Oak Openings

by James Fenimore Cooper

Previous Chapter Next Chapter

Chapter XXVIII.

     Yes! we have need to bid our hopes repose
     On some protecting influence; here confined
     Life hath no healing balm for mental woes;
     Earth is too narrow for the immortal mind.
     Our spirits burn to mingle with the day,
     As exiles panting for their native coast;
     Yet lured by every wild-flower from their way,
     And shrinking from the gulf that must be crossed.
     Death hovers round us--in the zephyr's sigh
     As in the storm he comes--and lo! Eternity!
                                                --MRS. HEMANS.

It was probably that inherent disposition to pry into unknown things, which is said to mark her sex, and which was the weakness assailed by the serpent when he deluded Eve into disobedience, that now tempted Margery to go beyond the limits which Pigeonswing had set for her, with a view to explore and ascertain what might be found without. In doing this, however, she did not neglect a certain degree of caution, and avoided exposing her person as much as possible.

Margery had got to the very verge of prudence, so far as the cover was concerned, when her steps were suddenly arrested by a most unexpected and disagreeable sight. An Indian was seated on a rock within twenty feet of the place where she stood. His back was toward her, but she was certain it could not be Pigeonswing, who had gone in a contrary direction, while the frame of this savage was much larger and heavier than that of the Chippewa. His rifle leaned against the rock, near his arm, and the tomahawk and knife were in his belt; still Margery thought, so far as she could ascertain, that he was not in his war-paint, as she knew was the fact with those whom she had seen at Prairie Round. The attitude and whole deportment of this stranger, too, struck her as remarkable. Although our heroine stood watching him for several minutes, almost breathless with terror and anxiety to learn his object, he never stirred even a limb in all that time. There he sat, motionless as the rock on which he had placed himself; a picture of solitude and reflection.

It was evident, moreover, that this stranger also sought a species of concealment, as well as the fugitives. It is true he had not buried himself in a cover of bushes; but his seat was in a hollow of the ground where no one could have seen him, from the rear or on either side, at a distance a very little greater than that at which Margery stood, while his front was guarded from view by a line of bushes that fringed the margin of the stream. Marius, pondering on the mutations of fortune, amid the ruins of Carthage, could scarcely have presented a more striking object than the immovable form of this stranger. At length the Indian slightly turned his head, when his observer, to her great surprise, saw the hard, red, but noble and expressive profile of the well-known features of Peter.

In an instant all Margery's apprehensions vanished, and her hand was soon lightly laid on the shoulder of her friend. Notwithstanding the suddenness of this touch, the great chief manifested no alarm. He turned his head slowly, and when he saw the bright countenance of the charming bride, his smile met hers in pleased recognition. There was no start, no exclamation, no appearance of surprise; on the contrary, Peter seemed to meet his pretty young friend much as a matter of course, and obviously with great satisfaction.

"How lucky this is, Peter!" exclaimed the breathless Margery. "Bourdon's mind will now be at rest, for he was afraid you had gone to join our enemies, Bear's Meat and his party."

"Yes; go and stay wid 'em. So bess. Now dey t'ink Peter all on deir side. But never forget you, young Blossom."

"I believe you, Peter; for I feel as if you are a true friend. How lucky that we should meet here!"

"No luck at all. Come a purpose. Pigeonswing tell me where you be, so come here. Juss so."

"Then you expected to find us in this cover! and what have you to tell us of our enemies?"

"Plenty of dem. All about mout' of river. All about woods and Openings here. More dan you count. T'ink of nuttin' but get your scalp."

"Ah! Peter;--why is it that you red men wish so much to take our lives?--and why have you destroyed the missionary, a pious Christian, who wished for nothing but your good?"

Peter bent his eyes to the earth, and for more than a minute he made no reply. He was much moved, however, as was visible in his countenance, which plainly denoted that strong emotions were at work within.

