James Fenimore Cooper
Part 6 out of 9
to seem to know nothing about it. To this, Jamie Allen, who composed
one of the guard, quietly assented; but it was a great privation to the
three or four New England-men to be commanded not to inquire into the
why and wherefore.
"Wait for orders, men, wait for orders," observed the serjeant, by way
of quieting an impatience that was very apparent. "If his honour, the
captain, wished us to be acquainted with his movements, he would direct
a general parade, and lay the matter before us, as you know he always
does, on proper occasions. 'Tis a flag going out, as you can see, and
should a truce follow, we'll lay aside our muskets, and seize the
plough-shares; should it be a capitulation--I know our brave old
commander too well to suppose it possible--but _should_ it be even
_that_, we'll ground arms like men, and make the best of it."
"And should Joel, and the other man, who is a stranger to me, be
scalped?" demanded one of the party.
"Then we'll avenge their scalps. That was the way with us, when my Lord
Howe fell--'avenge his death! cried our colonel; and on we pushed,
until near two thousand of us fell before the Frenchmen's trenches. Oh!
_that_ was a sight worth seeing, and a day to talk of!"
"Yes, but you were threshed soundly, serjeant, as I've heard from many
that were there."
"What of that, sir! we obeyed orders. 'Avenge his death!' was the cry;
and on we pushed, in obedience, until there were not men enough left in
our battalion to carry the wounded to the rear."
"And what did you do with them?" asked a youth, who regarded the
serjeant as another Caesar--Napoleon not having come into notice in
"We let them lie where they fell. Young man, war teaches us all the
wholesome lesson that impossibilities are impossible to be done. War is
the great schoolmaster of the human race; and a learned man is he who
has made nineteen or twenty campaigns."
"If he live to turn his lessons to account"--remarked the first
speaker, with a sneer.
"If a man is to die in battle, sir, he had better die with his mind
stored with knowledge, than be shot like a dog that has outlived his
usefulness. Every pitched battle carries out of the world learning upon
learning that has been got in the field. Here comes his honour, who
will confirm all I tell you, men. I was letting these men, sir,
understand that the army and the field are the best schools on earth.
Every old soldier will stick to that, your honour."
"We are apt to think so, Joyce--have the arms been inspected this
"As soon as it was light, I did that myself, sir."
"Flints, cartridge-boxes and bayonets, I hope?"
"Each and all, sir. Does your honour remember the morning we had the
affair near Fort du Quesne?"
"You mean Braddock's defeat, I suppose, Joyce?"
"I call nothing a defeat, captain Willoughby. We were roughly handled
that day, sir; but I am not satisfied it was a defeat. It is true, we
fell back, and lost some arms and stores; but, in the main, we stuck to
our colours, considering it was in the woods. No, sir; I do not call
that a defeat, by any means."
"You will at least own we were hard pressed, and might have fared worse
than we did, had it not been for a certain colonial corps, that
manfully withstood the savages?"
"Yes, sir; that I allow. I remember the corps, and its commander, a
colonel Washington, with your honour's permission."
"It was, indeed, Joyce. And do you happen to know what has became of
this same colonel Washington?"
"It never crossed my mind to inquire, sir, as he was a provincial. I
dare say he may have a regiment--or even a brigade by this time; and
good use would he make of either."
"You have fallen far behind his fortunes, Joyce. The man is a
"Your honour is jesting--since many of his seniors are still living."
"This is the man who leads the American armies, in the war with
"Well, sir, in _that_ way, he may indeed get a quick step, or two.
I make no doubt, sir, so good a soldier will know how to obey orders."
"From which I infer you think him right, in the cause he has espoused?"
"Bless your honour, sir, I think nothing about it, and care nothing
about it. If the gentleman has taken service with congress, as they
call the new head-quarters, why he ought to obey congress; and if he
serve the king, His Majesty's orders should be attended to."
"And, in this crisis, serjeant, may I ask in what particular service
you conceive yourself to be, just at the present moment?"
"Captain Willoughby's, late of His Majesty's ---th Regiment of Foot, at
your honour's command."
"If all act in the same spirit, Joyce, we shall do well enough at the
Knoll, though twice as many savages brave us as are to be seen on yon
rocks," returned the captain, smiling.
"And why should they no?" demanded Jamie Allen, earnestly. "Ye're laird
here, and we've no the time, nor the grace, to study and understand the
orthodoxy and heterodoxy of the quarrel atween the House of Hanover and
the houses of these Americans; so, while we a'stand up for the house
and household of our old maister, the Lord will smile on our efforts,
and lead us to victory."
"Divil bur-r-n me, now, Jamie," said Mike, who having seen the major to
the gate, now followed his father, in readiness to do him any good turn
that might offer--"Divil bur-r-n me, now, Jamie, if ye could have said
it better had ye just aised yer conscience to a proper praist, and were
talking on a clane breast! Stick up for the captain, says I, and the
Lord will be of our side!"
The serjeant nodded approbation of this sentiment, and the younger
Pliny, who happened also to be within hearing, uttered the sententious
word "gosh" and clenched his fist, which was taken as proof of assent
also, on his part. But, the Americans of the guard, all of whom were
the tools of Joel's and the miller's arts, manifested a coldness that
even exceeded the usual cold manner of their class. These men meant
right; but they had been deluded by the falsehoods, machinations, and
frauds of a demagogue, and were no longer masters of their own opinions
or acts. It struck the captain that something was wrong; but, a
foreigner by birth himself, he had early observed, and long known, the
peculiar exterior and phlegm of the people of the country, which so
nearly resemble the stoicism of the aborigines, as to induce many
writers to attribute both alike to a cause connected with climate. The
present was not a moment however, nor was the impression strong enough
to induce the master of the place to enter into any inquiries. Turning
his eyes in the direction of the two bearers of the flag, he there
beheld matter for new interest, completely diverting his thoughts from
what had just passed.
"I see they have sent two men to meet our messengers serjeant," he
said--"This looks as if they understood the laws of war."
"Quite true, your honour. They should now blindfold our party, and lead
them within their own works, before they suffer them to see at all;
though there would be no great advantage in it, as Strides is as well
acquainted with every inch of that rock as I am with the manual
"Which would seem to supersede the necessity of the ceremony you have
"One never knows, your honour. Blindfolding is according to the rules,
and I should blindfold a flag before I let him approach, though the
hostile ranks stood drawn up, one on each side of a parade ground. Much
is gained, while nothing is ever lost, by sticking to the rules of a
The captain smiled, as did all the Americans of the guard; the last
having too much sagacity not to perceive that a thing might be
overdone, as well as too little attended to. As for Jamie and Mike,
they both received the serjeant's opinions as law; the one from having
tried the troops of the line at Culloden, and the other on account of
divers experiences through which he had gone, at sundry fairs, in his
own green island. By this time, however, all were too curious in
watching the result of the meeting, to continue the discourse.
Robert Willoughby and Joel had moved along the lane towards the rocks,
without hesitating, keeping their little flag flying. It did not appear
that their approach produced any change among the savages, who were now
preparing their breakfasts, until they had got within two hundred yards
of the encampment, when two of the red-men, having first laid aside
their arms, advanced to meet their visiters. This was the interview
which attracted the attention of those at the Hut, and its progress was
noted with the deepest interest.
The meeting appeared to be friendly. After a short conference, in which
signs seemed to be a material agent in the communications, the four
moved on in company, walking deliberately towards the rocks. Captain
Willoughby had sent for his field-glass, and could easily perceive much
that occuired in the camp, on the arrival of his son. The major's
movements were calm and steady, and a feeling of pride passed over the
father's heart, as he noted this, amid a scene that was well adapted to
disturbing the equilibrium of the firmest mind. Joel certainly betrayed
nervousness, though he kept close at his companion's side, and together
they proceeded into the very centre of the party of strangers.
The captain observed, also, that this arrival caused no visible
sensation among the red-men. Even those the major almost touched in
passing did not look up to note his appearance, while no one seemed to
speak, or in any manner to heed him. The cooking and other preparations
for the breakfast proceeded precisely as if no one had entered the
camp. The two who had gone forth to meet the flag alone attended its
bearers, whom they led through the centre of the entire party; stopping
only on the side opposite to the Hut, where there was an open space of
flat rock, which it had not suited the savages to occupy.
Here the four halted, the major turning and looking back like a soldier
who was examining his ground. Nor did any one appear disposed to
interrupt him in an employment that serjeant Joyce pronounced to be
both bold and against the usages of war to permit. The captain thought
the stoicism of the savages amounted to exaggeration, and it renewed
his distrust of the real characters of his visiters. In a minute or
two, however, some three or four of the red-men were seen consulting
together apart, after which they approached the bearers of the flag,
and some communications passed between the two sides. The nature of
these communications could not be known, of course, though the
conference appeared to be amicable. After two or three minutes of
conversation, Robert Willoughby, Strides, the two men who had advanced
to meet them, and the four chiefs who had joined the group, left the
summit of the rock in company, taking a foot-path that descended in the
direction of the mills. In a short time they all disappeared in a body.
The distance was not so great but these movements could easily be seen
by the naked eye, though the glass was necessary to discover some of
the details. Captain Willoughby had planted the instrument among the
palisades, and he kept his gaze riveted on the retiring group as long
as it was visible; then, indeed, he looked at his companions, as if to
read their opinions in their countenances. Joyce understood the
expression of his face; and, saluting in the usual military manner, he
presumed to speak, in the way of reply.
"It seems all right, your honour, the bandage excepted," said the
serjeant. "The flag has been met at the outposts, and led into the
camp; there the officer of the day, or some savage who does the duty,
has heard his errand; and, no doubt, they have all now gone to head-
quarters, to report."
"I desired my son, Joyce--"
"Whom, your honour--?"
The general movement told the captain how completely his auditors were
taken by surprise, at this unlooked-for announcement of the presence of
the major at the Knoll. It was too late to recall the words, however,
and there was so little prospect of Robert's escaping the penetration
of Joel, the father saw no use in attempting further concealment.
"I say I desired my son, major Willoughby, who is the bearer of that
flag," the captain steadily resumed, "to raise his hat in a particular
manner, if all seemed right; or to make a certain gesture with his left
arm, did he see anything that required us to be more than usually on
"And which notice has he given to the garrison, if it be your honour's
pleasure to let us know?"
"Neither. I thought he manifested an intention to make the signal with
the hat, when the chiefs first joined him; but he hesitated, and
lowered his hand without doing as I had expected. Then, again, just as
he disappeared behind the rocks, the left arm was in motion, though not
in a way to complete the signal."
