The Avenger

A starless night:
Thickened with deeds of doom
The black stream serpent-like slips through the gloom
Choked with a Mohawk's blood that trickles slow
From out a well nigh pulseless heart, laid low
By tribal hate and discord—giving rise
To hostile feuds and violent jealousies.
'Twas but a moment's work.

The Cherokee
Meets with his Mohawk foe; the enmity
Inherited through ages fires the palm
Of each red hand, they face—

A meaning calm
With venom gorged—then on the night is flung
The deadliest yell that e'er left Indian tongue—
Like wild-cats raged, concurrently they spring,
With tomahawks athirst and glittering;
They close—they struggle—then they leap apart,
Hate as a hell burns madness in each heart.
Some strategy—a crafty, rival strife,
Then parts the darkness to a gleaming knife;
A treacherous manoeuvre—

On the shore
The Mohawk lifeless lies. The feud is o'er.

Exultingly, the Cherokee now stands,
Appeased his hate, avenged his reeking hands;
With foot upon his writhing victim's throat
He backward flings his head—one long, strange note
Leaves his thin lips—then up to Heaven's height
His war-whoop pierces through the fateful night.

Leagues off, the death-cry 'roused from sleep a son
Of the same sire as is the murdered one,
Nearest of kindred, Indian law demands
The dead must be avenged but by his hands.
The hours drift by—another midnight gloom
Curdles and cringes 'neath impending doom;
With trick of stealth a Mohawk lad slips o'er
The trail—till near a fire-illumed lodge door
He sees a man, a sinewy, ruthless scion
Of Western blood (inhuman as a lion).
The boy's step breaks
The brittle twigs—the red giant starts, awakes,
Then springs erect to meet th' unflinching eye
Of one so youthful, by whose hand to die
Is ignominy—shame—affront—disgrace.
He winces at the insult he, his race
Must take from tribes who tauntingly employ
T'avenge their wrong this fearless stripling boy.
To fate, he offers no resistance; he
Well knows that naught can shatter the decree,
That naught averts the iron Indian law
Of blood for blood, among the Iroquois,
Knows their retaliation firm and fell
Would hound him to the very depths of hell.
Boldly the youth confronts his monstrous foe,
Before whom nations quail—his eyes aglow
With hate and triumph as he hisses through
Locked teeth, ‘Last night thou lendest a knife unto
My brother; come I now O! Cherokee,
To give thy bloody weapon back to thee.
An evil curse—a flash of steel—
A leap—
A thrust above the heart, well aimed and deep,
Plunged to its very hilt in blood, the blade,
While vengeance gloating yells!
The debt is paid.
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