Oak Openings

by James Fenimore Cooper

Previous Chapter Next Chapter

Chapter XXIV.

     For thou wert born of woman! Thou didst come,
     O Holiest! to this world of sin and gloom,
     Not in thy dread omnipotent array;
     And not by thunders strewed
     Was thy tempestuous road,
     Nor indignation burnt before thee on thy way.
     But thee, a soft and naked child,
     Thy mother undefiled,
     In the rude manger laid to rest
     From off her virgin breast.

The blood of the bee-hunter curdled in his veins as he listened to Peter's business-like and direct manner of treating this terrible subject. Putting the most favorable view on his situation, it was frightful to look on. Admitting that this fanatical savage were sincere in all his professions of a wish to save him and Margery, and le Bourdon did not, nay, could not doubt this, after his calm but ferocious revelations; but, admitting all this to be true, how was he to escape with his charming bride, environed as they were by so large a band of hostile Indians? Then the thought of abandoning his other companions, and attempting, in cold selfishness, to escape with Margery alone, was more than he could bear. Never before, in his adventurous and bold life, had le Bourdon been so profoundly impressed with a sense of his danger, or so much overcome.

Still, our hero was not unmanned. He saw all the hazards, as it were, at a glance, and felt how terrible might be the result should they really fall into the hands of the warriors, excited to exercise their ingenuity in devising the means of torture; and he gazed into the frightful perspective with a manly steadiness that did him credit, even while he sickened at the prospect.

Peter had told his story in a way to add to its horrible character. There was a manner of truth, of directness, of work, if one may use such an expression on such a subject, that gave a graphic reality to all he said. As if his task was done, the mysterious chief now coolly arose, and moved away to a little grove, in which the missionary and the corporal had thrown themselves on the grass, where they lay speculating on the probable course that the bands in their neighborhood would next pursue. So thoroughly possessed was the clergyman with his one idea, however, that he was expressing regret at his failure in the attempt to convince the savages that they were Jews, when Peter joined them.

"You tired--you lie down in daytime, like sick squaw, eh?" asked the Indian, in a slightly satirical manner. "Bess be up, sich fine day, and go wid me to see some more chief."

"Most gladly, Peter," returned the missionary, springing to his feet with alacrity--"and I shall have one more opportunity to show your friends the truth of what I have told them."

"Yes, Injin love to hear trut'--hate to hear lie. Can tell 'em all you want to say. He go too, eh?" pointing to the corporal, who rather hung back, as if he saw that in the invitation which was not agreeable to him.

"I will answer for my friend," returned the confiding missionary, cheerfully. "Lead on, Peter, and we will follow."

Thus pledged, the corporal no longer hesitated; but he accompanied Parson Amen, as the latter fell into the tracks of the chief, and proceeded rapidly in the direction of the spring in the piece of bottom-land, where the council first described had been held. This spot was about two miles from the palisaded house, and quite out of view, as well as out of reach of sound. As they walked side by side, taking the footsteps of the great chief for their guides, the corporal, however, expressed to his companion his dislike of the whole movement.

"We ought to stand by our garrison in times like these, Mr. Amen," said the well-meaning soldier. "A garrison is a garrison; and Injins seldom do much on a well-built and boldly-defended spot of that natur'. They want artillery, without which their assaults are never very formidable."

"Why talk you of warlike means, corporal, when we are in the midst of friends? Is not Peter our known and well-tried associate, one with whom you and I have travelled far; and do we not know that we have friends among these chiefs, whom we are now going to visit? The Lord has led me into these distant and savage regions, to carry his word, and to proclaim his name; and a most unworthy and unprofitable servant should I prove, were I to hesitate about approaching them I am appointed to teach. No, no; fear nothing. I will not say that you carry Caesar and his fortunes, as I have heard was once said of old, but I will say you follow one who is led of God, and who marches with the certainty of being divinely commanded."

The corporal was ashamed to oppose so confident an enthusiasm, and he offered no further resistance. Together the two followed their leader, who, turning neither to the right hand nor to the left, soon had them out of sight of the castle, and well on their way toward the spring. When about half the distance was made, the direction took the party through a little thicket, or rather along its margin, and the missionary, a good deal to his surprise, saw Pigeonswing within the cover, seemingly preparing for another hunt. This young warrior had so lately returned from one excursion of this nature, that he was not expected to go forth so soon on another. Nor was he accustomed to go out so early in the day. This was the hour in which he ordinarily slept; but there he was, beyond a question, and apparently looking at the party as it passed. So cold was his manner, however, and so indifferent did he seem, that no one would have suspected that he knew aught of what was in contemplation. Having satisfied himself that his friend, the bee-hunter, was not one of those who followed Peter, the Chippewa turned coldly away, and began to examine the flint of his rifle. The corporal noted this manner, and it gave him additional confidence to proceed; for he could not imagine that any human being would manifest so much indifference, when sinister designs existed.

