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The Bridge of the Gods - A Romance of Indian Oregon. 19th Edition.
by Frederic Homer Balch
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"The white man tears himself with his own claws like a wounded beast, but it does not give him peace. Has he done evil? Then let him remember what he has so often told the Indians: 'Forsake evil, turn from sin, and the Great Spirit will forgive.' Let my white brother do this, and it will be well with him."

He gazed at Cecil an instant longer; then, with a forbearance that more civilized men do not always show, he left the lodge without another word.

But what he said had its effect. Through Cecil's veins leaped the impulse of a sudden resolve,—a resolve that was both triumph and agony. He fell on his knees beside the couch.

"Thou hast shown me my duty by the lips of the Indian, and I will perform it. I will tear this forbidden love from my heart. Father, help me. Once before I resolved to do this and failed. Help me that I fail not now. Give me strength. Give me the mastery over the flesh, O God! Help me to put this temptation from me. Help me to fulfil my mission."

The struggle was long and doubtful, but the victory was won at last. When Cecil arose from his knees, there was the same set and resolute look upon his face that was there the morning he entered the wilderness, leaving friends and home behind him forever,—the look that some martyr of old might have worn, putting from him the clinging arms of wife or child, going forth to the dungeon and the stake.

"It is done," murmured the white lips. "I have put her from me. My mission to the Indians alone fills my heart. But God help her! God help her!"

For the hardest part of it all was that he sacrificed her as well as himself.

"It must be," he thought; "I must give her up. I will go now and tell her; then I will never look upon her face again. But oh! what will become of her?"

And his long fingers were clinched as in acutest pain. But his sensitive nerves, his intense susceptibilities were held in abeyance by a will that, once roused, was strong even unto death.

He went out. It was dark. Away to the east Mount Hood lifted its blazing crater into the heavens like a gigantic torch, and the roar of the eruption came deep and hoarse through the stillness of night. Once, twice it seemed to Cecil that the ground trembled slightly under his feet. The Indians were huddled in groups watching the burning crest of the volcano. As the far-off flickering light fell on their faces, it showed them to be full of abject fear.

"It is like the end of the world," thought Cecil. "Would that it were; then she and I might die together."

He left the camp and took the trail through the wood to the trysting-place; for, late as it was, he knew that she awaited him.



CHAPTER VIII.

IN THE DARK.

There is not one upon life's weariest way, Who is weary as I am weary of all but death.

SWINBURNE.

The grim sentinels by the pathway, who had been so reluctant to let Cecil pass the day before, were still more reluctant this evening. One of them planted himself in the trail directly in front of Cecil, and did not offer to let him go on, but stood sullenly blocking the way. Cecil touched the warrior's arm and bade him stand aside. For an instant it seemed that he would refuse, but his superstitious respect for the white tomanowos overcame his obstinacy,—and he stepped unwillingly back.

But as Cecil went on he felt, and felt rightly, that they would not let him pass again,—that the last act, be it what it might, in his love drama, was drawing to a close.

A few moments' walk, and he saw in the dark the little figure awaiting him under the trees. She came slowly forward to meet him. He saw that her face was very pale, her eyes large and full of woe. She gave him her hands; they felt like ice. He bent over her and kissed her with quivering lips.

"Poor child," he said, putting his arms around her slender form and drawing it close in his embrace, "how can I ever tell you what I have to tell you to-night!"

She did not respond to his caress. At length, looking up in a lifeless, stricken way, she spoke in a mechanical voice, a voice that did not sound like her own,—

"I know it already. My father came and told me that to-morrow I must—" She shuddered; her voice broke; then she threw her arms around his neck and clung to him passionately. "But they can never tear me away from you; never, never!"

How could he tell her that he came to put her away from him, that he came to bid her farewell? He clasped her the tighter in his arms. For an instant his mind swept all the chances of flight with her, only to realize their utter hopelessness; then he remembered that even to think of such a thing was treachery to the resolves he had just made. He shook from head to foot with stormy emotion.

She lifted her head from his breast, where it was pillowed.

"Let us get horses or a canoe, and fly to-night to the desert or the sea,—anywhere, anywhere, only to be away from here! Let us take the trail you came on, and find our way to your people."

"Alas," replied Cecil, "how could we escape? Every tribe, far and near, is tributary to your father. The runners would rouse them as soon as we were missed. The swiftest riders would be on our trail; ambuscades would lurk for us in every thicket; we could never escape; and even if we should, a whole continent swarming with wild tribes lies between us and my land."

She looked at him in anguish, with dim eyes, and her arms slipped from around his neck.

"Do you no longer love Wallulah? Something tells me that you would not wish to fly with me, even if we could escape. There is something you have not told me."

Clasping her closely to him, he told her how he felt it was the will of God that they must part. God had sent him on a sacred mission, and he dared not turn aside. Either her love or the redemption of the tribes of the Wauna must be given up; and for their sake love must be sacrificed.

"To-day God took away the words from my lips and the spirit from my heart. My soul was lead. I felt like one accursed. Then it came to me that it was because I turned aside from my mission to love you. We must part. Our ways diverge. I must walk my own pathway alone wheresoever it leads me. God commands, and I must obey."

The old rapt look came back, the old set, determined expression which showed that that delicate organization could grow as strong as granite in its power to endure.

Wallulah shrank away from him, and strove to free herself from his embrace.

"Let me go," she said, in a low, stifled tone. "Oh, if I could only die!"

But he held her close, almost crushing the delicate form against his breast. She felt his heart beat deeply and painfully against her own, and in some way it came to her that every throb was agony, that he was in the extremity of mental and physical suffering.

"God help me!" he said; "how can I give you up?"

She realized by woman's intuition that his whole soul was wrung with pain, with an agony darker and bitterer than her own; and the exceeding greatness of his suffering gave her strength. A sudden revulsion of feeling affected her. She looked up at him with infinite tenderness.

"I wish I could take all the pain away from you and bear it myself."

"It is God's will; we must submit to it."

"His will!" Her voice was full of rebellion. "Why does he give us such bitter suffering? Doesn't he care? I thought once that God was good, but it is all dark now."

"Hush, you must not think so. After all, it will be only a little while till we meet in heaven, and there no one can take you from me."

"Heaven is so far off. The present is all that I can see, and it is as black as death. Death! it would be sweet to die now with your arms around me; but to live year after year with him! How can I go to him, now that I have known you? How can I bear his presence, his touch?"

She shuddered there in Cecil's arms. All her being shrunk in repugnance at the thought of Snoqualmie.

"Thank God for death!" said Cecil, brokenly.

"It is so long to wait," she murmured, "and I am so young and strong."

His kisses fell on cheek and brow. She drew down his head and put her cheek against his and clung to him as if she would never let him go.

It was a strange scene, the mournful parting of the lovers in the gloom of the forest and the night. To the east, through the black net-work of leaves and branches, a dull red glow marked the crater of Mount Hood, and its intermittent roar came to them through the silence. It was a night of mystery and horror,—a fitting night for their tragedy of love and woe. The gloom and terror of their surroundings seemed to throw a supernatural shadow over their farewell.

"The burning mountain is angry to-night," said Wallulah, at last. "Would that it might cover us up with its ashes and stones, as the Indians say it once did two lovers back in the old time."

"Alas, death never comes to those who wish for it. When the grace and sweetness are all fled from our lives, and we would be glad to lie down in the grave and be at rest, then it is that we must go on living. Now I must go. The longer we delay our parting the harder it will be."

"Not yet, not yet!" cried Wallulah. "Think how long I must be alone,—always alone until I die."

"God help us!" said Cecil, setting his teeth. "I will dash my mission to the winds and fly with you. What if God does forsake us, and our souls are lost! I would rather be in the outer darkness with you than in heaven without you."

His resolution had given way at last. But in such cases, is it not always the woman that is strongest?

"No," she said, "you told me that your God would forsake you if you did. It must not be."

She withdrew herself from his arms and stood looking at him. He saw in the moonlight that her pale tear-stained face had upon it a sorrowful resignation, a mournful strength, born of very hopelessness.

"God keep you, Wallulah!" murmured Cecil, brokenly. "If I could only feel that he would shelter and shield you!"

"That may be as it will," replied the sweet, patient lips. "I do not know. I shut my eyes to the future. I only want to take myself away from you, so that your God will not be angry with you. Up there," she said, pointing, "I will meet you sometime and be with you forever. God will not be angry then. Now farewell."

He advanced with outstretched arms. She motioned him back.

"It will make it harder," she said.

For a moment she looked into his eyes, her own dark, dilated, full of love and sadness; for a moment all that was within him thrilled to the passionate, yearning tenderness of her gaze; then she turned and went away without a word.

He could not bear to see her go, and yet he knew it must end thus; he dared not follow her or call her back. But so intense was his desire for her to return, so vehemently did his life cry out after her, that for an instant it seemed to him he had called out, "Come back! come back!" The cry rose to his lips; but he set his teeth and held it back. They must part; was it not God's will? The old pain at his heart returned, a faintness was on him, and he reeled to the ground.

