James Fenimore Cooper
Part 5 out of 9
heard the name of Littlepage, than she threw a meaning glance towards
the young female friends, mine following and perceiving Anneke colouring
highly, and looking a little distressed. As for Mary Wallace she appeared
to me then, as I fancied was usually the case whenever Guert Ten Eyck
approached her, to be struggling with a species of melancholy pleasure.
"It is unnecessary for me to hear your mother's name, Mr. Littlepage," said
Madam Schuyler, extending a hand, "since I knew her as a young woman. In
_her_ name you are welcome; as, indeed, you would be in your own, after
the all-important service I hear you have rendered my sweet young friend,
I could only bow, and express my thanks; but it is unnecessary to say how
grateful to me was praise of this sort, coming, as I knew it must, from
Anneke in the first instance. Still, I could hardly refrain from laughing
at Guert, who shrugged his shoulders, and turned towards me with a look
that repeated his ludicrous regrets he could not see Mary Wallace in a
lion's paws! The conversation then took the usual turn, and I got an
opportunity of speaking to the young ladies.
After the character I had heard of Madam Schuyler, I was a good deal
surprised to find that Guert was somewhat of a favourite. But even the most
intellectual and refined women, I have since had occasion to learn, feel a
disposition to judge handsome, manly, frank, flighty fellows like my new
acquaintance, somewhat leniently. With all his levity, and his disposition
to run into the excesses of animal spirits, there was that about Guert
which rendered it difficult to despise him. The courage of a lion was
in his eye, and his front and bearing were precisely those that are
particularly attractive to women. To these advantages were added a seeming
unconsciousness of his superiority to most around him, in the way of looks,
and a humility of spirit that caused him often to deplore his deficiencies
in those accomplishments which characterize the man of study and of
intellectual activity. It was only among the hardy, active, and reckless,
that Guert manifested the least ambition to be a leader.
"Do you still drive those spirited blacks, Guert," demanded Madam Schuyler,
in a gentle, affable way, that inclined her to adapt her discourse to the
tastes of those she might happen to be with; "those, I mean, which you
purchased in the autumn?"
"You may be certain of that, aunt,"--every one who could claim the most
distant relationship to this amiable woman, and whose years did not render
the appellation disrespectful, called her "aunt"--"you may be certain of
that, aunt, for their equals are not to be found in _this_ colony. The
gentlemen of the army pretend that no horse can be good that has not what
they call _blood_; but Jack and Moses are both of the Dutch breed, and the
Schuylers and the Ten Eycks will never own there is no "blood" in such a
stock. I have given each of these animals my own name, and call them Jack
Ten Eyck and Moses Ten Eyck."
"I hope you will not exclude the Littlepages and the Mordaunts from your
list of dissenters, Mr. Ten Eyck," observed Anneke, laughing, "since both
have Dutch blood in their veins, too."
"Very true, Miss Anneke; Miss Wallace being the only true, thorough,
Englishwoman here. But, as Aunt Schuyler has spoken of my team, I wish I
could persuade you and Miss Mary to let me drive you back to Albany with
it, this very evening. Your own sleigh can follow and your father's horses
being English, we shall have an opportunity of comparing the two breeds.
The Anglo-Saxons will have no load, while the Flemings will; still I will
wager animal against animal, that the last do the work the most neatly, and
in the shortest time."
To this proposition, however, Anneke would not consent; her instinctive
delicacy, I make no doubt, at once presenting to her mind the impropriety
of quitting her own sleigh, to take an evening's drive in that of a young
man of Guert's established reputation for recklessness and fun, and who was
not always fortunate enough to persuade young women of the first class to
be his companions. The turn the conversation had taken, nevertheless, had
the effect to produce so many urgent appeals, that were seconded by myself,
to give the horses a trial, that Mary Wallace promised to submit the matter
to Herman Mordaunt, and, should he approve, to accompany Guert, Anneke and
myself, in an excursion the succeeding week.
This concession was received by poor Guert with profound gratitude; and he
assured me, as we drove back to town, that he had not felt so happy for the
last two months.
"It is in the power of such a young woman--young angel, I might better
say," added Guert, "to make anything she may please of me! I know I am an
idler, and too fond of our Dutch amusements, and that I have not paid the
attention I ought to have paid to books; but let that precious creature
only take me by the hand, and I should turn out an altered man in a month.
Young women can do anything they please with us, Mr. Littlepage, when they
set their minds about it in earnest. I wish I was a horse, to have the
pleasure of dragging Mary Wallace in this excursion!"
[Footnote 25: As it is possible this book may pass into the hands of others
than Americans, it maybe well to say that a sleigh-bell is a small hollow
ball, made of bell-metal, having a hole in it that passes round half of
its circumference, and containing a small _solid_ ball, of a size not to
escape. These bells are fastened to leathern straps, which commonly pass
round the necks of the horses. In the time of Guert Ten Eyck, most of the
bells were attached to small plates, that were buckled to various parts
of the harness; but, as this caused a motion annoying to the animals, Mr.
Littlepage evidently wishes his readers to understand that his friend, Ten
Eyck, was too knowing to have recourse to the practice. Even the straps are
coming into disuse, the opinion beginning to obtain that sleigh-bells are
a nuisance, instead of an advantage. Twenty years since, the laws of most
large towns rendered them necessary, under the pretence of preventing
accidents by apprising the footman of the approach of a sleigh; but more
horses are now driven, in the state of New York, without than with bells,
"Sleigh," as spelt, is purely an American word. It is derived from "slee,"
in Dutch; which is pronounced like "sleigh." Some persons contend; that
the Americans ought to use the old English words "sled," or: "sledge." But
these words do not precisely express the things we possess. There is as
much reason for calling a pleasure conveyance by a name different from
"sled," as there is for saying "coach" instead of "wagon." "Sleigh" _will_
become English, ere long, as it is now American. Twenty millions of
people not only can make a word, but they can make a language, if it be
"When lo! the voice of loud alarm
His inmost soul appals:
What ho! Lord William, rise in haste!
The water saps thy walls!"
The visit to Madam Schuyler occurred of a Saturday evening; and the matter
of our adventure in company with Jack and Moses, was to be decided on the
following Monday. When I rose and looked out of my window on the Sunday
morning, however, there appeared but very little prospect of its being
effected that spring, inasmuch as it rained heavily, and there was a fresh
south wind. We had reached the 21st of March, a period of the year when a
decided thaw was not only ominous to the sleighing, but when it actually
predicted a permanent breaking up of the winter. The season had been late,
and it was thought the change could not be distant.
The rain and south wind continued all that day, and torrents of water came
rushing down the short, steep streets, effectually washing away everything
like snow. Mr. Worden preached, notwithstanding, and to a very respectable
congregation. Dirck and myself attended; but Jason preferred sitting out a
double half-hour glass sermon in the Dutch church, delivered in a language
of which he understood very little, to lending his countenance to the rites
of the English service. Both Anneke and Mary Wallace found their way up
the hill, going in a carriage; though I observed that Herman Mordaunt was
absent. Guert was in the gallery, in which we also sat; but I could not
avoid remarking that neither of the young ladies raised her eyes once,
during the whole service, as high as our pews. Guert whispered something
about this, as he hastened down stairs to hand them to their carriage,
when the congregation was dismissed, begging me, at the same time, to be
punctual to the appointment for the next day. What he meant by this last
remembrancer, I did not understand; for the hills were beginning to exhibit
their bare breasts, and it was somewhat surprising with what rapidity a
rather unusual amount of snow had disappeared. I had no opportunity to
ask an explanation, as Guert was too busy in placing the ladies in the
carriage, and the weather was not such as to admit of my remaining a moment
longer in the street than was indispensably necessary.
A change occurred in the weather during the night, the rain having ceased,
though the atmosphere continued mild, and the wind was still from the
south. It was the commencement of the spring; and, as I walked round to
Guert Ten Eyck's house, to meet him at breakfast, I observed that several
vehicles with wheels were already in motion in the streets, and that divers
persons appeared to be putting away their sleighs and sleds, as things of
no further use, until the next winter. Our springs do not certainly come
upon us as suddenly as some of which I have read, in the old world; but
when the snow and winter endure as far into March as had been the case with
that of the year 1758, the change is often nearly magical.
"Here, then, is the spring opening," I said to Dirck, as we walked along
the well-washed streets; "and, in a few weeks, we must be off to the bush.
Our business on the Patent must be got along with, before the troops are
put in motion, or we may lose the opportunity of seeing a campaign."
With such expectations and feelings I entered Guert's bachelor abode;
and the first words I uttered, were to sympathize in his supposed
"It is a great pity you did not propose the drive to the ladies for
Saturday," I began; "for that was not only a mild day, but the sleighing
was excellent. As it is, you will have to postpone your triumph until next
"I do not understand you!" cried Guert; Jack and Moses never were in
better heart, or in better condition. I think they are equal to going to
Kinderhook in two hours!"
"But who will furnish the roads with snow? By looking out of the window,
you will see that the streets are nearly bare."
"Streets and roads! Who cares for either, while we have the river? We often
use the river here, weeks at a time, when the snow has left us. The ice has
been remarkably even the whole of this winter, and, now the snow is off it,
there will be no danger from the air-holes."
I confess I did not much like the notion of travelling twenty miles on the
ice, but was far too much of a man to offer any objections.
We breakfasted, and proceeded in a body to the residence of Herman
Mordaunt. When the ladies first heard that we had come to claim the
redemption of the half-promise given at Madam Schuyler's, their surprise
was not less than mine had been, half an hour before, while their
uneasiness was probably greater.
"Surely, Jack and Moses cannot exhibit all their noble qualities without
snow!" exclaimed Anneke, laughing, "Ten Eycks though they be!"
"We Albanians have the advantage of travelling on the ice, when the
snow fails us," answered Guert. "Here is the river, near by, and never was
the sleighing on it, better than at this moment."
"But, it has been many times safer, I should think. This looks very much
like the breaking up of winter!"
"That is probable enough, and so much greater the reason why we should not
delay, if you and Miss Mary ever intend to learn what the blacks can do. It
is for the honour of Holland that I desire it, else would I not presume so
far. I feel every condescension of this sort, that I receive from you two
ladies, in a way I cannot express; for no one Knows, better than myself,
how unworthy I am of your smallest notice."
This brought the signs of yielding, at once, into the mild countenance of
Mary Wallace. Guert's self-humiliation never failed to do this. There was
so much obvious truth in his admission, so sincere a disposition to place
himself where nature and education, or a _want_ of education had placed
him, and most of all, so profound a deference for the mental superiority of
Mary herself, that the female heart found it impossible to resist. To my
surprise, Guert's mistress, contrary to her habit in such things, was the
first to join him, and to second his proposal. Herman Mordaunt entering the
room at this instant, the whole thing was referred to him, as in reason it
ought to have been.
"I remember to have travelled on the Hudson, a few years since," returned
Herman Mordaunt, "the entire distance between Albany and Sing-Sing, and
a very good time we had of it; much better than had we gone by land, for
there was little or no snow."
"Just our case now, Miss Anneke!" cried Guert. "Good sleighing on the
river, but none on the land."
"Was that near the end of March, dear Papa?" asked Anneke, a little
"No, certainly not, for it was early in February, But the ice, at this
moment, must be near eighteen inches thick, and strong enough to bear a
load of hay."
"Yes, Masser Herman," observed Cato, a grey-headed black, who had never
called his master by any other name, having known him from an infant; "yes,
Masser Herman, a load do come over dis minute."
It appeared unreasonable to distrust the strength of the ice, after this
proof to the contrary, and Anneke submitted. The party was arranged
forthwith, and in the following manner:--The two ladies, Guert and myself,
were to be drawn by the blacks, while Herman Mordaunt, Dirck, and any one
else they could enlist, were to follow in the New York sleigh. It was hoped
that an elderly female connection, Mrs. Bogart, who resided at Albany,
would consent to be of the party, as the plan was to visit and dine with
another and a mutual connection of the Mordaunts, at Kinderhook, While the
sleighs were getting ready, Herman Mordaunt walked round to the house of
Mrs. Bogart, made his request, and was successful.
The clock in the tower of the English church struck ten, as both sleighs
drove from Herman Mordaunt's door. There was literally no snow in the
middle of the streets; but enough of it, mingled with ice, was still to be
found nearer the houses, to enable us to get down to the ferry, the point
where sleighs usually went upon the river. Here Herman Mordaunt, who was in
advance, checked his horses, and turned to speak to Guert on the propriety
of proceeding. The ice near the shore had evidently been moved, the river
having risen a foot or two, in consequence of the wind and the thaw, and
there was a sort of icy wave cast up near the land, over which it was
indispensable to pass, in order to get fairly on the river. As the top of
this ridge, or wave, was broken, it exposed a fissure that enabled us to
see the thickness of the ice, and this Guert pointed out in proof of its
strength. There was nothing unusual in a small movement of the covering of
the river, which the current often produces; but, unless the vast fields
below got in motion, it was impossible for those above materially to change
their positions. Sleighs were passing, too, still bringing to town, hay
from the flats on the eastern bank, and there was no longer any hesitation.
Herman Mordaunt's sleigh passed slowly over the ridge, having a care to the
legs of the horses, and ours followed in the same cautious manner, though
the blacks jumped across the fissure in spite of their master's exertions.
Once on the river, however, Guert gave his blacks the whip and rein, and
away we went like the wind. The smooth, icy surface of the Hudson was our
road, the thaw having left very few traces of any track. The water had
all passed beneath the ice, through cracks and fissures of one sort and
another, leaving us an even, dry, surface to trot on. The wind was still
southerly, though scarcely warm, while a bright sun contributed to render
our excursion as gay to the eye, as it certainly was to our feelings. In
a few minutes every trace of uneasiness had vanished. Away we went, the
blacks doing full credit to their owner's boasts, seeming scarcely to touch
tke ice, from which their feet appeared to rebound with a sort of elastic
force. Herman Mordaunt's bays followed on our heels, and the sleighs had
passed over the well-known shoal of the Overslaugh, within the first twenty
minutes after they touched the river.
Every northern American is familiar with the effect that the motion of a
sleigh produces on the spirits, under favourable circumstances. Had our
party been altogether composed of Albanians, there would probably have been
no drawback on the enjoyment, for use would have prevented apprehension;
but it required the few minutes I have mentioned to give Anneke and Mary
Wallace full confidence in the ice. By the time we reached the Overslaugh,
however, their fears had vanished; and Guert confirmed their sense of
security, by telling them to listen to the sounds produced by his horses'
hoofs, which certainty conveyed the impression of moving on a solid
Mary Wallace had never before been so gay in my presence, as she appeared
to be that morning. Once, or twice, I fancied her eyes almost as bright as
those of Anneke's, and certainly her laugh was as sweet and musical. Both
the girls were full of spirits, and some little things occurred that
gave me hopes Bulstrode had no reason to fancy himself as secure, as he
sometimes seemed to be. A casual remark of Guert's had the effect to bring
out some of Anneke's private sentiments on the subject; or, at least, so
they appeared to be to me.
"I am surprised that Mr. Mordaunt forgot to invite Mr. Bulstrode to be one
of our party, to-day," cried Guert, when we were below the Overslaugh. "The
Major loves sleighing, and he would have filled the fourth seat, in the
other sleigh, very agreeably. As for coming into this, that would be
refused him, were he even a general!"
"Mr. Bulstrode is English," answered Anneke, with spirit, "and fancies
American amusements beneath the tastes of one who has been presented at the
Court of St. James."
"Well, Miss Anneke, I cannot say that I agree with you at all, in this
opinion of Mr. Bulstrode," Guert returned, innocently. "It is true, he is
English; that he fancies an advantage, as does Corny Littlepage, here; but
we must make proper allowances for home-love and foreign-dislike."
"'Corny Littlepage, here,' is only _half_ English, and that half is
colony-born and colony-bred," answered the laughing girl, "and he has loved
a sleigh from the time when he first slid down hill--"
"Ah! Miss Anneke--let me entreat--"
"Oh! no allusion is intended to the Dutch church and its
neighbourhood;--but, the sports of childhood are always dear to us, as are
sometimes the discomforts. Habit and prejudice are sister hand-maidens; and
I never see one of these gentlemen from home, taking extraordinary interest
in any of our peculiarly colony usages, but I distrusted an extra amount of
complaisance, or a sort of enjoyment in which we do not strictly share."
"Is this altogether liberal to Bulstrode, Miss Anneke," I ventured to put
in; "he seems to like us, and I am sure he has good reason so to do. That
he likes _some_ of us, is too apparent to be concealed or denied."
"Mr. Bulstrode is a skilful actor, as all who saw his Cato must be aware,"
retorted the charming girl, compressing her pouting lips in a way that
seemed to me to be inexpressibly pleasing; "and those who saw his Scrub
must be equally convinced of the versatility of his talents. No, no; Major
Bulstrode is better where he is, or will be to-day, at four o'clock--at the
head of the mess of the ----th, instead of dining in a snug Dutch parlour,
with my cousin, worthy Mrs. van der Heyden, at a dinner got up with colony
hospitality, and colony good-will, and colony plainness. The entertainment
we shall receive to-day, sweetened, as it will be, by the welcome which
will come from the heart, can have no competitor in countries where a
messenger must be sent two days before the visit, to ask permission to
come, in order to escape cold looks and artificial surprise. I would prefer
surprising my friends from the heart, instead of from the head."
Guert expressed his astonishment that any one should not always be glad
and willing to receive his friends; and insisted on it, that no such
inhospitable customs _could_ exist. I knew, however, that society could not
exist on the same terms, in old and in new countries--among a people that
was pressed upon by numbers, and a people that had not yet felt the evils
of a superabundant population. Americans are like dwellers in the country,
who are always glad to see their friends; and I ventured to say something
of the causes of these differences in habits.
Nothing occurred worthy of being dwelt on, in our ride to Kinderhook. Mrs.
Van der Heyden resided at a short distance from the river, and the blacks
and the bays had some little difficulty in dragging us through the mud to
her door. Once there, however, our welcome fully verified the theory of
the colony habits, which had been talked over in our drive down. Anneke's
worthy connection was not only glad to see her, as anybody might have been,
but she would have been glad to receive as many as her house would hold.
Few excuses were necessary, for we were all welcome. The visit would retard
her dinner an hour, as was frankly admitted--but that was nothing; and
cakes and wine were set before us in the interval, did we feel hungry in
consequence of a two hours' ride. Guert was desired to make free, and go to
the stables to give his own orders. In a word, our reception was just that
which every colonist has experienced, when he has gone unexpectedly to
visit a friend, or a friend's friend. Our dinner was excellent, though not
accompanied by much form. The wine was good; Mrs. van der Heyden's deceased
husband having been a judge of what was desirable in that respect.
Everybody was in good-humour; and our hostess insisted on giving us coffee
before we took our departure.
"There will be a moon, cousin Herman," she said, "and the night will be
both light and pleasant. Guert knows the road, which cannot well be missed,
as it is the river; and if you quit me at eight, you will reach home in
good season to go to rest. It is so seldom I see you, that I have a
right to claim every minute you can spare. There remains much to be told
concerning our old friends and mutual relatives."
When such words are accompanied by looks and acts that prove their
sincerity, it is not easy to tear ourselves away from a pleasant house. We
chatted on, laughed, listened to stories and colony anecdotes that carried
us back to the last war, and heard a great many eulogiums on beaux and
belles, that we young people had, all our lives, considered as respectable,
elderly, commonplace sort of persons.
At length the hour arrived when even Mrs. Bogart herself admitted we ought
to part. Anneke and Mary were kissed, enveloped in their furs, and kissed
again, and then we took our leave. As we left the house, I remarked that a
clock in the passage struck eight. In a few minutes every one was placed,
and the runners were striking fire from the flints of the bare ground. We
had less difficulty in descending than in ascending the bank of the river,
though there was no snow. It did not absolutely freeze, nor had it actually
frozen since the commencement of the thaw, but the earth had stiffened
since the disappearance of the sun. I was much rejoiced when the blacks
sprang upon the ice, and whirled us away, on our return road at a rate even
exceeding the speed with which they had come down it in the morning. I
thought it high time we should be in motion on our return; and in motion
we were, if flying at the rate of eleven miles in the hour could thus be
The light of the moon was not clear and bright, for there was a haze in the
atmosphere, as is apt to occur in the mild weather of March; but there was
enough to enable Guert to dash ahead with as great a velocity as was at all
desirable. We were all in high spirits; us two young men so much the more,
because each of us fancied he had seen that day evidence of a tender
interest existing in the heart of his mistress towards himself. Mary
Wallace had managed, with a woman's tact, to make her suitor appear even
respectable in female society, and had brought out in him many sentiments
that denoted a generous disposition and a manly heart, if not a cultivated
intellect; and Guert was getting confidence, and with it the means of
giving his capacity fairer play. As for Anneke, she now knew my aim, and I
had some right to construe several little symptoms of feeling, that escaped
her in the course of the day, favourably. I fancied that, gentle as it
always was, her voice grew softer, and her smile sweeter and more winning,
as she addressed herself to, or smiled on me; and she did just enough of
both not to appear distant, and just little enough to appear conscious; at
least such were the conjectures of one who I do not think could be properly
accused of too much confidence, and whose natural diffidence was much
increased by the self-distrust of the purest love.
Away we went, Guert's complicated chimes of bells jingling their merry
notes in a manner to be heard half a mile, the horses bearing hard on the
bits, for they knew that their own stables lay at the end of their journey,
and Herman Mordaunt's bays keeping so near us that, notwithstanding the
noise we made with our own bells, the sounds of his were constantly in our
ears. An hour went swiftly by, and we had already passed Coejeman's, and
had a hamlet that stretched along the strand, and which lay quite beneath
the high bank of the river, in dim distant view. This place has since been
known by the name of Monkey Town, and is a little remarkable as being the
first cluster of houses on the shores of the Hudson after quitting Albany.
I dare say it has another name in law, but Guert gave it the appellation I
I have said that the night had a sombre, misty, light, the moon wading
across the heavens through a deep but thin ocean of vapour. We saw the
shores plainly enough, and we saw the houses and trees, but it was
difficult to distinguish smaller objects at any distance. In the course of
the day twenty sleighs had been met or passed, but at that hour everybody
but ourselves appeared to have deserted the river. It was getting late for
the simple habits of those who dwelt on its shores. When about half-way
between the islands opposite to Coejeman's and the hamlet just named,
Guert, who stood erect to drive, told us that some one who was out late,
like themselves, was coming down. The horses of the strangers were in a
very fast trot, and the sleigh was evidently inclining towards the west
shore, as if those it held intended to land at no great distance. As it
passed, quite swiftly, a man's voice called out something on a high key,
but our bells made so much noise that it was not easy to understand him. He
spoke in Dutch, too, and none of our ears, those of Guert excepted,
were sufficiently expert in that language to be particularly quick in
comprehending what he said. The call passed unheeded, then, such things
being quite frequent among the Dutch, who seldom passed each other on the
highway without a greeting of some sort or other. I was thinking of this
practice, and of the points that distinguished our own habits from those of
the people of this part of the colony, when sleigh-bells sounded quite near
me, and turning my head, I saw Herman Mordaunt's bays galloping close to
us, as if wishing to get alongside. At the next moment the object was
effected, and Guert pulled up.
"Did you understand the man who passed down, Guert?" demanded Herman
Mordaunt, as soon as all noises ceased.
"He called out to us, at the top of his voice, and would hardly do that
without an object."
"These men seldom go home, after a visit to Albany, without filling their
jugs," answered Guert, drily; "what could he have to say, more than to wish
"I cannot tell, but Mrs. Bogart thought she understood something about
'Albany,' and 'the river.'"
"The ladies always fancy Albany is to sink into the river after a great
thaw," answered Guert, good-humouredly; "but I can show either of them that
the ice is sixteen inches thick, here where we stand."
Guert then gave me the reins, stepped out of the sleigh, went a short
distance to a large crack that he had seen while speaking, and returned
with a thumb placed on the handle of the whip, as a measure to show that
his statement was true. The ice, at that spot, was certainly nearer
eighteen than sixteen inches thick. Herman Mordaunt showed the measure
to Mrs. Bogart, whose alarm was pacified by this positive proof. Neither
Anneke nor Mary exhibited any fear; but, on the contrary, as the sleighs
separated again, each had something pleasant, but feminine, to say at the
expense of poor Mrs. Bogart's imagination.
I believe I was the only person in our own sleigh who felt any alarm, after
the occurrence of this little incident. Why uneasiness beset _me_, I cannot
precisely say. It must have been altogether on Anneke's account, and not in
the least on my own. Such accidents as sleighs breaking through, on our New
York lakes and rivers, happened almost every winter, and horses were often
drowned; though it was seldom the consequences proved so serious to their
owners. I recalled to mind the fragile nature of ice, the necessary effects
of the great thaw and the heavy rains, remembering that frozen water might
still retain most of its apparent thickness, after its consistency was
greatly impaired. But, I could do nothing! If we landed, the roads were
impassable for runners, almost for wheels, and another hour might carry
the ladies, by means of the river, to their comfortable homes. That day,
however, which, down to the moment of meeting the unknown sleigh, had been
the very happiest of my life, was entirely changed in its aspect, and I no
longer regarded it with any satisfaction. Had Anneke been at home, I could
gladly have entered into a contract to pass a week on the river myself,
as the condition of her safety, I thought but little of the others, to my
shame be it said, though I cannot do myself the injustice to imagine, had
Anneke been away, that I would have deserted even a horse, while there was
a hope of saving him.
Away we went! Guert drove rapidly, but he drove with judgment, and it
seemed as if his blacks knew what was expected of them. It was not long
before we were trotting past the hamlet I have mentioned. It would seem
that the bells of the two sleighs attracted the attention of the people on
the shore, all of whom had not yet gone to bed; for the door of a house
opened, and two men issued out of it, gazing at us as we trotted past at
a pace that defied pursuit. These men also hallooed to us, in Dutch, and
again Herman Mordaunt galloped up alongside, to speak to us.
"Did you understand these men?" he called out, for this time Guert did not
see fit to stop his horses; "they, too, had something to tell us."
"These people always have something to tell an Albany sleigh, Mr.
Mordaunt," answered Guert; "though it is not often that which it would do
any good to hear."
"But Mrs. Bogart thinks they also had something to say about 'Albany,' and
"I understand Dutch as well as excellent Mrs. Bogart," said Guert, a little
drily; "and I heard nothing; while I fancy I understand the river better.
This ice would bear a dozen loads of hay, in a close line."
This again satisfied Herman Mordaunt and the ladies, but it did not satisfy
me. Our own bells made four times the noise of those of Herman Mordaunt;
and it was very possible that one, who understood Dutch perfectly, might
comprehend a call in that language, while seated in his own sleigh, when
the same call could not be comprehended by the same person, while seated in
Guert's. There was no pause, however; on we trotted; and another mile was
passed, before any new occurrence attracted attention.
The laugh was again heard among us, for Mary Wallace consented to sing
an air, that was rendered somewhat ludicrous by the accompaniment of the
bells. This song, or verse or two, for the singer got no further on account
of the interruption, had drawn Guert's and my attention behind us, or away
from the horses, when a whirling sound was heard, followed immediately by
a loud shout. A sleigh passed within ten yards of us, going down, and the
whirling sound was caused by its runners, while the shout came from a
solitary man, who stood erect, waving his whip and calling to us in a loud
voice, as long as he could be heard. This was but for a moment, however, as
his horses were on the run; and the last we could see of the man, through
the misty moon-light, he had turned his whip on his team, to urge it ahead
still faster. In an instant, Herman Mordaunt was at our side, for the third
time that night, and he called out to us somewhat authoritatively to stop.
"What can all this mean, Guert?" he asked. "Three times have we had
warnings about 'Albany' and the 'river.' I heard this man myself utter
those two words, and cannot be mistaken."
"I dare say, sir, that you may have heard something of the sort," answered
the still incredulous Guert; "for these chaps have generally some
impertinence to utter, when they pass a team that is better than their own.
These blacks of mine, Herman Mordaunt, awaken a good deal of envy, whenever
I go out with them; and a Dutchman will forgive you any other superiority,
sooner than he will overlook your having the best team. That last man had a
spur in his head, moreover, and is driving his cattle, at this moment, more
like a spook than like a humane and rational being, I dare say he asked if
we owned Albany and the river."
Guert's allusion to his horses occasioned a general laugh; and laughter is
little favourable to cool reflection. We all looked out on the solemn and
silent night, cast our eyes along the wide and long reach of the river, in
which we happened to be, and saw nothing but the calm of nature, rendered
imposing by solitude and the stillness of the hour. Guert smilingly renewed
his assurances that all was right, and moved on. Away we went! Guert
evidently pressed his horses, as if desirous of being placed beyond this
anxiety as soon as possible. The blacks flew, rather than trotted; and we
were all beginning to submit to the exhilaration of so rapid and easy a
motion, when a sound which resembled that which one might suppose the
simultaneous explosion of a thousand rifles would produce, was heard, and
caused both drivers to pull up; the sleighs stopping quite near each other,
and at the same instant! A slight exclamation escaped old Mrs. Bogart; but
Anneke and Mary remained still as death.
"What means that sound, Guert?" inquired Herman Mordaunt; the concern he
felt being betrayed by the very tone of his voice. "Something seems wrong!"
"Something _is_ wrong," answered Guert, coolly, but very decidedly; "and it
is something that must be seen to."
As this was said, Guert stepped out on the ice, which he struck a hard blow
with the heel of his boot, as if to make certain of its solidity. A second
report was heard, and it evidently came from _behind_ us. Guert gazed
intently down the river; then he laid his head close to the surface of
the ice, and looked again. At the same time, three or four more of these
startling reports followed each other in quick succession. Guert instantly
rose to his feet.
"I understand it, now," he said, "and find I have been rather too
confident. The ice, however, is safe and strong, and we have nothing to
fear from its weakness. Perhaps it would be better to quit the river
notwithstanding, though I am far from certain the better course will not be
to push on."
"Let us know the danger at once, Mr. Ten Eyck," said Herman Mordaunt, "that
we may decide for the best."
"Why, sir, I am afraid that the rains and the thaw together, have thrown so
much water into the river, all at once, as it might be, as to have raised
the ice and broken it loose, in spots, from the shores. When this happens
_above_, before the ice has disappeared below, it sometimes causes dams to
form, which heap up such a weight as to break the whole plain of ice far
below it, and thus throw cakes over cakes until walls twenty or thirty
feet high are formed. This has not happened _yet_, therefore there is no
immediate danger; but by bending your heads low, you can see that such a
_break_ has just taken place about half a mile below us."
We did as Guert directed, and saw that a mound had arisen across the river
nearer than the distance named by our companion, completely cutting off
retreat by the way we had come. The bank on the west side of the Hudson was
high at the point where we were, and looking intensely at it, I saw by the
manner in which the trees disappeared, the more distant behind those that
were nearer, that we were actually in motion! An involuntary exclamation
caused the whole party to comprehend this startling fact at the same
instant. We were certainly in motion, though very slowly, on the ice of
that swollen river, in the quiet and solitude of a night in which the moon
rather aided in making danger apparent than in assisting us to avoid it!
What was to be done? It was necessary to decide, and that promptly and
We waited for Herman Mordaunt to advise us, but he referred the matter at
once to Guert's greater experience.
"We cannot land here," answered the young man, "so long as the ice is in
motion, and I think it better to push on. Every foot will bring us so much
nearer to Albany, and we shall get among the islands a mile or two higher,
where the chances of landing will be greatly increased. Besides, I have
often crossed the river on a cake, for they frequently stop, and I have
known even loaded sleighs profit by them to get over the river. As yet
there is nothing very alarming;--let us push on, and get nearer to the
This, then, was done, though there was no longer heard the laugh or the
song among us. I could see that Herman Mordaunt was uneasy about Anneke,
though he could not bring her into his own sleigh, leaving Mary Wallace
alone; neither could he abandon his respectable connection, Mrs. Bogart.
Before we re-entered the sleighs, I took an occasion to assure him that
Anneke should be my especial care.
"God bless you, Corny, my dear boy," Herman Mordaunt answered, squeezing
my hand with fervour. "God bless you, and enable you to protect her. I was
about to ask you to change seats with me; but, on the whole, I think my
child will be safer with you than she could be with me. We will await God's
pleasure as accident has placed us."
"I will desert her only with life, Mr. Mordaunt. Be at ease on that
"I know you will not--I am _sure_ you will not, Littlepage; that affair of
the lion is a pledge that you will not. Had Bulstrode come, we should have
been strong enough to----but Guert is impatient to be off. God bless you,
boy--God bless you. Do not neglect my child."
Guert _was_ impatient, and no sooner was I in the sleigh than we were once
more in rapid motion. I said a few words to encourage the girls, and then
no sound of a human voice mingled with the gloomy scene.
He started up, each limb convulsed
With agonizing fear,
He only heard the storm of night--
'Twas music to his ear.
Away we went! Guert's aim was the islands, which carried him nearer home,
while it offered a place of retreat, in the event of the danger's becoming
more serious. The fierce rapidity with which we now moved prevented all
conversation, or even much reflection. The reports of the rending ice,
however, became more and more frequent, first coming from above, and then
from below. More than once it seemed as if the immense mass of weight that
had evidently collected somewhere near the town of Albany, was about to
pour down upon us in a flood--when the river would have been swept for
miles, by a resistless torrent. Nevertheless, Guert held on his way;
firstly, because he knew it would be impossible to get on either of the
main shores, anywhere near the point where we happened to be; and secondly,
because, having often seen similar dammings of the waters, he fancied
we were still safe. That the distant reader may understand the precise
character of the danger we ran, it may be well to give him some notion of
The banks of the Hudson are generally high and precipitous, and in some
places they are mountainous. No flats worthy of being mentioned, occur,
until Albany is approached; nor are those which lie south of that town, of
any great extent, compared with the size of the stream. In this particular
the Mohawk is a very different river, having extensive flats that, I have
been told, resemble those of the Rhine, in miniature. As for the Hudson,
it is generally esteemed in the colony as a very pleasing river; and I
remember to have heard intelligent people from home, admit, that even the
majestic Thames itself, is scarcely more worthy to be visited, or that it
better rewards the trouble and curiosity of the enlightened traveller. 
While there are flats on the shores of the Hudson, and of some extent, in
the vicinity of Albany, the general formation of the adjacent country is
preserved,--being high, bold, and in some quarters, more particularly to
the northward and eastward, mountainous. Among these hills the stream
meanders for sixty or eighty miles north of the town, receiving tributaries
as it comes rushing down towards the sea. The character of the river
changes entirely, a short distance above Albany; the tides flowing to that
point, rendering it navigable, and easy of ascent in summer, all the way
from the sea. Of the tributaries, the principal is the Mohawk, which runs
a long distance towards the west--they tell me, for I have never visited
these remote parts of the colony--among fertile plains, that are bounded
north and south by precipitous highlands. Now, in the spring, when the vast
quantities of snow, that frequently lie four feet deep in the forests, and
among the mountains and valleys of the interior, are suddenly melted by the
south winds and rains, freshets necessarily succeed, which have been known
to do great injury. The flats of the Mohawk, they tell me, are annually
overflown, and a moderate freshet is deemed a blessing; but, occasionally,
a union of the causes I have mentioned, produces a species of deluge that
has a very opposite character. Thus it is, that houses are swept away;
and bridges from the smaller mountain streams, have been known, to come
floating past the wharves of Albany, holding their way towards the ocean.
At such times the tides produce no counter-current; for it is a usual
thing, in the early months of the spring, to have the stream pour downwards
for weeks, the whole length of the river, and to find the water fresh even
as low as New York.
Such was the general nature of the calamity we had been so unexpectedly
made to encounter. The winter had been severe, and the snows unusually
deep; and, as we drove furiously onward, I remembered to have heard
my grandfather predict extraordinary freshets in the spring, from the
character of the winter, as we had found it, even previously to my quitting
home. The great thaw, and the heavy rains of the late storm, had produced
the usual effect; and the waters thus let loose, among the distant, as
well as the nearer hills, were now pouring down upon us in their collected
might. In such cases, the first effect is, to loosen the ice from the
shores; and, local causes forcing it to give way at particular points, a
breaking up of its surface occurs, and dams are formed that set the stream
back in floods upon all the adjacent low land, such as the flats in the
vicinity of Albany.
We did not then know it, but, at the very moment Guert was thus urging
his blacks to supernatural efforts--actually running them as if on a
race-course--there was a long reach of the Hudson, opposite to, for a short
distance below, and for a considerable distance above the town, which was
quite clear of stationary ice. Vast cakes continued to come down, it is
true, passing on to increase the dam that had formed below, near and on
the Overslaugh, where it was buttressed by the islands, and rested on the
bottom; but the whole of that firm field, on which we had first driven
forth that morning, had disappeared! This we did not know at the time, or
it might have changed the direction of Guert's movements; but I learned it
afterwards, when placed in a situation to inquire into the causes of what
Herman Mordaunt's bells, and the rumbling sound of his runners, were heard
close behind us, as our own sleigh flew along the river at a rate that I
firmly believe could not have been much less than that of twenty miles in
the hour. As we were whirled northward, the reports made by the rending of
the ice increased in frequency and force. They really became appalling!
Still, the girls continued silent, maintaining their self-command in a most
admirable manner; though I doubt not that they felt, in the fullest extent,
the true character of the awful circumstances in which we were placed. Such
was the state of things, as Guert's blacks began sensibly to relax in their
speed, for want of wind. They still galloped on, but it was no longer with
the swiftness of the wind; and their master became sensible of the folly of
hoping to reach the town ere the catastrophe should arrive. He reined in
his panting horses, therefore, and was just falling into a trot, as a
violent report was heard directly in our front. At the next instant the ice
rose, positively, beneath our horses' hoofs, to the height of several feet,
taking the form of the roof of a house. It was too late to retreat, and
Guert shouting out "Jack"--"Moses," applied the whip, and the spirited
animals actually went over the mound, leaping a crack three feet in width,
and reaching the level ice beyond. All this was done, as it might be, in
the twinkling of an eye. While the sleigh flew over this ridge, it was with
difficulty I held the girls in their seats; though Guert stood nobly erect,
like the pine that is too firmly rooted to yield to the tempest. No sooner
was the danger passed, however, than he pulled up, and came to a dead halt.
We heard the bells of Herman Mordaunt's sleigh, on the other side of the
barrier, but could see nothing. The broken cakes, pressed upon by millions
of tons weight above, had risen fully ten feet, into an inclination that
was nearly perpendicular; rendering crossing it next to impossible, even to
one a-foot. Then came Herman Mordaunt's voice, filled with paternal agony,
and human grief, to increase the awe of that dreadful moment!
"Shore!--shore!--" he shouted, or rather yelled--"In the name of a
righteous Providence, to the shore, Guert!"
The bells passed off towards the western bank, and the rumbling of the
runners accompanied their sound. That was a breathless moment to us four.
We heard the rending and grinding of the ice, on all sides of us; saw
the broken barriers behind and in front; heard the jingling of Herman
Mordaunt's bells, as it became more and more distant, and finally ceased;
and felt as if we were cut off from the rest of our species. I do not think
either of us felt any apprehension of breaking through; for use had so
accustomed us to the field of the river, while the more appalling grounds
of alarm were so evident, that no one thought of such a source of danger.
Nor was there much, in truth, to apprehend from that cause. The thaw had
not lasted long enough materially to diminish either the thickness or the
tenacity of the common river ice; though it was found unequal to resisting
the enormous pressure that bore upon it from above. It is probable that
a cake of an acre's size would have upheld, not only ourselves, but our
sleigh and horses, and carried us, like a raft, down the stream; had there
been such a cake, free from stationary impediments. Even the girls now
comprehended the danger, which was in a manner suspended over us,--as the
impending wreath of snow menaces the fall of the _avalanche_. But, it was
no moment for indecision or inaction.
Cut off, as we were, by an impassable barrier of ice, from the route taken
by Herman Mordaunt, it was necessary to come to some resolution on our own
course. We had the choice of endeavouring to pass to the western shore,
on the upper side of the barrier, or of proceeding towards the nearest of
several low islands which lay in the opposite direction. Guert determined
on the last, walking his horses to the point of land, there being no
apparent necessity for haste, while the animals greatly needed breath. As
we went along, he explained to us that the fissure below cut us off from
the only point where landing on the western shore could be practicable. At
the same time, he put in practice a pious fraud, which had an excellent
effect on the feelings and conduct of both the girls, throughout the
remainder of the trying scenes of that fearful night; more especially on
those of Anneke. He dwelt on the good fortune of Herman Mordaunt, in being
on the right side of the barrier that separated the sleighs, in a way to
induce those who did not penetrate his motive, to fancy the rest of the
party was in a place of security, as the consequence of this accident. Thus
did Anneke believe her father safe, and thus was she relieved from much
As soon as the sleigh came near the point of the island, Guert gave me the
reins, and went ahead to examine whether it were possible to land. He was
absent fifteen minutes; returning to us only after he had made a thorough
search into the condition of the island, as well as of that of the ice in
its eastern channel. These were fifteen fearful minutes; the rending of the
masses above, and the grinding of cake on cake, sounding like the roar of
the ocean in a tempest. Notwithstanding all the awful accessories of this
dreadful night, I could not but admire Guert's coolness of manner, and his
admirable conduct. He was more than resolute; for he was cool, collected,
and retained the use of all his faculties in perfection. As plausible as it
might seem, to one less observant and clear-headed, to attempt escaping to
the western shore, Guert had decided right in moving towards the island.
The grinding of the ice, in another quarter, had apprised him that the
water was forcing its way through, near the main land; and that escape
would be nearly hopeless, on that side of the river. When he rejoined us,
he called me to the heads of the horses, for a conference; first solemnly
assuring our precious companions that there were no grounds for immediate
apprehension. Mary Wallace anxiously asked him to repeat this to _her_, on
the faith due from man to woman; and he did it; when I was permitted to
join him without further opposition.
"Corny," said Guert, in a low tone, "Providence has punished me for my
wicked wish of seeing Mary Wallace in the claws of lions; for all the
savage beasts of the Old World, could hardly make our case more desperate
than it now is. We must be cool, however, and preserve the girls or die
"Our fates are, and must be, the same. Do you devote yourself to Mary, and
leave Anneke to me. But, why this language; surely, our case is by no means
"It might not be so difficult for two active, vigorous young men to get
ashore; but it would be different with females. The ice is in motion all
around us; and the cakes are piling and grinding on each other in a most
fearful manner. Were it light enough to see, we should do much better; but,
as it is, I dare not trust Mary Wallace any distance from this island,
at present. We may be compelled to pass the night here, and must make
provision accordingly. You hear the ice grinding on the shore; a sign that
everything is going down stream.--God send that the waters break through,
ere long; though they may sweep all before them, when they do come. I fear
me, Corny, that Herman Mordaunt and his party are lost!"
"Merciful Providence!--can it be as bad as that!--I rather hope they have
reached the land."
"_That_ is impossible, on the course they took. Even a man would be
bewildered and swept away, in the torrent that is driving down under the
west shore. It is that vent to the water, which saves us. But, no more
words.--You now understand the extent of the danger, and will know what
you are about. We must get our precious charge on the island, if possible,
without further delay. Half an hour--nay, half a minute may bring down the
Guert took the direction of everything. Even while we had been talking, the
ice had moved materially; and we found ourselves fifty feet further from
the island than we had been. By causing the horses to advance, this
distance was soon recovered; but it was found impossible to lead or drive
them over the broken cakes with which the shore of the island now began to
be lined. After one or two spirited and determined efforts, Guert gave the
matter up, and asked me to help the ladies from the sleigh. Never did women
behave better, than did these delicate and lovely girls, on an occasion so
awfully trying. Without remonstrances, tears, exclamations or questions,
both did as desired; and I cannot express the feeling of security I felt,
when I had helped each over the broken and grinding border of white ice,
that separated us from the shore. The night was far from cold; but the
ground was now frozen sufficiently to prevent any unpleasant consequences
from walking on what would otherwise have been a slimy, muddy alluvion; for
the island was so very low, as often to be under water, when the river was
particularly high. This, indeed, formed our danger, after we had reached
When I returned to Guert, I found him already drifted down some little
distance; and this time we moved the sleigh so much above the point, as
to be in less danger of getting out of sight of our precious wards. To my
surprise, Guert was busy in stripping the harness from the horses, and Jack
already stood only in his blinkers. Moses was soon reduced to the same
state. I was wondering what was to be done next, when Guert drew each
bridle from its animal, and gave a smart crack of his whip. The liberated
horses started back with affright--snorted, reared, and, turning away, they
went down the river, free as air, and almost as swift; the incessant and
loud snapping of heir master's whip, in no degree tending to diminish their
speed. I asked the meaning of this.
"It would be cruel not to let the poor beasts make use of the strength
and sagacity nature has given them to save their lives," answered Guert,
straining his eyes after Moses, the horse that was behind, so long as his
dark form could be distinguished, and leaning forward to listen to the
blows of their hoofs, while the noises around us permitted them to be
heard. "To us, they would only be an encumbrance, since they never could
be forced over the cracks and caked ice in harness; nor would it be at all
safe to follow them, if they could. The sleigh is light, and we are strong
enough to shove it to land, when there is an opportunity; or, it may be
left on the island."
Nothing could have served more effectually to convince me of the manner in
which Guert regarded our situation, than to see him turn loose beasts which
I knew he so highly prized. I mentioned this; and he answered me with a
melancholy seriousness, that made the impression so much the stronger--
"It is possible they may get ashore, for nature has given a horse a keen
instinct. They can swim, too, where you and I would drown. At all events,
they are not fettered with harness, but have every chance it is in my power
to give them. Should they land, any farmer would put them in his stable,
and I should soon hear where they were to be found; if, indeed, I am living
in the morning to make the inquiry."
"What is next to be done, Guert?" I asked, understanding at once both his
feelings and his manner of reasoning.
"We must now run the sleigh on the island; after which it will be time to
look about us, and to examine if it be possible to get the ladies on the
Accordingly, Guert and I applied ourselves to the task, and had no great
difficulty in dragging the sleigh over the cakes, grinding and in motion as
they were. We pulled it as far as the tree beneath which Anneke and Mary
stood; when the ladies got into it and took their seats, enveloped in the
skins. The night was not cold for the season, and our companions were
thickly clad, having tippets and muffs, still, the wolves' skins of Guert
contributed to render them more comfortable. All apprehension of immediate
danger now ceased, for a short time; nor do I think either of the females
fancied they could run any more risk, beyond that of exposure to the night
air, so long as they remained on _terra firma_. Such was not the case,
however, as a very simple explanation will render apparent to the reader.
All the islands in this part of the Hudson are low, being rich, alluvial
meadows, bordered by trees and bushes; most of the first being willows,
sycamores, or nuts. The fertility of the soil had given to these trees
rapid growths, and they were generally of some stature; though not one
among them had that great size which ought to mark the body and branches of
a venerable tenant of the forest. This fact, of itself, proved that no one
tree of them all was _very_ old; a circumstance that was certainly owing to
the ravages of the annual freshets. I say annual; for though the freshet
which now encompassed us, was far more serious than usual, each year
brought something of the sort; and the islands were constantly increasing
or diminishing under their action. To prevent the last, a thicket of trees
was left at the head of each island, to form a sort of barricade against
the inroads of the ice in the spring. So low was the face of the land,
or meadow, however, that a rise of a very few feet in the river would
be certain to bring it entirely under water. All this will be made more
apparent by our own proceedings, after we had placed the ladies in the
sleigh; and more especially, by the passing remarks of Guert while employed
in his subsequent efforts.
No sooner did Guert Ten Eyck believe the ladies to be temporarily safe,
than he proposed to me that we should take a closer look at the state of
the river, in order to ascertain the most feasible means of getting on the
main land. This was said aloud, and in a cheerful way, as if he no longer
felt any apprehension, and, evidently to me, to encourage our companions.
Anneke desired us to go, declaring that now she knew herself to be on dry
land, all her own fears had vanished. We went accordingly, taking our first
direction towards the head of the island.
A very few minutes sufficed to reach the limits of our narrow domain; and,
as we approached them, Guert pointed out to me the mound of ice that was
piling up behind it, as a most fearful symptom.
"_There_ is our danger," he said, with emphasis, "and we must not trust to
these trees. This freshet goes beyond any I ever saw on the river; and not
a spring passes that we have not more or less of them. Do you not see,
Corny, what saves us now?"
"We are on an island, and cannot be in much danger from the river while we
"Not so, my dear friend, not at all so. But, come with me and look for
I followed Guert, and did look for myself. We sprang upon the cakes of ice,
which were piled quite thirty feet in height, on the head of the island,
extending right and left, as far as our eyes could see, by that misty
light. It was by no means difficult moving about on this massive pile, the
movement in the cakes being slow, and frequently interrupted; but there was
no concealing the true character of the danger. Had not the island, and the
adjacent main interposed their obstacles, the ice would have continued to
move bodily down the stream, cake shoving over cake, until the whole found
vent in the wider space below, and floated off towards the ocean. Not only
was our island there; however, but other islands lay near us, straitening
the different channels or passages in such a way, as to compel the
formation of an icy dam; and, on the strength of this dam rested all our
security. Were it to be ruptured anywhere near us, we should inevitably be
swept off in a body. Guert thought, however, as has been said already, that
the waters had found narrow issues under the main land, both east and west
of us; and should this prove to be true, there was a hope that the great
calamity might be averted. In other words, if these floodgates sufficed, we
_might_ escape; otherwise the catastrophe was certain.
"I cannot excuse it to myself to remain here, without endeavouring to see
what is the state of things nearer to the shore," said Guert, after we had
viewed the fast accumulating mass of broken ice above us, as well as the
light permitted, and we had talked over together the chances of safety,
and the character of the danger. "Do you return to the ladies, Corny, and
endeavour to keep up their spirits, while I cross this channel on our
right, to the next island, and see what offers in that direction."
"I do not like the idea of your running all the risk alone; besides,
something may occur to require the strength of two, instead of that of one,
to overcome it."
"You can go with me as far as the next island, if you will, where we shall
be able to ascertain at once whether it be ice or water that separates us
from the eastern shore. If the first, you can return as fast as possible
for the ladies, while I look for a place to cross. I do not like the
appearance of this dam, to be honest with you; and have great fears for
those who are now in the sleigh."
We were in the very act of moving away, when a loud, cracking noise, that
arose within a few yards, alarmed us both; and running to the spot whence
it proceeded, we saw that a large willow had snapped in two, like a
pipe-stem, and that the whole barrier of ice was marching, slowly, but
grandly, over the stump, crushing the fallen trunk and branches beneath its
weight, as the slow-moving wheel of the loaded cart crushes the twig. Guert
grasped my arm, and his fingers nearly entered the flesh, under his iron
"We must quit this spot--" he said firmly, "and at once. Let us go back to
I did not know Guert's intentions, but I saw it was time to act with
decision. We moved swiftly down to the spot where we had left the sleigh;
and the reader will judge of our horror, when we found it gone! The whole
of the low point of the island where we had left it, was already covered
with cakes of ice that were in motion, and which had doubtless swept off
the sleigh during the few minutes that we had been absent! Looking around
us, however, we saw an object on the river, a little distance below, that I
fancied was the sleigh, and was about to rush after it, when a voice filled
with alarm, took us in another direction. Mary Wallace came out from behind
a tree, to which she had fled for safety, and seizing Guert's arm, implored
him not to quit her again.
"Whither has Anneke gone?" I demanded, in an agony I cannot describe--"I
see nothing of Anneke!"
"She would not quit the sleigh," answered Mary Wallace, almost panting
for breath--"I implored--entreated her to follow me--said you _must_ soon
return; but she refused to quit the sleigh. Anneke is in the sleigh, if
that can now be found."
I heard no more; but springing on the still moving cakes of ice, went
leaping from cake to cake, until my sight showed me that, sure enough,
the sleigh was on the bed of the river, over which it was in slow motion;
forced downwards before the new coating of ice that was fast covering
the original surface. At first I could see no one in the sleigh; but, on
reaching it, I found Anneke buried in the skins. She was on her knees: the
precious creature was asking succour from God!
I had a wild but sweet consolation in thus finding myself, as it might be,
cut off from all the rest of my kind, in the midst of that scene of gloom
and desolation, alone with Anneke Mordaunt. The moment I could make her
conscious of my presence, she inquired after Mary Wallace, and was much
relieved on learning that she was with Guert, and would not be left by him,
for a single instant, again that night. Indeed, I saw their figures dimly,
as they moved swiftly across the channel that divided the two islands, and
disappear in that direction, among the bushes that lined the place to which
they had gone.
"Let us follow," I said eagerly. "The crossing is yet easy, and we, too,
may escape to the shore."
"Go you!" said Anneke, over whom a momentary physical torpor appeared to
have passed. "Go you, Corny," she said; "a man may easily save himself; and
you are an only child--the sole hope of your parents."
"Dearest, beloved Anneke!--why this indifference--this apathy on your own
behalf? Are _you_ not an only child, the sole hope of a widowed father?--do
you forget _him?_"
"No, no, no!" exclaimed the dear girl, hurriedly. "Help me out of the
sleigh, Corny: there, I will go with you anywhere--any how--to the end of
the world, to save my father from such anguish!"
From that moment the temporary imbecility of Anneke vanished, and I found
her, for the remainder of the time we remained in jeopardy, quick to
apprehend, and ready to second all my efforts. It was this passing
submission to an imaginary doom, on the one hand, and the headlong effect
of sudden fright on the other, which had separated the two girls, and which
had been the means of dividing the whole party as described.
I scarcely know how to describe what followed. So intense was my
apprehension on behalf of Anneke, that I can safely say, I did not think
of my own fate, in the slightest degree, as disconnected from hers. The
self-devoted reliance with which the dear girl seemed to place all her
dependence on me, would, of itself, have produced this effect, had she not
possessed my whole heart, as I was now so fully aware. Moments like those,
make one alive to all the affections, and strip off every covering that
habit or the dissembling of our manners is so apt to throw over the
feelings. I believe I both spoke and acted towards Anneke, as one would
cling to, or address the being dearest to him in the world, for the next
few minutes; but, I can suppose the reader will naturally prefer learning
what we did, under such circumstances, rather than what we said, or how we
I repeat, it is not easy for me to describe what followed. I know we first
rather ran, than walked, across the channel on which I had last seen the
dim forms of Guert and Mary, and even crossed the island to its eastern
side, in the hope of being able to reach the shore in that quarter. The
attempt was useless, for we found the water running down over the ice like
a race-way. Nothing could be seen of our late companions; and my loud and
repeated calls to them were unanswered.
"Our case is hopeless, Cornelius," said Anneke; speaking with a forced
calmness when she found retreat impossible in that direction, "Let us
return to the sleigh, and submit to the will of God!"
"Beloved Anneke!--Think of your father, and summon your whole strength.
The bed of the river is yet firm; we will cross it, and try the opposite
Cross it we did, my delicate companion being as much sustained by my
supporting arm, as by her own resolution but we found the same obstacle
to retreat interposing there also. The island above had turned the waters
aside, until they found an outlet under each bank--shooting along their
willowy shores, with the velocity of arrows. By this time, owing to our
hurried movement, I found Anneke so far exhausted, that it was absolutely
necessary to pause a minute to take breath. This pause was also necessary,
in order to look about us, and to decide understandingly as to the course
it was necessary now to pursue. This pause, brief as it was, moreover,
contributed largely to the apparent horrors of our situation.
The grating, or grinding of the ice above us, cake upon cake, now sounded
like the rushing of heavy winds, or the incessant roaring of a surf upon
the sea-shore. The piles were becoming visible, by their height and their
proximity, as the ragged barriers set slowly but steadily down upon us;
and the whole river seemed to me to be in motion downwards. At this awful
instant, when I began to think it was the will of Providence that Anneke
and I were to perish together, a strange sound interrupted the fearful
natural accessories of that frightful scene. I certainly heard the bells
of a sleigh; at first they seemed distant and broken--then, nearer and
incessant, attended by the rumbling of runners on the ice. I took off my
cap and pressed my head, for I feared my brain was unsettled. There it
came, however, more and more distinctly, until the trampling of horses'
hoofs mingled in the noise.
"Can there be others as unhappy as ourselves!" exclaimed Anneke, forgetting
her own fears in generous sympathy. "See, Littlepage!--see, _dear_
Cornelius--yonder surely comes another sleigh!"
Come it did, like the tempest, or the whirlwind; passing within fifty feet
of us. I knew it at a glance. It was the sleigh of Herman Mordaunt, empty;
with the horses, maddened by terror, running wherever their fears impelled.
As the sleigh passed, it was thrown on one side; then it was once more
whirled up again; and it went out of sight, with the rumbling sound of the
runners mingling with the jingling of bells and the tramp of hoofs.
At this instant a loud, distant cry from a human voice, was certainly
heard. It seemed, to me, as if some one called my name; and Anneke said,
she so understood it, too. The call, if call it was, came from the south,
and from under the western shore. At the next moment, awful reports
proceeded from the barrier above; and, passing an arm around the slender
waist of my lovely companion, to support her, I began a rapid movement in
the direction of that call. While attempting to reach the western shore, I
had observed a high mound of broken ice, that was floating down; or rather,
was pressed down on the smooth surface of the frozen river, in advance of
the smaller cakes that came by in the current. It was increasing, in size,
by accessions from these floating cakes, and threatened to form a new dam,
at some narrow pass below, as soon as of sufficient size. It occurred to me
we should be temporarily safe, could we reach that mound, for it rose so
high as to be above danger from the water. Thither, then, I ran, almost
carrying Anneke on my arm; our speed increased by the terrific sounds from
the dam above us.
We reached the mound, and found the cakes so piled, as to be able to ascend
them; though not without an effort. After getting up a layer or two, the
broken mass became so irregular and ragged, as to render it necessary for
me to mount first, and then to drag Anneke up after me. This I did, until
exhausted; and we both seated ourselves on the edge of a cake, in order to
recover our breath. While there, it struck me, that new sounds arose from
the river; and, bending forward to examine, I saw that the water had forced
its way through the dam above and was coming down upon us in a torrent.
[Footnote 26: This remark of Mr. Cornelius Littlepage's, may induce a smile
in the reader. But, few persons of fifty can be found, who cannot recall
the time, when it was a rare thing to imagine _anything_ American, as good
as its English counterpart. The American who could write a book--a real,
live book--forty years since, was a sort of prodigy. It was the same with
him who could paint any picture beyond a common portrait. The very fruits
and natural productions of the country were esteemed, doubtingly; and he
was a bold man who dared to extol even canvass-back ducks, in the year
1800! At the present day, the feeling is fast undergoing an organic change.
It is now the fashion to _extol_ everything American, and from submitting
to a degree that was almost abject, to the feeling of colonial dependency,
the country is filled, to-day, with the most profound provincial
self-admiration. It is to be hoped that the next change will bring us to
something like the truth.--EDITOR.]
My heart leaps up when I behold
A rainbow in the sky:
So was it when my Life began;
So is it now I am a man;
So be it when I shall grow old,
Or let me die!
The child is father of the man;
And I could wish my days to be
Bound each to each by natural piety.
