Part 8 out of 9
"This good," said Susquesus, in a voice so low and soft that it could not
attract more attention than a whisper; "this very good--hear him ag'in,
soon; then know."
A stifled groan _was_ heard, and that almost as soon as my companion ceased
to speak. I felt my blood curdle at these frightful evidences of human
suffering; and an impulse of humanity caused me to move, as if about to
rise. The hand of Trackless checked the imprudence.
"No good," he said, sternly. "Sit still. Warrior know how to sit still."
"But, Heavenly Providence! There is some one in agony, quite near us, man.
Did you not hear a groan Trackless?"
"To be sure, hear him.--What of that? Pain make groan come, alway, from
"You think, then, it is a white-man who suffers? if so, it must be one of
our party, as there is no one else near us. If I hear it again, I must go
to his relief, Onondago."
"Why you behave like squaw? What of little groan? Sartain, he pale-face;
Injin never groan on war-path. Why he groan, you t'ink? Cause Huron meet
him. That reason he groan. You groan, too, no sit still. Injin know time to
shoot--know time not to shoot."
I had every disposition to call aloud, to inquire who needed succour;
yet the admonitions of my companion, aided as they, were by the gloomy
mysteries of that vast forest, in the hour of deepest night, enabled me to
command the impulse. Three times, notwithstanding, was that groan repeated;
and, as it appeared to me, each time more and more faintly. I thought,
too, when all was still in the forest--when we sat ourselves in breathless
expectation of what might next reach our ears--attentive to each sighing
of the night-air, and distrustful even of the rustling leaf--that the last
groan of all, though certainly the faintest of any we had heard, was much
the nearest. Once, indeed, I heard, or fancied I heard, the word 'water,'
murmured in a low, smothered tone, almost in my ear. I thought, too, I knew
the voice; that it was familiar to me; though I could not decide, in the
state of my feelings, exactly to whom, it belonged.
In this manner we passed what, to me, were two of the most painful hours
of my life, waiting the slow return of light. My own impatience was nearly
ungovernable; though the Indian sat, the whole of that time, seemingly as
insensible as the log which formed his seat, and almost as motionless. At
length this intensely anxious, and even physically painful watch, drew near
its end. Signs of day gleamed through the canopy of leaves, and the rays
of dull light appeared to struggle downward, rendering objects dimly
It was not long ere we could ascertain that we had so completely covered
ourselves, as to be in a position where the branches of the pines
completely shut out the view of objects beyond. This was favourable to
reconnoitring, however, previously to quitting our concealment, and
enabled us to have some care of ourselves while attending to the duties of
Susquesus used the greatest caution in looking around before he left the
cover. I was close at his side, peeping through such openings as offered;
for my curiosity was so intense, that I almost forgot the causes for
apprehension. It was not long before I heard the familiar Indian
interjection, "hugh!" from my companion; a proof that something had caught
his eye, of a more than ordinarily exciting character. He pointed in the
way I was to look, and there, indeed, I beheld one of those frightful
instances of barbarous cruelty, that the usages of savage warfare have
sanctioned, as far back as our histories extend, among the forest warriors
of this continent. The tops of two saplings had been brought down near each
other, by main force, the victim's hands attached firmly to upper branches
of each, and the trees permitted to fly back to their natural positions, or
as near them as the revolting means of junction would allow. I could scarce
believe my senses, when my sight first revealed the truth. But there hung
the victim, suspended by his arms, at an elevation of at least ten or
fifteen feet from the earth. I confess I sincerely hoped he was dead, and
the motionless attitude of the body gave me reason to think it might be so.
Still, the cries for "help," uttered wildly, hopelessly, in the midst of a
vast and vacant forest, the groans extorted by suffering, must have been
his. He had probably been thus suspended and abandoned, while alive!
Even the Onondago could not restrain me, after I fully saw and understood
the nature of the cruelty which had been exercised on the miserable victim
who was thus suspended directly before my eyes, and I broke out of the
cover, ready, I am willing to confess, to pull trigger on the first hostile
red-man I saw. Fortunately for myself, most probably, the place had long
been deserted. As the back of the sufferer was towards me, I could not tell
who he was; but his dress was coarse, and of the description that belongs
to the lowest class. Blood had flowed freely from his head, and I made no
doubt he had been scalped; though the height at which he hung, and the
manner in which his head had fallen forward upon his breast, prevented me
front ascertaining the fact at once, by the aid of sight. Thus much did I
perceive, however, ere the Indian joined me.
"See!" said Susquesus, whose quick eye never let anything escape it long,
"told you so; Huron been here."
As this was said, the Indian pointed significantly at the naked skin, which
was visible between the heavy, coarse shoes of the victim, and the trowsers
he wore, when I discovered it was black. Moving quickly in front, so as to
get a view of the face, I recognised the distorted features of Petrus, or
Pete, Guert Ten Eyck's negro. This man had been left with the surveyors, it
will be remembered, and he had either fallen into the hands of his captors,
while at the hut, engaged in his ordinary duties, or he had been met in the
forest while going to, or coming from those he served, and had thus been
treated. We never ascertained the facts, which remain in doubt to this
"Give me your tomahawk, Trackless," I cried, as soon as horror would
permit me to speak, "that I may cut down this sapling, and liberate the
"No good--better so," answered the Indian. "Bear--wolf can't get him, now.
Let black-skin hang--good as bury--no safe stay here long. Look round and
count Huron, then go."
"Look round and count the Hurons," I thought to myself; "and in what manner
is this to be done?" By this time, however, it was sufficiently light to
see foot-prints, if any there were, and the Onondago set about examining
such traces of what had passed at that terrible spot, as might be
intelligible to one of his experience.
At the foot of a huge oak, that grew a few yards from the fatal saplings,
we found the two wooden, covered pails in which we knew Pete had been
accustomed to carry food to Mr. Traverse and the chain-bearers. They were
empty, but whether the provisions they unquestionably had contained fell to
the share of those for whom they were intended, or to that of the captors,
we never learned. No traces of bones, potato-skins, or other fragments were
discovered; and, if the Hurons had seized the provisions, they doubtless
transferred them to their own repositories, without stopping to eat.
Susquesus detected proof that the victim had been seated at the foot of the
oak, and that he had been seized at that spot. There were the marks of many
feet there, and some proofs of a slight scuffle. Blood, too, was to be
traced on the leaves, from the foot of the oak, to the place where poor
Pete was suspended; a proof that he had been hurt, previously to being
abandoned to his cruel fate.
But the point of most interest with Trackless was to ascertain the number
of our foes. This might be done, in some measure, according to his view of
the matter, by means of the foot-prints. There was no want of such signs,
the leaves being much disturbed in places, though after a short but anxious
search, my companion thought it wisest to repair to the hut, lest those it
contained might be surprised in their sleep. He gave me to understand that
the enemy did not appear to be numerous at that spot, three or four at
most, though it was quite possible, nay highly probable, that they had
separated, and that their whole force was not present at this miserable
It was broad daylight when we came in sight of the hut again, and I
perceived Jaap was up and busy with his pots and kettles near the spring.
No one else was visible, and we inferred that Guert and Dirck were still on
their pallets. We took a long and distrustful survey of the forest around
the cabin, from the height where we stood, ere we ventured to approach it
any nearer. Discovering no signs of danger, and the forest being quite
clear of underbrush or cover of any sort, large trees excepted, for some
distance from the hut, we then advanced without apprehension. This open
character of the woods near our dwelling was felt to be a very favourable
circumstance, rendering it impossible for an enemy to get very near us by
daylight, without being seen. It was owing to the fact that we had used so
much of the smaller timber, in our own operations, while the negroes had
burned most of the underbrush for fuel.
Sure enough, I found my two friends fast asleep, and certainly much
exposed. When aroused and told all that had occurred to me and the Indian,
their surprise was great, nor was their horror less. Jaap, who, missing us
on rising, supposed we had gone in pursuit of game, had followed us into
the hut, and heard my communications. His indignation was great, at the
idea of one of his own colour's being thus treated, and I heard him vowing
vengeance between his set teeth, in terms that were by no means measured.
"By St. Nicholas!" exclaimed Guert, who had now finished dressing, and who
accompanied me out into the open air, M my poor fellow shall be revenged,
if the rifle will do it! Scalped, too, do you say, Corny?"
"As far as we could ascertain, suspended as he was from the tree. But,
scalped he must be, as an Indian never permits a dead captive to escape
"And you have been out in the forest three hours, you tell me, Corny?--You
"About that time, I should judge. The heart must have been of stone, that
could resist those cries!"
"I do not blame you, Littlepage, though it would have been kinder, and
wiser, had you taken your friends with you. We must stick together, in
future, let what may happen. Poor Petrus! I wonder Doortje should have
hinted nothing of that nigger's fate!"
We then held a long consultation on the subject of our mode of proceeding,
next. It is unnecessary to dwell on this conference, as its conclusions
will be seen in the events of the narrative; but it was brought to a close
by a very sudden interruption, and that was the sound of an axe in the
forest. The blows came in the direction of the scene of Pete's murder,
and we had collected our rifles, and were preparing to move towards the
suspected point, when we saw Jaap staggering along, coming to the hut,
beneath the load of his friend's body. The fellow had stolen away, unseen,
on this pious duty, and had executed it with success. In a minute or two
he reached the spring, and began to wash away the revolting remains of the
massacre from the head of the Huron's victim.
We now ascertained that poor Pete had been badly cut by knives, as well
as scalped, and suspended in the manner related. Both arms appeared to be
dislocated, and the only relief to our feelings, was in the hope that an
attempt to inflict so much suffering must have soon defeated itself. Guert,
in particular, expressed his hope that such was the case, though the awful
sounds of the past night were still too fresh in my ears to enable me to
believe all I could wish on that subject A grave was dug, and we buried the
body at once, rolling a large log or two on the spot, in order to prevent
wild beasts from disinterring it. Jaap worked hard in the performance of
these rites, and Guert Ten Eyck actually repeated the Lord's Prayer and the
Creed over the grave, when the body was placed in it, with a fervour and
earnestness that a little surprised me.
"He was but a nigger, Corny, it is true," said the Albanian, a little
apologetically perhaps, after all was over, "but he was a very goot nigger,
in the first place; then, he had a soul, as well as a white man--Pete had
his merits, as well as a Tominie, and I trust they will not be forgotten in
the last great account. He was an excellent cook, as you must have seen,
and I never knew a nigger that had more of the dog-like fidelity to his
master. The fellow never got into a frolic without coming honestly to ask
leave; though, to be sure, I was not a hard master, in these particulars,
on reasonable occasions."
We next ate our breakfasts, with as much appetite as we could. Shouldering
our packs, and placing all around, and in the hut, as much as possible in
the condition in which we had found the place, we then commenced our march,
Susquesus leading, as usual.
We went in quest of the surveyors, who were supposed to be in the
south-east corner of the Patent, employed as usual, and ignorant of all
that had passed. At first, we had thought of discharging our rifles, as
signals to bring them in; but these signals might apprize our enemies,
as well as our friends, of our presence, and the distance was too great,
moreover, to render it probable the reports could be heard by those for
whom alone they would be intended.
The route we took was determined by our general knowledge of the quarter
of the Patent in which the surveyors ought now to be, as well as by the
direction in which the body of Pete had been found. The poor fellow was
certainly either going to, or coming from the party, and being in constant
communication with them, he doubtless knew where they were at work.
Then the different trails of the surveyors were easily enough found by
Trackless, and he told us that the most recent led off in the direction I
have named. Towards the south-east, therefore, we held our way, marching,
as before, in Indian file; the Onondago leading, and the negro bringing up
"'Tis too horrible!
The weariest and most loathed worldly life
That age, ache, penury, and imprisonment
Can lay on nature, is a paradise,
To what we fear of death."
_Measure for Measure._
We were not long in reaching the point of the Patent in which the surveyors
had been at work, after which we could have but little difficulty in
finding their present actual position. The marked trees were guides that
told the whole story of their labours. For an hour and a half, however, we
moved rapidly forward, Susquesus on the lead, silent, earnest, watchful,
and I fear I must add, revengeful. Not a syllable had been uttered during
the whole of that time, though our senses were keenly on the alert; and we
avoided everything like a cover that might conceal an ambush. Suddenly
the Indian halted; at the next instant he was behind a tree. Each of us
imitated him, quick as thought, for this was our previous training in the
event of encountering an enemy; and we all well knew the importance of
a cover in forest warfare. Still, no foe could be seen. After examining
around us in every direction, for a minute or two, and finding the woods
vacant and silent as ever, Guert and I quitted our own trees, and joined
the Trackless, at the foot of his own huge pine.
