The Indian’s Revenge
The beautiful precept, ”Do unto others as you would that they should do to you,” Is drawn from our Lord’s sermon on the mount, and should be observed by all professing Christians. But unless we are truly his children, we can never observe this great command as we ought.
History records the fact that the Roman emperor Severus was so much struck with the moral beauty and purity of this sentiment, that he ordered the “Golden Rule,” to be inscribed upon the public building erected by him. Many facts may be stated, by which untutored heathen and savage tribes in their conduct have put to shame many of those calling themselves Christian, who have indeed the form of godliness, but by their words and actions deny the power of it. One such fact we here relate.
Many years ago, on the outskirts of one of our distant new settlements, was a small but neat and pretty cottage, or homestead, which belonged to an industrious young farmer. He had when quite a lad, left his native England, and sought a home and fortune among his American brethren. It was a sweet and quiet place; the cottage was built upon a gently rising ground, which sloped toward a sparkling rivulet, which turned a large sawmill situated a little lower down the stream. The garden was well stocked with fruit-trees and vegetables, among which the magnificent pumpkins were already conspicuous, though as yet they were wanting in the gold hue which adorns them in autumn. On the hillside was an orchard, facing the south, filled with peach and cherry-trees, the latter now richly laden with their crimson fruit. In that direction also extended the larger portion of the farm, now in a high state of cultivation, bearing heavy crops of grass, and Indian corn just coming into ear. On the north and east the cottage was sheltered by extensive pine woods, beyond which were fond hunting grounds, where the settlers, when their harvests were housed, frequently resorted in large numbers to lay in a stock of dried venison for winter use.
At that time the understanding between the whites and the Indians, was not good; and they were then far more numerous than they are at the present time, and more feared. It was not often, however, that they came into the neighborhood of the cottage which has been described, though on one or two occasions a few Minateree Indians had been seen on the outskirts of the pine forest, but had committed no outrages, as that tribe were friendly with the white men.
It was a lovely evening in June. The sun had set, though the heavens still glowed with those exquisite and radiant and tints which the writer, when a child, used to imagine were vouchsafed to mortals to show them something while yet on earth, of the glories of the New Jerusalem. The moon shed her silvery light all around, distinctly revealing every feature of the beautiful scene which has been described, and showed the tall, muscular figure of William Sullivan, who was seated upon the door-steps, busily employed in preparing his scythes for the coming hay season. He was a good-looking young fellow, with a sunburnt open countenance; but though kind-hearted in the main, he was filled with prejudices, acquired when in England, against Americans in general, and the North American Indians in particular. As a boy he had been carefully instructed by his mother, and had received more education than was common in those days; but of the sweet precepts of the gospel he was as particularly ignorant as if he had never heard them, and in all respects was so thoroughly an Englishman, that he looked with contempt on all who could not boast of belonging to his own favored country. The Indians he especially despised and detested as heathenish creatures, forgetful of the fact that he who has been blessed with opportunities and privileges, and yet has abused them, is in as bad a case, and more guilty in the sight of God, than these ignorant children of the wilds.
So intent was he upon his work, that he heeded not the approach of a tall Indian, accoutred for a hunting excursion, until the words:--
“Will you give an unfortunate hunter some supper, and a lodging for the night?” In a tone of supplication, met his ear.
The young farmer raised his head; a look of contempt curling the corners of his mouth, and an angry gleam darting from his eyes, as he replied in a tone as un- courteous as his words;--
“Heathen Indian dog, you shall have nothing here: begone!”
The Indian turned away: then again facing young Sullivan, he said in a pleading voice;--
“But I am very hungry, for it is very long since I have eaten: give only a crust of bread and a bone to strengthen me for the remainder of my journey.”
“Get you gone heathen hound, I have nothing for you.”
A struggle seemed to rend the breast of the Indian hunter, as though pride and want were contending for the mastery; but the latter prevailed, and in a faint voice he said:--
“Give me a cup of cold water, for I am very faint.”
This appeal was no more successful than the others. With abuse he was told to drink of the river which flowed some distance off. This was all he could obtain from one who called himself a Christian, but who allowed prejudice and obstinacy to steel his heart—which to one of his own nation would have opened at once—to the sufferings of his red skinned brother.
With a proud mournful air the Indian turned away, and slowly proceeded in the direction of the little river. The weak steps of the native showed plainly that his need was urgent; indeed he must have been reduced to the last extremity, ere the haughty Indian would have asked again and again for that which had once been refused.