Five minutes longer on the ice of the main channel, and we should have been
swept away. Even as we still sat looking at the frightful force of the
swift current, as well as the dim light of that clouded night would permit,
I saw Guert Ten Eyck's sleigh whirl past us; and, only a minute later,
Herman Mordaunt's followed; the poor, exhausted beasts struggling in the
harness for freedom, that they might swim for their lives. Anneke heard the
snorting of those wretched horses; but her unpractised eyes did not detect
them, immersed, as they were, in the current; nor had she recognised the
sleigh that whirled past us, as her father's. A little later, a fearful
shriek came from one of the fettered beasts; such a heart-piercing cry as
it is known the horse often gives. I said nothing on the subject, knowing
that love for her father was one of the great incentives which had aroused
my companion to exertion; and being unwilling to excite fears that were now
Two or three minutes of rest were all that circumstances permitted. I could
see that everything visible on the river, was in motion downwards; the
piles of ice on which we were placed, as well as the cakes that glanced by
us, in their quicker descent. Our own motion was slow, on account of the
mass which doubtless pressed on the shoals of the west side of the river;
as well as on account of the friction against the lateral fields of ice,
and occasionally against the shore. Still, we were in motion; and I felt
the necessity, on every account, of getting as soon as possible on the
western verge of our floating island, in order to profit by any favourable
occurrence that might offer.
Dear Anneke!--How admirably did she behave that fearful night! From the
moment she regained her entire consciousness, after I found her praying in
the bottom of the sleigh, down to that instant, she had been as little
of an encumbrance to my own efforts, as was at all possible. Reasonable,
resolute, compliant, and totally without any ill-timed exhibition
of womanly apprehension, she had done all she was desired to do
unhesitatingly, and with intelligence. In ascending that pile of ice, by
no means an easy task under any circumstances, we had acted in perfect
concert, every effort of mine being aided by one of her own, directed by my
advice and greater experience.
"God has not deserted us, dearest Anneke," I said, now that my companion's
strength appeared to have returned, "and we may yet hope to escape. I can
anticipate the joy we shall bring to your father's heart, when he again
takes you to his arms, safe and uninjured."
"Dear, _dear_ father!--What agony he must now be suffering on my
account.--Come, Corny, let us go to him at once, if it be possible."
As this was said, the precious girl arose, and adjusted her tippet in a
way that should cause her no encumbrance; like one ready to set about
the execution of a serious task with all her energies. The muff had been
dropped on the river; for neither of us had any sensibility to cold. The
night, however, was quite mild, for the season; and we probably should not
have suffered, had our exertions been less violent. Anneke declared herself
ready to proceed, and I commenced the difficult and delicate task of aiding
her across an island composed of icy fragments, in order to reach its
western margin. We were quite thirty feet in the air; and a fall into any
of the numerous caverns, among which we had to proceed, might have been
fatal; certainly would have crippled the sufferer. Then the surface of
the ice was so smooth as to render walking on it an exceedingly delicate
operation; more especially as the cakes lay at all manner of inclinations
to the plane of the horizon. Fortunately, I wore buckskin moccasins over my
boots; and their rough leather aided me greatly in maintaining my footing.
Anneke, too, had socks of cloth; without which, I do not think, she could
have possibly moved. By these aids, however, and by proceeding with the
utmost caution, we had actually succeeded in attaining our object, when the
floating mass shot into an eddy, and, turning slowly round, under this new
influence, placed us on the outer side of the island again! Not a murmur
escaped Anneke, at this disappointment; but, with a sweetness of temper
that spoke volumes in favour of her natural disposition, and a resignation
that told her training, she professed a readiness to renew her efforts.
To this I would not consent, however; for I saw that the eddy was still
whirling us about; and I thought it best to escape from its influence
altogether, before we threw away our strength fruitlessly. Instead of
re-crossing the pile, therefore, I told my fair companion that we would
descend to a cake that lay level on the water, and which projected from the
mass to such a distance, as to be close to the shore, should we again get
near it. This descent was made, after some trouble, though I was compelled
to receive Anneke entirely into my arms, in order to effect it. Effect it I
did; placing the sweet girl safely at my side, on the outermost and lowest
of all the cakes in our confused pile.
In some respects this change was for the better; while it did not improve
our situation in others. It placed both Anneke and myself behind a shelter,
as respected the wind; which, though neither very strong nor very cold,
had enough of March about it to render the change acceptable. It took my
companion, too, from a position where motion was difficult, and often
dangerous; leaving her on a level, even spot, where she could walk with
ease and security, and keep the blood in motion by exercise. Then it put
us both in the best possible situation to profit by any contact with that
shore, along and near which our island was now slowly moving.
There could no longer be any doubt of the state of the river in general.
It had broken up; spring had come, like a thief in the night; and the ice
below having given way, while the mass above had acquired too much power
to be resisted, everything was set in motion; and, like the death of the
strong man, the disruption of fields in themselves so thick and adhesive,
had produced an agony surpassing the usual struggle of the seasons.
Nevertheless, the downward motion had begun in earnest, and the centre of
the river was running like a sluice, carrying away, in its current, those
masses which had just before formed so menacing an obstacle above.
Luckily, our own pile was a little aside from the great downward rush. I
have since thought, that it touched the bottom, which caused it to turn, as
well as retarded its movement. Be this as it might, we still remained in a
little bay, slowly turning in a circle; and glad was I to see our low cake
coming round again, in sight of the western shore. The moment now demanded
decision; and I prepared Anneke to meet it. A large, low, level cake had
driven up on the shore, and extended out so far as to promise that our own
cake would touch it, in our evolutions. I knew that the ice, in general,
had not broken in consequence of any weakness of its own, but purely under
the weight of the enormous pressure from above, and the mighty force of the
current; and that we ran little, or no risk, in trusting our persons on
the uttermost limits of any considerable fragment. A station was taken,
accordingly, near a projection of the cake we were on; when we waited for
the expected contact. At such moments, the slightest disappointment carries
with it the force of the greatest circumstances. Several times did it
appear, to us, that our island was on the point of touching the fastened
cake, and as often did it incline aside; at no time coming nearer than
within six or eight feet. This distance it would have been easy enough, for
_me_ to leap across, but, to Anneke, it was a barrier as impassable as the
illimitable void. The sweet girl saw this; and, she acted like herself,
under the circumstances. She took my hand, pressed it, and said earnestly,
and with patient sweetness--
"You see how it is, Corny; I am not permitted to escape; but you can easily
reach the shore. Go, then, and leave me in the hands of Providence. Go; I
never can forget what you have already done; but it is useless to perish
I have never doubted that Anneke was perfectly sincere in her wish that I
should, at least, save my own life. The feeling with which she spoke; the
despair that was coming over her; and the movement of our island, which, at
that moment, gave signs of shooting away from the shore, altogether, roused
me to a sudden, and certainly, to a very bold attempt. I tremble, even at
this distance of time, as I write the particulars. A small cake of ice was
floating in between us and that which lay firmly fastened to the shore. Its
size was such as to allow it to pass between the two; though not without
coming nearly, if not absolutely, in contact with one, if not with both.
I observed all this; and, saying one word of encouragement to Anneke,
I passed an arm around her waist--waited the proper moment--and sprang
forward. It was necessary to make a short leap, with my precious burthen
on my arm, in order to gain this floating bridge; but it was done, and
successfully. Scarcely permitting Anneke's foot to touch this frail
support, which was already sinking under our joint weight, I crossed it
at two or three steps, and threw all my power into a last and desperate
effort. I succeeded here, also; and fell, upon the firmer cake, with a
heart filled with gratitude to God. The touch told me that we were
safe; and, in the next instant, we reached the solid ground. Under such
circumstances, one usually looks back to examine the danger he has just
gone through. I did so; and saw that the floating cake of ice had already
passed down, and was out of reach; while the mass that had been the means
of saving us, was slowly following, under some new impulse, received from
the furious currents of the river. But we were saved; and most devoutly
did I thank my God, who had mercifully aided our escape from perils so
I was compelled to wait for Anneke, who fell upon her knees, and remained
there quite a minute, before I could aid her in ascending the steep
acclivity which formed the western bank of the Hudson, at this particular
point. We reached the top, however, after a little delay, and pausing once
or twice to take breath; when we first became really sensible of the true
character of the scene from which we had been delivered. Dim as was the
light, there was enough to enable us to overlook a considerable reach of
the river, from that elevated stand. The Hudson resembled chaos rushing
headlong between the banks. As for the cakes of ice--some darting past
singly, and others piled as high as houses--of course, the stream was
filled with such; but, a large, dark object was seen coming through that
very channel, over which Anneke and I had stood, less than an hour before,
sailing down the current with fearful rapidity. It was a house; of no great
size, it is true, but large enough to present a singular object on the
river. A bridge, of some size, followed; and a sloop, that had been borne
away from the wharves of Albany, soon appeared in the strange assemblage,
that was thus suddenly collected on this great artery of the colony.
But the hour was late; Anneke was yet to care for; it was necessary to seek
a shelter. Still supporting my lovely companion, who now began to express
her uneasiness on account of her father, and her other friends, I held the
way inland; knowing that there was a high road parallel to the river, and
at no great distance from it. We reached the highway, in the course of ten
minutes, and turned our faces northward, as the direction which led towards
Albany. We had not advanced far before I heard the voices of men, who were
coming towards us; and glad was I to recognise that of Dirck Follock among
the number. I called aloud, and was answered by a shout of exultation,
which, as I afterwards discovered, spontaneously broke out of his mouth,
when he recognised the form of Anneke. Dirck was powerfully agitated when
we joined him; I had never, previously, seen anything like such a burst of
feeling from him; and it was some time before I could address him.
"Of course, your whole party is safe?" I asked, a little doubtingly; for
I had actually given up all who had been in Herman Mordaunt's sleigh for
"Yes, thank God! all but the sleigh and horses. But where are Guert Ten
Eyck and Miss Wallace?"
"Gone ashore on the other side of the river; we parted, and they took that
direction, while we came hither." I said this to quiet Anneke's fears; but
I had misgivings about their having got off the river at all. "But let me
know the manner of your own escape."
Dirck then gave us a history of what had passed; the whole party turning
back to accompany us, as soon as I told them that their errand--a search
for the horses--was useless. The substance of what we heard was as
follows:--In the first effort to reach the western shore, Herman Mordaunt
had been met by the very obstacle which Guert had foreseen and he turned
south, hoping to find some spot at which to land, by going farther from the
dam that had formed above. After repeated efforts, and having nearly
lost his sleigh and the whole party, a point was reached at which Herman
Mordaunt determined to get his female companion on shore, at every hazard.
This was to be done only by crossing floating cakes of ice, in a current
that was already running at the rate of four or five miles in the hour.
Dirck was left in charge of the horses while the experiment was made; but
seeing the adventurers in great danger, he flew to their assistance--when
the whole party were immersed, though not in deep water. Left to
themselves, and alarmed with the floundering in the river and the grinding
of the cakes, Herman Mordaunt's bays went off in the confusion. Mrs. Bogart
was assisted to the land, and was helped to reach the nearest dwelling--a
comfortable farm-house, about a quarter of a mile beyond the point where we
had met the party. There Mrs. Bogart had been placed in a warm bed, and the
gentlemen were supplied with such dry clothes as the rustic wardrobe of
these simple people could furnish. The change made, Dirck was on his way to
ascertain what had become of the sleigh and horses, as has been mentioned.
On inquiry, I found that the spot where Anneke and myself had landed was
quite three miles below the island on which Guert and I had drawn the
sleigh. Nearly the whole of this distance had we floated with the pile of
broken ice, in the short time we were on it; a proof of the furious rate at
which the current was setting downward. No one had heard anything of
Guert and Mary; but I encouraged my companion to believe that they were
necessarily safe on the other shore. I certainly deemed this to be very
questionable, but there was no use in anticipating evil.
On reaching the farm-house, Herman Mordaunt's delight and gratitude may
more easily be imagined than described. He folded Anneke to his heart, and
she wept like an infant on his bosom. Nor was I forgotten in this touching
scene but came in for a full share of notice.
"I want no details, noble young man--" I am professing to write the truth,
and must be excused for relating such things as these, but--"I want no
details, noble young man," said Herman Mordaunt, squeezing my hand, "to
feel certain that, under God, I owe my child's life, for the second time,
to you. I wish to Heaven!--but, no matter--it is now too late--some other
way may and _must_ offer. I scarce know what I say, Littlepage; but what I
_mean_ is, to express faintly, some small portion of the gratitude I feel,
and to let you know how sensibly and deeply your services are felt and
The reader may think it odd, that this incoherent, but pregnant speech,
made little impression on me at the time, beyond the grateful conviction
of having really rendered the greatest of all services to Anneke and her
father; though I had better occasion to remember it afterwards.
