Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

The Pioneers Or, The Sources of the Susquehanna by James Fenimore Cooper

Part 5 out of 10

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.9 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

hills as they rose in the distance, one over the other, that most
attracted the gaze of Miss Temple. The huge branches of the pines and
hemlocks bent with the weight of the ice they supported, while their
summits rose above the swelling tops of the oaks, beeches, and maples,
like spires of burnished silver issuing from domes of the same
material. The limits of the view, in the west, were marked by an
undulating outline of bright light, as if, reversing the order of
nature, numberless suns might momentarily he expected to heave above
the horizon. In the foreground of the picture, along the shores of
the lake, and near to the village, each tree seemed studded with
diamonds. Even the sides of the mountains where the rays of the sun
could not yet fall, were decorated with a glassy coat, that presented
every gradation of brilliancy, from the first touch of the luminary to
the dark foliage of the hemlock, glistening through its coat of
crystal. In short, the whole view was one scene of quivering
radiancy, as lake, mountains, village, and woods, each emitted a
portion of light, tinged with its peculiar hue, and varied by its
position and its magnitude.

“See!” cried Elizabeth; “see, Louisa; hasten to the window, and
observe the miraculous change!”

Miss Grant complied; and, after bending for a moment in silence from
the opening, she observed, in a low tone, as if afraid to trust the
sound of her voice:

“The change is indeed wonderful! I am surprised that he should be able
to effect it so soon.”

Elizabeth turned in amazement, to hear so skeptical a sentiment from
one educated like her companion; but was surprised to find that,
instead of looking at the view, the mild blue eyes of Miss Grant were
dwelling on the form of a well-dressed young man, who was standing –
before the door of the building, in earnest conversation with her
father. A second look was necessary before she was able to recognize
the person of the young hunter in a plain, but assuredly the ordinary,
garb of a gentleman.

“Everything in this magical country seems to border on the
marvellous,” said Elizabeth; “and, among all the changes, this is
certainly not the least wonderful, The actors are as unique as the

Miss Grant colored and drew in her head.

“I am a simple country girl, Miss Temple, and I am afraid you will
find me but a poor companion,” she said. “I—I am not sure that I
understand all you say. But I really thought that you wished me to
notice the alteration in Mr. Edwards, Is it not more wonderful when we
recollect his origin? They say he is part Indian.”

“He is a genteel savage; but let us go down, and give the sachem his
tea; for I suppose he is a descendant of King Philip, if not a
grandson of Pocahontas.”

The ladies were met in the hall by Judge Temple, who took his daughter
aside to apprise her of that alteration in the appearance of their new
inmate, with which she was already acquainted.

“He appears reluctant to converse on his former situation,” continued
Marmaduke “but I gathered from his discourse, as is apparent from his
manner, that he has seen better days; and I am really inclining to the
opinion of Richard, as to his origin; for it was no unusual thing for
the Indian agents to rear their children in a laudable manner, and—”

“Very well, my dear sir,” interrupted his daughter, laughing and
averting her eyes; “it is all well enough, I dare say; but, as I do
not understand a word of the Mohawk language he must be content to
speak English; and as for his behavior, I trust to your discernment to
control it.”

“Ay! but, Bess,” cried the judge, detaining her gently by the hand,
“nothing must be said to him of his past life. This he has begged
particularly of me, as a favor, He is, perhaps, a little soured, just
now, with his wounded arm; the injury seems very light, and another
time he may be more communicative,”

“Oh! I am not much troubled, sir, with that laudable thirst after
knowledge that is called curiosity. I shall believe him to he the
child of Corn-stalk, or Corn-planter, or some other renowned
chieftain; possibly of the Big Snake himself; and shall treat him as
such until he sees fit to shave his good-looking head, borrow some
half-dozen pair of my best earrings, shoulder his rifle again, and
disappear as suddenly as he made his entrance. So come, my dear sir,
and let us not forget the rites of hospitality, for the short time he
is to remain with us.”

Judge Temple smiled at the playfulness of his child, and taking her
arm they entered the breakfast parlor, where the young hunter was
seated with an air that showed his determination to domesticate
himself in the family with as little parade as possible.

Such were the incidents that led to this extraordinary increase in the
family of Judge Temple, where, having once established the youth, the
subject of our tale requires us to leave him for a time, to pursue
with diligence and intelligence the employments that were assigned him
by Marmaduke.

Major Hartmann made his customary visit, and took his leave of the
party for the next three months. Mr. Grant was compelled to be absent
most of his time, in remote parts of the country, and his daughter
became almost a constant visitor at the mansion-house. Richard
entered, with his constitutional eagerness, on the duties of his new
office; and, as Marmaduke was much employed with the constant
applications of adventures for farms, the winter passed swiftly away.
The lake was the principal scene f or the amusements of the young
people; where the ladies, in their one-horse cutter, driven by
Richard, and attended, when the snow would admit of it, by young Ed
wards on his skates, spent many hours taking the benefit of exercise
in the clear air of the hills. The reserve of the youth gradually
gave way to time and his situation, though it was still evident, to a
close observer, that he had frequent moments of bitter and intense

Elizabeth saw many large openings appear in the sides of the mountains
during the three succeeding months, where different settlers had, in
the language of the country “made their pitch,” while the numberless
sleighs that passed through the village, loaded with wheat and barrels
of potashes, afforded a clear demonstration that all these labors were
not undertaken in vain. In short, the whole country was exhibiting
the bustle of a thriving settlement, where the highways were thronged
with sleighs, bearing piles of rough household furniture, studded,
here and there, with the smiling faces of women and children, happy in
the excitement of novelty; or with loads of produce, hastening to the
common market at Albany, that served as so many snares to induce the
emigrants to enter into those wild mountains in search of competence
and happiness.

The village was alive with business, the artisans in creasing in
wealth with the prosperity of the country, and each day witnessing
some nearer approach to the manners and usages of an old-settled town.
The man who carried the mail or “the post,” as he was called, talked
much of running a stage, and, once or twice during the winter, he was
seen taking a single passenger, in his cutter, through the snow-banks,
toward the Mohawk, along which a regular vehicle glided, semi-weekly,
with the velocity of lightning, and under the direction of a knowing
whip from the “down countries,” Toward spring, divers families, who
had been into the “old States” to see their relatives, returned in
time to save the snow, frequently bringing with them whole
neighborhoods, who were tempted by their representations to leave the
farms of Connecticut and Massachusetts, to make a trial of fortune in
the woods.

During all this time, Oliver Edwards, whose sudden elevation excited
no surprise in that changeful country, was earnestly engaged in the
service of Marmaduke, during the days; but his nights were often spent
in the hut of Leather-Stocking. The intercourse between the three
hunters was maintained with a certain air of mystery, it is true, but
with much zeal and apparent interest to all the parties. Even Mohegan
seldom came to the mansion-house, and Natty never; but Edwards sought
every leisure moment to visit his former abode, from which he would
often return in the gloomy hours of night. through the snow, or, if
detained beyond the time at which the family retired to rest, with the
morning sun. These visits certainly excited much speculation in those
to whom they were known, but no comments were made, excepting
occasionally in whispers from Richard, who would say:

“It is not at all remarkable; a half-breed can never be weaned from
the savage ways—and, for one of his lineage, the boy is much nearer
civilization than could, in reason, be expected.”


“Away! nor let me loiter in my song,
For we have many a mountain-path to tread.”—Byron.

As the spring gradually approached, the immense piles of snow that, by
alternate thaws and frosts, and repeated storms, had obtained a
firmness which threatened a tiresome durability, began to yield to the
influence of milder breezes and a warmer sun. The gates of heaven at
times seemed to open, and a bland air diffused itself over the earth,
when animate and inanimate nature would awaken, and, for a few hours,
the gayety of spring shone in every eye and smiled on every field.
But the shivering blasts from the north would carry their chill
influence over the scene again, and the dark and gloomy clouds that
intercepted the rays of the sun were not more cold and dreary than the
reaction. These struggles between the seasons became daily more
frequent, while the earth, like a victim to contention, slowly lost
the animated brilliancy of winter, without obtaining the aspect of

Several weeks were consumed in this cheerless manner, during which the
inhabitants of the country gradually changed their pursuits from the
social and bustling movements of the time of snow to the laborious and
domestic engagements of the coming season, The village was no longer
thronged with visitors; the trade that had enlivened the shops for
several months, began to disappear; the highways lost their shining
coats of beaten snow in impassable sloughs, and were deserted by the
gay and noisy travellers who, in sleighs, had, during the winter,
glided along their windings; and, in short, everything seemed
indicative of a mighty change, not only in the earth, but in those who
derived their sources of comfort and happiness from its bosom.

The younger members of the family in the mansion house, of which
Louisa Grant was now habitually one, were by no means indifferent
observers of these fluctuating and tardy changes. While the snow
rendered the roads passable, they had partaken largely in the
amusements of the winter, which included not only daily rides over the
mountains, and through every valley within twenty miles of them, but
divers ingenious and varied sources of pleasure on the bosom of their
frozen lake. There had been excursions in the equipage of Richard,
when with his four horses he had outstripped the winds, as it flew
over the glassy ice which invariably succeeded a thaw. Then the
exciting and dangerous “whirligig” would be suffered to possess its
moment of notice. Cutters, drawn by a single horse, and handsleds,
impelled by the gentlemen on skates, would each in turn be used; and,
in short, every source of relief against the tediousness of a winter
in the mountains was resorted to by the family, Elizabeth was
compelled to acknowledge to her father, that the season, with the aid
of his library, was much less irksome than she had anticipated.

As exercise in the open air was in some degree necessary to the habits
of the family, when the constant recurrence of frosts and thaws
rendered the roads, which were dangerous at the most favorable times,
utterly impassable for wheels, saddle-horses were used as substitutes
for other conveyances. Mounted on small and sure-footed beasts, the
ladies would again attempt the passages of the mountains and penetrate
into every retired glen where the enterprise of a settler had induced
him to establish himself. In these excursions they were attended by
some one or all of the gentlemen of the family, as their different
pursuits admitted. Young Edwards was hourly becoming more
familiarized to his situation, and not infrequently mingled in the
parties with an unconcern and gayety that for a short time would expel
all unpleasant recollections from his mind. Habit, and the buoyancy
of youth, seemed to be getting the ascendency over the secret causes
of his uneasiness; though there were moments when the same remarkable
expression of disgust would cross his intercourse with Marmaduke, that
had distinguished their conversations in the first days of their

It was at the close of the month of March, that the sheriff succeeded
in persuading his cousin and her young friend to accompany him in a
ride to a hill that was said to overhang the lake in a manner peculiar
to itself.

“Besides, Cousin Bess,” continued the indefatigable Richard, “we will
stop and see the ‘sugar bush’ of Billy Kirby; he is on the east end of
the Ransom lot, making sugar for Jared Ransom. There is not a better
hand over a kettle in the county than that same Kirby. You remember,
‘Duke, that I had him his first season in our camp; and it is not a
wonder that he knows something of his trade.”

