In the Valley
Part 6 out of 6
piteously away when no report came. If he had had the strength he would
have thrown the useless weapon at me. As it was, it dropped from his
nerveless fingers. He closed his eyes under the knit brows, upon which
cold sweat stood out, and groaned aloud.
"I do not know what to say to you," I went on, the episode of the pistol
seeming, strangely enough, to have cleared my thoughts. "For two
years--yes, for five years--I have been picturing to myself some such
scene as this, where you should lie overthrown before me, and I should
crush the life out of your hateful body with my heel, as one does with
snakes. But now that it has come about, I am at a strange loss for words."
"That you were not formerly," said the wounded man. "Since I have known
you, you have fought always exceedingly well with your mouth. It was only
in deeds that you were slow."
He made this retort with a contemptuous coolness of tone which was belied
by his white face and drawn brows, and by the troubled, clinging gaze in
his eyes. I found myself looking with a curious impersonal interest upon
this heavy, large-featured countenance, always heretofore so deeply
flushed with color, and now coarsely blotched with varying depths
"Doubtless it would be best to leave you here. None of your party will
straggle this way. They have all fled. You can lie here and think of your
"Until the wolves come, you mean. Yes, go away. I prefer them to you."
The sky to the west was one great lurid, brassy glare, overhung with banks
of sinister clouds, a leaden purple above, fiery crimson below. The
unnatural light fell strongly upon us both. A big shadow passed for an
instant across the sunset, and we, looking instinctively up, saw the
circling bulk of some huge bird of prey. I shuddered at the sight.
"Yes, leave me to _them_!" he said, bitterly. "Go back and seize my lands,
my house. While the beasts and the birds tear me to bits here in the
forest, do you fatten upon my substance at home. You and they are of
"You know I would touch nothing of yours."
"No--not even my wife!"
The thrust went home. There was a world of sardonic disdain in his voice
as he spoke, but in truth I thought little of his tone. The words
themselves seemed to open a gulf before my feet. Was it indeed true, in
welcoming this man's death, that I was thinking of the woman it would set
It seemed a long, long time before I found tongue again. I walked up and
down among the small cedars, fighting out in my own mind the issue of
honor which had been with such brutal frankness raised. I could not make
it seem wholly untrue--this charge he so contemptuously flung at me. There
was no softening of my heart toward him: he was still the repellent, evil
ruffian I had for years held him to be. I felt that I hated him the more
because he had put me in the wrong. I went back to him, ashamed for the
source of the increase of temper I trembled under, yet powerless to
"Why should I not kill you where you lie?" I shouted at him.
He made an effort at shrugging his shoulders, but vouchsafed no other
"You"--I went on, in a whirl of rage at myself, at him, at the entire
universe--"you have made my whole manhood bitter. I fought you the first
time I saw you, when we were little boys. Even then you insulted, injured
me. I have always hated you. You have always given me reason to hate you.
It was you who poisoned Mr. Stewart's mind against me. It was you who
stole my sweet sister away from me. Did this content you? No. You must
drive the good old gentleman into paralysis and illness unto death--out of
his mind--and you must overwhelm the poor, gentle girl with drunken
brutality and cruelty, and to cap all, with desertion. And this is not
enough--my God! think of it! _this_ is not enough!--but you must come with
the others to force Indian war upon our Valley, upon your old neighbors!
There are hundreds lying dead here to-day in these woods--honest men whose
wives, parents, little children, are waiting for them at home. They will
never lay eyes on them again. Why? Because of you and your scoundrel
friends. You have done too much mischief already. It is high time to put
an end to you."
The wounded man had listened to me wearily, with his free hand clutched
tight over his wound, and the other tearing spasmodically at the grass
"I am bleeding to death," he said, with a voice obviously weakened since
his last preceding words. "So much the better for you. You would like it
so. You are not bold enough to knock me on the head, or merciful enough to
go about your business and leave me in peace. I ought to be above bandying
words with you; nor would I if it did not take my mind from my hurt. You
are right--you have always been my enemy. You were jealous of me as a
little boy. You had an apron, and you envied me my coat. When, like a
fool, I came again to this cursed wilderness, your sour face rose up in
front of me like an ugly dream. It was my first disagreeable thing. Still
you were jealous of me, for I was a gentleman; you were a skin-pedler. I
married a maiden who had beauty and wit enough to grace my station, even
though she had not been born to it. It was you who turned her mind against
me, and incited her to unhappiness in the home I had given her. It was you
who made a damned rebel out of her, and drove me into going to Canada. She
has ever been more your friend than mine. You are of her sort. An English
gentleman could rightly have had no part or lot with either of you. Go
back to her now--tell her you left me here waiting for the wolves--and
that my dying message was--"
He followed with some painfully bitter and malignant words which I have
not the heart to set down here in cold blood against him.
"Let me see your wound," I said, when he had finished and sank back,
I knelt beside him and opened his green coat, and the fine, ruffled shirt
beneath it. Both were soaked with blood on the whole right side, but the
soft cambric had, in a measure, checked the flow. He made no resistance,
and I spread over the ugly aperture some of the plaster with which my
mother had fitted me out, and bound it fast, with some difficulty, by
passing my sash under his body and winding it about his chest.
He kept his eyes closed while I was doing this. I could not tell whether
he was conscious or not. Nor could I explain to myself why I was
concerning myself with his wound. Was it to save, if possible, his life?
Was it to lengthen out his term of torture here in the great final
solitude, helplessly facing the end, with snarling wolves and screaming
kites for his death-watch? I scarcely knew which.
I try now to retrace the courses by which my thoughts, in the confused
searchings of those few moments, reached finally a good conclusion; but
the effort is beyond my powers. I know only that all at once it became
quite clear to my mind that I must not leave my enemy to die. How much of
this was due to purely physical compassion for suffering, how much to the
higher pleadings of humanity, how much to the feeling that his taunts of
baseness must be proved untrue, I cannot say.
I was still kneeling beside him, I know, when Enoch suddenly stood in
front of me. His practised footsteps had made no sound. He glanced gravely
at me and at the white, inanimate face of Cross. Emotions did not play
lightly upon Enoch's leather-like visage; there was nothing in his look to
tell whether he was surprised or not.
"Well, what news? How has the day gone?" I asked him.
"Your people hold the gulf. The British have gone back. It seems they were
attacked in their rear from the fort. The woods are full of dead men."
"What is Herkimer going to do?"
"They were making a litter to carry him off the field. They are going home
again--down the Valley."
"So, then, we have lost the fight."
"Well, seeing that every three sound men have got to tote back one wounded
man, and that about half the people you brought here are dead to begin
with, it don't look much like a victory, does it?"
