Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]

try,

“We shall never have such a chance again," said the Deacon, laying down the law with two fingers of his right hand into the palm of his left.

“ So much the better," replied Tom.“ Look ye Deacon," cocking his tarpawling on one side of his head, “I'm too much of an old fowl to cruise among quicksands, and get brought up by a twist of Beelzebub's cable.” " Then

you

won't and go snacks with me ?" asked the Deacon, growing restless, and casting another longing, lingering look after the white sails that began to grow indistinct in the distance.

“ That's twice you 've said it," was Tom's expressive answer.

“ Then I 'll have it all to myself,” rejoined the Deacon. “It is really too good a chance for a prudent man to lose. If I can only dig

. up a single bag of guineas,” continued he, in a hurried manner, as he buttoned up his coat and flapped the broad brim of his hat over his eyes, “I shall be able to buy the Major's farm,-a great bargain. Tom, say nothing about it!" So, watching his opportunity, he crept unperceived through a side opening, and disappeared. Tom gave an expressive hunch of the shoulders, and whistled - Go to the dand shake yourself,” to take off the attention of the company.

It blew and rained hard all the night; and when day rose upon us, the storm had not in the least abated. Great was the consternation of the whole company to find the Deacon missing. Nobody could imagine whither he had gone, and Tom was as close as an oyster. Hour after hour passed away, and he did not return. The storm, instead of subsiding, came on heavier and faster. Towards night, the alarm for his fate had increased to such a pitch, that in spite of the tempest, we set out to scour the island in search of him. For a long time we marched hither and thither, hallooing and firing our guns; but no trace of him could we discover.

At length, just as night began to close around us, and we were about to give up the pursuit, a faint halloo struck our ears; we followed the sound, as it was repeated at intervals, between the blasts of the tempest. The voice grew nearer and nearer, and presently seemed close at hand; but no soul could be seen. We gazed round in utter amazement, and at last discovered, in the spot from which the sound proceeded, something like a man's head lying upon the ground. We were struck speechless with terror, and no one dared to approach it. In a few moments the head began to move, and cried out,

is Halloo ! here I am!”

This was uttered in a most hollow and unearthly tone ; but it was somewhat like the Deacon's voice, and we plucked up courage and made towards it. Mercy on us ! it was indeed the Deacon himself; alive, but not kicking; for he was buried up to the chin in sand. We pulled him out by the shoulders, as the four winds had helped themselves to his wig. My conscience! Deacon, how came you here ?" was every one's interrogation.

“I've found it! I 've found the place! I've found the money!” returned the Deacon, puffing for breath, and sputtering the sand out of his mouth.

“Found the money! where is it ?" we all asked.

[ocr errors]

“ Here ! underneath this very spot. I followed the ship all over the island, and here she went out of sight. I dug down till I could feel the guineas under my feet. And so not to lose the place, I sat me down on the spot to wait till the storm was over; the sand blew about me, and almost buried me up as you see ; but the money is here safe ; I claim to be the sole possessor, for making the discovery."

“Ay, but Deacon," said Tom, " ar’nt we entitled to a salvage for picking you up? I'm thinking that one half belongs to us.”

This suggestion was a thunder-stroke for the Deacon, as all the company insisted that the claim was just. “ As sure as a gun,” said Dick," you would have foundered in two hours if we had n't took

you in tow."

The Deacon now began to wax angry; the thought of losing half the treasure was too much for him. A violent altercation was on the point of bursting forth, when Tom Taffrail put on a grave face, set his arms akimbo, gave a mysterious shake of the head, and observed, “ Had n't we better count the money before we quarrel about it ?

All agreed that this would be the most advisable course. So we set to work and scratched away the sand, the Deacon being head pioneer. “ Hark!” exclaimed he, in a transport of joy; "hear the guineas rattle !" In truth, we heard a sharp clinking after getting six or eight feet under the surface. In fifteen minutes the whole treasure lay exposed. There were three bushels of clam-shells, the fragments of an earthen pot, and the jaw-bone of an Indian !