“He’s a good chopper, is Billy,” observed Benjamin, who held the
bridle of the horse while the sheriff mounted; “and he handles an axe
much the same as a forecastleman does his marling-spike, or a tailor
his goose. They say he’ll lift a potash-kettle off the arch alone,
though I can’t say that I’ve ever seen him do it with my own eyes; but
that is the say. And I’ve seen sugar of his making, which, maybe,
wasn’t as white as an old topgallant sail, but which my friend,
Mistress Pettibones, within there, said had the true molasses smack to
it; and you are not the one, Squire Dickens, to be told that Mistress
Remarkable has a remarkable tooth for sweet things in her nut-

The loud laugh that succeeded the wit of Benjamin, and in which he
participated with no very harmonious sounds himself, very fully
illustrated the congenial temper which existed between the pair. Most
of its point was, however, lost on the rest of the party, who were
either mounting their horses or assisting the ladies at the moment.
When all were safely in their saddles, they moved through the village
in great order. They paused for a moment before the door of Monsieur
Le Quoi, until he could bestride his steed, and then, issuing from the
little cluster of houses, they took one of the principal of those
highways that centred in the village.

As each night brought with it a severe frost, which the heat of the
succeeding day served to dissipate, the equestrians were compelled to
proceed singly along the margin of the road, where the turf, and
firmness of the ground, gave the horses a secure footing. Very
trifling indications of vegetation were to he seen, the surface of the
earth presenting a cold, wet, and cheerless aspect that chilled the
blood. The snow yet lay scattered over most of those distant
clearings that were visible in different parts of the mountains;
though here and there an opening might be seen where, as the white
covering yielded to the season, the bright and lively green of the
wheat served to enkindle the hopes of the husbandman. Nothing could
be more marked than the contrast between the earth and the heavens;
for, while the former presented the dreary view that we have
described, a warm and invigorating sun was dispensing his heats from a
sky that contained but a solitary cloud, and through an atmosphere
that softened the colors of the sensible horizon until it shone like a
sea of blue.

Richard led the way on this, as on all other occasions that did not
require the exercise of unusual abilities; and as he moved along, he
essayed to enliven the party with the sounds of his experienced voice.

“This is your true sugar weather, ‘Duke,” he cried; “a frosty night
and a sunshiny day. I warrant me that the sap runs like a mill-tail
up the maples this warm morning. It is a pity, Judge, that you do not
introduce a little more science into the manufactory of sugar among
your tenants. It might be done, sir, without knowing as much as Dr.
Franklin—it might be done, Judge Temple.”

“The first object of my solicitude, friend Jones,” returned Marmaduke,
“is to protect the sources of this great mine of comfort and wealth
from the extravagance of the people themselves. When this important
point shall be achieved, it will be in season to turn our attention to
an improvement in the manufacture of the article, But thou knowest,
Richard, that I have already subjected our sugar to the process of the
refiner, and that the result has produced loaves as white as the snow
on yon fields, and possessing the saccharine quality in its utmost

“Saccharine, or turpentine, or any other 'ine, Judge Temple, you have
never made a loaf larger than a good-sized sugar-plum,” returned the
sheriff. “Now, sir, I assert that no experiment is fairly tried,
until it be reduced to practical purposes. If, sir, I owned a
hundred, or, for that matter, two hundred thousand acres of land, as
you do. I would build a sugar house in the village; I would invite
learned men to an investigation of the subject—and such are easily to
be found, sir; yes, sir, they are not difficult to find—men who unite
theory with practice; and I would select a wood of young and thrifty
trees; and, instead of making loaves of the size of a lump of candy,
dam’me, ‘Duke, but I’d have them as big as a haycock.”

“And purchase the cargo of one of those ships that they say are going
to China,” cried Elizabeth; “turn your pot ash-kettles into teacups,
the scows on the lake into saucers, bake your cake in yonder lime-
kiln, and invite the county to a tea-party. How wonderful are the
projects of genius! Really, sir, the world is of opinion that Judge
Temple has tried the experiment fairly, though he did not cause his
loaves to be cast in moulds of the magnitude that would suit your
magnificent conceptions.”

“You may laugh, Cousin Elizabeth—you may laugh, madam,” retorted
Richard, turning himself so much in his saddle as to face the party,
and making dignified gestures with his whip; “but I appeal to common
sense, good sense, or, what is of more importance than either, to the
sense of taste, which is one of the five natural senses, whether a big
loaf of sugar is not likely to contain a better illustration of a
proposition than such a lump as one of your Dutch women puts under her
tongue when she drinks her tea. There are two ways of doing
everything, the right way and the wrong way. You make sugar now, I
will admit, and you may, possibly, make loaf-sugar; but I take the
question to be, whether you make the best possible sugar, and in the
best possible loaves.”

“Thou art very right, Richard,” observed Marmaduke, with a gravity in
his air that proved how much he was interested in the subject. “It is
very true that we manufacture sugar, and the inquiry is quite useful,
how much? and in what manner? I hope to live to see the day when farms
and plantations shall be devoted to this branch of business. Little
is known concerning the properties of the tree itself, the source of
all this wealth; how much it may be improved by cultivation, by the
use of the hoe and plough.”

“Hoe and plough!” roared the sheriff; “would you set a man hoeing
round the root of a maple like this?” pointing to one of the noble
trees that occur so frequently in that part of the country. “Hoeing
trees! are you mad, ‘Duke? This is next to hunting for coal! Poh! poh!
my dear cousin, hear reason, and leave the management of the sugar-
bush to me. Here is Mr. Le Quoi—he has been in the West Indies, and
has seen sugar made. Let him give an account of how it is made there,
and you will hear the philosophy of the thing. Well, monsieur, how is
it that you make sugar in the West Indies; anything in Judge Temples

The gentleman to whom this query was put was mounted on a small horse,
of no very fiery temperament, and was riding with his stirrups so
short as to bring his knees, while the animal rose a small ascent in
the wood-path they were now travelling, into a somewhat hazardous
vicinity to his chin. There was no room for gesticulation or grace in
the delivery of his reply, for the mountain was steep and slippery;
and, although the Frenchman had an eye of uncommon magnitude on either
side of his face, they did not seem to be half competent to forewarn
him of the impediments of bushes, twigs, and fallen trees, that were
momentarily crossing his path. With one hand employed in averting
these dangers, and the other grasping his bridle to check an untoward
speed that his horse was assuming, the native of France responded as

“Sucre! dey do make sucre in Martinique; mais—mais ce n’est pas one
tree—ah—ah—vat you call—je voudrois que ces chemins fussent au diable
- vat you call—steeck pour la promenade?”
“Cane,” said Elizabeth, smiling at the imprecation which the wary
Frenchman supposed was understood only by himself.
“Oui, mam’selle, cane.”
“Yes, yes,” cried Richard, “cane is the vulgar name for it, but the
real term is saccharum officinarum; and what we call the sugar, or
hard maple, is acer saccharinum. These are the learned names,
monsieur, and are such as, doubtless, you well understand.”

“Is this Greek or Latin, Mr. Edwards?” whispered Elizabeth to the
youth, who was opening a passage for herself and her companions
through the bushes, “or per haps it is a still more learned language,
for an interpretation of which we must look to you.”

The dark eye of the young man glanced toward the speaker, but its
resentful expression changed in a moment.

“I shall remember your doubts, Miss Temple, when next I visit my old
friend Mohegan, and either his skill, or that of Leather-Stocking,
shall solve them.”

“And are you, then, really ignorant of their language?”

“Not absolutely; but the deep learning of Mr. Jones is more familiar
to me, or even the polite masquerade of Monsieur Le Quoi.”

“Do you speak French?” said the lady, with quickness.

“It is a common language with the Iroquois, and through the Canadas,”
he answered, smiling.

“Ah! but they are Mingoes, and your enemies.”

“It will be well for me if I have no worse,” said the youth, dashing
ahead with his horse, and putting an end to the evasive dialogue.

The discourse, however, was maintained with great vigor by Richard,
until they reached an open wood on the summit of the mountain, where
the hemlocks and pines totally disappeared, and a grove of the very
trees that formed the subject of debate covered the earth with their
tall, straight trunks and spreading branches, in stately pride. The
underwood had been entirely removed from this grove, or bush, as, in
conjunction with the simple arrangements for boiling, it was called,
and a wide space of many acres was cleared, which might be likened to
the dome of a mighty temple, to which the maples formed the columns,
their tops composing the capitals and the heavens the arch. A deep
and careless incision had been made into each tree, near its root,
into which little spouts, formed of the I bark of the alder, or of the
sumach, were fastened; and a trough, roughly dug out of the linden, or
basswood, was I lying at the root of each tree, to catch the sap that
flowed from this extremely wasteful and inartificial arrangement.

The party paused a moment, on gaining the flat, to breathe their
horses, and, as the scene was entirely new to several of their
number, to view the manner of collecting the fluid. A fine, powerful
voice aroused them from their momentary silence, as it rang under the
branches of the trees, singing the following words of that inimitable
doggerel, whose verses, if extended, would reach from the Caters of
the Connecticut to the shores of Ontario. The tune was, of course, a
familiar air which, although it is said to have been first applied to
this nation in derision, circumstances have since rendered so glorious
that no American ever hears its jingling cadence without feeling
a thrill at his heart:

“The Eastern States be full of men,
The Western Full of woods, sir,
The hill be like a cattle-pen,
The roads be full of goods, sir!
Then flow away, my sweety sap,
And I will make you boily;
Nor catch a wood man’s hasty nap,
For fear you should get roily.
The maple-tree's a precious one,
‘Tis fuel, food, and timber;
And when your stiff day’s work is done,
Its juice will make you limber,
Then flow away, etc.

“And what’s a man without his glass.
His wife without her tea, sir?
But neither cup nor mug will pass,
Without his honey-bee, sir!
Then flow away,” etc.

During the execution of this sonorous doggerel, Richard kept time with
his whip on the mane of his charger, accompanying the gestures with a
corresponding movement of his head and body. Toward the close of the
song, he was overheard humming the chorus, and, at its last
repetition, to strike in at “sweety sap,’ and carry a second through,
with a prodigious addition to the “effect” of the noise, if not to
that of the harmony.

“Well done us!” roared the sheriff, on the same key with the tune; “a
very good song, Billy Kirby, and very well sung. Where got you the
words, lad? Is there more of it, and can you furnish me with a copy?”
The sugar-boiler, who was busy in his “camp,” at a short distance from
the equestrians, turned his head with great indifference, and surveyed
the party, as they approached, with admirable coolness. To each
individual, as he or she rode close by him, he gave a nod that was
extremely good-natured and affable, but which partook largely of the
virtue of equality, for not even to the ladies
did he in the least vary his mode of salutation, by touching the
apology for a hat that he wore, or by any other motion than the one we
have mentioned.

“How goes it, how goes it, sheriff?” said the wood-chopper; “what’s
the good word in the village?”

“Why, much as usual, Billy,” returned Richard. “But how is this?
where are your four kettles, and your troughs, and your iron coolers?
Do you make sugar in this slovenly way? I thought you were one of the
best sugar-boilers in the county.”

“I’m all that, Squire Jones,” said Kirby, who continued his
occupation; “I’ll turn my back to no man in the Otsego hills for
chopping and logging, for boiling down the maple sap, for tending
brick-kiln, splitting out rails, making potash, and parling too, or
hoeing corn; though I keep myself pretty much to the first business,
seeing that the axe comes most natural to me.”

“You be von Jack All-trade, Mister Beel,” said Monsieur Le Quoi.