"Blossom, listen to my words," he, at length, answered. "They are such as a fader would speak to his da'ghter. You my da'ghter. Tell you so, once; and what Injin say once, he say alway. Poor, and don't know much, but know how to do as he say he do. Yes, you my da'ghter! Bear's Meat can't touch you, widout he touch me. Bourdon your husband; you his squaw. Husband and squaw go togedder, on same path. Dat right. But, Blossom, listen. Dere is Great Spirit. Injin believe dat as well as pale-face. See dat is so. Dere is Great Wicked Spirit, too. Feel dat, too; can't help it. For twenty winter dat Great Wicked Spirit stay close to my side. He put his hand before one of my ear, and he put his mout' to tudder. Keep whisper, whisper, day and night, nebber stop whisper. Tell me to kill pale- face, wherever I find him. Bess to kill him. If didn't kill pale- face, pale-face kill Injin. No help for it. Kill ole man, kill young man; kill squaws, pappoose and all. Smash eggs and break up 'e nest. Dat what he whisper, day and night, for twenty winters. Whisper so much, was force to b'lieve him. Bad to have too much whisper of same t'ing in ear. Den I want scalp. Couldn't have too much scalp. Took much scalp. All pale-face scalp. Heart grow hard. Great pleasure was to kill pale-face. Dat feeling last, Blossom, till I see you. Feel like fader to you, and don't want your scalp. Won'er great deal why I feel so, but do feel so. Dat my natur'. Still want all udder pale- face scalp. Want Bourdon scalp, much as any."

A slight exclamation from his companion, which could scarcely be called a scream, caused the Indian to cease speaking, when the two looked toward each other, and their eyes met. Margery, however, saw none of those passing gleams of ferocity which had so often troubled her in the first few weeks of their acquaintance; in their stead, an expression of subdued anxiety, and an earnestness of inquiry that seemed to say how much the chief's heart yearned to know more on that mighty subject toward which his thoughts had lately been turned. The mutual glance sufficed to renew the confidence our heroine was very reluctant to relinquish, while it awakened afresh all of Peter's parental concern in the welfare of the interesting young woman at his side.

"But this feeling has left you, Peter, and you no longer wish Bourdon's scalp," said Margery, hastily. "Now he is my husband, he is your son."

"Dat good, p'raps," answered the Injin, "but dat not a reason, nudder, Blossom. You right, too. Don't want Bourdon scalp any longer. Dat true. But don't want any scalp, any more. Heart grow soft--an't hard, now."

"I wish I could let you understand, Peter, how much I rejoice to hear this! I have never felt afraid of you, on my own account, though I will own that I have sometimes feared that the dreadful cruel stories which are told of your enmity to my color are not altogether without truth. Now, you tell me you are the white man's friend, and that you no longer wish to injure him. These are blessed words, Peter; and humbly do I thank God, through his blessed Son, that I have lived to hear them!"

"Dat Son make me feel so," returned the Indian, earnestly. "Yes, juss so. My heart was hard, till medicinepriest tell dat tradition of Son of Great Spirit--how he die for all tribes and nations, and ask his fader to do good to dem dat take his life--dat won'erful tradition, Blossom! Sound like song of wren in my ear--sweeter dan mocking-bird when he do his bess. Yes, dat won'erful. He true, too; for medicine-priest ask his Manitou to bless Injin, juss as Injins lift tomahawk to take his life. I see'd and heard dat, myself. All, won'erful, won'erful!"

"It was the Spirit of God that enabled poor Amen to do that, Peter; and it is the Spirit of God that teaches you to see and feel the beauty of such an act. Without the aid of that Spirit, we are helpless as children; with it, strong as giants. I do not wonder, at all, that the good missionary was able to pray for his enemies with his dying breath. God gave him strength to do so."

Margery spoke as she felt, earnestly, and with emphasis. Her cheeks flushed with the strength of her feelings, and Peter gazed on her with a species of reverence and wonder. The beauty of this charming young woman was pleasing rather than brilliant, depending much on expression for its power. A heightened color greatly increased it, and when, as in this instance, the eyes reflected the tints of the cheeks, one might have journeyed days in older regions, without finding her equal in personal attractions. Much as he admired her, however, Peter had now that on his mind which rendered her beauty but a secondary object with him. His soul had been touched by the unseen, but omnipresent, power of the Holy Spirit, and his companion's language and fervor contributed largely in keeping alive his interest in what he felt.

