It was on a beautiful day in the early part of the month
of April 1812 that four persons were met in a rude
farm-house situated on the Southern Branch of the Chicago
river and about four miles distant from the fort of that
name. They had just risen from their humble mid-day meal
and three of them were now lingering near the fire-place
filled with blazing logs which at that early season
diffused a warmth by no means disagreeable and gave an
air of cheerfulness to the interior of the smoke-discolored
He who appeared to be master of the establishment was a
tall good looking man of about forty-five who had
evidently been long a denizen of the forest for his
bronzed countenance bore traces of care and toil while
his rugged yet well-formed hands conveyed the impression
of the unceasing war he had waged against the gigantic
trees of this Western land. He was habited in a
hunting-frock of grey homespun reaching about half way
down to his knee and trimmed with a full fringe of a
somewhat darker hue. His trowsers were of the same
material and both were girt around his loins by a common
belt of black leather fastened by a plain white buckle
into which was thrust a sheath of black leather also
containing a large knife peculiar to the backwoodsmen of
that day. His feet were encased in moccasins and on his
head covered with strong dark hair was carelessly donned
a slouched hat of common black felt with several plaited
folds of the sweet grass of the adjoining prairie for
a band. He was seemingly a man of strong muscular power
while his stern dark eye denoted firmness and daring.
The elder of the two men to whom this individual stood
evidently in the character of a superior was a short
thick-set person of about fifty with huge whiskers that
originally black had been slightly grizzled by time.
His eyebrows were bushy and overhanging and almost
concealed the small and twinkling eyes which it required
the beholder to encounter more than once before he could
decide their true color to be a dark gray. A blanket coat
that had once been white but which the action of some
half dozen winters had changed into a dirty yellow
enveloped his rather full form around which it was
confined by a coarse worsted sash of mingled blue and
red thickly studded with minute white beads. His trowsers
with broad seams after the fashion of the Indian legging
were of a dark crimson approaching to a brick-dust color
and on his feet he wore the stiff shoe-pack which with
the bonnet bleu on his grizzled head and the other parts
of his dress already described attested him to be what
he was--a French Canadian. Close at his heels and moving
as he moved or squatted on his haunches gazing into
the face of his master when stationary was a large dog
of the mongrel breed peculiar to the country--evidently
with wolf blood in his veins.
His companion was of a different style of figure and
costume. He was a thin weak-looking man of middle
height with a complexion that denoted his Saxon origin.
Very thin brows retrousse nose and a light gray eye in
which might be traced an expression half simple half
cunning completed the picture of this personage whose
lank body was encased in an old American uniform of faded
blue so scanty in its proportions that the wrists of
the wearer wholly exposed themselves beneath the short
narrow sleeves while the skirts only "shadowed not
concealed" that part of the body they had been originally
intended to cover. A pair of blue pantaloons perfectly
in keeping on the score of scantiness and age with the
coat covered the attenuated lower limbs of the wearer
on whose head moreover was stuck a conical cap that
had all the appearance of having been once a portion of
the same uniform and had only undergone change in the
loss of its peak. A small black leather narrow ridged
stock was clasped around his thin and scare-crow neck
and that so tightly that it was the wonder of his companions
how strangulation had so long been avoided. A dirty and
very coarse linen shirt showed itself partially between
the bottom of the stock and the uppermost button of the
coat which was carefully closed while his feet were
protected from the friction of the stiff though nearly
wornout military shoes by wisps of hay that supplied
the absence of the sock. This man was about five and
The last of the little party was a boy. He was a raw-boned
lad of about fourteen years of age and of fair complexion
with blue eyes and an immense head of bushy hair of
the same hue which seemed never to have known the use
of the comb. His feet were naked and his trowsers and
shirt the only articles of dress upon him at the moment
were of a homespun somewhat resembling in color the
hunting frock of his master. A thick black leather strap
was also around his loins--evidently part of an old bridle
The two men first described drew near the fire and
lighted their pipes. The ex-militaire thrust a quid of
tobacco into his cheek and taking up a small piece of
pine board that rested against the chimney corner split
a portion off this with his jack-knife and commenced
whittling. The boy busied himself in clearing the table
throwing occasionally scraps of bread and dried venison
which had constituted the chief portion of the meal to
the dog which however contrary to custom paid little
attention to these marks of favor but moved impatiently
at intervals to the door then returning squatted
himself again on his haunches at a short distance from
his master and uttering a low sound betwixt a whine and
a growl looked piteously up into his face.