"Why this, Susquesus?" demanded the Albanian, sharply; for he began to
suspect a little acting, got up to magnify the Indian's usefulness; "here
is neither pale-face nor red-skin. Have done with this folly, and let us go
"No good--warrior been here; p'rhaps gone, p'rhaps no; soon see. Open eye,
As a gesture accompanied this speech, we did look again, and this time
in the right direction. At the distance of a hundred yards from us was a
chestnut, that might be seen from its roots to its branches. On the ground,
partly concealed by the tree, and partly exposed, was the leg of a man,
placed as the limb would be apt to lie, on the supposition that its owner
lay on his back, asleep. It showed a moccasin, and the usual legging of an
Indian; but the thigh, and all the rest of the frame, was concealed. The
quick eye of the Onondago had caught this small object, even at that
distance, comprehended it at a glance, when he instantly sought a cover,
as described. Guert and I had some difficulty at first, even after it was
pointed out to us, in recognising this object; but it soon became distinct
"Is that a red-skin's leg?" asked Guert, dropping the muzzle of his rifle,
as if about to try his skill on it.
"Don't know," answered the Indian; "got leggin, got moccasin; can't see
colour. Look most pale-face; leg big."
What there was to enable one, at that distance, to distinguish between the
leg of a white man and the leg of an Indian, at first greatly exceeded our
means of conjecturing; but the Onondago explained it, when asked, in his
own usual, sententious manner, by saying:
"Toe turn out--Injin turn in--no like, at all. Pale-face big; Injin no very
The first was true enough in walking, and it did seem probable that the
difference might exist in sleep. Guert now declared there was no use in
hesitating any longer; if asleep he would approach the chestnut cautiously,
and capture the stranger, if an Indian, before he could rise; and if a
white man, it must be some one belonging to our own set, who was taking
a nap, probably, after a fatiguing march. Susquesus must have satisfied
himself, by this time, that there was no immediate danger; for merely
saying, "all go together," he quitted the cover, and led down towards the
chestnut with a rapid but noiseless step. As we moved in a body all five of
us reached the tree at the same instant, where we found Sam, one of our own
hunters, and whom we supposed to be with Mr. Traverse, stretched on his
back, dead; with a wound in his breast that had been inflicted by a knife.
He, too, had been scalped!
The looks we exchanged, said all that could be said on the subject of the
gravity of this new discovery. Susquesus, alone, was undisturbed; I rather
think he expected what he found. After examining the body, he seemed
satisfied, simply saying, "kill, last night."
That poor Sam had been dead several hours was pretty certain, and the
circumstance removed all apprehension of any immediate danger from his
destroyers. The ruthless warriors of the woods seldom remained long near
the spot they had desolated, but passed on, like the tornado, or the
tempest. Guert, who was ever prompt when anything was to be done, pointed
to a natural hollow in the earth; one of those cavities that are so common
in the forest, and which are usually attributed to the upturning of trees
in remote ages, and suggested that we should use it as a grave. The body
was accordingly laid in the hole, and we covered it in the best manner we
could; succeeding in placing over it something like a foot deep of light
loam, together with several flat stones; rolling logs on all, as we had
done at the grave of Pete. By this time Guert's feelings were so thoroughly
aroused, that, in addition to the prayer and the creed, which he again
repeated, in a very decorous and devout manner, he concluded the whole
ceremony by a brief address. Nor was Guert anything but serious in what
he did, or said, on either of these solemn occasions; his words, like his
acts, being purely the impulses of a simple mind, which possesses longings
after devotion and scriptural truths, without knowing exactly how to
express them; and this, moreover, in spite of the mere animal propensities,
and gay habits of his physical conformation, and constitutional tendencies.
"Deat', my friends," said Guert, most seriously, becoming Dutch, as usual,
as he became interested; "Deat' is a sutten visiter. He comes like a thief
in the night, as you must all have often he'rt the Tominie say; and happy
is he whose loins are girlet, and whose lamp is trimmed. Such, I trust,
is the case with each of you; for, it is not to be concealet, that we are
likely to have serious work before us. Here have been Injins, beyont a
question; and they are Injins, too, that are out on the war-path, in search
of English scalps; or, what is of equal importance to Mr. Follock and
myself, Dutch scalps in the pargain; which makes it so much the more
necessary for every man to be on his guart, and to stant up to his work,
when it may come, as the pull-tog stants up to the ox. Got forpit t'at I
should preach revenge over t'e grave of a frient; but the soltier fights
none the worse for knowing t'at he has peen injuret in his feelin's, as has
certainly peen the case with ourselves. Perhaps I ought to say a wort
in behalf of the teat, as this is the last, and only time, that a
fellow-creature will ever have occasion to speak of him. Sam was an
excellent hunter, as his worst enemy must allow; and now he is gone, few
petter remain pehint. He had one weakness, which, stanting over his grave,
an honest man ought not to try to conceal; he dit love liquor; put, in
this, he was not alone. Nevertheless, he was honest; and his wort might
pass where many a man's pont would be wort'less; and I leave him in the
merciful hants of his Creator. My frients, I haf but little more to say,
and that is this--that life is uncertain, and deat' is sure. Samuel has
gone before us, only a little while; and may we all be equally preparet to
meet our great account. Amen."
Did any one smile at this address! Far from it! Singular, disconnected, and
unsophisticated as it may seem to certain persons, it had one great merit
that is not always discernible in the speeches of those who officiate at
the most elaborate funeral rites. Guert was sincere, though he might not
be either logical or very clear. This was apparent in his countenance,
his voice, his whole manner. For myself, I will allow, I saw nothing
particularly out of place, in this address, at the time, nor do I now
regard it as either irreverent or unseasonable.
We left the grave of the hunter, in the depths of that interminable forest,
as the ship passes away from the spot on the ocean where she has dropped
her dead. At some future day, perhaps, the plough-share may turn up the
bones, and the husbandman ruminate on the probable fate of the lonely man,
whose remains will then again be brought to the light of day. As we left
the spot, the Indian detained us a moment, to put us on our guard.
"Huron do that," he said, meaningly--"No see difference, eh? Saw no hang up
"That is true enough, Susquesus," Guert answered; for Guert, by his age,
his greater familiarity with the woods, his high courage and his
personal prowess, had now assumed, unresistingly on our part, a sort of
chieftainship over us, "Can you tell us the reason, however?"
"Muss, you call him, back sore--that all. Know him well; don't love flog.
No Injin love flog."
"And you think, then, Jaap's prisoner has had a hand in this, and that the
war-path is open to revenge as well as public service--that we are hunted
less for our scalps than to put a plaster on the Huron's back?"
"Sartain. T'ree canoe go by on lake--t'at Muss, you call him--know him,
well. He no want sleep till back get well. See how he use nigger! Hang him
on tree--only kill pale-face and take away scalp."
"Do you suppose that he made this difference in the treatment of his two
captives, on account of the colour? That he was so cruel to Petrus because
Jaap, another nigger, had flogged him?"
"Sartain--just so. Back feel better after t'at. Good for back to hang
nigger. Jaap see, some time."
I will do my fellow the justice to say, that in the way of courage, few men
were his equals. As I have said before, he only feared spooks, or Dutch
ghosts; for the awe he had of me was so blended with love, as not to
deserve the name of fear. In general, unless the weather happened to be
cold, his face was of a deep, glistening black; coffin-colour, as the boys
sometimes called it; but, I observed, notwithstanding his nerve and
his keen desire to be revenged for the cruel treatment bestowed on his
companion and brother, that his skin now assumed a greyish hue, such as
is seen only in hard frosts, as a rule, in the people of his race. It was
evident that the Trackless' manner of speaking had produced an effect, and
I have always thought the impresssion then made on Jaap was of infinite
service to us, by setting in motion, and keeping in lively activity, every
faculty of his mind and body. I had a specimen of this, as we moved off,
Jaap walking for some distance close at my heels, in order to make me the
repository of his griefs and solicitude.
"I hopes, Masser Corny, sah," commenced the negro, "you doesn't t'ink
anyt'ing of what dis here Injin say?"
"I think, Jaap, it will be necessary for you to keep you eyes open, and by
no means to fall into the hands of your friend Muss, as you call him, or he
may serve you even worse than he served poor Pete. I hope, too, this will
be warning to you, of the necessity of treating your prisoners kindly,
should you ever make another."
"I don't t'ink, Masser Corny, you consider pretty much, sah. What good it
do a nigger to captivate an Injin, if he let him go ag'in, and don't lick
him little? Only little, Masser Corny. Ebbery t'ing so handy too, sah--rope
all ready, back bare, and feelin' up, like, after such a time in takin' 'e
"Well, Jaap, what is done, is done, and there is no use in regretting it,
in words. Of one thing, however, you may be certain; no mercy will be shown
_you_, should this fellow, Muss, be actually out here, on our heels, and
should you be so unfortunate as to fall into his hands."
The negro growled out his discontent, and I could see that his mind was
made up to give stout battle, ere _his_ wool should be disturbed by the
knife of a savage. A moment later, he stepped aside, and respectfully
permitted Dirck to take his proper place, next to me, in the line.
We may have proceeded two miles from the spot where we had buried Sam, the
hunter, when on rising a little hillock, the Indian tossed his arm, the
sign that a new discovery was made. This time, however, the gesture was
rather made in exultation than in horror. As he came to a dead halt at the
same instant, we all closed eagerly up, and got an early view of the cause
of this exhibition of feeling.
The ground fell away, in a sort of swell, for some distance in our
front; and, the trees being all of the largest size, and totally without
underbrush, the place had somewhat of the appearance of a vast, forest
edifice, to which the canopy of leaves above formed the roof, and the stems
of oaks, lindens, beeches and maples, might be supposed to be the columns
that upheld it. Within this wide, gloomy, yet not unpleasant hall, a sombre
light prevailed, like that which is cast through the casements of an
edifice of the ancient style of architecture, rendering everything mellow
and grave. A spring of sweet water gushed from a rock, and near it were
seated, in a circle, Mr. Traverse and his two chain-bearers, seemingly
taking their morning's meal; or, rather, reclining after it, with the pail,
platters and fragments before them; like men reposing after appeasing their
hunger, and passing a few minutes in idle talk. Tom, the second hunter and
axe-man, lay asleep, a little apart.
"Here has been even no alarm, thank Got," said Guert, cheerfully, "and we
are in time to let them know their danger. I will give the call; it will
sound sweetly to their ears!"
"No call," said Trackless, quickly; "hollow no good, now. Soon get there,
and tell him, in low voice."
As this was clearly prudent, we pushed forward in a body, taking no pains,
however, to conceal our approach, but making somewhat of a measured tread,
with our footsteps. A strange sensation came over me, as we advanced, and I
found that neither of the surveyors stirred! A suspicion of the dread truth
forced itself on my mind; but I can hardly say that the shock was any the
less, when, on getting near, we saw by the pallid countenances, fixed,
glassy eyes, and fallen jaws, that all our friends were dead. The savage
ingenuity of Indians had propped the bodies in reclining positions, and
thrown them into attitudes that had a horrible resemblance to the species
of indulgence that I have just described.
"Holy Heaven!" exclaimed Guert, dropping the butt of his rifle on the
ground; "we are too late!"
No one else spoke. On removing the caps, it was found that each man had
been scalped, and that all of those, whom we had left a few days before,
proud of their strength and instinct with life, had departed in spirit,
soon to be seen no more. Jumper, the other Indian, alone remained to be
accounted for. Rifle-balls had been at work here, each of the four having
been shot; Mr. Traverse, in no less than three places.
I will confess, that a suspicion of the Oneida crossed my mind, now, for
the first time; and I did not scruple to mention it to my companions, as
soon as either of us had power to speak, or listen.