"But the British have retreated, you say, and there was a sortie from the
"Yes, it's about six of one and half-dozen of t'other. I should say that
both sides had got their bellyful of fighting. I guess they'll both want
to rest for a spell."
I made no answer, being lost in a maze of thoughts upon the hideous
carnage of the day, and upon what was likely to come of it. Enoch went on:
"They seemed to be pretty nigh through with their litter-making. They must
be about ready to start. You'd better be spry if you want to go along
"Did you speak to any one of me? Did you tell them where I was?"
"I ain't quite a fool, young man," said the trapper, with a gaunt sort of
smile. "If they'd caught sight of me, I wouldn't have got much chance to
explain about myself, let alone you. It kind of occurred to me that
strangers found loafing around in the woods wouldn't get much of an
opening for polite conversation just now--especially if those strangers
were fellows who had come down from Sillinger's camp with letters only a
All this time Cross had been stretched at my knees, with his eyes closed.
He opened them here, at Enoch's last words, and broke into our
conversation with a weak, strangely altered voice:
"I know you now--damn you! I couldn't think before. You are the fellow I
gave my letters to, there on Buck's Island. I paid you your own price--in
hard gold--and now you shoot me in return. You are on the right side now.
You make a good rebel."
"Now look here, Mr. Cross," put in Enoch, with just a trace of temper in
his tone. "You paid me to carry those letters because I was going that
way, and I carried 'em straight. You didn't pay me for anything else, and
you couldn't, neither. There ain't been gold enough minted yet to hire me
to fight for your King George against Congress. Put that in your pipe and
"Come, Enoch," I here interrupted, "enough of that. The man is suffering.
You must not vex him further by words."
"Suffering or not," returned the trapper, "he might keep a civil tongue in
his head.--Why, I even did something you didn't pay me for," he went on,
scowling down at the prostrate soldier. "I delivered your message here to
this man" (indicating me with a gesture of his thumb)--"all that, you
know, about cutting out his heart when you met him, and feeding it to a
Enoch's grim features relaxed into a sardonic smile as he added: "There
may be more or less heart-eating round about here presently, but it don't
look much as if it would be his, and the dogs that'll do it don't belong
to anybody--not even to a Missisague buck."
The wounded man's frame shook under a spasm of shuddering, and he glowered
at us both wildly, with a look half-wrath, half-pitiful pleading, which
helped me the better to make up my mind.
Enoch had turned to me once more:
"Come," he said, "we better hustle along. It will be all right with me so
long as I am with you, and there is no time to lose. They must be starting
from the gulf by this time. If we step along brisk, we'll soon catch them.
As for this chap here, I guess we'd better leave him. He won't last long
anyway, and your folks don't want any wounded prisoners. They've got too
many litters to carry already."
"No," I made answer, with my resolve clear now before me. "We will make
our own litter, and we will carry him to his home ourselves--by the
river--away from the others."
"The hell you say!" said Enoch.
The Strange Uses to Which Revenge May Be Put.
In after-times, when it could do no harm to tell this story, people were
wont to regard as its most remarkable feature the fact that we made the
trip from the Oriskany battle-field to Cairncross in five days. There was
never exhibited any special interest in the curious workings of mind, and
conscience too if you like, which led me to bring my enemy home. Some few,
indeed, like General Arnold, to whom I recounted the affair a fortnight
later when he marched up the Valley, frankly said that I was a fool for my
pains, and doubtless many others dissembled the same opinion. But they
all, with one accord, expressed surprise, admiration, even incredulity, at
the despatch with which we accomplished the difficult journey.
This achievement was, of course, entirely due to Enoch. At the outset he
protested stoutly against the waste of time and trouble involved in my
plan. It was only after much argument that I won him over to consenting,
which he did with evident reluctance. But it is right to say that, once
embarked on the adventure, he carried it through faithfully and with zeal.
The wounded man lay silent, with closed eyes, while our discussion went
on. He seemed in a half-lethargic state, probably noting all that we said,
yet under too heavy a spell of pain and weakness to care to speak. It was
not until we two had woven a rough sort of litter out of hickory saplings,
covered thick with moss and hemlock twigs, and Enoch had knelt by his side
to look to his wounds again, that Cross spoke:
"Leave me alone!" he groaned, angrily. "It makes me worse to have you
touch me. Are you not satisfied? I am dying; that ought to be enough
"Don't be a fool, Mr. Cross," said Enoch, imperturbably, moving his hand
along the course of the bandage. "We're trying to save your life. I don't
know just why, but we are. Don't make it extra hard for us. All the help
we want from you is for you to hold your jaw."
"You are going to give me up to your Oneidas!" cried the suffering man,
raising his head by a violent effort at the words, and staring
affrightedly straight ahead of him.
There, indeed, were the two friendly Indians who had come with me to the
swamp, and had run forward in pursuit of Cross's companions. They had
returned with absolute noiselessness, and stood now some ten feet away
from us, gazing with stolid composure at our group.
A hideous bunch of fresh scalp-locks dangled from the belt of each, and,
on the bare legs beneath, stains of something darker than vermilion
mingled with the pale ochre that had been rubbed upon the skin. The
savages breathed heavily from their chase, and their black eyes were
fairly aflame with excitement, but they held the muscles of their faces in
an awesome rigidity. They were young men whom pious Samuel Kirkland had
laboriously covered, through years of effort, with a Christian veneering.
If the good dominie could have been there and seen the glances they bent
upon the wounded enemy at our feet, I fear me he would have groaned
"Keep them off!" shrieked Cross, his head all in a tremble with the
sustained exertion of holding itself up. "I will not be scalped! So help
me God, I will not!"
The Indians knew enough of English to understand this frantic cry. They
looked at me as much as to say that this gentleman's resolution did not
materially alter the existing situation, the probabilities of which were
all on the other side.
"Lay your head down, Mr. Cross," said Enoch, almost gently. "Just keep
cool, or you'll bust your bandages off. They won't hurt you till we give
'em the word."
Still he made fitful efforts to rise, and a faint purplish color came into
his throat and cheeks as he strove excitedly. If Enoch had not held his
arm he would have torn off the plaster from his breast.
"It shall not be done! I will die now! You shall not save me to be
tortured--scalped--by these devils!"
I intervened here. "You need fear nothing from these Indians," I said,
bending over him. "Lie back again and calm yourself. We are different from
the brutes in your camp. We pay no price for scalps."
"Perhaps those are not scalps they have hanging there. It is like your
canting tongue to deny it."
It was easy to keep my temper with this helpless foe. "These savages have
their own way of making war," I answered, calmly. "They are defending
their own homes against invasion, as well as we are. But we do not bribe
them to take scalps."
"Why not be honest--you!" he said, disdainfully. "You are going to give me
up. Don't sicken me with preaching into the bargain."
"Why be silly--you!" I retorted. "Does the trouble we propose taking for
you look like giving you up? What would be easier than to leave you
here--for the wolves, or these Indians here? Instead of that we are going
to carry you all the way to your home. We are going to _hide_ you at
Cairncross, until I can get a parole for you from General Schuyler. _Now_
will you keep still?"
He did relapse into silence at this--a silence that was born alike of
mystification and utter weakness.
Enoch explained to the Oneidas, mainly in their own strange tongue, my
project of conveying this British prisoner, intact so far as hair went,
down the Valley. I could follow him enough to know that he described me as
a warrior of great position and valor; it was less flattering to have him
explain that Cross was also a leading chief, and that I would get a
magnificent ransom by delivering him up to Congress.
Doubtless it was wise not to approach the Indian mind with less practical
arguments. I saw this, and begged Enoch to add that much of this reward
should be theirs if they would accompany us on our journey.
"They would be more trouble than they are worth," he said. "They wouldn't
help carry him more than ten minutes a day. If they'll tell me where one
of their canoes is hid, betwixt here and Fort Schuyler, that will
The result was that Enoch got such information of this sort as he desired,
together with the secret of a path near by which would lead us to the
river trail. I cut two buttons from my coat in return, and gave them to
the savages; each being a warranty for eight dollars upon production at my
home, half way between the old and the new houses of the great and
lamented Warraghiyagey, as they had called Sir William Johnson. This done,
and the trifling skin-wound on my arm re-dressed, we lifted Cross upon the
rude litter and started for the trail.
I seem to see again the spectacle upon which I turned to look for a last
time before we entered the thicket. The sky beyond the fatal forest wore
still its greenish, brassy color, and the clouds upon the upper limits of
this unnatural glare were of a vivid, sinister crimson, like clots of
fresh blood. In the calm gray blue of the twilight vault above, birds of
prey circled, with a horrible calling to one another. No breath of air
stirred the foliage or the bending rushes in the swale. We could hear no
sound from our friends at the head of the ravine, a full half-mile away.
Save for the hideous noises of the birds, a perfect silence rested upon
this blood-soaked oasis of the wilderness. The little brook babbled softly
past us; the strong western light flashed upon the rain-drops among the
leaves. On the cedar-clad knoll the two young Indians stood motionless in
the sunset radiance, watching us gravely.
We passed into the enfolding depths of the woods, leaving the battle-field
to the furred and feathered scavengers and scalping-knives of the
* * * * *
Our slow and furtive course down the winding river was one long misery. I
recall no other equally wretched five days in my life.
The canoe which Enoch unearthed on our first evening was a small and
fragile affair, in which only one beside the wounded man could be
accommodated. The other must take his way as best he could through the
sprawling tangle of water-alders, wild artichoke, and vines, facing
myriads of flies and an intolerable heat in all the wet places, with their
sweltering luxuriance of rank vegetation. One day of this nearly reduced
me to the condition of our weak and helpless prisoner. I staggered blindly
along toward its close, covered to the knees with black river-mud, my face
and wounded arm stinging with the scratches of poisonous ivy and brambles,
my brain aching savagely, my strength and spirit all gone. I could have
wept like a child from sheer exhaustion when at last I came to the nook on
the little stream where Enoch had planned to halt, and flung myself on
the ground utterly worn out.
We were somewhat below Fort Schuyler, as near to the first settlements on
the German Flatts as we might with safety venture by daylight. Thereafter
we must hide during the days, and steal down the river at night. Enoch had
a small store of smoked beef; for the rest we ate berries, wild grapes,
and one or two varieties of edible roots which he knew of. We dared not
build a fire.
Philip Cross passed most of his time, while we lay hiding under cover, in
a drowsy, restless stupor, broken by feverish intervals of nervous
activity of mind which were often very like delirium. The heat, the
fly-pest, and the malarial atmosphere of the dank recesses in which we
lay, all combined to make his days very bad. At night in the canoe,
floating noiselessly down the stream, Enoch said he seemed to suffer less
and to be calmer in his mind. But at no time, for the first three days at
least, did he evince any consciousness that we were doing for him more
than might under the circumstances be expected. His glance seemed
sometimes to bespeak puzzled thoughts. But he accepted all our
ministrations and labors with either the listless indifference of a man
ill unto death, or the composure of an aristocrat who took personal
service and attention for granted.
After we had passed the Little Falls--which we did on our third night
out--the chief danger from shallows and rifts was over, and Enoch was able
to exchange places with me. It was no great trouble to him, skilful
woodsman that he was, to make his way along the bank even in the dark,
while in the now smooth and fairly broad course I could manage the canoe
The moon shone fair upon us, as our little bark glided down the river. We
were in the deep current which pushes forcefully forward under the new
pressure of the East Canada waters, and save for occasional guidance there
was small need of my paddle. The scene was very beautiful to the eye--the
white light upon the flood, the soft calm shadows of the willowed banks,
the darker, statelier silhouettes of the forest trees, reared black
against the pale sky.
There is something in the restful radiance of moonlight which mellows
hearts. The poets learned this, ages since; I realized it now, as my
glance fell upon the pallid face in the bow before me. We were looking at
one another, and my hatred of him, nursed through years, seemed suddenly
to have taken to itself wings. I had scarcely spoken to him during the
voyage, other than to ask him of his wound. Now a thousand gentle impulses
stirred within me, all at once, and moved my tongue.
"Are you out of pain to-night?" I asked him. "The journey is a hard one at
best for a wounded man. I would we could have commanded a larger and more
"Oh, ay! So far as bodily suffering goes, I am free from it," he made
answer, languidly. Then, after a little pause, he went on, in a low,
musing voice: "How deathly still everything is! I thought that in the
wilderness one heard always the night-yelping of the wolves. We did at
Cairncross, I know. Yet since we started I have not heard one. It is as if
we were going through a dead country."
Enoch had explained the reason for this silence to me, and I thoughtlessly
blurted it out.
"Every wolf for forty miles round about is up at the battle-field," I
said. "It is fairly marvellous how such intelligence spreads among these
brutes. They must have a language of their own. How little we really
understand of the animal creation about us, with all our pride of wisdom!
Even the shark, sailors aver, knows which ship to pursue."
He shuddered and closed his eyes as I spoke. I thought at first that he
had been seized with a spasm of physical anguish, by the drawn expression
of his face; then it dawned upon me that his suffering was mental.
