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    19020
  • Thus feeding his mind with many sweet thoughts and “sugared suppositions,”

    he journeyed along the sides of a range of hills which look out upon some of the goodliest scenes of the mighty Hudson. The sun gradually wheeled his broad disk down into the west. The wide bosom of the Tappan Zee lay motionless and glassy, excepting that here and there a gentle undulation waved and prolonged the blue shadow of the distant mountain. A few amber clouds floated in the sky, without a breath of air to move them. The horizon was of a fine golden tint, changing gradually into a pure apple green, and from that into the deep blue of the mid-heaven. A slanting ray lingered on the woody crests of the precipices that overhung some parts of the river, giving greater depth to the dark-gray and purple of their rocky sides. A sloop was loitering in the distance, dropping slowly down with the tide, her sail hanging uselessly against the mast, and as the reflection of the sky gleamed along the still water it seemed as if the vessel was suspended in the air.

    It was toward evening that Ichabod arrived at the castle of the Heer Van Tassel, which he found thronged with the pride and flower of the adjacent country—

    old farmers, a spare leathern-faced race, in homespun coats and breeches, blue Page | 751

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    stockings, huge shoes, and magnificent pewter buckles; their brisk withered little dames, in close crimped caps, long-waisted shortgowns, homespun petticoats, with scissors and pincushions and gay calico pockets hanging on the outside; buxom lasses, almost as antiquated as their mothers, excepting where a straw hat, a fine ribbon, or perhaps a white frock, gave symptoms of city innovation; the sons, in short square-skirted coats with rows of stupendous brass buttons, and their hair generally queued in the fashion of the times, especially if they could procure an eel-skin for the purpose, it being esteemed throughout the country as a potent nourisher and strengthener of the hair.

    Brom Bones, however, was the hero of the scene, having come to the gathering on his favorite steed Daredevil—a creature, like himself full of metal and mischief, and which no one but himself could manage. He was, in fact, noted for preferring vicious animals, given to all kinds of tricks, which kept the rider in constant risk of his neck, for he held a tractable, well-broken horse as unworthy of a lad of spirit.

    Fain would I pause to dwell upon the world of charms that burst upon the enraptured gaze of my hero as he entered the state parlor of Van Tassel’s mansion.

    Not those of the bevy of buxom lasses with their luxurious display of red and white, but the ample charms of a genuine Dutch country tea-table in the sumptuous time of autumn. Such heaped-up platters of cakes of various and almost indescribable kinds, known only to experienced Dutch housewives! There was the doughty doughnut, the tenderer oily koek, and the crisp and crumbling cruller; sweet cakes and short cakes, ginger cakes and honey cakes, and the whole family of cakes.

    And then there were apple pies and peach pies and pumpkin pies; besides slices of ham and smoked beef; and moreover delectable dishes of preserved plums and peaches and pears and quinces; not to mention broiled shad and roasted chickens; together with bowls of milk and cream,—all mingled higgledy-piggledy, pretty much as I have enumerated them, with the motherly teapot sending up its clouds of vapor from the midst. Heaven bless the mark! I want breath and time to discuss this banquet as it deserves, and am too eager to get on with my story.

    Happily, Ichabod Crane was not in so great a hurry as his historian, but did ample justice to every dainty.

    He was a kind and thankful creature, whose heart dilated in proportion as his skin was filled with good cheer, and whose spirits rose with eating as some men’s do with drink. He could not help, too, rolling his large eyes round him as he ate, and chuckling with the possibility that he might one day be lord of all this scene of almost unimaginable luxury and splendor. Then, he thought, how soon he’d turn his back upon the old school-house, snap his fingers in the face of Hans Van Ripper and every other niggardly patron, and kick any itinerant pedagogue out of doors that should dare to call him comrade!

    Old Baltus Van Tassel moved about among his guests with a face dilated with content and good-humor, round and jolly as the harvest moon. His hospitable attentions were brief, but expressive, being confined to a shake of the hand, a slap on the shoulder, a loud laugh, and a pressing invitation to “fall to and help themselves.”

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    And now the sound of the music from the common room, or hall, summoned to the dance. The musician was an old gray-headed negro who had been the itinerant orchestra of the neighborhood for more than half a century. His instrument was as old and battered as himself. The greater part of the time he scraped on two or three strings, accompanying every movement of the bow with a motion of the head, bowing almost to the ground and stamping with his foot whenever a fresh couple were to start.

    Ichabod prided himself upon his dancing as much as upon his vocal powers.

    Not a limb, not a fibre about him was idle; and to have seen his loosely hung frame in full motion and clattering about the room you would have thought Saint Vitus himself, that blessed patron of the dance, was figuring before you in person. He was the admiration of all the negroes, who, having gathered, of all ages and sizes, from the farm and the neighborhood, stood forming a pyramid of shining black faces at every door and window, gazing with delight at the scene, rolling their white eyeballs, and showing grinning rows of ivory from ear to ear. How could the flogger of urchins be otherwise than animated and joyous? The lady of his heart was his partner in the dance, and smiling graciously in reply to all his amorous oglings, while Brom Bones, sorely smitten with love and jealousy, sat brooding by himself in one corner.

    When the dance was at an end Ichabod was attracted to a knot of the sager folks, who, with old Van Tassel, sat smoking at one end of the piazza gossiping over former times and drawing out long stories about the war.

    This neighborhood, at the time of which I am speaking, was one of those highly favored places which abound with chronicle and great men. The British and American line had run near it during the war; it had therefore been the scene of marauding and infested with refugees, cow-boys, and all kinds of border chivalry.

    Just sufficient time had elapsed to enable each storyteller to dress up his tale with a little becoming fiction, and in the indistinctness of his recollection to make himself the hero of every exploit.

    There was the story of Doffue Martling, a large blue-bearded Dutchman, who had nearly taken a British frigate with an old iron nine-pounder from a mud breastwork, only that his gun burst at the sixth discharge. And there was an old gentleman who shall be nameless, being too rich a mynheer to be lightly mentioned, who, in the battle of Whiteplains, being an excellent master of defence, parried a musket-ball with a small sword, insomuch that he absolutely felt it whiz round the blade and glance off at the hilt: in proof of which he was ready at any time to show the sword, with the hilt a little bent. There were several more that had been equally great in the field, not one of whom but was persuaded that he had a considerable hand in bringing the war to a happy termination.

    But all these were nothing to the tales of ghosts and apparitions that succeeded.

    The neighborhood is rich in legendary treasures of the kind. Local tales and superstitions thrive best in these sheltered, long-settled retreats but are trampled under foot by the shifting throng that forms the population of most of our country Page | 753

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    places. Besides, there is no encouragement for ghosts in most of our villages, for they have scarcely had time to finish their first nap and turn themselves in their graves before their surviving friends have travelled away from the neighborhood; so that when they turn out at night to walk their rounds they have no acquaintance left to call upon. This is perhaps the reason why we so seldom hear of ghosts except in our long-established Dutch communities.

    The immediate causes however, of the prevalence of supernatural stories in these parts, was doubtless owing to the vicinity of Sleepy Hollow. There was a contagion in the very air that blew from that haunted region; it breathed forth an atmosphere of dreams and fancies infecting all the land. Several of the Sleepy Hollow people were present at Van Tassel’s, and, as usual, were doling out their wild and wonderful legends. Many dismal tales were told about funeral trains and mourning cries and wailings heard and seen about the great tree where the unfortunate Major Andre was taken, and which stood in the neighborhood. Some mention was made also of the woman in white that haunted the dark glen at Raven Rock, and was often heard to shriek on winter nights before a storm, having perished there in the snow. The chief part of the stories, however, turned upon the favorite spectre of Sleepy Hollow, the headless horseman, who had been heard several times of late patrolling the country, and, it was said, tethered his horse nightly among the graves in the churchyard.

    The sequestered situation of this church seems always to have made it a favorite haunt of troubled spirits. It stands on a knoll surrounded by locust trees and lofty elms, from among which its decent whitewashed walls shine modestly forth, like Christian purity beaming through the shades of retirement. A gentle slope descends from it to a silver sheet of water bordered by high trees, between which peeps may be caught at the blue hills of the Hudson. To look upon its grass-grown yard, where the sunbeams seem to sleep so quietly, one would think that there at least the dead might rest in peace. On one side of the church extends a wide woody dell, along, which raves a large brook among broken rocks and trunks of fallen trees. Over a deep black part of the stream, not far from the church, was formerly thrown a wooden bridge; the road that led to it and the bridge itself were thickly shaded by overhanging trees, which cast a gloom about it even in the daytime, but occasioned a fearful darkness at night. Such was one of the favorite haunts of the headless horseman, and the place where he was most frequently encountered.

    The tale was told of old Brouwer, a most heretical disbeliever in ghosts, how he met the horseman returning from his foray into Sleepy Hollow, and was obliged to get up behind him; how they galloped over bush and brake, over hill and swamp, until they reached the bridge, when the horseman suddenly turned into a skeleton, threw old Brouwer into the brook, and sprang away over the tree-tops with a clap of thunder.

    This story was immediately matched by a thrice-marvellous adventure of Brom Bones, who made light of the galloping Hessian as an arrant jockey. He affirmed that on returning one night from the neighboring village of Sing-Sing he had been Page | 754

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    over taken by this midnight trooper; that he had offered to race with him for a bowl of punch, and should have won it too, for Daredevil beat the goblin horse all hollow, but just as they came to the church bridge the Hessian bolted and vanished in a flash of fire.

    All these tales, told in that drowsy undertone with which men talk in the dark, the countenances of the listeners only now and then receiving a casual gleam from the glare of a pipe, sank deep in the mind of Ichabod. He repaid them in kind with large extracts from his invaluable author, Cotton Mather, and added many marvellous events that had taken place in his native state of Connecticut and fearful sights which he had seen in his nightly walks about Sleepy Hollow.

    The revel now gradually broke up. The old farmers gathered together their families in their wagons, and were heard for some time rattling along the hollow roads and over the distant hills. Some of the damsels mounted on pillions behind their favorite swains, and their light-hearted laughter, mingling with the clatter of hoofs, echoed along the silent woodlands, sounding fainter and fainter until they gradually died away, and the late scene of noise and frolic was all silent and deserted. Ichabod only lingered behind, according to the custom of country lovers, to have a tete-a-tete with the heiress, fully convinced that he was now on the high road to success. What passed at this interview I will not pretend to say, for in fact I do not know. Something, however, I fear me, must have gone wrong, for he certainly sallied forth, after no very great interval, with an air quite desolate and chop-fallen.

    Oh these women! these women! Could that girl have been playing off any of her coquettish tricks? Was her encouragement of the poor pedagogue all a mere sham to secure her conquest of his rival? Heaven only knows, not I! Let it suffice to say, Ichabod stole forth with the air of one who had been sacking a hen-roost, rather than a fair lady’s heart. Without looking to the right or left to notice the scene of rural wealth on which he had so often gloated, he went straight to the stable, and with several hearty cuffs and kicks roused his steed most uncourteously from the comfortable quarters in which he was soundly sleeping, dreaming of mountains of corn and oats and whole valleys of timothy and clover.

