Myths And Legends Of Our Own Land, Complete
Page: 195Two renegade Chippewas, that had lingered behind the band, played the villain after this pleasant parting, for they killed a Sioux. Hardly was the news of this outrage received at the fort ere three hundred warriors were on the trail of their whilom guests and friends, all clamoring for revenge. Among them was Track Maker, for he could not, as a warrior, remain behind after his brother had been shot, and, while his heart sank within him as he thought of the gentle Flying Shadow, he marched in advance, and early in the morning the Chippewas were surprised between St. Anthony's Falls and Rum River, where they had camped without fear, being alike ignorant and innocent of the murder for which so many were to be punished.
The Sioux fell upon them and cut down all alike—men, women, and children. In the midst of the carnage Track Maker comes face to face with Flying Shadow, and with a cry of gladness she throws herself into his arms. But there is no refuge there. Gladly as he would save her, he knows too well that the thirst for blood will not be sated until every member of that band is dead. He folds her to his bosom for an instant, looks into her eyes with tenderness—then bowing his head he passes on and never glances back. It is enough. She falls insensible, and a savage, rushing upon her, tears the scalp from her head.
The Sioux win a hundred scalps and celebrate their victory with dance and song. Track Maker has returned with more scalps than any, and the maidens welcome him as a hero, but he keeps gravely apart from all, and has no share in the feasting and merry-making. Ever the trusting, pleading, wondering face of Flying Shadow comes before him. It looks out at him in the face of the deer he is about to kill. He sees it in the river, the leaves, the clouds. It rises before him in dreams. The elder people say he is bewitched, but he will have none of their curatives. When war breaks out he is the first to go, the first to open battle. Rushing among his enemies he lays about him with his axe until he falls, pierced with a hundred spears and arrows. It is the fate he has courted, and as he falls his face is lighted with a smile.
SAVED BY A LIGHTNING-STROKE
There was rough justice in the West in the old days. It had to be dealt severely and quickly, for it was administered to a kind of men that became dangerous if they saw any advantage or any superiority in their strength or numbers over the decent people with whom they were cast. They were uncivilized foreigners and native renegades, for the most part, who had drifted to the frontier in the hope of making a living without work more easily than in the cities. As there were no lawyers or courts and few recognized laws, the whole people constituted themselves a jury, and if a man were known to be guilty it was foolishness for any one to waste logic on his case. And there is almost no record of an innocent man being hanged by lynchers in the West. For minor offences the penalty was to be marched out of camp, with a warning to be very cautious about coming that way again, but for graver ones it was death.