Oak Openings

by James Fenimore Cooper

Previous Chapter Next Chapter

Chapter XXII.

     No shrift the gloomy savage brooks,
     As scowling on the priest he looks;
     Cowesass--cowesass--tawkich wessasseen!
     Let my father look on Bornazeen-
     My father's heart is the heart of a squaw,
     But mine is so hard that it does not thaw,

Leaving the newly-married couple to pursue their way homeward, it is now our province to return to Prairie Round. One accustomed to such scenes would easily have detected the signs of divided opinions and of agitating doubts among the chiefs, though nothing like contention or dispute had yet manifested itself. Peter's control was still in the ascendant, and he had neglected none of his usual means of securing influence. Perhaps he labored so much the harder, from the circumstance that he now found himself so situated, as to be compelled to undo much that he had previously done.

On the other hand, Ungque appeared to have no particular cause of concern. His manner was as much unoccupied as usual; and to his habit of referring all his influence to sudden and powerful bursts of eloquence, if design of any sort was entertained, he left his success.

We pass over the details of assembling the council. The spot was not exactly on the prairie, but in a bit of lovely "Opening" on its margin, where the eye could roam over a wide extent of that peculiar natural meadow, while the body enjoyed the shades of the wood. The chiefs alone were in the circle, while the "braves" and the "young men" generally formed a group on the outside; near enough to hear what passed, and to profit by it, if so disposed. The pipe was smoked, and all the ordinary customs observed, when Bear's Meat arose, the first speaker on that momentous occasion.

"Brothers," he said, "this is the great council on Prairie Round to which we have been called. We have met before, but not here. This is our first meeting here. We have travelled a long path to get here. Some of our brethren have travelled farther. They are at Detroit. They went there to meet our great Canada father, and to take Yankee scalps. How many scalps they have taken I do not know, or I would tell you. It is pleasant to me to count Yankee scalps. I would rather count them, than count the scalps of red men. There are still a great many left. The Yankees are many, and each Yankee has a scalp. There should not be so many. When the buffaloes came in the largest droves, our fathers used to go out to hunt them in the strongest parties. Their sons should do the same. We are the sons of those fathers. They say we look like them, talk like them, live like them--we should act like them. Let another speak, for I have done."

After this brief address, which bore some resemblance to a chairman's calling a meeting of civilized men to order, there was more smoking. It was fully expected that Peter would next arise, but he did not. Perceiving this, and willing to allow time to that great chief to arrange his thoughts, Crowsfeather assumed the office of filling the gap. He was far more of a warrior than of an orator, and was listened to respectfully, but less for what he said, than for what he had done. A good deal of Indian boasting, quite naturally, was blended with his discourse.

"My brother has told you of the Yankee scalps," he commenced. "He says they are many. He says there ought to be fewer. He did not remember who sat so near him. Perhaps he does not know that there are three less now than there were a moon since. Crowsfeather took three at Chicago. Many scalps were taken there. The Yankees must be plentier than the buffaloes on the great prairies, if they can lose so many scalps often, and send forth their warriors. I am a Pottawattamie. My brothers know that tribe. It is not a tribe of Jews, but a tribe of Injins. It is a great tribe. It never was lost. It cannot be lost. No tribe better knows all the paths, and all the best routes to every point where it wishes to go. It is foolish to say you can lose a Pottawattamie. A duck would be as likely to lose itself as a Pottawattamie. I do not speak for the Ottawas: I speak for the Pottawattamies. We are not Jews. We do not wish to be Jews; and what we do not wish to be, we will not be. Our father who has come so far to tell us that we are not Injins, but Jews, is mistaken. I never heard of these Jews before. I do not wish to hear of them again. When a man has heard enough, he does not keep his ears open willingly. It is then best for the speaker to sit down. The Pottawattamies have shut their ears to the great medicine-priest of the pale-faces. What he says may be true of other tribes, but it is not true of the Pottawatttamies. We are not lost; we are not Jews. I have done."