It is unnecessary to dwell more particularly on the occurrences at the
farm-house. The worthy people did what they could to make us comfortable,
and we were all warm in bed, in the course of the next half-hour.
On the following morning a wagon was harnessed, and we left these simple
countrymen and women--who refused everything like compensation, as a matter
of course--and proceeded homeward. I have heard it said that we Americans
are mercenary: it may be so, but not a man, probably, exists in the
colonies, who would accept money for such assistance. We were two hours
in reaching Albany, on wheels; and entered the place about ten, in a very
different style from that in which we had quitted it the day before. As we
drove along, the highway frequently led us to points that commanded views
of the river, and we had so many opportunities of noting the effects of the
freshet. Of ice, very little remained. Here and there a cake or a pile
was seen still adhering to the shore, and occasionally fragments floated
downwards; but, as a rule, the torrent had swept all before it. I
particularly took notice of the island on which we had sought refuge. It
was entirely under water, but its outlines were to be traced by the bushes
which lined its low banks. Most of the trees on its upper end were cut
down, and all that grew on it would unquestionably have gone, had not the
dam given way as early as it did. A great number of trees had been broken
down on all the islands; and large tops and heavy trunks were still
floating in the current, that were lately tenants of the forest, and had
been violently torn from their places.
We found all the lower part of Albany, too, under water. Boats were
actually moving through the streets; a considerable portion of its
inhabitants having no other means of communicating with their neighbours. A
sloop of some size lay up on one of the lowest spots; and, as the water was
already subsiding, it was said she would remain there until removed by the
shipwrights. Nobody was drowned in the place; for it is not usual for the
people of these colonies to remain in their beds, at such times, to await
the appearance of the enemy in at their windows. We often read of such
accidents destroying hundreds in the Old World; but, in the New, human life
is of too much account to be unnecessarily thrown away, and so we make some
efforts to preserve it.
As we drove into the street in which Herman Mordaunt lived, we heard a
shout, and turning our heads, we saw Guert Ten Eyck waving his cap to us,
with joy delineated in every feature of his handsome face. At the next
moment he was at our side.
"Mr. Herman Mordaunt," he cried, shaking that gentleman most cordially
by the hand, "I look upon you as one raised from the dead; you and my
excellent neighbour, Mrs. Bogart, and Mr. Follock, here! How you got off
the river is a mystery to me, for I well know that the water commonly
breaks through first under the west shore. Corny and Miss Anneke--God bless
you both! Mary Wallace is in terror lest ill news come from some of you;
but I will run ahead and let her know the glad tidings. It is but five
minutes since I left her, starting at every sound, lest it prove the foot
of some ill-omened messenger."
Guert stopped to say no more. In a minute he was inside of Herman
Mordaunt's house--in another Anneke and Mary Wallace were locked in each
other's arms. After exchanging salutes, Mrs. Bogart was conveyed to her own
residence, and there was a termination to that memorable expedition.
Guert had less to communicate, in the way of dangers and marvels, than I
had anticipated. It seemed, that when he and Miss Wallace reached the inner
margin of the last island, a large cake of ice had entered the strait,
and got jammed; or rather, that it went through, forced by the tremendous
pressure above; though not without losing large masses, as it came in
contact with the shores, and grinding much of its material into powder,
by the attrition. Guert's presence of mind and decision did him excellent
service here. Without delaying an instant, the moment it was in his power,
he led Mary on that cake, and crossed the narrow branch of the river, which
alone separated him from the main land, on it, dry-shod. The water was
beginning to find its way over this cake, as it usually did on all those
that lay low, and which even stopped in their progress; but this did not
offer any serious obstacles to persons who were so prompt Safe themselves,
our friends remained to see if we could not be induced to join them; and
the call we heard, was from Guert, who had actually re-crossed to the
island, in the hope of meeting us, and directing us to a place of safety.
Guert never said anything to me on the subject, himself; but I subsequently
gathered from Mary Wallace's accounts, that the young man did not rejoin
her without a good deal of hazard and difficulty, and after a long and
fruitless search for his companions. Finding it useless to remain any
longer on the river-side, Guert and his companion held their way towards
Albany. About midnight they reached the ferry, opposite to the town; having
walked quite six miles, filled with uneasiness on account of those who had
been left behind. Guert was a man of decision, and he wisely determined it
would be better to proceed, than to attempt waking up the inmates of any of
the houses he passed. The river was now substantially free from ice, though
running with great velocity. But, Guert was an expert oarsman; and, finding
a skiff, he persuaded Mary Wallace to enter it; actually succeeding, by
means of the eddies, in landing her within ten feet of the very spot where
the hand-sled had deposited him and myself, only a few days before. From
this point, there was no difficulty in walking home; and Miss Wallace
actually slept in her own bed, that eventful night if, indeed, she _could_
Such was the termination of this adventure; one that I have rightly termed
memorable. In the end, Jack and Moses came in safe and sound; having
probably swum ashore. They were found in the public road, only a short
distance from the town, and were brought in to their master the same
day. Every one who took any interest in horses--and what Dutchman does
not?--knew Jack and Moses, and there was no difficulty in ascertaining to
whom they belonged. What is singular, however, both sleighs were recovered;
though at long intervals of time, and under very different circumstances.
That of Guert, wolves' skins and all, actually went down the whole length
of the river on the ice; passing out to sea through the Narrows. It must
have gone by New York in the night, or doubtless it would have been picked
up; while the difficulty of reaching it, was its protector on the descent,
_above_ the town. Once outside of the Narrows, it was thrown by the tide
and winds upon the shore of Staten Island; where it was hauled to land,
housed, and, being properly advertised in our New York paper, Guert
actually got tidings of it in time to receive it, skins and all, by one of
the first sloops that ascended the Hudson that year; which was within
a fortnight after the river had opened. The year 1758 was one of great
activity, on account of the movements of the army, and no time was then
The history of Herman Mordaunt's sleigh was very different. The poor bays
must have drowned soon after we saw them floating past us in the torrent.
Of course, life had no sooner left them, than they sank to the bottom of
the river, carrying with them the sleigh to which they were still attached.
In a few days the animals rose to the surface--as is usual with all swollen
bodies--bringing up the sleigh again. In this condition, the wreck was
overtaken by a downward bound sloop, the men of which saved the sleigh,
harness, skins, foot-stoves, and such other articles as would not float
Our adventure made a good deal of noise in the circle of Albany; and I have
reason to think that my own conduct was approved by those who heard of it.
Bulstrode paid me an especial visit of thanks, the very day of my return,
when the following conversation took place between us:--
"You seem fated, my dear Corny," the Major observed, after he had paid the
usual compliments, "to be always serving me in the most material way, and I
scarcely know how to express all I feel on the occasion. First, the lion,
and now this affair of the river--but, that Guert will drown, or make away
with the whole family before the summer is over, unless Mr. Mordaunt puts a
stop to _his_ interference."
"This accident was one that might have overtaken the oldest and most
prudent man in Albany. The river seemed as solid as the street when we went
on it; and another hour, even as it was, would have brought us all home, in
"Ay, but that hour came near bringing death and desolation into the most
charming family in the colony; and you have been the means of averting the
heaviest part of the blow. I wish to Heaven, Littlepage, that you would
consent to come into the army! Join us as a volunteer, the moment we move,
and I will write to Sir Harry to obtain a pair of colours for you. As soon
as he hears that we are indebted to your coolness and courage for the life
of Miss Mordaunt, he will move heaven and earth, to manifest his gratitude.
The instant this good parent made up his mind to accept Miss Mordaunt as a
daughter, he began to consider her as a child of his own."
"And Anneke--Miss Mordaunt, herself, Mr. Bulstrode---does she regard Sir
Harry as a father?"
"Why, that must be coming by slow degrees, as a matter of course, you know.
Women are slower than us men to admit such totally novel impressions; and
I dare say Anneke fancies one father enough for her, just at this moment:
though she sends very pleasant messages to Sir Harry, I can assure you,
when in the humour! But, what makes you so grave, my good Corny?"
"Mr. Bulstrode, I conceive it no more than fair, to be as honest as
yourself in this matter. You have told me that you are a suitor for Miss
Mordaunt's hand; I will now own to you that I am your rival."
My companion heard this declaration with a quiet smile, and the most
"So you actually wish to become the husband of Anneke Mordaunt, yourself,
my dear Corny, do you?" he said, so coolly, that I was at a loss to know of
what sort of materials the man could be made.
"I do, Major Bulstrode--it is the first and last wish of my heart."
"Since you seem disposed to reciprocate my confidence you will not take
offence if I ask you a question or two!"
"Certainly not, sir; your own frankness shall be a rule for my government."
"Have you ever let Miss Mordaunt know that such are your wishes?"
"I have, sir; and that in the plainest terms--such as cannot well be
"What! last night?--On that infernal ice!--While she thought her life was
in your hands!"
"Nothing was said on the subject, last night, for we had other thoughts to
occupy our minds."
"It would have been a most ungenerous thing to take advantage of a lady's
"Major Bulstrode!--I cannot submit--"
"Hush, my dear Corny," interrupted the other, holding out a hand in a most
quiet and friendly manner; "there must be no misunderstanding between you
and me. Men are never greater simpletons, than when they let the secret
consciousness of their love of life push them into swaggering about their
honour; when their honour has, in fact, nothing to do with the matter
in hand. I shall not quarrel with you; and must beg you, in advance, to
receive my apologies for any little indecorum into which I may be betrayed
by surprise; as for great pieces of indecorum, I shall endeavour to avoid
"Enough has been said, Mr. Bulstrode; I am no wrangler, to quarrel with a
shadow; and, I trust, not in the least, that most contemptible of all human
beings, a social bully, to be on all occasions menacing the sword or the
pistol. Such men usually _do_ nothing, when matters come to a crisis. Even
when they fight, they fight bunglingly, and innocently."
"You are right, Littlepage, and I honour your sentiments. I have remarked
that the most expert swordsman with his tongue, and the deadest shot at a
shingle, are commonly as innocent as lambs of the shedding of blood on the
ground. They can sometimes screw themselves up to _meet_ an adversary, but
it exceeds their powers to use their weapons properly, when it comes to
serious work. The swaggerer is ever a coward at heart, however well he may
wear a mask for a time. But enough of this.--We understand each other, and
are to remain friends, under all circumstances. May I question further?"
"_Ask_ what you please, Bulstrode--I shall answer, or not, at my own
"Then, permit me to inquire, if Major Littlepage has authorized you to
offer proper settlements?"
"I am authorized to offer nothing.--Nor is it usual for the husband to make
settlements on his wife, in these colonies, further than what the law does
for her, in favour of her own. The father, sometimes, has a care for the
third generation. I should expect Herman Mordaunt to settle _his_ estate on
his daughter, and her rightful heirs, let her marry whom she may."
"Ay, that is a very American notion; and one on which Herman Mordaunt, who
remembers his extraction, will be little likely to act. Well, Corny, we
are rivals, as it would seem; but that is no reason we should not remain
friends. We understand each other--though, perhaps, I ought to tell you
"I should be glad to know _all_, Mr. Bulstrode; and can meet my fate, I
hope, like a man. Whatever it may cost me, if Anneke prefer another, her
happiness will be dearer to me than my own."
"Yes, my dear fellow, we all say and think so at one-and-twenty; which is
about your age, I believe. At _two_-and-twenty, we begin to see that our
own happiness has an equal claim on us; and, at _three_-and-twenty, we even
give it the preference. However, I will be just, if I am selfish. I have no
reason to believe Anne Mordaunt does prefer me; though my _perhaps_ is not
altogether without a meaning, either."
"In which case, I may possibly be permitted to know to what it refers?"
