James Fenimore Cooper
Part 8 out of 9
could ever be persuaded to assume a style that both insisted so much
resembled that of the Indians. As for Blodget, he was in the usual
dress of a labourer.
As soon as he had reached the bottom of the cliff, the captain let the
fact be known to Old Pliny, by using his voice with caution, though
sufficiently loud to be heard on the staging of the roof, directly
above his head. The black had been instructed to watch Joel and his
companions, in order to ascertain if they betrayed, in their movements,
any consciousness of what was in progress at the Hut. The report was
favourable, Pliny assuring his master that "all 'e men work, sir, just
as afore. Joel hammer away at plough-handle, tinkerin' just like
heself. Not an eye turn dis away, massa."
Encouraged by this assurance, the whole party stole through the bushes,
that lined this part of the base of the cliffs, until they entered the
bed of the stream. It was September, and the water was so low, as to
enable the party to move along the margin of the rivulet dry-shod,
occasionally stepping from stone to stone. The latter expedient,
indeed, was adopted wherever circumstances allowed, with a view to
leave as few traces of a trail as was practicable. Otherwise the cover
was complete; the winding of the rivulet preventing any distant view
through its little reaches, and the thick fringe of the bushes on each
bank, effectually concealing the men against any passing, lateral,
glimpse of their movements.
Captain Willoughby had, from the first, apprehended an assault from
this quarter. The house, in its elevation, however, possessed an
advantage that would not be enjoyed by an enemy on the ground; and,
then, the cliff offered very serious obstacles to anything like a
surprise on that portion of the defences. Notwithstanding, he now led
his men, keeping a look riveted on the narrow lane in his front, far
from certain that each turn might not bring him in presence of an
advancing party of the enemy. No such unpleasant encounter occurred;
and the margin of the forest was gained, without any appearance of the
foe, and seemingly without discovery.
Just within the cover of the woods, a short reach of the rivulet lay
fairly in sight, from the rear wing of the dwellings. It formed a
beautiful object in the view; the ardent and tasteful Maud having
sketched the silvery ribbon of water, as it was seen retiring within
the recesses of the forest, and often calling upon others to admire its
loveliness and picturesque effect. Here the captain halted, and made a
signal to Old Pliny, to let him know he waited for an answer. The reply
was favourable, the negro showing the sign that all was still well.
This was no sooner done, than the faithful old black hurried down to
his mistress, to communicate the intelligence that the party was safely
in the forest; while the adventurers turned, ascended the bank of the
stream, and pursued their way on more solid ground.
Captain Willoughby and his men were now fairly engaged in the
expedition, and every soul of them felt the importance and gravity of
the duty he was on. Even Mike was fain to obey the order to be silent,
as the sound of a voice, indiscreetly used, might betray the passage of
the party to some outlying scouts of the enemy. Caution was even used
in treading on dried sticks, lest their cracking should produce the
The sound of the axe was heard in the rear of the cabins coming from a
piece of woodland the captain had ordered cleared, with the double view
of obtaining fuel, and of increasing his orchards. This little clearing
was near a quarter of a mile from the flats, the plan being, still to
retain a belt of forest round the latter; and it might have covered
half-a-dozen acres of land, having now been used four or five years for
the same purpose. To pass between this clearing and the cabins would
have been too hazardous, and it became necessary to direct the march in
a way to turn the former.
The cow-paths answered as guides for quite a mile, Mike being
thoroughly acquainted with all their sinuosities. The captain and
serjeant, however, each carried a pocket compass, an instrument without
which few ventured far into the forests. Then the blows of the axes
served as sounds to let the adventurers know their relative position,
and, as they circled the place whence they issued, they gave the
constant assurance of their own progress, and probable security.
The reader will probably comprehend the nature of the ground over which
our party was now marching. The 'flats' proper, or the site of the old
Beaver Dam, have already been described. The valley, towards the south,
terminated at the rocks of the mill, changing its character below that
point, to a glen, or vast ravine. On the east were mountains of
considerable height, and of unlimited range; to the north, the level
land extended miles, though on a platform many feet higher than the
level of the cleared meadows; while, to the west, along the route the
adventurers were marching, broad slopes of rolling forest spread their
richly-wooded surfaces, filled with fair promise for the future. The
highest swell of this undulating forest was that nearest to the Hut,
and it was its elevation only that gave the home-scene the character of
Captain Willoughby's object was to gain the summit of this first ridge
of land, which would serve as a guide to his object, since it
terminated at the line of rocks that made the water-fall, quite a mile,
however, in the rear of the mills. It would carry him also quite beyond
the clearing of the wood-choppers, and be effectually turning the whole
of the enemy's position. Once at the precipitous termination caused by
the face of rock that had been thrown to the surface by some geological
phenomenon, he could not miss his way, since these rugged marks must of
themselves lead him directly to the station known to be occupied by the
body of his foes.
Half an hour served to reach the desired ridge, when the party changed
its march, pursuing a direction nearly south, along its summit.
"Those axes sound nearer and nearer, serjeant," Captain Willoughby
observed, after the march had lasted a long time in profound silence.
"We must be coming up near the point where the men are at work."
"Does your honour reflect at all on the reason why these fellows are so
particularly industrious in a time like this?--To me it has a very
ambuscadish sort of look!"
"It cannot be connected with an ambuscade, Joyce, inasmuch as we are
not supposed to be on a march. There can be no ambuscade, you will
remember, practised on a garrison."
"I ask your honour's pardon--may not a sortie be ambushed, as well as a
"In that sense, perhaps, you may be right. And, now you mention it, I
think it odd there should be so much industry at wood-chopping, in a
moment like this. We will halt as soon as the sounds are fairly abreast
of us, when you and I can reconnoitre the men, and ascertain the
appearance of things for ourselves."
"I remember, sir, when your honour led out two companies of ours, with
one of the Royal Irish, a major's command, of good rights, to observe
the left flank of the French, the evening before we stormed the enemy's
works at Ty--"
"Your memory is beginning to fail you, Joyce," interrupted the captain,
smiling. "We were far from storming those works, having lost two
thousand men before them, and failed of seeing their inside at all."
"I always look upon a soldierly attempt, your honour, the same as a
thing that is done. A more gallant stand than we made I never
witnessed; and, though we were driven back, I will allow, yet I call
that assault as good as storming!"
"Well, have it your own way, Joyce.--The morning before your storming,
I remember to have led out three companies; though it was more in
advance, than on either flank. The object was to unmask a suspected
"That's just what I wanted to be at, your honour. The general sent you,
as an old captain, with three companies, to spring the trap, before he
should put his own foot into it."
"He certainly did--and the movement had the desired effect."
"Better and better, sir.--I remember we were fired on, and lost some
ten or fifteen men, but I would not presume to say whether the march
succeeded or not; for nothing was said of the affair, next day, in
general orders, sir--"
"Next day we had other matters to occupy our minds. It was a bloody and
a mournful occasion for England and her colonies."
"Well, your honour, that does not affect our movement, which, you say,
yourself, was useful."
"Very true, Joyce, though the great calamity of the succeeding day
prevented the little success of the preceding morning from being
mentioned in general orders. But to what does all this tend; as I know
it must lead to something?"
"It was merely meant as a respectful hint, your honour, that the
inferior should be sent out, now, according to our own ancient rules,
to reconn'itre the clearing, while the commander-in-chief remain with
the main body, to cover the retreat."
"I thank you, serjeant, and shall not fail to employ you, on all proper
occasions. At present, it is my intention that we go together, leaving
the men to take breath, in a suitable cover."
This satisfied Joyce, who was content to wait for orders. As soon as
the sounds of the axes showed that the party were far enough in
advance, and the formation of the land assured the captain that he was
precisely where he wished to be, the men were halted, and left secreted
in a cover made by the top of a fallen tree. This precaution was taken,
lest any wandering savage might get a glimpse of their persons, if they
stood lounging about in the more open forest, during the captain's
This disposition made, the captain and serjeant, first examining the
priming of their pieces, moved with the necessary caution towards the
edge of the wood-chopper's clearing. The axe was a sufficient guide,
and ere they had proceeded far the light began to shine through the
trees, proof in itself that they were approaching an opening in the
"Let us incline to the left, your honour," said Joyce, respectfully;
"there is a naked rock hereabouts, that completely overlooks the
clearing, and where we can get even a peep at the Hut. I have often sat
on it, when out with the gun, and wearied; for the next thing to being
at home, is to see home."
"I remember the place, serjeant, and like your suggestion," answered
the captain, with an eagerness that it was very unusual for him to
betray. "I could march with a lighter heart, after getting another look
at the Knoll, and being certain of its security."
The parties being both of a mind, it is not surprising that each looked
eagerly for the spot in question. It was an isolated rock that rose
some fifteen or twenty feet above the surface of the ground, having a
width and depth about double its height--one of those common
excrescences of the forest that usually possess interest for no one but
the geologist. Such an object was not difficult to find in an open
wood, and the search was soon rewarded by a discovery. Bending their
steps that way, our two soldiers were quickly at its base. As is usual,
the summit of this fragment of rock was covered with bushes; others
shooting out, also, from the rich, warm earth at its base, or, to speak
more properly, at its junction with the earth.
Joyce ascended first, leaving his rifle in the captain's charge. The
latter followed, after having passed up his own and his companion's
arms; neither being disposed to stir without having these important
auxiliaries at command. Once on the rock, both moved cautiously to its
eastern brow, care being had not to go beyond the cover. Here they
stood, side by side, gazing on the scene that was outspread before
them, through openings in the bushes.
To the captain's astonishment, he found himself within half musket shot
of the bulk of the hostile party. A regular bivouac had been formed
round a spring in the centre of the clearing, and bodies of trees had
been thrown together, so as to form a species of work which was rudely,
but effectually abbatied by the branches. In a word, one of those
strong, rough forest encampments had been made, which are so difficult
to carry without artillery, more especially if well defended. By being
placed in the centre of the clearing, an assault could not be made
without expensing the assailants, and the spring always assured to the
garrison the great requisite, water.
There was a method and order in this arrangement that surprised both
our old soldiers. That Indians had resorted to this expedient, neither
believed; nor would the careless, untaught and inexperienced whites of
the Mohawk be apt to adopt it, without a suggestion from some person
acquainted with the usages of frontier warfare. Such persons were not
difficult to find, it is true; and it was a proof that those claiming
to be in authority, rightfully or not, were present.
There was something unlooked for, also, in the manner in which the
party of strangers were lounging about, at a moment like that,
seemingly doing nothing, or preparing for no service. Joyce, who was a
man of method, and was accustomed to telling off troops, counted no
less than forty-nine of these idlers, most of whom were lounging near
the log entrenchment, though a few were sauntering about the clearing,
conversing with the wood-choppers, or making their observations
listlessly, and seemingly without any precise object in view.