This speech was received with general favor. The notion that the Indians were not Indians, but Jews, was far from being agreeable to those who had heard what had been said on the subject; and the opinions of Crowsfeather possessed the great advantage of reflecting the common sentiment on this interesting subject. When this is the case, a very little eloquence or logic goes a great way; and, on the whole, the address of the last speaker was somewhat better received than that of the first.

It was now confidently believed that Peter would rise. But he did not. That mysterious chief was not yet prepared to speak, or he was judiciously exciting expectation by keeping back. There were at least ten minutes of silent smoking, ere a chief, whose name rendered into English was Bough of the Oak, arose, evidently with a desire to help the time along. Taking his cue from the success of Crows-feather, he followed up the advantage obtained by that chief, assailing the theory of the missionary from another quarter.

"I am an Injin," said Bough of the Oak; "my father was an Injin, and my mother was the daughter of an Injin. All my fathers were red men, and all their sons. Why should I wish to be anything else? I asked my brother, the medicine-priest, and he owned that Jews are pale- faces. This he should not have owned if he wished the Injins to be Jews. My skin is red. The Manitou of my fathers so painted it, and their child will not try to wash out the color. Were the color washed out of my face, I should be a pale-face! There would not be paint enough to hide my shame. No; I was born red, and will die a red man. It is not good to have two faces. An Injin is not a snake, to cast his skin. The skin in which he was born he keeps. He plays in it when a child; he goes in it to his first hunt; the bears and the deer know him by it; he carries it with him on the warpath, and his enemies tremble at the sight of it; his squaw knows him by that skin when he comes back to his wigwam; and when he dies, he is put aside in the same skin in--which he was born. There is but one skin, and it has but one color. At first, it is little. The pappoose that wears it is little. There is not need of a large skin. But it grows with the pappoose, and the biggest warrior finds his skin around him. This is because the Great Spirit fitted it to him. Whatever the Manitou does is good.

"My brothers have squaws--they have pappooses. When the pappoose is put into their arms, do they get the paint-stones, and paint it red? They do not. It is not necessary. The Manitou painted it red before it was born. How this was done I do not know. I am nothing but a poor Injin, and only know what I see. I have seen that the pappooses are red when they are born, and that the warriors are red when they die. They are also red while living. It is enough. Their fathers could never have been pale-faces, or we should find some white spots on their children. There are none.

"Crowsfeather has spoken of the Jews as lost. I am not surprised to hear it. It seems to me that all pale-faces get lost. They wander from their own hunting-grounds into those of other people. It is not so with Injins. The Pottawattamie does not kill the deer of the Iowa, nor the Ottawa the deer of the Menomenees. Each tribe knows its own game. This is because they are not lost. My pale-face father appears to wish us well. He has come on a long and weary path to tell us about his Manitou. For this I thank him. I thank all who wish to do me good. Them that wish to do me harm I strike from behind. It is our Injin custom. I do not wish to hurt the medicine- priest, because I think he wishes to do me good, and not to do me harm. He has a strange law. It is to do good to them that do harm to you. It is not the law of the red men. It is not good law. I do not wonder that the tribes which follow such a law get lost. They cannot tell their friends from their enemies. They can have no people to scalp. What is a warrior if he cannot find someone to scalp? No; such a law would make women of the bravest braves in the Openings, or on the prairie. It may be a good law for Jews, who get lost; but it is a bad law for Injins, who know the paths they travel. Let another speak."

This brief profession of faith, on the subject that had been so recently broached in the council, seemed to give infinite satisfaction. All present evidently preferred being red men, who knew where they were, than to be pale-faces who had lost their road. Ignorance of his path is a species of disgrace to an American savage, and not a man there would have confessed that his particular division of the great human family was in that dilemma. The idea that the Yankees were "lost," and had got materially astray, was very grateful to most who heard it; and Bough of the Oak gained a considerable reputation as an orator, in consequence of the lucky hits made on this occasion.