Could it be that her spirit felt that unuttered cry, and that it brought her back? Be this as it may, while he was recovering from his deadly swoon he dimly felt her presence beside him, and the soft cool touch of her fingers on his brow. Then—or did he imagine it?—her lips, cold as those of the dead, touched his own. But when consciousness entirely returned, he was alone in the forest.

Blind, dizzy, staggering with weakness, he found his way to the camp. Suddenly, as he drew near it he felt the earth sway and move beneath him like a living thing. He caught hold of a tree to escape being thrown to the ground. There came an awful burst of flame from Mount Hood. Burning cinders and scoria lit up the eastern horizon like a fountain of fire. Then down from the great canyon of the Columbia, from the heart of the Cascade Range, broke a mighty thundering sound, as if half a mountain had fallen. Drowning for a moment the roar of the volcano, the deep echo rolled from crag to crag, from hill to hill. A wild chorus of outcries rang from the startled camp,—the fierce, wild cry of many tribes mad with fear yet breathing forth tremulous defiance, the cry of human dread mingling with the last echoes of that mysterious crash.



CHAPTER IX.

QUESTIONING THE DEAD.

Then he said: "Cold lips and breast without breath, Is there no voice, no language of death?"

EDWIN ARNOLD.

While Cecil was on his way that evening to seek Wallulah, a canoe with but a single occupant was dropping down the Columbia toward one of the many mimaluse, or death-islands, that are washed by its waters.

An Indian is always stealthy, but there was an almost more than Indian stealthiness about this canoe-man's movements. Noiselessly, as the twilight deepened into darkness, the canoe glided out of a secluded cove not far from the camp; noiselessly the paddle dipped into the water, and the canoe passed like a shadow into the night.

On the rocky mimaluse island, some distance below the mouth of the Willamette, the Indian landed and drew his boat up on the beach. He looked around for a moment, glanced at the red glow that lit the far-off crest of Mount Hood, then turned and went up the pathway to the ancient burial hut.

Who was it that had dared to visit the island of the dead after dark? The bravest warriors were not capable of such temerity. Old men told how, away back in the past, some braves had ventured upon the island after nightfall, and had paid the awful forfeit. They were struck by unseen hands. Weapons that had lain for years beside the decaying corpses of forgotten warriors wounded them in the dark. Fleeing to their canoes in swiftest fear, they found the shadowy pursuit was swifter still, and were overtaken and struck down, while the whole island rung with mocking laughter. One only escaped, plunging all torn and bruised into the river and swimming to the farther shore. When he looked back, the island was covered with moving lights, and the shrill echo of fiendish mirth came to him across the water. His companions were never seen again. A little while afterward the dogs barked all night around his lodge, and in the morning he was found lying dead upon his couch, his face ghastly and drawn with fear, as if at some frightful apparition.

"He disturbed the mimaluse tillicums [dead people], and they came for him," said the old medicine men, as they looked at him.

Since then, no one had been on the island except in the daytime. Little bands of mourners had brought hither the swathed bodies of their dead, laid them in the burial hut, lifted the wail over them, and left upon the first approach of evening.

Who, then, was this,—the first for generations to set foot on the mimaluse illahee after dark?

It could be but one, the only one among all the tribes who would have dared to come, and to come alone,—Multnomah, the war-chief, who knew not what it was to fear the living or the dead.

Startled by the outburst of the great smoking mountains, which always presaged woe to the Willamettes, perplexed by Tohomish's mysterious hints of some impending calamity, weighed down by a dread presentiment, he came that night on a strange and superstitious errand.

On the upper part of the island, above reach of high water, the burial hut loomed dark and still in the moonlight as the chief approached it.

Some of the Willamettes, like the Chinooks, practised canoe burial, but the greater part laid their dead in huts, as did also the Klickitats and the Cascades.

The war-chief entered the hut. The rude boards that covered the roof were broken and decayed. The moonlight shone through many openings, lighting up the interior with a dim and ghostly radiance. There, swathed in crumbling cerements, ghastly in shrunken flesh and protruding bone, lay the dead of the line of Multnomah,—the chiefs of the blood royal who had ruled the Willamettes for many generations. The giant bones of warriors rested beside the more delicate skeletons of their women, or the skeletons, slenderer still, of little children of the ancient race. The warrior's bow lay beside him with rotting string; the child's playthings were still clasped in fleshless fingers; beside the squaw's skull the ear-pendants of hiagua shells lay where they had fallen from the crumbling flesh years before.

Near the door, and where the slanting moonbeams fell full upon it, was the last who had been borne to the death hut, the mother of Wallulah. Six years before Multnomah had brought her body,—brought it alone, with no eye to behold his grief; and since then no human tread had disturbed the royal burial-place.

He came now and looked down upon the body. It had been tightly swathed, fold upon fold, in some oriental fabric; and the wrappings, stiffened by time still showed what had once been a rare symmetry of form. The face was covered with a linen cloth, yellow now through age and fitting like a mask to the features. The chief knelt down and drew away the face-cloth. The countenance, though shrunken, was almost perfectly preserved. Indeed, so well preserved were many of the corpses the first white settlers found on these mimaluse islands as to cause at one time a belief that the Indians had some secret process of embalming their dead. There was no such process, however,—nothing save the antiseptic properties of the ocean breeze which daily fanned the burial islands of the lower Columbia.

Lovely indeed must the mother of Wallulah have been in her life. Withered as her features were, there was a delicate beauty in them still,—in the graceful brow, the regular profile, the exquisitely chiselled chin. Around the shoulders and the small shapely head her hair had grown in rich luxuriant masses.

The chief gazed long on the shrunken yet beautiful face. His iron features grew soft, as none but Wallulah had ever seen them grow. He touched gently the hair of his dead wife, and put it back from her brow with a wistful, caressing tenderness. He had never understood her; she had always been a mystery to him; the harsh savagery of his nature had never been able to enter into or comprehend the refined grace of hers; but he had loved her with all the fierce, tenacious, secretive power of his being, a power that neither time nor death could change. Now he spoke to her, his low tones sounding weird in that house of the dead,—a strange place for words of love.

"My woman,—mine yet, for death itself cannot take from Multnomah that which is his own; my bird that came from the sea and made its nest for a little while in the heart of Multnomah and then flew away and left it empty,—I have been hungry to see you, to touch your hair and look upon your face again. Now I am here, and it is sweet to be with you, but the heart of Multnomah listens to hear you speak."

He still went on stroking her hair softly, reverently. It seemed the only caress of which he was capable, but it had in it a stern and mournful tenderness.

"Speak to me! The dead talk to the tomanowos men and the dreamers. You are mine; talk to me; I am in need. The shadow of something terrible to come is over the Willamette. The smoking mountains are angry; the dreamers see only bad signs; there are black things before Multnomah, and he cannot see what they are. Tell me,—the dead are wise and know that which comes,—what is this unknown evil which threatens me and mine?"

He looked down at her with intense craving, intense desire, as if his imperious will could reanimate that silent clay and force to the mute lips the words he so desired. But the still lips moved not, and the face lay cold under his burning and commanding gaze. The chief leaned closer over her; he called her name aloud,—something that the Willamette Indians rarely did, for they believed that if the names of the dead were spoken, even in conversation, it would bring them back; so they alluded to their lost ones only indirectly, and always reluctantly and with fear.

"Come back!" said he, repeating the name he had not spoken for six years. "You are my own, you are my woman. Hear me, speak to me, you whom I love; you who, living or dead, are still the wife of Multnomah."

No expression flitted over the changeless calm of the face beneath him: no sound came back to his straining ears except the low intermittent roar of the far-off volcano.

A sorrowful look crossed his face. As has been said, there was an indefinable something always between them, which perhaps must ever be between those of diverse race. It had been the one mystery that puzzled him while she was living, and it seemed to glide, viewless yet impenetrable, between them now. He rose to his feet.

"It comes between us again," he thought, looking down at her mournfully. "It pushed me back when she was living, and made me feel that I stood outside her heart even while my arms were around her. It comes between us now and will not let her speak. If it was only something I could see and grapple with!"

And the fierce warrior felt his blood kindle within him, that not only death but something still more mysterious and incomprehensible should separate him from the one he loved. He turned sadly away and passed on to the interior of the hut. As he gazed on the crumbling relics of humanity around him, the wonted look of command came back to his brow. These should obey; by iron strength of will and mystic charm he would sway them to his bidding. The withered lips of death, or spirit voices, should tell him what he wished to know. Abjectly superstitious as was the idea it involved, there was yet something grand in his savage despotic grasp after power that, dominating all he knew of earth, sought to bend to his will even the spirit-land.

The chief believed that the departed could talk to him if they would; for did they not talk to the medicine men and the dreamers? If so, why not to him, the great chief, the master of all the tribes of the Wauna?

He knelt down, and began to sway his body back and forth after the manner of the Nootka shamans, and to chant a long, low, monotonous song, in which the names of the dead who lay there were repeated over and over again.