With what sort of a face the Deacon saw his golden dreams vanish, and how he stood the jokes of Tom Taffrail, on the voyage homeward, about purchasing the Major's farm, I have not time to relate. Unlucky wight! his misfortunes did not end here. On arriving home, he learned that his new piggery had been struck and demolished by the lightning, and his famous Byfield grunter, that was to carry off the premium at the next Brighton cattle-show, had run mad into the woods, and was never heard of afterwards.

Such is the tale of the Phantom Ship and Deacon Doolittle's moneyhunting. The facts are known to many veracious persons besides myself, although the stories differ as to particulars; and skeptics in the matter are not wanting. Still, the tall sails of the pirate are seen from time to time in the equinoxial gales, gliding majestically toward the well-known shore. It is a sight, indeed, that every body has not had the luck to see; yet, the testimony on this point is so abundant, that a reasonable man can no more doubt of the Phantom Ship than he can of the Sea-Serpent.

K.

LIFE BEYOND THE FRONTIER.

1

upon it."

[See page 33.] For a short time after the execution of Toopunkah Zeze and his accomplices, the Indian country remained quiet. The Dahcotahs avoided all intercourse with the whites. They were angry at the death of their fellows, indeed, and spoke of vengeance among themselves; but they either were convinced of the justice of what had been done, or knew the superior force of the whites too well to think of taking any active measures. However, they resolved to make cats' paws of the Winnebagoes, who were, and are, of a much more decided character than themselves. This tribe, as their traditions say, were driven from Mexico by the companions of Cortez, or their successors. The tradition is probably correct in point of fact; for they state that they resisted all attempts to expel them from their native land, till the white invaders hunted them with dogs of uncommon size and ferocity; probably, these were the bloodhounds since employed to subdue the Maroons in Jamaica. The Dahcotahs have a similar tradition. Be that as it may, the Winnebagoes retained an inveterate antipathy to the Mexican Spaniards, till very lately. They have now transferred it to the people of the United States. Some old men among them yet remember the excursions they were wont to make in their youth to the borders of Mexico, whence they brought horses, captives, &c. These people have more courage and more national character than any tribe of the northwest. Drunkenness is not so common among them as among other tribes, and they are not so fond of mixing blood with the whites. There are very few Winnebago half-breeds. A good many of them joined the confederacy of Tecumseh, and sixty of their best and bravest warriors were killed at Tippecanoe.

Several years since, when the fifth United States regiment of infantry ascended the Mississippi, they halted at Prairie du Chien, where they were visited by a great many Winnebagoes. An aged warrior accosted Captain Gooding, as he landed on the beach, and offered him his hand. “I think,” said the Winnebago, " that I could tell what ails your neck, that you should have such a great scar

Probably you could,” replied the Captain,"you may have reason to know that there is a Winnebago bullet in my flesh.” • Ay,” returned the savage, "and I could tell you who put it in. But you are a brave man, and we are all friends now.” Apparently the old man considered this reminiscence an excellent jest; for he laughed heartily.

No tribe consider revenge a more sacred duty than do the Winnebagoes. It was their ancient custom to take five lives for one, and it is notorious on the frontier, that no blood of theirs has been shed, even in modern days, that has not been fully avenged. They used, too, to wear some part of the body of a slain enemy about them as a testimonial of prowess. We well remember a grim Winnebago, who was wont to present himself before the whites, who passed the portage of the Fox and Wisconsin rivers, with a human hand hanging on his breast. He had taken it from a Yankee soldier at Tippecanoe.

It was not difficult to stir up such a people to hostility, and, moreover, circumstances favored the design of the Dahcotaħs.

There is, or was, a village of Winnebagoes on the Black_river, not far from the Dahcotah town, of which Wawpah-ha-Shah is chief. The two tribes are descended from the same stock, as their languages abundantly prove, and the claims of common origin have been strengthened by frequent intermarriages. Now it happened, that, at the time when Toopunkah Zeze was put to death at Fort Snelling, the Red Bird was absent from his Winnebago village, on an expedition against the Chippewas. He returned unsuccessful, and consequently, sullen and malecontent. Till this time, he had been noted among his tribe for his friendly disposition toward the “men with hats,” as Indians call the whites, and among the traders, for his scrupulous honesty. However, this man, from whom no white person beyond the frontier would have anticipated injury, was easily induced to commit a bloody and unprovoked outrage.

