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The Indian Pledge
By Betsey (Guppy) Chamberlain

Page Created March 2000

On the door-steps of a cottage in the land of "steady habits," some ninety or an hundred years since, might, on a soft evening in June, have been seen a sturdy young farmer, preparing his scythes for the coming hay-making season. So intent was he upon his work, that he heeded not the approach of a tall Indian, accoutred for a hunting expedition, until "Will you give an unfortunate hunter some supper and lodging for the night?" in a tone of supplication, caught his ear.

The farmer raised his eyes from his work, and darting fury from beneath a pair of shaggy eye-brows, he exclaimed, "Heathen, Indian dog, begone! you shall have nothing here."

"But I am very hungry," said the Indian; "give only a crust of bread and a bone, to strengthen me on my journey."

"Get you gone, you heathen dog!" said the farmer; "I have nothing for you."

"Give me but a cup of cold water," said the Indian, "for I am very faint."

This appeal was not more successful than the others. Reiterated abuse, and to be told to drink when he came to a river, was all he could obtain from one who bore the name of Christian! But the supplicating appeal fell not unheeded on the ear of one of finer mould and more sensibility. The farmer's youthful bride 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 dusky form sink, apparently exhausted, on the ground, at no great distance from her dwelling. Ascertaining that her husband was too busied with his work to notice her, she was soon at the Indian's side, with a pitcher of milk, and a napkin filled with bread and cheese. "Will my red brother slake his thirst with some milk?" said this angel of mercy; and as he essayed to comply with her invitation, she untied the napkin, and bade him eat and be refreshed.

"Cantantowwit protect the white dove from the pounces of the eagle," said the Indian; "for her sake the unfledged young shall be safe in their nest, and her red brother will not seek to be revenged."

He then drew a bunch of feathers from his bosom, and plucking one of the longest, gave it to her, and said, "When the white dove's mate flies over the Indians' hunting-grounds, bid him wear this on his head."

* * * * * * *

The summer had passed away. Harvest-time had come and gone, and preparations had been made for a hunting excursion by the neighbors. Our young farmer was to be one of the party; but on the eve of their departure he had strange misgivings relative to his safety. No doubt his imagination was haunted by the form of the Indian, whom, in the preceding summer, he had treated so harshly.

The morning that witnessed the departure of the hunters, was one of surpassing beauty. Not a cloud was to be seen, save one that gathered on the brow of Ichabod, (our young farmer,) as he attempted to tear a feather from his hunting-cap, which was sewed fast to it. His wife arrested his hand, while she whispered in his ear, and a slight quiver agitated his lips as he said, "Well, Mary, if you think this feather will protect me from the arrows of the red-skins, I'll e'en let it remain." Ichabod donned his cap, shouldered his rifle, and the hunters were soon on their way in quest of game.

The day wore away as was usual with people on a like excursion; and at night-fall they took shelter in the den of a bear, whose flesh served for supper, and whose skin spread on bruin's 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 their chase. Ichabod, by some mishap, soon separated from his companions, and in trying to join them, got bewildered. He wandered all day in the forest, and just as the sun was receding from sight, and he was about sinking down in despair, he espied an Indian hut. With mingled emotions of hope and fear, he bent his steps towards it; and meeting an Indian at the door, he asked 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," said the Indian, as he took Ichabod by the hand and led him within his hut. The Indian gave him a supper of parched corn and venison, and spread the skins of animals which he had taken in hunting, for his bed.

The light had hardly begun to streak the east, when the Indian awoke Ichabod, and after a slight repast, the twain started for the settlement of the whites. Late in the afternoon, as they emerged from a thick wood, Ichabod with joy espied his home. A heartfelt ejaculation had scarce escaped his lips, when the Indian stepped before him, and turning around, stared him full in the face, and inquired if he had any recollection of a previous acquaintance with his red brother. Upon being answered in the negative, the Indian said, "Five moons ago when I was faint and weary, you called me an Indian dog, and drove me from your door. I might now be revenged; but Cantantowwit bids me tell you to go home; and hereafter, when you see a red man in need of kindness, do to him as you have been done by. Farewell."

The Indian having said this, turned upon his heel, and was soon out of sight. Ichabod was abashed. He went home purified in heart, having learned a lesson of Christianity from an untutored savage.

TABITHA

Source: Lowell Offering (Lowell, Ma.) 2 (1842): 214-17
Contributed by: Judith Ranta

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Betsey (Guppy) Chamberlain