When I was able to be abroad some part of the day, Constance and I loitered at first about the garden beside the house, the plants of which were beginning to turn with the early frost. In the park across the way, where all the roads meet, the hickory and ash were already bare and staring, the limbs of the elm showing black and cold through the scant foliage that yet clung to their extended branches. The oak and willow still held their leaves, but discolored and of bilious hue, as if sick unto death. In pleasing contrast to these, and in rebuke, it seemed, the maples welcomed the frost with pink and red and paling yellow, as if they thought the coming winter a thing to look forward to with delight and not with dread.
The first day we ventured into the street we ran across Blott, grooming a horse near the stable door.
“Howdy do,” he exclaimed, taking off his cap on seeing Constance; “I’m glad to see you out an’ not lookin’ so pale. It’s a fine day for inv’lids, miss, an’ purty for washin’ an’ dryin’ things,” he added, looking across the road at the sheets and pillow-cases flapping in the warm air.
“How are you, Blott, and the dapple-gray?” I cried, going to her. For it was Uncle Job’s mare, and the one I had ridden to Appletop that morning.
“Hello, Gilbert! is that you? Well, I’d never know’d you,” he exclaimed. “I’m glad to see you out agin, though, for ‘ceptin’ for you I’d not be curryin’ horses now.”
“Not this mare, anyway,” I answered, stroking her fine face and looking into her mild responsive eyes.
“No; an’ she’s a good one if I’m a judge, an’ fit to ride for one’s life.”
“So is every horse, Blott,” I answered, rubbing my face against hers. “They’ll all do the best they can.”
“All horses is good, Gilbert, if not broken by fools or the like,” Blott answered, striking his currycomb against a post, and making the dust fly; “an’ I never hired an old, broken-down livery plug in my life that I didn’t want to buy it afterward, if ’twas gentle an’ tried to please, which they mostly does.”
“That’s so; but how are you getting on? As good as new and better, if your looks show,” I answered, remarking his fine color and clear eyes.
“Yes; the bullet went through me as clean as a whistle, an’ if the ashes of the old cabin was scraped away you’d find it there sure. Then I’m livin’ a decent kind of life, too. The malary’s a thing you don’t want, though, Gilbert. It’s like the bots, an’ if you ever git it be careful of the medicine, for it’s worse’n the disease. It makes one careless-like; kindy as if you was coastin’ on a big bob. I used to see lots of signs as I shot down the hill, that said as plain as words, ‘Hell’s at the bottom, Blott’; but I kept on, not carin’. When I’d reached the bottom, Burke’s shot tipped me over, an’ though I rolled within a foot of the openin’ I didn’t go in, an’ ever since I’ve bin tryin’ to crawl back agin to the top. It’s slow work, though, both my tendons bein’ bowed an’ my wind not much to speak of. I’m not such a fool after all, though, as I look,” he went on in his droll way. “For it’s a wise chicken that knows enough to stay near the barn, but after the hawks git most of their feathers they learn better’n to wander too far.”
“Well, the hawks haven’t picked your bones,” I answered, scanning his great frame.
“No; an’ I can’t think how it all happened, for I wasn’t wild when a boy. I was tied up too tight, I guess. You’ve got to leave some slack in a boy’s galluses, Gilbert, if you want to keep the buttons on his pants. Don’t forget that when you’re grown, if you don’t want to raise a lot of wrecks.”
“Yes; but good by. Take good care of the mare,” I answered, stroking her nose as we walked away.
“You bet your last plunk, an’ for what she’s done for me, if nothin’ else.”
As I grew stronger, Constance and I extended our walks into the town, standing by to watch the coming and going of the traders and farmers. The little village as yet made no open pretense of grandeur, nor hinted at the hope of many that it would one day become a city. Such things were talked about, however, quietly, by the more aspiring, and if the authorities still permitted the edge of the sidewalk to be used as a rack for horses, and the cows to wander at will, it was in the interest of trade and neighborly accommodation, and for the present only. For, like a young maiden who dreams of taking her hair out of braid, some there were in the town who were beginning to discuss the need of improvements and things that cities require and older places have, led on by wily politicians and expectant contractors; though nothing came of it, or ever would.