Another long, ruminating pause, and much passing of the pipe of peace succeeded. It was near half an hour after the last speaker had resumed his seat, ere Peter stood erect. In that long interval expectation had time to increase, and curiosity to augment itself. Nothing but a very great event could cause this pondering, this deliberation, and this unwillingness to begin. When, however, the time did come for the mysterious chief to speak, the man of many scalps to open his mouth, profound was the attention that prevailed among all present. Even after he had arisen, the orator stood silently looking around him, as if the throes of his thoughts had to be a little suppressed before he could trust his tongue to give them utterance.

"What is the earth?" commenced Peter, in a deep, guttural tone of voice, which the death-like stillness rendered audible even to the outermost boundaries of the circle of admiring and curious countenances. "It is one plain adjoining another; river after river; lake after lake; prairie touching prairie; and pleasant woods, that seem to have no limits, all given to men to dwell in. It would seem that the Great Spirit parcelled out this rich possession into hunting-grounds for all. He colored men differently. His dearest children he painted red, which is his own color. Them that he loved less he colored less, and they had red only in spots. Them he loved least he dipped in a dark dye, and left them black. These are the colors of men. If there are more, I have not seen them. Some say there are. I shall think so, too, when I see them.

"Brothers, this talk about lost tribes is a foolish talk. We are not lost. We know where we are, and we know where the Yankees have come to seek us. My brother has well spoken. If any are lost, it is the Yankees. The Yankees are Jews; they are lost. The time is near when they will be found, and when they will again turn their eyes toward the rising sun. They have looked so long toward the setting sun, that they cannot see clearly. It is not good to look too long at the same object. The Yankees have looked at our hunting-grounds, until their eyes are dim. They see the hunting-grounds, but they do not see all the warriors that are in them. In time, they will learn to count them.

"Brothers, when the Great Spirit made man, he put him to live on the earth. Our traditions do not agree in saying of what he was made. Some say it was of clay, and that when his spirit starts for the happy hunting-grounds, his body becomes clay again. I do not say that this is so, for I do not know. It is not good to say that which we do not know to be true. I wish to speak only the truth. This we do know. If a warrior die, and we put him in the earth, and come to look for him many years afterward, nothing but bones are found. All else is gone. I have heard old men say that, in time, even these bones are not to be found. It is so with trees; it may be so with men. But it is not so with hunting-grounds. They were made to last forever.

"Brothers, you know why we have come together on this prairie. It was to count the pale-faces, and to think of the way of making their number less. Now is a good time for such a thing. They have dug up the hatchet against each other, and when we hear of scalps taken among them, it is good for the red men. I do not think our Canada father is more our friend than the great Yankee, Uncle Sam. It is true, he gives us more powder, and blankets, and tomahawks, and rifles than the Yankee, but it is to get us to fight his battles. We will fight his battles. They are our battles, too. For this reason we will fight his enemies.

"Brothers, it is time to think of our children. A wise chief once told me how many winters it is since a pale-face was first seen among red men. It was not a great while ago. Injins are living who have seen Injins, whose own fathers saw the first pale-faces. They were few. They were like little children, then; but now they are grown to be men. Medicine-men are plenty among them, and tell them how to raise children. The Injins do not understand this. Small-pox, fire-water, bad hunting, and frosts, keep us poor, and keep our children from growing as fast as the children of the pale-faces. "Brothers, all this has happened within the lives of three aged chiefs. One told to another, and he told it to a third. Three chiefs have kept that tradition. They have given it to me. I have cut notches on this stick (holding up a piece of ash, neatly trimmed, as a record) for the winters they told me, and every winter since I have cut one more. See; there are not many notches. Some of our people say that the pale-faces are already plentier than leaves on the trees. I do not believe this. These notches tell us differently. It is true the pale-faces grow fast, and have many children, and small-pox does not kill many of them, and their wars are few; but look at this stick. Could a canoe-full of men become as many as they say, in so few winters? No; it is not so. The stories we have heard are not true. A crooked tongue first told them. We are strong enough still to drive these strangers into the great salt lake, and get back all our hunting-grounds. This is what I wish to have done.