"This is the most extr'or'nary sight, for a military expedition, I have
ever seen, your honour," whispered Joyce, after the two had stood
examining the position for quite a minute in silence. "A tolerable good
log breast-work, I will allow, sir, and men enough to make it good
against a sharp assault; but nothing like a guard, and not so much as a
single sentinel. This is an affront to the art. Captain Willoughby; and
it is such an affront to us, that I feel certain we might carry the
post by surprise, if all felt the insult as I do myself."
"This is no time for rash acts or excited feelings, Joyce. Though, were
my gallant boy with us, I do think we might make a push at these
fellows, with very reasonable chances of success."
"Yes, your honour, and without him, too. A close fire, three cheers,
and a vigorous charge would drive every one of the rascals into the
"Where they would rally, become the assailants in their turn, surround
us, and either compel us to surrender, or starve us out. At all events,
nothing of the sort must be undertaken until we have carried out the
plan for the rescue of Major Willoughby. My hopes of success are
greatly increased since I find the enemy has his principal post up
here, where he must be a long half-mile from the mill, even in a
straight line. You have counted the enemy?"
"There are just forty-nine of them in sight, and I should think some
eight or ten more sleeping about under the logs, as I occasionally
discover a new one raising his head.--Look, sir, does your honour see
"Do I see what, serjeant?--There is no visible change that I discover."
"Only an Indian chopping wood, Captain Willoughby which is some such
miracle as a white man painting."
The reader will have understood that all the hostile party that was
lounging about this clearing were in Indian guise, with faces and hands
of the well-known reddish colour that marks the American aborigines.
The two soldiers could discover many evidences that there was deception
in these appearances, though they thought it quite probable that real
red men were mingled with the pale-faces. But, so little did the
invaders respect the necessity of appearances in their present
position, that one of these seeming savages had actually mounted a log,
taken the axe from the hands of its owner, and begun to chop, with a
vigour and skill that soon threw off chips in a way that no man can
successfully imitate but the expert axe-man of the American interior.
"Pretty well that, sir, for a red-skin," said Joyce, smiling "If there
isn't white blood, ay, and Yankee blood in that chap's arm, I'll give
him some of my own to help colour it. Step this way, your honour--only
a foot or two--there, sir; by looking through the opening just above
the spot where that very make-believe Injin is scattering his chips as
if they were so many kernels of corn that he was tossing to the
chickens, you will get a sight of the Hut."
The fact was so. By altering his own position a little on the rock,
Captain Willoughby got a full view of the entire buildings of the
Knoll. It is true, he could not see the lawn without the works, nor
quite all of the stockade, but the whole of the western wing, or an
entire side-view of the dwellings, was obtained. Everything seemed as
tranquil and secure, in and around them, as if they vegetated in a
sabbath in the wilderness. There was something imposing even, in the
solemn silence of their air, and the captain now saw that if he had
been struck, and rendered uneasy by the mystery that accompanied the
inaction and quiet of his invaders, they, in their turns, might
experience some such sensations as they gazed on the repose of the Hut,
and the apparent security of its garrison. But for Joel's desertion,
indeed, and the information he had carried with him, there could be
little doubt that the stranger must have felt the influence of such
doubts to a very material extent. Alas! as things were, it was not
probable they could be long imposed on, by any seeming calm.
Captain Willoughby felt a reluctance to tear himself away from the
spectacle of that dwelling which contained so many that were dear to
him. Even Joyce gazed at the house with pleasure, for it had been his
quarters, now, so many years, and he had looked forward to the time
when he should breathe his last in it. Connected with his old commander
by a tie that was inseparable, so far as human wishes could control
human events, it was impossible that the serjeant could go from the
place where they had left so many precious beings almost in the keeping
of Providence, at a moment like that, altogether without emotion. While
each was thus occupied in mind, there was a perfect stillness. The men
of the party had been so far drilled, as to speak in low voices, and
nothing they said was audible on the rock. The axes alone broke the
silence of the woods, and to ears so accustomed to their blows, they
offered no intrusion. In the midst of this eloquent calm, the bushes of
the rock rustled, as it might be with the passage of a squirrel, or a
serpent. Of the last the country had but few, and they of the most
innocent kind, while the former abounded. Captain Willoughby turned,
expecting to see one of these little restless beings, when his gaze
encountered a swarthy face, and two glowing eyes, almost within reach
of his arm. That this was a real Indian was beyond dispute, and the
crisis admitting of no delay, the old officer drew a dirk, and had
already raised his arm to strike, when Joyce arrested the blow.
"This is Nick, your honour;" said the serjeant, inquiringly--"is he
friend, or foe?"
"What says he himself?" answered the captain, lowering his hand in
doubt. "Let him speak to his own character."
Nick now advanced and stood calmly and fearlessly at the side of the
two white men. Still there was ferocity in his look, and an indecision
in his movements. He certainly might betray the adventurers at any
instant, and they felt all the insecurity of their situation. But
accident had brought Nick directly in front of the opening through
which was obtained the view of the Hut. In turning from one to the
other of the two soldiers, his quick eye took in this glimpse of the
buildings, and it became riveted there as by the charm of fascination.
Gradually the ferocity left his countenance, which grew human and soft.
"Squaw in wigwam"--said the Tuscarora, throwing forward a hand with its
fore-finger pointing towards the house. "Ole squaw--young squaw. Good.
Wyandotte sick, she cure him. Blood in Injin body; thick blood--nebber
forget good--nebber forget bad."
"Every stride--every stamp,
Every footfall is bolder;
'Tis a skeleton's tramp,
With a skull on its shoulder!
But ho, how he steps
With a high-tossing head,
That clay-covered bone,
Going down to the dead!"
Nick's countenance was a fair index to his mind; nor were his words
intended to deceive. Never did Wyandotte forget the good, or evil, that
was done him. After looking intently, a short time, at the Hut, he
turned and abruptly demanded of his companions,--
"Why come here? Like to see enemy between you and wigwam?"
As all Nick said was uttered in a guarded tone, as if he fully entered
into the necessity of remaining concealed from those who were in such a
dangerous vicinity, it served to inspire confidence, inducing the two
soldiers to believe him disposed to serve them.
"Am I to trust in you as a friend?" demanded the captain, looking the
Indian steadily in the eye.
"Why won't trust? Nick no hero--gone away--Nick nebber come ag'in--
Wyandotte hero--who no trust Wyandotte? Yengeese always trust great
"I shall take you at your word, Wyandotte, and tell you everything,
hoping to make an ally of you. But, first explain to me, why you left
the Hut, last night--friends do not desert friends."
"Why leave wigwam?--Because wanted to. Wyandotte come when he want; go
when he want. Nick go too.--Went to see son--come back; tell story;
"Yes, it has happened much as you say, and I am willing to think it all
occurred with the best motives. Can you tell me anything of Joel, and
the others who have left me?"
"Why tell?--Cap'in look; he see. Some chop--some plough--some weed--
some dig ditch. All like ole time Bury hatchet--tired of war-path--why
"I see all you tell me. You know, then, that those fellows have made
friends with the hostile party?"
"No need know--see. Look--Injin chop, pale-face look on! Call that
"I do see that which satisfies me the men in paint yonder are not all
"No--cap'in right--tell him so at wigwam. But dat Mohawk--dog--rascal--
This was said with a gleam of fierceness shooting across the swarthy
face, and a menacing gesture of the hand, in the direction of a real
savage who was standing indolently leaning against a tree, at a
distance so small as to allow those on the rock to distinguish his
features. The vacant expression of this man's countenance plainly
denoted that he was totally unconscious of the vicinity of danger. It
expressed the listless vacancy of an Indian in a state of perfect
rest--his stomach full, his body at ease, his mind peaceful.
"I thought Nick was not here," the captain quietly observed, smiling on
the Tuscarora a little ironically.
"Cap'in right--Nick no here. Well for dog 'tis so. Too mean for
Wyandotte to touch. What cap'in come for? Eh! Better tell chief--get
council widout lightin' fire."
"As I see no use in concealing my plan from you, Wyandotte,"--Nick
seemed pleased whenever this name was pronounced by others--"I shall
tell it you, freely. Still, you have more to relate to me. Why are
_you_ here?--And how came you to discover us?"
"Follow trail--know cap'in foot--know serjeant foot--know Mike foot--
see so many foot, follow him. Leave so many" holding up three fingers
"in bushes--so many" holding up two fingers "come here. Foot tell
_which_ come here--Wyandotte chief--he follow chief."
"When did you first strike, or see our trail, Tuscarora?"
"Up here--down yonder--over dere." Captain Willoughby understood this
to mean, that the Indian had crossed the trail, or seen it in several
places. "Plenty trail; plenty foot to tell all about it. Wyandotte see
foot of friend--why he don't follow, eh?"
"I hope this is all so, old warrior, and that you will prove yourself a
friend indeed. We are out in the hope of liberating my son, and we came
here to see what our enemies are about."
The Tuscarora's eyes were like two inquisitors, as he listened; but he
seemed satisfied that the truth was told him. Assuming an air of
interest, he inquired if the captain knew where the major was confined.
A few words explained everything, and the parties soon understood each
"Cap'in right," observed Nick. "Son in cupboard still; but plenty
warrior hear, to keep eye on him."
"You know his position, Wyandotte, and can aid us materially, if you
will. What say you, chief; will you take service, once more, under your
"Who _he_ sarve--King George--Congress--eh?"
"Neither. I am neutral, Tuscarora, in the present quarrel. I only
defend myself, and the rights which the laws assure to me, let
whichever party govern, that may."
"Dat bad. Nebber neutral in hot war. Get rob from bot' side. Alway be
one or t'oder, cap'in."
"You may be right, Nicholas, but a conscientious man may think neither
wholly right, nor wholly wrong. I wish never to lift the hatchet,
unless my quarrel be just."
"Injin no understand _dat_. Throw hatchet at _enemy_--what
matter what he say--good t'ing, bad t'ing. He _enemy_--dat enough.
Take scalp from _enemy_--don't touch _friend_"
"That may do for _your_ mode of warfare, Tuscarora, but It will
hardly do for _mine_. I must feel that I have right of my side,
before I am willing to take life."
"Cap'in always talk so, eh? When he soldier, and general say shoot ten,
forty, t'ousand Frenchmen, den he say; stop, general--no hurry--let
cap'in t'ink.' Bye'm-by he'll go and take scalp; eh!"
It exceeded our old soldier's self-command not to permit the blood to
rush into his face, at this home-thrust; for he felt the cunning of the
Indian had involved him in a seeming contradiction.
"That was when I was in the army, Wyandotte," he answered,
notwithstanding his confusion, "when my first, and highest duty, was to
obey the orders of my superiors. Then I acted as a soldier; now, I hope
to act as a man."