After a while, like young birds gaining strength, we wandered as far as the ferry, a mile or more away. Here we spent our time watching the river and gathering the crimson leaves and flowers that still blossomed along its borders. These visits were made much of by Mrs. Hayward, the young wife of the ferryman, who both of us came to know and love. If it happened that she could get away from her household duties, she would often go with us, and at other times, if it was convenient, would entertain us at the little cabin where she and Mr. Hayward lived. In this manner Constance and she soon became great friends, and because of it the lady in time took me into her liking as well. Later, when the nuts were right for gathering, we sometimes extended our visits a great way into the country. Thus it came about one day, when we were far from Appletop, that a storm coming on, we sought shelter in a house some distance from the road, as if in a place by itself, so secluded were its surroundings. The mistress made us welcome, and her husband coming in while we sat, Constance cried out at seeing him that it was Blake, the carpenter who had fixed up the treasure-room at the Dragon. Like most people who came into the new country, the Blakes had pre-empted a piece of land and, building a house thereon, made it their home; but he, being a carpenter and builder, sought employment where he could find it, and oftentimes a great way off, as in our case.
The good people did all they could to make us prolong our stay, and this we were only too glad to do, because of their kindness and desire to be hospitable. Mr. Blake was a stout little man, slow of speech, with eyes of a reddish color, and having sharp eyebrows that stuck out like bayonets. Mr. and Mrs. Blake had a way when they talked, which pleased us very much, of resting their hands on each other’s shoulders and prefixing what they said to each other by some endearing phrase, as people sometimes will who are much alone or greatly attached to each other. As soon as she learned who we were, Mrs. Blake, without further waiting or any pretense of formality, at once assumed toward us, and naturally, the air of a mother, so that we were in a little while talking and laughing as if we had known her always. When it came time to leave, Mr. Blake took hold of my hand and held it as if meditating some form of speech. Then, calling to his wife and looking to her as if for help, he said:
“I have heard all about your life, my son, and if you would care to leave Appletop and come and live with us, you having no regular home, we should be glad to have you, and would make it pleasant if we could, and treat you like our own”; saying which, and unable to go on, he put my hand in that of his wife’s, folding his arms in a homely way, as if he found them a great bother when not in use.
“Indeed, we should be glad to have you come and make your home with us, for you would take the place of our boy,” Mrs. Blake responded, tears starting in her eyes at the reference. “Please come, as Mr. Blake says, and we will try and make your life happier than it has been since you, too, have been alone.”
This offer, so full of love and gentle kindness, moved me more than I could find words to tell, and promising that if I went to any one I would come to them, we drove off, Mr. and Mrs. Blake standing with their hands on each other’s shoulders, watching until the forest hid us from view.
Some days after this we set apart an afternoon for a visit to the Singletons. As if to do us honor they gave us tea, and besides did and said many pleasant things to show their kindness; but most of all, I sat watching Miss Betty, as if I might thus in some way come to know how she regarded Uncle Job. On our way home, too, this formed the subject of conversation, but without our being the wiser for anything we had seen or heard. On reaching the Dragon, however, all such thoughts were driven from our minds by seeing Moth making his way across the street in the direction of the Dragon. Hurrying into the house, he followed us to the door, demanding to see Mr. Seymour, but the latter would by no means go out nor let the other come in. While Moth stood thus expostulating with the servant, Uncle Job came up, and seeing him, stopped and bowed politely, but without saying a word.
“I am sorry, Mr. Throckmorton,” Moth began, without preface of any kind, “to thwart you in regard to your nephew, your intention being worthy, no doubt. This I am compelled to do, however, and I come now with the decree of the court, due and legal summons having been given, to claim his person, and I demand that you give him up peaceably and without show of resistance.” Saying which, he took a document from his pocket and held it out for Uncle Job to examine, adding, “Here is my authority, sir!”
Uncle Job, neither taking the paper nor making any motion to do so, answered directly:
“I have also the decree of our court, due summons having in like manner been given, awarding the lad to my care, Mr. Moth, and so I shall not be able to comply with your request.”
At this Moth started back, but presently regaining himself, answered:
“My decree, Mr. Throckmorton, will be found to antedate yours, and therefore holds priority.”
“I think not,” Uncle Job replied, shortly.
“I know it does,” Moth answered, in a heat. “I went before the court the day of its opening after the summer vacation, and my decree is as of that date, and nothing you have, therefore, can antedate it.”
“I did the like here, Mr. Moth, and so the order I hold must bear the same date as yours,” and Uncle Job took the paper from his pocket and held it for the other to examine. At this I thought Moth would have toppled over, so great was his surprise and rage. “So you see you are forestalled, Mr. Moth, and Gilbert being here our judge will, of course, exercise his prerogative; and now, as there is nothing more to be said about the matter, I will bid you good day”; and Uncle Job, bowing politely, turned on his heel and walked away.
