"Deer, perhaps," said the trapper, "it comes in leaps; I hear it distinctly."
"Yes, deer,'' said the chief, drawing his bow to his shoulder as a noble buck bounded in sight, with his tongue protruding from his mouth, and his eyes had a wild look of agony and terror, such as is only seen at a moment of despair.
"Chased by a wolf! let the deer pass and shoot the pursuer," said the trapper; but, scarcely were the words spoken, when a giant form covered with hair, but bearing in form a semblance to humanity, came bounding after, clearing from ten to twelve feet at every bound. On he came, and, at the base of the knoll on which they stood, overtook his prey, and grasping it by the throat, with one hand dealt it a succession of furious blows on the head which knocked it down, when choking it until life was extinct, he stood upright contemplating his prey.
They had instinctively dropped their arrows when they saw the pursuer; and Whirlwind motioning the others to keep still, glided on towards the singular creature, slipping from tree to tree until within a few rods of him, when, taking from beneath his tunic his lasso, which he always carried with him, he cut a circle with it in the air, then giving it a throw, it quickly descended, girdling the strange being in its fold. With an unearthly yell, he attempted to free himself from its coil. Unfortunately it did not confine either arm, as the chief hoped it would, and the creature finding it could neither break the stout hide nor gnaw it off, sprang with ferocity at his captor, who had just succeeded in fastening the other end of the lasso to a tree, and before he had time to get out of the way, seized and threw him on the snow with terrific force.
Howe saw the chief at the mercy of the monster, and in a moment an arrow winged its flight, burying itself in its shoulder, causing the monster to lose his hold. Another and another were shot in quick succession, striking where they would not give a mortal wound, for it looked so human, the trapper would not kill him if he could save the life of the chief otherwise. This new attack puzzled the monster for a moment; then seeing Howe and Edward, who had approached within a few yards of him, he rushed with such force upon them, that they had no time to get out of reach, and they were also caught by him and hurled to the ground, but not before a blow dealt by Edward with a club had broken his left arm. At that moment the chief, who had recovered from the stunning effect of the fall, rushed upon the monster, and with a single blow of his tomahawk, felled him to the ground, and before he could rally, the lasso that was still on him, was tied around his arms and feet to render him powerless. In defiance of the wounds he had received, he was in nowise tamed, but glared on them, howling and gnashing his teeth, while the foam rolled from his mouth, and he writhed and rolled with rage on the snow a captive. The stout lasso of hide they had cut in pieces, and so tied his hands and feet that he was powerless to do them harm.
They now had a chance to examine the powerful creature at leisure. He was entirely naked, with a perfect human form and face, but was perfectly covered with hair, except the forehead, eyelids, palms of the hands, and soles of the feet. They were surprised to see that the skin, where it was protected from the sun by the hair, was white and fair as their own. He was powerfully built, full six feet high, and uttered no sound that approached the pronunciation of words; a succession of snarls, growls, and yells, were all the sounds he uttered, and these approached, when accompanied by his efforts to release himself, the terrific, nearer than anything they had ever heard.
"Well, uncle, what will you do with him now you have got him ?" said Edward.
"Kill him," spoke up the chief, indignantly.
"Take him home and tame him," said the trapper. "He is a human being like ourselves; probably has been lost in infancy, and grown up wild, without doubt, never having seen his kind before to-day."
"He will kill us if you take him home," said the chief; "better shoot him."
"No, chief, I could not kill him, but will see he does us no harm. I will make him as tame as a kitten in a month."
"How will you get him home, uncle? We can not carry him, and if you untie his feet he will run away."
" That is what I was just thinking about. I think one of us had better return for the colt, and make him ride.''
"Very good, if you can get him on and make him stay there," said the chief.
"Make him go himself: tie him so he cannot run away," suggested Edward.
"I am not sure but that would be the best plan," said Howe. "I am sorry he got that blow on his arm; I am sure it pains him; see how he attempts to raise it, and groans at every motion he makes."
"Do you really think, uncle, he is human? It strikes me he is a monkey, or an orang-outang, rather than human."
"There is neither monkey nor orang-outang in the North American forests. One such snow as now lies on the ground, would kill a myriad of them. I am quite confident of the customer I have to deal with. He is no more nor less than a wild man, whose long exposure to the elements, and total isolation from every human heing, has caused the hair to grow over his hody. This also explains why he cannot speak like us."
They then endeavored to get him forward, having partly untied his feet so as to allow him to move. The chief, with a stout cord, went forward and endeavored to urge him on, but the wild man refused to move. After exhausting every plan they could devise, they bethought themselves of coercion. Howe accordingly raised a club as if he would strike, when, with a wild cry of alarm, he raised his eyes imploringly, at the same time starting forward, when the chief moving on, gave him to understand he was to follow.
