James Fenimore Cooper
Part 9 out of 9
Smiles, radiant long ago,
And features, the great soul's apparent seat;
"All shall come back, each tie
Of pure affection shall be knit again;
Alone shall evil die,
And sorrow dwell a prisoner in thy reign.
"And then shall I behold
Him, by whose kind paternal side I sprung,
And her, who still and cold,
Fills the next grave--the beautiful and young."
The scene that followed passed like a hurricane sweeping over the
valley. Joyce had remained on the ridge of the roof, animating his
little garrison, and endeavouring to intimidate his enemies, to the
last moment. The volley of bullets had reached the palisades and the
buildings, and he was still unharmed. But the sound of the major's
voice below, and the cry that Miss Maud and Nick were at the gate,
produced a sudden change in all his dispositions for the defence. The
serjeant ran below himself, to report and receive his orders from the
new commander, while all the negroes, females as well as males, rushed
down into the court, to meet their young master and mistress.
It is not easy to describe the minute that succeeded, after Willoughby
and Maud were surrounded by the blacks. The delight of these untutored
beings was in proportion to their recent sorrow. The death of their
master, and the captivity of Master Bob and Miss Maud, had appeared to
them like a general downfall of the family of Willoughby; but here was
a revival of its hopes, that came as unexpectedly as its previous
calamities. Amid the clamour, cries, tears, lamentations, and bursts of
uncontrollable delight, Joyce could scarce find a moment in which to
discharge his duty.
"I see how it is, serjeant," exclaimed Willoughby; "the assault is now
making, and you desire orders."
"There is not an instant to lose, Major Willoughby; the enemy are at
the palisades already, and there is no one at his station but Jamie and
"To your posts, men--to your posts, everybody. The house shall be made
good at all hazards. For God's sake, Joyce, give me arms. I feel that
my father's wrongs are to be revenged."
"Robert--dear, dear Robert," said Maud, throwing her arms on his
shoulders, "this is no moment for such bitter feelings. Defend us, as I
know you will, but defend us like a Christian."
One kiss was all that the time allowed, and Maud rushed into the house
to seek her mother and Beulah, feeling as if the tidings of Bob's
return might prove some little alleviation to the dreadful blow under
which they must be suffering.
As for Willoughby, he had no time for pious efforts at consolation. The
Hut was to be made good against a host of enemies; and the cracking of
rifles from the staging and the fields, announced that the conflict had
begun in earnest. Joyce handed him a rifle, and together they ascended
rapidly to the roofs. Here they found Jamie Allen and Blodget, loading
and firing as fast as they could, and were soon joined by all the
negroes. Seven men were now collected on the staging; and placing three
in front, and two on each wing, the major's dispositions were made;
moving, himself, incessantly, to whatever point circumstances called.
Mike, who knew little of the use of fire-arms, was stationed at the
gate, as porter and warder.
It was so unusual a thing for savages to attack by daylight, unless
they could resort to surprise, that the assailants were themselves a
little confused. The assault was made, under a sudden feeling of
resentment at the escape of the prisoner, and contrary to the wishes of
the principal white men in the party, though the latter were dragged in
the train of events, and had to seem to countenance that of which they
really disapproved. These sudden outbreakings were sufficiently common
in Indian warfare, and often produced memorable disasters. On the
present occasion, however, the most that could occur was a repulse, and
to this the leaders, demagogues who owed their authority to the
excesses and necessities of the times, were fain to submit, should it
The onset had been fierce and too unguarded. The moment the volley was
fired at the major, the assailants broke cover, and the fields were
alive with men. This was the instant when the defence was left to Allen
and Blodget, else might the exposure have cost the enemy dear. As it
was, the last brought down one of the boldest of the Indians while the
mason fired with good will, though with less visible effect. The yell
that followed this demonstration of the apparent force of the garrison,
was a wild mixture of anger and exultation, and the rush at the
palisades was general and swift. As Willoughby posted his
reinforcement, the stockade was alive with men, some ascending, some
firing from its summit, some aiding others to climb, and one falling
within the enclosure, a second victim to Blodget's unerring aim.
The volley that now came from the roofs staggered the savages, most of
whom fell outward, and sought cover in their usual quick and dexterous
manner. Three or four, however, thought it safer to fall within the
palisades, seeking safety immediately under the sides of the buildings.
The view of these men, who were perfectly safe from the fire of the
garrison so long as the latter made no sortie, gave an idea to those
without, and produced, what had hitherto been wanting, something like
order and concert in the attack. The firing now became desultory and
watchful on both sides, the attacking party keeping themselves covered
by the trees and fences as well as they could, while the garrison only
peered above the ridge of the roof, as occasions required.
The instant the outbreak occurred, all the _ci-devant_ dependants
of captain Willoughby, who had deserted, abandoned their various
occupations in the woods and fields, collecting in and around the
cabins, in the midst of their wives and children. Joel, alone, was not
to be seen. He had sought his friends among the leaders of the party,
behind a stack of hay, at a respectful distance from the house, and to
which there was a safe approach by means of the rivulet and its fringe
of bushes. The little council that was held at this spot took place
just as the half-dozen assailants who had fallen within the palisades
were seen clustering along under the walls of the buildings.
"Natur' gives you a hint how to conduct," observed Joel, pointing out
this circumstance to his principal companions, as they all lay peering
over the upper portions of the stack, at the Hut. "You see them men
under the eaves--they're a plaguy sight safer up there, than we be down
here; and; if 'twere'n't for the look of the thing, I wish I was with
'em. That house will never be taken without a desperate sight of
fightin'; for the captain is an old warrior, and seems to like to snuff
gunpowder"--the reader will understand none knew of the veteran's death
but those in the house--"and won't be for givin' up while he has a
charge left. If I had twenty men--no, thirty would be better, where
these fellows be, I think the place could be carried in a few minutes,
and then liberty would get its rights, and your monarchy-men would be
put down as they all desarve."
"What do then?" demanded the leading Mohawk, in his abrupt guttural
English. "No shoot--can't kill log."
"No, chief, that's reasonable, an' ongainsayable, too; but only one-
half the inner gate is hung, and I've contrived matters so, on purpose,
that the props of the half that isn't on the hinges can be undone, all
the same as onlatching the door. If I only had the right man here, now,
the business should be done, and that speedily."
"Go 'self," answered the Mohawk, not without an expression of distrust
"Every man to his callin', chief. My trade is peace, and politics, and
liberty, while your's is war. Howsever, I can put you, and them that
likes fightin', on the trail, and then we'll see how matters can be
done. Mortality! How them desperate devils on the roof do keep blazin'
away! It wouldn't surprise me if they shot somebody, or get hurt
Such were the deliberations of Joel Strides on a battle. The Indian
leaders, however, gave some of their ordinary signals, to bring their
'young men' more under command and, sending messengers with orders in
different directions, they left the haystack, compelling Joel to
The results of these movements were soon apparent. The most daring of
the Mohawks made their way into the rivulet, north of the buildings,
and were soon at the foot of the cliff. A little reconnoitring told
them that the hole which Joel had pointed out, had not been closed
since the entrance of Willoughby and his companions. Led by their
chief, the warriors stole up the ascent, and began to crawl through the
same inlet which had served as an outlet to so many deserters, the
previous night, accompanied by their wives and children.
The Indians in front had been ordered to occupy the attention of the
garrison, while this movement was in the course of execution. At a
signal, they raised a yell, unmasked them, fired one volley, and seemed
to make another rush at the works. This was the instant chosen for the
passage of the hole, and the seven leading savages effected their
entrance within the stockade, with safety. The eighth man was shot by
Blodget, in the hole itself. The body was instantly withdrawn by the
legs, and all in the rear fell back under the cover of the cliff.
Willoughby now understood the character of the assault. Stationing
Joyce, with a party to command the hole, he went himself into the
library, accompanied by Jamie and Blodget, using a necessary degree of
caution. Fortunately the windows were raised, and a sudden volley
routed all the Indians who had taken shelter beneath the rocks. These
men, however, fled no further than the rivulet, where they rallied
under cover of the bushes, keeping up a dropping fire at the windows.
For several minutes, the combat was confined to this spot; Willoughby,
by often shifting from window to window along the rear of the house,
getting several volleys that told, at the men under the cover.
As yet, all the loss had been on the side of the assailants, though
several of the garrison, including both Willoughby and Joyce, had
divers exceedingly narrow escapes. Quite a dozen of the assailants had
suffered, though only four were killed outright. By this time, the
assault had lasted an hour, and the shades of evening were closing
around the place. Daniel, the miller, had been sent by Joel to spring
the mine they had prepared together, but, making the mistake usual with
the uninitiated, he had hung back, to let others pass the hole first,
and was consequently carried down in the crowd, within the cover of the
bushes of the rivulet.
Willoughby had a short consultation with Joyce, and then he set
seriously about the preparations necessary for a light defence. By a
little management, and some persona, risk, the bullet-proof shutters of
the north wing of the Hut were all closed, rendering the rear of the
buildings virtually impregnable. When this was done, and the gates of
the area were surely shut, the place was like a ship in a gale, under
short canvass and hove-to. The enemy within the palisades were
powerless, to all appearance, the walls of stone preventing anything
like an application of fire. Of the last, however, there was a little
danger on the roof, the Indians frequently using arrows for this
purpose, and water was placed on the staging in readiness to be used on
All these preparations occupied some time, and it was quite dark ere
they were completed. Then Willoughby had a moment for reflection; the
firing having entirely ceased, and nothing further remaining to do.
"We are safe for the present, Joyce," the major observed, as he and the
serjeant stood together on the staging, after having consulted on the
present aspect of things; "and I have a solemn duty, yet, to perform--
my dear mother--and the body of my father--"
"Yes, sir; I would not speak of either, so long as it was your honour's
pleasure to remain silent on the subject. Madam Willoughby is sorely
cut down, as you may imagine, sir; and, as for my gallant old
commander, he died in his harness, as a soldier should."
"Where have you taken the body?--has my mother seen it?"
"Lord bless you, sir, Madam Willoughby had his honour carried into her
own room, and there she and Miss Beulah"--so all of the Hut still
called the wife of Evert Beekman--"she and Miss Beulah, kneel, and
pray, and weep, as you know, sir, ladies will, whenever anything severe
comes over their feelings--God bless them both, we all say, and think,
ay, and pray, too, in our turns, sir."
"Very well, Joyce. Even a soldier may drop a tear over the dead body of
his own father. God only knows what this night will bring forth, and I
may never have a moment as favourable as this, for discharging so
solemn a duty."
"Yes, your honour"--Joyce fancied that the major had succeeded to this
appellation by the decease of the captain--"yes, your honour, the
commandments, that the Rev. Mr. Woods used to read to us of a Sunday,
tell us all about that; and it is quite as much the duty of a Christian
to mind the commandments, I do suppose, as it is for a soldier to obey
orders. God bless you, sir, and carry you safe through the affair. I
had a touch of it with Miss Maud, myself, and know what it is. It's bad
enough to lose an old commander in so sudden a way like, without having
to _feel_ what has happened in company with so sweet ladies, as
these we have in the house. As for these blackguards down inside the
works, let them give you no uneasiness; it will be light work for us to
keep them busy, compared to what your honour has to do."
It would seem by the saddened manner in which Willoughby moved away,
that he was of the same way of thinking as the serjeant, on this
melancholy subject. The moment, however, was favourable for the object,
and delay could not be afforded. Then Willoughby's disposition was to
console his mother, even while he wept with her over the dead body of
him they had lost.
Notwithstanding the wild uproar that had so prevailed, not only
without, but within the place, the portion of the house that was
occupied by the widowed matron and her daughters, was silent as the
grave. All the domestics were either on the staging, or at the loops,
leaving the kitchens and offices deserted. The major first entered a
little ante-chamber, that opened between a store-room, and the
apartment usually occupied by his mother; this being the ordinary means
of approach to her room. Here he paused, and listened quite a minute,
in the hope of catching some sound from within that might prepare him
for the scene he was to meet. Not a whisper, a moan, or a sob could be
heard; and he ventured to tap lightly at the door. This was unheeded;
waiting another minute, as much in dread as in respect, he raised the
latch with some such awe, as one would enter into a tomb of some
beloved one. A single lamp let him into the secrets of this solemn
In the centre of the room, lay stretched on a large table, the manly
form of the author of his being. The face was uppermost, and the limbs
had been laid, in decent order, as is usual with the dead that have
been cared for. No change had been made in the dress, however, the
captain lying in the hunting-shirt in which he had sallied forth; the
crimson tint which disfigured one breast, having been sedulously
concealed by the attention of Great Smash. The passage from life to
eternity had been so sudden, as to leave the usual benignant expression
on the countenance of the corpse; the paleness which had succeeded the
fresh ruddy tint of nature, alone denoting that the sleep was not a
sweet repose, but that of death.
The body of his father was the first object that met the gaze of the
major. He advanced, leaned forward, kissed the marble-like forehead,
with reverence, and groaned in the effort to suppress an unmanly
outbreaking of sorrow. Then he turned to seek the other well-beloved
faces. There sat Beulah, in a corner of the room, as if to seek shelter
for her infant, folding that infant to her heart, keeping her look
riveted, in anguish, on the inanimate form that she had ever loved
beyond a daughter's love. Even the presence of her brother scarce drew
a glance away from the sad spectacle; though, when it at length did,
the youthful matron bowed her face down to that of her child, and wept
convulsively. She was nearest to the major, who moved to her side, and
kissed the back of her neck, with kind affection. The meaning was
understood; and Beulah, while unable to look up, extended a hand to
meet the fraternal pressure it received.
Maud was near, kneeling at the side of the bed. Her whole attitude
denoted the abstraction of a mind absorbed in worship and solicitation.
Though Willoughby's heart yearned to raise her in his arms; to console
her, and bid her lean on himself, in future, for her earthly support,
he too much respected her present occupation, to break in upon it with
any irreverent zeal of his own. His eye turned from this loved object,
therefore, and hurriedly looked for his mother.
The form of Mrs. Willoughby had escaped the first glances of her son,
in consequence of the position in which she had placed herself. The
stricken wife was in a corner of the room, her person partly concealed
by the drapery of a window-curtain; though this was evidently more the
effect of accident, than of design. Willoughby started, as he caught
the first glance of his beloved parent's face; and he felt a chill pass
over his whole frame. There she sat upright, motionless, tearless,
without any of the alleviating weaknesses of a less withering grief,
her mild countenance exposed to the light of the lamp, and her eyes
riveted on the face of the dead. In this posture had she remained for
hours; no tender cares on the part of her daughters; no attentions from
her domestics; no outbreaking of her own sorrows, producing any change.
Even the clamour of the assault had passed by her like the idle wind.
"My mother--my poor--dear--heart-broken mother!" burst from Willoughby,
at this sight, and he stepped quickly forward, and knelt at her feet.
But Bob--the darling Bob--his mother's pride and joy, was unheeded. The
heart, which had so long beaten for others only; which never seemed to
feel a wish, or a pulsation, but in the service of the objects of its
affection, was not sufficiently firm to withstand the blow that had
lighted on it so suddenly. Enough of life remained, however, to support
the frame for a while; and the will still exercised its power over the
mere animal functions. Her son shut out the view of the body, and she
motioned him aside with an impatience of manner he had never before
witnessed from the same quarter. Inexpressibly shocked, the major took
her hands, by gentle compulsion, covering them with kisses, and
literally bathing them in tears.
"Oh! mother--dearest, dearest mother!" he cried, "_will_ you
not--_do_ you not know _me_--Robert--Bob--your much-indulged,
grateful, affectionate son. If father is gone into the immediate
presence of the God he revered and served, I am still left to be a
support to your declining years. Lean on me, mother, next to your
Father in Heaven."
"Will he ever get up, Robert?" whispered the widowed mother. "You speak
too loud, and may rouse him before his time. He promised me to bring
you back; and he ever kept his promises. He had a long march, and is
weary, See, how sweetly he sleeps!"
Robert Willoughby bowed his head to his mother's knees, and groaned
aloud. When he raised his face again, he saw the arms of Maud elevated
towards heaven, as if she would pluck down that consolation for her
mother, that her spirit was so fervently asking of the Almighty. Then
he gazed into the face of his mother again; hoping to catch a gleam of
some expression and recognition, that denoted more of reason. It was in
vain; the usual placidity, the usual mild affection were there; but
both were blended with the unnatural halo of a mind excited to disease,
if not to madness. A slight exclamation, which sounded like alarm, came
from Beulah; and turning towards his sister, Willoughby saw that she
was clasping Evert still closer to her bosom, with her eyes now bent on
the door. Looking in the direction of the latter, he perceived that
Nick had stealthily entered, the room.
The unexpected appearance of Wyandotte might well alarm the youthful
mother. He had applied his war-paint since entering the Hut; and this,
though it indicated an intention to fight in defence of the house, left
a picture of startling aspect. There was nothing hostile intended by
this visit, however. Nick had come not only in amity, but in a kind
concern to see after the females of the family, who had ever stood high
in his friendship, notwithstanding the tremendous blow he had struck
against their happiness. But he had been accustomed to see those close
distinctions drawn between individuals and colours; and, the other
proprieties admitted, would not have hesitated about consoling the
widow with the offer of his own hand. Major Willoughby, understanding,
from the manner of the Indian, the object of his visit, suffered him to
pursue his own course, in the hope it might rouse his mother to a
better consciousness of objects around her.
Nick walked calmly up to the table, and gazed at the face of his victim
with a coldness that proved he felt no compunction. Still he hesitated
about touching the body, actually raising his hand, as if with that
intent, and then withdrawing it, like one stung by conscience.
Willoughby noted the act; and, for the first time, a shadowy suspicion
glanced on his mind. Maud had told him all she knew of the manner of
his father's death, and old distrusts began to revive, though so
faintly as to produce no immediate results.
As for the Indian, the hesitating gesture excepted, the strictest
scrutiny, or the keenest suspicion could have detected no signs of
feeling. The senseless form before him was not less moved than he
appeared to be, so far as the human eye could penetrate. Wyandotte
_was_ unmoved. He believed that, in curing the sores on his own back
in this particular manner, he had done what became a Tuscarora warrior
and a chief. Let not the self-styled Christians of civilized society
affect horror at this instance of savage justice, so long as they go
the whole length of the law of their several communities, in avenging
their own fancied wrongs, using the dagger of calumny instead of the
scalping-knife, and rending and tearing _their_ victims, by the
agency of gold and power, like so many beasts of the field, in all the
forms and modes that legal vindictiveness will either justify or
tolerate; often exceeding those broad limits, indeed, and seeking
impunity behind perjuries and frauds.
Nick's examination of the body was neither hurried nor agitated. When
it was over, he turned calmly to consider the daughters of the
"Why you cry--why you 'fear'd," he said, approaching Beulah, and
placing his swarthy hand on the head of her sleeping infant.--"Good
squaw--good pappoose. Wyandotte take care 'em in woods. Bye'm-by go to
pale-face town, and sleep quiet."
This was rudely said, but it was well meant. Beulah so received it; and
she endeavoured to smile her gratitude in the face of the very being
from whom, more than from all of earth, she would have turned in
horror, could her mental vision have reached the fearful secret that
lay buried in his own bosom. The Indian understood her look; and making
a gesture of encouragement, he moved to the side of the woman whom his
own hand had made a widow.
The appearance of Wyandotte produced no change in the look or manner of
the matron. The Indian took her hand, and spoke.
"Squaw _berry_ good," he said, with emphasis. "Why look so sorry--
cap'in gone to happy huntin'-ground of his people. All good dere--chief
time come, _must_ go."
The widow knew the voice, and by some secret association it recalled
the scenes of the past, producing a momentary revival of her faculties.
"Nick, _you_ are my friend," she said, earnestly. "Go speak to
him, and see if _you_ can wake him up."
The Indian fairly started, as he heard this strange proposal. The
weakness lasted only for a moment, however, and he became as stoical,
in appearance at least, as before.
"No," he said; "squaw quit cap'in, now. Warrior go on last path, all
alone--no want companion.--She look at grave, now and den, and be
"Happy!" echoed the widow, "what is _that_, Nick?--what is
_happy_, my son? It seems a dream--I _must_ have known what it
was; but I forget it all now. Oh! it was cruel, cruel, cruel, to stab a
husband, and a father--wasn't it, Robert?--What say you, Nick--shall I
give you more medicine?--You'll die, Indian, unless you take it--mind
what a Christian woman tells you, and be obedient.--Here, let me hold
the cup--there; now you'll live!"
Nick recoiled an entire step, and gazed at the still beautiful victim
of his ruthless revenge, in a manner no one had ever before noted in
his mien. His mixed habits left him in ignorance of no shade of the
fearful picture before his eyes, and he began better to comprehend the
effects of the plow he had so hastily struck--a blow meditated for
years, though given at length under a sudden and vehement impulse. The
widowed mother, however, was past noting these changes.
"No--no--no--Nick," she added, hurriedly, scarce speaking above a
whisper, "do not awake him! God will do that, when he summons his
blessed ones to the foot of his throne. Let us all lie down, and sleep
with him. Robert, do you lie there, at his side, my noble, noble boy;
Beulah, place little Evert and yourself at the other side; Maud, your
place is by the head; I will sleep at his feet; while Nick shall watch,
and let us know when it will be time to rise and pray"
The general and intense--almost spell-bound--attention with which all
in the room listened to these gentle but touching wanderings of a mind
so single and pure, was interrupted by yells so infernal, and shrieks
so wild and fearful, that it seemed, in sooth, as if the last trump had
sounded, and men were passing forth from their graves to judgment.
Willoughby almost leaped out of the room, and Maud followed, to shut
and bolt the door, when her waist was encircled by the arm of Nick, and
she found herself borne forward towards the din.
"O, Time and Death! with certain pace,
Though still unequal, hurrying on,
O'erturning, in your awful race,
The cot, the palace, and the throne!"
Maud had little leisure for reflection. The yells and shrieks were
followed by the cries of combatants, and the crack of the rifle. Nick
hurried her along at a rate so rapid that she had not breath to
question or remonstrate, until she found herself at the door of a small
store-room, in which her mother was accustomed to keep articles of
domestic economy that required but little space. Into this room Nick
thrust her, and then she heard the key turn on her egress. For a single
moment, Wyandotte stood hesitating whether he should endeavour to get
Mrs. Willoughby and her other daughter into the same place of security;
then, judging of the futility of the attempt, by the approach of the
sounds within, among which he heard the full, manly voice of Robert
Willoughby, calling on the garrison to be firm, he raised an answering
yell to those of the Mohawks, the war-whoop of his tribe, and plunged
into the fray with the desperation of one who ran a muck, and with the
delight of a demon.
In order to understand the cause of this sudden change, it will be
necessary to return a little, in the order of time. While Willoughby
was with his mother and sisters, Mike had charge of the gate. The rest
of the garrison was either at the loops, or was stationed on the roofs.
As the darkness increased, Joel mustered sufficient courage to crawl
through the hole, and actually reached the gate. Without him, it was
found impossible to spring his mine, and he had been prevailed on to
risk this much, on condition it should not be asked of him to do such
violence to his feelings as to enter the court of a house in which he
had seen so many happy days.
The arrangement, by which this traitor intended to throw a family upon
the tender mercies of savages, was exceedingly simple. It will be
remembered that only one leaf of the inner gate was hung, the other
being put in its place, where it was sustained by a prop. This prop
consisted of a single piece of timber, of which one end rested on the
ground, and the other on the centre of the gate; the last being
effectually prevented from slipping by pins of wood, driven into the
massive wood-work of the gate, above its end. The lower end of the prop
rested against a fragment of rock that nature had placed at this
particular spot. As the work had been set up in a hurry, it was found
necessary to place wedges between the lower end of the prop and the
rock, in order to force the leaf properly into its groove, without
which it might have been canted to one side, and of course easily
overturned by the exercise of sufficient force from without.
To all this arrangement, Joel had been a party, and he knew, as a
matter of course, its strong and its weak points. Seizing a favourable
moment, he had loosened the wedges, leaving them in their places,
however, but using the precaution to fasten a bit of small but strong
cord to the most material one of the three, which cord he buried in the
dirt, and led half round a stick driven into the earth, quite near the
wall, and thence through a hole made by one of the hinges, to the outer
side of the leaf. The whole had been done with so much care as to
escape the vigilance of casual observers, and expressly that the
overseer might assist his friends in entering the place, after he
himself had provided for his own safety by flight. The circumstance
that no one trod on the side of the gateway where the unhung leaf
stood, prevented the half-buried cord from being disturbed by any
As soon as Joel reached the wall of the Hut, his first care was to
ascertain if he were safe from missiles from the loops. Assured of this
fact, he stole round to the gate, and had a consultation with the
Mohawk chief, on the subject of springing the mine. The cord was found
in its place; and, hauling on it gently, Joel was soon certain that he
had removed the wedge, and that force might speedily throw down the
unhung leaf. Still, he proceeded with caution. Applying the point of a
lever to the bottom of the leaf, he hove it back sufficiently to be
sure it would pass inside of its fellow; and then he announced to the
grave warrior, who had watched the whole proceeding, that the time was
come to lend his aid.
There were a dozen reckless whites, in the cluster of savages collected
at the gate; and enough of these were placed at handspikes to effect
the intended dislodgement. The plan was this: while poles were set
against the upper portion of the leaf, to force it within the line of
the suspended part, handspikes and crowbars, of which a sufficiency had
been provided by Joel's forethought, were to be applied between the
hinge edge and the wall, to cast the whole over to the other side.
Unluckily, Mike had been left at the gate as the sentinel. A more
upfortunate selection could not have been made; the true-hearted fellow
having so much self-confidence, and so little forethought, as to
believe the gates impregnable. He had lighted a pipe, and was smoking
as tranquilly as he had ever done before, in his daily indulgences of
this character, when the unhung leaf came tumbling in upon the side
where he sat; nothing saving his head but the upper edge's lodging
against the wall. At the same moment, a dozen Indians leaped through
the opening, and sprang into the court, raising the yells already
described. Mike followed, armed with his shillelah, for his musket was
abandoned in the surprise, and he began to lay about him with an
earnestness that in nowise lessened the clamour. This was the moment
when Joyce, nobly sustained by Blodget and Jamie Allen, poured a volley
into the court, from the roofs; when the fray became general. To this
point had the combat reached, when Willoughby rushed into the open air
followed, a few instants later, by Nick.
The scene that succeeded is not easily described. It was a _melee_
in the dark, illuminated, at instants, by the flashes of guns, and
rendered horrible by shrieks, curses, groans and whoops. Mike actually
cleared the centre of the court, where he was soon joined by
Willoughby, when, together, they made a rush at a door, and actually
succeeded in gaining their own party on the roof. It was not in nature
for the young soldier to remain here, however, while his mother,
Beulah, and, so far as he knew, Maud, lay exposed to the savages below.
Arnid a shower of bullets he collected his whole force, and was on the
point of charging into the court, when the roll of a drum without,
brought everything to a stand. Young Blodget, who had displayed the
ardour of a hero, and the coolness of a veteran throughout the short
fray, sprang down the stairs unarmed, at this sound, passed through the
astonished crowd in the court, unnoticed, and rushed to the outer gate.
He had barely time to unbar it, when a body of troops marched through,
led by a tall, manly-looking chief, who was accompanied by one that
the young man instantly recognised, in spite of the darkness, for Mr.
Woods, in his surplice. At the next moment, the strangers had entered,
with military steadiness, into the court, to the number of, at least,
fifty, ranging themselves in order across its area.
"In the name of Heaven, who are you?" called out Willoughby, from a
window. "Speak at once, or we fire."
"I am Colonel Beekman, at the head of a regular force," was the answer,
"and if, as I suspect, you are Major Willoughby, you know you are safe.
In the name of Congress, I command all good citizens to keep the peace,
or they will meet with punishment for their contumacy."
This announcement ended the war, Beekman and Willoughby grasping each
other's hands fervently, at the next instant.
"Oh! Beekman!" exclaimed the last, "at what a moment has God sent you
hither! Heaven be praised! notwithstanding all that has happened, you
will find your wife and child safe. Place sentinels at both gates; for
treachery has been at work here, and I shall ask for rigid justice."
"Softly--softly--my good fellow," answered Beekman, pressing his hand.
"Your own position is a little delicate, and we must proceed with
moderation. I learned, just in time, that a party was coming hither,
bent on mischief; and obtaining the necessary authority, I hastened to
the nearest garrison, obtained a company, and commenced my march as
soon as possible. Had we not met with Mr. Woods, travelling for the
settlements in quest of succour, we might have been too late. As it
was, God be praised!--I think we have arrived in season."
Such were the facts. The Indians had repelled the zealous chaplain, as
a madman; compelling him to take the route toward the settlements,
however; their respect for this unfortunate class of beings, rendering
them averse to his rejoining their enemies. He could, and did impart
enough to Beekman to quicken his march, and to bring him and his
followers up to the gate at a time when a minute might have cost the
entire garrison their lives.
Anxious as he was to seek Beulah and his child, Beekman had a soldier's
duties to perform, and those he would not neglect. The sentinels were
posted, and orders issued to light lanterns, and to make a fire in the
centre of the court, so that the actual condition of the field of
battle might be ascertained. A surgeon had accompanied Beekman's party,
and he was already at work, so far as the darkness would allow. Many
hands being employed, and combustibles easy to be found, ere long the
desired light was gleaming on the terrible spectacle.
A dozen bodies wexre stretched in the court, of which, three or four
were fated never to rise again, in life. Of the rest, no less than four
had fallen with broken heads, inflicted by O'Hearn's shillelah. Though
these blows were not fatal, they effectually put the warriors _hors
de combat_. Of the garrison, not one was among the slain, in this
part of the field. On a later investigation, however, it was
ascertained that the poor old Scotch mason had received a mortal hurt,
through a window, and this by the very last shot that had been fired.
On turning over the dead of the assailants, too, it was discovered that
Daniel the Miller was of the number. A few of the Mohawks were seen,
with glowing eyes, in corners of the court, applying their own rude
dressings to their various hurts; succeeding, on the whole, in
effecting the great purpose of the healing art, about as well as those
who were committed to the lights of science.
Surprisingly few uninjured members of the assaulting party, however,
were to be found, when the lanterns appeared. Some had slipped through
the gate before the sentinels were posted; others had found their way
to the roof, and thence, by various means to the ground; while a few
lay concealed in the buildings, until a favourable moment offered to
escape. Among all those who remained, not an individual was found who
claimed to be in any authority. In a word, after five minutes of
examination, both Beekman and Willoughby were satisfied that there no
longer existed a force to dispute with them the mastery of the Hut.
"We have delayed too long relieving the apprehensions of those who are
very dear to us, Major Willoughby," Beekman at length observed. "If you
will lead the way to the parts of the buildings where your--_my_
mother, and wife, are to be found, I will now follow you."
"Hold, Beekman--there yet remains a melancholy tale to be told--nay,
start not--I left our Beulah, and your boy, in perfect health, less
than a quarter of an hour since. But my honoured, honourable, revered,
beloved father has been killed in a most extraordinary manner, and you
will find his widow and daughters weeping over his body."
This appalling intelligence produced a halt, during which Willoughby
explained all he knew of the manner of his father's death, which was
merely the little he had been enabled to glean from Maud. As soon as
this duty was performed, the gentlemen proceeded together to the
apartment of the mourners, each carrying a light.
Willoughby made an involuntary exclamation, when he perceived that the
door of his mother's room was open. He had hoped Maud would have had
the presence of mind to close and lock it; but here he found it,
yawning as if to invite the entrance of enemies. The light within, too,
was extinguished, though, by the aid of the lanterns, he saw large
traces of blood in the ante-room, and the passages he was obliged to
thread. All this hastened his steps. Presently he stood in the chamber
Short as had been the struggle, the thirst for scalps had led some of
the savages to this sanctuary. The instant the Indians had gained the
court, some of the most ferocious of their number had rushed into the
building, penetrating its recesses in a way to defile them with
slaughter. The first object that Willoughby saw was one of these
ruthless warriors, stretched on the floor, with a living Indian,
bleeding at half a dozen wounds, standing over him; the eye-balls of
the latter were glaring like the tiger's that is suddenly confronted to
a foe. An involuntary motion was made towards the rifle he carried, by
the major; but the next look told him that the living Indian was Nick.
Then it was, that he gazed more steadily about him, and took in all the
horrible truths of that fatal chamber.
Mrs. Willoughby was sealed in the chair where she had last been seen,
perfectly dead. No mark of violence was ever found on her body,
however, and there is no doubt that her constant spirit had followed
that of her husband to the other world, in submission to the blow which
had separated them. Beulah had been shot; not, as was afterwards
ascertained, by any intentional aim, but by one of those random
bullets, of which so many had been flying through the buildings. The
missile had passed through her heart, and she lay pressing the little
Evert to her bosom, with that air of steady and unerring affection
which had marked every act of her innocent and feeling life. The boy
himself, thanks to the tiger-like gallantry of Nick, had escaped
unhurt. The Tuscarora had seen a party of six take the direction of
this chamber, and he followed with an instinct of their intentions.
When the leader entered the room, and found three dead bodies, he
raised a yell that betokened his delight at the prospect of gaining so
many scalps; at the next instant, while his fingers were actually
entwined in the hair of Captain Willoughby, he fell by a blow from
Wyandotte. Nick next extinguished the lamp, and then succeeded a scene,
which none of the actors, themselves, could have described. Another
Mohawk fell, and the remainder, ailer suffering horribly from the keen
knife of Nick, as well as from blows received from each other, dragged
themselves away, leaving the field to the Tuscarora. The latter met the
almost bewildered gaze of the major with a smile of grim triumph, as he
pointed to the three bodies of the beloved ones, and said--
"See--all got scalp! Deat', nothin'--scalp, ebbery t'ing."
We shall not attempt to describe the outbreaking of anguish from the
husband and brother. It was a moment of wild grief, that bore down all
the usual restraints of manhood, though it was such a moment as an
American frontier residence has often witnessed. The quiet but deep-
feeling nature of Beekman received a shock that almost produced a
dissolution of his earthly being. He succeeded, however, in raising the
still warm body of Beulah from the floor, and folding it to his heart.
Happily for his reason, a flood of tears, such as women shed, burst
from his soul, rather than from his eyes, bedewing her still sweet and
To say that Robert Willoughby did not feel the desolation, which so
suddenly alighted on a family that had often been quoted for its mutual
affection and happiness, would be to do him great injustice. He even
staggered under the blow; yet his heart craved further information. The
Indian was gazing intently on the sight of Beekman's grief, partly in
wonder, but more in sympathy, when he felt an iron pressure of his arm.
"Maud--Tuscarora"--the major rather groaned than whispered in his ear,
"know you anything of Maud?"
Nick made a gesture of assent; then motioned for the other to follow.
He led the way to the store-room, produced the key, and throwing open
the door, Maud was weeping on Robert Willoughby's bosom in another
instant. He would not take her to the chamber of death, but urged her,
by gentle violence, to follow him to the library.
"God be praised for this mercy!" exclaimed the ardent girl, raising her
hands and streaming eyes to heaven. "I know not, care not, who is
conqueror, since _you_ are safe!"
"Oh! Maud--beloved one--we must now be all in all to each other. Death
has stricken the others."
This was a sudden and involuntary announcement, though it was best it
should be so under the circumstances. It was long before Maud could
hear an outline, even, of the details, but she bore them better than
Willoughby could have hoped. The excitement had been so high, as to
brace the mind to meet any human evil. The sorrow that came afterwards,
though sweetened by so many tender recollections, and chastened hopes,
was deep and enduring.
Our picture would not have been complete, without relating the
catastrophe that befell the Hutted Knoll; but, having discharged this
painful duty, we prefer to draw a veil over the remainder of that
dreadful night. The cries of the negresses, when they learned the death
of their old and young mistress, disturbed the silence of the place for
a few minutes and then a profound stillness settled on the buildings,
marking them distinctly as the house of mourning. On further inquiry,
too, it was ascertained that Great Smash, after shooting an Oneida, had
been slain and scalped. Pliny the younger, also, fell fighting like a
wild beast to defend the entrance to his mistresses' apartments.
The following day, when light had returned, a more accurate idea was
obtained of the real state of the valley. All of the invading party,
the dead and wounded excepted, had made a rapid retreat, accompanied by
most of the deserters and their families. The name, known influence,
and actual authority of Colonel Beekman had wrought this change; the
irregular powers that had set the expedition in motion, preferring to
conceal their agency in the transaction, rather than make any hazardous
attempt to claim the reward of patriotic service, as is so often done
in revolutions, for merciless deeds and selfish acts. There had been no
real design on the part of the whites to injure any of the family in
their persons; but, instigated by Joel, they had fancied the occasion
favourable for illustrating their own public virtue, while they placed
themselves in the way of receiving fortune's favours. The assault that
actually occurred, was one of those uncontrollable outbreakings of
Indian ferocity, that have so often set at defiance the restraints of
Nick was not to be found either. He had been last seen dressing his
wounds, with Indian patience, and Indian skill, preparing to apply
herbs and roots, in quest of which he went into the forest about
midnight. As he did not return Willoughby feared that he might be
suffering alone, and determined to have a search made, as soon as he
had performed the last sad offices for the dead.
Two days occurred, however, before this melancholy duty was discharged.
The bodies of all the savages who had fallen were interred the morning
after the assault; but that of Jamie Allen, with those of the principal
persons of the family, were kept for the pious purposes of affection,
until the time mentioned.
The funeral was a touching sight. The captain, his wife, and daughter,
were laid, side by side, near the chapel; the first and last of their
race that ever reposed in the wilds of America. Mr. Woods read the
funeral service, summoning all his spiritual powers to sustain him, as
he discharged this solemn office of the church. Willoughby's arm was
around the waist of Maud, who endeavoured to reward his tender
assiduities by a smile, but could not. Colonel Beekman held little
Evert in his arms, and stood over the grave with the countenance of a
resolute man stricken with grief--one of the most touching spectacles
of our nature.
"_I am the resurrection and the life, saith the Lord_," sounded in
the stillness of that valley like a voice from heaven, pouring out
consolation on the bruised spirits of the mourners. Maud raised her
face from Willoughby's shoulder, and lifted her blue eyes to the
cloudless vault above her; soliciting mercy, and offering resignation
in the look. The line of troops in the back-ground moved, as by a
common impulse, and then a breathless silence showed the desire of
these rude beings not to lose a syllable.
A round red spot formed on each of the cheeks of Mr. Woods as he
proceeded, and his voice gathered strength, until its lowest
intonations came clear and distinct on every ear. Just as the bodies
were about to be lowered into their two receptacles, the captain, his
wife and daughter being laid in the same grave, Nick came with his
noiseless step near the little group of mourners. He had issued from
the forest only a few minutes before, and understanding the intention
of the ceremony, he approached the spot as fast as weakness and wounds
would allow. Even he listened with profound attention to the chaplain,
never changing his eye from his face, unless to glance at the coffins
as they lay in their final resting-place.
"_I heard a voice from Heaven, saying unto me, write, From henceforth
blessed are the dead who die in the Lord; even so saith the Spirit, for
they rest from their labours_," continued the chaplain, his voice
beginning to betray a tremor; then the gaze of the Tuscarora became
keen as the panther's glance at his discovered victim. Tears followed,
and, for a moment, the voice was choked.
"Why you woman?" demanded Nick, fiercely. "Save all 'e scalp!"
This strange interruption failed to produce any effect. First Beekman
yielded; Maud and Willoughby followed; until Mr. Woods, himself, unable
to resist the double assaults of the power of sympathy and his own
affection, closed the book and wept like a child.
It required minutes for the mourners to recover their self-command.
When the latter returned, however, all knelt on the grass, the line of
soldiers included, and the closing prayers were raised to the throne of
This act of devotion enabled the mourners to maintain an appearance of
greater tranquillity until the graves were filled. The troops advanced,
and fired three volleys over the captain's grave, when all retired
towards the Hut. Maud had caught little Evert from the arms of his
father, and, pressing him to her bosom, the motherless babe seemed
disposed to slumber there. In this manner she walked away, attended
closely by the father, who now cherished his boy as an only treasure.
Willoughby lingered the last at the grave, Nick alone remaining near
him. The Indian had been struck by the exhibition of deep sorrow that
he had witnessed, and he felt an uneasiness that was a little
unaccountable to himself. It was one of the caprices of this strange
nature of ours, that he should feel a desire to console those whom he
had so deeply injured himself. He drew near to Robert Willoughby,
therefore, and, laying a hand on the latter's arm, drew his look in the
direction of his own red and speaking face.
"Why so sorry, major?" he said. "Warrior nebber die but once--
_must_ die sometime."
"There lie my father, my mother, and my only sister, Indian--is not
that enough to make the stoutest heart bend? You knew them, too, Nick--
did you ever know better?"
"Squaw good--both squaw good--Nick see no pale-face squaw he like so
"I thank you, Nick! This rude tribute to the virtues of my mother and
sister, is far more grateful to me than the calculating and regulated
condolence of the world."
"No squaw _so_ good as ole one--she, all heart--love every body,
This was so characteristic of his mother, that Willoughby was startled
by the sagacity of the savage, though reflection told him so long an
acquaintance with the family must have made a dog familiar with this
beautiful trait in his mother.
"And my father, Nick!" exclaimed the major, with feeling--"my noble,
just, liberal, gallant father!--He, too, you knew well, and must have
"No so good as squaw," answered the Tuscarora, sententiously, and not
altogether without disgust in his manner.
"We are seldom as good as our wives, and mothers, and sisters, Nick,
else should we be angels on earth. But, allowing for the infirmities of
us men, my father was just and gocd."
"Too much flog"--answered the savage, sternly--"make Injin's back
This extraordinary speech struck the major less, at the time, than it
did, years afterwards, when he came to reflect on all the events and
dialogues of this teeming week. Such was also the case as to what
"You are no flatterer, Tuscarora, as I have always found in our
intercourse. If my father ever punished you with severity, you will
allow, me, at least, to imagine it was merited."
"Too much flog, I say," interrupted the savage, fiercely. "No
difference, chief or not. Touch ole sore too rough. Good, some; bad,
some. Like weather--now shine; now storm."
"This is no time to discuss these points, Nick. You have fought nobly
for us, and I thank you. Without your aid, these beloved ones would
have been mutilated, as well as slain; and Maud--my own blessed Maud--
might now have been sleeping at their sides."
Nick's face was now all softness again, and he returned the pressure of
Willoughby's hand with honest fervor. Here they separated. The major
hastened to the side of Maud, to fold her to his heart, and console her
with his love. Nick passed into the forest, returning no more to the
Hut. His path led him near the grave. On the side where lay the body of
Mrs. Willoughby, he threw a flower he had plucked in the meadow; while
he shook his finger menacingly at the other, which hid the person of
his enemy. In this, he was true to his nature, which taught him never
to forget a favour, or forgive an injury.
"I shall go on through all eternity,
Thank God, I only am an embryo still:
The small beginning of a glorious soul,
An atom that shall fill immensity."
A fortnight elapsed ere Willoughby and his party could tear themselves
from a scene that had witnessed so much domestic happiness; but on
which had fallen the blight of death. During that time, the future
arrangements of the survivors were completed. Beekman was made
acquainted with the state of feeling that existed between his brother-
in-law and Maud, and he advised an immediate union.
"Be happy while you can," he said, with bitter emphasis. "We live in
troubled times, and heaven knows when we shall see better. Maud has not
a blood-relation in all America, unless there may happen to be some in
the British army. Though we should all be happy to protect and cherish
the dear girl, she herself would probably, prefer to be near those whom
nature has appointed her friends. To me, she will always seem a sister,
as you must ever be a brother. By uniting yourselves at once, all
appearances of impropriety will be avoided; and in time, God averting
evil, you can introduce your wife to her English connections."
"You forget, Beekman, that you are giving this advice to one who is a
prisoner on parole, and one who may possibly be treated as a spy."
"No--that is impossible. Schuyler, our noble commander, is both just
and a gentleman. He will tolerate nothing of the sort. Your exchange
can easily be effected, and, beyond your present difficulties, I can
pledge myself to be able to protect you."
Willoughby was not averse to following this advice; and he urged it
upon Maud, as the safest and most prudent course they could pursue. Our
heroine, however, was so reluctant even to assuming the appearance of
happiness, so recently after the losses she had experienced, that the
lover's task of persuasion was by no means easy. Maud was totally free
from affectation, while she possessed the keenest sense of womanly
propriety. Her intercourse with Robert Willoughby had been of the
tenderest and most confidential nature, above every pretence of
concealment, and was rendered sacred by the scenes through which they
had passed. Her love, her passionate, engrossing attachment, she did
not scruple to avow; but she could not become a bride while the stains
of blood seemed so recent on the very hearth around which they were
sitting. She still saw the forms of the dead, in their customary
places, heard their laughs, the tones of their affectionate voices, the
maternal whisper, the playful, paternal reproof, or Beulah's gentle
"Yet, Robert," said Maud, for she could now call him by that name, and
drop the desperate familiarity of 'Bob,'--"yet, Robert, there would be
a melancholy satisfaction in making our vows at the altar of the little
chapel, where we have so often worshipped together--the loved ones who
are gone and we who alone remain."
"True, dearest Maud; and there is another reason why we should quit
this place only as man and wife. Beekman has owned that a question will
probably be raised among the authorities at Albany concerning the
nature of my visit here. It might relieve him from an appeal to more
influence than would be altogether pleasant, did I appear as a
bridegroom rather than as a spy."
The word "spy" settled the matter. All ordinary considerations were
lost sight of, under the apprehensions it created, and Maud frankly
consented to become a wife that very day. The ceremony was performed by
Mr. Woods accordingly, and the little chapel witnessed tears of bitter
recollections mingling with the smiles with which the bride received
the warm embrace of her husband, after the benediction was pronounced.
Still, all felt that, under the circumstances, delay would have been
unwise. Maud saw a species of holy solemnity in a ceremony so closely
connected with scenes so sad.
A day or two after the marriage, all that remained of those who had so
lately crowded the Hut, left the valley together. The valuables were
packed and transported to boats lying in the stream below the mills.
All the cattle, hogs, &c., were collected and driven towards the
settlements; and horses were prepared for Maud and the females, who
were to thread the path that led to Fort Stanwix. In a word, the Knoll
was to be abandoned, as a spot unfit to be occupied in such a war. None
but labourers, indeed, could, or would remain, and Beekman thought it
wisest to leave the spot entirely to nature, for the few succeeding
There had been some rumours of confiscations by the new state, and
Willoughby had come to the conclusion that it would be safer to
transfer this property to one who would be certain to escape such an
infliction, than to retain it in his own hands. Little Evert was
entitled to receive a portion of the captain's estate by justice, if
not by law. No will had been found, and the son succeeded as heir-at-
law. A deed was accordingly drawn up by Mr. Woods, who understood such
matters, and being duly executed, the Beaver Dam property was vested in
fee in the child. His own thirty thousand pounds, the personals he
inherited from his mother, and Maud's fortune, to say nothing of the
major's commission, formed an ample support for the new-married pair.
When all was settled, and made productive, indeed, Willoughby found
himself the master of between three and four thousand sterling a year,
exclusively of his allowances from the British government, an ample
fortune for that day. In looking over the accounts of Maud's fortune,
he had reason to admire the rigid justice, and free-handed liberality
with which his father had managed her affairs. Every farthing of her
income had been transferred to capital, a long minority nearly doubling
the original investment. Unknown to himself, he had married one of the
largest heiresses then to be found in the American colonies. This was
unknown to Maud, also; though it gave her great delight on her
husband's account, when she came to learn the truth.
Albany was reached in due time, though not without encountering the
usual difficulties. Here the party separated. The remaining Plinys and
Smashes were all liberated, handsome provisions made for their little
wants, and good places found for them, in the connection of the family
to which they had originally belonged. Mike announced his determination
to enter a corps that was intended expressly to fight the Indians. He
had a long score to settle, and having no wife or children, he thought
he might amuse himself in this way, during a revolution, as well as in
"If yer honour was going anywhere near the county Leitrim," he said, in
answer to Willoughby's offer to keep him near himself, "I might travel
in company; seein' that a man likes to look on ould faces, now and
then. Many thanks for this bag of gold, which will sarve to buy scalps
wid'; for divil bur-r-n me, if I don't carry on _that_ trade, for
some time to come. T'ree cuts wid a knife, half a dozen pokes in the
side, and a bullet scraping; the head, makes a man mindful of what has
happened; to say nothing of the captain, and Madam Willoughby, and Miss
Beuly--God for ever bless and presarve 'em all t'ree--and, if there was
such a thing as a bit of a church in this counthry, wouldn't I use this
gould for masses?--_dat_ I would, and let the scalps go to the
This was an epitome of the views of Michael O'Hearn. No arguments of
Willoughby's could change his resolution; but he set forth, determined
to illustrate his career by procuring as many Indian scalps, as an
atonement for the wrongs done "Madam Willoughby and Miss Beuly," as
came within his reach.
"And you, Joyce," said the major, in an interview he had with the
serjeant, shortly after reaching Albany; "I trust _we_ are not to
part. Thanks to Colonel Beekman's influence and zeal, I am already
exchanged, and shall repair to New York next week. You are a soldier;
and these are times in which a _good_ soldier is of some account.
I think I can safely promise you a commission in one of the new
provincial regiments, about to be raised."
"I thank your honour, but do not feel at liberty to accept the offer. I
took service with Captain Willoughby for life; had he lived, I would
have followed wherever he led. But that enlistment has expired; and I
am now like a recruit before he takes the bounty. In such cases, a man
has always a right to pick his corps. Politics I do not much
understand; but when the question comes up of pulling a trigger
_for_ or _against_ his country, an _unengaged_ man has a
right to choose. Between the two, meaning no reproach to yourself,
Major Willoughby, who had regularly taken service with the other side,
before the war began--but, between the two, I would rather fight an
Englishman, than an American."
"You may possibly be right, Joyce; though, as you say, my service is
taken. I hope you follow the dictates of conscience, as I am certain I
do myself. We shall never meet in arms, however, if I can prevent it.
There is a negotiation for a lieutenant-colonelcy going on, which, if
it succeed, will carry me to England. I shall never serve an hour
longer against these colonies, if it be in my power to avoid it."
"_States_, with your permission, Major Willoughby," answered the
serjeant, a little stiffly. "I am glad to hear it, sir; for, though I
wish my enemies good soldiers, I would rather not have the son of my
old captain among them. Colonel Beekman has offered to make me
serjeant-major of his own regiment; and we both of us join next week."
Joyce was as good as his word. He became serjeant-major, and, in the
end, lieutenant and adjutant of the regiment he had mentioned. He
fought in most of the principal battles of the war, and retired at the
peace, with an excellent character. Ten years later, he fell, in one of
the murderous Indian affairs, that occurred during the first
oresidential term, a grey-headed captain of foot. The manner of his
death was not to be regretted, perhaps, as it was what he had always
wished might happen; but, it was a singular fact, that Mike stood over
his body, and protected it from mutilation; the County Leitrim-man
having turned soldier by trade, re-enlisting regularly, as soon as at
liberty, and laying up scalps on all suitable occasions.
Blodget, too, had followed Joyce to the wars. The readiness and
intelligence of this young man, united to a courage of proof, soon
brought him forward, and he actually came out of the revolution a
captain. His mind, manners and information advancing with himself, he
ended his career, not many years since, a prominent politician in one
of the new states; a general in the militia--no great preferment, by
the way, for one who had been a corporal at the Hut--and a legislator.
Worse men have often acted in all these capacities among us; and it was
said, with truth, at the funeral of General Blodget, an accident that
does not always occur on such occasions, that "another revolutionary
hero is gone." Beekman was never seen to smile, from the moment he
first beheld the dead body of Beulah, lying with little Evert in her
arms. He served faithfully until near the close of the war, falling in
battle only a few months previously to the peace. His boy preceded him
to the grave, leaving, as confiscations had gone out of fashion by that
time, his uncle heir-at-law, again, to the same property that he had
conferred on himself.
As for Willoughby and Maud, they were safely conveyed to New York,
where the former rejoined his regiment. Our heroine here met her great-
uncle, General Meredith, the first of her own blood relations whom she
had seen since infancy. Her reception was grateful to her feelings;
and, there being a resemblance in years, appearance and manners, she
transferred much of that affection which she had thought interred for
ever in the grave of her reputed father, to this revered relative. He
became much attached to his lovely niece, himself; and, ten years
later, Willoughby found his income quite doubled, by his decease.
At the expiration of six months, the gazette that arrived from England,
announced the promotion of "Sir Robert Willoughby, Bart., late major in
the ---th, to be lieutenant colonel, by purchase, in His Majesty's
---th regiment of foot." This enabled Willoughby to quit America; to
which quarter of the world he had no occasion to be sent during the
remainder of the war.
Of that war, itself, there is little occasion to speak. Its progress
and termination have long been matters of history. The independence of
America was acknowledged by England in 1783; and, immediately after,
the republicans commenced the conquest of their wide-spread domains, by
means of the arts of peace. In 1785, the first great assaults were made
on the wilderness, in that mountainous region which has been the
principal scene of our tale. The Indians had been driven off, in a
great measure, by the events of the revolution; and the owners of
estates, granted under the crown, began to search for their lands in
the untenanted woods. Such isolated families, too, as had taken refuge
in the settlements, now began to return to their deserted possessions;
and soon the smokes of clearings were obscuring the sun. Whitestown,
Utica, on the site of old Fort Stanwix, Cooperstown, for years the seat
of justice for several thousand square miles of territory, all sprang
into existence between the years 1785 and 1790. Such places as Oxford,
Binghamton, Norwich, Sherburne, Hamilton, and twenty more, that now dot
the region of which we have been writing, did not then exist, even in
name; for, in that day, the appellation and maps came after the place;
whereas, now, the former precede the last.
The ten years that elapsed between 1785 and 1795, did wonders for all
this mountain district. More favourable lands lay spread in the great
west, but the want of roads, and remoteness from the markets, prevented
their occupation. For several years, therefore, the current of
emigration which started out of the eastern states, the instant peace
was proclaimed, poured its tide into the counties mentioned in our
opening chapter--_counties_ as they are to-day; _county_ ay,
and fragment of a county, too, as they were then.
The New York Gazette, a journal that frequently related facts that
actually occurred, announced in its number of June 11th, 1795, "His
Majesty's Packet that has just arrived"--it required half a century to
teach the journalists of this country the propriety of saying "His
_Britannic_ Majesty's Packet," instead of "His Majesty's," a bit of
good taste, and of good sense, that many of them have yet to
learn--"has brought _out_," _home_ would have been better
"among her passengers, Lieutenant-General Sir Robert Willoughby, and
his lady, both of whom are natives of this state. We welcome them back
to their land of nativity where we can assure them they will be
cordially received notwithstanding old quarrels. _Major_
Willoughby's kindness to American prisoners is gratefully remembered;
nor is it forgotten that he desired to exchange to another regiment in
order to avoid further service in this country."
It will be conceded, this was a very respectable puff for the year
1795, when something like moderation, truth, and propriety were
observed upon such occasions. The effect was to bring the English
general's name into the mouths of the whole state; a baronet causing a
greater sensation then, in America, than a duke would produce to-day.
It had the effect, however, of bringing around General Willoughby many
of his father's, and his own old friends, and he was as well received
in New York, twelve years after the termination of the conflict, as if
he had fought on the other side. The occurrence of the French
revolution, and the spread of doctrines that were termed Jacobinical,
early removed all the dissensions between a large portion of the whigs
of America and the tories of England, on this side of the water at
least; and Providence only can tell what might have been the
consequences, had this feeling been thoroughly understood on the other.
Passing over all political questions, however, our narrative calls us
to the relation of its closing scene. The visit of Sir Robert and Lady
Willoughby to the land of their birth was, in part, owing to feeling;
in part, to a proper regard for the future provision of their children.
The baronet had bought the ancient paternal estate of his family in
England, and having two daughters, besides an only son, it occurred to
him that the American property, called the Hutted Knoll, might prove a
timely addition to the ready money he had been able to lay up from his
income. Then, both he and his wife had a deep desire to revisit those
scenes where they had first learned to love each other, and which still
held the remains of so many who were dear to them.
The cabin of a suitable sloop was therefore engaged, and the party,
consisting of Sir Robert, his wife, a man and woman servant, and a sort
of American courier, engaged for the trip, embarked on the morning of
the 25th of July. On the afternoon of the 30th, the sloop arrived in
safety at Albany, where a carriage was hired to proceed the remainder
of the way by land. The route by old Fort Stanwix, as Utica was still
generally called, was taken. Our travellers reached it on the evening
of the third day; the 'Sands, which are now traversed in less than an
hour, then occupying more than half of the first day. When at Fort
Stanwix, a passable country road was found, by which the travellers
journeyed until they reached a tavern that united many of the comforts
of a coarse civilisation, with frontier simplicity. Here they were
given to understand they had only a dozen miles to go, in order to
reach the Knoll.
It was necessary to make the remainder of the journey on horseback. A
large, untenanted estate lay between the highway and the valley, across
which no public road had yet been made. Foot-paths, however, abounded,
and the rivulet was found without any difficulty. It was, perhaps,
fortunate for the privacy of the Knoll, that it lay in the line of no
frequented route, and, squatters being rare in that day, Willoughby
saw, the instant he struck the path that followed the sinuosities of
the stream, that it had been seldom trodden in the interval of the
nineteen-years which had occurred since he had last seen it himself.
The evidences of this fact increased, as the stream was ascended, until
the travellers reached the mill, when it was found that the spirit of
destruction, which so widely prevails in the loose state of society
that exists in all new countries, had been at work. Every one of the
buildings at the falls had been burnt; probably as much because it was
in the power of some reckless wanderer to work mischief, as for any
other reason. That the act was the result of some momentary impulse,
was evident in the circumstance that the mischief went no further. Some
of the machinery had been carried away, however, to be set up in other
places, on a principle that is very widely extended through all border
settlements, which considers the temporary disuse of property as its
It was a moment of pain and pleasure, strangely mingled, when
Willoughby and Maud reached the rocks, and got a first view of the
ancient Beaver Dam. All the buildings remained, surprisingly little
altered to the eye by the lapse of years. The gates had been secured
when they left the place, in 1776; and the Hut, having no accessible
external windows, that dwelling remained positively intact. It is true,
quite half the palisadoes were rotted down; but the Hut, itself, had
resisted the ravages of time. A fire had been kindled against its side,
but the stone walls had opposed an obstacle to its ravages; and an
attempt, by throwing a brand upon the roof, had failed of its object,
the shingles not igniting. On examination, the lock of the inner gate
was still secure. The key had been found, and, on its application, an
entrance was obtained into the court.
What a moment was that, when Maud, fresh from the luxuries of an
English home, entered this long and well remembered scene of her youth!
Rank grasses were growing in the court, but they soon disappeared
before the scythes that had been brought, in expectation of the
circumstance. Then, all was clear for an examination of the house. The
Hut was exactly in the condition in which it had been left, with the
exception of a little, and a very little, dust collected by time.
Maud was still in the bloom of womanhood, feminine, beautiful, full of
feeling, and as sincere as when she left these woods, though her
feelings were tempered a little by intercourse with the world. She went
from room to room, hanging on Willoughby's arm, forbidding any to
follow. All the common furniture had been left in the house, in
expectation it would be inhabited again, ere many years; and this
helped to preserve the identity. The library was almost entire; the
bed-rooms, the parlours, and even the painting-room, were found very
much as they would have appeared, after an absence of a few months.
Tears flowed in streams down the cheeks of Lady Willoughby, as she went
through room after room, and recalled to the mind of her husband the
different events of which they had been the silent witnesses. Thus
passed an hour or two of unutterable tenderness, blended with a species
of holy sorrow. At the end of that time, the attendants, of whom many
had been engaged, had taken possession of the offices, &c., and were
bringing the Hut once more into a habitable condition. Soon, too, a
report was brought that the mowers, who had been brought in
anticipation of their services being wanted, had cut a broad swathe to
the ruins of the chapel, and the graves of the family.
