« AnteriorContinuar »
think is evinced in their steady refusal to admit sehool-masters among them. I showed them maps, also, and made them acquainted with simple facts in astronomy, all of which subjects excited their interest greatly. I then asked if any were willing to go with me in a 'pickla chokoo' a large vessel — to my home over the sea; a number expressed themselves anxious to go immediately. Their wonder at the facts I related, was very amusing. Having taken care to speak the truth to them always, when I looked serious, they never doubted my word; but in jest, and laughingly, I would say any thing that might make sport. Their English language was very poor on such occasions, and they showed themselves real disciples of Mrs. Opie, who, I believe, makes out a false curl to be a practical falsehood. For instance, I showed them a print of two views of a Parisian fashion, which happened to be among my books, and told them they were my two wives, smiling, however, at the time. They took the print and went to inquire of a young man with me, if I were married, and he told them no. They then came back to me, and in the most polite manner imaginable, touching me on the shoulder two or three times, with a very patronizing air, and in a kind of half-whispering voice, said, 'Lie too much, lie too much ;' • Ole waak,' (very bad.) At another time, I had the same reply for showing them some very bright pewter bullets, and telling them I shot money-bullets. They showed me knives, with pewter around the handles, and scratched them, to convince me they knew the difference between silver and pewter, and they replied in the same manner. But I took good care not to deceive them, seriously, at any time, or leave them in error on any point.
The horror one of them exhibited in his countenance, when I explained to him the meaning of an English oath — for this is the first English
they learn, as being the white man's mark of authority — was excessive. In half English and half Indian he cursed his soul to eternity, if he would not do something or other. Charley,' said I, taking his hand,
know what is meant, when you speak as you did just now?' He said no. I told him it was begging the Great Spirit to take him after he died, and cast him into a burning pond, to lie there forever and
I observed his countenance exhibited every mark of terror and horror, and he continued to utter exclamation after exclamation, as though he felt the full force of a terrible thought. It was good for him, for if the words have meaning, they are bad; and if not, they are still bad, and very inelegant, even in a wild man. They show the first mark of civilization. Of themselves, they have no such oaths. It takes a white man' to deal damnation round the land,' from his camp, his deck, or his 'tabernacle.'
But speaking of the Indian's idea of writing: I intended to show what a strange notion they at first had on the subject. After writing their chief's name, they counted the letters in it, and then asked me to write their names, which were counted in like manner, and as the chief seemed to have a pretty long name, they were proud in proportion to the number of letters each could boast of. Some letters, or one in particular, they never could enunciate. R they called L. At this I would sometimes laugh. To be even with me, they then gave the war-whoop, and asked me to sound that. The argument was cogent and irresistible ! Their numbers, in rotation, are divided decimally, and the terms by
which they express any number of tens are formed as ours are, but with the Arabic figures they are unacquainted, and their numbers are set down simply by simple marks for units; i meaning one, and 1111 four, and so on until ten is arrived at, and this is expressed by x. They then set down x-es in like manner, until they make a hundred and more, and they can thus keep accounts of some thousands. One rogue of a petty chief, wishing to appear great to his people, and not knowing how to calculate a rather difficult little problem in the rule of three, a white acquaintance was secretly asked what it would amount to. He was told -- and to work he went, and filled a piece of bark with marks, seeming the while to be deeply engaged in a profound problem. After a little, out he came with the answer. It was pronounced correct, to the great gratification of his clan, who said very plainly, by their actions and looks, to the white man who told the chief: It is of no use for your race to try to cheat ours, for you see we have men who can calculate, as well as you.'
In general, the chiefs are truly faithful and affectionate to their followers, and careful that they do not fall into trouble. I have seen Co-e-ha-jo, in particular, with his heart almost bursting, as he viewed the poor remnant of his tribe. He seemed to regard them as children, and they felt for him as if he were their affectionate father. They were sent out at a particular time to bring in all stragglers, by order of the Indian agent; they felt this as an indignity, and were with difficulty restrained from committing serious violence upon any white men they imagined accessary. This they thought to be the case with a young man who was with me; and one loaded his rifle to shoot him. But Co-e-ha-jo, overhearing what was going on, went to the Indian and wrested his rifle out of his hand, and told the person who had excited their anger, to make himself invisible as soon as possible. He followed the advice with no small or mincing steps, and without saying a word to me, although I did not remark the meaning of the debate, or particularly notice any thing but his abrupt departure. I had no idea of danger, excepting from their random shots, as they were firing at various marks. I believe my faith often saved me.