“How?” said Kirby, looking up with a simplicity which, coupled with
his gigantic frame and manly face, was a little ridiculous, “if you be
for trade, mounsher, here is some as good sugar as you’ll find the
season through. It’s as clear from dirt as the Jarman Flats is free
from stumps, and it has the raal maple flavor. Such stuff would sell
in York for candy.”

The Frenchman approached the place where Kirby had deposited his cake
of sugar, under the cover of a bark roof, and commenced the
examination of the article with the eye of one who well understood its
value. Marmaduke had dismounted, and was viewing the works and the
trees very closely, and not without frequent expressions of
dissatisfaction at the careless manner in which the manufacture was

“You have much experience in these things, Kirby,” he said; “what
course do you pursue in making your sugar? I see you have but two

“Two is as good as two thousand, Judge. I’m none of your polite
sugar-makers, that boils for the great folks; but if the raal sweet
maple is wanted, I can answer your turn. First, I choose, and then I
tap my trees; say along about the last of February, or in these
mountains maybe not afore the middle of March; but anyway, just as the
sap begins to cleverly run—”

“Well, in this choice,” interrupted Marmaduke, “are you governed by
any outward signs that prove the quality of the tree?”

“Why, there’s judgment in all things,” said Kirby, stirring the liquor
in his kettles briskly. “There’s some thing in knowing when and how
to stir the pot. It’s a thing that must be larnt. Rome wasn’t built
in a day, nor for that matter Templeton either, though it may be said
to be a quick-growing place. I never put my axe into a stunty tree,
or one that hasn’t a good, fresh-looking bark: for trees have
disorders, like creatur’s; and where’s the policy of taking a tree
that’s sickly, any more than you’d choose a foundered horse to ride
post, or an over heated ox to do your logging?”

“All that is true. But what are the signs of illness? how do you
distinguish a tree that is well from one that is diseased?”

“How does the doctor tell who has fever and who colds?” interrupted
Richard. “By examining the skin, and feeling the pulse, to be sure.”

“Sartain,” continued Billy; “the squire ain’t far out of the way.
It’s by the look of the thing, sure enough. Well, when the sap begins
to get a free run, I hang over the kettles, and set up the bush. My
first boiling I push pretty smartly, till I get the virtue of the sap;
but when it begins to grow of a molasses nater, like this in the
kettle, one mustn’t drive the fires too hard, or you’ll burn the
sugar; and burny sugar is bad to the taste, let it be never so sweet.
So you ladle out from one kettle into the other till it gets so, when
you put the stirring-stick into it, that it will draw into a thread—
when it takes a kerful hand to manage it. There is a way to drain it
off, after it has grained, by putting clay into the pans; bitt it
isn’t always practised; some doos and some doosn’t. Well, mounsher,
be we likely to make a trade?”

“I will give you, Mister Etel, for von pound, dix sous.”

“No, I expect cash for it; I never dicker my sugar, But, seeing that
it’s you, mounsher,” said Billy, with a Coaxing smile, “I'll agree to
receive a gallon of rum, and cloth enough for two shirts if you’ll
take the molasses in the bargain. It’s raal good. I wouldn’t deceive
you or any man and to my drinking it’s about the best molasses that
come out of a sugar-bush.”

“Mr. Le Quoi has offered you ten pence,” said young Edwards.

The manufacturer stared at the speaker with an air of great freedom,
but made no reply.

“Oui,” said the Frenchman, “ten penny. Jevausraner cie, monsieur: ah!
mon Anglois! je l'oublie toujours.”

The wood-chopper looked from one to the other with some displeasure;
and evidently imbibed the opinion that they were amusing themselves at
his expense. He seized the enormous ladle, which was lying on one of
his kettles, and began to stir the boiling liquid with great
diligence. After a moment passed in dipping the ladle full, and then
raising it on high, as the thick rich fluid fell back into the kettle,
he suddenly gave it a whirl, as if to cool what yet remained, and
offered the bowl to Mr. Le Quoi, saying:

‘Taste that, mounsher, and you will say it is worth more than you
offer. The molasses itself would fetch the money,”

The complaisant Frenchman, after several timid efforts to trust his
lips in contact with the howl of the ladle, got a good swallow of the
scalding liquid. He clapped his hands on his breast, and looked most
piteously at the ladies, for a single instant; and then, to use the
language oft Billy, when he afterward recounted the tale, “no
drumsticks ever went faster on the skin of a sheep than the
Frenchman’s legs, for a round or two; and then such swearing and
spitting in French you never saw. But it’s a knowing one, from the
old countries, that thinks to get his jokes smoothly over a wood-

The air of innocence with which Kirby resumed the occupation of
stirring the contents of his kettles would have completely deceived
the spectators as to his agency in the temporary sufferings of Mr. Le
Quoi, had not the reckless fellow thrust his tongue into his cheek,
and cast his eyes over the party, with a simplicity of expression that
was too exquisite to be natural. Mr. Le Quoi soon recovered his
presence of mind and his decorum; and he briefly apologized to the
ladies for one or two very intemperate expressions that had escaped
him in a moment of extraordinary excitement, and, remounting his
horse, he continued in the background during the remainder of the
visit, the wit of Kirby putting a violent termination, at once, to all
negotiations on the subject of trade. During all this time, Marmaduke
had been wandering about the grove, making observations on his
favorite trees, and the wasteful manner in which the wood-chopper
conducted his manufacture.

“It grieves me to witness the extravagance that pervades this
country,” said the Judge, “where the settlers trifle with the
blessings they might enjoy, with the prodigality of successful
adventurers. You are not exempt from the censure yourself, Kirby, for
you make dreadful wounds in these trees where a small incision would
effect the same object. I earnestly beg you will remember that they
are the growth of centuries, and when once gone none living will see
their loss remedied.”

“Why, I don’t know, Judge,” returned the man he ad dressed; “it seems
to me, if there’s plenty of anything in this mountaynious country,
it’s the trees. If there’s any sin in chopping them, I’ve a pretty
heavy account to settle; for I’ve chopped over the best half of a
thousand acres, with my own hands, counting both Varmount and York
States; and I hope to live to finish the whull, before I lay up my
axe. Chopping comes quite natural to me, and I wish no other
employment; but Jared Ransom said that he thought the sugar was likely
to be source this season, seeing that so many folks was coming into
the settlement, and so I concluded to take the ‘bush’ on sheares for
this one spring. What’s the best news, Judge, consarning ashes? do
pots hold so that a man can live by them still? I s’pose they will, if
they keep on fighting across the water.”

“Thou reasonest with judgment, William,” returned Marmaduke. “So long
as the Old Worm is to be convulsed with wars, so long will the harvest
of America continue.”

“Well, it’s an ill wind, Judge, that blows nobody any good. I’m sure
the country is in a thriving way; and though I know you calkilate
greatly on the trees, setting as much store by them as some men would
by their children, yet to my eyes they are a sore sight any time,
unless I'm privileged to work my will on them: in which case I can’t
say but they are more to my liking. I have heard the settlers from
the old countries say that their rich men keep great oaks and elms,
that would make a barrel of pots to the tree, standing round their
doors and humsteds and scattered over their farms, just to look at.
Now, I call no country much improved that is pretty well covered with
trees. Stumps are a different thing, for they don’t shade the land;
and, besides, you dig them—they make a fence that will turn anything
bigger than a hog, being grand for breachy cattle.”

“Opinions on such subjects vary much in different countries,” said
Marmaduke; “but it is not as ornaments that I value the noble trees of
this country; it is for their usefulness We are stripping the forests,
as if a single year would replace what we destroy. But the hour
approaches when the laws will take notice of not only the woods, but
the game they contain also.”

With this consoling reflection, Marmaduke remounted, and the
equestrians passed the sugar-camp, on their way to the promised
landscape of Richard. The wood-chop-per was left alone, in the bosom
of the forest, to pursue his labors. Elizabeth turned her head, when
they reached the point where they were to descend the mountain, and
thought that the slow fires that were glimmering under his enormous
kettles, his little brush shelter, covered with pieces of hemlock
bark, his gigantic size, as he wielded his ladle with a steady and
knowing air, aided by the back-ground of stately trees, with their
spouts and troughs, formed, altogether, no unreal picture of human
life in its first stages of civilization. Perhaps whatever the scene
possessed of a romantic character was not injured by the powerful
tones of Kirby’s voice ringing through the woods as he again awoke his
strains to another tune, which was but little more scientific than the
former. All that she understood of the words were:

“And when the proud forest is falling, To my oxen cheerfully calling,
From morn until night I am bawling, Whoa, back there, and haw and gee;
Till our labor is mutually ended, By my strength and cattle
befriended, And against the mosquitoes defended By the bark of the
walnut-trees. Away! then, you lads who would buy land; Choose the oak
that grows on the high land, or the silvery pine on the dry land, it
matters but little to me.”


“Speed! Malise, speed! such cause of haste
Thine active sinews never braced. “—Scott.

The roads of Otsego, if we except the principal high ways, were, at
the early day of our tale, but little better than wood-paths. The
high trees that were growing on the very verge of the wheel-tracks
excluded the sun’s rays, unless at meridian; and the slowness of the
evaporation, united with the rich mould of vegetable decomposition
that covered the whole country to the depth of several inches,
occasioned but an indifferent foundation for the footing of
travellers. Added to these were the inequalities of a natural
surface, and the constant recurrence of enormous and slippery roots
that were laid bare by the removal of the light soil, together with
stumps of trees, to make a passage not only difficult but dangerous.
Yet the riders among these numerous obstructions, which were such as
would terrify an unpracticed eye, gave no demonstrations of uneasiness
as their horses toiled through the sloughs or trotted with uncertain
paces along the dark route. In many places the marks on the trees
were the only indications of a road, with perhaps an occasional
remnant of a pine that, by being cut close to the earth, so as to
leave nothing visible but its base of roots, spreading for twenty feet
in every direction, was apparently placed there as a beacon to warn
the traveller that it was the centre of a highway.

Into one of these roads the active sheriff led the way, first striking
out of the foot-path, by which they had descended from the sugar-bush,
across a little bridge, formed of round logs laid loosely on sleepers
of pine, in which large openings of a formidable width were frequent.
The nag of Richard, when it reached one of these gaps, laid its nose
along the logs and stepped across the difficult passage with the
sagacity of a man; but the blooded filly which Miss Temple rode
disdained so humble a movement. She made a step or two with an
unusual caution, and then, on reaching the broadest opening, obedient
to the curt and whip of her fearless mistress, she bounded across the
dangerous pass with the activity of a squirrel.

“Gently, gently, my child,” said Marmaduke, who was following in the
manner of Richard; “this is not a country for equestrian feats. Much
prudence is requisite to journey through our rough paths with safety.
Thou mayst practise thy skill in horsemanship on the plains of New
Jersey with safety; but in the hills of Otsego they may be suspended
for a time.”

“I may as well then relinquish my saddle at once, dear sir,” returned
his daughter; “for if it is to be laid aside until this wild country
be improved, old age will overtake me, and put an end to what you term
my equestrian feats.”
“Say not so, my child,” returned her father; “but if thou venturest
again as in crossing this bridge, old age will never overtake thee,
but I shall be left to mourn thee, cut off in thy pride, my Elizabeth.
If thou hadst seen this district of country, as I did, when it lay in
the sleep of nature, and bad witnessed its rapid changes as it awoke
to supply the wants of man, thou wouldst curb thy impatience for a
little time, though thou shouldst not check thy steed.”