It was now near the setting of the sun, and the hour was favourable for
the melancholy duty that remained. For bidding any to follow,
Willoughby proceeded with Maud to the graves. These had been dug within
a little thicket of shrubs, planted by poor Jamie Allen, under Maud's
own directions. She had then thought that the spot might one day be
wanted. These bushes, lilacs, and ceringos, had grown to a vast size,
in that rich soil. They completely concealed the space within, an area
of some fifty square feet, from the observation of those without. The
grass had been cut over all, however, and an opening made by the mowers
gave access to the graves. On reaching this opening, Willoughby started
at hearing voices within the inclosure; he was about to reprove the
intruders, when Maud pressed his arm, and whispered--
"Listen, Willoughby--those voices sound strangely to my ears! We have
heard them before."
"I tell ye, Nick--ould Nicky, or Saucy Nick, or whatever's yer name,"
said one within in a strong Irish accent "that Jamie, the mason that
was, is forenent ye, at this minute, under that bit of a sod--and, it's
his honour, and Missus, and Miss Beuly, that is buried here. Och! ye're
a cr'ature, Nick; good at takin' scalps, but ye knows nothin' of
graves; barrin' the quhantity ye've helped to fill."
"Good"--answered the Indian. "Cap'in here; squaw here; darter here.
Where son?--where t'other gal?"
"Here," answered Willoughby, leading Maud within the hedge. "I am
Robert Willoughby, and this is Maud Meredith, my wife."
Mike fairly started; he even showed a disposition to seize a musket
which lay on the grass. As for the Indian, a tree in the forest could
not have stood less unmoved than he was at this unexpected
interruption. Then all four stood in silent admiration, noting the
changes which time had, more or less, wrought in all.
Willoughby was in the pride of manhood. He had served with distinction,
and his countenance and frame both showed it, though neither had
suffered more than was necessary to give him a high military air, and a
look of robust vigour. As for Maud, with her graceful form fully
developed by her riding-habit, her soft lineaments and polished
expression, no one would have thought her more than thirty, which was
ten years less than her real age. With Mike and Nick it was very
different. Both had grown old, not only in fact, but in appearance. The
Irishman was turned of sixty, and his hard, coarse-featured face, burnt
as red as the sun in a fog, by exposure and Santa Cruz, was getting to
be wrinkled and a little emaciated. Still, his frame was robust and
powerful. His attire was none of the best, and it was to be seen at a
glance that it was more than half military. In point of fact, the poor
fellow had been refused a reinlistment in the army, on account of his
infirmities and years, and America was not then a country to provide
retreats for her veterans. Still, Mike had an ample pension for wounds,
and could not be said to be in want. He had suffered in the same battle
with Joyce, in whose company he had actually been corporal O'Hearn,
though his gallant commander had not risen to fight again, as had been
the case with the subordinate.
Wyandotte exhibited still greater changes. He had seen his threescore
and ten years; and was fast falling into the "sere and yellow leaf."
His hair was getting grey, and his frame, though still active and
sinewy, would have yielded under the extraordinary marches he had once
made. In dress, there was nothing to remark; his ordinary Indian attire
being in as good condition as was usual for the man. Willoughby
thought, however, that his eye was less wild than when he knew him
before; and every symptom of intemperance had vanished, not only from
his countenance, but his person.
From the moment Willoughby appeared, a marked change came over the
countenance of Nick. His dark eye, which still retained much of its
brightness, turned in the direction of the neighbouring chapel, and he
seemed relieved when a rustling in the bushes announced a footstep.
There had not been another word spoken when the lilacs were shoved
aside, and Mr. Woods, a vigorous little man, in a green old age,
entered the area. Willoughby had not seen the chaplain since they
parted at Albany, and the greetings were as warm as they were
"I have lived a sort of hermit's life, my dear Bob, since the death of
your blessed parents," said the divine, clearing his eyes of tears;
"now and then cheered by a precious letter from yourself and Maud--I
call you both by the names I gave you both in baptism--and it was, 'I,
_Maud_, take thee, _Robert_,' when you stood before the
altar in that little edifice--you will pardon me if I am too familiar
with a general officer and his lady"
"Familiar!" exclaimed both in a breath;--and Maud's soft, white hand
was extended towards the chaplain, with reproachful earnestness;--"We,
who were made Christians by you, and who have so much reason to
remember and love you always!"
"Well, well; I see you are Robert and Maud, still"--dashing streaming
tears from his eyes now. "Yes, I did bring you both into God's visible
church on earth, and you were baptised by one who received his
ordination from the Archbishop of Canterbury himself,"--Maud smiled a
little archly--"and who has never forgotten his ordination vows, as he
humbly trusts. But you are not the only Christians I have made--I now
rank Nicholas among the number"--
"Nick!" interrupted Sir Robert--"Wyandotte!" added his wife, with a
more delicate tact.
"I call him Nicholas, now, since he was christened by that name--there
is no longer a Wyandotte, or a Saucy Nick. Major Willoughby, I have a
secret to communicate--I beg pardon, Sir Robert--but you will excuse
old habits--if you will walk this way."
Willoughby was apart with the chaplain a full half-hour, during which
time Maud wept over the graves, the rest standing by in respectful
silence. As for Nick, a stone could scarcely have been more fixed than
his attitude. Nevertheless, his mien was rebuked, his eye downcast;
even his bosom was singularly convulsed. He knew that the chaplain was
communicating to Willoughby the manner in which he had slain his
father. At length, the gentlemen returned slowly towards the graves;
the general agitated, frowning, and flushed. As for Mr. Woods, he was
placid and full of hope. Willoughby had yielded to his expostulations
and arguments a forgiveness, which came reluctantly, and perhaps as
much for the want of a suitable object for retaliation, as from a sense
of Christian duty.
"Nicholas," said the chaplain, "I have told the general all."
"He know him!" cried the Indian, with startling energy.
"I do, Wyandotte; and sorry have I been to learn it. You have made my
Nick was terribly agitated. His youthful and former opinions maintained
a fearful struggle with those which had come late in life; the result
being a wild admixture of his sense of Indian justice, and submission
to the tenets of his new, and imperfectly-comprehended faith. For a
moment, the first prevailed. Advancing, with a firm step, to the
general, he put his own bright and keen tomahawk into the other's
hands, folded his arms on his bosom, bowed his head a little, and said,
"Strike--Nick kill cap'in--Major kill Nick."
"No, Tuscarora, no," answered Sir Robert Willoughby, his whole soul
yielding before this act of humble submission--"May God in heaven
forgive the deed, as I now forgive you."
There was a wild smile gleaming on the face of the Indian; he grasped
both hands of Willoughby in his own. He then muttered the words, "God
forgive," his eye rolled upward at the clouds, and he fell dead on the
grave of his victim. It was thought, afterwards, that agitation had
accelerated the crisis of an incurable affection of the heart.
A few minutes of confusion followed. Then Mike, bare-headed, his old
face flushed and angry, dragged from his pockets a string of strange-
looking, hideous objects, and laid them by the Indian's side. They were
human scalps, collected by himself, in the course of many campaigns,
and brought, as a species of hecatomb, to the graves of the fallen.
"Out upon ye, Nick!" he cried. "Had I known the like of that, little
would I have campaigned in yer company! Och! 'twas an undacent deed,
and a hundred confessions would barely wipe it from yer sowl. It's a
pity, too, that ye've died widout absolution from a praist, sich as
I've tould ye off. Barrin' the brache of good fellieship, I could have
placed yer own scalp wid the rest, as a p'ace-offering, to his Honour,
the Missus and Miss Beuly----"
"Enough," interrupted Sir Robert Willoughby, with an authority of
manner that Mike's military habits could not resist; "the man has
repented, and is forgiven. Maud, love, it is time to quit this
melancholy scene; occasions will offer to revisit it."
In the end, Mr. Woods took possession of the Hut, as a sort of
hermitage, in which to spend the remainder of his days. He had toiled
hard for the conversion of Nick, in gratitude for the manner in which
he had fought in defence of the females. He now felt as keen a desire
to rescue the Irishman from the superstitions of what he deemed an
error quite as fatal as heathenism. Mike consented to pass the
remainder of his days at the Knoll, which was to be, and in time,
_was_, renovated, under their joint care.
Sir Robert and Lady Willoughby passed a month in the valley. Nick had
been buried within the bushes; and even Maud had come to look upon this
strange conjunction of graves, with the eye of a Christian, blended
with the tender regrets of a woman. The day that the general and his
wife left the valley for ever, they paid a final visit to the graves.
Here Maud wept for an hour. Then her husband, passing an arm around her
waist, drew her gently away; saying, as they were quitting the
"They are in Heaven, dearest--looking down in love, quite likely, on
us, the objects of so much of their earthly affection. As for
Wyandotte, he lived according to his habits and intelligence, and
happily died under the convictions of a conscience directed by the
lights of divine grace. Little will the deeds of this life be
remembered, among those who have been the true subjects of its blessed
influence. If this man were unmerciful in his revenge, he also
remembered my mother's kindnesses, and bled for her and her daughters.
Without his care, my life would have remained unblessed with your love,
my ever-precious Maud! He never forgot a favour, or forgave an injury."
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