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The Settlers in Canada
Chapter XXXVIII Percival Transformed

Percival transformed.

It was a great annoyance to Captain Sinclair to have to wait in this manner, but there was no help for it. He was satisfied that it was the most prudent course, and therefore raised no objection. Alfred too was uneasy at the delay, as he was aware how anxious his father and mother would be during the whole time of their absence. They were glad, however, to find that the Indian woman recovered rapidly, and on the fifth day of their taking up their abode in the forest, she said that she was able to travel if they walked slow. It was therefore agreed that on the sixth day they should start again, and they did so, having saved their salt provisions, that they might not be compelled to stop, or use their rifles to procure food. The evening before, they roasted as much venison as they thought they could consume while it was good, and at daylight again proceeded, not to follow the trail, but guided by the Indian woman, in a direct course for the lodges of the Indian band under the Angry Snake.

As they had now only to proceed as fast as they could without tiring the poor Indian woman, whose head was bound up, and who was still weak from loss of blood, they made a tolerable day’s journey, and halted as before. Thus they continued their route till the sixth day, when as they drew up for the night, the Indian stated that they were only three or four miles from the Indians’ lodges, which they sought. Thereupon a council was held as to how they should proceed, and at last it was agreed upon that they should be guided by the Indian woman to a spot where they might be concealed, as near as possible to the lodges, and that when the party had arrived there, that the woman and Malachi should go and reconnoitre, to ascertain whether the chief and his band with Mary Percival had returned or not. The night was passed very impatiently, and without sleep by most of them, so anxious were they for the morrow. Long before break of day they again started, advancing with great caution, and were led by the Indian till they were within one hundred and fifty yards of the lodges, in a thick cluster of young spruce, which completely secured them from discovery. Shortly afterwards Malachi and the Indian woman, creeping on all fours, disappeared in the surrounding brushwood, that they might, if possible, gain more intelligence from listening. In the meantime, the party had their eyes on the lodges, waiting to see who should come out as soon as the sun rose, for it was hardly clear daybreak when they arrived at their place of concealment.

They had remained there about half an hour, when they perceived an Indian lad come out of one of the lodges. He was dressed in leggings and Indian shirt of deer-skin, and carried in his hand his bow and arrows. An eagle’s feather was stuck in his hair above the left ear, which marked him as the son of a chief.

“That’s my brother Percival,” said John in a low tone.

“Percival!” replied Alfred, “is it possible?”

“Yes,” whispered the Strawberry, “it is Percival, but don’t speak so loud.”

“Well, they have turned him into a regular Indian,” said Alfred; “we shall have to make a paleface of him again.”

Percival, for he it was, looked round for some time, and at last perceiving a crow flying over his head, he drew his bow, and the arrow brought the bird down at his feet.

“A capital shot,” said Captain Sinclair, “the boy has learnt something, at all events. You could not do that, John.”

“No,” replied John, “but they don’t trust him with a rifle.”

They waited some little time longer, when an Indian woman, and then an old man, came out, and in about a quarter of an hour afterwards, three more women and an Indian about twenty years old.

“I think we have the whole force now,” said Martin.

“Yes, I think so too,” replied Captain Sinclair. “I wish Malachi would come back, for I do not think he will find out more than we know ourselves.”

In about half-an-hour afterwards, Malachi and the Indian woman returned; they had crept in the brushwood to within fifty yards of the lodges, but were afraid to go nearer, as the woman said that perhaps the dogs might give the alarm, for two of them were left at home. The woman stated her conviction that the party had not come back, and now a council was again held as to their proceedings. The Indian force was nothing—an old man, one lad of twenty, and four women. These might be easily captured and secured, but the question was whether it would be desirable so to do; as in case one should by any means escape, information of their arrival might be conveyed to the absent party, and induce them not to come home with Mary Percival. This question was debated in a low tone between Malachi, Captain Sinclair, and Alfred. At last John interrupted him by saying, “They are going out to hunt, the old and the young Indian and Percival—they have all their bows and arrows.”

“The boy is right,” said Malachi. “Well, I consider this to decide the question. We can now capture the men without the women knowing anything about it. They will not expect them home till the evening, and even if they do not come, they will not be surprised or alarmed; so now we had better let them go some way, and then follow them. If we secure them, we can then decide what to do about the women.”

This was agreed upon, and Malachi explained their intentions to the Indian woman, who approved of them, but said, “The Old Raven” (referring to the old Indian) “is very cunning; you must be careful.”

The party remained in their place of concealment for another quarter of an hour, till the two Indians and Percival had quitted the open space before the lodges, and had entered the woods. They then followed in a parallel direction, Malachi and John going ahead: Martin and Alfred following so as to keep them in sight, and the remainder of the party at about the same distance behind Martin and Alfred. They continued in this manner their course through the woods for more than an hour, when a herd of deer darted past Malachi and John. They immediately stopped, and crouched, to hide themselves. Martin and Alfred perceiving this, followed their example, and the rest of the party behind, at the motion of the Strawberry, did the same. Hardly had they done so, when one of the herd, which had been pierced by an arrow, followed in the direction of the rest, and after a few bounds fell to the earth. A minute or two afterwards the hunters made their appearance, and stood by the expiring beast, where they remained for a minute or two talking, and then took out their knives to flay and cut it up. While they were thus employed, Malachi and John on one side, Alfred and Martin from another direction, and the rest of the party from a third, were creeping slowly up towards them; but to surround them completely it was necessary that the main party should divide, and send one or two more to the eastward. Captain Sinclair despatched Graves and one of the soldiers, desiring them to creep very softly till they arrived at a spot he pointed out, and then to wait for the signal to be given.

As the parties gradually approached nearer and nearer to the Indians and Percival, the Old Raven appeared to be uneasy, he looked round and round him, and once or twice laid his ear to the ground; whenever he did this, they all stopped, and almost held their breaths.

“The Indian woman says that the Old Raven is suspicious; he is sure that some one is in the woods near him, and she thinks that she had better go to him,” said the Strawberry to Captain Sinclair.

“Let her go,” said Captain Sinclair.

The Indian rose, and walked up in the direction of the Indians, who immediately turned to her as she approached.

She spoke to them, and appeared to be telling them how it was she returned. At all events, she occupied the attention of the Old Raven till the parties were close to them, when Malachi arose, and immediately all the others did the same, and rushed upon them. After a short and useless struggle, they were secured, but not before the younger Indian had wounded one of the soldiers, by stabbing him with his knife. The thongs were already fast round the arms and legs of the Indians, when Percival, who had not been tied, again attempted to escape, and by the direction of Malachi, he was bound, as well as the other two.

As soon as the prisoners were secured, Martin and Graves and the soldiers employed themselves cutting up the venison and preparing it for dinner, while the Strawberry and the Indian woman were collecting wood for a fire. In the mean while Captain Sinclair, Alfred, Malachi, and John were seated by the prisoners, and directing their attention to Percival, whom they had been compelled to bind, that he might not make his escape; for his sojourn of nearly two years in the woods with the Indians, without seeing the face of a white man, had (as has been invariably proved to be the fact in every instance where the parties were very young) wholly obliterated, for the time, his recollections of his former life—so rapid is our falling off to the savage state. To the questions of Alfred he returned no reply, and appeared not to understand him.

“Let me try him, sir,” said Malachi, “I will speak to him in the Injun tongue, he has perhaps forgotten his own. It is wonderful how soon we return to a state of nature when we are once in the woods.”

Malachi then spoke to Percival in the Indian language; Percival listened for some time, and at last replied in the same tongue.

“What does he say, Malachi?” said Alfred.

“He says he will sing his own death song; that he is the son of a warrior, and he will die like a brave.”

“Why, the boy is metamorphosed,” said Captain Sinclair; “is it possible that so short a time could have produced this?”

“Yes, sir,” replied Malachi; “in young people a very short time will change them thus, but it won’t last long. If he were to meet again with his mother at the settlement, he would by degrees forget his Injun life and become reconciled; a woman has more effect than a man. Let the Strawberry speak to him. You see, sir, he is bound, and considers himself a captive, and let him loose we must not, until we have done our work; after that, there will be no fear, and when he has been with us a short time, he will come all right again.”

Malachi called the Strawberry, and told her to speak to Percival about his home and his mother, and everything connected with the farm.

The Strawberry sat down by Percival, and in her soft tones talked to him in her own tongue of his father and mother, of his cousins, and how he had been taken by the Indians when he was hunting, how his mother had wept for him, and all had lamented his loss; running on in a low musical key from one thing to another connected and associated with his former life in the settlement, and it was evident that at last he now listened with attention. The Strawberry continued to talk to him thus, for more than an hour, when Alfred again addressed him and said, “Percival, don’t you know me?”

“Yes,” replied Percival in English, “I do; you are my brother Alfred.”

“All’s right now, sir,” said Malachi; “only he must be kept fast; but the lad’s coming to his senses again. The Strawberry will talk to him again by-and-bye.”

They then sat down to their meal; the two Indians were removed to a distance under the guard of one of the soldiers, but Percival remained with them. John sat by Percival, and, cutting off a tempting bit of venison, held it to his mouth, saying to him, “Percival, when we go home again, your hands shall be untied, and you shall have a rifle of your own instead of a bow and arrows. Come, eat this.”

