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of age, of fair complexion, with blue eyes, and an immense head of bushy hair, which seemed never to have known the use of the comb. His feet were naked, and his trousers and shirt, the only articles of dress he wore at the moment, were of a homespun somewhat resembling in colour the hunting-frock of his master. A thick black leather strap was also around his loins, evidently part of an old bridle-rein.
The master and the Frenchman drew near the fire and lighted their pipes. The ex-militaire thrust a quid of tobacco into his cheek, and taking up a small piece of pine board that rested against the chimney-corner, split a portion of this with his jack-knife, and commenced whittling. The boy busied himself in clearing the table, throwing occasionally scraps of bread and dried venison, which had constituted the chief portion of the meal, to the dog, who, however, contrary to his usual custom, paid little attention to these marks of favour, but moved impatiently, at intervals, to the door, then returning squatted himself again on his haunches, at a short distance from his master, and uttering a low sound betwixt a whine and a growl, looked piteously up into his face.
"Vat de devil is de matter wid you, Loup Garou?" remarked the Canadian at length, as removing his pipe from his lips, he stretched his legs, and poised himself in his low woodbottomed chair, putting forth his right hand at the same time to his canine follower. "You not eat, and you make noise as you wish me to see one raccoon in de tree."
"Loup Garou doesn't prate about coons, I guess," drawled the man in the faded uniform, without however withdrawing his attention from the very interesting occupation in which he was engaged. "That dog, I take it, Le Noir, means somethin' else—somethin' more than we human critters know. By gosh, Boss," looking for the first time at him who stood in that relation to him, " if we can't smell the varmint, I take it Loup Garou does."
"What has got into your foolish head now, Ephraim Giles ?" he sharply questioned. "You do nothing but prophesy evil. What 'varmint' do you talk of, and what has Loup Garou to do with it? Speak, what do you mean, if you mean anything at all?"
As he uttered this half rebuke he rose abruptly from his chair, shook the ashes from his pipe, and drew himself to his full height, with his back to the fire. There had been nothing very remarkable in the observation made by the man to whom he had just addressed himself, but he was in a peculiar state of mind, that gave undue importance to every word, seconding, as it did, a vague presenti
ment of some coming evil, which the very singular conduct of the dog had created, although he would scarcely acknowledge this to himself.
The man made no reply, but continued whittling, whistling the air of "Yankee Doodle."
"Answer me, Ephraim Giles !" peremptorily resumed Mr. Heywood; "leaveoff that eternal whittling of yours if you can, and explain to me your meaning."
"Etarnal whittling, do you call it, boss? I guess it's no sich thing. No man knows better nor you that if I can whittle the smallest stick in creation, I can bring down the stoutest oak as well as ere a fellow in Michigan. Work is work—play is play—it's only the difference, I reckon, of the axe and the knife."
"Will you answer my question like a man, and not like a fool as you are?" shouted the other, stooping and extending his left hand, the fingers of which he insinuated into the stock already described, while with a powerful jerk he brought both the man to his feet and the blood into his usually cadaverous cheek.
Ephraim Giles, half throttled and writhing with pain, made a movement as if he would have used the knife in a less innocent manner than whittling, but the quick, stern eye of his master detected the involuntary act, and his hand, suddenly relinquishing its hold of the collar, grasped the wrist of the soldier with such a vice-like pressure that the fingers immediately opened, and the knife fell upon the hearth.
The violence of his own act brought Mr. Heywood at once to a sense of the undue severity he had used towards his servant, and he immediately said, taking his hand—
"Ephraim Giles, forgive me. I have been rather rough with you, but it was not intended. Yet, I know not how it is, the few words you spoke just now have made me anxious to know what you meant, and I could not repress my impatience to hear your explanation."
The soldier had never before remarked so much dignity of manner about his "boss," as he termed Mr. Heywood, and this fact, added to the recollection of the severe handling he had just met with, caused him to be a little more respectful in his address.
"Well, I reckon," he said, picking up his knife, and resuming his whittling, but in a less absorbed manner, "I meant no harm, but merely that Loup Garou can nose an Injun better nor any of us."
"Nose an Indian better than any of us! Well, perhaps he can; he sees them every day; but what has that to do with his whining and growling just now?"
