But Shee-shee-banze took no notice of the invitation. He only whistled, and pretended not to hear. The messenger repeated his words, then, finding that no attention was paid to them, he went his way.
The young girls looked at each other, during the scene, greatly astonished. At length the elder spoke.
"What does this mean?" said she. "Why does he call you Shee-shee-banze, and invite you to visit Way-gee-mar-kin?"
"Oh," said Shee-shee-banze, "it is one of my followers that always likes to be a little impudent. I am obliged to put up with it sometimes, but you observed that I treated him with silent contempt."
The messenger returned to the chief, and reported the manner in which the invitation had been received.
"Oh," said the good-natured chief, "it is because he feels that he is poor and insignificant. Go back again—call him by my name, and make a flourishing speech to him."
The messenger fulfilled his mission as he was bid.
"Way-gee-mar-kin," said he, pompously, "a great feast is to be given to-night, and I am sent most respectfully to solicit the honor of your company!"
"Did I not tell you?" said Shee-shee-banze to the maidens Then, nodding with careless condescension, he added, "Tell them I'll come."
At night, Shee-shee-banze dressed himself in his very best paint, feathers, and ornaments—but before his departure he took his grandmother aside.
"Be sure," said he, "that you watch these young people closely until I come back. Shut up your lodge tight, tight. Let no one come in or go out, and, above all things, do not go to sleep."
These orders given, he went his way.
The grandmother tried her best to keep awake, but finding herself growing more and more sleepy, as the night wore on, she took a strong cord and laced across the mat which hung before the entrance to the lodge, as the Indians lace up the mouths of their bags, then, having seen all things secure and the girls quiet in bed, she lay down and soon fell into a comfortable sleep.
The young girls, in the mean while, were dying with curiosity to know what had become of Shee-shee-banze, and as soon as they were sure the old lady was asleep, they prepared to follow him and see what was going on. Fearing, however, that the grandmother might awake and discover their absence, they took two logs of wood, and, putting them under the blanket, so disposed them as to present the appearance of persons sleeping quietly. They then cut the cords that fastened the door, and, guided by the sounds of the music, the dancing, and the merry-making, they soon found their way to the dwelling of Way-gee-mar-kin.
When they entered, they saw the chief seated on a throne, surrounded by light and splendor. Everything was joy and amusement. Crowds of courtiers were in the apartment, all dressed in the most brilliant array. The strangers looked around for their friend Shee-shee-banze, but he was nowhere to be seen.
Now and then the chief would cough, when a shower of silver ornaments and precious things would fly in all directions, and instantly a scramble would commence among the company, to gather them up and appropriate them.
As they thus rushed forward, the brides-elect saw their poor little friend crowded up into a corner, where nobody took any notice of him, except to push him aside, or step on him whenever he was in the way. He uttered piteous little squeaks as one and another would thus maltreat him, but he was too busy taking care of himself to perceive that those whom he had left snug at home in the lodge were witnesses of all that was going on.
At length the signal was given for the company to retire, all but the two young damsels, upon whom Way-gee-mar-kin had set his eye, and to whom he had sent, by one of his assistants, great offers to induce them to remain with him and become his wives.
Poor Shee-shee-banze returned to his lodge, but what was his consternation to find the door open!
"Ho! grandmother," cried he, "is this the way you keep watch?"
The old woman started up. "There are my daughters-in-law," said she, pointing to the two logs of wood. Shee-shee-banze threw himself on the ground between them. His back was broken by coming so violently in contact with them, but that he did not mind—he thought only of revenge, and the recovery of his sweethearts.
He waited but to get some powerful poison and prepare it, and then he stole softly back to the wigwam of Way-gee-mar-kin. All was silent, and he crept in without making the slightest noise. There lay the chief, with a young girl on each side of him.
They were all sound asleep, the chief lying on his back, with his mouth wide open. Before he was aware of it, the poison was down his throat, and Shee-shee-banze had retreated quietly to his own lodge.
The next morning the cry went through the village that Way-gee-mar-kin had been found dead in his bed. Of course it was attributed to over-indulgence at the feast. All was grief and lamentation. "Let us go and tell poor Shee-shee-banze," said one, "he was so fond of Way-gee-mar-kin."
They found him sitting on a bank, fishing. He had been up at peep of day, to make preparation for receiving the intelligence.
He had caught two or three fish, and, extracting their bladders, had filled them with blood, and tied them under his arm. When the friends of Way-gee-mar-kin saw him, they called out to him,—
"Oh! Shee-shee-banze—your friend, Way-gee-mar-kin, is dead!"
With a gesture of despair, Shee-shee-banze drew his knife and plunged it—not into his heart, but into the bladders filled with blood that he had prepared. As he fell, apparently lifeless, to the ground, the messengers began to reproach themselves: "Oh! why did we tell him so suddenly? We might have known he would not survive it. Poor Shee-shee-banze! he loved Way-gee-mar-kin so."
To their great surprise, the day after the funeral, Shee-shee-banze came walking towards the wigwam of the dead chief. As he walked, he sang, or rather chaunted to a monotonous strain, the following:—
"Way-gee-mar-kin is dead, is dead, I know who killed him. I guess it was I—I guess it was I."
All the village was aroused. Everybody flew in pursuit of the murderer, but he evaded them, and escaped to a place of safety.
Soon after, he again made his appearance, mincing as he walked, and singing to the same strain as before,—
"If you wish to take and punish me, Let the widows come and catch me."
It seemed a good idea, and the young women were recommended to go and entice the culprit into the village, so that the friends of the deceased could lay hold of him.
They went forth on their errand. Shee-shee-banze would suffer them to approach, then he would dance off a little—now he would allow them to come quite near; anon he would retreat a little before them, all the time singing,
"Come, pretty widows, come and catch me."
Thus he decoyed them on, occasionally using honeyed words and flattering speeches, until he had gained their consent to return with him to his lodge, and take up their abode with him.
The friends of the murdered chief were scandalized at such inconstancy, and resolved to punish all three, as soon as they could catch them.
They surrounded his lodge with cries and threatenings, but Shee-shee-banze and his two brides had contrived to elude their vigilance and gain his canoe, which lay in the river, close at hand.
Hardly were they on board when their escape was discovered. The whole troop flew after them. Some plunged into the stream, and seized the canoe. In the struggle it was upset, but immediately on touching the water, whether from the magical properties of the canoe, or the necromantic skill of the grandmother, they were transformed into ducks, and flew quacking away.
Since that time the water-fowl of this species are always found in companies of three—two females and a male.
* * * * *
The Canard de France, or Mallard, and the Brancheuse, or Wood Duck, are of different habits from the foregoing, flying in pairs. Indeed, the constancy of the latter is said to be so great that if he loses his mate he never takes another partner, but goes mourning to the end of his days.
A VISIT TO GREEN BAY—MA-ZHEE-GAW-GAW SWAMP.
The payment over, and the Indians dispersed, we prepared ourselves to settle down quietly in our little home. But now a new source of disturbance arose.
My husband's accounts of disbursements as Agent of the Winnebagoes, which he had forwarded to the Department at Washington, had failed to reach there, of which he received due notice—that is to say, such a notice as could reach us by the circuitous and uncertain mode of conveyance by which intercourse with the Eastern world was then kept up. If the vouchers for the former expenditures, together with the recent payment of $15,000 annuity money, should not be forthcoming, it might place him in a very awkward position; he therefore decided to go at once to Washington, and be the bearer himself of his duplicate accounts.
"Should you like to go and see your father and mother," said he to me, one morning, "and show them how the West agrees with you?"
It was a most joyful suggestion after a year's separation, and in a few days all things were in readiness for our departure.
There was visiting us, at that time, Miss Brush, of Detroit, who had come from Green Bay with Mr. and Mrs. Whitney and Miss Frances Henshaw, on an excursion to the Mississippi. Our little India-rubber house had contrived to expand itself for the accommodation of the whole party during the very pleasant visit they made us.
The arrival of two young ladies had been, as may be imagined, quite a godsend to the unmarried lieutenants, and when, tired of the journey, or intimidated by the snow, which fell eight inches on the 4th of October, Miss Brush determined to give up the remainder of her excursion, and accept our pressing invitation to remain with us until the return of her friends, we were looked upon as public benefactors. She was now to accompany us to Green Bay, and possibly to Detroit.
Our voyage down the river was without incident, and we reached Green Bay just as all the place was astir in the expectation of the arrival of one of Mr. Newbery's schooners. This important event was the subject of interest to the whole community, from Fort Howard to "Dickenson's." To some its arrival would bring friends, to some supplies—to the ladies, the fashions, to the gentlemen, the news, for it was the happy bearer of the mails, not for that place alone, but for all the "upper country."
In a few days the vessel arrived. She brought a mail for Fort Winnebago, it being only in the winter season that letters were carried by land to that place, via Niles's Settlement and Chicago.
In virtue of his office as Postmaster, my husband opened the mail-bag, and took possession of his own letters. One informed him of the satisfactory appearance at the Department of the missing accounts, but oh! sad disappointment, another brought the news that my parents had gone to Kentucky for the winter—not to any city or accessible place, but "up the Sandy," and over among the mountains of Virginia, hunting up old land-claims belonging to my grandfather's estate.
It was vain to hope to follow them. We might hardly expect to find them during the short period we could be absent from home—not even were we to receive the lucid directions once given my father by an old settler during his explorations through that wild region.
"You must go up Tug," said the man, "and down Troublesome, and fall over on to Kingdom-come."
We did not think it advisable to undertake such an expedition, and therefore made up our minds to retrace our steps to Fort Winnebago.
No boats were in readiness to ascend the river. Our old friend Hamilton promised to have one in preparation at once, but time passed by, and no boat was made ready.
It was now the beginning of November. We were passing our time very pleasantly with the Irwins and Whitneys, and at the residence of Colonel Stambaugh, the Indian Agent, but still this delay was inconvenient and vexatious.
I suggested undertaking the journey on horseback. "No, indeed," was the answer I invariably received. "No mortal woman has ever gone that road, unless it was some native on foot, nor ever could."
"But suppose we set out in the boat and get frozen in on the way. We can neither pass the winter there, nor possibly find our way to a human habitation. We have had one similar experience already. Is it not better to take it for granted that I can do what you and others of your sex have done?"
Dr. Finley, the post-surgeon at Fort Howard, on hearing the matter debated, offered me immediately his favorite horse Charlie. "He is very sure-footed," the doctor alleged, "and capital in a marsh or troublesome stream."
By land, then, it was decided to go; and as soon as our old Menomonee friend "Wish-tay-yun," who was as good a guide by land as by water, could be summoned, we set off, leaving our trunks to be forwarded by Hamilton whenever it should please him to carry out his intention of sending up his boat.
We waited until a late hour on the morning of our departure for our fellow-travellers, Mr. Wing, of Monroe, and Dr. Philleo, of Galena; but, finding they did not join us, we resolved to lose no time, confident that we should all meet at the Kakalin in the course of the evening.
After crossing the river at what is now Depere, and entering the wild, unsettled country on the west of the river, we found a succession of wooded hills, separated by ravines so narrow and steep that it seemed impossible that any animals but mules or goats could make their way among them.
Wish-tay-yun took the lead. The horse he rode was accustomed to the country, and well trained to this style of road. As for Charlie, he was perfectly admirable. When he came to a precipitous descent, he would set forward his forefeet, and slide down on his haunches in the most scientific manner, while my only mode of preserving my balance was to hold fast by the bridle and lay myself braced almost flat against his back. Then our position would suddenly change, and we would be scaling the opposite bank, at the imminent risk of falling backward into the ravine below.
It was amusing to see Wish-tay-yun, as he scrambled on ahead, now and then turning partly round to see how I fared. And when, panting and laughing, I at length reached the summit, he would throw up his hands, and shout, with the utmost glee, "Mamma Manitou!" (My mother is a spirit.)
Our old acquaintances, the Grignons, seemed much surprised that I should have ventured on such a journey. They had never undertaken it, although they had lived so long at the Kakalin; but then there was no reason why they should have done so. They could always command a canoe or a boat when they wished to visit "the Bay."
As we had anticipated, our gentlemen joined us at supper. "They had delayed to take dinner with Colonel Stambaugh—had had a delightful gallop up from: the Bay—had seen no ravines, nor anything but fine smooth roads—might have been asleep, but, if so, were not conscious of it." This was the account they gave of themselves, to our no small amusement.
From the Kakalin to the Butte des Morts, where lived a man named Knaggs, was our next day's stage. The country was rough and wild, much like that we had passed through the spring before, in going from Hamilton's diggings to Kellogg's Grove, but we were fortunate in having Wish-tay-yun, rather than "Uncle Billy," for our guide, so that we could make our way with some degree of moderation.
We had travelled but forty miles when we reached Knaggs's, yet I was both cold and fatigued, so that the cosy little room in which we found Mrs. Knaggs, and the bright fire, were most cheering objects; and, as we had only broken our fast since morning with a few crackers we carried in our pockets, I must own we did ample justice to her nice coffee and cakes, not to mention venison-steaks and bear's meat, the latter of which I had never before tasted.
Our supper over, we looked about for a place of repose. The room in which we had taken our meal was of small dimensions, just sufficient to accommodate a bed, a table placed against the wall, and the few chairs on which we sat. There was no room for any kind of a "shakedown."
"Where can you put us for the night?" inquired my husband of Mr. Knaggs, when he made his appearance.
"Why, there is no place that I know of, unless you can camp down in the old building outside."
We went to look at it. It consisted of one room, bare and dirty. A huge chimney, in which a few brands were burning, occupied nearly one side of the apartment. Against another was built a rickety sort of bunk. This was the only vestige of furniture to be seen. The floor was thickly covered with mud and dirt, in the midst of which, near the fire, was seated an old Indian with a pan of boiled corn on his lap, which he was scooping up with both hands and devouring with the utmost voracity.
We soon discovered that he was blind. On hearing footsteps and voices, he instinctively gathered his dish of food close to him, and began some morose grumblings; but when he was told that it was "Shaw-nee-aw-kee" who was addressing him, his features relaxed into a more agreeable expression, and be even held forth his dish and invited us to share its contents.
"But are we to stay here?" I asked. "Can we not sleep out-of-doors?"
"We have no tent," replied my husband, "and the weather is too cold to risk the exposure without one."
"I could sit in a chair all night, by the fire."
"Then you would not be able to ride to Bellefontaine to-morrow."
There was no alternative. The only thing Mr. Knaggs could furnish in the shape of bedding was a small bear-skin. The bunk was a trifle less filthy than the floor; so upon its boards we spread first the skin, then our saddle-blankets, and, with a pair of saddle-bags for a bolster, I wrapped myself in my cloak, and resigned myself to my distasteful accommodations.
The change of position from that I had occupied through the day, probably brought some rest, but sleep I could not. Even on a softer and more agreeable couch, the snoring of the old Indian and two or three companions who had joined him, and his frequent querulous exclamations as he felt himself encroached upon in the darkness, would have effectually banished slumber from my eyes.
It was a relief to rise with early morning and prepare for the journey of the day. Where our fellow-travellers had bestowed themselves I knew not, but they evidently had fared no better than we. They were in fine spirits, however, and we cheerfully took our breakfast and were ferried over the river to continue on the trail from that point to Bellefontaine, twelve miles distant from Fort Winnebago.
The great "bug-bear" of this road, Ma-zhee-gaw-gaw Swamp, was the next thing to be encountered. We reached it about nine o'clock. It spread before us, a vast expanse of morass, about half a mile in width, and of length interminable, partly covered with water, with black knobs rising here and there above the surface, affording a precarious foothold for the animals in crossing it. Where the water was not, there lay in place of it a bed of black oozy mud, which looked as if it might give way under the foot, and let it, at each step, sink to an unknown depth.
This we were now to traverse. All three of the gentlemen went in advance of me, each hoping, as he said, to select the surest and firmest path for me to follow. One and another would call, "Here, madam, come this way!" "This is the best path, wifie; follow me," but often Charlie knew better than either, and selected a path according to his own judgment, which proved the best of the whole.
On he went, picking his way so slowly and cautiously, now pausing on one little hillock, now on another, and anon turning aside to avoid a patch of mud which seemed more than usually suspicious, that all the company had got some little distance ahead of me. On raising my eyes, which had been kept pretty closely on my horse's footsteps, I saw my husband on foot, striving to lead his horse by the bridle from a difficult position into which he had got, Mr. Wing and his great white floundering animal lying sideways in the mud, the rider using all his efforts to extricate himself from the stirrups, and Dr. Philleo standing at a little distance from his steed, who was doing his best to rise up from a deep bog into which he had pitched himself. It was a formidable sight! They all called out with one accord,—
"Oh, do not come this way!"
"Indeed," cried I, "I have no thought of it. Charlie and I know better." And, trusting to the sagacious creature, he picked his way carefully along, and carried me safely past the dismounted company. I could not refrain from a little triumphant flourish with my whip, as I looked back upon them and watched their progress to their saddles once more.
Three hours had we been thus unpleasantly engaged, and yet we were not over the "Slough of Despond." At length we drew near its farthest verge. Here ran a deep stream some five or six feet in width. The gentlemen, as they reached it, dismounted, and began debating what was to be done.
"Jump off, jump off, madam," cried Mr. Wing, and "Jump off, jump off," echoed Dr. Philleo; "we are just consulting how we are to get you across."