"Nebber know Injin do dat," said Peter, in a slow, deliberative sort of way; "no, nebber know Injin do so. Always curse and hate his enemy, and most when about to lose his scalp. Den, feelin's hottest. Den, most want to use tomahawk on his enemy. Den, most feel dat he hate him. But not so wid medicine-priest. Pray for Injin; ask Great Spirit to do him all 'e good he can; juss as Injin was goin' to strike. Won'erful--most won'erful dat, in my eyes. Blossom, you know Peter. He your fader. He take you, and make you his da'ghter. His heart is soft to you, Blossom. But, he nuttin' but poor Injin, dough a great chief. What he know? Pale-face pappoose know more dan Injin chief. Dat come from Great Spirit too. He wanted it so, and it is so. Our chiefs say dat Great Spirit love Injin. May be so. T'ink he love ebbery body; but he can't love Injin as much as he love pale- face, or he wouldn't let red man know so little. Don't count wigwams, and canoes, and powder, and lead, as proof of Great Spirit's love. Pale-face got more of dese dan Injin. Dat I see and know, and dat I feel. But it no matter. Injin used to be poor, and don't care. When used to be poor, den used to it. When used to be rich, den it hard not to be rich. All use. Injin don't care. But it bad not to know. I'm warrior--I'm hunter--I'm great chief. You squaw--you young--you know so much as squaw of chief. But you know most. I feel ashamed to know so little. Want to know more. Want to know most how 'e Son of Great Spirit die for all tribe, and pray to his fader to bless 'em dat kill him. Dat what Peter now want most to know!"

"I wish I was better able to teach you, Peter, from the bottom of my heart; but the little I do know you shall hear. I would not deny you for a thousand worlds, for I believe the Holy Spirit has touched your heart, and that you will become a new man. Christians believe that all must become new men, who are to live in the other world, in the presence of God."

"How can dat be? Peter soon be ole--how can ole man grow young ag'in?"

"The meaning of this is that we must so change in feelings, as no longer to be the same persons. The things that we loved we must hate, and the things that we hated, or at least neglected, we must love. When we feel this change in our hearts, then may we hope that we love and reverence the Great Spirit, and are living under his holy care."

Peter listened with the attention of an obedient and respectful child. If meekness, humility, a wish to learn the truth, and a devout sentiment toward the Creator, are so many indications of the "new birth," then might this savage be said to have been truly "born again." Certainly he was no longer the same man, in a moral point of view, and of this he was himself entirely conscious. To him the wonder was what had produced so great and so sudden a change! But the reply he made to Margery will, of itself, sufficiently express his views of his own case.

"An Injin like a child," he said, meekly; "nebber know. Even pale- face squaw know more dan great chief, Nebber feel as do now. Heart soft as young squaw's. Don't hate any body, no more. Wish well to all tribe, and color, and nation. Don't hate Bri'sh, don't hate Yankee; don't hate Cherokee, even. Wish 'em all well. Don't know dat heart is strong enough to ask Great Spirit to do 'em all good, if dey want my scalp--p'rap dat too much for poor Injin; but don't want nobody's scalp, myself. Dat somet'in', I hope, for me."

"It is, indeed, Peter; and if you will get down on your knees, and humble your thoughts, and pray to God to strengthen you in these good feelings, he will be sure to do it, and make you, altogether, a new man."

Peter looked wistfully at Margery, and then turned his eyes toward the earth. After sitting in a thoughtful mood for some time, he again regarded his companion, saying, with the simplicity of a child:

"Don't know how to do dat, Blossom. Hear medicine-priest of pale- faces pray, sometime, but poor Injin don't know enough to speak to Great Spirit. You speak to Great Spirit for him. He know your voice, Blossom, and listen to what you say; but he won't hear Peter, who has so long hated his enemy. P'raps he angry if he hear Peter speak."

"In that you are mistaken, Peter. The ears of the Lord are ever open to our prayers, when put up in sincerity, as I feel certain that yours will now be. But, after I have told you the meaning of what I am about to say, I will pray with you and for you. It is best that you should begin to do this, as soon as you can."

Margery then slowly repeated to Peter the words of the Lord's prayer. She gave him its history, and explained the meaning of several of its words that might otherwise have been unintelligible to him, notwithstanding his tolerable proficiency in English--a proficiency that had greatly increased in the last few weeks, in consequence of his constant communications with those who spoke it habitually. The word "trespasses," in particular, was somewhat difficult for the Indian to comprehend, but Margery persevered until she succeeded in giving her scholar tolerably accurate ideas of the meaning of each term. Then she told the Indian to kneel with her, and, for the first time in his life, that man of the Openings and prairies lifted his voice in prayer to the one God. It is true that Peter had often before mentally asked favors of his Manitou; but the requests were altogether of a worldly character, and the being addressed was invested with attributes very different from those which he now understood to belong to the Lord of heaven and earth. Nor was the spirit in asking at all the same. We do not wish to be understood as saying that this Indian was already a full convert to Christianity, which contains many doctrines of which he had not the most distant idea; but his heart had undergone the first step in the great change of conversion, and he was now as humble as he had once been proud; as meek, as he had formerly been fierce; and he felt that certain proof of an incipient love of the Creator, in a similar feeling toward all the works of his hands.

