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Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891.
Vols. IX–XI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 1861–1889

A Story of Gratitude

By Timothy Dwight (1752–1817)

[From Travels in New England and New York. 1821.]

NOT many years after the county of Litchfield began to be settled by the English, a stranger Indian came one day into an inn in the town of Litchfield, in the dusk of the evening, and requested the hostess to furnish him with some drink and a supper. At the same time, he observed that he could pay for neither, as he had had no success in hunting; but promised payment as soon as he should meet with better fortune. The hostess refused him both the drink and the supper; called him a lazy, drunken, good-for-nothing fellow; and told him that she did not work so hard, herself, to throw away her earnings upon such creatures as he was. A man who sat by and observed that the Indian, then turning about to leave so inhospitable a place, showed by his countenance that he was suffering very severely from want and weariness, directed the hostess to supply him what he wished, and engaged to pay the bill himself. She did so. When the Indian had finished his supper he turned to his benefactor, thanked him, and assured him that he should remember his kindness, and whenever he was able would faithfully recompense it. For the present he observed he could only reward him with a story; which, if the hostess would give him leave, he wished to tell. The hostess, whose complacency had been recalled by the prospect of payment, consented. The Indian, addressing himself to his benefactor, said, “I suppose you read the Bible.” The man assented. “Well,” said the Indian, “the Bible say, God made the world; and then He took him, and looked on him, and say, ‘It’s all very good.’ Then He made light; and took him, and looked on him, and say, ‘It’s all very good.’ Then He made dry land and water, and sun and moon, and grass and trees; and took him, and looked on him, and say, ‘It’s all very good.’ Then He made beasts, and birds, and fishes; and took him, and looked on him, and say, ‘It’s all very good.’ Then He made man; and took him, and looked on him, and say, ‘It’s all very good.’ Then He made woman; and took him, and looked on him, and He no dare say one such word.” The Indian, having told his story, withdrew.

Some years after, the man who had befriended him had occasion to go some distance into the wilderness between Litchfield, then a frontier settlement, and Albany, where he was taken prisoner by an Indian scout and carried to Canada. When he arrived at the principal settlement of the tribe on the southern border of the St. Lawrence, it was proposed by some of the captors that he should be put to death. During the consultation, an old Indian woman demanded that he should be given up to her; that she might adopt him in the place of a son whom she had lost in the war. He was accordingly given to her; and lived through the succeeding winter in her family, experiencing the customary effects of savage hospitality. The following summer, as he was at work in the forest alone, an unknown Indian came up to him and asked him to meet him at a place which he pointed out, upon a given day. The prisoner agreed to the proposal; but not without some apprehensions that mischief was intended him. During the interval, these apprehensions increased to such a degree as to dissuade him, effectually, from fulfilling his engagement. Soon after, the same Indian found him at his work again, and very gravely reproved him for not performing his promise. The man apologized, awkwardly enough, but in the best manner in his power. The Indian told him that he should be satisfied if he would meet him at the same place on a future day, which he named. The man promised to meet him and fulfilled his promise. When he arrived at the spot, he found the Indian provided with two muskets, ammunition for them, and two knapsacks. The Indian ordered him to take one of each, and follow him. The direction of their march was to the south. The man followed without the least knowledge of what he was to do, or whither he was going; but concluded that if the Indian intended him harm he would have despatched him at the beginning, and that at the worst he was as safe where he was as he could be in any other place. Within a short time, therefore, his fears subsided, although the Indian observed a profound and mysterious silence concerning the object of the expedition. In the daytime they shot such game as came in their way, and at night kindled a fire by which they slept. After a tedious journey of many days they came, one morning, to the top of an eminence presenting a prospect of a cultivated country, in which was a number of houses. The Indian asked his companion whether he knew the ground. He replied eagerly that it was Litchfield. His guide then, after reminding him that he had so many years before relieved the wants of a famishing Indian, at an inn in that town, subjoined, “I that Indian; now I pay you; go home.” Having said this, he bade him adieu; and the man joyfully returned to his own house.