"Brothers, I have taken many scalps. This stick will tell the number." Here one of those terrible gleams of ferocity to which we have before alluded, passed athwart the dark countenance of the speaker, causing all present to feel a deeper sympathy in the thoughts he would express. "There are many. Every one has come from the head of a pale-face. It is now twenty winters since I took the scalp of a red man. I shall never take another. We want all of our own warriors, to drive back the strangers.

"Brothers, some Injins tell us of different tribes. They talk about distant tribes as strangers. I tell you we are all children of the same father. All our skins are red. I see no difference between an Ojebway, and a Sac, or a Sioux. I love even a Cherokee." Here very decided signs of dissatisfaction were manifested by several of the listeners; parties of the tribes of the great lakes having actually marched as far as the Gulf of Mexico to make war on the Indians of that region, who were generally hated by them with the most intense hatred. "He has the blood of our fathers in him. We are brothers, and should live together as brothers. If we want scalps, the pale- faces have plenty. It is sweet to take the scalp of a pale-face. I know it. My hand has done it often, and will do it again. If every Injin had taken as many scalps as I have taken, few of these strangers would now remain.

"Brothers, one thing more I have to say. I wish to hear others, and will not tell all I know this time. One thing more I have to say, and I now say it. I have told you that we must take the scalps of all the pale-faces who are now near us. I thought there would have been more, but the rest do not come. Perhaps they are frightened. There are only six. Six scalps are not many. I am sorry they are so few. But we can go where there will be more. One of these six is a medicine-man. I do not know what to think. It may be good to take his scalp. It may be bad. Medicine-men have great power. You have seen what this bee-hunter can do. He knows how to talk with bees. Them little insects can fly into small places, and see things that Injins cannot see. The Great Spirit made them so. When we get back all the land, we shall get the bees with it, and may then hold a council to say what it is best to do with them. Until we know more, I do not wish to touch the scalp of that bee-hunter. It may do us great harm. I knew a medicine-man of the pale-faces to lose his scalp, and small-pox took off half the band that made him prisoner and killed him. It is not good to meddle with medicine-men. A few days ago, and I wanted this young man's scalp, very much. Now, I do not want it. It may do us harm to touch it. I wish to let him go, and to take his squaw with him. The rest we can scalp."

Peter cunningly made no allusion to Margery, until just before he resumed his seat, though now deeply interested in her safety. As for le Bourdon, so profound was the impression he had made that morning, that few of the chiefs were surprised at the exemption proposed in his favor. The superstitious dread of witchcraft is very general among the American savages; and it certainly did seem to be hazardous to plot the death of a man, who had even the bees that were humming on all sides of them under his control. He might at that very moment be acquainted with all that was passing; and several of the grim-looking and veteran warriors who sat in the circle, and who appeared to be men able and willing to encounter aught human, did not fail to remember the probability of a medicine- man's knowing who were his friends, and who his enemies.

When Peter sat down, there was but one man in the circle of chiefs who was resolved to oppose his design of placing Boden and Margery without the pale of the condemned. Several were undecided, scarce knowing what to think of so sudden and strange a proposition, but could not be said to have absolutely adhered to the original scheme of cutting off all. The exception was Ungque. This man--a chief by a sort of sufferance, rather than as a right--was deadly hostile to Peter's influence, as has been said, and was inclined to oppose all his plans, though compelled by policy to be exceedingly cautious how he did it. Here, however, was an excellent opportunity to strike a blow, and he was determined not to neglect it. Still, so wily was this Indian, so much accustomed to put a restraint on his passions and wishes, that he did not immediately arise, with the impetuous ardor of frank impulses, to make his reply, but awaited his time.