"It refers to the father; and, I can tell you, my fine fellow, that fathers
are of some account, in the arrangement of marriages between parties of any
standing. Had not Sir Harry authorized my own proposals, where should I
have been? Not a farthing of settlement could I have offered, while he
remained Sir Harry; notwithstanding I had the prodigious advantage of the
entail. I can tell you what it is, Corny; the existing power is always an
important power since we all think more of the present time, than of the
future. That is the reason so few of us get to Heaven. As for Herman
Mordaunt, I deem it no more than fair to tell you, he is on my side, heart
and hand. He likes my offers of settlement; he likes my family; he likes my
rank, civil and military; and I am not altogether without the hope, that he
I made no direct answer, and the conversation soon changed. Bulstrode's
declaration, however, caused me to remember both the speech and manner of
Herman Mordaunt, when he thanked me for saving his daughter's life. I
now began to reflect on it; and reflected on it much during the next
few months. In the end, the reader will learn the effect it had on my
"Good Sir, why do you start; and seem to fear
Things that do sound so fair? I' the name of truth,
Are ye fantastical, or that indeed
Which outwardly ye show?"
As I have said already, the adventure on the river made a good deal of
noise, in that simple community; and it had the effect to render Guert and
myself a sort of heroes, in a small way; bringing me much more into
notice, than would otherwise have been the case. I thought that Guert,
in particular, would be likely to reap its benefit; for, various elderly
persons, who were in the habit of frowning, whenever his name was
mentioned, I was given to understand, could now smile; and two or three of
the most severe among the Albany moralists, were heard to say that, "after
all, there was some good about that Guert Ten Eyck." The reader will not
require to be told, that a high-school moralist, in a place as retired and
insulated as Albany, must necessarily be a being that became subject to a
very severe code. Morality, as I understand the matter, has a good deal of
convention about it. There is town-morality and country-morality, all over
the world, as they tell me. But, in America, our morals were, and long
have been, separated into three great and very distinct classes; viz.--New
England, or puritan-morals; middle colonies, or liberal morals; and
southern colonies, or latitudinarian morals. I shall not pretend to point
out all the shades of difference in these several schools; though that in
which I had myself been taught, was necessarily the most in conformity with
my own tastes. There were minor shades to be found in the same school;
Guert and myself belonging to different classes. His morals were of the
Dutch class; while mine more properly belonged to the English. The great
characteristic of the Dutch school, was the tendency to excess that
prevailed, when indulgences were sought. With them, it did not rain often;
but, when it did rain, it was pretty certain to pour. Old Col. Follock was
a case in point, on this scare; nor was his son Dirck, young and diffident
as he was, altogether an exception to the rule. There was not a more
respectable man in the colony, in the main, than Col. Van Valkenburgh.
He was well connected; had a handsome unencumbered estate; and money at
interest;--was a principal prop, in the church of his neighbourhood; was
esteemed as a good husband; a good father; a true friend; a kind neighbour;
an excellent, and loyal subject, and a thoroughly honest man. Nevertheless,
Col. Van Valkenburgh had his weak times and seasons. He _would_ have a
frolic; and the Dominie was obliged to wink at this propensity. Mr. Worden
often nicknamed him Col. Frolic. His frolics might be divided into two
classes; viz. the moderate and immoderate. Of the first, he had two or
three turns a year; and these were the occasions on which he commonly
visited Satanstoe or had my father with him at Rockrockarock, as his own
place, in Rockland, was called. On these visits, whether to or from, there
was a large consumption of tobacco, beer, cider, wine, rum, lemons, sugar,
and the other ingredients of punch, toddy and flip; but no outrageously
durable excesses. There was much laughing, a great deal of good feeling,
many stories, and regular repetitions of old adventures, in the way of
traditional narrations; but nothing that could be called decided excesses.
It is true, that my grand father, and my father, and the Rev. Mr. Worden,
and Col. Follock, were much in the habit of retiring to their beds a little
confused in their brains, the consequence of so much tobacco-smoke, as Mr.
Worden always maintained; but everything was decent, and in order. The
parson, for instance, invariably pulled up on a Friday; and did not take
his place in the circle until Monday evening, again; which gave him fully
twenty-four hours, to cool off in, before he ascended the pulpit. I will
say this, for Mr. Worden, that he was very systematic and methodical in the
observance of all his duties; and I have known him, when he happened to be
late at dinner, on discovering that my father had omitted to say grace,
insist on everybody's laying down their knives and forks, while he asked a
blessing; even though it were after the fish was actually eaten. No, no;
Mr. Worden was a particular person, about all such things; and it was
generally admitted, that he had been the means of causing grace to be
introduced into several families, in Westchester; in which it had never
been the practice to have it, before his examples and precepts were known
I had not been acquainted with Guert Ten Eyck a fortnight, before I saw
he had a tendency to the same sort of excesses as those to which Col. Van
Valkenburgh was addicted. There was an old French Huguenot living near
Satanstoe--or rather, the son of one, who still spoke his father's
language--and who used to call Col. Follock's frolics his "_grands
couchers_" and his "_petit couchers_;"  inasmuch as he usually got
to bed at the last, without assistance; while at the first, it was
indispensable that some aid should be proffered. It was these "grands
couchers" at which my father never assisted. On these occasions, the
colonel invariably held his orgies over in Rockland, in the society of
men of purely Dutch extraction; there being something exclusive in the
enjoyment. I have heard it said that these last frolics sometimes lasted
a week, on really important occasions; during the whole of which time the
colonel and all near him were as happy as lords. These "_grands couchers_"
however, occurred but rarely--coming round, as it might be, like
leap-years, just to regulate the calendar, and adjust the time.
As for my new friend, Guert, he made no manifestation towards a "_grand
coucher_" during the time I remained at Albany--this his attachment to Mary
Wallace forbade--but, I discovered by means of hints and allusions, that he
_had_ been engaged in one or two such affairs, and that there was still a
longing for them in his bones. It was owing to her consciousness of the
existence of such weaknesses, and her own strong aversion to anything of
the sort, that, I am persuaded, Mary Wallace was alone induced to hesitate
about accepting Guert's weekly offer of his hand. The tenderness she
evidently felt for him, now shone too obviously in her eyes, to leave any
doubt in my mind of Guert's final success; for what woman ever refused long
to surrender, when the image of the besieger had taken its place in the
citadel of her heart! Even Anneke received Guert with much favour, after
his excellent behaviour on the river; and I fancied that everything was
going on most flatteringly for my friend, while it seemed to me that I made
no advances in my own suit. Such, at least, were my notions on the subject,
at the very moment when my new friend, as it appeared, was nearly driven to
It was near the end of April, or about a month after our perilous adventure
on the ice, that Guert came to seek me, one fine spring morning, with
something very like despair depicted in his fine, manly face. During the
whole of that month, it ought to be premised, I had not dared to speak of
love to Anneke. My attentions and visits were incessant and pointed, but
my tongue had been silent. The diffidence of real admiration had held
me tongue-tied; and I foolishly fancied there would be something like
presuming on the services I had so lately rendered, in urging my suit so
soon after the occurrence of the events I have described. I had even the
romance to think it might be taking an undue advantage of Bulstrode, to
wish to press my claims at a moment when the common object of our suit
might be supposed to feel the influence of a lively gratitude. These were
the notions and sentiments of a very young man, it must be confessed; but
I do not know that I ought to feel ashamed of them. At all events, they
existed; and they had produced the effect I have mentioned, leaving me to
fall, each day, more desperately in love, while I made no sensible advances
in preferring my suit. Guert was very much in the same situation, with this
difference, however; he made it a point to offer himself, distinctly, each
Monday morning, invariably receiving for an answer "no;" if the lady were
to be pressed for a definite reply; but leaving some glimmering of hope,
should time be given for her to make up her mind. The visit of Guert's, to
which I have just alluded, was after one of the customary offers, and usual
replies; the offer direct, and the "no," tempered by the doubting and
thoughtful brow, the affectionate smile, and the tearful eye.
"Corny," said my friend, throwing down his hat with a most rueful aspect;
for, winter having departed, and spring come, we had all laid aside our
fur-caps--"Corny, I have just been refused again! That word, 'no,' has got
to be so common with Mary Wallace, that I am afraid her tongue will never
know how to utter a 'yes!' Do you know, Corny, I have a great mind to
consult Mother Doortje!"
"Mother who?--You do not mean Mr. Mayor's cook, surely!"
"No; _Mother_ Doortje. She is said to be the best fortune teller that has
ever lived in Albany. But, perhaps, you do not believe in fortune-tellers;
some people I know do not?"
"I cannot say that I have much belief, or unbelief, on the subject, never
having seen anything of that sort."
"Have they, then, no fortune-teller, no person who has the dark art, in New
"I have heard of such people, but have never had an opportunity of seeing
or hearing for myself. If you _do_ go to see this Mother Dorrichy, or
whatever you call her, I should like amazingly to be of the party." 
Guert was delighted to hear this, and he caught eagerly at the offer. If
I would stand his friend he would go at once; but he confessed he did not
like to trust himself all alone in the old woman's company.
"I am, perhaps, the only man of my time of life, in Albany, who has not,
sooner or later, consulted Mother Doortje;" he added! "I do not know how
it is, but, _somehow_, I have never liked to tempt fortune by going to
question her! One never can tell what such a being may say; and should it
be evil, why it might make a man very miserable. I am sure I want no more
trouble, as it is, than to find Mary Wallace so undetermined about having
"Then you do not mean to go, after all! I am not only ready, but anxious to
"You mistake me, Corny. Go I will, now, though she tell me that which will
cause me to cut my throat--but, we must not go as we are; we must disguise
ourselves, in order that she may not know us. Everybody goes disguised; and
then they have an opportunity of learning if she is in a good vein, or not,
by seeing if she can tell anything about their business, or habits, in the
first place. If she fail in that, I should not care a straw for any of the
rest. So, go to work, Corny, and dress yourself for the occasion--borrow
some clothes of the people in the house, here, and come round to me,
as soon as you please; I shall be ready, for I often go disguised to
frolics--yes, unlucky devil that I am, and come back disguised, too!"
Everything was done, as desired. By means of a servant in the tavern, I was
soon equipped in a way that satisfied me was very successful; inasmuch as
I passed Dirck, in quitting the house, and my old, confidential friend did
not recognise me. Guert was in as good luck, as I actually asked himself
for himself, when he opened the door for my admission. The laugh, and the
handsome face, however, soon let me into the secret, and we sallied forth
in high spirits; almost forgetting our misgivings concerning the future, in
the fun of passing our acquaintances in the street, without being known.
Guert was much more artistically and knowingly disguised, than I was
myself. We both had put on the clothes of labourers; Guert wearing a
smock-frock that he happened to own for his fishing occupations in
summer--but I had my usual linen in view, and wore all the ordinary minor
articles of my daily attire. My friend pointed out some of these defects,
as we went along, and an attempt was made to remedy them. Mr. Worden coming
in view, I determined to stop him, and speak to him in a disguised voice,
in order to ascertain if it were possible to deceive him.
"Your sarvant, Tominie," I said, making an awkward bow, as soon as we got
near enough to the parson to address him; "be you ter Tominie, that marries
folk on a pinch?"
"Ay, or on a handful, liking the last best.--Why, Corny, thou rogue, what
does all this mean?"
It was necessary to let Mr. Worden into the secret; and he no sooner
learned the business we were on, than he expressed a wish to be of the
party. As there was no declining, we now went to the inn, and gave him time
to assume a suitable disguise. As the divine was a rigid observer of the
costume of his profession, and was most strictly a man of his _cloth_, it
was a very easy matter for him to make such a change in his exterior, as
completely to render him _incognito_. When all was ready, we went finally
forth, on our errand.
"I go with you, Corny, on this foolish business," said the Rev. Mr. Worden,
as soon as we were fairly on our way, "to comply with a promise made your
excellent mother, not to let you stray into any questionable company,
without keeping a fatherly eye over you. Now, I regard a fortune-teller's,
as a doubtful sort of society; therefore, I feel it to be a duty, to make
one of this party."
I do not know whether the Rev. Mr. Worden succeeded in deceiving himself;
but, I very well know, he did not succeed in deceiving me. The fact was, he
loved a frolic; and nothing made him happier, than to have an opportunity
of joining in just such an adventure as that we were on. Judging from the
position of her house, and the appearance of things in and around it, the
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