AMONG the women of the tribe with whom we early became acquainted, our greatest favorite was a daughter of one of the Day-kau-rays. This family, as I have elsewhere said, boasted in some remote generation a cross of the French blood, and this fact may account for the fair complexion and soft curling hair which distinguished our friend. She had a noble forehead, full expressive eyes, and fine teeth. Unlike the women of her people, she had not grown brown and haggard with advancing years. Indeed, with the exception of one feature, she might be called beautiful.
She had many years before married a Mus-qua-kee, or Fox Indian, and, according to the custom among all the tribes the husband came home to the wife's family, and lived among the Winnebagoes.
It is this custom, so exactly the reverse of civilized ways, that makes the birth of a daughter a subject of peculiar rejoicing in an Indian family. "She will bring another hunter to our lodge," is the style of mutual congratulation.
The Mus-qua-kee continued, for some few years, to live among his wife's relations; but, as no children blessed their union, he at length became tired of his new friends, and longed to return to his own people. He tried, for a time, to persuade his wife to leave her home, and accompany him to the Mississippi, where the Sacs and Foxes live, but in vain. She could not resolve to make the sacrifice.
One day, after many fruitless efforts to persuade her, he flew into a violent passion.
"Then, if you will not go with me," said he," I will leave you; but you shall never be the wife of any other man -- I will mark you !"
Saying this, he flew upon her, and bit off the end of her nose. This, the usual punishment for conjugal infidelity, is the greatest disgrace a woman can receive -- it bars her forever from again entering the pale of matrimony. The wretch fled to his own people; but his revenge fell short of its aim. Day-kau-ray was too well known and too universally respected to suffer opprobium in any member of his family. This bright, loving creature in particular won all hearts upon a first acquaintance -- she certainly did ours, from the outset.
She suffered much from rheumatism, and a remedy we gave her soon afforded her almost entire relief. Her gratitude knew no bounds. Notwithstanding, that from long suffering she had become partially crippled, she would walk all the way from the Barribault, a distance of ten miles, as often as once in two or three weeks, to visit us. Then, to sit and gaze at us, to laugh with childish glee at everything new or strange that we employed ourselves about -- to pat and stroke us every time we came near her -- sometimes to raise our hand or arms and kiss them -- these were her demonstrations of affection. And we loved her in return. It was always a joyful announcement when, looking out over the Portage road, somebody called out, "the Cut-nose is coming!" In time, however, we learned to call her by her baptismal name of Elizabeth, for she, too, was one of Mr. Mazzuchelli's converts.
She came one day, accompanied by a half-grown boy, carrying a young fawn, she had brought me as a present. I was delighted with the pretty creature -- with its soft eyes and dappled coat; but having often heard the simile, "as wild as a fawn," I did not anticipate much success in taming it. To my great surprise, it soon learned to follow me like a dog. Whereever I went, there Fan was sure to be. At breakfast, she would lie down at my feet, under the table. One of her first tokens of affection was to gnaw off all the trimming from my black silk apron, as she lay pretending to caress and fondle me. Nor was this her only style of mischief.
One day we heard a great rattling among the crockery in the kitchen. We ran to see what was the matter and found that Miss Fan had made her way to a shelf of the dresser, about two feet from the ground, and was endeavoring to find a comfortable place to lie down, among the plates and dishes. I soon observed that it was the shelter of the shelf above her head that was the great attraction, and that she was in the habit of seeking out a place of repose under a chair, or something approaching to an "umabrageous bower." So after this I took care, as the hour for her morning nap approached, to open a large green parasol, and set it on the matting in the corner -- then when I called Fan, Fan, she would come and nestle under it, and soon fall fast asleep.
One morning Fan was missing. In vain we called and sought her in the garden -- in the enclosure for the cattle -- at the houses of the Frenchmen -- along the hill towards Paquette's -- no Fan was to be found. We thought she had asserted her own wild nature and sped away to the woods.
It was a hot forenoon, and the doors were all open. About dinner time, in rushed Fan, panting violently, and threw herself upon her side, where she lay with her feet outstretched, her mouth foaming, and exhibiting all the signs of mortal agony. We tried to give her water, to soothe her, if perhaps it might be fright that so affected her; but in a few minutes, with a gasp and a spasm, she breathed her last. Whether she had been chased by the greyhounds, or whether she had eaten some poisonous weed, which, occasioning her suffering, had driven her to her best friends for aid, we never knew; but we lost our pretty pet, and many were the tears shed for her.
