Read CHAPTER IX of Rodney‚ the Ranger With Daniel Morgan on Trail and Battlefield , free online book, by John V. Lane, on ReadCentral.com.

A WHITE BOY ADOPTED BY THE INDIANS

It already has appeared that Conrad’s wish that he might be adopted by the Indians, a thought which comforted him as he lay bound on the first night of his captivity, had been realized; also that he had been adopted by the old chief, Ahneota, who now wished to adopt Rodney.

As Conrad’s experiences were such as the other lad might expect, should he finally yield to the old Indian’s desire, a brief account of them may be found interesting.

Following the night of Conrad’s capture the party travelled for two days in a westerly direction. Just at dusk on the second day they came to a small river. Here canoes were brought from hiding and all, save one Indian who swam across with the horse, paddled to the other side in the canoes.

Arriving on the other bank several guns were discharged, followed by lusty yells that soon were responded to with like yells from over a wooded ridge near the river. Within a few minutes squaws and papooses came running to meet them.

Though Conrad was a stolid lad his pulse quickened, for he had heard many tales of tortures inflicted by the savages. The Indian dogs snapped at his heels; the children and some of the squaws tormented him by pinching, slapping and threatening, to all of which the men paid no heed and the boy tried to appear indifferent.

As they came near the village all the spectators formed in two lines, between which he was ordered to run.

He was to run the gauntlet! For an instant his heart stopped beating, the next, a sharp blow from a stick set the blood inherited from a brave ancestry tingling through his veins.

Lowering his head he charged, as a mad bull charges, warding off what blows he might with his sturdy arms. He was thwacked with clubs, jabbed with sharpened sticks, tripped and pommelled till it seemed that not an inch of his body escaped. One old hag threw a handful of sand in his eyes and he stumbled, but crawled the few feet remaining between where he fell and the wigwam toward which he had run. Once inside, his tormentors left him. He was so sore that he almost wished he could die. After a time he slept and thought his mother came to comfort him, but it was only a young squaw who brought him food. Then one of the men came and the boy complained of the rough treatment. The Indian said that running the gauntlet was the custom, that he had been brave and the Indians would adopt him into the tribe, and Conrad could have cried for joy, only that he was a boy who did not cry.

Conrad never forgot the day he was formally adopted into the tribe. First in the ceremony was washing away his white blood and, it seemed to the boy, at least a part of his skin as well.

In full view of the assembled tribe, whose ideas of modesty differed much from those of civilized people, he was stripped and led into a pool in the river and there thrust under the water and then stood upon his feet and scoured with sand. This was the most thorough scrubbing Conrad ever was to have. Life with the Vuysens had not been conducive to cleanliness and Indians in those days were not noted for bathing.

Following the bath came the process of greasing him from head to foot and decorating his face with pigments, after which he was clad in breech-clout and moccasins. This done, he was seated upon the bank for a no less severe ordeal.

This consisted in plucking out the hair of his head, all but a tuft, or scalp lock, to which coloured feathers were tied. An Indian did the work, dipping his fingers in ashes that he might get better hold. Conrad never winced or made outcry throughout the various ordeals.

A blanket was given to the boy, who was then led into a wigwam, where an old Indian conducted ceremonies, on which Conrad looked with awe, though understanding but little of them. Their solemnity, however, impressed him deeply and it is very doubtful whether, after they were over, he would have dared run away had he been so inclined.

The boy’s eyes were light blue and his hair was yellow; but his cheekbones were high, his face stolid, so that now, when paint and grease had been added to sunburn, and he stood clothed in full Indian garb, no one would think him other than an Indian but for those tell-tale blue eyes.

The Wyandottes, of which people he now considered himself one, occupied territory in what is now the north-central portion of Ohio.

The year was 1772, not long ago in history, but measured by change, very long ago. Then, the country was little different from what it had been for thousands of years. Now, it seems another world and the map of it shows great cities where were forests and connecting these are what at first resemble spiders’ webs, but which are highways. Few white men then came to that region, where now few red men are seen, indeed none living the life they then lived. Such whites as came were a few French voyageurs and Jesuit missionaries and hunters and traders from the English colonies. The traders did not scruple to exchange, for valuable furs, guns, tomahawks and ammunition, which they knew would be turned against the whites of the frontier in time of war; and many of them sold the savages liquor, knowing an Indian would sell his soul for it and having drank it would become a fiend incarnate.

On the south flowed the Ohio River, along which white men were pushing their way, and settling on land in what is now Kentucky and Tennessee, and looking with covetous eyes on the land between that river and the lakes, but which the Indians claimed had been reserved to them by treaty. The shrewder among the Indian leaders foresaw the time when they would have to fight and overwhelm the intruders or submit to their hunting grounds being spoiled by the white man. This feeling of uneasiness was spreading among the tribes, and the younger warriors were eager to fight and not infrequently were guilty of marauding expeditions.

One day a party of young braves had returned from a hunting expedition down in what was called “the dark and bloody ground,” Kentucky, which the Indians of the North and the Cherokees and Chickasaws of the South made common use of for a hunting place. Frequent were the bloody skirmishes fought by these hostile tribes in this territory, though none of the Indians made permanent homes there. This party had brought back several scalps and among them Conrad noted two torn from the heads of white men. Ahneota had looked grave and the boy shuddered, and for the first time his dreams about his future were not as bright as they had been.

One day there had come to the village a Frenchman, clad in the picturesque garb of a voyageur, wearing a gaudy handkerchief about his head and a gay capote, or blanket coat which the savages much admired. With him was a half-breed woman and Louis, then not quite ten years old. Conrad thought this boy the most attractive person he had ever met and the little fellow, clad in the softest of deerskin tastefully ornamented and wearing a jaunty cap of the same material, was indeed a handsome lad. Conrad had attached himself to the boy as does a dog to his master. When Rodney arrived, and the little fellow preferred him to his former companion, then Conrad, who in one year of the wild life had become an Indian in looks, became one at heart.