“I cannot go,” answered the White Shield in a dejected voice. “I have given my war arrows to the Meneaska.”
“You have only given him two of your arrows,” said Reynal. “If you ask him, he will give them back again.”
For some time the White Shield said nothing. At last he spoke in a gloomy tone:
“One of my young men has had bad dreams. The spirits of the dead came and threw stones at him in his sleep.”
If such a dream had actually taken place it might have broken up this or any other war party, but both Reynal and I were convinced at the time that it was a mere fabrication to excuse his remaining at home.
The White Shield was a warrior of noted prowess. Very probably, he would have received a mortal wound without a show of pain, and endured without flinching the worst tortures that an enemy could inflict upon him. The whole power of an Indian’s nature would be summoned to encounter such a trial; every influence of his education from childhood would have prepared him for it; the cause of his suffering would have been visibly and palpably before him, and his spirit would rise to set his enemy at defiance, and gain the highest glory of a warrior by meeting death with fortitude. But when he feels himself attacked by a mysterious evil, before whose insidious assaults his manhood is wasted, and his strength drained away, when he can see no enemy to resist and defy, the boldest warrior falls prostrate at once. He believes that a bad spirit has taken possession of him, or that he is the victim of some charm. When suffering from a protracted disorder, an Indian will often abandon himself to his supposed destiny, pine away and die, the victim of his own imagination. The same effect will often follow from a series of calamities, or a long run of ill success, and the sufferer has been known to ride into the midst of an enemy’s camp, or attack a grizzly bear single-handed, to get rid of a life which he supposed to lie under the doom of misfortune.
Thus after all his fasting, dreaming, and calling upon the Great Spirit, the White Shield’s war party was pitifully broken up.
In speaking of the Indians, I have almost forgotten two bold adventurers of another race, the trappers Rouleau and Saraphin. These men were bent on a most hazardous enterprise. A day’s journey to the westward was the country over which the Arapahoes are accustomed to range, and for which the two trappers were on the point of setting out. These Arapahoes, of whom Shaw and I afterward fell in with a large village, are ferocious barbarians, of a most brutal and wolfish aspect, and of late they had declared themselves enemies to the whites, and threatened death to the first who should venture within their territory. The occasion of the declaration was as follows: