Wlliam Gilmore Simms
Southward Ho! A Spell of Sunshine >> Chapter XVII / Legend of Missouri: Or, The Captive of the Pawnee >> Page 407

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Page 407

Novel (Romance) | Redfield | 1854
Transcription MELANCHOLY OF THE RED MAN. 407
then religion claimed all their hearts, and fed their souls upon the one frenzied appetite which it thus made the decree of providence. The red man's Moloch has always been supreme among his gods, and he now absorbed wholly the devotions equally of Pawnee and Omaha. And thus, from generation to generation, had the fierce madness been transmitted. Their oldest traditions failed to say when the hatred did not exist between the two nations ; and the boy of the Pawnee, and him of the Omaha, for hundreds of moons had still been taught the same passion at the altar ; and his nightly dream, until he could take the field as a man, was one in which he found himself bestriding an enemy, and tearing his reeking scalp from his forehead. And this, by the way, is the common history of all these Indian tribes. They were thus perpetually in conflict with their neighbors, destined to slaughter or be slain. What wonder the sad solemnity on their faces, the national gloom over their villages, their passions which hide darkly, as wolves in the mountain caverns, concealing, in the cold aspect, their silent wretchedness; their horrid rages, under the stolid, though only seeming, indifference in every visage. Their savage god was dealing with them everywhere, after his usual fashion. They were themselves the sacrifices upon his bloody altars, and he nursed their frenzies only for self-destruction.
Gloomy, stern, intensely savage, was the spirit thus prevailing over the minds of both people, at the time of which we speak. The season was approaching, when, their summer crops laid by, they were again to take the field, in the twofold character of warriors and hunters. The union of the two, in the case of people living mostly by the chase, is natural and apparent enough. The forests where they sought their prey equally harbored their enemies, and for both they made the same preparations. The period of these events is within modern times. The coasts of the great Atlantic have been populously settled by the white race. The red men have gradually yielded before their pioneers. The restless Anglo-Norman is pushing his way rapidly into the forests� into the pathless solitudes � into sullen mountain-gorges, and dense and gloomy thickets. He has possessed himself everywhere of some foothold, and converted every foothold into a fastness. The borderers were already