THE LOST HUNTER.
A Tale of Early Times.
"And still her grey rocks tower above the sea That murmurs at their feet, a conquered wave; 'Tis a rough land of earth, and stone, and tree, Where breathes no castled lord or cabined slave; Where thoughts, and tongues, and hands, are bold and free, And friends will find a welcome, foes a grave; And where none kneel, save when to heaven they pray, Nor even then, unless in their own way." HALLECK
DERBY & JACKSON, 119 NASSAU STREET. CINCINNATI:—H.W. DERBY.
ENTERED according to Act of Congress, in the year 1855, by
in the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the United States, for the Southern District of New York.
W.H. TINSON, Stereotyper.
PUDNEY & RUSSELL Printers.
As one might justly be considered a clown, or, at least, not well bred, who, without tapping at the door, or making a bow, or saying "By your leave," or some other token of respect, should burst in upon a company of persons unknown to him, and instead of a welcome would deserve an unceremonious invitation to betake himself elsewhere forthwith; so, I suppose, in presenting myself before you, my honored Public, it is no more than civil to say something by way of introduction. At least, I have observed from my obscure retreat in the quiet village of Addlebrains, that the fashion in this respect, which has prevailed, certainly, since the time of St. Luke, who commences his Gospel with a preface to Theophilus, has come down to the present day, differing therein from other fashions, which, for the most part, are as transitory as the flowers of the field, and commending itself thereby to the thoughtful consideration of the judicious; for it cannot be deemed there is no value in that which has received the sanction of centuries. Influenced by reflections of this description and the like, I sat down one day in the little retreat, which the indulgent partiality of my friends is accustomed to dignify with the title of my "study," to endeavor to write a preface, and introduce myself in a becoming manner to my readers. I was the more anxious to do this properly, because, although a mere countryman, a sort of cowhide shoe, as I may say, and therefore lacking that gloss, which, like the polish on a well-brushed boot, distinguishes and illustrates the denizens of our metropolis in an eminent degree, as I know from personal experience, having been twice in New York, and, as I am told, also, the citizens of Boston and Philadelphia, and other provincial towns, with a milder lustre, I would not like to be supposed entirely destitute of refinement. It would be strange if I were, inasmuch as I enjoyed in my youth, the privilege of two terms and a half instruction in the dancing school of that incomparable professor of the Terpsichorean science, the accomplished Monsieur St. Leger Pied. It is in consequence of this early training, perhaps, that I am always pained when there is any deflection or turning aside from, or neglect of, the graceful, the becoming, and the proper.
It will be observed that my last quarter was cut short in the middle; which untoward event arose from no arrogance or supercilious conceit on my part, as though I had perfected myself in the mysteries of pigeon-wing and balancez, but from the abrupt departure of the professor himself, who, true to the name indicative of his constitutional levity, found it convenient to disappear betwixt two days, with the advance pay of my whole term in his pocket, and without stopping to make even one of his uncommonly genteel bows. The circumstance was peculiarly disagreeable to me, in consequence of the school being assembled when our loss was discovered, and of my having succeeded in engaging, for the greater part of the evening, the hand of a young lady, whose charms had made a deep (though, as subsequent events proved, not a durable) impression on my susceptible heart. Monsieur was our only musician, and, of course, with his violin went the dancing. The cause of his evasion or flight was variously accounted for, some ascribing it to a debt he had contracted for kid gloves and pumps, and others to dread of the wrath of a young gentleman, whose sister he had been so imprudent as to kiss in the presence of another girl, not remarkable for personal attractions, to whom he had never paid the same compliment. As was to be expected, she was scandalized at the impropriety and want of taste, and immediately made it known, in spite of the entreaties of the blushing beauty and the "pardons" of Monsieur. As Virgilius has it,
"Manet alta mente i epostum, Judicium Paridis spretaeque injuria formae."
In my opinion, it was the kiss that cost poor Monsieur Pied his school, and me a dollar and a half, three dollars being the price for a term's instruction. Not, I beg to be understood, that I care anything about the money, but in relating an event I like to be circumstantial and strictly accurate. But I find that, wiled away by the painfully pleasing reminiscences of my youth, I am wandering from my undertaking, which is, not to narrate the misadventures of a dancing-master, but to compose a preface.
I had seated myself, as I was saying, in my little den or confugium, where, as in a haven of rest, I love to hide myself from the distractions of the world, and concentrate my thoughts, and which has been to me the scene of many sad as well as pleasant hours, and dipped my goose quill (anathema maranatha on steel pens, which I cannot help fancying, impart a portion of their own rigidity to style, for if the stylus be made of steel is it not natural that the style by derivation and propinquity should be hard?) into the ink-stand, after first casting my eyes on the busts of Shakespeare and Milton, which, cast in plaster, adorn my retirement, half imploring them to assist in so important an enterprise, when the door opened, and who should enter but my dear friend, the Rev. Increase Grace? But here let me remark parenthetically, the habit of dealing in parentheses being one I especially dislike, only necessity compelling me thereto, and before I proceed further, that the word "confugium," which, both on account of its terse expressiveness, as well as its curiosa felicitas in the present application, I have chosen in order to define my den, has not, I hope, escaped the notice of the discriminating scholar. Moreover, I trust that I shall not incur the imputation of vanity if I take to myself some little credit for the selection. It will be observed that it is a compound term, the latter part, "fugium" (from fuga, flight), characterizing the purpose to which my secluded nook is applied as a refuge, whither I fly from the unmeaning noise and vanity of the world; and the prefix, "con" (equivalent to cum, with), conveying the idea of its social designation. For I should be loth to have it thought that, like Charles Lamb's rat, who, by good luck, happening to find a Cheshire cheese, kept the discovery a profound secret from the rest of the rats, in order to monopolize the delicious dainty, pretending all the while that his long and frequent absences at a certain hole were purely for purposes of heavenly contemplation, his mind having of late become seriously impressed, and, therefore, he could not bear interruption, I am in the habit of ensconcing myself with a selfish exclusion therein. Far from it: the door is never barred against admission, and my confugium rather means (though the dictionaries with their usual vagueness so much to be lamented, have not succeeded in eviscerating its full signification) a common place of retirement for myself and intimate friends. Hence it was not as an intrusion, but, on the contrary, as an acceptable call, that I greeted the arrival of Increase. There must have been an unusual degree of gravity in my countenance corresponding with the importance of the work I was about to undertake, for the reverend gentleman had hardly taken a seat before he observed it, and inquired into its cause. We are upon that footing of intimacy, that there was no impropriety in the question, and I unhesitatingly acquainted him with my purpose.
"I should as soon think," said the Rev. Increase, "of building a verandah before a wood-house, or putting mahogany doors into my old toppling down church."
The remark was not very complimentary, but great freedom of speech prevails between us, and I took no offence; especially as I knew that the Rev. gentleman was smarting under a disappointment in the sale of a volume of sermons, whence he had expected great things, from the publication of which I had vainly endeavored to dissuade him, and whose meagre proceeds fully justified my forebodings. The mention of my work naturally recalled this afflictive dispensation, and hinc illae lacrimae. Reading his mind, I answered, therefore, as gently as a slight tremor in my voice would allow, that there was no accounting for tastes, and that as trifling a thing as a song had been known to outlive a sermon.
I declare I meant no harm, but his reverence (one of the best men in the world, but who, in every sense of the word, belongs to the "church militant,") instantly blazed up—
"I dare say," he said, bitterly, "that you understand the frippery taste of this trivial age better than I. A capability to appreciate solid reading, reading that cultivates the understanding while it amends the heart, seems to be with the forgotten learning before the flood. They who pander to this diseased appetite have much to answer for; not," he was pleased to add—his indignation cooling off like a steam-boiler which has found vent, "that the trifle on which for the last few months you have been wasting your time has not a certain kind of merit, but it seems a pity, that one, capable of better things, should so miserably misapply his powers."
These sentiments were not entirely new to me, else I might have become a little excited; for, during the whole time while I was engaged in the composition of the work, my friend, who is, also, in the habit of communicating his literary enterprises to me, would insist upon my reading him the chapters, as fast as they came along, manifesting no little curiosity in the manner in which I should disengage myself from difficulties in which he supposed me from time to time involved, and exuberant delight at the ingenious contrivances, as, in a complimentary mood, he once said, by which I eluded them. It is true, all this betrayal of interest was accompanied by various pishes and pshaws, and lamentations over the trifling character of my pursuits; but, like too many others, both in his cloth and out of it, his conduct contradicted his language, and I was encouraged by the former, while I only smiled at the latter.
"If such be your opinion," said I, suddenly seizing the manuscript, which lay before me, and making a motion to throw it into the fire; "if such be your candid opinion, I had better destroy the nonsense at once."
"Hold!" cried the Rev. Increase, arresting my hand, "you are shockingly touchy and precipitate; how often have I cautioned you against this trait of your character. Because your workling does not deserve to be mentioned in the same category with works of solid and acknowledged merit, like, for instance, Rollin's Ancient History or Prideaux' Connexion, and can, at best, enjoy but an ephemeral existence, does it deserve to have no existence at all? On your principle, we should have no butterflies, because their careless lives last but a day."
"Well, Increase," said I, "if, like the butterfly, whose short and erratic presence imparts another beauty to green fields and blue skies, and blossoms, and songs of birds, my little book shall be able to seduce a smile to the lips, or cheat away a pain from the bosom of one of those whom you are so fond of calling 'pilgrims through a dreary wilderness,' I shall feel amply compensated for the waste of my time."
"If your expectations are so moderate, I see no harm in your indulging them," said my friend; "but I cannot help wishing you had oftener taken my advice in its composition."
"I have great respect for your opinion," I answered, "but I find it impossible to pass the ideas of another through the crucible of my mind and do them justice. Somehow or other, when I am expecting a stream of gold, it turns out a caput mortuum of lead. No, my better course is to coin my copper in my own way. But, tell me frankly, what offends you."
My Rev. friend had, by this time, forgotten his unfortunate volume of sermons, and resumed his good nature.
"Offends me? my dear friend, and half-parishoner (for I notice a bad habit you have got into, of late, of attending church only in the morning—pray reform it), you use a very harsh term. There is nothing in the book that offends me; although," he added, cautiously, "I do not mean to say that I sanction entirely either your religious, philosophical, or political speculations. I am no flatterer, and claim the privilege of a friend to speak my mind."
"My dear Increase," said I, pressing his hand, "I love you all the more for your sincerity; but why do you call them my speculations? I have expressed no opinions. They are the opinions of the characters, and not mine. I wish you and all the world distinctly to understand that."
"And yet the world will hold you to account for them. If a man fires a gun into a crowd, is he not responsible for any mischief that may be the consequence?"
"I do not expect to make so loud a report," said I, smiling; "but I protest against your doctrine. Why, according to that, an author is accountable for all the opinions of his dramatis personae, however absurd and contradictory they may be."
"I do not go so far as that. I hold that the author is only responsible for the effect produced: if that effect be favorable to virtue, he deserves praise; if the contrary, censure."
"I admit the justice of the view you take, with that limitation; and I trust it is with a sense of such accountability I have written," said I. "May I, then, flatter myself with the hope that you will grant me your imprimatur?"
"You have it," said he; "and may no critic regard your book with less indulgent eyes than mine. But what name do you give the bantling?"
"Oh," said I, "I have not concluded, I fancy that one name is nearly as good as another."
"I don't know about that," said the Rev. Increase. "A couple who brought their child lately to me to be baptized did not think so, at any rate. I inquired what was the name chosen, when, to my astonishment, I heard sounds which resembled very much one of the titles bestowed upon the arch enemy of mankind. Supposing that my ears deceived me, I inquired again, when the same word, to my horror, was more distinctly repeated. 'Lucifer!' said I, to myself, 'impossible! I cannot baptize a child by such a name.' I bent over once more, and a third time asked the question. The answer was the same, and repeated louder and with an emphasis, as if the parents were determined to have that name or none. By this time my situation had become embarrassing, for there was I, in the presence of the whole waiting congregation, standing up with the baby in my arms, which, to add to my consternation, set up a squall as if to convince me that he was entitled to the name. My bachelor modesty could stand the scene no longer; so, hastily dipping my fingers in the font, and resolving he should have a good name, as opposite as possible to the diabolical one so strangely selected, I baptized the infant George Washington. I thought the parents looked queerly at the time, but the rite was performed, the baby had got an excellent name, and I was relieved. But conceive, if you can, my confusion, when, after service, the father and mother came into the vestry, and the latter bursting into tears, exclaimed: 'Oh, thir, what have you done? Ith a girl, ith a girl! and you've called her George Wathington! My poor little Luthy, my dear little Luthy!' Alas! the mother lisped, and when I asked for the name, meaning to be very polite, and to say, Lucy, sir, in reply to my question, she had said, 'Luthy, thir,' which I mistook for Lucifer. What was to be done? I consoled the afflicted parents as well as I was able, and promised to enter the name in the parish registry and town records as Lucy, which I did; but for all that, the girl's genuine, orthodox name is George Washington!"
"I see," said I, paying him for his joke with the expected laugh, "there is something in a name, and we must be cautious in its choice." The result was, that I followed my friend's advice in adopting the one which was finally selected. Soon after the Rev. gentleman took his hat and left me to my meditations. Thereupon I resumed my pen, and vainly endeavored to write a preface. At last, in despair, I could hit upon no better expedient than to explain to you, my dear Public, the circumstances which prevent my doing it now. You will sympathize with my mortification, and forgive my failure for the sake of the honest effort, and no more think of condemning me, than you would the aforesaid rustic, alluded to in the beginning of this my apology, should he, instead of boisterously rushing in upon the company, endeavor (his sense of the becoming overcoming his bashfulness) to twist his body into the likeness of a bow, thereby only illustrating and confirming the profound wisdom of the maxim, non omnia possumus omnes. Should our awkward attempts be classed together, I shall nevertheless indulge the hope, that better acquaintance with you will increase my facility of saying nothing with grace, and improve my manners, even as I doubt not that under the tuition of Monsieur Pied, the aforesaid countryman might, in time, be taught to make a passable bow.
For ever, vive, my dear Public, and, until we meet again (which, whether we ever do, will depend upon how we are pleased with each other), vale.
At last the golden orientall gate Of greatest heaven gan to open fayre, And Phoebus fresh as brydegrome to his mate, Came dauncing forth, shaking his deawie hayre, And hurld his glistening beams through gloomy ayre.
SPENSER'S FAERY QUEENE.
It was a lovely morning in the autumn of the year of grace 18—. The beams of the sun had not yet fallen upon the light veil of mist that hovered over the tranquil bosom of the river Severn, and rose and gathered itself into folds, as if preparing for departure at the approach of an enemy it were in vain to resist. With a murmur, so soft it was almost imperceptible, glided the stream, blue as the heaven it mirrored, between banks now green and gently shelving away, crowned with a growth of oak, hickory, pine, hemlock and savin, now rising into irregular masses of grey rocks, overgrown with moss, with here and there a stunted bush struggling out of a fissure, and seeming to derive a starved existence from the rock itself; and now, in strong contrast, presenting almost perpendicular elevations of barren sand. Occasionally the sharp cry of a king-fisher, from a withered bough near the margin, or the fluttering of the wings of a wild duck, skimming over the surface, might be heard, but besides these there were no sounds, and they served only to make the silence deeper. It is at this hour, and upon an island in the river that our story commences.
The island itself is of an irregular shape and very small, being hardly an acre in extent, and its shore covered with pebbles and boulders of granite. Near the centre, and fronting the east, stands an unpainted wood cabin of the humblest appearance, the shape and size of which is an oblong of some thirty by fifteen feet. One rude door furnishes the only means of entrance, and light is admitted through two small windows, one on the east and the other on the west side. Straggling patches of grass, a few neglected currant-bushes behind the hut, and a tall holly-hock or two by the door are all the signs of vegetation that meet the eye.
At the door of this cabin, and at the time we are describing, stood a solitary figure. He was a gaunt, thin man, whose stature rather exceeded than fell below six feet. The object about his person which first arrested attention was a dark grizzled beard, that fell half-way down his breast, in strong contrast with a high white forehead, beneath which glowed large dreamy eyes. The hair of his head, like his beard, was long, and fell loosely over his shoulders. His dress was of the coarsest description, consisting of a cloth of a dusky grey color, the upper garment being a loose sort of surtout, falling almost to the knees, and secured round the waist by a dark woollen sash. His age it was difficult to determine. It might have been anywhere between forty-five and fifty-five years.
The attitude and appearance of the man, were that of devotion and expectancy. His body was bent forward, his hands clasped, and his eyes intently fastened on the eastern sky, along the horizon of which layers of clouds, a moment before of a leaden hue were now assuming deeper and deeper crimson tints. As the clouds flushed up into brighter colors his countenance kindled with excitement. His form seemed to dilate, his eyes to flash, his hands unclasped themselves, and he stretched out his arms, as if to welcome a long expected friend. But presently the rays of the sun began to stream over the swelling upland and light up the surface of the river, and fainter and fainter shone the clouds, until they gradually melted into the blue depth away. It was then a shade of disappointment, as it seemed, passed over the face of the man. Its rapt expression faded, he cast a look almost of reproach to heaven, and his feelings found vent in words.
"Hast Thou not said, 'Behold, I come quickly?' Why then delay the wheels of Thy chariot? O, Lord, I have waited for Thy salvation. In the night-watches, at midnight, at cock-crowing, and in the morning, have I been mindful of Thee. But chiefly at the dawn hath my soul gone forth to meet Thee, for then shall appear the sign of the Son of Man in Heaven, and they shall see him coming in the clouds of Heaven, with power and great glory. And he shall send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together His elect from one end of Heaven to the other."
His eyes glared wildly round, then fell and fastened on the ground, and for a few moments he remained immovable as a statue, after which, with an air of dejection, he turned as if about to enter the hut. At that moment the report of a gun from the shore close by was heard, and looking, up he saw a man fall from the sloping bank upon the beach.
If there had been any appearance of weakness or infirmity before in the Recluse, it now vanished. Nothing could exceed the promptitude and energy of his movements. To rush to the water, to throw himself into a boat, to unfasten it from the stake to which it was tied, and with a vigorous push to send it half-way across the channel, was the work of but an instant. A few dextrous and strong strokes of the paddle soon sent it grating on the pebbled shore, and with a bound he was by the side of the prostrate man. He lay with his face to the ground, with one arm stretched out, and the other cramped up beneath his body. Near him the leaves and grass were stained with drops of blood, and at a short distance a gun was lying.
The old man passed his arm around the stranger, to raise him from his recumbent position. The motion must have occasioned pain, for a low groan was heard. But it, at least, attested the presence of life, and there was consolation in even those sad sounds. With all the tenderness of a mother he raised the wounded man in his arms, and endeavored to discover the place and character of the wound, in order to staunch, if possible, the bleeding. But it was soon apparent that all such attempts would be useless, and only tend to aggravate the pain without leading to any desirable result, so long as the clothing was allowed to remain on. The better course seemed to be to remove him immediately to the hut. As gently, therefore, as possible, the old man bore him to the boat, and deposited him upon its bottom. A few strokes of the paddle sent it back again to the island, and soon the wounded stranger was lying on a rude, but welcome bed. Here the first thing to be done was to divest him of his coat and such other clothing as hid the wound. Having performed this duty, which was done by cutting off the coat and tearing the under garments, the next care of the old man was, in the best manner in his power, to apply bandages to stop the blood, which trickled from the right side and shoulder. This was done with no little skill, as by one who did not then see a gun-shot wound for the first time. The process was accompanied by an occasional groan, when the bandages pressed the wounded parts too closely, which the sufferer seemed to try to suppress, appearing, at the same time, to endeavor to express his thanks, by a smile and the soft glances of his eyes. Any attempt at exertion was instantly repressed by his kind nurse, who never failed, when it occurred, to enjoin quiet.