This was a long speech for John, but it produced its effect, for Percival opened his mouth for the venison, and, being fed by John, made a very good dinner. As soon as their meal was over, they consulted as to what steps should next be taken. The question discussed was whether they should now capture the women who were left in the lodges, or remain quiet till the Angry Snake and his party arrived.

Malachi’s opinion was as follows:—

“I think we had, at all events, better wait till to-morrow, sir. You see, the women will not be at all surprised at the hunting party not returning for even a day or two, as they know that they will not return without game, and may not find it immediately; their absence, therefore, will create no suspicion of our being here. I think we should return to our former place of concealment, and watch their motions. There is no saying when the party with Miss Percival may return; they may have arrived while we have been away, or they may come to-morrow. It will be better, therefore, not to encumber ourselves with more prisoners unless it is necessary.”

This opinion was at last assented to, and they set off, on their return to the Indian lodges. They arrived about an hour before dusk at their hiding-place, having taken the precaution to gag the two Indians for fear of their giving a whoop as notice of their capture. Percival was very quiet, and had begun to talk a little with John.

Scarcely had they been five minutes again concealed among the spruce fir-trees, when they heard a distant whoop from the woods on the other side of the lodges.

“They are now coming on,” said Martin; “that is their signal.”

One of the Indian women from the lodges returned the whoop.

“Yes, sir, they are coming,” said Malachi. “Pray, Captain Sinclair, be quiet and sit down; you will ruin all our plans.”

“Down, Sinclair, I beg,” said Alfred.

Captain Sinclair, who was very much excited, nevertheless did as he was requested.

“Oh, Alfred!” said he; “she’s so near.”

“Yes, my good fellow, but if you wish her nearer, you must be prudent.”

“True, very true,” replied Captain Sinclair.

In about half an hour more, the Angry Snake and his party were soon seen to emerge from the woods, and it was perceived that four of the Indians carried a litter made of branches between them.

“She could walk no farther, sir,” said Malachi to Captain Sinclair; “so they are carrying her; I told you that they would not hurt her.”

“Let me once see her get out of the litter, and I shall be satisfied,” replied Captain Sinclair.

The Indians soon were over the clearing, and stopped at one of the lodges; Mary Percival was lifted out, and was seen to walk with difficulty into the wigwam, followed by two of the Indian women. A short parley took place between the Angry Snake and the other two women, and the chief and rest of the party then went into another lodge.

“All’s right so far, sir,” observed Malachi; “they have left her to the charge of the two women in a lodge by herself, and so there will be no fear for her when we make the attack, which I think we must do very shortly, for if it is quite dark some of them may escape, and may trouble us afterwards.”

“Let us do it immediately,” said Captain Sinclair.

“No, not immediately, sir; we have yet an hour and a-half daylight. We will wait one hour, for I think that as they have nothing to eat, and are pretty well tired from carrying Miss Percival, they will, in all probability, go to sleep, as Injuns always do. An hour hence will be the beat time for us to fall upon them.”

“You are right, Malachi,” replied Alfred. “Sinclair, you must curb your impatience.”

“I must, I believe,” replied Captain Sinclair; “but it will be a tedious hour for me. Let us pass it away in making out arrangements; we have but six to deal with.”

“And only two rifles,” replied Alfred; “so we are pretty sure of success.”

“We must watch first,” said Martin, “to see if they all continue in the same lodge, for if they divide we must arrange accordingly. Who will remain with the prisoners?”

“I won’t,” said John, in a positive manner.

“You must, John, if it is decided that you do,” said Alfred.

“Better not, sir,” replied Malachi; “for as soon as the boy hears the crack of the rifles he will leave his prisoners and join us; that I’m sure of. No, sir, the Strawberry can be left with the prisoners. I’ll give her my hunting-knife; that will be sufficient.”

They remained for about half-an-hour more watching the lodges, but everything appeared quiet, and not a single person came out. Having examined the priming of their rifles, every man was directed to take up a certain position, so as to surround the buildings and support each other. John was appointed to the office of looking after his cousin Mary, and preventing the women from escaping with her from the lodge in which she was confined; and John took this office willingly, as he considered it one of importance, although it had been given him more with a view that he might not be exposed to danger. Leaving the prisoners to the charge of the Strawberry, who, with her knife drawn, stood over them, ready to act upon the slightest attempt of escape on their part, the whole party now crept softly towards the lodges by the same path as had been taken by Malachi and the Indian woman.