Certain Dahcotah ambassadors arrived at the Red Bird's village, with a lie in their mouths. “ You have become a by-word of reproach among us,” said they. “You have just given the Chippeways reason to laugh at you, and the Big Knives also laugh at you. Lo! while they were among you, they dared not offend you, but now they have caused Wamandoosgarra-Ha and his companion to be put to death, and they have cut their bodies into pieces not bigger than the

spots in a bead garter.” The tale was believed, and a cry for vengeance arose throughout the village. It was decided that something must be done, and the Dahcotah envoys promised to lend a helping hand.

A few days before, two keel-boats had ascended the river, laden with provisions for the troops at Fort Snelling. They passed the mouth of Black river with a full sheet, so that a few Winnebagoes, who were there encamped, had some difficulty in reaching them with their canoes. They might have taken both boats, for there were but three firelocks on board; nevertheless, they offered no injury. They sold fish and venison to the boatmen, on amicable terms, and suffered them to pursue their journey unmolested. We mention this trifling circumstance, merely because it was afterwards reported in the St. Louis papers, that the crews of the boats had abused these Winnebagoes shamefully, which assuredly was not the case.

The wind died away before the boats reached the village of Wapaha-Sha, which is situated on the right bank of the Mississippi, twelve or fifteen miles above the mouth of Black river. Here the Dahcotahs peremptorily commanded them to put ashore, which they did. No reason was assigned for the order. Upwards of five hundred warriors immediately crowded on board. A passenger, who was well acquainted with the Dahcotahs, observed that they brought no women with them, as was usual; that they were painted black (which signifies either grief or hostility ;) that they refused to shake hands with the boatmen, and that their speech was brief and sullen. He instantly communicated his observations to Mr. Lindsay, who commanded the boats, and advised him to push on, before the savages should have discovered that the party were wholly unarmed. Lindsay, a bold-hearted Kentuckian, assumed the tone of command, and peremptorily ordered the Dahcotahs ashore. They, probably, thought that big words would be seconded with hard blows, and complied. The boats pushed on. Several Indians pursued them along the shore for several miles, with speech of taunt and defiance; but they offered no farther molestation.

The Dahcotah villages higher up showed much ill will, but no disposition, or rather no courage, to attack. Altogether, appearances were so threatening, that on his arrival at Fort Snelling, Mr. Lindsay communicated what he had seen to the commanding officer, and asked that his crew should be furnished with arms and ammunition. The request was granted; his thirty-two men were provided with thirty-two muskets, and a barrel of ball-cartridges. Thus secured against attack, the boats commenced the descent of the river.

In the mean while, the Red Bird had cogitated upon what he had heard, every tittle of which he believed, and had come to the conclusion, that the honor of his race required the blood of two Americans at least. He therefore got into his canoe with Wekaw, or The Sun, and two others, and paddled to Prairie du Chien.

When he got there, he waited upon Mr. Boilevin in the most friendly manner, and begged to be regarded as one of the staunchest friends of the Americans. The venerable agent admitted his claims, but absolutely refused to give him any whisky;. The Winnebago chief then applied to a trader in the town, who, rely. ing on his general good character, did not hesitate to furnish him with an eight gallon keg of spirits, the value of which was to be paid, in furs, in the succeeding autumn.

There was an old colored woman in the village, whose five sons had never heard that they were inferior beings, either from the Indians or the Canadian French. Therefore, having never considered themselves degraded, they were not degraded. On the contrary, they ranked with the most respectable inhabitants of the place. We knew them well. One of them was the village blacksmith; the others were substantial farmers. Their father was a Frenchrnan, and their name was Gagnier.

One of these men owned a farm three miles from Prairie du Chien, where he lived with his wife, (a white woman) two children, and a hired man named Liepcap. Thither the Red Bird repaired with his three companions, sure of a fair reception ; for Regis Gagnier had always been noted for his humanity to the poor, especially the Indians. Regis Gagnier invited his savage visiters to enter, hung the kettle over

the fire, gave them to eat, and smoked the pipe of peace with them. The Red Bird was the last man on earth whom he would have feared; for they were well acquainted with each other, and had reciprocated good offices.