Peter turned neither to the right hand nor to the left, until he had led the way down upon the little arena of bottom-land already described, and which was found well sprinkled with savages. A few stood, or sat about in groups, earnestly conversing; but most lay extended at length on the green sward, in the indolent repose that is so grateful to an Indian warrior in his hours of inaction. The arrival of Peter, however, instantly put a new face on the appearance of matters. Every man started to his feet, and additions were made to those who were found in the arena by those who came out of the adjacent thickets, until some two or three hundred of the red men were assembled in a circle around the newly-arrived pale-faces.

"There," said Peter, sternly, fastening his eye with a hostile expression on Bough of the Oak and Ungque, in particular--"there are your captives. Do with them as you will. As for them that have dared to question my faith, let them own that they are liars!"

This was not a very amicable salutation, but savages are accustomed to plain language. Bough of the Oak appeared a little uneasy, and Ungque's countenance denoted dissatisfaction; but the last was too skilful an actor to allow many of the secrets of his plotting mind to shine through the windows of his face. As for the crowd at large, gleams of content passed over the bright red faces, illuminating them with looks of savage joy. Murmurs of approbation were heard, and Crowsfeather addressed the throng, there, where it stood, encircling the two helpless and as yet but half-alarmed victims of so fell a plot.

"My brothers and my young men can now see," said this Pottawattamie, "that the tribeless chief has an Injin heart. His heart is not a pale-face heart--it is that of a red man. Some of our chiefs have thought that he had lived too much with the strangers, and that he had forgotten the traditions of our fathers, and was listening to the song of the medicine priest. Some thought that he believed himself lost, and a Jew, and not an Injin. This is not so. Peter knows the path he is on. He knows that he is a redskin, and he looks on the Yankees as enemies. The scalps he has taken are so numerous they cannot be counted. He is ready to take more. Here are two that he gives to us. When we have done with these two captives, he will bring us more. He will continue to bring them, until the pale-faces will be as few as the deer in their own clearings. Such is the will of the Manitou."

The missionary understood all that was said, and he was not a little appalled at the aspect of things. For the first time he began to apprehend that he was in danger. So much was this devout and well- intentioned servant of his church accustomed to place his dependence on a superintending Providence, that apprehension of personal suffering seldom had any influence on his exertions. He believed himself to be an object of especial care; though he was ever ready to admit that the wisdom which human minds cannot compass, might order events that, at first sight, would seem to be opposed to that which ought to be permitted to come to pass. In this particular Parson Amen was a model of submission, firmly believing that all that happened was in furtherance of the great scheme of man's regeneration and eventual salvation.

With the corporal it was very different. Accustomed to war with red men, and most acquainted with them in their worst character, he ever suspected treachery, and had followed Peter with a degree of reluctance he had not cared to express. He now thoroughly took the alarm, however, and stood on his guard. Although he did not comprehend more than half of that which Peter had said, he understood quite enough to see that he and the missionary were surrounded by enemies, if not by executioners.

"We have fallen into a sort of ambush here, Parson Amen," cried the corporal, rattling his arms as he looked to their condition, "and it's high time we beat the general. If there were four on us we might form a square; but being only two, the best thing we can do will be to stand back to back, and for one to keep an eye on the right flank, while he nat'rally watches all in front; and for the other to keep an eye on the left flank, while he sees to the rear. Place your back close to mine, and take the left flank into your part of the lookout. Closer, closer, my good sir; we must stand solid as rooted trees, to make anything of a stand."

The missionary, in his surprise, permitted the corporal to assume the position described, though conscious of its uselessness in their actual condition. As for the Indians, the corporal's manner and the rattling of his arms induced the circle to recede several paces; though nothing like alarm prevailed among them. The effect, nevertheless, was to leave the two captives space for their evolutions, and a sort of breathing time. This little change had the appearance of something like success, and it greatly encouraged the corporal. He began to think it even possible to make a retreat that would be as honorable as any victory.

"Steady--keep shoulder to shoulder, Parson Amen, and take care of your flank. Our movement must be by our left flank, and everything depends on keeping that clear. I shall have to give you my baggonet, for you're entirely without arms, which leaves my rear altogether exposed."

"Think nothing of your arms, Brother Flint--they would be useless in my hands in any case; and, were we made of muskets, they could be of no use against these odds. My means of defence come from on high; my armor is faith; and my only weapon, prayer. I shall not hesitate to use the last on this, as on all other occasions."

The missionary then called on the circle of curious savages by whom he was surrounded, and who certainly contemplated nothing less than his death, in common with those of all his white companions, to unite with him in addressing the Throne of Grace. Accustomed to preach and pray to these people in their own dialect, the worthy parson made a strong appeal to their charities, while supplicating the favors of Divine Providence in behalf of himself and his brother captive. He asked for all the usual benedictions and blessings on his enemies, and made a very happy exposition of those sublime dogmas of Christianity, which teach us to "bless them that curse us," and to "pray for those who despitefully use us." Peter, for the first time in his life, was now struck with the moral beauty of such a sentiment, which seldom fails, when duly presented, of producing an effect on even the dullest minds. His curiosity was touched, and instead of turning coldly, as had been his intention, and leaving the captives in the hands of those to whom he had delivered them, he remained in the circle, and paid the closest attention to all of the proceedings. He had several times previously heard the missionary speak of this duty as a command of God's, but never before had he deemed it possible to realize such a thing in practice.

The Indians, if not absolutely awe-struck by the singular spectacle before them, seemed well disposed to let the missionary finish his appeal; some wondering, others doubting, and all more or less at a loss to know what to make of an exhibition so unusual. There stood the corporal, with his back pressed closely to that of his companion, his musket at "make ready," and his whole mien that of a man with every nerve screwed to the sticking-point; while the missionary, the other side of the picture, with outstretched arms, was lifting his voice in prayer to the throne of the Most High. As this extraordinary scene continued, the corporal grew excited; and ere long his voice was occasionally heard, blended with that of the clergyman, in terms of advice and encouragement.

"Blaze away, Mr. Amen," shouted the soldier. "Give 'em another volley--you're doing wonders, and their front has given ground! One more such volley as the last, and we'll make a forward movement, ourselves--attention!--prepare to march by the left flank, as soon as there is a good opening!"

That good opening, however, was never made. The savages, though astonished, were by no means frightened, and had not the smallest idea of letting their captives escape. On the contrary, Bear's Meat, who acted as commander-in-chief on this occasion, was quite self- possessed, and so far from being impressed with the missionary's prayer, he listened to it only in the hope of hearing some admission of weakness escape. But the excitement of the corporal soon produced a crisis. His attempts to make a movement "by the left flank," caused his column of defence to be broken, and obtaining no assistance from Parson Amen, who was still pouring out his soul in prayer, while endeavoring to bring things back to their original state, he suddenly found himself surrounded and disarmed. From that instant, the corporal changed his tactics. So long as he was armed, and comparatively free, he had bethought him only of the means of resistance; now that these were denied him, he submitted, and summoned all his resolution to bear the penalties of his captivity, in a manner that might not do discredit to his regiment. This was the third time that Corporal Flint had been a prisoner among the Indians, and he was not now to learn the nature of their tender mercies. His forebodings were not of the most pleasant character; but that which could not be helped, he was disposed to bear with manly fortitude. His greatest concern, at that fearful moment, was for the honor of his corps.

All this time, Parson Amen continued his prayer. So completely was his spirit occupied with the duty of offering up his petition, that he was utterly unconscious of what else had passed; nor had he heard one of the corporal's appeals for "attention," and to be "steady," and to march "by the left flank." In a word, the whole man was intent on prayer; and when thus employed, a six-pounder discharged in the circle would hardly have disconcerted him. He persevered, therefore, uninterrupted by his conquerors, until he concluded in his own way. Having thus fortified his soul, and asked for succor where he had now so long been accustomed to seek and to find it, the worthy missionary took his seat quietly on a log, on which the corporal had been previously placed by his captors.

The time had arrived for the chiefs to proceed in the execution of their purposes. Peter, profoundly struck with the prayers of the missionary in behalf of his enemies, had taken a station a little on one side, where he stood ruminating on what he had just heard. If ever precept bore the stamp of a divine origin, it is this. The more we reflect on it, the clearer do our perceptions of this truth become. The whole scheme of Christ's redemption and future existence is founded in love, and such a system would be imperfect while any were excluded from its benefits. To love those who reciprocate our feelings is so very natural, that the sympathies which engender this feeling are soonest attracted by a knowledge of their existence, love producing love, as power increases power. But to love those who hate us, and to strive to do good to those who are plotting evil against ourselves, greatly exceeds the moral strength of man, unaided from above. This was the idea that puzzled Peter, and he now actually interrupted the proceedings, in order to satisfy his mind on a subject so totally new to him. Previously, however, to taking this step, he asked the permission of the principal chiefs, awakening in their bosoms by means of his explanations some of the interest in this subject that he felt himself.

"Brother medicine-man," said the mysterious chief, drawing nearer to the missionary, accompanied himself by Bear's Meat, Crowsfeather, and one or two more, "you have been talking to the Great Spirit o! the pale-faces. We have heard your words, and think them well. They are good words for a man about to set out on the path that leads to the unknown lands. Thither we must all go some time, and it matters little when. We may not all travel the same path. I do not think the Manitou will crowd tribes of different colors together there, as they are getting to be crowded together here.

"Brother, you are about to learn how all these things really are. If red men, and pale-faces, and black men are to live in the same land, after death, you will shortly know it. My brother is about to go there. He and his friend, this warrior of his people, will travel on that long path in company. I hope they will agree by the way, and not trouble each other. It will be convenient to my brother to have a hunter with him; the path is so long, he will be hungry before he gets to the end. This warrior knows how to use a musket, and we shall put his arms with him in his grave.

"Brother, before you start on this journey, from which no traveller ever returns, let his color be what it may, we wish to hear you speak further about loving our enemies. This is not the Indian rule. The red men hate their enemies, and love their friends. When they ask the Manitou to do anything to their enemies, it is to do them harm. This is what our fathers taught us: it is what we teach our children. Why should we love them that hate us: why should we do good to them that do us harm? Tell us now, or we may never hear the reason."

"Tell you I will, Peter, and the Lord so bless my words that they may soften your hearts, and lead you all to the truth, and to dependence on the mediation of his blessed Son! We should do good to them that do evil to us, because the Great Spirit has commanded us so to do. Ask your own heart if this is not right. If they sound like words that are spoken by any but those who have been taught by the Manitou, himself. The devils tell us to revenge, but God commands us to forgive. It is easy to do good to them that do good to us; but it tries the heart sorely to do good to them that do us evil. I have spoken to you of the Son of the Great Spirit. He came on earth, and told us with his own mouth all these great truths. He said that next to the duty of loving the Manitou, was the duty of loving our neighbors. No matter whether friend or enemy, it was our duty to love them, and do them all the good we can. If there is no venison in their wigwams, we should take the deer off our own poles, and carry it and put on theirs. Why have I come here to tell you this? When at home, I lived under a good roof, eat of abundance, and slept in a soft and warm bed. You know how it is here. We do not know to-day what we shall eat to-morrow. Our beds are hard, and our roofs are of bark. I come, because the Son of the Manitou, he who came and lived among men, told us to do all this. His commands to his medicine-men were, to go forth, and tell all nations, and tribes, and colors, the truth--to tell them to 'love them that sought to do them harm, and to do good for evil.'"

Parson Amen pausing a moment to take breath, Ungque, who detected the wavering of Peter's mind, and who acted far more in opposition to the mysterious and tribeless chief than from any other motive, profited by the occasion thus afforded to speak. Without this pause, however, the breeding of an Indian would have prevented any interruption.

"I open my mouth to speak," said The Weasel, in his humblest manner. "What I say is not fit for the wise chiefs to hear. It is foolish, but my mind tells me to say it. Does the medicine-man of the pale- faces tell us that the Son of the Great Spirit came upon earth, and lived among men?"

"I do; such is our belief; and the religion we believe and teach cometh directly from his mouth."

"Let the medicine-man tell the chiefs how long the Son of the Great Spirit stayed on earth, and which way he went when he left it."

Now, this question was put by Ungque through profound dissimulation. He had heard of the death of Christ, and had obtained some such idea of the great sacrifice as would be apt to occur to the mind of a savage. He foresaw that the effect of the answer would be very likely to destroy most of the influence that the missionary had just been building up, by means of his doctrine and his prayers. Parson Amen was a man of singular simplicity of character, but he had his misgivings touching the effect of this reply. Still he did not scruple about giving it, or attempt in any manner to mystify or to deceive.