"Vat the devil is de matter wid you Loup Garou?" remarked
the Canadian at length as removing the pipe from his
lips he stretched his legs and poised himself in his
low wood-bottomed chair putting forth his right hand at
the same time to his canine follower. "You not eat and
you make noise as if you wish me to see one racoon in de
"Loup Garou don't prate about coons I guess" drawled
the man in the faded uniform without however removing
his eyes from the very interesting occupation in which
he was engaged. "That dog I take it Le Noir means
something else--something more than we human critters
know. By gosh boss" looking for the first time at him
who stood in that position to the rest of the party--"If
WE can't smell the varmint I take it Loup Garou does."
At this early period of civilization in these remote
countries there was little distinction of rank between
the master and the man--the employer and the employed.
Indeed the one was distinguished from the other only by
the instructions given and received in regard to certain
services to be performed. They labored together--took
their meals together--generally smoked together--drank
together--conversed together and if they did not
absolutely sleep together often reposed in the same
room. There was therefore nothing extraordinary in the
familiar tone in which the ci-devant soldier now addressed
him whose hired help he was. The latter however was in
an irritable mood and he answered sharply.
"What have you got into your foolish head now Ephraim
Giles? You do nothing but prophesy evil. What varmint do
you talk of and what has Loup Garou to do with it? Speak
what do you mean?--if you mean anything at all."
As he uttered this half rebuke he rose abruptly from
his chair shook the ashes from his pipe and drew himself
to his full height with his back to the fire. There had
been nothing very remarkable in the observation made by
the man to whom he had addressed himself but he was in
a peculiar state of mind that gave undue importance to
every word sounding as it did a vague presentiment of
some coming evil which the very singular manner of the
dog had created although he would scarcely acknowledge
this to himself.
The man made no reply but continued whittling humming
at the same time the air of "Yankee Doodle."
"Answer me Ephraim Giles" peremptorily resumed his
master; "leave off that eternal whittling of yours if
you can and explain to me your meaning."
"Etarnal whittling! do you call it Boss? I guess it's
no such thing. No man knows better nor you that if I
can whittle the smallest stick in creation I can bring
down the stoutest tree as well as ere a fellow in Michigan.
Work is work--play is play. It's only the difference I
reckon of the axe and the knife."
"Will you answer my question like a man and not like a
fool as you are?" shouted the other stooping and
extending his left hand the fingers of which he insinuated
into the stock already described while with a powerful
jerk he both brought the man to his feet and the blood
into his usually cadaverous cheek.
Ephraim Giles half-throttled and writhing with pain
made a movement as if he would have used the knife in a
much less innocent manner than whittling but the quick
stern eye of his master detected the involuntary act
and his hand suddenly relinquishing its hold of the
collar grasped the wrist of the soldier with such a
vice-like pressure that the fingers immediately opened
and the knife fell upon the hearth.
The violence of his own act brought Mr. Heywood at once
to a sense of the undue severity he had exercised towards
his servant and he immediately said taking his hand:
"Ephraim Giles forgive me but it was not intended. Yet
I know not how it is the few words you spoke just now
made me anxious to know what you meant and I could not
repress my impatience to hear your explanation."
The soldier had never before remarked so much dignity of
manner about his Boss as he termed Mr. Heywood and this
fact added to the recollection of the severe handling
he had just met with caused him to be a little more
respectful in his address.
"Well I reckon" he said picking up his knife and
resuming his whittling but in a less absorbed manner
"I meant no harm but merely that Loup Garou can nose an
Injin better than ere a one of us."
"Nose an Indian better than any one of us! Well perhaps
he can--he sees them every day but what has that to do
with his whining and growling just now?"
"Well I'll tell you Boss what I mean more plain-like.
You know that patch of wood borderin' on the prairie
where you set me to cut t'other day?"