On perceiving what was required of him, and finding it was useless to attempt an escape, he made no further opposition to follow, although it was not safe to be near him as he gnashed with his teeth at every one that approached him.
Reaching the temple without further trouble, Edward called the attention of Jane to the new addition to their family, and said with perfect gravity --
"I really think you have one of the most devoted wooers; see what a rare prize he has risked life and limb in securing for you, which he begs you will have the kindness to accept from him in token of the love he bears you."
"Why, what a monster it is," said Sidney, walking round and round it. "It is a comical keepsake to give a girl, I must say. Really, chief, you Indians have curious tastes about such matters."
"My brother gave his squaw a cub," retorted the chief, angrily, as they all burst into a laugh at the very idea of the monster being presented to Jane, who was casting furtive glances from it to the chief, and was just beginning to think that she might next be called on to accept a wolf or panther, and was casting in her mind the chances she had in escaping such an infliction, when the chief said, as if divining her thoughts,
"It is not for the antelope. See, Whirlwind kill it," and he raised his tomahawk, and would have driven it into the wild man's skull had not his arm been caught by the trapper.
"Chief! would you be a murderer?" asked the trapper, sternly. " See him crouch! he fears you, and depend upon it, if we use our power over him discreetly, we shall tame him."
The chief dropped his arm and doggedly walked away. Jane brought some nuts and placing them where he could reach them, begged her uncle to unbind the cord around his hand so that he could eat them. This he did not think prudent to do until the broken bone was set, which, after a great deal of trouble, he succeeded in doing, effectually binding up the fracture with soft strips of the mountain sheep skin, of which they had an abundance in their store room.
After this was done he was dressed in a tunic and small clothes, the long hair was cut from his face as well as they could with their hunting-knives, to which they had given an extra sharpening for the occasion. Tightening the cord around his feet they unbound the cord that confined his hands, when he seized the nuts, cracked them with his teeth and devoured them with avidity.
"Broil him some steaks, Jane," said the trapper, "I think he is hungry."
"There is a cold haunch of venison in the store room; perhaps he will eat that," said Jane.
"Of course he will; bring it in." Cutting off some thick slices she laid them before him; eyeing them intently for a moment as if not knowing what they were, he cautiously turned them over and then turned his eye with an inquiring look towards Jane, who smiling, cut off another slice and commenced eating it. Seeing the action he cautiously raised his slice to his lips; but as soon as he had tasted it all doubt seemed to vanish, for the venison disappeared rapidly. Jane continued to cut as long as he continued to eat, and when he had done gave him a gourd of water to drink.
"I am afraid we have fed him to[o] highly for his broken arm. There
will be danger of fever," said the trapper. They miscalculated his nature,
and supposed causes produced the same effects in a healthful and an enervated
constitution. This knowledge gradually dawned on them as day after day
went by without exhibiting the least derangement in his system. From the
first, he had been docile and obedient to Jane, and when in the most violent
paroxysms, if she spoke to him, his anger vanished and his countenance
assumed a pleasing expression. He had eyes of clear, deep blue, large,
quick and varying as the emotion in his heart. They could see the passion
that held sway over him by his eye; for he had not, like his brothers,
learned to dissemble and hide the workings of the soul within. Howe had
also become a great favorite with him; but he feared the chief, always
cowering and uttering a shrill cry of fear if he came near him. Edward
was also a favorite and spent much of his time in learning him to pronounce
words in which he was quite successful, his powers of imitation seeming
to be boundless. After he had pronounced the first the difficulty seemed
to vanish, and he was never tired of repeating words after others. The
greatest trouble they experienced with him was during his fits of passion.
Then he was furious, tore his fur garments in shreds, and threw down every
thing in his reach. They had not dared to liberate him on account of these
paroxysms of anger, over which he did not seem to have the least control.
He evidently pined to be free again; for if left to himself he uttered
a low moan, while tears chased each other down his weather-beaten cheeks.
The warm south wind now began to stir the air, while the lengthened days, swelling buds, and melting snows, assured them the patiently waited for and much desired spring had come.
"Home -- father, mother, brothers, sister; for, where they are, there is home. Shall we indeed see you and once more be folded in your arms? Shall these wanderings ever cease, of which our souls are weary, and our hearts are sick? Oh! home; thou hope of the weary, and haven of rest, though thy place be the tomb, when shall we see thee!" they sadly and feelingly exclaimed.
Howe and the chief made daily excursions down the valley, in search of wild horses, being anxious to secure each member of their party one for riding and two for pack horses. "For," said Howe, "we will start with good horses, and as the summer is before us, it will go hard with us, if we do not find home before cold weather comes again."
"Before the snows again fall," said the chief, "we will not only have found the son of the great Medicine, but will be back here, never more to leave again."