"Did he seem hurried, your honour, as if prevented from communicating
by the enemy?"
"Not at all, Joyce. Irresolution appeared to be at the bottom of it, so
far as I could judge."
"Pardon me, your honour; uncertainty would be a better word, as applied
to so good a soldier. Has major Willoughby quitted the king's service,
that he is among us, sir, just at his moment?"
"I will tell you his errand another time, serjeant. At present, I can
think only of the risk he runs. These Indians are lawless wretches; one
is never sure of then faith."
"They are bad enough, sir; but no man can well be so bad as to
disregard the rights of a flag," answered the serjeant, in a grave and
slightly important manner. "Even the French, your honour, have always
respected our _flags_."
"That is true; and, yet, I wish we could overlook that position at the
mill. It's a great advantage to them, Joyce, that they can place
themselves behind such a cover, when they choose!"
The serjeant looked at the encampment a moment; then his eye followed
the woods, and the mountain sides, that skirted the little plain, until
his back was fairly turned upon the supposed enemy, and he faced the
forest in the rear of the Hut.
"If it be agreeable to your honour, a detachment can be detailed to
make a demonstration"--Joyce did not exactly understand this word, but
it sounded military--"in the following manner: I can lead out the
party, by the rear of the house, using the brook as a covered-way. Once
in the woods, it will be easy enough to make a flank movement upon the
enemy's position; after which, the detachment can be guided by
This was very martial in sound, and the captain felt well assured that
Joyce was the man to attempt carrying out his own plan; but he made no
answer, sighing and shaking his head, as he walked away towards the
house. The chaplain followed, leaving the rest to observe the savages.
"Ye're proposition, serjeant, no seems to give his honour much
satisfaction," said the mason, as soon as his superior was out of
hearing. "Still, it was military, as I know by what I saw mysal' in the
Forty-five. Flainking, and surprising, and obsairving, and
demonstrating, and such devices, are the soul of war, and are a' on the
great highway to victory. Had Chairlie's men obsairved, and
particularised mair, there might have been a different family on the
throne, an' the prince wad ha' got his ain ag'in. I like your idea
much, serjaint, and gin' ye gang oot to practise it, I trust ye 'll no
forget that ye've an auld fri'nd here, willing to be of the pairty."
"I didn't think the captain much relished the notion of being
questioned about his son's feelin's, and visit up here, at a time like
this," put in one of the Americans.
"There's bowels in the man's body!" cried Mike, "and it isn't the likes
of him that has no falin'. Ye don't know what it is to be a father, or
ye'd groan in spirit to see a child of yer own in the grip of fiery
divils like them same. Isn't he a pratty man, and wouldn't I be
sorrowful to hear that he had come to har-r-m? Ye've niver asked,
serjeant, how the majjor got into the house, and ye a military sentry
in the bargain!"
"I suppose he came by command, Michael, and it is not the duty of the
non-commissioned officers to question their superiors about anything
that has happened out of the common way. I take things as I find them,
and obey orders. I only hope that the son, as a field-officer, will not
out-rank the father, which would be unbecoming: though date of
commissions, and superiority, must be respected."
"I rather think if a major in the king's service was to undertake to
use authority here," said the spokesman of the Americans, a little
stiffly, "he wouldn't find many disposed to follow at his heels."
"Mutiny would not fare well, did it dare to lift its head in this
garrison"--answered the serjeant, with a dignity that might better have
suited the mess-room of a regular regiment, than the situation in which
he was actually placed. "Both captain Willoughby and myself have seen
mutiny attempted, but neither has ever seen it succeed."
"Do you look on us as lawful, enlisted soldiers?" demanded one of the
labourers, who had a sufficient smattering of the law, to understand
the difference between a mercenary and a volunteer. "If I'm regimented,
I should at least like to know in whose service it is?"
"Ye're over-quick at yer objections and sentiments," said Jamie Allen,
coolly, "like most youths, who see only their ain experience in the
airth, and the providence o' the Lord. Enlisted we are, a' of us, even
to Michael here, and it's in the sairvice of our good master, his
honour captain Willoughby; whom, with his kith and kin, may the Lord
presairve from this and all other dangers."
The word master would, of itself, be very likely to create a revolt to-
day, in such a corps as it was the fortune of our captain to command,
though to that of "boss" there would not he raised the slightest
objection. But the English language had not undergone half of its
present mutations in the year 1776; and no one winced in admitting that
he served a "master," though the gorges of several rose at the idea of
being engaged in the service of any one, considered in a military point
of view. It is likely the suggestion of the mason would have led to a
hot discussion, had not a stir among the savages, just at that instant,
called off the attention of all present, to matters of more importance
than even an angry argument.
The movement seemed to be general, and Joyce ordered his men to stand
to their arms; still he hesitated about giving the alarm. Instead of
advancing towards the Hut, however, the Indians raised a general yell,
and went over the cliffs, disappearing in the direction of the mill,
like a flock of birds taking wing together. After waiting half an hour,
in vain, to ascertain if any signs of the return of the Indians were to
be seen, the serjeant went himself to report the state of things to his
Captain Willoughby had withdrawn to make his toilet for the day, when
he saw the last of his son and the overseer. While thus employed he had
communicated to his wife all that had occurred; and Mrs. Willoughby, in
her turn, had told the same to her daughters. Maud was much the most
distressed, her suspicions of Joel being by far the most active and the
most serious. From the instant she learned what had passed, she began
to anticipate grave consequences to Robert Willoughby, though she had
sufficient fortitude, and sufficient consideration for others, to keep
most of her apprehensions to herself.
When Joyce demanded his audience, the family was at breakfast, though
little was eaten, and less was said. The serjeant was admitted, and he
told his story with military precision.
"This has a suspicious air, Joyce," observed the captain, after musing
a little; "to me it seems like an attempt to induce us to follow, and
to draw us into an ambuscade."
"It may be that, your honour; or, it may be a good honest retreat.
_Two_ prisoners is a considerable exploit for savages to achieve. I
have known them count _one_ a victory."
"Be not uneasy, Wilhelmina; Bob's rank will secure him good treatment,
his exchange being far more important to his captors, if captors they
be, than his death. It is too soon to decide on such a point, serjeant.
After all, the Indians may be at the mills, in council. On a war-path,
all the young men are usually consulted, before any important step is
taken. Then, it may be the wish of the chiefs to impress our flag-
bearers with an idea of their force."
"All that is military, your honour, and quite possible. Still, to me
the movement seems as if a retreat was intended, in fact, or that the
_appearance_ of one was in view."
"I will soon know the truth," cried the chaplain. "I, a man of peace,
can surely go forth, and ascertain who these people are, and what is
"You, Woods! My dear fellow, do you imagine a tribe of blood-thirsty
savages will respect you, or your sacred office? You have a sufficient
task with the king's forces, letting his enemies alone. You are no
missionary to still a war-cry."
"I beg pardon, sir"--put in the serjeant--"his reverence is more than
half right"--here the chaplain rose, and quitted the room in haste,
unobserved by the two colloquists--"There is scarce a tribe in the
colony, your honour, that has not some knowledge of our priesthood; and
I know of no instance in which the savages have ever ill-treated a
"Poh, poh, Joyce; this is much too sentimental for your Mohawks, and
Oneidas, and Onondagas, and Tuscaroras. They will care no more for
little Woods than they care for the great woods through which they
journey on their infernal errands."
"One cannot know, Hugh"--observed the anxious mother--"Our dear Robert
is in their hands; and, should Mr. Woods be really disposed to go on
this mission of mercy, does it comport with our duty as parents to
"A mother is all mother"--murmured the captain, who rose from table,
kissed his wife's cheek affectionately, and left the room, beckoning to
the serjeant to follow.
Captain Willoughby had not been gone many minutes when the chaplain
made his appearance, attired in his surplice, and wearing his best wig;
an appliance that all elderly gentlemen in that day fancied necessary
to the dignity and gravity of their appearance. Mrs. Willoughby, to own
the truth, was delighted. If this excellent woman was ever unjust, it
was in behalf of her children; solicitude for whom sometimes induced
her to overlook the rigid construction of the laws of equality.
"We will see which best understands the influence of the sacred office,
captain Willoughby, or myself;" observed the chaplain, with a little
more importance of manner than it was usual for one so simple to
assume. "I do not believe the ministry was instituted to be brow-beaten
by tribes of savages, any more than it is to be silenced by the
unbeliever, or schismatic."
It was very evident that the Rev. Mr. Woods was considerably excited;
and this was a condition of mind so unusual with him, as to create a
species of awe in the observers. As for the two young women, deeply as
they were interested in the result, and keenly as Maud, in particular,
felt everything which touched the fortunes of Robert Willoughby,
neither would presume to interfere, when they saw one whom they had
been taught to reverence from childhood, acting in a way that so little
conformed to his ordinary manner. As for Mrs. Willoughby, her own
feelings were so much awakened, that never had Mr. Woods seemed so
evangelical and like a saint, as at that very moment; and it would not
have been difficult to persuade her that he was acting under something
very like righteous superhuman impulses.
Such, however, was far from being the case. The worthy priest had an
exalted idea of his office; and, to fancy it might favorably impress
even savages, was little more than carrying out his every-day notions
of its authority. He conscientiously believed that he, himself, a
regularly ordained presbyter, would be more likely to succeed in the
undertaking before him, than a mere deacon; were a bishop present, he
would cheerfully have submitted to his superior claims to sanctity and
success. As for arch-bishops, arch-deacons, deans, rural deans, and all
the other worldly machinery which has been superadded to the church,
the truth compels us to add, that our divine felt no especial reverence
since he considered them as so much clerical surplusage, of very
questionable authority, and of doubtful use. He adhered strictly to the
orders of divine institution, to these he attached so much weight, as
to be entirely willing, in his own person, to demonstrate how little
was to be apprehended, when their power was put forth, even against
Indians, in humility and faith.
"I shall take this sprig of laurel in my hand, in lieu of the olive-
branch," said the excited chaplain, "as the symbol of peace. It is not
probable that savages can tell one plant from the other; and if they
could, it will be easy to explain that olives do not grow in America.
It is an eastern tree, ladies, and furnishes the pleasant oil we use on
our salads. I carry with me, notwithstanding, the oil which proves a
balm to many sorrows; that will be sufficient."
"You will bid them let Robert return to us, without delay?" said Mrs.
"I shall bid them respect God and their consciences. I cannot now stop
to rehearse to you the mode of proceeding I shall adopt; but it is all
arranged in my own mind. It will be necessary to call the Deity the
'Great Spirit' or 'Manitou'--and to use many poetical images; but this
can I do, on an emergency. Extempore preaching is far from agreeable to
me, in general; nor do I look upon it, in this age of the world, as
exactly canonical; nevertheless, it shall be seen I know how to submit
even to _that_, when there is a suitable necessity."
It was so seldom Mr. Woods used such magnificent ideas, or assumed a
manner in the least distinguishable from one of the utmost simplicity,
that his listeners now felt really awed; and when he turned to bless
them, as he did with solemnity and affection, the two daughters knelt
to receive his benedictions. These delivered, he walked out of the
room, crossed the court, and proceeded straightway to the outer gate.
It was, perhaps, fortunate to the design of the Rev. Mr. Woods, that
neither the captain nor the serjeant was in the way, to arrest it. This
the former would certainly have done, out of regard to his friend, and
the last out of regard to "orders." But these military personages were
in the library, in deep consultation concerning the next step necessary
to take. This left the coast clear, no one belonging to the guard
conceiving himself of sufficient authority to stop the chaplain, more
especially when he appeared in his wig and surplice. Jamie Allen was a
corporal, by courtesy; and, at the first summons, he caused the outer
gate to be unlocked and unbarred, permitting the chaplain to make his
egress, attended by his own respectful bows. This Jamie did, out of
reverence to religion, generally; though the surplice ever excited his
disgust; and, as for the Liturgy, he deemed it to be a species of
solemn mockery of worship.
The captain did not reappear outside of the court, until the chaplain,
who had made the best of his way towards the rocks, was actually
stalking like a ghost among ruins, through the deserted shantees of the
"What in the name of Indian artifice is the white animal that I see
moving about on the rocks?" demanded the captain, whose look was first
turned in the direction of the camp.
"It seems an Indian wrapped up in a shirt, your honour--as I live, sir,
it has a cocked hat on its head!"
"Na--na"--interrupted Jamie, "ye'll no be guessing the truth this time,
without the aid of a little profane revelation. The chiel ye see yan,
yer honour, is just chaplain Woods."
"Na--na--yer honour, it's the reverend gentleman, hissel', and no the
de'il, at a'. He's in his white frock--though why he didn't wear his
black gairment is more than I can tell ye--but there he is, walking
about amang the Indian dwellings, all the same as if they were so many
pews in his ain kirk."
"And, how came you to let him pass the gate, against orders?"
"Well, and it is aboot the orders of the priesthood, that he so often
preaches, and seeing him in the white gairment, and knowing ye've so
many fast-days, and Christmas', in the kirk o' England, I fancied it
might be a bit matter o' prayer he wished to offer up, yan, in the
house on the flat; and so I e'en thought church prayers better than no
prayers at all, in such a strait."
As it was useless to complain, the captain was fain to submit, even
beginning to hope some good might come of the adventure, when he saw
Mr. Woods walking unmolested through the deserted camp. The glass was
levelled, and the result was watched in intense interest.
The chaplain first explored every shantee, fearlessly and with
diligence. Then he descended the rocks, and was lost to view, like
those who had preceded him. A feverish hour passed, without any symptom
of human life appearing in the direction of the mills. Sometimes those
who watched, fancied they beheld a smoke beginning to steal up over the
brow of the rocks, the precursor of the expected conflagration; but a
few moments dispersed the apprehension and the fancied smoke together.
The day advanced, and yet the genius of solitude reigned over the
mysterious glen. Not a sound emerged from it, not a human form was seen
near it, not a sign of a hostile assault or of a friendly return could
be detected. All in that direction lay buried in silence, as if the
ravine had swallowed its tenants, in imitation of the grave.
To deck my list by Nature were design'd
Such shining expletives of human kind;
Who want, while through blank life they dream along,
Sense to be right, and passion to be wrong.
The disappearance of Mr. Woods occasioned no uneasiness at first. An
hour elapsed before the captain thought it necessary to relate the
occurrence to his family, when a general panic prevailed among the
females. Even Maud had hoped the savages would respect the sacred
character of the divine, though she knew not why; and here was one of
her principal grounds of hope, as connected with Robert Willoughby,
slid from beneath her feet.
"What _can_ we do, Willoughby?" asked the affectionate mother,
almost reduced to despair. "I will go myself, in search of my son--they
will respect _me_, a woman and a mother."
"You little know the enemy we have to deal with, Wilhelmina, or so rash
a thought could not have crossed your mind. We will not be precipitate;
a few hours may bring some change to direct us. One thing I learn from
Woods' delay. The Indians cannot be far off, and he must be with them,
or in their hands; else would he return alter having visited the mills
and the houses beneath the cliffs."
This sounded probable, and all felt there was a relief in fancying that
their friends were still near them, and were not traversing the
wilderness as captives.
"I feel less apprehension than any of you," observed Beulah, in her
placid manner. "If Bob is in the hands of an American party, the
brother-in-law of Evert Beekman cannot come to much harm; with British
Indians he will be respected for his own sake, as soon as he can make
"I have thought of all this, my child"--answered the father,
musing--"and there is reason in it. It will be difficult, however, for
Bob to make his real character certain, in his present circumstances.
He does not appear the man he is; and should there even be a white
among his captors who can read, he has not a paper with him to sustain
"But, he promised me faithfully to use Evert's name, did he ever fall
into American hands"--resumed Beulah, earnestly--"and Evert has said,
again and again, that _my_ brother could never be his enemy."
"Heaven help us all, dear child!" answered the captain, kissing his
daughter--"It is, indeed, a cruel war, when such aids are to be called
in for our protection. We will endeavour to be cheerful,
notwithstanding; for we know of nothing yet, that ought to alarm us,
out of reason; all may come right before the sun set."
The captain looked at his family, and endeavoured to smile, but he met
no answering gleam of happiness on either face; nor was his own effort
very successful. As for his wife, she was never known to be aught but
miserable, while any she loved were in doubtful safety. She lived
entirely out of herself, and altogether for her husband, children, and
friends; a woman less selfish, or one more devoted to the affections,
never existing. Then Beulah, with all her reliance on the magic of
Evert's name, and with the deep feelings that had been awakened within
her, as a wife and a mother, still loved her brother as tenderly as
ever. As for Maud, the agony she endured was increased by her efforts
to keep it from breaking out in some paroxysm that might betray her
secret; and her features were getting an expression of stern
resolution, which, blended with her beauty, gave them a grandeur her
father had never before seen in her bright countenance.
"This child suffers on Bob's account more than any of us"--observed the
captain, drawing his pet towards him, placing her kindly on his knee,
and folding her to his bosom. "She has no husband yet, to divide her
heart; all her love centres in her brother."
The look which Beulah cast upon her father was not reproachful, for
that was an expression she would not have indulged with him; but it was
one in which pain and mortification were so obvious, as to induce the
mother to receive her into her own arms.
"Hugh, you are unjust to Beulah"--said the anxious mother--"Nothing can
ever cause this dear girl, either, to forget to feel for any of us."
The captain's ready explanation, and affectionate kiss, brought a smile
again to Beulah's face, though it shone amid tears. All was, however,
immediately forgotten; for the parties understood each other, and Maud
profited by the scene to escape from the room. This flight broke up the
conference; and the captain, after exhorting his wife and daughter to
set an example of fortitude to the rest of the females, left the house,
to look after his duties among the men.
The absence of Joel cast a shade of doubt over the minds of the
disaffected. These last were comparatively numerous, comprising most of
the native Americans in the Hut, the blacks and Joyce excepted. Strides
had been enabled to effect his purposes more easily with his own
countrymen by working on their good qualities, as well as on their bad.
Many of these men--most of them, indeed--meant well, but their
attachment to the cause of their native land laid them open to
assaults, against which Mike and Jamie Allen were insensible. Captain
Willoughby was an Englishman, in the first place; he was an old army-
officer, in the next; and he had an only son who was confessedly in
open arms against the independence of America. It is easy to see how a
demagogue like Joel, who had free access to the ears of his comrades,
could improve circumstances like these to his own particular objects.
Nevertheless, he had difficulties to contend with. If it were true that
parson Woods still insisted on praying for the king, it was known that
the captain laughed at him for his reverence for Caesar; if Robert
Willoughby were a major in the royal forces, Evert Beekman was a
colonel in the continentals; if the owner of the manor were born in
England, his wife and children were born in America; and he, himself,
was often heard to express his convictions of the justice of most of
that for which the provincials were contending--_all_, the worthy
captain had not yet made up his mind to concede to them.
Then, most of the Americans in the Hut entertained none of the selfish
and narrow views of Joel and the miller. Their wish was to do right, in
the main; and though obnoxious to the charge of entertaining certain
prejudices that rendered them peculiarly liable to become the dupes of
a demagogue, they submitted to many of the better impulses, and were
indisposed to be guilty of any act of downright injustice. The perfect
integrity with which they had ever been treated, too, had its
influence; nor was the habitual kindness of Mrs. Willoughby to their
wives and children forgotten; nor the gentleness of Beulah, or the
beauty, spirit, and generous impulses of Maud. In a word, the captain,
when he went forth to review his men, who were now all assembled under
arms within the palisades for that purpose, went to meet a wavering,
rather than a positively disaffected or rebellious body.
"Attention!" cried Joyce, as his commanding officer came in front of a
line which contained men of different colours, statures, ages, dresses,
countries, habits and physiognomies, making it a sort of epitome of the
population of the whole colony, as it existed in that day--"Attention!
The captain pulled off his hat complacently, in return to this salute,
though he was obliged to smile at the array which met his eyes. Every
one of the Dutchmen had got his musket to an order, following a sort of
fugleman of their own; while Mike had invented a "motion" that would
have puzzled any one but himself to account for. The butt of the piece
was projected towards the captain, quite out of line, while the barrel
rested on his own shoulder. Still, as his arms were extended to the
utmost, the county Leitrim-man fancied he was performing much better
than common. Jamie had correct notions of the perpendicular, from
having used the plumb-bob so much, though even he made the trifling
mistake of presenting arms with the lock outwards. As for the Yankees,
they were all tolerably exact, in everything but time, and the line;
bringing their pieces down, one after another, much as they were in the
practice of following their leaders, in matters of opinion. The negroes
defied description; nor was it surprising they failed, each of them
thrusting his head forward to see how the "motions" looked, in a way
that prevented any particular attention to his own part of the duty.
The serjeant had the good sense to see that his drill had not yet
produced perfection, and he brought his men to a shoulder again, as
soon as possible. In this he succeeded perfectly, with the exception
that just half of the arms were brought to the right, and the other
half to the left shoulders.