“I recollect hearing you speak of your first visit to these woods, but
the impression is faint, and blended with the confused images of
childhood. Wild and unsettled as it may yet seem, it must have been a
thousand times more dreary then. Will you repeat, dear sir, what you
then thought of your enterprise, and what you felt?”

During this speech of Elizabeth, which was uttered with the fervor of
affection, young Edwards rode more closely to the side of the Judge,
and bent his dark eyes on his countenance with an expression that
seemed to read his thoughts.

“Thou wast then young, my child, but must remember when I left thee
and thy mother, to take my first survey of these uninhabited
mountains,” said Marmaduke. “But thou dost not feel all the secret
motives that can urge a man to endure privations in order to
accumulate wealth. In my case they have not been trifling, and God
has been pleased to smile on my efforts. If I have encountered pain,
famine, and disease in accomplishing the settlement of this rough
territory, I have not the misery of failure to add to the grievances.”

“Famine!” echoed Elizabeth; “I thought this was the land of abundance!
Had you famine to contend with?”

“Even so, my child,” said her father. “Those who look around them
now, and see the loads of produce that issue out of every wild path in
these mountains during the season of travelling, will hardly credit
that no more than five years have elapsed since the tenants of these
woods were compelled to eat the scanty fruits of the forest to sustain
life, and, with their unpracticed skill, to hunt the beasts as food
for their starving families.”

“Ay!” cried Richard, who happened to overhear the last of this speech
between the notes of the wood-chopper’s song, which he was endeavoring
to breathe aloud; “that was the starving-time,* Cousin Bess. I grew
as lank as a weasel that fall, and my face was as pale as one of your
fever-and-ague visages. Monsieur Le Quoi, there, fell away like a
pumpkin in drying; nor do I think you have got fairly over it yet,
monsieur. Benjamin, I thought, bore it with a worse grace than any of
the family; for he swore it was harder to endure than a short
allowance in the calm latitudes. Benjamin is a sad fellow to swear if
you starve him ever so little. I had half a mind to quit you then,
‘Duke, and to go into Pennsylvania to fatten; but, damn it, thinks I,
we are sisters’ children, and I will live or die with him, after all.”

* The author has no better apology for interrupting the interest of a
work of fiction by these desultory dialogues than that they have ref-
erence to facts. In reviewing his work, after so many years, he is
compelled to confess it is injured by too many allusions to incidents
that are not at all suited to satisfy the just expectations of the
general reader. One of these events is slightly touched on in the
commencement of this chapter.

More than thirty years since a very near and dear relative of the
writer, an elder sister and a second mother, was killed by a fall from
a horse in a ride among the very mountains mentioned in this tale.
Few of her sex and years were more extensively known or more
universally beloved than the admirable woman who thus fell a victim to
the chances of the wilderness.
“I do not forget thy kindness,” said Marmaduke, “nor that we are of
one blood.”

“But, my dear father,” cried the wondering Elizabeth, “was there
actual suffering? Where were the beautiful and fertile vales of the
Mohawk? Could they not furnish food for your wants?”

“It was a season of scarcity; the necessities of life commanded a high
price in Europe, and were greedily sought after by the speculators.
The emigrants from the East to the West invariably passed along the
valley of the Mohawk, and swept away the means of subsistence like a
swarm of locusts, Nor were the people on the Flats in a much better
condition. They were in want themselves, but they spared the little
excess of provisions that nature did not absolutely require, with the
justice of the German character. There was no grinding of the poor.
The word speculator was then unknown to them. I have seen many a
stout man, bending under the load of the bag of meal which he was
carrying from the mills of the Mohawk, through the rugged passes of
these mountains, to feed his half-famished children, with a heart so
light, as he approached his hut, that the thirty miles he had passed
seemed nothing. Remember, my child, it was in our very infancy; we
had neither mills, nor grain, nor roads, nor often clearings; we had
nothing of increase but the mouths that were to be fed: for even at
that inauspicious moment the restless spirit of emigration was not
idle; nay, the general scarcity which extended to the East tended to
increase the number of adventurers.”

“And how, dearest father, didst thou encounter this dreadful evil?”
said Elizabeth, unconsciously adopting the dialect of her parent in
the warmth of her sympathy. “Upon thee must have fallen the
responsibility, if not the suffering.”

“It did, Elizabeth,” returned the Judge, pausing for a single moment,
as if musing on his former feelings. “ I had hundreds at that
dreadful time daily looking up to me for bread. The sufferings of
their families and the gloomy prospect before them had paralyzed the
enterprise and efforts of my settlers; hunger drove them to the woods
for food, but despair sent them at night, enfeebled and wan, to a
sleepless pillow. It was not a moment for in action. I purchased
cargoes of wheat from the granaries of Pennsylvania; they were landed
at Albany and brought up the Mohawk in boats; from thence it was
transported on pack-horses into the wilderness and distributed among
my people. Seines were made, and the lakes and rivers were dragged
for fish. Something like a miracle was wrought in our favor, for
enormous shoals of herrings were discovered to have wandered five
hundred miles through the windings of the impetuous Susquehanna, and
the lake was alive with their numbers. These were at length caught
and dealt out to the people, with proper portions of salt, and from
that moment we again began to prosper.” *

* All this was literally true.

“Yes,” cried Richard, “and I was the man who served out the fish and
salt. When the poor devils came to receive their rations, Benjamin,
who was my deputy, was obliged to keep them off by stretching ropes
around me, for they smelt so of garlic, from eating nothing but the
wild onion, that the fumes put me out often in my measurement. You
were a child then, Bess, and knew nothing of the matter, for great
care was observed to keep both you and your mother from suffering.
That year put me back dreadfully, both in the breed of my hogs and of
my turkeys.”

“No, Bess,” cried the Judge, in a more cheerful tone, disregarding the
interruption of his cousin, “he who hears of the settlement of a
country knows but little of the toil and suffering by which it is
accomplished. Unimproved and wild as this district now seems to your
eyes, what was it when I first entered the hills? I left my party, the
morning of my arrival, near the farms of the Cherry Valley, and,
following a deer-path, rode to the summit of the mountain that I have
since called Mount Vision; for the sight that there met my eyes seemed
to me as the deceptions of a dream. The fire had run over the
pinnacle, and in a great measure laid open the view. The leaves were
fallen, and I mounted a tree and sat for an hour looking on the silent
wilderness. Not an opening was to be seen in the boundless forest
except where the lake lay, like a mirror of glass. The water was
covered by myriads of the wild-fowl that migrate with the changes in
the season; and while in my situation on the branch of the beech, I
saw a bear, with her cubs, descend to the shore to drink. I had met
many deer, gliding through the woods, in my journey ; but not the
vestige of a man could I trace during my progress, nor from my
elevated observatory. No clearing, no hut, none of the winding roads
that are now to be seen, were there; nothing but mountains rising
behind mountains ; and the valley, with its surface of branches
enlivened here and there with the faded foliage of some tree that
parted from its leaves with more than ordinary reluctance. Even the
Susquehanna was then hid by the height and density of the forest.”

“And were you alone?” asked Elizabeth: “passed you the night in that
solitary state?”

“Not so, my child,” returned the father. “After musing on the scene
for an hour, with a mingled feeling of pleasure and desolation, I left
my perch and descended the mountain. My horse was left to browse on
the twigs that grew within his reach, while I explored the shores of
the lake and the spot where Templeton stands. A pine of more than
ordinary growth stood where my dwelling is now placed! A wind—row had
been opened through the trees from thence to the lake, and my view was
but little impeded. Under the branches of that tree I made my
solitary dinner. I had just finished my repast as I saw smoke curling
from under the mountain, near the eastern bank of the lake. It was
the only indication of the vicinity of man that I had then seen.
After much toil I made my way to the spot, and found a rough cabin of
logs, built against the foot of a rock, and bearing the marks of a
tenant, though I found no one within it—”

“It was the hut of Leather-Stocking,” said Edwards quickly.

“It was; though I at first supposed it to be a habitation of the
Indians. But while I was lingering around the spot Natty made his
appearance, staggering under the carcass of a buck that he bad slain.
Our acquaintance commenced at that time; before, I had never heard
that such a being tenanted the woods. He launched his bark canoe and
set me across the foot of the lake to the place where I had fastened
my horse, and pointed out a spot where he might get a scanty browsing
until the morning; when I returned and passed the night in the cabin
of the hunter.”

Miss Temple was so much struck by the deep attention of young Edwards
during this speech that she forgot to resume her interrogations; but
the youth himself continued the discourse by asking:

“And how did the Leather-Stocking discharge the duties of a host sir?”

“Why, simply but kindly, until late in the evening, when he discovered
my name and object, and the cordiality of his manner very sensibly
diminished, or, I might better say, disappeared. He considered the
introduction of the settlers as an innovation on his rights, I believe
for he expressed much dissatisfaction at the measure, though it was in
his confused and ambiguous manner. I hardly understood his objections
myself, but supposed they referred chiefly to an interruption of the

“Had you then purchased the estate, or were you examining it with an
intent to buy?” asked Edwards, a little abruptly.

“It had been mine for several years. It was with a view to People the
land that I visited the lake. Natty treated me hospitably, but
coldly, I thought, after he learned the nature of my journey. I slept
on his own bear—skin, however, and in the morning joined my surveyors

“Said he nothing of the Indian rights, sir? The Leather-Stocking is
much given to impeach the justice of the tenure by which the whites
hold the country.”

“I remember that he spoke of them, but I did not nearly comprehend
him, and may have forgotten what he said; for the Indian title was
extinguished so far back as the close of the old war, and if it had
not been at all, I hold under the patents of the Royal Governors,
confirmed by an act of our own State Legislature, and no court in the
country can affect my title.”
“Doubtless, sir, your title is both legal and equitable,” returned the
youth coldly, reining his horse back and remaining silent till the
subject was changed.

It was seldom Mr. Jones suffered any conversation to continue for a
great length of time without his participation. It seems that he was
of the party that Judge Temple had designated as his surveyors; and he
embraced the opportunity of the pause that succeeded the retreat of
young Edwards to take up the discourse, and with a narration of their
further proceedings, after his own manner. As it wanted, however, the
interest that had accompanied the description of the Judge, we must
decline the task of committing his sentences to paper.

They soon reached the point where the promised view was to be seen.
It was one of those picturesque and peculiar scenes that belong to the
Otsego, but which required the absence of the ice and the softness of
a summer’s landscape to be enjoyed in all its beauty. Marmaduke had
early forewarned his daughter of the season, and of its effect on the
prospect; and after casting a cursory glance at its capabilities, the
party returned homeward, perfectly satisfied that its beauties would
repay them for the toil of a second ride at a more propitious season.

“The spring is the gloomy time of the American year,” said the Judge,
“and it is more peculiarly the case in these mountains. The winter
seems to retreat to the fast nesses of the hills, as to the citadel of
its dominion, and is only expelled after a tedious siege, in which
either party, at times, would seem to be gaining the victory.”

“A very just and apposite figure, Judge Temple,” observed the sheriff;
“and the garrison under the command of Jack Frost make formidable
sorties—you understand what I mean by sorties, monsieur; sallies, in
English— and sometimes drive General Spring and his troops back again
into the low countries.”