"Kamyah, Tlesco, Che-aqah, come back! come back and tell me the secret, the black secret, the death secret, the woe that is to come. Winelah, Sic-mish, Tlaquatin, the land is dark with signs and omens; the hearts of men are heavy with dread; the dreamers say that the end is come for Multnomah and his race. Is it true? Come and tell me. I wait, I listen, I speak your names; come back, come back!"

Tohomish himself would not have dared to repeat those names in the charnel hut, lest those whom he invoked should spring upon him and tear him to pieces. No more potent or more perilous charm was known to the Indians.

Ever as Multnomah chanted, the sullen roar of the volcano came like an undertone and filled the pauses of the wild incantation. And as he went on, it seemed to the chief that the air grew thick with ghostly presences. There was a sense of breathing life all around him. He felt that others, many others, were with him; yet he saw nothing. When he paused for some voice, some whisper of reply, this sense of hyper-physical perception became so acute that he could almost see, almost hear, in the thick blackness and the silence; yet no answer came.

Again he resumed his mystic incantation, putting all the force of his nature into the effort, until it seemed that even those shadowy things of the night must yield to his blended entreaty and command. But there came no response. Thick and thronging the viewless presences seemed to gather, to look, and to listen; but no reply came to his ears, and no sight met his eyes save the swathed corpses and the white-gleaming bones on which the shifting moonbeams fell.

Multnomah rose to his feet, baffled, thwarted, all his soul glowing with anger that he should be so scorned.

"Why is this?" said his stern voice in the silence. "You come, but you give no reply; you look, you listen, but you make no sound. Answer me, you who know the future; tell me this secret!"

Still no response. Yet the air seemed full of dense, magnetic life, of muffled heart-beats, of voiceless, unresponsive, uncommunicative forms that he could almost touch.

For perhaps the first time in his life the war-chief found himself set at naught. His form grew erect; his eyes gleamed with the terrible wrath which the tribes dreaded as they dreaded the wrath of the Great Spirit.



"Do you mock Multnomah? Am I not war-chief of the Willamettes? Though you dwell in shadow and your bodies are dust, you are Willamettes, and I am still your chief. Give up your secret! If the Great Spirit has sealed your lips so that you cannot speak, give me a sign that will tell me. Answer by word or sign; I say it,—I, Multnomah, your chief and master."

Silence again. The roar of the volcano had ceased; and an ominous stillness brooded over Nature, as if all things held their breath, anticipating some mighty and imminent catastrophe. Multnomah's hands were clinched, and his strong face had on it now a fierceness of command that no eye had ever seen before. His indomitable will reached out to lay hold of those unseen presences and compel them to reply.

A moment of strained, commanding expectation: then the answer came; the sign was given. The earth shook beneath him till he staggered, almost fell; the hut creaked and swayed like a storm-driven wreck; and through the crevices on the side toward Mount Hood came a blinding burst of flame. Down from the great gap in the Cascade Range through which flows the Columbia rolled the far-off thundering crash which had so startled Cecil and appalled the tribes. Then, tenfold louder than before, came again the roar of the volcano.

Too well Multnomah knew what had gone down in that crash; too well did he read the sign that had been given. For a moment it seemed as if all the strength of his heart had broken with that which had fallen; then the proud dignity of his character reasserted itself, even in the face of doom.

"It has come at last, as the wise men of old said it would. The end is at hand; the Willamettes pass like a shadow from the earth. The Great Spirit has forsaken us, our tomanowos has failed us. But my own heart fails me not, and my own arm is strong. Like a war-chief will I meet that which is to come. Multnomah falls, but he falls as the Bridge has fallen, with a crash that will shake the earth, with a ruin that shall crush all beneath him even as he goes down."

Turning away, his eyes fell on the body of his wife as he passed toward the door. Aroused and desperate as he was, he stopped an instant and looked down at her with a long, lingering look, a look that seemed to say, "I shall meet you ere many suns. Death and ruin but give you back to me the sooner. There will be nothing between us then; I shall understand you at last."

Then he drew his robe close around him, and went out into the night.



BOOK V.

THE SHADOW OF THE END.

CHAPTER I.

THE HAND OF THE GREAT SPIRIT.

"We view as one who hath an evil sight," He answered, "plainly objects far remote."

CAREY: Dante.

The night came to an end at last,—a night not soon forgotten by the Oregon Indians, and destined to be remembered in tale and tomanowos lore long after that generation had passed away. The sky was thick with clouds; the atmosphere was heavy with smoke, which, dense and low-hanging in the still weather, shut out the entire horizon. The volcano was invisible in the smoky air, but its low mutterings came to them from time to time.

The chiefs met early in the grove of council. Multnomah's countenance told nothing of the night before, but almost all the rest showed something yet of superstitious fear. Mishlah's face was haggard, his air startled and uneasy, like that of some forest animal that had been terribly frightened; and even Snoqualmie looked worn. But the greatest change of all was in Tohomish. His face was as ghastly as that of a corpse, and he came into the council walking in a dull lifeless way, as if hardly aware of what he was doing. Those nearest to him shrank away, whispering to one another that the seer looked like a dead man.

Cecil came last. The severe mental conflict of the past night had told almost fatally on a frame already worn out by years of toil and sickness. His cheek was pale, his eye hollow, his step slow and faltering like one whose flame of life is burning very low. The pain at his heart, always worse in times of exhaustion, was sharp and piercing.

He looked agitated and restless; he had tried hard to give Wallulah into the hands of God and feel that she was safe, but he could not. For himself he had no thought; but his whole soul was wrung with pain for her. By virtue of his own keen sympathies, he anticipated and felt all that the years had in store for her,—the loneliness, the heartache, the trying to care for one she loathed; until he shrank from her desolate and hopeless future as if it had been his own. All his soul went out to her in yearning tenderness, in passionate desire to shield her and to take away her burden.

But his resolution never wavered. Below the ebb and flow of feeling, the decision to make their separation final was as unchanging as granite. He could not bear to look upon her face again; he could not bear to see her wedded to Snoqualmie. He intended to make one last appeal to the Indians this morning to accept the gospel of peace; then he would leave the council before Wallulah was brought to it. So he sat there now, waiting for the "talk" to begin.

The bands gathered around the grove were smaller than usual. Many had fled from the valley at dawn to escape from the dreaded vicinity of the smoking mountains; many hundreds remained, but they were awed and frightened. No war could have appalled them as they were appalled by the shaking of the solid earth under their feet. All the abject, superstition of their natures was roused. They looked like men who felt themselves caught in the grasp of some supernatural power.

Multnomah opened the council by saying that two runners had arrived with news that morning; the one from the sea-coast, the other from up the Columbia. They would come before the council and tell the news they had brought.

The runner from the upper Columbia spoke first. He had come thirty miles since dawn. He seemed unnerved and fearful, like one about to announce some unheard-of calamity. The most stoical bent forward eagerly to hear.

"The Great Spirit has shaken the earth, and the Bridge of the Gods has fallen!"

There was the silence of amazement; then through the tribes passed in many tongues the wild and wondering murmur, "The Bridge of the Gods has fallen! The Bridge of the Gods has fallen!" With it, too, went the recollection of the ancient prophecy that when the Bridge fell the power of the Willamettes would also fall. Now the Bridge was broken, and the dominion of the Willamettes was broken forever with it. At another time the slumbering jealousy of the tribes would have burst forth in terrific vengeance on the doomed race. But they were dejected and afraid. In the fall of the Bridge they saw the hand of the Great Spirit, a visitation of God. And so Willamette and tributary alike heard the news with fear and apprehension. Only Multnomah, who knew the message before it was spoken, listened with his wonted composure.

"It is well," he said, with more than Indian duplicity; "the daughter of Multnomah is to become the wife of Snoqualmie the Cayuse, and the new line that commences with their children will give new chiefs to head the confederacy of the Wauna. The old gives way to the new. That is the sign that the Great Spirit gives in the fall of the Bridge. Think you it means that the war-strength is gone from us, that we shall no longer prevail in battle? No, no! who thinks it?"

The proud old sachem rose to his feet; his giant form towered over the multitude, and every eye fell before the haughty and scornful glance that swept council and audience like a challenge to battle.

"Is there a chief here that thinks it? Let him step out, let him grapple with Multnomah in the death-grapple, and see. Is there a tribe that thinks it? We reach out our arms to them; we are ready. Let them meet us in battle now, to-day, and know if our hearts have become the hearts of women. Will you come? We will give you dark and bloody proof that our tomahawks are still sharp and our arms are strong."

He stood with outstretched arms, from which the robe of fur had fallen back. A thrill of dread went through the assembly at the grim defiance; then Snoqualmie spoke.

"The heart of all the tribes is as the heart of Multnomah. Let there be peace."

The chief resumed his seat. His force of will had wrung one last victory from fate itself. Instantly, and with consummate address, Multnomah preoccupied the attention of the council before anything could be said or done to impair the effect of his challenge. He bade the other runner, the one from the sea-coast, deliver his message.