"What do you think about it?" asked my husband.
"Charlie will show you," replied I. "Come, Charlie." And as I raised his bridle quickly, with a pat on his neck and an encouraging chirp, he bounded over the stream as lightly as a deer, and landed me safe on terra firma.
Poor Mr. Wing had fared the worst of the company; the clumsy animal he rode seeming to be of opinion when he got into a difficulty that he had nothing to do but to lie down and resign himself to his fate; while his rider, not being particularly light and agile, was generally undermost, and half imbedded in the mire before he had quite made up his mind as to his course of action.
It was therefore a wise movement in him, when he reached the little stream, to plunge into it and wade across, thus washing out, as much as possible, the traces of the morning's adventures from himself and his steed; and the other gentlemen, having no alternative, concluded to follow his example.
We did not halt long on the rising ground beyond the morass, for we had a long stretch before us to Bellefontaine, forty-five miles, and those none of the shortest.
Our horses travelled admirably the whole afternoon, Charlie keeping a canter all the way; but it was growing dark, and there were no signs of the landmarks which were to indicate our near approach to the desired haven.
"Can we not stop and rest for a few moments under one of the trees?" inquired I, for I was almost exhausted with fatigue, and, to add to our discomfort, a cold, November rain was pouring upon us.
"If it were possible, we would," was the reply; "but see how dark it is growing. If we should lose our way, it would be worse than being wet and tired."
So we kept on. Just at dark we crossed a clear stream. "That," said my husband, "is, I think, two miles from Bellefontaine. Cheer up—we shall soon be there." Quite encouraged, we pursued our way more cheerfully. Mile after mile we passed, but still no light gleamed friendly through the trees.
"We have certainly travelled more than six miles now," said I.
"Yes—that could not have been the two-mile creek."
It was eight o'clock when we reached Bellefontaine. We were ushered into a large room made cheerful by a huge blazing fire. Mr. Wing and Dr. Philleo had arrived before us, and there were other travellers, on their way from the Mississippi. I was received with great kindness and volubility by the immense hostess, "la grosse Americaine," as she was called, and she soon installed me in the arm-chair, in the warmest corner, and in due time set an excellent supper before us.
But her hospitality did not extend to giving up her only bed for my accommodation. She spread all the things she could muster on the hard floor before the fire, and did what she could to make me comfortable; then, observing my husband's solicitude lest I might feel ill from the effects of the fatigue and rain, she remarked, in tones of admiring sympathy, "How kind your companion is to you!"—an expression which, as it was then new to us, amused us not a little.
Our travelling companions started early in the morning for the Fort, which was but twelve miles distant, and they were so kind as to take charge of a note to our friends at home, requesting them to send Plante with the carriage to take us the rest of the distance.
We reached the Portage in safety; and thus ended the first journey by land that any white woman had made from Green Bay to Fort Winnebago. I felt not a little raised in my own esteem when my husband informed me that the distance I had the previous day travelled, from Knaggs's to Bellefontaine, was sixty-two miles!
COMMENCEMENT OF THE SAUK WAR.
A few weeks after our return, my husband took his mother to Prairie du Chien for the benefit of medical advice from Dr. Beaumont, of the U.S. Army. The journey was made in a large open boat down the Wisconsin River, and it was proposed to take this opportunity to bring back a good supply of corn for the winter's use of both men and cattle.
The ice formed in the river, however, so early, that after starting with his load he was obliged to return with it to the Prairie, and wait until the thick winter's ice enabled him to make a second journey and bring it up in sleighs—with so great an expense of time, labor, and exposure were the necessaries of life conveyed from one point to another through that wild and desolate region!
* * * * *
The arrival of my brother Arthur from Kentucky, by way of the Mississippi, in the latter part of April, brought us the uncomfortable intelligence of new troubles with the Sauks and Foxes. Black Hawk had, with the flower of his nation, recrossed the Mississippi, once more to take possession of their old homes and corn-fields.
It was not long before our own Indians came flocking in, to confirm the tidings, and to assure us of their intention to remain faithful friends to the Americans. We soon heard of the arrival of the Illinois Rangers in the Rock River country, also of the progress of the regular force under General Atkinson, in pursuit of the hostile Indians, who, by the reports, were always able to elude their vigilance. It not being their custom to stop and give battle, the Sauks soon scattered themselves through the country, trusting to some lucky accident (and such arrived, alas! only too often) to enable them to fall upon their enemies unexpectedly.
The experience of the pursuing army was, for the most part, to make their way, by toilsome and fatiguing marches, to the spot where they imagined the Sauks would be waiting to receive them, and then to discover that the rogues had scampered off to quite a different part of the country.
Wherever these latter went, their course was marked by the most atrocious barbarities, though the worst had not, at this time, reached our ears. We were only assured that they were down in the neighborhood of the Rock River and Kishwaukee, and that they lost no opportunity of falling upon the defenceless inhabitants and cruelly murdering them.
As soon as it became certain that the Sauks and Foxes would not pursue the same course they had on the previous year, that is, retreat peaceably across the Mississippi, Mr. Kinzie resolved to hold a council with all the principal chiefs of the Winnebagoes who were accessible at this time. He knew that the Sauks would use every effort to induce their neighbors to join them, and that there existed in the breasts of too many of the young savages a desire to distinguish themselves by "taking some white scalps." They did not love the Americans—why should they? By them they had been gradually dispossessed of the broad and beautiful domains of their forefathers, and hunted from place to place, and the only equivalent they had received in exchange had been a few thousands annually in silver and presents, together with the pernicious example, the debasing influence, and the positive ill treatment of too many of the new settlers upon their lands.
With all these facts in view, therefore, their Father felt that the utmost watchfulness was necessary, and that the strongest arguments must be brought forward, to preserve the young men of the Winnebagoes in their allegiance to the Americans. Of the older members he felt quite sure. About fifty lodges had come at the commencement of the disturbances and encamped around our dwelling, saying that if the Sauks attacked us it must be after killing them; and, knowing them well, we had perfect confidence in their assurances.
But their vicinity, while it gave us a feeling of protection, likewise furnished us with a channel of the most exciting and agitating daily communications. As the theatre of operations approached nearer and nearer, intelligence was brought in by their runners—now, that "Captain Barney's head had been recognized in the Sauk camp, where it had been brought the day previous," next, that "the Sauks were carrying Lieutenant Beall's head on a pole in front of them as they marched to meet the whites." Sometimes it was a story which we afterwards found to be unhappily true, as that of the murder of their Agent, M. St Vrain, at Kellogg's Grove, by the Sauks themselves, who ought to have protected him.
It was after the news of this last occurrence that the appointed council with the Winnebagoes was to be held at the Four Lakes, thirty-five miles distant from Fort Winnebago.
In vain we pleaded and remonstrated against such an exposure. "It was his duty to assemble his people and talk to them," my husband said, "and he must run the risk, if there were any. He had perfect confidence in the Winnebagoes. The enemy, by all he could learn, were now far distant from the Four Lakes—probably at Kosh-ko-nong. He would set off early in the morning with Paquette, bold his council, and return to us the same evening."
It were useless to attempt to describe our feelings during that long and dreary day. When night arrived, the cry of a drunken Indian, or even the barking of a dog, would fill our hearts with terror.
As we sat, at a late hour, at the open window, listening to every sound, with what joy did we at length distinguish the tramp of horses! We knew it to be Griffin and Jerry ascending the hill, and a cheerful shout soon announced that all was well. My husband and his interpreter had ridden seventy miles that day, besides holding a long "talk" with the Indians.
The Winnebagoes in council had promised to use their utmost endeavors to preserve peace and good order among their young men. They informed their Father that the bands on the Rock River, with the exception of Win-no-sheek's, were all determined to remain friendly and keep aloof from the Sauks. To that end, they were abandoning their villages and corn-fields and moving north, that their Great Father, the President, might not feel dissatisfied with them. With regard to Win-no-sheek and his people, they professed themselves unable to answer.
Time went on, and brought with it stories of fresh outrages. Among these were the murders of Auberry, Green, and Force, at Blue Mound, and the attack on Apple Fort. The tidings of the latter were brought by old Crely, the father of Mrs. Paquette, who rode express from Galena, and who averred that he once passed a bush behind which the Sauks were hiding, but that his horse smelt the sweet-scented grass with which they always adorn their persons when on a war-party, and set out on such a gallop that he never stopped until he arrived at the Portage.
Another bearer of news was a young gentleman named Follett, whose eyes had become so protruded and set from keeping an anxious look-out for the enemy, that it was many days after his arrival at a place of safety before they resumed their accustomed limits and expression.
Among other rumors which at this time reached us, was one that an attack upon Fort Winnebago was in contemplation among the Sauks. That this was in no state of defence the Indians very well knew. All the effective men had been withdrawn, upon a requisition from General Atkinson, to join him at his newly-built fort at Kosh-ko-nong.
