A REMINISCENCE

In the mean time Acashee went her solitary way alone, lashed by the
furies of shame and revenge. So fierce burned the wild passions of her
breast, she was unconscious of hunger or fatigue. She ground her teeth,
and planted her foot as if she could crush those who were far from her,
but whom her rage presented as visible objects. A serpent crossed her
path, and she seized it with her hand by the tail, as she had seen the
young boys of her people do, and with one fell slat-dash, severed the
head from its body.

She forded the Saco river, not yet swollen by autumnal rains, and as
the morning dawned, she crawled under the shadow of an intervening
rock, and fell into a profound sleep.

Rising at length, she wandered hour after hour along the upland,
commanding a view of the distant village, the vessels shaking out their
white sails to the breeze, and the fishermen drawing their nets to
land. The smoke of the little hamlet rose dreamily upon the air, and
the light tinkle of the herd-bell mingled with the lowing of kine and
the faint echo of the ax of the woodman.

Often had Hope Vines paddled her light canoe across the Saco to meet
her upon this upland, and here, with John Bonyton, they had idled away
the long summer days, unconscious of that dreamy future which had now
made life a desert to them all.

Tearing herself from these maddening thoughts, she stooped down and saw
her ghastly face and discrowned head; she bathed her hands and burning
cheeks in the stream, sitting under a shelf of rock, lest she should be
seen by any of those who knew her in her days of power and her days of
beauty!

She unlaced the worn moccasins and plunged her swollen feet into the
cooling wave. She sat long and gloomily surveying her altered looks.
Her limbs were swollen and discolored by the action of the thongs which
had bound her, and her feet blistered by travel. All day she sat moody
and silent, her brow contracted, but it was evident that physical pain
had nothing to do with the fierce and angry passions that swayed her.

Acashee may have been perhaps between forty and fifty years of age,
but, having been exempt from the ordinary labor of women in the savage
state, she presented few of those hard and angular lines common to
her sex. She was taller than the wont of Indian women, more slender
than is customary with them at her period of life, and altogether,
she presented a litheness and springiness of fiber that reminded one
of Arab more than aboriginal blood. Her brow was high, retreating and
narrow, with arched and sharply-contracted brows, beneath which burned
her intense and restless eyes.

At length she lifted her masses of short hair, black as night, despite
of time, and gnashed her teeth violently in view of the indignity to
which she had been subjected. She raised herself proudly, and cried, in
a passionate voice, and with a wild, bitter laugh:

“John Bonyton, I have my revenge; a thousand times I have it. In spite
of you, I _will_ sit again with chiefs and honored women; and shorn of
my locks even, no tongue will wag itself against me. I am above and
beyond your malice!”

We should say that, among the Indians, for a woman to have her hair cut
off, is to cast suspicion upon her chastity. It is the only revenge
permitted the husband for a suspicion of dishonor, but in the end, it
is a sure and fatal revenge, as the woman is at once cast out of the
tribe, and no one will grant her aid or succor of any kind.

Acashee pressed her burning hands again and again over her degraded
head, and once more took up her march toward the rising sun. Day by day
she traveled onward, now fording rivers, and now surmounting mountain
hights. Bays and inlets were doubled, and often some formidable river
crossed on a frail raft, or traced upward toward its source, till her
feet were able to wade it.

With the quick resource of savage life, she had been able to supply
her own wants by means of the bow and arrow, the rude net, and the
expert trap constructed by her own hands. She found corn and beans in
the deserted summer haunts of the Indians, and the woods afforded her
plenty of wild fruits. Still, she grew thin and haggard, from toil,
exposure and travel; but her resolute spirit never quailed–never felt
even the tortures which lacerated the body. Sometimes, she rested for
whole days, and then, with renewed vigor, pursued her solitary way.

Rarely did she venture to kindle a fire, lest it might betray her to
some migrating tribe, or some wild beast might be attracted by the
flame. Sometimes her quick ear detected the approach of an Indian
runner, carrying intelligence to a far distant tribe. Sometimes she saw
a group of hunters, who encamped together for the pursuit of the chase;
then she would be compelled to make a detour to avoid them, or to lie
by till they disappeared–for sooner would she lay down her life than
encounter a red-man in her present dishonored plight. Her only hope was
to reach her own people, and there explain all.

It was now October, but the season had proved one of exceeding
mildness, and the birds, which usually desert these northern regions a
month earlier, remained in their summer haunts from some sure instinct,
to enliven the wilderness, and cheer its rude inhabitants.

