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O-i-chee

A text attributed to James Fenimore Cooper, but almost certainly not written by him. The real author remains unknown.

Placed on line, November 2013, by Hugh MacDougall, Corresponding Secretary, James Fenimore Cooper Society

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Text below taken from Brother Jonathan, Volume IV , Number 12, Saturday, March 25, 1843, pp. 358-359. Typographical errors not contained in other versions silently corrected: [Square brackets] as in original. {Curly brackets} indicate added material.

Also published in the Daily Troy (N.Y.) Budget, Thursday, April 6, 1843; the Sag Harbor (N.Y) The Corrector, Saturday, May 17 and May 29, 1843; the Washington (D.C) Globe, May 18, 1843, (as The Brothers United. A Mohawk Tale. Written by Cooper in 1822, Never Before Published); the Goshen (IN) Democrat, Thursday, April 25 and May 2, 1844 (as The Brothers United. A Mohawk Tale); and no doubt many other newspapers. Latter two on The Newspaper Archive, a pay site.

Reprinted as O-I-Chee. A Tale of the Mohawk in Irwin P. Beadle's American Novels, No. 4, 1865, according to which it was written in 1822 and first published in the Philadelphia The Home Weekly, May 17, 1843. Beadle subsequently reprinted it as The Red Dwarf, in Starr's American Novels, No. 79, and in Pocket Novels, No. 220 (Albert Johannsen, The House of Beadle and Adams and its Dime and Nickel Novels, University of Oklahoma Press, 1950)

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From the Sunday Bulletin.

THE BROTHERS.
A TALE OF THE MOHAWK—BY J. FENIMORE COOPER, ESQ.

"Nature grows not alone in thews and bulk."-Shakespeare.

{" For nature crescent does not grow alone / In thews and bulk, but as his temple waxes / The inward service of the mind and soul / Grows wide withal. - Hamlet, Act I, scene 3}

"This is a dismal spot," said the Indian, while the bleak winds whistled through the tall pines, and the hollow murmurings they gave, as they roared along the desolate glen, seemed like the sighings of a giant confined in their gloomy recesses. The oak, the chestnut and the shrubbery were stripped of their foliage, or only betokened by the presence of a few dead leaves, that they had once been robed in verdure. The scattered trunks of prostrate and decaying trees added to the gloom, while occasional gray rocks protruded their mossy sides above the snow-drifts, and mantled winter with a thousand unpleasant associations. "'Tis a dismal spot—but O-i-chee lays no traps for the white man. Will you go on?"

"True, true," said the hunter, as he recovered from a momentary stupor; "I must proceed, but the cold has almost benumbed my faculties. We must hasten, O-i-chee; you are more inured to this bitter weather than I am, and I fear we must soon seek some close shelter, where we may raise a fire to warm ourselves. For my part, I feel the lassitude which is said to overcome one in freezing."

"Be brave! be brave!" replied O-i-chee; "the Black Wolf is not far distant, and the fire which he would make could not be more comfortable than to perish in the snows." Then laying his hand upon his lips, in token of silence, he led the way rapidly but with caution along the bleak defile they were tracing. Still wild and fitful gusts rolled past them, while the heavens exhibited dark, fickle, and hurried clouds which swept over them like the drift their erratic movements propelled. "Down!" whispered the Indian, as he buried himself in the snow, and pulled, with a powerful grasp, his companion beside him; "did you not see them as they passed below?" They will soon be on our trail."

"What is to be done?: inquired the hunter.

"Let them pass up the rocks on the other side of the creek; then we must be nimble footed, or we shall fall into their hands. Hah! see, they are no longer in sight. Now use every nerve."

At these words both started to their feet, and in the usual hurried trot of foresters, made as rapid progress as practicable towards the bank of the river, occasionally casting an anxious glance on the track of their pursuers, lest some loiterer from their ranks might observe their motions. Arrived at the mouth of the creek, the hunter was for diverging farther into the wood, and, leaving his enemies in the pursuit, to take shelter in direct flight—but his more sagacious companion interposed.

"Do you not fear the snow-prints?" said O-i-chee; "An Indian's eye would not let such a trail escape him. We must fall into their own path, and mingle our foot-prints with theirs, till both are so lost as not to be traced at all; then trust me for an abode of security."

So saying, they darted across the frozen stream, and followed the path of their pursuers, seeming themselves to pursue. Meanwhile the party of Black Wolf had discovered their footsteps, and with a yell that rang wildly along the hills, the discovery was announced, as they struck into and followed it with increasing ardor. As O-i-chee had supposed, they soon found themselves confused by falling on their own trail, having, from their numbers, completely destroyed that of their intended victims, who continued their route until they had arrived within a short distance of the spot where they had but a few minutes previous thrown themselves into the snow to elude the sight of their enemies.

"Now," said O-i-chee, "follow me," as he descended rapidly between two projecting crags, till lost to the sight of the amazed and motionless hunter. But he was soon aroused by the voice of his guide below. "What! does the white man fear? Let him fall then into the hands of his foe—would he be safe, let him follow the path I have taken."

Another wild and distinct war-whoop decided him in his course, and he descended the aperture, which, at the depth of about twenty feet, opened into a wide and gloomy cavern, whose roof was formed of massy and projecting rocks, while the sound of rushing water satisfied him that the sunken channel of some stream held its course through the dreary domain. There was scarcely light sufficient to render the objects around discernible, and a dense fog seemed to fill every cranny of the cave.

"Now, white man," said the Indian, as, with a giant's strength, he covered the entrance to their retreat with a huge rock which had apparently once fitted the aperture through which they entered, "you are removed from the danger of pursuit; look around you! Do you tremble that you are in the power of a poor friendless Indian, who has bartered the risk of his own life for your safety? The Black Wolf knows not this retreat—and did he, he durst not enter it. The 'Dwarf Indian,' as you white men call me, could instantly cover him with the jutting rocks around us. Look around you! What can you see? the dim thick vapors that overshadow your rivers—the dark and gloomy confines that border on your fabled hell. Dost thou not know me?"

The hunter was surprised at this apostrophe, and he answered to the Indian's inquiry with a tremulousness that in ordinary cases would have seemed womanly; "Strange man! I know you not—you have that in your person and manners which passes over me like an infant dream, and I look upon you as something allied to the memory of the past, but which I cannot trace or define."

"How many brethren have ye, white man? Lives your father yet—and your mother?"

There was a something mournful in the inquiry of the Indian, but his eye wavered not, and his countenance was fixed with a desponding but firm glance upon the being addressed.

"Mysterious being," at length the hunter exclaimed, "I know not why I am thus interrogated—but my brothers have been three; two have fallen beneath the hatchet of our pursuers—my eldest I know not of; he was borne away long since by the same tribe, and has probably shared the fate of the two last; I had one sister, now their captive; and but for the wild desperation of the act, I would now attempt her rescue."

"But what of your father, and your mother?" was the quick and almost angry reply of the Indian.

"They too were borne away by the same savage band."

"Dare you, white man," and the Indian raised his dwarfish yet gigantic proportions, "Dare you, white man—dare you attempt their rescue?"

"With my life I will," replied the hunter, not a little nettled at the inquiry.

"Hold, then," said O-i-chee, as he communicated fire to a bunch of combustibles, "the hour is not far distant when we can surprise them on their mid-moon watch."

Night was, indeed, fast approaching, and the discomfitted {sic} Black Wolf and his party had encamped close to the entrance of the cavern occupied by the Dwarf Indian. Little was he aware of the destruction which lurked beneath him, as his party gathered around, and the prisoners of his cruelty were bound and linked with cords to the slumbering tribe. As the torch of O-i-chee was lighted, the desolation of the cavern became more and more distinct and visible; the wild glare of the light rendered the situation one of bewildering interest to the eyes of the inexperienced hunter. He looked around—here a chasm yawned, there an unsupported crag threatened him, and far below where he stood the turbulent waters of a sky-hidden stream dashed in torrents over the uneven surface of the rude abyss. Presently his eyes caught a sight of something that aroused him to the recognition of the upper world: high on a projecting rock, lighted by the torch of the Indian, he beheld, as it were, two globes of fire, rolling in their orbits, yet fixed intently upon him. His rifle was raised in an instant, but the Indian withheld his hand.

"Fool!" he exclaimed, "rush not on destruction-one rifle sound above would prove our ruin; trust to me," and he scattered the splinters of his pitch pine torch with so judicious a hand that the startled animal shrunk back from his position, and, treading on a faithless clump of earth, was precipitated into the bubbling torrent below—while his terrible howl echoed through the cavern like distant peals of heavy thunder.— Crippled by the fall, yet struggling by its inherent disgust of water, the panther bounded from crag to crag, and had soon again half ascended from the chasm into which he had fallen, when the hunter, again levelling {sic} his piece, exclaimed—

"By heavens, Indian, I shall trust my life no longer in such rude power;" and the report of his rifle reverberated harshly along the grim cavities of the cave, while it mingled with the last deafening howl of the animal, as it fell lifeless into the water below.

"Rash, rash man," said O-i-chee, "have you forgotten the more fearful perils that surround you? The panther's howl is common to an Indian's ears; its music may lull him to sleep, but the sound of a rifle has no such potent charm. Silence!" he whispered commandingly, throwing his torch down into the stream, "let darkness hide your rash act."

The hunter, as we have heretofore called him, must here be more familiarly introduced to the reader. He is a tall graceful looking man, probably of the age of 30 years; but his stern features would have induced the belief that he possessed more manly firmness than was really allotted to his nature. His early years had been passed in the eastern sections of this country, and his education had been such that it would have fitted him for almost any station in its councils. He had married at an early age, but domestic difficulties had soon caused a separation from his wife, and he became ever after a melancholy man; his spirits seemed to have been broken; and when his parents removed to the banks of the tumultuous Blackwater creek, he had accompanied them in their way; and for a few years past had done little else than scour the woods in pursuit of the game which infested the mountains contiguous to his home. The Gap of the creek is well known to many; but any individual who has traversed it, well knows a sterile spot, where vegetation never sprung, and has probably listened with attentive ear to the sounds as of a rushing torrent far beneath his feet, while he stood upon a base of rocks which, it would seem, had been eternal in their duration. (!) Beneath this massy bed of granite the hunter and his Indian guide had sought security. The morning's sun had found the former quiet and calm in his home; the noon-day had found that home a sheet of flame; and the night had found his family all captives, himself little less, to the wild and envenomed hatgred the Black Wolf bore toward the whites. But, that night also found his enemy unconsciously sleeping above the very foe he had pursued, without even a fancy that his slumbers might be startled by the unwelcome clamor of war. Richard Malvers, for thus we must call him, had little idea of the companion who was with him, or what he was, yet he knew that companion had evinced a sagacity in eluding the pursuit of his enemies which demanded his attention and gratitude. Indeed, it was to the shrewd-sightedness of O-i-chee that he was indebted for the enjoyment of that darling, (even of the most happy being,) existence!

"And who is O-i-chee!" he mentally exclaimed, as the Indian gathered together the loose faggots of the cavern and kindled up a fire for their mutual comfort. "And who is O-i-chee? Why that restless, meaning enquiry after the fate of my father, my mother, my brethren and sisters? Why was it? his eyes looked calm, and his nerves were unshaken, but there was a thrill in his voice which startled me like the confusedness of an unwelcome echo. Who is this incomprehensible? I have tendered him naught—given him naught; and when, to-day, he struggled with me in my hour of desolation, I felt that his dwarfish stature was a shackle that bent me to its wearing. What are his purposes? to betray me? What are his views? to assassinate? It cannot be. Can it be?"

He sat himself down gloomily upon a jutting rock, and watched with a keen glance the irregular movements of the dwarf as he gathered the splinters around him to kindle into a blaze the fuel which he designed should cast the chill atmospheric feeling from his limbs. The soul of Richard was wrapped up in a thousand reflections as he saw the being before him prepare for his comfort; his form had something about it so unnatural, and his professions had apparently been dictated so much by kindness; yet he so much feared hypocrisy that his gaze was one of most deep and intense interest.

"He does not blanch before me; he evinces no surprise; but I know the Indian never does. What can he be?" and musingly he surveyed the form of his guide, while the fires of the encamped Black Wolf's party glared through the gloom of the clefted rocks, and their reflection came like flickering flashes through the crannies of the rock which was placed as a barrier to their entrance, in case they should discover the subterranean refuge of the hunter and his guide.

The dwarf was of most irregular proportions, with a form of extraordinary strength and muscle, and yet his height was very little more than four feet, if above that; but he combined an agility of action with his movements that it would have been truly surprising for even an amateur in gymnastics to witness.

By this time this strange compound of the civilized and the savage had, in a dark recess of the cave, produced a glowing, comfortable looking fire, and also, from a larder, which had not before been observed by his companion, brought forth some social steaks of venison, together with the means requisite for preparing a forester's repast. These things being all arranged, he approached his guest.

"Brother!" said he, "will you partake of the Indian's repast?"

Malvers started: there was a thrill came over him at the ejaculation of "Brother!" which he had never before experienced; and yet that expression was all of kindness.

"Brother!" he re-echoed; "How mean you, strange, but less miserable being than you seem? Brother?"

"Ay, Brother!" continued the Indian, and he emphasized the word half sardonically, "will you partake of an Indian fare?"

"Brother!" again uttered the hunter, at the same time placing his hand on his rifle. "What demon has enmeshed me?" and he cocked his piece preparatory for his defence.

O-i-chee, who had observed his every emotion, but without evincing the least feeling of alarm, now passed his hand across the muzzle of his piece, and in a calm tone thus addressed his companion:

"Is it for this{,} white man, that you threaten the life of your friend-that he has brought you in security from your bitterest enemy's pursuit, and given you an opportunity to rescue the dearest objects of your love from the grasp of a savage and relentless foe? I ask, is it for this? Will you sacrifice your whole family to the poor craven fancy of fear? Hold! I will tell you that which your memory cherishes not."

"What is it, then, thou canst tell—wild, untamed and rude figure of a man?" was the hurried and angry reply of the hunter.

"Did'st thou ever see the remaining trunk of a girdled pine, when the tree had fallen? Did'st thou ever see the solid rock, when the blast had splintered it? each firmly resisting the combination of efforts to destroy them. I am their effigy—with me Fate has done her worst. I know thee, Richard Malvers, better than thou knowest me."

"And what is it thou dost know!"

"More than thou wilt believe; but it is this. I know that the same mother who gave thee birth, sorrowed for the loss of me even before thy existence. Do you understand me?"

There was a melancholy tone in the ejaculation of the Dwarf, while he uttered the above, which almost melted the heart of Richard, and faintly he articulated—

"What are you, then?"

"Thy brother, Richard—the lost one thou hast spoken of. I have known thee long; I have known all the designs of the Black Wolf, but my efforts could not counteract them; my plans have been deeply laid; I have drawn him into my trail; he is now in my power, and I now only ask thee to aid me in rescuing the parents to whom we both owe our existence. Richard, again I ask, dare you—dare you attempt their freedom?"

"I dare—I dare!" was the undesponding reply. While a world of doubt had buried the hunter in a bewildering maze of incertitude, and he felt all the joy which hope promises, in finding a relative so dear as O-i-chee had proclaimed himself; yet he was fearful that the pretended claim of consanguinity was not in reality true. There was no embrace—there was not even a smile—and the "brothers," both of whom sprang from the same fountain of nature, stood each apart, like the cold statues that arise from the marble of our common mother, earth.

[How strangely that cold and perplexing feeling, which sometimes arises from doubt or distrust{,} rests upon the heart, even when its fountains seem as it were, boiling over with the contending emotions of love, anxiety and distrustfulness. Think what we will of affection, it springs not suddenly up, like the morning flower, blushing and spreading its beauties to the day; but, like the mountain oak and its aged companions, that knit their limbs together the more firmly as years grow over their duration-yet, like the morning blossom, quick budding affections often fade and wither away in the sunbeams which produced them, while the embracing oaks fall not at each others' {sic}sides without marking with desolation the companions of their growth. Affections long tried fall not asunder without a pang—but the uniting ties of consanguinity are never so immovably knit as when they grow from the communion of children.]

There was a startling wild conviction of this, which wove itself, like a web, over the hearts of both the Hunter and the Dwarf. Neither wished to exhibit the first sign of joy, but both felt that the germs of coming happiness were springing up in their bosoms. The thought is thrilling and deep; but there is a something we cannot define; there is a something that winds itself about the heart, which human reason cannot gather together as the reaper his sheaves; there is a something which even love shudders at; and that something was before the Indian and the white man, as they, each with the feeling of brothers, but without their kindness, sat themselves down to supply the demands of hunger; but few words passed between them until they had completed their repast.

"Now, Richard," said O-i-chee, "now let us look to those we would liberate and preserve. What sort of a piece have you there?" and he essayed to lift from his hands the rifle of Richard's. The distrust before evinced was as deep as ever in the breast of the hunter, and it was with reluctance he permitted the Dwarf to look at his rifle, taking, at the same time himself the readiest weapon of defence the Indian had for a like supervision. But O-i-chee quailed not; his feelings were true, and with his simple nature he could not, nor he did not distrust his brother! though that brother had little confidence in him!

* * * * * * * *

"'Tis a fair piece," said the Indian, returning it. "But have you ammunition?"

"I have, I think, sufficient," was the reply.

"Be sure, be sure;" continued O-i-chee—here is an abundance. How heavy does your rifle carry?"

"Ninety to the pound;" replied the Hunter.

"Ninety, in truth!" rejoined O-i-chee. "Should your arm fail, these are an hundred and twenty, two balls to the charge. Are you ready?"

"I am," sternly, and quickly, said Richard.

"I will first ascend," said the Indian, as he removed with great caution the stone which had been placed by himself over the mouth of the cave. "I will first ascend; but observe, when following, be careful that you make not the least sound, and our moccasins must be firmly set and lashed before we move."

The midnight hour was fast approaching;—the dull red glare of the Black Wolf's fire had died away to the flickering tremulousness of a decaying and incinerated brand—the loud, fitful, or half-breathing sounds of his snoring, had for some time fallen upon the wakeful ears of the brothers—and his solitary sentinel, who was to have watched the "coming events" of danger, had near the fire, behind the trunk, and beneath the shadow of a perennial hemlock, sheltered himself from the whistling blasts, and had lost all consciousness of danger, for the eye that could have overlooked everything of its nature which surrounded him, was dead in calm and peaceful slumber; but the danger lurked beneath him; he heeded it not, for he knew it not.

The prisoners were closely secured, and the slightest motion might have whelmed in misery. But, was it strange?—THEY TOO SLEEP: The father! the mother!! and the sister!!! of those they knew not of—but of those who alike burned with ardor to deliver them from their captors. In a few moments they had both ascended, and looking eagerly around they saw that the whole party slept, while their decaying fires cast a faint glimmer of light on the recumbent groups.

Hastily the Dwarf cut asunder the thongs which connected the captives with the persons of their captors, and fearful, lest that by awaking them he should lose the advantages which then presented themselves, with caution, divested the savages one by one of such of their weapons as could be obtained without arousing the sleepers. The Hunter, thus while, was not so inactive, for by his well-known voice he soon found means to awaken his relatives, without having stirred the slumberers who had guarded them, and without noise or bustle they were removed to the secure recesses of the cave. The dwarf in the mean time was engaged in arranging a slow-match which should cause an explosion that would arouse and terrify the red-skins as soon as his retreat was achieved. His object was accomplished without accident to himself or friends, but when their foes were aroused by this stratagem, perceiving at the instant that their captives had escaped, and struck with the mystery of the event, their wild, horrid and startling howl and yell rang like the screamings of ten thousand wolves along the forest, and they fled like startled deer from the scene of their encampment, leaving their very weapons upon the ground.

But then came the deep and thrilling effect of maternal recognition. The mother knew her child-the son his mother. The changes of Time had not obliterated recollection, although the recognition was, on the one part, mingled with the cold and distant feeling of Distrust.

* * * * * * * *

NOTE.—On the banks of the beautiful Mohawk are yet to be seen the remains of a log house where the Dwarf Indian ended his earthly career, and the church-yard tells the tale, by a marble slab, of the rescue of the parents of those who, although Brothers, never enjoyed but an indistinct idea of Affection, and who parted from this life, without regret for want of a communion of feeling to the future world of Spirits. Such are the ties by which nature binds man and man together.

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