Chapter XVI. Dave Meets Pontiac
 

It was White Buffalo who brought in the first definite news that the Indians throughout the length and breadth of the Ohio valley, and along the Great Lakes, were becoming dissatisfied with the manner in which the English had taken possession of New France (Canada) and the West.

"White Buffalo has spoken with some of the great chiefs," said he, "and all are agreed that the sky is black for the Indian. With the end of the war the English will push further and further into the forest, and the hunting grounds will be taken away from the red man. The Indian must live by the hunt, so what is he to do?"

"It's the old question over again," answered James Morris. "The Indians won't become farmers, and so they have got to suffer."

"But the Indians claim the land as their own," resumed White Buffalo. "It was left to them by their forefathers. The land of the English lies in England, across the Great Water."

"I hope you don't stand for war, White Buffalo," came from Dave quickly.

"Not for war on the friends of White Buffalo," was the ready answer. "But even White Buffalo cannot stand idly by and see the English take all which belongs to his tribe and to the other red men. The Indian gets nothing in return. He and his squaw and his papoose must live. What should he do? Can my friends tell?"

James Morris gave a sigh. "Honestly, White Buffalo, I cannot. If I could I might solve the whole of this vexing question, and then, perhaps, we'd have no war. But it doesn't seem right for the whites and the Indians to be fighting all the time. It hurts one just as much as it hurts the other."

"My brother James does not tell the truth," said the Indian chief, somewhat sadly. "It hurts the Indian far more than it hurts his white brother. White Buffalo has eyes, and he is wise enough to see that the Indian cannot fight the white man and win in the end. The red man may slay many, but in the end he will lose. I know it, I feel it." And White Buffalo bowed his head.

"Do you look for an uprising soon?" questioned James Morris, after a long pause.

"Not at once--the red men have not forgotten how they suffered during this great war. But it will come--next summer, or the summer after. The red man does not forget that he has suffered."

"Let us hope by next summer the trouble will be forgotten," came from James Morris; and that was all he could say.

Christmas found the post buried deeply in snow, and hunting for the time being was out of the question. The place was crowded, and white trappers and Indians often spent the night in the stable with the horses. There was an active demand upon James Morris' supplies and he could have disposed of three times as many had he had them.

Strange as it may seem, nothing more was heard from Jacques Valette and Jean Bevoir, and the Morrises often wondered what had become of them, and of their companion, Hector Bergerac. They questioned the hunters, both white and red, but could get no information.

"They must have gone up to the Lakes after all," said James Morris. "If it is so, I am thankful for it."

"And so am I thankful," added Dave.

As soon as the weather moderated, the hunters and trappers sallied forth once more, going up and down the Ohio and many miles to the westward. Some of the Indians used their guns as skillfully as the white men, but when powder and ball were scarce they fell back upon their bows and arrows, and it was astonishing what large game they secured.

Once during the winter Dave went out with White Buffalo, on a hunt which lasted three days. They took their bags full of provisions, and the Indian chief led the way across the Ohio and into the depths of the forest, which was entirely new to the youth.

"White Buffalo knows the deer are plentiful here," said the Indian, and so it proved, for before noon they struck the trail of some of the animals, and by nightfall had laid a large buck and his mate low. Then they took up the trail of some other animals and were equally successful.

The evening of the second day's hunt found the pair in the vicinity of an Indian village called Shilagum, standing not far from where the Muskingum River flowed into the Ohio. It was only a small place, but noted among the Shawanoes as the abode of a great medicine man named Paka-Lokalla, or Medicine-of-the-Clouds. The medicine man was an old fellow, with but one ear, and an eye that drooped, but he was looked to as being powerful, and many of the Indians refused to do much without consulting him.

White Buffalo was known in the village, but being of a different tribe he received a cold welcome, until he said he was willing to pay for accommodations for himself and his companion, pointing at the same time to a small skin hanging over his shoulder. At once the Indians bustled about and made the squaws get the visitors something to eat, and made them clean out a small wigwam where the pair might rest for the night.

Dave was suspicious about the wigwam, and especially the old robes offered for bedding, for he had had one unpleasant experience with red men's vermin, as already related in this series. But the wigwam and the robes proved fairly clean after all, and he slept soundly until morning.

When he came forth for his breakfast he was informed by White Buffalo that a most important visitor had arrived at the village. This was none other than Pontiac, the great chief of the Ottawas, who was accompanied by several companions, including Deer Neck, an under-chief of the Wyandots.

Having heard so much about Pontiac, Dave was anxious to see him. He spoke to White Buffalo about the matter and the latter spoke to one of the head men of the village, and a little later both were introduced to the man who, a year and a half later, was to head one of the greatest Indian uprisings known to our history.

At this time Pontiac was between forty-five and fifty years of age, tall, well-formed, and with muscles of iron. His hair was long, his eyes black and penetrating, and his general manner a commanding one. Where he had come from was rather uncertain, although it was generally believed that his father had been either an Ottawa, a Miami, or a Sac, and his mother an Ojibway.

Not only was Pontiac the head of the Ottawas, but he was likewise a chief of the Metais, a powerful organization in the Lake region, the members of which were supposed to be master magicians. To the Metais the ignorant savages humbled themselves as they did to their greatest medicine man.

Of the early history of Pontiac but little can be said. It is doubted if he was a great hunter, although he could use his bow and arrows and a gun with considerable skill. It was as a leader that he shone best. He had uncommon sagacity, good reasoning powers, and a manner of talking that was most persuasive. More than this, his spirit was such that, once having undertaken a project, he would do his best to carry it through, no matter what the cost.

What had brought him to this village Dave did not learn, nor did White Buffalo, for Pontiac said but little so long as they remained at hand. The great chief showed plainly that he wished to be alone with those he had sought out, so White Buffalo and the youth did not prolong their stay longer than was necessary.

As they were about to leave, Pontiac strode forward and glanced sharply at Dave.

"They tell me your father has opened a trading-post on the Ohio." he said in his native tongue.

Dave did not understand, but White Buffalo quickly interpreted the speech.

"He has," answered the youth.

"Does he expect to stay there, or move still further westward?"

"He is going to stay."

At this the great chief gave Dave another close look. Then he turned away and said no more.

"What do you make of this, White Buffalo?" asked Dave, after they had left the Indian village a goodly distance behind them.

"Pontiac likes not the fact that Dave's father has settled down on the Ohio," was the slow answer. "Pontiac wishes the English to keep close to the shores of the Great Waters."

"I must say he looks like a great chief," said the youth thoughtfully.

"He is a great chief, and his power is as wide-spreading as a great summer storm," answered White Buffalo. "The red men everywhere listen to him with all ears."

"Do you suppose he came to see that medicine man?"

"It may be so--he did not tell White Buffalo. But Pontiac is a magician--he can work wonders when he will, so I have heard."

Dave did not believe this, but said nothing on the point to his companion, for he knew it would be useless to attempt to uproot so deep--set a superstition.

"I sincerely hope Pontiac does not try to make trouble for my father," he went on.

"He will do nothing at present--the time is not ripe. The war hatchet is not dug up when the snow covers the ground."

"I know that. But we want no trouble in the spring either."

At this, White Buffalo shrugged his shoulders.

"Who can tell what the moons to come will bring forth?" he said. "The sun comes up and man is alive; it sets, and the last rays fall upon his grave. The Great Spirit of the happy hunting ground rules, but the face of the Great Spirit is hidden from the eyes of the red man and the eyes of the white man as well."