"Oh no, no! I must not leave my uncle and Ralph; I should be neglecting my duty, should I do so," said Clarice.
"But I have told you how devotedly, how fondly I love you," said Manley. "Do you not love me in return?"
"Yes, I do; I have loved no one else," she replied.
On hearing this confession I should have withdrawn, for I had perfect confidence in Manley, and what I had heard gave me unbounded satisfaction. Clarice, however, had heard me moving among the bushes, and turned her eyes towards me with a startled look. I was sure she had perceived me, so I at once came forward. Manley put out his hand.
"You heard what I said to your sister?"
"Yes; and what she said in reply," I answered. "It gives me the greatest possible pleasure. There is no man I ever met whom I should so much like as a brother-in-law. I would advise Clarice to tell Uncle Jeff at once, and hear what he says about the matter. My belief is, that he will not say anything which either of you would dislike."
Dear little Clarice looked very happy when I said this. I was not surprised that Manley had fallen desperately in love with her, although her beauty certainly did not depend on the elegance of her costume, for she had come out without shoes or stockings, with her hair hanging down over her shoulders, and in her rough working-dress. I must confess I forgot all about my axe, and where I had been going; and having been taken into the confidence of Manley and my sister, I remained talking with them, and settling plans for the future. Suddenly, however, I recollected that I had work to do; and I had an idea that the young couple would not object just then to my attending to my duties. At all events, they said nothing to detain me. Manley agreed to remain with us that night, and I advised him to lose no time in speaking to Uncle Jeff.
To make a long story short, when Uncle Jeff came back after his day's work, Manley, following my advice, spoke to him. His reply was what I had expected:—
"You shall have her with all my heart, for I am very sure you will make her a good husband."
Manley had received his appointment as commandant of the fort; but as the buildings were not as yet fully completed, nor would be fit for a lady's reception during the winter, it was settled that the young couple should wait until next spring to be married, when it was hoped that the chaplain at Fort Harwood would be able to come over and perform the ceremony.
Before the winter set in we had got up a sufficient portion of the house for our accommodation, while the new field hands occupied the hut. Our friend Winnemak paid us frequent visits, too, always bringing a supply of game, which was very welcome, as we had but little time for hunting, and were unwilling to kill any of our farm-stock.
Maysotta had always much to say to her father, and he willingly allowed her to remain with us. His mind was already beginning to awaken to spiritual truth, as he had had the gospel explained to him, and he now compared it with the dark heathen superstitions in which he had hitherto believed. Maysotta entreated Clarice to tell her father all she had told her. She gladly did so, and the hitherto proud chief "became as a little child." He at last fixed his camp in our neighbourhood, and used to visit us nearly every day, in order that he might receive instruction. He even expressed a wish to learn to read; so Uncle Jeff and I became his masters, aided occasionally by Clarice and Maysotta, who had already made considerable progress. The chief's memory was wonderfully good, too, and he thus rapidly learned whole chapters of the Bible, from a translation which we had obtained in the dialect of his people. His great desire was now not only to learn himself, but to induce his own people to accept the blessings of the gospel; and as his wish was to imitate us in everything, he had put up a log-house of considerable size in his village.
I had often promised to pay him a visit. One Sunday I had ridden over to the fort, after Clarice's marriage, to see her and join the service there, when on my way back I bethought me of my promise to Winnemak. I accordingly rode to his village. None of his men were about; so, fastening up my horse, I went towards his house. As I looked in at the door, I saw him standing up at one end, while his chief men and braves were seated around him, attentively listening to the words which fell from his lips. Once he would have addressed them only on some war-like or political matter, but now he was preaching the blessed gospel, while those fierce warriors sat listening with the most profound attention to his words.
What were those words? He was telling them that they must become as children; that they must be born again, that their old evil nature might be overcome; that they must do good to their enemies, and forgive those who should injure them; that they must lead pure and holy lives, not giving way to their angry feelings, or even indulging in angry thoughts. He told them, too, of the Saviour's love, and the Saviour's death; how God would forgive their sins, which, though red as scarlet, would become white as wool, if they trusted that by that death he had taken their sins upon himself, and had become their Saviour, their Advocate, their great High Priest.
Winnemak having thus become a Christian, did not rest content until he had used every effort to convert the whole of his tribe. Nor did he stop here: he went to other tribes; and when he found his own influence was not sufficient, he procured the assistance of white missionaries, whom he supported and protected.
His example was followed by his former enemy Piomingo, whose young wife and himself became industrious settlers—the greater number of their tribe completely abandoning their old barbarous customs. The only regret of Winnemak was that he and his people had not received these glorious tidings in earlier days, before they had almost ceased to exist as a people in the land where once their warriors were counted by thousands.
But I have been anticipating events. From several of the emigrant trains which came by next season, we obtained not only such stores as we required, but several useful hands; while many of the families, seeing the fertility of the country, and the progress we had made, to say nothing of the protection of the military post, resolved, instead of incurring the dangers of a longer journey, to settle in our neighbourhood.
The new house, as Uncle Jeff and Bartle intended, was far superior to the old one, and although we hoped that we should never again be attacked, yet it was built with an eye to defence, and was considered almost as strong as the fort itself. Happily, however, we have never had occasion to try its capabilities of withstanding a siege.
Fields were added to fields; the stock increased; and God prospering us notwithstanding the heavy losses we had incurred, Uncle Jeff's farm eventually became the most flourishing in the neighbourhood.
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