"It is a humiliating and sad story, my brethren, and one that ought to cause all heads to be bowed to the earth in shame," he answered. "The Son of the Great Spirit came among men; he did nothing but good; told those who heard him how to live and how to die. In return for all this, wicked and unbelieving men put him to death. After death his body was taken up into Heaven--the region of departed spirits, and the dwelling-place of his Father--where he now is, waiting for the time when he is to return to the earth, to reward the good and to punish the wicked. That time will surely come; nor do I believe the day to be very distant."

The chiefs listened to this account with grave attention. Some of them had heard outlines of the same history before. Accounts savoring of the Christian history had got blended with some of their own traditions, most probably the fruits of the teachings of the earlier missionaries, but were so confused and altered as to be scarcely susceptible of being recognized. To most of them, however, the history of the incarnation of the Son of God was entirely new; and it struck them as a most extraordinary thing altogether that any man should have injured such a being! It was, perhaps, singular that no one of them all doubted the truth of the tradition itself. This they supposed to have been transmitted with the usual care, and they received it as a fact not to be disputed. The construction that was put on its circumstances will best appear in the remarks that followed.

"If the pale-faces killed the Son of the Great Spirit," said Bough of the Oak, pointedly, "we can see why they wish to drive the red men from their lands. Evil spirits dwell in such men, and they do nothing but what is bad. I am glad that our great chief has told us to put the foot on this worm and crush it, while yet the Indian foot is large enough to do it. In a few winters they would kill us, as they killed the Spirit that did them nothing but good!"

"I am afraid that this mighty tradition hath a mystery in it that your Indian minds will scarcely be willing to receive," resumed the missionary, earnestly. "I would not, for a thousand worlds, or to save ten thousand lives as worthless as my own, place a straw in the way of the faith of any; yet must I tell the thing as it happened. This Son of the Great Spirit was certainly killed by the Jews of that day, so far as he could be killed. He possessed two natures, as indeed do all men: the body and soul. In his body he was man, as we all are men; in his soul he was a part of the Great Spirit himself. This is the great mystery of our religion. We cannot tell how it can happen, but we believe it. We see around us a thousand things that we cannot understand, and this is one of them."

Here Bear's Meat availed himself of another pause to make a remark. This he did with the keenness of one accustomed to watch words and events closely, but with a simplicity that showed no vulgar disposition to scepticism.

"We do not expect that all the Great Spirit does can be clear to us Indians," he said. "We know very little; he knows everything. Why should we think to know all that he knows? We do not. That part of the tradition gives us no trouble. Indians can believe without seeing. They are not squaws, that wish to look behind every bush. But my brother has told too much for his own good. If the pale-faces killed their Great Spirit, they can have no Manitou, and must be in the hands of the Evil Spirit This is the reason they want our hunting-grounds. I will not let them come any nearer to the setting sun. It is time to begin to kill them, as they killed their Great Spirit. The Jews did this. My brother wishes us to think that red men are Jews! No; red men never harmed the Son of the Great Spirit, They would receive him as a friend, and treat him as a chief. Accursed be the hand that should be raised to harm him. This tradition is a wise tradition. It tells us many things. It tells us that Injins are not Jews. They never hurt the Son of the Great Spirit. It tells us that the red men have always lived on these hunting-grounds, and did not come from toward the rising sun. It tells us that pale-faces are not fit to live. They are too wicked. Let them die."

"I would ask a question," put in Peter. "This tradition is not new. I have heard it before. It entered but a little way into my ears. I did not think of it. It has now entered deeper, and I wish to hear more. Why did not the Son of the Great Spirit kill the Jews?--why did he let the Jews kill him? Will my brother say?"

"He came on earth to die for man, whose wickedness was so deep that the Great Spirit's justice could not be satisfied with less. Why this is so no one knows. It is enough that it should be so. Instead of thinking of doing harm to his tormentors and murderers, he died for them, and died asking for benefits on them, and on their wives and children, for all time to come. It was he who commanded us to do good to them that do harm to us."

