manitou had promised falsely.
The going of white men into the prairies aroused the same sort of animosity among the Indians that they have shown in other parts of the country when retiring before the advance of civilization, and many who tried to plant corn on the rolling lands of Iowa, though they did no harm to the red men, paid for the attempt with their lives. Such was the fate of a settler who had built his cabin on the Wyoming hills, near Davenport. While working in his fields an arrow, shot from a covert, laid him low, and his scalp was cut away to adorn the belt of a savage. His little daughter, left alone, began to suffer from fears and loneliness as the sun went lower and lower, and when it had come to its time of setting she put on her little bonnet and went in search of him. As she gained the slope where he had last been seen, an Indian lifted his head from the grass and looked at her.
Starting back to run, she saw another behind her. Escape seemed hopeless, and killing or captivity would have been her lot had not a crevice opened in the earth close to where she stood. Dropping on hands and knees she hastily crawled in, and found herself in what seemed to be an extensive cavern. Hardly had she time to note the character of the place when the gap closed as strangely as it had opened and she was left in darkness. Not daring to cry aloud, lest Indians should hear her, she sat upright until her young eyes could keep open no longer; then, lying on a mossy rock, she fell asleep. In the morning the sun was shining in upon her and the way to escape was open. She ran home, hungry, but thankful, and was found and cared for by neighbors. "Providence Hole" then passed into the legends of the country. It has closed anew, however.
Early in this century a restless Yankee, who wore the uninspiring name of Tompkinson, found his way into Carondelet—or Vuide Poche, the French settlement on the Mississippi since absorbed by St. Louis—and cast about for something to do. He had been in hard luck on his trip from New England to the great river. His schemes for self-aggrandizement and the incidental enlightenment and prosperity of mankind had not thriven, and it was largely in pity that M. Dunois gave shelter to the ragged, half-starved, but still jaunty and resourceful adventurer. Dunois was the one man in the place who could pretend to some education, and the two got on together famously.
As soon as Tompkinson was in clothes and funds—the result of certain speculations—he took a house, and hung a shingle out announcing that there he practised medicine. Now, the fellow knew less about doctoring than any village granny, but a few sick people that he attended had the rare luck to get well in spite of him, and his reputation expanded to more than local limits in consequence. In the excess of spirits that prosperity created he flirted rather openly with a number of virgins in Carondelet, to the scandal of Dunois, who forbade him his house, and of the priest, who put him under ban.
For the priest he cared nothing, but Dunois's anger was more serious—for the only maid of all that he really loved was Marie Dunois, his daughter. He formally proposed for her, but the old man would not listen to him. Then his "practice" fell away. The future looked as dark for him as his recent past had been, until a woman came to him with a bone in her throat and begged to be relieved. His method in such cases was to turn a wheel-of-fortune and obey it. The arrow this time pointed to the word, "Bleeding."
He grasped a scalpel and advanced upon his victim, who, supposing that he intended to cut her throat open to extract the obstacle, fell a-screaming with such violence that the bone flew out. What was supposed to be his ready wit in this emergency restored him to confidence, and he was able to resume the practice that he needed so much. In a couple of years he displayed to the wondering eyes of Dunois so considerable an accumulation of cash that he gave Marie to him almost without the asking, and, as Tompkinson afterward turned Indian trader and quadrupled his wealth by cheating the red men, he became one of the most esteemed citizens of the West.
It was Twelfth Night, and the French village of Cahokia, near St. Louis, was pleasantly agitated at the prospect of a dance in the old court saloon, which was assembly-room and everything else for the little place. The thirteen holy fires were alight—a large one, to represent Christ; a lesser one, to be trampled out by the crowd, typing Judas. The twelfth cake, one slice with the ring in it, was cut, and there were drink and laughter, but, as yet, no music. Gwen Malhon, a drift-wood collector, was the most anxious to get over the delay, for he had begged a dance from Louison. Louison Florian was pretty, not badly off in possessions and prospects, and her lover, Beaurain, had gone away. She was beginning to look a little scornful and impatient, so Gwen set off for a fiddler.
He had inquired at nearly every cabin without success, and was on his way toward the ferry when he heard music. Before him, on the moonlit river, was a large boat, and near it, on the bank, he saw a company of men squatted about a fire and bousing together from a bottle. At a little distance, on a stump, sat a thin, bent man, enveloped in a cloak, and it was he who played. Gwen complimented him and pleaded the disappointment of the dancers in excuse of an urgent appeal that he should hurry with him to the court saloon. The stranger was courteous. He sprang into the road with a limping bound, shook down his cloak so as to disclose a curled moustache, shaggy brows, a goat's beard, and a pair of glittering eyes. "I'll give them a dance!" he exclaimed. "I know one tune. They call it 'Returned from the Grave.' Pay? We'll see how you like my playing."