An Indian is but a man, after all, and is liable to his weaknesses, notwithstanding the self-command he obtains by severe drilling. Bough of the Oak was to supply a proof of this truth. He had been so unexpectedly successful in his late attempt at eloquence, that it was not easy to keep him off his feet, now that another good occasion to exhibit his powers offered. He was accordingly the next to speak.

"My brothers," said Bough of the Oak, "I am named after a tree. You all know that tree. It is not good for bows or arrows; it is not good for canoes; it does not make the best fire, though it will burn, and is hot when well lighted. There are many things for which the tree after which I am named is not good. It is not good to eat. It has no sap that Injins can drink, like the maple. It does not make good brooms. But it has branches like other trees, and they are tough. Tough branches are good. The boughs of the oak will not bend, like the boughs of the willow, or the boughs of the ash, or the boughs of the hickory.

"Brothers, I am a bough of the oak. I do not like to bend. When my mind is made up, I wish to keep it where it was first put. My mind has been made up to take the scalps of all the pale-faces who are now in the Openings. I do not want to change it. My mind can break, but it can not bend. It is tough."

Having uttered this brief but sententious account of his view of the matter at issue, the chief resumed his seat, reasonably well satisfied with this, his second attempt to be eloquent that day. His success this time was not as unequivocal as on the former occasion, but it was respectable. Several of the chiefs saw a reasonable, if not a very logical analogy, between a man's name and his mind; and to them it appeared a tolerably fair inference that a man should act up to his name. If his name was tough, he ought to be tough, too. In this it does not strike us that they argued very differently from civilized beings, who are only too apt to do that which their better judgments really condemn, because they think they are acting "in character," as it is termed.

Ungque was both surprised and delighted with this unexpected support from Bough of the Oak. He knew enough of human nature to understand that a new-born ambition, that of talking against the great, mysterious chief, Peter, was at the bottom of this unexpected opposition; but with this he was pleased, rather than otherwise. An opposition that is founded in reason, may always be reasoned down, if reasons exist therefor; but an opposition that has its rise in any of the passions, is usually somewhat stubborn. All this the mean-looking chief, or the Weasel, understood perfectly, and appreciated highly. He thought the moment favorable, and was disposed to "strike while the iron was hot." Rising after a decent interval had elapsed, this wily Indian looked about him, as if awed by the presence in which he stood, and doubtful whether he could venture to utter his thoughts before so many wise chiefs. Having made an impression by this air of diffidence, he commenced his harangue.

"I am called the Weasel," he said, modestly. "My name is not taken from the mightiest tree of the forest, like that of my brother; it is taken from a sort of rat--an animal that lives by its wits. I am well named. When my tribe gave me that name, it was just. All Injins have not names. My great brother, who told us once that we ought to take the scalp of every white man, but who now tells us that we ought not to take the scalp of every white man, has no name. He is called Peter, by the pale-faces. It is a good name. But it is a pale-face name. I wish we knew the real name of my brother. We do not know his nation or his tribe. Some say he is an Ottawa, some an Iowa, some even think him a Sioux. I have heard he was a Delaware, from toward the rising sun. Some, but they must be Injins with forked tongues, think and say he is a Cherokee! I do not believe this. It is a lie. It is said to do my brother harm. Wicked Injins will say such things. But we do not mind what they say. It is not necessary.

"My brothers, I wish we knew the tribe of this great chief, who tells us to take scalps, and then tells us not to take scalps. Then we might understand why he has told us two stories. I believe all he says, but I should like to know why I believe it. It is good to know why we believe things. I have heard what my brother has said about letting this bee-hunter go to his own people, but I do not know why he believes this is best. It is because I am a poor Injin, perhaps; and because I am called the Weasel. I am an animal that creeps through small holes. That is my nature. The bison jumps through open prairies, and a horse is wanted to catch him. It is not so with the weasel; he creeps through small holes. But he always looks where he goes.

