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The Settlers in Canada
Chapter XXXIV Malachi and the Indian

It was in the first week of June that Malachi, when he was out in the woods, perceived an Indian, who came to wards him. He was a youth of about twenty or twenty-one years old, tall and slightly made; he carried his bow and arrows and his tomahawk, but had no gun. Malachi was at that time sitting down on the trunk of a fallen tree; he was not more than two miles from the house, and had gone out with his rifle without any particular intent, unless it was that, as he expected he should soon receive some communication from the Indians, he wished to give them an opportunity of speaking to him alone. The Indian came up to where Malachi was, and took a seat by him, without saying a word.

“Is my son from the West?” said Malachi, in the Indian tongue, after a silence of one or two minutes.

“The Young Otter is from the West,” replied the Indian. “The old men have told him of the Grey Badger, who has lived the life of a snake, and who has hunted with the fathers of those who are now old. Does my father live with the white man?”

“He lives with the white man,” replied Malachi; “he has no Injun blood in his veins.”

“Has the white man many in his lodge?” said the Indian.

“Yes; many young men and many rifles,” replied Malachi.

The Indian did not continue this conversation, and there was a silence, of some minutes. Malachi was convinced that the young Indian had been sent to intimate that Percival was alive and in captivity, and he resolved to wait patiently till he brought up the subject.

“Does not the cold kill the white man?” said the Indian at last.

“No; the white man can bear the winter’s ice as well as an Injun. He hunts as well, and brings home venison.”

“Are all who came here with him now in the white man’s lodge?”

“No, not all; one white child slept in the snow, and is in the land of spirits,” replied Malachi.

Here there was a pause in the conversation for some minutes; at last the young Indian said, “A little bird sang in my ear, and it said, ‘The white man’s child is not dead; it wandered about in the woods and was lost, and the Indian found him, and took him to his wigwam in the Far West.’”

“Did not the little bird lie to the Young Otter?” replied Malachi.

“No; the little bird sung what was true,” replied the Indian. “The white boy is alive and in the lodge of the Indian.”

“There are many white men in the country who have children,” replied Malachi; “and children are often lost. The little bird may have sung of the child of some other white man.”

“The white boy had a rifle in his hand, and snow-shoes on his feet.”

“So have all they who go out to hunt in the winter’s snow,” replied Malachi.

“But the white boy was found near to the white man’s lodge.”

“Then why was not the boy taken back to the white man by the Indians who found him?”

“They were going to their own wigwams and could not turn aside; besides, they feared to come near to the white man’s lodge after the sun was down; as my father says he has many young men and many rifles.”

“But the white man does not raise his rifle against the Injun, whether he comes by day or by night,” replied Malachi. “At night he kills the prowling wolf when he comes near to the lodge.”

The Indian again stopped and was silent. He knew by the words of Malachi that the wolf’s skin, with which the Indian had been covered when he was crawling to the palisades and had been shot by John, had been discovered; Malachi, after a while, renewed the conversation.

“Is the Young Otter of a near tribe?”

“The lodges of our tribe are twelve days’ journey to the westward,” replied the Indian.

“The chief of the Young Otter’s band is a great warrior?”

“He is,” replied the Indian.

“Yes,” replied Malachi. “The Angry Snake is a great warrior. Did he send the Young Otter to me to tell me that the white boy was alive and in his wigwam?”

The Indian again paused. He perceived that Malachi knew where he came from, and from whom. At last he said, “It is many moons since the Angry Snake has taken care of the white boy, and has fed him with venison; many moons that he has hunted for him to give him food; and the white boy loves the Angry Snake as a father, and the Angry Snake loves the boy as his son. He will adopt him, and the white boy will be the chief of the tribe. He will forget the white men, and become red as an Indian.”

“The boy is forgotten by the white man, who has long numbered him with the dead,” replied Malachi.

“The white man has no memory,” replied the Indian, “to forget so soon; but it is not so. He would make many presents to him who would bring back the boy.”

“And what presents could he make?” replied Malachi; “the white man is poor, and hunts with his young men as the Injun does. What has the white man to give that the Injun covets? He has no whisky.”

“The white man has powder, and lead, and rifles,” replied the Indian; “more than he can use, locked up in his store-house.”

“And will the Angry Snake bring back the white boy if the white man gives him powder, and lead, and rifles?” inquired Malachi.

“He will make a long journey, and bring the white boy with him,” replied the Indian; “but first let the white man say what presents he will give.”

“He shall be spoken to,” replied Malachi, “and his answer shall be brought, but the Young Otter must not go to the white man’s lodge. A red-skin is not safe from the rifles of the young men. When the moon is at the full I will meet the Young Otter after the sun is down, at the eastern side of the long prairie. Is it good?”

“Good,” replied the Indian, who rose, turned on his heel, and walked away into the forest.

When Malachi returned to the house, he took an opportunity of communicating to Alfred what had taken place. After some conversation, they agreed that they would make Captain Sinclair, who had that morning arrived from the fort, their confidant as to what had occurred, and decide with him upon what steps should be taken. Captain Sinclair was very much surprised, and equally delighted, when he heard that Percival was still alive, and warmly entered into the subject.

“The great question is, whether it would not be better to accede to the terms of this scoundrel of an Indian chief,” observed Captain Sinclair. “What are a few pounds of powder, and a rifle or two, compared with the happiness which will be produced by the return of Percival to his parents, who have so long lamented him as dead?”

“It’s not that, sir,” replied Malachi. “I know that Mr Campbell would give his whole store-room to regain his boy, but we must consider what will be the consequence if he does so. One thing is certain, that the Angry Snake will not be satisfied with a trifling present; he will ask many rifles, perhaps more than we have at the farm, and powder and shot in proportion; for he has mixed much with white people, especially when the French were here, and he knows how little we value such things, and how much we love our children. But, sir, in the first place, you supply him and his band with arms to use against us at any other time, and really make them formidable; and in the next place, you encourage him to make some other attempt to obtain similar presents—for he will not be idle. Recollect, sir, that we have in all probability killed one of their band, when he came to reconnoitre the house in the skin of a wolf, and that will never he forgotten, but revenged as soon as it can be. Now, sir, if we give him arms and ammunition, we shall put the means of revenge in his hands, and I should not be surprised to find us one day attacked by him and his band, and it may be, overpowered by means of these rifles which you propose to give him.”

“There is much truth and much good sense in what you say, Malachi—indeed, I think it almost at once decides the point, and that we must not consent to his terms; but then what must we do to recover the boy?”

“That is the question which puzzles me,” replied Alfred, “for I perfectly agree with Malachi, that we must not give him arms and ammunition, and I doubt if he would accept of any thing else.”

“No, sir, that he will not, depend upon it,” replied Malachi. “I think there is but one way that will give us any chance.”

“What, then, is your idea, Malachi?”

“The Angry Snake with his band were tracking us, and had we not been too strong, would have attacked and murdered us all, that is dear. Not daring to do that, he has stolen Percival, and detains him, to return him at his own price. Now, sir, the Young Otter has come to us, and offers to come again. We had given him no pledge of safe conduct, and, therefore, when he comes again, we must have an ambush ready for him and make him prisoner; but then you see, sir, we must have the assistance of the Colonel, for he must be confined at the fort; we could not well keep him at the farm. In the first place, it would be impossible then to withhold the secret from Mr and Mrs Campbell; and, in the next, we should have to be on the look-out for an attack every night for his rescue; but if the Colonel was to know the whole circumstances, and would assist us, we might capture the Injun lad, and hold him as a hostage for Master Percival, till we could make some terms with the Angry Snake.”

“I like your idea very much, Malachi,” replied Captain Sinclair, “and if, Alfred, you agree with me, I will acquaint the Colonel with the whole of what has passed when I return to-night, and see if he will consent to our taking such a step. When are you to meet the Indian, Malachi?”

“In three days, that is on Saturday; it will be the full of the moon, and then I meet him at night at the end of the prairie nearest to the fort, so that there will be no difficulty in doing all we propose without Mr and Mrs Campbell being aware of any thing that has taken place.”

“I think we cannot do better than you have proposed,” said Alfred.

“Be it so, then,” said Captain Sinclair. “I will be here again to-morrow—no, not to-morrow, but the day after will be better, and then I will give you the reply of the Colonel, and make such arrangements as may be necessary.”

“That’s all right, sir,” replied Malachi; “and now all we have to do is to keep our own secret; so, perhaps, Captain Sinclair, you had better go back to the young ladies, for Miss Mary may imagine that it must be something of very great importance which can have detained you so long from her presence;” and Malachi smiled as he finished his remark.

“There’s good sense in that observation, Malachi,” said Alfred, laughing. “Come, Sinclair.”

Captain Sinclair quitted in the evening, and went back to the fort. He returned at the time appointed, and informed them that the Colonel fully approved of their plan of holding the young Indian as a hostage, and that he would secure him in the fort as soon as he was brought in.

“Now, do we want any assistance from the fort? Surely not, to capture an Indian lad—at least, so I said to the Colonel,” continued Captain Sinclair.

“No, sir, we want no assistance, as you say. I am his match myself, if that were all; but it is not strength which is required. He is as lithe and supple as an eel, and as difficult to hold, that I am certain of. If we were to use our rifles there would be no difficulty; but to hold him will give some trouble to two of us, and if once he breaks loose he would be too fleet for any of us.”

“Well, then, Malachi, how shall we proceed?”

“Why, sir, I must meet him, and you and Mr Alfred and Martin must be hid at a distance, and gradually steal near to us. Martin shall have his deer-thongs all ready, and when you pounce upon him he must bind him at once. Martin is used to them, and knows how to manage it.”

“Well, if you think that we three cannot manage him, let us have Martin.”

“It isn’t strength, sir,” replied Malachi, “but he will slip through your fingers if not well tied in half a minute. Now, we will just walk down to where I intend to meet him, and survey the place, and then I’ll show you where you must be, for we must not be seen together in that direction to-morrow, for he may be lurking about, and have some suspicion.”

They then walked to the end of the prairie nearest the fort, which was about a mile from the house, and Malachi having selected his ground, and pointed out to them where to conceal themselves, they returned to the house, Alfred having made arrangements when and where he and Martin would meet Captain Sinclair on the day appointed.

The next day passed, and Malachi, as the sun sank behind the lake, walked out to the end of the prairie. He had not been there ten minutes when the young Indian stood before him. He was armed as before with his tomahawk and bow and arrows; but Malachi had come out expressly without his rifle.

Malachi, as soon as he perceived the Indian, sat down, as is the usual custom among them when they hold a talk, and the Young Otter followed his example.

“Has my father talked to the white man?” said the Indian after a short silence.

“The white man grieves for the loss of his boy, and his squaw weeps,” replied Malachi. “The Angry Snake must bring the boy to the white man’s lodge and receive presents.”

“Will the white man be generous?” continued the Indian.

“He has powder, and lead, and rifles, and tobacco: will such presents please the Angry Snake?”

“The Angry Snake had a dream,” replied the Indian, “and he told me his dream. He dreamt that the white boy was put into his mother’s arms, who wept for joy, and the white man gave to the Angry Snake ten rifles, and two kegs of powder, and as much lead as four men could carry away.”

“’Twas a good dream,” replied Malachi, “and it will come true when the white boy comes back to his mother.”

“The Angry Snake had another dream. He dreamt that the white man received his child, and pushed the Angry Snake out from the door of his lodge.”

“That was bad,” replied Malachi. “Look at me, my son; say, did you ever hear that the Grey Badger said a lie?” And Malachi laid hold of the Indian’s arm as he spoke.

This was the signal agreed upon between Malachi and the party concealed, who rushed forward and seized the Indian.

The Young Otter sprang up in spite of their endeavours to keep him, and would certainly have escaped, for he had got his tomahawk clear, and was about to wield it around his head, had not Martin already passed one of the deer-thongs round his ankle, by which the Indian was thrown again to the ground. His arms were then secured behind his back with other deer-skin thongs, and another passed round his ankle, and given to Alfred.

“You were right, Malachi,” said Captain Sinclair. “How he contrived to twist himself out of our grasp I cannot imagine; but he certainly would have been off, and probably have broken our heads before he went.”

“I know the nature of these Injuns, sir,” replied Malachi; “they’re never safe, even when tied, if the thong does not cut into the bone; but you have him now, sir, fast enough, and the sooner you get to the fort the better. You have your rifles in the bush?”

“Yes,” replied Martin, “you’ll find them behind the large oak tree.”

“I’ll fetch them; not that I think there’s much danger of a rescue.”

“We have not far to take him,” said Captain Sinclair, “for, as I wished you and Alfred not to be so long away as to induce questions to be asked, I have a file of men and a corporal about half a mile off, concealed in the bush. But Malachi, it is as well to let the Indian know that he is only detained as a hostage, and, will be returned as soon as the boy is sent back.”

Malachi addressed the Indian in his own tongue, and told him what Captain Sinclair requested.

“Tell him that there are several Indian women about the fort, who will take any message he may send to the Angry Snake.”

The Young Otter made no reply to anything said by Malachi, but looked around him very impatiently.

“Be off as fast as you can,” said Malachi, “for, depend upon it, the Angry Snake was to meet him after his talk with me; I see it by his wandering eye, and his looking round for assistance. I will go with you, and return with Alfred and Martin, for I have no rifle.”

“You can take mine, Malachi, as soon as we come up to the soldiers.”

This was done in a few minutes. Captain Sinclair then took charge of the Indian, and set off with his party for the fort. Malachi, Alfred, and Martin returned to the house, and before they entered the prairie, Martin detected the tall figure of an Indian at a short distance, in the shade of the trees.

“Yes, I was sure of it,” said Malachi. “It was well that I did not go back without you. After all, in the woods, a man’s no man without his rifle.”

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