Peter gave the utmost attention to this answer, and when he had received it, he walked apart, musing profoundly. It is worthy of being observed that not one of these savages raised any hollow objections to the incarnation of the Son of the Great Spirit, as would have been the case with so many civilized men. To them this appeared no more difficult and incomprehensible than most of that which they saw around them. It is when we begin to assume the airs of philosophy, and to fancy, because we know a little, that the whole book of knowledge is within our grasp, that men become sceptics. There is not a human being now in existence who does not daily, hourly see that which is just as much beyond his powers of comprehension as this account of the incarnation of the Deity, and the whole doctrine of the Trinity; and yet he acquiesces in that which is before his eyes, because it is familiar and he sees it, while he cavils at all else, though the same unknown and inexplicable cause lies behind everything. The deepest philosophy is soon lost in this general mystery, and, to the eye of a meek reason, all around us is a species of miracle, which must be referred to the power of the Deity.

While thus disposed to receive the pale-face traditions with respect, however, the red men did not lose sight of their own policy and purposes. The principal chiefs now stepped aside, and held a brief council. Though invited to do so, Peter did not join them; leaving to Bough of the Oak, Ungque, and Bear's Meat the control of the result The question was whether the original intention of including this medicine-priest among those to be cut off should, or should not, be adhered to. One or two of the chiefs had their doubts, but the opinion of the council was adverse.

"If the pale-faces killed the Son of their Great Spirit, why should we hesitate about killing them?" The Weasel asked, with malicious point, for he saw that Peter was now sorely troubled at the probability of his own design being fully carried out. "There is no difference. This is a medicine-priest--in the wigwam is a medicine- bee-hunter, and that warrior may be a medicine-warrior. We do not know. We are poor Injins that know but little. It is not so with the pale-faces; they talk with the conjurer's bees, and know much. We shall not have ground enough to take even a muskrat, soon, unless we cut off the strangers. The Manitou has given us these; let us kill them."

As no one very strenuously opposed the scheme, the question was soon decided, and Ungque was commissioned to communicate the result to the captives. One exception, however, was to be made in favor of the missionary. His object appeared to be peaceful, and it was determined that he should be led a short distance into the surrounding thicket, and be there put to death, without any attempt to torture, or aggravate his sufferings. As a mark of singular respect, it was also decided not to scalp him.

As Ungque, and those associated with him, led the missionary to the place of execution, the former artfully invited Peter to follow. This was done simply because the Weasel saw that it would now be unpleasant to the man he hated--hated merely because he possessed an influence that he coveted for himself.

"My father will see a pleasant sight," said the wily Weasel, as he walked at Peter's side, toward the indicated spot; "he will see a pale-face die, and know that his foot has been put upon another worm."

No answer was made to this ironical remark, but Peter walked in silence to the place where the missionary was stationed, surrounded by a guard. Ungque now advanced and spoke.

"It is time for the medicine-priest of the pale-faces to start after the spirits of his people who have gone before him," he said. "The path is long, and unless he walks fast, and starts soon, he may not overtake them. I hope he will see some of them that helped to kill the Son of his Great Spirit, starving, and foot-sore, on the way."

"I understand you," returned the missionary, after a few moments passed in recovering from the shock of this communication. "My hour is come. I have held my life in my hand ever since I first put foot in this heathen region, and if it be the Creator's will that I am now to die, I bow to the decree. Grant me a few minutes for prayer to my God."

Ungque signed that the delay should be granted. The missionary uncovered his head, knelt, and again lifted up his voice in prayer. At first the tones were a little tremulous; but they grew firmer as he proceeded. Soon they became as serene as usual. He first asked mercy for himself, threw all his hopes on the great atonement, and confessed how far he was from that holiness which alone could fit him to see God. When this duty was performed, he prayed for his enemies. The language used was his mother tongue, but Peter comprehended most of that which was said. He heard his own people prayed for; he heard his own name mentioned, as the condemned man asked the mercy of the Manitou in his behalf. Never before was the soul of this extraordinary savage so shaken. The past seemed like a dream to him, while the future possessed a light that was still obscured by clouds. Here was an exemplification in practice of that divine spirit of love and benevolence which had struck him, already, as so very wonderful. There could be no mistake. There was the kneeling captive, and his words, clear, distinct, and imploring, ascended through the cover of the bushes to the throne of God.

As soon as the voice of the missionary was mute, the mysterious chief bowed his head and moved away. He was then powerless. No authority of his could save the captive, and the sight that so lately would have cheered his eyes was now too painful to bear. He heard the single blow of the tomahawk which brained the victim, and he shuddered from head to foot. It was the first time such a weakness had ever come over him. As for the missionary, in deference to his pursuits, his executioners dug him a grave, and buried him unmutilated on the spot where he had fallen.

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

It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so.