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UPON the summit of a mountain which beetled in the remote west over the dwellings and defences of a race long since vanished, stood, at the close of a midsummer's day, a gigantic shape whose vastness darkened the whole vale beneath. The sunset purpled the mountain-top, and crimsoned with its deep, gorgeous tints the broad occident and as the huge figure leaned against it, it seemed like a mighty image cut from the solid peak itself, and framed against the sky. Below in a thousand groups were gathered, in their wonted evening worship, that strange people who have left upon our hills and prairies so many monuments of their power, and who yet, by some mighty accident, have taken the trumpet out of the hand of Fame, and closed for ever, as regards their historical and domestic character, the busy lips of tradition. Still we can gather vaguely, that the Mound-builders accomplished a career in the West, corresponding, though less magnificent and imposing, with that which the Greeks and Romans accomplished in what is styled by courtesy the Old World. The hour has been when our own West was thronged with empires.
Over that Archipelago of nations the Dead Sea of Time has swept obliviously, and subsiding, hath left their graves only the greener for a new people in the present age to build their homes thereon. But at the time whereof we write, living thousands and ten thousands of these ancient denizens were paying their homage to their deity, and as they turned their eyes in unison, to bid their customary solemn adieu to the departing sun, they beheld the huge shape of which we have spoken. The first feeling which arose in their bosoms as they looked upon the vision was, that this was some monstrous prodigy exhibited by the powers of the air or the powers of darkness to astonish and awe them. But as they gazed they soon learned that it had a fixed and symmetrical form, and possessed the faculty of life.
When they discovered that the huge apparition was animate indeed, a new terror sprang up in their soul. They gathered about their mounds, their places of worship, and on the plain, in various and fearful groups.
In one spot were collected a company of priests and sages, the learned and prophetic of the race, who with intent eyes watched the mighty spectre; and to gain a clearer conception of its proportions, scanned its broad and far-cast shadow and marked the altitude of the sun. Each one searched his thoughts for some knowledge applicable to the sudden and vast appearance.
Not far from this group was drawn together a score of women, who still retained their devotional posture and aspect, but yet casting side-long and timid glances towards each other's countenances as if hoping to discover there, an interpretation of the spectacle. Children clung to their garments and looking up piteously, seemed to ask "if that was not the God whom they were taught to fear and worship?" Each moment the awe increased and spread; from lip to lip the story ran across the plain and through the walled villages until the spectre embraced in its fearful dominion a circuit of many leagues.
Each moment conjecture grew more rife and question more anxious and frequent.
In the opinion of many of the wisest — for even from their souls superstitious misgivings were not wholly banished — the apparition which crowned the mountain was the Deity of the nation, who had chosen to assume this form as the most expressive of infinite power and terrific majesty.
Other nobler spirits, and who drew their knowledge rather from the intellect than the feelings, believed it was the reappearance of a great brute which, by its singular strength, in an age long past and dimly remembered, had wasted the fields of their fathers and made desolate their ancient dwellings.
A tradition still lingered among them, that of that giant race, which had been swept from the earth by some fearful catastrophe, one still lived and might, from a remote and obscure lair, once more come forth, to shake the hills with his trampling, and with the shadow of his coming darken the households of nations.
In the more thoughtful minds of these theorists the vivid and traditionary descriptions of the mighty herd of brutes which had once tyrannized over the earth, had left an impression deep, abiding and darkly colored. The memories of their progenitors had handed them down as a Titanic tribe of beings who, in their day, excited a terror which kindled human fear, and with it, the best growth of fear, human ingenuity. They remembered that in that distant age, as the history ran, a new and majestic race of heroes, moulded of Nature's noblest clay, had sprung into life to battle with and finally vanquish these brute oppressors of their country.
Day faded fast. Its last streaks died away in the West and yet the solemn shape stood there in its vast, unmoving stillness. And still the people retained their postures of wonder and fear, while in hushed voices they spoke of the occupant of the mountain. Gray, cold twilight at length cast its mantle upon the vision, and they scattered in anxious parties towards their homes. But with them they bore the image of the huge visitant. They could not shake it from them. A general and deep awe had fallen on the multitude, and even when they sought their slumbers that giant shape passed before their sealed lids in a thousand forms, assuming as many attitudes of assault and defence; for from the first, by a strange instinct, they had looked upon it as their foe. To watch its movements, for it could be yet seen, in the clear distinctness of its immense stature, calm, majestic, silent; to sound the alarm; if need be to meet it face to face, should it descend from its pinnacle, the chieftains of the Mound-builders thought fit to station armed sentries at various corners of the streets and highways of their towns and cities, on the walls of their fortresses, and as a more commanding position, on the summit of their mounds and in the square, stone observatories which crowned a portion of them.
The relics of the fortresses and observatories that night manned by the sentinels of that peculiar people, still stand and moulder on the soil of the far west. They are constructed on principles of military science now lost or inexplicable.(1)
But, whatever the code of tactics on which they were fashioned, we cannot but admire, in the midst of our conjectures, their peculiar symmetry, their number and their duration. Parallel with the foundations of Rome these walls went up, far back in the calendar of time, and time-defying, they seem destined to pass down, as far from the present into a misty and pregnant future, as the actual history of a populous and mighty race. Like the lost decades of Livy, some passages are wanting to their completeness, but in what stands we may read the power, the strength, the decay, and the downfall of our own American ancients. They were men of war and those ramparts first built against a human enemy were now occupied to keep at bay a new and untried foe. From time to time, along the line of guardsmen went the watchword the sentries of different posts occasionally whispering to each other that the apparition was still visible on the mountain. Not a few, overwearied with their fears, slumbered.
The middle watch of the night had come. The air was dark and still. Not a breath nor voice broke the universal quiet: when, clear and sharp, there fell upon the ears of the sleeping populace, a sound like the crash of sudden thunder. The earth shook as if trodden by heavy footsteps, and through the air came a noise like the rushing of some mighty bulk in violence and haste. Ponderous hoofs trampled the earth and drew nigh. It was he — the traditionary brute — Behemoth — and before his irresistible force fell whatever strove to gainsay his advance. The whole region trembled as when a vast body of waters bursts its way and rolls over the earth, ocean-like, wave shouting to wave, and all crowding onward with thunderous tumult. In vain was the solid breast-work; the piled wall was in vain; in vain the armed and watchful sentry. Like some stupendous engine of war, he bore down on them, rendering human strength a mockery and human defences worse than useless, for as wall, bastion and tower fell, they redoubled death and ruin on their builders. With a speed of which no common celerity can give us a conception he swept through the towns and villages, the tilled fields and pleasure gardens of the Mound-builders — desolating and desolate — none daring to stand before his feet thus dreadfully advanced.
The trepidation of the day grew an hundredfold; from the dark, dim light which the stars forced through the drilling and solid clouds, they could but guess vaguely at his bulk, yet out of their fears and the darkness they wrought an awful image of vastness and strength. Night banded with the monster, and terror walked in their train.
The morning dawned, and its light fell upon the face of an early wakened and fear stricken people. On every countenance was graven the clear and visible imprint of terror; but the expression was by no means that of ordinary alarm, such as is engendered by siege, or battle or death; nor did it stamp the countenance with the characters of a daily and familiar fear.
A dread which changed the whole aspect, such as distorts the features and takes from them their old, household look, was upon all. In the consternation and imbecility of the moment messengers were speeded forth and hurried to and fro through the many villages of the Mound-builders bearing tidings to which as answer, they received — the same tidings in return! The visitation had been universal; in each one of their five thousand villages were left like marks of brute ravage and strength!(2)
Behemoth had been with them all; and his large footsteps were traced wide over the plain until they broke off abruptly at its extreme bounds, and wheeled heavily into the mountains. When their dismay had subsided from its first flood-tide, they began to compare observations and consult with each other. The memories of most were bewildered in endeavoring to recall the occurrences of the past night; but from what with their confused faculties, they could grasp, they were well assured that the whole circuit of desolation had been accomplished within the passage of a single hour. And now the time was come for them to look forth and measure that desolation — to what side shall they first turn? Everywhere is some monument of that irresistible power. In one brief hour he has overthrown what Time, with his centuries, could not touch. There at the track of his first foot-prints is a crushed wall — driven through by some powerful, and to them as yet unknown, weapon of strength, which has left its dints upon the shattered fragments. Massive portions of it have fallen to powder beneath his weight. Across the path which he seems to have chosen out to stalk in rude triumph, through the very heart of their dwellings, lies a dead guardsman whom his might must have first dashed to the earth by some other unconjectured instrument of power, and then trampled upon, for at every pore the blood issues in torrents. Against a dwelling — pinned to its wall — is the corpse of a second sentinel which seems to have been hurled with scorn by the brute invader into its present abiding-place. On the threshold of her own home lies a mother with her child closely clinging to her neck, its little lips pressed to its parent's — both smitten into death by a single blow.
Look forth from this narrow scene and read the map of a broader ruin — the traces of a more fearful mastery! Yon mound, consecrated by the entombed dust of a generation of sages and heroes is embowelled, and its holy ashes laid open to the vulgar air and the strumpet wind. And yon gardens, once the resort of blooming beauty and gentle childhood--its walls strew the ground and its flowers, broken and withered, are sunken by the massy weight which has spoiled them, deep into the earth. And lo! that trodden and miry field, shut in by the standing fragments of two oblong walls — yesterday morn it was a fair greensward where strength wrestled kindly with strength and age looked on approvingly. In another quarter behold a tall tower of stone is cast down before the same incomprehensible might! The enclosure which surrounded and guarded it is battered to the earth, and about it is collected at this morning hour not a few of the chiefs of the Mound-builders, deeply lamenting the overthrow of so scientific and regular a monument. Sad words pass from each to each and they look despondingly into each other's faces, and find no hope, but rather a triumphant despair. From among the group which hung thus powerless and complaining over the shattered battlement boldly stood forth Bokulla, the most fearless and energetic chieftain of the nation.
Bokulla was a man of singular and prompt courage, of great earnestness of purpose and energy of character; yet modest and unobtrusive.
In every enterprise he kept himself aloof until the resources of all his co-laborers were exhausted, and then when all eyes were turned towards him as the last star of hope, he sprang with alacrity to the front, prepared to match the emergency with some new and vigorous suggestion; Bokulla was a philosopher no less than a soldier; not artificially framed by filling his mind with learned apothegms and pithy instances, but with a philosophy which was the growth of a meditative spirit that looked into all things and gathered wisdom from most. He possessed, nevertheless, a thoroughly martial and energetic mind, and found in every path of life, some accessory valuable to strengthen and adorn that character. Unlike, however, the majority of professed militants, he rarely exhibited the gay buoyancy which is so generally considered in them, an essential. On the contrary, even in the maddest onset and in the high flush of triumph his brow was saddened, oftimes with a passing cloud of gloom; the mark which distinguishes too often those who are born to be the leaders and benefactors of their race.
The mind of Bokulla partook of another peculiarity in common with many men of masterly genius. Whenever defeated or foiled in any attempt, his heart would be plunged for a moment in the deepest and most torturing despair — but only for the moment — and then reassuming its lofty strength like an eagle unchained or slipped from its darkened cage, his soul would spring into the clear, broad sunshine of its former condition.
Such was Bokulla, and when those grouped around him had each offered his several remark, and they had mutually mourned over the present desolation, he stood forth from their midst and said, "Men! the day is spent with repining, and the night comes, and with it, perchance, our dread Enemy. Let us rebuild the wall and show at least that we can oppose our old strength to his inroads. He has but the instinct of a brute, we have the reason of men. Let him not," he cried, "let him not find us, for our soul's sake, let him not find us greater cravens than yesternight!"
With these words and with the consent of the chieftains who stood about him, he ordered the rebuilding of the rampart, and the erection of an inner one to flank it. Before the passages which had been previously left free of egress and ingress, he directed the construction of short and solid walls which should suffice to arrest access if made in full front, leaving however side-passages between the extremities of the main and those of the newly erected ramparts. Under the authoritative and cheering voice of Bokulla, the building-tool and the trenching-iron ply busily. Parties of laborers hurry from quarter to quarter of the work, and something like a manly and worthy spirit seems again to fire their bosoms and lighten their toil. While some gather together the broken portions of earth and remould them to their purpose, others bring from the distance new supplies, and still others quarry and shape the stone to crown their summits. Under his quick and commanding eye the tower of observation goes up and its defences are restored.
But, while Bokulla and his aids build up the strong wall to guard the living — is there no duty and service due to the dead? There is; and under other guidance the manly forms, which were laid in the recent encounter, are stretched for their last repose.
Devoted hands compose their discolored limbs and bathe them with embalming drugs, while their kindred, those nearest and dearest in life, collect — to accompany them in this their last journey, whatever can consecrate or dignify their sepulture.(3) Those who have fallen fell in the defence of the nation, and are therefore worthy of the nation's honors. Let them be buried then as becomes heroes of the Mound-builders — bearing away with them into the Unknown Land tokens of merit and badges of high desert. Their bodies are swathed in fine raiment — at their right hand are placed the weapons of war, grasping which they fell; at their sides are arrayed mirrors of glass or metal (according to their rank) in which they were wont to look for the reflection of their own martial features when set for the stern service of war. At their heads are disposed the helms which covered them in the day of battle, and on their now pulseless breasts lie polished, pieces of copper in the form of the cross.(4)
Can it be possible that those antique warriors were Christian men? That, among them, they thus cherished trophies of the Crucifixion, and upheld the ark of that reverend creed? Or at least some stray fragments of the holy structure obscurely delivered over to them by paternal or patriarchal hands? I know not, but this is the language which their discovered relics speak to us of the present generation.
Slowly from each dead hero's dwelling winds forth the solemn procession with its weeping troop and its religious mourners. Gathering at a central spot they unite into one body, and thus collected, take their way towards the funeral mounds. Attendants send forth from marble instruments, shaped like crescents and highly polished, a slow and mournful music.(5) Beside the bier of each fallen soldier walks his wife and children, while at its head marches solemnly the priest who, in life was his spiritual father.
Winding through the villages — over the meadows — and along the stream-side, they reach the bank right opposite the mounds in which the dead are to find their final slumber. Descending into the limpid and shallow stream the bearers gently dip each corpse beneath the waters — thus purifying it by a natural sort of baptism from every earthly grossness, and then they resume their way — all following with bared ankles through the placid rivulet. At length they reach the sacred mound. At its side, toward the East, the earth is removed, and, turning their faces to the sun, while the marble breathes forth a higher strain, the bearers of the dead enter the hollowed mound.
As they enter, the throng chant together a simple ballad, reciting the virtues and the valor of the departed, and, at its close recommending them to the Giver of life and the God of the seasons. The bier bearers place the mortal remains of the heroes whom they have borne within the cavity, upon the earth with their faces upwards, their feet pointing to the North-east (perhaps the home of their progenitors) and their heads toward the more genial South-west.
Thus were the common soldiers, among those who had fallen buried: but one of that number — he who had been captain of the guard, and a man of note among the people, received separate and-more especial rites.
His remains were borne apart to a distinct mound and there — when they were laid out with the honors of a chief who had lost his life in battle, martial music breathing from the instruments, and the whole multitude joining in a chaunt commemorative (like those recited over the common soldier) of his valor and character — they proceeded to burn his body and gather his ashes into their separate tomb. They then closed the mouths of all the mounds, and when the priests had offered a prayer for the peaceful repose of their dust, the multitude turned toward their homes.
All was hushed and silent save the gentle tread of the homeward tending people. The mourning relatives of the dead had lulled into a temporary calm their troublous feelings; and wept with composure. The spirit of peace was over all. Suddenly a shrill voice was heard to cry, "He comes!" "He comes!" It proceeded from a child, who, unobserved, had climbed to the upper window of one of the stone observatories. The multitude were arrested by the voice, and turning to the quartet from which it issued, saw the finger of the alarmist pointing to a body of woods which lay a short distance West from the path which they were taking to their homes. As at the bidding of a god the whole multitude with one accord swerved round and gazed toward the forest, and there they beheld — Behemoth. Fixed in an attitude of astonishment and dread, they stood gazing and still gazing upon the spectacle — a boundless and motionless gallery of faces. It was near the sunset. Overhead in its level light, a gray bald eagle, just flown from its neighboring eyrie, hung poised in wonder, as if turned to stone by the novel sight of so vast a creature. In its motionless suspension it seemed as if sculptured from the air while its wings were gilded, like some remains of the old statuaries, by the golden touch of the sun.
Visible above the woods, moving heavily through the sea of green leaves, like leviathan in the deep, appeared the dark and prodigious form of the Mastodon: an awful ridge rolling like a billow, along the tops of the pine and cedar which grew beneath him. The boundless bulk moved through the trembling verdure, like an island which, in some convulsion of nature, shifts itself along the surface of the sea. The forest shook as he advanced, while its scared and barbarous denizens, the prairie wolf, the gopher and the panther, skulked silently away.
As yet his whole mighty frame was not visible. Even amid the trepidation and fear of the Mound-builders a curiosity sprang up to behold the sum of his vast proportions: to see at once before them and near at hand the actual dimensions of that shape whose shadowy outlines had, when first seen, wrought in them effects so boundless and disastrous.
Occasionally as the Mastodon glided along, a green tree-top wavered for a moment in the wind, leaned forward into the air — and fell to the earth as if pushed from its hold by the chance-exerted strength of the great brute. Again, they heard a crash, and a giant oak which had just now lorded it over its fellows was snapped from its stem and cast fur forth over the tops of the forest. His very breath stirred the leaves till they trembled, and every step of his march denoted, by some natural appearance, the possession of monstrous and fearful power.
After stalking through a large tract of woodland without allowing any greater portion of his bulk to become apparent, he wheeled through the forest and descending into a wooded valley disappeared, each step reverberating along the earth with a deep and hollow sound. It was a long time ere the Mound-builders resumed their old, homeward progress, and when they did it was with alarmed and cheerless spirits. The awe of the great shadow was upon them. Now more than ever they felt the folly of gainsaying or attempting to withstand a Power which shrouded itself in a form so vast and inaccessible.
From that day forth a gloom settled upon the minds of the Mound-builders — deep, rayless and full of fearful omens; for though personal energy may rescue individuals from that desperate condition, it is a hopeless and a dreadful thing when nations become the victims of despair. All the mighty wheels of life are stopped; all the channels through which the soul of the people once coursed are now closed, and, in most cases, closed for ever. The arteries through which the life-blood once gushed are deadened, and the warm current is arrested as if the winter had descended upon it in its very spring-tide. The Mound-builders were now fallen into that sad estate. Neither the spirit-stirring voice of Bokulla; nor the trump of war; nor the memory of their fathers' fields or their fathers' valor, could awaken them to a sense of what was due to their manhood or their duty. The Mastodon seemed resolved to preserve the spell by an almost perpetual presence. Day after day in the same gray twilight did Behemoth east his shadow from the summit of some near elevation; and midnight after midnight, at the same cold and sullen hour, did he descend and force his huge bulk through the villages of the Mound-builders: breaking their walls in pieces, rending their dwellings, disclosing their mounds and despoiling their pleasure gardens from end to end. He had become the spectral visitant of the nation; — the monstrous and inexorable tyrant who, apparently gliding from the land of shadows, presented himself eternally to them, the destroyer of their race. He seemed, in these terrible incursions, to be fired with a mighty revenge for sonic unforgiven injury inflicted on his dead and extinct tribe by the human family. In the calm and solemn quiet of night, when fretted labor sought repose and anxious thought craved slumber, he burst down from the mountains like thunder and bade them "Sleep no more!"
The internal and external influence of an harassment like this could not be otherwise than large and disastrous. First came the dire change in the mind itself: when this terrible shadow glided among its quiet emotions, its familiar habits, and its household and national thoughts. All objects that had hitherto occupied a place in the mind of the people now assumed a new color and complexion as this portent fell upon them, in the same manner as every thing in nature catches a portion of the gloom of twilight when it suddenly approaches. No angle of the wide realm of the Mound-builders escaped from the darkness of fear, and every where the fountains of social life became stagnant and ceased to issue in healthy currents, like streams that are silent and still when light has departed from their surface.
Thu voice of joy died away into a timid and feeble smiling; proud and stately ambition fell humbled to the earth, and love and beauty trembled and fled before the gloomy shadow of the general adversary. Men shunned each other as if from a consciousness of their abasement, and skulked away from the face of day, unwilling that the heavens should look in upon their desolation and shame.
Some abandoned their homes and took refuge in cliffs and inaccessible precipices; preferring poverty and exposure to wind and tempest and hostile weather, rather than encounter with a foe so dreadful and triumphant. The great mass however lingered in their customary dwellings: but so thoroughly was every motive to action numbed and paralyzed, they neglected to repair the roof that had fallen; the beam that had decayed, or the foundation that had yielded to the summer's rain, and innumerable buildings throughout the whole realm tumbled into ruin, and many that stood on the borders of rivers, undermined by the motion of their currents, tottered and fell into the stream, while their terror-stricken inmates, in many cases, perished without a struggle.
The ordinary occupations and duties of life were performed with feeble hands and vague thoughts, or entirely deserted.
This mighty and puissant nation, whose strength was that of a giant and whose glory rivalled the sun, was stricken by terror into a feeble and child-like old age. All its proportions were diminished; its heart was shrunk, and it dragged on a slothful and decrepid existence amid the cold and monumental ruins of what had once been its beautiful domain and its house of honor and joy. That salient and almost motiveless energy which drives a nation on through toils, battles and discomfitures, to prosperity and triumph: that hazardous and all venturous daring which pushes doubt aside, and which, while it questions nothing strives at everything, was utterly departed.
From the silence and quiet of his studied retirement, Bokulla beheld the shadow as it slowly and fearfully crossed the national mind from the first he saw the change which was coming over it, and knew that human wisdom was too weak to arrest or avert it, unless the great first cause could be removed. And yet, while others yielded thus submissively to a meek despair, he, keeping himself invisible to the general eye, tasked his bold and liberal mind for some remedy for the evil, In the calm and dead quiet of his private chamber he sat from day to day brooding over plans and enterprises whereby to rescue the nation.
Bokulla entertained a deep founded confidence in the human character. Himself equipped with an indomitable will and faculties stout and resolute as iron, he was assured that by similar qualities the nation was to be redeemed from thraldom. Amidst a thousand changes of nature man had endured: mountains had been cleft asunder; seas had leaped upon continents and thatched triumphantly over every barrier and obstacle great orbs had been extinguished, like tapers of an evening, in the skies; yet man stood steadfast amid the shock and the mutation. Along the bleak coasts of inhospitable time he had voyaged in a secure and upright vessel; on this ridge of earth he still stood while the visible universe passed through changes of season, through increase or diminution of splendors, and through worlds created or worlds destroyed.
Was man, who thus out-lasted seas, and stars and mountains, to be crushed at last by mere brutal enginery and corporal strength?
Reflections like these wrought the mind of Bokulla to a condition of fearless and manly daring, and he brought his whole soul to the labor of discovering or contriving the means of triumph or resistance. It may well be supposed that towel as his thought might, it strove in vain to over top the stature or master the bulk of the Mastodon: what were fosses, and bastions and battle meats to him that moved like a mountain against opposition. No wall could shut him out: sea might interpose in vain to cut off his fearful pursuit of a fugitive people. Resting or in motion that terrible and far-reaching strength would overtake them and accomplish its purposes of desolation and ruin.
With this stupendous and inevitable image the whole might of Bokulla's soul wrestled for a long time. An untiring invention that kept steadily on the wing started suggestion on suggestion, but all unequal to the mighty necessity of the occasion. He gathered facts on which to build the fabric of opposition huge enough to countervail a superhuman force, but they tottered and fell to the earth before the ideal presence of Behemoth. He surveyed mountains and in imagination linked them together with wide arches and empyreal bridges and compassed the people round about with rock built circumvallations and ramparts of insurmountable altitude and strength. But it would have required ages to complete the defences suggested by a swift imagination which would have been equal to their object; and others which great labor might have more readily erected, would have been swept away in a single night by the barbaric invader.
When this conclusion forced itself upon him, Bokulla felt, for a moment, the pangs of a hopeless and overwhelming despair. A midnight darkness tame over his mind, and it was for a time as if the sun and the heavens were obliterated from his view, and as if he were doomed to travel henceforth a gloomy turnpike where all was sorrow, and wailing, and terror without end. But the light gradually broke in upon his soul, and his palsied faculties began to awaken and cast off the slumber and the delusion. His reflections, it is true, had taught him that his countrymen could act in defence against their vast oppressor with but frail chance of success. He was satisfied that a weight and bulk as monstrous as that of Behemoth would burst their way by their mere impetuous motion through any barrier or redoubt they might erect. There was another thought, however, worthy of all consideration — could not the Mound-builders, a naturally adventurous and valiant people, act on the offensive? Abandoning passive and barbarous suffering, was not battle to be waged and waged with hope against the despoiler? This question Bokulla had put anxiously to himself, and he watched with an eager eye for some favorable phase of the national feeling ere he addressed it to the country.
From one crisis of fear to another the Mound-builders passed rapidly, and as the shades of night thicken one upon the other, each aspect of their condition was gloomier than the former. At length as darkness deepened and strengthened itself, light began to dawn in the opposite quarter. Hardened by custom, and familiar in measure with the object of their dread, they now ventured to lift their pale, white countenances and gaze with some steadiness of vision upon the foe.
Naturally of a noble character and constitution, the Mound-builders needed only that the original elements of their temper should be stirred by some powerful conviction to excite them to action.(6) A new spirit, or rather the ghost of the old and exiled one, had returned to the nation, and they now saw before them, unless they resumed their manhood and generously exerted strength and council, ages of desolation and fear for themselves and their children. Were they men and should no hazard be dared, no toil nor peril encountered to break the massive despotism that held them to the earth? Were they the possessors of a land of sublime and wonderful aspects the dwellers amid interminable woods and lakes of living water, and were no glorious nor resolute energies matured by these, capable to cope with that which was mighty and awful?
At this fortunate stage of feeling Bokulla appeared. He clothed the thoughts of the people in an eloquence of his own. He first painted the portrait of their past condition in life-like and startling colors. He told them that from the apparent size and solidity of the Mastodon, and the uniform analogy of nature he might endure for centuries, yea, even beyond the duration of mankind itself, unless his endless desolation could be arrested. If they suffered now under his irresistible sway they might suffer for a thousand years to come. That vast frame, he feared, decay could not touch. And in a stature so tremendous must reside an energy and stubbornness of purpose, endurable and unchanging.
Next, addressing them from the summit of a mound, around which many of the people were grouped in their old worship (some faint image of which they had kept up through all their terror) he appealed to them by the sacred and inviolate ashes that rested underneath his feet. lf old warriors and generous champions, never dishonored, could awaken from the slumbers of death and breathe again the pure air of that glorious clime, what voice of denunciation or anger would they utter!
"Are these men, that creep along the earth, like the pale shadows of autumn, Mound-builders and children of our loins? What hath affrighted them? Look to the mountains, and lo! an inferior creature, one of the servants and hirelings of man, hath the mastery. Arouse! arouse! our sons! Place in our old, death-withered hands the swords we once wielded — crown us with our familiar helms and we will wage the battle for you. Victory to the builders of the mounds! victory to the lords and masters of the earth! should be our cry of our set and triumph!"
The national pulse beat true again, and Bokulla hastened from village to village, quickening and firing it. Every where the hour of renovation seemed to have come. Every where ascending their high places he appealed to them by memories to which they could not but hearken. Every where an immense populace gathered about him and listened to his words as if they were the inspired language of hope. And when their souls were fired, as it were, under the fervent heat of his eloquence, he skilfully moulded them to his own plan ma purpose. He recounted to them the mode, the time and course he thought fit for them to adopt in seeking battle with Behemoth.
After consultation with their chieftains, the levy expected and demanded of each was soon settled.
They were to venture forth with an army (easily collected in that populous nation) of one hundred thousand strong. Bokulla was to be the leader-in-chief. Approved men were to be his counsel and aids. The day of setting forth on the great campaign was fixed not far distant. In the mean time, all diligence and labor were to be employed in disciplining, equipping, and inspiriting the troops: in burnishing and framing the necessary armor, and in constructing certain new engines of war, which Bokulla had invented, and which might be of use in the encounter with the terrible foe.
Every village now presented a picture of busy preparation and warlike bustle. The forges, whose fires had smouldered in long disuse, were again rekindled, and their anvils rang with the noise of a thousand hammers rivalling each other in the skill with which they moulded the metals into heroic shapes. While one wrought out with ready dexterity the breast-plate, with its large, circular bosses of silver, another, with equal, but less costly felicity, framed the brazen hatchet, and the steel arrow-head. In every workshop there were employed artizans in sufficient number to not only begin with the rude ore and shape it into form, but also to carry it through every stage of labor — tipping it with silver — burnishing — ornamenting — completing them, — affixing leathern handles to the bosses by which to grasp and hold the shield, end arranging them in due order for inspection by the appointed officers.(7)
At another and higher class of laboratories they were employed in framing and fashioning weapons for chieftains and warriors of note; swords of tempered steel and scabbards of silver, capped with points of other and less penetrable material; and helmets of copper and shields, with ornamental and heraldic devices. Some busied themselves in furnishing large shields of brass, which they polished with care until they glittered again — while still farther on, they wrought out large bows of steel, from which to speed the barbed arrows prepared by their fellow-workmen. Farther up, near the mountain-side, there lay a range of shops in which a thousand operatives constructed military wagons and other vehicles for the expedition; for they knew not how far it might extend, nor through what variety of hill and dale.
To the right of these were gathered artizans under the immediate superintendence of the commander-in-chief; who labored at certain vast and new engines of battle, more especially contrived for conflict with the vast Brute. These were large and ponderous wooden structures, something like the towers used in Roman warfare, but, as the strength and stature of the foe required, of far greater height and stiffness.
They were to be planted on heavy wheels and of great circumference — placed far apart, so as to furnish for the whole edifice a broad and immoveable base. On the outer side, they were armed with every sort of sharp-edged weapon, cutlass, falchion, and spearhead, so as to be, if possible unassailable by Behemoth. Internally, they were furnished with great store of vast bows and poisoned shafts, with which, if such thing might be, to pierce him in some vulnerable point, or at least to gall him sorely and drive him at a distance. Besides these there were suspended, in copious abundance, divers ingenious implements, each contrived for some emergency of battle, to strike, to ward, to wound, and to destroy.
Others were building, taller and stronger, at the summits of which were suspended great masses of metal and ponderous hammers, tons in weight, with which to wage a dreadful battery against the mighty foe. By some internal machinery, it was so contrived that these solid weights of metal could be swung to and fro with fearful swiftness and violence, by the application of a small and apparently inadequate power. Another structure, like these, was prepared, from which to cast, by means of capacious instruments, large quantities of molten metals, kept in fusion by mighty furnaces, to be hurled upon the enemy from afar, and to descend upon him in sulphurous and deadly showers, like those which fell on Sodom and Gomorrah of old.
Day and night, night even to its middle watches, were devoted to the construction and fabrication of engines and implements like these for their minds were now so anchored on this great enterprise, that all other ties were cast loose, and in this alone they embarked every thought and purpose. The hours hitherto given to repose and sleep, were now made vassals to the new adventure.
It was a magnificent spectacle to see a whole nation thus gathered under the dark wing of the midnight, working out battle for their dread adversary. Athwart the solid darkness which pressed upon their dwellings, the gleams of swarthy labor shot long and frequent. Far through the hills echoed the clangor of armorers, and the sharp sounds of multitudinous toil, laboring, each in its kind, toward the redemption of a people.
Grouped thus about their forges, and hurrying from one task to another with rapid and quiet tread, they might have seemed to the eye of imagination, looking down from the neighboring heights, to be employed in infernal labor, and vexing the noon of night with unearthly and Satanic cares.
But over the wide scene there rested a blessing, for the smile of Heaven always shines upon the oppressed who nobly yearn and vigorously strive to break their chains. The long and bright hours of day, too, were crowded with their peculiar duties. The gardens and the enclosed plains, again restored to their old symmetry and beauty, were now filled with a soldiery which, under the eye of dexterous leaders, were drilled, deployed, marshalled, and schooled into new manoeuvres, before this unknown in the wars of the Mound-builders, and adapted to the character of their unwonted antagonist. They were taught to wheel with novel evolutions, to retreat in less orderly but more evasive movements and marches than of old, and to attack with a wariness and caution hitherto unpractised in their encounters with mortal enemies. Over all the eye of Bokulla glanced, giving system to the orders of the chieftains, and confidence to the obedience of their legions. Apparently performing duty nowhere, he fulfilled it every where, with a calm and masterly skill, which, while it was unobserved by the careless, was an object of admiration to the higher order of men, who were made the immediate channels of his influence, and who were therefore brought more directly under the spell.
"Upon my soul," cried the taller of two officers, who stood near the trunk of a withered cedar, which overshadowed a wide and deep sunken well looking upon one of these novel parades, "upon my soul, Bokulla hath the power and the knowledge of a God. Out of these men, but yesterday dumb and torpid with fear, he has struck the spirit of life, and that with the same ease as my sword-blade strikes from this dull stone at my foot, sparks of fire."
"Who can withstand those giant machines which tower yonder, like mountains, above our dwellings?" cried his companion. "The Spirit of Evil himself, if embodied in the frame of the Brute, must fall before those whirlwind hammers of brass and tempests of molten copper!"
While he spoke, one of the vast oaken structures had been wheeled out, and its ponderous enginery set in motion, and brought to bear upon a crag that projected from the mountain near which it rested. To and fro they swung with fearful force and velocity, at each blow shattering vast masses from the rock, and bringing them headlong down the mountain. At the same time, not far distant, tons of crude ore were cast into the furnaces, affixed to the other towers, and hurled forth upon the prairie in clouds of fire, which, as they fell upon the earth, scathed and withered every thing before them.
Although the multitude entertained hearts of favor and hope towards the project of meeting Behemoth in battle, there were a few who doubted its wisdom and foreboded a gloomy result.
"The dinging of those anvils," said an aged man who sat at the sunset in the front of his dwelling, to his spouse (no less stricken in years), who leaned out at the window, "the dinging of yon anvils is to my ears a mere death-dirge. Wherefore are the youth of our land to be led forth on this vain pilgrimage? They are foredoomed by the hooting of the owl, which has been ceaseless in our woods since first it was planned. The dismal bat and the brown vulture flap their wings over our bright day-marshallings in expectancy of a banquet."
"And as for the chieftain, Bokulla," continued his wife, prolonging the dolorous strain of conversation, " his defeat, if not death, is already doomed in Heaven. The star which fell but yesternight luridly athwart his dwelling, foretold that sequel too well. And his spouse, stumbled she not essaying but this morning to cross its threshold and greet the home-return of Bokulla from the distant villages?"
"This army, five score thousand in numbers," reiterated the old man, "will be but as the snow in the whirlwind before the breath of Behemoth. They have forgotten, senseless men! the story of our fathers. They recollect not how in ancient days the fellow of this vast Brute (perchance this living one himself) was met by our hunters in the mountain gorge: that his roar was like thunder near at hand, and his tread like the invasion of waters! that they shrunk before him into the hollows of the rocks as the white cloud scatters before the sun!"(8)
"I pray Heaven the wife of Bokulla be not widowed," echoed his spouse. "The chieftain is a bold man, and submits but poorly to the lording of any, be it man or brute."
"I fear this spirit pricks him on too far in this emprise I have warned him secretly," concluded the old mound-builder, in a deep and solemn tone of voice "I have warned him, but he scorns my warning. He will not be stayed in his purpose. I will warn him yet once more, for he dreams not that he goes out to war with one who is a giant in instinct as well as in strength!"
The eventful morning of going forth against the Mastodon came: it was a morning bright with beautiful auspices. The sky overhead glittered with its fresh and airy splendors: no cloud dimmed the world of indescribable blue which hung calm and motionless like heaven itself on high. Occasionally against its clear canvass a passing troop of wild-fowl painted their forms, and vanished; or, a tree-top here and there stood out, pencilled upon it, with its branches and foliage all distinct. The sun rode just over the horizon, and through the innumerable villages of the Mound-builders the martial trumpet sounded the spirit-stirring alarum. At the call, one hundred thousand right-good men of battle seized their arms and marched through the territory of their brethren in solid array.
First at the head of the van, drawn in a two-wheeled chariot of wood, studded with iron and ornamented with an eagle at each of its four points, front and rear, and drawn by a single powerful and jet-black bison, came Bokulla himself. He stood erect in the vehicle, while his burnished armor and towering helm flung their splendor far and wide; in his hand he held no rein but guided the noble beast by his mere intonations of voice.
Behind Bokulla followed a company of men-at-arms, each bearing a long and stalwart club, armed at its heavier extremity with a four-edged sword or falchion, to the point of which was affixed a spear-like weapon stiff and keen. Of these there were one hundred, each cased in a mail of elk-skin, which, while it was flexible and yielded to every gesture of the body, was yet a sufficient defence against any ordinary assault. These were expected, beside guarding and sustaining Bokulla, to close with Behemoth, and taking advantage of the unwieldy motion of his frame, to wound his legs or otherwise annoy and disable him. Behind these followed an equal phalanx of spear-men, whose allotted duty it was with a longer weapon to probe the Brute at a distance, and draw his attention from any quarter to which it might appear directed with too much vigor and chance of danger. In the rear of the company of spear-men marched a strong body of common soldiers, bearing the customary Mound-builders' instruments of war, namely, vast steel bows six feet or more in length, and quivers filled with correspondent shafts tipped with poisons, and on their left arms bearing the usual shield of copper with bosses of silver. In the rear of these heavily rolled on two of those newly-invented machines, which rose like pyramids above the array. These were drawn by scores of yoked bisons, and driven forward by private soldiers who walked at their sides. The earth shook under their lumbering weight. Their bowels were filled with captains and privates who had charge, each in his station, of their implements of death. Following these, in order, marched a numerous squadron, sustaining over their sinewy shoulders heavy axes of steel with edges sharp as death, and handles of immoveable oak. Drawn by a thousand beasts of burthen, behind these, came innumerable provision and baggage wagons, provided for the emergency of a protracted search for the enemy, and long delay in vanquishing and destroying him. These were accompanied with troops and officers. Behind these walked countless varieties of battle: soldiers, the very conception of whose armor and weapons is lost in the oblivious and mouldering past. Rearmost came six other towers bearing their immense hammers and fiery furnaces, with ten thousand troops to guard, to guide them; to select even roads for their progress, and last to wield their vast forces in the hour of conflict.
Over the whole floated a hundred bright and emblematic pennons, while the sonorous metal kept time to their waving folds as the morning wind dallied them to and fro. It was a glorious thing to see ten times ten thousand thus equipped and embattled going forth on that gay morning, to the war.
Wherever their course lay it was thronged with the multitude pushing to gain a sight of Bokulla and his compeers, the solid soldiery and the stupendous structures. Every window was filled, every elevation seized on, every housetop covered by spectators straining their vision to gather in every appointment and device, banner and sword, bison, chieftain and all. Ah! well might their eyes ache to look upon that numerous chivalry! Well might they hang with lingering gaze upon the fair cheeks of that youthful array! Well might their hearts keep time with the onward steps of that glorious host! Happy is it for mortals that they can enjoy the pageant of the present, and have no power to prefigure in it the funeral procession and the mournful company into which the future may change it!
As the foot of the last soldier left the territory of the Mound-builders, the drums and trumpets. sounded a farewell, and the army, taking the right bank of a rapid stream which ran due West, pursued its march. The ground over which their course lay was a smooth and pleasant greensward, the verdure of which was still wet with the dews of the night. Occasionally it rose into a gentle elevation which, for the first few miles, brought the advancing army once again in sight of the expectant gazers who still kept their posts upon housetop, tower and mound. At length from one of these eminences they descended into a valley which bore them altogether from the view of the most favorably-stationed looker-out. And yet, even when their banners and tall structures had passed wholly from the sight, gushes of music, fainter and fainter at each note, reached their ears, and reverberated from the neighboring cliffs and hill-sides.
Onward they passed through the long vale which stretched before them, choosing out the clearest paths, and still keeping their march toward the occident. In selecting this route they were guided by large tracks which appeared at remote strides in the earth; and by frequent signs of devastation-fallen trees and crushed underwood.
Once they came to a river of great width, on the near margin of which, at the water's edge, appeared two large foot-prints, while on the opposite bank were discovered indentations equally vast but impressed deeper in the soil, as if the monstrous Beast had reared on his hindermost feet and with supernatural strength and agility thrown himself across the intervening breadth of waters. As there were no bridges near at hand they were forced to compass the river by a circuitous route to regain the tracks which had been espied on the other bank.
After attaining the utter extremity of the vale, through which the stream in question poured its tide, they pursued their chosen way into a thick wood, the path of the Mastodon through which seemed to have been created by sweeping before him, with a flexible power, whatever obstructed his progress. On every side of the huge gap into which the army now entered, lay prostrate trees of greatest magnitude; oak, pine and sycamore. Some, apparently, had been cast on high, and, descending into the neighboring forest, left their roots naked in the air, unnaturally inverted and exposed. And yet, save in the immediate path of the Desolator, nature smiled unalarmed and innocent, in its primeval and virgin beauty. Here and there, shone out in the forest bright green patches, rising often into gentle slopes, or softening away into vales as gentle. Frequently the upland was crowned with groups of small trees, and the vales were tesselated with sweet wild-flowers. Then they crossed babbling brooks and rivulets, which ran across their march with a melodious murmur, eloquent with reproaches on the warlike task they were at present pursuing. Again, a large stream, which had gathered volume from the neighboring mountains, came rushing down declivities, and seemed to shout them on to battle.
At times, in the course of this variegated march, they fell upon open spaces where, for a small circuit, no tree was to be seen; rich meadows, the chosen pastures of the wild beings of the prairies, pranked with red and white clover, and fragrant as the rose, in their unmown freshness.
Sometimes they passed through sudden and narrow defiles, overhung by frowning cliffs and clothed with a dank verdure which seemed to be the growth of a century. One gorge, in particular, of this kind, they encountered whose beetling rocks in their dark and regular grandeur, looked as if they might have been wrought out by the hands of the old Cyclops or "Pelasgians strange." They seemed to be the solemn halls of a great race which had its seat of empire there (beyond even the age of the Mound-builders) and chambered in its tabernacles of everlasting stone. But Nature alone built these halls for herself, and through them toward the West she walks at the twilight and morning hour in pomp and majesty. I see her, her skirts purpled with evening, and flowing forth in the fresh breezes of that untainted clime, now pacing those mighty avenues and recalling, in their awful stillness, the nations which slumber at her feet. Her face brightens like a sun, as she meditates over the empires which have faded from earth into the dust beneath her; she thinks and kindles in knowing and remembering that while man is mortal and perisheth, she is eternal and thrones with God.
The glittering and long-extended host of the Mound-builders marched on through this cliff walled passage, and passed next from all glimpse of the sun into dense and almost impervious woods; impervious but for the way hewn out by the mighty Pioneer in whose tracks they continued to tread. Gloom, with its midnight wings sat on high and brooded over the boundless thicket.
The very leaves seemed dipped in a deeper hue of green, and the grass was thick and matted underneath, as if in that desolate region it clung closer to the earth. Above stood in their ancient stillness (apparently unbroken for ages) the tall, sombre trees, while about their trunks venerable ivies and mosses clung desperately, and mounted far up toward their topmost branches. Athwart the solid darkness no wing, save that of a melancholy owl or bat, clove and furnished to the tenebrous realm the sign of life or motion. On the earth no living thing was to be seen, unless amid the dank grass an occasional toad or serpent, sitting or coiled on the cold stone. And yet, though life seemed extinct, or exhibited itself only in reptile and hateful forms, the Mound-builders, as they marched on through the gloomy quiet, in pursuit of their mighty prey, saw, in the dimly discovered foot-marks which they still followed, a token of vast and inexplicable power which deepened the darkness about them and infused a portion of its weird influence into their souls. And yet with purpose unshaken, they advanced. Again the blessed sunshine greeted them, and the low mist rolled heavily from their minds — and again their purpose stood out to their inward eye clear and determinate.
Emerging from the awful woods they came to a broad prairie across which the lame foot-steps were deeply visible. On every side, as far as the eye could reach, the ample plain was desert and unoccupied. The Innumerable herds of bison which had once been its tenantry had now, before the terror of Behemoth, fled away, and the wild wolf, which once lurked amid the rank grass, skulked from a Power which seemed to overshadow the earth. Still there was a province of animated nature into which the alarm scarcely ascended: for on high, as in the quiet and fearless hours of earlier times, the brown vulture and the bald eagle flew, silently sailing on, or sending through the air their shrill notes of ecstacy and rapture. The boundlessness of those mighty meadows was in itself calculated to strike an awe through the bosom of the advancing army before it they lay — the Map of the Infinite: a vast table on which, as on the tables of stone the fingers of an omnipotent had written Power and Eternity. Contemplations like these were sufficient in themselves to fill the mind of the armed host with feelings of awe and humility, but when, over the immense prairie, they saw evidences that something had passed which for the moment rivalled Deity; more palpable in its manifestations, nearer in its visible strength, and less merciful in its might when the tracks about them and the desert solitude which Behemoth had created became thus clearly. apparent, they shrunk within themselves and doubted the wisdom of their present enterprise.
This feeling however reigned but for a moment. More manly and martial thoughts soon took their place and they pressed on in the path pointed out with alacrity and courage. The verge of the plain, which they had now reached, bordered on a long and high ridge of mountains, which stretched from the margin of the prairie far West. Upon these summits they now advanced. Arrayed in broad and solid columns the army moved on over the mighty causeway, their trumpets filling the air with novel music while the echo of their martial steps, sounding through the wilderness, affrighted Silence from his ancient throne. Against the clear sky their bright banners flaunted, and high up into the heaven aspired the warlike tower flashing death from every point. The gleam of ten thousand swords streamed from those broad heights far into the depths of air — above, around, below — lighting the solitude like "a new-risen sun."
The pride of war now truly kindled their breasts — fear skulked aside from their heroic way, and Death, could he have come forth a personal being, on those clear summits, as their pulses freshened in treading them, would have been no phantom.
Through the ranks a soldierly joy prevailed, and with the rousing drum their spirits beat high.
They had reached the extreme limit of the mountain ridge, and were preparing to descend into the plain which broadened at its foot, when, afar off, they espied, slowly heaving itself to and fro in the ocean, which sparkled in the mid-day sun beyond the plain, a vast body which soon shaped itself to their vision into the form of Behemoth.
The army halted and stood gazing. The giant beast seemed to be sporting with the ocean. For a moment he plunged into it, and swimming out a league with his head and lithe proboscis, reared above the waters, spouted forth a sea of bright, blue fluid toward the sky ascending to the very cloud, which, returning, brightened into innumerable rainbows, large and small, and spanned the ocean. Again he cast his huge bulk along the main, and lay "floating many a rood" in the soft middle sun, basking in its ray and presenting in the grandeur and vastness of his repose, a monumental image of Eternal Quiet. Bronze nor marble have ever been wrought into sculpture as grand and sublime as the motionless shape of that mighty Brute resting on the sea.
Even at the remote distance from which they viewed him they could catch at times through the ocean-spray, the sparkle of his small and burning eye. Once, it seemed for a moment steadily fixed upon their host as it stood out conspicuously on the height, and, abandoning his gambols, Behemoth urged his bulky frame toward the land. Breasting the mighty surges which his own motion created, he sought the shore, and as he came up majestically from the water, a chasm ensued as if the Pacific shrunk from its limits. With a gurgling tumult the subsiding waves rushed into the broad hollow, and continued to eddy about its vortex.
Meantime Behemoth stood upon the earth, and rearing on his hindmost feet his foremost were lifted high in the air, and with a roar loud and fearful (like the gathering of an earthquake with its powers of desolation in the bowels of the earth) he brought them to the plain, with a weight and energy which made it tremble to its utmost verge. He moved on; making straight toward the army of the Mound-builders. To the eyes of the astonished host, as he shouted with his fearful voice, he seemed like a dread thunder cloud which gathers tone and volume as it rolls on assaulting with its hollow peals the very walls of Heaven. Bokulla was undismayed and calm. He saw that the hour for action had arrived, and marshalling his troops in proper order, he led them down a winding and gentle slope which descended to the plain. A short time sufficed and they reached the level ground. Disposing themselves in the preconcerted order, they awaited the on-coming of Behemoth. The towers were planted firm on the earth; the pioneers put forth and the instrumental sounds began. As an additional thought a battalion of troops was placed on a level ledge of rocks, on the side of the mountain, and in advance of the main army, to gall him as he passed.
On his part there was no delay: with strides, like those of gods, he stalked forward. And still he seemed, to the Mound-builders, to grow with his advance. His bulk dilated, until it came between them and heaven, and filled the whole circuit of the sky. The firmament seemed to rest upon his wide shoulders as a mantle. As he neared upon their view, they saw more of his structure and properties. His face was like a vast countenance cut in stone, hewn from the hard granite of the mountain-side, with features large as those of the Egyptian sphinx. Before him he bore — terrible instruments of power! a mighty and lithe trunk, which, with swift skill, he coiled and darted through the air, like a monstrous serpent, instinct with poison and death. Guarding the trunk were two far extending tusks, which curved and flashed in the sun like scimitars. Over his huger proportions fear cast its shadow, and they saw them as through a cloud darkly. He moved forward, nevertheless, a vast machine of war, containing in himself all the monuments and defences of a well-appointed host. To the cool and courageous sagacity of the leader he seemed to join the strength and force of an embattled soldiery: to sharp and ready weapons of offence he added the defence of a huge and impenetrable frame. Through his small and flaming orbs, his soul shot forth in flashes dark and desperate. His neck was ridged with a short and stiff mane, which lent an additional terror to his bulk.
On he came. He neared the host of the Mound-builders. His fearful trunk was uplifted, and his tusks glanced in the broad beam of day over the heads of the army. Not a sword left its scabbard. Not an arrow was pointed. The brazen hammers and vessels of molten copper, which had alone been raised, fell back to their places, powerless and ineffective. The palsy of fear was upon the whole host. The near and unexpected vastness of Behemoth awed their souls. Bokulla alone retained his self-possession, and shouted to the affrighted squadrons "Onward! Mound-builders — cheer up, and onward! the battle may yet be with us!" It was in vain. The vast proboscis descended, and crushed with its descent a whole phalanx. A second sweep, and the mighty wooden towers, with their hammers of brass, their molten copper, and their indwelling defenders, were hurled on high, and rushing to the earth, strewed the plain with their wreck.
Ten thousand perished under his feet as he trampled onward. Ten thousand fell stricken to the earth by the mere icy bolt of fear. The legion, stationed on the level ledge, were swept from their post, as the whirlwind sweeps the dust from the autumn leaf. Twice ten thousand and more fled up the mountain across the prairies and some, in their extreme of trepidation, sought shelter in the sea. With infinite ruin the main host lay scattered upon the prairie, shield, sword, bow, wagon, wagoner, spearsman, and pioneer. Over the plain, maddened by terror, the bisons, with their vehicles, following in clattering haste, galloped, they knew not whither. Of a body of about fifteen thousand men, Bokulla, collected as ever, took command, and marshalling them through a narrow defile, led them up the mountain, from which the whole army had a few hours before descended in pomp and glory. Guiding them along the ridge by new and well chosen paths, he hurried them forward. In the mean time Behemoth had perfected his work upon the squadrons which were left. When the task of death and ruin was completed, he stood in the middle of the wreck, and, gazing about, seemed to seek for some portion of the host on whom desolation was yet to be wrought. With sagacious instinct he soon discovered the path which the missing legions had taken. Instantly abandoning the plain, he pressed toward the gap through which the retreating troops had fled.
Rushing through the defile, he was soon standing on the steps of Bokulla and his flying troops. Through each narrow pass of rocks the chieftain skilfully guided them, taking advantage of every object that might be an obstacle to the monstrous frame of their pursuer. Sometimes they mounted a sudden ascent, sometimes hastened through a narrow vale, or around a clump of mighty sycamores and cotton-woods. Nevertheless Behemoth pressed on. Behind them, terrible as the voice of death, they heard his resounding roar, and turned pale with affright. They had reached the crown of a hill, and were compassing a tall rock, which stood in their way, to descend, when they heard heavy, trampling steps behind them, and looking back, they beheld the ponderous bulk of the Mastodon urging rapidly up the ascent. Trepidation fastened on the ranks. Their knees smote together, and many, in the weakness of sudden fear, fell quaking to the earth. Some, in their alarm, cast themselves headlong from the height some escaped into the neighboring woods, and two or three, bereft of sense by terror, fled into the very jaws of the huge beast himself. A small band only kept on their way with Bokulla.
Surging up the steep, and down the opposite descent, Behemoth, pushed forward, trampling to the earth those who stood rooted in his path — statues of despair — and was soon at the rear of the small flying troop.
He was at the very heels of the pale fugitives; and Bokulla, placing a trumpet at his lips, blew a long, loud, and what, in the hour of battle and under other auspices, would have been an inspiriting blast, and endeavored to arouse in them sufficient spirit and strength to bear them to the shelter of a gigantic crag which stood in their path. Past this the velocity and impetus of the brute would inevitably force him, and they might rest for a moment while he rushed down and re-ascended (if re-ascend he should) the declivity. The attempt was successless: the trumpet-blast, vainly blown, was borne far away into the forests, and, echoing from cliff to cliff, seemed only to awaken the idle air.
From Bokulla, one by one, his followers fell off, and perished by Behemoth, or crept into the grass and underwood to die a more lingering death. At length the chieftain was alone before his mighty pursuer. And yet be "bated not a jot of her" or hope, but still bore up and steered right onward." With the emergency his courage, resolution, and forethought rose.
He kept his way steadily, and the bison which drew him nobly seconded his purpose, and exhibited, as if inspired by the greatness of the occasion, the power of reason in comprehending, and a giant's strength in carrying out, the most expedient means for the rescue of his master's person. He seemed to apprehend every direction of Bokulla's at a thought. "To the right — between yon stout oaks! To the left — onward — Bokulla is at your mercy!" shouted the rider, and they swept along like the prophet-and his chariot of fire. — The night had gradually come on. Palpable twilight now overspread the scene, and, in a moment, the moon glided to her station in the zenith.
The woods through which Bokulla passed Were now filled with shadows, which crossing and blending with each other, would have confused mere human skill in selecting a path; but the bison dexterously steered on. With cumbrous but swift steps Behemoth still pursued, over hills, vales, mountains.
At length Bokulla reached that very summit where first the gigantic Phantom had appeared and where the impress of his steps was yet clearly left. He had just commenced his descent toward the villages of the Mound-builders, (thousands of whom looked toward his chariot as he sounded another peal on his trumpet) and Behemoth stood behind him. The mighty brute, from some unconjecturable motive, paused. He saw the chariot of Bokulla rapidly verging toward its home. He abandoned the pursuit, but yet yielded not his purpose of destroying the last of the army of the Mound-builders; for, loosening from its base a massy rock, which hung threatening over the village, he lifted it with his tusks and pushing it forward, urged it with tremendous force directly in the career of the chieftain. Thundering it followed him. It neared his chariot. Another turn and Bokulla is crushed: but the Mound-builders shout in one voice "To the right, Bokulla! to the right!" and turning his chariot in that direction, he escapes the descending ruin, though enveloped in the dust of its track.
Emerging quickly from the cloud, and avoiding the rocky mass, which rushed past him with terrible fury, Bokulla now reached the bottom of the mountain, and was surrounded instantly by innumerable Mound-builders, each with a fearful question on his lips, and the dread of a yet more fearful answer written in his countenance. Bokulla, alone and in flight, was a reply to all their thoughts could imagine, or dread of what was terrible. Gazing upon him for a while in motionless silence, they at length burst the stupor which made them dumb, and each one asked for husband, brother, son, — who had gone forth but a few days since, full of life and vigor, against Behemoth. "Death — defeat — and flight!" were all that escaped from Bokulla, and, breaking his way through the multitude, he sought his own home. Gathering about the house of the chieftain, men, women and children, in large crowds, they cried out through the live-long night, while their tears fell for their relatives who had ventured to the battle, and asked wherefore they came not back?
The next day, about noon, there rushed into the village, covered with foam and quaking with fear, troops of bison, followed by the framework on which the towers and machines of war had been raised, and clattering through the streets with their enormous and lumbering wheels till they reached their stalls — they fell dead. To some of them a handful of men clung tenaciously, though pale and terror-stricken, and to the rear of one hung by his feet, which were entangled in the leathern strap that had bound the frame together, a lifeless body, the skull of which was broken by rude and hasty contact with the earth, while the tufts of hair which remained, were matted with grass, thorns and mire, gathered as it was drawn swiftly along through the different varieties of verdure, marsh, and brambles.
The next day after that, at about night-fall, there came down the mountains which Bokulla had descended under circumstances of so much peril, a lean and tattered company, marshalled forward by the ghost-like figure of a chieftain, with a broken helm, husky voice, and swordless scabbard. They were a portion of the army which had gone forth with Bokulla, and had been reduced to their present pale and ragged condition partly by fear and partly by the want of food for the two days during which they had wandered in search of home. Many a wife and mother shed tears of mingled gratitude and pity as she looked upon the shattered wreck of her son or husband, thus cast up from the waves of war. Two or three days after this, and day by day, for some week or two, came into the villages of the Mound-builders, single fugitives, or in pairs, when they had coupled themselves together, that in this sorrowful fellowship, they might aid each other in bearing up against terror, hunger and death.
And even after a month had rolled round, and tears had been shed and rites performed for the absentees, two or three strayed home lunatic; poor idiots, whose brains had been crazed by the triple assault of fear, famine, and the dread of instant death under the hoofs of the enemy. From the account that could be gathered from their own wandering and confused wits, they had fled every inch of the way from the battle-ground under the terrible apprehension that Behemoth was at their heels. Through brake and through briar they had hastened; they had scrambled over rocks and waded wide ponds: they had climbed trees and rested a little, and then swinging themselves from the branches, had run miles over hot and streamless prairies, until they had reached their native villages, sad, witless idiots!