"Well, Indian chief alway in army. Always high duty, and obey
superior--obey Manitou, and take scalp from enemy. War-path alway
open, when enemy at t'other end."
"This is no place to discuss such questions, chief; nor have we the
time. Do you go with us?"
Nick nodded an assent, and signed for the other to quit the rocks. The
captain hesitated a moment, during which he stood intently studying the
scene in the clearing.
"What say you, Tuscarora; the serjeant has proposed assaulting that
"No good, cap'in. You fire, halloo, rush on--well, kill four, six,
two--rest run away. Injin down at mill hear rifle; follow smoke--where
major, den? Get major, first--t'ink about enemy afterwards."
As Nick said this, he repeated the gesture to descend; and he was
obeyed in silence. The captain now led the way back to his party; and
soon rejoined it. All were glad to see Nick, for he was known to have a
sure rifle; to be fearless as the turkey-cock; and to possess a
sagacity in the woods, that frequently amounted to a species of
"Who lead, cap'in or Injin?" asked the Tuscarora, in his sententious
"Och, Nick, ye're a cr'ature!" muttered Mike. "Divil bur-r-rn me,
Jamie, but I t'inks the fallie would crass the very three-tops, rather
than miss the majjor's habitation."
"Not a syllable must be uttered," said the captain, raising a hand in
remonstrance. "I will lead, and Wyandotte will march by my side, and
give me his council, in whispers. Joyce will bring up the rear.
Blodget, you will keep a sharp look-out to the left, while Jamie will
do the same to the right. As we approach the mills, stragglers may be
met in the woods, and our march must be conducted with the greatest
caution. Now follow, and be silent."
The captain and Nick led, and the whole party followed, observing the
silence which had been enjoined on them. The usual manner of marching
on a war-path, in the woods, was for the men to follow each other
singly; an order that has obtained the name of 'Indian file,' the
object being to diminish the trail, and conceal the force of the
expedition, by each man treading in his leader's footsteps. On the
present occasion, however, the captain induced Nick to walk at his
side, feeling an uneasiness on the subject of the Tuscarora's fidelity
that he could not entirely conquer. The pretext given was very
different, as the reader will suppose. By seeing the print of a
moccasin in company with that of a boot, any straggler that crossed the
trail might be led to suppose it had been left by the passage of a
party from the clearing or the mill. Nick quietly assented to this
reasoning, and fell in by the side of the captain without remonstrance.
Vigilant eyes were kept on all sides of the line of march, though it,
was hoped and believed that the adventurers had struck upon a route too
far west to be exposed to interruption. A quarter of a mile nearer to
the flats might have brought them within the range of stragglers; but,
following the summit of the ridge, there was a certain security in the
indolence which would be apt to prevent mere idlers from sauntering up
an ascent. At all events, no interruption occurred, the party reaching
in safety the rocks that were a continuation of the range which formed
the precipice at the falls--the sign that they had gone far enough to
the south. At this period, the precipice was nearly lost in the rising
of the lower land, but its margin was sufficiently distinct to form a
Descending to the plateau beneath, the captain and Nick now inclined to
the east, the intention being to come in upon the mills from the rear.
As the buildings lay in the ravine, this could only be done by making a
rapid descent immediately in their vicinity; a formation of the ground
that rendered the march, until within pistol-shot of its termination,
reasonably secure. Nick also assured his companions that he had several
times traversed this very plateau, and that he had met no signs of
footsteps on it; from which he inferred that the invaders had not taken
the trouble to ascend the rugged cliffs that bounded the western side
of the glen.
The approach to the summit of the cliff was made with caution, though
the left flank of the adventurers was well protected by the abrupt
descent they had already made from the terrace above. This left little
more than the right flank and the front to be watched, the falling away
of the land forming, also, a species of cover for the rear. It is not
surprising, then, that the verge of the ravine or glen was attained,
and no discovery was made. The spot being favourable, the captain
immediately led down a winding path, that was densely fringed with
bushes, towards the level of the buildings.
The glen of the mills was very narrow; so much so, as barely to leave
sites for the buildings themselves, and three or four cabins for the
workmen. The mills were placed in advance, as near as possible to the
course of the water; while the habitations of the workmen were perched
on shelves of the rocks, or such level bits of bottom-land as offered.
Owing to this last circumstance, the house of Daniel the miller, or
that in which it was supposed the major was still confined, stood by
itself, and fortunately, at the very foot of the path by which the
adventurers were descending. All this was favourable, and had been
taken into the account as a material advantage, by Captain Willoughby
when he originally conceived the plan of the present sortie.
When the chimney of the cabin was visible over the bushes, Captain
Willoughby halted his party, and repeated his instruction to Joyce, in
a voice very little raised above a whisper; The serjeant was ordered to
remain in his present position, until he received a signal to advance.
As for the captain, himself, he intended to descend as near as might be
to the buttery of the cabin, and reconnoitre, before he gave the final
order. This buttery was in a lean-to, as a small addition to the
original building was called in the parlance of the country; and, the
object being shade and coolness, on account of the milk with which it
was usually well stored at this season of the year, it projected back
to the very cliff, where it was half hid in bushes and young trees. It
had but a single small window, that was barred with wood to keep out
cats, and such wild vermin as affected milk, nor was it either lathed
or plastered; these two last being luxuries not often known in the log
tenements of the frontier. Still it was of solid logs, chinked in with
mortar, and made a very effectual prison, with the door properly
guarded; the captive being deprived of edged tools. All this was also
known to the father, when he set forth to effect the liberation of his
son, and, like the positions of the buildings themselves, had been well
weighed in his estimate of the probabilities and chances.
As soon as his orders were given, Captain Willoughby proceeded down the
path, accompanied only by Nick. He had announced his intention to send
the Tuscarora ahead to reconnoitre, then to force himself among the
bushes between the lean-to and the rocks, and there to open a
communication with the major through the chinks of the logs After
receiving Nick's intelligence, his plan was to be governed by
circumstances, and to act accordingly.
"God bless you, Joyce," said the captain, squeezing the Serjeant's hand
as he was on the point of descending. "We are on ticklish service, and
require all our wits about us. If anything happen to me, remember that
my wife and daughter will mainly depend on you for protection."
"I shall consider that as your honour's orders, sir, and no more need
be said to me, Captain Willoughby."
The captain smiled on his old follower, and Joyce thought that never
had he seen the fine manly face of his superior beam with a calmer, or
sweeter expression, than it did as he returned his own pressure of the
hand. The two adventurers were both careful, and their descent was
noiseless. The men above listened, in breathless silence, but the
stealthy approach of the cat upon the bird could not have been more
still, than that, of these two experienced warriors.
The place where Joyce was left with the men, might have been fifty feet
above the roof of the cabin, and almost perpendicularly over the narrow
vacancy that was known to exist between the rocks and the lean-to.
Still the bushes and trees were so thick as to prevent the smallest
glimpse at objects below, had the shape of the cliff allowed it, while
they even intercepted sounds. Joyce fancied, nevertheless, that he
heard the rustling bushes, as the captain forced his way into the
narrow space he was to occupy, and he augured well of the fact, since
it proved that no opposition had been encountered. Half an hour of
forest silence followed, that was only interrupted by the tumbling of
the waters over the natural dam. At the end of that weary period, a
shout was heard in front of the mills, and the party raised their
pieces, in a vague apprehension that some discovery had been made that
was about to bring on a crisis. Nothing further occurred, however, to
confirm this impression, and an occasional burst of laughter, that
evidently came from white men, rather served to allay the apprehension.
Another half-hour passed, during which no interruption was heard. By
this time Joyce became uneasy, a state of things having arrived for
which no provision had been made in his instructions. He was about to
leave his command under the charge of Jamie, and descend himself to
reconnoitre, when a footstep was heard coming up the path. Nothing but
the deep attention, and breathless stillness of the men could have
rendered the sound of a tread so nearly noiseless, audible; but heard
it was, at a moment when every sense was wrought up to its greatest
powers. Rifles were lowered, in readiness to receive assailants, but
each was raised again, as Nick came slowly into view. The Tuscarora was
calm in manner, as if no incident had occurred to disconcert the
arrangement, though his eyes glanced around him, like those of a man
who searched for an absent person.
"Where cap'in?--Where major?" Nick asked, as soon as his glance had
taken in the faces of all present.
"We must ask that of you, Nick," returned Joyce. "We have not seen the
captain, nor had any orders from him, since he left us."
This answer seemed to cause the Indian more surprise than it was usual
for him to betray, and he pondered a moment in obvious uneasiness.
"Can't stay here, alway," he muttered. "Best go see. Bye'm-by trouble
come; then, too late."
The serjeant was greatly averse to moving without orders. He had his
instructions how to act in every probable contingency, but none that
covered the case of absolute inaction on the part of those below.
Nevertheless, twice the time necessary to bring things to issue had
gone by, and neither signal, shot, nor alarm had reached his ears.
"Do you know anything of the major, Nick?" the serjeant demanded,
determined to examine the case thoroughly ere he came to a decision.
"Major dere--see him at door--plenty sentinel. All good--where cap'in?"
"Where did you leave him?--You can give the last account of him."
"Go in behind cupboard--under rock--plenty bushes--all right--son
"This must be looked to--perhaps his honour has fallen into a fit--such
things sometimes happen--and a man who is fighting for his own child,
doesn't feel, Jamie, all the same as one who fights on a general
principle, as it might be."
"Na--ye 're right, sairjeant J'yce, and ye'll be doing the kind and
prudent act, to gang doon yersal', and investigate the trainsaction
with yer ain een."
This Joyce determined to do, directing Nick to accompany him, as a
guide. The Indian seemed glad to comply, and there was no delay in
proceeding. It required but a minute to reach the narrow passage
between the cliff and the lean-to. The bushes were carefully shoved
aside, and Joyce entered. He soon caught a glimpse of the hunting-
shirt, and then he was about to withdraw, believing that he was in
error, in anticipating orders. But a short look at his commander
removed all scruples; for he observed that he was seated on a
projection of the rocks, with his body bowed forward, apparently
leaning on the logs of the building. This seemed to corroborate the
thought about a fit, and the serjeant pressed eagerly forward to
ascertain the truth.
Joyce touched his commander's arm, but no sign of consciousness came
from the latter. He then raised his body upright, placing the back in a
reclining attitude against the rocks, and started back himself when he
caught a glimpse of the death-like hue of the face. At first, the
notion of the fit was strong with the serjeant; but, in changing his
own position, he caught a glimpse of a little pool of blood, which at
once announced that violence had been used.