"We shall do better, your honour, as we get a little more drill"--said
Joyce, with an apologetic salute--"Corporal Strides has a tolerable
idea of the manual, and he usually acts as our fugleman. When he gets
back, we shall improve."
"When he gets back, serjeant--can you, or any other man, tell when that
"Yes, yer honour," sputtered Mike, with the eagerness of a boy. "I'se
the man to tell yees that same."
"_You_?--What can _you_ know, that is not known to all of us,
my good Michael?"
"I knows what I sees; and if yon isn't Misther Strhides, then I am not
acquainted with his sthraddle."
Sure enough, Joel appeared at the gate, as Mike concluded his
assertions. How he got there, no one knew; for a good look-out had been
kept in the direction of the mill; and, yet here was the overseer
applying for admission, as if he had fallen from the clouds! Of course,
the application was not denied, though made in a manner so unexpected,
and Joel stood in front of his old comrades at the hoe and plough, if
not in arms, in less than a minute. His return was proclaimed through
the house in an incredibly short space of time, by the aid of the
children, and all the females came pouring out from the court to learn
the tidings, led by Mrs. Strides and her young brood.
"Have you anything to communicate to me in private, Strides?" the
captain demanded, maintaining an appearance of _sang froid_ that
he was far from feeling--"or, can your report be made here, before the
"It's just as the captain pleases," answered the wily demagogue;
"though, to my notion, the people have a right to know all, in an
affair that touches the common interest."
"Attention! men"--cried the serjeant--"By platoons, to the right"
"No matter, Joyce," interrupted the captain, waving his hand--"Let the
men remain. You have held communications with our visiters, I know,
"We have, captain Willoughby, and a desperate sort of visiters be they!
A more ugly set of Mohawks and Onondagas I never laid eyes on."
"As for their appearance, it is matter of indifference to me--what is
the object of their visit?"
"I mean ugly behaved, and they deserve all I say of 'em. Their ar'nd,
according to their own tell, is to seize the captain, and his family,
in behalf of the colonies."
As Joel uttered this, he cast a glance along the line of faces paraded
before him, in order to read the effect it might produce. That it was
not lost on some, was as evident as that it was on others. The captain,
however, appeared unmoved, and there was a slight air of incredulity in
the smile that curled his lip.
"This, then, you report as being the business of the party in coming to
this place!" he said, quietly.
"I do, sir; and an ugly ar'nd it is, in times like these."
"Is there any person in authority in a party that pretends to move
about the colony, with such high duties?"
"There's one or two white men among 'em, if that's what the captain
means; they pretend to be duly authorised and appointed to act in
behalf of the people."
At each allusion to the people, Joel invariably looked towards his
particular partisans, in order to note the effect the use of the word
might produce. On the present occasion, he even ventured to wink at the
"If acting on authority, why do they keep aloof?--I have no such
character for resisting the laws, that any who come clothed with its
mantle need fear resistance."
"Why, I s'pose they reason in some such manner as this. There's
_two_ laws in operation at this time; the king's law, and the
people's law. I take it, this party comes in virtue of the people's
law, whereas it is likely the law the captain means is the king's law.
The difference is so great, that one or t'other carries the day, just
as the king's friends or the people's friends happen to be the
strongest. These men don't like to trust to _their_ law, when the
captain may think it safest to trust a little to his'n."
"And all this was told you, Strides, in order to be repeated to me?"
"Not a word on't; it's all my own consait about the matter. Little
passed between us."
"And, now," said the captain, relieving his breast by a long sigh, "I
presume I may inquire about your companion. You probably have
ascertained who he is?"
"Lord, captain Willoughby, I was altogether dumbfounded, when the truth
came upon me of a sudden! I never should have known the major in that
dress, in the world, or out of the world either; but he walks so like
the captain, that as I followed a'ter him, I said to myself, who
_can_ it be?--and then the walk came over me, as it might be; and
then I remembered last night, and the stranger that was out with the
captain, and how he occupied the room next to the library, and them
things; and so, when I come to look in his face, there was the major
Joel lied famously in this account; but he believed himself safe, as no
one could very well contradict him.
"Now, you have explained the manner in which you recognised my son,
Strides," added the captain, "I will thank you to let me know what has
become of him?"
"He's with the savages. Having come so far to seize the father, it
wasn't in natur' to let the son go free, when he walked right into the
lion's den, like."
"And how could the savages know he _was_ my son? Did they, too,
recognise the family walk?"
Strides was taken aback at this question, and he even had the grace to
colour a little. He saw that he was critically placed; for, in addition
to the suggestions of conscience, he understood the captain
sufficiently to know he was a man who would not trifle, in the event of
his suspicions becoming active. He knew he deserved the gallows, and
Joyce was a man who would execute him in an instant, did his commander
order it. The idea fairly made the traitor tremble in his shoes.
"Ah! I've got a little ahead of my story," he said, hastily. "But,
perhaps I had best tell everything as it happened--"
"That will be the simplest and clearest course. In order that there be
no interruption, we will go into my room, where Joyce will follow us,
as soon as he has dismissed his men."
This was done, and in a minute or two the captain and Joel were seated
in the library, Joyce respectfully standing; the old soldier always
declining to assume any familiarity with his superior. We shall give
the substance of most of Joel's report in our own language; preferring
it, defective as it is, to that of the overseer's, which was no bad
representative of his cunning, treacherous and low mind.
It seems, then, that the bearers of the flag were amicably received by
the Indians. The men towards whom they were led on the rocks, were the
chiefs of the party, who treated them with proper respect. The sudden
movement was explained to them, as connected with their meal; and the
chiefs, accompanied by the major and Strides, proceeded to the house of
the miller. Here, by means of a white man for an interpreter, the major
had demanded the motive of the strangers in coming into the settlement.
The answer was a frank demand for the surrender of the Hut, and all it
contained, to the authorities of the continental congress. The major
had endeavoured to persuade a white man, who professed to hold the
legal authority for what was doing, of the perfectly neutral
disposition of his father, when, according to Joel's account, to his
own great astonishment, the argument was met by the announcement of
Robert Willoughby's true character, and a sneering demand if it were
likely a man who had a son in the royal army, and who had kept that son
secreted in his own house, would be very indifferent to the success of
the royal cause.
"They've got a wonderful smart man there for a magistrate, I can tell
you," added Joel, with emphasis, "and he ra'ally bore as hard on the
major as a lawyer before a court. How he found out that the major was
at the Hut is a little strange, seein' that none of us know'd of it;
but they've got extraor'nary means, now-a-days."
"And, did major Willoughby admit his true character, when charged with
being in the king's service?"
"He did--and like a gentleman. He only insisted that his sole ar'nd out
here was to see his folks, and that he intended to go back to York the
moment he had paid his visit."
"How did the person you mention receive his explanations?"
"Waal, to own the truth, he laugh'd at it, like all natur'. I don't
believe they put any great weight on a syllable the major told 'em. I
never see critturs with such onbelievin' faces! After talking as long
as suited themselves, they ordered the major to be shut up in a
buttery, with a warrior at the door for a sentinel; a'ter which they
took to examining me."
Joel then proceeded with an account--his own account, always, be it
remembered--of what passed between himself and the strangers. They had
questioned him closely touching the nature of the defences of the Hut,
the strength of the garrison, its disposition, the number and quality
of the arms, and the amount of the ammunition.
"You may depend on't, I gave a good account," continued the overseer,
in a self-satisfied way. "In the first place, I told 'em, the captain
had a lieutenant with him that had sarved out the whull French war;
then I put the men up to fifty at once, seein' it was just as easy to
say that, as thirty or thirty-three. As to the arms, I told 'em more
than half the pieces were double-barrelled; and that the captain, in
particular, carried a rifle that had killed nine savages in one fight."
"You were much mistaken in that, Joel. It is true, that a celebrated
chief once fell by this rifle; even that is not a matter for boasting."
"Waal, them that told me on't, said that _two_ had fallen before
it, and I put it up to nine at once, to make a good story better. Nine
men had a more desperate sound than two; and when you _do_ begin
to brag, a man shouldn't be backward. I thought, howsever, that they
was most non-plussed, when I told 'em of the field-piece."
"The field-piece, Strides!--Why did you venture on an exaggeration that
any forward movement of theirs must expose?"
"We'll see to that, captain--we'll see to that. Field-pieces are
desperate dampers to Indian courage, so I thought I'd just let 'em have
a six-pounder, by way of tryin' their natur's. They look'd like men
goin' to execution, when I told 'em of the cannon, and what a history
it had gone through."
"And what may have been this history, pray?"
"I just told 'em it was the very gun the captain had took from the
French, about which we've all heer'n tell; and that, as everybody
knows, was a desperate piece, havin' killed more than a hundred
reg'lars, before the captain charged baggonet on it, and carried it
This was a very artful speech, since it alluded to the most
distinguished exploit of captain Willoughby's military life; one of
which it would have been more than human, had he not been a little
proud. All who knew him, had heard of this adventure, and Joel
cunningly turned it to account, in the manner seen. The allusion served
to put to sleep, for the moment at least, certain very unpleasant
suspicions that were getting to be active in his superior's mind.
"There was no necessity, Strides, for saying anything about that
affair"--the captain, modestly, interposed. "It happened a long time
since, and might well be forgotten. Then, you know we have no gun to
support your account, when our deficiency is ascertained, it will all
be set down to the true cause--a wish to conceal our real weakness."
"I beg your honour's pardon," put in Joyce--"I think Strides has acted
in a military manner in this affair. It is according to the art of war
for the besieged to pretend to but stronger than they are; and even
besiegers sometimes put a better face than the truth will warrant, on
their strength. Military accounts, as your honour well knows, never
pass exactly for gospel, unless it be with the raw hands."
"Then," added Joel, "I know'd what I was about, seem that we had a
cannon ready for use, as soon as it could be mounted."
"I think I understand Strides, your honour," resumed the serjeant. "I
have carved a 'quaker' as an ornament for the gateway, intending to saw
it in two, in the middle, and place the pieces, crosswise, over the
entrance, as your honour has often seen such things in garrisons--like
the brass ornaments on the artillery caps, I mean, your honour. Well,
this gun is finished and painted, and I intended to split it, and have
it up this very week. I suppose Joel has had it in his mind, quaker
"The Serjeant's right. That piece looks as much like a real cannon as
one of our cathechisms is like another. The muzzle is more than a foot
deep, and has a plaguy gunpowder look!"
"But this gun is not mounted; even if it were, it could only be set up
for show," observed the captain.
"Put that cannon up once, and I'll answer for it that no Injin faces
it. 'Twill be as good as a dozen sentinels," answered Joel. "As for
mountin', I thought of that before I said a syllable about the crittur.
There's the new truck-wheels in the court, all ready to hold it, and
the carpenters can put the hinder part to the whull, in an hour or two,
and that in a way no Injin could tell the difference between it and a
ra'al cannon, at ten yards."
"This is plausible, your honour," said Joyce, respectfully, "and it
shows that corporal Strides"--Joel insisted he was a serjeant, but the
real Simon Pure never gave him a title higher than that of
corporal--"and it shows that corporal Strides has an idea of war. By
mounting that piece, and using it with discretion--refusing it, at the
right moment, and showing it at another--a great deal might be done
with it, either in a siege or an assault. If your honour will excuse
the liberty, I would respectfully suggest that it might be well to set
the quaker on his legs, and plant him at the gate, as an exhorter."
The captain reflected a moment, and then desired the overseer to
proceed in his account. The rest of Joel's story was soon told. He had
mystified the strangers, according to his own account of the matter, so
thoroughly, by affecting to withhold nothing, that they considered him
as a sort of ally, and did not put him in confinement at all. It is
true, he was placed _en surveillance_; but the duty was so
carelessly performed, that, at the right moment, he had passed down the
ravine, a direction in which a movement was not expected, and buried
himself in the woods, so very effectually that it would have baffled
pursuit, had any been attempted. After making a very long _detour_,
that consumed hours, he turned the entire valley, and actually reached
the Hut, under the cover of the rivulet and its bushes, or precisely
by the route in which he and Mike had gone forth, in quest of Maud,
the evening of the major's arrival. This latter fact, however, Joel
had reasons of his own for concealing.
"You have told us nothing of Mr. Woods, Strides," the captain observed,
when Joel's account was ended.
"Mr. Woods! I can tell the captain nothing of that gentleman; I
supposed he was here."
The manner in which the chaplain had left the Hut, and his
disappearance in the ravine, were then explained to the overseer, who
evidently had quitted the mill, on his return, before the divine
performed his exploit. There was a sinister expression in Joel's eyes,
as he heard the account, that might have given the alarm to men more
suspicious than the two old soldiers; but he had the address to conceal
all he felt or thought.
"If Mr. Woods has gone into the hands of the Injins, in his church
shirt," rejoined the overseer, "his case is hopeless, so far as
captivity is consarned. One of the charges ag'in the captain is, that
the chaplain he keeps prays as regulairly for the king as he used to do
when it was lawful, and agreeable to public feelin'."
"This you heard, while under examination before the magistrate you have
named?" demanded the captain.
"As good as that, and something more to the same p'int. The 'squire
complained awfully of a minister's prayin' for the king and r'yal
family, when the country was fightin' 'em."
"In that, the Rev. Mr. Woods only obeys orders," said the serjeant.
"But they say not. The orders is gone out, now, _they_ pretend,
for no man to pray for any on 'em."
"Ay--orders from the magistrates, perhaps. But the Rev. Mr. Woods is a
divine, and has his own superiors in the church, and _they_ must
issue the commands that he obeys. I dare to say, your honour, if the
archbishop of Canterbury, or the commander-in-chief of the church,
whoever he may be, should issue a general order directing all the
parsons not to pray for King George, the Rev. Mr. Woods would have no
scruple about obeying. But, it's a different thing when a justice of
the peace undertakes to stand fugleman for the clergy. It's like a navy
captain undertaking to wheel a regiment."
"Poor Woods!" exclaimed the captain--"Had he been ruled by me, he would
have dropped those prayers, and it would have been better for us both.
But, he is of your opinion, serjeant, and thinks that a layman can have
no authority over a gownsman."
"And isn't he right, your honour! Think what a mess of it the militia
officers make, when they undertake to meddle with a regular corps. Some
of our greatest difficulties in the last war came from such awkward
hands attempting to manage machines of which they had no just notions.
As for praying, your honour, I'm no wise particular _who_ I pray
for, or _what_ I pray for, so long as it be all set down in
general orders that come from the right head-quarters; and I think the
Rev. Mr. Woods ought to be judged by the same rule."
As the captain saw no use in prolonging the dialogue, he dismissed his
companions. He then sought his wife, in order to make her acquainted
with the actual state of things. This last was a painful duty, though
Mrs. Willoughby and her daughters heard the truth with less of
apprehension than the husband and father had anticipated. They had
suffered so much from uncertainty, that there was a relief in learning
the truth. The mother did not think the authorities of the colony would
hurt her son, whom she fancied all men must, in a degree, love as she
loved. Beulah thought of her own husband as Bob's safeguard; while Maud
felt it to be comparative happiness to know he was unharmed, and still
so near her.
This unpleasant duty discharged, the captain began to bethink him
seriously of his military trust. After some reflection, and listening
to a few more suggestions from Joyce, he consented to let the "quaker"
be put on wheels. The carpenters were immediately set at work to
achieve this job, which the serjeant volunteered to superintend, in
person. As for Joel, his wife and children, with the miller, occupied
most of the morning; the day turning, and even drawing towards its
close, ere he became visible, as had formerly been his wont, among the
men of the settlement.
All this time, everything without the palisades lay in the silence of
nature. The sun cast its glories athwart the lovely scene, as in one of
the Sabbaths of the woods; but man was nowhere visible. Not a hostile
Indian, or white, exhibited himself; and the captain began to suspect
that, satisfied with their captures, the party had commenced its return
towards the river, postponing his own arrest for some other occasion.
So strong did this impression become towards the close of the day, that
he was actually engaged in writing to some friends of influence in
Albany and on the Mohawk to interpose their names and characters in his
son's behalf, when the serjeant, about nine o'clock, the hour when he
had been ordered to parade the guard for the first half of the night,
presented himself at the door of his room, to make an important report.
"What now, Joyce?" demanded the captain. "Are any of our fellows
sleepy, and plead illness?"
"Worse than that, your honour, I greatly fear," was the answer. Of the
ten men your honour commanded me to detail for the guard, five are
missing. I set them down as deserters."
"Deserters!--This is serious, indeed; let the signal be made for a
general parade--the people cannot yet have gone to bed; we will look
As Joyce made it matter of religion "to obey orders," this command was
immediately put in execution. In five minutes, a messenger came to
summon the captain to the court, where the garrison was under arms. The
serjeant stood in front of the little party, with a lantern, holding
his muster-roll in his hand. The first glance told the captain that a
serious reduction had taken place in his forces, and he led the
serjeant aside to hear his report.
"What is the result of your inquiries, Joyce?" he demanded, with more
uneasiness than he would have liked to betray openly.
"We have lost just half our men, sir. The miller, most of the Yankees,
and two of the Dutchmen, are not on parade; neither is one of them to
be found in his quarters. They have either gone over to the enemy,
captain Willoughby, or, disliking the appearance of things here, they
have taken to the woods for safety."
"And abandoned their wives and children, serjeant! Men would scarcely
"Their wives and children have deserted too, sir. Not a chick or child
belonging to either of the runaways is to be found in the Hut."
"For all the Welshmen, hearing thou wert dead,
Are gone to Bolingbroke, dispersed and fled."
This was startling intelligence to receive just as night had shut in,
and under the other circumstances of the case. Touching the men who
still remained, captain Willoughby conceived it prudent to inquire into
their characters and names, in order to ascertain the ground he stood
on, and to govern his future course accordingly. He put the question to
the serjeant, therefore, as soon as he could lead him far enough from
the little array, to be certain he was out of ear-shot.
"We have Michael O'Hearn, Jamie Allen, the two carpenters, the three
niggers, Joel, and the three Dutchmen that last came into the
settlement, and the two lads that Strides engaged at the beginning of
the year, left," was the answer. "These, counting your honour and
myself, make just fifteen men; quite enough yet, I should think, to
make good the house, in case of an assault--though I fear everything
like an outwork must be abandoned."
"On the whole, these are the best of our men," returned the captain; "I
mean the most trustworthy. I count on Mike, Jamie, and the blacks, as
being as much to be relied on as we are ourselves. Joel, too, is a man
of resources, if he will but do his duty under fire."
"Corporal Strides is still an untried soldier, your honour; though
recruits, even, sometimes do wonders. Of course, I shall reduce the
guard to half its former strength, as the men must have some sleep,
"We must depend very much on your vigilance and mine, to-night, Joyce.
You shall take the guard till one, when I will stand it for the rest of
the night. I will speak to the men before you dismiss them. An
encouraging word, just now, may be worth a platoon to us."
The serjeant seldom dissented from any suggestion of his commanding
officer, and the scheme was carried out on the spot. The lantern was so
placed as to permit the captain to see the heterogeneous row of
countenances that was drawn up before him, and he proceeded:
"It seems, my friends," he said, "that some of our people have been
seized with a panic, and have deserted. These mistaken men have not
only fled themselves, but they have induced their wives and children to
follow them. A little reflection will show you to what distress all
must be reduced by this ill-judged flight. Fifty miles from another
settlement of any size, and more than thirty from even a single hut,
beyond the cabin of a hunter, days must pass before they can reach a
place of safety, even should they escape the savage foe that we know to
be scouring the woods. The women and children will not have sufficient
art to conceal their trail, nor sufficient strength to hold out against
hunger and fatigue many hours. God forgive them for what they have
done, and guide them through the difficulties and pains by which they
are menaced! As for us, we must determine to do our whole duty, or, at
once to retire, with the consent of each other. If there is a man among
you, then, who apprehends the consequences of standing to his arms, and
of defending this house, let him confess it frankly; he shall have
leave to depart, with all that belongs to him, taking food and the
means of subsistence and defence with him. I wish no man to remain with
me and mine, but he who can do it cheerfully. The night is now dark,
and, by quitting the Hut at an early hour, such a start might be gained
over any pursuers, as to place him in comparative security before
morning. If any such man is here, let him now speak out honestly, and
fear nothing. The gate shall be opened for his march."
The captain paused, but not a soul answered. A common sentiment of
loyalty seemed to bind every one of the listeners to his duty. The dark
eyes of the negroes rolled along the short rank to see who would be the
first to desert their master, and grins of delight showed the
satisfaction with which they noted the effect of the appeal. As for
Mike, he felt too strongly to keep silence, and he muttered the passing
"Och!"--growled the county Leitrim-man--"Is it a good journey that I
wish the runaways? That it isn't, nor many a good male either, as they
trudge alang t'rough the woods, with their own consciences forenent
their eyes, pricking them up to come back, like so many t'ieves of the
wor-r-ld, as they are, every mother's son of 'em, women and all. I'd
nivir do _that_; no, not if my head was _all_ scalp, down to
the soles of my fut, and an Injin was at every inch of it, to cut out
his summer clothes of my own skin. Talk of religion amang sich
crathures!--Why, there isn't enough moral in one of thim to carry him
through the shortest prayer the Lord allows a Christian to utter. Divil
burn 'em say I, and that's my kindest wish in their behalf."
The captain waited patiently for this soliloquy to terminate; then he
dismissed the men, with a few more words of encouragement, and his
thanks for the fidelity they, at least, had shown. By this time the
night had got to be dark, and the court was much more so, on account of
the shadows of the buildings, than places in the open air. As the
captain turned aside to give his last instructions to Joyce, he
discovered, by the light of the lantern the latter held, a figure
standing at no great distance, quite dimly seen on account of its
proximity to the walls of the Hut. It was clearly a man; and as all the
males able to bear arms, a single sentinel outside the court excepted,
were supposed to be in the group that had not yet separated, the
necessity of ascertaining the character of this unlooked-for visiter
flashed on the minds of both the old soldiers at the same instant.
Joyce raised the lantern, as they moved quickly towards the motionless
form, and its light glanced athwart a pair of wild, glowing, dark eyes,
and the red visage of an Indian.
"Nick!" exclaimed the captain, "is that you?--What has brought you here
again, and how have you entered the palisades?--Do you come as a
friend, to aid us, or as an enemy?"
"Too much question, cap'in--too much like squaw; ask all togeder. Go to
book-room; Nick follow; tell all he got to say."
The captain whispered the serjeant to ascertain whether the watch
without was vigilant, when he led the way to the library, where, as he
expected, he found his wife and daughters, anxiously waiting his
"Oh! Hugh, I trust it is not as bad as we feared!" cried the mother, as
the captain entered the room, closely attended by the Tuscarora; "our
men cannot be so heartless as to desert us at such a moment!"
The captain kissed his wife, said a word or two of encouragement, and
pointed to the Indian.
"Nick!" exclaimed all three of the females, in a breath. Though the
tones of their voices denoted very different sensations, at the
unexpected appearance of their old acquaintance. Mrs. Willoughby's
exclamation was not without pleasure, for _she_ thought the man
her friend. Beulah's was filled with alarm, little Evert and savage
massacres suddenly crossing the sensitive mind of the young mother;
while Maud's tone had much of the stern resolution that she had
summoned to sustain her in a moment of such fearful trial.
"Yes, Nick--Sassy Nick," repeated the Indian, in his guttural
voice--"Ole friend--you no glad see him?"
"That will depend on your errand," interposed the captain. "Are you one
of the party that is now lying at the mill?--but, stop; how did you get
within the palisades? First answer me _that_."
"Come in. Tree no good to stop Injin. Can't do it wid branches, how do
it widout? Want plenty of musket and plenty of soldier to do _dat_.
Dis no garrison, cap'in, to make Nick afeard. Always tell him
too much hole to be tight."
"This is not answering my question, fellow. By what means did you pass
"What means?--Injin means, sartain. Came like cat, jump like deer,
slide like snake. Nick great Tuscarora chief; know well how warrior
march, when he dig up hatchet."
"And Nick has been a great hanger-on of garrisons, and should know the
use that I can make of his back. You will remember, Tuscarora, that I
have had you flogged, more than once, in my day."
This was said menacingly, and with more warmth, perhaps, than was
prudent. It caused the listeners to start, as if a sudden and new
danger rose before their eyes, and the anxious looks he encountered
warned the captain that he was probably going too far. As for Nick,
himself, the gathering thunder-cloud is not darker than his visage
became at the words he heard; it seemed by the moral writhing of his
spirit as if every disgracing blow he had received was at that instant
torturing his flesh anew, blended with the keenest feelings of
ignominy. Captain Willoughby was startled at the effect he had
produced; but it was too late to change his course; and he remained in
dignified quiet, awaiting the workings of the Tuscarora's mind.
It was more than a minute ere Nick made any reply. Gradually, but very
slowly, the expression of his visage changed. It finally became as
stoical in expression as severe training could render the human
countenance, and as unmoved as marble. Then he found the language he
"Listen," said the Indian, sternly. "Cap'in ole man. Got a head like
snow on rock. He bold soldier; but he no got wisdom enough for gray
hair. Why he put he hand rough, on place where whip strike? Wise man
nebber do _aat_. Last winter he cold; fire wanted to make him
warm. Much ice, much storm, much snow. World seem bad--fit only for
bear, and snake, dat hide in rock. Well; winter gone away; ice gone
away; snow gone away; storm gone away. Summer come, in his place.
Ebbery t'ing _good_--ebbery t'ing _pleasant_. Why t'ink of
winter, when summer come, and drive him away wid pleasant sky?"
"In order to provide for its return. He who never thought of the evil
day, in the hour of his prosperity, would find that he has forgotten,
not only a duty, but the course of wisdom."
"He _not_ wise!" said Nick, sternly. "Cap'in pale-face chief. He
got garrison; got soldier; got musket. Well, he flog warrior's back;
make blood come. Dat bad enough; worse to put finger on ole sore, and
make 'e pain, and 'e shame, come back ag'in."
"Perhaps it would have been more generous, Nick, to have said nothing
about it; but, you see how I am situated; an enemy without, my men
deserting, a bad look-out, and one finding his way into my very court-
yard, and I ignorant of the means."
"Nick tell cap'in all about means. If red-men outside, shoot
_'em_; if garrison run away, flog garrison; if don't know, l'arn;
but, don't flog back, ag'in, on ole sore!"
"Well, well, say no more about it, Nick. Here is a dollar to keep you
in rum, and we will talk of other matters."
Nick heeded not the money, though it was held before his eyes, some
little time, to tempt him. Perceiving that the Tuscarora was now acting
as a warrior and a chief, which Nick would do, and do well, on
occasion, the captain pocketed the offering, and regulated his own
"At all events, I have a right to insist on knowing, first, by what
means you entered the palisades; and, second, what business has brought
you here, at night, and so suddenly."
"Ask Nick, cap'in, all he right to ask; but, don't touch ole flog. How
I cross palisade? Where your sentinel to stop Injin? One at gate; well,
none all round, t'other place. Get in, up here, down dere, over yonder.
Ten, twenty, t'ree spot--s'pose him tree? climb him. S'pose him
palisade?--climb him, too. What help?--Soldier out at gate when Nick
get over t'other end! Come in court, too, when he want. Half gate half
no gate. So easy, 'shamed to brag of. Cap'in once Nick's friend--went
on same war-path--dat in ole time. Both warrior; both went ag'in French
garrison. Well; who crept in, close by cannon, open gate, let pale-men
in. Great Tuscarora do _dat_; no flog, _den_--no talk of ole
sore, dat night!"
"This is all true enough, Wyandotte"--This was Nick's loftiest
appellation; and a grim, but faint smile crossed his visage, as he
heard it, again, in the mouth of one who had known him when its sound
carried terror to the hearts of his enemies--"This is all true,
Wyandotte, and I have even given you credit for it. On that occasion
you were bold as the lion, and as cunning as a fox--you were much
honoured for that exploit."
"No ole sore in _dat_, um?" cried Nick, in a way so startling as
to sicken Mrs. Willoughby to the heart. "No call Nick dog, dat night.
He _all_ warrior, den--all face; no _back_."
"I have said you were honoured for your conduct, Nick, and paid for it.
Now, let me know what has brought you here to-night, and whence you
There was another pause. Gradually, the countenance of the Indian
became less and less fierce, until it lost its expression of malignant
resentment in one in which human emotions of a kinder nature
"Squaw good," he said, even gently, waving his hand towards Mrs.
Willoughby--"Got son; love him like little baby. Nick come six, two
time before, runner from her son."
"My son, Wyandotte!" exclaimed the mother--"Bring you any tidings, now,
from my boy?"
"No bring tidin'--too heavy; Indian don't love to carry load--bring
The cry from the three females was now common, each holding out her
hand, with an involuntary impulse, to receive the note. Nick drew the
missive from a fold of his garment, and placed it in the hand of Mrs.
Willoughby, with a quiet grace that a courtier might have wished to
equal, in vain.
The note was short, and had been written in pencil, on a leaf torn from
some book of coarse paper. The handwriting however, was at once
recognised as Robert Willoughby's though there was no address, nor any
signature. The paper merely contained the following--
"Trust to your defences, and to nothing else. This party has many white
men in it, disguised as Indians. I am suspected, if not known. You will
be tampered with, but the wisest course is to be firm. If Nick is
honest, he can tell you more; if false, this note will be shown, even
though it be delivered. Secure the inner gates, and depend more on the
house itself, than on the palisades. Fear nothing for me--my life can
be in no danger."
This note was read by each, in succession, Maud turning aside to
conceal the tears that fell fast on the paper, as she perused it. She
read it last, and was enabled to retain it; and precious to her heart
was the boon, at such a moment, when nearly every sensation of her
being centred in intense feeling in behalf of the captive.
"We are told to inquire the particulars of you, Nick," observed the
captain; "I hope you will tell us nothing but truth. A lie is so
unworthy a warrior's mouth!"
"Nick didn't lie 'bout beaver dam! Cap'in no find him good, as Indian
"In that you dealt honestly, and I give you credit for it. Has any one
seen this letter but ourselves, yourself, and the person who wrote it?"
"What for ask? If Nick say no, cap'in t'ink he lie. Even fox tell trut'
some time; why not Injin? Nick say no."
"Where did you leave my son, and when?--Where is the party of red-skins
at this moment?"
"All pale-face in hurry! Ask ten, one, four question, altogeder. Well;
answer him so. Down here, at mill; down dere, at mill; half an hour,
six, two, ten o'clock."
"I understand you to say that major Willoughby was at the mill when you
saw him last, and that this was only half an hour since?"
The Tuscarora nodded his head in assent, but made no other reply. Even
as he did this, his keen eyes rolled over the pallid faces of the
females in a way to awaken the captain's distrust, and he resumed his
questions in a tone that partook more of the military severity of his
ancient habits than of the gentler manner he had been accustomed to use
of late years.
"You know me, Nick," he said sternly, "and ought to dread my
"What cap'in mean, now?" demanded the Indian, quietly.
"That the same whip is in this fort that I always kept in the other, in
which you knew me to dwell; nor have I forgotten how to use it."
The Tuscarora gazed at the captain with a very puzzling expression,
though, in the main, his countenance appeared to be ironical rather
"What for, talk of whip, now?" he said. "Even Yengeese gen'ral hide
whip, when he see enemy. Soldier can't fight when back sore. When
battle near, den all good friend; when battle over, den flog, flog,
flog. Why talk so?--Cap'in nebber strike _Wyandotte_."