Happily his supplicating appeal was heard by the farmer’s wife. Rare indeed is it that a woman is steeled to the cry of suffering humanity; even in the savage wilds of central Africa, the enterprising and unfortunate Mungo Park was over and over again was rescued from almost certain death by the kind and generous care of those females whose husbands and brothers thirsted for his blood.
The farmer’s wife, Mary Sullivan, heard the whole as she sat hushing her infant to rest; and from the open casement she watched the poor Indian until she saw his form sink, apparently exhausted, to the ground, at no great distance from her dwelling. Perceiving that her husband had finished his work, and was slowly bending his steps toward the stables with downcast eyes—for it must be confessed he did not feel very comfortable—she left the house, and was soon at the poor Indian’s side, with a pitcher of milk in her hand, and a napkin, in which was a plentiful meal of bread and roasted kid, with a little parched corn as well.
“Will my red brother drink some milk?” said Mary, bending over the fallen Indian; and as he arose to comply with her invitation, she untied the napkin and bade him eat and be refreshed.
When he had finished, the Indian knelt at her feet, his eyes beamed with gratitude, then in his soft tone he said: “Carcoochee protect the white dove from the pounces of the eagle; for her sake the unfledged young shall be safe in it’s nest, and her red brother will not seek to be revenged.”
Drawing a bunch of heron’s feathers from his bosom, he selected the longest, and giving it to Mary Sullivan, said: “When the white dove’s mate flies over the Indian’s hunting-ground, bid him wear this on his head.”
He then turned away; and gliding into the woods, was soon lost to view.
The summer passed away; harvest had come and gone; the wheat and maize, or Indian corn, was safely stored in the yard; the golden pumpkins were gathered into their winter quarters, and the forest glowed with the rich and varied tints of autumn. Preparations now began to be made for a hunting excursion, and William Sullivan was included in the number who were going to try their fortune on the hunting grounds beyond the river and the pine forest. He was bold, active, and expert in the use of his rifle and woodman’s hatchet, and hitherto had always hailed the approach of this season with peculiar enjoyment, and no fears respecting the not unusual attacks of the Indians, who frequently waylaid such parties in other and not very distant places, had troubled him.
But now, as the time of their departure drew near, strange misgivings relative to his safety filled his mind and his imagination was haunted by the form of the Indian whom in the preceding summer he had so harshly treated. On the eve of the day on which they were to start, he made known his anxiety to his gentle wife, confessing at the same time that his conscience had never ceased to reproach him for his unkind behavior. He added, that since then all that he had learned in his youth from his mother upon our duty to our neighbors had been continually in his mind; thus increasing the burden of self-reproach, by reminding him that his conduct was displeasing in the sight of God, as well as cruel toward a suffering brother. Mary Sullivan heard her husband in silence. When he had done, she laid her hand in his, looking up into his face with a smile, which was yet not quite free from anxiety, and then she told him what she had done when the Indian fell down exhausted upon the ground, confessing at the same time that she had kept this to herself, fearing his displeasure, after hearing him refuse any aid. Going to a closet, she took out the beautiful heron’s feather, repeating at the same time the parting words of the Indian, and arguing from them that her husband might go without fear.
“Nay,” said Sullivan, “these Indians never forgive an injury.”
“Neither do they ever forget a kindness,” added Mary. I will sew this feather in your hunting-cap, and then trust you, my own dear husband, to God’s keeping; but though I know he could take care of you without it, yet I remember my dear father used to say that we were never to neglect the use of all lawful means for our safety. His maxim was, ‘Trust like a child, but like a man;’ for we must help ourselves if we hope to succeed, and not expect miracles to be wrought on our behalf, while we quietly fold our arms and do nothing.” “Dear William she added, after a pause, “now that my father is dead and gone, I think much more of what he used to say than when he was with me; and I fear that we are altogether wrong in the way we are going on, and I feel that if we were treated as we deserve, God would forget us, and leave us to ourselves, because we have so forgotten Him.”
