James Fenimore Cooper
Part 6 out of 9
business of Mother Doortje was not of the most lucrative sort. Dirt and
poverty were two things not easily encountered, in Albany; and, I do not
say, that we found very positive evidence of either, here; but there was
less neatness than was usual in that ultra-tidy community; and, as for any
great display of abundance, it was certainly not to be met with.
We were admitted by a young woman, who gave us to understand that Mother
Doortje had a couple of customers, already; but she invited us to sit down
in an outer room, promising that our turn should be the next. We did so,
accordingly, listening, through a door that was a little ajar, with no
small degree of curiosity, to what was passing within. I accidentally
took a seat in a place that enabled me to see the legs of one of the
fortune-teller's customers; and, I thought, immediately, that the striped
stockings were familiar to me; when the nasal, and very peculiar intonation
of Jason, put the matter out of all doubt. He spoke in an earnest manner;
which rendered him a little incautious; while the woman's tones were low
and mumbled. Notwithstanding, we all overheard the following discourse--
"Well, now, Mother Dorrichay," said Jason, in a very confiding sort of way,
"I've paid you well, for this here business, and I want to know if there is
any chance, for a poor man, in this colony, who doesn't want for friends,
or, for that matter, merit?"
"That's _yourself_" mumbled the female voice--in the way one announces
a discovery--"Yes, I see, by the cards, that your question applies to
yourself. You are a _young_ man, that wants not for friends; and you have
_merit!_ You have friends that you deserve; the cards tells me _that!_"
"Well, I'll not deny the truth of what you assert; and, I must say, Dirck,
it _is_ a little strange, this woman, who never saw me before, should know
me so well--my very natur', as it might be. But, do you think, I shall do
well to follow up the affair I am now on, or that I had best give it up?"
"Give up nothing," answered the oracle, in a very oracular manner,
shuffling the cards as she spoke; "no, give up nothing, but keep all you
can. That is the way to thrive, in this world."
"By the Hokey, Dirck, she gives good advice, and I think I shall follow
it! But how about the land, and the mill-seat--or, rather, how about the
particular things I'm thinking about?"
"You are thinking of purchasing--yes, the cards say purchasing; or is it
"Why, as I've got none to sell, it can't very well be disposing, Mother."
"Yes, I'm right--this Jack of Clubs settles the matter--you are thinking
of buying some land--Ah! there's water running down-hill; and here I see a
pond--Why, you are thinking of buying a mill-seat."
"By the Hokey!--Who would have thought this, Dirck!"
"Not a _mill_; no, there is _no_ mill built; but a mill-_seat_. Six, king,
three and an ace; yes, I see how it is--and you wish to get this mill-seat
at much less than its real value. _Much_ less; not less, but _much_ less."
"Well, this is wonderful! I'll never gainsay fortin-tellin' ag'in!"
exclaimed Jason. "Dirck, you are to say nothin' of this, or _think_ nothin'
of this--as it's all in confidence, you know. Now, jist put in a last word,
about the end of life, Mother, and I'll be satisfied. What you have told me
about my fortin and earnin's must be true, I think, for my whole heart
is in them; but I should like to know, after enjoying so much wealth and
happiness as you've foretold, what sort of an end I am to make of it?"
"An excellent end--full of grace, and hope, and Christian faith. I see
here, something that looks like a clergyman's gown--white sleeves--book
under the arm--"
"That can't be _me_. Mother, as I'm no lover of forms, but belong to the
"Oh! I see how it is, now; you dislike Church of England people, and could
throw dirt at them. Yes, yes--here _you_ are--a presbyterian deacon, and
one that can lead in a private meeting, on an occasion."
"Come, Dirck, I'm satisfied--let us go; we have kept Mother Doorichaise
long enough, and I heard some visiters come in, just now. Thank you,
mother--thank you, with all my heart; I think there _must_ be some truth in
this fortin-tellin' after all!"
Jason now arose, and walked out of the house, without even deigning to look
at us--and consequently without our being recognised. But Dirck lingered a
minute, not yet satisfied with what had been already told him.
"Do you really think I shall never be married, Mother?" he asked, in a tone
that sufficiently betrayed the importance he attached to the answer. "I
wish to know that particularly, before I go away!"
"Young man," answered the fortune-teller in an oracular manner; "what has
been said, has been said! I cannot _make_ fortunes, but only reveal them.
You have heard that Dutch blood is in your veins; but you live in an
English colony. _Your_ king is _her_ king; while _she_ is your _queen--_and
you are not her master. If you can find a woman of English blood that has a
Dutch heart, and has no English suitors, go forward, and you will succeed;
but, if you do not, remain as you are until time shall end. These are my
words, and these are my thoughts; I can say no more."
I heard Dirck sigh--poor fellow! he was thinking of Anneke--and he passed
through the outer room without once raising his eyes from the floor. He
left Mother Doortje, as much depressed in spirits, as Jason had left her
elated; the one looking forward to the future with a selfish and niggardly
hope, while the other regarded it with a feeling as forlorn as the
destruction of all his youthful fancies could render any view of his
after-life. The reader may feel disposed to smile at the idea of Dirck Van
Valkenburgh's possessing youthful fancies--regarding the young man in the
quiet, unassuming manner in which he has hitherto been portrayed by me; but
it would be doing great injustice to his heart and feelings, to figure him
to the mind, as a being without deep sensibilities. I have always supposed
that this interview with Mother Doortje had a lasting influence on the
fortunes of poor Dirck; nor am I at all certain its effects did not long
linger in the temperament of some others that might be named.
As our turns had now come, we were summoned to the presence of this female
soothsayer. It is unnecessary to describe the apartment in which we found
Mother Doortje. It had nothing unusual in it, with the exception of a
raven, that was hopping about the floor, and which appeared to be on the
most familiar terms with its mistress. Doortje, herself, was a woman of
quite sixty, wrinkled, lean, and hag-like; and, I thought, some care had
been taken, in her dress, to increase the effect of this, certainly her
natural appearance. Her cap was entirely of black muslin; though her dress
itself, was grey. The eye of this woman was of the colour of her gown; and
it was penetrating, restless, and deep-seated. Altogether, she looked the
On our entrance, after saluting the fortune-teller, each of us laid a
French crown on the table at which she was seated. This coin had become
quite current among us, since the French troops had penetrated into our
colony; and it was even said they purchased supplies with it, from certain
of our own people. As we had paid the highest price ever given, for these
glimpses into futurity, we thought ourselves entitled to have the pages of
the sealed book freely opened to us.
"Do you wish to see me together; or shall I communicate with one at a
time?" demanded Doortje, in her husky, sepulchral voice; which, it struck
me, obtained its peculiar tones partly from nature, and partly from art.
It was settled that she should commence with Mr. Worden; but, that all
might remain in the room the whole time. While we were talking over this
point, Doortje's eyes were by no means fixed, but, I remarked, that they
wandered from person to person; like those of one who was gathering
information. Many persons do not believe, at all, in the art of the
fortune-teller; but insist that there is nothing more in it than trick and
management; pretending that this very woman kept the blacks of the town
in pay, to bring her information; and that she never told anything of the
past, which was true, that had not been previously communicated to herself.
I shall not pretend to affirm that the art goes as far as many imagine;
but, it strikes me, that it is very presuming, to deny that there is some
truth in these matters. I do not wish to appear credulous; though, at the
same time, I hold it to be wrong to deny our testimony to facts that we are
convinced are true. 
Doortje commenced by shuffling an exceedingly dirty pack of cards; which
had probably been used five hundred times, on similar duty. She next
caused Mr. Worden to cut these cards; when a close and musing examination
succeeded. All this time, not a syllable was said; though we were startled
by a low whistle, from the woman; which brought the raven upon her
"Well, Mother," cried Mr. Worden, with a little impatience, at what he
fancied mummery, "I am dying to hear what _has_ happened, that I may put
the more faith in what _is_ to happen. Tell me something of the crop of
wheat, I put into the ground, last autumn; how many bushels I sowed, and on
how many acres; whether on new land, or on old?"
"Ay, ay, you have sowed!--and you have sowed!" answered the woman, on a
high key, for her; "but your seed fell among tares, and on the flinty
ground; and you'll never reap a soul among 'em all! Broadcast may you
sow--but narrow will be your harvest."
The Rev. Mr. Worden gave a loud hem--placed his arms akimbo--and seemed
determined to brazen it out; though, I could easily perceive, that he felt
"How is it, with my cattle? and shall I send much mutton to market, this
"A wolf, in sheep's clothing!" muttered Doortje. "No--no--you like hot
suppers, and ducks, and lectures to cooks more than gathering in the
harvest of the Lord!"
"Come, this is folly, woman!" exclaimed the parson, angrily. "Give me some
common sense, for my good French crown. What do you see, in that knave of
diamonds, that you study its face so closely?"
"A loping Dominie!--a loping Dominie!" screamed the hag, several times,
rather than exclaiming aloud. "See!--he runs, for life; but Beelzebub will
There was a sudden, and dead pause; for the Rev. Mr. Worden had caught up
his hat, and darted from the room; quitting the house, as if already busily
engaged in the race alluded to. Guert shook his head, and looked serious;
but, perceiving that the woman was already tranquil, and was actually
shuffling the cards anew, in his behalf, he advanced to learn his fate. I
saw the eyes of Doortje fastened keenly on him, as he took his stand near
the table, and the corners of her mouth curled in a significant smile. What
that meant, exactly, I have never been able to ascertain.
"I suppose, you wish to know something of the past, like all the rest of
them," mumbled the woman, "so that you may have faith in what you hear
about the future?"
"Why, Mother," answered Guert, passing his hand through his own fine head
of natural curls, and speaking a little hastily, "I do not know that it is
any great matter about the past. What is done, is done; and there is an
end of it. A young man may not wish to hear of such things, at the moment,
perhaps, when he is earnestly bent on doing better. We are all young, once
in our lives, and we can grow old only after having been so."
"Yes--yes--I see how it is!" muttered Doortje. "So--so--turkeys--turkeys;
ducks--ducks--quaack--quaack--quaack--gobble, gobble, gobble--" Here, the
old hag set up such an imitation of ducks, geese, turkeys, game-cocks, and
other birds, that one who was in an outer room, might well have imagined he
heard the cries of a regular poultry-yard. I was startled, myself, for
the imitation was very admirable--but Guert was obliged to wipe the
perspiration from his face.
"That will do--that will do, Mother!" the young man exclaimed. "I see, you
know all about it; and there is no use in attempting disguises with you.
Now, tell me, if I am ever to be a married man, or not. My errand here, is
to learn that fact; and I may as well own it, at once."
"The world has many women in it--and fair faces are plenty, in Albany,"
once more mumbled the woman, examining her cards, with great attention. "A
youth, like you, might marry twice, even."
"No, _that_ is impossible; if I do not marry a particular lady, I shall
never marry at all."
"Yes--yes--I see how it is!--You are in love, young man."
"D'ye hear that, Corny! Isn't it wonderful, how these creatures can tell? I
admit the truth of what you say; but, describe to me the lady that I love."
Guert had forgotten, altogether, that the use of the word _lady_,
completely betrayed the fact of his disguise; since no man, truly of his
dress and air, would think of applying such a word to his sweetheart. 
I could not prevent these little betrayals of himself, however; for, by
this time, my companion was too much excited, to hear reason.
"The lady that you love," answered the fortune-teller, deliberately, and
with the manner of one that proceeded with great confidence, "is _very_
handsome, in the first place."
"True as the sun in the heavens, Mother!"
"Then, she is virtuous, and amiable, and wise, and witty, and good."
"The Gospel is not more certain! Corny, this surpasses belief!"
"Then, she is _young_. Yes, she is young, and fair, and good; three things
that make her much sought after."
"Why is she so long reflecting on my offers, Mother, tell me that, I beg of
you; or, will she ever consent to have me?"
"I see--I see--it is all here, on the cards. The lady cannot make up her
"Listen to that, now, Corny; and do not tell me there is nothing in this
art. _Why_ does she not make up her mind? For Heaven's sake, let me know
_that_? A man may tire of offering to marry an angel, and getting no
answer. I wish to know the reason of her doubts."