Acashee now reached the Androscoggin river, which, encumbered by rapids
and picturesque falls, can never be subject to ship or steamer, but
which, in our day, has long since been subdued to the purposes of the
millwright, and added the clatter of loom and spindle to the grand
cathedral hymn which alone, in the time of our story, awoke the echoes
of the everlasting hills to the roar of its descending waters over
shelving rocks a hundred feet from its level.

Here the woman saw the fires of her people in the distance, and found a
canoe with which she crossed to the opposite side of the river. The sun
was down when she reached the village, and the usual routine was being
observed preparatory to night and sleep.

The chiefs lounged upon the ground, or pointed to the trophies of the
chase, which the women conveyed to the wigwam. Children gathered up
their bows and arrows and threw themselves upon the skins, in all the
abandon of dirty robes and muddy moccasins. Here and there might be
seen a half-grown boy, grumbling audibly as he paced back and forth in
front of the wigwam, carrying a stout baby “pack-a-back,” while the
overworked mother prepared venison and parched corn for the evening
meal of her lord and master.

Torches began to flare here and there, and the whole female population
were busy with household labor, when Acashee, thin, worn, foot-sore,
and burning with wrath, appeared before them. There was one burst of
contempt and scoffing from the women, which Acashee cut short with an
angry gesture, and with an imperious wave of her hand, appealed to the
chiefs.

A conference ensued, long and secret, which will be unfolded in the
sequel. The honorable women of the tribe were instructed to minister
to the wants of the wanderer, and honors, such as even the haughty
daughter of Samoset had never before received, were lavished upon her.

In all this long journey Acashee had not been alone. Sometimes she had
found food in her pathway, which she supposed had been dropped by some
family of careless husbandry, but which had been purposely left by the
secret emissary of the Sacos, who never lost sight of her in all her
journeying. When she slept, often and often a keen eye watched her
slumbers, and scared away the deadly reptile or hungry beast watching
for its prey and hushed the bark of the fox or the howl of the wolf
through the night-watches.

Even the keen ear of the savage woman failed to detect this stealthy
follower ever in her track. She had turned aside carefully from all
Indian villages, conscious that her dishonored locks would expose her
to insult and danger, except to those acquainted with her cruel and
haughty spirit, and who would appreciate the story of her captivity and
final escape. Reverent as well as watchful of his charge, the scout was
faithful to the letter of his embassy, and not only preserved her from
danger, but, with a wise forecast, provided as best he could for her
comfort.

On one occasion he even carried his protection beyond ordinary limits,
for seeing her reel and sink to the earth from exhaustion, and fearing
she might not reach her destination, he snared a rabbit in her pathway,
and left cooked beans and corn slightly concealed under pine boughs, as
if stored for the use of a hunter or trapper. These he saturated with
the juice of a well-known narcotic, sure that a long and refreshing
slumber would ensue.

Nor was he disappointed. Acashee eagerly availed herself of the hidden
viands, and slept long and well, to go onward when she awoke with
renewed vigor.

Arrived at the Androscoggin village, the duty of the scout was
incomplete till he should learn the destination of the war-party
evidently making preparations for a march.

As the chiefs of the Androscoggins sat around the council-fire that
night, and listened to the story of the woman–the silence undisturbed
save by the heavy roar of the falls, now pouring in one continuous
thunder-roar, and now suspended as by a lack of the freightage of
water–a pause like a human breath–and then bursting into its
never-ending diapason of sublime melody–there might have been seen,
prone upon the ground, a lithe, slender form, and a keen ear, that lost
not a word of all their plans, and a pair of bright eyes exulting in
the knowledge he had gained of all the movements designed.

When Acashee left the council, she did not retire to the wigwams that
were offered her, but waving her hand, forbidding the women to follow,
she descended the banks of the river to the foot of the falls, known to
the Indians by the name of Pejipscot, and in our day as Lewiston Falls.

We must pause briefly and describe this most beautiful
region–beautiful in our day even, notwithstanding the majestic falls
have been subjected to the uses of the mill and factory. The river
Androscoggin is a wild, coquettish nymph, now moving in stately grace
amid embowering trees, and now bending into abrupt and startling
curves, and anon plunging over headland rocks in one vast sheet, to
sport again amid soft savannas and placid bays, once the mooring-place
of Indian canoes when the tribes were bent upon some deadly enterprise.

In our day these warm and fertile slopes give place to cultivated
farms, from whence arise the rural sounds of flock and herd so grateful
to the spirit, and that primitive blast of horn, winding itself into a
thousand echoes, the signal for the ingathering of a household.

Cliffs, crowned with fir, overhung the waters; hills rising hundreds of
feet cast their dense shadows quite across the stream; and even in our
day, the slim canoe of the Indian may be seen poised below, while some
stern relict of the tribes sits motionless therein, and gazes upward to
the ancient sites of his people, and recalls the day when, above the
Falls of Pejipscot, a populous village sent up its council-smoke day
and night, telling of peace and the uncontested power and sway of his
tribe.

