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The Half-Breed; A Tale of the Western Frontier


Original Novelette (Continued).



Chapter III.

A week must have passed away since the events of the last chapter. In the course of that time, another personage had arrived upon the stage where our little drama is being enacted, the village of Warren. This personage was Arrow-Tip's brother, the Deer. Informed by his wife of the course intended to be taken by the sick chief, a few days after the departure of the latter, and thinking of a thousand mishaps that might possibly befall him on the road, the Deer filled a pouch with food, strapped his bow and quiver on his back, and commenced a rapid progress toward the settlement.

He arrived in time to witness the favourable change in Arrow Tip's illness, which was but the precursor of still more improvement. It needed, indeed, but that he should continue a few days longer in the hospitable house of Thorne, and under the medical auspices of Master Caleb and the store-keeper, Barrett, to have his health and strength wholly restored.

One morning, when Mr. Thorne came in to partake with his family of their early meal, he looked disturbed and somewhat agitated. To the inquiries of his wife, he for a time returned no answer.

"But I don't know," said he at length, "why I may not as well inform you of the cause of what moves me. For two or three mornings past, on going as I usually do at daylight to take care of my cattle, and feed them, I have missed something from the storehouse where I keep my grain and farming utensils. Occasionally I find merely that matter not very valuable is taken away; but, then, again, an article of great use to me is stolen. I certainly have no idea who is the thief; but it becomes us all to be on the look-out, and see if we cannot discover him."

It was a painful thing for Arrow-Tip, who sat in the chimney-corner, while Mr. Thorne was speaking, that the eyes of nearly every one in the room, with the exception of Thorne, himself, and his eldest son, were turned upon him. He was too proud to answer any suspicions; and he moved not or spoke under their gaze.

"This morning," continued Mr. Thorne, "a large piece of bear-meat, which I purchased yesterday of a man sent here by Boddo, and which I intended for our dinner to-day, is taken off—where and by whom, it is impossible to say.

Again were the eyes of the group directed toward Arrow-Tip. The savage was deeply pained, but, as before, he evinced it by no sign. In truth, the suspicion, if any such were harboured, was unjust, and in no small degree unreasonable, from the nature of the articles purloined. They could have been of no value to the Indian, unless he sold them, and that were a difficult undertaking, without risk of discovery. Arrow-Tip rose and left the room, uttering not a word.

For the first time, Mr. Thorne reflected on the grief he must have inflicted by his remarks. With true good_taste, however, he forebore to make the matter worse by attempting an apology. He bade his children abstain in future from any allusion to the subject, and particularly any sign that they looked upon Arrow-Tip himself as an object of doubt.

In the course of the afternoon, Peter Brown, the lately married blacksmith, came over to Thorne's to speak of a contemplated hunting party the next day, in the forest.

"I am told," said Peter, "that there is a fine herd of deer which some of our folks have several times seen in the neighborhood of Oak Creek. What say you? If the day be fair, will you join us?"

"Certainly," was Thorne's answer; "and our friend, Arrow-Tip here, shall make another of the party, if he will."

"The chief," rejoined the one last spoken to, "will be glad to go."

Quincy stood near while this conversation was taking place.

"Father," he said, "do you not remember your promise that I might hunt with the next party?"

Thorne smiled upon his eager boy, and assented. So it was arranged that soon after sunrise they should all start together—a number of the men from neighboring houses having agreed to join them.

As Arrow-Tip retired that evening to a kind of out-house, where he slept, (Thorne would have had him, on his first arrival, repose in the main dwelling, but the savage pertinaciously refused,) Quincy tapped him on the arm, and bade him, with a smile, be up in time.

"And lest I should oversleep myself," said the boy, "come to my window, which opens on the river, and knock upon it to wake me."

It were hardly amiss to guess that the dreams of the young hunter that night were interwoven with huge buffaloes, and springing deer, and mighty bears, in most admired confusion.

Arrow-Tip rose some time before daylight. He pushed open, a small, swinging door, and stood a few minutes gazing over the river, in the direction of his distant tribe. His thoughts were with them—with his brother, whom he expected to visit him that day, (the Deer had his abode at a dismantled hut in the neighbourhood of the village,) and with his far off friends.

Of a sudden, while his gaze was thus fixed, he saw a figure stealthily stepping, or rather crawling, through the farm-yard, toward the building used by Thorne for a granary.1 His sight convinced him that it was none of his host's family; the figure was smaller than Quincy or his father, and much stouter than any of the younger children. The savage immediately remembered what had been said respect- the thefts, the preceeding day; and he felt sure that he should now be able to clear up the mystery, and also remove any doubts that might have been held, respecting his own integrity. The Indian silently drew back into the shadow and watched the figure.

Like a thief, indeed, did it move, and directly toward the door of the granary—which it opened and passed. Arrow-Tip cautiously emerged from where he had been standing, and favoured by the shadow of a huge tree, he stood near the door which the figure had entered, and waited his coming forth. He had not to wait long. With the same halting and stealthy gait, the thief appeared directly, staggering under a bag, borne upon his shoulder, and evidently containing grain.

When he had got a couple of rods forward, Arrow-Tip sprang upon him, as a cat would spring on a mouse.

"Now!" said he, "who comes forth like an owl in the night, to take his brother's goods?—I have him!"

A dismal howl sounded out from the startled thief, and he struggled to get free—but his struggles were useless. Arrow-Tip held him with a grasp of iron, and dragged him to the dwelling of the family, where he knocked loudly.

Not many moments elapsed before Thorne and his people, disturbed by the racket, came rushing together into the porch in front. Arrow-Tip, in brief terms, explained the matter to them, and shoved his prisoner toward them.

"As I hope I may shoot a deer to-day!" said Quincey, with a loud burst of laughter, "it is no other than Boddo!"

The boy spoke truth, indeed. The mischievous and now detected hunchback stood before them.—He hung his head in stupid obstinacy, and spoke not a word in excuse for his crime.

"It is very wicked," said Arrow-Tip as he stood with folded arms, and a flush of shame passed over his face, "and it sickens the chief's soul, that one who owns blood of an honest tribe, should be caught thus!"

Boddo looked up, and scowled on the Indian with a furious expression of deviltry and hate, that plainly said he would lose no convenient opportunity of revenge, if such occurred.

"Come! come!" said Mr. Thorne. "Though I did not expect such conduct, even from Boddo, I am willing to let it pass. We all know the infirmity of the poor fellow—and I dare say this will be a salutary lesson to him. Come! we forget that to-day we hunt the deer. And our breakfast is to be prepared, and a dozen matters attended to yet, which we had best set about immediately!"

As the hunchback turned from the spot, to walk away, he cast another glance at Arrow-Tip. It was full of malice and hate. But the chief did not deign to heed it by the slightest notice. He calmly set himself about the necessary business of the hour.

[To be continued.]2


1. A granary is a storehouse, typically for grain. [back]

2. Click here for the next installment of "The Half-Breed." [back]

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