"Your memory must be short, to say this! I thought an Indian kept a
better record of what passed."
"No man _dare_ strike Wyandotte!" exclaimed the Indian, with
energy. "No man--pale-face or red-skin, _can_ give blow on back of
Wyandotte, and see sun set!"
"Well--well--Nick; we will not dispute on this point, but let bye-gones
be bye-gones. What _has_ happened, _has_ happened, and I hope
will never occur again."
"Dat happen to Nick--Sassy Nick--poor, drunken Nick--to Wyandotte,
"I believe I begin to understand you, now, Tuscarora, and am glad I
have a chief and a warrior in my house, instead of a poor miserable
outcast. Shall I have the pleasure of filling you a glass in honour of
our old campaigns?"
"Nick alway dry--Wyandotte know no thirst. Nick, beggar--ask for
rum--_pray_ for rum--_t'ink_ of rum, _talk_ of rum, _laugh_ for rum,
_cry_ for rum. Wyandotte don't know rum, when he see him. Wyandotte
beg not'in'; no, not his scalp."
"All this sounds well, and I am both willing and glad, chief, to
receive you in the character in which you give me to understand you
have now come. A warrior of Wyandotte's high name is too proud to carry
a forked tongue in his mouth, and I shall hear nothing but truth. Tell
me, then, all you know about this party at the mill; what has brought
it here, how you came to meet my son, and what will be the next step of
his captors. Answer the questions in the order in which I put them."
"Wyandotte not newspaper to tell ebbery t'ing at once. Let cap'in talk
like one chief speaking to anoder."
"Then, tell me first, what you know of this party at the mill. Are
there many pale-faces in it?"
"Put 'em in the river," answered the Indian, sententiously; "water tell
"You think that there are many among them that would wash white?"
"Wyandotte _know_ so. When did red warriors ever travel on their
path like hogs in drove? _One_ red-man there, as Great Spirit make
him; by his side _two_ red-men as _paint_ make 'em. This soon
told on trail."
"You struck their trail, then, and joined their company, in that
Another nod indicated the assent of the Indian. Perceiving that the
Tuscarora did not intend to speak, the captain continued his
"And how did the trail betray this secret, chief?" he asked.
"Toe turn out--step too short--trail too broad--trail too plain--march
"You must have followed them some distance, Wyandotte, to learn all
"Follow from Mohawk--join 'em at mill. Tuscarora don't like too much
travel with Mohawk."
"But, according to your account, there cannot be a great many red-skins
in the party, if the white men so much out-number them."
Nick, now, raised his right hand, showing all the fingers and the
thumb, at each exhibition, four several times. Then he raised it once,
showing only the fore-finger and thumb.
"This makes twenty-two, Nick--Do you include yourself in the number?"
"Wyandotte, a Tuscarora--he count _Mohawks_"
"True--Are there any other red-men among them?"
"Oneida, so"--holding up four fingers only. After which he held up a
single finger, adding--"Onondaga, so."
"Twenty-two Mohawks, four Oneidas, and a single Onondaga, make twenty-
seven in all. To these, how many whites am I to add?--You counted them,
The Indian now showed both hands, with all the fingers extended,
repeating the gestures four times; then he showed one hand entire, and
two fingers on the other.
"Forty-seven. Add these to the red-skins, and we get seventy-four for
the total. I had supposed them rather stronger than this, Wyandotte?"
"No stronger--no weaker--just so. Good many ole womans, too, among
"Old women!--You are not speaking literally, Nick? All that I have seen
appear to be men."
"Got beard; but ole woman, too. Talk--talk--talk;--do not'in'.
_Dat_ what Injin call ole woman. Party, poor party; cap'in beat 'em,
if he fight like ole time."
"Well, this is encouraging, Wilhelmina, and Nick seems to be dealing
fairly with us."
"Now, inquire more about Robert, Hugh"--said the wife, in whose
maternal heart her children were always uppermost.
"You hear, Nick; my wife is desirous of learning something about her
During the preceding dialogue, there had been something equivocal in
the expression of the Indian's face. Every word he uttered about the
party, its numbers, and his own manner of falling in with it, was true,
and his countenance indicated that he was dealing fairly. Still, the
captain fancied that he could detect a covert fierceness in his eye and
air, and he felt uneasiness even while he yielded him credence. As soon
as Mrs. Willoughby, however, interposed, the gleam of ferocity that
passed so naturally and readily athwart the swarthy features of the
savage, melted into a look of gentleness, and there were moments when
it might be almost termed softness.
"Good to have moder"--said Nick, kindly. "Wyandotte got no squaw--wife
dead, moder dead, sister dead--all gone to land of spirits--bye'm-by,
chief follow. No one throw stone on his grave! Been on death-path long
ago, but cap'in's squaw say 'stop, Nick; little too soon, now; take
medicine, and get well.' Squaw made to do good. Chief alway like 'e
squaw, when his mind not wild with war."
"And _your_ mind, Wyandotte, is not wild with war, now," answered
Mrs. Willoughby, earnestly. "You will help a mother, then, to get her
son out of the hands of merciless enemies?"
"Why you t'ink merciless? Because pale-face dress like Injin, and try
"That may be one reason; but I fear there are many others. Tell me,
Wyandotte, how came you to discover that Robert was a prisoner, and by
what means did he contrive to give you his letter?"
The Indian assumed a look of pride, a little blended with hauteur; for
he felt that he was manifesting the superiority of a red-man over the
pale-face, as he related the means through which he had made his
"Read book on ground," Nick answered gravely. "Two book alway open
before chief; one in sky, t'other on ground. Book in sky, tell
weather--snow, rain, wind, thunder, lightning, war--book on ground,
tell what happen."
"And what had this book on the ground to do with my son, Wyandotte?"
"Tell all about him. Major's trail first seen at mill. No moccasin--
much boot. Soldier boot like letter--say great deal, in few word. First
t'ink it cap'in; but it too short. Den _know_ it Major."
"This sounds very well, Nick," interrupted the captain, "though you
will excuse me if I say it is going a little too far. It seems
impossible that you should know that the print of the foot was that of
my son. How _could_ you be certain of this?"
"How _could_, eh? Who follow trail from house, here, to Hudson
river? T'ink Nick blind, and can't see? Tuscarora read _his_ book
well as pale-face read bible." Here Nick looked round him a moment,
raised his fore-finger, dropped his voice, and added earnestly--"see
him at Bunker Hill--know him among ten, six, two t'ousand warrior. Know
dat foot, if meet him in Happy Hunting Ground."
"And why my son's foot, in particular? The boot is often changed, can
never be exactly like its predecessor, and one boot is so much like
another, that to me the thing seems impossible. This account of the
boot, Nick, makes me distrust your whole story."
"What distrust?" demanded the Indian like lightning.
"It means doubt, uncertainty--distrust."
"Don't believe, ha?"
"Yes, that is it, substantially. Don't more than _half_ believe,
perhaps, would be nearer to the mark."
"Why, ole soldier alway distrust; squaw nebber? Ask moder--ha!--you
t'ink Nick don't know son's trail--handsome trail, like young chief's?"
"I can readily believe Nick might recognise Bob's trail, Hugh"--
expostulated Mrs. Willoughby. "He has a foot in a thousand--you may
remember how every one was accustomed to speak of his beautiful foot,
even when he was a boy. As a man, I think it still more remarkable."
"Ay, go on, Nick, in this way, and my wife will believe all you say.
There is no distrust in a mother's partiality, certainly. You are an
old courtier, and would make your way at St. James's."
"Major nebber tell about foot?" asked Nick, earnestly.
"I remember nothing; and had he spoken of any such thing, I must have
heard it. But, never mind the story, now; you saw the foot-print, and
knew it for my son's. Did you ask to be admitted to his prison? or was
your intercourse secret?"
"Wyandotte too wise to act like squaw, or boy. See him, widout look.
Talk, widout speak--hear, widout ear. Major write letter, Nick take
him. All done by eye and hand; not'in' done by tongue, or at Council
Fire. Mohawk blind like owl!"
"May I believe you, Tuscarora; or, incited by demons, do you come to
"Ole warrior look two time before he go; t'ink ten time before he say,
yes. All good. Nick no affronted. Do so himself, and t'ink it right.
Cap'in _may_ believe all Nick say."
"Father!" cried Maud, with simple energy, "I will answer for the
Indian's honesty. He has guided Robert so often, and been with him in
so many trying scenes, he never _can_ have the heart to betray
him, or us. Trust him, then he may be of infinite service."
Even captain Willoughby, little disposed as he was to judge Nick
favourably, was struck with the gleam of mamy kindness that shot across
the dark face of the Indian, as he gazed at the glowing cheek and
illuminated countenance of the ardent and beautiful girl.
"Nick seems disposed to make a truce with _you_, at least, Maud,"
he said, smiling, "and I shall now know where to look for a mediator,
whenever any trouble arises between us."
"I have known Wyandotte, dear sir, from childhood, and he has ever been
my friend. He promised me, in particular, to be true to Bob, and I am
happy to say he has ever kept his word."
This was telling but half the story. Maud had made the Indian many
presents, and most especially had she attended to his wants, when it
was known he was to be the major's guide, the year previously, on his
return to Boston. Nick had known her real father, and was present at
his death. He was consequently acquainted with her actual position in
the family of the Hutted Knoll; and, what was of far more consequence
in present emergencies, he had fathomed the depths of her heart, in a
way our heroine could hardly be said to have done herself. Off her
guard with such a being, Maud's solicitude, however, had betrayed her,
and the penetrating Tuscarora had discerned that which had escaped the
observation of father, and mother, and sister. Had Nick been a pale-
face, of the class of those with whom he usually associated, his
discovery would have gone through the settlement, with scoffings and
exaggerations; but this forest gentleman, for such was Wyandotte, in
spite of his degradation and numerous failings, had too much
consideration to make a woman's affections the subject of his
coarseness and merriment. The secrets of Maud would not have been more
sacred with her own brother, had such a relative existed to become her
confidant, than it was with Saucy Nick.
"Nick gal's friend," observed the Indian, quietly; "dat enough; what
Nick say, Nick mean. What Nick _mean_, he _do_. Come, cap'in;
time to quit squaw, and talk about war."
At this hint, which was too plain to be misunderstood, captain
Willoughby bade the Indian withdraw to the court, promising to follow
him, as soon as he could hold a short conference with Joyce, who was
now summoned to the council. The subject of discussion was the manner
in which the Tuscarora had passed the stockade, and the probability of
his being true. The serjeant was disposed to distrust all red-men, and
he advised putting Nick under arrest, and to keep him in durance, until
the return of light, at least.