"I do. What of that?"
"Well then this mornin' I was cuttin' down as big an
oak as ever grew in Michigan when as it went thunderin'
through the branches with noise enough to scare every
buffalo within a day's hunt up started not twenty yards
from it's tip ten or a dozen or so of Injins all gruntin'
like pigs and looking as fierce as so many red devils.
They didn't look quite pleasant I calcilate."
"Indeed" remarked Mr. Heywood musingly; "a party of
Pottawattamies I presume from the Fort. We all know
there is a large encampment of them in the neighborhood
but they are our friends."
"May-be so" continued Ephraim Giles "but these varmint
didn't look over friendly and then I guess the
Pottawattamies don't dress in war paint 'cept when they
dance for liquor."
"And are you quite sure these Indians were in their war
paint?" asked his master with an ill-concealed look of
"No mistake about it" replied Giles still whittling
"and I could almost swear short as the squint was I got
of 'em that they were part of those who fought us on
the Wabash two years ago."
"How so den you are here Gile. If dey wicked Injin
how you keep your funny little cap an' your scalp under
This question was asked by the Canadian who had hitherto
while puffing his pipe listened indifferently to the
conversation but whose attention had now become arrested
from the moment that his fellow-laborer had spoken of
the savages so strangely disturbed by him.
"Well I don't exactly know about that myself" returned
the soldier slightly raising his cap and scratching his
crown as if in recollection of some narrowly escaped
danger. "I reckon tho' when I see them slope up like
a covey of red-legged pattridges my heart was in my
mouth for I looked for nothin' else but that same
operation: but I wur just as well pleased when after
talkin' their gibberish and makin' all sorts of signs
among themselves they made tracks towards the open
"And why did you not name this the instant you got home?"
somewhat sternly questioned Mr. Heywood.
"Where's the use of spilin' a good dinner?" returned the
soldier. "It was all smokin' hot when I came in from
choppin' and I thought it best for every man to tuck it
in before I said a word about it. Besides I reckon I
don't know as they meant any harm seein' as how they
never carried off my top-knot;--only it was a little
queer they were hid in that way in the woods and looked
so fierce when they first jumped up in their nasty paint."
"Who knows" remarked Mr. Heywood taking down his rifle
from the side of the hut opposite to the chimney and
examining the priming "but these fellows may have tracked
you back and are even now lurking near us. Ephraim
Giles you should have told me of this before."
"And so" replied the soldier "I was goin' to when Loup
Garou began with his capers. Then it was I gave a parable
like about his scentin' the varmint better nor we human
"Ephraim Giles" said Mr. Heywood sharply while he
fixed his dark eye upon him as if he would have read
his inmost soul "you say that you have been a soldier
and fought with our army on the Wabash. Why did you leave
"Because" drawled the ex-militaire with a leering
expression of his eye "my captin was a bad judge of good
men when he had 'em and reckoned I was shammin' when I
fell down rale sick and was left behind in a charge made
on the Injins at Tippecanoe. I couldn't stand the abuse
he gave me for this and so I left him."
"Cool indeed" sneered Mr. Heywood; "now then Ephraim
Giles hear my opinion. Your captain thought you were a
coward for he judged you from your conduct. I too
judge you from your conduct and have no hesitation in
pronouncing you to be a rogue or a fool."
"Well I want to know!" was the only rejoinder of the
man as he went on unconcernedly with his whittling.
"Le Noir" said his master to the Canadian who imitating
his example had taken down a long duck gun from the same
side of the hut "take your dog with you. and reconnoitre
in the neighborhood. You speak Indian and if any of
these people are to be seen ascertain who they are and
Here he was interrupted by the gradually approaching
sounds of rattling deer hoofs so well known as composing
one of the lower ornaments of the Indian war-dress while
at the same moment the wild moaning of Loup Garou then
standing at the front door-way was renewed even more
plaintively than before.