"Thou art weak from loss of blood, young man," he said, "but I am mistaken if there is much danger. Yet, a narrow escape hast thou had. Be thankful to that Providence, by whom the hairs of thy head are all numbered, and who permitteth not a sparrow to fall without notice to the ground, for so directing the shot that they only tore the outer flesh, without reaching a vital part. And so, hereafter, when the evils of life shall assail thee, may they penetrate no deeper than the surface, nor affect thy immortal soul."
Here the young man made a motion, as if about to speak, but he was interrupted by the other.
"Nay," said the Recluse, "thou must obey me for thy own good, and I have forbid all speech. It will start the blood, and weaken thee still more. Compose thyself, now, while I leave thee but for an instant, to discover, if I can, a boat going to Hillsdale."
We will avail ourselves of the absence of the Recluse to describe the interior of the hut and its occupant. And to begin with the latter—he was a dark-haired youth, of twenty-one or two years of age, the natural paleness of whose complexion was enhanced as well by the raven color of his hair as by the loss of blood. His features were quite regular, and surmounted by a brow rather high than broad. The eyes were the most remarkable, and commanded instant attention. They were large, black and flashing, and, in spite of the injunctions of the old man, wide open and roving round the apartment. By the manner in which he had been addressed, it was evident he was unknown.
The chamber itself was a square of about fifteen feet, or one-half of the hut, with a fire-place made of large stones and bricks, and lighted by one window, and was lathed and plastered. Its furniture consisted of the bed above mentioned, lying on a low pine frame, originally painted red, but now somewhat defaced and worn; of a couple of basket-bottomed chairs; a stone jar, to contain water; a rifle and powder-horn, supported by two nails driven into the wall; a pine table, and a set of shelves filled with books. This was the back-room, and opened into another of the same size, differing from the former in having no fire-place and being not lathed. This latter room was destitute of furniture, unless a work-bench, on which were a few tools; a chopping-block, made of the segment of the body of a large tree; a cooper's horse; a couple of oyster rakes and some fishing-rods, could be called such. In two of the corners stood bundles of hickory poles, and on the floor were scattered a quantity of withes, designed, apparently, for basket-making. These articles had, probably, some connection with the pursuits of the tenant of the hut. On the walls, on pegs, hung a number of baskets, of different sizes—some finished, and some in an unfinished condition.
The Recluse, upon leaving his guest, proceeded to the west side of the little island, and cast a searching glance in every direction, to ascertain if any one were in sight. No boat was visible, and he immediately retraced his steps.
Noiselessly he stole back to the couch of his guest, whom he found apparently asleep, though, in truth, the slumber was simulated out of deference to the anxieties of the old man. Several times he passed backwards and forwards from the chamber to the door before he had the satisfaction to find the object of his search. At length, a canoe was discovered coming up the river, containing two persons, who, on nearer approach, were seen to be Indians, a man and a woman, belonging to the remnant of a tribe, lingering about their ancient hunting-grounds along the banks of the river. The game, indeed, that once abounded in the woods, had disappeared, and the blue stream and swelling hills, and green plains, and intrusive industry and increasing villages of the whites, but reminded them of present weakness and former power. But, the sensibility to degradation was blunted. They had, gradually, become assimilated to their condition; the river abounded in shell and other fish; they could maintain existence, scanty and mean though it was, and they preferred this certainty to the nobler, but more precarious life of the Western tribes. As the canoe approached, the Recluse beckoned with his hand, and the bow was turned towards the islet.
"Welcome, Esther," he said, "goest thou to the town?"
A silent nod of the head was the reply.
"Wilt thou carry me a message?"
A nod of acquiescence answered as before.
"Go, then, quickly, and tell John Elmer, that a man, wounded by a gun, is lying in my hut, and I desire him to come instantly."
The squaw again nodded, and, without making an inquiry, with the natural apathy of her race, she said—
"What Father Holden say, I do."
The Indian, who, until now, had been silent, here addressed her in his own tongue.
"Can the Partridge," he said, "use her wings to no better purpose than to fly upon the errands of her white master?"
"Ohquamehud," said the squaw, "is a wise warrior, and his eyes are sharp, but they see not into the heart of a woman. If the sunshine and the rain fall upon the ground, shall it bring forth no fruit?"
"It is well," said the Indian, in a sarcastic tone; "Peena is well named; and the Partridge, though the daughter of a Sachem, shall flutter through the air to do the bidding of the white man."
The eyes of Peena, or the Partridge, flashed, and she was about to return an angry reply, when she was prevented by the man whom she had called Father Holden.
"Hasten!" he said, in the same language, forgetting himself, in the excitement of the moment, and unconsciously using the same figurative diction, "or the fountain of the red stream may be dried up before the medicine-man comes. Hasten! It is noble to do good, and the Great Spirit shall bless the deed."
Great was the astonishment of the Indians at discovering they had been understood, and hearing themselves addressed in their own tongue. But only an expressive hugh! and an involuntary stroke of the paddle, which sent the canoe dancing over the water, betrayed their surprise. Holden stood for a moment gazing after them, then turning, directed his steps towards the hut. We will not follow him, but pursue the departing Indians.
For five minutes, perhaps, they paddled on in silence, each apparently unwilling to betray any curiosity about a circumstance that engrossed the thoughts of both. At last the woman spoke.
"The Great Spirit has taught the words of the wigwam to the man with the Long Beard."
A shrug of the shoulders and another hugh! were the only notice taken by her companion of the observation. Again a silence followed, which was broken this time by the man. As if to express his dissent from the conjecture of the squaw, he said,
"The Long Beard has drunk of the streams that run towards the setting sun, and there he learned the speech of warriors. Did he charm the ears of Peena with their sounds when he taught her to run his errands?"
The blood crimsoned deeper into the cheeks of the woman, but with an effort she subdued the rising feeling of resentment, while she answered,
"Let Ohquamehud listen, and the darkness shall depart from his path. The sun has eaten the snows of fifteen winters, and fifteen times the song of the summer birds have been silent since the Long Beard came to the river of the Pequots. And the pale faces desired his companionship, but he turned away his steps from theirs, and built his wigwam on the Salmon Isle, for the heart of the Long Beard was lonely. There he speaks to the Great Spirit in the morning clouds. The young cub that sprung from the loins of Huttamoiden had already put on his moccasins for the Spirit land, and the tears of Peena were falling fast when the Long Beard came to her wigwam. And he stretched his arms over the boy and asked of the Great Spirit that he might stay to lead his mother by the hand when she should be old and blind, and to pluck the thorns from her feet. And the Great Spirit listened, for he loves the Long Beard, and unloosed the moccasins from the feet of the boy, and the fire in his breath went out, and he slept, and was well. Therefore is Peena a bird to fly with the messages of the Long Beard. But this is the first time she has heard from white lips the language of the red man."
The Indian could now comprehend the conduct of the woman. It was natural she should be grateful to the savior of her child's life, and ready to show the feeling by the little means in her power. Could he have looked into her heart, he would have seen that there was more than mere gratitude there. Holden's conduct, so different from that of other white men; the disinterested nature of his character showing itself in acts of kindness to all; his seclusion; his gravity, which seldom admitted of a smile; his imposing appearance, and his mysterious communings with some unseen power—for she had often seen him as he stood to watch for the rising sun, and heard his wild bursts of devotion—had made a deep impression on the squaw, and invested him with the attributes of a superior being; a feeling which was participated in by many of the Indians.
But if Ohquamehud could have seen all this, it would have served only to aggravate the suspicions he begun to entertain about the Long Beard, as he and the woman called Holden. As an Indian, he was suspicious of even the kindness of the white man, lest some evil design might lurk beneath. What wonder, when we consider the relation of one to the other? How much of our history is that of the wolf, who charged the lamb, who drank below him, with muddying the stream?
Ohquamehud, a Pequot by birth, was a stranger who, but a few days before, had come from a Western tribe, into which he had been adopted, either to visit the graves of his fathers, or for some of those thousand causes of relationship, or friendship, or policy, which will induce the North American Indian to journey hundreds of miles, and saw the Recluse, for the first time, that morning. If the gratitude of the squaw was explained, which, he doubted not, was undeserved, the Long Beard's knowledge of the Indian tongue was not. How it was that he should be thus familiar with and speak it with a grace and fluency beyond the power of the few scattered members of the tribe in the neighborhood, the most of whom had almost lost all remembrance of it, was to him an interesting mystery. He mused in silence over his thoughts, occasionally stopping the paddle and passing his hand over his brow, as if to recall some circumstance or idea that constantly eluded his grasp. In this manner they proceeded until, on turning a high point of land, the little village of Hillsdale appeared in sight.
Those who see now that handsome town, for the first time, can have but little idea of its appearance then. But, though the large brick stores that line its wharves, and the costly mansions of modern times, clustering one above the other on the hill-sides, and its fine churches of granite and Portland stone, were not to be seen, yet, it was even then a place that could not fail to attract attention.
The situation is one of exceeding beauty. Two bright streams—the Wootuppocut, whose name indicates its character, its meaning being "clear water," and the Yaupaae, or "margin of a river," which, why it should be so called it is not as easy to explain, unite their waters to form the noble Severn. It is a pity that the good taste which preserved the original names of the two first, had not also retained the title of the last—the Sakimau, or Sachem, or chief, by which it was known to the Indians. It is possible the first settlers in the country thought, that allowing two rivers to retain their aboriginal appellations was a sufficient tribute to good taste, while they made the change of name of the third an offering to affection, many of them having drawn their first breath on the pleasant banks of the English river Severn. It was on the tongue of land, or promontory, formed by the confluence of the two rivers that composed the Severn, that the principal part of the town was situated.