Although the serjeant was a man of great steadiness of nerves, and
unchangeable method, he fairly trembled as he ascertained the serious
condition of his old and well-beloved commander. Notwithstanding, he
was too much of a soldier to neglect anything that circumstances
required. On examination, he discovered a deep and fatal wound between
two of the ribs, which had evidently been inflicted with a common
knife. The blow had passed into the heart, and Captain Willoughby was,
out of all question, dead! He had breathed his last, within six feet of
his own gallant son, who, ignorant of all that passed, was little
dreaming of the proximity of one so dear to him, as well as of his dire
Joyce was a man of powerful frame, and, at that moment, he felt he was
master of a giant's strength. First assuring himself of the fact that
the wounded man had certainly ceased to breathe, he brought the arms
over his own shoulders, raised the body on his back, and walked from
the place, with less attention to caution than on entering, but with
sufficient care to prevent exposure. Nick stood watching his movements
with a wondering look, and as soon as there was room, he aided in
supporting the corpse.
In this manner the two went up the path, bearing their senseless
burden. A gesture directed the party with Jamie to precede the two who
had been below, and the serjeant did not pause even to breathe, until
he had fairly reached the summit of the cliff; then he halted in a
place removed from the danger of immediate discovery. The body was laid
reverently on the ground, and Joyce renewed his examination with
greater ease and accuracy, until perfectly satisfied that the captain
must have ceased to breathe, nearly an hour.
This was a sad and fearful blow to the whole party. No one, at such a
moment, thought of inquiring into the manner in which their excellent
master had received his death-blow; but every thought was bent either
on the extent of the calamity, or on the means of getting back to the
Hut. Joyce was the soul of the party. His rugged face assumed a stern,
commanding expression; but every sign of weakness had disappeared. He
gave his orders promptly, and the men even started when he spoke, so
bent on obtaining obedience did he appear to be.
The rifles were converted into a bier, the body was placed upon it, and
the four men then raised the burthen, and began to retrace their
footsteps, in melancholy silence. Nick led the way, pointing out the
difficulties of the path, with a sedulousness of attention, and a
gentleness of manner, that none present had ever before witnessed in
the Tuscarora He even appeared to have become woman, to use one of his
own peculiar expressions.
No one speaking, and all the men working with good will, the retreat,
notwithstanding the burthen with which it was encumbered, was made with
a rapidity greatly exceeding the advance. Nick led the way with an
unerring eye, even selecting better ground than that which the white
men had been able to find on their march. He had often traversed all
the hills, in the character of a hunter, and to him the avenues of the
forest were as familiar as the streets of his native town become to the
burgher. He made no offer to become one of the bearers; this would have
been opposed to his habits; but, in all else, the Indian manifested
gentleness and solicitude. His apprehension seemed to be, and so he
expressed it, that the Mohawks might get the scalp of the dead man; a
disgrace that he seemed as solicitous to avoid as Joyce himself; the
serjeant, however, keeping in view the feelings of the survivors,
rather than any notions of military pride.
Notwithstanding the stern resolution that prevailed among the men, that
return march was long and weary. The distance, of itself, exceeded two
miles, and there were the inequalities and obstacles of a forest to
oppose them. Per severance and strength, however, overcame all
difficulties; and, at the end of two hours, the party approached the
point where it became necessary to enter the bed of the rivulet, or
expose their sad procession by marching in open view of any who might
be straggling in the rear of the Hut. A species of desperate
determination had influenced the men in their return march, rendering
them reckless of discovery, or its consequences; a circumstance that
had greatly favoured their object; the adventurous and bold frequently
encountering fewer difficulties, in the affairs of war, than the
cautious and timid. But an embarrassment now presented itself that was
far more difficult to encounter than any which proceeded from personal
risks. The loving family of the deceased was to be met; a wife and
daughters apprised of the fearful loss that, in the providence of God,
had suddenly alighted on their house.
"Lower the body, men, and come to a halt," said Joyce, using the manner
of authority, though his voice trembled "we must consult together, as
to our next step."
There was a brief and decent pause, while the party placed the lifeless
body on the grass, face uppermost, with the limbs laid in order, and
everything about it, disposed of in a seemliness that betokened
profound respect for the senseless clay, even after the noble spirit
had departed. Mike alone could not resist his strong native propensity
to talk. The honest fellow raised a hand of his late master, and,
kissing it with strong affection, soliloquized as follows, in a tone
that was more rebuked by feeling, than any apprehension of
"Little need had ye of a praist, and extreme unction," he said. "The
likes of yerself always kapes a clane breast; and the knife that went
into yer heart found nothing that ye need have been ashamed of! Sorrow
come over me, but yer lass is as great a one to meself, as if I had
tidings of the sinking of ould Ireland into the salt say, itself; a
thing that niver _can_ happen, and niver will happen; no, not even
at the last day; as all agree the wor-r-ld is to be burned and not
drowned. And who'll there be to tell this same to the Missus, and Miss
Beuly, and phratty Miss Maud, and the babby, in the bargain? Divil bur-
r-n me, if 't will be Michael O'Hearn, who has too much sorrow of his
own, to be running about, and d'aling it out to other people. Sarjeant,
that will be ver own jewty, and I pities the man that has to perform
"No man will see me shrink from a duty, O'Hearn," said Joyce, stiffly,
while with the utmost difficulty he kept the tears from breaking out of
a fountain that had not opened, in this way, for twenty years. "It may
bear hard on my feelings--I do not say it will _not_--but duty is
duty, and it must be done. Corporal Allen, you see the state of things;
the commanding officer is among the casualties, and nothing would be
simpler than our course, were it not for Madam Willoughby--God bless
her, and have her in His holy keeping--and the young ladies. It is
proper to deliberate a little about _them_. To you then, as an
elderly and experienced man, I first apply for an opinion."
"Sorrow's an unwelcome guest, whether it comes expected, or without any
previous knowledge. The hairts o the widow and fairtherless must be
stricken, and it's little that a' our consolations and expairiments
will prevail ag'in the feelin's o' natur'. Pheeloosophy and religion
tall us that the body's no mair than a clod o' the valley when the
speerit has fled; but the hairt is unapt to listen to wisdom while the
grief is fraish, and of the severity of an unlooked-for sairtainty.
_I_ see little good, therefore, in doing mair than just sending in a
messenger, to clear the way a little for the arrival of truth, in the
form o' death, itsal'."
"I have been thinking of this--will you take the office, Jamie, as a
man of years and discretion?"
"Na--na--ye'll be doing far better by sending a younger man. Age has
weakened my memory, and I'll be overlooking some o' the saircumstances
in a manner that will be unseemly for the occasion. Here is Blodget, a
youth of ready wit, and limber tongue."
"I wouldn't do it, mason, to be the owner of ten such properties as
this!" exclaimed the young Rhode Islander, actually recoiling a step,
as if he retreated before a dreaded foe.
"Well, sairjeant, ye've Michael here, who belangs to a kirk that has so
little seempathy with protestantism as to lessen the pain o' the
office. Death is a near ally to religion, and Michael, by taking a
religious view o' the maither, might bring his hairt into such a
condition of insensibility as wad give him little to do but to tell
what has happened, leaving God, in his ain maircy, to temper the wind
to the shorn lamb."
"You hear, O'Hearn?" said the serjeant, stiffly--"Everybody seems to
expect that you will do this duty."
"Jewty!--D 'ye call it a jewty for a man in my situation to break the
hearts of Missus, and Miss Beuly, and phratty Miss Maud, and the babby?
for babbies has hearts as well as the stoutest man as is going. Divil
bur-r-n me, then, if ye gets out of my mout' so much as a hint that the
captain's dead and gone from us, for ever and ever, amen! Ye may send
me in, for ye 're corporals, and serjeants, and the likes of yees, and
I'll obey as a souldier, seem' that he would have wished as much
himself, had the breat' staid in his body, which it has not, on account
of its l'aving his sowl on 'arth, and departing with his corporeal part
for the mansions of happiness, the Blessed Mary have mercy on him,
whether here or _there_--but the captain was not the man to wish a
fait'ful follower to afflict his own wife; and so I'll have not'in' to
do with such a message, at all at all."
"Nick go"--said the Indian, calmly--"Used to carry message--carry him
for cap'in, once more."
"Well, Nick, you may do it certainly, if so disposed," answered Joyce,
who would have accepted the services of a Chinese rather than undertake
the office in person. "You will remember and speak to the ladies
gently, and not break the news too suddenly."
"Yes--squaw soft heart--Nick know--had moder--had wife, once--had
"Very well; this will be an advantage, men, as Nick is the only married
man among us; and married men should best understand dealing with
Joyce then held a private communication with the Tuscarora, that lasted
some five or six minutes, when the last leaped nimbly into the bed of
the stream, and was soon concealed by the bushes of one of its reaches.
"Heart leaps to heart--the sacred flood
That warms us is the same;
That good old man--his honest blood
Alike we fondly claim."
Although Nick commenced his progress with so much seeming zeal and
activity, his speed abated, the moment he found himself beyond the
sight of those he had left in the woods. Before he reached the foot of
the cliff, his trot had degenerated to a walk; and when he actually
found he was at its base, he seated himself on a stone, apparently to
reflect on the course he ought to pursue.
The countenance of the Tuscarora expressed a variety of emotions while
he thus remained stationary. At first, it was fierce, savage, exulting;
then it became gentler, soft, perhaps repentant. He drew his knife from
its buckskin sheath, and eyed the blade with a gaze expressive of
uneasiness. Perceiving that a clot of blood had collected at the
junction with the handle, it was carefully removed by the use of water.
His look next passed over his whole person, in order to ascertain if
any more of these betrayers of his fearful secret remained; after which
he seemed more at ease.
"Wyandotte's back don't ache now," he growled to himself. "Ole sore
heal up. Why Cap'in touch him? T'ink Injin no got feelin'? Good man,
sometime; bad man, sometime. Sometime, live; sometime, die. Why tell
Wyandotte he flog ag'in, just as go to enemy's camp? No; back feel
well, now--nebber smart, any more."
When this soliloquy was ended, Nick arose, cast a look up at the sun,
to ascertain how much of the day still remained, glanced towards the
Hut, as if examining the nature of its defences, stretched himself like
one who was weary, and peeped out from behind the bushes, in order to
see how those who were afield, still occupied themselves. All this
done, with singular deliberation and steadiness, he arranged his light
dress, and prepared to present himself before the wife and daughters of
the man, whom, three hours before, he had remorselessly murdered. Nick
had often meditated this treacherous deed, during the thirty years
which had elapsed between his first flogging and the present period;
but circumstances had never placed its execution safely in his power.