The tears were in May’s eyes as she spoke; she was the only daughter of a pious English sailor, and in early girlhood had given promise of becoming all that a religious parent could desire. But her piety was then more of the head than of the heart; it could not withstand the trial of the love professed for her by Sullivan, who was anything but a serious character, and like the morning cloud and the early dew,” her profession of religion vanished away, and as his wife she lost her relish for that in which she once had taken such delight. She was very happy in appearance, yet there was a sting in all her pleasures, and that was a craving of a spirit disquieted and restless from the secret though ever present conviction that she had sinned in departing from the living God. By degrees these impressions deepened; the Spirit of grace was at work within, and day after day was bringing to her memory the truths she had heard in childhood and was leading her back from her wanderings by a way which she knew not. A long conversation followed; and that night saw the young couple kneeling for the first time in prayer at domestic worship.
The morning that witnessed the departure of the hunters was one of surpassing beauty. No cloud was to be seen upon the brow of William Sullivan. The bright beams of the early sun seemed to have dissipated the fears which had haunted him the previous evening, and it required an earnest entreaty on the part of his wife to prevent his removing the feather from his cap. She held his hand while she whispered in his ear, and a slight quiver agitate his lips as he said, ”Well, Mary dear, if you really think this feather will protect me from the redskins, for your sake I will let it remain.” William then put on his cap, shouldered his rifle, and the hunters were soon on their way seeking for game.
The day wore away as usual with people on such excursions. Many animals were killed, and at night the hunters took shelter in the cave of a bear, which one of the party was fortunate enough to shoot, as he came at sunset toward the bank of the river. His flesh furnished them with some excellent steaks for supper, and his skin spread upon a bed of leaves pillowed their heads through a long November night.
With the first dawn of morning, the hunters left their rude shelter and resumed the chase. William, in consequence of following a fawn too ardently, separated from his companions, and in trying to rejoin them became bewildered. Hour after hour he sought in vain for some mark by which he might thread the intricacy of the forest, the trees of which were so thick that it was but seldom that he could catch a glimpse of the sun; and not being much accustomed to the woodman’s life, he could not find his way as one of them would have done, by noticing which side of the trees was most covered with moss or lichen. Several times he started in alarm, for he fancied that he could see the glancing eyeballs of some lurking Indian, and he often raised his gun to his shoulder, prepared to sell his life as dearly as he could.
Toward sunset the trees lessened and grew thinner, and by and by he found himself upon the outskirts of an immense prairie, covered with long grass, and here and there with patches of low trees and brushwood. A river ran through this extensive tract, and toward it Sullivan directed his lagging footsteps. He was both faint and weary, not having eaten anything since the morning. On the bank of the river there were many bushes, therefore Sullivan approached with caution, having placed his rifle at half-cock, To be in readiness against any danger that might present itself. He was yet some yards from its brink, when a rustling in the under wood made him pause, and the next instant out rushed an enormous buffalo. These animals usually roam through the prairies in immense herds, sometimes amounting to many thousands in number; but occasionally they are met with singly, having been separated from the main body either by some accident, or by the Indians, who show the most wonderful dexterity in hunting these formidable creatures. The buffalo paused for a moment, and then lowering his enormous head, rushed forward toward the intruder. Sullivan took aim; but the beast was too near to enable him to do so with that calmness and certainty which would have insured success, and though slightly wounded, it still came on with increased fury. Sullivan was a very powerful man, and though weakened by his long fast and fatiguing march. Despair gave him courage and nerved his arm with strength, and with great presence of mind he seized the animal as it struck him on the side with its horn, drawing out his knife with his left hand, in the faint hope of being able to strike it into his adversary’s throat. But the struggle was too unequal to be successful and the buffalo had shaken him off, and thrown him to the ground, previous to trampling him to death when he heard the sharp crack of a rifle behind him, and in another instant the animal sprang into the air, then fell heavily close by, and indeed partly upon, the prostrate Sullivan. A dark form in the Indian garb glided by a moment after, and plunged his hunting-knife deep into the neck of the buffalo, though the shot was too true not to have taken effect, having penetrated to the brain; but the great arteries of the neck are cut, and the animal thus bled, to render the flesh more suitable for keeping a greater length of time.
The Indian then turned to Sullivan, who had now drawn himself from under the buffalo, and who, with mingled feelings of hope and fear, caused by his ignorance whether the tribe to which the Indian belonged was friendly or not, begged of him to direct him to the nearest white settlement.