"No true," said Trackless, positively. "Jumper poor Injin--that so--love
rum--no rascal, to kill friend. Musohoeenah warrior to do so. Just like
him. No; Jumper fool--love rum--no bad Injin."
Where, then, was Jumper? He alone, of all whom we had left behind us,
remained to be found. We made a long search for his body, but without any
success. Susquesus examined the trails, and the bodies, and gave it as his
opinion that the surveyor and chain-bearers might have been killed about
three or four hours; and that the murderers, for such, in our eyes, they
who had done the foul deed were to be accounted, had not been away from
the place more than twenty minutes, when we arrived. This might well have
happened, and we not hear the rifles; as the distance from the hut was
several miles; and, two hours before, we must have been not far from
the place where we had passed the night. That the attack occurred after
daylight, was reasonably certain; and, as Pete was surely seized while
alive, some intelligence might have been obtained from him, that directed
the savages to the point where the outlying party would probably be
expecting him. Nevertheless, this, was pretty much conjecture, and we never
knew which victim fell first, or whether the negro was taken at all, near
the spot where he was gibbeted. The infernal cruelty of his conquerors may
have kept him as a prisoner, for some time before the final catastrophe,
and caused them to carry him about with them as a captive, in order to
subject the wretch to as much misery as possible, for, as Susquesus said,
Muss' 'back very sore.'
We buried poor Traverse, and his chain-bearers, near the spring, using one
of the same natural hollows in the earth as that in which we had interred
the hunter. On a search, it was ascertained that their arms and ammunition
had been carried off, and that the pockets of the dead men had been rifled.
The American Indian is seldom a thief, in the ordinary sense of the term;
but, he treats the property of those whom he slays as his own. In this
particular, he does not differ materially from the civilized soldier, I
believe, plunder being usually considered as a legitimate benefit of war.
The Hurons had laid their hands on the compass and chains, for we could
discover neither; but they had left the field-book and notes of Traverse,
as things that, to them, were useless. In other respects, the visit of the
savages to this fatal spot left the appearance of having been hurried.
On this occasion, Guert made no attempts at morals, or eloquence. The shock
had disqualified us all for anything of the sort, and we discharged our
duties with the earnest diligence, and grave thoughtfulness, of men who did
not know but the next moment might bring themselves into the midst of a
scene of deadly strife. We worked hard, and a little hastily, and were soon
ready to depart. It was determined, on a hurried consultation, to follow
the trail of the Hurons, as the most certain method of surprising them, on
the one hand, and of preventing them from surprising us, on the other. The
Indian would have no difficulty in pursuing the very obvious trail that was
left, and which bore all the proofs of having been left by a dozen men.
The reader, who is unacquainted with the usages of the American savage,
is not to suppose that this party had moved through the forest, in a
disorderly group, regardless of the nature of the vestiges of their passage
left behind them. The native warrior never does that; usually he marches in
a line of single files, which has obtained the name of Indian file with us;
and, whenever there are strong reasons for concealing his numbers, it is
his practice for each succeeding man to follow, as nearly as possible,
in the footsteps of the warrior who precedes him; thereby rendering a
computation difficult, if not impossible. In this manner our foes had
evidently marched; but Susquesus, who had been busy examining the marks
around the spring, the whole time we were occupied in burying the dead,
gave it as his opinion that our enemies could not number less than a dozen
warriors. This was not very pleasing intelligence, since it would render
success in a conflict next to hopeless. So, at least, I viewed the matter,
though Guert saw things differently. This highly intrepid man could not
find it in his heart to abandon the idea of driving foes so ruthless out of
the country; and, I do believe, he would have faced a hundred savages at
once when we quitted the spring.
The Onondago had no difficulty in following the trail, which led us, at
first, for some distance in a line towards Ravensnest, then made a sudden
inclination in the direction of the hut. It was probably owing to this
circuit, and want of settled purpose in the Hurons, that we did not
encounter them on our advance towards the "bloody spring," as the spot
where Traverse was slain has been subsequently called.
It was not long ere we found ourselves quite near our own trail, though,
perhaps fortunately for us, we did not actually strike it. Had our movement
been discovered, doubtless the enemy would have got into our rear, a
position in which Indians are always most formidable. As it was, however,
we possessed that great advantage ourselves, and pursued our way with so
much the greater confidence, knowing full well that danger was only to be
apprehended in our front, the quarter on which all our eyes were fixed.
Although our return-march was swift, it was silent as that of a train of
mourners. Mourners we were, indeed, for it was not possible for human
hearts to be so obdurate as to feel insensible to the amount of misery that
our late companions must have suffered, and to the suddenness of their
fates. No one spoke, and Susquesus had never found us so close on his heels
as we kept ourselves all that morning. The foot of the file-leader was
scarcely out of its place, ere that of his successor covered the same spot!
The trail led us quite close to the hut, which we reached as near as might
be to noon. On approaching the cabin, we used the utmost caution lest our
enemies might then be in it, in ambush. The trail did not extend quite to
the building, however, but diverged in a westerly direction, from a point
that may have been a hundred yards distant from our habitation, though in
full view of it. Here we found the signs of a gathering of the party into
a cluster, and we inferred that a counsel had been held on the subject
of once more going to the hut, or of turning aside to pursue some other
object. Susquesus made a close examination at this spot, and gave it as his
opinion, again, that the hostiles must, at least, number the dozen he had
already mentioned. Leaving us to watch the signs about our dwelling, from
covers we took for that purpose, he followed the trail for half a mile, in
order to make certain it did not approach the log-house on its opposite
side. So far from this proving to be the case, however, he ascertained that
it led off in a straight line towards Ravensnest. This was, if anything,
more unpleasant news to Guert and myself, than if the Onondago had brought
back a confirmation of his first suspicion that the Hurons might be waiting
for us, in our own temporary house. Complaints were useless, however, and
we smothered our apprehensions as well as we could.
Susquesus was not a warrior to confide entirely in the signs of an open
march. Experienced woodsmen frequently left their trails visible expressly
to deceive; and the Onondago, who personally knew Muss, as Jaap called his
prisoner, was fully aware that he had to deal with a profoundly artful foe.
Not satisfied with even what he had seen, he cautioned us about quitting
the cover, except under his guidance, and then commenced a mode of approach
that was purely Indian, and which, in its way, had much of the merit of the
approaches of more civilized besiegers, by means of their entrenchments
and zig-zags. Our advance was regulated in this way. Each man was told to
select the nearest tree that led him towards the hut, and to pass from the
old to the new cover, in as rapid and sudden a manner as his agility would
allow. By observing this precaution, and by using great activity, we had
got within twenty yards of the door of the cabin, in the course of ten
minutes. Guert could not submit to this slow, and, as he called it, unmanly
procedure any longer; but quitting his cover, he now walked straight and
steadily to the door of the cabin, threw it open, and announced to us that
the place was empty. Susquesus made another close examination around the
building, and told us he felt quite certain that the spot had not been
visited since we had left it that morning. That was grateful intelligence
to us all, since it was the only probable clue by which our enemies could
have learned our return to the Patent at all.
The question now arose as to future proceedings. Nothing was to be gained
by remaining on the property, while prudence, and the danger of our
friends, united to call us away. We felt it would be a most hazardous thing
to attempt reaching Ravensnest; though we felt it was a hazard we were
bound to incur. While the matter was talked over, those among us who had
any appetite, profited by the halt, to dine. An Indian on a war-path, is
equally ready to eat, or to fast; his powers of endurance, both ways, more
especially when the food is game, amounting to something wonderful.
While Susquesus, and Jaap, in particular, were performing their parts in a
very serious manner, in this way, and the rest of us were picking up a
few morsels, more like men whose moral feelings cheeked their physical
propensities, I caught a distant glimpse of a man's form, as it glided
among the trees, at some distance from us. Surprise and awe were so strong
in me, that I did not speak, but pointed with a finger eagerly in the
necessary direction, in order to let the Onondago see the same object too.
Susquesus was not slow in detecting the stranger, however; for I think
he must have seen him, even before he was descried by myself. Instead of
manifesting any emotion, however, the Onondago did not even cease to eat;
but merely nodded his head, and muttered, "Good--now hear news--Jumper
Sure enough, it was Jumper; and his appearance in the flesh, not only
alive, but unharmed, produced a general shout among us as he came in, on
such a long, loping gait, as usually marked a runner's movement. In a
moment he was among us, calm, collected, and without motion. He gave no
salutation, but seated himself quietly on a log, waiting to be questioned,
before he spoke; impatience being a womanly weakness.
"Jumper, my honest fellow," cried Guert, not without emotion, for joy was
struggling powerfully with his organs of speech, "you are heartily welcome!
These devils incarnate, the Hurons, have not injured _you_, at least!"
Liquor had rendered Jumper's faculties somewhat obtuse, in general, though
he was now perfectly sober. He gave a sort of dull look of recognition at
the speaker, and muttered his answer in a low, sluggish tone:
"Plenty Huron," he said; "clearin' full. Pale-face in fort send Jumper with
We should have overwhelmed the fellow with questions, had he not unfolded
a corner of his calico shirt, and exhibited several letters, each of which
was soon in the hand of the individual to whom it was addressed. Guert,
Dirck, and myself, severally got his communication; while there was a
fourth, in the handwriting of Herman Mordaunt, that bore the superscription
of poor Traverse's name. Subsequent events have placed it in my power to
give copies of all the letters, thus received. My own was in the following
"My dearest father is so much occupied, as to desire _me_ to write
you this note. Mr. Bulstrode sent an express, yesterday, who was
bearer of the sad tidings from Ticonderoga. He also announced his
own approach; and we expect him, in a horse-litter, this evening.
Reports are flying about the settlement, that savages have been seen
in our own woods. I endeavour to hope that this is only one of those
idle rumours, of which we have had so many, lately. My father
however, is taking all necessary precautions, and he desires _me_ to
urge on _you_ the necessity of collecting all your party, should you
be again at Mooseridge, and of joining us _without delay_. We have
heard of your safety, and gallant conduct, through the man sent
forward by Mr. Bulstrode; his master having heard of you all, safe
in a canoe on the lake, the night after the battle, through a Mr.
Lee; a gentleman of great eccentricity of character, though, it is
said, of much talent, with whom papa happens to be acquainted. I
trust this note will find you at your hut, and that we shall see you
all, with the least possible delay.
This, certainly, was not a note to appease the longings of a lover; though
I had infinite gratification in seeing the pretty characters that had been
traced by Anne Mordaunt's hand, and of kissing the page over which that
hand must have passed. But, there was a postscript, the part of a letter
in which a woman is said always to give the clearest insight into her true
thoughts. It was in these words, viz.:--
"I see that I have underscored the 'me,' where I speak of papa's desire
that _I_ should write to you, in preference to another. We have gone
through one dreadful scene, in company, and, I confess, Corny, I should
feel far happier, if another is to occur, that _you_ and _yours_, should
be with us, here, behind the defences of this house, than exposed, as you
otherwise might be, in the forest. Come to us, then, I repeat, with the
least possible delay."
This postscript afforded me far more satisfaction than the body of the
note; and I was quite as ready to comply with Anneke's request, as the dear
girl, herself, could be to urge it. Guert's letter was as follows:--
"Mr. Mordaunt has commanded Anneke and myself to write to those of
your party, with whom he fancies each has the most influence, to
urge you to come to Ravensnest, as speedily as possible. We have
received most melancholy news; and a panic prevails among the poor
people of this settlement. We learn that Mr. Bulstrode, accompanied
by Mr. Worden, is within a few hours' journey of us, and the
families of the vicinity are coming to us, frightened and weeping. I
do not know that I feel much alarmed, myself; my great dependence is
on a merciful Providence; but, the dread Being on whom I rely, works
through human agents; and, I know of none in whom I can place more
confidence, than on Guert Ten Eyck.
"By St. Nicholas! Corny, these are such summonses as a man never hesitates
about obeying," cried Guert, rising, and beginning to replace his knapsack.
"By using great diligence, we may reach the Nest, yet, before the family
goes to bed, and make not only them, but ourselves, so much the more
comfortable and secure."
Guert had a willing auditor, in me; nor was Dirck at all backward about
complying. The letters certainly much quickened our impulses; though, in
fact, there remained nothing else to do; unless, indeed, we intended to lie
out, exposed to all the risks of a vindictive and savage warfare. Dirck's'
letter was from Herman Mordaunt; and it told the truth in plainer language
than it had been related by either of the ladies. Here it is.