Very shortly after the departure of my husband, we received a visit from "the White Crow," "the Little Priest," and several others of the principal chiefs of the Rock River Indians. They seemed greatly disappointed at learning that their father was from home, even though his errand was to get "the silver." We sent for Paquette, who interpreted for us the object of their visit.
They had come to inform us that the Sac Chief, Black Hawk and his band, who, in compliance with a former treaty, had removed sometime previous to the west of the Mississippi, had now returned to their old homes and hunting grounds, and expressed a deterini-nation not to relinquish them, but to drive off the white settlers who had begun to occupy them.
The latter, in fact, he had already done, and having, as it was said, induced some of the Pottowattamies to join him, there was reason to fear that he might persuade some of the Winnebagoes to follow their example.
These chiefs had come to counsel with their father, and to assure him that they should do all in their power to keep their young men quiet. They had heard that troops were being raised down among the whites in Illinois, and they had hopes that their people would be wise enough to keep out of difficulty. Furthermore, they begged that their father, on his return, would see that the soldiers did not meddle with them, so long as they remained quiet and behaved in a friendly manner.
White Crow seemed particularly anxious to impress it upon me, that if any danger should arise in Shaw-nee-aw-kee's absence, he should come with his people to protect me and my family. I relied upon his assurances, for he had ever shown himself an upright and honorable Indian.
Notwithstanding this, the thoughts of "Indian troubles" so near us, in the absence of our guardian and protector, occasioned us many an anxious moment, and it was not until we learned of the peaceable retreat of the Sacs and Foxes, west of the Mississippi, that we were able wholly to lay aside our fears.
We were now called to part with our friends, Major Twiggs and his family, which we did with heartfelt regret. He gave me a few parting words about our old acquaintance, Christman.
"When I went into the barracks the other day," said he, "about the time the men were taking their dinner, I noticed a great six-foot soldier standing against the window-frame, crying and blubbering. 'Halloo,' said I, 'what on earth does this mean?'
"'Why, that fellow there,' said Christman, (for it was he), 'has scrowged me out of my place!' A pretty soldier your protege will make, madam!"
I never heard any more of my hero. Whether he went to exhibit his prowess against the Seminoles and Mexicans, or whether he returned to till the fertile soil of his native German Flats, and blow his favorite boatman's horn, must be left for some future historian to tell.
There is one more character to be disposed of -- Louisa. An opportunity offering in the Spring, the Major had placed her under the charge of a person going to Buffalo, that she might be returned to her parents. In compliment to the new acquaintances she had formed, she shortened her skirts, mounted a pair of scarlet leggins, embroidered with porcupine quills, and took her leave of military life, having deposited with the gentleman who took charge of her, sixty dollars, for safe keeping, which she remarked "she had saved up, out of her wages at a dollar a week through the winter."
A very short time after we were settled in our new home at the Agency, we attempted the commencement of a little Sunday School. Edwin, Harry and Josette, were our most reliable scholars, but besides them, there were the two little Manaigres, Therese Paquette, and her mother's half sister, Florence Courville, a pretty young girl of fifteen. None of these girls had even learned their letters. They spoke only French, or rather, the Canadian patois, and it was exceedingly difficult to give them at once the sound of the words, and their signification, which they were careful to inquire. Besides this, there was the task of correcting the false ideas, and remedying the ignorance and superstition which presented so formidable an obstacle to rational improvement. We did our best, however, and had the satisfaction of seeing them, after a time, making really respectable progress with their spellingbook, and what was still more encouraging, acquiring a degree of light and knowledge in regard to better things.
In process of time, however, Florence was often absent from her class. "Her sister," she said, "could not always spare her. She wanted her to keep house while she, herself went over on Sunday to visit her friends, the Roys, who lived on the Wisconsin."
We reasoned with Madame Paquette on the subject. "Could she not spare Florence on some hour of the day? We would gladly teach her on a week day, for she seemed anxious to learn, but we had always been told that for that there was no time."
"Well -- she would see. Madame Aillum (Helm) and Madame John, were so kind!"
There was no improvement, however, in regularity. After a time Manaigre was induced to send his children to Mr. Cadle's mission-school at Green Bay. Therese accompanied them, and very soon Florence discontinued her attendance altogether.
We were obliged, from that time forward, to confine our instructions to our own domestic circle.
Mrs. John H. Kenzie, Wau-Bun, the "Early Day" in the Northwest. Chicago : D. B. Cooke & Co., 1857. p. 345-353.
From the Memorial Library Department of Special Collections, University of Wisconsin-Madison.