"The unknown chief, who belongs to no tribe, talks of this bee- hunter's squaw. He is afraid of so great a medicine-man, and wishes him to go, and take all in his wigwam with him. He has no squaw. There is a young squaw in his lodge, but she is not his squaw. There is no need of letting her go, on his account. If we take her scalp, he cannot hurt us. In that, my brother is wrong. The bees have buzzed too near his ears. Weasels can hear, as well as other animals; and I have heard that this young squaw is not this bee- hunter's squaw.

"If Injins are to take the scalps of all the pale-faces, why should we not begin with these who are in our hands? When the knife is ready, and the head is ready, nothing but the hand is wanting. Plenty of hands are ready, too; and it does not seem good to the eyes of a poor, miserable weasel, who has to creep through very small holes to catch his game, to let that game go when it is taken. If my great brother, who has told us not to scalp this bee-hunter and her he calls his squaw, will tell us the name of his tribe, I shall be glad. I am an ignorant Injin, and like to learn all I can; I wish to learn that. Perhaps it will help us to understand why he gave one counsel yesterday, and another to-day. There is a reason for it. I wish to know what it is."

Ungque now slowly seated himself. He had spoken with great moderation, as to manner; and with such an air of humility as one of our own demagogues is apt to assume, when he tells the people of their virtues, and seems to lament the whole time that he, himself, was one of the meanest of the great human family. Peter saw, at once, that he had a cunning competitor, and had a little difficulty in suppressing all exhibition of the fiery indignation he actually felt, at meeting opposition in such a quarter. Peter was artful, and practised in all the wiles of managing men, but he submitted to use his means to attain a great end. The virtual extinction of the white race was his object, and in order to effect it, there was little he would have hesitated to do. Now, however, when for the first time in many years a glimmering of human feeling was shining on the darkness of his mind, he found himself unexpectedly opposed by one of those whom he had formerly found so difficult to persuade into his own dire plans! Had that one been a chief of any renown, the circumstances would have been more tolerable; but here was a man presuming to raise his voice against him, who, so far as he knew anything of his past career, had not a single claim to open his mouth in such a council. With a volcano raging within, that such a state of things would be likely to kindle in the breast of a savage who had been for years a successful and nearly unopposed leader, the mysterious chief rose to reply.

"My brother says he is a weasel," observed Peter, looking round at the circle of interested and grave countenances by which he was surrounded. "That is a very small animal. It creeps through very small holes, but not to do good. It is good for nothing. When it goes through a small hole, it is not to do the Injins a service, but for its own purposes. I do not like weasels.

"My brother is not afraid of a bee-hunter. Can he tell us what a bee whispers? If he can, I wish he would tell us. Let him show our young men where there is more honey--where they can find bear's meat for another feast--where they can find warriors hid in the woods.

"My brother says the bee-hunter has no squaw. How does he know this? Has he lived in the lodge with them--paddled in the same canoe--eat of the same venison? A weasel is very small. It might steal into the bee-hunter's lodge, and see what is there, what is doing, what is eaten, who is his squaw, and who is not--has this weasel ever done so? I never saw him there.

"Brothers, the Great Spirit has his own way of doing things. He does not stop to listen to weasels. He knows there are such animals-- there are snakes, and toads, and skunks. The Great Spirit knows them all, but he does not mind them. He is wise, and hearkens only to his own mind. So should it be with a council of great chiefs. It should listen to its own mind. That is wisdom. To listen to the mind of a weasel is folly.

"Brothers, you have been told that this weasel does not know the tribe of which I am born. Why should you know it? Injins once were foolish. While the pale-faces were getting one hunting-ground after another from them, they dug up the hatchet against their own friends. They took each other's scalps. Injin hated Injin--tribe hated tribe. I am of no tribe, and no one can hate me for my people. You see my skin. It is red. That is enough. I scalp, and smoke, and talk, and go on weary paths for all Injins, and not for any tribe. I am without a tribe. Some call me the Tribeless. It is better to bear that name, than to be called a weasel. I have done."

