A Trapper's Ghastly Vengeance





About a mile back from the Hudson, at Coxsackie, stood the cabin of Nick

Wolsey, who, in the last century, was known to the river settlements as a

hunter and trapper of correct aim, shrewdness, endurance, and taciturn

habit. For many years he lived in this cabin alone, except for the

company of his dog; but while visiting a camp of Indians in the

wilderness he was struck with the engaging manner of one of the girls of

the tribe; he repeated the visit; he found cause to go to the camp

frequently; he made presents to the father of the maid, and at length won

her consent to be his wife. The simple marriage ceremony of the tribe was

performed, and Wolsey led Minamee to his home; but the wedding was

interrupted in an almost tragic manner, for a surly fellow who had loved

the girl, yet who never had found courage to declare himself, was wrought

to such a jealous fury at the discovery of Wolsey's good fortune that he

sprang at him with a knife, and would have despatched him on the spot had

not the white man's faithful hound leaped at his throat and borne him to

the ground.



Wolsey disarmed the fellow and kicked and cuffed him to the edge of the

wood, while the whole company shouted with laughter at this ignominious

punishment, and approved it. A year or more passed. Wolsey and his Indian

wife were happy in their free and simple life; happy, too, in their

little babe. Wolsey was seldom absent from his cabin for any considerable

length of time, and usually returned to it before the night set in. One

evening he noticed that the grass and twigs were bent near his house by

some passing foot that, with the keen eye of the woodman, he saw was not

his wife's.



Some hunter, he said, saw the house when he passed here, and as,

belike, he never saw one before, he stopped to look in. For the trail

led to his window, and diverged thence to the forest again. A few days

later, as he was returning, he came on the footprints that were freshly

made, and a shadow crossed his face. On nearing the door he stumbled on

the body of his dog, lying rigid on the ground. How did this happen,

Minamee? he cried, as he flung open the door. The wife answered, in a

low voice, O Hush! you'll wake the child.



Nick Wolsey entered the cabin and stood as one turned to marble. Minamee,

his wife, sat on the gold hearth, her face and hands cut and blackened,

her dress torn, her eyes glassy, a meaningless smile on her lips. In her

arms she pressed the body of her infant, its dress soaked with blood, and

the head of the little creature lay on the floor beside her. She crooned

softly over the cold clay as if hushing it to sleep, and when Wolsey at

length found words, she only whispered, Hush! you will wake him. The

night went heavily on; day dawned, and the crooning became lower and

lower; still, through all that day the bereft woman rocked to and fro

upon the floor, and the agonized husband hung about her, trying in vain

to give comfort, to bind her wounds, to get some explanation of the

mystery that confronted him. The second night set in, and it was evident

that it would be the last for Minamee. Her strength failed until she

allowed herself to be placed on a couch of skins, while the body of her

child was gently lifted from her arms. Then, for a few brief minutes, her

reason was restored, and she found words to tell her husband how the

Indian whose murderous attack he had thwarted at the wedding had come to

the cabin, shot the dog that had rushed out to defend the place, beat the

woman back from the door, tore the baby from its bed, slashed its head

off with a knife, and, flinging the little body into her lap, departed

with the words, This is my revenge. I am satisfied. Before the sun was

in the east again Minamee was with her baby.



Wolsey sat for hours in the ruin of his happiness, his breathing alone

proving that he was alive, and when at last he arose and went out of the

house, there were neither tears nor outcry; he saddled his horse and rode

off to the westward. At nightfall he came to the Indian village where he

had won his wife, and relating to the assembled tribe what had happened,

he demanded that the murderer be given up to him. His demand was readily

granted, whereupon the white man advanced on the cowering wretch, who had

confidently expected the protection of his people, and with the quick

fling and jerk of a raw-hide rope bound his arms to his side. Then

casting a noose about his neck and tying the end of it to his saddle-bow,

he set off for the Hudson. All that night he rode, the Indian walking and

running at the horse's heels, and next day he reached his cabin. Tying

his prisoner to a tree, the trapper cut a quantity of young willows, from

which he fashioned a large cradle-like receptacle; in this he placed the

culprit, face upward, and tied so stoutly that he could not move a

finger; then going into his house, he emerged with the body of Minamee,

and laid it, face downward, on the wretch, who could not repress a groan

of horror as the awful burden sank on his breast. Wolsey bound together

the living and the dead, and with a swing of his powerful arms he flung

them on his horse's back, securing them there with so many turns of rope

that nothing could displace them. Now he began to lash his horse until

the poor beast trembled with anger and pain, when, flinging off the

halter, he gave it a final lash, and the animal plunged, foaming and

snorting, into the wilderness. When it had vanished and the hoof-beats

were no longer heard, Nick Wolsey took his rifle on his arm and left his

home forever. And tradition says that the horse never stopped in its mad

career, but that on still nights it can be heard sweeping through the

woods along the Hudson and along the Mohawk like a whirlwind, and that as

the sound goes by a smothered voice breaks out in cursing, in appeal,

then in harsh and dreadful laughter.





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