It was, in effect, this:—

A large canoe, with great white wings like a bird, had come gliding over the waters to the coast near the mouth of the Wauna. Whence it came no one could tell; but its crew were pale of skin like the great white shaman there in the council, and seemed of his race. Some of them came ashore in a small canoe to trade with the Indians, but trouble rose between them and there was a battle. The strangers slew many Indians with their magic, darting fire at them from long black tubes. Then they escaped to the great canoe, which spread its wings and passed away from sight into the sea. Many of the Indians were killed, but none of the pale-faced intruders. Now the band who had suffered demanded that the white man of whom they had heard—the white chief at the council—be put to death to pay the blood-debt.

All eyes turned on Cecil, and he felt that his hour was come. Weak, exhausted in body and mind, wearied almost to death, a sudden and awful peril was on him. For a moment his heart sank, his brain grew dizzy. How could he meet this emergency? All his soul went out to God with a dumb prayer for help, with an overwhelming sense of weakness. Then he heard Multnomah speaking to him in cold, hard tones.

"The white man has heard the words of the runner. What has he to say why his life should not pay the blood-debt?"

Cecil rose to his feet. With one last effort he put Wallulah, himself, his mission, into the hands of God; with one last effort he forced himself to speak.

Men of nervous temperament, like Cecil, can bring out of an exhausted body an energy, an outburst of final and intense effort, of which those of stronger physique do not seem capable. But it drains the remaining vital forces, and the reaction is terrible. Was it this flaming-up of the almost burned-out embers of life that animated Cecil now? Or was it the Divine Strength coming to him in answer to prayer? Be this as it may, when he opened his lips to speak, all the power of his consecration came back; physical weakness and mental anxiety left him; he felt that Wallulah was safe in the arms of the Infinite Compassion; he felt his love for the Indians, his deep yearning to help them, to bring them to God, rekindling within him; and never had he been more grandly the Apostle to the Indians than now.

In passionate tenderness, in burning appeal, in living force and power of delivery, it was the supreme effort of his life. He did not plead for himself; he ignored, put aside, forgot his own personal danger; but he set before his hearers the wickedness of their own system of retaliation and revenge; he showed them how it overshadowed their lives and lay like a deadening weight on their better natures. The horror, the cruelty, the brute animalism of the blood-thirst, the war-lust, was set over against the love and forgiveness to which the Great Spirit called them.

The hearts of the Indians were shaken within them. The barbarism which was the outcome of centuries of strife and revenge, the dark and cumulative growth of ages, was stirred to its core by the strong and tender eloquence of this one man. As he spoke, there came to all those swarthy listeners, in dim beauty, a glimpse of a better life; there came to them a moment's fleeting revelation of something above their own vindictiveness and ferocity. That vague longing, that indefinable wistfulness which he had so often seen on the faces of his savage audiences was on nearly every face when he closed.

As he took his seat, the tide of inspiration went from him, and a deadly faintness came over him. It seemed as if in that awful reaction the last spark of vitality was dying out; but somehow, through it all, he felt at peace with God and man. A great quiet was upon him; he was anxious for nothing, he cared for nothing, he simply rested as on the living presence of the Father.

Upon the sweet and lingering spell of his closing words came Multnomah's tones in stern contrast.

"What is the word of the council? Shall the white man live or die?"

Snoqualmie was on his feet in an instant.

"Blood for blood. Let the white man die at the torture-stake."

One by one the chiefs gave their voice for death. Shaken for but a moment, the ancient inherited barbarism which was their very life reasserted itself, and they could decide no other way. One, two, three of the sachems gave no answer, but sat in silence. They were men whose hearts had been touched before by Cecil, and who were already desiring the better life They could not condemn their teacher.

At length it came to Tohomish. He arose. His face, always repulsive, was pallid now in the extreme. The swathed corpses on mimaluse island looked not more sunken and ghastly.

He essayed to speak; thrice the words faltered on his lips; and when at last he spoke, it was in a weary, lifeless way. His tones startled the audience like an electric shock. The marvellous power and sweetness were gone from his voice; its accents were discordant, uncertain. Could the death's head before them be that of Tohomish? Could those harsh and broken tones be those of the Pine Voice? He seemed like a man whose animal life still survived, but whose soul was dead.

What he said at first had no relation to the matter before the council. Every Indian had his tomanowos appointed him by the Great Spirit from his birth, and that tomanowos was the strength of his life. Its influence grew with his growth; the roots of his being were fed in it; it imparted its characteristics to him. But the name and nature of his tomanowos was the one secret that must go with him to the grave. If it was told, the charm was lost and the tomanowos deserted him.

Tohomish's tomanowos was the Bridge and the foreknowledge of its fall: a black secret that had darkened his whole life, and imparted the strange and mournful mystery to his eloquence. Now that the Bridge was fallen, the strength was gone from Tohomish's heart, the music from his words.

"Tohomish has no voice now," he continued; "he is as one dead. He desires to say only this, then his words shall be heard no more among men. The fall of the Bridge is a sign that not only the Willamettes but all the tribes of the Wauna shall fall and pass away. Another people shall take our place, another race shall reign in our stead, and the Indian shall be forgotten, or remembered only as a dim memory of the past.

"And who are they who bring us our doom? Look on the face of the white wanderer there; listen to the story of your brethren slain at the sea-coast by the white men in the canoe, and you will know. They come; they that are stronger, and push us out into the dark. The white wanderer talks of peace; but the Great Spirit has put death between the Indian and the white man, and where he has put death there can be no peace.

"Slay the white man as the white race will slay your children in the time that is to come. Peace? love? There can be only war and hate. Striking back blow for blow like a wounded rattlesnake, shall the red man pass; and when the bones of the last Indian of the Wauna lie bleaching on the prairie far from the mimaluse island of his fathers, then there will be peace.

"Tohomish has spoken; his words are ended, and ended forever."

The harsh, disjointed tones ceased. All eyes fell again on Cecil, the representative of the race by which the Willamettes were doomed. The wrath of all those hundreds, the vengeance of all those gathered tribes of the Wauna, the hatred of the whole people he had come to save, seemed to rise up and fall upon him the frail invalid with the sharp pain throbbing at his heart.

But that strange peace was on him still, and his eyes, dilated and brilliant in the extremity of physical pain, met those lowering brows with a look of exceeding pity.

Multnomah rose to pronounce sentence. For him there could be but one decision, and he gave it,—the clinched hand, the downward gesture, that said, "There is death between us. We will slay as we shall be slain."

Cecil was on his feet, though it seemed as if he must fall within the moment. He fought down the pain that pierced his heart like a knife; he gathered the last resources of an exhausted frame for one more effort. The executioners sprang forward with the covering for his eyes that was to shut out the light forever. His glance, his gesture held them back; they paused irresolutely, even in the presence of Multnomah; weak as Cecil was, he was the great white tomanowos still, and they dared not touch him. There was a pause, an intense silence.

"I gave up all to come and tell you of God, and you have condemned me to die at the torture-stake," said the soft, low voice, sending through their stern hearts its thrill and pathos for the last time. "But you shall not bring this blood-stain upon your souls. The hand of the Great Spirit is on me; he takes me to himself. Remember—what I have said. The Great Spirit loves you. Pray—forgive—be at peace. Remember—"

The quiver of agonizing pain disturbed the gentleness of his look; he reeled, and sank to the ground. For a moment the slight form shuddered convulsively and the hands were clinched; then the struggle ceased and a wonderful brightness shone upon his face. His lips murmured something in his own tongue, something into which came the name of Wallulah and the name of God. Then his eyes grew dim and he lay very still. Only the expression of perfect peace still rested on the face. Sachems and warriors gazed in awe upon the beauty, grand in death, of the one whom the Great Spirit had taken from them. Perhaps the iron heart of the war-chief was the only one that did not feel remorse and self-reproach.

Ere the silence was broken, an old Indian woman came forward from the crowd into the circle of chiefs. She looked neither to the right nor to the left, but advanced among the warrior-sachems, into whose presence no woman had dared intrude herself, and bent over the dead. She lifted the wasted body in her arms and bore it away, with shut lips and downcast eyes, asking no permission, saying no word. The charm that had been around the white shaman in life seemed to invest her with its power; for grim chieftains made way, the crowd opened to let her pass, and even Multnomah looked on in silence.

That afternoon, a little band of Indians were assembled in Cecil's lodge. Some of them were already converts; some were only awakened and impressed; but all were men who loved him.

They were gathered, men of huge frame, around a dead body that lay upon a cougar skin. Their faces were sad, their manner was solemn. In the corner sat an aged squaw, her face resting in her hands, her long gray hair falling dishevelled about her shoulders. In that heart-broken attitude she had sat ever since bringing Cecil to the hut. She did not weep or sob but sat motionless, in stoical, dumb despair.

Around the dead the Indians stood or sat in silence, each waiting for the other to say what was in the hearts of all. At length the Shoshone renegade who had so loved Cecil, spoke.

"Our white brother is gone from us, but the Great Spirit lives and dies not. Let us turn from blood and sin and walk in the way our brother showed us. He said, 'Remember;' and shall we forget? I choose now, while he can hear me, before he is laid in the cold ground. I put away from me the old heart of hate and revenge. I ask the Great Spirit to give me the new heart of love and peace. I have chosen."

One by one each told his resolve, the swarthy faces lighting up, the stern lips saying unwonted words of love. Dim and misty, the dawn had come to them; reaching out in the dark, they had got hold of the hand of God and felt that he was a Father. One would have said that their dead teacher lying there heard their vows, so calm and full of peace was the white still face.

That night the first beams of the rising moon fell on a new-made grave under the cottonwoods, not far from the bank of the river. Beneath it, silent in the last sleep, lay the student whose graceful presence had been the pride of far-off Magdalen, the pastor whose memory still lingered in New England, the evangelist whose burning words had thrilled the tribes of the wilderness like the words of some prophet of old.

Beside the grave crouched the old Indian woman, alone and forsaken in her despair,—the one mourner out of all for whom his life had been given.

No, not the only one; for a tall warrior enters the grove; the Shoshone renegade bends over her and touches her gently on the shoulder.

"Come," he says kindly, "our horses are saddled; we take the trail up the Wauna to-night, I and my friends. We will fly from this fated valley ere the wrath of the Great Spirit falls upon it. Beyond the mountains I will seek a new home with the Spokanes or the Okanogans. Come; my home shall be your home, because you cared for him that is gone."

She shook her head and pointed to the grave.

"My heart is there; my life is buried with him. I cannot go."

Again he urged her.

"No, no," she replied, with Indian stubbornness; "I cannot leave him. Was I not like his mother? How can I go and leave him for others? The roots of the old tree grow not in new soil. If it is pulled up it dies."

"Come with me," said the savage, with a gentleness born of his new faith. "Be my mother. We will talk of him; you shall tell me of him and his God. Come, the horses wait."

Again she shook her head; then fell forward on the grave, her arms thrown out, as if to clasp it in her embrace. He tried to lift her; her head fell back, and she lay relaxed and motionless in his arms.

Another grave was made by Cecil's; and the little band rode through the mountain pass that night, toward the country of the Okanogans, without her.

And that same night, an English exploring vessel far out at sea sailed southward, leaving behind the unknown shores of Oregon,—her crew never dreaming how near they had been to finding the lost wanderer, Cecil Grey.



CHAPTER II.

THE MARRIAGE AND THE BREAKING UP.

Remembering love and all the dead delight, And all that time was sweet with for a space.

SWINBURNE.

After Cecil had been borne from the council-grove, the Indians, rousing themselves from the spell of the strange scene they had just witnessed, looked around for Tohomish the seer. He was gone. No one could remember seeing him go, yet he was missing from his accustomed place, and never was he seen or heard of more. Upon his fate, lost in the common ruin that engulfed his race, the legend casts no ray of light. It is certain that the fall of the Bridge, with which his life was interwoven, had a disastrous effect upon him, and as he said, that the strength of his life was broken. It is probable that the orator-seer, feeling within himself that his power was gone, crept away into the forest to die. Perhaps, had they searched for him, they would have found him lying lifeless upon the leaves in some dense thicket or at the foot of some lonely crag.

Whatever his fate, the Indians never looked upon his face again.

Multnomah made no comment on the death of Cecil, or on the prophecy of Tohomish, so much at variance with his own interpretation of the fall of the Bridge. Whatever he had to say was evidently held in reserve for the closing talk with which he would soon dismiss the council.

"You shall see Multnomah's daughter given to Snoqualmie, and then Multnomah will open his hand and make you rich."

So said the war-chief; and a runner was dispatched with a summons to Wallulah. In a little while a band of Indian girls was seen approaching the grove. Surrounded by the maidens, as if they were a guard of honor, came Wallulah, all unconscious of the tragedy that had just been enacted.

Among the chiefs they passed, and stopped before Multnomah. As they paused, Wallulah looked around for Cecil in one quick glance; then, not seeing him, she cast down her eyes despondingly. Multnomah rose and beckoned Snoqualmie to him. He came forward and stood beside the war-chief. The Indian girls stepped back a little, in involuntary awe of the two great sachems, and left Wallulah standing alone before them.

Her face wore a patient look, as of one who is very worn and weary, tired of the burdens of life, yet going forward without hope, without thought even, to other and still heavier burdens. She was clad in a soft oriental fabric; her hair fell in luxuriant tresses upon her shoulders; her flute hung at her belt by a slender chain of gold.

There was something unspeakably sad and heart-broken in her appearance, as she stood there, a listless, dejected figure, before those two grim warriors, awaiting her doom.

Multnomah took her hand; the fingers of the other were clasped around her beloved flute, pressing it closely, as if seeking help from its mute companionship. The chief gave her hand into Snoqualmie's; a shudder passed through her as she felt his touch, and she trembled from head to foot; then she controlled herself by a strong effort. Snoqualmie's fierce black eyes searched her face, as if looking through and through her, and she flushed faintly under their penetrating gaze.

"She is yours," said the war-chief. "Be kind to her, for though she is your wife she is the daughter of Multnomah." So much did the Indian say for love of his child, wondering at her strange, sad look, and feeling vaguely that she was unhappy. She tried to withdraw her fingers from Snoqualmie's clasp the moment her father was done speaking. He held them tightly, however, and bending over her, spoke in a low tone.

"My band starts for home at mid-day. Be ready to go when I send for you."

She looked up with startled, piteous eyes.

"To-day?" she asked in a choked voice.

"To-day," came the abrupt reply; too low for the others to hear, yet harsh enough to sting her through and through. "Do you think Snoqualmie goes back to his illahee and leaves his woman behind?"

Her spirit kindled in resentment. Never had the chief's daughter been spoken to so harshly; then all at once it came to her that he knew,—that he must have followed Cecil and witnessed one of their last interviews. Jealous, revengeful, the Indian was her master now. She grew pale to the lips. He released her hand, and she shrank away from him, and left the council with her maidens. No one had heard the few half-whispered words that passed between them but those who stood nearest noticed the deadly pallor that came over her face while Snoqualmie was speaking. Multnomah saw it, and Snoqualmie caught from him a glance that chilled even his haughty nature—a glance that said, "Beware; she is the war-chief's daughter."

But even if he had known all, Multnomah would have sacrificed her. His plans must be carried out even though her heart be crushed.

Now followed the potlatch,—the giving of gifts. At a signal from the war-chief, his slaves appeared, laden with presents. Large heaps of rich furs and skins were laid on the ground near the chiefs. The finest of bows and arrows, with gaily decorated quivers and store of bow-strings, were brought. Untold treasure of hiagua shells, money as well as ornament to the Oregon Indians, was poured out upon the ground, and lay glistening in the sun in bright-colored masses. To the Indians they represented vast and splendid wealth. Multnomah was the richest of all the Indians of the Wauna; and the gifts displayed were the spoil of many wars, treasures garnered during forty years of sovereignty.

And now they were all given away. The chief kept back nothing, except some cases of oriental fabrics that had been saved from the wreck when Wallulah's mother was cast upon the shore. Well would it have been for him and his race had they been given too; for, little as they dreamed it, the fate of the Willamettes lay sealed up in those unopened cases of silk and damask.

Again and again the slaves of Multnomah added their burdens to the heaps, and went back for more, till a murmur of wonder rose among the crowd. His riches seemed exhaustless. At length, however, all was brought. The chief stood up, and, opening his hands to them in the Indian gesture for giving, said,—

"There is all that was Multnomah's; it is yours; your hands are full now and mine are empty."

The chiefs and warriors rose up gravely and went among the heaps of treasure; each selecting from furs and skins, arms and hiagua shells, that which he desired. There was no unseemly haste or snatching; a quiet decorum prevailed among them. The women and children were excluded from sharing in these gifts, but provisions—dried meats and berries, and bread of camas or Wappatto root—were thrown among them on the outskirts of the crowd where they were gathered. And unlike the men, they scrambled for it like hungry animals; save where here and there the wife or daughter of a chief stood looking disdainfully on the food and those who snatched at it.

Such giving of gifts, or potlatches, are still known among the Indians. On Puget Sound and the Okanogan, one occasionally hears of some rich Indian making a great potlatch,—giving away all his possessions, and gaining nothing but a reputation for disdain of wealth, a reputation which only Indian stoicism would crave. Multnomah's object was not that so much as to make, before the dispersal of the tribes, a last and most favorable impression.

When the presents were all divided, the chiefs resumed their places to hear the last speech of Multnomah,—the speech that closed the council.

It was a masterpiece of dignity, subtility, and command. The prophecy of Tohomish was evaded, the fall of the Bridge wrested into an omen propitious to the Willamettes; and at last his hearers found themselves believing as he wished them to believe, without knowing how or why, so strongly did the overmastering personality of Multnomah penetrate and sway their lesser natures. He particularly dwelt on the idea that they were all knit together now and were as one race. Yet through the smooth words ran a latent threat, a covert warning of the result of any revolt against his authority based on what plotting dreamers might say of the fall of the Bridge,—a half-expressed menace, like the gleam of a sword half drawn from the scabbard. And he closed by announcing that ere another spring the young men of all the tribes would go on the war-path against the Shoshones and come back loaded with spoil. And so, kindling the hatred of the chiefs against the common enemy, Multnomah closed the great council.

In a little while the camp was all astir with preparation for departure. Lodges were being taken down, the mats that covered them rolled up and packed on the backs of horses; all was bustle and tumult. Troop after troop crossed the river and took the trail toward the upper Columbia.

But when the bands passed from under the personal influence of Multnomah, they talked of the ominous things that had just happened; they said to each other that the Great Spirit had forsaken the Willamettes, and that when they came into the valley again it would be to plunder and to slay. Multnomah had stayed the tide but for a moment. The fall of the ancient tomanowos of the Willamettes had a tremendous significance to the restless tributaries, and already the confederacy of the Wauna was crumbling like a rope of sand. Those tribes would meet no more in peace on the island of council.



CHAPTER III.

AT THE CASCADES.

Wails on the wind, fades out the sunset quite, And in my heart and on the earth is night.

PHILIP BOURKE MARSTON.

The main body of Snoqualmie's followers crossed to the north bank of the Columbia and took the trail leading up the river toward the inland prairies. But Snoqualmie and Wallulah went by canoe as far as the now ruined Bridge of the Gods. There were three canoes in their train. Snoqualmie and Wallulah occupied the first; the other two were laden with the rich things that had once made her lodge so beautiful. It stood all bare and deserted now, the splendor stripped from its rough bark walls even as love and hope had been reft from the heart of its mistress. Tapestries, divans, carpets, mirrors, were heaped in the canoes like spoil torn from the enemy.

The farewell between Wallulah and her father had been sorrowful. It was remembered afterward, by those who were witnesses of it, that the war-chief had shown a tenderness unusual with him, that he had seemed reluctant to part with his daughter, and that she had clung to him, pale and tearful, as if he were her last hope on earth.

When Snoqualmie took her hand to lead her away, she shuddered, withdrew her fingers from his clasp, and walked alone to the canoe. He entered after her: the canoe-men dipped their paddles into the water, and the vessel glided away from the island.

She sat reclining on a heap of furs, her elbows sunk in them, her cheek resting on her hand, her eyes turned back toward her island home. Between it and her the expanse of waters grew ever broader, and the trail the canoe left behind it sparkled in a thousand silvery ripples. The island, with its green prairies and its stately woods, receded fast. She felt as she looked back as if everything was slipping away from her. Lonely as her life had been before Cecil came into it, she had still had her music and her beautiful rooms in the bark lodge; and they seemed infinitely sweet and precious now as she recalled them. Oh, if she could only have them back again! And those interviews with Cecil. How love and grief shook the little figure as she thought! How loathingly she shrunk from the presence of the barbarian at her side! And all the time the island receded farther and farther in the distance, and the canoe glided forward like a merciless fate bearing her on and on toward the savagery of the inland desert.

Snoqualmie sat watching her with glittering, triumphant eyes. To him she was no more than some lovely animal of which he had become the owner; and ownership of course brought with it the right to tantalize and to torture. A malicious smile crossed his lips as he saw how sorrowfully her gaze rested on her old home.

"Look forward," he said, "not back; look forward to your life with Snoqualmie and to the lodge that awaits you in the land of the Cayuses."

She started, and her face flushed painfully; then without looking at him she replied,—

"Wallulah loves her home, and leaving it saddens her."

A sparkle of vindictive delight came into his eyes.

"Do the women of the Willamette feel sad when they go to live with their husbands? It is not so with the Cayuse women. They are glad; they care for the one they belong to. They love to sit in the sun at the door of the wigwam and say to the other women, 'My man is brave; he leads the war party; he has many scalps at his belt. Who is brave like my man?'"

Wallulah shuddered. He saw it, and the sparkle of malice in his eyes flashed into sudden anger.

"Does the young squaw tremble at these things? Then she must get used to them. She must learn to bring wood and water for Snoqualmie's lodge, too. She must learn to wait on him as an Indian's wife ought. The old wrinkled squaws, who are good for nothing but to be beasts of burden, shall teach her."

There came before her a picture of the ancient withered hags, the burden-bearers, the human vampires of the Indian camps, the vile in word and deed, the first to cry for the blood of captives, the most eager to give taunts and blows to the helpless; were they to be her associates, her teachers? Involuntarily she lifted her hand, as if to push from her a future so dreadful.

"Wallulah will bring the wood and the water. Wallulah will work. The old women need not teach her."

"That is well. But one thing more you must learn; and that is to hold up your head and not look like a drooping captive. Smile, laugh, be gay. Snoqualmie will have no clouded face, no bent head in his lodge."

She looked at him imploringly. The huge form, the swarthy face, seemed to dominate her, to crush her down with their barbarian strength and ferocity. She dropped her eyes again, and lay there on the furs like some frightened bird shrinking from the glance of a hawk.

"I will work; I will bear burdens," she repeated, in a trembling tone. "But I cannot smile and laugh when my heart is heavy."

He watched her with a half angry, half malicious regard, a regard that seemed ruthlessly probing into every secret of her nature.

She knew somehow that he was aware of her love for Cecil, and she dreaded lest he should taunt her with it. Anything but that. He knew it, and held it back as his last and most cruel blow. Over his bronzed face flitted no expression of pity. She was to him like some delicate wounded creature of the forest, that it was a pleasure to torture. So he had often treated a maimed bird or fawn,—tantalizing it, delighted by its fluttering and its pain, till the lust of torture was gratified and the death-blow was given.

He sat regarding her with a sneering, malicious look for a little while; then he said,—

"It is hard to smile on Snoqualmie; but the white man whom you met in the wood, it was not so with him. It was easy to smile and look glad at him, but it is hard to do so for Snoqualmie."

Wallulah shrunk as if he had struck her a blow; then she looked at him desperately, pleadingly.

"Do not say such cruel things. I will be a faithful wife to you. I will never see the white man again."

The sneering malice in his eyes gave way to the gleam of exultant anger.

"Faithful! You knew you were to be my woman when you let him put his arms around you and say soft things to you. Faithful! You would leave Snoqualmie for him now, could it be so. But you say well that you will never see him again."

She gazed at him in terror.

"What do you mean? Has anything happened to him? Have they harmed him?"

Over the chief's face came the murderous expression that was there when he slew the Bannock warrior at the torture stake.

"Harmed him! Do you think that he could meet you alone and say sweet things to you and caress you,—you who were the same as my squaw,—and I not harm him? He is dead; I slew him."

False though it was, in so far as Snoqualmie claimed to have himself slain Cecil, it was thoroughly in keeping with Indian character. White captives were often told, "I killed your brother," or, "This is your husband's scalp," when perhaps the person spoken of was alive and well.

"Dead!"

He threw his tomahawk at her feet.

"His blood is on it. You are Snoqualmie's squaw; wash it off."

Dead, dead, her lover was dead! That was all she could grasp. Snoqualmie's insulting command passed unheeded. She sat looking at the Indian with bright, dazed eyes that saw nothing. All the world seemed blotted out.

"I tell you that he is dead, and I slew him. Are you asleep that you stare at me so? Awaken and do as I bid you; wash your lover's blood off my tomahawk."

At first she had been stunned by the terrible shock, and she could realize only that Cecil was dead. Now it came to her, dimly at first, then like a flash of fire, that Snoqualmie had slain him. All her spirit leaped up in uncontrollable hatred. For once, she was the war-chief's daughter. She drew her skirts away from the tomahawk in unutterable horror; her eyes blazed into Snoqualmie's a defiance and scorn before which his own sunk for the instant.

"You killed him! I hate you. I will never be your wife. You have thrown the tomahawk between us; it shall be between us forever. Murderer! You have killed the one I love. Yes, I loved him; and I hate you and will hate you till I die."

The passion in her voice thrilled even the canoe-men, and their paddle strokes fell confusedly for an instant, though they did not understand; for both Wallulah and Snoqualmie had spoken in the royal tongue of the Willamettes. He sat abashed for an instant, taken utterly by surprise.

Then the wild impulse of defiance passed, and the awful sense of bereavement came back like the falling of darkness over a sinking flame. Cecil was gone from her, gone for all time. The world seemed unreal, empty. She sunk among the furs like one stricken down. Snoqualmie, recovering from his momentary rebuff, heaped bitter epithets and scornful words upon her; but she neither saw nor heard, and lay with wide, bright, staring eyes. Her seeming indifference maddened him still more, and he hurled at her the fiercest abuse. She looked at him vaguely. He saw that she did not even know what he was saying, and relapsed into sullen silence. She lay mute and still, with a strained expression of pain in her eyes. The canoe sped swiftly on.

One desolating thought repeated itself again and again,—the thought of hopeless and irreparable loss. By it past and present were blotted out. By and by, when she awoke from the stupor of despair and realized her future, destined to be passed with the murderer of her lover, what then? But now she was stunned with the shock of a grief that was mercy compared with the awakening that must come.