Peter had so much success by this argumentum ad hominem, that most present fancied that the weasel would creep through some hole, and disappear. Not so, however, with Ungque. He was a demagogue, after an Indian fashion; and this is a class of men that ever "make capital" of abuses, as we Americans say, in our money-getting habits. Instead of being frightened off the ground, he arose to answer as promptly as if a practised debater, though with an air of humility so profound, that no one could take offence at his presumption.

"The unknown chief has answered," he said, "I am glad. I love to hear his words. My ears are always open when he speaks, and my mind is stronger. I now see that it is good he should not have a tribe. He may be a Cherokee, and then our warriors would wish him ill." This was a home-thrust, most artfully concealed; a Cherokee being the Indian of all others the most hated by the chiefs present;--the Carthaginians of those western Romans. "It is better he should not have a tribe, than be a Cherokee. He might better be a weasel.

"Brothers, we have been told to kill all the pale-faces. I like that advice. The land cannot have two owners. If a pale-face owns it, an Injin cannot. If an Injin owns it, a pale-face cannot. But the chief without a tribe tells us not to kill all. He tells us to kill all but the bee-hunter and his squaw. He thinks this bee-hunter is a medicine bee-hunter, and may do us Injins great harm. He wishes to let him go.

"Brothers, this is not my way of thinking. It is better to kill the bee-hunter and his squaw while we can, that there may be no more such medicine bee-hunters to frighten us Injins. If one bee-hunter can do so much harm, what would a tribe of bee-hunters do? I do not want to see any more. It is a dangerous thing to know how to talk with bees. It is best that no one should have that power. I would rather never taste honey again, than live among pale-faces that can talk with bees.

"Brothers, it is not enough that the pale-faces know so much more than the red men, but they must get the bees to tell them where to find honey, to find bears, to find warriors. No; let us take the scalp of the bee-talker, and of his squaw, that there may never be such a medicine again. I have spoken."

Peter did not rise again. He felt that his dignity was involved in maintaining silence. Various chiefs now uttered their opinions, in brief, sententious language. For the first time since he began to preach his crusade, the current was setting against the mysterious chief. The Weasel said no more, but the hints he had thrown out were improved on by others. It is with savages as with civilized men; a torrent must find vent. Peter had the sagacity to see that by attempting further to save le Bourdon and Margery, he should only endanger his own ascendancy, without effecting his purpose. Here he completely overlaid the art of Ungque, turning his own defeat into an advantage. After the matter had been discussed for fully an hour, and this mysterious chief perceived that it was useless to adhere to his new resolution, he gave it up with as much tact as the sagacious Wellington himself could manifest in yielding Catholic emancipation, or parliamentary reform; or, just in season to preserve an appearance of floating in the current, and with a grace that disarmed his opponents.

"Brothers," said Peter, by way of closing the debate, "I have not seen straight. Fog sometimes gets before the eyes, and we cannot see. I have been in a fog. The breath of my brother has blown it away. I now see clearly. I see that bee-hunters ought not to live. Let this one die--let his squaw die, too!"

This terminated the discussion, as a matter of course. It was solemnly decided that all the pale-faces then in the Openings should be cut off. In acquiescing in this decision, Peter had no mental reservations. He was quite sincere. When, after sitting two hours longer, in order to arrange still more important points, the council arose, it was with his entire assent to the decision. The only power he retained over the subject was that of directing the details of the contemplated massacre.

Return to the Oak Openings Summary Return to the James Fenimore Cooper Library

Anton Chekhov
Nathaniel Hawthorne
Susan Glaspell
Mark Twain
Edgar Allan Poe
Mary E. Wilkins Freeman
Herman Melville
Stephen Leacock
Kate Chopin
Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson