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and vanished from the house and village, and was not seen again till the next morning.
In the morning the Medicine Man made proclamation for a public meeting, from the top of the Medicine-House, in a tone which scattered all the buffaloes within two leagues of the village. He then announced that the Master of Life had appeared to him in the visions of the night, and informed him that the sacrifices of boys were any thing but acceptable. None, he declared, upon whose heads the snows of twenty winters had not fallen, should participate in the holy and awful rites of the Willow-Leaf; and this was to be law, thenceforth and for ever. For this reason, and this only, the Four-Bears could no longer be considered a candidate ; for which he, the high priest of the tribe, was sore at his heart, on which he impressively laid his hand. It would have made him happy to have seen how a boy of fifteen snows could have borne pangs which had quelled the courage of the bravest.
Many a youth had he tortured; but never one so young. He ended his speech with a well-merited encomium on his own experience and skill in the science of tormenting, and another, less deserved, on the favorable terms on which he stood with the Great Spirit.
This discourse was received with unbounded applause by all who heard it, excepting him whom it principally concerned, and the boys of his own age, who were naturally curious to behold the agonies of their sometime companion. In the course of the day, several of them applied to the Medicine Man to relax the rule in their favor ; but he repulsed them with rudeness and with blows. Before noon, many a blanket and many a yard of bright scarlet was fluttering from the poles on the top of the Medicine-House, in grateful thanksgiving and sacrifice to the Great Spirit.
In the mean while, the Four-Bears had blackened his face, which is the token of mourning, or of an intent to do some desperate deed, and had departed from the village, no one knew whither. He well knew, however, that for several days previous to the holy festival, it was the custom of the Medicine Man to repair to the woods which skirted the river, to pray, where no one was permitted to disturb him. Mah-to-khay To-pah resolved to break the custom, and presented himself before the astonished priest, with his teeth set, and his lips compressed, every nerve quivering with excitement, and drew an arrow to the head. Listen to me, lying prophet !' be said, with flashing eye; “I submit to the will of the Great Spirit, but not to yours. The Master of Life cannot have two wills, nor speak with a forked tongue. In my dream, He told me what to do, and He cannot have told you to bring His anger on me by preventing me. a wise man, Keraguish, and I am a foolish boy; but I am not so foolish but that I can look through you, as the sun looks through a cloud. You have not dreamed for nothing. Why were so many horses and robes carried to your house this morning? Look at yonder herd of buffaloes; their flesh is fat and sweet; but you will never eat a morsel of it. Do you see these budding willows and cotton woods? You will never see the buds open into leaves. Look at that dark and rapid river; it shall cover you up, and sweep you away, and you shall have no other grave than the maws of the cat
fishes. It is what belongs to the utterer of false oracles. Sing your death song! Before yonder antelope is out of sight, this arrow will quiver in your heart!'
The false priest was not, perhaps, less courageous than other men; but he was old and weaponless, and there was none at hand to save. The determination that spoke from the youth's eye could not be mistaken, and he was tall and strong beyond his years. The Medicine Man, who had been the holy executioner of so many others, shrunk, but he did not tremble. · Spare me !' said he; 'I am an old man. I am onshekah ; (worthy of pity.) Do not take away my life. I have not long to live.'
'If I take pity on you,' replied Mah-to-khay To-pah,' what dreams will you have to-night? To-morrow the festival begins.'
The Master of Life was only laughing at his creature ;' returned the magician; "and the sacrifice of Mah-to-khay To-pah is more acceptable to him than any other.'
• Live !' said the boy; but REMEMBER! Sure as that sun shines above ; sure as that river runs below ; sure as God's birds (the doves) are murmuring in these trees; if the Medicine Man does not have a true dream to-night, he will never live to celebrate another feast of the Willow Leaf.'
So saying, he left the priest comfortably assured that his life depended on compliance, and returned to the village.
Great was the grief of the family of the Four-Bears, when the Medicine Man the next morning announced that he had been honored with a second visitation of the Great Spirit, whose will now was to accept the free-will offering of the body, not only of Mah-to-khay To-pah, but of any other youth in the village; no matter of what age. Wherefore, good and brave young men, who came to me yesterday,' continued the priest, come forward, and share the glory of the Four-Bears. If ye live, ye will be accounted men among men, and if ye die, ye will not be forgotten for as many snows as there are blades of grass in all the prairies. Let the sacrifices of the Master of Breath come forward.'