    It was the very witching time of night that Ichabod, heavy-hearted and crestfallen, pursued his travel homewards along the sides of the lofty hills which rise above Tarry Town, and which he had traversed so cheerily in the afternoon. The hour was as dismal as himself. Far below him the Tappan Zee spread its dusky and indistinct waste of waters, with here and there the tall mast of a sloop riding quietly at anchor under the land. In the dead hush of midnight he could even hear the barking of the watch-dog from the opposite shore of the Hudson; but it was so vague and faint as only to give an idea of his distance from this faithful companion of man. Now and then, too, the long-drawn crowing of a cock, accidentally awakened, would sound far, far off, from some farm-house away among the hills; but it was like a dreaming sound in his ear. No signs of life occurred near him, but occasionally the melancholy chirp of a cricket, or perhaps the guttural twang of a bull-frog from a neighboring marsh, as if sleeping uncomfortably and turning suddenly in his bed.

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    All the stories of ghosts and goblins that he had heard in the afternoon now came crowding upon his recollection. The night grew darker and darker; the stars seemed to sink deeper in the sky, and driving clouds occasionally had them from his sight. He had never felt so lonely and dismal. He was, moreover, approaching the very place where many of the scenes of the ghost-stories had been laid. In the centre of the road stood an enormous tulip tree which towered like a giant above all the other trees of the neighborhood and formed a kind of landmark. Its limbs were gnarled and fantastic, large enough to form trunks for ordinary trees, twisting down almost to the earth and rising again into the air. It was connected with the tragical story of the unfortunate Andre, who had been taken prisoner hard by, and was universally known by the name of Major Andre’s tree. The common people regarded it with a mixture of respect and superstition, partly out of sympathy for the fate of its ill-starred namesake, and partly from the tales of strange sights and doleful lamentations told concerning it.

    As Ichabod approached this fearful tree he began to whistle: he thought his whistle was answered; it was but a blast sweeping sharply through the dry branches.

    As he approached a little nearer he thought he saw something white hanging in the midst of the tree: he paused and ceased whistling, but on looking more narrowly perceived that it was a place where the tree had been scathed by lightning and the white wood laid bare. Suddenly he heard a groan: his teeth chattered and his knees smote against the saddle; it was but the rubbing of one huge bough upon another as they were swayed about by the breeze. He passed the tree in safety, but new perils lay before him.

    About two hundred yards from the tree a small brook crossed the road and ran into a marshy and thickly-wooded glen known by the name of Wiley’s Swamp.

    A few rough logs, laid side by side, served for a bridge over this stream. On that side of the road where the brook entered the wood a group of oaks and chestnuts, matted thick with wild grape-vines, threw a cavernous gloom over it. To pass this bridge was the severest trial. It was at this identical spot that the unfortunate Andre was captured, and under the covert of those chestnuts and vines were the sturdy yeomen concealed who surprised him. This has ever since been considered a haunted stream, and fearful are the feelings of the schoolboy who has to pass it alone after dark.

    As he approached the stream his heart began to thump; he summoned up, however, all his resolution, gave his horse half a score of kicks in the ribs, and attempted to dash briskly across the bridge; but instead of starting forward, the perverse old animal made a lateral movement and ran broadside against the fence.

    Ichabod, whose fears increased with the delay, jerked the reins on the other side and kicked lustily with the contrary foot: it was all in vain; his steed started, it is true, but it was only to plunge to the opposite side of the road into a thicket of brambles and alder bushes. The schoolmaster now bestowed both whip and heel upon the starveling ribs of old Gunpowder, who dashed forward, snuffing and snorting, but came to a stand just by the bridge with a suddenness that had nearly Page | 756

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    sent his rider sprawling over his head. Just at this moment a plashy tramp by the side of the bridge caught the sensitive ear of Ichabod. In the dark shadow of the grove on the margin of the brook he beheld something huge, misshapen, black, and towering. It stirred not, but seemed gathered up in the gloom, like some gigantic monster ready to spring upon the traveller.

    The hair of the affrighted pedagogue rose upon his head with terror. What was to be done? To turn and fly was now too late; and besides, what chance was there of escaping ghost or goblin, if such it was, which could ride upon the wings of the wind? Summoning up, therefore, a show of courage, he demanded in stammering accents, “Who are you?” He received no reply. He repeated his demand in a still more agitated voice. Still there was no answer. Once more he cudgelled the sides of the inflexible Gunpowder, and, shutting his eyes, broke forth with involuntary fervor into a psalm tune. Just then the shadowy object of alarm put itself in motion, and with a scramble and a bound stood at once in the middle of the road. Though the night was dark and dismal, yet the form of the unknown might now in some degree be ascertained. He appeared to be a horseman of large dimensions and mounted on a black horse of powerful frame. He made no offer of molestation or sociability, but kept aloof on one side of the road, jogging along on the blind side of old Gunpowder, who had now got over his fright and waywardness.

    Ichabod, who had no relish for this strange midnight companion, and bethought himself of the adventure of Brom Bones with the Galloping Hessian, now quickened his steed in hopes of leaving him behind. The stranger, however, quickened his horse to an equal pace. Ichabod pulled up, and fell into a walk, thinking to lag behind; the other did the same. His heart began to sink within him; he endeavored to resume his psalm tune, but his parched tongue clove to the roof of his mouth and he could not utter a stave. There was something in the moody and dogged silence of this pertinacious companion that was mysterious and appalling. It was soon fearfully accounted for. On mounting a rising ground, which brought the figure of his fellow-traveller in relief against the sky, gigantic in height and muffled in a cloak, Ichabod was horror-struck on perceiving that he was headless! but his horror was still more increased on observing that the head, which should have rested on his shoulders, was carried before him on the pommel of the saddle. His terror rose to desperation, he rained a shower of kicks and blows upon Gunpowder, hoping by a sudden movement to give his companion the slip; but the spectre started full jump with him. Away, then, they dashed through thick and thin, stones flying and sparks flashing at every bound. Ichabod’s flimsy garments fluttered in the air as he stretched his long lank body away over his horse’s head in the eagerness of his flight.

    They had now reached the road which turns off to Sleepy Hollow; but Gunpowder, who seemed possessed with a demon, instead of keeping up it, made an opposite turn and plunged headlong down hill to the left. This road leads through a sandy hollow shaded by trees for about a quarter of a mile, where it crosses the bridge famous in goblin story, and just beyond swells the green knoll on which stands the whitewashed church.

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    As yet the panic of the steed had given his unskillful rider an apparent advantage in the chase; but just as he had got halfway through the hollow the girths of the saddle gave away and he felt it slipping from under him. He seized it by the pommel and endeavored to hold it firm, but in vain, and had just time to save himself by clasping old Gunpowder round the neck, when the saddle fell to the earth, and he heard it trampled under foot by his pursuer. For a moment the terror of Hans Van Ripper’s wrath passed across his mind, for it was his Sunday saddle; but this was no time for petty fears; the goblin was hard on his haunches, and (unskilled rider that he was) he had much ado to maintain his seat, sometimes slipping on one side, sometimes on another, and sometimes jolted on the high ridge of his horse’s back-bone with a violence that he verily feared would cleave him asunder.

    An opening in the trees now cheered him with the hopes that the church bridge was at hand. The wavering reflection of a silver star in the bosom of the brook told him that he was not mistaken. He saw the walls of the church dimly glaring under the trees beyond. He recollected the place where Brom Bones’

    ghostly competitor had disappeared. “If I can but reach that bridge,” thought Ichabod, “I am safe.” Just then he heard the black steed panting and blowing close behind him; he even fancied that he felt his hot breath. Another convulsive kick in the ribs, and old Gunpowder sprang upon the bridge; he thundered over the resounding planks; he gained the opposite side; and now Ichabod cast a look behind to see if his pursuer should vanish, according to rule, in a flash of fire and brimstone. Just then he saw the goblin rising in his stirrups, and in the very act of hurling his head at him. Ichabod endeavored to dodge the horrible missile, but too late. It encountered his cranium with a tremendous crash; he was tumbled headlong into the dust, and Gunpowder, the black steed, and the goblin rider passed by like a whirlwind.

    The next morning the old horse was found, without his saddle and with the bridle under his feet, soberly cropping the grass at his master’s gate. Ichabod did not make his appearance at breakfast; dinner-hour came, but no Ichabod.

    The boys assembled at the school-house and strolled idly about the banks of the brook but no schoolmaster. Hans Van Ripper now began to feel some uneasiness about the fate of poor Ichabod and his saddle. An inquiry was set on foot, and after diligent investigation they came upon his traces. In one part of the road leading to the church was found the saddle trampled in the dirt; the tracks of horses’ hoofs, deeply dented in the road and evidently at furious speed, were traced to the bridge, beyond which, on the bank of a broad part of the brook, where the water ran deep and black, was found the hat of the unfortunate Ichabod, and close beside it a spattered pumpkin.

    The brook was searched, but the body of the schoolmaster was not to be discovered. Hans Van Ripper, as executor of his estate, examined the bundle which contained all his worldly effects. They consisted of two shirts and a half, two stocks for the neck, a pair or two of worsted stockings, an old pair of corduroy small-clothes, a rusty razor, a book of psalm tunes full of dog’s ears, and a broken Page | 758

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    pitch-pipe. As to the books and furniture of the school-house, they belonged to the community, excepting Cotton Mather’s History of Witchcraft, a New England Almanac, and a book of dreams and fortune-telling; in which last was a sheet of foolscap much scribbled and blotted in several fruitless attempts to make a copy of verses in honor of the heiress of Van Tassel. These magic books and the poetic scrawl were forthwith consigned to the flames by Hans Van Ripper, who from that time forward determined to send his children no more to school, observing that he never knew any good come of this same reading and writing. Whatever money the schoolmaster possessed—and he had received his quarter’s pay but a day or two before—he must have had about his person at the time of his disappearance.

    The mysterious event caused much speculation at the church on the following Sunday. Knots of gazers and gossips were collected in the churchyard, at the bridge, and at the spot where the hat and pumpkin had been found. The stories of Brouwer, of Bones, and a whole budget of others were called to mind, and when they had diligently considered them all, and compared them with the symptoms of the present case, they shook their heads and came to the conclusion that Ichabod had been carried off by the galloping Hessian. As he was a bachelor and in nobody’s debt, nobody troubled his head any more about him, the school was removed to a different quarter of the hollow and another pedagogue reigned in his stead.

    It is true an old farmer, who had been down to New York on a visit several years after, and from whom this account of the ghostly adventure was received, brought home the intelligence that Ichabod Crane was still alive; that he had left the neighborhood, partly through fear of the goblin and Hans Van Ripper, and partly in mortification at having been suddenly dismissed by the heiress; that he had changed his quarters to a distant part of the country, had kept school and studied law at the same time, had been admitted to the bar, turned politician, electioneered, written for the newspapers, and finally had been made a justice of the Ten Pound Court. Brom Bones too, who shortly after his rival’s disappearance conducted the blooming Katrina in triumph to the altar, was observed to look exceedingly knowing whenever the story of Ichabod was related, and always burst into a hearty laugh at the mention of the pumpkin; which led some to suspect that he knew more about the matter than he chose to tell.

    The old country wives, however, who are the best judges of these matters, maintain to this day that Ichabod was spirited away by supernatural means; and it is a favorite story often told about the neighborhood round the intervening fire.

    The bridge became more than ever an object of superstitious awe, and that may be the reason why the road has been altered of late years, so as to approach the church by the border of the mill-pond. The schoolhouse, being deserted, soon fell to decay, and was reported to be haunted by the ghost of the unfortunate pedagogue; and the plough-boy, loitering homeward of a still summer evening, has often fancied his voice at a distance chanting a melancholy psalm tune among the tranquil solitudes of Sleepy Hollow.

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    POSTSCRIPT FOUND IN THE HANDWRITING OF MR. KNICKERBOCKER.

    The preceding tale is given almost in the precise words in which I heard it related at a Corporation meeting of the ancient city of Manhattoes, at which were present many of its sagest and most illustrious burghers. The narrator was a pleasant, shabby, gentlemanly old fellow in pepper-and-salt clothes, with a sadly humorous face, and one whom I strongly suspected of being poor, he made such efforts to be entertaining. When his story was concluded there was much laughter and approbation, particularly from two or three deputy aldermen who had been asleep the greater part of the time. There was, however, one tall, dry-looking old gentleman, with beetling eyebrows, who maintained a grave and rather severe face throughout, now and then folding his arms, inclining his head, and looking down upon the floor, as if turning a doubt over in his mind. He was one of your wary men, who never laugh but upon good grounds—when they have reason and the law on their side. When the mirth of the rest of the company had subsided and silence was restored, he leaned one arm on the elbow of his chair, and sticking the other akimbo, demanded, with a slight but exceedingly sage motion of the head and contraction of the brow, what was the moral of the story and what it went to prove.

    The story-teller, who was just putting a glass of wine to his lips as a refreshment after his toils, paused for a moment, looked at his inquirer with an air of infinite deference, and, lowering the glass slowly to the table, observed that the story was intended most logically to prove—

    “That there is no situation in life but has its advantages and pleasures—provided we will but take a joke as we find it;

    “That, therefore, he that runs races with goblin troopers is likely to have rough riding of it.

    “Ergo, for a country schoolmaster to be refused the hand of a Dutch heiress is a certain step to high preferment in the state.”

    The cautious old gentleman knit his brows tenfold closer after this explanation, being sorely puzzled by the ratiocination of the syllogism, while methought the one in pepper-and-salt eyed him with something of a triumphant leer. At length he observed that all this was very well, but still he thought the story a little on the extravagant—there were one or two points on which he had his doubts.

    “Faith, sir,” replied the story-teller, “as to that matter, I don’t believe one-half of it myself.”

    D. K.

    4.3.2 Reading and Review Questions

    1. In The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent., how does the author’s account of himself situate Americans within the larger world, situate the author with those of the Old World? How does the author come to the subject matter of his sketch book?

    2. What role does nature, or the wild, play in “Rip Van Winkle?” What’s Rip Van Winkle’s relationship with nature?

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    3. Why do the tales and myths in Rip Van Winkle connect with the Dutch rather than with Native American? How does the Manitou Spirit affect the story? What role, if any, does the Manitou Spirit play in Rip Van Winkle’s story? How do Native American legends connect with those of the Dutch?

    4. Why does Rip Van Winkle awaken to a post-Revolutionary America, do you think?

    5. Why does Irving connect Ichabod Crane in “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” with images of consumption and consumerism? To what effect?

    How does Ichabod Crane compare with Brom Bones? Why?

    4.4 JAMES FENIMORE COOPER

    (1789–1851)

    James Fenimore Cooper, author of

    the Leatherstocking novels, beginning

    with The Pioneers (1823), and seafaring

    tales like The Pathfinder (1840), was

    himself a pioneer and pathfinder for

    later writers like Herman Melville and

    Mark Twain. Cooper dramatized unique

    American experiences, such as the

    fast vanishing wilderness, and unique

    American characters, such as Natty

    Bumpo, who was based in part on the

    explorer Daniel Boone (1734–1820).

    Influenced by the historical romances

    of Sir Walter Scott, Cooper wrote of Image 4.2 | James Fenimore Cooper the uncommon common man, sprung Artist | Unknown

    almost from untouched nature itself Source | Wikimedia Commons but certainly from the fast-changing License | Public Domain American landscape, in a time and place where he seemed an anachronism but also a touchstone of American ideals.

    Cooper was born into a well-to-do family, growing up in Cooperstown, a frontier village on the southern shore of Ostego Lake developed by his father William Cooper (1754–1809). William Cooper was a judge and member of Congress who, after Fenimore Cooper was expelled from Yale for misconduct (perhaps a brawl), would obtain a position for him in the United States Navy. After William’s death, Cooper inherited part of his father’s large fortune. He left the Navy in 1808 and married Susan Augusta de Lancey—daughter of a wealthy Westchester family—

    three years later. He turned to writing to recoup financial losses, likely due to his own poor management.

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    After a poor showing in Precaution (1820), a novel of manners, Cooper found his stride in The Spy (1821), a historical novel set during the American Revolution.

    He did not plan to write the Leatherstocking novels as a series, but The Pioneers was so popular that he followed it three years later with The Last of the Mohicans (1826). Set during the French and Indian War, this novel has a quality of nostalgia for chivalry embodied in the simple nobility of Natty Bumpo and his friendship with the Native American Chingachgook. It also considers such social issues as miscegenation and racial conflict. In much of his work, Cooper exalted the American way of life, democracy, and individual rights. Yet he faced unpleasant truths about America, including growing demagoguery, unfair property rights, and too-rapid urbanization.

    From 1826 to 1833, Cooper lived in Europe, where he was acclaimed as “the American Scott.” He wrote novels set in medieval Europe and contrasted American and European governments in travelogues, including his Gleanings in Europe series (1836–1838). This attention to Europe tarnished Cooper’s reputation in America, yet he continued to write prolifically until his death in Cooperstown in 1851.

    4.4.1 The Pioneers

    (1823)

    Volume I, Chapter I

    See, Winter comes, to rule the varied year,

    Sullen and sad, with all his rising train;

    Vapours, and clouds, and storms.—

    Thompson.

    Near the centre of the great State of New-York lies an extensive district of country, whose surface is a succession of hills and dales, or, to speak with greater deference to geographical definitions, of mountains and valleys. It is among these hills that the Delaware takes its rise; and flowing from the limpid lakes and thousand springs of this country, the numerous sources of the mighty Susquehanna meander through the valleys, until, uniting, they form one of the proudest streams of which the old United States could boast. The mountains are generally arable to the top, although instances are not wanting, where the sides are jutted with rocks, that aid greatly in giving that romantic character to the country, which it so eminently possesses. The vales are narrow, rich, and cultivated; with a stream uniformly winding through each, now gliding peacefully under the brow on one of the hills, and then suddenly shooting across the plain, to wash the feet of its opposite rival.

    Beautiful and thriving villages are found interspersed along the margins of the small lakes, or situated at those points of the streams which are favourable to manufacturing; and neat and comfortable farms, with every indication of wealth about them, are scattered profusely through the vales, and even to the mountain tops. Roads diverge in every direction, from the even and graceful bottoms of the Page | 762

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    valleys, to the most rugged and intricate passes of the hills. Academies and minor edifices for the encouragement of learning, meet the eye of the stranger, at every few miles, as he winds his way through this uneven territory; and places for the public worship of God abound with that frequency which characterizes a moral and reflecting people, and with that variety of exterior and canonical government which flows from unfettered liberty of conscience. In short, the whole district is hourly exhibiting how much can be done, in even a rugged country, and with a severe climate, under the dominion of mild laws, and where every man feels a direct interest in the prosperity of a commonwealth, of which he knows himself to form a distinct and independent part. The expedients of the pioneers who first broke ground in the settlement of this country, are succeeded by the permanent improvements of the yeoman, who intends to leave his remains to moulder under the sod which he tills, or, perhaps, of the son, who, born in the land, piously wishes to linger around the grave of his father. Only forty years have passed since this whole territory was a wilderness.

    Very soon after the establishment of the independence of the States by the peace of 1783, the enterprise of their citizens was directed to a development of the natural advantages of their widely extended dominions. Before the war of the revolution the inhabited parts of the colony of New-York were limited to less than a tenth of her possessions. A narrow belt of country, extending for a short distance on either side of the Hudson, with a similar occupation of fifty miles on the banks of the Mohawk, together with the islands of Nassau and Staten, and a few insulated settlements on chosen land along the margins of streams, composed the country, that was then inhabited by less than two hundred thousand souls. Within the short period we have mentioned, her population has spread itself over five degrees of latitude and seven of longitude, and has swelled to the powerful number of nearly a million and a half, who are maintained in abundance, and can look forward to ages before the evil day must arrive when their possessions will become unequal to their wants.

    Our tale begins in 1793, about seven years after the commencement of one of the earliest of those settlements, which have conduced to effect that magical change in the power and condition of the state, to which we have alluded.

    It was near the setting of the sun, on a clear, cold day in December of that year, when a sleigh was moving slowly up one of the mountains in the district which we have described. The day had been fine for the season, and but two or three large clouds, whose colour seemed brightened by the light reflected from the mass of snow that covered the earth, floated in a sky of the purest blue. The road wound along the brow of a precipice, and on one side was upheld by a foundation of logs, piled for many feet, one upon the other, while a narrow excavation in the mountain, in the opposite direction, had made a passage of sufficient width for the ordinary travelling of that day. But logs, excavation, and every thing that did not reach for several feet above the earth, lay promiscuously buried under the snow. A single track, barely wide enough to receive the sleigh, denoted the route of the highway, Page | 763

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    and this was sunken near two feet below the surrounding surface. In the vale, which lay at a distance of several hundred feet beneath them, there was what in the language of the country was called a clearing, and all the usual improvements of a new settlement; these even extended up the hill to the point where the road turned short and ran across the level land, which lay on the summit of the mountain; but the summit itself yet remained a forest. There was glittering in the atmosphere, as if it were filled with innumerable shining particles, and the noble bay horses that drew the sleigh were covered, in many parts, with a coat of frost. The vapour from their nostrils was seen to issue like smoke; and every object in the view, as well as every arrangement of the travellers, denoted the depth of a winter in the mountains. The harness, which was of a deep dull black, differing from the glossy varnishing of the present day, was ornamented with enormous plates and buckles of brass, that shone like gold in those transient beams of the sun, which found their way obliquely through the tops of the trees. Huge saddles, studded with nails of the same material, and fitted with cloths that admirably served as blankets to the shoulders of the animals, supported four high, square-topped turrets, through which the stout reins led from the mouths of the horses to the hands of the driver, who was a negro, of apparently twenty years of age. His face, which nature had colored with a glistening black, was now mottled with the cold, and his large shining eyes were moistened with a liquid that flowed from the same cause; still, there was a smiling expression of good humour in his happy countenance, that was created by the thoughts of his home, and a Christmas fireside, with its Christmas frolics. The sleigh was one of those large, comfortable, old-fashioned conveyances, which would admit a whole family within its bosom, but which now contained only two passengers besides the driver. Its outside was of a modest green, and its inside of a fiery red, that was intended to convey the idea of heat in that cold climate.

    Large buffalo skins, trimmed around the edges with red cloth, cut into festoons, covered the back of the sleigh, and were spread over its bottom, and drawn up around the feet of the travellers—one of whom was a man of middle age and the other a female, just entering upon womanhood. The former was of a large stature; but the precautions he had taken to guard against the cold, left but little of his person exposed to view. A great-coat, that was abundantly ornamented, if it were not made more comfortable, by a profusion of furs, enveloped the whole of his figure, excepting the head, which was covered with a cap of martin skins, lined with morocco, the sides of which were made to fall, if necessary, and were now drawn close over the ears, and were fastened beneath his chin with a black riband; its top was surmounted with the tail of the animal whose skin had furnished the materials for the for the cap, which fell back not ungracefully, a few inches behind the head. From beneath this masque were to be seen part of a fine, manly face, and particularly a pair of expressive, large blue eyes, that promised extraordinary intellect, covert humour, and great benevolence. The form of his companion was literally hid beneath the multitude and variety of garments which she wore. There were furs and silks peeping from under a large camblet cloak, with a thick flannel Page | 764

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    lining, that, by its cut and size, was evidently intended for a masculine wearer. A huge hood of black silk, that was quilted with down, concealed the whole of her head, except at a small opening in front for breath, through which occasionally sparkled a pair of animated eyes of the deepest black.

    Both the father and daughter (for such was the connexion between the two travellers) were too much occupied with their different reflections to break a stillness, that received little or no interruption from the easy gliding of the sleigh, by the sound of their voices. The former was thinking of the wife that had held this their only child to her bosom, when, four years before, she had reluctantly consented to relinquish the society of her daughter, in order that the latter might enjoy the advantages which the city could afford to her education. A few months afterwards death had deprived him of the remaining companion of his solitude; but still he had enough real regard for his child, not to bring her into the comparative wilderness in which he dwelt, until the full period had expired, to which he had limited her juvenile labours. The reflections of the daughter were less melancholy, and mingled with a pleased astonishment at the novel scenery that she met at every turn in the road.

    The mountain on which they were journeying was covered with pines, that rose without a branch seventy or eighty feet, and which frequently towered to an additional height, that more than equalled that elevation. Through the innumerable vistas that opened beneath the lofty trees, the eye could penetrate until it was met by a distant inequality in the ground, or was stopped by a view of the summit of the mountain which lay on the opposite side of the valley to which they were hastening.

    The dark trunks of the trees rose from the pure white of the snow, in regularly formed shafts, until, at a great height, their branches shot forth their horizontal limbs, that were covered with the meager foliage of an evergreen, affording a melancholy contrast to the torpor of nature below. To the travellers there seemed to be no wind; but these pines waved majestically at their topmost boughs, sending forth a dull, sighing sound, that was quite in consonance with the scene.

    The sleigh had glided for some distance along the even surface, and the gaze of the female was bent in inquisitive, and, perhaps, timid glances, into the recesses of the forest, which were lighted by the unsullied covering of the earth, when a loud and continued howling was heard, pealing under the long arches of the woods, like the cry of a numerous pack of hounds. The instant the sounds reached the ear of the gentleman, whatever might have been the subject of his meditations, he forgot it; for he cried aloud to the black—

    “Hold up, Aggy; there is old Hector; I should know his bay among ten thousand.

    The Leather-stocking has put his hounds into the hills this clear day, and they have started their game, you hear. There is a deer-track a few rods ahead;—and now, Bess, if thou canst muster courage enough to stand fire, I will give thee a saddle for thy Christmas dinner.”

    The black drew up, with a cheerful grin upon his chilled features, and began thrashing his arms together, in order to restore the circulation to his fingers, while Page | 765

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    the speaker stood erect, and, throwing aside his outer covering, stept from the sleigh upon a bank of snow, which sustained his weight without yielding more than an inch or two. A storm of sleet had fallen and frozen upon the surface a few days before, and but a slight snow had occurred since to purify, without weakening its covering.

    In a few moments the speaker succeeded in extricating a double-barrelled fowling-piece from amongst a multitude of trunks and bandboxes. After throwing aside the thick mittens which had encased his hands, that now appeared in a pair of leather gloves tipped with fur, he examined his priming, and was about to move forward, when the light bounding noise of an animal plunging through the woods was heard, and directly and a fine buck darted into the path, a short distance ahead of him. The appearance of the animal was sudden, and his flight inconceivably rapid; but the traveller appeared to be too keen a sportsman to be disconcerted by either. As it came first into view he raised the fowling-piece to his shoulder and, with a practised eye and steady hand, drew a trigger; but the deer dashed forward undaunted, and apparently unhurt. Without lowering his piece, the traveller turned its muzzle toward his intended victim, and fired again. Neither discharge, however, seemed to have taken effect.

    The whole scene had passed with a rapidity that confused the female, who was unconsciously rejoicing in the escape of the buck, as he rather darted like a meteor, than ran across the road before her, when a sharp, quick sound struck her ear, quite different from the full, round reports of her father’s gun, but still sufficiently distinct to be known as the concussion produced by fire-arms. At the same instant that she heard this unexpected report, the buck sprang from the snow, to a great height in the air, and directly a second discharge, similar in sound to the first, followed, when the animal came to the earth, falling headlong, and rolling over on the crust once of twice with its own velocity. A loud shout was given by the unseen marksman, as triumphing in his better aim; and a couple of men instantly appeared from behind the trunks of two of the pines, where they had evidently placed themselves in expectation of the passage of the deer.

    “Ha! Natty, had I known you were in ambush, I would not have fired,” cried the traveller, moving towards the spot where the deer lay—near to which he was followed by the delighted black, with the sleigh; “but the sound of old Hector was too exhilarating to let me be quiet; though I hardly think I struck him, either.”

    “No—no—Judge,” returned the hunter, with an inward chuckle, and with that look of exultation, that indicates a consciousness of superior skill; “you burnt your powder, only to warm your nose this cold evening. Did ye think to stop a full-grown buck, with Hector and the slut open upon him, within sound, with that robin popgun in your hand? There’s plenty of pheasants amongst the swamps; and the snow birds are flying round your own door, where you may feed them with crumbs, and shoot enough for a potpie any day; but if you’re for a buck, or a little bear’s meat, Judge, you’ll have to take the long rifle, with a greased wadding, or you’ll waste more powder than you’ll fill stomachs, I’m thinking.”

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    As the speaker concluded, he drew his bare hand across the bottom of his nose, and again opened his enormous mouth with a kind of inward laugh.

    “The gun scatters well, Natty, and has killed a deer before now,” said the traveller, smiling good-humouredly. “One barrel was charged with buck shot; but the other was loaded for birds only.—Here are two hurts that he has received; one through the neck, and the other directly through the heart. It is by no means certain, Natty, but I gave him one of the two.

    “Let who will kill him,” said the hunter, rather surily, “I suppose the cretur is to be eaten.” So saying, he drew a large knife from a leathern sheath, which was stuck through his girdle or sash, and cut the throat of the animal, “If there is two balls through the deer, I want to know if there wasn’t two rifles fired—besides, who ever saw such a ragged hole from a smooth-bore, as this is through the neck?—and you will own yourself, Judge, that the buck fell at the last shot, which was sent from a truer and a younger hand than your’n or mine ‘ither; but for my part, although I am a poor man, I can live without the venison, but I don’t love to give up my lawful dues in a free country. Though, for the matter of that, might often makes right here, as well as in the old country, for what I can see.”

    An air of sullen dissatisfaction pervaded the manner of the hunter during the whole of this speech; yet he thought it prudent to utter the close of the sentence in such an under tone as to leave nothing audible but the grumbling sounds of his voice.

    “Nay, Natty,” rejoined the traveller, with undisturbed good humour, “it is for the honour that I contend. A few dollars will pay for the venison; but what will requite me for the lost honour of a buck’s tail in my cap? Think, Natty, how I should triumph over that quizzing dog, Dick Jones, who has failed seven times this season already, and has only brought in one wood-chuck and a few gray squirrels.”

    “Ah! The game is becoming hard to find, indeed, Judge, with your clearings and betterments,” said the old hunter, with a kind of disdainful resignation. “The time has been, when I have thirteen deer, without counting the fa’ns standing in the door of my own hut;—and for bear’s meat, if one wanted a ham or so from the cretur, he had only to watch a-nights, and he could shoot one by moonlight, through the cracks of the logs; no fear of his over-sleeping himself, n’ither, for the howling of the wolves was sartin to keep his eyes open. There’s old Hector,”—patting with affection a tall hound, of black and yellow spots, with white belly and legs, that just then came in on the scent, accompanied by the slut he had mentioned; “see where the wolves bit his throat, the night I druve them from the venison I was smoking on the chimbey top—that dog is more to be trusted nor many a Christian man; for he never forgets a friend, and loves the hand that gives him bread.”

    There was a peculiarity in the manner of the hunter, that struck the notice of the young female, who had been a close and interested observer of his appearance and equipments, from the moment he first came into view. He was tall, and so meagre as to make him seem above even the six feet that he actually stood in his stockings. On his head, which was thinly covered with lank, sandy hair, he wore a cap made of fox-skin, resembling in shape the one we have already described, Page | 767

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    although much inferior in finish and ornaments. His face was skinny and thin almost to emaciation; but yet bore no signs of disease;—on the contrary, it had every indication of the most robust and enduring health. The cold and the exposure had, together, given it a colour of uniform red; his gray eyes were glancing under a pair of shaggy brows, that overhung them in long hairs of gray mingled with their natural hue; his scraggy neck was bare, and burnt to the same tint with his face; though a small part of a shirt collar, made of the country check, was to be seen above the over-dress he wore. A kind of coat, made of dressed deer-skin, with the hair on, was belted close to his lank body, by a girdle of coloured worsted.

    On his feet were deer-skin moccasins, ornamented with porcupines’ quills, after the manner of the Indians, and his limbs were guarded with long leggings of the same material as the moccasins, which, gartering over the knees of his tarnished buck-skin breeches, had obtained for him, among the settlers, the nick-name of Leather-stocking, notwithstanding his legs were protected beneath, in winter, by thick garments of woollen, duly made of good blue yarn. Over his left shoulder was slung a belt of deer-skin, from which depended an enormous ox horn, so thinly scraped, as to discover the dark powder that it contained. The larger end was fitted ingeniously and securely with a wooden bottom, and the other was stopped tight by a little plug. A leathern pouch hung before him, from which, as he concluded his last speech, he took a small measure, and, filling it accurately with powder, he commenced reloading the rifle, which as its butt rested on the snow before him, reached nearly to the top of his fox-skin cap.

    The traveller had been closely examining the wounds during these movements, and now, without heeding the ill humour of the hunter’s manner, he exclaimed—

    “I would fain establish a right, Natty, to the honour of this capture; and surely if the hit in the neck be mine it is enough; for the shot in the heart was unnecessary—

    what we call an act of supererogation, Leather-stocking.”

    “You may call it by what larned name you please, Judge,” said the hunter, throwing his rifle across his left arm, and knocking up a brass lid in the breech, from which he took a small piece of greased leather, and wrapping a ball in it, forced them down by main strength on the powder, where he continued to pound them while speaking. “It’s far easier to call names, than to shoot a buck on the spring; but the cretur came by his end from a younger hand than ‘ither your’n or mine, as I said before.”