On the promontory facing the south, and rising boldly from the water, the white-painted village ascended half-way up its sides, its two principal streets sweeping away, in curving lines, round the base, upward to a piece of level land, into which the north side of the hill gently declined. At the most northern part of this level, the two streets united, at a distance of a mile from the wharves, into one which thence winded a devious course two or three miles further along the Yaupaae. Above the highest roofs and steeples, towered the green summit of the hill, whose thick-growing evergreens presented, at all seasons, a coronal of verdure. One who stood on the top could see come rushing in from the east, through a narrow throat, and between banks that rose in height as they approached the town, the swift Wootuppocut, soon to lose both its hurry and its name in the deeper and more tranquil Severn, of which it is the principal tributary, while on the west he beheld, gliding like a silver snake through green meadows, the gentle Yaupaae, lingering, as if it loved the fields through which it wandered, until suddenly quickening its pace, with a roar as of angry vexation, it precipitated itself in eddies of boiling foam, whose mist rose high into the air, down a deep gorge, between overhanging rocks, through which it had forced a passage. Thence the stream, subsiding into sudden tranquillity, expanded into a cove dotted with two or three little islands, and flowing round the base of the hill which declined gradually towards the west, united itself with the Wootuppocut. Far beneath his feet he saw the roofs of the houses, and steeples of churches, and masts of sloops, employed in the coasting business, and of brigs engaged in the West India trade, and noticed a communication, partly bridge and partly causey, thrown over the mouth of the Yaupaae and uniting the opposite banks; for, on the western side, along the margin and up the hill, houses were thickly scattered.
The canoe soon glided alongside of one of the wharves, and the Indians disappeared in the streets.
With us there was a Doctor of Physic: In all this world ne was there none him like, To speak of physic and of surgery.
* * * * *
He knew the cause of every malady, Were it of cold, or hot, or moist, or dry, And where engendered, and of what humor: He was a very perfect practiser. The cause y know, and of his harm the root, Anon he gave to the sick man his boot.
The first care of the faithful Peena or Esther, was to seek the doctor. She found him at home, and was instantly admitted to his presence.
"Queen Esther," he exclaimed, the moment he saw her, "is it thou? Welcome, descendant of a line of kings. Would'st like some cider?" He spoke the word "cider" like the Indians, with a rising inflection on the last syllable. It was an offer no Indian could resist, and the squaw answered simply in the affirmative. From a pitcher of the grateful beverage, which shortly before had been brought into the room, and which, indeed, suggested the offer, the doctor filled a foaming glass, and the squaw was not long in draining its contents, after which she delivered herself of her errand.
"Esther," exclaimed the doctor, rising and hastening to collect his instruments and medicine pouch, "thou hast circumvented me. Why did you not tell me before? Here have I been pouring cider into your royal gullet, when I should have hastened to take a bullet out of some plebeian carcass. Can you tell me the name of the wounded man?"
The squaw shook her head, and only said, "Esther not know."
By this time his preparations were completed, which he had not allowed the conversation to interrupt, and closely followed by the woman, he hastened to the wharf. Here casting an eye to the flys that waved from the masts of some of the vessels, and observing the wind was fair, he rejected her offer to take him in the canoe, and throwing himself into a little sail-boat, was soon busily engaged in untying the sails. While thus employed a voice saluted his ears:
"Why, doctor, what is in the wind now?"
The person who thus addressed him was a young man of probably not more than twenty-five years of age. His dress indicated that he belonged to the wealthier class of citizens, and there was something pleasing in his manners and address.
"Glad to see you, William," said the doctor. "I want a crew; come, ship for a cruise."
"But where away, doctor?"
"To Holden's island, to visit a wounded man. Jump aboard, and tend jib-sheets."
By this time the sails were hoisted, and, the young man complying with the invitation, the little craft was soon under weigh, and rapidly proceeding down the river. The distance was only three or four miles, and quickly passed over. They were met on the beach by Holden, to whom the gentlemen were both known, but he was unable to inform them of the name of the wounded man. As soon as the doctor beheld him, however, he exclaimed:
"It is Mr. Pownal. God forbid the hurt should be serious."
The countenance of the doctor's companion, and the few words he uttered, denoted also recognition of the stranger.
"So, my poor fellow," said the doctor, as the sufferer extended a hand, and expressed in a few words his pleasure at the coming of the two, "that is enough, I claim a monopoly of the talking."
He proceeded at once to examine the wound, which he did with great care and in silence. He found, as Holden had said, that the charge had only grazed the surface, tearing the flesh from the side up to the shoulder, pretty deeply, indeed, but making an ugly, rather than a dangerous wound. After the task was completed, and lint and fresh bandages were applied, the doctor sunk with a sigh, as of relief, upon a chair, and assured the young man that he only needed rest for the present, and in a day or two might return to his friends.
"I would rather lose six ordinary patients than you, Tom Pownal," he said. "Why you are my beau ideal of a merchant, the Ionic capital of the pillar of trade. Now, let not your mind be
'Tossing on the ocean; There, where your argosies with portly sail, Like signiors and rich burghers on the flood; Or, as it were the pageants of the sea, Do overpower the petty traffickers.'
Quiet, my dear boy, both of mind and body, are your indispensables. I want you to understand that:
'I tell thee what, Antonio— love thee, and It is my love that speaks.'"
Pownal promised to be very obedient, in consideration whereof the doctor guaranteed he should receive great satisfaction from his wound. "You shall see for yourself," he said, "how beautifully it will heal. To a scientific eye, and under my instruction you shall get one, there is something delightful in witnessing the granulations. We may say of Nature, as Dr. Watts sings of the honey-bee:
'How skillfully she builds her cell, How neat she stores the wax!'
I consider you a fortunate fellow."
The young men were obliged to smile at the doctor's way of viewing the subject; but he paid little attention to their mirth.
"And I will remain, meanwhile, with you," said William Bernard, which was the name of the gentleman who had accompanied the physician, addressing himself to Pownal, "if our good friend,"—and here he looked at Holden—"has no objection."
The Recluse signified his assent; and Pownal, thanking his friend, the doctor gave his sanction to the arrangement.
"It will do you no harm, William," he said, "to rough it for a night or two, and you will prove yourself thereby of a different stamp from Timon's friends." And here the doctor, who loved to quote poetry, especially Shakspeare's, better than to administer medicine, indulged again in his favorite habit:
"'As we do turn our backs From our companion thrown into his grave, So his familiars, to his buried fortunes, Slink all away; leave their false vows with him, Like empty purses picked, and his poor self A dedicated beggar to the air.'
But, Mr. Holden, lend me thy ears a moment, and thy tongue, too, if you please, for you must tell me how this happened. I do not care to disturb Pownal with the inquiry."
So saying, he walked out of the chamber, followed by the Recluse.
"Tell me first," said Holden, as they stood in the open air, "what thou thinkest of the wound."
"Ha!" cried the doctor, "'tis not so deep as a well nor so wide as a church door; but 'tis enough—'twill serve."
"What!" exclaimed the Recluse, "hast thou been deceiving the boy! But no, thou art incapable of that; and, besides, I have seen too many wounds to apprehend danger from this."
"I see, friend, you have read Shakspeare to some purpose," cried the doctor; "but know that I spoke not in the sense in which Mercutio speaks of the wound that Tybalt gave him. My mirth is not so grave as poor Mercutio's. Look you, now, I told you but the simple truth, and what your own eyes have seen. The wound is not so deep as a well, nor so wide as a church door. If it were—admitting the physical possibility—Pownal would be a monster to look at, and no dressings of mine would be of any use. And it is enough, too. You would not have it more. Besides, 'twill serve; that is, to keep him a day or two in your cabin. And herein consists one of the innumerable excellences of Shakspeare. Every sentence is as full of matter as my saddle-bags of medicine. Why, I will engage to pick out as many meanings in each as there are plums in a pudding. But, friend, I am sure you must have a copy. Let me see it."
"I know little of these vanities," replied Holden. "In my giddy youth, I drank such follies, even as the ass sucketh up the east wind. But it pleased the Lord to open mine eyes. In thoughts from the visions of the night," he continued—and his eyes shone brighter, and his stature seemed to increase—"when deep sleep falleth on men, fear came upon me and trembling, which made all my bones to shake. Then a vision passed before me, and the hair of my flesh stood up. It stood still, but I could not discern the form thereof: an image was before mine eyes—there was silence, and then I heard a voice saying, 'Behold, I come quickly; watch and pray, for thou knowest not the day nor the hour!' I was not disobedient to the heavenly warning, and thenceforth the pomps and vanities of the world have been as the dust beneath my feet."
This was not the first time that the doctor heard the Recluse speak of his peculiar opinions; but, although always ready to avow and dilate upon them when others were willing to listen, he had uniformly manifested an unwillingness to allude to himself or the incidents of his life. Whenever, heretofore, as sometimes happened, the curiosity of his auditors led the conversation in that direction, he had invariably evaded all hints and repulsed every inquiry. But his mood seemed different to-day. Elmer was a friend whom Holden highly prized, and he could therefore speak the more freely in his presence; but this is not sufficient to account for the dropping of his reserve. We know no other explanation than that there are times when the heart of every one is opened, and longs to unburden itself, and this was one of them that unsealed the lips of the Solitary.
"Is it long since the revelation?" inquired the doctor.
"Too long," said Holden, "did I wander in the paths of sin, and in forgetfulness of my God, and my youth was wasted in that which satisfieth not, neither doth it profit. My heart was very hard, and it rose up in rebellion against the Lord. Then it pleased Him (blessed be His holy name) to bray me in the mortar of affliction, and to crush me between the upper and the nether millstone. Yet I heeded not; and, like Nebuchadnezzar, my mind was hardened in pride, continually. Then, as the King of Babylon was driven forth from the sons of men, and his heart made like the beasts', and his dwelling was with the wild asses, and they fed him with grass, like oxen, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven, even so did the Spirit drive me forth into the tabernacles of the wild men of the forest and the prairie, and I sojourned with them many days. But He doth not always chide, neither keepeth He His anger for ever. In His own good time, He snatched me from the fiery furnace, and bade me here wait for His salvation; and here, years, long years, have I looked for His promise. O, Lord, how long!"