Fort Winnebago was not picketed in; there were no defences to the barracks or officers' quarters, except slight panelled doors and Venetian blinds—nothing that would long resist the blows of clubs or hatchets. There was no artillery, and the Commissary's store was without the bounds of the Fort, under the hill.
Mr. Kinzie had, from the first, called the attention of the officers to the insecurity of their position in case of danger, but he generally received a scoffing answer.
"Never fear," they would say; "the Sauks are not coming here to attack us."
One afternoon we were over on a visit to some ladies in the garrison, and, several officers being present, the conversation, as usual, turned upon the present position of affairs.
"Do you not think it wiser," inquired I of a blustering young officer, "to be prepared against possible danger?"
"Not against these fellows," replied he, contemptuously.
"I do not think I would even take the trouble to fasten the blinds to my quarters."
"At least," said I, "if you some night find a tomahawk raised to cleave your skull, you will have the consolation of remembering that you have not been one of those foolish fellows who keep on the safe side."
He seemed a little nettled at this, and still more so when sister Margaret observed,—
"For my part, I am of Governor Cass's opinion. He was at Chicago during the Winnebago war. We were all preparing to move into the fort on the first alarm. Some were for being brave and delaying, like our friends here. 'Come, come,' said the Governor, 'hurry into the fort as fast as possible—there is no merit in being brave with the Indians. It is the height of folly to stay and meet danger which you may by prudence avoid.'"
In a few days our friends waked up to the conviction that something must be done at once The first step was to forbid any Winnebago coming within the garrison, lest they should find out what they had known as well as ourselves for three months past—namely, the feebleness of the means of resistance. The next was to send fatigue-parties into the woods, under the protection of a guard, to cut pickets for inclosing the garrison.
There was every reason to believe that the enemy were not very far distant, and that their object in coming north was to break a way into the Chippewa country, where they would find a place of security among their friends and allies. The story that our Indian runners brought in most frequently was, that the Sauks were determined to fall upon the whites at the Portage and Fort, and massacre all, except the families of the Agent and Interpreter.
Plante and Pillon with their families had departed at the first word of danger. There only remained with us Manaigre, whose wife was a half-Winnebago, Isidore Morrin, and the blacksmiths from Sugar Creek—Mata and Turcotte.
At night we were all regularly armed and our posts assigned us. After every means had been taken to make the house secure, the orders were given. Sister Margaret and I, in case of attack, were to mount with the children to the rooms above, while my husband and his men were to make good their defence as long as possible against the enemy. Since I had shown my sportsmanship by bringing down accidentally a blackbird on the wing, I felt as if I could do some execution with my little pistols, which were regularly placed beside my pillow at night; and I was fully resolved to use them, if necessity required. I do not remember to have felt the slightest compunction at the idea of taking the lives of two Sauks, as I had no doubt I should do; and this explains to me what I had before often wondered at, the indifference, namely, of the soldier on the field of battle to the destruction of human life Had I been called upon, however, to use my weapons effectually, I should no doubt have looked back upon it with horror.
Surrounded as we were by Indian lodges, which seldom became perfectly quiet, and excited as our nerves had become by all that we were daily in the habit of hearing, we rarely slept very soundly. One night, after we had as much as possible composed ourselves, we were startled at a late hour by a tap upon the window at the head of our bed, and a call of "Chon! Chon!" (John! John!)
"Tshah-ko-zhah?" (What is it?)
It was Hoo-wau-ne-kah, the Little Elk. He spoke rapidly, and in a tone of great agitation. I could not understand him, and I lay trembling, and dreading to hear his errand interpreted. Now and then I could distinguish the words Sau-kee (Sauks) and Shoonk-hat-tay-rah (horse), and they were not very reassuring.
The trouble, I soon learned, was this. A fresh trail had been observed near the Petit Rocher, on the Wisconsin, and the people at the villages on the Barribault were in a state of great alarm, fearing it might be the Sauks. There was the appearance of a hundred or more horses having passed by this trail. Hoo-wau-ne-kah had been dispatched at once to tell their Father, and to ask his advice.
After listening to all he had to communicate, his Father told him the trail was undoubtedly that of General Henry's troops, who were said to have come north, looking for the enemy; that as the marks of the horses' hoofs showed them, by this report, to have been shod, that was sufficient proof that it was not the trail of the Sauks. He thought that the people at the villages need not feel any uneasiness.
"Very well, Father," replied Hoo-wau-ne-kah; "I will go back and tell my people what you say. They will believe you, for you always tell them the truth. You are not like us Indians, who sometimes deceive each other." So saying, he returned to his friends, much comforted.
The completion of the picketing and other defences, together with the arrival of a detachment of troops from Fort Howard under Lieutenant Hunter, at our fort, now seemed to render the latter the place of greatest safety. We therefore regularly, every evening immediately before dusk, took up our line of march for the opposite side of the river, and repaired to quarters that had been assigned us within the garrison, leaving our own house and chattels to the care of the Frenchmen and our friends the Winnebagoes.
It was on one of these days that we were sitting at the windows which looked out over the Portage—indeed, we seldom sat anywhere else, our almost sole occupation being to look abroad and see what was coming next—when a loud, long, shrill whoop from a distance gave notice of something to be heard. "The news-halloo! what could it portend? What were we about to hear?" By gazing intently towards the farthest extremity of the road, we could perceive a moving body of horsemen, which, as they approached, we saw to be Indians. They were in full costume. Scarlet streamers fluttered at the ends of their lances—their arms glittered in the sun. Presently, as they drew nearer, their paint and feathers and brooches became visible. There were fifty or more warriors. They passed the road which turns to the Fort, and rode directly up the hill leading to the Agency. Shaw-nee-aw-kee was absent. The Interpreter had been sent for on the first distant appearance of the strangers, but had not yet arrived. The party, having ascended the hill, halted near the blacksmith's shop, but did not dismount.
Our hearts trembled—it must surely be the enemy. At this moment my husband appeared from the direction of the Interpreter's house. We called to entreat him to stop, but he walked along towards the new-comers.
To our infinite joy, we saw the chief of the party dismount, and all the others following his example and approaching to shake hands.
A space was soon cleared around the leader and my husband, when the former commenced an oration, flourishing his sword and using much violent gesticulation. It was the first time I had seen an Indian armed with that weapon, and I dreaded to perceive it in such hands. Sometimes he appeared as if he were about to take off the head of his auditor at a blow; and our hearts sank as we remembered the stratagems at Mackinac and Detroit in former days. At length the speech was concluded, another shaking of hands took place, and we saw my husband leading the way to his storehouse, from which some of his men presently brought tobacco and pipes and laid them at the feet of the chief.
Our suspense was soon relieved by being informed that the strangers were Man-Eater, the principal chief of the Rock River Indians, who had come with his band to "hold a talk" and bring information.
These Indians were under the special care of Mr. Henry Gratiot, and his efforts had been most judicious and unremitting in preserving the good feeling of this the most dangerous portion of the Winnebagoes.
The intelligence that Man-Eater, who was a most noble Indian in appearance and character, brought us, confirmed that already received, namely, that the Sauks were gradually drawing north, towards the Portage, although he evidently did not know exactly their whereabouts.
There was, soon after they had taken leave, an arrival of another party of Winnebagoes, and these requested permission to dance for their Father.
The compliment having been accepted, they assembled, as usual, on the esplanade in front of the house. My sister, the children, and myself stationed ourselves at the open windows, according to custom, and my husband sat on the broad step before the door, which opened from the outer air directly into the parlor where we were.
The performance commenced, and as the dancers proceeded, following each other round and round in the progress of the dance, my sister, Mrs. Helm, remarked to me, "Look at that small, dark Indian, with the green boughs on his person—that is a Sauk! They always mark themselves in this manner with white clay, and ornament themselves with leaves when they dance!" In truth, I had never seen this costume among our own Indians, and as I gazed at this one with green chaplets round his head and his legs, and even his gun wreathed in the same manner, while his body displayed no paint except the white transverse streaks with which it was covered, I saw that he was, indeed, a stranger. Without owing anything to the exaggeration of fear, his countenance was truly ferocious.
He held his gun in his hand, and every time the course of the dance brought him directly in front of where we sat, he would turn his gaze full upon us, and club his weapon before him with what we interpreted into an air of defiance. We sat as still as death, for we knew it would not be wise to exhibit any appearance of fear; but my sister remarked, in a low tone, "I have always thought that I was to lose my life by the hands of the Indians. This is the third Indian war I have gone through, and now, I suppose, it will be the last."