The catastrophe now stood out before the Mound-builders, drawn in bold, strong and fearful strokes; painted in colors borrowed from the midnight, and dashed upon the canvass (it almost seemed) by the hand of destiny itself. The malignant planet which had so long lowered in the atmosphere, had now burst, and poured from its womb all that was dreadful, pernicious and en, during. The earth was now to them a cold, comfortless prison, into which they were plunged by an inexorable power, and where they were, doomed to drag through their allotted portion of life, under the eye of an eternal and terrible foe joyless, hopeless and prostrate. The multitude gave themselves to a quiet and passionless despair. Bokulla was silent or invisible.
Great occasions beget great men, but what is singular and rarely noted, they have also a tendency to nurse into life a swarm of petty spirits, which take the opportunity, uninvited, to push themselves into prominent posts. Thus the same emergency which elicited the resources of Bokulla's large and fruitful mind, also, drew out the vagaries and absurdities of a puny intellect, Kluckhatch by name. On account of his dwarfish size and an unlucky curvature in the legs, this valorous gentleman had been rejected from the military companies. Nevertheless he kept a drum on his own account, with which he was wont to regale a rabble crowd of urchins and maidens making a monthly tour through the villages and refreshing them with the dulcet sounds. He also wore in this itinerant and volunteer soldiery of his a small sword; a bright pyramidal blade of steel with a handle of elk's horn, the tip of which was surmounted with a clasp or circlet of silver and ornamented with the device of an owl hooting. The person of Kluckhatch was, as I have hinted, pigmean rather than otherwise. He had a low forehead with prominent cheek bones, and a broad full-moon face with large eyes, in which idiocy and self-conceit predominated, though they were occasionally enlivened with an expression of mirth and good-fellowship, and sometimes even brightened with a humorous conception. On the crown of his head, to complete his garniture, Kluckhatch bore a cap of conical figure, with a flattened circular summit, ending at the apex with a round button of copper. Attached to the sides of the cap were two large ear-flaps of deer-skin, or that of some, other indigenous animal, made to cover ears as large.
"I believe," said this self-constituted champion, when every plan suggested and acted upon had proved fruitless, "I believe," said he, "I must take this huge blusterer in hand. I look for a mound-of-the largest size at least for my memory if lay him at length, and a patent of nobility for my family. Kluckhatch is no fool — is he?" asked the vainglorious militant, turning with cocked eye to a shock-headed youth who stood gaping at his elbow. The boy replied with a similar squint, and Kluckhatch ran on, detailing at length, like a crafty plotter, the whole course of strategy lie intended to put in practice against Behemoth, naming the time when, and the place where, he expected to achieve his capture at least, if not his death.
In accordance with this carefully matured plot, one bright and cold autumn morning Kluckhatch sallied forth accoutred to a point with dagger, hat and sword-belt, to which was attached special ministrant in the anticipated capture, his little drum, with the melodious sounds of which he expected to quell and mollify the mighty rage of Behemoth. Over his right shoulder he bore a light ladder of pine of great length, with which he intended to mount to Behemoth's neck and inflict the fatal wound with his trenchant blade.
Thus armed and accoutred Kluckhatch set forth. Fortunately on the morning which he chose for his adventure, the Mastodon was not far off but pastured in a broad open meadow within sight of the Mound-builders' villages. When Kluckhatch first beheld him opening and closing his mighty jaws as he cropped the tall verdure, his soul trembled within him and vibrated to and fro, like a mariner's needle, between the determination to retreat and that to advance. At length however it settled down true to its purpose. He marched forward beating a reveille on his dwarfish drum, while he whistled faintly as an accompaniment. He was now within stone's throw of the monster. He had lowered the ladder from his shoulder, that he might be better prepared to scale the sides of the Beast. Behemoth ceased from the labor of feeding; a moment his eye twinkled on the puissant Kluckhatch, and the next, unrolling his trunk, he coiled it about the slender body of the adventurer, and lifting him gently from the earth, as gently tossed him some score of yards into a neighboring pond, which was about five feet deep, and mantled with a covering of stagnant water. Into this Kluckhatch descended and fell amid a noisy company of large green bull-frogs who were holding a meeting for general consultation and the expression of opinion. Amid the blustering assembly the valiant little hero fell. For a time, as he hung balanced in the air, it was doubtful which portion of his person would first penetrate the water.
The levity of his head and the weight of his splay-feet, at length brought the latter first to the pool, and dividing the stagnant surface, they sank through and reached a bottom of mud; still they sank and continued to settle down deeper and deeper. Kluckhatch knew not where his descent would stop, nor where in the end he might arrive. His feet at last found support just as his chin reached the waters' edge, and, looking up, the first object which fell upon his vision was a household of venerable and contemplative crows who, seated on a dry tree at the edge of the pool, seemed to be philosophizing over his mishaps, in their most doleful discords. One, an old rake, with only an eye left in his head, appeared to Kluckhatch, as he leered knowingly upon him, to be a desperate quiz. When, after many vain efforts, he had brought his scattered senses into something like order, reaching forth one hand he grasped his drum, which floated at a distance on the pool, and held it up tremblingly, while with the other he drew from his belt a drum-stick which survived his fall. Stretching out the hand that held the stick, he struck up a faint tatoo on the parchment, with the double purpose of driving off those accursed and hard-hearted crows, and also to draw help from the nearest village. To the instrumental sounds thus elicited he added a humble vocal effort. Here was a scene for a painter: Kluckhatch, the drum, and the crows, all in unison, running down the scale from lofty bass to shrill treble.
The hero soon tired of his toilsome essays at the two kinds of music under his charge, and putting forth all his strength in a desperate venture, he succeeded, scrambling, floundering, and paddling, in reaching the shore endued in a coat-of-mail, composed of black slime and green ooze, with long locks of eel-grass dangling at his heels, as trophies of his exploit. Satisfied with this valorous attempt at the capture of the " huge blusterer," Kluckhatch skulked home.
Some two months more had passed when a new enterprise was set on foot by a desperate band, under the control of two or three daring and reckless leaders. Their daring, however, was not the fruit of experience, for they had not been out with the army against the fearful enemy.
The Mastodon, with that attachment to particular scenes and localities, which even the brute cherishes to a certain degree in common with man, had been observed to exhibit a fondness for one spot, which seemed to be dearer to his mighty spirit than all others. It was a wide plain, in whose centre grew a few tall elm trees, where Behemoth, through the oppressive hours of noon, was wont to rest. Beside their roots bubbled a cool rivulet, in which he sometimes cast his limber trunk and sported with its waters. This was the spot where the last of his brute brethren had fallen. Here his gigantic frame fell, and here it reposed. The earth about Behemoth was the dust of his mighty bones, and every green thing which sprang from the mould drew its nourishment from the great Dead.
The desperate crew, to which we have alluded, or rather one of their chiefs, conceived a plan, based on the Mastodon's frequent resort to this locality, which might eventuate in his destruction. The chief, with whom it originated, suggested that five or six bands or bodies of men should commence mining the earth at a considerable depth, from so many distinct quarters, making the ground where Behemoth was accustomed to repose, the common centre of their operations. They should delve thus far below the surface until they had reached the spot in question, that the earth might be sufficiently solid to bear up the weight of the prodigious Brute, as he crossed it to and fro: but that, when they had attained the appointed centre subterraneously, they should then so far diminish the body of earth as to leave a mere shell through which his bulk must needs bear the Mastodon and bring him to the bottom of the pit, thus prepared for him, with rapid and deadly haste. The latter part of the mining, as they approached the centre, was to be conducted by means of broad spades attached to long handles, while the miner stood back in the subterranean halls secure from the sudden downfalling of the heavy bulk.
The day came to put in trial this desperate invention for the overthrow of the heroic enemy. A company of about five hundred men, under five leaders, went forth to their allotted labor. Day after day they toiled under the earth. Cautiously in the morning they sallied out to their duty, and at night stole back as cautiously to their slumbers, They had finished the whole plan in detail as mapped out by its projector they had hollowed the earth with their far withdrawn instruments of labor, until the weight of the Mastodon rested at noon, casting its shadow far east, upheld but by a thin shelf of earth. They toiled on. With his quick intelligent ear he heard the click of their many mattocks, and giving a bold and agile spring — wonderful for so ponderous a frame — he pressed his feet strongly upon the mould; it yielded and fell in with dire ruin, and Behemoth landed beyond its fatal circle on the bright greensward, and bellowed forth a fearful roar of triumph and scorn.
The subterranean toilers, when they heard the thunderous voice of Behemoth, clear and sonorous on high, knew that he had escaped; while not a few of their number, whose fool-hardiness had carried them too near the falling mass, perished under it. The remainder, abandoning all things, fled, dismayed, oil-worn and discomfited, toward their native villages.