“The judge at his home will take precedence of all others,” Moth yelled after him; “and if necessary I will appeal to the higher courts. I’ll not take denial and will have the child whether or no.” To this Uncle Job made no response, and Moth, after a while, finding no attention paid to his threats, turned and went the way he came.
When he was gone I looked at Constance, and with such dismay in my face that she cried out:
“He can’t do anything, Gilbert, I am sure he can’t. Your Uncle Job said so, and I would believe him before I would that mean little lawyer.”
To this I made no response, for to tell the truth, since Moth had overcome Fox and shown such courage and cunning, my fear of him had increased beyond all bounds. Indeed, I thought him capable of any desperate thing that might come into his head; and so, going back into the room I sat down, at a loss what to do or say.
“You haven’t anything to fear, Gilbert, indeed you haven’t,” Constance kept on repeating, hovering about me like a gentle dove, and as if dreading some foolish resolve I might make.
“You don’t know what he is capable of, and the only thing left for me is to go away. I have made Uncle Job enough trouble already, and it’s no use, for Moth will never give me any peace.”
“You’re not going away, Gilbert; you can’t, and there is no need. Besides, where would you go?” she persisted, resting her face against mine.
“I don’t know, but I am going, and to-night. I’m tired of being chased about the country by that little devil. I would like to kill him!” I answered, feeling very sore.
“Oh, don’t say that, Gilbert, please don’t!” she answered, putting her arms about me as if she would in this way shield and restrain me.
“I didn’t mean it, Constance, you know; but Moth’ll not stop at anything nor wait for the courts, and once he gets me, there will be no help for it. It would be just like him to put me in jail—but where I am to go I don’t know.”
“Don’t go at all, Gilbert, please don’t, there’s no need,” she pleaded.
To this I made no response, and for a time we sat without speaking, clasping each other’s hands. At last, seeing I was determined, she looked up timidly and as if she had found a way out of our trouble.
“If you will leave, Gilbert, why not go to the Blakes? They are such gentle people, too, and Moth would never be able to find you there.”
“It’s the very thing,” I cried, jumping up, “and not like going away, either, for I shall be near you all the time; you are always my good angel, Constance,” I added, kissing the sweet creature.
“Then you will go there?”
“Yes; but no one must be told, so that if Uncle Job is asked, he can say he doesn’t know.”
“No one but Blott, for he must go with you. He will not betray us, I’m sure,” she answered.
On Blott’s being sent for, she went to him, and taking his great hand said, in a hesitating, timid way, “We want you to do something for us, and we know you will never speak of it to any one.”
“A tenpenny nail in an oak plank, miss, can’t hold it better’n I can a secret if it concerns you or Gilbert there,” he answered, with more resolution than was usual with him.
“It isn’t much, but we think it a good deal,” she answered, still hesitating.
“If you think that, it’s mount’ins to me,” he answered.
“Thank you; and it is good of you to say so. Gilbert has to go away to-night, Blott,” she hurried on, “and without any one knowing it, or where he is, and I want you to go with him.”
“All right, miss, I’ll do anything you say; but what’s the matter, if there ain’t no harm in askin’?”
“Moth’s here,” I answered, “and he is determined to make trouble, and so I am going away.”
“Is that woodtick after you agin? Well, if that’s all you’re goin’ for, I can fix him quicker’n a butterfly can flap his wings,” Blott responded, straightening up. “See that fist? If it was to hit him, he wouldn’t light this side of Rock River’s foamin’ waters. I hain’t had a scrap since the cold winter of ’32, an’ I’m just dyin’ for one.”
“No, Blott; it wouldn’t help me, and only get you into trouble,” I answered.
“Well, just as you say; but if you’d let me give the little burr a thrashin’—nothin’ to hurt, you know—he’d never bother you agin.”
“No, that wouldn’t do. The more he is opposed, the worse he is. The only thing for me to do is to go away until things can be fixed up by Uncle Job.”
“All right, if you’ll have it that way; but what am I to do?”
“Saddle two horses, and wait for Gilbert outside the town, where he will join you after dark,” Constance interposed, and as if ordering a squadron of cavalry.
“Not far, and you can be back by midnight.”
“All right, miss; I’ll wait for him behind the grove of mulberry-trees, if he knows where they is.”
“Yes,” I answered; “and take the mare, if she is in the stable”; and with that he hurried off to get things in readiness for our departure.
When it was time to go, Constance and I grieved as if we were to be separated forever, and thus we were again parted. Going to the place appointed, I found Blott as we had arranged, and mounting my horse we rode away in the shadows of the night, glad to get off so easily. On our way we stayed for supper at the Eagle’s Nest, a rude tavern on the edge of the prairie, where Constance and I had often stopped in our wanderings about the country. Blott was in great humor at the table, and as there were no other guests we had the place to ourselves.
“I suppose you know how this tavern got its name?” he at last spoke up, transferring the skeleton of a prairie chicken to a second plate, and helping himself to a quail wrapped about with thin slices of pork.
“No; how did it?” I answered, without looking up.
“Well, on the hill back of the house an eagle has her nest, or did six years ago when we camped here for a week durin’ the Black Hawk war; an’ that’s how it was.”
“Tell me about it—the war, I mean,” I answered, my curiosity at once excited, as it always was concerning everything that had to do with Black Hawk.
“I’ve always thought the beginnin’ of that trouble different from most wars,” he answered, helping himself to a couple of slices of toast.
“Tell me about it; you have time while we’re finishing our supper.”
“Well, once upon a time, a great while ago,” he began, “there was a beautiful Injun maiden called the Red Rose. She was the belle of the Sac Nation, an’ lived in the Injun village overlookin’ the Rock an’ the Mississippi, where her people had been nigh on a hundred years. Her eyes were like a limpid spring in the dark woods, an’ all the young warriors were her lovers, for there was none like her for modesty an’ attractive ways. She was as purty as a wild-flower, an’ a great dancer, an’ fleet of foot as the coyote, an’ gentle as the cooin’ dove. Her father’s name was Standin’ Bear, an’ a fierce old warrior an’ hunter he was, but sometimes given to strong drink when greatly tempted. Well, at that time, along about 1800, the early French settlers livin’ on Cuvier River (which is French for Copper), bein’ friv’lous an’ fond of dancin’, as people are now, gave a great ball, an’ white women bein’ scarce, the Injuns were told to bring their squaws. So to please her, Standin’ Bear took Red Rose to the party. Whisky was plenty, as it always is at such places, an’ while Red Rose danced an’ was happy, thinkin’ no harm, Standin’ Bear drunk more’n he should, an’ while in that state a white man insulted his daughter in a way no one could overlook; but when Standin’ Bear sought to punish the brute, he was knocked down an’ dragged out by the scalp-lock, an’ given a kick besides. This no white man nor Injun could endure; but Standin’ Bear, not havin’ any redress, waited till the man come out after the ball was over, when he fell on him with a fierce cry an’ killed him. You’ll say it was murder, but it was the Injuns’ way, an’ without fuss or scarin’ of women. A white man would have gone swaggerin’ an’ cussin’ into the room an’ shot the feller, an’ everybody’d said it served him right. That’s the difference between the two, an’ one’s as bad as the other. After he’d killed the man, Standin’ Bear fled with Red Rose to their village, travelin’ day an’ night till they were safe.”
“Then what happened?”
“What always happens when an Injun kills a white man,” Blott went on, pouring himself a cup of coffee. “Word was sent to the gov’nor at St. Louis, an’ soldiers were hurried off to demand Standin’ Bear’s surrender. This bein’ done, they took him to St. Louis, where he was to be hung, but on the advice of Black Hawk, Quashquamme, the great chief of the Sacs, went down to see if he couldn’t save Standin’ Bear, who was some kin to him. When he got to St. Louis he found white men didn’t settle differences of that kind by acceptin’ money or property outright, as the Injuns do. While waitin’ he fell in with a man named Shoto, an old fur trader, who, knowin’ the Sacs to be reliable Injuns, volunteered to supply the chief an’ his companions with what they wanted. In this way he got the Injun in debt about two thousand dollars, for a lot of truck hardly worthy carryin’ off. Then Shoto, to get his money, proposed that the Sacs an’ Foxes sell their land to the government, an’ this is what come about in the end. It was agreed that Standin’ Bear should be freed, an’ the Injuns git a sum of money every year, which, of course, they didn’t git, that bein’ the government’s way of treatin’ Injuns. Well, at the appointed time the prison door was thrown open an’ Standin’ Bear walked out, Red Rose bein’ a little way apart waitin’ for him. As he hurried toward her, an’ she stood with her arms outstretched, there was the crack of a rifle, an’ Standin’ Bear dropped dead at her feet. At this she uttered a piercin’ cry, an’ fell beside him. Her companions, runnin’ up, carried her off, thinkin’ she was dead; an’ while she come to, she was never the same as before, but sick of mind like, an’ believin’ her father was come, she’d hold out her arms, sayin’: ‘You didn’t believe the pale faces, but I knew they’d keep their word,’ an’ this the poor thing would repeat over an’ over a thousand times a day, smilin’ an’ holdin’ out her hands plaintive-like. When she got some strength, Standin’ Bear’s companions took his body an’ Red Rose in their canoes an’ carried them to the Injun village, where, as I said, the two rivers, the tumblin’ Rock an’ the Mississippi join their waters; an’ here they buried the old chief with the dead of his tribe. So you see the whites kept their word about freein’ Standin’ Bear, an’ broke it, too.”
“I should say so, and with a vengeance!” I cried, ashamed that my race should do so treacherous a thing. “Then what happened?”
“Nothin’, for he was only an Injun.”
“Did that bring on the war?” NORFLOXACIN HCL
“Yes, through the debt of old Shoto’s and the treaty follerin’ it.”
“Why did Black Hawk allow the treaty to be made?” I asked.
“He was away huntin’ when it was signed, an’ didn’t know about it. That was always the way, though. When the Injuns was to be tricked it was done when he was off on a hunt, for he never was fuddled with liquor, an’ stood up for the rights of his people.”
“He ought not to have gone off hunting,” I answered, with some impatience.
“That was their way, an’ carried on systematic-like, an’ not as we do, for play,” Blott answered, helping himself to another quail.
“How was that?” I asked.
“After the Injuns had buried their corn and punkins an’ other truck, they went off to the west on their fall and winter hunt, takin’ five or six hundred horses an’ two or three hundred canoes.”
“That was an army.”
“Yes; an’ they often had to fight, too, with their enemies, the Sioux, an’ other Injuns. They was gone all winter, returnin’ in time to plant their corn, bringin’ with them dried meat, sellin’ their furs to the traders. After the plantin’ was done they went off agin in July on a great buffalo-hunt on the Iowa plains. So you see huntin’ with them wasn’t like it is with us, but a regular business. Try some of this ham, Gilbert; it’s sweeter’n honey. No! Why, you haven’t any more appetite than a housefly!” Blott exclaimed, helping himself to a delicate morsel. “Well, where was I? Oh, yes. Much ill-feelin’ resulted from the trick sale of the Injun lands, as you may imagin’, an’ the whites made more fuss than the others, as people always do when they’ve done anything they’re ashamed of. There wasn’t nothin’ like war, though, till one day in 1830, twenty-six years after the ball, an’ when Red Rose had long been dead an’ buried beside her father on the banks of the purlin’ Rock. Then Black Hawk bein’ off huntin’ agin, the whites took possession of the Injun village an’ burned it. They didn’t need the ground more’n they did the moon, for there was enough for all, and more, but they was crazy to git rid of the Injuns, an’ wouldn’t wait nor live up to the agreement they’d made. Finally Black Hawk, for the sake of peace, consented to move his tribe over into Iowa; but there wasn’t enough game there, it bein’ the Sioux country, an’ the ground bein’ unplowed they couldn’t raise corn, so before plantin’ time he come over into Illinois, bringin’ his women an’ children, to raise a crop to keep his people from starvin’. An’ it was this comin’ that brought on the war.”[*]
Our supper being over, Blott brought his story of the Black Hawk war to an end, and the horses being ready, we mounted without loss of time, and hurried forward on our journey.
Mr. and Mrs. Blake were greatly surprised at my coming, as you may imagine, but their pleasure was only the more on that account, they said. This I could not help but believe, for both of them did all they could to make me feel I was welcome and at home. Blott did not stop, but hurried away; and as it was late, Mrs. Blake shortly after showed me to the room her son had occupied, saying it was mine now and always would be. Bidding her good night, I threw myself on the bed, and when at last I fell asleep, it was to dream of Standing Bear and Red Rose, which latter appeared sometimes as an Indian maiden, but more often as my own true love, Constance.
[*] It has been calculated by those curious in such matters that the consideration the Indians received under the treaty referred to by Blott—if the amount agreed upon had really been paid, which it was not—amounted to less than one cent for each two hundred and twenty-five acres of land relinquished. In this connection it is a curious thing and pathetic even in Indian annals, that in the case of the great chief Black Hawk persecution should not have ended even with his life. For shortly after his death in 1838—at the age of seventy-one years—his grave was opened by a vandal white and the body stolen, and with it his medals, sword, jewelry, and other decorations. Black Hawk’s sons, discovering the crime, recovered the body and had it reinterred, but only to have the grave again opened, and the body stolen a second time. Thus the great man, harassed throughout life, failed to find a resting-place even in death, his body being moved hither and thither, his bones at last finding a place of lodgment—to be stared at by the gaping crowd—in the Burlington (Iowa) Geographical and Historical Society; and only, in the end, to find rest in oblivion through the fortunate happening of a great fire in 1855—-THE AUTHOR.