“Yes sair,” returned the Frenchman, whose prominent eyes were watching
the precarious footsteps of the beast he rode, as it picked its
dangerous way among the roots of trees, holes, log bridges, and
sloughs that formed the aggregate of the highway. “Je vous entends;
de low countrie is freeze up for half de year.”

The error of Mr. Le Quoi was not noticed by the sheriff; and the rest
of the party were yielding to the influence of the changeful season,
which was already teaching the equestrians that a continuance of its
mildness was not to be expected for any length of time. Silence and
thoughtfulness succeeded the gayety and conversation that had
prevailed during the commencement of the ride, as clouds began to
gather about the heavens, apparently collecting from every quarter, in
quick motion, without the agency of a breath of air,

While riding over one of the cleared eminencies that occurred in their
route, the watchful eye of Judge Temple pointed out to his daughter
the approach of a tempest. Flurries of snow already obscured the
mountain that formed the northern boundary of the lake, and the genial
sensation which had quickened the blood through their veins was
already succeeded by the deadening influence of an approaching

All of the party were now busily engaged in making the best of their
way to the village, though the badness of the roads frequently
compelled them to check the impatience of their animals, which often
carried them over places that would not admit of any gait faster than
a walk.

Richard continued in advance, followed by Mr. Le Quoi; next to whom
rode Elizabeth, who seemed to have imbibed the distance which pervaded
the manner of young Edwards since the termination of the discourse
between the latter and her father. Marmaduke followed his daughter,
giving her frequent and tender warnings as to the management of her
horse. It was, possibly, the evident dependence that Louisa Grant
placed on his assistance which induced the youth to continue by her
side, as they pursued their way through a dreary and dark wood, where
the rays of the sun could but rarely penetrate, and where even the
daylight was obscured and rendered gloomy by the deep forests that
surrounded them. No wind had yet reached the spot where the
equestrians were in motion, but that dead silence that often precedes
a storm contributed to render their situation more irksome than if
they were already subject to the fury of the tempest. Suddenly the
voice of young Edwards was heard shouting in those appalling tones
that carry alarm to the very soul, and which curdle the blood of those
that hear them.

“A tree! a tree! Whip—spur for your lives! a tree! a tree. “

“A tree! a tree!” echoed Richard, giving his horse a blow that caused
the alarmed beast to jump nearly a rod, throwing the mud and water
into the air like a hurricane.

“Von tree! von tree!” shouted the Frenchman, bending his body on the
neck of his charger, shutting his eyes, and playing on the ribs of his
beast with his heels at a rate
that caused him to be conveyed on the crupper of the sheriff with a
marvellous speed.

Elizabeth checked her filly and looked up, with an unconscious but
alarmed air, at the very cause of their danger, while she listened to
the crackling sounds that awoke the stillness of the forest; but the
next instant her bridlet was seized by her father, who cried, “God
protect my child!” and she felt herself hurried onward, impelled by
the vigor of his nervous arm.

Each one of the party bowed to his saddle-bows as the tearing of
branches was succeeded by a sound like the rushing of the winds, which
was followed by a thundering report, and a shock that caused the very
earth to tremble as one of the noblest ruins of the forest fell
directly across their path.

One glance was enough to assure Judge Temple that his daughter and
those in front of him were safe, and he turned his eyes, in dreadful
anxiety, to learn the fate of the others. Young Edwards was on the
opposite side of the tree, his form thrown back in his saddle to its
utmost distance, his left hand drawing up his bridle with
its greatest force, while the right grasped that of Miss Grant so as
to draw the head of her horse under its body. Both the animals stood
shaking in every joint with terror, and snorting fearfully. Louisa
herself had relinquished her reins, and, with her hands pressed on her
face, sat bending forward in her saddle, in an attitude of despair,
mingled strangely with resignation.

“Are you safe?” cried the Judge, first breaking the awful silence of
the moment.

“By God’s blessing,” returned the youth; but if there had been
branches to the tree we must have been lost—”

He was interrupted by the figure of Louisa slowly yielding in her
saddle, and but for his arm she would have sunk to the earth. Terror,
however, was the only injury that the clergyman’s daughter had
sustained, and, with the aid of Elizabeth, she was soon restored to
her senses. After some little time was lost in recovering her
strength, the young lady was replaced in her saddle, and supported on
either side by Judge Temple and Mr. Edwards she was enabled to follow
the party in their slow progress.

“The sudden fallings of the trees,” said Marmaduke, “are the most
dangerous accidents in the forest, for they are not to be foreseen,
being impelled by no winds, nor any extraneous or visible cause
against which we can guard.”

“The reason of their falling, Judge Temple, is very obvious,” said the
sheriff. “The tree is old and decayed, and it is gradually weakened
by the frosts, until a line drawn from the centre of gravity falls
without its base, and then the tree comes of a certainty; and I should
like to know what greater compulsion there can be for any thing than a
mathematical certainty. I studied math—”

“Very true, Richard,” interrupted Marmaduke; “thy reasoning is true,
and, if my memory be not over-treacherous, was furnished by myself on
a former occasion, But how is one to guard against the danger? Canst
thou go through the forests measuring the bases and calculating the
centres of the oaks? Answer me that, friend Jones, and I will say thou
wilt do the country a service.”

“Answer thee that, friend Temple!” returned Richard; “a well-educated
man can answer thee anything, sir. Do any trees fall in this manner
but such as are decayed? Take care not to approach the roots of a
rotten tree, and you will be safe enough.”

“That would be excluding us entirely from the forests,’ said
Marmaduke. “But, happily, the winds usually force down most of these
dangerous ruins, as their currents are admitted into the woods by the
surrounding clearings, and such a fall as this has been is very rare.”

Louisa by this time had recovered so much strength as to allow the
party to proceed at a quicker pace, but long before they were safely
housed they were overtaken by the storm; and when they dismounted at
the door of the mansion-house, the black plumes of Miss Temple’s hat
were drooping with the weight of a load of damp snow, and the coats of
the gentlemen were powdered with the same material.

While Edwards was assisting Louisa from her horse, the warm-hearted
girl caught his hand with fervor and whispered:

“Now, Mr. Edwards, both father and daughter owe their lives to you.”

A driving northwesterly storm succeeded, and before the sun was set
every vestige of spring had vanished; the lake, the mountains, the
village, and the fields being again hidden under one dazzling coat of


“Men, boys, and girls
Desert the unpeopled village; and wild crowds
Spread o’er the plain, by the sweet phrensy driven.”-Somerville.

From this time to the close of April the weather continued to be a
succession of neat and rapid changes. One day the soft airs of spring
seemed to be stealing along the valley, and, in unison with an
invigorating sun, attempting covertly to rouse the dormant powers of
the vegetable world, while, on the next, the surly blasts from the
north would sweep across the lake and erase every impression left by
their gentle adversaries. The snow, however, finally disappeared, and
the green wheat fields were seen in every direction, spotted with the
dark and charred stumps that had, the preceding season, supported some
of the proudest trees of the forest. Ploughs were in motion, wherever
those useful implements could be used, and the smokes of the sugar-
camps were no longer seen issuing from the woods of maple. The lake
had lost the beauty of a field of ice, but still a dark and gloomy
covering concealed its waters, for the absence of currents left them
yet hidden under a porous crust, which, saturated with the fluid,
barely retained enough strength to preserve the continuity of its
parts. Large flocks of wild geese were seen passing over the country,
which hovered, for a time, around the hidden sheet of water,
apparently searching for a resting-place; and then, on finding them
selves excluded by the chill covering, would soar away to the north,
filling the air with discordant screams, as if venting their
complaints at the tardy operations of Nature.

For a week, the dark covering of the Otsego was left to the
undisturbed possession of two eagles, who alighted on the centre of
its field, and sat eyeing their undisputed territory. During the
presence of these monarchs of the air, the flocks of migrating birds
avoided crossing the plain of ice by turning into the hills,
apparently seeking the protection of the forests, while the white and
bald heads of the tenants of the lake were turned upward, with a look
of contempt. But the time had come when even these kings of birds
were to be dispossessed. An opening had been gradually increasing at
the lower extremity of the lake, and around the dark spot where the
current of the river prevented the formation of ice during even the
coldest weather; and the fresh southerly winds, that now breathed
freely upon the valley, made an impression on the waters. Mimic waves
began to curl over the margin of the frozen field, which exhibited an
outline of crystallizations that slowly receded toward the north. At
each step the power of the winds and the waves increased, until, after
a struggle of a few hours, the turbulent little billows succeeded in
setting the whole field in motion, when it was driven beyond the reach
of the eye, with a rapidity that was as magical as the change produced
in the scene by this expulsion of the lingering remnant of winter.
Just as the last sheet of agitated ice was disappearing in the
distance, the eagles rose, and soared with a wide sweep above the
clouds, while the waves tossed their little caps of snow in the air,
as if rioting in their release from a thraldom of five minutes’

The following morning Elizabeth was awakened by the exhilarating
sounds of the martens, who were quarrelling and chattering around the
little boxes suspended above her windows, and the cries of Richard,
who was calling in tones animating as signs of the season itself:

“Awake! awake! my fair lady! the gulls are hovering over the lake
already, and the heavens are alive with pigeons. You may look an hour
before you can find a hole through which to get a peep at the sun.
Awake! awake! lazy ones’ Benjamin is overhauling the ammunition, and
we only wait for our breakfasts, and away for the mountains and

There was no resisting this animated appeal, and in a few minutes Miss
Temple and her friend descended to the parlor. The doors of the hall
were thrown open, and the mild, balmy air of a clear spring morning
was ventilating the apartment, where the vigilance of the ex-steward
had been so long maintaining an artificial heat with such unremitted
diligence. The gentlemen were impatiently waiting for their morning’s
repast, each equipped in the garb of a sportsman. Mr. Jones made many
visits to the southern door, and would cry:

“See, Cousin Bess! see, ‘Duke, the pigeon-roosts of the south have
broken up! They are growing more thick every instant, Here is a flock
that the eye cannot see the end of. There is food enough in it to
keep the army of Xerxes for a month, and feathers enough to make beds
for the whole country. Xerxes, Mr. Edwards, was a Grecian king, who—
no, he was a Turk, or a Persian, who wanted to conquer Greece, just
the same as these rascals will overrun our wheat fields, when they
come back in the fall. Away! away! Bess; I long to pepper them.”

In this wish both Marmaduke and young Edwards seemed equally to
participate, for the sight was exhilarating to a sportsman; and the
ladies soon dismissed the party after a hasty breakfast.

If the heavens were alive with pigeons, the whole village seemed
equally in motion with men, women, and children. Every species of
firearm, from the French ducking gun, with a barrel near six feet in
length, to the common horseman's pistol, was to be seen in the hands
of the men and boys; while bows and arrows, some made of the simple
stick of walnut sapling and others in a rude imitation of the ancient
cross-bows, were carried by many of the latter.

The houses and the signs of life apparent in the village drove the
alarmed birds from the direct line of their flight, toward the
mountains, along the sides and near the bases of which they were
glancing in dense masses, equally wonderful by the rapidity of their
motion and their incredible numbers.

We have already said that, across the inclined plane which fell from
the steep ascent of the mountain to the banks of the Susquehanna, ran
the highway on either side of which a clearing of many acres had been
made at a very early day. Over those clearings, and up the eastern
mountain, and along the dangerous path that was cut into its side, the
different individuals posted themselves, and in a few moments the
attack commenced.

