In the Valley
Part 2 out of 6
I fancy the notion that we were no longer children began dancing in my
head a little, too.
It would have been strange otherwise, for the day and the scene must have
stirred the coldest pulse. We moved through a pale velvety panorama of
green--woodland and roadside and river reflections and shadows, all of
living yet young and softening green; the birds all about us filled the
warm air with song; the tapping of the woodpeckers and the shrill chatter
of squirrels came from every thicket; there was nothing which did not
reflect our joyous, buoyant delight that spring had come again. And I rode
by Daisy's side, and thought more of her, I'm bound, than I did of the
flood-dismantled dike on the river-bend at home which I had left
unrestored for the day.
Over the heads of the negroes, who, spying us, came headlong to take our
horses, we saw Sir William standing in the garden with an unknown lady.
The baronet himself, walking a little heavily with his cane, approached us
with hearty salutations, helped Daisy to unmount, and presented us to this
stranger--Lady Berenicia Cross.
I am not so sure that people can fall in love at first sight. But never
doubt their ability to dislike from the beginning! I know that I felt
indignantly intolerant of this woman even before, hat in hand, I had
finished my bow to her.
Yet it might well have been that I was over-harsh in my judgment. She had
been a pretty woman in her time, and still might be thought well-favored.
At least _she_ must have thought so, for she wore more paint and ribbons,
and fal-lals generally, than ever I saw on another woman, before or since.
Her face was high, narrow, and very regular; oddly enough, it was in
outline, with its thin, pursed-up mouth, straight nose, and full eyelids
and brows, very like a face one would expect to see in a nun's hood. Yet
so little in the character of the cloister did this countenance keep, that
it was plastered thick with chalk and rouge, and sprinkled with ridiculous
black patches, and bore, as it rose from the low courtesy before me, an
unnatural smile half-way between a leer and a grin.
I may say that I was a wholesome-enough looking young fellow, very tall
and broad-shouldered, with a long, dark face, which was ugly in childhood,
but had grown now into something like comeliness. I am not parading
special innocence either, but no woman had ever looked into my eyes with
so bold, I might say impudent, an expression as this fine lady put on to
greet me. And she was old enough to be my mother, almost, into
But even more than her free glances, which, after all, meant no harm, but
only reflected London manners, her dress grated upon me. We were not
unaccustomed to good raiment in the Valley. Johnson Hall, which reared its
broad bulk through the trees on the knoll above us, had many a time
sported richer and costlier toilets in its chambers than this before us.
But on my lady the gay stuffs seemed painfully out of place--like her
feather fan, and smelling-salts, and dainty netted purse. The mountains
and girdling forests were real; the strong-faced, burly, handsome baronet,
whose words spoken here in the back-woods were law to British king and
Parliament, was real; we ourselves, suitably and decently clad, and
knowing our position, were also genuine parts of the scene. The English
lady was pinchbeck by contrast with all about her.
"Will you give the ladies an arm, Douw?" said Sir William. "We were
walking to see the lilacs I planted a year ago. We old fellows, with so
much to say to each other, will lead the way."
Nothing occurred to me to say to the new acquaintance, who further annoyed
me by clinging to my arm with a zeal unpleasantly different from Daisy's
soft touch on the other side. I walked silent, and more or less sulky,
between them down the gravelled path. Lady Berenicia chattered steadily.
"And so this is the dear little Mistress Daisy of whom Sir William talks
so much. How happy one must be to be such a favorite everywhere! And you
content to live here, too, leading this simple, pastoral life! How sweet!
And you never weary of it--never sigh when it is time to return to it from
"I never have been to New York, nor Albany either," Daisy made answer.
Lady Berenicia held up her fan in pretended astonishment.
"Never to New York! nor even to Albany! _Une vraie belle sauvage!_ How you
amaze me, poor child!"
"Oh, I crave no pity, madam," our dear girl answered, cheerily. "My father
and brother are so good to me--just like a true father and brother--that
if I but hinted a wish to visit the moon, they would at once set about to
arrange the voyage. I do not always stay at home. Twice I have been on a
visit to Mr. Campbell, at Cherry Valley, over the hills yonder. And then
once we made a grand excursion up the river, way to Fort Herkimer, and
beyond to the place where my poor parents lost their lives."
As we stood regarding the lilac bushes, planted in a circle on the slope,
and I was congratulating myself that my elbows were free again, two
gentlemen approached us from the direction of the Hall.
Daisy was telling the story of her parents' death, which relation Lady
Berenicia had urgently pressed, but now interrupted by saying: "There,
that is my husband, with young Mr. Butler."
Mr. Jonathan Cross seemed a very honest and sensible gentleman when we
came to converse with him; somewhat austere, in the presence of his
rattle-headed spouse at least, but polite and well-informed. He spoke
pleasantly with me, saying that he was on his way to the farther Lake
country on business, and that his wife was to remain, until his return, at
His companion was Walter Butler, and of him I ought to speak more closely,
since long generations after this tale is forgotten his name will remain
written, blood-red, in the Valley's chronicles. I walked away from the
lilacs with him, I recall, discussing some unremembered subject. I always
liked Walter: even now, despite everything, there continues a soft spot in
my memory for him.
He was about my own age, and, oh! such a handsome youth, with features cut
as in a cameo, and pale-brown smooth skin, and large deep eyes, that look
upon me still sometimes in dreams with ineffable melancholy. He was
somewhat beneath my stature, but formed with perfect delicacy.
In those old days of breeches and long hose, a man's leg went for a good
deal. I have often thought that there must be a much closer connection
between trousers and democracy than has ever been publicly traced. A man
like myself, with heavy knee-joints and a thick ankle, was almost always a
Whig in the Revolutionary time--as if by natural prejudice against the
would-be aristocrats, who liked to sport a straight-sinking knee-cap and
dapper calf. When the Whigs, after the peace, became masters of their own
country, and divided into parties again on their own account, it was still
largely a matter of lower limbs. The faction which stood nearest Old-World
ideas and monarchical tastes are said to have had great delight in the
symmetry of Mr. Adams's underpinning, so daintily displayed in satin and
silk. And when the plainer majority finally triumphed with the induction
of Mr. Jefferson, some fifteen years since, was it not truly a victory of
republican trousers--a popular decree that henceforth all men should be
equal as to legs?
To return. Walter Butler was most perfectly built--a living picture of
grace. He dressed, too, with remarkable taste, contriving always to appear
the gentleman, yet not out of place in the wilderness. He wore his own
black hair, carelessly tied or flowing, and with no thought of powder.
We had always liked each other, doubtless in that we were both of a solemn
and meditative nature. We had not much else in common, it is true, for he
was filled to the nostrils with pride about the Ormond-Butlers, whom he
held to be his ancestors, and took it rather hard that I should not also
be able to revere them for upholding a false-tongued king against the
rights of his people. For my own part, I did not pin much faith upon his
descent, being able to remember his grandfather, the old lieutenant, who
seemed a peasant to the marrow of his bones.
Nor could I see any special value in the fact of descent, even were it
unquestioned. Walter, it seemed to me, would do much better to work at the
law, to which he was bred, and make a name for himself by his own
exertions. Alas, he did make a name!
But though our paths would presently diverge we still were good friends,
and as we walked he told me what he had heard that day of Lady Berenicia
Cross. It was not much. She had been the daughter of a penniless,
disreputable Irish earl, and had wedded early in life to escape the
wretchedness of her paternal home. She had played quite a splendid part
for a time in the vanities of London court-life, after her husband gained
his wealth, but had latterly found her hold upon fashion's favor loosened.
Why she had accompanied her serious spouse on this rough and wearisome
journey was not clear. It might be that she came because he did not care
for her company. It might be that he thought it wisest not to leave her in
London to her own devices. In any case, here she indubitably was, and
Walter was disposed to think her rather a fine woman for her years,
which he took to be about twoscore.
* * * * *
We strolled back again to the lilacs, where the two women were seated on a
bench, with Mr. Cross and Colonel Claus--the brighter and better of Sir
William's two sons-in-law--standing over them. Lady Berenicia beckoned to
my companion with her fan.
"Pray come and amuse us, Mr. Butler," she said, in her high, mincing
tones. "Were it not for the fear of ministering to your vanity, I might
confess we two have been languishing for an hour for your company.
Mistress Daisy and I venerate these cavaliers of ours vastly--we hold
their grave wisdom in high regard--but our frivolous palates need lighter
things than East India Companies and political quarrels in Boston. I
command you to discourse nonsense, Mr. Butler--pure, giddy nonsense."
Walter bowed, and with a tinge of irony acknowledged the compliment, but
all pleasantly enough. I glanced at our Daisy, expecting to discover my
own distaste for this silly speech mirrored on her face. It vexed me a
little to see that she seemed instead to be pleased with the London lady.
"What shall it be, my lady?" smiled Walter; "what shall be the
shuttlecock--the May races, the ball, the Klock scandal, the--"
If it was rude, it is too late to be helped now. I interrupted the foolish
talk by asking Colonel Claus what the news from Boston was, for the
post-boy had brought papers to the Hall that morning.
"The anniversary speech is reported. Some apothecary, named Warren, held
forth this year, and his seems the boldest tongue yet. If his talk stinks
not of treason in every line, why then I have no smelling sense. They are
talking of it in the library now; but I am no statesman, and it suits me
better out here in the sun."
"But," I replied, "I have heard of this Dr. Warren, and he is not reputed
to be a rash or thoughtless speaker."
Young Butler burst into the conversation with eager bitterness:
"Thoughtless! Rash! No--the dogs know better! There'll be no word that can
be laid hold upon--all circumspect outside, with hell itself underneath.
Do we not know the canters? Oh, but I'd smash through letter and seal of
the law alike to get at them, were I in power! There'll be no peace till
some strong hand does do it."
Walter's deep eyes flashed and glowed as he spoke, and his face was
shadowed with grave intensity of feeling.
There was a moment's silence--broken by the thin voice of the London lady:
"_Bravo_! admirable! Always be in a rage, Mr. Butler, it suits you so
much.--Isn't he handsome, Daisy, with his feathers all on end?"
While our girl, unused to such bold talk, looked blushingly at the young
grass, Mr. Cross spoke:
"Doubtless you gentry of New York have your own good reasons for disliking
Boston men, as I find you do. But why rasp your nerves and spoil your
digestion by so fuming over their politics? I am an Englishman: if I can
keep calm on the subject, you who are only collaterally aggrieved, as it
were, should surely be able to do so. My word for it, young men, life
brings vexations enough to one's very door, without setting out in
quest of them."
"Pray, Mr. Cross," languidly sneered my lady, "what is there in the
heavens or on the earth, or in the waters under the earth, which could
stir your blood by one added beat an hour, save indigo and spices?"
There was so distinct a menace of domestic discord in this iced query that
Butler hastened to take up the talk:
"Ah, yes, _you_ can keep cool! There are thousands of miles of water
between you English and the nest where this treason is hatched. It's close
to us. Do you think you can fence in a sentiment as you can cattle? No: it
will spread. Soon what is shouted in Boston will be spoken in Albany,
whispered in Philadelphia, winked and nodded in Williamsburg, thought in
Charleston. And how will it be here, with us? Let me tell you, Mr. Cross,
we are really in an alien country here. The high Germans above us, like
that Herkimer you saw here Tuesday, do you think they care a pistareen for
the King? And these damned sour-faced Dutch traders below, have they
forgotten that this province was their grandfathers'? The moment it
becomes clear to their niggard souls that there's no money to be lost by
treason, will they not delight to help on any trouble the Yankees contrive
to make for England? I tell you, sir, if you knew these Dutch as I know
them--their silent treachery, their jealousy of us, their greed--"
This seemed to have gone far enough. "Come, you forget that I am a
Dutchman," I said, putting my hand on Butler's shoulder.