They were in the heart of the Cascade Mountains, and a low deep roar began to reach their ears, rousing and startling all but Wallulah. It was the sound of the cascades, of the new cataract formed by the fall of the Great Bridge. Rounding a bend in the river they came in sight of it. The mighty arch, the long low mountain of stone, had fallen in, damming up the waters of the Columbia, which were pouring over the sunken mass in an ever-increasing volume. Above, the river, raised by the enormous dam, had spread out like a lake, almost submerging the trees that still stood along the former bank. Below the new falls the river was comparatively shallow, its rocky bed half exposed by the sudden stoppage of the waters.

The Indians gazed with superstitious awe on the vast barrier over which the white and foaming waters were pouring. The unwonted roar of the falls, a roar that seemed to increase every moment as the swelling waters rushed over the rocks; the sight of the wreck of the mysterious bridge, foreshadowing the direst calamities,—all this awed the wild children of the desert. They approached the falls slowly and cautiously.

A brief command from Snoqualmie, and they landed on the northern side of the river, not far from the foot of the falls. There they must disembark, and the canoes be carried around the falls on the shoulders of Indians and launched above.

The roar of the Cascades roused Wallulah from her stupor. She stepped ashore and looked in dazed wonder on the strange new world around her. Snoqualmie told her briefly that she must walk up the bank to the place where the canoe was to be launched again above the falls. She listened mutely, and started to go. But the way was steep and rocky; the bank was strewn with the debris of the ruined bridge; and she was unused to such exertion. Snoqualmie saw her stumble and almost fall. It moved him to a sudden and unwonted pity, and he sprang forward to help her. She pushed his hand from her as if it had been the touch of a serpent, and went on alone. His eyes flashed: for all this the reckoning should come, and soon; woe unto her when it came.

The rough rocks bruised her delicately shod feet, the steep ascent took away her breath. Again and again she felt as if she must fall; but the bitter scorn and loathing that Snoqualmie's touch had kindled gave her strength, and at last she completed the ascent.

Above the falls and close to them, she sat down upon a rock; a slight, drooping figure, whose dejected pose told of a broken heart.

Before her, almost at her feet, the pent-up river was widened to a vast flood. Here and there a half-submerged pine lifted its crown above it; the surface was ruffled by the wind, and white-crested waves were rolling among the green tree-tops. She looked with indifference upon the scene. She had not heard that the Bridge had fallen, and was, of course, ignorant of these new cascades; and they did not impress her as being strange.

Her whole life was broken up; all the world appeared shattered by the blow that had fallen on her, and nothing could startle her now. She felt dimly that some stupendous catastrophe had taken place; yet it did not appear unnatural. A strange sense of unreality possessed her; everything seemed an illusion, as if she were a shadow in a land of shadows. The thought came to her that she was dead, and that her spirit was passing over the dim ghost trail to the shadow-land. She tried to shake off the fancy, but all was so vague and dreamlike that she hardly knew where or what she was; yet over it all brooded the consciousness of dull, heavy, torturing pain, like the dumb agony that comes to us in fevered sleep, burdening our dreams with a black oppressing weight of horror.

Her hand, hanging listlessly at her side, touched her flute, which was still suspended from her belt by the golden chain. She raised it to her lips, but only a faint inharmonious note came from it. The music seemed gone from the flute, as hope was gone from her heart. To her overwrought nerves, it was the last omen of all. The flute dropped from her fingers; she covered her face with her hands, and the hot tears coursed slowly down her cheeks.

Some one spoke to her, not ungently, and she looked up. One of the canoe-men stood beside her. He pointed to the canoe, now launched near by. Snoqualmie was still below, at the foot of the falls, superintending the removal of the other.

Slowly and wearily she entered the waiting canoe and resumed her seat. The Indian paddlers took their places. They told her that the chief Snoqualmie had bidden them take her on without him. He would follow in the other canoe. It was a relief to be free from his presence, if only for a little while; and the sadness on her face lightened for a moment when they told her.

A few quick paddle-strokes, and the boat shot out into the current above the cascades and then glided forward. No, not forward. The canoe-men, unfamiliar with the new cataract, had launched their vessel too close to the falls; and the mighty current was drawing it back. A cry of horror burst from their lips as they realized their danger, and their paddles were dashed into the water with frenzied violence. The canoe hung quivering through all its slender length between the desperate strokes that impelled it forward and the tremendous suction that drew it down. Had they been closer to the bank, they might have saved themselves; but they were too far out in the current. They felt the canoe slipping back in spite of their frantic efforts, slowly at first, then more swiftly; and they knew there was no hope.

The paddles fell from their hands. One boatman leaped from the canoe with the desperate idea of swimming ashore, but the current instantly swept him under and out of sight; the other sat motionless in his place, awaiting the end with Indian stolidity.

The canoe was swept like a leaf to the verge of the fall and downward into a gulf of mist and spray. As it trembled on the edge of the cataract, and its horrors opened beneath her, Wallulah realized her doom for the first time; and in the moment she realised it, it was upon her. There was a quick terror, a dreamlike glimpse of white plunging waters, a deafening roar, a sudden terrible shock as the canoe was splintered on the rocks at the foot of the fall; then all things were swallowed up in blackness, a blackness that was death.

Below the falls, strong swimmers, leaping into the water, brought the dead to land. Beneath a pine-tree that grew close by the great Columbia trail and not far from the falls, the bodies were laid. The daughter of Multnomah lay in rude state upon a fawn-skin; while at her feet were extended the brawny forms of the two canoe-men who had died with her, and who, according to Indian mythology, were to be her slaves in the Land of the Hereafter. Her face was very lovely, but its mournfulness remained. Her flute, broken in the shock that had killed her, was still attached to her belt. The Indians had placed her hand at her side, resting upon the flute; and they noticed in superstitious wonder that the cold fingers seemed to half close around it, as if they would clasp it lovingly, even in death. Indian women knelt beside her, fanning her face with fragrant boughs of pine. Troop after troop, returning over the trail to their homes, stopped to hear the tale, and to gaze at the dead face that was so wonderfully beautiful yet so sad.

All day long the bands gathered; each stopping, none passing indifferently by. At length, when evening came and the shadow of the wood fell long and cool, the burials began. A shallow grave was scooped at Wallulah's feet for the bodies of the two canoe-men. Then chiefs—for they only might bury Multnomah's daughter—entombed her in a cairn; being Upper Columbia Indians, they buried her, after the manner of their people, under a heap of stone. Rocks and bowlders were built around and over her body, yet without touching it, until the sad dead face was shut out from view. And still the stones were piled above her; higher and higher rose the great rock-heap, till a mighty cairn marked the last resting-place of Wallulah. And all the time the women lifted the death-wail, and Snoqualmie stood looking on with folded arms and sullen baffled brow. At length the work was done. The wail ceased; the gathering broke up, and the sachems and their bands rode away, Snoqualmie and his troop departing with them.

Only the roar of the cascades broke the silence, as night fell on the wild forest and the lonely river. The pine-tree beside the trail swayed its branches in the wind with a low soft murmur, as if lulling the sorrow-worn sleeper beneath it into still deeper repose. And she lay very still in the great cairn,—the sweet and beautiful dead,—with the grim warriors stretched at her feet, stern guardians of a slumber never to be broken.



CHAPTER IV.

MULTNOMAH'S DEATH-CANOE.

Gazing alone To him are wild shadows shown. Deep under deep unknown.

DANTE ROSSETTI.

If Multnomah was grieved at his daughter's death, if his heart sunk at the unforeseen and terrible blow that left his empire without an heir and withered all his hopes, no one knew it; no eye beheld his woe. Silent he had ever been, and he was silent to the last. The grand, strong face only grew grander, stronger, as the shadows darkened around him; the unconquerable will only grew the fiercer and the more unflinching. But ere the moon that shone first on Wallulah's new-made cairn had rounded to the full, there was that upon him before which even his will bowed and gave way,—death, swift and mysterious. And it came in this wise.

We have told how at the great potlatch he gave away his all, even to the bear-skins from his couch, reserving only those cases of Asiatic textures never yet opened,—all that now remained of the richly laden ship of the Orient wrecked long ago upon his coast. They were opened now. His bed was covered with the magnificent fabrics; they were thrown carelessly over the rude walls and seats, half-trailing on the floor; exquisite folds of velvet and damask swept the leaves and dust,—so that all men might see how rich the chief still was, though he had given away so much. And with his ostentation was mixed a secret pride and tenderness that his dead wife had indirectly given him this wealth. The war-chief's woman had brought him these treasures out of the sea; and now that he had given away his all, even to the bare poles of his lodge, she filled it with fine things and made him rich again,—she who had been sleeping for years in the death-hut on mimaluse island. Those treasures, ere the vessel that carried them was wrecked, had been sent as a present from one oriental prince to another. Could it be that they had been purposely impregnated with disease, so that while the prince that sent them seemed to bestow a graceful gift, he was in reality taking a treacherous and terrible revenge? Such things were not infrequent in Asiatic history; and even the history of Europe, in the middle ages, tells us of poisoned masks, of gloves and scarfs charged with disease.

Certain it is that shortly after the cases were opened, a strange and fatal disease broke out among Multnomah's attendants. The howling of medicine-men rang all day long in the royal lodge; each day saw swathed corpses borne out to the funeral pyre or mimaluse island. And no concoction of herbs,—however skilfully compounded with stone mortar and pestle,—no incantation of medicine-men or steaming atmosphere of sweat-house, could stay the mortality.

