The Hidden Children
Chapter 19. Amochol
By daybreak we had salted our parched corn, soaked, and eaten it, and my Indians were
already freshening their paint. The Sagamore, stripped for battle, barring clout and
sporran, stood tall and powerfully magnificent in his white and vermilion hue of war. On
his broad chest the scarlet Ghost Bear reared; on his crest the scarlet feathers slanted low.
The Yellow Moth was unbelievably hideous in the poisonous hue of a toad-stool; his
crest and all his skin glistened yellow, shining like the sulphurous belly of a snake. But
the Grey-Feather was ghastly; his bony features were painted like a skull, spine, ribs, and
limb-bones traced out heavily in yellowish white so that he seemed a stalking and
articulated skeleton as he moved in the dim twilight of the trees. And I could see that he
was very proud of the effect.
As for the young and ambitious Night Hawk, he had simply made one murderous symbol
of himself-- a single and terrific emblem of his entire body, for he was painted black from
head to foot like an Iroquois executioner, and his skin glistened as the plumage of a sleek
crow shines in the sunlight of a field. Every scalp-lock was neatly braided and oiled;
every crown shaven; every knife and war-axe and rifle-barrel glimmered silver bright
under the industrious rubbing; flints had been renewed; with finest priming powder pans
reprimed; and now all my Indians squatted amiably together in perfect accord, very
loquacious in their guarded voices, Iroquois, Mohican, and Stockbridge, foregathering as
though there had never been a feud in all the world.
Through the early dusk of morning, Lois had stolen away, having discovered a spring
pool to bathe in, the creek water being dark and bitter; and I had freshened myself, too,
when she returned, her soft cheeks abloom, and the crisp curls still wet with spray.
When we had eaten, the Sagamore rose and moved noiselessly down the height of land to
the trail level, where our path entered the ghostly gloom of the evergreens. I followed;
Lois followed me, springing lightly from tussock to rotting log, from root to bunchy
swale, swift, silent footed, dainty as a lithe and graceful panther crossing a morass dry-
Behind her trotted in order the Yellow Moth, Tohoontowhee, and lastly the Grey-Feather-
- "Like Father Death herding us all to destruction," whispered Lois in my ear, as I halted
while the Sagamore surveyed the trail ahead with cautious eyes.
As we moved forward once more, I glanced around at Lois and thought I never had seen
such fresh and splendid vigor in any woman. Nor had I ever seen her in such a bright and
happy spirit, as though the nearness to the long sought goal was changing her every
moment, under my very eyes, into a lovelier and more radiant being than ever had trod
this war-scarred world.