The doctor's question was unanswered, either because Holden forgot it, in his excitement, or that he was incapable of giving any accurate account of the passage of time. But thus much the doctor could gather from his incoherent account, that, at some period of his life, he had suffered a great calamity, which had affected his reason. In this condition, he had probably joined the Indians, and passed several years among them, and afterwards, upon a partial restoration of intellect, adopted the wild notions he professed. What had passed during those years, was a secret known only to himself, if, indeed, the events had not disappeared from his memory.
"You have suffered bitterly," said the doctor.
"Talk not of suffering," exclaimed Holden. "I reckon all that man can endure as not to be compared with the crown of glory that awaits him who shall gain entrance into the Kingdom. What is this speck we call life? Mark," he continued, taking up a pebble and dropping it into the water, "it is like the bubble that rises to burst, or the sound of my voice that dies as soon away. Thereon waste I not a thought, except to prepare me for the coming of my Lord."
"You think, then, this solitary life the best preparation you can make for the next?"
"Yes," said Holden; "I work not my own will. Can the clay say to the potter, what doest thou? Behold, I am in the hand of One wiser and mightier than I. Nor hath he left me without duties to perform. I am one crying in the wilderness, and though the people heed not, yet must the faithful witness cry. I have a work to perform, and how is my soul straitened until it be done? Canst thou not thyself see, by what hath happened to-day, some reason why the solitary is upon his lonely island? Had he loved the crowded haunts of men, a fellow-being had, perhaps, perished."
The allusion to the occurrence of the morning recalled the doctor's attention to the purpose for which he had left the chamber, and which he had forgotten, in listening to the talk of the enthusiast. He now directed the conversation to the subject of the wound, and heard Holden's account. He became convinced, both from his statement, and from a few words Pownal himself had dropped, as well as from the sight of the gun which Holden had picked up, and found just discharged, that the wounding was accidental, and occasioned by the young man's own fowling-piece. Having satisfied himself on this point, the doctor, with his companion, re-entered the hut. It was only to give a few parting directions to Bernard, to enjoin quiet upon his patient, and to take leave of him, which he did, in the words of his favorite—
"Fare thee well! The elements be kind to thee, and make Thy spirits all of comfort."
Ici il fallut que j'en divinasse plus qu'on ne m'en disoit. MEMOIRES DE SULLY.
A week after the events narrated in the preceding chapters, a small company was collected in a parlor of one of the houses of Hillsdale. It consisted of a gentleman, of some fifty years of age; his wife, a fine-looking matron, some years his junior; their daughter, a bright blue-eyed flaxen-haired girl, rounding into the most graceful form of womanhood, and a young man, who is not entirely a stranger to us.
The judgment of the doctor, respecting the wound of Pownal—for it is he—had proved to be correct, and, on the second day after the hurt, he had returned to the village, with his friend William Bernard, in the house of whose father he was, for the present, domiciliated. The young men had been acquainted before, and the accident seemed to have established a sort of intimacy between them. It was, therefore, with no feeling of reluctance, that Pownal accepted an invitation to desert his boarding-house for a while, for the hospitality of his friend. Perhaps, his decision was a little influenced by the remembrance of the blue eyes of Miss Bernard, and of the pleasant effect which, from their first acquaintance, they had exerted upon him. However that may be, it is certain, that, although somewhat paler than usual, he appeared to be quite contented with his condition.
It was evening, and candles were lighted, and Mr. Bernard, or as he was more commonly, or, indeed, almost universally, called, Judge Bernard, from having been one of the judges of the Superior Court, was sitting in an arm-chair, reading a newspaper; Mrs. Bernard was busy with her knitting; the young lady employed upon one of those pieces of needle-work, which, in those days, were seldom out of female hands, and Pownal looking at her all he dared, and listening to an occasional paragraph read by the Judge from his newspaper.
"You are the cause of quite a sensation in our little community, Thomas," said the Judge, laying down his spectacles and newspaper at the same time. "Mr. Editor Peters and the gossips ought to be infinitely obliged to you for wounding yourself, and affording him an opportunity to display his inventive genius and the brilliancy of his imagination, and giving them something to talk about. Here, Anne, read the article aloud for our edification."
The young lady ran her eye hastily down the column, and could not restrain her laughter.
"Excuse me, papa," she said, "it is too much for my poor nerves. Only think of it; Mr. Peters loads Mr. Pownal's gun with sixteen buck-shot, topples him off a precipice twenty feet high, breaks three of his ribs, and makes a considerable incision in his skull. Never was there such a wonderful escape. It is too horrible."
"How the newspapers are given to big stories!" said Mrs. Bernard.
"I dare say," cried Anne, "the editor has authority for what he says, for now that my attention is drawn to it, I think there must be something in the incision. Have you not remarked, mamma, that Mr. Pownal is at times light-headed?"
"Anne!" exclaimed her mother, smiling, "I am ashamed to hear a young girl rattle on so."
"I am not aware of being more light-headed than usual," said Pownal, "but I am certain no one can be in Miss Bernard's company, and not be light-hearted."
"Very prettily spoken! Mr. Thomas Pownal is practising his wit upon a country maiden, in order to be in training when he returns to open the campaign among the New York ladies."
"I am too happy here," said Pownal, in a low tone, "to wish to return to the city."
An almost imperceptible blush suffused the cheeks of Miss Bernard. She looked up from the newspaper, but her eyes encountering those of the young man, instantly fell.
"What fine speeches are you making to one another?" broke in the Judge. "My dear, do not hold down your head. It throws the blood into your face."
"Papa," cried his daughter, desirous to divert attention from herself, "can you find nothing instructing in the paper to read to us? Is there no report of any speech?"
"Speeches, indeed! Thank Heaven, there is no speech in this paper. The session of Congress has not commenced, and the deluge of words, in comparison with which Noah's flood was a summer's shower, therefore, not begun. Why, my dear little daughter, do you remind me of the national calamity?"
"To atone for the offence, papa, let me tell you that Mr. Armstrong and Faith promised to come to see us this evening, and from the sound of the opening of the front gate, I suspect they are close at hand."
Anne's conjecture proved true, for shortly after the expected visitors were announced, and the usual greetings having passed, they were all soon seated.
But before proceeding further, it may not be amiss to give some description of persons destined to play a not unimportant part in our story.
Mr. Armstrong was of middle age, of the ordinary stature, and with a face which still possessed great beauty. A noble brow, hair originally black, but prematurely grey, large dark eyes, a straight nose, and a well-formed mouth, over which played an expression of benevolence, made an exterior of exceeding attractiveness, and it would have been an unmixed pleasure to gaze upon his gracious presence, but for an air of dejection amounting to suffering, which had of late been increasing upon him. He seldom smiled, and when he did the smile was often succeeded by a dark shadow, as if he felt compunction for trespassing on the precints of gaiety.
Faith strongly resembled her father, as well in externals as in the character of her mind. Her figure was slender, approaching even to delicacy, though without any appearance of sickliness. Her face, pale and thoughtful usually, was sometimes lighted up with an enthusiasm more angelic than human. Her mother having died when she was too young to appreciate the loss, she had concentrated upon her father all that love which is generally divided between two parents. Nor was it with a feeling of love only she regarded him. With it was mixed a sentiment of reverence amounting almost to idolatry. No opinion, no thought, no word, no look of his but had for her a value. And richly was the affection of the child returned by the father, and proud was he of her, notwithstanding his struggles against the feeling as something sinful.
It was the first time since the accident to Pownal that Mr. Armstrong or his daughter had seen him, and the conversation naturally turned upon the danger he had incurred.
"It was a providential escape," said Mr. Armstrong. "It is astonishing how many dangers we run into, and our escapes may be considered as so many daily miracles to prove the interposition of a controlling Providence. There are few persons who cannot look back upon several such in the course of their lives."
"You are right, my friend," said the Judge. "I can recall half a dozen in my own experience; and if some have had fewer, some, doubtless, have had more."
"These accidents are, I suspect, the consequences of our own carelessness in nine cases out of ten," said Pownal. "At any rate, I am sure it was my carelessness that occasioned mine."
"You speak as if it could have been avoided," said Mr. Armstrong.
"Certainly. Do you not think so?"
"I am not sure of it," said Mr. Armstrong. "There appears to be a chain which links events together in an inevitable union. The very carelessness of which you accuse yourself may be the means purposely used to bring about important events."
"It has brought about very agreeable events for me," said Pownal. "I am only afraid, from the care lavished upon me, I shall be tempted to think too much of myself."
"It has scattered pleasure all around, then," said Mrs. Bernard, kindly.
"Yes," said the Judge; "any attention we can render is more than repaid by the pleasure Mr. Pownal's presence imparts. If he should ever think more highly of himself than we do, he will be a very vain person."
The young man could only bow, and with a gratified countenance return his thanks for their kindness.
"Your adventure was also the means," said Mr. Armstrong, "of making you acquainted with our anchorite. Did you not find him an interesting person?"
"More than interesting," replied Pownal. "From the moment he took me into his arms as if I had been a child, and with all the tenderness of a mother, I felt strangely attracted to him. I shall always remember with pleasure the two days I spent in his cabin, and mean to cultivate his acquaintance if he will permit me."
"He is evidently a man of refinement and education," said Armstrong, "who, for reasons of his own, has adopted his peculiar mode of life. It was a long time before I could be said to be acquainted with him, but the more I know him, the better I like him. He and Faith are great friends."
"I value his friendship highly and am glad he made so favorable an impression on you, Mr. Pownal," said Faith.
"I do believe," cried Anne, "Faith could not reverence him more if he were one of the old prophets."
"If not a prophet," said Faith, "he is at least a noble and good man, and that is the highest title to respect. He takes an interest in you, too, Mr. Pownal, for Anne tells me he has been to see you."
"My preserver has been here several times to make inquiries after my health," answered Pownal. "He was here this morning."
"And preaching about the kingdom," said Judge Bernard. "What a strange infatuation to look for the end of the world each day."
"He errs in the interpretation of the prophecies," said Mr. Armstrong, "when he finds in them prognostics of the speedy destruction of the world, but does he mistake the personal application? Who knows when he may be called to face his judge? Youth, and health, and strength, furnish no immunity against death."
"But what a gloom this daily expectation of an event which the wisest and stoutest hearted are unable to contemplate without trepidation, casts over life," said the Judge.
"Not in his case," replied Armstrong. "On the contrary, I am satisfied he would hail it with a song of thanksgiving, and I think I have observed he is sometimes impatient of the delay."
"It is well his notions are only crazy fancies as absurd as his beard. His appearance is very heathenish," said Mrs. Bernard.
"Taste, my dear," exclaimed the Judge, "all taste. Why, I have a great mind to wear a beard myself. It would be a prodigious comfort to dispense with the razor in cold winter mornings, to say nothing of the ornament. And now that I think of it, it is just the season to begin."
"You would look like a bear, Mr. Bernard," said his wife.
"It would be too near an imitation of the old Puritans for you, Judge," said Faith.
"You, at least, my little Puritan," cried the Judge, "would not object. But do not fancy that in avoiding Scylla I must run upon Charybdis. Be sure I would not imitate the trim moustaches and peaked chins of those old dandies, Winthrop and Endicott. I prefer the full flowing style of Wykliffe and Cranmer."
"We should then have two Holdens," exclaimed Mrs. Bernard, "and that would be more than our little village could live through."
"Fancy papa running an opposition beard against Mr. Holden!" said Anne.
The idea was sufficiently ludicrous to occasion a general laugh, and even Armstrong smiled.
"I am a happy man," said the Judge; "not only mirthful, myself, but the cause of mirth in others. What a beam of light is a smile, what a glory like a sunrise is a laugh!"
"That will do, Judge Bernard, that will do," said his wife; "do not try again, for you cannot jump so high twice."
"Tut, tut, Mary; what do you know about the higher poetics? I defy you to find such sublimities either in Milton or Dante."
"I can easily believe it," said Mrs. Bernard.
At this moment some other visitors entering the room, the conversation took another turn; and Mr. Armstrong and his daughter having remained a short time longer, took leave and returned home. Let us follow the departing visitors.
Upon his return, Mr. Armstrong sank upon a seat with an air of weariness.
"Come, Faith," he said, "and sit by me and hold my hand. I have been thinking this evening of the insensibility of the world to their condition. How few perceive the precipice on the edge of which they stand!"
His daughter, who was accustomed to these sombre reflections, bent over, and bringing his hand to her lips, kissed it without saying anything, knowing that he would soon explain himself more perfectly.
"Which," continued Armstrong, "is wiser, the thoughtless frivolity of Judge Bernard, or the sad watchfulness of Holden?"
"I am not competent to judge, dear father; but if they both act according to their convictions of right, are they not doing their duty?"
"You ask a difficult question. To be sure men must act according to their ideas of right, but let them beware how they get them, and what they are. Yet, can one choose his ideas? These things puzzle me?"
"What else can we do," inquired his daughter, "than live by the light we have? Surely I cannot be responsible for my involuntary ignorance."
"How far we may be the cause of the ignorance we call involuntary, it is impossible to determine. A wrong act, an improper thought, belonging to years ago and even repented of since, may project its dark shadow into the present, and pervert the judgment. We are fearfully made."
"Why pain yourself, dearest father, with speculations of this character? Our Maker knows our weakness and will pardon our infirmities."
"I am an illustration of the subject of our conversation," continued Armstrong, after a pause of a few minutes, during which he had remained meditating, with his head resting on his hand. "I know I would not, willingly, harshly judge another—for who authorized me to pass sentence? Yet these ideas would force themselves into my mind; and how have I spoken of our kind and excellent neighbor! There is something wrong in myself which I must struggle to correct."
We communicate only enough of the conversation to give an idea of the state of Mr. Armstrong's mind at the time. At the usual family devotions that night he prayed fervently for forgiveness of his error, repeatedly upbraiding himself with presumption and uncharitableness, and entreating that he might not be left to his own vain imaginations.
O! I could whisper thee a tale, That surely would thy pity move, But what would idle words avail, Unless the heart might speak its love?
To tell that tale my pen were weak, My tongue its office, too, denies, Then mark it on my varying cheek, And read it in my languid eyes. ANONYMOUS.
After the expiration of a fortnight, Pownal could find no excuses to satisfy even himself with remaining longer at Judge Bernard's. The visit had been, indeed, one of great enjoyment, and gladly would he have availed himself of the pressing invitation of his host to prolong it, could he have conjured up any reason for doing so. Lightly would he have esteemed and cheerfully welcomed another wound like that from which he was recovering, could the pleasure have been thus purchased. The truth is that within a few days he had been conscious of a feeling of which he had never before suspected himself, and it was this feeling that made him so reluctant to depart. And yet, when, in the silence of his chamber, and away from the blue eyes of Anne Bernard, he reflected upon his position, he was obliged to confess, with a sigh, that prudence required he should leave a society as dangerous as it was sweet. To be in the same house with her, to breathe the same air, to read the same books, to hear her voice was a luxury it was hard to forego, but in proportion to the difficulty was the necessity. Besides he could not avoid fancying that young Bernard, though not cold, was hardly as cordial as formerly, and that he would regard with satisfaction a separation from his sister. Nor had he reason to suppose that she looked upon him with feelings other than those which she entertained for any other acquaintance standing to her in the same relation as himself. Beyond the ordinary compliments and little attentions which the manners of the day permitted, nothing had passed between them, and though satisfied he was not an object of aversion, he knew as well that she had never betrayed any partiality for him. Meanwhile, his own feelings were becoming interested, beyond, perhaps, the power of control, the sooner, therefore, he weaned himself from the delightful fascination, the better for his peace of mind.
Thomas Pownal was comparatively a stranger in the neighborhood, only two or three months having elapsed since he had been sent by the mercantile firm of Bloodgood, Pownal, & Co., of New York, to take charge of a branch of their business at Hillsdale. Even in that short space of time, by his affable manners and attention to business he had won his way to the respect and esteem of the good people of the town, and was looked upon as one likely to succeed in the lottery of life. No one was more welcome, by reason of his amiable character, to those of his own age, while his steadiness recommended him to his elders. But his family was unknown, though he was supposed to be a distant relation of the second member of the firm, nor had he any visible means of subsistence except the very respectable salary, which, as a confidential clerk, he received from his employers, on whom his prospects of success depended. The chasm, therefore, betwixt the only daughter of the wealthy Mr. Bernard and himself, was wide—wide enough to check even an overweening confidence. But such it was not in the nature of Pownal to feel. He was sensible of the full force of the difficulties he had to encounter; to his modesty they seemed insuperable, and he determined to drive from his heart a sentiment that, in his despondency, he blamed himself for allowing to find a place there.
It took him some days to form the resolution, and after it was formed, it was not easy to carry it into effect. More than once he had been on the point of returning thanks for the kindness he had received, and avowing his intention to depart, but it seemed as if the veriest trifle were sufficient to divert him from his purpose. If Mr. Bernard spoke of the satisfaction he derived from his company, if Mrs. Bernard declared she should miss him when he left; or if Anne's radiant face looked thanks for his reading aloud, they were all so many solicitations to delay his departure. The treacherous heart readily listened to the seduction, however much the judgment might disapprove. But, as we have seen, a time had come when the voice of prudence could no longer be silenced, and, however unwillingly, must be obeyed. He, therefore, took occasion, one morning, at the breakfast table, to announce his intended departure.
"Had I been a son," he said, in conclusion, "you could not have lavished more kindness upon me, and I shall never forget it."
"What! what!" cried the Judge, "I am not sure that the shooting one's self is a bailable offence, and I shall be obliged to examine the authorities, before I discharge you from custody, Master Thomas."
"To think," said Mrs. Bernard, "it does not seem a week since you came, and we have all been so happy. I declare, Mr. Pownal, I shall not know how to do without you."
"The dearest friends must part—but we shall always be glad to see you, Tom," said William Bernard.
"I do not see the necessity for your going," said the Judge. "Our house is large enough for all; your attacks at table are not yet very formidable; and I have not taught you whist perfectly. Would it not be better to substitute a curia vult avisare in place of a decision? But, Anne, have you nothing to say? Is this your gratitude for all Thomas's martyrdoms of readings of I know not what unimaginable nonsense; and holdings of skeins of silk, more difficult to unwind than the labyrinth through which Ariadne's thread conducted Theseus; and pickings up of whatever your feminine carelessness chose to drop on the carpet; and endurance of all the legions of annoyances with which young ladies delight to harass young gentlemen? Have you no backing for your mother and me? One word from you ought to be worth a thousand from us old folks."
"Mr. Pownal owes me some gratitude, too, father," said Anne, "for the patience and accomplishments I have taught him. But he surely knows how much pleasure his presence confers on all in this house. We shall miss him very much, shall we not, Beau?"—addressing a little spaniel that, upon being spoken to, sat up on his hind legs to beg for breakfast.
"I have several times endeavored to say this before," said Pownal, somewhat piqued, and feeling a strong desire to kick the innocent cur out of the room, "but have never been able to muster sufficient courage. And now, if my thanks appear cold, as I am afraid they do to Miss Bernard, I assure her it is not the fault of my heart, but of my tongue."