When Peter arose from his knees, after repeating the prayer to Margery's slow leading, it was with the dependence of a child on the teaching of its mother. Physically, he was the man he ever had been. He was as able to endure fatigue, as sinewy in his frame, and as capable of fasting and of sustaining fatigue, as in his most warlike days; but, morally, the change was great, indeed. Instead of the obstinate confidence in himself and his traditions, which had once so much distinguished this chief, there was substituted an humble distrust of his own judgment, that rendered him singularly indisposed to rely on his personal views, in any matter of conscience, and he was truly become a child in all that pertained to his religious belief. In good hands, and under more advantageous circumstances, the moral improvement of Peter would have been great; but, situated as he was, it could not be said to amount to much more than a very excellent commencement.

All this time both Peter and Margery had been too intent on their feelings and employment, to take much heed to the precautions necessary to their concealment. The sun was setting ere they arose, and then it was that Peter made the important discovery that they were observed by two of the young men of the Pottawattamies--scouts kept out by Bear's Meat to look for the fugitives.

The time was when Peter would not have hesitated to use his rifle on these unwelcome intruders; but the better spirit that had come over him, now led him to adopt a very different course. Motioning to the young men, he ordered them to retire, while he led Margery within the cover of the bushes. Formerly, Peter would not have scrupled to resort to deception, in order to throw these two young men on a wrong scent, and get rid of them in that mode; but now he had a reluctance to deceive; and, no sooner did they fall back at his beckoning, than he followed Margery to the camp. The latter was giving her husband a hurried account of what had just happened, as Peter joined them.

"Our camp is known!" exclaimed the bee-hunter the instant he beheld the Indian.

"Juss so. Pottawattamie see squaw, and go and tell his chief. Dat sartain," answered Peter.

"What is there to be done?--Fight for our lives, or fly?"

"Get in canoe quick as can. It take dem young men half-hour to reach place where chief be. In dat half-hour we muss go as far as we can. No good to stay here. Injin come in about one hour."

Le Bourdon knew his position well enough to understand this. Nevertheless, there were several serious objections to an immediate flight. Pigeonswing was absent, and the bee-hunter did not like the notion of leaving him behind, for various reasons. Then it was not yet dark; and to descend the river by daylight, appeared like advancing into the jaws of the lion designedly. Nor was le Bourdon at his ease on the subject of Peter. His sudden appearance, the insufficient and far from clear account of Margery, and the extraordinary course advised, served to renew ancient distrusts, and to render him reluctant to move. But of one thing there could be no doubt. Their present position must be known, for Margery had seen the two strange Indians with her own eyes, and a search might soon be expected. Under all the circumstances, therefore, our hero reluctantly complied with Margery's reiterated solicitations, and they all got into the canoes.

"I do not like this movement, Peter," said le Bourdon, as he shoved his own light craft down the brook, previously to entering the river. "I hope it may turn out to be better than it looks, and that you can keep us out of the hands of our enemies. Remember, it is broad daylight, and that red men are plenty two or three miles below us."

"Yes, know dat; but muss go. Injin too plenty here, soon. Yes, muss go. Bourdon, why you can't ask bee, now, what bess t'ing for you to do, eh? Good time, now, ask bee to tell what he know."

