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Child, Lydia Maria Francis, 1802-1880 [1824], Hobomok (Cummings, Hilliard & Co., Boston) [word count] [eaf041].
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Erewhile, where yon gay spires their brightness rear,
Trees waved, and the brown hunter's shouts were loud
Amid the forest; and the bounding deer
Fled at the glancing plume, and the gaunt wolf yelled near.

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During the long and dreary winter which followed,
there was nothing to break the monotony of the scene,
except the occasional visits of Hobomok, who used
frequently to come up from Plymouth and join the
hunters in their excursions. At such seasons, he was
all vigor and elasticity; and none returned more heavily
laden with furs and venison, than the tawny chieftain.
The best of these spoils were always presented
to the “child of the Good Spirit,” as he used to
call Mary; and never to Squantam or Abbamocho
had he paid such unlimited reverence.

A woman's heart loves the flattery of devoted attention,
let it come from what source it may. Perhaps
Mary smiled too complacently on such offerings;
perhaps she listened with too much interest, to descriptions
of the Indian nations, glowing as they were
in the brief, figurative language of nature. Be that
as it may, love for Conant's daughter, love deep and
intense, had sunk far into the bosom of the savage.
In minds of a light and thoughtless cast, love spreads
its thin, fibrous roots upon the surface, and withers
when laid open to the scorching trials of life; but in
souls of sterner mould, it takes a slower and deeper
root. The untutored chief knew not the strange visitant
which had usurped such empire in his heart; if

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he found himself gazing upon her face in silent eagerness,
'twas but adoration for so bright an emanation
from the Good Spirit; if something within taught
him to copy, with promptitude, all the kind attentions
of the white man, 'twas gratitude for the life of his
mother which she had preserved. However, female
penetration knew the plant, though thriving in so wild
a soil; and female vanity sinfully indulged its growth.
Sometimes a shuddering superstition would come over
her, when she thought of his sudden appearance in
the mystic circle, and she would sigh at the vast distance
which separated her from her lover; but the
probability of Brown's return, would speedily chase
away such thoughts.

Hobomok seldom spoke in Mr. Conant's presence,
save in reply to his questions. He understood little
of the dark divinity which he attempted to teach, and
could not comprehend wherein the traditions of his
fathers were heathenish and sinful; but with Mary
and her mother, he felt no such restraint, and there
he was all eloquence.

It was in the middle of the “cold moon,” by which
name he used to designate January, that he arrived
in Salem, on one of his numerous visits, bringing with
him some skins of the beautiful grey fox of the Mississippi.

“Hobomok brought you fur for moccassins,” said
he, as he handed them to Mary.

“How very soft it is,” said she, showing it to
her mother. “It seems like the handsome fur, which
grandfather had from Russia. You did not kill it
yourself, Hobomok?”

The Indian shook his head. “His tracks are toward
the setting sun,” replied he. “Hobomok give
beaver skins like sand to a warrior come in from the
west. He say they call it Muzaham Shungush.

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There is a council-fire at Mount Haup. The chiefs
think the hunter came not to trade for beaver skins,
but to find how heavy the red men of Ossamequin,
Sassacus, Miantonimo, and Uncas.”

“Have none of them been hither, heretofore?” inquired

“One warrior came among us in the moon of flowers,
* and spread his blanket with us through the hunting
moon.† I talked with him, like as with the Yengees.
He told big stories about his tribe; but he say
Great Spirit lay between us, and his back bone so
high, make foot of the Indian weary. The chiefs said
he counted red men then; but the cloud passed over.”

“Well,” rejoined Mary, “I hope they'll bring more
such handsome fur hither. If they come to count
the red men, peradventure they'll find them too
heavy. You see I am going to make you a wampum
belt of the shells you brought, and I want you to tell
me how to put them together.”

“Hobomok glad,” replied the Indian, his eyes
sparkling with joy at such a proof of gratitude. “You
see that shell, the color of the sky when the sun goes
down? Put him in the big moose there,” pointing to
the middle of the belt. “Him like the rainbow, put on
the back of the deer; and him like the heaped snow,
put on the big snake. That's like Tatobam's wampum.
Tatobam kill snakes—make great spirit snake
very angry—That's reason the Indian from the west
call him Tongoomlishcah.”

“And who is he?” asked Mary.

