Volume I, Chapter IV
“The sisters’ vows, the hours that we have spent,
When we have chid the hasty-footed time
For parting us—oh, and is all forgot?”
Midsummer Night’s Dream
On quitting Everell, our heroine, quite unconscious that she was the subject of painful suspicion or affectionate anxiety, sought a sequestered spot, where she might indulge and tranquillize her feelings.
It has been said that the love of a brother and sister is the only platonic affection. This truth (if it be a truth) is the conviction of an experience far beyond our heroine’s. She had seen in Esther the pangs of repressed and unrequited love, and, mistaking them for the characteristic emotions of that sentiment, it was no wonder that she perceived no affinity to it in the joyous affection that had animated her own soul. “After a little while,” she said, “I shall feel as I did when we lived together in Bethel; if all that I love are happy, I must be happy too.” If the cold and selfish laugh to scorn what they think the reasoning of ignorance and inexperience, it is because they have never felt that to meditate the happiness of others is to enter upon the ministry and the joy of celestial spirits. Not one envious or repining thought intruded into the heaven of Hope Leslie’s mind. Not one malignant spirit passed the bounds of that paradise, that was filled with pure and tender affections, with projects of goodness, and all their cheerful train.
Hope was longer absorbed in her revery than perhaps was quite consistent with her philosophy; and when she was roused from it by Digby’s voice, she blushed from the consciousness that her thoughts had been too long withdrawn from the purpose of her visit to the island. Digby came to say that his wife’s supper-table was awaiting Miss Leslie. Hope embraced the opportunity, as they walked together towards his dwelling, to make her arrangements for the evening. “Digby,” she said, “I have something to confide to you, but you must ask me no questions.”
“That’s crossing human nature,” replied the good fellow; “but I think I can swim against the current for you. Miss Hope.”
“Thank you, Digby. Then, in the first place, you must know, I expect some friends to meet me here this evening; all that I ask of you is to permit me to remain out unmolested as long as I may choose. You may tell your wife that I like to stroll in the garden by moonlight, or to sit and listen to the waves breaking on the shore— as you know I do, Digby.”
“Yes, Miss Hope, I know your heart always linked into such things; but it will be heathen Greek to my wife—so you must make out a better reason for her.”
“Then tell her that I like to have my own way.”
“Ah, that will I,” replied Digby, chuckling; “that is what every woman can understand. I always said, Miss Hope, it was a pure mercy you chose the right way, for you always had yours.”
“Perhaps you think, Digby, I have been too headstrong in my own way.”
“Oh, no! my sweet mistress, no; why, this having our own way is what everybody likes; it’s the privilege we came to this wilderness world for; and though the gentles up in town there, with the governor at their head, hold a pretty tight rein, yet I can tell them that there are many who think what blunt Master Blackstone said, ‘That he came not away from the Lord’s-bishops to put himself under the Lord’sbrethren.’ No, no. Miss Hope, I watch the motions of the straws—I know which way the wind blows. Thought and will are set free, it was but the other day, so to speak—in the days of good Queen Bess, as they called her—when, if her majesty did but raise her hand, the Parliament folk were all down on their knees to her; and now, thank God, the poorest and the lowest of us only kneel to Him who made us. Times are changed—there is a new spirit in the world—chains are broken—fetters are knocked off—and the liberty set forth in the blessed Word is now felt to be every man’s birthright. But shame on my prating, that wags so fast when I might hear your nightingale voice.”
Hope’s mind was preoccupied, and she found it difficult to listen to Digby’s speculations with interest, or to respond with animation; but she was too benignant to lose herself in sullen abstraction; and when they arrived at the cottage, she roused her faculties to amuse the children, and to listen to the mother’s stories of their promising smartness. She commended the good wife’s milk and cakes, and sat for half an hour after the table was removed, talking of the past, and brightening the future prospects of her good friends with predictions of their children’s prosperity and respectability: predictions which, Digby afterward said, the dear young lady’s bounty brought to pass.
Suddenly she sprang from her chair: “ Digby,” she exclaimed, “I think the east is lighting up with the rising moon—is it not ?”
“If it is not, it soon will,” replied Digby, understanding and favouring her purpose.
“Then,” said Hope, “I will take a walk around the island; and do not you, Betsy, sit up for me.” Betsy, of course, remonstrated. The night air was unwholesome; and, though the sky overhead was clear, yet she had heard distant thunder; the beach-birds had been in flocks on Shore all the day; and the breakers on the east side of the island made a boding sound. These and other signs were ‘urged as arguments against the unseasonable walk. Of course they were unheeded by our heroine, who, declaring that, with shelter so near, she was in no danger, muffled herself in her cloak and sallied forth. She bent her steps around the cliff which rises at the western extremity of the island, leaving at its base a few yards of flat, rocky shore, around which the waters of the bay sweep, deeply indenting it, and forming a natural cove or harbour for small boats. As Hope passed around a ledge of rocks, she fancied she saw a shadow cast by a figure that seemed flying before her. “They are here already,” she thought, and hastened forward, expecting to catch a glimpse of them as soon as she should turn the angle of the rock; but no figure appeared; and though Hope imagined she heard stones rattling, as if displaced by hurried steps, she was soon convinced the sound was accidental. Alive only to one expectation, she seated herself, without any apprehension, to await in this solitude the coming of her sister.
The moon rose unclouded, and sent her broad stream of light across the beautiful bay, kindling in her beams the islands that gemmed it, and disclosing with a dim, indefinite light, the distant town, rising over this fair domain of sea and land: hills, heights, jutting points, and islands then unknown to fame, but now consecrated in domestic annals, and illustrious in the patriot’s story.
Whatever charms the scene might have presented to our heroine’s eye at another moment, she was now only conscious of one emotion of feverish impatience. She gazed and listened till her senses ached; and at last, when anticipation had nearly yielded to despair, her ear caught the dash of oars, and at the next moment a canoe glanced around the headland into the cove: she darted to the brink of the water— she gazed intently on the little bark; her whole soul was in that look. Her sister was there. At this first assurance that she really beheld this loved, lost sister, Hope uttered a scream of joy; but when, at a second glance^ she saw her in her savage attire, fondly leaning on Oneco’s shoulder, her heart died within her; a sickening feeling came over her—an unthought of revolting of nature; and, instead of obeying the first impulse, and springing forward to clasp her in her arms, she retreated to the cliff, leaned her head against it, averted her eyes, and pressed her hands on her heart, as if she would have bound down her rebel feelings.
Magawisca’s voice aroused her. “Hope Leslie,” she said, “take thy sister’s hand.”
Hope stretched out her hand without lifting her eyes; but when she felt her sister’s touch, the energies of nature awoke; she threw her arms around her, folded her to her bosom, laid her cheek on hers, and wept as if her heart would burst in every sob. Mary (we use the appellative by which Hope had known her sister) remained passive in her arms. Her eye was moistened, but she seemed rather abashed and confounded than excited; and when Hope released her, she turned towards Oneco with a look of simple wonder. Hope again threw her arm around her sister, and intently explored her face for some trace of those infantine features that were impressed on her memory.” It is—it is my sister !” she exclaimed, and kissed her cheek again and again. “Oh, Mary! do you not remember when we sat together on mother’s knee? Do you not remember when, with her own burning hand, the very day she died, she put those chains on our necks ? Do you not remember when they held us up to kiss her cold lips?”
Mary looked towards Magawisca for an explanation of her sister’s words.” Look at me, Mary; speak to me,” continued Hope.
“No speak Yengees,” replied Mary, exhausting in this brief sentence all the English she could command.
Hope, in the impetuosity of her feelings, had forgotten that Magawisca had forewarned her not to indulge the expectation that her sister could speak to her; and the melancholy truth, announced by her own lips, seemed to Hope to open a new and impassable gulf between them. She wrung her hands: “Oh, what shall I do? what shall I say?” she exclaimed.
Magawisca now advanced to her, and said, in a compassionate tone, “Let me be thy interpreter, Hope Leslie, and be thou more calm. Dost thou not see thy sister is to thee as the feather borne on the torrent?”
“I will be more calm, Magawisca; but promise me you will interpret truly for me.”
A blush of offended pride overspread Magawisca’s cheek. “We hold truth to be the health of the soul,” she said: “thou mayst speak, maiden, without fear that I will abate one of thy words.”
“Oh, I fear nothing wrong from you, Magawisca; forgive me—forgive me—I know not what I say or do.” She drew her sister to a rock, and they sat down together. Hope knew not how to address one so near to her by nature, so far removed by habit and education. She thought that if Mary’s dress, which was singularly and gaudily decorated, had a less savage aspect, she might look more natural to her; and she signed to her to remove the mantle she wore, made of birds’ feathers, woven together with threads of the wild nettle. Mary threw it aside, and disclosed her person, light and agile as a fawn’s, clothed with skins, neatly fitted to her waist and arms, and ambitiously embellished with embroidery in porcupine’s quills and beads. The removal of the mantle, instead of the effect designed, only served to make more striking the aboriginal peculiarities; and Hope, shuddering and heart-sick, made one more effort to disguise them by taking off her silk cloak and wrapping it close around her sister. Mary seemed instantly to comprehend the language of the action; she shook her head, gently disengaged herself from the cloak, and resumed her mantle. An involuntary exclamation of triumph burst from Oneco’s lips. “Oh, tell her,” said Hope to Magawisca; “that I want once more to see her in the dress of her own people—of her own family—from whose arms she was torn to be dragged into captivity.”
A faint smile curled Magawisca’s lip, but she interpreted faithfully Hope’s communication and Mary’s reply: “‘She does not like the English dress,’ she says.”
“Ask her,” said Hope, “if she remembers the day when the wild Indians sprung upon the family at Bethel like wolves upon a fold of lambs? If she remembers when Mrs. Fletcher and her innocent little ones were murdered, and she stolen away?”
“She says ‘she remembers it well, for then it was Oneco saved her life.’”
Hope groaned aloud. “Ask her,” she continued, with unabated eagerness,” if she remembers when we played together, and, read together, and knelt together at our mother’s feet; when she told us of the God that made us, and the Saviour that redeemed us?"
“She remembers something of all this, but she says ‘it is faint and distant, like the vanishing vapour on the far-off mountain.’”
“Oh, tell her, Magawisca, if she will come home and live with me, I will devote my life to her. I will watch over her in sickness and health. I will be mother— sister—friend to her: tell her that our mother, now a saint in heaven, stoops from her happy place to entreat her to return to our God and our father’s God.”
Mary shook her head in a manner indicative of a more determined feeling than she had before manifested, and took from her bosom a crucifix, which she fervently pressed to her lips.
Every motive Hope offered was powerless, every mode of entreaty useless, and she leaned her head despondently on Mary’s shoulder. The contrast between the two faces thus brought together was most striking. Hope’s hat had slipped back, and her rich brown tresses fell about her neck and face; her full eye was intently fixed on Mary, and her cheek glowing with impassioned feeling, she looked like an angel touched with some mortal misery; while Mary’s face, pale and spiritless, was only redeemed from absolute vacancy by an expression of gentleness and modesty. Hope’s hand was lying on her sister’s lap, and a brilliant diamond ring caught
Mary’s attention. Hope perceived this, and instantly drew it from her own finger and placed it on Mary’s; “and here is another—and another—and another,” she cried, making the same transfer of all her rings. “Tell her, Magawisca, if she will come home with me, she shall be decked with jewels from head to foot; she shall have feathers from the most beautiful birds that wing the air, and flowers that never fade: tell her that all I possess shall be hers.”
“Shall I tell her so ?” asked Magawisca, with a mingled expression of contempt and concern, as if she herself despised the lure, but feared that Mary might be caught by it; for the pleased girl was holding her hand before her, turning it, and gazing with childlike delight on the gems, as they caught and reflected the moonbeams. “Shall I ask your sister to barter truth and love—the jewels of the soul, that grow brighter and brighter in the land of spirits—for these poor perishing trifles? Oh, Hope Leslie, I had better thoughts of thee.”
“I cannot help it, Magawisca; I am driven to try every way to win back my sister: tell her, I entreat you, tell her what I have said.”
Magawisca faithfully repeated all the motives Hope had urged, while Hope herself clasped her sister’s hand, and looked in her face with a mute supplication more earnest than words could express. Mary hesitated, and her eye turned quickly to Oneco, to Magawisca, and then again rested on her sister. Hope felt her hand tremble in hers; Mary, for the first time, bent towards her, and laid her cheek to Hope’s. Hope uttered a scream of delight: “Oh, she does not refuse; she will stay with me,” she exclaimed. Mary understood the exclamation, and suddenly recoiled, and hastily drew the rings from her fingers. “Keep them—keep them,” said Hope, bursting into tears; “if we must be cruelly parted again, they will sometimes speak to you of me.”
At this moment a bright light, as of burning flax, flamed up from the cliff before them, threw a momentary flash over the water, and then disappeared. Oneco rose: “I like not this light,” he said; “we must be gone; we have redeemed our promise;” and he took Hope’s cloak from the ground, and gave it to her as a signal that the moment of separation had arrived.
“Oh, stay one moment longer,” cried Hope. Oneco pointed to the heavens, over which black and threatening clouds were rapidly gathering, and Magawisca said, “Do not ask us to delay; my father has waited long enough.” Hope now, for the first time, observed there was an Indian in the canoe, wrapped in skins, and listlessly awaiting, in a recumbent position, the termination of the scene. “
Is that Mononotto?” she said, shuddering at the thought of the bloody scenes with which he was associated in her mind; but, before her inquiry was answered, the subject of it sprang to his feet, and uttering an exclamation of surprise, stretched his hand towards the town. All at once perceived the object towards which he pointed. A bright strong light streamed upward from the highest point pf land, and sent a ruddy glow over the bay. Every eye turned inquiringly to Hope. “It is nothing,” she said to Magawisca, “but the light that is often kindled on Beacon Hill to guide the ships into the harbour. The night is becoming dark, and some vessel is expected in; that is all, believe me.”
Whatever trust her visiters might have reposed in Hope’s good faith, they were evidently alarmed by an appearance which they did not think sufficiently accounted for; and Oneco hearing, or imagining he heard, approaching oars, said, in his own language, to Magawisca, “We have no time to lose; I will not permit my white bird to remain any longer within reach of the net.”
Magawisca assented: “We must go,” she said, “we must no longer hazard our father’s life.” Oneco sprang into the canoe, and called to Mary to follow him.
“Oh, spare her one single moment!” said Hope, imploringly, to Magawisca; and she drew, her a few paces from the shore, and knelt down with her, and, in a half articulate prayer, expressed the tenderness and sorrow of her soul, and committed her sister to God. Mary understood her action, and feeling that their separation was forever, nature for a moment asserted her rights; she returned Hope’s embrace, and wept on her bosom.
While the sisters were thus folded in one another’s arms, a loud yell burst from the savages; Magawisca caught Mary by the arms, and Hope, turning, perceived that a boat filled with armed men had passed the projecting point of land, and, borne in by the tide, it instantly touched the beach, and in another instant Magawisca and Mary were prisoners. Hope saw the men were in the uniform of the governor’s guard. One moment before she would have given worlds to have had her sister in her power; but now, the first impulse of her generous spirit was an abhorrence of her seeming treachery to her friends. “Oh! Oneco,” she cried, springing towards the canoe, “I did not—indeed I did not know of it.” She had scarcely uttered the words, which fell from her neither understood nor heeded, when Oneco caught her in his arms, and shouting to Magawisca to tell the English that, as they dealt by Mary, so Would he deal by her sister, he gave the canoe the first impulse, and it shot out like an arrow, distancing and defying pursuit.
Oneco’s coup-de-main seemed to petrify all present. They were roused by Sir Philip Gardiner, who, coming round the base of the cliff, appeared among them; and, learning the cause of their amazement, he ordered them, with a burst of passionate exclamation, instantly to man the boat, and proceed with him in pursuit. This one and all refused. “Daylight and calm water,” they said, “would be necessary to give any hope to such a pursuit, and the storm was now gathering so fast as to render it dangerous to venture out at all.”
Sir Philip endeavoured to alarm them with threats of the governor’s displeasure, and to persuade them with offers of high reward; but they understood too well the danger and hopelessness of the attempt to risk it, and they remained inexorable. Sir Philip then went in quest of Digby, and at the distance of a few paces met him. Alarmed by the rapid approach of the storm, he was seeking Miss Leslie; when he learned her fate from Sir Philip’s hurried communication, he uttered a cry of despair. “Oh! I would go after her,” he said, “if I had but a cockle-shell; but it seems as if the foul fiends were at work:. my boat was this morning sent to town to be repaired. And yet, what could we do?” He added, shuddering, “The wind is rising to that degree, that I think no boat could live in the bay; and it is getting as dark as Egypt. O God, save my precious young lady! God have mercy on her!” he continued. A sudden burst of thunder heightened his alarm: “ Man can do nothing for her. Why, in the name of Heaven,” he added, with a natural desire to appropriate the blame of misfortune, “why must they be forever meddling; why not let the sisters meet and part in peace?”
“Oh, why not ?” thought Sir Philip, who would have given his right hand to have retraced the steps that had led to this most unlooked-for and unhappy issue of the affair. They were now joined by the guard with their prisoners. Digby was requested to lead them instantly to a shelter. He did so; and, agitated as he was with fear and despair for Miss Leslie, he did not fail to greet Magawisca as one to whom all honour was due. She heeded him not; she seemed scarcely conscious of the cries of Faith Leslie, who was weeping like a child, and clinging to her. The treachery that had betrayed her rapt her soul in indignation, and nothing roused her but the blasts of wind and flashes of lightning, that seemed to her the deathknell of her father.
The storm continued for the space of an hour, and then died away as suddenly as it had gathered. In another hour the guard had safely landed at the wharf, and were conveying their prisoners to the governor. He and his confidential counsellors, who had been awaiting at his house the return of their emissaries, solaced themselves with the belief that all parties were safely sheltered on the island, and probably would remain there during the night. While they were whispering this conclusion to one another at one extremity of the parlour, Everell sat beside Miss Downing in the recess of a window that overlooked the garden. The huge projecting chimney formed a convenient screen for the lovers. The evening was warm, the windowsash thrown up. The moon had come forth, and shed a mild lustre through the dewy atmosphere; the very light that the young and sentimental, and, above all, young and sentimental lovers, most delight in. But in vain did Everell look abroad for inspiration; in vain did he turn his eyes to Esther’s face, now more beautiful than ever, flushed as it was with the first dawn of happiness; in Tain did he try to recall his truant thoughts, to answer words to her timid but bright glances; he would not, he could not say what he did not feel, and the few sentences he uttered fell on his own ear like cold abstractions. While he was in this durance, his father was listening—if a man stretched on a rack can be said to listen—to Madam Winthrop’s whispered and reiterated assurances of her entire approbation of her niece’s choice.