"A woman's mind is not easily read. Some are in haste, while some are not.
I am of opinion you wish to get an answer before the lady is ready to give
it. Men must learn to wait."
"She really seems to know all about it, Corny! Much as I have heard of this
woman, she exceeds it all! Good Mother, can you tell me how I can gain the
consent of the woman I love?"
"That is only to be had by asking. Ask once, ask twice, ask thrice."
"By St. Nicholas! I have asked, already, twenty times! If asking would
do it, she would have been my wife a month since. What do you think,
Corny--no, I'll not do it--it is not manly to get the secrets of a woman's
heart, by means like these--I'll not ask her!"
"The crown is paid, and the truth must be said. The lady you love, loves
you, and she does not love you; she will have you, and she won't have you;
she thinks _yes_, and she says _no_."
Guert now trembled all over, like an aspen-leaf.
"I do not believe there is any harm, Corny, in asking whether I gained
or lost by the affair of the river? I _will_ ask her that much, of a
certainty. Tell me, Mother, am I better or worse, for a certain thing that
happened about a month ago--about the time that the ice went, and that we
had a great freshet?"
"Guert Ten Eyck, why do you try me thus?" demanded the fortune-teller,
solemnly. "I knew your father, and I knew your mother; I knew your
ancestors in Holland, and their children in America. Generations on
generations have I known your people, and you are the first that I have
seen so ill-clad! Do you suppose, boy, that old Doortje's eyes are getting
dim, and that she cannot tell her own nation? I saw you on the river--ha!
ha! 't was a pleasant sight--Jack and Moses, too; how they snorted,
and how they galloped! Crack--crack--that's the ice--there comes the
water!--See, that bridge may hit you on the head! Do _you_ take care of
this bird, and do _you_ take care of _that_--and all will come round with
the seasons. Answer me one thing, Guert Ten Eyck, and answer me truly. Know
you ever a young man who goes quickly into the bush?"
"I do, Mother; this young man, my friend, intends to go in a few days, or
as soon as the weather is settled."
"Good! go you with him--absence makes a young woman know her own mind, when
asking will gain nothing. Go you with him, I say; and if you hear muskets
fired, go near them; _fear_ will sometimes make a young woman speak. You
have your answer, and I will tell no more. Come hither, young owner of many
half-joes, and touch that card."
"I did as ordered; when the woman began to mumble to herself, and to
run over the pack as rapidly as she could. Kings, aces, and knaves were
examined, one after another, until she had got the Queen of Hearts in her
hand, which she held up to me in triumph.
"That is _your_ lady. She is a queen of too many hearts! The Hudson did
that for you, that it has done for many a poor man before you. Yes, yes;
the river did you good: but water will drown, as well as make tears. Do
_you_ beware of Knights Barrownights!" 
Here Mother Doortje came to a dead stand in her communications, and not
another syllable of any sort could either of us get from her; though,
between us, as many as twenty questions were asked. Signs were made for us
to depart; and when the woman found our reluctance, she laid a crown for
each of us, on the table, with a dignified air, and went into a corner,
seated herself, and began to rock her body, like one impatient of our
presence. After so unequivocal a sign that she considered her work as done,
we could not well do less than return; leaving the money behind us, as a
matter of course.
[Footnote 27: In plain English, the "great go-to-bed," and the "little
go-to-bed." There may be a portion of our readers who are not aware that
the word "levee," meaning a morning reception _by_ a great man, is derived
from the French "lever," which means "to rise," or "to get up." The kings
of France were in the habit of receiving homage at their morning toilets; a
strange custom, that doubtless had its origin in the _empressement_ of the
courtier to inquire how his master had slept; which receptions were divided
into two classes, the "_grand lever_" and the "_petit lever_"--the "great
getting-up" or the "little getting-up." The first was an occasion of more
state than the last. Even down to the time of Charles X., the court papers
seldom went a week without announcing that the king had signed the contract
of marriage--a customary compliment in France, among friends of this of
that personage--at the "grand lever," or at the "petit lever;" the first, I
believe, but am not certain, being the greater honour of the two.--EDITOR.]
[Footnote 28: Doortje--pronounced Doort-yay--means Dorothea. Mr. Littlepage
uses a sort of corruption of the pronunciation. I well remember a
fortune-teller of that name, in Albany; though it could not have been the
Doortje of 1758.--EDITOR.]
[Footnote 29: It is quite evident, that Mr. Cornelius Littlepage was, to
agree at least, a believer in the fortune-teller's art. This was, however,
no more than was common, a century since. Quite within my recollection,
the Albanians had a celebrated dealer in the black art, who was regularly
consulted, on the subject of all lost spoons, and the pilfering of
servants, by the good housewives of the town, as recently as my school-boy
days. The Dutch, like the Germans, appear to have been prone to this
species of superstition; from which, even the English of education were
far from being free, a century since. Mademoiselle Normand existed in
the present century, even, in the sceptical capital of France. But, the
somnambulist is taking the place of the ancient soothsayer, in our own
[Footnote 30: This might have been true, in 1758; but is not true for
[Footnote 31: In the colony of New York, there lived but one titled man,
for a considerable period. It was the celebrated Sir William Johnson,
Bart., of Johnson Hall, Johnstown, Albany, now Fulton County. The son of
Sir William Johnson was knighted during his father's life-time, and was Sir
John while Sir William was living. At the death of his father, he was Sir
John Johnson, Kt. & Bart.; and it was usual for the common class of people
to style him a Knight, of Barrow_night_.--EDITOR.]
Virtue, how frail it is!
Friendship, too rare!
Love, how it sells poor bliss
For proud despair!
But we, though soon they fall,
Survive their joy, and all
Which ours we call.
Guert Ten Eyck was profoundly impressed with what he had heard, in his
visit to the fortune-teller. It affected his spirits, and, as will be seen,
it influenced all his subsequent conduct. As for myself, I will not say
that I totally disregarded what had passed; though the effect was greatly
less on me, than it was on my friend. The Rev. Mr. Worden, however, treated
the matter with great disdain. He declared that he had never before been so
insulted in his life. The old hag, no doubt, had seen us all before, and
recognised him. Profiting by a knowledge of this sort--that was very easily
obtained in a place of the size of Albany--she had taken the occasion to
make the most of the low gossip that had been circulated at his expense.
"Loping Dominie, indeed," he added; "as if any man would not run to save
his life! You saw how it was with the river, Corny, when it once began to
break up, and know that my escape was marvellous. I deserve as much credit
for that retreat, boy, as Xenophon did for his retreat with the Ten
Thousand. It is true, I had not thirty-four thousand, six hundred and fifty
stadia to retreat over; but acts are to be estimated more by quality, than
by quantity. The best things are always of an impromptu character; and,
generally, they are on a small scale. Then, as for all you tell me about
Guert; why, the hussy knew him--_must_ have known him, in a town like
Albany, where the fellow has a character that identifies him with all sorts
of fun and roguery. Jack, and Moses, too! Do you think the inspiration
of even an evil spirit, or of forty thousand devils, would lead a
fortune-teller to name any horse Moses? Jack might do, perhaps; but _Moses_
would never enter the head of even an imp! Remember, lad, Moses was the
great law-giver of the Jews; and such a creature would be as apt to suppose
a horse was named Confucius, as to suppose he was named Moses!"
"I suppose the inspiration, as you call it, sir, would lead a clever
fortune-teller to give things as they are; and to call the horses by their
real names, let them be what they might."
"Ay, such inspiration as this miserable, old, wrinkled, impudent she-devil
enjoys! Don't tell me, Corny; there is no such thing as fortune-telling;
at least, nothing that can be depended on in all cases--and this is one of
downright imposition. 'Loping Dominie,' forsooth!"
Such were the Rev. Mr. Worden's sentiments on the subject of Mother
Doortje's revelations. He exacted a pledge from us all, to say nothing
about the matter; nor were we much disposed to be communicative on the
subject. As for Guert, Dirck, Jason, and myself, we did not hesitate to
converse on the circumstances of our visits, among ourselves, however; and
each and all of us viewed the matter some what differently from our Mentor.
I ascertained that Jason had been highly gratified with what had been
predicted on his own behalf; for what was wealth in his eyes had been
foretold as his future lot; and a man rarely quarrels with good fortune,
whether in prospective, or in possession. Dirck, though barely twenty,
began to talk of living a single life from this time; and no laughter
of mine could induce the poor lad to change his views, or to entertain
livelier hopes. Guert was deeply impressed, as has been said; and feeling
no restraint in the matter of his own case, he took occasion to speak of
his visit to the woman, one morning that Herman Mordaunt, the two ladies,
Bulstrode, and myself, were sitting together, chatting, in the freedom of
what had now become a very constant intercourse.
"Are such things as fortune-tellers known in England, Mr. Bulstrode?" Guert
abruptly commenced, fastening his eyes on Mary Wallace, as he asked the
question; for on her were his thoughts running at the time.
"All sorts of silly things are to be found in Old England, Mr. Ten Eyck, as
well as some that are wise. I believe London has one or two soothsayers;
and I think I have heard elderly people say that the fashion of consulting
them has somewhat increased, since the court has been so German."
"Yes," Guert innocently replied; "I find it easy to believe that; for,
it is a common saying, among our people, that the German and Low Dutch
fortune-tellers are the best known. They have had, or pretend to have had,
witches in New England; but no one, hereabouts, puts any faith in the
pretence. It is like all the bragging of these boastful Yankees!"
I observed that Mary Wallace's colour deepened; and that, in biting off a
thread, she profited, by the occasion, to avert her face in such a manner,
that Bulstrode, in particular, could not see it.
"The meaning of all this," put in Major Bulstrode "is, that our friend
Guert has been to pay a visit to Mother Doortje's; a woman of some note,
who lives on the hill, and who has a reputation, in that way, among these
good Albanians! Several of our mess have been to see the old woman."
"It is, Mr. Bulstrode," Guert answered, in his manly way, and with a
gravity which proved how much he was in earnest. "I have been to see Mother
Doortje, for the first time in my life; and Corny Littlepage, here, was my
companion. Long as I have known the woman by reputation, I have never had
any curiosity to pay her a visit, until this spring. We have been, however;
and, I must say, I have been greatly surprised at the extent of the
knowledge of this very extraordinary person."
"Did she tell you to look into the sweetmeat-pot, for the lost spoon, Mr.
Ten Eyck," Anneke inquired, with an archness of eye and voice, that sent
the blood to my own face, in confusion. "They say, that fortune-tellers
send all prudent, yet careless housewives, to the sweetmeat-pots, to look
for the lost spoons! Many have been found, I hear, by this wonderful
"Well, Miss Anneke, I see, you have no faith," answered Guert, fidgeting;
"and people who have no faith, never believe. Notwithstanding, _I_ put so
much confidence in what Doortje has told me, that I intend to follow her
advice let matters turn out as they may."
Here Mary Wallace raised her thoughtful, full, blue eyes to the face of the
young man; and they expressed an intense interest, rather than any light
curiosity, that even her woman's instinct and woman's sensitiveness could
not so far prevail, as to enable her to conceal. Still, Mary Wallace did
not speak, leaving the others present to maintain the discourse.
"Of course, you mean to tell us all about it, Ten Eyck," cried the Major;
"there is nothing more likely to succeed, with an audience, than a good
history of witchcraft, or something so very marvellous, as to do violence
to common sense, before we give it our faith."
"Excuse me, Mr. Bulstrode; these are things I cannot well mention; though,
Corny Littlepage will testify, that they are very wonderful. At any rate,
I shall go into the bush, this spring; and Littlepage and Follock, being
excellent companions, I propose to join their company. It will be late,
before the army will be ready to move; and, by that time, all three of us
propose to join you before Ticonderoga; if, indeed, you succeed in getting
"Say, rather, in front of Montreal; for, I trust, this new
Commander-In-Chief will find something more for us to do, than the last one
did. Shall I have a sentinel placed at Doortje's door, in your absence,
The smile, this question produced, was general; Guert, himself, joining in
it; for his good-nature was of proof. When I say the smile was general,
however, I ought to except Mary Wallace, who smiled little, that morning.