“The grass has now grown on Tatobam's grave, and
trees are planted thereon,” answered the savage. “He
was the father of Sassacus, great Sachem of the Pequods.
In council, cunning as the beaver, and quick-sighted

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as the eagle. His tribe were like swallows before a
storm, and his wrath like the rising of a thunder
cloud. Furious as a wounded buffalo in the fight, but
true to his love as the star of the north.”

“And was she good enough for so great a warrior?”
rejoined Mary.

“His Mohegan squaw was bright and handsome as
the wakon-bird of the west. Her voice cheered the
sachem, like the song of the muck-a-wiss, that tells of
frost gone by. In the dance she was nimble as the
deer, and quick as the diving loon. But the quiver
of Mohegan was sent to the Pequod, and it was wound
with the skin of the snake.”

“And then he made war upon his squaw's tribe, I

“Tatobam's men were thick as leaves in autumn,
his quiver was full, his bow was strong, and his arrow
sharp as the lightning, when the Great Spirit sends it
forth in his anger. There would have been few left
among the Mohegans to black their faces for the
dead. The voice of his tribe was for battle. The
hunter heard their war-song far away in the desert,
like the notes of the woodpecker, which tell of the
tempest. So the council-fire was extinguished. The
face of Tatobam was anointed, and his belt buckled
for the fight. But Indian can love,” said he, as he
stooped low, and looked up in Mary's face.

“How did Tatobam prove it?” inquired Mrs. Conant.

“Grass never grows in the war-path of the Pequod.
His warriors said they would bring home the scalps
of their enemies before the rising of the sun. They
called on Tatobam to lead to the fight, that they
might drink the blood of Mohegan. Before the moon
went behind the hills, his tracks were upon the sand;
the rising tide washed them away. He rose up at

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the call of his tribe, and they knew not he had been
forth alone. They found not a sleeping enemy. The
ambush of the Pequod was broken. The tomahawk
was changed for the peace pipe, and the marriage
dance was seen in the wigwam of Tatobam.”

“Hobomok,” interrupted Mr. Conant, who entered
at this moment, “it is a pity you were not out with
your bow, forasmuch as a fine deer just ran through
the settlement.”

“There's a tribe of 'em, out on the plains to night,”
answered the Indian. “Their tracks are thick as
flies in the Sturgeon moon.* Sagamore John's men
are coming out with—with—” and unable to think of
the English word, he pointed to the candle.

“Oh, they are coming out by torch-light,” exclaimed
Mary, “as Hobomok says the western Indians do.
How I do wish I could see them hunt by torch-light.”

“I shall go out with you,” said Mr. Conant, “to
see what success the Lord giveth us in this matter. I
have heard wonderful stories appertaining to the taking
of deer after this fashion. They say that in the
lightest night that ever was made, the creatures are so
bewitched, that they'll not move a jot, after they once
get sight of the fire.”

“And wherefore shouldn't I go, father?” asked

“A pretty sight truly,” replied the old man, “to
see you out at midnight with twenty hunters.”

“But,” rejoined his wife, “two or three horses can
be procured; and if a few of the young folks will go,
assuredly I see no harm therein; more especially as
you will accompany Mary. You must remember,”
continued she, in an insinuating tone, “that there are
few such like gratifications in this wilderness.”

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“No doubt there is enough of them; wherewithal
to entice their wandering hearts,” answered her husband;
“but if you think it fitting the girl should go,
verily I have no objection thereto.”

Preparations were accordingly made. The window
Willet agreed to come up and stay with Mrs. Conant;
and a few young women readily consented to accompany
Mary, on such horses as the settlement could
afford. As for Hobomok, he was all eagerness to
display his skill. His arrows were carefully selected,
and the strength of his bow was tried again and
again, as he occasionally turned to Mary, and boasted
of the service it had always done him, in field and

Winter seldom presents a night of such glittering
beauty, as the one they chose for their expedition.
The mellow light of moon and star looked down upon
the woods, and as the trees danced to the shrill music
of the winds, their light was reflected by ten thousand
undulating motions, in all the rich varieties of
frost work. It seemed as if the sylphs and fairies,
with which imagination of old, peopled the mountain
and the stream, had all assembled to lay their diamond
offerings on the great altar of nature. Silently
Mary gazed on the going down of that bright planet,
and tree and shrub bowed low their spangled plumes
in homage to her retiring majesty, till her oblique
rays were only to be seen in faint and scattered radiance,
on the cold, smooth surface of the earth.