"Hearts and tongues!" exclaimed the Judge. "The former belong to the ladies' department; the latter to mine. Yet, I fancy I know something about hearts, too; and yours, Thomas, I am sure, is adequate security for your words."
"You are very good, sir," said Pownal, "and I can only wish that all participated in your undeserved partiality."
Anne was vexed with herself for having spoken in so trifling a manner. The frigid politeness of her brother's speech, too, had not escaped her notice. It seemed to her now, that she had been wantonly rude. She hastened, therefore, to repair the fault.
"Mr. Pownal mistakes," she said, "if he thinks me unmindful of the pleasant hours his unfortunate accident procured us. And I am sure I should be a monster of ingratitude," she added smiling, and relapsing, in spite of herself, into the very trifling she had condemned, "if I did not remember, with lively emotions, his skill at holding silk and yarn."
"Well, whenever you want a reel, send for me," said Pownal, "and I shall only be too happy to come."
"Take care, my good fellow," said the Judge, "she does not wind you up, too."
"I should be too happy—" began Pownal.
"For shame, father," cried Anne, laughing, and rising from the table. "The young men have quite spoiled you, of late. Good-bye; you have finished your last cup of coffee, and have no longer need of me." So saying, she hastened out of the room.
It was with mutual regret that the parting took place, and not without many promises required of the young man that he would frequently visit the family. His landlady, Mrs. Brown, was, as usual, all smiles, and welcomes, and congratulations on his return; notwithstanding which, it was with a sense of loneliness, amounting almost to desolation, that her lodger found himself installed again in his apartments. It seemed like passing out of the golden sunshine into a gloomy cavern. Was it possible that two short weeks could have produced so great a change in him? When he thought upon the cause, the conscious blush revealed its nature. "No," said he, aloud, as he paced backwards and forwards in the room, "this is folly and madness. For me, a humble clerk, to connect myself, even in imagination, with her! What have I to offer her? Or what even in prospect? I have been sailing in the clouds, and my tattered balloon is precipitated to the earth—I have been dreaming. How delicious was the dream! But I am now awake, and will never expose myself to the mortification of ——. I have been foolish. No, not so; for, who could come within the range of such fascinations, and not be charmed? But what, after all, are they to me? I will resist this weakness, and learn to regard her as only any other valued acquaintance; for, alas! she can never be more."
In such incoherent expressions, poor Pownal gave vent to the emotions that agitated him. It would have been some consolation, could he have known what was said at the Bernards', when the family gathered around the table in the evening. Mrs. Bernard alluded more than once to the gap his absence made in their little circle; and the Judge, in his jesting way, wished that somebody would shoot him again, if it might be the means to bring him back. Even Anne expressed regret at his loss, since his company had been such a pleasure to her parents.
"Groves freshened, as he looked, and flowers Showed bright on rocky bank, And fountains welled beneath the bowers, Where deer and pheasant drank; He saw the glittering streams, he heard The rustling bough and twittering bird."
The mind of Ohquamehud dwelt upon his meeting with Holden. Sleeping or waking, the image of the latter pursued him. But it was not always in the shape of the Recluse that the vision appeared. More often it assumed the form of a young man, in the garb of a western hunter, with a rifle in his hand. Then rose up, in connection with him, boundless forests, through which the deer stole noiselessly, and the screech of the catamount was heard. And then again he hunted, and as he approached the game he had shot, Holden approached and claimed it as his; or he was on a war-path, and stumbled against a log, and fell; and as he strove to rise, the log was changed into Holden, who grappled him in a death-struggle—wherever he was, and whithersoever he turned his eyes, there was the young man, seeming to be, and yet not to be Holden, and haunting him like a shadow. As these imaginations possessed themselves more and more of the Indian's mind, he began to fancy himself the victim of some incantation, with which he naturally connected the Recluse as the cause; and, finally, by continual brooding on the subject, both his appetite and sleep deserted him. His moodiness at length attracted the attention of Peena. Ohquamehud was lying on the floor of her hut, his head resting on his hand, and he had been for some time gazing in the fire. The simple noon-day meal had barely been tasted, and that in silence.
"Have the hands of Peena," she said, "forgot how to prepare his food, that the eyes of my brother turn away from it with displeasure?"
"The hands of my sister have not lost their skill, but Ohquamehud is not hungry."
"Ohquamehud is a warrior, and Peena is but a weak woman, and he will not be angry," she added, hesitatingly.
The Indian waved his hand, with dignity, as if inviting her to proceed.
"Ohquamehud sees the heart of his sister, and he knows that it loves him, for he is the brother of Huttamoiden. Why does he cover up his face from her, and hide his grief? Is she unworthy," she added, laying her hand on his shoulder, and looking affectionately in his face, "to listen to his voice?"
He turned towards her, and paused before he said—
"The stone in the path of Ohquamehud is very small, and will not hurt his feet."
"Peena, then, will try to remove it. She has strength to move small stones."
She ceased, and continued looking at him, without adding a word, as if she had said enough, and awaited a reply.
"Why should Ohquamehud speak?" he said, at last; "the breath of the Long Beard will blow away his words."
A look of vacancy overspread the face of the squaw, as if she failed to apprehend his meaning.
"My brother's words are dark," she said.
"Has not the powawing of the Long Beard brought back the spirit of Huttamoiden's cub from the happy hunting-grounds, and does not, therefore, the face of Peena turn to him as the sun-flower to the sun?"
"The Great Spirit loves the Long Beard, and the Long Beard loves his red brethren."
"What! a Yenghese love an Indian? Yes, as a wild-cat loves the deer when he sucks his blood, as the water loves the fire it extinguishes. The lips of Peena speak foolishness."
"If Peena feel grateful to the Long Beard, why should that anger her brother? Could he look into her heart, he would see his face as in a clear stream."
It was not in human nature to withstand the soft voice and pleading looks of the woman. The momentary fierceness passed away from the countenance of the Indian, a milder expression assumed its place, and, in a gentle tone, he said—
"Peena shall hear. She is like a stone which, when spoken to, repeats not what is said, and not like a brook that sings an idle song. My words shall enter her ears, but they will not descend to her tongue. Listen! the Manitou has troubled my thoughts, and sent a bird to tell me, that the hands of the Long Beard are red with the blood of my brothers."
"It was a lying bird," she exclaimed vehemently; "it was an owl that hooted untruth from the dark. When lifted the Long Beard a hatchet against my tribe?"
"The voice was as the voice of the waterfall," he continued. "It spoke indistinctly, and I understood but half."
"Why should not Ohquamehud talk with the Long Beard? The words of each shall be sweet to the other, and they will learn to have one heart."
"It is well," said the Indian, "Peena is a wise woman, and Ohquamehud will speak with the white man."
It needed only the suggestion of the squaw to carry into effect a resolution already more than half adopted.
The Indian rose, and proceeding to the river, which was but a dozen rods distant from the hut, unloosed a canoe, and directing its course up the stream, was lost, in a few moments, from her view.
The appearance of Ohquamehud indicated no hostility when he presented himself before the Recluse, whom he found weaving baskets in front of his cabin, nor did his visit seem to surprise the latter. For an instant the Indian looked with disdain upon an employment which his wild education had taught him was fit only for women; but suppressing the expression of a sentiment that might have interfered with his purpose, with a quiet dignity, and, as if in answer to a wave of Holden's hand, he seated himself on a large stone by his side. For a time he was silent, as if either out of deference to the superior years of the other, or because he wished to collect his thoughts before he began the conversation. Finding, however, he could obtain from the Solitary no further sign of recognition, he spoke in his own language.
"My brother has a big heart. He is making gifts for the beautiful women of his nation."
"Indian," replied Holden, "think not to deceive me. At this moment thou considerest this an occupation unfit for a man."
"My brother has very long eyes. They can see the woodpecker on the rotten tree across the river, but they reach not here," laying his hand upon his breast. "The Holder of the Heavens loves not to see things alike. He therefore made the leaf of the oak to differ from that of the hickory, and the pine from both, and also the white race from the red. And, for the same reason, he taught the white man to make big lodges of wood, and brick and stone, and to swim over the waters in large canoes with wings: while to the red man he gave the forests and prairies, with the deer, and bear, and buffalo, and caused him to dwell in very small wigwams made of bark. And so, also, he taught my white brother to weave beautiful baskets, but denied the skill to my father's son."
The Indian must have supposed he had seriously offended his new acquaintance, to induce him thus elaborately to attempt to avert his suspicions. However that might be, the Solitary resumed the conversation as though he felt no resentment.
"There is wisdom in thy speech. The Great Spirit loves variety, and it is he that maketh men to differ. But there was once a time many moons ago, when thy ancestors builded great houses and dwelt in cities, and sailed over the seas in winged-canoes."
The Indian cast a quick, sharp glance at the Solitary, as if he wished to read his very soul. For a moment he looked as though he doubted the evidence of his senses. But recovering his composure, he said:
"The thoughts of my brother are very high, and his voice like the sound of a great wind."
"Thou comprehendest me not. Know then, Indian, that innumerable years ago, there lived far towards the rising sun, twelve tribes, called the 'Children of Israel,' whom the Master of Life greatly loved. And they had wise and brave Sachems, who led them to battle, and their feet were red with the blood of their enemies. But they became wicked, and would not hearken unto the words of the Great Spirit, and He turned his face away from them. So their enemies came upon them, and despoiled them, and drove them from the land. Two of the tribes still linger near the rising sun, but ten wandered far away into distant countries, and they are thy fathers."
The Indian listened with great attention, and upon the other pausing, said:
"Has the Manitou told all these things to my brother?"
"No, Indian; the Great Spirit speaks not now to his people as he did when the world was young. But," he added, as if struck with the folly of continuing a conversation of this character, "the path is long that led me to this truth, and it would weary thy feet to travel it."
"My brother is wise, and cannot lie, and I am a child. My ears drink in his words. The legs of my brother are long, and he has been a great traveller. Was it near the rising sun he learned the language of the red man?"