Quivering with the excitement into which he had worked himself, he shook
off my touch, and took a backward step, eying me angrily. I returned his
gaze, and I dare say it was about as wrathful as his own.
Lady Berenicia made a diversion. "It grows cool," she said. "Come inside
with me, Mistress Daisy, and I will show you all my chests and boxes. Mr.
Cross made a great to-do about bringing them, but--"
As the ladies rose, Walter came to me with outstretched hand. "I was at
fault, Douw," said he, frankly. "Don't think more about it."
I took his hand, though I was not altogether sure about forgetting his
Lady Berenicia looked at us over her shoulder, as she moved away, with
disappointment mantling through the chalk on her cheeks.
"My word! I protest they're not going to fight after all," she said.
I See My Sweet Sister Dressed in Strange Attire.
In the library room of the Hall, across from the dining-chamber, and at
the foot of the great staircase, on the bannister of which you may still
see the marks of Joseph Brant's hatchet, we men had a long talk in the
afternoon. I recall but indifferently the lesser topics of conversation.
There was, of course, some political debate, in which Sir William and I
were alone on the side of the Colonist feeling, and Mr. Stewart, the two
Butlers, and Sir John Johnson were all for choking discontent with the
rope. Nothing very much to the point was said, on our part at least; for
the growing discord pained Sir William too deeply to allow him pleasure in
its discussion, and I shrank from appearing to oppose Mr. Stewart, hateful
as his notions seemed.
Young Sir John stood by the window, I remember, sulkily drumming on the
diapered panes, and purposely making his interjections as disagreeable to
me as he could; at least, I thought so. So, apparently, did his father
think, for several times I caught the wise old baronet glancing at his son
in reproof, with a look in his grave gray eyes as of dawning doubt about
the future of his heir.
Young Johnson was now a man of thirty, blond, aquiline-faced, with cold
blue eyes and thin, tight lips, which pouted more readily than they
smiled. His hair was the pale color of bleached hay, a legacy from his low
born German mother, and his complexion was growing evenly florid from too
much Madeira wine. We were not friends, and we both knew it.
There was other talk--about the recent creation of our part into a county
by itself to be named after the Governor; about the behavior of the French
traders at Oswego and Detroit, and a report from Europe in the latest
gazettes that the "Young" Pretender, now a broken old rake, was at last to
be married. This last was a subject upon which Mr. Stewart spoke most
entertainingly, but with more willingness to let it be known that he had a
kinsman's interest in the matter than he would formerly have shown. He was
getting old, in fact, and an almost childish pride in his equivocal
ancestry was growing upon him. Still his talk and reminiscences were
They fade in my recollection, however, before the fact that it was at this
little gathering, this afternoon, that my career was settled for me. There
had been some talk about me while I remained alone outside to confer with
Sir William's head farmer, and Mr. Cross had agreed with Mr. Stewart and
Sir William that I was to accompany him on his trip to the far Western
region the following week. My patron had explained that I needed some
added knowledge of the world and its affairs, yet was of too serious a
turn to gather this in the guise of amusement, as Mr. John Butler advised
I should, by being sent on a holiday to New York. Mr. Cross had been good
enough to say that he liked what he had seen of me, and should be glad of
Of all this I knew nothing when I entered the library. The air was heavy
with tobacco-smoke, and the table bore more bottles and glasses
"Find a chair, Douw," said Sir William. "I have sent for my man, Enoch
Wade, who is to go westward with Mr, Cross next week. If he's drunk enough
there'll be some sport."
There entered the room a middle-aged man, tall, erect, well-knit in frame,
with a thin, Yankeeish face, deeply browned, and shrewd hazel eyes. He
bowed to nobody, but stood straight, looking like an Indian in his clothes
"This is Enoch Wade, gentlemen," said the baronet, indicating the
new-comer with a wave of his glass, and stretching out his legs to enjoy
the scene the more. "He is my land-sailor. Between his last sale at
Albany, and his first foot westward from here, he professes all the vices
and draws never a sober breath. Yet when he is in the woods he is
abstemious, amiable, wise, resourceful, virtuous as a statue--a paragon of
trappers. You can see him for yourselves. Yet, I warn you, appearances are
deceitful; he is always drunker than he looks. He was, I know, most
sinfully tipsy last night."
"It was in excellent good company, General," said the hunter, drawling his
words and no whit abashed.
"He has no manners to speak of," continued the baronet, evidently with
much satisfaction to himself; "he can outlie a Frontenac half-breed, he is
more greedy of gain than a Kinderhook Dutchman, he can drink all the
Mohawks of both castles under the bench, and my niggers are veritable
Josephs in comparison with him--wait a moment, Enoch!--this is while he is
in contact with civilization. Yet once on the trail, so to speak, he is
probity personified. I know this, since he has twice accompanied me
"Oh, in the woods, you know, some one of the party must remain sober,"
said Enoch, readily, still stiffly erect, but with a faint grin twitching
on the saturnine corners of his mouth.
This time Sir William laughed aloud, and pointed to a decanter and glass,
from which the trapper helped himself with dignity.
"Look you, rogue," said the host, "there is a young gentleman to be added
to your party next week, and doubtless he will of needs have a nigger with
him. See to it that the boat and provision arrangements are altered to
meet this, and to-morrow be sober enough to advise him as to his outfit.
For to-night, soak as deep as you like."
Enoch poured out for himself a second tumbler of rum, but not showing the
first signs of unsteadiness in gait or gesture.
"This young gentleman"--he said, gravely smacking his lips--"about him; is
he a temperate person, one of the sort who can turn a steadfast back upon
A burst of Homeric laughter was Sir William's reply--laughter in which
all were fain to join.
"It's all right, General," said Enoch, as he turned to go; "don't mind my
asking. One never can tell, you know, what kind of company he is like to
pick up with here at the Hall."
* * * * *
My surprise and delight when I learned that I was the young gentleman in
question, and that I was really to go to the Lakes and beyond, may be
imagined. I seemed to walk on air, so great was my elation. You will not
marvel now that I fail to recall very distinctly the general talk
Conversation finally lagged, as the promptings of hunger, not less than
the Ethiopian shouting and scolding from the kitchen below, warned us of
The drinking moderated somewhat, and the pipes were one by one laid aside,
in tacit preparation for the meal. The Butlers rose to go, and were
persuaded to remain. Mr. Stewart, who had an Old-World prejudice against
tippling during the day, was induced by the baronet to taste a thimble of
hollands, for appetite's sake. So we waited, with only a decent pretence
of interest in the fitful talk.
There came a sharp double knock on the door, which a second later was
pushed partly open. Some of us rose, pulling our ruffles into place, and
ready to start at once, for there were famous appetites in the wild Valley
of those days. But the voice from behind the door was not a servant's, nor
did it convey the intelligence we all awaited. It was, instead, the
sharp, surface voice of Lady Berenicia, and it said:
"We are weary of waiting for you in civilized quarters of the Hall. May we
come in here, or are you too much ashamed of your vices to court
Walter Butler hastened to open the door, bowing low as he did so, and
delivering himself of some gallant nonsense or other.
The London lady entered the room with a mincing, kittenish affectation of
carriage, casting bold smirks about her, like an Italian dancer.
If her morning attire had seemed over-splendid, what shall I say of her
appearance now? I looked in amazement upon her imposing tower of whitened
hair, upon the great fluffs of lace, the brocaded stomacher and train, the
shining satin petticoat front, the dazzling, creamy surfaces of throat and
shoulders and forearms, all rather freely set forth.
If the effect was bewildering, it was not unpleasant. The smoke-laden air
of the dim old room seemed suddenly clarified, made radiant. A movement of
chairs and of their occupants ran through the chamber, like a murmur of
applause, as we rose to greet the resplendent apparition. But there came a
veritable outburst of admiration when my lady's companion appeared
It was our Daisy, robed like a princess, who dawned upon our vision. She
was blushing as much from embarrassment as from novel pride, yet managed
to keep her pretty head up, smiling at us all, and to bear herself
Lady Berenicia, from the wealth of finery in those bulky chests which
honest Mr. Cross in vain had protested against bringing over the ocean and
up to this savage outpost, had tricked out the girl in wondrous fashion.
Her gown was not satin, like the other, but of a soft, lustreless stuff,
whose delicate lavender folds fell into the sweetest of violet shadows. I
was glad to see that her neck and arms were properly covered. The laces on
the sleeves were tawny with age; the ribbon by which the little white
shawl was decorously gathered at the bosom carried the faint suggestion of
yellow to a distinct tone, repeated and deepened above by the color of the
maiden's hair. This hair, too, was a marvel of the dresser's art--reared
straight and tight from the forehead over a high-arched roll, and losing
strictness of form behind in ingenious wavy curls, which seemed the very
triumph of artlessness; it was less wholly powdered than Lady Berenicia's,
so that the warm gold shone through the white dust in soft gradations of
half tints; at the side, well up, was a single salmon tea-rose, that
served to make everything else more beautiful.
Picture to yourself this delicious figure--this face which had seemed
lovely before, and now, with deft cosmetics, and a solitary tiny patch,
and the glow of exquisite enjoyment in the sweet hazel eyes, was nothing
less than a Greuze's dream--picture our Daisy to yourself, I say, and you
may guess in part how flattering was her reception, how high and fast rose
the gallant congratulations that the Valley boasted such a beauteous
daughter. Sir William himself gave her his arm, jovially protesting that
this was not the Mohawk country, but France--not Johnson Hall, but
I came on at the tail of the dinner procession, not quite easy in my mind
about all this.
The Masquerade Brings Me Nothing but Pain.
There were, in all, ten of us at the table. Sir William beamed upon us
from the end nearest the windows, with Daisy on his left hand and the
London dame on the other--in the place of distinction to which she was, I
suppose, entitled. Below Lady Berenicia sat Mr. Stewart, Sir John, and
Walter Butler. I was on the left side below Mr. Cross. These details come
back to me as if they were of yesterday, when I think of that dinner.
I could not see Daisy from where I sat, but all through the meal I watched
the effect she was producing upon those opposite us. To do her justice,
Lady Berenicia seemed to have no alloy of jealousy in the delight with
which she regarded the result of her handiwork. Mr. Stewart could not keep
his fond eyes off the girl; they fairly glowed with satisfied pride and
affection. Both Sir John and Walter gave more attention to our beautiful
maiden than they did to their plates, and both faces told an open tale of
admiration, each after its kind.
There was plenty of gay talk at the head of the table--merry chatter of
which I recall nothing, save vaguely that it was about the triumph of art
over unadorned nature at which we were assisting.
Mr. Cross and I bore our small part in the celebration in silence for a
time. Then we fell to talking quietly of the journey upon which we were so
soon to embark; but our minds were not on the subject, and after a little
its discussion lapsed. All at once he said, as if speaking the thoughts
which tied my tongue:
"To my mind the young woman is not improved by these furbelows and
fal-lals my wife has put upon her. What wit or reason is there in a
homely, sensible little maiden like this--a pretty flower growing, as God
designed it to, in modest sweetness on its own soil--being garnished out
in the stale foppery of the last London season?"
"But it is only a masquerade, sir," I pleaded--as much to my own judgment
as to his--"and it does make her very beautiful, does it not?"
"She _was_ beautiful before," he replied, in the same low tones. "Can a
few trumpery laces and ribbons, a foolish patch, a little powder, affect
what is real about a woman, think you? And do any but empty heads value
"True enough, sir; but this is nothing more than harmless pleasantry.
Women are that way. See how pleased she is--how full of smiles and
happiness she seems. It's a dull sort of life here in the woods. Poor
Daisy, she sees so little of gayety, it would be cruel to begrudge her
this innocent pleasure."
"Innocent--yes, no doubt; but, do you know, she will never be the same
girl again. She will never feel quite the same pretty little Mistress
Daisy, in her woollen gown and her puttical kerchief. She will never get
the taste of this triumph out of her mouth. You do not know women, young
man, as I do. I have studied the sex in a very celebrated and costly
school. Mark my words, ideas have been put into her head that will never
I tried to believe that this was not so. "Ah," I said, "to know other
women is not to know our Daisy. Why, she is good sense itself--so prudent
and modest and thoughtful that she makes the other girls roundabout seem
all hoydens or simpletons. She has read the most serious books--never
anything else. Her heart is as good as her mind is rich. Never fear, Mr.
Cross! not all the silks in China or velvets in Genoa could turn her
He smiled, somewhat compassionately I thought, and made no answer.
Was I so firm in my faith, after all? The doubt rose in my thoughts, and
would not down, as the gallant talk flowed and bubbled around me. _Would_
this Daisy be quite the same next day, or next week, singing to us at the
old harpsichord in the twilight, with the glare of the blaze on the hearth
making red gold of that hair, plaited once more in simple braids? I tried
with all my might to call up this sweet familiar figure before my mental
vision: it would not freely come.
She was laughing now, with a clear ripple of joyousness, at some passing
quip between our host and sharp-tongued Lady Berenicia, both of whom
employed pretty liberally their Irish knack of saying witty, biting
things. The sound came strangely to my ears, as if it were some other than
I was still in this brown study when Sir William called the health of the
ladies, with some jocose words of compliment to them, congratulation to
ourselves. I rose mechanically after the other gentlemen, glass in hand,
to hear Mr. Stewart make pleasant and courtly acknowledgment, and to see
the two women pass out in a great rustling of draperies and hoops, with
Walter Butler holding open the door and bowing profoundly. The faint scent
of powder left on the air annoyed me, as something stifling those thoughts
of the good little adopted sister, whom I had brought to the Hall and lost
there, which I would fain dwell upon.
We sat over our Madeira and pipes longer than usual. Candles were brought
in by Sir William's young body-servant Pontiac, for there was a full moon,
and we might thus prolong our stay after nightfall. The talk was chiefly
about our coming trip--a very serious undertaking. Sir William and Mr.
Butler had adventures of their own early trading days to recall, and they
gave us great stores of advice drawn from experience, and ranging from
choice of shirts and spirits to needful diplomacy with the Algonquins
Then the company drank the health of Mr. Cross, and were good enough to
couple mine with it. A comical little yellow boy danced for us before the
hearth--an admiring wall of black faces and rolling white eyeballs filling
up the open door meanwhile. Walter Butler sang a pretty song--everybody,
negroes and all, swelling the chorus. Rum was brought in, and mixed in hot
glasses, with spice, molasses, and scalding water from the kettle on the
crane. So evening deepened to night; but I never for a moment, not even
when they drank my health, shook off the sense of unrest born of Daisy's
It was Molly Brant herself, nobly erect and handsome in her dark, sinister
way, who came to us with word that the moon was up over the pine-ridged
hills, and that Mistress Daisy was attired for the homeward ride,
Of all the pictures in Memory's portfolio, none is more distinct than this
of the departure that evening from the Hall. A dozen negroes were about
the steps, two or three mounted ready to escort us home, others bearing
horn lanterns which the moonlight darkened into inutility, still others
pulling the restive horses about on the gravel. Mr. Stewart swung himself
into the saddle, and Daisy stepped out to mount behind him. She wore her
own garments once more, but there was just a trace of powder on the hair
under the hood, and the patch was still on her chin. I moved forward to
lift her to the pillion as I had done hundreds of times before, but she
did not see me. Instead, I was almost pushed away by the rush of Sir John
and young Butler to her side, both eager to assist. It was the knight,
flushed and a little unsteady with wine, who won the privilege, and held
Daisy's foot. I climbed into my saddle moodily, getting offence out of
So we rode away, pursued down the path to the lilacs by shouts of
"Good-night! Safe home!" Looking back to lift my hat for the last adieu, I
saw the honest old baronet, bareheaded in the clear moonlight, waving his
hand from the lowest step, with Lady Berenicia and the others standing
above him, outlined upon the illumined doorway, and the negroes grouped on
either side, obscurely gesticulating in the shadows of the broad, dark
front of the Hall, which glowed against the white sky.
As I recall the scene, it seems to me that then and there I said farewell,
not alone to pleasant friends, but to the Daisy of my childhood and youth.
* * * * *
The Hall slaves rode well ahead in the narrow road; we could just hear
faintly the harmony of the tune they were humming in concert, as one hears
the murmur of an Ĉolian harp. As a guard, they were of course ridiculous:
the veriest suspicion of peril would have sent them all galloping
helter-skelter, with frantic shrieks of fright. But the road was perfectly
safe, and these merry fellows were to defend us from loneliness,
I did indeed rest my free hand on the pistol in my holster as I jogged
along close behind the old gray horse and his double burden; but the act
was more an unconscious reflection of my saturnine mood, I fear, than a
recognition of need. There was every reason why I should dwell with
delight upon the prospect opening before me--upon the idea of the great
journey so close at hand; but I scarcely thought of it at all, and I was
not happy. The moon threw a jaundiced light over my mind, and in its
discolored glare I saw things wrongly, and with gratuitous pain to myself.
In fact, my brooding was the creature of the last few hours, born of a
childish pique. But as I rode gloomily silent behind my companions, it
seemed as if I had long suffered a growing separation from them. "Three is
a clumsy number," I said to myself, "in family affection not less than in
love; there was never any triad of friends since the world began, no
matter how fond their ties, in which two did not build a little interior
court of thoughts and sympathies from which the third was shut out. These
two people whom I hold dearer than everything else on earth--this good
gentleman to whom I owe all, this sweet girl who has grown up from
babyhood in my heart--would scout the idea that there was any line of
division running through our household. They do not see it--cannot see it.
Yet they have a whole world of ideas and sentiments in common, a whole
world of communion, which I may never enter."
This was what, in sulky, inchoate fashion, I said to myself, under the
spur of the jealous spirits which sometimes get rein over the thoughts of
the best of us. And it was all because the London woman had tricked out
our Daisy, for but a little hour or two, in the presentment of a
Conversation went briskly forward, meanwhile, from the stout back of the
"Did you note, papa, how white and soft her hands were?" said Daisy.
"Mine were so red beside them! It is working in the garden, I believe,
although Mary Johnson always wore gloves when she was out among the
flowers and vegetables, and her hands were red, too. And Lady Berenicia
was so surprised to learn that I had never read any of the romances which
they write now in England! She says ladies in London, and in the provinces
too, do not deem themselves fit to converse unless they keep abreast of
all these. She has some of them in her chests, and there are others in the
Hall, she has found, and I am to read them, and welcome."
"You are old enough now, my girl," replied Mr. Stewart. "They seem to me
to be trivial enough things, but no doubt they have their use. I would not
have you seem as inferior to other ladies in knowledge of the matters they
talk of, as they are inferior to you in honest information."
"How interested she was when I told her of the serious books I read, and
of my daily occupations--moulding the candles, brewing the beer, carding
wool, making butter, and then caring for the garden! She had never seen
celery in trenches, she said, and would not know beans from gourds if she
saw them growing. It seems that in England ladies have nothing to do with
their gardens--when, indeed, they have any at all--save to pluck a rose
now and then, or give tea to their gentlemen under the shrubbery when it
is fine. And I told her of our quilting and spinning bees, and the
coasting on clear winter evenings, and of watching the blacks on Pinkster
night, and the picnics in the woods, and she vowed London had no
pleasures like them. She was jesting though, I think. Oh, shall we ever go
to London, papa?"
"By all means, let us go," chuckled Mr. Stewart. "You would see something
there she never saw--my grizzled old head upon Temple Bar. Shall we be off
to-morrow? My neck tingles with anticipation."
"Old tease!" laughed Daisy, patting his shoulder. "You know there have
been no heads put there since long before I was born. Never flatter
yourself that they would begin again now with yours. They've forgotten
there was ever such a body as you."
"Faith! the world doesn't go round so fast as you young people think. Only
to-day I read in the London mail that two months ago one of the polls that
had been there since '46 fell down; but if it was Fletcher's or Townley's
no one can tell--like enough not even they themselves by this time. So
there's a vacant spike now for mine. No, child--I doubt these old bones
will ever get across the sea again. But who knows?--it may be your fortune
to go some time."
"Lady Berenicia says I must come to the Hall often, papa, while she is
there," said the girl, returning to the subject which bewitched her; "and
you must fetch me, of course. She admires you greatly; she says gentlemen
in London have quite lost the fine manner that you keep up here, with your
bow and your compliments. You must practise them on me now. We are to keep
each other company as much as possible, she and I, while her husband and
Douw go off together. You should have seen her mimic them--the two
solemn, long-faced men boring each other in the depths of the wilderness."
The talk had at last got around to me. Daisy laughed gayly at recollection
of the London woman's jesting. Surely never a more innocent, less
malicious laugh came from a maiden's merry lips, but it fell sourly on
"It is easy for people to be clever who do not scruple to be
disagreeable," I said, without much relevancy.
"What is this, Douw?" Mr. Stewart turned half-way in his saddle and
glanced inquiry back at me. "What is wrong with you? You were as glum all
the evening long as a Tuscarora. Isn't the trip with Mr. Cross to
"Oh, ay! I shall be glad to go."
It was on my perverse tongue's end to add the peevish thought that nobody
would specially miss me, but I held it back.
"He has had a perfect Dutch fit on to-day," said Daisy, with good-natured
sisterly frankness; "for all the world such as old Hon Yost Polhemus has
when his yeast goes bitter. Whenever I looked down the table to him, at
dinner, he was scowling across at poor Walter Butler or Sir John, as if he
would presently eat them both. He was the only one who failed to tell me I
looked well in the--the citified costume."
"Rather say I was the only one whose opinion you did not care for."
She was too sweet-tempered to take umbrage at my morose rejoinder, and
went on with her mock-serious catalogue of my crimes:
"And what do you think, papa? Who should it be but our patient, equable
Master Douw that was near quarrelling with Walter Butler, out by the
lilacs, this very morning--and in the presence of ladies, too."
"No one ever saw me quarrel, 'ladies' or anybody else," I replied.
"Faith! then I did myself," Mr. Stewart laughingly called out. "And it was
before a lady too--or the small beginnings of one. I saw him with my own
eyes, Daisy, get knocked into the ashes by a young man, and jump up and
run at him with both fists out--and all on your account, too, my lady;
"Oh, I am reminded!"
It was Daisy who cried out, and with visible excitement. Then she clapped
her hand to her mouth with a pretty gesture; then she said:
"Or no! I will not tell you yet. It is so famous a secret, it must come
out little by little. Tell me, papa, did you know that this Mr. Cross up
at the Hall--Lady Berenicia's husband--is a cousin to the old Major who
brought me to you, out of the rout at Kouarie?"
"Is _that_ your secret, miss? I knew it hours ago."
"How wise! And perhaps you knew that the Major became a Colonel, and then
a General, and died last winter, poor man."
"Alas, yes, poor Tony! I heard that too from his cousin. Heigh-ho! We all
walk that way."
Daisy bent forward to kiss the old man. "Not you, for many a long year,
papa. And now tell me, did not this Major--_my_ Major, though I do not
remember him--take up a patent of land here, or hereabouts, through Sir
William, while he was on this side of the water?"
"Why, we should be on his land now," said Mr. Stewart, reining up the
We sat thus in the moonlight while he pointed out to us, as nearly as he
knew them, the confines of the Cross patent. To the left of us, over a
tract covered thick with low, gnarled undergrowth, the estate stretched
beyond the brow of the hill, distant a mile or more. On our right, masked
by a dense tangle of fir-boughs, lay a ravine, also a part of the
property. We could hear, as we passed there, the gurgle of the water
running at the gulf's bottom, on its way to the great leap over the rock
wall, farther down, of which I have already written.
"Yes, this was what Tony Cross took up. I doubt he ever saw it. Why do you
"_Now_ for my secret," said Daisy. "The Major's elder son, Digby, inherits
the English house and lands. The other son, Philip--the boy you fought
with, Douw--is given this American land, and money to clear and settle it.
He sailed with the others--he is in New York--he is coming here to live!"
"We'll make him welcome," cried Mr. Stewart, heartily.
"I hope his temper is bettered since last he was here," was the civillest
comment I could screw my tongue to.
Clouds dimmed the radiance of the moon, threatening darkness, and we
quickened our pace. There was no further talk on the homeward ride.
As I Make My Adieux Mr. Philip Comes In.
When the eventful day of departure came, what with the last packing, the
searches to see that nothing should be forgotten, the awkwardness and
slowness of hands unnerved by the excitement of a great occasion, it was
high noon before I was ready to start. I stood idly in the hall, while my
aunt put final touches to my traps, my mind swinging like a pendulum
between fear that Mr. Cross, whom I was to join at Caughnawaga, would be
vexed at my delay, and genuine pain at leaving my dear home and its
inmates, now that the hour had arrived.
I had made my farewells over at my mother's house the previous day,
dutifully kissing her and all the sisters who happened to be at home, but
without much emotion on either side. Blood is thicker than water, the
adage runs. Perhaps that is why it flowed so calmly in all our Dutch veins
while we said good-by. But here in my adopted home--my true home--my heart
quivered and sank at thought of departure.
"I could not have chosen a better or safer man for you to travel with than
Jonathan Cross," Mr. Stewart was saying to me. "He does not look on all
things as I do, perhaps, for our breeding was as different as the desk is
different from the drum. But he is honest and courteous, well informed
after his way, and as like what you will be later on as two peas in a pod.
You were born for a trader, a merchant, a man of affairs; and you will be
at a good school with him."
He went on in his grave, affectionate manner, telling me in a hundred
indirect ways that I belonged to the useful rather than to the ornamental
order of mankind, with never a thought in his good heart of wounding my
feelings, or of letting me know that in his inmost soul he would have
preferred me to be a soldier or an idler with race-horses and a velvet
coat. Nor did he wound me, for I had too great a love for him, and yet
felt too thorough a knowledge of myself to allow the two to clash. I
listened silently, with tears almost ready at my eyes, but with thoughts
vagrantly straying from his words to the garden outside.
Tulp was to go with me, and his parents and kin were filling the air with
advice and lamentations in about equal measure, and all in the major key.
Their shouts and wailing--they could not have made more ado if he had just
been sold to Jamaica--came through the open door. It was not of this din I
thought, though, nor of the cart which the negroes, while they wept, were
piling high with my goods, and which I could see in the highway beyond.
I was thinking of Daisy, my sweet sister, who had gone into the garden to
gather a nosegay for me.
Through the door I could see her among the bushes, her lithe form bending
in the quest of blossoms. Were it midsummer, I thought, and the garden
filled with the whole season's wealth of flowers, it could hold nothing
more beautiful than she. Perhaps there was some shadow of my moody fit,
the evening after the dinner at the Hall, remaining to sadden my thoughts
of parting from her. I cannot tell. I only know that they were indeed sad
thoughts. I caught myself wondering if she would miss me much--this dear
girl who had known no life in which I had not had daily share. Yes, the
tears _were_ coming, I felt. I wrung my good old patron's hand, and turned
my head away.
There came a clattering of hoofs on the road and the sound of male voices.
Tulp ran in agape with the tidings that Sir John and a strange gentleman
had ridden up, and desired to see Mr. Stewart. We at once walked out to
the garden, a little relieved perhaps by the interruption.
Both visitors had had time to alight and leave their horses outside the
wall. The younger Johnson stood in the centre path of the garden,
presenting his companion to Daisy, who, surprised at her task, and with
her back to us, was courtesying. Even to the nape of her neck she
There was enough for her to blush at. The stranger was bowing very low,
putting one hand up to his breast. With the other he had taken her fingers
and raised them formally to his lips. This was not a custom in our parts.
Sir William did it now and then on state occasions, but young men,
particularly strangers, did not.
As we advanced, this gallant morning-caller drew himself up and turned
toward us. You may be sure I looked him over attentively.
I have seen few handsomer young men. In a way, so far as light hair, blue
eyes, ruddy and regular face went, he was not unlike Sir John. But he was
much taller, and his neck and shoulders were squared proudly--a trick
Johnson never learned. The fine effect of his figure was enhanced by a
fawn-colored top-coat, with a graceful little cape falling over the
shoulders. His clothes beneath, from the garnet coat with mother-of-pearl
buttons down to his shining Hessians, all fitted him as if he had been run
into them as into a mould. He held his hat, a glossy sugar-loaf beaver, in
one hand, along with whip and gloves. The other hand, white and shapely in
its ruffles, he stretched out now toward Mr. Stewart with a free,
"With my father's oldest friend," he said, "I must not wait for ceremony.
I am Philip Cross, from England, and I hope you will be my friend, sir,
now that my father is gone."
That this speech found instant favor need not be doubted. Mr. Stewart
shook him again and again by the hand, and warmly bade him welcome to the
Valley and the Cedars a dozen times in as many breaths. Young Cross
managed to explain between these cordial ejaculations, that he had
journeyed up from New York with the youthful Stephen Watts--to whose
sister Sir John was already betrothed; that they had reached Guy Park the
previous evening; that Watts was too wearied this morning to think of
stirring out, but that hardly illness itself could have prevented him,
Cross, from promptly paying his respects to his father's ancient comrade.
The young man spoke easily and fluently, looking Mr. Stewart frankly in
the eye, with smiling sincerity in glance and tone. He went on:
"How changed everything is roundabout!--all save you, who look scarcely
older or less strong. When I was here as a boy it was winter, cold and
bleak. There was a stockade surrounded by wilderness then, I remember, and
a log-house hardly bigger than the fireplace inside it. Where we stand now
the ground was covered with brush and chips, half hidden by snow.
Now--_presto!_ there is a mansion in the midst of fields, and a garden
neatly made, and"--turning with a bow to Daisy--"a fair mistress for them
all, who would adorn any palace or park in Europe, and whom I remember as
a frightened little baby, with stockings either one of which would have
held her entire."
"I saw the cart laden outside," put in Sir John, "and fancied perhaps we
should miss you."
"Why, no," said Mr. Stewart; "I had forgotten for the moment that this was
a house of mourning. Douw is starting to the Lake country this very day.
Mr. Cross, you must remember my boy, my Douw?"
The young Englishman turned toward me, as I was indicated by Mr. Stewart's
gesture. He looked me over briefly, with a half-smile about his eyes,
nodded to me, and said:
"You were the Dutch boy with the apron, weren't you?"
I assented by a sign of the head, as slight as I could politely make it.
"Oh, yes, I recall you quite distinctly. I used to make my brother Digby
laugh by telling about your aprons. He made quite a good picture of you in
one of them, drawn from my descriptions. We had a fort of snow, too, did
we not? and I beat you, or you me, I forget which. I got snow down the
back of my neck, I know, and shivered all the way to the fort."
He turned lightly at this to Mr. Stewart, and began conversation again. I
went over to where Daisy stood, by the edge of the flower-bed.
"I must go now, dear sister," I said. The words were choking me.
We walked slowly to the house, she and I. When I had said good-by to my
aunt, and gathered together my hat, coats, and the like, I stood
speechless, looking at Daisy. The moment was here, and I had no word for
it which did not seem a mockery.
She raised herself on tiptoe to be kissed. "Good-by, big brother," she
said, softly. "Come back to us well and strong, and altogether homesick,
won't you? It will not be like home, without you, to either of us."
And so the farewells were all made, and I stood in the road prepared to
mount. Tulp was already on the cart, along with another negro who was to
bring back my horse and the vehicle after we had embarked in the boats.
There was nothing more to say--time pressed--yet I lingered dumb and
irresolute. At the moment I seemed to be exchanging everything for
nothing--committing domestic suicide. I looked at them both, the girl and
the old man, with the gloomy thought that I might never lay eyes on them
again. I dare say I wore my grief upon my face, for Mr. Stewart tried
cheerily to hearten me with, "Courage, lad! We shall all be waiting for
you, rejoiced to welcome you back safe and sound."
Daisy came to me now again, as I put my hand on the pommel, and pinned
upon my lapel some of the pale blue blossoms she had gathered.
"There's 'rosemary for remembrance,'" she murmured. "Poor Ophelia could
scarce have been sadder than we feel, Douw, at your going."
"And may I be decorated too--for remembrance' sake?" asked handsome young
Philip Cross, gayly.
"Surely, sir," the maiden answered, with a smile of sweet sorrowfulness.
"You have a rightful part in the old memories--in a sense, perhaps, the
greatest part of all."
"Ay, you two were friends before ever you came to us, dear," said Mr.
So as I rode away, with smarting eyes and a heart weighing like lead, my
last picture of the good old home was of Daisy fastening flowers on the
young Englishman's breast, just as she had put these of mine in
Old-Time Politics Pondered Under the Forest Starlight.
Among the numerous books which at one time of another I had resolved to
write, and which the evening twilight of my life finds still unwritten,
was one on Fur-trading. This volume, indeed, came somewhat nearer to a
state of actual existence than any of its unborn brethren, since I have
yet a great store of notes and memoranda gathered for its construction in
earlier years. My other works, such as the great treatise on Astronomical
Delusions--which Herschel and La Place afterward rendered unnecessary--and
the "History of the Dutch in America," never even progressed to this point
of preparation. I mention this to show that I resist a genuine temptation
now in deciding not to put into this narrative a great deal about my
experiences in, and information concerning, the almost trackless West of
my youth. My diary of this first and momentous journey with Mr. Jonathan
Cross, yellow with age and stained by damp and mildew, lies here before
me; along with it are many odd and curious incidents and reflections
jotted down, mirroring that strange, rude, perilous past which seems so
far away to the generation now directing a safe and almost eventless
commerce to the Pacific and the Gulf. But I will draw from my stock only
the barest outlines, sufficient to keep in continuity the movement of
When we reached Caughnawaga Mr. Cross and his party were waiting for us at
the trading store of my godfather, good old Douw Fonda. I was relieved to
learn that I had not delayed them; for it was still undecided, I found,
whether we should all take to the river here, or send the boats forward
with the men, and ourselves proceed to the Great Carrying Place at Fort
Stanwix by the road. Although it was so early in the season, the Mohawk
ran very low between its banks. Major Jelles Fonda, the eldest son of my
godfather, and by this time the true head of the business, had only
returned from the Lakes, and it was by his advice that we settled upon
riding and carting as far as we could, and leaving the lightened boats to
follow. So we set out in the saddle, my friend and I, stopping one night
with crazy old John Abeel--he who is still remembered as the father of the
Seneca half-breed chieftain Corn-Planter--and the next night with
This man, I recall, greatly impressed Mr. Cross. We were now in an
exclusively German section of the Valley, where no Dutch and very little
English was to be heard. Herkimer himself conversed with us in a dialect
that must often have puzzled my English friend, though he gravely forbore
showing it. I had known Colonel Herkimer all my life; doubtless it was
this familiarity with his person and speech which had prevented my
recognizing his real merit, for I was not a little surprised when Mr.
Cross said to me that night: "Our host is one of the strongest and most
sagacious men I have ever encountered in the Colonies; he is worth a
thousand of your Butlers or Sir Johns."
It became clear in later years that my friend was right. I remember that I
regarded the hospitable Colonel, at breakfast next morning, with a closer
and more respectful attention than ever before, but it was not easy to
discern any new elements of greatness in his talk.
Herkimer was then a middle-aged, undersized man, very swart and
sharp-eyed, and with a quick, almost vehement way of speaking. It took no
time at all to discover that he watched the course of politics in the
Colonies pretty closely, and was heart and soul on the anti-English side.
One thing which he said, in his effort to make my friend understand the
difference between his position and the more abstract and educated
discontent of New England and Virginia, sticks in my memory.
"We Germans," he said, "are not like the rest. Our fathers and mothers
remember their sufferings in the old country, kept ragged and hungry and
wretched, in such way as my negroes do not dream of, all that some
scoundrel baron might have gilding on his carriage, and that the Elector
might enjoy himself in his palace. They were beaten, hanged, robbed of
their daughters, worked to death, frozen by the cold in their nakedness,
dragged off into the armies to be sold to any prince who could pay for
their blood and broken bones. The French who overran the Palatinate were
bad enough; the native rulers were even more to be hated. The exiles of
our race have not forgotten this; they have told it all to us, their
children and grandchildren born here in this Valley. We have made a new
home for ourselves over here, and we owe no one but God anything for it.
If they try to make here another aristocracy over us, then we will die
first before we will submit."
The case for the Mohawk Valley's part in the great revolt has never been
more truly stated, I think, than it was thus, by the rough, uneducated,
little frontier trader, in his broken English, on that May morning years
before the storm broke.
We rode away westward in the full sunshine that morning, in high spirits.
The sky was pure blue overhead; the birds carolled from every clump of
foliage about us; the scenery, to which Mr. Cross paid much delighted
attention, first grew nobly wild and impressive when we skirted the Little
Falls--as grand and gloomy in its effect of towering jagged cliffs and
foaming cataracts as one of Jacob Ruysdael's pictures--and then softened
into a dream of beauty as it spread out before us the smiling, embowered
expanses of the German Flatts. Time and time again my companion and I
reined up our horses to contemplate the charms of this lovely scene.
We had forded the river near Fort Herkimer, where old Hon Yost Herkimer,
the father of the Colonel, lived, and were now once more on the north
side. From an open knoll I pointed out to my friend, by the apple and pear
blossoms whitening the deserted orchards, the site of the Palatines'
village where Daisy's father had been killed, fifteen years ago, in the
midnight rout and massacre.
"It was over those hills that the French stole in darkness. Back yonder,
at the very ford we crossed, her poor mother was trampled under foot and
drowned in the frightened throng. It was at the fort there, where we had
the buttermilk and _Kuchen,_ that your cousin, Major Cross, found the
little girl. I wonder if he ever knew how deeply grateful to him we
This brought once more to my mind--where indeed it had often enough before
intruded itself--the recollection of young Philip's arrival at the Cedars.
For some reason I had disliked to speak of it before, but now I told Mr.
Cross of it as we walked our horses along over the rough, muddy road,
under the arching roof of thicket.
"I'll be bound Mr. Stewart welcomed him with open arms," said my
"Ay, indeed! No son could have asked a fonder greeting."
"Yes, the lad is very like his mother; that of itself would suffice to
warm the old gentleman's heart. You knew he was a suitor for her hand long
before Tony Cross ever saw her?"
I didn't know this, but I nodded silently.
"Curious creature she was," mused he, as if to himself. "Selfish,
suspicious, swift to offence, jealous of everything and everybody about
her--yet with moods when she seemed to all she met the most amiable and
delightful of women. She had her fine side, too. She would have given her
life gladly for the success of the Jacobites, of that I'm sure. And
proud!--no duchess could have carried her head higher."
"You say her son is very like her?"
"As like as two leaves on a twig. Perhaps he has something of his father's
Irish openness of manner as well. His father belonged to the younger, what
we call the Irish, branch of our family, you know, though it is as English
in the matter of blood as I am. We were only second cousins, in point of
fact, and his grandfather was set up in Ireland by the bounty of mine. Yet
Master Philip condescends to me, patronizes me, as if the case had been
Mr. Cross did not speak as if he at all resented this, but in a calm,
analytical manner, and with a wholly impersonal interest. I have never
known another man who was so totally without individual bias, and regarded
all persons and things with so little reference to his own feelings. If he
had either prejudices or crotchets on any point, I never discovered them.
He was, I feel assured, a scrupulously honest and virtuous gentleman, yet
he never seemed to hate people who were not so. He was careful not to let
them get an advantage over him, but for the rest he studied them and
observed their weaknesses and craft, with the same quiet interest he
displayed toward worthier objects. A thoroughly equable nature was
his--with little capacity for righteous indignation on the one side, and
no small tendencies toward envy or peevishness on the other. There was not
a wrinkle on his calm countenance, nor any power of angry flashing in his
steadfast, wide-apart, gray eyes. But his tongue could cut deep
We were now well beyond the last civilized habitation in the Valley of the
Mohawk, and we encamped that night above the bank of a little rivulet that
crossed the highway some four miles to the east of Fort Stanwix. Tulp and
the Dutchman, Barent Coppernol, whom Mr. Cross had brought along,
partially unpacked the cart, and set to with their axes. Soon there had
been constructed a shelter for us, half canvas, half logs and brush, under
a big beech-tree which stood half-way up the western incline from the
brook, and canopied with its low boughs a smooth surface of clear ground.
We had supper here, and then four huge night-fires were built as an outer
wall of defence, and Barent went to sleep, while young Tulp, crouching and
crooning by the blaze, began his portion of the dreary watch to keep up
We lay awake for a long time on our bed of hemlock twigs and brake, well
wrapped up, our heads close to the beech-trunk, our knees raised to keep
the fierce heat of the flames from our faces. From time to time we heard
the barking of the wolves, now distant, now uncomfortably near. When the
moon came up, much later, the woods seemed alive with strange vocal noises
and ominous rustlings in the leaves and brakes. It was my London
companion's first night in the open wilderness; but while he was very
acute to note new sounds and inquire their origin, he seemed to be in no
We talked of many things, more particularly, I remember, of what Herkimer
had said at breakfast. And it is a very remarkable thing that, as we
talked thus of the German merchant-farmer and his politics, we were lying
on the very spot where, five years later, I was to behold him sitting,
wounded but imperturbable, smoking his pipe and giving orders of battle,
under the most hellish rain of bullets from which man ever shrank
affrighted. And the tranquil moon above us was to look down again upon
this little vale, and turn livid to see its marsh and swale choked with
fresh corpses, and its brook rippling red with blood. And the very wolves
we heard snapping and baying in the thicket were to raise a ghastly
halloo, here among these same echoes, as they feasted on the flesh of my
friends and comrades.
We did not guess this fearsome future, but instead lay peacefully,
contentedly under the leaves, with the balmy softness of the firs in the
air we breathed, and the flaming firelight in our eyes. Perhaps lank,
uncouth Barent Coppernol may have dreamed of it, as he snored by the outer
heap of blazing logs. If so, did he, as in prophecy, see his own form,
with cleft skull, stretched on the hill-side?
"I spoke about Philip's having some of his father's adopted Irish traits,"
said Mr. Cross, after a longer interval of silence than usual. "One of
them is the desire to have subordinates, dependents, about him. There is
no Irishman so poor or lowly that he will not, if possible, encourage some
still poorer, lowlier Irishman to hang to his skirts. It is a reflection
of their old Gaelic tribal system, I suppose, which, between its chiefs
above and its clansmen below, left no place for a free yeomanry. I note
this same thing in the Valley, with the Johnsons and the Butlers. So far
as Sir William is concerned, the quality I speak of has been of service to
the Colony, for he has used his fondness and faculty for attracting
retainers and domineering over subordinates to public advantage. But then
he is an exceptional and note-worthy man--one among ten thousand. But his
son Sir John, and his son-in-law Guy Johnson, and the Butlers, father and
son, and now to them added our masterful young Master Philip--these own no
such steadying balance-wheel of common-sense. They have no restraining
notion of public interest. Their sole idea is to play the aristocrat, to
surround themselves with menials, to make their neighbors concede to them
submission and reverence. It was of them that Herkimer spoke, plainly
enough, though he gave no names. Mark my words, they will come to grief
with that man, if the question be ever put to the test."
I had not seen enough of Englishmen to understand very clearly the
differences between them and the Irish, and I said so. The conversation
drifted upon race questions and distinctions, as they were presented by
the curiously mixed population of New York province.
My companion was of the impression that the distinctly British
settlements, like those of Massachusetts and Virginia, were far more
powerful and promising than my own polyglot province. No doubt from his
point of view this notion was natural, but it nettled me. To this day I
cannot read or listen to the inflated accounts this New England and this
Southern State combine to give of their own greatness, of their wonderful
patriotism and intelligence, and of the tremendous part they played in the
Revolution, without smashing my pipe in wrath. Yet I am old enough now to
see that all this is largely the fault of the New Yorkers themselves. We
have given our time and attention to the making of money, and have left it
to others to make the histories. If they write themselves down large, and
us small, it is only what might have been expected. But at the time of
which I am telling I was very young, and full of confidence in not only
the existing superiority but the future supremacy of my race. I could not
foresee how we were to be snowed under by the Yankees in our own State,
and, what is worse, accept our subjugation without a protest--so that
to-day the New York schoolboy supposes Fisher Ames, or any other of a
dozen Boston talkers, to have been a greater man than Philip Schuyler.
I remember that I greatly vaunted the good qualities of the Dutch that
night. I pointed out how they alone had learned the idea of religious
toleration toward others in the cruel school of European persecution; how
their faith in liberty and in popular institutions, nobly exemplified at
home in the marvellous struggle with Spain, had planted roots of civil and
religious freedom in the New World which he could find neither to the east
nor to the south of us; and how even the early Plymouth Puritans had
imbibed all they knew of clemency and liberty during their stay
I fear that Mr. Cross inwardly smiled more or less at my enthusiasm and
extravagance, but his comments were all serious and kindly. He conceded
the justice of much that I said, particularly as to the admirable
resolution, tenacity, and breadth of character the Dutch had displayed
always in Europe. But then he went on to declare that the Dutch could not
hope to hold their own in strange lands against the extraordinary
conquering and colonizing power of the more numerous English, who, by
sheer force of will and energy, were destined in the end to dominate
everything they touched. Note how Clive and the English had gradually
undermined or overthrown French, Portuguese, and Dutch alike in the
Indies, he said; the same thing has happened here, either by bloodshed or
barter. No nation could resist the English in war; no people could
maintain themselves in trade or the peaceful arts against the English.
"But you yourself predicted, not an hour ago, that the young gentry down
the Valley would come to grief in their effort to lord it over the Dutch
"Oh, that indeed," my friend replied. "They are silly sprouts, grown up
weak and spindling under the shadow of Sir William; when he is cut down
the sun will shrivel them, no doubt. But the hardier, healthier plants
which finally take their place will be of English stock--not Dutch
I hope devoutly that this lengthened digression into politics has not
proved wearisome. I have touched upon but one of a hundred like
conversations which we two had together on our slow journey, and this
because I wanted to set forth the manner of things we discussed, and the
views we severally had. Events proved that we both were partially right.
The United States of the Netherlands was the real parent of the United
States of America, and the constitution which the Dutch made for the
infant State of New York served as the model in breadth and in freedom for
our present noble Federal Constitution. In that much my faith was
justified. But it is also true that my State is no longer Dutch, but
English, and that the language of my mother has died out from among us.
Before noon next day we reached Fort Stanwix, the forest-girdled
block-house commanding the Great Carrying Place. Here we waited one day
for the boats to come up, and half of another to get them through the
sluices into Wood Creek. Then, as the horses and carts returned, we
embarked and set our faces toward the Lakes.
To the Far Lake Country and Home Again.
We had left what it pleases us to call civilization behind. Until our
return we were scarcely again to see the blackened fields of stumps
surrounding clearings, or potash kettles, or girdled trees, or chimneys.
Not that our course lay wholly through unbroken solitude; but the men we
for the most part encountered were of the strange sort who had pushed
westward farther and farther to be alone--to get away from their fellows.
The axe to them did not signify the pearlash of commerce, but firewood and
honey and coon-skins for their own personal wants. They traded a little,
in a careless, desultory fashion, with the proceeds of their traps and
rifles. But their desires were few--a pan and kettle, a case of needles
and cord, some rum or brandy from cider or wild grapes, tobacco, lead, and
powder--chiefly the last three. They fed themselves, adding to their own
fish and game only a little pounded maize which they got mostly from the
Indians, and cooked in mush or on a baking stone. In the infrequent cases
where there were women with them, we sometimes saw candles, either dips or
of the wax of myrtle-berries, but more often the pine-knot was used.
Occasionally they had log-houses, with even here and there a second story
above the puncheon-floor, reached by a ladder; but in the main their
habitations were half-faced camps, secured in front at night by fires.
They were rough, coarse, hardened, drunken men as a rule, generally
disagreeable and taciturn; insolent, lazy, and miserable from my point of
view, but I judge both industrious and contented from their own.
We should have had little favor or countenance from these fellows, I doubt
not, but for Enoch Wade. He seemed to know all the saturnine, shaggy,
lounging outcasts whom we met in unexpected places; if he did not, they
knew him at a glance for one of their own kidney, which came to the same
thing. It was on his account that we were tolerated, nay, even advised and
helped and entertained.
Enoch had been a prodigious traveller--or else was a still more prodigious
liar--I never quite decided which. He told them, when we chanced to sit
around their fires of an evening, most remarkable stories of field and
forest--of caribou and seals killed in the North; of vast herds of bison
on far Western prairies; of ice-bound winters spent in the Hudson Bay
Company's preserves beyond the Lakes; of houses built of oyster-shells and
cement on the Carolina coast. They listened gravely, smoking their
cob-and-reed pipes, and eying him attentively. They liked him, and they
did not seem to dislike Coppernol and our other white servants. But they
showed no friendliness toward my poor Tulp, and exhibited only scant,
frigid courtesy to Mr. Cross and me.
The fact that my companion was a power in the East India Company, and a
director in the new Northwestern Fur Company, did not interest them, at
least favorably. It was indeed not until after we had got beyond the
Sandusky that Enoch often volunteered this information, for the trappers
of the East had little love for companies, or organized commerce and
property of any sort.
I like better to recall the purely physical side of our journey. Now our
little flotilla would move for hours on broad, placid, still waters,
flanked on each side by expanses of sedge and flags--in which great broods
of water-fowl lived--and beyond by majestic avenues formed of pines,
towering mast-like sheer sixty feet before they burst into intertwining
branches. Again, we would pass through darkened, narrow channels, where
adverse waters sped swiftly, and where we battled not only with deep
currents, but had often to chop our way through barriers of green
tree-trunks, hickory, ash, and birch, which the soft soil on the banks had
been unable to longer hold erect. Now we flew merrily along under sail or
energetic oars; now we toiled laboriously against strong tides, by poles
or by difficult towing.
But it was all healthful, heartening work, and we enjoyed it to the full.
Toward sundown we would begin to look for a brook upon which to pitch our
camp. When one was found which did not run black, showing its origin in a
tamarack swamp, a landing was made with all the five boats. These
secured, axes were out with, and a shelter soon constructed, while others
heaped the fire, prepared the food and utensils, and cooked the welcome
meal. How good everything tasted! how big and bright the stars looked! how
sweet was the odor of the balsam in the air, later, as we lay on our
blankets, looking skyward, and talked! Or, if the night was wild and wet,
how cheerily the great fires roared in the draught, and how snugly we lay
in our shelter, blinking at the fierce blaze!
When in early July we drew near the country of the Outagamis, having left
the Detroit settlement behind us, not to speak of Oswego and Niagara,
which seemed as far off now as the moon, an element of personal danger was
added to our experiences. Both white hunters and Indians were warmly
affected toward the French interest, and often enough we found reason to
fear that we would be made to feel this, though luckily it never came to
anything serious. It was a novel experience to me to be disliked on
account of the English, whom I had myself never regarded with friendship.
I was able, fortunately, being thus between the two rival races, as it
were, to measure them each against the other.
I had no prejudice in favor of either, God knows. My earliest
recollections were of the savage cruelty with which the French had
devastated, butchered, and burned among the hapless settlements at the
head of the Mohawk Valley. My maturer feelings were all colored with the
strong repulsion we Dutch felt for the English rule, which so scornfully
misgoverned and plundered our province, granting away our lands to court
favorites and pimps, shipping to us the worst and most degraded of
Old-World criminals, quartering upon us soldiers whose rude vices made
them even more obnoxious than the convicts, and destroying our commerce by
selfish and senseless laws.
From the Straits west I saw the Frenchman for the first time, and read the
reasons for his failure to stand against the English. Even while we
suspected grounds for fearing his hostility, we found him a more courteous
and affable man than the Englishman or Yankee. To be pleasant with us
seemed a genuine concern, though it may really have been otherwise. The
Indians about him, too, were a far more satisfactory lot than I had known
in the Valley. Although many of our Mohawks could read, and some few
write, and although the pains and devotion of my friend Samuel Kirkland
had done much for the Oneidas, still these French-spoken, Jesuit-taught
Indians seemed a much better and soberer class than my neighbors of the
Iroquois. They drank little or no rum, save as English traders furtively
plied them with it, for the French laws were against its sale. They lived
most amicably with the French, too, neither hating nor fearing them; and
this was in agreeable contrast to the wearisome bickering eternally going
on in New York between the Indians striving to keep their land, and the
English and Dutch forever planning to trick them out of it. So much for
the good side.
The medal had a reverse. The Frenchman contrived to get on with the
Indian by deferring to him, cultivating his better and more generous side,
and treating him as an equal. This had the effect of improving and
softening the savage, but it inevitably tended to weaken and lower the
Frenchman--at least, judged by the standard of fitness to maintain himself
in a war of races. No doubt the French and Indians lived together much
more quietly and civilly than did the English and Indians. But when these
two systems came to be tested by results, it was shown that the
Frenchman's policy and kindliness had only enervated and emasculated him,
while the Englishman's rough domineering and rule of force had hardened
his muscles and fired his resolution. To be sure, measured by the received
laws of humanity, the Frenchman was right and the other wrong. But is it
so certain, after all, that the right invariably wins?
* * * * *
It was well along in September when, standing on the eminence to the east
of Fort Stanwix, I first looked again on my beloved Mohawk.
The trip had been a highly successful one. Enoch was bringing back four
bateaux well packed under thin oilskin covers with rare peltries,
including some choice black-beaver skins and sea-otter furs from the
remote West, which would fetch extravagant prices. On the best estimate of
his outward cargo of tea, spirits, powder, traps, calico, duffle, and
silver ear-bobs, breast-buckles, and crosses, he had multiplied its value
Of course, this was of secondary importance. The true object of the
journey had been to enable Mr. Jonathan Cross to see for himself the
prospects of the new Northwestern Company--to look over the territory
embraced in its grants, estimate its probable trade, mark points for the
establishment of its forts and posts, and secure the information necessary
to guard the company from the frauds or failings of agents. He professed
himself vastly gratified at the results, physical as well as financial, of
his experience, and that was the great thing.
Or no!--perhaps for the purposes of this story there was something more
important still. It is even now very pleasant to me to recall that he
liked me well enough, after this long, enforced intimacy, to proffer me
the responsible and exacting post of the company's agent at Albany.
To say that the offer made me proud and glad would be to feebly understate
my emotions. I could not be expected to decide all at once. Independent of
the necessity of submitting the proposition to Mr. Stewart, there was a
very deep distaste within me for fur-trading at Albany--of the meanness
and fraudulency of which I had heard from boyhood. A good many hard
stories are told of the Albanians, which, aside from all possible bias of
race, I take the liberty of doubting. I do not, for instance, believe all
the Yankee tales that the Albany Dutchmen bought from the Indians the
silver plate which the latter seized in New England on the occasions of
the French and Indian incursions--if for no other reason than the absence
of proof that they ever had any plate in New England. But that the
Indians used to be most shamefully drugged and cheated out of their
eye-teeth in Albany, I fear there can be no reasonable doubt. An evil
repute attached to the trade there, and I shrank from embarking in it,
even under such splendid auspices. All the same, the offer gratified
To be in the woods with a man, day in and day out, is to know him through
and through. If I had borne this closest of all conceivable forms of
scrutiny, in the factor's estimation, there must be something good in me.
So there was pride as well as joy in this first glance I cast upon the
soft-flowing, shadowed water, upon the spreading, stately willows, upon
the far-off furrow in the hazy lines of foliage--which spoke to me of
home. Here at last was my dear Valley, always to me the loveliest on
earth, but now transfigured in my eyes, and radiant beyond all dreams of
beauty--because in it was my home, and in that home was the sweet maid
Yes--I was returned a man, with the pride and the self-reliance and the
heart of a man. As I thought upon myself, it was to recognize that the
swaddlings of youth had fallen from me. I had never been conscious of
their pressure; I had not rebelled against them, nor torn them asunder.
Yet somehow they were gone, and my breast swelled with a longer, deeper
breath for their absence. I had almost wept with excess of boyish feeling
when I left the Valley--my fond old mother and protector. I gazed upon it
now with an altogether variant emotion--as of one coming to take
possession. Ah, the calm elation of that one moment, there alone on the
knoll, with the sinking September sun behind me, and in front but the
trifle of sixty miles of river route--when I realized that I was a man!
Perhaps it was at this moment that I first knew I loved Daisy; perhaps it
had been the truly dominant thought in my mind for months, gathering vigor
and form from every tender, longing memory of the Cedars. I cannot decide,
nor is it needful that I should. At least now my head was full of the
triumphant thoughts that I returned successful and in high favor with my
companion, that I had a flattering career opened for me, that the people
at home would be pleased with me--and that I should marry Daisy.
These remaining twenty leagues grew really very tedious before they were
done with. We went down with the boats this time. I fear that Mr. Cross
found me but poor company these last three days, for I sat mute in the bow
most of the time, twisted around to look forward down the winding course,
as if this would bring the Cedars nearer. I had not the heart to talk.
"Now she is winding the yarn for my aunt," I would think; "now she is
scattering oats for the pigeons, or filling Mr. Stewart's pipe, or running
the candles into the moulds. Dear girl, does she wonder when I am coming?
If she could know that I was here--here on the river speeding to
her--what, would she think?"
And I pictured to myself the pretty glance of surprise, mantling into a
flush of joyous welcome, which would greet me on her face, as she ran
gladly to my arms. Good old Mr. Stewart, my more than father, would stare
at me, then smile with pleasure, and take both my hands in his, with warm,
honest words straight from his great heart. What an evening it would be
when, seated snugly around the huge blaze--Mr. Stewart in his arm-chair to
the right, Daisy nestling on the stool at his knee and looking up into my
face, and Dame Kronk knitting in the chimney-shadow to the left--I should
tell of my adventures! How goodly a recital I could make of them, though
they had been even tamer than they were, with such an audience! And how
happy, how gratified they would be when I came to the climax, artfully
postponed, of Mr. Cross's offer to me of the Albany agency!
And then how natural, how easy, while these dear people were still smiling
with pride and satisfaction at my good fortune, to say calmly--yes, calmly
in tone, though my heart should be beating its way through my breast:
"Even more, sir, I prize the hope that Daisy will share it with me--as my
What with the delay at Caughnawaga, where Mr. Cross debarked, and Major
Fonda would have us eat and drink while he told us the news, and Tulp's
crazy rowing later, through excitement at nearing home, it was twilight
before the boat was run up into our little cove, and I set my foot on
land. The Cedars stood before us as yet lightless against the northern
sky. The gate was open. The sweet voice of a negro singing arose from the
cabins on the dusky hill-side. Tears came to my eyes as I turned to Tulp,
who was gathering up the things in the boat, and said:
"Do you see, boy? We're home--home at last!"
How I Seem to Feel a Wanting Note in the Chorus of Welcome.
I could hear the noisy clamor among the negroes over the advent of Tulp,
whom I had sent off, desiring to be alone, while I still stood irresolute
on the porch. My hand was on the familiar, well-worn latch, yet I almost
hesitated to enter, so excited was I with eager anticipations of welcome.
The spacious hall--our sitting-room--was deserted. A fire was blazing on
the hearth, and plates were laid on the oak table as in preparation for a
meal, but there was no one to speak to me. I lighted a candle, and opened
the door to the kitchen; here too there was a fire, but my aunt was not
visible. Mr. Stewart's room to the right of the hall, and mine to the
left, were alike unoccupied. I threw aside my hat and watch-coat here, and
then with the light went up-stairs, whistling as was my wont to warn Daisy
of my coming. There was no sound or sign of movement. The door of her
outer room stood open, and I entered and looked about.
The furniture and appointments had been changed in position somewhat, so
that the chamber seemed strange to me. There were numerous novel objects
scattered through the rooms as well. A Spanish guitar which I had never
seen before stood beside the old piano. There were several elegantly bound
books, new to me, on the table; on the mantel-shelf were three miniatures,
delicately painted, depicting a florid officer in scarlet, a handsome,
proud-looking lady with towering powdered coiffure, and a fair-haired,
proud-looking youth. This last I knew in an instant to be the likeness of
Master Philip Cross, though it seemingly portrayed him at an age half-way
between the two times I had seen him as boy and man. His resemblance to
the lady, and then my own recurring recollection of the officer's
features, helped me to place them as his parents.
I called out "Daisy!" My voice had a faltering, mournful sound, and there
was no answer.
I came down the stairs again, burdened with a sudden sense of mental
discomfort. Already the visions I had had of an enthusiastic welcome were
but vague outlines of dreams. There had sprung up in my mind instead a
sudden, novel doubt of my position in this house--a cruel idea that
perhaps the affection which had so swelled and buoyed my heart was not
reciprocated. I put this notion away as foolish and baseless, but all the
same the silent hall-room down-stairs seemed now larger and colder, and
the flames curled and writhed toward the flue with a chill, metallic
aspect, instead of the bright, honest glow of greeting.
While I stood before the fire-place, still holding the candle in my hand,
my aunt entered the room from the kitchen door. At sight of me the good
soul gave a guttural exclamation, dropped flat an apronful of chips she
was bringing in, and stared at me open-mouthed. When she was at last
persuaded that I was in proper person and not the spirit, she submitted to
be kissed by me--it was not a fervent proceeding, I am bound to add--but
it was evident the shock had sent her wits wool-gathering. Her hands were
a bright brown from the butternut dye, and the pungent, acrid odor she
brought in with her garments made unnecessary her halting explanation that
she had been out in the smoke-house.
"Philip sent down two haunches yesterday by Marinus Folts," she said,
apologetically, "and this muggy weather I was afraid they wouldn't keep."
"This is the Dutch conception of a welcome after five months!" I could not
help thinking to myself, uncharitably forgetting for the moment my aunt's
infirmities. Aloud I said:
"How are they all--Mr. Stewart and Daisy? And where are they? And how have
the farms been doing?"
"Well," answered Dame Kronk, upon reflection, "I maintain that the wool is
the worst we ever clipped. Was the shearing after you went? Yes, of course
it was. Well, how I'm going to get out enough fine for the stockings
alone, is more than I can see. It's downright poor."
"But Mr. Stewart and Daisy--are they well? Where are they?"
"But the niggers have gathered five times as much ginseng as they ever did
before. The pigs are fattening fit to eat alive. Eli's been drunk some,
bur his girls are really a good deal of help. There are going to be more
elder-berries this fall than you can shake a stick at; they're just
breaking the branches. And the--"
"Oh, aunt," I broke in, "do tell me! Are Daisy and Mr. Stewart well?"
"Why, of course they are," she answered; "that is, they were when they
left here a week come Thursday. And Marinus Folts didn't say anything to
the contrary yesterday. Why shouldn't they be well? They don't do anything
but gad about, these days. Daisy hasn't done a stitch of work all summer
but knit a couple of comforters--and the time she's been about it! When I
was her age I could have knit the whole side of a house in less time. One
of them is for you."
Dear girl, I had wronged her, then. She had been thinking of me--working
for me. My heart felt lighter.
"But where _are_ they?" I repeated.
"Oh, where are they? Up at Sir William's new summer-house that he's just
built. I don't know just where it is, but it's fourteen miles from the
Hall, up somewhere on the Sacondaga Vlaie, where two creeks join. He's
made a corduroy road out to it, and he's painted it white and green, and
he's been having a sort of fandango out there--a house-warming, I take it.
Marinus Folts says he never saw so much drinking in his born days. He'd
had his full share himself, I should judge. They're coming back to-night."
I sat down at this, and stared into the fire. It was not just the
home-coming which I had looked forward to, but it would be all right when
they returned Ah, but would it? Yes, I forced myself to believe so, and
began to find comfort of mind again.
My aunt picked up the chips and dumped them into the wood-box. Then she
came over and stood for a long time looking at me. Once she said: "I'm
going to get supper for them when they get back. Can you wait till then,
or shall I cook you something now?" Upon my thanking her and saying I
would wait, she relapsed into silence, but still keeping her eyes on me. I
was growing nervous under this phlegmatic inspection, and idly investing
it with some occult and sinister significance, when she broke out with:
"Oh, I know what it was I wanted to ask you. Is it really true that the
trappers and men in the woods out there eat the hind-quarters of frogs
This was the sum of my relative's interest in my voyage. When I had
answered her, she gathered up my luggage and bundles and took them off to
the kitchen, there to be overhauled, washed, and mended.
I got into my slippers and a loose coat, lighted a pipe, and settled
myself in front of the fire to wait. Tulp came over, grinning with delight
at being among his own once more, to see if I wanted anything. I sent him
off, rather irritably I fear, but I couldn't bear the contrast which his
jocose bearing enforced on my moody mind, between my reception and his.
This slave of mine had kin and friends who rushed to fall upon his neck,
and made the night echoes ring again with their shouts of welcome. I could
hear that old Eli had got down his fiddle, and between the faint squeaking
strains I could distinguish choruses of happy guffaws and bursts of
child-like merriment. Tulp's return caused joy, while mine----
Then I grew vexed at my peevish injustice in complaining because my dear
ones, not being gifted with second-sight, had failed to exactly anticipate
my coming; and in blaming my poor aunt for behaving just as the dear old
slow-witted creature had always behaved since she was stricken with
small-pox, twenty years before. Yet this course of candid self-reproach
upon which I entered brought me small relief. I was unhappy, and whether
it was my own fault or that of somebody else did not at all help the
matter. And I had thought to be so exaltedly happy, on this of all the
nights of my life!
At length I heard the sound of hoofs clattering down the road, and of
voices lifted in laughing converse. Eli's fiddle ceased its droning, and
on going to the window I saw lanterns scudding along to the gate from the
slaves' cabins, like fireflies in a gale. I opened the window softly,
enough to hear. Not much was to be seen, for the night had set in dark;
but there were evidently a number of horsemen outside the gate, and,
judging from the noise, all were talking together. The bulk of the party,
I understood at once, were going on down the river road, to make a night
of it at Sir John's bachelor quarters in old Fort Johnson, or at one of
the houses of his two brothers-in-law. I was relieved to hear these
roisterers severally decline the invitations to enter the Cedars for a
time, and presently out of the gloom became distinguishable the forms of
the two for whom I had been waiting. Both were muffled to the eyes, for
the air had turned cold, but it seemed as if I should have recognized them
in any disguise.
I heard Tulp and Eli jointly shouting out the news of my arrival--for
which premature disclosure I could have knocked their woolly heads
together--but it seemed that the tidings had reached them before. In fact,
they had met Mr. Cross and Enoch on the road down from Johnstown, as I
All my doubts vanished in the warm effusion of their welcome to me, as
sincere and honest as it was affectionate. I had pictured it to myself
almost aright. Mr. Stewart did come to me with outstretched arms, and
wring my hands, and pat my shoulder, and well-nigh weep for joy at seeing
me returned, safe and hale. Daisy did not indeed throw herself upon my
breast, but she ran to me and took my hands, and lifted her face to be
kissed with a smile of pleasure in which there was no reservation.
And it was a merry supper-table around which we sat, too, half an hour
later, and gossiped gayly, while the wind rose outside, and the sparks
flew the swifter and higher for it. There was so much to tell on
Somehow, doubtless because of my slowness of tongue, my side did not seem
very big compared with theirs. One day had been very much like another
with me, and, besides, the scenes through which I had passed did not
possess the novelty for these frontier folk that they would have for
But their budget of news was fairly prodigious, alike in range and
quantity. The cream of this, so to speak, had been taken off by hospitable
Jelles Fonda at Caughnawaga, yet still a portentous substance remained.
Some of my friends were dead, others were married. George Klock was in
fresh trouble through his evil tricks with the Indians. A young half-breed
had come down from the Seneca nation and claimed John Abeel as his father.
Daniel Claus had set up a pack of hounds, equal in breed to Sir William's.
It was really true that Sir John was to marry Miss Polly Watts of New
York, and soon too. Walter Butler had been crossed in love, and was very
melancholy and moody, so much so that he had refused to join the
house-warming party at the new summer-house on Sacondaga Vlaie, which Sir
William had christened Mount Joy Pleasure Hall--an ambitious enough name,
surely, for a forest fishing-cottage.
Naturally a great deal was told me concerning this festival from which
they had just returned. It seems that Lady Berenicia Cross and Daisy were
the only ladies there. They were given one of the two sleeping-rooms,
while Sir William and Mr. Stewart shared the other. The younger men had
ridden over to Fish House each night, returning next day. Without its
being said in so many words, I could see that the drinking and carousing
there had disturbed and displeased Daisy. There had even, I fancied, been
a dispute on this subject between her and our guardian, for he was at
pains several times to insist upon telling me incidents which it was plain
she desired left unmentioned, and to rather pointedly yet good-humoredly
laugh at her as a little puritan, who did not realize that young gentlemen
had their own particular ways, as proper and natural to them as were other
habits and ways to young foxes or fishes. Her manner said clearly enough
that she did not like these ways, but he pleasantly joked her down.
I noted some slight changes in Mr. Stewart, which gave me a sense of
uneasiness. He seemed paler than before, and there were darker pits under
his prominent, bright eyes. He had been visibly exhausted on entering the
house, but revived his strength and spirits under the influence of the
food and wine. But the spirits struck, somehow, a false note on my ear.
They seemed not to come from a natural and wholesome fund, as of old, but
to have a ring of artificiality in them. I could not help thinking, as I
looked at him, of the aged French noblemen we read about, who, at an age
and an hour which ought to have found them nightcapped and asleep,
nourishing their waning vitality, were dancing attendance in ladies'
boudoirs, painted, rouged, padded, and wigged, aping the youth they had
parted with so long ago. Of course, the comparison was ridiculous, but
still it suggested itself, and, once framed in my mind, clung there.
It dawned upon me after a time that it was contact with that Lady
Berenicia which had wrought this change in him, or, rather, had brought
forth in his old age a development of his early associations, that, but
for her, would to the end have lain hidden, unsuspected, under the manly
cover of his simple middle life.
If there were alterations of a similar sort in Daisy, I could not see them
this night. I had regard only for the beauty of the fire-glow on her fair
cheek, for the sweet, maidenly light in her hazel eyes, for the soft smile
which melted over her face when she looked upon me. If she was quieter and
more reserved in her manner than of old, doubtless the same was true of
me, for I did not notice it.
I had learned at Fonda's that young Philip Cross was cutting a great
swath, socially, in the Valley, and that he was building a grand mansion,
fully as large as Johnson Hall, nearly at the summit of the eminence which
crowned his patent. Major Fonda was, indeed, contracting to furnish the
bricks for what he called the "shimlies," and the house was, by all
accounts, to be a wonderful affair. I heard much more about it, in detail,
this evening, chiefly from Mr. Stewart. Nay, I might say entirely, for
Daisy never once mentioned Philip's name if it could be avoided. Mr.
Stewart was evidently much captivated by the young man's spirit and social
qualities and demeanor generally.
"He is his father's own boy, ay, and his mother's too," said the old man,
with sparkling eyes. "Not much for books, perhaps, though no dullard. But
he can break a wild colt, or turn a bottle inside out, or bore a
pencilled hole with a pistol-bullet at thirty paces, or tell a story, or
sing a song, or ride, dance, box, cross swords, with any gentleman in the
Colony. You should have seen him stand Walrath the blacksmith on his head
at the races a fortnight ago! I never saw it better done in the
"A highly accomplished gentleman, truly," I said, with as little obvious
satire as possible.
"Ah, but he has mind as well as muscle," put in Mr. Stewart. "He is a very
Bolingbroke with the ladies. It carries me back to my days at the play, I
swear, to hear him and Lady Berenicia clashing rapiers in badinage. You
shall hear them, my boy, and judge. And there's a sweet side to his
tongue, too, or many a pretty, blushing cheek belies the little ear
The old gentleman chuckled amiably to himself as he spoke, and poured more
Madeira into my glass and his. Daisy somewhat hurriedly rose, bade us
"good-night," and left us to ourselves.
Oh, if I had only spoken the word that night!
The Rude Awakening from My Dream.
I look back now upon the week which followed this home-coming as a season
of much dejection and unhappiness. Perhaps at the time it was not all
unmixed tribulation. There was a great deal to do, naturally, and
occupation to a healthful and vigorous young man is of itself a sovereign
barrier against undue gloom. Yet I think of it now as all sadness.
Mr. Stewart had really grown aged and feeble. For the first time, too,
there was a petulant vein in his attitude toward me. Heretofore he had
treated my failure to grow up into his precise ideal of a gentleman with
affectionate philosophy, being at pains to conceal from me whatever
disappointment he felt, and, indeed, I think, honestly trying to persuade
himself that it was all for the best.
But these five months had created a certain change in the social
conditions of the Valley. For years the gulf had been insensibly widening,
here under our noses, between the workers and the idlers; during my
absence there had come, as it were, a landslide, and the chasm was now
manifest to us all. Something of this was true all over the Colonies: no
doubt what I noticed was but a phase of the general movement, part social,
part religious, part political, now carrying us along with a perceptible
glide toward the crisis of revolution. But here in the Valley, more than
elsewhere, this broadening fissure of division ran through farms, through
houses, ay, even through the group gathered in front of the family
fire-place--separating servants from employers, sons from fathers,
husbands from wives. And, alas! when I realized now for the first time the
existence of this abyss, it was to discover that my dearest friend, the
man to whom I most owed duty and esteem and love, stood on one side of it
and I on the other.
This was made clear to me by his comments--and even more by his
manner--when I told him next day of the great offer which Mr. Cross had
made. Not unnaturally I expected that he would be gratified by this proof
of the confidence I had inspired, even if he did not favor my acceptance
of the proffered post. Instead, the whole matter seemed to vex him. When I
ventured to press him for a decision, he spoke unjustly and impatiently to
me, for the first time.
"Oh, ay! that will serve as well as anything else, I suppose," he said.
"If you are resolute and stubborn to insist upon leaving me, and tossing
aside the career it has been my pleasure to plan for you, by all means go
to Albany with the other Dutchmen, and barter and cheapen to your heart's
content. You know it's no choice of mine, but please yourself!"
This was so gratuitously unfair and unlike him, and so utterly at variance
with the reception I had expected for my tidings, that I stood astounded,
looking at him. He went on:
"What the need is for your going off and mixing yourself up with these
people, I fail for the life of me to see. I suppose it is in the blood.
Any other young man but a Dutchman, reared and educated as you have been,
given the society and friendship of gentlefolk from boyhood, and placed,
by Heaven! as you are here, with a home and an estate to inherit, and
people about you to respect and love--I say nothing of obeying them--would
have appreciated his fortune, and asked no more. But no! You must,
forsooth, pine and languish to be off tricking drunken Indians out of
their peltry, and charging some other Dutchman a shilling for fourpence
worth of goods!"
What could I say? What could I do but go away sorrowfully, and with a
heavy heart take up farm affairs where I had left them? It was very hard
to realize that these rough words, still rasping my ears, had issued from
Mr. Stewart's lips. I said to myself that he must have had causes for
irritation of which I knew nothing, and that he must unconsciously have
visited upon me the peevishness which the actions of others had
engendered. All the same, it was not easy to bear.
Daily contact with Daisy showed changes, too, in her which disturbed me.
Little shades of formalism had crept here and there into her manner, even
toward me. She was more distant, I fancied, and mistress-like, toward my
poor old aunt. She rose later, and spent more of her leisure time
up-stairs in her rooms alone. Her dress was notably more careful and
elegant, now, and she habitually wore her hair twisted upon the crown of
her head, instead of in a simple braid as of old.
If she was not the Daisy I had so learned to love in my months of absence,
it seemed that my heart went out in even greater measure to this new
Daisy. She was more beautiful than ever, and she was very gentle and soft
with me. A sense of tender pity vaguely colored my devotion, for the dear
girl seemed to my watchful solicitude to be secretly unhappy. Once or
twice I strove to so shape our conversation that she would be impelled to
confide in me--to throw herself upon my old brotherly fondness, if she
suspected no deeper passion. But she either saw through my clumsy devices,
or else in her innocence evaded them; for she hugged the sorrow closer to
her heart, and was only pensively pleasant with me.
I may explain now, in advance of my story, what I came to learn long
afterward; namely, that the poor little maiden was truly in sore distress
at this time--torn by the conflict between her inclination and her
judgment, between her heart and her head. She was, in fact, hesitating
between the glamour which the young Englishman and Lady Berenicia, with
their polished ways, their glistening surfaces, and their attractive,
idlers' views of existence, had thrown over her, and her own innate,
womanly repugnance to the shallowness and indulgence, not to say license,
beneath it all. It was this battle the progress of which I unwittingly
watched. Had I but known what emotions were fighting for mastery behind
those sweetly grave hazel eyes--had I but realized how slight a pressure
might have tipped the scales my way--how much would have been different!
But I, slow Frisian that I was, comprehended nothing of it all, and so was
by turns futilely compassionate--and sulky.
For again, at intervals, she would be as gay and bright as a June rose,
tripping up and down through the house with a song on her lips, and the
old laugh rippling like sunbeams about her. Then she would deftly perch
herself on the arm of Mr. Stewart's chair, and dazzle us both with the
joyous merriment of her talk, and the sparkle in her eyes--or sing for us
of an evening, up-stairs, playing the while upon the lute (which young
Cross had given her) instead of the discarded piano. Then she would wear a
bunch of flowers--I never suspecting whence they came--upon her breast,
and an extra ribbon in her hair. And then I would be wretched, and
gloomily say to myself that I preferred her unhappy, and next morning,
when the cloud had gathered afresh upon her face, would long again to see
her cheerful once more.
And so the week went by miserably, and I did not tell my love.
One morning, after breakfast, Mr. Stewart asked Daisy to what conclusion
she had come about our accepting Philip Cross's invitation to join a
luncheon-party on his estate that day. I had heard this gathering
mentioned several times before, as a forthcoming event of great promise,
and I did not quite understand either the reluctance with which Daisy
seemed to regard the thought of going, or the old gentleman's mingled
insistence and deference to her wishes in the matter.
To be sure, I had almost given up in weary heart-sickness the attempt to
understand his new moods. Since his harsh words to me, I had had nothing
but amiable civility from him--now and then coming very near to his
old-time fond cordiality--but it was none the less grievously apparent to
me that our relations would never again be on the same footing. I could no
longer anticipate his wishes, I found, or foresee what he would think or
say upon matters as they came up. We two were wholly out of chord, be the
fault whose it might. And so, I say, I was rather puzzled than surprised
to see how much stress was laid between them upon the question whether or
not Daisy would go that day to Cairncross, as the place was to be called.
Finally, without definitely having said "yes," she appeared dressed for
the walk, and put on a mock air of surprise at not finding us also ready.
She blushed, I remember, as she did so. There was no disposition on my
part to make one of the party, but when I pleaded that I had not been
invited, and that there was occupation for me at home, Mr. Stewart seemed
so much annoyed that I hastened to join them.
It was a perfect autumn day, with the sweet scent of burning leaves in the
air, and the foliage above the forest path putting on its first pale
changes toward scarlet and gold. Here and there, when the tortuous way
approached half-clearings, we caught glimpses of the round sun, opaquely
red through the smoky haze.
Our road was the old familiar trail northward over which Mr. Stewart and
I, in the happy days, had so often walked to reach our favorite haunt the
gulf. The path was wider and more worn now--almost a thoroughfare, in
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