    “What say you, my friend,” cried the traveller, turning pleasantly to Natty`s companion; “shall we toss up this dollar for the honour, and you keep the silver if you lose —what say you, friend?”

    “That I killed the deer,” answered the young man, with a little haughtiness, as he leaned on another long rifle similar to that of Natty’s.

    “Here are two to one, indeed,” replied the Judge, with a smile; “I am out voted—

    overruled, as we say on the bench. There is Aggy, he can’t vote being a slave; and Bess is a minor—so I must even make the best of it. But you’ll sell me the venison; and the deuse is in it, but I make a good story about its death.”

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    “The meat is none of mine to sell,” said Leather-stocking, adopting a little of his companion’s hauteur; “for my part, I have known animals travel days with shots in the neck, and I’m none of them who’ll rob a man of his rightful dues.”

    “You are tenacious of your rights, this cold evening, Natty,” returned the Judge, with unconquerable good nature; “but what say you, young man, will three dollars pay you for the buck?”

    “First let us determine the question of right to the satisfaction of us both,” said the youth, firmly but respectfully, and with a pronunciation and language vastly superior to his appearance; “with how many shot did you load your gun?”

    “With five, sir,” said the Judge, gravely, a little struck with the other`s manner;

    “are they not enough to slay a buck like this?”

    “One would do it; but,” moving to the tree from behind which he had appeared,

    “you know, sir, you fired in this direction—here are four of the bullets in the tree.”

    The Judge examined the fresh marks in the rough bark of the pine, and, shaking his head, said with a laugh—

    “You are making out the case against yourself, my young advocate—where is the fifth?”

    “Here,” said the youth, throwing aside the rough over-coat that he wore, and exhibiting a hole in his under garment, through which large drops of blood were oozing.

    “Good God!” exclaimed the Judge, with horror; “have I been trifling here about an empty distinction, and a fellow-creature suffering from my hands without a murmur? But hasten—quick—get into my sleigh—it is but a mile to the village, where surgical aid can be obtained;—all shall be done at my expense, and thou shalt live with me until thy wound is healed—ay, and forever afterwards, too.”

    “I thank you, sir, for your good intentions, but must decline your offer. I have a friend who would be uneasy were he to hear that I am hurt and away from him.

    The injury is but slight, and the bullet has missed the bones; but I believe, sir, you will now admit my title to the venison.”

    “Admit it!” repeated the agitated Judge; ‘I here give thee a right to shoot deer, or bears, or anything thou pleasest in my woods, for ever. Leather-stocking is the only other man that I have granted the same privilege to; and the time is coming when it will be of value. But I buy your deer—here, this bill will pay thee, both for thy shot and my own.”

    The old hunter gathered his tall person up into an air of pride, during this dialogue, and now muttered in an under tone—

    “There’s them living who say, that Nathaniel Bumppo’s right to shoot in these hills, is of older date than Marmaduke Temple’s right to forbid him. But if there’s a law about it at all, though who ever heard tell of a law, that a man should’nt kill deer where he pleased!—but if there is a law at all, it should be to keep people from the use of smooth-bores. A body never knows where his lead will fly, when he pulls the trigger of one of them fancified fire-arms.”

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    Without attending to the soliloquy of Natty, the youth bowed his head silently to the offer of the bank note, and replied—

    “Excuse me, sir, I have need of the venison.”

    “But this will buy you many deer,” said the judge; “take it, I entreat you,” and lowering his voice to a whisper, he added—”it is for a hundred dollars.”

    For an instant only, the youth seemed to hesitate, and then, blushing even through the high colour that the cold had given to his cheeks, as if with inward shame at his own weakness, he again proudly declined the offer.

    During this scene the female arose, and, regardless of the cold air, she threw back the hood which concealed her features, and now spoke, with great earnestness—

    “Surely, surely—young man—sir—you would not pain my father so much as to have him think that he leaves a fellow-creature in this wilderness, whom his own hand has injured. I entreat you will go with us, and receive medical aid for your hurts.”

    Whether his wound became more painful, or there was something irresistible in the voice and manner of the fair pleader for her father’s feelings, we know not, but the haughty distance of the young man’s manner was sensibly softened by this appeal, and he stood, in apparent doubt, as if reluctant to comply with, and yet unwilling to refuse her request. The judge, for such being his office, must, in future, be his title, watched, with no little interest, the display of this singular contention in the feelings of the youth, and advancing, kindly took his hand, and, as he pulled him gently toward the sleigh, urged him to enter it.

    “There is no human aid nearer than Templeton,” he said; “and the hut of Natty is full three miles from this;—come—come, my young friend, go with us, and let the new doctor look to this shoulder of thine. Here is Natty will take the tidings of thy welfare to thy friend; and should’st thou require it, thou shalt be returned to thy home in the morning.”

    The young man succeeded in extricating his hand from the warm grasp of the judge, but continued to gaze on the face of the female, who, regardless of the cold was still standing with her fine features exposed, which expressed feelings that eloquently seconded the request of her father. Leather-stocking stood, in the mean time, leaning upon his long rifle, with his head turned a little to one side, as if engaged in deep and sagacious musing; when, having apparently satisfied his doubts, by revolving the subject in his mind, he broke silence—

    “It may be best to go, lad, after all; for if the shot hangs under the skin, my hand is getting too old to be cutting into human flesh, as I once used to could.

    Though some thirty years agone, in the old war, when I was out under Sir William, I travelled seventy miles alone in the howling wilderness, with a rifle bullet in my thigh, and then cut it out with my own jack-knife. Old Indian John knows the time well. I met him with a party of the Delawares, on the trail of the Iroquois, who had been down and taken five scalps on the Schoharie. But I made a mark on the red-skin that I’ll warrant he carried to his grave. I took him on the posteerum, saving the lady’s presence, as he got up from the amboosh, and rattled three buck shot Page | 770

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    into his naked hide, so close, that you might have laid a broad joe upon them all—”

    here Natty stretched out his long neck, and straightened his body, as he opened his mouth, which exposed a single tusk of yellow bone, while his eyes, his face, even his whole frame, seemed to laugh, although no sound was emitted, except a kind of thick hissing, as he inhaled his breath in quavers. “I had lost my bullet mould in crossing the Oneida outlet, and so was true, and did’nt scatter like your two-legged thing there, Judge, which don’t do, I find, to hunt in company with.”

    Natty’s apology to the delicacy of the young lady was unnecessary, for, while he was speaking, she was too much employed in helping her father to remove certain articles of their baggage to hear him. Unable to resist the kind urgency of the travellers any longer, the youth, though still with an unaccountable reluctance expressed in his manner, suffered himself to be persuaded to enter the sleigh. The black with the aid of his master threw the buck across the baggage, and entering the vehicle themselves, the judge invited the hunter to do so likewise.

    “No—no—” said the old man, shaking his head; “I have work to do at home this Christmas eve—drive on with the boy, and let your doctor look to the shoulder; though if he will only cut out the shot, I have yarbs that will heal the wound quicker than all his foreign ‘intments.” He turned, and was about to move off, when, suddenly recollecting himself, he again faced the party, and added—”If you see anything of Indian John, about the foot of the lake, you had better take him with you, and let him lend the doctor a hand; for old as he is, he is curious at cuts and bruises, and it’s likelier than not he’ll be in with brooms to sweep your Christmas ha’arths.”

    “Stop—stop,” cried the youth, catching the arm of the black as he prepared to urge his horses forward; “Natty—you need say nothing of the shot, nor of where I am going—remember, Natty, as you love me.”

    “Trust old Leather-stocking,” returned the hunter, significantly; “he hasn’t lived forty years in the wilderness, and not larnt from the savages how to hold his tongue—trust to me, lad; and remember old Indian John.”

    “And, Natty,” said the youth eagerly, still holding the black by the arm. “I will just get the shot extracted, and bring you up, to-night, a quarter of the buck, for the Christmas dinner.”

    He was interrupted by the hunter, who held up his finger with an expressive gesture for silence, and moved softly along the margin of the road, keeping his eyes steadfastly fixed on the branches of a pine near him. When he had obtained such a position as he wished, he stopped, and cocking his rifle, threw one leg far behind him, and stretching his left arm to its utmost extent along the barrel of his piece, he began slowly to raise its muzzle in a line with the straight trunk of the tree.

    The eyes of the group in the sleigh naturally preceded the movement of the rifle, and they soon discovered the object of Natty’s aim. On a small dead branch of the pine, which, at the distance of seventy feet from the ground, shot out horizontally, immediately beneath the living members of the tree, sat a bird, that in the vulgar language of the country, was indiscriminately called pheasant or a partridge. In Page | 771

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    size, it was but little smaller than a common barn-yard fowl. The baying of the dogs, and the conversation that had passed near the root of the tree on which it was perched, had alarmed the bird, which was now drawn up near the body of the pine, with a head and neck erect, that formed nearly a straight line with its legs. So soon as the rifle bore on the victim, Natty drew his trigger, and the partridge fell from its height with a force that buried it in the snow.

    “Lie down, you old villain,” exclaimed Leather-stocking, shaking his ramrod at Hector as he bounded toward the foot of the tree, “lie down, I say.” The dog obeyed, and Natty proceeded with great rapidity, though with the nicest accuracy, to re-load his piece. When this was ended, he took up his game, and showing it to the party without a head, he cried—”Here is a tit-bit for an old man’s Christmas—

    never mind the venison, boy, and remember Indian John; his yarbs are better nor all the foreign ‘intments. Here, Judge,” holding up the bird again, “do you think a smooth-bore would pick game off their roost, and not ruffle a feather?”

    The old man gave another of his remarkable laughs, which partook so largely of exultation, mirth, and irony, and, shaking his head, he turned, with his rifle at a trail, and moved into the forest with short and quick steps, that were between a walk and a trot. At each movement he made his body lowered several inches, his knees yielding with an inclination inward; but as the sleigh turned at a bend in the road, the youth cast his eyes in quest of his old companion, and he saw that he was already nearly concealed by the trunks of the trees, while his dogs were following quietly in his footsteps, occasionally scenting the deer track, that they seemed to know instinctively was now of no farther use to them. Another jerk was given to the sleigh, and Leather-stocking was hidden from view.

    Volume II, Chapter II

    “Speed! Malise, speed! such cause of haste

    Thine active sinews never braced.” —Scott.

    The roads of Otsego, if we except the principal highways, were, at the early day of our tale, but little better than wood-paths. The high trees that were growing on the very verge of the wheel-tracks excluded the sun’s rays, unless at meridian; and the slowness of the evaporation, united with the rich mould of vegetable decomposition that covered the whole country to the depth of several inches, occasioned but an indifferent foundation for the footing of travellers. Added to these were the inequalities of a natural surface, and the constant recurrence of enormous and slippery roots that were laid bare by the removal of the light soil, together with stumps of trees, to make a passage not only difficult but dangerous.

    Yet the riders among these numerous obstructions, which were such as would terrify an unpracticed eye, gave no demonstrations of uneasiness as their horses toiled through the sloughs or trotted with uncertain paces along the dark route.

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    as to leave nothing visible but its base of roots, spreading for twenty feet in every direction, was apparently placed there as a beacon to warn the traveller that it was the centre of a highway.

