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- Tecumseh: A Drama - 2/21 -
Nor lift a hand in wrath against their race.
TECUMSEH. These are wise counsels which are noised afar, And many nations have adopted them And made them law.
PROPHET. These counsels were your own! Good in themselves, they are too weak to sway Our fickle race. I've much improved on them Since the Great Spirit took me by the hand.
TECUMSEH. Improved! and how? Your mission was to lead Our erring people back to ancient ways-- Too long o'ergrown--not bloody sacrifice. They tell me that the prisoners you have ta'en-- Not captives in fair fight, but wanderers Bewildered in our woods, or such as till Outlying fields, caught from the peaceful plough-- You cruelly have tortured at the stake. Nor this the worst! In order to augment Your gloomy sway you craftily have played Upon the zeal and frenzy of our tribes, And, in my absence, hatched a monstrous charge Of sorcery amongst them, which hath spared Nor feeble age nor sex. Such horrid deeds Recoil on us! Old Shataronra's grave Sends up its ghost, and Tetaboxti's hairs-- White with sad years and counsel--singed by you! In dreams and nightmares, float on every breeze. Ambition's madness might stop short of this, And shall if I have life.
PROPHET. The Great Spirit Hath urged me, and still urges me to all. He puts his hand to mine and leads me on. Do you not hear him whisper even now-- "Thou art the Prophet?" All our followers Behold in me a greater than yourself, And worship me, and venture where I lead.
TECUMSEH. Your fancy is the common slip of fools, Who count the lesser greater being near. Dupe of your own imposture and designs, I cannot bind your thoughts! but what you do Henceforth must be my subject; so take heed, And stand within my sanction lest you fall.
PROPHET. You are Tecumseh--else you should choke for this!
[_Haughtily crosses the stage and pauses._]
Stay! Let me think! I must not break with him-- 'Tis premature. I know his tender part, And I shall touch it.
[_Recrosses the stage._]
Brother, let me ask, Do you remember how our father fell?
TECUMSEH. Who can forget Kanawha's bloody fray? He died for home in battle with the whites.
PROPHET. And you remember, too, that boyish morn, When all our braves were absent on the chase-- That morn when you and I half-dreaming lay In summer grass, but woke to deadly pain Of loud-blown bugles ringing through the air. They came!--a rush of chargers from the woods, With tramplings, cursings, shoutings manifold, And headlong onset, fierce with brandished swords, Of frontier troopers eager for the fight. Scarce could a lynx have screened itself from sight, So sudden the attack--yet, trembling there, We crouched unseen, and saw our little town Stormed, with vile slaughter of small babe and crone, And palsied grandsire--you remember it?
TECUMSEH. Remember it! Alas, the echoing Of that wild havoc lingers in my brain! O wretched age, and injured motherhood, And hapless maiden-wreck!
PROPHET. Yet this has been Our endless history, and it is this Which crams my very veins with cruelty. My pulses bound to see those devils fall Brained to the temples, and their women cast As offal to the wolf.
TECUMSEH. Their crimes are great-- Our wrongs unspeakable! yet my revenge Is open war. It never shall be said Tecumseh's hate went armed with cruelty. There's reason in revenge; but spare our own! These gloomy sacrifices sap our strength; And henceforth from your wizard scrutinies I charge you to forbear. But who's the white You hold as captive?
PROPHET. He is called LEFROY-- A captive, but too free to come and go. Our warriors struck his trail by chance, and found His tent close by the Wabash, where he lay With sprained ankle, foodless and alone. He had a book of pictures with him there Of Long-Knife forts, encampments and their chiefs-- Most recognizable; so, reasoning thence, Our warriors took him for a daring spy, And brought him here, and tied him to the stake. Then he declared he was a Saganash-- No Long-Knife he! but one who loved our race, And would adopt our ways--with honeyed words, Couched in sweet voice, and such appealing eyes That Iena, our niece--who listened near-- Believing, rushed, and cut him from the tree. I hate his smiles, soft ways, and smooth-paced tread, And would, ere now, have killed him but for her; For ever since, unmindful of her race, She has upheld him, and our matrons think That he has won her heart.
TECUMSEH. But not her hand! This cannot be, and I must see to it: Red shall not marry white--such is our law. But graver matters are upon the wing, Which I must open to you. Know you, then, The nation that has doomed our Council-Fires-- Splashed with our blood--will on its Father turn, Once more, whose lion-paws, stretched o'er the sea, Will sheathe their nails in its unnatural tides, Till blood will flow, as free as pitch in spring, To gum the chafed seams of our sinking bark. This opportunity, well-nursed, will give A respite to our wrongs, and heal our wounds; And all our nations, knit by me and ranged In headship with our Saganash allies, Will turn the mortal issue 'gainst our foes, And wall our threatened frontiers with their slain. But till that ripened moment, not a sheaf Of arrows should be wasted, not a brave Should perish aimlessly, nor discord reign Amongst our tribes, nor jealousy distrain The large effects of valour. We must now Pack all our energies. Our eyes and ears No more must idle with the hour, but work As carriers to the brain, where we shall store, As in an arsenal, deep schemes of war!
[_A noise and shouting without._]
But who is this?
[_Enter_ BARRON _accompanied and half-dragged by warriors. The_ PROPHET _goes forward to meet him._]
BARRON. I crave protection as a messenger And agent sent by General Harrison. Your rude, unruly braves, against my wish, Have dragged me here as if I were a spy.
PROPHET. What else! Why come you here if not a spy? Brouillette came, and Dubois, who were spies-- Now you are here. Look on it! There's your grave.
[_Pointing to the ground at_ BARRON'S _feet._]
TECUMSEH. (_Joining them_.) Unhand this man! He is a messenger, And not a spy. Your life, my friend, is safe In these rough woods as in your general's town. But, quick--your message?
BARRON. The Governor of Indiana sends This letter to you, in the which he says (_Reading letter_) "You are an enemy to the Seventeen Fires. I have been told that you intend to lift The hatchet 'gainst your father, the great Chief, Whose goodness, being greater than his fear Or anger at your folly, still would stretch His bounty to his children who repent, And ask of him forgiveness for the past. Small harm is done which may not be repaired, And friendship's broken chain may be renewed; But this is in your doing, and depends Upon the choice you make. Two roads Are lying now before you: one is large, Open and pleasant, leading unto peace, Your own security and happiness; The other--narrow, crooked and constrained-- Most surely leads to misery and death. Be not deceived! All your united force Is but as chaff before the Seventeen Fires. Your warriors are brave, but so are ours;
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