"I might almost say, your honour, that such are orders, sir. The advice
to soldiers carrying on war with savages, tells us that the best course
is to pay off treachery with treachery; and treachery is a red-skin's
manual exercise. There is O'Hearn will make a capital sentinel, for the
fellow is as true as the best steel in the army. Mr. Woods' room is
empty, and it is so far out of the way that nothing will be easier than
to keep the savage snug enough. Besides, by a little management, he
might fancy we were doing him honour all the while."
"We will see, serjeant," answered the captain. "It has a bad
appearance, and yet it may be the wisest thing we can do. Let us first
go the rounds, taking Nick with us for safety, and determine
"His hand was stay'd--he knew not why;
'Twas a presence breathed around--
A pleading from the deep-blue sky,
And up from the teeming ground.
It told of the care that lavish'd had been
In sunshine and in dew--
Of the many things that had wrought a screen
When peril round it grew."
Mrs. Seba Smith.
The desertions gave not only the captain, but his great support and
auxiliary, the serjeant, the gravest apprehensions. A disposition of
that nature is always contagious, men abandoning a failing cause much
as rats are known to quit a sinking ship. It is not a matter of
surprise, therefore, that the distrust which accompanied the unexpected
appearance of the Tuscarora, became associated with this falling off in
the loyalty of the garrison, in the minds of the two old soldiers.
"I do think, your honour," said Joyce, as they entered the court
together, "that we may depend on O'Hearn, and Jamie, and Strides. The
latter, as a matter of course, being a corporal, or serjeant as he
calls himself; and the two first, as men who have no ties but such as
would be likely to keep them true to this family. But here is the
corporal to speak for himself."
As this was said, corporal Strides, as the serjeant persisted in
terming Joel, on the ground that being but one step higher himself, the
overseer could justly claim no rank of greater pretension, approached
the captain, taking care to make the military salute which Joyce had
never succeeded before in extracting from him, notwithstanding a
hundred admonitions on the subject.
"This is a distressing affair, captain Willoughby," observed Joel, in
his most jesuitical manner; "and to me it is altogether onaccountable!
It does seem to me ag'in natur', for a man to desart his own household
and hum' (Joel meant '_home_') in the hour of trial. If a fellow-
being wunt (Anglice 'wont') stand by his wife and children, he can
hardly be expected to do any of his duties."
"Quite true. Strides," answered the confiding captain, "though these
deserters are not altogether as bad as you represent, since, you will
remember, they have carried their wives and children with them."
"I believe they have, sir--yes, that must be allowed to be true, and
that it is, which to me seems the most extr'or'nary. The very men that
a person would calcilate on the most, or the heads of families, have
desarted, while them that remain behind are mostly single!"
"If we single men have no wives and children of our own to fight for,
Strides," observed Joyce, with a little military stiffness, "we have
the wife and children of captain Willoughby; no man who wishes to sell
his life dearly, need look for a better motive."
"Thank you, serjeant," the captain said, feelingly--"On _you_, I
can rely as on myself. So long as I have _you_, and Joel, here,
and Mike and the blacks, and the rest of the brave fellows who have
stood by me thus far, I shall not despair. _We_ can make good the
house against ten times our own number. But, it is time to look to the
"I was going to speak to the captain about Nick," put in Joel, who had
listened to the eulogium on his own fidelity with some qualms of
conscience. "I can't say I like the manner he has passed between the
two parties; and that fellow has always seemed to me as if he owed the
captain a mortal grudge; when an Injin _does_ owe a grudge, he is
pretty sartain to pay it, in full."
"This has passed over my mind, too, I will confess, Joel; yet Nick and
I have been on reasonably good terms, when one comes to remember his
character, on the one side, and the fact that I have commanded a
frontier garrison on the other. If I have had occasion to flog him a
few times, I have also had occasion to give him more rum than has done
him good, with now and then a dollar."
"There I think the captain miscalcilates," observed Joel with a
knowledge of human nature that would have been creditable to him, had
he practised on it himself. "No man is thankful for rum when the
craving is off, sin' he knows he has been taking an inimy into his
stomach; and as for the money, it was much the same as giving the
liquor, seem' that it went for liquor as soon as he could trot down to
the mill. A man will seek his revenge for rum, as soon as for anything
else, when he gets to feel injuries uppermost. Besides, I s'pose the
captain knows an injury will be remembered long a'ter a favour is
"This may be true, Strides, and certainly I shall keep my eyes on the
Indian. Can you mention any particular act, that excites your
"Don't the captain think Nick may have had suthin' to do with the
desartions?--A dozen men would scarce desart all at once, as it might
be, onless someone was at the bottom of it."
This was true enough, certainly, though Joel chose to keep out of view
all his own machinations and arts on the subject. The captain was
struck by the suggestion, and he determined to put his first intention
in respect to Nick in force immediately. Still, it was necessary to
proceed with caution, the state of the Hut rendering a proper watch and
a suitable prison difficult to be obtained. These circumstances were
mentioned to the overseer, who led the way to the part of the buildings
occupied by his own family; and, throwing open the doors,
ostentatiously exhibited Phoebe and her children in their customary
beds, at a moment when so many others had proved recreant. His
professed object was to offer a small closet in his own rooms as a
prison for Nick, remarking he must be an ingenious savage indeed, if he
could escape the vigilance of as many watchful eyes as would then be on
"I believe you, Strides," said the captain, smiling as he walked away
from the place; "if he can escape Phoebe and _her_ children, the
fellow must be made of quicksilver. Still, I have a better prison in
view. I am glad to see this proof, however, of your own fidelity, by
finding all your family in their beds; for those are not wanting who
would have me suspect even _you_"
"Me!--Well, if the captain can't count on his own overseer, I should
like to ask such persons on whom he _can_ count? Madam Willoughby
and the young ladies isn't more likely to remain true than I am,
myself, I should think--What in reason, or natur', or all lawful
objects, could make _me_----"
Joel was about to run into that excess of vindication that is a little
apt to mark guilt; but, the captain cut him short, by telling him it
was unnecessary, recommending vigilance, and walking away in search of
The Indian was found standing beneath the arch of the gateway, upright,
motionless, and patient. A lantern was kept burning here, the place
being used as a sort of guard-house; and, by its light, it was easy to
perceive the state of the still unhung leaf of the passage. This leaf,
however, was propped in its place, by strong timbers; and, on the
whole, many persons would think it the most secure half of the gate.
Captain Willoughby observed that the Indian was studying this
arrangement when he entered the place himself. The circumstance caused
him uneasiness, and quickened his determination to secure the Indian.
"Well, Nick," he said, concealing his intention under an appearance of
indifference, "you see our gates are well fastened, and steady hands
and quick eyes will do the rest. It is getting late, and I wish to have
you comfortably lodged before I lie down myself. Follow me, and I will
show you to a place where you will be at your ease."
The Tuscarora understood the captain's object the instant he spoke of
giving him comfortable lodgings, a bed being a thing that was virtually
unknown to his habits. But, he raised no objections, quietly treading
in the other's footsteps, until both were in the bed-room of the absent
Mr. Woods. The apartments of the chaplain were above the library, and,
being in the part of the house that was fortified by the cliff, they
had dormer windows that looked toward the forest. The height of these
windows the captain thought would be a sufficient security against
flight; and by setting Mike and one of the Plinys on the look-out, to
relieve each other at intervals of four hours, he thought the Tuscarora
might be kept until the return of light. The hour when he most
apprehended danger was that which just precedes the day, sleep then
pressing the heaviest on the sentinel's eyelids, and rest having
refreshed the assailants.
"Here, Wyandotte, I intend you shall pass the night," said the captain,
assuming as much courtesy of manner as if he were doing the honours of
his house to an invited and honoured guest. "I know you despise a bed,
but there are blankets, and by spreading them on the floor, you can
make your own arrangements."
Nick made a gesture of assent, looking cautiously around him, carefully
avoiding every appearance of curiosity at the same time, more in pride
of character, however, than in cunning. Nevertheless, he took in the
history of the locality at a glance.
"It is well," he said; "a Tuscarora chief no t'ink of sleep. Sleep come
standing, walking; _where_ he will, _when_ he will. Dog eats,
den lie down to sleep; warrior always ready. Good bye, cap'in--to-
morrow see him ag'in."
"Good night, Nick. I have ordered your old friend Mike, the Irishman,
to come and sit in your room, lest you might want something in the
night. You are good friends with Mike, I believe; I chose him on that
The Indian understood this, too; but not an angry gleam, no smile, nor
any other sign, betrayed his consciousness of the captain's motives.
"Mike _good_" he answered, with emphasis. "Long tongue--short
t'ink. Say much; mean little. Heart sound, like hard oak--mind, like
spunk--burn quick, no too much strong."
This sententious and accurate delineation of the county Leitrim-man's
characteristics induced a smile in the captain; but, O'Hearn entering
at the moment, and possessing his entire confidence, he saw no use in
replying. In another minute the two worthies were left in possession of
the bed-room, Michael having received a most solemn injunction not to
be tempted to drink.
It was now so late, the captain determined to let the regular watches
of the night take their course. He held a short consultation with
Joyce, who took the first ward, and then threw himself on a mattrass,
in his clothes, his affectionate wife having done the same thing, by
the side of her daughters and grandson in an adjoining room. In a short
time, the sounds of footsteps ceased in the Hut; and, one unacquainted
with the real state of the household, might have fancied that the peace
and security of one of its ancient midnights were reigning about the
It was just two in the morning, when the serjeant tapped lightly at the
door of his commanding officer's room. The touch was sufficient to
bring the captain to his feet, and he instantly demanded the news.
"Nothing but sentry-go, your honour," replied Joyce. "I am as fresh as
a regiment that is just marching out of barracks, and can easily stand
the guard till daylight. Still, as it was orders to call your honour at
two, I could do no less, you know, sir."
"Very well, serjeant--I will just wash my eyes, and be with you in a
minute. How has the night gone?"
"Famously quiet, sir. Not even an owl to trouble it. The sentinels have
kept their eyes wide open, dread of the scalping-knife being a good
wakener, and no sign of any alarm has been seen. I will wait for your
honour, in the court, the moment of relieving guard being often chosen
by a cunning enemy for the assault."
"Yes," sputtered the captain, his face just emerging from the
water--"if he happen to know when that is."
In another minute, the two old soldiers were together in the court,
waiting the return of Jamie Allen with his report, the mason having
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