"We shall be neighbours, then," Herman Mordaunt quietly observed; "that
is to say, if you mean, by accompanying Corny and Dirck to the bush, you
intend to go with them to the patent, lately obtained by Messrs. Littlepage
and Van Valkenburgh. I have an estate, in that quarter, which is now ten
years old; and these ladies have consented to accompany me thither, as soon
as the weather is a little more settled, and I can be assured that our army
will be of sufficient force to protect us from the French and Indians."
It is unnecessary for me to say with what delight Guert and I heard this
announcement! On Bulstrode, however, it produced an exactly contrary
effect. He did not appear, to me, to be surprised, at a declaration that
was so new to us; but several expressions fell from him, that showed he had
no idea the two estates, that of Herman Mordaunt's, and that which belonged
to us, lay so near together. It was by means of _his_ questions, indeed,
that I learned the real facts of the case. It appeared that Herman
Mordaunt's business, in Albany, was to make some provisions in behalf of
this property, on which he had caused mills to be erected, and some of the
other improvements of a new settlement, to be made, two or three years
before; and which, by the progress and events of the war, was getting to be
in closer proximity to the enemy, than was desirable. Even where the French
lay, at Ticonderoga, his mills, in particular, might be thought in some
danger, though forty or more miles distant; for parties of savages, led
on by white men, frequently marched that distance through the forests, in
order to break up a settlement and to commit depredations. But the enemy
had crossed Lake George, the previous summer, and had actually taken Fort
William Henry, at its southern extremity, by siege. It is true, this was
the extent of their inroad; and, it was now known, that they had abandoned
this bold conquest, and had fallen back upon Ty and Crown Point, two of the
strongest military positions in the British colonies. Still, Ravensnest, as
Herman Mordaunt's property was called, was far from being beyond the limits
of sorties; and the residence, at Albany, was solely to watch the progress
of events in that quarter, and to be near the scene. If he had any public
employment, it remained a profound mystery. A new source of embarrassment
had arisen, however; and this it was that decided the proprietor to visit
his lands in person. The fifteen or twenty families he had succeeded in
establishing on the estate, at much cost and trouble, had taken the alarm
at the prospect of a campaign in their vicinity; and had announced an
intention of abandoning their huts and clearings, as the course most
expedient for the times. Two or three had already gone off towards the
Hampshire Grants, whence they had originally come; profiting by the last of
the snow; and, it was feared, that others might imitate their caution.
Herman Mordaunt saw no necessity for this abandonment of advantages over
the wilderness, that had been obtained at so much cost and trouble. The
labour of a removal, and a return, was sufficient, of itself, to give a new
direction to the movements of his settlers; and, as their first entrance
into the country had been effected through his agency, and aided by his
means, he naturally wished to keep the people he had got to his estate with
so much difficulty, and at so much cost, at their several positions, as
long, at least, as he conceived it to be prudent. In these circumstances,
therefore, he had determined to visit Ravensnest in person, and to pass a
part, if not most of the summer, among his people. This would give them
confidence, and would enable him to infuse new life into their operations.
It would seem, that Anneke and Mary Wallace had refused to let Mr. Mordaunt
go alone; and, believing, himself, there was no danger in the course he
was about to take, the father and guardian, for Mary Wallace was Herman
Mordaunt's ward, had yielded to the importunities of the two girls; and it
had been formally decided that they were all to proceed together, as soon
as the season should get to be a little more advanced. Intelligence of this
intention had been sent to the settlers; and its effect was to induce them
to remain at their posts, by pacifying their fears.
I might as well add, here, what I learned subsequently, in the due course
of events. Bulstrode had been made acquainted with Herman Mordaunt's plans,
they being sworn friends, and the latter warmly in the interest of the
former's suit; and he had known how to profit by the information. It was
now time to put the troops in motion; and several parties had already
marched towards the north, taking post at different points that it was
thought desirable to occupy, previously to the commencement of the
campaign. Among other corps under orders of this nature, was that commanded
by Bulstrode; and he had sufficient interest, at head-quarters, to get
it sent to the point nearest to Ravensnest; where it gave him the double
advantage, of having it in his power to visit the ladies, on occasion,
while, at the same time, he must appear, to them, somewhat in the character
of a protector. The object of Dirck and myself, in visiting the north,
was no secret; and, it was generally understood, that we were to go to
Mooseridge; but we did not know, ourselves, that Herman Mordaunt had an
estate so near us. This intelligence, as has been said, I now ascertained,
was as new to Bulstrode as it was to myself.
The knowledge of many little things I have just mentioned, was obtained
by me only at intervals, and by means of observation and discourse.
Nevertheless, the main points were determined on the morning on which Guert
referred to his visit to the fortune-teller, and in the manner named. The
conversation lasted an hour; nor did it cease, until all present got a
general idea of the course intended to be pursued by the different parties
present, during the succeeding summer.
It happened, that morning, that Bulstrode, Dirck, and Guert withdrew
together, the two last to look at a horse the former had just purchased,
leaving me alone with the young ladies. No sooner was the door closed on
the retiring members of our party, than I saw a smile struggling about
the handsome mouth of Anneke; Mary Wallace continuing the whole time
thoughtful, if not sad.
"And _you_ were of the party at the fortune-teller's, too, it seems, Mr.
Littlepage," Anneke remarked, after appearing to be debating with herself
on the propriety of proceeding any farther in the subject. "I knew there
was such a person in Albany, and that thrifty housekeepers _did_ sometimes
consult her; but I was ignorant that men, and _educated_ men, paid her that
"I believe there is no exception in the way of sex or learning, to her
influence, or her authority. They tell me that most of the younger officers
of the army visit her, while they remain here."
"I would much like to know if Mr. Bulstrode has been of the number! He is
young enough in years, though so high in rank. A major may have as much
curiosity as an ensign; or, as it may appear, dear Mary, of a woman who has
lost her grandmother's favourite dessert-spoon."
Mary Wallace gave a gentle sigh, and she even raised her eyes from her
work; still, she made no answer.
"You are severe on us, Anneke;" for, since the affair on the river, the
whole family treated me with the familiarity of a son or a brother--"I
fancy we have done no more than Mr. Mordaunt has done in his day."
"This may be very true, Corny, and not make the consultation the wisest
thing in nature. I hope, however, you do not keep your fortune a secret,
but let your friends share in your knowledge!"
"To me the woman was far from being communicative, though she treated Guert
Ten Eyck better. Certainly, she told him many extraordinary things, of the
past even; unless indeed, she knew who he was."
"Is it probable, Mr. Littlepage," said Mary Wallace, "that any person in
Albany should not know Guert Ten Eyck, and a good deal of his past history?
Poor Guert makes himself known wherever he is!"
"And, often much to his advantage," I added--a remark that cost me nothing;
but which caused Mary Wallace's face to brighten, and even brought a faint
smile to her lips. "All that is true; yet there _was_ something wild and
unnatural in the woman's manner, as she told these things!"
"All of which you seem determined to keep to yourself?" observed Anneke, as
one asks a question.
"It would hardly do to betray a friend's secrets. Let Guert answer for
himself; he is as frank as broad day, and will not hesitate about letting
you know all."
"I wish Corny Littlepage were only as frank as twilight!"
"I have nothing to conceal--and least of all from you, Anneke. The
fortune-teller told me that the queen of my heart was the queen of
_too many_ hearts; that the river had done me no harm; and that I must
particularly beware of what she called Knights-Barrow_nights_."
I watched Anneke closely, as I repeated this warning of Mother Doortje; but
could not read the expression of her sweet and thoughtful countenance. She
neither smiled nor frowned; but she certainly blushed. Of course, she did
not look at me--for that would have been to challenge observation. Mary
Wallace, however, _did_ smile, and she _did_ look at me.
"You believe all the wizzard told you, Corny?" said Anneke, after a short
"I believed that the queen of my heart was the queen of many hearts; that
the river had done me no harm--though I could not say, or see, that it had
done me much good; and that I had much to fear from Knights-Barrow_nights_.
I believed all this, however, before I ever saw the fortune-teller."
The next remark that was made came from Anneke, and it referred to the
weather. The season was opening finely, and fast; and it could not be long
before the great movements of the year must commence. Several regiments
had arrived in the colonies, and various officers of note and rank had
accompanied them. Among others who had thus crossed the Atlantic for
the first time, was my Lord Howe, a young soldier of whom fame spoke
favourably, and from whom much was expected in the course of the
anticipated service of the year. While we were talking over these things,
Herman Mordaunt re-entered the room, after a short absence, and he took
me with him to examine his preparations for transporting the ladies to
Ravensnest. As we went along, the discourse was maintained, and I learned
many things from my older and intelligent companion, that were new to me.
"New lords, new laws, they say, Corny," continued Herman Mordaunt; "and
this Mr. Pitt, the great commoner, as some persons call him, is bent on
making the British empire feel the truth of the axiom. Everything is alive
in the colonies, and the sluggish period of Lord Loudon's command is
passed. Gen. Abercrombie, an officer from whom much is expected, is now at
the head of the King's troops, and there is every prospect of an active
and most important campaign. The disgraces of the few last years _must_ be
wiped out, and the English name be made once more to be dreaded on this
continent. The Lord Howe of whom Anneke spoke, is said to be a young man
of merit, and to possess the blood of our Hanoverian monarchs; his mother
being a half-sister, in the natural way, of his present Majesty."
Herman Mordaunt then spoke more fully of his own plans for the
summer--expressed his happiness at knowing that Dirck and myself were to be
what he called his neighbours--though, on a more exact computation, it
was ascertained, that the nearest boundaries of the two patents, that of
Ravensnest, and that of Mooseridge, lay quite fourteen miles apart, with a
dense and virgin forest between them. Nevertheless, this would be making us
neighbours, in a certain sense; as gentlemen always call men of their own
class neighbours, when they live within visiting distance, or near enough
to be seen once or twice in a year. And such men _are_ neighbours, in the
sense that is most essential to the term--they know each other better;
understand each other better; sympathize more freely; have more of the
intercourse that makes us judges of motives, principles, and character,
twenty-fold, than he who lives at the gate, and merely sees the owner of
the grounds pass in and out, on his daily avocations. There is, and can
be no greater absurdity, than to imagine that the sheer neighbourhood,
or proximity of position, makes men acquainted. That was one of Jason
Newcome's Connecticut notions. Having been educated in a state of society
in which all associated on a certain footing of intimacy, and in which half
the difficulties that occurred were "told to the church," he was for ever
fancying he knew all the gentry of Westchester, because he had lived a year
or two in the county; when, in fact, he had never spoken to one in a dozen
of them. I never could drive this notion out of his head, however; for
_looking_ often at a man, or occasionally exchanging a bow with him on the
highway, he would insist was knowing him, or what he called, being "well
acquainted;" a very favourite expression of the Danbury man's; though their
sympathies, habits, opinions, and feelings, created so vast a void between
the parties, they hardly understood each other's terms, and ordinary
language, when they did begin to converse, as sometimes happened.
Notwithstanding all this, Jason insisted to the last that he _knew_ every
gentleman in the county, whom he had been accustomed to hear alluded to in
discourse, and when he had seen them once or twice, though it were only
at church. But Jason had a very flattering notion, generally, of his own
acquisitions on all subjects.
Herman Mordaunt had made careful provision for the contemplated journey;
having caused a covered vehicle to be constructed, that could transport not
only himself and the ladies, but many articles of furniture that would be
required during their residence in the forest. Another conveyance, strong,
spacious, and covered, was also prepared for the blacks, and another
portion of the effects. He pointed out all these arrangements to me with
great satisfaction, dwelling on the affection and spirit of the girls with
a pleasure he did not affect to conceal. For my own part, I have always
been of opinion, that Anneke was solely influenced by pure, natural regard,
in forming her indiscreet resolution; while her father was governed by
the secret expectation that the movement would leave open the means of
receiving visits and communications from Bulstrode, during most of the
summer. I commended the arrangements, made one or two suggestions of my own
in behalf of Anneke and Mary, and we returned to our several homes.