"Well I'll tell you, boss, what I mean, more plain like. You know that patch of wood bordering on the prairie, where you set me to cut t'other day V
"I do. What of that?"
"Well then, this morning I was cutting down as big an oak as ever grew in Michigan, as I said afore, when as it went thunderin' through the branches, with noise enough to scare every buffalo within a day's walk, up started, not twenty yards from its top, ten or a dozen or so of Injuns, all gruntin' like pigs, and lookin' as fierce as so many red devils. They didn't look quite pleased, I calculate."
"Indeed!" remarked Mr. Heywood musingly. '* A party of Pottawatomies, I suppose, from the neighbourhood of the Fort. We all know there is an encampment of them there, but they are our friends."
"Maybe so," continued Ephraim Giles, " but these varmint didn't look over friendly. And then I guess the Pottawatomies don't dress in war paint, except when they dance for liquor."
"And are you quite sure these Indians were in their war paint?" asked his master, with an ill-concealed look of anxiety.
"No mistake about it," replied Giles, still whittling, "and I could almost swear, short as the squint was I got of them, that they were part of those who fought us on the Wabash two years ago."
"And why did you not name this the instant you got home?" somewhat sternly demanded Mr. Heywood.
"Where's the use of spilin' a good dinner?" remarked Ephraim Giles. "\t was all smokin' hot when I come in from choppin', and I thought it best for every man to tuck in his belly full, before I said a word about it. Besides, I reckon I don't know as they meant any harm, seein' as how they never carried off my topknot; only it was a little queer they were hid in that way in the bush, and looked so fierce when they fust jumped up in their nasty paint."
"Who knows," remarked Mr. Heywood, taking down his rifle from the side of the hut opposite to the chimney, and examining the priming, "but that these fellows may have tracked you back, and are even now lurking near us."
"Le Noir," he continued to the Canadian, who, imitating his example, had taken down a long duck gun from the same side of the hut, "take your dog with you and reconnoitre in the neighbourhood. You speak Indian, and if any of these people are to be seen, ascertain who they are, and why"
Here he was interrupted by the gradually approaching sounds of rattling deer-hoofs, so well known as composing one of the lower ornaments of the Indian war-dress, while, at the same moment, the wild moaning of Loup
Vol. vi. 11
Garou, who stood at the front doorway, was renewed even more plaintively than before.
Mr. Heywood's cheek blanched. It was not with fear, for he was a man incapable of fear, in the usual acceptation of the word; but independently of certain vague apprehensions for others, his mind had been in a great degree unhinged by an unaccountable presentiment of evil, which, as if instinctively, had come over it that day. It was this which, inducing a certain irresoluteness of thought and action, had led him into a manifestation of peevish contradiction in his address to Ephraim Giles. There are moments when, without knowing why, the nerves of the strongest, the purposes of the wisest, are unstrung; and when it requires all our tact and self-possession, to conceal from others the momentary weakness we almost blush to admit to ourselves.
But there was no time for reflection. The approach to the door was suddenly shaded, and, in the next instant, the dark forms of three or four savages, speedily followed by others, amounting in all to twelve besides their chief, who was in the advance, crossed the threshold; and without uttering a word either of anger or salutation, squatted themselves on the floor. They were stout, athletic warriors; the perfect symmetry of whose persons could not be concealed even by the hideous war-paint with which they were thickly streaked; inspiring anything but confidence in the honesty or friendliness of their intentions. The head of each was shaved and painted, as well as his person, and only on the extreme crown had been left a tuft of hair, to which were attached feathers and small bones, and other fantastic ornaments peculiar to their race. A few carried American rifles, the majority, the common gun periodically dealt out to the several tribes as presents from the British government; while all had, in addition to their pipe and tomahawk, the formidable and polished war-club.