To the bad ones who wandered between the whites and reds, I showed how I could shoot a rifle with the best of them; and when they attempted to work upon my fears, I only defied them. But there were very few indeed from whom any thing evil was to be apprehended. I was asked one day, by a borderman, what I would do were I to be attacked by him. I told him perhaps I would give him a rifle, perhaps buck-shot. •Suppose I give you my knife — what then ? said he. · Why,' said I, • I should just spring aside, and then give you my pistol.' He thus found it would have been just as likely for him to be hurt as myself; and to convince him fully, I raised my rifle, and shot off the head of a small bird that happened to alight some thirty or forty yards from the place where we were holding our friendly chát. He then looked as black as a negro, while another more honorable fellow near by, observed, · Very good powder !' (for it threw the ball up a little above the body of the bird,) very good rifle! very good shot! He had no evil thoughts, and was not too jealous to praise.
In firing at a mark with them, it was very amusing to see the interest they took, although they were very cool, and generally skilful; but
their rifles were as old as I ever saw, and not as good as those now made. The chiefs had good pieces, and shot with great precision ; but the common men had not generally much to boast over me, and when they happened to beat me, they would clasp one arm around my waist, and march up from the mark, shouting with unaffected delight, saying, I must make them a capital present for being beaten, although I had made no wager with them. But it requires no great excuse for an Indian to demand a present of you. They appear to lack delicacy on this point. Whether they give as freely as they desire to receive, I know not; but they appeared to be very hospitable, in offering food and honey to their friends when they met.
The abhorrence of the Indian in regard to labor, does not seem to arise so much from indolence as pride. One was employed on the place where I resided for some time, and he earned enough to buy a handsome rifle, which, when he had secured, he could not but show, with a degree of pride, to his friends. But one of them replied he had obtained it by becoming a negro to a white man. This was too much; he thought a moment, and then deliberately shot down his enemy, and turned and fled. But the mark of Cain was then on him. He doubled and turned in the swamp, and for a time escaped. He travelled night and day to a white man's house, with the owner of which he exchanged his rifle for a shot-gun, and bought buck-shot, as being a more certain defence for one against several opponents. But no man was ever more miserable than this guilty murderer. He knew the law, and that he must certainly die, if ever he returned to his tribe. In every rustling leaf he looked for his executioner; and truly he died a thousand deaths in fearing one. He became nervous, and his eyes glaring and restless : he left the territory, and wandered north among white men; but no rest could he find. After being thus an exile for a year or two, he came back, delivered bimself up, and was executed. So it always happens. No bribe can expiate blood. They may take the money; but the murderer dies notwithstanding, and it is folly for any man to remain in the territory, after having, by any accidents been the cause of an Indian's death. I knew a Spaniard, who, by an unlucky blow, cut an artery in an Indian's forehead. He at once saddled his horse, and waited to see if he would bleed to death. The Indian, finding the bandages would not stop the blood from flowing, tore them off in a rage, and glared upon his enemy, as much as to say, 'I will die, and you also shall die.' But after an astonishing flow of blood, he lay down, and by some means or other it stopped: he recovered, and the Spaniard remains secure until now if not lately killed, which is altogether likely - for many blows have they patiently received from the hands of white men, without uttering a a word, or exhibiting a mark of pain. It is wonderful how, with their high, proud natures, they have borne the indignities that have been heaped on them so long. But they have not forgotten any thing. They are fighting the battles now, which they told me several years ago they intended to fight. They said they would have a little bit of a fight with the white men some time,' and I only wonder they have forborne so long.
Wishing one day to see new regions, I took a Seminole Indian who loved the flesh pots of Egypt,' and lingered around me for several months — and with a negro, who had been brought up or 'raised' by
the Indians, and in a fine gig-boat, started up the St. John's river, on an exploring expedition. There were Rolls Town, and Volucia, and other notable places and roads on the map, leading hither and thither. I desired to see the glories of their great places — Rolls Town, especially — but more particularly a mill-site, which I learned was situated above, with abundance of valuable yellow pine timber about it - for even 'Orson' looks to windward for squalls, sometimes, and would fain keep Plutus in a good humor with him.