A day or two after this visit to the workshops, and the conversation
related, the ----th took up its line of march for the north. The troops
defiled through the narrow streets in the neighbourhood of the barracks,
half an hour after the appearance of the sun, preceded and followed by a
long train of baggage-wagons. They marched without tents, however, it being
well understood that they were going into a region where the axe could at
any time cover thousands of men, in about the time that a camp could be
laid out, and the canvass spread. Hutting was the usual mode of placing
an army under cover in the forest; and a dozen marches would take the
battalion to the point where it was intended it should remain, as a support
to two or three other corps still further in advance, and to keep open the
Bulstrode, however, did not quit Albany in company with his regiment. I had
been invited, with Guert and Dirck, to breakfast at Herman Mordaunt's that
morning; and, as we approached the door, I saw the Major's groom walking
his own and his master's horse, in the street, near by. This was a sign we
were to have the pleasure of Bulstrode's company at breakfast. Accordingly,
on entering the room, we found him present, in the uniform of an officer of
his rank, about to commence a march in the forests of America. I thought
him melancholy, as if sad at parting; but my most jealous observation could
detect no sign of similar feeling on the part of Anneke. She was not quite
as gay as usual, but she was far from being sad.
"I leave you, ladies, with the deepest regret," said Bulstrode, while at
table, "for you have made this country more than a home to me--you have
rendered it _dear_."
This was said with feeling; more than I had ever seen Bulstrode manifest
before, and more than I had given him credit for possessing. Anneke
coloured a little; but there was no tremor in the beautiful hand, that held
a highly-wrought little tea-pot suspended over a cup, at that very moment.
"We shall soon meet again, Harry," Herman Mordaunt remarked, in a tone of
strong affection; "for, our party will not be a week behind you. Remember,
we are to be _good_ neighbours, as well as neighbours; and, if the mountain
will not come to Mahomet, Mahomet must go to the mountain."
"Which means, Mr. Bulstrode," said Mary Wallace, with one of her sweet
smiles, and one that was as open and natural as childhood itself, "that
you are Mahomet, and we are the mountain. Ladies can neither travel, with
comfort, in a wilderness, nor visit a camp, with propriety, if they would."
"They tell me, I shall not be in a camp at all," answered the soldier;
"but in good, comfortable log-barracks, that have been built for us by the
battalion we relieve. I am not without hopes, they will be such as even
ladies will not disdain to use, on an emergency. There ought to be no
Mahomet, and no mountain, between such old and intimate friends."
The conversation then turned on the plans and expectations of the
respective parties; and the usual promises were made, of being sociable
and good neighbours, as had just been suggested. Herman Mordaunt evidently
wished to consider Bulstrode as one of his family; a feeling that might
excuse itself to the world, on the score of consanguinity; but which, it
was easy enough, for me, to see, had its origin in a very different cause.
When Bulstrode rose to take his leave, I wished myself away, on account of
the exhibition of concern it produced; while the desire to watch the effect
on Anneke, would have kept me rooted to the floor, even had it been proper
that I should retire.
Bulstrode was more affected than I could have thought possible. He took one
of Herman Mordaunt's hands into his own, and pressed it warmly, for some
little time, before he could speak at all.
"God only knows what this summer is to see, and whether we are ever to meet
again, or not," he then said, "but, come what may, the past, the _happy
past_, is so much gained from the commonplace. If you never hear of me
again, my dear kinsman, my letters to England will give you a better
account of my gratitude, than anything I can say in words. They have been
written as your kindnesses have been bestowed; and they faithfully pourtray
the feelings to which your hospitality and friendship have given rise. In
a possible event, I have requested that every one of them may be sent to
America, for your special perusal--"
"Nay, my dear Harry, this is foreboding the very worst," interrupted
Herman Mordaunt, dashing a tear from his eye, "and is making a very short
separation, a more serious matter than one ought--"
"Nay, sir, a soldier, who is about to be posted within striking distance of
his enemy, can never speak, with confidence, of separations that are to
be short. This campaign will be decisive, for me,"--glancing
towards Anneke--"I must return a conqueror, in one sense, or I do not
wish to return at all. But, God bless you, Herman Mordaunt, as your own
countrymen call you; a thousand years could not efface from my heart, the
remembrance of all your kindness."
This was handsomely expressed; and the manner in which it was uttered, was
as good as the language. Bulstrode hesitated a moment--looked at the two
girls in doubt--and first approached Mary Wallace.
"Adieu, excellent Mary Wallace," he said, taking her offered hand, and
kissing it with a freedom from emotion, that denoted it was only friendship
and respect which induced the act--"I believe, you are a severe critic
on Catos and Scrubs; but, I forgive all your particular backbitings,
on account of your general indulgence and probity. You may meet with a
thousand mere acquaintances, before you find another who shall have the
same profound respect for your many virtues, as myself."
This was handsomely said, too; and it caused Mary Wallace to remove the
handkerchief from her eyes, and to utter her adieus cordially, and with
some emotion. Strangers say that our women want feeling--passion; or, if
they have it, that it is veiled behind a mask of coldness, that takes away
from its loveliness and warmth; that they are girlish and familiar, where
they might better be reserved; and distant, and unnatural, where feeling
and nature ought to assert their sway. That they have less _manner_, in all
respects, in that of self-control, and perhaps of self-respect, in their
ordinary intercourse, and in that of _acting_, where it may seem necessary
so to do, I believe to be true; buts he who denies an American girl a
heart, knows nothing about her. She is _all_ heart; and the apparent
coldness is oftener the consequence of not daring to trust her feelings,
and her general dislike to everything artificial, than to any want of
affections. Two girls, educated, however, as had been Anneke and Mary
Wallace, could not but acquit themselves better, in such a scene, than
those who had been less accustomed to the usages of polite life, which are
always more or less, the usages of convention.
On the present occasion, Mary Wallace was strongly affected; it would not
have been possible, for one of her gentle nature and warm affections, to be
otherwise, when an agreeable companion, one she had now known intimately
near two years, was about to take his leave of her, on an errand that he
himself either thought, or affected so well to seem to think, might lead to
the most melancholy issue. She shook hands with Bulstrode, warmly; wished
him good fortune, and various other pleasant things; thanked him for his
good opinion, and expressed her hope, as well as her belief, that they
should all meet again before the summer was over, and again be happy in
each other's society.
Anneke's turn came next. Her handkerchief was at her eyes; and, when it was
removed, the face was pale, and the cheeks were covered with tears. The
smile that followed, was sweetness itself; and, I will own, it caused me a
most severe pang. To my surprise, Bulstrode said nothing. He took Anneke's
hand, pressed it to his heart, kissed it, left a note in it, bowed, and
moved away. I felt ashamed to watch the countenance of Miss Mordaunt, under
such circumstances, and turned aside, that observation might not increase
the distress and embarrassment she evidently felt. I saw enough,
notwithstanding, to render me more uncertain than ever, as to the success
of my own suit. Anneke's colour had come and gone, as Bulstrode stood near
her, acting his dumb-show of leave-taking; and, to me, she seemed far more
affected than Mary Wallace had been. Nevertheless, her feelings were
always keener and more active than those of her friend; and, that which my
sensitiveness took for the emotion of tenderness, might be nothing more
than ordinary womanly feeling and friendship. Besides, Bulstrode was
actually her relative.
We men all attended Bulstrode to his horse. He shook us cordially by the
hand; and, after he had got into the saddle, he said--"This summer will be
warmer than is usual, even in your warmy-cold climate. My letters from home
give me reason to think that there is, at last, a man of talents at the
head of affairs; and the British empire is likely to feel the impulse he
will give it, at its most remote extremities. I shall expect you three
young men to join the ----th, as volunteers, as soon as you hear of our
moving in advance. I wish I had a thousand like you; for that affair of the
river tells where a man will be found when the time comes. God bless you,
Corny!" leaning forward in his saddle, to give me another shake of the
hand; "we _must_ remain friends, _coute qui coute_."
There was no withstanding this frankness, and so much good-temper. We shook
hands most cordially; Bulstrode raised his hat and bowed; after which
he rode away, as I fancied, at a slow, thoughtful, reluctant pace.
Notwithstanding the kindness of this parting, I had more cause than ever to
regret Bulstrode had appeared among us; and the scenes of that morning only
confirmed me in a resolution, previously adopted, not to urge Anneke to any
decision, in my case, at a moment when I felt there might be so much danger
it would he adverse.
"Come, let a proper text be read,
An' touch it aff wi' vigour,
How graceless Ham leugh at his dad,
Which made Canaan a nigger."
Ten days after the departure of the ----th, Herman Mordaunt and his
family, with our own party, left Albany, on the summer's business. In that
interval, however, great changes had taken place in the military aspect of
things. Several regiments of King's troops ascended the Hudson, most of the
sloops on the river, of which there could not have been fewer than thirty
or forty, having been employed in transporting them and their stores. Two
or three corps came across the country, from the eastern colonies,
while several provincial regiments appeared; everything tending to a
concentration at this point, the head of navigation on the Hudson. Among
other men of mark, who accompanied the troops, was Lord Viscount Howe, the
nobleman of whom Herman Mordaunt had spoken. He bore the local rank of
Brigadier,  and seemed to be the very soul of the army. It was not his
personal consideration alone, that placed him so high in the estimation
of the public and of the troops, but his professional reputation, and
professional services. There were many young men of rank in the army
present; and, as for younger sons of peers, there were enough to make
honourables almost as plenty, at Albany, as they were at Boston. Most of
the colonial families of mark had sons in the service, too; those of the
middle and southern colonies bearing commissions in regular regiments,
while the provincial troops from the eastern were led, as was very usual,
in that quarter of the country, by men of the class of yeomen, in a great
degree; the habits of equality that prevailed in those provinces making few
distinctions, on the score of birth or fortune.
Yet it was said, I remember, that obedience was as marked, among the
provincials from Massachusetts and Connecticut, as among those that came
from farther south; the men deferring to authority, as the agent of the
laws. They were fine troops, too; better than our own colony regiments, I
must acknowledge; seeming to belong to a higher class of labourers; while,
it must be admitted, that most of their officers were no very brilliant
representatives of manners, acquirements, or habits, that would be likely
to qualify them for command. It must have been that the officers and men
suited each other; for, it was said all round, that they stood well, and
fought very bravely, whenever they were particularly well led, as did not
always happen to be the case. As a body of mere physical men, they were
universally allowed to be the finest corps in the army, regulars and all
I saw Lord Howe two or three times, particularly at the residence of Madam
Schuyler, the lady I have already had occasion to mention, and to whom I
had given the letter of introduction procured by my mother, the Mordaunts
visiting her with great assiduity, and frequently taking me with them. As
for Lord Howe, himself, he almost lived under the roof of excellent Madam
Schuyler; where, indeed, all the good company assembled at Albany, was, at
times, to be seen.
Our party was a large one; and, it might have passed for a small corps of
the army itself, moving on in advance; as was the case with corps, or parts
of corps, now, almost daily. Herman Mordaunt had delayed our departure,
indeed, expressly with a view to render the country safe, by letting it
fill with detachments from the army; and our progress, when we were once in
motion, was literally from post to post; encampment to encampment. It may
be well to enumerate our force, and to relate the order of our march, that
the reader may better comprehend the sort of business we were on.
Herman Mordaunt took with him, in addition to the ladies, a black cook, and
a black serving-girl; a negro-man, to lake care of his horses, and another
as his house-servant. He had three white labourers, in addition--men
employed about the teams, and as axe-men, to clear the woods, bridge the
streams, and to do other work of that nature, as it might be required. On
our side, there were us three gentlemen, Yaap, my own faithful negro, Mr.
Traverse, the surveyor, two chain-bearers, and two axe-men. Guert Ten Eyck
carried with him, also, a negro-man, who was called Pete; it being contrary
to _bonos mores_ to style him Peter or Petrus; the latter being his true
appellation. This made us ten men strong, of whom eight were white, and two
black. Herman Mordaunt mustered, in all, just the same number, of which,
however, four were females. Thus, by uniting our forces, we made a party of
twenty souls, altogether. Of this number, all the males, black and white,
were well armed, each man owning a good rifle, and each of the gentlemen a
brace of pistols in addition. We carried the latter belted to our bodies,
with the weapons, which were small and fitted to the service, turned
behind, in such a way as to be concealed by our outer garments. The belts
were also hid by the flaps of our nether garments. By this arrangement, we
were well armed without seeming to be so; a precaution that is sometimes
useful in the woods.