But, in the time of our story, the region stood in its untamed majesty;
the whirling mass of waters thundering to the level below in the midst
of an unbroken and boundless forest; and the great roar of the cataract
booming through the solitude like the unceasing voice of the eternal
deep.

Stealthily the Indian scout followed the woman to the base of the
cataract. He saw her stoop her head to the overhanging waters, and
she was gone. In vain he searched. The waters, at the point of her
disappearance, threw themselves forward in a semicircular curve, whence
arose masses of vapor, upon which the moonbeams playing created a
silvery bow, more lovely even than the gorgeously-hued rainbow of the
sun.

He rubbed his eyes, he threw himself prostrate upon the ground to
detect any shelf of the overhanging rocks behind which she might
have hidden herself. An owl started from a hollow tree overhead, and
with silent wing floated into the deep forest. An old withered crone
tottered down the bank, and, seating herself below where he lay, began
to gather vervain and hellebore, for the moon was at its wane, and she
was preparing some witch-broth to be used in incantation.

Slowly peering about, she turned over the damp stones, and caught
slugs, and snails also, and then a toad was dragged forth, and she
disappeared.

In vain the scout examined every nook and every spot in search of the
vanished form. Not a trace remained. He looked above and below the
fall; all was silent–no vestige of a human being, except in a canoe
drawn up under the bank amid a clump of bushes. He stooped down to
launch it, in order to cross the river, when his arms were strongly
grasped by an Indian, whose garments were dripping with water.

He was old and white-headed, but a perfect Hercules in frame, and
handled the young scout as if he had been a mere child in his hands.
The contest was quick and decisive, for the old man raised the youth
in his arms and dashed him upon the ground, where he lay stunned and
bleeding, but with sufficient consciousness left to know his antagonist
had launched the canoe, and was paddling across the river. Rousing
himself, terrified and sorely perplexed, he turned his face westward,
and sought once more the people of his tribe, ill at ease, feeling that
the full object of his mission had not been accomplished. But, as the
first duty of a soldier is to obey, so the first duty of a savage is to
tell unflinchingly the truth, and he returned to tell all just as it
had transpired.

We need not follow our nimble scout on his homeward way, a journey
performed with far greater celerity than when he followed the footsteps
of Acashee. Green meadows and mountain hights were left behind him,
and with foot swift as that of the wild stag, and knowing as little
of fatigue, he in due time reached the Casco Bay. Here he found a
canoe secreted or deserted, which he took without scruple and launched
fearlessly across the water, the long strokes of the paddle showing him
fresh as the day on which he started upon his adventures.

No sooner was it known that he had returned, than the council-fire was
lighted, the pipe passed round in token of good, for the calumet was as
indicative of loyalty and secrecy in the eye of the savage, as was the
rose to the classical world.

The young scout told his story in a few brief, frank words, to which
the sagamore listened in silence. He had been confident of learning
something of the fate of Hope Vines, through this return of Acashee
to her people, and now he seemed doomed to disappointment. He had, in
spite of himself, dwelt upon the words of the wizard, “Go to the east,”
and he felt that there he should learn of the fate of Hope Vines. When
the scout at length told of the mysterious disappearance of the woman
at the foot of the falls, and the no less mysterious appearance of the
old man, his interest revived. He waited the conclusion of the recital,
and looked around for the comments of the older chiefs.

All eyes were fixed upon War-ra-was-ky–a chief who had numbered nearly
a hundred years, and who was scarred by many a hard-contested battle,
renowned also for his great wisdom. Rising slowly to his feet, and
resting heavily upon his war-club, the old Nestor thus spoke.

“The words of the young brave awaken a memory that has long slept in
the caves of the past. Listen, my brothers!

“The Great Spirit, mindful of his children, has filled their
hunting-grounds with secret places, where they may hide themselves when
the black cloud descends, and the air is ringing with hurtling clubs
and lightning arrow-heads.

“Listen! In my youth, ere the moss of a century had converted the
sapling into a gnarled and withered tree, our tribes held power over
the Androscoggins. We demanded tribute of them, which they refused to
pay. We burned their wigwams, slew their braves in battle, and chased
them from their old hunting-grounds. At length they made alliance with
the Kennebecs and Penobscots, and we in turn showed the sole of the
foot in place of the white of the eye.”

The war-club of the warrior smote the ground, and his arm shook with
rage as he recalled this hour of defeat.

“Listen! We rallied again; we burned the village of the Androscoggins,
at the top of the Pejipscot, where the great waters pour themselves
in one continuous flood, as the young brave has described. The women
sprung with their children into the boiling waters beneath. The
warriors, few in number, stood on the rocks below.

