"And I could weep "-th' Oneida chief His descant wildly thus begun-" But that I may not stain with grief The death-song of my father's son."-Gertrude OF Wyoming.
It was yet early on the following morning, when Elizabeth and Louisa met by appointment, and proceeded to the store of Monsieur Le Quoi, in order to redeem the pledge the former had given to the Leather- Stocking. The people were again assembling for the business of the day, but the hour was too soon for a crowd, and the ladies found the place in possession of its polite owner, Billy Kirby, one female customer, and the boy who did the duty of helper or clerk.
Monsieur Le Quoi was perusing a packet of letters with manifest delight, while the wood-chopper, with one hand thrust in his bosom, and the other in the folds of his jacket, holding an axe under his right arm, stood sympathizing in the Frenchman's pleasure with good- natured interest. The freedom of manners that prevailed in the new settlements commonly levelled all difference in rank, and with it, frequently, all considerations of education and intelligence. At the time the ladies entered the store, they were unseen by the owner, who was saying to Kirby:
"Ah! ha! Monsieur Beel, dis lettair mak me de most happi of mans. Ah! ma chÃ©re France! I vill see you again."
"I rejoice, monsieur, at anything that contributes to your happiness," said Elizabeth, " but hope we are not going to lose you entirely."
The complaisant shopkeeper changed the language to French and recounted rapidly to Elizabeth his hopes of being permitted to return to his own country. Habit had, however, so far altered the manners of this pliable person age, that he continued to serve the wood-chopper, who was in quest of some tobacco, while he related to his more gentle visitor the happy change that had taken place in the dispositions of his own countrymen.
The amount of it all was, that Mr. Le Quoi, who had fled from his own country more through terror than because he was offensive to the ruling powers in France, had succeeded at length in getting an assurance that his return to the West Indies would be unnoticed; and the Frenchman, who had sunk into the character of a country shopkeeper with so much grace, was about to emerge again from his obscurity into his proper level in society.
We need not repeat the civil things that passed between the parties on this occasion, nor recount the endless repetitions of sorrow that the delighted Frenchman expressed at being compelled to quit the society of Miss Temple. Elizabeth took an opportunity, during this expenditure of polite expressions, to purchase the powder privately of the boy, who bore the generic appellation of Jonathan. Be fore they parted, however, Mr. Le Quoi, who seemed to think that he had not said enough, solicited the honor of a private interview with the heiress, with a gravity in his air that announced the importance of the subject. After conceding the favor, and appointing a more favorable time for the meeting, Elizabeth succeeded in getting out of the store, into which the countrymen now began to enter, as usual, where they met with the same attention and bien seance as formerly.
Elizabeth and Louisa pursued their walk as far as the bridge in profound silence; but when they reached that place the latter stopped, and appeared anxious to utter something that her diffidence suppressed.
"Are you ill, Louisa?" exclaimed Miss Temple; "had we not better return, and seek another opportunity to meet the old man?"
"Not ill, but terrified. Oh! I never, never can go on that hill again with you only. I am not equal to it, in deed I am not."
This was an unexpected declaration to Elizabeth, who, although she experienced no idle apprehension of a danger that no longer existed, felt most sensitively all the delicacy of maiden modesty. She stood for some time, deeply reflecting within herself; but, sensible it was a time for action instead of reflection, she struggled to shake off her hesitation, and replied, firmly:
"Well, then it must be done by me alone. There is no other than yourself to be trusted, or poor old Leather-Stocking will be discovered. Wait for me in the edge of these woods, that at least I may not be seen strolling in the hills by myself just now, One would not wish to create remarks, Louisa-if-if- You will wait for me, dear girl?"
"A year, in sight of the village, Miss Temple,' returned the agitated Louisa, "but do not, do not ask me to go on that hill."
Elizabeth found that her companion was really unable to proceed, and they completed their arrangement by posting Louisa out of the observation of the people who occasionally passed, but nigh the road, and in plain view of the whole valley. Miss Temple then proceeded alone. She ascended the road which has been so often mentioned in our narrative, with an elastic and firm step, fearful that the delay in the store of Mr. Le Quoi, and the time necessary for reaching the summit, would prevent her being punctual to the appointment Whenever she pressed an opening in the bushes, she would pause for breath, or, per haps, drawn from her pursuit by the picture at her feet, would linger a moment to gaze at the beauties of the valley. The long drought had, however, changed its coat of verdure to a hue of brown, and, though the same localities were there, the view wanted the lively and cheering aspect of early summer. Even the heavens seemed to share in the dried appearance of the earth, for the sun was concealed by a haziness in the atmosphere, which looked like a thin smoke without a particle of moisture, if such a thing were possible. The blue sky was scarcely to be seen, though now, and then there was a faint lighting up in spots through which masses of rolling vapor could be discerned gathering around the horizon, as if nature were struggling to collect her floods for the relief of man. The very atmosphere that Elizabeth inhaled was hot and dry, and by the time she reached the point where the course led her from the highway she experienced a sensation like suffocation. But, disregarding her feelings, she hastened to execute her mission, dwelling on nothing but the disappointment, and even the helplessness, the hunter would experience without her aid.
On the summit of the mountain which Judge Temple had named the "Vision," a little spot had been cleared, in order that a better view might he obtained of the village and the valley. At this point Elizabeth understood the hunter she was to meet him; and thither she urged her way, as expeditiously as the difficulty of the ascent, and the impediment of a forest, in a state of nature, would admit. Numberless were the fragments of rocks, trunks of fallen trees, and branches, with which she had to contend; but every difficulty vanished before her resolution, and, by her own watch, she stood on the desired spot several minutes before the appointed hour.
After resting a moment on the end of a log, Miss Temple cast a glance about her in quest of her old friend, but he was evidently not in the clearing; she arose and walked around its skirts, examining every place where she thought it probable Natty might deem it prudent to conceal him self. Her search was fruitless; and, after exhausting not only herself, but her conjectures, in efforts to discover or imagine his situation, she ventured to trust her voice in that solitary place.
"Natty! Leather-Stocking! old man!" she called aloud, in every direction; but no answer was given, excepting the reverberations of her own clear tones, as they were echoed in the parched forest.
Elizabeth approached the brow of the mountain, where a faint cry, like the noise produced by striking the hand against the mouth, at the same time that the breath is strongly exhaled, was heard answering to her own voice. Not doubting in the least that it was the Leather-Stocking lying in wait for her, and who gave that signal to indicate the place where he was to be found, Elizabeth descended for near a hundred feet, until she gained a little natural terrace, thinly scattered with trees, that grew in the fissures of the rocks, which were covered by a scanty soil. She had advanced to the edge of this platform, and was gazing over the perpendicular precipice that formed its face, when a rustling among the dry leaves near her drew her eyes in another direction. Our heroine certainly was startled by the object that she then saw, but a moment restored her self-possession, and she advanced firmly, and with some interest in her manner, to the spot.
Mohegan was seated on the trunk of a fallen oak, with his tawny visage turned toward her, and his eyes fixed on her face with an expression of wildness and fire, that would have terrified a less resolute female. His blanket had fallen from his shoulders, and was lying in folds around him, leaving his breast, arms, and most of his body bare. 'The medallion of Washington reposed on his chest, a badge of distinction that Elizabeth well knew he only produced on great and solemn occasions. But the whole appearance of the aged chief was more studied than common, and in some particulars it was terrific. The long black hair was plaited on his head, failing away, so as to expose his high forehead and piercing eyes. In the enormous incisions of his ears were entwined ornaments of silver, beads, and porcupine's quills, mingled in a rude taste, and after the Indian fashions. A large drop, composed of similar materials, was suspended from the cartilage of his nose, and, falling below his lips, rested on his chin. Streaks of red paint crossed his wrinkled brow, and were traced down his cheeks, with such variations in the lines as caprice or custom suggested. His body was also colored in the same manner; the whole exhibiting an Indian warrior prepared for some event of more than usual moment.
"John! how fare you, worthy John?" said Elizabeth, as she approached him; "you have long been a stranger in the village. You promised me a willow basket, and I have long had a shirt of calico in readiness for you."
The Indian looked steadily at her for some time without answering, and then, shaking his head, he replied, in his low, guttural tones:
"John's hand can make baskets no more-he wants no shirt."
But if he should, he will know where to come for it," returned Miss Temple. "Indeed old John. I feel as if you had a natural right to order what you will from us."
"Daughter," said the Indian, "listen : Six times ten hot summers have passed since John was young tall like a pine; straight like the bullet of Hawk-eye, strong as all buffalo; spry as the cat of the mountain. He was strong, and a warrior like the Young Eagle. If his tribe wanted to track the Maquas for many suns, the eye of Chingachgook found the print of their moccasins. If the people feasted and were glad, as they counted the scalps of their enemies, it was on his pole they hung. If the squaws cried because there was no meat for their children, he was the first in the chase. His bullet was swifter than the deer. Daughter, then Chingachgook struck his tomahawk into the trees; it was to tell the lazy ones where to find him and the Mingoes- but he made no baskets."
"Those times have gone by, old warrior," returned Elizabeth ; " since then your people have disappeared, and, in place of chasing your enemies, you have learned to fear God and to live at peace."
"Stand here, daughter, where you can see the great spring, the wigwams of your father, and the land on the crooked river. John was young when his tribe gave away the country, in council, from where the blue mountain stands above the water, to where the Susquehanna is hid by the trees. All this, and all that grew in it, and all that walked over it, and all that fed there, they gave to the Fire-eater--for they loved him. He was strong, and they were women, and he helped them. No Delaware would kill a deer that ran in his woods, nor stop a bird that flew over his land; for it was his. Has John lived in peace? Daughter, since John was young, he has seen the white man from Frontinac come down on his white brothers at Albany and fight. Did they fear God? He has seen his English and his American fathers burying their tomahawks in each other's brains, for this very land. Did they fear God, and live in peace? He has seen the land pass away from the Fire-eater, and his children, and the child of his child, and a new chief set over the country. Did they live in peace who did this? did they fear God?"
"Such is the custom of the whites, John. Do not the Delawares fight, and exchange their lands for powder, and blankets, and merchandise?"
The Indian turned his dark eyes on his companion, and kept them there with a scrutiny that alarmed her a little.
"Where are the blankets and merchandise that bought the right of the Fire-eater?" he replied in a more animated voice; "are they with him in his wigwam? Did they say to him, Brother, sell us your land, and take this gold, this silver, these blankets, these rifles, or even this rum? No; they tore it front him, as a scalp is torn from an enemy; and they that did it looked not behind them, to see whether he lived or died. Do such men live in peace and fear the Great Spirit?"
"But you hardly understand the circumstances," said Elizabeth, more embarrassed than she would own, even to herself. "If you knew our laws and customs better, you would Judge differently of our acts. Do not believe evil of my father, old Mohegan, for he is just and good."
"The brother of Miquon is good, and he will do right. I have said it to Hawk-eye---I have said it to the Young Eagle that the brother of Miquon would do justice."
"Whom call you the Young Eagle?" said Elizabeth, averting her face from the gaze of the Indian, as she asked the question; "whence comes he, and what are his rights?"
"Has my daughter lived so long with him to ask this question?" returned the Indian warily. "Old age freezes up the blood, as the frosts cover the great spring in winter; but youth keeps the streams of the blood open like a sun in the time of blossoms. The Young Eagle has eyes; had he no tongue?"
The loveliness to which the old warrior alluded was in no degree diminished by his allegorical speech; for the blushes of the maiden who listened covered her burning cheeks till her dark eyes seemed to glow with their reflection; but, after struggling a moment with shame, she laughed, as if unwilling to understand him seriously, and replied in pleasantry:
"Not to make me the mistress of his secret. He is too much of a Delaware to tell his secret thoughts to a woman."
"Daughter, the Great Spirit made your father with a white skin, and he made mine with a red; but he colored both their hearts with blood. When young, it is swift and warm; but when old, it is still and cold. Is there difference below the skin? No. Once John had a woman. She was the mother of so many sons"-he raised his hand with three fingers elevated-" and she had daughters that would have made the young Delawares happy. She was kind, daughter, and what I said she did. You have different fashions; but do you think John did not love the wife of his youth-the mother of his children?"
"And what has become of your family, John-your wife and your children?" asked Elizabeth, touched by the Indian's manner.
"Where is the ice that covered the great spring? It is melted, and gone with the waters. John has lived till all his people have left him for the land of spirits; his time has come, and he is ready."
Mohegan dropped his head in his blanket, and sat in silence. Miss Temple knew not what to say. She wished to draw the thoughts of the old warrior from his gloomy recollections, but there was a dignity in his sorrow, and in his fortitude, that repressed her efforts to speak. After a long pause, however, she renewed the discourse by asking:
"Where is the Leather-Stocking, John? I have brought this canister of powder at his request; but he is nowhere to he seen. Will you take charge of it, and see it delivered?"
The Indian raised his head slowly and looked earnestly at the gift, which she put into his hand.
"This is the great enemy of my nation. Without this, when could the white man drive the Delawares? Daughter, the Great Spirit gave your fathers to know how to make guns and powder, that they might sweep the Indians from the land. There will soon be no red-skin in the country. When John has gone, the last will leave these hills, and his family will be dead." The aged warrior stretched his body forward, leaning an elbow on his knee, and appeared to be taking a parting look at the objects of the vale, which were still visible through the misty atmosphere, though the air seemed to thicken at each moment around Miss Temple, who became conscious of an increased difficulty of respiration. The eye of Mohegan changed gradually from its sorrowful expression to a look of wildness that might be supposed to border on the inspiration of a prophet, as he continued: "But he will go on to the country where his fathers have met. The game shall be plenty as the Ash in the lakes. No woman shall cry for meat: no Mingo can ever come The chase shall be for children; and all just red men shall live together as brothers."
"John! this is not the heaven of a Christian," cried Miss Temple; "you deal now in the superstition of your forefathers."
"Fathers! sons!" said Mohegan, with firmness.-" all gone-all gone!-! have no son but the Young Eagle, and he has the blood of a white man."
"Tell me, John," said Elizabeth, willing to draw his thoughts to other subjects, and at the same time yielding to her own powerful interest in the youth; "who is this Mr. Edwards? why are you so fond of him, and whence does he come ?"
The Indian started at the question, which evidently recalled his recollection to earth. Taking her hand, he drew Miss Temple to a seat beside him, and pointed to the country beneath them.
"See, daughter," he said, directing her looks toward the north; "as far as your young eyes can see, it was the land of his. But immense volumes of smoke at that moment rolled over their heath, and, whirling in the eddies formed by the mountains, interposed a barrier to their sight, while he was speaking. Startled by this circumstance, Miss Temple sprang to her feet, and, turning her eyes toward the summit of the mountain, she beheld It covered by a similar canopy, while a roaring sound was heard in the forest above her like the rushing of winds.
"What means it, John?" she exclaimed: "we are enveloped in smoke, and I feel a heat like the glow of a furnace."
Before the Indian could reply, a voice was heard crying In the woods: "John! where are you, old Mohegan! the woods are on fire, and you have but a minute for escape."
The chief put his hand before his mouth, and, making it lay on his lips, produced the kind of noise that had attracted Elizabeth to the place, when a quick and hurried step was heard dashing through the dried underbrush and bushes, and presently Edwards rushed to his side, with horror an every feature.
"Love rules the court, the camp, the grove."-Lay of the Last Minstrel.
"IT would have been sad, indeed, to lose you in such manner, my old friend," said Oliver, catching his breath for utterance. "Up and away! even now we may be too late; the flames are circling round the point of the rock below, and, unless we can pass there, our only chance must be over the precipice. Away! away! shake off your apathy, John; now is the time of need."
Mohegan pointed toward Elizabeth, who, forgetting her danger, had sunk back to a projection of the rock as soon as she recognized the sounds of Edwards' voice, and said with something like awakened animation:
"Save her-leave John to die."
"Her! whom mean you?" cried the youth, turning quickly to the place the other indicated; but when he saw the figure of Elizabeth bending toward him in an attitude that powerfully spoke terror, blended with reluctance to meet him in such a place, the shock deprived him of speech.
"Miss Temple!" he cried, when he found words; " you here! is such a death reserved for you!"
"No, no, no-no death, I hope, for any of us, Mr. Edwards," she replied, endeavoring to speak calmly; there is smoke, but no fire to harm us. Let us endeavor to retire."
"Take my arm," said Edwards; "there must he an opening in some direction for your retreat. Are you equal to the effort?"
"Certainly. You surely magnify the danger, Mr. Ed wards. Lead me out the way you came."
"I will-I will," cried the youth, with a kind of hysterical utterance. "No, no-there is no danger-I have alarmed you unnecessarily."
"But shall we leave the Indian-can we leave him, as be says, to die?"
An expression of painful emotion crossed the face of the young man; he stopped and cast a longing look at Mohegan but, dragging his companion after him, even against her will, he pursued his way with enormous strides toward the pass by which he had just entered the circle of flame.
"Do not regard him, " he said, in those tones that de note a desperate calmness; "he is used to the woods, and such scenes; and he will escape up the mountain-over the rock-or he can remain where he is in safety."
"You thought not so this moment, Edwards! Do not leave him there to meet with such a death," cried Elizabeth, fixing a look on the countenance of her conductor that seemed to distrust his sanity.
"An Indian born! who ever heard of an Indian dying by fire? An Indian cannot burn; the idea is ridiculous. Hasten, hasten, Miss Temple, or the smoke may incommodate you."
"Edwards! your look, your eye, terrifies me! Tell me the danger; is it greater than it seems? I am equal to any trial."
"If we reach the point of yon rock before that sheet of fire, we are safe, Miss Temple," exclaimed the young man in a voice that burst without the bounds of his forced composure. " Fly! the struggle is for life!"
The place of the interview between Miss Temple and the Indian has already been described as one of those plat forms of rock, which form a sort of terrace in the mountains of that country, and the face of it, we have said, was both high and perpendicular. Its shape was nearly a natural arc, the ends of which blended with the mountain, at points where its sides were less abrupt in their descent. It was round one of these terminations of the sweep of the rock that Edwards had ascended, and it was toward the same place that he urged Elizabeth to a desperate exertion of speed.
Immense clouds of white smoke had been pouring over the summit of the mountain, and had concealed the approach and ravages of the element; but a crackling sound drew the eyes of Miss Temple, as she flew over the ground supported by the young man, toward the outline of smoke where she already perceived the waving flames shooting forward from the vapor, now flaring high in the air, and then bending to the earth, seeming to light into combustion every stick and shrub on which they breathed. The sight aroused them to redoubled efforts; but, unfortunately, a collection of the tops of trees, old and dried, lay directly across their course; and at the very moment when both had thought their safety insured, the warm current of the air swept a forked tongue of flame across the pile, which lighted at the touch; and when they reached the spot, the flying pair were opposed by the surly roaring of a body of fire, as if a furnace were glowing in their path. They recoiled from the heat, and stood on a point of the rock, gazing in a stupor at the flames which were spreading rap idly down the mountain, whose side, too, became a sheet of living fire. It was dangerous for one clad in the light and airy dress of Elizabeth to approach even the vicinity of the raging element; and those flowing robes, that gave such softness and grace to her form, seemed now to be formed for the instruments of her destruction.
The villagers were accustomed to resort to that hill, in quest of timber and fuel; in procuring which, it was their usage to take only the bodies of the trees, leaving the tops and branches to decay under the operations of the weather. Much of the hill was, consequently, covered with such light fuel, which, having been scorched under the sun for the last two months, was ignited with a touch. Indeed, in some cases, there did not appear to be any contact between the fire and these piles, but the flames seemed to dart from heap to heap, as the fabulous fire of the temple is represented to reillumine its neglected lamp.
There was beauty as well as terror in the sight, and Edwards and Elizabeth stood viewing the progress of the desolation, with a strange mixture of horror and interest. The former, however, shortly roused himself to new exertions, and, drawing his companion after him, they skirted the edge of the smoke, the young man penetrating frequently into its dense volumes in search of a passage, but in every instance without success. In this manner they proceeded in a semicircle around the upper part of the terrace, until arriving at the verge of the precipice opposite to the point where Edwards had ascended, the horrid conviction burst on both, at the same instant, that they were completely encircled by fire. So long as a single pass up or down the mountain was unexplored, there was hope: but when retreat seemed to be absolutely impracticable, the horror of their situation broke upon Elizabeth as powerfully as if she had hitherto considered the danger light.
"This mountain is doomed to be fatal to me!" she whispered;" we shall find our graves on it!"
"Say not so, Miss Temple; there is yet hope," returned the youth, in the same tone, while the vacant expression of his eye contradicted his words; "let us return to the point of the rock-there is-there must be- some place about it where we can descend.
"Lead me there," exclaimed Elizabeth; "let us leave no effort untried." She did not wait for his compliance, but turning, retraced her steps to the brow of the precipice, murmuring to herself, in suppressed, hysterical sobs, My father! my poor, my distracted father!"
Edwards was by her side in an instant, and with aching eyes he examined every fissure in the crags in quest of some opening that might offer facilities for flight. But the smooth, even surface of the rocks afforded hardly a resting-place for a foot, much less those continued projections which would have been necessary for a descent of nearly a hundred feet. Edwards was not slow in feeling the conviction that this hope was also futile, and, with a kind of feverish despair that still urged him to action, he turned to some new expedient.
"There is nothing left, Miss Temple," he said, "but to lower you from this place to the rock beneath. If Natty were here, or even that Indian could be roused, their ingenuity and long practice would easily devise methods to do it; but I am a child at this moment in everything but daring. Where shall I find means? This dress of mine is so light, and there is so little of it-then the blanket of Mohegan; we must try- we must try-anything is better than to see you a victim to such a death!"
"And what will become of you?" said Elizabeth. "In deed, indeed, neither you nor John must be sacrificed to my safety."
He heard her not, for he was already by the side of Mohegan, who yielded his blanket without a question, retaining his seat with Indian dignity and composure, though his own situation was even more critical than that of the others. The blanket was cut into shreds, and the fragments fastened together: the loose linen jacket of the youth and the light muslin shawl of Elizabeth were attached to them, and the whole thrown over the rocks with the rapidity of lightning; but the united Pieces did not reach half-way to the bottom.
"It will not do-it will not do!" cried Elizabeth; " for me there is no hope! The fire comes slowly, but certainly. See, it destroys the very earth before it!"
Had the flames spread on that rock with half the quick ness with which they leaped from bush to tree in other parts of the mountain, our painful task would have soon ended; for they would have consumed already the captives they inclosed. But the peculiarity of their situation afforded Elizabeth and her companion the respite of which they had availed themselves to make the efforts we have recorded.
The thin covering of earth on the rock supported but a scanty and faded herbage, and most of the trees that had found root in the fissures had already died, during the in tense heats of preceding summers. Those which still retained the appearance of life bore a few dry and withered leaves, while the others were merely the wrecks of pines, oaks, and maples. No better materials to feed the fire could be found, had there been a communication with the flames; but the ground was destitute of the brush that led the destructive element, like a torrent, over the remainder of the hill. As auxiliary to this scarcity of fuel, one of the large springs which abound in that country gushed out of the side of the ascent above, and, after creeping sluggishly along the level land, saturating the mossy covering of the rock with moisture, it swept around the base of the little cone that formed the pinnacle of the mountain, and, entering the canopy of smoke near one of the terminations of the terrace, found its way to the lake, not by dashing from rock to rock, but by the secret channels of the earth. It would rise to the surface, here and there, in the wet seasons, but in the droughts of summer it was to be traced only by the bogs and moss that announced the proximity of water. When the fire reached this barrier, it was compelled to pause, until a concentration of its heat could overcome the moisture, like an army awaiting the operations of a battering train, to open its way to desolation.
That fatal moment seemed now to have arrived, for the hissing steams of the spring appeared to be nearly exhausted, and the moss of the rocks was already curling under the intense heat, while fragments of bark, that yet clung to the dead trees, began to separate from their trunks, and fall to the ground in crumbling masses. The air seemed quivering with rays of heat, which might be seen playing along the parched stems of the trees. There were moments when dark clouds of smoke would sweep along the little terrace; and, as the eye lost its power, the other senses contributed to give effect to the fearful horror of the scene. At such moments, the roaring of the flames, the crackling of the furious element, with the tearing of falling branches, and occasionally the thundering echoes of some falling tree, united to alarm the victims. Of the three, however, the youth appeared much the most agitated. Elizabeth, having relinquished entirely the idea of escape, was fast obtaining that resigned composure with which the most delicate of her sex are sometimes known to meet unavoidable evils; while Mohegan, who was much nearer to the danger, maintained his seat with the invincible resignation of an Indian warrior. Once or twice the eye of the aged chief, which was ordinarily fixed in the direction of the distant hills, turned toward the young pair, who seemed doomed to so early a death, with a slight indication of pity crossing his composed features, but it would immediately revert again to its former gaze, as if already looking into the womb of futurity. Much of the time he was chanting a kind of low dirge in the Delaware tongue, using the deep and remarkable guttural tones of his people.
"At such a moment, Mr. Edwards, all earthly distinctions end," whispered Elizabeth; "persuade John to move nearer to us-let us die together."
"I cannot-he will not stir," returned the youth, in the same horridly still tones. " He considers this as the happiest moment of his life, he is past seventy, and has been decaying rapidly for some time; he received some injury in chasing that unlucky deer, too, on the lake, Oh! Miss Temple, that was an unlucky chase, indeed! it has led, I fear, to this awful scene."
The smile of Elizabeth was celestial. "Why name such a trifle now?-at this moment the heart is dead to all earthly emotions!"
"If anything could reconcile a man to this death," cried the youth, "it would be to meet it in such company!"
"Talk not so, Edwards; talk not so," interrupted Miss Temple. "I am unworthy of it, and it is unjust to your self. We must die; yes-yes- we must die-it is the will of God, and let us endeavor to submit like his own children."
"Die!" the youth rather shrieked than exclaimed, "no -no-no-there must yet be hope-you, at least, must-not, shall not die."
"In what way can we escape?" asked Elizabeth, pointing with a look of heavenly composure toward the fire "Observe! the flame is crossing the barrier of wet ground-it comes slowly, Edwards, but surely. Ah! see! the tree! the tree is already lighted!"