Among the sportsmen was the tall, gaunt form of Leather-Stocking,
walking over the field, with his rifle hanging on his arm, his dogs at
his heels; the latter now scenting the dead or wounded birds that were
beginning to tumble from the flocks, and then crouching under the legs
of their master, as if they participated in his feelings at this
wasteful and unsportsmanlike execution.

The reports of the firearms became rapid, whole volleys rising from
the plain, as flocks of more than ordinary numbers darted over the
opening, shadowing the field like a cloud; and then the light smoke of
a single piece would issue from among the leafless bushes on the
mountain, as death was hurled on the retreat of the affrighted birds,
who were rising from a volley, in a vain effort to escape. Arrows and
missiles of every kind were in the midst of the flocks; and so
numerous were the birds, and so low did they take their flight, that
even long poles in the hands of those on the sides of the mountain
were used to strike them to the earth.

During all this time Mr. Jones, who disdained the humble and ordinary
means of destruction used by his companions, was busily occupied,
aided by Benjamin, in making arrangements for an assault of more than
ordinarily fatal character. Among the relics of the old military
excursions, that occasionally are discovered throughout the different
districts of the western part of New York, there had been found in
Templeton, at its settlement, a small swivel, which would carry a ball
of a pound weight. It was thought to have been deserted by a war-
party of the whites in one of their inroads into the Indian
settlements, when, perhaps, convenience or their necessity induced
them to leave such an incumberance behind them in the woods. This
miniature cannon had been released from the rust, and being mounted on
little wheels was now in a state for actual service. For several
years it was the sole organ for extraordinary rejoicings used in those
mountains. On the mornings of the Fourth of July it would be heard
ringing among the hills; and even Captain Hollister, who was the
highest authority in that part of the country on all such occasions,
affirmed that, considering its dimensions, it was no despicable gun
for a salute. It was somewhat the worse for the service it had
performed, it is true, there being but a trifling difference in size
between the touch-hole and the muzzle Still, the grand conceptions of
Richard had suggested the importance of such an instrument in hurling
death at his nimble enemies. The swivel was dragged by a horse into a
part of the open space that the sheriff thought most eligible for
planning a battery of the kind, and Mr. Pump proceeded to load it.
Several handfuls of duck-shot were placed on top of the powder, and
the major-domo announced that his piece was ready for service.

The sight of such an implement collected all the idle spectators to
the spot, who, being mostly boys, filled the air with cries of
exultation and delight The gun was pointed high, and Richard, holding
a coal of fire in a pair of tongs, patiently took his seat on a stump,
awaiting the appearance of a flock worthy of his notice.

So prodigious was the number of the birds that the scattering fire of
the guns, with the hurling of missiles and the cries of the boys, had
no other effect than to break off small flocks from the immense masses
that continued to dart along the valley, as if the whole of the
feathered tribe were pouring through that one pass. None pretended to
collect the game, which lay scattered over the fields in such
profusion as to cover the very ground with fluttering victims.

Leather-Stocking was a silent but uneasy spectator of all these
proceedings, but was able to keep his sentiments to himself until he
saw the introduction of the swivel into the sports.

“This comes of settling a country!” he said. “Here have I known the
pigeon to fly for forty long years, and, till you made your clearings,
there was nobody to skeart or to hurt them, I loved to see them come
into the woods, for they were company to a body, hurting nothing
—being, as it was, as harmless as a garter-snake. But now it gives me
sore thoughts when I hear the frighty things whizzing through the air,
for I know it’s only a motion to bring out all the brats of the
village. Well, the Lord won’t see the waste of his creatures for
nothing, and right will be done to the pigeons, as well as others, by
and by. There’s Mr. Oliver as bad as the rest of them, firing into
the flocks as if he was shooting down nothing but Mingo warriors.”
Among the sportsmen was Billy Kirby, who, armed with an old musket,
was loading, and, without even looking into the air, was firing and
shouting as his victims fell even on his own person. He heard the
speech of Natty, and took upon himself to reply:

“What! old Leather-Stocking,” he cried, “grumbling at the loss of a
few pigeons! If you had to sow your wheat twice, and three times, as I
have done, you wouldn’t be so massyfully feeling toward the divils.
Hurrah, boys! scatter the feathers! This is better than shooting at a
turkey’s head and neck, old fellow.”

“It’s better for you, maybe, Billy Kirby,” replied the indignant old
hunter, “and all them that don’t know how to put a ball down a rifle-
barrel, or how to bring it up again with a true aim; but it’s wicked
to be shooting into flocks in this wasty manner, and none to do it who
know how to knock over a single bird. If a body has a craving for
pigeon’s flesh, why, it’s made the same as all other creatures, for
man’s eating; but not to kill twenty and eat one. When I want such a
thing I go into the woods till I find one to my liking, and then I
shoot him off the branches, without touching the feather of another,
though there might be a hundred on the same tree. You couldn’t do
such a thing, Billy Kirby—you couldn’t do it if you tried.”

“What’s that, old corn-stalk! you sapless stub!” cried the wood-
chopper. “You have grown wordy, since the affair of the turkey; but
if you are for a single shot, here goes at that bird which comes on by

The fire from the distant part of the field had driven a single pigeon
below the flock to which it belonged, and, frightened with the
constant reports of the muskets, it was approaching the spot where the
disputants stood, darting first from One side and then to the other,
cutting the air with the swiftness of lightning, and making a noise
with its wings not unlike the rushing of a bullet. Unfortunately for
the wood-chopper, notwithstanding his vaunt, he did not see this bird
until it was too late to fire as it approached, and he pulled the
trigger at the unlucky moment when it was darting immediately over his
head. The bird continued its course with the usual velocity.

Natty lowered his rifle from his arm when the challenge was made, and
waiting a moment, until the terrified victim had got in a line with
his eye, and had dropped near the bank of the lake, he raised it again
with uncommon rapidity, and fired. It might have been chance, or it
might have been skill, that produced the result; it was probably a
union of both; but the pigeon whirled over in the air, and fell into
the lake with a broken wing At the sound of his rifle, both his dogs
started from his feet, and in a few minutes the “slut” brought out the
bird, still alive.

The wonderful exploit of Leather-Stocking was noised through the field
with great rapidity, and the sportsmen gathered in, to learn the truth
of the report.

“What” said young Edwards,” have you really killed a pigeon on the
wing, Natty, with a single ball?”

“Haven’t I killed loons before now, lad, that dive at the flash?”
returned the hunter. “It’s much better to kill only such as you want,
without wasting your powder and lead, than to be firing into God’s
creatures in this wicked manner. But I came out for a bird, and you
know the reason why I like small game, Mr. Oliver, and now I have got
one Twill go home, for I don’t relish to see these wasty ways that you
are all practysing, as if the least thing wasn’t made for use, and not
to destroy.”

“Thou sayest well, Leather-Stocking,” cried Marmaduke, “and I begin to
think it time to put an end to this work of destruction.”

“Put an ind, Judge, to your clearings. Ain’t the woods His work as
well as the pigeons? Use, but don’t waste. Wasn’t the woods made for
the beasts and birds to harbor in? and when man wanted their flesh,
their skins, or their feathers, there’s the place to seek them. But
I’ll go to the hut with my own game, for I wouldn’t touch one of the
harmless things that cover the ground here, looking up with their eyes
on me, as if they only wanted tongues to say their thoughts.”
With this sentiment in his month, Leather-Stocking threw his rifle
over his arm, and, followed by his dogs, stepped across the clearing
with great caution, taking care not to tread on one of the wounded
birds in his path. He soon entered the bushes on the margin of the
lake and was hid from view.

Whatever impression the morality of Natty made on the Judge, it was
utterly lost on Richard. He availed himself of the gathering of the
sportsmen, to lay a plan for one “fell swoop” of destruction. The
musket-men were drawn up in battle array, in a line extending on each
side of his artillery, with orders to await the signal of firing from

“Stand by, my lads,” said Benjamin, who acted as an aid de-camp on
this occasion, “stand by, my hearties, and when Squire Dickens heaves
out the signal to begin firing, d’ye see, you may open upon them in a
broadside. Take care and fire low, boys, and you’ll be sure to hull
the flock.”

“Fire low!” shouted Kirby; “hear the old fool! If we fire low, we may
hit the stumps, but not ruffle a pigeon.”

“How should you know, you lubber?” cried Benjamin, with a very
unbecoming heat for an officer on the eve of battle—” how should you
know, you grampus? Haven’t I sailed aboard of the Boadishy for five
years? and wasn’t it a standing order to fire low, and to hull your
enemy! Keep silence at your guns, boys and mind the order that is

The loud laughs of the musket-men were silenced by the more
authoritative voice of Richard, who called for attention and obedience
to his signals.

Some millions of pigeons were supposed to have already passed, that
morning, over the valley of Templeton; but nothing like the flock that
was now approaching had been seen before. It extended from mountain
to mountain in one solid blue mass, and the eye looked in vain, over
the southern hills, to find its termination. The front of this living
column was distinctly marked by a line but very slightly indented, so
regular and even was the flight. Even Marmaduke forgot the morality
of Leather-Stocking as it approached, and, in common with the rest,
brought his musket to a poise.

“Fire!” cried the sheriff, clapping a coal to the priming of the
cannon. As half of Benjamin’s charge escaped through the touch-hole,
the whole volley of the musketry preceded the report of the swivel.
On receiving this united discharge of small-arms, the front of the
flock darted upward, while, at the same instant, myriads of those in
the rear rushed with amazing rapidity into their places, so that, when
the column of white smoke gushed from the mouth of the little cannon,
an accumulated mass of objects was gliding over its point of
direction. The roar of the gun echoed along the mountains, and died
away to the north, like distant thunder, while the whole flock of
alarmed birds seemed, for a moment, thrown into one disorderly and
agitated mass. The air was filled with their irregular flight, layer
rising above layer, far above the tops of the highest pines, none
daring to advance beyond the dangerous pass; when, suddenly, some of
the headers of the feathered tribes shot across the valley, taking
their flight directly over the village, and hundreds of thousands in
their rear followed the example, deserting the eastern side of the
plain to their persecutors and the slain.

“Victory!” shouted Richard, “victory! we have driven the enemy from
the field.”

“Not so, Dickon,” said Marmaduke; “the field is covered with them;
and, like the Leather-Stocking, I see nothing but eyes, in every
direction, as the innocent sufferers turn their heads in terror. Full
one-half of those that have fallen are yet alive; and I think it is
time to end the sport, if sport it be.”

“Sport!” cried the sheriff; “it is princely sport! There are some
thousands of the blue-coated boys on the ground, so that every old
woman in the village may have a pot-pie for the asking.”

“Well, we have happily frightened the birds from this side of the
valley,” said Marmaduke, “and the carnage must of necessity end for
the present. Boys, I will give you sixpence a hundred for the
pigeons’ heads only; so go to work, and bring them into the village.”

This expedient produced the desired effect, for every urchin on the
ground went industriously to work to wring the necks of the wounded
birds. Judge Temple retired toward his dwelling with that kind of
feeling that many a man has experienced before him, who discovers,
after the excitement of the moment has passed, that he has purchased
pleasure at the price of misery to others. Horses were loaded with
the dead; and, after this first burst of sporting, the shooting of
pigeons became a business, with a few idlers, for the remainder of the
season, Richard, however, boasted for many a year of his shot with the
“cricket;” and Benjamin gravely asserted that he thought they had
killed nearly as many pigeons on that day as there were Frenchmen
destroyed on the memorable occasion of Rodney’s victory.