"Dear Dirck,--The savages are certainly approaching us, my young
kinsman; and it is for the good of us all to unite our forces. Come
in, for God's sake, with your whole party, as speedily as possible.
I have had scouts out, and they have all come in with reports that
the signs of trails, in the forest, abound. I expect, at least a
hundred warriors will be upon us, by to-morrow, and am making my
preparations accordingly. In approaching the Nest, I would advise
you to enter the ravine north of the house, and to keep within its
cover until you get to its southern termination. This will bring you
within a hundred rods of the gate, and greatly increase your chances
of entering, should we happen to be invested when you get here. God
bless you, dear Dirck, and guide you all safely to your friends.
"Ravensnest, July 11th, 1758."
Guert and I read this letter hastily, before we commenced our march. Then,
abandoning the hut, and all it contained, to the mercy of any who might
pass that way, we set off for our point of destination, on a quick step,
carrying little besides our arms, ammunition, and the food that was
necessary to assure our strength.
As before, Trackless led, keeping the Jumper a little on his flank; the
danger of encountering foes being now considered to be greatly increased.
It was true, we were still in the rear of the party that had committed
the deeds at Mooseridge; but the Onondago no longer followed its trail;
pursuing a different course, or one that led directly to his object.
"My father had a daughter lov'd a man,
As it might be perhaps, were I a woman,
I should your lordship."
As the reader must, by this time, have a pretty accurate idea of our manner
of marching in the wilderness, I shall not dwell on this part of our
proceedings any longer. On we went, and at a rapid rate, the guide having
abandoned the common route, which had got to be a pretty visible trail, and
taking another on which, as it appeared to me, he had no other clue than an
instinct. Guert had told Susquesus of the ravine, and how desirable it
was to reach it, getting for an answer a quiet nod of the head, and a low
ejaculation. It was understood, however, that we were to approach Herman
Mordaunt's fortress, by that avenue.
It was past the turn of the day when we quitted Mooseridge, and none of us
hoped to reach Ravensnest before dark. It fell out, as we expected, night
drawing its veil over the scene, about half an hour before the Trackless
plunged into the northern, or forest-end of the ravine. Thus far, we had
got no evidence whatever of the proximity of foes. Our march had been
silent, rapid, and watchful, but it proved to be perfectly undisturbed. We
knew, however, that the critical portion of it was still before us; and
just as the sun set, we had made a halt, in order to look to our arms. It
may now be well to say a word or two on the subject of the position of
Herman Mordaunt's 'garrison,' as well as of the adjacent settlement. I call
Ravensnest the 'garrison,' for that is the word which New York custom has
long applied to the fortress itself, as well as those who defend it. Some
critics pretend there is authority to justify the practice, and I see by
the dictionaries that they are not entirely in the wrong.
The Nest stood quite half a mile from the nearest point of the forest, a
belt of trees that fringed the margin, and which filled the cavity of
the ravine, excepted. Near it, and in plain sight, was the heart of the
settlement itself, which extended, in an east and west direction, fully
four miles. This area, however, was cleared only in a settlement fashion;
having patches of virgin forest scattered pretty profusely over its
surface. The mill-lot, as Jason's purchase was termed, lay at the most
distant extremity of the view, but, as yet, the axe had not been applied
to it. I had remarked in my last visit to the place, that, standing before
Herman Mordaunt's door, something like a dozen log cabins were to be seen
at a time in different parts of the settlement, and that this number might
have been increased to twenty, by varying the observer's position.
Of course, the whole of the open space was more or less disfigured by
stumps, dead and girdled trees, charred stubs, log-heaps, brush, and all
the other unseemly accompaniments of the first eight or ten years of the
existence of a new settlement. This period, in the history of a country,
may be likened to the hobbledehoy condition in ourselves, when we have lost
the graces of childhood, without having attained the finished forms of men.
Herman Mordaunt's settlement would have been thought a strong country, in
one sense, for a field fight, had there been men enough to contend with a
hostile party of any force. But, I had heard him say that he had but about
seventeen rifles and muskets that could be in the least relied on, inasmuch
as some of his people were Europeans, and had no knowledge of fire-arms,
while experience had shown that others, on the occurrence of an alarm,
invariably fled to the woods, with their families, instead of rallying
around the settlement colours. Such delinquencies usually take place, I
believe, on all emergencies; love of life being even a stronger instinct
than love of property. Here and there a sturdy fellow, however, would bar
himself in, with a determination to go for the whole, under his own bark
roof; and, occasionally, defences were made that would do credit to a hero.
It should be apparent to those who have any accurate notion of savage
warfare, that the ravine, being, as it was, the only wooded spot near
Herman Mordaunt's fortress, would be the place of all others most likely to
contain an enemy who made his approaches against a garrison, by means of
natural facilities alone. We were aware of this; and Guert, who took an
active command among us, as we drew near to danger, issued his commands for
every man to be on the alert, in order that there might be no confusion.
We were instructed as to the manner of proceeding the moment an alarm was
given; and Guert, who was a capital mimic, had previously taught us several
calls and rallying signals, all of which were good imitations of the cries
of different tenants of the woods, principally birds. These signals had
their origin with the red-man, who often resorted to them, and were said to
be more successfully practised by our own hunters and riflemen than even by
those with whom they originated.
On entering the ravine, the order of our march was changed. While Susquesus
and Jumper were still kept in advance, Guert, Dirck, Jaap and myself moved
abreast, and quite close together. The density of the foliage, and the deep
obscurity that prevailed in the bottom of this dell-like hollow, rendered
this precaution necessary. It soon became so dark, indeed, that our only
guide was the brook that gurgled along the bottom of the ravine, and which
we knew issued into the open ground at its termination, to join a small
river that meandered through some natural meadows to the westward of the
Nest, but which, in the language of the country, was called a 'creek.' This
abuse of good old English words, I am sorry to say, is getting to be only
too common among us; yet, I have heard Americans boast that we speak the
language better than the mother country! That we have no class among us
that uses an unintelligible dialect, like that of Lancashire or Yorkshire,
is true enough; and, that we have fewer persons who use decided vulgarisms,
in the way of false grammar, than is the case in England, may be also
accurate; but, it might be well for us to correct a great many faults into
which we have certainly fallen, before we declaim with so much confidence
about the purity of our English.  To return to the ravine.
We had gone so far in the hollow, dark dell, as to have reached a point
where the faint light of the open ground and the stars in the firmament
became visible to us, when we suddenly found ourselves alongside of the
Trackless and Jumper. These Indians had halted; for their quick, jealous,
eagle-like glances had detected the signs of enemies. Nor was this
discovery very difficult to make, though some pains had actually been taken
to conceal what was going on in our front. A party of some forty savages,
every man of whom was in his war-paint, had lighted a fire beneath a
shelving rock, and were gathered around it at supper. The fire had already
done its duty, and was now merely smouldering, throwing a faint, flickering
light on the dark, fierce features of the group that was clustered round.
We might have approached the spot in any other direction, without seeing
the danger in time to avoid it; but a kind Providence had carried the two
Indians directly to a point where the dying embers immediately caught their
attention, and where they halted as has been said. I do not think we were
more than forty yards from this fearful band of savages, when they first
met my eye; and, hardened as I had certainly somewhat become, by the
service and scenes I had so lately gone through, I will confess that my
blood was a little chilled at the sight.
Our conference was in whispers. There we stood, huddled together beneath
a huge oak, the shade of which rendered the darkness that formed our only
safeguard, so much the more intense. So close were we, in fact, that even
Jaap's body was in absolute contact with my own. Susquesus proposed making
a _detour_, by crossing the brook, which, fortunately, tumbled down some
rocks at this point, making a very favourable noise, and thus pass our
enemies, who would not probably end their meal until we had time to reach
the 'garrison.' To this Guert applied his veto. He was of opinion, and I
have always thought it was the decision of a man born to be a soldier, that
we were exactly in the position we might desire to occupy, in order to be
of great service to the family, and to strike the enemy with a panic. By
attacking, we should certainly surprise the party in our front, and might
make such an impression as would induce them to abandon the settlement.
Both Dirck and myself coincided in this opinion, which even received the
support of Jaap's voice.
"Yes, sah!--yes, Masser Corny, now 'e time to wengeance poor Pete!" he
muttered, and that rather louder than was thought quite prudent.
As soon as the Trackless found how things were going, he and Jumper
prepared for the conflict, as coolly as any of us. Our arrangements were
very simple, and were soon made. We were to deliver a single fire from the
spot where we stood, shout, and charge with the knife and tomahawk. No time
was to be wasted, however; and, instead of remaining near the light, small
as it was, we were to push for the mouth of the ravine, and thence make the
best of our way, singly or in company, as chance should offer, to the gate
of Ravensnest. In a moment we were in open files, and had our orders.
"Remember Traverse!" said Guert, sternly--"remember poor Sam, and all our
The reader knows that Guert was apt to be very Dutch, when much excited.
We _did_ remember the dead; and I have often thought, but never knew
precisely, that each of us sacrificed a victim to the manes of our lost
companions, on that stern occasion. Our rifles rang, or cracked would be
the better word, almost simultaneously; a yell arose from the savages
around the fire; our own shouts mingled with that yell, and forward we
went, endeavouring to make our numbers appear as if we were a hundred.
One retains but very indistinct notions of a charge like that, made as it
was, in the dark, beyond its general characteristics. We swept directly
among the slain and wounded, and I heard Jaap dealing one or two awful
blows on the bodies; but no one opposed us. A moment after we had passed
the smouldering fire, three or four shot were discharged at us, but there
was no sign of their telling on any of our party. The distance from the
fire to the mouth of the ravine, might have been a hundred yards; and the
external light, or lesser darkness may be a better expression, served us
for a guide. Thither we pushed, fast as we could, though by no means in
For this part of the affair, I can only speak for myself. I saw men moving
swiftly among the trees, and I supposed them to be my companions; but we
had become separated, it being understood that each man was now to shift
for himself. As our rifles were discharged, and there was no time to reload
them, there was little use, indeed, in any halt. Perceiving this, I did not
issue from the ravine at the brook, but clinging more to its side, left it
at a little height above the level of the adjacent plain. Here I paused to
load, the cover being good, and the position every way favourable. While
thus employed, I found time to look around me, and to ascertain the
situation of things in the settlement, so far as the hour and the obscurity
The plain was glimmering with the remains of a dozen large fires, the ruins
of so many log-houses and barns. Their light amounted to no more than to
render the darkness of the night distinctly visible, and to afford some
small clues to the extent of the ravages that had been already committed.
The house of Ravensnest, however, was untouched. There it stood, looking
dark and gloomy; for, having no external windows, no other light was to
be seen than a single candle, that was probably placed in a loophole as a
signal. Profound stillness reigned in and around the building, producing
a species of mystery that was, in itself, under such circumstances, an
element of force. There was not light enough to distinguish objects at any
distance, and, having reloaded my rifle, I thought it wisest to make the
best of my way to the gate. At that moment, the stillness in my rear seemed
to possess something affirmatively fearful about it.
It was certainly a somewhat hazardous thing to break cover, at such a
moment, and under such circumstances; but it was absolutely necessary to
incur its risks. My first leap carried me half-way down the declivity, and
I was soon on the level land. In my front were two men, one of whom seemed
to me to be in the grasp of the other. As they were moving, though slowly,
in the direction of the house, I ventured to ask 'Who goes there?'
"Oh, Corny, my lad, is that you?" answered Guert. "Got be praised! you seem
unhurt, and are just in time to help me along with this Huron, on whom I
blundered in the dark, and have disarmed and captured. Give him a kick or a
push, if you please; for the fellow holds back like a hog."
I had too much knowledge of Indian vindictiveness, however, to adopt the
means recommended; but seizing the captive by one arm, while Guert held
the other, we ran him up to the _abbatis_ that covered the gate of the
"garrison," with very little difficulty. Here we found Herman Mordaunt
and a dozen of his people, all armed, ready to receive Us. They were in
expectation of our appearance, both on account of the hour, and on account
of the clamour in the ravine, which had been distinctly heard at the house.