The subsequent punishments had increased the desire, for a few years;
but time had so far worn off the craving for revenge, that it would
never have been actively revived, perhaps, but for the unfortunate
allusions of the victim himself, to the subject. Captain Willoughby had
been an English soldier, of the school of the last century. He was
naturally a humane and a just man, but he believed in the military
axiom that "the most flogging regiments were the best fighting
regiments;" and perhaps he was not in error, as regards the lower
English character. It was a fatal error, however, to make in relation
to an American savage; one who had formerly exercised the functions,
and who had not lost all the feelings, of a chief. Unhappily, at a
moment when everything depended on the fidelity of the Tuscarora, the
captain had bethought him of his old expedient for insuring prompt
obedience, and, by way of a reminder, he made an allusion to his former
mode of punishment. As Nick would have expressed it, "the old sores
smarted;" the wavering purpose of thirty years was suddenly and
fiercely revived, and the knife passed into the heart of the victim,
with a rapidity that left no time for appeals to the tribunal of God's
mercy. In half a minute, Captain Willoughby had ceased to breathe.
Such had been the act of the man who now passed through the opening of
the palisade, and entered the former habitation of his victim. A
profound stillness reigned in and around the Hut, and no one appeared
to question the unexpected intruder. Nick passed, with his noiseless
step, round to the gate, which he found secured. It was necessary to
knock, and this he did in a way effectually to bring a porter.
"Who dere?" demanded the elder Pliny, from within.
"Good friend--open gate. Come wid message from cap'in."
The natural distaste to the Indians which existed among the blacks of
the Knoll, included the Tuscarora. This disgust was mingled with a
degree of dread; and it was difficult for beings so untutored and
ignorant, at all times to draw the proper distinctions between Indian
and Indian. In _their_ wonder-loving imaginations, Oneidas,
Tuscaroras, Mohawks, Onondagas, and Iroquois were all jumbled together
in inextricable confusion, a red man being a red man, and a savage a
savage. It is not surprising, therefore, that Pliny the elder should
hesitate about opening the gate, and admitting one of the detested
race, though a man so well known to them all, in the peculiar situation
of the family. Luckily, Great Smash happened to be near, and her
husband called her to the gate by one of the signals that, was much
practised between them.
"Who you t'ink out-dere?" asked Pliny the elder of his consort, with a
very significant look.
"How you t'ink guess, ole Plin?--You 'spose nigger wench like Albonny
wise woman, dat she see t'rough a gate, and know ebbery t'ing, and
"Well, _dat_ Sassy Nick. What you say _now?_"
"You sartain, ole Plin?" asked Mistress Smash, with a face ominous of
"Sartain as ear. Talk wid him--he want to come in. What you t'ink?"
"Nebber open gate, ole Plin, till mistress tell you. You stay here--
dere; lean ag'in gate wid all you might; dere; now I go call Miss Maud.
She all alone in librarim, and will know what best. Mind you lean ag'in
gate well, ole Plin."
Pliny the elder nodded assent, placed his shoulders resolutely against
the massive timbers, and stood propping a defence that would have made
a respectable resistance to a battering-ram, like another Atlas,
upholding a world. His duty was short, however, his 'lady' soon
returning with Maud, who was hastening breathlessly to learn the news.
"Is it you, Nick?" called out the sweet voice of our heroine through
the crevices of the timber.
The Tuscarora started, as he so unexpectedly heard those familiar
sounds; for an instant, his look was dark; then the expression changed
to pity and concern, and his reply was given with less than usual of
the abrupt, guttural brevity that belonged to his habits.
"'Tis Nick--Sassy Nick--Wyandotte, Flower of the Woods," for so the
Indian often termed Maud.--"Got news--cap'in send him. Meet party and
go along. Nobody here; only Wyandotte. Nick see major, too--say
somet'ing to young squaw."
This decided the matter. The gate was unbarred, and Nick in the court
in half-a-minute. Great Smash stole a glance without, and beckoned
Pliny the elder to join her, in order to see the extraordinary
spectacle of Joel and his associates toiling in the fields. When they
drew in their heads, Maud and her companion were already in the
library. The message from Robert Willoughby had induced our heroine to
seek this room; for, placing little confidence in the delicacy of the
messenger, she recoiled from listening to his words in the presence of
But Nick was in no haste to speak. He took the chair to which Maud
motioned, and he sate looking at her, in a way that soon excited her
"Tell me, if your heart has any mercy in it, Wyandotte; has aught
happened to Major Willoughby?"
"He well--laugh, talk, feel good. Mind not'ing. He prisoner; don't
touch he scalp."
"Why, then, do you wear so ominous a look--your face is the very
harbinger of evil."
"Bad news, if trut' must come. What you' name, young squaw?"
"Surely, surely, you must know that well, Nick! I am Maud--your old
"Pale-face hab two name--Tuscarora got t'ree. Some time, Nick--
sometime, Sassy Nick--sometime, Wyandotte."
"You know my name is Maud Willoughby," returned our heroine, colouring
to the temples with a certain secret consciousness of her error, but
preferring to keep up old appearances.
"Dat call you' fader's name, Meredit'; no Willoughby."
"Merciful Providence! and has this great secret been known to
_you_, too, Nick!"
"He no secret--know all about him. Wyandotte dere. See Major Meredit'
shot. _He_ good chief--nebber flog--nebber strike Injin. Nick know
fader, know moder--know squaw, when pappoose."
"And why have you chosen this particular moment to tell me all this?
Has it any relation to your message--to Bob--to Major Willoughby, I
mean?" demanded Mauo, nearly gasping for breath.
"No relation, tell you," said Nick, a little angrily. "Why make
relation, when no relation at all. Meredit'; no Willoughby. Ask moder;
ask major; ask chaplain--all tell trut'! No need to be so feelin'; no
you fader, at all."
"What _can_ you--what _do_ you mean, Nick? Why do you look so
wild--so fierce--so kind--so sorrowful--so angry? You must have bad
news to tell me."
"Why bad to _you_--he no fader--only fader friend. You can't help
it--fader die when you pappoose--why you care, now, for dis?"
Maud now actually gasped for breath. A frightful glimpse of the truth
gleamed before her imagination, though it was necessarily veiled in the
mist of uncertainty. She became pale as death, and pressed her hand
upon her heart, as if to still its beating. Then, by a desperate
effort, she became more calm, and obtained the power to speak.
"Oh! is it so, Nick!--_can_ it be so!" she said; "my father has
fallen in this dreadful business?"
"Fader kill twenty year ago; tell you _dat_, how often?" answered
the Tuscarora, angrily; for, in his anxiety to lessen the shock to
Maud, for whom this wayward savage had a strange sentiment of
affection, that had grown out of her gentle kindnesses to himself, on a
hundred occasions, he fancied if she knew that Captain Willoughby was
not actually her father, her grief at his loss would be less. "Why you
call _dis_ fader, when _dat_ fader. Nick know fader and
moder.--Major no broder."
Notwithstanding the sensations that nearly pressed her to the earth,
the tell-tale blood rushed to Maud's cheeks, again, at this allusion,
and she bowed her face to her knees. The action gave her time to rally
her faculties; and catching a glimpse of the vast importance to all for
her maintaining self-command, she was enabled to raise her face with
something like the fortitude the Indian hoped to see.
"Trifle with me no longer, Wyandotte, but let me know the worst at
once. Is my father dead?--By father, I mean captain Willoughby?"
"Mean wrong, den--no fader, tell you. Why young quaw so much like
"Man--is captain Willoughby killed?"
Nick gazed intently into Maud's face for half a minute, and then he
nodded an assent. Notwithstanding all her resolutions to be steady, our
heroine nearly sank under the blow. For ten minutes she spoke not, but
sat, her head bowed to her knees, in a confusion of thought that
threatened a temporary loss of reason. Happily, a flood of tears
relieved her, and she became more calm. Then the necessity of knowing
more, in order that she might act intelligently, occurred to her mind,
and she questioned Nick in a way to elicit all it suited the savage to
Maud's first impulse was to go out to meet the body of the captain, and
to ascertain for herself that there was actually no longer any hope.
Nick's account had been so laconic as to leave much obscurity, and the
blow had been so sudden she could hardly credit the truth in its full
extent. Still, there remained the dreadful tidings to be communicated
to those dear beings, who, while they feared so much, had never
anticipated a calamity like this. Even Mrs. Willoughby, sensitive as
she was, and wrapped up in those she loved so entirely, as she was
habitually, had been so long accustomed to see and know of her
husband's exposing himself with impunity, as to begin to feel, if not
to think, that he bore a charmed life. All this customary confidence
was to be overcome, and the truth was to be said. Tell the fact to her
mother, Maud felt that she could not then; scarcely under any
circumstances would she have consented to perform this melancholy
office; but, so long as a shadow of doubt remained on the subject of
her father's actual decease, it seemed cruel even to think of it. Her
decision was to send for Beulah, and it was done by means of one of the
So long as we feel that there are others to be sustained by our
fortitude, even the feeblest possess a firmness to which they might
otherwise be strangers. Maud, contrary to what her delicate but active
frame and sweetness of disposition might seem to indicate, was a young
woman capable of the boldest exertions, short of taking human life. Her
frontier training had raised her above most of the ordinary weaknesses
of her sex; and, so far as determination went, few men were capable of
higher resolution, when circumstances called for its display. Her plan
was now made up to go forth and meet the body, and nothing short of a
command from her mother could have stopped her. In this frame of mind
was our heroine, when Beulah made her appearance.
"Maud!" exclaimed the youthful matron, "what has happened!--why are you
so pale!--why send for me? Does Nick bring us any tidings from the
"The worst possible, Beulah. My father--my dear, dear father is hurt.
They have borne him as far as the edge of the woods, where they have
halted, in order not to take us by surprise. I am going to meet the--to
meet the men, and to bring father in. You must prepare mother for the
sad, sad tidings--yes, Beulah, for the worst, as everything depends on
the wisdom and goodness of God!"
"Oh! Maud, this is dreadful!" exclaimed the sister, sinking into a
chair--"What will become of mother--of little Evert--of us all!"
"The providence of the Ruler of heaven and earth will care for us. Kiss
me, dear sister--how cold you are--rouse yourself, Beulah, for mother's
sake. Think how much more _she_ must feel than we possibly can,
and then be resolute."
"Yes, Maud--very true--no woman can feel like a wife--unless it be a
Here Beulah's words were stopped by her fainting.
"You see, Smash," said Maud, pointing to her sister with a strange
resolution, "she must have air, and a little water--and she has salts
about her, I know. Come, Nick; we have no more time to waste--you must
be my guide."
The Tuscarora had been a silent observer of this scene, and if it did
not awaken remorse in his bosom, it roused feelings that had never
before been its inmates. The sight of two such beings suffering under a
blow that his own hand had struck, was novel to him, and he knew not
which to encourage most, a sentiment allied to regret, or a fierce
resentment, that any should dare thus to reproach, though it were only
by yielding to the grief natural to their situation. But Maud had
obtained a command over him, that he knew not how to resist, and he
followed her from the room, keeping his eyes riveted the while on the
pallid face of Beulah. The last was recalled from her insensibility,
however, in the course of a few minutes, through the practised
attentions of the negresses.
Maud waited for nothing. Motioning impatiently for the Tuscarora to
lead the way, she glided after him with a rapidity that equalled his
own loping movement. She made no difficulties in passing the stockade,
though Nick kept his eyes on the labourers, and felt assured their
_exeunt_ was not noticed. Once by the path that led along the
rivulet, Maud refused all precautions, but passed swiftly over it,
partially concealed by its bushes. Her dress was dark, and left little
liability to exposure. As for Nick, his forest attire, like the hunting
shirt of the whites, was expressly regulated by the wish to go to and
In less than three minutes after the Indian and Maud had passed the
gate, they were drawing near to the melancholy group that had halted in
the forest. Our heroine was recognised as she approached, and when she
came rushing up to the spot, all made way, allowing her to fall upon
her knees by the side of the lifeless body, bathing the placid face of
the dead with her tears, and covering it with kisses.
"Is there no hope--oh! Joyce," she cried, "_can_ it be possible
that my father is actually dead?"
"I fear, Miss Maud, that his honour has made his last march. He has
received orders to go hence, and, like a gallant soldier as he was, he
has obeyed, without a murmur;" answered the serjeant, endeavouring to
appear firm and soldier-like, himself. "We have lost a noble and humane
commander, and you a most excellent and tender father."
"No fader,"--growled Nick, at the serjeant's elbow, twitching his
sleeve, at the same time, to attract attention. 'Serjeant know
_her_ fader. He by; I by, when Iroquois shoot him."
"I do not understand you, Tuscarora, nor do I think you altogether
understand _us_; the less you say, therefore, the better for all
parties. It is our duty, Miss Maud, to say 'God's will be done,' and
the soldier who dies in the discharge of his duty is never to be
pitied. I sincerely wish that the Rev. Mr. Woods was here; he would
tell you all this in a manner that would admit of no dispute; as for
myself, I am a plain man, Miss Maud, and my tongue cannot utter one-
half that my heart feels at this instant."
"Ah! Joyce, what a friend--what a parent has it pleased God to call to
"Yes, Miss Maud, that may be said with great justice--if his honour has
left us in obedience to general orders, it is to meet promotion in a
service that will never weary, and never end."
"So kind; so true; so gentle; so just; so affectionate!" said Maud,
wringing her hands.
"And so brave, young lady. His honour, captain Willoughby, wasn't one
of them that is always talking, and writing, and boasting about
fighting; but when anything was to be _done_, the Colonel always
knew whom to send on the duty. The army couldn't have lost a braver
gentleman, had he remained in it."
"Oh! my father--my father,"--cried Maud, in bitterness of sorrow,
throwing herself on the body and embracing it, as had been her wont in
childhood--"would that I could have died for you!"
"Why you let go on so," grumbled Nick, again. "_No_ her fader--you
know _dat_, serjeant."
Joyce was not in a state to answer. His own feelings had been kept in
subjection only by military pride, but they now had become so nearly
uncontrollable, that he found himself obliged to step a little aside in
order to conceal his weakness. As it was, large tears trickled down his
rugged face, like water flowing from the fissures of the riven oak
Jamie Allen's constitutional prudence, however, now became active,
admonishing the party of the necessity of their getting within the
protection of the Hut.
"Death is at a' times awfu'," said the mason, "but it must befall young
and auld alike. And the affleection it brings cometh fra' the heart,
and is a submission to the la' o' nature. Nevertheless we a' hae our
duties, so lang as we remain in the flesh, and it is time to be
thinking o' carryin' the body into some place o' safety, while we hae a
prudent regard to our ain conditions also."
Maud had risen, and, hearing this appeal, she drew back meekly, assumed
a manner of forced composure, and signed to the men to proceed. On this
intimation, the body was raised, and the melancholy procession resumed
For the purpose of concealment, Joyce led the way into the bed of the
stream, leaving Maud waiting their movements, a little deeper within
the forest. As soon as he and his fellow-bearers were in the water,
Joyce turned and desired Nick to escort the young lady in, again, on
dry land, or by the path along which she had come out. This said, the
serjeant and his companions proceeded. Maud stood gazing on the sad
spectacle like one entranced, until she felt a sleeve pulled, and
perceived the Tuscarora at her side.
"No go to Hut," said Nick, earnestly; "go wid Wyandotte."
"Not follow my dear father's remains--not go to my beloved mother in
her anguish. You know not what you ask, Indian--move, and let me
"No go home--no use--no good. Cap'in dead--what do widout commander.
Come wid Wyandotte--find major--den do some good."
Maud fairly started in her surprise. There seemed something so truly
useful, so consoling, so dear in this proposal, that it instantly
caught her ear.
"Find the Major!" she answered. "Is that possible, Nick? My poor father
perished in making that attempt--what hope can there be then for
"Plenty hope--much as want--all, want. Come wid Wyandotte--he great
chief--show young squaw where to find broder."
Here was a touch of Nick's consummate art. He knew the female bosom so
well that he avoided any allusion to his knowledge of the real relation
between Robert Willoughby and Maud, though he had so recently urged her
want of natural affinity to the family, as a reason why she should not
grieve. By keeping the Major before her eyes as a brother, the chances
of his own success were greatly increased. As for Maud, a tumult of
feeling came over her heart at this extraordinary proposal. To liberate
Bob, to lead him into the Hut, to offer his manly protection to her
mother, and Beulah, and little Evert, at such an instant, caught her
imagination, and appealed to all her affections.
"Can you do this, Tuscarora"--she asked, earnestly, pressing her hand
on her heart as if to quiet its throbbings. "Can you really lead me to
Major Willoughby, so that I may have some hope of liberating him?"
"Sartain--you go, he come. I go, he no come. Don't love Nick--t'ink all
Injin, one Injin--t'ink one Injin, all Injin. You go, he come--he stay,
find more knife, and die like Cap'in. Young squaw follow Wyandotte, and
Maud needed no more. To save the life of Bob, her well-beloved, he who
had so long been beloved in secret, she would have gone with one far
less known and trusted than the Tuscarora. She made an eager gesture
for him to proceed, and they were soon on their way to the mill,
threading the mazes of the forest.
Nick was far from observing the precautions that had been taken by the
captain, in his unfortunate march out. Acquainted with every inch of
ground in the vicinity of the Dam, and an eye-witness of the
dispositions of the invaders, he had no occasion for making the long
_detour_ already described, but went to work in a much more
direct manner. Instead of circling the valley, and the clearing, to the
westward, he turned short in the contrary direction, crossed the
rivulet on the fallen tree, and led the way along the eastern margin of
the flats. On this side of the valley he knew there were no enemies,
and the position of the huts and barns enabled him to follow a path,
that was just deep enough in the forest to conceal his movements. By
taking this course, besides having the advantage of a clear and beaten
path, most of the way, the Tuscarora brought the whole distance within
As for Maud, she asked no questions, solicited no pauses, manifested no
physical weakness. Actively as the Indian moved among the trees, she
kept close in his footsteps; and she had scarcely begun to reflect on
the real nature of the undertaking in which she was engaged, when the
roar of the rivulet, and the formation of the land, told her they had
reached the edge of the glen below the mills. Here Nick told her to
remain stationary a moment, while he advanced to a covered point of the
rocks, to reconnoitre. This was the place where the Indian had made his
first observations of the invaders of the valley, ascertaining their
real character before he trusted his person among them. On the present
occasion, his object was to see if all remained, in and about the
mills, as when he had last left the spot.
"Come"--said Nick, signing for Maud to follow him--"we go--fools sleep,
and eat, and talk. Major prisoner now; half an hour, Major free."
This was enough for the ardent, devoted, generous-hearted Maud. She
descended the path before her as swiftly as her guide could lead, and,
in five more minutes, they reached the bank of the stream, in the glen,
at a point where a curvature hid the rivulet from those at the mill.
Here an enormous pine had been laid across the torrent; and, flattened
on its upper surface, it made a secure bridge for those who were sure
of foot, and steady of eye. Nick glanced back at his companion, as he
stepped upon this bridge, to ascertain if she were equal to crossing
it, a single glance sufficing to tell him apprehensions were
unnecessary. Half a minute placed both, in safety, on the western bank.
"Good!" muttered the Indian; "young squaw make wife for warrior."
But Maud heard neither the compliment nor the expression of countenance
which accompanied it. She merely made an impatient gesture to proceed.
Nick gazed intently at the excited girl; and there was an instant when
he seemed to waver in his own purpose; but the gesture repeated, caused
him to turn, and lead the way up the glen.
The progress of Nick now, necessarily, became more guarded and slower.
He was soon obliged to quit the common path, and to incline to the
left, more against the side of the cliff, for the purposes of
concealment. From the time he had struck the simple bridge, until he
took this precaution, his course had lain along what might have been
termed the common highway, on which there was always the danger of
meeting some messenger, travelling to or from the valley.
But Nick was at no loss for paths. There were plenty of them; and the
one he took soon brought him out into that by which Captain Willoughby
had descended to the lean-to. When the spot was reached where Joyce had
halted, Nick paused; and, first listening intently, to catch the sound
of noises, if any might happen to be in dangerous proximity, he
addressed his companion:
"Young squaw bold," he said, encouragingly; "now want heart of
"I can follow, Nick--having come so far, why distrust me, now?"
"'Cause he here--down dere--woman love man; man love woman--dat right;
but, no show it, when scalp in danger."
"Perhaps I do not understand you, Tuscarora--but, my trust is in God;
he is a support that can uphold any weakness."
"Good!--stay here--Nick come back, in minute."
Nick now descended to the passage between the rocks and the lean-to, in
order to make certain that the major still remained in his prison,
before he incurred any unnecessary risk with Maud. Of this fact he was
soon assured; after which he took the precaution to conceal the pool of
blood, by covering it with earth and stones. Making his other
observations with care, and placing the saw and chisel, with the other
tools, that had fallen from the captain's hand, when he received his
death-wound, in a position to be handy, he ascended the path, and
rejoined Maud. No word passed between our heroine and her guide. The
latter motioned for her to follow; then he led the way down to the
cabin. Soon, both had entered the narrow passage; and Maud, in
obedience to a sign from her companion, seated herself on the precise
spot where her father had been found, and where the knife had passed
into his heart. To all this, however, Nick manifested the utmost
indifference. Everything like ferocity had left his face; to use his
own figurative language, his sores smarted no longer; and the
expression of his eye was friendly and gentle. Still it showed no signs
"Her pallid face displayed
Something, methought, surpassing mortal beauty.
