The Littlepage Manuscripts, V2
by James Fenimore Cooper
Dans. "Ye boys who pluck the flowers, and spoil the spring,
Beware the secret snake that shoots a sting."
For the first half hour after I left Ursula Malbone's hut, I was
literally unconscious of whither I was going, or of what I was about.
I can recollect nothing but having passed quite near to the Onondago,
who appeared desirous of speaking to me, but whom I avoided by a
species of instinct rather than with any design. In fact, fatigue
first brought me fairly to my senses. I had wandered miles and miles,
plunging deeper and deeper into the wilds of the forest, and this
without any aim, or any knowledge of even the direction in which I was
going. Night soon came to cast its shadows on the earth, and my
uncertain course was held amid the gloom of the hour, united to those
of the woods. I had wearied myself by rapid walking over the uneven
surface of the forest, and finally threw myself on the trunk of a
fallen tree, willing to take some repose.
At first, I thought of nothing, felt for nothing but the unwelcome
circumstance that the faith of Dus was plighted to another. Had I
fallen in love with Priscilla Bayard, such an announcement could not
have occasioned the same surprise; for she lived in the world,
met with men of suitable educations, conditions and opinions, and
might be supposed to have been brought within the influence of the
attentions and sympathies that are wont to awaken tenderness in the
female breast. With Dus, it had been very different: she had gone
from the forest to the school, and returned from the school to the
forest. It was true, that her brother, while a soldier, might have had
some friend who admired Ursula, and whose admiration awakened her
youthful sympathies; but this was only a remote probability, and I was
left burthened with a load of doubt as respected even the character
and position of my rival.
"At any rate, he must be poor," I said to myself, the moment I was
capable of reflecting coolly on the subject, "or he would never have
left Dus in that hut, to pass her youth amid chainbearers and the
other rude beings of a frontier. If I cannot obtain her love, I may at
least contribute to her happiness by using those means which a kind
Providence has bestowed, and enabling her to marry at once." For a
little while I fancied my own misery would be lessened, could I only
see Dus married and happy. This feeling did not last long, however;
though I trust the desire to see her happy remained after I became
keenly conscious it would require much time to enable me to look on
such a spectacle with composure. Nevertheless, the first tranquil
moment, the first relieving sensation I experienced, was from the
conviction I felt that Providence had placed it in my power to cause
Ursula and the man of her choice to be united. This recollection gave
me even a positive pleasure for a little while, and I ruminated on the
means of effecting it, literally for hours. I was still thinking of
it, indeed, when I threw myself on the fallen tree, where weariness
caused me to fall into a troubled sleep, that lasted, with more or
less of forgetfulness, several hours. The place I had chosen on the
tree was among its branches, on which the leaves were still hanging,
and it was not without its conveniences.
When I awoke, it was day-light; or, such a day-light as penetrates
the forest ere the sun has risen. At first I felt stiff and sore from
the hardness of my bed; but, on changing my attitude and sitting up,
these sensations soon wore off, leaving me refreshed and calm. To my
great surprise, however, I found that a small, light blanket, such as
woodmen use in summer, had been thrown over me, to the genial warmth
of which I was probably indebted more than I then knew myself. This
circumstance alarmed me at first, since it was obvious the blanket
could not have come there without hands; though a moment's reflection
satisfied me that the throwing it over me, under the circumstances,
must have been the act of a friend. I arose, however to my feet,
walked along the trunk of the tree until clear of its branches, and
looked about me with a lively desire to ascertain who this secret
friend might be.
The place was like any other in the solitude of the forest. There
were the usual array of the trunks of stately trees, the leafy canopy,
the dark shadows, the long vistas, the brown and broken surface of the
earth, and the damp coolness of the boundless woods. A fine spring
broke out of a hill-side, quite near me, and looking further, with the
intention to approach and use its water, the mystery of the blanket
was at once explained. I saw the form of the Onondago, motionless as
one of the trees which grew around him, leaning on his rifle, and
seemingly gazing at some object that lay at his feet. In a minute I
was at his side, when I discovered that he was standing over a human
skeleton! This was a strange and startling object to meet in the
depth of the woods! Man was of so little account, was so seldom seen
in the virgin wilds of America, that one naturally felt more shocked
at finding such a memorial of his presence, in a place like that, than
would have been the case had he stumbled on it amid peopled districts.
As for the Indian, he gazed at the bones so intently that he either
did not hear, or he totally disregarded my approach. I touched him
with a finger before he even looked up. Glad of any excuse to avoid
explanation of my own conduct, I eagerly seized the occasion offered
by a sight so unusual, to speak of other things.
"This has been a violent death, Sureflint," I said; "else the body
would not have been left unburied. The man has been killed in some
quarrel of the red warriors."
"Was bury," answered the Indian, without manifesting the
least surprise at my touch, or at the sound of my voice. "Dere, see
grave? 'Arth wash away, and bones come out. Nuttin' else. Know
he bury, for help bury, myself."
"Do you, then, know anything of this unhappy man, and of the cause
of his death?"
"Sartain; know all 'bout him. Kill in ole French war. Fader here;
and colonel Follock; Jaap, too. Huron kill 'em all; afterward, we flog
Huron. Yes, dat ole story now!"
"I have heard something of this! This must have been the spot,
then, where one Traverse, a surveyor, was set upon by the enemy, and
was slain, with his chainbearers and axe-men. My father and his
friends did find the bodies and bury them, after a fashion."
"Sartain; just so; poor bury, d'ough, else he nebber come out of
groun'. Dese bones of surveyor; know 'em well: hab one leg broke,
once. Dere; you see mark."
"Shall we dig a new grave, Susquesus, and bury the remains again?"
"Best not, now. Chainbearer mean do dat. Be here by-'m-bye. Got
somet'ing else t'ink of now. You own all land 'bout here, so no need
be in hurry."
"I suppose that my father and colonel Follock do. These men were
slain on the estate, while running out its great lots. I think I have
heard they had not near finished their work in this quarter of the
patent, which was abandoned on account of the troubles of that day."
"Just so; who own mill, here, den?"
"There is no mill near us, Susquesus;
can be no mill, as not
an acre of the Ridge property has ever been sold or leased."
"May be so—mill dough—not far off, needer. Know mill when hear
him. Saw talk loud."
"You surely do not hear the saw of a mill now, my friend. I can
hear nothing like one."
"No hear, now; dat true. But hear him in night. Ear good, in
night—hear great way off."
"You are right enough, there, Susquesus. And you fancied you heard
the stroke of a saw, from this place, during the quiet and heavy air
of the past night?"
"Sartain — know well; hear him plain enough. Isn't mile off. Out
here; find him dere."
This was still more startling than the discovery of the skeleton. I
had a rough, general map of the patent in my pocket; and, on
examination, I found a mill-stream was laid down on it, quite
near the spot where we stood. The appearance of the woods, and the
formation of the land, moreover, favoured the idea of the proximity of
a mill. Pine was plenty, and the hills were beginning to swell into
something resembling mountains.
Fasting, and the exercise I had taken, had given me a keen
appetite; and, in one sense at least, I was not sorry to believe that
human habitations were near. Did any persons dwell in that forest,
they were squatters, but I did not feel much personal apprehension in
encountering such men; especially when my only present object was to
ask for food. The erecting of a mill denoted a decided demonstration,
it is true, and a little reflection might have told me that its
occupants would not be delighted by a sudden visit from the
representative of the owners of the soil. On the other hand, however,
the huts were long miles away, and neither Sureflint nor I had the
smallest article of food about us. Both were hungry, though the
Onondago professed indifference to the feeling, an unconcern I could
not share with him, owing to habits of greater self-indulgence. Then I
had a strong wish to solve this mystery of the mill, in addition to a
feverish desire to awaken within me some new excitement, as a
counterpoise to that I still keenly felt in behalf of my disappointed
Did I not so well understand the character of my companion, and the
great accuracy of Indian senses, I might have hesitated about going on
what seemed to be a fool's errand. But circumstances, that were then
of recent origin, existed to give some countenance to the conjecture
of Sureflint, if conjecture his precise knowledge could be called.
Originally, New York claimed the Connecticut for a part of its eastern
boundary, but large bodies of settlers had crossed that stream, coming
mainly from the adjacent colony of New Hampshire, and these persons
had become formidable by their positions and numbers, some time
anterior to the Revolution. During that struggle, these hardy
mountaineers had manifested a spirit favourable to the colonies, in
the main, though every indication of an intention to settle their
claims was met by a disposition to declare themselves neutral. In a
word, they were sufficiently patriotic, if left to do as they pleased
in the matter of their possessions, but not sufficiently so to submit
to the regular administration of the law. About the close of the war,
the leaders of this self-created colony were more than suspected of
coquetting with the English authorities; not that they preferred the
government of the crown, or any other control, to their own, but
because the times were favourable to playing off their neutrality, in
this manner, as a means of securing themselves in the possession of
lands to which their titles, in the ordinary way, admitted of a good
deal of dispute, to say the least. The difficulty was by no means
disposed of by the peace of '83; but the counties, that were then
equally known by the name of Vermont, and that of the Hampshire
Grants, were existing, in one sense, as a people apart, not yet
acknowledging the power of the confederacy; nor did they come into the
union, under the constitution of 1789, until all around them had done
so, and the last spark of opposition to the new system had been
It is a principle of moral, as well as of physical nature, that
like should produce like. The right ever vindicates itself, in the
process of events, and the sins of the fathers are visited upon the
children, even to the third and fourth generations, in their
melancholy consequences. It was impossible that an example of such a
wrong could be successfully exhibited on a large scale, without
producing its deluded imitators, on another that was better suited to
the rapacity of individual longings. It is probable Vermont has sent
out, among us, two squatters, and otherwise lawless intruders on our
vacant lands, to one of any other of the adjoining States, counting
all in proportion to their whole numbers. I knew that the county of
Charlotte, as Washington was then called, was peculiarly exposed to
inroads of this nature; and did not feel much surprise at this
prospect of meeting with some of the fruits of the seed that had been
so profusely scattered along the sides of the Green Mountains. Come
what would, however, I was determined to ascertain the facts, as soon
as possible, with the double purpose of satisfying both hunger and
curiosity. As for the Indian, he was passive, yielding to my decision
altogether as a matter of course.
"Since you think there is a mill, out here, west of us, Sureflint,"
I observed, after turning the matter over in my mind, "I will go and
search for it, if you will bear me company. You think you can find it,
I trust, knowing the direction in which it stands?"
"Sartain—find him easy 'nough. Find stream first— den find
mill. Got ear—got eye—no hard to find him. Hear saw 'fore
I acquiesced, and made a sign for my companion to proceed.
Susquesus was a man of action, and not of words; and, in a minute, he
was leading the way towards a spot in the woods that looked as if it
might contain the bed of the stream that was known to exist somewhere
near by, since it was laid down on the map.
The sort of instinct possessed by the Trackless, enabled him soon
to find this little river. It was full of water, and had a gentle
current; a fact that the Indian immediately interpreted into a sign
that the mill must be above us, since the dam would have checked the
course of the water, had we been above that. Turning up stream,
then, my companion moved on, with the same silent industry as he would
have trotted along the path that led to his own wigwam, had he been
We had not been on the banks of the stream five minutes, before the
Trackless came to a dead halt; like one who had met an unexpected
obstacle. I was soon at his side, curious to know the motive of this
"Soon see mill, now," Susquesus said, in answer to an inquiry of
mine. "Board plenty—come down stream fast as want him."
Sure enough, boards
were coming down, in the current of the
river, much faster than one who was interested in the property would
be apt to wish; unless, indeed, he felt certain of obtaining his share
of the amount of sales. These boards were neither in rafts, nor in
cribs; but they came singly, or two or three laid together, as if some
arrangement had been made to arrest them below, before they should
reach any shoals, falls, or rapids. All this looked surprisingly like
a regular manufacture of lumber, with a view to sales in the markets
of the towns on the Hudson. The little stream we were on, was a
tributary of that noble river, and, once in the latter, there would be
no very material physical obstacle to conveying the product of our
hills over the habitable globe.
"This really looks like trade, Sureflint," I said, as soon as
certain that my eyes did not deceive me. "Where there are boards made,
men cannot be far off. Lumber, cut to order, does not grow in
the wilderness, though the material of which it is made, may."
"Mill make him. Know'd mill, when hear him. Talk plain 'nough.
Pale-face make mill, but red-man got ear to hear wit'!"
This was all true enough; and it remained to ascertain what was to
come of it. I will acknowledge, that, when I saw those tell-tale
boards come floating down the winding, little river, I felt a
thrilling of the nerves, as if assured the sight would be succeeded by
some occurrence of importance to myself. I knew that these lawless
lumbermen bore a bad name in the land, and that they were generally
regarded as a set of plunderers, who did not hesitate to defend
themselves and their habits, by such acts of violence and fraud as
they fancied their circumstances justified. It is one evil of crime,
where it penetrates masses, that numbers are enabled to give it a
gloss, and a seeming merit, that unsettle principles; rendering the
false true, in the eyes of the ignorant, and generally placing evil
before good. This is one of the modes in which justice vindicates
itself, under the providence of God; the wrongs committed by
communities re-acting on themselves, in the shape of a demoralization
that soon brings its own merited punishment.
There was little time for speculation or conjecture, however; for,
resuming our march, the next bend in the river brought into view a
reach of the stream in which half a dozen men and lads were at work in
the water, placing the boards in piles of two or three, and setting
them in the current, at points favourable to their floating downwards.
Booms, connected with chains, kept the confused pile in a sort of
basin beneath some low cliffs, on the margin of which stood the
expected mill itself. Here, then, was ocular proof that squatters were
systematically at work, plundering the forests, of which I was in
charge, of their most valuable trees, and setting everything like law
and right at defiance. The circumstances called for great decision,
united with the utmost circumspection. I had gone so far, that pride
would not suffer me to retreat, had not a sense of duty to my father
and colonel Follock, come to increase the determination to go on.
The reader may feel some desire to know how far Dus mingled with my
thoughts, all this time. She was never absolutely out of them, though
the repulse I had met in my affections gaven an impetus to my feelings
that rendered me more than usually disposed to enter on an adventure
of hazard and wildness. If I were naught to Ursula Malbone, it
mattered little what else became of me. This was the sentiment that
was uppermost, and I have thought, ever since, that Susquesus had some
insight into the condition of my feelings, and understood the cause of
the sort of desperation with which I was about to rush on danger. We
were, as yet, quite concealed, ourselves; and the Indian profited by
the circumstance, to hold a council, before we trusted our persons in
the hands of those who might feel it to be their interest to make away
with us, in preference to permitting us ever to see our friends again.
In doing this, however, Sureflint was in no degree influenced by
concern for himself, but solely by a desire to act as became an
experienced warrior, on a very difficult war-path.
"S'pose you know," said Sureflint. "'Em no good men— Varmount
squatter—you t'ink own land—dey tink own land. Carry
rifle and do as please. Best watch him."
"I believe I understand you," Susquesus, and I shall be on my
guard, accordingly. Did you ever see either of those men before?"
"T'ink have. Must meet all sort of men, when he go up and down in
'e wood. Despret squatter, dat ole man, out yonder. Call himself
T'ousandacre — say he alway own t'ousand acre when he have mind to
"The gentleman must be well provided with estates! A thousand acres
will make a very pretty homestead for a wanderer, especially when he
has the privilege of carrying it about with him, in his travels. You
mean the man with grey hairs, I suppose—he who is half dressed in
"Sartain; dat ole T'ousandacre — nebber want land— take him
where he find him. Born over by great salt lake, he say, and been
travel toward setting sun since a boy. Alway help himself —
Hampshire Grant man, dat. But, Major, why he no got right, well
"Because our laws give him no right, while it gives to the owner in
fee, a perfect right. It is one of the conditions of the society in
which we live, that men shall respect each other's property, and this
is not his property, but mine—or, rather, it is the property of my
father and colonel Follock."
"Best not say so, den. No need tell ebbery t'ing. No your land, say
no your land. If he t'ink you spy, p'raps he shoot you, eh? Pale-face
shoot spy; red man t'ink spy good feller!"
"Spies can be shot only in time of war; but war or peace, you do
not think these men will push matters to extremities? They will be
afraid of the law."
"Law!—What law to him?—Nebber see law—don't go near law;
don't know him."
"Well, I shall run the risk, for hunger is quite as active just now
as curiosity and interest. There is no necessity, however, for your
exposing yourself, Sureflint; do you stay behind, and wait for the
result. If I am detained, you can carry the news to Chainbearer, who
will know where to seek me. Stay you here, and let me go on
Sureflint was not to be dropped in this manner. He
nothing, but the moment I began to move, he stepped quietly into his
accustomed place, in advance, and led the way towards the party of
squatters. There were four of these men at work in the river, in
addition to two stout lads and the old leader, who, as I afterwards
ascertained, was very generally known by the sobriquet of
Thousandacres. The last remained on dry land, doubtless imagining that
his years, and his long services in the cause of lawlessness and
social disorganization, entitled him to this small advantage. The
evil one has his privileges, as well as the public.
The first intimation our hosts received of this unexpected visit,
came from the cracking of a dried stick on which I had trodden. The
Indian was not quicker to interpret and observe that well-known sound,
than the old squatter, who turned his head like thought, and at once
saw the Onondago within a rod of the spot where he himself was
standing. I was close on the Indian's heels. At first, neither
surprise nor uneasiness was apparent in the countenance of
Thousandacres. He knew the Trackless, as he called Susquesus, and,
though this was the first visit of the Indian, at that particular
`location,' they had often met in a similar manner before, and
invariably with as little preliminary notice. So far from any thing
unpleasant appearing in the countenance of the squatter, therefore,
Susquesus was greeted with a smile, in which a certain leering
expression of cunning was blended with that of welcome.
"So it 's only you, Trackless," exclaimed ThousandAcres, or,
Thousandacres, as I shall, in future, spell the name — "I didn't
know but it might be a sheriff. Sitch crittur's do get out into the
woods, sometimes, you know; though they don't always get back ag'in.
How come you to find us out, in this cunning spot, Onondago!"
"Hear mill, in night.—Saw got loud tongue. Hungry; so come get
somet'ing to eat."
"Waal, you v'e done wisely, in that partic'lar, for we never have
been better off for vi't'als. Pigeons is as plenty as land; and the
law hasn't got to that pass, yet, as to forbid a body from taking
pigeons, even though it be in another man's stubble. I must keep that
saw better greased, nights; though, I s'p'ose, a'ter all, 't was the
cut of the teeth you heard, and not the rubbing of the plate?"
"Hear him all—saw got loud voice, tell you."
"Yes, there 's natur' in that. Come, we 'll take this path, up to
the house, and see what Miss Thousandacres can do for you. Breakfast
must be ready, by this time; and you, and your fri'nd, behind you,
there, is wilcome to what we have, sitch as it is. Now, as we go
along," continued the squatter, leading the way up the path he had
mentioned— "now, as we go along, you can tell me the news,
Trackless. This is a desp'rate quiet spot; and all the tidings we get
is brought back by the b'ys, when they come up stream, from floating
boards down into the river. A desp'rate sight have we got on hand, and
I hope to hear that matters be going on so well, in Albany, that
boards will bring suthin', soon. It 's high time honest labour met
with its reward."
"Don't know—nebber sell board," answered the Indian— "nebber
buy him. Don't care for board. Powder cheap, now 'e war-path shut up.
Dat good, s'pose you t'ink."
"Waal, Trackless, I kear more for boards than for powder, I must
own; though powder 's useful, too. Yes, yes; a useful thing is powder,
in its way. Venison and bear's meat are both healthy, cheap, food; and
I have eaten catamount. Powder can be used in many ways. Who is
your fri'nd, Trackless?"
"Ole young frien'—know his fader. Live in wood, now, like
us, this summer. Shoot deer like hunter."
`He 's wilcome—he 's heartily wilcome! All 's wilcome to these
parts, but the landlord. You know me, Trackless— you 're well
acquainted with old Thousandacres; and few words is best, among
fri'nds of long standing. But, tell me, Onondago; have you seen
anything of the Chainbearer, and his party of lawless surveyors, in
the woods, this summer? The b'ys brought up an account of his being at
work, somewhere near by, this season, and that he 's at his old
"Sartain, see him. Ole frien', too, Chainbearer. Live wit' him,
afore old French war—like to live with him, when can. Good
man, Chainbearer, tell you, Thousandacres. What trick he do, eh?"
The Indian spoke a little sternly, for he loved Andries too well,
to hear him disrespectfully named, without feeling some sort of
resentment. These men, however, were too much accustomed to plain
dealing in their ordinary discourse, to take serious offence at
trifles; and the amicable sunshine of the dialogue received no serious
interruption from this passing cloud.
"What trick does Chainbearer do, Trackless," answered the
squatter—"a mortal sight of tricks, with them plaguy chains of
his'n! If there warn't no chains and chainbearers, there could be no
surveyors; and, if there warn't no surveyors, there could be no
boundaries to farms but the rifle; which is the best law-maker, and
lawyer, too, that man ever invented. The Indians want no surveyors,
"S'pose he don't. It
be bad to measure land, will own,"
answered the conscientious Susquesus, who would not deny his own
principles, even while he despised and condemned the man who now
asserted them. "Nebber see anyt'ing good in measurin' land."
"Ay, I know'd you was of the true Injin kidney!" exclaimed
Thousandacres, exultingly, "and that's it which makes sich fri'nds of
us squatters and you red-skins. But Chainbearer is at work hard by, is
"Sartain. He measure General Littlepage farm out. Who
"Waal, I do s'pose it 's this same Littlepage, and a desp'rate
rogue all agree in callin' him."
I started at hearing my honoured and honourable father thus alluded
to, and felt a strong disposition to resent the injury; though a
glance from the Indian's eye cautioned me on the subject. I was then
young, and had yet to learn that men were seldom wronged without being
calumniated. I now know that this practice of circulating false
reports of landlords, most especially in relation to their titles, is
very general, taking its rise in the hostile positions that
adventurers are constantly assuming on their estates, in a country as
unsettled and migratory as our own, aided by the common and vulgar
passion of envy. Let a man travel through New York, even at this day,
and lend his ear to the language of the discontented tavern-brawlers,
and he would hardly believe there was such a thing as a good title to
an estate of any magnitude within its borders, or a bad one to the
farm of any occupant in possession. There is among us a set of
declaimers, who come from a state of society in which little
distinction exists in either fortunes or social conditions, and who
are incapable of even seeing, much less of appreciating the vast
differences that are created by habits, opinions, and education, but
who reduce all moral discrepancies to dollars and cents. These men
invariably quarrel with all above them, and, with them, to quarrel is
to calumniate. Leaguing with the disaffected, of whom there always
must be some, especially when men are compelled to pay their debts,
one of their first acts is to assail the title of the landlord, when
there happens to be one in their neighbourhood, by lying and
slandering. There seems to be no exception to the rule, the practice
being resorted to against the oldest as well as against the most
recently granted estates among us. The lie only varies in particulars;
it is equally used against the titles of the old families of Van
Rensselaer, Livingston, Beckman Van Cortlandt, de Lancey, Schuyler,
and others, as against the hundred new names that have sprung up in
what is called the western counties, since the revolution. It is the
lie of the Father of Lies, who varies it to suit circumstances and
believers. "A desp'rate rogue," all agree in calling the man who owns
land that they desire to possess themselves, without being put to the
unpleasant trouble of purchasing and paying for it.
I so far commanded myself, however, as to make no retort for the
injustice done my upright, beloved, and noble-minded father, but left
his defence to the friendly feelings and sterling honesty of Sureflint.
"Not so," answered the Indian sternly. "Big lie—forked tongue
tell dat—know gen'ral—sarve wid him—know him. Good
warrior—honest man—dat lie. Tell him so to face."
"Waal—wa-a-l—I don't know," drawled out Mr. Thousandacres: how
those rascals will "wa-a-l" and "I don't know," when they are cornered
in one of their traducing tales, and are met face to face, as the
Indian now met the squatter! "Wa-a-l, wa-a-l, I don't know, and only
repeat what I have heern say. But, here we be at the cabin,
Trackless; and I see by the smoke that old Prudence and her gals has
been actyve this morning, and we shall soon get suthin' comfortable
for the stomach."
Hereupon, Mr. Thousandacres stopped at a convenient place by the
side of the stream, and commenced washing his face and hands; an
operation that was now performed for the first time that day.
"He stepped before the monarch's chair,
And stood with rustic plainness there,
And little reverence made;
Nor head, nor body, bowed nor bent,
But on the desk his arm he leant,
And words like these he said."
While the squatter was thus occupied in arranging his toilet,
previously to taking his morning meal, I had a moment of leisure to
look about in. We had ascended to the level of the mill, where was an
open, half-cleared space, of some sixty acres in extent, that was
under a rude cultivation. Stubs and stumps abounded, and the fences
were of logs, showing that the occupancy was still of recent date. In
fact, as I afterwards ascertained, Thousandacres, with his family of
hopeful sons and daughters, numbering in all more than twenty souls,
had squatted at that spot just four years before. The mill-seat was
admirable, nature having done for it nearly all that was required,
though the mill itself was as unartificial and make-shift as such a
construction very well could be. Agriculture evidently occupied very
little of the time of the family, which tilled just enough land "to
make a live on't," while everything in the shape of lumber was
"improved" to the utmost. A vast number of noble pines had been
felled, and boards and shingles were to be seen in profusion on every
side. A few of the first were being sent to market, in order to meet
the demands of the moment, in the way of groceries; but, the intention
was to wait for the rise in the little stream, after the fallrains,
in order to send the bulk of the property into the common artery of
the Hudson, and to reap the great reward of the toil of the summer and
I saw, also, that there must be additions to this family, in the
way of marriage, as they occupied no less than five cabins, all of
which were of logs, freshly erected, and had an air of comfort and
stability about them, that one would not have expected to meet where
the title was so flimsy. All this, as I fancied, indicated a design
not to remove very soon. It was probable that some of the oldest of
the sons and daughters were married, and that the patriarch was
already beholding a new generation of squatters springing up about
him. A few of the young men were visible, lounging about the different
cabins, and the mill was sending forth that peculiar, cutting, grating
sound, that had so distinctly attracted the attention of Susquesus,
even in the depths of the forest.
"Walk in, Trackless," cried Thousandacres, in a hearty, free
manner, which proved that what came easily went as freely; "walk in,
fri'nd; I don't know your name, but that 's no great matter, where
there 's enough for all, and a wilcome in the bargain. Here 's the old
woman, ready and willing to sarve you, and looking as smiling as a gal
The last part of this statement, however, was not precisely
accurate. "Miss Thousandacres," as the squatter sometimes
magnificently called his consort, or the dam of his young brood, was
far from receiving us with either smiles or welcomes. A
sharp-featured, keen, grey-eyed old woman, her thoughts were chiefly
bent on the cares of her brood; and her charities extended little
beyond them. She had been the mother of fourteen children herself,
twelve of which survived. All had been born amid the difficulties,
privations and solitudes of stolen abodes in the wilderness. That
woman had endured enough to break down the constitutions and to
destroy the tempers of half a dozen of the ordinary beings of her sex;
yet she survived, the same enduring, hard-working, self-denying,
suffering creature she had been from the day of her bloom and beauty.
These two last words might be supposed to be used in mockery, could
one have seen old Prudence, sallow, attenuated, with sunken cheeks,
hollow, lack-lustre eyes, and broken-mouthed, as I now saw her; but
there were the remains of great beauty, notwithstanding, about
the woman; and I afterwards learned that she had once been among the
fairest of the fair, in her native mountains. In all the intercourse I
subsequently had with her family, the manner of this woman was
anxious, distrustful, watchful, and bore a strong resemblance to that
of the dam that is overseeing the welfare of its cubs. As to her
welcome at the board, it was neither hearty nor otherwise; it being so
much a matter of course for the American to share his meal with the
stranger, that little is said or thought of the boon.
Notwithstanding the size of the family of Thousandacres, the cabin
in which he dwelt was not crowded. The younger children of the
settlement, ranging between the ages of four and twelve, appeared to
be distributed among all the habitations indifferently, putting into
the dishes wherever there was an opening, much as pigs thrust
themselves in at any opening at a trough. The business of eating
commenced simultaneously throughout the whole settlement, Prudence
having blown a blast upon a conch-shell, as the signal. I was too
hungry to lose any time in discourse, and set to, with the most hearty
good will, upon the coarse fare, the moment there was an opportunity.
My example was imi tated by all around our own particular board, it
being the refined and intellectual only, who habitually converse at
their meals. The animal had too great a preponderance among the
squatters, to leave them an exception to the rule.
At length, the common hunger was appeased, and I could see that
those who sat around began to examine me with a little more curiosity
than they had previously manifested. There was nothing in the fashion
of my attire to excite suspicion, perhaps, though I did feel some
little concern on account of its quality. In that day, the social
classes were broadly distinguished by dress, no man even affecting to
assume the wardrobe of a gentleman, without having certain
pretensions to the character. In the woods, however, it was the
custom to throw aside every thing like finery, and I wore the
hunting-shirt already mentioned, as my outer garment. The articles
most likely to betray my station in life were beneath this fortunate
covering, and might escape observation. Then our party was small,
consisting, besides the parents and the two guests, of only one young
man, and one young woman, of about the ages of two and twenty and
sixteen, whom the mother addressed as Zephaniah and Lowiny, the
latter being one of the very common American corruptions of some fine
name taken from a book—Lavinia, quite likely. These two young
persons deported themselves with great modesty at the table, old
Thousandacres and his wife, spite of their lawless lives, having
maintained a good deal of the ancient puritan discipline among their
descendants, in relation to things of this nature. Indeed, I was
struck with the singular contrast between the habitual attention that
was paid by all in the settlement to certain appearances of the sort,
and that certainty which every one must have possessed that they were
living daily in the commission of offences opposed not only to the
laws of the land, but to the common, inherent convictions of right. In
this particular, they exhibited what is often found in life, the
remains of ancient habits and principles, existing in the shape of
habits, long after the substance that had produced them had
"Have you asked these folks about Chainbearer?" said Prudence
abrnptly, as soon as the knives and forks were laid down, and while we
still continued in our seats at the table. "I feel a consarn of mind,
about that man, that I never feel about any other."
"Never fear Chainbearer, woman," answered the husband. "He 's got
his summer's work afore him, without coming near us. By the last
accounts, this young Littlepage, that the old rogue of a father has
sent into the country, has got him out in his own settlement; where he
'll be apt to keep him, I calcerlate, till cold weather sets in. Let
me once get off all the lumber we 've cut, and sell it, and I kear
very little about Chainbearer, or his master."
"This is bold talk, Aaron; but jist remember how often we 've
squatted, and how often we 've been driven to move. I s'pose I 'm
talking afore fri'nds, in sayin' what I do."
"No fear of any here, wife.—Trackless is an old acquaintance, and
has as little relish for law-titles, as any on us; and his
fri'nd is our fri'nd." I confess, that I felt a little
uncomfortable, at this remark; but the squatter going on with his
conversation, there was no opportunity for saying anything, had I been
so disposed.—"As for moving," continued the husband, "I never mov'd,
but twice, without getting pay for my betterments.—Now, I call that
a good business, for a man who has squatted no less than seventeen
times. If the worst comes to the worst, we 're young enough to make
an eighteenth pitch. So that I save the lumber, I kear but little for
your Littlepages, or Greatpages; the mill is no great matter, without
the gear; and that has travelled all the way from Varmount, as it is,
and is used to moving. It can go farther."
"Yes, but the lumber, Aaron! The water 's low, now, and you can
never get it to market, until the rivers rise, which mayn't be these
three months. Think how many days' labour that lumber has cost you,
and all on us, and what a sight of it there would be to lose!"
"Yes, but we
wunt lose it, woman," answered Thousandacres,
compressing his lips, and clenching his hands, in a way to show how
intensely he felt on the subject of property, himself, however
dishonestly acquired. "My sweat and labour be in them boards; and it
's as good as sap, any day. What a man sweats for, he has a right to."
This was somewhat loose morality, it is true, since a man might
sweat in bearing away his neighbour's goods; but a portion of the
human race is a good deal disposed to feel and reason on principles
but little more sound than this of old Thousandacres.
"Wa-a-ll," answered the woman, "I 'm sure I don't want to see you
and the b'ys lose the fruits of your labours; not I. You 've honestly
toiled and wrought at 'em logs, in a way I never seed human beings
outdo; and 't would be hard," looking particularly at me, "now that
they 've cut the trees, hauled 'em to mill, and sawed the boards, to
see another man step in and claim all the property. That could
never be right, but is ag'in all justice, whether Varmount or York. I
s'pose there 's no great harm in jist askin' what your name may be,
"None in the world," I answered, with a self-command that I could
see delighted the Onondago. "My name is Mordaunt."
"Mordaunt!" repeated the woman, quickly. "Don't we know suthin' of
that name?—Is that a fri'ndly name, to us Varmounters?—How is it,
Aaron? you ought to know."
"No, I hadn't ought to, for I never heerd tell of any sich name,
afore. So long as 'tis n's Littlepage, I kear nothin' about it."
I felt relieved at this reply, for I will own, that the idea of
falling into the power of these lawless men was far from pleasant to
me. From Thousandacres, down to the lad of seventeen, they all stood
six feet in their stockings; and a stouter, more broad-shouldered,
sinewy race, was not often seen. The idea of resisting them by force,
was out of the question. I was entirely without arms; though the
Indian was better provided; but no less than four rifles were laid on
brackets in this one cabin; and I made no doubt that every male of the
family had his own particular weapon. The rifle was the first
necessary, of men of this stamp, being as serviceable in procuring
food, as in protecting them from their enemies.
It was at this moment that Prudence drew a long sigh, and rose from
table in order to renew her domestic labours. Lowiny followed her
motions in submissive silence, and we men sauntered to the door of the
cabin, where I could get a new view of the nature of those
"betterments" that Thousandacres so highly prized, and of the extent
of the depredations that had been committed on colonel Follock and my
father. The last were by no means insignificant; and, at a later day,
they were estimated, by competent judges, to amount to fully a
thousand dollars in value. Of course these were a thousand dollars
totally lost, inasmuch as redress, in a pecuniary sense, was entirely
out of the question with men of the stamp of Thousandacres and his
sons. This class of persons are fond of saying, "I 'll guarantee,"
and "I 'll bind myself" to do this or that; but the guaranty and
obligation are equally without value. In fact, those who are the least
responsible are usually the freest with such pledges.
"This is a handsome spot," said Thousandacres, whose real name was
Aaron Timberman. "This is a handsome spot, Mr. Mordaunt, and one it
would go kind o' hard to give it up at the biddin' of a man who never
laid eye on 't. Be you any way acquainted with law?"
"A very little; no more than we all get to be as we move along
"You 've not travelled far on that journey, young man, as any one
can see by your face. But you 've had opportunities, as a body can
tell by your speech, which isn't exactly like our'n, out here in the
woods, from which I had kind o' thought your schoolin' might be more
than common. A body can tell, though his own l'arnin' amounts to no
This notion of Aaron's, that my modes of speech, pronunciation,
accent and utterance had come from the schools, was natural enough,
perhaps; though few persons ever acquire accuracy in either, except in
the familiar intercourse of their childhood. As for the "common
schools" of New York, they are perpetuating errors in these respects,
rather than correcting them; and one of the largest steps in their
improvement would be to have a care that he who teaches, teaches
accurately as to sounds, as well as to significations. Under
the present system, vicious habits are confirmed by deliberate
instruction and example, rather than corrected.
"My schooling," I answered, modestly enough, I trust, "has
been a little better than common, though it has not been good enough,
as you see, to keep me out of the woods."
"All that may be inclination. Some folks have a nat'ral turn for
the wilderness, and it's workin' ag'in the grain, and nearly useless,
to try to make settlement-bodies of 'em. D 'ye happen to know what
lumber is likely to bring this fall?"
"Everything is looking up since the peace, and it is fair to expect
lumber will begin to command a price, as well as other property."
"Wa-a-l, it 's time it should! During the whull war a board has
been of little more account than a strip of bark, unless it happened
to be in the neighbourhood of an army. We lumbermen have had an awful
time on it these last eight years, and more than once I 've felt
tempted to gi'n in, and go and settle down in some clearin', like
quieter folks; but I thought, as the 'arth is to come to an eend, the
war must sartainly come to an eend afore it."
"The calculation was a pretty safe one; the war must have truly
made a dull time for you; nor do I see how you well got along during
the period it lasted."
"Bad enough; though war-times has their wind-falls as well as
peace-times. Once, the inimy seized a sight of continental stores,
sich as pork, and flour, and New England rum, and they pressed all the
teams, far and near, to carry off their plunder, and my sleigh and
horses had to go along with the rest on 'em. Waal, go we did;
and I got as handsome a load as ever you seed laid in a
lumber-sleigh; what I call an assortment, and one, too, that was
mightily to my own likin', seein' I loaded it up with my own hands.
'T was in a woody country, as you may s'pose, or I wouldn't have been
there; and, as I know'd all the by-roads, I watched my chance, and got
out of the line without bein' seen, and druv' as straight up to my own
hum' as if I 'd just come from tradin' in the nearest settlement. That
was the most profitablest journey I ever tuck, and, what is more, it
was a short one."
Here old Thousandacres stopped to laugh, which he did in as hearty,
frank a manner as if his conscience had never known care. This story,
I fancy, was a favourite with him, for I heard no less than three
other allusions to the exploit on which it was based, during the short
time our communication with each other lasted. I observed the first
smile I had seen on the face of Zephaniah, appear at the recital of
this anecdote; though I had not failed to notice that the young man,
as fine a specimen of rustic, rude, manly proportions as one could
wish to see, had kept his eyes on me at every occasion, in a manner
that excited some uneasiness.
"That was a fortunate service for you," I remarked, as soon as
Aaron had had his laugh; "unless, indeed, you felt the necessity of
giving back the property to the continental officers."
"Not a bit of it! Congress was poor enough, I 'm willin' to own,
but it was richer than I was, or ever will be. When property has
changed hands once, title goes with it; and some say that these very
lands, coming from the king, ought now to go to the people, jist as
folks happen to want 'em. There 's reason and right, I 'm sartain, in
the idee, and I shouldn't wonder if it held good in law, one day!"
Alas! alas! for poor human nature again. Seldom does man commit a
wrong but he sets his ingenuity to work to frame excuses for it. When
his mind thus gets to be perverted by the influence of his passions,
and more especially by that of rapacity, he never fails to fancy new
principles to exist to favour his schemes, and manifests a readiness
in inventing them, which, enlisted on the side of goodness, might
render him a blessing instead of a curse to his race. But roguery is
so active, while virtue is so apt to be passive, that in the eternal
conflict that is waged between them, that which is gained by the truth
and inherent power of the last is, half the time, more than
neutralized by the unwearied exertions of the first! This, I fear, may
be found to contain the weak spot of our institutions. So long as law
represents the authority of an individual, individual pride and
jealousy may stimulate it to constant watchfulness; whereas, law
representing the community, carries with it a divided responsibility,
that needs the excitement of intolerable abuses ere it will arouse
itself in its own vindication. The result is merely another proof
that, in the management of the ordinary affairs of life, men are
usually found to be stronger than principles.
"Have you ever had occasion to try one of your titles of possession
in a court of law, against that of a landholder who got his right from
a grant?" I asked, after reflecting a moment on the truth I have just
Thousandacres shook his head, looked down a moment, and pondered a
little, in his turn, ere he gave me the following answer:
"Sartain," he said. "We all like to be on the right side, if we
can; and some of our folks kind o' persuaded me I might make out,
once, ag'in a reg'lar landlord. So I stood trial with him; but he beat
me, Mr. Mordaunt, just the same as if I had been a chicken, and he the
hawk that had me in his talons. You 'll never catch me trusting myself
in the claws of the law ag'in, though that happened as long ago as
afore the old French war. I shall never trust to law any more. It may
do for them that 's, rich, and don't kear whether they win or lose;
but law is a desp'rate bad business for them that hasn't got money to
go into it, right eend foremost."
"And, should Mr. Littlepage discover your being here, and feel
disposed to come to some arrangement with you, what conditions would
you be apt to accept?"
"Oh! I 'm never ag'in trade. Trade 's the spirit of life; and
seein' that gin'ral Littlepage has some right, as I do s'pose
is the case, I shouldn't want to be hard on him. If he would keep
things quiet, and not make a fuss about it, but would leave the matter
out to men, and they men of the right sort, I shouldn't be difficult;
for I 'm one of that kind that hates law-suits, and am always ready to
do the right thing; and so he 'd find me as ready to settle as any man
he ever had on his lands."
"But on what terms? You have not told me the terms."
"As to tarms, I 'd not be hard, by any means. No man can say old
Thousandacres ever druv' hard tarms, when he had the best on't. That
's not in my natur', which runs altogether towards reason and what 's
right. Now you see, Mordaunt, how matters stand atween this Littlepage
and myself. He 's got a paper title, they tell me, and I 've got
possession, which is always a squatter's claim; and a good one 'tis,
where there 's plenty of pine and a mill-seat, with a handy market!"
Here Thousandacres stopped to laugh again, for he generally
indulged in this way, in so hearty and deep a tone, as to render it
difficult to laugh and talk in the same breath. As soon as through,
however, he did not forget to pursue the discourse.
"No, no man that understands the woods will gainsay them
advantages," added the squatter; "and of all on 'em am I now in the
enj'yment. Wa-a-l, gin'ral Littlepage, as they call him about here,
has a paper title; and I 've got possession. He has the courts on his
side, I 'll allow; but here are my betterments—sixty-three as large
acres chopped over and hauled to mill, as can be found in all
Charlotte, or Washington, as they tell me the county is now called."
"But general Littlepage may not fancy it an improvement to have his
land stripped of its pine. You know, Thousandacres, as well as I do,
that pine is usually thought to greatly add to the value of land
hereabouts, the Hudson making it so easy to get it to market."
"Lord! youngster, do you think I hadn't all that in my mind, when I
made my pitch here? You can't teach old bones where it 's best to
strike the first blow with an axe. Now, I 've got in the creek," (this
word is used, in the parlance of the State, for a small river, nine
times in ten); "now, I 've got in the creek, on the way to the Hudson,
in the booms below the mill, and in the mill-yard yonder, a hundred
and twenty thousand feet of as handsome stuff as ever was cribbed, or
rafted; and there 's logs enough cut and hauled to make more than as
much more. I some sort o' think you know this Littlepage, by your
talk; and, as I like fair dealin's, and what 's right atween man and
man, I 'll just tell you what I 'll do, so that you can tell him, if
you ever meet, and the matter should come up atween you, as sich
things sometimes do, all in talk like, though a body has no real
consarn in the affair; and so you can tell this gin'ral that old
Thousandacres is a reasonable man, and is willing to settle on these
tarms; but he won't gi'n a grain more. If the gin'ral will let me get
all the lumber to market peaceably, and take off the crops the b'ys
have put in with their own hands, and carry off all the mill-gear, and
take down the doors and windows of the houses, and all the iron-work
a body can find about, I 'm willing to agree to quit 'arly enough in
the spring to let any man he chooses come into possession in good
season to get in spring grain, and make garden. There; them 's my
tarms, and I 'll not abate on one on 'em, on no account at all. But
that much I 'll do for peace; for I do love peace and quiet, my
woman says, most desp'ately."
I was about to answer this characteristic communication—
perfectly characteristic as to feelings, one-sided sense of right,
principles and language—when Zephaniah, the tall son of the
squatter, suddenly laid a hand on his father's arm, and led him aside.
This young man had been examining my person, during the whole of the
dialogue at the door of the cabin, in a way that was a little marked.
I was disposed at first to attribute these attentions to the
curiosity natural to youth, at its first meeting with one who might
be supposed to enjoy opportunities of ascertaining the newest modes of
dress and deportment. Rustics, in America, ever manifest this feeling,
and it was not unreasonable to suppose that this young squatter might
have felt its influence. But, as it soon appeared, I had altogether
mistaken my man. Although both he and his sister, Lowiny, had never
turned their eyes from my person, I soon discovered that they had been
governed by totally opposing feelings.
The first intimation I got of the nature of the mistake into which
I had fallen, was from the manner of Thousandacres, as soon as his son
had spoken to him, apart, for a single minute. I observed that the old
squatter turned suddenly, and began to scrutinize my appearance with a
scowling, but sharp eye. Then he would give all his attention to his
son; after which, I came in for a new turn of examination. Of course,
such a scene could not last a great while, and I soon felt the relief
of being, again, face to face with the man whom I now set down for an
"Harkee, young man," resumed Thousandacres, as soon as he had
returned and placed himself directly before me, "my b'y, Zeph, there,
has got a suspicion consarning you, that must be cleared up, fairly
a-tween us, afore we part. I like fair dealin's, as I've told you more
than once, already, and despise underhandedness from the bottom of my
heart. Zeph tells me that he has a kind o' suspicion that you 're the
son of this very Littlepage, and have been sent among us to spy us
out, and to l'arn how things stood, afore you let on your evil
intentions. Is it so, or not?"
"What reason has Zeph for such a suspicion?" I answered, with as
much coolness as I could assume. "He is a perfect stranger to me, and
I fancy this is the first time we have ever met."
"He agrees to that, himself; but mankind can sometimes see things
that isn't put directly afore their eyes. My son goes and comes,
frequently, between the Ravensnest settlement and our own, though I
don't suppose he lets on any great deal about his proper hum'—He has
worked as much as two months, at a time, in that part of the country,
and I find him useful in carrying on a little trade, once and awhile,
with 'squire Newcome."
"You are acquainted, then, with Mr. Jason Newcome, or 'squire
Newcome, as you call him?"
"I call him what 's right, I hope!" answered the old man sharply.
"He is a 'Squire, and should be called a 'Squire. Give the
devil his due; that 's my principle. But Zephaniah has been out a
considerable spell this summer to work at Ravensnest. I tell him he
has a gal in his eye, by his hankering so much after the 'Nest folks,
but he won't own it: but out he has been, and he tells me this
Littlepage's son was expected to come into the settlement about the
time he last left there."
"And you are acquainted with 'Squire Newcome?" I said, pursuing the
subject as its points presented themselves to my own mind, rather than
following the thread of the squatter's discursive manner of thinking;
"so well acquainted as to trade with him?"
well acquainted I may say. The 'Squire tuck (took)
all the lumber I cut 'arly in the spring, rafting and selling it on
his own account, paying us in groceries, womans' cloth, and rum. He
made a good job of it, I hear tell, and is hankerin' round a'ter what
is now in the creek; but I rather think I 'll send the b'ys off with
that. But what 's that to the purpose? Didn't you tell me, young man,
that your name is Mordaunt?"
"I did; and in so saying I told no more than the truth."
"And what may you call your given name? A'ter all, old woman,"
turning to the anxious wife and mother, who had drawn near to listen,
having most probably been made acquainted with the nature of her son's
suspicions—"a'ter all the b'y may be mistaken, and this young man as
innocent as any one of your own flesh and blood."
"Mordaunt is what you call my `given name,' I answered, disdaining
deception, "and Littlepage—" The hand of the Indian was suddenly
placed on my mouth, stopping further utterance.
It was too late, however, for the friendly design of the Onondago,
the squatters readily comprehending all I had intended to say. As for
Prudence, she walked away; and I soon heard her calling all her
younger children by name, to collect them near her person, as the hen
gathers its chickens beneath the wing. Thousandacres took the matter
very differently. His countenance grew dark, and he whispered a word
to Lowiny, who departed on some errand with reluctant steps, as I
thought, and eyes that did not always look in the direction she was
"I see how it is!—I see how it is!" exclaimed the squatter, with
as much of suppressed indignation in his voice and mien as if his
cause were that of offended innocence; "we 've got a spy among us, and
war-time 's too fresh not to let us know how to deal with sich folks.
Young man, what 's your arr'n'd down here, in my betterments, and
beneath my ruff?"
"My errand as you call it, Thousandacres, is to look after the
property that is entrusted to my care. I am the son of General
Littlepage, one of the owners of this spot, and the attorney of both."
attorney be you!" cried the squatter, mistaking the
attorney in fact for an attorney at law—a sort of being for whom he
necessarily entertained a professional antipathy. "I'll attorney ye!
If you or your gin'ral father thinks that Aaron Thousandacres is a man
to have his territories invaded by the inimy, and keep his hands in
his pockets the whull time, he's mistaken. Send 'em along, Lawiny,
send along the b'ys, and let's see if we can't find lodgin's for this
young attorney gin'ral, as well as board."
There was no mistaking the aspect of things now. Hostilities had
commenced in a certain sense, and it became incumbent on me for the
sake of safety to be on the alert. I knew that the Indian was armed;
and, determined to defend my person if possible, I was resolved to
avail myself of the use of his weapon should it become necessary.
Stretching out an arm, and turning to the spot where Susquesus had
just stood, to lay hold of his rifle, I discovered that he had
"The lawless herd, with fury blind,
Have done him cruel wrong;
The flowers are gone, but still we find,
The honey on his tongue."
There I stood, alone and unarmed, in the centre of six athletic
men, for Lowiny had been sent to assemble her brothers; a business in
which she was aided by Prudence's blowing a peculiar sort of blast on
her conch; and, as unable to resist, as a child would have been in the
hands of its parent. As a fruitless scuffle would have been degrading,
as well as useless, I at once determined to submit, temporarily at
least, or so long as submission did not infer disgrace, and was better
than resistance. There did not seem to be any immediate disposition to
lay violent hands on me, however, and there I stood, a minute or two,
after I had missed Sureflint, surrounded by the whole brood of the
squatter, young and old, male and female; some looking defiance,
others troubled, and all anxious. As for myself, I will frankly own my
sensations were far from pleasant; for I knew I was in the hands of
the Philistines, in the depths of a forest, fully twenty miles from
any settlement, and with no friends nearer than the party of the
Chainbearer, who was at least two leagues distant, and altogether
ignorant of my position as well as of my necessities. A ray of hope,
however, gleamed in upon me through the probable agency of the
Not for an instant did I imagine that long-known and welltried
friend of my father and the Chainbearer false. His character was too
well established for that; and it soon occurred to me, that,
foreseeing his own probable detention should he remain, he had
vanished with a design to let the strait in which I was placed be
known, and to lead a party to my rescue. A similar idea probably
struck Thousandacres almost at the same instant; for, glancing his eye
around him, he suddenly demanded—
"What has become of the red-skin? The varmint has dodged away, as I
'm an honest man! Nathaniel, Moses, and Daniel, to your rifles and on
the trail. Bring the fellow in, if you can, with a whull skin; but if
you can't, an Injin more or less will never be heeded in the woods."
I soon had occasion to note that the patriarchal government of
Thousandacres was of a somewhat decided and prompt character. A few
words went a great ways in it, as was now apparent; for in less than
two minutes after Aaron had issued his decree, those namesakes of the
prophets and lawgivers of old, Nathaniel, and Moses, and Daniel, were
quitting the clearing on diverging lines, each carrying a formidable,
long, American hunting-rifle in his hand. This weapon, so different in
the degree of its power from the short military piece that has become
known to modern warfare, was certainly in dangerous hands; for each
of those young men had been familiar with his rifle from boyhood;
gunpowder and liquor, with a little lead, composing nearly all the
articles on which they lavished money for their amusement. I trembled
for Susquesus; though I knew he must anticipate a pursuit, and was so
well skilled in throwing off a chase as to have obtained the name of
the Trackless. Still, the odds were against him; and experience has
shown that the white man usually surpasses the Indian even in his own
peculiar practices, when there have been opportunities to be taught. I
could do no more, however, than utter a mental prayer for the escape
of my friend.
"Bring that chap in here," added old Thousandacres sternly, the
moment he saw that his three sons were off; enough remaining to
enforce that or any other order he might choose to issue. "Bring him
into this room, and let us hold a court on him, sin' he is sich a
lover of the law. If law he likes, law let him have. An attorney is
he? I warnt to know! What has an attorney to do with me and mine, out
here in the woods?"
While this was in the course of being said, the squatter, and
father of squatters, led the way into his own cabin, where he seated
himself with an air of authority, causing the females and younger
males of his brood to range themselves in a circle behind his chair.
Seeing the folly of resistance, at a hint from Zephaniah I followed,
the three young men occupying the place near the door, as a species
of guard. In this manner we formed a sort of court, in which the old
fellow figured as the investigating magistrate, and I figured as the
"An attorney, be you!" muttered Thousandacres, whose ire against me
in my supposed, would seem to be more excited than it was against me
in my real character. "B'ys, silence in the court; we 'll give this
chap as much law as he can stagger under, sin' he 's of a law natur'.
Everything shall be done accordin' to rule. Tobit," addressing his
oldest son, a colossal figure of about six-and-twenty, "you 've been
in the law more than any on us, and can give us the word. What was 't
they did with you, first, when they had you up in Hampshire colony;
the time when you and that other young man went across from the
Varmount settlements to look for sheep? A raft of the crittur's you
did get atween you, though you was waylaid and robbed of all
your hard 'arnin's, afore you got back ag'in in the mountains. They
dealt with you accordin' to law, 'twas said; now, what was the first
"I was tuck [taken] afore the 'squire," answered Tobit
Thousandacres, as he was often called, "who heerd the case, asked me
what I had to say for myself, and then permitted me, as it was tarmed;
so I went to gaol until the trial came on, and I s'pose you know what
come next, as well as I do."
I took it for granted that what "come next" was anything but
pleasant in remembrance, the reason Tobit did not relish it even in
description, inasmuch as sheep-stealers were very apt to get "forty
save one" at the whipping-post, in that day, a species of punishment
that was admirably adapted to the particular offence. We are getting
among us a set of soi-disant philanthropists, who, in their
great desire to coddle and reform rogues, are fast placing the
punnishment of offences on the honest portion of the community, for
the especial benefit of their eleves. Some of these persons
have already succeeded in cutting down all our whipping-posts,
thereby destroying the cheapest and best mode of punishing a
particular class of crimes that was ever invented or practised. A
generation hence, our children will feel the consequences of this
mistaken philanthropy. In that day, let those who own fowl-houses,
pig-pens, orchards, smoke-houses, and other similar temptations to
small depredations, look to it, for I am greatly mistaken if the
insecurity of their moveables does not give the most unanswerable of
all commentaries on this capital misstep. One whipping-post,
discreetly used, will do more towards reforming a neighbourhood than
a hundred gaols, with their twenty and thirty days' imprisonments! I
have as much disposition to care for the reformation of criminals as
is healthful, if I know myself; but the great object of all the
punishments of society, viz., its own security, ought never to be
sacrificed to this, which is but a secondary consideration. Render
character, person and property as secure as possible, in the first
place, after which, try as many experiments in philanthropy as you
I am sorry to see how far the disposition to economise is extending
itself, in the administration of American justice, generally. Under a
government like that of this country, it is worse than idle, for it is
perfectly futile to attempt to gratify the imagination by a display of
its power, through the agency of pomp and representation. Such things,
doubtless, have their uses, and are not to be senselessly condemned
until one has had an opportunity of taking near views of their
effects; though useful, or the reverse, they can never succeed here.
But these communities of ours have it in their power to furnish to the
world a far more illustrious example of human prescience, and
benevolent care, by its prompt, exact, and well-considered
administration of justice—including the cases in both the civil and
the criminal courts. With what pride might not the American retort,
when derided for the simplicity of his executive, and the smallness of
the national expenditure in matters of mere representation, could he
only say—"True, we waste nothing on mere parade; but, turn to the
courts, and to the justice of the country; which, after all, are the
great aim of every good government. Look at the liberality of our
expenditures, for the command of the highest talent, in the first
place; see, with what generous care we furnish judges in abundance, to
prevent them from being overworked, and to avoid ruinous delays to
suitors; then, turn to the criminal courts, and into, first, the
entire justice of the laws; next, the care had in the selection of
jurors; the thorough impartiality of all the proceedings; and,
finally, when the right demands it, the prompt, unerring, and almost
terrific majesty of punishment." But, to return to something that is a
good deal more like truth:—
"Yes, yes," rejoined Thousandacres, "there is no use in riling the
feelin's, by talking of that"—(meaning Tobit's sufferings,
not at the stake, but at the post;)—"a hint's as good
as a description. You was taken afore a magistrate, was you;—and he
permitted you to prison—but, he asked what you had to say for
yourself, first? That was only fair, and I mean to act it all out
here, accordin' to law. Come, young attorney, what have you got
to say for yourself?"
It struck me that, alone as I was, in the hands of men who were a
species of outlaws, it might be well to clear myself from every
imputation that, at least, was not merited.
"In the first place," I answered, "I will explain a mistake into
which you have fallen, Thousandacres; for, let us live as friends or
foes, it is always best to understand facts. I am not an attorney, in
the sense you imagine—I am not a lawyer."
I could see that the whole brood of squatters, Prudence included,
was a good deal mollified by this declaration. As for Lowiny, her
handsome, ruddy face actually expressed exultation and delight! I
thought I heard that girl half suppress some such exclamation as—"I
know'd he wasn't no lawyer!" As for Tobit, the scowling look, replete
with cat-o'-nine-tails, actually departed, temporarily at least. In
short, this announcement produced a manifest change for the better.
"No lawyer, a'ter all!" exclaimed Thousandacres— "Didn't you say
you was an attorney?"
"That much is true. I told you that I was the son of general
Littlepage, and that I was his attorney, and that of colonel
Follock, the other tenant in common of this estate; meaning that I
held their power of attorney to convey lands, and to transact
certain other business, in their names."
This caused me to lose almost as much ground as I had just gained,
though, being the literal truth, I was resolved neither to conceal,
nor to attempt to evade it.
"Good land!" murmured Lowiny. "Why couldn't the man say nothin'
about all that!"
A reproving look from Prudence, rebuked the girl, and she remained
silent afterwards, for some time.
power of attornies, is it!" rejoined the squatter.
"Wa-a-l, that's not much better than being a downright lawyer. It 's
having the power of an attorney, I s'pose, and without their accursed
power it 's little I should kear for any of the breed. Then you 're
the son of that Gin'ral Littlepage, which is next thing to being the
man himself. I should expect if Tobit, my oldest b'y, was to fall into
the hands of some that might be named, it would go hard with him, all
the same as if t'was myself. I know that some make a difference atween
parents and children, but other some doosen't. What 's that you said
about this gin'ral's only being a common tenant of this land? How
dares he to call himself its owner, if he 's only a common tenant?"
The reader is not to be surprised at Thousandacres' trifling
blunders of this sort; for, those whose rule of right is present
interest, frequently, in the eagerness of rapacity, fall into this
very kind of error; holding that cheap at one moment, which they
affect to deem sacred at the next. I dare say, if the old squatter had
held a lease of the spot he occupied, he would at once have viewed the
character and rights of a `common tenant,' as connected with two of
the most important interests of the country. It happened, now,
however, that it was "his bull that was goring our ox."
"How dares he to call himself the owner of the sile, when he 's
only a common tenant, I say?" repeated Thousandacres, with increasing
energy, when he found I did not answer immediately.
"You have misunderstood my meaning. I did not say that my father
was only a `common tenant' of this property, but that he and colonel
Follock own it absolutely in common, each having his right in every
acre, and not one owning one half while the other owns the other;
which is what the law terms being `tenants in common,' though
strictly owners in fee."
"I shouldn't wonder, Tobit, if he turns out to be an attorney, in
our meaning, a'ter all!"
"It looks desp'rately like it, father," answered the eldest born,
who might have been well termed the heir at law of all his
progenitor's squatting and fierce propensities. "If he isn't a
downright lawyer, he looks more like one than any man I ever
seed out of court, in my whull life."
"He 'll find his match! Law and I have been at loggerheads ever
sin' the day I first went into Varmount, or them plaguy Hampshire
Grants. When law gets me in its clutches, it 's no wonder if it gets
the best on 't; but, when I get law in mine, or one of its sarvants,
it shall be my fault if law doosen't come out second best. Wa-a-l, we
've heerd the young man's story, Tobit. I 've asked him what he had
to say for himself, and he has g'in us his tell—tell'd us how he 's
his own father's son, and that the gin'ral is some sort of a big
tenant, instead of being a landlord, and isn't much better than we are
ourselves; and it 's high time I permitted him to custody. You
had writin's for what they did to you, I dares to say, Tobit?"
"Sartain. The magistrate give the sheriff's deputy a permittimus,
and, on the strength of that, they permitted me to gaol."
"Ye-e-es—I know all about their niceties and appearances! I have
had dealin's afore many a magistrate, in my day, and have onsuited
many a chap that thought to get the best on't afore we begun!
Onsuiting the man that brings the suit, is the cleanest way of getting
out of the law, as I knows on; but it takes a desp'rate long head
sometimes to do it! Afore I permit this young man, I 'll show
writin's, too. Prudence, just onlock the drawer—"
"I wish to correct one mistake before you proceed further,"
interrupted I. "For the second time, I tell you I am no lawyer, in
any sense of the word. I am a soldier—have commanded a company in
General Littlepage's own regiment, and served with the army when only
a boy in years. I saw both Burgoyne and Cornwallis surrender, and
their troops lay down their arms."
"Good now! Who'd ha' thought it!" exclaimed the compassionate
Lowiny. "And he so young, that you 'd hardly think the wind had ever
blown on him!"
My announcement of this new character was not without a marked
effect. Fighting was a thing to the whole family's taste, and what
they could appreciate better, perhaps, than any other act or deed.
There was something warlike in Thousandacres' very countenance and
air, and I was not mistaken in supposing he might feel some little
sympathy for a soldier. He eyed me keenly; and, whether or not he
discovered signs of the truth of my assertion in my mien, I saw that
he once more relented in purpose.
"You out ag'in Burg'yne!" the old fellow exclaimed. "Can I believe
what you say? Why, I was out again Burg'yne myself, with Tobit, and
Moses, and Nathaniel, and Jedidiah—with every male crittur' of the
family, in short, that was big enough to load and fire. I count them
days as among my very best, though they did come late, and a'ter old
age had made some head ag'in me. How can you prove you was out ag'in
Burg'yne and Cornwallis?"
I knew that there was often a strange medley of
patriotic feeling mixed up with the most confirmed knavery in
ordinary matters, and saw I had touched a chord that might thrill on
the sympathies of even these rude and supremely selfish beings. The
patriotism of such men, indeed, is nothing but an enlargement of
selfishness, since they prize things because they belong to
themselves, or they, in one sense, belong to the things. They take
sides with themselves, but never with principles. That patriotism
alone is pure, which would keep the country in the paths of truth,
honour and justice; and no man is empowered, in his zeal for his
particular nation, any more than in his zeal for himself, to forget
the law of right.
"I cannot prove I was out against Burgoyne, standing here where I
am, certainly," I answered; "but give me an opportunity, and I will
show it to your entire satisfaction."
"Which rijiment was on the right, Hazen's or Brookes's, in storming
the Jarmans? Tell me that, and I will soon let you know whether
I believe you or not."
"I cannot tell you that fact, for I was with my own battalion, and
the smoke would not permit such a thing to be seen. I do not know that
either of the corps you mention was in that particular part of the
field that day, though I believe both to have been warmly engaged."
"He warnt there," drawled out Tobit, in his most dissatisfied
manner, almost showing his teeth, like a dog, under the impulse of
the hatred he felt.
was there!" cried Lowiny, positively; "I
A slap from Prudence taught the girl the merit of silence; but the
men were too much interested to heed an interruption as characteristic
and as bootless as this.
"I see how it is," added Thousandacres; "I must permit the chap
a'ter all. Seein', however, that there is a chance of his
having been out ag'in Burg'yne, I 'll permit him without
writin's, and he shan't be bound. Tobit, take your prisoner away, and
shut him up in the store-'us'. When your brothers get back from their
hunt a'ter the Injin, we 'll detarmine among us what is to be done
Thousandacres delivered his orders with dignity, and they were
obeyed to the letter. I made no resistance, since it would only have
led to a scuffle, in which I should have sustained the indignity of
defeat, to say nothing of personal injuries. Tobit, however, did not
offer personal violence, contenting himself with making a sign for me
to follow him, which I did, followed in turn by his two double-jointed
brothers. I will acknowledge that, as we proceeded towards my prison,
the thought of flight crossed my mind; and I might have attempted it,
but for the perfect certainty that, with so many on my heels, I must
have been overtaken, when severe punishment would probably have been
my lot. On the whole, I thought it best to submit for a time, and
trust the future to Providence. As to remonstrance or deprecation,
pride forbade my having recourse to either. I was not yet reduced so
low as to solicit favours from a squatter.
The gaol to which I was "permitted" by Thousandacres was a
store-house, or, as he pronounced the word, a "store-'us," of logs,
which had been made of sufficient strength to resist depredations, let
them come from whom they might; and they were quite as likely to come
from some within as from any without. In consequence of its
destination, the building was not ill-suited to become a gaol. The
logs, of course, gave a sufficient security against the attempts of a
prisoner without tools or implements of any sort, the roof being made
of the same materials as the sides. There was no window, abundance of
air and light entering through the fissures of the rough logs, which
had open intervals between them; and the only artificial aperture was
the door. This last was made of stout planks, and was well secured by
heavy hinges, and strong bolts and locks. The building was of some
size, too—twenty feet in length, at least—one end of it, though
then quite empty, having been intended and used as a crib for the
grain that we Americans call, par excellence, corn. Into this
building I entered, after having the large knife that most woodsmen
carry taken from my pocket; and a search was made on my person for any
similar implement that might aid me in an attempt to escape.
In that day America had no paper money, from the bay of Hudson to
Cape Horn. Gold and silver formed the currency, and my pockets had a
liberal supply of both, in the shape of joes and half joes, dollars,
halves, and quarters. Not a piece of coin, of any sort, was molested,
however, these squatters not being robbers, in the ordinary
signification of the term, but merely deluded citizens, who
appropriated the property of others to their own use, agreeably to
certain great principles of morals that had grown up under their own
peculiar relations to the rest of mankind, their immediate necessities
and their convenience. I make no doubt that every member of the family
of Thousandacres would spurn the idea of his or her's being a vulgar
thief, drawing some such distinctions in the premises as the Drakes,
Morgans, Woodes Rogers' and others of that school, drew between
themselves and the vulgar every-day sea-robbers of the seventeenth
century, though with far less reason. But robbers these squatters were
not, except in one mode, and that mode they almost raised to the
dignity of respectable hostilities, by the scale on which they
I was no sooner "locked up" than I began a survey of my prison and
the surrounding objects. There was no difficulty in doing either, the
openings between the logs allowing of a clear reconnoissance on every
side. With a view to keeping its contents in open sight, I fancy, the
"store-'us" was placed in the very centre of the settlement, having
the mills, cabins, barns, sheds and other houses, encircling it in a
sort of hamlet. This circumstance, which would render escape doubly
difficult, was, notwithstanding, greatly in favour of reconnoitring. I
will now describe the results of my observations. As a matter of
course, my appearance, the announcement of my character, and my
subsequent arrest, were circumstances likely to produce a sensation in
the family of the squatter. All the women had gathered around
Prudence, near the door of her cabin, and the younger girls were
attracted to that spot, as the particles of matter are known to obey
the laws of affinity. The males, one boy of eight or ten years
excepted, were collected near the mill, where Thousandacres,
apparently, was holding a consultation with Tobit and the rest of the
brotherhood; among whom, I fancy, was no one entitled to be termed an
angel. Everybody seemed to be intently listening to the different
speakers, the females often turning their eyes towards their male
protectors, anxiously and with long protracted gazes. Indeed, many of
them looked in that direction, even while they gave ear to the wisdom
of Prudence herself.
The excepted boy had laid himself, in a lounging, American sort of
an attitude, on a saw-log, near my prison, and in a position that
enabled him to see both sides of it, without changing his ground. By
the manner in which his eyes were fastened on the "store-'us" I was
soon satisfied that he was acting in the character of a sentinel.
Thus, my gaol was certainly sufficiently secure, as the force of no
man, unaided and without implements, could have broken a passage
through the logs.
Having thus taken a look at the general aspect of things, I had
leisure to reflect on my situation, and the probable consequences of
my arrest. For my life I had no great apprehensions, not as much as I
ought to have had, under the circumstances; but, it did not strike me
that I was in any great danger on that score. The American character,
in general, is not blood-thirsty, and that of New England less so,
perhaps, than that of the rest of the country. Nevertheless, in a case
of property, the tenacity of the men of that quarter of the country
was proverbial, and I came to the conclusion that I should be
detained, if possible, until all the lumber could be got to market and
disposed of, as the only means of reaping the fruit of past labour.
The possibility depended on the escape or the arrest of Sureflint.
Should that Indian be taken, Thousandacres and his family would be as
secure as ever in their wilderness; but, on the other hand, should he
escape, I might expect to hear from my friends in the course of the
day. By resorting to a requisition on 'squire Newcome, who was a
magistrate, my tenants might be expected to make an effort in my
behalf, when the only grounds of apprehension would be the
consequences of the struggle. The squatters were sometimes dangerous
under excitement, and when sustaining each other, with arms in their
hands, in what they fancy to be their hard-earned privileges. There is
no end to the delusions of men on such subjects, self-interest seeming
completely to blind their sense of right; and I have often met with
cases in which parties who were trespassers, and in a moral view,
robbers, ab origine, have got really to fancy that their
subsequent labours (every new blow of the axe being an additional
wrong) gave a sort of sanctity to possessions, in the defence of which
they were willing to die. It is scarcely necessary to say that such
persons look only at themselves, entirely disregarding the rights of
others; but, one wonders where the fruits of all the religious
instruction of the country are to be found, when opinions so loose and
acts so flagrant are constantly occurring among us. The fact is, land
is so abundant, and such vast bodies lie neglected and seemingly
forgotten by their owners, that the needy are apt to think
indifference authorizes invasions on such unoccupied property; and
their own labour once applied, they are quick to imagine that it gives
them a moral and legal interest in the soil; though, in the eye of the
law and of unbiassed reason, each new step taken in what is called
the improvement of a "betterment" is but a farther advance in the
direction of wrong-doing.
I was reflecting on things of this sort, when, looking through the
cracks of my prison, to ascertain the state of matters without, I was
surprised by the appearance of a man on horseback, who was entering
the clearing on its eastern side, seemingly quite at home in his
course, though he was travelling without even a foot-path to aid him.
As this man had a pair of the common saddle-bags of the day on his
horse, I at first took him for one of those practitioners of the
healing art, who are constantly met with in the new settlements,
winding their way through stumps, logs, morasses and forests, the
ministers of good or evil, I shall not pretend to say which.
Ordinarily, families like that of Thousandacres do their own
"doctoring;" but a case might occur that demanded the wisdom of the
licensed leech; and I had just decided in my own mind that this must
be one, when, as the stranger drew nearer, to my surprise I saw that
it was no other than my late agent, Mr. Jason Newcome, and the moral
and physical factotum of Ravensnest!
As the distance between the mill that 'squire Newcome leased of me,
and that which Thousandacres had set up on the property of Mooseridge,
could not be less than five-and-twenty miles, the arrival of this
visiter at an hour so early was a certain proof that he had left his
own house long before the dawn. It was probably convenient to pass
through the farms and dwellings of Ravensnest, on the errand on which
he was now bent, at an hour of the night or morning when darkness
would conceal the movement. By timing his departure with the same
judgment, it was obvious he could reach home under the concealment of
the other end of the same mantle. In a word, this visit was evidently
one, in the objects and incidents of which it was intended that the
world at large should have no share.
The dialogues between the members of the family of Thousandacres
ceased, the moment 'squire Newcome came in view; though, as was
apparent by the unmoved manner in which his approach was witnessed,
the sudden appearance of this particular visiter produced neither
surprise nor uneasiness. Although it must have been a thing to be
desired by the squatters, to keep their "location" a secret, more
especially since the peace left landlords at leisure to look after
their lands, no one manifested any concern at discovering this arrival
in their clearing of the nearest magistrate. Any one might see, by the
manner of men, women and children, that 'squire Newcome was no
stranger, and that his presence gave them no alarm. Even the early
hour of this visit was most probably that to which they were
accustomed, the quick-witted intellects of the young fry causing them
to understand the reason quite as readily as was the case with their
seniors. In a word, the guest was regarded as a friend, rather than as
Newcome was some little time, after he came into view, in reaching
the hamlet, if the cluster of buildings can be so termed; and when he
did alight, it was before the door of a stable, towards which one of
the boys now scampered, to be in readiness to receive his horse. The
beast disposed of, the 'squire advanced to the spot where
Thousandacres and his elder sons still remained to receive him, or
that near the mill. The manner in which all parties shook hands, and
the cordiality of the salutations generally, in which Prudence and her
daughters soon shared, betokened something more than amity, I fancied,
for it looked very much like intimacy.
Jason Newcome remained in the family group some eight or ten
minutes, and I could almost fancy the prescribed inquiries about the
"folks" (anglice, folk), the "general state of health," and the
character of the "times," ere the magistrate and the squatter
separated themselves from the rest of the party, walking aside like
men who had matters of moment to discuss, and that under circumstances
which could dispense with the presence of any listeners.
Our soil's strong growth
And our bold natives' hardy mind;
Sure heaven bespoke
Our hearts and oak
To give a master to mankind."
Thousandacres and the magistrate held their way directly towards
the store-house; and the log of the sentinel offering a comfortable
seat, that functionary was dismissed, when the two worthies took his
place, with their backs turned towards my prison. Whether this
disposition of their persons was owing to a deep-laid plan of the
squatter's, or not, I never knew; but, let the cause have been what it
might, the effect was to render me an auditor of nearly all that
passed in the dialogue which succeeded. It will greatly aid the reader
in understanding the incidents about to be recorded, if I spread on
the record the language that passed between my late agent and one who
was obviously his confidant in certain matters, if not in all that
touched my interests in that quarter of the world. As for listening, I
have no hesitation in avowing it, inasmuch as the circumstances would
have justified me in taking far greater liberties with the customary
obligations of society in its every-day aspect, had I seen fit so to
do. I was dealing with rogues, who had me in their power, and there
was no obligation to be particularly scrupulous on the score of mere
conventional propriety, at least.
"As I was tellin' y'e, Thousandacres," Newcome continued the
discourse by saying, and that with the familiarity of one who well
knew his companion, "the young man is in this part of the country, and
somewhere quite near you at this moment"—I was much nearer
than the 'squire, himself, had any notion of at that instant —
"yes, he 's out in the woods of this very property, with Chainbearer
and his gang; and, for 'tinow [for aught I know], measuring out farms
within a mile or two of this very spot!"
"How many men be there?" asked the squatter, with interest. "If no
more than the usual set, 't will be an onlucky day for them,
should they stumble on my clearin'!"
"Perhaps they will, perhaps they wunt; a body never knows.
Surveyin's 's a sort o' work that leads a man here, or it leads him
there. One never knows where a line will carry him, in the woods. That
's the reason I 've kept the crittur's out of my own timber-land; for,
to speak to you, Thousandacres, as one neighbour can speak to
another without risk, there 's desp'rate large pine-trees on the
unleased hills both north and east of my lot. Sometimes it 's handy
to have lines about a mile, you know, sometimes 't isn't.
"A curse on all lines, in a free country, say I, 'squire," answered
Thousandacres, who looked, as he bestowed this characteristic
benediction, as if he might better be named Tenthousandacres;
"they 're an invention of the devil. I lived seven whull years, in
Varmount State, as it 's now called, the old Hampshire Grants, you
know, next-door neighbour to two families, one north and one south on
me, and we chopped away the whull time, jest as freely as we pleased,
and not a cross word or an angry look passed atween us."
"I rather conclude, friend Aaron, you had all sat down under the
same title?" put in the magistrate, with a sly look at his companion.
"When that is the case, it would exceed all reason to quarrel."
"Why, I 'll own that our titles was pretty much the
same;—possession and free axes. Then it was ag'in York Colony
landholders that our time was running. What 's your candid opinion
about law, on this p'int, 'Squire Newcome?— I know you 're a man of
edication, college l'arnt some say; though, I s'pose, that 's no
better l'arnin' than any other, when a body has once got it—but what
's your opinion about possession?—Will it hold good in twenty-one
years, without writin's, or not? Some say it will, and some say it
"It wunt. The law is settled; there must be a shadow of title, or
possession 's good for nothin'; no better than the scrapin's of a
"I 've heer'n say the opposyte of that; and there 's reason why
possession should count ag'in everything. By possession, however, I
don't mean hangin' up a pair of saddle-bags on a tree, as is sometimes
done, but goin' honestly and fairly in upon land, and cuttin' down
trees, and buildin' mills, and housen and barns, and cuttin', and
slashin', and sawin' right and left, like all creation. That 's
what I always doos myself, and that 's what I call sich a possession
as ought to stand in law—ay, and in gospel, too; for I 'm not one
of them that flies in the face of religion."
"In that you 're quite right; keep the gospel on your side whatever
you do, neighbour Thousandacres. Our Puritan fathers didn't cross the
ocean, and encounter the horrors of the wilderness, and step on the
rock of Plymouth, and undergo more than man could possibly bear, and
that all for nothin'!"
"Wa-a-l, to my notion, the `horrors of the wilderness,' as you call
'em, is no great matter; though, as for crossin' the ocean, I can
easily imagine that must be suthin' to try a man's patience and
endurance. I never could take to the water. They tell me there isn't a
single tree growin' the whull distance atween Ameriky and England!
Floatin' saw-logs be sometimes met with, I 've heer'n say, but not a
standin' crittur' of a tree from Massachusetts bay to London town!"
"It 's all water and of course trees be scarce, Thousandacres; but
let 's come a little clusser to the p'int. As I was tellin' you, the
whelp is in, and he 'll growl as loud as the old bear himself, should
he hear of all them boards you 've got in the creek—to say nothin'
of the piles up here that you haven't even begun to put into the
"Let him growl," returned the old squatter, glancing surlily
towards my prison; "like a good many other crittur's that I 've met
with, 't will turn out that his bark is worse than his bite."
"I don't know that, neighbour Thousandacres, I don't by any means
know that. Major Littlepage is a gentleman of spirit and decision, as
is to be seen by his having taken his agency from me, who have held it
so long, and gi'n it to a young chap who has no other claim than bein'
a tolerable surveyor; but who hasn't been in the settlement more than
"Gi'n it to a surveyor! Is he one of Chainbearer's measurin'
"Just so; 't is the very young fellow Chainbearer has has had with
him this year or so, runnin' lines and measurin' land on this very
"That old fellow, Chainbearer, had best look to himself! He's
thwarted me now three times in the course of his life, and he's
gettin' to be desp'rate old; I 'm afread he won't live long!"
I could now see that Squire Newcome felt uneasy. Although a
colleague of the squatter's in what is only too apt to be considered a
venial roguery in a new country, or in the stealing of timber, it did
not at all comport with the scale of his rascality to menace a man's
life. He would connive at stealing timber by purchasing the lumber at
sufficiently low prices, so long as the danger of being detected was
kept within reasonable limits, but he did not like to be connected
with any transaction that did not, in the case of necessity, admit of
a tolerably safe retreat from all pains and penalties. Men become very
much what—not their laws—but what the administration of
their laws makes them. In countries in which it is prompt, sure, and
sufficiently severe, crimes are mainly the fruits of temptation and
necessity; but such a state of society may exist, in which Justice
falls into contempt by her own impotency, and men are led to offend
merely to brave her. Thus we have long laboured under the great
disadvantage of living under laws that, in a great degree, were framed
for another set of circumstances. By the common law it was only
trespass to cut down a tree in England; for trees were seldom
or never stolen, and the law did not wish to annex the penalties of
felony to the simple offence of cutting a twig in a wood. With us,
however, entire new classes of offences have sprung up under our own
novel circumstances; and we probably owe a portion of the vast amount
of timber-stealing that has now long existed among us, quite as much
to the mistaken lenity of the laws, as to the fact that this
particular description of property is so much exposed. Many a man
would commit a trespass of the gravest sort, who would shrink from the
commission of a felony of the lowest. Such was the case with Newcome.
He had a certain sort of law-honesty about him, that enabled him in a
degree to preserve appearances. It is true he connived at the unlawful
cutting of timber by purchasing the sawed lumber, but he took good
care, at the same time, not to have any such direct connection with
the strictly illegal part of the transaction, as to involve him in the
penalties of the law. Had timber-stealing been felony, he would have
often been an accessory before the act; but, in a case of
misdemeanour, the law knows no such offence. Purchasing the sawed
lumber, too, if done with proper precaution, owing to the glorious
subterfuges permitted by "the perfection of reason," was an affair of
no personal hazard in a criminal point of view, and even admitted of
so many expedients as to leave the question of property a very open
one, after the boards were fully in his own possession. The object of
his present visit to the clearing of Thousandacres, as the reader will
most probably have anticipated, was to profit by my supposed
proximity, and to frighten the squatter into a sale on such terms as
should leave larger profits than common in the hands of the
purchaser. Unfortunately for the success of this upright project, my
proximity was so much greater than even Squire Newcome supposed, as to
put it in danger by the very excess of the thing that was to produce
the result desired. Little did that honest magistrate suppose that I
was, the whole time, within twenty feet of him, and that I heard all
"Chainbearer is about seventy," returned Newcome, after musing a
moment on the character of his companion's last remark. "Yes, about
seventy, I should judge from what I 've heerd, and what I know of the
man. It 's a good old age, but folks often live years and years beyond
it. You must be suthin' like that yourself, Thousandacres?"
"Seventy-three, every day and hour on 't, 'squire; and days and
hours well drawn out, too. If you count by old style, I b'lieve I 'm a
month or so older. But, I 'm not Chainbearer. No man can say of me
, that I ever made myself troublesome to a neighbourhood. No man can
p'int to the time when I ever disturbed his lines. No man can tell of
the day when I ever went into court to be a witness on such a small
matter as the length or breadth of lots, to breed quarrels atween
neighbours. No, 'squire Newcome, I set store by my character, which
will bear comparison with that of any other inhabitant of the woods I
ever met with. And what I say of myself I can say of my sons and
da'ghters, too—from Tobit down to Sampson, from Nab to Jeruthy. We
're what I call a reasonable and reconcileable breed, minding our own
business, and having a respect for that of other people. Now, here am
I, in my seventyfourth year, and the father of twelve living children,
and I 've made, in my time, many and many a pitch on't, but never
was I known to pitch on land that another man had in
possession:—and I carry my idees of possession farther than most
folks, too, for I call it possession to have said openly, and afore
witnesses, that a man intends to pitch on any partic'lar spot afore
next ploughin' or droppin' time, as the case may be. No, I respect
possession, which ought to be the only lawful title to property, in a
free country. When a man wants a clearin', or wants to make
one, my doctrine is, let him look about him, and make his pitch on
calcerlation; and when he 's tired of the spot, and wants a change,
let him sell his betterments, if he lights of a chap, and if he
doos'nt, let him leave 'em open, and clear off all incumbrances, for
the next comer."
It is probable that Jason Newcome, Esq.—magistrates in America
are exceedingly tenacious of this title, though they have no more
right to it than any one else—but Jason Newcome, Esq., did not carry
his notions of the rights of squatters, and of the sacred character of
possession, quite as far as did his friend Thousandacres. Newcome was
an exceedingly selfish, but, withal, an exceedingly shrewd man. I do
not know that the term clever, in its broadest signification, would
fitly apply to him, for, in that sense, I conceive it means quickness
and intelligence enough to do what is right; but, he was fully
entitled to receive it, under that qualification by which we say a man
is `a clever rogue.' In a word, Mr. Newcome understood himself, and
his relations to the community in which he lived, too well to fall
into very serious mistakes by a direct dereliction from his duties,
though he lived in a never-ceasing condition of small divergencies
that might at any time lead him into serious difficulties.
Nevertheless, it was easy enough to see he had no relish for
Thousandacres' allusions to the termination of the days of my
excellent old friend, Chainbearer; nor can I say that they gave me any
particular concern, for, while I knew how desperate the squatters
sometimes became, I had a notion that this old fellow's bark would
prove worse than his bite, as he had just observed of myself.
It would hardly repay the trouble, were I to attempt recording all
that passed next between our two colloquists; although it was a
sufficiently amusing exhibition of wily management to frighten the
squatter to part with his lumber at a low price, on one side, and of
sullen security on the other. The security proceeded from the fact
that Thousandacres had me, at that very moment, a prisoner in his
A bargain conducted on such terms was not likely soon to come to a
happy termination. After a great deal of chaffering and discussing,
the conference broke up, nothing having been decided, by the
magistrate's saying —
"Well, Thousandacres, I hope you'll have no reason to repent; but I
kind o' fear you will."
"The loss will be mine and the b'ys, if I do," was the squatter's
answer. "I know I can get all the boards into the creek; and, for that
matter, into the river, afore young Littlepage can do me any harm;
though there is one circumstance that may yet turn my mind—"
Here the squatter came to a pause; and Newcome, who had risen,
turned short round, eagerly, to press the doubt that he saw was
working in the other's mind.
"I thought you would think better of it," he said; "for, it's out
of doubt, should major Littlepage l'arn your pitch, that he'd uproot
you, as the winds uproot the fallin' tree."
"No, 'squire, my mind's made up," Thousandacres coolly rejoined.
"I'll sell, and gladly; but not on the tarms you have named. Two
pounds eight the thousand foot, board measure, and taking it all
round, clear stuff and refuse, without any store-pay, will carry off
"Too much, Thousandacres; altogether too much, when you consider
the risks I run. I'm not sartain that I could hold the lumber, even
after I got it into the river; for a replevy is a formidable thing in
law, I can tell you. One pound sixteen, one-third store-pay, is the
utmost farthin' I can offer."
In that day all our calculations were in pounds, shillings and
"Then the bargain's off.—I s'pose, squire, you've the old
avarsion to being seen in my settlements?"
"Sartain — sartain," answered Newcome, in haste. "There's no
danger of that, I hope. You cannot well have strangers among you!"
"I wunt answer for that. I see some of the b'ys coming out of the
woods, yonder; and it seems to me there is a fourth man with
them. There is, of a sartainty; and it is no other than Susquesus, the
Onondago. The fellow is cluss-mouthed, like most red-skins; but you
can say best whether you'd like to be seen by him, or not. I hear he's
a great fri'nd of Chainbearer's."
It was very evident that the magistrate decided, at once, in the
negative. With a good deal of decent haste he dodged round a pile of
logs, and I saw no more of him until I caught a distant view of his
person in the skirts of the woods, at the point whence he had issued
into the clearing, two hours before, and where he now received his
horse from the hands of the youngest of Thousandacre's sons, who led
the animal to the spot for his especial accommodation. Mr. Newcome
was no sooner in possession of his beast, again, than he mounted and
rode away into the depths of the forest. So adroitly was this retreat
conducted, that no person of ordinary observation could possibly have
detected it, unless indeed his attention had been previously drawn to
What passed, at parting, between Thousandacres and his visiter, I
never knew; but they must have been altogether alone, for a few
minutes. When the former re-appeared, he came out from behind the
logs, his whole attention seemingly fastened on the approaching party,
composed of his sons and Susquesus. Those resolute and practised men
had, indeed, overtaken and captured the Onondago, and were now
bringing him, a prisoner, unarmed, in their midst, to receive the
commands of their father! Notwithstanding all that I knew of this man,
and of his character, there was something imposing in the manner in
which he now waited for the arrival of his sons and their prisoner.
Accustomed to exercise an almost absolute sway in his own family, the
old man had acquired some of the dignity of authority; and as for his
posterity, old and young, male and female, not excepting Prudence,
they had gained very little in the way of freedom, by throwing aside
the trammels of regular and recognised law, to live under the rule of
their patriarch. In this respect they might be likened to the masses,
who, in a blind pursuit of liberty, impatiently cast away the legal
and healthful restraints of society, to submit to the arbitrary,
selfish, and ever unjust dictation of demagogues. Whatever difference
there might be between the two governments, was in favour of that of
the squatter, who possessed the feelings of nature in behalf of his
own flesh and blood, and was consequently often indulgent.
It is so difficult to read an Indian's mind in his manner, that I
did not expect to ascertain the state of the Onondago's feelings by
the countenance he wore, on drawing near. In exterior, this man was as
calm and unmoved as if just arrived on a friendly visit. His captors
had bound him, fearful he might elude them, in some of the thickets
they had been compelled to pass; but the thongs seemed to give him
neither mental nor bodily concern. Old Thousandacres was stern in
aspect; but he had too much experience in Indian character—knew too
well the unforgiving nature of the Indians' dispositions, or the
enduring memories that forgot neither favours nor injuries, to
wantonly increase the feeling that must naturally have been awakened
between him and his prisoner.
"Trackless," he said, considerately, "you're an old warrior, and
must know that in troubled times every man must look out for himself.
I'm glad the b'ys warn't driven to do you any harm; but it would never
have done to let you carry the tidings of what has happened here, this
morning, to Chainbearer and his gang. How long I may have to keep
you, is more than I know myself; but your treatment shall be good, and
your wilcome warm, so long as you give no trouble. I know what a
red-skin's word is; and maybe, a'ter thinkin' on it a little, I may
let you out to wander about the clearin', provided you'd give your
parole not to go off. I'll think on't, and let you know to-morrow;
but to-day I must put you in the store'us' along with the young chap
that you travelled here with."
Thousandacres then demanded of his sons an account of the manner in
which they had taken their captive; which it is unnecessary to relate
here, as I shall have occasion to give it directly in the language of
the Indian himself. As soon as satisfied on this head, the door of my
prison was opened, and the Onondago entered it, unbound, without
manifesting the smallest shade of regret, or any resistance.
Everthing was done in a very lock-up sort of manner; the new prisoner
being no sooner `permitted,' than the door was secured, and I was left
alone with Sureflint; one of the younger girls now remaining near the
building as a sentinel. I waited a moment, to make certain we were
alone, when I opened the communications with my friend.
"I am very sorry for this, Sureflint," I commenced, "for I had
hoped your knowledge of the woods, and practice on trails, would have
enabled you to throw off your pursuers, that you might have carried
the news of my imprisonment to our friends. This is a sore
disappointment to me; having made sure you would let Chainbearer know
where I am."
"W'y t'ink different, now, eh? S'pose, 'cause Injin prisoner, can't
"You surely do not mean that you are here with your own consent?"
"Sartain.—S'pose no want to come; am no come. You t'ink
Thousandacre's b'ys catch Susquesus in woods, and he don't want to? Be
sure, winter come, and summer come. Be sure, gray hair come a little.
Be sure, Trackless get ole, by-'m-bye; but he moccasin leave no trail
"As I cannot understand why you should first escape, and then wish
to come back, I must beg you to explain yourself. Let me know all that
has passed, Sureflint—how it has passed, and why it has
passed. Tell it in your own way, but tell it fully."
"Sartain — Why no tell? No harm; all good — some t'ing capital!
Nebber hab better luck."
"You excite my curiosity, Sureflint; tell the whole story at once,
beginning at the time when you slipped off, and carrying it down to
the moment of your arrival here."
Hereupon, Susquesus turned on me a significant look, drew his pipe
from his belt, filled and lighted it, and began to smoke with a
composure that was not easily disturbed. As soon as assured that his
pipe was in a proper state, however, the Indian quietly began his
"Now listen, you hear," he said. "Run away, 'cause no good to stay
here, and be prisoner—dat why."
are a prisoner, as it is, as well as myself; and,
by your statement, a prisoner with your own consent."
"Sartain — nebber hab been prisoner, won't be prisoner, if don't
want to. S'pose shot, den can't help him; but in woods, Injin nebber
prisoner, 'less lazy, or drunk. Rum make great many prisoner."
"I can believe all this—but tell me the story. Why did you go off
"S'pose don't want Chainbearer know where be, eh? T'ink
T'ousandacre ebber let you go while board in stream? When board go, he
go; not afore. Stay all summer; want to live in store-'us' all summer,
"Certainly not — Well, you left me, in order to let our friends
know where I was, that they might cast about for the means of getting
me free. All this I understand; what next?"
"Next, go off in wood. Easy 'nough to slip off when T'ousandacre no
look. Well, went about two mile; leave no trail — bird make as much
in air. What s'pose meet, eh?"
"I wait for you to tell me."
"Meet Jaap—yes—meet nigger. Look for young master— ebbery
body in trouble, and won'er where young chief be. Some look
here—some look out yonder—all look somewhere— Jaap look just
"And you told Jaap the whole story, and sent him back to the huts
"Sartain — just so. Make good guess dat time. Den t'ink what do,
next. Want to come back and help young pale-face frien'; so t'ought
get take prisoner one time. Like to know how he feel to be prisoner
one time. No feel so bad as s'pose. Squatter no hard master for
"But how did all this happen, and in what manner have you misled
the young men?"
"No hard to do at all. All he want is know how. A'ter Jaap get his
ar'n'd, and go off, made trail plain 'nough for squaw to find. Travel
to a spring — sit down and put rifle away off, so no need shoot, and
let squatter's boys catch me, by what you call s'prise; yes, 'e
pale-faces s'prise redman dat time! Warrant he brag on 't, well!"
Here, then, was the simple explanation of it all! Susquesus had
stolen away, in order to apprise my friends of my situation; he had
fallen in with Jaap, or Jaaf, in search of his lost master; and,
communicating all the circumstances to the negro, had artfully allowed
himself to be re-captured, carefully avoiding a struggle, and had been
brought back and placed by my side. No explanations were necessary to
point out the advantages. By communicating with the negro, who had
been familiar for years with the clipped manner of the Indian's mode
of speaking English, everything would be made known to Chainbearer; by
suffering himself to be taken, the squatters were led by Sureflint to
suppose our capture and their "pitch" remained secrets; while, by
re-joining me, I should have the presence, counsel and assistance of a
most tried friend of my father's and Chainbearer's, in the event of
This brief summary of his reasoning shows the admirable sagacity of
the Onondago, who had kept in view every requisite of his situation,
and failed in nothing.
I was delighted with the address of Sureflint, as well as touched
by his fidelity. In the course of our conversation, he gave me to
understand that my disappearance and absence for an entire night had
produced great consternation in the huts, and that everybody was out
in quest of me and himself, at the time when he so opportunely fell in
"Gal out, too" — added the Onondago, significantly. "S'pose good
reason for dat."
This startled me a little, for I had a vague suspicion that
Susquesus must have been an unseen observer of my interview with
Ursula Malbone; and noticing my manner on rushing from her cabin, had
been induced to follow me, as has been related. The reader is not to
suppose that my late adventures had driven Dus from my mind. So far
from this, I thought of her incessantly; and the knowledge that she
took so much interest in me as to roam the woods in the search, had no
tendency to lessen the steadiness or intensity of my reflections.
Nevertheless, common humanity might induce one of her energy and
activity to do as much as this; and had I not her own declaration that
she was plighted to another!
After getting his whole story, I consulted the Indian on the
subject of our future proceedings. He was of opinion that we had
better wait the movements of our friends, from whom we must hear in
some mode or other, in the course of the approaching night, or of the
succeeding day. What course Chainbearer might see fit to pursue,
neither of us could conjecture, though both felt assured he never
would remain quiet with two as fast friends as ourselves in durance.
My great concern was that he might resort at once to force; for old
Andries had a fiery spirit, though one that was eminently just; and he
had been accustomed to see gunpowder burned from his youth upward.
Should he, on the other hand, resort to legal means, and apply to Mr.
Newcome for warrants to arrest my captors, as men guilty of illegal
personal violence, a course it struck me Frank Malbone would be very
apt to advise, what might I not expect from the collusion of the
magistrate, in the way of frauds, delays and private machinations? In
such a case, there would be time to send me to some other place of
concealment, and the forest must have a hundred such that were
accessible to my new masters, while their friend Newcome would
scarcely fail to let them have timely notice of the necessity of some
such step. Men acting in conformity with the rules of right,
fulfilling the requirements of the law, and practising virtue, might
be so remiss as not to send information of such an impending danger;
for such persons are only too apt to rely on the integrity of their
own characters, and to put their trust on the laws of Providence; but
rogues, certain that they can have no such succour, depend mainly on
themselves, recognizing the well-known principle of Frederick the
Great, who thought it a safe rule to suppose that "Providence was
usually on the side of strong battalions." I felt certain, therefore,
that squire Newcome would let his friends at the "clearing" know all
that was plotting against them, as soon as he knew it himself.
The squatters were not unkind to us prisoners in the way of general
treatment. Certainly I had every right to complain of the particular
wrong they did me; but, otherwise, they were sufficiently considerate
and liberal throughout that day. Our fare was their own. We had water
brought in fresh by Lowiny no fewer than five several times; and so
attentive to my supposed wants was this girl, that she actually
brought me every book that was to be found in all the libraries of
the family. These were but three—a fragment of a bible, Pilgrim's
Progress, and an almanac that was four years old.
"I mark'd his desultory pace,
His gestures strange, and varying face,
With many a muttered sound;
And ah! too late, aghast, I view'd
The reeking blade, the hand embru'd:
He fell, and groaning grasp'd in agony the ground."
In this manner passed that long and wearying day. I could, and did
take exercise, by walking to and fro in my prison; but the Indian
seldom stirred, from the moment he entered. As for the squatter
himself, he came no more near the storehouse, though I saw him, two or
three times in the course of the day, in private conference with his
elder sons, most probably consulting on my case. At such moments,
their manner was serious, and there were instants when I fancied it
Provision was made for our comfort by throwing a sufficient number
of bundles of straw into the prison, and my fellow-captive and myself
had each a sufficiently comfortable bed. A soldier was not to be
frightened at sleeping on straw, moreover; and, as for Susquesus, he
asked for no more than room to stretch himself, though it were even on
a rock. An Indian loves his ease, and takes it when it comes in his
way; but it is really amazing to what an extent his powers of
endurance go, when it becomes necessary for him to exert them.
In the early part of the night I slept profoundly, as I believe did
the Indian. I must acknowledge that an uncomfortable distrust existed
in my mind, that had some slight effect in keeping me from slumbering,
though fatigue soon overcame the apprehensions such a feeling would be
likely to awaken. I did not know but Thousandacres and his sons might
take it into their heads to make away with the Indian and myself under
cover of the darkness, as the most effectual means of protecting
themselves against the consequences of their past depredations, and of
securing the possession of those that they had projected for the
future. We were completely in their power, and, so far as the squatter
knew, the secret of our visit would die with us; the knowledge of
those of his own flesh and blood possessed on the subject excepted.
Notwithstanding these thoughts crossed my mind, and did give me some
little uneasiness, they were not sufficiently active or sufficiently
prominent to prevent me from slumbering, after I had fairly fallen
asleep, without awaking once, until it was three o'clock, or within an
hour of the approach of day.
I am not certain that any external cause aroused me from my
slumbers. But, I well remember that I lay there on my straw,
meditating for some time, half asleep and half awake, until I fancied
I heard the musical voice of Dus, murmuring in my ear my own name.
This illusion lasted some little time; when, as my faculties gradually
resumed their powers, I became slowly convinced that some one was
actually calling me, and by name too, within a foot or two of my ears.
I could not be mistaken; the fact was so, and the call was in a
woman's tones. Springing up, I demanded—
"Who is here? In the name of heaven can this really be Miss
"My name is Lowiny," answered my visitor, "and I'm Thousandacres'
da'ghter. But, don't speak so loud, for there is one of the b'ys on
the watch at the other end of the store'us', and you 'll wake him up
unless you 're careful."
"Lowiny, is it you, my good girl? Not content to care for us
throughout the day, you still have a thought for us during the night!"
I thought the girl felt embarrassed, for she must have been
conscious of having a little trespassed on the usages and reserve of
her sex. It is rare, indeed, that any mother, and especially an
American mother, ever falls so low as completely to become unsexed in
feelings and character, and rarer still that she forgets to impart
many of the decencies of woman to her daughter. Old Prudence,
notwithstanding the life she led, and the many causes of corruption
and backslidings that existed around her, was true to her native
instincts, and had taught to her girls many of those little
proprieties that become so great charms in woman.
Lowiny was far from disagreeable in person, and had the advantage
of being youthful in appearance, as well as in fact. In addition to
these marks of her sex, she had manifested an interest in my fate,
from the first, that had not escaped me; and here she was now
doubtless on some errand of which the object was our good. My remark
embarrassed her, however, and a few moments passed before she got
entirely over the feeling. As soon as she did, she again spoke.
"I don't think anything of bringing you and
the Injin a
little water," she said—laying an emphasis on the words I have put
in Italics—"nor should I had we any beer or sapcider instead. But
all our spruce is out; and father said he wouldn't have any more of
the cider made, seein' that we want all the sap for sugar. I hope you
had a plentiful supper, Mr. Littlepage; and for fear you hadn't, I 've
brought you and the red-skin a pitcher of milk and a bowl of
hastypudding— he can eat a'ter you 've done, you know."
I thanked my kind-hearted friend, and received her gift through a
hole that she pointed out to me. The food, in the end, proved very
acceptable, as subsequent circumstances caused our regular breakfast
to be forgotten for a time. I was desirous of ascertaining from this
girl what was said or contemplated among her relatives, on the subject
of my future fate; but felt a nearly unconquerable dislike to be
prying into what was a species of family secrets, by putting direct
questions to her. Fortunately, the communicative and friendly
disposition of Lowiny, herself, soon removed all necessity for any
such step; for after executing her main purpose, she lingered with an
evident wish to gossip.
"I wish father wouldn't be a squatter any longer," the girl said,
with an earnestness that proved she was uttering her real sentiments.
"It 's awful to be for ever fighting ag'in law!"
"It would be far better if he would apply to some landowner, and
get a farm on lease, or by purchase. Land is so plenty, in this
country, no man need go without a legal interest in his hundred acres,
provided he be only sober and industrious."
"Father never drinks, unless it 's on the Fourth of July; and the
b'ys be all pretty sober, too, as young men go, now-a-days. I believe,
Mr. Littlepage, if mother has told father once, she has told him a
thousand times, that she doos wish he 'd leave off squatting,
and take writin's for some piece of land or other. But father says,
`no—he warn't made for writin's, nor writin's for him.' He 's
desp'ately troubled to know what to do with you, now he 's got you."
"Did Mr. Newcome give no opinion on the subject, while he was with
"'Squire Newcome! Father never let on to him a syllable about ever
having seen you. He knows too much to put himself in 'squire Newcome's
power, sin' his lumber would go all the cheaper for it—What 's your
opinion, Mr. Littlepage, about our right to the boards, when we 've
cut, and hauled, and sawed the logs with our own hands. Don't that
make some difference?"
"What is your opinion of your right to a gown that another girl has
made out of calico she had taken from your drawer, when your back was
turned, and carried away, and cut, and stitched, and sewed with her
would have any right to my calico, let her cut it
as much as she might. But lumber is made out of trees."
"And trees have owners, just as much as calicoes. Hauling, and
cutting, and sawing can, of themselves, give no man a right to another
"I was afeard it was so—" answered Lowiny, sighing so loud as to
be heard. "There 's suthin' in that old bible I lent you that I read
pretty much in that way; though Tobit, and most of the b'ys say it
don't mean any sich thing. They say there 's nothin' about lumber in
the bible, at all."
"And what does your mother tell you on this head?"
"Why, mother don't talk about it. She wants father to lease, or
buy: but you know how it is with women, Mr. Littlepage; when their
fri'nds act, it 's all the same as a law to them to try to think that
they act right. Mother never says any thing to us about the lawfulness
of father's doin's, though she often wishes he would live under
writin's. Mother wants father to try and get writin's of you, now you
're here, and in his hands. Wouldn't you give us writin's, Mr.
Littlepage, if we 'd promise to give you suthin' for rent?"
"If I did, they would be good for nothing, unless I were free, and
among friends. Deeds and leases got from men who are `in the hands,'
as you call it, of those who take them, are of no value."
"I 'm sorry for that—" rejoined Lowiny, with another sigh—"not
that I wanted you to be driven into any thing, but, I thought if you
would only consent to let father have writin's for this clearin', it
's so good a time to do it now, 't would be a pity to lose it. If it
can't be done, however, it can't, and there 's no use in complaining.
Father thinks he can hold you 'till the water rises, in the fall, and
the b'ys have run all the lumber down to Albany; a'ter which, he 'll
not be so partic'lar about keepin' you any longer, and may be he 'll
let you go."
"Hold me until the water rises! Why that will not take place these
"Well, Mr. Littlepage, three months don't seem to me sich a
desp'ate long time, when a-body is among fri'nds. We should treat you
as well as we know how, that you may depend on—I 'll answer for it,
you shall want for nothin' that we 've got to give."
"I dare say, my excellent girl, but I should be extremely sorry to
trouble your family with so long a visit. As for the boards, I have no
power to waive the rights of the owners of the land to that property;
my power being merely to sell lots to actual settlers."
"I 'm sorry to hear that," answered Lowiny in a gentle tone, that
fully confirmed her words; "for father and the b'ys be really awful
about any thing that touches their profits for work done. They say
their flesh and blood 's in them boards, and flesh and blood shall go,
afore the boards shall go. It makes my blood run cold to hear the way
they do talk! I 'm not a bit skeary; and, last winter when I
shot the bear that was a'ter the store-hogs, mother said I acted as
well as she could have done herself, and she has killed four bears and
near upon twenty wolves, in her time. Yes, mother said I behaved like
her own da'ghter, and that she set twice the store by me that she did
"You are a brave girl, Lowiny, and an excellent one in the main, I
make no question. Whatever become of me, I shall not forget your
kindness as long as I live. It will be a very serious matter, however,
to your friends to attempt keeping me here three or four months, as
mine will certainly have a search for me, when this clearing would be
found. I need not tell you what would be the consequence."
will father and the b'ys do? I can't
bear to think on't — Oh! they 'll not have the hearts to try to put
you out of the way!"
"I should hope not, for their own sakes, and for the credit of the
American name. We are not a nation addicted to such practices, and I
should really regret to learn that we have made so long a step towards
the crimes of older countries. But, there is little danger of anything
of the sort, after all, my good Lowiny."
"I hope so, too," the girl answered in a low, tremulous voice;
"though Tobit is a starn bein' sometimes. He makes father worse than
he would be, if let alone, I know. But, I must go, now. It 's near
day-light, and I hear 'em stirrin' in Tobit's house. It would cost me
dear did any on 'em know I had been out of my bed, talking to you."
As this was said, the girl vanished. Before I could find an
aperture to watch her movements, she had disappeared. Susquesus arose
a few minutes later, but he never made any allusion to the secret
visit of the girl. In this respect, he observed the most scrupulous
delicacy, never letting me know by hint, look, or smile, that he had
been in the least conscious of her presence.
Day came as usual, but it did not find these squatters in their
beds. They appeared with the dawn, and most of them were at work ere
the broad light of the sun was shed on the forest. Most of the men
went down into the river, and busied themselves, as we supposed, for
we could not see them, in the water, with the apples of their eyes,
their boards. Old Thousandacres, however, chose to remain near his
habitation, keeping two or three well-grown lads about him; probably
adverting in his mind to the vast importance it was to all of his
race, to make sure of his prisoners. I could see by the thoughtful
manner of the old squatter, as he lounged around his mill, among his
swine, and walked through his potatoes, that his mind wavered greatly
as to the course he ought to pursue, and that he was sorely troubled.
How long this perplexity of feeling would have continued, and to what
it might have led, it is hard to say, had it not been cut short by an
incident of a very unexpected nature, and one that called for more
immediate decision and action. I shall relate the occurrence a little
The day was considerably advanced, and, Thousandacres and the girl
who then watched the store-house excepted, everybody was occupied.
Even Susquesus had picked up a piece of birch, and, with a melancholy
countenance, that I fancied was shadowing forth the future life of a
half-civilized red-man, was attempting to make a broom with a part of
a knife that he had found in the building; while I was sketching, on a
leaf of my pocket-book, the mill and a bit of mountain-land that
served it for a back-ground. Thousandacres, for the first time that
morning, drew near our prison, and spoke to me. His countenance was
severe, yet I could see he was much troubled. As I afterwards
ascertained, Tobit had been urging on him the necessity of putting
both myself and the Indian to death, as the only probable means that
offered to save the lumber.
"Young man," said Thousandacres, "you have stolen on me and mine
like a thief at night, and you ought to expect the fate of one. How in
natur' can you expect men will give up their hard 'arnin's without a
struggle and a fight for 'em? You tempt me more than I can bear!"
I felt the fearful import of these words; but human nature revolted
at the thought of being cowed into any submission, or terms unworthy
of my character, or late profession. I was on the point of making an
answer in entire consonance with this feeling, when, in looking
through the chinks of my prison to fasten an eye on my old tyrant, I
saw Chainbearer advancing directly towards the store-house, and
already within a hundred yards of us. The manner in which I gazed at
this apparition attracted the attention of the squatter, who turned
and first saw the unexpected visiter who approached. At the next
minute, Andries was at his side.
"So, T'ousantacres, I fint you here!" exclaimed Chainbearer. "It 's
a goot many years since you and I met, and I 'm sorry we meet now on
such pusiness as t'is!"
"The meetin 's of your own seekin', Chainbearer. I 've neither
invited nor wished for your company."
"I p'lieve you wit' all my heart. No, no; you wish for no chains
and no chainpearers, no surfeyors and no compasses, no lots and no
owners, too, put a squatter. You and I haf not to make an acquaintance
for t'e first time, Thousandacres, after knowin' each other for fifty
do know each other for fifty years; and seein' that
them years haven't sarved to bring us of a mind on any one thing, we
should have done better to keep apart, than to come together now."
"I haf come for my poy, squatter—my nople poy, whom you haf
illegally arrestet, and mate a prisoner, in the teet' of all law and
justice. Gif me pack Mortaunt Littlepage, and you 'll soon be rit of
"And how do you know that I 've ever seen your `Mortaunt
Littlepage?' What have I to do with your boy, that you seek him of
me? Go your ways, go your ways, old Chainbearer, and let me and mine
alone. The world 's wide enough for us both, I tell you; and why
should you be set on your own ondoin', by runnin' ag'in a breed like
that which comes of Aaron and Prudence Timberman?"
"I care not for you or your preet," answered old Andries sternly.
"You 've darest to arrest my frient, against law and right, and I come
to demant his liperty, or to warn you of t'e consequences."
"Don't press me too far, Chainbearer, don't press me too far. There
's desp'rate crittur's in this clearin', and them that isn't to be
driven from their righteous 'arnin's by any that carry chains or p'int
compasses. Go your way, I tell ye, and leave us to gather the harvest
that comes of the seed of our own sowin' and plantin'."
"Ye 'll gat'er it, ye 'll gat'er it all, T'ousantacres—you and
yours. Ye 've sown t'e win't, ant ye 'll reap t'e whirlwints, as my
niece Dus Malpone has reat to me often, of late. Ye 'll gat'er in all
your harvest, tares ant all, ye will; and t'at sooner t'an ye t'ink
"I wish I 'd never seen the face of the man! Go away, I tell you,
Chainbearer, and leave me to my hard 'arnin's."
"Earnin's! Do you call it earnin's to chop and pillage on anot'er's
lants, and to cut his trees into logs, and to saw his logs into
poarts, and sell his poarts to speculators, and gif no account of your
profits to t'e rightful owner of it all? Call you such t'ievin'
"Thief back ag'in, old measurer! Do not the sweat of the brow, long
and hard days of toil, achin' bones, and hungry bellies, give a man a
claim to the fruit of his labours?"
"T'at always hast peen your failin', T'ousantacres; t'at 's t'e
very p'int on which you 've proken town, man. You pegin wit' your
morals, at t'e startin' place t'at 's most convenient to yourself and
your plunterin' crew, insteat of goin' pack to t'e laws of your Lort
ant Master. Reat what t'e Almighty Got of Heaven ant 'art' sait unto
Moses, ant you 'll fint t'at you 've not turnet over leafs enough of
your piple. You may chop ant you may hew, you may haul ant you may
saw, from t'is tay to t'e ent of time, and you 'll nefer pe any nearer
to t'e right t'an you are at t'is moment. T'e man t'at starts on his
journey wit' his face in t'e wrong tirection, olt T'ousantacres, wilt
nefer reach its ent; t'ough he trafel 'till t'e sweat rolls from his
poty like water. You pegin wrong, olt man, and you must ent wrong."
I saw the cloud gathering in the countenance of the squatter, and
anticipated the outbreaking of the tempest that followed. Two fiery
tempers had met, and, divided as they were in opinions and practice,
by the vast chasm that separates principles from expediency, right
from wrong, honesty from dishonesty, and a generous sacrifice of self
to support the integrity of a noble spirit, from a homage to self that
confounded and overshadowed all sense of right, it was not possible
that they should separate without a collision. Unable to answer
Chainbearer's reasoning, the squatter resorted to the argument of
force. He seized my old friend by the throat and made a violent effort
to hurl him to the earth. I must do this man of violence and evil the
justice to say, that I do not think it was his wish at that moment to
have assistance; but the instant the struggle commenced the conch
blew, and it was easy to predict that many minutes would not elapse,
before the sons of Thousandacres would be pouring in to the rescue. I
would have given a world to be able to throw down the walls of my
prison, and rush to the aid of my sterling old friend. As for
Susquesus, he must have felt a lively interest in what was going on,
but he remained as immoveable, and seemingly as unmoved as a rock.
Andries Coejemans, old as he was, and it will be remembered he too
had seen his three-score years and ten, was not a man to be taken by
the throat with impunity. Thousandacres met with a similar assault,
and a struggle followed that was surprisingly fierce and well
contested, considering that both the combatants had completed the
ordinary limits of the time of man. The squatter gained a slight
advantage in the suddenness and vigour of his assault, but
Chainbearer was still a man of formidable physical power. In his
prime, few had been his equals; and Thousandacres soon had reason to
know that he had met more than his match. For a single instant
Chainbearer gave ground; then he rallied, made a desperate effort, and
his adversary was hurled to the earth with a violence that rendered
him, for a short time, insensible; old Andries, himself, continuing
erect as one of the neighbouring pines, red in the face, frowning,
and more severe in aspect than I remembered ever to have seen him
before, even in battle.
Instead of pushing his advantage, Chainbearer did not stir a foot
after he had thrown off his assailant. There he remained, lofty in
bearing, proud and stern. He had reason to believe no one was a
witness of his prowess, but I could see that the old man had a
soldier's feelings at his victory. At this instant I first let him
know my close proximity by speaking.
"Fly—for your life take to the woods, Chainbearer," I called to
him, through the chinks. "That conch will bring all the tribe of the
squatters upon you in two or three minutes; the young men are close at
hand, in the stream below the mill, at work on the logs, and have only
the banks to climb."
"Got be praiset! Mortaunt, my tear poy, you are not injuret, t'en!
I will open t'e toor of your prison, and we will retreat toget'er."
My remonstrances were vain. Andries came round to the door of the
store-house, and made an effort to force it open. That was not easy,
however; for, opening outwards, it was barred with iron, and secured
by a stout lock. Chainbearer would not listen to my remonstrances, but
he looked around him for some instrument, by means of which he could
either break the lock or draw the staple. As the mill was at no great
distance, away he went in that direction, in quest of what he wanted,
leaving me in despair at his persevering friendship. Remonstrance was
useless, however, and I was compelled to await the result in silence.
Chainbearer was still a very active man. Nature, early training,
sobriety of life in the main, and a good constitution, had done this
much for him. It was but a moment before I saw him in the mill,
looking for the crow-bar. This he soon found, and he was on his way to
the store-house, in order to apply this powerful lever, when Tobit
came in sight, followed by all the brethren, rushing up the bank like
a pack of hounds in close pursuit. I shouted to my friend again to
fly, but he came on steadily toward my prison, bent on the single
object of setting me free. All this time Thousandacres was senseless,
his head having fallen against a corner of the building. Chainbearer
was so intent on his purpose that, though he must have seen the crowd
of young men, no less than six in number, including well-grown lads,
that was swiftly advancing towards him, he did not bestow the least
attention on them. He was actually busied with endeavouring to force
the bar in between the hasp and the post, when his arms were seized
behind, and he was made a prisoner.
Chainbearer was no sooner apprised of the uselessness of
resistance, than he ceased to make any. As I afterwards learned from
himself, he had determined to become a captive with me, if he could
not succeed in setting me free. Tobit was the first to lay hands on
the Chainbearer; and so rapidly were things conducted, for it happened
this man had the key, that the door was unbarred, opened, and old
Andries was thrust into the cage, almost in the twinkling of an eye.
The rapidity of the movement was doubtless aided by the acquiescent
feeling that happened to be uppermost in the mind of Chainbearer, at
that precise moment.
No sooner was this new prisoner secured, than the sons of
Thousandacres raised their father's body, and bore it to his own
residence, which was but a few yards distant. Old and young, both
sexes and all ages, collected in that building; and there was an hour
during which we appeared to be forgotten. The sentinel, who was a son
of Tobit's, deserted his post; and even Lowiny, who had been hovering
in sight of the store-house the whole morning, seemed to have lost
her interest in us. I was too much engaged with my old friend, and had
too many questions to ask and to answer, however, to care much for
this desertion; which, moreover, was natural enough for the
"I rejoice you are not in the hands of that pack of wolves, my good
friend!" I exclaimed, after the first salutations had passed between
Andries and myself, and squeezing his hand again and again. "They are
very capable of any act of violence; and I feared the sight of their
father, lying there insensible, might have inflamed them to some deed
of immediate violence. There will now be time for reflection, and,
fortunately, I am a witness of all that passed."
"No fear for olt T'ousantacres," said Chainbearer, heartily. "He is
tough, and is only a little stunnet, pecause he t'ought himself a
petter man t'an he ist. Half an hour will pring him rount, and make
him as good a man ast he ever wast. But, Mortaunt, lat, how came you
here, and why wast you wantering apout t'e woods at night, wit'
Trackless, here, who ist a sensiple ret-skin, and ought to haf set
you a petter example?"
"I was hot and feverish, and could not sleep; and so I took a
stroll in the forest, and got lost. Luckily, Susquesus had an eye on
me, and kept himself at hand the whole time. I was obliged to catch a
nap in the top of a fallen tree, and, when I woke in the morning, the
Onondago led me here in quest of something to eat, for I was hungry as
a famished wolf."
"Tid Susquesus, t'en, know of squatters having mate t'eir pitch on
t'is property?" asked Andries, in some surprise, and, as I thought, a
"Not he. He heard the saw of the mill in the stillness of night,
and we followed the direction of that sound, and came unexpectedly out
on this settlement. As soon as Thousandacres ascertained who I was, he
shut me up here; and as for Susquesus, Jaap has doubtless told you the
story he was commissioned to relate."
"All fery true, lat, all fery true; t'ough I don't half understant,
yet, why you shoul't haf left us in t'e manner you tit, and t'at,
too, after hafin' a long talk wit' Dus. T'e gal is heart-heafy,
Mortaunt, as 'tis plain to pe seen; put I can't get a syllaple from
her t'at hast t'e look of a rational explanation. I shall haf to ask
you to tell t'e story, lat. I was tryin' to get t'e trut' out of Dus,
half of t'e way comin' here; put a gal is as close as—"
"Dus!" I interrupted — "Half the way coming here? You
not, cannot mean that Dus is with you."
"Hist, hist—pe careful. You speak too lout. I coult wish not to
let t'ese scountrels of squatters know t'at t'e gal is so exposet, put
here she ist; or, what is much t'e same, she is in t'e woots out
yonter, a looker-on, and I fear must pe in consarn at seein' t'at I,
too, am a prisoner."
"Chainbearer, how could you thus expose your niece— thus bring
her into the very grasp of lawless ruffians?"
"No, Mortaunt, no—t'ere is no fear of her peing insultet, or any
t'ing of t'at sort. One can reat of such t'ings in pooks, put woman is
respectet ant not insultet in America. Not one of T'ousantacres
rascals woult wount t'e ear of t'e gal wit' an improper wort, hat he a
chance, which not one of 'em hast, seein' nopody knows t'e gal is wit'
me, put ourselves. Come she woult, and t'ere wast no use in saying
her nay. Dus is a goot creature, Mortaunt, and a tutiful gal; put it
's as easy to turn a rifer up stream, as to try to holt her pack when
"Is that her character?" I thought. "Then is there little chance,
indeed, of her ever becoming mine, since her affections must have gone
with her troth." Nevertheless, my interest in the noble-hearted girl
was just as strong as if I held her faith, and she was to become mine
in a few weeks. The idea that she was at that moment waiting the
return of her uncle, in the woods, was agony to me; but I had
sufficient self-command to question the Chainbearer, until I got out
of him all of the following facts:
Jaap had carried the message of Susquesus, with great fidelity, to
those to whom the Indian had sent it. On hearing the news, and the
manner of my arrest, Andries called a council, consisting of himself,
Dus, and Frank Malbone. This occurred in the afternoon of the previous
day; and that same night, Malbone proceeded to Ravensnest, with a view
of obtaining warrants for the arrest of Thousandacres and his gang,
as well as of procuring assistance to bring them all in, in
expectation of having the whole party transferred to the gaol at Sandy
Hill. As the warrant could be granted only by Mr. Newcome, I could
easily see that the messenger would be detained a considerable time,
since the magistrate would require a large portion of the present day
to enable him to reach his house. This fact, however, I thought it
well enough to conceal from my friend, at the moment.
Early that morning, Chainbearer, Dus, and Jaap, had left the huts,
taking the nearest route to the supposed position of the clearing of
Thousandacres, as it had been described by the Indian. Aided by a
compass, as well as by their long familiarity with the woods, this
party had little difficulty in reaching the spot where the Onondago
and the negro had met; after which, the remainder of the journey was
through a terra incognita, as respects the adventurers. With
some search, however, a glimpse was got of the light of the clearing,
much as one finds an island in the ocean, when the skirts of the wood
were approached. A favourable spot, one that possessed a good cover,
was selected, whence Chainbearer reconnoitred for near an hour, before
he left it. After a time he determined on the course he adopted and
carried out, leaving his niece to watch his movements, with
instructions to rejoin her brother, should he himself be detained by
the squatter. I was a little relieved by the knowledge of the presence
of Jaap, for I knew the fidelity of the fellow too well to suppose he
would ever desert Dus; but my prison became twice as irksome to me
after I had heard this account of Chainbearer's, as it had been before.
"Was she not all my fondest wish could frame?
Did ever mind so much of heaven partake?
Did she not love me with the purest flame?
And give up friends and fortune for my sake?
Though mild as evening skies,
With downcast, streaming eyes,
Stood the stern frown of supercilious brows,
Deaf to their brutal threats, and faithful to her vows."
Dus was then near me—in sight of the store-house, perhaps! But,
affection for her uncle, and no interest in me, had brought her there.
I could respect her attachment to her old guardian, however, and
admire the decision and spirit she had manifested in his behalf, at
the very moment the consciousness that I had no influence on her
movements was the most profound.
"T'e gal woult come, Mortaunt," the Chainbearer continued, after
having gone through his narrative; "ant, if you know Dus, you know
when she loves she wilt not be deniet. Got pless me! what a wife she
woult make for a man who wast desarfin' of her! Oh! here's a pit of a
note t'e dear creature has written to one of T'ousantacre's poys, who
hast peen out among us often, t'ough I never so much as dreamet t'at
t'e squatting olt rascal of a fat'er was on our lant, here. Well,
Zepaniah, as t'e lat is callet, hast passet much time at t'e Nest,
working apount in t'e fielts, and sometimes for us; and, to own the
trut' to you, Mortaunt, I do pelieve t'e young chap hast a hankerin'
a'ter Dus, and woult pe glat enough to get t'e gal for a wife."
"He! Zephaniah Thousandacres—or whatever his infernal name may
be—he a hankering or an attachment for Ursula Malbone—he
think of her for a wife—he presume to love such a perfect being!"
Hoity, toity," cried old Andries, looking round at me in surprise,
"why shoult'n't t'e poy haf his feelin's ast well ast anot'er, if he
pe a squatter? Squatters haf feelin's, t'ough t'ey haf n't much
honesty to poast of. Ant, ast for honesty, you see, Mortaunt, it is
tifferent petween T'ousantacres and his poys. T'e lats haf peen
prought up to fancy t'ere ist no great harm in lif'ing on anot'er
man's lants, wherast t'is olt rascal, t'eir fat'er, wast prought up,
or t'inks he wast prought up, in t'e very sanctum sanctorum of
gotliness, among t'e puritans, and t'at t'e 'art' hast not t'eir
equals in religion, I 'll warrant you. Ask olt Aaron apout his soul,
ant he 'll tell you t'at it 's a petter soul t'an a Dutch soul, and
t'at it won't purn at all, it 's so free from eart'. Yes, yes—t'at
ist t'e itee wit' 'em all in his part of t'e worlt. T'eir gotliness
ist so pure even sin wilt do it no great harm."
I knew the provincial prejudices of Chainbearer too well to permit
myself to fall into a discussion on theology with him, just at that
moment; though, I must do the old man the justice to allow that his
opinion of the self-righteousness of the children of the puritans was
not absolutely without some apology. I never had any means of
ascertaining the fact, but it would have occasioned me no surprise had
I discovered that Thousandacres, and all his brood, looked down on us
New Yorkers as an especially fallen and sinful race, which was on the
high road to perdition, though encouraged and invited to enter on a
different road by the spectacle of a chosen people so near them,
following the strait and narrow path that leads to heaven. This
mingling of God and Mammon is by no means an uncommon thing among us,
though the squatters would probably have admitted themselves that
they had fallen a little away, and were by no means as good as their
forefathers had once been. There is nothing that sticks so close to an
individual, or to a community, perhaps, as the sense of its own worth.
As "coming events throw their shadows before," this sentiment leaves
its shadows behind, long after the substance which may have produced
them has moved onward, or been resolved into the gases. But I must
return to Zephaniah and the note.
"And you tell me, Chainbearer, that Ursula has actually written a
note, a letter, to this young man?" I asked, as soon as I could muster
resolution enough to put so revolting a question?
"Sartain; here it ist, ant a very pretty lookin' letter it is,
Mortaunt. Dus does everyt'ing so hantily, ant so like a nice young
woman, t'at it ist a pleasure to carry one of her letters. Ay—t'ere
t'e lat ist now, and I 'll just call him, and gif him his own."
Chainbearer was as good as his word, and Zephaniah soon stood at
the side of the store-house.
"Well, you wilt own, Zeph," continued the old man, "we didn't cage
you like a wilt peast, or a rogue t'at hast peen mettlin' wit' what
tidn't pelong to him, when you wast out among us. T'ere ist t'at
difference in t'e treatment—put no matter! Here ist a letter for
you, and much goot may it do you! It comes from one who vilt gif goot
atvice; ant you 'll be none t'e worse if you follow it. I don't know a
wort t'at 's in it, put you 'll fint it a goot letter, I 'll answer
for it. Dus writes peautiful letters, and in a hand almost as plain
and hantsome as His Excellency's, t'ough not quite so large. Put her
own hant isn't as large as His Excellency's, t'ough His Excellency's
hant wasn't particularly pig neit'er."
I could scarce believe my senses! Here was Ursula Malbone
confessedly writing a letter to a son of Thousandacres the squatter,
and that son admitted to be her admirer! Devoured by jealousy, and a
thousand feelings to which I had hitherto been a stranger, I gazed at
the fortunate being who was so strangely honoured by this
communication from Dus, with the bitterest envy. Although, to own the
truth, the young squatter was a well-grown, good-looking fellow, to
me he seemed to be the very personification of coarseness and
vulgarity. It will readily be supposed that Zephaniah was not entirely
free from some very just imputations of the latter character; but, on
the whole, most girls of his own class in life would be quite content
with him in these respects. But Ursula Malbone was not at all of his
own class in life. However reduced in fortune, she was a lady, by
education as well as by birth; and what feelings could there possibly
be in common between her and her strange admirer? I had heard it said
that women were as often taken by externals as men; but in this
instance the externals were coarse, and nothing extraordinary. Some
females, too, could not exist without admiration; and I had known Dus
but a few weeks, after all, and it was possible I had not penetrated
the secret of her true character. Then her original education had
been in the forest; and we often return to our first loves, in these
particulars, with a zest and devotion for which there was no
accounting. It was possible this strange girl might have portrayed to
her imagination, in the vista of the future, more of happiness and
wild enjoyment among the woods and ravines of stolen clearings, than
by dwelling amid the haunts of men. In short, there was scarce a
conceit that did not crowd on my brain, in that moment of intense
jealousy and profound unhappiness. I was as miserable as a dog.
As for Zephaniah, the favoured youth of Ursula Malbone, he received
his letter, as I fancied, with an awkward surprise, and lounged round
a corner of the building, to have the pleasure, as it might be, of
reading it to himself. This brought him nearer to my position; for I
had withdrawn, in a disgust I could not conquer, from being near the
scene that had just been enacted.
Opening a letter, though it had been folded by the delicate hands
of Ursula Malbone, and reading it, were two very different operations,
as Zephaniah now discovered. The education of the young man was very
limited, and, after an effort or two, he found it impossible to get
on. With the letter open in his hand, he found it as much a sealed
book to him as ever. Zephaniah could read writing, by dint of
a considerable deal of spelling; but it must not be a good hand. As
some persons cannot comprehend pure English, so he found far more
difficulty in spelling out the pretty, even characters before him,
than would have been the case had he been set at work on the pot-hooks
and trammels of one of his own sisters. Glancing his eyes around in
quest of aid, they happened to fall on mine, which were watching his
movements with the vigilance of a feline animal, through the chinks of
the logs, and at the distance of only three feet from his own face. As
for the Indian, he, seemingly, took no more note of what was
passing, than lovers take of time in a stolen interview; though I had
subsequently reason to believe that nothing had escaped his
observation. Andries was in a distant part of the prison,
reconnoitring the clearing and mills with an interest that absorbed
all his attention for the moment. Of these facts Zephaniah assured
himself by taking a look through the openings of the logs; then,
sidling along nearer to me, he said in a low voice—
"I don't know how it is, but, to tell you the truth, Major
Littlepage, York larnin' and Varmount larnin' be so different, that I
don't find it quite as easy to read this letter as I could wish."
On this hint I seized the epistle, and began to read it in a low
tone; for Zephaniah asked this much of me, with a delicacy of feeling
that, in so far, was to his credit. As the reader may have some of the
curiosity I felt myself, to know what Ursula Malbone could possibly
have to say in this form to Zephaniah Thousandacres, I shall give the
contents of this strange epistle in full. It was duly directed to
"Mr. Zephaniah Timberman, Mooseridge," and in that respect would have
passed for any common communication. Within, it read as follows:—
"As you have often professed a strong regard for me, I now put you
to the proof of the sincerity of your protestations. My dear uncle
goes to your father, whom I only know by report, to demand the release
of Major Littlepage, who, we hear, is a prisoner in the hands of your
family, against all law and right. As it is possible the business of
uncle Chainbearer will be disagreeable to Thousandacres, and that
warm words may pass between them, I ask of your friendship some
efforts to keep the peace; and, particularly, should anything happen
to prevent my uncle from returning, that you would come to me in the
woods—for I shall accompany the chainbearer to the edge of your
clearing— and let me know it. You will find me there, attended by
one of the blacks, and we can easily meet if you cross the fields in
an eastern direction, as I will send the negro to find you and to
bring you to me.
"In addition to what I have said above, Zephaniah, let me also
earnestly ask your care in behalf of Major Littlepage. Should any evil
befall that gentleman, it would prove the undoing of your whole
family. The law has a long arm, and it will reach into the wilderness,
as well as into a settlement. The person of a human being is a very
different thing from a few acres of timber, and General Littlepage
will think far more of his noble son, than he will think of all the
logs that have been cut and floated away. Again and again, therefore,
I earnestly entreat of you to befriend this gentleman, not only as you
hope for my respect, but as you hope for your own peace of mind. I
have had some connection with the circumstances that threw Mr.
Littlepage into your hands, and shall never know a happy moment again
should anything serious befall him. Remember this, Zephaniah, and let
it influence your own conduct. I owe it to myself and to you to add,
that the answer I gave you at Ravensnest, the evening of the raising,
must remain my answer, now and for ever; but, if you have really the
regard for me that you then professed, you will do all you can to
serve Major Littlepage, who is an old friend of my uncle's, and whose
safety, owing to circumstances that you would fully understand were
they told to you, is absolutely necessary to my future peace of mind.
What a strange girl was this Dus! I suppose it is unnecessary to
say that I felt profoundly ashamed of my late jealousy, which now
seemed just as absurd and unreasonable as, a moment before, it seemed
justified and plausible. God protect the wretch who is the victim of
that evil-eyed passion! He who is jealous of circumstances, in the
ordinary transactions of life, usually makes a fool of himself, by
seeing a thousand facts that exist in his own brain only; but he whose
jealousy is goaded on by love, must be something more than human, not
to let the devils get a firm grasp of his soul. I can give no better
illustration of the weakness that this last passion induces, however,
than the admission I have just made, that I believed it possible
Ursula Malbone could love Zephaniah Thousandacres, or whatever
might be his real name. I have since pulled at my own hair, in rage
at my own folly, as that moment of weakness has recurred to my mind.
"She writes a desp'rate letter!" exclaimed the young squatter,
stretching his large frame, like one who had lost command of his
movements through excitement. "I don't b'lieve, Major, the like of
that gal is to be found in York, taken as state or colony! I 've a
dreadful likin' for her!"
It was impossible not to smile at this outpouring of attachment;
nor, on the whole, would I have been surprised at the ambition it
inferred, had the youth been but a very little higher in the social
scale. Out of the large towns, and with here and there an exception in
favour of an isolated family, there is not, even to this day, much
distinction in classes among our eastern brethren. The great equality
of condition and education that prevails, as a rule, throughout all
the rural population of New England, while it has done so much for the
great body of their people, has had its inevitable consequences in
lowering the standard of cultivation among the few, both as it is
applied to acquirements, and to the peculiar notions of castes; and
nothing is more common in that part of the world, than to hear of
marriages that elsewhere would have been thought incongruous, for the
simple reason of the difference in ordinary habits and sentiments
between the parties. Thus it was, that Zephaniah, without doing as
much violence to his own, as would be done to our notions of the
fitness of things, might aspire to the hand of Ursula Malbone;
unattended, as she certainly was, by any of the outward and more
vulgar signs of her real character. I could not but feel some respect
for the young man's taste, therefore, and this so much the more
readily, because I no longer was haunted by the very silly phantom of
his possible success.
"Having this regard for Dus," I said, "I hope I may count on your
following her directions."
"What way can I sarve you, Major? I do vow, I 've every wish to do
as Ursula asks of me, if I only know'd how."
"You can undo the fastenings of our prison, here, and let us go at
once into the woods, where we shall be safe enough against a
re-capture, depend on it. Do us that favour, and I will give you fifty
acres of land, on which you can settle down, and become an honest man.
Remember, it will be something honourable to own fifty acres of good
land, in fee."
Zephaniah pondered on my tempting offer, and I could see that he
wavered in opinion, but the decision was adverse to my wishes. He
shook his head, looked round wistfully at the woods where he supposed
Dus then to be, possibly watching his very movements, but he would not
"If a father can't trust his own son, who can he trust, in natur'?"
demanded the young squatter.
"No one should be aided in doing wrong, and your father has no just
right to shut up us three, in this building, as he has done. The deed
is against the law, and to the law, sooner or later, will he be made
to give an account of it."
"Oh! as for the law, he cares little for
that. We 've been
ag'in law all our lives, and the law is ag'in us. When a body comes to
take the chance of jurors, and witnesses, and lawyers, and poor
attorney-gin'rals, and careless prosecutors, law 's no great matter to
stand out ag'in, in this country. I s'pose there is countries in which
law counts for suthin'; but, hereabouts, and all through Varmount, we
don't kear much for the law, unless it 's a matter between man and
man, and t'other side holds out for his rights, bulldog fashion. Then,
I allow, it 's suthin' to have the law on your side; but it 's no
great matter in a trespass case."
"This may not end in a trespass case, however. Your father—by the
way, is Thousandacres much hurt?"
"Not much to speak on," coolly answered the son, still gazing in
the direction of the woods. "A little stunned, but he 's gettin' over
it fast, and he 's used to sich rubs. Father 's desp'rate solid about
the head, and can stand as much sledgehammering there, as any man I
ever seed. Tobit 's tough, too, in that part; and he 's need of it,
for he 's for ever getting licks around the forehead and eyes."
"And, as your father comes to, what seems to be his disposition
"Nothin' to speak on, in the way of friendship, I can tell you! The
old man 's considerable riled; and when that 's the case, he 'll have
his own way for all the governors and judges in the land!"
"Do you suppose he meditates any serious harm to us prisoners?"
"A man doosn't meditate a great deal, I guess, with such a rap on
the skull. He feels a plaguy sight more than he thinks;
and when the feelin's is up, it doosn't matter much who 's right and
who 's wrong. The great difficulty in your matter is how to settle
about the lumber that 's in the creek. The water 's low; and the most
that can be done with it, afore November, will be to float it down to
the next rift, over which it can never go, with any safety, without
more water. It 's risky to keep one like you, and to keep Chainbearer,
too, three or four months, in jail like; and it wunt do to let you go
neither, sin' you 'd soon have the law a'ter us. If we keep you, too,
there 'll be a s'arch made, and a reward offered. Now a good many of
your tenants know of this clearin', and human natur' can't hold out
ag'in a reward. The old man knows that well; and it 's what he
most afeard on. We can stand up ag'in almost anything better's than
ag'in a good, smart reward."
I was amused as well as edified with Zephaniah's simplicity and
frankness, and would willingly have pursued the discourse, had not
Lowiny come tripping towards us, summoning her brother away to attend
a meeting of the family; the old squatter having so far recovered as
to call a council of his sons. The brother left me on the instant, but
the girl lingered at my corner of the store-house, like one who was
reluctant to depart.
"I hope the hasty-puddin' was sweet and good," said Lowiny, casting
a timid glance in at the chink.
"It was excellent, my good girl, and I thank you for it with all my
heart. Are you very busy now?—can, you remain a moment while I make
"Oh! there 's nothin' for me to do just now in the house, seein'
that father has called the b'ys around him. Whenever he doos that,
even mother is apt to quit."
"I am glad of it, as I think you are so kind-hearted and good, that
I may trust you in a matter of some importance; may I not, my good
may be good, then, a'ter all, in the
eyes of grand landholders!"
"Certainly—excellent even; and I am much disposed to
believe that you are one of that class." Lowiny looked delighted; and
I felt less reluctance at administering this flattery than might
otherwise have been the case, from the circumstance that so much of
what I said was really merited.
"Indeed, I know you are, and quite unfitted for this sort of life.
But I must tell you my wishes at once, for our time may be very short."
"Do," said the girl, looking up anxiously, a slight blush suffusing
her face; the truth-telling sign of ingenuous feelings, and the gage
of virtue; "do, for I 'm dying to hear it; as I know beforehand I
shall do just what you ask me to do. I don't know how it is, but when
father or mother ask me to do a thing, I sometimes feel as if I
couldn't; but I don't feel so now, at all."
"My requests do not come often enough to tire you. Promise me, in
the first place, to keep my secret."
"That I will!" answered Lowiny, promptly, and with emphasis.
"Not a mortal soul shall know anything on 't, and I won't so much as
talk of it in my sleep, as I sometimes do, if I can any way help it."
"Chainbearer has a niece, who is very dear to him, and who returns
all his affection. Her name is—"
"Dus Malbone," interrupted the girl, with a faint laugh. "Zeph has
told me all about her, for Zeph and I be great fri'nds—he
tells me everything, and I tell him everything. It 's sich a
comfort, you can't think, to have somebody to tell secrets to;—well,
what of Dus?"
"She is here."
"Here! I don't see anything on her" — looking round hurriedly,
and, as I fancied, in a little alarm — "Zeph says she 's dreadful
"She is thought so, I believe; though, in that respect, she is far
from being alone. There is no want of pretty girls in America. By
saying she is here, I did not mean here, in the store-house, but here,
in the woods. She accompanied her uncle as far as the edge of the
clearing — look round, more towards the east. Do you see the black
stub, in the corn-field, behind your father's dwelling?"
"Sartain — that 's plain enough to be seen — I wish I could see
Albany as plain."
"Now, look a little to the left of that stub, and you will see a
large chestnut, in the edge of the woods behind it — the chestnut I
mean thrusts its top out of the forest, into the clearing, as it might
"Well, I see the chestnut too, and I know it well. There 's a
spring of water cluss to its roots."
"At the foot of that chestnut Chainbearer left his niece, and
doubtless she is somewhere near it now. Could you venture to stroll as
far, without going directly to the spot, and deliver a message, or a
"To be sure I could! Why, we gals stroll about the lots as much as
we please, and it 's berryin' time now. I 'll run and get a basket,
and you can write your letter while I 'm gone. La! Nobody will think
anything of my goin' a berryin'—I have a desp'rate wish to see this
Dus! Do you think she 'll have Zeph?"
"Young women's minds are so uncertain, that I should not like to
venture an opinion. If it were one of my own sex, now, and he had
declared his wishes, I think I could tell you with some accuracy."
The girl laughed; then she seemed a little bewildered, and again
she coloured. How the acquired — nay native feeling of the
sex, will rise up in tell-tale ingenuousness to betray a woman!
"Well," she cried, as she ran away in quest of the basket, "to my
notion a gal's mind is as true and as much to be depended on as that
of any mortal crittur' living!"
It was now my business to write a note to Dus. The materials for
writing my pocket-book furnished. I tore out a leaf, and approached
Chainbearer, telling him what I was about to do, and desiring to know
if he had any particular message to send.
"Gif t'e tear gal my plessin', Mortaunt. Tell her olt Chainpearer
prays Got to pless her—t'at ist all. I leaf you to say t'e rest."
I did say the rest. In the first place I sent the blessing of the
uncle to the niece. Then, I explained in as few words as possible, our
situation, giving it as promising an aspect as my conscience would
permit. These explanations made, I entreated Ursula to return to her
brother, and not again expose herself so far from his protection. Of
the close of this note, I shall not say much. It was brief, but it let
Dus understand that my feelings towards her were as lively as ever;
and I believe it was expressed with the power that passion lends. My
note was ended just as Lowiny appeared to receive it. She brought us a
pitcher of milk, as a sort of excuse for returning to the store-house,
received the note in exchange, and hurried away towards the fields. As
she passed one of the cabins, I heard her calling out to a sister
that she was going for blackberries to give the prisoners.
I watched the movements of that active girl with intense interest.
Chainbearer, who had slept little since my disappearance, was making
up for lost time; and, as for the Indian, eating and sleeping are very
customary occupations of his race, when not engaged in some hunt, or
on the war-path, or as a runner.
Lowiny proceeded towards a lot of which the bushes had taken full
possession. Here she soon disappeared, picking berries as she
proceeded, with nimble fingers, as if she felt the necessity of having
some of the fruit to show on her return. I kept my eye fastened on the
openings of the forest, near the chestnut, as soon as the girl was
concealed in the bushes, anxiously waiting for the moment when I might
see her form re-appearing at that spot. My attention was renewed by
getting a glimpse of Dus. It was but a glimpse, the fluttering of a
female dress gliding among the trees; but, as it was too soon for the
arrival of Lowiny, I knew it must be Dus. This was cheering, as it
left little reason to doubt that my messenger would find the object of
her visit. In the course of half an hour after Lowiny entered the
bushes I saw her, distinctly, near the foot of the chestnut. Pausing
a moment, as if to reconnoitre, the girl suddenly moved into the
forest, when I made no doubt she and Dus had a meeting. An entire hour
passed, and I saw no more of Lowiny.
In the meanwhile Zephaniah made his appearance again at the side of
the store-house. This time he came accompanied by two of his brethren,
holding the key in his hand. At first I supposed the intention was to
arraign me before the high court of Thousandacres, but in this I was
in error. No sooner did the young men reach the door of our prison
than Zephaniah called out to the Onondago to approach it, as he had
something to say to him.
It must be dull work to a red-skin to be shut up like a hog afore
it 's wrung," said the youth, drawing his images from familiar
objects; "and I s'pose you 'd be right glad to come out here and walk
about, something like a free and rational crittur'. What do you say,
Injin—is sich your desire?"
"Sartain," quietly answered Sureflint. "Great deal radder be out
dan be in here."
"So I nat'rally s'posed. Well, the old man says you can come out on
promises, if you 're disposed to make 'em. So you 're master of your
own movements, you see."
"What he want me do? What he want me say, eh?"
"No great matter, a'ter all, if a body has only a mind to try to do
it. In the first place, you 're to give your parole not to go off; but
to stay about the clearin', and to come in and give yourself up when
the conch blows three short blasts. Will you agree to that, Sus?"
"Sartain—no go 'way; come back when he call—dat mean stay where
he can hear conch."
"Well, that 's agreed on, and it 's a bargain. Next, you 're to
agree not to go pryin' round the mill and barn, to see what you can
find, but keep away from all the buildin's but the store-'us' and the
dwellings, and not to quit the clearin'. Do you agree?"
"Good; no hard to do dat."
"Well, you 're to bring no weepons into the settlement, and to pass
nothing but words and food into the other prisoners. Will you stand to that?"
"Sartain; willin' 'nough to do dat, too."
"Then you 're in no manner or way to make war on any on us 'till
your parole is up, and you 're your own man ag'in. What do you say to
"All good; 'gree to do him all."
"Wa-a-l, that 's pretty much all the old man stands out for; but
mother has a condition or two that she insists on 't I shall ask.
Should the worst come to the worst, and the folks of this settlement
get to blows with the folks out of it, you 're to bargain to take no
scalps of women or children, and none from any man that you don't
overcome in open battle. The old woman will grant you the scalps of
men killed in battle, but thinks it ag'in reason to take 'em from
sich as be not so overcome."
"Good; don't want to take scalp at all," answered the Indian, with
an emotion he could not altogether suppress. "Got no tribe—got no
young men; what good scalp do? Nobody care how many scalp Susquesus
take away—how many he leave behind. All dat forgot long time."
"Wa-a-l, that 's
your affair, not mine. But, as all the
articles is agreed to, you can come out, and go about your business.
Mind, three short, sharp blasts on the conch is the signal to come in
and give yourself up."
On this singular cartel Susquesus was set at liberty. I heard the
whole arrangement with astonishment; though, by the manner of the high
contracting parties, it was easy to see there was nothing novel in the
arrangement, so far as they were concerned. I had heard that
the faith of an Indian of any character, in all such cases, was
considered sacred, and could not but ask myself, as Susquesus walked
quietly out of prison, how many potentates and powers there were in
Christendom who, under circumstances similarly involving their most
important interests, could be found to place a similar confidence in
their fellows! Curious to know how my present masters felt on this
subject, the opportunity was improved to question them.
"You give the Indian his liberty on parole," I said to
Zephaniah—"will you refuse the same privilege to us white men?"
"An Injin is an Injin. He has his natur', and we 've our 'n.
Suthin' was said about lettin' you out, too, major; but the old man
wouldn't hear to it. `He know'd mankind, ' he said, `and he know'd 't
would never do.' If you let a white man loose, he sets his wits at
work to find a hole to creep out on the bargain—goin' back to the
creation of the 'arth but he 'll find one. The major will say I was
put in ag'in' law, and now I 'm out, I 'll stay out ag'in' promises,
or some sich reasonin', and now we have him safe, 't will be best to
keep him safe! That 's the substance of the old man's idees, and you
can see, major, just as well as any on us, how likely he 'll be to
There was no contending with this logic, which in secret I well
knew to be founded in fact, and I made no further application for my
own release. It appeared, however, that Thousandacres himself was
half-disposed to make a concession in favour of Chainbearer, similar
to that he had granted to the Indian. This struck me as singular,
after the rude collision that had already occurred between the two
men— but there are points of honour that are peculiar to each
condition of life, and which the men of each feel a pride not only in
causing to be respected, but in respecting themselves.
"Father had some thoughts of taking your parole, too, Chainbearer,"
added Zephaniah, "and he concluded he would, hadn't it been that you
've been living out in the settlements so much of late years, that he
's not quite easy in trusting you. A man that passes so much of his
time in running boundaries, may think himself privileged to step over
"Your fat'er ist welcome to his opinion," answered Andries coolly.
"He 'll get no parole of me, nor do I want any favours of him. We are
at sword's p'ints, young man, and let him look out for himself and his
lumper as pest he can."
"Nay," answered Zephaniah, stretching himself, and answering with
spirit, though he well knew he was speaking to the uncle of Dus, and
thereby endangering his interests with his mistress—"nay,
Chainbearer, if it comes to that, 't will be `hardest fend
off.' We are a strong party of stout men, and arn't to be frightened
by the crier of a court, or to be druv' off the land by sheep-skin.
Catamounts must come ag'in' us in droves, afore we 'll give an inch."
"Go away, go away—foolish young fellow—you 're your fat'er's
son, and t'at 's as much as neet pe said of you. I want no favours
from squatters, which ist a preed I tetest and tespise."
I was a little surprised at hearing this answer, and at witnessing
this manifestation of feeling in Chainbearer, who, ordinarily, was a
cool, and uniformly a courteous man. On reflection, however, I saw he
was not so wrong. An exchange of anything like civilities between us
and our captors, might seem to give them some claim on us; whereas,
by standing on the naked right, we had every advantage of them, in a
moral sense, at least. Zephaniah and his brethren left us, on
receiving this repulse of Andries; but Susquesus kept loitering around
the store-house, apparently little better off, now he was on its
outside, than he had been when in it. He had nothing to do, and his
idleness was that of an Indian—one of a race of such terrible
energies, when energy is required, and so frequently listless, when
not pressed upon by necessity, pleasure, war, or interest.
Things were in this state, when, some time after the interview just
related, we had another visit from a party headed by Tobit. This man
came to escort Chainbearer and myself to the cabin of Thousandacres,
where all the men of the family were assembled; and where, as it now
appeared, we were to have something like a hearing, that might
seriously affect our fates, for good or for evil. I consulted
Chainbearer on the propriety of our lending ourselves to such a
measure; but I found Andries disposed to meet the brood of squatters,
face to face, and to tell them his mind, let it be when and where it
might. Finding my friend in this temper, I made no farther objections
myself, but left the storehouse in his company, well guarded by four
of the young men, all of whom were armed, holding our way to the seat
of justice, in that wild and patriarchal government.
"When Adam delv'd, and Eve span, Where was then the gentleman?"
Thousandacres had not altogether neglected forms, though so much
set against the spirit of the law. We found a sort of court collected
before the door of his dwelling, with himself in the centre, while the
principal room contained no one but Prudence and one or two of her
daughters. Among the latter was Lowiny, to my surprise; for I had not
seen the girl return from the woods, though my eyes had not been long
turned from the direction in which I had hopes of catching a glimpse
Tobit led us prisoners into the house, placing us near the door,
and facing his father; an arrangement that superseded the necessity of
much watchfulness, as our only means of escape would necessarily be by
rushing through the throng without—a thing virtually impracticable.
But Chainbearer appeared to have no thought of flight. He entered that
circle of athletic young men with perfect indifference; and I
remember that it struck me his air resembled that which I had often
seen him assume when our regiment was on the eve of serious service.
At such moments old Andries could, and often did, appear
grand—dignity, authority and coolness being blended with sterling
When in the room, Chainbearer and I seated ourselves near the door,
while Thousandacres had a chair on the turf without, surrounded by his
sons, all of whom were standing. As this arrangement was made amid a
grave silence, the effect was not altogether without impressiveness,
and partook of some of the ordinary aspects of justice. I was struck
with the anxious curiosity betrayed in the countenances of the
females in particular; for the decision to which Thousandacres was
about to come, would with them have the authority of a judgment of
Solomon. Accustomed to reason altogether in their own interests, I
make no doubt that, in the main, all of that semi-barbarous breed
fancied themselves invested, in their lawless occupation, by some sort
of secret natural right; ignorant of the fact that, the moment they
reduced their claim to this standard, they put it on the level with
that of all the rest of mankind. Nature gives nothing exclusively to
an individual, beyond his individuality, and that which appertains to
his person and personal qualities; all beyond, he is compelled to
share, under the law of nature, with the rest of his race. A title
dependent on original possession forms no exception to this rule; for
it is merely human convention that gives it force and authority,
without which it would form no title at all. But into mysteries like
these, none of the family of Thousandacres ever entered; though the
still, small voice of conscience, the glimmerings of right, were to be
traced occasionally, even amid the confused jumble of social maxims in
which their selfishness had taken refuge.
We live in an age of what is called progress, and fancy that man is
steadily advancing on the great path of his destiny, to something that
we are apt to imagine is to form perfection. Certainly I shall not
presume to say what is, or what is not, the divine intention as to the
future destination of our species on earth; but years and experience
must have taught me, or I should have lived in vain, how little there
is among our boasted improvements that is really new; and if we do
possess anything in the way of principles that bear on them the
impress of inviolability, they are those that have become the most
venerable, by having stood the severest tests of time.
I know not whether the long, silent pause that succeeded our
arrival, was the result of an intention to heighten the effect of that
strange scene, or whether Thousandacres really wished time to collect
his thoughts, and to mature his plans. One thing struck me;
notwithstanding the violence that had so recently occurred between
Chainbearer and himself, there were no traces of resentment in the
hardened and wrinkled countenance of that old tenant of the forest;
for he was too much accustomed to those sudden outbreakings of anger,
to suffer them long to linger in his recollection. In all that was
said, and in all that passed, in the course of that (to me) memorable
day, I could trace no manifestation of any feeling in the squatter, in
consequence of the rude personal rencontre that he had so lately had
with my friend. They had clenched, and he had been overthrown; and
that ended the matter.
The silence which occurred after we took our seats must have lasted
several minutes. For myself, I saw I was only a secondary person in
this interview; old Andries having completely supplanted me in
importance, not only in acts, but in the estimation of the squatters.
To him they were accustomed, and accustomed, moreover, to regard as a
sort of hostile power; his very pursuit being opposed to the great
moving principle of their every-day lives. The man who measured land,
and he who took it to himself without measurement, were exactly
antagonist forces, in morals as well as in physics; and might be
supposed not to regard each other with the most friendly eyes. Thus it
was that the Chainbearer actually became an object of greater interest
to these squatters, than the son of one of the owners of the soil,
and the attorney in fact of both. As for the old man himself, I could
see that he looked very Dutch; which implied a stubborn resolution
bordering on obstinacy; unmoved adherence to what he conceived to be
right; and a strong dislike to his present neighbours, in addition to
other reasons, on account of their having come from the eastward; a
race that he both distrusted and respected; disliked, yet covertly
honoured, for many a quality that was both useful and good.
To the next generation, the feeling that was once so active between
the descendants of Holland among ourselves, and the people of English
birth, who came from the eastern States, will be almost purely a
matter of history. I perceive that my father, in the manuscript he has
transmitted to me, as well as I myself, have made various allusions to
the subject. It is my wish to be understood in this matter. I have
introduced it solely as a fact that is beyond controversy;
but, I trust, without any undue bigotry of opinion. It is possible
that both Mr. Cornelius Littlepage and his son, unconsciously to
ourselves, may have been influenced by the ancient prejudices of the
colonies; though I have endeavoured scrupulously to avoid them. At any
rate, if either of us has appeared to be a little too severe, I trust
the reader will remember how much has been uttered to the world in
reference to this dislike, by the Yankee, and how little by the
Dutchman, during the last century and a half, and grant to one who is
proud of the little blood from Holland that he happens to possess, the
privilege of showing, at least, one of the phases of his own side of
the story. But it is time to return to our scene in the hut.
"Chainbearer," commenced Thousandacres, after the pause already
mentioned had lasted several minutes, and speaking with a dignity that
could only have proceeded from the intensity of his feelings;
"Chainbearer, you 've been an inimy to me and mine sin' the day we
first met. You 're an inimy by your cruel callin'; yet you 've the
boldness to thrust yourself into my very hands!"
"I 'm an enemy to all knaves, T'ousantacres, ant I tont care who
knows it," answered old Andries, sternly; "t'at ist my trate, ast well
ast carryin' chain; ant I wish it to pe known far and near. Ast for
pein' your enemy by callin', I may say as much of yourself; since
there coult pe no surveyin,' or carryin' of chain, tit all t'e people
help t'emselves to lant, as you haf tone your whole life, wit'out as
much as sayin' to t'e owners `py your leaf."'
"Things have now got to a head atween us, Chainbearer," returned
the squatter; "but seein' that you 're in my hands, I 'm ready and
willin' to reason the p'int with you, in hopes that we may yet part
fri'nds, and that this may be the last of all our troubles. You and I
be gettin' to be oldish men, Chainbearer; and it 's fittin' that them
that be gettin' near their eends, should sometimes think on 'em. I
come from no Dutch colony, but from a part of the world where mankind
fears God, and has some thoughts of a futur' state."
"T'at 's neit'er here nor t'ere, T'ousantacres," cried Andries,
impatiently. "Not put what religion is a goot t'ing, and a t'ing to
pe venerated, ant honouret, and worshipet; put t'at it 's out of place
in a squatter country, and most of all in a squatter's mout'. Can you
telt me one t'ing, T'ousantacres, and t'at ist, why you Yankees pray
so much, ant call on Got to pless you ever ot'er wort, and turn up
your eyes, ant look so temure of Suntays, ant t'en go ant squat
yourselfs town on a Tutchman's lant of a Montay? I 'm an olt man, ant
haf lifed long ant seen much, ant hope I unterstant some of t'at which
I haf seen ant lifed amongst, put I do not comprehent t'at! Yankee
religion ant Tutch religion cannot come out of t'e same piple."
"I should think not, I should think not, Chainbearer; and I
not, in the bargain. I do not wish to be justified by ways like
your'n, or a religion like your'n. That which is foreordained will
come to pass, let what will happen, and that 's my trust. But, leaving
religion out of this matter atween us altogether—"
"Ay, you 'll do well to do t'at," growled Chainbearer, "for
religion hast, inteet, very little to do wit' it."
"I say," answered Thousandacres, on a higher key, as if resolute to
make himself heard, "leaving religion for Sabba' days and proper
occasions, I 'm ready to talk this matter over on the footin' of
reason, and not only to tell you my say, but to hear your'n, as is
right atween man and man."
"I confess a strong desire to listen to what Thousandacres has to
say in defence of his conduct, Chainbearer," I now thought it best to
put in; "and I hope you will so far oblige me as to be a patient
listener. I am very willing that you should answer, for I know of no
person to whom I would sooner trust a righteous cause than yourself.
Proceed, Thousandacres; my old friend will comply."
Andries did conform to my wishes, thus distinctly expressed, but it
was not without sundry signs of disquiet, as expressed in his honest
countenance, and a good deal of subdued muttering about "Yankee
cunnin' and holy gotliness, t'at is dresset up in wolf's clot'in;"
Chainbearer meaning to express the native garment of the sheep by the
latter expression, but falling into a confusion of images that is by
no means rare among the men of his caste and people. After a pause,
the squatter proceeded.
"In talkin' this matter over, young man, I purpose to begin at the
beginnin' of things," he said; "for I allow, if you grant any value to
titles, and king's grants, and sich sort of things, that my rights
here be no great matter. But, beginnin' at the beginnin', the case is
very different. You 'll admit, I s'pose, that the Lord created the
heavens and the 'arth, and that he created man to be master over the
"What of t'at?" eagerly cried Chainbearer. "What of t'at, olt
T'ousantacres? So t'e Lort createt yonter eagle t'at is flyin' so far
apove your heat, put it 's no sign you are to kill him, or he ist to
"Hear to reason, Chainbearer, and let me have my say; a'ter which I
'm willing to hear you. I begin at the beginnin', when man was first
put in possession of the 'arth, to till, and to dig, and to cut
saw-logs, and to make lumber, jist as it suited his wants and
inclinations. Now, Adam was the father of all, and to him and his
posterity was the possession of the 'arth given, by Him whose title 's
worth that of all the kings, and governors, and assemblies in the
known world. Adam lived his time, and left all things to his
posterity, and so has it been from father to son, down to our own day
and giniration, accordin' to the law of God, though not accordin' to
the laws of man."
"Well, admittin' all you say, squatter, how does t'at make your
right here petter t'an t'at of any ot'er man?" demanded Andries,
"Why, reason tells us where a man's rights begin, you 'll see,
Chainbearer. Here is the 'arth, as I told you, given to man, to be
used for his wants. When you and I are born, some parts of the world
is in use, and some parts isn't. We want land, when we are old enough
to turn our hands to labour, and I make my pitch out here in the
woods, say, where no man has pitched afore me. Now, in my judgment,
that makes the best of titles, the Lord's title."
"Well, t'en, you 've got your title from t'e Lord," answered
Chainbearer, "and you 've got your lant. I s'pose you 'll not take
all t'e 'art' t'at is not yet peoplet, and I shoult like to know how
you wilt run your lines petween you ant your next neighpour. Atmittin'
you 're here in t'e woots, how much of t'e lant woult you take for
your own religious uses, and how much woult you leaf for t'e next
"Each man would take as much as was necessary for his wants,
Chainbearer, and hold as much as he possessed."
"Put what ist wants, ant what ist possession? Look arount you,
T'ousantacres, and tell me how much of t'is fery spot you 'd haf a
mint to claim, under your Lort's title?"
"How much? As much as I have need on—enough to feed me and
mine—and enough for lumber, and to keep the b'ys busy. It would
somewhat depend on sarcumstances: I might want more at one time than
at another, as b'ys grew up, and the family increased in numbers."
"Enough for lumper how long? and to keep t'e poys pusy how long?
For a tay, or a week, or a life, or a great numper of lifes? You must
tell me t'at, T'ousantacres, pefore I gif cretit to your title."
"Don't be onreasonable—don't be onreasonable in your questions,
Chainbearer; and I 'll answer every one on 'em, and in a way to
satisfy you, or any judgmatical man. How long do I want the lumber? As
long as I 've use for it. How long do I want to keep the b'ys busy?
Till they 're tired of the place, and want to change works. When a
man 's a-weary of his pitch, let him give it up for another, selling
his betterments, of course, to the best chap he can light on."
"Oh! you 't sell your petterments, woult you! What! sell t'e Lort's
title, olt T'ousantacres? Part wit' Heaven's gift for t'e value of
poor miseraple silver and golt?"
"You don't comprehend Aaron," put in Prudence, who saw that
Chainbearer was likely to get the best of the argument, and who was
always ready to come to the rescue of any of her tribe, whether it
might be necessary with words, or tooth and nail, or the rifle. "You
don't, by no manner of means, comprehend Aaron, Chainbearer. His idee
is, that the Lord has made the 'arth for his crittur's; that any one
that wants land, has a right to take as much as he wants, and to use
it as long as he likes; and, when he has done, to part with his
betterments for sich price as may be agreed on."
"I stick to that," joined in the squatter, with a loud hem, like a
man who was sensible of relief; "that 's my idee, and I 'm detarmined
to live and die by it."
"You 've lifed py it, I know very well, T'ousantacres; ant, now you
're olt, it 's quite likely you 'll tie py it. As for comprehentin',
you don't comprehent yourself. I 'll just ask you, in the first place,
how much lant do you holt on t'is very spot? You 're here squattet so
completely ant finally as to haf puilt a mill. Now tell me how much
lant you holt, t'at when I come to squat alongsite of you, our fences
may not lap on one anot'er. I ask a simple question, and I hope for a
plain ant straight answer. Show me t'e pountaries of your tomain, ant
how much of t'e worlt you claim, ant how much you ton't claim."
"I 've pretty much answered that question already, Chainbearer. My
creed is, that a man has a right to hold all he wants, and to want all
"Got help t'e men, t'en, t'at haf to carry chain petween you and
your neighpours, T'ousantacres; a man's wants to-tay may tiffer from
his wants to-morrow, and to-morrow from t'e next tay, ant so on to t'e
ent of time! On your toctrine, not'in' woult pe settlet, ant all woult
pe at sixes ant sevens."
"I don't think I 'm fully understood, a'ter all that 's been said,"
returned the squatter. "Here 's two men start in life at the same
time, and both want farms. Wa-a-l; there 's the wilderness, or may be
it isn't all wilderness, though it once was. One chooses to buy out
betterments, and he doos so; t'other plunges in, out o' sight of
humanity, and makes his pitch. Both them men 's in the right, and can
hold on to their possessions, I say, to the eend of time. That is, on
the supposition that right is stronger than might."
"Well, well," answered Chainbearer, a little drily; "ant s'pose one
of your men ton't want to puy petterments, put follows t'ot'er,
ant makes his pitch in t'e wilterness, also?"
"Let him do 't, I say; t'is his right, and the law of the Lord."
"Put, s'pose bot' your young men want t'e same pit of wilt lant!"
"First come, first sarv'd; that 's my maxim. Let the sprighest chap
have the land. Possession 's everything in settling land titles."
"Well, t'en, to please you, T'ousantacres, we 'll let one get aheat
of t'ot'er, and haf his possession first; how much shalt he occupy."
"As much as he wants, I 've told you, already."
"Ay, put when his slower frient comes along, ant hast his wants,
too, ant wishes to make his pitch alongsite of his olt
neighpour, where is t'e pountary petween 'em to be fount?"
"Let 'em agree on't! They must be dreadful poor neighbours, if they
can't agree on so small a matter as that," said Tobit, who was getting
weary of the argument.
"Tobit is right," added the father; "let 'em agree on their line,
and run it by the eye. Curse on all chains and compasses, say I! They
're an invention of the devil, to make ill blood in a neighbourhood,
and to keep strife awake, when our bibles tell us to live in peace
with all mankind."
"Yes, yes, I understant all t'at," returned Chainbearer, a little
disdainfully. "A yankee piple ist a fery convenient pook. T'ere 's
autority in it for all sorts of toctrines ant worshippin', ant
prayin', ant preachin', ant so forth. It 's what I call a so-forth
piple, Mortaunt, ant wilt reat packwarts as well ast forwarts; put all
t'e chapters into one, if necessary, or all t'e verses into chapters.
Sometimes St. Luke is St. Paul, and St. John ist St. Matt'ew. I 've
he'rt your tominies expount, and no two expount alike. Novelties ist
t'e religion of New Englant, ant novelties, in t'e shape of ot'er
men's lants, is t'e creet of her lofely chiltren! Oh! yes, I 've seen
a yankee piple! Put, this toes'nt settle our two squatters; bot' of
whom wants a sartain hill for its lumper; now, which is to haf it?"
"The man that got there first, I 've told you, old Chainbearer, and
once tellin' is as good as a thousand. If the first comer looked on
that hill, and said to himself, `that hill 's mine,' 't is his'n."
"Well, t'at ist making property fast! Wast t'at t'e way,
T'ousantacres, t'at you took up your estate on t'e Mooseridge
"Sartain—I want no better title. I got here first, and tuck up
the land, and shall continue to tuck it up, as I want it. There 's no
use in being mealy-mouthed, for I like to speak out, though the
landlord's son be by!"
"Oh! you speak out lout enouf, ant plain enouf, ant I shoultn't
wonter if you got tucket up yourself, one tay, for your pains. Here
ist a tifficulty, however, t'at I 'll just mention, T'ousantacres, for
your consiteration. You take possession of timper-lant, by lookin' at
it, you say—"
"Even lookin' at isn't necessary," returned the squatter, eager to
widen the grasp of his rights. "It 's enough that a man wants
the land, and he comes, or sends to secure it. Possession is
everything, and I call it possession, to crave a spot, and to make
some sort of calkerlation, or works, reasonably near it. That gives a
right to cut and clear, and when a clearin's begun, it 's betterments,
and everybody allows that betterments may be both bought and sold."
"Well, now we understant each o'ter. Put here ist t'e small
tifficulty I woult mention. One General Littlepage and one Colonel
Follock took a fancy to t'is spot long pefore t'e olt French war; ant
pesites fancyin' t'e place, and sentin' messengers to look at it, t'ey
pought out t'e Injin right in t'e first place; t'en t'ey pought of t'e
king, who hat all t'e lant in t'e country, at t'at time, ast hatn't
ot'er owners. T'en t'ey sent surfeyors to run t'e lines, ant t'em very
surfeyors passet along py t'is river, ast I know py t'eir fielt-pooks
(fieldbooks): t'en more surfeyors wast sent out to tivite it into
great lots, ant now more still haf come to tivite it into small lots:
ant t'ey 've paid quit-rents for many years, ant tone ot'er t'ings to
prove t'ey want t'is place as much as you want it yourself. T'ey haf
hat it more ast a quarter of a century, ant exerciset ownership over
it all t'at time; ant wantet it very much t'e whole of t'at quarter of
a century, ant, if t'e trut' was sait, want it still."
A long pause followed this statement, during which the different
members of the family looked at each other, as if in quest of support.
The idea of there being any other side to the question than that they
had been long accustomed to consider so intently, was novel to them,
and they were a little bewildered by the extraordinary circumstance.
This is one of the great difficulties under which the inhabitant of a
narrow district labours, in all that pertains to his personal notions
and tastes, and a good deal in what relates to his principles. This it
is that makes the true provincial, with his narrow views, set notions,
conceit, and unhesitating likes and dislikes. When one looks around
him and sees how very few are qualified, by experience and knowledge
of the world, to utter opinions at all, he is apt to be astonished at
finding how many there are that do it. I make no doubt that the family
of Thousandacres was just as well satisfied with their land-ethics, as
Paley ever could have been with his moral philosophy, or Newton with
his mathematical demonstrations.
"I don't wonter you 're callet T'ousantacres, Aaron Timperman,"
continued Chainbearer, pushing his advantage, "for wit' such a title
to your estate, you might as well pe tarmet Ten T'ousantacres at once,
ant more, too! Nay, I wonter, while your eyes was trawin' up title
teets, t'at you shoult haf peen so moterate, for it was just as easy
to possess a patent on t'at sort of right, as to possess a single
But Thousandacres had made up his mind to pursue the subject no
further; and, while it was easy to see that fiery passions were
burning within him, he seemed now bent on bringing a conference, from
which he doubtless expected different results, to a sudden close. It
was with difficulty that he suppressed the volcano that was raging
within, but he so far succeeded as to command Tobit to shut up his
"Take him away, b'ys, take him back to the store-'us'," said the
old squatter, rising and moving a little on one side to permit Andries
to pass, as if afraid to trust himself too near; "he was born the
sarvent of the rich, and will die their sarvent. Chains be good enough
for him, and I wish him no greater harm than to carry chains the rest
of his days."
"Oh! you 're a true son of Liperty!" called out the Chainbearer, as
he quietly returned to his prison; "a true son of Liperty, accordin'
to your own conceit! You want efereyt'ing in your own way, and
eferyt'ing in your own pocket. T'e Lort's law is a law for
T'ousantacres, put not a law to care for Cornelius Littlepage or Tirck
Although my old friend was escorted to his prison, no attempt was
made to remove me. On the contrary, Prudence joined her husband
without, followed by all her young fry, and for a moment I fancied
myself forgotten and deserted. A movement in one corner of the room,
however, drew my attention there, and I saw Lowiny standing on
tiptoe, with a finger on her lips, the sign of silence, while she
made eager gestures with the other hand, for me to enter a small
passage that communicated by means of a ladder with the loft of the
hut. My moccasins were now of great advantage to me. Without pausing
to reflect on consequences, or to look around, I did as directed,
drawing to the door after me. There was a small window in the sort of
passage in which I now found myself alone with the girl, and my first
impulse was to force my body through it, for it had neither glass nor
sash, but Lowiny caught my arms.
"Lord ha' massy on us!" whispered the girl — "you 'd be seen and
taken, or shot! For your life don't go out there now. Here 's a hole
for a cellar, and there 's the trap — go down there, and wait 'till
you hear news from me."
There was no time for deliberation, and the sight of Chainbearer's
escort, as they proceeded towards the store-house, satisfied me that
the girl was right. She held up the trap, and I descended into the
hole that answered the purposes of a cellar. I heard Lowiny draw a
chest over the trap, and then I fancied I could distinguish the
creaking of the rounds of the ladder, as she went up into the loft,
which was the place where she usually slept.
All this occurred literally in about one minute of time. Another
minute may have passed, when I heard the heavy tread of Thousandacres'
foot on the floor above me, and the clamour of many voices, all
speaking at once. It was evident that I was missed, and a search had
already been commenced. For half a minute, nothing was very
intelligible to me; then I heard the shrill voice of Prudence calling
you Lowiny!" she cried — "where
gal got to?"
"I 'm here, mother" — answered my friend, from her loft— "you
told me to come up, and look for your new bible."
I presume this was true; for Prudence had really despatched the
girl on that errand, and it must have sufficed to lull any suspicions
of her daughter's being connected with my disappearance, if any such
had been awakened. The movements of footsteps was now quick over my
head, those of several men being among them; and in the confusion of
voices, I heard that of Lowiny, who must have descended the ladder
and joined in the search.
"He mustn't be allowed to get off, on no account," said
Thousandacres, aloud, "or we 're all ondone. Everything we have will
fall into their hands, and mill, logs and all, will be utterly lost.
We shan't even have time to get off the gear and the household stuff."
"He 's up stairs"—cried one—"he must be down cellar," said
another. Steps went up the ladder, and I heard the chest drawn from
the trap; and a stream of light entering the place, notified me that
the trap was raised. The place I was in was a hole twenty feet square,
roughly walled with stones, and nearly empty, though it did contain a
meatbarrel or two, and a few old tubs. In the winter, it would have
been filled with vegetables. There was no place to hide in, and an
attempt at concealment would have led to a discovery. I withdrew to a
corner, in a part of the cellar that was quite dark, but thought
myself lost when I saw a pair of legs descending the ladder. Almost at
the same moment, three of the men and two of the women came into the
hole, a fourth female, whom I afterwards ascertained to be Lowiny
herself, standing in the trap in such a way as to double the darkness
below. The first man who got down began to tumble the tubs about, and
to look into the corners; and the lucky thought occurred to me to do
the same thing. By keeping as busy as the rest of them, I actually
escaped detection in the dark; and Tobit soon rushed to the ladder,
calling out, "the window — the window — he 's not here — the
window!" In half a minute the cellar was empty again; or no one
remained but myself.
At first I had great difficulty in believing in my good luck; but
the trap fell, and the profound stillness of the place satisfied me
that I had avoided that danger, at least. This escape was so singular
and unexpected, that I could hardly believe in its reality; though
real it was, to all intents and purposes. The absurd often strikes the
imagination in an absurd way; and so it proved with me on this
occasion. I sat down on a tub and laughed heartily, when I felt
absolutely certain all was right, holding my sides lest the sound of
my voice might yet betray me. Lowiny was similarly infected, for I
heard peals of girlish laughter from her, as her brothers tumbled
about barrels, and tubs, and bedsteads, in the upper part of the
building, in their fruitless and hurried search. This merriment did
not pass unrebuked, however; Prudence lending her daughter a box on
the side of the head, that, in one sense, reached even my ears; though
it probably aided in saving the girl from the suspicion of being in my
secret, by the very natural character of her girlish indulgence. Two
or three minutes after the trap closed on me for the second time, the
sounds of footsteps and voices overhead ceased, and the hut seemed
My situation now was far from comfortable. Confined in a dark
cellar, with no means of escaping but by the trap, and the almost
certainty of falling into the hands of my captors, should I attempt
such a thing, I now began to regret having entered so readily into
Lowiny's scheme. There would be a certain loss of dignity in a
recapture, that was not pleasant in itself; and I will own, I began to
have some doubts of my eventual safety, should I again come under the
control of such spirits as those of Thousandacres and his eldest son.
Buried in that cellar, I was in a manner placed immediately beneath
those whose aim it was to secure me, rendering escape impossible, and
detection nearly unavoidable.
Such were my meditations when light again streamed into the cellar.
The trap was raised, and presently I heard my name uttered in a
whisper. Advancing to the ladder, I saw Lowiny holding the door, and
beckoning for me to ascend. I followed her directions blindly, and was
soon at her side. The girl was nearly convulsed between dread of
detection and a desire to laugh; my emerging from the cellar recalling
to her imagination all the ludicrous circumstances of the late search.
"Warn't it queer that none on 'em know'd you!" she whispered; then
commanding silence by a hasty gesture. "Don't speak; for they 're
s'archin' still, cluss by, and some on 'em may follow me here. I
wanted to get you out of the cellar, as some of the young-uns will be
rummagin' there soon for pork for supper; and their eyes are as
sharp as needles. Don't you think you could crawl into the mill? It
's stopped now, and wun't be goin' ag'in till this stir 's over.
"I should be seen, my good girl, if any of your people are looking
for me near at hand."
"I don't know that. Come to the door, and you 'll see there is a
way. Everybody 's lookin' on the right side of this house; and by
creepin' as far as them logs, you 'd be pretty safe. If you reach the
mill safely, climb up into the loft."
I took a moment to survey the chances. At the distance of a hundred
feet from the house there commenced a large bed of saw-logs, which
were lying alongside of each other; and the timber being from two to
four feet in diameter, it would be very possible to creep among it, up
to the mill itself, into which even several of the logs had been
rolled. The great difficulty would be in reaching the logs through a
perfectly open space. The house would be a cover, as against most of
the family, who were busy examining everything like a cover on its
opposite side; no one supposing for a moment I could be near the mill,
inasmuch as it stood directly in front of the spot where the crowd was
collected at the moment of my sudden disappearance. But the boys and
girls were flying around in all directions; rendering it uncertain how
long they would remain in a place, or how long their eyes would be
turned away from my path.
It was necessary to do something, and I determined to make an
effort. Throwing myself on the ground, I crawled, rather slowly than
fast, across that terrible space, and got safely among the logs. As
there was no outcry, I knew I had not been seen. It was now
comparatively easy to reach the mill. Another dangerous experiment,
however, was to expose my person by climbing up to the loft. I could
not do this without running the risk of being seen; and I felt the
necessity of using great caution. I first raised my head high enough
to survey the state of things without. Luckily the house was still
between me and most of my enemies; though the small-fry constantly
came into view and vanished. I looked round for a spot to ascend, and
took a final survey of the scene. There stood Lowiny in the door of
the hut, her hands clasped, and her whole air expressive of concern.
She saw my head, I knew, and I made a gesture of encouragement, which
caused her to start. At the next instant my foot was on a brace, and
my body was rising to the beams above. I do not think my person was
uncovered ten seconds; and no clamour succeeded. I now felt there
were really some chances of my finally effecting an escape; and glad
enough was I to think so.
"Alone, amid the shades,
Still in harmonious intercourse they liv'd
The rural day, and talked the flowing heart,
Or sigh'd, and looked unutterable things.
That was a somewhat breathless moment. The intensity with which I
listened for any sound that might announce my discovery, was really
painful. I almost fancied I heard a shout, but none came. Then I gave
myself up, actually believing that footsteps were rushing towards the
mill, with a view to seize me. It was imagination; the rushing of the
waters below being the only real sound that disturbed the silence of
the place. I had time to breathe, and to look about me.
As might be supposed, the mill was very rudely constructed. I have
spoken of a loft, but there was nothing that really deserved the term.
Some refuse boards were laid about, here and there, on the beams,
making fragments of rough flooring; and my first care was to draw
several of these boards close together, placing them two or three in
thickness, so as to make a place where, by lying down, I could not be
seen by any one who should happen to enter the mill. There lay what
the millers call a bunch of cherry-wood boards at no great distance
from the spot where the roof joined the plate of the building, and
within this bunch I arranged my hiding-place. No ostensible change
was necessary to complete it, else the experiment might have been
hazardous among those who were so much accustomed to note
circumstances of that nature. The manner in which the lumber was
arranged when I reached the spot was so little different from what it
was when I had done with it, as scarcely to attract attention.
No sooner was my hiding-place completed to my mind, than I looked
round to see if there were any means of making observations without.
The building was not shingled, but the rain was kept out by placing
slabs up and down, as is often seen in the ruder, rustic, frontier
architecture of America. With the aid of my knife, I soon had a small
hole between two of these slabs, at a place favourable to such an
object; and, though it was no larger than the eye itself, it answered
every purpose. Eagerly enough did I now commence my survey.
The search was still going on actively. Those experienced
border-men well knew it was not possible for me to cross the open
ground and to reach the woods in the short interval of time between my
disappearance and their discovery of the fact, and they consequently
felt certain that I was secreted somewhere near the building. Every
house had been searched, though no one thought of entering the mill,
because my movement, as all supposed, was necessarily in an opposite
direction. The fences were examined, and every thing like a cover on
the proper side of the house was looked into with care and activity.
It would seem that, just as I took my first look through the hole, my
pursuers were at fault. The search had been made, and of course
without effect. Nothing likely to conceal me remained to be examined.
It was necessary to come to a stand, and to concert measures for a
The family of squatters was too much accustomed to their situation
and its hazards, not to be familiar with all the expedients necessary
to their circumstances. They placed the younger children on the
look-out, at the points most favourable to my retreat, should I be in
a situation to attempt going off in that quarter of the clearing; and,
then, the father collected his older sons around him, and the whole
cluster of them, seven in number, came slowly walking towards the
mill. The excitement of the first pursuit had sensibly abated, and
these practised woodsmen were in serious consultation on the measures
next to be taken. In this condition, the whole party entered the mill,
taking their seats, or standing in a circle directly beneath my post,
and within six feet of me. As a matter of course, I heard all that
was said, though completely hid from view.
"Here we shall be safe from the long ears of little folks," said
the father, as he placed his own large frame on the log that was next
to be sawed. "This has been a most onaccountable thing, Tobit, and I
'd no idee at all them 'ere city bred gentry was so expart with their
legs. I sometimes think he can't be a Littlepage, but that he 's one
of our hill folks, tossed out and mannered a'ter the towns' folks, to
take a body in. It seems an onpossibility that the man should get
off, out of the midst on us, and we not see or hear anything on him!"
"We may as well give up the lumber and the betterments, at once,"
growled Tobit, "as let him get clear. Should he reach Ravensnest, the
first thing he 'd do would be to swear out warrants ag'in us all, and
Newcome is not the man to stand by squatters in trouble. He 'd no more
dare deny his landlord, than deny his meetin'."
This expression of Tobit's is worthy of notice. In the estimation
of a certain class of religionists among us, the "meetin'," as the
young squatter called his church, had the highest place in his
estimate of potentates and powers; it is to be feared, often even
higher than the dread being for whose worship that "meetin"' existed.
"I don't think as hard of the 'squire as all that," answered
Thousandacres. "He 'll never send out a warrant ag'in us, without
sendin' out a messenger to let us hear of it, and that in time to get
us all out of the way."
"And who 's to get the boards in the creek out of the way afore the
water rises? And who 's to hide or carry off all them logs? There 's
more than a ton weight of my blood and bones in them very logs, in the
shape of hard labour, and I 'll fight like a she-bear for her cubs
afore I 'll be driven from them without pay."
It is very surprising that one who set this desperate value on the
property he deemed his, should have so little regard for that which
belonged to other persons. In this respect, however, Tobit's feeling
was no more than submission to the general law of our nature, which
reverses the images before our moral vision, precisely as we change
our own relations to them.
"It would go hard with
me afore I should give up the lumber
or the clearin', "returned Thousandacres, with emphasis. "We 've fit
King George for liberty, and why shouldn't we fight for our property?
Of what use is liberty at all, if it won't bear a man harmless
out of a job of this sort? I despise sich liberty, b'ys, and want none
All the young men muttered their approbation of such a sentiment,
and it was easy enough to understand that the elevated notion of
personal rights entertained by Thousandacres found an answering echo
in the bosom of each of his heroic sons. I dare say the same sympathy
would have existed between them, had they been a gang of pickpockets
collected in council in a room of the Black Horse, St. Catharine's
lane, Wapping, London.
"But what can we do with the young chap, father, should we take him
ag'in?" asked Zephaniah; a question, as all will see, of some interest
to myself. "He can't be kept a great while without having a stir made
a'ter him, and that would break us up, sooner or later. We may have a
clear right to the work of our hands; but, on the whull, I rather
conclude the country is ag'in squatters."
"Who cares for the country?" answered Thousandacres, fiercely. "If
it wants young Littlepage, let it come and s'arch for him, as we 've
been doin'. If that chap falls into my hands once more, he never quits
'em alive, unless he gives me a good and sufficient deed to two
hundred acres, includin' the mill, and a receipt in full, on his
father's behalf, for all back claims. On them two principles my mind
is set, and not to be altered."
A long pause succeeded this bold announcement, and I began to be
afraid that my suppressed breathing might be overheard in the profound
stillness that followed. But Zephaniah spoke in time to relieve me
from this apprehension, and in a way to satisfy me that the party
below, all of whom were concealed from my sight, had been pondering
on what had been said by their leader, and not listening to detect
any tell-tale sounds from me.
"I 've heern say," Zephaniah remarked, "that deeds gi'n in that way
won't stand good in law. 'Squire Newcome was talkin' of sich
transactions the very last time I was out at the Nest."
"I wish a body could find out what
would stand good in law!"
growled Thousandacres. "They make their laws, and lay great account in
havin' 'em obsarved; and then, when a man comes into court with
everything done accordin' to their own rules, five or six attorneys
start up and bawl out, `this is ag'in law!' If a deed is to set forth
so and so, and is to have the name writ down in such a place, and is
to have what they call `hand and seal and date' beside; and sich
bein' the law, I want to know why an instrument so made won't hold
good by their confounded laws? Law is law, all over the world, I
s'pose; and though it 's an accursed thing, if men agree to have it,
they ought to stand by their own rules. I 've thought a good deal of
squeezin' writin's out of this young Littlepage; and just as my mind
's made up to do 't if I can lay hands on him ag'in, you come out and
tell me sich writin's be good for nothin'. Zeph, Zeph—you go too
often out into them settlements, and get your mind pervarted by their
wickedness and talk."
"I hope not, father, though I own I do like to go there. I 've come
to a time of life when a man thinks of marryin'; and there bein' no
gal here, unless it be one of my own sisters, it 's nat'ral to look
into the next settlement. I 'll own sich has been my object in going
to the Nest."
"And you 've found the gal you set store by? Out with the whull
truth, like a man. You know I 've always been set ag'in lyin', and
have ever endeavoured to make the whull of you speak truth. How is it,
Zephaniah? have you found a gal to your mind, and who is 't? Ourn is a
family into which any body can come by askin', you 'll remember."
"Lord, father! Dus Malbone would no more think of askin' me to have
her, than she 'd think of marryin' you! I 've offered three times; and
she 's told me, as plain as a woman could speak, that she couldn't no
how consent, and that I hadn't ought to think of her any longer."
"Who is the gal, in this part of the country, that holds her head
so much higher than one of Thousandacres' sons?" demanded the old
squatter, with some such surprise, real or affected, as a Bourbon
might be supposed to feel at having his alliance spurned on the score
of blood. "I 'd like to see her, and to convarse with this young
woman. What did you call her name, Zeph?"
"Dus Malbone, father, and the young woman that lives with
Chainbearer. She 's his niece, I b'lieve, or something of that sort."
"Ha! Chainbearer's niece, d'ye say? His taken da'ghter? Isn't there
"Dus Malbone calls old Andries `Uncle Chainbearer,' and I s'pose
from that she 's his niece."
"And you 've offered to marry the gal three times, d'ye tell me,
"Three times, father; and every time she has given `no' for her
"The fourth time, may be, she'll change her mind. I wonder if we
couldn't lay hands on this gal, and bring her into our settlement?
Does she live with Chainbearer, in his hut, out here in the woods?"
"She doos, father."
"And doos she set store by her uncle? or is she one of the flaunty
sort that thinks more of herself and gownd, than she does of her own
flesh and blood? Can you tell me that, Zeph?"
"In my judgment, father, Dus Malbone loves Chainbearer as much as
she would, was he her own father."
"Ay, some gals haven't half the riverence and love for their own
fathers that they should have. What 's to prevint your goin',
Zephaniah, to Chainbearer's pitch, and tell the gal that her uncle 's
in distress, and that you don't know what may happen to him, and that
she had better come over and see a'ter him? When we get her here, and
she understands the natur' of the case, and you put on your Sabba'day
clothes, and we send for 'squire Newcome, you may find yourself a
married man sooner than you thought for, my son, and settle down in
life. A'ter that, there 'll not be much danger of Chainbearer's
tellin' on us, or of his great fri'nd here, this major Littlepage's
troublin' the lumber afore the water rises."
A murmur of applause followed this notable proposal, and I fancied
I could hear a snigger from the young man, as if he found the project
to his mind, and thought it might be feasible.
"Father," said Zephaniah, "I wish you 'd call Lowiny here, and talk
to her a little about Dus Malbone. There she is, with Tobit's wife and
mother, looking round among the cabbages, as if a man could be hid in
such a place."
Thousandacres called to his daughter in an authoritative way; and I
soon heard the girl's step, as she came, a little hesitatingly as I
fancied, into the mill. As it would be very natural to one in Lowiny's
situation to suppose, that her connection with my escape occasioned
this summons, I could not but feel for what I presumed was the poor
girl's distress at receiving it.
"Come here, Lowiny," commenced Thousandacres, in the stern manner
with which it was his wont to speak to his children; "come nearer,
gal. Do you know anything of one Dus Malbone, Chainbearer's niece?"
"Lord ha' massy! Father, how you
did frighten me! I thought
you might have found the gentleman, and s'posed I 'd a hand in helpin'
to hide him!"
Singular as it may seem, this burst of conscience awakened no
suspicion in any of the listeners. When the girl thus betrayed
herself, I very naturally expected that such an examination would
follow as would extort the whole details from her. Not at all,
however; neither the father nor any of the sons understood the
indiscreet remarks of the girl, but imputed them to the excitement
that had just existed, and the circumstance that her mind had,
naturally enough, been dwelling on its cause. It is probable that the
very accidental manner of my evasion, which precluded the attaching
of suspicious facts to what had really occurred, favoured Lowiny on
this occasion; it being impossible that she should be suspected from
anything of that character.
"Who 's talkin' or thinkin' now of young Littlepage, at all,"
returned Thousandacres a little angrily. "I ask if you know anything
of Chainbearer's niece—one Dus Malbone, or Malcome?"
do know suthin' of her, father," answered Lowiny, willing
enough to betray one—the lesser—of her secrets, in order to
conceal the other, which, on all accounts, was much the most
important; "though I never laid eyes on her 'till to-day. Zeph has
often talked to me of the gal that carried chain with her uncle for a
whull month; and he has a notion to marry her if he can get her."
"Never laid eyes on her 'till to-day! Whereabouts have you laid
eyes on her to-day, gal? Is all creation comin' in upon my
clearin' at once? Whereabouts have you seen this gal to-day?"
"She come to the edge of the clearin' with her uncle, and—"
"Well, what next? Why don't you go on, Lowiny?"
I could have told Thousandacres why his daughter hesitated; but the
girl got out of the scrape by her own presence of mind and ingenuity,
a little aided, perhaps, by some practice in sins of the sort.
"Why, I went a berryin' this forenoon, and up ag'in the berry lot,
just in the edge of the woods, I saw a young woman, and that was the
Malbone gal. So we talked together, and she told me all about it.
She's waitin' for her uncle to come back."
"So, so; this is news indeed, b'ys! Do you know where the gal is
"Not just now, for she told me she should go deeper into the woods,
lest she should be seen; but an hour afore sundown she's to come to
the foot of the great chestnut, just ag'in the berry lot; and I
promised to meet her, and either bring her in to sleep in one of our
housen, or to carry her out suthin' for supper, and to make a bed on."
This was said frankly, and with the feeling and sympathy that
females are apt to manifest in behalf of each other. It was evident
Lowiny's audience believed every word she had said; and the old man,
in particular, determined at once to act. I heard him move from his
seat, and his voice sounded like one who was retiring, as he said:
"Tobit—b'ys—come with me, and we 'll have one more look for
this young chap through the lumber and the housen. It may be that he
's stolen in there while our eyes have been turned another way.
Lowiny, you needn't come with us, for the flutterin' way of you gals
don't do no good in sich a s'arch."
I waited until the last heavy footstep was inaudible, and then
ventured to move far enough on my hands, to find a crack that I had
purposely left, with a view to take through it an occasional look
below. On the log which her father had just left, Lowiny had seated
herself. Her eye was roaming over the upper part of the mill, as if in
quest of me. At length she said, in a suppressed voice,—
"Be you here, still? Father and the b'ys can't hear us now, if you
"I am here, good Lowiny, thanks to your friendly kindness, and have
overheard all that passed. You saw Ursula Malbone, and gave her my
"As true as you are there, I did; and she read it over so often, I
guess she must know it by heart."
"But, what did she say? Had she no message for her uncle—no
answer to what I had written?"
"Oh! she 'd enough to say—gals love to talk, you know, when they
get with one another, and Dus and I talked together half an hour, or
longer. She 'd plenty to say, though it wunt do for me to sit here and
tell it to you, lest somebody wonder I stay so long in the mill."
"You can tell me if she sent any message, or answer to my note?"
"She never breathed a syllable about what you 'd writ. I warrant
you she 's close-mouthed enough, when she gets a line from a young
man. Do you think her so desp'rate handsome as Zeph says she is?"
This boded ill, but it was a question that it was politic to
answer, and to answer with some little discretion. If I lost the
services of Lowiny, my main stay was gone.
"She is well enough to look at, but I 've seen quite as handsome
young women, lately. But handsome or not, she is one of your own sex,
and is not to be deserted in her trouble."
"Yes, indeed," answered Lowiny, with an expression of countenance
that told me at once, the better feelings of her sex had all returned
again, "and I 'll not desart her, though father drive me out of the
settlement. I am tired of all this squatting, and think folks ought to
live as much in one spot as they can. What 's best to be done about
Dus Malbone— perhaps she 'd like well enough to marry Zeph?"
"Did you see, or hear, any thing while with her, to make you think
so? I am anxious to know what she said."
"La! She said sights of things; but most of her talk was about old
Chainbearer. She never named your name so much as once!"
"Did she name Zephaniah's? I make no doubt that anxiety on account
of her uncle was her chief care. What are her intentions, and will she
remain near that tree until you come?"
"She stays under a rock not a great way from the tree, and there
she 'll stay till I go to meet her, at the chestnut. We had our talk
under that rock, and it 's easy enough to find her there."
"How do things look, around us? Might I descend, slip down into the
bed of the river, and go round to Dus Malbone, so as to give her
notice of the danger she is in?"
Lowiny did not answer me for near a minute, and I began to fear
that I had put another indiscreet question. The girl seemed
thoughtful, but when she raised her face so high as to allow me to see
it, all the expression of the more generous feminine sympathy was
"'T would be hard to make Dus have Zeph, if she don't like him,
wouldn't it!" she said with emphasis. "I don't know but t'would be
better to let her know what 's coming, so that she can choose for
"She told me," I answered, with perfect truth, "that she is engaged
to another, and it would be worse than cruel— it would be wicked, to
make her marry one man, while she loves another."
"She shan't do 't!" cried the girl, with an animation that I
thought dangerous. But she gave me no opportunity for remonstrance,
as, all her energies being aroused, she went to work in earnest to put
me in the way of doing what I most desired to achieve.
"D'ye see the lower corner of the mill," she continued, hurriedly.
"That post goes down to the rock over which the water falls. You can
walk to that corner without any danger of being seen, as the ruff
hides you, and when you get there, you can wait till I tell you to get
on the post. 'T will be easy to slide down that post to the rock, and
there 'll be not much of a chance of being seen, as the post will
nearly hide you. When you 're on the rock, you 'll find a path that
leads along the creek till you come to a foot-bridge. If you cross
that log, and take the left-hand path, 'twill bring you out near the
edge of the clearin', up on the hill again, and then you 'll have only
to follow the edge of the woods a little way, afore you come to the
chestnut. The rock is right off, ag'in the chestnut, only about fifty
I took in these directions eagerly, and was at the post almost as
soon as the girl ceased speaking. In order to do this I had only to
walk on the boards that lay scattered about on the girts of the mill,
the roof completely concealing the movement from any on its outside. I
made my arrangements, and only waited for a signal, or the direction
from Lowiny, to proceed.
"Not yet," said the girl, looking down and affecting to be occupied
with something near her feet. "Father and Tobit are walkin' this way,
and lookin' right at the mill. Now—get ready—they've turned their
heads, and seem as if they 'd turn round themselves next. They 've
turned away ag'in; wait one moment—now's a good time—don't go
away altogether without my seein' you once more."
I heard these last words, but it was while sliding down the post.
Just as my head came so low as to be in a line with the objects
scattered about the floor of the mill, I clung to the post to catch
one glimpse of what was going on without. Thousandacres and Tobit were
about a hundred yards distant, walking apart from the group of young
men, and apparently in deep consultation together. It was quite
evident no alarm was taken, and down I slid to the rock. At the next
moment I was in the path, descending to the foot-bridge, a tree that
had been felled across the stream. Until that tree was crossed, and a
slight distance of the ascent on the other side of the stream, along
the left-hand path, was overcome, I was completely exposed to the
observation of any one who might be in a situation to look down into
the glen of the river. At almost any other moment, at that particular
season, my discovery would have been nearly certain, as some of the
men or boys were always at work in the water; but the events of that
morning called them elsewhere, and I made the critical passage, a
distance of two hundred yards, or more, in safety. As soon as I
entered behind a cover, my speed abated, and, having risen again to
the level of the dwellings, or even a little above them, I profited by
openings among the small pine bushes that fringed the path, to take a
survey of the state of things among the squatters.
There the cluster of heavy, lounging young men was, Thousandacres
and Tobit walking apart, as when last seen. Prudence was at the door
of a distant cabin, surrounded, as usual, by a collection of the young
fry, and conversing herself, eagerly, with the wives of two or three
of her married sons. Lowiny had left the mill, and was strolling along
the opposite side of the glen, so near the verge of the rocks as to
have enabled her to see the whole of my passage across the open space.
Perceiving that she was quite alone, I ventured to hem just loud
enough to reach her ear. A hurried, frightened gesture, assured me
that I had been heard, and, first making a gesture for me to go
forward, the girl turned away, and went skipping off towards the
cluster of females who surrounded her mother.
As for myself, I now thought only of Dus. What cared I if she did
love another? A girl of her education, manners, sentiments, birth and
character, was not to be sacrificed to one like Zephaniah, let what
might happen; and, could I reach her place of concealment in time, she
might still be saved. These thoughts fairly winged my flight, and I
soon came in sight of the chestnut. Three minutes later I laid a hand
on the trunk of the tree itself. As I had been a quarter of an hour,
at least, in making the circuit of that side of the clearing, some
material change might have occurred among the squatters, and I
determined to advance to the edge of the bushes, in Lowiny's "berry
lot," which completely screened the spot, and ascertain the facts,
before I sought Dus at her rock.
The result showed that some measures had been decided on between
Thousandacres and Tobit. Not one of the males, a lad that stood
sentinel at the store-house, and a few of the smaller boys excepted,
was to be seen. I examined all the visible points with care, but no
one was visible. Even Susquesus, who had been lounging about the
whole day, or since his liberation, had vanished. Prudence and her
daughters, too, were in a great commotion, hurrying from cabin to
cabin, and manifesting all that restlessness which usually denotes
excitement among females. I stopped but a moment to ascertain these
leading circumstances, and turned to seek the rock. While retiring
from among the bushes, I heard the fallen branch of a tree snap under
a heavy footstep, and looking cautiously around, saw Jaaf, or Jaap as
we commonly called him, advancing towards me, carrying a rifle on each
"Heaven's blessings on you, my faithful Jaap!" I cried, holding out
an arm to receive one of the weapons. "You come at a most happy
moment, and can lead me to Miss Malbone."
"Yes, sah, and glad to do it, too. Miss Dus up here, a bit, in 'e
wood, and can werry soon see her. She keep me down here to look out,
and I carry bot' rifle, Masser Chainbearer's and my own, 'cause Miss
Dus no great hand wid gun-powder. But, where you cum from, Masser
Mordaunt?— and why you run away so, in night-time?"
"Never mind just now, Jaap—in proper time you shall know all
about it. Now, we must take care of Miss Ursula. Is she uneasy? has
she shown any fear on her uncle's account?"
"She cry half 'e time, sah—Den she look up bold, and resolute,
just like ole Masser, sah, when he tell he rijjement `charge
baggonet,' and seem as if she want to go right into T'ousandacres'
huts. Lor' bless me, sah, Masser Mordaunt— if she ask me one
question about you to-day, she ask me a hundred!"
"About me, Jaap!"—But I arrested the impulsive feeling in good
time, so as not to be guilty of pumping my own servant concerning what
others had said of me; a meanness I could not easily have pardoned in
myself. But I increased my speed, and, having Jaap for my guide, was
soon at the side of Dus. The negro had no sooner pointed out to me
the object of my search, than he had the discretion to return to the
edge of the clearing, carrying with him both rifles; for I returned to
him the one I had taken, in my eagerness to hurry forward, the instant
I beheld Dus.
I can never forget the look with which that frank, noble-hearted
girl received me! It almost led me to hope that my ears had deceived
me, and that, after all, I was an object of the highest interest with
her. A few tears, half-suppressed, but suppressed with difficulty,
accompanied that look; and I had the happiness of holding for some
time, and of pressing to my heart, that little hand that was freely—
nay, warmly extended to me.
"Let us quit this spot at once, dearest Ursula," I cried, the
moment I could speak. "It is not safe to remain near that family of
wretches, who live by depredation and violence."
"And leave uncle Chainbearer in their hands!" answered Dus,
reproachfully. "You, surely, would not advise me to do that!"
"If your own safety demands it, yes—a thousand times, yes. We
must fly, and there is not a moment to lose. A design exists among
those wretches to seize you, and to make use of your fears to secure
the aid of your uncle in extricating them from the consequences of
this discovery of their robberies. It is not safe, I repeat, for you
to remain a minute longer here."
The smile that Dus now bestowed on me was very sweet, though I
found it inexplicable; for it had as much of pain and suffering in it,
as it had of that which was winning.
"Mordaunt Littlepage, have you forgotten the words spoken by me
when we last parted?" she asked, seriously.
"Forgotten! I can never forget them! They drove me nearly to
despair, and were the cause of bringing us all into this difficulty."
"I told you that my faith was already plighted—that I could not
accept your noble, frank, generous, manly offer, because another had
"You did—you did—Why renew my misery—"
"It is with a different object that I am now more explicit— That
man to whom I am pledged is in those huts, and I cannot desert him."
"Can I believe my senses!
Do you—can you—is it
possible that one like Ursula Malbone can love Zephaniah
Thousandacres — a squatter himself, and the son of a squatter?"
The look with which Dus regarded me, said at once that her
astonishment was quite as great as my own. I could have bitten off my
hasty and indiscreet tongue, the instant it had spoken; and I am sure
the rush of tell-tale blood in my face must have proclaimed to my
companion that I felt most thoroughly ashamed of myself. This feeling
was deepened nearly to despair, when I saw the expression of abased
mortification that came over the sweet and usually happy countenance
of Dus, and the difficulty she had in suppressing her tears.
Neither spoke for a minute, when my companion broke silence by
saying steadily—I might almost add solemnly—
"This, indeed, shows how low my fortune has become! But I pardon
you, Mordaunt; for, humble as that fortune is, you have spoken nobly
and frankly in my behalf, and I exonerate you from any feeling that is
not perfectly natural for the circumstances. Perhaps"—and a bright
blush suffused the countenance of Dus as she said it—"Perhaps I may
attribute the great mistake into which you have fallen to a passion
that is most apt to accompany strong love, and insomuch prize it,
instead of throwing it away with contempt. But, between you and me,
whatever comes of it, there must be no more mistakes. The man to whom
my faith is plighted, and to whom my time and services are devoted,
so long as one or both of us live, is uncle Chainbearer, and no other.
Had you not rushed from me in the manner you did, I might have told
you this, Mordaunt, the evening you were showing so much noble
"Dus!—Ursula!—beloved Miss Malbone, have I then no preferred
"No man has ever spoken to me of love, but this uncouth and rude
young squatter, and yourself."
"Is your heart then untouched? Are you still mistress of your own
The look I now received from Dus was a little saucy; but that
expression soon changed to one that had more of the deep feeling and
generous sympathy of her precious sex in it.
"Were I to answer `yes,' many women would think I was being no more
than true to the rights of a girl who has been so unceremoniously
"But what, charming, most beloved Ursula? But what?"
"I prefer truth to coquetry, and shall not attempt to deny what it
would almost be treason against nature to suppose. How could a girl,
educated as I have been, without any preference to tie her to another,
be shut up in this forest, with a man who has treated her with so much
kindness and devotion, and manly tenderness, and insensible to his
merits? Were we in the world, Mordaunt, I think I should prefer you
to all others; being, as we are, in this forest, I know I do."
The reader shall not be let into the sacred confidence that
followed; any further, at least, than to know the main result. A
quarter of an hour passed so swiftly, and so sweetly, indeed, that I
could hardly take it on myself to record one-half that was said. Dus
made no longer any hesitation in declaring her attachment for me; and,
though she urged her own poverty as a just obstacle to my wishes, it
was faintly, as most Americans of either sex would do. In this
particular, at least, we may fairly boast of a just superiority over
all the countries of the old world. While it is scarcely possible that
either man or woman should not see how grave a barrier to wedded
happiness is interposed by the opinions and habits of social castes,
it is seldom that any one, in his or her own proper sphere, feels that
the want of money is an insurmountable obstacle to a union— more
especially when one of the parties is provided with the means of
maintaining the household gods. The seniors may, and do often have
scruples on this score; but the young people rarely. Dus and myself
were in the complete enjoyment of this happy simplicity, with my arms
around her waist, and her head leaning on my shoulder, when I was
aroused from a state that I fancied Elysium, by the hoarse,
raven-throated cry of—
"Here she is! Here she is, father! Here they are
On springing forward to face the intruders, I saw Tobit and
Zephaniah directly before me, with Lowiny standing at no great
distance behind them. The first looked ferocious. the second jealous
and angry, the third abashed and mortified. In another minute we were
surrounded by Thousandacres, and all the males of his brood.
"My love is young—but other loves are young;
And other loves are fair, and so is mine;
An air divine discloses whence he sprung;
He is my love who boasts that air divine."
A more rude and violent interruption of a scene in which the more
gentle qualities love to show themselves, never occurred. I, who knew
the whole of the past, saw at once that we had very serious prospects
before us; but Dus at first felt only the consciousness and
embarrassment of a woman, who has betrayed her most sacred secret to
vulgar eyes. That very passion, which a month later, and after the
exchange of the marriage vows, it would have been her glory to exhibit
in face of the whole community, on the occurrence of any event of
moment to myself, she now shrunk from revealing; and I do believe that
maiden bashfulness gave her more pain, when thus arrested, than any
other cause. As for the squatters, she probably had no very clear
conceptions of their true characters; and it was one of her liveliest
wishes to be able to join her uncle. But, Thousandacres soon gave us
both cause to comprehend how much he was now in earnest.
"So, my young major, you 're catched in the same nest, be you! You
've your ch'ise to walk peaceably back where you belong, or to be tied
and carried there like a buck that has been killed a little out in the
woods. You never know'd Thousandacres and his race, if you raally
thought to slip away from him, and that with twenty miles of woods
I intimated a wish not to be tied, and professed a perfect
willingness to accompany my captors back to their dwellings; for,
nothing would have tempted me to desert Dus, under the circumstances.
The squatters might have declared the road open to me, but the needle
does not point more unerringly to the pole than I should have followed
my magnet, though at liberty.
Little more was said until we had quitted the woods, and had
reached the open fields of the clearing. I was permitted to assist my
companion through the bushes, and in climbing a fence or two; the
squatters, who were armed to a man, forming a circle around us, at a
distance that enabled me to whisper a few words to Dus, in the way of
encouragement. She had great natural intrepidity for a woman, and I
believe I ought to escape the imputation of vanity, if I add that we
both felt so happy at the explanations which had so lately been had,
that this new calamity could not entirely depress us, so long as we
were not separated.
"Be not downhearted, dearest Dus," I whispered, as we approached
the store-house; "after all, these wretches will not dare to
transgress against the law, very far."
"I have few fears, with you and uncle Chainbearer so near me,
Mordaunt," was her smiling answer. "It cannot be long before we hear
from Frank, who is gone, as you must have been told, to Ravensnest,
for authority and assistance. He left our huts at the same time we
left them to come here, and must be on his return long before this."
I squeezed the hand of the dear girl, receiving a gentle pressure
in return, and prepared myself to be separated from her, as I took it
for granted that Prudence and her daughters would hold watch and ward
over the female prisoner. I had hesitated, ever since quitting the
woods, about giving her notice of the trial that probably awaited her;
but, as no attempt to coerce a marriage could be made until the
magistrate arrived, I thought it would be rendering her unnecessarily
unhappy. The trial, if it did come at all, would come soon enough of
itself; and I had no apprehension that one of Dus's spirit and
character, and who had so recently and frankly admitted that her whole
heart was mine, could be frightened into a concession that would give
Zephaniah any claim to her. To own the truth, a mountain had been
removed from my own breast, and I was too happy on this particular
account, to be rendered very miserable on any other, just at that
time. I do believe Dus was a little sustained by some similar
Dus and I parted at the door of the first house, she being
transferred to the keeping of Tobit's wife, a woman who was well
bestowed on her brutal and selfish husband. No violence was used,
however, towards the prisoner, who was permitted to go at large;
though I observed that one or two of the females attached themselves
to her person immediately, no doubt as her keepers.
In consequence of our having approached the dwelling of the
squatters by a new path, Chainbearer knew nothing of the arrest of his
niece, until the fact was communicated by me. He was not even aware of
my being retaken, until he saw me about to enter the prison again;
though he probably anticipated that such might be my fate. As for
Susquesus, he seldom manifested surprise or emotion of any sort, let
what would occur.
"Well, Mortaunt, my lat, I knowet you had vanishet, py hook or py
crook, ant nopoty knowet how; put I t'ought you woult fint it hart to
t'row t'ese rascally squatters off your trail," cried Andries, giving
me a hearty shake of the hand as I entered the prison. "Here we are,
all t'ree of us, ag'in; ant it 's lucky we 're such goot frients, as
our quarters are none of t'e largest or pest. The Injin fount I was
alone, so he took pack his parole, ant ist a close prisoner like t'e
rest of us, put in one sense a free man. You can tig up t'e hatchet
ag'in t'ese squatters whenever you please now; is it not so,
"Sartain—truce done—Susquesus prisoner like everybody. Give
T'ousandacres p'role back ag'in — Injin free man, now."
I understood the Onondago's meaning well enough, though his freedom
was of a somewhat questionable character. He merely wished to say
that, having given himself up to the squatters, he was released from
the conditions of his parole, and was at liberty to make his escape,
or to wage war on his captors in any manner he saw fit. Luckily Jaap
had escaped, for I could see no signs of even his presence being
known to Thousandacres or to his sons. It was something to have so
practised a woodsman and so true a friend still at large, and near us;
and the information he could impart, should he fall in with Frank
Malbone, with the constable and the posse, might be of the utmost
service to us. All these points Chainbearer and I discussed at large,
the Indian sitting by, an attentive but a silent listener. It was our
joint opinion that Malbone could not now be very far distant with
succour. What would be the effect of an attack on the squatters it
was not easy to predict, since the last might make battle; and, small
as was their force, it would be likely to prove very available in a
struggle of that nature. The females of such a family were little less
efficient than the males, when posted behind logs; and there were a
hundred things in which their habits, experience, and boldness might
be made to tell, should matters be pushed to extremities.
"Got knows—Got only knows, Mortaunt, what will come of it all,"
rejoined Chainbearer to one of my remarks, puffing coolly at his pipe
at intervals, in order to secure the fire he had just applied to it.
"Nut'in is more unsartain t'an war, as Sus, here, fery well knows py
long exper'ence, ant as you ought to know yourself, my poy, hafin seen
sarfice, ant warm sarfice, too. Shoult Frank Malpone make a charge on
t'is settlement, as, pein an olt soltier, he will pe fery likely to
do, we must make efery effort to fall in on one of his flanks, in
orter to cover t'e atvance or t'e retreat, as may happen to pe t'e
movement at t'e time."
"I trust it will be the advance, as Malbone does not strike me as a
man likely to retreat very easily. But, are we certain 'Squire Newcome
will grant the warrant he will ask for, being in such close communion
himself with these squatters?"
"I haf t'ought of all t'at, too, Mortaunt, ant t'ere is goot sense
in it. I t'ink he will at least sent wort to T'ousantacres, to let him
know what is comin', ant make as many telays as possiple. T'e law is a
lazy sarfant when it wishes to pe slow; ant many is t'e rogue t'at
hast outrun it, when t'e race hast peen to safe a pack or a fine.
Nefert'eless, Mortaunt, t'e man who is right fights wit' great otts in
his fafor, ant is fery apt to come out pest in t'e long run. It is a
great atvantage to pe always right; a trut' I 've known ant felt from
poyhoot, put which hast peen mate more ant more clear to me since t'e
peace, ant I haf come pack to lif wit' Dus. T'at gal hast teachet me
much on all such matters; ant it woult do your heart goot to see her
alone wit' an olt ignorant man in t'e woots, of a Suntay, a tryin' to
teach him his piple, ant how he ought to lofe ant fear Got!"
"Does Dus do this for you, my old friend?—Does that admirable
creature really take on herself this solemn office of duty and love!
Much as I admired and esteemed her before, for her reverence and
affection for you, Chainbearer, I now admire and esteem her the more,
for this proof of her most true and deep-seated interest in your
"I 'll tell you what, poy—Dus is petter ast twenty tominies to
call a stupporn olt fellow, t'at has got a conscience toughenet ant
hartenet by lifin' t'reescore years ant ten in t'e worlt, pack from
his wicketness into t'e ways of gotliness and peace. You 're young,
Mortaunt, and haf not yet got out of t'e gristle of sin into t'e pone,
ant can hartly know how strong ist t'e holt t'at hapit and t'e worlt
gets of an olt man; put I hope you may lif long enough to see it all,
ant to feel it all," I did not even smile, for the child-like
earnestness, and the sincere simplicity with which Andries delivered
himself of this wish, concealed its absurdity behind a veil of truth
and feeling too respectable to admit of a single disrespectful
impulse.—"Ant t'at is t'e worst wish I can wish you, my tear poy.
You know how it hast peen wit' me, Mortaunt; a chainpearer's callin'
is none of t'e pest to teach religion; which toes not seem to flourish
in t'e woots; t'ough why I cannot tell; since, as Dus has ag'in ant
ag'in shown to me, Got is in t'e trees, ant on t'e mountains, ant
along t'e valleys, ant is to pe hearet in t'e prooks ant t'e rifers,
as much if not more t'an he ist to pe hearet ant seen in t'e clearin's
ant t'e towns. Put my life was not a religious life afore t'e war, ant
war is not a pusiness to make a man t'ink of deat' as he ought; t'ough
he hast it tay and night, as it might pe, afore his eyes."
"And Dus, the excellent, frank, buoyant, sincere, womanly and
charming Dus, adds these admirable qualities to other merits, does
she! I knew she had a profound sentiment on the subject of religion,
Chainbearer, though I did not know she took so very lively an interest
in the welfare of those she loves, in connection with that
"You may well call t'e gal py all t'em fine worts, Mortaunt, for
she desarfs efery one of t'em, ant more too. No— no—Dus isn't
known in a tay. A poty may lif in t'e same house wit' her, ant see her
smilin' face, ant hear her merry song, mont's ant mont's, ant not
l'arn all t'at t'ere ist of gotliness, ant meekness, ant virtue, ant
love, ant piety, in t'e pottom of her soul. One tay you 'll t'ink well
of Dus, Mortaunt Littlepage."
me that I shall think
well of Ursula
Malbone, the girl that I almost worship!—Think well of her
whom I now love with an intensity that I did not imagine was possible,
three months since!—Think well of her who fills all my
waking, and not a few of my sleeping thoughts—of whom I dream—to
whom I am betrothed—who has heard my vows with favour, and has
cheerfully promised, all parties that are interested consenting, to
become at some early day my wife!"
Old Andries heard my energetic exclamation with astonishment; and
even the Indian turned his head to look on me with a gratified
attention. Perceiving that I had gone so far, under an impulse I had
found irresistible, I felt the necessity of being still more explicit,
and of communicating all I had to say on the subject.
"Yes," I added, grasping old Andries by the hand— "Yes,
Chainbearer, I shall comply with your often-expressed wishes. Again
and again have you recommended your lovely niece to me as a wife, and
I come now to take you at your word, and to say that nothing will make
me so happy as to be able to call you uncle."
To my surprise, Chainbearer expressed no delight at this
announcement. I remarked that he had said nothing to me on his
favourite old subject of my marrying his niece, since my arrival at
the Nest; and now, when I was not only so ready, but so anxious to
meet his wishes, I could plainly see that he drew back from my
proposals, and wished they had not been made. Amazed, I waited for him
to speak with a disappointment and uneasiness I cannot express.
"Mortaunt! Mortaunt!" at length broke out of the old man's very
heart—"I wish to Heafen you hat nefer sait t'is! I lofe you, poy,
almost as much as I lofe Dus, herself; put it griefs me—it griefs me
to hear you talk of marryin' t'e gal!"
"You grieve, as much as you astonish me, Chainbearer, by making
such a remark! How often have you, yourself, expressed to me the wish
that I might become acquainted with your niece, and love her, and
marry her! Now, when I have seen her—when I have become
acquainted with her— when I love her to my heart's core, and
wish to make her my wife, you meet my proposals as if they were
unworthy of you and yours!"
"Not so, lat—not so. Nut'in' would make me so happy as to see you
t'e huspant of Dus, supposin' it coult come to pass, ant wrong pe tone
to no one; put it cannot pe so. I tid talk as you say, ant a foolish,
selfish, conceitet olt man I wast for my pains. I wast t'en in t'e
army, ant we wast captains alike; ant I wast t'e senior captain, and
might orter you apout, and tid orter you apout; ant I wore an
epaulette, like any ot'er captain, and hat my grantfat'er's swort at
my site, ant t'ought we wast equals, ant t'at it wast an honour to
marry my niece; put all t'is wast changet, lat, when I came into t'e
woots ag'in, ant took up my chain, ant pegan to lif, ant to work, ant
to feel poor, ant to see myself as I am. No— no — Mortaunt
Littlepage, t'e owner of Ravensnest, ant t'e heir of Mooseritge, ant
of Satanstoe, ant of Lilacsbush, ant of all t'e fine houses, ant
stores, ant farms t'at are in York ant up ant town t'e country, is not
a suitaple match for Dus Malbone!"
"This is so extraordinary a notion for you to take up, Chainbearer,
and so totally opposed to all I have ever before heard from you on the
subject, that I must be permitted to ask where you got it?"
"From Dus Malbone, herself—yes, from her own mout', ant in her
own pretty manner of speech."
"Has, then, the probability of my ever offering to your niece been
a subject of conversation between you?"
"T'at hast it—t'at hast it, ant time ant ag'in, too. Sit town on
t'at log of woot, ant listen to what I haf to say, ant I will tell you
t'e whole story. Susquesus, you neetn't go off into t'at corner, like
a gentleman as you pe; t'ought it is only an Injin gentleman; for I
haf no secrets from such a frient as yourself. Come pack, t'en, Injin,
ant take your olt place, close at my site, where you haf so often peen
when t'e inemy wast chargin' us poltly in front."—Sureflint quietly
did as desired, while Chainbearer turned towards me and continued the
discourse.—"You wilt see, Mortaunt, poy, t'ese here are t'e fery
facts ant trut' of t'e of t'e case. When I came first from camp, ant I
wast full of the prite, ant aut'ority, ant feelin's of a soltier, I
pegan to talk to Dus apout you, as I hat peen accustomet to talk to
you apout Dus. Ant I tolt her what a fine, bolt, hantsome, generous,
well-principlet young fellow you wast,"—the reader will overlook my
repeating that to which the partiality of the Chainbearer so readily
gave utterance—"ant I tolt her of your sarfice in t'e wars, ant of
your wit, ant how you mate us all laugh, t'ough we might pe marchin'
into pattle, ant what a fat'er you hat, ant what a grantfat'er, ant
all t'at a goot ant a warm frient ought to say of anot'er, when it
wast true, ant when it was tolt to a hantsome ant heart-whole young
woman t'at he wishet to fall in love wit' t'at fery same frient. Well,
I tolt t'is to Dus, not once, Mortaunt; nor twice; put twenty times,
you may depent on it."
"Which makes me the more curious to hear what Dus could, or did say
"It's t'at reply, lat, t'at makes all t'e present tifficulty
petween us. For a long time Dus sait little or not'in'. Sometimes she
woult look saucy ant laugh—ant you know, lat, t'e gal can do
bot' of t'em t'ings as well as most young women. Sometimes she woult
pegin to sing a song, all about fait'less young men, perhaps, ant
proken-hearted virgins. Sometimes she woult look sorrowful, ant I
coult fint tears startin' in her eyes; ant t'en I pecome as soft and
feeple-hearted as a gal, myself, to see one who smiles so easily mate
to shet tears."
"But, how did all this end? What can possibly have occurred, to
cause this great change in your own wishes?"
"'Tis not so much my wishes t'at be changet, Mortaunt, ast my
opinion. If a poty coult haf t'ings just as he wishet, lat, Dus ant
you shoult pe man and wife, so far as it tepentet on me, pefore t'e
week ist out. Put, we are not our own masters, nor t'e masters of what
ist to happen to our nephews and nieces, any more t'an we are masters
of what ist to happen to ourselves. Put, I wilt tell you just how it
happenet. One tay, as I wast talking to t'e gal in t'e olt way, she
listenet to all I hat to say more seriously t'an ast common, ant when
she answeret, it wast much in t'is manner:— `I t'ank you from t'e
pottom of my heart, uncle Chainpearer,' she sait, `not only for all
t'at you haf tone for me, t'e orphan da'ghter of your sister, put for
all you wish in my pehalf. I perceive t'at t'is itee of my marryin'
your young frient, Mr. Mortaunt Littlepage, hast a strong holt on
your feelin's, ant it ist time to talk seriously on t'at supject.
When you associatet with t'at young gen leman, uncle Chainpearer, you
wast captain Coejemans, of t'e New York state line, ant his senior
officer, ant it wast nat'ral to s'pose your niece fit to pecome his
wife. Put it ist our tuty to look at what we now are, ant are likely
to remain. Major Littlepage hast a fa'ter ant a mot'er, I haf he'rt
you say, uncle Chainpearer, ant sisters, too; now marriage ist a most
serious t'ing. It ist to last for life, ant no one shoult form sich a
connection wit'out reflectin' on all its pearin's. It ist hartly
possiple t'at people in t'e prosperity ant happiness of t'ese
Littlepages woult wish to see an only son, ant t'e heir of t'eir name
ant estates, takin' for a wife a gal out of t'e woots; one t'at ist
not only a chainpearer's niece, put who hast peen a chainpearer
herself, ant who can pring into t'eir family no one t'ing to
compensate 'em for t'e sacrifice."
"And you had the heart to be quiet, Andries, and let Ursula say all
"Ah! lat, how coult I help it? You woult have tone it yourself,
Mortaunt, coult you haf he'rt how prettily she turnet her periots, as
I haf he'rt you call it, ant how efery syllaple she sait come from t'e
heart. T'en t'e face of t'e gal wast enough to convince me t'at she
wast right; she looket so 'arnest, ant sat, and peautiful, Mortaunt!
No, no; when an itee comes into t'e mint, wit' t'e ait of sich worts
and looks, my poy, 'tis not an easy matter to get rit of it."
"You do not seriously mean to say, Chainbearer, that you will
refuse me Dus?"
"Dus will do t'at herself, lat; for she ist still a chainpearer's
niece, ant you are still general Littlepage's son ant heir. Try her,
ant see what she wilt say."
have tried her, as you call it;
have told her
of my love; have offered my hand, and—"
"Why she does not answer
me as you say she answered
"Hast t'e gal sait she woult haf you, Mortaunt? Hast she said yes?"
"Conditionally she has. If my grandmother cheerfully consent, and
my parents do the same; and my sister Kettletas and her husband, and
my laughing, merry Kate, then Dus will accept me."
"T'is ist strange! Ah! I see how it is; t'e gal has
ant peen much wit' you, ant talket wit' you, ant sung wit' you, ant
laughet wit' you; ant I do s'pose, a'ter all, t'at will make a
tifference in her judgment of you. I 'm a pachelor, Mortaunt, ant haf
no wife, nor any sweetheart, put it ist easy enough to comprehent how
all t'ese matters must make a fery great tifference. I 'm glat,
howsefer, t'at t'e tifference is not so great as to make t'e gal
forget all your frients; for if efery poty consents, and ist cheerful,
why t'en my pein' a chainbearer, and Dus' pein' so poor ant forsaken
like, will not pe so likely to pe rememperet hereafter, and pring you
"Andries Coejemans, I swear to you, I would rather become your
nephew at this moment, than become the son-in-law of Washington
himself, had he a daughter."
"T'at means you 'd rat'er haf Dus, t'an any ot'er gal of your
acquaintance. T'at's nat'ral enough, and may make me look like His
Excellency, for a time, in your eyes; put when you come to t'ink and
feel more coolly, my tear poy, t'ere ist t'e tanger t'at you wilt see
some tifference petween t'e captain-general and commanter-in-chief of
all t'e American armies, ant a poor chainpearer, who in his pest tays
was nut'in' more t'an a captain in t'e New York line. I know you lofe
me, Mordaunt; put t'ere ist tanger t'at it might not pe exactly an
uncle and nephew's lofe in t'e long run. I am only a poor Tutchman,
when all is sait, wit'out much etication, and wit' no money, and not
much more manners; while you 've peen to college, and pe college
l'arn't, and pe as gay ant gallant a spark as can pe fount in t'e
States, as we call t'e olt colonies now. Wast you a Yankee, Mortaunt,
I 'd see you marriet and unmarriet twenty times, pefore I 'd own as
much as t'is; put a man may pe sensiple of his ignorance, ant pat
etication, ant weaknesses, wit'out wishin' to pe tolt of it to his
face, and laughed at apout it, py efery A B C scholar t'at comes out
of New Englant. No, no—I 'm a poor Tutchman, I know; and a potty
may say as much to a frient, when he woult tie pefore he woult own
t'ere wast anyt'ing poor apout it to an inimy."
"I would gladly pursue this discourse, Andries, and bring it to a
happy termination," I answered; "but here come the squatters in a
body, and I suppose some movement or proposal from them is in the
wind. We will defer our matter, then; you remembering that I agree to
none of your opinions or decisions. Dus is to be mine, if indeed we
can protect her against the grasp of these wretches. I have something
to say on that subject, too; but this is not the moment to utter it."
Chainbearer seized my hand, and gave it a friendly pressure, which
terminated the discourse. On the subject of the intentions of
Thousandacres towards Dus, I was now not altogether free from
uneasiness; though the tumult of rapturous feeling through which I had
just passed, drove it temporarily from my mind. I had no apprehensions
that Ursula Malbone would ever be induced, by ordinary means, to
become the wife of Zephaniah; but I trembled as to what might be the
influence of menaces against her uncle and myself. Nor was I
altogether easy on the score of the carrying out of those menaces. It
often happens with crime, as in the commission of ordinary sins, that
men are impelled by circumstances, which drive them to deeds from
which they would have recoiled in horror, had the consummation been
directly presented to their minds, without the intervention of any
mediate causes. But the crisis was evidently approaching, and I waited
with as much calmness as I could assume for its development. As for
Chainbearer, being still ignorant of the conversation I had overheard
in the mill, he had no apprehensions of evil from the source of my
The day had advanced, all this time, and the sun had set, and night
was close upon us, as Tobit and his brethren came to the door of our
prison, and called upon Chainbearer and myself to come forth, leaving
Susquesus behind. We obeyed with alacrity; for there was a species of
liberty in being outside of those logs, with my limbs unfettered,
though a vigilant watch was kept over us both. On each side of me
walked an armed man, and Chainbearer was honoured with a similar
guard. For all this, old Andries cared but little. He knew and I knew
that the time could not be very distant when we might expect to hear
from Frank Malbone; and every minute that went by added to our
confidence in this respect.
We were about half-way between the store-house and the dwelling of
Thousandacres, towards which our steps were directed, when Andries
suddenly stopped, and asked leave to say a word to me in private.
Tobit was at a loss how to take this request; but, there being an
evident desire to keep on reasonably good terms with Chainbearer,
after a short pause he consented to form an extended ring with his
brothers, leaving me and my old friend in its centre.
"I'll tell you what I t'ink atvisaple in t'is matter," commenced
Andries, in a sort of whisper. "It cannot pe long afore Malpone will
be pack wit' t'e posse ant constaples, ant so fort'; now, if we tell
t'ese rapscallions t'at we want taylight to meet our inimies in, ant
t'at we haf no stomach for nightwork, perhaps t'ey'll carry us pack to
gaol, ant so gif more time to Frank to get here."
"It will be much better, Chainbearer, to prolong our interview with
these squatters, so that you and I may be at large, or at least not
shut up in the store-house, when Malbone makes his appearance. In the
confusion we may even escape and join our friends, which will be a
thousand times better than to be found within four walls."
Andries nodded his head, in sign of acquiescence, and thenceforth
he seemed to aim at drawing things out, in order to gain time, instead
of bringing them to a speedy conclusion. As soon as our discourse was
ended, the young men closed round us again, and we moved on in a body.
Darkness being so close upon us, Thousandacres had determined to
hold his court, this time, within the house, having a care to a
sufficient watchfulness about the door. There is little variation in
the internal distribution of the room of what may be called an
American cottage. About two-thirds of the space is given to the
principal apartment, which contains the fire-place, and is used for
all the purposes of kitchen and sitting-room, while the rest of the
building is partitioned into three several subdivisions. One of these
subdivisions is commonly a small bed-room; another is the buttery,
and the third holds the stairs, or ladders, by which to ascend to the
loft, or to descend to the cellar. Such was the arrangement of the
dwelling of Thousandacres, and such is the arrangement in thousands of
other similar buildings throughout the land. The thriving husbandman
is seldom long contented, however, with such narrow and humble
accommodations; but the framed house, of two stories in height, and
with five windows in front, usually soon succeeds this cottage, in his
case. It is rare, indeed, that any American private edifice has more
than five windows in front, the few exceptions which do exist to the
rule being residences of mark, and the supernumerary windows are
generally to be found in wings. Some of our old, solid, substantial,
stone country houses occasionally stretch themselves out to eight or
nine apertures of this sort, but they are rare. I cannot gossip here,
however, about country houses and windows, when I have matters so
grave before me to relate.
In the forest, and especially in the newer portions of New York,
the evenings are apt to be cool, even in the warm months. That
memorable night, I well remember, had a sharpness about it that
threatened even a frost, and Prudence had lighted a fire on the
yawning hearth of her rude chimney. By the cheerful blaze of that
fire, which was renewed from time to time by dried brush, the American
frontier substitute for the fagot, were the scenes I am about to
We found all the males, and several of the females, assembled in
the large apartment of the building I have described, when Chainbearer
and myself entered. The wife of Tobit, with one or two of the
sisterhood, however, were absent; doubtless in attendance on Dus.
Lowiny, I remarked, stood quite near the fire, and the countenance of
the girl seemed to me to be saddened and thoughtful. I trust I shall
not be accused of being a coxcomb if I add, that the idea crossed my
mind, that the appearance and manners of a youth, so much superior to
those with whom she was accustomed to associate, had made a slight
impression on this girl's—I will not say heart, for imagination
would be the better word—and had awakened sympathies that
manifested themselves in her previous conduct; while the shade that
was now cast across her brow came quite as much from the scene she had
witnessed between myself and Dus, near the rock, as from seeing me
again a prisoner. The friendship of this girl might still be of
importance to me, and still more so to Ursula, and I will acknowledge
that the apprehension of losing it was far from pleasant. I could
only wait for the developments of time, however, in order to reach
any certainty on this, as well as on other most interesting topics.
Thousandacres had the civility to order us chairs, and we took our
seats accordingly. On looking round that grave and attentive circle, I
could trace no new signs of hostility; but, on the contrary, the
countenances of all seemed more pacific than they were when we parted.
I considered this as an omen that I and my friend should receive some
propositions that tended towards peace. In this I was not mistaken;
the first words that were uttered having that character.
"It's time this matter atween us, Chainbearer," commenced
Thousandacres, himself, "should be brought to suthin' like an eend.
It keeps the b'ys from their lumberin', and upsets my whull family. I
call myself a reasonable man; and be as ready to settle a difficulty
on as accommodatin' tarms as any parson you 'll find by lookin' up and
down the land. Many is the difficulty that I 've settled in my
day; and I 'm not too old to settle 'em now. Sometimes I 've fit it
out, when I 've fell in with an obstinate fellow; sometimes I 've left
it out to men; and sometimes I 've settled matters myself. No man can
say he ever know'd me refuse to hearken to reason, or know'd me to
gi'n up a just cause, so long as there was a morsel of a chance to
defend it. When overpowered by numbers, and look'd down by your
accursed law, as you call it, I 'll own that, once or twice in my
time, when young and inexper'enced, I did get the worst of it; and so
was obliged to sort o' run away. But use makes parfect. I 've seen so
much, by seventy odd, as to have l'arnt to take time by the forelock,
and don't practyse delays in business. I look upon you, Chainbearer,
as a man much like myself, reasonable, exper'ne'd, and willin' to
accommodate. I see not great difficulty, therefore, in settlin' this
matter on the spot, so as to have no more hard feelin's or hot words
atween us. Sich be my notions; and I should like to hear your'n."
"Since you speak to me, T'ousantacres, in so polite and civil a
manner, I 'm reaty to hear you, ant to answer in t'e same temper,"
returned old Andries, his countenance losing much of the determined
and angry expression with which he had taken his seat in the circle.
"T'ere ist nutin' t'at more pecomes a man, t'an moteration; ant an olt
man in partic'lar. I do not t'ink, however, t'at t'ere ist much
resemplance petween you ant me, T'ousantacres, in any one t'ing,
except it pe in olt age. We're pot' of us pretty well atvancet, ant
haf reachet a time of life when it pehooves a man to examine ant
reflect on t'e great trut's t'at are to pe fount in his piple. T'e
piple ist a pook, Aaron, t'at ist not enough re't in t'e woots; t'ough
Almighty Got hast all t'e same rights to t'e sarfices ant worship of
his creatures in t'e forest, as to t'e worship and sarfices of his
creatures in t'e settlements. I 'm not a tellin' you t'is,
T'ousantacres, py way of showin' off my own l'arnin'; for all I know
on the supject, myself, I haf got from Dus, my niece, who ist as
goot, ant as willin', ant as hanty in explainin' sich matters, as any
tominie I ever talket wit'. I wish you woult listen to her, yourself;
you and Prutence; when I t'ink you woult allow t'at her tiscourse ist
fery etifyin' ant improfin'. Now you seem in t'e right temper, ist a
goot time to pe penefitet in t'at way; for t'ey tell me my niece ist
here, ant at hant."
"She is; and I rej'ice that you have brought her name into the
discourse so 'arly; as it was my design to mention it myself. I see we
think alike about the young woman, Chainbearer, and trust and believe
she 'll be the means of reconciling all parties, and of making us good
fri'nds. I 've sent for the gal; and she 'll soon be coming along,
with Tobit's wife, who sets by her wonderfully already."
"Well, talkin' of wonterful t'ings, wonters wilt never cease, I do
believe!" Chainbearer exclaimed, for he really believed that the
family of the squatter was taken suddenly with a `religious turn,' and
that something like a conversion was about to occur. "Yes, yes; it ist
so; we meet wit' wonters when we least expect 'em; and t'at it is t'at
makes wonters so wonterful!"
"Yet, Hastings, these are they
Who challenge to themselves thy country's love;
The true, the constant, who alone can weigh,
What glory should demand, or liberty approve!"
A pause succeeded this little opening, during which the assembly
was waiting for the arrival of Ursula Malbone, and that semi-savage
guardian that "set" so much by her, as not to leave her out of sight
for a moment. All that time Thousandacres was ruminating on his own
plans; while old Andries was probably reflecting on the singular
circumstance that "wonters shoult pe so wonterful!" At length a
little bustle and movement occurred near the door, the crowd collected
in it opened, and Dus walked into the centre of the room, her colour
heightened by excitement, but her step firm, and her air full of
spirit. At first, the blazing light affected her sight, and she passed
a hand over her eyes. Then looking around I met her gaze, and was
rewarded for all my anxiety by one of those glances, into which
affection knows how to infuse so much that is meaning and eloquent. I
was thus favoured for a moment only; those eyes still turning until
they met the fond answering look of Chainbearer. The old man had
arisen, and he now received his niece in his arms as a parent would
embrace a beloved child.
That outpouring of feeling lasted but a little while. It had been
unpremeditated and impulsive, and was almost as suddenly suppressed.
It gave me, however, the happiness of witnessing one of the most
pleasant sights that man can behold; that of youth, and beauty, and
delicacy, and female tenderness, pouring out their feelings on the
bosom of age— on the ruder qualities of one, hardened in person by
the exposures of a life passed in the forest. To me the contrast
between the fair, golden hair of Dus, and the few straggling,
bleached locks of her uncle; the downy, peach-like cheek of the girl,
and the red, wrinkled, and sun-dried countenance of Chainbearer, was
perfectly delightful. It said how deep must lie those sympathies of
our nature, which could bring together so closely two so differently
constituted in all things, and set at defiance the apparent tendencies
of taste and habit.
Dus suffered herself to be thus carried away by her feelings for
only a moment. Accustomed in a degree, as she certainly was, to the
rough associations of the woods, this was the first time she had ever
been confronted with such an assembly, and I could see that she drew
back into herself with womanly reserve, as she now gazed around her,
and saw in what a wild and unwonted presence she stood. Still, I had
never seen her look so supremely lovely as she did that evening, for
she threw Pris. Bayard and Kate, with all their advantages of dress,
and freedom from exposure, far into the shade. Perhaps the life of
Ursula Malbone had given to her beauty the very completeness and
fulness, that are most apt to be wanting to the young American girl,
who has been educated in the over-tender and delicate manner of our
ordinary parental indulgence. Of air and exercise she had already
enjoyed enough, and they had imparted to her bloom and person, the
richness and development that are oftener found in the subordinate
than in the superior classes of the country.
As for Thousandacres, though he watched every movement of Ursula
Malbone with jealous interest, he said nothing to interrupt the
current of her feelings. As soon as she left her uncle's arms,
however, Dus drew back and took the rude seat that I had placed for
her close at Chainbearer's side. I was paid for this little act of
attention, by a sweet smile from its subject, and a lowering look from
the old squatter, that admonished me of the necessity of being
cautious of manifesting too much of the interest I felt in the
beloved object before me. As is usual in assemblages composed of the
rude and unpractised, a long, awkward pause succeeded this
introduction of Dus to our presence. After a time, however, Aaron
resumed the subject in hand.
"We 've met to settle all our difficulties, as I was sayin',"
observed Thousandacres, in a manner as deliberative and considerate
as if he were engaged in one of the most blameless pursuits of life,
the outward appearances of virtue and vice possessing a surprising
resemblance to each other — "When men get together on sich a
purpose, and in a right spirit, it must be that there 's a fault
somewhere, if what 's right can't be come at atween 'em. What 's right
atwixt man and man is my creed, Chainbearer."
"What 's right petween man ant man is a goot creet, T'ousantacres;
ant it 's a goot religion, too," answered Andries, coldly.
"That it is! — that it is! and I now see that you 're in a
reasonable temper, Chainbearer, and that there 's a prospect of
business in you. I despise a man that 's so set in his notions that
there 's no gettin' him to give in an inch in a transaction—don't
you hold to that too, captain Andries?"
"T'at tepents on what t'e notions pe. Some notions do nopoty any
goot, ant t'e sooner we 're rit of 'em t'e petter; while some notions
pe so fery excellent t'at a man hat pest lay town his life as lay t'em
This answer puzzled Thousandacres, who had no idea of a man's ever
dying for opinion's sake; and who was probably anxious, just at that
moment, to find his companion sufficiently indifferent to principle,
to make some sacrifices to expediency. It was quite evident this man
was disposed to practise a ruse on this occasion, that is often
resorted to by individuals, and sometimes by States, when disposed to
gain a great advantage out of a very small right; that of demanding
much more than they expect to receive, and of making a great merit of
yielding points that they never had the smallest claim to maintain.
But, this disposition of the squatter's will make itself sufficiently
apparent as we proceed.
"I don't see any use in talkin' about layin' down lives,"
Thousandacres returned to Chainbearer's remark, "seein' this is not a
life and death transaction at all. The most that can be made of
squattin', give the law its full swing, is trespass and damages, and
them an't matters to frighten a man that has stood out ag'in 'em all
his days. We 're pretty much sich crittur's as sarcumstances make us.
There be men, I don't question, that a body can skear half out of
their wits with a writ, while a whull flock of sheep, skins and wool
united, wunt intimidate them that 's use to sich things. I go on the
principle of doin' what 's right, let the law say what it will of the
matter; and this is the principle on which I wish to settle our
"Name your tarms — name your tarms!" cried Chainbearer, a little
impatiently; "talkin' ist talkin', all t'e worlt ofer, ant actin' ist
actin'. If you haf anyt'ing to propose, here we are reaty ant willin'
to hear it."
"That 's hearty, and just my way of thinkin' and feelin', and I 'll
act up to it, though it was the gospel of St. Paul himself, and I was
set on followin' it. Here, then, is the case, and any man can
understand it. There 's two rights to all the land on 'arth, and the
whull world over. One of these rights is what I call a king's right,
or that which depends on writin's, and laws, and sich like
contrivances; and the other depends on possession. It stands to
reason, that fact is better than any writin' about it can be; but I 'm
willin' to put 'em on a footin' for the time bein', and for the sake
of accommodatin'. I go all for accommodatin' matters, and not for
stirrin' up ill blood; and that I tell Chainbearer, b'ys, is the right
spirit to presarve harmony and fri'ndship!"
This appeal was rewarded by a murmur of general approbation in all
that part of the audience which might be supposed to be in the
squatter interest, while the part that might be called adverse,
remained silent, though strictly attentive, old Andries included.
"Yes, that 's my principles" — resumed Thousandacres, taking a
hearty draught of cider, a liquor of which he had provided an ample
allowance, passing the mug civilly to Chainbearer, as soon as he had
had his swallow — "Yes, that 's my principles, and good principles
they be, for them that likes peace and harmony, as all must allow.
Now, in this matter afore us, general Littlepage and his partner
ripresents writin's, and I and mine ripresent fact. I don't say which
is the best, for I don't want to be hard on any man's rights, and
'specially when the accommodatin' spirit is up and doin'; but I 'm
fact, and the gin'ral's pretty much writin's. But, difficulties has
sprung up atwixt us, and it 's high time to put 'em down. I look upon
you, Chainbearer, as the fri'nd of the t'other owners of this sile,
and I'm now ready to make proposals, or to hear them, just as it may
"I haf no proposals to make, nor any aut'ority to offer t'em. I 'm
nut'in here, put a chainpearer, wit' a contract to survey t'e patent
into small lots, ant t'en my tuty ist tone. Put, here ist General
Littlepage's only son, ant he ist empoweret, I unterstant, to do all
t'at ist necessary on t'is tract, as t'e attorney—"
"He is and he isn't an attorney!" interrupted Thousandacres, a
little fiercely for one in whom `the accommodatin' spirit was up.' At
one moment he says he 's an attorney, and at the next he isn't. I
can't stand this onsartainty any very great while."
"Pooh, pooh! T'ousantacres," returned Chainbearer, coolly, "you 're
frightenet at your own shatow; ant t'at comes, let me telt you, from
not lifing in `peace ant harmony, ' as you call it, youself, wit' t'e
law. A man hast a conscience, whet'er he pe a skinner or a cow-boy, or
efen a squatter; ant he hast it, pecause Got hast gifen it to him,
ant not on account of any sarfices of his own. T'at conscience it is,
t'at makes my young frient Mortaunt, here, an attorney in your eyes,
when he ist no more of a lawyer t'an you pe yourself."
"Why has he called himself an attorney, then, and why do
call him one. An attorney is an attorney, in my eyes, and little
difference is there atween 'em. Rattlesnakes would fare better in a
clearin' of Thousandacres', than the smartest attorney in the land!"
"Well, well, haf your own feelin's; for I s'pose Satan has put 'em
into you, ant talkin' won't pring t'em out. T'is young gentleman,
however, ist no attorney of t'e sort you mean, olt squatter, put he
hast peen a soltier, like myself, ant in my own regiment, which wast
his fat'ers, ant a prave young man he ist ant wast, ant one t'at hast
fou't gallantly for liperty—"
"If he 's a fri'nd of liberty, he should be a fri'nd of liberty's
people; should give liberty and take liberty. Now, I call it liberty
to let every man have as much land as he has need on, and no more,
keepin' the rest for them that 's in the same sitiation. If he and his
father be true fri'nds of liberty, let 'em prove it like men, by
giving up all claims to any more land than they want. That 's what I
call liberty! Let every man have as much land as he 's need on; that
's my religion, and it 's liberty, too."
"Why are you so moterate, T'ousantacres? why are you so
unreasonaply moterate? Why not say t'at efery man hast a right to
eferyt'ing he hast need of, ant so make him comfortaple at once! T'ere
is no wistom in toin' t'ings by hafs, ant it ist always petter to
surfey all t'e lant you want, while t'e compass is set ant t'e chains
pe goin'. It 's just as much liperty to haf a right to share in a
man's tollars, as to share in his lants."
"I don't go as far as that, Chainbearer," put in Thousandacres,
with a degree of moderation that ought to put the enemies of his
principles to the blush. "Money is what a man 'arns himself, and he
has a right to it, and so I say let him keep it; but land is
necessary, and every man has a right to as much as he has need on—I
wouldn't give him an acre more, on no account at all."
"Put money wilt puy lant; ant, in sharin' t'e tollars, you share
t'e means of puyin' as much lant as a man hast neet of; t'en t'ere ist
a great teal more lant ast money in t'is country, ant, in gifin' a man
lant, you only gif him t'at which ist so cheap ant common, t'at he
must pe a poor tefil if he can't get all t'e lant he wants wit'out
much trouple and any squattin', if you wilt only gif him ever so
little money. No, no, T'ousantacres — you 're fery wrong; you shoult
pegin to tivite wit' t'e tollars, ant t'at wilt not tisturp society,
as tollars are in t'e pocket, ant go ant come efery day; whereast
lant is a fixture, ant some people lofe t'eir own hills, ant rocks,
ant trees—when t'ey haf peen long in a family most especially."
There was a dark scowl gathering on the brow of Thousandacres,
partly because he felt himself puzzled by the upright and
straight-forward common sense of Chainbearer, and partly for a reason
that he himself made manifest in the answer that he quite promptly
gave to my old friend's remarks.
"No man need say anything ag'in squattin' that wants to keep
fri'nds with me," Thousandacres put in, with certain twitchings about
the muscles of the mouth, that were so many signs of his being in
earnest. "I hold to liberty and a man's rights, and that is no reason
I should be deflected on. My notions be other men's notions, I know,
though they be called squatters' notions. Congressmen have held 'em,
and will hold 'em ag'in, if they expect much support, in some parts of
the country, at election time. I dare say the day will come, when
governors will be found to hold 'em. Governors be but men a'ter all,
and must hold doctrines that satisfy men's wants, or they won't be
governors long. But all this is nuthin' but talk, and I want to come
to suthin' like business, Chainbearer. Here 's this clearin', and here
's the lumber. Now, I 'm willin' to settle on some sich tarms as
these: I 'll keep the lumber, carryin' it off as soon as the water
gets to be high enough, agreein' to pay for the privilege by not
fellin' another tree, though I must have the right to saw up sich logs
as be cut and hauled already; and then, as to the land and clearin',
if the writin' owners want 'em, they can have 'em by payin' for the
betterments, leavin' the price out to men in this neighbourhood, sin'
city-bred folks can't know nothin' of the toil and labour of choppin',
and loggin', and ashin', and gettin' in, and croppin' new lands."
"Mortaunt, t'at proposal ist for you. I haf nut'in' to do wit' t'e
clearin' put to surfey it; and t'at much will I perform, when I get as
far ast t'e place, come t'ere goot, or come t'ere efil of it."
"Survey this clearin'!" put in Tobit, with his raven throat, and
certainly in a somewhat menacing tone. "No, no, Chainbearer—the man
is not out in the woods, that could ever get his chain across this
"T'at man, I tell you, is Andries Coejemans, commonly called
Chainpearer," answered my old friend, calmly. "No clearin', ant no
squatter, ever stoppet him yet, nor do I t'ink he will pe stoppet
here, from performin' his tuty. Put praggin' is a pat quality, ant we
'll leaf time to show t'e trut'."
Thousandacres gave a loud hem, and looked very dark, though he said
nothing until time had been given to his blood to resume its customary
current. Then he pursued the discourse as follows—evidently bent on
keeping on good terms with Chainbearer as long as possible.
"On the whull," he said, "I rather think, Tobit, 't will be best if
you leave this matter altogether to me. Years cool the blood, and
allow time to reason to spread. Years be as necessary to judgment as a
top to a fruit-tree. I kind o' b'lieve that Chainbearer and I, being
both elderly and considerate men, will be apt to get along best
together. I dare say, Chainbearer, that if the surveyin' of this
clearin' be put to you on the footin' of defiance, that your back
would get up, like any body else's, and you 'd bring on the chain,
let who might stand in your way. But, that's neither here nor there.
You 're welcome to chain out just as much of this part of the patent
as you see fit, and 't will help us along so much the better when we
come to the trade. Reason 's reason; and I 'm of an accommodatin'
"So much t'e petter, T'ousantacres; yes, so much t'e petter,"
answered old Andries, somewhat mollified by the conciliatory temper in
which the squatter now delivered himself. "When work ist to pe
performet, it must be performet; ant, as I'm hiret to surfey
and chain t'e whole estate, t'e whole estate must pe chainet
ant surfeyet. Well, what else haf you to say?
"I 'm not answered as to my first offer. I 'll take the lumber,
agreein' not to cut another tree, and the valie of the betterments can
be left out to men."
"I am the proper person to answer this proposal," I thought it now
right to say, lest Andries and Thousandacres should get to loggerheads
again on some minor and immaterial point, and thus endanger every hope
of keeping the peace until Malbone could arrive. "At the same time, I
consider it no more than right to tell you, at once, that I have no
power that goes so far as to authorize me to agree to your terms. Both
colonel Follock and my father have a stern sense of justice, and
neither, in my opinion, will feel much of a disposition to yield to
any conditions that, in the least, may have the appearance of
compromising any of their rights as landlords. I have heard them both
say that, in these particulars, `yielding an inch would be giving an
ell,' and I confess that, from all I have seen lately of settlers and
settlements, I 'm very much of the same way of thinking. My principals
may concede something, but they 'll never treat on a subject of which
all the right is on their own side."
"Am I to understand you, young man, that you 're on-accommodatin',
and that my offers isn't to be listened to, in the spirit in which
they 're made?" demanded Thousandacres, somewhat drily.
"You are to understand me as meaning exactly what I say, sir. In
the first place, I have no authority to accept your offers, and shall
not assume any, let the consequences to myself be what they may.
Indeed, any promises made in duresse are good for nothing."
"Anan!" cried the squatter. "This is Mooseridge Patent, and
Washington, late Charlotte County—and this is the place we are to
sign and seal in, if writin's pass atween us."
"By promises made in duresse, I mean promises made while the party
making them is in confinement, or not absolutely free to make them, or
not; such promises are good for nothing in law, even though all the
`writings' that could be drawn passed between the parties.'
"This is strange doctrine, and says but little for your boasted
law, then! At one time, it asks for writin's, and nothin' but writin's
will answer; and, then, all the writin's on 'arth be of no account!
Yet some folks complain, and have hard feelin's, if a man wunt live
altogether up to law!"
"I rather think, Thousandacres, you overlook the objects of the
law, in its naked regulations. Law is to enforce the right, and were
it to follow naked rules, without regard to principles, it might
become the instrument of effecting the very mischiefs it is designed
I might have spared myself the trouble of uttering this fine
speech; which caused the old squatter to stare at me in wonder, and
produced a smile among the young men, and a titter among the females.
I observed, however, that the anxious face of Lowiny expressed
admiration, rather than the feeling that was so prevalent among the
"There 's no use in talkin' to this young spark, Chainbearer,"
Thousandacres said, a little impatiently in the way of manner, too;
"he 's passed his days in the open country, and has got open-country
ways, and notions, and talk; and them 's things I don't pretend to
understand. You 're woods, mainly; he 's open country; and I 'm
clearin'. There 's a difference atween each; but woods and clearin'
come clussest; and so I 'll say my say to you. Be you, now, r'ally
disposed to accommodate, or not, old Andries?"
"Anyt'ing t'at ist right, ant just, ant reasonaple, T'ousantacres;
ant nut'in' t'at ist not."
"That 's just my way of thinkin'! If the law, now, would do as much
as that for a man, the attorneys would soon starve. Wa-a-l, we 'll try
now to come to tarms, as soon as possible. You 're a single man, I
know, Chainbearer; but I 've always supposed 't was on account of no
dislike to the married state; but because you didn't chance to light
on the right gal; or maybe on account of the surveyin' principle,
which keeps a man pretty much movin' about from tract to tract;
though not much more than squattin' doos, neither, if the matter was
I understood the object of this sudden change from feesimples, and
possessions, and the `accommodatin' spirit,' to matrimony; but
Chainbearer did not. He only looked his surprise; while, as to myself,
if I looked at all as I felt, I must have been the picture of
uneasiness. The beloved, unconscious Dus, sat there in her maiden
beauty, interested and anxious in her mind, beyond all question, but
totally ignorant of the terrible blow that was meditated against
herself. As Andries looked his desire to hear more, instead of
answering the strange remark he had just heard, Thousandacres
"It 's quite nat'ral to think of matrimony afore so many young
folks, isn't it, Chainbearer?" added the squatter, chuckling at his
own conceits. "Here 's lots of b'ys and gals about me; and I 'm just
as accommodatin' in findin' husbands or wives for my fri'nds and
neighbours, as I am in settlin' all other difficulties. Anything for
peace and a good neighbourhood is my religion!"
Old Andries passed a hand over his eyes, in the way one is apt to
do when he wishes to aid a mental effort by external application. It
was evident he was puzzled to find out what the squatter would be at,
though he soon put a question that brought about something like an
"I ton't unterstant you, T'ousantacres;—no, I ton't understant
you. Is it your tesire to gif me one of your puxom ant fine-lookin'
gals, here, for a wife?"
The squatter laughed heartily at this notion, the young men joining
in the mirth; while the constant titter that the females had kept up
ever since the subject of matrimony was introduced, was greatly
augmented in zest. An indifferent spectator would have supposed that
the utmost good feeling prevailed among us.
"With all my heart, Chainbearer, if you can persuade any of the
gals to have you!" cried Thousandacres, with the most apparent
acquiescence. "With such a son-in-law, I don't know but I should take
to the chain, a'ter all, and measure out my clearin's as well as the
grandee farmers, who take pride in knowin' where their lines be. There
's Lowiny, she 's got no spark, and might suit you well enough, if
she 'd only think so."
"Lowiny don't think any sich thing; and isn't likely to think any
sich thing," answered the girl, in a quick, irritated manner.
"Wa-a-l, I do s'pose, a'ter all, Chainbearer," Thousandacres
resumed, "we 'll get no weddin' out of you. Threescore and ten
is somewhat late for takin' a first wife; though I 've known widowers
marry ag'in when hard on upon ninety. When a man has taken one wife in
'arly life, he has a kind o' right to another in old age."
"Yes—yes—or a hundred either," put in Prudence, with spirit.
"Give 'em a chance only, and they 'll find wives as long as they can
find breath to ask women to have 'em! Gals, you may make up your minds
to that—no man will mourn long for any on you, a'ter you 're
once dead and buried."
I should think this little sally must have been somewhat common, as
neither the "b'ys" nor the "gals" appeared to give it much attention.
These matrimonial insinuations occur frequently in the world, and
Prudence was not the first woman, by a million, who had ventured to
"I will own I was not so much thinkin' of providin' a wife for you,
Chainbearer, as I was thinkin' of providin' one for a son of mine,"
continued Thousandacres. "Here 's Zephaniah, now, is as active and
hard-workin', upright, honest and obedient a young man as can be found
in this country. He 's of suitable age, and begins to think of a
wife. I tell him to marry, by all means, for it 's the blessedest
condition of life, is the married state, that man ever entered into.
You wouldn't think it, perhaps, on lookin' at old Prudence, there, and
beholdin' what she now is; but I speak from exper'ence in recommendin'
matrimony; and I wouldn't, on no account, say what I didn't really
think in the matter. A little matrimony might settle all our
"You surely do not expect me to marry your son Zepaniah, I must
s'pose, T'ousantacres!" answered Andries, innocently.
The laugh, this time, was neither as loud nor as general as before,
intense expectation rendering the auditors grave.
"No, no; "I 'll excuse you from that, of a sartainty, old Andries;
though you may have Lowiny, if you can only prevail on the gal. But,
speakin' of Zephaniah, I can r'ally ricommend the young man; a thing I
'd never do if he didn't desarve it, though he is my son. No one can
say that I 'm in the habit of ever ricommendin' my own things, even to
the boards. The lumber of Thousandacres is as well known in all the
markets below, they tell me, as the flour of any miller in the highest
credit. It 's just so with the b'ys, better lads is not to be met
with; and I can ricommend Zephaniah with just as much confidence as I
could ricommend any lot of boards I ever rafted."
"And what haf I to do wit' all t'is?" asked Chainbearer, gravely.
"Why, the matter is here, Chainbearer, if you 'll only look a
little into it. There 's difficulty atween us, and pretty serious
difficulty, too. In me the accommodatin' spirit is up, as I 've said
afore, and am willin' to say ag'in. Now, I 've my son Zeph, here, as I
've said, and he 's lookin' about for a wife; and you 've a niece
here—Dus Malbone, I s'pose is her name—and they'd just suit each
other. It seems they 're acquainted somewhat, and have kept company
some time already, and that 'll make things smooth. Now, what I offer
is just this, and no more; not a bit of it. I offer to send off for a
magistrate, and I 'll do 't at my own expense; it shan't cost you a
farthin'; and, as soon as the magistrate comes, we 'll have the young
folks married on the spot, and that will make etarnal peace for ever,
as you must suppose, atween you and me. Wa-a-l, peace made atween us, 'twill leave but little to accommodate with the writin' owners
of the sile, seein' that you 're on tarms with 'em all, that a body
may set you down all as one as bein' of the same family, like. If
gin'ral Littlepage makes a p'int of any thing of the sort, I 'll
engage no one of my family, in all futur' time, shall ever squat on
any lands he may happen to lay claim to, whether he owns 'em or not."
I saw quite plainly that, at first, Chainbearer did not fully
comprehend the nature of the squatter's proposal. Neither did Dus,
herself; though somewhat prepared for such a thing by her knowledge of
Zephaniah's extravagant wishes on the subject. But, when Thousandacres
spoke plainly of sending for a magistrate, and of having the "young
folks married on the spot," it was not easy to mistake his meaning,
and astonishment was soon succeeded by offended pride, in the breast
of old Andries, and that to a degree and in a manner I had never
before witnessed in him. Perhaps I ought, in justice to my excellent
friend, to add, that his high principles and keen sense of right, were
quite as much wounded by the strange proposal as his personal
feelings. It was some time before he could or would speak; when he
did, it was with a dignity and severity of manner which I really had
no idea he could assume. The thought of Ursula Malbone's being
sacrificed to such a being as Zephaniah, and such a family as the
squatter's, shocked all his sensibilities, and appeared, for a moment,
to overcome him. On the other hand, nothing was plainer than that the
breed of Thousandacres saw no such violation of the proprieties in
their scheme. The vulgar, almost invariably, in this country, reduce
the standard of distinction to mere money; and, in this respect they
saw, or fancied they saw, that Dus was not much better off than they
were themselves. All those points which depended on taste, refinement,
education, habits and principles, were Hebrew to them; and, quite as a
matter of course, they took no account of qualities they could
neither see nor comprehend. It is not surprising, therefore, that
they could imagine the young squatter might make a suitable husband to
one who was known to have carried chain in the forest.
"I pelieve I do pegin to unterstant you, T'ousantacres," said the
Chainbearer, rising from his chair, and moving to the side of his
niece, as if instinctively to protect her; "t'ough it ist not a fery
easy t'ing to comprehent such a proposal. You wish Ursula Malpone to
pecome t'e wife of Zephaniah T'ousantacres, ant t'ereupon you wish to
patch up a peace wit' General Littlepage and Colonel Follock, ant
optain an intemnity for all t'e wrong ant roppery you haf done 'em—"
"Harkee, old Chainbearer; you 'd best be kearful of your
"Hear what t'at language ist to pe, pefore you interrupt me,
T'ousantacres. A wise man listens pefore he answers. Alt'ough I haf
nefer peen marriet, myself, I know what ist tecent in pehaviour, ant,
t'erefore, I wilt t'ank you for t'e wish of pein' connectet wit' t'e
Coejemans ant t'e Malpones. T'at tuty tone, I wish to say t'at my
niece wilt not haf your poy—"
"You haven't given the gal a chance to speak for herself," cried
Thousandacres, at the top of his voice, for he began to be agitated
now with a fury that found a little vent in that manner. "You haven't
given the gal a chance to answer for herself, old Andries. Zeph is a
lad that she may go farther and fare worse, afore she 'll meet his
equal, I can tell you, though perhaps, bein' the b'y's own father, I
shouldn't say it—but, in the way of accommodatin', I 'm willin' to
overlook a great deal."
"Zephaniah 's an excellent son," put in Prudence, in the pride and
feeling of a mother, nature having its triumph in her breast as
well as in that of the most cultivated woman of the land. "Of all my
sons, Zephaniah is the best; and I account him fit to marry with any
who don't live in the open country, and with many that do."
"Praise your goots, ant extol your poy, if you see fit," answered
Chainbearer, with a calmness that I knew bespoke some desperate
resolution. "Praise your goots, ant extol your poy; I 'll not teny
your right to do as much of t'at as you wish; put t'is gal wast left
me py an only sister on her tyin' pet, ant may Got forget me, when I
forget the tuty I owe to her. She shalt nefer marry a son of
T'ousantacres— she shalt nefer marry a squatter—she shalt nefer
marry any man t'at ist not of a class, ant feelin's, ant hapits, ant
opinions, fit to pe t'e huspant of a laty!"
A shout of derision, in which was blended the fierce resentment of
mortified pride, arose among that rude crew, but the thundering voice
of Thousandacres made itself audible, even amid the hellish din.
"Beware, Chainbearer; beware how you aggravate us; natur' cant and
won't bear every thing."
"I want nut'in' of you, or yours, T'ousantacres," calmly returned
the old man, passing his arm around the waist of Dus, who clung to
him, with a cheek that was flushed to fire, but an eye that was not
accustomed to quail, and who seemed, at that fearful moment, every way
ready and able to second her uncle's efforts. "You 're nut'in' to me,
ant I 'll leaf you here, in your misteets ant wicket t'oughts. Stant
asite, I orter you. Do not tare to stop t'e brot'er who is apout to
safe his sister's da'ghter from pecomin' a squatter's wife. Stant
asite, for I 'll stay wit' you no longer. An hour or two hence,
miseraple Aaron, you 'll see t'e folly of all t'is, ant wish you hat
livet an honest man."
By this time the clamour of voices became so loud and confused, as
to render it impossible to distinguish what was said. Thousandacres
actually roared like a maddened bull, and he was soon hoarse with
uttering his menaces and maledictions. Tobit said less, but was
probably more dangerous. All the young men seemed violently agitated,
and bent on closing the door on the exit of the Chainbearer; who, with
his arm around Dus, still slowly advanced, waving the crowd aside,
and commanding them to make way for him, with a steadiness and dignity
that I began to think would really prevail. In the midst of this scene
of confusion, a rifle suddenly flashed; the report was simultaneous,
and old Andries Coejemans fell.
"Ye midnight shades, o'er nature spread!
Dumb silence of the dreary hour!
In honour of th' approaching dead,
Around your awful terrors pour.
Yes, pour around,
On this pale ground,
Through all this deep surrounding gloom,
The sober thought,
The tear untaught,
Those meetest mourners at a tomb."
It is a law of human nature, that the excesses of passion bring
their own rebukes. The violence of man feeds itself, until some
enormity committed under its influence suddenly rises before the
transgressor, as the evidence of his blindness and the restorer of his
senses. Guilt performs the office of reason, staying the hand,
stilling the pulses, and arousing the conscience.
Thus it seemed to be with the squatters of Mooseridge. A stillness
so profound succeeded the crack of that rifle, that I heard the
stifled breathing of Dus, as she stood over the body of her uncle,
astounded, and almost converted into a statue by the suddenness of the
blow. No one spoke; no one attempted to quit the place; in fact, no
one moved. It was never known who fired that shot. At first I ascribed
it to the hand of Tobit; but it was owing more to what I knew of his
temper and character, than to what I knew of his acts at that
particular time. Afterwards, I inclined to the opinion that my friend
had fallen by the hand of Thousandacres himself; though there were no
means of bringing it home to him by legal proof. If any knew who was
the criminal, besides the wretch who executed the deed, the fact was
never revealed. That family was faithful to itself, and seemed
determined to stand or fall together. In the eye of the law, all who
were present, aiding and abetting in the unlawful detention of Dus and
her uncle, were equally guilty; but the hand on which the stain of
blood rested in particular, was never dragged to light.
My first impulse, as soon as I could recollect myself, was to pass
an arm around the waist of Dus and force her through the crowd, with a
view to escape. Had this attempt been persevered in, I think it would
have succeeded, so profound was the sensation made, even upon those
rude and lawless men, by the deed of violence that had just been
done. But Dus was not one to think of self at such a moment. For a
single instant her head fell on my shoulders, and I held her to my
bosom, while I whispered my wish for her to fly. Then raising her
head, she gently extricated her person from my arms, and knelt by the
side of her uncle.
"He breathes!" she said huskily, but hastily. "God be praised,
Mordaunt, he still breathes. The blow may not be as heavy as we at
first supposed; let us do what we can to aid him."
Here were the characteristic decision and thoughtfulness of Ursula
Malbone! Rising quickly, she turned to the group of silent but
observant squatters, and appealed to any remains of humanity that
might still be found in their bosoms, to lend their assistance.
Thousandacres stood foremost in the dark cluster at the door, looking
grimly at the motionless body, over which Dus stood, pale and
heart-stricken, but still calm and collected.
"The hardest-hearted man among you will not deny a daughter's right
to administer to a parent's wants!" she said, with a pathos in her
voice, and a dignity in her manner, that filled me with love and
admiration, and which had a visible effect on all who heard her. "Help
me to raise my uncle and to place him on a bed, while Major Littlepage
examines his hurt. You 'll not deny me this little comfort,
Thousandacres, for you cannot know how soon you may want succour
Zephaniah, who certainly had no hand in the murder of Chainbearer,
now advanced; and he, myself, Lowiny and Dus, raised the still
motionless body, and placed it on the bed of Prudence, which stood in
the principal room. There was a consultation among the squatters,
while we were thus employed, and one by one the family dropped off,
until no one was left in the house but Thousandacres, and his wife,
and Lowiny; the latter remaining with Dus, as a useful and even an
affectionate assistant. The father sate, in moody silence, on one side
of the fire, while Prudence placed herself on the other. I did not
like the aspect of the squatter's countenance, but he said and did
nothing. It struck me that he was brooding over the facts, nursing his
resentments by calling up fancied wrongs to his mind, and plotting for
the future. If such was the case, he manifested great nerve, inasmuch
as neither alarm nor hurry was, in the slightest degree, apparent in
his mien. Prudence was dreadfully agitated. She said nothing, but her
body worked to and fro with nervous excitement; and occasionally a
heavy, but suppressed groan struggled through her efforts to resist
it. Otherwise, she was as if not present.
I had been accustomed to seeing gun-shot wounds, and possessed such
a general knowledge of their effects as to be a tolerable judge of
what would, and what would not, be likely to prove fatal. The first
look I took at the hurt of Chainbearer convinced me there could be no
hope for his life. The ball had passed between two of the ribs, and
seemed to me to take a direction downwards; but it was impossible to
miss the vitals with a wound commencing at that point on the human
body. The first shock of the injury had produced insensibility; but we
had hardly got the sufferer on the bed, and applied a little water to
his lips, ere he revived; soon regaining his consciousness, as well as
the power to speak. Death was on him, however; and it was very
obvious to me that his hours were numbered. He might live days, but it
was not possible for him to survive.
"Got pless you, Mortaunt," my old friend murmured, after my efforts
had thus partially succeeded. "Got for ever pless ant preserf you,
poy, ant repay you for all your kintness to me ant mine. T'em
squatters haf killet me, lat; put I forgif t'em. T'ey are an ignorant,
ant selfish, and prutal preed; ant I may haf triet 'em too sorely. Put
Dus can never pecome t'e wife of any of t'e family."
As Zephaniah was in the room, though not near the bed at the
moment, I was anxious to change the current of the wounded man's
thoughts; and I questioned him as to the nature of his hurt, well
knowing that Chainbearer had seen so many soldiers in situations
similar to his own unhappy condition, as to be a tolerable judge of
his actual state.
"I 'm killet, Mortaunt," old Andries answered, in a tone even
firmer than that in which he had just spoken. "Apout t'at, t'ere can
pe no mistake. T'ey haf shot t'rough my rips, ant t'rough my vitals;
ant life is impossible. But t'at does not matter much to me, for I am
an olt man now, hafin' lifet my t'ree-score years ant ten—no, t'at
is no great matter, t'ough some olt people cling to life wit' a
tighter grip t'an t'e young. Such ist not my case, howsefer; ant I am
reaty to march when t'e great wort of commant comet'. I am fery
sorry, Mortaunt, t'at t'is accitent shoult happen pefore t'e patent
hast peen fully surfeyet; put I am not pait for t'e work t'at is
finishet, ant it ist a great comfort to me to know I shall not tie in
tebt. I owe you, ant I owe my goot frient t'e general, a great teal
for kintnesses, I must confess; put, in t'e way of money, t'ere wilt
be no loss by t'is accitent."
"Mention nothing of this sort, I do entreat of you, Chainbearer; I
know my father would gladly give the best farm he owns to see you
standing, erect and well, as you were twenty minutes since."
"Well, I tares to say, t'at may be true, for I haf always fount t'e
general to pe friently and consiterate. I wilt tell you a secret,
Mortaunt, t'at I haf nefer pefore revealet to mortal man, put which
t'ere ist no great use in keepin' any longer, ant which I shoult have
peen willing to haf tolt long ago, hat not t'e general himself mate it
a p'int t'at I shoult not speak of it—"
"Perhaps it might be better, my good friend, were you to tell me
this secret another time. Talking may weary and excite you; whereas,
sleep and rest may possibly do you service."
"No, no, poy—t'e hope of t'at ist all itleness ant vanity. I
shalt nefer sleep ag'in, tilt I sleep t'e last long sleep of teat'; I
feelt sartain my wount ist mortal, and t'at my time must soon come.
Nefert'eless, it doesn't gif me pain to talk; and, Mortaunt, my tear
lat, fri'nts t'at pe apout to part for so long a time, ought not to
part wit'out sayin' a wort to one anot'er pefore separation. I shoult
pe glat, in partic'lar, to telt to a son all t'e kintness and
fri'ntship I have receivet from his fat'er. You know fery well,
yourself, Mortaunt, t'at I am not great at figures; and why it shoult
pe so, ist a wonter ant a surprise to me, for my grantfat'er Van Syce
was a wonterful man at arit'metic, and t'e first Cojemans in t'is
country, t'ey say, kept all t'e tominie's accounts for him! Put, let
t'at pe ast it wast, I nefer coult do any t'ing wit' figures; ant, it
ist a secret not to pe concealet now, Mortaunt, t'at I nefer coult haf
helt my commission of captain six weeks, put for your own fat'er's
kintness to me. Fintin' out how impossible it wast for me to get along
wit' arit'metic, he offeret to do all t'at sort of tuty for me, ant
t'e whole time we wast toget'er, seven long years ant more, Colonel
Littlepage mate out t'e reports of Cojeman's company. Capital goot
reports was t'ey, too, and t'e atmiration of all t'at see t'em; and I
often felt ashamet like, when I he'rt t'em praiset, and people
wonterin' how an olt Tutchman ever l'arnet to do his tuty so well! I
shalt nefer see t'e general ag'in, ant I wish you to tell him t'at
Andries tit not forget his gootness to him, to t'e latest preat t'at
"I will do all you ask of me, Chainbearer—surely it must give you
pain to talk so much?"
"Not at all, poy;—not at all. It is goot to t'e poty to lighten
t'e soul of its opligations. Ast I see, howsefer, t'at Dus ist
trouplet, I wilt shut my eyes, ant look into my own t'oughts a little,
for I may not tie for some hours yet."
It sounded fearful to me to hear one I loved so well speak so
calmly, and with so much certainty of his approaching end. I could see
that Ursula almost writhed under the agony these words produced in
her; yet that noble-minded creature wore an air of calmness, that
might have deceived one who knew her less well than she was known to
me. She signed for me to quit the side of the bed, in the vain hope
that her uncle might fall asleep, and placed herself silently on a
chair, at hand, in readiness to attend to his wants. As for me, I took
the occasion to examine the state of things without, and to reflect on
what course I ought to take, in the novel and desperate circumstances
in which we were so unexpectedly placed: the time for something
decisive having certainly arrived.
It was now near an hour after the deed had been done— and there
sat Thousandacres and his wife, one on each side of the fire, in
silent thought. As I turned to look at the squatters, and the father
of squatters, I saw that his countenance was set in that species of
sullen moodiness, which might well be taken as ominous in a man of his
looseness of principle and fierceness of temperament. Nor had the
nervous twitchings of Prudence ceased. In a word, both of these
strange beings appeared at the end of that hour just as they had
appeared at its commencement. It struck me, as I passed them in moving
towards the door, that there was even a sublimity in their steadiness
in guilt. I ought, however, in some slight degree to except the woman,
whose agitation was some proof that she repented of what had been
done. At the door, itself, I found no one; but, two or three of the
young men were talking in a low tone to each other at no great
distance. Apparently they had an eye to what was going on within the
building. Still no one of them spoke to me, and I began to think that
the crime already committed had produced such a shock, that no
further wrong to any of us was contemplated, and that I might consider
myself at liberty to do and act as I saw fit. A twitch at my sleeve,
however, drew my look aside, and I saw Lowiny cowering within the
shadows of the house, seemingly eager to attract my attention. She had
been absent some little time, and had probably been listening to the
discourse of those without.
"Don't think of venturing far from the house," the girl whispered.
"The evil spirit has got possession of Tobit; and he has just sworn
the same grave shall hold you, and Chainbearer, and Dus. `Graves don't
turn State's evidence,' he says. I never know'd him to be so awful as
he is to night; though he 's dreadful in temper when anything goes
The girl glided past me as she ceased her hurried communication,
and the next instant she was standing quietly at the side of Dus, in
readiness to offer her assistance in any necessary office for the
sick. I saw that she had escaped notice, and then reconnoitred my own
position with some little care.
By this time the night had got to be quite dark; and it was
impossible to recognise persons at the distance of twenty feet. It is
true, one could tell a man from a stump at twice that number of yards,
or even further; but the objects of the rude clearing began to be
confounded together in a way to deprive the vision of much of its
customary power. That group of young men, as I suppose, contained the
formidable Tobit; but I could be by no means certain of the fact
without approaching quite near to it. This I did not like to do, as
there was nothing that I desired particularly to say to any of the
family at that moment. Could they have known my heart, the squatters
would have felt no uneasiness on the subject of my escaping; for were
Dus quite out of the question, as she neither was nor could be, it
would be morally impossible for me to desert the Chainbearer in his
dying moments. Nevertheless, Tobit and his brethren did not know
this; and it might be dangerous for me to presume too far on the
The darkness was intensest near the house, as a matter of course;
and I glided along close to the walls of logs until I reached an angle
of the building, thinking the movement might be unseen. But I got an
assurance that I was watched that would admit of no question, by a
call from one of the young men, directing me not to turn the corner or
to go out of sight in any direction, at the peril of my life. This was
plain speaking; and it induced a short dialogue between us; in which
I avowed my determination not to desert my friends—for the
Chainbearer would probably not outlive the night—and that I felt no
apprehension for myself. I was heated and excited, and had merely left
the house for air; if they offered no impediment I would walk to and
fro near them for a few minutes, solely with a view to refresh my
feverish pulses; pledging my word to make no attempt at escape. This
explanation, with the accompanying assurance, seemed to satisfy my
guard; and I was quietly permitted to do as I had proposed.
The walk I selected was between the group of squatters and the
house, and at each turn it necessarily brought me close to the young
men. At such moments I profited by my position to look in through the
door of the dwelling at the motionless form of Dus, who sat at the
bedside of her uncle in the patient, silent, tender, and attentive
manner of woman, and whom I could plainly see in thus passing.
Notwithstanding the fidelity of my homage to my mistress at these
instants, I could perceive that the young men uniformly suspended the
low dialogue they were holding together, as I approached them, and as
uniformly renewed it as I moved away. This induced me gradually to
extend my walk, lengthening it a little on each end, until I may have
gone as far as a hundred feet on each side of the group, which I took
for the centre. To have gone farther would have been imprudent, as it
might seem preparatory to an attempt at escape, and to a consequent
violation of my word.
In this manner, then, I may have made eight or ten turns in as many
minutes, when I heard a low, hissing sound near me, while at the
extremity of one of my short promenades. A stump stood there, and the
sound came from the root of this stump. At first I fancied I had
encroached on the domain of some serpent; though animals of that
species, which would be likely to give forth such a menace, were even
then very rare among us. But my uncertainty was soon relieved.
"Why you no stop at stump?" said Susquesus, in a voice so low as
not to be heard at the distance of ten feet, while it was perfectly
distinct and not in a whisper. "Got sut'in' tell—glad to hear."
"Wait until I can make one or two more turns; I will come back in a
moment," was my guarded answer.
Then I continued my march, placing myself against a stump that
stood at the other end of my walk, remaining leaning there for an
entire minute or two, when I returned, passing the young men as
before. This I did three several times, stopping at each turn, as if
to rest or to reflect; and making each succeeding halt longer than the
one that had preceded it. At length I took my stand against the very
stump that concealed the Indian.
"How came you here, Susquesus?" I asked; "and are you armed?"
"Yes; got good rifle. Chainbearer's gun. He no want him any longer,
"You know then what has happened? Chainbearer is mortally wounded."
"Dat bad—must take scalp to pay for
dat! Ole fri'nd—
good fri'nd. Always kill murderer."
"I beg nothing of the sort will be attempted; but how came you
here?—and how came you armed?"
"Jaap do him — come and break open door. Nigger strong—do what
he like to. Bring rifle—say take him. Wish he come sooner—den
Chainbearer no get kill. We see!"
I thought it prudent to move on by the time this was said; and I
made a turn or two ere I was disposed to come to another halt. The
truth, however, was now apparent to me. Jaap had come in from the
forest, forced the fastenings of the Onondago's prison, given him
arms, and they were both out in the darkness, prowling round the
buildings, watching for the moment to strike a blow, or an opportunity
to communicate with me. How they had ascertained the fact of
Chainbearer's being shot, I was left to conjecture; though Susquesus
must have heard the report of the rifle; and an Indian, on such a
night as that, left to pursue his own course, would soon ascertain all
the leading points of any circumstance in which he felt an interest.
My brain was in a whirl as all these details presented themselves
to my mind, and I was greatly at a loss to decide on my course. In
order to gain time for reflection, I stopped a moment at the stump,
and whispered to the Onondago a request, that he would remain where he
was until I could give him his orders. An expressive "good" was the
answer I received; and I observed that the Indian crouched lower in
his lair, like some fierce animal of the woods, that restrained his
impatience, in order to make his leap, when it did come, more certain
I had now a little leisure for reflection. There lay poor
Chainbearer, stretched on his death-pallet, as motionless as if the
breath had already left his body. Dus maintained her post, nearly as
immovable as her uncle; while Lowiny stood at hand, manifesting the
sympathy of her sex in the mourning scene before her. I caught
glimpses, too, in passing, of Thousandacres and Prudence. It appeared
to me as if the first had not stirred, from the moment when he had
taken his seat on the hearth. His countenance was as set, his air as
moody, and his attitude as stubborn, as each had been in the first
five minutes after the chainbearer fell. Prudence, too, was as
unchanged as her husband. Her body continued to rock, in nervous
excitement, but not once had I seen her raise her eyes from the stone
of the rude hearth, that covered nearly one-half of the room. The fire
had nearly burned down, and no one replenishing the brush which fed
it, a flickering flame alone remained to cast its wavering light over
the forms of these two consciencestricken creatures, rendering them
still more mysterious and forbidding. Lowiny had indeed lighted a
thin, miserable candle of tallow, such as one usually sees in the
lowest habitations; but it was placed aside, in order to be removed
from before the sight of the supposed slumberer, and added but little
to the light of the room. Notwithstanding, I could and did see all I
have described, stopping for some little time at a point that
commanded a view of the interior of the house.
Of Dus, I could ascertain but little. She was nearly immovable at
the bed-side of her uncle, but her countenance was veiled from my
view. Suddenly, and it was at one of those moments when I had stopped
in front of the building, she dropped on her knees, buried her face in
the coverlet, and became lost in prayer. Prudence started, as she saw
this act; then she arose, after the fashion of those who imagine they
have contributed to the simplicity, and consequently to the beauty of
worship, by avoiding the ceremony of kneeling to Almighty God, and
stood erect, moving to and fro, as before, her tall, gaunt figure,
resembling some half-decayed hemlock of the adjacent forest, that has
lost the greater portion of its verdure, rocked by a tempest. I was
touched, notwithstanding, at this silent evidence that the woman
retained some of the respect and feeling for the services of the
Deity, which, though strangely blended with fanaticism and a
pertinacious self-righteousness, no doubt had a large influence in
bringing those who belonged to her race across the Atlantic, some five
or six generations previously to her own.
It was just at this instant that I recognised the voice of Tobit,
as he advanced towards the group composed of his brethren; and
speaking to his wife, who accompanied him as far as his father's
habitation, and there left him, apparently to return to her own. I did
not distinguish what was said, but the squatter spoke sullenly, and in
the tone of one whose humour was menacing. Believing that I might meet
with some rudeness of a provoking character from this man, should he
see me walking about in the manner I had now been doing for near a
quarter of an hour, ere he had the matter explained, I thought it
wisest to enter the building, and effect an object I had in view, by
holding a brief conversation with Thousandacres.
This determination was no sooner formed than I put it in execution;
trusting that the patience of the Indian, and Jaap's habits of
obedience, would prevent anything like an outbreak from them, without
orders. As I re-entered the room, Dus was still on her knees, and
Prudence continued erect, oscillating as before, with her eyes riveted
on the hearth. Lowiny stood near the bed, and I thought, like her
mother, she was in some measure mingling in spirit, with the prayer.
"Thousandacres," I commenced in a low voice, drawing quite near to
the squatter, and succeeding in causing him to look at me, by my
address—"Thousandacres, this has been a most melancholy business,
but everything should be done that can be done, to repair the evil.
Will you not send a messenger through to the 'Nest, to obtain the aid
of the physician?"
"Doctors can do but little good to a wound made by a rifle that was
fired so cluss, young man. I want no doctors here, to betray me and
mine to the law."
"Nay, your messenger can keep your secret; and I will give him gold
to induce the physician to come, and come at once. He can be told that
I am accidentally hurt, and might still reach us to be of service in
alleviating pain; I confess there is no hope for anything else."
"Men must take their chances," coldly returned that obdurate being.
"Them that live in the woods, take woodsmen's luck; and them that live
in the open country, the open country luck. My family and lumber must
be presarved at all risks; and no doctor shall come here."
What was to be done—what
could be done, with such a being?
All principle, all sense of right, was concentrated in self—in his
moral system. It was as impossible to make him see the side of any
question that was opposed to his interests, fancied or real, as it was
to give sight to the physically blind. I had hoped contrition was at
work upon him, and that some advantage might be obtained through the
agency of so powerful a mediator; but no sooner was his dull nature
aroused into anything like action, than it took the direction of
selfishness, as the needle points to the pole.
Disgusted at this exhibition of the most confirmed trait of the
squatter's character, I was in the act of moving from him, when a loud
shout arose around the building, and the flashes and reports of three
or four rifles were heard. Rushing to the door, I was in time to hear
the tramp of men, who seemed to me to be pushing forward in all
directions; and the crack of the rifle was occasionally heard,
apparently retiring towards the woods. Men called to each other, in
the excitement of a chase and conflict; but I could gain no
information, the body of darkness which had settled on the place
having completely hidden everything from view, at any distance.
In this state of most painful doubt I continued for five or six
minutes, the noise of the chase receding the whole time, when a man
came rushing up to the door of the hut where I stood, and, seizing my
hand, I found it was Frank Malbone. The succour, then, had arrived,
and I was no longer a captive.
"God be praised! you at least are safe," cried Malbone. "But my
"Is there unharmed, watching by the side of her uncle's dying bed.
Is any one hurt without?"
"That is more than I can tell you. Your black acted as guide, and
brought us down on the place so skilfully, that it was not my
intention to resort to arms at all, since we might have captured all
the squatters without firing a shot, had my orders been observed. But
a rifle was discharged from behind a stump, and this drew a
volley from the enemy. Some of our side returned the discharge, and
the squatters then took to flight. The firing you have just heard is
scattered discharges that have come from both sides, and can be only
sound, as any aim is impossible in this obscurity. My own piece has
not even been cocked, and I regret a rifle has been fired."
"Perhaps all is then well, and we have driven off our enemies
without doing them any harm. Are you strong enough to keep them at a
"Perfectly so; we are a posse of near thirty men, led by an
under-sheriff and a magistrate. All we wanted was a direction to this
spot, to have arrived some hours earlier."
I groaned in spirit at hearing this, since those few hours might
have saved the life of poor Chainbearer. As it was, however, this
rescue was the subject of grateful rejoicing, and one of the happiest
moments of my life was that in which I saw Dus fall on her brother's
bosom, and burst into tears. I was at their side, in the door-way of
the hut, when this meeting took place; and Dus held out a hand
affectionately to me, as she withdrew herself from her brother's
arms. Frank Malbone looked a little surprised at this act; but,
anxious to see and speak to Chainbearer, he passed into the building,
and approached the bed. Dus and I followed; for the shouts and firing
had reached the ears of the wounded man, and Andries was anxious to
learn their meaning. The sight of Malbone let him into a general
knowledge of the state of the facts; but a strong anxiety was depicted
in his failing countenance, as he looked towards me for information.
"What is it, Mortaunt?" he asked, with considerable strength of
voice, his interest in the answer probably stimulating his physical
powers. "What is it, poy? I hope t'ere hast peen no useless fightin'
on account of a poor olt man like me, who hast seen his t'ree-score
years ant ten, ant who owest to his Maker t'e life t'at wast grantet
to him seventy long years ago. I hope no one hast peen injuret in so
poor a cause."
"We know of no one besides yourself, Chainbearer, who has been hurt
to-night. The firing you have heard, comes from the party of Frank
Malbone, which has just arrived, and which has driven off the
squatters by noise more than by any harm that has been done them."
"Got pe praiset! Got pe praiset! I am glat to see Frank pefore I
tie, first to take leaf of him, as an olt frient, ant secontly to
place his sister, Dus, in his care. T'ey haf wantet to gif Dus one of
t'ese squatters for a huspant, by way of making peace petween t'ieves
ant honest people. T'at woult nefer do, Frank, as you well know Dus
ist t'e ta'ghter of a gentleman, ant t'e ta'ghter of a laty; ant she
ist a gentlewoman herself, ant ist not to pe marriet to a coarse,
rute, illiterate, vulgar squatter. Wast I young, ant wast I not t'e
gal's uncle, I shoult not venture to s'pose I coult make her a fit
companion myself, peing too little edicated ant instructet, to pe the
huspant of one like Dus Malpone."
"There is no fear now, that any such calamity can befall my sister,
my dear Chainbearer, answered Frank Malbone. "Nor do I think any
threats or dangers could so far intimidate Dus, as to cause her to
plight her faith to any man she did not love or respect. They would
have found my sister difficult to coerce."
"It ist pest ast it ist, Frank—yes, it ist pest ast it ist. T'ese
squatters are fery sat rascals, ant woult not pe apt to stop at
trifles. Ant, now we are on t'is supject, I wilt say a wort more
consarnin' your sister. I see she hast gone out of t'e hut to weep,
ant she wilt not hear what I haf to say. Here ist Mortaunt Littlepage,
who says he lofes Dus more ast man efer lovet woman pefore —" Frank
started, and I fancied that his countenance grew dark—"ant what ist
nat'ral enough, when a man dost truly lofe a woman in t'at tegree, he
wishes fery, fery much to marry her"— Frank's countenance brightened
immediately, and seeing my hand extended towards him, he grasped it
and gave it a most cordial pressure. "Now, Mortaunt woult pe an
excellent match for Dus — a most capital match, for he ist young
ant goot lookin', ant prave, ant honouraple, ant sensiple, ant rich,
all of which pe fery goot t'ings in matrimony; put, on t'e ot'er hant,
he hast a fat'er, ant a mot'er, ant sisters, ant it ist nat'ral, too,
t'at t'ey shoult not like, overmuch, to haf a son ant a prot'er marry
a gal t'at hasn't any t'ing put a set of chains, a new compass, ant a
few fielt articles t'at wilt fall to her share a'ter my teat'. No,
no; we must t'ink of t'e honour of t'e Coejemans ant t'e Malpones,
ant not let our peloved gal go into a family t'at may not want her."
I could see that Frank Malbone smiled, though sadly, as he listened
to this warning; for, on him, it made little or no impression, since
he was generous enough to judge me by himself, and did not believe any
such mercenary considerations would influence my course. I felt
differently, however. Obstinacy in opinion, was one of the weak points
in Chainbearer's character, and I saw the danger of his leaving these
sentiments as a legacy to Dus. She, indeed, had been the first to
entertain them, and to communicate them to her uncle, and they might
revive in her when she came to reflect on the true condition of
things, and become confirmed by the dying requests of her uncle. It is
true, that in our own interview, when I obtained from the dear girl
the precious confession of her love, no such obstacle seemed to exist,
but both of us appeared to look forward with confidence to our future
union as to a thing certain; but at that moment, Dus was excited by my
declarations of the most ardent and unutterable attachment, and led
away by the strength of her own feelings. We were in the delirium of
delight produced by mutual confidence, and the full assurance of
mutual love, when Thousandacres came upon us, to carry us to the
scenes of woe by which we had been, and were still, in a degree,
surrounded. Under such circumstances, one might well fall under the
influence of feelings and emotions that would prove to be more
controllable in cooler moments. It was all-important, then, for me to
set Chainbearer right in the matter, and to have a care he did not
quit us, leaving the two persons he most loved on earth, very
unnecessarily miserable, and that solely on account of the strength of
his own prejudices. Nevertheless, the moment was not favourable to
pursue such a purpose, and I was reflecting bitterly on the future,
when we were all startled by a heavy groan that seemed to come out of
the very depths of the chest of the squatter.
Frank and I turned instinctively towards the chimney, on hearing
this unlooked-for interruption. The chair of Prudence was vacant, the
woman having rushed from the hut at the first sound of the recent
alarm; most probably, in quest of her younger children. But
Thousandacres remained in the very seat he had now occupied nearly, if
not quite, two hours. I observed, however, that his form was not as
erect as when previously seen. It had sunk lower in the chair, while
his chin hung down upon his breast. Advancing nearer, a small pool of
blood was seen on the stones beneath him, and a short examination told
Malbone and myself, that a rifle-bullet had passed directly through
his body, in a straight line, and that only three inches above the
"With woful measures, wan despair—
Low, sullen sounds his grief beguil'd,
A solemn, strange, and mingled air;
'Twas sad by fits, by starts 'twas wild."
Thousandacres had been shot in his chair, by one of the rifles
first discharged that night. As it turned out, he was the only one
that we could ascertain was hurt; though there was a report, to which
many persons gave credence, that Tobit had a leg broken, also, and
that he remained a cripple for life. I am inclined to believe this
report may have been true; for Jaap told me, after all was over, that
he let fly on a man who had just fired on himself, and who certainly
fell, and was borne off limping, by two of his companions. It is quite
probable that this hurt of Tobit's, and the fate of his father, was
the reason we received no more annoyance that night from the
squatters, who had all vanished from the clearing so effectually,
including most of the females and all the children, that no traces of
their place of retreat were to be found next morning. Lowiny, however,
did not accompany the family, but remained near Dus, rendering
herself highly useful as an attendant in the melancholy scene that
followed. I may as well add, here, that no evidence was ever obtained
concerning the manner in which Thousandacres received his death-wound.
He was shot through the open door, beyond all question, as he sat in
his chair; and necessarily in the early part of the fray, for then
only was a rifle discharged very near the house, or from a point that
admitted of the ball's hitting its victim. For myself, I believed from
the first that Susquesus sacrificed the squatter to the manes of his
friend, Chainbearer; dealing out Indian justice, without hesitation or
compunction. Still, I could not be certain of the fact; and the
Onondago had either sufficient prudence or sufficient philosophy to
keep his own secret. It is true that a remark or two did escape him,
soon after the affair occurred, that tended to sustain my suspicions;
but, on the whole, he was remarkably reserved on the subject—less
from any apprehension of consequences, than from self-respect and
pride of character. There was little to be apprehended, indeed; the
previous murder of Chainbearer, and the unlawful nature of all the
proceedings of the squatters, justifying a direct and sudden attack on
the part of the posse.
Just as Malbone and myself discovered the condition of
Thousandacres, this posse, with 'squire Newcome at its head, began to
collect around the house, which might now be termed our hospital. As
the party was large, and necessarily a little tumultuous, I desired
Frank to lead them off to some of the other buildings, as soon as a
bed had been prepared for the squatter, who was placed in the same
room with Chainbearer, to die. No one, in the least acquainted with
injuries of that nature, could entertain any hope for either; though a
messenger was sent to the settlements for the individual who was
called "doctor," and who was really fast acquiring many useful notions
about his profession, by practising on the human system. They say that
"an ounce of experience is worth a pound of theory," and this disciple
of Esculapius seemed to have set up in his art on this principle;
having little or none of the last, while he was really obtaining a
very respectable amount of the first, as he practised right and left,
as the pugilist is most apt to hit in his rallies. Occasionally,
however, he gave a knock-down blow.
As soon as the necessary arrangemenss were made in our hospital, I
told Dus that we would leave her and Lowiny in attendance on the
wounded, both of whom manifested weariness and a disposition to doze,
while all the rest of the party would draw off, and take up their
quarters for the night in the adjacent buildings. Malbone was to
remain, as a sentinel, a little distance from the door, and I promised
to join him in the course of an hour.
"Lowiny can attend to the wants of her father, while you will have
the tenderest care of your uncle, I well know. A little drink
occasionally is all that can alleviate their sufferings—"
"Let me come in," interrupted a hoarse female voice at the door, as
a woman forced her way through the opposing arms of several of the
posse. "I am Aaron's wife, and they tell me he is hurt. God himself
has ordered that a woman should cleave unto her husband, and
Thousandacres is mine; and he is the father of my children, if he has murdered, and been murdered in his turn."
There was something so commanding in the natural emotions of this
woman, that the guard at the door gave way immediately, when Prudence
entered the room. The first glance of the squatter's wife was at the
bed of Chainbearer; but nothing there held her gaze riveted. That gaze
only became fixed as her eyes fell on the large form of Thousandacres,
as he lay extended on his death-bed. It is probable that this
experienced matron, who had seen so many accidents in the course of a
long life, and had sat by so many a bedside, understood the desperate
nature of her husband's situation as soon as her eyes fell on the
fallen countenance; for, turning to those near her, the first impulse
was to revenge the wrong which she conceived had been done to her and
hers. I will acknowledge that I felt awed, and that a thrill passed
through my frame as this rude and unnurtured female, roused by her
impulses, demanded authoritatively—
"Who has done this? Who has taken the breath from my man before the
time set by the Lord! Who has dared to make my children fatherless,
and me a widow, ag'in' law and right? I left my man seated on that
hearth, heart-stricken and troubled at what had happened to another;
and they tell me he has been murdered in his chair. The Lord will be
on our side at last, and then we 'll see whom the law will favour, and
whom the law will condemn—!"
A movement and a groan, on the part of Thousandacres, would seem
first to have apprized Prudence that her husband was not actually
dead. Starting at this discovery, this tiger's mate and tiger's dam,
if not tigress herself, ceased everything like appeal and complaint,
and set herself about those duties which naturally suggested
themselves to one of her experience, with the energy of a frontier
woman—a woodsman's wife, and the mother of a large brood of
woodsman's sons and daughters. She wiped the face of Thousandacres,
wet his lips, shifted his pillow, such as it was, placed his limbs in
postures she thought the easiest, and otherwise manifested a sort of
desperate energy in her care. The whole time she was doing this, her
tongue was muttering prayers and menaces, strangely blended together,
and quite as strangely mixed up with epithets of endearment that were
thrown away on her still insensible and least unconscious husband.
She called him Aaron, and that, too, in a tone that sounded as if
Thousandacres had a strong hold on her affections, and might at least
have been kind and true to her.
I felt convinced that Dus had nothing to fear from Prudence, and I
left the place as soon as the two nurses had everything arranged for
their respective patients, and the house was quite free from the
danger of intrusion. On quitting her who now occupied most of my
thoughts, I ventured to whisper a request she would not forget the
pledges given me in the forest, and asked her to summon me to the
bedside of Chainbearer, should he rouse himself from the slumber that
had come over him, and manifest a desire to converse. I feared he
might renew the subject to which his mind had already once adverted
since receiving his wound, and imbue his niece with some of his own
set notions on that subject. Ursula was kindness itself. Her
affliction had even softened her feelings towards me more than ever;
and, so far as she was concerned, I certainly had no ground for
uneasiness. In passing Frank, who stood on post some twenty yards from
the door of the house, he said `God bless you, Littlepage,— fear
nothing. I am too much in your own situation, not to be warmly your
friend.' I returned his good wishes, and went my way, in one sense
The posse, as has been stated, were in possession of the different
deserted habitations of the family of Thousandacres. The night being
cool, fires were blazing on all the hearths, and the place wore an air
of cheerfulness that it had probably never before known. Most of the
men had crowded into two of the dwellings, leaving a third for the
convenience of the magistrate, Frank Malbone, and myself, whenever we
might choose to repair to it. By the time I appeared, the posse had
supped, using the milk and bread, and other eatables of the squatters, ad libitum, and were disposing of themselves on the beds and on
the floors, to take a little rest, after their long and rapid march.
But in my own quarters I found 'squire Newcome, alone, unless the
silent and motionless Onondago, who occupied a chair in a corner of
the fire-place, could be called a companion. Jaap, too, in expectation
of my arrival, was lounging near the door; and when I entered the
house, he followed me in for orders.
It was easy for me, who knew of Newcome's relations with the
squatters, to discover the signs of confusion in his countenance, as
his eye first met mine. One who was not acquainted with the
circumstances, most probably would have detected nothing out of the
common way. It will be remembered that the `'squire' had no positive
knowledge that I was acquainted with his previous visit to the mill;
and it will be easy to see that he must have felt an itching and
uneasy desire to ascertain that fact. A great deal depended on that
circumstance; nor was it long before I had a specimen of his art in
sounding round the truth, with a view to relieve his mind.
"Who 'd 'a' thought of findin' major Littlepage in the hands of the
Philistines, in sich an out o' the way place as this!" exclaimed Mr.
Newcome, as soon as our salutations had been exchanged. "I 've heern
say there was squatters down hereabouts; but sich things are so
common, that I never bethought me of givin' him a hint on the matter
when I last saw the major."
Nothing could surpass the deferential manner of this person when he
had an object to gain, it being quite common with him to use the third
person, in this way, when addressing a superior; a practice that has
almost become obsolete in the English language, and which is seldom if
ever used in America, except by this particular class of men, who
defer before your face, and endeavour to undermine when the back is
turned. My humour was not to trifle with this fellow, though I did not
know that it was exactly prudent, just then, to let him know that I
had both seen and heard him in his former visit, and was fully aware
of all his practices. It was not easy, however, to resist the
opportunity given by his own remarks, to put him a little way on the
tenter-hooks of conscience—that quality of the human mind being one
of the keenest allies an assailant can possess, in cases of this sort.
"I had supposed, Mr. Newcome, that you were generally charged with
the care of the Mooseridge lands, as one of the conditions annexed to
the Ravensnest agency?" I somewhat drily remarked.
"Sartain, sir; the colonel—or gin'ral, as he ought to be called
now, I do s'pose—gave me the superintendence of both at the same
time. But the major knows, I presume, that Mooseridge was not on sale?"
"No, sir; it would seem to have been only on
would think that an agent, entrusted with the care of an estate, and
who heard of squatters being in possession, and stripping the land of
its trees, would feel it to be his duty at least to apprise the owners
of the circumstance, that they might look to the case, if he did not."
"The major hasn't rightly understood me," put in the 'squire, in a
manner that was particularly deprecatory; "I don't mean to say that I know'd, with anything like positiveness, that there was squatters
hereabouts; but that rumours was stirrin' of some sich things. But
squatters is sich common objects in new countries, that a body scarce
turns aside to look at them!"
"So it would seem, in your case at least, Mr. Newcome. This
Thousandacres, however, they tell me, is a well-known character, and
has done little since his youth but lumber on the property of other
people. I should suppose you must have met him, in the course of
five-and-twenty years' residence in this part of the world?"
"Lord bless the major! met Thousandacres? Why, I 've met him a
hundred times! We all know the old man well enough; and many and many
is the time I 've met him at raisin's, and trainin's, and town
meetin's, and political meetin's, too. I 've even seen him in court,
though Thousandacres don't set much store by law, not half as much as
he and every other man ought to do; for law is excellent, and society
would be no better than a collection of wild beasts, as I often tell
Miss Newcome, if it hadn't law to straighten it out, and to teach the
misguided and evil-disposed what 's right. I s'pose the major will
coincide with that idee?"
"I have no particular objection to the sentiment, sir, but wish it
was more general. As you have seen this person Thousandacres so often,
perhaps you can tell me something of his character. My opportunities
of knowing the man have been none of the best; for, most of the time I
was his prisoner, he had me shut up in an out-building in which I
believe he has usually kept his salt, and grain, and spare
"Not the old store'-us'!" exclaimed the magistrate, looking a
little aghast, for the reader will doubtless recollect that the
confidential dialogue between him and the squatter, on the subject of
the lumber, had occurred so near that building as to be overheard by
me. "How long has the major been in this clearin', I wonder?"
"Not a very great while in fact, though long enough to make it
appear a week. I was put into the store-house soon after my seizure,
and have passed at least half my time there since."
"I want to know! — Perhaps the major got in that hole as 'arly as
"Perhaps I did, sir. But, Mr. Newcome, on looking round at the
quantity of lumber these men have made, and recollecting the distance
they are from Albany, I am at a loss to imagine how they could hope to
get their ill-gotten gains to market without discovery. It would seem
to me that their movements must be known, and that the active and
honest agents of this part of the country would seize their rafts in
the water-courses; thus making the very objects of the squatters'
roguery the means of their punishment. Is it not extraordinary that
theft, in a moral sense at least, can be systematically carried on,
and that on so large a scale, with such entire impunity?"
"Wa-a-l—I s'pose the major knows how things turn, in this world.
Nobody likes to meddle."
"How, sir — not meddle! This is contrary to all my experience of
the habits of the country, and all I have heard of it! Meddling, I
have been given to understand, is the great vice of our immigrant
population, in particular, who never think they have their just
rights, unless they are privileged to talk about, and sit in judgment
on the affairs of all within twenty miles of them; making two-thirds
of their facts as they do so, in order to reconcile their theories
with the wished-for results."
"Ah! I don't mean meddlin' in that sense, of which there is enough,
as all must allow. But folks don't like to meddle with things that
don't belong to them in such serious matters as this."
"I understand you — the man who will pass days in discussing his
neighbour's private affairs, about which he absolutely knows nothing
but what has been obtained from the least responsible and most vulgar
sources, will stand by and see that neighbour robbed and say nothing,
under the influence of a sentiment so delicate, that it forbids his
meddling with what don't belong to him!"
Lest the reader should think I was unduly severe upon 'squire
Newcome, let me appeal to his own experience, and inquire if he never
knew, not only individuals, but whole neighbourhoods, which were
sorely addicted to prying into every man's affairs, and to inventing
when facts did not exactly sustain theories; in a word, convulsing
themselves with that with which they have no real concern, draw
themselves up in dignified reserve, as the witnesses of wrongs of all
sorts, that every honest man is bound to oppose? I will go further,
and ask if a man does happen to step forth to vindicate the right, to
assert truth, to defend the weak and to punish the wrong-doer, if that
man be not usually the one who meddles least in the more ordinary and
minor transactions of life — the man who troubles his neighbours
least, and has the least to say about their private affairs? Does it
not happen that the very individual who will stand by and see his
neighbour wronged, on account of his indisposition to meddle with that
which does not belong to him, will occupy a large portion of his own
time in discussing, throwing out hints, and otherwise commenting on
the private affairs of that very neighbour?
Mr. Newcome was shrewd, and he understood me well enough, though he
probably found it a relief to his apprehensions to see the
conversation inclining towards these generalities, instead of sticking
to the store-house. Nevertheless, `boards' must have been uppermost in
his conscience; and, after a pause, he made an invasion into the
career of Thousandacres, by way of diverting me from pushing matters
"This old squatter was a desperate man, major Littlepage," he
answered, "and it may be fortinate for the country that he is done
with. I hear the old fellow is killed, and that all the rest of the
family has absconded."
"It is not quite so bad as that. Thousandacres is hurt— mortally,
perhaps—and all his sons have disappeared; but his wife and one of
his daughters are still here, in attendance on the husband and father."
"Prudence is here, then!" exclaimed Mr. Newcome, a little
indiscreetly as I thought.
"She is—but you seem to know the family well for a magistrate,
'squire, seeing their ordinary occupation — so well, as to call the
woman by her name."
"Prudence, I think Thousandacres used to call his woman. Yes, the
major is very right; we magistrates do get to know the
neighbourhood pretty gin'rally; what between summonses, and warrants,
and bailings-out. But the major hasn't yet said when he first fell
into the hands of these folks?"
"I first entered this clearing yesterday morning, not a long time
after the sun rose, since which time, sir, I have been detained here,
either by force or by circumstances."
A long pause succeeded this announcement. The 'squire fidgeted, and
seemed uncertain how to act; for, while my announcement must have
given rise, in his mind, to the strong probability of my knowing of
his connection with the squatters, it did not absolutely say as much.
I could see that he was debating with himself on the expediency of
coming out with some tale invented for the occasion, and I turned
towards the Indian and the negro, both of whom I knew to be thoroughly
honest—after the Indian and the negro fashions — in order to say a
friendly word to each in turn.
Susquesus was in one of his quiescent moods, and had lighted a
pipe, which he was calmly smoking. No one, to look at him, would
suppose that he had so lately been engaged in a scene like that
through which he had actually gone; but, rather, that he was some
thoughtful philosopher, who habitually passed his time in reflection
As this was one of the occasions on which the Onondago came nearest
to admitting his own agency in procuring the death of the squatter, I
shall relate the little that passed between us.
"Good evening, Sureflint," I commenced, extending a hand, which the
other courteously took in compliance with our customs. "I am glad to
see you at large, and no longer a prisoner in that store-house."
"Store-'us' poor gaol. Jaap snap off bolt like pipe-stem. Won'er
T'ousandacres didn't t'ink of d'at."
"Thousandacres has had too much to think of this evening, to
remember such a trifle. He has now to think of his end."
The Onondago was clearing the bowl of his pipe of its superfluous
ashes as I said this, and he deliberately effected his purpose ere he
"Sartain—s'pose he kill
"I fear his hurt is mortal, and greatly regret that it has
happened. The blood of our tried friend, Chainbearer, was enough to
be shed in so miserable an affair as this."
"Yes, 'fair pretty mis'rable; t'ink so, too. If squatter shoot
surveyor, must t'ink surveyor's fri'nd will shoot squatter."
"That may be Indian law, Sureflint, but it is not the law of the
Pale Face, in the time of peace and quiet."
Susquesus continued to smoke, making no answer.
"It was a very wicked thing to murder Chainbearer, and
Thousandacres should have been handed over to the magistrates, for
punishment, if he had a hand in it; not shot, like a dog."
The Onondago drew his pipe from his mouth, looked round towards the
'squire, who had gone to the door in order to breathe the fresh
air—then, turning his eyes most significantly on me, he answered—
"Who magistrate go to, eh?—What use good law wit' poor
magistrate? Better have red-skin law, and warrior be he own
magistrate—own gallows, too."
The pipe was replaced, and Sureflint appeared to be satisfied with
what had passed; for he turned away, and seemed to be lost, again, in
his own reflections.
After all, the strong native intellect of this barbarian had let
him into one of the greatest secrets connected with our social ills.
Good laws, badly administered, are no better than an absence of all
law, since they only encourage evildoers by the protection they afford
through the power conferred on improper agents. Those who have studied
the defects of the American system, with a view to ascertain truth,
say that the want of a great moving power to set justice in motion
lies at the root of its feebleness. According to theory, the public
virtue is to constitute this power; but public virtue is never
one-half as active as private vice. Crime is only to be put down by
the strong hand, and that hand must belong to the public in truth, not
in name only; whereas, the individual wronged is fast getting to be
the only moving power, and in very many cases local parties are
formed, and the rogue goes to the bar sustained by an authority that
has quite as much practical control as the law itself. Juries and
grand juries are no longer to be relied on, and the bench is slowly,
but steadily, losing its influence. When the day shall come—as come
it must, if present tendencies continue—that verdicts are rendered
directly in the teeth of law and evidence, and jurors fancy themselves
legislators, then may the just man fancy himself approaching truly
evil times, and the patriot begin to despair. It will be the
commencement of the rogue's paradise! Nothing is easier, I am willing
to admit, than to over-govern men; but it ought not to be forgotten,
that the political vice that comes next in the scale of facility, is
to govern them too little.
Jaap, or Jaaf, had been humbly waiting for his turn to be noticed.
There existed perfect confidence, as between him and myself, but there
were also bounds, in the way of respect, that the slave never presumed
to pass, without direct encouragement from the master. Had I not seen
fit to speak to the black that night, he would not have commenced a
conversation, which, begun by me, he entered into with the utmost
frankness and freedom from restraint.
"You seem to have managed your part of this affair, Jaap," I said,
"with discretion and spirit. I have every reason to be satisfied with
you; more especially for liberating the Indian, and for the manner in
which you guided the posse down into the clearing, from the woods."
"Yes, sah; s'pose you would t'ink
dat was pretty well. As
for Sus, t'ought it best to let him out, for he be won'erful sartain
wid he rifle. We should do much better, masser Mordy, but 'e 'squire
so werry backward about lettin 'e men shoot 'em 'ere squatter! Gosh!
masser Mordy, if he only say `fire' when I want him, I don't t'ink so
much as half a one get off."
"It is best as it is, Jaap. We are at peace, and in the bosom of
our country; and bloodshed is to be avoided."
"Yes, sah; but Chainbearer! If 'ey don't like bloodshed, why 'ey
shoot him, sah?"
"There is a feeling of justice in what you say, Jaap, but the
community cannot get on in anything like safety unless we let the law
rule. Our business was to take those squattors, and to hand them over
to the law."
"Werry true, sah. Nobody can't deny dat, masser Mordy, but he
nodder seize nor shot, now! Sartain, it best to do one or t'odder with
sich rascal. Well, I t'ink dat Tobit, as dey calls him, will remember
Jaap Satanstoe long as he live. Dat a good t'ing, any way!"
"Good!" exclaimed the Onondago, with energy.
I saw it was useless, then, to discuss abstract principles with men
so purely practical as my two companions, and I left the house to
reconnoitre, ere I returned to our hospital for the night. The negro
followed me, and I questioned him as to the manner of the attack, and
the direction of the retreat of the squatters, in order to ascertain
what danger there might be during the hours of darkness. Jaap gave me
to understand that the men of Thousandacres' family had retired by the
way of the stream, profiting by the declivity to place themselves
under cover as soon as possible. As respects the women and children,
they must have got into the woods at some other point, and it was
probable the whole had sought some place of retreat that would
naturally have been previously appointed by those who knew that they
lived in the constant danger of requiring one. Jaap was very certain
we should see no more of the men, and in that he was perfectly right.
No more was ever seen of any one of them all in that part of the
country, though rumours reached us, in the course of time, from some
of the more western counties, that Tobit had been seen there, a
cripple, as I have already stated, but maintaining his old character
for lawlessness and disregard of the rights of others.
I next returned to Frank Malbone, who still stood on post at no
great distance from the door, through which we could both see the form
and features of his beautiful and beloved sister. Dus sat by her
uncle's bed-side, while Prudence had stationed herself by that of her
husband. Frank and I advanced near the door, and looked in upon the
solemn and singular sight that room afforded. It was indeed a strange
and sad spectacle, to see those two aged men, each with his thin
locks whitened by seventy years, drawing near their ends, the victims
of lawless violence; for, while the death of Thousandacres was
enveloped in a certain mystery, and might by some eyes be viewed as
merited and legal, there could be no doubt that it was a direct
consequence of the previous murder of Chainbearer. It is in this way
that wrong extends and sometimes perpetuates its influence, proving
the necessity of taking time by the forelock, and resorting to
prevention in the earliest stages of the evil, instead of cure.
There lay the two victims of the false principles that the physical
condition of the country, connected with its passive endurance of
encroachments on the right, had gradually permitted to grow up among
us. Squatting was a consequence of the thinness of the population and
of the abundance of land, the two very circumstances that rendered it
the less justifiable in a moral point of view; but which, by
rendering the one side careless of its rights, and the other
proportionably encroaching, had gradually led, not only to this
violation of law, but to the adoption of notions that are adverse to
the supremacy of law in any case. It is this gradual undermining of
just opinions that forms the imminent danger of our social system; a
spurious philanthropy on the subject of punishments, false notions on
that of personal rights, and the substitution of numbers for
principles, bidding fair to produce much the most important revolution
that has ever yet taken place on the American continent. The lover of
real liberty, under such circumstances, should never forget that the
road to despotism lies along the borders of the slough of
licentiousness, even when it escapes wallowing in its depths.
When Malbone and myself drew back from gazing on the scene within
the house, he related to me in detail all that was connected with his
own proceedings. The reader knows that it was by means of a meeting in
the forest, between the Indian and the negro, that my friends first
became acquainted with my arrest, and the probable danger in which I
was placed. Chainbearer, Dus, and Jaap instantly repaired to the
clearing of Thousandacres; while Malbone hastened on to Ravensnest, in
pursuit of legal aid, and of a force to render my rescue certain.
Meditating on all the facts of the case, and entertaining most
probably an exaggerated notion of the malignant character of
Thousandacres, by the time he reached the Nest, my new friend was in a
most feverish state of excitement. His first act was, to write a
brief statement of the facts to my father, and to despatch his letter
by a special messenger, with orders to him to push on for Fishkill,
all the family being there at the time, on a visit to the Kettletases;
proceeding by land or by water, as the wind might favour. I was
startled at this information, foreseeing at once that it would bring
not only the general himself, but my dear mother and Kate, with Tom
Bayard quite likely in her train, post haste to Ravensnest. It might
even cause my excellent old grandmother to venture so far from home;
for my last letters had apprised me that they were all on the point of
visiting my sister Anneke, which was the way Frank had learned where
the family was to be found.
As Malbone's messenger had left the Nest early the preceding night,
and the wind had been all day fresh at north, it came quite within the
bounds of possibility that he might be at Fishkill at the very moment
I was listening to the history of his message. The distance was about
a hundred and forty miles, and nearly one hundred of it could be made
by water. Such a messenger would care but little for the
accommodations of his craft; and, on the supposition that he reached
Albany that morning, and found a sloop ready to profit by the breeze,
as would be likely to occur, it would be quite in rule to reach the
landing at Fishkill in the course of the evening aided by the little
gale that had been blowing. I knew General Littlepage too well, to
doubt either his affection or his promptitude. Albany could be reached
in a day by land, and Ravensnest in another. I made my account,
therefore, to see a part if not all of the family at the Nest, as
soon as I should reach it myself; an event not likely to occur,
however, for some little time, on account of the condition of
I shall not deny that this new state of things, with the
expectations connected with it, gave me sufficient food for
reflection. I could not and did not blame Frank Malbone for what he
had done, since it was natural and proper. Notwithstanding, it would
precipitate matters as regarded my relations to Dus a little faster
than I could have wished. I desired time to sound my family on the
important subject of my marriage—to let the three or four letters I
had already written, and in which she had been mentioned in a marked
manner, produce their effect; and I counted largely on the support I
was to receive through the friendship and representations of Miss
Bayard. I felt certain that deep disappointment on the subject of
Pris. would be felt by the whole family; and it was my wish not to
introduce Ursula to their acquaintance until time had a little
lessened its feeling. But things must now take their course; and my
determination was settled to deal as sincerely and simply as possible
with my parents on the subject. I knew their deep affection for me,
and relied strongly on that natural support.
I had half an hour's conversation with Dus while walking in front
of the hospital that night, Frank taking his sister's place by the
side of Chainbearer's bed. Then it was that I again spoke of my hopes,
and explained the probabilities of our seeing all of my immediate
family so shortly at Ravensnest. My arm was round the waist of the
dear girl as I communicated these facts; and I felt her tremble, as if
she dreaded the trial she was to undergo.
"This is very sudden and unexpected, Mordaunt," Dus remarked, after
she had had a little time to recover her recollection; "and I have so
much reason to fear the judgment of your respectable parents—of your
charming sister, of whom I have heard so often through Priscilla
Bayard— and indeed of all who have lived, as they have done,
amid the elegancies of a refined state of society; I, Dus Malbone—
a chainbearer's niece, and a chainbearer myself!"
"You have never borne any chain, love, that is as lasting or as
strong as that which you have entwined around my heart, and which will
for ever bind me to you, let the rest of the world regard us both as
it may. But you can have nothing to fear from any, and least of all
from my friends. My father is not worldly-minded; and as for my dear,
dear mother, Anneke Mordaunt, as the general even now often
affectionately calls her, as if the name itself reminded him of the
days of her maiden loveliness and pride—as for that beloved mother,
Ursula, I do firmly believe that, when she comes to know you, she will
even prefer you to her son."
"That is a picture of your blinded partiality, Mordaunt," answered
the gratified girl, for gratified I could see she was, "and must not
be too fondly relied on. But this is no time to talk of our own future
happiness, when the eternal happiness or misery of those two aged men
is suspended, as it might be, by a thread. I have read prayers once
already with my dear uncle; and that strange woman, in whom there is
so much of her sex mingled with a species of ferocity like that of a
she-bear, has muttered a hope that her own `dying man,' as she calls
him, is not to be forgotten. I have promised he should not be, and it
is time to attend to that duty next."
What a scene followed! Dus placed the light on a chest near the bed
of Thousandacres, and, with the prayer-book in her hand, she knelt
beside it. Prudence stationed herself in such a posture that her head
was buried in one of her own garments, that was suspended from a peg;
and there she stood, while the melodious voice of Ursula Malbone
poured out the petitions contained in the offices for the dying, in
humble but fervent piety. I say stood, for neither Prudence nor Lowiny
knelt. The captious temper of self-righteousness which had led their
ancestors to reject kneeling at prayers as the act of formalists, had
descended to them; and there they stood, praying doubtless in their
hearts, but ungracious formalists themselves in their zeal against
forms. Frank and I knelt in the door-way; and I can truly affirm that
never did prayers sound so sweetly in my ears, as those which then
issued from the lips of Ursula Malbone.
"Thence cum we to the horrour and the hel,
The large great kyngdomes, and the dreadful raygne
Of Pluto in his trone where he dyd dwell,
The wyde waste places, and the hugye playne:
The waylings, shrykes, and sundry sortes of payne,
The syghes, and sobbes, the diep and deadly groane,
Earth, ayer, and all resounding playnt and moane.
In this manner did that memorable night wear away. The two wounded
men slumbered much of the time; nor did their wants extend beyond
occasional draughts of water, to cool their feverish mouths, or the
wetting of lips. I prevailed on Dus to lie down on the bed of Lowiny,
and try to get a little rest; and I had the pleasure to hear her say
that she had slept sweetly for two or three hours, after the turn of
the night. Frank and I caught naps, also, after the fashion of
soldiers, and Lowiny slept in her chair, or leaning on her father's
bed. As for Prudence, I do not think her watchfulness was lessened for
a single instant. There she sat the live-long night; silent, tearless,
moody, and heart-stricken by the great and sudden calamity that had
befallen her race, but vigilant and attentive to the least movement in
the huge frame of her wounded partner. No complaint escaped her;
scarcely once did she turn to look at what was going on around her,
nor in any manner did she heed aught but her husband. To him she
seemed to be unerringly true; and whatever she may, and must have
thought of his natural sternness, and occasional fits of severity
towards herself, all now seemed to be forgotten.
At length light returned, after hours of darkness that seemed to me
to be protracted to an unusual length. Then it was, when Jaap and the
Indian were ready to take our places on the watch, that Frank and I
went to one of the huts and lay down for two or three hours; and that
was the time when Dus got her sweetest and most refreshing sleep.
Lowiny prepared our morning's meal for us; which we three, that is,
Dus, Frank and myself, took together in the best way we could, in the
dwelling of Tobit. As for squire Newcome, he left the clearing in the
course of the night, or very early in the morning, doubtless
exceedingly uneasy in his conscience, but still uncertain whether his
connection with the squatters was, or was not known to me: the excuse
for this movement being the probable necessity of summoning a jury;
Mr. Jason Newcome filling in his own person, or by deputy, the several
offices and functions of justice of the peace, one of the coroners of
the county, supervisor of the township of Ravensnest, merchant,
shopkeeper, miller, lumber-dealer, husbandman and innkeeper; to say
nothing of the fact that he wrote all the wills of the neighbourhood;
was a standing arbitrator when disputes were `left out to men;' was a
leading politician, a patriot by trade, and a remarkable and steady
advocate of the rights of the people, even to minutiæ. Those who know
mankind will not be surprised, after this enumeration of his pursuits
and professions, to hear it added that he was a remarkable rogue in
There are two things I have lived long enough to receive as truths
established by my own experience, and they are these: I never knew a
man who made large professions of a love for the people, and of his
wish to serve them on all occasions, whose aim was not to deceive them
to his own advantage; and the other is, that I never knew a man who
was compelled to come much in contact with the people, and who at the
same time was personally popular, who had anything in him, at the
bottom. But it is time to quit Jason Newcome and his defects of
character, in order to attend to the interesting scene that awaited us
in the dwelling of Thousandacres, and to which we were now summoned by
As the day advanced, both the chainbearer and the squatter became
aroused from the languor that had succeeded the receiving of their
respective hurts, and more or less alive to what was passing around
them. Life was ebbing fast in both, yet each seemed, just at that
moment, to turn his thoughts backward on the world, in order, as it
might be, to take a last look at those scenes in which he had now been
an actor for the long period of three-score and ten years.
"Uncle Chainbearer is much revived, just now," said Dus, meeting
Frank and myself at the door, "and he has asked for you both; more
especially for Mordaunt, whose name he has mentioned three several
times within the last five minutes. `Send for Mordaunt, my child,' he
has said to me, `for I wish to speak with him before I quit you.' I am
fearful he has inward admonitions of his approaching end."
"That is possible, dearest Ursula; for men can hardly lose their
hold of life without being aware of the approaches of death. I will go
at once to his bedside, that he may know I am here. It is best to let
his own feelings decide whether he is able or not to converse."
The sound of Chainbearer's voice, speaking in a low but distinct
tone, caught our ears as we approached him, and we all stopped to
"I say, T'ousantacres," repeated Andries, on a key a little louder
than before, "if you hear me, olt man, ant can answer, I wish you to
let me know it. You ant I pe apout to start on a fery long journey,
ant it ist unreasonable, as well as wicket, to set out wit' pad
feelin's at t'e heart. If you hat hat a niece, now, like Dus t'ere, to
tell you t'ese matters, olt Aaron, it might pe petter for your soul in
t'e worlt into which we are poth apout to enter."
"He knows it—I'm sure he knows it, and feels it, too," muttered
Prudence, rocking her body as before. "He has had pious forefathers,
and cannot have fallen so far away from grace, as to forget death and
"Look you, Prutence, Aaron nefer coult fall away from what he nefer
wast fastenet to. As for pious forefat'ers, t'ey may do to talk apout
in Fourt' of July orations, put t'ey are of no great account in
cleansin' a man from his sins. I s'pose t'em pious forefat'ers of
which you speak wast t'e people t'at first steppet on t'e Rock town at
Plymout'; put, let me telt you, Prutence, hat t'ere peen twice as
many of t'em, and hat t'ey all peen twice as goot as you poast of
t'eir hafin' peen, it wilt do no goot to your man, untless he wilt
repent, and pe sorry for all t'e unlawful ant wicket t'ings he hast
tone in t'is worlt, ant his treatment of pountaries in jin'ral, ant of
ot'ers men's lants in partic'lar. Pious ancestors may pe pleasant to
haf, put goot pehaviour ist far petter as t'e last hour approaches."
"Answer him, Aaron," the wife rejoined—"answer him, my man, in
order that we may all on us know the frame of mind in which you take
your departure. Chainbearer is a kind-hearted man at the bottom, and
has never wilfully done us any harm."
For the first time since Andries received his wound, I now heard
the voice of Thousandacres. Previously to that moment, the squatter.
whether hurt or not, had sat in moody silence, and I had supposed
after he was wounded that he was unable to use his tongue. To my
surprise, however, he now spoke with a depth and strength of voice
that at first misled me, by inducing me to think that the injury he
had received could not be fatal.
"If there wasn't no chainbearers," growled Thousandacres, "there
wouldn't be no lines, or metes, and bounds, as they call 'em; and
where there 's no metes and bounds, there can be no right but
possession. If 't wasn't for your writin' titles, I shouldn't be lyin'
here, breathin' my last."
"Forgive it all, my man; forgive it all, as behooves a good
christian," Prudence returned to this characteristic glance at the
past, in which the squatter had so clearly overlooked all his own
delinquencies, and was anxious to impute consequences altogether to
others. "it is the law of God to forgive your enemies, Aaron, and I
want you to forgive Chainbearer, and not go to the world of spirits
with gall in your heart."
"'T woult pe much petter, Prutence, if T'ousantacres woult pray to
Got to forgif himself," put in Chainbearer. "I am fery willin', ant
happy to haf t'e forgifness of efery man, ant it ist not unlikely t'at
I may haf tone somet'ing, or sait somet'ing t'at hast peen hart to t'e
feelin's of your huspant; for we are rough, and plain-speakin', and
plainactin' enough, in t'e woots; so I'm willin' to haf even
T'ousantacres' forgifness, I say, and wilt accept it wit' pleasure if
he wilt offer it, ant take mine in exchange."
A deep groan struggled out of the broad, cavern-like chest of the
squatter. I took it as an admission that he was the murderer of
"Yes," resumed Chainbearer,—"Dus hast mate me see—"
"Uncle!" exclaimed Ursula, who was intently listening, and who now
spoke because unable to restrain the impulse.
"Yes, yes, gal, it hast peen all your own toin's. Pefore ast you
come pack from school, ast we come into t'e woots, all alone like, you
haf nefer forgotten to teach an olt, forgetful man his tuty—"
"Oh! uncle Chainbearer, it is not I, but God in his mercy who has
enlightened your understanding and touched your heart."
"Yes, tarlin'; yes, Dus, my tear, I comprehent t'at too; but Got in
his mercy sent an angel to pe his minister on 'art' wit' a poor
ignorant Tutchman, who hast not t'e l'arnin' ant t'e grace he might
ant ought to have hat, wit'out your ait, and so hast t'e happy change
come apout. No— no—T'ousantacres, I wilt not tespise even your
forgifness, little as you may haf to forgif; for it lightens a man's
heart of heafy loats, when his time is short, to know he leafs no
enemies pehint him. T'ey say it ist pest to haf t'e goot wishes of a
tog, ant how much petter ist it to haf t'e goot wishes of one who hast
a soul t'at only wants purifyin', to twell in t'e Almighty's presence
"I hope and believe," again growled Thousandacres, "that in the
world we 're goin' to, there 'll be no law, and no attorneys."
"In t'at, t'en, Aaron, you pe greatly mistaken. T'at lant is all
law, ant justice, ant right; t'ough, Got forgif me if I do any man an
injury; put to pe frank wit' you, as pecomes two mortals so near t'eir
ents, I do not pelieve, myself, t'at t'ere wilt pe a great many
attorneys to trouple t'em t'at are receivet into t'e courts of t'e
Almighty, himself. T'eir practices on 'arth does not suit t'em for
practice in heafen."
"If you 'd always held them rational notions, Chainbearer, no harm
might have come to you, and my life and your'n been spared. But this
is a state of being in which short-sightedness prevails ag'in the best
calkerlations. I never felt more sure of gittin' lumber to market than
I felt, three days ago, of gittin' this that 's in the creek, safe to
Albany; and, now, you see how it is! the b'ys are disparsed, and may
never see this spot ag'in; the gals are in the woods, runnin' with the
deer of the forest; the lumber has fallen into the hands of the law;
and that, too, by the aid of a man that was bound in honesty to
protect me, and I 'm dyin' here!"
"Think no more of the lumber, my man, think no more of the lumber,"
said Prudence, earnestly; "time is desp'rate short at the best, and
yours is shorter than common, even for a man of seventy, while
etarnity has no eend. Forgit the boards, and forgit the b'ys, and
forgit the gals, forgit 'arth and all it holds!—"
"You wouldn't have me forgit you, Prudence," interrupted
Thousandacres, "that 's been my wife, now, forty long years, and whom
I tuck when she was young and comely, and that 's borne me so many
children, and has always been a faithful and hard-working woman—you
wouldn't have me forget you!"
This singular appeal, coming as it did from such a being, and
almost in his agony, sounded strangely and solemnly, amid the wild and
semi-savage appliances of a scene I can never forget. The effect on
Ursula was still more apparent; she left the bed-side of her uncle,
and with strong womanly sympathy manifested in her countenance,
approached that of this aged couple, now about to be separated for a
short time, at least, where she stood gazing wistfully at the very
man who was probably that uncle's murderer, as if she could gladly
administer to his moral ailings. Even Chainbearer attempted to raise
his head, and looked with interest towards the other group. No one
spoke, however, for all felt that the solemn recollections and
forebodings of a pair so situated, were too sacred for interruption.
The discourse went on, without any hiatus, between them.
"Not I, not I, Aaron, my man," answered Prudence, with strong
emotion struggling in her voice; "there can be no law, or call for that. We are one flesh, and what God has j'ined, God will not keep
asunder long. I cannot tarry long behind you, my man, and when we meet
together ag'in, I hope 'twill be where no boards, or trees, or acres,
can ever make more trouble for us!"
"I 've been hardly treated about that lumber, a'ter all," muttered
the squatter, who was now apparently more aroused to consciousness
than he had been, and who could not but keep harping on what had been
the one great business of his life, even as that life was crumbling
beneath his feet— "hardly dealt by, do I consider myself, about that
lumber, Prudence. Make the most of the Littlepage rights, it was only
trees that they could any way claim, in reason; while the b'ys and I,
as you well know, have convarted them trees into as pretty and noble a
lot of han'some boards and planks, as man ever rafted to market!"
"It 's convarsion of another natur' that you want now, Aaron, my
man; another sort of convarsion is the thing needful. We must all be
convarted once in our lives; at least all such as be the children of
Puritan parents and a godly ancestry; and it must be owned, takin'
into account our years, and the importance of example in sich a family
as our'n, that you and I have put it off long enough. Come it must,
or suthin' worse; and time and etarnity in your case, Aaron, is pretty
much the same thing."
"I should die easier in mind, Prudence, if Chainbearer would only
admit that the man who chops, and hauls, and saws, and rafts a tree,
doos get some sort of a right, nat'ral or legal, to the lumber."
"I 'm sorry, T'ousantacres," put in Andries, "t'at you feel any
such atmission from me necessary to you at t'is awful moment, since I
nefer can make it ast an honest man. You hat petter listen to your
wife, ant get confarted if you can, ant as soon ast you can. You ant I
haf put a few hours to lif; I am an olt soltier, T'ousantacres, ant
haf seen more t'an t'ree t'ousant men shot town in my own ranks, to
say nut'in' of t'e ranks of t'e enemy; ant wit' so much exper'ence a
man comes to know a little apout wounts ant t'eir tarminations. I gif
it ast my chugement, t'erefore, t'at neit'er of us can haf t'e
smallest hope to lif t'rough t'e next night. So get t'at confarsion as
hastily ant ast well ast you can, for t'ere ist little time to lose,
ant you a squatter! T'is ist t'e moment of all ot'ers, T'ousantacres,
to proofe t'e true falue of professions, ant trates, ant callin's, as
well ast of t'e manner in which t'eir tuties haf peen fulfillet. It
may pe more honouraple ant more profitaple to pe a calculating
surfeyor, ant to unterstant arit'metic, ant to pe talket of in t'e
worlt for work tone on a large scale; put efen His Excellency himself,
when he comes to t'e last moment, may pe glat t'at t'e temptations of
such l'arnin', ant his pein' so t'oroughly an honest man, toes not
make him enfy t'e state of a poor chainpearer; who, if he titn't know
much, ant coultn't do much, at least measuret t'e lant wit' fitelity,
ant tid his work ast well ast he knew how. Yes, yes, olt Aaron; get
confartet, I tell you; ant shoult Prutence not know enough of
religion ant her piple, ant of prayin' to Got to haf marcy on your
soul, t'ere ist Dus Malpone, my niece, who unterstants, ant what ist
far petter, who feels t'ese matters, quite as well ast most
tominies, ant petter t'an some lazy ant selfish ones t'at I know, who
treat t'eir flocks as if t'e Lort meant t'ey wast to pe shearet only,
ant who wast too lazy to do much more t'an to keep cryin' out—not in
t'e worts of t'e inspiret writer,—`watchman, what of t'e night?'—
`watchman, what of t'e night?'—put, `my pelovet, ant most
christian, ant gotly-mintet people, pay, pay, pay!' Yes, t'ere ist
too much of such afarice ant selfishness in t'e worlt, ant it toes
harm to t'e cause of t'e Safiour; put trut' is so clear ant peautiful
an opject, my poor Aaron, t'at efen lies, ant fice, ant all manner of
wicketnesses cannot long sully it. Take my atvice, ant talk to Dus;
ant t'ough you wilt touptless continue to grow worse in poty, you wilt
grow petter in spirit."
Thousandacres turned his grim visage round, and gazed intently and
wistfully towards Ursula. I saw the struggle that was going on within,
through the clear mirror of the sweet, ingenuous face of my beloved,
and I saw the propriety of retiring. Frank Malbone understood my look,
and we left the house together, closing the door behind us.
Two, to me, long and anxious hours succeeded, during most of which
time my companion and myself walked about the clearing, questioning
the men who composed the posse, and hearing their reports. These men
were in earnest in what they were doing; for a respect for law is a
distinguishing trait in the American character, and perhaps more so in
New England, whence most of these people came, than in any other part
of the country; the rascality of 'Squire Newcome to the contrary,
notwithstanding. Some observers pretend that this respect for law is
gradually decreasing among us, and that in its place is sensibly
growing up a disposition to substitute the opinions, wishes, and
interests of local majorities, making the country subject to men
instead of principles. The last are eternal and immutable;
and, coming of God, men, however unanimous in sentiment, have no more
right to attempt to change them, than to blaspheme His holy name. All
that the most exalted and largest political liberty can ever
beneficially effect is, to apply these principles to the good of the
human race, in the management of their daily affairs; but, when they
attempt to substitute for these pure and just rules of right, laws
conceived in selfishness and executed by the power of numbers, they
merely exhibit tyranny in its popular form, instead of in its old
aspect of kingly or aristocratic abuses. It is a fatal mistake to
fancy, that freedom is gained by the mere achievement of a right in
the people to govern, unless the manner in which that right is
to be both understood and practised, is closely incorporated with all
the popular notions of what has been obtained. That right to govern
means no more, than the right of the people to avail themselves of the
power thus acquired, to apply the great principles of justice to
their own benefit, and from the possession of which they had hitherto
been excluded. It confers no power to do that which is inherently
wrong, under any pretence whatever; nor would anything have been
gained, had America, as soon as she relieved herself from a sway that
diverted so many of her energies to the increase of the wealth and
influence of a distant people, gone to work to frame a new polity
which should inflict similar wrongs within her own bosom.
My old acquaintance, the hearty Rhode Islander, was one of the
posse; and I had a short conversation with him, while thus kept out of
the house, which may serve to let the reader somewhat into the secret
of the state of things at the clearing. We met near the mill, when my
acquaintance, whose name was Hosmer, commenced as follows:
"A good day to you, major, and a hearty welcome to the open air!"
cried the sturdy yeoman, frankly but respectfully, offering his hand.
"You fell into a pit here, or into a den among thieves; and it 's
downright providential you ever saw and breathed the clear air ag'in!
Wa-a-l, I've been trailin' a little this mornin', along with the
Injin; and no hound has a more sartain scent than he has. We went
into the hollow along the creek; and a desp'rate sight of boards them
varmints have got into the water, I can tell you! If the lot 's worth
forty pounds York, it must be worth every shilling of five hundred.
They 'd a made their fortin's, every blackguard among 'em. I don't
know but I 'd fit myself to save so many boards, and sich beautiful
boards, whether wrongfully or rightfully lumbered!"
Here the hearty old fellow stopped to laugh, which he did exactly
in the full-mouthed, contented way in which he spoke and did
everything else. I profited by the occasion to put in a word in reply.
"You are too honest a man, major, to think of ever making your
boards out of another man's trees," I answered. "This people have
lived by dishonest practices all their lives, and any one can see what
it has come to."
"Yes, I hope I am, 'squire Littlepage—I do hope I am. Hard work
and I an't no how afeard of each other; and so long as a man can
work, and will work, Satan don't get a full grip on him. But,
as I was sayin', the Trackless struck the trail down the creek, though
it was along a somewhat beaten path; but that Injin would make no
more of findin' it in a highway, than you and I would of findin' our
places in the Bible on Sabba'day, where we had left off the Sabba'day
that was gone. I always mark mine with a string the old woman braided
for me on purpose, and a right down good method it is; for, while you
're s'archin' for your specs with one hand, nothin' is easier than to
open the Bible with t'other. Them 's handy things to have, major;
and, when you marry some great lady down at York, sich a one as your
own mother was, for I know'd her and honoured her, as we all did
hereaway—but, when you get married, ask your wife to braid a string
for you, to find the place in the Bible with, and all will go right,
take an old man's word for it."
"I thank you, friend, and will remember the advice, even though I
might happen to marry a lady in this part of the world, and not down
"This part of the world? No, we 've got nobody our way, that 's
good enough for you. Let me see; Newcome has a da'ghter that 's old
enough, but she 's desp'rate humbly (Anglise, homely — the people
of New England reserve `ugly' for moral qualities) and wouldn't suit,
no how. I don't think the Littlepages would overmuch like being warp
and fillin' with the Newcomes."
"No! My father was an old friend — or, an old acquaintance at
least, of Mr. Newcome's, and must know and appreciate his merits."
"Yes — yes — I 'll warrant ye the gin'ral knows him. Wa-a-l!
Human natur' is human natur'; and I do s'pose, if truth must be
spoken, none on us be half as good as we ought to be. We read about
faithful stewards in the good book, and about onfaithful ones too,
squire" — here, the old yeoman stopped to indulge in one of his
hearty laughs, rendering it manifest he felt the full application of
his words. "Wa-a-l, all must allow the bible's a good book. I never
open it, without l'arnin' suthin', and what I l'arn, I strive not to
forgit. But there 's a messenger for you, major, from Thousandacres'
hut, and I fancy 't will turn out that he or Chainbearer is drawing
near his eend."
Lowiny was coming to summon us to the house, sure enough, and I
took my leave of my brother major for the moment. It was plain to me
that this honest-minded yeoman, a good specimen of his class, saw
through Newcome and his tricks, and was not unwilling to advert to
them. Nevertheless, this man had a fault, and one very characteristic
of his "order." He could not speak directly, but would
hint round a subject, instead of coming out at once, and telling
what he had to say; beating the bush to start his game, when he might
have put it up at once, by going in at it directly. Before we parted,
he gave me to understand that Susquesus and my fellow, Jaap, had gone
on in pursuit of the retreating squatters, intending to follow their
trail several miles, in order to make sure that Tobit and his gang
were not hanging around the clearing to watch their property, ready to
strike a blow when it might be least expected.
Dus met me at the door of the cabin, tearful and sad, but with such
a holy calm reigning in her generally brilliant countenance, as
denoted the nature of the solemn business in which she had just been
engaged. She extended both hands to meet mine, and whispered, "Uncle
Chainbearer is anxious to speak to us—on the subject of our
engagement, I think it is." A tremour passed through the frame of
Ursula; but she made an effort, smiled sadly, and continued: "Hear
him patiently, dear Mordaunt, and remember that he is my father, in
one sense, and as fully entitled to my obedience and respect as if I
were really his daughter."
As I entered the room, I could see that Dus had been at prayer.
Prudence looked comforted, but Thousandacres, himself, had a wild and
uncertain expression of countenance, as if doubts had begun to beset
him, at the very moment when they must have been the most tormenting.
I observed that his anxious eye followed the form of Dus, and that he
gazed on her as one would be apt to regard the being who had just
been the instrument of awakening within him the consciousness of his
critical state. But my attention was soon drawn to the other bed.
"Come near me, Mortaunt, lat; ant come hit'er, Dus, my tearest
ta'ghter ant niece. I haf a few worts of importance to say to you,
pefore I go, ant if t'ey pe not sait now, t'ey nefer may pe sait at
all. It 's always pest to `take time py t'e forelock,' t'ey say; ant
surely I cannot pe callet in haste to speak, when not only one foot,
put pot' feet and half my poty, in t'e pargain, may well pe sait to pe
in t'e grafe. Now listen to an olt man's atfice, ant do not stop my
worts until all haf peen spoken, for I grow weak fast, ant haf not
strength enough to t'row away any of it in argument.
"Mortaunt hast sait ast much, in my hearin', ast to atmit t'at he
lofes ant atmires my gal, ant t'at he wishes, ant hopes, ant expects
to make her his wife. On t'e ot'er hant, Ursula, or Dus, my niece,
confesses ant acknowletges t'at she lofes, ant esteems, ant hast a
strong regart for Mortaunt, ant ist willing to pecome his wife. All
t'is ist nat'ral, ant t'ere wast a time when it woult haf mate me ast
happy ast t'e tay ist long to hear as much sait by t'e one or t'e
ot'er of t'e parties. You know, my chiltren, t'at my affection for
you ist equal, ant t'at I consiter you, in all respects put t'at of
worltly contition, to pe as well suitet to pecome man ant wife ast any
young couple in America. Put tuty is tuty, ant it must pe tischarget.
General Littlepage wast my olt colonel; ant, an honest ant an
honouraple man himself, he hast efery right to expect t'at efery one
of his former captains, in partic'lar, woult do unto him as t'ey woult
haf him do unto t'em. Now, t'ough heafen ist heafen, t'is worlt must
pe regartet as t'is worlt, ant t'e rules for its gofernment are to pe
respectet in t'eir place. T'e Malpones pe a respectaple family, I
know; ant t'ough Dus' own fat'er wast a little wilt, ant t'oughtless,
"True, gal, true; he wast your fat'er, ant t'e chilt shoult respect
its parent. I atmit t'at, ant wilt say no more t'an ist apsolutely
necessary; pesites, if Malpone hat his pat qualities, he hat his goot.
A hantsomer man coult not pe fount, far ant near, ast my poor sister
felt, I dares to say; ant he wast prave as a pull-dog, ant generous,
ant gootnaturet, ant many persons was quite captivatet by all t'ese
showy atfantages, ant t'ought him petter ast he really wast. Yes,
yes, Dus, my chilt, he hat his goot qualities, as well ast his pat.
Put, t'e Malpones pe gentlemen, as ist seen py Frank, Dus' prother,
ant py ot'er mempers of t'e family. T'en my mot'er's family, py which
I am relatet to Dus, wast very goot—even petter t'an t'e
Coejemans—and t'e gal is a gentlewoman py pirt'. No one can deny
t'at; put ploot won't do efery t'ing. Chiltren must pe fet, and
clot'et; ant money ist necessary, a'ter all, for t'e harmony ant
comfort of families. I know Matam Littlepage, in partic'lar. She ist
a da'ter of olt Harman Mortaunt, who wast a grant gentleman in t'e
lant, ant t'e owner of Ravensnest, ast well ast of ot'er estates, ant
who kept t'e highest company in t'e profince. Now Matam Littlepage,
who hast peen t'us born, ant etucatet, ant associatet, may not like
t'e itee of hafin' Dus Malpone, a chainpearer's niece, ant a gal t'at
hast peen chainpearer herself, for which I honour ant lofe her so much
t'e more, Mortaunt, lat; put for which an ill-chutgin' worlt wilt
"My mother—my noble-hearted, right-judging and right-feeling
mother—never!" I exclaimed, in a burst of feeling I found it
impossible to control.
My words, manner and earnestness produced a profound impression on
my auditors. A gleam of pained delight shot into and out of the
countenance of Ursula, like the passage of the electric spark.
Chainbearer gazed on me intently, and it was easy to trace, in the
expression of his face, the deep interest he felt in my words, and the
importance he attached to them. As for Frank Malbone, he fairly turned
away to conceal the tears that forced themselves from his eyes.
"If I coult t'ink ast much—if I coult
hope ast much,
Mortaunt," resumed Chainbearer, "it woult pe a plesset relief to my
partin' spirit, for I know general Littlepage well enough to pe
sartain t'at he ist a just ant a right-mintet man, ant t'at, in t'e
long run, he woult see matters ast he ought to see t'em. Wit' Matam
Littlepage I fearet it wast tifferent; for I haf always hearet t'at
t'e Mortaunts was tifferent people, ant felt ast toppin' people
commonly do feel. T'is makes some change in my itees, ant some change
in my plans. Howesefer, my young frients, I haf now to ask of you
each a promise—a solemn promise mate to a tyin' man— ant it ist
"First hear me, Chainbearer," I interposed eagerly, "before you
involve Ursula heedlessly, and I had almost said cruelly, in any
incautious promise, that may make both our lives miserable hereafter.
You, yourself, first invited, tempted, courted me to love her; and
now, when I know and confess her worth, you throw ice on my flame, and
command me to do that of which it is too late to think."
"I own it, I own it, lat, ant hope t'e Lort, in his great marcy,
wilt forgif ant parton t'e great mistake I mate. We haf talket of t'is
pefore, Mortaunt, ant you may rememper I tolt you it was Dus, herself,
who first mate me see t'e trut' in t'e matter, ant how much petter ant
more pecomin' it wast in me to holt you pack, t'an to encourage ant
leat you on. How comes it, my tear gal, t'at you haf forgot all t'is,
ant now seem to wish me to do t'e fery t'ing you atviset me not to
Ursula's face became pale as death; then it flushed to the
brightness of a summer sunset, and she sank on her knees, concealing
her countenance in the coarse quilt of the bed, as her truthful and
ingenuous nature poured out her answer.
"Uncle Chainbearer," she said, "when we first talked on this
subject I had never seen Mordaunt."
I knelt at the side of Ursula, folded her to my bosom, and
endeavoured to express the profound sentiment of gratitude that I
felt at hearing this ingenuous explanation, by such caresses as nature
and feeling dictated. Dus, however, gently extricated herself from my
arms, and rising, we both stood waiting the effect of what had just
been seen and heard on Chainbearer.
"I see t'at natur' is stronger t'an reason, ant opinion, ant
custom," the old man resumed, after a long, meditative pause—"I haf
put little time to spent in t'is matter, housefer, my chiltren, ant
must pring it to a close. Promise me, pot' of you, t'at you will nefer
marry wit'out t'e free consent of General Littlepage, ant t'at of olt
Matam Littlepage, ant young Matam Littlepage, each or all pein'
"I do promise you, uncle Chainbearer," said Dus, with a promptitude
that I could hardly pardon — "I do promise you, and will keep my
promise, as I love you and fear and honour my Maker. 'T would be
misery, to me, to enter a family that was not willing to receive me—"
"Ursula!—Dearest—dearest Ursula—do you reflect!— Am I,
then, nothing in your eyes?"
"It would also be misery to live without you, Mordaunt— but in
one case I should be supported by a sense of having discharged my
duty; while in the other, all that went wrong would appear a
punishment for my own errors."
I would not promise; for, to own the truth, while I never
distrusted my father or mother for a single instant, I did distrust
my dear and venerable grandmother. I knew that she had not only set
her heart on my marrying Priscilla Bayard; but that she had a passion
for making matches in her own family; and I feared that she might have
some of the tenacity of old age in maintaining her opinions. Dus
endeavoured to prevail on me to promise; but I evaded the pledge; and
all solicitations were abandoned in consequence, of a remark that was
soon after made by Chainbearer.
"Nefer mint — nefer mint, darlint;
your promise is enough.
So long as you pe true, what matters it w'et'er Mortaunt is heatstrong
or not? Ant now, children, ast I wish to talk no more of t'e matters
of t'is worlt, put to gif all my metitations ant language to t'e
t'ings of Got, I wilt utter my partin' worts to you. W'et'er you marry
or not, I pray Almighty Got to gif you his pest plessin's in t'is
life, ant in t'at which ist to come. Lif in sich a way, my tear
chiltren, as to pe aple to meet t'is awful moment, in which you see
me placed, wit' hope ant joy, so t'at we may all meet hereafter in t'e
courts of Heafen. Amen."
A short, solemn pause succeeded this benediction, when it was
interrupted by a fearful groan, that struggled out of the broad chest
of Thousandacres. All eyes were turned on the other bed, which
presented a most impressive contrast to the calm scene that surrounded
the parting soul of him about whom we had been gathered. I alone
advanced to the assistance of Prudence, who, woman-like, clung to her
husband to the last; `bone of his bone, and flesh of his flesh.' I
must own, however, that horror paralyzed my limbs; and that when I got
as far as the foot of the squatter's bed, I stood riveted to the place
like a rooted tree.
Thousandacres had been raised, by means of quilts, until half his
body lay almost in a sitting position; a change he had ordered during
the previous scene. His eyes were open; ghastly, wandering, hopeless.
As the lips contracted with the convulsive twitchings of death, they
gave to his grim visage a species of sardonic grin that rendered it
doubly terrific. At this moment a sullen calm came over the
countenance, and all was still. I knew that the last breath remained
to be drawn, and waited for it as the charmed bird gazes at the
basilisk-eye of the snake. It came, drawing aside the lips so as to
show every tooth, and not one was missing in that iron frame; when,
finding the sight too frightful for even my nerves, I veiled my eyes.
When my hand was removed, I caught one glimpse of that dark tenement
in which the spirit of the murderer and squatter had so long dwelt,
Prudence being in the act of closing the glary, but still fiery eyes.
I never before had looked upon so revolting a corpse; and never wish
to see its equal again.
"Mild as a babe reclines himself to rest,
And smiling sleeps upon the mother's breast—
Tranquil, and with a patriarch's hope, he gave
His soul to heaven, his body to the grave.
I saw that neither Chainbearer nor Dus looked at the revolting
object presented in the corpse of Thousandacres, after that selfish
and self-willed being ceased to live. I had another hut prepared
immediately for its reception, and the body was removed to it without
delay. Thither Prudence accompanied the senseless body; and there she
passed the remainder of the day, and the whole of the succeeding
night, attended by Lowiny—with occasional offers of food and
assistance from the men of the posse. Two or three of the latter,
carpenters by trade, made a coffin of pine, and the body was placed in
it in the customary manner. Others dug a grave in the centre of one of
those rough fields that the squatter had appropriated to his own uses,
thus making everything ready for the interment, as soon as the
coroner, who had been sent for, should have had his sitting over the
The removal of the remains of Thousandacres left a sort of holy
calm in the cabin of Chainbearer. My old friend was fast sinking; and
he said but little. His consciousness continued to the last, and Dus
was often at prayer with him in the course of that day. Frank and I
aided in doing the duty of nurses; and we prevailed on Ursula to
retire to the loft, and catch some rest, after her unwearying
watchfulness. It was near sunset that old Andries again addressed
himself particularly to me, who was sitting at his side, Dus being
"I shalt lif till mornin', I now fint, Mortaunt," he said; "put,
let deat' come when it wilt, it ist sent py my Lort ant Maker, ant it
ist welcome. Deat' hast no fears for me."
"He never had, captain Coejemans, as the history of your whole
career in the army shows."
"Yes, lat, t'ere wast a time when I shoult haf peen glat to haf
peen shot on t'e fielt, and to haf diet wit' Montgomery, ant Laurens,
ant Wooster, ant Warren, and sich like gallant heroes; put t'at ist
all gone, now. I 'm like a man t'at hast peen walkin' over a wite
plain, ant who hast come to its tarmination, where he sees pefore him
an entless apyss into which he must next step. At sich a sight, lat,
all t'e trouples, ant lapours, ant tifficulties of t'e plain seem so
triflin', t'at t'ey pe forgotten. Mint, I do not wish to say t'at
eternity is an apyss to me in fears, ant pains, ant tespair; for t'e
gootness of Got hast enlightenet my mint on t'at supject, ant hope,
ant love, ant longin' for t'e presence of my Maker, stant in t'eir
places. Mortaunt, my lat, pefore I quit you, I coult wish to say a
coople of worts to you on t'is sacret supject, if 't will gif no
"Say all, and what you please, dear Chainbearer. We are friends of
the camp and the field, and the advice of no one could be more welcome
to me than yours, given at a moment as solemn and truthful as this."
"T'ank ye, Mortaunt; t'ank ye wit' all my heart. You know how it
hast peen wit' me, since poyhoot; for often ant often you ant I haf
talket over t'ese t'ings in camp. I wast t'rown young upon t'e worlt,
ant wast left wit'out fat'er, or mot'er, to pring myself up. An only
chilt of my own fat'er, for Dus comes from a half-sister you know,
t'ere wast no one to care for me in partic'lar, and I growet up in
great ignorance of t'e Lort of Hosts, ant my tuties to him, ant to
his plesset son, more ast anyt'ing else. Well, Mortaunt, you know how
it ist in t'e woots, ant in t'e army. A man neet not pe fery pat, to
pe far from pein' as goot as ist expectet of him by t'e Almighty, who
gafe him his soul, ant who reteemet him from his sins, ant who holts
out taily t'e means of grace. When I come here, wit' Dus, a chilt
knewest almost as much of t'e real natur' of religion ast I knewest.
Put, t'at precious gal, t'rough Divine grace, hast peen t'e means of
pringin' an olt ant ignorant man to a sense of his true contition, ant
to petter hapits, t'an t'ose you knowet in him. Once I lovet a
frolick, Mortaunt, and punch ant ot'er savoury liquors wast fery
pleasant to me; ay, ant even a'ter years might ant shoult haf teachet
me t'e folly of sich ways. Put you haf not seen t'e glass at my lips
t'is summer, lat, at unseemly moments, or in unseemly numpers of
times, ant t'at ist owin' to t'e confersations I haf hat wit' Dus on
t'e supject. It woult haf tone your heart goot, Mortaunt, to haf seen
t'e tear gal seated on my knee, combin' my olt grey hairs wit' her
telicate white fingers, ant playin' wit my hart, ret cheeks, ast t'e
infant plays wit' t'e cheeks of t'e mot'er, whilst she talket to me
of t'e history of Christ, ant his sufferin's for us all— ant tolt me
t'e way to learn to know my safiour in trut' ant sincerity! You t'ink
Dus hantsome; ant pleasant to look upon; ant pleasant to talk
wit'—put you can nefer know t'e gal in her colours of golt,
Mortaunt, till she pegins to con verse wit' you, unreservetly, apout
Got ant retemption!"
"I can believe anything in favour of Ursula Malbone, my dear
Chainbearer; and no music could be sweeter, to my ears, than thus to
hear you pronouncing her praise."
The death of Chainbearer occurred, as he had himself
prognosticated, about the time of the return of light on the
succeeding morning. A more tranquil end I never witnessed. He ceased
to suffer pain hours before he drew his last breath; but he had
whispered to me, in the course of that day, that he endured agony at
moments. He wished me to conceal the fact from Dus, however, lest it
should increase her grief. "So long ast t'e tear gal ist in ignorance
of my sufferin's," the excellent old man added in his whisper, "she
cannot feel so much for me; since she must have confitence in t'e
value of her own goot work, ant s'pose me to pe only trawin' nearer to
happiness. Put, you ant I know, Mortaunt, t'at men are not often shot
t'rough t'e poty wit'out feelin' much pain; ant I haf hat my
share—yes, I haf hat my share!" Nevertheless, it would have been
difficult for one who was not in the secret to detect the smallest
sign that the sufferer endured a tithe of the agony he actually
underwent. Ursula was deceived; and to this hour she is
ignorant how much her uncle endured. But, as I have said, this pain
ceased altogether about nine o'clock, and Andries even slumbered for
many minutes at a time. Not long before the light returned, however,
he became aroused, and never slumbered again until he fell into the
long, last sleep of death. His niece prayed with him about five; after
which he seemed to consider himself as ready for the final march.
It might have been owing to the age of the patient; but, in this
instance, death announced his near approach by a rapid loss of the
senses. At first came a difficulty of hearing; and then the quick
decay of the sense of sight. The first was made known to us by a
repetition of questions that had already been more than once answered;
while the painful fact that sight, if not absolutely gone, was going,
was brought home to us by the circumstance that, while Dus was
actually hovering over him like a guardian angel, he inquired
anxiously where she was.
"I am here, uncle Chainbearer," answered the dear girl, in
tremulous tones—"here, before you, and am about to wet your lips."
"I want t'e gal—t'at ist—I wish her to pe near when t'e spirit
mounts to Heafen. — Haf her callet, Frank or Mortaunt."
"Dear—dearest uncle, I
am here, now—here before
you— closest to you of all—almost in your arms," answered Dus,
speaking loud enough to make herself heard, by an effort that cost her
a great deal. "Do not think I can ever desert you, until I know that
your spirit has gone to the mercy-seat of God!"
