Chapter 24

I would it were bed-time, Hal, and all well.


A second glance sufficed to convince the whole of the startled party, that the young Pawnee, whom they had already encountered, again stood before them. Surprise kept both sides mute, and more than a minute was passed in surveying each other, with eyes of astonishment, if not of distrust. The wonder of the young warrior was, however, much more tempered and dignified than that of his Christian acquaintances. While Middleton and Paul felt the tremor, which shook the persons of their dependant companions, thrilling through their own quickened blood, the glowing eye of the Indian rolled from one to another, as if it could never quail before the rudest assaults. His gaze, after making the circuit of every wondering countenance, finally settled in a steady look on the equally immovable features of the trapper. The silence was first broken by Dr. Battius, in the ejaculation of—

Order, primates; genus, homo; species, prairie!”

“Ay—ay—the secret is out,” said the old trapper, shaking his head, like one who congratulated himself on having mastered the mystery of some knotty difficulty. “The lad has been in the grass for a cover; the fire has come upon him in his sleep, and having lost his horse, he has been driven to save himself under that fresh hide of a buffaloe. No bad invention, when powder and flint were wanting to kindle a ring. I warrant me, now, this is a clever youth, and one that it would be safe to journey with! I will speak to him kindly, for anger can at least serve no turn of ours. My brother is welcome again,” using the language, which the other understood; “the Tetons have been smoking him, as they would a racoon.”

The young Pawnee rolled his eye over the place, as if he were examining the terrific danger from which he had just escaped, but he disdained to betray the smallest emotion, at its imminency. His brow contracted, as he answered to the remark of the trapper by saying—

“A Teton is a dog. When the Pawnee war-whoop is in their ears, the whole nation howls.”

“It is true. The imps are on our trail, and I am glad to meet a warrior, with the tomahawk in his hand, who does not love them. Will my brother lead my children to his village? If the Siouxes follow on our path, my young men shall help him to strike them.”

The young Pawnee turned his eyes from one to another of the strangers, in a keen scrutiny, before he saw fit to answer so important an interrogatory. His examination of the males was short, and apparently satisfactory. But his gaze was fastened long and admiringly, as in their former interview, on the surpassing and unwonted beauty of a being so fair and so unknown as Inez. Though his glance wandered, for moments, from her countenance to the more intelligible and yet extraordinary charms of Ellen, it did not fail to return promptly to the study of a creature who, in the view of his unpractised eye and untutored imagination, was formed with all that perfection, with which the youthful poet is apt to endow the glowing images of his brain. Nothing so fair, so ideal, so every way worthy to reward the courage and self-devotion of a warrior, had ever before been encountered on the prairies, and the young brave appeared to be deeply and intuitively sensible to the influence of so rare a model of the loveliness of the sex. Perceiving, however, that his gaze gave uneasiness to the subject of his admiration, he withdrew his eyes, and laying his hand impressively on his chest, he, modestly, answered—

“My father shall be welcome. The young men of my nation shall hunt with his sons; the chiefs shall smoke with the grey-head. The Pawnee girls will sing in the ears of his daughters.”

“And if we meet the Tetons?” demanded the trapper, who wished to understand, thoroughly, the more important conditions of this new alliance.

“The enemy of the Big-knives shall feel the blow of the Pawnee.”

  By PanEris using Melati.

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