At length the party were in motion, proceeding
through the woods by the twinkling lustre of the stars.
Mr. Conant held the rein of Mary's horse, and guided
his footsteps along the rough and narrow path. Hobomok
walked by her side, as silent and thoughtful
as he usually was in the presence of her father. They
soon came out upon the open plain; and a few

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moments after, six neighboring Indians were seen winding
along from the opposite woods, with their torches
carried upon poles high above their heads, casting
their lurid glare on the mild, tranquil light of the evening.
As they drew up, a few inquiries were made
by Hobomok in his native tongue, and answered by
his companions in scarcely an audible tone, as they
significantly placed their fingers upon their lips. Mr.
Conant and his ten associates formed a line and fell
into the rear, while the Indians who carried the poles,
did the same, and placed themselves forward. It was
indeed a strange, romantic scene. The torches sent
up columns of dense, black smoke, which vainly endeavoured
to rise in the clear, cold atmosphere. Hobomok
stood among his brethren, gracefully leaning
on his bow, and his figure might well have been mistaken
for the fabled deity of the chase. The wild,
fitful light shone full upon the unmoved countenance of
the savage, and streamed back unbroken upon the
rigid features of the Calvinist, rendered even more
dark in their expression by the beaver cap which
deeply shaded his care-worn brow. The pale loveliness
of Mary's face, amid the intense cold of the
night, seemed almost as blooming as her ruddy companions;
and the frozen beauty of the surrounding
woods again flashed brightly beneath the unwonted
glow of those artificial rays.

There, in that little group, standing in the loneliness
and solitude of nature, was the contrast of heathen
and christian, social and savage, elegance and
strength, fierceness and timidity. Every eye bent
forward, and no sound broke in upon the stillness, excepting
now and then, the low, dismal growl of the
wolf was heard in the distance. Whenever this fearful
sound came upon the ear, the girls would involuntarily
move nearer to their protectors, who

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repeatedly assured them that wolves would never approach a
fire. Presently a quick, light step was heard, and a
deer glided before them. The beautiful animal, with
rapid and graceful motion, was fast hurrying to the
woods, when his eye seemed caught by the singular
light which gleamed around him. He paused, and
looking back, turned his pert, inquiring gaze full upon
the hunters. He saw the forms of men, and knew
they were his enemies; but so powerful was the fascination
of the torches, that his majestic antlers seemed
motionless as the adjacent shrubbery.

The arrow of Hobomok was already drawn to the
head, when Mary touched his shoulder, as she said,
“Don't kill it, Hobomok—don't;” but the weapon
was already on the wing, and from his hand it seldom
missed its mark. The deer sprung high into the air,
its beautiful white breast was displayed for an instant,
a faint, mournful sound was heard—and Hobomok
stept forward to seize the victim he had wounded.
As he brought it up to Mary, the glossy brown of its
slender sides was heaving with the last agonies of
life, and she turned away from the painful sight.

But a short space ensued, ere another was seen
sweeping across the plain. He too noticed the unnatural
brightness, and stood bound by the same bewitching
spell. One of the Indians gave his torch to
Hobomok, and placing his eye on a level with his
bow, took steady and deliberate aim. However, it
seemed he had not effected his purpose entirely; for
the creature uttered a piercing cry, and bounded forward
with incredible swiftness. The next Indian
handed his torch to one of the white men, and rushing
before his companion, he buried his knife deep in
the bosom of the wounded deer. A loud laugh of
derision followed.

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“It's mine,” exclaimed he, in Indian language, “It's
mine, for I killed it.”

“'Tisn't yours,” retorted the other, furiously; “the
deer hadn't run ten rods; and a hunter never gave up
a beast under that.”

The girls could not understand what was spoken
by the contending savages; but they saw that a quarrel
was likely to ensue, and Mary whispered to her
father to guide them homeward. The route they had
taken was a short one, and the difficulties in retracing
it were few. The maidens gladly welcomed their
own quiet apartments, and Mr. Conant returned to
the plain. The Indian who had first wounded the
animal, had proudly relinquished his claim, and stood
by, in sullen, offended majesty. The others were
preparing a new set of flambeaux for a fresh attack.

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Child, Lydia Maria Francis, 1802-1880 [1824], Hobomok (Cummings, Hilliard & Co., Boston) [word count] [eaf041].
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