Her words were too true. The heat of the conflagration had at length overcome the resistance of the spring, and the fire was slowly stealing along the half-dried moss; while a dead pine kindled with the touch of a forked flame, that, for a moment, wreathed around the stem of the tree, as it whined, in one of its evolutions, under the influence of the air. The effect was instantaneous, The flames danced along the parched trunk of the pine like lightning quivering on a chain, and immediately a column of living fire was raging on the terrace. It soon spread from tree to tree, and the scene was evidently drawing to a close. The log on which Mohegan was seated lighted at its further end, and the Indian appeared to be surrounded by fire. Still he was unmoved. As his body was unprotected, his sufferings must have been great; but his fortitude was superior to all. His voice could yet be heard even in the midst of these horrors. Elizabeth turned her head from the sight, and faced the valley Furious eddies of wind were created by the heat, and, just at the moment, the canopy of fiery smoke that overhung the valley was cleared away, leaving a distinct view of the peaceful village beneath them, My father!---my lather!" shrieked Elizabeth "Oh! this-surely might have been spared me-but I submit."
The distance was not so great but the figure of Judge Temple could be seen, standing in his own grounds, and apparently contemplating, in perfect unconsciousness of the danger of his child, the mountain in flames. This sight was still more painful than the approaching danger; and Elizabeth again faced the hill.
"My intemperate warmth has done this!" cried Edwards, in the accents of despair. "If I had possessed but a moiety of your heavenly resignation, Miss Temple, all might yet have been well."
"Name it not-name it not," she said. "It is now of no avail. We must die, Edwards, we must die-let us do so as Christians. But-no-you may yet escape, perhaps. Your dress is not so fatal as mine. Fly! Leave me, An opening may yet be found for you, possibly-certainly it is worth the effort. Fly! leave me-but stay! You will see my father! my poor, my bereaved father! Say to him, then, Edwards, say to him, all that can appease his anguish. Tell him that I died happy and collected; that I have gone to my beloved mother; that the hours of this life are nothing when balanced in the scales of eternity. Say how we shall meet again. And say," she continued, dropping her voice, that had risen with her feelings, as if conscious of her worldly weakness, "how clear, how very dear, was my love for him; that it was near, too near, to my love for God."
The youth listened to her touching accents, but moved not. In a moment he found utterance, and replied:
"And is it me that you command to leave you! to leave you on the edge of the grave? Oh! Miss Temple, how little have you known me!" he cried, dropping on his knees at her feet, and gathering her flowing robe in his arms as if to shield her from the flames. "I have been driven to the woods in despair, but your society has tamed the lion within me. If I have wasted my time in degradation, 'twas you that charmed me to it. If I have forgotten my name and family, your form supplied the place of memory. If I have forgotten my wrongs, 'twas you that taught me charity. No-no-dearest Elizabeth, I may die with you, but I can never leave you!"
Elizabeth moved not, nor answered. It was plain that her thoughts had been raised from the earth, The recollection of her father, and her regrets at their separation, had been mellowed by a holy sentiment, that lifted her above the level of earthly things, and she was fast losing the weakness of her sex in the near view of eternity. But as she listened to these words she became once more woman. She struggled against these feelings, and smiled, as she thought she was shaking off the last lingering feeling of nature, when the world, and all its seductions, rushed again to her heart, with the sounds of a human, voice, crying in piercing tones:
"Gal! where he ye, gal! gladden the heart of an old man, if ye yet belong to 'arth!"
"Hist!" said Elizabeth; " 'tis the Leather-Stocking; he seeks me!"
"Tis Natty!" shouted Edwards, "and we may yet be saved!"
A wide and circling flame glared on their eyes for a moment, even above the fire of the woods, and a loud report followed.
"'Tis the canister, 'tis the powder," cried the same voice, evidently approaching them. " 'Tis the canister, and the precious child is lost."
At the next instant Natty rushed through the steams of the spring, and appeared on the terrace, without his deerskin cap, his hair burnt to his head, his shirt, of country check, black and filled with holes, and his red features of a deeper color than ever, by the heat he had encountered.
"Even from the land of shadows, now My father's awful ghost appears."-Gertrude Of Wyoming.
For an hour after Louisa Grant was left by Miss Temple, in the situation already mentioned, she continued in feverish anxiety, awaiting the return of her friend. But as the time passed by without the reappearance of Elizabeth, the terror of Louisa gradually increased, until her alarmed fancy had conjured every species of danger that appertained to the woods, excepting the one that really existed. The heavens had become obscured by degrees, and vast volumes of smoke were pouring over the valley; but the thoughts of Louisa were still recurring to beasts, without dreaming of the real cause for apprehension. She was stationed in the edge of the low pines and chestnuts that succeed the first or large growth of the forest, and directly above the angle where the highway turned from the straight course to the village, and ascended the mountain laterally. Consequently, she commanded a view, not only of the valley, but of the road beneath her. The few travellers that passed, she observed, were engaged in earnest conversation, and frequently raised their eyes to the hill, and at length she saw the people leaving the court house, and gazing upward also. While under the influence of the alarm excited by such unusual movements, reluctant to go, and yet fearful to remain, Louisa was startled by the low, cracking, but cautious treads of some one approaching through the bushes. She was on the eve of flight, when Natty emerged from the cover, and stood at her side. The old man laughed as he shook her kindly by a hand that was passive with fear.
"I am glad to meet you here, child," he said; "for the back of the mountain is a-fire, and it would be dangerous to go up it now, till it has been burnt over once, and the dead wood is gone. There's a foolish man, the comrade of that varmint who has given me all this trouble, digging for ore on the east side. I told him that the kearless fellows, who thought to catch a practysed hunter in the woods after dark, had thrown the lighted pine-knots in the brush, and that 'twould kindle like tow, and warned him to leave the hill. But he was set upon his business, and nothing short of Providence could move him. if he isn't burnt and buried in a grave of his own digging, he's made of salamanders. Why, what ails the child? You look as skeary as if you'd seed more painters. I wish there were more to be found! they'd count up faster than the beaver. But where's the good child with a bad father? Did she forget her promise to the old man?"
"The hill! the hill!" shrieked Louisa; "she seeks you on the hill with the powder!"
Natty recoiled several feet at this unexpected intelligence.
"The Lord of Heaven have mercy on her! She's on the Vision, and that's a sheet of fire agin' this. Child, if ye love the dear one, and hope to find a friend when ye need it most, to the village, and give the alarm. The men are used to fighting fire, and there may be a chance left, Fly! I bid ye fly! nor stop even for breath."
The Leather-Stocking had no sooner uttered this injunction, than he disappeared in the bushes, and, when last seen by Louisa, was rushing up the mountain, with a speed that none but those who were accustomed to the toil could attain.
"Have I found ye!" the old man exclaimed, when he burst out of the smoke; "God be praised that I have found ye; but follow-there's no time for talking."
"My dress!" said Elizabeth; " it would be fatal to trust myself nearer to the flames in it."
"I bethought me of your flimsy things," cried Natty, throwing loose the folds of a covering buckskin that he carried on his arm, and wrapping her form in it, in such a manner as to envelop her whole person; " now follow, for it's a matter of life and death to us all."
"But John! what will become of John?" cried Edwards; "can we leave the old warrior here to perish?"
The eyes of Natty followed the direction of Edwards' finger, where he beheld the Indian still seated as before, with the very earth under his feet consuming with fire. Without delay the hunter approached the spot, and spoke in Delaware:
"Up and away, Chingachgook! will ye stay here to burn, like a Mingo at the stake? The Moravians have teached ye better, I hope; the Lord preserve me if the powder hasn't flashed atween his legs, and the skin of his back is roasting. Will ye come, I say; will ye follow me?"
"Why should Mohegan go?" returned the Indian, gloomily. "He has seen the days of an eagle, and his eye grows dim He looks on the valley; he looks on the water; he looks in the hunting-grounds-but he sees no Delawares. Every one has a white skin. My fathers say, from the far- off land, Come. My women, my young warriors, my tribe, say, Come. The Great Spirit says, Come. Let Mohegan die."
"But you forget your friend," cried Edwards,
"'Tis useless to talk to an Indian with the death-fit on him, lad," interrupted Natty, who seized the strips of the blanket, and with wonderful dexterity strapped the passive chieftain to his own back; when he turned, and with a strength that seemed to bid defiance, not only to his years, but to his load, he led the way to the point whence he had issued. As they crossed the little terrace of rock, one of the dead trees, that had been tottering for several minutes, fell on the spot where they had stood, and filled the air with its cinders.
Such an event quickened the steps of the party, who followed the Leather-Stocking with the urgency required by the occasion.
"Tread on the soft ground," he cried, when they were in a gloom where sight availed them but little, "and keep in the white smoke; keep the skin close on her, lad; she's a precious one-another will be hard to be found."
Obedient to the hunter's directions, they followed his steps and advice implicitly; and, although the narrow pas sage along the winding of the spring led amid burning logs and falling branches, they happily achieved it in safety. No one but a man long accustomed to the woods could have traced his route through the smoke, in which respiration was difficult, and sight nearly useless; but the experience of Natty conducted them to an opening through the rocks, where, with a little difficulty, they soon descended to another terrace, and emerged at once into a tolerably clear atmosphere.
The feelings of Edwards and Elizabeth at reaching this spot may be imagined, though not easily described. No one seemed to exult more than their guide, who turned, with Mohegan still lashed to his back, and, laughing in his own manner, said:
"I knowed 'twa the Frenchman's powder, gal; it went so all together; your coarse grain will squib for a minute. The Iroquois had none of the best powder when I went agin' the Canada tribes, under Sir William. Did I ever tell you the story, lad, consarning the scrimmage with-"
"For God's sake, tell me nothing now, Natty, until we are entirely safe. Where shall we go next?"
"Why, on the platform of rock over the cave, to be sure; you will be safe enough there, or we'll go Into It, if you be so minded." The young man started, and appeared agitated; but, Looking around him with an anxious eye, said quickly:
"Shalt we be safe on the rock? cannot the fire reach us there, too?"
"Can't the boy see?" said Natty, with the coolness of one accustomed to the kind of danger he had just encountered. "Had ye stayed in the place above ten minutes longer, you would both have been in ashes, but here you may stay forever, and no fire can touch you, until they burn the rocks as well as the woods."
With this assurance, which was obviously true, they proceeded to the spot, and Natty deposited his load, placing the Indian on the ground with his back against a fragment of the rocks. Elizabeth sank on the ground, and buried her face in her hands, while her heart was swelling with a variety of conflicting emotions.
"Let me urge you to take a restorative, Miss Temple," said Edwards respectfully; "your frame will sink else."
"Leave me, leave me," she said, raising her beaming eyes for a moment to his; "I feel too much for words! I am grateful, Oliver, for this miraculous escape; and next to my God to you."
Edwards withdrew to the edge of the rock, and shouted:
"Benjamin! where are you, Benjamin?"
A hoarse voice replied, as if from the bowels of the earth:
"Hereaway, master; stowed in this here bit of a hole, which is all the time as hot as the cook's coppers. I'm tired of my berth, d'ye see, and if-so-be that Leather Stocking has got much overhauling to do before he sails after them said beaver I'll go into dock again, and ride out my quarantine, till I can get prottick from the law, and so hold on upon the rest of my 'spaniolas."
"Bring up a glass of water from the spring," continued Edwards, "and throw a little wine in it; hasten, I entreat you!"
"I knows but little of your small drink, Master Oliver," returned the steward, his voice issuing out of the cave into the open air, "and the Jamaikey held out no longer than to take a parting kiss with Billy Kirby, when he anchored me alongside the highway last night, where you run me down in the chase. But here's summat of a red color that may suit a weak stomach, mayhap. That Master Kirby is no first-rate in a boat; but he'll tack a cart among the stumps, all the same as a Lon'on pilot will back and fill, through the colliers in the Pool."
As the steward ascended while talking, by the time he had ended his speech he appeared on the rock with the desired restoratives, exhibiting the worn-out and bloated features of a man who had run deep in a debauch, and that lately.
Elizabeth took from the hands of Edwards the liquor which he offered and then motioned to be left again to herself.
The youth turned at her bidding, and observed Natty kindly assiduous around the person of Mohegan. When their eyes met, the hunter said sorrowfully:
"His time has come, lad; see it in his eyes-when an Indian fixes his eye, he means to go but to one place; and what the wilful creatures put their minds on, they're sure to do."
A quick tread prevented the reply, and in a few moments, to the amazement of the whole party, Mr. Grant was seen clinging to the side of the mountain, and striving to reach the place where they stood. Oliver sprang to his assistance, and by their united efforts the worthy divine was soon placed safely among them.
"How came you added to our number?" cried Edwards. "Is the hill alive with people at a time like this?"
The hasty but pious thanksgivings of the clergyman were soon ejaculated, and, when he succeeded in collecting his bewildered senses, he replied:
"I heard that my child was seen coming to the mountain; and, when the fire broke over its summit, my uneasiness drew me up the road, where I found Louisa, in terror for Miss Temple. It was to seek her that I came into this dangerous place; and I think, but for God's mercy, through the dogs of Natty, I should have perished in the flames myself."
"Ay! follow the hounds, and if there's an opening they'll scent it out," said Natty; "their noses be given them the same as man's reason."
"I did so, and they led me to this place; but, praise be to God that I see you all safe and well."
"No, no," returned the hunter; "safe we be, but as for well, John can't be called in a good way, unless you'll say that for a man that's taking his last look at 'arth."
"He speaks the truth!" said the divine, with the holy awe with which he ever approached the dying; "I have been by too many death-beds, not
to see that the hand of the tyrant is laid on this old warrior. Oh! how consoling it is to know that he has not rejected the offered mercy in the hour of his strength and of worldly temptations! The offspring of a race of heathens, he has in truth been 'as a brand plucked from the burning.'"
"No, no," returned Natty, who alone stood with him by the side of the dying warrior; "it is no burning that ails him, though his Indian feelings made him scorn to move, unless it be the burning of man's wicked thoughts for near fourscore years; but it's natur' giving out in a chasm that's run too long.-Down with ye, Hector! down, I say! Flesh Isn't iron, that a man can live forever, and see his kith and kin driven to a far country, and he left to mourn, with none to keep him company."
"John," said the divine, tenderly, "do you hear me? do you wish the prayers appointed by the church, at this trying moment?"
The Indian turned his ghastly face toward the speaker, and fastened his dark eyes on him, steadily, but vacantly.
No sign of recognition was made: and in a moment he moved his head again slowly toward the vale, and began to sing, using his own language, in those low, guttural tones, that have been so often mentioned, his notes rising with his theme, till they swelled so loud as to be distinct.
"I will come! I will come! to the land of the just I will come! The Maquas I have slain! I have slain the Maquas! and the Great Spirit calls to his son. I will come! I will come to the land of the just! I will come!"
"What says he, Leather-Stocking?" Inquired the priest, with tender interest; "sings he the Redeemer's praise?" "No, no-'tis his own praise that he speaks now," said Natty, turning in a melancholy manner from the sight of his dying friend; "and a good right he has to say it all, for I know every word to be true."
"May heaven avert such self-righteousness from his heart! Humility and penitence are the seals of Christianity; and, without feeling them deeply seated in the soul, all hope is delusive, and leads to vain expectations. Praise himself when his whole soul and body should unite to praise his Maker! John! you have enjoyed the blessings of a gospel ministry, and have been called from out a multitude of sinners and pagans, and, I trust. for a wise and gracious purpose. Do you now feel what it is to be justified by our Saviour's death, and reject all weak and idle dependence on good works, that spring from man's pride and vainglory?"
The Indian did not regard his interrogator, but he raised his head again, and said in a low, distinct voice:
"Who can say that the Maqous know the back of the Mohegan? What enemy that trusted in him did not see the morning? What Mingo that he chased ever sang the song of triumph? Did Mohegan ever he? No; the truth lived in him, and none else could come out of him. In his youth he was a warrior, and his moccasins left the stain of blood. In his age he was wise; his words at the council fire did not blow away with the winds. "
"Ah! he has abandoned that vain relic of paganism, his songs," cried the divine; " what says he now? is he sensible of his lost state?"
"Lord!! man," said Natty, "he knows his end is at hand as well as you or I; but, so far from thinking it a loss, he believes it to be a great gain. He is old and stiff, and you have made the game so scarce and shy, that better shots than him find it hard to get a livelihood. Now he thinks he shall travel where it will always be good hunting ; Where no wicked or unjust Indians can go; and where he shall meet all his tribe together agin. There's not much loss in that, to a man whose hands are hardly fit for basket-making Loss! if there be any loss, 'twill be to me. I'm sure after he's gone, there will be but little left for me but to follow."
"His example and end, which, I humbly trust, shall yet be made glorious," returned Mr. Grant, "should lead your mind to dwell on the things of another life. But I feel it to be my duty to smooth the way for the parting spirit. This is the moment, John, when the reflection that you did not reject the mediation of the Redeemer, will bring balm to your soul. Trust not to any act of former days, but lay the burden of your sins at his feet, and you have his own blessed assurance that he will not desert you."
"Though all you say be true, and you have scriptur' gospels for it, too," said Natty, "you will make nothing of the Indian. He hasn't seen a Moravian p sin' the war; and it's hard to keep them from going hack to their native ways. I should think 'twould be as well to let the old man pass in peace. He's happy now; I know it by his eye; and that's more than I would say for the chief, sin' the time the Delawares broke up from the head waters of their river and went west. Ah's me! 'tis a grevous long time that, and many dark days have we seen together sin' it."
"Hawk-eye!" said Mohegan, rousing with the last glimmering of life. " Hawk-eye! listen to the words of your brother."
"Yes, John," said the hunter, in English, strongly affected by the appeal, and drawing to his side, we have been brothers; and more so than it means in the Indian tongue. What would ye have with me, Chingachgook?"
"Hawk-eye! my fathers call me to the happy hunting grounds. The path is clear, and the eyes of Mohegan grow young. I look-but I see no white-skins ; there are none to be seen but just and brave Indians. Farewell, Hawk-eye-you shall go with the Fire-eater and the Young Eagle to the white man's heaven; but I go after my fathers. Let the bow, and tomahawk, and pipe, and the wampum of Mohegan he laid in his grave; for when he starts 'twil be in the night, like a warrior on a war-party, and he can not stop to seek them."
"What says he, Nathaniel?" cried Mr. Grant, earnestly, and with obvious anxiety; "does he recall the promises of the mediation? and trust his salvation to the Rock of Ages?"
Although the faith of the hunter was by no means clear, yet the fruits of early instruction had not entirely fallen in the wilderness. He believed in one Cod, and one heaven; and when the strong feeling excited by the leave-taking of his old companion, which was exhibited by the powerful working of every muscle in his weather-beaten face, suffered him to speak, he replied:
"No-no-he trusts only to the Great Spirit of the savages, and to his own good deeds. He thinks, like all his people, that he is to be young agin, and to hunt, and be happy to the end of etarnity. its pretty much the same with all colors, parson. I could never bring myself to think that I shall meet with these hounds, or my piece, in another world; though the thought of leaving them forever sometimes brings hard feelings over me, and makes me cling to life with a greater craving than beseems three-Score-and-ten."
"The Lord in his mercy avert such a death from one who has been sealed with the sign of the cross!" cried the minister, in holy fervor. John-"
He paused for the elements. During the period occupied by the events which we have related, the dark clouds in the horizon had continued to increase in numbers and multitude; and the awful stillness that now pervaded the air, announced a crisis in the state of the atmosphere. The flames, which yet continued to rage along the sides of the mountain, no longer whirled in uncertain currents of their own eddies, but blazed high and steadily toward the heavens. There was even a quietude in the ravages of the destructive element, as if it foresaw that a hand greater titan even its own desolating power, was about to stay its progress. The piles of smoke which lay above the valley began to rise, and were dispelling rapidly; and streaks of livid lightning were dancing through the masses of clouds that impended over the western hills. While Mr. Grant was speaking, a flash, which sent its quivering light through the gloom, laying bare the whole opposite horizon, was followed by a loud crash of thunder, that rolled away among the hills, seeming to shake the foundations of the earth to their centre. Mohegan raised him self, as if in obedience to a signal for his departure, and stretched his wasted arm toward the west. His dark face lighted with a look of joy; which, with all other expressions, gradually disappeared; the muscles stiffening as they retreated to a state of rest; a slight convulsion played, for a single instant, about his lips; and his arm slowly dropped by his side, leaving the frame of the dead warrior reposing against the rock with its glassy eyes open, and fixed on the distant hills, as if the
deserted shell were tracing the flight of the spirit to its new abode.
All this Mr. Grant witnessed in silent awe; but when the last echoes of the thunder died away he clasped his bands together, with pious energy, and repeated, in the full, rich tones of assured faith;
"Lord! how unsearchable are Thy judgments; and Thy ways past finding out! 'I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth; and though after my skin, worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God, whom I shall see for my self, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another."
As the divine closed this burst of devotion, he bowed his head meekly to his bosom, and looked all the dependence and humility that the inspired language expressed.
When Mr. Grant retired from the body, the hunter approached, and taking the rigid hand of his friend, looked him wistfully in the face for some time without speaking, when he gave vent to his feelings by saying, in the mournful voice of one who felt deeply:
"Red skin or white, it's all over now! he's to be judged by a righteous Judge, and by no laws that's made to suit times, and new ways. Well, there's only one more death, and the world will be left to me and the hounds, Ah's me! a man must wait the time of God's pleasure, but I begin to weary of life. There is scarcely a tree standing that I know, and it's hard to find a face that I was ac- quainted with in my younger days."
Large drops of rain now began to fall, and diffuse them selves over the dry rock, while the approach of the thunder shower was rapid and certain. 'the body of the Indian was hastily removed into the cave beneath, followed by the whining hounds, who missed and moaned for the look of intelligence that had always met their salutations to the chief.
Edwards made some hasty and confused excuse for not taking Elizabeth into the same place, which was now completely closed in front with logs and bark, saying some-thing that she hardly understood about its darkness, and the unpleasantness of being with the dead body. Miss Temple, however, found a sufficient shelter against the torrent of rain that fell, under the projection of a rock which overhung them, But long before the shower was over, the sounds of voices were heard below them crying aloud for Elizabeth, and men soon appeared beating the dying embers of the bushes, as they worked their way cautiously among the unextinguished brands.
At the first short cessation in the rain, Oliver conducted Elizabeth to the road, where he left her. Before parting, however, he found time to say, in a fervent manner that his companion was now at no loss to interpret.
"The moment of concealment is over, Miss Temple. By this time to- morrow, I shall remove a veil that perhaps it has been weakness to keep around me and my allaus so long. But I have had romantic and foolish wishes and weakness; and who has not, that is young and torn by conflicting passions? God bless you! I hear your father's voice; he is coming up the road, and I would not, just now, subject myself to detention. Thank Heaven, you are safe again; that alone removes the weight of a world from my spirit!"
He waited for no answer, but sprang into the woods. Elizabeth, notwithstanding she heard the cries of her father as he called upon her name, paused until he was concealed among the smoking trees, when she turned, and in a moment rushed into the arms of her half- distracted Parent.
A carriage had been provided, into which Miss Temple hastily entered; when the cry was passed along the hill, that the lost one was found, and the people returned to the village wet and dirty, but elated with the thought that the daughter of their landlord had escaped from so horrid and untimely an end.*
* The probability of a fire in the woods similar to that here described
has been questioned. The writer can only say that he once witnessed a
fire in another part of New York that compelled a man to desert his
wagon and horses in the highway, and in which the latter were
destroyed. In order to estimate the probability of such an event, it
is necessary to remember the effects of a long drought in that climate
and the abundance of dead wood which is found in a forest like that
described, The fires in the American forests frequently rage to such
an extent as to produce a sensible effect on the atmosphere at a
distance of fifty miles. Houses, barns, and fences are quite commonly
swept away in their course.
"Selictar! unsheathe then our chief's scimetar; Tambourgi! thy 'larum gives promise of war; Ye mountains! that see us descend to the shore, Shall view us as victors, or view us no more."-Byron.
The heavy showers that prevailed during the remainder of the day completely stopped the progress of the flames; though glimmering fires were observed during the night, on different parts of the hill, wherever there was a collection of fuel to feed the element. The next day the woods for 'many miles were black and smoking, and were stripped of every vestige of brush and dead wood; but the pines and hemlocks still reared their heads proudly among the hills, and even the smaller trees of the forest retained a feeble appearance of life and vegetation.
The many tongues of rumor were busy in exaggerating the miraculous escape of Elizabeth; and a report was generally credited, that Mohegan had actually perished in the flames. This belief became confirmed, and was indeed rendered probable, when the direful intelligence reached the village that Jotham Riddel, the miner, was found in his hole, nearly dead with suffocation, and burnt to such a degree that no hopes were entertained of his life.
The public attention became much alive to the events of the last few days ; and, just at this crisis, the convicted counterfeiters took the hint from Natty, and, on the night succeeding the fire, found means to cut through their log prison also, and to escape unpunished. When this news began to circulate through the village, blended with the fate of Jotham, and the exaggerated and tortured reports of the events on the hill, the popular opinion was freely expressed, as to the propriety of seizing such of the fugitives as remained within reach. Men talked of the cave as a secret receptacle of guilt; and, as the rumor of ores and metals found its way into the confused medley of conjectures, counterfeiting, and everything else that was wicked and dangerous to the peace of society, suggested themselves to the busy fancies of the populace.
While the public mind was in this feverish state, it was hinted that the wood had been set on fire by Edwards and the Leather-Stocking, and that, consequently, they alone were responsible for the damages. This opinion soon gained ground, being most circulated by those who, by their own heedlessness, had caused the evil; and there was one irresistible burst of the common sentiment that an attempt should he made to punish the offenders. Richard was by no means deaf to this appeal, and by noon he set about in earnest to see the laws executed.
Several stout young men were selected, and taken apart with an appearance of secrecy, where they received some important charge from the sheriff, immediately under the eyes, but far removed from the ears, of all in the village. Possessed of a knowledge of their duty, these youths hurried into the hills, with a bustling manner, as if the fate of the world depended on their diligence, and, at the same time, with an air of mystery as great as if they were engaged on secret matters of the state.
At twelve precisely a drum beat the "long roll ' before the" Bold Dragoon," and Richard appeared, accompanied by Captain Hollister, who was clad in Investments as commander of the "Templeton Light Infantry," when the former demanded of the latter the aid of the posse comitatus in enforcing the laws of the country. We have not room to record the speeches of the two gentlemen on this occasion, but they are preserved in the columns of the little blue newspaper, which is yet to be found on the file, and are said to be highly creditable to the legal formula of one of the parties, and to the military precision of the other. Everything had been previously arranged, and, as the red-coated drummer continued to roll out his clattering notes, some five-and-twenty privates appeared in the ranks, and arranged themselves in the order of battle.
As this corps was composed of volunteers, and was commanded by a man who had passed the first five-and-thirty years of his life in camps and garrisons, it was the non-parallel of military science in that country, and was confidently pronounced by the judicious part of the Templeton community, to be equal in skill and appearance to any troops in the known world; in physical endowments they were, certainly, much superior! To this assertion there were but three dissenting voices, and one dissenting opinion. The opinion belonged to Marmaduke, who, however, saw no necessity for its promulgation. Of the voices, one, and that a pretty loud one', came from the spouse of the commander himself, who frequently reproached her husband for condescending to lead such an irregular band of warriors, after he had filled the honorable station of sergeant-major to a dashing corps of Virginia cavalry through much of the recent war.
Another of these skeptical sentiments was invariably expressed by Mr. Pump, whenever the company paraded generally in some such terms as these, which were uttered with that sort of meekness that a native of the island of our forefathers is apt to assume when he condescends to praise the customs or character of her truant progeny:
"It's mayhap that they knows summat about loading and firing, d'ye see, but as for working ship? why, a corporal's guard of the Boadishey's marines would back and fill on their quarters in such a manner as to surround and captivate them all in half a glass." As there was no one to deny this assertion, the marines of the Boadicea were held in a corresponding degree of estimation.
The third unbeliever was Monsieur Le Quoi, who merely whispered to the sheriff, that the corps was one of the finest he had ever seen second only to the Mousquetaires of Le Boa Louis! However, as Mrs. Hollister thought there was something like actual service in the present appearances, and was, in consequence, too busily engaged with certain preparations of her own, to make her comments; as Benjamin was absent, and Monsieur Le Quoi too happy to find fault with anything, the corps escaped criticism and comparison altogether on this momentous day, when they certainly had greater need of self-confidence than on any other previous occasion. Marmaduke was said to be again closeted with Mr. Van der School and no interruption was offered to the movements of the troops. At two o'clock precisely the corps shouldered arms, beginning on the right wing, next to the veteran, and carrying the motion through to the left with great regularity. When each musket was quietly fixed in its proper situation, the order was given to wheel to the left, and march. As this was bringing raw troops, at once, to face their enemy, it is not to be supposed that the manoeuver was executed with their usual accuracy; but as the music struck up the inspiring air of Yankee-doodle, and Richard, accompanied by Mr. Doolittle preceded the troops boldly down the street, Captain Hollister led on, with his head elevated to forty-five degrees, with a little, low cocked hat perched on his crown, carrying a tremendous dragoon sabre at a poise, and trailing at his heels a huge steel scabbard, that had war in its very clattering. There was a good deal of difficulty in getting all the platoons (there were six) to look the same way; but, by the time they reached the defile of the bridge, the troops were in sufficiently compact order. In this manner they marched up the hill to the summit of the mountain, no other alteration taking place in the disposition of the forces, excepting that a mutual complaint was made, by the sheriff and the magistrate, of a failure in wind, which gradually' brought these gentlemen to the rear. It will be unnecessary to detail the minute movements that succeeded. We shall briefly say, that the scouts came in and reported, that, so far from retreating, as had been anticipated, the fugitives had evidently gained a knowledge of the attack, and were fortifying for a desperate resistance. This intelligence certainly made a material change, not only in the plans of the leaders, but in the countenances of the soldiery also. The men looked at one another with serious faces, and Hiram and Richard began to consult together, apart.
At this conjuncture, they were joined by Billy Kirby, who came along the highway, with his axe under his arm, as much in advance of his team as Captain Hollister had been of his troops in the ascent. The wood-chopper was amazed at the military array, but the sheriff eagerly availed himself of this powerful reinforcement, and commanded his assistance in putting the laws in force. Billy held Mr. Jones in too much deference to object; and it was finally arranged that he should be the bearer of a summons to the garrison to surrender before they proceeded to extremities. The troops now divided, one party being led by the captain, over the Vision, and were brought in on the left of the cave, while the remainder advanced upon its right, under the orders of the lieutenant. Mr. Jones and Dr. Todd-for the surgeon was in attendance also-appeared on the platform of rock, immediately over the heads of the garrison, though out of their sight. Hiram thought this approaching too near, and he therefore accompanied Kirby along the side of the hill to within a safe distance of the fortifications, where he took shelter behind a tree. Most of the men discovered great accuracy of eye in bringing some object in range between them and their enemy, and the only two of the besiegers, who were left in plain sight of the besieged, were Captain Hollister on one side, and the wood-chopper on the other. The veteran stood up boldly to the front, supporting his heavy sword in one undeviating position, with his eye fixed firmly on his enemy, while the huge form of Billy was placed in that kind of quiet repose, with either hand thrust into his bosom, bearing his axe under his right arm, which permitted him, like his own oxen, to rest standing. So far, not a word had been exchanged between the belligerents. The besieged had drawn together a pile of black logs and branches of trees, which they had formed into a chevaux-de- frise, making a little circular abatis in front of the entrance to the cave. As the ground was steep and slippery in every direction around the place, and Benjamin appeared behind the works on one side, and Natty on the other, the arrangement was by no means contemptible, especially as the front was sufficiently guarded by the difficulty of the approach. By this time, Kirby had received his orders, and he advanced coolly along the mountain, picking his way with the same indifference as if he were pursuing his ordinary business. When he was within a hundred feet of the works, the long and much-dreaded rifle of the Leather-Stocking was seen issuing from the parapet, and his voice cried aloud:
"Keep off! Billy Kirby, keep off! I wish ye no harm; but if a man of ye all comes a step nigher, there'll be blood spilt atwixt us. God forgive the one that draws it first, but so it must be."
"Come, old chap," said Billy, good-naturedly, "don't be crabb'd, but hear what a man has got to say I've no consarn in the business, only to see right 'twixt man and man; and I don't kear the valie of a beetle-ring which gets the better; but there's Squire Doolittle, yonder be hind the beech sapling, he has invited me to come in and ask you to give up to the law-that's all."
"I see the varmint! I see his clothes!" cried the indignant Natty: "and if he'll only show so much flesh as will bury a rifle bullet, thirty to the pound, I'll make him feel me. Go away, Billy, I bid ye; you know my aim, and I bear you no malice."
"You over-calculate your aim, Natty," said the other, as he stepped behind a pine that stood near him, "if you think to shoot a man through a tree with a three-foot butt. I can lay this tree right across you in ten minutes by any man's watch, and in less time, too; so be civil-I want no more than what's right."
There was a simple seriousness in the countenance of Natty, that showed he was much in earnest; but it was also evident that he was reluctant to shed human blood. He answered the taunt of the wood- chopper, by saying:
"I know you drop a tree where you will, Billy Kirby; but if you show a hand, or an arm, in doing it, there'll be bones to be set, and blood to staunch. If it's only to get into the cave that ye want, wait till a two hours' sun, and you may enter it in welcome; but come in now you shall not. There's one dead body already, lying on the cold rocks, and there's another in which the life can hardly be said to stay. If you will come in, there'll be dead with out as well as within."
The wood-chopper stepped out fearlessly from his cover, and cried:
"That's fair; and what's fair is right. He wants you to stop till it's two hours to sundown; and I see reason in the thing. A man can give up when he's wrong, if you don't crowd him too hard; but you crowd a man, and he gets to be like a stubborn ox-the more you beat, the worse he kicks."
The sturdy notions of independence maintained by Billy neither suited the emergency nor the impatience of Mr. Jones, who was burning with a desire to examine the hid den mysteries of the cave. He therefore interrupted this amicable dialogue with his own voice;
"I command you Nathaniel Bumppo, by my authority, to surrender your person to the law," he cried. "And I command you, gentlemen, to aid me in performing my duty. Benjamin Penguillan I arrest you, and order you to follow me to the jail of the county, by virtue of this warrant."
"I'd follow ye, Squire Dickens," said Benjamin, removing the pipe from his month (for during the whole scene the ex-major-domo had been very composedly smoking); ay! I'd sail in your wake, to the end of the world, if-so- be that there was such a place, where there isn't, seeing that it's round. Now mayhap, Master Hollister, having lived all your life on shore, you isn't acquainted that the world, d'ye see"
"Surrender!" interrupted the veteran, in a voice that startled his hearers, and which actually caused his own forces to recoil several paces; surrender, Benjamin Pengullan, or expect no quarter.'"
"Damn your quarter!" said Benjamin, rising from the log on which he was seated, and taking a squint along the barrel of the swivel, which had been brought on the hill during the night, and now formed the means of defence on his side of the works. " Look you, master or captain, thof I questions if ye know the name of a rope, except the one that's to hang ye, there's no need of singing out, as if ye was hailing a deaf man on a topgallant yard. May-hap you think you've got my true name in your sheep skin; but what British sailor finds it worth while to sail in these seas, without a sham on his stern, in case of need, d'ye see. If you call me Penguillan, you calls me by the name of the man on whose hand, dye see, I hove into daylight; and he was a gentleman ; and that's more than my worst enemy will say of any of the family of Benjamin Stubbs."
"Send the warrant round to me, and I'll put in an alias," cried Hiram, from behind his cover.
"Put in a jackass, and you'll put in yourself, Mister Doo-but-little," shouted Benjamin, who kept squinting along his little iron tube, with great steadiness.
"I give you but one moment to yield," cried Richard. "Benjamin! Benjamin! this is not the gratitude I expected from you."
"I tell you, Richard Jones," said Natty, who dreaded the sheriff's influence over his comrade; " though the canister the gal brought be lost, there's powder enough in the cave to lift the rock you stand on. I'll take off my roof if you don't hold your peace."
"I think it beneath the dignity of my office to parley further with the prisoners," the sheriff observer to his companion, while they both retired with a precipitancy that Captain Hollister mistook for the signal to advance.
"Charge baggonet!" shouted the veteran; " march!"
Although this signal was certainly expected, it took the assailed a little by surprise, and the veteran approached the works, crying, " Courage, my brave lads! give them no quarter unless they surrender;" and struck a furious blow upward with his sabre, that would have divided the steward into moieties by subjecting him to the process of decapitation, but for the fortunate interference of the muzzle of the swivel. As it was, the gun was dismounted at the critical moment that Benjamin was applying his pipe to the priming, and in consequence some five or six dozen of rifle bullets were projected into the air, in nearly a perpendicular line. Philosophy teaches us that the atmos- phere will not retain lead; and two pounds of the metal, moulded into bullets of thirty to the pound, after describing an ellipsis in their journey, returned to the earth rattling among the branches of the trees directly over the heads of the troops stationed in the rear of their captain. Much of the success of an attack, made by irregular soldiers, depends on the direction in which they are first got in motion. In the present instance it was retrograde, and in less than a minute after the bellowing report of the swivel among the rocks and caverns, the whole weight of the attack from the left rested on the prowess of the single arm of the veteran. Benjamin received a severe contusion from the recoil of his gun, which produced a short stupor, during which period the ex-steward was prostrate on the ground. Captain Hollister availed himself of this circumstance to scramble ever the breastwork and obtain a footing in the bastion-for such was the nature of the fortress, as connected with the cave. The moment the veteran found himself within the works of his enemy, he rushed to the edge of the fortification, and, waving his sabre over his head, shouted:
"Victory! come on, my brave boys, the work's our own!"
All this was perfectly military, and was such an example as a gallant officer was in some measure bound to exhibit to his men but the outcry was the unlucky cause of turning the tide of success. Natty, who had been keeping a vigalent eye on the wood-chopper, and the enemy immediately before him, wheeled at this alarm, and was appalled at beholding his comrade on the ground, and the veteran standing on his own bulwark, giving forth the cry of victory! The muzzle of the long rifle was turned instantly toward the captain. There was a moment when the life of the old soldier was in great jeopardy but the object to shoot at was both too large and too near for the Leather-Stocking, who, instead of pulling his trigger, applied the gun to the rear of his enemy, and by a powerful shove sent him outside of the works with much greater rapidity than he had entered them. The spot on which Captain Hollister alighted was directly in front, where, as his feet touched the ground, so steep and slippery was the side of the mountain, it seemed to recede from under them. His motion was swift, and so irregular as utterly to confuse the faculties of the old soldier. During its continuance, he supposed himself to be mounted, and charging through the ranks of his enemy. At every tree he made a blow, of course, as at a foot-soldier; and just as he was making the cut "St. George" at a half burnt sapling he landed in the highway, and, to his utter amazement, at the feet of his own spouse. When Mrs. Hollister, who was toiling up the hill, followed by at least twenty curious boys, leaning with one hand on the staff with which she ordinarily walked, and bearing in the other an empty bag, witnessed this exploit of her husband, indignation immediately got the better, not only of her religion, but of her philosophy.
"Why, sargeant! is it flying ye are?" she cried-" that I should live to see a husband of mine turn his hack to an inimy! and such a one! Here I have been telling the b'ys, as we come along, all about the saige of Yorrektown, and how ye was hurted; and how ye'd be acting the same agin the day; and I mate ye retraiting jist as the first gun is fired. Och! I may trow away the bag! for if there's plunder, 'twill not be the wife of sich as yerself that will be privileged to be getting the same. They do say, too, there is a power of goold and silver in the place-the Lord forgive me for setting my heart on woorldly things; but what falls in the battle, there's scriptur' for believing, is the just property of the victor,"
"Retreating!" exclaimed the amazed veteran; "where's my horse? he has been shot under me-I--"
"Is the man mad?" interrupted his wife-" devil the horse do ye own, sargeant, and ye're nothing but a shabby captain of malaishy. Oh! if the ra'al captain was here, tis the other way ye'd be riding, dear, or you would not follow your laider!"
While this worthy couple were thus discussing events, the battle began to rage more violently than ever above them. When Leather-Stocking saw his enemy fairly under headway, as Benjamin would express it, he gave his attention to the right wing of the assailants. It would have been easy for Kirby, with his powerful frame, to have seized the moment to scale the bastion, and, with his great strength, to have sent both of its defenders in pursuit of the veteran; but hostility appeared to he the passion that the wood-chopper indulged the least in at that moment, for, in a voice that was heard by the retreating left wing, he shouted:
"Hurrah well done, captain! keep it up! how he handles his bush-hook! he makes nothing of a sapling!" and such other encouraging exclamations to the flying veteran, until, overcome by mirth, the good-natured fellow seated himself on the ground, kicking the earth with delight, and giving vent to peal after peal of laughter.
Natty stood all this time in a menacing attitude, with his rifle pointed over the breastwork, watching with a quick and cautions eye the least movement of the assail ants. The outcry unfortunately tempted the ungovernable curiosity of Hiram to take a peep from behind his cover at the state of the battle. Though this evolution was performed with great caution, in protecting his front, he left, like many a better commander, his rear exposed to the attacks of his enemy. Mr. Doolittle belonged physically to a class of his countrymen, to whom Nature has denied, in their formation, the use of curved lines. Every thing about him was either straight or angular. But his tailor was a woman who worked, like a regimental contractor, by a set of rules that gave the same configuration to the whole human species. Consequently, when Mr. Doolittle leaned forward in the manner described, a loose drapery appeared behind the tree, at which the rifle of Natty was pointed with the quickness of lightning. A less experienced man would have aimed at the flowing robe, which hung like a festoon half-way to the earth ; but the Leather-Stocking knew both the man and his female tailor better; and when the smart report of the rifle was heard, Kirby, who watched the whole manoeuvre in breath less expectation. saw the bark fly from the beech and the cloth, at some distance above the loose folds, wave at the same instant. No battery was ever unmasked with more promptitiude than Hiram advanced from behind the tree at this summons.
He made two or three steps, with great precision, to the front and, placing one hand on the afflicted part, stretched forth the other with a menacing air toward Natty, and cried aloud:
"Gawl darn ye: this shan't he settled so easy; I'll follow it up from the 'common pleas' to the 'court of errors.'"
Such a shocking imprecation, from the mouth of so orderly a man as Squire Doolittle, with the fearless manner in which he exposed himself, together with, perhaps, the knowledge that Natty's rifle was unloaded, encouraged the troops in the rear, who gave a loud shout, and fired a volley into the tree-tops, after the contents of the swivel. Animated by their own noise, the men now rushed on in earnest; and Billy Kirby, who thought the joke, good as it was, had gone far enough, was in the act of scaling the works, when Judge Temple appeared on the opposite side, exclaiming:
"Silence and peace! why do I see murder and blood shed attempted? Is not the law sufficient to protect itself, that armed bands must be gathered, as in rebellion and war, to see justice performed?"
"'Tis the posse comitatus," shouted the sheriff, from a distant rock, "who-"
"Say rather a posse of demons. I command the peace." "Hold shied not blood!" cried a voice from the top of the Vision. " Hold, for the sake of Heaven, fire no more! all shall be yielded! you shall enter the cave!"
Amazement produced the desired effect. Natty, who had reloaded his piece, quietly seated himself on the logs, and rested his head on his hands, while the " Light Infantry" ceased their military movements, and waited the issue in suspense.
In less than a minute Edwards came rushing down the hill, followed by Major Hartman, with a velocity that was surprising for his years. They reached the terrace in an instant, from which the youth led the way, by the hollow in the rock, to the mouth of the cave, into which they both entered, leaving all without silent, and gazing after them with astonishment.
"I am dumb. Were you the doctor, and I knew you not?"-Shakespeare.
During the five or six minutes that elapsed before the youth and Major reappeared. Judge Temple and the sheriff together with most of the volunteers, ascended to the terrace, where the latter began to express their conjectures of the result, and to recount their individual services in the conflict. But the sight of the peace-makers ascending the ravine shut every mouth.
On a rude chair, covered with undressed deer-skins, they supported a human being, whom they seated carefully and respectfully in the midst of the assembly. His head was covered by long, smooth locks of the color of snow. His dress, which was studiously neat and clean, was composed of such fabrics as none but the wealthiest classes wear, but was threadbare and patched ; and on his feet were placed a pair of moccasins, ornamented in the best manner of Indian ingenuity. The outlines of his face were grave and dignified, though his vacant eye, which opened and turned slowly to the faces of those around him in unmeaning looks, too surely' announced that the period had arrived when age brings the mental imbecility of childhood.
Natty had followed the supporters of this unexpected object to the top of the cave, and took his station at a little distance behind him, leaning no his rifle, in the midst of his pursuers, with a fearlessness that showed that heavier interests than those which affected himself were to be decided. Major Hartmann placed himself beside the aged man, uncovered, with his whole soul beaming through those eyes which so commonly danced with frolic and humor. Edwards rested with one hand familiarly but affectionately on the chair, though his heart was swelling with emotions that denied him utterance.
All eyes were gazing intently, but each tongue continued mute. At length the decrepit stranger, turning his vacant looks from face to face, made a feeble attempt to rise, while a faint smile crossed his wasted face, like an habitual effort at courtesy, as he said, in a hollow, tremulous voice:
"Be pleased to be seated, gentlemen. The council will open immediately. Each one who loves a good and virtuous king will wish to see these colonies continue loyal. Be seated-I pray you, be seated, gentlemen. The troops shall halt for the night."
"This is the wandering of insanity!" said Marmaduke: "who will explain this scene."
"No, sir," said Edwards firmly, "'tis only the decay of nature; who is answerable for its pitiful condition, remains to be shown."
"Will the gentlemen dine with us, my son?" said the old stranger, turning to a voice that he both knew and loved. "Order a repast suitable for his Majesty's officers. You know we have the best of game always at command,"
"Who is this man?" asked Marmaduke, in a hurried voice, in which the dawnings of conjecture united with interest to put the question.
"This man," returned Edwards calmly, his voice, how ever, gradually rising as he proceeded; "this man, sir, whom you behold hid in caverns, and deprived of every-thing that can make life desirable, was once the companion and counsellor of those who ruled your country. This man, whom you see helpless and feeble, was once a warrior, so brave and fearless, that even the intrepid natives gave him the name of the Fire-eater. This man, whom you now see destitute of even the ordinary comfort of a cabin, in which to shelter his head, was once the owner of great riches-and, Judge Temple, he was the rightful proprietor of this very soil on which we stand. This man was the father of---"
"This, then," cried Marmaduke, with a powerful emotion, "this, then, is the lost Major Effingham!"
"Lost indeed," said the youth, fixing a piercing eye on the other.
"And you! and you!" continued the Judge, articulating with difficulty.
"I am his grandson."
A minute passed in profound silence. All eyes were fixed on the speakers, and even the old German appeared to wait the issue in deep anxiety. But the moment of agitation soon passed. Marmaduke raised his head from his bosom, where it had sunk, not in shame, but in devout mental thanksgivings, and, as large tears fell over his fine, manly face, he grasped the hand of the youth warmly, and said:
"Oliver, I forgive all thy harshness-all thy suspicions. I now see it all. I forgive thee everything, but suffering this aged man to dwell in such a place, when not only my habitation, but my fortune, were at his and thy command."
"He's true as ter steel!" shouted Major Hartmann; " titn't I tell you, lat, dat Marmatuke Temple vas a friend dat woult never fail in ter dime as of neet?"
"It is true, Judge Temple, that my opinions of your conduct have been staggered by what this worthy gentle man has told me. When I found it impossible to convey my grandfather back whence the enduring love of this old man brought him, without detection and exposure, I went to the Mohawk in quest of one of his former comrades, in whose justice I had dependence. He is your friend, Judge Temple, but, if what he says be true, both my father and myself may have judged you harshly."
"You name your father!" said Marmaduke tenderly- "was he, indeed, lost in the packet?"
"He was. He had left me, after several years of fruit less application and comparative poverty, in Nova Scotia, to obtain the compensation for his losses which the British commissioners had at length awarded. After spending a year in England, he was returning to Halifax, on his way to a government to which he had been appointed, in the West Indies, intending to go to the place where my grand father had sojourned during and since the war, and take him with us."
"But thou!" said Marmaduke, with powerful interest; "I had thought that thou hadst perished with him."
A flush passed over the cheeks of the young man, who gazed about him at the wondering faces of the volunteers, and continued silent. Marmaduke turned to the veteran captain, who just then rejoined his command, and said:
"March thy soldiers back again, and dismiss them, the zeal of the sheriff has much mistaken his duty.-Dr. Todd, I will thank you to attend to the injury which Hiram Doolittle has received in this untoward affair,-Richard, you will oblige me by sending up the carriage to the top of the hill.-Benjamin, return to your duty in my family."
Unwelcome as these orders were to most of the auditors, the suspicion that they had somewhat exceeded the whole some restraints of the law, and the habitual respect with which all the commands of the Judge were received, induced a prompt compliance.
When they were gone, and the rock was left to the parties most interested in an explanation, Marmaduke, pointing to the aged Major Effingham, said to his grand son:
"Had we not better remove thy parent from this open place until my carriage can arrive?"
"Pardon me, sir, the air does him good, and he has taken it whenever there was no dread of a discovery. I know not how to act, Judge Temple; ought I, can I suffer Major Effingham to become an inmate of your family?"
"Thou shalt he thyself the judge," said Marmaduke. Thy father was my early friend, He intrusted his fortune to my care. When we separated he had such confidence in me that he wished on security, no evidence of the trust, even had there been time or convenience for exacting it. This thou hast heard?"
"Most truly, sir," said Edwards, or rather Effingham as we must now call him.
"We differed in politics. If the cause of this country was successful, the trust was sacred with me, for none knew of thy father's interest, if the crown still held its sway, it would he easy to restore the property of so loyal a subject as Colonel Effingham. Is not this plain?'"
"The premises are good, sir," continued the youth, with the same incredulous look as before.
"Listen-listen, poy," said the German, "Dere is not a hair as of ter rogue in ter het of Herr Tchooge."
"We all know the issue of the struggle," continued Marmaduke, disregarding both. "Thy grandfather was left in Connecticut, regularly supplied by thy father with the means of such a subsistence as suited his wants. This I well knew, though I never had intercourse with him, even in our happiest days. Thy father retired with the troops to prosecute his claims on England. At all events, his losses must be great, for his real estates were sold, and I became the lawful purchaser. It was not unnatural to wish that he might have no bar to its just recovery."
"There was none, but the difficulty of providing for so many claimants."
"But there would have been one, and an insuperable one, and I announced to the world that I held these estates, multiplied by the times and my industry, a hundredfold in value, only as his trustee. Thou knowest that I supplied him with considerable sums immediately after the war."
"You did, until-"
"My letters were returned unopened. Thy father had much of thy own spirit, Oliver; he was sometimes hasty and rash." The Judge continued, in a self-condemning manner; " Perhaps my fault lies the other way: I may possibly look too far ahead, and calculate too deeply. It certainly was a severe trial to allow the man whom I most loved, to think ill of me for seven years, in order that he might honestly apply for his just remunerations. But, had he opened my last letters, thou wouldst have learned the whole truth. Those I sent him to England, by what my agent writes me, he did read. He died, Oliver, knowing all, he died my friend, and I thought thou hadst died with him"
"Our poverty would not permit us to pay for two passages," said the youth, with the extraordinary emotion with which he ever alluded to the degraded state of his family ; " I was left in the Province to wait for his return, and, when the sad news of his loss reached me, I was nearly penniless."
"And what didst thou, boy?" asked Marmaduke in a faltering voice.
"I took my passage here in search of my grandfather; for I well knew that his resources were gone, with the half pay of my father. On reaching his abode, I learned that he had left it in secret; though the reluctant hireling, who had deserted him in his poverty, owned to my urgent en treaties, that he believed he had been carried away by an -old man who had formerly been his servant. I knew at once it was Natty, for my father often-"
"Was Natty a servant of thy grandfather?" exclaimed the Judge.
"Of that too were you ignorant?" said the youth in evident surprise.
"How should I know it? I never met the Major, nor was the name of Bumppo ever mentioned to me. I knew him only as a man of the woods, and one who lived by hunting. Such men are too common to excite surprise."
"He was reared in the family of my grandfather; served him for many years during their campaigns at the West, where he became attached to the woods; and he was left here as a kind of locum tenens on the lands that old Mohegan (whose life my grandfather once saved) induced the Delawares to grant to him when they admitted him as an honorary member of their tribe.
"This, then, is thy Indian blood?"
"I have no other," said Edwards, smiling-" Major Effingham was adopted as the son of Mohegan, who at that time was the greatest man in his nation; and my father, who visited those people when a boy, received the name of the Eagle from them, on account of the shape of his face, as I understand. They have extended his title to me, I have no other Indian blood or breeding; though I have seen the hour, Judge Temple, when I could wish that such had been my lineage and education."
"Proceed with thy tale," said Marmaduke.
"I have but little more to say, sir, I followed to the lake where I had so often been told that Natty dwelt, and found him maintaining his old master in secret; for even he could not bear to exhibit to the world, in his poverty and dotage, a man whom a whole people once looked up to with respect."
"And what did you?"
"What did I? I spent my last money in purchasing a rifle, clad myself in a coarse garb, and learned to be a hunter by the side of Leather- Stocking. You know the rest, Judge Temple."
"Ant vere vas olt Fritz Hartmann?" said the German, reproachfully; "didst never hear a name as of olt Fritz Hartmann from ter mout of ter fader, lat?"
"I may have been mistaken, gentlemen," returned the youth, 'but I had pride, and could not submit to such an exposure as this day even has reluctantly brought to light. I had plans that might have been visionary; but, should my parent survive till autumn, I purposed taking him with me to the city, where we have distant relatives, who must have learned to forget the Tory by this time. He decays rapidly," he continued mournfully, "and must soon lie by the side of old Mohegan."
The air being pure, and the day fine, the party continued conversing on the rock, until the wheels of Judge Temple's carriage were heard clattering up the side of the mountain, during which time the conversation was maintained with deep interest, each moment clearing up some doubtful action, and lessening the antipathy of the youth to Marmaduke. He no longer objected to the removal of his grand father, who displayed a childish pleasure when he found himself seated once more in a carriage. When placed in the ample hall of the mansion- house, the eyes of the aged veteran turned slowly to the objects in the apartment, and a look like the dawn of intellect would, for moments flit across his features, when he invariably offered some use less courtesies to those near him, wandering painfully in his subjects. The exercise and the change soon produced an exhaustion that caused them to remove him to his bed, where he lay for hours, evidently sensible of the change in his comforts, and exhibiting that mortifying picture of human nature, which too plainly shows that the propensities of the animal continue even after the nobler part of the creature appears to have vanished.
Until his parent was placed comfortably in bed, with Natty seated at his side, Effingham did not quit him. He then obeyed a summons to the library of the Judge, where he found the latter, with Major Hartmann, waiting for him.
"Read this paper, Oliver," said Marmaduke to him, as he entered, "and thou wilt find that, so far from intending thy family wrong during life, it has been my care to see that justice should be done at even a later day."
The youth took the paper, which his first glance told him was the will of the Judge. Hurried and agitated as he was, he discovered that the date corresponded with the time of the unusual depression of Marmaduke. As he proceeded, his eyes began to moisten, and the hand which held the instrument shook violently.
The will commenced with the usual forms, spun out by the ingenuity of Mr. Van der School: but, after this subject was fairly exhausted, the pen of Marmaduke became plainly visible. In clear, distinct, manly, and even eloquent language, he recounted his obligations to Colonel Effingham, the nature of their connection, and the circumstances in which they separated. He then proceeded to relate the motives of his silence, mentioning, however, large sums that he had forwarded to his friend, which had been returned with the letters unopened. After this, he spoke of his search for the grandfather who unaccountably disappeared, and his fears that the direct heir of the trust was buried in the ocean with his father.
After, in short, recounting in a clear narrative, the events which our readers must now he able to connect, he proceeded to make a fair and exact statement of the sums left in his care by Colonel Effingham. A devise of his whole estate to certain responsible trustees followed; to hold the same for the benefit, in equal moieties, of his daughter, on one part, and of Oliver Effingham, formerly a major in the army of Great Britain, and of his son Ed ward Effingham, and of his son Edward Oliver Effingham, or to the survivor of them, and the descendants of such survivor, forever, on the other part. The trust was to endure until 1810, when, if no person appeared, or could be found, after sufficient notice, to claim the moiety so devised, then a certain sum, calculating the principal and interest of his debt to Colonel Effingham, was to be paid to the heirs-at-law of the Effingham family, and the bulk of his estate was to be conveyed in fee to his daughter, or her heirs.
The tears fell from the eyes of the young man, as he read this undeniable testimony of the good faith of Marmaduke, and his bewildered gaze was still fastened on the paper, when a voice, that thrilled on every nerve, spoke near him, saying:
"Do you yet doubt us, Oliver?"
"I have never doubted you!" cried the youth, recovering his recollection and his voice, as he sprang to seize the hand of Elizabeth ; "no, not one moment has my faith in you wavered."
"And my father-"
"God bless him!"
"I thank thee, my son," said the Judge, exchanging a warm pressure of the hand with the youth ; "but we have both erred: thou hast been too hasty, and I have been too slow. One-half of my estates shall be thine as soon as they can be conveyed to thee; and, if what my suspicions tell me be true, I suppose the other must follow speedily." He took the hand which he held, and united it with that of his daughter, and motioned toward the door to the Major.
"I telt yon vat, gal!" said the old German, good-humoredly ; "if I vas as I vas ven I servit mit his grand-fader on ter lakes, ter lazy tog shouldn't vin ter prize as for nottin'."
"Come, come, old Fritz," said the Judge; "you are seventy, not seventeen; Richard waits for you with a bowl of eggnog, in the hall."
"Richart! ter duyvel!" exclaimed the other, hastening out of the room; "he makes ter nog as for ter horse. vilt show ter sheriff mit my own hants! Ter duyvel! I pelieve he sweetens mit ter Yankee melasses!"
Marmaduke smiled and nodded affectionately at the young couple, and closed the door after them. If any of our readers expect that we are going to open it again, for their gratification, they are mistaken.
The tete-a-tete continued for a very unreasonable time--how long we shall not say; but it was ended by six o'clock in the evening, for at that hour Monsieur Le Quoi made his appearance agreeably to the appointment of the preceding day, and claimed the ear of Miss Temple. He was admitted ; when he made an offer of his hand, with much suavity, together with his "amis beeg and leet', his pÃ¨re, his mere and his sucreboosh." Elizabeth might, possibly, have previously entered into some embarrassing and binding engagements with Oliver, for she declined the tender of all, in terms as polite, though perhaps a little more decided, than those in which they were made.
The Frenchman soon joined the German and the sheriff in the hall, who compelled him to take a seat with them at the table, where, by the aid of punch, wine, and egg nog, they soon extracted from the complaisant Monsieur Le Quoi the nature of his visit, it was evident that he had made the offer, as a duty which a well- bred man owed to a lady in such a retired place, before he had left the country, and that his feelings were but very little, if at all, interested in the matter. After a few potations, the waggish pair persuaded the exhilarated Frenchman that there was an inexcusable partiality in offering to one lady, and not extending a similar courtesy to another. Consequently, about nine, Monsieur Le Quoi sallied forth to the rectory, on a similar mission to Miss Grant, which proved as successful as his first effort in love.
When he returned to the mansion-house, at ten, Richard and the Major were still seated at the table. They at tempted to persuade the Gaul, as the sheriff called him, that he should next try Remarkable Pettibone. But, though stimulated by mental excitement and wine, two hours of abstruse logic were thrown away on this subject; for he declined their advice, with a pertinacity truly astonishing in so polite a man.
When Benjamin lighted Monsieur Le Quoi from the door, he said, at parting:
"If-so-be, Mounsheer, you'd run alongside Mistress Pettybones, as the Squire Dickens was bidding ye, 'tis my notion you'd have been grappled; in which case, d'ye see, you mought have been troubled in swinging clear agin in a handsome manner; for thof Miss Lizzy and the parson's young 'un be tidy little vessels, that shoot by a body on a wind, Mistress Remarkable is summat of a galliot fashion: when you once takes 'em in tow, they doesn't like to be cast off agin."
"Yes, sweep ye on!-We will not leave, For them who triumph those who grieve. With that armada gay Be laughter loud, and jocund shout- -But with that skill Abides the minstrel tale. "-Lord of the Isles.
The events of our tale carry us through the summer; and after making nearly the circle of the year, we must conclude our labors in the delightful month of October. Many important incidents had, however, occurred in the intervening period; a few of which it may be necessary to recount.
The two principal were the marriage of Oliver and Elizabeth, and the death of Major Effingham. They both took place early in September; and the former preceded the latter only a few days. The old man passed away like the last glimmering of a taper; and, though his death cast a melancholy over the family, grief could not follow such an end. One of the chief concerns of Marmaduke was to reconcile the even conduct of a magistrate with the course that his feelings dictated to the criminals. The day succeeding the discovery at the cave, however, Natty and Benjamin re-entered the jail peaceably, where they continued, well fed and comfortable, until the return of an express to Albany, who brought the governor's pardon to the Leather-Stocking. In the mean time, proper means were employed to satisfy Hiram for the assaults on his person ; and on the same day the two comrades issued together into society again, with their characters not at all affected by the imprisonment.
Mr. Doolittle began to discover that neither architecture nor his law was quite suitable to the growing wealth and intelligence of the settlement; and after exacting the last cent that was attainable in his compromise, to use the language of the country he "pulled up stakes," and proceeded farther west, scattering his professional science and legal learning through the land; vestiges of both of which are to be discovered there even to the present hour.
Poor Jotham, whose life paid the forfeiture of his folly, acknowledged, before he died, that his reasons for believing in a mine were extracted from the lips of a sibyl, who, by looking in a magic glass, was enabled to discover the hidden treasures of the earth. Such superstition was frequent in the new settlements; and, after the first surprise was over, the better part of the community forgot the subject. But, at the same time that it removed from the breast of Richard a lingering suspicion of the acts of the three hunter, it conveyed a mortifying lesson to him, which brought many quiet hours, in future, to his cousin Marmaduke. It may be remembered that the sheriff confidently pronounced this to be no " visionary "scheme, and that word was enough to shut his lips, at any time within the next ten years.
Monsieur Le Quoi, who has been introduced to our readers because no picture of that country would be faithful without some such character, found the island of Martinique, and his "sucreboosh," in possession of the English but Marmaduke and his family were much gratified in soon hearing that he had returned to his bureau, in Paris; where he afterward issued yearly bulletins of his happiness, and of his gratitude to his friends in America.
With this brief explanation, we must return to our narrative. Let the American reader imagine one of our mildest October mornings, when the sun seems a ball of silvery fire, and the elasticity of the air is felt while it is inhaled, imparting vigor and life to the whole system ; the weather, neither too warm nor too cold, but of that happy temperature which stirs the blood, without bringing the lassitude of spring. It was on such a morning, about the middle of the month, that Oliver entered the hall where Elizabeth was issuing her usual orders for the day, and requesting her to join him in a short excursion to the lakeside. The tender melancholy in the manner of her husband caught the attention of Elizabeth, who instantly abandoned her concerns, threw a light shawl across her shoulders, and, concealing her raven hair under a gypsy hat, and took his arm, and submitted herself, without a question, to his guidance. They crossed the bridge, and had turned from the highway, along the margin of the lake, before a word was exchanged. Elizabeth well knew, by the direction, the object of the walk, and respected the feelings of her companion too much to indulge in untimely conversation. But when they gained the open fields, and her eye roamed over the placid lake, covered with wild fowl already journeying from the great northern waters to seek a warmer sun, but lingering to play in the limpid sheet of the Otsego, and to the sides of the mountain, which were gay with the thou- sand dyes of autumn, as if to grace their bridal, the swelling heart of the young wife burst out in speech.
"This is not a time for silence, Oliver!" she said, clinging more fondly to his arm; "everything in Nature seems to speak the praises of the Creator; why should we, who have so much to be grateful for, be silent?"
"Speak on!" said her husband, smiling; "I love the sounds of your voice. You must anticipate our errand hither: I have told you my plans: how do you like them?"
"I must first see them," returned his wife. "But I have had my plans, too; it is time I should begin to divulge them."
"You! It is something for the comfort of my old friend, Natty, I know."
"Certainly of Natty; but we have other friends besides the Leather- Stocking to serve. Do you forget Louisa and her father?"
"No, surely; have I not given one of the best farms in the county to the good divine? As for Louisa, I should wish you to keep her always near us."
"You do!" said Elizabeth, slightly compressing her lips; "but poor Louisa may have other views for herself; she may wish to follow my example, and marry."
"I don't think it," said Effingham, musing a moment, really don't know any one hereabouts good enough for her."
"Perhaps not her; but there are other places besides Templeton, and other churches besides 'New St. Paul's.'"
"Churches, Elizabeth! you would not wish to lose Mr. Grant, surely! Though simple, he is an excellent man I shall never find another who has half the veneration for my orthodoxy. You would humble me from a saint to a very common sinner."
"It must be done, sir," returned the lady, with a half-concealed smile, "though it degrades you from an angel to a man."
"But you forget the farm?"
"He can lease it, as others do. Besides, would you have a clergyman toil in the fields?"
"Where can he go? You forget Louisa."
"No, I do not forget Louisa," said Elizabeth, again compressing her beautiful lips. "You know, Effingham, that my father has told you that I ruled him, and that I should rule you. I am now about to exert my power."
"Anything, anything, dear Elizabeth, but not at the expense of us all: not at the expense of your friend."
"How do you know, sir, that it will be so much at the expense of my friend?" said the lady, fixing her eyes with a searching look on his countenance, where they met only the unsuspecting expression of manly regret.
"How do I know it? Why, it is natural that she should regret us." It is our duty to struggle with our natural feelings," returned the lady; "and there is but little cause to fear that such a spirit as Louisa's will not effect it."
"But what is your plan?"