"Yes, I dare say they are all there," he said, lifting his voice somewhat.
"I can hear them--see them! Do you know," he went on, excitedly, "all day
long, all night long, I seem to have corpses all about me. They are there
just the same when I close my eyes--when I sleep. Some of them are my
friends; others I do not know, but they all know me. They look at me out
of dull eyes; they seem to say they are waiting for me--and then there are
He began shivering at this again, and his voice sank into a piteous
"These are but fancies," I said, gently, as one would speak to a child
awakened in terror by a nightmare. "You will be rid of them once you get
where you can have rest and care."
It seemed passing strange that I should be talking thus to a man of as
powerful frame as myself, and even older in years. Yet he was so wan and
weak, and the few days of suffering had so altered, I may say refined, his
face and mien, that it was natural enough too, when one thinks of it.
He became calmer after this, and looked at me for a long time as I paddled
through a stretch of still water, in silence.
"You must have been well born, after all," he said, finally.
I did not wholly understand his meaning, but answered:
"Why, yes, the Van Hoorns are a very good family--noble in some branches,
in fact--and my father had his sheepskin from Utrecht. But what of it?"
"What I would say is, you have acted in all this like a gentleman."
I could not help smiling to myself, now that I saw what was in his mind.
"For that matter," I answered, lightly, "it does not seem to me that
either the Van Hoorns or the dead Mauverensens have much to do with it." I
remembered my mother's parting remark to me, and added: "The only Van
Hoorn I know of in the Valley will not be at all pleased to learn I have
brought you back."
"Nobody will be pleased," he said, gloomily.
After that it was fit that silence should again intervene, for I could not
gainsay him. He closed his eyes as if asleep, and I paddled on in the
alternate moonlight and shadow.
The recollection of my mother's words brought with it a great train of
thoughts, mostly bitter. I was bearing home with me a man who was not only
not wanted, but whose presence and continued life meant the annihilation
of all the inchoate hopes and dreams my heart these last two years had fed
upon. It was easy to be civil, even kind, to him in his present helpless,
stricken state; anybody with a man's nature could do that. But it was not
so easy to look resignedly upon the future, from which all light and
happiness were excluded by the very fact that he was alive.
More than once during this revery, be it stated in frankness, the
reflection came to me that by merely tipping the canoe over I could even
now set everything right. Of course I put the evil thought away from me,
but still it came obstinately back more than once. Under the momentary
spell of this devilish suggestion, I even looked at the form recumbent
before me, and noted how impossible it was that it should ever reach the
bank, once in the water. Then I tore my mind forcibly from the idea, as
one looking over a dizzy height leaps back lest the strange, latent
impulse of suicide shall master him, and fixed my thoughts instead upon
the man himself.
His talk about my being well born helped me now to understand his
character better than I had before been able to do. I began to realize the
existence in England--in Europe generally, I dare say--of a kind of man
strange to our American ideas, a being within whom long tradition and
sedulous training had created two distinct men--one affable, honorable,
generous, likeable, among his equals; the other cold, selfish, haughty,
and harsh to his inferiors. It struck me now that there had always been
two Philips, and that I had been shown only the rude and hateful one
because my station had not seemed to entitle me to consort with the other.
Once started upon this explanation, I began to comprehend the whole story.
To tell the truth, I had never understood why this young man should have
behaved so badly as he did; there had been to me always a certain
wantonness of brutality in his conduct wholly inexplicable. The thing was
plainer now. In his own country he would doubtless have made a tolerable
husband, a fair landlord, a worthy gentleman in the eyes of the only class
of people whose consideration he cared for. But over here, in the new
land, all the conditions had been against him. He had drawn down upon
himself and all those about him overwhelming calamity, simply because he
had felt himself under the cursed obligation to act like a "gentleman," as
he called it. His contemptuous dislike of me, his tyrannical treatment of
his wife when she did not fall in with his ambitions, his sulky resort to
dissipation, his fierce espousal of the Tory side against the common
herd--I could trace now the successive steps by which obstinacy had led
him down the fell incline.
I do not know that I had much satisfaction from this analysis, even when I
had worked it all out. It was worth while, no doubt, to arrive at a
knowledge of Philip's true nature, and to see that under other
circumstances he might have been as good a man as another. But all the
same my heart grew heavy under the recurring thought that the saving of
his life meant the destruction of all worth having in mine.
Every noiseless stroke of my paddle in the water, bearing him toward home
as it did, seemed to push me farther back into a chill, unknown world of
gloom and desolation. Yet, God help me, I could do no other!
A Final Scene in the Gulf which My Eyes Are Mercifully Spared.
Just before daybreak of the fifth day we stole past the sleeping hamlet of
Caughnawaga, and as the sun was rising over the Schoharie hills I drew up
the canoe into the outlet of Dadanoscara Creek, a small brook which came
down through the woods from the high land whereon Cairncross stood. Our
journey by water was ended.
Enoch was waiting for us, and helped me lift Cross from the canoe. His
body hung inert in our arms; not even my clumsy slipping on the bank of
the rivulet startled him from the deep sleep in which he had lain for
hours in the boat.
"I have been frightened. Can he be dying?" I asked.
Enoch knelt beside him, and put his hand over the patient's heart. He
shook his head dubiously after a moment, and said: "It's tearing along
like a racehorse. He's in a fever--the worst kind. This ain't
He felt the wounded man's pulse and temples. "If you're bent on saving his
life," he added, "you'd better scoot off and get some help. Before we can
make another litter for him, let alone taking him up this creek-bed to
his house, it may be too late. If we had a litter ready, it might be
different. As it is, I don't see but you will have to risk it, and bring
For once in my life my brain worked in flashes. I actually thought of
something which had not occurred to Enoch!
"Why not carry him in this canoe?" I asked. "It is lighter than any litter
we could make."
The trapper slapped his lank, leather-clad thigh in high approval. "By
hokey!" he said, "you've hit it!"
We sat on the mossy bank, on either side of the insensible Philip, and ate
the last remaining fragments of our store of food. Another day of this and
we should have been forced to shoot something, and light a fire to cook it
over, no matter what the danger. Enoch had, indeed, favored this course
two days before, but I clung to my notion of keeping Cross's presence in
the Valley an absolute secret. His life would have been in deadly peril
hereabouts, even before the battle. How bitterly the hatred of him and his
traitor-fellows must have been augmented by the slaughter of that cruel
ambuscade, I could readily imagine. With what words could I have protected
him against the righteous rage of a Snell, for example, or a Seeber, or
any one of a hundred others who had left kinsmen behind in that fatal
gulch? No! There must be no risk run by meeting any one.
With the scanty meal finished our rest was at an end. We ought to lose no
time. Each minute's delay in getting the wounded man under a roof, in
bed, within reach of aid and nursing, might be fatal.
It was no light task to get the canoe upon our shoulders, after we had put
in it our guns, covered these with ferns and twigs, and upon these laid
Philip's bulky form, and a very few moments' progress showed that the work
before us was to be no child's play. The conformation of the canoe made it
a rather awkward thing to carry, to begin with. To bear it right side up,
laden as it was, over eight miles of almost continuous ascent, through a
perfectly unbroken wilderness, was as laborious an undertaking as it is
easy to conceive.
We toiled along so slowly, and the wretched little brook, whose bed we
strove to follow, described such a wandering course, and was so often
rendered fairly impassable by rocks, driftwood, and overhanging thicket,
that when the sun hung due south above us we had covered barely half our
journey, and confronted still the hardest portion of it. We were so
exhausted when this noon hour came, too, that I could make no objection
when Enoch declared his purpose of getting some trout from the brook, and
cooking them. Besides, we were far enough away from the river highway and
from all habitations now to render the thing practically safe. Accordingly
I lighted a small fire of the driest wood to be found, while the trapper
stole up and down the brook, moving with infinite stealth and dexterity,
tracking down fish and catching them with his hands under the stones.
Soon he had enough for a meal--and, my word! it was a feast for emperors
or angels. We stuffed the pink dainties with mint, and baked them in balls
of clay. It seemed as if I had not eaten before in years.
We tried to rouse Cross sufficiently to enable him to eat, and in a small
way succeeded; but the effect upon him was scarcely beneficial, it
appeared to us. His fever increased, and when we started out once more
under our burden, the motion inseparable from our progress affected his
head, and he began to talk incoherently to himself.
Nothing can be imagined more weird and startling than was the sound of
this voice above us, when we first heard it. Both Enoch and I
instinctively stopped. For the moment we could not tell whence the sound
came, and I know not what wild notions about it flashed through my mind.
Even when we realized that it was the fever-loosed tongue of our companion
which spoke, the effect was scarcely less uncanny. Though I could not see
him, the noise of his ceaseless talking came from a point close to my
head; he spoke for the most part in a bold, high voice--unnaturally raised
above the pitch of his recent faint waking utterances. Whenever a fallen
log or jutting bowlder gave us a chance to rest our load without the
prospect of too much work in hoisting it again, we would set the canoe
down, and that moment his lips would close. There seemed to be some occult
connection between the motion of our walking and the activity of his
For a long time--of course in a very disconnected way--he babbled about
his mother, and of people, presumably English, of whom I knew nothing,
save that one name, Digby, was that of his elder brother Then there began
to be interwoven with this talk stray mention of Daisy's name, and soon
the whole discourse was of her.
The freaks of delirium have little significance, I believe, as clews to
the saner courses of the mind, but he spoke only gently in his imaginary
speeches to his wife. I had to listen, plodding wearily along with aching
shoulders under the burden of the boat, to fond, affectionate words
addressed to her in an incessant string. The thread of his ideas seemed to
be that he had arrived home, worn-out and ill, and that he was resting his
head upon her bosom. Over and over again, with tiresome iteration, he kept
entreating plaintively: "You _are_ glad to see me? You do _truly_ forgive
me, and love me?"
Nothing could have been sadder than to hear him. I reasoned that this
ceaseless dwelling upon the sweets of a tender welcome doubtless reflected
the train of his thoughts during the journey down from the battle-field.
He had forborne to once mention Daisy's name during the whole voyage, but
he must have thought deeply, incessantly of her--in all likelihood with a
great softening of heart and yearning for her compassionate nursing. It
was not in me to be unmoved by this. I declare that as I went painfully
forward, with this strangely pathetic song of passion repeating itself in
my ears, I got fairly away from the habit of mind in which my own love for
Daisy existed, and felt myself only an agent in the working out of some
sombre and exalted romance.
In Foxe's account of the English martyrs there are stories of men at the
stake who, when a certain stage of the torture was reached, really forgot
their anguish in the emotional ecstasy of the ideas born of that terrible
moment. In a poor and imperfect fashion I approached that same strange
state--not far removed, in sober fact, from the delirium of the man in
The shadows were lengthening in the woods, and the reddening blaze of the
sun flared almost level in our eyes through the tree-trunks, when at last
we had crossed the water-shed of the two creeks, and stood looking down
into the gulf of which I have so often spoken heretofore.
We rested the canoe upon a great rock in the mystic circle of ancient
Indian fire worship, and leaned, tired and panting, against its side. My
arm was giving me much pain, and what with insufficient food and feverish
sleep, great immediate fatigue, and the vast nervous strain of these past
six days, I was well-nigh swooning.
"I fear I can go no farther, Enoch," I groaned. "I can barely keep my feet
as it is."
The trapper himself was as close to utter exhaustion as one may be and
have aught of spirit left, yet he tried to speak cheerily.
"Come, come!" he said, "we mustn't give out now, right here at the
finish. Why, it's only down over that bridge, and up again--and there
I smiled in a sickly way at him, and strove to nerve myself manfully for a
final exertion. "Very well," I made answer. "Just a moment's more rest,
and we'll at it again."
While we stood half reclining against the bowlder, looking with
trepidation at the stiff ascent before us on the farther side of the gulf,
the scene of the old quarrel of our youth suddenly came to my mind.
"Do you see that spruce near the top, by the path--the one hanging over
the edge? Five years ago I was going to fight this Philip Cross there, on
that path. My little nigger Tulp ran between us, and he threw him head
over heels to the bottom. The lad has never been himself since."
"Pretty tolerable fall," remarked Enoch, glancing down the precipitous,
brush-clad wall of rock. "But a nigger lands on his head as a cat does on
her feet, and it only scratches him where it would kill anybody else."
We resumed our burden now, and made our way with it down the winding path
to the bottom. Here I was fain to surrender once for all.
"It is no use, Enoch," I said, resolutely. "I can't even try to climb up
there with this load. You must wait here; I will go ahead to Cairncross,
prepare them for his coming, and send down some slaves to fetch him the
rest of the way."
* * * * *
The great square mansion reared before me a closed and inhospitable front.
The shutters of all the windows were fastened. Since the last rain no
wheels had passed over the carriage-way. For all the signs of life
visible, Cairncross might have been uninhabited a twelve-month.
It was only when I pushed my way around to the rear of the house, within
view of the stables and slave quarters, that I learned the place had not
been abandoned. Half a dozen niggers, dressed in their holiday,
church-going raiment, were squatting in a close circle on the grass,
intent upon the progress of some game. Their interest in this was so deep
that I had drawn near to them, and called a second time, before they
became aware of my presence.
They looked for a minute at me in a perplexed way--my mud-baked clothes,
unshaven face, and general unkempt condition evidently rendering me a
stranger in their eyes. Then one of them screamed: "Golly! Mass' Douw's
ghost!" and the nimble cowards were on their feet and scampering like
scared rabbits to the orchard, or into the basement of the great house.
So I was supposed to be dead! Curiously enough, it had not occurred to me
before that this would be the natural explanation of my failure to return
with the others. The idea now gave me a queer quaking sensation about the
heart, and I stood stupidly staring at the back balcony of the house, with
my mind in a whirl of confused thoughts. It seemed almost as if I _had_
come back from the grave.
While I still stood, faint and bewildered, trying to regain control of my
ideas, the door opened, and a white-faced lady, robed all in black, came
swiftly out upon the porch. It was Daisy, and she was gazing at me with
distended eyes and parted lips, and clinging to the carved balustrade
As in a dream I heard her cry of recognition, and knew that she was
gliding toward me. Then I was on my knees at her feet, burying my face in
the folds of her dress, and moaning incoherent nothings from sheer
exhaustion and rapture.
When at last I could stand up, and felt myself coming back to something
like self-possession, a score of eager questions and as many outbursts of
deep thanksgiving were in my ears--all from her sweet voice. And I had
tongue for none of them, but only looked into her dear face, and patted
her hands between mine, and trembled like a leaf with excitement. So much
was there to say, the sum of it beggared language.
When finally we did talk, I was seated in a great chair one of the slaves
had brought upon the sward, and wine had been fetched me, and my dear girl
bent gently over me from behind, softly resting my head against her waist,
her hands upon my arms.
"You shall not look me in the face again," she said--with ah! such
compassionate, tender playfulness--"until I have been told. How did you
escape? Were you a prisoner? Were you hurt?"--and oh! a host of
Suddenly the sky seemed to be covered with blackness, and the joy in my
heart died out as by the stroke of death. I had remembered something. My
parched and twitching lips did their best to refuse to form the words:
"I have brought Philip home. He is sorely wounded. Send the slaves to
bring him from the gulf."
After a long silence, I heard Daisy's voice, clear and without a tremor,
call out to the blacks that their master had been brought as far as the
gulf beyond, and needed assistance. They started off helter-skelter at
this, with many exclamations of great surprise, a bent and misshapen
figure dragging itself with a grotesque limping gait at their tail.
I rose from my chair, now in some measure restored to calmness and cold
resolution. In mercy I had been given a brief time of blind happiness--of
bliss without the alloy of a single thought. Now I must be a man, and walk
erect, unflinching, to the sacrifice.
"Let us go and meet them. It is best," I said. The poor girl raised her
eyes to mine, and their startled, troubled gaze went to my heart. There
must have been prodigious effort in the self-command of her tone to the
slaves, for her voice broke down utterly now, as she faltered:
"You have--brought--him home! For what purpose? How will this all end? It
We had by tacit consent begun to walk down the path toward the road. It
was almost twilight. I remember still how the swallows wheeled swiftly in
the air about the eaves, and how their twittering and darting seemed to
confuse and tangle my thoughts.
The situation was too sad for silence. I felt the necessity of talking, of
uttering something which might, at least, make pretence of occupying these
wretched minutes, until I should say:
"This is your husband--and farewell!"
"It was clear enough to me," I said. "My duty was plain. I would have
been a murderer had I left him there to die. It was very strange about my
feelings. Up to a certain moment they were all bitter and merciless toward
him. So many better men than he were dead about me, it seemed little
enough that his life should go to help avenge them. Yet when the moment
came--why, I could not suffer it. Not that my heart relented--no; I was
still full of rage against him. But none the less it was my duty to save
"And to bring him home to _me_." She spoke musingly, completing my
"Why, Daisy, would you have had it otherwise? Could I have left him there,
to die alone, helpless in the swamp?"
"I have not said you were not right, Douw," she answered, with saddened
slowness. "But I am trying to think. It is so hard to realize--coming like
this. I was told you were both dead. His name was reported in their camp,
yours among our people. And now you are both here--and it is all so
strange, so startling--and what is right seems so mingled and bound up
with what is cruel and painful! Oh, I cannot think! What will come of it?
How will it all end?"
"We must not ask how it will end!" I made answer, with lofty decision.
"That is not our affair. We can but do our duty--what seems clearly
right--and bear results as they come. There is no other way. You ought to
"Yes, I ought to see it," she said, slowly and in a low, distressed voice.
As she spoke there rose in my mind a sudden consciousness that perhaps my
wisdom was at fault. How was it that I--a coarse-fibred male animal,
returned from slaughter, even now with the blood of fellow-creatures on my
hands--should be discoursing of duty and of good and bad to this pure and
gentle and sweet-souled woman? What was my title to do this?--to rebuke
her for not seeing the right? Had I been in truth generous? Rather had I
not, in the purely selfish desire to win my own self-approbation, brought
pain and perplexity down upon the head of this poor woman? I had thought
much of my own goodness--my own strength of purpose and self-sacrifice and
fidelity to duty. Had I given so much as a mental glance at the effect of
my acts upon the one whom, of all others, I should have first guarded from
trouble and grief?
My tongue was tied. Perhaps I had been all wrong. Perhaps I should not
have brought back to her the man whose folly and obstinacy had so
well-nigh wrecked her life. I could no longer be sure. I kept silence,
feeling indirectly now that her woman's instinct would be truer and better
than my logic. She was thinking; she would find the real right and wrong.
Ah, no! To this day we are not settled in our minds, we two old people, as
to the exact balance between duty and common-sense in that strange
question of our far-away youth.
There broke upon our ears, of a sudden, as we neared the wooded crest of
the gulf, a weird and piercing scream--an unnatural and repellent yell,
like a hyena's horrid hooting! It rose with terrible distinctness from the
thicket close before us. As its echoes returned, we heard confused sounds
of other voices, excited and vibrant.
Daisy clutched my arm, and began hurrying me forward, impelled by some
formless fear of she knew not what.
"It is Tulp," she murmured, as we went breathlessly on. "Oh, I should have
kept him back! Why did I not think of it?"
"What about Tulp?" I asked, with difficulty keeping beside her in the
narrow path. "I had no thought of him. I did not see him. He was not among
the others, was he?"
"He has gone mad!"
"What--Tulp, poor boy? Oh, not as bad as that, surely! He has been strange
and slow of wit for years, but--"
"Nay, the tidings of your death--you know I told you we heard that you
were dead--drove him into perfect madness. I doubt he knew you when you
came. Only yesterday we spoke of confining him, but poor old father
pleaded not. When you see Tulp, you shall decide. Oh! what has happened?