In less than a minute everybody was in, safe and unharmed. The fact was,
that our attack had been so sudden as to sweep everything before it, and
the enemy had not time to recover from his panic, before we were all snugly
housed. Once within the gate of Ravensnest we ran no risks, beyond those
which were common to all such log fortresses in the warfare of the
It would not be easy for a pen as unskilful as mine, to portray the change,
from the gloom of the ravine, the short but bloody assault, the shouts,
the rush, and the retreat, of the outer world, to the scene of domestic
security we found within the Nest, embellished, as was the last, by woman's
loveliness and graces, and, in many respects, by woman's elegance. Anneke
and her friend received us in a bright, cheerful, comfortable apartment,
that was rendered so much the more attractive by their tears and their
smiles, neither of which were spared. I could see that both had been
dreadfully agitated; but joy restored their colour, and brought back the
smiles to their sweet faces. The situation of the place was such, perhaps,
as to render cheerfulness neither very lasting nor very lively; but the
tenderest female can find her heart suddenly so lightened from its burthen
of apprehensions, as to be able to seem momentarily happy, even when
environed by the horrors of war. Such, in a measure, was the character of
the reception we now received, together with a thousand thanks for having
so promptly answered their letters in person. The dear creatures had
the ingenuity not to seem to ascribe that prompt obedience to their own
requests, which we had manifested, to any care for ourselves, but solely
to a wish to oblige and protect them. The reader will understand that all
explanations still remained to be made, on both sides. These soon came,
however; facts pressing themselves on the attention, at such times, with
a weight that is irresistible. The ice was broken by Herman Mordaunt's
entering the room, and speaking to us, like one who felt that a great
omission had been made.
"We had closed the gate, and set the look-out at the loops again," he said,
"before I ascertained that all your party is not here. I see nothing of
Traverse and his chain-bearers, nor of Sam or Tom, your hunters! Surely,
they are not left behind in the forest?"
Neither of us three spoke. Our looks must have told the sad story, for
Herman Mordaunt seemed to understand us on the instant.
"No!" he exclaimed--"Can it be possible? Not _all_, surely!"
"_All_, Mr. Mordaunt, even to my poor slave, Petrus," answered Guert,
solemnly. "They were set upon, while dispersed, I suppose, and have been
murdered, while we were still absent, on our expedition."
The dear girls clasped their hands, and I thought Anneke's pallid lips
moved, as if in prayer. Her father shook his head, and for some time he
paced the room in silence. Then rousing himself, like one conscious of the
necessity of calmness and exertion, he resumed the discourse.
"Thank God, Mr. Bulstrode reached us safely last evening, just after we
despatched the runner; and _he_ is beyond the reach of these demons for the
After this we were enabled to converse more connectedly, exchanging such
statements as enabled each party to understand the precise condition of the
other. We were then carried to Bulstrode's room, for he had expressed a
desire to see us, as soon as we could be spared. Our fellow campaigner
received us in good spirits, for one in his situation, speaking of the
events in front of Ticonderoga sensibly, and without any attempt to conceal
the mortification that he felt, in common with the whole British empire.
His hurt was by no means a bad one; likely to cripple him for a few weeks,
but the leg was in no danger.
"I have had the resolution and address, Corny, to work my way into good
quarters, this unexpected siege excepted," he observed to me, when the
others had withdrawn, leaving us alone. "This rivalry of ours is a generous
one, and may now have fair play. If we quit this Nest of Herman Mordaunt's
without ascertaining the true state of Anneke's feelings, we shall deserve
to be condemned to celibacy for the remainder of our days. There never were
two such opportunities for wooing to advantage!"
"I confess our situation does not strike me as being quite as favourable,
Mr. Bulstrode," I answered. "Anneke must have too many apprehensions on
her own account, and on account of others, to be as sensible to the tender
sentiments of love, as might be the case in the peace and security of
"Ah! It is very evident you know nothing of the female sex, Corny, by
that remark. I will grant you, that unwooed previously, and without any
foundation laid, if I may express myself so irreverently, your theory might
turn out to be true; but not so under actual circumstances. Here is a young
lady in her nineteenth year, who knows she is not only sought, but has long
been sought, ay warmly, ardently sought, by two reasonably unobjectionable
young men, placed in the very situation to have all her sensibilities
excited, by one or the other, and, depend on it, the matter will be
determined within this blessed week. If I should prove to be the fortunate
man, I hope to be able to manifest a generous sympathy; and, _vice versa,_
I shall expect the same. Though this sad, sad business before Ty has been a
good preparative for humiliation."
I could not avoid smiling at Bulstrode's singular views of our suit; but,
as Anneke was ever with me an engrossing theme, spite of our situation,
which certainly was not particularly appropriate to love, I did not feel
equal to quitting it abruptly. The matter was consequently pursued. As I
asked Bulstrode to explain himself, I got from him the following account of
"Why, I reason in this wise, Corny. Anneke loves _one_ of us two, beyond
all question. That she _loves_, I will swear; her blushes, her beaming
eyes, even her beauty is replete with the loveliness of the sentiment. Now,
it is not possible that she should love any other person than one of us
two, for the simple reason that she has no other suitor. I shall be frank
with you, and confess that I think I am the favoured fellow, while, I dare
say, you are just as sanguine and think it is yourself."
"I give you my honour, Major Bulstrode, so presuming, so improper a thought
"Yes, yes--I understand all that. You are not worthy of Anne Mordaunt's
love, and therefore have never presumed to imagine that she could bestow
it on such a poor, miserable, worthless, good-for-nothing a fellow as
yourself. I have a great deal of the same very proper feeling; but, at the
same time, each of us is quite confident of his own success, or he would
have given up the pursuit long since."
"I do assure you, Bulstrode, anything but confidence mingles with _my_
feelings on this subject. _You_ may have reasons for your own security, but
I can boast of none."
"I have no other than self-love, of which every man has a just portion for
his own comfort and peace of mind. I say that hope is indispensable to
love, and hope is allied to confidence. My reasoning on these points is
very simple. And, now for the peculiar advantages we enjoy for bringing
matters to a crisis. In the first place, I am hurt, you will understand;
suffering under an honourable wound, received in open battle, fighting for
king and country. Then, I have been brought fresh from the field, on my
litter, into the presence of my mistress, bearing on my person the evidence
of my risk, and, I hope, of my good conduct. There is not one woman in a
thousand, if she hesitated between us, that would not decide in my favour,
on these grounds alone. You have no notion, Corny, how the hearts of these
sweet, gentle, devoted, generous little American girls melt to sympathy,
and the sufferings of a poor wretch that they know adores them! Make a
nurse of a female, and she is yours, nine times out of ten. This has been
a master-stroke of mine, but I hope you will pardon it. Stratagems are
excusable in love, as in war."
"I have no difficulty in understanding your policy, Bulstrode; though I
confess to some in understanding your frankness. Such as it is, however, I
trust you feel certain it will not be abused. Now, as to my situation, what
peculiar countervailing advantages do I enjoy?"
"Those of a defender. Oh, _that_ is a battering-ram of itself! This
confounded assault on the settlement, which they tell me is rather serious,
and may keep alive apprehensions for some days yet, is a most unlucky thing
for me, while it is of great advantage to you. A wounded man cannot excite
one-half the interest he otherwise might, when there is a chance that
others may be slain, every minute. Then, the character of a defender is a
great deal; and being a generous rival, as I have always told you, Corny,
my advice is to make the most of it. I conceal nothing, and intend to do
all I can with my wound."
It was scarcely possible not to laugh at this strangely frank, yet, I fully
believe, strangely sincere communication; for Bulstrode was a humorist,
with all his conventionalism and London notions, and was more addicted to
saying precisely what he thought, than is common with men of his class.
After sitting and chatting with him half an hour longer, on the subject of
the late military operations, of which he spoke with both feeling and good
sense, I took my leave for the night.
"God bless you, Corny," he said, squeezing my hand, as I left him; "improve
the opportunity in your own way, for I assure you I shall do it in mine. It
is present valour against past valour. If it were not my own case that is
concerned, there is not a man living to whom I should more freely wish
And I believe Bulstrode did not exceed the truth in his declarations. That
I should succeed with Anneke, he did not think, as was apparent to me by
his general manner, and the consciousness he must have possessed of his
own advantages in the way of rank and fortune, as well as in having Herman
Mordaunt's good wishes. Oddly enough, in quitting my rival, and under
circumstances so very peculiar, I was accidentally thrown into the presence
of my mistress, and that, too, alone! Anneke was the sole occupant of the
little room in which the girls habitually staid, when I returned to it;
Guert having managed to induce Mary Wallace to walk with him in the
court, the only place the ladies now possessed for exercise; while Herman
Mordaunt, Mr. Worden, and Dirck, were together in the public-room, making
some arrangement with the confused body of the settlers, who had crowded
into the Nest, for the night-watch. I shall not stop to express the delight
I felt at finding Anneke there; nor was it in any degree diminished, as
I met the soft expression of her sweet eyes, and saw the blushes that
suffused her cheek. The conversation I had just held, doubtless, had its
effect; for I determined, at once, that so favourable an occasion for
pressing my suit should not be lost. I was goaded on, if the truth must be
told, by apprehension of Bulstrode's wound.
What I said precisely, in the commencement of that interview, is more than
I could record, did I think it would redound to my advantage, as I fear
it would not; but I made myself understood, which is more, I fancy, than
happens to all lovers in such scenes. At first I was confused and a little
incoherent, I suspect; but feeling so far got the better of these defects,
as to enable me to utter what I wished to express. Towards the end, if I
spoke in the least as warmly and distinctly as I felt, there must have been
some slight touch of eloquence about my manner and language. This being the
first occasion, too, on which I had ever had an opportunity of urging my
suit very directly, there was so much to be said, so many things to be
explained, and so many seemingly slighted occasions to account for, that
Anneke had little else to do, for the first ten minutes, but to listen. I
have always ascribed the self-possession which my companion was enabled to
command during the remainder of this interview, to the time that was thus
accorded her to rally her thoughts.
Dear, precious Anneke! How admirably did she behave that memorable night!
It was certainly an extraordinary situation in which to speak of love; yet,
I much question if the feelings be not more likely to be true and natural
at such times, than when circumstances admit of more of the expedients of
every-day life. I could see that my sweet listener was touched, from the
moment I commenced, and that her countenance betrayed a tender interest
in what I said. Presuming on this, or encouraged by her blushes and her
downcast eyes, I ventured to take a hand, and perceived I was not repulsed.
Then it was that I found words, that actually brought tears to my
companion's eyes, and Anneke was enabled to answer me.
"This is so unusual--so extraordinary a time to speak of such things,
Corny," she said, "that I hardly know what ought to be my reply. Of one
thing, however, I feel certain; persons surrounded as we are by dangers
that may, at any instant, involve our destruction, have an unusual demand
on them for sincerity. Affectation, I hope, I am never much addicted to,
and prudery I know _you_ would condemn. I have a feeling uppermost, at this
instant, that I wish to express, yet scarce know how--"
"Do not suppress it, beloved Anneke; be as generous as I am certain you are
"Corny, it is this. I know we are in danger--very great danger of being
overcome; captured, perhaps slain, by the ruthless beings who are prowling
around our dwelling, and that no one in this house can count on a single
day of existence even with the ordinary vain security of man. Now, should
anything befall _you_, after this, and I survive you, I should survive
for the remainder of my days to mourn your loss, and to feel the keenest
regrets that I had hesitated to own how much interest I have long felt in
you, and how happy I have been with the consciousness of the preference
that you so frankly and honestly avowed in my favour, months ago."