"Listen, and you shall know. My father has procured a call for Mr. Grant, to one of the towns on the Hudson where he can live more at his ease than in journeying through these woods; where he can spend the evening of his life in comfort and quiet; and where his daughter may meet with such society, and form such a connection, as may be proper for one of her years and character."
"Bess! you amaze me! I did not think you had been such a manager!"
"Oh! I manage more deeply than you imagine, sir," said the wife, archly smiling again; " but it is thy will and it is your duty to submit-for a time at least."
Effingham laughed; but, as they approached the end of their walk, the subject was changed by common consent.
The place at which they arrived was the little spot of level ground where the cabin of the Leather-Stocking had so long stood. Elizabeth found it entirely cleared of rubbish, and beautifully laid down in turf, by the removal of sods, which, in common with the surrounding country, had grown gay, under the influence of profuse showers, as if a second spring had passed over the land. This little place was surrounded by a circle of mason-work, and they entered by a small gate, near which, to the surprise of both, the rifle of Natty was leaning against the wall. Hector and the slut reposed on the grass by its side, as if conscious that, however altered, they were lying on the ground and were surrounded by objects with which they were familiar. The hunter himself was stretched on the earth, before a head-stone of white marble, pushing aside with his fingers the long grass that had already sprung up from the luxuriant soil around its base, apparently to lay bare the inscription. By the side of this stone, which was a simple slab at the head of a grave, stood a rich monument, decorated with an urn and ornamented with the chisel.
Oliver and Elizabeth approached the graves with a light tread, unheard by the old hunter, whose sunburnt face was working, and whose eyes twinkled as if something impeded their vision. After some little time Natty raised himself slowly from the ground, and said aloud:
"Well, well-I'm bold to say it's all right! There's something that I suppose is reading; but I can't make anything of it; though the pipe and the tomahawk, and the moccasins, be pretty well-pretty well, for a man that, I dares to say, never seed 'ither of the things. Ah's me! there they lie, side by side, happy enough! Who will there be to put me in the 'arth when my time comes?"
"When that unfortunate hour arrives, Natty, friends shall not be wanting to perform the last offices for you," said Oliver, a little touched at the hunter's soliloquy.
The old man turned, without manifesting surprise, for he had got the Indian habits in this particular, and, running his hand under the bottom of his nose, seemed to wipe away his sorrow with the action.
"You've come out to see the graves, children, have ye?" he said; " well, well, they're wholesome sights to young as well as old."
"I hope they are fitted to your liking," said Effingham, "no one has a better right than yourself to be consulted in the matter."
"Why, seeing that I ain't used to fine graves," returned the old man, "it is but little matter consarning my taste. Ye laid the Major's head to the west, and Mohegan's to the east, did ye, lad?"
"At your request it was done,"
"It's so best," said the hunter; "they thought they had to journey different ways, children: though there is One greater than all, who'll bring the just together, at His own time, and who'll whiten the skin of a blackamoor, and place him on a footing with princes."
"There is but little reason to doubt that," said Elizabeth, whose decided tones were changed to a soft, melancholy voice; "I trust we shall all meet again, and be happy together."
"Shall we, child, shall we?" exclaimed the hunter, with unusual fervor, "there's comfort in that thought too. But before I go, I should like to know what 'tis you tell these people, that be flocking into the country like pigeons in the spring, of the old Delaware, and of the bravest white man that ever trod the hills?"
Effingham and Elizabeth were surprised at the manner of the Leather- Stocking, which was unusually impressive and solemn; but, attributing it to the scene, the young man turned to the monument, and read aloud:
"Sacred to the memory of Oliver Effingham Esquire, formally a Major in his B. Majesty's 60th Foot; a soldier of tried valor; a subject of chivalrous loyalty; and a man of honesty. To these virtues he added the graces of a Christian. The morning of his life was spent in honor, wealth, and power; but its evening was obscured by poverty, neglect, and disease, which were alleviated only by the tender care of his old, faithful, and upright friend and attendant Nathaniel Bumppo. His descendants rest this stone to the virtues of the master, and to the enduring gratitude of the servant."
The Leather-Stocking started at the sound of his own name, and a smile of joy illuminated his wrinkled features, as he said:
"And did ye say It, lad? have you then got the old man's name cut in the stone, by the side of his master's! God bless ye, children! 'twas a kind thought, and kindness goes to the heart as Life shortens."
Elizabeth turned her back to the speakers. Effingham made a fruitless effort before he succeeded in saying:
"It is there cut in plain marble; but it should have been written in letters of gold!"
"Show me the name, boy," said Natty, with simple eagerness; "let me see my own name placed in such honor. 'Tis a gin'rous gift to a man who leaves none of his name and family behind him in a country where he has tarried so long."
Effingham guided his finger to the spot, and Natty followed the windings of the letters to the end with deep interest, when he raised himself from the tomb, and said:
"I suppose it's all right; and it's kindly thought, and kindly done! But what have ye put over the red-skin"
"You shall hear: This stone is raised to the memory of an Indian Chief of the Delaware tribe, who was known by the several names of John Mohegan Mohican---'"
"Mo-hee-can, lad, they call theirselves! 'hecan."
"Mohican; and Chingagook-"
"'Gach, boy; 'gach-gook; Chingachgook, which interpreted, means Big- sarpent. The name should he set down right, for an Indian's name has always some meaning in it."
"I will see it altered. 'He was the last of his people who continued to inhabit this country; and it may he said of him that his faults were those of an Indian, and his virtues those of a man.'"
"You never said truer word, Mr. Oliver; ah's me! if you had knowed him as I did, in his prime, in that very battle where the old gentleman, who sleeps by his side saved his life, when them thieves, the Iroquois, had him at the stake, you'd have said all that, and more too. I cut the thongs with this very hand, and gave him my own tomahawk and knife, seeing that the rifle was always my fav'rite weapon. He did lay about him like a man! I met him as I was coming home from the trail, with eleven Mingo scalps on his pole. You needn't shudder, Madam Effingham, for they was all from shaved heads and warriors. When I look about me, at these hills, where I used to could count sometimes twenty smokes, curling over the tree-tops, from the Delaware camps, it raises mournful thoughts, to think that not a red-skin is left of them all; unless it be a drunken vagabond from the Oneidas, or them Yankee Indians, who, they say, be moving up from the seashore; and who belong to none of Gods creatures, to my seeming, being, as it were, neither fish nor flesh-neither white man nor savage. Well, well! the time has come at last, and I must go--"
"Go!" echoed Edwards, " whither do you go?"
The Leather-Stocking; who had imbibed unconsciously, many of the Indian qualities, though he always thought of himself as of a civilized being, compared with even the Delawares, averted his face to conceal the workings of his muscles, as he stooped to lift a large pack from behind the tomb, which he placed deliberately on his shoulders.
"Go!" exclaimed Elizabeth, approaching him with a hurried step; "you should not venture so far in the woods alone, at your time of life, Natty; indeed, it Is Imprudent, He is bent, Effingham, on some distant hunting."
"What Mrs. Effingham tells you is true, Leather-Stocking' said Edwards; "there can be no necessity for your submitting to such hardships now. So throw aside your pack, and confine your hunt to the mountains near us, if you will go."
"Hardship! 'tis a pleasure, children, and the greatest that is left me on this side the grave."
"No, no; you shall not go to such a distance," cried Elizabeth, laying her white hand on his deer-skin pack-" I am right! I feel his camp- kettle, and a canister of powder! He must not be suffered to wander so far from us, Oliver; remember how suddenly Mohegan dropped away."
"I knowed the parting would come hard, children-I knowed it would!" said Natty, "and so I got aside to look at the graves by myself, and thought if I left ye the keep sake which the Major gave me, when we first parted in the woods, ye wouldn't take it unkind, but would know that, let the old man's body go where it might, his feelings stayed behind him."
"This means something more than common," exclaimed the youth. "Where is it, Natty, that you purpose going?"
The hunter drew nigh him with a confident, reasoning air, as If what he had to say would silence all objections, and replied:
"Why, lad, they tell me that on the big lakes there's the best of hunting, and a great range without a white man on it unless it may be one like myself. I'm weary of living in clearings, and where the hammer is sounding in my ears from sunrise to sundown. And though I'm much bound to ye both, children-I wouldn't say it if It was not true-I crave to go into the woods agin-I do."
"Woods!" echoed Elizabeth, trembling with her feelings; "do you not call these endless forests woods?"
"Ah! child, these be nothing to a man that's used to the wilderness. I have took but little comfort sin' your father come on with his settlers; but I wouldn't go far, while the life was in the body that lies under the sod there. But now he's gone, and Chingachgook Is gone; and you be both young and happy. Yes! the big house has rung with merriment this month past! And now I thought was the time to get a little comfort in the close of my days. Woods! indeed! I doesn't call these woods, Madam Effingham, where I lose myself every day of my life in the clearings."
"If there be anything wanting to your comfort, name it, Leather- Stocking; if it be attainable it is yours."
"You mean all for the best, lad, I know; and so does madam, too; but your ways isn't my ways. 'Tis like the dead there, who thought, when the breath was in them, that one went east, and one went west, to find their heavens; but they'll meet at last, and so shall we, children. Yes, and as you've begun, and we shall meet in the land of the just at last."
"This is so new! so unexpected!" said Elizabeth, in almost breathless excitement; "I had thought you meant to live with us and die with us, Natty."
"Words are of no avail," exclaimed her husband: "the habits of forty years are not to he dispossessed by the ties of a day. I know you too well to urge you further, Natty; unless you will let me build you a hut on one of the distant hills, where we can sometimes see you, and know that you are comfortable."
"Don't fear for the Leather-Stocking, children; God will see that his days be provided for, and his ind happy. I know you mean all for the best, but our ways doesn't agree. I love the woods, and ye relish the face of man; I eat when hungry, and drink when a-dry; and ye keep stated hours and rules; nay, nay, you even over-feed the dogs, lad, from pure kindness; and hounds should be gaunty to run well. The meanest of God's creatures be made for some use, and I'm formed for the wilderness, If ye love me, let me go where my soul craves to be agin!"
The appeal was decisive; and not another word of en treaty for him to remain was then uttered; but Elizabeth bent her head to her bosom and wept, while her husband dashed away the tears from his eyes; and, with hands that almost refused to perform their office, he procured his pocket-book, and extended a parcel of bank-notes to the hunter.
"Take these," he said, "at least take these; secure them about your person, and in the hour of need they will do you good service."
The old man took the notes, and examined them with curious eye.
"This, then, is some of the new-fashioned money that they've been making at Albany, out of paper! It can't be worth much to they that hasn't larning! No, no, lad---take back the stuff; it will do me no sarvice, I took kear to get all the Frenchman's powder afore he broke up, and they say lead grows where I'm going. it isn't even fit for wads, seeing that I use none but leather!-Madam Effingham, let an old man kiss your hand, and wish God's choicest blessings on you and your'n"
"Once more let me beseech you, stay!" cried Elizabeth. Do not, Leather-Stocking, leave me to grieve for the man who has twice rescued me from death, and who has served those I love so faithfully. For my sake, if not for your own, stay. I shall see you in those frightful dreams that still haunt my nights, dying in poverty and age, by the side of those terrific beasts you slew. There will be no evil, that sickness, want, and solitude can inflict, that my fancy will not conjure as your fate. Stay with us, old man, if not for your own sake, at least for ours."
"Such thoughts and bitter dreams, Madam Effingham," returned the hunter, solemnly, " will never haunt an innocent parson long. They'll pass away with God's pleasure. And if the cat-a-mounts be yet brought to your eyes in sleep, tis not for my sake, but to show you the power of Him that led me there to save you. Trust in God, madam, and your honorable husband, and the thoughts for an old man like me can never be long nor bitter. I pray that the Lord will keep you in mind-the Lord that lives in clearings as well as in the wilderness-and bless you, and all that belong to you, from this time till the great day when the whites shall meet the red-skins in judgement, and justice shall be the law, and not power."
Elizabeth raised her head, and offered her colorless cheek to his salute, when he lifted his cap and touched it respectfully. His hand was grasped with convulsive fervor by the youth, who continued silent. The hunter prepared himself for his journey, drawing his belt tighter, and wasting his moments in the little reluctant movements of a sorrowful departure. Once or twice he essayed to speak, but a rising in his throat prevented it. At length he shouldered his rifle, and cried with a clear huntsman's call that echoed through the woods: He-e-e-re, he-e-e-re, pups-away, dogs, away!-ye'll be footsore afore ye see the end of the journey!"
The hounds leaped from the earth at this cry, and scenting around the grave and silent pair, as if conscious of their own destination, they followed humbly at the heels of their master. A short pause succeeded, during which even the youth concealed his face on his grandfather's tomb. When the pride of manhood, however, had sup pressed the feelings of nature, he turned to renew his en treaties, but saw that the cemetery was occupied only by himself and his wife.
"He is gone!" cried Effingham.
Elizabeth raised her face, and saw the old hunter standing looking back for a moment, on the verge of the wood. As he caught their glances, he drew his hard hand hastily across his eyes again, waved it on high for an adieu, and, uttering a forced cry to his dogs, who were crouching at his feet, he entered the forest.
This was the last they ever saw of the Leather-Stocking, whose rapid movements preceded the pursuit which Judge Temple both ordered and conducted. He had gone far toward the setting sun-the foremost in that band of pioneers who are opening the way for the march of the nation across the continent.