Who is this man?"
In the path before us, some yards away, appeared the tall, gaunt form of
Enoch, advancing slowly. In the dusk of the wooded shades behind him
huddled the group of slaves. They bore nothing in their hands. Where was
the canoe? They seemed affrighted or oppressed by something out of the
common, and Enoch, too, wore a strange air. What could it mean?
When Enoch saw us he lifted his hand in a warning gesture.
"Have her go back!" he called out, with brusque sharpness.
"Will you walk back a little?" I asked her. "There is something here we do
not understand. I will join you in a moment.
"For God's sake, what is it, Enoch?" I demanded, as I confronted him.
"Tell me quick."
"Well, we've had our five days' tussle for nothing, and you're minus a
nigger. That's about what it comes to."
"Speak out, can't you! Is he dead? What was the yell we heard?"
"It was all done like a flash of lightning. We were coming up the side
nighest us here--we had got just where that spruce, you know, hangs
over--when all at once that hump-backed nigger of yours raised a scream
like a painter, and flung himself head first against the canoe. Over it
went, and he with it--rip, smash, plumb to the bottom!"
The negroes broke forth in a babel of mournful cries at this, and
clustered about us. I grew sick and faint under this shock of fresh
horrors, and was fain to lean on Enoch's arm, as I turned to walk back to
where I had left Daisy. She was not visible as we approached, and I closed
my eyes in abject terror of some further tragedy.
Thank God, she had only swooned, and lay mercifully senseless in the tall
grass, her waxen face upturned in the twilight.
The Peaceful Ending of It All.
In the general paralysis of suffering and despair which rested now upon
the Valley, the terrible double tragedy of the gulf passed almost unnoted.
Women everywhere were mourning for the husbands, sons, lovers who would
never return. Fathers strove in vain to look dry-eyed at familiar places
which should know the brave lads--true boys of theirs--no more. The play
and prattle of children were hushed in a hundred homes where some honest
farmer's life, struck fiercely at by a savage or Tory, still hung in the
dread balance. Each day from some house issued forth the procession of
death, until all our little churchyards along the winding river had more
new graves than old--not to speak of that grim, unconsecrated God's-acre
in the forest pass, more cruel still to think upon. And with all this to
bear, there was no assurance that the morrow might not bring the torch and
tomahawk of invasion to our very doors.
So our own strange tragedy had, as I have said, scant attention. People
listened to the recital, and made answer: "Both dead at the foot of the
cliff, eh? Have you heard how William Seeber is to-day?" or "Is it true
that Herkimer's leg must be cut off?"
In those first few days there was little enough heart to measure or boast
of the grandeur of the fight our simple Valley farmers had waged, there in
the ambushed ravine of Oriskany. Still less was there at hand information
by the light of which the results of that battle could be estimated.
Nothing was known, at the time of which I write, save that there had been
hideous slaughter, and that the invaders had forborne to immediately
follow our shattered forces down the Valley. It was not until much
later--until definite news came not only of St. Leger's flight back to
Canada, but of the capture of the whole British army at Saratoga--that the
men of the Mohawk began to comprehend what they had really done.
To my way of thinking, they have ever since been unduly modest about this
truly historic achievement. As I wrote long ago, we of New York have
chosen to make money, and to allow our neighbors to make histories. Thus
it happens that the great decisive struggle of the whole long war for
Independence--the conflict which, in fact, made America free--is suffered
to pass into the records as a mere frontier skirmish. Yet, if one will but
think, it is as clear as daylight that Oriskany was the turning-point of
the war. The Palatines, who had been originally colonized on the upper
Mohawk by the English to serve as a shield against savagery for their own
Atlantic settlements, reared a barrier of their own flesh and bones, there
at Oriskany, over which St. Leger and Johnson strove in vain to pass. That
failure settled everything. The essential feature of Burgoyne's plan had
been that this force, which we so roughly stopped and turned back in the
forest defile, should victoriously sweep down our Valley, raising the Tory
gentry as they progressed, and join him at Albany. If that had been done,
he would have held the whole Hudson, separating the rest of the colonies
from New England, and having it in his power to punish and subdue, first
the Yankees, then the others at his leisure.
Oriskany prevented this! Coming as it did, at the darkest hour of
Washington's trials and the Colonies' despondency, it altered the face of
things as gloriously as does the southern sun rising swiftly upon the
heels of night. Burgoyne's expected allies never reached him; he was
compelled, in consequence, to surrender--and from that day there was no
doubt who would in the long-run triumph.
Therefore, I say, all honor and glory to the rude, unlettered, great
souled yeomen of the Mohawk Valley, who braved death in the wildwood gulch
at Oriskany that Congress and the free Colonies might live.
But in these first few days, be it repeated, nobody talked or thought much
of glory. There were too many dead left behind--too many maimed and
wounded brought home--to leave much room for patriotic meditations around
the saddened hearth-stones. And personal grief was everywhere too deep and
general to make it possible that men should care much about the strange
occurrence by which Philip and Tulp lost their lives together in the gulf.
I went on the following day to my mother, and she and my sister Margaret
returned with me to Cairncross, to relieve from smaller cares, as much as
might be, our poor dear girl. All was done to shield both her and the
stricken old gentleman, our common second father, from contact with
material reminders of the shock that had fallen upon us, and as soon as
possible afterward they were both taken to Albany, out of reach of the
scene's sad suggestions.
From the gulf's bottom, where Death had dealt his double stroke, the
soldier's remains were borne one way, to his mansion; the slave's the
other, to his old home at the Cedars. Between their graves the turbulent
stream still dashes, the deep ravine still yawns. For years I could not
visit the spot without hearing, in and above the ceaseless shouting of the
waters, poor mad Tulp's awful death-scream.
During the month immediately following the event, my time was closely
engaged in public work. It was my melancholy duty to go up to the Falls to
represent General Schuyler and Congress at the funeral of brave old
Brigadier Nicholas Herkimer, who succumbed to the effects of an unskilful
amputation ten days after the battle. A few days later I went with Arnold
and his relieving force up the Valley, saw the siege raised and the flood
of invasion rolled back, and had the delight of grasping Peter Gansevoort,
the stout commander of the long-beleaguered garrison, once more by the
hand. On my return I had barely time to lease the Cedars to a good tenant,
and put in train the finally successful efforts to save Cairncross from
confiscation, when I was summoned to Albany to attend upon my chief. It
was none too soon, for my old wounds had broken out again, under the
exposure and travail of the trying battle week, and I was more fit for a
hospital than for the saddle.