Such visiters, and so armed and painted, were not of a character to remove the apprehensions of the little party in the farm-house. Their very silence, added to their dark and threatening looks, created more than mere suspicion,—a certainty of evil design; and deeply, bitterly did Mr. Heywood curse in his heart, the folly of Ephraim Giles in failing to apprise him of his rencontre with these people, at the earliest moment after his return. Had he done so, there might have been a chance, nay, a certainty of relief; for he knew that a party from the Fort, consisting of a non-commissioned officer and six men, were even now fishing not more than two miles higher up the river. He was aware that the boy Wilton was an excellent runner, and that within an hour at least, he could have reached and brought down that party who, as was their wont, when absenting themselves from the Fort on these fishing excursions, were provided with their arms. However, it might not be too late yet, and he determined to make the attempt. To call and speak to the boy aside, would, he was well aware, excite the suspicions of his unweleome guests, while it was possible that, as they did not understand English—so at least he took it for granted—a communication mado to him boldly in their presence, would be construed into some domestic order.
"Wilton," said he calmly to the boy, who stood near the doorway with alarm visibly depicted on his countenance, and looking as if he would eagerly seize a favourable opportunity of escape, "make all haste to the fishing-party above. Tell them what is going on here, and ask the sergeant or corporal, whoever may be in command, to lose no time in pulling down the stream. You will come back with them; quick, lose not a moment."
Delighted at the order, the boy made no answer, but hatless, shoeless as he was, disappeared round the corner of the house. Strange to say, the Indians, although they had seemingly listened with attention to Mr. Heywood while issuing these directions, did not make the slightest movement to impede the boy's departure, or even to remark on it,— merely turning to their chief, who uttered a sharp and apparently satisfied "Ugh."
All this time Mr. Heywood and Le Noir stood at some little distance from the Indians, and nearly on the spot they had previously occupied, the one holding his rifle, the other his duck gun, the butts of both resting on the floor. At each moment their anxiety increased, and it seemed an age before the succour they had sent for could possibly arrive. How long, moreover, would these taciturn and forbidding mannered savages wait before they gave some indication of overt hostility? And, even if nothing were done prior to the arrival of the fishing-party, would these latter be in sufficient force to awe them into a pacific departure? The Indians were twelve in number, exclusively of their chief, all fierce and determined. They, with the soldiers, nine; for neither Mr. Heywood nor Le Noir, seemed disposed to count upon any efficient aid from Ephraim Giles, who during tin" dumb scene, continued whittling before the Indians, apparently as cool and indifferent to their presence as if he had conceived them to be the most peaceably disposed persons in the world. He had, however, attentively listened to the order given to Wilton by his master, and had not failed to remark that the Indians had not, in any way, interfered with his departure.
"What do you think of these people, Le Noir?" at length asked Mr. Heywood, without however removing his gaze from his visiters; "can they be friendly Pottawatomies?"
"Friendly Pottawatomie! no sare," returned the Canadian seriously, and shrugging his shoulders. "Dcy no dress—no paint like de Pottawatomie, and I not like der black look. No sare, dey Winnebago."
He laid a strong emphasis on the last word, and, as he expected, a general "ugh" among the party attested that he had correctly named their tribe.
While they were thus expressing their conjectures in regard to the character and intentions of their guests, and inwardly determining to sell their lives as dearly as possible if attacked, Ephraim Giles had risen from his seat in the corner of the chimney, and with his eyes fixed on the stick he was whittling, walked coolly out of the door, and sauntered down the pathway leading to the river. But, if he had caleulated on the same indifference to his actions that the Indians had manifested towards those of the boy, he was mistaken. The whole party watched him as he slowly approached the water, and then, when he had got about half-way, the chief, suddenly springing to his feet, and brandishing his tomahawk, demanded in broken, but perfectly intelligible English, where he was going.
"Well, I want to know!" exclaimed Ephraim Giles, turning round, and, in a tone indicating surprise that he should thus have been interrupted. "Onlygoin' over thar," he continued pointing to the haystacks on the opposite side of the river, around which stood many cattle— "goin' to give out some grub to the beasts, and I'll be back in no time to give you out some whiskey." Then, resuming his course, he went on, whittling as unconcernedly as before.
The chief turned to his followers, and a low, yet eager conversation ensued. Whether it was that the seeming indifference of the man, or his promise of the whiskey on his return, or that some other motive influenced them, they contented themselves with keeping a vigilant watch upon his movements.