But none of the youth who had wished to win imperishable glory at a cheap rate, the day before, made their appearance. The FourBears, however, stepped forth, at the head of six full-grown men, all clad in their gayest attire ; and the whole seven were conducted into the Medicine-House. Not one of our hero's family made the least objection. It would have been in vain. An Indian can always endure what cannot be cured. Not even when the shrieks of the devoted rang through the village, shrieks extorted by the last extremity of mortal agony, was an eye-lid seen to wink, or a muscle to quiver. What took place in the Medicine-House, is best passed over in silence. It would excite no pleasant feeling in the bosom of the reader, were I to relate it. It was noticed, however, by those outside, that while the voice of every one of the men could be distinguished, in the intensity of their sufferings, not a groan was heard from the boy; and it was afterward known that he had fainted later than any of his companions, at every application of the torture.
In the mean while, all was joy and jubilee in the village. The First Man' had appeared from no one knew where, and having
announced the coming of The Second Man,' had disappeared, no one knew whither. The ‘Second Man,' representing the Spirit of Evil, had entered the village in a guise dreadful to behold, and made an attack upon the women; they being supposed less capable of resistance than the men. But he was always foiled by another antic, who represented the Spirit of Good, and was at length driven with ignominy from the village. And there was singing, and dancing, and shouts of laughter, and playing at dice, and an enormous consumption of meat and vegetables, dressed in every style of Indian cookery. It was the nation's jubilee.
It had been supposed, from Mah-to-khay To-pah's silence under the torture, that he was dead; but his friends had not shed a tear, or uttered a sigh, to mar the hilarity of the festival. Such is Indian fortitude. On the fourth morning, the suffering seven were brought out of the Medicine-House into the area, ghastly and mangled, but still alive, to undergo new inflictions before the eyes of the multitude. Holes had already been bored through the muscles of their shoulders, and into these were inserted ropes. The skulls of buffaloes were then attached to their feet, and We stop. Suffice it, that two of the men died under the operation, and that the nearest relatives of the sufferers looked on and applauded. The Mandans were not the first people who tortured themselves, to win honor and the favor of heaven. They were not more cruel to themselves than the Stylites, or pillar-saints of the East, and their holy contemporaries, or the voluntary martyrs of modern India; nor was their conduct a whit more absurd than that of Catholic devotees, who amuse themselves with scourge and hair-cloth. In all these cases, the principle and the motive are precisely the same.
Mah-to-khay To-pah survived, to the great joy of his whole tribe ; and it was affirmed by the Medicine-man that in all his experience he had never seen any one evince such fortitude. As soon as he recovered, ten young men attached themselves to him, as to one who had earned the rank of a chief, and it was not many months before their number swelled to hundreds. He also espoused the Skipping Fawn, on which ecstatic occasion there were many hundred guests assembled, and his family proved their generosity, by giving away their horses, their arms, and even their garments, to such as stood most in need of them. There may be little interest in these details ; but we are not endeavoring to create effect. Our aim is to describe Indians, such as they are, or rather, such as they were. Eighteen hundred horses changed owners in honor of the nuptials of the FourBears; and, what with gambling and horse-racing, it was thought that the whole moveable property of the tribe underwent three transfers, at least. These things could not last for ever. An Indian chief must prove himself worthy of the rank accorded him by the voluntary suffrage of his followers, and his fame must be kept bright by constant exertion, or he loses his influence, and sinks into a private man.
Our hero was by no means disposed to remain idle. To a strong sense of religion, he united a burning thirst for distinction, as we have already seen; and it was not long before he called his braves together, and informed them that he had been comma
manded, as usual in a dream,
to lead them against the Dahcotah Tetous, with whom the Mandans were then at war. The war-pipe was smoked, and the war-dance was danced about the war-post. Mah-to-khay Topah, when he struck it, instead of boasting of what he had already done and suffered, according to Indian custom, from time immemorial, modestly said that he had as yet achieved nothing worth mentioning; but that he would endeavor to bring back as proud a name as had ever been borne by any of his warlike race. His bride stood by, as be mounted for the chase of men ; but she neither wept nor endeavored to dissuade him from his purpose. His farewell might be rendered in the words of an old Troubadour song:
"Believe me, dearest, thy chief shall be
'Since glory calls thee, away, away,
Toujours fidele! Seven long days the little band continued on the track of the enemy, who had dared to hover about their village, and still nothing was to be seen but the monotonous ocean of verdure on the one hand, and the dark, turbid current of the Missouri on the other. On the eighth, as they halted at noon to eat their frugal meal of parched corn, and refresh their jaded steeds under the shade of the gigantic aspens which every where border 'the Rushing Water,' a party of five hundred Dahcotalis suddenly appeared on the opposite bank. The Mandans were little moved by the apparition : the enemy could only cross by swimming, and had they attempted it, the boiling torrent would have swept half of them to eternity. Several guns were fired across, but without effect. An Indian can commonly avoid a bullet, when he sees the flash; yet the river was not so broad but that the parties could hear and understand each other; and well did the enemy know how to make the tongue a keener weapon than lance or knife. The Mandans were reviled, with all the opprobrium speech can vent; but they bore it with stoical patience, till a term was applied to them, for which there is no English synonyme, but which, throughout the north-west, conveys the essential oil and double-distilled essence of reproach. It is something similar, but far stronger, than the ancient Saxon term of infamy, 'nidering.' Then the little band of Mandans would have rushed madly into the stream, to wash off the disgrace in its waters, or in their own blood on the opposite bank; but the Four-Bears interposed.
* Hold!' said he ; 'one life will be enough to convince these dogs that we are neither children, nor old women, nor the vile things they have dared to call us. I will throw away my body. When you see me fall, turn back to the village, and tell my father and my wife to rejoice that Mah-to-khay To-pah has died like a Mandan. That is saying every thing. Then, casting off his robe, he vaulted upon his horse, and rode off' up the river.
The Mandans were not militia ; in the presence of the enemy, they were accustomed to obey and respect their chiefs. Beside, examples of the most heroic devotion were not so uncommon among them as
to be deemed miraculous, and of the Four-Bears they were especially expected. His companions, therefore, made no opposition to his procedure, and evinced neither surprise nor emotion. They merely sat down and lighted their pipes. In the mean while, the young leader, who had calculated with an experienced eye the allowance to be made for the current, gallopped to a point far above where he alighted, tied his horse to a bush, and divested himself of his apparel. The aspect of the river might well have appalled the boldest swimmer. In the midst eddied the whirlpool, and below slept the quicksand. The Four-Bears plunged in.
When his head appeared in mid-stream, drifting round a point far above, the Mandans raised a yell of triumph, and the Dahcotahs a shout of admiration. As he drew nigh the shore, two or three guns were raised; but the chief indignantly beat them up.
The boy landed, straight as an arrow, limbed like Apollo, without spot or blemish, save the honorable scars of the ordeal of the Willow Leaf, and walked directly into the midst of his foes. •Listen, Dahcotahs,' said he ; . if you have never seen a man before, and I wot well there are few in your tribe, look upou one now. I am Mah-to-khay To-pah. The feather in my hair is dyed in the blood of the Pawnee. If I had lived longer, I would have dyed more in the life stream of the Dahcotahs. Strike! You will not carry home the scalp of an old woman.'
They stood like marble. Not a hand was raised; not a muscle stirred.
• What !' said he ; so many warriors, and all afraid of a boy who has not seen seventeen snows!' He turned, and sat down upon the ground, with his back toward them. Now, old women !' he continued, “strike me now, since you are afraid to look me in the eye.'
The enthusiasm of an Indian warrior lies deep; but it is strong in proportion to its depth, and it never fails to awaken at the call of determined bravery. The fountains of the deep were now broken up. Such a shout as was raised by that hostile crowd, has seldoin startled the wild denizens of the prairies. Many were affected even unto tears.
• Brave boy!' said Wawnahtou, ("He who Charges the Enemy,') be my tah-ko-dah, and let there be peace between my people and thine. We were friends in the days that have gone by, and our blood has mingled.'
With that, he tore off his silver ornaments, and threw them upon the still sitting boy. The others followed his example in silence; and without another word spoken on either side, the Dahcotahs mounted and rode off, as poverty-stricken a band of marauders as ever scoured a western prairie, leaving the young chief under a mountain of their spoils.
To make a canoe, now that the enemy had disappeared, was not a work of time to his followers. A rude frame was easily constructed of the pliant willows; two buffaloes were soon despatched, and their bides were stretched upon
it. Our hero re-crossed the Missouri in comparative safety, laden with spoils and glory. The drum beat, the chichiqua* rattled, and the song rose in the Mandan village ; and
* The Indian rattle, inade of gourd.