She presently turn'd round, and fixed her large, wild eyes.
Brimming with tears, upon me, fetch'd a sigh,
As from a riven heart, and cried: He's dead!"
Maud had been so earnest, and so much excited, that the scarcely
reflected on the singularity and novelty of her situation, until she
was seated, as described at the close of the last chapter. Then,
indeed, she began to think that she had embarked in an undertaking of
questionable prudence, and to wonder in what manner she was to be
useful. Still her heart did not fail her, or her hopes altogether sink.
She saw that Nick was grave and occupied, like a man who intended to
effect his purpose at every hazard; and that purpose she firmly
believed was the liberation of Robert Willoughby.
As for Nick, the instant his companion was seated, and he had got a
position to his mind, he set about his business with great assiduity.
It has been said that the lean-to like the cabin, was built of logs; a
fact that constituted the security of the prisoner. The logs of the
lean-to, however, were much smaller than those of the body of the
house, and both were of the common white pine of the country; a wood of
durable qualities, used as it was here, but which yielded easily to
edged tools. Nick had a small saw, a large chisel, and his knife. With
the chisel, he cautiously commenced opening a hole of communication
with the interior, by removing a little of the mortar that filled the
interstices between the logs. This occupied but a moment. When
effected, Nick applied an eye to the hole and took a look within. He
muttered the word "good," then withdrew his own eye, and, by a sign,
invited Maud to apply one of hers. This our heroine did, and saw Robert
Willoughby, reading within a few feet of her, with a calmness of air,
that at once announced his utter ignorance of the dire event that had
so lately occurred, almost within reach of his arm.
"Squaw speak," whispered Nick; "voice sweet as wren--go to Major's ear
like song of bird.--Squaw speak music to young warrior."
Maud drew back, her heart beat violently, her breathing became
difficult, and the blood rushed to her temples. But an earnest motion
from Nick reminded her this was no time for hesitation, and she applied
her mouth to the hole.
"Robert--_dear_ Robert," she said, in a loud whisper, "we are
here--have come to release you."
Maud's impatience could wait no longer; but her eye immediately
succeeded her mouth. That she was heard was evident from the
circumstance that the book fell from the Major's hand, in a way to show
how completely he was taken by surprise. "He knows even my whispers,"
thought Maud, her heart beating still more violently, as she observed
the young soldier gazing around him, with a bewildered air, like one
who fancied he had heard the whisperings of some ministering angel. By
this time, Nick had removed a long piece of the mortar; and he too, was
looking into the buttery. By way of bringing matters to an
understanding, the Indian thrust the chisel through the opening, and,
moving it, he soon attracted Willoughby's attention. The latter
instantly advanced, and applied his own eye to the wide crack, catching
a view of the swarthy face of Nick.
Willoughby knew that the presence of this Indian, at such a place, and
under such circumstances, indicated the necessity of caution. He did
not speak, therefore; but, first making a significant gesture towards
the door of his narrow prison, thus intimating the close proximity of
sentinels, he demanded the object of this visit, in a whisper.
"Come to set major free," answered Nick.
"Can I trust you, Tuscarora? Sometimes you seem a friend, sometimes an
enemy. I know that you appear to be on good terms with my captors."
"Dat good--Injin know how to look two way--warrior _must_, if
"I wish I had some proof, Nick, that you are dealing with me in good
"Call _dat_ proof, den!" growled the savage, seizing Maud's little
Land, and passing it through the opening, before the startled girl was
fully aware of what he meant to do.
Willoughby knew the hand at a glance. He would have recognised it, in
that forest solitude, by its symmetry and whiteness, its delicacy and
its fullness; but one of the taper fingers wore a ring that, of late,
Maud had much used; being a diamond hoop that she had learned was a
favourite ornament of her real mother's. It is not surprising,
therefore, that he seized the pledge that was thus strangely held
forth, and had covered it with kisses, before Maud had presence of mind
sufficient, or strength to reclaim it. This she would not do, however,
at such a moment, without returning all the proofs of ardent affection
that were lavished on her own hand, by giving a gentle pressure to the
one in which it was clasped.
"This is so strange, Maud!--so every way extraordinary, that I know not
what to think," the young man whispered soon as he could get a glimpse
of the face of the sweet girl. "Why are you here, beloved, and in such
"You will trust _me_, Bob--Nick comes as your friend. Aid him all
you can, now, and be silent. When free, then will be the time to learn
A sign of assent succeeded, and the major withdrew a step, in order to
ascertain the course Nick meant to pursue. By this time, the Indian was
at work with his knife, and he soon passed the chisel in to the
prisoner, who seized it, and commenced cutting into the logs, at a
point opposite to that where the Tuscarora was whittling away the wood.
The object was to introduce the saw, and it required some labour to
effect such a purpose. By dint of application, however, and by cutting
the log above as well as that below, sufficient space was obtained in
the course of a few minutes. Nick then passed the saw in, through the
opening, it exceeding his skill to use such a tool with readiness.
By this time, Willoughby was engaged with the earnestness and zeal of
the captive who catches a glimpse of liberty. Notwithstanding, he
proceeded intelligently and with caution. The blanket given him by his
captors, as a pallet, was hanging from a nail, and he took the
precaution to draw this mil, and to place it above the spot selected
for the cut, that he might suspend the blanket so as to conceal what he
was at, in the event of a visit from without. When all was ready, and
the blanket was properly placed, he began to make long heavy strokes
with the tool, in a way to deaden the sound. This was a delicate
operation; but the work's being done behind the blanket, had some
effect in lessening the noise. As the work proceeded, Willoughby's
hopes increased; and he was soon delighted to hear from Nick, that it
was time to insert the saw in another place. Success is apt to induce
carelessness; and, as the task proceeded, Willoughby's arm worked with
greater rapidity, until a noise at the door gave the startling
information that he was about to be visited. There was just time to
finish the last cut, and to let the blanket fall, before the door
opened. The saw-dust and chips had all been carefully removed, as the
work proceeded, and of these none were left to betray the secret.
There might have been a quarter of a minute between the moment when
Willoughby seated himself, with his book in his hand, and that in which
the door opened. Short as was this interval, it sufficed for Nick to
remove the piece of log last cut, and to take away the handle of the
saw; the latter change permitting the blanket to hang so close against
the logs as completely to conceal the hole. The sentinel who appeared
was an Indian in externals, but a dull, white countryman in fact and
"I thought I heard the sound of a saw, major," he said listlessly; "yet
everything looks quiet, and in its place here!"
"Where should I get such a tool?" Willoughby coolly replied; "and what
is there here to saw?"
"'Twas as nat'ral, too, as the carpenter himself could make it, in
"Possibly the mill has been set in motion by some of your idlers, and
you have heard the large saw, which, at a distance, may sound like a
smaller one near by."
The man looked incredulously at his prisoner for a moment; then he drew
to the door, with the air of one who was determined to assure himself
of the truth, calling aloud as he did so, to one of his companions to
join him. Willoughby knew that no time was to be lost. In half-a-
minute, he had passed the hole, dropped the blanket before it, had
circled the slender waist of Maud with one arm, and was shoving aside
the bushes with the other, as he followed Nick from the straitened
passage between the lean-to and the rock. The major seemed more bent on
bearing Maud from the spot, than on saving himself. Her feet scarce
touched the ground, as he ascended to the place where Joyce had halted.
Here Nick stood an instant, with a finger raised in intense listening.
His practised ears caught the sound of voices in the lean-to, then
scarce fifty feet distant. Men called to each other by name, and then a
voice directly beneath them, proclaimed that a head was already thrust
through the hole.
"Here is your saw, and here is its workmanship!" exclaimed this voice.
"And here is blood, too," said another. "See! the ground has been a
pool beneath those stones."
Maud shuddered, as if the soul were leaving its earthly tenement, and
Willoughby signed impatiently for Nick to proceed. But the savage, for
a brief instant, seemed bewildered The danger below, however,
increased, and evidently drew so near, that he turned and glided up the
ascent. Presently, the fugitives reached the descending path, that
diverged from the larger one they were on, and by which Nick and Maud
had so recently come diagonally up this cliff. Nick leaped into it, and
then the intervening bushes concealed their persons from any who might
continue on the upward course. There was an open space, however, a
little lower down; and the quick-witted savage came to a stand under a
close cover, believing flight to be useless should their pursuers
actually follow on their heels.
The halt had not been made half-a-dozen seconds, when the voices of the
party ascending in chase, were heard above the fugitives. Willoughby
felt an impulse to dash down the path, bearing Maud in his arms, but
Nick interposed his own body to so rash a movement. There was not time
for a discussion, and the sounds of voices, speaking English too
distinctly to pass for any but those of men of English birth, or
English origin, were heard disputing about the course to be taken, at
the point of junction between the two paths.
"Go by the lower," called out one, from the rear; "he will run down the
stream, and make for the settlements on the Hudson. Once before, he has
done this, as I know from Strides himself."
"D---n Strides!" answered another, more in front. "He is a sniveling
scoundrel, who loves liberty, as a hog loves corn for the sake of good
living. I say go the _upper_, which will carry him on the heights,
and bring him out near his father's garrison."
"Here are marks of feet on the upper," observed a third, "though they
seem to be coming _down_, instead of going _up_ the hill."
"It is the trail of the fellows who have helped him to escape. Push
_up_ the hill, and we shall have them all in ten minutes. Push
This decided the matter. It appeared to Willoughby that at least a
dozen men ran up the path, above his head, eager in the pursuit, and
anticipating success. Nick waited no longer, but glided down the cliff,
and was soon in the broad path which led along the margin of the
stream, and was the ordinary thoroughfare in going to or from the
Knoll. Here the fugitives, as on the advance, were exposed to the
danger of accidental meetings; but, fortunately, no one was met, or
seen, and the bridge was passed in safety. Turning short to the north,
Nick plunged into the woods again, following the cow-path by which he
had so recently descended to the glen. No pause was made even here.
Willoughby had an arm round the waist of Maud, and bore her forward,
with a rapidity to which her own strength was altogether unequal. In
less than ten minutes from the time the prisoner had escaped, the
fugitives reached the level of the rock of the water-fall, or that of
the plain of the Dam. As it was reasonably certain that none of the
invaders had passed to that side of the valley, haste was no longer
necessary, and Maud was permitted to pause for breath.
The halt was short, however, our heroine, herself, now feeling as if
the major could not be secure until he was fairly within the palisades.
In vain did Willoughby try to pacify her fears and to assure her of his
comparative safety; Maud's nerves were excited, and then she had the
dreadful tidings, which still remained to be told pressing upon her
spirits, and quickening all her natural impulses and sentiments.