On entering the room where the caperish youth were already shuffling in corners, the musician met Mamzel Florian, who offered him a slice of the cake. He bent somewhat near to take it, and she gave a little cry. He had found the ring, and that made him king of the festival, with the right to choose the prettiest girl as queen. A long drink of red wine seemed to put him in the best of trim, and he began to fiddle with a verve that was irresistible. In one minute the whole company—including the priest, some said—was jigging it lustily. "Whew!" gasped one old fellow. "It is the devil who plays. Get some holy water and sprinkle the floor."
Gwen watched the musician as closely as his labors would allow, for he did not like the way the fiddler had of looking at Louison, and he thought to himself that Louison never blushed so prettily for him. Forgetting himself when he saw the fiddler smile at the girl, he made a rush for the barrel where that artist was perched. He bumped against a dancer and fell. At that moment the light was put out and the hall rang with screams and laughter. The tones of one voice sounded above the rest: "By right of the ring the girl is mine."
"He has me," Louison was heard to say, yet seemingly not in fear. Lights were brought. Louison and the fiddler were gone, the stranger's cloak and half of a false moustache were on the floor, while Gwen was jammed into the barrel and was kicking desperately to get out. When released he rushed for the river-side where he had seen the boat. Two figures flitted before him, but he lost sight of them, and in the silence and loneliness his choler began to cool. Could it really have been the devil? An owl hooted in the bush. He went away in haste. There was a rumor in after years that Beaurain was an actor in a company that went up and down the great river on a barge, and that a woman who resembled Louison was also in the troupe. But Gwen never told the story of his disappointment without crossing himself.
Not far west of St. Louis the Lake of Creve Coeur dimples in the breezes that bend into its basin of hills, and there, in summer, swains and maidens go to confirm their vows, for the lake has an influence to strengthen love and reunite contentious pairs. One reason ascribed for the presence of this spell concerns a turbulent Peoria, ambitious of leadership and hungry for conquest, who fell upon the Chawanons at this place, albeit he was affianced to the daughter of their chief. The girl herself, enraged at the treachery of the youngster, put herself at the head of her band—a dusky Joan of Arc,—and the fight waged so furiously that the combatants, what were left of them, were glad when night fell that they might crawl away to rest their exhausted bodies and nurse their wounds. Neither tribe daring to invite a battle after that, hostilities were stopped, but some time later the young captain met the girl of his heart on the shore, and before the amazon could prepare for either fight or flight he had caught her in his arms. They renewed their oaths of fidelity, and at the wedding the chief proclaimed eternal peace and blessed the waters they had met beside, the blessing being potent to this day.
Another reason for the enchantments that are worked here may be that the lake is occupied by a demon-fish or serpent that crawls, slimy and dripping, through the underbrush, whenever it sees two lovers together, and listens to their words. If the man prove faithless he would best beware of returning to this place, for the demon is lurking there to destroy him. This monster imprisons the soul of an Ozark princess who flung herself into the lake when she learned that the son of the Spanish governor, who had vowed his love to her, had married a woman of his own rank and race in New Orleans. So they call the lake Creve Coeur, or Broken Heart. On the day after the suicide the Ozark chief gathered his men about him and paddled to the middle of the water, where he solemnly cursed his daughter in her death, and asked the Great Spirit to confine her there as a punishment for giving her heart to the treacherous white man, the enemy of his people. The Great Spirit gave her the form in which she is occasionally seen, to warn and punish faithless lovers.
In 1853 a Hebrew peddler, whose pack was light and his purse was full, asked leave to pass the night at the house of Daniel Baker, near Lebanon, Missouri. The favor was granted, and that was the last seen of Samuel Moritz; although, when some neighbors shook their heads and wondered how it was that Baker was so well in funds, there were others who replied that it was impossible to keep track of peddlers, and that if Moritz wanted to start on his travels early in the morning, or to return to St. Louis for goods, it mattered to nobody. On an evening in 1860 when there was a mist in the gullies and a new moon hung in the west, Rev. Mr. Cummings, a clergyman of that region, was driving home, and as he came to a bridge near "old man" Baker's farm he saw a man standing on it, with a pack on his back and a stick in his hand, who was staring intently at something beneath the bridge. The clergyman greeted him cheerily and asked him if he would like to ride, whereat the man looked him in the face and pointed to the edge of the bridge. Mr. Cummings glanced down, saw nothing, and when he looked up again the man with the pack had disappeared. His horse at the same moment gave a snort and plunged forward at a run, so that the clergyman's attention was fully occupied until he had brought the animal under control again; when he glanced back and saw that the man was still standing in the bridge and looking over the edge of it. The minister told his neighbors of this adventure, and on returning with two of them to the spot next morning they found the body of old man Baker swinging by the neck from a beam of the bridge exactly beneath where the apparition had stood—for it must have been an apparition, inasmuch as the dust, damped though it had been with dew, showed no trace of footprint. In taking down the body the men loosened the earth on a shelving bank, and the gravel rolling away disclosed a skeleton with some bits of clothing on it that were identified as belongings of Samuel Moritz. Was it conscience, craziness, or fate that led old man Baker to hang himself above the grave of his victim?
"Hell, with the fires out," is what the Bad Lands of Dakota have been called. The fearless Western nomenclature fits the place. It is an ancient sea-bottom, with its clay strata worn by frost and flood into forms like pagodas, pyramids, and terraced cities. Labyrinthine canons wind among these fantastic peaks, which are brilliant in color, but bleak, savage, and oppressive. Game courses over the castellated hills, rattlesnakes bask at the edge of the crater above burning coal seams, and wild men have made despairing stand here against advancing civilization. It may have been the white victim of a red man's jealousy that haunts the region of the butte called "Watch Dog," or it may have been an Indian woman who was killed there, but there is a banshee in the desert whose cries have chilled the blood that would not have cooled at the sight of a bear or panther. By moonlight, when the scenery is most suggestive and unearthly, and the noises of wolves and owls inspire uneasy feelings, the ghost is seen on a hill a mile south of the Watch Dog, her hair blowing, her arms tossing in strange gestures.
If war parties, emigrants, cowboys, hunters, any who for good or ill are going through this country, pass the haunted butte at night, the rocks are lighted with phosphor flashes and the banshee sweeps upon them. As if wishing to speak, or as if waiting a question that it has occurred to none to ask, she stands beside them in an attitude of appeal, but if asked what she wants she flings her arms aloft and with a shriek that echoes through the blasted gulches for a mile she disappears and an instant later is seen wringing her hands on her hill-top. Cattle will not graze near the haunted butte and the cowboys keep aloof from it, for the word has never been spoken that will solve the mystery of the region or quiet the unhappy banshee.
The creature has a companion, sometimes, in an unfleshed skeleton that trudges about the ash and clay and haunts the camps in a search for music. If he hears it he will sit outside the door and nod in time to it, while a violin left within his reach is eagerly seized and will be played on through half the night. The music is wondrous: now as soft as the stir of wind in the sage, anon as harsh as the cry of a wolf or startling as the stir of a rattler. As the east begins to brighten the music grows fainter, and when it is fairly light it has ceased altogether. But he who listens to it must on no account follow the player if the skeleton moves away, for not only will it lead him into rocky pitfalls, whence escape is hopeless, but when there the music will intoxicate, madden, and will finally charm his soul from his body.
The stone that juts from one of the high banks of the Missouri, in South Dakota, gives its name to the Standing Rock Agency, which, by reason of many councils, treaties, fights, feasts, and dances held there, is the best known of the frontier posts. It was a favorite gathering place of the Sioux before the advent of the white man. The rock itself is only twenty-eight inches high and fifteen inches wide, and could be plucked up and carried away without difficulty, but no red man is brave enough to do that, for this is the transformed body of a squaw who was struck into stone by Manitou for falsely suspecting her husband of unfaithfulness.
After her transformation she not only remained sentient but acquired supernatural powers that the Sioux propitiated by offerings of beads, tobacco, and ribbons, paint, fur, and game—a practice that was not abandoned until the teachings of missionaries began to have effect among them. Soldiers and trappers think the story an ingenious device to prevent too close inquiry into the lives of some of the nobility of the tribe. The Arickarees, however, regard this stone as the wife of one of their braves, who was so pained and mortified when her husband took a second wife that she went out into the prairie and neither ate nor drank until she died, when the Great Spirit turned her into the Standing Stone. The squaws still resort to it in times of domestic trouble.
A pillar of snowy salt once stood on the Nebraska plain, about forty miles above the point where the Saline flows into the Platte, and white men used to hear of it as the Salt Witch. An Indian tribe was for a long time quartered at the junction of the rivers, its chief a man of blood and muscle in whom his people gloried, but so fierce, withal, that nobody made a companion of him except his wife, who alone could check his tigerish rages.
In sooth, he loved her so well that on her death he became a recluse and shut himself within his lodge, refusing to see anybody. This mood endured with him so long that mutterings were heard in the tribe and there was talk of choosing another chief. Some of this talk he must have heard, for one morning he emerged in war-dress, and without a word to any one strode across the plain to westward. On returning a full month later he was more communicative and had something unusual to relate. He also proved his prowess by brandishing a belt of fresh scalps before the eyes of his warriors, and he had also brought a lump of salt.
He told them that after travelling far over the prairie he had thrown himself on the earth to sleep, when he was aroused by a wailing sound close by. In the light of a new moon he saw a hideous old woman brandishing a tomahawk over the head of a younger one, who was kneeling, begging for mercy, and trying to shake off the grip from her throat. The sight of the women, forty miles from the village, so surprised the chief that he ran toward them. The younger woman made a desperate effort to free herself, but in vain, as it seemed, for the hag wound her left hand in her hair while with the other she raised the axe and was about to strike.
At that moment the chief gained a view of the face of the younger woman-it was that of his dead wife. With a snarl of wrath he leaped upon the hag and buried his own hatchet in her brain, but before he could catch his wife in his arms the earth had opened and both women disappeared, but a pillar of salt stood where he had seen this thing. For years the Indians maintained that the column was under the custody of the Salt Witch, and when they went there to gather salt they would beat the ground with clubs, believing that each blow fell upon her person and kept her from working other evil.