Chapter 4

    —With much more dismay,
I view the fight, than those that make the fray.

Merchant of Venice.

The unfortunate bee-hunter and his companions had become the captives of a people, who might, without exaggeration, be called the Ishmaelites of the American deserts. From time immemorial, the hands of the Siouxs had been turned against their neighbours of the prairies, and even at this day, when the influence and authority of a civilised government are beginning to be felt around them, they are considered a treacherous and dangerous race. At the period of our tale, the case was far worse; few white men trusting themselves in the remote and unprotected regions where so false a tribe was known to dwell.

Notwithstanding the peaceable submission of the trapper, he was quite aware of the character of the band into whose hands he had fallen. It would have been difficult, however, for the nicest judge to have determined whether fear, policy, or resignation formed the secret motive of the old man, in permitting himself to be plundered as he did, without a murmur. So far from opposing any remonstrance to the rude and violent manner in which his conquerors performed the customary office, he even anticipated their cupidity, by tendering to the chiefs such articles as he thought might prove the most acceptable. On the other hand Paul Hover, who had been literally a conquered man, manifested the strongest repugnance to submit to the violent liberties that were taken with his person and property. He even gave several exceedingly unequivocal demonstrations of his displeasure during the summary process, and would, more than once, have broken out in open and desperate resistance, but for the admonitions and entreaties of the trembling girl, who clung to his side, in a manner so dependent, as to show the youth, that her hopes were now placed, no less on his discretion, than on his disposition to serve her.

The Indians had, however, no sooner deprived the captives of their arms and ammunition, and stripped them of a few articles of dress of little use, and perhaps of less value, than they appeared disposed to grant them a respite. Business of greater moment pressed on their hands, and required their attention. Another consultation of the chiefs was convened, and it was apparent, by the earnest and vehement manner of the few who spoke, that the warriors conceived their success as yet to be far from complete.

“It will be well,” whispered the trapper, who knew enough of the language he heard to be comprehend perfectly the subject of the discussion, “if the travellers who lie near the willow brake are not awoke out of their sleep by a visit from these miscreants. They are too cunning to believe that a woman of the ‘pale-faces’ is to be found so far from the settlements, without having a white man’s inventions and comforts at hand.”

“If they will carry the tribe of wandering Ishmael to the Rocky Mountains,” said the young bee-hunter, laughing in his vexation with a sort of bitter merriment, “I may forgive the rascals.”

“Paul! Paul!” exclaimed his companion in a tone of reproach, “you forget all! Think of the dreadful consequences!”

“Ay, it was thinking of what you call consequences, Ellen, that prevented me from putting the matter, at once, to yonder red-devil, and making it a real knockdown and drag-out! Old trapper, the sin of this cowardly business lies on your shoulders! But it is no more than your daily calling, I reckon, to take men, as well as beasts, in snares.”

“I implore you, Paul, to be calm—to be patient.”

“Well, since it is your wish, Ellen,” returned the youth, endeavouring to swallow his spleen, “I will make the trial; though, as you ought to know, it is part of the religion of a Kentuckian to fret himself a little at a mischance.”

“I fear your friends in the other bottom will not escape the eyes of the imps!” continued the trapper, as coolly as though he had not heard a syllable of the intervening discourse. “They scent plunder; and it would be as hard to drive a hound from his game, as to throw the varmints from its trail.”

  By PanEris using Melati.

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