They were successful in their hunts, and a finer set of horses never wore a halter than those wild ones they had secured, and which twice a day they rode round the forest, in order to tame, and accustom them to carry burthens. They had quite a store of nuts still on hand, packed in bags made of skins, which they lashed on one of the horses' backs; and their jerked and dried meats, together with a quantity of salt that they collected at the salt spring, were packed on another; as was also, half a dozen gourd shells, and one of the kettles they had found, which had, from the many uses to which they applied it, become a necessity. Three or four skins according to their thickness, that had been cured with the hair on, were tightly sewed together for a saddle with small strings, and the whole firmly bound on the horses back by a broad band. By means of the leather they had been enabled to make a very good bridle for Jane and Edward, but Howe and the chief preferred riding with a single band or string for a halter, and this they rarely held in their hands, but went dashing through the forest, their hands free, and their bodies bent almost to their horses' necks.
With something like the feeling of parting with a friend, they bade adieu to the friendly shelter that had protected them from the wet and cold so many months; the beautiful valley with its parklike trees, many now in bloom; and the smooth verdant sward, its ruins, the sole links of the present with the past, and the only token left that others had lived, known joy and sorrow, and died on a land, supposed to have never, before the present race become its masters, known a civilized people.
They rode gaily forth -- Howe with his niece and nephew, the Indian chieftain, the timid Mahnewe with her child, and the wild man, whom they had christened Oudin, from a habit he had of repeating a sound very much like the pronunciation of that word. He had become quite docile, understood many sentences, and could be made to understand by words and signs all that was required of him. He also attempted to use words in conveying his wants to others, and they noticed with pleasure, his fits of passion were less frequent, and when they had passed away he seemed ashamed of them.
Taking their course down the valley, which grew broader and gradually assumed the appearance of a primitive forest, and pursued their way along the stream that kept its course at the base of the mountain on their right until night, when they encamped on its bank. At early dawn they again commenced their journey, and leaving the stream, took their course farther to the left, as the chief persisted in his belief that their whole course had been wrong, and that in order to find their friends, they must take another direction. Howe readily assented to this; for, in fact, he was so completely bewildered that he was at a loss what course should be pursued. The forest now began to lose much of its grandeur, the soil grew sandy, and every species of verdure had a stunted and gnarled appearance. At night they encamped on the verge of a broad prairie that stretched far away towards the horizon. They had much difficulty in procuring a supply of water for their horses that night, the surface around where they were having a parched, arid appearance; so different from the fresh verdure of the forest through which they had been travelling, as to cause a feeling of momentary sadness to come over them. This was, however, dispelled by the chief who was highly elated at having struck the prairie.
"Over yonder," said he, stretching his hand towards the wide expanse before them, "our friends await us. Let not our hearts fail us, for before two more suns shall set, we will be among them!"
"So soon! Oh, what joy!" said Jane, transported with the thought.
"They may have left the encampment, and pursued their journey, if they had the good fortune to get out of the hands of the Crows; and, then, it may be many days before we overtake them."
"No," said the trapper. "If your father is living, he never leaves the ground on which he was encamped, until he ascertains the fate of his children. Probably he has built a cabin, and is cultivating a patch of ground around it. He will never leave it if we do not return. If it is not so, I have a wrong conception of the man."
With the chief for a guard, they lay down to sleep. On awakening the next morning, they found, to their amazement, that Oudin had escaped to the forest. This was a great disappointment to them, after they had taken so much care to keep him safe and tame him, as he gave promise of much intelligence when he should become civilized. There was no help for it, as he had evidently watched his opportunity to escape, and, perhaps, was now miles away.
"The ungrateful wretch," said Edward, "to thus run away after we had done our best to civilize him."
"Good!" said the chief; "glad he is gone. He would kill us some day had he remained."
"I think not," said Howe. "But it is a mystery to me how he escaped your vigilant eye and ear. Whirlwind, I think you must have slept during your watch."
"No," returned the chief, proudly, "Whirlwind never sleeps when on guard. Whirlwind saw Oudin loose his bands, but kept still, and when he stole softly away, did not pursue him."
"What! you saw and permitted his escape?" said the trapper, hurt at the want of good faith in the chief.
"He pined for the forest even as I should pine in the white man's village. What right had we to detain him in a place, and confine him to a life for which he had no inclination? Let him go; he is free, and it is all he craves."
"We had the right of the civilized over the savage. It was our place to instruct and enlighten him, and we have done him a great wrong in permitting him to return to the brutish life he led when we found him."
"Would he be happier when civilized, and had learned to curse the Great Spirit, and drink the white man's fire water? Is the red man happier than he was before the white man came?" asked the Indian, scornfully.
"You know, chief," said the trapper, "no one regrets the wrongs my race have inflicted on your own more than I do. I hope there is a brighter dawn in store for you, and that you may live to bless the coming of my people to your shores."
"The dawn of a never-ending day in the spirit land awaits us -- no other. I give you my hand, brother; let there be peace between us," said the chief, sadly.
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