It is hardly necessary to say, that we did not plunge into the forest in
the attire in which we had been accustomed to appear in the streets of
New York and Albany. Cocked hats were laid aside altogether; forest caps,
resembling in form those we had worn in the winter, with the exception that
the fur had been removed, being substituted. The ladies wore light beavers,
suited to their sex; there being little occasion for any shade for the
face, under the dense canopies of the forest. Veils of green, however, were
added, as the customary American protection for the sex. Anneke and Mary
travelled in habits, made of light woman's cloth, and in a manner to fit
their exquisite forms like gloves. The skirts were short, to enable them to
walk with ease, in the event of being compelled to go a-foot. A feather
or two, in each hat, had not been forgotten--the offering of the natural
propensity of their sex, to please the eyes of men.
As for us men, buckskin formed the principal material of our garments.
We all wore buckskin breeches, and gaiters, and moccasins. The latter,
however, had the white-man's soles; though Guert took a pair or two with
him that were of the pure Indian manufacture. Each of us had a coatee, made
of common cloth; but we all carried hunting-shirts, to be worn as soon as
we entered the woods. These hunting-shirts, green in colour, fringed and
ornamented garments, of the form of shirts to be worn over all, were
exceedingly smart in appearance, and were admirably suited to the woods. It
was thought that the fringes, form, and colour, blended them so completely
with the foliage, as to render them in a manner invisible to one at a
distance; or at least, undistinguished. They were much in favour with all
the forest corps of America, and formed the usual uniform of the riflemen
of the woods, whether acting against man, or only against the wild beasts.
Neither Mr. Worden, nor Jason, moved with the main party; and it was
precisely on account of these distinctions of dress. As for the divine, he
was so good a stickler for appearances, he would have worn the gown
and surplice, even on a mission to the Indians; which, by-the-way, was
ostensibly his present business; and, at the several occasions, on which I
saw him at cock-fights, he kept on the clerical coat and shovel-hat. In a
word, Mr. Worden never neglected externals, so far as dress was concerned;
and, I much question, if he would have consented to read prayers without
the surplice, or to preach without the gown, let the desire for spiritual
provender be as great as it might. I very well remember to have heard my
father say, that, on one occasion, the parson had refused to officiate of
a Sunday, when travelling, rather than bring discredit on the church, by
appearing in the discharge of his holy office, without the appliances that
belonged to the clerical character.
"More harm than good is done to religion, Mr. Littlepage," said the Rev.
Mr. Worden, on that occasion, "by thus lessening its rites in vulgar eyes.
The first thing is to teach men to respect holy things, my dear sir; and a
clergyman in his gown and surplice, commands threefold the respect of one
without them. I consider it, therefore, a sacred duty to uphold the dignity
of my office on all occasions."
It was in consequence of these opinions, that the divine travelled in his
clerical hat, clerical coat, black breeches, and band, even when in pursuit
of the souls of red men among the wilds of North America! I will not take
it upon myself to say, these observances had not their use; but I am very
certain they put the reverend gentleman to a great deal of inconvenience.
As for Jason, he gave a Danbury reason for travelling in his best.
Everybody did so, in his quarter of the country; and, for his part, he
thought it disrespectful to strangers, to appear among them in old clothes!
There was, however, another and truer reason, and that was economy; for
the troops had so far raised the price of everything, that Jason did not
hesitate to pronounce Albany the dearest place he had ever been in. There
was some truth in this allegation; and the distance from New York, being no
less than one hundred and sixty miles--so reported--the reader will at once
see, it was the business of quite a month, or even more, to re-furnish the
shelves of the shop that had been emptied. The Dutch not only moved slow,
but they were methodical; and the shopkeeper whose stores were exhausted in
April, would not be apt to think of replenishing them, until the regular
time and season returned.
As a consequence of these views and motives, the Rev. Mr. Worden and Mr.
Jason Newcome left Albany twenty-four hours in advance of the rest of our
party, with the understanding they were to join us at a point where the
road led into the woods, and where it was thought the cocked hat and the
skin cap might travel in company harmoniously. There was, however, a reason
for the separation I have not yet named, in the fact that all of my own set
travelled on foot, three or four pack-horses carrying our necessaries. Now
Mr. Worden had been offered a seat in a government conveyance, and Jason
managed to worm himself into the party, in some way that to me was ever
inexplicable. It is, however, due to Mr. Newcome to confess that his
faculty of obtaining favours of all sorts, was of a most extraordinary
character; and he certainly never lost any chance of preferment for want
of asking. In this respect, Jason was always a moral enigma, to me; there
being an absolute absence, in his mind, of everything like a perception
of the fitness of things, so far as the claims and rights of persons
were connected with rank, education, birth, and experience. Rank, in the
official sense, once possessed, he understood and respected; but of the
claims to entitle one to its enjoyment, he seemed to have no sort of
notion. For property he had a profound deference, so far as that deference
extended to its importance and influence; but it would have caused him not
the slightest qualm, either in the way of conscience or feeling, to find
himself suddenly installed in the mansion of the patroons, for instance,
and placed in possession of their estates, provided only he fancied he
could maintain his position. The circumstance that he was dwelling under
the roof that was erected by another man's ancestors, for instance, and
that others were living who had a better moral right to it, would give him
no sort of trouble, so long as any quirk of the law would sustain him in
possession. In a word, all that was allied to sentiment, in matters of this
nature, was totally lost on Jason Newcome, who lived and acted, from the
hour he first came among us, as if the game of life were merely a game
of puss in the corner, in which he who inadvertently left his own post
unprotected, would be certain to find another filling his place as speedily
as possible. I have mentioned this propensity of Jason's at some little
length, as I feel certain, should this history be carried down by my own
posterity, as I hope and design, it will be seen that this disposition to
regard the whole human family as so many tenants in common, of the estate
left by Adam, will lead, in the end, to something extraordinary. But,
leaving the Rev. Mr. Worden and Mr. Jason Newcome to journey in their
public conveyance, I must return to our own party.
All of us men, with the exception of those who drove the two wagons of
Herman Mordaunt, marched a-foot. Each of us carried a knapsack, in addition
to his rifle and ammunition; and, it will be imagined, that our day's work
was not a very long one. The first day, we halted at Madam Schuyler's, by
invitation, where we all dined; including the surveyor. Lord Howe was among
the guests, that day, and he appeared to admire the spirit of Anneke and
Mary Wallace greatly, in attempting such an expedition, at such a time.
"You need have no fears, however, ladies, as we shall keep up strong
detachments between you and the French," he said, more gravely, after some
pleasant trifling on the subject. "Last summer's work, and the disgraceful
manner in which poor Munro was abandoned to his fate, has rendered us all
keenly alive to the importance of compelling the enemy to remain at the
north end of Lake George; too many battles having already been fought on
this side it, for the credit of the British arms. We pledge ourselves to
Anneke thanked him for this pledge, and the conversation changed. There
was a young man present, who bore the name of Schuyler, and who was nearly
related to Madam, with whose air, manner and appearance I was much struck.
His aunt called him 'Philip;' and, being about my own age, during this
visit I got into conversation with him. He told me he was attached to the
commissariat under Gen. Bradstreet, and that he should move on with the
army, as soon as the preparations for its marching were completed. He
then entered into a clear, simple explanation of the supposed plan of the
"We shall see you and your friends among us, then, I hope," he added, as
we were walking on the lawn together, previously to the summons to dinner;
"for, to own to you the truth, Mr. Littlepage, I do not half like the
necessity of our having so many eastern troops among us, to clear this
colony of its enemies. It is true, a nation must fight its foes wherever
they may happen to be found; but there is so little in common, between us
and the Yankees, that I could wish we were strong enough to beat back the
"We have the same sovereign and the same allegiance," I answered; "if you
can call that something in common."
"That is true; yet, I think you must have enough Dutch blood about you to
understand me. My duty calls me much among the different regiments; and, I
will own, that I find more trouble with one New England regiment, than with
a whole brigade of the other troops. They have generals, and colonels, and
majors, enough for the army of the Duke of Marlborough!"
"It is certain, there is no want of military rank among them--and they are
particularly fond of referring to it."
"Quite true," answered young Schuyler, smiling. "You will hear the word
'general' or 'colonel' oftener used, in one of their cantonments, in a
day, than you shall hear it at Head Quarters in a month. They have capital
points about them, too; yet, somehow or other, we do not like each other."
Twenty years later in life, I had reason to remember this remark, as well
as to reflect on the character of the man who had uttered it. I, or my
successors, will probably have occasion to advert to matters connected with
this feeling, in the later passages of this record.
I had also a little conversation with Lord Howe, who complimented me on
what had passed on the river. He had evidently received an account of that
affair from some one who was much my friend, and saw fit to allude to the
subject in a way that was very agreeable to myself. This short conversation
was not worth repeating, but it opened the way to an acquaintance that
subsequently was connected with some events of interest.
About an hour after dinner, our party took its leave of Madam Schuyler, and
moved on. The day's march was intended to be short, though by this time the
roads were settled, and tolerably good. Of roads, however, we were not long
to enjoy the advantages, for they extended only some thirty miles to the
north of Albany, in our direction. With the exception of the military
route, which led direct to the head-waters of Lake Champlain, this was
about the extent of all the avenues that penetrated the interior, in that
quarter of the country. Our direction was to the northward and eastward,
both Ravensnest and Mooseridge lying slightly in the direction of the
As soon as we reached the point on the great northern road, or that which
led towards Skeenesborough, Herman Mordaunt was obliged to quit his wagons,
and to put all the females on horseback. The most necessary of the stores
were placed on pack-horses; and, after a delay of half a day, time lost in
making these arrangements, we proceeded. The wagons were to follow, but at
a slow pace, the ladies being compelled to abandon them on account of the
ruggedness of the ways, which would have rendered their motion not easy to
be borne. Our cavalcade and train of footmen made a respectable display
along the uneven road, which soon became very little more than a line cut
through the forest, with an occasional wheel-track, but without the least
attempt to level the surface of the ground by any artificial means. This
was the place where we were to overtake Mr. Worden and Jason, and where we
did find their effects; the owners themselves having gone on in advance,
leaving word that we should fall in with them somewhere on the route.
Guert and I marched in front, our youth and vigour enabling us to do this
with great ease to ourselves. Knowing that the ladies were well cared for,
on horseback, we pushed on, in order to make provision for their reception,
at a house a few miles distant, where we were to pass the night. This
building was of logs, of course, and stood quite alone in the wilderness,
having, however, some twenty or thirty acres of cleared land around it; and
it would not do to pass it, at that time of the day. The distance from this
solitary dwelling to the first habitation on Herman Mordaunt's property,
was eighteen miles; and that was a length of road that would require the
whole of a long May day to overcome, under our circumstances.
Guert and myself might have been about a mile in advance of the rest of the
party, when we saw a sort of semi-clearing before us, that we mistook at
first for our resting-place. A few acres had been chopped over, letting in
the light of the day upon the gloom of the forest, but the second growth
was already shooting up, covering the area with high bushes. As we drew
nearer, we saw it was a small, abandoned clearing. Entering it, voices were
heard at no great distance, and we stopped; for the human voice is not
heard, in such a place, without causing the traveller to pause, and stand
to his arms. This we did; after which we listened with some curiosity and
"High!" exclaimed some one, very distinctly, in English.
"Jack!" said another voice, in a sort of answering second that could not
well be mistaken.
"There's three for low;--is that good?" put in the first speaker.
"It will do, sir; but here are a ten and an ace. Ten and three, and four
and two make nineteen;--I'm game."
"High, low, Jack and game!" whispered Guert; "here are fellows playing at
cards, near us; let us go on and beat up their quarters."