As the tears, as well as blushes of Anneke, accompanied these admissions,
it was not possible for me to doubt what I heard. From that moment, a world
of confidence, and a flow of pure, sweet, strong, natural feeling, bound us
more and more closely together. Guert was in a happy mood to detain Mary
Wallace, and business greatly befriended me, as respected the others. More
than an hour had I Anne Mordaunt all to myself; and when the heart is open,
how much can be uttered and understood, on such a subject as love, in an
hour of unreserved confidence, and of strong feeling! Anneke admitted to
me, before we separated, that she had often thought of the chivalrous boy,
who had volunteered to do battle in her behalf, when she was little more
than a child herself, and thought of him as a generous-minded girl would be
apt to think of a lad, under the circumstances. This very early preference
had been much quickened and increased by the affair of the lion, and our
subsequent intercourse. Bulstrode, that formidable, encouraged rival,
encouraged by her father if not by herself, had never interested her in the
least, beyond the feeling natural to the affinity of blood; and I might
have spared myself many hours of anxious concern, on his account, could I
only have seen what was now so unreservedly told to me. Poor Bulstrode!
a feeling of commiseration came over me, as I listened to my companion's
assurances that he had never in the least touched her heart, while, at
the same time, blushing very red, she confessed my own power over it. An
expression to this effect even escaped her aloud--
"Have no concern on Mr. Bulstrode's account, Corny," Anneke answered,
smiling archly, like one who had well weighed the pros and cons of the
whole subject, in her own mind; "he may be a little mortified, but his
fancy will soon be forgotten in rejoicing that he had not yielded to a
passing inclination, and connected himself with a young, inexperienced
American girl, who is hardly suited to move in the circles in which his
wife must live--I do believe Mr. Bulstrode prefers me, just now, to any
other female he may tappen to know; but his attachment, if it deserve the
name, has not the heart in it, dear Corny, that I know is to be found in
your's. We women are said to be quick in discovering when we are really
loved, and I confess that my own little experience inclines me to believe
that the remark does us no more than justice."
I then spoke of Guert, and expressed a hope that his sincere, obvious,
manly devotion, might finally touch her heart, and that my new friend,
towards whom, however, I began already to feel as towards an old friend,
might finally meet with a return for a passion that I was persuaded was as
deep and as sincere as my own; a comparison that I felt was as strong as
any I could make in Guert's behalf.
"On this subject, you are not to expect me to say much, Corny," answered
Anneke, smiling. "Every woman is the mistress of her own secrets on such a
subject; and, did I know fully Mary Wallace's mind or wishes in reference
to Mr. Ten Eyck, as I do not profess to know either, I should not feel at
liberty to betray her, even to you. I have no longer any secret of my own,
as respects Corny Littlepage, but must not be expected to be as weak in
betraying my whole sex, as I have been in betraying myself!"
I was obliged to be satisfied with this sweet admission and with the
knowledge that I had been long loved. When Anneke left me, which, at
the expiration of more than an hour, she insisted on doing, under the
consciousness of all that had passed between us, I had a good deal of
difficulty in believing that I was not dreaming. This _ecclaircissement_
was so sudden, so totally unexpected I fancy to us both, that well might it
so seem to either; yet, I fancy we did not part without a deep
conviction that both were happier than when we met. I solemnly declare,
notwithstanding, that I felt sorrow, almost regret, on behalf of Bulstrode.
The poor fellow had been so evidently confident of success, only an hour or
two before, that I could not have acquainted him with my own success, had
he been up, and able to prefer his own suit; in his actual situation, such
a procedure would have appeared brutal.
As for Guert Ten Eyck, he rejoined me sadder and more despairing than ever.
"It struck me, Corny, that if Mary Wallace had the smallest inclination in
my behalf, she would manifest it at a moment when we may all be said to be
hanging between life and deaf. I have often heard it said that the woman
who would trifle with a young fellow at a ball, or on a sleigh-ride, and
use him like a dog, while every one was laughing and making merry, would
come round like one of the weather-cocks on our Dutch barns, at a shift of
the wind, the instant that distress or unhappiness alighted on her suitor.
In other worts, that the very girl who would be capricious and uncertain,
in happiness and prosperity, would suddenly become tender and truthful, as
soon as sorrow touched the man who wished to have her. On the strength of
this, then, I thought I would urge Mary, to the best of my poor abilities,
and you know they are no great matter, Corny, to give me only a glimmering
of hope; but without success. Not a syllable more could I get out of her
than that the time was unseasonable to talk of such things; and I do think
I should be ready to go and meet these Huron devils, hand to hand, were it
not for the fact that the very girl who thus remonstrated, staid with me
quite two hours, listening to what I had to say, though I spoke of nothing
else. There was a crumb of comfort in that, lad, or I do not understand
There was, truly. Still, I could not but compare Anne Mordaunt's generous
confessions, under the influence of the same facts, and fancy that the
prospects of the simple-minded, warm-hearted, manly young Albanian, were
far less flattering than my own.
[Footnote 37: It is _northern_ American, to call a small 'lake' a 'pond,' a
small 'river' a 'creek,' even though it should be an 'outlet,' instead of
an 'inlet,' &c. &c. It is a more difficult thing than is commonly supposed,
to make two great nations, each of which is disposed to innovate, speak the
same language with precise uniformity. The Manhattanese, who have probably
fewer of the peculiarities of the inhabitants of a capital than the
population of any other town in the world of four hundred thousand
souls, the consequences of a rapid growth, and of a people who have
come principally from the country are much addicted to introducing new
significations for words, which arise from their own provincial habits. In
Manhattanese parlance, for instance, a 'square' is a 'park,' or, even a
'garden' is a 'park.' A promenade, on the water, is a 'battery!' It is a
pity that, in this humour for change, they have not thought of altering the
complex and imitative mine of their town.--EDITOR.]
"Between two worlds life hovers like a star,
'Twixt night and morn, upon the horizon's verge:
How little do we know that which we are!
How less what we may be! The eternal surge
Of time and tide rolls on, and bears afar
Our bubbles: as the old burst, new emerge,
Lashed from the foam of ages; while the graves
Of empires heave but like some passing wave."
It was now announced by Herman Mordaunt in person, that the watch was set
for the night, and that each man might seek his rest. The crowded state of
the Nest was such, as to render it no easy matter to find a place in which
to sleep, straw being our only beds. At length we found our pallets, such
as they were; and, spite of all that had passed that evening, truth compels
me to admit that I was soon in a profound sleep. There was no exception to
this rule among the Mooseridge party, I believe, fatigue proving to to be
more powerful, than either successful love, unsuccessful love, or personal
It was about three o'clock, when I felt a significant pressure of the arm,
such as one gives when he especially wishes to attract attention. It was
Jason Newcome, employed in awakening the men of the house, without giving
such an alarm as might reach the ears without. In a few minutes everybody
was up and armed.
As the morning, just before the appearance of light, when sleep is
heaviest, is the hour when savages usually attack, no one was surprised at
these preparations, which were understood to be ordered by Herman Mordaunt,
who was a-foot, and on the look-out himself, at a place favourable to
observation. In the mean time, we men, three or four-and-twenty in all,
assembled in the court, in waiting for a summons to the gate, or the loop.
Jason had executed his trust so dexterously, that neither female nor child
knew anything of our movement; all sleeping, or seeming to sleep in
the security of a peaceful home. I took an occasion to compliment the
ex-pedagogue and new miller, on the skill he had shown; and we fell into a
low discourse, in consequence.
"I have been thinking that this warfare may put a new face on these
settlements, Corny," continued Jason, after we had conversed some little
time, "more especially as to the titles."
"I cannot see how they are to be affected, Mr. Newcome, unless the French
should happen to conquer the colony, a thing not very likely to happen."
"That's just it; exactly what I mean, as to principle. Have not these
Hurons conquered this particular settlement? I say they have. They are in
possession of the whull of it, this house excepted; and it appears to me
that if we ever get re-possession, it will be by another conquest. Now,
what I want to know is this--does not conquest give the conquerors a right
to the conquered territory? I have no books here, yet; but I'm dreadful
forgetful, or I _have_ read that such is the law."
I may say that this was the first direct demonstration that Jason ever made
on the property of Herman Mordaunt. Since that time he has made many more,
some of which I, or he who may be called on to continue this narrative,
will probably relate; but I wish to record, here, this as the first in a
long series of attempts which Jason Newcome has practised, in order to
transfer the fee-simple of the mill-lot at Ravensnest, from the ownership
of those in whom it is vested by law, to that of his own humble, but
I had little time to answer this very singular sort of reasoning; for,
just then, Herman Mordaunt appeared among us, and gave us serious duty to
perform. The explanations with which his orders were preceded, were these.
As had been anticipated, the Indians had adopted the only means that could
prove effective against such a fortress as the Nest without the aid of
artillery. They were making their preparations to set the building on fire,
and had been busy all night in collecting a large amount of pine-knots,
roots, &c., which they had succeeded in piling against the outer logs, at
the point where one wing touched the cliff, and where the formation of the
ground enabled them to approach the building without incurring much risk.
Their mode of proceeding is worthy of being related. One of the boldest and
most skilful of their number had crept to the spot, and posted himself so
close to the logs as to be safe from observation, as well as reasonably
safe from shot. His associates had then extended to him one end of a long
pole, they standing below, some on a shelf of the cliff, and the rest on
the ground; all being safe from harm so long as they kept close to their
respective covers. Thus disposed, these children of the forest passed hours
in patient toil, in forwarding by means of a basket, the knots, and 'other
combustibles, up to the warrior, who kept his position close under the
building, and who piled them in the way most favourable to his object.
Susquesus had the merit of discovering the projected attempt, the
arrangements for which had completely escaped the vigilance of the
sentinels. It would seem that the Onondago, aware of the artifices of the
red-man, and acquainted in particular with the personal character of Jaap's
friend. Muss, did not believe the night would go by without some serious
attempt on the house. The side of the cliff was much the weakest point of
the fortress, having no other protection than the natural obstacles of the
rocks, which were not inaccessible, though somewhat difficult of ascent,
and the low picketing, already mentioned. Under such circumstances, the
Indian felt certain the assault would be made on that side. Placing himself
on watch, therefore, he discovered the first attempts of the Hurons, but
did not let them be known to Herman Mordaunt, until they were nearly
completed; his reason for the delay being the impatience of the pale-faces,
which would not have suffered the enemy to accomplish his object, so far as
preparations were concerned; the thing of all others he himself thought
to be the most desirable. By allowing the Hurons to waste their time and
strength in making arrangements for an assault that was foreseen, and which
might be met and defeated, a great advantage was obtained; whereas, by
driving them prematurely from an artifice they were known to be engaged in,
they would have recourse to another, and the difficulty of discovery would
be added to our other disadvantages. So Susquesus reasoned, as was said at
the time; and it is certain that so he acted.
But, the time had come to meet these covert preparations Herman Mordaunt
now held a consultation, on the subject of our proceedings. The question
submitted was, whether we ought to let the Hurons go any further; whether
we should shoot the adventurous savage who was known still to be posted
under the logs of the house, and scatter his pile of knots, by a sortie;
or, whether it were wiser to let the enemy proceed to the extremity of
actually lighting his fire, before we unmasked. Something was to be said in
favour of each plan. By shooting the savage who had made a lodgment under
our walls, and scattering his pile, we should unquestionably defeat the
present attempt; but, in all probability, another would be made the
succeeding night; whereas, by waiting to the last moment, such an effectual
repulse might be given to our foes, as would at once terminate their
On consultation, and weighing all the points as they offered, it was
decided to adopt the latter policy. But one spot commanded a view of the
pile at all, and that was a loop, that had been cut only the day before,
and which looked directly down on the place, from a projection that existed
in the second story, and which ran around the whole building. These
projections were common enough, in the architecture of the provinces at
that day, being often adopted in exposed positions, purposely to afford the
means of protecting the inferior and external portions of the dwellings.
The Nest possessed this advantage, though the loops necessary to complete
the arrangement, had only quite recently been cut. At this loop, then, I
stationed myself, for a short time, watching what was going on below. The
night was dark, but there was no difficulty, in distinguishing the pile of
knots, which to me seemed several feet high, besides being of some length,
or in noting the movements of the Indian who had built it. At the moment I
took my stand at the loop, this man was actually engaged in setting fire to
For several minutes Guert and I watched our enemy while he was thus
employed, for the Huron was obliged to proceed with the utmost caution,
lest a light prematurely shed around should betray him. He cautiously
lighted his knots quite within the pile, having left a place for that
purpose; and his combustibles were well in flames before the latter began
to throw their rays to any distance. We had a quantity of water provided in
the room from which we beheld all these movements, and might at any time
have extinguished the fire, by pouring a stream through our loop, provided
we did not wait too long. But Guert objected to 'spoiling the sport,' as he
called it, insisting that the logs of the house would be slow to ignite,
and that we might at any moment scatter the knots, by a rapid sortie. His
wish was to let the enemy proceed in his designs, as far as would be at all
safe, in order to render his defeat more overwhelming.