Mr. Heywood and the Frenchman looked at each other with surprise. They could not account for the action of Ephraim Giles at that moment, although it was his office to cross the river daily, but at different hours, for the purpose he had named; yet how the Indians could suffer this, if their intentions were really hostile, it was impossible for them to understand. In proportion as the hopes of the one were raised by this circumstance, those of the other were depressed.
While the master and the man were indulging their opposite reflections, without however making any intercommunication of them, Ephraim Giles, who had now thrust his knife and stick into the pocket of his short skirt, shoved off the only canoe that was to be seen, and stepping into it and seizing the paddle, urged it slowly, and without the slightest appearance of hurry, to the opposite bank, where, within less than ten minutes from his departure, he again hauled it up. Then, as coolly ascending the bank, he approached one of the haystacks, and drew from it a few armsfull of fodder, which he spread upon the ground, continuing to do so as the cattle assembled around, until he had gained the outermost stack bordering immediately upon the wood. This reached, he gave a loud yell, which was promptly answered in the fiercest tone of disappointment by the Indians, who had continued to watch his movements up to the very moment of his disappearance, and, darting along a narrow *path which skirted the woods, ran with all his speed towards the Fort, hallooing and giving the alarm as he went. His flight had not lasted five minutes when the reports of several guns, fired in the direction he had just quitted, met his ear, and urged him to even greater exertion—until, at length, haggard and breathless, he gained his destination, and made his way to the commanding officer, to whom he briefly detailed the startling occurrences he had witnessed.
The Fort of Chicago, at that period, stood on a portion of the same ground now occupied by its successor, and was in fact a very epitome of a fortress. On the western side, two blockhouses constituted its chief defence, while on the north, a subterranean passage led from the parade-ground to the river, near the banks of which it had been erected. The uses of this sallyport were twofold; first, to afford the garrison a supply of water in the event of a siege—secondly, to facilitate escape, if necessary. The country around, now a scene of fruitfulness and industry, was at that time a wilderness, tenanted only by the savage, and by the few daring and adventurous whites who had devoted their lives to purposes of traffic among them; yet their number was so small as to induce them, with a view to their safety, to establish themselves as near the fort as possible. Roads there were none, and the half-formed trail of the Indian furnished the only means of communication between this distant part and the less thickly settled portions of Michigan. Nor were these journeys of frequent occurrence, but performed at long intervals, by the enterprising and robust men who
feared not to encounter privation and hardship —encamping at night in the woods, or finding a less desirable repose in the squalid wigwam of the uncertain Indian.
On the same side of the river was the government agency house, and about a quarter of a mile from that a spot generally used as a place of encampment by the friendly Indians, now occupied by a numerous band of Pottawatomies. Immediately opposite the Fort itself stood the residence and trading establishment of Mr. Mackenzie—a gentleman who hod long mixed with the Indians, had much influence with, and was highly regarded by them; and close to his abode lived with his family, consisting of his wife and her sister—French Canadians like himself,—Ouilmette, one of the most attached of his people, and enjoying almost equal popularity with the red men. About a quarter of a mile beyond Ouilmette's, and immediately opposite to the Pottawatomie encampment, from which it was divided only by the river, was another small but neat dwelling. This belonged to Mr. Heywood, and was then inhabited by his wife and daughter, both of whom, like himself, had seen better days, and whom he would not permit to reside at the farm, as well on account of its rudeness of accommodation, as of the dread of exposing them, in that remote situation, to the very danger which we have seen he had himself so recently encountered.
Such was the civilian population of that sparsely inhabited country in 1812. Let us now see the strength of its garrison. For the defence of so distant an outpost, almost cut off, as we have already shown, from communication with the more inhabited portions of the state, the American government had not thought it requisite to provide more than a single company of soldiers, a force utterly inadequate to contend, in a case of emergency, with the hordes of savages that could be collected around them within a few hours,—and weeks before succour of any efficient kind could be received. This error, grave at any time, in those who sought to extend the influence of their name and arms throughout that fertile region, which has now, within the lapse of little more than a quarter of a century, become the very head of American commerce and navigation, was especially so at this particular epoch, when the Indian spirit, stirred to exertion by the great chief, who had so recently measured his strength with his natural enemies at Tippecanoe, was likely to be aroused on all occasions where facility of conquest seemed to present itself. And yet that government well knew that there were, even at that moment, difficulties subsisting between themselves and Great Britain of a character to lead to an interruption of the friendly intercourse that had hitherto subsisted between the two countries, and which, if suffered to ripen into hostilities, would necessarily associate many of the Indian tribes with the forces of England, drawing down certain destruction on those remote parts, whose chief hope of immunity from danger lay, in a great degree, on the array of strength they could oppose to their subtle and calculating enemy.