“ If the weary hunter will rest till morning, the eagle will show him the way to the nest of his white dove,” was the reply of the Indian, in that figurative style so general among his people; and then taking him by the hand he led him through the rapidly increasing darkness, until they reached a small encampment lying near the river, and under cover of some trees which grew upon its banks. Here the Indian gave Sullivan a plentiful supply of hominy, or bruised Indian corn boiled to a paste, and some venison; then spreading some skins of animals slain in the chase, for his bed, he signed to him to occupy it, and left him to his repose.
The light of dawn had not yet appeared in the east when the Indian awoke Sullivan; and after a slight repast, they both started for the settlement of the whites. The Indian kept in advance of his companion, and threaded his way through the still darkened forest with a precision and rapidity which showed him to be well acquainted with its paths and secret recesses. As he took the most direct way, without fear of loosing his course, being guide by signs unknown to any save some of the oldest and most experienced hunters, they traversed the forest far more quickly than Sullivan had done, and before the golden sun had sunk behind the summits of the far-off mountains, Sullivan once more stood within view of his beloved home. There it lay in calm repose, and at a sight so dear he could not restrain a cry of joy; then turning toward the Indian, he poured out his heartfelt thanks for the service he had rendered him.
The warrior, who till then, had not allowed his face be seen by Sullivan, except in the imperfect light of his wigwam, now fronted him, allowing the sun’s rays to fall upon his person, and revealed to the astonished young man the features of the very same Indian whom, five months before, he had so cruelly repulsed. An expression of dignified yet mild rebuke was exhibited in his face as he gazed upon the abashed Sullivan; but his voice was gentle and low as he said: “Five moons ago, when I was faint and weary, you called me ‘Indian dog,’ and drove me from your door. I might last night have been revenged; but the white dove fed me, and for her sake I spared her mate. Carcoochee bids you to go home, and when hereafter you see a red man in need of kindness, do to him as you have been done by. Farewell.”
He waved his hand, and turned to depart, but Sullivan sprang before him, and so earnestly entreated him to go with him, as a proof that he had indeed forgiven his brutal treatment, that he at last consented, and the humbled farmer led him to his cottage. There his gentle wife’s surprise at seeing him so soon was only equaled by her thankfulness at his wonderful escape from the dangers which had surrounded him, and by her gratitude to the noble savage who had thus repaid her act of kindness, forgetful of the provocation he had received from her husband. Carcoochee was treated not only as an honored guest, but as a brother; and such in time he became both.
Many were the visits he paid to the cottage of the once prejudiced and churlish Sullivan, now no longer so, for the practical lesson of kindness he had learned from the untutored Indian was not lost upon him. It was made the means of bringing him to a knowledge of his own sinfulness in the sight of God, and his deficiencies in duty toward his fellow men. He was led by the Holy Spirit to feel his need of Christ’s atoning blood; and ere many months passed, Mary Sullivan and her husband both gave satisfactory evidence that they had indeed “passed from death unto life.”
Carcoochee’s kindness was repaid to him indeed a hundred fold. A long time elapsed before any vital change of heart was visible in him; but at length it pleased the Lord to bless the unwearied teaching of his white friends to his spiritual good, and to give an answer to the prayer of faith. The Indian was the first native convert baptized by the American missionary, who came about two years after to a station some few miles distant from Sullivan’s cottage. After a lengthened course of instruction and trial the warrior, who once had wielded the tomahawk in mortal strife against both whites and redskins, went forth, armed with a far different weapon, “even the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God,” to make known to his heathen country-men the glad tidings of great joy,” that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” He told them that “whosoever believeth on Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Whether they be Jews or Gentiles, bond or free, white or red, for “ we are all one in Christ.” Many years he thus labored, until worn out with toil and age, he returned to his white friends home, where in a few months he fell asleep in Jesus, giving to his friends the certain hope of a joyful hope of a meeting hereafter at the resurrection of the just.
Many years have passed since then. There is no trace now of the cottage of the Sullivans, who both rest in the same forest churchyard, where lie the bones of Carcoochee; but their descendents still dwell in the same township. Often does the gray-haired grandsire tell this little history to his rosy grandchildren, while seated under the stately magnolia which shades the grave of the quiet sleepers of whom he speaks. And the lesson which he teaches to his youthful hearers, is one which all would do well to bear in mind, and act upon: namely, ”Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them.”
Speak not harshly—learn to feel
Another’s woe, another’s weal
Of malice, hate, and guile instead
By friendship’s holy bond be led
For sorrow is man's heritage
From early youth to hoary age.