“Help, masters, help; here’s a fish hangs in the net, like a poor
Man’s right in the law.’—Pericles of Tyre.

The advance of the season now became as rapid as its first approach
had been tedious and lingering. The days were uniformly mild, while
the nights, though cool, were no longer chilled by frosts. The whip-
poor-will was heard whistling his melancholy notes along the margin of
the lake, and the ponds and meadows were sending forth the music of
their thousand tenants. The leaf of the native poplar was seen
quivering in the woods; the sides of the mountains began to lose their
hue of brown, as the lively green of the different members of the
forest blended their shades with the permanent colors of the pine and
hemlock; and even the buds of the tardy oak were swelling with the
promise of the coming summer. The gay and fluttering blue-bird, the
social robin, and the industrious little wren were all to be seen
enlivening the fields with their presence and their songs; while the
soaring fish-hawk was already hovering over the waters of the Otsego,
watching with native voracity for the appearance of his prey.

The tenants of the lake were far-famed for both their quantities and
their quality, and the ice had hardly disappeared before numberless
little boats were launched from the shores, and the lines of the
fishermen were dropped into the inmost recesses of its deepest
caverns, tempting the unwary animals with every variety of bait that
the ingenuity or the art of man had invented. But the slow though
certain adventures with hook and line were ill suited to the profusion
and impatience of the settlers. More destructive means were resorted
to; and, as the season had now arrived when the bass fisheries were
allowed by the provisions of the law that Judge Temple had procured,
the sheriff declared his intention, by availing himself of the first
dark night, to enjoy the sport in person.

“And you shall be present, Cousin Bess,” he added, when he announced
this design, “and Miss Grant, and Mr. Edwards; and I will show you
what I call fishing not nibble, nibble, nibble, as ‘Duke does when he
goes after the salmon-trout. There he will sit for hours, in a
broiling sun or, perhaps, over a hole in the lee, in the coldest days
in winter, under the lee of a few bushes, and not a fish will he
catch, after all this mortification of the flesh. No, no—give me a
good seine that’s fifty or sixty fathoms in length, with a jolly
parcel of boatmen to crack their jokes the while, with Benjamin to
steer, and let us haul them in by thousands; I call that fishing.”

“Ah! Dickon,” cried Marmaduke, “thou knowest but little of the
pleasure there is in playing with the hook and line, or thou wouldst
be more saving of the game. I have known thee to leave fragments
enough behind thee, when thou hast headed a night party on the lake,
to feed a dozen famishing families.”

“I shall not dispute the matter, Judge Temple; this night will I go;
and I invite the company to attend, and then let them decide between

Richard was busy during most of the afternoon, making his preparations
for the important occasion. Just as the light of the settling sun had
disappeared, and a new moon had begun to throw its shadows on the
earth, the fisher-men took their departure, in a boat, for a point
that was situated on the western shore of the lake, at the distance of
rather more than half a mile from the village. The ground had become
settled, and the walking was good and dry. Marmaduke, with his
daughter, her friend, and young Edwards, continued on the high grassy
banks at the outlet of the placid sheet of water, watching the dark
object that was moving across the lake, until it entered the shade of
the western hills, and was lost to the eye. The distance round by
land to the point of destination was a mile, and he observed:

“It is time for us to be moving; the moon will be down ere we reach
the point, and then the miraculous hauls of Dickon will commence.”

The evening was warm, and, after the long and dreary winter from which
they had just escaped, delightfully invigorating. Inspirited by the
scene and their anticipated amusement, the youthful companions of the
Judge followed his steps, as he led them along the shores of the
Otsego, and through the skirts of the village.

“See!” said young Edwards, “they are building their fire already; it
glimmers for a moment, and dies again like the light of a firefly.”

“Now it blazes,” cried Elizabeth; “you can perceive figures moving
around the light. Oh! I would bet my jewels against the gold beads of
Remarkable, that my impatient Cousin Dickon had an agency in raising
that bright flame; and see! it fades again, like most of his brilliant

Thou hast guessed the truth, Bess,” said her father; “he has thrown an
armful of brush on the pile, which has burnt out as soon as lighted.
But it has enabled them to find a better fuel, for their fire begins
to blaze with a more steady flame. It is the true fisherman’s beacon
now; observe how beautifully it throw s its little circle of light on
the water!”

The appearance of the fire urged the pedestrians on, for even the
ladies had become eager to witness the miraculous draught. By the
time they reached the bank, which rose above the low point where the
fishermen had landed, the moon had sunk behind the top of the western
pines, and, as most of the stars were obscured by clouds, there was
but little other light than that which proceeded from the fire. At
the suggestion of Marmaduke, his companions paused to listen to the
conversation of those below them, and examine the party for a moment
before they descended to the shore.

The whole group were seated around the fire, with the exception of
Richard and Benjamin; the former of whom occupied the root of a
decayed stump, that had been drawn to the spot as part of their fuel,
and the latter was standing. with his arms akimbo, so near to the
flame that the smoke occasionally obscured his solemn visage, as it
waved around the pile in obedience to the night airs that swept gently
over the water.

“Why, look you, squire, said the major-domo. You may call a lake-fish
that will weigh twenty or thirty pounds a serious matter, but to a man
who has hauled in a shovel-nosed shirk, d’ye see, it’s but a poor kind
of fishing after all.”

“I don’t know, Benjamin,” returned the sheriff; “a haul of one
thousand Otsego bass, without counting pike, pickerel, perch, bull-
pouts, salmon-trouts, and suckers, is no bad fishing, let me tell you.
There may he sport in sticking a shark, but what is he good for after
you have got him? Now, any one of the fish that I have named is fit to
set before a king.”

“Well, squire,” returned Benjamin, “just listen to the philosophy of
the thing. Would it stand to reason, that such a fish should live and
be catched in this here little pond of water, where it’s hardly deep
enough to drown a man, as you’ll find in the wide ocean, where, as
every body knows that is, everybody that has followed the seas, whales
and grampuses are to be seen, that are as long as one of the pine-
trees on yonder mountain?”

“Softly, softly, Benjamin,” said the sheriff, as if he wished to save
the credit of his favorite; “why, some of the pines will measure two
hundred feet, and even more.”

“Two hundred or two thousand, it’s all the same thing,” cried
Benjamin, with an air which manifested that he was not easily to be
bullied out of his opinion, on a subject like the present. “ Haven’t
I been there, and haven’t I seen? I have said that you fall in with
whales as long as one of them there pines: and what I have once said
I’ll stand to!”

During this dialogue, which was evidently but the close of much longer
discussion, the huge frame of Billy Kirby was seen extended on one
side of the fire, where he was picking his teeth with splinters of the
chips near him, and occasionally shaking his head with distrust of
Benjamin’s assertions.

“I’ve a notion,” said the wood-chopper, “ that there’s water in this
lake to swim the biggest whale that ever was invented; and, as to the
pines, I think I ought to know so’thing consarning them; I have
chopped many a one that was sixty times the length of my helve,
without counting the eye; and I believe, Benny, that if the old pine
that stands in the hollow of the Vision Mountain just over the
village—you may see the tree itself by looking up, for the moon is on
its top yet—well, now I believe, if that same tree was planted out in
the deepest part of the lake, there would be water enough for the
biggest ship that ever was built to float over it, without touching
its upper branches, I do.”

“Did’ee ever see a ship, Master Kirby?” roared the steward, “did’ee
ever see a ship, man? or any craft bigger than a lime-scow, or a wood-
boat, on this here small bit of fresh water?”

“Yes, I have,” said the wood-chopper stoutly; “I can say that I have,
and tell no lie.”

“Did’ee ever see a British ship, Master Kirby? an English line-of-
battle ship, boy? Where did’ee ever fall in with a regular built
vessel, with starn-post and cutwater, gar board-streak and plank-
shear, gangways, and hatchways, and waterways, quarter-deck, and
forecastle, ay, and flush-deck?—tell me that, man, if you can; where
away did’ee ever fall in with a full-rigged, regular-built, necked

The whole company were a good deal astounded with this overwhelming
question, and even Richard afterward remarked that it “was a thousand
pities that Benjamin could not read, or he must have made a valuable
officer to the British marine. It is no wonder that they overcame the
French so easily on the water, when even the lowest sailor so well
understood the different parts of a vessel.” But Billy Kirby was a
fearless wight, and had great jealousy of foreign dictation; he had
risen on his feet, and turned his back to the fire, during the voluble
delivery of this interrogatory; and when the steward ended, contrary
to all expectation, he gave the following spirited reply:

“Where! why, on the North River, and maybe on Champlain. There’s
sloops on the river, boy, that would give a hard time on’t to the
stoutest vessel King George owns. They carry masts of ninety feet in
the clear of good solid pine, for I’ve been at the chopping of many a
one in Varmount State. I wish I was captain in one of them, and you
was in that Board-dish that you talk so much about, and we’d soon see
what good Yankee stuff is made on, and whether a Varmounter’s hide
ain’t as thick as an Englishman’s.”
The echoes from the opposite hills, which were more than half a mile
from the fishing point, sent back the discordant laugh that Benjamin
gave forth at this challenge; and the woods that covered their sides
seemed, by the noise that issued from their shades, to be full of
mocking demons.

“Let us descend to the shore,” whispered Marmaduke, “or there will
soon be ill-blood between them. Benjamin is a fearless boaster; and
Kirby, though good-natured, is a careless son of the forest, who
thinks one American more than a match for six Englishmen. I marvel
that Dickon is silent, where there is such a trial of skill in the

The appearance of Judge Temple and the ladies produced, if not a
pacification, at least a cessation of hostilities. Obedient to the
directions of Mr. Jones the fishermen prepared to launch their boat,
which had been seen in the background of the view, with the net
carefully disposed on a little platform in its stern, ready for
service. Richard gave vent to his reproaches at the tardiness of the
pedestrians, when all the turbulent passions of the party were
succeeded by a calm, as mild and as placid as that which prevailed
over the beautiful sheet of water that they were about to rifle of its
best treasures.

The night had now become so dark as to render objects, without the
reach of the light of the fire, not only indistinct, but in most cases
invisible. For a little distance the water was discernible,
glistening, as the glare from the fire danced over its surface,
touching it here and there with red quivering streaks; but, at a
hundred feet from the shore, there lay a boundary of impenetrable
gloom. One or two stars were shining through the openings of the
clouds, and the lights were seen in the village, glimmering faintly,
as if at an immeasurable distance. At times, as the fire lowered, or
as the horizon cleared, the outline of the mountain, on the other side
of the lake, might be traced by its undulations; but its shadow was
cast, wide and dense, on the bosom of the water, rendering the
darkness in that direction trebly deep.

Benjamin Pump was invariably the coxswain and net caster of Richard’s
boat, unless the sheriff saw fit to preside in person: and, on the
present occasion, Billy Kirby, and a youth of about half his strength,
were assigned to the oars. The remainder of the assistants were
stationed at the drag-ropes. The arrangements were speedily made, and
Richard gave the signal to “shove off.”