The Indians remained several hours under Gagnier's hospitable roof. At last, when the

17

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

VOL. II.

[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]

farmer least expected it, the Winnebago chief leveled his gun and shot him down dead on his own hearth-stone. Liepcap was slain at the same instant by Wekaw. Madame Gagnier turned to fly with her infant (of eighteen months.) As she was about to leap through the window, the child was torn from her arms by Wekaw, stabbed, scalped, and thrown violently on the floor, as dead. The murderer then attacked the woman; but gave way when she snatched up a gun that was leaning against the wall, and presented it to his breast. She then effected her escape. Her eldest son, a boy of ten years, also shunned the murderers, and they both arrived in the village at about the same time. The alarm was soon given; but when the avengers of blood arrived at poor Regis Gagnier's house, they found in it nothing living but his mangled infant. It was carried to the village, and, strange as it may seem, recovered.

The Red Bird and his companions immediately proceeded from the scene of their crime to the rendezvous of their band. During their absence, thirty-seven of the warriors, who acknowledged the authority of the Red Bird, had assembled, with their wives and children, near the mouth of Bad Axe river. They received the murderers with exceeding great joy, and loud approbation of their exploit. The keg of liquor was immediately set abroach, the red men began to drink, and, as their spirits rose, to boast of what they had already done and intended to do. Two days did they continue to revel; and, on the third, the source of their excitement gave out. They were, at about four in the afternoon, dissipating the last fumes of their exeitement in the scalp dance, when they descried one of the keel-boats before mentioned, approaching. Forthwith, a proposal to take her and massacre the crew, was made and carried by acclamation. They counted upon doing this without risk; for they had examined her on her way up, and supposed that there were no arms on board.

Mr. Lindsay's boats had descended the river together as far as the village of Wapaha-Sha, where they expected an attack. The Dahcotahs on shore were dancing the war dance, and hailed their approach with insults and menaces; but did not, nevertheless, offer to obstruct their passage. The whites now supposed the danger over, and a strong wind at that moment beginning to blow up stream, the boats parted company. That which sat deepest in the water had the advantage of the under current, and, of course, gained several miles in advance of the other.

So strong was the wind, that all the force of sweeps could scarcely stem it, and, by the time the foremost boat was near the encampment, at the mouth of the Bad Axe, the crew were very willing to stop and rest. One or two Frenchmen, or half-breeds, who were on board, observed the hostile appearances on shore, and advised the rest to keep the middle of the stream; but their counsel was disregarded. Most of the crew were Americans, who, as is usual with our countrymen, combined a profound ignorance of Indian character with a thorough contempt for Indian prowess. They urged the boat directly toward the camp, with all the force of the sweeps. There were sixteen men on deck. It may be well to observe here, that this, like all keel-boats used in the Mississippi valley, was built almost exactly on the model of the Erie and Middlesex canal-boats.

The men were rallying their French companions on their apprehensions, and the boat was within thirty yards of the shore, when suddenly, the trees and rocks rang with the blood-chilling, ear-piercing tones of the war-whoop, and a volley of rifle-balls rained upon the deck. Happily, the Winnebagoes had not yet recovered from the effects of their debauch, and their arms were not steady. One man only fell by their fire. He was a little negro, named Peter. His leg was dreadfully shattered, and he afterwards died of the wound. The rest immediately made the best of their way below. Then Peter began to curse and to swear, og his fellows for leaving him to be shot at like a Christmas turkey; but' finding that his reproaches had none effect, he also managed to drag himself below. All this passed in as little time as it will take to read this paragraph.

Presently, a voice hailed the boat, in the Saque tongue, demanding to know if the crew were English. A half-breed Saque, named Beauchamp, answered in the affirmative. “Then,” said the querist," come on shore, and we will do you no harm, for we are your brethren, the Saques.” “Dog,” replied Beauchamp," no Saques would attack us thus cowardly. If you want us on shore, you must come and fetch us.

With that, a second volley came from the shore; but as the men were now lying prone in the bottom of the boat, below the water line, they all escaped, but

One man, an American, named Stewart, fell. He had risen to return the first fire, and the muzzle of his musket protruding through a loop-hole, showed

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

one.

« ZurückWeiter »