Nick soon made the signal to proceed, and then the three began to
circle the flats, as mentioned in the advance of Maud and her
companion. When they reached a favourable spot, the Indian once more
directed a halt, intimating his own intention to move to the margin of
the woods, in order to reconnoitre. Both his companions heard this
announcement with satisfaction, for Willoughby was eager to say to Maud
directly that which he had so plainly indicated by means of the box,
and to extort from her a confession that she was not offended; while
Maud herself felt the necessity of letting the major know the
melancholy circumstance that yet remained to be told. With these widely
distinct feelings uppermost, our two lovers saw Nick quit them, each
impatient, restless and uneasy.
Willoughby had found a seat for Maud, on a log, and he now placed
himself at her side, and took her hand, pressing it silently to his
"Nick has then been a true man, dearest Maud," he said,
"notwithstanding all my doubts and misgivings of him."
"Yes; he gave me to understand you would hardly trust him, and that was
the reason I was induced to accompany him. We both thought, Bob, you
would confide in _me_!"
"Bless you--bless you--beloved Maud--but have you seen Mike--has
_he_ had any interview with you--in a word, did he deliver you my
Maud's feelings had been so much excited, that the declaration of
Willoughby's love, precious as it was to her heart failed to produce
the outward signs that are usually exhibited by the delicate and
sensitive of her sex, when they listen to the insinuating language for
the first time. Her thoughts were engrossed with her dreadful secret,
and with the best and least shocking means of breaking it to the major.
The tint on her cheek, therefore, scarce deepened, as this question was
put to her, while her eye, full of earnest tenderness, still remained
riveted on the face of her companion.
"I have seen Mike, dear Bob," she answered, with a steadiness that had
its rise in her singleness of purpose--"and he _has_ shown me--
_given_ me, the box."
"But have you understood me, Maud?--You will remember that box
contained the great secret of my life!"
"This I well remember--yes, the box contains the great secret of your
"But--you cannot have understood me, Maud--else would you not look so
unconcerned--so vacantly--I am not understood, and am miserable!"
"No--no--no"--interrupted Maud, hurriedly--"I understand _all_ you
have wished to say, and you have no cause to be--" Maud's voice became
choked, for she recollected the force of the blow that she had in
"This is so strange!--altogether so unlike your usual manner, Maud,
that there must be some mistake. The box contained nothing but your own
"Yes; nothing else. It was _my_ hair; I knew it the instant I saw
"And did it tell you no secret?--Why was Beulah's hair not with it? Why
did I cherish _your_ hair, Maud, and your's alone? You have not
"I have, dear, dear Bob!--You love me--you wished to say we are not
brother and sister, in truth; that we have an affection that is far
stronger--one that will bind us together for life. Do not look so
wretched, Bob; I understand everything you wish to say."
"This is so very extraordinary!--So unlike yourself, Maud, I know not
what to make of it! I sent you that box, beloved one, to say that you
had my whole heart; that I thought of you day and night; that you were
the great object of my existence, and that, while misery would be
certain without you, felicity would be just as certain with you; in a
word, that I love you, Maud, and can never love another."
"Yes, so I understood you, Bob."--Maud, spite of her concentration of
feeling on the dreadful secret, could not refrain from blushing--"It
was too plain to be mistaken."
"And how was my declaration received? Tell me at once, dear girl, with
your usual truth of character, and frankness--_can_ you, _will_
you love me in return?"
This was a home question, and, on another occasion, it might have
produced a scene of embarrassment and hesitation. But Maud was
delighted with the idea that it was in her power to break the violence
of the blow she was about to inflict, by setting Robert Willoughby's
mind at ease on this great point.
"I _do_ love you, Bob," she said, with fervent affection beaming
in every lineament of her angel face--"_have_ loved you, for
years--how could it be otherwise? I have scarce seen any other to
love; and how see you, and refrain?"
"Blessed, blessed, Maud--but this is so strange--I fear you do not
understand me--I am not speaking of such affection as Beulah bears me,
as brother and sister feel; I speak of the love that my mother bore my
father--of the love of man and wife"----
A groan from Maud stopped the vehement young man, who received his
companion in his arms, as she bowed her head on his bosom, half
"Is this resentment, dearest, or is it consent?" he asked, bewildered
by all that passed.
"My father!--what of him, Maud? Why has the allusion to him brought you
to this state?"
"They have killed him, dearest, dearest Bob; and you must now be
father, husband, brother, son, all in one. We have no one left but
A long pause succeeded. The shock was terrible to Robert Willoughby,
but he bore up against it, like a man. Maud's incoherent and unnatural
manner was now explained, and while unutterable tenderness of manner--a
tenderness that was increased by what had just passed--was exhibited by
each to the other, no more was said of love. A common grief appeared to
bind their hearts closer together, but it was unnecessary to dwell on
their mutual affection in words. Robert Willoughby's sorrow mingled
with that of Maud, and, as he folded her to his heart, their faces were
literally bathed in each other's tears.
It was some time before Willoughby could ask, or Maud give, an
explanation. Then the latter briefly recounted all she knew, her
companion listening with the closest attention. The son thought the
occurrence as extraordinary as it was afflicting, but there was not
leisure for inquiry.
It was, perhaps, fortunate for our lovers that Nick's employment kept
him away. For nearly ten minutes longer did he continue absent; then he
returned, slowly, thoughtful, and possibly a little disturbed. At the
sound of his footstep, Willoughby released Maud from his arms, and both
assumed an air of as much tranquillity as the state of their feelings
"Better march"--said Nick, in his sententious manner--"Mohawk very
"Do you see the signs of this?" asked the major, scarce knowing what he
"Alway make Injin mad; lose scalp. Prisoner run away, carry scalp with
"I rather think, Nick, you do my captors injustice; so far from
desiring anything so cruel, they treated me well enough, considering
the circumstances, and that we are in the woods."
"Yes; spare scalp, 'cause t'ink rope ready. Nebber trust Mohawk--all
To own the truth, one of the great failings of the savages of the
American forests, was to think of the neighbouring tribes, as the
Englishman is known to think of the Frenchman, and vice versa; as the
German thinks of both, and all think of the Yankee. In a word, his own
tribe contains everything that is excellent, with the Pawnee, the Osage
and Pottawattomie, as Paris contains all that is perfect in the eyes of
the _bourgeois_, London in those of the cockney, and this virtuous
republic in those of its own enlightened citizens; while the hostile
communities are remorselessly given up to the tender solicitude of
those beings which lead nations, as well as individuals, into the sinks
of perdition. Thus Nick, liberalized as his mind had comparatively
become by intercourse with the whites, still retained enough of the
impressions of childhood, to put the worst construction on the acts of
all his competitors, and the best on his own. In this spirit, then, he
warned his companions against placing any reliance on the mercy of the
Major Wilioughby, however, had now sufficient inducements to move,
without reference to the hostile intentions of his late captors. That
his escape would excite a malignant desire for vengeance, he could
easily believe; but his mother, his revered heart-broken mother, and
the patient, afflicted Beulah, were constantly before him, and gladly
did he press on, Maud leaning on his arm, the instant Nick led the way.
To say that the lovely, confiding being who clung to his side, as the
vine inclines to the tree, was forgotten, or that he did not retain a
vivid recollection of all that she had so ingenuously avowed in his
favour, would not be rigidly accurate, though the hopes thus created
shone in the distance, under the present causes of grief, as the sun's
rays illumine the depths of the heavens, while his immediate face is
entirely hidden by an eclipse.
"Did you see any signs of a movement against the house, Nick?" demanded
the major, when the three had been busily making their way, for several
minutes, round the margin of the forest.
The Tuscarora turned, nodded his head, and glanced at Maud.
"Speak frankly, Wyandotte--"
"Good!" interrupted the Indian with emphasis, assuming a dignity of
manner the major had never before witnessed. "Wyandotte come--Nick gone
away altogeder. Nebber see Sassy Nick, ag'in, at Dam."
"I am glad to hear this, Tuscarora, and as Maud says, you may speak
"T'ink, den, best be ready. Mohawk feel worse dan if he lose ten,
t'ree, six scalp. Injin know Injin feelin'. Pale-face can't stop red-
skin, when blood get up."
"Press on, then, Wyandotte, for the sake of God--let me, at least, die
in defence of my beloved mother!"
"Moder; good!--Doctor Tuscarora, when death grin in face! She _my_
This was said energetically, and in a manner to assure his listeners
that they had a firm ally in this warlike savage. Little did either
dream, at that instant, that this same wayward being--the creature of
passion, and the fierce avenger of all his own fancied griefs, was the
cause of the dreadful blow that had so recently fallen on them.
The sun still wanted an hour of setting, when Nick brought his
companions to the fallen tree, by which they were again to cross the
rivulet. Here he paused, pointing to the roofs of the Hut, which were
then just visible through the trees; as much as to say that his duty,
as a guide, was done.
"Thank you, Wyandotte," said Willoughby; "if it be the will of God to
carry us safely through the crisis, you shall be well rewarded for this
"Wyandotte chief--want no dollar. Been Injin runner--now be Injin
warrior. Major follow--squaw follow--Mohawk in hurry."
This was enough. Nick passed out of the forest on a swift walk--but for
the female, it would have been his customary, loping trot--followed by
Willoughby; his arm, again, circling the waist of Maud, whom he bore
along scarce permitting her light form to touch the earth. At this
instant, four or five conches sounded, in the direction of the mills,
and along the western margin of the meadows. Blast seemed to echo
blast; then the infernal yell, known as the war-whoop, was heard all
along the opposite face of the buildings. Judging from the sounds, the
meadows were alive with assailants, pressing on for the palisades.
At this appalling moment, Joyce appeared on the ridge of the roof,
shouting, in a voice that might have been heard to the farthest point
in the valley--
"Stand to your arms, my men," he cried; "here the scoundrels come; hold
your fire until they attempt to cross the stockade."
To own the truth, there was a little bravado in this, mingled with the
stern courage that habit and nature had both contributed to lend the
serjeant. The veteran knew the feebleness of his garrison, and fancied
that warlike cries, from himself, might counterbalance the yells that
were now rising from all the fields in front of the house.
As for Nick and the major, they pressed forward, too earnest and
excited, to speak. The former measured the distance by his ear; and
thought there was still time to gain a cover, if no moment was lost. To
reach the foot of the cliff, took just a minute; to ascend to the hole
in the palisade, half as much time; and to pass it, a quarter. Maud was
dragged ahead, as much as she ran; and the period when the three were
passing swiftly round to the gate, was pregnant with imminent risk.
They were seen, and fifty rifles were discharged, as it might be, at a
command. The bullets pattered against the logs of the Hut, and against
the palisades, but no one was hurt. The voice of Willoughby opened the
gate, and the next instant the three were within the shelter of the
"They have not perish'd--no!
Kind words, remembered voices, once so sweet,
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