As soon as they had all arrived they waited for a few minutes while Malachi reconnoitred, and when they perceived that he did so, they all rose up and hastened to their allotted stations round the lodge into which the Angry Snake and his followers had entered. The Indians appeared to be asleep, for everything remained quiet.

“Let us first lead Miss Percival away to a place of safety,” whispered Captain Sinclair.

“Do you do it, then,” said Alfred; “there are plenty of us without you.”

Captain Sinclair hastened to the lodge in which Miss Percival had been placed, and opened the door. Mary Percival, as soon as she beheld Captain Sinclair, uttered a loud scream of delight, and, rising from the skins on which she had been laid, fell upon his neck. Captain Sinclair caught her in his arms, and was bearing her out of the lodge, when an Indian woman caught him by the coat; but John, who had entered, putting the muzzle of his rifle into their faces, they let go and retreated, and Captain Sinclair bore away Mary in his arms into the brushwood, where the Strawberry was standing over the Indian prisoners. The scream of Mary Percival had roused the Indians, who, after their exhaustion and privations, were in a sound sleep; but still no movement was to be heard in the lodge, and a debate between Malachi and Alfred whether they should enter the lodge or not, was put an end to by a rifle being fired from the lodge, and the fall of one of the soldiers, who was next to Alfred. Another shot followed, and Martin received a bullet in his shoulder, and then out bounded the Angry Snake, followed by his band, the chief whirling his tomahawk and springing upon Malachi, while the others attacked Alfred and Martin, who were nearest to the door of the lodge. The rifle of Malachi met the breast of the Angry Snake as he advanced, and the contents were discharged through his body. The other Indians fought desperately, but the whole of the attacking party closing in, they were overpowered. Only two of them, however, were taken alive, and these were seriously wounded. They were tied and laid on the ground.

“He was a bad man, sir,” said Malachi, who was standing over the body of the Indian chief; “but he will do no more mischief.”

“Are you much hurt, Martin?” inquired Alfred.

“No, sir, not much; the ball has passed right through and touched no bone; so I am in luck. I’ll go to the Strawberry, and get her to bind it up.”

“He is quite dead, sir,” said Graves, who was kneeling by the side of the soldier who had been shot by the first rifle.

“Poor fellow!” exclaimed Alfred. “Well, I’m not sorry that they commenced the attack upon us, for I do not know whether I could have used my rifle unless they had done so.”

“They never expected quarter, sir,” said Malachi.

“I suppose not. Now, what are we to do with the women? They can do no harm.”

“Not much, sir; but at all events, we must put it out of their power. We must take possession of all the weapons we can find in the lodges. We have their two rifles; but we must collect all the bows and arrows, tomahawks, and knives, and either destroy or keep possession of them. John, will you look to that? Take Graves with you.”

“Yes,” replied John, who, with Graves, immediately commenced his search of the lodges.

The two women, who had been in the lodge with Mary Percival, had remained where they were, as John’s rifle had kept them from leaving the lodge; but the other two had escaped into the woods during the affray. This was of little consequence; indeed, the others were told that they might go away, if they would; and, as soon as they heard this from Malachi, they followed the example of their companions. John and Graves brought out all the arms they could find, and Malachi and Alfred then went to the bushes to which Mary Percival and Sinclair had previously retired. Alfred embraced his cousin, who was still too greatly agitated to say much, being almost overpowered by the sudden transition in all her thoughts and feelings:—and, in the variety of her emotions, perhaps the most bewildering was that occasioned by the re-appearance of Percival,—like a restoration from the dead. Alfred was in consultation with Malachi, when he perceived the flames bursting out of the lodges. Martin, as soon as his wound was dressed, had returned and set fire to them.

“It’s all right, sir,” said Malachi; “it will leave the proof of our victory, and be a caution to other Injuns.”

“But what will become of the women?”

“They will join some other band, sir, and tell the story. It is better that they should.”

“And our prisoners, what shall we do with them?”

“Release them; by-and-bye, sir, we shall have nothing to fear from them, but we will first take them two or three days’ march into the woods, in case they have alliance with any other band whom they might call to their assistance.”

“And the wounded Indians?”

“Must be left to Providence, sir. We cannot take them. We will leave them provisions and water. The women will come back and find them; if they are alive they will look after them; if dead, bury them. But here comes John, with some bears’-skins which he has saved for Miss Mary; that was thoughtful of the boy. As soon as the flames are down, we will take up our quarters in the clearing, and set a watch for the night; and to-morrow, with the help of God, we will commence our journey back. We shall bring joy to your father and mother, and the sooner we do it the better; for they must be anything but comfortable at our long absence.”

“Yes,” said Mary Percival; “what a state of suspense they must be in! Truly, as the Bible saith, ‘Hope deferred maketh the heart sick.’”

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