It was the only time I ever saw her lose her self-possession. She was always remarkably calm and resolute, but now I could see that she trembled. Still we sat there—there was a sort of fascination as our imaginations became more and more excited. Presently some rain-drops began to fall. The Indians continued their dance for a few minutes longer, then, with whoopings and shoutings, they rushed simultaneously towards the house. We fled into my apartment and closed the door, which my sister at first held fast, but she presently came and seated herself by me on the bed, for she saw that I could not compose myself. Of all forms of death, that by the hands of savages is the most difficult to face calmly; and I fully believed that our hour was come.
There was no interruption to the dance, which the Indians carried on in the parlor, leaping and yelling as if they would bring down the roof over our heads. In vain we tried to persuade my husband and the children, through a crevice of the door, to come and join us. The latter, feeling no danger, were too much delighted with the exhibition to leave it, and the former only came for a moment to reassure me, and then judged it wisest to return, and manifest his satisfaction at the compliment by his presence. He made light of our fears, and would not admit that the object of our suspicions was in fact a Sauk, but only some young Winnebago, who had, as is sometimes the custom, imitated them in costume and appearance.
It may have been "good fun" to him to return to his village and tell how he frightened "the white squaws." Such a trick would not be unnatural in a white youth, and perhaps, since human nature is everywhere the same, it might not be out of the way in an Indian.
FLEEING FROM THE INDIANS.
The danger had now become so imminent that my husband determined to send his family to Fort Howard, a point which was believed to be far out of the range of the enemy. It was in vain that I pleaded to be permitted to remain; he was firm.
"I must not leave my post," said he, "while there is any danger. My departure would perhaps be the signal for an immediate alliance of the Winnebagoes with the Sauks. I am certain that as long as I am here my presence will act as a restraint upon them. You wish to remain and share my dangers! Your doing so would expose us both to certain destruction in case of attack By the aid of my friends in both tribes, I could hope to preserve my own life if I were alone; but surrounded by my family, that would be impossible—we should all fall victims together. My duty plainly is, to send you to a place of safety."
An opportunity for doing this soon occurred. Paquette, the Interpreter, who was likewise an agent of the American Fur Company, had occasion to send a boat-load of furs to Green Bay, on their way to Mackinac. Mr. Kinzie, having seen it as comfortably fitted up as an open boat of that description could be, with a tent-cloth fastened on a frame-work of hoop-poles over the centre and lined with a dark-green blanket, and having placed on board an abundant store of provisions and other comforts, committed us to the joint care of my brother Arthur and our faithful blacksmith, Mata.
This latter was a tall, gaunt Frenchman, with a freckled face, a profusion of crisp, sandy hair, and an inveterate propensity to speak English. His knowledge of the language was somewhat limited, and he burlesqued it by adding an s to almost every word, and giving out each phrase with a jerk.
"Davids," he was wont to say to the little yellow fiddler, after an evening's frolic at the Interpreter's, "Davids, clear away the tables and the glasses, and play fishes-hornspikes." He was a kind, affectionate creature, and his devotion to "Monsieur Johns" and "Madame Johns" knew no bounds.
Besides these two protectors, three trusty Indians, the chief of whom was called Old Smoker, were engaged to escort our party. The crew of the boat consisted entirely of French engages in the service of the Fur Company. They were six gay-hearted, merry fellows, lightening their labor with their pipe and their songs, in which latter they would have esteemed it a great compliment to be joined by the ladies who listened to them; but our hearts, alas! were now too heavy to participate in their enjoyment.
The Fourth of July, the day on which we left our home, was a gloomy one indeed to those who departed and to the one left behind. Who knew if we should ever meet again? The experience which some of the circle had had in Indian warfare was such as to justify the saddest forebodings. There was not even the consolation of a certainty that this step would secure our safety. The Sauks might, possibly, be on the other side of us, and the route we were taking might perhaps, though not probably, carry us into their very midst. It was no wonder, then, that our leave-taking was a solemn one—a parting which all felt might be for this world.
Not all, however; for the gay, cheerful Frenchmen laughed and sang and cracked their jokes, and "assured Monsieur John that they would take Madame John and Madame Alum safe to the bay, spite of Sauks or wind or weather."
Thus we set out on our journey. For many miles the Fort was in sight, as the course of the river alternately approached and receded from its walls, and it was not until nearly mid-day that we caught the last glimpse of our home.
At the noon-tide meal, or pipe, of the voyageurs, an alarming discovery was made: no bread had been put on board for the crew! How this oversight had occurred, no one could tell. One was certain that a large quantity had been brought from the garrison-bakery for their use that very morning—another had even seen the sacks of loaves standing in Paquette's kitchen. Be that as it may, there we were, many miles on our journey, and with no provisions for the six Frenchmen, except some salted pork, a few beans, and some onions. A consultation was held in this emergency. Should they return to the Portage for supplies? The same danger that made their departure necessary, still existed, and the utmost dispatch had been enjoined upon them. We found upon examination that the store of bread and crackers with which our party had been provided was far-beyond what we could possibly require, and we thought it would be sufficient to allow of rations to the Frenchmen until we should reach Powell's, at the Butte des Morts, the day but one following, where we should undoubtedly be able to procure a fresh supply.
This decided on, we proceeded on our journey, always in profound silence, for a song or a loud laugh was now strictly prohibited until we should have passed the utmost limits of country where the enemy might possibly be. We had been warned beforehand that a certain point, where the low marshy meadows, through which the river had hitherto run, rises into a more firm and elevated country, was the border of the Menomonee territory, and the spot where the Sauks, if they had fled north of the Wisconsin towards the Chippewa country, would be most likely to be encountered.
As we received intimation on the forenoon of the second day that we were drawing near this spot, I must confess that "we held our breath for awe."
The three Winnebagoes were in the bow of the boat. Old Smoker, the chief, squatted upon his feet on the bench of the foremost rowers. We looked at him. He was gazing intently in the direction of the wooded point we were approaching. Our eyes followed his, and we saw three Indians step forward and stand upon the bank. We said in a low voice to each other, "If they are Sauks, we are lost, for the whole body must be in that thicket." The boat continued to approach; not a word was spoken; the dip of the paddle, and perhaps the beating hearts of some, were the only sounds that broke the stillness. Again we looked at the chief. His nostrils were dilated—his eyes almost glaring.
Suddenly, with a bound, he sprang to his feet and uttered his long, shrill whoop.
"Hoh! hoh! hoh! Neechee (friend) Muh-no-mo-nee!"
All was now joy and gladness. Every one was forward to shake hands with the strangers as soon as we could reach them, in token of our satisfaction that they were Menomonees and not Sauks, of the latter of whom, by the way, they could give us no intelligence.
By noon of that day we considered ourselves to be out of the region of danger. Still, caution was deemed necessary, and when at the mid-day pipe the boat was pushed ashore under a beautiful overhanging bank, crowned with a thick wood, the usual vigilance was somewhat relaxed, and the young people, under the escort of Arthur and Mata, were permitted to roam about a little, in the vicinity of the boat.
They soon came back, with the report that the woods were "alive with pigeons,"—they could almost knock them down with sticks; and earnestly did they plead to be allowed to shoot at least enough for supper. But no—the enemy might be nearer than we imagined—the firing of a gun would betray our whereabouts—it was most prudent to give no notice to friend or foe. So, very reluctantly, they were compelled to return to the boat without their game.
The next morning brought us to Powell's, at the Butte des Morts. Sad were the faces of the poor Frenchmen at learning that not a loaf of bread was to be had. Our own store, too, was by this time quite exhausted. The only substitute we could obtain was a bag of dark looking, bitter flour. With this provision for our whole party, we were forced to be contented, and we left the Hillock of the Dead, feeling that it had been indeed the grave of our hopes.
By dint of good rowing, our crew soon brought us to the spot where the river enters that beautiful sheet of water, Winnebago Lake. Though there was but little wind when we reached the lake, the Frenchmen hoisted their sail, in hopes to save themselves the labor of rowing across; but in vain did they whistle, with all the force of their lungs—in vain did they supplicate La Vierge, with a comical mixture of fun and reverence. As a last resource, it was at length suggested by some one that their only chance lay in propitiating the goddess of the winds with an offering of some cast-off garment.
Application was made all round by Guardapie, the chief spokesman of the crew. Alas! not one of the poor voyageurs could boast a spare article. A few old rags were at length rummaged out of the little receptacle of food, clothing, and dirt in the bow of the boat, and cast into the waves For a moment all flattered themselves that the experiment had been successful—the sail fluttered, swelled a little, and then flapped idly down against the mast. The party were in despair, until, after a whispered consultation together, Julian and Edwin stepped forward as messengers of mercy. In a trice they divested themselves of jacket and vest and made a proffer of their next garment to aid in raising the wind.
At first there seemed a doubt in the minds of the boatmen whether they ought to accept so magnificent an offer; but finding, on giving them a preparatory shake, that the value of the contribution was less than they had imagined, they, with many shouts and much laughter, consigned them to the waves. To the great delight and astonishment of the boys, a breeze at this moment sprang up, which carried the little vessel beautifully over the waters for about half the distance to Garlic Island. By this time the charm was exhausted, nor was it found possible to renew it by a repetition of similar offerings. All expedients were tried without success, and, with sundry rather disrespectful reflections upon the lady whose aid they had invoked, the Frenchmen were compelled to betake themselves to their oars, until they reached the island.
Two or three canoes of Winnebagoes arrived at the same moment, and their owners immediately stepped forward with an offering of some sturgeon which they had caught in the lake. As this promised to be an agreeable variety to the noon-tide meal (at least for the Frenchmen), it was decided to stop and kindle a fire for the purpose of cooking it. We took advantage of this interval to recommend to the boys a stroll to the opposite side of the island, where the clear, shallow water and pebbly beach offered temptation to a refreshing bath. While they availed themselves of this, under the supervision of Harry, the black boy, we amused ourselves with gathering the fine red raspberries with which the island abounded.
Our enjoyment was cut short, however, by discovering that the whole place, vines, shrubs, and even, apparently, the earth itself, was infested with myriads of the wood-tick, a little insect, that, having fastened to the skin, penetrates into the very flesh, causing a swelling and irritation exceeding painful, and even dangerous. The alarm was sounded, to bring the boys back in all haste to the open and more frequented part of the island. But we soon found we had not left our tormentors behind. Throughout the day we continued to be sensible of their proximity. From the effects of their attacks we were not relieved for several succeeding days; those which had succeeded in burying themselves in the flesh having to be removed with the point of a penknife or a large needle. After partaking of our dinner, we stepped on board our boat, and, the wind having risen, we were carried by the breeze to the farther verge of the lake, and into the entrance of the river, or, as it was called, the Winnebago Rapids.
On the point of land to the right stood a collection of neat bark wigwams—this was Four-Legs' village.
It was an exciting and somewhat hazardous passage down the rapids and over the Grand Chute, a fall of several feet; but it was safely passed, and at the approach of evening the boat reached the settlement of the Waubanakees at the head of the Little Chute. These are the Stockbridge or Brothertown Indians, the remains of the old Mohicans, who had, a few years before, emigrated from Oneida County, in the State of New York, to a tract granted them by the United States, on the fertile banks of the Fox River. They had already cleared extensive openings in the forest, and built some substantial and comfortable houses near the banks of the river, which were here quite high, and covered for the most part with gigantic trees.
It was determined to ask hospitality of these people, to the extent of borrowing a corner of their fire to boil our tea-kettle, and bake the short-cake which had been now, for nearly two days, our substitute for bread. Its manufacture had been a subject of much merriment. The ingredients, consisting of Powell's black flour, some salt, and a little butter, were mixed in the tin box which had held our meat. This was then reversed, and, having been properly cleansed, supplied the place of a dough-board. The vinegar-bottle served the office of rolling-pin, and a shallow tin dish formed the appliance for baking. The Waubanakees were so good as to lend us an iron bake-kettle, and superintend the cooking of our cake after Harry had carried it up to their dwelling.
So kind and hospitable did they show themselves, that the crew of the boat took the resolution of asking a lodging on shore, by way of relief after their crowded quarters in the boat for the last three nights. Arthur and Mata soon adopted the same idea, and we were invited to follow their example, with the assurance that the houses were extremely neat and orderly.
We preferred, however, as it was a fine night, and all things were so comfortably arranged in the boat, to remain on board, keeping Edwin and Josette with us.
The boat was tightly moored, for the little Chute was just below, and if our craft should break loose in the rapid current, and drift down over the falls, it would be a very serious matter. As an additional precaution, one man was left on board to keep all things safe and in order, and, these arrangements having been made, the others ascended the bank, and took up their night's lodgings in the Waubanakee cabins.
It was a beautiful, calm, moonlight night, the air just sufficiently warm to be agreeable, while the gentle murmur of the rapids and of the fall, at no great distance, soon lulled our party to repose. How long we had slumbered we knew not, when we were aroused by a rushing wind. It bent the poles supporting the awning, snapped them, and, another gust succeeding, tent and blanket were carried away on the blast down the stream. The moonlight was gone, but a flash of lightning showed them sailing away like a spectre in the distance.
The storm increased in violence. The rain began to pour in torrents, and the thunder and lightning to succeed each other in fearful rapidity. My sister sprang to waken the Frenchman. "Get up, Vitelle, quick," cried she, in French, "run up the bank for Mata and Mr. Arthur—tell them to come and get us instantly."
The man made her no reply, but fell upon his knees, invoking the Virgin most vociferously.
"Do not wait for the Virgin, but go as quickly as possible. Do you not see we shall all be killed?"
"Oh! not for the world, madame, not for the world," said Vitelle, burying his head in a pack of furs, "would I go up that bank in this storm." And here he began crying most lustily to all the saints in the calendar.
It Was indeed awful. The roaring of the thunder and the flashing of the lightning around us were like the continued discharge of a park of artillery. I with some difficulty drew forth my cloak, and enveloped myself and Josette—sister Margaret did the same with Edwin.
"Oh I madame," said the poor little girl, her teeth chattering with cold and fright, "won't we be drowned?"
"Very well," said my sister to the Frenchman, "you see that Madame John is at the last agony—if you will not go for help I must, and Monsieur John must know that you left his wife to perish."
This was too much for Vitelle. "If I must, I must," said he, and with a desperate bound he leaped on shore and sped up the hill with might and main.
In a few minutes, though it seemed ages to us, a whole posse came flying down the hill. The incessant lightning made all things appear as in the glare of day. Mata's curly hair fairly stood on end, and his eyes rolled with ghastly astonishment at the spectacle.
"Oh, my God, Madame Johns! what would Monsieur Johns say, to see you nows?" exclaimed he, as he seized me in his arms and bore me up the hill. Arthur followed with sister Margaret, and two others with Edwin and Josette. Nobody carried Vitelle, for he had taken care not to risk his precious life by venturing again to the boat.
On arriving at the cabin where Arthur and Mata had been lodged, a fire was, with some difficulty, kindled, and our trunks having been brought up from the boat, we were at length able to exchange our drenched garments, and those of the children, for others more comfortable, after which we laid ourselves upon the clean but homely bed, and slept until daylight.
As it was necessary to ascertain what degree of damage the cargo of furs had sustained, an early start was proposed. Apparently, the inhabitants of the cottages had become weary in well-doing, for they declined preparing breakfast for us, although we assured them they should be well compensated for their trouble. We, consequently, saw ourselves compelled to depart with very slender prospects of a morning meal.
When we reached the boat, what a scene presented itself! Bedclothes, cloaks, trunks, mess-basket, packs of furs, all bearing the marks of a complete deluge! The boat ankle-deep in water—literally no place on board where we could either stand or sit. After some bailing out, and an attempt at disposing some of the packs of furs which had suffered least from the flood, so as to form a sort of divan in the centre of the boat, nothing better seemed to offer than to re-embark, and endure what could not be cured.
Our position was not an enviable one. Wherever a foot or hand was placed, the water gushed up, with a bubbling sound, and, oh! the state of the bandboxes and work-baskets! Breakfast there was none, for on examining the mess-basket everything it contained was found mingled in one undistinguishable mass. Tea, pepper, salt, short-cake, all floating together—it was a hopeless case.
But this was not the worst. As the fervid July sun rose higher in the heavens, the steam which exhaled from every object on board was nearly suffocating. The boat was old—the packs of skins were old—their vicinity in a dry day had been anything but agreeable—now it was intolerable. There was no retreating from it, however; so we encouraged the children to arm themselves with patience, for the short time that yet remained of our voyage.
Seated on our odoriferous couch, beneath the shade of a single umbrella, to protect our whole party from the scorching sun, we glided wearily down the stream, through that long, tedious day. As we passed successively the Kakalin, the Rapids, Dickenson's, the Agency, with what longing eyes did we gaze at human habitations, where others were enjoying the shelter of a roof and the comforts of food—and how eagerly did we count the hours which must elapse before we could reach Port Howard!
There were no songs from the poor Frenchmen this day. Music and fasting do not go well together. At length we stopped at Shanty-town, where the boat was to be unloaded. All hands fell to work to transfer the cargo to the warehouse of the Fur Company, which stood near the landing. It was not a long operation, for all worked heartily. This being accomplished, the voyageurs, one and all, prepared to take their leave. In vain Mata stormed and raved—in vain Arthur remonstrated.
"No," they said, "they had brought the boat and cargo to the warehouse—that was all of their job." And they turned to go.
"Guardapie," said I, "do you intend to leave us here?"
"Bien, madame! it is the place we always stop at."
"Does Monsieur John pay you for bringing his family down?"
"Oh, yes, Monsieur John has given us an order on the sutler, at the Fort down below."
"To be paid when you deliver us safe at the Fort down below. It seems I shall be there before you, and I shall arrange that matter. Monsieur John never dreamed that this would be your conduct."
The Frenchmen consulted together, and the result was that Guardapie with two others jumped into the boat, took their oars, and rather sulkily rowed us the remaining two miles to Fort Howard.
FORT HOWARD—OUR RETURN HOME.
We soon learned that a great panic prevailed at Green Bay on account of the Sauks. The people seemed to have possessed themselves with the idea that the enemy would visit this place on their way to Canada to put themselves under the protection of the British Government. How they were to get there from this point—whether they were to stop and fabricate themselves bark canoes for the purpose, or whether they were to charter one of Mr. Newbery's schooners for the trip, the good people did not seem fully to have made up their minds. One thing is certain, a portion of the citizens were nearly frightened to death, and were fully convinced that there was no safety for them but within the walls of the old dilapidated fort, from which nearly all the troops had been withdrawn and sent to Fort Winnebago some time previous.
Their fears were greatly aggravated by a report, brought by some traveller, that he had slept at night on the very spot where the Sauks breakfasted the next morning. Now, as the Sauks were known to be reduced to very short commons, there was every reason to suppose that if the man had waited half an hour longer they would have eaten him; so he was considered to have made a wonderful escape.
Our immediate friends and acquaintances were far from joining in these fears. The utter improbability of such a movement was obvious to all who considered the nature of the country to be traversed, and the efficient and numerous body of whites by whom they must be opposed on their entrance into that neighborhood. There were some, however, who could not be persuaded that there was any security but in flight, and eagerly was the arrival of the "Mariner" looked for, as the anxiety grew more and more intense.
The "Mariner" appeared at last. It was early in the morning. In one hour from the time of her arrival the fearful news she brought had spread the whole length of the settlement—"the cholera was in this country! It was in Detroit—it was among the troops who were on their way to the seat of war! Whole companies had died of it in the river St. Clair, and the survivors had been put on shore at Port Gratiot, to save their lives as best they might!" We were shut in between the savage foe on one hand and the pestilence on the other!
To those who had friends at the East the news was most appalling. It seemed to unman every one who heard it. An officer who had exhibited the most distinguished prowess in the battle-field, and also in some private enterprises demanding unequalled courage and daring, was the first to bring us the news. When he had communicated it, he laid his head against the window-sill and wept like a child.
Those who must perforce rejoin friends near and dear, left the Bay in the "Mariner;" all others considered their present home the safest; and so it proved, for the dreadful scourge did not visit Green Bay that season.
The weather was intensely hot, and the mosquitoes so thick that we did not pretend to walk on the parade after sunset, unless armed with two fans, or green branches to keep constantly in motion, in order to disperse them. This, by the way, was the surest method of attracting them. We had somehow forgotten the apathetic indifference which had often excited our wonder in Old Smoker, as we had observed him calmly sitting and allowing his naked arms and person to become literally gray with the tormenting insects. Then he would quietly wipe off a handful, the blood following the movement of the hand over his skin, and stoically wait for an occasion to repeat the movement. It is said that the mosquito, if undisturbed until he has taken his fill, leaves a much less inflamed bite than if brushed away in the midst of his feast.
By day, the air was at this season filled with what is called the Green Bay fly, a species of dragon-fly, with which the outer walls of the houses are at times so covered that their color is hardly distinguishable. Their existence is very ephemeral, scarcely lasting more than a day. Their dead bodies are seen adhering to the walls and windows within, and they fall without in such numbers that after a high wind has gathered them into rows along the sides of the quarters, one may walk through them and toss them up with their feet like the dry leaves in autumn.
As we walked across the parade, our attention was sometimes called to a tapping upon the bars of the dungeon in which a criminal was confined—it was the murderer of Lieutenant Foster.
It may be remembered that this amiable young officer had been our travelling companion in our journey from Chicago the preceding year. Some months after his arrival at Port Howard, he had occasion to order a soldier of his company, named Doyle, into confinement for intoxication. The man, a few days afterwards, prevailed on the sergeant of the guard to escort him to Lieutenant Foster's quarters on the plea that he wished to speak to him. He ascended the stairs to the young officer's room, while the sergeant and another soldier remained at the foot, near the door.
Doyle entered, and, addressing Lieutenant Foster, said, "Will you please tell me, lieutenant, what I am confined for?"
"No, sir," replied the officer; "you know your offence well enough; return to your place of confinement."
The man ran down-stairs, wrenched the gun from the sergeant's hand, and, rushing back, discharged it at the heart of Lieutenant Foster.
He turned to go to his inner apartment, but exclaiming, "Ah me!" he fell dead before the entrance.
Doyle, having been tried by a civil court, was now under sentence, awaiting his execution. He was a hardened villain, never exhibiting the slightest compunction for his crime.
The commanding officer, Major Clark, sent to him one day to inquire if he wanted anything for his comfort.
"If the Major pleased," he replied, "he should like to have a light and a copy of Byron's Works."
Some fears were entertained that he would contrive to make way with himself before the day of execution, and, to guard against it, he was deprived of everything that could furnish him a weapon. His food was served to him in a wooden bowl, lest a bit of broken crockery might he used as a means of self destruction.
One morning he sent a little package to the commanding officer as a present. It contained a strong rope, fabricated from strips of his blanket, that he had carefully separated, and with a large stout spike at the end of it. The message accompanying it was, "He wished Major Clark to see that if he chose to put an end to himself, he could find means to do it in spite of him."
And this hardened frame of mind continued to the last. When he was led out for execution, in passing beyond the gate, he observed a quantity of lumber recently collected for the construction of a new Company's warehouse.
"Ah, captain, what are you going to build here?" inquired he of Captain Scott, who attended him.
"Doyle," replied his captain, "you have but a few moments to live—- you had better employ your thoughts about something else."
"It is for that very reason, captain," said he, "that I am inquiring—as my time is short, I wish to gain all the information I can while it lasts."
* * * * *
We were not suffered to remain long in suspense in regard to the friends we had left behind. In less than two weeks Old Smoker again made his appearance. He was the bearer of letters from my husband, informing me that General Dodge was then with him at Port Winnebago, that Generals Henry and Alexander were likewise at the Fort, and that as soon as they had recruited their men and horses, which were pretty well worn out with scouring the country after Black Hawk, they would march again in pursuit of him towards the head-waters of the Rock River, where they had every reason, from information lately brought in by the Winnebagoes, to believe he would be found.
As he charged us to lay aside all uneasiness on his account, and moreover held forth the hope of soon coming or sending for us, our minds became more tranquil.
Not long after this, I was told one morning that "a lady" wished to see me at the front door. I obeyed the summons, and, to my surprise, was greeted by my friend Madame Four-Legs. After much demonstration of joy at seeing me, such as putting her two hands together over her forehead and then parting them in a waving kind of gesture, laughing, and patting me on my arms, she drew from her bosom a letter from my husband, of which she was the bearer. It was to this effect—"Generals Dodge and Henry left here a few days since, accompanied by Paquette; they met the Sauks near the Wisconsin, on the 21st. A battle ensued, in which upwards of fifty of the enemy were killed—our loss was one killed, and eight wounded. The citizens are well pleased that all this has been accomplished without any aid from Old White Beaver. The war must be near its close, for the militia and regulars together will soon finish the remaining handful of fugitives."
The arrival of Lieutenant Hunter, who had obtained leave of absence in order to escort us, soon put all things in train for our return to Fort Winnebago. No Mackinac boat was to be had, but in lieu of it a Durham boat was procured. This is of a description longer and shallower than the other, with no convenience for rigging up an awning, or shelter of any kind, over the centre; but its size was better fitted to accommodate our party, which consisted, besides our own family, of Lieutenant and Mrs. Hunter, the wife of another officer now stationed at Port Winnebago, and our cousin, Miss Forsyth. We made up our minds, as will be supposed, to pretty close quarters.
Our crew was composed partly of Frenchmen and partly of soldiers, and, all things being in readiness, we set off one fine bright morning in the latter part of July.
Our second day's alternate rowing and poling brought us to the Grande Chute early in the afternoon.
Here, it is the custom to disembark at the foot of the rapids, and, ascending the high bank, walk around the fall, while the men pull the boat up through the foaming waters.
Most of our party had already stepped on shore, when a sudden thought seized one of the ladies and myself.
"Let us stay in the boat," said we, "and be pulled up the Chute." The rest of the company went on, while we sat and watched with great interest the preparations the men were making. They were soon overboard in the water, and, attaching a strong rope to the bow of the boat, all lent their aid in pulling as they marched slowly along with their heavy load. The cargo, consisting only of our trunks and stores, which were of no very considerable weight, had not been removed.
