Abbildungen der Seite

was in the habit of requesting to be allowed to suggest whether hot pinchers would not be a neater method of ending the job. In his intervals of ennui, he did the lecture business on a free basis, visiting public lyceums known by the descriptive title of powwows, and affording much satisfaction to audiences, chiefly on the themes of “the Bounding Deer” and “the Blasted Pine.” He was a poet, an orator, a prophet, a hero, a highly educated and accomplished gentleman, who, from native simplicity of character, went without his clothes on. The only screw loose in his whole construction was an unaccountable propensity to die off. This was called “fading before the advance of the cruel white man.” When I thought of it, I felt ashamed of being white; I belonged to a cruel race that “advanced;” I wished that the cruel race would only listen to the good people who disliked “advancing,” and consent to stop it. As for the female Indian, there was a period when I pined for her. I owe her many melancholy months between the ages of nine and twelve. I remained faithfuler to my ideal than my ideal proved to me. I remember what a solace Beadle's Dime Novels would have been to me then, just as I think how much better off I might have been, had chloroform only been invented when I had my first tooth out. “Wishky-Washky, or the Queen of the Pottowatomies,” would have served me for one good dose. As it was, I read Cooper cumulatively to get the same effect. Every Indian woman was beautiful. All you had to do to equal the Venus de Medici was to turn the color of a new cent. The Indian woman lived principally on shady banks, with her feet in the water; but the same guilelessness of character which obviated a tailor's bill for her brother, guaranteed her against colds in the head. She was as pretty as anybody could be who was so pious; more pious than any white girl half so pretty. She contemplated alternately the Great Spirit in the clouds, and her own lovely face in the pool. If the half that was told of her was true, she could not be accused of wasting her time. How I longed to see her! I thought of her whenever I was in a grove. Would she steal out from behind that old chestnut, give me one quick antelope-look with the meltingest black eyes in Pagandom, and, laughing like the woodrobin's gurgle, be away again among the invisible Dryads and Fauns? Ah, bright Alfaratta, you jilted me ! You are a swindle, bright Alfaratta! I don't like to say it to a lady, but you are, Alfaratta; you know you are. I am obliged to disbelieve in the existence of a beautiful full-blooded Indian woman. I know that many excellent men, writing at a distance from Indians, have warmly imaged such a fact, and that a very few other excellent men, who have known Indians at home, speak enthusiastically of it. We must remember that almost any woman seems beautiful to a man who has seen none for three months, as often happened to the old voyageurs; also that the poet is quite independent of facts. A priori it would be possible to disprove a beautiful Indian. Neither in the physical, mental, or moral training of the Indian woman exist any of those conditions which underlie female beauty. She is man's drudge, and shows it in her face. Her husband can sell her or let her: she knows it, and shows that. She is ill fed, badly clothed, depressed by too rapid child-bearing; she shows from head to foot that she is all of these, or that her mother was before her. It is a manifest impossibility for physical beauty to exist under such circumstances by the operation of any known law. As to studying the question by observation, I can only say that I have looked in vain, through all that part of the Continent we traversed, for a single instance of anything which the utmost lenience could pronounce beauty in an Indian woman. Nothing can be a greater mistake than the popular notions regarding Indian maternity; the getting and rearing of a family break them down, and age them in their prime, to an extent more deplorable than among our frailest American women. Their health is poisoned by a congenital taint (which some philosophers have insisted in foisting upon the whites, but which is as independent of them as death itself); their habits are too slovenly to mention; their digestion quivers between gorge and fast; they become inured to the cold at the expense of stinted limbs, narrow chest, protruding abdomens, and a skin with the texture of rawhide. The assertions of the last sentence apply equally to the men. It would be hard for an imaginative artist to give an exaggerated idea of the extent to which the Arrapahoes carry the spindleshanked and pot-bellied style of human architecture. The little children all seem consumed by tabes mesenterica. For one boy of six I could find no simile but a kettle-drum standing on two fifes, with the bulge forward. Most of the men were gaunt; many undersized; nearly all were shrunken in the calf; and I saw none whose development in any way would have attracted notice in an Eastern gymnasium. They gave me the impression of a race on the decomposing grade, and a good way down the scale. Their faces were, without exception, gross, brutal, selfish, and sullen. Their occasional scanty laugh was a bad laugh. There was no suspicion even of prettiness in the face or form of either man, woman, or child. The horses of the Arrapahoes and their appreciation of them formed their one strong point. Few of the wiry little animals were larger than a Kanuck pony; they were all of them ewe-necked, as is inevitable with pasture-feeders; here and there was a tympanitic little cob which seemed to have succumbed to the surrounding human contagion, and become pot-bellied out of complaisance; but their action was good, their color picturesquely patched and pied, their eyes intelligent, their training such that they were ridden without bridle (often without saddle either), guided only by a pat on the neck, and their bottom evidently immense. I felt some respect for a large warrior on thin legs who refused our offer of one hundred dollars for his stallion. On one of these little fellows I saw a boy and a girl riding, with their little brother between them, the pony trotting away with as much comfort as if he were carrying an empty sack. I think he would not have objected if they had put him under a pyramid of the entire family. It is certainly in the Indian's favor that he belongs to one of the few races which make their horse their friend. An Arrapahoe baby takes much the same line of familiarities with his father's horse that a white child indulges towards his sister's poodle. An Indian horse hardly ever comes vicious to the stable of his first white owner. Not until the cruel bit has been substituted for the gentle hand-pat, and he has heard himself addressed in the new voice of enmity, does he learn to bite, kick, or practice the still worse vice of bucking. It is a pity that civilized nations should be compelled to learn the perfection of one of the manliest arts from the Nomads of Tartary, the Plains, and the Arabian Desert. The horse is as capable of friendship as the dog. The more that I see of him, the more I love his nature, and the more am I convinced that the true side for the trainer to approach him on, is his personal devotion to himself. The horse that cannot be approached thus, by wisdom and patience, I have yet to see. The nearest approach to luxury among the Arrapahoes was a sort of horse-palanquin, made by suspending a hammock of skins between two of the lodgepoles, which are tied at one end to the horse's neck, when the tents are struck for a march. The other ends of the poles drag on the ground; and they possess sufficient elasticity to make the hammock no mean ambulance for a veteran or a sick person. A little before sunset we pulled up at the one house and the stables representing Latham. Here we took tea from our own supply chest, and passed the time waiting for the westward stage in sketching and botanizing before dark, and writing letters after it. The stage arrived about ten o'clock, and to our great satisfaction we discovered only three inside passengers intending to go further. Night-riding in a stage is an occasion where misery decidedly does not love company. Just after leaving Latham, we coiled ourselves into one corner for a nap, but had hardly began to nod before we plunged down a steep bank, and began fording the South Platte at a point where the water came just nicely over the floor of the wagon, soaking our boots, gun-cases, and blankets to perfection. The night was dark; but, to judge by feeling, the road

« ZurückWeiter »