    Into one of these roads the active sheriff led the way, first striking out of the foot-path, by which they had descended from the sugar-bush, across a little bridge, formed of round logs laid loosely on sleepers of pine, in which large openings of a formidable width were frequent. The nag of Richard, when it reached one of these gaps, laid its nose along the logs and stepped across the difficult passage with the sagacity of a man; but the blooded filly which Miss Temple rode disdained so humble a movement. She made a step or two with an unusual caution, and then, on reaching the broadest opening, obedient to the curt and whip of her fearless mistress, she bounded across the dangerous pass with the activity of a squirrel.

    “Gently, gently, my child,” said Marmaduke, who was following in the manner of Richard; “this is not a country for equestrian feats. Much prudence is requisite to journey through our rough paths with safety. Thou mayst practise thy skill in horsemanship on the plains of New Jersey with safety; but in the hills of Otsego they may be suspended for a time.”

    “I may as well then relinquish my saddle at once, dear sir,” returned his daughter; “for if it is to be laid aside until this wild country be improved, old age will overtake me, and put an end to what you term my equestrian feats.”

    “Say not so, my child,” returned her father; “but if thou venturest again as in crossing this bridge, old age will never overtake thee, but I shall be left to mourn thee, cut off in thy pride, my Elizabeth. If thou hadst seen this district of country, as I did, when it lay in the sleep of nature, and bad witnessed its rapid changes as it awoke to supply the wants of man, thou wouldst curb thy impatience for a little time, though thou shouldst not check thy steed.”

    “I recollect hearing you speak of your first visit to these woods, but the impression is faint, and blended with the confused images of childhood. Wild and unsettled as it may yet seem, it must have been a thousand times more dreary then. Will you repeat, dear sir, what you then thought of your enterprise, and what you felt?”

    During this speech of Elizabeth, which was uttered with the fervor of affection, young Edwards rode more closely to the side of the Judge, and bent his dark eyes on his countenance with an expression that seemed to read his thoughts.

    “Thou wast then young, my child, but must remember when I left thee and thy mother, to take my first survey of these uninhabited mountains,” said Marmaduke.

    “But thou dost not feel all the secret motives that can urge a man to endure privations in order to accumulate wealth. In my case they have not been trifling, and God has been pleased to smile on my efforts. If I have encountered pain, famine, and disease in accomplishing the settlement of this rough territory, I have not the misery of failure to add to the grievances.”

    “Famine!” echoed Elizabeth; “I thought this was the land of abundance! Had you famine to contend with?”

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    “Even so, my child,” said her father. “Those who look around them now, and see the loads of produce that issue out of every wild path in these mountains during the season of travelling, will hardly credit that no more than five years have elapsed since the tenants of these woods were compelled to eat the scanty fruits of the forest to sustain life, and, with their unpracticed skill, to hunt the beasts as food for their starving families.”

    “Ay!” cried Richard, who happened to overhear the last of this speech between the notes of the wood-chopper’s song, which he was endeavoring to breathe aloud;

    “that was the starving-time, Cousin Bess. I grew as lank as a weasel that fall, and my face was as pale as one of your fever-and-ague visages. Monsieur Le Quoi, there, fell away like a pumpkin in drying; nor do I think you have got fairly over it yet, monsieur. Benjamin, I thought, bore it with a worse grace than any of the family; for he swore it was harder to endure than a short allowance in the calm latitudes.

    Benjamin is a sad fellow to swear if you starve him ever so little. I had half a mind to quit you then, ‘Duke, and to go into Pennsylvania to fatten; but, damn it, thinks I, we are sisters’ children, and I will live or die with him, after all.”

    “I do not forget thy kindness,” said Marmaduke, “nor that we are of one blood.”

    “But, my dear father,” cried the wondering Elizabeth, “was there actual suffering? Where were the beautiful and fertile vales of the Mohawk? Could they not furnish food for your wants?”

    “It was a season of scarcity; the necessities of life commanded a high price in Europe, and were greedily sought after by the speculators. The emigrants from the East to the West invariably passed along the valley of the Mohawk, and swept away the means of subsistence like a swarm of locusts, Nor were the people on the Flats in a much better condition. They were in want themselves, but they spared the little excess of provisions that nature did not absolutely require, with the justice of the German character. There was no grinding of the poor. The word speculator was then unknown to them. I have seen many a stout man, bending under the load of the bag of meal which he was carrying from the mills of the Mohawk, through the rugged passes of these mountains, to feed his half-famished children, with a heart so light, as he approached his hut, that the thirty miles he had passed seemed nothing. Remember, my child, it was in our very infancy; we had neither mills, nor grain, nor roads, nor often clearings; we had nothing of increase but the mouths that were to be fed: for even at that inauspicious moment the restless spirit of emigration was not idle; nay, the general scarcity which extended to the East tended to increase the number of adventurers.”

    “And how, dearest father, didst thou encounter this dreadful evil?” said Elizabeth, unconsciously adopting the dialect of her parent in the warmth of her sympathy. “Upon thee must have fallen the responsibility, if not the suffering.”

    “It did, Elizabeth,” returned the Judge, pausing for a single moment, as if musing on his former feelings. “ I had hundreds at that dreadful time daily looking up to me for bread. The sufferings of their families and the gloomy prospect before them had paralyzed the enterprise and efforts of my settlers; hunger drove them Page | 774

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    to the woods for food, but despair sent them at night, enfeebled and wan, to a sleepless pillow. It was not a moment for in action. I purchased cargoes of wheat from the granaries of Pennsylvania; they were landed at Albany and brought up the Mohawk in boats; from thence it was transported on pack-horses into the wilderness and distributed among my people. Seines were made, and the lakes and rivers were dragged for fish. Something like a miracle was wrought in our favor, for enormous shoals of herrings were discovered to have wandered five hundred miles through the windings of the impetuous Susquehanna, and the lake was alive with their numbers. These were at length caught and dealt out to the people, with proper portions of salt, and from that moment we again began to prosper.”

    “Yes,” cried Richard, “and I was the man who served out the fish and salt.

    When the poor devils came to receive their rations, Benjamin, who was my deputy, was obliged to keep them off by stretching ropes around me, for they smelt so of garlic, from eating nothing but the wild onion, that the fumes put me out often in my measurement. You were a child then, Bess, and knew nothing of the matter, for great care was observed to keep both you and your mother from suffering. That year put me back dreadfully, both in the breed of my hogs and of my turkeys.”

    “No, Bess,” cried the Judge, in a more cheerful tone, disregarding the interruption of his cousin, “he who hears of the settlement of a country knows but little of the toil and suffering by which it is accomplished. Unimproved and wild as this district now seems to your eyes, what was it when I first entered the hills? I left my party, the morning of my arrival, near the farms of the Cherry Valley, and, following a deer-path, rode to the summit of the mountain that I have since called Mount Vision; for the sight that there met my eyes seemed to me as the deceptions of a dream. The fire had run over the pinnacle, and in a great measure laid open the view. The leaves were fallen, and I mounted a tree and sat for an hour looking on the silent wilderness. Not an opening was to be seen in the boundless forest except where the lake lay, like a mirror of glass. The water was covered by myriads of the wild-fowl that migrate with the changes in the season; and while in my situation on the branch of the beech, I saw a bear, with her cubs, descend to the shore to drink. I had met many deer, gliding through the woods, in my journey ; but not the vestige of a man could I trace during my progress, nor from my elevated observatory. No clearing, no hut, none of the winding roads that are now to be seen, were there; nothing but mountains rising behind mountains ; and the valley, with its surface of branches enlivened here and there with the faded foliage of some tree that parted from its leaves with more than ordinary reluctance. Even the Susquehanna was then hid by the height and density of the forest.”

    “And were you alone?” asked Elizabeth: “passed you the night in that solitary state?”

    “Not so, my child,” returned the father. “After musing on the scene for an hour, with a mingled feeling of pleasure and desolation, I left my perch and descended the mountain. My horse was left to browse on the twigs that grew within his reach, while I explored the shores of the lake and the spot where Templeton stands. A pine Page | 775

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    of more than ordinary growth stood where my dwelling is now placed! A wind—

    row had been opened through the trees from thence to the lake, and my view was but little impeded. Under the branches of that tree I made my solitary dinner. I had just finished my repast as I saw smoke curling from under the mountain, near the eastern bank of the lake. It was the only indication of the vicinity of man that I had then seen. After much toil I made my way to the spot, and found a rough cabin of logs, built against the foot of a rock, and bearing the marks of a tenant, though I found no one within it —”

    “It was the hut of Leather-Stocking,” said Edwards quickly.

    “It was; though I at first supposed it to be a habitation of the Indians. But while I was lingering around the spot Natty made his appearance, staggering under the carcass of a buck that he bad slain. Our acquaintance commenced at that time; before, I had never heard that such a being tenanted the woods. He launched his bark canoe and set me across the foot of the lake to the place where I had fastened my horse, and pointed out a spot where he might get a scanty browsing until the morning; when I returned and passed the night in the cabin of the hunter.”

    Miss Temple was so much struck by the deep attention of young Edwards during this speech that she forgot to resume her interrogations; but the youth himself continued the discourse by asking:

    “And how did the Leather-Stocking discharge the duties of a host sir?”

    “Why, simply but kindly, until late in the evening, when he discovered my name and object, and the cordiality of his manner very sensibly diminished, or, I might better say, disappeared. He considered the introduction of the settlers as an innovation on his rights, I believe for he expressed much dissatisfaction at the measure, though it was in his confused and ambiguous manner. I hardly understood his objections myself, but supposed they referred chiefly to an interruption of the hunting.”

    “Had you then purchased the estate, or were you examining it with an intent to buy?” asked Edwards, a little abruptly.

    “It had been mine for several years. It was with a view to People the land that I visited the lake. Natty treated me hospitably, but coldly, I thought, after he learned the nature of my journey. I slept on his own bear—skin, however, and in the morning joined my surveyors again.”

    “Said he nothing of the Indian rights, sir? The Leather-Stocking is much given to impeach the justice of the tenure by which the whites hold the country.”

    “I remember that he spoke of them, but I did not nearly comprehend him, and may have forgotten what he said; for the Indian title was extinguished so far back as the close of the old war, and if it had not been at all, I hold under the patents of the Royal Governors, confirmed by an act of our own State Legislature, and no court in the country can affect my title.” “Doubtless, sir, your title is both legal and equitable,” returned the youth coldly, reining his horse back and remaining silent till the subject was changed.

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    It was seldom Mr. Jones suffered any conversation to continue for a great length of time without his participation. It seems that he was of the party that Judge Temple had designated as his surveyors; and he embraced the opportunity of the pause that succeeded the retreat of young Edwards to take up the discourse, and with a narration of their further proceedings, after his own manner. As it wanted, however, the interest that had accompanied the description of the Judge, we must decline the task of committing his sentences to paper.

    They soon reached the point where the promised view was to be seen. It was one of those picturesque and peculiar scenes that belong to the Otsego, but which required the absence of the ice and the softness of a summer’s landscape to be enjoyed in all its beauty. Marmaduke had early forewarned his daughter of the season, and of its effect on the prospect; and after casting a cursory glance at its capabilities, the party returned homeward, perfectly satisfied that its beauties would repay them for the toil of a second ride at a more propitious season.