At length Multnomah caught the disease. It seemed strange to the Indians that the war-chief should sicken, that Multnomah should show any of the weaknesses of common flesh and blood; yet so it was. But while the body yielded to the inroad of disease, the spirit that for almost half a century had bent beneath it the tribes of the Wauna never faltered. He lay for days upon his couch, his system wasting with the plague, his veins burning with fever, holding death off only by might of will. He touched no remedies, for he felt them to be useless; he refused the incantations of the medicine-men; alone and in his own strength the war-chief contended with his last enemy.

All over the Willamette Valley, through camp and fishery, ran the whisper that Multnomah was dying; and the hearts of the Indians sunk within them. Beyond the mountains the whisper passed to the allied tribes, once more ripe for revolt, and the news rang among them like a trumpet call; it was of itself a signal for rebellion. The fall of the magic Bridge, the death of Wallulah, and the fatal illness of Multnomah had sealed the doom of the Willamettes. The chiefs stayed their followers only till they knew that he was dead. But the grand old war-chief seemed determined that he would not die. He struggled with disease; he crushed down his sufferings; he fought death with the same silent, indomitable tenacity with which he had overthrown the obstacles of life.

In all his wasting agony he was the war-chief still, and held his subjects in his grip. To the tribes that were about to rebel he sent messages, short, abrupt, but terrible in their threat of vengeance,—messages that shook and awed the chiefs and pushed back invasion. To the last, the great chief overawed the tribes; the generation that had grown up under the shadow of his tyranny, even when they knew he was dying, still obeyed him.

At length, one summer evening a few weeks after the burial of Wallulah, there burst forth from the war-chief's lodge that peculiar wail which was lifted only for the death of one of the royal blood. No need to ask who it was, for only one remained of the ancient line that had so long ruled the Willamettes; and for him, the last of his race, was the wail lifted. It was re-echoed by the inmates of the surrounding lodges; it rang, foreboding, mournful, through the encampment on Wappatto Island.

Soon, runners were seen departing in every direction to bear the fatal news throughout the valley. Twilight fell on them; the stars came out; the moon rose and sunk; but the runners sped on, from camp to camp, from village to village. Wherever there was a cluster of Willamette lodges, by forest, river, or sea, the tale was told, the wail was lifted. So all that night the death-wail passed through the valley of the Willamette; and in the morning the trails were thronged with bands of Indians journeying for the last time to the isle of council, to attend the obsequies of their chief, and consult as to the choice of one to take his place.

The pestilence that had so ravaged the household of Multnomah was spread widely now; and every band as it departed from the camp left death behind it,—aye, took death with it; for in each company were those whose haggard, sickly faces told of disease, and in more than one were those so weakened that they lagged behind and fell at last beside the trail to die.

The weather was very murky. It was one of the smoky summers of Oregon, like that of the memorable year 1849, when the smoke of wide-spread forest fires hung dense and blinding over Western Oregon for days, and it seemed to the white settlers as if they were never to breathe the clear air or see the sky again. But even that, the historic "smoky time" of the white pioneers, was scarcely equal to the smoky period of more than a century and a half before. The forest fires were raging with unusual fury; Mount Hood was still in course of eruption; and all the valley was wrapped in settled cloud. Through the thick atmosphere the tall firs loomed like spectres, while the far-off roar of flames in the forest and the intermittent sounds of the volcano came weirdly to the Indians as they passed on their mournful way. What wonder that the distant sounds seemed to them wild voices in the air, prophecying woe; and objects in the forest, half seen through the smoke, grotesque forms attending them as they marched! And when the bands had all gathered on the island, the shuddering Indians told of dim and shadowy phantoms that had followed and preceded them all the way; and of gigantic shapes in the likeness of men that had loomed through the smoke, warning them back with outstretched arms. Ominous and unknown cries had come to them through the gloom; and the spirits of the dead had seemed to marshal them on their way, or to oppose their coming,—they knew not which.

So, all day long, troop after troop crossed the river to the island, emerging like shadows from the smoke that seemed to wrap the world,—each with its sickly faces, showing the terrible spread of the pestilence; each helping to swell the great horror that brooded over all, with its tale of the sick and dead at home, and the wild things seen on the way. Band after band the tribes gathered, and when the sun went down the war-chief's obsequies took place.



It was a strange funeral that they gave Multnomah, yet it was in keeping with the dark, grand life he had lived.

A large canoe was filled with pitch and with pine-knots,—the most inflammable materials an Oregon forest could furnish. Upon them was heaped all that was left of the chief's riches, all the silks and velvets that remained of the cargo of the shipwrecked vessel lost upon the coast long before. And finally, upon the splendid heap of textures, upon the laces and the damasks of the East, was laid the dead body of Multnomah, dressed in buckskin; his moccasins on his feet, his tomahawk and his pipe by his side, as became a chief starting on his last journey.

Then as night came on, and the smoky air darkened into deepest gloom, the canoe was taken out into the main current of the Columbia, and fire was set to the dry knots that made up the funeral pyre. In an instant the contents of the canoe were in a blaze, and it was set adrift in the current. Down the river it floated, lighting the night with leaping flames. On the shore, the assembled tribe watched it in silence, mute, dejected, as they saw their great chief borne from them forever. Promontory and dusky fir, gleaming water and level beach, were brought into startling relief against the background of night, as the burning vessel neared them; then sank into shadow as it passed onward. Overhead, the playing tongues of fire reddened the smoke that hung dense over the water, and made it assume distorted and fantastic shapes, which moved and writhed in the wavering light, and to the Indians seemed spectres of the dead, hovering over the canoe, reaching out their arms to receive the soul of Multnomah.

"It is the dead people come for him," the Willamettes whispered to one another, as they stood upon the bank, watching the canoe drift farther and farther from them, with the wild play of light and shadow over it. Down the river, like some giant torch that was to light the war-chief along the shadowy ways of death, passed the burning canoe. Rounding a wooded point, it blazed a moment brilliantly beside it, and as it drifted to the farther side, outlined the intervening trees with fire, till every branch was clearly relieved against a flaming background; then, passing slowly on beyond the point, the light waned gradually, and at last faded quite away.

And not till then was a sound heard among the silent and impassive throng on the river-bank. But when the burning canoe had vanished utterly, when black and starless night fell again on wood and water, the death-wail burst from the Indians with one impulse and one voice,—a people's cry for its lost chief, a great tribe's lament for the strength and glory that had drifted from it, never to return.

* * * * *

Among a superstitious race, every fact becomes mingled more or less with fable; every occurrence, charged with fantastic meanings. And there sprang up among the Indians, no one could tell how, a prophecy that some night when the Willamettes were in their direst need, a great light would be seen moving on the waters of the Columbia, and the war-chief would come back in a canoe of fire to lead them to victory as of old.

Dire and awful grew their need as the days went on; swift and sweeping was the end. Long did the few survivors of his race watch and wait for his return,—but never more came back Multnomah to his own.



CHAPTER V.

AS WAS WRIT IN THE BOOK OF FATE.

A land of old upheaven from the abyss By fire, to sink into the abyss again, Where fragments of forgotten peoples dwelt.

TENNYSON.

And now our tale draws to a close. There remains but to tell how the last council was held on Wappatto Island; how Mishlah the Cougar, chief of the Mollalies, died; and how the prophecy of the Bridge was fulfilled.

The morning after the obsequies of Multnomah, the chiefs met in the grove where the great council of the tribes had been held only a few weeks before. The leaves, which had been green and glossy then, were turning yellow and sickly now in the close hot weather. All Nature seemed full of decay.

The chiefs were grouped before the vacant seat of Multnomah; and the Willamette tribe, gathered from canyon and prairie and fishery, looked on, sole spectators of the proceedings,—for none of the allies were present. The ravages of the pestilence had been terrible. Many warriors were missing from the spectators; many chiefs were absent from the council. And there were some present from whom the others shrunk away, whose hot breath and livid faces showed that they too were stricken with the plague. There were emaciated Indians among the audience, whose gaunt forms and hollow eyes told that they had dragged themselves to the council-grove to die. The wailing of the women at the camp, lamenting those just dead; the howling of the medicine-men in the distance, performing their incantations over the sick; the mysterious sounds that came from the burning forest and the volcano,—all these were heard. Round the council the smoke folded thick and dark, veiling the sun, and shutting out the light of heaven and the mercy of the Great Spirit.

The chiefs sat long in silence, each waiting for the other to speak. At length arose a stately warrior famous among the Willamettes for wisdom and prudence.

"We perish," said the chief, "we melt away before the breath of the pestilence, like snow before the breath of the warm spring wind. And while we die of disease in our lodges, war gathers against us beyond the ranges. Even now the bands of our enemies may be descending the mountains, and the tomahawk may smite what the disease has spared. What is to be done? What say the wise chiefs of the Willamettes? Multnomah's seat is empty: shall we choose another war-chief?"

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