I found the kindliest of nursing and care in my old quarters in the
Schuyler mansion. It was there, one morning in January of the new year
1778, that a quiet wedding breakfast was celebrated for Daisy and me; and
neither words nor wishes could have been more tender had we been truly the
children of the great man, Philip Schuyler, and his good dame. The exact
date of this ceremony does not matter; let it be kept sacred within the
knowledge of us two old people, who look back still to it as to the
sunrise of a new long day, peaceful, serene, and almost cloudless, and not
less happy even now because the ashen shadows of twilight begin gently to
gather over it.
Though the war had still the greater half of its course to run, my part
thereafter in it was far removed from camp and field. No opportunity came
to me to see fighting again, or to rise beyond my major's estate. Yet I
was of as much service, perhaps, as though I had been out in the thick of
the conflict; certainly Daisy was happier to have it so.
Twice during the year 1780 did we suffer grievous material loss at the
hands of the raiding parties which malignant Sir John Johnson piloted into
the Valley of his birth. In one of these the Cairncross mansion was rifled
and burned, and the tenants despoiled and driven into the woods. This
meant a considerable monetary damage to us; yet our memories of the place
were all so sad that its demolition seemed almost a relief, particularly
as Enoch, to whom we had presented a freehold of the wilder part of the
grant, that nearest the Sacondaga, miraculously escaped molestation.
But it was a genuine affliction when, later in the year, Sir John
personally superintended the burning down of the dear old Cedars, the home
of our youth. If I were able to forgive him all other harm he has wrought,
alike to me and to his neighbors, this would still remain obstinately to
steel my heart against him, for he knew that we had been good to his wife,
and that we loved the place better than any other on earth. We were very
melancholy over this for a long time, and, to the end of his placid days
of second childhood passed with us, we never allowed Mr. Stewart to learn
of it. But even here there was the recompense that the ruffians, though
they crossed the river and frightened the women into running for safety to
the woods, did not pursue them, and thus my mother and sisters, along with
Mrs. Romeyn and others, escaped. Alas! that the Tory brutes could not also
have forborne to slay on his own doorstep my godfather, honest old
There was still another raid upon the Valley the ensuing year, but it
touched us only in that it brought news of the violent death of Walter
Butler, slain on the bank of the East Canada Creek by the Oneida chief
Skenandoah. Both Daisy and I had known him from childhood, and had in the
old times been fond of him. Yet there had been so much innocent blood
upon those delicate hands of his, before they clutched the gravel on the
lonely forest stream's edge in their death-grasp, that we could scarcely
wish him alive again.
Our first boy was born about this time--a dark-skinned, brawny man-child
whom it seemed the most natural thing in the world to christen Douw. He
bears the name still, and on the whole, though he has forgotten all the
Dutch I taught him, bears it creditably.
In the mid-autumn of the next year--it was in fact the very day on which
the glorious news of Yorktown reached Albany--a second little boy was
born. He was a fair-haired, slender creature, differing from the other as
sunshine differs from thunder-clouds. He had nothing like the other's
breadth of shoulders or strength of lung and limb, and we petted him
accordingly, as is the wont of parents.
When the question of his name came up, I sat, I remember, by his mother's
bedside, holding her hand in mine, and we both looked down upon the tiny,
fair babe nestled upon her arm.
"Ought we not to call him for the dear old father--give him the two names,
'Thomas' and 'Stewart'?" I asked.
Daisy stroked the child's hair gently, and looked with tender melancholy
into my eyes.
"I have been thinking," she murmured, "thinking often of late--it is all
so far behind us now, and time has passed so sweetly and softened so much
our memories of past trouble and of the--the dead--I nave been thinking,
dear, that it would be a comfort to have the lad called Philip."
I sat for a long time thus by her side, and we talked more freely than we
had ever done before of him who lay buried by the ruined walls of
Cairncross. Time had indeed softened much. We spoke of him now with gentle
sorrow--as of a friend whose life had left somewhat to be desired, yet
whose death had given room for naught but pity. He had been handsome and
fearless and wilful--and unfortunate; our minds were closed against any
harsher word. And it came about that when it was time for me to leave the
room, and I bent over to kiss lightly the sleeping infant, I was glad in
my heart that he was to be called Philip. Thus he was called, and though
the General was his godfather at the old Dutch church, we did not conceal
from him that the Philip for whom the name was given was another. It was
easily within Schuyler's kindly nature to comprehend the feelings which
prompted us, and I often fancied he was even the fonder of the child
because of the link formed by his name with his parents' time of grief and
In truth, we all made much of this light-haired, beautiful, imperious
little boy, who from the beginning quite cast into the shade his elder and
slower brother, the dusky-skinned and patient Douw. Old Mr. Stewart, in
particular, became dotingly attached to the younger lad, and scarce could
bear to have him out of sight the whole day long. It was a pretty
spectacle indeed--one which makes my old heart yearn in memory, even
now--to see the simple, soft-mannered, childish patriarch gravely
obeying the whims and freaks of the boy, and finding the chief delight of
his waning life in being thus commanded. Sometimes, to be sure, my heart
smote me with the fear that poor quiet Master Douw felt keenly underneath
his calm exterior this preference, and often, too, I grew nervous lest our
fondness was spoiling the younger child. But it was not in us to
The little Philip died suddenly, in his sixth year, and within the month
Mr. Stewart followed him. Great and overpowering as was our grief, it
seemed almost perfunctory beside the heart-breaking anguish of the old
man. He literally staggered and died under the blow.
* * * * *
There is no story in the rest of my life. The years have flowed on as
peacefully, as free from tempest or excitement, as the sluggish waters of
a Delft canal. No calamity has since come upon us; no great trial or large
advancement has stirred the current of our pleasant existence. Having
always a sufficient hold upon the present, with means to live in comfort,
and tastes not leading into venturesome ways for satisfaction, it has come
to be to us, in our old age, a deep delight to look backward together. We
seem now to have walked from the outset hand in hand. The joys of our
childhood and youth spent under one roof--the dear smoky, raftered roof,
where hung old Dame Kronk's onions and corn and perfumed herbs--are very
near to us. There comes between this scene of sunlight and the not less
peaceful radiance of our later life, it is true, the shadow for a time of
a dark curtain. Yet, so good and generous a thing is memory, even this
interruption appears now to have been but of a momentary kind, and has for
us no harrowing side. As I wrote out the story, page by page, it seemed to
both of us that all these trials, these tears, these bitter feuds and
fights, must have happened to others, not to us--so swallowed up in
happiness are the griefs of those young years, and so free are our hearts
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