    “The spring is the gloomy time of the American year,” said the Judge, “and it is more peculiarly the case in these mountains. The winter seems to retreat to the fast nesses of the hills, as to the citadel of its dominion, and is only expelled after a tedious siege, in which either party, at times, would seem to be gaining the victory.”

    “A very just and apposite figure, Judge Temple,” observed the sheriff; “and the garrison under the command of Jack Frost make formidable sorties—you understand what I mean by sorties, monsieur; sallies, in English—and sometimes drive General Spring and his troops back again into the low countries.”

    “Yes sair,” returned the Frenchman, whose prominent eyes were watching the precarious footsteps of the beast he rode, as it picked its dangerous way among the roots of trees, holes, log bridges, and sloughs that formed the aggregate of the highway. “Je vous entends; de low countrie is freeze up for half de year.”

    The error of Mr. Le Quoi was not noticed by the sheriff; and the rest of the party were yielding to the influence of the changeful season, which was already teaching the equestrians that a continuance of its mildness was not to be expected for any length of time. Silence and thoughtfulness succeeded the gayety and conversation that had prevailed during the commencement of the ride, as clouds began to gather about the heavens, apparently collecting from every quarter, in quick motion, without the agency of a breath of air,

    While riding over one of the cleared eminencies that occurred in their route, the watchful eye of Judge Temple pointed out to his daughter the approach of a tempest. Flurries of snow already obscured the mountain that formed the northern boundary of the lake, and the genial sensation which had quickened the blood through their veins was already succeeded by the deadening influence of an approaching northwester.

    All of the party were now busily engaged in making the best of their way to the village, though the badness of the roads frequently compelled them to check the impatience of their animals, which often carried them over places that would not admit of any gait faster than a walk.

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    Richard continued in advance, followed by Mr. Le Quoi; next to whom rode Elizabeth, who seemed to have imbibed the distance which pervaded the manner of young Edwards since the termination of the discourse between the latter and her father. Marmaduke followed his daughter, giving her frequent and tender warnings as to the management of her horse. It was, possibly, the evident dependence that Louisa Grant placed on his assistance which induced the youth to continue by her side, as they pursued their way through a dreary and dark wood, where the rays of the sun could but rarely penetrate, and where even the daylight was obscured and rendered gloomy by the deep forests that surrounded them. No wind had yet reached the spot where the equestrians were in motion, but that dead silence that often precedes a storm contributed to render their situation more irksome than if they were already subject to the fury of the tempest. Suddenly the voice of young Edwards was heard shouting in those appalling tones that carry alarm to the very soul, and which curdle the blood of those that hear them.

    “A tree! a tree! Whip—spur for your lives! a tree! a tree. “

    “A tree! a tree!” echoed Richard, giving his horse a blow that caused the alarmed beast to jump nearly a rod, throwing the mud and water into the air like a hurricane.

    “Von tree! von tree!” shouted the Frenchman, bending his body on the neck of his charger, shutting his eyes, and playing on the ribs of his beast with his heels at a rate that caused him to be conveyed on the crupper of the sheriff with a marvellous speed.

    Elizabeth checked her filly and looked up, with an unconscious but alarmed air, at the very cause of their danger, while she listened to the crackling sounds that awoke the stillness of the forest; but the next instant her bridlet was seized by her father, who cried, “God protect my child!” and she felt herself hurried onward, impelled by the vigor of his nervous arm.

    Each one of the party bowed to his saddle-bows as the tearing of branches was succeeded by a sound like the rushing of the winds, which was followed by a thundering report, and a shock that caused the very earth to tremble as one of the noblest ruins of the forest fell directly across their path.

    One glance was enough to assure Judge Temple that his daughter and those in front of him were safe, and he turned his eyes, in dreadful anxiety, to learn the fate of the others. Young Edwards was on the opposite side of the tree, his form thrown back in his saddle to its utmost distance, his left hand drawing up his bridle with its greatest force, while the right grasped that of Miss Grant so as to draw the head of her horse under its body. Both the animals stood shaking in every joint with terror, and snorting fearfully. Louisa herself had relinquished her reins, and, with her hands pressed on her face, sat bending forward in her saddle, in an attitude of despair, mingled strangely with resignation.

    “Are you safe?” cried the Judge, first breaking the awful silence of the moment.

    “By God’s blessing,” returned the youth; but if there had been branches to the tree we must have been lost—”

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    He was interrupted by the figure of Louisa slowly yielding in her saddle, and but for his arm she would have sunk to the earth. Terror, however, was the only injury that the clergyman’s daughter had sustained, and, with the aid of Elizabeth, she was soon restored to her senses. After some little time was lost in recovering her strength, the young lady was replaced in her saddle, and supported on either side by Judge Temple and Mr. Edwards she was enabled to follow the party in their slow progress.

    “The sudden fallings of the trees,” said Marmaduke, “are the most dangerous accidents in the forest, for they are not to be foreseen, being impelled by no winds, nor any extraneous or visible cause against which we can guard.”

    “The reason of their falling, Judge Temple, is very obvious,” said the sheriff.

    “The tree is old and decayed, and it is gradually weakened by the frosts, until a line drawn from the centre of gravity falls without its base, and then the tree comes of a certainty; and I should like to know what greater compulsion there can be for any thing than a mathematical certainty. I studied math—”

    “Very true, Richard,” interrupted Marmaduke; “thy reasoning is true, and, if my memory be not over-treacherous, was furnished by myself on a former occasion, But how is one to guard against the danger? Canst thou go through the forests measuring the bases and calculating the centres of the oaks? Answer me that, friend Jones, and I will say thou wilt do the country a service.”

    “Answer thee that, friend Temple!” returned Richard; “a well-educated man can answer thee anything, sir. Do any trees fall in this manner but such as are decayed? Take care not to approach the roots of a rotten tree, and you will be safe enough.”

    “That would be excluding us entirely from the forests,’ said Marmaduke. “But, happily, the winds usually force down most of these dangerous ruins, as their currents are admitted into the woods by the surrounding clearings, and such a fall as this has been is very rare.”

    Louisa by this time had recovered so much strength as to allow the party to proceed at a quicker pace, but long before they were safely housed they were overtaken by the storm; and when they dismounted at the door of the mansion-house, the black plumes of Miss Temple’s hat were drooping with the weight of a load of damp snow, and the coats of the gentlemen were powdered with the same material.

    While Edwards was assisting Louisa from her horse, the warm-hearted girl caught his hand with fervor and whispered:

    “Now, Mr. Edwards, both father and daughter owe their lives to you.”

    A driving northwesterly storm succeeded, and before the sun was set every vestige of spring had vanished; the lake, the mountains, the village, and the fields being again hidden under one dazzling coat of snow.

    4.4.2 Reading and Review Questions

    1. How do people’s relationship with the land depend upon their relationship with each other in a commonwealth or democracy? Why?

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    2. How does progress/advancement of civilization mitigate against the abundance of the land that supports the growing population? How does the law of civilization assist or hinder American ‘rights’?

    3. How, if at all, does Natty Bumpo seem a uniquely American character?

    Consider the way he dresses, talks, and acts. Consider his attitude towards the Judge.

    4. How does Judge Templeton represent the values of civilization?

    Why? What dangers are there in settling the land under Templeton’s jurisdiction?

    5. What is Natty Bumbo’s attitude towards Native American rights? And the Judge’s? How do you know?

    4.5 CATHARINE MARIA SEDGWICK

    (1789–1867)

    Catharine Maria Sedgwick was

    born after the Revolutionary War into

    a respected Massachusetts family. Her

    father, Theodore Sedgwick, served in

    the House of Representatives and in the

    Massachusetts Supreme Court. Sedgwick

    was educated at home and then at

    Payne’s Finishing School, a boarding

    school in Boston, and New York.

    After her mother died and her father

    remarried in 1813, Sedgwick lived with

    her brothers, alternating between their

    respective households in Boston and Image 4.3 | Catharine Maria Sedgwick New York. In 1821, she took the unusual Artist | W. Croome step of converting to Unitarianism. The Source | Wikimedia Commons next year, she published her first novel, License | Public Domain A New-England Tale. It established some constants in her writing: a New England setting, interest in the benefits of the Unitarian faith, and focus on domesticity.

    In most of her works, Sedgwick considers women’s lives, both within and outside of marriage. In Married or Single? (1857), she asked her readers not to consider women as mere extensions of men or as vessels of civilization and virtue best confined to the domestic realm. She also wrote of minority groups, including Native Americans. Hope Leslie (1827) sympathetically depicts the religious and social customs of Native Americans, a depiction based on her own research on the Mohawks. She had a public life through her activities in various reform movements tied to Unitarianism. She also had a public life as a very well-received writer.

    Indeed, in a September 1846 notice of “The Literati of New York City,” Edgar Allan Page | 780

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    Poe described Sedgwick as “one of our most celebrated and meritorious writers.”

    Besides her six novels, Sedgwick published biographies and children’s literature.

    She never married.

    4.5.1 From Hope Leslie

    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.”

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    “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’s-brethren.’ 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 Page | 782

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    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.

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    “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?”

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    “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 gentle—

    ness 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.”

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    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 Page | 786

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    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 death-knell 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 window-Page | 787

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    sash 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.”

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    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.

    4.5.2 Reading and Review Questions

    1. How does Digby’s view of Native Americans in general, and of Mascawisca in particular, frame the reader’s understanding of Mascawisca’s character?

    2. How does the theme of treachery and betrayal work in this chapter? Who are the guilty? Who are the innocent? Why do you think Mascawisca doesn’t tell Everell about her father’s intentions?

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    3. What positive, even utopian, aspects does Mascwisca’s tribal home possess? What negative aspects?

    4. What impact does Mascawisca’s comment on Samoset’s death’s belying Christian law have on Everell? Why?

    5. Mascawisca tells the “loser’s” side of the Pequod War. Why does Everell think it’s the true version?

    4.6 LYDIA HOWARD HUNTLEY SIGOURNEY

    (1791–1865)

    Lydia Howard Huntley Sigourney was

    born in Norwich and died in Hartford,

    Connecticut. Under the supervision and

    through the help of her father’s employers,

    Sigourney educated herself, established a

    school for girls, and published her first

    book, Moral Pieces (1815). It set the

    tone for much for her voluminous later

    work; she published over sixty volumes

    of poetry and prose and thousands of

    periodical essays. She always maintained

    an interest in morality and virtue—a

    “proper” concern for women at that time.

    She supported Republican Motherhood

    and often placed women’s work within

    the separate, domestic sphere. Women

    could work for public good, but in their

    relegated realm. She herself publicly Image 4.4 | Lydia Howard Huntley Sigourney supported schools for the hearing Artist | Mathew Brady impaired, protested for Native American Source | Wikimedia Commons rights, and advocated Abolition.

    License | Public Domain

    In 1819, she married Charles Sigourney, a hardware merchant. He discouraged Sigourney from publishing her writing—until they needed money due to financial losses in his business. At first, she published her work anonymously, in deference to her husband. As her reputation grew, though, she published once more under her own name.