"Indian, I have never been nearer the rising sun than thou. But tell me the object of thy visit. Why dost thou seek me now, when but a few days since thou didst chide the squaw for her willingness to oblige me?"
"The lips of Ohquamehud spoke folly. He did not then know that this brother had talked to the Master of Life, who granted to him the life of Huttamoiden's child. The blood of Huttamoiden runs in these veins."
The explanation was perfectly natural, and whatever suspicion had arisen in Holden's mind vanished. It seemed not surprising that the Indian, who also, by uttering his name, had proclaimed himself a Pequot, should be willing to form the acquaintance of one who had proved himself a friend to his tribe, and probably was invested in his imagination with the qualities of a "great medicine." But, though to Holden's high-wrought fancies, the recovery of the boy had seemed miraculous, and he could not avoid connecting his prayers with it, yet he shrank from directly claiming so great a power as the Indian ascribed to him.
"The issues of life and death are with the Great Spirit," he said. "At his pleasure he breathes into our nostrils, and we live; or he turns away his face, and we die. Let not my brother give too much credit to a worm."
The wily Indian, from the other's altered tone and manner, perceived his advantage, and was not slow to use it.
"Because my white brother loved his red brethren, he sought them in their lodges, and there they taught him their language. So when the boy was departing for the happy hunting grounds, my brother remembered their kindness, and held the child by the hand, and would not let him go."
The face of the Solitary worked with emotion while the other was speaking.
"Would that I could explain," he said. "But thou art unable to understand. How canst thou know a Christian heart?"
"The heart of Ohquamehud is a man's."
"Aye; but a savage knows not, and despises forgiveness. I was a stately pine, whose branches mingled with the clouds, and the birds came and lodged therein. And a storm arose, and thunders rolled, and the lightning struck it, and its pride and glory tumbled to the ground. And it was burnt up, all save this blasted trunk." He uttered this with a wild frenzy, and as if hardly conscious of the presence of another.
"Doth the lightning fall from a clear sky?" said the Indian, after a pause. "It is long since a black cloud burst over the ancient hunting-grounds of the Pequots."
"Where the streams run toward the setting sun, the thunderbolt struck. Why was it not me instead of those dearer to me than life?"
"A bird hath sung to Ohquamehud that the land is pleasant, and the hunter only extends his hand to find something to savor his broth and to cover his feet."
"It is a land of streams, and mountains, and forests, and the deer and the bear still are plenty. When the Creator made it, he smiled and pronounced it good; and there, as in your fabled hunting-grounds, might men be blessed but for their passions."
"The red man loves his friend, and hates his enemy."
"To hate is a devilish feeling. It comes not from the Good Spirit."
Ohquamehud rose and stood before Holden. It seemed to his bold and ferocious temper, that he could not, without cowardice, hear assailed and not vindicate, a principle that had been inculcated upon him from youth, and formed a sacred portion of his creed. As he stood up, the blanket fell in graceful folds from his shoulders, around his person, and he stretched out a hand to solicit attention.
"Listen," he said; "the tongue of Ohquamehud is one: it will speak the truth. Because the Great Spirit loved his children, he made them to love and to hate, and both are pleasant. The south wind is sweet when it comes in spring to tell that winter is past and the starved Indian need no longer shiver over the fire; and sweet are the kisses of Wullogana to Ohquamehud, and dear are the voices of his little ones when they meet him from the chase, but sweeter than the sighs of the wind of spring, or the caresses of Wullogana, or the laughter of his children, is it to strike an enemy. His flesh is good, for it strengthens a red heart. The wolf will never become a lamb, and the wolf is the totem of my clan. Ohquamehud has said."
It would be impossible to describe the conflicting emotions of Holden during this savage speech. Whatever might have been the wild incidents of his youth, or whatever his wrongs and sufferings, the time was long past, and he had supposed all stormy passion subdued, and his heart chastised to resignation and submission. He listened at first with unmixed horror to the Indian's declaration, but as the savage went on, the words became more and more indistinct, till they lost all meaning or were converted into other sounds, and, as in a dream, made the aliment of his thoughts. The whole conversation, and the very language in which they spoke, contributed to produce this state of mind. Lost to all around, his soul was far away. He saw a cabin beside a mountain torrent, overshadowed by immense trees. It was summer, and the birds were singing among the branches. The door of the cabin opened, and a young and beautiful white woman stepped out, holding a child by the hand. Suddenly it was night, and the cabin on fire, and he heard the yells of savages, and saw them like so many demons dancing round the flames; then hush, all again was still, and darkness brooded over the spot, lighted only by a flickering brand.
The bosom of Holden heaved convulsively, and his brain reeled.
The Indian watched his changing countenance with an eager look as if he revelled in his agony. Not a hard drawn breath, not a single expression escaped his notice. He saw the eyes of the Solitary flash, then settle into a dreamy gaze as if looking into a dim, unfathomable distance, then shut, as if he tried to exclude some horrid sight. Suddenly, with a shudder, Holden sprang to his feet.
"Accursed Shawnees," he cried; "they have done this deed. But for every drop of blood they shed a river shall flow. Dog!" and he seized the Indian with a strength to which madness lent additional force, and dashed him to the ground, "thou art first delivered into my hand."
He staggered toward the fallen man—stopped—glared at him a moment and with a wild cry rushed into the hut.
The Indian, who had immediately risen from the fall, and stood with folded arms regarding his motions, slowly gathered up his disordered blanket about him and stalked towards the canoe. A gleam of ferocity shot over his face as he resumed the paddle, and softly breathing the single word "Onontio," pushed from the shore.
I will pursue to death this spiteful knight: Not earth's low centre, nor sea's deepest part, Nor heaven, nor hell, can shield him from my might: I will o'ertake him, take him, cleave his heart. FAIRFAX' TASSO.
The suspicions of the Indian were confirmed beyond a doubt. It was, perhaps, the voice and accent of the Solitary in his native tongue that at first attracted his attention and induced him to try the experiment which resulted as we have seen. He must have had or fancied that he had a cause of deadly hatred of long standing against Holden. It is impossible otherwise to explain his conduct. But no length of time can erase the recollection of an injury from the mind of a North American Indian. He cherishes it as something never to be parted with, and would feel degraded in his own estimation were he to forgive. Revenge is the central sun round which his spirit revolves; and to gratify the feeling no hardships are too severe. For such a purpose he will traverse, with an unerring instinct, pathless forests for hundreds of miles, swim wide rivers, climb lofty mountains, sleep, unrepining, on the bare ground, exposed to all vicissitudes of heat and cold, supporting himself by the chase and fishing, and sustained throughout by his vindictive passion and the glory he connects with its gratification. The kindness shown by Holden to his sister and her son, and the reverence with which she regarded him, it might be expected would have influenced Ohquamehud; but they had no such effect. To the kindness he ascribed a sinister motive; and of course, Peena's gratitude was misplaced. It was therefore with a fiendish joy unalloyed by misgivings, that he brooded over the means to accomplish his purpose.
He dared not communicate it to Peena. He understood her gentle nature too well to suppose that, under any circumstances, she could sympathize with him, even though she felt no sense of obligation to Holden; and, besides, he distrusted her as one who had abandoned the faith of her fathers. For, although no Christian in the proper import of the word, the sweet and purifying influences of Christianity had not been wholly thrown away upon Peena. She had many friends in the neighboring village who had been attracted by her gentle temper and modesty, conspicuous among whom was Faith Armstrong. Hence, when she came to the village, as not unfrequently was the case, in order to sell the berries she had gathered in the fields, or pretty baskets stained with such lively colors as the simple skill of the Indians knew how to extract from roots and the bark of trees, it seldom happened that she returned without having made Faith a visit. On such occasions the enthusiastic girl would strive to inform her on points of religion which, to her own mind, were of the highest importance. Peena would listen, and never contradict, though, it is probable, she understood but little of what to Faith's apprehension was clear.
It was impossible, however, not to derive benefit from such meetings. None could be in the presence of Faith without being influenced by the atmosphere of goodness in which she moved. And, indeed, that she herself derived pleasure from the presence of Peena, was evidence of the gentle worth of the latter.
No wonder then that Ohquamehud determined to conceal his fell purpose in his own heart. When, therefore, with the quiet step peculiar to his race, he glided into her hut, just before the setting of the sun, he had chased the traces of passion from his brow, and met her with a calm and satisfied mien. So perfect was the dissimulation that even one less guileless than the woman would have been deceived. In the present case, the preoccupation of her mind in Holden's favor made it easier.
"My brother," she said, with a pleased expression, as she caught sight of his altered appearance, "is like the sky in summer when not a cloud is to be seen."
"The cloud has left the sky of Ohquamehud."
This was said with a natural and easy air, as if all suspicion were banished from his mind; nor was the subject further adverted to.
The time at which the children of nature retire to rest, is not that observed by the artificially-cultivated man. For them, the hours of light and darkness mark out the periods for action and repose. It was then still early in the evening, when a heavy breathing in the hut of Peena indicated the sleep of its inmates. Ohquamehud had listened for it, and having waited until the breathing became deep and full to assure him of the profoundness of the slumber, he sat up on his couch and looked cautiously around. The brands were smouldering in the ashes with a dim flickering light, but sufficient to direct and give certainty to his movements. With a step so noiseless that the acutest ear would not have detected it, he crossed the floor, took his rifle from the corner where it had been placed, with equal caution opened the door, and stood in the open air.
It was a clear star-lit night, and on the placid bosom of the water shone one star larger and brighter than the rest, as if to light him on his way. But it was all unobserved by the Indian. He had no eyes, no ears, no senses, except for the crime he was about to commit. To him, no crime, but a heroic act. Slowly, and measuring each step as though a thousand ears were listening, he proceeded in the direction of the canoe, untied it, and softly pushed it into the stream. As he took his seat the dip of his paddle made no sound, and thus, stern as an iron statue, and almost as still, he paddled on.