The bee-hunter made no reply, but his pretty wife raised her hand, involuntarily, as if to implore the Indian to forbear. Peter was a little bewildered; for as yet, he did not understand that a belief in necromancy was not exactly compatible with the notions of the Christian Providence. In his ignorance, how much was he worse off than the wisest of our race? Will any discreet man who has ever paid close attention to the power of the somnambule, deny that there is a mystery about such a person that exceeds all our means of explanation? That there are degrees in the extent of this power-- that there are false, as well as true somnambules--all who have attended to the subject must allow; but, a deriding disbeliever in our own person once, we have since seen that which no laws, known to us, can explain, and which we are certain is not the subject of collusion, as we must have been a party to the fraud ourselves, were any such practised. To deny the evidence of our senses is an act of greater weakness than to believe that there are mysteries connected with our moral and physical being that human sagacity has not yet been able to penetrate; and we repudiate the want of manliness that shrinks from giving its testimony when once convinced, through an apprehension of being derided, as weaker than those who withhold their belief. We know that our own thoughts have been explained and rendered, by a somnambule, under circumstances that will not admit of any information by means known to us by other principles; and whatever others may think on the subject, we are perfectly conscious that no collusion did or could exist. Why, then, are we to despise the poor Indian because he still fancied le Bourdon could hold communication with his bees? We happen to be better informed, and there may be beings who are aware of the as yet hidden laws of animal magnetism--hidden as respects ourselves, though known to them--and who fully comprehend various mistakes and misapprehensions connected with our impressions on this subject, that escape our means of detection. It is not surprising, therefore, that Peter, in his emergency, turned to those bees, in the hope that they might prove of assistance, or that Margery silently rebuked him for the weakness, in the manner mentioned.

Although it was still light, the sun was near setting when the canoes glided into the river. Fortunately for the fugitives, the banks were densely wooded, and the stream of great width--a little lake, in fact--and there was not much danger of their being seen until they got near the mouth; nor then, even, should they once get within the cover of the wild rice, and of the rushes. There was no retreat, however; and after paddling some distance, in order to get beyond the observation of any scout who might approach the place where they had last been seen, the canoes were brought close together, and suffered to float before a smart breeze, so as not to reach the mouth of the stream before the night closed around them. Everything appeared so tranquil, the solitude was so profound, and their progress so smooth and uninterrupted, that a certain amount of confidence revived in the breasts of all, and even the bee-hunter had hopes of eventual escape.

A conversation now occurred, in which Peter was questioned concerning the manner in which he had been occupied during his absence; an absence that had given le Bourdon so much concern. Had the chief been perfectly explicit, he would have confessed that fully one-half of his waking thoughts had been occupied in thinking of the death of the Son of God, of the missionary's prayer for his enemies, and of the sublime morality connected with such a religion. It is true Peter did not--could not, indeed--enter very profoundly into the consideration of these subjects; nor were his notions either very clear or orthodox; but they were sincere, and the feelings to which they gave birth were devout. Peter did not touch on these circumstances, however, confining his explanations to the purely material part of his proceedings. He had remained with Bear's Meat, Crowsfeather, and the other leading chiefs, in order to be at the fountain-head of information, and to interpose his influence should the pale-faces unhappily fall into the hands of those who were so industriously looking for them. Nothing had occurred to call his authority out, but a strange uncertainty seemed to reign among the warriors, concerning the manner in which their intended victims eluded their endeavors to overtake them. No trail had been discovered, scout after scout coming in to report a total want of success in their investigations inland. This turned the attention of the Indians still more keenly on the river's mouth, it being certain that the canoes could not have passed out into the lake previously to the arrival of the two or three first parties of their young men, who had been sent so early to watch that particular outlet.

Peter informed le Bourdon that his cache had been discovered, opened, and rifled of its stores. This was a severe loss to our hero, and one that would have been keenly felt at any other time; but just then he had interests so much more important to protect, that he thought and said little about this mishap. The circumstance which gave him the most concern was this: Peter stated that Bear's Meat had directed about a dozen of his young men to keep watch, day and night, in canoes, near the mouth of the river, lying in wait among the wild rice, like so many snakes in the grass.

The party was so much interested in this conversation that, almost insensibly to themselves, they had dropped down to the beginning of the rushes and rice, and had got rather dangerously near to the critical point of their passage. As it was still daylight, Peter now proposed pushing the canoes in among the plants, and there remaining until it might be safer to move. This was done accordingly, and in a minute or two all three of the little barks were concealed within the cover.

The question now was whether the fugitives had been observed, but suffered to advance, as every foot they descended the stream was taking them nearer to their foes. Peter did not conceal his apprehension on this point, since he deemed it improbable that any reach near the mouth of the Kalamazoo was without its lookouts, at a moment so interesting. Such was, indeed, the fact, as was afterward ascertained; but the young men who had seen Peter and Margery had given the alarm, passing the word where the fugitives were to be found, and the sentinels along this portion of the stream had deserted their stations, in order to be in at the capture. By such delicate and unforeseen means does Providence often protect those who are the subjects of its especial care, baffling the calculations of art by its own quiet control of events.