Owing to our position, directly over his head, we had no chance to see
the face of the incendiary while he was thus engaged. At length he cast a
glance upward, as if to note the effect of the flames, which were beginning
to throw their forked tongues above the pile, when we both recognised
Jaap's prisoner, Muss. The sight proved too much for Guert's philosophy,
and thrusting the muzzle of his rifle through the loop, he blazed away
at him, without much regard to aim. This report was a sort of signal for
action, the whole house, and all the outer, world appearing to be in a
clamour in an instant. I had no means of seeing Muss, but some of our
look-outs, who had him in view most of the time, told me, after all was
over, that the fellow seemed much astonished at the suddenness of
this assault; that he gazed up at the loop an instant, uttered a loud
exclamation, then yelled the war-whoop at the top of his voice, and went
bounding off into the darkness, like a buck put up unexpectedly from his
lair. The fields all around the Nest seemed to be alive with whooping
demons. Herman Mordaunt had done little towards embellishing the place; and
stumps were standing in hundreds all about it, many having been left within
twenty yards of the buildings. It now seemed as if every one of these
stumps had an Indian warrior lodged behind it, while bands of them appeared
to be leaping about in the gloom, under the rocks. At one time, I fancied
we must be surrounded by hundreds of these ruthless foes, though I now
suppose that their numbers were magnified by their activity and their
infernal yells. They manifested no intention to attack, nevertheless, but
kept screaming around us in all directions, occasionally discharging a
rifle, but, as a whole, waiting the moment when the flames should have done
Considering the fearful circumstances in which he was placed, Herman
Mordaunt was wonderfully collected. For myself, I felt as if I had fifty
lives to lose, Anneke being, uppermost in my thoughts. The females,
however, behaved uncommonly well; making no noise, and using all the
self-command they could assume, in order not to distract the exertions
of their husbands and friends. Some of the wives of the sturdy settlers,
indeed, actually exhibited a species of stern courage that would have done
credit to soldiers; appearing in the court, armed, and otherwise rendering
themselves useful. It often happened that women of this class, by
practising on deer, and wolves, and bears, got to be reasonably expert with
fire-arms, and did good service in attacks on their dwellings. I remarked,
in all the commoner class of females, that night, a sort of fierce
hostility to their savage foes, in whom they doubtless saw only the
murderers of children, and wretches who made no distinction of sex or age,
in pursuing their heartless warfare. Many of them appeared like the dams of
the inferior animals when their young were in danger.
An interval of ten or fifteen minutes must have occurred between the moment
when Guert discharged his rifle and that in which the battle really began.
All this time the fire was gathering head, our tardy attempts to extinguish
it proving a complete failure. But little apprehension was felt on this
account, however, the flames proving an advantage, by casting their light
far into the fields, and even below the rocks, while they did not reach the
court at all; thus placing a portion of the enemy, should they venture to
attack, under a bright light, while it left us in darkness. The only point,
however, at which we could fear a serious assault, was on the side of the
rocks, where the court had no other protection than the low, but close and
tolerably strong picket. Fortunately, the formation of the ground on that
side prevented one who stood on the meadows below from firing into the
court from any point within the ordinary range of the rifle. It was this
circumstance that had determined the site of the garrison.
Such was the state of things when Anneke's own girl came to ask me to go to
her mistress, if it were possible for me to quit my station, were it
only for a minute. Having no particular duty to perform, there was no
impropriety in complying with a request which, in itself, was every way so
grateful to my feelings. Guert was near me at the time, and heard what the
young negress said; this induced him to inquire if there was no message for
himself; but, even at that serious moment, Mary Wallace did not relent. She
had been kinder than common in manner, the previous night, as the Albanian
had admitted; but, at the same time, she had appeared to distrust her own
resolution so much, as even to give less direct encouragement than had
actually escaped her on previous occasions.
I found Anneke expecting me in that little parlour where I had so recently
listened to her sweet confessions of tenderness the evening before. She was
alone, the instinct of her sex teaching her the expediency of having no
witness of the feelings and language that might escape two hearts that were
united as were ours, under circumstances so trying. The dear girl was pale
as death when I entered; she had doubtless been thinking of the approaching
conflict, and of what might be its frightful consequences; but, my presence
instantly caused her face to be suffused with blushes, it being impossible
for her sensitive mind not to revert to what had so lately occurred.
This truth to the instinctive principle of her nature could hardly be
extinguished in woman, even at the stake itself. Notwithstanding the
liveliness and varying character of her feelings, Anneke was the first to
"I have sent for you, Corny," she said, laying a hand on her heart, as if
to quiet its throbbings, "to say one word in the way of caution--I hope it
is not wrong."
"You _can_ do nothing wrong, beloved Anneke," I answered; "or, nothing that
would seem so in my eyes. Be not thus agitated. Your fears have increased
the danger, which we consider as trifling. The risks Guert, Dirck, and
myself have already run, are tenfold those which now beset us."
The dear girl submitted to have an arm of mine passed around her waist,
when her head dropped on my breast, and she burst into tears. Enabled by
this relief to command her feelings a little, it was not long ere Anneke
raised herself from the endearing embrace I felt impelled to give her,
though still permitting me to hold both her hands; and she looked up into
my face, with the full confidence of affection, renewing the discourse.
"I could not suffer you to engage in this terrible scene, Corny," she said,
without one word, one look, one sign of the interest I feel in you. My
dear, dear father has heard all; and, though disappointed, he does not
disapprove. You know how warmly he has wished Mr. Bulstrode for a son, and
can excuse that preference; but he desired me, not ten minutes since, as he
left me, after giving me a kiss and his blessing, to send for you, and to
say that he shall hereafter look upon you as my and his choice. Heaven
alone knows whether we are to be permitted to meet again, dear Corny; but,
should that never be granted us, I feel it will relieve your mind to know
that we shall meet as the members of one family."
"We are the only children of our parents, Anneke, and our union will
gladden their hearts almost as much as it can gladden our own."
"I have thought of this, already. I shall have a mother, now; a blessing I
hardly ever knew!"
"And one that will dearly, dearly love you, as I know by her own opinions,
again and again expressed in my presence."
"Thank you, Corny--and thanks to that respected parent, too. Now, go,
Corny; I am fearful this selfish gratification only adds to the danger of
the house--go; I will pray for your safety."
"One word, dearest;--poor Guert!--You cannot know how disappointed he is,
that I alone should be summoned here, at such a moment."
Anneke seemed thoughtful, and it struck me she was a little distressed.
"What can I do to alter this?" she said, after a short pause. "A woman's
judgment and her feelings may not impel her the same way; then Mary Wallace
is a girl who appreciates propriety so highly!"
"I understand you, Anneke. But, Guert is of so noble a disposition, and
acknowledges all his defects so meekly, and with so much candour! Man
cannot love woman better than he loves Mary Wallace. Her extreme prudence
is a virtue, in his eyes, even while he suffers by it."
"I cannot change Mary Wallace's nature, Corny," said Anneke, smiling sadly,
and, as I fancied, in a way that said 'were it I, the virtues of Guert
should soon outweigh his defects;' "but Mary will be Mary, and we must
submit. Perhaps to-morrow may bring her wavering mind to something like
decision; for these late events have proved greatly Mr. Ten Eyck's friends.
But Mary is an orphan, and prudence has been taught her as her great
protection. Now, go, Corny, lest you be missed."
The dear girl parted from me hurriedly, but not without strong
manifestation of feeling. I folded her to my heart; that being no moment
for affectations or conventional distance; and I know _I_ was, while
I trusted Anneke might be, none the less happy for remembering we had
exchanged these proofs of mutual attachment.
Just as I reached the court, I heard a yell without, which my experience
before Ty had taught me was the whoop the Hurons give when they attack. A
rattling fire succeeded, and we were instantly engaged in a hot conflict.
Our people fought under one advantage, which more than counter-balanced
the disadvantage of their inferiority in numbers. While two sides of the
buildings, including that of the meadows, or the one on which an assault
could alone be successful, were in bright light, the court still remained
sufficiently dark to answer all the purposes of defence. We could see each
other, but could not be distinguished at any distance. Our persons, when
seen from without, must have been confounded, too, with the waving shadows
of the pickets.
As I approached the pickets, through the openings of which our people were
already keeping up a dropping fire on the dark-looking demons who were
leaping about on the meadows below, I learned from Herman Mordaunt,
himself, who received me by an affectionate squeeze of the hand, that a
large body of the enemy was collected directly under the rocks, and that
Guert had assumed the duty of dislodging them. He had taken with him,
on this service, Dirck, Jaap, and three or four more of the best men,
including both of our Indians. The manner in which he proposed to effect
this object was bold, and like the character of the leader of the party.
As so much depended on it, and on its success, I will explain a few of its
more essential details.
The front of the house ranged north and south, facing westward. The two
wings, consequently, extended east and west. The fire had been built at
the verge of the cliff, and at the north-east angle of the building. This
placed the north and east sides of the square in light, while it left the
west and south in deep darkness. The gate opening to the west, it was not a
very hopeless thing to believe it practicable to lead a small party round
the south-west angle of the house, to the verge of the cliff, where the
formation of the ground would allow of a volley's being given upon those
savages who were believed to be making a lodgment directly beneath our
pickets, with a view of seizing a favourable moment to scale them. On this
errand, then, Herman Mordaunt now gave me to understand my friends had
"Who guards the gate, the while?" I asked, almost instinctively.
"Mr. Worden, and your old acquaintance and my new tenant, Newcome. They are
both armed, for a parson will not only fight the battles of the spirit,
but he will fight those of the field, when concerned. Mr. Worden has shown
himself a man in all this business."
Without replying, I left Herman Mordaunt, and proceeded to the gate myself,
since there was little to be done in the court. _There_ we were strong
enough; stronger, perhaps, than was necessary; but I greatly distrusted
Guert's scheme, the guard at the gate, and most of all the fire.
I was soon at Mr. Worden's side. There the reverend gentleman was, sure
enough, with Jason Newcome at his elbow. Their duty was to keep the gate
in that precise condition in which it could be barred, or unbarred, at
the shortest notice, as friends or foes might seek admission. The parties
appeared to be fully aware of the importance of the trust they filled, and
I asked permission to pass out. My first object was the fire, for it struck
me Herman Mordaunt felt too much confidence in his means of extinguishing
it, and that our security had been neglected in that quarter. I was no
sooner outside the buildings, therefore, than I turned to steal along
the wall to the north-west corner, where alone I could get a view of the
The brightness of the glare that was gleaming over the fields and stumps,
that came within the compass of the light from the fire, added to my
security by the contrast, though it did not tell well for that particular
source of danger. The dark stumps, many of which were charred by the fires
of the clearing, and were absolutely black, seemed to be dancing about in
the fields, under the waving light, and twice I paused to meet imaginary
savages ere I had gained the corner of the house. Each alarm, however, was
idle, and I succeeded in obtaining the desired view. Not only were the
knots burning fiercely, but a large sheet of flame was clinging to the logs
of the house, menacing us with a speedy conflagration. The danger would
have been greater, but a thunder-shower had passed over the settlement only
an hour before we were alarmed, and coming from the north, all that side of
the house had been well drenched with rain. This occurred after 'Muss' had
commenced his pile, or he might have chosen another side of the building.
