James Fenimore Cooper
Part 1 out of 9
The Hutted Knoll.
Complete in One Volume.
By J. Fenimore Cooper.
"I venerate the Pilgrim's cause,
Yet for the red man dare to plead:
We bow to Heaven's recorded laws,
He turns to Nature for his creed."
The history of the borders is filled with legends of the sufferings of
isolated families, during the troubled scenes of colonial warfare.
Those which we now offer to the reader, are distinctive in many of
their leading facts, if not rigidly true in the details. The first
alone is necessary to the legitimate objects of fiction.
One of the misfortunes of a nation, is to hear little besides its own
praises. Although the American revolution was probably as just an
effort as was ever made by a people to resist the first inroads of
oppression, the cause had its evil aspects, as well as all other human
struggles. We have been so much accustomed to hear everything extolled,
of late years, that could be dragged into the remotest connection with
that great event, and the principles which led to it, that there is
danger of overlooking truth, in a pseudo patriotism. Nothing is really
patriotic, however, that is not strictly true and just; any more than
it is paternal love to undermine the constitution of a child by an
indiscriminate indulgence in pernicious diet. That there were
demagogues in 1776, is as certain as that there are demagogues in 1843,
and will probably continue to be demagogues as long as means for
misleading the common mind shall exist.
A great deal of undigested morality is uttered to the world, under the
disguise of a pretended public virtue. In the eye of reason, the man
who deliberately and voluntarily contracts civil engagements is more
strictly bound to their fulfilment, than he whose whole obligations
consist of an accident over which he had not the smallest control, that
of birth; though the very reverse of this is usually maintained under
the influence of popular prejudice. The reader will probably discover
how we view this master, in the course of our narrative.
Perhaps this story is obnoxious to the charge of a slight anachronism,
in representing the activity of the Indians a year earlier than any
were actually employed in the struggle of 1775. During the century of
warfare that existed between the English and French colonies, the
savage tribes were important agents in furthering the views of the
respective belligerents. The war was on the frontiers, and these fierce
savages were, in a measure, necessary to the management of hostilities
that invaded their own villages and hunting-grounds. In 1775, the enemy
came from the side of the Atlantic, and it was only after the struggle
had acquired force, that the operations of the interior rendered the
services of such allies desirable. In other respects, without
pretending to refer to any real events, the incidents of this tale are
believed to be sufficiently historical for all the legitimate purposes
In this book the writer has aimed at sketching several distinct
varieties of the human race, as true to the governing impulses of their
educations, habits, modes of thinking and natures. The red man had his
morality, as much as his white brother, and it is well known that even
Christian ethics are coloured and governed, by standards of opinion set
up on purely human authority. The honesty of one Christian is not
always that of another, any more than his humanity, truth, fidelity or
faith. The spirit must quit its earthly tabernacle altogether, ere it
cease to be influenced by its tints and imperfections.
"An acorn fell from an old oak tree,
And lay on the frosty ground--
'O, what shall the fate of the acorn be?'
Was whispered all around
By low-toned voices chiming sweet,
Like a floweret's bell when swung--
And grasshopper steeds were gathering fleet,
And the beetle's hoofs up-rung."
Mrs. Seba Smith.
There is a wide-spread error on the subject of American scenery. From
the size of the lakes, the length and breadth of the rivers, the vast
solitudes of the forests, and the seemingly boundless expanse of the
prairies, the world has come to attach to it an idea of grandeur; a
word that is in nearly every case, misapplied. The scenery of that
portion of the American continent which has fallen to the share of the
Anglo-Saxon race, very seldom rises to a scale that merits this term;
when it does, it is more owing to the accessories, as in the case of
the interminable woods, than to the natural face of the country. To him
who is accustomed to the terrific sublimity of the Alps, the softened
and yet wild grandeur of the Italian lakes, or to the noble witchery of
the shores of the Mediterranean, this country is apt to seem tame, and
uninteresting as a whole; though it certainly has exceptions that carry
charms of this nature to the verge of loveliness.
Of the latter character is the face of most of that region which lies
in the angle formed by the junction of the Mohawk with the Hudson,
extending as far south, or even farther, than the line of Pennsylvania,
and west to the verge of that vast rolling plain which composes Western
New York. This is a region of more than ten thousand square miles of
surface, embracing to-day, ten counties at least, and supporting a
rural population of near half a million of souls, excluding the river
All who have seen this district of country, and who are familiar with
the elements of charming, rather than grand scenery it possesses, are
agreed in extolling its capabilities, and, in some instances, its
realities. The want of high finish is common to everything of this sort
in America; and, perhaps we may add, that the absence of
picturesqueness as connected with the works of man, is a general
defect; still, this particular region, and all others resembling it--
for they abound on the wide surface of the twenty-six states--has
beauties of its own, that it would be difficult to meet with in any of
the older portions of the earth.
They who have done us the honour to read our previous works, will at
once understand that the district to which we allude, is that of which
we have taken more than one occasion to write; and we return to it now,
less with a desire to celebrate its charms, than to exhibit them in a
somewhat novel, and yet perfectly historical aspect. Our own earlier
labours will have told the reader, that all of this extended district
of country, with the exception of belts of settlements along the two
great rivers named, was a wilderness, anterior to the American
revolution. There was a minor class of exceptions to this general rule,
however, to which it will be proper to advert, lest, by conceiving us
too literally, the reader may think he can convict us of a
contradiction. In order to be fully understood, the explanations shall
be given at a little length.
While it is true, then, that the mountainous region, which now contains
the counties of Schoharie, Otsego, Chenango, Broome, Delaware, &c., was
a wilderness in 1775, the colonial governors had begun to make grants
of its lands, some twenty years earlier. The patent of the estate on
which we are writing lies before us; and it bears the date of 1769,
with an Indian grant annexed, that is a year or two older. This may be
taken as a mean date for the portion of country alluded to; some of the
deeds being older, and others still more recent. These grants of land
were originally made, subject to quit-rents to the crown; and usually
on the payment of heavy fees to the colonial officers, after going
through the somewhat supererogatory duty of "extinguishing the Indian
title," as it was called. The latter were pretty effectually
"extinguished" in that day, as well as in our own; and it would be a
matter of curious research to ascertain the precise nature of the
purchase-money given to the aborigines. In the case of the patent
before us, the Indian right was "extinguished" by means of a few
rifles, blankets, kettles, and beads; though the grant covers a nominal
hundred thousand, and a real hundred and ten or twenty thousand acres
The abuse of the grants, as land became more valuable, induced a law,
restricting the number of acres patented to any one person, at any one
time, to a thousand. Our monarchical predecessors had the same
facilities, and it may be added, the same propensities, to rendering a
law a dead letter, as belongs to our republican selves. The patent on
our table, being for a nominal hundred thousand acres, contains the
names of one hundred different grantees, while three several parchment
documents at its side, each signed by thirty-three of these very
persons, vest the legal estate in the first named, for whose sole
benefit the whole concession was made; the dates of the last
instruments succeeding, by one or two days, that of the royal patent
Such is the history of most of the original titles to the many estates
that dotted the region we have described, prior to the revolution.
Money and favouritism, however were not always the motives of these
large concessions. Occasionally, services presented their claims; and
many instances occur in which old officers of the army, in particular,
received a species of reward, by a patent for land, the fees being duly
paid, and the Indian title righteously "extinguished." These grants to
ancient soldiers were seldom large, except in the cases of officers of
rank; three or four thousand well-selected acres, being a sufficient
boon to the younger sons of Scottish lairds, or English squires, who
had been accustomed to look upon a single farm as an estate.
As most of the soldiers mentioned were used to forest life, from having
been long stationed at frontier posts, and had thus become familiarized
with its privations, and hardened against its dangers, it was no
unusual thing for them to sell out, or go on half-pay, when the wants
of a family began to urge their claims, and to retire to their
"patents," as the land itself, as well as the instrument by which it
was granted, was invariably termed, with a view of establishing
themselves permanently as landlords.
These grants from the crown, in the portions of the colony of New York
that lie west of the river counties, were generally, if not invariably,
simple concessions of the fee, subject to quit-rents to the king, and
reservations of mines of the precious metals, without any of the
privileges of feudal seignory, as existed in the older manors on the
Hudson, on the islands, and on the Sound. Why this distinction was
made, it exceeds our power to say; but, that the fact was so, as a
rule, we have it in proof, by means of a great number of the original
patents, themselves, that have been transmitted to us from various
sources. Still, the habits of "home" entailed the name, even where the
thing was not to be found. Titular manors exist, in a few instances, to
this day, where no manorial rights were ever granted; and manor-houses
were common appellations for the residences of the landlords of large
estates, that were held in fee, without any exclusive privileges, and
subject to the reservation named. Some of these manorial residences
were of so primitive an appearance, as to induce the belief that the
names were bestowed in pleasantry; the dwellings themselves being of
logs, with the bark still on them, and the other fixtures to
correspond. Notwithstanding all these drawbacks, early impressions and
rooted habits could easily transfer terms to such an abode; and there
was always a saddened enjoyment among these exiles, when they could
liken their forest names and usages to those they had left in the
distant scenes of their childhood.
The effect of the different causes we have here given was to dot the
region described, though at long intervals, with spots of a semi-
civilized appearance, in the midst of the vast--nay, almost boundless--
expanse of forest. Some of these early settlements had made
considerable advances towards finish and comfort, ere the war of '76
drove their occupants to seek protection against the inroads of the
savages; and long after the influx of immigration which succeeded the
peace, the fruits, the meadows, and the tilled fields of these oases in
the desert, rendered them conspicuous amidst the blackened stumps,
piled logs, and smooty fallows of an active and bustling settlement. At
even a much later day, they were to be distinguished by the smoother
surfaces of their fields, the greater growth and more bountiful yield
of their orchards, and by the general appearance of a more finished
civilization, and of greater age. Here and there, a hamlet had sprung
up; and isolated places, like Cherry Valley and Wyoming, were found,
that have since become known to the general history of the country.
Our present tale now leads us to the description of one of those early,
personal, or family settlements, that had grown up, in what was then a
very remote part of the territory in question, under the care and
supervision of an ancient officer of the name of Willoughby. Captain
Willoughby, after serving many years, had married an American wife, and
continuing his services until a son and daughter were born, he sold his
commission, procured a grant of land, and determined to retire to his
new possessions, in order to pass the close of his life in the tranquil
pursuits of agriculture, and in the bosom of his family. An adopted
child was also added to his cares. Being an educated as well as a
provident man, Captain Willoughby had set about the execution of this
scheme with deliberation, prudence, and intelligence. On the frontiers,
or lines, as it is the custom to term the American boundaries, he had
become acquainted with a Tuscarora, known by the English
_sobriquet_ of "Saucy Nick." This fellow, a sort of half-outcast from
his own people, had early attached himself to the whites, had acquired
their language, and owing to a singular mixture of good and bad
qualities, blended with great native shrewdness, he had wormed himself
into the confidence of several commanders of small garrisons, among
whom was our captain. No sooner was the mind of the latter made up,
concerning his future course, than he sent for Nick, who was then in
the fort; when the following conversation took place:
"Nick," commenced the captain, passing his hand over his brow, as was
his wont when in a reflecting mood; "Nick, I have an important movement
in view, in which you can be of some service to me."
The Tuscarora, fastening his dark basilisk-like eyes on the soldier,
gazed a moment, as if to read his soul; then he jerked a thumb
backward, over his own shoulder, and said, with a grave smile--
"Nick understand. Want six, two, scalp off Frenchman's head; wife and
child; out yonder, over dere, up in Canada. Nick do him--what you
"No, you red rascal, I want nothing of the sort--it is peace now, (this
conversation took place in 1764), and you know I never bought a scalp,
in time of war. Let me hear no more of this."
"What you want, _den_?" asked Nick, like one who was a good deal
"I want land--_good_ land--little, but _good_. I am about to
get a grant--a patent--"
"Yes," interrupted Nick, nodding; "I know _him_--paper to take
away Indian's hunting-ground."
"Why, I have no wish to do that--I am willing to pay the red men
reasonably for their right, first."
"Buy Nick's land, den--better dan any oder."
"Your land, knave!--You own no land--belong to no tribe--have no rights
"What for ask Nick help, den?"
"What for?--Why because you _know_ a good deal, though you own
literally nothing. That's what for."
"Buy Nick _know_, den. Better dan he great fader _know_, down
"That is just what I do wish to purchase. I will pay you well, Nick, if
you will start to-morrow, with your rifle and a pocket-compass, off
here towards the head-waters of the Susquehannah and Delaware, where
the streams run rapidly, and where there are no fevers, and bring me an
account of three or four thousand acres of rich bottom-land, in such a
way as a surveyor can find it, and I can get a patent for it. What say
you, Nick; will you go?"
"He not wanted. Nick sell 'e captain, his own land: here in 'e fort."
"Knave, do you not know me well enough not to trifle, when I am
"Nick ser'ous too--Moravian priest no ser'ouser more dan Nick at dis
moment. Got land to sell."
Captain Willoughby had found occasion to punish the Tuscarora, in the
course of his services; and as the parties understood each other
perfectly well, the former saw the improbability of the latter's daring
to trifle with him.
"Where is this land of yours, Nick," he inquired, after studying the
Indian's countenance for a moment. "Where does it lie, what is it like,
how much is there of it, and how came you to own it?"
"Ask him just so, ag'in," said Nick, taking up four twigs, to note down
the questions, _seriatim_.
The captain repeated his inquiries, the Tuscarora laying down a stick
at each separate interrogatory.
"Where he be?" answered Nick, taking up a twig, as a memorandum. "He
out dere--where he want him--where he say.--One day's march from
"What he like?--Like land, to be sure. T'ink he like water! Got
_some_ water--no too much--got some land--got no tree--got some tree.
Got good sugar-bush--got place for wheat and corn."
"How much of him?" continued Nick, taking up another twig; "much as he
want--want little, got him--want more, got him. Want none at all, got
none at all--got what he want."
"To be sure. How came to own him?--How a pale face come to own America?
_Discover_ him--ha!--Well, Nick discover land down yonder, up
dere, over here."
"Nick, what the devil do you mean by all this?"
"No mean devil, at all--mean land--_good_ land. _Discover_
him--know where he is--catch beaver dere, three, two year. All Nick
say, true as word of honour; much more too."
"Do you mean it is an old beaver-dam destroyed?" asked the captain,
pricking up his ears; for he was too familiar with the woods, not to
understand the value of such a thing.
"No destroy--stand up yet--good as ever.--Nick dere, last season."
"Why, then, do you tell of it? Are not the beaver of more value to you,
than any price you may receive for the land?"
"Cotch him all, four, two year ago--rest run away. No find beaver to
stay long, when Indian once know, two time, where to set he trap.
Beaver cunninger 'an pale face--cunning as bear."
"I begin to comprehend you, Nick. How large do you suppose this pond to
"He 'm not as big as Lake Ontario. S'pose him smaller, what den? Big
enough for farm."
"Does it cover one or two hundred acres, think you?--Is it as large as
the clearing around the fort?"
"Big as two, six, four of him. Take forty skin, dere one season. Little
lake; all 'e tree gone."
"And the land around it--is it mountainous and rough, or will it be
good for corn?"
"All sugar-bush--what you want better? S'pose you want corn;
_plant_ him. S'pose you want sugar; _make_ him."
Captain Willoughby was struck with this description, and he returned to
the subject, again and again. At length, after extracting all the
information he could get from Nick, he struck a bargain with the
fellow. A surveyor was engaged, and he started for the place, under the
guidance of the Tuscarora. The result showed that Nick had not
exaggerated. The pond was found, as he had described it to be, covering
at least four hundred acres of low bottom-land; while near three
thousand acres of higher river-flat, covered with beach and maple,
spread around it for a considerable distance. The adjacent mountains
too, were arable, though bold, and promised, in time, to become a
fertile and manageable district. Calculating his distances with
judgment, the surveyor laid out his metes and bounds in such a manner
as to include the pond, all the low-land, and about three thousand
acres of hill, or mountain, making the materials for a very pretty
little "patent" of somewhat more than six thousand acres of capital
land. He then collected a few chiefs of the nearest tribe, dealt out
his rum, tobacco, blankets, wampum, and gunpowder, got twelve Indians
to make their marks on a bit of deer-skin, and returned to his employer
with a map, a field-book, and a deed, by which the Indian title was
"extinguished." The surveyor received his compensation, and set off on
a similar excursion, for a different employer, and in another
direction. Nick got his reward, too, and was well satisfied with the
transaction. This he afterwards called "sellin' beaver when he all run
Furnished with the necessary means, Captain Willoughby now "sued out
his patent," as it was termed, in due form. Having some influence, the
affair was soon arranged; the grant was made by the governor in
council, a massive seal was annexed to a famous sheet of parchment, the
signatures were obtained, and "Willoughby's Patent" took its place on
the records of the colony, as well as on its maps. We are wrong as
respects the latter particular; it did not take _its_ place, on
the maps of the colony, though it took _a_ place; the location
given for many years afterwards, being some forty or fifty miles too
far west. In this peculiarity there was nothing novel, the surveys of
all new regions being liable to similar trifling mistakes. Thus it was,
that an estate, lying within five-and-twenty miles of the city of New
York, and in which we happen to have a small interest at this hour, was
clipped of its fair proportions, in consequence of losing some miles
that run over obtrusively into another colony; and, within a short
distance of the spot where we are writing, a "patent" has been squeezed
entirely out of existence, between the claims of two older grants.
No such calamity befell "Willoughby's Patent," however. The land was
found, with all its "marked or _blazed_ trees," its "heaps of
stones," "large butternut corners," and "dead oaks." In a word,
everything was as it should be; even to the quality of the soil, the
beaver-pond, and the quantity. As respects the last, the colony never
gave "struck measure;" a thousand acres on paper, seldom falling short
of eleven or twelve hundred in soil. In the present instance, the six
thousand two hundred and forty-six acres of "Willoughby's Patent," were
subsequently ascertained to contain just seven thousand and ninety-two
acres of solid ground.
Our limits and plan will not permit us to give more than a sketch of
the proceedings of the captain, in taking possession; though we feel
certain that a minute account of the progress of such a settlement
would possess a sort of Robinson Crusoe-like interest, that might repay
the reader. As usual, the adventurers commenced their operations in the
spring. Mrs. Willoughby, and the children, were left with their
friends, in Albany; while the captain and his party pioneered their way
to the patent, in the best manner they could. This party consisted of
Nick, who went in the capacity of hunter, an office of a good deal of
dignity, and of the last importance, to a set of adventurers on an
expedition of this nature. Then there were eight axe-men, a house-
carpenter, a mason, and a mill-wright. These, with Captain Willoughby,
and an invalid sergeant, of the name of Joyce, composed the party.
Our adventurers made most of their journey by water. After finding
their way to the head of the Canaideraga, mistaking it for the Otsego,
they felled trees, hollowed them into canoes, embarked, and, aided by a
yoke of oxen that were driven along the shore, they wormed their way,
through the Oaks, into the Susquehanna, descending that river until
they reached the Unadilla, which stream they ascended until they came
to the small river, known in the parlance of the country, by the
erroneous name of a creek, that ran through the captain's new estate.
The labour of this ascent was exceedingly severe; but the whole journey
was completed by the end of April, and while the streams were high.
Snow still lay in the woods; but the sap had started, and the season
was beginning to show its promise.
The first measure adopted by our adventurers was to "hut." In the very
centre of the pond, which, it will be remembered, covered four hundred
acres, was an island of some five or six acres in extent. It was a
rocky knoll, that rose forty feet above the surface of the water, and
was still crowned with noble pines, a species of tree that had escaped
the ravages of the beaver. In the pond, itself, a few "stubs" alone
remained, the water having killed the trees, which had fallen and
decayed. This circumstance showed that the stream had long before been
dammed; successions of families of beavers having probably occupied the
place, and renewed the works, for centuries, at intervals of
generations. The dam in existence, however, was not very old; the
animals having fled from their great enemy, man, rather than from any
To the island Captain Willoughby transferred all his stores, and here
he built his hut. This was opposed to the notions of his axe-men, who,
rightly enough, fancied the mainland would be more convenient; but the
captain and the sergeant, after a council of war, decided that the
position on the knoll would be the most military, and might be defended
the longest, against man or beast. Another station was taken up,
however, on the nearest shore, where such of the men were permitted to
"hut," as preferred the location.
These preliminaries observed, the captain meditated a bold stroke
against the wilderness, by draining the pond, and coming at once into
the possession of a noble farm, cleared of trees and stumps, as it
might be by a _coup de main_. This would be compressing the
results of ordinary years of toil, into those of a single season, and
everybody was agreed as to the expediency of the course, provided it
The feasibility was soon ascertained. The stream which ran through the
valley, was far from swift, until it reached a pass where the hills
approached each other in low promontories; there the land fell rapidly
away to what might be termed a lower terrace. Across this gorge, or
defile, a distance of about five hundred feet, the dam had been thrown,
a good deal aided by the position of some rocks that here rose to the
surface, and through which the little river found its passage. The part
which might be termed the key-stone of the dam, was only twenty yards
wide, and immediately below it, the rocks fell away rapidly, quite
sixty feet, carrying down the waste water in a sort of fall. Here the
mill-wright announced his determination to commence operations at
once, putting in a protest against destroying the works of the beavers.
A pond of four hundred acres being too great a luxury for the region,
the man was overruled, and the labour commenced.
The first blow was struck against the dam about nine o'clock, on the 2d
day of May, 1765, and, by evening, the little sylvan-looking lake,
which had lain embedded in the forest, glittering in the morning sun,
unruffled by a breath of air, had entirely disappeared! In its place,
there remained an open expanse of wet mud, thickly covered with pools
and the remains of beaver-houses, with a small river winding its way
slowly through the slime. The change to the eye was melancholy indeed;
though the prospect was cheering to the agriculturist. No sooner did
the water obtain a little passage, than it began to clear the way for
itself, gushing out in a torrent, through the pass already mentioned.
The following morning, Captain Willoughby almost mourned over the works
of his hands. The scene was so very different from that it had
presented when the flats were covered with water, that it was
impossible not to feel the change. For quite a month, it had an
influence on the whole party. Nick, in particular, denounced it, as
unwise and uncalled for, though he had made his price out of the very
circumstance in prospective; and even Sergeant Joyce was compelled to
admit that the knoll, an island no longer, had lost quite half its
security as a military position. The next month, however, brought other
changes. Half the pools had vanished by drainings and evaporation; the
mud had begun to crack, and, in some places to pulverize; while the
upper margin of the old pond had become sufficiently firm to permit the
oxen to walk over it, without miring. Fences of trees, brush, and even
rails, enclosed, on this portion of the flats, quite fifty acres of
land; and Indian corn, oats, pumpkins, peas, potatoes, flax, and
several other sorts of seed, were already in the ground. The spring
proved dry, and the sun of the forty-third degree of latitude was doing
its work, with great power and beneficence. What was of nearly equal
importance, the age of the pond had prevented any recent accumulation
of vegetable matter, and consequently spared those who laboured around
the spot, the impurities of atmosphere usually consequent on its decay.
Grass-seed, too, had been liberally scattered on favourable places, and
things began to assume the appearance of what is termed "living."
August presented a still different picture. A saw-mill was up, and had
been at work for some time. Piles of green boards began to make their
appearance, and the plane of the carpenter was already in motion.
Captain Willoughby was rich, in a small way; in other words, he
possessed a few thousand pounds besides his land, and had yet to
receive the price of his commission. A portion of these means were
employed judiciously to advance his establishment; and, satisfied that
there would be no scarcity of fodder for the ensuing winter, a man had
been sent into the settlements for another yoke of cattle, and a couple
of cows. Farming utensils were manufactured on the spot, and sleds
began to take the place of carts; the latter exceeding the skill of any
of the workmen present.
October offered its products as a reward for all this toil. The yield
was enormous, and of excellent quality. Of Indian corn, the captain
gathered several hundred bushels, besides stacks of stalks and tops.
His turnips, too, were superabundant in quantity, and of a delicacy and
flavour entirely unknown to the precincts of old lands. The potatoes
had not done so well; to own the truth, they were a little watery,
though there were enough of them to winter every hoof he had, of
themselves. Then the peas and garden truck were both good and plenty;
and a few pigs having been procured, there was the certainty of
enjoying a plenty of that important article, pork, during the coming
Late in the autumn, the captain rejoined his family in Albany, quitting
the field for winter quarters. He left sergeant Joyce, in garrison,
supported by Nick, a miller, the mason, carpenter, and three of the
axe-men. Their duty was to prepare materials for the approaching
season, to take care of the stock, to put in winter crops, to make a
few bridges, clear out a road or two, haul wood to keep themselves from
freezing, to build a log barn and some sheds, and otherwise to advance
the interests of the settlement. They were also to commence a house for
As his children were at school, captain Willoughby determined not to
take his family immediately to the Hutted Knoll, as the place soon came
to be called, from the circumstance of the original bivouack. This name
was conferred by sergeant Joyce, who had a taste in that way, and as it
got to be confirmed by the condescension of the proprietor and his
family, we have chosen it to designate our present labours. From time
to time, a messenger arrived with news from the place; and twice, in
the course of the winter, the same individual went back with supplies,
and encouraging messages to the different persons left in the clearing.
As spring approached, however, the captain began to make his
preparations for the coming campaign, in which he was to be accompanied
by his wife; Mrs. Willoughby, a mild, affectionate, true-hearted New
York woman, having decided not to let her husband pass another summer
in that solitude without feeling the cheering influence of her
In March, before the snow began to melt, several sleigh-loads of
different necessaries were sent up the valley of the Mohawk, to a point
opposite the head of the Otsego, where a thriving village called
Fortplain now stands. Thence men were employed in transporting the
articles, partly by means of "jumpers" _improvised_ for the
occasion, and partly on pack-horses, to the lake, which was found this
time, instead of its neighbour the Canaderaiga. This necessary and
laborious service occupied six weeks, the captain having been up as far
as the lake once himself; returning to Albany, however, ere the snow
All things are new--the buds, the leaves,
That gild the elm-tree's nodding crest,
And even the nest beneath the eaves--
There are no birds in last year's nest.
"I have good news for you, Wilhelmina," cried the captain, coming into
the parlour where his wife used to sit and knit or sew quite half the
day, and speaking with a bright face, and in a cheerful voice--"Here is
a letter from my excellent old colonel; and Bob's affair is all settled
and agreed on. He is to leave school next week, and to put on His
Majesty's livery the week after."
Mrs. Willoughby smiled, and yet two or three tears followed each other
down her cheeks, even while she smiled. The first was produced by
pleasure at hearing that her son had got an ensigncy in the 60th, or
Royal Americans; and the last was a tribute paid to nature; a mother's
fears at consigning an only boy to the profession of arms.
"I am rejoiced, Willoughby," she said, "because _you_ rejoice,
and I know that Robert will be delighted at possessing the king's
commission; but, he is _very_ young to be sent into the dangers of
battle and the camp!"
"I was younger, when I actually went into battle, for _then_ it
was war; now, we have a peace that promises to be endless, and Bob will
have abundance of time to cultivate a beard before he smells gunpowder.
As for myself"--he added in a half-regretful manner, for old habits and
opinions would occasionally cross his mind--"as for myself, the
cultivation of _turnips_ must be my future occupation. Well, the
bit of parchment is sold, Bob has got _his_ in its place, while
the difference in price is in my pocket, and no more need be said--and
here come our dear girls, Wilhelmina, to prevent any regrets. The
father of two such daughters _ought_, at least, to be happy."
At this instant, Beulah and Maud Willoughby, (for so the adopted child
was called as well as the real), entered the room, having taken the
lodgings of their parents, in a morning walk, on which they were
regularly sent by the mistress of the boarding-school, in which they
were receiving what was _then_ thought to be a first-rate American
female education. And much reason had their fond parents to be proud of
them! Beulah, the eldest, was just eleven, while her sister was
eighteen months younger. The first had a staid, and yet a cheerful
look; but her cheeks were blooming, her eyes bright, and her smile
sweet. Maud, the adopted one, however, had already the sunny
countenance of an angel, with quite as much of the appearance of health
as her sister; her face had more finesse, her looks more intelligence,
her playfulness more feeling, her smile more tenderness, at times; at
others, more meaning. It is scarcely necessary to say that both had
that delicacy of outline which seems almost inseparable from the female
form in this country. What was, perhaps, more usual in that day among
persons of their class than it is in our own, each spoke her own
language with an even graceful utterance, and a faultless accuracy of
pronunciation, equally removed from effort and provincialisms. As the
Dutch was in very common use then, at Albany, and most females of Dutch
origin had a slight touch of their mother tongue in their enunciation
of English, this purity of dialect in the two girls was to be ascribed
to the fact that their father was an Englishman by birth; their mother
an American of purely English origin, though named after a Dutch god-
mother; and the head of the school in which they had now been three
years, was a native of London, and a lady by habits and education.
"Now, Maud," cried the captain, after he had kissed the forehead, eyes
and cheeks of his smiling little favourite--"Now, Maud, I will set you
to guess what good news I have for you and Beulah."
"You and mother don't mean to go to that bad Beave Manor this summer,
as some call the ugly pond?" answered the child, quick as lightning.
"That is kind of you, my darling; more kind than prudent; but you are
"Try Beulah, now," interrupted the mother, who, while she too doted on
her youngest child, had an increasing respect for the greater solidity
and better judgment of her sister: "let us hear Beulah's guess."
"It is something about my brother, I know by mother's eyes," answered
the eldest girl, looking inquiringly into Mrs. Willoughby's face.
"Oh! yes," cried Maud, beginning to jump about the room, until she
ended her saltations in her father's arms--"Bob has got his
commission!--I know it all well enough, now--I would not thank you to
tell me--I know it all now--_dear_ Bob, how he _will_ laugh!
and how happy I am!"
"Is it so, mother?" asked Beulah, anxiously, and without even a smile.
"Maud is right; Bob is an ensign--or, will be one, in a day or two. You
do not seem pleased, my child?"
"I wish Robert were not a soldier, mother. Now he will be always away,
and we shall never see him; then he may be obliged to fight, and who
knows how unhappy it may make _him_?"
Beulah thought more of her brother than she did of herself; and, sooth
to say, her mother had many of the child's misgivings. With Maud it was
altogether different: she saw only the bright side of the picture; Bob
gay and brilliant, his face covered with smiles, his appearance admired
himself, and of course his sisters, happy. Captain Willoughby
sympathized altogether with his pet. Accustomed to arms, he rejoiced
that a career in which he had partially failed--this he did not conceal
from himself or his wife--that this same career had opened, as he
trusted, with better auspices on his only son. He covered Maud with
kisses, and then rushed from the house, finding his heart too full to
run the risk of being unmanned in the presence of females.
A week later, availing themselves of one of the last falls of snow of
the season, captain Willoughby and his wife left Albany for the Knoll.
The leave-taking was tender, and to the parents bitter; though after
all, it was known that little more than a hundred miles would separate
them from their beloved daughters. Fifty of these miles, however, were
absolutely wilderness; and to achieve them, quite a hundred of tangled
forest, or of difficult navigation, were to be passed. The
communications would be at considerable intervals, and difficult. Still
they might be held, and the anxious mother left many injunctions with
Mrs. Waring, the head of the school, in relation to the health of her
daughters, and the manner in which she was to be sent for, in the event
of any serious illness.
Mrs. Willoughby had often overcome, as she fancied, the difficulties of
a wilderness, in the company of her husband. It is the fashion highly
to extol Napoleon's passage of the Alps, simply in reference to its
physical obstacles. There never was a brigade moved twenty-four hours
into the American wilds, that had not greater embarrassments of this
nature to overcome, unless in those cases in which favourable river
navigation has offered its facilities. Still, time and necessity had
made a sort of military ways to all the more important frontier points
occupied by the British garrisons, and the experience of Mrs.
Willoughby had not hitherto been of the severe character of that she
was now compelled to undergo.
The first fifty miles were passed over in a sleigh, in a few hours, and
with little or no personal fatigue. This brought the travellers to a
Dutch inn on the Mohawk, where the captain had often made his halts,
and whither he had from time to time, sent his advanced parties in the
course of the winter and spring. Here a jumper was found prepared to
receive Mrs. Willoughby; and the horse being led by the captain
himself, a passage through the forest was effected as far as the head
of the Otsego. The distance being about twelve miles, it required two
days for its performance. As the settlements extended south from the
Mohawk a few miles, the first night was passed in a log cabin, on the
extreme verge of civilization, if civilization it could be called, and
the remaining eight miles were got over in the course of the succeeding
day. This was more than would probably have been achieved in the virgin
forest, and under the circumstances, had not so many of the captain's
people passed over the same ground, going and returning, thereby
learning how to avoid the greatest difficulties of the route, and here
and there constructing a rude bridge. They had also blazed the trees,
shortening the road by pointing out its true direction.
At the head of the Otsego, our adventurers were fairly in the
wilderness. Huts had been built to receive the travellers, and here the
whole party assembled, in readiness to make a fresh start in company.
It consisted of more than a dozen persons, in all; the black domestics
of the family being present, as well as several mechanics whom Captain
Willoughby had employed to carry on his improvements. The men sent in
advance had not been idle, any more than those left at the Hutted
Knoll. They had built three or four skiffs, one small batteau, and a
couple of canoes. These were all in the water, in waiting for the
disappearance of the ice; which was now reduced to a mass of
stalactites in form, greenish and sombre in hue, as they floated in a
body, but clear and bright when separated and exposed to the sun. The
south winds began to prevail, and the shore was glittering with the
fast-melting piles of the frozen fluid, though it would have been vain
yet to attempt a passage through it.
The Otsego is a sheet that we have taken more than one occasion to
describe, and the picture it then presented, amidst its frame of
mountains, will readily be imagined by most of our readers. In 1765, no
sign of a settlement was visible on its shores; few of the grants of
land in that vicinity extending back so far. Still the spot began to be
known, and hunters had been in the habit of frequenting its bosom and
its shores, for the last twenty years or more Not a vestige of their
presence, however, was to be seen from the huts of the captain; but
Mrs. Willoughby assured her husband, as she stood leaning on his arm,
the morning after her arrival, that never before had she gazed on so
eloquent, and yet so pleasing a picture of solitude as that which lay
spread before her eyes.
"There is something encouraging and soothing in this bland south wind,
too," she added, "which seems to promise that we shall meet with a
beneficent nature, in the spot to which we are going. The south airs of
spring, to me are always filled with promise."
"And justly, love; for they are the harbingers of a renewed vegetation.
If the wind increase, as I think it may, we shall see this chilling
sheet of ice succeeded by the more cheerful view of water. It is in
this way, that all these lakes open their bosoms in April."
Captain Willoughby did not know it, while speaking, but, at that
moment, quite two miles of the lower, or southern end of the lake, was
clear, and the opening giving a sweep to the breeze, the latter was
already driving the sheets of ice before it, towards the head, at a
rate of quite a mile in the hour. Just then, an Irishman, named Michael
O'Hearn, who had recently arrived in America, and whom the captain had
hired as a servant of all work, came rushing up to his master, and
opened his teeming thoughts, with an earnestness of manner, and a
confusion of rhetoric, that were equally characteristic of the man and
of a portion of his nation.
"Is it journeying south, or to the other end of this bit of wather, or
ice, that yer honour is thinking of?" he cried "Well, and there'll be
room for us all, and to spare; for divil a bir-r-d will be left in that
quarter by night, or forenent twelve o'clock either, calculating by the
clock, if one had such a thing; as a body might say."
As this was said not only vehemently, but with an accent that defies
imitation with the pen, Mrs. Willoughby was quite at a loss to get a
clue to the idea; but, her husband, more accustomed to men of Mike's
class, was sufficiently lucky to comprehend what he was at.
"You mean the pigeons, Mike, I suppose," the captain answered, good-
humouredly. "There are certainly a goodly number of them; and I dare
say our hunters will bring us in some, for dinner. It is a certain sign
that the winter is gone, when birds and beasts follow their instincts,
in this manner. Where are you from, Mike?"
"County Leitrim, yer honour," answered the other, touching his cap.
"Ay, that one may guess," said the captain, smiling, 'but where last?"
"From looking at the bir-r-ds, sir!--Och! It's a sight that will do
madam good, and contains a sartainty there'll be room enough made for
us, where all these cr'atures came from. I'm thinking, yer honour, if
we don't ate _them_, they'll be wanting to ate _us_. What a
power of them, counting big and little; though they 're all of a size,
just as much as if they had flown through a hole made on purpose to
kape them down to a convanient bigness, in body and feathers."
"Such a flight of pigeons in Ireland, would make a sensation, Mike,"
observed the captain, willing to amuse his wife, by drawing out the
County Leitrim-man, a little.
"It would make a dinner, yer honour, for every mother's son of 'em,
counting the gur-r-rls, in the bargain! Such a power of bir-r-ds, would
knock down 'praties, in a wonderful degree, and make even butthermilk
chape and plenthiful. Will it be always such abundance with us, down at
the Huts, yer honour? or is this sight only a delusion to fill us with
hopes that's never to be satisfied?"
"Pigeons are seldom wanting in this country, Mike, in the spring and
autumn; though we have both birds and beasts, in plenty, that are
preferable for food."
"Will it be plentthier than this?--Well, it's enough to destroy human
appetite, the sight of 'em! I'd give the half joe I lost among them
blackguards in Albany, at their Pauss, as they calls it, jist to let my
sisther's childer have their supper out of one of these flocks, such as
they are, betther or no betther. Och! its pleasant to think of them
childer having their will, for once, on such a power of wild, savage
Captain Willoughby smiled at this proof of _naivete_ in his new
domestic, and then led his wife back to the hut; if being time to make
some fresh dispositions for the approaching movement. By noon, it
became apparent to those who were waiting such an event, that the lake
was opening; and, about the same time, one of the hunters came in from
a neighbouring mountain, and reported that he had seen clear water, as
near their position as three or four miles. By this time it was blowing
fresh, and the wind, having a clear rake, drove up the honeycomb-
looking sheet before it, as the scraper accumulates snow. When the sun
set, the whole north shore was white with piles of glittering icicles;
while the bosom of the Otsego, no longer disturbed by the wind,
resembled a placid mirror.
Early on the following morning, the whole party embarked. There was no
wind, and men were placed at the paddles and the oars. Care was taken,
on quitting the huts, to close their doors and shutters; for they were
to be taverns to cover the heads of many a traveller, in the frequent
journeys that were likely to be made, between the Knoll and the
settlements. These stations, then, were of the last importance, and a
frontier-man always had the same regard for them, that the mountaineer
of the Alps has for his "refuge."
The passage down the Otsego was the easiest and most agreeable portion
of the whole journey. The day was pleasant, and the oarsmen vigorous,
if not very skilful, rendering the movement rapid, and sufficiently
direct. But one drawback occurred to the prosperity of the voyage.
Among the labourers hired by the captain, was a Connecticut man, of the
name of Joel Strides, between whom and the County Leitrim-man, there
had early commenced a warfare of tricks and petty annoyances; a warfare
that was perfectly defensive on the part of O'Hearn, who did little
more, in the way of retort, than comment on the long, lank, shapeless
figure, and meagre countenance of his enemy. Joel had not been seen to
smile, since he engaged with the captain; though three times had he
laughed outright, and each time at the occurrence of some mishap to
Michael O'Hearn the fruit of one of his own schemes of annoyance.
On the present occasion, Joel, who had the distribution of such duty,
placed Mike in a skiff, by himself, flattering the poor fellow with the
credit he would achieve, by rowing a boat to the foot of the lake,
without assistance. He might as well have asked Mike to walk to the
outlet on the surface of the water! This arrangement proceeded from an
innate love of mischief in Joel, who had much of the quiet waggery,
blended with many of the bad qualities of the men of his peculiar
class. A narrow and conceited selfishness lay at the root of the larger
portion of this man's faults. As a physical being, he was a perfect
labour-saving machine, himself; bringing all the resources of a
naturally quick and acute mind to bear on this one end, never doing
anything that required a particle more than the exertion and strength
that were absolutely necessary to effect his object. He rowed the skiff
in which the captain and his wife had embarked, with his own hands;
and, previously to starting, he had selected the best sculls from the
other boats, had fitted his twhart with the closest attention to his
own ease, and had placed a stretcher for his feet, with an intelligence
and knowledge of mechanics, that would have done credit to a Whitehall
waterman. This much proceeded from the predominating principle of his
nature, which was, always to have an eye on the interests of Joel
Strides; though the effect happened, in this instance, to be beneficial
to those he served.
Michael O'Hearn, on the contrary, thought only of the end; and this so
intensely, not to so say vehemently, as generally to overlook the
means. Frank, generous, self-devoted, and withal accustomed to get most
things wrong-end-foremost, he usually threw away twice the same labour,
in effecting a given purpose, that was expended by the Yankee; doing
the thing worse, too, besides losing twice the time. He never paused to
think of this, however. The _masther's_ boat was to be rowed to
the other end of the lake, and, though he had never rowed a boat an
inch in his life, he was ready and willing to undertake the job. "If a
certain quantity of work will not do it," thought Mike, "I'll try as
much ag'in; and the divil is in it, if _that_ won't sarve the
purpose of that little bit of a job."
Under such circumstances the party started. Most of the skiffs and
canoes went off half an hour before Mrs. Willoughby was ready, and Joel
managed to keep Mike for he last, under the pretence of wishing his aid
in loading his own boat, with the bed and bedding from the hut. All was
ready, at length, and taking his seat, with a sort of quiet
deliberation, Joel said, in his drawling way, "You'll follow _us_,
Mike, and you can't be a thousand miles out of the way." Then he pulled
from the shore with a quiet, steady stroke of the sculls, that sent the
skiff ahead with great rapidity, though with much ease to himself.
Michael O'Hearn stood looking at the retiring skiff, in silent
admiration, for two or three minutes. He was quite alone; for all the
other boats were already two or three miles on their way, and distance
already prevented him from seeing the mischief that was lurking in
Joel's hypocritical eyes.
"Follow _yees_!" soliloquized Mike--"The divil burn ye, for a
guessing yankee as ye ar'--how am I to follow with such legs as the
likes of these? If it wasn't for the masther and the missus, ra'al
jontlemen and ladies they be, I'd turn my back on ye, in the desert,
and let ye find that Beaver estate, in yer own disagreeable company.
Ha!--well, I must thry, and if the boat won't go, it'll be no fault of
the man that has a good disposition to make it."
Mike now took his seat on a board that lay across the gunwale of the
skiff at a most inconvenient height, placed two sculls in the water,
one of which was six inches longer than the other, made a desperate
effort, and got his craft fairly afloat. Now, Michael O'Hearn was not
left-handed, and, as usually happens with such men, the inequality
between the two limbs was quite marked. By a sinister accident, too, it
happened that the longest oar got into the strongest hand, and there it
would have staid to the end of time; before Mike would think of
changing it, on that account. Joel, alone, sat with his face towards
the head of the lake, and he alone could see the dilemma in which the
county Leitrim-man was placed. Neither the captain nor his wife thought
of looking behind, and the yankee had all the fun to himself. As for
Mike, he succeeded in getting a few rods from the land, when the strong
arm and the longer lever asserting their superiority, the skiff began
to incline to the westward. So intense, however, was the poor fellow's
zeal, that he did not discover the change in his course until he had so
far turned as to give him a glimpse of his retiring master; then he
inferred that all was right, and pulled more leisurely. The result was,
that in about ten minutes, Mike was stopped by the land, the boat
touching the north shore again, two or three rods from the very point
whence it had started. The honest fellow got up, looked around him,
scratched his head, gazed wistfully after the fast-receding boat of his
master, and broke out in another soliloquy.
"Bad luck to them that made ye, ye one-sided thing!" he said, shaking
his head reproachfully at the skiff: "there's liberty for ye to do as
ye ought, and ye'll not be doing it, just out of contrairiness. Why the
divil can't ye do like the other skiffs, and go where ye're wanted, on
the road towards thim beavers? Och, ye'll be sorry for this, when ye're
left behind, out of sight!"
Then it flashed on Mike's mind that possibly some article had been left
in the hut, and the skiff had come back to look after it; so, up he ran
to the captain's deserted lodge, entered it, was lost to view for a
minute, then came in sight again, scratching his head, and renewing his
muttering--"No," he said, "divil a thing can I see, and it must be pure
con_trair_iness! Perhaps the baste will behave betther next time,
so I'll thry it ag'in, and give it an occasion. Barring obstinacy, 't
is as good-lookin' a skiff as the best of them."
Mike was as good as his word, and gave the skiff as fair an opportunity
of behaving itself as was ever offered to a boat. Seven times did he
quit the shore, and as often return to it, gradually working his way
towards the western shore, and slightly down the lake. In this manner,
Mike at length got himself so far on the side of the lake, as to
present a barrier of land to the evil disposition of his skiff to
incline to the westward. It could go no longer in that direction, at
"Divil burn ye," the honest fellow cried, the perspiration rolling down
his face; "I think ye'll be satisfied without walking out into the
forest, where I wish ye war' with all my heart, amang the threes that
made ye! Now, I'll see if yer con_trair_y enough to run up a
Mike next essayed to pull along the shore, in the hope that the sight
of the land, and of the overhanging pines and hemlocks, would cure the
boat's propensity to turn in that direction. It is not necessary to say
that his expectations were disappointed, and he finally was reduced to
getting out into the water, cool as was the weather, and of wading
along the shore, dragging the boat after him. All this Joel saw before
he passed out of sight, but no movement of his muscles let the captain
into the secret of the poor Irishman's strait.
In the meanwhile, the rest of the flotilla, or _brigade_ of boats,
as the captain termed them, went prosperously on their way, going from
one end of the lake to the other, in the course of three hours. As one
of the party had been over the route several times already, there was
no hesitation on the subject of the point to which the boats were to
proceed. They all touched the shore near the stone that is now called
the "Otsego Rock," beneath a steep wooded bank, and quite near to the
place where the Susquehannah glanced out of the lake, in a swift
current, beneath a high-arched tracery of branches that were not yet
clothed with leaves.
Here the question was put as to what had become of Mike. His skiff was
nowhere visible, and the captain felt the necessity of having him
looked for, before he proceeded any further. After a short
consultation, a boat manned by two negroes, father and son, named Pliny
the elder, and Pliny the younger, or, in common parlance, "old Plin"
and "young Plin," was sent back along the west-shore to hunt him up. Of
course, a hut was immediately prepared for the reception of Mrs.
Willoughby, upon the plain that stretches across the valley, at this
point. This was on the site of the present village of Cooperstown, but
just twenty years anterior to the commencement of the pretty little
shire town that now exists on the spot.
It was night ere the two Plinies appeared towing Mike, as their great
namesakes of antiquity might have brought in a Carthaginian galley, in
triumph. The county Leitrim-man had made his way with excessive toil
about a league ere he was met, and glad enough was he to see his
succour approach. In that day, the strong antipathy which now exists
between the black and the emigrant Irishman was unknown, the
competition for household service commencing more than half a century
later. Still, as the negro loved fun constitutionally, and Pliny the
younger was somewhat of a wag, Mike did not entirely escape, scot-free.
"Why you drag 'im like ox, Irish Mike?" cried the younger negro--"why
you no row 'im like other folk?"
"Ah--you're as bad as the rest of 'em," growled Mike. "They tould me
Ameriky was a mighty warm country, and war-r-m I find it, sure enough,
though the wather isn't as warm as good whiskey. Come, ye black divils,
and see if ye can coax this _contrairy_ crathure to do as a person
The negroes soon had Mike in tow, and then they went down the lake
merrily, laughing and cracking their jokes, at the Irishman's expense,
after the fashion of their race. It was fortunate for the Leitrim-man
that he was accustomed to ditching, though it may be questioned if the
pores of his body closed again that day, so very effectually had they
been opened. When he rejoined his master, not a syllable was said of
the mishap, Joel having the prudence to keep his own secret, and even
joining Mike in denouncing the bad qualities of the boat. We will only
add here, that a little calculation entered into this trick, Joel
perceiving that Mike was a favourite, and wishing to bring him into
Early the next morning, the captain sent the negroes and Mike down the
Susquehannah a mile, to clear away some flood-wood, of which one of the
hunters had brought in a report the preceding day. Two hours later, the
boats left the shore, and began to float downward with the current,
following the direction of a stream that has obtained its name from its
In a few minutes the boats reached the flood-wood, where, to Joel's
great amusement, Mike and the negroes, the latter having little more
calculation than the former, had commenced their operations on the
upper side of the raft, piling the logs on one another, with a view to
make a passage through the centre. Of course, there was a halt, the
females landing. Captain Willoughby now cast an eye round him in
hesitation, when a knowing look from Joel caught his attention.
"This does not seem to be right," he said--"cannot we better if a
"It's right wrong, captain," answered Joel, laughing like one who
enjoyed other people's ignorance. "A sensible crittur' would begin the
work on such a job, at the lower side of the raft."
"Take the direction, and order things to suit yourself."
This was just what Joel liked. _Head-work_ before all other work
for him, and he set about the duty authoritatively and with
promptitude. After rating the negroes roundly for their stupidity, and
laying it on Mike without much delicacy of thought or diction, over the
shoulders of the two blacks, he mustered his forces, and began to clear
the channel with intelligence and readiness.
Going to the lower side of the jammed flood-wood, he soon succeeded in
loosening one or two trees, which floated away, making room for others
to follow. By these means a passage was effected in half an hour, Joel
having the prudence to set no more timber in motion than was necessary
to his purpose, lest it might choke the stream below. In this manner
the party got through, and, the river being high at that season, by
night the travellers were half-way to the mouth of the Unadilla. The
next evening they encamped at the junction of the two streams, making
their preparations to ascend the latter the following morning.
The toil of the ascent, however, did not commence, until the boats
entered what was called the creek, or the small tributary of the
Unadilla, on which the beavers had erected their works, and which ran
through the "Manor." Here, indeed, the progress was slow and laborious,
the rapidity of the current and the shallowness of the water rendering
every foot gained a work of exertion and pain. Perseverance and skill,
notwithstanding, prevailed; all the boats reaching the foot of the
rapids, or straggling falls, on which the captain had built his mills,
about an hour before the sun disappeared. Here, of course, the boats
were left, a rude road having been cut, by means of which the freights
were transported on a sledge the remainder of the distance. Throughout
the whole of this trying day, Joel had not only worked head-work, but
he had actually exerted himself with his body. As for Mike, never
before had he made such desperate efforts. He felt all the disgrace of
his adventure on the lake, and was disposed to wipe it out by his
exploits on the rivers. Thus Mike was ever loyal to his employer. He
had sold his flesh and blood for money, and a man of his conscience was
inclined to give a fair penny's-worth. The tractable manner in which
the boat had floated down the river, it is true, caused him some
surprise, as was shown in his remark to the younger Pliny, on landing.
"This is a curious boat, afther all," said Pat. "One time it's all
con_trar_iness, and then ag'in it's as obliging as one's own
mother. It _followed_ the day all's one like a puppy dog, while
yon on the big wather there was no more _dhriving_ it than a hog.
Och! it's a faimale boat, by its whims!"
"He sleeps forgetful of his once bright flame
He has no feeling of the glory gone;
He has no eye to catch the mounting flame
That once in transport drew him on;
He lies in dull oblivious dreams, nor cares
Who the wreathed laurel bears."
The appearance of a place in which the remainder of one's life is to be
past is always noted with interest on a first visit. Thus it was that
Mrs. Willoughby had been observant and silent from the moment the
captain informed her that they had passed the line of his estate, and
were approaching the spot where they were to dwell. The stream was so
small, and the girding of the forest so close, that there was little
range for the sight; but the anxious wife and mother could perceive
that the hills drew together, at this point, the valley narrowing
essentially, that rocks began to appear in the bed of the river, and
that the growth of the timber indicated fertility and a generous soil.
When the boat stopped, the little stream came brawling down a ragged
declivity, and a mill, one so arranged as to grind and saw, both in a
very small way, however, gave the first signs of civilization she had
beheld since quitting the last hut near the Mohawk. After issuing a few
orders, the captain drew his wife's arm through his own, and hurried up
the ascent, with an eagerness that was almost boyish, to show her what
had been done towards the improvement of the "Knoll." There is a
pleasure in diving into a virgin forest and commencing the labours of
civilization, that has no exact parallel in any other human occupation.
That of building, or of laying out grounds, has certainly some
resemblance to it, but it is a resemblance so faint and distant as
scarcely to liken the enjoyment each produces. The former approaches
nearer to the feeling of creating, and is far more pregnant with
anticipations and hopes, though its first effects are seldom agreeable,
and are sometimes nearly hideous. Our captain, however, had escaped
most of these last consequences, by possessing the advantage of having
a clearing, without going through the usual processes of chopping and
burning; the first of which leaves the earth dotted, for many years,
with unsightly stumps, while the rains and snows do not wash out the
hues of the last for several seasons.
An exclamation betrayed the pleasure with which Mrs. Willoughby got her
first glimpse of the drained pond. It was when she had clambered to the
point of the rocks, where the stream began to tumble downward into the
valley below. A year had done a vast deal for the place. The few stumps
and stubs which had disfigured the basin when it was first laid bare,
had all been drawn by oxen, and burned. This left the entire surface of
the four hundred acres smooth and fit for the plough. The soil was the
deposit of centuries, and the inclination, from the woods to the
stream, was scarcely perceptible to the eye. In fact, it was barely
sufficient to drain the drippings of the winter's snows. The form of
the area was a little irregular; just enough so to be picturesque;
while the inequalities were surprisingly few and trifling. In a word,
nature had formed just such a spot as delights the husbandman's heart,
and placed it beneath a sun which, while its fierceness is relieved by
winters of frost and snow, had a power to bring out all its latent
Trees had been felled around the whole area, with the open spaces
filled by branches, in a way to form what is termed a brush fence. This
is not a sightly object, and the captain had ordered the line to be
drawn _within_ the woods, so that the visible boundaries of the
open land were the virgin forest itself. His men had protested against
this, a fence, however unseemly, being in their view an indispensable
accessory to civilization. But the captain's authority, if not his
better taste, prevailed; and the boundary of felled trees and brush was
completely concealed in the back-ground of woods. As yet, there was no
necessity for cross-fences, the whole open space lying in a single
field. One hundred acres were in winter wheat. As this grain had been
got in the previous autumn, it was now standing on the finest and
driest of the soil, giving an air of rich fertility to the whole basin.
Grass-seed had been sown along both banks of the stream, and its waters
were quietly flowing between two wide belts of fresh verdure, the young
plants having already started in that sheltered receptacle of the sun's
rays. Other portions of the flat showed signs of improvement, the
plough having actually been at work for quite a fortnight.
All this was far more than even the captain had expected, and much more
than his wife had dared to hope. Mrs. Willoughby had been accustomed to
witness the slow progress of a new settlement; but never before had she
seen what might be done on a beaver-dam. To her all appeared like
magic, and her first question would have been to ask her husband to
explain what had been done with the trees and stumps, had not her
future residence caught her eye. Captain Willoughby had left his orders
concerning the house, previously to quitting the Knoll; and he was now
well pleased to perceive that they had been attended to. As this spot
will prove the scene of many of the incidents we are bound to relate,
it may be proper, here, to describe it, at some length.
The hillock that rose out of the pond, in the form of a rocky little
island, was one of those capricious formations that are often met with
on the surface of the earth. It stood about thirty rods from the
northern side of the area, very nearly central as to its eastern and
western boundaries, and presented a slope inclining towards the south.
Its greatest height was at its northern end, where it rose out of the
rich alluvion of the soil, literally a rock of some forty feet in
perpendicular height, having a summit of about an acre of level land,
and falling off on its three sides; to the east and west precipitously;
to the south quite gently and with regularity. It was this accidental
formation which had induced the captain to select the spot as the site
of his residence; for dwelling so far from any post, and in a place so
difficult of access, something like military defences were merely
precautions of ordinary prudence. While the pond remained, the islet
was susceptible of being made very strong against any of the usual
assaults of Indian warfare; and, now that the basin was drained, it had
great advantages for the same purpose. The perpendicular rock to the
north, even overhung the plain. It was almost inaccessible; while the
formation on the other sides, offered singular facilities, both for a
dwelling and for security. All this the captain, who was so familiar
with the finesse of Indian stratagem, had resolved to improve in the
In the first place, he directed the men to build a massive wall of
stone, for a hundred and fifty feet in length, and six feet in height.
This stretched in front of the perpendicular rock, with receding walls
to its verge. The latter were about two hundred feet in length, each.
This was enclosing an area of two hundred, by one hundred and fifty
feet, within a blind wall of masonry. Through this wall there was only
a single passage; a gateway, in the centre of its southern face. The
materials had all been found on the hill itself, which was well covered
with heavy stones. Within this wall, which was substantially laid, by a
Scotch mason, one accustomed to the craft, the men had erected a
building of massive, squared, pine timber, well secured by cross
partitions. This building followed the wall in its whole extent, was
just fifteen feet in elevation, without the roof, and was composed, in
part, by the wall itself; the latter forming nearly one-half its
height, on the exterior. The breadth of this edifice was only twenty
feet, clear of the stones and wood-work; leaving a court within of
about one hundred by one hundred and seventy-five feet in extent. The
roof extended over the gateway even; so that the space within was
completely covered, the gates being closed. This much had been done
during the preceding fall and winter; the edifice presenting an
appearance of rude completeness on the exterior. Still it had a sombre
and goal-like air, there being nothing resembling a window visible; no
aperture, indeed, on either of its outer faces, but the open gateway,
of which the massive leaves were finished, and placed against the
adjacent walls, but which were not yet hung. It is scarcely necessary
to say, this house resembled barracks, more than an ordinary dwelling.
Mrs. Willoughby stood gazing at it, half in doubt whether to admire or
to condemn, when a voice, within a few yards, suddenly drew her
attention in another direction.
"How you like him?" asked Nick, who was seated on a stone, at the
margin of the stream, washing his feet, after a long day's hunt. "No
t'ink him better dan beaver skin? Cap'in know all 'bout him; now he
give Nick some more last quit-rent?"
"_Last_, indeed, it will be, then, Nick; for I have already paid
you _twice_ for your rights."
"Discovery wort' great deal, cap'in--see what great man he make pale-
"Ay, but _your_ discovery, Nick, is not of that sort."
"What sort, den?" demanded Nick, with the rapidity of lightning. "Give
him back 'e beaver, if you no like he discovery. Grad to see 'em back,
ag'in; skin higher price dan ever."
"Nick, you're a cormorant, if there ever was one in this world! Here--
there is a dollar for you; the quit-rent is paid for this year, at
least. It ought to be for the last time."
"Let him go for all summer, cap'in. Yes, Nick wonderful commerant! no
such eye he got, among Oneida!"
Here the Tuscarora left the side of the stream, and came up on the
rock, shaking hands, good-humouredly, with Mrs. Willoughby, who rather
liked the knave; though she knew him to possess most of the vices of
"He very han'som beaver-dam," said Nick, sweeping his hand gracefully
over the view; "bye 'nd bye, he'll bring potatoe, and corn, and cider--
all 'e squaw want. Cap'in got good fort, too. Old soldier love fort;
like to live in him."
"The day may come, Nick, when that fort may serve us all a good turn,
out here in the wilderness," Mrs. Willoughby observed, in a somewhat
melancholy tone; for her tender thoughts naturally turned towards her
youthful and innocent daughters.
The Indian gazed at the house, with that fierce intentness which
sometimes glared, in a manner that had got to be, in its ordinary
aspects, dull and besotted. There was a startling intelligence in his
eye, at such moments; the feelings of youth and earlier habit, once
more asserting their power. Twenty years before, Nick had been foremost
on the war-path; and what was scarcely less honourable, among the
wisest around the council-fire. He was born a chief, and had made
himself an outcast from his tribe, more by the excess of ungovernable
passions, than from any act of base meanness.
"Cap'm tell Nick, now, what he mean by building such house, out here,
among ole beaver bones?" he said, sideling up nearer to his employer,
and gazing with some curiosity into his face.
"What do I mean, Nick?--Why I mean to have a place of safety to put the
heads of my wife and children in, at need. The road to Canada is not so
long, but a red-skin can make one pair of moccasins go over it. Then,
the Oneidas and Mohawks are not all children of heaven."
"No pale-face rogue, go about, I s'pose?" said Nick, sarcastically.
"Yes, there are men of that class, who are none the worse for being
locked out of one's house, at times. But, what do _you_ think of
the hut?--You know I call the place the 'Hut,' the Hutted Knoll."
"He hole plenty of beaver, if you cotch him!--But no water left, and he
all go away. Why you make him stone, first; den you make him wood,
a'ter; eh? Plenty rock; plenty tree."
"Why, the stone wall can neither be cut away, nor set fire to, Nick;
that's the reason. I took as much stone as was necessary, and then used
wood, which is more easily worked, and which is also drier."
"Good--Nick t'ought just dat. How you get him water if Injen come?"
"There's the stream, that winds round the foot of the hill, Nick, as
you see; and then there is a delicious spring, within one hundred yards
of the very gate."
"Which side of him?" asked Nick, with his startling rapidity.
"Why, here, to the left of the gate, and a little to the right of the
"No--no," interrupted the Indian, "no left--no right--which side--
_inside_ gate; _outside_ gate?"
"Oh!--the spring is outside the gate, certainly; but means might be
found to make a covered way to it; and then the stream winds round
directly underneath the rocks, behind the house, and wafer could be
raised from _that_, by means of a rope. Our rifles would count for
something, too, in drawing water, as well as in drawing blood."
"Good.--Rifle got long arm. He talk so, Ingin mind him. When you t'ink
red-skin come ag'in your fort, cap'in, now you got him done?"
"A long time first, I hope, Nick. We are at peace with France, again;
and I see no prospect of any new quarrel, very soon. So long as the
French and English are at peace, the red men will not dare to touch
"Dat true as missionary! What a soldier do, cap'in, if so much peace?
Warrior love a war-path."
"I wish it were not so, Nick. But _my_ hatchet is buried, I hope,
"Nick hope cap'in know where to find him, if he want to? Very bad to
put anyt'ing where he forget; partic'larly tomahawk. Sometime quarrel
come, like rain, when you don't tink."
"Yes, that also cannot be denied. Yet, I fear the next quarrel will be
among ourselves, Nick.--The government at home, and the people of the
colonies, are getting to have bad blood between them."
"Dat very queer! Why pale-face mo'der and pale-face darter no love one
anoder, like red-skin?"
"Really, Nick, you are somewhat interrogating this evening; but, my
squaw must be a little desirous of seeing the inside of her house, as
well as its outside, and I must refer you to that honest fellow,
yonder, for an answer. His name is Mike; I hope he and you will always
be good friends."
So saying, the captain nodded in a friendly manner, and led Mrs.
Willoughby towards the hut, taking a foot-path that was already trodden
firm, and which followed the sinuosities of the stream, to which it
served as a sort of a dyke. Nick took the captain at his word, and
turning about he met the county Leitrim-man, with an air of great
blandness, thrusting out a hand, in the pale-face fashion, as a sign of
amity, saying, at the same time--
"How do, Mike?--Sago--Sago--grad you come--good fellow to drink Santa
Cruz, wid Nick."
"How do, Mike!" exclaimed the other, looking at the Tuscarora with
astonishment, for this was positively the first red man the Irishman
had ever seen. "How do Mike! Ould Nick be ye?--well--ye look pretty
much as I expected to see you--pray, how did ye come to know _my_
"Nick know him--know every t'ing. Grad to see you, Mike--hope we live
together like good friend, down yonder, up here, over dere."
"Ye do, do ye! Divil burn me, now, if I want any sich company. Ould
Nick's yer name, is it?"
"Old Nick--young Nick--saucy Nick; all one, all to'ther. Make no odd
what you call; I come."
"Och, yer a handy one! Divil trust ye, but ye'll come when you arn't
wanted, or yer not of yer father's own family. D'ye live hereabouts,
masther Ould Nick?"
"Live here--out yonder--in he hut, in he wood--where he want. Make no
difference to Nick."
Michael now drew back a pace or two, keeping his eyes fastened on the
other intently, for he actually expected to see some prodigious and
sudden change in his appearance. When he thought he had got a good
position for manly defence or rapid retreat, as either might become
necessary the county Leitrim-man put on a bolder front and resumed the
"If it's so indifferent to ye where ye dwell," asked Mike, "why can't
you keep at home, and let a body carry these cloaks and bundles of the
missuses, out yonder to the house wither she's gone?"
"Nick help carry 'em. Carry t'ing for dat squaw hundred time."
"That what! D'ye mane Madam Willoughby by yer blackguard name?"
"Yes; cap'in wife--cap'in squaw, mean him. Carry bundle, basket,
hundred time for him."
"The Lord preserve me, now, from sich atrocity and impudence!" laying
down the cloaks and bundles, and facing the Indian, with an appearance
of great indignation--"Did a body ever hear sich a liar! Why, Misther
Ould Nick, Madam Willoughby wouldn't let the likes of ye touch the ind
of her garments. You wouldn't get the liberty to walk in the same path
with her, much less to carry her bundles. I'll answer for it, ye're a
great liar, now, ould Nick, in the bottom of your heart."
"Nick great liar," answered the Indian, good-naturedly; for he so well
knew this was his common reputation, that he saw no use in denying it.
"What of dat? Lie good sometime."
"That's another! Oh, ye animal; I've a great mind to set upon ye at
once, and see what an honest man can do wid ye, in fair fight! If I
only knew what ye'd got about yer toes, now, under them fine-looking
things ye wear for shoes, once, I'd taich ye to talk of the missus, in
"Speak as well as he know how. Nick never been to school. Call 'e
squaw, _good_ squaw. What want more?"
"Get out! If ye come a foot nearer, I'll be at ye, like a dog upon a
bull, though ye gore me. What brought ye into this paiceful sittlement,
where nothing but virtue and honesty have taken up their abode?"
What more Mike might have said is not known, as Nick caught a sign from
the captain, and went loping across the flat, at his customary gait,
leaving the Irishman standing on the defensive, and, to own the truth,
not sorry to be rid of him. Unfortunately for the immediate
enlightenment of Mike's mind, Joel overheard the dialogue, and
comprehending its meaning, with his native readiness, he joined his
companion in a mood but little disposed to clear up the error.
"Did ye see that _crathure_?" asked Mike, with emphasis.
"Sartain--he is often seen here, at the Hut. He may be said to live
here, half his time."
"A pritty hut, then, ye must have of it! Why do ye tolerate the
vagabond? He's not fit for Christian society."
"Oh! he's good company, sometimes, Mike. When you know him better,
you'll like him better. Come; up with the bundles, and let us follow.
The captain is looking after us, as you see."
"Well may he look, to see us in sich company!--Will he har-r-m the
"Not he. I tell you, you'll like him yourself when you come to know
"If I do, burn me! Why, he says _himself_, that he's Ould Nick,
and I'm sure I never fancied the crathure but it was in just some such
for-r-m. Och! he's ill-looking enough, for twenty Ould Nicks."
Lest the reader get an exaggerated notion of Michael's credulity, it
may be well to say that Nick had painted a few days before, in a fit of
caprice, and that one-half of his face was black, and the other a deep
red, while each of his eyes was surrounded with a circle of white, all
of which had got to be a little confused in consequence of a night or
two of orgies, succeeded by mornings in which the toilet had been
altogether neglected. His dress, too, a blanket with tawdry red and
yellow trimmings, with ornamented leggings and moccasins to correspond,
had all aided in maintaining the accidental mystification. Mike
followed his companion, growling out his discontent, and watching the
form of the Indian, as the latter still went loping over the flat,
having passed the captain, with a message to the barns.
"I'll warrant ye, now, the captain wouldn't tolerate such a crathure,
but he's sent him off to the woods, as ye may see, like a divil, as he
is! To think of such a thing's spakeing to the missus! Will I fight
him?--That will I, rather than he'll say an uncivil word to the likes
of her! He's claws they tell me, though he kapes them so well covered
in his fine brogues; divil burn me, but I'd grapple him by the toes."
Joel now saw how deep was Michael's delusion, and knowing it
_must_ soon be over, he determined to make a merit of necessity, by
letting his friend into the truth, thereby creating a confidence that
would open the way to a hundre'd future mischievous scenes.
"Claws!" he repeated, with an air of surprise--"And why do you think an
Injin has claws, Mike?"
"An Injin! D'ye call that miscoloured crathure an Injin Joel. Isn't it
one of yer yankee divils?"
"Out upon you, for an Irish ninny. Do you think the captain would
_board_ a devil! The fellow's a Tuscarora, and is as well known here
as the owner of the Hut himself. It's Saucy Nick."
"Yes, saucy Ould Nick--had it from his very mout' and even the divil
would hardly be such a blackguard as to lie about his own name. Och!
he's a roarer, sure enough; and then for the tusks you mintion, I
didn't see 'em, with my eyes; but the crathure has a mouth that might
hould a basket-full."
Joel now perceived that he must go more seriously to work to undeceive
his companion. Mike honestly believed he had met an American devil, and
it required no little argumentation to persuade him of the contrary. We
shall leave Joel employed in this difficult task, in which he finally
succeeded, and follow the captain and his wife to the hut.
The lord and lady of the manor examined everything around their future
residence, with curious eyes. Jamie Allen, the Scotch mason mentioned,
was standing in front of the house, to hear what might be said of his
wall, while two or three other mechanics betrayed some such agitation
as the tyro in literature manifests, ere he learns what the critics
have said of his first work. The exterior gave great satisfaction to
the captain. The wall was not only solid and secure, but it was really
handsome. This was in some measure owing to the quality of the stones,
but quite as much to Jamie's dexterity in using them. The wall and
chimneys, of the latter of which there were no less than six, were all
laid in lime, too; it having been found necessary to burn some of the
material to plaster the interior. Then the gates were massive, being
framed in oak, filled in with four-inch plank, and might have resisted
a very formidable assault. Their strong iron hinges were all in their
places, but the heavy job of hanging had been deferred to a leisure
moment, when all the strength of the manor might be collected for that
purpose. There they stood, inclining against the wall, one on each side
of the gateway, like indolent sentinels on post, who felt too secure
from attack to raise their eyes.
The different mechanics crowded round the captain, each eager to show
his own portion of what had been done. The winter had not been wasted,
but, proper materials being in abundance, and on the spot, captain
Willoughby had every reason to be satisfied with what he got for his
money. Completely shut out from the rest of the world, the men had
worked cheerfully and with little interruption; for their labours
composed their recreation. Mrs. Willoughby found the cart of the
building her family was to occupy, with the usual offices, done and
furnished. This comprised all the front on the-eastern side of the
gateway, and most of the wing, in the same half, extending back to the
cliff. It is true, the finish was plain; but everything was
comfortable. The ceilings were only ten feet high certainly, but it was
thought prodigious in the colony in that day; and then the plastering
of Jamie was by no means as unexceptionable as his stone-work; still
every room had its two coats, and white-wash gave them a clean and
healthful aspect. The end of the wing that came next the cliff was a
laundry, and a pump was fitted, by means of which water was raised from
the rivulet. Next came the kitchen, a spacious and comfortable room of
thirty by twenty feet; an upper-servant's apartment succeeded; after
which were the bed-rooms of the family a large parlour, and a library,
or office, for the captain. As the entire range, on this particular
side of the house, extended near or quite two hundred and fifty feet,
there was no want of space or accommodation.
The opposite, or western half of the edifice, was devoted to more
homely uses. It contained an eating-room and divers sleeping-rooms far
the domestics and labourers, besides store-rooms, garners, and
_omnium gatherums_ of all sorts. The vast ranges of garrets, too,
answered for various purposes of household and farming economy. All the
windows, and sundry doors, opened into the court, while the whole of
the exterior wall, both wooden and stone, presented a perfect blank, in
the way of outlets. It was the captain's intention, however, to cut
divers loops through the logs, at some convenient moment, so that men
stationed in the garrets might command the different faces of the
structure with their musketry. But, like the gates, these means of
defence were laid aside for a more favourable opportunity.
Our excellent matron was delighted with her domestic arrangements. They
much surpassed any of the various barracks in which she had dwelt, and
a smile of happiness beamed on her handsome face, as she followed her
husband from room to room, listening to his explanations. When they
entered their private apartments, and these were furnished and ready to
receive them, respect caused the rest to leave them by themselves, and
once more they found that they were alone.
"Well, Wilhelmina," asked the gratified husband--gratified, because he
saw pleasure beaming in the mild countenance and serene blue eyes of
one of the best wives living--"Well, Wilhelmina," he asked, "can you
give up Albany, and all the comforts of your friends' dwellings, to be
satisfied in a home like this? It is not probable I shall ever build
again, whatever Bob may do, when he comes after me. This structure,
then, part house, part barrack, part fort, as it is, must be our
residence for the remainder of our days. We are _hutted_ for
"It is all-sufficient, Willoughby. It has space, comfort, warmth,
coolness and security. What more can a wife and a mother ask, when she
is surrounded by those she most loves? Only attend to the security,
Hugh. Remember how far we are removed from any succour, and how sudden
and fierce the Indians are in their attacks. Twice have we, ourselves,
been near being destroyed by surprises, from which accident, or God's
providence, protected us, rather than our own vigilance. If this could
happen in garrisons, and with king's troops around us, how much more
easily might it happen here, with only common labourers to watch what
is going on!"
"You exaggerate the danger, wife. There are no Indians, in this part of
the country, who would dare to molest a settlement like ours. We count
thirteen able-bodied men in all, besides seven women, and could use
seventeen or eighteen muskets and rifles on an emergency. No _tribe_
would dare commence hostilities, in a time of general peace,
and so near the settlements too; and, as to stragglers, who might
indeed murder to rob, we are so strong, ourselves, that we may sleep in
peace, so far as they are concerned."
"One never knows that, dearest Hugh. A marauding party of half-a-dozen
might prove too much for many times their own number, when unprepared.
I _do_ hope you will have the gates hung, at least; should the
girls come here, in the autumn, I could not sleep without hanging the
"Fear nothing, love," said the captain, kissing his wife with manly
tenderness. "As for Beulah and Maud, let them come when they please; we
shall always have a welcome for them, and no place can be safer than
under their father's eyes."
"I care not so much for myself, Hugh, but _do_ not let the gates
be forgotten until the girls come."
"Everything shall be done as you desire, wife of mine, though it will
be a hard job to get two such confounded heavy loads of wood on their
hinges. We must take some day when everybody is at home, and everybody
willing to work. Saturday next, I intend to have a review; and, once a
month, the year round, there will be a muster, when all the arms are to
be cleaned and loaded, and orders given how to act in case of an alarm.
An old soldier would be disgraced to allow himself to be run down by
mere vagabonds. My pride is concerned, and you may sleep in peace."
"Yes, do, dearest Hugh."--Then the matron proceeded through the rooms,
expressing her satisfaction at the care which had been had for her
comfort, in her own rooms in particular.
Sooth to say, the interior of the hut presented that odd contrast
between civilization and rude expedients, which so frequently occurs on
an American frontier, where persons educated in refinement often find
themselves brought in close collision with savage life. Carpets, in
America, and in the year of our Lord 1765, were not quite as much a
matter of course in domestic economy, as they are to-day. Still they
were to be found, though it was rare, indeed, that they covered more
than the centre of the room. One of these great essentials, without
which no place can appear comfortable in a cold climate, was spread on
the floor of Mrs. Willoughby's parlour--a room that served for both
eating and as a sala, the Knight's Hall of the Hut, measuring twenty by
twenty-four feet--though in fact this carpet concealed exactly two-
thirds of the white clean plank. Then the chairs were massive and even
rich, while one might see his face in the dark mahogany of the tables.
There were cellarets--the captain being a connoisseur in wines--
bureaus, secretaries, beaufets, and other similar articles, that had
been collected in the course of twenty years' housekeeping, and
scattered at different posts, were collected, and brought hither by
means of sledges, and the facilities of the water-courses. Fashion had
little to do with furniture, in that simple age, when the son did not
hesitate to wear even the clothes of the father, years and years after
the tailor had taken leave of them. Massive old furniture, in
particular, lasted for generations, and our matron now saw many
articles that had belonged to her grandfather assembled beneath the
first roof that she could ever strictly call her own.
Mrs. Willoughby took a survey of the offices last. Here she found,
already established, the two Plinies, with Mari', the sister of the
elder Pliny, Bess, the wife of the younger, and Mony--alias Desdemona--
a collateral of the race, by ties and affinities that garter-king-at-
arms could not have traced genealogically; since he would have been
puzzled to say whether the woman was the cousin, or aunt, or step-
daughter of Mari', or all three. All the women were hard at work, Bess
singing in a voice that reached the adjoining forest. Mari'--this name
was pronounced with a strong emphasis on the last syllable, or like
Maria, without the final vowel--Mari' was the head of the kitchen, even
Pliny the elder standing in salutary dread of her authority; and her
orders to her brother and nephew were pouring forth, in an English that
was divided into three categories; the Anglo-Saxon, the Low Dutch, and
the Guinea dialect; a medley that rendered her discourse a droll
assemblage of the vulgar and the classical.