    In 1840, she traveled to Europe, seeking out literary lions and seeking to be lionized herself. Her travelogue Pleasant Memories of Pleasant Lands (1842) augmented her reputation and respect in America. That respect did not survive long after her death; she became primarily associated with the outmoded lachrymose elegies of the graveyard school of poets, such as those Mark Twain parodies in

    “Ode to Stephen Dowling Bots, Dec’d.”

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    4.6.1 “To the First Slave Ship”

    (1827)

    First of that train which cursed the wave

    And from the rifled cabin bore

    Inheritor of wo,— the slave

    To bless his palm tree’s shade no more

    Dire engine!—o’er the troubled main

    Borne on in unresisted state,—

    Know’st thou within thy dark domain

    The secrets of thy prison’d freight?—

    Hear’st thou their moans whom hope hath fled?—

    Wild cries in agonizing starts?—

    Know’st thou thy humid sails are spread

    With ceaseless sighs from broken hearts?—

    The fetter’d chieftain’s burning tear,—

    The parted lover’s mute despair,—

    The childless mother’s pang severe,—

    The orphan’s misery are there

    Ah!—could’st thou from the scroll of fate

    The annal read of future years

    Stripes,—tortures,—unrelenting hate,

    And death-gasps drown’d in slavery’s tears,

    Down,—down,—beneath the cleaving main

    Thou fain would’st plunge where monsters lie,

    Rather than ope the gates of pain

    For time and for Eternity.—

    Oh Afric!—what has been thy crime?—

    That thus like Eden’s fratricide,

    A mark is set upon thy clime,

    And every brother shuns thy side.—

    Yet are thy wrongs thou long distrest!—

    Thy burdens, by the world unweigh’d,

    Safe in that Unforgetful Breast

    Where all the sins of earth are laid.—

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    Poor outcast slave!—Our guilty land

    Should tremble while she drinks thy tears,

    Or sees in vengeful silence stand,

    The beacon of thy shorten’d years;—

    Should shrink to hear her sons proclaim

    The sacred truth that heaven is just,—

    Shrink even at her Judge’s name,—

    “Jehovah,—Saviour of the opprest.”

    The Sun upon thy forehead frown’d,

    But Man more cruel far than he,

    Dark fetters on thy spirit bound:—

    Look to the mansions of the free!

    Look to that realm where chains unbind,—

    Where the pale tyrant drops his rod,

    And where the patient sufferers find

    A friend,—a father in their God

    4.6.2 “Indian Names”

    (1834)

    “How can the Red men be forgotten, while so many of our states and territories, bays, lakes and rivers, are indelibly stamped by names of their giving?”

    Ye say, they all have passed away,

    That noble race and brave,

    That their light canoes have vanished

    From off the crested wave;

    That ‘mid the forests where they roamed

    There rings no hunter shout;

    But their name is on your waters,

    Ye may not wash it out.

    ‘Tis where Ontario’s billow

    Like Ocean’s surge is curl’d.

    Where strong Niagara’s thunders wake

    The echo of the world.

    Where red Missouri bringeth

    Rich tribute from the west.

    And Rappahannock sweetly sleeps

    On green Virginia’s breast.

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    Ye say, their cone-like cabins,

    That clustered o’er the vale,

    Have fled away like withered leaves

    Before the autumn gale:

    But their memory liveth on your hills,

    Their baptism on your shore,

    Your everlasting rivers speak

    Their dialect of yore.

    Old Massachusetts wears it

    Within her lordly crown.

    And broad Ohio bears it

    Amid his young renown;

    Connecticut hath wreathed it

    Where her quiet foliage waves.

    And bold Kentucky breathes it hoarse

    Through all her ancient caves.

    Wachuset hides its lingering voice

    Within his rocky heart,

    And Alleghany graves its tone

    Throughout his lofty chart;

    Monadnock on his forehead hoar

    Doth seal the sacred trust.

    Your mountains build their monument,

    Though ye destroy their dust.

    4.6.3 “Our Aborigines”

    (1838)

    I heard the forests as they cried

    Unto the valleys green,

    “Where is the red-brow’d hunter-race,

    Who lov’d our leafy screen?

    Who humbled ‘mid these dewy glades

    The red deer’s antler’d crown,

    Or soaring at his highest noon.

    Struck the strong eagle down.

    Then in the zephyr’s voice replied

    Those vales, so meekly blest,

    “They rear’d their dwellings on our side,

    Their corn upon our breast;

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    A blight came down, a blast swept by,

    The cone-roof d cabins fell,

    And where that exil’d people fled,

    It is not ours to tell.”

    Niagara, of the mountains gray,

    Demanded, from his throne.

    And old Ontario’s billowy lake

    Prolong’d the thunder tone,

    “The chieftains at our side who stood

    Upon our christening day,

    Who gave the glorious names we bear,

    Our sponsors, where are they?”

    And then the fair Ohio charg’d

    Her many sisters dear,

    “Show me once more, those stately forms

    Within my mirror clear;”

    But they replied, “ tall barks of pride

    Do cleave our waters blue,

    And strong keels ride our farthest tide,

    But where’s their light canoe?

    The farmer drove his plough-share deep

    “Whose bones are these?” said he,

    “I find them where my browsing sheep

    Roam o’er the upland lea.”

    But starting sudden to his path

    A phantom seem’d to glide,

    A plume of feathers on his head,

    A quiver at his side.

    He pointed to the rifled grave

    Then rais’d his hand on high,

    And with a hollow groan invok’d

    The vengeance of the sky.

    O’er the broad realm so long his own

    Gaz’d with despairing ray.

    Then on the mist that slowly curl’d.

    Fled mournfully away.

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    4.6.4 “Fallen Forests”

    (1854)

    Man’s warfare on the trees is terrible.

    He lifts his rude hut in the wilderness,

    And lo! the loftiest trunks that age on age

    Were nurtured to nobility, and bore

    Their summer coronets so gloriously,

    Fall with a thunder-sound, to rise no more

    He toucheth flame unto them, and they lie

    A blackened wreck, their tracery and wealth

    Of sky-fed emerald,madly spent to feed

    An arch of brilliance for a single night,

    And scaring thence the wild deer and the fox,

    And the lithe squirrel from the nut strewn home,

    So long enjoyed.

    He lifts his puny arm,

    And every echo of the axe doth hew

    The iron heart of centuries away.

    He entereth boldly to the solemn groves

    On whose green altar-tops, since time was young,

    The winged birds have poured their incense strain

    Of praise and love, within whose mighty nave

    The wearied cattle from a thousand hills

    Have found their shelter ‘mid the heat of day;

    Perchance in their mute worship leasing Him

    Who careth for the meanest He hath made.

    I said he entereth to the sacred groves

    Where Nature in her beauty bends to God,

    And lo! their temple-arch is desecrate;

    Sinks the sweet hymn, the ancient ritual fades,

    And uptorn roots, and prostrate columns mark

    The invader’s footsteps.

    Silent years roll on,

    His babes are men His ant heap dwelling grows

    Too narrow, for his hand hath gotten wealth.

    He builds a stately mansion, but it stands

    Unblessed by trees. He smote them recklessly

    When their green arms were round him, as a guard

    Of tutelary deities, and feels

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    Their maledictions, now the burning noon

    Maketh his spirit faint. With anxious care

    He casteth acorns in the earth, and woos

    Sunbeam and rain: he planteth the young shoot,

    And props it from the storm; but neither he,

    Nor yet his children’s children shall behold

    What he hath swept away

    Methinks ‘twere well,

    Not as a spoiler or a thief, to roam

    O’er Nature’s bosom that sweet, gentle nurse

    Who loveth us, and spreads a sheltering couch

    When our brief task is o’er. On that green mound

    Affection’s hand may set the willow-tree,

    Or train the cypress, and let none profane

    Her pious care.

    Oh, Father! grant us grace

    In all life’s toils so with a stedfast hand

    Evil and good to poise, as not to mark

    Our way with wrecks, not when the sands of time

    Run low, with saddened eye the past survey,

    And mourn the rashness time can ne’er restore

    4.6.5 Reading and Review Questions

    1. In “To the First Slave Ship,” how does Sigourney engage sympathy for the nameless blacks held as prisoned freight in the slave ship? What hope or consolation, if any, does the speaker offer the slaves?

    2. In “To the First Slave Ship,” how does Sigourney use personification and to what effect?

    3. In “Indian Names,” how does Sigourney address the cultural appropriation of Native American “names” for places now part of (white) America?

    Why do forests, waterfalls, lakes, and rivers have words to express the absence of Native Americans in places where they once lived and the phantom chieftain appearing before the farmer only groan? What’s the effect of this difference in terms of communication?

    4. How does nature become a symbol for Native American Indians (now passed away) in “Indian Names?”

    5. How does Sigourney characterize, or give character, to trees in “Fallen Forests?” What is the overall effect of this characterization? How does Sigourney contrast the relationship that trees have with Americans/

    humans as opposed to the relationship that Americans/humans have with trees? Why?

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    BECOMING AMERICA

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    4.7 WILLIAM CULLEN BRYANT

    (1794–1878)

    William Cullen lived and wrote at

    the cusp of the Romantic era; indeed,

    he’s credited with giving an American

    slant to the English Romantic poetry

    heralded by William Wordsworth (1770–

    1850) and Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s

    (1772–1834) Lyrical Ballads (1799).

    Like Wordsworth, Bryant appreciated

    emulated, the neoclassical poetry of

    Alexander Pope and Samuel Johnson

    (1709–1784). Bryant also responded to

    the so-called graveyard school of poetry

    of Thomas Gray (1716–1771), poetry

    that linked emotion with observation

    of the natural world. From Wordsworth

    and Coleridge, Bryant awoke to the

    power of nature itself to teach, guide, Image 4.5 | William Cullen Bryant and inspire the individual’s developing Artist | John Wesley Jarvis mind and spirit. His poetry especially Source | Wikimedia Commons reflected his life-long love of nature, License | Public Domain especially in his use of scenic nature imagery.

    From his childhood on, he was exposed to the wonders of the American landscape; he was born in Cummington, Massachusetts. With his father, Dr. Peter Bryant (1767–1820), who was a naturalist, Bryant took many walking excursions into the surrounding woods and the Berkeshire foothills. His father’s library also provided Bryant with ample reading material (which he read with the help of his uncle, who schooled him in the classics). His father encouraged Bryant’s early literary bent, including having Bryant’s pro-Federalist poem The Embargo; or, Sketches of the Times: A Satire by a Youth of Thirteen (1808) published as a pamphlet.

    In 1810, Bryant entered Williams College. There, he continued to write, drafting

    “Thanatopsis,” which would become his most important poem. After learning that his family could not support his college education, Bryant studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1815. From 1816 to 1825, he practiced law at Great Barrington, married Frances Fairchild, began a family, and still wrote poetry. Upon publishing a revised

    “Thanatopsis,” (1817), he gained enough critical attention and admiration to turn to writing professionally. In 1821, he published his collected Poems. In 1825, he moved to New York to edit the New-York Review and Atheneum Magazine then later the New York Evening Post, an important national newspaper that he eventually served as editor-in-chief. In New York, Bryant became an important (if not the most important) man of letters, socializing with such well-known writers as James Fenimore Cooper. At Page | 797

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