The deep obscurity of that gust, however, was probably one of the means of
his success. He must have been at work during the whole continuance of the
I was not absent from the gate two minutes. That brief space was sufficient
for my first purpose. I now desired Jason to enter the court, and to
tell Herman Mordaunt not to delay a moment in applying the means for
extinguishing the flames. There was greater danger from them than there
possibly could be from any other attack upon the pickets, made in the
darkness of the morning. Jason was cool by temperament, and he was a good
agent to be employed on such a duty. Promising to be quick, he left us,
and I turned my face towards Guert and his party. As yet, nothing had been
heard of the last. This very silence was a source of alarm, though it was
difficult to imagine the adventurer had met with an enemy, since such a
collision must have been somewhat noisy. A few spattering shot, all of
which came from the west side of the buildings, and the flickering light of
the fire, were the only interruptions to the otherwise death-like calm of
The same success attended me in reaching the south-west as in reaching
the north-west angle of the house. To me, it seemed as if the savages had
entirely abandoned the fields in my vicinity. When I took my stand at this
corner of the building, I found all its southern side in obscurity, though
sufficient light was gleaming over the meadows to render the ragged edges
of the cliff visible in that direction. I looked along the log walls to
this streak of light, but could see no signs of my friends. I was certain
they were not under the house, and began to apprehend some serious
indiscretion on the part of the bold Albanian. While engaged in
endeavouring to get a clue to Guert's movements, by devouring every dark
object I could perceive with my eyes, I felt an elbow touched lightly, and
saw a savage in his half-naked, fighting attire, at my side. I could see
enough to ascertain this, but could not distinguish faces. I was feeling
for my hunting-knife, when the Trackless's voice stayed my hand.
"He wrong"--said the Onondago, with emphasis. "Head too young--hand
good--heart good--head very bad. Too much fire--dark here--much better."
This characteristic criticism on poor Guert's conduct, served to tell the
whole story. Guert had put himself in a position in which the Onondago had
refused to remain; in other words, he had gone to the verge of the cliff,
where he was exposed to the light of the fire, and where he was necessarily
in danger of being seen. Still, no signs of him were visible, and I was on
the point of moving along the south side of the building, to the margin of
the rocks, when the Trackless again touched my arm, and said "There!"
There our party was, sure enough! It had managed to reach the verge of the
rocks at a salient point, which placed them in an admirable position for
raking the enemy, who were supposed to be climbing to the pickets, with a
view to a sudden spring, but at a dangerous distance from the buildings.
The darkness had been the means of their reaching that point, which was
about a hundred yards from the spot where I had expected to find them, and
admirably placed for the intended object. The whole procedure was so much
like Guert's character, that I could not but admire its boldness, while I
condemned its imprudence. There was, however, no time to join the party, or
to warn its leader of the risks he ran. We, who stood so far in the rear,
could see and fully appreciate all the danger, while he probably did not.
There the whole party of them stood, plainly though darkly drawn in high
relief, against the light beyond, each poising his rifle and making his
dispositions for the volley. Guert was nearest to the verge of the rocks,
actually bending over them; Dirck was close at his side; Jaap just behind
Dirck; Jumper close at Jaap's elbow; and four of the settlers, bold and
hardy men, behind the Oneida.
I could scarcely breathe, for painful expectation, when I saw Guert and his
companions thus rising from the earth, bringing their entire figures in
front of the back-ground of light. I could have called out to warn them of
the danger they ran; but it would have done no good, nor was there time for
remonstrances. Guert must have felt he occupied a dangerous position, and
what he did was done very promptly. Ten seconds after I saw the dark forms,
all their rifles were discharged, as it might be at a single crack. One
instant passed, in death-like stillness, through all the fields, and in the
court; then came a volley from among the stumps at a little distance from
our side of the building, and the adventurers on the rocks, or those that
could, rushed towards the gate. Two of the settlers, however, and the
Oneida, I saw fall, myself. The last actually leaped upward, into the
air, and went down the cliff. But Guert, Dirck, Jaap, and the other two
settlers, had moved away. It was at that moment that my ears were filled
with such yells as I had not supposed the human throat could raise, and all
the fields on our side of the house seemed alive with savages. To render
the scene more appalling, that was the precise instant when the water,
previously provided by Herman Mordaunt, fell upon the flames, and the light
vanished, almost as one extinguishes a candle. But for this providential
coincidence, there was scarce a chance for the escape of one of the
adventurers. As it was, rifle followed rifle, from among the stumps, though
it was no longer with any certain aim.
The battle had now become a _melee_. The savages went leaping and whooping
forward in the darkness, and heavy blows were given and taken. Guert's
clear, manly voice was heard, rising above the clamour, encouraging his
companions to press through the throng of their assailants, in tones full
of confidence. Both the Trackless and myself discharged our rifles at the
foremost of the Hurons, and each certainly brought down his man; but it was
not easy to see what we could do next. To stand aloof and see my friends
borne down by numbers was impossible, however, and Susquesus and myself
fell upon the enemy's rear. This charge of ours had the appearance of a
sortie, and it produced a decided effect on the result, opening a passage
by which Dirck and the two settlers issued from the throng, and joined us.
This was no sooner done, than we all had to stand at bay, retreating little
by little, as we could. The result would still have been doubtful, even
after we had succeeded in reaching the south-western angle of the building,
had it not been for a forward movement on the part of Herman Mordaunt, at
the head of half-a-dozen of his settlers. This reinforcement came into the
affair with loaded rifles, and a single discharge, given as soon as we were
in a line with our friends, caused our assailants to vanish, as suddenly as
they had appeared. On reflecting on the circumstances of that awful night,
in after-life, I have thought that the force in the rear of the Hurons
began to melt away, even before Herman Mordaunts support was received,
leaving their front weak and unsustained. At any rate, the enemy fled to
their covers, as has just been related, and we entered the gate in a body,
closing and barring it, as soon as possible.
I can scarcely describe the change that had come over the appearance of
things in that eventful night. The fire was extinguished, even to the
embers, and deep darkness had succeeded to the glimmering, waving red light
of the flames. The yells, and whoops, and screams, and shouts, for our men
had frequently thrown back the defiance of their foes in cheers, were done;
a stillness as profound as that of the grave reigning over the whole place.
The wounded seemed ashamed even to groan; but our hurt, of whom there were
four, went into the house to be cared for, stern and silent. No enemy was
any longer to be apprehended beneath the pickets, for the streak of morning
was just appearing above the forest, in the east, and Indians rarely attack
under the light of day. In a word, _that_ night, at least, was passed, and
we were yet protected by Providence.
Herman Mordaunt now bethought him of ascertaining his precise situation,
the extent of his own loss, and, as far as possible, of that which we had
inflicted on the enemy. Guert was called for, to aid in this inquiry, but
no Guert was to be found! Jaap, too, was absent. A muster was had, and then
it was found that Guert Ten Eyck, Jaap Satanstoe, Gilbert Davis, and Moses
Mudge were all wanting. The Jumper, too, did not appear; but I accounted
for him, and for the two settlers named, having actually seen them
fall. Day returned to us slowly, while agitated by the effect of these
discoveries; but it brought no relief. We soon ventured to re-open the
gates, knowing no Indian would remain very near the building, while it was
light; and, having examined all the dangerous covers, we passed outside the
court with confidence, in quest of the bodies of our friends. Not an Indian
was seen, Jumper excepted. The Oneida lay at the foot of the rocks, dead,
and scalped; as did Davis and Mudge on the summit. Everything else human
had disappeared. Dirck was confident that six or seven of the Hurons fell
by the volley from the cliff, but the bodies had been carried off. As to
Guert and Jaap, no traces of them remained, dead or alive.
"She looked on many a face with vacant eye,
On many a token without knowing what;
She saw them watch her without asking why,
And reck'd not who around her pillow sat;
Not speechless, though she spoke not; not a sigh
Relieved her thoughts: dull silence and quick chat
Were tried in vain by by those who served; she gave
No sign, save breath, of having left the grave."
It was a most painful moment to me, when Herman Mordaunt, an hour after all
these facts were established, came to summon me to the presence of Anneke
and Mary Wallace. One gleam of joy, one ray of the sunshine of the heart,
shone on Anneke's sweet countenance as she saw me unharmed enter the
room, but it quickly disappeared in the strong sympathy she felt for the
sufferings of her friend. As for Mary Wallace, death itself could hardly
have left her more colourless, or with features more firmly impressed with
the expression of mental suffering. Anneke was the first to speak.
"God be praised that this dreadful night is passed, and you and my dearest
father are spared!" the precious girl said, with fervour, pressing the hand
that had taken one of hers, in both her own. "For this much, at least, we
can be grateful; would I could add for the safety of us all!"
"Tell me the worst at once, Mr. Littlepage," added Mary Wallace; "I can
bear anything better than uncertainty. Mr. Mordaunt says that you know the
facts better than any one else, and that you must relate them. Speak, then,
though it break my heart to hear it!--is he killed?"
"I hope, through Heaven's mercy, not. Indeed, I think not; though I fear he
must be a prisoner."
"Thank you for that, dear, dear Mr. Littlepage! Oh! Thank you for that,
from the bottom of my heart. But may they not torture him? Do not these
Hurons torture their prisoners? Conceal nothing from me, Corny; you cannot
imagine how much self-command I have, and how well I can behave. Oh!
Poor girl! At the very moment she was boasting of her fortitude and ability
to endure, her whole frame was trembling from head to foot, her face was
of the hue of death, and the smile with which she spoke was frightfully
haggard. That pent-up passion, which had so long struggled with her
prudence, could no longer be suppressed. That she really loved Guert, and
that her love would prove stronger than her discretion, I had not doubted,
now, for some months; but, never having before witnessed the strength of
any feeling that had been so long and so painfully suppressed, I confess
that this exhibition of a suffering so intense, in a being so delicate, so
excellent, and so lovely, almost unmanned me. I took Mary Wallace's hand
and led her to a chair, scarce knowing what to say to relieve her mind. All
this time, her eye never turned from mine, as if she hoped to learn the
truth by the aid of the sense of sight alone. How anxious, jealous,
distrustful, and yet beseeching was that gaze!
"Will he be tortured?" She rather whispered huskily, than asked aloud.
"I trust, by God's mercy, not. They have taken my slave, Jaap, also; and it
is far more probable that _he_ would be the victim, in such a case, than
Mr. Ten Eyck--"
"Why do you call him Mr. Ten Eyck? You have always called him Guert of
late--you are his friend--you think well of him--you cannot be less his
friend, now that he is miserable, than when he was happy, and the pride of
all human eyes, in his strength and manly beauty!"
"Dear Miss Wallace, compose yourself, I do entreat of you--no one will
cling to Guert longer than I."
"Yes; I have always thought this--always _felt_ this. Guert cannot be
low, or mean in his sentiments, while an educated gentleman, like Corny
Littlepage, is his friend. I have written to my aunt, and we must not be
too hasty in our judgments. The spirit and follies of youth will soon be
over, and then we shall see a shining character in Guert Ten Eyck. Is not
this true, Anneke?"
Anneke knelt at the side of her friend, folded her in her arms, drew the
quivering head down upon her own sympathising bosom, and held it there a
moment, in the very attitude of protecting, solacing love. After a brief
pause, Mary Wallace burst into tears, and I have ever thought that that
relief, under God's mercy, saved her reason. In a few minutes, the sufferer
became more calm, when she retired into herself, as was her wont, leaving
Anneke and me to discuss the subject.
After turning all the chances and probabilities in our minds, I promised my
companions not to lose a moment, but to use immediate means of ascertaining
all that could be ascertained, in Guert's behalf, and of doing everything
that could be done, to save him.
"You will not deceive me, Corny," whispered Mary Wallace, pressing my hand
at leave-taking, in both her own. "I know I can depend on _you_, for he
_boasts_ of being your friend."
Anneke's painful smile added force to this request, and I tore myself away
unwilling to quit such a sufferer, yet unable to remain. Herman Mordaunt
was seen conversing with Susquesus, in the court, and I joined him at once,
determined to lose no time.
"I was speaking to the Trackless on this very subject," answered Herman
Mordaunt, as soon as I had explained my purpose, "and am now waiting for
his answer. Do you think it, then, safe to send a messenger out to the
Hurons, in order to inquire after our friends, and to treat with them!"
"No send?--Why not?" returned the Indian. "Red man glad to see messenger.
Go when he want; come back when he want. How can make bargain, if scalp
I had heard that the most savage tribes respected a messenger; and, indeed,
the necessity of so doing was, of itself, a sort of security that such
must be the case. It was true, that the bearer of a flag might be in more
danger, on such an errand, than would be the case in a camp of civilized
men; but these Canada-Indians had been long serving with the French, and
their chiefs, beyond a question, had obtained some of the notions of
pale-face warfare. Without much reflection, therefore, and under an impulse
in behalf of my friend, and my slave--for Jaap's fate was of lively
interest with me--I volunteered to bear a flag myself. Herman Mordaunt