"I knowet it," said Chainbearer, endeavouring to raise his arms to
feel for his niece, who met the effort by receiving his feeble and
clammy hand in both her own. — "Remember my wishes apout Mortaunt,
gal — yet, shoult t'e family agree, marry him wit' my
plessin'—yes, my pest plessin'.—Kiss me, Duss.—Wast t'em your
lips?—t'ey felt colt; ant you are nefer colt of hant or
heart.—Mortaunt— kiss me, too, lat—t'at wast warmer, ant hat
more feelin' in it.—Frank, gif me your hant—I owe you
money—t'ere ist a stockin' half full of tollars.—Your sister wilt
pay my tebts. Ant General Littlepage owes me money—put most he owest
me goot will.—I pray Got to pless him—ant to pless Matam
Littlepage—ant olt Matam Littlepage, t'at I nefer did see— ant
t'e major, or colonel, ast he is now callet—ant all our
rijiment—ant your rijiment, too, Frank, which wast a fery
goot rijiment.—Farewell, Frank—Dus—sister—precious—
Christ-Jesus, receive my—"
These words came with difficulty, and were whispered, rather than
uttered aloud. They came at intervals, too, especially towards the
last, in a way to announce the near approach of the state of which
they were the more immediate precursors. The last syllable I have
recorded was no sooner uttered, than the breath temporarily ceased. I
removed Dus by gentle force, placing her in the arms of her brother,
and turned to note the final respiration. That final breath, in which
the spirit appears to be exhaled, was calm, placid, and as easy as
comports with the separation of soul and body; leaving the hard, aged,
wrinkled, but benevolent countenance of the deceased, with an
expression of happy repose on it, such as the friends of the dead love
to look upon. Of all the deaths I had then witnessed, this was the
most tranquil, and the best calculated to renew the hopes of the
Christian. As for myself, it added a profound respect for the
character and moral qualities of Ursula Malbone, to the love and
admiration I bore her already, the fruits of her beauty, wit, heart,
and other attractions.
The two expected deaths had now taken place, and it only remained
to dispose of the legal questions connected with the events which had
caused them, inter the bodies, and return to the Nest. I saw that one
of the cabins was prepared for the reception of Ursula and Lowiny, the
latter still clinging to us, while the body of Chainbearer was laid
out in a coffin that had been made by the same hands, and at the same
time, as that of Thousandacres. About noon, the coroner arrived, not
'Squire Newcome, but another, for whom he had himself sent; and a jury
was immediately collected from among the members of the posse. The
proceedings were of no great length. I told my story, or as much of
it as was necessary, from beginning to end, and others gave their
testimony as to the proceedings at different periods in the events.
The finding was, in the case of Chainbearer, "murder by the hand of
some person unknown;" and in that of Thousandacres, "accidental
death." The first was right, unquestionably; as to the last, I
conceive, there was as little of "accident" as ever occurred, when a
man was shot through the body by a steady hand, and an unerring eye.
But such was the verdict, and I had nothing but conjectures for my
opinion as to the agency of the Indian in killing the squatter.
That evening, and a cool autumnal night it was, we buried
Thousandacres, in the centre of the field I have mentioned. Of all
his numerous family, Prudence and Lowiny alone were present. The
service was short, and the man of violence descended to mingle with
the clods of the earth, without a common prayer, a verse from Holy
Writ, or any religious rite whatever. The men who had borne the body,
and the few spectators present, filled the grave, rounded it
handsomely, and covered it with sods, and were turning away in
silence, to retrace their steps to the dwellings, when the profound
stillness which had reigned throughout the whole of the brief
ceremony, was suddenly broken by the clear, full voice of Prudence,
who spoke in a tone and manner that arrested every step.
"Men and brethren," said this extraordinary woman, who had so many
of the vices of her condition, relieved by so many of the virtues of
her sex and origin. "Men and brethren," she said, "for I cannot call
ye neighbours, and will not call you foes, I thank ye for this
act of decent regard to the wants of both the departed and the living,
and that ye have thus come to assist in burying my dead out of my
Some such address, even a portion of these very words, were
customary; but as no one had expected anything of the sort at that
moment, they startled as much as they surprised us. As the rest of the
party recovered from its wonder, however, it proceeded towards the
huts, leaving me alone with Prudence, who stood, swinging her body as
usual, by the side of the grave.
"The night threatens to be cool," I said, "and you had better
return with me to the dwellings."
"What's the houses to me, now! Aaron is gone, the b'ys be fled, and
their wives and children, and my children, be fled, leaving
none in this clearin' but Lowiny, who belongs more to your'n in
feelin', than to me and mine, and the body that lies beneath the
clods! There 's property in the housen, that I do s'pose even the law
would give us, and maybe some one may want it. Give me that, Major
Littlepage, to help to clothe and feed my young, and I 'll never
trouble this place ag'in. They 'll not call Aaron a squatter for
takin' up that small piece of 'arth; and one day, perhaps, you 'll
not grudge to me as much more by its side. It 's little more squattin'
that I can do, and the next pitch I make, will be the last."
"There is no wish on my part, good woman, to injure you. Your
effects can be taken away from this place whenever you please, and I
will even help you to do it," I answered, "in such a way as to put it
in the power of your sons to receive the goods without risk to
themselves. I remember to have seen a batteau of some size in the
stream below the mill; can you tell me whether it remains there, or
"Why shouldn't it? The b'ys built it two years ago, to transport
things in, and it 's not likely to go off of itself."
"Well, then, I will use that boat to get your effects off with
safety to yourself. To-morrow, everything of any value that can be
found about this place, and to which you can have any right, shall be
put in that batteau, and I will send the boat, when loaded, down the
stream, by means of my own black and the Indian, who shall abandon it
a mile or two below, where those you may send to look for it, can
take possession and carry the effects to any place you may choose."
The woman seemed surprised, and even affected by this proposal,
though she a little distrusted my motives.
"Can I depend on this, Major Littlepage?" she asked,
doubtingly."Tobit and his brethren would be desp'rate, if any scheme
to take 'em should be set on foot under sich a disguise."
"Tobit and his brethren have nothing to fear from treachery of
mine. Has the word of a gentleman no value in your eyes?"
"I know that gentlemen gin'rally do as they promise; and so I 've
often told Aaron, as a reason for not bein' hard on their property,
but he never would hear to it. Waal, Major Littlepage, I 'll put faith
in you, and will look for the batteau at the place you 've mentioned.
God bless you for this, and may be prosper you in that which is
nearest your heart! We shall never see each other ag'in—farewell."
You surely will return to the house, and pass the night comfortably
under a roof!"
"No; I 'll quit you here. The housen have little in 'em now that I
love, and I shall be happier in the woods."
"But the night is cool, and, ere it be morning it will become even
chilling and cold."
"It's colder in that grave," answered the woman, pointing
mournfully with her long, skinny finger to the mound which covered
the remains of her husband. "I 'm used to the forest, and go to look
for my children. The mother that looks for her children is not to be
kept back by winds and frost. Farewell ag'in, Major Littlepage. May
God remember what you have done, and will do, for me and mine!"
"But you forget your daughter. What is to become of your daughter?"
"Lowiny has taken desp'rately to Dus Malbone, and wishes to stay
with her while Dus wishes to have her stay. If they get tired of each
other, my da'ghter can easily find us. No gal of mine will be long put
out in sich a s'arch."
As all this sounded probable and well enough, I had no further
objections to urge. Prudence waved her hand in adieu, and away she
went across the dreary-looking fields with the strides of a man,
burying her tall, gaunt figure in the shadow of the wood, with as
little hesitation as another would have entered the well-known avenues
of some town. I never saw her afterwards; though one or two messages
from her did reach me through Lowiny.
As I was returning from the grave, Jaap and the Trackless came in
from their scout. The report they made was perfectly satisfactory. By
the trail, which they followed for miles, the squatters had actually
absconded, pushing for some distant point, and nothing more was to be
feared from them in that part of the country. I now gave my orders as
respected the goods and chattels of the family, which were neither
very numerous nor very valuable; and it may as well be said here as
later, that everything was done next day, strictly according to
promise. The first of the messages that I received from Prudence came
within a month, acknowledging the receipt of her effects, even to the
gear of the mill, and expressing her deep gratitude for the favour. I
have reason to think, too, that nearly half the lumber fell into the
hands of these squatters, quite that portion of it being in the stream
at the time we removed from the spot, and floating off with the rains
that soon set in. What was found at a later day was sold, and the
proceeds were appropriated to meet the expenses of, and to make
presents to the posse, as an encouragement to such persons to see the
majesty of the laws maintained.
Early next morning we made our preparations to quit the deserted
mill. Ten of the posse arranged themselves into a party to see the
body of Chainbearer transported to the Nest. This was done by making a
rude bier, that was carried by two horses, one preceding the other,
and having the corpse suspended between them. I remained with the
body; but Dus, attended by Lowiny, and protected by her brother,
preceded us, halting at Chainbearer's huts for our arrival. At this
point we passed the first night of our journey, Dus and Frank again
preceding us, always on foot, to the Nest. At this place, the final
halt of poor Andries, the brother and sister arrived at an hour before
dinner, while we did not get in with the body until the sun was just
As our little procession drew near the house, I saw a number of
wagons and horses in the orchard that spread around it, which, at
first, I mistook for a collection of the tenants, met to do honour to
the manes of Chainbearer. A second look, however, let me into the true
secret of the case. As we drew slowly near, the whole procession on
foot, I discovered the persons of my own dear parents, that of colonel
Follock, those of Kate, Pris. Bayard, Tom Bayard, and even of my
sister Kettletas, in the group. Last of all, I saw, pressing forward
to meet me, yet a little repelled by the appearance of the coffin, my
dear and venerable old grandmother, herself!
Here, then, were assembled nearly all of the house of Littlepage,
with two or three near friends, who did not belong to it! Frank
Malbone was among them, and doubtless had told his story, so that our
visiters could not be surprised at our appearance. On the other hand,
I was at no loss to understand how all this had been brought about.
Frank's express had found the party at Fishkill, had communicated his
intelligence, set everybody in motion on the wings of anxiety and
love, and here they were. The journey had not been particularly rapid
either, plenty of time having elapsed between the time when my seizure
by the squatters was first made known to my friends, and the present
moment, to have got a message to Lilacsbush, and to have received its
Kate afterwards told me we made an imposing and solemn appearance,
as we came up to the gate of Ravensnest, bearing the body of
Chainbearer. In advance marched Susquesus and Jaap, each armed, and
the latter carrying an axe, acting, as occasion required, in the
character of a pioneer. The bearers and attendants came next, two and
two, armed as part of the posse, and carrying packs; next succeeded
the horses with the bier, each led by a keeper; I was the principal
mourner, though armed like the rest, while Chainbearer's poor slaves,
now the property of Dus, brought up the rear, carrying his compass,
chains, and the other emblems of his calling.
We made no halt, but passing the crowd collected on the lawn, we
went through the gate-way, and only came to a stand when we had
reached the centre of the court. As all the arrangements had been
previously made, the next step was to inter the body. I knew that
general Littlepage had often officiated on such occasions, and a
request to that effect was made to him, through Tom Bayard. As for
myself, I said not a word to any of my own family, begging them to
excuse me until I had seen the last offices performed to the remains
of my friend. In half an hour all was ready, and again the solemn
procession was resumed. As before, Susquesus and Jaap led the way, the
latter now carrying a shovel, and acting in the capacity of a sexton.
The Indian bore a flaming torch of pine, the darkness having so far
advanced as to render artificial light necessary. Others of the party
had these natural flambeaux, also, which added greatly to the
solemnity and impressiveness of the scene. General Littlepage preceded
the corpse, carrying a prayer-book. Then followed the bearers, with
the coffin, the horses being now dismissed. Dus, veiled in black from
head to foot, and, leaning on Frank, appeared as chief mourner.
Though this was not strictly in conformity with real New York habits,
yet no one thought the occasion one on which to manifest the customary
reserve of the sex. Everybody in or near the Nest, females as well as
males, appeared to do honour to the memory of Chainbearer, and Dus
came forth as the chief mourner. Priscilla Bayard, leaning on the arm
of her brother Tom, edged herself in next to her friend, though they
had not as yet exchanged a syllable together; and, after all was over,
Pris. told me it was the first funeral she had ever attended, or the
first time she had ever been at a grave. The same was true of my
grandmother, my mother, and both my sisters. I mention this lest some
antiquarian, a thousand years hence, might light on this manuscript,
and mistake our customs. Of late years, the New Englanders are
introducing an innovation on the old usage of the colony; but, among
the upper real New York families, women do not even now attend
funerals. In this respect, I apprehend, we follow the habits of
England, where females of the humbler classes, as I have heard, do,
while their superiors do not appear on such occasions. The reason of
the difference between the two is very easily appreciated, though I
limit my statements to what I conceive to be the facts, without
affecting to philosophize on them.
But, all our ladies attended the funeral of Chainbearer. I came
next to Tom and Priscilla, Kate pressing up to my side, and placing
her arm in mine, without speaking. As she did this, however, the dear
girl laid her little hand on mine, and gave the latter a warm
pressure, as much as to say how greatly she was rejoiced at finding me
safe, and out of the hands of the Philistines. The rest of the party
fell in behind, and, as soon as the Indian saw that everybody was
placed, he moved slowly forward, holding his flaming torch so high as
to light the footsteps of those near him.
Directions had been sent to the 'Nest to dig a grave for Andries,
in the orchard, and at no great distance from the verge of the rocks.
As I afterwards ascertained, it was at the very spot where one of the
most remarkable events in the life of the general had occurred; an
event in which both Susquesus and Jaap had been conspicuous actors.
Thither, then, we proceeded, in funereal order, and with funereal
tread, the torches throwing their wild and appropriate light over the
nearer accessories of the scene. Never did the service sound more
solemnly to me, there being a pathos and richness in my father's voice
that were admirably adapted to the occasion. Then he felt what he was
reading, which does not always happen even when clergymen officiate;
for not only was general Littlepage a close friend of the deceased,
but he was a devout christian. I felt a throb at the heart, as I heard
the fall of the first clods on the coffin of Chainbearer; but
reflection brought its calm, and from that moment Dus became, as it
might be, doubly dear to me. It appeared to me as if all her uncle's
love and care had been transferred to myself, and that, henceforth, I
was to be his representative with his much-beloved niece. I did not
hear a sob from Ursula during the whole ceremony. I knew that she
wept, and wept bitterly: but her self-command was so great as to
prevent any undue obtrusion of her griefs on others. We all remained
at the grave until Jaap had rounded it with his utmost skill, and had
replaced the last sod. Then the procession formed anew, and we
accompanied Frank and Dus to the door of the house, when she entered
and left us without. Priscilla Bayard, however, glided in after her
friend, and I saw them locked in each other's arms, through the window
of the parlour, by the light of the fire within. At the next moment,
they retired together to the little room that Dus had appropriated to
her own particular use.
Now it was that I embraced and was embraced by my friends. My
mother held me long in her arms, called me her "dear, dear boy," and
left tears on my face. Kate did pretty much the same, though she said
nothing. As for Anneke, my dear sister Kettletas, her embrace was like
herself, gentle, sincere, and warm-hearted. Nor must my dear old
grandmother be forgotten; for though she came last of the females, she
held me longest in her arms, and, after "thanking God" devoutly for my
late escape, she protested that "I grew every hour more and more like
the Littlepages." Aunt Mary kissed me with her customary affection.
A portion of these embraces, however, occurred after we had entered
the parlour, which Frank, imitating Dus, had delicately, as well as
considerately, left to ourselves. Colonel Follock, nevertheless, gave
me his salutations and congratulations before we left the court; and
they were as cordial and hearty as if he had been a second father.
"How atmiraply the general reats, Mortaunt," our old friend added,
becoming very Dutch as he got to be excited. "I haf always sayet t'at
Corny Littlepage woult make as goot a tominie as any rector t'ey ever
hat in olt Trinity. Put he mate as goot a soltier, too. Corny ist an
extraordinary man, Mortaunt, ant one tay he wilt pe gofernor."
This was a favourite theory of colonel Van Valkenburgh's. For
himself, he was totally without ambition, whereas he thought nothing
good enough for his friend, Corny Littlepage. Scarce a year passed
that he did not allude to the propriety of elevating `t'e general' to
some high office or other; nor am I certain that his allusions of this
nature may not have had their effect; since my father was
elected to Congress as soon as the new constitution was formed, and
continued to sit as long as his health and comfort would permit.
Supper was prepared for both parties of travellers, of course, and
in due time we all took our seats at table. I say all; but that was
not literally exact, inasmuch as neither Frank, Dus, nor Priscilla
Bayard, appeared among us again that evening. I presume each had
something to eat, though all took the meal apart from the rest of the
After supper I was requested to relate,
seriatim, all the
recent events connected with my visit to the 'Nest, my arrest and
liberation. This I did, of course, seated at my grandmother's side,
the old lady holding one of my hands the whole time I was speaking.
The most profound attention was lent by all the party; and a
thoughtful silence succeeded my narration, which ended only with the
history of our departure from the mills.
"Ay," exclaimed colonel Follock, who was first to speak after I had
terminated my own account. "So much for Yankee religion! I 'll warrant
you now, Corny, t'at t'e fellow, T'ousantacres, coult preach ant pray
just like all t'e rest of our Pilgrim Fat'ers."
"There are rogues of New York birth and extraction, Colonel
Follock, as well as of New England," answered my father, drily; "and
the practice of squatting is incidental to the condition of the
country; as men are certain to make free with the property that is
least protected and watched. Squatters are made by circumstances, and
not by any peculiar disposition of a particular portion of the
population to appropriate the land of others to their own uses. It
would be the same with our hogs and our horses, were they equally
exposed to the depredations of lawless men, let the latter come from
Connecticut or Long Island."
"Let me catch one of t'ese gentry among my horses!" answered the
colonel, with a menacing shake of his head, for, Dutchman-like, he had
a wonderful love for the species— "I woult crop him wit' my own
hants, wit'out chudge or chury."
"That might lead to evils
almost as great as those produced
by squatting, Dirck," returned my father.
"By the way, sir," I put in, knowing that Colonel Follock sometimes
uttered extravagances on such subjects, though as honest and
well-meaning a man as ever breathed—"I have forgotten to mention a
circumstance that may have some interest, as 'squire Newcome is an old
acquaintance of yours." I then recounted all the facts connected with
the first visit of Mr. Jason Newcome to the clearing of Thousandacres,
and the substance of the conversation I had overheard between the
squatter and that upright magistrate. General Littlepage listened with
profound attention; and as for colonel Follock, he raised his
eye-brows, grunted, laughed as well as a man could with his lips
compressing a pipe, and uttered in the best way he was able, under the
circumstances, and with sufficient sententiousness, the single word
"No—no—Dirck," answered my father, "we must not put all these
crimes and vices on our neighbours, for many of them grow, from the
seedling to the tree bearing fruit, in our own soil: I know this man,
Jason Newcome, reasonably well; and, while I have confided in him more
than I ought, perhaps, I have never supposed he was a person in the
least influenced by our conventional notions of honour and integrity.
What is called "Law Honest," I have believed him to be; but it
would seem, in that I have been mistaken. Still, I am not prepared to
admit that the place of his birth, or his education, is the sole cause
of his backslidings."
"Own t'e trut', Corny, like a man ast you pe, ant confess it ist
all our pilgrim fat'ers' ant Tanpury itees. What use ist t'ere in
misleetin' your own son, who wilt come, sooner or later, to see t'e
"I should be sorry, Dirck, to teach my son any narrow prejudices.
The last war has thrown me much among officers from New England, and
the intercourse has taught me to esteem that portion of our
fellow-citizens more than was our custom previously to the Revolution."
"Tush for `intercourse,' ant `esteem,' ant `teachin', Corny! T'e
whole t'ing of squattin' hast crosset t'e Byram rifer, ant unless we
look to it, t'e Yankees wilt get all our lants away from us!"
"Jason Newcome, when I knew him best, and I may say first,"
continued my father, without appearing to pay much attention to the
observations of his friend, the colonel, "was an exceedingly
unfledged, narrow-minded provincial, with a most overweening notion,
certainly, of the high excellencies of the particular state of society
from which he had not long before emerged. He had just as great a
contempt for New York, and New York wit, and New York usages, and
especially for New York religion and morals, as Dirck here seems to
have for all those excellencies as they are exhibited in New England.
In a word, the Yankee despised the Dutchman, and the Dutchman
abominated the Yankee. In all this, there is nothing new, and I fancy
the supercilious feeling of the New England-man can very easily be
traced to his origin in the mother country. But, differences do
exist, I admit, and I consider the feeling with which every New
Englander comes among us, to be, by habit, adverse to our state of
society in many particulars—some good and some bad—and this merely
because he is not accustomed to them. Among other things, as a whole,
the population of these states do not relish the tenures by which our
large estates are held. There are plenty of men, from that quarter of
the country, who are too well taught, and whose honesty is too much of
proof, not to wish to oppose anything that is wrong in connection with
this subject; still, the prejudices of nearly all who come from the
east are opposed to the relation of landlord and tenant, and this
because they do not wish to see large landlords among them, not being
large landlords themselves. I never found any gentleman, or man of
education from New England, who saw any harm in a man's leasing a
single farm to a single tenant, or half-a-dozen farms to half-a-dozen
tenants; proof that it is not the tenure itself with which they
quarrel, but with a class of men who are, or seem to be, their
"I have heard the argument used against the leasehold system, that
it retards the growth and lessens the wealth of any district in which
it may prevail."
"That it does not retard the growth, is proved by the fact that
farms can be leased always, when it often requires years to
sell them. This estate is half filled now, and will be entirely
occupied, long ere Mooseridge will be a third sold. That the latter
may be the richest and the best tilled district, in the end, is quite
probable; and this for the simple reasons that richer men buy than
rent, to begin with, and the owner usually takes better care of his
farm than the mere tenant. Some of the richest, best cultivated, and
most civilized regions on earth, however, are those in which the
tenures of the actual occupants are, and ever have been, merely
leasehold. It is easy to talk, and to feel, in these matters, but not
quite so easy to come to just conclusions as some imagine. There are
portions of England, for instance— Norfolk in particular — where
the improvements are almost entirely owing to the resources and
enterprise of the large proprietors. As a question of political
economy, Mordaunt, depend on it, this is one that has two sides to it;
as a question of mere stomach, each man will be apt to view it as his
gorge is up or down."
Shortly after this was said, the ladies complained of fatigue, a
feeling in which we all participated; and the party broke up for the
night. It seems the General had sent back word by the express, of the
accommodations he should require; which enabled the good people of the
Nest to make such arrangements as rendered everybody reasonably
—The victory is yours, sir."
—It is a glorious one, and well sets off Our scene of mercy; to
the dead we tender Our sorrow; to the living, ample wishes Of future
Beaumont and Fletcher.
Fatigue kept me in bed next morning until it was late. On quitting
the house I passed through the gateway, then always left
open—defence being no longer thought of—and walked musingly
towards the grave of Chainbearer. Previously to doing this, I went as
far as each corner of the building, however, to cast an eye over the
fields. On one side of the house I saw my father and mother, arm in
arm, gazing around them; while on the other, Aunt Mary stood by
herself, looking wistfully in the direction of a wooded ravine, which
had been the scene of some important event in the early history of the
country. When she turned to re enter the building, I found her face
bathed in tears. This respectable woman, who was now well turned of
forty, had lost her betrothed in battle, on that very spot, a quarter
of a century before, and was now gazing on the sad scene for the
first time since the occurrence of the event.
Something almost as interesting, though not of so sad a nature,
also drew my parents to the other side of the house. When I joined
them, an expression of grateful happiness, a little saddened perhaps
by incidental recollections, was on the countenance of each. My dear
mother kissed me affectionately as I drew near, and the general
cordially gave me his hand while wishing me good-morning.
"We were talking of you," observed the last, "at the very moment
you appeared. Ravensnest is now becoming a valuable property; and its
income, added to the products of this large, and very excellent farm
that you have in your own hands, should keep a country-house, not only
in abundance, but with something more. You will naturally think of
marrying ere long, and your mother and I were just saying that you
ought to build a good, substantial stone dwelling on this very spot,
and settle down on your own property. Nothing contributes so much to
the civilization of a country as to dot it with a gentry, and you will
both give and receive advantages by adopting such a course. It is
impossible for those who have never been witnesses of the result, to
appreciate the effect produced by one gentleman's family in a
neighbourhood, in the way of manners, tastes, general intelligence,
and civilization at large."
"I am very willing to do my duty, sir, in this, as in other
particulars; but a good stone country-house, such as a landlord ought
to build on his property, will cost money, and I have no sum in hand
to use for such a purpose."
"The house will cost far less than you suppose. Materials are
cheap, and so is labour just now. Your mother and myself will manage
to let you have a few extra thousands, for our town property is
beginning to tell again, and fear nothing on that score. Make your
selection of a spot, and lay the foundation of the house this autumn;
order the lumber sawed, the lime burned, and other preparations
made—and arrange matters so that you can eat your Christmas dinner,
in the year 1785, in the new residence of Ravensnest. By that time you
will be ready to get married, and we may all come up to the
"Has anything occurred in particular, sir, to induce you to imagine
I am in any haste to marry? You seem to couple matrimony and the new
house together, in a way to make me think there has."
I caught the general there, and, while my mother turned her head
aside and smiled, I saw that my father coloured a little, though he
made out to laugh. After a moment of embarrassment, however, he
answered with spirit — my good, old grandmother coming up and
linking her arm at his vacant side as he did so.
"Why, Mord, my boy, you can have very little of the sensibility of
the Littlepages in you," he said, "if you can be a daily spectator of
such female loveliness as is now near you, and not lose your heart."
Grandmother fidgeted, and so did my mother; for I could see that
both thought the general had made too bold a demonstration. With the
tact of their sex, they would have been more on their guard. I
reflected a moment, and then determined to be frank; the present being
as good a time as any other, to reveal my secret.
"I do not intend to be insincere with you, my dear sir," I
answered, "for I know how much better it is to be open on matters that
are of a common interest in a family, than to affect mysteriousness. I
am a true Littlepage on the score of sensibility to the charms of the
sex, and have not lived in daily familiar intercourse with female
loveliness, without experiencing so much of its influence as to be a
warm advocate for matrimony. It is my wish to marry, and that, too,
before this new abode of Ravensnest can be completed."
The common exclamation of delight that followed this declaration,
sounded in my ears like a knell, for I knew it must be succeeded by a
disappointment exactly proportioned to the present hopes. But I had
gone too far to retreat, and felt bound to explain myself.
"I 'm afraid, my dear parents, and my beloved grandmother," I
continued, as soon as I could speak, conscious of the necessity of
being as prompt as possible, "that you have misunderstood me."
"Not at all, my dear boy—not at all," interrupted my father. "You
admire Priscilla Bayard, but have not yet so far presumed on your
reception as to offer. But what of that? Your modesty is in your
favour; though I will acknowledge that, in my judgment, a gentleman is
bound to let his mistress know, as soon as his own mind is made up,
that he is a suitor for her hand, and that it is ungenerous and
unmanly to wait until certain of success. Remember that, Mordaunt, my
boy; modesty may be carried to a fault in a matter of this sort."
"You still misunderstand me, sir. I have nothing to reproach myself
with on the score of manliness, though I may have gone too far in
another way without consulting my friends. Beyond sincere good-will
and friendship, Priscilla Bayard is nothing to me, and I am nothing to
"Mordaunt!" exclaimed a voice, that I never heard without its
exciting filial tenderness.
"I have said but truth, dearest mother, and truth that ought to
have been sooner said. Miss Bayard would refuse me to-morrow, were I
"You don't know that, Mordaunt—You
can't know it until you
try," interrupted my grandmother, somewhat eagerly. "The minds of
young women are not to be judged by the same rules as those of young
men. Such an offer will not come every day, I can tell her; and she 's
much too discreet and right-judging to do anything so silly. To be
sure, I have no authority to say how Priscilla feels towards you; but,
if her heart is her own, and Mordy Littlepage be not the youth that
has stolen it, I am no judge of my own sex."
"But, you forget, dearest grandmother, that were your flattering
opinions in my behalf all true—as I have good reason to believe they
are not—but were they true, I could only regret it should be so; for
I love another."
This time the sensation was so profound as to produce a common
silence. Just at that moment an interruption occurred, of a nature
both so sweet and singular, as greatly to relieve me at least, and to
preclude the necessity of my giving any immediate account of my
meaning. I will explain how it occurred.
The reader may remember that there were, originally, loops in the
exterior walls of the house at Ravensnest, placed there for the
purposes of defence, and which were used as small windows in these
peaceable times. We were standing beneath one of those loops, not near
enough, however, to be seen or heard by one at the loop, unless we
raised our voices above the tone in which we were actually conversing.
Out of this loop, at that precise instant, issued the low, sweet
strains of one of Dus' exquisite Indian hymns, I might almost call
them, set, as was usual with her, to a plaintive Scotch melody. On
looking towards the grave of Chainbearer, I saw Susquesus standing
over it, and I at once understood the impulse which led Ursula to sing
this song. The words had been explained to me, and I knew that they
alluded to a warrior's grave.
The raised finger, the delighted expression of the eye, the
attitude of intense listening which my beloved mother assumed, each
and all denoted the pleasure and emotion she experienced. When,
however, the singer suddenly changed the language to English, after
the last guttural words of the Onondago had died on our ears, and
commenced to the same strain a solemn English hymn, that was short in
itself, but full of piety and hope, the tears started out of my
mother's and grandmother's eyes, and even General Littlepage sought
an occasion to blow his nose in a very suspicious manner. Presently,
the sounds died away, and that exquisite melody ceased.
"In the name of wonder, Mordaunt, who can this nightingale be?"
demanded my father, for neither of the ladies could speak.
"That is the person, sir, who has my plighted faith—the
woman I must marry, or remain single."
"This, then, must be the Dus Malbone, or Ursula Malbone, of whom I
have heard so much from Priscilla Bayard, within the last day or two,"
said my mother, in the tone and with the manner of one who is suddenly
enlightened on any subject that has much interest with him, or her; "I
ought to have expected something of the sort, if half the praises of
Priscilla be true."
No one had a better mother than myself. Thoroughly a lady in all
that pertains to the character, she was also an humble and pious
Christian. Nevertheless, humility and piety are, in some respects,
particularly the first, matters of convention. The fitness of things
had great merit in the eyes of both my parents, and I cannot say that
it is entirely without it in mine. In nothing is this fitness of
things more appropriate than in equalizing marriages; and few things
are less likely to be overlooked by a discreet parent, than to have
all proper care that the child connects itself prudently; and that,
too, as much in reference to station, habits, opinions, breeding in
particular, and the general way of thinking, as to fortune. Principles
are inferred among people of principle, as a matter of course; but
subordinate to these, worldly position is ever of great importance in
the eyes of parents. My parents could not be very different from
those of other people, and I could see that both now thought that
Ursula Malbone, the Chainbearer's niece, one who had actually carried
chain herself, for I had lightly mentioned that circumstance in one of
my letters, was scarcely a suitable match for the only son of General
Littlepage. Neither said much, however; though my father did put one
or two questions that were somewhat to the point, ere we separated.
"Am I to understand, Mordaunt," he asked, with a little of the
gravity a parent might be expected to exhibit on hearing so unpleasant
an announcement—"Am I to understand, Mordaunt, that you are actually
engaged to this young— eh-eh-eh—this young person?"
"Do not hesitate, my dear sir, to call Ursula Malbone a lady. She
is a lady by both birth and education. The last, most certainly, or
she never could have stood in the relation she does to your family."
"And what relation is that, sir?"
"It is just this, my dear father. I have offered to Ursula—
indiscreetly, hastily, if you will, as I ought to have waited to
consult you and my mother—but we do not always follow the dictates
of propriety in a matter of so much feeling. I dare say, sir, you did
better"—here I saw a slight smile on the pretty mouth of my mother,
and I began to suspect that the general had been no more dutiful than
myself in this particular—"but I hope my forgetfulness will be
excused, on account of the influence of a passion which we all find
so hard to resist."
"But, what is the relation this young—lady—bears to my family,
Mordaunt? You are not already married?"
"Far from it, sir; I should not so far have failed in respect to
you three—or even to Anneke and Katrinke. I have offered, and
have been conditionally accepted."
"Which condition is—"
"The consent of you three; the perfect approbation of my whole near
connection. I believe that Dus, dear Dus; does love me, and
that she would cheerfully give me her hand, were she certain of its
being agreeable to you, but that no persuasion of mine will ever
induce her so to do, under other circumstances."
"This is something, for it shows the girl has principle," answered
my father. "Why, who goes there?"
"Who went there?" sure enough. There went Frank Malbone and
Priscilla Bayard, arm and arm, and so engrossed in conversation that
they did not see who were observing them. I dare say they fancied they
were in the woods, quite sheltered from curious eyes, and at liberty
to saunter about, as much occupied with each other as they pleased;
or, what is more probable, that they thought of nothing, just then,
but of themselves. They came out of the court, and walked off swiftly
into the orchard, appearing to tread on air, and seemingly as happy as
the birds that were carolling on the surrounding trees.
"There, sir," I said, significantly—"There, my dear mother, is
the proof that Miss Priscilla Bayard will not break her heart on my
"This is very extraordinary, indeed!" exclaimed my much
disappointed grandmother — "Is not that the young man who we were
told acted as Chainbearer's surveyor, Corny?"
"It is, my good mother, and a very proper and agreeable youth he
is, as I know by a conversation held with him last night. It is very
plain we have all been mistaken"—added the general; "though I do not
know that we ought to say that we have any of us been deceived."
"Here comes Kate, with a face which announces that she is fully
mistress of the secret," I put in, perceiving my sister coming round
our angle of the building, with a countenance which I knew betokened
that her mind and heart were full. She joined us, took my arm without
speaking, and followed my father who led his wife and mother to a rude
bench that had been placed at the foot of a tree, where we all took
seats, each waiting for some other to speak. My grandmother broke the
"Do you see Pris. Bayard yonder, walking with that Mr. Frank
Chainbearer, or Surveyor, or whatever his name is, Katrinke dear?"
asked the good old lady.
"I do, grandmamma," answered the good
young lady, in a voice
so pitched as to be hardly audible.
"And can you explain what it means, darling?"
"I believe I can, ma'am — if — if — Mordaunt wishes to hear."
"Don't mind me, Kate," returned I, smiling—"My heart will never
be broken by Miss Priscilla Bayard."
The look of sisterly solicitude that I received from that
honest-hearted girl, ought to have made me feel very grateful; and it
did make me feel grateful, for a sister's affection is a sweet thing.
I believe the calmness of my countenance and its smiling expression
encouraged the dear creature, for she now began to tell her story as
fast as was at all in rule.
"The meaning, then, is this," said Kate. "That gentleman is Mr.
Francis Malbone, and he is the engaged suitor of Priscilla. I have had
all the facts from her own mouth."
"Will you, then, let us hear as many of them as it is proper we
should know?" said the general, gravely.
"There is no wish on the part of Priscilla to conceal anything. She
has known Mr. Malbone several years, and they have been attached all
that time. Nothing impeded the affair but his poverty. Old Mr. Bayard
objected to that, of course you know, as fathers will, and Priscilla
would not engage herself. But — do you not remember to have heard of
the death of an old Mrs. Hazleton, at Bath in England, this summer,
mamma? The Bayards are in half-mourning for her, now."
"Certainly, my dear—Mrs. Hazleton was Mr. Bayard's aunt; I knew
her well once, before she became a refugee— her husband was a
half-pay Colonel Hazleton of the royal artillery; and they were tories
of course. The aunt was named Priscilla, and was godmother to our
"Just so — Well, this lady has left Pris, ten thousand pounds in
the English funds, and the Bayards now consent to her marrying Mr.
Malbone. They say, too, but I don't think that can have had any
influence, for Mr. Bayard and his wife are particularly disinterested
people, as indeed are all the family"—added Kate, hesitatingly and
looking down: "but they say that the death of some young man
will probably leave Mr. Malbone the heir of an aged cousin of his
"And now, my dear father and mother, you will perceive that Miss
Bayard will not break her heart because I happen to love Dus Malbone.
I see by your look, Katrinke, that you have had some hint of this
"I have; and what is more, I have seen the young lady, and can
hardly wonder at it. Anneke and I have been passing two hours with her
this morning; and, since you cannot get Pris., I know no other,
Mordaunt who will so thoroughly supply her place. Anneke is in love
with her also!"
Dear, good, sober-minded, judicious Anneke; — she had penetrated
into the true character of Dus, in a single interview; a circumstance
that I ascribed to the impression left by the recent death of
Chainbearer. Ordinarily, that spirited young woman would not have
permitted a sufficiently near approach in a first interview, to permit
a discovery of so many of her sterling qualities; but now her heart
was softened, and her spirit so much subdued, one of Anneke's
habitual gentleness would be very apt to win on her sympathies, and
draw the two close to each other. The reader is not to suppose that
Dus had opened her mind like a vulgar school-girl, and made my sister
a confidant of the relation in which she and I stood to one another.
She had not said, or hinted, a syllable on the subject. The
information Kate possessed had come from Priscilla Bayard, who
obtained it from Frank, as a matter of course; and my sister
subsequently admitted to me that her friend's happiness was augmented
by the knowledge that I should not be a sufferer by her earlier
preference for Malbone, and that she was likely to have me for a
brother-in-law. All this I gleaned from Kate, in our subsequent
"This is extraordinary!" exclaimed the general—"very
extraordinary; and to me quite unexpected."
"We can have no right to control Miss Bayard's choice," observed my
discreet and high-principled mother. "She is her own mistress, so far
as we are concerned; and if her own parents approve of her
choice, the less we say about it the better. As respects this
connection of Mordaunt's, I hope he, himself, will admit of our right
to have opinions."
"Perfectly so, my dearest mother. All I ask of you is to express no
opinion, however, until you have seen Ursula— have become acquainted
with her, and are qualified to judge of her fitness to be not only
mine, but any man's wife. I ask but this of your justice."
"It is just; and I shall act on the suggestion," observed my
father. "You have a right to demand this of us, Mordaunt, and I
can promise for your mother, as well as myself."
"After all, Anneke," put in grandmother, "I am not sure we have no
right to complain of Miss Bayard's conduct towards us. Had she dropped
the remotest hint of her being engaged to this Malbrook, I would never
have endeavoured to lead my grandson to think of her seriously for one
"Your grandson never
has thought of her seriously for one
moment, or for half a moment, dearest grandmother," I cried; "so give
your mind no concern on that subject. Nothing of the sort could make
me happier than to know that Priscilla Bayard is to marry Frank
Malbone; unless it were to be certain I am myself to marry the
"How can this be? — How could such a thing possibly come to pass,
my child! I do not remember ever to have heard of this
person—much less to have spoken to you on the subject of such a
"Oh! dearest grandmother, we truant children sometimes get conceits
of this nature into our heads and hearts, without stopping to consult
our relatives as we ought to do."
But it is useless to repeat all that was said in the long and
desultory conversation that followed. I had no reason to be
dissatisfied with my parents, who ever manifested towards me not only
great discretion, but great indulgence. I confess, when a domestic
came to say that Miss Dus was at the breakfast-table, waiting for us
alone, I trembled a little for the effect that might be produced on
her appearance by the scenes she had lately gone through. She had wept
a great deal in the course of the last week; and when I last saw her,
which was the glimpse caught at the funeral, she was pale and dejected
in aspect. A lover is so jealous of even the impression that his
mistress will make on those he wishes to admire her, that I felt
particularly uncomfortable as we entered first the court, then the
house, and last the eating-room.
A spacious and ample board had been spread for the accommodation of
our large party. Anneke, Priscilla, Frank Malbone, Aunt Mary, and
Ursula, were already seated when we entered, Dus occupying the head of
the table. No one had commenced the meal, nor had the young mistress
of the board even begun to pour out the tea and coffee (for my
presence had brought abundance into the house), but there she sat,
respectfully waiting for those to approach who might be properly
considered the principal guests. I thought Dus had never appeared more
lovely. Her dress was a neatlyarranged and tasteful half-mourning;
with which her golden hair, rosy cheeks, and bright eyes, contrasted
admirably. The cheeks of Dus, too, had recovered their colour, and her
eyes their brightness. The fact was, that the news of her brother's
improved fortunes had even been better than we were just told. Frank
found letters for him at the 'Nest, announcing the death of his
kinsman, with a pressing invitation to join the bereaved parent, then
an aged and bedridden invalid, as his adopted son. He was urged to
bring Dus with him; and he received a handsome remittance to enable
him so to do without inconvenience to himself. This alone would have
brought happiness back to the countenance of the poor and dependent.
Dus mourned her uncle in sincerity, and she long continued to mourn
for him; but her mourning was that of the Christian who hoped.
Chainbearer's hurt had occurred several days before; and the first
feeling of sorrow had become lessened by time and reflection. His end
had been happy; and he was now believed to be enjoying the fruition of
his penitence through the sacrifice of the Son of God.
It was easy to detect the surprise that appeared in the
countenances of all my parents, as Miss Malbone rose, like one who
was now confident of her position and claims to give and to receive
the salutations that were proper for the occasion. Never did any young
woman acquit herself better than Dus, who curtsied gracefully as a
queen; while she returned the compliments she received with the
selfpossession of one bred in courts. To this she was largely
indebted to nature; though her schooling had been good. Many of the
first young women of the colony had been her companions for years; and
in that day, manner was far more attended to than it is getting to be
amongst us now. My mother was delighted; for, as she afterwards
assured me, her mind was already made up to receive Ursula as a
daughter; since she thought it due to honour to redeem my plighted
faith. General Littlepage might not have been so very scrupulous;
though even he admitted the right of the obligations I had incurred;
but Dus fairly carried him by storm. The tempered sadness of her mien
gave an exquisite finish to her beauty, rendering all she said, did,
and looked, that morning, perfect. In a word, everybody was wondering;
but everybody was pleased. An hour or two later, and after the ladies
had been alone together, my excellent grandmother came to me and
desired to have a little conversation with me apart. We found a seat
in the arbour of the court; and my venerable parent commenced as
"Well, Mordaunt, my dear, it
is time that you should think
of marrying and of settling in life. As Miss Bayard is happily
engaged, I do not see that you can do better than to offer to Miss
Malbone. Never have I seen so beautiful a creature; and the
generous-minded Pris. tells me she is as good, and virtuous, and wise,
as she is lovely. She is well born and well educated; and may have a
good fortune in the bargain, if that old Mr. Malbone is as rich as
they tell me is, and has conscience enough to make a just will. Take
my advice, my dear son, and marry Ursula Malbone."
Dear grandmother! I did take her advice; and I am persuaded that,
to her dying day, she was all the more happy under the impression that
she had materially aided in bringing about the connection.
As General Littlepage and Colonel Follock had come so far, they
chose to remain a month or two, in order to look after their lands,
and to revisit some scenes in that part of the world in which both
felt a deep interest. My mother, and Aunt Mary, too, seemed content to
remain; for they remembered events which the adjacent country recalled
to their minds with a melancholy pleasure. In the meanwhile Frank
went to meet his cousin, and had time to return, ere our party was
disposed to break up. During his absence everything was arranged for
my marriage with his sister. This event took place just two months, to
a day, from that of the funeral of Chainbearer. A clergyman was
obtained from Albany to perform the ceremony, as neither party
belonged to the Congregational order; and, an hour after we were
united, everybody left us alone at the 'Nest, on their return south. I
say everybody, though Jaap and Susquesus were exceptions. These two
remained, and remain to this hour; though the negro did return to
Lilacsbush and Satanstoe to assemble his family, and to pay occasional
There was much profound feeling, but little parade at the wedding.
My mother had got to love Ursula as if she were her own child; and I
had not only the pleasure, but the triumph of seeing the manner in
which my betrothed rendered herself from day to day, and this without
any other means than the most artless and natural, more and more
acceptable to my friends.
"This is perfect happiness," said Dus to me, one lovely afternoon
that we were strolling in company along the cliff near the Nest—and
a few minutes after she had left my mother's arms, who had embraced
and blessed her, as a pious parent does both to a well-beloved
child—"This is perfect happiness, Mordaunt, to be the chosen of you,
and the accepted of your parents! I never knew, until now, what it is
to have a parent. Uncle Chainbearer did all he could for me, and I
shall cherish his memory to my latest breath—but uncle Chainbearer
could never supply the place of a mother. How blessed, how
undeservedly blessed does my lot promise to become! You will give me
not only parents, and parents I can love as well as if they were
those granted by nature, but you will give me also two such sisters
as few others possess!"
"And I give you all, dearest Dus, encumbered with such a husband
that I am almost afraid you will fancy the other gifts too dearly
purchased, when you come to know him better."
The ingenuous, grateful look, the conscious blush, and the
thoughtful, pensive smile, each and all said that my pleased and
partial listener had no concern on that score. Had I then understood
the sex as well as I now do, I might have foreseen that a wife's
affection augments, instead of diminishing; that the love the pure and
devoted matron bears her husband increases with time, and gets to be a
part and parcel of her moral existence. I am no advocate of what are
called, strictly, "marriages of reason"—I think the solemn and
enduring knot should be tied by the hands of warm-hearted, impulsive
affection, increased and strengthened by knowledge and confidential
minglings of thought and feeling; but, I have lived long enough to
understand that, lively as are the passions of youth, they produce no
delights like those which spring from the tried and deep affections
of a happy married life.
And we were married! The ceremony took place before breakfast, in
order to enable our friends to reach the great highway ere night
should overtake them. The meal that succeeded was silent and
thoughtful. Then my dear, dear mother took Dus in her arms, and kissed
and blessed her again and again. My honoured father did the same,
bidding my weeping, but happy bride remember that she was now his
daughter. "Mordaunt is a good fellow, at the bottom, dear, and will
love and cherish you, as he has promised," added the general, blowing
his nose to conceal his emotion; "but, should he ever forget any part
of his vows, come to me, and I will visit him with a father's
"No fear of Mordaunt—no fear of Mordaunt," put in my worthy
grandmother, who succeeded in the temporary leave-taking—"he is a
Littlepage, and all the Littlepages make excellent husbands. The boy
is as like what his grandfather was, at his time of life, as one pea
is like another. God bless you, daughter—You will visit me at
Satanstoe this fall, when I shall have great pleasure in showing you my general's picture."
Anneke, and Kate, and Pris. Bayard hugged Dus in such a way that I
was afraid they would eat her up, while Frank took his leave of his
sister with the manly tenderness he always showed her. The fellow was
too happy himself, however, to be shedding many tears, though Dus
actually sobbed on his bosom. The dear creature was doubtless
running over the past, in her mind, and putting it in contrast with
the blessed present.
At the end of the honey-moon, I loved Dus twice as much as I had
loved her the hour we were married. Had any one told me this was
possible, I should have derided the thought; but thus it was, and, I
may truly add, thus has it ever continued to be. At the end of that
month, we left Ravensnest for Lilacsbush, when I had the pleasure of
seeing my bride duly introduced to that portion of what is called the
world, to which she properly belonged. Previously to quitting the
Patent, however, all my plans were made, and contracts were signed,
preparatory to the construction of the house that my father had
mentioned. The foundation was laid that same season, and we did keep
our Christmas holidays in it, the following year, by which time Dus
had made me the father of a noble boy.
It is scarcely necessary to say that Frank and Pris. were married,
as were Tom and Kate, at no great distance of time after ourselves.
Both of those matches have turned out to be perfectly happy. Old Mr.
Malbone did not survive the winter, and he left the whole of a very
sufficient estate to his kinsman. Frank was desirous of making his
sister a sharer in his good fortune, but I would not hear of it. Dus
was treasure enough of herself, and wanted not money to enhance her
value in my eyes. I thought so in 1785, and I think so to-day. We got
some plate and presents, that were well enough, but never would accept
any portion of the property. The rapid growth of New York brought our
vacant lots in that thriving town into the market, and we soon became
richer than was necessary to happiness. I hope the gifts of Providence
have never been abused. Of one thing I am certain; Dus has ever been
far more prized by me than any other of my possessions.
I ought to say a word of Jaap and the Indian. Both are still
living, and both dwell at the Nest. For the Indian I caused a
habitation to be erected in a certain ravine at no great distance from
the house, and which had been the scene of one of his early exploits
in that part of the country. Here he lives, and has lived for the last
twenty years, and here he hopes to die. He gets his food, blankets,
and whatever else is necessary to supply his few wants, at the Nest,
coming and going at will. He is now drawing fast on old age, but
retains his elastic step, upright movement, and vigour. I do not see
but he may live to be a hundred. The same is true of Jaap. The old
fellow holds on, and enjoys life like a true descendant of the
Africans. He and Sus are inseparable, and often stray off into the
forest on long hunts, even in the winter, returning with loads of
venison, wild turkeys, and other game. The negro dwells at the Nest,
but half his time he sleeps in the wigwam, as we call the dwelling of
Sus. The two old fellows dispute frequently, and occasionally they
quarrel; but, as neither drinks, the quarrels are never very long or
very serious. They generally grow out of differences of opinion on
moral philosophy, as connected with their respective views of the past
and the future.
Lowiny remained with us as a maid until she made a very suitable
marriage with one of my own tenants. For a little while after my
marriage I thought she was melancholy, probably through regret for her
absent and dispersed family; but this feeling soon disappeared, and
she became contented and happy. Her good looks improved under the
influence of civilization, and I have the satisfaction of adding that
she never has had any reason to regret having attached herself to us.
To this moment she is an out-door dependant and humble friend of my
wife, and we find her particularly useful in cases of illness among
What shall I say of 'squire Newcome? He lived to a good old age,
dying quite recently; and, with many who knew, or, rather, who did not know him, he passed for a portion of the salt of the earth. I
never proceeded against him on account of his connection with the
squatters, and he lived his time in a sort of lingering uncertainty as
to my knowledge of his tricks. That man became a sort of a deacon in
his church, was more than once a member of the Assembly, and continued
to be a favourite recipient of public favours down to his last moment;
and this simply because his habits brought him near to the mass, and
because he took the most elaborate care never to tell them a truth
that was unpleasant. He once had the temerity to run against me for
Congress, but that experiment proved to be a failure. Had it been
attempted forty years later, it might have succeeded better. Jason
died poor and in debt, after all his knavery and schemes. Avidity for
gold had overreached itself in his case, as it does in those of so
many others. His descendants, notwithstanding, remain with us; and,
while they have succeeded to very little in the way of property, they
are the legitimate heritors of their ancestor's vulgarity of mind and
manners—of his tricks, his dissimulations, and his frauds. This is
the way in which Providence "visits the sins of the fathers upon the
children, unto the third and fourth generations."
Little more remains to be said. The owners of Mooseridge have
succeeded in selling all the lots they wished to put into the market,
and large sums stand secured on them, in the way of bonds and
mortgages. Anneke and Kate have received fair portions of this
property, including much that belonged to Colonel Follock, who now
lives altogether with my parents. Aunt Mary, I regret to say, died a
few years since, a victim to small-pox. She never married, of course,
and left her handsome property between my sisters and a certain lady
of the name of Ten Eyck, who needed it, and whose principal claim
consisted in her being a third cousin of her former lover, I believe.
My mother mourned the death of her friend sincerely, as did we all;
but we had the consolation of believing her happy with the angels.
I caused to be erected, in the extensive grounds that were laid out
around the new dwelling at the Nest, a suitable monument over the
grave of Chainbearer. It bore a simple inscription, and one that my
children now often read and comment on with pleasure. We all speak of
him as "Uncle Chainbearer" to this hour, and his grave is never
mentioned in other terms than those of "Uncle Chainbearer's grave."
Excellent old man! That he was not superior to the failings of human
nature, need not be said; but, so long as he lived, he lived a proof
of how much more respectable and estimable is the man who takes
simplicity, and honesty, and principle, and truth for his guide, than
he who endeavours to struggle through the world by the aid of
falsehood, chicanery, and trick.
THE END OF CHAINBEARER.