Mr. Heywood's cheek blanched. It was not with fear for
he was a man incapable of fear in the common acceptation
of the word but independently of certain vague
apprehensions for others his mind had been in a great
degree unhinged by an unaccountable presentiment of evil
which instinctively had come over it that day. It was
this that inducing a certain irresoluteness of thought
and action had led him into a manifestation of peevish
contradiction in his address to Ephraim Giles. There are
moments when without knowing why the nerves of the
strongest--the purposes of the wisest are unstrung--and
when it requires all our tact and self-possession to
conceal from others the momentary weakness we almost
blush to admit to ourselves.
But there was no time for reflection. The approach to
the door was suddenly shaded and in the next instant
the dark forms of three or four savages speedily followed
by others amounting in all to twelve besides their
chief who was in the advance crossed the threshold
and without uttering a word either of anger or salutation
squatted themselves upon the floor. They were stout
athletic warriors the perfect symmetry of whose persons
could not be concealed even by the hideous war-paint with
which they were thickly streaked--inspiring anything but
confidence in the honesty or friendliness of their
intentions. The head of each was shaved and painted as
well as his person and only on the extreme crown had
been left a tuft of hair to which were attached feathers
and small bones and other fantastic ornaments peculiar
to their race--a few of them carried American rifles--the
majority the common gun periodically dealt out to the
several tribes as presents from the British Government
while all had in addition to their pipe-tomahawks the
formidable and polished war-club.
Such visitors and so armed were not of a description
to remove the apprehensions of the little party in the
farm-house. Their very silence added to their dark and
threatening looks created more than mere suspicion--a
certainty of evil design--and deeply did Mr. Heywood
deplore the folly of Ephraim Giles in failing to apprise
him of his meeting with these people at the earliest
moment after his return. Had he done so there might have
been a chance nay every assurance of relief for he
knew that a party from the fort consisting of a
non-commissioned officer and six men were even now
fishing not more than two miles higher up the river. He
was aware that the boy Wilton was an excellent runner
and that within an hour at least he could have reached
and brought down that party who as was their wont when
absenting themselves on these fishing excursions were
provided with their arms. However it might not yet be
too late and he determined to make the attempt. To call
and speak to the boy aside would he was well aware
excite the suspicions of his unwelcome guests while it
was possible that as they did not understand English
(so at least he took it for granted) a communication made
to him boldly in their presence would be construed into
some domestic order.
"Wilton" he said calmly to the boy who stood near the
doorway with alarm visibly depicted on his countenance
and looking as if he would eagerly seize a favorable
opportunity of escape "make all haste to the fishing
party and tell Corporal Nixon who commands it to lose
no time in pulling down the stream. You will come back
with them. Quick lose not a moment."
Delighted at the order the boy made no answer but
hatless--shoeless as he was disappeared round the corner
of the house. Strange to say the Indians although they
had seemingly listened with attention to Mr. Heywood
while issuing these directions did not make the slightest
movement to arrest the departure of the boy or even to
remark upon it--merely turning to their chief who uttered
a sharp and satisfied "ugh."
During all this time Mr. Heywood and Le Noir stood at
some little distance from the Indians and nearly on the
spot they had occupied at their entrance the one holding
his rifle the other his duck-gun the butts of both
resting on the floor. At each moment their anxiety
increased and it seemed an age before the succor they
had sent for could arrive. How long moreover would
these taciturn and forbidding-mannered savages wait before
they gave some indication of overt hostility and even
if nothing were done prior to the arrival of the fishing
party would these latter be in sufficient force to awe
them into a pacific departure? The Indians were twelve
in number exclusive of their chief all fierce and
determined. They with the soldiers nine; for neither
Mr. Heywood nor Le Noir seemed disposed to count upon
any efficient aid from Ephraim Giles who during this
dumb scene continued whittling before the Indians
apparently as cool and indifferent to their presence as
if he had conceived them to be the most peaceably disposed
persons in the world. He had however listened attentively
to the order given to Wilton by his master and had not
failed to remark that the Indians had not in any way
attempted to impede his departure.
"What do you think of these people Le Noir" at length
asked Mr. Heywood without however removing his gaze
from his visitors. "Can they be friendly Pottawattamies?"
"Friendly Pottawattamies! no sare" returned the Canadian
seriously and shrugging up his shoulders. "Dey no dress
no paint like de Pottawattamie and I not like der black
look--no sare dey Winnebago."