Elizabeth watched the motion of the batteau as it pulled from the
shore, letting loose its rope as it went, but it soon disappeared in
the darkness, when the ear was her only guide to its evolutions.
There was great affectation of stillness during all these manoeuvers,
in order, as Richard assured them, “not to frighten the bass, who were
running into the shoal waters, and who would approach the light if not
disturbed by the sounds from the fishermen.”

The hoarse voice of Benjamin was alone heard issuing out of the gloom,
as he uttered, in authoritative tones, “Pull larboard oar,” “Pull
starboard,” “ Give way together, boys,” and such other indicative
mandates as were necessary for the right disposition of his seine. A
long time was passed in this necessary part of the process, for
Benjamin prided himself greatly on his skill in throwing the net, and,
in fact, most of the success of the sport depended on its being done
with judgment. At length a loud splash in the water, as he threw away
the “staff,” or “stretcher,” with a hoarse call from the steward of
“Clear,” announced that the boat was returning; when Richard seized a
brand from the fire, and ran to a point as far above the centre of the
fishing-ground, as the one from which the batteau had started was
below it.

“Stick her in dead for the squire, boys,” said the steward, “and we’ll
have a look at what grows in this here pond.”

In place of the falling net were now to be heard the quick strokes of
the oars, and the noise of the rope running out of the boat.
Presently the batteau shot into the circle of light, and in an instant
she was pulled to the shore. Several eager hands were extended to
receive the line, and, both ropes being equally well manned, the
fishermen commenced hauling in with slow, and steady drags, Richard
standing to the centre, giving orders, first to one party, and then to
the other, to increase or slacken their efforts, as occasion required.
The visitors were posted near him, and enjoyed a fair view of the
whole operation. which was slowly advancing to an end.

Opinions as to the result of their adventure were now freely hazarded
by all the men, some declaring that the net came in as light as a
feather, and others affirming that it seemed to be full of logs. As
the ropes were many hundred feet in length, these opposing sentiments
were thought to be of little moment by the sheriff, who would go first
to one line, and then to the other, giving each small pull, in order
to enable him to form an opinion for himself.

“Why, Benjamin,” he cried, as he made his first effort in this way,
“you did not throw the net clear. I can move it with my little
finger. The rope slackens in my hand.”

“Did you ever see a whale, squire?” responded the steward: “ I say
that, if that there net is foul, the devil is in the lake in the shape
of a fish, for I cast it as far as ever rigging was rove over the
quarter-deck of a flag-ship.”

But Richard discovered his mistake, when he saw Billy Kirby before
him, standing with his feet in the water, at an angle of forty-five
degrees, inclining southward, and expending his gigantic strength in
sustaining himself in that posture. He ceased his remonstrances, and
proceeded to the party at the other line.

“I see the ‘staffs,’” shouted Mr. Jones—” gather in,, boys, and away
with it; to shore with her!—to shore with her!”

At this cheerful sound, Elizabeth strained her eyes and saw the ends
of the two sticks on the seine emerging from the darkness, while the
men closed near to each other, and formed a deep bag of their net.
The exertions of the fishermen sensibly increased, and the voice of
Richard was heard encouraging them to make their greatest efforts at
the present moment.

“Now’s the time, my lads,” he cried; “let us get the ends to land, and
all we have will be our own—away with her!”

“Away with her, it is,” echoed Benjamin!—” hurrah! ho-a-hay, ho-a-hoy,

“In with her,” shouted Kirby, exerting himself in a manner that left
nothing for those in his rear to do, but to gather up the slack of the
rope which passed through his hands.

“Staff. ho!” shouted the steward.

“Staff, ho!” echoed Kirby, from the other rope.
The men rushed to the water’s edge, some seizing the upper rope, and
some the lower or lead rope, and began to haul with great activity and
zeal, A deep semicircular sweep of the little balls that supported the
seine in its perpendicular position was plainly visible to the
spectators, and, as it rapidly lessened in size, the bag of the net
appeared, while an occasional flutter on the water announced the
uneasiness of the prisoners it contained.

“Haul in, my lads,” shouted Richard—” I can see the dogs kicking to
get free. Haul in, and here’s a cast that will pay for the labor.”
Fishes of various sorts were now to be seen, entangled in the meshes
of the net, as it was passed through the hands of the laborers; and
the water, at a little distance from the shore, was alive with the
movements of the alarmed victims. Hundreds of white sides were
glancing up to the surface of the water, and glistening in the fire
light, when, frightened at the uproar and the change, the fish would
again dart to the bottom, in fruitless efforts for freedom.
Hurrah!” shouted Richard: “one or two more heavy drags, boys, and we
are safe.”

“Cheerily, boys, cheerily!” cried Benjamin; “I see a salmon-trout that
is big enough for a chowder.”

“Away with you, you varmint!” said Billy Kirby, plucking a bullpout
from the meshes, and casting the animal back into the lake with
contempt. “Pull, boys, pull; here’s all kinds, and the Lord condemn
me for a liar, if there ain’t a thousand bass!”

Inflamed beyond the bounds of discretion at the sight, and forgetful
of the season, the wood-chopper rushed to his middle into the water,
and began to drive the reluctant animals before him from their native

“Pull heartily, boys,” cried Marmaduke, yielding to the excitement of
the moment, and laying his hands to the net, with no trifling addition
to the force. Edwards had preceded him; for the sight of the immense
piles of fish, that were slowly rolling over on the gravelly beach,
had impelled him also to leave the ladies and join the fishermen.

Great care was observed in bringing the net to land, and, after much
toil, the whole shoal of victims was safely deposited in a hollow of
the bank, where they were left to flutter away their brief existence
in the new and fatal element.

Even Elizabeth and Louisa were greatly excited and highly gratified by
seeing two thousand captives thus drawn from the bosom of the lake,
and laid prisoners at their feet. But when the feelings of the moment
were passing away, Marmaduke took in his hands a bass, that might have
weighed two pounds, and after viewing it a moment, in melancholy
musing, he turned to his daughter, and observed:

“This is a fearful expenditure of the choicest gifts of Providence.
These fish, Bess, which thou seest lying in such piles before thee,
and which by to-morrow evening will be rejected food on the meanest
table in Templeton, are of a quality and flavor that, in other
countries, would make them esteemed a luxury on the tables of princes
or epicures. The world has no better fish than the bass of Otsego; it
unites the richness of the shad * to the firmness of the salmon.”

* Of all the fish the writer has ever tasted, be thinks the one in
question the best.

“But surely, dear sir,” cried Elizabeth, “they must prove a great
blessing to the country, and a powerful friend to the poor.”

“The poor are always prodigal, my child, where there is plenty, and
seldom think of a provision against the morrow. But, if there can be
any excuse for destroying animals in this manner, it is in taking the
bass. During the winter, you know, they are entirely protected from
our assaults by the ice, for they refuse the hook; and during the hot
months they are not seen. It is supposed they retreat to the deep and
cool waters of the lake, at that season; and it is only in the spring
and autumn that, for a few days, they are to be found around the
points where they are within the reach of a seine. But, like all the
other treasures of the wilderness, they already begin to disappear
before the wasteful extravagance of man.”

“Disappear, Duke! disappear!” exclaimed the sheriff “if you don’t call
this appearing, I know not what you will. Here are a good thousand of
the shiners, some hundreds of suckers, and a powerful quantity of
other fry. But this is always the way with you, Marmaduke: first it’s
the trees, then it’s the deer; after that it’s the maple sugar, and so
on to the end of the chapter. One day you talk of canals through a
country where there's a river or a lake every half-mile, just because
the water won’t run the way you wish it to go; and, the next, you say
some thing about mines of coal, though any man who has good eyes like
myself—I say, with good eyes—can see more wood than would keep the
city of London in fuel for fifty years; wouldn’t it, Benjamin?”

“Why, for that, squire,” said the steward, “Lon’on is no small place.
If it was stretched an end, all the same as a town on one side of the
river, it would cover some such matter as this here lake. Thof I
dar’st to say, that the wood in sight might sarve them a good turn,
seeing that the Lon’oners mainly burn coal.”

“Now we are on the subject of coal, Judge Temple,” interrupted the
sheriff, “I have a thing of much importance to communicate to you; but
I will defer it -until tomorrow. I know that you intend riding into
the eastern part of the Patent, and I will accompany you, and conduct
you to a spot where some of your projects may be realized. We will
say no more now, for there are listeners; but a secret has this
evening been revealed to me, ‘Duke, that is of more consequence to
your welfare than all your estate united,”

Marmaduke laughed at the important intelligence, to which in a variety
of shapes he was accustomed, and the sheriff, with an air of great
dignity, as if pitying his want of faith, proceeded in the business
more immediately be fore them. As the labor of drawing the net had
been very great, he directed one party of his men to commence throwing
the fish into piles, preparatory to the usual division, while another,
under the superintendence of Benjamin, prepared the seine for a second


“While from its margin, terrible to tell,
Three sailors with their gallant boatswain fell.” —Falconer.

While the fishermen were employed in making the preparations for an
equitable division of the spoil, Elizabeth and her friend strolled a
short distance from the group, along the shore of the lake. After
reaching a point to which even the brightest of the occasional gleams
of the fire did not extend, they turned, and paused a moment, in
contemplation of the busy and lively party they had left, and of the
obscurity which, like the gloom of oblivion, seemed to envelop the
rest of the creation.

“This is indeed a subject for the pencil!” exclaimed Elizabeth.
“Observe the countenance of that woodchopper, while he exults in
presenting a larger fish than common to my cousin sheriff; and see,
Louisa, how hand some and considerate my dear father looks, by the
light of that fire, where he stands viewing the havoc of the game. He
seems melancholy, as if he actually thought that a day of retribution
was to follow this hour of abundance and prodigality! Would they not
make a picture, Louisa?”

“You know that I am ignorant of all such accomplishments, Miss

“Call me by my Christian name,” interrupted Elizabeth; “this is not a
place, neither is this a scene, for forms.”

“Well, then, if I may venture an opinion,’ said Louisa timidly, “I
should think it might indeed make a picture. The selfish earnestness
of that Kirby over his fish would contrast finely with the—the—
expression of Mr. Edwards’ face. I hardly know what to call it; but
it is—a—is— you know what I would say, dear Elizabeth.”

“You do me too much credit, Miss Grant,” said the heiress; “I am no
diviner of thoughts, or interpreter of expressions.”

There was certainly nothing harsh or even cold in the manner of the
speaker, but still it repressed the conversation, and they continued
to stroll still farther from the party, retaining each other’s arm,
but observing a pro found silence. Elizabeth, perhaps conscious of
the improper phraseology of her last speech, or perhaps excited by the
new object that met her gaze, was the first to break the awkward
cessation in the discourse, by exclaiming:

“Look, Louisa! we are not alone; there are fishermen lighting a fire
on the other side of the lake, immediately opposite to us; it must be
in front of the cabin of Leather-Stocking!”

Through the obscurity, which prevailed most immediately under the
eastern mountain, a small and uncertain light was plainly to be seen,
though, as it was occasionally lost to the eye, it seemed struggling
for existence. They observed it to move, and sensibly to lower, as it
carried down the descent of the bank to the shore. Here, in a very
short time, its flame gradually expanded, and grew brighter, until it
became of the size of a man’s head, when it continued to shine a
steady ball of fire. Such an object, lighted as it were by magic,
under the brow of the mountain, and in that retired and unfrequented

Book of the day:
Facebook Google Reddit StumbleUpon Twitter Pinterest