“Listen! One by one the warriors were gone. We shot our arrows into
their midst, but the rocks above impeded their flight, and there stood
the band beneath in one solid mass, and yet their numbers became less,
till all were gone but a youth, who had all the while stood in front
amidst the spray.

“Listen! He stood there and sung the song of the warrior; he spread his
arms, as if he embraced the waters, and we saw his body dashed from,
rock to rock, till it was lost in the gulf below.”

A murmur ran through the assemblage; the old man bowed his head in
homage of the dauntless dead, and went on:

“Listen! I waited suns and moons around Pejipscot; my eyes never lost
sight of the spot at which the warriors disappeared. At length one
morning, just as the sun tipped the tops of the ancient pines with
fire, I saw a warrior issue from the spray. He cast an eager glance
to the sky, and earth, and water, and before I could save him, he too
plunged himself adown the cataract.

“Listen! A Saco chief is tireless. I waited and watched till, one by
one, the Androscoggins, thin and powerless, showed themselves amid the
spray, and were lost in the flood below.”

The Sagamore of Saco arose to his feet, as the old chief ceased to
speak.

“There is a chamber under the falls, my father, is there not?”
“КРКА-РУС”, Общество с ограниченной ответственностью
143500, МОСКОВСКАЯ ОБЛАСТЬ, Г ИСТРА, УЛ МОСКОВСКАЯ, Д 50
“Thou hast well divined, my son! And there the squawmen who fear the
war-club and the arrow, hide their wolfish bones.”

“The Androscoggins have joined the Terrentines and Kennebecs, and will
descend upon the Sacos with all their power. Let us not wait their
coming. Ere the moon is full, we will spring upon their path like the
panther upon his prey.”

The younger chiefs rose to their feet, and responded by twanging their
bow-strings in token of defiance.

“We will avenge the blood of our warriors; we will reassert our power
over the Androscoggins.”

Such were the words of the young braves.

It was decided, as at one voice, to anticipate the warlike designs
of the eastern tribes, and carry the war, as of old, to the ancient
battlefields of the Androscoggins. The scout was in possession of all
their plans; they would feast their warriors upon the banks of the
Saco, and winter at the Pool, where Indian and white man were alike to
fall in one exterminating blow.

The more cautious chiefs proposed calling upon the colonists to aid in
the expedition, but this was overruled by the sagamore, who declared
the red-man able to carry on his own wars, and strike without aid for
their old council-fires, their altars and their homes.

This audacity pleased the majority, which determined that the
expedition should start upon the third day. They would descend the
Saco–cross Casco Bay to the Kennebec, which river they would ascend
till it receives the Androscoggin, and thence up the latter river
till the Falls of the Pejipscot (Lewiston) should be reached–thus
performing the entire route by water.

It was determined that two hundred picked warriors, headed by the
sagamore, would be sufficient to effect the surprise and discomfiture
of the eastern alliance, which had proposed to wait till the hunting
season was finished before they started upon their warlike expedition.
But the Sacos boasted that the grass never grew in the trail of their
warriors, and now, headed by their brave and untiring sagamore, they
were confident of success.

But, before the tribe started upon this perilous enterprise, according
to their wont they consulted the prophet of the Sacos, to learn the
tokens of the invisible powers, for an Indian, no more than an ancient
Roman, would not impiously expose the public interests of the tribe
without first learning if the gods approved.

Accordingly, the chief men resorted to his wigwam; they laid the
choicest venison, fish and corn at his threshold; then they lighted a
fire upon a rock near by, and having laid beside it an arrow pointing
eastward, and a canoe with the paddles pointing in the same direction,
they seated themselves in silence upon the ground.

It was not long before the wizard appeared, with signs of exultation.
Seizing the arrow, he hurled it into the air, and seemed to urge the
canoe onward; he shouted in a high key words like the following:

“High on this rock the bold eagle is screaming,
Safe in his wigwam the warrior is dreaming.
There’s a cry from the hill-top–a cry from the plain.
A shriek from the dauntless that come never again.
Up, up to the battle, but never a blow!
Up, up to the battle, but never a foe!”

The chiefs exchanged looks of doubt and surprise. The more cautious
would have forced him again before them, but the sagamore declared
the omens were for good, and directed to start upon their way. At once
the two hundred were to be seen threading their way to the river-side,
where the canoes were manned. Here we must leave them, now hugging
the shore to avoid observation, and now boldly breasting the waters
of the stormy sea. Headlands were crossed, not doubled, the warriors
shouldering the canoes at “carrying-places,” which greatly abridged the
distance, the hazards, and the labors of the way.

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