This company, consisting of seventy-five men —many of them married, and with families— was under the command of an officer whose conduct throughout these eventful and trying scenes to be recorded, has often been the subject of much censure;—with what justice the reader will determine.
Captain Headly was one of those officers who, without having acquired greater rank at the age of forty than he now possessed, had served in the army of the United States from his boyhood, and was, in all the minutiae of the service, a strict disciplinarian. He had in his earlier service acquired those habits of discipline and deference to authority which caused him, on all necessary occasions, to regulate his conduct by the orders of his superiors, and so strongly was this engrafted on his very nature, that, while possessing mind, energy, and resolution sufficient to plan the most feasible measures, his dread of that responsibility which circumstances had now forced upon him, induced the utmost disinclination to depart from the letter of an instruction once received and unrevoked.
These, however, were purely faults of his military education. To a commanding person and dignified manner Captain Headly united a mind highly cultivated, and feelings and sentiments which could not fail to secure the respect even of those most ready to condemn that caution and prudence of character which Ro eminently distinguished his career as a subordinate soldier. It was well known and conceded that, if he erred, the error grew not so much out of his own want of judgment, but was rather the fruit of the too great deference he paid to the judgment of others. In the private relations of life he was both liked and esteemed, excelling in all those lighter accomplishments that insure favour with society, and seldom fail to win for their possessor the approbation of women. Such, indeed, had been his success in this particular application of the gifts with which nature had endowed him, that he had for some years been the possessor of the affections and hand of one of the noblest of her sex.
The next officer in rank was Lieutenant Elmsley, married also, and about ten years the junior of Headly. From particular causes
the subaltern did not incline to repose that confidence in the measures or judgment of his captain, which it has been shown the latter almost invariably accorded to those in authority above himself; and hence arose feelings that, without absolutely alienating them—for in their relative military positions this could never be —rendered their intercourse daily more and more formal, until in the end, a sentiment almost of enmity prevailed. In a remote garrison like this such an evil was the more to be regretted, even while there was the greater probability, from absence of serious occupation, of its occurrence.
The junior subaltern was Ensign Renayne, a high-spirited young southerner, who had now been three years at the post, and, within that period had, by his frank demeanour and handsome person, won the regard of all—military and civil—in the neighbourhood. Enterprising, ardent, fearless, and chivalrous, this young man had passed the first year of what he then considered his banishment to this remote region, in a restless desire for adventure, but at the end of that year came a change over him, and the spirit that had panted exclusively for action, now bent before a gentler influence.
Last of the officers of this little fort was the surgeon-doctor Von Vottenberg, who, as his name would imply, was a descendant of one of the earlier families of Dutch settlers in the colonies, subsequently the United States. There was nothing remarkable about this gentleman. He was short, stout, rather of a bilious temperament, clever in his profession, and much addicted to compounding whiskey punch, which he not only brewed, but drank most satisfactorily.
Such were the parties at the moment when Ephraim Giles, breathless with speed and fancying the fierce Winnebagoes close upon his heels, made his entry into the Fort. The news he brought was of a nature to assemble the officers, as well as many of the men and women, anxious to hear all the details of an occurrence which now, for the first time since their arrival at the post, had created anything like serious apprehension.
But there was one of the officers who manifested more than ordinary uneasiness. His impatience was great, and, after having whispered a few words in the ear of Captain Headly, and received an affirmative reply, coupled with an injunction of caution, he left the building in haste, and proceeded towards the blockhouses, where, selecting half a dozen men and ordering them to arm on the instant, he passed with them through the gate—sprang into a large scow which was unchained from its moorings on the bank of the river, and steered in the direction of the house already said to have