This was the position of all parties, when a bustle was heard in the court, and the guard entered. The foremost advanced to the governor, and communicated a few sentences in a low tone. The governor manifested unusual emotion, turned round suddenly, and exclaimed, “Here, Mr. Fletcher—Everell;” and then motioning to them to keep their places, he said, in an under voice, to those near to him, “We must first dispose of our prisoner: come forward, Magawisca.”
“Magavnsca!” echoed Everell, springing at one bound into the hall. But Magawisca shrunk back and averted her face. “Now God be praised!” he exclaimed, as he caught the first glance of a form never to be forgotten; “it is—it is Magawisca!” She did not speak, but drew away, and leaned her head against the wall. “What means this?” he said, now for the first time espying Faith Leslie, and then looking round on the guard; “what means it, sir?” he demanded, turning somewhat imperiously to the governor.
“It means, sir,” replied the governor, coldly, “that this Indian woman is the prisoner of the Common wealth”
“It means that I am a prisoner, lured to the net, and betrayed.”
“You a prisoner—here, Magawisca!” Everell exclaimed. “Impossible! Justice, gratitude, humanity forbid it. My father—Governor Winthrop, you will not surely suffer this outrage?”
The elder Fletcher had advanced, and, scarcely less perplexed and agitated than his son, was endeavouring to draw forth Faith Leslie, who had shrunk behind Magawisca. Governor Winthrop seemed not at all pleased with Everell’s interference. “You will do well, young Mr. Fletcher, to bridle your zeal; private feelings must yield to the public good: this young woman is suspected of being an active agent in brewing the conspiracy forming against us among the Indian tribes; and it is somewhat bold in you to oppose the course of justice—to intermeddle with the public welfare—to lift your feeble judgment against the wisdom of Providence, which has led, by peculiar means, to the apprehension of the enemy. Conduct your prisoner to the jail,” he added, turning to the guard, “and bid Barnaby have her in close and safe keeping till farther orders.”
“For the love of God, sir,” cried Everell, “do not this injustice. At least suffer her to remain in your own house, on her promise—more secure than the walls of a prison.” Governor Winthrop only replied by signing to the guards to proceed to their duty.
“Stay one moment,” exclaimed Everell; “permit her, I beseech you, to remain here; place her in any one of your apartments, and I will remain before it, a faithful warder, night and day. But do not—do not, I beseech you—sully your honour by committing this noble creature to your jail.”
“Listen to my son, I entreat you,” said the elder Fletcher, unable any longer to restrain his own feelings;” certainly we owe much to this woman.”
“You owe much, undoubtedly,” replied the governor; “but it yet remains to be proved, my friend, that your son’s redeemed life is to be put in the balance against the public weal.”
Esther, who had observed the scene with an intense interest, now overcame her timidity so far as to penetrate the circle that surrounded the governor, and to attempt to enforce Everell’s prayer. “May not Magawisca,” she said, “share our apartment—Hope’s and mine? She will then, in safe custody, await your farther pleasure.”
“Thanks, Esther—thanks,” cried Everell, with an animation that would have rewarded a far more difficult effort: but all efforts were unavailing, but not useless; for Magawisca said to Everell, “You have sent light into my darkened soul—you have truth and gratitude; and for the rest, they are but what I deemed them; Send me,” she continued, proudly turning to the governor, “to your dungeon; all places are alike to me while I am your prisoner; but, for the sake of Everell Fletcher, let me tell you, that she who is dearer to him than his own soul, if, indeed, she has lived out the perils of this night, must answer for my safe keeping.”
“Hope Leslie!” exclaimed Everell; “what has happened? What do you mean, Magawisca?”
“She was the decoy bird,” replied Magawisca, calmly; “and she, too, is caught in the net.”
“Explain, I beseech you!” The governor answered Everell’s appeal by a brief explanation. A bustle ensued: every other feeling was now lost in concern for Hope Leslie; and Magawisca was separated from her weeping and frightened companion, and conducted away without farther opposition; while the two Fletchers, as if life and death hung on every instant, were calling on the governor to aid them in the way and means of pursuit.