"Here, niggers," she cried, "why you don't jump about like Paus dance?
Ebbery t'ing want a hand, and some want a foot. Plate to wash, crockery
to open, water to b'ile, dem knife to clean, and not'ing missed. Lord,
here's a madam, and 'e whole kitchen in a diffusion."
"Well, Mari'," exclaimed the captain, good-naturedly, "here you are,
scolding away as if you had been in the place these six months, and
knew all its faults and weaknesses."
"Can't help a scold, master, in sich a time as dis--come away from dem
plates, _you_ Great Smash, and let a proper hand take hold on
Here we ought to say, that captain Willoughby had christened Bess by
the sobriquet of Great Smash, on account of her size, which fell little
short of two hundred, estimated in pounds, and a certain facility she
possessed in destroying crockery, while 'Mony went by the milder
appellation of "Little Smash;" not that bowls or plates fared any
better in her hands, but because _she_ weighed only one hundred
"Dis is what I tell 'em, master," continued Mari', in a remonstrating,
argumentative sort of a tone, with dogmatism and respect singularly
mingled in her manner--"Dis, massa, just what I tell 'em _all_. I
tell 'em, says I, this is Hunter Knoll, and not All_bon_ny--here
no store--no place to buy t'ing if you break 'em; no good woman who
know ebbery t'ing, to tell you where to find t'ing, if you _lose_
him. If dere was only good woman, _dat_ somet'ing; but no fortun'-
teller out here in de bushes--no, no--when a silber spoon go,
_here_, he go for good and all--Goody, massy"--staring at something
in the court--"what he call _dat_, sa?"
"That--oh! that is only an Indian hunter I keep about me, to bring us
game--you'll never have an empty spit, Mari', as long as _he_ is
with us. Fear nothing; he will not harm you. His name is Nick."
"De _Ole_ Nick, massa?"
"No, only _Saucy_ Nick. The fellow is a little slovenly to-day in
his appearance, and you see he has brought already several partridges,
besides a rabbit. We shall have venison, in the season."
Here all the negroes, after staring at Nick, quite a minute, set up a
loud shout, laughing as if the Tuscarora had been created for their
special amusement. Although the captain was somewhat of a martinet in
his domestic discipline, it had ever altogether exceeded his authority,
or his art, to prevent these bursts of merriment; and he led his wife
away from the din, leaving Mari', Great Smash, and Little Smash, with
the two Plinies, in ecstasies at their own uproar. Burst succeeded
burst, until the Indian walked away, in offended dignity.
Such was the commencement of the domestication of the Willoughbys at
the Hutted Knoll. The plan of our tale does not require us to follow
them minutely for, the few succeeding years, though some further
explanation may be necessary to show why this settlement varied a
little from the ordinary course.
That very season, or, in the summer of 1765, Mrs. Willoughby inherited
some real estate in Albany, by the death of an uncle, as well as a few
thousand pounds currency, in ready money. This addition to his fortune
made the captain exceedingly comfortable; or, for that day, rich; and
it left him to act his pleasure as related to his lands. Situated as
these last were, so remote from other settlements as to render
highways, for some time, hopeless, he saw no use in endeavouring to
anticipate the natural order of things. It would only create
embarrassment to raise produce that could not be sent to market; and he
well knew that a population of any amount could not exist, in quiet,
without the usual attendants of buying and selling. Then it suited his
own taste to be the commander-in-chief of an isolated establishment
like this; and he was content to live in abundance, on his flats,
feeding his people, his cattle, and even his hogs to satiety, and
having wherewithal to send away the occasional adventurer, who entered
his clearing, contented and happy.
Thus it was that he neither sold nor leased. No person dwelt on his
land who was not a direct dependant, or hireling, and all that the
earth yielded he could call his own. Nothing was sent abroad for sale
but cattle. Every year, a small drove of fat beeves and milch cows
found their way through the forest to Albany, and the proceeds returned
in the shape of foreign supplies. The rents, and the interests on
bonds, were left to accumulate, or were applied to aid Robert in
obtaining a new step in the army. Lands began to be granted nearer and
nearer to his own, and here and there some old officer like himself, or
a solitary farmer, began to cut away the wilderness; but none in his
Still the captain did not live altogether as a hermit. He visited
Edmeston of Mount Edmeston, a neighbour less than fifty miles distant;
was occasionally seen at Johnson Hall, with Sir William; or at the
bachelor establishment of Sir John, on the Mohawk; and once or twice he
so far overcame his indolence, as to consent to serve as a member for a
new county, that was called Tryon, after a ruling governor.
Hail! sober evening! Thee the harass'd brain
And aching heart with fond orisons greet;
The respite thou of toil; the balm of pain;
To thoughtful mind the hour for musing meet,
'Tis then the sage from forth his lone retreat,
The rolling universe around espies;
'Tis then the bard may hold communion sweet
With lovely shapes unkenned by grosser eyes,
And quick perception comes of finer mysteries.
In the preceding chapter we closed the minuter narrative with a scene
at the Hut, in the spring of 1765. We must now advance the time just
ten years, opening, anew, in the month of May, 1775. This, it is
scarcely necessary to tell the reader, is bringing him at once up to
the earliest days of the revolution. The contest which preceded that
great event had in fact occurred in the intervening time, and we are
now about to plunge into the current of some of the minor incidents of
the struggle itself.
Ten years are a century in the history of a perfectly new settlement.
The changes they produce are even surprising, though in ordinary cases
they do not suffice to erase the signs of a recent origin. The forest
is opened, and the light of day admitted, it is true; but its remains
are still to be seen in multitudes of unsightly stumps, dead standing
trees, and ill-looking stubs. These vestiges of the savage state
usually remain a quarter of a century; in certain region they are to be
found for even more than twice that period. All this, however, had
captain Willoughby escaped, in consequence of limiting his clearing, in
a great measure, to that which had been made by the beavers, and from
which time and natural decay had, long before his arrival, removed
every ungainly object. It is true, here and there a few acres had been
cleared on the firmer ground, at the margin of the flats, where barns
and farm buildings had been built, and orchards planted; but, in order
to preserve the harmony of his view, the captain had caused all the
stumps to be pulled and burnt, giving to these places the same air of
agricultural finish as characterized the fields on the lower land.
To this sylvan scene, at a moment which preceded the setting of the sun
by a little more than an hour, and in the first week of the genial
month of May, we must now bring the reader in fancy. The season had
been early, and the Beaver Manor, or the part of it which was
cultivated, lying low and sheltered, vegetation had advanced
considerably beyond the point that is usual, at that date, in the
elevated region of which we have been writing. The meadows were green
with matted grasses, the wheat and rye resembled rich velvets, and the
ploughed fields had the fresh and mellowed appearance of good husbandry
and a rich soil. The shrubbery, of which the captain's English taste
had introduced quantities, was already in leaf, and even portions of
the forest began to veil their sombre mysteries with the delicate
foliage of an American spring.
The site of the ancient pond was a miracle of rustic beauty. Everything
like inequality or imperfection had disappeared, the whole presenting a
broad and picturesquely shaped basin, with outlines fashioned
principally by nature, an artist that rarely fails in effect. The flat
was divided into fields by low post-and-rail fences, the captain making
it a law to banish all unruly animals from his estate. The barns and
out-buildings were neatly made and judiciously placed, and the three or
four roads, or lanes, that led to them, crossed the low-land in such
graceful curves, as greatly to increase the beauty of the landscape.
Here and there a log cabin was visible, nearly buried in the forest,
with a few necessary and neat appliances around it; the homes of
labourers who had long dwelt in them, and who seemed content to pass
their lives in the same place. As most of these men had married and
become fathers, the whole colony, including children, notwithstanding
the captain's policy not to settle, had grown to considerably more than
a hundred souls, of whom three-and-twenty were able-bodied men. Among
the latter were the millers; but, their mills were buried in the ravine
where they had been first placed, quite out of sight from the picture
above, concealing all the unavoidable and ungainly-looking objects of a
As a matter of course, the object of the greatest interest, as it was
the most conspicuous, was the Hutted Knoll, as the house was now
altogether called, and the objects it contained. Thither, then, we will
now direct our attention, and describe things as they appeared ten
years after they were first presented to the reader.
The same agricultural finish as prevailed on the flats pervaded every
object on the Knoll, though some labour had been expended to produce
it. Everything like a visible rock, the face of the cliff on the
northern end excepted, had disappeared, the stones having been blasted,
and either worked into walls for foundations, or walls for fence. The
entire base of the Knoll, always excepting the little precipice at the
rivulet, was encircled by one of the latter, erected under the
superintendence of Jamie Allen, who still remained at the Hut, a
bachelor, and as he said himself, a happy man. The southern-face of the
Knoll was converted into lawn, there being quite two acres intersected
with walks, and well garnished with shrubbery. What was unusual in
America, at that day, the captain, owing to his English education, had
avoided straight lines, and formal paths; giving to the little spot the
improvement on nature which is a consequence of embellishing her works
without destroying them. On each side of this lawn was an orchard,
thrifty and young, and which were already beginning to show signs of
putting forth their blossoms.
About the Hut itself, the appearance of change was not so manifest.
Captain Willoughby had caused it to be constructed originally, as he
intended to preserve it, and if formed no part of his plan to cover it
with tawdry colours. There it stood, brown above, and grey beneath, as
wood or stone was the material, with a widely projecting roof. It had
no piazzas, or stoups, and was still without external windows, one
range excepted. The loops had been cut, but it was more for the benefit
of lighting the garrets, than for any other reason, all of them being
glazed, and serving the end for which they had been pierced. The gates
remained precisely in the situation in which they were, when last
presented to the eye of the reader! There they stood, each leaning
against the wall on its own side of the gateway, the hinges beginning
to rust, by time and exposure. Ten years had not produced a day of
sufficient leisure in which to hang them: though Mrs. Willoughby
frequently spoke of the necessity of doing so, in the course of the
first summer. Even she had got to be so familiarized to her situation,
and so accustomed to seeing the leaves where they stood, that she now
regarded them as a couple of sleeping lions in stone, or as
characteristic ornaments, rather than as substantial defences to the
entrance of the dwelling.
The interior of the Hut, however, had undergone many alterations. The
western half had been completed, and handsome rooms had been fitted up
for guests and inmates of the family, in the portion of the edifice
occupied by the latter. Additional comforts had been introduced, and,
the garners, cribs and lodgings of the labourers having been
transferred to the skirts of the forest, the house was more strictly
and exclusively the abode of a respectable and well-regulated family.
In the rear, too, a wing had been thrown along the verge of the cliff,
completely enclosing the court. This wing, which overhung the rivulet,
and had, not only a most picturesque site, but a most picturesque and
lovely view, now contained the library, parlour and music-room,
together with other apartments devoted to the uses of the ladies,
during the day; the old portions of the house that had once been
similarly occupied being now converted into sleeping apartments. The
new wing was constructed entirely of massive squared logs, so as to
render it bullet-proof, here being no necessity for a stone foundation,
standing, as it did, on the verge of a cliff some forty feet in height.
This was the part of the edifice which had external windows, the
elevation removing it from the danger of inroads, or hostile shot,
while the air and view were both grateful and desirable. Some extra
attention had been paid to the appearance of the meadows on this side
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