We went on, now and then getting a tremendous bump against a hidden rock, and frequently splashed by a shower of foam as the waves roared and boiled around us.
The men kept as close as possible to the high, precipitous bank, where the water was smoothest. At the head of the cordel was a merry simpleton of a Frenchman, who was constantly turning his head to grin with delight at our evident enjoyment and excitement.
We were indeed in high glee. "Is not this charming?" cried one. "I only wish——"
The wish, whatever it was, was cut short by a shout and a crash. "Have a care, Robineau! Mind where you are taking the boat!" was the cry, but it came too late. More occupied with the ladies than with his duty, the leader had guided us into the midst of a sharp, projecting tree that hung from the bank. The first tug ripped out the side of the boat, which immediately began to fill with water.
My companion and I jumped upon the nearest rocks that showed their heads above the foam. Our screams and the shouts of the men brought Lieutenant Hunter and some Indians, who were above on the bank, dashing down to our rescue. They carried us in their arms to land, while the men worked lustily at fishing up the contents of the boat, now thoroughly saturated with water.
We scrambled up the high bank, in a miserable plight, to join in the general lamentation over the probable consequences of the accident.
"Oh! my husband's new uniform!" cried one, and "Oh! the miniatures in the bottom of my trunk!" sighed another—while, "Oh! the silk dresses, and the ribbons, and the finery!" formed the general chorus.
No one thought of the provisions, although we had observed, in our progress to shore, the barrel of bread and the tub of ice, which Lieutenant Hunter had providently brought for our refreshment, sailing away on the dancing waves. Among the boxes brought to land, and "toted" up the steep bank, was one containing some loaves of sugar and packages of tea, which I had bought for our winter's supply from the sutler at the post. The young Indian who was the bearer of it set it upon the ground, and soon called my attention to a thick, white stream that was oozing from the corners. I made signs for him to taste it. He dipped his finger in it, and exclaimed with delight to his companions, when he perceived what it was. I then pointed to his hatchet, and motioned him to open the box. He did not require a second invitation—it was soon backed to pieces.
Then, as I beckoned up all the rest of the youngsters who were looking on, full of wonder, such a scrambling and shouting with delight succeeded as put us all, particularly the boys, into fits of laughter. Bowls, dippers, hands, everything that could contain even the smallest quantity, were put in requisition. The squaws were most active. Those who could do no better took the stoutest fragments of the blue paper in which the sugar had been enveloped, and in a trice nothing remained but the wet, yellow bundles of tea, and the fragments of the splintered box which had contained it.
By this time fires had been made, and the articles from the trunks were soon seen covering every shrub and bush in the vicinity. Fortunately, the box containing the new uniform had been piled high above the others, in the centre of the boat, and had received but little damage; but sad was the condition of the wardrobes in general.
Not a white article was to be seen. All was mottled; blue, green, red, and black intermingling in streaks, and dripping from ends and corners.
To add to the trouble, the rain began to fall, as rain is apt to do, at an inconvenient moment, and soon the half-dried garments had to be gathered out of the smoke and huddled away in a most discouraging condition.
The tent was pitched, wet as it was, and the blankets, wrung out of the water, and partially dried, were spread upon the ground for our accommodation at night.
A Hamburg cheese, which had been a part of my stores, was voted to me for a pillow, and, after a supper the best part of which was a portion of one of the wet loaves which had remained in a barrel too tightly wedged to drift away, we betook ourselves to our repose.
The next morning rose hot and sultry. The mosquitoes, which the rain had kept at bay through the night, now began to make themselves amends, and to torment us unmercifully.
After our most uncomfortable and unpalatable breakfast, the first question for consideration was, what we were to do with ourselves. Our boat lay submerged at the foot of the hill, half-way up the rapids. The nearest habitation among the Waubanakees was some miles distant, and this there was no means of reaching but by an Indian canoe, if some of our present friends and neighbors would be so obliging as to bring one for our use. Even then it was doubtful if boats could be found sufficient to convey all our numerous party back to Green Bay.
In the midst of these perplexing consultations a whoop was heard from beyond the hill, which here sloped away to the north, at the head of the rapids.
"There is John! that is certainly his voice!" cried more than one of the company.
It was, indeed, my husband, and in a moment he was among us. Never was arrival more opportune, more evidently providential.
Not having learned our plans (for the unsettled state of the country had prevented our sending him word), he had come provided with a boat, to take us back to Fort Winnebago.
Our drying operations, which we had recommenced this morning, were soon cut short. Everything was shuffled away in the most expeditious manner possible, and in an incredibly short time we were transferred to the other boat, which lay quietly above the Chute, and were pulling away towards Winnebago Lake.
We had resolved to go only so far as the vicinity of the lake, where the breeze would render the mosquitoes less intolerable, and then to stop and make one more attempt at drying our clothing. Accordingly, when we reached a beautiful high bank near the Little Butte, we stopped for that purpose again, unpacked our trunks, and soon every bush and twig was fluttering with the spoils of the cruel waves.
Hardly had we thus disposed of the last rag or ribbon when the tramp of horses was heard, followed by loud shouts and cheers ringing through the forest.
A company of about twenty-five horsemen, with banners flying, veils fluttering from their hats, and arms glittering in the sun, rode into our midst, and, amid greetings and roars of laughter, inquired into the nature and reasons of our singular state of confusion.
They were Colonel Stambough and Alexander Irwin, of Green Bay, with a company of young volunteers, and followed by a whooping band of Menomonees, all bound for the seat of war. We comforted them with the assurance that the victories were by this time all won and the scalps taken; but, expressing the hope that there were yet a few laurels to be earned, they bade us adieu, and rapidly pursued their march.
We crossed Lake Winnebago by the clear, beautiful light of a summer moon. The soft air was just enough to swell the sail, and thus save the men their labor at the oar.
The witchery of the hour was not, however, sufficient to induce us to forego our repose after the heat and annoyances of the day—we therefore disposed ourselves betimes, to be packed away in the centre of the boat. How it was accomplished no one of the numerous company could tell. If any accident had occurred to disturb our arrangement, I am sure it would have been a Chinese puzzle to put us back again in our places. The men on the outside had much the best of it, and we rather envied those who were off watch, their ability to snore and change position as the humor took them.
We reached Powell's just in time to have gone ashore and prepare our breakfast had we had wherewithal to prepare it. We had hoped to be able to procure some supplies here, for hitherto we had been living on the remains of my husband's ample stock. That was now so nearly exhausted that when we found the mess-basket could not be replenished at this place we began to talk of putting ourselves on allowance.
The wet bread, of which there had remained an ample store, had, as may be readily imagined, soon fermented under the influence of a July sun. The tea, too, notwithstanding our careful efforts at drying it on newspapers and pieces of board, ere long became musty and unfit for use. There was, literally, nothing left, except the salted meat and a few crackers, hardly sufficient for the present day.
The men were therefore urged to make all the speed possible, that we might reach Gleason's, at Lake Puckaway, in good season on the following day.
At evening, when we stopped to take our tea at a beautiful little opening among the trees, we found our old enemies, the mosquitoes, worse than ever. It was necessary to put on our cloaks and gloves, and tie our veils close around our throats, only venturing to introduce a cracker or a cup of tea under this protection in the most stealthy manner.
The men rowed well, and brought us to Gleason's about eleven o'clock the next day. We were greeted with the most enthusiastic demonstrations by my old friend La Grosse Americaine, who had removed here from Bellefontaine.
"Oh, Mrs. Armstrong," cried we, "get us some breakfast—we are famishing!"
At that instant who should appear but our faithful Mata, driving the old caleche in which we were in the habit of making our little excursions in the neighborhood of the Port. He had ridden over, hoping to meet us, in the idea that some of us would prefer this method of reaching our home.
With provident thoughtfulness, he had brought tea, roasted coffee, fresh butter, eggs, etc., lest we should be short of such luxuries in that advanced stage of our journey.
His "Good-morning, Madame Johns! How do you dos?" was a pleasant and welcome sound.
We could not wait for our breakfast, but gathered round La Grosse Americaine like a parcel of children while she cut and spread slices of bread-and-butter for us.
After our regular meal was finished, it was decided that sister Margaret should take Josette, and return with Mata to open the house and make it ready for our reception. It had been the head-quarters of militia, Indians, and stragglers of various descriptions during our absence, and we could easily imagine that a little "misrule and unreason" might have had sway for that period.
We had yet seventy-two miles, by the devious winding course of the river, over first the beautiful waters of Lac de Boeuf, and then through the low, marshy lands that spread away to the Portage. An attempt was made on the part of one of the gentlemen to create a little excitement among the ladies as we approached the spot where it had been supposed the Sauks might pass on their way to the Chippewa country.
"Who knows," said he, gravely, "but they may be lurking in this neighborhood yet? If so, we shall probably have some signal. We must be on the alert!"