The bee-hunter had a feverish desire to be moving. After remaining in the cover about half an hour, he proposed that they should get the canoes into one of the open passages, of which there were many among the plants, and proceed. Peter had more of the patience of an Indian, and deemed the hour too early. But le Bourdon was not yet entirely free from distrust of his companion, and telling Gershom to follow, he began paddling down one of the passages mentioned. This decisive step compelled the rest to follow, or to separate from their companions. They chose to do the first.

Had le Bourdon possessed more self-command, and remained stationary a little longer, he would, in all probability, have escaped altogether from a very serious danger that he was now compelled to run. Although there were many of the open places among the plants, they did not always communicate with each other, and it became necessary to force the canoes through little thickets, in order to get out of one into another, keeping the general direction of descending the river. It was while effecting the first of these changes, that the agitation of the tops of the plants caught the eye of a lookout on the shore. By signals, understood among themselves, this man communicated his discovery to a canoe that was acting as one of the guard-boats, thus giving a general alarm along the whole line of sentinels, as well as to the chiefs down at the hut or at the mouth of the river. The fierce delight with which this news was received, after so long a delay, became ungovernable, and presently yells and cries filled the air, proceeding from both sides of the stream, as well as from the river itself.

There was not a white person in those canoes who did not conceive that their party was lost, when this clamor was heard. With Peter it was different. Instead of admitting of alarm, he turned all his faculties to use. While le Bourdon himself was nearly in despair, Peter was listening with his nice ears, to catch the points on the river whence the yells arose. For the banks he cared nothing. The danger was from the canoes. By the keenness of his faculties, the chief ascertained that there were four canoes out, and that they would have to run the gauntlet between them, or escape would be hopeless. By the sounds he also became certain that these four canoes were in the rice, two on each side of the river, and there they would probably remain, in expectation that the fugitives would be most likely to come down in the cover.

The decision of Peter was made in a moment. It was now quite dark, and those who were in canoes within the rice could not well see the middle of the stream, even by daylight. He determined, therefore, to take the very centre of the river, giving his directions to that effect with precision and clearness. The females he ordered to lie down, each in her own canoe, while their husbands alone were to remain visible. Peter hoped that, in the darkness, le Bourdon and Gershom might pass for Indians, on the lookout, and under his own immediate command.

One very important fact was ascertained by le Bourdon, as soon as these arrangements were explained and completed. The wind on the lake was blowing from the south, and of course was favorable to those who desired to proceed in the opposite direction. This he communicated to Margery in a low tone, endeavoring to encourage her by all the means in his power. In return, the young wife muttered a few encouraging words to her husband. Every measure was understood between the parties. In the event of a discovery, the canoes were to bury themselves in the rice, taking different directions, each man acting for himself. A place of rendezvous was appointed outside, at a headland known to Gershom and le Bourdon, and signals were agreed on, by which the latest arrival might know that all was safe there. These points were settled as the canoes floated slowly down the stream.

Peter took and kept the lead. The night was star-lit and clear, but there was no moon. On the water, this made but little difference, objects not being visible at any material distance. The chief governed the speed, which was moderate, but regular. At the rate he was now going, it would require about an hour to carry the canoes into the lake. But nearly all of that hour must pass in the midst of enemies!

Half of the period just mentioned elapsed, positively without an alarm of any sort. By this time, the party was abreast of the spot where Gershom and le Bourdon had secreted the canoes in the former adventure at the mouth of the river. On the shores, however, a very different scene now offered. Then, the fire burned brightly in the hut, and the savages could be seen by its light. Now, all was not only dark, but still as death. There was no longer any cry, sound, alarm, or foot-fall, audible. The very air seemed charged with uncertainty, and its offspring, apprehension.

As they approached nearer and nearer to what was conceived to be the most critical point in the passage, the canoes got closer together; so close, indeed, that le Bourdon and Gershom might communicate in very guarded tones. The utmost care was taken to avoid making any noise, since a light and careless blow from a paddle, on the side of a canoe, would be almost certain, now, to betray them. Margery and Dorothy could no longer control their feelings, and each rose in her seat, raising her body so as to bring her head above the gunwale of the canoe, if a bark canoe can be said to have a gunwale at all. They even whispered to each other, endeavoring to glean encouragement by sympathy. At this instant occurred the crisis in their attempt to escape.

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