The travellers soon made their appearance; a strange-looking set of red-skinned, black-eyed Indians, wrapped in dirty, many-colored blankets. The men were hard-featured, and degraded in their bearing, not at all resembling the description we have received of their warlike ancestors, before the fatal “fire water,” as they call rum, had become known to them; but some of the women had a soft, melancholy expression of countenance, which was very pleasing. They carried their babies, which were bandaged from head to foot, so that they could not move a limb, in a kind of pouch behind; the little dark faces peeped over the mothers’ shoulders, and looked contented and happy.
The party stopped at the gate, and all the family went out to inspect the articles of their own manufacture, which the Indians humbly offered for sale. These consisted of baskets ornamented with porcupine quills, moccasins of deer-skin, and boxes of birch bark. Mrs. Lee’s and Aunt Abby’s heart bled for the way-worn looking mothers and their patient babes; they relieved their feelings, however, by making them eat as much as they would. Uncle John and Tom were glad to buy some of the pretty toys for wedding presents, and after an hour’s stay the party resumed their march.
“Those Indians always make me feel sad,” remarked Uncle John when they were gone; “a poor disinherited race they are,—homeless in the broad land which once belonged to their fathers!”
“It is a melancholy thought at first, certainly,” replied Mr. Lee; “but if you reflect awhile you will find consolation. There are many towns which were founded by persons still living, whose inhabitants already outnumber all the hunter tribes which once possessed the forest; and surely the industry of civilization is to be preferred to the wild rule of the savage!”
“You are right,” said Uncle John, with a sigh; “but still I must be sorry for the Indians!”
The Watsons arrived shortly after, and every one was busy, though, as Mrs. Lee often said laughingly, no one did anything but Aunt Abby, and she was indefatigable. Soon after dinner the neighbors began to assemble, and when the minister from Painted Posts arrived, the ceremony which united the young couple was performed in the neat little parlor of the farm-house. At six o’clock an immense tea-table was spread with all the luxuries of the American back-woods;—there were huge dishes of hot butter-milk rolls, and heaps of sweet cake (so called from its being in great part composed of molasses)—and plum cakes, and curiously twisted nut-cakes—and plates of thin shaven smoked beef, of new made cheese and butter—and there were pies of pumpkin, peach, and apple, with dishes of preserves and pickles. The snow-white table-cloth was scarcely visible, so abundant was the entertainment which covered it. After this feast, the evening passed in merry games among the young people, while the elders looked on and laughed, or formed little groups for conversation, of which, indeed, the remembrance of former weddings was the principal subject.