We did so; and, pushing aside some bushes, broke, quite unexpectedly to all
parties, on the Rev. Mr. Worden and Jason Newcome, playing the game of 'All
Fours on a stump;' or, if not literally in the classic position of using
'the stump,' substituting the trunk of a fallen tree for their table. As we
broke suddenly in upon the card-players, Jason gave unequivocal signs of a
disposition to conceal his hand, by thrusting the cards he held into his
bosom, while he rapidly put the remainder of the pack under his thigh,
pressing it down in a way completely to conceal it. This sudden movement
was merely the effect of a puritanical education, which, having taught him
to consider that as a sin which was not necessarily a sin at all, exacted
from him that hypocrisy which is the tribute that vice pays to virtue! Very
different was the conduct of the Rev. Mr. Worden. Taught to discriminate
better, and unaccustomed to set up arbitrary rules of his own as the law of
God, this loose observer of his professional obligations is other matters,
made a very proper distinction in this. Instead of giving the least
manifestation of confusion or alarm, the log on which he was seated was not
more unmoved than he remained, at our sudden appearance at his side.
"I hope, Corny, my dear boy," Mr. Worden cried, "that you did not forget
to purchase a few packs of cards; which I plainly see, will be a great
resource for us, in this woody region. These cards of Jason's are so
thumbed and handled, that they are not fit to be touched by a gentleman, as
I will show you.--Why, what has become of the pack, Master Newcome?--It was
on the log but a minute ago!"
Jason actually blushed! Yes, for a wonder, shame induced Jason Newcome to
change colour! The cards were reluctantly produced from beneath his leg,
and there the schoolmaster sat, as it might be in presence of his school
actually convicted of being engaged in the damning sin of handling certain
spotted pieces of paper, invented for, and used in the combinations of a
game played for amusement.
"Had it been push-pin, now," Guert whispered, "it would give Mr. Newcome
no trouble at all; but he does not admire the idea of being caught at
'All Fours, on a stump.' We must say a word to relieve the poor sinner's
distress. I have cards, Mr. Worden, and they shall be much at your service,
as soon as we can come at our effects. There is one pack in my knapsack,
but it is a little soiled by use, though somewhat cleaner than that. If you
wish it, I will hand it to you. I never travel without carrying one or two
clean packs with me."
"Not just now, sir, I thank you. I love a game of Whist, or Picquet, but
cannot say I am an admirer of All Fours. As Mr. Newcome knows no other, we
were merely killing half an hour, at that game; but I have enough of it
to last me for the summer. I am glad that cards have not been forgotten,
however; for, I dare say, we can make up a very respectable party at Whist,
when we all meet."
"That we can, sir, and a party that shall have its good players. Miss Mary
Wallace plays as good a hand at Whist, as a woman should, Mr. Worden; and
a very pretty accomplishment it is, for a lady to possess; useful, sir, as
well as entertaining; for anything is preferable to dummy. I do not think a
woman should play quite as well as a man, our sex having a natural claim to
lead, in all such things; but it is very convenient, sometimes, to find a
lady who can hold her hand with coolness and skill."
"I would not marry a woman who did not understand Picquet," exclaimed the
Rev. Mr. Worden; "to say nothing of Whist, and one or two other games. But,
let us be moving, since the hour is getting late."
Move on we did, and in due time we all reached the place at which we were
to halt for the night. This looked like plunging into the wilderness
indeed; for the house had but two rooms, one of which was appropriated to
the use of the females, while most of us men took up our lodgings in
the barn. Anneke and Mary Wallace, however, showed the most perfect
good-humour; and our dinner, or supper might better be the name, was
composed of deliciously fat and tender broiled pigeons. It was the pigeon
season, the woods being full of the birds; and we were told, we might
expect to feast on the young to satiety.
About noon the next day, we reached the first clearing on the estate of
Ravensnest. The country through which we were travelling was rolling rather
than bold; but it possessed a feature of grandeur in its boundless forests.
Our route, that day, lay under lofty arches of young leaves, the buds just
breaking into the first green of the foliage, tall, straight columns,
sixty, eighty, and sometimes a hundred feet of the trunks of the trees,
rising almost without a branch. The pines, in particular, were really
majestic, most of them being a hundred and fifty feet in height, and a few,
as I should think, nearly if not quite two hundred. As everything grows
towards the upper light, in the forest, this ought not to surprise those
who are accustomed to see vegetation expand its powers in wide-spreading
tops, and low, gnarled branches that almost touch the ground, as is the
case in the open fields, and on the lawns of the older regions. As is usual
in the American virgin forest, there was very little underbrush; and we
could see frequently a considerable distance through these long vistas of
trees; or, indeed, until the number of the stems intercepted the sight.
The clearings of Ravensnest were neither very large nor very inviting. In
that day, the settlement of new lands was a slow and painful operation, and
was generally made at a great outlay to the proprietor. Various expedients
were adopted to free the earth from its load of trees;  for, at that
time, the commerce of the colonies did not reward the toil of the settler
in the same liberal manner as has since occurred. Herman Mordaunt, as we
moved along, related to me the cost and trouble he had been at already, in
getting the ten or fifteen families who were on his property, in the first
place, to the spot itself; and, in the second place, to induce them to
remain there. Not only was he obliged to grant leases for three lives,
or, in some cases, for thirty or forty years, at rents that were merely
nominal, but, as a rule, the first six or eight years the tenants were to
pay no rent at all. On the contrary, he was obliged to extend to them many
favours, in various ways, that cost no inconsiderable sum in the course of
the year. Among other things, his agent kept a small shop, that contained
the most ordinary supplies used by families of the class of the settler,
and these he sold at little more than cost, for their accommodation,
receiving his pay in such articles as they could raise from their
half-tilled fields, or their sugar-bushes, and turning those again into
money, only after they were transported to Albany, at the end of a
considerable period. In a word, the commencement of such a settlement was
an arduous undertaking, and the experiment was not very likely to succeed,
unless the landlord had both capital and patience.
The political economist can have no difficulty in discovering the causes of
the circumstances just mentioned. They were to be found in the fact that
people were scarce, while land was superabundant. In such a condition of
society, the tenant had the choice of his farm, instead of the landlord's
having a selection of his tenants, and the latter were to be bought only on
such conditions as suited themselves.
"You see," continued Herman Mordaunt, as we walked together, conversing on
this subject, "that my twenty thousand acres are not likely to be of much
use to myself, even should they prove to be of any to my daughter. A
century hence, indeed, my descendants may benefit from all this outlay of
money and trouble; but it is not probable that either I or Anneke will ever
see the principal and interest of the sums that will be expended in the way
of roads, bridges, mills, and other things of that sort. Years must go
by, before the light rents which will only begin to be paid a year or two
hence, and then only by a very few tenants, can amount to a sufficient sum
to meet the expenses of keeping up the settlement, to say nothing of the
quit-rents to be paid to the crown."
"This is not very encouraging to a new beginner in the occupation of a
landlord," I answered; "and, when I look into the facts, I confess, I am
surprised that so many gentlemen in the colony are willing to invest the
sums they annually do in wild lands."
"Every man who is at his ease in his moneyed affairs, Corny, feels a
disposition to make some provision for his posterity. This estate, if kept
together, and in single hands may make some descendant of mine a man of
fortune. Half a century will produce a great change in this colony; at the
end of that period, a child of Anneke's may be thankful that his mother
had a father who was willing to throw away a few thousands of his own, the
surplus of a fortune that was sufficient for his wants without them, in
order his grandson may see them converted into tens, or possibly into
hundreds of thousands."
"Posterity will, at least, owe us a debt of gratitude, Mr. Mordaunt; for I
now see that Mooseridge is not likely to make either Dirck or myself very
"On that you may rely. Satanstoe will produce you more than the large
tracts you possess in this quarter."
"Do you no longer fear, sir, that the war, and apprehension of Indian
ravages, may drive your people off?"
"Not much at present, though the danger was great at one time. The war
_may_ do me good, as well as harm. The armies consume everything they can
get--soldiers resembling locusts, in this respect. My tenants have had the
commissaries among them; and, I am told, every blade of grass they can
spare--all their surplus grain, potatoes, butter, cheese, and, in a word,
everything that can be eaten, and with which they are willing to part, has
been contracted for at the top of the market. The King pays in gold, and
the sight of the precious metals will keep even a Yankee from moving."
About the time this was said, we came in sight of the spot Herman Mordaunt
had christened Ravensnest; a name that had since been applied to the whole
property. It was a log building, that stood on the verge of a low cliff of
rocks, at a point where a bird of that appellation had originally a nest on
the uppermost branches of a dead hemlock. The building had been placed, and
erected, with a view to defence, having served for some time as a sort of
rallying point to the families of the tenantry, in the event of an Indian
alarm. At the commencement of the present war, taking into view the exposed
position of his possessions on that frontier,--frontier as to settlement,
if not as to territorial limits,--Herman Mordaunt had caused some attention
to be paid to his fortifications; which, though they might not have
satisfied Mons. Vauban, were not altogether without merit, considered in
reference to their use in case of a surprise.
The house formed three sides of a parallelogram, the open portion of the
court in the centre, facing the cliff. A strong picket served to make a
defence against bullets on that side; while the dead walls of solid logs
were quite impregnable against any assault known in forest warfare, but
that of fire. All the windows opened on the court; while the single outer
door was picketed, and otherwise protected by the coverings of plank. I was
glad to see by the extent of this rude structure, which was a hundred feet
long by fifty in depth, that Anneke and Mary Wallace would not be likely to
be straitened for room. Such proved to be the fact; Herman Mordaunt's agent
having prepared four or five apartments for the family, that rendered them
as comfortable as people could well expect to be in such a situation.
Everything was plain, and many things were rude; but shelter, warmth and
security had not been neglected.
[Footnote 32: The ordinary American reader may not know that the rank
of Brigadier, in the British army, is not a step in the regular line of
promotion, as with us. In England, the regular military gradations are from
Colonel to Major-general, Lieut. General, General, and Field Marshal. The
rank of Brigadier is barely recognised, like that of Commodore, in the
navy, to be used on emergencies; usually as brevet, _local_ rank, to enable
the government to employ clever colonels at need.]
[Footnote 33: The late venerable Hendrick Frey was a man well known to all
who dwelt in the valley of the Mohawk. He had been a friend, contemporary,
and it is believed an executor of the celebrated Sir William Johnson, Bart.
Thirty years since, he related to the writer the following anecdote. Young
Johnson first appeared in the valley as the agent of a property belonging
to his kinsman, Admiral Sir Peter Warren, K. B.; who, having married in
the colony, had acquired several estates in it. Among other tracts was one
called Warrens-bush, on the Mohawk, on which young Johnson first resided.
Finding it difficult to get rid of the trees around his dwelling, Johnson
sent down to the admiral, at New York, to provide some purchases with which
to haul the trees down to the earth, after grubbing and cutting the roots
on one side. An acre was lowered in this manner, each tree necessarily
lying at a larger angle to the earth than the next beneath it. An easterly
wind came one night, and, to Johnson's surprise, he found half his trees
erect again, on rising in the morning! The mode of clearing lands by
'purchases' was then abandoned.--EDITOR.]
"And long shall timorous fancy see
The painted chief and pointed spear;
And Reason's self shall bow the knee
To shadows and delusions here."
It is not necessary to dwell on the manner in which Herman Mordaunt and his
companions became established at Ravensnest. Two or three days sufficed to
render them as comfortable as circumstances would permit; then Dirck and I
bethought us of proceeding in quest of the lands of Mooseridge. Mr. Worden
and Jason both declined going any further; the mill-seat, of which the last
was in quest, being, as I now learned, on the estate of Herman Mordaunt,
and having been for some time the subject of a negotiation between the
pedagogue and its owner. As for the divine, he declared that he saw a
suitable 'field' for his missionary labour where he was; while, it was easy
to see, that he questioned if there were fields of any sort, where we were
Our party, on quitting Ravensnest, consisted of Dirck and myself, Guert,
Mr. Traverse, the surveyor, three chain-bearers, Jaap or Yaap, Guert's man,
Pete, and one woodsman or hunter. This would have given us ten vigorous and
well-armed men, for our whole force. It was thought best, however, to add
two Indians to our number, in the double character of hunters and runners,
or messengers. One of these red-skins was called Jumper, in the language
of the settlement where we found them; and the other Trackless; the latter
_sobriquet_ having been given him on account of a faculty he possessed of
leaving little or no trail in his journeys and marches. This Indian was
about six-and-twenty years of age, and was called a Mohawk, living with the
people of that tribe; though, I subsequently ascertained that he was, in
fact, an Onondago  by birth. His true name was Susquesus, or Crooked
Turns; an appellation that might or might not speak well of his character,
as the Turns' were regarded in a moral, or in a physical sense.