Rolls Town I reached: not a soul was there! I knew before, however, that the glories of the place had departed. The bright eyes of the dwellers were laid low; where they had been, they were not, and of their mansions, not a wreck remained behind! How very affecting ! No arm of any knight of chivalry had afforded them protection; they were not knights themselves, but all, without exception, were women, sent to this far elysium by the British government in days of yore, of course for their good behavior. But these angels had all departed for another, and as we hope, happier sphere. It was a strange notion that, in the British, to think of founding a colony of women alone. Certainly they could not have wished them to die, or they might have issued a law making it death to talk, or adopted some other method of killing them, without the trouble of sending them three thousand miles from home, to live and die alone. The town stood upon a bluff, some eight or ten feet high, when it did stand, whereas the banks of the river generally are almost level with the water's edge, and lined with · bonnets,' as they are called there; and they are so numerous at the mouth of every creek, that it is troublesome to row a boat through them. While doing so, you may see them here and there shaking as if struck as in fact they are — by various kinds of fish startled from their hiding places, and running against their stems, as they grow in the water, to the depth of three or four feet, and rest their broad leaves on the surface, covering it with green. They love also to grow in the ponds made by the sinking of the uplands. I have seen acres and acres of them in Alachua. Among them are plenty of alligators; and to load
; and fire into their eyes, is the best amusement of the voyage. They make a most astonishing stroke with their tails, when you hit them fairly, as a good rifleman does not often fail to do, especially when he finds them sleeping high and dry out of water. Then just in the soft skin, back of the arm for their fore-legs are just like black arms you may drive the ball through the heart. With this amusement, and an occasional shot at a duck, we continued to ascend the river with some velocity, for our boat was very light and sharp. Toward night, however, our Seminole — who had the reputation of having killed a negro near where we then were, a year or iwo before, and thrown him overboard, for having insulted him — began to be very much fatigued, and at every stroke of the oar, would keep time with its motions, by singing, 'He'p poor me!' – he'p poor me!' Having done nothing myself all day, and knowing that in dealing with an Indian there is a time to unbend, as well as a time to enforce, your authority, I took his oar, and installed him in the stern as captain. Never was a man more happy at a trifle. Before that, however, if he heard a noise which he thought betokened the approach of a canoe, he would throw on his calico robe, and assume a dignified sweep with his oar; but when no other eyes
but our own were within sight, he gave way' with all his force. Now he did not happen to meet any of his tribe, but all fear of that was gone; and beside, he was at rest, and captain, and his countenance bespoke unalloyed pleasure. With a little indulgence like this, even the most unruly may be managed with safety. I slept on the ground at night within a few feet of him, and far away from any settlement, only taking care to place my rifle and hatchet under my head, and watching to see that he went to sleep quietly, for I knew he wanted a rifle, and mine was one to be coveted by any Indian.
On reaching our place of destination, we drove the boat into the creek, and the number of fish we frightened up the stream before us, was a sight which would have made any sportsman's heart leap for joy. What kinds of fish they were, I do not know, so as to describe them ichthyologically. They looked as if they might average about a pound weight each, and were called trout by the negro but I never ate any thing from the St. John's river, like the fish we term trout at the North. Notwithstanding, there are various kinds of excellent fish there, except during the latter part of the summer, when they all taste like old decayed logs and mud. The water of the river becomes so warm, that I wonder how they live at all. In fact, I have seen thousands of dead cat-fish floating down the river, killed, I have no doubt, by the heat of the water, or gasses generated in the mud; for on drawing up an anchor in the river, in the latter part of summer, gasses arise, the same as in our slips. I have often found the water painfully hot to my feet, near the shore, where it was not deep.
The Indians have a curious way of catching fish. They shoot them with a bow and arrow. In this manner I have known an Indian boy I kept with me several months, go out and shoot in half an hour as many as he could carry on a string in his hand. They also take some white hair, from a buck's tail, and tie them with a few red tbreads over a large hook, and while one softly paddles the canoe, another, with this rude fly, takes his stand with a very stout pole, and a line about four or five feet long, in the bow, and thus they take abundance of the abovementioned miscalled trout.
The Spaniards and other whites have another mode, which I have never seen adopted at the North, although there is no place in the world where it is more suitable than at Rockaway, at low tide. They have a circular net, of ten or twelve feet diameter, which they throw with much art, so that it spreads wide open as it flies, and having leads all around the periphery, all the fish that are under it are enclosed, and then the cord, which is retained in the hand, is drawn, which purses all the leads together — for the main cord is attached to a number of smaller lines, which run through a ring in the centre of the net. The fish then hang in a bag; and sometimes a half a bushel are caught at a single throw. The night is the proper time to practice this sport. In Florida, millions of mullet and other fish are thus secured. But the best fish of all, is that which is called the 'red fish' by the Indians, and bass by the whites. It has much the appearance of our streaked bass, but it has three or four black spots, as large as a finger nail, on its tail, and it is red where the bass is white. Otherwise, it is precisely like a northern bass, and is a most delicious fish. It shows, when open, rolls of the sweetest and most delicate white fat that I