"Take that man, Mr. Littlepage, by all means," said Herman Mordaunt's
agent, when the matter was under discussion. "You will find him as useful,
in the woods, as your pocket-compass, besides being a reasonably good
hunter. He left here, as a runner, during the heaviest of the snows, last
winter, and a trial was made to find his trail, within half an hour after
he had quitted the clearing, but without success. He had not gone a mile in
the woods, before all traces of him were lost, as completely as if he had
made the journey in the air."
As Susquesus had a reputation for sobriety, as was apt to be the case with
the Onondagoes, the man was engaged, though one Indian would have been
sufficient for our purpose. But Jumper had been previously hired; and it
would have been dangerous, under our circumstances, to offend a red-man, by
putting him aside for another, even after compensating him fully for the
disappointment. By Mr. Traverse's advice, therefore, we took both. The
Indian or Mohawk name of Jumper, was Quissquiss, a term that, I fancy,
signified nothing very honourable or illustrious.
The girls betrayed deep interest in us, on our taking leave; more, I
thought, than either had ever before manifested. Guert had told me,
privately, of an intention, on his part, to make another offer to Mary
Wallace; and I saw the traces of it in the tearful eyes and flushed cheeks
of his mistress. But, at such a moment, one does not stop to think much of
such things; there being tears in Anneke's eyes, as well as in those of her
friend. We had a thousand good wishes to exchange; and we promised to keep
open; the communication between the two parties, by means of our runners
semi-weekly. The distance, which would vary from fifteen to thirty miles,
would readily admit of this, since either of the Indians would pass over
it, with the greatest ease to himself, in a day, at that season of the
After all, the separation was to be short, for we had promised to come over
and dine with Herman Mordaunt on his fiftieth birth-day, which would occur
within three weeks. This arrangement made the parting tolerable to us young
men, and our constitutional gaiety did the rest. Half an hour after the
last breakfast at Ravensnest saw us all on our road, cheerful, if not
absolutely happy. Herman Mordaunt accompanied us three miles; which led him
to the end of his own settlements, and to the edge of the virgin forest.
There he took his leave, and we pursued our way with the utmost diligence,
for hours, with the compass for our guide, until we reached the banks of a
small river that was supposed to lie some three or four miles from the
southern boundaries of the patent we sought. I say, 'supposed to lie,' for
there existed then, and, I believe, there still exists much uncertainty
concerning the land-marks of different estates in the woods. On the banks
of this stream, which was deep but not broad, the surveyor called a halt,
and we made our dispositions for dinner. Men who had walked as far and as
fast as we had done, made but little ceremony and for twenty minutes every
one was busy in appeasing his hunger. This was no sooner accomplished,
however than Mr. Traverse summoned the Indians to the side of the fallen
tree on which we had taken our seats, when the first occasion occurred for
putting the comparative intelligence of the two runners to the proof. At
the same time the principal chain-bearer, a man whose life had been passed
in his present occupation, was brought into the consultation, as follows.
"We are now on the banks of this stream, and about this bend in it,"
commenced the surveyor, pointing to the precise curvature of the river on
a map he had spread before him, at which he supposed we were actually
situated; "and the next thing is to find that ridge on which the moose was
killed, and across which the line of the patent we seek is known to run.
This abstract of the title tells us to look for a corner somewhere off
here, about a mile or a mile and a half from this bend in the river--a
black oak, with its top broken off by the wind, and standing in the centre
of a triangle made by three chestnuts. I think you told me, David that you
had never borne a chain on any of these ridges?"
"No, sir, never;" answered David, the old chain-bearer already mentioned;
"my business never having brought me out so far east.--A black oak, with
corner blazes on it, and its top broken down by the wind, and standing
atween three chestnuts, howsomedever, can be nothing so very hard to
find, for a person that's the least acquainted. These Injins will be the
likeliest bodies to know that tree, if they've any nat'ral knowledge of the
Know a tree! There we were, and had been for many hours, in the bosom of
the forest, with trees in thousands ranged around us; trees had risen
on our march, as horizon extends beyond horizon on the ocean, and this
chain-bearer fancied it might be in the power of one who often passed
through these dark and untenanted mazes, to recognise any single member of
those countless oaks, and beeches, and pines! Nevertheless, Mr. Traverse
did not seem to regard David's suggestion as so very extravagant, for he
turned towards the Indians and addressed himself to them.
"How's this?" he asked; "Jumper, do you know anything of the sort of tree I
"No," was the short, sententious answer.
"Then, I fear, there is little hope that Trackless is any wiser, as you are
Mohawk born, and _he_, they tell me, is at bottom an Onondago. What say
you, Trackless? can you help us to find the tree?"
My eyes were fastened on Susquesus, as soon as the Indians were mentioned.
There he stood, straight as the trunk of a pine, light and agile in person,
with nothing but his breech-cloth, moccasins, and a blue calico shirt
belted to his loins with a scarlet band, through which was thrust the
handle of his tomahawk, and to which were attached his shot-pouch and horn,
while his rifle rested against his body, butt downward. Trackless was a
singularly handsome Indian, the unpleasant peculiarities of his people
being but faintly portrayed in his face and form; while their nobler and
finer qualities came out in strong relief. His nose was almost aquiline;
his eye, dark as night, was restless and piercing; his limbs Apollo-like;
and his front and bearing had all the fearless dignity of a warrior,
blended with the grace of nature. The only obvious defects were in his
walk, which was Indian, or in-toed and bending at the knee; but, to
counterbalance these, his movements were light, springy and swift. I
fancied him, in figure, the very _beau-ideal_ of a runner.
During the time the surveyor was speaking, the eye of Susquesus was
seemingly fastened on vacancy, and I would have defied the nicest observer
to detect any consciousness of what was in hand, in the countenance of this
forest stoic. It was not his business to speak, while an older runner
and an older warrior was present--for Jumper was both--and he waited for
others, who might know more, to reveal their knowledge ere he produced
his own. Thus directly addressed, however, all reserve vanished, and he
advanced two or three steps, cast a curious glance at the map, even put a
finger on the river, the devious course of which it followed across the
map, much as a child would trace any similar object that attracted his
attention. Susquesus knew but little of maps, it was clear enough; but the
result showed that he knew a great deal about the woods, his native field
"Well, what do you make of my map, Trackless," repeated the surveyor. "Is
it not drawn to suit your fancy?"
"Good"--returned the Onondago, with emphasis. "Now show Susquesus _your_
"Here it is, Trackless. You see it is a tree drawn in ink, with a broken
top, and here are the three chestnuts, in a sort of triangle, around it."
The Indian examined the tree with some interest, and a slight smile
illumined his handsome, though dark countenance. He was evidently pleased
at this proof of accuracy in the colony surveyors, and, no doubt, thought
the better of them for the fidelity of their work.
"Good," he repeated, in his low, guttural, almost feminine voice, so soft
and mild in its tone. "_Very_ good. The pale-faces know everything! Now,
let my brother find the tree."
"That is easier said than done, Susquesus," answered Traverse, laughing.
"It is one thing to sketch a tree on a map, and another to go to its root,
as it stands in the forest, surrounded by thousands of other trees."
"Pale-face must first see him, or how paint him? Where painter?"
"Ay, the surveyor saw the tree once, and marked it once, but that is not
finding it again. Can you tell me where the oak stands? Mr. Littlepage will
give the man who finds that corner a French crown. Put me anywhere on the
line of the old survey, and I will ask favours of no one."
"Painted tree _there_," said Susquesus, pointing a little scornfully at the
map, as it seemed to me. "Pale-face can't find him in wood. Live tree out
younder; Injin know."
Trackless pointed with great dignity towards the north east, standing
motionless as a statue the while, as if inviting the closest possible
scrutiny into the correctness of his assertion.
"Can you lead us to the tree?" demanded Traverse, eagerly. "Do it, and the
money is yours."
Susquesus made a significant gesture of assent; then he set about
collecting the scanty remains of his dinner, a precaution in which we
imitated him, as a supper would be equally agreeable as the meal just
taken, a few hours later. When everything was put away, and the packs
were on our shoulders--not on those of the Indians, for _they_
seldom condescended to carry burthens, which was an occupation for
women--Trackless led the way, in the direction he had already pointed out.
Well did the Onondago deserve his name, as it seemed to me, while he
threaded his way through that gloomy forest, without path, mark or sign of
any sort, that was intelligible to others. His pace was between a walk and
a gentle trot, and it required all our muscles to keep near him. He looked
to neither the right nor the left, but appeared to pursue his course guided
by an instinct, or as the keen-scented hound follows the viewless traces of
his game. This lasted for ten minutes, when Traverse called another halt,
and we clustered together in council.
"How much further do you think it may be to the tree, Onondago?" demanded
the surveyor, as soon as the whole party was collected in a circle. "I have
a reason for asking."
"So many minutes," answered the Indian, holding up five fingers, or the
four fingers and thumb of his right hand. "Oak with broken top, and
pale-face marks, _there_."
The precision and confidence with which the Trackless pointed, not a little
surprised me, for I could not imagine how any human being could pretend to
be minutely certain of such a fact, under the circumstances in which we
were placed. So it was, however; and so it proved in the end. In the mean
time, Traverse proceeded to carry out his own plans.
"As we are so near to the tree," he said, for the surveyor had no doubt of
the red-man's accuracy, "_we_ must also be near the line. The last runs
north and south, on this part of the patent, and we shall shortly cross it.
Spread yourselves, therefore, chain-bearers, and look for blazed trees;
for, put me anywhere on the boundaries, and I'll answer for finding any
oak, beech, or maple, that is mentioned in the corners."
As soon as this order was received, all the surveyor's men obeyed, opening
the order of their march, and spreading themselves in a way to extend their
means of observing materially. When all was ready, a sign was made to the
Indian to proceed. Susquesus obeyed, and we were all soon in quick motion
Guert's activity enabled him to keep nearest to the Onondago, and a shout
from his clear, full throat, first announced the complete success of the
search. In a moment the rest of us pressed forward, and were soon at the
end of our journey. There was Susquesus, quietly leaning against the trunk
of the broken oak, without the smallest expression of triumph in either his
manner or his countenance. That which he had done, he had done naturally,
and without any apparent effort or hesitation. To him the forest had its
signs, and metes, and marks--as the inhabitant of the vast capital has his
means of threading its mazes with the readiness of familiarity and habit.
As for Traverse, he first examined the top of the tree, where he found the
indicated fracture; then he looked round for the three chestnuts, each of
which was in its place; after which he drew near to look into the more
particular signs of his craft. There they were, three of the inner sides of
the oak being blazed, the proof it was a corner; while that which had no
scar on its surface looked outward, or from the Patent of Mooseridge.
Just as all these agreeable facts were ascertained, shouts from the
chain-bearers south of us, announced that they had discovered the line--men
of their stamp being quite as quick-sighted, in ascertaining their own
peculiar traces, as the native of the forest is in finding his way to
any object in it which he has once seen, and may desire to revisit. By
following the line, these men soon joined us, when they gave us the
additional information that they had also actually found the skeleton of
the moose that had given its name to the estate.
Thus far, all was well, our success much exceeding our hopes. The hunters
were sent to look for a spring; and, one being found at no great distance,
we all repaired to the spot, and hutted for the night. Nothing could be
more simple than our encampment; which consisted of coverings made of the
branches of trees, with leaves and skins for our beds. Next day, however,
Traverse finding the position favourable for his work, he determined to
select the spot as head-quarters; and we all set about the erection of a
log-house, in which we might seek a shelter in the event of a storm, and
where we might deposit our implements, spare ammunition, and such stores as
we had brought with us on our backs. As everybody worked with good-will at
the erection of this rude building, and the labourers were very expert with
the axe, we had it nearly complete by the setting of the next day's sun.
Traverse chose the place because the water was abundant, and good, and
because a small knoll was near the spring, that was covered with young
pines that were about fourteen or fifteen inches in diameter, while they
grew to the height of near a hundred feet, with few branches, and straight
as the Onondago. These trees were felled, cut into lengths of twenty and
thirty feet, notched at the ends, and rolled alternately on each other,
so as to enclose an area that was one-third longer than it was wide. The
notches were deep, and brought the logs within two or three inches of each
other; and the interstices were filled with pieces of riven chestnut, a
wood that splits easily and in straight lines; which pieces were driven
hard into their beds, so as to exclude the winds and the rains. As the
weather was warm, and the building somewhat airy at the best, we cut no
windows, though we had a narrow door in the centre of one of the longer
sides. For a roof we used the bark of the hemlock, which, at that season,
came off in large pieces, and which was laid on sticks, raised to the
desired elevation by means of a ridge pole.
All this was making no more than one of the common log-houses of the new
settlements, though in a more hurried and a less artificial manner than was
usual. We had no chimney, for our cooking could be done in the open air;
and less attention was paid to the general finish of the work, than might
have been the case had we expected to pass the winter there. The floor was
somewhat rude, but it had the effect of raising us from the ground, and
giving us perfectly dry lodgings; an advantage not always obtained in the
woods. It was composed of logs roughly squared on three sides, and placed
on sleepers. To my surprise, Traverse directed a door to be made of riven
logs, that were pinned together with cross-pieces, and which was hung
on the usual wooden hinges. When I spoke of this as unnecessary labour,
occupying two men an entire day to complete, he reminded me that we were
much in advance from the settlements; that an active war was being waged
around us, and that the agents of the French had been very busy among our
own tribes, while those in Canada often pushed their war-parties far within
our borders. He had always found a great satisfaction, as well as security,
in having a sort of citadel to retreat to, when on these exposed surveys;
and _he_ never neglected the necessary precaution, when he fancied himself
in the least danger.
We were quite a week in completing our house; though, after the first day,
neither the surveyor nor his chain-bearers troubled themselves with the
labour, any further than to make an occasional suggestion. Traverse and his
men went to work in their own pursuit, running lines to divide the patent
into its great lots, each of which was made to contain a thousand acres.
It should be mentioned that all the surveys, in that day, were made on the
most liberal scale, our forty thousand acres turning out, in the end, to
amount to quite three thousand more. So it was with the subdivisions of the
Patent, each of which was found to be of more than the nominal dimensions.
Blazed trees, and records cut into the bark, served to indicate the lines,
while a map went on _pari passu_ with the labour, the field-book containing
a description of each lot, in order that the proprietor of the estate might
have some notions of the nature of its soil and surface, as well as of the
quality and sizes of the trees it bore.
The original surveyors, those on whose labours the patent of the King was
granted, had a comparatively trifling duty to perform. So long as they gave
a reasonably accurate outline of an area that would contain forty thousand
acres of land, more or less, and did not trespass on any prior grant, no
material harm could be done, there being no scarcity of surface in the
colony; but, Mr. Traverse had to descend to a little more particularity. It
is true, he ran out his hundreds of acres daily, duly marking his corners
and blazing his line trees, but something very like a summer's work lay
before him. This he understood, and his proceedings were as methodical and
deliberate as the nature of his situation required.
In a very few days, things had gotten fairly in train, and everybody was
employed in some manner that was found to be useful. The surveying party
was making a very satisfactory progress, running out their great lots
between sun and sun, while Dirck and myself made the notes concerning their
quality, under the dictation of Mr. Traverse. Guert did little besides
shoot and fish, keeping our larder well supplied with trout, pigeons,
squirrels, and such other game as the season would allow, occasionally
knocking over something in the shape of poor venison. The hunters
brought us their share of eatables also; and we did well enough, in this
particular, more especially is trout proved to be very abundant. Yaap, or
Jaap, as I shall call him in future, and Pete, performed domestic duty,
acting as scullions and cooks, though the first was much better fitted to
perform the service of a forester. The two Indians did little else, for
the first fortnight, but come and go between Ravensnest and Mooseridge,
carrying missives and acting as guides to the hunters, who went through
once or twice within that period, to bring us out supplies of flour,
groceries, and other similar necessaries; no inducement being able to
prevail on the Indians to carry anything that approached a burthen, either
in weight or appearance.
The surveying party did not always return to the hut at night, but it
'camped out,' as they called it, whenever the work led them to a distance
on the other side of the tract. Mr. Traverse had chosen his position for
head-quarters more in reference to its proximity to the settlement at
Ravensnest, than in reference to its position on the Patent. It was
sufficiently central to the latter, as regarded a north and south line, but
was altogether on the western side of the property. As his surveys extended
east, therefore, he was often carried too far from the building to return
to it each night, though his absences never extended beyond the evening of
the third day. In consequence of this arrangement, his people were enabled
to carry the food they required without inconvenience, for the periods they
were away, coming back for fresh supplies as the lines brought them west
again. Sundays were strictly observed by us all, as days of rest; a respect
to the day that is not always observed in the forest; he who is in the
solitude of the woods, like him who roams athwart the wastes of the ocean,
often forgetting that the spirit of the Creator is abroad equally on the
ocean and on the land, ready to receive that homage of his creatures,
which is a tribute due to beneficence without bounds, a holiness that is
spotless, and a truth that is inherent.
As Jumper, or the Trackless, returned from his constantly recurring visits
to our neighbours, we young men waited with impatience for the letter that
the messenger was certain to bear. This letter was sometimes written by
Herman Mordaunt himself, but oftener by Anneke, or Mary Wallace. It was
addressed to no one by name, but uniformly bore the superscription of 'To
the Hermits of Mooseridge;' nor was there anything in the language to
betray any particular attention to either of the party. We might have liked
it better, perhaps, could we have received epistles that were a little
more pointed in this particular; but those we actually got were much
too precious to leave any serious grounds of complaint. One from Herman
Mordaunt reached us on the evening of the second Saturday, when our whole
party was at home, and assembled at supper. It was brought in by the
Trackless, and, among other matters, contained this paragraph:
"We learn that things hourly assume a more serious aspect with the armies.
Our troops are pushing north, in large bodies, and the French are said to
be reinforcing. Living as we do, out of the direct line of march, and
fully thirty miles in the rear of the old battle-grounds, I should feel no
apprehension, were it not for a report I hear, that the woods are full of
Indians. I very well know that such a report invariably accompanies the
near approach of hostilities in the frontier settlements, and is to be
received with many grains of allowance; but it seems so probable the French
should push their savages on this flank of our army, to annoy it on the
advance, that, I confess, the rumour has some influence on my feelings. We
have been fortifying still more; and I would advise you not to neglect such
a precaution altogether. The Canadian Indians are said to be more subtle
than our own; nor is government altogether without the apprehension that
our own have been tampered with. It was said at Albany, that much French
silver had been seen in the hands of the people of the Six Nations; and
that even French blankets, knives, and tomahawks, were more plentiful among
them than might be accounted for by the ordinary plunder of their warfare.
One of your runners, the man who is called the Trackless, is said to live
out of his own tribe; and such Indians are always to be suspected. Their
absence is sometimes owing to reasons that are creditable; but far oftener
to those that are not. It may be well to have an eye on the conduct of this
man. After all, we are in the hands of a beneficent and gracious God, and
we know how often his mercy has saved us, on occasions more trying than
This letter was read several times, among ourselves, including Mr.
Traverse. As the _oi polloi_ of our party were eating out of ear-shot, and
the Indians had left us, it naturally induced a conversation that turned on
the risks we ran, and on the probability of Susquesus's being false.
"As for the rumour that the woods are full of Indians," the surveyor
quietly observed, "it is very much as Herman Mordaunt says--there is never
a blanket seen, but fame magnifies it into a whole bale. There is danger
to be apprehended from savages, I will allow, but not one-half that the
settlers ordinarily imagine. As for the French, they are likely to need all
their savages at Ty; for, they tell me Gen. Abercrombie will go against
them with three men to their one."
"With that superiority, at least," I answered; "but, after all, would not
a sagacious officer be likely to annoy his flank, in the manner here
"We are every mile of forty to the eastward of the line of march; and why
should parties keep so distant from their enemies?"
"Even such a supposition would place our foes between us and our friends;
no very comfortable consideration, of itself. But, what think you of this
hint concerning the Onondago?"
"There may be truth in _that_--more than in the report that the woods are
full of savages. It is usually a bad sign when an Indian quits his tribe;
and this runner of ours is certainly an Onondago; _that_ I know, for the
fellow has twice refused rum. Bread he will take, as often as offered; but
rum has not wet his lips, since I have seen him, offered in fair weather or
"T'at _is_ a bad sign"--put in Guert, a little dogmatically for him. "T'e
man t'at refuses his glass, in good company, has commonly something wrong
in his morals. I always keep clear of such chaps."
Poor Guert!--How true that was, and what an influence the opinion had on
his character and habits. As for the Indian, I could not judge him so
harshly. There was something in his countenance that disposed me to put
confidence in him, at the very moment his cold, abstracted manners--cold
and abstracted even for a red-skin in pale-face company--created doubts and
"Certainly, nothing is easier than for a man in his situation to sell us,"
I answered, after a short pause, "if he be so disposed. But, what could the
French gain by cutting off a party as peaceably employed as this? It can be
of no moment to them, whether Mooseridge be surveyed into lots this year,
or the next."
"Quite true; and I am of opinion that Mons. Montcalm is very indifferent
whether it be ever surveyed at all," returned Traverse, who was an
intelligent and tolerably educated man. "You forget, however, Mr.
Littlepage, that both parties offer such things as premiums on scalps.
A Huron may not care about our lines, corners, and marked trees; but he
_does_ care, a great deal, whether he is to go home with an empty string,
or with half-a-dozen human scalps at his girdle."
I observed that Dirck thrust his fingers through his bushy hair, and that
his usually placid countenance assumed an indignant and semi-ferocious
appearance. A little amused at this, I walked towards the log on which
Susquesus was seated, having ended his meal, in silent thought.
"What news do you bring us from the red-coats, Trackless?" I asked, with
as much of an air of indifference as I could assume. "Are they out in
sufficient numbers to eat the French?"
"Look at leaves; count 'em;" answered the Indian.
"Yes, I know they are in force; but, what are the red-skins about? Is the
hatchet buried, among the Six Nations, that you are satisfied with being a
runner, when scalps may be had near Ticonderoga?"
"Susquesus _Onondago_"--the red-man replied, laying a strong emphasis on
the name of his tribe. "No Mohawk blood run in him. _His_ people no dig up
hatchet, this summer."
"Why not, Trackless? You are allies of the Yengeese, and ought to give us
your aid, when it is wanted."
"Count leaves--count Yengeese. Too much for one army. No want Onondago."
"That may be true, possibly, for we are certainly very strong. But, how
is it with the woods--are they altogether clear of red-skins, in times as
troublesome as these?"
Susquesus looked grave, but he made no answer. Still, he did not endeavour
to avoid the keen look I fastened on his face, but sat composed, rigid, and
gazing before him. Knowing the uselessness of attempting to get anything
out of an Indian, when he was indisposed to be communicative, I thought
it wisest to change the discourse. This I did by making a few general
inquiries as to the state of the streams, all of which were answered, when
I walked away.
[Footnote 34: Pronounced On-on-daw-ger, the latter syllable hard; or, like
ga, as it is sometimes spelled. This is the name of one of the midland
counties of New York. The tribe from which it is derived, in these later
times, has over borne a better name for morals, than its neighbours,
the Oneidas, the Mohawks, &c., &c. The Onondagoes belonged to the Six
"Fear not, till Birnam Wood
Shall come to Dunsinane."
I cannot say I was quite satisfied with the manner of Susquesus; nor, on
the other hand, was I absolutely uneasy. All might be well; and, if it were
not, the power of this man to injure us could not be very great. A new
occurrence, however, raised very unpleasant doubts of his honesty. Jumper
being out on a hunt, the Onondago was sent across to Ravensnest the next
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